The Mayor of San Diego is encouraging jurors of an upcoming medical marijuana case to reject the prosecution’s argument, which rests on the fact that marijuana is banned at the federal level.
The feds arrested Ronnie Chang of San Marcos in 2009 for operating a medical marijuana dispensary. He is just one of the many Californians who have faced legal consequences for their state-sanctioned efforts to bring relief to patients.
Mayor Bob Filner is outraged at Chang’s situation. “Someone should not be going through this stage of prosecution for trying to help people to have access to medical marijuana,” he told reporters.
A champion for civil rights and a former Freedom Rider, Mayor Filner wants jurors to send a message to the federal government this fall, when Chang’s trial is expected to begin.
“[I]t’s time, like with Prohibition, to step back and say this was a stupid thing to do…and juries ought to take the lead in saying that to the federal government.”
In a process known as “jury nullification,” Mayor Filner hopes that those selected to listen to Chang’s case will place their consciences above the evidence and acquit him of any wrong doing.
Let’s hope the jury heeds Mayor Filner’s bold cry for action.
After word spread of DEA raids on medical marijuana collectives in San Diego and Mendocino County last week, many are left wondering if federal agents deliberately violated the Obama administration’s instructions to not interfere with state medical marijuana laws.
Under the Department of Justice policy announced in an October memo, federal agents are no longer supposed to target or prosecute medical marijuana patients or providers who operate in “clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law.”
Yet, according to local accounts, the sites raided last week were legal under state law. From the Press Democrat:
Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman confirmed Friday that the [raided] property owner had the proper paperwork and the marijuana was legal in the eyes of the county.
“This was a federal operation and had nothing to do with local law enforcement,” he said. “The federal government made a decision to go ahead and eradicate it.”
Steve Elliott has more in Alternet:
A multi-agency federal task force descended on the property of Joy Greenfield, the first Mendo patient to pay the $1,050 application fee under the ordinance, which allows collectives to grow up to 99 plants provided they comply with certain regulations.
Greenfield had applied in the name of her collective, “Light The Way,” which opened in San Diego earlier this year. Her property had passed a preliminary inspection by the Mendo sheriff’s deputies shortly before the raid, and she had bought the sheriff’s “zip-ties” intended to designate her cannabis plants as legal.
In the days before the raid, Greenfield had seen a helicopter hovering over her property; she inquired with the sheriff, who told her the copter belonged to the DEA and wasn’t under his control.
The agents invaded her property with guns drawn, tore out the collective’s 99 plants and took Greenfield’s computer and cash.
Joy was not at home during the raid, but spoke on the phone to the DEA agent in charge. When she told [him] she was a legal grower under the sheriff’s program, the agent replied, “I don’t care what the sheriff says.”
The DEA has not yet released any statement explaining their actions, which all reports indicate violated their DOJ-issued guidelines.
With the number of state medical marijuana laws at 14 and growing, there is an urgent need for the federal government to ensure that its policy on state medical marijuana laws is made “clear and unambiguous” to its enforcers as well. The DOJ guidelines issued in October should have done just that, but apparently the DEA in California didn’t get the memo.
Law enforcement officials from all over the nation have descended upon San Diego, California this week to attend a conference for the National Marijuana Initiative (NMI) and the California Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP). We’ve been pointing out the futility of marijuana “eradication” campaigns like CAMP and NMI for years but don’t expect conference attendees to spend any time rethinking their failed prohibitionist policies while enjoying their stay in sunny San Diego.
The agenda for the publicly funded conference, held at the prestigious U.S. Grant Hotel from May 10 through May 13, is not available to the public. In fact, the conference is under the close guard of about a dozen San Diego Police officers and even some military personnel.
We do know that former U.S. Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey was a featured speaker. According to his press release, McCaffrey laid out talking points against California’s Tax Cannabis 2010 initiative. That’s right, your tax dollars are essentially being used to hold an anti-reform campaign rally behind closed doors.
There’s also no doubt that conference attendees are patting themselves on the back for their work in the largest and most expensive weed abatement project of all time. Since 2003, CAMP’s marijuana plant seizures have grown by 500% but nevertheless have had no effect on marijuana’s availability or cost, which has actually decreased slightly since CAMP’s inception in 1983. Programs like CAMP are actually making matters worse by driving illegal marijuana operations deeper into harder-to-reach and environmentally sensitive areas on our public lands.
Yesterday, MPP held a press conference across the street from the marijuana eradication love fest to call out these officials for supporting a program that, at best, is a costly failure. Former deputy sheriff and current LEAP speaker Leo Laurence and Rev. Mary Moreno-Richardson, an Episcopol priest from San Diego, joined me in calling for a new direction in our marijuana policies.
Our event was originally to take place in a room across the hall from the prohibitionist conference but the hotel reneged on our contract at the last minute, forcing us to move across the street. Clearly, marijuana warriors don’t want to risk hearing from those questioning the insanity of doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results. To protect these prohibitionists' bubbles from being burst by reality, our original meeting room at the U.S. Grant was left empty while conference attendees enjoyed their taxpayer-supported echo chamber across the hall.
As the upcoming "eradication" season unfolds, let’s hope that the mainstream media won’t let the staggering imagery of helicopters being used to uproot marijuana plants distract them from asking the important question of whether or not these programs are actually working.
At a time when law enforcement budgets are strained to their limits and hundreds of thousands of violent crimes are going unsolved, the last thing we need is for cops to spend their time pulling up weeds. The only way to effectively control marijuana and eliminate the illegal grow operations from our public lands is to take it out of the hands of criminals and regulate it like we do alcohol.
Last week, I posted the results of the MPP-commissioned poll showing that despite outrageous claims being made by local officials, there is wide support for medical marijuana among Los Angeles County voters. A new poll now shows that support for medical marijuana access isn't confined to Los Angeles.
A poll released Wednesday in San Diego found super-majority support for medical marijuana in that city. The poll -- commissioned by addiction recovery Web site keepcomingback.com -- found 77% agreement that "officials must make sure that San Diego's medical marijuana patients have convenient access to their medicine in the city." 70% support regulating the city's medical marijuana collectives in some way, while only 9.5% support banning them (3% said they didn't need any regulations). The poll also collected other interesting information about how San Diegans view medical marijuana sales. Read more about it here.
This poll should send a firm message to San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who just last month ordered a series of shocking raids on local medical marijuana patients and suppliers.
Despite the success experienced by dozens of California cities and counties regulating -- and in one case, even taxing -- medical marijuana sales, some municipalities have seen fit to shutter all open access to patients. In San Diego, where local voters approved the state's medical marijuana initiative 13 years ago, the county district attorney continues to assert that it's illegal to dispense medical marijuana to patients whose physicians have approved its use. Despite repeated losses in court and overwhelming opposition to medical marijuana raids, District Attorney Dumanis has vowed to continue her pogrom against San Diego's sick.
On the other end of the state, the small town of Red Bluff may be taking it upon itself to re-write California's voter-approved medical marijuana law altogether. The city's planning commission voted 3-2 on Tuesday to support of an ordinance which would not only ban storefront medical marijuana dispensing collectives but also prohibit all medical marijuana cultivation. Apparently, the news that California laws specifically allow cultivation by patients and their caregivers hasn't reached Red Bluff in all these years. Nor have the loads of case law supporting these rights been taken into account when the majority of commission cast its vote to thwart state law.
The Red Bluff City Council should reject this offensive proposal but if they don't, I'm confident that it will be overturned in court. Further, public officials like D.A. Dumanis and the three Red Bluff planning commissioners who openly defy the will of their state's voters and its legislature should find another line of work.
Remember that gut-wrenching footage of the wheelchair-bound medical marijuana patient being pulled out of his chair and into the back of a squad car? The victim of this brutality was Rev. Paul Cody, operator of the Hillcrest Compassion Care medical marijuana collective in San Diego.
Paul has told the San Diego City Beat that he's planning on filing a legal complaint for his treatment during the raid on Hillcrest. Paul is paralyzed from the waist down due to a motorcycle accident, and he repeatedly told the police officers that his condition required that he receive special treatment but sadly, the thugs carried on as if terrorizing a man in a wheelchair was just another day at the office.
“I told them again and again, I’m paralyzed, I have to be in the front seat,” he told CityBeat later.
Cody says he told officers repeatedly of his special needs, but they didn’t listen. With his particular injury, he can’t support himself sitting upright, and he has special requirements for how his legs are supposed to be arranged, which mandates that he sit in the front seat of cars. But Cody says cops cuffed him behind his back and shoved him into the back, where he slumped over. He says he has the bruises to show the damage done to him.
Needless to say, MPP wishes Paul the best of luck in his challenge. More importantly, we look forward to the day when local officials everywhere in California finally begin following the state's long-standing, voter-approved medical marijuana law so that people like Paul are no longer victimized by their own government.
According to the San Diego County District Attorney's Office -- the agency that led yesterday’s multi-jurisdictional raids on local medical marijuana providers -- warrants were served at 14 dispensing collectives and six associated residences. So far, 23 people have been arrested in connection with the raided facilities.
The D.A.’s press release attempts to justify the actions using an extremely narrow interpretation of state law relating to the role of a “primary caregiver.” It does not address whether or not the facilities in question were operating as “collectives” – a more common state-legal model for dispensing medical marijuana.
One thing that's clear about this case is that San Diego would have been better served if its leaders had moved to properly regulate medical marijuana facilities rather than resisting any effort to do so before resorting to brute force to shutter legal access to local patients.
If you've had any doubt that these raids are being carried out by heartless thugs, just look to the image below from video captured by San Diego’s KFMB News showing an officer manhandling a wheelchair-bound patient into the back of a patrol car. Remind me again, how is this serving the interest of public safety?
Several San Diego-area medical marijuana collectives were raided today in a county-wide sweep apparently coordinated by the district attorney's office. It's unclear at this time whether or not any arrests have been made or exactly what -- if any -- state law violations are being alleged in these cases.
Given San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' dismal record of circumventing California's medical marijuana laws and prosecuting patients, this recent action is unfortunately not very surprising. MPP is continuing to keep a close watch on the situation in San Diego; we'll provide an update if more relevant information becomes available.
I've recently been corresponding with a medical marijuana patient and Navy veteran, Eugene Davidovich, who was recently arrested in a particularly slimy undercover sting operation. Eugene, a member of a San Diego medical marijuana collective, was contacted by an undercover cop posing as a registered, licensed medical marijuana patient who asked for his help obtaining his medicine.
You can probably guess the rest, but here's a link to a good comprehensive story on his arrest.
Prosecutors argue that Eugene violated the law in providing medical marijuana to the undercover cop – even though the cop presented him with documentation verifying his status as a licensed medical marijuana patient. They even insinuate that Eugene's motive was profit and not compassion.
It appears that what's really happening is that prosecutors are taking advantage of vagaries in California's medical marijuana law to persecute patients and caregivers who are doing their best to take care of themselves and stay within the law.
Here's how Eugene put it:
Every attempt made to date by collectives and coops to follow the law in San Diego has resulted in prosecutions or collectives having to operate so deeply underground and under such intense daily fear and pressure, that the potential public benefit they could be bringing to the community and to patients is stifled by this environment of fear.
Eugene has a fight on his hands now. Please visit his Web site and help him out if you can.
California's medical marijuana laws just received their latest legal vindication today - this time at the nation's highest court. The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will not be hearing a case lodged by the counties of San Diego and San Bernardino aimed at gutting California's medical marijuana law. The two counties claimed that the federal law banning all marijuana trumped the state's medical marijuana law.
The challenge was initially filed in 2006 at the San Diego County superior court after the counties had refused to implement the state-mandated medical marijuana identification card program. The superior court judge sided with patients and state law and strongly denied the counties' claim. Last year, a state appeals court also ruled against the counties, and the state Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal.
The protracted legal battle has been a popular excuse among California officials trying to shirk their legal obligation to uphold the state's medical marijuana laws. Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided against hearing the case, officials in San Diego, San Bernardino, and seven other counties not following the law have nowhere to go but to obey the will of the voters who overwhelmingly support medical marijuana laws.
Beyond California, the message should now be clear that hiding behind federal law is no longer a legitimate position to take when considering state-level medical marijuana laws.