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If Medical Marijuana Patients Don't Exist, How Come They Keep Sending Us Letters?

Our Executive Director David Borden and NORML's Senior Policy Analyst Paul Armentano have coauthored an updated version of Dave's DWC editorial, "Why Do People the Government Says Don't Exist Keep Writing Me?"

Check it out over at Huffington Post. It's quite good.

You know, it's funny how drug policy reformers keep getting accused of exploiting sick people in the medical marijuana debate, yet when patients write to us, it is always to thank us for our efforts. Somehow I doubt the Office of National Drug Control Policy gets many letters from medical marijuana users thanking them for opposing the evil marijuana lobby that tries to exploit them by making their medicine legal.

United States

ASA’s Media Summary for the Week Ending 8/31/07

FEDERAL: New Mexico Paraplegic Raided

New Mexico Governor and Democratic Presidential candidate Bill Richardson is outraged over a federal raid on a paraplegic who is registered with the state to legally use medical marijuana. The patient was attempting to grow six plants, as he is entitled to, but most had died. Agents seized them regardless. The Governor has said he will use every available means to curtail federal interference with his state’s medical marijuana program. See ASA’s press release on the federal escalation to undermine medical marijuana state laws.

Governor to battle with feds over marijuana law
by Ray Seva, KOB TV 4 (NM)
A battle is brewing in Santa Fe over medical marijuana. An angry Governor Richardson wants the feds to leave sick New Mexicans alone and let them grow their pot. "I'm very concerned that the Bush administration instead of going after drug dealers, is going after people suffering from cancer, a paraplegic, most recently," said Governor Richardson.

Feds raid man's house for marijuana
A drug task force on Tuesday raided the home of a man holding a state certificate allowing him to have and use marijuana. The problem for 44-year-old Leonard French is that the certificate exempts him from state law, not federal law, and the raid was a federal operation staffed by DEA agents and local law enforcement.


Multi-Agency Drug Task Force Wastes Money and Time Harassing Wheel-Chair Bound Patient
by Reena Szczenpanski, Huffington Post
Yesterday, the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force in southeastern New Mexico entered another skirmish in the failed war on drugs. Officers raided and seized a marijuana grow operation from the home of Leonard French, a paraplegic man who lost the use of both of his legs in a motorcycle accident. They seized...six plants, most of which were dead, according to Mr. French. Mr. French suffers chronic pain and muscle spasms due to his spinal cord injury, and qualified as a medical marijuana patient under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act state law that passed earlier this year.

FEDERAL: DEA Raids Northern California Dispensaries

The escalation of DEA attacks on patient access to medical marijuana continued this week with a coordinated series of raids on three dispensaries in the San Francisco Bay Area. As with earlier raids in the San Diego area, the DEA action came at the behest of the local district attorney’s office, which concluded that it was easier to ask the feds to act than comply with state law.

Pot club asks city for help
by Dana Yates, San Mateo Daily Journal (CA)
For more than a year, the Patient’s Choice Resource Cooperative distributed marijuana to 800 members quietly in San Mateo — until federal drug agents closed down the operation Wednesday. Now the lead director of PCRC is making some noise, urging the San Mateo City Council to enact a policy that supports marijuana dispensaries for sick patients.

San Mateo raids stir conflict on medical marijuana
by Michael Manekin, ANG Newspapers (CA)
Soon after the Patients Choice Resource Cooperative moved into its new digs in downtown San Mateo, the group received a cease-and-desist letter from the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office. "We could have sat here and spent a great deal of taxpayer money in San Mateo County, prosecuting it and going through the appeals, or we could bring the case to the attention of the federal government," the deputy district attorney said.

Three San Mateo pot distribution centers raided
by John Cote, San Francisco Chronicle
Federal agents and local police on Wednesday raided three locations in San Mateo that authorities described as "marijuana distribution centers."

Feds Shut Down 3 San Mateo Marijuana Centers
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agent in Charge Javier F. Peña and San Mateo Police Chief Susan Manheimer announced Wednesday the execution of several federal search warrants on three marijuana distribution centers in San Mateo.

United States

Feds Raid Wheelchair-bound Paraplegic For Medical Marijuana [Updated]

The federal government is so desperate to undermine New Mexico's new medical marijuana law, they've started arresting harassing handicapped people:
MALAGA, N.M. — Agents with a regional drug task force raided Leonard French’s home in southeastern New Mexico on Tuesday and seized several marijuana plants [Ed., it was actually just 6 seedlings]
But the wheelchair-bound man said he’s certified by the state Health Department to possess and smoke marijuana for medical reasons. The 44-year-old lost the use of his legs about 20 years ago as the result of a motorcycle crash and now suffers from chronic pain and muscle spasms. [Santa Fe New Mexican]
Normally, the DEA would avoid this kind of bad publicity. But since New Mexico's medical marijuana program just started, they're trying to intimidate patients and confuse legislators in other prospective medical marijuana states:
A press release jointly issued by the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force illustrates the political nature of the raid, reading in part, "Citizens of New Mexico need to be aware that they can still be prosecuted on the federal level even though New Mexico has a law permitting marijuana for medicinal use." [DPA]

Drug warriors keep arguing that medical marijuana laws create conflict between state and federal laws, but all they have to do is stop arresting threatening patients and there'd be no problem. They're creating confusion and then citing that confusion as an argument against state laws that protect patients. Meanwhile, sick people like Leonard French are caught in the crossfire, and countless other patients are afraid to try medicine that could help them.

Revealingly, Mr. French has not yet been charged with a crime. You see, DEA is tough enough to arrest wheelchair-bound medical marijuana patients, and even boast about its authority to continue doing so. All of that serves their interest in scaring people and creating doubt as more and more states pass laws to protect their citizens from precisely this sort of foul treatment. But they won't actually try to put him in jail because that would be just hideous.

So the real message here, for those reading between the lines, is that the feds aren't always going to enforce federal law. And that tells you everything you need to know about the debate over medical marijuana. This is all a big stupid publicity stunt, and while there are casualties to be sure (getting arrested and losing your medicine does suck), the whole "conflict with federal law" argument is largely a hoax.

Regardless, we cannot tolerate any federal efforts to scare people out of treating their illnesses with doctor recommended medicine that is legal in their state. That is obscene, and it's no surprise presidential candidates are lining up in opposition to it.

Update: My mistake. Leonard French wasn't taken into custody, so "arrested" was the wrong way to describe what happened to him. I've updated the post accordingly. It's important, because patients in New Mexico should understand that you're not in any great danger if you choose to participate in the medical marijuana program. I should have been more careful about this, because I certainly don't want to perpetuate these intimidation tactics. The fact that he wasn't even arrested is significant.

United States

It's Time for Medical Marijuana "Plan B"

Did you know that along with raiding medical marijuana clinics and prosecuting people, the DEA is actually blocking research into medical marijuana too -- research that if allowed to take place could lead to marijuana's approval as a medicine through the FDA? Yet at the very same time, DEA hypocritically cites a lack of research as justification for keeping medical marijuana illegal! Most recently, DEA has stalled an application from the University of Massachusetts to grow research-grade marijuana in a secure facility for FDA- and DEA-approved medical studies. Though DEA's own Administrative Law Judge has said it should be approved, we expect them to show bad faith and reject it -- after waiting as long as they can -- unless they are pressured to do otherwise. A group of US Representatives is preparing to send a sign-on letter to the DEA, next month, for just that purpose. Please visit our web site to write your member of Congress asking him or her to sign on! We encourage you to personalize your email. When you're done, please forward this alert to everyone you know who might support it too. Thank you for your help on this -- and thanks to the thousands of you who used our site to lobby for the Hinchey medical marijuana amendment last fall too. With your help, we believe that this "Plan B" will help get us closer to the goal. (Click here to read the text of the Congressional sign-on letter on the MAPS web site, and click here to read the results of this summer's Hinchey medical marijuana vote on ours.)
United States

MPP: Help stop DEA obstruction of medical marijuana research

Would it surprise you to learn that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is refusing to allow medical marijuana research to move forward — despite a clear recommendation from its own administrative law judge to let such research happen?

If you’re like me, this will be just the latest outrage from the same agency that insists on terrorizing and arresting medical marijuana patients and providers who are complying with state law and their doctors’ advice.

Would you please take one minute to ask your U.S. House member to direct the DEA to permit medical marijuana research to move forward? MPP’s online action center has done all the work for you; just click a few buttons and your letter will be sent.

(Congress provides the DEA with 100% of its funding — all of it taxpayer money — so the DEA is more likely to listen to members of Congress than just about anyone else.)

In February of this year, DEA Administrative Law Judge Mary Bittner recommended that Professor Lyle Craker and the University of Massachusetts be granted a license to grow research-grade marijuana that would be used in FDA- and DEA-approved clinical studies into marijuana’s therapeutic uses, noting that it would be “in the public interest” to do so. But the DEA has ignored her recommendation and continued to block the research.

And earlier this month, during a hearing before the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, DEA official Joseph Rannazzisi refused to commit to a timeline for ruling on the University of Massachusetts’ application ... even implying that the DEA might just wait until after a new presidential administration takes power in January 2009!

This is the height of hypocrisy. The DEA continually cites insufficient research as a reason for keeping medical marijuana illegal — while simultaneously blocking the very research that’s needed to persuade the FDA to approve marijuana as a prescription medicine.

How can the DEA hide behind the FDA in arguing against medical marijuana access, and then block any attempt to move marijuana through the FDA approval process?

Would you please take one minute to ask your U.S. House member to stop letting politics interfere with research into the medicinal value of marijuana?

Thank you,

Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

Washington, DC
United States

ASA's Medical Marijuana in the News: Week of 8/24/07

ASA ACTION: Defending Patient’s Property Rights

What happens when qualified medical marijuana patients have encounters with law enforcement? Too often, their state-legal medicine is confiscated and not returned, even once it is determined that they are operating within the limits of the law. For more than two years, ASA has been leading a campaign to correct that injustice, helping patients get court orders for the return of their medical marijuana and even getting a fundamental change of policy from the California Highway Patrol, who was once one of the worst offenders. ASA has now taken that fight to the state court of appeals, arguing that patients who have committed no crime are always entitled to return of their property.

No crime? Give it back
EDITORIAL, Orange County Register (CA)
The California Court of Appeal for the 4th District will hear an important case today (at 1:30, 925 N. Spurgeon St., Santa Ana) regarding whether qualified medicinal marijuana patients are entitled to have their medicine returned after it has been seized by police even though they were entitled to possess it. It should be a no-brainer. Patients whose legally possessed property has been confiscated should have it returned unless they have been convicted of a crime.

Court considers medical marijuana seizures
by Rachanee Srisavasdi, Orange County Register (CA)
If police officers seize marijuana legally kept by a medical marijuana patient, should they have to give the property back? That was the central question today before a three-justice panel of the state's Fourth Appellate District. Two California patients are pursuing the case with the legal assistance of Americans for Safe Access, a pro-medical marijuana nonprofit group.

Judges asked to order the return of O.C. men's pot
by Christine Hanley, Los Angeles Times
Two Orange County men have taken the cops to court to get their pot back. Jim Spray, 51, and Felix Kha, 22, who have doctors' recommendations to use marijuana for medical reasons, said that since charges against them were dropped, their property should be returned. Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based group that monitors medical marijuana issues across the state, is representing the two men.

FEDERAL: Doctor-Lawyer Couple Convicted for Medical Growing

Again the constraints on admissible evidence in federal marijuana trials have resulted in the convictions of Californians who were helping medical marijuana patients. In this case, the couple involved are a doctor, who is herself a patient, and her caregiver-husband, who is an attorney. After the passage of the state law allowing it, Dr. Mollie Fry began using marijuana as a treatment with help from her husband, Dale Schafer. Then they began to do what they could to help others in their community, providing recommendations and help with cultivation. First, the government stripped Dr. Fry’s license to prescribe medicines. Now, it has obtained convictions that mandate a minimum of five years in prison for each of them. They can only hope that the judge has taken note of how other district judges in California have treated similar cases, granting downward departures on the basis of the “lesser harm” entailed by helping ease suffering with cannabis rather than abiding by the blanket federal prohibition.

Guilty Verdict In Medicinal Marijuana Case In Cool
CBS 13 Sacramento
It took a jury in Federal court about three hours to hand down a guilty verdict in a local medicinal marijuana case that goes back six years.

by Cosmo Garvin, Sacramento News & Review
There's an inscription carved into the plaza at the entrance of the Federal Courthouse downtown. Maybe you’ve seen it: “There are not enough jails, not enough policemen, not enough courts to enforce a law not supported by the people.” Last week in federal court, defense attorney Laurence Lichter tried to read that phrase, originally uttered by Vice President Hubert Humphrey, to a jury, explaining why his client didn’t deserve five years in federal prison. Judge Frank Damrell wasn’t having it, and cut Lichter off during his closing statement. So goes the trial of Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband, Dale Schafer, medical-marijuana activists convicted last week of “conspiracy to manufacture” pot and distribute it to sick people.

LOS ANGELES: Continued Blowback from DEA Raids on Dispensaries

This editorial joins the Los Angeles City Council in condemning the involvement of city police in the coordinated series of federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries there. Since the city council was shown video footage of an LAPD officer assisting in a raid, a hearing has been held and an investigation begun. ASA is working with the City Council on a resolution of non-cooperation that would prevent police from ignoring state law.

Selective enforcement
EDITORIAL, Los Angeles Daily News
When federal agents busted down doors raiding medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles in July, Los Angeles Police Department officers were their comrades in arms. The department's assistance in the raids infuriated some City Council members, who chastised them last week for cooperating with the Drug Enforcement Agency and for enforcing federal drug laws that are in conflict with California's medical marijuana law - and the will of the public.

CAMPAIGN ’08: Democrats All Say DEA Raids Should Stop

With all Democrats running for President and the majority of Republican candidates saying DEA actions against state-legal medical marijuana patients and providers should end, the recent spate of raids may be the last gasp of a dying federal policy. Sure, federal officials have been denying the medical science for decades, but with international researchers uncovering new potential for the treatment of such difficult diseases as MS, cancer and Alzheimer’s, pressure for policy change is increasing.

All Democratic presidential candidates pledge to end medical marijuana raids, group says
by James Pindell, Boston Globe
Last night in Nashua US Senator Barack Obama became the latest Democratic presidential candidate to say that if he were elected president he would end raids from federal law enforcement agencies against those who use medical marijuana in the dozen states where it is legal to do so.

WASHINGTON: State Studying Better Implementation and Access

Removing criminal penalties for patients whose doctors have recommended they use medical marijuana is but the first step in grappling with the issue of safe access. Keeping patients out of jail is one thing, but states with protections for patients must also confront the means by which patients are to get their medical marijuana. Questions of quantities and caregivers are just a few of those Washington and other medical marijuana states are facing.

Officials seek public input on medical marijuana
by M. Alexander Otto, Tacoma News-Tribune (WA)
The Washington State Department of Health is looking for public input on what constitutes a 60-day supply of medical marijuana. Officials also want to hear the public’s ideas about how patients can gain access to adequate and safe sources of medical marijuana.

Input sought for new medical marijuana rules
by John Branton, The Columbian (WA)
State health officials have been directed by the Legislature to create new rules for the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes, and the public is invited to comment.

KANSAS: Former AG Fighting For Safe Access

As reported last week, a push for a state medical marijuana measure in Kansas is coming from a man who was its chief law enforcement officer, former Attorney General Bob Stephan. Common sense and compassion are enough to convince most folks that patients should not be prosecuted or imprisoned for following their doctors’ advice, but sometimes it takes personal experience to make an advocate.

Former Attorney General Bob Stephan advocates medicinal marijuana
by Sasha Roe, Daily Kansan
Stephan, who is diagnosed with stage four lymphocytic lymphoma, wants to allow new laws for medicinal marijuana use. The issue could come up in future legislative sessions.

Stephan joins push for medical marijuana
by Scott Rothschild, Lawrence Journal-World (KS)
The push to legalize medical marijuana got a big lift Friday when former Attorney General Bob Stephan announced his support and urged Kansans to get behind the effort.

NEW MEXICO: Plans for State Marijuana Production and Distribution

Governor Bill Richardson pushed through a medical marijuana bill in New Mexico because, as he said, “it was the right thing to do.” Now he is directing state officials to figure out how to grow and distribute marijuana to patients, even though the state Attorney General has suggested it could create federal legal problems for the state employees involved. While Richardson has not indicated whether he will implement the distribution plan once its designed, the fact is that federal drug law includes an immunity provision for state officials who deal with drugs as part of their jobs.

NM pushes marijuana program
by Barry Massey, Associated Press
Gov. Bill Richardson has ordered the state Health Department to resume planning of a medical marijuana program despite the agency's worries about possible federal prosecution.

Gov. Orders Agency To Plan For Medical Marijuana Program
KOAT TV7 Albuquerque
Gov. Bill Richardson is ordering the state Health Department to move ahead with the planning of a medical marijuana program, despite the agency's worries about possible federal prosecution.

OHIO: Medical Marijuana Initiative May Go Before Voters

With neighboring Michigan gearing up for a voter initiative on medical marijuana this fall, and legislative action stalling in the Ohio House this year, patient advocates in the Buckeye State are considering trying for a ballot measure of their own next year.

Medical marijuana may go on Ohio ballot
by Alan Johnson, Columbis Dispatch (OH)
A statewide issue to legalize medical marijuana is headed for the ballot in Michigan next year -- and could swing south to Ohio shortly thereafter.

DISPENSARIES: Patients and Local Officials Grapple with Needs

Most of the struggle over patient access at the local level has been at the level of land-use planning, with officials and patients negotiating the appropriate role of medical marijuana dispensaries in the community. Implementation of state law is difficult enough, but federal interference has made matters worse. The federal government has clearly had an impact with continued raids and prosecutions, but patients are also fighting back and making their own impact on the community and local law. ASA's report on officials' experiences of how dispensaries are working is at

Medical marijuana supporters, defendants rally in Modesto
by Eve Hightower, Modesto Bee (CA)
Seven people arrested on drug charges stemming from an investigation into an Oakdale medical marijuana dispensary were in court Wednesday. Their arraignments were put off until Sept. 25 so the district attorney has more time to investigate.

Cities grapple with pot clinics' growth
by Harrison Sheppard, Whittier Daily News (CA)
More than a decade after California voters passed legalized medical marijuana, an explosion of dispensaries and patients has cities and counties scrambling to regulate the operations. According to Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, 26 cities and eight counties in California have ordinances allowing and regulating dispensaries.

Colma pot clubs killed by council
by Christine Morente, Oroville Mercury-Register
Medical marijuana dispensaries are now banned from this town. Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, said the prohibition of dispensaries is disheartening and asserted the facilities are legal under state law.

County weighs need for medical marijuana
Fox News Bakersfield
Kern County Supervisors are struggling over whether the county should oversee medical marijuana facilities. It was a heated meeting during the morning session of the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Medical marijuana advocates, patients and activists packed the meeting to speak out in favor of the county regulating medical marijuana dispensaries in the county.

Sheriff gets booed at Board of Supervisors pot meeting
KGET TV17 (Bakersfield)
Sheriff Donny Youngblood got a chilly reception at the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday morning. Youngblood was booed by medical marijuana supporters when he said, “I think we need to say no to medical marijuana dispensaries in Kern County.”

Board votes to keep pot law as is
by James Burger, Bakersfield Californian
Kern County supervisors on Tuesday struggled to find a clear path for themselves out of the legal morass that is medical marijuana in California.

Salinas council deadlocks on medical marijuana ban
by Brian Seals, The Salinas Californian
An ordinance that would have permanently prohibited medical marijuana dispensaries in the city failed to pass at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. A vote that would have rejected the ban failed on a 3-3 tie vote. Councilman Steve Villegas was absent.

CALIFORNIA: Medical Marijuana Opposition Group Milks Federal Funds

When medical marijuana advocates are asked why opposition persists in the face of medical science, many point out that those opposed frequently have vested financial interests in perpetuating prohibition. The case of a new group in California would seem to confirm this. Founded by state law enforcement officials using federal money, the group is already busy using myths and misinformation to block dispensaries. The real question is why anyone actively undermining the implementation of state law is allowed to remain on the state payroll.

Marijuana gains new foe
by Will Bigham, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA)
A newly formed organization opposed to medical-marijuana dispensaries is urging local governments to prohibit the businesses. Paul and Brenda Chabot formed the group after learning of a federal program that helps groups seeking solutions to substance abuse. The group lacks steady funding, but it is working to secure federal grants, Brenda Chabot said. Brenda is a former probation officer for San Bernardino County; Paul Chabot is a Commissioner for the Juvenile Parole Board of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

GERMANY: First Medical Marijuana Patient Approved

Neighboring Holland has been providing cannabis by prescription for some time, but Germany has now officially made provisions for its first patient, a woman with MS. Many MS patients report that they use medical marijuana to ease spasticity and nerve pain that is not otherwise treatable. Since one patient is now allowed use of medical marijuana, other similarly situated patients in Germany can hope that they, too, will be given access soon.

Germany Allows Patient Legal Use of Cannabis
Deutsche Welle
A patient suffering from multiple sclerosis has been legally allowed to buy cannabis at the pharmacy under strict conditions. It's the first time Germany has permitted the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Germany permits medicinal marijuana
United Press International
A German woman with multiple sclerosis is the first person in her country to be allowed to legally buy pharmaceutical-grade cannabis to ease her symptoms.


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


United States

All 8 Democratic presidential candidates support medical marijuana!

[Courtesy of MPP]

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) just became the last of the eight Democratic presidential candidates to pledge to end the DEA’s raids on medical marijuana patients and providers who act legally under state law.

This means that all eight Democratic presidential candidates — including U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) — have now taken public positions in support of protecting patients in the 12 states with medical marijuana laws.

In regard to Sen. Obama, it took MPP’s campaign in New Hampshire, Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana (GSMM), five separate encounters over the last few months — and two back-to-back encounters earlier this week — but on Tuesday in Nashua, Sen. Obama told a GSMM volunteer, “I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users. It's not a good use of our resources." You can watch the encounter here and read some news coverage of this coup here.

MPP/GSMM has had one full-time staffer — Stuart Cooper — working in New Hampshire since March, and I’m thrilled that our persistence has paid off. Stuart and his cadre of volunteers and patients have been dogging the Democratic and Republican candidates at almost every appearance in the state, urging them to take strong, public, positive positions on medical marijuana in advance of the New Hampshire primary — currently the first in the nation — on January 22.

In addition to the eight Democratic candidates, two Republican candidates — U.S. Reps. Ron Paul (Texas) and Tom Tancredo (Colo.) — have also vowed to end the medical marijuana raids as well. In fact, these two members of Congress recently voted for the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment on the House floor ... for the fifth year in a row.

You can see or hear the good guys in their own words here.

Can you imagine if all the presidential candidates publicly supported protecting patients? Please make a donation so we can keep up the pressure on the six Republicans who still haven’t taken positive positions.

The 10 good candidates are to be commended for their common sense and compassion, especially as federal intrusion into medical marijuana states has been on the rise this summer, with DEA raids taking place in several counties in California and Oregon. Recently, the DEA also began threatening landlords who lease space to medical marijuana dispensaries — activity that’s legal under state law — with forfeiture of their property, a move condemned in a Los Angeles Times editorial as "a deplorable new bullying tactic."

And last week, presidential candidate and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), who signed legislation in April making his the 12th medical marijuana state, wrote to President Bush asking him to end the federal raids in medical marijuana states: "Respected physicians and government officials should not fear going to jail for acting compassionately and caring for our most vulnerable citizens. Nor should those most vulnerable of citizens fear their government because they take the medicine they need."

We still have work to do in New Hampshire: Will you consider making a donation today to ensure that in January 2009 we inaugurate a president who is committed to ending federal interference in the states that have medical marijuana laws? Thank you for your support.

(This blog post was published by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)
United States

Medical Marijuana Patients Argue for Right to Unlawfully Seized Property

MEDIA ADVISORY Americans for Safe Access For Immediate Release: August 23, 2007 Contact: ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes (510) 681-6361 or ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford (415) 573-7842 Medical Marijuana Patients Argue for Right to Unlawfully Seized Property Hearing Today in state appellate court could mark an end to years of local law enforcement violations What: Oral arguments for two medical marijuana "Return of Property" cases in State Appellate Court When: Thursday, August 23 at 1:30pm Where: California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District, 925 N. Spurgeon Street, Santa Ana Who: ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer, Chief Counsel Joe Elford will all be available for comment after the hearing Santa Ana, CA -- After more than two years, Garden Grove patient Felix Kha may finally see the return of his wrongfully confiscated 8 grams of medical marijuana. California's Fourth Appellate District in Santa Ana will hear oral arguments today in a case that has drawn the attention of the State Attorney General and the California Police Chiefs Association. Both organizations filed amicus briefs in the case, which supported opposite sides of the issue whether law enforcement has a right to seize a patient's marijuana and, in the event of an unlawful seizure, whether that patient has a right to get it back. Kha was cited for marijuana possession and had his medicine seized in June 2005, but after the case was dismissed in August 2005, an Orange County Superior Court judge ordered the return of his medicine. However, the City of Garden Grove not only refused to return Kha's unlawfully seized property, it also appealed the order, an unprecedented action by a California city. "More than ten years after the passage of the Compassionate Use Act, patients are still victim to routine medical marijuana seizures by local law enforcement," said Americans for Safe Access Chief Counsel, and Kha's attorney, Joe Elford. "It is bad enough to have your medicine indiscriminately seized by police, but to then be denied its rightful return shows a blatant disregard for state law and the hundreds of thousands of California patients for whom this law was designed to protect." Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has compiled reports from nearly eight hundred patient encounters with local or state police during a period of more than two years. These reports show a glaring trend: more than 90% of all encounters result in medicine seizure by police regardless of any probable cause. According to reports received by ASA, rampant seizure of medical marijuana from qualified patients and primary caregivers has taken place in 53 of California's 58 counties. These violations of state law occur in both urban and rural locales, in the north as well as the south, and by both city and county law enforcement. Until 2005, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) held the record for the worst violator of Proposition 215, with a policy of mandatory seizure of medical marijuana regardless of patient status. In early 2005, ASA sued the state's top law enforcement agency and by August of that year the CHP had revised its policy to better respect patients' rights. As a result of that policy change, the CHP went from being the most irresponsible law enforcement agency with regard to the unlawful seizure of medical marijuana to one of the state's best. As a result of different litigation, also involving ASA, the County of Merced revised its police policy in June 2007 to prevent the unlawful seizure of marijuana from qualified patients. As a consequence of the high number of medicine seizures, ASA has assisted scores of patients in seeking the return of their property. Although fairly onerous, California criminal courts have a mechanism to seek the return of medical marijuana; patients can file a motion for return of property and request a hearing. According to ASA, at least thirty of these motions have resulted in Superior Court orders and the return of patient medicine. At the same time, an undue number of denials have also occurred. In fact, Kha's case will be heard alongside the case of Jim Spray, a Huntington Beach patient that was denied a court order by a different judge in the same Superior Court that issued Kha's order. This discrepancy makes the issue ripe for an appellate court decision.
Santa Ana, CA
United States

Europe: First German Patient Approved to Use Medical Marijuana

The German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices has for the first time approved the use of medical marijuana for a patient. The institute acted in the case of a 51-year-old woman who suffers from multiple sclerosis, who will be able to legally buy marijuana at a pharmacy to ease her symptoms.

Beginning next month, the woman will be allowed to buy a "standardized extract" of the marijuana plant from the pharmacy for a year. The woman's health will be monitored by a doctor. In addition, both the woman and the pharmacy must store the marijuana extract in a safe to prevent theft.

Marijuana is illegal in Germany, but a 2005 German Federal Administrative Court ruling has muddied the waters when it comes to medical marijuana. In that ruling, the court held that it was "in the public interest" to improve the health of patients, so now the federal institute must individually evaluate each case where a patient seeks access to medical marijuana.

Until now, German doctors have only been able to prescribe Marinol, but that compound is both expensive and lacks some of the cannabinoids that patients say makes natural marijuana preferable to the synthetic drug. Marinol is also not approved as a medicine in Germany, meaning it is not covered by health insurance. Natural marijuana should be less expensive.

Still, despite this week's decision to approve medical marijuana for one patient, other medical marijuana patients still face possible prosecution. Last week, the Suddeutsche Zeitung reported on the case of a hepatitis-C patient sentenced to a year in jail for marijuana possession.

Medical Marijuana: Obama Says End Raids, All Democratic Presidential Candidates Now on Board

The Democratic Party presidential field is now in agreement on at least one issue: The DEA's raids on medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal should be stopped. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who had been the last holdout, on Tuesday said he would end such raids.

Obama's pledge came as a response to a question from Nashua resident and Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana volunteer Scott Turner, who asked the senator what he would do to stop the federal government from putting seriously ill people like Turner in prison in states where medical marijuana is legal. Granite Staters is a project of the Marijuana Policy Project designed to advance the issue by taking advantage of New Hampshire's crucial role in presidential primaries.

"I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users," Obama said. "It's not a good use of our resources."

Obama now joins all seven other Democratic presidential contenders in opposing the raids, as well as Republican candidates Rep. Ron Paul (TX) and Rep. Tom Tancredo (CO).

"For the first time in history, the leaders of one of our nation's major parties have unanimously called for an end to the federal prosecution of medical marijuana patients," GSMM campaign manager Stuart Cooper, from Manchester, said. "New Hampshire voters and medical professionals effectively sent a clear message that we would not support a candidate who would arrest – rather than protect – our nation's most seriously ill citizens. Compassion and reason are finally overcoming politics and propaganda."

Last Friday, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson took it a step further by sending a letter to President Bush asking him to end the raids. "Respected physicians and government officials should not fear going to jail for acting compassionately and caring for our most vulnerable citizens," Richardson wrote. "Nor should those most vulnerable of citizens fear their government because they take the medicine they need."

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