Medical Marijuana

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Press Release: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to Testify at Taxpayers' Hearing in Sacramento

[Courtesy of Americans for Safe Access] For Immediate Release: March 17, 2008 Contact: ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes (510) 681-6361 or, in Sacramento, ASA California Director Don Duncan (323) 326-6347 Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to Testify at Taxpayers' Hearing in Sacramento Patients and their providers pay more than $100 million in sales tax annually Sacramento, CA -- More than a half-dozen medical marijuana dispensary operators from across the state are expected to testify tomorrow at 1:30pm before the State Board of Equalization (BOE) at its Taxpayers' Bill of Rights Hearing. Dispensary operators from southern and northern California, joined by medical marijuana advocates, will be in Sacramento to discuss the significant contribution of $100 million in annual sales tax revenue to an ailing state budget. While sales tax on medical marijuana clearly benefits the fiscal health of the state, that funding is threatened by increased interference from the federal government. What: Medical marijuana dispensary operators and advocates testify at the Board of Equalization's Taxpayers' Bill of Rights Hearing When: Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 1:30pm Where: Hearing Room 121 at the BOE, 450 N Street in Sacramento Why: Medical marijuana annual sales tax revenue of $100 million is threatened by continued federal interference Who: Testimony will be heard from dispensary operators in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, Berkeley, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz "Medical marijuana dispensaries are doing their best to comply with state law," said Kris Hermes, spokesperson for Americans for Safe Access (ASA), one of the advocacy groups testifying tomorrow. "One hundred million dollars annually in sales tax revenue is not small change," continued Hermes. "However, by continuing to shut these facilities down, the federal government deprives the state of this money at a time of fiscal crisis." According to recent estimations by multiple advocacy groups, California's hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries contribute to the state budget at least $100 million annually in sales tax revenue. The State of California began collecting sales tax revenue from medical marijuana dispensaries in October 2005, after a policy decision that year by the BOE. However, the same facilities that are expected to comply with this policy are currently under attack by the federal government. Enforcement tactics by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have had a devastating impact on dispensaries in California. In 2007 alone, the DEA raided more than 50 medical marijuana dispensaries in at least 10 different counties across the state. Also, in 2007, the DEA launched a new tactic in its attempts to undermine state law by disseminating more than 300 letters to landlords of dispensaries, threatening the property owners with criminal prosecution and asset seizure if they continued to lease to dispensaries. "The sales tax collected by medical marijuana dispensaries in one year could fund the construction of two large schools or 2,000 elementary and high school teachers," said ASA Chief of Staff Rebecca Saltzman. "By robbing California of this much needed revenue, the federal government is not only harming thousands of patients that rely on this medicine, it is also impeding the state's ability to fund critical aspects of its infrastructure." The federal government's efforts to undermine California's medical marijuana law have not gone unnoticed by local and state lawmakers. Letters from concerned local officials in 2007 prompted U.S. House Judiciary Chair John Conyers to issue a statement in December expressing his deep concern and calling for DEA oversight hearings. Since then, Mayors from Oakland and Santa Cruz, as well as the Berkeley City Council and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, have all registered their opposition to federal enforcement against medical marijuana. In addition, State Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) introduced SJR 20 earlier this year, calling for an end to federal interference and urging Congress and the President to establish policy consistent with the compassionate use laws of California. Most recently, in February, former BOE Chair Betty Yee co-authored an opinion piece with Senator Migden harshly criticizing DEA tactics in California, emphasizing the harm to both patients and the state. Further information: ASA Fact Sheet on Sales Tax: Copy of State Senate Joint Resolution 20, calling for an end to DEA interference: BOE notice sent to dispensaries in 2007 alerting them to the new sales tax policy: Opinion piece by Betty Yee & Carole Migden:
Sacramento, CA
United States

Join ASA at Medical Cannabis Conference

[Courtesy of Americans for Safe Access]

Doctors, patients, and researchers from around the world are gearing up for the 5th National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, hosted by Patients Out of Time on April 4-5. Click here to register for the conference.

Patient Out of Time's Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics will feature patients, activists, doctors, and researchers gathering to discuss the latest research on medical marijuana. This important conference only happens once every other year, so if you are a patient, doctor, researcher, and/or supporter, we strongly encourage you to consider attending the conference, which will be held on the Monterey Peninsula. The conference is less than a month away, and the registration price increases after March 20, so register today!

Several members of ASA's Medical and Scientific Advisory Board have been asked to present at the conference, including Philippe Lucas whose talk will be "Putting the Compassion in Compassion Clubs." This cutting edge conference is an excellent opportunity for patients, and their physicians, to learn about exciting and important developments in research.

Started in 2000, the Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics is the only national conference organized specifically by patients where attendees will learn about the scientific evidence supporting the therapeutic use of cannabis. It offers the opportunity to meet, network, and share experiences with a diverse national gathering of patients, medical cannabis researchers, our allies and supporters.

Join ASA at the 5th National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, April 4-5, 2008, at Asilomar Conference Center, in beautiful, coastal Pacific Grove, California. If you are a patient, please share this information with your medical cannabis physician. The conference has been accredited by University of California, San Francisco which means your physician could be eligible to receive Continuing Medical Education credits.

For more information, see their website at

See You in California,

Caren Woodson
Director of Government Affairs
Americans for Safe Access

P.S. Help send ASA's staff and supporters to the National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. Become a member of ASA today!

Pacific Grove, CA
United States

Medical Marijuana at the Statehouse: Prospects for 2008

A dozen years after California voters ushered in the age of legal medical marijuana by supporting Proposition 215, the legal use of the herb for medicinal purposes has spread to 11 other states -- Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington -- but in recent years, progress has been excruciatingly slow.
2005 Coalition for Medical Marijuana-NJ press conference
The last statewide initiative to go to voters failed in 2006 in South Dakota -- the only state where voters have rejected an initiative legalizing medical marijuana -- and last year, it took Herculean efforts by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) to revive and rescue the medical marijuana bill there, making the Land of Enchantment the only state to be added to the list of medical marijuana states in 2007. (Rhode Island legislators, who had passed a sunsetted bill in 2006, made it permanent last year.)

This year, serious efforts to pass medical marijuana laws at the state house are underway in several more states, with most of the efforts being run by local groups backed by either the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) or the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). Here's a look at the states where there has been or will be action at the state house on medical marijuana:

Alabama: A medical marijuana bill was introduced last week by Rep. Laura Hall (D), but has yet to be assigned a bill number. This will mark the second year in a row that Alabama legislators have had a medical marijuana bill before them. There will be hearings this year, said Loretta Nall, executive director of Alabamians for Compassionate Care, the local group coordinating the effort to pass the bill.

One of those who will testify is Jacki Phillips, whose son, Michael Phillips, had testified in support of medical marijuana in the past. Michael Phillips, who throughout his life suffered from seizures related to brain tumors, died last December in a New Orleans hotel room during the DPA conference.

"I'm going to tell those lawmakers that the system killed my son," said Phillips. "I truly believe that if he could have gotten the marijuana and it had been regulated like other seizure medicines, he would be alive today. I'm not asking them to legalize it for potheads," she said, "I'm a Southern Baptist and I believe God gave you a brain to use, but using marijuana for medical purposes would help a lot of people."

Marijuana didn't stop Michael Phillips' seizures, his mother said, "but it gave him the chance to function on a normal level for a period of time." When he smoked marijuana, she said, he would still have seizures, but their frequency and intensity was greatly reduced.

Connecticut: After seeing a medical marijuana bill pass the legislature there last year only to be vetoed by Gov. Jodi Rell (R), activists there have found little traction on the issue this year as the legislature debates other criminal justice and drug policy issues.

"We were emboldened last year and then deeply disappointed that people still essentially have to commit a crime to get access to medicine," DPA policy director Gabriel Sayegh told the Hartford Business Journal earlier this month. But despite little progress this year, "there is no doubt we are going to continue with this," he vowed.

Illinois: A medical marijuana bill, SB 2865, has passed committee votes and is now headed to the Senate floor, but its House companion bill, HB 5938, lost a committee vote this week. Still, that doesn't mean the measure is dead.

"Unlike many states, losing a committee vote doesn't kill your bill," said MPP's Mirken, who spent part of this week at the state capitol in Springfield accompanying patients as they lobbied legislators.

MPP and local reform groups IDEAL (Illinois Drug Education and Legislative Reform) and Illinois Compassion Action Network are keeping the pressure on. This week, MPP released a poll showing 68% support for medical marijuana in the state.

Kansas: The first effort at passing a medical marijuana bill in Kansas, supported by the Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition and former Republican Attorney General Robert Stephan, ended a couple of weeks ago, bottled up in committee by a hostile committee chair. While disappointing, that is hardly surprising, given the torturous legislative process facing any new bill.

Kansans should not be disheartened that they did not achieve victory in their first try, said MPP's Mirken. "It has been a multi-year struggle in all the states that have passed these laws," he said. "It's no surprise that it will take more than one year in Kansas."

Minnesota: Last year, a medical marijuana bill passed the state Senate, but died of inaction in the House in the face of veto threats from Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. But MPP and local affiliate Minnesotans for Compassionate Care are again working with friendly legislators. A Republican House member, Rep. Chris DeLaForest, is cosponsoring a House bill this year.

Minnesota's is a two-year legislative session, so that means only a House bill must pass this year, provided it is congruent with the already passed Senate bill.

"We are sitting in the House waiting for it to be brought up," said Mirken. "We're hoping it will pass and the governor will see the light."

New Jersey: For the fourth consecutive year, a medical marijuana bill, AB 804 has been introduced by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) and a companion bill has been introduced in the state Senate. DPA's New Jersey office is working the legislature, but there seems little likelihood the Senate will act.

"The Senate has always been the hold-up," said Ken Wolski, RN, executive officer of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey. "Although Gov. Corzine has said he would sign a bill if it gets to his desk, the Assembly doesn't really want to mess with it if the Senate won't move on it, so here we are."

New York: A medical marijuana bill, SO4768, initially introduced last year was reintroduced in January. It passed the Assembly last year, but was referred at that time to the Senate Health Committee where it has languished ever since. Given the turmoil in Albany in the wake of this week's resignation of Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer, said MPP's Mirken, it will take awhile for the dust to settle. "We're trying to figure out how the Spitzer follies will change the situation, " he said. "While we have some hopes for New York, at this point, medical marijuana is not on the top of anybody's agenda."

One optimistic sign, said Mirken, was that the new governor, David Paterson, is on much better terms with Republican Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno. Another is that, like Minnesota, New York has a two-year session, so a bill will not have to again pass the Assembly.

The medical marijuana movement has mowed its way through most of the low-hanging fruit of the initiative states and now faces the long, hard slog through the legislative process if it wants to get more states on board. While it is less expensive to attempt to win in the legislature than at the ballot box, it is also much more difficult and complicated.

"A lot of politicians are needlessly skittish about the politics of this," said Mirken. "If it were just a vote on the merits, it would pass today. Everywhere, we can produce polling numbers to show these guys a medical marijuana vote is not going to hurt them, but there is a deeply ingrained fear of being portrayed as soft on drugs, and that's very difficult to overcome. It's a real struggle," he said.

When pressed on where victories might come this year, Mirken was careful. "I'd say there was a fighting chance in Illinois, Minnesota, and New York, but in an election year, politicians are more timid than usual," he offered.

The real best shot this year, he said, is likely Michigan, where an initiative has been approved for the November ballot.

March 2008 Cannabinoid Chronicles, 50th Issue

[Courtesy of The Vancouver Island Compassion Society] The March 2008 issue of the Cannabinoid Chronicles (our 50th edition!) is available online for viewing, and can be found at:

Europe: Czech Supreme Court Throws Out Medical Marijuana Grow Conviction

The Czech Supreme Court has reversed a pair of marijuana cultivation convictions against a 57-year-old retiree who grew the plants to treat her ulcers and foot pains, Czech Radio reported Monday. The high court has ordered the Prague Municipal Court to reexamine the case.

The unnamed woman from a village in Central Bohemia grow some 70 marijuana plants in her vegetable garden. A regional court in the town of Nymburk twice found her guilty of illegal possession and production of marijuana. She was given a suspended two-year sentence, but appealed to the high court.

The ruling was hailed by drug reformers, who said it could set an important precedent. The ruling could mean courts would have to examine cultivation cases on an individual basis to see if there was a medical defense.

"I think this is a very important decision and I hope everybody, I mean the police and lower courts, will accept it," said Ivan Douda, a founder of a Prague drug clinic. "We were waiting for this ruling for a long time. As it is now, many Czechs are using cannabis for medicinal purposes and they have to grow it illegally. It is a very bad thing if law doesn't respect this reality and if people can't use something that is good for their health."

The Supreme Court ruling does not make marijuana cultivation legal, but does appear to offer a sort of medical necessity defense. Under current law, pot growers face up to five years in prison. But Czechs are among the most prolific marijuana smokers in Europe, and pressure has been mounting for marijuana law reforms there. Last summer, deputies introduced a bill that would dramatically lower penalties for possession and small-scale cultivation, but it has not been acted on yet.

Medical Marijuana: Kansas Bill Dies as Legislative Deadline Passes

A bill that would have legalized medical marijuana in Kansas is officially dead for this session. It was stalled three weeks ago in the Senate Committee on Health Care Strategies after members chose not to advance it, and under the rules of the legislature, it had to leave the Senate by last Friday.
Robert Stephan, KSCCC press conference, August 2007
The Senate committee held a hearing on February 11, but did not vote on it and took no further action. Committee chair Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), an opponent of the bill, blocked any votes.

Committee vice chairman Pete Brungardt (R-Salina) told the Kansas State Collegian the consensus among committee members was that more effective and legal drugs exist. "The impression you get with casual talk from members is that it was not supported," Brungardt said.

The bill, the Medical Marijuana Defense Act, would have allowed people with "debilitating medical conditions," including but not limited to cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, to grow, possess, and use small amounts of marijuana upon written certification by a doctor.

The bill was pushed by the Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition, which enlisted former Kansas Attorney General Robert Stephan as a legal consultant and prominent supporter. Stephan joined coalition head Laura Green in testifying before the committee.

"I hope these people who oppose medicinal marijuana never have to suffer like the people I have seen and talked with and the people who use it as a last resort," Stephan told the Collegian this week. "If I was a researcher, I'd probably say, 'May God have mercy on their souls.'"

Green said coalition members plan to reintroduce the bill during the 2009 Kansas legislative session. "That's very disappointing for us that they wouldn't take the vote in the committee to advance the bill," she said. "We'll hope that whatever committee it goes through next year that they'll have the political willpower to at least hold a vote in the committee."

Medical Marijuana: Michigan Petition Signatures Approved, Measure Headed for November Ballot Unless Legislature Approves It First

The Michigan Board of Canvassers Monday officially certified that the Michigan Compassionate Care Coalition had handed in enough valid signatures for its medical marijuana initiative to be transmitted to the state legislature. Under Michigan law, the legislature has 45 days to approve the measure. If it fails to act, the measure goes to the voters in November.

Organizers handed in 496,000 signatures, nearly two hundred thousand more than needed for the initiative to qualify. The Board of Canvassers found that 80% of the signatures were valid, leaving the measure qualified by a comfortable margin.

The initiative is almost certain to be on the November ballot, given the Michigan legislature's history of inaction on the issue. The legislature has considered several medical marijuana bills in recent years, but none of them have gained traction despite broad approval for medical marijuana in the state.

The initiative would:

  • Allow terminally and seriously ill patients who find relief from marijuana to use it with their doctors' approval.
  • Protect these seriously ill patients from arrest and prosecution for the simple act of taking their doctor-recommended medicine.
  • Permit qualifying patients or their caregivers to cultivate their own marijuana for their medical use, with limits on the amount they could possess.
  • Create registry identification cards, so that law enforcement officials could easily tell who was a registered patient, and establish penalties for false statements and fraudulent ID cards.
  • Allow patients and their caregivers who are arrested to discuss their medical use in court.

Twelve states currently have working medical marijuana laws, but they are clustered in the Northeast, Intermountain West, and Pacific Coast. If there are no victories in neighboring state legislatures this year, Michigan could become the first Midwest state to approve medical marijuana.

Benefit Dinner for Patients Out of Time

Please join us for a great meal, a program celebrating the late Mae Nutt, live music by Dark Chocolate, comedy by Ngaio Bealum, and a live and silent auction. Cost is $80/person. Registration deadline is March 25, 2008. For more information, see Patients Out of Time is a non-profit organization that uses 100% of its funding to carry out its mission. There is no paid staff; all work is done by volunteers.
Fri, 04/04/2008 - 7:30pm - 11:00pm
800 Asilomar Avenue
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
United States

Michigan Medical Marijuana Initiative Certified for the November Ballot

[Courtesy of MPP] 

I am excited to announce that yesterday the Michigan government officially certified that MPP's Michigan campaign committee — the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care (MCCC) — collected enough signatures to qualify a medical marijuana initiative for the statewide November ballot. You can read more about this milestone here.

The roughly half a million signatures counted by the state had a whopping 80.2% validity rate, far exceeding what was needed to qualify for the ballot. I hope you’ll consider making a donation to MCCC today so that we can run a robust campaign the rest of the year and ensure that the measure passes in November.

The official word that we gathered enough signatures to send the initiative to the voters in November culminates a monumental effort in the state. Thanks to the hard work of MPP and MCCC staffers, local activists, volunteers, and supporters for the past nine months, Michigan is close to becoming the 13th medical marijuana state — and the first in the Midwest.

The initiative will now be transmitted to the Michigan Legislature, which has 40 days either to pass it into law or to send it to voters in November. Because the legislature has considered multiple medical marijuana bills in recent years and none has ever gained traction, Michiganders — who support protecting patients from arrest by a nearly 2 to 1 margin — are all but certain to vote on the issue at the polls later this year.

Most importantly, Michigan patients are now one enormous step closer to being able to use medical marijuana without the fear of arrest and jail. If passed by a majority of voters on Election Day, the initiative will allow Michigan patients to use, possess, and grow their own marijuana for medical purposes with their doctors’ approval.

The most recent polling shows that 61% of Michigan voters support medical marijuana access, and we’ve hired a top-notch consulting firm and a full-time campaign manager to translate that public sentiment into a new law that protects patients. But we need your financial support to succeed, so please make a donation to the campaign today.

I’m grateful for your support.

Kampia signature (e-mail sized)
Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

P.S. As I've mentioned in previous alerts, a major philanthropist has committed to match the first $3.0 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2008. This means that your monthly pledge to MPP will be doubled.

United States

Press Release: Dr. Mollie Fry to be Sentenced for Medical Marijuana - March 6th

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 3rd, 2008 Contact: Nathan Sands, t: (916) 709-2483, e: California Dr. Mollie Fry to be Sentenced for Medical Marijuana Sentencing scheduled for March 6th at 10am in Sacramento Federal Court The federal sentencing of medical marijuana defendants Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband, Attorney Dale Schafer will take place on Thursday, March 6th at the US courthouse in Sacramento (5th and I St.). The sentencing is at 10 AM. There will be a press conference afterwards at Noon in front of the Court House. The couple was denied the right to defend their actions that were protected under the Laws of the State of California. WHO: Sentencing in Federal Court of Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband, Attorney Dale Schafer for cultivation and dispensing medical marijuana under the Laws of California. WHAT: Press Conference to follow at NOON WHEN: Sentencing is Thursday, March 6th, 2008 at 10am WHERE: Federal Court House, 501 I St., Sacramento, CA “We never would have grown marijuana had it not been sanctioned by the Laws of the State of California, the Attorney General of California and the District Attorney and Sheriffs’ of El Dorado County. Why aren’t they being charged with conspiracy to violate Federal Law?” Dr. Fry asks a group of patients who are waiting to see her at her clinic. Dr. Fry and her husband face a likely 5-year mandatory minimum sentence for conspiracy to cultivate and dispense medical marijuana for a small number of Dr. Fry’s patients. They ran (and continue to run) a popular medical marijuana clinic in El Dorado County that provides recommendations for many needy patients in the Sierra Foothills: Go to articles link for background. Like other federal defendants, they were denied the right to mention medical marijuana or Prop 215 in their trial. Both are in fragile health - Dale has hemophilia and suffers from chronic back pain, and Mollie is a breast cancer survivor. They are currently caring for three beautiful children and two grandchildren in their home. They were among the first medical marijuana providers raided by the Bush Administration, just a couple of weeks after 9/11 (9/28/01), but were not successfully indicted until June 22nd, 2005 after the Raich decision was overturned by the Supreme Court. Dale Schafer had also run for District Attorney in 2001. The sentence they face is particularly egregious compared to other defendants who have grown far more marijuana. They are liable to a five-year mandatory minimum because they were convicted of growing (not a lot more than) 100 plants over a period of three years, a number far smaller than is usually prosecuted by federal authorities. The jury was forced to add three different years worth of gardens to come up with the 100-plant count. They were not allowed to mention at their trial that local law enforcement had (deliberately) entrapped them by telling them it was OK to grow their relatively modest garden or that they had received advice of counsel supporting their right to grow and care for others under the Law in California. The Attorney General, Bill Lockyer, the District Attorney and the Sheriff in El Dorado County were all aware of and supportive of Dr. Fry and Schafer’s activities, but the jury was also denied these truths. Dale Schafer is still meeting with the local Task Force (2/29/08) made up of local law enforcement and medical marijuana advocates to further implement the State and County guidelines regarding medical marijuana. Fry and Schafer’s case aptly exemplifies the kind of DEA enforcement abuses bill SJR 20 condemns. Patients and medical marijuana rights supporters are welcome to attend. Bobby Eisenberg-FRY/SCHAFER Defense Committee • • 530-823-9963
Sacramento, CA
United States

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