In the Trenches
Medical Marijuana Advocates Stage National Day of Action Against Federal Interference (Press Release)
Americans for Safe Access
For Immediate Release: May 2, 2011
Contact: ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer at 510-872-7822 or ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes at 510-681-6361
Medical Marijuana Advocates Stage National Day of Action Against Federal Interference
Rallies in Sacramento & DC as advocates deliver federal "Cease & Desist" orders across the US
Washington, DC -- Patients and their supporters rallied at the Justice Department in Washington, DC today to protest increased federal interference in medical marijuana states. More than 200 supporters also rallied today in Sacramento for medical marijuana patients Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband Dale Schafer as they surrendered to federal authorities to serve out 5-year prison terms. On Thursday, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided several distribution centers in Spokane, Washington, as a state bill to license such facilities was vetoed the next day by Governor Gregoire. Thursday's actions are the latest in a string of more than 100 aggressive SWAT-style federal raids carried out since President Obama took office.
"Patients are sick and tired of being singled out, stigmatized and harassed over the medication they choose," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical marijuana patients' rights group organizing the protest. "At minimum, the federal government must end its intimidation tactics of threats and harmful raids," continued Sherer. "But more importantly, medical marijuana is an urgent public health issue that President Obama should address by working with -- not against -- the patient community."
As part of its "Sick and Tired" campaign, ASA also organized the delivery of "Cease & Desist" orders to federal officials today in 10 medical marijuana states, including Arizona (Phoenix, Tucson), California (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco), Colorado (Denver), Maine (Portland), Michigan (Detroit, Lansing), Montana (Billings), Nevada (Las Vegas), Oregon (Eugene, Portland), Rhode Island (Providence), and Washington (Everett, Seattle, Spokane).
The national day of action comes at a time of heightened federal attacks on medical marijuana states, routinely timed to coincide with state legislative actions. Threats of criminal prosecution have been made by U.S. Attorneys against local and state officials in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island and Washington. In March, more than two-dozen federal raids in Montana were timed to coincide with deliberation on a pending bill to repeal that state's medical marijuana law. After Governor Schweitzer later vetoed the bill, US Attorney Michael Cotter issued a threatening letter to the state's legislative leadership, further discouraging them from adopting a cultivation and distribution licensing law.
"The imprisonment of Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer is emblematic of a failed federal policy," said Sherer. Fry and Schafer were raided by the DEA in 2001, despite approval from local law enforcement to cultivate medical marijuana. Fry and Schafer were later charged and tried in 2007 for manufacturing, and conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. They were denied a medical defense despite their adherence to state law and ultimately convicted. In order to obtain the mandatory minimum 5-year sentence, the government was able to add up multiple years of harvests to arrive at more than 100 plants. The Obama administration vigorously fought an appeal of their sentence in the Ninth Circuit.
Adding to the cost of incarceration, both Fry and Schafer are in need of medical attention. Fry, a breast cancer survivor, and Schafer, a hemophiliac, will also be leaving behind a family of 5 children and 2 grandchildren, and will miss the birth of another grandchild in October. Advocates are calling on President Obama to grant clemency and commute Fry and Schafer's sentence. In April, ASA issued a report card, giving Obama a failing grade on medical marijuana. "President Obama has given us nothing but broken promises and half-measures, and patients deserve better," said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes.
ASA's "Sick and Tired" campaign page: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/article.php?id=6369
ASA's "Cease & Desist" order: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/ASA_Cease_Desist.pdf
Threatening letters from US Attorneys: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/DOJ_Threat_Letters.pdf
Obama Report Card: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Obama_Report_Card.pdf
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With over 50,000 active members in all 50 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.
Medical Marijuana Advocates Threaten to Sue If San Diego Fails to Amend Flawed Ordinance (Press Release)
For Immediate Release: April 28, 2011
Medical Marijuana Advocates Threaten to Sue if San Diego Fails to Amend Flawed Ordinance
New law shuts down more than 100 operating facilities & leaves virtually no options for relocation
San Diego, CA -- Medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) threatened to file suit against the City of San Diego today if it doesn't amend a recent ordinance that patient advocates are calling a de facto ban on local distribution facilities. ASA argued in a letter sent to City Attorney Jan Goldsmith that the ordinance violates due process rights of medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives by forcing them to shut down in 30 days, leaving virtually no options for relocation.
Unless the city can "ease the restrictions on medical marijuana collectives, so that qualified patients can obtain the medicine they need," the letter authored by ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford said that the organization and its patient base would be compelled to seek such remedies in court. The letter suggested that the San Diego City Council amend its ordinance to allow "medical marijuana collectives to operate in most commercial and all industrial zones" and increase "the period to obtain a conditional use permit to one year."
The city council passed its ordinance on April 12th after months of feedback from hundreds of patients and experts. Virtually all of the requests for changes, including many from its own city-commissioned medical marijuana task force, were ignored. Advocates launched one of the largest letter-writing campaigns in the city's history, resulting in thousands of letters being sent to city council members and the mayor. The ordinance recently became law without the signature of Mayor Jerry Sanders.
San Diego has a long history of hostility toward medical marijuana. In 2006, the county sued the state over having to implement the ID Card program, mandatory under the Medical Marijuana Program Act passed in 2003. The county, which took the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost, now provides ID cards to thousands of qualified patients. Each year since 2005, San Diego medical marijuana providers have endured numerous aggressive federal raids carried out in conjunction with local law enforcement.
After a series of DEA-led raids in September 2009, one month prior to the now-famous Justice Department memo, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis prosecuted two patients, both of whom were acquitted by juries. One of those patients, Jovan Jackson, was tried a second time and convicted as a result of being denied a medical defense. ASA, which argued against the denial of Jackson's defense at trial, is currently appealing his conviction.
ASA threatens to sue City of San Diego: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/San_Diego_Demand_Letter.pdf
San Diego medical marijuana ordinance: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/City_of_San_Diego_Ordinance.pdf
Tell the US Attorney to Quit Playing Politics with Patients!
This week, the US Attorney for Colorado, John Walsh, issued a politically-charged memo reminding Coloradans that his office reserves the right to prosecute medical marijuana patients (if Walsh doesn't believe they are “seriously ill”) and medical marijuana providers—including licensed dispensaries that arefollowing state laws! (See memo HERE)
This memo was one of five issued by U.S. Attorneys in different medical cannabis states in response to pending state medical marijuana legislation. While we think a large-scale crackdown on Colorado's MMJ licensees is unlikely and this memo is largely political, we need you to let John Walsh know that he should stop grandstanding to the detriment of sick patients and should TAKE ACTION to establish a Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado. Click above-- it only takes 1 minute to help!
Sensible Colorado is committed to working with government officials to secure patient access to medicine, and would happily serve on an Advisory Committee comprised of patients, doctors, law enforcement, industry professionals, government officials, and other stakeholders.
**To support Sensible's work on behalf of medical marijuana patients and providers click HERE.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 4/27/2011
CONTACT: Chris Goldstein at 267-702-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Medical Marijuana Bill Re-Introduced in Pennsylvania
A bill to legalize the use of medical marijuana for qualifying patients and to create a statewide system of “Compassion Centers” has been introduced in the Keystone State. Senator Daylin Leach brought SB 1003 forward on April 25th with Senators Larry Farnese, James Ferlo and Wayne Fontana as the initial co-sponsors. The legislation has been referred to the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. READ SB 1003
The language is essentially a re-introduction of a bill that was active in 2009-10 in both houses of the General Assembly. The bill includes provisions for home cultivation and collects the state sales tax on medical cannabis. Last year the issue saw impressive public hearings in Harrisburg and Pittsburgh before the House Health and Human Services Committee.
Dr. Harry Swidler, an Emergency Medicine physician, said at the hearings: “Marijuana is non-addicting. There is no physical dependence or physical withdrawal associated with its use. It is, from a practical standpoint, non-toxic. Marijuana is safer by some measures than any other drug. There is simply no known quantity of marijuana capable of killing a person.”
Renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril Wecht testified before the HHS Committee in August 2010: "I have personally performed 17,000 autopsies and reviewed 36,000 other postmortem protocols signed out by pathologists throughout the United States. I have never attributed a death to marijuana overdose, nor have I ever seen such a death certificate issued by any coroner or medical examiner."
WATCH VIDEO OF TESTIMONY HERE: http://www.youtube.com/pa4mmj
Advocates at Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana PA4MMJ are pushing for several changes to the bill when it gets to committee this session. These include re-naming the bill to The Governor Raymond P. Shafer Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.
Just after stepping down as governor of Pennsylvania in 1970 Shafer, a Republican, chaired a blue-ribbon commission for President Nixon that recommended two main points: 1) Marijuana should not be placed in Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act 2) Marijuana possession should be decriminalized at the federal level.
Nixon ignored those suggestions and ever since the federal government has aggressively enforced the Schedule I classification that describes cannabis as having “…no currently accepted medical use in treatment …” This is the reason that 15 states and the District of Columbia have independently legalized marijuana for medical uses.
Derek Rosenzweig at PA4MMJ in Philadelphia made this statement today, “The best person to help a patient decide what medicine works best is their physician. Marijuana should be available as an option for the thousands of residents in PA dealing with terrible medical conditions that we know cannabis can help treat.”
Patrick Nightengale of PA4MMJ in Pittsburgh added this statement; “ We have spoken with older citizens undergoing chemotherapy to our young warriors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, who have all implored us to get a medical marijuana law passed in PA. Routinely prescribed pain medications cause abuse, addiction and deaths everyday. We should not criminalize the possession of a plant that has never resulted in a single lethal overdose.”
Polling conducted by Franklin&Marshall in 2010 showed that a striking 80 percent of residents support passing a medical marijuana law in Pennsylvania.
More information on the statewide effort in support of safe access to cannabis at www.pa4mmj.org
To speak with advocates, medical experts or cannabis patients in Pennsylvania please contact Chris Goldstein, media coordinator at PA4MMJ, at email@example.com or 267-702-3731.
Additional contacts: Derek Rosenzweig at firstname.lastname@example.org and Patrick Nightengale at email@example.com.
*DRUG TRUTH NETWORK PROGRAMS, Apr 24 to May 1, 2011*
*Cultural Baggage*, 04/24/11, 29:00, Reports from NORML conference in
Denver w/ Dr. David Bearman, & Steve Dillion + Paul Armentano of NORML
<http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/3293> *Transcript: Monday
*Century of Lies* 04/24/11, 29:00, NORML conference reports from Denver w/ Dr. Alan Schackelford, Dr. Ethan Nadelmann + Phil Smith of Drug War Chronicle & Keith Stoup of NORML
*4:20 Drug War NEWS*, 04/25 to 05/01/11, 3:00 each, available at http://www.drugtruth.net on right margin Sun - Gary Storck of Wisconsin NORML: 2 steps forward, 1 back Sat - Dr. Robert Melamede, Pres of Cannabis Science at NORML conf in Denver Fri - Don Duncan of Americans For Safe Access (to cannabis) Thu - Eric Anderson Pres of Buck Scientific sells chromatographs at the NORML conference Wed - Keith Stroup of NORML re changes in marijuana law Tue - Mason Tvert, Dir of Safer Choice (than alcohol) in Denver Mon - Dr. David Bearman at NORML conf in Denver, (not in CB show)
*NEXT WEEK:* Cannabis Cooking Lessons & Scientific Reports
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 21, 2011
CONTACT: Ken Wolski at (609) 394-2137
Attorney General Paula Dow Wrong to Seek Federal Advice on Medical Marijuana
WHO: Attorney General Paula Dow
WHAT: Asked federal officials their plans to punish NJ’s Medicinal Marijuana Program participants
WHEN: April 19, 2011
WHERE: Trenton, NJ
WHY: The federal government insists marijuana has no accepted medical uses in the U.S.
Attorney General Paula Dow sent letters to federal officials on April 19th asking them if they intend to punish anyone associated with New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program. The attorney general even suggested ways that New Jerseyans might be punished—“civil suit or criminal prosecution,” the letters said.
A more appropriate approach would have been for the attorney general to tell the federal officials that if they dare to interfere with New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, she will sue them and fight them all the way to the Supreme Court, where she will win. The U.S. Supreme Court has already acknowledged (in the Garden Grove decision) that states have the right to determine the proper practice of medicine within each state. In the Garden Grove case the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court’s decision that said: "Congress enacted the Controlled Substances Act to combat recreational drug abuse and curb drug trafficking. Its goal was not to regulate the practice of medicine, a task that falls within the traditional powers of the states.”
Ken Wolski, executive director of CMMNJ said, “There can be no doubt that every aspect of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program concerns access to physician-recommended medicine by desperately ill patients. The 110 pages of regulations promulgated by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services to enact the Medicinal Marijuana Program is a monument to overly-cautious bureaucratic detail. No one could possibly confuse it with drug abuse and drug trafficking. The attorney general should instead be insisting that the federal government reschedule marijuana from its absurd Schedule I status.”
Schedule I drugs have no accepted medical uses in the U.S. New Jersey—along with 14 other states and the District of Columbia—acknowledged medical uses for marijuana through legislation. Another dozen states are considering similar legislation. “It is the federal government that is wrong in this, not New Jersey. State officials should not look to the feds for guidance on medical marijuana,” Wolski added.
Ken Wolski, RN, MPA, Executive Director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc.
219 Woodside Ave., Trenton, NJ 08618
609.394.2137 www.cmmnj.org firstname.lastname@example.org
Patients, Friends and Activists –
Obama’s administration has taken its gloves off. After giving the medical cannabis community a false sense of security, Obama’s administration continues to ignore state laws, intimidate state officials, and raid medical cannabis patients and facilities.
This month, ASA launched our new national campaign, and we are sending a clear message to President Obama from the medical cannabis community: We are sick and tired. We are suffering from chronic and debilitating conditions, and we are weary of false promises that do nothing to protect our rights as patients.
ASA’s Sick and Tired Campaign involves approaching the federal government from several angles, and we need your help to reach every corner of Obama’s administration.
Today, ASA released the Obama Report Card. This details federal interference in medical cannabis laws under the Obama administration, and Obama fails. Even though he promised to not use federal resources to interfere with states’ medical cannabis laws, Obama’s administration has continued raiding legal patients and facilities. Additionally, the administration has launched new tactics and constructed new roadblocks for patients, including issues related to patient privacy, access, banking, taxation, and threats of filing suite against state employees who participate in upholding state law.
Join us in calling on Obama to keep his promise. Sign ASA's petition urging Obama to end federal interference in existing medical cannabis programs, and legitimize medical cannabis for the sick and dying across the country.
But we’re not stopping there. ASA is hosting a National Day of Action on May 2, centered on Dale Schafer and Mollie Fry’s surrender date in Sacramento, CA. Mollie and Dale are legal patients and were arrested and convicted without a defense under President Bush. They appealed their sentence, which was vigorously fought by the Obama administration in the Ninth Circuit. Mollie and Dale's sentences were upheld in November. Additionally, a clemency petition was filed this week in an effort to shorten Mollie's sentence. Please mark your calendar to join ASA on May 2 and keep an eye out for Information about a rally near you.
ASA’s Sick and Tired Campaign will bring new accountability to Obama’s administration. Please help ASA hold Obama to his word and protect patients across the nation.
We are sick and tired, but we won’t give up until there’s safe access.
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Once again, the Colorado Health Department (CDPHE) has launched an attack on medical marijuana caregivers.
Hiding behind the Attorney General’s questionable legal interpretation, the CDPHE has rejected the proposed definition of "caregiver" as put forward by the CDPHE Medical Marijuana Advisory Board. After studying the issue, the Advisory Board concluded that providing education about medical marijuana was sufficient to meet the definition of "caregiver". The CDPHE rejected that idea (and disbanded the Advisory Board!) and is now attempting to require caregivers to regularly assist patients with “activities of daily living” including transportation, housekeeping, meal preparation, and more. This ruling will limit patient choice and force patients to find caregivers who will not just provide quality medicine, but also provide additional, and often unnecessary, services.
The CDPHE is taking public comment on the proposed rules until April 20th, 2011 at 5:00p. Please tell the CDPHE to amend their proposal to allow patients to choose what services their caregiver should provide! Send them an email here: cdphe.MMRAdvisoryCommittee@state.co.us
Hi my name is _______________ and I am a medical marijuana patient advocate. Please consider adopting the below amendment to the definition of "caregiver". These changes will protect patient choice of provider.
“Significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient” means, IN ADDITION TO PROVIDING MEDICAL MARIJUANA, AND UPON REQUEST FROM THE PATIENT, REGULARLY assisting a patient with ACTIVITIES OF daily LIVING, including but not limited to transportation or housekeeping or meal preparation or shopping or making any necessary arrangement for access to medical care or NON-MEDICAL MARIJUANA services.”
**To support Sensible's work on behalf of caregivers click HERE.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE April 11, 2011
Maryland Legislature Passes Medical Marijuana Defense Bill
Senate approval sends measure to desk of Governor Martin O’Malley
CONTACT: Morgan Fox, communications manager………………………….202-905-2031 or email@example.com
ANNAPOLIS – In all likelihood, Maryland will soon become the 16th state to remove criminal penalties for the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The Maryland Senate passed an affirmative defense bill last month removing criminal penalties from patients who use marijuana to relieve the effects of debilitating medical conditions. After the House of Delegates approved an amended version of the bill over the weekend, the Senate today approved those amendments, sending the bill to Governor Martin O’Malley. Aides to the governor have indicated publicly he would sign a medical marijuana defense bill.
“With the passage of this bill, the General Assembly has let seriously ill patients know they are not criminals for seeking relief from their pain and suffering,” said Senator David Brinkley, the primary sponsor of the Senate bill.” It will also establish a framework to build on in moving forward with more comprehensive solutions so that some day soon patients will be able to obtain their medicine in dignity and not on street corners. I thank my colleagues in both chambers for today’s compassionate vote.”
In its current form, the bill, SB 308, allows individuals diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer or multiple sclerosis, to avoid conviction if charged with the non-public use or possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. An existing sentencing mitigation would remain part of the law, meaning patients who don’t qualify for the full affirmative defense would still have the opportunity to present evidence of medical necessity and have their sentence reduced to a $100 fine. In addition, a work group consisting of medical, legal, and law enforcement experts would be convened to recommend more comprehensive legislation next year. The bill represents a compromise after the Secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene objected to a more robust proposal calling for state-regulated dispensaries due to the cost of implementation.
“Today’s vote is a move toward compassion for those who might benefit from this drug,” said Delegate Dan Morhaim, the bill’s House sponsor and the General Assembly’s only licensed physician. “A growing body of evidence suggests marijuana is helpful in treating certain conditions, and seriously ill people who use marijuana to treat such conditions on the advice of their physician should not be considered criminals.”
“Under current law, patients using medical marijuana in Maryland face criminal arrest, prosecution and conviction,” said Sen. Jamie Raskin, one of the sponsors in the Senate. “Although judges can reduce the penalty to $100 in these cases, we heard testimony from patients who said they have lost their jobs and were haunted for life by being branded as criminals. This legislation declares that severely ill people using medical marijuana are not criminals and will have the opportunity to establish medical necessity as a defense to a possession charge. The removal of this threat and the creation of a work group to develop a Maryland model for a comprehensive medical marijuana regime moves us closer to the broader goal of giving patients in Maryland a legal way to obtain doctor-recommended medicine.”
Advocates were also encouraged by the compromise. “This isn’t a permanent solution, and it’s not everything that patients need, but it allows people suffering from debilitating conditions to sleep a little easier tonight while they wait for full protections,” said Dan Riffle, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project.
With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest
marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.