The Florida Senate Health Committee convened this morning and received an update from Christian Bax, Director of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, on the implementation of regulations in Senate Bill 8A, which was passed by the legislature this summer.
The discussion focused on the application structure for adding additional medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs). Last month, a lawsuit was filed challenging the constitutionality of part of the state law that requires a medical marijuana license to go to a black farmer, and today the Office of Medical Marijuana Use said it will not issue any new licenses until the lawsuit is resolved.
When further questioned by the committee, Director Bax said, “We want to move the process as quickly as possible forward,” but cited concerns of legislative process that might invalidate the Department of Health’s licensing. If you’d like to watch Christian Bax’s testimony, the Florida Senate’s Health Policy meeting can be found on its website.
Amendment 2 established a deadline of October 3, 2017 for the Department of Health to issue additional MMTC licenses. If you are a Florida resident, please contact the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, and ask Director Bax to end the delay in medical marijuana licensing so that patients can have more access to treatment.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in Maine filed a lawsuit in Kennebec County Superior Court on Thursday challenging the Secretary of State’s decision to disqualify the measure from the November ballot. According to the suit, which is now available online at http://bit.ly/1pzNhVO, state officials improperly invalidated thousands of signatures of registered Maine voters and unlawfully denied citizens their constitutional right to vote on the measure.
Campaign leader David Boyer and attorney Scott Anderson announced the details of the suit at a news conference in the office of Portland law firm Verrill Dana. Anderson is representing a group of Maine voters who signed the petition in support of the initiative, including Boyer, State Sen. Eric Brakey, and State Rep. Diane Russell, among others.
Last week, the Secretary of State’s Office announced that the proposed initiative did not qualify for the November ballot. 61,123 signatures of registered Maine voters were required, and state officials determined that initiative backers submitted 51,543 valid signatures. In a document explaining their determination, state officials said they invalidated more than 5,000 petitions, which included more than 26,000 total petition signatures, solely due to their finding that the signature of a notary did not “match” the signature the state has on file. It appears more than 17,000 signatures were otherwise valid signatures of registered Maine voters.
According to the initiative backers’ lawsuit, the Secretary of State’s decision is flawed because the disputed signatures do, in fact, match those on file and because the Secretary of State acted outside his authority in invalidating the petitions.
The Secretary of State did not provide any factual findings to explain how the notaries’ signatures on the petitions differed from those on file, and neither the state constitution nor the governing statute authorize the Secretary of State to disqualify otherwise valid petitions based on a subjective comparison of signatures performed by a non-expert employee. The suit also points out instances in which the Secretary of State invalidated petitions because the signature of the individual who notarized them did not match the signature on file, but validated other petitions in which the same individual signed as a circulator using the same signature.
Supporters of marijuana regulation in Colorado are calling for the resignation of the six Colorado sheriffs who filed a federal lawsuit Thursday intended to force Colorado marijuana production and sales back into the underground market.
According to news reports, the sheriffs claim they are experiencing a “crisis of conscience” because they believe federal marijuana laws prohibit them from enforcing state marijuana laws. However, the U.S. Controlled Substances Act includes a provision that clearly states is not intended to preempt state laws, and it specifically authorizes states to pursue their own marijuana laws.
MPP's Mason Tvert explains on "CBS This Morning":
Yesterday, a Holiday Inn hotel operator in Colorado and a national anti-marijuana organization filed a federal lawsuit intended to shut down all of Colorado’s legal marijuana retail stores and cultivation facilities.
MPP is encouraging everyone who supports legalizing and regulating marijuana to (1) join us in a nationwide boycott of Holiday Inn hotels until the suit is withdrawn, and (2) sign our Change.org petition urging the hotel operator to withdraw it.
The people spearheading this effort were warriors in the Reagan administration’s Justice Department during the “Just Say No” era, and now they’re trying to turn back the clock 30 years in Colorado. At their press conference, the attorney who filed the lawsuit said they want everyone in Colorado who grows or sells marijuana for adult use to go to prison (yes, they actually said “prison”).
These guys aren’t messing around, and neither are we. Help us send businesses the message that they will face consequences if they join the fight to maintain marijuana prohibition.
Sign our petition calling on the Holiday Inn operator to drop its misguided lawsuit, boycott Holiday Inn until the suit gets dropped, and encourage your friends and relatives to do the same.
Martin Nickerson has filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Washington, attempting to bar the state from collecting taxes on marijuana sales. Washington state officials are demanding that he pay taxes on those sales to the tune of $62,000. However, since Nickerson is under prosecution for the criminal sale of marijuana as a medical marijuana producer, he claims that forcing him to pay taxes on his sales would violate his constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Alison Holcomb, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who was the main author of Washington State's successful ballot initiative, said the lawsuit has a low probability of taking down the state’s legal marijuana system.
Suppliers like Nickerson have already made public their intent to break federal law, Holcomb said, so paying taxes on their proceeds would not do much to further incriminate them.
"Paying taxes on marijuana implicates you, but so does everything else about being engaged in this system," she said.
Ultimately, the case brings into question whether federal laws trump state laws when it comes to collecting tax revenue generated from marijuana sales. The outcome of this case could have a significant impact on medical marijuana businesses around the country.
A Georgia school system is being sued by a student after an incident that occurred during a marijuana investigation. The victim, who was in seventh grade at the time, was humiliated by school officials in front of other students after being implicated in an investigation. The details speak for themselves:
The student, identified in court documents as D.H., said officials at Eddie White Academy initially strip-searched three other students on Feb. 8, 2011, after suspecting they had marijuana. One of them accused D.H. of having drugs, and he was brought to then-vice principal Tyrus McDowell's office.
While the three classmates watched, D.H.'s pockets and book bag were searched but didn't find anything, the lawsuit said. One of the students told school officials he had lied about D.H. having drugs, but administrators continued the search as D.H. begged to be taken to the bathroom for more privacy, according to the lawsuit.
D.H. was ordered to strip and again, no drugs were found.
This sad event was not only illegal according to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it was also representative of some of the more repulsive aspects of the government’s war on marijuana users. Let’s see …
We have authority figures pressuring suspects into implicating innocent people and then refusing to listen when the accusation is recanted or outside evidence proves the implicated person was not involved.
Those same authorities conduct illegal searches using humiliating and forceful methods, without respect for privacy, due process, or human dignity.
The victim is forced to carry the stigma of the incident, which has very real effects on his or her ability to prosper and live a normal life. At the same time, respect for the authorities in question and the system they represent is shaken and often never recovered.
"This situation has broken the very foundation of my child's education because in order for him to learn, he has to believe that what schools are trying to teach him is right and now he questions them after they stripped him of his clothes and dignity," she said. "His trust is broken."
This is just a microcosm of what the war on marijuana does to our society. We should all be ashamed that we have allowed it to continue for so long that it is finally and exactly mirrored in our schools. Is this the environment where our youth will learn and grow?
UPDATE: On Tuesday, an Arizona state court ordered the state to implement the dispensary provisions of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. The court also declared three medical marijuana regulations invalid and upheld other challenged regulations. The health department had said the state might wait until September or later to issue dispensary registrations. Hopefully, this means dispensaries will finally be registered by spring.
Today, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) announced she will not re-file her lawsuit questioning the validity of Arizona's medical marijuana program. She also announced that once litigation is resolved challenging the health department rules, her health department will begin issuing dispensary registrations.
Gov. Brewer's announcement follows a January 4 ruling dismissing her lawsuit. Judge Susan Bolton agreed with the ACLU, Department of Justice, and other attorneys, and found that there was no genuine, imminent threat that state employees would be prosecuted. Bolton said that Brewer could re-file if the problems with her complaint were addressed.
The U.S. attorney for Arizona at the time the case was filed, Dennis Burke, sent a letter to the Arizona health department on May 2, 2011 that flew in the face of the Obama Administration's stated policy of not targeting those complying with state medical marijuana laws. Burke's letter said "the [federal] CSA may be vigorously enforced against those individuals and entities who operate large marijuana production facilities" even if they are in compliance with state laws, as well as those who "knowingly facilitate the actions of traffickers." After receiving the letter, Gov. Brewer directed Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne to file the litigation requesting clarity, even though Burke told media outlets that his office would not target state employees.
Today, Gov. Brewer wrote the acting U.S. attorney for Arizona, Ann Birmingham Scheel, noting her plans to finally move forward. Brewer requested clarification as to whether there are any activities state employees should not engage in and said "the Department of Justice and the administration which you serve will have a lot of explaining to do to the citizens of our country, and State of Arizona employees in particular, if the State's reasonable and straightforward requests for clarity are ignored, and the Department of Justice then ambushes State employees with prosecution or civil penalties for implementing the AMMA and licensing medical marijuana dispensaries."
Now, only one governor is stubbornly refusing to move forward with implementing a duly enacted medical marijuana dispensary program: Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) of Rhode Island. Here’s hoping he finally sees the light.
In late September, I wrote about the letter sent by the ATF to all federally licensed firearms dealers, explaining that it was illegal to sell guns or ammunition to state-licensed medical marijuana users.
The reasoning behind this was a clause in the Federal Firearms Act that states that a person cannot purchase or possess a gun if they are “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana, or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.” The ATF reminded gun dealers that marijuana is still illegal according to the federal government, and that having a medical marijuana license was proof that a person fit the definition of an unlawful user or addict. Of course, a state-licensed patient is a lawful user as far as the state is concerned, but as we have seen, the feds do not care all that much about state law.
In a debate between MPP’s Steve Fox and former head of the ATF Mike Sullivan, Sullivan repeatedly claimed that the ATF’s hands were tied in this matter. Contrary to the claims that the ATF is simply reminding gun dealers about the law, the ATF actually has the discretion to define what they consider to be an “unlawful user.” In the absence of a court decision clarifying the definition, the ATF had every right to issue a memo that instead declared state-legal medical marijuana users to be lawful users and exempt from this particular status. Instead, they decided to use the vague law as a cover to deny sick people their constitutional right to bear arms.
Well, it looks like this might get cleared up in the (reasonably) near future.
On Oct. 4, outspoken Nevada medical marijuana advocate Rowan Wilson was denied purchase of a handgun due to her status as a patient. On Oct. 17, she and her attorney announced that she is suing the ATF and the federal government.
If this case goes to trial, federal judges will have the ability to determine whether patients in jurisdictions that allow the medical use of marijuana are, in fact, unlawful users pursuant to federal firearms laws.
Let’s hope they side with Ms. Wilson.
So far, gun rights activist groups like the National Rifle Association have been largely silent on this issue, but smaller organizations such as the Montana Shooting Sports Association and the Independent Firearms Owners of America have offered their support.
When asked why gun rights activists should support medical marijuana patients in this instance, IFOA president Richard Feldman said, "Republicans, Conservatives and independents need to face the dire economic realities facing our nation and stop funding programs like the war on drugs that don't work, corrupt law enforcement and grow criminal enterprises. Our experience with alcohol prohibition teaches us how to lessen both the harm and the costs to society from banning substances which otherwise law abiding individuals will pursue. As gun owners many of us subscribe to the maxim, 'Better to be caught by the police with one, than by a gang banger without one'! It's time American face reality, deal with it intelligently, and stop protesting it, regardless of the 'it' being guns or marijuana."
A funny thing happened on Monday. The Department of Justice filed a brief regarding state medical marijuana laws in Arizona . . . and it was a good thing, and was met with appreciation from the medical marijuana movement! Seriously. After the disappointments of the vague, not very helpful Cole memo, and the expected but still disappointing DEA denial of marijuana’s medical value, it was great to see the Department of Justice (DoJ) doing the right thing regarding medical marijuana, even if it was only in a limited way.
As you may know, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, last seen promoting states’ rights and vowing to fight on when it comes to illegal immigration, and her Attorney General, Tom Horne, had filed a suit as plaintiffs against the federal government, requesting permission to move ahead with Arizona’s medical marijuana program implementation. This was ridiculous, since no other governor has needed federal permission to move ahead with medical marijuana implementation, even though some others have also tried to use the red herring threat of federal action to slow implementation. Apparently, the DoJ also thinks Brewer’s claims are ridiculous, and it said as much in its withering Motion to Dismiss brief, in which it took apart each of the state of Arizona’s arguments, urging the court to dismiss the case. If the court dismisses the case, Brewer’s logical course of action would be to fully implement Arizona’s medical marijuana law, including licensing more than 100 dispensaries, though given her intransigence, that course of action is sadly not a given.
Throughout its brief, the DoJ basically said that the state of Arizona has no case and that plaintiffs Gov. Brewer and AG Horne have invented a controversy where none exists. Further, the brief notes that a state is not allowed to bring a case asking two sides to fight it out, without taking a position on the law in question, belying Gov. Brewer’s claims upon the suit’s filing of being a neutral party seeking “clarity.” The American judicial process simply does not work that way. In its brief, the DoJ’s criticism of the plaintiffs’ complaint was often direct and sometimes even slightly mocking, which was definitely appreciated by this reader.
The brief attacks the premise of Arizona’s suit in several ways. It says that the suit does not raise a substantial federal question (which it must in order to be heard first in federal court) because it asks for a declaratory judgment on the validity of a state law. It is amusing to watch the federal government explain Constitutional Law 101 to Gov. Brewer, noting that, “there is no federal jurisdiction of a suit by a state to declare the validity of its regulations despite possibly conflicting federal law” (p. 6). The brief also states directly that Arizona has not asserted any “actual, concrete controversy” in its complaint. The brief criticizes the plaintiffs for not identifying a controversy between the parties in the suit and notes the plaintiffs’ failure to take a side as a fatal flaw in the lawsuit, accusing the state of Arizona of “attempt[ing] to manufacture disputes among other parties” (p. 9). The brief criticizes Arizona’s decision to create twenty fictitious defendants, ten on one side of the law and ten on the other, states its doubts about the existence of the hypothetical defendants, and notes definitively that “parties cannot have ‘adverse legal interests’ necessary to establish a live controversy, when one party (particularly the plaintiff) professes to take neither side of the dispute” (p. 10). Finally, the brief denies that Arizona even has standing to raise such a claim, as it has not suffered any “injury in fact.” Basing standing on the idea that some Arizonans disagree about federal law’s effect on Arizona’s medical marijuana law will not work, nor will an unspecific suggestion about a “supposed risk that Arizona citizens will lose revenue or property” (pp. 11-12).
More importantly on a national level, this DoJ brief appears to affirm the following interpretation of the Ogden and Cole Memorandums, along with other relevant case law and actual enforcement: that there has been no demonstration that the federal government is interested in prosecuting state employees for implementing state medical marijuana programs and issuing dispensary licenses. The DoJ cites the lack of any “genuine threat that any state employee will face imminent prosecution under federal law” (p. 2) and notes that “plaintiffs can point to no threat of enforcement against the State’s employees” (p. 10). The brief notes that Arizona has no “concrete plan to act in violation of the Controlled Substances Act,” as it has refused to accept dispensary applications and issue licenses (an act that MPP believes, based on relevant court precedent, would clearly not be such a violation). The brief notes that Arizona was not able to produce any threat, generalized or specific, directed towards its state employees, and it points to the omission of any state employee threats in Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke’s letter on the issue (p. 14). The brief dismisses Arizona’s suggestion that Arizona state employees are subject to federal prosecution as “mere speculation” (p. 15). It sums up this argument when it says:
Plaintiffs identify no prior instances in which the federal government has sought to prosecute state employees for the conduct vaguely described in Plaintiffs’ complaint. Without evidence of such prior prosecutions, Plaintiffs cannot credibly show a genuine threat of imminent prosecution in this case. (p. 15)
This message from the DoJ is heartening, along with U.S. Attorney Burke’s clear statement that going after state employees “is not a priority for us, and will not be." This brief also comes on the heels of the statement of former U.S. Attorney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who said definitively about his decision to implement the state’s medical marijuana program:
I don’t believe the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, given the narrow and medically based nature of our program, will expend what are significantly lessening federal law enforcement resources in the context of the federal budget, on going after dispensaries in New Jersey, our Department of Health or other state workers who are helping to implement this program.
These recent events all suggest that the Department of Justice is interpreting its guidance to mean that state employees can fully implement medical marijuana programs, like those in Arizona and Rhode Island, with no fear of prosecution. So let’s get it done, Governors Brewer and Chaffee! Time is wasting, and people are hurting and need their medicine now.
Today, the Arizona Republic covered Gov. Jan Brewer’s outrageous, not-yet-filed lawsuit that calls the state’s voter-enacted medical marijuana law into question. Gov. Brewer alleged a major reason for the suit was fear that state employees could be in jeopardy. This claim was disingenuous given that Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke’s letter hadn’t mentioned state employees, and Brewer didn’t even bother to ask him if they would be at risk.
Apparently, reporter Mary K. Reinhart was more resourceful than Gov. Brewer. She spoke to U.S. Attorney Burke, who said "We have no intention of targeting or going after people who are implementing or who are in compliance with state law. But at the same time, they can't be under the impression that they have immunity, amnesty or safe haven." Burke also said they plan to focus drug enforcement on cartels and major trafficking, and that they have no intention to prosecute state employees.
This sounds like, in practice, the Arizona U.S. Attorney plans to abide by the 2009 Ogden memo that advises against targeting those in clear and unambiguous compliance with state laws, and by prior statements by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama.
In practice, as MPP has reminded lawmakers, the federal government has not been targeting those dispensaries that are state-registered, complying with state law, and operating in states with clear regulations and registration requirements. There have been no raids on dispensaries or licensed producers in New Mexico, Colorado, or Maine.
We hope this marks the beginning of the end of the scare tactics from U.S. Attorneys. We also believe that any alleged violation of state law should be up to state — not federal — law enforcement officials and/or courts to consider.
Join in the campaign to ensure the federal government does not interfere with state medical marijuana laws by asking your representative in Congress to support three bills in Congress that would provide legal protection to those complying with state law.