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Medical Marijuana: First California DEA Arrests Under Obama Took Place Last Week

A massive DEA operation featuring dozens of heavily armed agents and at least four helicopters ended with the arrests of five people in California's Lake County last week. According to California NORML, the arrests are believed to be the first since the Obama administration announced it would not target medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal unless they violated both state and federal law.

The DEA seized 154 marijuana plants from Upper Lake resident Tom Carter, and arrested him, former UMCC dispensary operator Scott Feil and his wife, Steven Swanson, and Brett Bassignani. Carter is a registered medical marijuana patient and provider, and his wife, Jamie Ceridono, told the Lake County News he was growing for several patients and his grow was legal under state law.

The genesis of the bust appears to lie with an alleged May deal between a DEA informant and Bassignani to purchase marijuana. According to documents filed by Carter's federal defenders late last week, the informant claimed to have arranged to buy marijuana from Carter and to have left a voicemail message for Carter to set up the deal. That same informant allegedly made a deal to buy marijuana from Bassignani.

In the document, the federal defenders said prosecutors made no claim that Carter ever heard the phone message the informant allegedly left, and they set out no evidence linking Carter and the informant.

"All the complaint says is that another individual, Mr. Bassignani, called the informant, claimed he worked for 'Carter Construction,' and arranged a marijuana deal," Carter's defense attorneys wrote. "The deal later took place, and the only other reference to Mr. Carter is the conclusory claim that the informant 'had agreed on the price with Carter.' No context, no specifics, and no other information is provided in the complaint which indicates that Mr. Carter in fact talked to the informant, arranged a marijuana deal, and indicated that he (Carter) was knowingly involved in a marijuana transaction."

Moving that the two felony counts of marijuana trafficking against Carter be dismissed, the attorneys added: "This complaint is sadly deficient with regard to whether Mr. Carter has done anything to indicate that he conspired to break the law. It should be dismissed accordingly."

It is unclear why Feil and his wife were arrested. They are neighbors of Carter and his wife.

Carter and Feil are being held in Oakland, where they are set to have initial detention hearings this week. Federal prosecutors have asked that Carter be held pending trial "on the basis of flight risk and danger to the community."

Carter is a long-time resident of Upper Lake, prominent construction contractor, and community benefactor.

"California already has enough federal marijuana criminals," said CANORML coordinator Dale Gieringer, "It's time for concrete changes in federal law."

While the Obama administration has announced it would not go after law-abiding medical marijuana providers, the DEA has conducted at least two raids against providers in San Francisco and Los Angeles, although there have been no arrests in those cases. The administration has not announced any changes in federal laws or regulations around medical marijuana, and Bush appointees continue to serve in the DEA and the US Attorney's Office of Northern California, which is prosecuting the case.

Stopping Medical Marijuana Raids

You Can Make a Difference

 

Dear friends,

Ask your representative to support making medical marijuana legal. 

Take Action
Email your representative

Congress has heard the evidence about the medicinal benefits of marijuana, but legislators still haven’t changed federal law to reflect scientific fact. Tell them to end the federal medical marijuana ban now!

While Congress ignores the science, patients like Eugene Davidovich, who operates a medical marijuana collective in San Diego, are criminalized. He complies with state law and the California attorney general's medical marijuana guidelines, but the San Diego district attorney is threatening to throw him in prison anyway.

Bolstered by the federal ban on medical marijuana, the San Diego DA is systematically harassing patients, and Eugene now faces four felony charges. This is outrageous! Will you join me in asking Congress to end the federal medical marijuana ban?

Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA), chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, has introduced legislation to make marijuana legal for medical use, but opponents are organizing to defeat it.

Our message to Congress is simple: Federal law enforcement should stop harassing and arresting people for medical marijuana.  It’s cruel.  It’s capricious.  And it’s a waste of precious taxpayer dollars.  Enough is enough!

Just like you and me, lawmakers know the truth about medical marijuana.  Only you can hold your member of Congress accountable.  Tell your representative to face the facts.

Sincerely,

Bill Piper
Director, Office of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance Network

Press Release: Seton Hall Center for Health & Pharm Law Supports NJ Medical Marijuana Act

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 27, 2009 CONTACT: Ken @ (609) 394-2137 Seton Hall Center for Health & Pharm Law Supports NJ Medical Marijuana Act WHO: Seton Hall University School of Law Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law & Policy WHAT: Published support for the “New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act” WHEN: August 26, 2009 WHERE: A Position Paper in HEALTH REFORM WATCH available at: http://www.healthreformwatch.com/2009/08/26/position-paper-in-support-of... WHY: Because the legislation has been carefully drafted to allow New Jersey residents with debilitating medical conditions access to marijuana to ease their suffering without creating an undue risk of abuse or diversion. The Seton Hall University Center for Health & Pharmaceutical Law & Policy published a Position Paper today that supports the passage of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. The Center said that the legislation has been carefully drafted to allow New Jersey residents with debilitating medical conditions access to marijuana to ease their suffering without creating an undue risk of abuse or diversion. The Center cited available medical evidence that supports the use of marijuana to treat each of the debilitating medical conditions set forth in the Act: AIDS/HIV; cachexia (wasting syndrome); cancer; glaucoma; severe and persistent muscle spasms; severe nausea; severe or chronic pain; and seizures. The Center also addressed the issues of abuse and diversion. The Center noted that no state that has passed a medical marijuana law has subsequently experienced an increase in recreational marijuana use among its children and youth. The Act’s multiple safeguards against abuse and diversion of medical marijuana provide further reassurance, it noted. If passed, the Act would be among the most restrictive of all the states’ medical marijuana laws. Thirteen states, covering about 25% of the U.S. population, currently have medical marijuana programs. On February 23, the New Jersey Senate voted 22-16 to pass S119, the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. The Assembly health committee voted 8-1 to pass an amended version of the bill on June 4. The bill must now pass the full Assembly. If the amended bill clears the Assembly, it would return to the Senate for a second vote because of the changes before it goes to Gov. Jon Corzine (D), who has said that he will sign the bill if it makes it to his desk. The mission of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, a 501(c)(3) public charity, is to educate the public about the benefits of safe and legal access to medical marijuana. The Coalition is grateful for this well-researched and well-written Position Paper. For more info, contact: Ken Wolski, RN, MPA, Executive Director Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. www.cmmnj.org 844 Spruce St., Trenton, NJ 08648 609.394.2137 ohamkrw@aol.com
Location: 
NJ
United States

Press Release: California Senate Urges New Federal Policy on Medical Marijuana

[Courtesy of Americans for Safe Access] For Immediate Release: August 25, 2009 Contact: Kris Hermes at 510-251-1856 x307 California Senate Urges New Federal Policy on Medical Marijuana Recent enforcement actions in medical marijuana states underscore need for change Sacramento, CA -- The California Senate voted 23-15 yesterday on a resolution that urges the federal government to end medical marijuana raids and to "create a comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy that ensures safe and legal access to any patient that would benefit from it." Recent federal enforcement activity underscores the need for Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 14, introduced in June by State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). Although President Obama has signaled a willingness to change federal policy on medical marijuana, his Administration has yet to come forward with an actual implementation plan. In a previous statement, Senator Leno stated that, "Patients and providers in California remain at risk of arrest and prosecution by federal law enforcement and legally established medical marijuana cooperatives continue to be the subjects of federal raids." Once passed, "this resolution will clearly state the Legislature's opposition to federal interference with California's medical marijuana law and support for expanded federal reform and medical research," continued Leno. In the last two weeks, federal agents conducted multiple raids on medical marijuana providers in both California and Colorado. On August 12, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service, and local police carried out a paramilitary-style raid on a medical marijuana provider in Los Angeles. The government claimed that the raided facility had failed to submit state sales tax revenues despite a lack of corroboration by the California Board of Equalization. Then, on August 14, during an investigation on an unrelated matter, FBI agents raided a medical marijuana provider in Denver, Colorado, causing the facility to shut down. Most recently, on August 18, five people were arrested in Upper Lake, California on federal charges after DEA agents seized 154 plants from what defendants claim was a medical marijuana cultivation site. The search warrant in the Upper Lake raid has been indefinitely sealed, preventing any scrutiny of the government's actions. These and at least a half-dozen other actions that have occurred since President Obama took office seem to contradict repeated statements made by the Obama Administration about a new federal policy with regard to medical marijuana. "Not only do we need an end to these harmful federal raids and unnecessary interference in state medical marijuana laws," said Don Duncan, California Director with Americans for Safe Access, the nationwide medical marijuana advocacy group and sponsor of SJR 14. "The entire country would benefit from a sensible, comprehensive medical marijuana policy." SJR 14 urges President Obama and Congress to "move quickly to end federal raids, intimidation, and interference with state medical marijuana law." But, it goes further by asking the government to establish "an affirmative defense to medical marijuana charges in federal court and establish federal legal protection for individuals authorized by state and local law..." Because of the 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich, federal medical marijuana defendants are prevented from using a medical or state law defense. "With more than two dozen of these defendants currently being prosecuted by the Justice Department, each of them facing many years in prison, such a change to Justice Department policy would be timely, relevant and critically important," continued Duncan. The resolution also addresses the need to expand research into the medical benefits of marijuana, a recommendation of the White House-commissioned Institute of Medicine report from 1999. Currently, a federal monopoly on the cultivation of marijuana for research purposes has stifled the ability to conduct FDA-approved scientific studies. To address this, the resolution urges the President and Congress "to adopt policies and laws to encourage advanced clinical research trials into the therapeutic use of marijuana." SJR 14 now proceeds to the California Assembly, and if passed the non-binding resolution will become law without needing the approval of Governor Schwarzenegger. Further information: Senate Joint Resolution on medical marijuana: http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/SJR_14.pdf ASA fact sheet on SJR 14: http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/SJR14_Fact_Sheet.pdf Yesterday's Senate vote count: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/sen/sb_0001-0050/sjr_14_vote_20... 24_1259PM_sen_floor.html # # #

Medical Marijuana: First California DEA Arrests Under Obama Took Place Last Week

A massive DEA operation featuring dozens of heavily armed agents and at least four helicopters ended with the arrests of five people in California's Lake County last week. According to California NORML, the arrests are believed to be the first since the Obama administration announced it would not persecute medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal unless they violated both state and federal law. The DEA seized 154 marijuana plants from Upper Lake resident Tom Carter, and arrested him, former UMCC dispensary operator Scott Feil and his wife, Steven Swanson, and Brett Bassignani. Carter is a registered medical marijuana patient and provider, and his wife, Jamie Ceridono, told the Lake County News he was growing for several patients and his grow was legal under state law. The genesis of the bust appears to lie with an alleged May deal between a DEA informant and Bassignani to purchase marijuana. According to documents filed by Carter's federal defenders late last week, the informant claimed to have arranged to buy marijuana from Carter and to have left a voicemail message for Carter to set up the deal. That same informant allegedly made a deal to buy marijuana from Bassignani. In the document, the federal defenders said prosecutors made no claim that Carter ever heard the phone message the informant allegedly called and that they set out no evidence linking Carter and the informant. "All the complaint says is that another individual, Mr. Bassignani, called the informant, claimed he worked for 'Carter Construction,' and arranged a marijuana deal," Carter's defense attorneys wrote. "The deal later took place, and the only other reference to Mr. Carter is the conclusory claim that the informant 'had agreed on the price with Carter.' No context, no specifics, and no other information is provided in the complaint which indicates that Mr. Carter in fact talked to the informant, arranged a marijuana deal, and indicated that he (Carter) was knowingly involved in a marijuana transaction." Moving that the two felony counts of marijuana trafficking against Carter be dismissed, the attorneys added: "This complaint is sadly deficient with regard to whether Mr. Carter has done anything to indicate that he conspired to break the law. It should be dismissed accordingly." It is unclear why Feil and his wife were arrested. They are neighbors of Carter and his wife. Carter and Feil are being held in Oakland, where they are set to have initial detention hearings today and tomorrow. Federal prosecutors have asked that Carter be held pending trial "on the basis of flight risk and danger to the community." Carter is a long-time resident of Upper Lake, prominent construction contractor, and community benefactor. "California already has enough federal marijuana criminals," said CANORML coordinator Dale Gieringer, "It's time for concrete changes in federal law." While the Obama administration has announced it would no go after law-abiding medical marijuana providers, the DEA has conducted at least two raids against providers in San Francisco and Los Angeles, although there have been no arrests in those cases. The administration has not announced any changes in federal laws or regulations around medical marijuana, and Bush appointees continue to serve in the DEA and the US Attorney's Office of Northern California, which is prosecuting the case.

Will Foster Extradited to Oklahoma

Medical marijuana patient Will Foster is en route to prison in Oklahoma after being picked up Friday by Oklahoma law enforcement officials. He had been held at the Sonoma County Jail in Santa Rosa, California, for the past 15 months as he fought bogus marijuana cultivation charges there--he was a registered patient with a legal grow--and, after the California charges were dropped, on a parole violation warrant from the Sooner State. Foster had been arrested and convicted of growing marijuana in Oklahoma and sentenced to 93 years in prison in the 1990s. After that draconian sentence focused national attention on his case, he was eventually resentenced to 20 years in prison. He later won parole and moved to California, where he served three years on parole and was discharged from parole by California authorities. That wasn't good enough for vindictive Oklahoma authorities, who wanted to squeeze more years out of Foster. He refused to sign Oklahoma paperwork requiring him to return there to serve out the remainder of his sentence. He also refused to sign paperback that extended his original service. Oklahoma authorities issued a parole violation warrant, and the governors of both states signed it. Foster had sought to block extradition by filing a writ of habeas corpus--he had won a similar writ against Oklahoma earlier--but that effort failed on Friday, and Oklahoma authorities were there to whisk him away. Foster is scheduled to be held at the Tulsa County Jail before being assigned to a prison in the Oklahoma gulag. Efforts by Foster supporters to secure his release continue and are now focusing on Oklahoma parole authorities and the state governor. For more information about the Foster case, see our Chronicle story here and at Ed Rosenthal's blog here. Drug War Chronicle will continue to follow the Foster case. Look for a feature article next week.

You Call That Change?

You Can Make a Difference

 

Dear friends,

Urge the Obama administration to clarify its position on medical marijuana. 

Take Action
Email the president

Earlier this month, we told the Obama administration to stop sending mixed messages on medical marijuana. The drug czar has responded, but he still has his facts wrong. Let's ask President Obama to set his drug czar straight on medical marijuana.

In a recent news interview, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske tried to amend his claim that "marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit,” saying that he was referring only to smoked marijuana.

That's not good enough, because it’s still not true. The science is clear: marijuana can be highly effective as a medicine when it’s smoked. For some patients, that’s the easiest and most effective way to consume it, and the harms of smoking it pale compared to the benefits.

The president has repeatedly said that science should trump politics. He’s also acknowledged that marijuana can be an effective medicine. We hoped this drug czar would be different from his predecessors. We still hope so, but he needs to abandon the falsehoods and rhetoric of the past.

Our job is to hold the White House and its appointees accountable both to fulfill the promises made by candidate Obama and to ensure that the lies of the drug war become a thing of the past. Write to the president today and ask him to make clear that politics will no longer trump science when it comes to medical marijuana.

Sincerely,

Bill Piper
Director, Office of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance Network

 

Medical Marijuana: Iowa Public Hearings Get Underway

Medical marijuana advocates were out in force Wednesday in Des Moines as the Iowa Pharmacy Board held the first in a series of public hearings on whether the state should reschedule marijuana from Schedule I (no medical use, high abuse potential) to Schedule II (medical use, high abuse potential). The board will make recommendations to the state legislature later this year.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/carlolsen.jpg
Carl Olsen
The hearings are part of the board's review of the scientific evidence around the medicinal use of marijuana, a review that will also examine state and federal laws. The review comes after the board last month again rejected a petition from Carl Olsen of Iowans for Medical Marijuana to remove marijuana from Schedule I. The board had earlier rejected a similar petition, but a Polk County (Des Moines) judge in April ordered the board to reconsider.

Olsen argued that because medical marijuana is legal in 14 states it no longer meets the definition of a Schedule I drug. The board disagreed, saying that marijuana would have to be legal in all 50 states and under federal law for it to be rescheduled. But it did agree to review the evidence. The public hearings are part of that process.

Wednesday's hearing in Des Moines featured poignant testimony from patients as they pleaded with the board to stop treating them like criminals for using marijuana to treat pain and other conditions. "People are suffering who need not suffer. People are rotting in jail who should not be there," said Kevin Feeley of Ames in remarks reported by the Des Moines Register. Feeley said he used marijuana to ease his suffering from spinal cancer.

Feeley joined other speakers in telling the board that marijuana is safer and less addictive than many prescription medications. They urged the board to help Iowa join the ranks of states where patients are allowed to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

Robert Manke of Des Moines said he used marijuana for pain relief from injuries caused by traffic accidents and to reduce nausea from prescription medications. "I know what it's like to crawl around on the bathroom floor like an animal in the morning, vomiting with my head in the stool," he said. "I need your help. I'm not here because I want to get high. I'm here because I want to stop being sick. And I want to stop being persecuted."

It wasn't just patients. Several doctors testified in support of medical marijuana Wednesday, including Dr. Edward Hertko, a retired physician, who echoed that marijuana is less dangerous and addictive than many common prescription drugs. It wasn't about getting high, he said. "The people who want recreational marijuana already know how to get it," Hertko noted.

Not everyone was on board. Representing the Iowa Elks Association, Gary Young warned that allowing for medical marijuana could make it easier for people, including young people, to get ahold of it. He also challenged the plant's medical efficacy and argued that prescription drugs are more pure and easier to control than smoked marijuana. "I urge the board to make its decision on scientific evidence and not on anecdotal evidence," he said.

The Governor's Office of Drug Control Policy did not testify at the hearing, but offered a written statement in opposition. The office position is that the science so far does not support using marijuana as a medicine. As its web site notes: "Unless, or until, the consensus of medical evidence changes, ODCP opposes any proposal to legalize marijuana smoking for medical purposes."

The three remaining public hearings are September 2 in Mason City, October 7 in Iowa City, and November 4 in Council Bluffs.

Feature: Seattle Hempfest Bigger Than Ever in 2009, But Gaining Critics

Somewhere around 300,000 people converged on the Seattle waterfront Saturday and Sunday to attend the 19th annual Seattle Hempfest, the world's largest marijuana "protestival," as organizers like to call it. While organizers and drug reform advocates were out in force to encourage attendees to get involved in changing the marijuana laws, for most of the crowd, Hempfest was one big pot party. And that has some movement critics unhappy.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/hempfest2009-1.jpg
Hempfest crowd
Last year's attendance was estimated at 310,000. While figures are not yet in for last weekend's event, given the huge crowds, it is likely this year's figure will be even higher.

With hundreds of vendors selling glass pipes, bongs, tie-dyes, and assorted other pot-related paraphernalia, as well as dozens of food vendors, with seven stages alternating musical acts with activist speakers, and with crowds so thick that people literally could not move at some points by mid-afternoon on both days, Hempfest seems more like a dense urban community than a festival. And like any urban community, Hempfest had a police presence, but as far as can be determined, police couldn't find anyone to arrest despite the ever-present scent of marijuana smoke in the air.

That's in part because Seattleites voted in 2003 to make adult marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority. But it is also in part because, unlike some other police forces, the Seattle police actually acknowledge and heed the will of the voters. In all of last year, Seattle police arrested only 133 people for marijuana possession -- and those were all people who had already been detained on other charges.

It is that tolerant attitude toward marijuana that makes the massive law-breaking at Hempfest possible. In almost any other city in the US, such brazen defiance of the drug laws would almost certainly result in mass arrests. Even this weekend's Boston Freedom Rally, the second largest pro-marijuana event in the country, will see numerous arrests -- if police behavior in the past is any indicator.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/hempfest2009-3.jpg
Hempfest-targeted sky ad, pulled by helicopter
Drug reform organizations including NORML, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and StoptheDrugWar.org (publisher of this newsletter) were present with booths or tables, as were numerous medical marijuana support groups. But those booths and tables had to compete with bong-sellers and pipe-makers, t-shirt vendors and hippie couture outlets, and the hundreds of other vendors cashing in on the crowds.

To really get the drug reform message out, Hempfest organizers and reform activists took to the various stages between acts to exhort audiences to make Hempfest a party with a purpose. Among the nationally known activists speechifying at Hempfest were "Radical Russ" Belville of NORML, Sandee Burbank of Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse, Mike and Valerie Corral of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), Debbie Goldsberry of the Berkeley Patients Group, Washington state legislator and head of the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers Roger Goodman, medical marijuana specialist Dr. Frank Lucido, former medical marijuana prisoner Todd McCormick, cannabis scientist Dr. Robert Melamede, and NORML founder Keith Stroup and current executive director Allen St. Pierre. For a complete list of speakers, go here.

Activists also educated those interested in learning more about marijuana law reform and related topics at the Hemposium tent, which featured panels on "Human Rights for Cannabis Farmers, Dispensers and Consumers," "Global Hempenomics," "Cannabliss: An Entheogen for the Ages," "Cannabis and the Culture Wars: The Coming Truce," and "Cannabis Coverage: Reefer Sanity for the 21st Century." For a complete list of Hemposium panels, click here.

While Hempfest came off without any serious problems, it has sparked a couple of related controversies. This week, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation head Eric Sterling wrote a blog post, Hempfest is Huge, But is It Good Politics?, in which he answered his own question with a resounding "no." Hempfest and similar rallies are "a political fraud," he wrote. Even worse, they are "advertisements for irresponsible drug use."

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/hempfest2009-2.jpg
''Hemposium,'' with speakers (l-r): Reason's David Nott, SAFER's Mason Tvert, journalist Fred Gardner and Chronicle editor Phil Smith
Similarly, former Hempfest organizer Dominic Holden stirred the pot the week before Hempfest with an article in the Seattle Stranger, A Few Words About Hempfest, in which he complained it was a "patchouli-scented ghetto" and overly countercultural. Like Sterling, Holden saw the hippiesque trappings of Hempfest as counterproductive. "Countercultural celebrations and drug legalization advocacy are mutually undermining ambitions," he wrote.

Hempfest organizers were not amused, and on Sunday, Holden was removed from the back of the Main Stage by unhappy erstwhile comrades. They explained why in an interview with Steve Bloom's Celebstoner, and Holden continued the spat with his own interview.

Perhaps the organizers of Hempfest and similar events will listen to Sterling and Holden, but probably not. Hempfest is a celebration of the pot-smoking counterculture, and it's not likely to go away or change its ways because a guy in a suit and a disaffected former friend are unhappy with how it operates. Straight-laced drug reformers will most likely just have to put up with Hempfest and its pot-happy ilk. They can treat it like the crazy aunt in the attic, but they can't get rid of it.

Free Seminar on Colorado's Medical Marijuana Law

Sensible Colorado will present a free seminar on Colorado's medical marijuana law. This 90 minute training will cover all aspects of Amendment 20 and will include a "Know Your Rights" portion-- teaching patients and others their rights when dealing with police.
Date: 
Sun, 08/30/2009 - 2:00pm
Location: 
571 32 Rd., Units D and E
Clifton, CO 81520
United States

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