Just this week, DEA agents raided two medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego. The raid came one day after the owner of one of the facilities testified at a city council hearing on regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries.
Ironically, it also comes as the Obama administration announces their new drug control strategy, which they call a “21st century approach to drug policy.” To hear them tell it, we’re now focused on treatment and prevention rather than arrests and prosecutions. Of course, that’s not true, and no one knows that better than medical marijuana providers in California and elsewhere. Fortunately, there is a way to change all that.
Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has introduced the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act. If passed, his bill would reschedule marijuana, recognizing its medical value, and prevent the DEA from going after patients, doctors, or dispensaries.
It’s vital that your representatives in Congress know that you support medical marijuana and that people who provide doctor-recommended medicine to sick people are not criminals. Please write your elected officials today, and when you’re done, forward this to friends so they can do the same.
Thousands of medical marijuana patients in the United States rely on the drug to alleviate a multitude of symptoms from cachexia to nerve pain; nevertheless, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) still considers it a Schedule I controlled substance that has no accepted medical use.
Despite this law-enforcement-agency-approved “analysis,” doctors are conducting their own research. In Israel, the Meir Medical Center is recruiting Crohn’s Disease sufferers for a study on the ability of marijuana to treat the inflammatory bowel disease, which affects 400,000-600,000 North Americans.
In San Francisco, for more than five years, doctors at California Pacific Medical Center have been studying the effects of the marijuana compound cannabidiol (CBD) on metastatic cancer cells (i.e., very aggressive tumor cells). In their recently published large-scale animal trial, brain scans revealed the disruption of tumor cells after CBD was used to switch off a specific gene regulator.
These promising results left researchers optimistic and they believe that the findings warrant human trials. They will work to secure funding in the upcoming months for two trial groups, one for brain cancer and the other for breast cancer.
Will these and other studies finally convince our government that science, not myth, should dictate how we approach marijuana?
According to a California Field Poll released on Wednesday, the majority of Golden State voters are in favor of legalizing and regulating marijuana like alcohol for recreational use. The Sacramento Bee expounded on the poll, which also stated that an even larger percentage of those polled oppose the federal crackdown on medical marijuana businesses. This sentiment was similar across party lines.
Marijuana reform activists were optimistic after learning of the results. Richard Lee, the chief proponent of Proposition 19, the ballot measure that attempted to make marijuana legal for adults in California in 2010, told the Bee:
“I think it shows that [marijuana legalization and regulation is] going to win in 2016, and it’s just a matter of writing the best law that we can.”
Last weekend, California NORML hosted Cannabis in California: Ending the 100-Year War, an inspiring conference that brought together advocates from across the state, country, and even as far as New Zealand. Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the event – California will almost surely see a statewide initiative in 2016 similar to those approved in Colorado and Washington, and it appears local and national activists and organizations will be unified in the effort to get it done.
On the first panel, California NORML Director Dale Gieringer explained how the California State Board of Pharmacy quietly pushed a ban on possession of “hemp, or loco-weed“ through the legislature in 1913 without it receiving any press or opposition. In contrast to that very quiet campaign to demonize and ban marijuana, reversing this failed policy will be very public, and it will undoubtedly face some opposition.
For an initiative to succeed in California, however, it’s important that the opposition doesn’t come from our base. Hence, it was particularly heartening to see so much unity at the conference and at an MPP-hosted strategy meeting on Thursday. Reform organizations, funders, and advocates overwhelmingly supported putting a marijuana regulation initiative on the next presidential ballot in 2016, rather than 2014 (when voter turnout is much less favorable) and working together to see it through. It will be some time before the details of any measure and campaign are hammered out. In the meantime, there appears to be widespread support for advancing statewide regulations on medical marijuana.
For those who are eager to start building support for 2016, we can look to the 2012 Colorado campaign’s “Talk It Up” project, which helped build support leading up to the election by encouraging people to start conversations about the issue with their friends, family members, and others. It’s these personal discussions that change people’s minds and make them more comfortable supporting an end to marijuana prohibition, so start talking it up today!
Today’s New York Times includes a feature story about California medical marijuana provider Matthew Davies, who federal prosecutors are pressuring to accept a five-year mandatory minimum as a plea agreement. Federal authorities indicted Matthew last year on charges of marijuana cultivation, calling him “one of the most significant commercial marijuana traffickers to be prosecuted in this district.” By all accounts, the two dispensaries Matthew owned were in total compliance with state law and were models of professionalism and service.
He brought graduate-level business skills to a world decidedly operating in the shadows. He hired accountants, compliance lawyers, managers, a staff of 75 and a payroll firm. He paid California sales tax and filed for state and local business permits.
“This is not a case of an illicit drug ring under the guise of medical marijuana,” [his attorney] wrote. “Here, marijuana was provided to qualified adult patients with a medical recommendation from a licensed physician. Records were kept, proceeds were tracked, payroll and sales taxes were duly paid.”
Does this sound like a dangerous criminal who we should spend federal resources to arrest, prosecute, and possibly jail? Medical marijuana providers who followed state law, like Matthew, weren’t supposed to be the targets of federal attack and provide an excellent example for others in the industry. Nevertheless, he is facing a significant amount of time in jail regardless of whether he takes the plea, which will surely take a serious toll on him and his family.
“To be looking at 15 years of our life, you couldn’t pay me enough to give that up,” Mr. Davies said at the dining room table in his two-story home along the San Joaquin River Delta, referring to the amount of time he could potentially serve in prison.