Medical Marijuana

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South Dakota AG Must Rewrite Medical Marijuana Ballot Summary, Judge Says

Location: 
pierre, SD
United States
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://stopthedrugwar.org/speakeasy_main/2006/aug/26/we_told_them_so

We Told Them So...

Two weeks ago we <?php print l('reported in Drug War Chronicle', 'chronicle/448/south_dakota_medical_marijuana_lawsuit'); ?> that South Dakota medical marijuana patient Valerie Hanna had sued state attorney general Larry Long over a misleading (dishonest?) ballot summary of the state's upcoming initiative, charging the attorney general had violated state law. Yesterday Judge Max Gors opined in favor of Hanna -- and the rule of law -- according to the Associated Press:
"The whole impression leads one to believe that the attorney general wants voters to reject the initiative. The attorney general should confine his politicking to the stump and leave his bias out of the ballot statement that is supposed to be objective," Gors wrote.
The state is not appealing the decision because doing so would prevent them from meeting their ballot printing deadline of September 1. The AP story can be read for free on the web site of the Yankton Press & Dakotan, though you have to register first to get through. Score for our side! We told them so...
Location: 
Pierre, SD
United States

Extravaganja: A Medical Marijuana Comedy Show

September 21, 8:30pm, Los Angeles, CA, "Extravaganja: A Medical Marijuana Comedy Show." Benefit at the Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Blvd., visit http://www.greentherapy.com or e-mail [email protected] for further information.
Date: 
Thu, 09/21/2006 - 8:30pm - 11:00pm
Location: 
8433 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
United States

Medical Marijuana: No More Prison Threat for Renee Boje After Feds Accept Symbolic Plea

One of the most prominent and poignant cases of federal prosecution of people involved in the medical marijuana movement has come to a relatively good end. Renee Boje, who fled to Canada in 1998 rather than face a 10-year to life mandatory minimum sentence for her peripheral involvement in a Los Angeles medical marijuana research grow, pleaded guilty last week to possession of ½ gram of marijuana, was sentenced to one year of probation and allowed to return to Canada. Boje's good news comes roughly four months after another well-known American medical marijuana refugee in Canada, Steve Kubby, saw his own case resolved with a relatively short amount of jail time.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/reneeboje.jpg
Renee Boje
Boje, who did little more than water plants, was arrested when the DEA raided a garden maintained by author and AIDS patient Peter McWilliams and cancer patient and marijuana activist Todd McCormick. McCormick served a five-year federal prison sentence for his role in the operation, but McWilliams never got the chance to. He choked to death on his own vomit after being denied the ability to use marijuana while on probation awaiting trial.

Facing the tender mercies of the US federal criminal justice system, Boje fled to the more cannabis-friendly nation of Canada, where she was embraced by that country's marijuana movement. In 2001, she married activist and author Chris Bennett, and the following year gave birth to a son in Canada. Despite the pleas of people from around the world and her growing links with Canada, the Canadian government rejected all her efforts to stay in the country, and it appeared that she would be deported to face justice American-style.

But federal prosecutors in Los Angeles apparently lost interest in persecuting the young woman and sent word they were interested in resolving the case. On August 10, Boje reentered the United States and on August 14, she pleaded guilty before Judge George King, the same judge who presided over the McWilliams and McCormick hearings. When sentencing Boje to probation, he also gave her permission to return to Canada.

While Canadian border officials had threatened not to allow her back into the country -- after all, she had now pleaded guilty to possessing ½ a gram of marijuana and was thus eligible to be denied entry under Canadian law -- they ultimately granted her a six-month visitor's permit. Boje will use that time to obtain Canadian citizenship.

Hearing Scheduled on Medical Marijuana Ballot Item (South Dakota)

Location: 
SD
United States
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.ktiv.com/News/index.php?ID=3231

Medical Marijuana Patients Get Say in Counties' Legal Challenge to California Medical Marijuana Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ACLU, Drug Policy Alliance and Americans for Safe Access Step In to Represent Medical Marijuana Patients in Lawsuit SAN DIEGO A San Diego Superior Court ruled today that lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Safe Access and the Drug Policy Alliance will be permitted to intervene in a lawsuit brought by several California counties seeking to thwart the state's Compassionate Use Act, which makes medical marijuana legal for patients with a doctor's recommendation. The groups joined the case on behalf of medical marijuana patients and their caregivers and doctors in order to assure their adequate representation in the legal proceedings. "We look forward to the opportunity to stand together with patients in defense of the rights of states to allow medicine to those in need," said David Blair-Loy, an attorney with the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. "We are heartened that the court recognized the necessity of giving voice to those truly at risk from the counties' ill-conceived actions." San Diego, San Bernardino and Merced counties argued in a lawsuit filed in state court that federal laws prohibiting all use of marijuana invalidate state laws that allow qualified patients to use medical marijuana. The ACLU, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the Drug Policy Alliance (the Alliance) filed legal papers on July 7, 2006 seeking to intervene in the proceedings. "As the largest grassroots organization of patients, doctors and scientists advocating for safe and legal access, we feel it's critically important that California's medical marijuana laws be respected by everyone," said Steph Sherer, executive director of ASA. Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Alliance, added, "These county governments have ignored the needs of their sick and dying residents and the advice of California's physicians. By intervening in the lawsuit, patients will have the chance to confront their rogue county officials in court and defend the legality of the Compassionate Use Act." In addition to entering the case, the group's filing asked for a court order compelling the counties to abide by and implement California's medical marijuana laws, as well as an order affirming that the state's medical marijuana laws are not preempted by contrary federal statutes. The lawsuit, initially brought by San Diego County and later joined by San Bernardino and Merced counties, challenges state laws that permit patients to use, and doctors to recommend, medical marijuana under explicit exemptions from state criminal laws that otherwise prohibit all marijuana use. The counties' lawsuit further challenges the state's Medical Marijuana Program Act, which calls for the implementation of an identification card program that would allow police and others to more easily identify legitimate medical marijuana patients. The ACLU, the Alliance and ASA maintain that state medical marijuana laws are not preempted by the federal ban on medical marijuana. While the federal government is free to enforce its prohibition on medical marijuana, even in states such as California that permit its use, all states remain free to adopt and implement policies of their own design an opinion shared by the California Attorney General's office and the attorneys general of several other states, including Colorado, Hawaii and Oregon, that permit medical use of marijuana. The groups represent Wendy Christakes, Pamela Sakuda, William Britt and Yvonne Westbrook, Californians who use physician-recommended marijuana to treat medical conditions and their side-effects, including chronic pain and sciatica, multiple sclerosis, rectal cancer, epilepsy and post-polio syndrome. The groups also represent Sakuda's spouse and caregiver, Norbert Litzinger, as well as Dr. Stephen O'Brien, a physician who specializes in HIV/AIDS treatment in Oakland, California, and believes that many of his seriously ill patients benefit from the medical use of marijuana. In addition to being co-counsel, ASA is also a party to the proceedings on behalf of its membership, which includes thousands of medical marijuana patients, caregivers and physicians residing in California. The Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) is also represented by the groups. WAMM is a medical marijuana collective and hospice located in Santa Cruz, California, whose 250 members, the majority of whom are terminally ill, use marijuana to treat a range of conditions. The groups' legal papers are available online at: www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/medmarijuana/26090lgl20060707.html The ACLU's January 19, 2006 letter to the San Diego Supervisors explaining why California's medical marijuana laws are not preempted by federal law is online at: www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/medmarijuana/23565lgl20060119.html California Attorney General Bill Lockyer's opinion issued to the state's Department of Health Services affirming the validity of the state's medical marijuana laws is available at: www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/medmarijuana/21194res20050715.html Additional background on the case can be found at: www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/medmarijuana/23587prs20060124.html
Location: 
San Diego, CA
United States

My South Dakota Medical Marijuana Lawsuit Research

Our article about the South Dakota medical marijuana initiative and the likely lawsuit against state Attorney General Larry Long over what initiative supporters contend is his biased and possibly illegal description of the initiative that will appear on the ballot, got bumped this week, but we expect it to happen next week. I held off for a couple of reasons: First, the lawsuit has yet to actually be filed. Second, I couldn't manage to make contact with South Dakotans for Safe Access sole spokeswoman Valerie Hannah until Friday morning. Hannah, a Gulf War veteran who suffers from nerve gas exposure, will fill me in on what's going on Monday. We published the first story about the pending lawsuit last issue, beating the Associated Press, which came out with its own story Tuesday. While the AP explained that initiative supporters faulted the AG for his ballot language about doctors possibly losing their DEA prescribing licenses, it failed to mention the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Conant v. Ashcroft, where the court ruled quite clearly that physicians have a First Amendment right to recommend medical marijuana without administrative penalty. Conant is a precedent, but it is not controlling in other circuits since the US Supreme Court refused the Justice Department's appeal of the decision. That is the only possibly out for Long--his ballot language says "doctors may" face problems with the DEA. Yes, and monkeys may fly out my butt.
Location: 
United States

Patients Get Okay to Oppose County's Marijuana Challenge (San Diego County)

Location: 
San Diego, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
North County Times
URL: 
http://www.nctimes.com/articles/2006/08/04/news/sandiego/21_03_458_3_06.txt

Medical Marijuana: In New York Democratic Gubernatorial Race, Spitzer Says No, Suozzi Says Yes

Running an uphill race for the Democratic Party gubernatorial nomination against state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi hoped to use a televised debate to heighten his profile and open some space between himself and Spitzer on the issues. He managed to do that on a number of issuing, including medical marijuana.

When asked by debate moderator Dominick Carter whether medical marijuana should be legalized in the Empire State, Spitzer answered "no," which generated booing from the audience, while Suozzi answered "yes."

The next question was whether the candidates had ever used marijuana. Both said "yes," but Spitzer's affirmative was followed by laughter, then clapping from the audience. Neither candidate elaborated on their monosyllabic responses.

While Spitzer opposes medical marijuana, he has been a staunch supporter of Rockefeller drug law reform. Neither candidate, however, mentions Rockefeller drug law reform as a major issue on their campaign web sites.

(Audio of the debate can be accessed on the WNYC web site -- the marijuana exchange is 57:47 deep into the file.)

Feature: Medical Marijuana Crisis in San Diego as Feds, Locals Move to Shut Down Remaining Dispensaries

Already buffeted by a series of December raids and new raids and arrests of dispensary operators earlier this month, the San Diego-area medical marijuana community is now reeling under a new assault that is forcing the remaining dispensaries to close their doors. Last Friday, DEA agents visited dispensaries it had not already shut down and warned them they faced arrest if they stayed open. They shut down. The feds also seized any medicine they could get their hands on at the dispensaries they visited.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/mcwilliams2-reduced.jpg
July 2005 protest in Washington after suicide of Steve McWilliams, San Diego medical marijuana provider who was facing federal prosecution
The DEA and local officials claim the dispensaries were acting as de facto retail marijuana outlets and many "patients" were not really sick. But medical marijuana advocates say the dispensaries are permitted under state law and are serving sick and dying people. The battle is unlikely to be resolved any time soon, and people on both sides of the issue are looking to the courts or the legislature to clarify matters.

But in San Diego, patients and their supporters are also going after the local political establishment. Dozens of demonstrators gathered Tuesday in front of San Diego city hall to protest the shutdowns before entering the chambers to urge the city council to move to protect patients. So far, it hasn't worked.

"We need to stop raiding and start regulating," said Wendy Christakes, a medical marijuana patient and San Diego co-coordinator of Americans for Safe Access, the medical marijuana defense group. "Local officials are under both moral and legal obligations to develop a safe and secure system for the distribution of medical marijuana to eligible patients. Failing to do so has put us all at risk of DEA harassment and worse."

"We are facing a fairly serious situation down in San Diego right now," said ASA spokesman William Dolphin. "The DEA not only raided many dispensaries, they also paid visits to ones they hadn't previously shut down and warned them they could be arrested if they didn’t close. This is creating a serious access problem for patients in the San Diego area."

It's pretty clear that the local district attorney and law enforcement agreed with the DEA to go after what they've described as abuses of the medical marijuana law down there," said California NORML head Dale Gieringer. "The DEA operates in places where local authorities are willing to cooperate, and San Diego County has been in the forefront of opposition to the medical marijuana law. The city police chief and the county prosecutor are sympathetic to medical marijuana, but none of them are sympathetic to the pot club scene that emerged in San Diego."

"San Diego authorities are taking the position that the dispensaries shouldn’t exist at all," said Marijuana Policy Project communications director Bruce Mirken. "While there is arguably some ambiguity in the law, many communities have decided to permit and regulate dispensaries, and that is clearly what makes the most sense for patients. We think local authorities should give patients safe access to their medicine through a set of regulations communities can live with and use their police resources for something other than harassing the sick," he told DRCNet.

"This is frustrating and frightening," Mirken continued. "It seems like local officials in San Diego county have joined with the DEA to declare war on the dispensaries, and they feel like it is up to them to decide which physicians' recommendations are okay and which are not."

"This is an unacceptable action of the part of state and local officials, given the explicit will of the voters and the legislature," said ASA Dolphin. "We are pursuing legal action to force them to comply with state law. Along with the Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU, we are party to the lawsuit filed against the county to force local officials to implement state law."

"Our contention is that nonprofit co-ops and dispensing collectives are legal under California state law," said Dolphin. "There is a lack of explicit direction from the state as to how these are to be regulated. The legislature decided to put the burden on local officials, much like zoning and other regulations, and local communities have the right and responsibility to deal with these things. But because of the volatility of the issue and resistance around the state, the legislature may have to act again with more explicit directions. The key question is how do we ensure patients have legal access to their medicine?"

"The law does not permit dispensaries," maintained San Diego County Assistant District Attorney Damon Mosler. "The law allows people to grow medical marijuana or buy it through the black market, which is cheaper than what the dispensaries are selling it for anyway," he told DRCNet. "We've had some 20-odd stores open up in less than a year selling marijuana openly. We have citizen groups taking pictures of lots of young people coming in and out of the dispensaries."

Mosler and the county prosecutor's office don't have a problem with medical marijuana, he said, just with people abusing the law. "When the law was passed, people though only sick and dying people would get marijuana, and the doctors would decide, but we have some rather unscrupulous physicians making a lot of money off selling recommendations. One doctor testified he made a half million dollars in recommendations. They are not writing prescriptions, so the DEA can't do anything," he complained.

"There are mechanisms under the law as written," said Mosler. "You can have collectives or co-ops where small groups of patients or caregivers get together. If there are legitimate patients who can't grow it, cities can coordinate the collectives." Although Mosler stated flatly that dispensaries are illegal, he conceded that the law is unsettled. "Oakland is taxing the dispensaries, but other cities are doing the same thing we are. Eventually the courts will have to decide whether the dispensaries are legal or not."

The other option for clarifying the law is the state legislature. "The legislature could act to clarify the law," said Mosler. "It may take us getting people in an uproar like now for that to happen."

CANORML's Gieringer disagreed. "There will not be any new state law until federal law is changed," he predicted. "The only long term solution is to make marijuana an over-the-counter drug. NORML is generally pushing in favor of local regulated distribution, local option cafes, dispensaries, and cannabis shops. It's just not worth trying to sort out who is medical and who isn't."

"It's possible to address this at the state level," said MPP's Mirken, grimacing at the prospect. "We tried to address this before with SB 420, and that was the subject of much wrangling and produced mixed results. Just getting that passed was like pulling teeth, and I don’t imagine the legislature really wants to wade into this again."

It would be better if local communities could craft reasonable regulations, Mirken said. "It is not unreasonable for different communities to craft different standards, but local governments need to approach this with some level of common sense and decency. If that doesn’t happen, we will have to figure out what to do next."

California's medical marijuana law has evolved into a serious muddle. Something is going to have to happen to sort it all out. In the meantime, California dispensary operators should be looking over their shoulders.

MPP's Mirken had some advice for them. "Be very careful and understand that you could become a federal target," he warned. Operators should work with local officials to demonstrate community support, he suggested. "The most important thing is for local officials in communities supportive of medical marijuana to make clear this sort of DEA action is not welcome in their towns. Local officials need to start sending that message loud and clear. I don’t think the DEA is stupid enough to do a wholesale crackdown in places like San Francisco or West Hollywood, but San Diego rolled out the red carpet."

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