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Marijuana Policy

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Case highlights medical-pot dilemma

United States
The Seattle Times

Lawmakers hear arguments on salvia ban

Augusta, ME
United States
Bangor Daily News (ME)

Tyrone Brown is one step from freedom, and you can help today!

Last month, the Chronicle featured the story of Tyrone Brown, the Texas black man doing life in prison for testing positive for marijuana while on probation for participating in a penny-ante armed robbery back in 1990. He's been languishing in prison ever since, but in the past year, a movement to free Tyrone Brown has really taken off, thanks to a pair of ABC News 20-20 reports that featured his sad story. Now, Tyrone Brown is one step away from freedom. The Dallas county sheriff, the prosecutor, and Brown's sentencing judge have all called for him to be released. The state parole board last week approved their request for clemency or a commutation of sentence. Now, it's up to Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry to approve a commutation, a decision he will reportedly take up this week. Here's where you come in. Brown's supporters are urging people to call the governor's office TODAY to urge him to commute Brown's sentence. Here's what they said in an email today:
1. Continue sending and faxing letters. The address is on the main page of the website - . Fax: (512) 463-1849 2. Today we want everyone to call the Governor's office. It will take about 30 sec., but this is very important. Please call in and try to get others to call in and let's keep their phone ringing ALL DAY. Here is what to say when you call in: "I am calling to thank Governor Perry in advance for releasing Tyrone Brown. My name is 'XXXXXXXXX' and I want to let the Governor know that I support Tyrone's commutation." Please call several time throughtout the day and let keep the governor's phone ringing. Here are the numbers (cycle through and call all of them if you can !!): (512) 463-1782, 1-800-252-9600, (800) 843-5789, (512) 463-2000
For more information, sample letters, etc., visit the web site linked above. Now let's hit those phones!
Austin, TX
United States

Feds Congratulate Themselves For Persecuting Sick People

From the Fresno Bee:

In a ceremony today, the White House drug czar is honoring the state, local and federal officers who took down Modesto's California Healthcare Collective. Officials charge the ostensibly nonprofit collective with fronting for big-time marijuana dealers.

Walters' grandstanding is particularly galling in light of widespread public condemnation of the DEA's recent activity in California. Indeed, raiding dispensaries that openly provide medicine to sick people in accordance with state law is one of the lamest and least helpful things police can possibly do with our tax dollars.

Every problem associated with medical marijuana distribution could be solved if the federal government rescheduled the drug and brought it inside the law where it belongs.

Instead, the Drug Czar and his army of federally-subsidized task forces continue to gorge themselves on confiscated proceeds and negative publicity. Perhaps recognizing the absurdity of it all, they bend over backwards to paint their targets as gangsters and criminals:

"Most health-care providers wear white coats and carry stethoscopes," said Bill Ruzzamenti, director of the Fresno-based Central Valley High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. "In this particular case, they wore bulletproof vests [and] carried a gun."

Of course, it's actually the police who are playing doctor at gunpoint. And you can't blame dispensary owners for arming themselves when they have nowhere to turn for protection. The suggestion that these people are dangerous is a joke and should serve to remind us that truly dangerous people are the beneficiaries when police resources are wasted in a fraudulent political war against medical marijuana.

Are you watching this, Dennis Kucinich?

United States

Cameron hint on cannabis medicine

United Kingdom
BBC News

Parole board recommends pardon for man serving life on drug bust

Dallas, TX
United States
KGBT Television (TX)

Bill would make pot legal in state

Concord, NH
United States
Portsmouth Herald (NH)

Medical marijuana raids are criticized

United States
Los Angeles Times

Medical Marijuana: Washington State Group Raided

Washington state drug enforcement agents raided the headquarters of CannaCare, an Everett-based medical marijuana advocacy and support group Wednesday. Agents with the federally-funded West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team seized what they said was more than a thousand marijuana plants, as well as computers containing medical records and other personal information on about 200 people authorized to use the herb under state law. No one has yet been arrested or charged with a crime.

It is the second raid in a week at addresses linked to CannaCare. Last week, agents raided the Renton home of John Worthington, an associate of CannaCare head Steve Sarich, a prominent Washington medical marijuana advocate who, according to the Seattle Times, provoked police by "aannouncing that CannaCare will provide pot plants to patients."

In the Renton raid, police seized six marijuana plants, and Worthington screamed foul. "They went after me because I'm an activist, and I've been terrorized out of growing," Worthington told the Post-Intelligencer. "I can't have my kids frisked like they're criminals. That was disgusting. I'm not Al Capone -- I'm a dad."

Sarich, too, remains unrepentant. "Since they don't like medical marijuana, this is an attack on the people that support it," Sarich told the Seattle paper while insisting he is no drug dealer. According to Sarich, only a few ounces of marijuana were found in the raid, and most of the seized plants were unrooted clones and starter plants. The slightly more than $1,000 cash police seized was to pay his utility bill, he claimed.

But the network of patients around CannaCare and local privacy watchdogs are concerned about patient records falling into the hands of police. "Who knows what they're doing with our information?" said Steve Newman, who has multiple sclerosis and has been using marijuana, obtained through CannaCare, for two years. "It makes me concerned -- really, really concerned. But we're pretty helpless. Nobody can say much about it," he told the Post-Intelligencer.

"CannaCare had a lot of records related to patients they were providing cuttings for," said Alison Chin Holcomb, director of the Washington ACLU's Marijuana Education Project. "We are not real comfortable with law enforcement having the ability to disseminate information from people's medical records," she told Drug War Chronicle.

The group may move to restrict police access to those records, Holcomb said. "We're investigating what legal grounds we might have for requesting that a judge issue a protective order, or maybe even an order sealing those records," she said. "We want to minimize patient exposure."

But if CannaCare and Sarich were providing marijuana to more than one patient, there could be a tough legal battle ahead of them, Holcomb said. "Under Washington law, a designated caregiver can provide for only one patient. If it turns out he is providing to large numbers of people, that could be a real problem for him."

Feature: DEA Makes Major Move Against Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Agents of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided 11 Los Angeles County medical marijuana dispensaries Wednesday, including five in the city of West Hollywood, where supportive officials have been working with store owners to responsibly regulate their operations. The raids mark a departure from recent DEA actions in the state, which for the most part this year have targeted dispensaries in areas where local officials are unsupportive of or even hostile to medical marijuana.

DEA agents dressed in SWAT-style attire seized several thousand pounds of processed marijuana, bagsful of cash, guns, and hundreds of marijuana plants. Agents detained 20 people, but none have so far been charged with any crime. It was the largest DEA swoop in the county in recent memory.

The DEA raiders were greeted yesterday by dozens of protestors chanting "DEA Go Away" and "States' Rights" along Santa Monica Boulevard, where four of the raided dispensaries sit in a five-block stretch. Thursday morning, about 100 people gathered at West Hollywood city hall to protest the assault on the state's medical marijuana law.
DEA post-raid publicity photo
California voters approved the use of medical marijuana in a 1996 initiative, but the federal government has never accepted that law. Wednesday's raids were only the latest skirmish in an ongoing battle that has seen dozens dispensaries raided this year. Unlike raids in places like Modesto, Riverside County, and San Diego, where recalcitrant local law enforcement worked hand in glove with the feds, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department did not participate, except to provide crowd control for anticipated expressions of public displeasure, and was not even informed of the raids until shortly before they took place.

"It's outrageous that we have a situation where the voters have spoken, the legislature has spoken, the courts have affirmed it, local officials are regulating it, and then the DEA comes in and says 'we know better,'" said William Dolphin, communications director for the medical marijuana defense group Americans for Safe Access, which helped organize the Wednesday and Thursday protests. "This is not how a democracy is supposed to work, and it is a terrible problem for patients. They say they aren't targeting patients, but they're doing everything they can to shut off their access to their medicine, and they're taking a page from the terrorists' handbook by simultaneously hitting a bunch of places to create an atmosphere of pervasive fear."

Medical marijuana activists were not the only people upset by the raids. The West Hollywood city council, which supports the state's medical marijuana law, had only the night before introduced an ordinance establishing permanent regulations for the dispensaries. It was thus little surprise that council members reacted testily.

"The state of California voted to allow marijuana for medical purposes," said West Hollywood city council member Abbe Land. "The City of West Hollywood along with other cities across the state have established regulations to govern the dispensing of medical marijuana, so that people whose lives depend on this drug can be assured of safe access to their medicine. The DEA should spend their time going after dispensaries that are not operating in accordance with local ordinances, as well as unscrupulous doctors who write illegitimate prescriptions," she continued.

"Today's actions again demonstrate the skewed priorities of the Bush administration and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration," said West Hollywood City Council Member Jeffrey Prang. "Providing safe access to medical marijuana for those living with serious and often painful illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, cancer and other terminal diseases is something this city supports. We have worked closely with our community to insure these establishments operate safely and comply with the spirit of Proposition 215 adopted by the voters of California."

The DEA couldn't care less. For the agency, marijuana is illegal, period. For the feds, the raids are not about stopping people from getting their medicine, but about crime, or at least so they say. "Today's enforcement operations show that these establishments are nothing more than drug trafficking organizations bringing criminal activities to our neighborhoods and drugs near our children and schools," crowed DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Ralph Partridge, as the agency displayed seized cash, candy bars, and cannabis.

"We're here to enforce the drug laws," DEA Los Angeles spokeswoman Special Agent Sarah Pullen told Drug War Chronicle Thursday. "Those were marijuana distribution centers, and the cultivation, possession, and distribution of marijuana in any form is a crime under federal law. Obviously there is a drug problem out here and there are many different types of drugs. We're working many different kinds of cases, and these raids are just one of them. We're doing our best to enforce the law."

"You certainly have to wonder if these guys don't have anything better to do," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "They raided several places in West Hollywood, a city which is working very hard to regulate its dispensaries to ensure that they're operating properly. The DEA cannot reasonably argue that these were runaway dispensaries; they went after some of the most carefully regulated dispensaries in the state," he told the Chronicle.

"This is yet one more example of the federal government's priorities being out of whack with any respect for federalism and state's rights, let alone human decency," Mirken said. "One can only hope this will give new impetus to efforts in Congress to rein them in," he said, referring to what was known in previous years as the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would bar the use of federal funds for raids on medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal.

"That's the only good side to this," said ASA's Dolphin. "Speaker Pelosi is an outspoken defender of medical marijuana access for patients, and we have a large number of new Democrats in the House, along with some Republicans like Rohrabacher. With this new Congress, we're much closer to passing something like Hinchey-Rohrabacher. And we will definitely see much more pressure for the DEA to provide some accountability."

When asked whether the agency might be setting itself up to lose funding for raids against medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal, the DEA's Pullen deferred to Washington. "That's a question for the director," she said. "We're just here to enforce the law." A Chronicle call to DEA director Karen Tandy's office has so far gone unreturned.

With the Justice Department and the DEA feeling emboldened since last year's Supreme Court decision in Raich, it may be that the only way to bring an end to the raids is to adopt a tactic increasingly bruited about in discussions of ending the war in Iraq: Cut off the funds.

Advocates will demonstrate against the DEA raid on Monday, January 22, noon, at 255 East Temple Street in Los Angeles, and a planning meeting will take place the preceding Saturday. Visit for further information or to download a master copy of the event flyer. Visit for info on supporting events happening nationwide.

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