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ASA’s Medical Marijuana in the News: 1/25/08

Discontinuation of ASA's Weekly Media Summaries

Dear ASA Supporter,

This week's media summary will be the last that ASA produces in this form. We know many of you have enjoyed these news summaries, and we intend to keep you updated in other ways. Here are three ways to stay informed:

Continue to look for special announcements and news updates on the ASA national email list. For state specific news, please sign up for one of our state or local announcement lists.

Check the Online Media Buzz section of ASA's discussion forums, where users and staff post news articles and press releases daily. Read news analysis and more from ASA staff and guests on ASA's blog, Medical Cannabis: Voices from the Frontlines.

ASA would like to thank William Dolphin, who has compiled the news and provided analysis of important medical cannabis stories weekly for the past several years.

If you have questions or comments about this change, feel free to contact me at


Rebecca Saltzman
Chief of Staff
Americans for Safe Access

ASA ACTION: Fighting for Patients’ Right to Work

In a split decision on a workers’ rights case argued by ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, the California Supreme Court decided this week that employers can fire workers for testing positive for marijuana use, even in the case of those who use it for medical reasons on the advice of a physician. The 5-2 ruling came despite a brief filed by all the authors of the California legislature’s Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB420), saying that it had been their intent to extend such civil protections to medical marijuana patients. One of the authors, Assemblyman Mark Leno, has taken immediate action to submit a new bill, sponsored by ASA, that would specify workplace protections for patients.

Calif. Firms Can Fire Medical Marijuana Users
by Karl Vick, Washington Post
The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers can fire workers who test positive for marijuana even if they have a note from a doctor recommending its use for medical reasons. Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, the Oakland advocacy group that argued the case, said advocates would go back to the state legislature to seek more explicit protections.

Medical marijuana users can be fired: Calif. court
by Adam Tanner, Reuters
Companies can fire employees who use marijuana for medical reasons even if California law allows such use because federal law prohibits it, the state's Supreme Court ruled on Thursday. "We remain hopeful that the legislature will come to the aid of patients by preventing the sort of discrimination that is likely to occur from such a decision," said Joe Elford, chief counsel of Americans for Safe Access.

Court: Workers can be fired for using medical marijuana
Associated Press
Employers can fire workers found to have used medical marijuana that was legally prescribed, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday in another setback for California in its increasingly rancorous clash with federal law over medical pot use. The nonprofit marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, which represented Ross, estimates that 300,000 Americans use medical marijuana.

California Justices Put Limits on Medical Marijuana Law
by Jesse McKinley, New York Times
In the latest setback for advocates of medical marijuana in California, the State Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers were within their rights to fire employees who fail drug tests.

Workers can be fired for using medical pot off duty, court rules
by Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
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. Joseph D. Elford, chief counsel of Americans for Safe Access, which argued the case on behalf of Ross, predicted the ruling would spark an increase in employer sanctions against medical marijuana users.

Medical Marijuana and Workers' Rights
by Bonnie Goldstein, Slate
Veteran Gary Ross was badly injured while serving in the U.S. Air Force and became eligible for government disability benefits. He suffers chronic pain, which is eased by physician-recommended marijuana treatment. In 2001, Sacramento-based RagingWire Telecommunications hired Ross, but when his pre-employment drug test came back positive for THC, the company quickly fired him. Ross sued, arguing that he was not consuming marijuana on the job and that state fair-employment laws required "reasonable accommodation" for his disability.

Calif. Supreme Court Gives Bosses Leeway to Fire Medical Pot Users
by Matthew Hirsch, The Recorder
Medical marijuana users in California may have to choose between smoking their pot and keeping their jobs. In a 5-2 decision Thursday, the California Supreme Court backed RagingWire Telecommunications Inc. in its firing of plaintiff Gary Ross, denying him relief despite the state's Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Americans for Safe Access chief counsel Joseph Elford, who argued the case for Ross, said he was "extremely disappointed" in Thursday's ruling.

Medical pot rights don't apply at work, court says
by Crystal Carreon, Sacramento Bee
In the latest blow to medical marijuana rights, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers can fire workers who test positive for the drug, even when it is used under a physician's advice.

Workers can be fired for using medical pot, state Supreme Court rules
by Bob Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle
An employee who uses medical marijuana at home can be fired for testing positive for the drug at work, the California Supreme Court ruled today.

Medical marijuana takes a hit
United Press International
The California Supreme Court in a 5-2 ruling said employers can fire workers who are legally prescribed marijuana for illness.


Medical pot users need job protection
EDITORIAL, Honolulu Star-Bulletin
THE latest threat to ailing people who use doctor-recommended marijuana to ease their pain comes from a strange ruling by the California Supreme Court. The court ruled that employers may fire workers for using marijuana for medical purposes, which will prompt legislation to undo the ruling's damage. As one of 11 states that have legalized medical use of cannabis, Hawaii should enact similar workplace protections.

CALIFORNIA: City Officials React to DEA Raids

DEA raids in California have city officials from Los Angeles to San Francisco looking for ways to protect their communities. The city of Berkeley is considering a plan to step in on behalf of patients, but they would not be the first. Santa Cruz city officials distributed medical cannabis to patients at City Hall in the wake of a DEA raid on a patient collective there in 2002.

City considers aiding marijuana patients
by Doug Oakley, Contra Costa Times
Berkeley is considering a plan to help get medical marijuana to patients if the Drug Enforcement Administration shuts down any of the city-permitted cannabis clubs. The resolution before the City Council on Tuesday night declares Berkeley a sanctuary for medical marijuana users and distributors, and says "the city itself shall ensure a continuum of access to medical marijuana" if the DEA moves in.

CALIFORNIA: Senior Citizens Prosecuted for Medical Cultivation

Sheriff’s deputies were looking for someone else, but when they found medical marijuana growing on the property of an elderly couple, Richard and JoAnn McCabe, ages 65 and 74 respectively, they uprooted the plants and arrested them. The McCabes have vowed to fight, even though they cannot afford an attorney. Community members are starting a fundraising campaign on their behalf.

Medical Marijuana Growers in High Desert Fighting Charges
by Jason Sloss, KESQ ABC TV (Palms Springs)
An older couple in the high desert will appear in court after being arrested for growing and possessing of marijuana.

OREGON: Change in Medical Marijuana Law Sought

An Oregon attorney is seeking to make his state’s medical marijuana law more restrictive. Already considered one of the more limited such laws, if the changes are put into effect patients would be limited to two ounces and three plants. There is no provision for the legal buying or selling of cannabis. Advocates say the proposal has been advanced in a secretive fashion, but state hearings are scheduled.

Sweeping Changes to Medical Marijuana from Lawyer for Federal Contractor?
by Tim King, Columnist, Salem-News (OR)
Advocates for medical marijuana say a lawyer who often represents huge federal contractors is seeking to radically modify Oregon's Medical Marijuana Program.

DISPENSARIES: Ensuring Safe Access

Mendocino County has been a leader in carefully considering the needs of medical marijuana patients in the community, being an early adopter of regulations to oversee the operation of medical cannabis dispensaries there. Officials have just rejected an effort to impose additional limits or ban dispensaries altogether, noting that there have been no problems with the three currently operating in the county. This experience has been mirrored in other communities across the state, as outlined in ASA’s report on the issue, which can be downloaded at

Supes punt on pot dispensary regs
by Mike A'Dair, Willits News (CA)
Supervisors agreed to take no action on two draft ordinances that would have regulated medical marijuana dispensaries in Mendocino County.

Operator says business is strong at Riverside medical marijuana clinic
by Gregor McGavin, Press-Enterprise (CA)
One week after the city of Riverside's first medical marijuana clinic opened its doors, staff and patients alike say business is coming along well.

ASA BLOG: Comments from ASA Staff and Guests

ASA's blog is helping keep activists informed on the issues and events affecting medical marijuana patients and providers.

Sometimes the Court Gets It Wrong
by Joe Elford
It was a very cold day today in the Bay Area. It was cold in San Francisco and, unusually, colder still in Oakland. Far colder was the California Supreme Court’s decision in Ross v. Ragingwire. . . .

Israel & Canada Move Ahead, while US Lags Behind in Medical Marijuana Research
by Rebecca Saltzman
Earlier this month, there were two exciting developments for medical cannabis internationally.

California Weekly Round Up
by Sonnet Seeborg Gabbard
California Court Rules Against Patients’ Rights- Assemblyman Mark Leno and ASA Respond with Legislation; San Francisco Democratic Committee Calls on Mayor Newsom to Take a Stand



Find out about ASA at More medical marijuana news summaries can be seen at

United States

DrugSense FOCUS Alert: Use Medical Marijuana - Lose Your Job

In the latest blow to medical marijuana rights, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers can fire workers who test positive for the drug, even when it is used under a physician's advice. "Nothing in the text or history of the Compassionate Use Act suggests the voters intended the measure to address the respective rights and duties of employers and employees," wrote Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar in the 15-page opinion. "Under California law, an employer may require pre-employment drug tests and take illegal drug use into consideration in making employment decisions...The Compassionate Use Act does not eliminate marijuana's potential for abuse or the employer's legitimate interest in whether an employee uses the drug." The decision is on line here: "The majority's holding disrespects the will of California's voters, "wrote Justice Joyce L. Kennard, whose dissent was joined by Justice Carlos R. Moreno, calling the decision "conspicuously lacking in compassion." The voters "surely never intended that persons who availed themselves" of the medical marijuana act "would thereby disqualify themselves from employment," Kennard wrote. Thus five of the seven justices - who will never face a drug test - showed their contempt for the people of California. Daily newspapers throughout California, as well as major national newspapers, covered the story. Please write letters to the editor to your local newspapers giving your views about the decision. A sample of the coverage may be found at this link: ********************************************************************** Style guides for writing effective letters to the editor are available at MAP's Media Activism Center: ********************************************************************** Please Send Us a Copy of Your Letter Please send copies of your letters to the sent letter list ( if you are subscribed, or email a copy to if you are not subscribed.
United States

Press Release: CA Supreme Court Denies Medical Marijuana Patients' Right to Work

[Courtesy of Americans for Safe Access] For Immediate Release: January 24, 2008 Contact: ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford (415) 573-7842 or ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes (510) 681-6361 CA Supreme Court Denies Medical Marijuana Patients' Right to Work Advocates to call on state legislature to prevent discrimination Sacramento, CA -- The California Supreme Court ruled against medical marijuana patient Gary Ross today in his fight against employment discrimination. In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court claimed that Ross could not rely on the Fair Housing and Employment Act or the state's medical marijuana law to prevent discrimination at the workplace. The Court did indicate in its decision that the state legislature had not adequately clarified employment rights of medical marijuana patients. "Obviously, we are very disappointed by today's decision," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical marijuana advocacy organization that argued the case. "However, we remain hopeful that the legislature will come to the aid of patients by preventing the sort of discrimination that is likely to occur from such a decision." The dissenting opinion, written by Justice Joyce L. Kennard, stated that the ruling "has seriously compromised the Compassionate Use Act, denying to those who must work for a living its promised benefits." Despite a clearly worded amicus "friend of the court" brief filed in support of Ross in July 2006 by all of the original co-authors of SB 420 (state legislation that helped to define the rights of medical marijuana patients), the Supreme Court failed to believe that it was the intent of the entire legislature. Advocates assert that they will seek a different response from the state legislature in the form of a bill introduced in the next few weeks. Gary Ross, a 45-year old disabled veteran and a medical marijuana patient living in Carmichael, California, is at the forefront of a landmark employment case, with significant ramifications for patients in California and across the country. Ross was fired in September 2001 for failing an employer-mandated drug test while working as a systems engineer for RagingWire Telecommunications, Inc. "All I am asking is to be a productive member of society," said plaintiff Gary Ross. "I was not fired for poor work performance, but for an antiquated policy on medical marijuana,” continued Ross. “This practice allows employers to undermine state law and the protections provided for patients.” Ross's physician recommended cannabis for chronic back pain that resulted from injuries sustained during his military service. But Ross's employer, RagingWire Telecommunications, refused to make an exception to its policy of terminating anyone testing positive for marijuana. Ross filed suit after he was fired in 2001, arguing that RagingWire illegally discriminated against him because of his condition. However, a Sacramento Superior Court, and then the Third Appellate District Court both rejected his argument. In October 2005, ASA appealed to the California Supreme Court on behalf of Ross. Strong public support has been shown for Ross and the plight of California patients to seek and maintain employment. Since it began recording instances of employment discrimination in 2005, ASA has received hundreds of such reports from across California. Companies that have either fired patients from their job, threatened them with termination, or denied them employment because of patient status or a positive test for marijuana, include Costco Wholesale, UPS, Foster Farms Dairy, DirecTV, the San Joaquin Courier, Power Auto Group, as well as several construction companies, hospitals, and various trade union employers. Further information: Today's California Supreme Court decision: Photo of Gary Ross: Legislative-based amicus brief: Review legal briefs and more about the Ross v. RagingWire case here:
Sacramento, CA
United States

Medical Marijuana: Employers Can Fire Users, California Supreme Court Rules

The California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers may fire workers who use medical marijuana in compliance with California's Compassionate Use Act -- even if they are off duty and even if their use does not affect their job performance. The ruling came in Ross v. Raging Wire Telecommunications.

In that case, Gary Ross, whose doctor recommended medical marijuana for chronic back pain resulting from an injury incurred while serving in the Air Force, was hired by Raging Wire as a systems engineer in 2001 and was required to take a drug test as a condition of employment. He provided the company with a copy of his doctor's recommendation, but the company fired him a week later because of a positive test result.

Ross sued, alleging that the company violated the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) by not accommodating his disability. He also argued that the company fired him in violation of public policy because the Compassionate Use Act legalized medical marijuana in the state.

"All I am asking is to be a productive member of society," Ross said in a written statement. "I was not fired for poor work performance but for an antiquated policy on medical marijuana."

His case was watched with great interest by California medical marijuana users. Hundreds have complained of being fired, threatened with firing, or not being hired as a result of their medical marijuana use.

But in siding with employers, the state high court said the Compassionate Use Act protected users only from criminal prosecution. "Nothing in the text or history of the Compassionate Use Act suggests the voters intended the measure to address the respective rights and duties of employers and employees," wrote Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdeger for the majority. "Under California law, an employer may require pre-employment drug tests and take illegal drug use into consideration in making employment decisions."

Additionally, Werdeger noted, even though medical marijuana is legal under state law it remains illegal under federal law, and "the FEHA does not require employers to accommodate the use of illegal drugs."

Justice Joyce Kennard was scathing in her dissent. The decision was "conspicuously lacking in compassion," she wrote. "The majority's holding disrespects the will of California's voters." The voters "surely never intended that persons who availed themselves" of the medical marijuana act "would thereby disqualify themselves from employment," Kennard said.

Reaction was rapid and only beginning on Thursday evening. The Los Angeles Times reported that Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) announced the same day he would introduce legislation to prevent employers from discriminating against medical marijuana users. "The people of California did not intend that patients be unemployed in order to use medical marijuana," he said.

Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) told the Times the decision was a slap at patients. "The court is claiming tha California voters intended to permit medical use of marijuana, but only if you're willing to be unemployed and on welfare," Mirken said. "That is ridiculous on its face, as well as cruel."

The ability of medical marijuana users to function in society is not just an issue in California. Legislative efforts are afoot in Oregon to explicitly allow employers to fire medical marijuana users. In Montana, the Department of Corrections wants to ban probationers and parolees from using medical marijuana. In some other states, like Rhode Island, protections for users are written into the law. Look for a feature article on this issue next week in the Chronicle.

Medical Marijuana: New Mexico Paraplegic Sues Over Seizure of Plants, Grow Equipment

One of New Mexico's first registered medical marijuana patients is suing Eddy County Sheriff's deputies for seizing his marijuana plants and grow equipment and turning them over to the DEA. Leonard French of Malaga received a license to grow and use marijuana for pain resulting from a spinal cord injury, but that didn't stop the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force, headed by Dave Edmundson of the Eddy County Sheriff's Department, from seizing his plants and equipment shortly after he began growing last summer.
California medical marijuana bags (courtesy Daniel Argo via Wikimedia)
Now, with the help of the ACLU of New Mexico, French has filed a lawsuit in state court seeking a declaratory judgment that the task force's actions violated the state's medical marijuana law, the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act, as well as its asset forfeiture statute; an injunction to stop the task force from again raiding French and his garden; and compensatory damages for his stolen property.

"The New Mexico state legislature, in its wisdom, passed the Compassionate Use Act after carefully considering the benefits the drug provides for people who suffer from uncontrollable pain, and weighing those benefits against the way federal law considers cannabis," said Peter Simonson, ACLU executive director, in a press release announcing the lawsuit. "With their actions against Mr. French, Eddy County officials thwarted that humane, sensible law, probably for no other reason than that they believed federal law empowered them to do so."

When at least four Eddy County deputies acting as members of the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force showed up at French's home last September 4, he thought they were checking his compliance with the medical marijuana law, so he presented them with his license, and showed them his grow, which consisted of two small plants and three dead sprouts. They then turned the plants and the grow equipment over to the DEA, which does not recognize medical marijuana or the state laws that permit its use. French has not been charged with any offense under either state or federal law.

"With the Compassionate Use Act, New Mexico embarked on an innovative project to help people who suffer from painful conditions like Mr. French's," said Simonson. "The law cannot succeed if the threat of arrest by county and local law enforcement hangs over participants in the program. With this lawsuit, we hope to clear the way for the State to implement a sensible, conservative program to apply a drug that traditionally has been considered illicit for constructive purposes."

And maybe teach some recalcitrant cops a lesson about obeying the law.

Internship Opportunity: Americans for Safe Access, Washington, DC

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists, and concerned citizens working to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. The organization is currently seeking graduate and undergraduate interns in their Washington DC office. Qualified candidates will work closely with ASA's Government Affairs department to research policy issues, facilitate grassroots outreach and assist with administrative work.

Intern responsibilities will vary but in general include administrative support to the Government Affairs staff; researching and reviewing medical cannabis policy topics; and drafting correspondence, fact sheets, memos, and other advocacy materials for federal policy makers. Interns will also be responsible for attending hearings and briefings and accompanying ASA staff at various meetings when appropriate.

Candidates should be prepared to demonstrate a willingness to undertake unfamiliar initiatives with enthusiasm and creativity, and possess some knowledge about the issues facing medical cannabis patients and their providers nationwide. Applicants should possess a sense of humor, excellent research, communication and organizational skills, have the ability to manage multiple tasks simultaneously while working independently or as a team, and have some basic understanding of the federal legislative process. Some prior campaign experience preferred but not necessary.

The internship is an unpaid experience, but ASA staff will work to ensure academic credit is received, if applicable. Interns are expected to work in ASA's Washington, DC office between 15-30 hours per week. The minimum duration of an internship is 8 weeks.

To apply, please fax or e-mail a cover letter, resume, and short writing sample (no more than 5 pages) to ASA at (510) 251-2036 or

No phone calls, please -- all applicants will be notified of receipt of their applications; only selected applicants will be contacted for phone or in-person interviews.

ASA's Medical Marijuana in the News: 1/18/08

NEW MEXICO: Patient Suing Sheriff, County over Federal Raid

Within weeks of New Mexico implementing its medical cannabis law, federal agents, with the help of local sheriff’s deputies, raided the home of a paraplegic and seized his medicine. The raid outraged the state’s governor Bill Richardson, who sent an angry letter to Washington demanding that the federal government stop interfering in New Mexico’s efforts to care for its citizens. Now the man who was victimized is suing the county and local officers for their part in subverting the state law.

Lawsuit says deputies targeted man for medical marijuana
Associated Press
A paraplegic man from Malaga has sued Eddy County sheriff's deputies. Leonard French alleges they seized marijuana plants and equipment to grow them last summer despite the fact he has a license under New Mexico's medical marijuana law.

N.M. man sues deputies over pot seizure
A wheelchair-bound man is suing Eddy County deputies for seizing marijuana that he says he was using for medical purposes.

ACLU files suit over raid
by Tom Moody, Current-Argus (NM)
A paraplegic Malaga man who holds a medical marijuana permit from the state of New Mexico filed a lawsuit Thursday against Eddy County and several county law officers for their part in a drug raid that seized his marijuana plants and growing equipment, attorneys announced.

COLORADO: Police Pursued for Damaged Cannabis

The landmark court order for the return of medical marijuana to a Colorado couple got them their plants back, but in unusable condition. With the help of attorney Brian Vicente, director of the Colorado Campaign for Safe Access, the couple is now pursuing damages based on federal estimates of the plants’ value. State law has a provision that requires law enforcement to return wrongfully seized medical marijuana in good condition.

Couple seeks compensation for pot
by Trevor Hughes, The Coloradoan
In what is believed to be a first-of-its-kind request for Colorado, a Fort Collins couple is demanding police pay them more than $200,000 for improperly confiscating and destroying 39 marijuana plants.

Couple to ask police to pay for dead marijuana
by Jeffrey Wolf, KUSA 9News TV (CO)
A couple plans to file for compensation after they say police destroyed their medical marijuana.

Fort Collins couple to ask city for reimbursement for dead marijuana plants
The Coloradoan
The attorney for James and Lisa Masters, whose 39 medical marijuana plants were seized by Fort Collins police and later destroyed, plans to file a motion this afternoon asking the city pay the couple for the destroyed plants.

Couple Wants Police To Pay For Damaged Marijuana Plants
by Lance Hernandez, KMGH TV News7 - Denver
James and Lisa Masters said they want to send a message to police departments all across Colorado. The couple and one of their attorneys filed a motion late Thursday seeking compensation for 39 damaged medical marijuana plants.

Medical Marijuana Users Seek $200K For Lost Stash
by Emil Steiner, Columnist, Washington Post
Today in Fort Collins, Colo., a lawyer will walk into a court house and ask the city to pay his clients for destroying their marijuana. The motion for compensation asks Fort Collins to fork over $202,800, the most money ever sought for the destruction of a drug.

CANADA: Court Ruling Allows Patient Choice

Medical marijuana patients in Canada have been complaining about the quality of the government-provided medicine for some time. But they should soon have more choices, thanks to a court ruling that has tossed out government limitations on who can grow medical marijuana for patients. The government contractor who currently supplies medical cannabis is trying to scare patients about safety, but it was the discovery of dangerous heavy metals in the government’s cannabis (which is grown in an abandoned mine) that spurred many patients to call for alternatives. Growers are already coming forward to offer more variety to patients.

Be compassionate
by Colby Cosh, OpEd, National Post (Canada)
Once again a Canadian court has spoken up and said it's time for the federal government to stop choking off supplies of medical marijuana to the more than 2,000 users it licenses. And once again, the government is expected to seek every conceivable obstacle, use every possible loophole and exhaust every avenue of appeal that might help delay the adoption of a logical, humane medical marijuana policy.

Medical pot users can choose supplier: court
by Anne Kyle, Saskatchewan News Network, Regina Leader-Post (Canada)
Medical marijuana users such as Tom Shapiro will now have more choices when it comes to finding a supplier as a result of a Federal Court ruling striking down a key government regulation governing the controversial program.

New Pot Ruling Not A Concern For Local Police
by Craig Huckerby, SooNews (Canada)
Last week's decision to challenge the federal government and its controversial medical marijuana program means more growers of the weed will be allowed to administer the drug to approved patients meaning an end to the government's monopoly on pot.

Ruling disappoints medical pot producer
by Darren Bernhardt, Saskatoon Star-Phoenix (Canada)
Health Canada's contract producer for medicinal marijuana fears patient safety and product quality will suffer as a result of a federal court ruling that relaxes government restrictions and allows other growers to become suppliers.

Medical marijuana grower ready to expand after ruling
CanWest News Service
A company in Duncan on Vancouver Island is gearing up to supply nearly 300 customers with medical marijuana in the wake of a federal court ruling striking down a key restriction on sales of the drug.

DISPENSARIES: Access Important for Patients

ASA’s study of dispensaries in California has found that a majority of patients in urban areas have come to rely on them for safe, consistent access. But the role of dispensaries in meeting patient needs is seen most clearly in the case of elderly patients who would otherwise have no access to either medical marijuana or information about using it. A UC Berkeley researcher has also found that many dispensaries offer critical social support services to the most seriously ill. More on how dispensaries meet the needs of patients and communities can be seen at

First marijuana clinic in Riverside to open Thursday
by Gregor McGavin, Press-Enterprise (CA)
An 80-year-old great-grandmother from Temecula could be the first person to get a legal recommendation in the city of Riverside to use marijuana for medicinal reasons.

Business-license refusal for med-pot shops upheld
by Roger Phelps, El Dorado Hills Telegraph (CA)
County supervisors Jan. 8 denied an appeal of a business-license refusal for the Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association of El Dorado County.

County moves toward a ban on pot clubs
by Ryan Huff, Contra Costa Times (CA)
Contra Costa supervisors took the first step toward prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county on Tuesday, aiming to pass a new ban by March.

Santa Clarita Planners Pass On Grass
by Katherine Geyer, The Signal (Santa Clarita, CA)
Santa Clarita Planning Commissioners just said no to marijuana Tuesday night when they unanimously approved a city code change that prohibits the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries within the city.

Buellton council bans marijuana dispensaries
by Julian J. Ramos, Lompoc Record (CA)
With no public opposition, the Buellton City Council has moved to permanently ban medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

IDAHO: City Advised to Ignore Will of Voters

When voters approved an initiative that grants medical marijuana patients an exemption from the enforcement of criminal statutes they no doubt expected local officials and law enforcement to comply. But the city attorney is trying to circumvent the will of the voters.

Attorney tells Hailey to slash marijuana reforms
by Cassidy Friedman, Twin Falls Times-News (ID)
Strip the teeth from three Hailey marijuana reform initiatives - right down to the gums. That's what Hailey City Attorney Ned Williamson proposed Monday night to a city council that has already voiced considerable reluctance about the initiatives passed by voters in November.

MONTANA: Attempt to Limit State Law Condemned

Corrections officials in Montana are trying to prevent anyone on parole or probation from being part of the state’s medical marijuana program, even though they do not similarly forbid the use of other prescription medications. And why would they? Medical treatment is something we trust doctors to determine in consultation with their patients. Prison guards are in no position to second-guess physicians’ prescriptions or treatment recommendations.

Guest Opinion: DOC policy would violate medical marijuana law
by Edwin Stickney, OpEd, Billings Gazette (MT)
The Montana Department of Corrections is trying to ban the use of medical marijuana by anyone on parole or probation. This proposal is almost certainly illegal for numerous reasons. Among these is the fact that Montana's medical marijuana law clearly allows anyone suffering from certain medical conditions, with a doctor's recommendation, to use medical marijuana.

ASA BLOG: Comments from ASA Staff and Guests

ASA's blog is helping keep activists informed on the issues and events affecting medical marijuana patients and providers.

California Weekly Round Up
by Sonnet Seeborg Gabbard
Medical Marijuana and the 2008 Presidential Candidates


Find out about ASA at More medical marijuana news summaries can be seen at

United States

Americans for Safe Access North Carolina Meeting

Americans for Safe Access' new western NC chapter is having its first public meeting this Sunday in Asheville, NC. ASA, based in California, is a great patient advocacy organization: ASAWNC has long-term goals for realizing North Carolina's potential to be the first legal medical marijuana state in the southeast. The public and the science is on our side. Please spread the word and attend if you can. Also, if you know of any folks who may want to be on ASAWNC's e-mail/newsletter list, please pass them along. I hope to see you there. - Ervin
Sun, 01/20/2008 - 3:00pm - 4:30pm
90 Merrimon Avenue
Asheville, NC
United States

ASA's Medical Marijuana in the News: 1/11/08

COLORADO: Another Return of Medical Marijuana

Another case of wrongfully seized medical cannabis has come to a happy close in Colorado, as a former Marine had his medicine returned by police. The return is thanks largely to landmark litigation brought in part by Brian Vicente, director of the Colorado Campaign for Safe Access, a joint project of Sensible Colorado and ASA. Even the Washington Post is taking note.

Aurora Police Return Marijuana To Former Marine
by Rick Sallinger, CBS 4 Denver
Police in Aurora have given back dozens of marijuana plants they seized. The owner claimed the pot was being used for medicinal purposes and he had a state issued card to back it up.

Medical Marijuana Payback Burns Colorado Police
by Emil Steiner, Washington Post
Policing pot in Colorado is about to get a lot more complicated. The kick-in-the-door raids SWAT teams have long employed could now cost cities hundreds of thousands of dollars following two landmark court decisions upholding the state's constitutional protection of medical marijuana. Under the rulings, police departments are required to return any marijuana and paraphernalia taken from state-sanctioned growers, and can be sued by those growers if the crops aren't preserved.

CANADA: Caregiver Limits Found Unconstitutional

A federal court in Canada has again found that country's policies on restricting access to medical cannabis to be unconstitutional, saying the current approach has "caused individuals a major difficulty with access." In this case, the issue is the number of patients for which a person may provide cannabis, which had been limited to a single patient per grower, and the government's requirement that those who cannot grow their own use the cannabis provided by the government's contractor. The court's decision opens up the possibility of a more efficient dispensary model, such as California's.

Federal Court strikes down regulation limiting growers of medical marijuana
Canadian Press
Canadians who are prescribed marijuana to treat their illnesses will no longer be forced to rely on the federal government as a supplier following a Federal Court ruling that struck down a key restriction in Ottawa's controversial medical marijuana program.

Canada court rejects supply limit on medical pot
Canadian Press
A Federal Court judge has struck down a government regulation that prevents medical marijuana growers from producing the drug for more than one patient.

IMPLEMENTATION: Cultivation Quantities Disputed

The number of plants patients are legally entitled to grow has been a source of contention in California since medical use was approved by the voters. Californians had the wisdom to recognize that the amounts patients would require could vary considerably, so they did not try to mandate medication amounts. Since then, law enforcement, courts, local officials and even municipal referenda have tried to establish limits, but the law is clear in its silence on the subject, and cannot be changed except by another statewide initiative. What the legislature and local entities can do, is provide guidance on the levels at which law enforcement can decline to investigate further or refer matters to the courts for decision.

Medical pot users arrested
by Stacia Glenn, San Bernardino Sun (CA)
JoAnn Cates, who has 16 great-grandchildren, seems an unlikely candidate to be handcuffed and hauled off to jail for growing a marijuana crop in her backyard.

Pro-pot measure returns to ballot
Press-Democrat (CA)
A landmark 2000 Mendocino County marijuana measure will be back before voters in the June primary, a move taken Tuesday by the Board of Supervisors after a contentious three-hour public hearing.

WASHINGTON: Workers’ Rights Again in Question

Medical cannabis patients continue to face persecution in the workforce for using the medication their doctors’ recommend, even away from the workplace and on their won time. Because the metabolites of cannabis are detectable for upwards of two weeks after use, standard drug tests mandated by many employers will show positive for even those qualified to use cannabis who do so only on their own time. While concerns about operating dangerous machinery may be worth considering, a similar standard should be applied to that which regulates those employees who are prescribed painkillers or other drugs with demonstrably greater effects on motor skills and judgment than cannabis.

Off-job pot use up for debate
by Associated Press, Seattle Times (WA)
A construction-industry group wants companies to have the legal right to bar users of medical marijuana from working in potentially hazardous jobs such as operating heavy machinery.

DISPENSARIES: Local Officials Challenged to Meet Need

Many patients rely on collectives for their medical cannabis because dispensaries typically provide not just a more efficient means of access but also support networks for the most seriously ill. Local officials that have implemented sound regulatory ordinances have found that they can both ensure patient needs are met and community concerns are addressed, as ASA’s statewide study shows. It can be downloaded at:

A medical marijuana dispensary could soon be opening in Templeton
KSBY - NBC TV 6 (San Luis Obispo)
The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission approved a permit request to open a facility to provide cannabis to patients with a prescription. The facility will provide counseling and educational services to patients when they receive the marijuana.

Medicinal pot supplier turns to court to stay in business
by Cathy Locke, Sacramento Bee (CA)
A medical marijuana advocate told El Dorado County officials that he will seek a court's permission to continue operating a dispensary for medical marijuana patients.

Tulare County looks to halt establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries
Visalia Times-Delta (CA)
A measure to temporarily stop the establishment of any new medical marijuana dispensaries in the unincorporated areas of Tulare County could be passed at Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting.

City to consider ban of medical marijuana dispensaries
by Julian J. Ramos, Lompoc Record (CA)
Medical marijuana dispensaries in Buellton could be prohibited under an ordinance scheduled for a public hearing and introduction at tonight's City Council meeting.

Perris passes emergency ordinance to ban pot dispensaries
by Julissa McKinnon, Press Enterprise (CA)
The Perris City Council took the first step Tuesday night to quash any medical marijuana dispensaries that might be budding in town.

IN MEMORIAM: Patient Advocate Passes

A Michigan woman who became an outspoken advocate for medical cannabis after a son’s experience with cancer, died last week. Mae Nutt saw how cannabis helped her son fight the ravages of the disease and became a crusader for all patients as a result, speaking to the media and traveling to Washington, D.C. to testify before the DEA in the 1988 rescheduling hearings. Those hearings concluded with Administrative Law Judge Francis Young ruling that it would be “arbitrary and capricious” for the DEA not to make cannabis immediately available by prescription, as scientific testimony had demonstrated that it is “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.” The DEA refused to implement the judge’s ruling.

Woman who fought to legalize medical marijuana dies
by Tom Gilchrist, Bay City Times (MI)
Long before Mae Nutt was ''Grandma Marijuana,'' Mary Offenbecker simply knew her as a loving mother. Nutt, 86, a former Gladwin County resident who gained fame fighting to legalize marijuana for medical use, died Jan. 1 in California.

Longtime medical marijuana advocate dies at 86
by Tony Lascari, Midland Daily News (MI)
A longtime Beaverton resident who pushed for legalizing medical marijuana use has died.

ASA BLOG: Comments from ASA Staff and Guests

ASA's blog is helping keep activists informed on the issues and events affecting medical marijuana patients and providers.

2007: ASA’s Year in Review
by Rebecca Saltzman
In the January edition of ASA’s monthly newsletter, we review much of what we accomplished in 2007.

California Weekly Round Up
by Sonnet Seeborg Gabbard
California State Senator Carole Migden Takes a Stand for Safe Access; San Luis Obispo County Approves the Opening of the First Dispensing Collective; Mendocino Supervisors Vote to Limit Patients’ Access and Revisit Measure G; El Dorado County Denies Dispensing Collective Permit


Find out about ASA at More medical marijuana news summaries can be seen at

United States

Pain Medicine: Advocacy Group to Challenge Controlled Substances Act In Lawsuit Aimed at Protecting Physicians, Patients

Haysville, Kansas, physician Dr. Stephen Schneider and his nurse wife, Linda Schneider, were arrested on a 34-count federal indictment last month for allegedly improperly prescribing opioid pain medications and causing the deaths of at least four patients. The Schneiders are only the latest pain management health care providers to fall victim to the federal government's war against prescription drug abuse and diversion, and now a leading pain relief advocacy group is vowing to take the government to court to block further harassment of physicians and the pain-ridden patients who rely on them.

Last Friday, the Pain Relief Network announced it will seek a civil injunction barring the Justice Department from prosecuting the Schneiders. But the lawsuit could have much broader implications than the couple's freedom. It will argue that the way the federal Controlled Substances Act is applied to doctors and patients is unconstitutional.

"I want a judge to take a look at this and see if the United States has authority to prosecute," Pain Relief Network head Siobhan Reynolds said during a press briefing last Friday. Reynolds cited a ruling in a similar case that such prosecutions give the government unrestrained power to interfere in the doctor-patient relationship.

The real victims of the government's crackdown on the Schneiders and other health care professionals prescribing opioid pain medications are patients, said Reynolds. "These patients are in real harm's way," Reynolds said. "They are being attacked by the Department of Justice."

While some of Dr. Schneider's former patients have filed malpractice lawsuits claiming they became addicted because of his prescribing, other patients said he had been a godsend and that they are suffering now without him.

One was Jamie McGuire, 49, who had been receiving pain meds for severe arthritis in his spine, hips, and shoulders resulting from an auto accident. Since Schneider was jailed, he has been unable to even get a referral to another doctor. "I think they railroaded him," he said of the prosecution. McGuire told reporters he is almost out of pain medication and his situation is dire. "If they don't do something, I will take myself out," McGuire said.

Another patient, Martin Beatty, 46, also showed up to support his doctor. He said he opted for a regime of pain meds rather than surgery or steroids after falling from a roof 12 years ago and had been a patient of Schneider's for three years. He admitted being dependent on his pain meds, but said that shouldn't matter. "Addiction doesn't mean I am going to be a bad person," Beatty said. Now he worries about going through withdrawal without being under a physician's care.

This week, patients and advocates continued to fight for Dr. Schneider, who, along with his wife, remains jailed. They gathered at his offices to show support and sign petitions, one to join the federal lawsuit, the other to keep the Kansas Board of Healing Arts from moving to suspend his license. According to Reynolds, the clinic will be forced to close because the physician assistants now writing prescriptions are doing so under the auspices of working for a clinic owned by a licensed physician. Other doctors who once practiced at the clinic have been run off by fears of federal prosecution, she said.

"Right now we are calling on the medical board to refrain from joining in this attack on this clinic. This clinic has been hobbled by the Justice Department. These patients are living in mortal fear," Reynolds said.

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