Washington Medical Marijuana Bill Dead for Now
In my column two weeks ago, I noted that Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire had bowed to federal threats by vetoing legislation that would have clarified the rules for supplying medical marijuana in that state. Today Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Seattle), the bill's chief sponsor, said she has run out of time to salvage it in the current legislative session:
My efforts to make improvements to existing law were motivated by the need to provide qualifying patients with protection from arrest and prosecution and access to a safe, secure and reliable source of the medicine they are legally entitled to use and that has been recommended to them by their licensed health care provider. I also sought to increase public safety and provide a bright line for law enforcement in determining those who are authorized patients, regulated growers and dispensers.
Around the time the bill passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reinforced its authority to prosecute those involved with commercial dispensaries. As a result, Governor Gregoire vetoed the most substantive parts of SB 5073 out of concern that state employees involved in regulating medical marijuana would be at risk of federal arrest and prosecution....
While the governor did encourage the Legislature to follow-up with a special session bill, it is apparent there is insufficient time to pass a bill addressing these problems...
While it is clear this issue has stalled for now, we cannot continue to ignore this issue—it simply will not solve itself. It is clear that the needs of patients and local jurisdictions remain unresolved and will necessitate further legislative efforts.
The Tacoma New Tribune reports that provisions Gregoire allowed to become law include "authorization for collective marijuana gardens" and "some vague references to dispensaries." The Justice Department, which is actively discouraging states from licensing and regulating dispensaries, wants to keep medical marijuana laws vague, so it can claim it is targeting operations that are not "in clear and unambiguous compliance with state law." Just in case, it also says that, contrary to multiple assurances from President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, complying with state law offers no protection from federal prosecution.
Medical marijuana: 137,556 patient applications received, 69% of approved applicants are male
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has released the latest data about medical marijuana patients in the state, and the numbers are fascinating. As of March 31, the most recent date available, 137,556 people have applied to the patient registry, and 123,890 -- most of them male -- have valid registry ID cards.
Among the cliches exploded by the digits is the theory that the registry is dominated with teens and twenty-somethings who are faking medical problems in order to purchase weed legally. According to the CDPHE, the average age of a patient in Colorado is forty -- 39 for men, 42 for women. Moreover, only forty patients in the entire state are minors, meaning that they're younger than age eighteen. Males represent 69 percent of all registry-card holders.
Another surprising statistic involves doctors who've suggested that patients try cannabis to address their medical conditions. More than 1,100 doctors in the state have written MMJ recommendations -- a greater number than many observers would have likely predicted.
The vast majority of patients -- 56 percent -- live in the Denver metro area, which includes Boulder. But patients can be found in virtually every corner of the state, including some of Colorado's least populous counties: sixteen in Kiowa County, nineteen in Jackson County, 35 in Lincoln County. Most list severe pain as a qualifying condition, with smaller numbers citing muscle spasms, nausea, cancer, HIV/AIDS, etc. Around 63 percent have designated a primary caregiver.
Click below to see the county-by-county patient breakdown, plus totals involving conditions and user characteristics:
Medical Marijuana Case Dismissed
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- A medical marijuana co-op won a huge battle in court after two years of claiming its innocence.
The California Compassionate Co-Op on north Chester Avenue was shut down in May 2009 by authorities.
The defendant's attorney said the judge ruled that the Kern County Sheriff's Office suppressed evidence in the case.
The judge dismissed the case after attorney H. A. Sala showed evidence that the Sheriff's Office held back.
The department obtained a search warrant two years ago, claiming the co-op was operating illegally.
The judge ruled on Friday that the information provided by the sheriff's department to obtain that warrant was misleading and contained omissions.
That search warrant was used to seize evidence based on the belief the co-op was not registered, making a profit and selling pot to non-members.
"They would have never been able to shut them down; they never would have sized the medical cannabis; they never would have seized their bank accounts. The judge said 'If I had all the evidence, I would have never authorized the search warrant,' "said Sala.
Sala also said the judge's decision stems from a tape recording made by deputies prior to obtaining that search warrant. The tape, Sala added, contained information showing the cooperative was innocent.
The owners of the co-op have filled a civil case claiming that their rights were violated.
Growing Pot Could Become A Misdemeanor
CALIFORNIA — Growing marijuana in any quantity for recreational use is a felony in California. But it could be charged as a misdemeanor if a bill moving through the state Assembly becomes law.
The measure would change marijuana growing from a mandatory felony to a so-called "wobbler" offense. That would give district attorneys the discretion to charge it as either a felony or a misdemeanor.
Joe Elford is chief counsel for the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access. He said the bill would not affect medical marijuana patients who grow pot.
"Whether they're charged with a felony or charged with a misdemeanor," Elford said, "they shouldn't end up being convicted in either case, because they are medical marijuana patients, and that is already legal under state law."
Supporters argue it's a waste of money to send people to state prison for growing marijuana. Opponents point out it's still illegal under federal law.
Possession of an ounce or less of marijuana is now an infraction in California, subject to a $100 fine.
Medical Marijuana Advocates Sue Federal Government Over Rescheduling Delay
WASHINGTON--(ENEWSPF)--May 23 - A Coalition of advocacy groups and patients filed suit in the DC Circuit Court today to compel the Obama administration to answer a 9-year-old petition to reclassify medical marijuana. The Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) has never received an answer to its 2002 petition, despite a formal recommendation in 2006 from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the final arbiter in the rescheduling process. As recently as July 2010, the DEA issued a 54-page "Position on Marijuana," but failed to even mention the pending CRC petition. Plaintiffs in the case include the CRC, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Patients Out of Time, as well as individually named patients, one of whom is listed on the CRC petition but died in 2005.
"The federal government's strategy has been delay, delay, delay," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel of ASA and lead counsel on the writ. "It is far past time for the government to answer our rescheduling petition, but unfortunately we've been forced to go to court in order to get resolution." The writ of mandamus filed today accuses the government of unreasonable delay in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. A previous cannabis (marijuana) rescheduling petition filed in 1972 went unanswered for 22 years before being denied.
The writ argues that cannabis is not a dangerous drug and that ample evidence of its therapeutic value exists based on scientific studies in the US and around the world. "Despite numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies establishing that marijuana is effective" in treating numerous medical conditions, the government "continues to deprive seriously ill persons of this needed, and often life-saving therapy by maintaining marijuana as a Schedule I substance." The writ calls out the government for unlawfully failing to answer the petition despite an Inter-Agency Advisory issued by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006 and "almost five years after receiving a 41-page memorandum from HHS stating its scientific evaluation and recommendations."
The two largest physician groups in the country -- the American Medical Association and the American College of Physicians -- have both called on the federal government to review marijuana's status as a Schedule I substance with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. The National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health, added cannabis to its website earlier this year as a Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) and recognized that, "Cannabis has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years prior to its current status as an illegal substance."
Medical marijuana has now been decriminalized in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and has an 80% approval rating among Americans according to several polls. In a 1988 ruling on a prior rescheduling petition, the DEA's own Administrative Law Judge Francis Young recommended in favor of reclassification stating that, "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest
therapeutically active substances known to man."
Shuttered marijuana dispensaries reopened in Costa Mesa
A group of shuttered marijuana dispensaries in Costa Mesa were allowed to reopen over the weekend after being deemed public nuisances.
Sue Lester, a former City Council candidate and owner of Herban Elements on Fair Drive, said an Orange County Superior Court judge's order Friday allowing her business to reopen was the "right thing to do" pending a court hearing next month.
Costa Mesa city officials took aim at the Fair Drive property and several marijuana dispensary and massage parlors in April, declaring them all public nuisances. Police said some of the massage parlors were fronts for prostitution.
Lester's business was among those ordered to shut down earlier this month under a temporary injunction until the businesses had a chance to appeal Friday.
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