Even if Obama doesn't support it, WE as the PEOPLE have the power and the right to vote, be heard! - ILLA
The movement to legalize marijuana has arrived at Congress' back door.
Later this month the first medical cannabis dispensaries are expected to open in the nation's capital, including one just eight blocks from the Capitol dome.
The milestone is lifting the spirits of pot enthusiasts who believe a safe and profitable in D.C. could help nudge along the drug nationwide.
ABC News recently toured the Metropolitan Wellness Center, one of the district's three soon-to-open shops, located on Capitol Hill.
While pot products have yet to hit shelves – the shop is still awaiting a license from the district – general manager Vanessa West said they will soon offer multiple varieties of cannabis, paraphernalia and a mix of pot-infused products, including brownies, cookies and drinks.
West, a veteran operator of dispensaries in California who admits she "smoked a little grass in college," said the sleek, modern set-up of her "product selection and payment room" underscores a serious focus on patients and treating their pain.
"When we find out what a patient's symptoms are, we can make a recommendation about what the best strain is for them and what the best possible route for ingesting that strain is," she said.
"Forget about the recreational part for a second," she says to skeptics. "Listen to how cannabis has changed patients' lives for the better."
Only employees and patients registered with the District of Columbia Department of Health will be allowed inside the dispensary once weed sales officially commence. The shop will effectively go on lockdown, protected by a high-tech security system of a dozen cameras and motion sensors keeping watch.
"This is sort of a delicate business," West said. "It's like a bank or a high end jewelry store. We want to protect the product and the people that are inside this building."
Under district law, no one is allowed to consume pot on the premises, West said. Approved users are required to head directly home after making their purchases.
The rules for obtaining legal access to the drug are equally stringent. A prospective patient must be a district resident with one of the few qualifying diseases, such as AIDS, glaucoma or multiple sclerosis. A doctor must formally recommend the drug, and that recommendation must be certified by the Department of Health. Each patient must also submit an application and pay a license fee.
"It's a pretty difficult process, but it sort of needs to be," said West. "You don't want to create a free for all."
The dispensaries in D.C. will remain illegal under federal law, which still bans the cultivation and sale of marijuana as a dangerous and addictive "Schedule I" drug under the Controlled Substances Act. Officially, marijuana is classified has having "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the U.S."
The headquarters for the Justice Department, the federal agency responsible for enforcing federal law, is located just four miles from the Metropolitan Wellness Center.
West says she's not worried about a raid.
"History has shown that if you are a dispensary operating in a state that is transparent and heavily regulated, the federal government is not interested in intervening," she said.
Medical marijuana is now allowed in 18 states plus the District of Columbia. In November, voters in Colorado and Washington took the movement further, endorsing the sale of marijuana without a prescription for recreational purposes. Both states are establishing regulatory regimens for pot similar to alcohol.
A poll released last month by the Pew Research Center found for the first time a majority of Americans now favor full legalization of marijuana. Fifty-two percent favor decriminalization, with 45 percent opposed.
The level of support is a landmark shift from 40 years ago when just 12 percent backed legalized pot, according to Gallup.
In light of the trend, President Obama told ABC News' Barbara Walters in December that he's re-thinking federal prosecution of some marijuana users.
"It does not make sense, from a prioritization point of view, for us to focus on recreational drug users in a state that has already said that under state laws that's legal," Obama said.
"We've got bigger fish to fry," he added.
The big question now for pro-pot states: Will the Justice Department spoil plans for dozens of new dispensaries, and a potential bonanza of millions in taxes and fees?
The Department, which is reviewing the new Colorado and Washington marijuana laws, has yet to formally decide whether or not they will be challenged in court.
Meanwhile, lawmakers from those states have re-invigorated legislative efforts to repeal or weaken the federal ban on pot. So far this year, seven bills dealing with marijuana have been introduced in the U.S. House, including one that would entirely decriminalize the drug.
All of the bills face an uphill climb, which means for now at least, the new D.C. dispensaries will remain at odds with the law.
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Posted by Mark DeLucas on October 29, 2011 1:48 PM
A California medical marijuana advocacy group is taking the Obama administration to court in an effort to halt the Justice Department's assault on marijuana growers and dispensers, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group based in Oakland, Calif., has filed suit against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and northern California federal prosecutor Melinda Haag, claiming that the federal government's recent crackdown on medical marijuana operations is in violation of the Constitution's 10th Amendment.
Marijuana is a schedule 1 substance, deemed illegitimate for medicinal purposes and outlawed federally under the Controlled Substances Act, which the federal government is entitled to enforce. However, according to Americans for Safe Access, individual states are free to regulate substances as they see fit, and by virtue of the 10th Amendment the federal government cannot compel state authorities to contravene state law.
"Under the 10th Amendment, the government may not commandeer the law-making functions of the state or its subdivisions directly or indirectly through the selective enforcement of its drug laws," the suit claims.
"The federal government has instituted a policy to dismantle the medical marijuana laws of the state of California and to coerce its municipalities to pass bans on medical marijuana dispensaries," the lawsuit says. "To this end, the government has pursued an increasingly punitive strategy, which has involved criminal prosecutions of medical marijuana providers with draconian penalties and letters threatening local officials if they implement state law."
The suit cites, among other notices, a federal missive to the city of Oakland, informing city authorities that failure to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws would make them subject to prosecution.
"I like this lawsuit," San Francisco attorney Kenneth Wine told the San Francisco Weekly.
"While the federal government and its agents can do what they like in enforcing the federal criminal laws, they cannot compel the state to assist them," Wine said. "I suspect this case will cause the federal government in California to be very careful in the way they address state and local officials. Certainly, the threats and coercion against state and local officials by the U.S. Attorneys must stop, and likely will. For the feds to do otherwise is to put their marijuana enforcement strategy in jeopardy."
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Bill eases Maine's medical marijuana rules to do away with patient registration
AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill to ease Maine's regulations on the medical use of marijuana faces a legislative hearing.
The Committee on Health and Human Services holds its hearing Monday. Supporters say it expands and protects the rights of patients and caregivers.
The bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Deborah Sanderson of Chelsea would eliminate a requirement that patients register with the state. It also would take the decision about whether marijuana is appropriate in a given situation out of the hands of the state and let doctors decide.
Sanderson's bill would also prevent cities and towns from placing unreasonable requirements on caregivers and patients.
A separate bill unveiled last week would legalize personal use and private and commercial cultivation of marijuana, and tax consumer purchases at 7 percent.
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Venice pot doctors shut down after raid by state medical board and police
One of the Venice boardwalk’s eye-catching only-in-California features, the storefront pot doctors who lure patients with barkers, was shut down Wednesday, when the state medical board and law enforcement officers raided three locations linked to Medical Kush Doctor.
Investigators carted boxes and at least two large plastic bags that appeared to contain marijuana out of the deep-blue building next to Muscle Beach that houses a doctor’s office, a smoke shop and a popular dispensary called the Medical Kush Beach Club.
Jennifer Simoes, spokeswoman for the Medical Board of California, said the warrant was sealed. She declined to discuss the reason for the board’s investigation, but said the warrant was served at 1313, 1811 and 2017 Ocean Front Walk.
Attorneys for Medical Kush Doctor raced to the beach, but said they were not allowed on the premises. Graham Berry, one of the lawyers, said the warrant authorized a search of the offices, vehicles and “anything else that your imagination could run to.” He said it also allowed officials to seize records related to the unlicensed practice of medicine. “Since all these doctors appear to be duly licensed, I don’t know what they are referring to,” he said.
Berry said that the raid started about 10:15 a.m. and that by the time he arrived at 11, he found a line of patrol cars, a crowd gathered outside, news cameras and a news helicopter fluttering overhead. “Once I arrived, they pulled the sliding gate door down,” he said.
The Medical Kush Beach Club was also shut down, but Berry said, “It appeared to me that the target was the doctors and the practice of writing recommendations and the collective was a collateral casualty.” The Medical Kush Beach Club is operated by Sean Cardillo, who is also the registered agent for Kush Dr., the limited liability corporation that runs the doctor’s offices.
Cardillo could not be reached for comment.
Stewart Richlin, another attorney who represents Cardillo, said that agents seized 5 pounds of marijuana from the dispensary but that he expected it to be returned. “They involved the Medical Kush Beach Club unfairly,” he said. He added that he did not know whether any cash or equipment was seized but said no one was arrested in the raids.
Richlin said Kush Dr. rents space and provides promotional services for medical marijuana doctors. He said he believed the doctors followed state law in issuing recommendations for marijana use.
“As far as I know, it’s by the book. I’m surprised that this is happening,” he said. “I have a feeling by the time the fat lady sings on this it will be a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.”
Simoes said the operation was conducted with the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, the Los Angeles Police Department, the county Sheriff’s Department and the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which provided search dogs.
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Two lawsuits challenge Los Angeles' lottery plan for medical marijuana dispensaries
Los Angeles' latest plan — to hold a lottery to allow 100 medical marijuana dispensaries to operate — meets resistance from shop owners, who say they've followed all the rules yet still face closure.
By John Hoeffel, Los Angeles Times April 21, 2011
The next round of the costly, drawn-out legal brawl over how to control medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles has begun with two new lawsuits challenging the city's latest ordinance.
The lawsuits, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, follow scores of other suits that stymied the city's fitful attempts to crack down on an unknown number of renegade dispensaries. The new ones could launch another series of judicial hearings and thwart the city's bid to enforce its ordinance.
Some of the oldest medical marijuana collectives in Los Angeles sued on April 13 to overturn the ordinance, which will choose the dispensaries to be allowed in a lottery, a process the lawsuit mocks as "a euphemism for a municipal game of 'Russian Roulette.'"
The 21 dispensaries suing the city are among those the City Council let operate when it adopted a moratorium on new stores in 2007. The city's first ordinance would have allowed them to stay open if they complied with restrictions on locations. But a judge ruled that key aspects of the law were unconstitutional, and the City Council passed a second ordinance that relies on a random drawing to select 100 dispensaries.
"We've done everything, everything that the city told us to do, and we're still sitting here looking at a lottery," said Yamileth Bolanos, the operator of PureLife Alternative Wellness Center, a dispensary on South La Cienega Boulevard. "We're fighting back. We have to fight back."
Bolanos, who also heads a coalition of the dispensaries the city allowed to operate during the moratorium, accused City Atty. Carmen Trutanich of creating an ordinance that could take her business away even though she said she has followed all city directives. "The city attorney has not acted in good faith," she said. "We don't believe that the things that he's done are fair."
House of Kush filed a separate lawsuit on March 21. The Eagle Rock dispensary and possibly hundreds of others were barred from participating in the lottery, which is limited to stores that were open when the city's moratorium took effect on Sept. 14, 2007. "This discriminatory treatment lacks a rational basis or compelling state interest," the lawsuit says.
A third lawsuit could be filed next week, said Stewart Richlin, an attorney who represents some of the dispensaries that successfully challenged the earlier ordinance. "We're going to bring it ASAP for multiple reasons," he said, "especially to stop any perception that this ordinance is constitutionally acceptable."
The city has appealed the judge's decision on its first ordinance, but has also taken steps to hold a lottery. It has accepted applications from 231 dispensaries and has told 206 others to close. Jane Usher, a special assistant city attorney, said the city disputes the claims in the new lawsuits.
Aaron Lachant, an attorney who represents the 21 plaintiffs that sued last week, said he plans to ask for an injunction to halt the lottery. "We'll file it as soon as we can," he said.
Lachant said the lawsuit is intended to protect the rights of those dispensaries the city allowed to remain open in 2007. City officials estimate that about 135 are still in business. "They want to work with the city, but they have not been given a fair chance," Lachant said.
The lawsuit targets the lottery and the process of choosing locations for dispensaries. It describes the lottery as "discriminatory, arbitrary, capricious, confiscatory and oppressive," and it calls the process of allowing the winners to pick their locations in the order they are drawn "a game of musical chairs."
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Sometime next month two of eight medical marijuana dispensaries in Maine are expected to open: one in Ellsworth and one in Auburn. Two are already taking medical cannabis on the road and selling it to authorized patients. There have been some stumbling blocks. Several cities and towns have passed temporary moratoriums against dispensaries. And next week lawmakers will consider a bill to change some of the program rules. But the state is finding that interest in medical marijuana is growing every day.
Tim Smale and his wife Jenna looked at 35 locations before settling on a building in an Auburn shopping center to set up their non-profit medical marijuana dispensary, known as Remedy Compassion. They plan to include an on-site kitchen to make medical marijuana tinctures and edible as well as topical cannabis cream to treat arthritis and muscle spasms.
They are keeping secret the location of their medical marijuana cultivation site, but say they plan to offer high quality strains to treat a variety of ailments. They've already received a green light from the state and plan to open in the next 30 days.
Smale says the goal is to keep prices as low as possible. "I can't come out the door and offer $99 ounces," he says. "We wouldn't be here. But I can offer what the market price is. So, for example our price to our patients is $336 dollars. And I think the market price is up in the neighborhood of $400 or $350--or something like that."
The market price means the black market which many patients are already familiar with. Smale says he'll offer five percent discounts to veterans and patients on MaineCare and Social Security. He'll start out with a small staff. Right now there are just four employees, including his wife and himself, and fewer than 100 patients.
But Smale says he's anxious to get medicine to patients who need it. He says he knows what it's like to need pain relief. He's suffered from debilitating migraines for more than 20 years. At their peak he was getting them two or three times a week.
"These are very intense episodes with nausea and intense pain, and it just sends me crying like a baby sometimes," he says. "So my wife, Jenna, has actually had to give me some cannabis during these headaches when I'm literally crying on the ground in pain."
Over the years, Smale tried all kinds of medications but found them ineffective or with unpleasant side effects. He says marijuana is the only thing that works for him. He prefers to inhale it with a vaporizer so he doesn't have to smoke.
"I get probably two migraines a month now, and maybe one of them will be so devastating that I'm in a massive amount of pain. So it's changed my life," he says. "If I didn't have cannabis, shoot me, put me away. Life is not worth living without cannabis. I couldn't live without it. I would be disabled."
So many people are interested in medical marijuana that Catherine Cobb of the division of licensing at the Department of Health and Human Services says she and her staff are fielding 50 or 60 calls a day from prospective patients.
Cobb says the medical marijuana program has now registered more than 1,000 patients and 300 caregivers. "I predicted 1,200 patients and 300 caregivers in the first year and we have enough applications in the queue to exceed that 1,200 number."
Under the rules, patients with a doctor's authorization who register with the state have the option of growing their own medical marijuana, choosing a caregiver to grow it for them or signing up with a licensed dispensary. Cobb has been interested to see what patients are choosing.
"We have quite a few patients who are choosing to grow their own, but if they haven't previously used medical marijuana they're tending to choose a caregiver or dispensary because they don't want to start from scratch and wait for two or three months before their own marijuana starts producing buds," she says. "So I think for some of them it's an expediency."
According to a recent report by DHHS, Kennebec County has the highest number of qualified patients, followed by Cumberland and York. And Cumberland, Oxford and York Counties have the highest number of registered caregivers.
The report also finds that 118 doctors have agreed to participate in the program, although many express concern about potential liability attached to their recommendations. Some employers have also prohibited their physicians from recommending the use of marijuana.
And that's one reason Jonathan Leavitt of the Maine Marijuana Policy Initiative wants to relax some of the existing rules. "A lot of small adjustments that we think need to be made and will help the law work better for everybody, bring it on par with the relationship that doctors and patients usually have, where it is up to the physician to decide what the appropriate medication is, not the state," he says.
On Monday, lawmakers will hold a public hearing on a bill that would, among other things, eliminate the state's patient registry and the list of medical conditions that medical cannabis can be used to treat.
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An Ontario Superior Court judge has ruled that the federal medical marijuana program is unconstitutional, giving the government three months to fix the problem before pot is effectively legalized.
In an April 11 ruling, Justice Donald Taliano found that doctors across the country have “massively boycotted” the medical marijuana program and largely refuse to sign off on forms giving sick people access to necessary medication.
As a result, legitimately sick people cannot access medical marijuana through appropriate means and must resort to illegal actions.
Doctors’ “overwhelming refusal to participate in the medicinal marijuana program completely undermines the effectiveness of the program,” the judge wrote in his ruling.
“The effect of this blind delegation is that seriously ill people who need marijuana to treat their symptoms are branded criminals simply because they are unable to overcome the barriers to legal access put in place by the legislative scheme.”
Taliano declared the program to be invalid, as well as the criminal laws prohibiting possession and production of cannabis. He suspended his ruling for three months, giving Ottawa until mid-July to fix the program or face the prospect of effectively legalizing possession and production of cannabis.
The judge’s decision comes in a criminal case involving Matthew Mernagh, 37, of St. Catharines who suffers from fibromyalgia, scoliosis, seizures and depression.
Marijuana is the most effective treatment of Mernagh’s pain. But despite years of effort, he has been unable to find a doctor to support his application for a medical marijuana licence.
Mernagh resorted to growing his own cannabis and was charged with producing the drug.
Taliano found doctors essentially act as gatekeepers to the medical marijuana program but lack the necessary knowledge to adequately give advice or recommend the drug. He also found that Health Canada has made “no real attempt to deal with this lack of knowledge.”
Taliano said the issue is Canada-wide.
Twenty-one patients from across the country testified in the case, saying they were rejected by doctors a total of 113 times.
One Alberta patient was refused by 26 doctors; another in Vancouver approached 37 physicians without finding a single one to sign off on the form.
Patients also face lengthy delays — as long as nine months — in having their medical marijuana applications processed by Health Canada.
“The body of evidence from Mr. Mernagh and the other patient witnesses is troubling,” Taliano wrote. “The evidence of the patient witnesses, which I accept, showed that patients have to go to extraordinary lengths to acquire the marijuana they need.”
Lawyer Alan Young, a longtime advocate of marijuana legalization, said the ruling is a step in the right direction.
“It’s significant because it’s a Superior Court ruling which has binding effect across the province,” Young said.
“By enacting a dysfunctional medical program the government now has to pay the high cost of losing the constitutional authority to criminalize marijuana.”
He said the real test, however, will be whether the judgment stands up in the Ontario Court of Appeal.
“If the government is not successful on appeal, they are going to be caught between a rock and a hard place because they don’t have an alternative program in mind,” he said. “They don’t have a plan B. They’re in trouble.”
The medical profession has been wary of the medical marijuana program since it came into effect in August 2001.
On May 7, 2001, the Canadian Medical Association wrote a letter to the federal health minister expressing concerns with recommending a drug that has had little scientific evidence to support its medicinal benefits.
“Physicians must not be expected to act as gatekeepers to this therapy, yet this is precisely the role Health Canada had thrust upon them,” the letter stated.
- Seems like there is gonna be quite a bit of american tourist dollars pointing north in the next three months, and possibly indefinately if canada decriminalizes it as a whole.
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Robert Snell and Mike Martindale /
The Detroit News
Federal drug agents have raided the home of and a medical marijuana dispensary owned by controversial businessman Romel Casab, who also owns the long-shuttered Packard Motor Car Co. plant.
A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official confirmed agents executed search warrants today at Casab's home along Benstein Road in Commerce Township and his CareGivers of America marijuana dispensary on 12 Mile in Novi.
The two raids were part of a broader DEA operation targeting at least four other locations in Walled Lake and Detroit, The Detroit News has learned.
The DEA raided a second CareGivers dispensary along Decker Road in Walled Lake. The building is owned by 1020 Decker LLC, a company headed by Casab lawyer Barry A. Steinway of Bingham Farms, according to state business records.
Also raided today: the Bayside Sports Grille on East Walled Lake Drive in Walled Lake and Coliseum Bar & Grill strip club on Eight Mile in Detroit.
The Walled Lake sports bar and Detroit strip club are owned by Walled Lake businessman Johni Semma, whose home overlooking Walled Lake also was raided by agents today. Agents hauled away his 2001 Harley Davidson today from the Novi marijuana facility owned by Casab, along with a Ferrari sports car and 1928 Studebaker.
Casab made headlines last fall when he sued a local art gallery that removed a mural at the plant reportedly painted by famed graffiti artist Banksy.
Casab, a land speculator with varied business interests, is listed on state business records as resident agent of CareGivers of America LLC, which is based in an office on 12 Mile in Novi. He formed the company in November 2009.
The search warrants are sealed in U.S. District Court in Detroit and DEA group supervisor Andrew Eiseman declined comment about what prompted the raids or what items were being seized by agents. He also declined comment about whether the raids are part of a broader crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries.
"I can't comment on anything," he said. "It's an ongoing investigation."
Casab could not be reached for comment today.
Along with CareGivers, Casab is president of Bioresource Inc., which sued art gallery 555 Nonprofit Studio and Gallery. After Bioresource sued to reclaim the graffiti mural, Detroit officials threatened to demolish the Packard plant and bill Casab.
The 100-year-old plant is one of Detroit's most notorious symbols of decline and despair.
Its ownership has been disputed in court for years.
Casab has drawn federal scrutiny before.
As recently as July 2004, the FBI was investigating complaints that Metro Detroit's suburban bus system had repeatedly overpaid one of Casab's companies.
Employees claimed that the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) overpaid the International Bus Center in New Haven, which is owned by Casab.
The Walled Lake search started after 7 a.m. today, agents said.
In Novi, police still were at a CareGivers facility on West 12 Mile, west of Novi Road about 11:40 a.m. today. Several large trucks were at the facility, backed up to large bays. The site is in an isolated area.
The facility's building had no signs or banners to announce it was open for business.
Police at the scene in Novi declined comment. A CareGivers employee also declined comment.
The raids come eight months after seven people were arrested in a medical marijuana crackdown in Waterford Township. The seven were arraigned Thursday in Oakland County Circuit Court.
Under state law, people who have obtained physician approval and state-issued cards are permitted to possess and use marijuana.
Licensed caregivers are permitted to grow up to 12 plants in controlled situations and sell marijuana to up to five patients.
Always great to see the war on everything being channeled through the war on marijuana. UA
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