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Documentary: Waiting to Inhale

Dear Drug War Chronicle reader:

Many drug reform enthusiasts read two weeks ago on our new blog about a new video documentary, Waiting to Inhale: Marijuana, Medicine and the Law, and an exciting debate here in Washington between two of my colleagues and a representative of the US drug czar's office that followed the movie's screening. I am pleased to announce that DRCNet is making this film available to you as our latest membership premium -- donate $30 or more to DRCNet and you can receive a copy of Waiting to Inhale as our thanks for your support.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/waitingtoinhale-small.jpg
I've known about Waiting to Inhale for a few years, and I am pretty psyched to see it out now and making waves. People featured in the movie -- medical marijuana providers Mike & Valerie Corral and Jeff Jones, patient spokesperson Yvonne Westbrook, scientist Don Abrams -- are heroes whose stories deserved to be told and whose interviews in this movie should be shown far and wide. You can help by ordering a copy and hosting a private screening in your home! Or you and your activist friends can simply watch it at home for inspiration. (Click here for more information including an online trailer.)

Your donation will help DRCNet as we pull together what we think will be an incredible two-year plan to substantially advance drug policy reform and the cause of ending prohibition globally and in the US. Please make a generous donation today to help the cause! I know you will feel the money was well spent after you see what DRCNet has in store. Our online donation form lets you donate by credit card, by PayPal, or to print out a form to send with your check or money order by mail. Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, our lobbying entity, are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible donations can be made to DRCNet Foundation, our educational wing. (Choosing a gift like Waiting to Inhale will reduce the portion of your donation that you can deduct by the retail cost of the item.) Both groups receive member mail at: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

Thank you for your support. If you haven't already checked out our new web site, I hope you'll take a moment to do so -- it really is looking pretty good, if I may say so myself. :) Take care, and hope to hear from you.

Sincerely,


David Borden
Executive Director

Feature: More California Medical Marijuana Raids: The New Status Quo?

At least five California different medical marijuana dispensaries have been raided in the last ten days, bringing the total so far this year to more than 30, according to medical marijuana supporters. But that means nearly 200 existing dispensaries have not been raided, suggesting that what is occurring is more like a low-level battle of attrition than an all-out assault by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and its allies among recalcitrant state and local law enforcement and elected officials.

Here is the latest casualty list:

https://raiseyourvoice.com/files/ca06raid1.jpg
photo courtesy ASA
Last Wednesday in Modesto, one day after the city of Modesto voted to repeal a municipal provision exempting nonprofits from its ordinance banning dispensaries, DEA agents raided the nonprofit California Healthcare Collective, one of only two remaining dispensaries in the area. A DEA spokesperson told Drug War Chronicle this week the Modesto Police Department began investigating the dispensary, then handed the case over to the feds. Four people were arrested on federal marijuana distribution charges.

The following day, DEA and local law enforcement agents raided the North Valley Discount Caregivers dispensary in Grenada Hills and seized all the medicinal cannabis at the site. The two operators were arrested on state marijuana charges.

That same day, Stanislaus County Sheriff's deputies raided the 2816 Collective in a rural area near Modesto using a state search warrant. Police seized about two pounds of dried marijuana and patient files. The collective had closed the day before because of the Modesto raid. With both California Healthcare in Modesto and the 2816 Collective gone, the entire region is now destitute of dispensaries, leaving hundreds of patients in the lurch.

On Tuesday, the DEA raided at least eight locations in the San Francisco Bay area, seizing more than 12,000 plants, $125,000 cash, and a fancy sports car. Despite somewhat hysterical initial reports in the local media, all the raids were connected with the New Remedies dispensary in San Francisco, which involved the same people involved in Compassionate Caregivers, which was raided by the DEA in Los Angeles in May 2005, when the feds found more than $300,000 in cash, sparking the investigation that culminated in the Monday raids.

On Wednesday, DEA and local law enforcement officers raided the Palm Springs Caregivers dispensary in Riverside County, seizing medicinal cannabis, but not making any arrests at the time. The raid came one day after the Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted to ban dispensaries in unincorporated county areas, which does not include Palm Springs, and one month after Riverside County District Attorney Grover Trask issued a white paper arguing that dispensaries are illegal under both state and federal law.

The raids triggered the Emergency Response Project of the medical marijuana defense group Americans for Safe Access, which brought out protestors last Friday at DEA headquarters in Los Angeles, as well as Modesto, Oakland, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Ana. Demonstrators also greeted the Tuesday raids in San Francisco, and more actions are set for today.

"With our emergency response program, every time there is a federal raid -- and we can usually find that out in a matter of hours -- we activate our local response, as we did in San Francisco this week," said ASA's Caren Woodson. "But now, we're activating the national emergency response for Friday. It's a call-in day. We are urging everyone to call in to DEA administrator Karen Tandy and let her know how they feel about these raids. Karen Tandy has a lot of discretion, and she needs to exercise it."

While ASA is leading the immediate battle, it is not alone among movement groups in trying to figure out just what is going on. According to the DEA, it's nothing special, just enforcing the federal marijuana laws. "The two cases in which our office was involved, Modesto last week and here in the Bay area this week, were both the culmination of long-term investigations," said San Francisco DEA public information officer Casey McEnry. "In Modesto, the Modesto police began investigating and then passed it on to us, and with New Remedies, we had served warrants on them as Compassionate Caregivers in LA in May 2005, and we learned in December 2005 that they had changed their name and set up shop in Oakland," she told Drug War Chronicle.

"We can't read the DEA's mind, but there is no sign of an all-out offensive," said Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "These guys in San Francisco were already in the crosshairs -- they were victims of their own success -- but there are certainly plenty of other places operating openly. If the DEA wanted to, it could go after them with little effort, but it seems like a decision has been made not to do that."

https://raiseyourvoice.com/files/ca06raid2.jpg
photo courtesy ASA
The DEA's McEnry did not respond directly to questions about whether the agency had taken a political decision to not aggressively crack down on the state's roughly 200 dispensaries, but she did issue a warning. "The magic plant count number is zero, the distribution number is zero if you want to be safe from us possibly knocking at your door," she said. "Anyone who cultivates or distributes marijuana is at risk."

While that may be bluster given the agency's limited resources, it is worrisome for dispensaries and their supporters. "These state-certified legal cannabis dispensaries look to the DEA like drug distribution havens," said Woodson. "If a dispensary is serving 150 people a day, the operator looks like a drug kingpin to them. They're like sitting ducks, they're listed in the phone book. And now some of these people are facing very severe sentences, some of up to life in prison.

It isn't just the DEA. "We have sporadic local police involvement in raids, mostly in counties where local government is not supportive, like Modesto or Riverside County, which is where Palm Springs is," said Mirken. "That tells us it is really important that local governments understand Proposition 215 and hear from their constituents that access to medicinal cannabis is important."

"They're picking locations where local decision-makers don't have a friendly attitude," said ASA's Woodson.

"These raids are really a drop in the bucket when you have 200 dispensaries out there," said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML, "but we don't want to see them spread. I fear this is going to be a battlefield for awhile here until we come up with a regime that allows for better systems of dispensaries and production. The lack of a legal production system causes a lot of problems, and everybody in the dispensary business is operating in the black or grey market and vulnerable to legal uncertainties."

While medical marijuana dispensaries remain numerous in Los Angeles and the Bay area, the raids are having a very real impact on availability in some areas of the state. "In San Diego, a few months ago there were a dozen dispensaries in operation, but after the raids, they're gone and access to medical cannabis is largely gone," said Woodson. "There are only a handful of delivery services now, and they can't handle the demand. It's a similar situation in Modesto -- there aren't any dispensaries in the area now."

"I think it's going to continue for the short term, until something happens politically to change the dynamic," said Mirken. "That might not be until there is regime change in Washington, and maybe not even then, depending on how smart the Democrats are. It doesn't seem like anything is going to change drastically in California in the near term. Most people in the state government some local governments at least pay lip service to supporting Proposition 215, but we haven't seen much strong action from state officials with the clout to try to stop the raids. I really don't see anything moving on the state level," he said.

ASA's Woodson wasn't quite ready to give up on state government. "Here in California, we need to see more state officials standing up and denouncing these raids," she said. "The state legislature as a whole needs to take this issue on and create guidelines or craft prohibitions directing state and local law enforcement not to participate in these medical marijuana raids. The legislature is not doing its job if it is not properly protecting patients."

Another thing the legislature could do is restate and expand on its support for Proposition 215. "They should re-codify it and take a stand against the federal raids," said Woodson. "And they should demand our federal delegation pay more attention to this issue. All Diane Feinstein can talk about is meth; she and Barbara Boxer haven't raised a finger to help on medical marijuana. We would also like to see more law enforcement officers trained on the medical cannabis issue."

"California will do nothing statewide until federal law changes," predicted Gieringer. "I see this pattern of sporadic raids continuing until there is a change in the federal law. Two or three years ago, I would have said we were in mortal danger, but in fact, we've had nothing but an increase in the number of dispensaries even after we lost two Supreme Court decisions. Somehow I have a hard time believing that this is going to be reversed, especially given what happened in LA. Two years ago, there weren't any clubs in LA, now there are a hundred. It looks to me like the nation's second largest city is firmly infected with dispensaries. When it was just the Bay area, I was concerned the feds could shut it down, but they blew their chance. Now all they can do is bust someone every once in awhile and try to tarnish the image of the dispensaries, but they are here to stay."

Feds Raid Medical Marijuana Dispensary (This one in Palm Springs)

Location: 
Palm Springs, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Desert Sun
URL: 
http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061005/NEWS05/61004013/1009

BAY AREA: Drug agents arrest 15 in raids on major marijuana club (San Francisco Chronicle)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/10/04/POT.TMP

Documentary: Waiting to Inhale

Dear Drug War Chronicle reader:

Many drug reform enthusiasts read two weeks ago on our new blog about a new video documentary, Waiting to Inhale: Marijuana, Medicine and the Law, and an exciting debate here in Washington between two of my colleagues and a representative of the US drug czar's office that followed the movie's screening. I am pleased to announce that DRCNet is making this film available to you as our latest membership premium -- donate $30 or more to DRCNet and you can receive a copy of Waiting to Inhale as our thanks for your support.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/waitingtoinhale-small.jpg
I've known about Waiting to Inhale for a few years, and I am pretty psyched to see it out now and making waves. People featured in the movie -- medical marijuana providers Mike & Valerie Corral and Jeff Jones, patient spokesperson Yvonne Westbrook, scientist Don Abrams -- are heroes whose stories deserved to be told and whose interviews in this movie should be shown far and wide. You can help by ordering a copy and hosting a private screening in your home! Or you and your activist friends can simply watch it at home for inspiration. (Click here for more information including an online trailer.)

Your donation will help DRCNet as we pull together what we think will be an incredible two-year plan to substantially advance drug policy reform and the cause of ending prohibition globally and in the US. Please make a generous donation today to help the cause! I know you will feel the money was well spent after you see what DRCNet has in store. Our online donation form lets you donate by credit card, by PayPal, or to print out a form to send with your check or money order by mail. Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, our lobbying entity, are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible donations can be made to DRCNet Foundation, our educational wing. (Choosing a gift like Waiting to Inhale will reduce the portion of your donation that you can deduct by the retail cost of the item.) Both groups receive member mail at: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

Thank you for your support. If you haven't already checked out our new web site, I hope you'll take a moment to do so -- it really is looking pretty good, if I may say so myself. :) Take care, and hope to hear from you.

Sincerely,


David Borden
Executive Director

Riverside County Bans Medical Marijuana Centers

Location: 
CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
San Jose Mercury News
URL: 
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/local/states/california/northern_california/15619242.htm

Medical marijuana takes hit as Tories announce $1 billion in cuts

Location: 
Ottawa, ON
Canada
Publication/Source: 
Canada Press
URL: 
http://www.canada.com/topics/news/national/story.html?id=0e5d5cf9-9394-44b4-9bf1-30a8fb183d06&k=33491

Chicago Medical Cannabis Working Group

The next meeting of the Medical Cannabis Working Group is scheduled for Tuesday, October 3rd at 7PM at the Unitarian Universalist Temple in Oak Park. The last meeting was very inspiring, let's try to spread the word even more to invite others who might also benefit. The UU Temple has told us that they are more than happy to accomodate our meetings when they are able. At this meeting, we will address how we plan to expand our services, and how we can give support to other groups that are trying to form in different parts of Chicago, and downstate as well. The UU Temple is located on the corner of Lake St. and Kenilworth in Oak Park, close to Metra and Green Line stops. The meeting will be held at 124 North Kenilworth in Oak Park - in the living room of the Gale House behind the temple. MCWG meetings are open to any and all patients and physicians who are interested in learning more about cannabis as treatment, so we welcome everyone who is receiving this to pass this note on to those who may like to attend. More Info at: www.illinoisnorml.org
Date: 
Tue, 10/03/2006 - 7:00pm - 10:30pm
Location: 
875 Lake Street
Oak Park, IL 60301-1341
United States

Riverside DA Takes Aim at Dispensaries With Sweeping Claim About California's Prop. 215

RIVERSIDE DA GROVER TRASK MAKES SWEEPING CLAIM THAT PROP 215 IS AGAINST FEDERAL LAW -- ADMITS STATE LAW PROTECTS PATIENTS AND COOPS, BUT NOT DISPENSARIES Riverside DA Grover Trask has joined with San DIego, San Bernardino and Mercced counties in opining that Prop 215 is unenforceable because marijuana is against federal law. His opinion may be found at http://www.canorml.org/temp/Trask_white_paper.pdf. Trask is off track in asserting that "no state has the power to grant its citizens the right to violate federal law." Prop. 215 does not pretend to override the federal law against medical marijuana; it simply provides that the state not enforce it. Legislation of this sort is entirely within the American constitutional tradition, dating back before the Civil War when states refused to enforce federal fugitive slave laws. On closer examination, it turns out that Trask's claims are less sweeping than to pretend that Prop. 215 is entirely non-enforceable. He admits that patients, caregivers and cooperatives are protected by Prop. 215, but makes the argument that storefront dispensaries are not. He notes, accurately, that the former are explicitly protected under state law by Prop. 215 and SB 420, while the latter are no:
"We believe that Gonzalez v Raich does affect California law. However, we also acknowledge that the California statues offer some legal protection to 'individuals within the legal scope of" the acts. The medical marijuana laws speak to patients, primary caregivers, and true collectives. These people are expressly mentioned in the statutes and, if their conduct comports to the law, may have some state legal protection for specified marijuana activity. Conversely, all medical marijuana establishments that fall outside the letter and spirit of the statutes are not legal: including dispensaries and store-front facilities. These establishments have no legal protection. The Attorney General's opinion does not present a contrary view."
Trask goes on to argue that dispensaries are a danger to the community, citing familiar police anecdotes about robberies, assaults, burglaries, murderers and other criminal incidents. He presents no evidence that these dangers are any higher for dispensaries than for other licensed businesses, nor does he discuss the positive experience of communities with successful dispensary licensing, such as Berkeley, West Hollywood or Oakland. Trask goes on to argue that the county risks federal liability for conspiracy if it permits licensed dispensaries: "With respect to issuing business licenses to medical marijuana store-front facilities a very real issue has arisen: counties and cities are arguably aiding and abetting criminal violations of federal law. Such actions clearly put the counties permitting these establishments in very precarious legal positions." The paper concludes:
"The Riverisde Co DA's Office believes that the cooperatives being considered are illegal and should not be permitted to exist within the County's borders. They are a clear violation of federal and state law, they invite more crime, and they compromise the health and welfare of the citizens of this County."
Trask's legal analysis is not off track with regards to the technical legality of dispensaries. If he wants to, the law gives him power to follow the example of San Diego and close them. But he is wrong to assert that dispensaries presents a criminal nuisance. Fundamentally, it is the failure of law enforcement to allow safe and lawful commerce in cannabis that creates the nuisance. Riverside residents should be asking why their DA wants patients to buy marijuana from criminals rather then legally licensed businesses. - D. Gieringer, Cal NORML Desert Sun article: Riverside County DA: Medical marijuana illegal, state law can't be enforced -- Opinion says no state has the power to allow citizens to violate federal law
Location: 
Riverside, CA
United States

Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Program Begins to Kick In

Rhode Islanders are registering under the state's new medical marijuana program at a rate of just under one a day, according to health authorities. At least 131 patients have obtained state registration cards since the program got under way in April, and another 129 people have been certified as caregivers.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/rhondaodonnell.jpg
leading RI patient activist Rhonda O'Donnell, at DC protest
Rhode Island became the 11th state to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in January. Under the Rhode Island law, patients with one of several chronic illnesses, including cancer and AIDS, must provide documentation from a doctor that the benefits of using marijuana for their condition outweigh the risks. The state Health Department then issues a registry card. Patients or their appointed caregivers may then possess up to 12 plants or 2.5 ounces of the weed.

Rhode Island law makes no provision for how patients are to obtain seeds or marijuana, and state health officials don't want to know, nor will they provide advice on where to get it. "I don't ask," said Charles Alexandre, chief of health professions regulation, the department that operates the program. "They frequently ask me where to get it. I have to do a bit of explaining," he told the Providence Journal.

According to Alexandre, 89 doctors have signed medical marijuana recommendations, alleviating fears that patients would end up going to a small number of "pot doctors."

Rhode Island is now joining the ranks of states where seriously ill patients may take their medicine in peace -- at least as long as the feds don't show up.

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