Marijuana Activists Fight DEA Efforts to Eviscerate Medical Privacy
If the State of Michigan won't protect the people, activists will. So went the cry of medical marijuana groups in Michigan this week, concerned that the privacy of medical marijuana patients there is at grave risk. According to reports, the Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs filed an emergency motion this week to halt efforts by the federal government to gain access to the records of several Michigan medical marijuana patients. As a result, A U.S. District Court hearing this week that would have decided whether the Michigan Department of Community Health would have to comply with a June subpoena by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) for the records was postponed until Feb. 1, giving a host of advocacy groups a chance to file amicus "friend of the court" briefs against the DEA's efforts.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) said it filed its own brief on Thursday, pointing out that the current medical marijuana law in Michigan protects the privacy of patients and that the state is obligated at all costs to uphold it, even at the risk of crossing the federal government. "We must do everything we can to protect that right to privacy, especially for medical marijuana patients who remain vulnerable due to an outdated federal law," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, author of the group's amicus brief, in a statement. "Patient privacy is an important ethical and public health issue of our time, regardless of whether patients benefit from the use of medical marijuana." For its part, the DEA is seeking "copies of any and all documents, records, applications, payment method of any application for Medical Marijuana Patient Cards and Medical Marijuana Caregiver cards and copies of front and back of any cards located for the seven named individuals" in an ongoing investigation. While the DEA has declined to name the individuals or provide any details of the case, activists believe it is connected with an investigation into medical marijuana patients and caregivers in the Lansing area.
So far, the state has refused the DEA's request, arguing that turning over the records would actually put the Department of Community Health at risk of breaking its own law. Unfortunately, the DEA has an ally in new state Attorney General Bill Schuette, a vocal opponent of the medical marijuana program. Court records reveal that his office has already agreed to turn over the records if the court orders it -- and if the department and its employees are given immunity from liability for breaking the privacy provisions in the law. The state's medical marijuana law says such disclosures are punishable by up to six months in prison or a fine of up to $1,000. In the emergency motion to stop the court proceedings this week, Traverse City attorney Jesse Williams, representing the compassion clubs, said that based on the language in the DEA's subpoena it is "highly likely" that it is after more than just the records of seven people, making this fight a more critical crossroads forMichigan's nascent medical marijuana law (it only went into effect in 2009).
Calif lawmaker would bar firings for medipot use
SACRAMENTO, Calif.—A California lawmaker wants to prohibit employers from firing qualified medical marijuana users who consume pot when they're not on the job.
The bill proposed by Democratic state Sen. Mark Leno would also make it illegal for employers not to hire someone solely because they use marijuana for medical reasons.
Leno in 2007 proposed a similar bill that was passed by the legislature but vetoed by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The California Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that nothing in the state's current medical marijuana laws bars an employer from firing medical marijuana users who test postive for pot.
Leno's bill would exempt from protection workers such as doctors, nurses, school bus drivers and heavy equipment operators who hold so-called safety sensitive jobs.
Medical Cannabis Symposium
About 50 community members attended a recent seminar sponsored by Ukiah's three cannabis dispensaries: Compassionate Heart, MJ's Place and Reflections of Avalon, for an afternoon of presentations and discussion - the first of what sponsors hope will be many future events. MediCann is the nation's largest provider of medical marijuana recommendations - more than 230,000 to date. MediCann founder Dr. Jean Tallerand presented the history of marijuana - discussing the etymological meaning of cannabis and its usage dating from Persia in 8000 B.C. to the present. "Cannabis is the oldest nonfood crop cultivated by humans," said Tallerand. Citing research from Ukiah Daily Journal archives, Dr. Tallerand drew chuckles quoting a 1907 edition of the Ukiah Dispatch Democrat reporting that the "queer smokes gave one a desire to caress one's feet." A Garden Club report in a 1934 Redwood Journal article quoted a member who "gave a reading on marijuana, a most interesting and lovely plant." Tallerand says "our dualistic history with cannabis" continues unabated, noting as a federally classified Schedule I drug, cannabis has no accepted medical use. "Yet drug companies developed a synthetic version of THC- marinol," said Tallerand, demonstrating the discontinuity between federal regulations and the FDA's acceptance of synthesized cannabis as medicine.
Tim Blake, proprietor of Laytonville's Area 101 and founder of thebannual Emerald Cup outdoor cannabis competition discussed challenges for outdoor growers. "Today we grow all the outdoor cannabis we need but can't get it to the marketplace. Mendo's crop was four times larger than last year, but we retain less than 18 percent of market share. We have a whole generation that doesn't like outdoor cannabis. It's a tough market to break," he noted. Blake feels the future of the cannabis industry is producing strains high in "CBDs" - molecular compounds providing patients with more health and less "high." He emphasized his success with the 9.31 program and encouraged growers to join. "If you're not an inlaw, you're an outlaw," Blake cautioned.
Dr. Mark Rabe, MediCann's director of patient services, reviewed cannabis and patient health. "MediCann patient profiles include the elderly suffering from osteoporosis, hospice patients, glaucoma, chronic pain, insomnia, arthritis, migraines, cancer, HIV and MS," he said. Rabe discussed the role of CBDs and the brain's endocannabinoid receptor sites. "Cannabis binds to these receptor sites located on cell membranes. This causes intracellular reactions resulting in relief from pain and nausea, lowering of intra-ocular pressure in glaucoma patients, changes in the gastrointestinal system and reduction of inflammation and blood pressure." Ukiah's MediCann physician Dr. John Lovejoy discussed cannabis use during pregnancy and breast feeding, citing four years of county public health statistics from 1,261 pregnant mothers.
Medical Marijuana To Be Taxed In Arizona
Arizona soon will be taxing a new product medical marijuana. The tax on medical marijuana will be the same as taxing any other product in the state, whether it be candy or furniture. That’s a 6.6 percent state tax and between 2 percent and 3 percent for cities, said Anthony Forschino, assistant director of the state Department of Revenue. Arizona voters approved medical marijuana in November, making the state the 15th in the nation to pass such a law.
The measure will allow patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and other chronic or debilitating diseases to buy 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks or grow a limited number of plants themselves if they live 25 miles from a dispensary. Patients could begin buying pot with a doctor’s recommendation in the state this summer. Pot shops will have to get a sales tax license just like any other business, and the department will monitor whether they are paying taxes, as it does with all other stores, Forschino said. Attorney General Tom Horne, who opposed the medical marijuana measure, said now that it has been approved, it should not be exempt from taxes even though it may benefit patients with chronic, debilitating diseases.
“You go to the store, you buy things that are hopefully 100 percent beneficial, and it gets taxed because it’s a revenue source,” he said. “This is no different than anything else.” Horne estimates that the state stands to receive $40 million annually in revenues from taxing medical marijuana. Those hoping to open dispensaries this summer will have to compete for just 124 spots, and the state Department of Health Services expects up to thousands of applications. Dispensary hopefuls will have to pay up to $5,000 to apply for a license and meet many other requirements. Finalized rules that dispensaries must follow will come out at the end of March after a public comment period.
Colorado: Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Not Associated With Increased Crime
Medical Marijuana Effort Takes A Step Back
Efforts to establish a medical marijuana program in Iowa took a step backwards at the statehouse Wednesday. A House subcommittee approved legislation that strengthens language classifying marijuana as a schedule one drug, which is defined as a substance having no proven or acceptable medical use and a high potential for abuse. Representative Tom Sands, a Republican from Wapello, says the bill also makes it clear that the legislature has authority over the issue. “I do not support medical marijuana. I know there are those individuals out there that believe that it has helped them. I have no personal knowledge whether it has or has not helped them. Maybe it is up to medical professionals and the Board of Pharmacy to change our mind that we’re wrong,” Sands said.
Sands says any decisions about marijuana should be made by the legislature. “It’s quite often a gateway drug, especially for some of our younger people and more vulnerable…that it leads them into more hallucinogenic type drugs that do far more damage,” Sands said. The Executive Officer of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy says the board agrees that any decisions about marijuana should be made by the legislature. Terry Witkowski says they never intended to establish a medicinal program.
“A pharmacy could not distribute marijuana because it’s an illegal drug federally and that would essentially put the pharmacy out of business,” Witkowski said. But a lobbyist for the Justice Reform Consortium says the Iowa Board of Pharmacy has already spoken on the issue. Stephanie Fawkes Lee says after a series of public hearings in 2009 the board voted to recommend that marijuana be reclassified as a drug that does have medicinal value. “And the Board of Pharmacy took the time and used resources to go across the state and have people come and say yes we do use this for medical reasons,’” Fawkes Lee said. ”So, to have this bill introduced, it’s like calling those people liars. They were in pain, they have health issues and medical cannabis actually helps them.” Other supporters of medical marijuana are less concerned about the bill. Carl Olsen of Des Moines says it merely upholds existing law, and does not stop the Democratically controlled Senate from considering alternative legislation to reclassify the drug.
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