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Former Surgeon General Says Legalize Marijuana

Dr. Jocelyn Elders ignited a firestorm when she proposed studying the merits of drug legalization while serving as Surgeon General under President Clinton. It was a bold move back then and she's still eager to speak out in favor of reform:

You’re also a vocal proponent of medical marijuana. Why?

I have been speaking out about it for a long time. I’m a member of the board of advisors of a medical marijuana group. To me, it’s not nearly as toxic for our bodies as tobacco or alcohol. It should be legalized. As far as we know, it doesn’t cause lung cancer, it doesn’t cause people to go out and drive drunk and commit crimes. If it helps reduce the nausea and vomiting and reduce leg cramps, make patients feel better, what’s wrong with that? We should make it available to people who need it. I feel if people want marijuana, they could get a prescription. Then we can tax it and know who is getting it. I don’t think it is a drug that is doing harm to this country. By arresting people, putting them in jail for crimes related to marijuana, we’re spending millions on drug enforcement and it causes more problems. Young people are convicted of a crime, they can’t get money to go to school, we have over 2 million prisoners and many related to drug use—it is a vicious cycle and one we created. [New America Media]

She gets it. In fact, she got it a long time ago.

Americans for Safe Access: August 2009 Activist Newsletter

Americans for Safe Access
Monthly Activist Newsletter

August 2009

Volume 4, Issue 8

Calif. Senate Committee Urges New Federal Policy on Medical Marijuana

Resolution calls for comprehensive federal approach

Some California state senators are pushing for comprehensive changes in federal policy on medical cannabis.

After hearing testimony from Americans for Safe Access and other patient advocates, the California Senate Health Committee last month passed a resolution urging an end to federal interference in state medical marijuana programs, as well as a new national approach that supports research and makes the drug available in all states.

Introduced in June by State Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by ASA, the resolution is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee. If passed there, it will go before the full Senate.

"Patients and providers in California remain at risk of arrest and prosecution by federal law enforcement, and legally established medical marijuana cooperatives continue to be the subjects of federal raids," said Sen. Leno in a statement.

Senate Joint Resolution 14 asks the federal government to both curtail raids in the state and "create a comprehensive federal medical marijuana policy that ensures safe and legal access to any patient that would benefit from it."

The resolution also urges President Obama and Congress to establish "an affirmative defense to medical marijuana charges in federal court and establish federal legal protection for individuals authorized by state and local law."

Don Duncan, ASA's California Director, and Lanette Davies, a Sacramento patient and activist were among those who explained to the senators why this is so important.

"With more than two dozen medical marijuana defendants currently being prosecuted by the Justice Department, each of them facing many years in prison, such a policy change would be timely, relevant and critically important," said Duncan. "The entire country needs a sensible, comprehensive medical marijuana policy."

While the Obama Administration has stated that it has a new policy on medical cannabis, federal raids on patients and providers have continued.
Currently, medical marijuana patients and providers charged under federal law cannot introduce evidence about their medical condition, their doctor's advice, or state medical marijuana laws.

The California Senate resolution also seeks expanded research into the medical benefits of marijuana. More research was a recommendation of the 1999 Institute of Medicine report on medical marijuana, a report commissioned by the White House but never acted on.

An administrative law judge ruled two years ago that the federal monopoly on the cultivation of marijuana for research purposes has unnecessarily limited FDA-approved scientific studies, but the Drug Enforcement Administration rejected the judge's recommendations.

Further information:
Senate Joint Resolution on medical marijuana
ASA fact sheet on SJR 14

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ASA Wins Landmark Calif. Ruling on Cultivation of Medical Marijuana

Appellate court protects patient collectives and affirms civil rights

A case Americans for Safe Access has been fighting for three years resulted last month in an appellate court ruling that protects California patients who grow marijuana collectively.

The California Third District Court of Appeal issued a 2-1 decision affirming a superior court ruling that state and local law enforcement must respect the right of medical marijuana patients to cultivate their medicine collectively.

The court also found that law enforcement must obtain a warrant to search a patient's property and seize any marijuana found there. The judges wrote that to rule otherwise would "surely shock the sensibilities of the voters" who approved the state's medical marijuana initiative in 1996.

"In addition to protecting patients' right to collectively cultivate, the Court has reaffirmed that medical marijuana patients enjoy the same constitutional rights as everyone else, including the ability to file civil rights actions when those rights are violated," said Joe Elford, ASA Chief Counsel and the attorney who litigated the case.

ASA took the case in 2006 after receiving repeated reports that Butte County law enforcement and other police agencies throughout the state were refusing to recognize the legitimacy of patient collectives.
The landmark appellate decision in County of Butte v. Superior Court concerns the 2005 warrant-less search of a patient's home in Paradise, California.

During the search, the Butte County Sheriff ordered the homeowner, David Williams, 56, to uproot more than two-dozen plants being grown for a small collective of seven medical marijuana patients. Though state law allows for collective cultivation, the sheriff told Williams it is not lawful to grow marijuana for multiple patients.

A superior court judge in Butte County ruled otherwise in 2007, saying medical marijuana patients "should not be required to risk criminal penalties and the stress and expense of a criminal trial in order to assert their rights."

The appeals court last month agreed, finding that patients have "the same constitutional guarantee of due process available to all individuals, no matter what their status, under the state Constitution." The appeals panel noted that "[t]he fact that this case involves medical marijuana and a qualified medical marijuana patient does not change these fundamental constitutional rights or an individual's right to assert them."

"This ruling by the California courts sends yet another strong message to state law enforcement that they must abide by the medical marijuana laws of the state and not the competing federal laws," said ASA's Elford.

Even the dissenting opinion in the case contained a plea for new federal law on medical marijuana. Court of Appeal Judge James Morrison wrote that, "[t]he United States Congress should reconsider its refusal to amend the federal drug laws to make reasonable accommodation for the 13 states that have enacted some form of compassionate use exception to their penal codes."

Further information:
The ruling by the California Third District Court of Appeal
Information on ASA's work on the Butte Case

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Colorado Rejects Restrictions on Medical Cannabis Distribution

Grassroots Organizing Floods Hearing with Advocates

On July 20, patients and advocates convinced the Colorado Board of Health to reject a proposal that would have sharply restricted the ability of the state's citizens to access medical marijuana.

Nearly 1,000 medical cannabis patients and supporters -- including lawyers, doctors, care providers, veterans, and numerous health-care and religious organizations -- attended the 12-hour hearing, and nearly 200 supporters of safe access testified, thanks to months of coordinated efforts by Sensible Colorado, an ASA affiliate.

As a result, the Board of Health voted 5-4 to table a proposal that would have limited caregivers to assisting no more than five patients. The proposal would have also restricted who can qualify as a caregiver under Colorado law, requiring medical marijuana providers to assist patients in ways that would be impractical for many -- including providing patients with food, transportation, and housekeeping services.

When these changes were first proposed in January, Sensible Colorado mounted a grassroots campaign that delayed the hearing until July so patient advocates could organize a response. The successful outreach efforts among patients that ensured the large turnout at the hearing were just part of Sensible Colorado's campaign.

Director Brian Vicente also convinced such prominent state organizations as the Northern Colorado AIDS Project, the ACLU of Colorado and the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar to publicly oppose the changes, and he persuaded one of the state's Congressional delegation, Rep. Jared Polis, to write a personal letter of opposition to the board.

The success of Sensible Colorado's organizing paves the way for increased access to medical marijuana through safe and affordable distribution, an issue that many of the 13 states with medical cannabis laws are confronting.

With only one exception, state medical marijuana laws failed to address how qualified patients are to obtain their medicine. The legislatures of several states have now amended their laws to establish rules for centralized distribution of marijuana to patients.

In the past few years, California, Washington and Oregon have created provisions for regulating distribution. This year, both Maine and Rhode Island have taken up the issue, with Rhode Island changing its law in June to license three "Compassion Centers" to provide medical marijuana to patients. Voters in Maine will also have the chance to approve a ballot initiative in November that would implement a distribution mechanism for patients.

One state that has tried to deal with this issue from the beginning is New Mexico. When the legislature adopted a medical marijuana law in 2007, lawmakers not only established protections for patients who use medical marijuana, but directed state officials to find ways of distributing it. In March, the New Mexico Department of Health issued its first license for non-profit medical marijuana production.

Distribution questions are also shaping new medical marijuana laws coming before state legislatures. Lawmakers in New Jersey and Iowa have been debating measures that incorporate plans for distributing medical marijuana to patients, not just protect them from prosecution once they have it.

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Presentation of The Society for the Study of Social Problems' 2009 Social Action Award to Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana

The national organization of sociologists, "The Society for the Study of Social Problems," has named the California medical marijuana organization, the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana, as the recipient of its 2009 Social Action Award. WAMM, which is a small patient-caregiver cooperative in Santa Cruz, California, has collectively grown and given away millions of dollars worth of cannabis to seriously and terminally ill people since the early 1990s. The organization is strictly not-for-profit. The organization is the subject of a recent ethnography by Wendy Chapkis and Richard J. Webb, Dying to Get High: marijuana as medicine (New York University Press 2008): For more information, contact Michele Smith Koontz (SSSP Administrative Officer) at (865) 689-1531 or
Sat, 08/08/2009 - 8:00pm
905 California Street -- Nob Hill
San Francisco, CA 94108
United States

Iowa's Board of Pharmacy Public Forum/Hearing on Medical Marijuana

The state Board of Pharmacy will hold the first public forum before it makes a final decision on the use of medical marijuana. Three more hearings will take place later this year in Iowa City, Council Bluffs, and in Mason City. Once all hearings are complete, the Pharmacy Board will make a recommendation to lawmakers on whether medical marijuana should be legalized. For more information, contact: tel: 515-281-5111 or Specifically, the Board is seeking information including, but not limited to, the following: * Marijuana's actual or relative potential for abuse * Marijuana's pharmacological effect * Current scientific knowledge regarding marijuana * The history and current pattern of abuse of marijuana * The scope, duration, and significance of abuse of marijuana * The risk to the public health from moving marijuana to a different controlled substance schedule * The potential of marijuana to produce psychic or physiological dependence liability, and * Whether marijuana is an immediate precursor of a substance on some other controlled substance schedule The Board is interested in hearing from medical practitioners including physicians, mid-level practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, and hospice workers; patients; care-givers; law enforcement personnel; regulatory agencies; legislators; educators; scientists; researchers; other interested parties; and members of the general public.
Wed, 08/19/2009 - 10:00am - 7:00pm
600 East Locust
Des Moines, IA 50319
United States

Will Foster: Habeus Corpus Hearing

Please come show your support for Will Foster. Judge Antolini will hear arguments in the case that determines whether Will is sent back to Oklahoma. It is important for people to be in the courtroom. Publicity does affect court decisions. Will needs your support, so help bring attention to his case. Please email me at if you have any questions about Will and his case. Angela Bacca (510) 533-0605 ext 5# For more information, see:
Tue, 08/04/2009 - 1:30pm
600 Administration Drive Court Room 3, Judge Antolini
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
United States

Medical Marijuana: Maine Activist Headed for Prison

Longtime Maine marijuana and medical marijuana advocate Donald Christen is headed for prison. The Maine Supreme Court Tuesday rejected his appeal and he will have to report for an eight-month sentence soon. Christen was sentenced to 14 months, but six months were suspended. After he does his time, he will serve two more years on probation.
Don Christen
Christen was arrested after a November 2004 raid on his home in Madison in which police seized 13 marijuana plants and 22 ounces of marijuana. He was charged with two counts of aggravated trafficking in marijuana and one count of aggravated cultivation, but ultimately convicted only of the cultivation offense.

Christen had argued he "was growing marijuana legally as a designated caregiver for several people who qualified as eligible patients pursuant to Maine's medical marijuana statute." A Somerset County jury disagreed.

Christen appealed, arguing that the trial judge had improperly instructed the jury regarding the applicability of an affirmative defense for medical marijuana. But in its decision, the Supreme Court held that the judge's instructions were correct.

Trick Question on the DEA Job Application?

Anyone applying for a job at the Drug Enforcement Administration must answer this question:

That's funny, I thought there was no such thing as "legally prescribed" marijuana under federal law. Either this is an idiot test for prospective applicants, or we've come so far that the DEA is beginning to lose track of its own ideology.

My Published Criticism of the Drug Czar

I got the following comments published as a Letter to the Editor in both the online and print versions of my local newspaper, the Fresno Bee, --- I am a medical marijuana patient. I am appalled that our Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, has come to my home town and declared that "marijuana is a dangerous drug and has no medical value" [story July 23]. President Obama has told us that there will be a policy change that will recognize medical marijuana users as legitimate in states with such laws. When will this happen so that we don't have to listen to the same tired old rhetoric? Once again, I am very disappointed with our Drug Czar, and I feel that he should return to Fresno and correct his false statements so that patients like myself will be properly represented. Tommy Hawkins Jr. Fresno ========== I also e-mailed and called the ONDCP and left the same message for them.

Medical Marijuana Training Course

The Montana Caregivers Network is hosting a 3-hour training course with demonstrations for patients and caregivers. Taught by Atty, Mark Frisbee: - Breakdown of the Montana Medical Marijuana Act (The Law) - Scenarios and What-Ifs - Case Presidence and Federal Jurisdiction - Local Law Enforcement Procedures & Policies Taught by Jason Christ, Ops Dir, MCN - Live Plant Demonstrations of topping and other cool growing tips, Learn SeaOfGreen vs. Outdoor - Using Medicine, How & Why + Vaporizer Demonstration and Comparisons - The MCN Website and how it is a powerful sales tool - 30 Best Kept Growing Secrets for the most dense, most powerful, best medicine Taught by one of the largest caregivers in the state, Chris Lindsey (another Crim. Def. Atty from Helena): - Procedures that Keep you Out of Jail / Prison - Getting the first Patient and then Growing your Business - Best Practices for Caregivers - Being a Value-Added Caregiver The number of medical marijuana patients has increased over 1000% between 2008 and 2009. Currently very few qualified caregivers who can meet the new surge in demand for medicinal marijuana to patients registered with the state of Montana. Cost: $26 (Cards not required) For more info or to reserve your seat please call (406) 207-7078 or email:
Sat, 08/01/2009 - 3:00pm - 6:00pm
10th Avenue South
Great Falls, MT
United States

Should Employers Provide Reimbursement for Medical Marijuana Costs?

An interesting article from Workforce Management:

Now that more states are legalizing the sale of the marijuana used solely as a medicine, the next hurdle for reformers who say the drug is more cost-effective than pharmaceuticals is getting those who pay for health care—insurers and employers—to reimburse patients for its use.

Reimbursing patients who use it could push them away from otherwise costly drugs that some advocates say are not as effective. Employers, as payers of health care, should champion the legalization of medical marijuana as a potential cost-saving tool, advocates say.

It's certainly the case that many patients can effectively treat specific conditions with marijuana at a lower cost than the pharmaceutical alternatives. For starters, marijuana is vastly cheaper than Marinol, which contains the same main ingredient. It would be interesting to see some research into how medical costs for marijuana patients compare overall to those of patients treating the same conditions with other drugs. While you're at it, it would worth investigating which group is happier with their medicine.

To whatever extent medical marijuana offers savings on health care costs, it's another example of the massive often-invisible expenses created by the insane federal prohibition of medical marijuana. It's presently illegal under federal law for health care providers to cover marijuana-related expenses, which just goes to show how DEA raids were just one dimension of the government's continuing war on medical marijuana.

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