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Drug Policy Reform Campaigns Update, July 2004: Oregon Medical Initiative Drive Concludes, Supporters Confident Of Ballot Placement; Arkansas Medical Initiative Drive Continues, Rumors Of Its Demise Premature And In Error;
Move Toward "Medicalization" Grows In US, Internationally
Patients, Activists Organize To Provide Safe Access To Cannabis Medicines In Spite Of DEA Opposition
On August 24, 2009, Rhode Island's Providence Journal reported that the state "is moving forward with plans to create [its] first medical marijuana clinic where patients who use the drug for medicinal purposes can legally purchase it" ("R.I. Moves Toward Marijuana Centers"). After "lawmakers closed a loophole in the state's medical marijuana law" in June by "approving the creation of up to three so-called 'compassion centers,'" they began drafting regulations "regarding operation of such clinics," which were recently completed and released in draft form. Additionally, lawmakers "have scheduled 'an informal community review meeting'" for Tuesday, "inviting the public to share its thoughts."
The article reports that the June law created some confusion even as it filled holes in Rhode Island's medical marijuana program. For example, the state-licensed, nonprofit dispensaries must "have 'a fully operational security system'" and employees must not only "undergo background checks" but also "participate in training sessions at the facility." According to the article, "the rules remain silent on many specifics," such as "who is expected to train employees, or what constitutes an adequate security system." But Health Director David Gifford told the Journal that "many of those details can only be worked out once the regulations are in place and a group is selected to run the first center." Competition looks fierce; according to Stephen Hogan, who serves as the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition's executive director, "approximately 30 individuals have thus far signaled an interest in applying to open the first center," though "[a]pplications will not be distributed until the regulations are signed and in place." However, Hogan told the news outlet that he "hopes the first center will open as early as May" of 2010, "at which point the application process will begin anew for groups interested in operating the second center."
August 19, 2009 saw Iowans concerned with the issue of medical marijuana receiving the first of four scheduled public hearings on the issue before the state's pharmacy board, as reported by an August 20 DesMoines Register article ("Board Hears Stances on Medical Marijuana"). According to the article, "speakers at the State Historical Building told the Iowa Pharmacy Board that marijuana is a safer, less addictive treatment than many prescription medications. They urged regulators to help Iowa join 13 other states in which patients are allowed to use marijuana with a doctor's approval." Most of those in attendance "favored legalizing medical marijuana," saying that it has the ability to "help countless patients suffering from a range of illnesses, including AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease, glaucoma, epilepsy, chronic pain and anxiety." Some physicians, like Dr. Edward Hertko, "joined the patients in supporting the idea." Dr. Hertko told the board that "marijuana is less dangerous and addictive than many prescription drugs" and that medicalizing the currently-illicit substance "ha[s] nothing to do with drug users who simply want to get high." As he stated, "The people who want recreational marijuana already know how to get it."
Prospective medical marijuana patients (or, people who are currently using marijuana medicinally despite is lack of approval in the state) also called for "state regulators [...] to stop treating Iowa patients like criminals for using the drug to combat pain and other ailments." In medical marijuana user and speaker Kevin Feeley's words, "People are suffering who need not suffer. People are rotting in jail who should not be there."
Gary Young, "representing the Iowa Elks Association," stood "in the minority when he spoke against medical marijuana." The opponent "countered proponents' studies with references to [other] studies that found no medical benefit" from marijuana and said that "prescription medications are purer and easier to control than smoked marijuana, which he said had hundreds of chemicals that vary in strength." He ironically "urge[d] the board to make its decision on scientific evidence and not anecdotal evidence."
During the meeting, the pharmacy board also stated that it "will consider how it would regulate medical distribution of marijuana if the state allowed it." The article cites one proposed plan, which would "allow sales only through licensed pharmacies."
FBI Raids Colorado Medical Marijuana Doctor Referral Service and Dispensary and Nabs Confidential Patient Information in the Process
Denver's CBS affiliate posted an alarming story on its website on August 17, 2009. That same day, the FBI raided both "a medical marijuana doctor referral service" and a dispensary in an action that the news outlet speculates "may have long-term consequences" ("FBI Raids Marijuana Clinic, Takes Patient Info"). As CBS explains, the "raids were part of an investigation into a credit card fraud ring" and did not explicitly target Canna Med, which consists both of a doctor referral service and a next-door dispensary, for providing medical marijuana or doctor referrals. However, FBI agents not only confiscated the dispensary's medicinal supply but, most eggregiously, its patients' records. As the article states, "That information is supposed to remain confidential under state law."
CBS4 provides an embedded video version of the story on its website, linked above.
According to an August 16, 2009 post by the Examiner's NORML Examiner Angela Macdonald, "Currently," legislators and activists in "14 [U.S.] states are actively working toward some sort of resolution to the atrocity forced upon its sick, injured, and dying" by introducing bills and initiatives in hopes of legalizing and establishing medical marijuana programs in their areas ("14 States Seek to Legalize Medical Marijuana"). In terms of ballot initiatives, members of the Arizona Marijuana Policy Project are "gathering signatures for a ballot initiative for the 2010 election," and Florida-based People United for Medical Marijuana "has initiated a petition to get medical marijuana on the 2010 ballot," as well.
Many more bills exist in state Houses (or General Assemblies) and Senates, though, historically, voter initiatives have proven the most successful vehicles for establishing legalized medical marijuana programs. Senator Margarete Henry introduced SB 94, the Delaware Medical Marijuana Act, into Delware's senate on May 13, 2009, and Illinois' SB 1381 will have its "3rd reading next session sometime in October or November of 2009." Both Minnesota's House and Senate are considering medical marijuana bills despite Governer Tim Pawlenty's recent veto of an earlier proposal, and the Missouri representatives need to hear from their constituents regarding HB 277, which "was dropped from the [legislative] schedule in May of 2009" and has yet to appear on "the schedule for the upcoming session." New Hampshire legislators need their constituents to push them toward overriding Governor Lynch's July veto of HB 648, and New Jersey's S119 "is awaiting a full assembly vote" before hopefully moving on to Governor Corzine, who "has said he will sign the bill if it makes it to his desk." Both S0401 and A09016 (Senate and Assembly bills) are "deadlocked" in New York, but state lawmakers still have the chance to pass the legislation in the upcoming session. North Carolina's Rep. Earl Jones introduced HB1380 in May 2009, and Rep. Mark Cohen of Philadelphia, PA introduced HB1393 (also in May of this year). Senator Beverly Marrero and Rep. Jeanne Richardson have also "introduced companion medical marijuana bills" - SB 209 and HB 368 - into Tennesse's Senate and House. Lastly (where legislative initiatives are concerned), "a revised version of the Jackie Rickert Medical Marijuana Act, sponsored by Rep. Mark Pocan, is set to be re-introduced in mid-September, 2009."
Additionally, as previously reported by Common Sense for Drug Policy, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy will soon hold hearings to discuss a possible re-scheduling of marijuana, which would allow the substance to be used for medicinal purposes.
If you live in any of the aforementioned states, contact your representatives, sign ballot initiative petitions, or attend community meetings to voice your support not just for medical marijuana but for patients in your area who desperately need it.
Joyce, WA resident Earl Gordon Otis, Jr. received a four month prison sentence "for growing 75 marijuana plants" - five times the state's legal limit - in May of 2008. However, in "a move his attorneys called precedent-setting, [the] medical marijuana provider [...] will get a new trial after the state Court of Appeals overturned his conviction [...] and ordered" the as yet unscheduled retrial, the Peninsula Daily News reported on August 14, 2009 ("Joyce Man to Get Retrial in Medical Marijuana Case"). According to the article, the appeals court "addressed in its Tuesday ruling [the issue of] whether Otis could use his status as a man's medical marijuana provider as a defense argument." That "argument was not allowed during the [initial] trial due to the large amount of marijuana grown," and "because the court felt a doctor's letter authorizing the patient Otis supplied to use the drug was not sufficient, since it didn't refer directly to state law." The appeals court, however, "determined that the letter was sufficient and that the amount of marijuana grown shouldn't restrict a defendant from using the role as a provider of medical marijuana, known as a caregiver, as a defense."
Olympia attorney Jodi Backlund, who specializes in marijuana law, called the retrial "a really big deal," and told the paper that "it will set a precedent." Her peers agree. As the article states, "Attorneys specializing in marijuana law say the decision will affect medical marijuana cases by clarifying a vague 10-year-old law, especially when it comes to what a doctor needs to write in [a] letter authorizing the use of the drug." According to Backlund, Washington state "has been really nitpicky and argu[ed] consistently' that a letter had to refer directly to the law." In short, Otis' retrial could clarify state law by outlining exactly what doctors must write in their recommendation letters in order for those letters to serve as sufficient evidence that a person has the legal right to grow or use marijuana medicinally. Moreover, the case could go a long way toward clarifying what constitutes a "60 day supply," an issue about which the law remains vague, stating only that patients and/or caregivers can produce a 60 day supply for their own or one other person's use but not outlining exactly how much marijuana actually constitutes that limit.
As Fresno's ABC affiliate reported on August 14, 2009 ("Fresno Medical Marijuana Could Go Up in Smoke"), the city's deputy attorney, Charlotte Konczal, recently embroiled herself in a battle to shutter a major Fresno medical marijuana dispensary, MedMar. According to the owner of MedMar, many of the patients he serves would have to travel long distances to obtain their medicine if the city wins a lawsuit it filed against MedMar - claiming its operation violates a 2007 ordinance - Thursday.
The city's lawsuit not only claims that the dispensary's existence violates the aforementioned ordinance (details of which the Konczal did not disclose) but also that it represents a "threat to public safety" and a "nuisance" to residents and neighboring businesses. The dispensary's owner contends that he provides a needed public service, and the ABC report describes the business as being "discretely marked." Even the dispensary's neighbors disagree with the city's allegations. As the article states, "several area businesses we spoke to including [a nearby] martial arts studio" - frequented by children and their parents, as evidenced by an embedded video on the news outlet's web page - "said they haven't experienced any problems at all" with regard to the dispensary. According to martial arts instructor J.R. Correa, "People don't even know it's there." However, some Fresno residents agree with the city's position, though their comments - Markhan Kirsten told the affiliate that "One hundred years ago everbody used to use opium for anything that ails you. It's not an innocent drug" - indicate that perhaps their beef lies more with medical marijuana itself than with the actual dispensary in question.
Fresno attorneys expect a judgement in the lawsuit by Tuesday, August 18.
Nevada City Council Votes to Continue Dispensary Moratorium Until 2010
As an August 13, 2009 article in Nevada newspaper The Union states, "After months of debate and deferrals, Nevada City Council members agreed to postpone any decisions on opening pot shops in town for another year" ("Medi-Pot Decision Put Off to 2010"). In a 4-1 decision, the council voted to "extend the moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries until August 11, 2010" in a bid to give council members "more time to research the subject." In short, Nevada City won't be seeing any new medical marijuana dispensaries for at least a year. However, council members have now used up both of their allotted extensions, having wrapped up a 90-day moratorium just before the vote.
Councilwoman Barbara Coffman opposed the extended moratorium, saying that "We have so overdone this" and "[a]rguing [that] too much regulation already has been written into the draft ordinance." Although Coffman stood alone among her fellow council members, "three people who [had] proposed opening [...] dispensar[ies] in town" attended the meeting "with a petition of support" in hand. Their efforts, however, clearly did little to change the majority of the council members' opinions, particularly that of "Councilman Robert Bergman, who has spearheaded the council's research on the issue" and "boi[s] down the matter to whether or not a dispensary is a for-profit venture." Both Grass Valley, Nevada and Nevada County "have enacted similar moratoriums," and, unfortunately, dispensary moratoriums have come up for debate and been enacted in other medical marijuana states - particularly California.
After years of fighting against California's 13-year-old medical marijuana law, San Bernardino county opened its doors to patients seeking to apply for medical marijuana ID cards on August 13, 2009, as a same-day article in the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports ("Applying for Medical Pot ID Cards Begins Today in San Bernardino County"). According to public health director Jim Lindley, in order to "apply for an identification card, residents must fill out a form available online and call the county public health department to make an appointment to submit it," after which "patients must provide photo identification, proof of county residency and written documentation from a physician explaining why marijuana use is recommended." As the Press-Enterprise states, "The county then will submit the applications, along with photos of the applicants, to the state. State officials enter the information into a database, manufacture the cards and return them to the county to distribute."
Despite Lindley's assertion that county officials are "hoping it goes smoothly" and "want to issue the cards in a timely manner," the article reports that "[i]f the county sees an initial rush of a few thousand applicants, some patients may have to wait a week or longer to meet with public health staff," which only delays the later stages of the process and increases patients' wait times for obtaining their cards and their medicine. Worse, "Patients still may find it necessary to travel to other counties to find access to medical marijuana" because "[m]any San Bernardino County cities have banned dispensaries or issued moratoriums;" San Bernardino County itself "has extended its moratorium until next June," claiming that planners need more time "to create an ordinance with zoning and licensing rules."
According to a report by the Los Angeles Times on August 12, 2009 ("Authorities Raid Pot Dispensaries in West L.A. Culver City"), "The DEA, FBI, Internal Revenue Service, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Torrance Police Department and Culver City Police Department took part" in raids of two medical marijuana dispensaries - one "on Washington Boulevard in Culver City" and another "on Overland Avenue in Los Angeles." Agencies also raided the owner of the dispensaries' home. According to the Associated Press' report ("Feds Raid 2 LA Marijuana Dispensaries"), "authorities won't say what they're seeking." Thus, it remains unclear whether the agencies' actions represent a second broken promise on the part of Attorney General Eric Holder, who vowed to end federal raids of state-legal dispensaries earlier this year, or a legitimate raid of a dispensary operating outside of local guidelines.
An article posted on Los Angeles' TalkRadio 790 KABC-AM's website ("DEA, FBI, IRS Raid Two Westside Pot Dispensaries, Officers Shoot Pitbull") reports that "Officials said they reported 200 plants, 100 pounds of marajuana [sic], $100,000 cash and made one arrest;" a San Jose Mercury article identifies the arrestee as the 50-year-old owner of the two dispensaries ("Police Raid 2 Marijuana Dispensaries, Arrest Owner"). But - again - "officials did not immediately say what prompted" their actions. Additionally, "officers shot a dog believed to be a pit bull" during one of the two raids, though "the circumstances of the shooting remain unclear," according to "a law enforcement spokesman." Luckily, "the dog [...] was treated by a vet and expected to make a full recovery." Hopefully things turn out just as well or better for the dispensary owner and patients who depend on the facilities for their medicine.
Oregon Activist Wants Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Added to List of Qualifying Conditions for State's Medical Marijuana Program
Salem News posted a story on August 12, 2009 regarding Oregonian activist Ed Glick's attempt to add PTSD to the list of qualifying conditions for admission to the state's medical marijuana program. He and attorney Lee Berger have submitted piles of evidence in hopes of "demonstrat[ing] to Oregon's Department of Human Services how and why allowing PTSD to the list of acceptable conditions will benefit veterans." Aside from a mountain of patient reports and scientific evidence regarding marijuana's potential to combat or relieve symptoms related to PTSD, the pair claim that adding medical marijuana to the list of qualifying conditions will help the war veterans who currently pack "U.S. jails and prisons [...] on minor drug charges, which include marijuana." Moreover, the move would allow veterans who say that the "hard morphine-based addictive drugs" prescribed by Veteran's Administration doctors "[turn] them into vegetables" and perhaps prove educational to "under-qualified VA clinicians who often have only a textbook education about the disorder."
Salem provides a thorough overview of Glick's intentions and progress and PTSD itself; Common Sense for Drug Policy highly recommends that interested readers check out the story (linked above). Additionally, Oregonians can attend a panel hearing that will address the issue on Thursday, August 13 at 3:00pm; the meeting will take place in Portland's State Building at 800 NE Oregon Street.
According to an August 11, 2009 Associated Press report ("RI Proposes Rules for Medical Marijuana Stores"), Rhode Island's Department of Health put forward "draft regulations" for the three legal, nonprofit medical marijuana outlets recently established by state lawmakers. According to the proposed rules, "Medical marijuana stores in Rhode Island would have to install security systems and teach patients how to safely take the drug."
Interested parties can view the draft regulations here, and Rhode Island residents interested in the issue "can comment on the proposed rules at an August 25 meeting."
CBS Questions Marinol's Efficacy
Citing a DEA assertion that "Medical marijuana [...] already exists," an August 4, 2009 CBS News article asks the question: "Does the Pot Pill Work?" The article explains quotes Neil Hirsh, spokesperson for Solvay Pharmaceuticals, which produces Marinol, who states that "Marinol provides standardized THC concentrations, does not contain the 400 other uncharacterized substances found in smoked marijuana, such as carcinogens and fungal spores, and is not associated with the quick high of smoked marijuana." However, writer Brian Montopoli counters that argument: "But Marinol is not the same thing as traditional, smokeable marijuana. It is a less complex substance lacking both some of the good components found in traditional marijuana (such as cannabidiol, which has been found to have anti-seizure effects) and the bad or not-yet-fully-understood components (among them potential carcinogens) that can also come with the drug," he explains.
Yet Montopoli goes further, asking patients about their experiences with Marinol and questioning experts in the field. None of the patients with which he spoke asserted that Marinol proved a more efficient or reliable method of reducing the symptoms for which they began smoking marijuana in the first place; one patient even told the reporter that he "felt no relief" at all. He added, "It might as well be M&M's." Mitch Earlywine, "an associate professor of Clinical Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, said in an email" that some of Marinol's main problems stemmed from its oral administration, its hard-to-control dosage, and the inability of patients suffering from nausea and similar ailments to keep the pills down. Additionally, "Earleywine [...] said that a dose of Marinol costs three to five times as much as a comparable dose of medical marijuana," making it difficult for lower-income patients to utilize.
Marinol proponents counter that "Marinol is not meant to be a cure-all: It has been approved specifically for treating nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy and for treating anorexia associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS." Dr. Herbert Kleber, who served as deputy drug czar under President H.W. Bush, told CBS that he had "not seen any need for the smoked form of marijuana for those two indications," whereas "Marinol had already been quite effective for those two things."
However, as the article notes, "[r]esearch into the effects of medical marijauan is ongoing," and several studies have shown smoked marijuana to be an effective treatment for impairments not mentioned by Marinol defenders. Montopoli's article is worth checking out if only for the links he provides to recent research suggesting that marijuana "has been found to be effective in counteracting severe pain, nausea and loss of appetite," and as an antidote to seizures and muscle spasms. Montopoli concludes by stating that "The calculus, then, isn't quite as simple as the [DEA] suggests: Marinol and medical marijuana may share an active ingredient, but they offer somewhat different benefits and different drawbacks."
Iowan Activist Challenges Pharmacy Board's Denial of Marijuana's Medicinal Qualities
Iowans for Medical Marijuana's Carl Olsen has put nearly ten years of tireless effort into an attempt to "get the state [...] to recognize the potential medical benefits of the drug," according to an August 1, 2009 Mason City Globe Gazette article ("Medical Marijuana Proponents Optimistic"). Olsen may finally see some tangible benefit from his hard work when the Iowa Board of Pharmacy holds public hearings on medicinal marijuana legalization over the next few months. Although the story popped up frequently in newspapers and on websites in late June and early August of 2009, Olsen's struggle is more than simply a current event. Moreover, the activist hopes his work will represent one small step toward federal rescheduling of marijuana, paving the way for federal medicinal cannabis programs.
On May 12, 2008, Olsen petitioned the DEA in an attempt to have the Administration remove marijuana from Schedule I, a designation reserved for substances with "a high potential for abuse," "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States," and "a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug [...] under medical supervision." Olsen argued that (at the time) twelve states recognized the medicinal properties of marijuana and "accept[ed] the safety of marijuana for medical use," citing several state laws and court cases - including a 1988 DEA petition of which Olsen was a part, In the Matter of Marijuana Rescheduling. As the petition states, "Because marijuana now has currently accepted medical use in 12 states, because federal law defines accepted medical use to be whatever the states say it is, and because the DEA's own Administrative Law Judge has already determined that marijuana is safe for use under medical supervision, the federal definition for a schedule I controlled substance [...] no longer applies to marijuana and federal law must be amended to reflect those changes." Although Olsen received a letter on June 25, 2008 informing him that his "petition complies procedurally" with all related requirements and "the DEA is therefore accepting the petition for filing," by December 19, 2008, the DEA had made its predictable final decision: the Administration's Deputy Administrator wrote that, "for reasons stated herein, [...] the grounds upon which you rely are not sufficient to justify the initiation of proceedings for the removal of marijuana from schedule I of the [Controlled Substances Act]." In short, the DEA remained unconvinced by Olsen's arguments and kept marijuana in its previous and still current schedule.
Olsen attempted to reverse the decision through further litigation but was unsuccessful. In late April of 2009, the federal government again denied the activist's opposition filings. Luckily for Olsen, on the same day he petitioned the federal government to reschedule marijuana, he also filed a similar petition with the state of Iowa. This time, his petition produced results. According to a July 15, 2009 article in the Iowa Independent, "In April, a Polk County judge ordered the Board of Pharmacy to at least consider whether marijuana has any accepted medical uses" after the board "ruled that it did not have enough evidence to reclassify marijuana" the month prior ("Pharmacy Board to Discuss Medical Marijuana"). The Iowa Board of Pharmacy will hold four hearings over the next four months during which they will"examine current science and medical findings and listen to testimony from doctors and patients" regarding cannabis' medicinal properties; additionally, the board "will look at federal and state drug laws, including those in states that allow marijuana use for medical treatment." While Iowa's pharmacy board "doesn't have the power to legalize marijuana for medical use," its members "could suggest lawmakers move it to the Schedule II category for drugs that have accepted medical uses in the United States." Olsen hopes for "a ruling that marijuana has accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and a letter from the state of Iowa telling the DEA to remove it from federal Schedule I," which would Iowa make it the first state to do so.
Oddly, though Olsen argues in this case against the pharmacy board that because "more than a dozen states allow medical use of" marijuana it "no longer meets [the] definition" of a schedule I drug, the "board initially found accepted medical use in 12 states was not enough, and the drug would have to be used for treatment in all states for Iowa to reclassify it." Olsen balks at this circular logic. As he stated in an email to Common Sense for Drug Policy, "I filed a petition with the Board of Pharmacy challenging the Schedule I classification of marijuana. The Board of Pharmacy was not able to explain why it rejected my petition[,] and the court sent the case back to them to explain why they had rejected it." However, the ever-consistent pharmacy board "made the exact same ruling again, but this time they said accepted medical use of marijuana means accepted in all 50 states. [...] That means if 49 states said it had accepted medical use, Iowa would say it has no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States until Iowa says it does. That doesn't make sense." Olsen explains that the board's rejection of his arguments resulted from statutory phrasing. Whereas the "Iowa Legislature could have written the statute to say 'accepted medical use in Iowa,'" instead the statute reads "accepted medical use in the United States." As Olsen asserts, "In the United States means anywhere in the United States, not everywhere." Sensible English speakers everywhere may be nodding their heads in agreement, but the pharmacy board feels it has more to consider. Thus the August 19, September 2, October 7, and November 4 hearing dates, listed with locations and times below.
Olsen feels relatively optimistic about the upcoming hearings, with good reason. Not only is Olsen a capable litigator himself, having filed numerous documents in both state and federal cases addressing this and related issues, but he has the support of both the ACLU of Iowa and Iowa's Democratic Party. Moreover, Olsen maintains his own blog, hosts a show called Carl's Cannabis Corner on MacsWorldLive.com every Saturday between noon and 2:00 pm, has "been interviewed by every TV station in Iowa in the past couple of weeks," and secured coverage of his issue in "most of the newspapers" and appeared on at least one local radio station.
Medical marijuana advocates who live in or around Iowa and would like to show their support for Olsen's efforts should attend the following Iowa Board of Pharmacy Hearings:
For more information, visit Olsen's above-linked blog, which catalogs the majority of the media coverage he has secured, hosts an enormous library of legal filings, and provides channels through which to view his show's weekly episodes.
Drug Czar Address Medicinal Cannabis Supporters' Concerns in Form Letter
As reported earlier by Common Sense for Drug Policy, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske provided attendees of a Fresno, CA speaking engagement with some misinformation about medical marijuana in late July, and his lies blew up so magnificently in his face that he (or, more accurately, his Content Specialist, Keri) finally responded to the barrage of calls, letters, and emails he received from advocates and concerned citizens who took issue with his false claim that marijuana has no medicinal values. Unfortunately, as the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) reported in an August 3, 2009 press release ("Drug Czar Responds to Outraged Marijuana Supporters"), he did so with a cursory form letter, to which CSDP links courtesy of MPP.
MPP astutely notes that the "letter essentially hides behind a 2006 statement from the FDA, which claims, 'No sound scientific studies have supported medical use of smoked marijuana.'" Moreover, the Project points readers to the "numerous studies" contained on its website. Readers who want to look further into the issue should also check out Drug War Facts' "Medical Marijuana" section, as well as the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), and Americans for Safe Access, among other groups - to whom CSDP links on both its Medical Marijuana news section and its Links page - for more medical marijuana-related studies and research news.
However, MPP makes no mention of the fact that the federal government of which Kerlikowske's office is a part has for decades put tight restrictions on research pertaining to the medical benefits of marijuana. The letter claims that "What constitutes safe and effective medicine should continue to be based upon reviews of the appropriate science by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)." But the letter fails to address two important facts: first, that the FDA has been supplying a small number of patients with low-quality medicinal cannabis for thirty years, and second, that when researchers like Lyle Craker express their willingness to expand that limited governmental research effort, they are virtually always denied the opportunity to grow marijuana for research purposes, and obtaining even the low-grade marijuana the government supplies to researchers is not particularly easy. Thus, Kerlikowske's decision to "hid[e] behind a 2006 [FDA] statement" not only represents a blatant passing of the buck but also works to throw readers off the government's trail; in other words, in citing a three-year-old FDA opinion to back up his claims, Kerlikowske willfully ignores the role the Food and Drug Administration and the federal government of which it is a part have played in undermining scientific inquiries on the issue and preventing researchers from verifying - in a way that the government would find acceptable - medical cannabis patients' claims that the drug, legal in 13 states for therapeutic purposes, alleviates symptoms of certain illnesses and their treatments, not to mention the evidence provided by the researchers' colleagues regarding marijuana's medical benefits.
Medical marijuana supporters should continue hounding the Office of National Drug Control Policy and related agencies - FDA incuded - until we get our message across, but expecting a reasonable answer from the Office looks about as silly as Kerlikowske at this point.
Oakland Votes to Instate Medical Marijuana Tax
Oakland established itself as the first city in the nation to approve increased taxation of medical cannabis sales through a voter referendum, Measure F, as the Los Angeles Times reported on July 22, 2009 ("Oakland Voters Approve a Tax on Medical Marijuana"). According to the article, "The measure will levy an $18 tax for every $1,000 in gross marijuana sales." Currently, dispensaries "pay a $1.20 business tax on each $1,000 in sales." But club operators, patients, and the citizenry in general were unfazed by the increase. The article reports that the city's "four medical marijuana dispensaries" collectively supported the tax proposal, and Oakland voters "approved the measure by a margin of 80%," showing astounding unity in the face of a potentially controversial issue.
City officials primarily cited economic concerns when discussing their reasons for proposing and supporting the tax. As executive director of Oakland's Purple Heart Patient Center, Keith Stephenson, said, "There will be some cash-strapped areas that will use this to balance their budgets." City Councilwoman and measure co-sponsor Rebecca Kaplan told the Times that "It was the perfect moment [...]. We had a horrible budget crisis in the city, and we were looking for revenue . . . But it would hardly make sense for us to tax a business that might be shut down by the federal government," covertly referencing Attorney General Eric Holder's promise to end DEA raids on medical marijuana dispensaries operating legally under state guidelines. The increased tax will indeed give the city an economic hand up. Kaplan "said it could generate $1 million in annual revenue," though Oakland's "city administrator places the estimate at about $300,000."
Other California cities are watching the measure's progress closely and even considering putting forward similar proposals themselves. According to the Times, "The Los Angeles City Council proposed a medical marijuana tax July 15, and Kaplan said Berkeley and San Francisco may consider similar legislation."
Colorado Considers But Decides Not to Implement Change in Medical Cannabis Law
The Denver Post reported on July 20 that the state Board of Health planned to "vote on a proposal that may cut off some of 7,360 registered patients' access to medical marijuana" ("Colorado Board of Health may revise marijuana law"). The proposed change aimed to "shut down small and large medical marijuana dispensaries by limiting them to selling their marijuana herbs to five patients at a time." Officials worried that the definition of "caregiver" was too broad and wanted to limit the word's meaning to "someone who does more [than] just supply marijuana." This would, in effect, make dispensaries - some of which "serve more than 600 patients" - illegal. Medical marijuana patients and advocates turned out in droves and provided "several hours of testimony," which touched on topics ranging from whether or not the Board of Health had "the right to meddle in the constitutional amendment passed by voters;" the obstacles the change would present to patients seeking safe, legal access to their medication; and the difficulties the proposal would pose to dispensaries' ability to "survive and continue offering a range of marijuana varieties to treat different diseases," AP reported on July 21, 2009 ("Health Board Nixes Change to Colo. Pot Use"). Law enforcement also voiced their concerns. AP states that Colorado "health and law enforcement officials argued the system is susceptible to fraud and causes confusion over who can legally grow marijuana."
However, the board ultimately decided in favor of Colorado's patients and caregivers (dispensaries included), refusing to implement the proposed change in a 6-3 vote that elicited cheers from "the audience of about 100." The board did adopt "other recommended changes, including a requirement that patients get their signatures notarized on applications for the medical marijuana registry," according to AP's report. Nevertheless, Colorado medical marijuana users no longer have to worry about, as HIV-positive patient Damien LaGoy's told the Denver Post, "find[ing] someone on Colfax or by the Civic Center and get[ting cannabis] off the street."
Congress Overturns Amendment Barring Implementation of D.C.'s Medical Marijuana Law
Over 11 years ago, 69 percent of D.C. residents voted in favor of Initiative 59, also known as the "Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1998." However, an amendment added to the D.C. Appropriations Act passed in October of the same year by Georgia's then-Republican Rep. Bob Barr, which stated that "None of the funds contained within the Appropriations Act may be uesd to conduct any ballot initiative which seeks to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties' for marijuana" ("D.C. Initiative From 1998 Likely to Finally Take Effect"), prevented the initiative's implementation. However, as a press release issued by the Drug Policy Alliance on July 17, 2009 states, "The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation today removing a federal provision that bars the nation's capital from legalizing marijuana for medical use" ("U.S. House Repeals Provision Preventing Washington, D.C. from Enacting Medical Marijuana").
Ironically, the amendment's author - now a Libertarian - underwent a change of heart where medical marijuana is concerned and, as the Drug War Chronicle told readers in a July 17 feature, "has become an advocate for drug law reform -- including the repeal of his amendment" ("US House Overturns Barr Amendment, Removes Obstacle to Implementing 1998 DC Vote"). On top of Barr's own support for repeal, advocacy groups cite mounting pressures stemming from the 2004 death of D.C. resident and "quadriplegic medical marijuana user" Jonathan Magbie, "who was arrested and died in a DC jail for lack of adequate medical care," for pushing legislators to overturn the Barr amendment.
So, when will D.C. join the nation's 13 medical marijuana states in enacting compassionate, evidence-based, and pragmatic marijuana policies? According to the website Ballot Access News, "If the U.S. Senate concurs [with the House's decision], and President Obama signs the bill, D.C. will finally be able to implement Initiative 59." Judging from other states' experiences with medical marijuana ballot initiatives, that may not be as easy as it sounds, but it should bring some small relief to district residents, who have been waiting over a decade to see their votes counted.
New Hampshire Governor Vetoes Medical Marijuana Bill
Despite legislators attempts to assuage his concerns, Gov. John Lynch vetoed New Hampshire's proposed medical marijuana bill, according to a July 10 New York Times story ("New Hampshire - Veto of Medical Marijuana Bill"). Lynch reiterated his fears regarding "distribution and cultivation," and stated, according to New Hampshire news outlet Seacoast Online ("Override Veto of Medical Marijuana Bill"), that "The fact remains that marijuana use for any purpose remains illegal under federal law." Although Lynch "said he could 'empathize' with supporters of the bill," he nonetheless "sided with law enforcement arguments about the drug somehow getting into the hands of people who don't qualify," Seacoast reports.
Seacoast, in particular, "hope[s] the Legislature will override [Lynch's] veto. However," as the website states, "the numbers needed to reach a two-thirds majority to do so in the House and Senate look doubtful." Though Rep. Evalyn Merrick, the bill's sponsor, has vowed to attempt the override, Sen. Martha Fuller Clark told Seacoast that "advocates of medical marijuana will have to go back to the drawing board next year."
South Dakota Medical Marijuana Advocate Bob Newland Ordered to Cease Advocacy as Part of Felony Sentence
After medical marijuana advocate Bob Newland - longtime marijuana law reform proponet, director of South Dakota NORML, and founder of South Dakotans for Safe Access - "pleaded guilty to felony possession of marijuana" on July 6, 2009 ("Marijuana Advocate Bob Newland Gets 45 Days in Jail, Probation"), he was not only "sentenced [...] to one year in the Pennington County Jail" (with all but 45 days of that sentence suspended), forced to "submit to random searches and undergo weekly drug tests," the Rapid City Journal writes, but was also ordered by Judge John "Jack" Delaney to refrain from advocating in any way for marijuana policy reform as a condition of his probation. According to the article, Judge Delaney took issue not so much with Newland's advocacy but rather disliked "the idea of an adult doing anything that would encourage kids to drink or do drugs."
Drug policy reformers and civil liberties groups were generally shocked by the Judge's decision. Communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Bruce Mirken, called the decision "appalling" in July 10th's issue of The Drug War Chronicle ("Marijuana Activist Silenced by Judge as Condition of Probation"). In a follow-up piece published by the Rapid City Journal on July 11 ("Judge's Gag Order on Marijuana Advocate Bob Newland Raises Questions"), "Robert Doody, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, said he wasn't prepared to say whether he thought the gag order was legal." As Doody stated, "Even if legal, I find it troubling that we're going to take away someone's right even to speak about something." Allen Hopper, litigation director for the ACLU's Drug Law Reform Project, went slightly further. As he told the Chronicle, "Surrendering our First Amendment rights cannot be a condition of probation. [...] The Constitution clearly protects the right to advocate for political change without fear of criminal consequence." Doody appears to concur, even as he mulls over the question of legality; as he told Rapid City, "It would be different if we said you can't speak about how to grow marijuana, or something like that. But this is just advocating for a public measure."
Coud New Hampshire Become the 14th Medical Marijuana State?
As Kevin Landrigan reports in a July 7 article for The Nashua Telegraph, ("Medical Marijuana Bill Nearing Lynch's Desk"), New Hamphsire's proposed medical marijuana bill, HB 648, needs just one more signature - that of Senate President Sylvia Larsen - before it heads to the desk of Governor John Lynch. However, the governor has repeatedly told news sources that he has not yet made a decision as to whether or not he will approve the measure, despite the multitude of revisions legislators made to the bill in late June in an attempt to address Lynch's expressed concerns.
Although both New Hampshire's House and Senate approved an earlier, less restrictive version of the bill, Lynch made it clear that he would veto the measure in its original state. The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) usefully provides interested parties with a list detailing Lynch's eight major problems with the earlier draft, stating that the governor's "primary concern was the method of access." Landrigan supports that assertion, writing that, although he was still undecided on the issue, Lynch "would watch closely if the new rewrite [...] addressed his concerns about 'distribution.'" In an attempt to ease the governor's mind, lawmakers made several dramatic changes to the bill, key among them an amendment that "remove[d] an earlier right for patients and caregivers to cultivate their own marijuana" and replaced it with a system of distribution centers. As Landrigan explains, "The final compromise restricts possession of the marijuana solely to three and eventually as many as five, private, nonprofit 'compassion centers' presumably located in the southern tier of the state," from which patients could obtain "up to two ounces of marijuana for medicinal use every 10 days." Other changes include (but are not limited to) requiring patients to undergo criminal background checks before being certified, setting registration fees at levels that cover the program's cost, narrowing the definition of a "debilitating medical condition," and allowing law enforcement officials to collect and share information about patients if those officials suspect a patient is illegally distributing his or her marijuana.
Whether or not Lynch will ultimately sign the bill into law is anyone's guess, but - as of July 7 - the governor has just five days, excluding Sundays and holidays, "to decide whether to sign, veto the bill or let it become law without his signature."
California Court Affirms Patients' Rights to Grow Collectively and Sue Over Illegal Raids
As reported by Steve Elliot on his SFWeekly.com blog, "The Snitch," on July 1 ("Chronic City: Court Says Patients Can Collectively Grow Marijuana"), California's Third District Court of Appeals upheld a similar ruling issued by Butte County Superior Judge Barbara Roberts in 2007 in the case of County of Butte v. Superior Court. The case began as a lawsuit filed by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) on behalf of David Williams and six fellow medical marijuana patients after Williams' home was subjected to a warrantless search and Butte County Sheriff's deputies "forced Williams to uproot more than two dozen marijuana plants or face prosecution". However, the appellate court's 2-1 ruling in favor of the Superior Court bodes well not just for Williams and his cohorts but for medical marijuana patients and caregivers throughout the state.
The favorable ruling, as ASA chief counsel Joe Elford states in Elliot's blog post, "sends yet another strong message to state law enforcement that they must abide by the medical marijuana laws of the state and not the competing federal laws." Elford goes on to assert that, "In addition to protecting patients' rights to collectively cultivate, the Court has reaffirmed that medical marijuana patients enjoy the same constitutional rights as everyone else, [...] including the ability to file civil rights actions when those rights are violated." Furthermore, Elliot cites "[o]bservers [who] say [that] today's court decision could have repercussions statewide in other (predominantly rural) counties with pot-phobic local law enforcement."
One Step Forward, Two Steps Back for New Jersey Medical Marijuana Bill
New Jersey's Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (A804/S119) passed through the state's Assembly health committee, but if the full Assembly ultimately votes in favor of the measure, New Jersey could - providing the bill overcomes its future legislative hurdles - be home to the most conservative medical marijuana laws in the country.
As Ken Wolski writes in his June 23 article ("Marijuana Bill Restrictions"), "No state has a lower plant limit or possession amount than New Jersey's bill would alllow. The committee's substitutions to the bill are overly restrictive and they possibly render the bill unworkable." In addition, the version of the bill on which the full Assembly will vote "remove[s] the provision for qualified patients to grow their own supply of marijuana; place[s] severe and unnecessary restrictions on physician recommendations; and den[ies] access to the largest population of patients, those suffering from chronic pain." As Wolski notes, chronic pain patients (excluding those using marijuana to treat pain associated with HIV/AIDS and cancer, to whom the bill does allow access to the drug) make up almost "half of all current physician recommendations for marijuana therapy," and "[s]ome of the most rigorous studies establishing the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana in pain management" have proved cannabis' "worth as a pain management tool."
The future of New Jersey's medical marijuana program is not, however, as bleak as it may seem. In his article, Wolski notes that the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey "recommends that the Senate version of [the bill], which does not contain the Assembly health committee's substitutions, pass into law without delay. This will ensure that patients who are suffering from debilitating medical conditions can quickly begin to relieve their suffering and no longer need fear arrest and imprisonment for following the advice of their physicians."
Rhode Island Will Become First State to Officially License Nonprofit Centers to Dispense Medical Marijuana
In spite of Governor Donald Carcieri's veto of a Rhode Island bill that proposed authorization of state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, Rhode Island will become, in Huffington Post writer Ryan Grim's words ("Rhode Island Will License Medical Marijuana Shops"), "the first in the nation to have one officially licensed nonprofit center selling marijuana" once the new law goes into effect. "Over time," Grim continues, "the state will license further nonprofit dispensaries." Rhode Island's House and Senate members voted near-unanimously to override Carcieri's veto in mid-June.
Rhode Island will thus become the third medical marijuana state (joining California and New Mexico) to allow patients to obtain their medicine through a dispensary system. As Reason's Jacob Sollum reported on June 19 ("All but Three Rhode Island Legislators Vote to Approve Medical Marijuana Dispensaries"), "Rhode Island Rep. Thomas Slater (D-Providence), a cancer patient who plans to use marijuana for pain relief, told his colleagues, 'This gives a safe haven for those who have to go into the seedy areas to try and get marijuana.'" Indeed, as Grim writes, "a much publicized incident in which a pot dealer beat up a medical marijuana patient" highlighted the state's need for legal, regulated outlets through which patients could obtain their doctor-recommended herb. And thanks to the majority of Rhode Island's legislators, one such outlet will be in operation as early as 2010.
Veterans Affairs Ceases Dismissals of Medical Marijuana-Using Pain Patients for Positive Drug Tests
As Veterans Affairs watchdog group, VAWatchdog.org, reported in late May of 2009 ("VA Clarifies Medical Marijuana Policy"), veterans "with medical marijuana prescriptions who test positive will not be removed from pain management programs," as they had been previously. Patients are not permitted to bring their medicinal cannabis onto VA property "because it violates federal law," but they can now consume their medicine off grounds without fear of losing their eligibility for VA pain management programs. As Veterans Affairs official Gabriel Perez wrote in a release intended to clarify the policy, "it is acknowledged that testing positive for marijuana in a patient based upon a random drug screening, [sic] will not serve as a breach of the current pain management agreement if the patient submits documentation in support of the marijuana being prescribed and dispensed in conformity with [state] law." Surely this clarification comes as welcome news to veterans suffering from conditions for which medical marijuana provides relief.
Supreme Court Rejects San Bernardino and San Diego Counties' Attempts to Overturn California's Medical Marijuana Law
In a May 19 article ("Supreme Court Action Upholds California's Medical Pot Law"), Los Angeles Times reporter David G. Savage writes that "The Supreme Court rejected appeals today from two hold-out counties in Southern California that object to the state's 13-year-old medical marijuana law and claimed it should be struck down as violating the federal drug-control act." He adds, "Without comment, the court turned down the pair of appeals." The ruling in effect forces the counties to begin issuing ID cards, a process in which neither had previously engaged despite the fact that, as Savage reminds readers, the issuance of identification cards has "been required under state law since 2004."
Savage cites Graham Boyd, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Law Reform Project, who proclaimed that "today's order 'marks a significant victory for medical marijuana patients and their advocates nationwide.' It dispels any remaining doubts that the state laws are valid, [Boyd] said, and it leaves 'ample room for states to move forward . . . with independent medical marijuana policies.'"
For residents of San Diego and San Bernardino Counties, however, the effects of the ruling have been somewhat more immediate if not quite swift enough. Writing on June 25 for the Riverside Press-Enterprise ("San Bernardino County to Issue Medical Marijuana ID Cards"), Imran Ghori reported that "San Bernardino County will begin providing identification cards to [...] patients within 45 days." San Diego County began "taking applications" for the cards on July 6, 2009, according to the county's eponymous city's CBS affiliate ("Legal Issues Still Cloudy for Medical Pot in San Diego").
Minnesota Governor Pawlenty Vetoes Medical Marijuana Bill
Only one day after Minnesota's proposed medical marijuana bill successfully passed through the state's Legislature (boasting an impressive list of 26 co-sponsors), Governor Tim Pawlenty informed reporters, as Andy Birkey wrote in his May 19 article ("Pawlenty says he will veto medical marijuana bill"), that he would "definitely veto" the measure. And indeed he did. Pawlenty applied his veto stamp to the bill just two days after Birkey reported the Republican governor's initial response to its legislative passage.
As Birkey wrote in a follow-up piece published May 25 ("Pawlenty vetoes medical marijuana bill, supporters vow to push amendment"), Pawlenty voiced sympathy for "those dealing with end-of-life illnesses and accompanying pain," but he ultimately "[stood] with law enforcement in opposition" to the bill.
All is not lost, though, for potential patients and their advocates in Minnesota. According to Birkey, "Bill proponents say they will introduce a constitutional amendment to bypass the governor, noting overwhelming popular support in the state," as well as from members of the Legislature; Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia) quickly issued a press release in which he voiced his disappointment regarding the governor's decision, lamented the strict parameters of the bill, and vowed to keep pushing the issue until suffering Minnesotans in need of a safe, legal way to obtain their medication "are protected."
Americans for Safe Access Takes Government to Court Over Medical Marijuana Misinformation
Back in 2004, medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) "filed a petition under the Data Quality Act seeking to force the Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] to correct its statements that marijuana has no accepted medical use in the United States," writes the author of an April 17 Drug War Chronicle feature ("ASA in Federal Appeals Court Seeking to Force Government to Correct Medical Marijuana Misinformation"). After making ASA wait two years for an answer, "HHS rejected [the group's] petition." But ASA would not be stopped so easily. As the Chronicle reports, ASA "then filed suit in federal district court to force HHS to comply, but the trial judge threw out the lawsuit" on the grounds that "the act did not provide for judicial review. ASA then appealed to the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco" and finally got its much deserved day in court on April 14, 2009.
Despite having "vowed to make science -- not ideology -- the basis for federal government policies," lawyers for the Obama administration opposed ASA in federal appeals court. Put simply, administration counsel argued that private parties have no right to challenge governmental information because the law that allows individuals to do so "had 'no judicially enforceable rights' and [...] requires only that agencies review such requests -- not that they act on them." But ASA co-counsel Alan Morrison contended that the "government's position would make the law meaningless," basically barring citizens from exercising their rights to seek the kinds of corrections ASA desires. Although the case has yet to be decided (and has a long road to travel before it can be), the Chronicle reports that Judge Marsha Berzon called the statue "amazing and troubling," telling Assistant US Attorney General Alisa Klein that "the law appears to allow people affected by government misinformation to get it corrected, under court order if necessary." According to ASA and other drug policy reform advocates, medical marijuana patients undoubtedly fall under the rubric of "people affected by government misinformation."
As with most such lawsuits, this case will not be settled in the near future. However, ASA spokesman Kris Hermes told the Chronicle that "an eventual victory [...] could help lay the foundations for moving marijuana off Schedule I as a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use."
Medical Marijuana Petition Drive Under Way in Florida
According to an April 1, 2009 article in the Cape Coral Daily Breeze, "Advocates across the state are trying to legalize medical marijuana in Florida" by "circulating a petition for the 2010 electoral ballot" ("Group Pushing for Legalization of Medical Marijuana in Florida"). The petition drive is being organized, primarily online, by People United for Medical Marijuana. Kim Russell, the group's chairperson, "started the initiative after her father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and denied medical marijuana, even though it[s use] would have prevented him from [undergoing] brain surgery." She told the Breeze that "This isn't an option for him [...]. He had an option of moving to one of the 13 states where [medicinal cannabis] is legal." However, Russell hopes to expand the options available to her father and the many other ill Floridians who she claims are not only clamoring for access to medical marijuana but are also "willing to stand up, put their faces on camera and show what a sick person looks like" to anyone seeking to "bring forward a backlash of negative sentiment" against the proposal. Russell stated that "There is absolute support [for the initiative in Florida], we just have to get everyone organized." In fact, the PUFMM chairperson "said public opinion polls [...] have shown that 72 percent to 80 percent of respondents are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana."
People United for Medical Marijuana additionally refuses to limit its activism to the ballot initiative. The group also hopes that, by "asking people to write their representatives," the state could implement a medical marijuana program through the legislative process. In fact, the group would prefer it that way. As Russell said, "We are hoping they will submit a bill rather than a ballot initiative," though she gave no specific reasons as to why the group prefers the latter option.
If you live or have friends and family in Florida, the petition form is easily accessible in PDF form here. You might also want to write your local representative regarding PUFMM's desired legislative route toward medical marijuana legalization.
Drug Enforcement Administration Raids San Francisco Dispensary, Calling Holder's Promise into Question
On March 26, 2009 Scientific American wrote on its 60-Second Science Blog, "Medical marijuana advocates are up in arms over [the previous day's] federal raid of a marijuana provider in northern California, claiming that the action is at odds with a policy change announced last week by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder." The raid occurred on March 25 at Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic in San Francisco, CA; DEA agents "confiscat[ed] marijuana plants, lights, and other cultivation equipment as about a dozen people protested outside."
Under Holder's promised policy shift, federal agencies would no longer meddle in state matters by raiding medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives in states where such facilities are legal, as long as the provider in question is operating according to state and municipal ordinances. Although a spokesperson for the DEA "told the Associated Press that the clinic may be in violation of federal and state laws," Scientific American reports that "Emmalyn's had [...] been operating under a temporary permit issued by the San Francisco Department of Health," which begs questions regarding the legitimacy of the DEA's claim. The Administration's refusal to more fully discuss the matter also raises skepticism; despite claiming that, "Based on our investigation, we believe there are not only violations of federal law [going on at Emmalyn's], but state law as well," the DEA never "elaborate[d] on the specific alleged violations, according to a March 26 article by San Francisco's CBS affiliate ("Med Pot Advocates Decry Fed Raid on SF Dispensary").
The raid led the Marijuana Policy Project's Bruce Mirken to "[sound] a skeptical note about whether anything had really changed" under the new regime, though he tentatively allowed the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt. As he stated, "It could be simply dead-enders in the Justice Department trying to conduct, essentially, business as usual and dressing it up in language that seems appropriate to the new attorney general." He told the San Francisco media outlet that "We just don't know." Stephen Gutwillig, speaking for the Drug Policy Alliance, "accused the DEA of being 'up to its old tactics.'" He stressed that "San Francisco sets the standard for medical marijuana dispensary regulation [...]. Surely, state and local authorities are capable of policing their own system, just as the Feds surely have more pressing issues to address."
Americans for Safe Access hosts dozens of pictures of the raid on their page dedicated to the event. Students for Sensible Drug Policy even produced a video of the event, viewable below.
US Attorney General to End DEA Raids
"What the President said during the campaign...is consistent with what we will be doing here in law enforcement" - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made clear that ending federal medical marijuana raids "is now American policy". Click to view US Attorney General Eric Holder's statement. ("Ending Medical Marijuana Raids Now US Policy")
Obama Will Not Tolerate Federal DEA Raids
Raids intensified under former President Bush with nearly one hundred paramilitary style raids at medical cannabis facilities. According to the Washington Times February 5, 2009 article, ("Bush Holdovers at DEA Continue Pot Raids") "Drug Enforcement Administration agents this week raided four medical marijuana shops in California, contrary to President Obama's campaign promises to stop the raids. The White House said it expects those kinds of raids to end once Mr. Obama nominates someone to take charge of DEA, which is still run by Bush administration holdovers. 'The president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind,' White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said."
The article adds, "Medical use of marijuana is legal under the law in California and a dozen other states, but the federal government under President Bush, bolstered by a 2005 Supreme Court ruling, argued that federal interests trumped state law. Dogged by marijuana advocates throughout the campaign, Mr. Obama repeatedly said he was opposed to using the federal government to raid medical marijuana shops, particularly because it was an infringement on states' decisions. 'I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,' Mr. Obama told the Mail Tribune newspaper in Oregon in March, during the Democratic primary campaign. He told the newspaper the 'basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's entirely appropriate.' Mr. Obama is still filling key law enforcement posts. For now, DEA is run by acting Administrator Michele Leonhart, a Bush appointee."
Progress for New Jersey Act
A recent measure would allow chronically ill residents of New Jersey to have medicinal cannabis for medical treatment. According to the Press of Atlantic City December 16, 2008 article,("Medical Marijuana Act Passes NJ Panel") "New Jersey took a major step toward becoming the latest state to allow certain patients to use marijuana Monday, when the Senate's Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee approved the Compassionate Use Medicinal Marijuana Act by a vote of 6-1.The Department of Health and Senior Services would register people with debilitating medical conditions, which would include cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, or other diseases that cause wasting, chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms. The department then would issue a photo identity card and allow those registered to possess as many as 'six marijuana plants and an ounce of usable marijuana,' according to the bill."
The article states, "As a result, the person would not be subject to arrest or penalty for the use of marijuana. Under the Controlled Substances Act, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration classifies marijuana as Schedule I, the most restrictive class of drugs. The federal prohibitions will remain, but the bill's supporters said the overwhelming number of prosecutions are under state law, so it would lift most of the prohibitions. The bill still bars people from operating a car, boat or airplane under the influence of marijuana. It also bans people from smoking marijuana on a school bus, public property or beach, or in a correctional institute or park.The bill would also apply to patients younger than 18, but it requires a parent or guardian's informed approval. A late amendment would also allow people to start Medicinal Marijuana Alternate Treatment Centers, which would dispense regulated marijuana."
The article adds, "The measure was first proposed in 2005, but Monday marked the first time a bill has cleared a state legislative committee. Thirteen other states have approved similar measures.The committee approved the bill 6-1 with two abstentions. It now heads to the full Senate for a vote as early as January. A companion measure was introduced to the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee in January."
Latest Medical Marijuana Recommendations for President Obama
According to the ASA website, "Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. Most recently ASA has released policy recommendations for President Obama and his Administration including:1. End federal raids, intimidation and interference with state law; 2. Encourage advanced clinical research trials that meet accepted scientific standards; 3. Ensure the quality and objectivity of information disseminated by federal agencies; 4. Authorize affirmative and legitimate defenses in federal trials; and 5. Remove cannabis from the list of schedule I controlled substances."
For more details, "Medical Marijuana Policy Recommendations for President Barack H. Obama and His Administration (2009-2013)," is available from the CSDP research archive.
Potential $40 Billion Market
Over the past 20 years studies have shown the efficacy of using marijuana in medicine specifically its psychoactive ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol. Forty billion dollars is the number of dollars up for grabs in the North American pharma market for pain, anxiety and mood disorders. Cannasat Therapeutics Inc, a junior drug developer located in Canada, is now targeting those conditions with treatments inspired by cannabis sativa. According to the October 7, 2008 National Post article, ("Just Don't Call It Pot") "Research showing the potential for cannabis-based drugs has been trickling into pharmaceutical labs since the 1980s, and the scientific community has long been convinced of their usefulness as pain-relievers and appetite stimulants. Meanwhile, industry experts say that major pharmaceutical firms such as Bayer and Sanofi-Aventis have all quietly entered the space with their own cannabinoid platforms. They're watching closely as junior companies like Cannasat and its main competitor, U.K.-based GW Pharmaceuticals, develop the first mainstream drugs based on cannabis derivatives or synthetic versions of THC."
The article states, "Back in Cannasat's lab, chief scientific officer Umar Syed is enthusiastically talking about CAT 310. The drug, he says, was designed with the stigma of cannabinoid-based drugs in mind. At the same time, he believes the company will get more mileage from the potential of the delivery mechanism, known as 'nano-encapsulation,' which Cannasat is using under license from the Finnish university researchers who developed it. If CAT 310 clears its trials, its dissolving pill formulation will be key to its ability to compete with a dronabinol drug already on the market - an oral spray produced by GW Pharmaceuticals. So far, reception to GW's spray has been mixed. By contrast, Cannasat's CAT 310 pill dissolves slowly in the mouth, delivering the drug more efficiently to the bloodstream, says Syed, and patients can take smaller doses, thus reducing unwanted side effects such as intoxication. At least, in theory. At the moment, the 'nano-encapsulation' technology Cannasat uses to make the CAT 310 tablets works too well. As the pill dissolves, it encases the dronabinol molecules, preventing enough of them from being absorbed. That issue led to the failure of an earlier attempt to complete Phase I trials for CAT 310. But Syed says that problem can be overcome with a tweaking of the formulation in advance of CAT 310's new set of Phase I trials."
The article notes, "But CAT 310 is only the first step in Cannasat's long-term strategy. The company has another, even bigger, project in the works-a potential ace up its sleeve called CAT 320. The drug is based on a molecule found in cannabis leaves called cannabidiol (CBD)-which has none of the psychoactive properties associated with marijuana-and is showing potential in the treatment of various mood and psychotic disorders including schizophrenia, a huge global market. In 2005, German scientists reported results of a small study involving schizophrenics, during the International Cannabinoid Research Society conference, held in Tampa, Fla., that year. That study showed that CBD, taken four times a day, was as effective as any of the dopamine inhibitors currently on the market for schizophrenia - but without side effects that include rapid weight gain and a muscle rigidity resembling Parkinson's disease. Since dopamine inhibitors are used to treat a variety of psychiatric disorders, Cannasat is now rushing to replicate the German study and reformulate CBD into a once-a-day time-release capsule, which is far easier for mental patients to take. If the company's human trials - scheduled to begin spring of 2009 - prove successful, CAT 320 could ultimately compete with current dopamine drugs and take a substantial chunk of the $15-billion market in North America. 'We know we have a winner,' says Syed."
The article adds, "Cannasat's last remaining hurdle is the one they've already worked hard to overcome: the market's reluctance to invest in cannabis-based drugs. It may seem trivial, but Cannasat's survival will depend on support from fund managers, and Hill says the company has to do more to convince them that its products will be accepted by regulators. After all, similar drugs have already been approved."
Medical Marijuana and College Campuses
A Colorado student has been hassled by University administration even though he has adhered to state medical marijuana laws. According to The Denver Post September 20, 2008 article, ("Student Fights CU Over Hazy Marijuana Law") "A University of Colorado at Boulder student who has a medical-marijuana card will be given his pot back by campus police Monday. CU officials relented when threatened with a lawsuit after campus police confiscated less than 2 ounces of pot from Edward Nicholson's dorm room, and officials threatened him with suspension. Nicholson, 20, said he was holding the drug for his 23-year-old brother, a chronic-pain sufferer. State law allows doctor-recommended marijuana use for those 'suffering from debilitating medical conditions.' Caregivers of patients must carry state-issued medical-marijuana cards. Nicholson is the cardholder because he says pot is easier to buy in Boulder than in Aurora, where his family lives."
The article adds, "The ordeal started last winter when an officer smelled pot in Nicholson's dorm lockbox during a room walk-through on winter break. When Nicholson brandished his registry card, that officer didn't cite him. But in February and March, Nicholson said he was awakened several nights in a row by CU-Boulder police officers who said they could smell pot coming from his room. Nicholson said he doesn't smoke pot and called the late-night door knocks obnoxious. In May, campus authorities threatened to suspend him for a semester, to commit him to community service and drug and alcohol testing, and make him write a paper about the harmful effects of the drug on his schooling. After Nicholson hired lawyer Robert Corry, who threatened a lawsuit, CU officials threw the case out."
The article states, "CU officials revised their policies this fall to accommodate the 8-year-old medical-marijuana law. CU students-even medical-pot cardholders-are not allowed to store the drug in dorms. But officials say they'll release first-year students from the on-campus residency requirement if they are cardholders 'at their prerogative,' said CU lawyer Jeremy Hueth, who worked on Nicholson's case. There are 1,955 cardholders in Colorado, according to last year's statistics from the state health department."
A California state appeals court has upheld that state's medical cannabis law. The court dismissed a challenge filed by two counties against the law and against the state's patient ID program.The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Aug. 1, 2008 ("California's Pot Law Upheld In Appeals Court") that "The Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego dismissed challenges by San Diego and San Bernardino counties, which objected both to the 1996 marijuana initiative and to recent legislation requiring counties to issue identification cards to users of medical pot. The cards protect their holders from arrest by state or local police for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government can enforce its drug laws, which ban marijuana use and cultivation, against patients and their suppliers in California and the 11 other states that have legalized medical marijuana under their own laws. But in Thursday's ruling, the appeals court said states remain free to decide whether to punish drug users under their own laws. 'The ( federal ) law does not compel the states to impose criminal penalties for marijuana possession,' said Justice Alex McDonald in the 3-0 ruling, which upheld a Superior Court judge's decision."
According to the Chronicle, "San Diego County's lawyer, Senior Deputy County Counsel Thomas Bunton, said county supervisors may decide by next week whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court. He said a future appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is also possible. 'We think the court should have found that California's medical marijuana laws are pre-empted by the federal law,' Bunton said. 'We think ( the ID card law ) requires us to issue cards in support of conduct that violates federal law.'Advocacy groups that joined the state in defense of its law said the ruling shows that states are free to chart their own course on medical marijuana. The decision "provides yet further confirmation that states need not march in lockstep with federal policy," said Adam Wolf, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing the National Association for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He said the court issued 'a stinging rebuke to the misguided attempt of a few rogue counties to undermine the will of California's voters and the well-being of thousands of sick and dying patients.'"
The Chronicle noted that "In a separate case Thursday, the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento became the second to declare unconstitutional a 2003 state law that limited the amount of marijuana a patient could possess for medical use and remain exempt from prosecution. The ruling would leave those decisions up to local governments, or to local prosecutors and juries in counties that lacked an official standard. The law, part of the same legislation that established the state-approved identification cards, allowed patients to possess up to 8 ounces of dried marijuana, or up to six mature marijuana plants or 12 immature plants, unless a doctor had recommended greater amounts to meet the patient's needs. The Third District Court ruled that the law conflicted with the 1996 medical marijuana initiative, Proposition 215, which set no numerical limits on the amount of marijuana a patient could possess. An appeals court in Los Angeles reached the same conclusion in May, a ruling that Attorney General Jerry Brown's office has appealed to the state Supreme Court."
California Issues Medical Marijuana Guidelines
The state of California has issued guidelines designed to help patients, caregivers, and law enforcement navigate their way through that state's medical marijuana law.
The Los Angeles Times reported on Aug. 26, 2008 ("California Attorney General Issues Medical Marijuana Guidelines") that "Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown issued an 11-page directive intended to help legitimate patients avoid arrest while giving police the tools to distinguish legal medical marijuana operations from illegal cultivators and criminal middlemen. He suggested his new 'road map' would serve as a shield against the federal government, which has waged war against the state's pot rules by conducting raids and mounting court challenges. 'Hopefully the feds will back off in instances where people are really following these guidelines,' Brown said Monday in a telephone interview. The guidelines affirm the legality of many of the state's medical marijuana dispensaries, but only those operated as collectives or cooperatives and not in business for profit."
According to the Times, "An unlikely coalition of police and medical marijuana activists welcomed the new guidelines, the first substantial directive from a state agency since voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996. 'As far as I'm concerned, I give this two thumbs up,' said Kevin Reed of the Green Cross, a collective in San Francisco. 'If you're in it for profit, you shouldn't be in medical cannabis.' 'This is huge,' said Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access, a pro-medical marijuana group. 'Hopefully this will send a message to the federal government that California doesn't intend to deter from the course it has set.' The federal government maintains a strict prohibition against marijuana as medicine, and for more than a decade it has made California -- which has an estimated 200,000 cannabis-using patients - -- the principal beachhead in the battle against medical marijuana. Federal officials at the president's Office of National Drug Control Policy and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration did not return calls for comment. Police, meanwhile, welcomed Brown's guidelines, saying they shed light on what had often seemed to them a shadowy world. 'We have been operating in the dark for many years,' said Jerry Dyer, Fresno's chief of police and president of the California Police Chiefs Assn.
The Times noted that "Brown's guidelines urge patients to apply for state-sanctioned medical marijuana ID cards -- and advise police to accept authenticated cards as proof of medical need. Patients are prohibited from using cannabis near schools and recreation centers or at work, unless an employer gives permission. Police, meanwhile, must return seized cannabis to patients who are later proved legitimate. Brown takes a notably hard line on for-profit dispensaries. Scores of storefront operations have sprouted up, often with business owners running virtual emporiums of cannabis. Under the attorney general's guidelines, they must operate as not-for-profit collectives or cooperatives, and establishments are prohibited from buying marijuana from illegal, commercial growers. Instead, the marijuana must be grown by patients or their caregivers, with fees limited to covering overhead and operating expenses."
A copy of the CA AG's guidelines is available by clicking here.
A California state appeals court has upheld that state's medical cannabis law. The court dismissed a challenge filed by two counties against the law and against the state's patient ID program.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on Aug. 1, 2008 ("California's Pot Law Upheld In Appeals Court") that "The Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego dismissed challenges by San Diego and San Bernardino counties, which objected both to the 1996 marijuana initiative and to recent legislation requiring counties to issue identification cards to users of medical pot. The cards protect their holders from arrest by state or local police for possessing small amounts of marijuana. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government can enforce its drug laws, which ban marijuana use and cultivation, against patients and their suppliers in California and the 11 other states that have legalized medical marijuana under their own laws. But in Thursday's ruling, the appeals court said states remain free to decide whether to punish drug users under their own laws. 'The ( federal ) law does not compel the states to impose criminal penalties for marijuana possession,' said Justice Alex McDonald in the 3-0 ruling, which upheld a Superior Court judge's decision."
According to the Chronicle, "San Diego County's lawyer, Senior Deputy County Counsel Thomas Bunton, said county supervisors may decide by next week whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court. He said a future appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is also possible. 'We think the court should have found that California's medical marijuana laws are pre-empted by the federal law,' Bunton said. 'We think ( the ID card law ) requires us to issue cards in support of conduct that violates federal law.' Advocacy groups that joined the state in defense of its law said the ruling shows that states are free to chart their own course on medical marijuana. The decision "provides yet further confirmation that states need not march in lockstep with federal policy," said Adam Wolf, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing the National Association for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He said the court issued 'a stinging rebuke to the misguided attempt of a few rogue counties to undermine the will of California's voters and the well-being of thousands of sick and dying patients.'"
The Chronicle noted that "In a separate case Thursday, the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento became the second to declare unconstitutional a 2003 state law that limited the amount of marijuana a patient could possess for medical use and remain exempt from prosecution. The ruling would leave those decisions up to local governments, or to local prosecutors and juries in counties that lacked an official standard. The law, part of the same legislation that established the state-approved identification cards, allowed patients to possess up to 8 ounces of dried marijuana, or up to six mature marijuana plants or 12 immature plants, unless a doctor had recommended greater amounts to meet the patient's needs. The Third District Court ruled that the law conflicted with the 1996 medical marijuana initiative, Proposition 215, which set no numerical limits on the amount of marijuana a patient could possess. An appeals court in Los Angeles reached the same conclusion in May, a ruling that Attorney General Jerry Brown's office has appealed to the state Supreme Court."
San Diego and San Bernardino Counties were in the California Court of Appeals in June, continuing their fight against medical cannabis patients.
The Riverside Press-Enterprise reported on June 11, 2008 ("San Bernardino, San Diego Counties in Court Over Medical Marijuana") that "San Bernardino and San Diego counties argued in court Tuesday that California's medical marijuana plan violates federal law and the state constitution, while opposing attorneys argued the state is within its rights to regulate the substance. The exchanges came in a crowded courtroom before a three-judge panel of the state 4th District Court of Appeal in San Diego. The jurists took the matter under submission and have 90 days to make their ruling. Their decision can be appealed to the state Supreme Court."
According to the Press-Enterprise, "The two counties are not trying to overturn that initiative. But they argue that subsequent legislation, the Medical Marijuana Program, which created a system for counties to investigate applicants, issue user cards and keep those on file, puts the counties in direct conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act. San Bernardino County has not issued any user cards as officials await the outcome of the lawsuit. Since January 2006, Riverside County has issued 1,000 cards to patients and their caregivers. That number includes renewals, which must be done annually."
The Press-Enterprise reported that "Attorney Joseph D. Elford of Americans for Safe Access, representing medical marijuana patients, noted that neither they nor the federal government had litigated against the state marijuana laws. 'Instead, the challenge has come from two subdivisions of the state,' he said. Peter A. Krause for the state attorney general's office said Congress can clarify which federal laws pre-empt local ones, but 'there is no conflict between the state's limited decriminalized use of marijuana for limited medical practices and the ( federal ) Controlled Substances Act to limit drug abuse and trafficking.' 'It's difficult to tell what they are challenging in this case,' Krause said. 'The counties are essentially seeking an advisory opinion,' he said."
According to the Press-Enterprise, "'There is a big difference between decriminalizing marijuana and authorizing its use ... in violation of federal law,' argued San Diego County senior Deputy Counsel Thomas D. Bunton. 'Congress has declared that marijuana has no medical use, so using marijuana under these circumstances is drug abuse.' But states have long practiced authorizing and enforcing laws that do not match federal law, argued ACLU/NORML attorney Adam B. Wolf. 'The counties' position would imply the invalidity of hundreds, if not thousands, of state statutes,' Wolf told the judges. Wolf quoted U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's comment that there has been countless times where states have not criminalized issues the same way as the federal government. 'It's a bedrock principle of federalism' for states to be allowed to determine issues such as how to regulate marijuana, Wolf said."
The Press-Enterprise noted that "San Bernardino and Merced counties were originally in the lawsuit along with San Diego County. San Diego County Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt Jr. ruled in December 2006 that the California marijuana laws were valid and the counties would have to comply. San Diego and San Bernardino counties appealed. Merced County, part of the original suit, voted not to pursue the case and began issuing medical marijuana cards."
Timothy Garon was a Seattle-area man suffering from Hepatitis C who had a recommendation for medical marijuana from his physician for pain relief and nausea and also as an appetite stimulant. He was denied a spot on the transplant list at two of his local hospitals, allegedly largely because of his medical marijuana use, Shortly afterward, Tim Garon died.
The Associated Press reported on May 3, 2008 ("Is Medical-Marijuana Use Reason to Deny Someone an Organ Tranplant?") that "Timothy Garon, 56, used marijuana to ease the symptoms of advanced hepatitis C. Dr. Brad Roter, the physician who authorized Garon to smoke pot to alleviate nausea and abdominal pain and to stimulate his appetite -- a use authorized under a Washington state law approved by voters in 1998 -- said he had not known it would be such a hurdle if Garon were to need a transplant. Garon died Thursday, one week after he said he learned from his doctor that a University of Washington Medical Center committee had again denied him a spot on the liver-transplant list. 'He said I'm going to die, with such conviction,' Garon said then. 'I'm not angry, I'm not mad, I'm just confused.' His death at Bailey-Boushay House, an intensive-care nursing center, was confirmed Friday by his lawyer, Douglas Hiatt, and Alisha Mark, a spokeswoman for Virginia Mason Medical Center, which operates Bailey-Boushay."
The Associated Press reported on April 27, 2008 ("Patients Using Medical Marijuana Can Be Denied Transplants") that "His liver, ravaged by hepatitis C, is failing. Without a new one, his doctors tell him, he will be dead in days. But Garon's been refused a spot on the transplant list, largely because he has used marijuana, even though it was legally approved for medical reasons."
According to AP, "Most transplant centers struggle with how to deal with people who have used marijuana, said Dr. Robert Sade, director of the Institute of Human Values in Health Care at the Medical University of South Carolina. 'Marijuana, unlike alcohol, has no direct effect on the liver. It is however a concern ... in that it's a potential indicator of an addictive personality,' Sade said. The Virginia-based United Network for Organ Sharing, which oversees the nation's transplant system, leaves it to individual hospitals to develop criteria for transplant candidates. At some, people who use 'illicit substances' -- including medical marijuana, even in states that allow it -- are automatically rejected. At others, such as the UCLA Medical Center, patients are given a chance to reapply if they stay clean for six months. Marijuana is illegal under federal law."
AP noted that "Garon believes he got hepatitis by sharing needles with 'speed freaks' as a teenager. In recent years, he said, pot has been the only drug he's used. In December, he was arrested for growing marijuana. Garon, who has been hospitalized or in hospice care for two months straight, said he turned to the university hospital after Seattle's Harborview Medical Center told him he needed six months of abstinence. The university also denied him but said it would reconsider if he enrolled in a 60-day drug-treatment program. Last week, at the urging of Garon's lawyer, the university's transplant team reconsidered anyway, but it stuck to its decision."
From "He favors long-term timber-payments solution," The Mail-Tribune (Medford, OR), March 23, 2008:
Q: A couple of other issues of interest to Oregonians involve initiatives passed by the voters that have come into conflict with the federal government: physician-assisted suicide and medical marijuana. Do you support those two concepts?
A: I am in favor of palliative medicine in circumstances where someone is terminally ill. ... I'm mindful of the legitimate interests of states to prevent a slide from palliative treatments into euthanasia. On the other hand, I think that the people of Oregon did a service for the country in recognizing that as the population gets older we've got to think about issues of end-of-life care. ...
As for medical marijuana ... I'm not familiar with all the details of the initiative that was passed, but I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's entirely appropriate. ...
I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.
The American College of Physicians has endorsed easing restrictions on medical marijuana. From their webpage: "Additional research is needed to further clarify the therapeutic value of cannabinoids and determine optimal routes of administration. Unfortunately, research expansion has been hindered by a complicated federal approval process, limited availability of research-grade marijuana, and the debate over legalization. ACP believes the science on medical marijuana should not be obscured or hindered by the debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana for general use." The ACP's full position paper on the subject is available by clicking here.
A new vending machine product is now available in California: medical marijuana. However, according to the January 29, 2008 Los Angeles Daily News ("Marijuana machines could be cure for inconvenience")'Not just anyone can pop some coins in and get some bud. The machine, developed by Los Angeles medical-marijuana dispensary owner Vincent Mehdizadeh, gives up to an ounce of pot per week only to preapproved patients. The specialized machine installed Monday at Herbal Nutrition Center - a medical-marijuana dispensary on La Cienega Boulevard - requires fingerprint identification as well as a special prepaid card."
The article states, "Mehdizadeh's machine is far from the standard potato-chip model. The black, armored box is bolted to the floor at the entrance to the dispensary. It has a card swiper, a video camera that also takes a snapshot of any user and adds it to a database, and is protected by armed security guards.Mehdizadeh said he has been trying to reach out to City Council members and persuade them that the machine is a key way to regulate the industry because it includes an automatic database. Mehdizadeh said the machines also could allow dispensaries to sell pot at lower prices because of reduced overhead costs."
"But even some of the most devoted defenders of medical marijuana question the idea of pot vending machines. 'This is bittersweet in that it shows great entrepreneurship - but opens up terrific avenues of ridicule,' said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. St. Pierre said that whatever happens, Mehdizadeh's machine will likely be a milestone in the medical-marijuana movement.'Of the little benchmarks over a 15-year period, this machine will probably be one of them,' he said. 'Whether they continue to exist or not."
Smoke a Joint, Lose a Job: CA Supreme Court Rules Employers Can Fire Workers for Medical Marijuana Use
The California Supreme Court has ruled that a positive drug test arising from medical marijuana use can be grounds for termination of employment.
The LA Times reported on Jan. 25, 2008 (Workers Can Be Fired For Using Medical Pot Off Duty, Court Rules) that "The California Supreme Court weakened the effect of the state's beleaguered medical marijuana law, ruling Thursday that employers may fire workers for using physician-recommended marijuana while off duty, even if it did not hurt their job performance. Supporters of medical marijuana immediately criticized the court's 5-2 ruling, saying it undermined the 1996 law, which prohibits the state from criminalizing the medical use of the drug. Hundreds of medical marijuana users have complained that they have been fired, threatened with termination or not hired by California companies because of their drug use, according to one advocacy group. In siding with employers, the California Supreme Court said the Compassionate Use Act passed by voters and later amended by the Legislature imposed no requirements on employers."
According to the Times, "The court majority upheld the firing of Gary Ross, an Air Force veteran whose doctor recommended marijuana for chronic back pain stemming from an injury in the military and whose disability qualified him for government benefits. Ross, 45, was hired by RagingWire Telecommunications Inc. in 2001 as a systems engineer. Before taking a required drug test, Ross provided a copy of his physician's recommendation for marijuana. The company fired him a week after he started the job because his test revealed that he had used marijuana. Ross sued the company on the grounds that it failed to accommodate his disability as required under a state anti-discrimination law. He contended that he had worked without any problems at other jobs in the same field since becoming a medical marijuana user. Lower courts, however, sided with the employer."
The Times noted that "Attorney Robert M. Pattison, who represented RagingWire Telecommunications, a Sacramento data center, said the ruling resolved questions that have troubled employers about the use of medical marijuana and did "not at all" eviscerate the marijuana law. 'In fact, the court makes it clear that the point here is the medical marijuana law doesn't address employment,' Pattison said."
Download a copy of the CA Supreme Court's decision in this case.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration is threatening landlords in Los Angeles with seizure of their property and possible prison terms for renting to cannabis dispensaries. The Pasadenia Star-News reported on July 14, 2007 ("Pot Dispensaries Could Be Shut") that "County medical marijuana dispensaries are at risk of being shut down since landlords received a letter from a federal agency telling them they could lose their property or face up to 20 years in prison. 'Federal law allows for the seizure of assets, including real property, which have been used in conjunction with the distribution of controlled substances,' states the Drug Enforcement Administration letter, which was sent out last week in Los Angeles County. The letter also contends federal laws 'take precedence' over state laws, such as Proposition 215 and SB 420, which allow for medical marijuana use. Managers from at least two collectives say they might have to close their doors."
According to the Star-News, "Sarah Pullen, DEA spokeswoman, said the letters should not be viewed as a threat. 'We are literally just serving notice that these property owners are violating the law,' said Pullen. The DEA has not filed charges against any landowner at this point, according to Pullen. Chris Fusco of Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, said that landlords he had talked to were nervous but that he did not expect further action from the DEA. 'It is a little frightening,' he said. 'But if they intended to follow through on this, they already would have.' Pullen would not disclose how many property owners the DEA sent the letter to, but Fusco says the letter has gone out to at least 30 that he knows of. 'It's a shame that the DEA would use techniques on medical marijuana that are normally reserved for crack houses and meth labs,' said Fusco."
The Star-News noted that "The District Attorney's Office was not informed of the letters, according to spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons. Lt. Jim Whitten, of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Narcotics bureau, also said that he had not heard of the letters. The letter was not the first time that DEA took action against county dispensaries without notifying local authorities. In January, the DEA raided 11 dispensaries, detained 20 people, and seized thousands of pounds of marijuana. Despite the letter, some dispensaries are not worrying about whether they will stay open. 'At this point I am less concerned about my collective than about the effect on the entire community of medical marijuana patients,' said Josie, a manager at the Karma Collective in Van Nuys, who says her landlord has been 'supportive' of the dispensary."
A bill to make Rhode Island's state medical marijuana program "permanent" has passed into law over the veto of Governor Donald Carcieri. The Drug War Chronicle reported on June 22, 2007 ("Rhode Island Legislature Overrides Veto to Make Law Permanent") that "On Wednesday, the Senate voted 29-4 to override, and on Thursday, the House followed suit with a lopsided 58-11 vote. Legislators last year passed a medical marijuana -- also vetoed by Carcieri and overridden -- but that law included a sunset provision. Without action by the legislature, it would have expired on June 30."
According to the Chronicle, ""The fact that this override passed by an even larger margin than the original override last year says everything you need to know about how well the law has worked, and how completely uncontroversial it's been," said Ray Warren, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. The national group worked with state residents organized into the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition to achieve victory in the legislature."
Legislation in Connecticut which would have allowed patients in need to have legal access to their medicine was vetoed in mid-June. The Hartford Courant reported on June 20, 2007 ("Rell Vetoes Marijuana Bill") that "Gov. M. Jodi Rell vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have legalized the medical use of marijuana, saying that the bill was a well-intended, but flawed attempt to alleviate suffering. "I am not unfamiliar with the incredible pain and heartbreak associated with battling cancer," said Rell, who was treated for breast cancer 2 1/2 years ago. "I have struggled with the decision about signing or vetoing this bill." The legislation would have allowed patients with conditions such as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis or AIDS to grow up to four marijuana plants in their homes with a doctor's prescription. But in a three-page veto message, Rell said her sympathies for those with unmanageable pain did not overcome her concern that citizens still would have to break the law to obtain marijuana or marijuana seeds. "There are no pharmacies, storefronts or mail order catalogs where patients or caregivers can legally purchase marijuana plants or seeds," Rell said. "I am troubled by the fact that in essence, this bill forces law-abiding citizens to seek out drug dealers to make their marijuana purchases.""
The fact that patients currently have no recourse other than the illegal market, and that the bill would have given those patients protection from prosecution under state law, escaped the Governor.
According to the Courant, "The bill passed easily, 89-58 in the House and 23-13 in the Senate. But supporters are short of the votes necessary for a veto override: 24 in the Senate and 101 in the House. Sen. Andrew J. McDonald, D-Stamford, a proponent, said the veto is the result of Rell's failure to engage the legislature about her objections prior to passage. 'We've been trying to pass this for three years in a complicated legal and medical environment with little or no involvement from the governor or her staff,' McDonald said. McDonald said the bill decriminalized marijuana under narrow circumstances for patients unable to find relief from standard pharmacology."
The Courant noted that " During the House debate, Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Somers, said she bought marijuana for her husband when he was dying of bone cancer. Bacchiochi, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, said then: 'This bill is about our choice, our right and our responsibility to say we no longer choose to arrest sick people.'"
The New York State Assembly passed a measure to legalize medical marijuana in that state. Differences with the State Senate on the other hand may hamstring efforts. The New York Times reported on June 14, 2007 ("Legislators Grapple Over How To Legalize Medical Marijuana Use,") that "In New York, the Democratic-led Assembly passed a bill on Wednesday that would give doctors the authority to grant eligible patients a certification allowing them to legally acquire and use marijuana or to grow up to a dozen plants at a time. 'Thousands of New Yorkers with serious life-threatening conditions could get significant medical benefit from the use of marijuana,' said Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat. But it is not clear how these plants, or the seeds to grow them, would be acquired. The Assembly's bill says only that it would be lawful to give patients marijuana or seeds if 'nothing of value is transferred in return.'"
According to the Times however, "Senator Vincent N. Leibell, a Republican whose district includes Putnam County and parts of Westchester and Dutchess Counties, said he would introduce legislation that would take a different approach. He said he would prefer that the state's Health Department be in charge of growing and dispensing marijuana. "The key issue is control," he said. "How do you control manufacture, and how do you control dispensement? Those are the two issues that'll be out there." The Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, said that he supported the idea - he has supported efforts to legalize marijuana for medical use in the past - but that "the Assembly version doesn't work." He said he believed there was enough time left in the session to work out the differences, though lawmakers are grappling with a wide variety of issues in the five remaining days of the session."
The Times noted that "Mr. Spitzer, the former attorney general, has in the past been opposed to the idea. But he said on Tuesday that he had rethought his position. 'On many issues, hopefully you learn, you study, you evolve,' the governor said. 'This is one where I had, as a prosecutor, a presumption against the use of any narcotic which wasn't designed purely for medicinal and medical effect, and now there are ways that have persuaded me that it can be done properly.' But the governor said he would sign the bill only if it were 'properly structured'; he did not elaborate."
An initiative petition to allow patients in need to have access to medical marijuana has been approved for circulation in the state of Michigan. The Lansing State Journal reported on June 7, 2007 ("Medical Marijuana Petition Approved") that "An effort to legalize marijuana for medical use in Michigan cleared a key procedural hurdle Wednesday. A state elections board approved the form of petitions being circulated by the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care. The group still needs to collect at least 304,101 valid signatures of Michigan voters within six months to send its issue to state lawmakers. If state lawmakers vote to accept the proposal, it becomes part of Michigan law. If the Legislature doesn't vote on the measure or rejects it, the initiative would appear on the November 2008 ballot."
According to the State Journal, "Campaign organizers want to collect about 550,000 signatures to make sure they will have enough valid ones when it comes time to certify their petitions. Michigan law prohibits marijuana use for any reason. But a dozen other states permit medicinal use by patients. Voters in five Michigan cities - Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale, Flint and Traverse City - have passed ballot initiatives allowing for medicinal marijuana use in the past few years. The votes were mostly symbolic, however, since state and federal laws prohibit use of the drug."
The State Journal noted that "The statewide Michigan initiative would allow patients to grow and use small amounts of marijuana for relief from pain associated with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other diseases. A doctor's approval or recommendation would be required to use the drug. Registry cards would be created so law enforcement personnel could tell who was a registered patient with the OK to use the drug."
As expected, Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri vetoed the medical marijuana legislation which reached his desk recently. Proponents have enough votes to override the governor. The Providence Journal reported June 5, 2007 ("Carcieri Vetoes Medical Marijuana") that "As expected, Governor Carcieri yesterday vetoed medical marijuana legislation. And Democratic House leader Gordon Fox said he believes state lawmakers will override that veto."
According to the Journal, "51 of 75 House members endorsed the measure. Forty-five votes, or three-fifths, are required to overturn a veto. The bill, known as the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, calls for permanently extending the medical marijuana law, which was due to expire this year under a sunset clause. 'I fully expect that we will place a vote to override the governor's medical marijuana veto on the floor calendar before the end of our session,' Fox said in a statement anticipating the veto. A prior vote on the bill 'made it clear that there is an overwhelming majority in the House willing to remove the sunset clause on this compassionate legislation.'"
The Journal noted that under the legislation, "A patient diagnosed as having a debilitating medical condition would be allowed to possess up to 12 marijuana plants and 2.5 ounces of marijuana. An adult who has agreed to help an ill person's medical use of marijuana - a caregiver - could have 12 plants and 2.5 ounces of marijuana for each of up to five qualified patients."
Legislation to allow patients in need to have access to medical marijuana has passed both houses of the state legislature and is on the way to the governor for approval. The Stamford Advocate reported on June 2, 2007 ("Medical Marijuana Bill Wins OK") that "The state Senate, in a 23-13 bipartisan vote, last night approved a bill to legalize the medical use of marijuana to relieve the suffering of patients with debilitating conditions such as cancer or AIDS. The legislation, approved May 23 by the House, 89-58, heads to Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell for her signature. If the legislation becomes law, Connecticut will become the 13th state to allow the palliative use of marijuana despite the federal prohibition against it. 'She'll read it thoroughly and think it over,' Rell spokesman Adam Liegeot said."
According to the Advocate, "State Sen. Andrew McDonald, D-Stamford, introduced the legislation on the Senate floor. But the four other senators from southwestern Connecticut - Bob Duff, D-Norwalk; Judith Freedman, R-Westport; John McKinney, R-Fairfield; and William Nickerson, R-Greenwich - opposed the bill. The legislation passed last night would allow a doctor to certify an adult patient's use of marijuana after determining he or she has a debilitating condition and could potentially benefit from marijuana. Patients and their primary caregivers would then register with the state Department of Consumer Protection. The patient and the primary caregiver would be limited to growing no more than four plants, each having a maximum height of 4 feet, in an indoor secure facility."
The Advocate noted that "McDonald said afterward: 'It would still be illegal under federal law, although I can't point to one case in the country where the federal government has arrested somebody for purchasing marijuana seeds for medicinal purposes.' He said the bill could be challenged in federal court. 'But now we're going to have 13 states,' he said. 'I'm pretty certain we're close to a tipping point where the FDA will be forced into a position of funding studies they've consistently refused to undertake.'"
The Vermont State Legislature has passed a measure expanding the state's medical marijuana law. The bill will be enacted without the governor's signature. The Burlington Free Press reported on June 1, 2007 ("Medical Marijuana Law Expanded") that "Steve Perry of Randolph Center welcomed news Thursday that a bill expanding eligibility for the state's medical marijuana registry would become law -- even though the governor refused to sign it. Perry copes with a degenerative joint condition that causes severe pain and muscle spasms. Traditional painkillers fail to provide relief, he said, but marijuana has helped. Now he will be able to register with the Department of Public Safety and have protection from state prosecution while using the otherwise illegal drug. The bill broadened the eligibility established in Vermont's 2004 law by allowing those with chronic debilitating conditions, not just life-threatening diseases, to participate in the program. It also increases the number of plants that participants may grow at home and reduces the annual registration fee from $100 to $50. The marijuana bill is the fifth piece of legislation Gov. Jim Douglas has allowed to become law this year without his signature. Jason Gibbs, the governor's spokesman, said that generally Douglas exercises this option when he doesn't agree with the policy but recognizes a measure has strong support in the Legislature."
According to the Free Press, "'Why wouldn't he veto it if that is the way he really feels?' asked Senate President Pro Tempore Peter Shumlin, D-Windham. 'This is a wimp-out position.' Shumlin criticized the governor for using the no-sign option so frequently. Senate Majority Leader John Campbell, D-Windsor, agreed. 'I think what it says is that there was a lack of communication on many of the issues we were dealing with,' Campbell said. 'I would hope in the next session, if he or his staff have problems, we would have more in-depth conversations.'"
The Free Press noted that "Even with the new changes, 'it is still going to be very conservative compared to some of the other states,' said Dan Bernath, assistant communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. Campbell championed the expansion of eligibility and relaxation of the limits on the number of plants. A former police officer, he said he understood the governor's concern about passing legislation contrary to federal law. 'We chose to look at the human side, to take a compassionate view.'"
Noted author and marijuana legalization advocate Ed Rosenthal was found guilty by a federal jury in his retrial on marijuana cultivation charges. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on May 30, 2007 ("Pot advocate convicted on three charges but 'ganja guru' won't face further punishment") that "Marijuana advocate Ed Rosenthal was convicted for a second time today of violating federal drug laws by growing pot plants for medical patients, but he faces no punishment for the felony convictions, apart from the one day in jail that he has already served. Rosenthal, 62, of Oakland, a well-known authority on cannabis cultivation, former columnist for High Times magazine and author of a recent book calling for legalization of marijuana, was convicted by a federal jury in San Francisco of three charges of illegal cultivation and conspiracy after a day of deliberations. He was acquitted of a fourth charge, and the jury deadlocked on a fifth charge."
According to the Chronicle, "A separate jury had convicted Rosenthal of similar charges in 2003, but the verdict was overturned by an appeals court because of misconduct by a juror who called a lawyer for advice during deliberations. The charges normally carry a sentence of at least five years in prison, but U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer imposed only a one-day sentence, saying Rosenthal had believed he was acting legally because Oakland had designated him as its agent in the city's medical marijuana program. Federal prosecutors tried to add charges of money-laundering and tax evasion for the retrial, but Breyer refused, saying the government was retaliating for Rosenthal's criticism of the case and his successful appeal. Prosecutors proceeded with the second trial, rejecting the judge's suggestion that they drop the case, but conceded that they could not seek additional punishment for Rosenthal."
The Chronicle noted that "In both trials, Breyer barred evidence that the marijuana was intended for medical use under Proposition 215, the 1996 California initiative allowing patients to use the drug with their doctor's approval. He also excluded evidence about Rosenthal's designation as an agent by the city of Oakland. Left without a defense, Rosenthal's lawyers called no witnesses at the retrial, and instead argued that the prosecution's case was tainted by the testimony of some of Rosenthal's former friends and business partners who had been granted leniency. Because of the judge's rulings, 'The jury was not allowed to hear valuable information it needed to make an unbiased and fair decision,' Rosenthal said today after the verdict. His defense lawyers said they would ask Breyer to throw out the convictions."
The Connecticut State House of Representatives approved legislation allowing patients in need to have access to medical marijuana. The Journal-Inquirer reported on May 24, 2007 ("Medical Marijuana Scores House Win") that "The fight to legalize marijuana use for medicinal purposes scored a big win Wednesday when it cleared the House of Representatives by 31 votes. The measure, which now heads to the Senate, was approved 89-58 after more than six hours of debate. 'We have the opportunity to give relief to Connecticut residents who are sick, who are dying, who are wasting away, who are losing their quality of life,' Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-Somers, said. 'And we can tell those Connecticut residents that the state of Connecticut no longer will prosecute you.' Over the past five years, Bacchiochi has become the legislature's leading advocate for legalizing marijuana use for those suffering from certain illnesses and injuries that cause prolonged, debilitating pain, such as cancer and multiple sclerosis."
According to the Journal-Inquirer, "Wednesday's win in the House might give legalization advocates their best chance yet of changing the law. In 2003, the House rejected a bill to legalize medicinal use by 15 votes. One year later advocates gained a small win when a legalization amendment narrowly was approved in the House, but the bill it was attached to subsequently was scrapped and never escaped that chamber. The marijuana legalization debate took a different route in 2005, starting in the Senate, which approved a bill by two votes. The House never took it up. If Senate approval can be obtained for the measure before the 2007 legislative session ends June 6, the bill would go to Gov. M. Jodi Rell's desk."
The Journal-Inquirer noted that "Rell said she hasn't decided whether to sign the measure, and made it clear she has some concerns with the bill as it currently stands. If the bill limited marijuana use to terminally ill patients, 'everyone would feel better about the language,' Rell said. But the governor quickly added she has mixed emotions, noting that many people have watched a family member or other loved one suffer from a painful illness. 'You would do anything in your power to alleviate that pain,' Rell said."
The State of Rhode Island's medical marijuana program could soon be made permanent. Legislation has passed both houses by large enough margins to survive a threatened veto by Governor Donald Carcieri. The Pawtucket Times reported on May 4, 2007 ("Marijuana Law Gets Senate Nod") that "Following in the footsteps of Wednesday's House vote, the Senate approved legislation Thursday to make the state's medical marijuana law permanent. The vote was 28-5, far exceeding the three-fifths vote required to survive the veto Gov. Donald Carcieri says is likely to come. The law that protects from arrest or prosecution patients who suffer from a debilitating medical condition as certified by a physician and one or two "caregivers" who help them procure, grow or use the drug, was passed over the governor's veto in January, 2006, it is set to expire on June 30 unless a so-called "sunset clause" is eliminated. The now-identical measures that passed the House and Senate this week do just that. Under General Assembly procedure, the House bill will now go to the Senate for passage and the Senate bill will go to the House. Then both bills will go to Carcieri, who said if the measures are similar to what was passed last year, which they are, he would probably veto them. He must do that within six days ( excluding Sundays ) from the date he receives the bills from the respective chambers."
According to the Times, "The bill is titled The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act. Hawkins, who died three years ago of AIDS, was Perry's nephew and she said it was his struggle with the disease that inspired her to push for the legislation. Rep. Thomas Slater, himself a cancer patient, is the prime sponsor of the House bill. The law makes no provision for patients to obtain the drug, so they must buy it illegally on the black market. The law does not shield individuals from arrest or prosecution under federal law. Sen. Charles Levesque told colleagues, "The numerous people who came in and individually told us their experience was they had no desire to go down this road, they had no desire to put their friends down the road of obtaining an illegal substance, putting themselves at risk in doing so. But they said ultimately it was their only form of relief, the only thing that allowed them to eat, to sleep, to find any comfort when they had been suffering from a debilitating disease. "It was beyond my ability to look at these folks and say, I will not be prepared to give you that relief that you are begging us for," Levesque continued. "Boy, if that didn't make me feel humble, that someone had to come and ask me or any of us for that relief." Patients are allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of "useable marijuana" or 12 plants and they may designate one or two caregivers. A caregiver can serve up to five patients, but under amendments approved in both the House and Senate this week, may possess no more than 5 ounces of the drug or 24 plants."
The Illinois State Senate voted against SB650, that would have allowed some patients in Illinois to have access to medical marijuana. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on May 11, 2007 ("Illinois Senate Votes Down Medical Marijuana Bill") that "The Illinois Senate, by a narrow 22-29 vote, turned down a bill that would have allowed doctors to prescribe the drug to patients suffering from painful, debilitating conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis or epilepsy. 'This is disappointing,' said Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago, the sponsor of the bill. 'I don't think people realize how popular this is in their districts. This is overwhelmingly supported.' Only one Republican, Sen. Dave Syverson, R-Rockford, voted for the bill, while 21 of the 37 Democrats voted for it."
According to the Post-Dispatch, "Much of the testimony in committee and debate on the Senate floor revolved around personal stories of chronically ill patients who illegally use marijuana to relieve their pain. 'I don't think sick people should be treated like criminals,' said Sen. Mike Jacobs, D-Moline. 'This is a choice a doctor ought to have' if there's demonstrated benefits of the drug for patients. Cullerton said he would keep working to get a similar bill passed before the Senate is scheduled to adjourn at the end of the month. Only 29 senators — less than half — voted against the bill. Persuading the four senators who voted present and the four who did not vote would give Cullerton the 30 votes needed for the bill to pass."
The Minnesota State Senate voted on May 1, 2007 to approve medical marijuana legislation. The bill, SF0345, passed 33-31.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported earlier on May 1 ("Legislature Poised To OK Marijuana For Medical Use") that "The House may soon follow - the measure survived its fifth committee hearing today on a 20-14 vote and will soon be on its way to a floor vote. Although there are differences between the House and Senate measures, both essentially would set up a state system allowing qualified patients to receive marijuana from special nonprofit organizations to ease their pain and symptoms. Backers believe that marijuana can help those patients in ways traditional drugs cannot."
According to the Pioneer Press, "Gov. Tim Pawlenty, like many law enforcement organizations, opposes the measure. He has said he will veto it."
The Pioneer Press noted that "To read the House measure, go to www.house.mn and search for hf655."
In early April 2007, New Mexico became the 12th state to approve legislation allowing patients in need to get access to medical marijuana. The Associated Press reported on April 3, 2007 ("Pot Now Legal For Serious Illness") that "Nearly three decades after medical marijuana first was approved in New Mexico, Gov. Bill Richardson on Monday signed a law authorizing the state Department of Health to give the drug to some seriously ill patients. New Mexico became the 12th state to legalize the use of marijuana for medical reasons. Richardson said the new law provides 'a humane option for New Mexicans living with cancer, HIV and other serious medical conditions.' The second-term governor is seeking the 2008 Democratic nomination, and Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico said he is the first presidential candidate to sign medical marijuana into law."
According to the AP, "The law is named in part after Lynn Pierson, a Vietnam veteran who was dying of lung cancer when he lobbied lawmakers for a medical marijuana bill, linked to a research program, that was passed in 1978. Pierson didn't live long enough to use the progam, which provided marijuana to cancer patients to relieve the nausea of chemotherapy. It lost its funding in 1986 and became defunct. Richardson's signing of the bill, which takes effect July 1, drew immediate criticism from White House drug czar John Walters, who had asked the governor not to sign it. Walters in an interview called it 'disappointing' and 'irresponsible.'
The AP noted that "New Mexico's health department will set up the program, which will be overseen by an eight-member board of physicians. Patients with certification from their doctors could apply to the state agency, which would issue identification cards. The health department must obtain the marijuana from production facilities in the state 'housed on secure grounds and operated by licensed producers.' Patients could not grow their own. 'So we have the proper safeguards,' Richardson said at a news conference. The department is supposed to issue rules for the program in the fall. The governor estimated 200 people could use the program. 'It's a humane piece of legislation. It does not mean I support legalizing marijuana,' Richardson said. 'It means that we are alleviating suffering ... and I must tell you, I was overcome by the personal stories of pain and the personal appeals I got.' The governor said he had heard from law enforcement agencies unhappy with the new law, and he acknowledged it may be unpopular with others as well. 'So be it,' he said."
A Federal appeals court in San Francisco turned down an appeal by medical marijuana patient and activist Angel Raich. The New York Times on March 15, 2007 ("Dying Woman Loses Appeal On Marijuana As Medication") reported that "Federal appellate judges here ruled Wednesday that a terminally ill woman using marijuana was not immune to federal prosecution simply because of her condition, and in a separate case a federal judge dismissed most of the charges against a prominent advocate for the medicinal use of the drug. The woman, Angel McClary Raich, says she uses marijuana on doctors' recommendation to treat an inoperable brain tumor and a battery of other serious ailments. Ms. Raich, 41, asserts that the drug effectively keeps her alive, by stimulating appetite and relieving pain, in a way that prescription drugs do not."
According to the Times, "On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that while they sympathized with Ms. Raich's plight and had seen 'uncontroverted evidence' that she needed marijuana to survive, she lacked the legal grounds to exempt herself from federal law. The court 'recognizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes is gaining traction,' the decision read. 'But that legal recognition has not yet reached the point where a conclusion can be drawn that the right to use medical marijuana is 'fundamental.' '"
The Times noted that "Graham Boyd, director of the Drug Law Reform Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has an unrelated medical marijuana case pending before a federal judge in San Jose, said the decision in Ms. Raich's case was a setback for the movement but not a crippling one. 'Today is just one chapter in a story that is still not over,' Mr. Boyd said Robert Raich, Ms. Raich's husband and lawyer, said she might appeal the case to the full Ninth Circuit."
The city of Flint, MI, voted to allow patients in need to have access to medical marijuana. The Saginaw News reported on March 4, 2007 ("Flint Pot Vote Raises Awareness") that "By a 1,777-1,101 vote, Flint became the fifth Michigan city to approve legally puffing pot for health reasons. Use remains illegal under state and federal law. Officials reminded Flint residents not to start loading up their hookah pipes -- or face the consequences. Other Michigan cities that have approved medical pot-use measures are Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale and Traverse City. Lansing is the next target, says NORML, a pro-marijuana outfit, and the goal is to get a medical dope initiative on the statewide ballot. Medical marijuana use is legal in 11 states."
According to the News, "Whether marijuana is safer or a more effective painkiller than, say, OxyContin is debatable, but some users think so. Cancer patients who have tried it say pot works best at inducing appetite. It has beneficial uses, and we're sympathetic to those who use it legally. The biggest fear coming from law enforcement circles is that legalized medical marijuana use could lead to additional abuse and wider recreational use. Yet the abuse of prescription drugs, the International Narcotics Control Board said last week, is about to exceed the use of "practically all illicit drugs with the exception of cannibis." The board, an offshoot of the United Nations, said the number of Americans abusing prescription drugs nearly doubled between 1992 and 2003, to 15.1 million from 7.8 million people."
The News noted that "A free and compassionate society ought to understand common sense trumps perceptions of a drug that may be less dangerous than prescriptions. It's time to take a deep breath -- inhale -- and place sick people ahead of ideology. The Flint vote and the others before it indicate that more people realize marijuana, like other drugs used properly, is not always evil."
The Vermont State Senate will debate legislation to allow authorized medical marijuana patients to grow and possess an adequate supply of cannabis. The Bennington Banner reported on Feb. 21, 2007 ("Senate To See Rx Marijuana Bill") that "A new medical marijuana bill is close to reaching the Senate floor after it unanimously passed in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee Tuesday. Health and Welfare Committee Chairman Sen. Doug Racine, D-Chittenden, said the bill, S.07, introduced by Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, is bound for the Senate Finance Committee because changes to a fee are included in the bill. That is likely to be a formality, however, and the legislation should reach the Senate floor shortly, according Racine. The purpose of the bill is to raise the amount of marijuana a registered patient can possess to six mature plants, 18 immature plants and four ounces of usable marijuana. Current law only allows for one mature plant, two immature plants and two ounces of usable marijuana. In addition, the registration fee for patients would be reduced from $100 to $50."
According to the Banner, " The committee considered two amendments to the bill, approving one Tuesday that will restrict who is eligible to prescribe medical marijuana for a patient, said Racine. In the committee's view, the definition of a physician within the bill needed to be narrowed to protect against abuse, he said. 'We thought the definition was too loose in the bill that was received,' said Racine. According to Racine, the amendment clarifies which out-of-state physicians will be allowed to write a prescription for marijuana. The original version of the bill says that any person that is licensed ... 'and is licensed with authority to prescribe drugs' is considered an eligible physician. The amendment will limit eligible physicians to those that 'practice medicine and prescribe drugs under comparable provisions in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York,' said Racine. The committee wanted to accommodate Vermont residents who have doctors or specialists in bordering states, but restrict patients from seeking far-off doctors to write them a prescription, said Racine."
The Banner noted that " Vermont became the 10th state in 2004 to pass medical marijuana legislation and is now one of 11 states that allow medical marijuana use. There are currently has 33 registered patients. Sears' bill also expands the number of conditions that would qualify for medical marijuana. In addition to ailments such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis, the bill would allow for patients with glaucoma, cachexia, wasting syndrome and severe pain, nausea or seizures."
David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative (Tory) Party in England, has endorsed the legalization of medical marijuana. The Independent reported on Jan. 22, 2007 ("Cameron Calls For Legalisation Of 'Medical Marijuana') that "David Cameron has supported calls for cannabis to be legalised for medical use provided that clear health benefits can be shown. The Tory leader, who has refused to answer media questions about whether he used drugs before entering politics, ruled out a wider legalisation of cannabis for recreational use. Answering questions on his 'webcameron' website, he said: 'If it can be proved that there are real benefits, medicinal benefits and scientific evidence for it, I would be relaxed about that. My decision would be to licence it if it could be proved to have benefits.' The pledge will be welcomed by campaigners who claim that cannabis can ease the symptoms of illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, but it may worry Tory traditionalists."
According to the Independent, "Mr Cameron will launch a new Tory health policy today vowing to sweep away many of the targets Labour has imposed on the NHS. The Tories will call for all GPs to take control of budgets, currently held by primary care trusts, and be rewarded for improving outcomes. GP fundholding was used by the Tory government before 1997, but it was scrapped by Labour."
The Independent noted that "Mo Mowlam, the former cabinet minister who died in 2005, fought for cannabis to be made legal for medical use. Although the Home Office set up investigations into the drug's possible benefits, the impetus appears to have stalled."
A lawsuit filed by three counties challenging California's medical marijuana law was rejected. The North County Times reported on Dec. 7, 2006 ("Judge Tosses County's Medical Marijuana Challenge") that "Medical marijuana advocates declared victory and San Diego County officials mentioned the word "appeal" Wednesday when a Superior Court judge rejected -- for the second time -- the county's controversial challenge to overturn California's "Compassionate Use" act. Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt, reaffirming the tentative ruling he issued Nov. 16, rejected the county's argument that California's voter-approved Compassionate Use act should be pre-empted by federal law."
According to the Times, "San Diego County supervisors, in a move that angered local medical marijuana patients and national advocacy groups, voted to try to overturn the law in December 2005. Supervisors said the Compassionate Use act was 'bad law' and would promote drug abuse. But Judge Nevitt, in his final ruling Wednesday, said the county failed to prove that the state law was in legal conflict with the federal law. He also ruled the state law did not 'require' people to break the federal law, as the county's pre-emption argument claimed. Nevitt said the county's pre-emption argument failed because a corollary to the U.S. Constitution's 'Supremacy Clause' -- which says federal law should be 'supreme' over state laws -- says state laws could take precedence over federal laws in some cases."
The Times noted that "John Sansone, the county's top lawyer, said Wednesday afternoon that supervisors would meet in closed session Tuesday to decide whether they want to appeal Nevitt's ruling. Bill Horn, the county board's chairman, did not return calls Wednesday. Sansone, meanwhile, said he would advise the supervisors that he believed an appeal could be successful. Medical marijuana advocacy groups, however, said Nevitt's ruling was clear. They called on the county to immediately obey California's law by issuing identification cards to valid medical marijuana users."
Before their meeting county officials will hear from local residents who support the state's medical marijuana laws. The North County Times reported on Dec. 10, 2006 ("Patients Say They'll Appeal To County Over Medical Marijuana Law") that "The discussion is set to be held behind closed doors. But at least a couple of local medical marijuana users hope to get a chance Tuesday to try to talk county supervisors out of appealing last week's court decision to throw out the county's controversial bid to overturn California's medical marijuana law. 'I want to try to appeal to their humanity,' Vista resident, business owner, husband, father and spinal cord victim Craig McClain said Friday. 'Yes, definitely, I'll be there.' Rudy Reyes, a Cedar fire burn victim, said he also planned to come to Tuesday's meeting to speak. 'I'm going in next week to say, 'Stop it, we don't need you guys to continue with this, it's an abuse of our tax dollars,' ' Reyes said."
The Times reported that "On Tuesday, supervisors will meet for the first time since Nevitt's ruling. They are scheduled to talk in closed session about where they go now on the medical marijuana issue, and whether they should appeal. Supervisors have talked little about the case since the lawsuit was filed last year. But they have hinted all along that they would probably appeal. Last week, board Chairman Bill Horn did not return calls after Nevitt's decision, and supervisors in general did not respond three weeks earlier when Nevitt issued a tentative ruling initially dismissing the county's suit. John Sansone, the county's top lawyer, said last week that he felt that Nevitt's ruling was extremely thorough. But he also said that county lawyers still believed in their legal argument, and felt that an appeal could be successful. Sansone said that was what he would advise county board members Tuesday in closed session, but that it was up to them to decide whether to continue the challenge."
Voters in the state of South Dakota decided not to pass a medical marijuana initiative on the 2006 general election ballot. The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported on Nov. 8, 2006 ( "Support Short For Medical Marijuana") that "A movement to legalize the use of marijuana for medical uses was headed for defeat with partial election results available late Tuesday. South Dakota's Initiated Measure 4 was patterned after laws in 11 states. Passage looked doubtful at 11 p.m. with 141,734 votes against legalized use compared with 127,713 votes in favor, a 53-47 margin, with 743 precincts out of 818 reporting."
According to the Argus Leader, "Those in favor argued in part that marijuana can relieve seriously ill patients' discomfort and even save lives. But under South Dakota law, patients who use it face a year in prison and a $2,000 fine. Support came from a group called South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana. A spokesman, Tony Ryan of Sioux Falls, was a police officer in Denver for 36 years. He has family members who suffer from cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis. 'It would be an option,' Ryan said. 'They don't need it now, but there might be a day when they need it.' Valerie Hannah of Deerfield supported passage. She uses marijuana in a vaporized form to ease chronic pain of nerve damage she suffered from nerve gas in the Gulf War. Hannah said legal drugs such as morphine make her feel 'like a zombie' and put her in a stupor. 'If it fails, of course it's a disappointment, and very terrifying,' she said. 'I think we need to provide voters with a better education.'"
A federal grand jury has reindicted famed cannabis activist and gardening expert Ed Rosenthal. The Oakland Tribune reported on October 13, 2006 ("'Ganja Guru' Reindicted On Pot-Related Charges") that "Oakland 'Guru of Ganja' Ed Rosenthal was reindicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on a host of marijuana-related charges, roughly six months after an appeals court tossed out his earlier convictions. The superseding indictment filed Thursday contains 25 counts against Rosenthal, 61, and two of his original co-defendants, Kenneth Hayes and Richard Watts. Rosenthal faces 14 counts including conspiracy, use of a place to manufacture marijuana for distribution, manufacturing marijuana for distribution, laundering money from marijuana sales, and filing false tax returns. 'I knew they had a grand jury but I didn't know what was going to happen,' Rosenthal said Thursday night. 'What they're trying to do with these indictments and with my continued persecution is to close down all of the dispensaries in California, to deprive people of their medicine.' 'It's not the way I planned to spend my time for the next year but I'm resigned to it,' he said, describing himself as an 'everyman' who won't be cowed. 'Most people considering their circumstances for one reason or another are forced to give in under the weight of government pressure. I'm not only standing up for dispensaries but for all these people who've been harassed and hounded by the government.'"According to the Tribune, "Famed for his marijuana cultivation books and the "Ask Ed" column he wrote for High Times magazine, Rosenthal was convicted of three marijuana-growing felonies in 2003, more than a year after federal agents raided sites including his Oakland home, an Oakland warehouse in which he was growing marijuana, and a San Francisco medical marijuana club he supplied. Medical use of marijuana on a doctor's recommendation is legal under state law but prohibited by federal law, so Rosenthal was barred from mounting a medical defense at trial. Breyer sentenced him to one day behind bars -- time he'd already served. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his convictions in April, finding juror misconduct -- a juror's conversation with an attorney-friend during deliberations -- compromised Rosenthal's right to a fair verdict and so warranted a new trial. But the court also rejected Rosenthal's claim of immunity from prosecution as an officer of Oakland who grew the drug under the city's medical marijuana ordinance. The court in July refused Rosenthal's requests for rehearing or for an "en banc" rehearing by a larger panel."
The Tribune noted that "Watts was arrested and charged in the same 2002 raids which nabbed Rosenthal, but injuries sustained in a car accident have kept him from trial until now. Hayes fled to Canada to avoid prosecution. Thursday's indictment essentially claims Rosenthal from October 2001 through February 2002 conspired with Hayes and Watts to grow marijuana at sites on Sixth Street in San Francisco and on Mandela Parkway in Oakland, laundered marijuana proceeds by buying four money orders totaling $1,854 during that time and falsified tax returns for 1999, 2000 and 2001 by omitting income from his marijuana distribution. Hayes and Watts face similar, related charges."
Before starting his new trial, Ed Rosenthal has been the subject of a new federal grand jury investigation. The Oakland Tribune reported on Aug. 31, 2006 ("Feds Take Aim At 'Guru Of Ganja'") that "Federal prosecutors not only are preparing to retry Oakland 'Guru of Ganja' Ed Rosenthal, but seem to be searching for more charges to file against him. Rosenthal, 61, was in federal court Wednesday for the first time since his 2003 convictions were overturned earlier this year. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ordered him to return Sept. 13, when he and attorneys will try to set a trial date. 'The government might want to take a hard look at this case, is my suggestion,' said Breyer as the brief status hearing ended. Outside, Rosenthal's attorney, William Simpich of Oakland, said he took that parting comment to mean the judge believes 'this case should be terminated.' But William Dolphin, a spokesman for the Oakland-based medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, said Wednesday at least two witnesses appeared under subpoena last Thursday before a federal grand jury in San Francisco that's probing Rosenthal's activities over a wider range of time than the original case included - -- possibly a prelude to new charges."
According to the Tribune, "Those two people, who for now wish to remain anonymous, both invoked their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination, Dolphin said. They're to appear before the grand jury again today, perhaps to be offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony; this could leave them to choose between testifying or being jailed for civil contempt of court."
The Tribune noted that "Medical use of marijuana on a doctor's recommendation is legal under state law but prohibited by federal law, so Rosenthal was barred from mounting a medical defense at trial. Breyer sentenced him to one day behind bars -- time he'd already served. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned his convictions in April, finding juror misconduct -- a juror's conversation with an attorney-friend during deliberations -- compromised Rosenthal's right to a fair verdict and so warranted a new trial. But the court also rejected Rosenthal's claim of immunity from prosecution as an officer of Oakland who grew the drug under the city's medical marijuana ordinance. The court in July refused Rosenthal's requests for rehearing, or for an 'en banc' rehearing by a larger panel. Simpich told Breyer on Wednesday that Rosenthal's team of lawyers by Oct. 15 will file a petition seeking the U.S. Supreme Court's review. But Breyer said the 9th Circuit's Aug. 16 remand of the case requires that a retrial be scheduled within 70 days of that date."
Patients and their advocates, including the ACLU, will be allowed to join in defending against the suit by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors aimed at overturning California's medical marijuana laws. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on August 5, 2006 ("Ruling Lets ACLU, Others Join Suit") that "The ACLU and other groups backing medical marijuana use are joining the defense against the county's lawsuit challenging the Compassionate Use Act. The county filed suit in San Diego Superior Court contending that state laws allowing medicinal use of marijuana are superseded by federal laws banning drug use and possession. The suit was filed in February against San Diego NORML - the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws - after the county Board of Supervisors refused to implement part of the state law requiring counties to issue identification cards to medical marijuana users that could protect them from prosecution. The counties of San Bernardino and Merced later joined in the suit, on the county's side. Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt Jr. ruled yesterday that the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Safe Access and the Drug Policy Alliance may join the suit on behalf of medical marijuana users."
According to the Union-Tribune, "Nevitt found the groups do have a direct interest in the lawsuit and will be allowed to intervene as long as they don't raise any new legal issues or seek to delay the case. The next hearing on the case, a motion for judgment, is scheduled for Nov. 16. 'We look forward to the opportunity to stand together with patients in defense of the rights of states to allow medicine to those in need,' ACLU lawyer David Blair-Loy said in a statement in response to the ruling. 'We are heartened that the court recognized the necessity of giving voice to those truly at risk from the counties' ill-conceived actions.'"
Law enforcement agents raided several medical marijuana dispensaries in the San Diego area on Thursday, July 6, 2006. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on July 7, 2006 ("15 Held In Raids On Pot Stores") that "Drug agents showed up at dispensaries in La Jolla, Ocean Beach, North Park and elsewhere across the city, detaining patients, running warrant checks on employees and arresting previously identified dispensary owners. Of the 15 people arrested, six face federal charges related to a grand jury indictment handed down late Wednesday, and 10 were charged by county prosecutors. One suspect, John Sullivan, 38, of San Diego, faces both federal and state charges."
According to the Union-Tribune, "Prosecutors took the unusual step of filing official complaints with the California Medical Board against four physicians who they said sell an inordinate number of recommendations for medical marijuana. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that doctors cannot be targeted for recommending that their patients use marijuana. The raids followed a December sweep by the same joint-agency narcotics task force. In that sweep, agents confiscated equipment and thousands of patient records but made no arrests. Investigators said much of the information seized then helped form the case that unfolded with Wednesday's grand jury indictments and yesterday's raids. District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said her office decided not to target legitimate medical marijuana patients, who are protected under state law but remain vulnerable to prosecution under federal drug statutes. Rather, she said, her office was singling out dispensaries that indiscriminately sell marijuana to anyone who can produce a physician's recommendation. 'We support (medical marijuana) wholeheartedly, but Proposition 215 is being severely abused,' Dumanis said. 'It's just really gotten out of hand. . . . Those of us in law enforcement have tolerated it for too long.'"
The Union-Tribune noted that "Only one of the suspects arrested by federal agents Sullivan actually ran dispensaries. The other five men were accused of one count each of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and conspiracy to manufacture marijuana. They were Wayne Hudson, 42; Christopher Larkin, 34; Ross McManus, 39; and Michael Ragin, 34, all of San Diego; and Scott Wright, 40, of La Mesa. If convicted, they could face up to 40 years in prison. County prosecutors charged Sullivan and nine others: Ahmad Abdul-Jaiil, 21; Anthony Armine, 33; Aaron Ballenger, 21; William Burd, 29; Stephen Harding, 37; Christopher Jessie, 22; Jason Kaufmann, 30; Raphael Mijares, 35; and Daniel Stansfield, 30, all of San Diego. Those defendants face charges of selling marijuana and possession for sale, with penalties ranging up to four years in state prison."
The House of Representatives once again failed to pass the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would have prevented the US Justice Department and particularly the Drug Enforcement Administration from going after legal medical marijuana dispensaries. The Associated Press reported on June 29, 2006 ("House Votes To Continue Allowing Federal Prosecution Of Medical Marijuana Users") that "By a 259-163 vote, the House again turned down an amendment that would have blocked the Justice Department from prosecuting people in the 11 states with such medical marijuana laws."
According to AP, "The vote came as the House debated a $59.8 billion bill covering the departments of Commerce, Justice and State. 'If the voters have seen to it and a doctor agrees, it's a travesty for the government to intercede ... to get in the way of someone using something to alleviate their suffering,' said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif. 'This is something that should be left to the states as American tradition dictates.'"
Following is the full text of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment:
At the end of the bill ( before the short title ), add the following:
The results of the roll-call for the amendment are available from the House website.
A transcript of the House debate over the amendment is available through MAPinc.org website. Some excerpts follow.
Rep. David Obey, D-WI: "Mr. Chairman, I congratulate the authors of this amendment. I simply want to say this: If I am terminally ill, it is not anybody's business on this floor how I handle the pain or the illness or the sickness associated with that illness.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-NY: "Our coalition of freedom-minded Republicans and Democrats on this issue is based on compassion for those who are suffering, a commitment to personal liberty and a firm belief in the principles of federalism.
Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-NY: "Mr. Chairman, this amendment has to do with two things: It has to do with compassion, compassion for people who are very seriously ill and/or dying, and the ability of States in which those people live to provide means by which their suffering can be relieved.
The medical marijuana organization Americans for Safe Access opened a Washington, DC lobbying office in May 2006. The Hill newspaper reported on June 21, 2006 ("New Lobbying Group Presses For Medical Marijuana Use") that "Americans for Safe Access ( ASA ), a nonprofit group funded by patients, doctors and researchers who support exploring marijuana's therapeutic potential, opened its Washington office last month and completed its first grassroots lobbying visits yesterday. ASA's two lobbyists and seven members, dubbed 'citizen experts,' met Rep. Maurice Hinchey ( D-N.Y. ), who will offer his traditional medical-marijuana amendment to the Justice Department appropriations bill when it hits the floor next week, and 20 more House members, most from the California delegation. California permits cannabis use for medical reasons, but the Supreme Court ruled last year in Gonzales v. Raich that the Drug Enforcement Administration ( DEA ) could legally raid the supply of state-sanctioned users. 'Eventually we do see legislation being put forth' to end the federal ban on marijuana research, said ASA's government-affairs director, Caren Woodson, 'but the first thing we need to happen is that patients and doctors in states with laws stop being harassed by DEA agents.' Hinchey's amendment, co-sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher ( R-Calif. ), would bar Justice from spending federal money on raiding stashes in California and nine other states with legalization laws."
More information about the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment can be found by clicking here.
The City Council for West Hollywood, CA, has adopted a resolution making marijuana laws the lowest priority for law enforcement. According to the Los Angeles Times on June 20, 2006 ("West Hollywood Wants To Legalize Pot Use"), "The City Council approved a resolution that urges the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to make marijuana-related offenses a 'low priority' that deputies should largely ignore. In doing so, it became the first city in Southern California to request that its law enforcement agency look the other way at recreational pot use and target only the sale of marijuana. The vote was taken despite concerns from some residents and top aides of Sheriff Lee Baca, who had urged the council to delay the vote. Councilman John Duran proposed the resolution, saying that deputies have more important things to worry about than arresting people with small amounts of pot. Instead, he said, deputies could focus on more destructive drugs like crystal methamphetamine. 'We've seen that marijuana use is certainly no more dangerous and destructive than alcohol use,' Duran said. 'The whole 'reefer madness' hysteria has worn thin.'"
The Times reported that "San Francisco and Oakland have passed similar rules. But unlike those cities, West Hollywood lacks its own police force. Instead it contracts with the county sheriff for police services. Sheriff's Department officials said they were worried about the message being sent if law enforcement was asked to selectively enforce state law. 'As sworn personnel they have certain obligations to uphold,' said Jeff Prang, a West Hollywood councilman who also is a special aide to Baca. Prang abstained on Monday's vote. The resolution passed 4 to 0."
The Times noted that "it is possible that voters in West Hollywood might end up deciding the issue. A group called the West Hollywood Civil Liberties Alliance had launched a campaign to put legalization on the ballot. Duran said the city compromised and agreed to sponsor its own resolution instead. 'Any time you run a special election, it could cost a small city like West Hollywood around $80,000,' Duran said. What's more, if put on the spot, the Sheriff's Department probably would oppose the initiative, Duran said. 'It would have been divisive and it would have been costly,' he said. Veteran West Hollywood attorney Bruce Margolin, who has represented hundreds of clients facing marijuana and other criminal charges, including Timothy Leary, hopes that the council's action is just the beginning. 'This is just another expression of the public saying, 'Stop putting people in jail for such benign conduct as the use of marijuana … because it doesn't really affect society in a way that is of great concern,'' he said."
A medical marijuana bill will at last get a hearing in the New Jersey Senate. The Ocean County Observer reported May 14, 2006 ( "Trenton Is Next Battleground In Marijuana Fight") that "With the announcement that a medical marijuana bill will be discussed by the state Senate in June, residents and officials in Ocean County - which has become an improbable battleground for the issue - are once again gearing up for a fight. Supporters like Jim Miller, a Dover Township resident whose wife used marijuana to relieve the symptoms of her multiple sclerosis, hailed the decision to hold a June 8 hearing. 'It's an important first step,' Miller, whose wife Cheryl died in 2003, said. Miller and other propo-nents of the legislation say that marijuana alleviates pain and relieves the effects of more traditional medications, perhaps most notably chemotherapy-induced nausea. Indeed, Miller said that he once used marijuana to relax his wife Cheryl's muscles enough that she could continue physical therapy. 'For many really ill people, that ( marijuana ) is their best medicine,' Miller said during a telephone interview this week."
According to the Observer, "State Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, who is chairman of a Senate health panel, is expected to hear from experts on medicinal marijuana during the June hearing. The legislative hearing would be the first for a bill long proposed by Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union. The Assembly hasn't scheduled any hearings on the bill, but Gov. Jon S. Corzine - then a gubernatorial candidate - pledged last year that he would sign a medical marijuana bill into law. At next month's hearing, the Senate will likely hear from an expert in marijuana in medicine, the head of the New Jersey State Nurses' Association and a representative from a state that already allows medicinal marijuana, Miller said. Scutari is also expected to testify, Miller said. The hearing is being held to answer any questions Vitale may have, Miller said. A vote would likely not be held until a second round of hearings, he said. 'I am hopeful,' Miller said."
Ed Rosenthal, the California author and activist, could face a new trial after his conviction was overturned on appeal. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on April 27, 2006 ( "Juror's Call Upends Medical Pot Conviction") that "A federal appeals court overturned the pot-growing convictions of a prominent advocate of medical marijuana Wednesday because of a juror's phone call to an attorney friend, who told her to follow the judge's instructions or she could get in trouble. The juror's unauthorized contact on the eve of the verdict in January 2003 was an 'improper influence' that denied Oakland resident Ed Rosenthal a trial before an impartial jury, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in a 3-0 ruling granting him a new trial. 'Jurors cannot fairly determine the outcome of a case if they believe they will face 'trouble' for a conclusion they reach as jurors,' said the opinion by Judge Betty Fletcher. 'The threat of punishment works a coercive influence on the jury's independence.'"
According to the Chronicle, "Rosenthal's lawyer, Dennis Riordan, said the ruling and the events that prompted it underscore the uneasiness of the trial jurors, and their community, about criminal charges against a medical-marijuana supplier. 'There would not have been a conviction but for this outside influence' of the attorney's advice, Riordan said. 'Jurors never can be told they can get in trouble for what they say during deliberations.' There was no immediate announcement from U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan's office on whether it would appeal the ruling or retry Rosenthal. The appeals court signaled that a retrial and convictions on the same charges would result, at most, in a one-day jail sentence, the term imposed by Rosenthal's judge in 2003. Fletcher said the court 'would not be inclined to disturb' the judge's sentencing decision."
The Chronicle noted that "The ruling was narrow and did not address most of the issues raised by the conflict between federal drug law, which prohibits growing or using marijuana, and California's Proposition 215, a 1996 initiative that allowed patients to use the drug with their doctors' approval. But the reversal of Rosenthal's convictions continued a series of post-trial setbacks for the government in one of its most prominent marijuana prosecutions."
The US Food & Drug Administration issued a statement April 20, 2006, rejecting assertions of medical benefits of marijuana. The New York Times reported April 21, 2006 ( "FDA Dismisses Medical Benefit From Marijuana") that "The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that "no sound scientific studies" supported the medical use of marijuana, contradicting a 1999 review by a panel of highly regarded scientists. The announcement inserts the health agency into yet another fierce political fight. Susan Bro, an agency spokeswoman, said Thursday's statement resulted from a past combined review by federal drug enforcement, regulatory and research agencies that concluded 'smoked marijuana has no currently accepted or proven medical use in the United States and is not an approved medical treatment.' Ms. Bro said the agency issued the statement in response to numerous inquiries from Capitol Hill but would probably do nothing to enforce it. 'Any enforcement based on this finding would need to be by D.E.A. since this falls outside of F.D.A.'s regulatory authority,' she said."
Scientists immediately denounced the FDA's statement. According to the Times, "The Food and Drug Administration statement directly contradicts a 1999 review by the Institute of Medicine, a part of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's most prestigious scientific advisory agency. That review found marijuana to be 'moderately well suited for particular conditions, such as chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and AIDS wasting.' Dr. John Benson, co-chairman of the Institute of Medicine committee that examined the research into marijuana's effects, said in an interview that the statement on Thursday and the combined review by other agencies were wrong. The federal government 'loves to ignore our report,' said Dr. Benson, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. 'They would rather it never happened.' Some scientists and legislators said the agency's statement about marijuana demonstrated that politics had trumped science. 'Unfortunately, this is yet another example of the F.D.A. making pronouncements that seem to be driven more by ideology than by science,' said Dr. Jerry Avorn, a medical professor at Harvard Medical School."
The Times noted that "The Food and Drug Administration's statement said state initiatives that legalize marijuana use were 'inconsistent with efforts to ensure that medications undergo the rigorous scientific scrutiny of the F.D.A. approval process.' But scientists who study the medical use of marijuana said in interviews that the federal government had actively discouraged research. Lyle E. Craker, a professor in the division of plant and soil sciences at the University of Massachusetts, said he submitted an application to the D.E.A. in 2001 to grow a small patch of marijuana to be used for research because government-approved marijuana, grown in Mississippi, was of poor quality. In 2004, the drug enforcement agency turned Dr. Craker down. He appealed and is awaiting a judge's ruling. 'The reason there's no good evidence is that they don't want an honest trial,' Dr. Craker said. Dr. Donald Abrams, a professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, said he had studied marijuana's medicinal effects for years but had been frustrated because the National Institutes of Health, the leading government medical research agency, had refused to finance such work. With financing from the State of California, Dr. Abrams undertook what he said was a rigorous, placebo-controlled trial of marijuana smoking in H.I.V. patients who suffered from nerve pain. Smoking marijuana proved effective in ameliorating pain, Dr. Abrams said, but he said he was having trouble getting the study published. 'One wonders how anyone' could fulfill the Food and Drug Administration request for well-controlled trials to prove marijuana's benefits, he said."
Angel Raich, the Oakland medical cannabis patient, is back in federal court arguing for her right to use her medicine. The Alameda Times-Star reported on March 24, 2006 ( "Medical Pot Case Back To Litigation") that "Less than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against her, Oakland medical marijuana patient and advocate Angel Raich will go back before a federal appeals court Monday with a different legal argument. Her lawyers will try to persuade a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting in Pasadena, that keeping her from using marijuana as medicine unduly burdens her fundamental rights to life and freedom from pain, as protected by the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause and the Ninth Amendment. The government argues there is no constitutionally protected fundamental right to obtain and use marijuana in defiance of the federal ban on the drug."
According to the Times-Star, "But the 9th Circuit panel and the Supreme Court dealt only with the Commerce Clause argument, not the other constitutional issues. With the case remanded back to the 9th Circuit, Raich's attorneys now are pursuing the remaining arguments; Monson dropped out of the case late last year. Besides the Fifth- and Ninth-Amendment arguments, Raich's lawyers also claim the common-law doctrine of necessity -- the idea that it's OK to break the law when forces beyond one's control compel it and there is no reasonable, legal alternative -- bars the government from applying the Controlled Substances Act to ban medically necessary activities. The government argues the Supreme Court's decision in the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative case already ruled out a medical-necessity argument. And Raich's lawyers claim the Tenth Amendment protects against federal interference with state regulation of personal, noncommercial medical activities within their own borders -- namely, medical marijuana laws. But the government says the Supreme Court's rejection of the Commerce Clause argument last year already covered that ground. "I know we're going to win, I feel pretty good about the 9th Circuit," Raich said Friday."
The Times-Star noted that "Raich says without the drug's appetite boost, her wasting syndrome causes rapid, life-threatening weight loss. She also suffers from ailments including an inoperable brain tumor and nonepileptic seizures, and in November she had a hysterectomy following her precervical-cancer diagnosis. Meanwhile, she is planning a Capitol Hill lobbying blitz with renowned talk-show host and fellow medical marijuana user Montel Williams, to begin perhaps as early as May. The House last June defeated an amendment that would have forbidden the Justice Department from using public money to raid, arrest or prosecute patients and providers in states with medical marijuana laws. The amendment got 161 votes -- more votes than in 2003 and 2004 - -- but still fell 57 short of the 218 it needed for passage. Raich's case documents are available on her Web site, http://www.angeljustice.org.
Medical marijuana activist and patient Steve Kubby returned to jail in mid-March 2006. The Sacramento Bee reported on March 14, 2006 ( "Marijuana Activist Being Sent Back To Jail") that "Recently released from the Placer County jail because of overcrowding, medical marijuana advocate Steven Wynn Kubby is being sent back. Kubby was sentenced Tuesday to a 60-day term by a judge who determined that the 59-year-old activist had violated his probation in 2001 by moving to Canada rather than serve a 120-day stretch for a drug conviction. He will report to the jail Wednesday. Kubby said he again hopes for an early release because of good behavior and possible jail overcrowding. 'Hopefully, I can serve just 20 days of it, but I've been given no guarantees,' he said."
A move by a Massachusetts legislative committee has killed medical marijuana legislation for this session. The Metrowest Daily News reported on March 4, 2006 ( "Medical Pot Use Up In Smoke") that "Lawmakers effectively killed a bill to legalize marijuana for medical use in Massachusetts, citing concerns about a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing federal agents to arrest people who use pot to ease their pain or nausea from chemotherapy treatment. The joint Public Health Committee sent a medical marijuana bill to be studied on Wednesday, thus stopping it from advancing to the full Legislature and effectively killing it this session."
According to the Daily News, ""It was about the Supreme Court decision," state Rep. Peter Koutoujian, D-Waltham, House chairman of the committee, said about why the bill was sent to study. The committee, he said, didn't 'even really get to the issue of whether it should be allowed or not, because it was against the federal law and Constitution.' State Rep. Frank Smizik, D-Brookline, had filed the bill. Its co-sponsors include state Reps. Deborah Blumer, D-Framingham, and Ruth Balser, D-Newton."
The Daily News noted that "At the State House, separate legislation to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana was endorsed two weeks ago by the joint Mental Health and Substance Abuse Committee. That bill to make possession of less than one once of marijuana a civil offense is now before the Senate Ways and Means Committee."
Noted California medical marijuana activist Steve Kubby was released from jail pending a hearing. The Sacramento Bee reported on March 7, 2006 ( "Early Release For Pot Activist") that "Strapped for jail beds, Placer County authorities on Monday released Steven Wynn Kubby, the medical marijuana activist who said he would die in custody if denied medical marijuana to battle his adrenal cancer. Kubby, who had served nearly a third of his 120-day sentence for a 2000 drug conviction, could not be reached for comment. While in custody, Kubby was a model prisoner and caused no problems, said sheriff's Lt. George Malim."
According to the Bee, "The jail is under federal order to stay below 90 percent capacity, Malim said. Kubby was convicted in 2000 for possession of psilocyn and mescaline. A judge ordered him to serve 120 days in jail and complete three years' probation. Kubby, who fled to Canada, was deported in January. While jailed, Kubby took Marinol, a prescription drug that contains a synthetic form of THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. Kubby's lawyers said last week he had lost 25 pounds."
The Bee noted that "He is due in court March 14 to face a probation violation charge relating to his Canadian stay."
Action by a New Mexico House committee may have killed chances for medical marijuana legislation to pass this session. The Farmington Daily Times reported on Feb. 12, 2006 ( "Medical Marijuana Bill Tabled By House") that "Rep. Joseph Cervantes, R-Las Cruces, alleged that a medical marijuana bill that passed earlier this session in the Senate was sent to the House Agriculture and Water Resources Committee to die. And that's exactly what happened Saturday. The committee tabled the bill on a 4-3 decision, with Committee Chairman Joe Stell, D-Carlsbad, casting the deciding vote. By tabling the bill, the committee will prevent it from advancing to the House floor for a vote."
According to the Daily Times, "In casting the deciding vote, Stell said New Mexico is a part of the federal union. Others voting against the bill also said they did not want to violate federal law. Cervantes, who is a member of the committee, questioned why the bill was sent there in the first place. He noted that it had nothing to do with water, and very little to do with agriculture. 'This bill is here for a reason. It's been sent here to kill it,' Cervantes said. 'The assumption is that because everybody on this committee is from rural New Mexico, we're a conservative lot; and a conservative lot will kill this bill. And I think that's unfortunate.' Cervantes, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said any legal problems in the bill could have been considered there. He noted that on Friday, all 70 members of the House heard a bill to declare the official 'state cowboy song.' He said the medical marijuana bill should get at least the same consideration. 'This issue is important enough that all 70 of us should hear it,' Cervantes said."
The Daily Times noted that "Rep. Andy Nunez, D-Hatch, apparently agreed. Even though he argued against the bill, Nunez moved that it be allowed to advance with a "no recommendation" from the committee. But before a vote could be taken, Rep. Richard Cheney, R-Farmington, moved that the bill be tabled. The tabling motion was approved with Reps. Cheney, Stell, Sandra Townsend, R-Aztec, and Don Tripp, R-Socorro, voting in favor. Cervantes, Nunez and Rep. Ray Begaye, D-Shiprock, voted against the tabling motion."
Legislation which would legalize medical marijuana for patients in need passed the New Mexico State Senate at the end of January 2006. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported on Feb. 1, 2006 ( "Medical Pot Clears Senate") that "By an overwhelming majority, the state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow sufferers of serious medical conditions to smoke marijuana without fear of prosecution. Strong majorities of both political parties contributed to the 34-6 passage of SB258, sponsored by Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque. 'I think it's wonderful,' said Essie DeBonet, an Albuquerque AIDS sufferer who has lobbied for the bill the past two sessions. 'The Senate showed their concerns for people.' Although an assistant to the White House drug czar flew to New Mexico to testify against the bill last week, 12 of the Senate's 18 Republicans voted for it. With two of the Senate's most socially conservative senators -- Sen. Kent Cravens, R-Albuquerque; and Sen. Bill Sharer, R-Farmington -- voting for the first time in favor of a medical-marijuana bill, it might seem that the political landscape has shifted for this issue."
Sadly the measure still faces a significant hurdle in the state House. According to the New Mexican, "However, to become law, the bill first must make it through the House, where last year's bill died as a 'hostage' in political wrangling over an unrelated bill. Most involved in the issue agree the House won't be as easy as the Senate -- especially during the last half of a short session. Even before the bill passed the Senate, advocates began working the House. 'We had a great meeting last week with ( House Speaker ) Ben Lujan,' said Reena Szczepanski -- director of the state chapter of The Drug Policy Alliance, a national drug-law reform group that has been pushing the proposed bill. But she said the speaker made no promises. 'It's definitely in his court now.' In an interview Tuesday, Lujan said he is disappointed that the medical-marijuana bill was one of the first Senate bills passed this year. 'I would have hoped that the first bills passed would have addressed issues that are more at the forefront of what the general public really wants,' he said. But, Lujan said, 'I'm not going to derail this bill or attempt to keep it from being heard.' He said he expects to give the bill only two committee assignments -- House Consumer and Public Affairs and House Judiciary -- the same two that heard last year's bill. Last year, the measure zipped through Consumer and Public Affairs unanimously and got an 8-1 favorable vote in Judiciary."
The New Mexican noted that "Although last year's bill was on the House floor schedule for several days, it never got heard. Rep. Dan Silva, D-Albuquerque, was blunt about the fact that he had worked behind the scenes to delay action on the medical-marijuana bill. Silva said his actions were caused by the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by medical-marijuana sponsor McSorley, not hearing a bill dealing with an Albuquerque development that Silva sponsored. On Tuesday, Silva said he had no plans to hold up the latest medical-marijuana bill. Gov. Bill Richardson, who put the bill on his legislative call, has said he'd sign a medical-marijuana bill. Eric Witt, one of the governor's legislative liaisons, said Tuesday that Richardson would sign the bill if he was convinced it was not in direct conflict with federal law and it protected state agencies involved in the program."
Steve Kubby, the medical marijuana activist and cancer patient who has been fighting to remain in Canada, lost that battle near the end of January 2006. The Vancouver Sun reported on Jan. 27, 2006 ( "Medical Marijuana Crusader Arrested On His Return To California") that "Medical marijuana crusader Steve Kubby was arrested Thursday night at San Francisco Airport after spending years as a fugitive in Canada. Kubby was arrested on a no-bail warrant and booked into San Mateo County jail, San Francisco police said. There was an emotional farewell earlier when Kubby's supporters and family were at Vancouver International Airport as he boarded a flight to California escorted by his American lawyer Bill McPike who said, 'The officials in Canada might be sending him back to a death sentence.' Kubby said he was concerned about heading back to a place that doesn't understand his medicinal need for pot. 'The thought of people having an open animosity towards me, people that want to harm me, that want to bury their mistakes, that's very distressing,' he said."
A bill to legalize medical marijuana appears to be on track for approval in New Mexico. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported on Jan. 25, 2006 ( "Medical-Marijuana Bill Finds Support, Moves Forward") that "A bill that would legalize medical marijuana cleared its first hurdle Tuesday, getting a unanimous, bipartisan 'do-pass' recommendation from the Senate Public Affairs Committee. Senate Bill 258 would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions, including cancer and AIDS, to use marijuana to treat their symptoms -- and in some cases the side effects of treatment for those diseases. The state Department of Health would administer a program under which doctors would be allowed to recommend marijuana for their patients. The marijuana used in the program would be grown in a secure facility by the state or a private agency contracting with the state."
According to the New Mexican, "Debbie Armstrong was one of three of Gov. Bill Richardson's cabinet members at the committee hearing. Human Services Secretary Pam Hyde told the committee, "It's time we sent a message to the federal government." Health Secretary Michelle Grisham-Lujan told the panel that it would not be difficult to set up a program in her department to oversee medical marijuana. But one Richardson cabinet secretary not at the hearing was state Public Safety Secretary John Denko. During his tenure as Santa Fe police chief, Denko had testified in legislative hearings against previous medical-marijuana bills."
(NM Governor William Richardson announced his support of the medical marijuana legislation, known as the "Lynn Pierson Compassionate Use Act," in a Jan. 18, 2006 news release.)
The New Mexican noted that "The only opponents to testify Tuesday were from the law-enforcement community. Taos District Attorney Donald Gallegos predicted the bill would run afoul of federal law if the Legislature passes it. But state Sen. Steve Komadina, R-Corrales, who is a doctor, said the bill has tight safeguards. He said the bill provides stricter controls on marijuana than current law does on much stronger and addictive drugs such as codeine and OxyContin. The bill goes on to the Senate Judiciary Committee."
The county of San Diego filed a lawsuit in federal court in mid-January 2006 to overturn California's medical marijuana law. The North County Times reported on Jan. 21, 2006 ( "County Files Suit To Overturn California Medical Marijuana Law") that "County officials formally filed a precedent-setting lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Friday that could overturn California's 9-year-old medical marijuana law - a suit that has angered marijuana advocates here and around the state. The seven-page lawsuit argues that California's 1996 voter-approved "Compassionate Use Act" - Proposition 215 - should be pre-empted by federal law, which says all marijuana use is illegal and that the drug has no medicinal value. County officials and marijuana advocacy groups said the lawsuit was the first that would try to overturn any of the medical marijuana laws that voters have approved in 11 states. John Sansone, the county's top lawyer, said there was no word on when the courts might begin listening to arguments in the lawsuit. Sansone and others expect the suit to make its way eventually to the U.S. Supreme Court. San Diego County supervisors - all of whom were on the board when Prop. 215 was approved in 1996 - have always opposed the measure, and have often called it a "bad law" that could lead to drug abuse."
According to the North County Times, "Local patients who use marijuana to ease pain and national marijuana advocacy groups have blasted the board. Several speakers, including Rudy Reyes, a burn victim of the 2003 Cedar fire who uses marijuana for pain management, asked supervisors to reconsider filing the lawsuit in recent board meetings. On Wednesday, Reyes and other angry medical marijuana advocates, with the backing of the Marijuana Policy Project - a national group that would like to see marijuana regulated on a par with alcohol - filed letters of intent seeking to impose two-year term limits on supervisors, saying they had 'lost touch with constituents.' On Friday, Dale Gieringer, director of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, also criticized the supervisors. 'It's probably the first time that anyone has found a board so ignorant of constitutional law that they'd waste taxpayer money on a challenge,' Gieringer said. 'I think the county counsel knows that it's a waste of taxpayer money, ordered by a very ignorant board of supervisors that is clearly in over its head.'"
San Bernardino County also joined the suit. The San Diego Union Tribune reported on Jan. 25, 2006 ( "County Finds Ally Against Medical Pot") that "The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors is joining San Diego County in its suit. San Diego County filed suit in federal court Friday seeking to overturn Proposition 215, the voter-approved Compassionate Use Act, which allows possession and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in California. The county also wants the court to void a later law passed by the state Legislature that requires counties to create and maintain a database of medical marijuana users and issue identification cards. The county says the state laws permitting medical marijuana conflict with federal drug laws. It also says California is in violation of a 1961 international treaty signed by the United States that puts responsibility for halting the flow of illegal drugs on each participating nation. San Bernardino County officials said yesterday that they want a judge to decide the matter before they proceed with issuing identification to medical marijuana users. 'There is a conflict between state and federal law that must be resolved by the courts before the county feels it can move forward,' according to a statement issued by San Bernardino board Chairman Bill Postmus. Its county counsel, Ron Reitz, issued a one-paragraph statement following the unanimous, closed-session vote, saying the board had chosen to join San Diego County's lawsuit."
Advocates are hopeful that a filing by the American Civil Liberties Union may get the suit thrown out of court. According to the Union Tribune, "The American Civil Liberties Union also jumped into the fray yesterday, filing a motion to intervene in federal court, as promised, on behalf of patients who use marijuana to alleviate symptoms. The ACLU contends that the county's analysis is flawed and the legal standard under which federal law would pre-empt state law has not been met. The ACLU also says the county has no standing to file suit against the state in federal court. County Counsel John Sansone said: 'We don't agree. The court will have to take it from there.' Kevin Keenan, the ACLU's executive director for San Diego and Imperial counties, said, 'It's too bad that other politicians are smelling political capital and news attention to be had.' Referring to San Bernardino County's vote to join the lawsuit, Keenan said: 'They'll be lucky if they get to court before it's dismissed. Legally, it's equally meritless.' The ACLU's court filing capped several days of pressure from medical marijuana advocates, who want San Diego County to withdraw its lawsuit."
The San Diego County Board may not be entirely united in its anti-patient efforts. The Union Tribune noted that "Supervisor Ron Roberts asked that activists stop sending letters protesting the lawsuit to his office. 'I have not and I don't support this lawsuit,' he said. When the issue first came to the board in November, Roberts and Greg Cox were on the losing side of a 3-2 vote in which the other supervisors refused to implement the state's identification card program for medical marijuana users. Later, in closed session, the board voted 4-0 to sue the state, with Roberts absent. After yesterday's meeting, Roberts elaborated: 'I honestly feel strongly that if people are suffering from terminal illnesses and other serious problems that medical marijuana can be of use to them, and we ought to, in a professional way, make it available to them.'"
The Rhode Island House of Representatives overrode Governor Carcieri's veto of medical marijuana legislation on Jan. 3, 2006. The Associated Press reported Jan. 3, 2006 ( "House Overrides Carcieri's Medical Marijuana Veto") that "Rhode Island on Tuesday became the 11th state to legalize medical marijuana and the first since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that patients who use the drug can still be prosecuted under federal law. House lawmakers voted 59-13, with one abstention, to override a veto by Gov. Don Carcieri, allowing people with illnesses such as cancer and AIDS to grow up to 12 marijuana plants or buy 2.5 ounces of marijuana to relieve their symptoms. The law requires them to register with the state and get a photo identification card."
The AP noted that "Carcieri vetoed it, and the state Senate voted the next day to override his veto, but the House recessed before following suit. Tuesday's House vote came just before the start of the 2006 session, allowing the law to take effect immediately. Rep. Thomas Slater, D-Providence, and Sen. Rhoda E. Perry, D-Providence, introduced the legislation last year after watching family members suffer from terminal illnesses. Perry's nephew died last January of AIDS. Although marijuana may have relieved his suffering, he never used it because it was illegal, she said. Slater has cancer and several of his family members died from it. He said he doesn't need marijuana now, but it could be part of his treatment in the future. "I'm sure everybody in this room knows at least one person who would have benefited from medical marijuana," he said before the vote."
A raid by federal agents on a medical cannabis dispensary in San Francisco was temporarily halted by a protest organized by Americans for Safe Access. Unfortunately the victory was short-lived, as reported by KTVU-TV on Dec. 21, 2005 ( "DEA Returns And Raids SF Medical Marijuana Club"): "Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco this evening, just hours after protesters celebrated scaring the DEA agents away. The daylong protest involved nearly 100 demonstrators who gathered outside HopeNet, a medical marijuana co-op at 223 Ninth St., after DEA agents raided the home of the co-op's directors."
According to KTVU, " After two and a half hours, the agents turned around and left, and the protesters thought they had won. "There was a jubilant outcry of victory," said Hilary McQuie with Americans for Safe Access, a national coalition that works to protect the rights of medical marijuana users. However, sometime between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., the DEA returned to Ninth Street and raided the facility, seizing a number of marijuana-based goods including brownies and butter, according to DEA spokeswoman Casey McEnry. Additionally, shortly before the Ninth Street raid, DEA agents raided a San Francisco warehouse and seized about 500 marijuana plants, McEnry said."
Other materials were seized in the raids, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle ) "Feds Raid Home, Growing Facility Of Pot Club Pair"): "In addition to marijuana plants, agents confiscated growing equipment, bulbs, utility bills, tax documents, financial records and photographs from the Smiths' home, the couple said. Steve Smith said he suspected the agents had taken some patient records as well. 'They beat on the door. They took me outside in my underwear and cuffed me and then searched the house,' he said. The Hope Net club has been open for about a year and distributes marijuana to about 100 patients for free in addition to its paying clients, Catherine Smith said. Several medical marijuana proponents said the club had a reputation for distributing only to deserving patients and not causing problems in the neighborhood. 'This is a good one,' said Wayne Justmann, a longtime activist."
The Chronicle noted that "The raid was the first in the city since June, when federal agents seized marijuana and other items from two cannabis clubs on Ocean Avenue in the Ingleside district and a third on Judah Street in the Inner Sunset District. Nineteen people were accused of drug trafficking and money laundering. Those raids were the first in the Bay Area since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this summer that the federal government had the authority to prosecute people whose activities are legal under state law. The growing and use of medical marijuana were legalized by state voters in 1996, but are still prohibited under federal law. San Francisco will put in place regulations for the city's 34 medical marijuana clubs starting Dec. 30. The new rules give the Planning Department the right to hold public hearings on the location of all clubs. Patients will be allowed to buy a maximum of one ounce of marijuana per visit to a club."
The group Americans for Safe Access has scheduled a news conference and demonstration for Tuesday, Dec. 20, 2005, at 1pm in San Francisco to protest the DEA's raid on a local medical cannabis dispensary. According to ASA's news release:
"The directors of Hopenet, a San Francisco medical cannabis cooperative, are currently under detention in an ongoing pre-dawn federal raid on their home and the cooperative. Steve and Cathy Smith run the highly regarded 1000-member collective, which provides free medicine to over 40 seriously ill low-income patients on an ongoing basis. DEA officers have reportedly confiscated 126 starter plants, dried medicine, and computers.
"Patients and supporters are gathering outside Hopenet at 223 Ninth St (& Howard) at this writing, and a press conference is planned for 1 pm, including speakers from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, Hopenet Cooperative, Americans for Safe Access, and the San Francisco Patients' Union."
A nonprofit group and a professor in Massachusetts are suing the federal government over its monopoly on marijuana for scientific research in the US. The Washington Post reported on Dec. 12, 2005 ( "Federal Marijuana Monopoly Challenged") that "For decades, the federal government has been the nation's only legal producer of marijuana for medical research. Working with growers at the University of Mississippi, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has controlled both the quality and distribution of the drug for the past 36 years. But for the first time the government's monopoly on research marijuana is under serious legal challenge. The effort is being spearheaded by a group that wants to produce medicines from currently illegal psychedelic drugs and by a professor at the University of Massachusetts who has agreed to grow marijuana for it if the government lets him. In a hearing due to start today before an administrative law judge at the Drug Enforcement Administration, professor Lyle Craker and his supporters will argue for a DEA license to grow the research drugs. It is the climax of a decades-long effort to expand research into marijuana and controlled drugs and of Craker's almost five-year effort to become a competing marijuana grower."
According to the Post, "In his suit against the DEA for a license to grow marijuana, Craker has backing from 38 members of Congress, the two senators from Massachusetts, numerous medical societies and even Grover Norquist, the president of the conservative Americans for Tax Reform. The effort has been organized by Richard Doblin, president of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies ( MAPS ) and a longtime advocate of medical research into controlled drugs. It was Doblin who recruited Craker after the association concluded it would never get a dependable supply of government marijuana. 'Dr. Craker has no goal here except to advance scientific research into marijuana, and our goals are the same,' said Doblin, whose group is also sponsoring research into other controlled drugs including MDMA ( better known as "ecstasy" ) and the psychedelic mushroom psilocybin. 'By controlling who can research marijuana and how they can do it, the DEA has greatly limited promising research that could lead to [government] approved medications,' Doblin said. The problems, he said, are not limited to winning approval to buy the Mississippi marijuana. Doblin and other researchers contend that the government marijuana is low in quality and potency and could never be a stable source of basic ingredients if the Food and Drug Administration ever did approve a marijuana-based medication."
The Post noted that "But because of fears of illicit use, he said, the agency has essentially blocked the research. 'I believe the DEA policy is one of delay, and they've succeeded in essentially blocking marijuana development for 30 years,' Doblin said. In its filings with Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner, the DEA disputes the charge that it is standing in the way of marijuana research. It says that medical marijuana research is underway in California using its Mississippi supply, and that the drug maker Mallinckrodt Inc. has a contract with the Mississippi supplier to produce extracts of cannabis for its drug development program. In addition, DEA lawyer Brian Bayly told the law judge in August, when the first five days of testimony were heard, that the quality and potency of the government's marijuana was acceptable to the researchers his agency surveyed. The hearing is expected to continue through the week, with a decision several months later. If Craker and his team prevail, however, the DEA is not obliged to give him a license or change its policies. And as a result, they plan to continue lining up political support, such as the Nov. 22 letter sent by Norquist to the DEA. 'The use of controlled substances for legitimate research purposes is well-established, and has yielded a number of miracle medicines widely available to patients and doctors,' Norquist wrote. 'This case should be no different. It's in the public interest to end the government monopoly on marijuana legal for research.'"
Federal agents raided 13 medical cannabis dispensaries in San Diego County on Monday, Dec. 12. The San Diego Union Tribune reported on Dec. 13, 2005 ( "13 Medical Pot Dispensaries In County Raided") that "Federal agents fanned out across San Diego County on Monday, executing simultaneous search warrants on 13 medical marijuana dispensaries. A task force headed by the San Diego office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration seized approximately 50 pounds of high-grade marijuana along with equipment, computers, patient records and other materials. No one was arrested on suspicion of drug-dealing, officials said, but three people were arrested on unrelated charges. The agents arrived at most of the dispensaries unannounced with guns drawn, witnesses said. They handcuffed employees and ran background checks on both workers and patients. Drug-sniffing dogs searched for pot and pot-laced products, such as brownies, ice cream and butter."
According to the Union Tribune, "Law enforcement officials said the warrants were signed by a federal judge after undercover agents purchased marijuana without the paperwork required under state law, said Jack Hook, the DEA's acting special agent in charge. "The bottom line is the prices that these people are charging is three to four times higher than you buy from a seedy drug dealer in a back alley," Hook said. "These people are not helping the medically infirm. They're out to make money." Hook said the task force had identified 29 dispensaries operating across San Diego County in recent months. Of those, 16 went out of business during the investigation. According to Hook, the dispensaries pose a serious risk to public safety. Several storefronts have been targeted by thieves because there are large amounts of drugs and money inside, he said. Even though investigators plan to scrutinize the patient records seized yesterday, the DEA said medical marijuana users are not targets of the ongoing investigation."
The Union Tribune noted that "'These actions fly in the face of voters,' said Laurie Kallonakis, president of San Diego NORML, a group dedicated to reforming laws prohibiting marijuana use and cultivation. 'Politicians and law enforcement officers are not doctors,' she said. 'Patients' records have been taken in violation of privacy rights.' Although California voters passed an initiative in 1996 allowing the medicinal use of marijuana, it remains illegal under federal law. In June the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal government's authority to arrest anyone using or possessing marijuana in the 11 states that have passed medical marijuana laws. The city of San Diego adopted guidelines regulating the medical use of marijuana in 2003, seven years after California voters approved the statewide initiative permitting sick and dying patients to use the drug with a doctor's recommendation. Dispensaries began opening across San Diego last year, after another state law spelling out terms of medical marijuana use went into effect. For more than a year, local police investigated the storefront operators, visited the dispensaries and kept records, but generally left them alone. After the high court's decision in June, some dispensaries shut down temporarily, but most of them quietly reopened in recent months. Jon Sullivan, who runs two San Diego dispensaries targeted in Monday's crackdown, said the raid only strengthened his resolve to keep dispensing marijuana. 'There are very sick people out there that need this medicine desperately,' he said. 'What the feds are doing is against the law I voted for.'"
A bill to allow patients in need to have legal access to medical marijuana was introduced in the Michigan House of Representatives in December 2005. The Marijuana Policy Project announced on Dec. 5, 2005 ("Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced In Michigan House Of Representatives") that "Building on the strong voter support for medical marijuana initiatives over the last 16 months, Rep. LaMar Lemmons III (D-Wayne County) and a bipartisan group of cosponsors have introduced a bill to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest statewide. Rep. Lemmons' bill, HB 5470, would allow seriously ill patients to use and possess a limited amount of medical marijuana if their doctor has recommended it. The bill is similar to medical marijuana laws now in force in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington. 'Patients battling cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, or other terrible illnesses should not have to risk arrest and jail for using medical marijuana if their doctor believes it may help them,' Rep. Lemmons said. 'Science, compassion and common sense say that we should protect medical marijuana patients from arrest, and the voters in four Michigan communities have resoundingly agreed.'"
MPP observed that "State voters have overwhelmingly endorsed a series of local laws to protect medical marijuana patients, beginning with passage of Detroit's Proposal M by a 60 percent to 40 percent margin in August 2004. This was followed by an even larger victory in Ann Arbor that November. In November of this year, medical marijuana initiatives passed in Ferndale and Traverse City by 61 percent to 39 percent and 63 percent to 27 percent, respectively. 'In Michigan and around the U.S., voters want to protect medical marijuana patients,' said Michael McKey, legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. 'The overwhelming votes in support of local medical marijuana initiatives in Detroit, Traverse City, Ferndale, and Ann Arbor sent a clear message to legislators, and Rep. Lemmons deserves credit for listening. We are hopeful that his fellow legislators will join him in passing this sensible, humane legislation.'"
The text of House Bill 5470 is available from the Michigan Legislature website.
Angel McClary Raich, the plaintiff in a landmark medical marijuana suit, refiled her suit in federal court in late November 2005. The San Jose Mercury News reported on Nov. 24, 2005 ( "Legal Battle For Pot Renewed") that "An Oakland woman whose landmark medicinal marijuana case was rebuffed five months ago by the U.S. Supreme Court renewed her legal fight Wednesday by filing papers in a federal appeals court. Lawyers for Angel Raich, 40, filed a brief in the federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals arguing that federal efforts to restrict medicinal marijuana violate her rights to take the only medication that allows her to avoid intolerable pain and death. The brief thus marks a new legal strategy for Raich, who previously had argued that federal drug laws traditionally focus on interstate commerce and thus did not apply to Raich's use of locally grown marijuana. That argument was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-3 ruling in June. The latest legal salvo by Raich also argues that prohibiting her from taking medically necessary cannabis would violate her due process rights, and that the federal Controlled Substances Act does not allow the federal government to prohibit medicinal use within a state that authorizes it."
According to the Mercury News, "Raich suffers from an inoperable brain tumor and a 'wasting syndrome' that makes it extremely difficult for her to hold down her food. After trying 35 different pharmaceutical treatments, Raich said, she found that marijuana is the only drug she can tolerate that holds her seizures and other symptoms in check. Raich's appeal will be heard by the same three-judge panel that upheld her right to use medicinal marijuana in 2003."
The Wisconsin State Assembly held a hearing on Assembly Bill 740, an act relating to medical use of marijuana. The Wisconsin State Journal reported on Nov. 22, 2005 ( "Medical Pot Bill Will Get Hearing") that "Although supported mostly by Democrats, the bill's lead author is Republican state Rep. Gregg Underheim of Oshkosh, who said he was inspired to introduce it by conversations he had with cancer survivors while he was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer. Few give the bill much chance of passage in the GOP- controlled Legislature, where many view it as the first step toward legalizing marijuana."
One of the witnesses at the hearing was federal medical marijuana recipient Irv Rosenfeld. According to the State Journal, "One of just seven remaining patients in the federal government's "compassionate use" program, which provides marijuana for medical uses, Rosenfeld said the drug helps him cope with the excruciating pain caused by an estimated 200 benign bone tumors that daily poke at his muscles and veins. Rosenfeld, 52, a stock broker from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is the star witness in a planned hearing today on legislation to exempt patients with debilitating medical conditions from prosecution for using marijuana. Supporters say he's well-qualified to speak on the subject: As of this week, Rosenfeld has smoked an estimated 220 pounds of marijuana grown by the federal government on a farm in Oxford, Miss. He's the longest-serving participant in the program, which stopped accepting new patients in 1991."
A cannabis-based medication made by GW Pharma will be legally available to MS patients in the United Kingdom soon though it has still not received approval from the UK government. The BBC reported on Nov. 15, 2005 ( "Cannabis Drug Available In The UK") that "Sativex has already been licensed for use in Canada to relieve pain in people with MS. The Home Office has now said the drug can be imported to the UK for individual patient's use."
According to the BBC, " Under the new arrangements, the prescription of Sativex would only be permitted under Home Office licence. A doctor would have to take responsibility for the prescription of the unlicensed drug, which would have to be imported from Canada for that particular patient. Primary care trusts could decide to fund the treatment on the NHS. Otherwise, the drug would cost patients approximately £4 a day. The government has asked a watchdog, the Commission on Human Medicines, to monitor the safety of Sativex."
The BBC noted that " In a statement, the MHRA [Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency] has said it did not object to the importation of Sativex for use to relieve pain in MS patients, but said it must be informed if the product was intended to be used for any other condition. It added: 'Under current regulations, the MHRA may only refuse an application to import an unlicensed medicine into the UK to meet the needs of a particular patient if there are overriding concerns about the product's safety or quality. Lack of proven efficacy is not a ground for refusing the import.' The company which makes Sativex, GW Pharmaceuticals, has been seeking a UK licence for the drug since 2003. It has been granted a licence to cultivate cannabis for medical research purposes in the UK. Plants are being grown at a secret location in the English countryside. The company says it will continue to seek a full UK licence for the drug."
The state of California in 2005 passed legislation to allow them to begin taxing medical marijuana sold by the state's dispensaries. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported Oct. 27, 2005 ( "State To Tax Medical Marijuana Dispensaries") that "The policy, while requiring marijuana retailers to feed state coffers just like department stores or any other California retailer, also considers their unique fear of being targeted by federal authorities because of legal questions surrounding their product. While California approved medical marijuana in 1996, it remains illegal under federal law. Under the new policy passed by the state Board of Equalization, businesses can get what is known as a sellers permit, allowing them to collect sales tax, without indicating whether their merchandise is lawful to sell. Like the federal government, the state Board of Equalization considers any kind of marijuana sale to be unlawful. 'We didn't want to inadvertently be in the position of putting medicinal marijuana dealers in a trouble spot,' said board member Betty T. Yee of San Francisco."
According to the Sentinel, "A sellers permit is required to pay sales tax on tangible personal property and up until now those permits were not issued to businesses the board deemed to be engaged in 'unlawful' sales. But applying that 'unlawful' label to marijuana in California became a bit sticky after it was legalized by voters in 1996 under the Compassionate Use Act. 'That act was silent on sales,' Yee said. 'That's where we have a bit of a problem.' Another complicating factor was the federal government's view of medical marijuana, Yee said. Allowing businesses to get a permit without stating the legal status of their product was an effort to provide some level of security from federal scrutiny, Lee explained. The state has some data sharing arrangements with the federal government."
Not everyone is in agreement that this is a good policy. The Sentinel noted that "At least one medical marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access, opposed the board's action. That group said any dispensaries should be categorized as 'health facilities' where medicine like marijuana would be exempt from taxation. The state believes any revenue realized from sales tax on medical pot would be negligible."
Others however were glad for the change. As the Sentinel reported, "That was welcome news to Lisa Molyneux, who opened a dispensary in the Harvey West area of Santa Cruz last month. ' Most of us want to comply with the law and do all we should as a regular business,' said Molyneux, who obtained both city business and special-use permits as part of opening the shop on DuBois Street. In agreement was Valerie Corral, co-founder of the area cooperative Wo/men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, who said such dispensaries should be treated like other businesses."
The city of Santa Cruz, CA, took a major step toward helping patients deal with getting access to sufficient amounts of medical cannabis in Oct. 2005. The San Jose Mercury News reported on Oct. 26, 2005 ( "City OKs Medical Marijuana Dept.") that "In a move that divided the city's famously left-leaning politicians, the Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday voted to create a city department to distribute medicinal marijuana. If it eventually comes into being -- something that is doubtful at this point -- the Office of Compassionate Use would become the first such municipal office in the country."
According to the Mercury News, "The vote marks the latest salvo by the council in a long-running battle over medicinal pot. Three years ago, the council allowed medicinal marijuana to be given away on the steps of City Hall as journalists from around the world recorded the moment. This time, however, council members didn't seem to be thumbing their noses at U.S. drug laws. The council made clear Tuesday it had no intention to establish the office unless it wins a legal fight with federal officials in a court of law. 'I am excited, and I applaud the city council for its creativity and bold decision to put the issue squarely before the courts in a way that is not reckless,' said Allen Hopper, senior staff attorney with the Drug Law Reform Project, a national project of the American Civil Liberties Union based in Santa Cruz."
The Mercury News noted that "Hopper said the fact that a city would be willing to actually distribute medicinal marijuana could lead to a legal showdown over the meaning of the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as it applies to medicinal pot. The amendment reads: 'The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.' Earlier this month, a divided Mountain View City Council voted to study the mechanics and legalities of making the city's drug stores medicinal marijuana dispensaries. Along the same lines, Santa Cruz council members indicated Tuesday they'd like to see drug stores such as Walgreens distribute the marijuana if the municipal Office of Compassionate Use is eventually set up."
Update: ASA's rallies on 10/26/05 were a success. Click here to get a rally report from the ASA website.
The activist reform organization Americans for Safe Access has announced that protests will be held on Oct. 26, 2005 at offices of the US Dept. of Health and Human Services across the US. According to the ASA website, there are rallies being planned for HHS offices at Washington, DC, Philadelphia, Dallas, Kansas City, MO, Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle. Check out the ASA website for more information about the HHS rescheduling protests Oct. 26.
Bay Area IndyMedia reported on Oct. 23, 2005 ( "Marijuana Rescheduling Protest at United States Health and Human Services") that "A San Francisco Rally for Rescheduling Marijuana will be held at 12pm on Wednesday, October 26th. It will be held at Health and Human Services, 50 United Nations Plaza. Southern California Americans for Safe Access is chartering a bus from San Diego with stops in Santa Ana, the San Fernando Valley, and Santa Barbara. The bus will leave San Diego on the morning of October 25th."
Medical marijuana patient Steven Tuck has been returned to the US from Canada, where he had gone to avoid facing federal marijuana charges. The Associated Press reported on Oct. 12, 2005 ( "Judge Releases Medical Marijuana Patient Arrested In BC Hospital") that "A U.S. Army veteran who fled to Canada to avoid prosecution because he grew marijuana to help control chronic pain was yanked from a hospital by Canadian authorities, driven to the U.S. border with a catheter still attached, and turned over to U.S. officials - who provided him with no medical treatment for five days, his lawyer said. Steven William Tuck, 38, was still fitted with the urinary catheter when he shuffled into U.S. District Court for a detention hearing Wednesday, said his lawyer, Douglas Hiatt. U.S. Magistrate Judge James P. Donohue ordered Tuck temporarily released so that Hiatt and Sunil Aggarwal, the president of Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, could take him to Harborview Medical Center for treatment. 'The guy comes into the jail with a catheter ..., you'd think they'd do something about it!' Hiatt said, launching into a profanity-laced tirade after the hearing. 'This is totally inhumane. He's been tortured for days for no reason.'"
According to AP, " Tuck is a veteran who said he suffered debilitating injuries in the late 1980s, when his parachute failed to open during a jump. He spent a year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center undergoing operations to fuse discs in his back, Hiatt said. His injuries were exacerbated in a car crash that killed his brother-in-law in 1990; over the years, he has had more than a dozen surgeries, his friends said. In 2001, he was living in McKinleyville, Calif., when his marijuana growing operation was raided for the second time. He fled to British Columbia to avoid prosecution, and sought asylum status, which was recently denied. Last Friday, he checked himself in to St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, because he had a cyst on his prostate and was having difficulty urinating, Hiatt said."
AP reported that Tuck "was turned over to Whatcom County Jail officials, who, after being flooded with phone calls from activists, called federal marshals from Seattle to pick him up. The marshals brought him to the King County Jail in downtown Seattle. Though Tuck had taken morphine - as prescribed by doctors - for about 16 years to help with his pain, he was given no painkiller or treatment at the jail other than ibuprofen, Hiatt said. Tuck, who appeared emaciated as he cried in court Wednesday, has been sick from the morphine withdrawal, Hiatt said."
Medical marijuana legislation in Rhode Island may get a second chance at passage in 2005 if the legislature goes into special session. The Marijuana Policy Project announced on Sept. 14, 2005 ( "Urge The Rhode Island Hosue To Come Back To Protect Patients From Arrest") that "It is no longer certain whether the House will reconvene to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest. The only step left before Rhode Island becomes the 11th medical marijuana state is the House overriding Gov. Donald Carcieri's (R) veto. But representatives cannot override the veto unless they’re called back into session."
Pressure to come back in special session is now being placed on the legislature by of all people Gov. Carcieri. The Providence Journal reported on Oct. 4, 2005 ( "Carcieri Calls For Sales Tax Holiday") that "Governor Carcieri this afternoon called on the General Assembly to return for a special session in order to enact two of his initiatives: a state 'sales tax holiday' and a plan to help low-income seniors and the disabled pay their energy bills this winter."
If serious, this is a high-stakes gamble for Carcieri. As the Journal noted, " Calling a special session is a risk for Carcieri. The governor vetoed several bills this year including a minimum wage increase, legislation allowing the use of marijuana to ease the pain of the seriously ill and a highly-controversial bill that would have allowed child-care workers to unionize. If the Democrat-dominated Assembly returns, they could take up several of the measures that Carcieri has -- until now -- successfully killed off."
Canada's medical marijuana program is taking distribution to another level. The Winnipeg Free Press reported on Sept. 14, 2005 ( "Select Drugstores To Sell Pot") that "Health Canada's long-delayed plan to sell government-certified marijuana in drugstores appears to be back on track for early next year. The pilot project would stock medicinal pot in some pharmacies for use by authorized patients, making Canada only the second country after The Netherlands to allow easier access through drugstores."
According to the Free Press, "Currently, 237 patients can get Health Canada's medical marijuana through Prairie Plant Systems Inc., which grows the weed in Flin Flon, Man., under a $5.75-million contract with the federal government. Thirty-gram bags of dried buds, costing $150 each, are couriered directly to patients or their physicians. But since early 2003, when senior officials visited The Netherlands to investigate that country's marijuana distribution program, Health Canada has looked for a way to insert a pharmacist between the manufacturer and the patient. The department is scouting out a handful of urban and rural pharmacies to begin the pilot project by the first quarter of 2006, spokesman Christopher Williams said. Health Canada had initially planned a project for last year, but regulations authorizing pharmacy distribution only came into effect on June 7 after a long period of consultation. 'Ideally, we'd like to run it in more than one province,' Williams said in an interview. 'Once we recruit the pharmacists, we'll make sure ( they ) receive specialized training in dispensing the marijuana for medical purposes.'"
The Free Press noted that "Currently, 943 people are authorized to possess marijuana for medical conditions ranging from AIDS to multiple sclerosis, once a doctor has indicated that traditional remedies are ineffective. Of these, 695 have permission to grow the plant themselves, while Health Canada has authorized 77 growers to produce it for other patients. Prairie Plant Systems is also distributing a flowering-bud product that currently contains about 14 per cent THC, the main active ingredient. The company's five-year contract ends in December, but is expected to be extended by a year as Health Canada issues a request for proposals for a new long-term arrangement. The first pharmacies to stock the product are likely to be in British Columbia, said Robin O'Brien, a Vancouver pharmacist who has been asked by Health Canada to participate as a consultant. An internal document from Health Canada says it could take up to three years to implement a national pharmacy distribution program."
After a long delay, the appeal has begun for Ed Rosenthal's conviction on federal marijuana charges. The Oakland Tribune reported on Sept. 12, 2005 ( "'Ganja Guru' Appeal Set After Delay") that "More than two years after being convicted and sentenced for growing marijuana, Oakland's self-styled 'Guru of Ganja' will make his appeal Tuesday for why even a slap on the wrist was too much. Ed Rosenthal, a renowned pro-marijuana author, activist and cultivation authority, claims he never should have been convicted of three marijuana-growing felonies. The government claims he not only deserved conviction, but he also deserved at least two to five years in prison instead of his one-day, time-already-served sentence. Three judges of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will decide sometime in the few months after Tuesday's arguments."
According to the Tribune, "Rosenthal - famed for his books and for the 'Ask Ed' column he wrote for 'High Times' magazine - became a medical-marijuana cause celebre after his February 2002 arrest. Drug Enforcement Administration agents raided sites including his Oakland home office; an Oakland warehouse where he'd been growing marijuana; San Francisco's Harm Reduction Center medical marijuana club, which he'd supplied; and the HRC's founder's Petaluma home. After a five-day trial, a federal jury convicted Rosenthal on Jan. 31, 2003, of three marijuana-growing felonies. Upon learning afterward of the state and city protections Rosenthal had not been allowed to raise as a defense, several jurors renounced their verdict and rallied to his cause. U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer sentenced Rosenthal on June 4, 2003, to one day in prison. On appeal, Rosenthal basically claims Breyer erred by not letting him mount an 'entrapment-by-estoppel' defense -- that is, that local and federal officials had led him to believe his conduct was protected under California's 1996 compassionate-use law and by an Oakland ordinance under which he was deemed an city officer permitted to grow marijuana."
The Tribune noted that
"In fact, the appeal notes that at Rosenthal's sentencing,
Breyer said he believed Rosenthal reasonably - although
incorrectly - thought the state and local laws immunized
him; the judge used this as an explanation for the
lighter-than-normal sentence. The appeal also claims:
A report by the Marijuana Policy Project released in early September 2005 finds that teen marijuana use appears to have declined in those states which have enacted laws allowing medical marijuana. According to MPP's Sept. 7, 2005 news release ( "New Report: Teen Marijuana Use Down in States With Medical Marijuana Laws"), "A new report released today provides strong evidence that state medical marijuana laws have not increased adolescent marijuana use, contradicting claims made by opponents of such laws. The report -- co-authored by substance abuse researcher Mitch Earleywine, Ph.D., of the University at Albany, State University of New York, and Marijuana Policy Project Legislative Analyst Karen O'Keefe, Esq. -- is the first comprehensive analysis of all available data from state and national drug use surveys to determine trends in teen marijuana use in states with medical marijuana laws."
Among the report's key findings:
As MPP observed, "Opponents of medical marijuana laws regularly claim that such measures increase teen marijuana use by 'sending the wrong message to young people.' Most recently, such arguments were cited in June by Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) when he announced his veto of medical marijuana legislation. A vote to override that veto is pending in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. 'While survey data alone cannot prove cause and effect, there is no evidence whatsoever that medical marijuana laws have increased teen marijuana use,' Dr. Mitch Earleywine said. 'None of the states with medical marijuana laws have seen an overall increase in adolescent marijuana use, and some have had huge reductions.' 'Again and again, opponents of medical marijuana laws claim that such proposals are dangerous because they encourage young people to use marijuana,' Karen O'Keefe said. 'There is now a massive body of data showing that no such effect has happened, and it's time for those who want to continue arresting patients to stop making unsubstantiated claims.'"
The California Highway Patrol in August 2005 announced a revision of its policies regarding medical marijuana in vehicles. The Los Angeles Times reported on Aug. 28, 2005 ( "CHP Revises Policy On Pot Seizures") that "The California Highway Patrol has ordered its officers to stop confiscating medical marijuana during routine traffic stops, a victory for patients hoping to win broader acceptance of the controversial medicine from balky police departments around the state. Highway Patrol officials sent out a bulletin last week to field commanders spelling out the policy shift, which would allow patients to travel on California's highways with up to 8 ounces of marijuana as long as they have a certified user identification card or documented physician's approval."
According to the Times, "'This is going to send a very clear message: The constitutionality of patients needs to be protected,' said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, a marijuana patients group that sued the CHP to force the policy change. 'Our hope is this will ripple around the state.' Lt. Joe Whiteford, a CHP spokesman, called the policy shift 'a revision' needed in part because of confusion among rank-and-file officers over a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling."
The Times reported that "With the Highway Patrol's new medical marijuana policy, officers in the field 'have got their marching orders,' Whiteford said. 'Now they're pretty clear what to do.' For the last fiscal year, ending in July, Americans for Safe Access collected reports from 457 patients and caregivers who were arrested or had their medical marijuana seized by police officers in California. About a quarter of those cases involved the Highway Patrol, and the rest were spread among police and sheriff's departments in 48 of California's 58 counties. The Oakland-based patient group sued the CHP and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in February, asking the Highway Patrol to alter its confiscation protocols for medical marijuana. Activists said CHP officers would seize even the smallest amounts and sometimes arrest patients after they presented documentation from a physician. Highway Patrol leaders balked initially, saying they wouldn't halt medical marijuana confiscations until the state launched an ID card program so officers could more easily distinguish legitimate cannabis patients. California health officials started an ID program earlier this year, but participation has lagged, with cards issued to only 176 patients. Meanwhile, some cities and counties have issued thousands of cards. San Francisco has 8,000 registered medical marijuana patients with ID cards. The CHP's new rules of engagement on medical marijuana advise patrol officers to accept state or local ID cards as proof of a patient's medicinal need. Patients can also provide a physician's written recommendation. In the CHP's Aug. 22 bulletin, commanders spelled out how a typical scenario might be handled in the field. If an officer observed marijuana and the patient presented a doctor's written recommendation, the officer would call dispatch to attempt to verify its authenticity. If the document was valid, the marijuana would not be seized."
The Times noted that "The new rules allow leeway for officers, authorizing them to use 'sound professional judgment' to judge a patient's medical claim. But the bulletin advised officers to be alert for indications of trafficking, such as 'pay/owe' records, large quantities of cash or a big stash of the drug packaged as if for sale. When a patient cannot provide proper proof or has more marijuana than allowed, the officer will confiscate the drug. The officer is also required to advise the person that he or she can file a motion with the court for the return of medical marijuana."
The state of California decided to reinstate its medical marijuana patient ID program days after the decision was soundly criticized by legal authorities, patients, and doctors. The Eureka Times-Standard reported on July 19, 2005 ( "State Resumes Medical Marijuana ID Card Program") that "California Health Director Sandra Shewry announced Monday that the state has resumed its Medical Marijuana ID Card program. After receiving legal advice from the California attorney general that operating the pilot program would not aid and abet marijuana users in committing a federal crime, Shewry directed staff of the California Department of Health Services ( CDHS ) to resume operations that were suspended on July 8. 'The state attorney general has reviewed this concern and said that California can issue ID cards to medical marijuana users without state employees facing prosecution for assisting in the commission of a federal crime,' Shewry said. 'Today ( Monday ) the state resumed operating the Medical Marijuana ID Card program.' But the attorney general also said that information received from applicants for medical marijuana ID cards may be obtained by federal officials to identify them for prosecution. In response, CDHS will be modifying the ID card application to inform applicants that possession of marijuana remains a federal crime and information provided by them could be used for federal prosecution, Shewry said."
The Times-Standard noted that "CDHS began pilot testing an identification card and registry system in three counties -- Amador, Del Norte and Mendocino -- in May. To date, 123 cards have been issued. With the resumption of the program, the pilot testing is scheduled to be completed at the end of this month and the program expanded statewide beginning Aug. 1."
The Following Message is from Caren Woodson, Campaign Director, Americans for Safe Access:
On Tuesday, July 12, 2005, medical marijuana patient and lifelong advocate Steve McWilliams committed suicide while awaiting federal sentencing. Many of us remember Steve as the man who organized and led the September 2002 public handout of medical marijuana to patients at San Diego's City Hall. As a result of this sort of 'balls to the wall' activism, Steve was targeted by the DEA and arrested on charges relating to the cultivation of 25 marijuana plants grown for the medical marijuana collective he operated, Shelter from the Storm. He plead guilty because he would have been prohibited from presenting a valid medical marijuana defense in Federal court.
Steve was sentenced to six months and released pending appeal but denied access to marijuana. He had been depressed, in terrible pain, and was hospitalized as late as last week. Steve's depression was apparently a combination of factors including dreadful thoughts about going to prison and his deteriorating health. He was taking powerful pharmaceuticals including opiates, anti-nausea, anti-migraine and a variety of other 'prescribed' drugs in far higher amounts than when he was able to medicate with marijuana. Evidently, they were the substances used to overdose.
Americans for Safe Access invites activists to join us on Tuesday, July 19, 2005, for nationwide vigils to remember Steve McWilliams.
We have received an overwhelming amount of support from community members for Steve McWilliams. Currently, there are vigils planned in sixteen cities across the country. To get detailed information about contact the local contacts, or contact Rebecca: email@example.com or 510-251-1856.
Washington DC: Caren - firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are planning a vigil and have not yet alerted ASA about it, please email Rebecca email@example.com or call 510-251-1856. While we are leaving these vigils open-ended to local activists, many will take place at federal buildings, and we have developed messaging and materials that you can use.
Tuesday is a day to honor Steve McWilliams' life. He was a brave activist, patient and caregiver who was ultimately attacked by the federal government. Sadly, Steve's story is not the only tragedy in the medical marijuana movement. Twenty patients died shortly after WAMM was raided by the DEA. Others are facing lengthy sentences, when they will be separated from their families and unable to use their medicine.
This is a time to call on the federal government to stop these tragedies. The DEA must stop arresting patients and Congress must pass a law protecting patients' rights in states that allow medical marijuana. Ultimately, marijuana must be rescheduled so patients throughout the country can use their medicine without fearing federal attack.
Signs: We have created a sign with Steve McWilliams' picture and a
quote from him. You can find it on our website:
Leaflets: Also available on our wesite is a two-sided leaflet that can be passed
out to participants and people passing by the vigil to spread your message:
Banners: Several activists will be creating banners that say: 'Ask me how the feds killed Steve McWilliams.' This will attract the public to engage with you and take interest in your leaflets. Here's a quick how to on banners. If you'd like more information, please contact the ASA office.
Thanks to all who are participating in these vigils. This is what Steve would have wanted. Just as he did, we must continue to fight for patients, no matter how hard the feds work against us.
-- Caren Woodson, Campaign Director, Americans for Safe Access
The state of California has suspended its new ID card program for medical marijuana patients. The suspension has no impact on the overall program. The Associated Press reported on July 8, 2005 ( "California Suspends Medical Pot Card Program") that "Citing uncertainty prompted by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, California health officials suspended a program on Friday that had begun providing patients who smoke marijuana for medicinal reasons with state-issued identification cards. State Health Director Sandra Shewry has asked the state Attorney General's office to review the court ruling to determine whether the ID program would put patients and state employees at risk of federal prosecution. 'I am concerned about unintended potential consequences of issuing medical marijuana ID cards that could affect medical marijuana users, their families and staff of the California Department of Health Services,' Shewry said. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment."
The program's suspension does not change the overall program or local ID card programs. AP noted that "The state health department in May launched a pilot pot card program in three Northern California counties - Amador, Del Norte and Mendocino. One purpose of the cards is to give medical pot users a way to show they have a legitimate reason for possessing pot if they are stopped by law enforcement. So far, cards have been issued to 123 people under the pilot program, which was due to expand statewide by the end of the summer. Following Friday's move, officials in the three counties already issuing the cards were told not to process any more applications. The health department also has postponed processing requests from other counties that wanted to start issuing the cards. Other counties and cities that issue their own cards, such as San Francisco, are unaffected by the state's action."
The move by California stands in stark contrast to the decision by Oregon to keep its state-run medical marijuana program in full operation. As the reported in the Salem, OR Statesman-Journal on June 18, 2005 ( "Oregon Again Issuing Cannabis Cards"), "Oregon's state health agency resumed issuing medical-marijuana cards Friday, deciding that the program could continue despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowing federal prosecution for possessing the drug. State Attorney General Hardy Myers said that the ruling did not overturn Oregon's voter-passed program. Still, his written opinion also warned that registration in the state program won't protect patients or caregivers from federal prosecution for drug possession if the federal government chooses to take action against them."
Flash: RI Senate vote overrides veto, next step is vote in House. For more info click here.
Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri (R) vetoed legislation which will allow patients in need to gain access to medical marijuana. The New York Times reported on June 30, 2005 ( "In Rhode Island, Uncertainty About Medical Marijuana Law") that "Gov. Donald L. Carcieri vetoed the bill Wednesday evening, saying it would encourage marijuana use, sanction criminal activity and make the drug more available to children. Additionally, Mr. Carcieri said, it would lull residents into believing they could not be prosecuted for marijuana use, which remains a federal offense. The bill also does not have strong safety precautions, he said, and would allow patients to grow large amounts of marijuana with no guidelines for its disposal."
Supporters of patient access are confident that they have the votes to override the governor. According to the Times, "It appears that proponents of the bill have the necessary three-fifths vote in each chamber of the legislature, both heavily Democratic, to override the veto. The bill passed the Senate 33 to 1 on Tuesday and was approved 52 to 10 last week in the House. If the veto is overridden, Rhode Island will become the 11th state to allow medical marijuana, and the first to do so after the Supreme Court ruled this month that federal authorities could prosecute those who use the drug for medicinal use, even in states allowing it."
In vetoing the bill, the governor was following the dictates of the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy. According to the Times, "Mr. Carcieri's chief of policy and a group of legislators met on Tuesday with two officials in the White House Office of Drug Control Policy, an agency spokeswoman, Jennifer DeVallance, said. The agency presented state officials data showing that the drug was highly abused and had not been shown to be medicinally effective, Ms. DeVallance said."
The Times noted that "The bill would allow those with medical conditions including AIDS, cancer and glaucoma to receive what amounts to a signed prescription for marijuana from their primary care physician. The doctor, patient and person providing care would be entered into a registry kept by the state's Department of Public Health, which has 90 days to promulgate regulations. The patient and attendant, who must be Rhode Island residents, would receive identification cards allowing them to cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants indoors or possess up to 2.5 ounces of the drug. The patient, attendant, doctor and anyone present while the patient was ingesting marijuana would be exempt from prosecution. Landlords, schools and employers would be barred from refusing someone because they were enrolled in the medical marijuana program. The Department of Health will issue a report on the program to the legislature by Jan. 1, 2007; if the legislature does not take action the bill will expire on June 30, 2007, and all marijuana will again be illegal. The Rhode Island bill does not address how patients would obtain the drug. Its chief sponsor, State Senator Rhoda E. Perry, said patients would 'get it illegally, just like they do in the 10 other states.'"
The effort to enact this legislation is a personal one for the bill's sponsors. As the Times reported, "Ms. Perry and Representative Thomas C. Slater, who sponsored a similar bill in the House, say the legislation is a way to help ease the suffering of the sick and dying and is well-supported by residents. A poll taken last March by the Marijuana Policy Project, a national nonprofit organization that promotes the legalization of marijuana, found that 69 percent of state residents supported a bill allowing the chronically ill to grow marijuana for medicinal use. The issue has been a personal crusade for both Ms. Perry, whose nephew died of AIDS and refused to smoke marijuana for fear of arrest, and Mr. Slater, who has inoperable lung cancer and has seen three of his five siblings and his father suffer from cancer. 'It's an issue of compassion,' Mr. Slater said. 'It's an issue for those who are sick and dying and suffering and need that last-minute peace of mind.'"
Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri is being urged to withdraw his threatened veto and sign legislation allowing patients in need to have legal access to medical marijuana. The Pawtucket Times reported on June 23, 2005 ( "House Passes Medical Marijuana Bill") that "With legislation to allow seriously ill people to use marijuana as medicine having passed both chambers of the General Assembly by veto-proof margins, Rep. Thomas Slater is calling on Gov. Donald Carcieri to withdraw his threat to veto the bill. The House of Representatives passed a medical marijuana bill Wednesday by a 52-10 margin - after amending it to add Slater's name to the title. A slightly different version of the bill passed the Senate two weeks ago on a 34-2 vote. 'I hope the governor realizes that the people of Rhode Island support this bill by over 70 percent,' Slater told reporters after the vote. Pointing out that there are sufficient yea votes in both the House and Senate to override a veto, Slater said the governor 'should take note of that and let it become law without his signature.'"
According to the Times, "Slater's bill was sent immediately to the Senate and later on Wednesday a similar Senate bill, sponsored by Sen. Rhoda Perry, was amended by the House Health, Education and Welfare Committee to make it identical with Slater's and passed to the full House. If both chambers move expeditiously to pass each other's bills, Slater said, 'before the session is over we will know what the governor's decision is.' Under the legislation, a seriously ill patient certified by the state Department of Health as having certain chronic or debilitating diseases such as cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and Crohn's disease and up to two 'primary caregivers' would be immune from arrest, prosecution, forfeiture or other penalty for possessing up to 2.5 ounces of 'useable marijuana,' or 12 marijuana plants. The primary caregiver must be over 21-years-old and not be a convicted drug felon. The House version of the bill has a sunset provision and will expire June 30, 2007 if it is not renewed. Before that time, the DOH will provide the legislature with a report detailing whether there have been any known abuses of the law or arrests connected with it."
The Times noted that "Providence Rep. Steven Costantino, who sponsored earlier versions of the bill in previous years, said, 'To me, it has always been a matter of compassion, simple compassion. I've always been amused about the fear that something like this is going to cause this all of a sudden irrational move to do marijuana,' Costantino continued. 'That we are going to have an illegal substance out there that is not there right now. I have always been amused because I look at some of the legal drugs -- alcohol, the most abused drug ever. One of the most abused prescribed drugs, vicadin, has caused more harm in this society than any illegal drug like marijuana could ever ( do ).' Costantino said he has not seen problems in any of the other 10 states that allow the use of medical marijuana. 'What I have read is that people who are ill, people who are in pain, whether it is cancer or glaucoma or wasting away because of HIV and AIDS, their pain is being reduced. And their quality of life, their end-of-life issues are maybe as not as bad' as someone who doesn't use medical marijuana, he said."
Federal agents and other law enforcement officers raided medical marijuana facilities in California and made some arrests in on June 22, 2005. The New York Times reported on June 23, 2005 ( "Arrests Follow Searches In Medical Marijuana Raids") that "Federal agents executed search warrants at three medical marijuana dispensaries on Wednesday as part of a broad investigation into marijuana trafficking in San Francisco, setting off fears among medical marijuana advocates that a federal crackdown on the drug's use by sick people was beginning. About 20 residences, businesses and growing sites were also searched, leading to multiple arrests, a law enforcement official said. Agents outside a club in the Ingleside neighborhood spent much of the afternoon dragging scores of leafy marijuana plants into an alley and stuffing them into plastic bags."
At the same time, federal charges were also filed against a doctor and her husband in Sacramento in an unrelated case. According to the Times, "In a separate investigation, a federal grand jury in Sacramento indicted a doctor and her husband on charges of distributing marijuana at the doctor's office in Cool, a small town in El Dorado County. The doctor, Marion P. Fry, and her husband, Dale C. Schafer, were arrested at their home in nearby Greenwood and pleaded not guilty in federal court in Sacramento to charges of distributing and manufacturing at least 100 marijuana plants. The authorities said in a court document that Dr. Fry wrote a recommendation for medical marijuana to an undercover agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration even though there was a 'lack of a medical record,' and that her husband provided the agent with marijuana. The raids and arrests were the first large-scale actions against marijuana clubs and providers since the Supreme Court upheld federal authority over marijuana on June 6, even in states like California, where its use for medicinal purposes has been legal since 1996. The raids involved agents from federal agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the Secret Service."
Activists and supporters denounced the federal actions. The Times noted that "The raids angered and alarmed advocates of medical marijuana, some of whom stood on the sidewalk outside the clubs in San Francisco as federal agents worked inside. 'This is an affront to patients and should not be happening,' Kris Hermes, legal director of Americans for Safe Access, a marijuana advocacy group, said outside a storefront club that nearby residents said was used to grow marijuana not distribute it. Mr. Hermes said he could not say if the raids were a result of the Supreme Court ruling, but called it 'unacceptable' that federal agents were accompanied by the San Francisco police because the city several years ago declared itself 'a safe haven' for medical marijuana users. Several blocks away, agents seized computer records, medical files and marijuana plants at the Herbal Relief Center on Ocean Avenue. A security gate across the entrance had been pulled open, and a lock lay cut open on the sidewalk. 'They came here before we even opened,' said Van Nguyen, 27, who said the dispensary had been in operation about five years and had the records of several thousand patients."
The US House of Representatives failed to pass the 'Hinchey Amendment' on June 15, 2005. USA Today reported on June 15, 2005 ( "States Still Push For Medical Pot") that "The U.S. House, by a 264-161 vote Wednesday, rejected an amendment that would have barred the Justice Department from prosecuting medical-marijuana users who are following state laws. Proponents, including 15 Republicans and 145 Democrats, picked up 13 votes from last year but still fell far short of the majority needed for passage. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., introduced a related measure late last year, but no action is pending in the Senate."
According to USA Today, "The U.S. House rejection may embolden opponents of a state law, says Minnesota state Sen. Steve Kelley, a Democrat: 'The House's decision, more than the Supreme Court's, would cause some, particularly Republicans, to question whether we should act on it.' However, he says, neither changes 'the moral imperative of taking action.' He says Minnesota has to make residents understand that a state law doesn't protect against federal prosecution. New Mexico state Sen. Cisco McSorley, a Democrat who backs a state law, sees little impact from the federal decisions. 'The folks who voted for it ( state law ) last time didn't really care what the federal government was doing.'"
USA Today noted that
"There was sentiment in several legislatures this year to
push for the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes:
Proponents expect a vote Tuesday, June 14 in the US House of Representatives on the Hinchey Amendment, which would bar federal authorities from arresting legal medical marijuana patients in those states which have elected to allow medical marijuana use. For more information, read this NORML alert or read over this MPP alert.
The Supreme Court handed down its ruling in the case of Ashcroft v. Raich in June, 2005. As reported by the Associated Press on June 6, 2005 ( "Supreme Court Allows Prosecution Of Medical Marijuana"), "Federal authorities may prosecute sick people who smoke pot on doctors' orders, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, concluding that state medical marijuana laws don't protect users from a federal ban on the drug. The decision is a stinging defeat for marijuana advocates who had successfully pushed 10 states to allow the drug's use to treat various illnesses. Justice John Paul Stevens, writing the 6-3 decision, said that Congress could change the law to allow medical use of marijuana."
According to AP, "Stevens said there are other legal options for patients, 'but perhaps even more important than these legal avenues is the democratic process, in which the voices of voters allied with these respondents may one day be heard in the halls of Congress.'"
AP noted that "In a dissent, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said that states should be allowed to set their own rules. 'The states' core police powers have always included authority to define criminal law and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens,' said O'Connor, who was joined by other states' rights advocates. The legal question presented a dilemma for the court's conservatives, who have pushed to broaden states' rights in recent years, invalidating federal laws dealing with gun possession near schools and violence against women on the grounds the activity was too local to justify federal intrusion. O'Connor said she would have opposed California's medical marijuana law if she was a voter or a legislator. But she said the court was overreaching to endorse 'making it a federal crime to grow small amounts of marijuana in one's own home for one's own medicinal use.""
For more on the decision, see Angel Raich's website, AngelJustice.org. A PDF copy of the decision and the dissents can be downloaded from the CSDP site, from the Supreme Court site, or they're also available from the Legal Information Institute.
Legislation to allow medical use of marijuana was introduced into the New York State Senate in early 2005. As reported by the New York Post on May 8, 2005 ( "GOP 'Joint' Resolution") that "Sen. Vincent Leibell ( R-Dutchess County ) quietly introduced a bill last month that would let doctors prescribe marijuana to patients with life-threatening, degenerative or permanently disabling conditions. Cannabis could only be used if a doctor feels that other drugs and treatments would not be as effective. 'Thousands of New Yorkers have serious medical conditions that can be improved by medically approved use of cannabis,' Leibell's bill says. 'The law should not stand in the way between them and life- and health-sustaining treatment under a physician's supervision.'"
According to the Post, "Many otherwise illegal controlled substances, like steroids and morphine, are permitted for legitimate medical uses, Leibell said. 'I realize this will be controversial, but I think it's the right thing to do,' the lawmaker told The Post. 'It's not decriminalization. It's a narrow part of the population under closely controlled medical standards.' While his bill differs slightly from one in the Democratic-controlled Assembly, it's close enough that he and Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried ( D-Manhattan ) believe a compromise is near."
Click here for a summary and bill text for the legislation, S5040.
GW Pharma's stock rose in mid-April 2005 on news that the Canadian government had given approval for the company's new cannabis-based drug to be used by multiple sclerosis patients. The Toronto Globe & Mail reported on April 19, 2005 ( "Cannabis Spray Gets Go-Ahead") that "Canada is the first country in the world to approve a cannabis spray that relieves pain in people with multiple sclerosis, Health Canada said Tuesday. The announcement sent shares of the U.K. maker of the drug, GW Pharmaceuticals Plc, up as much as 14 per cent in London. Bayer AG will market the drug in Canada. Sativex®, which is administered through a spray in the mouth, relieves pain in patients that suffer from MS, the government agency said. It's expected to hit the shelves by late spring."
According to the Globe & Mail, 'Effective pain control and management are extremely important in a disease like MS,' said Dr. Allan Gordon, neurologist and director of the Wasser Pain Management Centre at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, in a statement. 'The approval of Sativex® in Canada reflects the urgent need for additional treatment options in the field of neuropathic pain in MS.' Neuropathic pain, or nerve pain, is a common symptom of MS and can occur in as many as 86 per cent of people with the disease, Health Canada said. The drug is derived from two compounds, delta-9- tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol."
The Independent newspaper reported on April 19, 2005 ( "Canada Approves GW's Cannabis Drug For Multiple Sclerosis") that "The approval in Canada comes after six years of work for the company, which grows cannabis at a secret farm in southern England and turns it into an under-the-tongue spray, Sativex®. And it marks a breakthrough for MS sufferers, who have long argued that cannabis relieves its symptoms, including pain and spasticity. The Canadian authorities will allow GW - through its marketing partner, the German drug giant Bayer - to sell Sativex® as a prescription painkiller, provided the company does additional clinical trials of the medicine over the next five years. GW must confirm the results of the studies to date, which have been promising, Health Canada said. The drug has so far been turned down by regulators in the UK, who say GW has not proven to their satisfaction that Sativex® is effective."
According to the Independent, "Bayer will pay GW a UKP2m milestone as a result of Health Canada's approval. Launch batches of Sativex® are already in the country, and the drug will be available within weeks. Analysts disagree on the likely sales potential in Canada, which has 50,000 MS sufferers, half of whom suffer from the neuropathic pain Sativex has been approved to treat. Smoked cannabis is also available in Canada for medicinal use, and proposals for its decriminalisation are being debated. Karl Keegan, an analyst at Canaccord, said: 'I think initially there will be a lot of hype over Sativex®, but I suspect that people will want to smoke cannabis rather than use a mouth spray.'"
For general information on Canada's medical cannabis policies, check out Health Canada's Office of Cannabis Medical Access.
Medical marijuana is on the move in states across the US in 2005. Bills have been introduced in several state legislatures including Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Alabama.
The RI State Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the bill in April 2005. As the Brown University Daily Herald reported on April 6, 2005 ( "Senate Judiciary Committee Hears Medical Marijuana Testimony"), " Chronically ill Rhode Islanders, medical experts and advocates testified in favor of the Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday afternoon at the State House. Although State Sen. Leo Blais, R, expressed animated opposition to the bill early into the proceedings, there were no witnesses testifying against the measure. If passed, the bill will allow chronically ill individuals and their caregivers to acquire and cultivate marijuana with protection from prosecution and arrest. Qualifying medical conditions include cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS and illnesses that cause severe symptoms alleviated by marijuana use, such as nausea or seizures. Ten states have passed similar measures, most through voter initiatives, but medical use of the drug remains illegal at the federal level."
Another co-sponsor of the RI legislation is State Senator Michael Damiani, formerly an opponent. According to the Daily Herald, "As the hearing drew to a close, Damiani explained his support for the bill despite his previous opposition to it and career as a police officer. 'No one can accuse me of being soft on drugs . . . . ( But ) in the past couple years I've watched a lot of people die from cancer,' Damiani said. He added that there were a few 'bugs' in the legislation but expressed confidence that they would be worked out. 'As long as smoking grass makes people who probably aren't going to be around much longer feel better, it's a halfway decent idea to me,' Damiani said."
According to the Daily News, "Kierlin said he signed on to the bill, authored by Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, only after the language was tightened to allow only people with terminal illness or extreme pain to use the drug with their doctors' consent. 'Cancer is not a partisan disease,' said Neal Levine, director of state policies at the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C., organization that works to decriminalize marijuana. Marijuana can relieve pain, nausea and muscle spasms and can stimulate appetite. It is often used to treat patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and epilepsy."
The bill has already received a favorable vote from the Minnesota Senate Health and Family Security Committee. As the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported on April 6, 2005 ( "Senate Panel OKs Medical Pot Bill"), "The Senate panel voted to bar such arrests and passed a bill to sanction marijuana's use for those with debilitating illnesses -- the first committee vote on the measure in Minnesota after years of debate. Backers say the bill probably won't pass all the legislative hurdles this year. Even if does, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he is unlikely to sign it into law. 'I'm not for it. I think we have enough other medicines and pain relievers available that we don't need to use that one,' Pawlenty said Tuesday. But those testifying before the Senate Health and Family Security Committee said other pain medications don't help them as much as marijuana does. And they said they came to marijuana as a last resort."
According to the Pioneer Press, "'There are other pain medications that are currently available but they don't all work for all people Marijuana has been proven effective for a number of patients,' said Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins and chief sponsor of the bill. He said it is morally and ethically right to allow patients to use the drug that best helps them in their time of sickness and suffering. The measure would 'do something to express our sense of compassion for that suffering and do something practical to address it,' Kelley said."
For more information on the Rhode Island effort, check out the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition.
The Advertiser noted that "Under the proposed legislation, use of marijuana would be strictly limited to medicinal purposes, said Hall, the principal sponsor. 'It's with a doctor's recommendation,' Hall said. 'It would be illegal for an individual to get it and sell it.' Hall's measure would allow patients access to marijuana for relief of their symptoms. Similar measures have found support in other states, and a poll last year indicated a healthy majority of Alabamians backed the idea. According to the survey by the Mobile Register and the University of South Alabama, 76 percent of Alabama residents believe adults should be allowed to use marijuana if their physicians recommended it. Despite public opinion, Gov. Bob Riley said he would not support such a measure. 'There's no way I can support legalization of marijuana or any other illegal drug,' the governor said Thursday. 'There are a multitude of other prescription options I think are still viable.'"
For more information on the Alabama effort, check out Alabamians for Caring Use.
The UK's Labour Government is moving to re-examine its classification of cannabis as a Class C drug. Cannabis had been officially downgraded in January 2004. As noted by The Guardian on March 22, 2004 ( "No Retreat On Cannabis"), " Charles Clarke, the home secretary, asked the advisory council to say whether it would change their mind as a result of 'emerging evidence' of a link between cannabis consumption and deteriorating mental health. It is unlikely that they will. The advisory council - along with the Royal College of Psychiatrists' working party and a Police Foundation's independent committee of inquiry - were all aware of the risks that cannabis posed to people vulnerable to mental illness when they made their recommendations to reclassify."
The Guardian reported that "Much fuss has been aired in the red-top papers about these two studies, but with few quotes from the researchers. Yet the professor who led the New Zealand project told the New Zealand Herald: 'These are not huge increases in risk and nor should they be, because cannabis is by no means the only thing that will determine if you suffer these symptoms.' Professor Jim van Os, one of the authors of the Dutch study, was even more robust. He told the Guardian that the fact that cannabis could trigger psychosis in a small minority of people was a good reason to legalise it, not ban it. This would allow governments to promote advice and information and control more dangerous forms like skunk. Packets could carry how much THC, the most dangerous compound, the drug contained, along with how much CBD, the compound believed to provide beneficial effects."
The Guardian commented that "If ever a government had an early warning of one front it needs to defend in this election campaign, it is Labour's downgrading of cannabis. On the eve of ministers reclassifying cannabis from category B to the less harmful category C about 14 months ago, the ever-opportunistic Michael Howard declared a Conservative government would reverse it. He condemned the government's drugs strategy as 'absurd', which serious policy-makers thought 'shameless'. Now, 14 months on, ministers are behaving 'absurdly', not by referring new evidence about the drug to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, but with their failure to set out the robust reasons behind their decision last year."
According to the Guardian, "What was missing from the minister's response was a public reminder of why the drug was reclassified. It followed expert advice from professionals - medics, pharmacologists, police officers - not red-top papers. It freed a wide swathe of police officers to pursue serious drug barons, rather than trivial offenders. No wonder polls show 60% believe the drug should be decriminalised. If ministers needed to add a political message, they could have asked Mr Howard why he wanted to wage war on 50% of young people, ensure tens of thousands of them be given criminal records and some prison sentences, for an activity that more than 2 million of them engage in quite safely during the year."
Some have derided the Government's move as election-year politics. The columnist Simon Jenkins wrote in The Times of London on March 21, 2005 ("Now Drugs Are An Election Issue"), "Pre-election nerves are getting out of hand. Consider the weekend madness from the Home Office on drugs. The new Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, once confessed to The Times that he was eager not to appear a liberal. He has duly ordered a review of the classification of cannabis on the Government's list of banned drugs. This follows 'news' that marijuana, particularly the strong strain of mostly home-grown skunk, might be more harmful than previously thought. The drug was reduced from class B to class C by Mr Clarke's predecessor, David Blunkett, just a year ago. The effect was ostensibly to save police time because possession of class C drugs was not an arrestable offence. However, Mr Blunkett immediately negated the impact of the change by making class C possession arrestable. The change was almost entirely cosmetic, but had the effect of making the drug seem more safe - or seem so to those who had never tried it and might take any notice of Home Office classifications."
As Mr. Jenkins writes, "The criminalisation of drugs has been the biggest social catastrophe of the past quarter century, wrecking tens of thousands of lives, families, communities and businesses. A new framework of control, taxation and licensed distribution must be established. Mr Clarke has no intention of doing this. He has an election on his hands. So he suddenly discovers skunk, suddenly reads medical literature, suddenly forgets he was in the Government which reclassified cannabis a year ago and suddenly orders his Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs to "review" its classification. Election time is here again."
Mr. Jenkins notes, "I served for over a year on a publicly-funded research committee on the future of the 1971 Act. It left me with a number of emphatic conclusions. One was that all drugs alter minds, which is why ( mostly ) weak people take them. For some they are beneficial. For many they are harmless. For a few they can be dangerous. I would strongly discourage young people from touching drugs, as I would discourage them from many ill-advised activities. I would certainly like public policy to limit their prevalence. The 1971 Act does the opposite. It makes drugs cheap, plentiful and easy to sell to young people. It is not an act but a social crime. Making drug use illegal, and thus plunging young people into a world of high-pressure criminal salesmanship, is madness. The 1971 Act is lethal and should be abolished. Cannabis should go where nicotine, alcohol, retail drugs, off-course betting, gambling and prostitution have gone before, into the realm of regulation and control. If criminalisation could rid society of this evil, it would have done so long ago. Clearly the reverse has happened."
The state of New Mexico moved a step closer to allowing patients in need to have access to medical marijuana in early March 2005. As reported by the Associated Press in the Albuquerque Journal on March 3, 2005 ( "Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Measures"), "The Senate has voted to allow patients with cancer and other debilitating diseases to legally use marijuana. The Senate on Wednesday passed three bills, each of them establishing a program run by the state Department of Health. If any of the bills were to become law, New Mexico would join 10 other states that allow the medical use of marijuana. Senate Judiciary Chairman Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, said his proposal would provide 'one more opportunity for life for our loved ones.'"
According to AP, "Two of the bills would restrict it to patients with cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, certain spinal cord damage, epilepsy and HIV-AIDS. Under McSorley's bill, the Health Department would license producers to provide the marijuana, which would be grown in secure facilities. Patients whose doctors recommended it would apply to the department and, if approved by a review board of physicians, be registered to possess the drug. Sen. Steve Komadina, R-Corrales, sponsored an alternative measure that would require the marijuana to be pharmaceutical grade, so that dosages would be consistent and regulated. That would rule out smoking it, although an atomizer or inhaler could be used, Komadina said. The third bill, sponsored by Sen. Shannon Robinson, D-Albuquerque, would allow people with chronic or debilitating diseases marked by pain or severe muscle spasms to use marijuana only topically - in a patch, lotion or gel, for example."
AP noted in its story that "It's not the first time lawmakers have dealt with the legislation - and it wouldn't be the first such program in the state. In the late 1970s, New Mexico set up a program linking the medical use of marijuana with a research project, which eventually lost its funding and became defunct. Former Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican and a drug-reform proponent, pushed medical marijuana legislation. The House and Senate approved separate bills in 2001 but never agreed on the same version. It was tried again in 2002 in the Senate and in 2003 in the House, but it failed each time."
According to AP, "A spokesman for Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson said he was studying the bills and was encouraged by the safeguards they contained. 'For people who are living in a tremendous amount of pain as a result of life-threatening diseases, this is a treatment that they should be allowed to have,' said Gilbert Gallegos, a spokesman for the governor. With bipartisan backing, McSorley's bill passed on a vote of 27-11, Komadina's by 29-11, and Robinson's by 31-9."
Legislation in Illinois to provide access to medical marijuana for patients in need died in committee Feb. 17, 2005. Shortly afterward police detained one of the witnesses who testified in support of the bill: Irvin Rosenfeld, one of the remaining legal federal medical marijuana patients. The Decatur, IL Herald & Review reported on Feb. 18, 2005 ( "Medical Marijuana Patient Detained After Bill Sinks In State Committee") that "The longest surviving federally legal medical marijuana patient was briefly detained for possessing cannabis after a state House committee shot down a proposal to make the drug legal. 'The two cops took it upon themselves to detain this person,' said state Rep. Larry McKeon, D-Chicago, sponsor of House Bill 407. 'It is a clear example why we need this legislation.'"
According to the Herald & Review, "McKeon was upset with the Secretary of State police Thursday when they detained a proponent of his initiative. 'I think part of the issue is training, education and common sense,' McKeon said. 'I've been a sergeant, I've been a lieutenant, I've been a captain. Supervision, management, training, that's your job. That's Secretary (Jesse) White's job. That's the job of the chief of police and Capitol security, and it's the job of the commander in charge of the Illinois State Police that augment that security. That's what I will tell Secretary White.' However, Brad Demuzio, director of Secretary of State police, said, 'Secretary of State police was not familiar with the federal exemption.' Demuzio said Irvin Rosenfeld, a stockbroker from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and medical marijuana patient, agreed to head downstairs of the Stratton Building for questioning. Once Rosenfeld explained his exemption, the two officers called Washington, D.C., for confirmation." Rosenfeld was ultimately released.
The Herald & Review notes that "Although McKeon's measure was voted down 7-4 in committee, he is determined to push ahead. Supporters of the bill and the representative already have plans to meet with officers and conductors of medical marijuana programs in other states. McKeon said he would also consider amending some language of the bill and bringing it back to the House."
Legislation to allow patients in need to have access to medical marijuana has been introduced in the Illinois legislature. The bill, House Bill 407, " Creates the Medical Cannabis Act. Provides that a person who has been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition and the person's primary caregiver may be issued a registry identification card by the Department of Human Services that permits the person or the person's primary caregiver to legally possess no more than 12 cannabis plants and two and one-half ounces of usable cannabis. Provides that a person who possesses a registry identification card is not subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denial of any right or privilege, including civil penalty or disciplinary action by a professional licensing board, for the medical use of cannabis; provided that the qualifying patient or primary caregiver possesses an amount of cannabis that does not exceed 12 cannabis plants and two and one-half ounces of usable cannabis. Amends the Cannabis Control Act to make conforming changes consistent with the Medical Cannabis Act."
HB407 was introduced by IL State Rep. Larry McKeon, a former Los Angeles police officer. As the State Journal-Register reported on Feb. 9, 2005 ( "Medical Marijuana Issue Heats Up"), "McKeon sponsored a similar proposal a year ago that allowed six cannabis plants and 1 ounce of usable cannabis. That measure was banished to a subcommittee of the House Health Care Availability and Access Committee. This year, McKeon's legislation is slated for the House Human Services Committee. 'I want to move it out of committee to the House floor and then hold it on the House floor until we've had a reasonable amount of time to do the education and outreach to get further feedback,' McKeon said."
Opposition to the bill is being led by Andrea Barthwell, a former official in the federal Office of National Drug Control Policy. According to the State Journal-Register, "As a state lawmaker pushes his proposal to legalize medical-use marijuana, a former drug-policy adviser to President Bush is touring Illinois lecturing against the practice. The conflict reached a head this week, when Rep. Larry McKeon, D-Chicago, challenged Dr. Andrea Barthwell to a public debate about medical marijuana. Barthwell declined the challenge. 'I have no need to engage in street theater,' she said. McKeon charged that Barthwell's seminars appear to be a smear campaign against his proposal. The lawmaker - who is living with AIDS - said House Bill 407 attempts to improve the quality of life for terminally ill patients struggling with the debilitating side effects of chemotherapy and other treatments. 'This is about dealing with health problems that traditional medications have failed at,' McKeon said."
The conflict over this measure is understandably becoming personal. The Belleville News-Democrat reported on Feb. 9, 2005 ("Former Federal Drug Policy Official Warns Of Marijuana") that "'Barthwell is spreading so many falsehoods that this begins to look like a 'marijuana disinformation tour,'' McKeon said. 'She regularly claims that medical marijuana is a 'hoax' foisted upon us by some cabal of 'legalizers' who are exploiting patients. As a person living with AIDS, who has spent a lot of time discussing this issue with doctors, nurses and fellow patients, I know that's false and I am personally insulted by this smear campaign.' House Bill 0407, currently under review by the House Human Services Committee, would allow people with a debilitating illness to legally possess no more than 12 marijuana plants and carry 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana. A similar bill is in the Senate. Illinois already has a law allowing licensed physicians to research the medicinal use of marijuana and protects participants from prosecution. Ten states now have laws to protect medical marijuana patients. The most recent was passed in Montana in November. 'Marijuana helps many people with HIV and AIDS by easing their nausea, boosting their appetite and helping them stay on their medications,' McKeon said. 'I've seen medical marijuana help others and know that many physicians recommend it. I don't know if I will ever need medical marijuana, but no one battling a life-threatening illness should face arrest and jail for simply trying to stay alive.'"
Canadian health officials have given preliminary approval for testing of the GW Pharmaceuticals cannabis-based drug. The Wall Street Journal reported on Feb. 8, 2005 ( "Medical Marijuana Gets Backing In Canada") that "Medical marijuana has been winning legal endorsement through the efforts of a British pharmaceutical firm. GW Pharmaceuticals of Salisbury, England, has spent years developing and promoting a cannabis-based mouth spray that the company claims eases severe pain and muscle stiffness without causing a psychotropic high. Winning the backing of health authorities has been an uphill battle, but Canadian officials recently gave it preliminary approval for treatment of neuropathic pain in multiple sclerosis sufferers. Studies concluded not long ago also showed the product effective at treating severe cancer pain. Now GW is aiming for approval in the United Kingdom, and longer-term, in the U.S., where medical marijuana is likely to come up against greater resistance. 'The deepness and polarity of the [marijuana] debate in the U.S. is unique,' acknowledges Geoffrey Guy, executive chairman of GW. GW hopes the Canadian approval 'will force the U.S. to address this issue once and for all and make a decision,' says Managing Director Justin Gover. If the product is approved in more markets, GW believes it one day could be used by a million patients suffering from pain associated with MS, cancer and other ailments."
According to the Journal, "The treatment, called Sativex, is an extract of a hybrid form of cannabis grown by GW. The company says the plants are specially bred to remove most of the psychotropic agents and to increase the presence of helpful properties such as cannabidiol. The company, which won a special license from the U.K. to breed cannabis and carry out research, grows 50,000 plants every year in greenhouses in a location it keeps secret so as to avoid curiosity seekers, protesters and potheads. Founded in 1998 to research the medicinal uses of cannabis, GW is traded on the London Stock Exchange. The company has a few other cannabis-derived products in early development."
As noted in the English publication New Scientist on Feb. 5, 2005 ( "Prescribing The Miracle Weed"), "Many patients with difficult-to-treat conditions use cannabis to relieve their symptoms, but in most parts of the world that makes them criminals. Otherwise law-abiding citizens dislike having to get their treatments from drug dealers. And the quality of the medication they get that way is variable to say the least. But in the next few weeks Canadian regulators will decide whether to approve an under-the-tongue cannabis spray called Sativex for multiple sclerosis ( MS ) patients. As the world's first prescription pharmaceutical made from marijuana, it would at last allow patients to get their therapy in a safe and consistent formulation. The product could become available in the UK in a year or so, and its British manufacturer, GW Pharmaceuticals, is expected to file for approval soon in Australia and New Zealand. Sativex will not bring any miracle cures, and in countries like the US where official hostility to marijuana is ingrained, patients may have a longer wait for its benefits. All the same, the availability of a cannabis preparation as a prescription medicine will mark a milestone in a decades-long battle by doctors and patients for public acceptance of medical cannabis use."
Indeed, as New Scientist notes, "It may not be long before Sativex is joined by other cannabis preparations. A non-profit group, the Institute for Clinical Research in Berlin, Germany, is developing oral cannabis capsules, called Cannador. In November 2003 a study in 630 MS patients produced equivocal results ( The Lancet, vol 362, p 1517 ). While the formal scoring system for measuring muscle spasticity indicated that Cannador performed no better than a placebo, the patients themselves felt it helped. Martin Schnelle, who conducted the trial, says that there are widely acknowledged problems with the formal scoring system used. 'There are medicines that are already licensed for treating spasticity that have failed on this scale,' he says. The group is planning a further study this year in which the patients' reports will be the main measure by which the drug's effectiveness is judged."
The Spanish Health Ministry is expected to give its blessing to a Catalonian plan to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients in need. The London Independent on Sunday reported on Feb. 6, 2005 ( "Spain's Health Ministry To Allow Doctors To Prescribe Cannabis") that "In a bold venture that puts Spain at the forefront of the medical use of cannabis in Europe, 60 pharmacies and four hospitals in Catalonia are to prescribe marijuana for therapeutic use where other treatments have failed. The pioneering scheme surpasses measures taken by the Dutch, leaders in the field, and puts British efforts in the shade. A British drug company has been denied permission to produce medicinal cannabis for trials - because of lack of political will, critics say. Doctors in Catalonia will be able to prescribe cannabis in capsules or as an infusion to help four specific conditions: anorexia among Aids patients; nausea caused by chemotherapy in cancer patients; constant pain - including migraine - that has been unresponsive to other treatments; and muscular problems among those with multiple sclerosis. About 150,000 patients are expected to benefit. Spain's Health Minister, Elena Salgado, said she accepted that cannabis 'has some therapeutic value'. She approved 'the controlled use of tablets in specific cases and under medical supervision', but insisted on the need to fight drug addiction. Spanish health policy is devolved to the regions, but must receive Madrid's blessing."
According to the Independent, "The pilot project, which begins next month - initially for a year - stems from a proposal by Barcelona's College of Pharmacists, following a similar experiment in the Netherlands in 2003, although that has just 8,000 patients. The plan was agreed by Catalonia's left-wing regional government, a coalition of socialists, Greens and independent republicans. The initiative, due to be approved by the Spanish Health Ministry after more than a year of strenuous lobbying, is expected to prompt Spain's other autonomous regions to adopt similar measures."
A committee in the South Dakota House of Representatives turned down a piece of legislation to allow medical marijuana, Associated Press reported on Jan. 28, 2005 ( "Medical Marijuana Bill Fails"). According to AP, "The House Health Committee voted 11-1 against a bill that would have allowed people with certain debilitating illnesses to use pot. HB1109 would have given doctors permission to prescribe up to 5 ounces of marijuana for those who suffer from such diseases as cancer, glaucoma and AIDs, and for people with chronic pain, nausea or seizures. Rep. Gerald Lange, D-Madison, said the bill provides a necessary alternative for patients who do not get relief from traditional medications. 'There are certain debilitating medical conditions that are rather untreatable by contemporary medical practices,' said Lange, prime sponsor of the bill. The measure would have required doctors to certify in writing that patients suffer from qualifying diseases and explain the risks and benefits of marijuana use to them. In addition, both doctors and patients would have had to register with the Health Department."
The bill was opposed by the state's attorney general's office. AP reported that "Charlie McGuigan, an assistant state attorney general, urged legislators to reject the bill. He said marijuana use would still be a federal crime if the bill became state law. Marijuana causes many adverse health effects, McGuigan said, adding that the active ingredient in marijuana is currently available in prescription form. The state lawyer also said such a law would encourage illegal drug traffic because people would need to buy it somewhere. 'Where is this marijuana going to come from?' he asked."
The DEA rejected the application by UMass-Amherst researcher Lyle Craker for permission to grow marijuana for research purposes, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) announced in early December. As reported by the Boston Globe on Dec. 14, 2004 ( "DEA Rejects Professor's Bid To Grow Marijuana"), "A University of Massachusetts at Amherst professor hoping to grow marijuana for research purposes got a preliminary denial from the US Drug Enforcement Administration last week. Lyle Craker, a horticulturist who specializes in medicinal plants, had won support from both Senators Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry in his quest to grow marijuana legally. Only one American lab, at the University of Mississippi, currently has the legal right to grow marijuana for research, and Craker argued that the Mississippi marijuana is not strong enough and not readily available to researchers."
According to the Globe, "He first applied to the DEA for permission to grow marijuana more than three years ago. Kennedy and Kerry wrote a letter to the DEA last year saying that the Mississippi lab had an 'unjustified monopoly.' Craker and a group that wants to fund his work, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, sued the government last summer. One of their arguments was that the DEA's failure to act on the application was an 'unreasonable delay.' The US Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., asked the government to explain its delay, and instead DEA issued a decision last week. In the decision, DEA said that the University of Mississippi provides researchers 'marijuana of sufficient quantity and quality to meet all their legitimate and authorized research needs in a timely manner.' It also argues that an international treaty says the government can allow only one source for research marijuana. Craker and MAPS can still appeal to a federal administrative judge who makes recommendations to the DEA, but the judge's opinion is not binding, said MAPS president Rick Doblin. If unsuccessful, they plan to continue their fight in the courts."
For more about the case, check out the Medical Marijuana Research background page on the MAPS website.
Obstruction of medical marijuana research is also the subject of a CSDP public service ad, which asks the question "The feds say they want scientific proof that marijuana is medicine, but do they?"
The Supreme Court will hear the case of Ashcroft v. Raich on November 29, 2004. As reported by the San Jose Mercury News on Nov. 23, 2004 ( "Oakland Woman Battles For Medical Pot"), "In the dimly lit living room of her home in the Oakland hills, Angel Raich lights up a pipe stuffed with marijuana. For this frail mother of two teenagers, the ritual isn't some secret drug habit -- it is a recommendation by a doctor to help with a variety of painful ailments, including a brain tumor. Although Raich smokes nine pounds of marijuana each year, California law enforcement officials consider her a law-abiding citizen. California voters eight years ago legalized medicinal marijuana for patients like Raich. But to the federal government, Raich is a criminal. Now, she and Diane Monson, a Butte County woman who also smokes marijuana at the recommendation of her doctor, are the latest legal warriors in the seemingly irreconcilable conflict between the federal government and states such as California that endorse the use of cannabis for the sick and dying. For the second time in three years, that collision has reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which on Monday will hear arguments in their challenge to the Bush administration's efforts to crack down on medicinal marijuana. The stakes are high for medical marijuana advocates: Another loss in the Supreme Court probably would slam the door for patients and those who grow pot for them, barring a shift in Congress' attitude about legalizing marijuana."
According to the Mercury News, "Raich and Monson sued to prevent the government from being able to raid or arrest them. But when the justices consider Raich and Monson's arguments, they will not be deciding the merits of medicinal marijuana laws. Instead, the case turns on old-fashioned principles of states' rights and the scope of federal powers to regulate commerce, the legal link to the enforcement of many federal laws. The court in recent years has been fiercely divided on the issue of states' rights vs. federal power, often splitting 5-4 in cases that hinge on the question. Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who is being treated for thyroid cancer, has been a deciding vote in favor of states' rights, but his participation in the upcoming arguments is in doubt. A federal appeals court sided with Raich and Monson last year, concluding that Congress does not have the authority to regulate medical marijuana possession as long as the activity doesn't cross state lines. Even if medical pot advocates win in the Supreme Court, a ruling would only allow authorized patients to possess marijuana for personal use or caregivers to grow and provide the weed as long as no money changes hands. Federal drug laws would continue to prevent broader methods of providing medical marijuana to patients."
The Mercury News noted that "The Raich case is the first test of the Bush administration's more aggressive approach toward patients and pot providers in California and elsewhere. During the Clinton administration, federal law enforcement officials used civil lawsuits to target distributors but largely left individual patients alone. Under outgoing Attorney General John Ashcroft, federal agents have raided and arrested medical marijuana patients and their pot providers, including a raid on a Santa Cruz cooperative in 2002."
Voters in three US states will decide ballot measures dealing with marijuana policy in the 2004 general election. The electoral battles pit patients, their families and supporters, activists and other concerned citizens, against the White House and ONDCP Director John Walters. As Associated Press reporter David Crary noted in a story carried by the Kansas City Star on Oct. 10, 2004 ( "3 Western States To Vote On Pot Proposals"), "The Bush administration's war on drugs stretches deep into Asia and Latin America, yet one of its most crucial campaigns - in the eyes of drug czar John Walters - is being waged this fall among voters in Oregon, Alaska and Montana. In each state, activists seeking to ease drug laws have placed a marijuana-related proposal on the Nov. 2 ballot as part of a long-running quest for alternatives to federal drug policies they consider harsh and ineffective. If all three measures are approved, Montana would become the 10th state to legalize pot for medical purposes, Oregon would dramatically expand its existing medical-marijuana program, and Alaska would become the first state to decriminalize marijuana altogether. Walters has been campaigning in person against the measures, taking a particularly aggressive role in opposing Oregon's Measure 33. It would create state-regulated dispensaries to supply marijuana, let authorized growers sell pot to patients for a profit, and allow patients to possess a pound of it at a time instead of the current 3-ounce limit."
Oregon voters will decide Measure 33 in the election concluding Nov. 2, 2004. The measure amends the existing Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, which was voted into effect in November 1998. As Oregon attorney Brian Michaels wrote in the Eugene Register-Guard on Oct. 12, 2004 ( "Measure 33 Would Improve Marijuana Law"), "Measure 33 is an initiative to correct deficiencies in the day-to-day operation of the Medical Marijuana Act passed by voters in 1998. It does not legalize marijuana, nor does it invite black market drug cartels to Oregon. From the patients' perspective, the objective of Measure 33 is to make access to the medicine through their physicians as free from judicial impediments as possible. From the physicians' perspective, the objective is to lift the pall of political controversy hanging over those who provide this medicine to patients."
In Montana, voters will decide whether to approve a medical marijuana program. The measure, I-148, is sponsored by the Medical Marijuana Project of Montana.
As reported by the Billings Outpost on Oct. 21, 2004 ( "Medical Marijuana Act"), "If the measure passes, patients could use a limited amount of marijuana to relieve symptoms suffering from illness such as cancer, glaucoma and HIV/AIDS or treatments that produce chronic pain, nausea, seizures, or muscle spasms and atrophy. A patient or caregiver could also register to grow up to six marijuana plants and possess no more than one ounce if they provide a physician's certification that the patient has a debilitating condition and could benefit from marijuana's use."
The measure has a good deal of support in the state. According to a
story in the Hartford Courant on Oct. 20, 2004 (
"White House Battling Medical Marijuana"),
"As Teresa Michalski's weakened son Travis, 29, battled a
rare form of blood cancer last year, he turned to smoking marijuana.
'Marijuana ... helped quell my son's agony and made it
possible for him to eat,' Teresa Michalski said. 'Because of
marijuana, he was able to live his last days and die in relative
comfort.' In recent weeks, Michalski has emerged as a
frequent spokeswoman in favor of a proposal on the Nov. 2 ballot
in Montana that would make the Big Sky state the 10th in the nation
to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Two polls
show Montana residents appear poised to defy the Bush administration
and approve the ballot initiative."
The Courant continued:
According to the Courant, "In Montana, both sides have been pressing their case in recent weeks. Scott Burns, deputy director of the drug policy office, campaigned across the state against Initiative 148. At one stop, according to local press reports, he said, 'If we make it acceptable in society to smoke dope, our children are more inclined to do that.' Tom Riley, communications director for the drug policy office, said the administration had a mandate from Congress to uphold federal laws against marijuana. Riley added that the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of marijuana to relieve pain or for other medical treatments. 'We have an obligation to uphold sound science,' he said. Mirken, the marijuana policy project spokesman, responded that there is 'no doubt' that marijuana can relieve pain for some patients. 'Current policy is just crazy,' Mirken said. Michalski said families 'shouldn't have to deal with the fear of criminal prosecution' during difficult times, as she and her family did when her son was dying."
Alaskan voters will decide
Measure 2 in the Nov. 2, 2004 general election.
According to the Yes on 2 Committee:
Patients, caregivers, activists and others will rally in
Washington, DC on Oct. 5, 2004 demanding that marijuana be
rescheduled and made available as medicine to those in need.
Safe Access is sponsoring a demonstration at the US Dept.
of Health and Human Services headquarters building beginning
at 10am on the 5th. According to
this ASA news release on the Oct. 5 demonstration:
WHAT IS IT? This rally of medical marijuana patients and medical associations will affirm that marijuana DOES have accepted medical use, and to recommend its immediate rescheduling! Its time that HHS accepts that Our Health is in Their Hands, and does their job.
WHY HHS? To ensure safe access for ALL patients, marijuana must be rescheduled, and its medicinal value recognized on the federal level. This will allow the country to have the conversation that is needed about cannabis therapies. We should be figuring out how to get this medicine to patients, not still debating on whether or not marijuana is medicine. Health and Human Services (HHS) has the power to make this change. If HSS allows that marijuana has medical value, the DEA must recommend rescheduling. However, in 2001, HHS ruled that marijuana had, No currently accepted medical use in treatment. They did not address the mountain of data recognizing cannabis as a useful treatment, by itself or as an adjunct to other therapies. This allowed the DEA to reject rescheduling and gave them implicit permission to raid patients. Six months later, the DEA started raiding and closing California dispensaries.
WHY OCTOBER?A. This is an opportunity to educate the American public on Bush's record before the election. The Bush/Ashcroft attack on patients was so unpopular that they have retreated in this election year. We will be there to remind those voters with short memories about Bushs war on patients.
B. The next Administration & Congress need to know there is a way to end the war on patients outside of the legislature. There is a petition for rescheduling cannabis in front of Health and Human Services right now. Marijuana can and should be rescheduled by health officials, not politicians, and this is how it can happen.
C. The Supreme Court will hear the Raich/Monson case after October. Whether it wins or loses, we need to look ahead to the future of protecting ALL patients.
WHO ARE WE? Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national grassroots coalition working to protect the rights of patients and doctors to legally use marijuana for medical purposes. Our mission is to ensure safe, legal access to marijuana for all who are helped by it. We provide legal training for lawyers and patients, medical information for doctors and patients, media support for court cases, activist training to grassroots organizers, and rapid response to law enforcement encounters. We work with local, state and national legislators to raise awareness of issues concerning medical marijuana patients. For more information, call 510-486-8083 or visit www.safeaccessnow.org
The Montel Williams Show, a nationally syndicated talk show, aired a one-hour discussion about medical marijuana on Sept. 21, 2004. For those who missed it, a RealVideo version of the show and a QuickTime movie of the show are now online. Also, check out this transcript of Montel Williams on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees.
A pair of New Jersey state legislators are preparing to introduce a bill to medicalize marijuana. The Press of Atlantic City reported on Sept. 7, 2004 ( "Unlikely Pair Of State Assemblymen Seeks To Legalize Medical Marijuana") that "It's an unlikely meeting between left and right: A self-described ultra-conservative lawmaker has joined with one of the Assembly's most liberal members to draft a bill to support the medical use of marijuana in New Jersey."
The Press noted that "If the bill, to be introduced this month, makes it through both legislative chambers and passes the governor's desk, New Jersey would join nine other states that have legalized medicinal marijuana. A spokesman for the Governor's Office, however, said that Gov. James E. McGreevey opposes the legalization of marijuana for medical use. A spokeswoman for state Senate President Richard J. Codey, who will become acting governor after McGreevey's Nov. 15 resignation, said he could not comment before reading the bill."
According to The Press, "Jim Miller, a Dover Township, Ocean County, resident, is a longtime activist for medicinal marijuana. On June 7, 2003, his wife, Cheryl, died after battling multiple sclerosis for more than 30 years. Cheryl Miller, also an activist for medicinal marijuana, was arrested in 1998 for ingesting marijuana inside the office of a U.S. congressman, with television cameras recording the scene. The U.S. Attorney's Office later declined to prosecute the Millers for possession of marijuana. Five years after the demonstration in the congressman's office, and after Cheryl's death, Jim Miller is finally hopeful that a workable medical marijuana bill will be presented to the Assembly. He sees the joining of the two lawmakers - from far right and far left - as the best chance New Jersey residents have of seeing medical marijuana legalized in the state. 'I'm about as optimistic as I can get,' Miller said. 'That Reed ( Gusciora ) brought on Michael Patrick Carroll astounded me.' Miller said that, even though his wife has died, this bill is important to him. 'I asked Cheryl if she wanted to move to California in 1997,' he said. California is one of the nine states that legalized medicinal marijuana. 'And she asked me, 'If we went there, who would be here fighting?'' Miller's voice cracked a bit, but he went on: 'I don't need to hear the people here in New Jersey cry out in pain. I don't need to see them to know that they're sick.'"
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered that Bryan Epis shall be released on bail. The Sacramento Bee reported on August 7, 2004 ( "Federal Court Orders Bail For Chico Man In Cannabis Club Case") that "The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals told U.S. District Judge Frank C. Damrell Jr. to set bail terms for the co-founder of Chico Medical Marijuana Caregivers and to handle the proceedings on an expedited basis. Through his lawyer, Brenda Grantland, Epis said he was ecstatic. He thanked "literally thousands" of supporters."
According to the Bee, "Epis has been serving a 10-year term at the federal prison at Terminal Island outside Los Angeles since his 2002 conviction on federal marijuana conspiracy charges. Damrell instructed jurors to disregard evidence of medical use sanctioned by California's medical marijuana initiative, Proposition 215. While Epis' appeal of his conviction to the 9th Circuit was pending, that court ruled in a separate case from Oakland that federal authorities have no power to go after noncommericial medical marijuana operations confined within the state. Epis' appeal raises the same issue."
The Bee noted that "The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled a review of the Oakland decision during its next term. If it agrees with the 9th Circuit, Epis said Friday that he will be permitted "at a minimum" to present a full medical defense to a new jury."
Voters in Detroit's August primary election approved a measure to allow medical marijuana. The Associated Press reported on Aug. 3, 2004 ( "Detroit Voters Approve Allowing Medical Marijuana") that "With 98 percent of precincts reporting, 59 percent, or 38,604 votes, were in favor of Proposal M, while 41 percent, or 26,497 votes, were against. The vote changes the city code, creating an exception to the marijuana ban for people who use the drug for medical purposes under a doctor's direction. But the change has no effect on federal and state laws that allow prosecution of those possessing or using marijuana."
According to the AP, "Timothy Beck, founder of the Detroit Coalition for Compassionate Care, which collected the necessary signatures to put the measure on the ballot, said his group will work to change state laws following the Detroit vote and a similar one scheduled for November in Ann Arbor. Beck said the group will work with lawmakers to put the issue before the state Legislature or push for a statewide ballot initiative in 2006."
Voters in Montana will have the opportunity to approve a medical marijuana law in the November 2004 general election. The Billings Gazette reported on Aug. 2, 2004 ( "Voters Get Final Say On Medical Marijuana") that "Come November, Montana voters will have a chance to change this state's marijuana laws. Activists from the Marijuana Policy Project of Montana raised more than enough signatures - some 25,000 - to get their medical marijuana initiative placed on the general election ballot. Voters will be asked to cast their ballot for or against Initiative 148, a proposed law that would protect medical marijuana patients, their doctors and their caregivers from arrest and prosecution."
For more information about the Montana initiative, check out www.MontanaCares.org.
In the wake of the Raich decision, the 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals has remanded the Bryan Epis case to District Court. The San Francisco Chronicle reported on July 13, 2004 ( "Chico Man's Pot Case On Hold") that "The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ordered a federal judge in Sacramento to reconsider Bryan Epis' case after the Supreme Court decides whether the federal ban on marijuana applies to pot that is grown in the state and supplied without charge to patients under California law. The Supreme Court ruling, which involves two other patients from Northern California, is due by June."
According to the Chronicle, "Epis, 37, could get a new trial if the high court decides that Congress' power to regulate interstate commerce does not apply to drugs grown and distributed noncommercially within a state in compliance with state law. His lawyer, Brenda Grantland, said Monday that she would renew her request to free him on bail during his appeal and noted that Epis has other challenges to his conviction that the appeals court has not yet addressed."
The Chronicle reported that "Epis of Chico was convicted by a jury in 2002 of conspiring to grow more than 1,000 marijuana plants."
Yet, as the Chronicle noted, "Epis has a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana for chronic back and neck pain, and said the 458 plants that officers seized from his basement in 1997 were for him and four other patients, who shared the expenses. Federal prosecutors maintained that he ran a commercial operation."
Several medical marijuana initiatives around the US were circulating in 2004, and some have reached the ballot.
According to the Democrat-Gazette, "The alliance turned in about 67,000 signatures on July 2 to get the proposed law on the Nov. 2 ballot. With at least 64,456 signatures of registered voters needed to qualify, national organizers said it seemed unlikely that enough valid signatures would be identified in the batch already submitted. So Campbell said the alliance will use the time remaining -- at least a month -- to try to come up with 20,000 or 30,000 more signatures to replace any that may be deemed invalid. She said she remains convinced that, if given the chance, voters would approve the initiative that would legalize marijuana use for people with 'debilitating medical conditions.'"
The Democrat-Gazette noted that "Arkansas supporters who've worked on similar campaigns for years said they don't understand how a paid contractor apparently failed to come up with enough signatures after being paid $186,000 to canvass the state. With money supplied by Peter B. Lewis of Cleveland, an Ohio insurance tycoon, the alliance paid The Southwest Group of Las Vegas to gather the signatures. 'I feel ripped off,' said Reed Martin of Conway, a cancer survivor who said marijuana use helped him slow weight loss during chemotherapy. 'I'd like to know what they did with all that money.' A spokesman for Southwest Group referred questions about the Arkansas contract to the Marijuana Policy Project, the Washington-based lobby group helping to steer the Arkansas effort. Bruce Mirken, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said Southwest Group should answer specific questions about the canvassing effort."
For more information about or to learn how to support the Arkansas medicalization effort, check out the Arkansas Alliance For Medical Marijuana / Alliance for Reform of Drug Policy in Arkansas website.
According to a story by Reuters News Service on July 3, 2004 ( "Oregon To Vote On Easing Medical Marijuana Use"), "Oregon voters will decide this fall whether to make medical marijuana more readily available after an initiative to expand an existing law gained enough signatures on Friday to be placed on the ballot. The ballot measure would let patients possess up to 1 pound of marijuana, up from 3 ounces under a law passed in 1999. It also would create a system of dispensaries that could legally sell pot to patients. 'This initiative will create a regulated supply of medical marijuana so that patients and their caregivers can safely and reliably get their medicine,' said John Sajo, director of Voter Power and a chief petitioner."
Reuters noted that "About 9,000 Oregonians have medical cards allowing them to grow and use marijuana for medical purposes. Currently, a patient has to grow his own marijuana or have a caregiver grow it. 'Most of these ill people cannot grow their own under the current restrictions,' which regulates the number of plants and sets other conditions. The initiative would clarify the caregivers' role by letting them grow pot for as many as 10 medical users."
(Editor's Note 1: The campaign is confident and hopeful of ballot placement, though as of the date of this writing (July 14), the Oregon Secretary of State has not yet certified the measure. The state has until the beginning of August to complete the signature validation process. Check the Voter Power website for more information.)
An initiative in Oregon to reform and improve the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, originally passed by voters in 1998, is close to achieving ballot status for the November 2004 election. The Associated Press reported on June 28, 2004 ( "Battle Over Pot About To Get Hot") that "Ailing people who legally use medical marijuana could possess more of it under a measure that activists are promoting for Oregon's fall ballot. The proposed ballot measure contains other changes in the Oregon law as well â€” all intended to make it easier for sick people who qualify for the drug to get it. Sponsors hope to turn in enough petition signatures to place it on the Nov. 2 statewide ballot."
According to the AP:
For more information on the Oregon initiative as well as the current Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, check out Voter Power's website.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering once again taking up the appeal of Bryan Epis (for more info on the Epis case click here). The Sacramento Bee reported on June 17, 2004 ( "US Appeals Court Questions Pot Grower's 2002 Conviction") that "A federal appeals court raised serious questions Wednesday about the pot-growing conviction of Bryan James Epis, co-founder of the Chico Medical Marijuana Caregivers, but the judges did not indicate whether they'll order a new trial."
According to the Bee, "recent federal court decisions have barred federal prosecutors from going after medical marijuana operations that don't involve interstate commerce. The Supreme Court is expected to announce this month whether it will review one of those cases. The possible implications for Epis were explored at Wednesday's hearing by a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. There's no deadline for a decision. 'What's your good-faith factual basis for saying ( Epis ) was cultivating marijuana primarily for commercial purposes?' Judge Michael Daly Hawkins of Phoenix asked the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel Wong. Wong answered that Epis' operation, unlike those that have been given the courts' protection, was 'a profit-making enterprise.' But he admitted under questioning from Hawkins that the jury wasn't asked to decide whether Epis ran a commercial operation."
The government contended that the operation could have grown large numbers of plants in the future, an assertion which one of the judges questioned. According to the Bee, "Wong contended the jury's finding that Epis conspired to grow more than 1,000 plants indicated 'there had to be a commercial aspect.' But Donald Lay, a visiting circuit judge from Minnesota, noted that 'only 458 plants' were seized when Epis' premises were raided. Lay said the government's contention that more would be grown in the future seemed 'kind of tenuous.' Brenda Grantland, Epis' lawyer, called the Chico operation 'a closed system, limited to medical marijuana patients.'"
Several national organizations, including
Americans for Safe Access,
Marijuana Policy Project,
Drug Policy Alliance are joining in a call for a
National Day of Action and Lobbying to End DEA Raids on Patients
June 4, 2004. As the Independent Media Center of the Bay Area
reported on May 11, 2004 (
"National Day of Action and Lobbying to End DEA Raids on
For more information, contact Americans for Safe Access at 510-486-8083.
The state of Vermont has enacted medical marijuana. The Times Argus reported on May 20, 2004 ( "State Will Legalize Medical Marijuana Use") that "A measure legalizing the use and possession of marijuana by those suffering from AIDS, cancer or multiple sclerosis jumped its final legislative hurdle Wednesday, paving the way for it to become law without the signature of Gov. James Douglas. Senators, voting 20-7 in favor of the heavily lobbied bill, made Vermont's Legislature only the second in the country - Hawaii's is the other - to legalize the use of medical marijuana. The bill was sent to the governor, who confirmed that he will not sign it, meaning it automatically becomes law in five days. Vermont will become the ninth state with such a law on the books."
The move was supported by many in Vermont, and opposed
by the White House. According to the Times Argus:
In Vermont, state legislators are trying to do an end-around
to get past an opponent of medicalization who has kept a bill
bottled up in his committee for a year. The Rutland Herald
reported on April 1, 2004 (
"House Moves Medical Marijuana Bill A Step Forward)
"A long awaited legislative showdown over medical marijuana now
appears imminent after supporters Wednesday found a way to get a key
House committee to take up the controversial issue.
An attempt at medicalization passed the Vermont House in 2002, however "The Senate killed the bill two years ago because then Gov. Howard Dean refused to sign it. House approval again would all but assure a medical marijuana bill would reach Douglas' desk. The governor on Wednesday did not threaten a veto, but reiterated his displeasure for such a law."
Medicalization in Vermont has picked up a prominent supporter:
Vermont's Roman Catholic Bishop Kenneth Angell.
According to a report in Seven Days Vermont on April 7, 2004 (
"The Marijuana Bishop?"),
"Gloria Gibson, communications director for diocese, sent us the
The Seven Days article also reported that the Senate committe hearing will be held April 14 and 15. Seven Days noted that "Then on Friday, the ice jam suddenly broke in the House Health and Welfare Committee. That's where S.76, the Senate-passed medical marijuana bill, has languished without discussion since last year. Committee Democrats, with the support of Republican Rep. Anne Donahue of Northfield, finally succeeded in getting Republican Chairman Tom Koch of Barre to hold a vote on discussing the pot bill. On a 6-5 vote, the committee approved two days of testimony on April 14 and 15."
The House Committee on Government Reform's Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources held a hearing on medical marijuana April 1, 2004. The hearing was chaired by a noted drug-war zealot, Congressman Mark Souder (R) of Indiana.
transcript of the hearing is available through MAPINC.
Though the topic of the hearing was medical marijuana,
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) of the District
of Columbia called for more than just medicalization. During her
remarks at the beginning of the hearing, Ms. Norton said
"When it comes to medical marijuana, we are about a serious matter
and one that, frankly, I think our government could have found the
answer, one way or the other to, long before now.
A segment of the hearing featuring proponents of medicalization can be found by clicking here. Also, a PDF file of MPP Executive Director Rob Kampia's prepared testimony is available through the Marijuana Policy Project.
A bill in the Hawaiian legislature to modify their medical
marijuana program appears to be dead this session.
The Honolulu Star-Bulletin reported on March 22, 2004 (
"Medical Marijuana Bill Appears Stalled") that
"A Senate bill to transfer the state medical marijuana program
the Department of Safety to the Department of Health appears stymied
A federal judge in California has ruled that medical necessity can be used as a defense against marijuana charges. The San Jose Mercury News reported on March 23, 2004 ( "Medical Marijuana Use Could Be Used As Defense, Federal Judge Rules") that "A couple charged with growing marijuana may be allowed to present evidence to a jury that it was being used for medicinal purposes. Monday's ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Nora M. Manella to allow Anna Barrett and her husband, Gary, to make such a case comes in the wake of a December ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The December ruling concluded that a congressional act outlawing the drug may not apply to sick people with a doctor's recommendation in states with medical marijuana laws. Manella ordered Barrett, 32, and her 35-year-old husband to stand trial Aug. 31. They are to return to court July 19 to outline the grounds for their defense. 'I'm still overwhelmed,' Anna Barrett, said after the hearing. 'I'm really grateful to Judge Manella that she's even allowing us to show our case.'"
According to the Mercury News, "Defense lawyers wanted the charges dismissed based on the appellate court's ruling. But Manella said the government had enough evidence that the couple may have been growing their marijuana for a 'commercial operation,' allowing the case to go to trial. The judge also warned Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Loeser that if the government can't show at trial that the couple were indeed growing the marijuana for that purpose, prosecutors will likely have a weak case. 'If a jury believes they were growing marijuana solely for themselves and not for distribution, why would they not be entitled to an acquittal?' she asked. Steph Sherer, head of the nonprofit medical marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access, who uses medical marijuana, said she was buoyed by the decision. 'Before now people like me would have to either go to trial and basically offer no defense, because we couldn't mention medical marijuana, or plead and depend on the judge's discretion in sentencing,' Sherer said. The Barretts, who both have physician approval to use the drug, pleaded guilty in 2000 to growing marijuana. Under a plea agreement, they were allowed to grow 34 adult-flowering plants and keep up to 7.1 pounds of pot."
The Canadian health agency Health Canada plans to begin a pilot project to distribute medical marijuana through pharmacies. The London Free Press reported on March 22, 2004 ( "Drugstores Will Carry Marijuana") that "Health Canada plans to make government-certified marijuana available in pharmacies, a move that could rapidly boost the number of registered medical users. Officials are organizing a pilot project in British Columbia, modelled on a year-old program in the Netherlands, that would allow medical users to buy marijuana at their local drugstore. Currently, there are 78 medical users in Canada permitted to buy Health Canada marijuana, which is grown in Flin Flon, Man. The 30-gram bags of dried buds, sold for $150 each, now are sent by courier directly to patients or to their doctors. But the department is changing the regulations to allow participating pharmacies to stock marijuana for sale to approved patients without a doctor's prescription, similar to regulations governing so-called morning-after pills, emergency contraceptives that can be obtained directly from a pharmacist without the need for a doctor's signature. A notice of the change is expected to be made public this spring, allowing for drugstore distribution later in the year."
The Free Press noted that "The pilot project is slated for British Columbia because the province's college of pharmacists issued a groundbreaking statement last fall supporting the distribution of medical marijuana in pharmacies, unlike most health-care organizations which have opposed easier access. Although the number of current approved users is small, O'Brien [Robin O'Brien, a consulting pharmacist who is organizing the pilot project for Health Canada] notes internal surveys for Health Canada have suggested up to seven per cent of the British Columbia population -- or about 290,000 people -- use marijuana for medical purposes, albeit illegally. Easier availability of certified marijuana might encourage more medical users to register with the government, rapidly boosting the number taking advantage of legal dope, says O'Brien."
Legal medical marijuana is coming closer to reality in New York state as a bill moves through the legislature there. The Albany Times Union reported on Feb. 25, 2004 ( "Medical Marijuana Measure Advances") that "A bill legalizing the medical use of marijuana is gaining momentum in the state Assembly, with bipartisan sponsorship and a successful vote Tuesday in the Assembly Health Committee. The bill, which would allow primarily terminally ill patients to be prescribed marijuana for nausea, pain and other symptoms, has 41 Assembly sponsors, including seven Republicans."
The legislation is attracting broad support. The Middletown, NY Times Herald-Record reported on Feb. 25, 2004 ( "Medical Marijuana Bill Gains Kirwan's Support") that "A leading law-and-order Assembly Republican says it's high time New York made marijuana available for medicinal use. Assemblyman Tom Kirwan, a former State Police lieutenant who is considered one of the most conservative members of his house, joined a growing number of Republicans yesterday in co-sponsoring a Democratic bill to legalize medicinal marijuana. The bill, first introduced in 1997, would allow doctors to prescribe pot for patients suffering life-threatening, degenerative or disabling diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and AIDS. 'If that's going to ease their pain, how can you be against it?' said Kirwan, R-C-Newburgh. A litany of well-regarded medical associations and publications say marijuana in its natural form is more effective in treating a variety of symptoms than the synthetic pill version prescribed since 1986."
"National Medical Marijuana Awareness Week, from February
15th-23rd, is our chance to tip the balance in the battle for
The Canadian federal government will not proceed with the prosecution of two men arrested in connection with the Toronto Compassion Centre, the Toronto Globe & Mail reported on Jan. 28, 2004 ( "Ottawa Won't Prosecute Medical Marijuana Activists"). According to the Globe & Mail, "Citizen groups that provide medicinal marijuana to the chronically-ill are rejoicing today amid news that Ottawa will not proceed with trafficking charges laid against two men operating a well-known Toronto care centre. The Globe and Mail has learned that the federal government will refrain from pursuing a prosecution against two men who operated a Toronto organization whose workers were devoted to dispensing cannabis to patients suffering from persistent illnesses like AIDS and other ailments. The men's preliminary hearing was to have started today."
(For more background on the case, see for example "Compassion Centre's Future Unclear," Toronto Star, Aug. 16, 2002.)
The Globe & Mail noted that "Mr. [Warren] Hitzig, 27, and a colleague, Zach Naftolin, were charged in 2002 after the Toronto Compassion Centre they helped to operate was robbed and investigating police later found large quantities of marijuana on the premises. Mr. Hitzig said he was informed last week that the charges would not go ahead. However, sources were unclear whether they would be withdrawn or stayed. A stayed charged means police have the right to proceed for up to a year. He said many other such clubs across had been concerned they would be the next ones to face charges, and are encouraged now that they will be able to operate without that fear. 'I think that's the message, but they were also really scared. They don't want to go through the same thing that I did,' he said. He said that recently-established regulations that allow chronically-ill Canadians to access the drug are very onerous, necessitating the need for his organization and others like it. Mr. Hitzig and Mr. Naftolin no longer run the club, which has since begun operating in another location. 'The government has to do something. It's popping up all over the world,' he said. 'Health Canada get your act together.' The operator of a Vancouver centre said the decision may encourage others to provide the service. 'I think it's another note of recognition of the service we are providing,' said Hilary Black, co-director of the B.C. Compassion Club Society. Ms. Black, whose club currently provides marijuana to 2,800 individuals, said her organization regularly receives inquiries from individuals wanting to set up clubs but who are concerned about whether it's safe to do so."
Two medical marijuana patients, facing prosecution by their California county, were turned over to federal authorities shortly after they showed up for their court appearance. The Oakland Tribune reported on Jan. 16, 2004 ( "Couple Busted For Pot Is Turned Over To Feds") that "An Oakland man who went to state court this week to mount a medical defense to marijuana charges was instead handed over to federal authorities, who have filed charges that could put him and a co-defendant behind bars for the rest of their lives. David Davidson, 52, an Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative member, and Cynthia Blake, 53, of Red Bluff, are to be arraigned today by U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory G. Hollows of Sacramento. They're charged with manufacturing more than 100 marijuana plants and conspiracy to cultivate more than 1,000 marijuana plants. The former is punishable by five to 40 years in federal prison; the latter by a mandatory minimum of 10 years and a maximum of life."
The Tribune reported that "Davidson and Blake both have doctor's recommendations to use marijuana as medicine, as required by state law, and Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative medical director Dr. Michael Alcalay went to Tehama County Superior Court in Corning on Tuesday to testify on Davidson's behalf. But Tehama County assistant District Attorney Lynn Strom unexpectedly announced the state would drop its charges against the pair, and she and the pair's lawyers went into a judge's chambers to discuss why. When they did, Tehama County Sheriff's deputies -- acting on federal authority under a local-federal drug task force's auspices -- arrested the pair on the federal charges, issued last week by a grand jury in Sacramento."
The city of Detroit will vote on the question of legalizing marijuana for medical use in 2004. The Detroit Free Press reported on November 21, 2003 ( "Medicinal Pot Headed To '04 Detroit Ballot"), "Detroiters will have a chance to vote on the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes next August. If the issue passes, authorities said users in Detroit would be exempt from marijuana-possession laws if they have a medical need for the drug. Earlier this month, Detroit City Clerk Jackie Currie validated 7,779 of the signatures submitted by the Detroit Coalition for Compassionate Care, a group of metro Detroiters that has been fighting to get marijuana on the ballot for several years. The law requires 6,141 valid signatures. In 2001, the group gathered more than enough valid signatures, but the City of Detroit's law department challenged the petition, citing technicalities, and kept the measure off the ballot. 'The law department has raised no objections this time,' said coalition founder and chairman Tim Beck of Detroit. 'So the Detroit Medical Marijuana Initiative question will finally appear on the primary ballot next August.'"
As the Free Press noted, "National advocates said medicinal marijuana use will be a good thing for Detroit. 'It keeps police from wasting time and valuable resources,' said Kevin Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy, based in Washington, DC. Zeese estimated that it can take police up to four hours to arrest, book and release people during a routine marijuana arrest. 'And for the patient, it would make them feel secure that they won't be harassed by law enforcement,' Zeese said. The medicinal value of marijuana has been recognized by numerous national organizations and medical institutions. Medical use of the drug has been approved in California, Nevada, Oregon, Maine, Washington, Colorado, Alaska, Arizona and Hawaii. And last fall, the Canadian Parliament legalized medical use of marijuana."
For more information on the Detroit initiative, visit the website for Medical Marijuana Detroit, sponsors of the Detroit Medical Marijuana Initiative.
A medical marijuana patient in Colorado seeking the return of his medicine is meeting resistance from the Drug Enforcement Administration. As the Rocky Mountain News reported on Jan. 1, 2004 ( "Pot Smoker Wants Agents To Be Cited"), "A Hayden man whose medical marijuana was seized in a raid by local and federal drug agents asked a judge Wednesday to find the officers in contempt for refusing to return the plants. Earlier in December, a Routt County judge ordered the drug task force to return 2 ounces of the marijuana by Monday. The man's attorney filed for a contempt citation Wednesday. Don Nord, 57, is disabled by a work injury and ill with cancer, diabetes and other maladies. He is registered with the state medical marijuana program, entitling him to keep marijuana, under state law. Federal law makes no such allowance for marijuana, and the Drug Enforcement Administration remains adamant that it will not return Nord's pot. 'Under federal law, marijuana is contraband, and by policy, we destroy contraband,' said U.S. attorney's spokesman Dick Weatherbee. DEA spokesman Bill Grant said the agency isn't bound by the order of Routt County Judge James Garrecht."
Criminal charges against Nord were dropped. The News noted that "Kris Hammond, Nord's attorney, said denying a sick man medication OK'd by a doctor is 'ridiculous. This has got to be stopped. Sick, old people are being denied their medication, and he's a totally harmless guy.' Nord, who also has lung disease and needs supplemental oxygen, lives on $642 a month in a small apartment and relies on friends to help him cover the cost of prescription drugs - some of which he wouldn't have to take if he could resume marijuana use. A former maintenance worker, Nord was injured in a fall on the job and was disabled in 1985. 'The only thing that relaxes me so I can sleep is marijuana, and it's better for pain, too,' he said. 'The reason I started this whole thing about returning it is so it doesn't happen to anybody else.' Police raided Nord's apartment Oct. 14, seizing three marijuana plants, growing equipment and pipes. Nord was ticketed for misdemeanor drug possession, but the charges were dropped. The government said it lost its copy of the ticket. Hammond then persuaded the judge to order the DEA to return Nord's growing equipment, pipes and 2 ounces of marijuana."
You can search the MAPINC archive for more stories about this case by clicking here.
Medical marijuana patients were handed a victory in mid-Dec. 2003. As the Oakland Tribune reported on Dec. 17, 2003 ( "Feds Ordered To Halt Pot Raids"), "U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Drug Enforcement Administration chief Asa Hutchinson should be temporarily barred from treating medical marijuana patients as criminals, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday. Lawyers for the plaintiffs -- a medical marijuana patient from Oakland, two unnamed Oakland growers who supply her and an Oroville patient who grows her own -- called the 2-1 ruling a major victory. 'We feel we've been vindicated after a long, hard effort,' said Oakland attorney Robert Raich, both a lawyer for and husband of Oakland plaintiff Angel McClary Raich. He said his wife 'was jubilant, absolutely elated' and will 'take a deep sigh of relief knowing she will finally be safe,' no longer fearing she'll be denied medicine she needs to stay alive.' Boston University Law Professor Randy Barnett, who argued the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, called this 'a tremendous victory on behalf of suffering people' and proof 'that federalism is not just a doctrine for political conservatives.' The ruling sends the case back to U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins of San Francisco, ordering him to issue a preliminary injunction blocking more raids until the case is tried. But the Justice Department, which doesn't comment on pending cases, could ask that Tuesday's ruling be reviewed by a larger 9th Circuit panel or by the U.S. Supreme Court."
The Boulder Daily Camera carried an Associated Press story on the decision in its Dec. 17, 2003 edition ( "Federal Appeals Court Approves Medical Marijuana In Some Cases"). According to it, "'The intrastate, noncommercial cultivation, possession and use of marijuana for personal medical purposes on the advice of a physician is, in fact, different in kind from drug trafficking,' Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the majority. The court added that 'this limited use is clearly distinct from the broader illicit drug market, as well as any broader commercial market for medical marijuana, insofar as the medical marijuana at issue in this case is not intended for, nor does it enter, the stream of commerce.'"
The Washington Times, in its story of Dec. 17, 2003 ( "Appeals Court OKs Medicinal Pot"), noted that "At this time, the appellate ruling is limited to two seriously-ill California women, who sought a court order that would let them obtain and smoke marijuana without facing federal prosecution, and two 'John Does,' who grow the pot consumed by one of the sick women, according to Charles Miller, a Justice Department spokesman. Mr. Miller declined to speculate on the potential effect of the ruling. Keith Stroup, executive director and founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws ( NORML ), said it is 'technically true' that the immediate effects of the ruling are limited to four persons. 'But the legal doctrine laid out by the 9th Circuit applies to all states in the 9th Circuit with medical marijuana laws ... so this decision is enormously significant,' Mr. Stroup added. States under the 9th Circuit include California, Alaska, Nevada, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Arizona. Robert Raich, a lawyer in the case, said the decision would be 'binding only in the 9th Circuit,' but he believes the ruling could be 'persuasive' in its influence throughout the country."
A copy of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the case, Raich v. Ashcroft, is available by clicking here.
Americans for Safe Access has initiated a campaign to urge voters to contact US House members regarding their support for medical marijuana and their willingness to oppose DEA raids on medical cannabis providers and patients. The Oakland Tribune reported on Nov. 21, 2003 ( "Local Medical Marijuana Campaign Targets Congress") that "Registered voters in the districts of Wally Herger, R-Marysville; Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley; Joe Baca, D-Rialto; and David Wu, D-Oregon, began receiving phone calls Thursday morning that told them the lawmakers had voted against a bipartisan amendment to cut off funding for federal raids on California's and Oregon's medical marijuana providers and patients. The amendment was defeated July 23 on a 273-152 vote."
The Tribune noted that "The recorded messages are from Angel McClary Raich -- an Oakland patient now suing the federal government to halt the raids that she says are depriving her and others of medicine they need to survive -- and Marney Craig of Novato -- a juror who says she was "duped" into convicting Oakland marijuana grower Ed Rosenthal this year by a federal justice system that didn't let all the facts be heard. Raich's message in part says, "I'm a medical marijuana patient, and your Congressman ... is threatening my life. My weight has dropped to 98 pounds, and my doctor says that marijuana is keeping me alive. But even though it's legal in California, Congressman ... is supporting the federal government's war on patients like me." And Craig's message, in part, says, "I was one of the jurors in a medical marijuana trial and we were hoodwinked by the federal prosecutors ... Your Congressman ... had a chance to end this federal deception but he voted to let it continue." The campaign is being mounted by Berkeley-based Americans for Safe Access; director Steph Sherer said it will cost under $100,000 raised from among the group's membership to reach more than 600,000 voters. "The issue is gaining momentum," she said Thursday. "This is about compassion for the sick and dying.""
To find out more, check out the ASA website. To find out how your Representative voted on the Hinchey-Rohrbacher amendment, click here. To send your Representative a message about this issue, click here.
A coalition of medical marijuana patients, doctors and supporters have today launched a statewide ad campaign aimed at California's two senators. Americans for Safe Access is asking Senators Boxer and Feinstein to add their names to new federal legislation that would allow a medical defense in some federal marijuana trials.
The fullpage ads appear beginning Oct. 16 in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF Weekly, LA Weekly, Sacramento News and Review, the San Diego Reader and the Santa Barbara Independent.
The ads ask California voters to contact their senators about co-sponsoring the Senate version of the Truth in Trials Act (HR 1717), a bi-partisan bill introduced in the House by California’s Dana Rohrabacher (R) and Sam Farr (D) as a result of the jury revolt in the Ed Rosenthal case. A majority of that jury repudiated their guilty verdict after learning that Mr. Rosenthal had been cultivating marijuana for patients with the blessing of local authorities.
(For more information about HR1717, check out this info sheet from Green-Aid.)
Thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision, doctors may now speak freely to their patients about using marijuana medicinally, but the drug remains illegal for any use under federal law. As a result, neither patients nor their providers may use medical evidence in their defense, should federal authorities charge them.
The Truth in Trials Act attempts to fix that. It would allow federal defendants in states that allow medical use to present evidence showing they were in compliance with state law.
For more information, check out Americans For Safe Access.
The US Supreme Court has allowed a ruling in the case of Walters v. Conant (03-40) to stand, affirming the right of doctors to discuss medical marijuana with their patients. The Associated Press reported on Oct. 14, 2003 ( "Supreme Court Rejects Anti-Marijuana Case") that "Justices turned down the Bush administration's request to consider whether the federal government can punish doctors for recommending or perhaps even talking about the benefits of the drug to sick patients. An appeals court said they cannot." As AP noted, "The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that physicians should be able to speak candidly with patients without fear of government sanctions, but they can be punished if they actually help patients obtain the drug."
According to AP, "Some California doctors and patients, in filings at the Supreme Court, compared doctor information on pot to physicians' advice on 'red wine to reduce the risk of heart disease, Vitamin C, acupuncture, or chicken soup.'" As AP reported, "Some people had expected the Supreme Court to step into the case, which comes from California, the battleground over the subject. Keith Vines, a prosecutor in San Francisco who used marijuana to overcome HIV-related illnesses, was among those who challenged a policy, put in place during the Clinton administration. That policy requires the revocation of federal prescription licenses of doctors who recommend marijuana. 'If the government is zipping them up, and we're not being told about options, that's negligence,' Vines said."
Research published in the respected medical journal The Annals of Internal Medicine, shows that marijuana use does not impair the immune systems of individuals with HIV, and may even lead to improvements. The Reuters news service reported on Aug. 18, 2003 ( "Marijuana Use Does Not Accelerate HIV Infection"), that "Dr. Donald I. Abrams, from the University of California at San Francisco, and colleagues assessed the outcomes of 67 HIV-infected patients who were randomly assigned to use marijuana cigarettes, cannabinoid capsules, or sugar pills ( placebo ) three times daily for 21 days. All of the patients had been receiving the same antiretroviral regimen, which included indinavir or nelfinavir, for at least 8 weeks before the study began. More than half of the subjects in each group had undetectable viral loads throughout the study, the researchers note. Although not statistically significant, marijuana and cannabinoid use were actually associated with a slight drop in viral load compared with placebo use. Marijuana and cannabinoid use did not produce a drop in CD4+ or CD8+ cell counts. In fact, compared with placebo use, treatment with these agents was actually associated with a slight increase in cell counts. The results suggest that short-term cannabinoid use is not unsafe for patients with HIV infection, the authors note. "Further studies investigating the therapeutic potential of marijuana and other cannabinoids in patients with HIV infection and other populations are ongoing and should provide additional safety information over longer exposure periods," they write."
A copy of the study, "Short Term Effects of Cannabinoids in Patients with HIV-1 Infection," is available online.
Ed Rosenthal, noted author and marijuana expert, was sentenced to much less than the mandatory minimum set by federal law on Wednesday, June 4, 2003. As reported by the Oakland Tribune on June 5, 2003 ( "Rosenthal Gets Slap On Wrist"), "Renowned marijuana activist and author Ed Rosenthal walked out of court a free man Wednesday after a federal judge sentenced him to just one day in prison -- time he already served -- for three marijuana-growing felonies. Medical marijuana advocates across the nation hailed the ruling as a major victory and the beginning of the end for the federal ban on the drug, even though the judge said the leniency shown Rosenthal won't be shown anyone who follows in his footsteps. And although elated by his reprieve, the self-styled 'Guru of Ganja' immediately cast himself as a Moses of marijuana, exhorting the federal pharaohs to let his people go so he can lead them into the promised land of legalization."
The judge made clear that, though he did accept the contention that Ed believed the City of Oakland's permission was sufficient to shield him, which justified the sentence reduction -- certainly it couldn't have been the enormous pressure of media and public scrutiny of this case, as even the NY Times editorialized in Ed's defense -- that future defendants would not be so lucky. According to the Tribune, "Breyer said Wednesday that he believed Rosenthal reasonably -- albeit erroneously -- thought the state and local laws immunized him from federal prosecution. Although not a permissible defense, the judge said, it is a mitigating factor that justifies an enormous reduction from the sentence Rosenthal otherwise would have faced. Yet no future defendant will be able to claim this good-faith belief in immunity, Breyer said -- the rulings and the extensive news coverage this case produced put everyone on notice that states and cities cannot shield medical marijuana providers and patients from the long arm of federal law. Two of the counts of which Rosenthal was convicted were punishable by five to 40 years in prison, the third by up to 20 years. A mandatory minimum of five years applied, but Breyer -- over Assistant U.S. Attorney George L. Bevan Jr.'s objection -- found Rosenthal eligible for a 'safety valve' exception to that minimum because he had a clean record, wasn't violent, didn't hurt anyone, didn't lead others in committing his crime and provided the government with truthful information. Breyer also overruled Bevan to grant additional leniency for Rosenthal's acceptance of responsibility for his acts."
In spite of strong pressure from the Bush White House, Maryland's Republican Governor Robert Ehrlich signed legislation to reduce the penalties for medical marijuana use. The Washington Post reported in a front-page story on May 23, 2003 ( "Ehrlich Signs Marijuana Bill") that "As he made some of the biggest policy decisions of his first year in office, Ehrlich crossed swords with politicians from liberals to Bush administration officials. On other issues, he won praise from the same groups, reinforcing his record as a lawmaker who is careful not to stray too far from the center. 'These are not easy issues, not easy bills,' Ehrlich said of the measures he has signed and vetoed over the past two days. Taken together, he said, his decisions reflect an administration committed to bipartisan governance and 'balanced with a unique dash of independence.' He was particularly firm in his support for the marijuana measure. It does not legalize the drug but provides that seriously ill people caught using marijuana for medical purposes cannot be jailed or be fined more than $100. The White House and some conservative supporters urged the governor to reject the bill, but Ehrlich cited his longtime support for the measure. 'If you look at my views over the years, there are clearly two wings of the party on social issues,' he said. 'One is more conservative, and one is more libertarian. I belong to the latter, and I always have.'"
The Washington Post further reported on the medical marijuana measure in a story in its Metro section, also on May 23, 2003 ( "Ehrlich Signs Marijuana Law"). According to it, "Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signed legislation yesterday to dramatically reduce criminal penalties for cancer patients and others who smoke marijuana to relieve suffering, but the new law will not allow seriously ill people to obtain the drug legally. The measure, which takes effect Oct. 1, merely makes (medical necessity) a defense against charges of marijuana possession. Instead of facing a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, those who can convince a judge that they use marijuana to relieve symptoms of a chronic or life-threatening illness will have to pay a fine of no more than $100. Though the Maryland law falls short of measures in California and seven other states where marijuana use is legal for medical purposes, advocates said it sends an important message of support to sick people and their caregivers -- as well as to police and prosecutors, who might otherwise brand them criminals. 'It helps a little bit,' said Erin Hildebrandt, 32, a mother of five from Smithsburg who has used marijuana to relieve pain from Crohn's disease. 'At least I know I'm not going to be hauled off to prison if I'm caught.'"
The governor faced a good deal of opposition from outside Maryland on this issue. The Post reported that "Ehrlich's decision to sign the bill puts him at odds with conservatives in his party and with the Bush White House, which lobbied hard and applied 'a lot of pressure,' Ehrlich said, to persuade him to veto the bill. Tom Riley, a spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, confirmed that White House drug czar John P. Walters and his deputy telephoned Ehrlich to express the administration's opposition. Walters, who has launched a national campaign against efforts to relax state drug laws, has said that arguments for medicinal marijuana make no more sense than 'an argument for medicinal crack.'"
(Regarding the 'crack' comment, in a column on this story ( "Reefer Sanity Vs. Puritans In The White House") on May 28, 2003, the Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page noted: "Funny he should say that. Marijuana is listed along with heroin and LSD as a 'Schedule I' drug, the category for drugs with 'no acceptable medical benefits' under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Cocaine is listed in Schedule II for drugs that have 'a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.' Categorizing marijuana as more dangerous than cocaine is one of many examples of how far our federal drug policy is removed from the real world.")
In another example of the disconnect between the real world and federal drug policy, the Post quotes a former federal narcotics official who lives in Maryland and opposed the move. "'This is a rotten and wrongheaded piece of work that will benefit the pro-marijuana lobby and the potheads of Maryland,' said Malcolm Lawrence of Chevy Chase, a former State Department official in charge of international narcotics control in the Nixon and Carter administrations. Lawrence said he voted for Ehrlich and contributed to his political campaign but now will 'vote for anyone but Robert Ehrlich' in 2006."
The Post also reports that other Maryland Republicans, including many lawmakers, support the Governor's position. "While some Republicans criticized Ehrlich, others stepped forward to praise his support for medical marijuana. The issue first came before the Maryland General Assembly four years ago, after Darrell Putman, a former Army Green Beret and Howard County Farm Bureau director, found that smoking marijuana helped relieve the pain of cancer, which killed him in 1999. Putman convinced then-Del. Donald E. Murphy ( R-Baltimore County ) to sponsor legislation that would have allowed seriously ill people to grow as many as seven marijuana plants for personal consumption. Murphy, who now chairs the Baltimore County GOP, and Putman's widow, Shay, were on hand yesterday to celebrate the bill's signing. They were joined by Sen. David R. Brinkley ( R-Frederick ), a cancer survivor who advocates decriminalizing marijuana for medical purposes and won election last year against two Republican opponents in one of the most conservative districts in the state. 'I think Washington is out of step on this issue,' Brinkley said. 'Compassion needs to be overriding. These people are not criminals.'"
Rosenthal jurors are outraged that the medical marijuana aspects
of his case, including the city of Oakland's backing
for his work, was
withheld from them by the feds during the trial. For more info:
A federal jury found Ed Rosenthal guilty of cultivation on Friday, Jan. 31, 2003. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican on Feb. 2, 2003 ( "Federal Jury In California Convicts Medical-Marijuana Grower"), "The federal jury concluded Friday that Ed Rosenthal, the self-described 'Guru of Ganja,' was growing more than 100 plants, conspiring to cultivate marijuana and maintaining a warehouse for a growing operation. Rosenthal, 58, faces up to 85 years in prison when sentenced June 4. Several people in the courtroom, including Rosenthal's wife and daughter, wept as the verdicts were read by a court clerk. 'This was not a trial. It was called a kangaroo trial,' Rosenthal, who remains free on bail, said Friday as supporters chanted: 'We love you, Ed.' The verdicts were a victory in the federal government's battle against California's 1996 voter-approved medical marijuana law. Rosenthal's arrest last year was among a string of Drug Enforcement Administration raids on medical marijuana suppliers in California."
The report noted that "Under strict orders from U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, Rosenthal was never able to tell the jury that he was growing marijuana as 'an officer' for the city of Oakland's medical marijuana program. Oakland's program and others throughout California were authorized under a referendum known as Proposition 215. Eight other states also allow the sick and dying to smoke or grow marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. But federal authorities do not recognize those laws."
Some jurors after the trial were shocked to learn of details, and have denounced their own verdict. The San Jose Mercury News reported on Feb. 3, 2003 ( "Jurors In Pot Case Decry Their Own Verdict") that "Jurors who convicted marijuana guru Ed Rosenthal of cultivation and other drug charges said they would have acquitted him had they been told he was growing medical marijuana for the city of Oakland. 'I feel like I made the biggest mistake in my life,' said juror Marney Craig, a 58-year-old Novato property manager. 'We convicted a man who is not a criminal.'"
Also, according to the Mercury News, "'I really feel manipulated in a way,' said juror Pam Klarkowsky, a 50-year-old Petaluma nurse. 'Had I known that information, there is no way I could have found that man guilty.' Throughout the two-week trial, Rosenthal's defense team had repeatedly tried to call witnesses to testify that Rosenthal was growing medical marijuana. The judge denied those requests. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the judge twice during mid-trial appeals."
Even the New York Times has editorialized in Ed's favor. In its Feb. 4, 2003 edition, the Times states ( "Misguided Marijuana War"), "Mr. Rosenthal is a medical-marijuana advocate who grows the drug for use by the seriously ill. His harsh punishment shows that the misguided federal war on medical marijuana has now escalated out of control." According to the Times, "The courts should not allow Mr. Rosenthal's conviction to stand. It would be a serious injustice if he were to serve years in prison, as he well may. Meanwhile, the administration should stop tyrannizing doctors and sick people and focus on more important aspects of the war on drugs."
Peaceful rallies and nonviolent civil disobedience actions were held in Sacramento, CA and Washington, DC on Sept. 23, 2002 to protest the continuing federal crusade against medical cannabis. As the Oroville, CA Mercury-Register reported on Sept. 24, 2002 ( "Federal Stance On State's Medical Marijuana Law Protested"), "Declaring the war on drugs has unjustly been extended to the seriously ill in California who use marijuana on the advice of their physicians, hundreds protested at the state Capitol on Monday, calling on the federal government to leave people's medicine alone."
Protesters arrived by the busload at the state capitol. The
Mercury-Register noted that:
The current administration has also changed some of the rules under which prosecutors and drug enforcers used to operate in order to focus on small medical cannabis providers. The Mercury-Register reported that "Until recently, the DEA adhered to a Clinton administration guideline that stated federal agents would not pursue cases of marijuana cultivation if fewer than 100 plants were involved. But so far under the Bush administration, several small-scale medical marijuana growers have faced federal indictment."
Later in the afternoon, some protesters left the rally and went to the federal building in Sacramento, where they engaged in an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. As the Sacramento Bee reported on Sept. 24, 2002 ( "Medical Marijuana Activists Are Arrested"), "Nearly 30 advocates for medical marijuana were arrested and cited for public disturbance during a protest at the federal courthouse on Monday. The protest started at noon on the south lawn of the State Capitol. Hundreds of protesters from all over California gathered to make a stance against the federal government's recent raids of medical marijuana suppliers. 'It's culminated in a huge outcry and the anger has really been building,' said Judy Appel, the deputy director of legal affairs for Drugs Policy Alliance. 'We hope to send a clear message to Washington that we want the government to stop impeding clear access to medicine.' An hour later, about 250 protesters walked the few blocks to the federal building at Fifth and I streets."
Though it drew a much smaller crowd, another set of protesters rallied in Washington, DC at the White House. Reuters News Service reported late in the afternoon of Sept. 23, 2002 ( "Marijuana Protest Leads To Arrests At White House") that "Two people were arrested Monday after handcuffing themselves to the White House fence to protest recent federal government raids on 'medical marijuana' cooperatives in California. The arrests occurred after about two dozen demonstrators gathered in front of the White House, holding signs and chanting slogans demanding an end to what they see as Bush administration interference with state laws governing marijuana use. About an hour after the protests began, US Park Police took a pair of protesters into custody who had bound themselves to the iron barricade separating the White House lawn from Pennsylvania Avenue." A picture of the protesters, from the Sept. 24 edition of USA Today, can be viewed by clicking here. Also, a video of the DC event is available through Sinkers.org.
Additional Information & State-Wide Efforts
A number of older stories from this page have been archived and are available by clicking here.
Click on this link to view articles on medical marijuana from the MAP media archive.