Medical Marijuana

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Medical Marijuana: Minnesota Bill Wins Committee Vote, Heads for Senate Floor

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/minnesotacapitol.jpg
Minnesota State Capitol
The Minnesota medical marijuana bill, SF 97, cleared its fourth and final Senate committee hurdle Thursday, winning approval of the Senate Finance Committee on a 9-3 vote. It is now headed for a Senate floor vote.

"I am delighted that this compassionate, sensible bill is now on its way to the Senate floor," said bill sponsor Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing). "With Michigan's medical marijuana law taking full effect this weekend, I am increasingly optimistic that Minnesota will soon become the 14th state to get politics out of the doctor-patient relationship and protect medical marijuana patients from arrest."

A companion measure in the House has also been passed by four separate committees. It has not had a House floor vote.

In 2007, a similar bill won a Senate floor vote, but in the face of a veto threat by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the House never put it to a vote. Pawlenty's position hasn't changed this year, although he did say he might reconsider if law enforcement did not oppose it. But so far, there's no sign of that.

Press Release: Senate Finance Committee Passes Medical Marijuana Bill, 9-3

Minnesota Cares logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
APRIL 2, 2009

Senate Finance Committee Passes Medical Marijuana Bill, 9-3

 

CONTACT: Former Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover)........................................................(763) 439-1178

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- The Senate Finance Committee passed the Senate version of Minnesota's medical marijuana bill, S.F. 97, today by a vote of 9 to 3. Having passed this final Senate committee, the bill now moves to the Senate floor.

     "I am delighted that this compassionate, sensible bill is now on its way to the Senate floor," said bill sponsor Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing). "With Michigan's medical marijuana law taking full effect this weekend, I am increasingly optimistic that Minnesota will soon become the 14th state to get politics out of the doctor-patient relationship and protect medical marijuana patients from arrest."

     Laws removing criminal penalties for patients using medical marijuana with their doctor's recommendation are in effect in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Michigan's law, which takes full effect on April 4, is the most recently enacted, passing with a record-setting 63 percent "yes" vote last November.

     Numerous other states, including Illinois, New Hampshire and New Jersey, are presently considering similar legislation. The Obama administration recently announced a policy of non-interference with state medical marijuana laws, pledging to conduct raids or arrests only when individuals have violated both state and federal law.

     Organizations that have recognized marijuana's medical uses include the American College of Physicians, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, among others.

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Location: 
St. Paul, MN
United States

End the D.C. medical marijuana ban

Dear Friends:

A decade has passed since Congressman Bob Barr thwarted the will of D.C. voters by blocking a medical marijuana program, voted into law by nearly 70% of the district. Please help MPP remove the legislation blocking D.C. from implementing its medical marijuana program.

Since 1999, when Congressman Barr's legislation took effect, national support for medical marijuana has grown to nearly 80%, the American College of Physicians (America's second largest medical association) has come out in support of medical marijuana, and even Congressman Bob Barr has switched sides, lobbying with MPP to repeal his own legislation and allow D.C. medical marijuana patients the protections they deserve.

Please take action today. Send an e-mail to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton and ask her to remove the Barr Amendment from the D.C. appropriations bill.

Sincerely,

Ben Morris
Assistant Manager of Government Relations
Marijuana Policy Project
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Press Release: Medical Marijuana Implementation Starts April 4, Patients Available for Interviews

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
MARCH 31, 2009

Medical Marijuana Implementation Starts April 4, Patients Available for Interviews

CONTACT: Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications ............... 415-585-6404 or 202-215-4205

LANSING, MICHIGAN -- Full implementation of Michigan's medical marijuana law, passed by voters with 63 percent of the vote last November, begins April 4, and Michigan Department of Community Health offices will be open to accept applications on Monday, April 6. Because of great interest in the new law, a number of patients have agreed to make themselves available for media interviews.

     In the period leading up to full implementation, medical marijuana patients have been able to defend themselves against marijuana-related charges, but have not had the protection from arrest that will now be available to those who take advantage of the registration process and obtain a state ID card. Michigan is the 13th state to remove criminal penalties for medical marijuana patients, and medical marijuana bills are presently under consideration in several state legislatures, including Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire and New Jersey.

     Patients available for interviews include:

     Lynn Allen, Williamston, suffers from AIDS and hepatitis C, contracted from a blood transfusion.

     Stephanie Annis, Oakland County, suffers from severe nausea resulting from 10 abdominal surgeries.

     Jon Dunbar, Kalamazoo, suffers severe, chronic pain due to spinal problems.

     For further information on the new law or to arrange interviews with any of these patients (or others who may become available as the implementation date approaches), please contact MPP director of communications Bruce Mirken at 415-585-6404 (office) or 202-215-4205(cell).

     With more than 26,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.

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Location: 
MI
United States

DEA Ignores New Policy, Raids SF Medical Marijuana Dispensary

DEA Ignores Policy, Raids San Francisco Dispensary
Raids Defy U.S. President and Attorney General, and need your response!

Dear ASA Supporter,

We never expected that the DEA would defy the public statements of both the U.S. President and the Attorney General in such an arrogant and brazen way.

And yet yesterday, the Drug Enforcement Administration raided a legal, permitted San Francisco medical cannabis dispensing collective against the will of the President and the Department of Justice... and we need you to respond RIGHT NOW!

In early February national media attention exploded around statements from a White House spokesperson and from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, telling the press that DEA raids would no longer continue, and that an end to such raids, according to Holder, was “now U.S. policy.”

And DEA's response?

They thumbed their noses at the President and immediately raided a legal dispensing collective and, according to the San Francisco Police, did not even inform local cops! DEA claimed that the permit-holding dispensary was "violating state law," but went on to say that evidence was "under seal" and could not be shared with the public.

The DEA is out of line and out of control, and this raid is nothing if not vindictive. Even if there was a violation of state law:

1. Why where there no arrests?
2. Why were local cops not involved?
3. Why are United States Federal Agents interpreting and enforcing California state law without consulting California officials?
4. Why was the collective not given due process through the proper authorities, but rather ransacked with a "smash and grab" raid?

DEA has twisted the words of the U.S. Attorney General, and thought that by saying publicly "they violated state law" that they could continue raiding whenever they want. Well that doesn’t fly. We DEMAND that the DEA stop immediately, and that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reprimand DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart for her blatant insubordination and violation of the “new American policy.”

Now it's up to you, and all it takes is two phone calls, one to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and the other straight to the DEA.

Please call the U.S. Attorney General at (202) 353-1555 and say:

Hi, my name is _____________. First I want to thank you for your numerous public statements verifying the end of DEA raids on legal medical marijuana dispensaries in California. But on Wednesday the DEA went against your word and the word of the President of the United States by raiding a permitted dispensary in San Francisco. We respectfully demand that you issue a statement condemning and officially ending these raids until the Obama Administration has had a chance to review the new policy.

When you’re done, call the DEA at (202) 307-8000, ask for Administrator Michele Leonhart, and say:

Hi, my name is ___________. The U.S. Attorney General and the President of the United States have both made high-profile public statements, saying DEA raids on legal medical marijuana dispensaries is no longer U.S. policy. Yet your DEA raided a legal, permit-holding San Francisco dispensary yesterday, in conflict with these statements. This disgraceful and anti-democratic. Why is your agency not listening to the policy statements of our elected leaders and your boss? Is this how you'll run DEA if you are appointed in the Obama Administration? We demand that you STOP it immediately!

Sincerely,

George Pappas
Field Coordinator
Americans for Safe Access

P.S. Please forward this message to all your friends and family so that we can generate a response big enough to get officials to act!

Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States

Press Release: Medical Marijuana Raid Raises Questions About Obama Policy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
MARCH 26, 2009

Medical Marijuana Raid Raises Questions About Obama Policy
Patients, Advocates Wonder Whether DEA Is Conducting Business as Usual Despite Change Announced by Attorney General Holder

CONTACT: Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications ............... 415-585-6404 or 202-215-4205

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA -- Wednesday's Drug Enforcement Administration raid on Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic, a licensed medical marijuana collective in San Francisco, has raised serious questions among medical marijuana supporters about implementation of the new policy announced by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last week. According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Emmalyn's had obtained a temporary city permit and was actively working with the city to meet all the requirements for a permanent license.

     On March 18, Holder told reporters that the DEA would only raid medical marijuana providers if it found violations of both state and federal laws.

     "It is disturbing that, despite the DEA's vague claims about violations of state and federal laws, they apparently made no effort to contact the local authorities who monitor and license medical marijuana providers," said Marijuana Policy Project California policy director Aaron Smith. "For an agency that for eight years said it couldn't care less about state law to suddenly justify raids as an effort to uphold state law simply doesn't pass the smell test."

     "Because so little information has been released thus far, we have more questions than answers," added Aaron Houston, MPP director of government relations. "But with an actual shooting war along our Mexican border, not to mention federal law enforcement there being so overwhelmed that traffickers coming through the border with up to 500 pounds of marijuana are let go, it's very hard to believe that this is the best use of DEA resources, especially in a city with an active program to license and regulate medical marijuana providers."

    With more than 26,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.

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Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States

Medical Marijuana: In Wake of Holder Comments, Federal Judge Postpones Sentencing of California Medical Marijuana Provider Charles Lynch

Charles Lynch expected to be sentenced to a mandatory minimum federal prison term Monday for operating a medical marijuana dispensary legal under state and local laws, but it didn't happen. Instead, US District Court Judge George Wu postponed the proceedings, telling prosecutors he wanted more information about what appears to be a Justice Department change of heart and policy regarding such prosecutions.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/charlielynch.gif
Charlie Lynch (from friendsofccl.com)
Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department would only prosecute medical marijuana providers who violated both state and federal law. Lynch's case is one where he was clearly in compliance with state law in operating his Morro Bay dispensary.

Under Bush administration policy, which did not recognize any distinction between medical and non-medical marijuana, California dispensary operators were targeted for DEA raids and federal prosecutions with no regard for their compliance with state laws. Prosecutions like those of Lynch, who was found guilty in federal court last August, generated loud and boisterous solidarity movements, protests, and scorn toward the federal government.

Judge Wu said he did not believe the apparent change in policy would affect Lynch's conviction, but he said he wanted to consider any new information about the policy change before he imposed sentence on the 47-year-old Lynch.

Federal marijuana law calls for mandatory minimum sentences in cases involving more than 100 pounds or plants, as was the case with Lynch. We can only hope, given the apparent turnaround in federal policy, that Judge Wu finds a way to make his sentence fit the new reality.

Medical Marijuana: Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire Bills Advance

Medical marijuana supporters won committee votes this week in two states and a full House vote in one more. Legislative committees in Illinois and Minnesota advanced bills, while the New Hampshire House passed its bill.

In the Granite State, the New Hampshire House approved HB 648 which would allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The bill passed by a vote of 234-138. The vote marked the first time a medical marijuana measure had won in a floor vote in either New Hampshire chamber.

"This vote proves that House members have taken this debate seriously, listened carefully to the testimony of patients who rely on medical marijuana for relief from terrible, debilitating conditions, and understand their duty as elected officials to provide for their needs with responsible, compassionate legislation," said Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth), co-sponsor of the bill. "Now it's up to my colleagues to do the same, and end the ongoing harassment of patients who have committed no crimes, and who only wish to be protected from arrest for using the proven, safe medicine their doctors recommend."

Now, the New Hampshire Senate needs to get to work. Matt Simon of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy is confident they will. "This vote shows New Hampshire is ready to protect patients by enacting a responsible medical marijuana law," he said. "Public opinion may soon become public policy," alluding to polls showing 71% support for it in the state.

That same day, the Illinois Senate Public Health Committee passed SB 1381 on Wednesday. A companion bill, HB 2514, passed the House Health and Human Services Committee March 4.

Sponsored by a former three-term state's attorney, Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton), the bill would allow seriously ill patients with specified debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana without fear of arrest provided they have a doctor's recommendation. The favorable committee votes clear the way for possible floor votes in both houses, a first in Illinois.

"This is an important step for suffering Illinoisans who rely on medical cannabis because they, in consultation with their doctors, have determined it is the best treatment available to them," Haine said. "I'm grateful to my colleagues in the public health committee who listened to science and reason today and made the sensible, compassionate decision to pass this bill."

One day earlier, the Minnesota House Public Safety and Oversight Committee advanced that state's medical marijuana bill, HF 292, but only after amending it. The bill passed the committee on a 9-6 vote after it was altered so that it must be reapproved in two years and so it would be more difficult for patients to grow their own medicine.

State law enforcement testified in opposition to the measure Tuesday and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty continues to vow to veto any such legislation that crosses his desk, but former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper told the committee that despite hearing similar plaints in Washington state, the sky had not fallen. He suggested that police should leave doctoring to the doctors.

"The police, as important as our voice is in the conversation in the dialog about drug policy, are not physicians, are not care givers," Stamper said. "And that it is inappropriate for the police to substitute our judgment for that of physicians and those in need of the care of physicians."

The Minnesota bill is advancing in both houses, having now survived six different committee votes. It remains to be seen whether it will get floor votes in both chambers, and whether it will pass with enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto.

Medical Marijuana: DEA Raids San Francisco Dispensary Despite Holder Vow

One week after Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government would not raid or prosecute medical marijuana providers unless they were breaking both state and federal law, DEA agents Wednesday evening raided Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic in San Francisco. The clinic is a cooperative operating under temporary city permits as it completes the city licensing process and thus, apparently legal under state law. Now, medical marijuana providers and activists don't know what federal policy really is.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/emmalyns.jpg
Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic (from bayareacannabis.org)
The raid on Emmalyn's was done by the DEA only -- no state or local law enforcement was involved -- and the DEA, typically tight-lipped, has not explained how or whether Emmalyn's was in violation of state law.

"Because so little information has been released thus far, we have more questions than answers," added Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. "But with an actual shooting war along our Mexican border, not to mention federal law enforcement there being so overwhelmed that traffickers coming through the border with up to 500 pounds of marijuana are let go, it's very hard to believe that this is the best use of DEA resources, especially in a city with an active program to license and regulate medical marijuana providers."

"It's déjà vu all over again at the Justice Department," said Stephen Gutwillig, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "The ink's barely dry on the Obama administration's kinder, gentler approach to medical marijuana, and the DEA is up to its old tactics. San Francisco sets the standard for medical marijuana dispensary regulation. Surely, state and local authorities are capable of policing their own system, just as the feds surely have more pressing issues to address."

"It is disturbing that, despite the DEA's vague claims about violations of state and federal laws, they apparently made no effort to contact the local authorities who monitor and license medical marijuana providers," said MPP California policy director Aaron Smith. "For an agency that for eight years said it couldn't care less about state law to suddenly justify raids as an effort to uphold state law simply doesn't pass the smell test."

Holder has twice made remarks suggesting a shift in federal policy toward medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal, but only in response to direct questions. He has not issued an unsolicited policy statement or issued any policy directives.

"Attorney General Holder needs to be specific about when federal law enforcement will and will not harass medical marijuana patients and their providers," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "The Justice Department needs to prioritize. Even if a medical marijuana patient or provider is in technical violation of some state law or regulation, that doesn't mean the federal government should be wasting scarce resources arresting people over it. Doesn't the Obama Administration have more important issues to deal with right now?"

Uh-Oh! Medical Marijuana Raid in San Francisco

Very unsettling:

Federal drug agents raided a medical marijuana facility in San Francisco Wednesday night.

The raid occurred at Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic at 1597 Howard Street. DEA spokeswoman Casey McEnry told CBS 5 the documents regarding the raid are sealed, so the DEA was not able to give many details.

"The documents relating to today's enforcement operation remain under court seal. Based on our investigation we believe there are not only violations of federal law, but state law as well." [CBS]

By claiming the case involves violations of state law, DEA is able to maintain the appearance of abiding by the attorney general's pledge to respect state medical marijuana laws. We're left to wonder if that will now become their blanket justification, to be invoked each time they elect to move in on an established medical marijuana provider. No one was arrested in today's raid, so we'll likely be waiting a while to find out what the hell happened.

The skeptical interpretation is that nothing's changed, that the feds will simply be more careful with the wording they use to describe future enforcement efforts that target medical providers. A worst-case scenario would the adoption of a policy in which the full force of federal law is brought down upon any medical marijuana provider who is accused of even a minor violation of state law. Defendants facing only federal charges would have no means to contest the grounds on which they were targeted to begin with. The practical value of Obama's purported policy shift would be negligible.

However, even if that's DEA's gameplan (which wouldn’t surprise me at all), I doubt it could withstand scrutiny. The salient question of why DEA is usurping the responsibilities of state law-enforcement won't escape notice and press coverage of these events grows increasingly competent as the issue continues to boil.

Obama's position on medical marijuana owes a great deal to pure political pressure resulting from the deep unpopularity of the raids themselves. The public simply hates this and won't be satisfied with a fictitious shell-game solution that merely reframes what DEA is actually doing.

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