Press Release

RSS Feed for this category

YouTube Ignores Cop's First Place Marijuana Legalization Video Question for Obama

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:January 30, 2012
CONTACT:Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or [email protected]

YouTube Ignores Cop's First Place Marijuana Legalization Video Question for Obama

Site Finds Time for Questions About Dancing, Late-Night Snacks and Playing Tennis

WASHINGTON, DC-- Today YouTube ignored a question advocating marijuana legalization from a retired LAPD deputy chief of police that won twice as many votes as any other video question in the White House's "Your Interview with the President" competition on the Google-owned site. They did, however, find the time to get the president on record about late night snacking, singing and dancing, celebrating wedding anniversaries and playing tennis.  

Stephen Downing, the retired LAPD police officer and a board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), had this to say about the site ignoring his question: "It's worse than silly that YouTube and Google would waste the time of the president and of the American people discussing things like midnight snacks and playing tennis when there is a much more pressing question on the minds of the people who took the time to participate in voting on submissions. A majority of Americans now support legalizing marijuana to de-fund cartels and gangs, lower incarceration and arrest rates and save scarce public resources, all while generating new much-needed tax revenue. The time to discuss this issue is now. We're tired of this serious public policy crisis being pushed aside or laughed off."

The top-voted video question from Downing is as follows: "Mr. President, my name is Stephen Downing, and I'm a retired deputy chief of police from the Los Angeles Police Department. From my 20 years of experience I have come to see our country’s drug policies as a failure and a complete waste of criminal justice resources. According to the Gallup Poll, the number of Americans who support legalizing and regulating marijuana now outnumbers those who support continuing prohibition. What do you say to this growing voter constituency that wants more changes to drug policy than you have delivered in your first term?" The question can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0IpiATxdR4.

Downing's question came in first place for video questions and ranked second out of all questions (with the overall top spot going to a text question about copyright infringement). Many of the other top-ranking questions were about marijuana policy or the failed "war on drugs," as has been the case every other time the White House has invited citizens to submit and vote on questions via the web. 

Voting in the YouTube contest wrapped up Saturday at midnight EST. In addition to the top-voted marijuana and drug policy questions mentioned above, there were a number of other similar questions that received thousands of votes but were mysteriously deleted after being marked "inappropriate."

More information about the contest and the top-voted questions can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/whitehouse. The Gallup poll referenced in Downing's winning question can be found online at http://www.gallup.com/poll/150149/Record-High-Americans-Favor-Legalizing-Marijuana.aspx.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) represents police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others who want to legalize and regulate drugs after fighting on the front lines of the war on drugs and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence. More info at http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com.

#     #     #

Patient Advocates File Appeal Brief in Federal Case to Reclassify Medical Marijuana

 

PRESS RELEASE
Americans for Safe Access
For Immediate Release:
January 26, 2012
Contact: ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford or ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes

Patient Advocates File Appeal Brief in Federal Case to Reclassify Medical Marijuana
Lawsuit in the D.C. Circuit challenges DEA denial to reschedule marijuana for medical use

Washington, DC -- The country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), filed an appeal brief today in the D.C. Circuit to compel the federal government to reclassify marijuana for medical use. In July 2011, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) denied a petition filed in 2002 by the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC), which was denied only after the coalition sued the government for unreasonable delay. The ASA brief filed today is an appeal of the CRC rescheduling denial.

"By ignoring the wealth of scientific evidence that clearly shows the therapeutic value of marijuana, the Obama Administration is playing politics at the expense of sick and dying Americans," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who filed the appeal today. "For the first time in more than 15 years we will be able to present evidence in court to challenge the government's flawed position on medical marijuana." Although two other rescheduling petitions have been filed since the establishment of the Controlled Substances Act in 1970, the merits of medical efficacy was reviewed only once by the courts in 1994.

The ASA appeal brief asserts that the federal government acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its efforts to deny marijuana to millions of patients throughout the United States. ASA argues in the brief that the DEA has no "license to apply different criteria to marijuana than to other drugs, ignore critical scientific data, misrepresent social science research, or rely upon unsubstantiated assumptions, as the DEA has done in this case." ASA is urging the court to "require the DEA to analyze the scientific data evenhandedly," and order "a hearing and findings based on the scientific record."

Patient advocates argue that by failing to reclassify marijuana, the federal government has stifled meaningful research into a wide array of therapeutic uses, such as pain relief, appetite stimulation, nausea suppression, and spasticity control among many other benefits. In 1988, the government ignored the ruling of its own Administrative Law Judge Francis Young who said that, "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man."

Since the CRC petition was filed in 2002, an even greater number of studies have been published that show the medical benefits of marijuana for illnesses such as neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's. Recent studies even show that marijuana may inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Last year, the National Cancer Institute, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, added cannabis to its list of Complementary Alternative Medicines, pointing out that it's been therapeutically used for millennia. The ASA appeal asserts that scientific evidence that  was studied or discovered after 2002 is still relevant and must be considered.

Attorneys David Holland and Michael Kennedy filed the original petition in 2002 on behalf the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis, which included several individual patients and groups, such as ASA and Patients Out of Time.

AFI: Several patient-petitioners are available for interviews:

William Britt
Mr. Britt is a 52-year-old resident of Long Beach, California, who developed polio as a child, which caused him to have scoliosis, a fused left ankle, shortened left leg, and bone degeneration in his left hip.  Mr. Britt also suffers from epilepsy, depression and insomnia, and uses marijuana to treat chronic pain in his leg, back, and hip. Marijuana has reduced Mr. Britt's seizures and depression, and helps him sleep. Although Mr. Britt has taken prescription medication such as Marinol, Robaxin, Soma, and Xanax, none has proven as effective as marijuana.

Michael Krawitz
Mr. Krawitz is a 49-year-old resident of Elliston, Virginia, who suffered an automobile accident in 1984 while serving in the United States Air Force.  Mr. Krawitz has been rated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as being totally and permanently disabled. Mr. Krawitz uses marijuana to treat chronic pain and trauma associated with his accident.  He also use marijuana to treat central serous retinopathy. However, because of Mr. Krawitz's medical marijuana use, he has been denied pain treatment by the VA.

Steph Sherer
Ms. Sherer is a resident of Washington, D.C. and the founder and Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). In April of 2000, Ms. Sherer suffered a physical attack that has caused her to suffer from a condition known as torticollis, which causes her to experience inflammation, muscle spasms, pain throughout her body, and decreased mobility in her neck. Because of pain medication she was prescribed, including Soma, Robaxin and Ibuprofin, Ms. Sherer suffered kidney damage. After her doctor recommended medical marijuana, Ms. Sherer successfully reduced her inflammation, muscle spasms, and pain. This prompted Ms. Sherer to found ASA in April of 2002 to share what she learned about the medical benefits of marijuana with others. Since then, ASA has grown to more than thirty-five thousand members, including many seriously ill persons who would have benefited from the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but who were deterred from doing so, in part, by the government's statements that marijuana “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”

Further information:
ASA appeal brief filed today: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/CRC_Appeal.pdf
DEA answer to CRC petition: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/CRC_Petition_DEA_Answer.pdf
CRC rescheduling petition: http://www.drugscience.org/PDF/Petition_Final_2002.pdf

# # #

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.

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

Congress to Restore Federal Syringe Exchange Funding Ban as Part of 2012 Spending Package

Drug Policy Alliance

www.drugpolicy.org

For Immediate Release: December 16, 2011
Contact: Tony Newman or Bill Piper

Congress to Restore Federal Syringe Exchange Funding Ban as Part of 2012 Spending Package

Ban on Allowing States to Use HIV Prevention Money on Life-Saving Syringe Programs was Overturned in 2009 After 20-Year Struggle

Reinstatement of Ban will Lead to Thousands of New HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C Cases Annually

As part of the 2012 spending package being voted on today, Congress is restoring a ban on using federal funding for syringe exchange programs that reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and other infectious diseases. The ban, enacted in the 1980s and repealed in 2009, was largely responsible for hundreds of thousands of Americans contracting HIV/AIDS directly or indirectly from the sharing of used syringes. Advocates warn that restoring the ban will result in thousands of Americans contracting HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C or other infectious diseases next year alone.

“The federal syringe funding ban was costly in both human and fiscal terms – it is outrageous that Congress is restoring it given how overwhelming and clear the science is in support of making sterile syringes widely available,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Make no mistake about it – members of Congress who supported this ban have put the lives of their constituents in jeopardy.”

House Republicans passed restrictive language in three separate appropriations bills, and succeeded in getting two of three bans in the current House-Senate compromise omnibus for Fiscal Year 2012 being voted on today. In addition to the overarching ban on domestic use of federal funds contained in the Labor-HHS spending bill, House republicans also succeeded in imposing a ban on use of State Department funds for syringe access in international programs. In large parts of the world the HIV/AIDS epidemic is being driven by injection drug use. The international syringe funding ban will mean the global HIV/AIDS epidemic will continue to grow.

The existing federal syringe exchange policy, signed into law by President Obama in December of 2009, allows states and local public health officials to use federal funds for syringe access, in consultation and with the consent of  local law enforcement. The policy change is widely credited with having prevented thousands of new cases of HIV and Hepatitis C, thereby saving many lives and improving public health and safety.  

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences, American Public Health Association, and numerous other scientific bodies have found that syringe exchange programs are highly effective at preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases. Increasing the availability of sterile syringes through exchange programs, pharmacies and other outlets also helps injection drug users obtain drug education and treatment. Eight federal reports have found that increasing access to sterile syringes saves lives without increasing drug use.

“We may have lost this battle, but we have just begun to fight,” said Piper. “The Republicans who insisted on restoring the ban, and the Democrats who didn’t fight hard enough to oppose it, will be responsible for thousands of Americans contracting HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C. We will make sure Americans know which members of Congress care about their health and well-being and which do not.”

###

Medical Marijuana Advocates Appeal Conviction of San Diego Dispensary Operator

 

PRESS RELEASE
Americans for Safe Access
For Immediate Release:
November 22, 2011
Contact: ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford or ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes

Medical Marijuana Advocates Appeal Conviction of San Diego Dispensary Operator
Court to decide on legality of "sales" & whether dispensary operators are entitled to a defense

San Diego, CA -- Medical marijuana patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) today appealed the September 2010 conviction of San Diego dispensary operator Jovan Jackson in a case that has received widespread attention. The case against Jackson has become a symbol of the effort by District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and other prosecutors across the state to criminalize storefront collectives. Due to state jurisprudence, California Attorney General Kamala Harris will now defend Jackson's appeal rather than Dumanis, who originally tried him. The ASA appeal not only contests Jackson's conviction and his denial of a defense, but it also challenges the prosecution's assertion that "sales" of medical marijuana are illegal under state law.

"Jackson and other medical marijuana providers deserve a defense under the state's medical marijuana laws and these are issues for a jury to decide," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who authored the appeal brief filed today. "The denial of Jackson's defense was unfairly used to convict a medical marijuana provider who was in full compliance with state law." At Jackson's trial, San Diego Superior Court Judge Howard Shore referred to medical marijuana as "dope," and called California's medical marijuana laws "a scam."

The Jackson case represents one of the first medical marijuana-related criminal appeals for Harris, who was elected one year ago after a hard-fought campaign against Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley. Before taking office as Attorney General, Harris was the San Francisco District Attorney during the implementation and enforcement of her city's dispensary licensing ordinance, one of the first in the nation.

Jackson operated his storefront collective for years without incident until he was raided by law enforcement in 2008. Jackson was tried for marijuana possession and sales in 2009, but was acquitted by a jury. Dissatisfied with that result, District Attorney Dumanis tried Jackson again on the same charges stemming from a September 2009 raid by a multi-agency task force made up of local and federal law enforcement. It was at his second trial that Jackson was denied a defense and ultimately convicted. Judge Shore gave Jackson 180 days in jail before his conviction was appealed.

Several District Attorneys have asserted that medical marijuana "sales" are illegal under state law, despite guidelines issued in 2008 by the California Attorney General and legal case law to the contrary. This contention -- that patients must take part in collective cultivation and "till the soil" -- has been used to deny Jackson a defense, even though other lower courts, like those in Los Angeles and Butte Counties, take a differing view.

For example, in Williams v. Butte County, the Superior Court held that, "the legislature intended collective cultivation of medical marijuana would not require physical participation in the gardening process by all members of the collective, but rather would permit that some patients would be able to contribute financially, while others performed the labor and contributed the skills and 'know-how.'"

Jackson is currently out on bail pending appeal, but he no longer operates his medical marijuana collective. The Attorney General has 30 days to reply to the appeal.

Further information:
Jackson appeal brief filed by ASA: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Jackson_Appeal.pdf

# # #

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: 
San Diego, CA
United States

Cedars-Sinai Denying Transplant to Medical Marijuana Patient with Inoperable Liver Cancer

PRESS RELEASE

Americans for Safe Access
For Immediate Release:
November 17, 2011
Contact: ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford or ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes

Cedars-Sinai Denying Transplant to Medical Marijuana Patient with Inoperable Liver Cancer
Patient advocacy group calls on preeminent health center to change harmful transplant policy

Los Angeles, CA -- Sixty-three year-old medical marijuana patient Norman B. Smith was diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer in 2009 and sought treatment from the internationally lauded Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Smith's oncologist at Cedars-Sinai, Dr. Steven Miles, approved of his medical marijuana use as a means to deal with the effects of chemotherapy and pain from an unrelated back surgery. In September 2010, Smith became eligible for a liver transplant, but after testing positive for marijuana in February he was removed from the transplant list. Smith's cancer was in remission until just recently, but now he is scheduled to undergo radiation treatments in the next few days.

Medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) issued a letter today urging the Cedars-Sinai Transplant Department to promptly re-list Smith for a liver transplant. The letter also urges Cedars-Sinai to change its transplant eligibility policy. "Denying necessary transplants to medical marijuana patients is the worst kind of discrimination," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who also authored the letter to Cedars-Sinai. "Cedars-Sinai would not be breaking any laws, federal or otherwise, by granting Norman Smith a liver transplant, and it's certainly the ethical thing to do."

Smith is not the only medical marijuana patient in the U.S. being denied a transplant. At least one other Cedars-Sinai patient reported to ASA in 2008 that they had been kicked off the transplant list because of their legal medical marijuana use. Over the past four years, ASA has received numerous reports of patients being purged from transplant lists across California, as well as in other medical marijuana states like Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington. In 2008, Seattle resident and medical marijuana patient Timothy Garon died after being denied a liver transplant by the University of Washington Medical Center. A year later, in 2009, Big Island resident and medical marijuana patient Kimberly Reyes died at Hilo Hospital after being denied a liver transplant.

Cedars-Sinai is demanding that Smith not only abstain from marijuana use for at least six months, forcing him to undergo random toxicology tests, but he is also required to participate in weekly substance abuse counseling over the same period. Although Smith was within two months of receiving a transplant before he was de-listed, he will be put at the bottom of the list even after satisfying the policy requirements. "ASA seeks to change this harmful and uncompassionate policy not only for Smith's benefit, but also for the benefit of numerous other medical marijuana patients who are being made to suffer unnecessarily as a result of political ideology," said Elford.

Between January 2010 and October 2011, Smith took part in a rare clinical trial to combat his liver cancer. The trial, which included only 60 people worldwide, involved weekly infusions and daily pills. Smith also smoked medical marijuana during this time, but stopped in August 2011 to try to adhere to the transplant eligibility requirements. Smith was the only patient in the entire 93-week trial who had a successful remission, earning him the moniker of "Miracle Man." Because of the cancer's return, Smith may not have six months to live. However, instead of re-listing him for a transplant, Cedars-Sinai is scheduling him for radiation treatment. "Norman Smith's life hangs in the balance between his desperate need for a liver and an anti-marijuana sentiment that informs a misguided and life-threatening transplant policy," continued Elford.

Smith not only has the support of his oncologist and other Cedars-Sinai staff, but also his psychologist, who wrote a strong letter of recommendation that Smith be approved for a liver transplant. Nonetheless, Dr. Steven D. Colquhoun, the director of Cedars-Sinai's Liver Transplant Program compared Smith's legal medical marijuana use to "substance abuse." In a letter sent to Smith in May, Dr. Colquhoun indicated that the liver transplant center "must consider issues of substance abuse seriously since it does often play a role in the evolution of diseases that may require transplantation, and may adversely impact a new organ after a transplant." Despite Dr. Colquhoun's assertions and Cedars-Sinai's restrictive policy, an independent study has shown that marijuana use has no adverse impact on the survival rate of transplant recipients.

AFI: Norman Smith is available for interviews at 310-801-8370 or [email protected]

Further information:
Video of Norman Smith: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i_kYTwQ6jdY&feature=youtu.be
ASA letter to Cedars-Sinai: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Cedars_Letter_ASA.pdf
Cedars-Sinai transplant denial letter to Norman Smith: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Smith_Transplant_Denial.pdf
Liver transplant study: http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/2027.42/73843/1/j.1600-6143.2008.02468.x.pdf

# # #

 

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: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States

Medical Marijuana Patients, Supporters Rally TODAY in Sacramento Against DOJ Attacks

 

MEDIA ADVISORY
Americans for Safe Access
For Immediate Release:
November 9, 2011
Contact: ASA California Director Don Duncan

Medical Marijuana Patients, Supporters Rally TODAY in Sacramento Against DOJ Attacks
Lively, peaceful protest called for Noon on Wednesday, Nov 9th at Sacramento federal building

Sacramento, CA -- Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and a coalition of advocacy and labor groups are staging a demonstration at Noon today to protest federal government's escalated attack on California's medical marijuana laws. A lively rally of medical marijuana patients and supporters is set to occur in front of the Sacramento federal building and will feature state legislators, advocates, labor, and dispensary operators impacted by the recent Justice Department (DOJ) crackdown in California.

What: Protest against DOJ attacks on California's medical marijuana laws
When: 12 Noon TODAY, November 9, 2011
Where: Sacramento federal building, 501 I Street

Speakers will include: State Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), and other invited legislators; Steph Sherer, Executive Director of ASA; Steve D'Angelo of Oakland's licensed dispensary Harborside Health Center; Dan Rush of the United Food and Commercial Workers; and Dale Gieringer of California NORML

On October 7th, all four U.S. Attorneys for California held a joint press conference to announce a multi-pronged attack on medical marijuana across the state. The DOJ strategy includes: aggressive SWAT-style raids on state compliant producers and distributors of medical marijuana, threats of criminal prosecution and property seizure made against landlords of licensed distributors, and threats against local public officials attempting to implement state law. The Internal Revenue Service has also targeted dozens of California dispensaries in an attempt to put them out of business.

"No matter how you spin it, an attack on access to medical marijuana is an attack on patients," said ASA California Director Don Duncan, one of the organizers of today's protest. "Not only is this crackdown bad for the economy, workers and much-needed tax revenue, it literally pushes patients into the illicit market and into harm's way," continued Duncan. "We are sick and tired of being the target of the Obama Administration and we're calling on the Justice Department to stand down."

Less than two weeks ago, ASA filed a lawsuit in federal court attempting to stop the DOJ crackdown on medical marijuana. The ASA lawsuit accuses the Obama Administration of violating the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by commandeering the lawmaking efforts of local and state legislators. There has also been an outcry from a multitude of elected officials in California, including several members of Congress, State Attorney General Kamala Harris, State Senators Mark Leno and Leland Yee, State Assembly member Tom Ammiano, and Mendocino Supervisor John McCowen.

Today's protest is the culmination of a series of demonstrations held as a result of the October 7th DOJ announcement. Rallies and marches have occurred previously in San Diego (10/18), Los Angeles (10/24), and San Francisco (10/25). The coalition of groups putting on today's protest are also mobilizing supporters across the country to contact President Obama and urge him to end the DOJ attacks.

Further information:
Protest details: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/article.php?id=6848
Letter from Congress to Obama: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Obama_Letter_October_2011.pdf
Elected officials' statements against DOJ tactics: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/blog/?p=2034

# # #

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: 
501 I Street
Sacramento, CA
United States

National Movement of Formerly Incarcerated Kicks Off 11/2 in Los Angeles

Legal Services for Prisoners with Children
www.prisonerswithchildren

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct. 28, 2011
CONTACT: Dorsey Nunn, Martha Wallner

National Movement to End Human and Civil Rights Abuses Against
Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People and Their Families
Kicks Off Nov. 2 in Los Angeles, CA

SAN FRANCISCO -- Formerly incarcerated people from around the country will convene in Los Angeles on November 2 to ratify the National Platform of the Formerly Incarcerated andConvicted Peoples Movement (FICPM) and discuss an agenda for action. Participants will discuss plans to register and mobilize one million formerly incarcerated people to vote in the 2012 elections and strategies to expand the "Ban the Box" employment rights campaign that has yielded legislation in six states easing discrimination against job seekers with a conviction history.

Key organizers of the gathering include Dorsey Nunn, Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners With Children and the organizing project All of Us or None, based in San Francisco, CA, Susan Burton, Executive Director, A New Way of Life Reentry Project in South Central Los Angeles and Pastor Kenny Glasgow, Director of The Ordinary People’s Society (aka TOPS) in Dothan, Alabama.

The new movement emerges at a time when the US has the largest incarceration rate in the world and approximately two million children under the age of 18 with at least one parent behind bars. An estimated 600,000 will be released from prison per year over the next five years. According to the latest US Bureau of Justice statistics, over four million people were on parole and over 800,000 were on probation.

"The abuse of my rights as a formerly incarcerated person is not just an individual issue. Sure, my right to vote, my right to work is important to me, but discrimination against our voting and employment rights has a huge impact on civic engagement and the economic well-being of Black and brown communities in general," said convening co-organizer, Dorsey Nunn.

"The War on Drugs is the biggest cause of disenfranchisement" said co-organizer Pastor Kenny Glasgow. In 2008 Glasgow won a groundbreaking lawsuit restoring the voting rights of the currently incarcerated and those convicted of drug crimes in Alabama. "As formerly incarcerated people we are hindered from becoming the productive people in society we actually want to be. With this work we are serving our country after serving our time. We want to create harm reduction and public safety for all."

"There are 60 million people who are struggling with the quality of their lives as the result of mass incarceration in this country. This meeting will allow us to come together as formerly incarcerated people in a way that’s never been done before. It will connect us and strengthen us so that we can push forward with a common agenda and a common goal. Our goal is to end the discrimination against us," said co-organizer and Los Angeles host, Susan Burton, Executive Director of the New Way of Life Reentry Project.

According to Dorsey Nunn, the convening is open to the public but only participants who identify themselves as formerly incarcerated or convicted people will be allowed to vote to ratify the National Platform. "Where else has anyone asked us what we wanted? Everyone else has always prescribed what we needed. We’re more than somebody else’s client-base, more than somebody else’s patient. The process to develop a national platform represents the first time we’ve asked ourselves, what do we want?"

The gathering will include workshops for youth and family members and trainings on how to overcome growing barriers to voter registration and "Get Out The Vote" and "Ban the Box" that appears on employment forms asking for felony conviction history.

The FICPM gathering is scheduled to coincide with the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Los Angeles, November 2-5. The conference hosts, Drug Policy Alliance, will honor Dorsey Nunn, key organizer for the FICPM gathering, with the Robert C. Randall Award for Achievement in the Field of Citizen Action at an awards reception on Saturday Nov. 5 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel.

Event Details

Date: Weds. Nov 2, 8:30 am – 5:45 pm
Address: Watts Labor Community Action Center, 10950 South Central Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90059

National Platform of the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted Peoples Movement
http://ficpmovement.wordpress.com/about/ficpm-national-platform/

###

Participants are attending from around the country. The Steering Committee is available for comment or interviews.

Malik Aziz, Men United for a Better Philadelphia: Founder and Chairman of the National Exodus Council, with a presence in 24 cities across the nation. He began organizing while incarcerated in Graterford Prison, and eventually found a role in the Philadelphia mayor's office developing alternatives to incarceration and recidivism.

Susan Burton, A New Way of Life, Los Angeles: After cycling in an out of the criminal justice system for nearly fifteen years, Susan gained freedom and sobriety and founded A New Way of Life Reentry Project in 1998. Dedicating her life to helping other women break the cycle of incarceration, homelessness, addiction and despair, Susan becoming a recognized leader in the criminal justice reform and reentry rights movements, and was recently nominated as a CNN hero in the category of "community crusader." She has been a Soros Justice Fellow, a Women's Policy Institute Fellow, and a former Community Fellow under the Violence Prevention Initiative of The California Wellness Foundation.

Pastor Kenny Glasgow, The Ordinary People Society, Dothan, AL: Since his release from prison, Pastor Glasgow has remained committed to ensuring that redemption is in the lives of those who have served their debts to society. He is Executive Director/Founder of TOPS, an organization providing numerous rehabilitation and prevention programs for youth and adults involved, or at risk of involvement, in the criminal justice system. A longtime leader of state and region-wide voter registration and restoration efforts, Pastor Glasgow led the successful campaign resulting in restoration of voting rights for people currently incarcerated in Alabama state prisons -- a first. In 2008, he was awarded the Lyndon B. Johnson Political Freedom Award.

Arthur League, All of Us or None/Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, San Francisco: Arthur has a 40-year history as a community activist involved in social and criminal justice work. In the 70's & 80's, during a time of political unrest, Arthur was an active member of the Black Panther Party, and served a seven- year prison term for his political beliefs and actions. Arthur is a former Director of the Concord Re-Ed Project, a non-profit organization working with adolescents in a group home setting, and serves on the board of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. A Journeyman Plumber, he assists many young people coming out of prison to join the building trades unions and apprenticeships.

Aaliyah Muhammed, All of Us or None/LSPC, San Francisco: Aaliyah is a former prisoner and organizer who has worked with diverse groups of people inside prison and in the community. Her organizing abilities have increased the presence of formerly incarcerated people in the State Capitol, allowing her to supervise contingents of students and advocates in legislative arenas. Her efforts have resulted in creating avenues for former prisoners to take part in policy work in a variety of ways, from organizing community summits in Sacramento regarding legal expungement remedies to grassroots fundraising efforts to support the children of incarcerated people. She speaks widely on the conditions and struggles for women inside of prison.

Dorsey Nunn, All of Us or None/ LSPC, San Francisco: Dorsey is a co-founder of All of Us or None, a civil and human rights organization comprised of formerly incarcerated people, prisoners and their allies. He is also formerly incarcerated, and Executive Director for LSPC, a 30 year old San Francisco based organization dedicated to advocating for the human and civil rights of incarcerated parents, children, family members and people at risk for incarceration. Awarded nationally for his work, he was a 1996-1998 California Wellness Fellow and was recently awarded the prestigious Fannie Lou Hamer award from the African American Studies Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

Bruce Reilly, Direct Action for Rights & Equality, Providence, RI: After a decade as a Jailhouse Lawyer, Bruce hit the ground running in 2005. He served as the Volunteer Coordinator for the RI Right to Vote Campaign and drafted the final language of a state constitutional amendment that re-enfranchised felons onprobation and parole. He wrote a probation reform bill that became law after four years of organizing. He is a former board member and organizer with DARE, and is preparing to enter Tulane Law School in 2011. A successful writer, Bruce has produced a play of prisoners’ writings and his blog on criminal justice has over 200,000 hits in 2010.

Tina Reynolds, Women On the Rise Telling HerStory, New York City Tina is Co-Founder and Chair of Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH), an association of formerly and currently incarcerated women. Tina Reynolds has received a Master in Social Work from Hunter College and is currently an adjunct professor at York, CUNY in the Psychology Department teaching the "Impact of Incarceration on Families, Communities and Children". She has published pieces on the abolition of prisons, the impact of incarceration on women and children, formerly incarcerated women and policy change and is an editor of an anthology "Interrupted Life: Experiences of Incarcerated Women in the United States".

###

Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School