In the Trenches

Rally Monday at Obama Fundraiser in Oakland, Demand End to Federal Attacks on Medical Marijuana

MEDIA ADVISORY

Americans for Safe Access
For Immediate Release:
July 20, 2012
Contact: ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes or ASA California Director Don Duncan

Medical Marijuana Patients to Rally Monday at Obama Fundraiser in Oakland, Demand End to Federal Attacks
President Obama's visit to Oakland follows aggressive DOJ actions aimed at shutting down city-permitted dispensaries

Oakland, CA -- Hundreds of medical marijuana patients and advocates will stage a rally Monday in downtown Oakland at a fundraiser for President Obama's re-election campaign. The president's visit to Oakland follows a recent forfeiture action aimed at shutting down Harborside Health Center, a city-permitted dispensary that has operated since 2006 without incident. Earlier this year, the Obama Justice Department raided and shut down another of Oakland's permitted dispensaries, Blue Sky, leaving the city with a dwindling number of facilities to serve Oakland's patient population. On Monday, protesters will demand an end to federal interference and call for the firing of Melinda Haag, the U.S. Attorney for northern California.

What: Rally and press conference to protest federal attacks on the medical marijuana community and on Oakland's dispensaries in particular
When: Monday, July 23rd Press Conference at 1:45pm (Rally Noon-5pm)
Where: Press conference at Oaksterdam University, 1600 Broadway, Oakland (Rally at City Hall Plaza)

"The Obama Administration's attacks on the medical marijuana community are unprecedented and out-of-control," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy organization and one of the groups organizing Monday's rally. "We're here to let the president know that there's a political, and not just a financial, cost to shutting down law-abiding dispensaries," continued Sherer. "Patients are demanding that the president take account for his administration's harmful actions and address medical marijuana like the public health issue that it is."

President Obama has been dogged for the actions of U.S. Attorneys over the past two years, as his administration engaged in an all-out attack in medical marijuana states. From thinly-veiled threats against public officials in several medical marijuana states to hundreds of SWAT-style raids and threats against property owners, resulting in the closure of hundreds of dispensaries in California and other states, Obama's Justice Department has expended millions of dollars to target state law-compliant businesses.

These attacks represent an about-face to President Obama's stated policy that he was "not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue." Most recently, Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the House Judiciary Committee last month that his Justice Department was only targeting medical marijuana businesses "out of conformity with state law." Four days later, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents raided El Camino Wellness, a legally permitted dispensary in Sacramento widely supported by City Council members and others in the community.

Just last week, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag filed a forfeiture lawsuit against the landlord of Harborside Health Center, lauded as the most popular dispensary in the country, in an attempt to shut down its two facilities in Oakland and San Jose. The legal action by Haag elicited outrage from not just the medical marijuana community, but also from a number of supportive public officials, including Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker, State Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), and Betty Yee of the State Board of Equalization, which collects more than $100 million in annual sales tax revenue from California's dispensaries.

In May, the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee unanimously adopted a resolution, decrying the federal raids as "a breach of promise and ill-directed use of taxpayer dollars," and calling on the federal government "to adhere to Administration promises about respecting state laws on medical marijuana by directing federal agencies to cease and desist from any further such action in California."

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With over 50,000 active members in all 50 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.

Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States

Protest in San Francisco TODAY (Tuesday 4/3 11:00am) to Stop Federal Medical Marijuana Raids!

Posted in:

(formatted PDF copy at http://www.canorml.org/SFUnited.pdf)

Location: 
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

DPA Grants Program LOIs Due April 26th

The Drug Policy Alliance will allocate roughly $750,000 during the 2012/2013 Promoting Policy Change (PPC) grant cycle. PPC seeks to broaden public support for drug policy reform and will fund

US Law Enforcement Officials Call on Canadian Prime Minister to Legalize Marijuana

WASHINGTON, DC -- A high-profile group of current and former law enforcement officials from the United States is calling on the Canadian government to reconsider the mandatory minimum sentences for

Location: 
Canada

Medical Marijuana Patient Surrenders Today -- Pardon Sought from Gov. Christie

MEDIA ADVISORY
January 27, 2012

Medical Marijuana Patient Surrenders Today; Pardon Sought from Gov Christie

Somerville – Multiple sclerosis patient John Ray Wilson will appear at the Somerset County Courthouse today at 8:30AM. He is expected to be taken into custody to serve the reminder of a five-year prison term for growing seventeen cannabis plants. The NJ State Supreme Court refused to hear his latest appeal. He was convicted just before the New Jersey medical marijuana law was passed in 2010.

"John Ray Wilson exemplifies the fact the NJ has some of the most retroactive, ill-advised draconian marijuana laws in the country," said civil rights attorney William Buckman who represented Wilson in the appeal.

"The notion that taxpayers should pay to lock up a sick man for 5 years is ludicrous and tragic," said Buckman, "The governor should quickly commute his sentence."

Governor Chris Christie could intervene. State Senator Raymond Lesniak issued a press release yesterday also renewing that call: "I am disappointed by the recent decision of the Supreme Court to deny the appeal of John Ray Wilson. Mr. Wilson was not selling drugs on our streets. He was merely trying to alleviate the symptoms of a dreadfully painful and regressive disease. It is unconscionable that this Friday he will be behind bars."

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ) has been keeping up demonstrations in support of John since his original trial. The group plans to hold solidarity events for Wilson while he is in prison. A support rally is planned in front of the court house today.

John Wilson's case has symbolized the ongoing plight of New Jersey's medical cannabis patients.

For more information about this release, please contact Ken Wolski or Chris Goldstein.

###

WHAT: Support rally for John Ray Wilson
WHERE: Somerset County Courthouse 40 N Bridge St, Somerville
WHEN: 1/27/2012 - - - 8:30AM ET

CMMNJ, a 501(c)(3) public charity, is a non-profit educational organization.
Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. www.cmmnj.org
219 Woodside Ave., Trenton, NJ  08618

Location: 
North Bridge St.
Somerville, NJ 08876-1262
United States

NJ Supreme Court: 5 Years in Prison for MS Patient Growing Marijuana

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

NJ Supreme Court: 5 Years in Prison for MS Patient Growing Marijuana

Family, senators and community seek pardon from Governor


Trenton, NJ – January 24, 2012 - Multiple sclerosis (MS) patient John Ray Wilson is preparing to resume his 5-year prison sentence after the state Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal on January 20. Attorney William Buckman called the result “wrongheaded and a vicious travesty.”

Wilson was arrested on August 18, 2008 and charged with “manufacturing” 17 marijuana plants that he used to treat his MS. Wilson faced 20 years in state prison for this crime.   

The jury was not allowed to hear details about Wilson's condition, essentially removing his only defense. In December 2009, Wilson was acquitted of the most serious charge but convicted of a second-degree charge of manufacturing marijuana. He was sentenced to five years in prison on March 19, 2010. Members of the community protested outside the courthouse in Somerville. 

On July 26, 2011, an appellate court ruling affirmed the conviction and sentencing. The court agreed with the trial judge there was no “personal use” exemption to the charge. They agreed that five years in prison for this crime was an appropriate sentence.

Governor Chris Christie ignored appeals from state Senators Nicholas Scutari and Raymond Lesniak seeking a pardon. The official pardon request to the Office of the Governor remains active.

 

“This is further proof that there is no justice for medical marijuana patients in New Jersey," said Ken Wolski, RN, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ).

MS is a qualifying condition for marijuana therapy in New Jersey according to the two-year-old Compassionate Use Act, but the state’s Medicinal Marijuana Program is not operational yet.

The National MS Society confirmed that standard therapies often provide inadequate relief for the symptoms of MS and that marijuana helps with MS symptoms such as pain and spasticity and could limit disease progression. An estimated 15% of people with the disease use marijuana for symptom relief.  

Chris Goldstein on the Board of Directors at CMMNJ said, "How many more seriously ill residents are we going to pay to send to prison? We call on Governor Chris Christie to demonstrate his compassion for qualifying medical marijuana patients and his commitment to a new stance on non-violent drug offenders by issuing a pardon for John Ray Wilson."

For more information about this release, please contact Ken Wolski (609) 394 2137 or Chris Goldstein (267) 702 3731.

CMMNJ, a 501(c)(3) public charity, is a non-profit educational organization.
Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. www.cmmnj.org
219 Woodside Ave., Trenton, NJ  08618

Location: 
Trenton, NJ
United States

Use Science in Cases Alleging Pregnancy and Drug Use, Orgs and Experts Argue in Court Brief

National Advocates for Pregnant Women

www.advocatesforpregnantwomen.org

For Immediate Release:

Contact: Lynn Paltrow

January 10, 2012        

 

50 Leading Medical, Public Health and Child Welfare Organizations and Experts File Brief Insisting on Science not Stigma in Child Welfare Decisions Involving Pregnant Women and Allegations of Drug Use

 

Drug War Propaganda and Junk Science No Basis for Child Neglect and Abuse Finding

 

TRENTON, NJ (Jan. 10, 2012): On January 10, a group of fifty medical, public health and child welfare experts and advocates filed a motion to submit an amicus (friend of the court) brief before the state’s highest judicial authority challenging a finding of neglect against a mother identified in court records as “A.L.,” and an Appellate Division decision that radically expands the scope of the state’s civil child neglect and abuse laws to apply to a pregnant woman in relation to the fetus she carries and sustains. 

In this case, New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS) v. A.L., A.L. gave birth to a healthy baby in September of 2007. DYFS argued that positive drug screens for cocaine on A.L. and her newborn were sufficient evidence of harm or imminent harm to find that A.L. had neglected her child.  A lower court and the Appellate Division agreed, not only finding neglect in this case but also declaring that a New Jersey’s neglect law could be applied to the context of pregnancy. On October 26, 2011, the New Jersey Supreme Court agreed to review the case.

In their brief, amici focus on the New Jersey Supreme Court’s commitment to the use of reliable scientific evidence in judicial decisionmaking. Amici argued that the lower courts relied on popular assumptions about drugs, pregnant women, and child welfare that lack any foundation in evidence-based, peer-reviewed research.

Lawrence S. Lustberg, Esq. of Gibbons P.C., co-counsel representing amici, explains that “the New Jersey Supreme Court has been a national leader in recognizing that when cases raise scientific, medical, or other technical issues, the evaluation of these issues must be informed by existing scientific knowledge, including expert testimony. This case should be no exception.”

Amici also note that DYFS presented no evidence that the child had suffered any actual injury at birth or at any time after birth, and presented no witnesses with expertise regarding the effects of prenatal exposure to cocaine, what drug test results mean, or the association between a pregnant woman’s drug use and a likelihood of abuse or neglect of a child once born.  Nor did DYFS present, or the lower courts consider, the vast body of medical and social science research on these questions.

“Pregnant women and children who are caught up in the child welfare system and who are disproportionately low-income and of color, no less than other people, deserve decisions that are grounded in evidence-based research,” said Emma S. Ketteringham, co-counsel in the case and Director of Legal Advocacy for amici National Advocates for Pregnant Women. Ms. Ketteringham added, “Pregnant women and families should not be deprived of their fundamental rights -- including the right to family relationships -- based on junk science, or no science at all.”

Expert amici explained to the court that medical research makes clear that numerous substances, conditions, and circumstances raise similar or greater risks to fetuses as prenatal exposure to cocaine.  While amici were careful to note that they were not suggesting that prenatal exposure to criminalized drugs is benign, they emphasized that current scientific evidence simply does not support judicially re-writing state law to allow for a per se finding of abuse or neglect based solely on evidence of a woman’s use of cocaine or other criminalized drugs during pregnancy.

Amici also noted that there is no research to support the idea that a positive drug test demonstrates harm, risk of harm, or a likelihood of neglect or abuse. They emphasized, however, that there is research finding that threats of punishment, including of loss of child custody, deter pregnant women from care, undermining rather than advancing maternal, fetal and child health.

Wendy Chavkin, MD, MPH, a physician and researcher who has written extensively about the issue of drug use and pregnancy, observed: “These issues have become caught up in other political battles.  It is critical that state agencies, like DYFS, and the court base their decision on scientific evidence, not on misinformation and stereotype.”

Ms. A. L. is represented by Clara Licata of the New Jersey Office of Parental Representation.

The amici organizations include: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Addiction Science Research and Education Center, American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry, American Society of Addiction Medicine, International Centre on Science in Drug Policy, International Doctors for Healthy Drug Policies, National Perinatal Association, National Coalition for Child Protection Reform, Child Welfare Organizing Project, Health Right International (Former Doctors of the World-USA), National Women’s Health Network.

A copy of amicus brief accompanying the motion to submit, including and a complete list of organizations and experts is available at:

http://advocatesforpregnantwomen.org/briefs/NJ%20DYFS%20v.%20AL%20Brief%20of%20Amici%20Curiae.pdf

Additional Resources:

Am. Coll. of Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Comm. on Health Care for Underserved Women, Committee Opinion 473, Substance Abuse Reporting and Pregnancy: The Role of the Obstetrician-Gynecologist

Don't Judge Pregnant Women Based on Junk Science

Location: 
Trenton, NJ
United States

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