Click on the link below to go directly to the news item on the page or just scroll down
More News Links
Follow the links below for breaking news from these other reform organizations
Click the link below to go directly to a CSDP news page
Move Toward "Medicalization" Grows In US, Internationally
Patients, Activists Organize To Provide Safe Access To Cannabis Medicines In Spite Of DEA Opposition
This page is an archive of medical marijuana news items from the Common Sense website. For more current medical marijuana news, click here.
The Canadian government announced that it will begin distributing medical marijuana to eligible patients. The Toronto Star reported on July 9, 2003 ( "Medical Marijuana Can Be Distributed") that "The federal government will ask doctors to distribute medical marijuana grown in a Manitoba lab, CTV News reported yesterday. While officials had claimed the quality of the marijuana was too inconsistent to use, they now say 370 kilograms has passed the test, sources told CTV."
According to a story on the Reuters News Service wire dated July 9, 2003 ( "Canada To Sell Medical Marijuana To Seriously Ill"), "Ottawa announced in July 2001 that some patients would be able to use marijuana provided by the government. But plans to grow official pot hit a series of snags, prompting a court in Ontario to give Ottawa until July 10 to come up with a solution. The new plan is Ottawa's response to that ruling. Federal officials said more research into the claimed benefits of medical pot was needed and they would therefore appeal the court ruling, a decision that angered critics. 'My first obligation is to ensure the safety and efficacy of this product. Marijuana is not a proven therapeutic product,' said Health Minister Anne McLellan. I remain committed to ( Ottawa's ( medical marijuana research program, which promotes research on the medical value of marijuana while taking a compassionate approach to Canadians who suffer from serious medical conditions.' The 582 sufferers granted dispensation from criminal laws to use the drug will be able to buy dried marijuana for $3.70 per 0.04 ounce -- about half the current black-market rate -- or a pack of 30 seeds for $20 so they can grow their own plants. 'Although this interim policy can be amended or suspended at any time, it is anticipated that it will remain in effect until...( Ottawa's ) roles and responsibilities with respect to a supply of marijuana for medical purposes have been clarified by the courts,' the health ministry said in a statement."
A medical cannabis patient and activist says she will take her own life after her court cases are concluded. Elizabeth 'Biz' Ivol was put on trial in England on June 18, 2003. As reported by The Scotsman on June 19, 2003 ( "MS Victim 'Sent Cannabis Chocolates To Fellow Sufferer'"), "Constable Michael Don said he obtained a search warrant to go to Elizabeth Ivol's home in Orkney on 6 August, 2001, after she attracted some media attention. He found tobacco, a quantity of rolled cigarettes and several recorded delivery slips, as well as the letter. Mr Don, of Northern Constabulary, told the court that when he interviewed Mrs Ivol, she told him: 'I send out information packs first and they usually contact me again if they wanted to try out the chocolate. I then send out a package of chocolates with nothing indicating where it has come from.' Mrs Ivol, 55, a wheelchair-bound MS sufferer from South Ronaldsay, denies one charge of possession of cannabis, one charge of supplying cannabis and one charge of cultivating the drug."
Mrs. Ivol is getting a great deal of support throughout the UK. As The Scotsman reported, "Meanwhile, the Scottish Socialist Party has tabled a motion urging the Scottish Parliament to send a message of support to Mrs Ivol. An internet petition was also started this week by the Legalise Cannabis Alliance and has already received 12 pages of messages of support, and letters have been sent to the justice minister and Home Secretary."
The case against Mrs. Ivol has gotten a great deal of attention in part because it may mean the end of Mrs. Ivol's life -- no matter what the verdict. The Scotsman reported on June 13, 2003 ( "Cannabis Campaigner To Take Her Own Life") that "A wheelchair-bound cannabis campaigner plans to take her own life with an overdose of paracetamol and champagne after putting her case to legalise the drug at a court case next week. Biz Ivol, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, is already planning her own funeral and has had a cardboard coffin delivered to her home in Orkney. She says she desperately wants to end her life because of the crippling pain from the illness which makes her feel like a prisoner in her own body. However, she has pledged that she will first of all fight her charges of possessing and supplying cannabis, which she claims alleviates her suffering."
The Scotsman reported that "Yesterday, as a friend assembled the eco-friendly coffin, which arrived in a flat pack, she said: 'I'm going to use it as soon as the court case is over. I'm too tired now to fight on. I feel no-one is doing anything to make things better for people with MS and that I no longer have any quality of life. I can't do my garden. I can't knit and I can't sew because my hands are dying. I can't read because my eyes are going - there's nothing worth staying for anymore on this earth.' She added: 'I'm not frightened about what might happen to me. They can't put me in jail because of the condition I'm in. They can't fine me anything because I haven't got any money. And I'm already a prisoner, trapped inside a body that's full of pain and doesn't work anymore.' Mrs Ivol, who says her pain is like barbed wire being dragged through her spine, began a campaign six years ago for the legalisation of the drug for medicinal use by people with MS and other conditions. It followed an earlier court case, when she was admonished after police found cannabis plants growing at her home. She said: 'I've lost count of the number of phone calls I've had from people telling me not to give up the fight. But the court case will be my last stand. I'm fed up with fighting now. It's taken them two years to take me to court. It's been niggling away at the back of my mind - once it's over, I know I can't go on any longer.'"
For more information on the Ivol case as well as other developments in England and the United Kingdom, check out the Legalise Cannabis Alliance.
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.'"
Medical marijuana legislation cleared an important hurdle on March 20, 2003. As the Baltimore Sun reported on March 21 ( "Senate Panel OKs Marijuana Measure"), "The bill, approved 6-5 by the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, stops far short of legalizing marijuana for those who contend they need it, but it allows a judge to impose just a $100 fine if it is shown the drug is a medical necessity. It is similar to a bill approved this week by the House of Delegates. The House passed similar legislation last year, but it failed in the Senate committee that gave its approval yesterday. The bill still needs approval from a second Senate committee, where half of its members were co-sponsors of the original measure. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. generally supports medical marijuana use but he has yet to take a formal position on this legislation."
Senators indicated that they were voting out of compassion, that they saw no need to prosecute people who are suffering or dying. According to the Sun, "The senator considered the swing vote yesterday was Nancy Jacobs, a conservative Harford County Republican, whose mother suffered from Parkinson's disease. 'I am not for legalizing marijuana in any way,' she said, 'but I do know that it helps people who are in the end of their life. If it would have helped my mother, I would have gotten it for her somehow.' At a hearing last month, senators heard from cancer patients who said the drug saved their lives, giving them relief that no prescription medicine could. They also heard from those opposed to the bill, including the Maryland State Medical Society, who said science has yet to prove the benefits of using marijuana as a medicine. 'I don't see the need to prosecute people who are suffering horribly or are dying,' said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, the committee chairman and a Montgomery County Democrat. 'It's an effort to be humane to those in intractable pain.""
A law establishing guidelines and allowing the use and
cultivation of medical marijuana went into effect in the Netherlands
in mid-March, 2003. The
European Monitoring Centre on Drugs and Drug Addiction announced
on March 17, 2003 (
Act, Decree, and Implementing Regulations enter into
"From today, the amended Dutch legislation enters into
force. The legislation has been amended in the main due to
the new provisions that allow applications to cultivate cannabis
for medicinal purposes, and guidelines for cultivation of
cannabis." The EMCDDA noted that
The Vermont State Senate passed a bill to exempt medical marijuana users from state prosecution. The Advocate reported on March 18, 2003 ( "Vermont Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill") that "The Vermont senate on Thursday voted 22-7 in favor of a bill that would prohibit the arrest or prosecution of people using marijuana to treat medical problems, including HIV/AIDS. Although the bill does not legalize the use of the drug, the bill would exempt from arrest and prosecution people suffering from diseases with 'severe, persistent, and intractable symptoms,' such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, multiple sclerosis, and glaucoma, who use marijuana to treat nausea, pain, and other chronic symptoms. Those qualifying for an exemption would be issued a card indicating their status and would be allowed to possess up to two ounces of marijuana and be permitted to grow three mature plants or four immature plants. Supporters of the measure called it a 'compassionate response to people suffering' from AIDS and other diseases. The bill now goes to the house, where a similar measure passed last year. Vermont governor James Douglas, a Republican, does not support the bill but has not said whether he will veto it."
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."
Legislators from both sides of the aisle are joining to push through a medical marijuana in Maryland this legislative session. One of the Republican sponsors of a medical marijuana bill which died last session, Sen. David R. Brinkley, R-Carroll/Frederick, has joined with Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, D- Baltimore, and Del. Dan K. Morhaim, D-Baltimore, to put together a new bill. The Carroll County Times reported on Jan. 27, 2003 ( "New Push For Medical Marijuana Bill") that "They drafted their own bills, but Hollinger, a nurse, and Morhaim, a doctor, decided to focus their bills on the health benefits of medical marijuana rather than the prosecution of the crime. Last week, the three lawmakers and other supporters met to iron out their differences and come up with a compromise bill. When they emerged from their meeting, the legislators had agreed to focus their energy on Hollinger's proposal."
There are some in the legislature who feel that last year's approach was the best, and will continue to support that. As a result, the Times noted that "Hollinger, Brinkley and Morhaim will submit twin bills to the Senate and House this week. Brinkley said that if it looks like the bill isn't getting the support it needs, he would submit last year's bill under his name."
Backers of the legislation had their confidence boosted earlier in the month when newly-elected Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich (R) announced his support for medical marijuana legislation (see for "Medical Marijuana Gets Nod Of Ehrlich," Baltimore (MD) Sun, Jan. 17, 2003)
Journalist and cannabis expert Ed Rosenthal's trial on federal marijuana cultivation charges began in January 2003. As reported by Ann Harrison on AlterNet.com ( "The Trial Of Ed Rosenthal"), "A federal judge in San Francisco is blocking a jury from hearing evidence that could exculpate an outspoken medical marijuana activist. Ed Rosenthal, who is facing 20 years in prison on federal drug charges, believed himself to be immune from prosecution when he was deputized by the nearby city of Oakland in 1998 to cultivate cannabis for chronically ill patients."
According to AlterNet, "Rosenthal, 58, is now facing charges of cultivating more than 1,000 marijuana plants at a San Francisco medical marijuana club, conspiracy to grow marijuana, and maintaining a place to grow marijuana at an Oakland warehouse. The warehouse reportedly contained several thousand tiny starter plants that Rosenthal says were intended for distribution to medical marijuana patients who want to grow their own cannabis."
AlterNet reports that Judge Breyer held that earlier DEA promises to respect medical marijuana laws were hearsay. "'I was following 215 in good faith,' argues Rosenthal. 'I had been made an officer of the city and been immunized, and the whole question is whether in spite of all this, the federal government can come in and arbitrarily choose one person to persecute.' Rosenthal's attorneys presented evidence that the DEA gave assurances to local medical marijuana activists that they would respect California's medical marijuana laws. Several Oakland city officials, including the city attorney and the former head of the Oakland Police Department's Narcotics Division, also testified in pre-trial hearings that they were never told told by the DEA that they were violating federal law and could be subject to federal prosecution. The City of Oakland sought to protect medical marijuana providers using a provision in the Controlled Substances Act which allows local municipalities to deputize agents of the city and immunize them from civil and criminal liability. This legal exception, known as 885(d), protects law enforcement agents who possess, buy or sell drugs in the course of their duties. Judge Breyer rejected the estoppel argument asserting that DEA assurances not to prosecute were hearsay. He also ruled that Oakland city officials were not authorized to relay such assurances and that lack of swift enforcement action by federal law enforcement did not imply consent. On Jan. 16, Rosenthal's defense team took the unusual step of going over the judge's head by filing a writ with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals asking them to rule on the entrapment by estoppel defense."
Though the jury may not be allowed to hear evidence that the marijuana was being cultivated exclusively for medical patients, Judge Breyer brought up the point himself during jury selection. "When U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer asked prospective jurors in Rosenthal's case if they could set aside their potential support for Prop. 215 and enforce possible criminal drug penalties under the Controlled Substances Act, many rebelled. Over half the 77 prospective jurors refused to acknowledge the supremacy of federal law and were excused from the case. 'I feel it is very frustrating when voters in the state of California make a statement on medical marijuana and the government prosecutes,' said a juror from Napa, Calif. who was later disqualified. 'I think it should not be a political fight but we should go into the science and figure it out.' The judge's questions regarding Prop. 215 alerted potential jurors that medical cannabis is an issue in the case. But it's uncertain how much specific information about medical cannabis the judge will permit jurors, or whether jurors will nullify by entering a verdict contrary to the instruction of the court. Jurors who convicted another medical marijuana grower two months ago were outraged when they later learned that their vote had sent him to prison for 10 years."
(For more about Bryan Epis, the medical marijuana grower recently sentenced to a mandatory 10 years in federal prison, see this recent CSDP public service ad.
The General Accounting Office released a report on medical cannabis laws on Nov. 29, 2002. According to an AP story in the Oklahoma City Oklahoman ( "Agency Examines Medical Marijuana Laws"), "Law enforcement officials in four of the states that allow medical use of marijuana say the laws have had minimal impact on crimefighting, although they at times complicate prosecution of drug cases, a congressional report said Friday. The report by the General Accounting Office stated that only a small fraction of the people in Oregon, Hawaii and Alaska used marijuana for medical purposes. The results in California, the fourth state studied, were limited to only four counties and no statewide figures were available."
According to the article, "In Hawaii and Oregon, where information on gender was kept, about 70 percent of users in each state were male, according to the report. Both states also showed most of their patients were taking marijuana to treat severe pain and persistent muscle spasms. Such information was not available for Alaska or California."
Not surpringly, "The Bush administration disagreed with some of the report's findings. The state marijuana laws have resulted in a 'worsening of relations between federal, state and local law enforcement,' acting Assistant Attorney General Robert F. Diegelman wrote in the report's review." Possibly AAG Diegelman is referring to the moves by several California communities to withdraw from law enforcement task forces in which the DEA is involved, as well as resolutions passed by some cities and counties condemning attacks by the Feds on medical cannabis clinics (see for example DEA Terrorists Strike California; City, County Governments Stand Behind Cannabis Clinics Raided By Feds and Oakland Co-op Goes Back To Federal Court As City Of Berkeley Just Says No To The DEA ).
A copy of the GAO's report can be downloaded by clicking here .
Medical cannabis patients and advocates applauded a decision issued by the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2002. As the Associated Press reported that day ( "Court Backs Docs Who Talk Marijuana"), "A federal appeals court ruled for the first time Tuesday that the government cannot revoke doctors' prescription licences for recommending marijuana to sick patients. A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. circuit court of appeals unanimously ruled that the Justice Department's policy interferes with the free-speech rights of doctors and patients. 'An integral component of the practice of medicine is the communication between doctor and a patient. Physicians must be able to speak frankly and openly to patients,' chief circuit Judge Mary Schroeder said. The 9th circuit upheld a two-year-old court order prohibiting the government from stripping doctors of their licences to dispense medication."
According to AP, "Doctors who recommend marijuana in the eight states that have medical marijuana laws 'will make it easier to obtain marijuana in violation of federal law,' government lawyer Michael Stern had said. Graham Boyd, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer, had urged the judges to preserve the sanctity of doctor-patient interactions. 'That is speech that is protected by the First Amendment,' he argued. The case was brought by patients' rights groups and doctors including Neil Flynn of the University of California at Davis, who said that marijuana may help some patients but that doctors have been fearful of recommending it. U.S. district Judge William Alsup responded by prohibiting the Justice Department from revoking Drug Enforcement Administration licences to dispense medication 'merely because the doctor recommends medical marijuana to a patient based on a sincere medical judgment.' Alsup's order also prevented federal agents 'from initiating any investigation solely on that ground.'"
A PDF copy of the decision can be downloaded by clicking here.
In the words of Yogi Berra, 'it's Deja Vu all over again' as the US Drug Czar, ONDCP Director John Walters, steps into another state ballot measure vote, this time in Arizona. The Mesa, AZ East Valley Tribune reported on Oct. 10, 2002 ( "Drug Czar Blasts Arizona Pot Proposition") that "Two polls in the last three months revealed that Proposition 203 is supported by a substantial majority of voters." According to the Tribune, "Sponsors of a Nov. 5 ballot proposition to lessen marijuana penalties 'expect the people of Arizona to be stupid,' U.S. drug czar John Walters said at a press conference today. 'They are plying on a kind of ignorance that is our job to correct,' said Walters, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy."
As the Tribune notes, "The proposition eliminates arrests for possession of two ounces or less - or two living plants - of marijuana, and reduces the penalty from a felony to a civil offense subject to a $250 fine. It also requires the Arizona Department of Public Safety to distribute confiscated marijuana free to qualified medical patients and changes forfeiture laws so that a person must be convicted of a crime before police can seize any property." The paper reports that on the other hand "Walters called the proposition a 'stupid, insulting' con job run by a dishonest campaign."
Meanwhile in Nevada, the organization leading opposition to that state's measure to reform cannabis laws has a new leader. The Sacramento, CA Bee reported on Oct. 10, 2002 ( "Pot-Measure Foes Have New Voice") that "The chief spokesman for law enforcement groups opposing Nevada's marijuana legalization ballot question has been replaced after alleging a drug cartel link to the legalization effort."
The Las Vegas, NV Sun had reported on Oct. 7, 2002 ( "DA's Drug Cartel Remark Angers Pot-Initiative Official") that "A chief deputy district attorney in Clark County has suggested a drug cartel is behind the effort to legalize possession of up to 3 ounces of marijuana in Nevada. But a spokesman who is pushing approval of the constitutional amendment called the statement of prosecutor Gary Booker 'an outright lie, slanderous and libelous.' Billy Rogers, spokesman for Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement, said Booker 'ought to have his mouth washed out with soap.'"
According to the Sun, "Booker, chief of the Clark County district attorney's Vehicular Crimes Unit, suggested the marijuana campaign was tied to people connected with organized crime -- 'In a word 'cartel.'' Booker said the proposal 'has nothing to do with medical marijuana.' The Sun reported that "Rogers, who took offense at Booker's remark about ties to organized crime, said the prosecutor has 'a long record of lying' about the proposition. He said Booker gave out false information that marijuana seeds were available from the state Department of Agriculture for those who are in medical need, that Rogers smoked marijuana and that the proposed amendment would abolish all drunken driving laws. 'This guy ( Booker ) will say anything to scare people,' Rogers said. He suggested Booker's superiors 'put a muzzle on him' because he is hurting their cause with lies."
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.
Armed agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration raided two more legal medical cannabis dispensaries in California in the first half of September. The second, in Petaluma, occurred hours before this paragraph was written so very few details are available at this time. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.
On September 5, 2002, the DEA raided the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) in Santa Cruz, CA. City and County officials are outraged. As the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported on Sept. 11, 2002 ( "County, City Condemn DEA Marijuana Raid"), "County supervisors unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday condemning the federal government's raid of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana garden last week. The Santa Cruz City Council passed a similar measure. Supervisor Mardi Wormhoudt, who sponsored the county resolution, said she was 'appalled' by the raid. 'This type of federal action seems to me completely unwarranted,' she said. 'Most of us know the Wo/Men's Alliance to be exemplary in its practice.' Wormhoudt said the raid is forcing WAMM members to buy marijuana on the open market, which is both risky and costly. And, ironically, the raid is supporting international drug cartels that sell marijuana and other dangerous drugs, she said."
The San Jose Metro noted on Sept. 12, 2002 ( "Wamm-Bam, Thank You, Uncle Sam!") that "Six days short of the Sept. 11 anniversary, federal DEA agents put federal tax dollars to work by raiding the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana ( better known as WAMM ), a Santa Cruz-based cooperative and one of the most successful medicinal marijuana programs in the nation. At 7am, Sept. 5, a dozen camouflage-clad agents showed up at the Davenport home of Valerie and Michael Corral, who founded WAMM a decade ago. Pointing their weapons, the agents told wheelchair-bound WAMM member Suzanne Pfeil to stand up. 'I can't stand up. I told them I was sorry,' said Pfeil, who suffers from post-polio syndrome. DEA agents then arrested a pajama-clad Valerie Corral, along with her husband Michael. According to DEA spokesman Richard Meyer, the Corrals were arrested and taken into custody in San Jose on federal charges of intent to distribute marijuana, but by midafternoon they had been released, with the U.S. Attorney's office declining to file charges."
In response to the DEA's actions, the city of Santa Cruz is holding a unique protest on Sept. 17. As the Associated Press reported on Sept. 11, 2002 ( "California City Plans Marijuana Giveaway"), "City leaders plan to join medical marijuana users at a pot giveaway at City Hall next week, hoping to send a message to federal authorities that, in this town, medical marijuana is welcome. The invitation comes one week after agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency arrested the high-profile owners of a pot farm and confiscated 130 plants that had been grown to be used as medicine. 'It's just absolutely loathsome to me that federal money, energy and staff time would be used to harass people like this,' said vice mayor Emily Reilly, who with several City Council colleagues plans to pass out medical marijuana to sick people from the garden-like courtyard at City Hall on Tuesday."
For more information about the continuing crisis in California, including action alerts, check out Americans For Safe Access.
Canadian Health Minister Anne McLellan is feeling heat from statements she made in mid-August regarding Canada's medical cannabis program. As the Toronto Sun reported on August 21, 2002 ( "McLellan Relights Ottawa's Medical Pot Plan"), "On Monday, she told the Canadian Medical Association in Saint John, N.B., she felt uncomfortable with the idea of Ottawa providing pot to relieve pain. She told the gathering she was considering putting an end to the federal government's controversial $5.7-million project to grow medical-grade marijuana in an disused Manitoba mine. But yesterday she denied ever suggesting it might not go forward."
Criticism of Minister McLellan came swiftly. A Winnipeg Sun
op-ed on August 26, 2002 (
"Health Minister Is On A Bad Trip")
"What has federal Health Minister Anne McLellan been
smoking?" The author, Penni Mitchell, wrote:
The mounting criticism seems to have had an impact. The Toronto Star reported on August 27, 2002 ( "Feds Will Supply Medicinal Pot: McLellan") that "The federal government is not backing away from its plan to supply patients with medical marijuana, Health Minister Anne McLellan said today, bristling at earlier reports that the project has been shelved. Her department hopes clinical trials on research-grade pot can begin at the end of fall or in early winter, McLellan said, refuting suggestions she is not keen to go ahead with the controversial plan to distribute marijuana for medicinal purposes."
Yet questions still persist. Many resent Health Canada's decision to withhold from patients the cannabis produced by the government's official marijuana farm in Flin Flon, Manitoba. The Star reported that "Ottawa signed a $5.7-million, four-year contract in 2000 with Saskatoon-based Prairie Plant Systems to grow marijuana for the government. The pot is being grown deep in a former mine in Flin Flon, Man. The government couldn't go ahead with an earlier crop because it wasn't standardized and therefore not suitable to use in trials, she said. 'They've grown a second crop and we're testing it,' McLellan said. 'We believe that we have overcome that problem. We have a standardized crop which can be used.' However, a Health Canada official said in December the first crop was quality-tested and was ready for distribution to patients and researchers. A department spokesman said later Monday he couldn't account for the comment made in December. Prairie Plant Systems declined to comment, saying all information must come from Health Canada."
US pressure on the Canadian government may be to blame for the hassles. As the Star reported, "Some observers have suggested the government has backed away from medicinal pot because, in part, it raises cross-border issues with the United States. A noted pain specialist was quoted as saying he suspected Canada didn't want to get ahead of the United States in this area. McLellan revealed to a Commons committee in the spring that American drug-enforcement authorities wouldn't allow Health Canada access to pure, research-quality marijuana seeds from U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse. An assistant deputy minister for Health Canada conceded at the time there are people in the U.S. government opposed to research on the benefits of marijuana."
The federal Drug Control Policy office has been active in trying to influence voters regarding the marijuana measure on Nevada's 2002 ballot. The Las Vegas Sun reported on July 24, 2002 ( "'Drug Czar' Blasts Proponents Of Pot Legalization) that "'Let's not kid ourselves -- this is about helping the marijuana dealers by making it easier to buy and sell on a wider scale and eventually legalize all drugs,' said John Walters, the national drug control policy director and so-called 'drug czar.' Walters was in Las Vegas today to address an anti-drug law enforcement convention at the Hilton."
Yet, Walters assured Nevadans that he wasn't threatening federal police action if they don't vote as he tells them to. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on July 25, 2002 ( "Marijuana Law Change Would Not Prompt Federal Crackdown") that "If Nevadans vote to legalize the possession of 3 ounces or less of marijuana, the federal government will not 'strong arm' them by stepping up the enforcement of federal drug possession laws, the nation's drug czar said Wednesday. 'That's not our intent,' said John Walters, who leads the Office of National Drug Control Policy."
Walters has his work cut out for him in opposing the ballot measure. The Review-Journal noted that "A recent poll conducted for the Review-Journal and reviewjournal.com showed that 44 percent of Nevada voters surveyed support the initiative, 46 percent oppose it, while 10 percent are undecided. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points."
To get past public approval, ONDCP is working to get law enforcement involved in the campaign. One of Walters' deputies, Mary Ann Solberg, spoke to police about the ballot measure to the same conference. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on July 25, 2002 ( "Official Urges Police Officers To Oppose Marijuana Plan") that "Mary Anne Solberg, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, urged police officers Tuesday night to actively oppose Nevada's marijuana ballot initiative." According to the Review-Journal, Solberg urged them to lobby the public against the measure. "'You need to get involved with this issue,' she said, encouraging officers to write letters to the editors of their hometown newspapers. 'Educate your parents. You need to educate your community.'"
A measure to lower the penalties for simple possession of marijuana has made it onto the 2002 ballot in Nevada. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported on July 10, 2002 ( "Petitions Pass Muster - Marijuana Proposal To Be On Ballot") that "Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement turned in 74,740 valid signatures on petitions to change the state's marijuana laws, Deputy Secretary of State Susan Bilyeu said. The organization, an offshoot of the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, needed at least 61,336 valid signatures to place the question on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. The proposal to allow adults to possess as much as three ounces of marijuana without police interference needs approval in the November election and again in 2004 to become part of the Nevada Constitution."
In addition to gathering enough signatures, "Bilyeu said Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement met a second requirement by collecting a sufficient number of signatures in 14 of the state's 17 counties, falling short only in Douglas, Elko and Nye counties. Under state law, sufficient signatures had to be collected in at least 13 counties."
The Review-Journal noted that "Until last year, Nevada had the strictest marijuana law in the nation. People possessing any amount of marijuana could be charged with a felony, although most received lesser charges in exchange for attending drug treatment programs. Possession of one ounce or less of marijuana in Nevada is now a misdemeanor, punishable by a $600 fine. Under the Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement proposal, adults would not be arrested if they possessed three ounces or less of marijuana. They still could not use the drug in public places or while driving. The petition also calls for the state to set up a distribution plan to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients. Currently, 185 people in Nevada have permission to use marijuana for medical reasons. They must grow their own marijuana. How they acquire seeds is left up to the qualified users."
For more information on the Nevada measure, check out the website of the sponsoring organization, Nevadans for Responsible Law Enforcement.
On June 24, 2002, Representatives Barney Frank (D-MA), Ron Paul (R-TX), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Janice Schakowsky (D-IL) joined former Ronald Reagan presidential aide Lyn Nofziger and seriously ill patients in "a first-ever Capitol Hill press conference calling on Congress to allow the state-sanctioned use of medicinal marijuana." ( "Medical Marijuana Takes Center Stage On Capitol Hill") Keith Stroup, Executive Director of NORML - which organized the press conference - said that today's event should show elected officials that they must no longer ignore the medical marijuana issue. 'Congress must no longer ignore the will of the American people and the needs of seriously ill patients,' he said.
Two such patients, Gary Storck of Wisconsin - who suffers from glaucoma and chronic pain - and Cheryl Miller of New Jersey - who suffers from the advanced stages of multiple sclerosis - explained how marijuana provides symptomatic relief of their conditions. Cheryl's husband Jim demanded Congress act on H.R. 2592, noting that it may be 'too late for Cheryl, but there are lots of Cheryls left' who would benefit from the legal use of medical marijuana.
Congress members agreed. 'As a physician, I of course support the right of doctors and patients to decide for themselves what treatments are appropriate, without interference from the federal government,' said Rep. Paul, co-sponsor of H.R. 2592, the "States' Rights to Medical Marijuana Act," which seeks to amend federal law so that states wishing to legalize and distribute medicinal marijuana may do so without running afoul of federal law. 'The idea that [the federal government] is attacking sick people and the doctor-patient relationship is criminal. It's a criminal act.' (A transcript of the event is available online: click for Part 1 and here for Part 2.)
CSDP President Kevin B. Zeese
debated in favor of medical marijuana on CNN's Wolf Blitzer
Reports that evening, facing off against Family Research Council
President Ken Connor. Blitzer asked Zeese why the federal
government should pass this bill. Here is Zeese's response:
Voters in the City of San Francisco will have the opportunity to decide whether to help the city's cannabis clinics grow marijuana for medical patients. According to the New York Times on July 24, 2002 ( "San Francisco Puts Growing Medical Marijuana On The Ballot"), "In a move toward making San Francisco the first city to defy openly the federal ban on growing marijuana for any reason, the Board of Supervisors approved a ballot measure on Monday that would explore growing marijuana on public property as a way around the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration's continual closing of medical marijuana clubs."
The Times reports that "The measure was drafted by Supervisor Mark Leno, a Democratic candidate for the State Assembly who said he was fed up watching federal agents shut clubs that dispense marijuana for seriously ill and dying people. 'Our clubs have been continuously intimidated and assaulted,' Mr. Leno said, adding that one club had closed because of fear of federal prosecution. If voters pass the measure on Nov. 5, the supervisors would be able to explore the hows and wheres of growing marijuana. Mr. Leno suggested that vacant city property might be used and that the program could be agricultural job training for the unemployed."
Drug policy reformers and medical marijuana activists protested at federal buildings and DEA offices across the US on June 6, 2002 as part of the Americans for Safe Access Day of Action. As Reuters News Service reported on June 6, 2002 ( "Medical Marijuana Backers Stage Protests Across US", "Federal police arrested 10 protesters who had chained themselves together here outside of Justice Department headquarters, federal police confirmed. Activists said they were protesting DEA plans to crack down on 'cannabis clubs' in California, cooperatives that grow marijuana and distribute it to patients with AIDS, cancer and other ailments. Protests were also planned for Thursday afternoon outside of DEA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia and at 55 other DEA offices around the country, according to activists."
The rally in Santa Rosa, CA, site of a recent DEA raid on a medical cannabis clinic (see "DEA Takes Down Medical Cannabis Clinic In Santa Rosa" on this page), drew 200 protesters. The Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported on June 7, 2002 ( "200 Join Santa Rosa Protest Of Federal Pot Laws") that "The demonstration, which began with a march from Juilliard Park, succeeded in closing the federal building's front entrance for about 90 minutes. 'DEA, go away!' protesters chanted. 'Arrest terrorists, not patients,' one sign said. 'Arrest my suffering, not me,' said another. One woman used a walker. Some were in wheelchairs, including Gary LaBonte, an 11-year-old cancer patient who said he has been using Marinol to help ease his pain and improve his appetite during chemotherapy. Marinol is a legal, prescription pill that contains the active ingredient of marijuana. 'This is an issue that goes across age lines,' said LaBonte's adult friend, Michael Ellenwood, who said he uses marijuana to ease the pain and muscle contractions of muscular dystrophy. 'It goes across economic lines. It goes across social lines. It's a medical issue and should be treated as such.'"
A web archive of protest reports is being maintained by Americans for Safe Access. Video and still photos of the Safe Access Now event in DC are available at are available at Sinkers.org. Additional photos of the action in Washington, DC, are available on the CSDP website. An essay by CSDP President Kevin B. Zeese, "Why I am Willing To Go To Jail For Medical Marijuana," was published by AlterNet on June 7, 2002. A report and photos on the New York City action, along with pics from the DC event and reports from around the country, is available at DrugWar.com .
First: In response to DEA moves against medical cannabis patients, dispensaries and advocates, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is coordinating a National Day of Action on June 6, 2002. Contact ASA for details. Thanks.
Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration raided yet another medical cannabis clinic, this one in Santa Rosa, on May 29. According to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat on May 30 ( "DEA Raids Santa Rosa Pot Club, Arrests 2"), "Federal drug agents raided a storefront medical marijuana club in Santa Rosa on Wednesday and searched a second undisclosed location. A Drug Enforcement Administration spokesman said two people were arrested and marijuana, cash, a car and a weapon were seized. Federal officials, saying court records in the case were sealed, refused to provide any more details, including where the arrests were made."
The Press Democrat reported that "Santa Rosa attorney Rich Ingram said the men arrested were Edward Bierling of Santa Rosa and Dan Nelson. Bierling is a medical marijuana user, said Ingram, who is his lawyer. He declined to say whether Bierling is a member of the Aiko club. Neither Ingram nor Sugg would provide more information about Nelson. Both men are scheduled to appear today in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Ingram said. Both were being held Wednesday night at the Sonoma County Jail." The story notes that "Ingram did say that DEA agents searched Bierling's home March 8 and confiscated some marijuana and lights. He said Bierling was in compliance with Sonoma County's guidelines for medical marijuana use."
Locals were outraged by the DEA moves. "The Santa Rosa club, the Aiko Compassion Center on West College Avenue, is one of four marijuana buyers clubs in the county, medical marijuana advocates said. The raid upset advocates, who say they work with local law enforcement on guidelines to help them stay within state law. 'I'm not surprised but I'm outraged,' said Ernest 'Doc' Knapp, a spokesman for the Sonoma Alliance for Medical Marijuana." The paper reports that "Knapp said the club serves more than 100 people and takes steps to ensure clients have legitimate approval from doctors to obtain marijuana. Some cities and counties have issued ID cards to certified medical marijuana users. In Sonoma County, certified users can obtain a letter from a panel of doctors set up to review applicants and are allowed to possess up to three pounds of pot. The guidelines led to a truce between local drug officers and medical marijuana users, which both sides say has worked. But a local DEA task force operates in Sonoma County, and agency spokesmen say in federal eyes there is no such thing as medical marijuana."
In response to DEA moves against medical cannabis patients, dispensaries and advocates, the organization Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is coordinating a Day of Action on June 6, 2002. According to ASA's website, "On or after June 6th, 2002 the DEA will attempt to shut down dispensaries now legally providing medical cannabis to patients in California. To respond, activists in cities across the nation will use creative, non-violent tactics to disrupt DEA offices and post their own 'cease and desist' orders at DEA outposts. Through this action, we will build an 'emergency response' network of committed activists to escalate our resistance to the Federal Government's expanding war on democracy and patients in need of safe access to medical marijuana."
The Day of Action is being organized because "As part of the 73 percent of Americans who support the legalization of medical marijuana, we have taken all of the legal steps available to us. We know that medical marijuana is the most effective treatment available for many with chronic pain and other illness. We passed state laws through popular referendums. We took our cases to court. We sought negotiations with the federal government. And despite all the evidence and overwhelming public support, our democratic will is still pushed aside by the Federal Government. It is time to show that we will not back down. We will escalate our tactics to demand effective policy reform on this important issue. We have zero tolerance for the harassment of medical marijuana patients and dispensaries, and we will put our bodies on the line to prove it."
Attorneys for the Oakland Cannabis Buyers's Cooperative were back in federal court on April 19, 2002, continuing to fight against DEA and Justice Department attacks on medical marijuana. As the Trenton, NJ Trentonian reported on April 21, 2002 ( "Pot Advocates Urge Judge To Lift Ban"), "The high court's May decision addressed only the issue of whether medical marijuana use violates a 1970 federal low that says pot, like heroin and LSD, has no medical benefits and cannot by prescribed by doctors. The ruling also left intact Breyer's earlier order prohibiting the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative from dispensing marijuana. Lawyers for the Oakland club said that narrow ruling allows them to argue other issues such as states' rights. While those arguments remain alive, the injunction should be lifted, they said. 'This case is very far from over,' said Annette Carnegie, a lawyer representing the club."
Federal District Judge Charles Breyer had issued a preliminary injunction forbidding the OCBC from dispensing cannabis. The Trentonian noted that "Mark Quinlivan, the Justice Department's lead attorney, urged Breyer to make his preliminary ban on medicinal pot sales permanent. That could lead to another round of appeals and perhaps another appearance before the Supreme Court." Judge Breyer said he would issue an opinion later.
In another part of the Bay Area, the Berkeley City Council on April 23, 2002, passed a resolution forbidding the city's police department from cooperating with the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in investigations and other moves against medical marijuana clinics, dispensaries or patients. As the Berkeley University Daily Californian reported on April 25, 2002 ( "City Directs Police To Shun DEA In Pot Busts"), "Against the recommendation of City Manager Weldon Rucker, the council directed the Berkeley Police Department not to cooperate with the Drug Enforcement Administration in investigations of medical marijuana clubs."
According to the Daily Californian,
"The city's Police Review Commission drafted the measure, which
is similar to a law San Francisco passed late last year.
The measure created no controversy and passed with barely a notice. As the Daily Californian noted, "Only one member of the public testified in favor of the medical marijuana measure. None testified against it. Councilmember Polly Armstrong called the medical marijuana debate 'old news,' and said she was not surprised at the measure's easy passage. 'I think it's real clear Berkeley people across the board think that if you need to smoke marijuana, you ought to be able to smoke marijuana,' she said. The council, however, tabled a second measure calling for the city's support for Ed Rosenthal, a high-profile marijuana grower arrested in the Harm Reduction Center bust."
The new chief of the Canadian health ministry, Anne McLellan, has decided not to release any of the medical cannabis being grown at the governmentally-approved marijuana farm. The Winnipeg Sun reported on April 23, 2002 ( "Medical Pot In Limbo?") that "Health Minister Anne McLellan won't release any of the marijuana being grown for the government to distribute to sick and dying patients until it has been tested in clinical trials, her spokeswoman said yesterday." According to the Sun, "The stipulation suggests the marijuana, being grown in an old mine in Flin Flon, won't be made available to severely sick or dying patients for years, if ever. It also suggests McLellan is taking a much tougher line on the use of medical marijuana than her predecessor Allan Rock. Clinical trials usually involve giving one group of people a drug and another group a placebo and observing differences. Such studies can take years to design and conduct."
Webmaster's Note: At this time (April 24, 2002), the Health Canada Office of Cannabis Medical Access had no news about this important development on its website. We will follow events and post an update if there are any significant developments.
Medical marijuana activist and former Libertarian Party candidate Steven Kubby was released from custody by Canadian authorities. The Sacramento Bee reported on April 23, 2002 ( "Medical-Pot Activist Freed") that "Canadian authorities released Steve Kubby on bail after three days in jail but have added new drug charges against the medical-marijuana activist and his wife, Michele. Sgt. Bryon Hodgkin of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said a search of the Kubbys' residence in British Columbia resulted in the seizure of what he called 'a sophisticated marijuana grow.' Authorities said they discovered 'approximately 160 marijuana plants.' The Kubbys have been living in the community of Sechelt since July 2001 when Steve Kubby failed to report to the Placer County jail to begin serving a 120-day sentence on two misdemeanor drug convictions."
According to the Bee's story, "Kubby, a cancer patient whose doctor testified at his California trial that marijuana therapy probably saved his life, contends that a 120-day jail term without the therapy would be tantamount to a death sentence. Kubby won his marijuana possession-for-sale and cultivation trials in Placer County but was convicted of having a trace of two illegal substances, peyote and a psychedelic mushroom stem, in his Olympic Valley home. He appealed the convictions and moved to Canada, but shortly after the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento ruled April 12 that a fugitive 'has forfeited his right to appeal,' Kubby was arrested in Canada on immigration warrants."
Agents of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration raided another California cannabis dispensary on February 12, 2002. As the San Jose Mercury News reported on February 12, 2002 ( "Federal Pot Raid Has SF Prosecutors Worried"), "San Francisco District Attorney's Office spokesman Fred Gardner said he could supply only a few details, but confirmed that agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration apparently moved in on a Sixth Street club located between Market and Mission streets early this morning. The agents are also going after an East Bay activist, among other possible enforcement actions today, he said."
(Webmaster's Note: The East Bay activist, who was arrested and charged with marijuana cultivation, was later identified as Ed Rosenthal, noted author and marijuana legalization activist.)
The raids were carried out on the same day that DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson was to speak before the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. Mr. Hutchinson was not warmly received either inside or outside the club. As reported by the San Francisco Independent Media Center ( "Patients, Local Politicos Protest DEA Terrorism"), "In light of the outrageous DEA crackdown on legal cannibis distribution centers today, dozens of patients who use medical marijuana as well as District Attorney Terence Hallinan and 4 city supervisors were at the Commonwealth Club in downtown San Francisco to give a warm, loud 'get out of town' to DEA chief Asa Hutchinson. Hallinan and the supervisors characterized the enforcement action, which came without warning to the DA, police, or health dept., as a brazen usurpation of local democracy and community standards. Neighborhoods served by the cannibis clubs have some of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in the country, and patients of these and other state-defined serious illnesses rely on medical marijuana to relieve their suffering. Legal medical marijuana was overwhelmingly voted into place on the state and local level and is regulated by the health authorities."
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration raided the offices of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Co-Operative, a West Hollywood clinic dispensing medical marijuana on Oct. 25, 2001. As the Associated Press reported on Oct. 26, 2001 ( "Staff of W. Hollywood Medical Marijuana Clinic Protest DEA Raid"), "Drug Enforcement Administration agents searched the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center Thursday afternoon, seizing computers, financial documents, 400 marijuana plants and medical records of some 3,000 current and former patients, said Scott Imler, resident of the resource center. 'This action is effectively a death sentence for patients all across Los Angeles County,' Imler said. 'Our immediate concerns are our 960 patients who have no place else to go for marijuana.'" The clinic, "which has been open since 1996, provides marijuana to patients suffering from AIDS, epilepsy, glaucoma, cancer and other serious illnesses, he said. To receive the marijuana, patients must be referred by their physicians and undergo a screening process."
Los Angeles city and county officials as well as residents are outraged. According to the AP report, ""Our city is going to stand with our residents and this club,' said Councilman John Duran, who also provides legal representation for the center. 'These people will be forced once again into the streets to deal with drug dealers.' Sheriff's Capt. Lynda Castro said she was disappointed when she heard about the raid because the department has worked hard over the past five years to be understanding and sensitive to the issue. 'This is going to hurt a significant population in this community,' she said. 'I respect them for doing it, for operating a significant service. To turn around and have them targeted is a hard pill to swallow.' Marlene Rasnick, who suffers from ovarian cancer, urged her fellow patients to protest the federal government's action against the center. 'Medical marijuana made it possible for me to sit in my garden and enjoy my friends,' she said. 'If the federal government wants to say life is over, I don't accept that.'"
NORML, it was noted that
"The warrant against the club was not signed by a
California judge, but by a 70-year-old Nixon appointee from
Florida who happened to be serving temporarily on the circuit. Rep.
Bob Barr of Georgia is said to have called on the Department of
Justice to attack the club." The release continues:
This move by DEA is not an isolated occurrence, rather it is part of a series of moves by the feds targeting medical cannabis providers, patients, and the doctors brave enough to work with them. The raid on the LACRC came not long after DEA seized patient records and other information from doctors in northern California According to the Tahoe Tribune on Oct. 3, 2001 ( "DEA Seize Files On Medical Marijuana Patients", "The Drug Enforcement Administration agents on Friday seized files that contain legal and medical records of more than 5,000 medicinal marijuana patients in El Dorado County. An estimated 500 to 800 of those files contain information on South Shore residents. Agents raided the home and office of Dr. Mollie Fry, a physician, and her husband, Dale Schafer, a lawyer who earlier had announced he will run for El Dorado County district attorney. Fry and Schafer run the California Medical Research Center in Cool, Calif., a clinic specializing in medicinal marijuana."
There is some concern that the move was political. As the Auburn Journal reported on Oct. 4, 2001 ( "DEA Raids Clinic"), "Schafer blamed El Dorado County District Attorney Gary Lacy for initiating the raids. Lacy couldn't be reached for comment Wednesday. 'I'm running for DA in El Dorado County and he sicked the DEA on us,' Schafer said. 'He didn't think he could prevail under Prop. 215 so his next action was to call in the DEA.' The file information was sealed during the raids, Schafer said. A hearing is scheduled today in federal court in Sacramento on a petition to return the records based on attorney-client privilege, he said. 'All those files are protected by attorney-client privilege,' Schafer said. 'Everything we have done was in good faith to comply with Proposition 215.'"
A federal court later refused the petition. As the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported on Oct. 23, 2001 ( "Judge Rules Couple's Files From Raid Not Protected By Privilege"), "U.S. Magistrate Gregory G. Hollows rejected the attorney-client privilege asserted by the operators of California Medical Research Center in the El Dorado County town of Cool, but set up rigid rules by which the still-sealed records may be reviewed. Neither attorney Dale C. Schafer nor his wife, Dr. Marion 'Molly' P. Fry, would discuss Hollows' findings, saying they had not yet seen the 28-page order. Their lawyer, J. David Nick of San Francisco, could not be reached for comment, but after Monday's hearing in U.S. District Court in Sacramento he characterized the government's campaign against the pair as an 'unsavory attempt' to instill fear in seriously ill Californians."
The raid on the LA club was also related to an earlier DEA raid
on a Ventura County couple, themselves medical marijuana patients,
who grew marijuana for the LACRC. As the Los Angeles Times reported
on Oct. 4, 2001 (
"Activists' Marijuana Ranch Raided Again"),
"For the second time in two years, authorities have raided the
Lockwood Valley ranch of marijuana activists Lynn and Judy Osburn,
uprooting more than 200 pot plants that supply hundreds of
medicinal users in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. As the
Osburns watched, two dozen investigators from the federal Drug
Enforcement Agency, assisted by Ventura County sheriff's
deputies, last week searched their wooded property 45 miles north
of Ojai. No one was arrested. The Osburns, who maintain they
are medicinal marijuana users with written recommendations from
doctors, grow marijuana for the 900 members of the Los Angeles
Cannabis Resource Cooperative, which dispenses the drug
as allowed under the state's 1996 voter-approved Proposition
215." The Times continues:
The United Kingdom is moving closer to reforming its prohibitionist drug laws. Home Secretary David Blunkett has announced his support for a downgrading of marijuana possession offenses. More importantly, he announced support for medicalization of marijuana, which may mean that patients in the UK now in dire need of cannabis may be able to get their medicine legally. As the BBC reported on Oct. 23, 2001 ("Cannabis Laws Set To Be Eased"), "Home Secretary David Blunkett has announced he wants the UK's laws covering cannabis to be eased so possession will no longer be an arrestable offence. The drug would remain illegal under Mr Blunkett's proposals but be re-classified from a class 'B' to a class 'C' drug. The aim is to free police to concentrate on harder drugs and improve current legislation so it will 'make more sense' to people on the street, he said. In a parallel move, licensing of cannabis derivatives for medical use - such as the relief of multiple sclerosis symptoms - will be given government backing if current trials prove successful. Cannabis possession and supply would remain a criminal offence, attracting maximum sentences of five years for supply and two years for possession. But rather than arresting people caught with cannabis, police will be more likely to issue a warning, a caution or a court summons."
Blunkett's proposal comes just as a bill to legalize cannabis is to be argued in the House of Commons. According to the London Independent on Oct. 18, 2001 ( "'Let Beleagured Farmers Grow Cannabis'"), "Jon Owen Jones said the measure would 'remove criminals from the equation' and could provide a 'hardy cash crop' for British farmers, left on their knees by foot-and-mouth disease, BSE, tumbling dairy prices and concerns over GM crops. The Cardiff Central MP's Legalisation of Cannabis Bill is due to be debated in the House of Commons next week, but is highly unlikely to become law."
According to the Independent:
Nevada Legislature Supports Medicalization of Marijuana, Decriminalizes Marijuana Possession
The Nevada state legislature has voted to allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana for medical purposes. According to the Tahoe Daily Tribune ( "Nevada Set To Loosen Pot Possession Law") on June 5, 2001, "The bill lets seriously ill Nevadans have up to seven marijuana plants for personal use. A state registry would be created for patients whose doctors recommend they use marijuana for medical reasons." The state had already "voted overwhelmingly in 1998 and 2000 to amend the Nevada Constitution to authorize use of marijuana by those suffering from cancer, AIDS, glaucoma and other painfully and potentially terminal illnesses," however "The task of implementing voters' mandate was left up to the Legislature."
In addition to the medicalization move, the Nevada legislature has reduced the penalty for simple possession of marijuana, "One of the toughest drug possession laws in the nation, downgrading the charge for possession of small amounts from a felony to a misdemeanor." Under the new law, "For people other than registered patients, possession of an ounce or less of marijuana would be a misdemeanor carrying a $600 fine, with escalating fines for subsequent offenses. Possession would not become a felony until the fourth offense."
Text of the Nevada bill, AB453 (Authorizes medical use of marijuana in certain circumstances and revises penalties for possessing marijuana), is available clicking here. For additional information on legislative efforts in the 2001 session in states around the country, check out this article on medical marijuana in the states.
Canada Legalizes Medical Marijuana; Health Minister Issues Regulations Governing Possession and Production
Canada is moving forward with regulations allowing medical marijuana. According to Health Minister Allan Rock, "Canada is acting compassionately by allowing people who are suffering from grave and debilitating illnesses to have access to marijuana for medical purposes." ("Rock to Unveil Proposed Regulations Governing the Possession and Production of Marijuana for Medical Purposes," Health Canada News Release, April 6, 2001) The draft regulations went into effect on July 31, 2001. The text of the regulations was published in the Canada Gazette Part I on April 7, 2001. A chronology of the development of Canada's official medical marijuana regulations is available on the Health Canada website. More information on the state of medical marijuana in Canada is also available from The Compassion Club of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada's largest medical marijuana buyers' club.
US v. Oakland Cannabis Co-op
The US Supreme Court ruled 8-0 against the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative and the Cooperative's attempts to help patients live with serious illnesses. "This decision proves that when the federal government claims to be fighting the drug war to protect health they are lying -- in fact denying medicine to the seriously ill undermines health," noted Kevin B. Zeese, President of Common Sense for Drug Policy. (A copy of CSDP's news release from May 14, 2001 on the decision is available by clicking here.) (For an interesting contrast, read about the Canadian Supreme Court's decision regarding medical cannabis which resulted in that nation's marijuana laws being radically changed.
The Court, in an opinion written by Justice Clarence Thomas and joined by four other Justices, ruled: "Medical necessity is not a defense to manufacturing and distributing marijuana." The majority ruled that Congress had the final word on the matter in the Controlled Substances Act. A concurring opinion by Justice John Paul Stephens, joined by Justices David Souter and Ruth Ginsburg, pointed out that the decision did not eliminate the defense for seriously ill patients who need marijuana as a medicine, but only in cases of distribution and cultivation.
Decision Galvanizes Patients, Activists
According to the New York Times on May 15, 2001 ( "Justices Bar Medical Defense for Distribution of Marijuana"), "Kevin Zeese, president of Common Sense for Drug Policy, an advocacy group here, predicted that the decision would 'heighten the conflict in both legal and political terms' and could make it difficult for prosecutors to win a conviction in any marijuana case. Mr. Zeese said the distribution clubs were working on such new strategies as maintaining a 'grow room' where patients would own their own marijuana plants, thus avoiding the potential legal pitfall of distribution."
Patients and other medical marijuana activists "vowed on Monday to fight on for what they call 'a life-saving drug' after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that federal law prohibited its distribution to seriously ill patients," according to a Reuters story filed on May 14, 2001 ( "Medical Marijuana Proponents Vow To Fight On") As Reuters reported, 'The justices have shown no compassion,' said Angel McClary, a 35-year-old Oakland, Calif. mother-of-two who uses marijuana to treat a variety of ailments including a brain tumor, seizures and partial paralysis."
The issue now moves along to other fronts. The Reuters story notes,
"Some analysts said the focus of the medical marijuana
campaign would now switch from the courts to medical laboratories,
where researchers are seeking to bolster evidence of
cannabis' effectiveness in treating symptoms of diseases
ranging from cancer and AIDS to glaucoma and nausea.
Patients show no sign of backing down on this issue. As
the Reuters story reported,
"McClary, who calls cannabis 'a life-saver,' said
she could not afford to wait for the federal government to come
around on the issue of medical marijuana.
Background On The Case
On March 28th, 2001, attorneys presented oral arguments before the Supreme Court in US v. Oakland Cannabis Buyer's Cooperative ( "Court Considers Medical Marijuana," AP Wire, March 28). A transcript of the oral arguments in this case can be accessed by clicking here.
On the 27th of March, CSDP President Kevin B. Zeese participated in a Cato Institute forum on medical marijuana. Click here for more information, including video of the event.
Several organizations filed briefs in the case, including Bill Lockyer, the California Attorney General. An extensive compilation of legal documents filed in the case is maintained at the Schaffer Library of Drug Policy.. You can also click here to view the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision before the Supreme Court.
California NORML maintains this List of California cannabis buyers clubs on their website. The Oakland co-op was shut down as a result of the Federal action, however 40 or more clubs still operate. To help people understand what the California medical marijuana law is all about, California NORML has assembled this guide, Frequently Asked Questions about California buyers clubs.
Proposition 215 was recently invoked successfully in a criminal marijuana case in Ventura County. The Ventura County Star reported on Feb. 1, 2001, that "After tearful testimony from a Camarillo woman who claimed marijuana provided her only relief from pain, prosecutors decided Wednesday to dismiss marijuana cultivation charges against the woman and her husband." You can search the MAP Media Archive for additional articles on Prop 215 by clicking here.
Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura Endorses Legalizing Medical Marijuana; State Agencies Sponsor Medical Marijuana Forum
The Minnesota State Departments of Health and of Public Safety co-sponsored a forum on "Marijuana's medical potential and a little-known Minnesota law that allows researchers to study it" on Friday, April 6, 2001. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on April 3, 2001 ("State Sponsored Forum on Medical Marijuana Planned for Friday"), "The forum will focus on the process that researchers must go through to get approval to study the drug." Under a 1981 law, researchers need a permit from the state pharmacy board, then they must apply for a permit from the Federal government. George McMahon, an Iowa resident who is one of the few remaining legal recipients of federal prescription marijuana and who heads the group Patients Out of Time, is expected to appear at the forum, as well as Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura.
The Rochester (MN) Post-Bulletin reported on April 4, 2001 ( "Gov. Ventura Supports Medical Marijuana") that "Gov. Jesse Ventura said Wednesday that he 'fully supports' legalizing marijuana for medical use. 'Medical marijuana? I fully support it, absolutely. Who is government to tell someone if they have AIDS or cancer, what they should be taking?' Ventura said in response to a question from a student at the University of St. Thomas."
UK House of Lords Committee Endorses Medicalization
The UK House of Lords on March 14, 2001, published its "Science and Technology - Second Report" on the Therapeutic Uses Of Cannabis by the Lords' Select Committee On Science and Technology. The Lords, after a comprehensive review of available data and the health and legal policies involved, endorsed legalization of medical marijuana, and gave their support to further research into its applications. The Lords report states, "We consider it undesirable to prosecute genuine therapeutic users of cannabis who possess or grow cannabis for their own use. This unsatisfactory situation underlines the need to legalise cannabis preparations for therapeutic use."
The British Medical Journal noted in its March 24, 2001 issue that the report "accused the Medicines Control Agency of not dealing with cannabis based medicines in the same impartial manner as it dealt with other medicines." ( "Regulators Accused of Bias Against Cannabis Based Medicines," British Medical Journal 2001;322:691) "The committee was particularly critical of the Medicines Control Agency for 'not approaching the question of licensing cannabis based medicines in a properly balanced way, especially given the long-established history of cannabis use and the needs of patients for whom there is no medicinal alternative.'"
Researchers in the United States have for years complained that NIDA and the DEA have been unwilling to allow research into the potential medical benefits of marijuana. See, for example, the article "The Dope on Medical Marijuana," from the Chronicle of Higher Education. Now, the state of California is stepping into that fray. The San Diego Union Tribune reported on Feb. 23, 2001 ( "State Backs UCSD Look Into Pot As Medicine") that "California is about to fund the nation's first scientific studies to look at whether marijuana can relieve symptoms and pain associated with AIDS and multiple sclerosis." The state's cannabis research center at UC San Diego "has $3 million in research grants to give out this year." According to researcher Donald Abrams, MD, "It is the first money earmarked for looking at cannabis as a therapeutic rather than looking at its ill effects. "
A recent, comprehensive report from the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine, entitled "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing The Science Base", is available in full online.
in July 2000 at the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, Dr. Donald Abrams, professor of clinical medicine at the University of California-San Francisco, announced the results of his research into the effects of marijuana on the immune system. According to a release by the UCSF, "A UCSF study has found that patients with HIV infection taking protease inhibitors do not experience short-term adverse virologic effects from using cannabinoids." The study examined changes in HIV RNA levels over a 21-day period of treatment (HIV RNA is a major component of retroviruses like HIV), with subjects using either smokeable marijuana, a THC pill, or a placebo. Dr. Abrams reported that the "subjects who smoked marijuana or took oral dronabinol experienced slightly greater decreases in HIV RNA levels than did subjects who took the placebos." Dr. Abrams called this better result for cannabis users "intriguing, but not statistically significant." He did note a difference in weight gain between the groups. The group taking a placebo managed to gain an average of 1.3 kilograms, the group taking oral dronabinol gained an average of 3.18 kilograms, and "Those who smoked marijuana gained an average of 3.51 kilograms. Caloric intake reflected the same order."
Catalan Parliament in Spain Endorses Medicalization
The British Medical Journal reported on March 3, 2001, "All five political parties in the Catalan parliament in Spain have signed a proposal to legalise the use of cannabis for therapeutic purposes. The agreement asks the Catalan government to negotiate with the Spanish authorities so that cannabis -- either as a drug or as a standardised extract of the plant -- may be used to treat medical disorders." ( "Catalan Parliament Pushes for Legalisation of Cannabis as Therapy") According to the BMJ, "The consensus report also pointed out that despite scientific and clinical evidence for the medical potential of cannabis, its illegality means that it is not an option for many people. 'Only a privileged and well informed minority can take advantage of this therapeutic resource,' it said."
Additional Information & State-Wide Efforts
A number of bills to medicalize marijuana were working through state legislatures in the 2001-2002 session. Click here for more details.
Click on this link to view articles on medical marijuana from the MAP media archive.
Articles on medical marijuana from the MAP media archive.