Crackdown Activates Search for Options

Crackdown Activates Search for Options
Posted by CN Staff on July 27, 2007 at 10:13:13 PT
By David Olson, The Press-Enterprise 
Source: Press-Enterprise
California -- As the number of medical-marijuana dispensaries in the Inland area dwindles, patients are looking for other options while their advocates try to shield them from arrest. More than 160 members of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday supported a proposal to end federal funding of Drug Enforcement Administration raids and other actions against medical-pot outlets. The measure was defeated.
Palm Springs officials are drafting an ordinance to allow medical-marijuana patients to grow pot at city-authorized collectives -- despite a top federal prosecutor's warning that City Council members who approve such measures could be subject to federal prosecution. As storefront outlets close, groups that offer home deliveries of medical pot are receiving a surge of calls from former dispensary patients. One Corona-based service has doubled its patient load in the past week. Only two or three of the seven medical-pot outlets in Riverside and San Bernardino counties that were open at the beginning of the year are still operating, patient advocates said. One, in Palm Desert, will close in September under pressure from the city and another, in Palm Springs, is being threatened with eviction. It is unclear whether a third dispensary, in Palm Springs, remains open, city officials said California voters approved the medicinal use of marijuana in 1996. Under state law, people suffering from AIDS-related complications, cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma and other diseases can use marijuana to relieve pain. A doctor's recommendation is required. But marijuana use remains a federal crime. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that medical-marijuana outlets and patients can be prosecuted under federal law. Federal officials view state and local laws as inapplicable. Last week, the DEA raided medical-marijuana outlets in Corona and Perris and arrested their owner. Those were two of a series of raids the agency has conducted at medical-pot outlets throughout the state since the voter initiative passed.  Landlords at RiskU.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Huntington Beach, a co-sponsor of the measure that would have cut off funding for the DEA raids, said Congress should stop the DEA from using taxpayer money to thwart the will of California voters and to take doctor-approved drugs away from sick people. "This is the most outrageous misuse of limited funds," Rohrabacher said by telephone. "They should use that money in a way that will help us keep young people from getting involved in drugs and have a better understanding of the threat that drugs pose to them rather than basically thumbing their nose at the local electorate and causing great hardship for people who are physically ill." Rohrabacher also blasted a recent DEA threat to seize the property of building owners who rent to marijuana dispensaries, calling it "abusive and arrogant." The letter was sent to about 150 property owners in Los Angeles County. But a DEA spokeswoman said owners in other counties might be targeted next. Shaoul Levy said he is so worried about the seizure of the Palm Springs building that he and four partners own that he plans to ask the Desert Valley Patients Association dispensary to move out. The medical-marijuana association signed a one-year lease for Levy's building in downtown Palm Springs about four months ago, the group's attorney said. Levy, of Santa Monica, said that he owns a Los Angeles building that contains a dispensary and received one of the DEA letters. He does not believe he and other landlords should be dragged into disputes among federal, state and local officials over medical marijuana. "They should keep the building owners out of it," he said. "They are holding us hostage." Levy said he expects the patients association to fight the eviction notice by arguing that he is illegally breaking the lease. Anthony Curiale, the Brea attorney for the association, said he hopes to work with the building's owners to resolve the problem, but added that a lawsuit against the owners is an option. The DEA, he said, is using "terror and fear tactics" to intimidate property owners. Cities in the FrayThe patients association has problems with the city of Palm Springs as well. The city last year barred new dispensaries until it could establish medical-marijuana regulations. The two dispensaries existing at the time later closed. Desert Valley violates that law, City Attorney Douglas Holland said. City officials are seeking to close the outlet through civil code-enforcement actions, he said. Curiale said the association will fight the city. The draft ordinance that Palm Springs' medical-marijuana task force drew up last week would allow marijuana patients and their caregivers to form collectives that would be closed to outsiders. Only marijuana grown on the premises could be provided to patients. City officials could inspect records at any time. Other restrictions, including a limit on the number of members, will likely be added before the proposal is finalized, Holland said. The city had not previously regulated medical-marijuana outlets. The rules prevent abuse, including sales to non-patients, and conform to state law, Holland said. Yet the proposal faces legal threats on both sides of the medical-marijuana issue. The Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access, a patient-advocacy group, believes Palm Springs does not have the right under state law to establish certain restrictions, such as a limit on the number of members, spokesman Kris Hermes said. The DEA, though, views all medical-marijuana dispensaries or collectives as illegal. Special Agent Sarah Pullen said the DEA does not take a city's support for medical marijuana into account when deciding which outlets to raid. The chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles says city officials who allow medical-marijuana outlets are subject to prosecution for violating federal marijuana laws. At a Coachella Valley Association of Governments meeting in January, Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom O'Brien said such officials could be prosecuted for aiding and abetting a federal crime. President Bush nominated O'Brien on July 12 to become U.S. attorney for the Los Angeles office, which covers Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Palm Springs City Councilwoman Ginny Foat, who sits on the marijuana task force, said O'Brien's comment makes her less likely to vote for a marijuana-collective ordinance, even though she strongly believes the city should allow people suffering from debilitating diseases to obtain medical marijuana. "It has a real chilling effect," Foat said. "That was very disturbing to us -- that our vote would be threatened by a law-enforcement officer. We are trying to do what is legally right according to California law." Foat asked state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, a Santa Monica Democrat who chairs the Senate health committee, to request a legal opinion from Attorney General Jerry Brown's office on what sort of legal liability -- if any -- public officials have. State Senior Assistant Attorney General Rodney Lilyquist responded in a May 29 letter that he could not answer because medical-marijuana dispensaries are the subject of litigation. Kuehl said she is unaware of any litigation involving the narrow question of whether public officials can be arrested for approving medical-marijuana ordinances. She said she would write another letter to Brown's office asking for a legal opinion on the matter. "At the very least, it's lazy research," Kuehl said of the May 29 letter. Holland called the response a "cop-out."  Deliveries IncreaseAs federal officials close in on remaining medical-marijuana dispensaries and try to prevent cities from allowing the establishment of new ones, some patients are turning to medical-marijuana delivery services. Medical-marijuana Web sites list more than a dozen delivery services that serve the Inland area. The Corona operator of one service, Holistic Alternative Inc., said her patient list has doubled since last week's raids in Corona and Perris. She declined to give her full name for fear of arrest by federal officials. The woman, who said she uses marijuana to relieve pain from severe arthritis, said she had about 20 patients until the July 17 Corona raid. She said that since then she has been receiving three to five patient inquiries a day and has had to turn away patients because she does not have enough marijuana. "The people we serve are very ill," said the woman, who said she established the service about six months ago. "We have multiple-sclerosis patients who can barely leave their homes." She said Holistic Alternative is a nonprofit collective of patients that obtains marijuana from members who grow it. She said she has delivered to patients as far away as Blythe. The group contacts doctors to verify patients' eligibility for medical marijuana before delivery, and checks identification cards and original copies of doctors' letters at patients' doors, she said. The woman said she is willing to take legal risks because she wants to help other patients. But, she said, she does not believe the relatively small amount of marijuana she stores will make her a DEA target. "If the federal government has the time to waste getting the four ounces I may keep at my house, let them waste it," she said. Even though patients have turned to delivery services for help, some are wary of them, said Ryan Michaels, a Riverside member of the Patient Advocacy Network, which assists medical-marijuana patients. Many patients feel more comfortable going to dispensaries because they have a professional medical atmosphere, and the patients can scrutinize the operations more closely to ensure they comply with state law, he said. Some patients fear that undercover police may be behind some delivery services, said Summer Glenney, of San Jacinto, Inland Empire field coordinator for the advocacy network. Pullen, the DEA agent, said the agency is aware of the delivery services. Pullen said she knows of no past federal action against them but said that they are illegal and could be subject to prosecution at any time. MEDICAL MARIJUANA In 1996, California voters approved Prop. 215, which legalized the medical use of marijuana. Medical-marijuana patients can still be prosecuted under federal law. Patients with "serious medical conditions" can, under state law, legally use marijuana for alleviation of pain and other treatments, as long as they have a doctor's recommendation. Among the conditions specified by state law: AIDS Cancer Glaucoma Anorexia Migraines Multiple sclerosis, and other conditions that include persistent muscle spasms Epilepsy, and other conditions that include seizures Severe nausea Cachexia Arthritis Chronic pain Complete Title: Pot-Dispensary Crackdown Activates Search for OptionsSource: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)Author: David Olson, The Press-Enterprise Published: Thursday, July 26, 2007Copyright: 2007 The Press-Enterprise CompanyContact: letters pe.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:Americans For Safe Access Votes Down Change To End Federal Raids Nixes Medical Pot Amendment
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Comment #4 posted by unkat27 on July 28, 2007 at 14:43:00 PT
Giving Antiwar More to worry About
Anyone who understands how the right-wing fascists in the government work knows that they all work together like one big angry family, all committed to their sadistic ways of making innocent people suffer more than is necessary for the simple practice of their own free rights.What I am saying is that there's a larger reason for this sudden crackdown on the cannabis dispensaries and their landlords. The antiwar movement is very strong in CA, and most cannabis users support it. The fascists know this, so they are punishing them for it.This DEA action is punishment and a way to give antiwar supporters more to worry about.
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Comment #3 posted by RevRayGreen on July 27, 2007 at 21:42:22 PT
U.S. Rep. Paul Broun(GA) 
at least there is one more Republican promoting the truth........Broun votes to ease up on medical pot
Says issue of states' rights
By Blake Aued 10:42 PM on Friday, July 27, 2007 U.S. Rep. Paul Broun(GA) offered Democrats a peace pipe and sent Republican leaders' hopes that he'd toe the party line up in smoke this week by voting to ease federal restrictions on medical marijuana laws.The Republican congressman from Athens was sworn in Wednesday and cast his first vote in the House of Representatives late that night in support of an amendment to stop the U.S. Justice Department from prosecuting people who distribute medical marijuana in states where it is legal.The measure failed 262-165, but Broun said he fulfilled his campaign promises to respect states' rights and be independent by bucking GOP leadership and joining just 14 other Republicans who voted for the amendment, proposed by Reps. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y, and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif."The voters did not send me to Washington to duck controversial votes," Broun said Friday in a statement. "They did not send me to be intellectually dishonest. They did not send me to be a knee-jerk reactionary. They did not send me to be a hyper-partisan. I voted for states rights under the Constitution, not for promoting marijuana, and honest people understand that."
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Comment #2 posted by FoM on July 27, 2007 at 13:18:42 PT
I am almost holding my breath until after the 08 election. Everything seems so volatile these days. 
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Comment #1 posted by paulpeterson on July 27, 2007 at 12:56:35 PT
Threats to landlords-I've always wondered there
For five years I've wondered why the DEA wouldn't start threatening landlords-with forfeiture plus fines and jail time. Not that I put them up to it, mind you.I've just noticed that since direct "notice" of the potential, could be a really big threat. I've actually used a similar tactic in local criminal litigation, against the prosecutor & police-by asking the judge for a ruling that any prosecutor that asks a question answered by a lie has "suborned perjury". Nobody has ever done this before-and it "can't work" in litigation, because to ask for a ruling before something happens in court (before the perjury, for instance, it is only hypothetical), isn't ripe yet. But believe you me, once the questions were asked, and the police went ahead and perjured themselves, the judge dismissed that false charge AS SOON AS HE COULD, because he did NOT want to be sitting on a file with sworn testimony that was contradicted by my defense case. The funny thing was, the judge didn't even want to swear them to tell the truth. I had to wait for a question and answer, and then asked the judge "is the witness sworn", "Yes", he said, "Thank you", says I. When this happened the second time, the court reporter almost mutinied-she knew he had NOT SWORN THE WITNESS, both times (like the first time she was wondering if SHE had missed something).Well, by the judge saying "yes" (the witness is sworn), he just swore the witness in. In other words, this DEA tactic is a magic bullet that must cause a huge interruption in many people's access to medicine. What comes next? A horrible escalation in the war against pain relief.And with the West Coast news media already giving close to full saturation coverage, I don't see any publicity campaign that can stop this pernicious police state activity-other than having mainline churches take up the slack-so the DEA has to start evicting Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran & Catholic churches from the grounds of medical marijuana dispensaries. That would cause those rough riders to slow down a pace or two.The real problem is, though, all of these dense and ignorant middle states, where even the word marijuana still has a horrible witchcraft-like taint to it. And most small & middle size newspapers are still too jittery about losing advertizing revenue from the conservatives to want to offer coverage of this controversy. Even our local Presbyterian Church, which nationwide group has adopted this advocacy, as an issue of mercy, won't do anything to support this. And our local college is Presbyterian, and I was ejected for talking at a legislative conference, about the church issue-some churchies even told the security guard I was talking about "inappropriate issues", and my own friend, the new county attorney, won't give me the names of those witnesses-so I could "confront my accusers", ie: he intends to offer "hearsay" testimony, which an "anti" judge would rule wrongfully on, of course, just to dodge the issue!Something has got to give here, and I am only too sad that we just got 165 votes in the house this week-only two more than last time. Let's just hope the next election brings more change-and without another 911 terror plot to blow some more overpriced real estate, eh?
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