Tag Archives: DEA

Alaska Bill Takes on “Policing for Profit” via Asset Forfeiture; Closes Federal Loophole


 

 

JUNEAU, Alaska, (Feb. 24, 2016) – A bill introduced in the Alaska House would reform asset forfeiture laws to prohibit the state from taking property without a criminal conviction. The legislation also takes on federal forfeiture programs by banning prosecutors from circumventing state laws by passing cases off to the feds in most situations.

Rep. Tammie Wilson [R], Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins [D] and Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux [R] introduced House Bill 317 (HB317) on Feb. 15. The legislation would reform Alaska law by requiring a criminal conviction before prosecutors could proceed with asset forfeiture. Under current law, the state can seize assets even if a person is never found guilty of a crime, or even arrested.

The bills would also require proceeds from forfeitures be deposited into the state general fund. Under current law, Alaska law enforcement agencies keep up to 70% of asset forfeiture money. This provision curbs the policing for profit motive inherent in the current law.

ADDRESSES FEDERAL PROGRAMS

HB317 also closes a loophole that allows prosecutors to bypass more stringent state asset forfeiture laws by passing cases off to the federal government under its Equitable Sharing forfeiture program.

“A law enforcement agency may not refer or otherwise transfer property seized under state law to a federal agency seeking the adoption of the seized property by the federal agency.

“A law enforcement agency participating in a joint investigation or taskforce with a federal agency may not transfer property to the federal government unless the court enters an order, upon petition of the prosecuting attorney, authorizing the property to be transferred. The court may enter an order authorizing a transfer to the federal government if the transfer is actually necessary for an active criminal case or criminal investigation brought by the federal government. The court may enter an order declining the transfer if the transfer would circumvent the protections provided under AS 12.36.300 – 12.36.700”

In other words the legislation does not attempt to interfere with federally initiated forfeiture, but bans state and local police from passing off their cases to federal jurisdiction in most cases. The bill would also require any equitable sharing program money obtained through allowed transfers to be deposited in the state’s general fund.

The inclusion of provisions barring state and local law enforcement agencies from passing off cases to the feds is particularly important. In several states with strict asset forfeiture laws, prosecutors have done just that. By placing the case under federal jurisdiction, law enforcement can bypass the need for a conviction under state law and collect up to 80 percent of the proceeds from forfeited assets via the federal Equitable Sharing Program.

Late last December the U.S. Department of Justice suspended the Equitable Sharing Program due to budget cuts. But as the Washington Post reported, the suspension won’t likely be permanent.

“In its letter, the DOJ hints that it may be able to restart payments later: ‘By deferring equitable sharing payments now, we preserve our ability to resume equitable sharing payments at a later date should the budget picture improve.’ The DOJ hopes to ‘reinstate sharing distributions as soon as practical and financially feasible,’ the letter concludes.”

Even with the program suspension in place for now, the prohibition from passing off cases remains an important provision.

California prosecutors and law enforcement agencies have regularly utilized this loophole. As the Tenth Amendment Center previously reported the federal government has inserted itself into the California’s asset forfeiture debate. The feds clearly want the policy to continue.

Why?

We can only guess. But perhaps the feds recognize paying state and local police agencies directly in cash for handling their enforcement would reveal their weakness. After all, the federal government would find it nearly impossible to prosecute its unconstitutional “War on Drugs” without state and local assistance. Asset forfeiture “equitable sharing” provides a pipeline the feds use to incentivize state and local police to serve as de facto arms of the federal government by funneling billions of dollars into their budgets.

Asset forfeiture laws incentivize “policing for profit” on one hand, and dubious state-federal partnerships on the other.

NEXT

HB317 was referred to the Judiciary Committee where it will need to pass by a majority vote before moving on to the full House for further consideration.

Take action to support HB317 at this link.

CONTINUE READING…

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

ALASKA ASSET FORFEITURE

UNITED STATES ATTORNEY’S OFFICE

OFFICIAL NOTIFICATION

POSTED ON

FEBRUARY 25, 2016

Advertisements

From Organizing America to Operation Chronic Problem, How Cannabis Prohibition Ruins Lives


 

 

My Bust

 

Katree Darriel Saunders is a 30 year old mother, cannabis activist, and an active member of her community. Katree was living in Las Vegas, NV when she was arrested during a DEA sting called Operation Chronic Problem on the charges of: Conspiracy to distribute marijuana and hashish. For 10 grams of hashish and 3.5 grams of marijuana Katree has had her life as she knew it ended. This dedicated mother lost her family and job for trying to help. Trying to help what turned out to be a lying, conniving, scheming, weasel of a DEA Agent posing as a medical cannabis patient desperate for relief. This is Katree Darriel Saunders story. Her loss, her pain, and what many consider a major injustice as well as a violation of her constitutional rights.

Katree has been addicted off and on to prescription pain pills since the age of 15. In 2007, seeking pain relief from multiple car accidents, Katree Saunders became a medical cannabis patient. Knowing the harmful side effects of pharmaceuticals, plus their lack of effectiveness, Saunders chose medical cannabis. Not only did cannabis end Saunders pain, she was able to stop using prescription drugs all together. As a hardworking mother, Saunders put herself through college and became a positive and active member of her community.

Nevada’s laws prohibited the sale of cannabis in 2007, which forced Saunders to seek it through the black market, known for unsavory individuals who traffic anything from people to weapons to stolen merchandise. Once when Saunders sought cannabis from the black market she was sexually assaulted. This devastating incident convinced Saunders she had to do something. There had to be a way for her to legally and safely obtain her medication.

She contacted the state of Nevada and spoke with Jennifer Barlett, who referred her to Michael McAuliffe of Nevada’s Compassionate Care (NCC). It was there Saunders found her place. She began working with NCC and was helping others away from the black market.

Things were going well for Saunders in February of 2010. She volunteered for a political event called Organizing America where President Barack Obama spoke about healthcare reform. Saunders was chosen to be on stage. She sat in the front row behind the president as he gave his speech. Upon the close, Katree was able to shake hands with the President. While doing so, Saunders said ‘We needed to talk about medical patient’s rights.’ Then, according to Saunders, Obama looked at her and said ‘I’m not prosecuting.’

image (4)

 

Feeling confident and empowered after this Saunders then became active in helping patients obtain their medical cannabis cards from the Nevada state program. Unfortunately, while Saunders was working for NCC, she was set up by undercover DEA agents. They were conducting what was known as Operation Chronic Problem. A federal DEA agent posed as a sick patient asking for help obtaining medical cannabis.

Saunders, being a compassionate person, facilitated this lying individual’s request. Later she was indicted on distribution of a controlled substance. Saunders served four months in prison as well as a lengthy probation since she did not offer up the names of her medical patients.

While on pretrial Saunders was in another motor vehicle accident. This accident totaled her husband’s vehicle and left Saunders with a fractured foot as well as a back injury. She was placed on morphine, Xanax, and MARINOL®. The morphine began to make her heart hurt, so she opted to stop taking it in exchange for MARINOL®. MARINOL® is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring compound known as delta-9-THC. However, since Saunders was on probation, the state of Nevada told her that she could not take MARINOL® since they would not be able to determine if she was consuming cannabis or simply taking the medication.

The State of Nevada Probation Department obtained a court order preventing Saunder’s doctor from prescribing MARINOL® to her. Now, not only was Saunders in trouble for selling 3.5 grams of cannabis and 10 grams of hash, she also lost her job, family and right to medicate.

During her incarceration, her husband divorced her, took the kids and moved away. While in custody at the prison, Saunders says she was ‘sexually assaulted and harassed by US Marshals’.

During Saunders’ trial, her attorneys advised her not to mention anything about her encounter with President Obama. For the 4 months Katree Saunders was incarcerated, the state split her time between a private prison corporation (Corrections Corporation of America – CCA) and a state prison, and earned a minimum of $5,000 for hosting her. The state of Nevada spent an estimated $20,656 per inmate in 2012, and reported 267.9 million in costs. They also claimed to have 15 million dollars in prison related costs outside of the state budget. This is where states and private prison corporations make big dollars housing criminals. In the case of cannabis consumers, these corporations make out like bandits.

 

Imagine charging $21,000 a year to house someone who was busted selling or possessing cannabis. In Saunders case, that 13.5 grams of cannabis, with a street value of $150, cost taxpayers over $20,000 to put her through the system. That doesn’t include the cost of the actual arrest, which stands at $1,500 to $3,500 with booking, paperwork, police officers fees, donuts, etc.

Saunders fought hard to break away from prescription drugs, but in the end they were her only option. Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, has been making billions off victims. Purdue Pharma is involved in countless lawsuits and their officials have admitted to deceitful and immoral medical practices, yet they are still making money. These are the ones that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks out about when he refers to the top one-tenth of 1%.

In 1993 the DEA allowed pharmaceutical companies to produce 3520 kilos of a drug known as oxycodone. Twenty-two years later they are manufacturing 137.5 thousand kilos of the same drug. That is an increase of 39 times in the manufacturing of this controlled substance. Since President Nixon founded the DEA in 1973, they have done nothing but prosecute those who attempt to possess, grow, or in any way affiliate themselves with cannabis.

Medical cannabis helps millions of people across the United States and world to find relief from pain and suffering. Cannabis helped Saunders break her addiction and take back control of her life. Cannabis is a safe treatment alternative for many illnesses, as well as the management of symptoms associated with a broad array of medical complications. Prescription drug addiction, of course, is a problem that is not only plaguing the United States, but the whole world.

Saunders’ battle with a prescription drug addiction from a young age illustrates the carelessness of the medical industry in allowing doctors to over-prescribe dangerous medications. It has also enabled them to receive substantial kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies in the process.

According to ABC News, America consumes over 90% of the world’s hydrocodone and 80 percent of the planet’s opioids. The United States of America makes up only 4.6 percent of the planet’s population. This opioid problem has destroyed mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. Children and soldiers suffer horrendously because of our country’s support for the pharmaceutical industry. Children suffer by being denied medication that could in fact actually help them, and at times even cure them. Children also suffer by losing parents who are consumed by prescription drug addiction. Soldiers who protect our freedom, often with their own lives, suffer from illnesses such as PTSD. They are sometimes denied a natural treatment, such as cannabis, to help with their symptoms.

The Doctors Enforcement Agency

The DEA licenses more than 600,000 surgeons, doctors, and podiatrists to administer prescriptions for narcotic pain relievers. According to NORML (National Reform of Marijuana Laws), in 2011 there were an estimated 1.5 million registered medical cannabis patients living in the United States of America. The sad side of this is that the laws pertaining to medical cannabis forced so many to seek their medication on the black market.

The public seems to believe that we think cannabis is the new cure-all, and other medications should be eliminated. This is not true. Common sense will tell you that there are many medical advancements today which have led us to the most sophisticated and advanced techniques and cures. During this evolution we have managed to de-evolve at the same time, through the abuse of prescription drugs, as much the fault of patients as it is the doctors doing the prescribing. Some individuals get prescription pain pills in large quantities because the doctors will prescribe them. Some individuals do not even take their medication. Instead they sell them on the street. When doctors prescribe as much as 100 to 300 pills at a time, with an average price of $10 a pill, some people can make an extra $3,000 a month.

Prohibition Has Failed and it’s Hurting America

The prohibition of cannabis that began in the late 1930s has devastated countless numbers of American lives and destroyed families across the country. The FDA will approve OxyContin for 6-year-olds but will not support cannabis oil. This is an absurd violation of human rights. The United States of America has held the patent for medical cannabis since 2003. This means that they knowingly have information that solidifies and validates medical cannabis as an effective treatment. This also means that the DEA and FDA know, and have evidence, that cannabis is medicine.

For the past 12 years the DEA has left cannabis as a schedule 1 narcotic. This puts it in the same class as heroin and cocaine, that it has no medicinal value. They have lied to the American people kept the public sick, and now some laugh at us while the cannabis community is trying to change laws to better the world around us.

The Dogs of the Feds

The DEA regularly raids medicinal cannabis facilities and Indian tribal lands. They arrest, abuse, neglect and destroy the lives of countless cannabis consumers. Medical patients and recreational consumers alike suffer the wrath of the DEA everyday. There are no public benefits from cannabis prohibition! The medicinal aspects combined with potential taxes are unquestionably positive. The simple implementation of taxation on cannabis will help to eliminate the black market. This puts a lot of politicians, local sheriffs, and other individuals out of extra income they have enjoyed for years.

Katree Saunders felt the wrath of the DEA during Operation Chronic Pain and now you know her story. From being hooked on prescription drugs at 15, to meeting the President of the United States, to prison, to an avid cannabis activist, Saunders’ struggle is all too familiar to many Americans, except for meeting Mr. Barack Obama.

Help support America by being a seed. One seed can tip the scales of injustice. Are you that seed?

Texas’ New Medical Marijuana Law Could Send Doctors to Jail


By Stephen Young

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

 

Monday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a law that is intended to make cannabis-based oils with low levels of THC legally available to people who suffer from intractable epilepsy.The problem is, no one is likely to be able to get it.

State Senator Kevin Eltife announced the plan to legalize CBD oil in January. He was careful to emphasize that patients would not be able to get high from the oil, because THC content would be limited to 5 percent. Marijuana advocates and potential patients criticized the law, saying it failed to account for the benefits of whole-plant marijuana therapy and interfered with patients’ and doctors’ ability to seek out the best treatment available for epilepsy or other conditions.

"I’m glad the we’re talking about medical marijuana with some actual sincerity now in Texas, because this entire state is just tragically behind the rest of the country," Shaun McAlister, the president of DFW NORML said. "On the other hand, I’m really nervous about a CBD-only push because, for one thing, CBD-only legislation represents a really shallow understanding of what cannabis actually is and what it can do."

Still, Eltife’s bill snaked its way successfully through the Legislature, despite the objections and language that requires doctors to "prescribe" the oil to their patients.

Unfortunately a doctor cannot prescribe what the federal government considers a Schedule I substance without a DEA license, and CBD is a Schedule I substance. In other states, the “prescription” is referred to as a “recommendation” so that doctors can legally suggest that patients use it, says Amanda Reiman, the manager of Marijuana Law and Policy at the Drug Policy Alliance says.

Tamar Todd, the Drug Policy Alliance’s Director of Marijuana Law and Policy, compared the Texas law to a 1996 Arizona law that did not lead to a single patient getting CBD oil.

Arizona passed comprehensive medical marijuana legislation in 2010. Texas marijuana reform advocates are hoping for a similar evolution in the Lone Star State.

“While this program leaves most patients behind and we’re concerned about its functionality, today is one for the history books. The Texas Legislature is sending a resounding message: Marijuana is medicine. We commend our Texas lawmakers and look forward to continuing this conversation when the 85th Legislature convenes in 2017," Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement.

CONTINUE READING…

Marijuana Advocates Continue to Challenge Feds’ Authority


NANETTE GONZALEZ FOR LA WEEKLY

A team of attorneys is challenging federal authorities’ right to crack down on California marijuana dispensaries. They lost a courtroom battle this week.
See also: Weed’s Federal Battle in California Remains Uphill.
A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied the challenge, essentially ruling that, despite California’s own medical marijuana laws, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration can still bust pot shops because cannabis is fully illegal under federal law.
However, …
… there is still hope.
The panel noted that "a prior holding of this court may only be overturned through en banc consideration."
What that means is that a hearing of the matter before the entire, 11-judge court was seemingly encouraged, and a spokesman for the plaintiffs, Matthew Kumin, says they’ll apply for just that next week.
On top of that, he says, if they lose before the entire court, there’s always the U.S. Supreme Court.
These people are serious.
The case, Sacramento Nonprofit Collective et al v. Eric Holder et. al, challenges federal authority to bust pot shops in light of "ambiguous" federal guidelines (the so-called Ogden memo that de-emphasizes medical prosecution) and in light of the DEA’s seemingly illogical classification of cannabis as a top-level outlaw with no medical uses.
The court said there’s "no clear inconsistency between the Government’s current and prior positions."
Kumin says the plaintiffs’ team of seven attorneys will keep on keepin’ on.
"It doesn’t end," he says, "because you lose an battle on important civil rights issue."
Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

CONTINUE READING….

WV: Legislation to legalize marijuana discussed


Supporters argue financial, medical benefits of halting prohibition
images2.jpg

In a paper, WVU law student Kaitlin L. Hillenbrand says repealing marijuana prohibition will result in “numerous benefits to the state.”

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Legislation to legalize marijuana use, especially for medical purposes, is being discussed again in West Virginia.

Today, sale of medical marijuana is legal in 18 states and Washington, D.C. Today, 30 percent of Americans live in states where marijuana is legal in some form.

On Nov. 6, popular votes in Colorado and Washington state legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

Supporters of marijuana legislation in West Virginia back various reform laws they say could offer people medical help, create new state tax revenues, cut prison costs and enhance an industry already booming underground.

West Virginia’s state prisons are becoming increasingly overcrowded and costly.

Delegate Mike Manypenny, D-Taylor, said the bill he is backing in the Legislature focuses on medical, not recreational, uses of marijuana.

“I do support decriminalizing small amounts for people getting caught. It would reduce the impact on our prison system. But my main goal is to legalize the ability of doctors to recommend it for a patient for a chronic ailment.”

Today, Manypenny said, “80 percent of our state’s prison population is there directly or indirectly related to charges of substance abuse.

“Legalizing marijuana could also spur economic development, Manypenny said. “We could export it to other states that approve medical marijuana. Ohio and Pennsylvania may also be close to getting something passed.”

Brad Douglas, the Department of Corrections’ director of research and planning, did not return phone calls Friday asking how the state estimates costs, and jail times, resulting from arrests related to marijuana possession.

Financial benefits

Kaitlin L. Hillenbrand, a student at the West Virginia University College of Law, recently wrote a paper titled “State Deregulation of Marijuana Act. White Paper: A Bill Concerning the Decriminalization and Regulation of the Marijuana Industry.”

In her paper, Hillenbrand says repealing the prohibition of marijuana will result in “numerous benefits to the state,” including “over $72 million in savings and revenue in the first year, and that number will very likely increase each year. Law enforcement resources would free up to solve serious crimes.”

Those benefits, Hillenbrand estimates, would include $29.6 million in revenues from a 6 percent sales tax on marijuana and taxpayer savings of $42.6 million by cutting marijuana arrests.

Hillenbrand also questions the effectiveness of marijuana arrests.

In 2011, one American was arrested every 42 seconds for marijuana possession. Yet marijuana use rates continued to rise, according to an FBI study.

On Nov. 15, Hillenbrand discussed her work about the legalization of marijuana with some members of the state Senate and House of Delegates.

Hillenbrand said she drafted a legislative bill, part of her paper, on behalf of Ken Robidoux — a medicinal-marijuana patient originally from California who suffers from seizure disorders.

Hillenbrand wrote her paper for a class taught by former WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr.

“The bill decriminalizes marijuana and gives the state Alcohol Beverage Control Commission regulatory authority over marijuana,” she said.

Hillenbrand said she modeled her bill after those that passed in Colorado and Washington last month, a model bill by the Marijuana Policy Project and the West Virginia statute that ended alcohol prohibition in the state in June 1933.

Hillenbrand hopes that West Virginia residents who favor the legalization of marijuana for either medical and/or recreational purposes express their opinions to their legislators.

Matt Simon, a legislative analyst for the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, is working with Hillenbrand.

Simon praised Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an international organization of criminal-justice professionals founded in 1999 that criticizes “the wasteful futility and harms of our current drug policies.”

CONTINUE READING PAGE 2 ….

Summary Of Oral Arguments In Federal Cannabis Rescheduling Case


 

 

Summary Of Oral Arguments In Federal Cannabis Rescheduling Case

http://www.theweedblog.com/summary-of-oral-arguments-in-federal-cannabis-rescheduling-case/

October 17, 2012

Federal Appeals Court Hears Case On Medical Value Of Marijuana

By Jonathan Bair, Americans for Safe Access

This morning, the federal Appeals Court for the DC Circuit heard an appeal in the case called Americans for Safe Access v Drug Enforcement Administration. The case is an appeal of the DEA’s rejection of a petition filed in 2002 seeking to change the placement of marijuana as a Schedule I drug per the Controlled Substances Act. Based on the scientific evidence, ASA and our fellow plaintiffs feel that it is simply untrue that cannabis is a drug with a “high potential for abuse” and “without accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” The hearing today offered a glimpse at the Court’s approach to this topic.

In front of a packed courtroom in Washington, the three-judge panel questioned ASA’s Chief Counsel Joe Elford and a federal lawyer about the merits of the scientific case, and the crucial legal issue of “standing.” Standing is a legal concept that restricts the right to sue to injured parties – people who are directly hurt by what they are fighting, and can get relief from a legal judgement. The issue of standing has been the reason why two prior appeals of the DEA’s classification of marijuana were rejected. In the past, patients have not been part of lawsuits against the Controlled Substances Act. The three judges were Merrick Garland, Karen Henderson, and Harry Edwards.

ASA’s Chief Counsel Joe Elford opened his appeal by arguing that the federal “Department of Health and Human Services plays a game of gotcha” by tightly controlling research access to cannabis and then claiming that there is not enough compelling research to justify reconsidering it as Schedule I. The Drug Enforcement Administration erred by determing that cannabis has a high potential for abuse when its findings determine its abuse and harm potential is less than other substances in less-controlled schedules, such as cocaine.

Elford opened his arguments with the issue of standing. He pointed to the affidavit of plaintiff Michael Krawitz, a veteran denied access to Veterans Administration services because of his medically necessary use of marijuana. The Veterans Administrastion’s harmful policy is based on marijuana’s status as a Schedule I substance. He also spoke of the many members of Americans for Safe Access, who are fearful of the consequences of cultivating their own cannabis for their medical needs, and that a medical necessity defense in court could be allowed if marijuana were not in Schedule I.

Elford then turned to the issue of the merits of the DEA’s position on marijuana’s medical value, to prove their position was “arbitrary and capricious” and therefore impermissible. The contention that there is not a complete consensus was argued to be an unreasonable interpretation of the regulatory standard, and that many of HHS’s standards are inapplicable to an organic substance. Significantly, the lack of access to marijuana for medical research is a consequence of the scheduling, yet the lack of suitable research is cited by the DEA as a reason for maintaining the schedule. Despite this lack of research access, ASA cited a growing body of high-quality scientific and medical research into the benefits of marijuana.

Judge Garland asked Elford if he was arguing that marijuana in fact meets HHS’s standard for studies. ASA’s counsel cited over 200 studies and argued that a circular standard is impossible to meet. He also said that, given that the schedule is relative, the DEA is ignoring even its own studies showing that marijuana has merely a “mild” potential for abuse.

Joe Elford concluded by arguing that Schedule I was an inappropriate classification of marijuana and it caused harm to patients and prevented meaningful medical research. Rescheduling marijuana would allow for a reasonable policy solution for suffering patients and uphold the intent of the Controlled Substances Act.

Judge Edwards asked about the standing of Mr. Krawitz, and his access to medical marijuana. The judges asked about access in medical states and noted that marijuana would not be legal just because it were rescheduled.

Federal counsel Lena Watkins then presented her position against appealing the DEA’s decision to continue cannabis in Schedule I. She noted that state legislatures or popular votes do not determine accepted medical use. She said that research is inadequate and has not progressed, and argued that the government does provide access for research. Turning to the abuse potential, Watkins said, “marijuana is the most widely abused drug in America,” and dependency is a factor in making that assessment.

The judges questioned the level of access provided for research, and Watkins said that fifteen studies of a specific federal “quality” metric have been allowed. Pressed to explain why these studies haven’t persuaded the DEA that marijuana has medical benefits, she said, “we don’t have the final results yet.” To many in the audience, the circular nature of the government’s position on the science of marijuana was clear. The judges then invited Elford to give a rebuttal.

Focusing on rebutting the government’s claims about research, Elford argued that there has been adequate study and even more since this case was filed in 2002, and noted that he would like to admit additional evidence to the case. Summarizing by turning the government’s “no substantial evidence” argument on its head, Elford said that both sides agree more research needs to be done and that research can only happen if marijuana is released from Schedule I. Requiring the DEA to make scientific determinations on a new schedule would lead to better policy and more relief for suffering patients.

The patients spoke out at a well-attended press conference after the hearing, and Americans for Safe Access is proud to have given patients a day in court. Many observers felt the judges were willing to consider the argument of Michael Krawitz’s direct harm from the Controlled Substances Act, and this issue of “standing” has been the Achilles heel of past lawsuits against Schedule I. However, Judge Garland asked at one point, “Don’t we have to defer to the agency? We’re not scientists. They are.”

We’ll find out whether the judges felt the DEA’s science is adequate, or if patients can sue for a medical necessity defense against harsh marijuana laws, when the judges rule. We don’t expect it for a few months. This opportunity is thanks to the brave plaintiffs who took on the federal government on behalf of many others.

Jonathan Bair is ASA’s Social Media Director. Recordings of any kind were not allowed in the courtroom.

Source: Americans for Safe Access

CONTINUE READING….

Medical marijuana backers ask judges for looser regulation


 

 

October 17, 2012

By BLOOMBERG NEWS

mmj3

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration ignored research showing marijuana had legitimate medical uses when it rejected efforts to reclassify the drug as a less harmful substance last year, a lawyer for medical marijuana backers told a federal appeals court.

Joseph Elford, a lawyer for Americans for Safe Access, asked a three-judge panel in Washington today to order the DEA to reconsider its decision to keep marijuana a Schedule I narcotic, saying the agency’s ruling that there are no scientific studies finding an acceptable medical use was arbitrary and capricious.

"There are over 200 studies that are adequate and well-controlled studies," Elford told the judges.


MORE: Editorial: Why not pot for medical use in NY?
VIDEO: Learning the marijuana trade | Seniors using medical marijuana | Should federal prosecutors ease up on states where medical marijuana is legal?


The case involves an 10-year-old petition from medical marijuana advocates who asked the DEA to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III, IV or V drug, which would allow for looser regulation. On June 21, 2011, the DEA rejected the request, stating that existing clinical evidence wasn’t adequate to warrant reclassification.

The judges questioned whether the medical marijuana patients and the advocacy group had the authority to challenge the DEA’s decision. U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland said the court has limited authority to review it as long as the agency made a proper showing of support for it.

"I’m trying to figure out what our standard of review is," Garland asked a lawyer for the Justice Department. "Is there evidence to support the administration’s position that there is no substantial evidence? That sounds funny." Lena Watkins, a lawyer for the Justice Department, said the studies cited by the marijuana proponents were rejected because the research didn’t meet government standards. She said about 15 studies meet the standards, though the government doesn’t have the final results yet.

The case is Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, 11-1265, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).

CONTINUE READING…

Legislative committee will look at overhauling Indiana’s criminal code


By MAUREEN HAYDEN CNHI

INDIANAPOLIS — An influential Republican lawmaker believes it’s time for Indiana to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and plans to include language to do so in legislation to overhaul the state’s criminal code.

State Sen. Brent Steele, who’s played a critical role in criminal justice issues as chair of the Senate corrections committee, said the state’s marijuana possession laws are too harsh. Indiana law dictates that marijuana possession is a felony unless it’s a first-time offense and the amount is less than one ounce.

“We have to ask ourselves as a society, do we really want to be locking people up for having a couple of joints in their pocket,” Steele said. “Is that how we want to be spending our criminal justice resources?”

At least 14 states have rolled back criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana, and 17 states and the District of Columbia allow the use of “medical marijuana” as pain treatment.

Steele, a conservative legislator from Bedford, likened Indiana’s marijuana possession laws to “smashing an ant with a sledgehammer.”

His proposal: To make possession of less than 10 grams of marijuana a civil infraction that carries the penalty of a fine. Ten grams is equal to about 10 single-serving sugar packets or two joints.

Steele doesn’t support legalizing marijuana. He doesn’t want to do away with laws, for example, that carry tough penalties for people who drive under the influence of marijuana. And he’s convinced there are other laws that will catch people who are drug abusers.

“We’re talking about simple possession. Some kid caught with a couple of joints in his pocket,” Steele said. “Mere possession has nothing to do with use or abuse.”

Steele’s support for such a change is critical, as is the timing. A legislative study committee scheduled to meet Thursday is working on a massive plan to overhaul Indiana’s criminal code.

Those committee members are reviewing a 375-page report — crafted at the direction of the legislature by a group of prosecutors, public defenders and other attorneys — that calls for revamping the state’s criminal laws to make punishment more proportionate to the crime. It calls for tougher penalties for the worst sex and violent crimes, and less prison time for low-level drug crimes.

Steele is using the report as a framework for legislation he plans to introduce in the next session. He said lawyers at the Legislative Services Agency, the nonpartisan, research arm of the legislature, have already started crafting the bill.

Andrew Cullen, legislative liaison for the Indiana Public Defender Council and member of the committee that issued the report, thinks Steele will find bipartisan support in the Statehouse.

“No one wants to encourage the use of drugs. But to make a low-level, recreational drug user into a felon is ridiculous,” Cullen said.

The House is expected to introduce its own version of legislation that would overhaul the state’s criminal code. State Rep. Jud McMillin, a former prosecutor from Brookville, is expected to carry the House version. McMillin said he hasn’t seen Steele’s proposal but said the penalties for some drug crimes need to be revisited.

“We need to be spending our resources on people who need to be put away,” McMillin said.

Steele’s role is seen as critical: He’s has been ally of Indiana prosecutors, who aren’t expected to support his push to reduce penalties for some drug possession crimes. He’s also been seen as a “rock-ribbed, law-and-order guy,” said Ed Feigenbaum, longtime publisher of the Indiana Legislative Insight newsletter. “For him to make this kind of concession is significant,” Feigenbaum said.

Steele hinted at his position last year when, as chairman of the Senate corrections committee, he cleared the way for a hearing on a bill that created a study on whether Indiana should legalize marijuana. That bill was authored by state Sen. Karen Tallian, a liberal Democrat from Portage.

Tallian, 61, and Steele, 65, don’t agree on much politically. But both are lawyers who’ve seen people sent to jail or prison for possessing small amounts of marijuana and both question whether that’s the right result.

Tallian has done polling on the issue and said there’s a growing public sentiment that Indiana’s marijuana possession laws may be too tough.

“We don’t need to be putting kids in jail [for possessing marijuana] and making them into felons,” Tallian said. “I think most people will agree with that.”

CONTINUE…

Marc Emery’s suggestions from prison to better B.C.


By Jon Ferry, The Province April 29, 2012

Marc Emery has 10 suggestions for improving life in British Columbia:

1. Eliminate the provincial income tax, lowering it to zero in thirds over three years.

2. Abolish the RCMP in the province. Establish a modest-sized provincial police force answerable to the provincial solicitor-general and attorney-general. B.C. will need far fewer cops and jails once you eliminate the illegal drug markets.

3. Base MLA selection based on a combination of preferential voting (first, second and third choices, etc., on each ballot) or a first-past-the-post system combined with proportional representation.

4. Make the referendum process in B.C. much more accessible by lowering the threshold of signatures required to four per cent of registered voters obtained over a 180-day period, with paid signature-gathering permitted.

5. Eliminate all provincial tax subsidies to business, including the entertainment industry.

6. Raise the royalties on resource extraction (lumber, oil and gas and mining) while reducing regulations.

7. Allow offshore oil and gas exploration.

8. Require all B.C. educational facilities to encourage students to become proficient in Chinese languages.

9. Get the B.C. government out of education, ending the "monolithic union influence," and set up a voucher system so parents can send children to a school of their choice in a vibrant marketplace with multiple options for both parents and teachers.

10. Reduce the number of people sent to prison by ending drug prohibition and so-called computer crimes and by making greater use of house arrest. Put violent people in cottages in remote locations with electronic monitoring, a garden where they can grow food and a limited library.

Read more: http://www.theprovince.com/news/Marc+Emery+suggestions+from+prison+better/6537155/story.html#ixzz1tTq2RLrm

Marc Emery calls B.C.’s leaders ‘uninspiring’


Jailed activist is a fan of Ayn Rand and rational capitalism

By Jon Ferry, The Province April 29, 2012

APRIL 20, 2009 – Marc Emery lights up at the annual "4-20" pot rally held at the Vancouver Art Gallery and attended by thousands of marijuana advocates and aficinados.

Photograph by: Jack Simpson , For The Province

Jailed marijuana activist Marc Emery is all over the map politically. A founding member of the Marijuana Party of Canada, he’s moved his support between the B.C. and federal NDP, the federal and provincial Greens and federal Liberals over the years.

But Emery says that’s because so few of our leaders, including Premier Christy Clark, NDP Leader Adrian Dix or Green Party Leader Jane Sterk, are inspirational in any way.

"B.C. has got such an uninspiring lot of leaders who stand for nothing, are willing to stand for nothing," he told me from the Mississippi jail where he’s serving out his five-year term for selling marijuana seeds. All play the waiting game, he says, waiting for the other to collapse.

"I’m well plugged in, but I cannot think of anything bold or exciting about Adrian Dix. And where did Jane Sterk of the B.C. Greens go? If she can’t exploit the weakness in the B.C. Liberals and lack of enthusiasm for the NDP in these times, that’s a failed franchise opportunity for sure."

However, Emery absolutely loves libertarian U.S. Republican candidate Ron Paul, who also calls the so-called war on drugs a total failure.

"What a great man! I’ve known of him since 1980 when I read about him in Reason magazine a year after I read Ayn Rand and became a convert to rational capitalism," he noted. "But I’ve been promoting him for president since 2006."

Emery says he doesn’t tend to get into political discussions with his fellow inmates, most of who are from a completely different culture than that in British Columbia.

But he does tell them to have their families vote for Paul because part of his platform is to pardon all nonviolent drug offenders in federal prison.

"So that’s the only way many of these inmates will ever get out," Emery told me in a prison email. "That would even get me out a year earlier, but to the guys who have served 10, 15, 20 years of a life sentence, it would be far more important."

Emery adds that it’s weird that, while so many leading British Columbians are coming out in favour of marijuana decriminalization, Premier Christy Clark still seems to be wavering on the issue.

"When I was a guest on her show on CKNW, she said on the air, ‘I don’t really think anyone’s against marijuana decriminalization anymore, it’s not really an issue for most people nowadays.’ But with the B.C. Conservatives at 20 per cent, she’s running scared."

Besides, Emery says, women leaders generally don’t do well in Canadian politics: "I think of Grace McCarthy, Alexa McDonough, Audrey McLaughlin, Kim Campbell and now, I’m certain, Christy Clark may well be the face of the disappearance of the B.C. Liberals."

However, he noted that the B.C. Social Credit legacy keeps being reincarnated, under different banners. "Each transition gives the NDP a chance at power, which they manage to fail at," he notes.

When he returns to B.C., he says, he’s hoping wife Jodie can secure the Liberal Party of Canada nomination for Vancouver Centre in the fall of 2014.

But Jodie Emery says she has not joined the federal Liberals, and doesn’t think it’s realistic that she would win such a nomination when she hasn’t been a Liberal Party member or done the necessary backroom work.

Besides, she’s not sure how she feels about politics right now.

"I’m kind of enjoying not being beholden to any party and being able to speak in my mind," she said. "The problem with running any party is that you kind of need to be a cheerleader for that party’s policies. And I like being able to speak my mind."

jferry@theprovince.com

Read more: http://www.theprovince.com/news/Marc+Emery+calls+leaders+uninspiring/6537153/story.html#ixzz1tTovajyW

Marc Emery claims victory in drug war


Marc Emery and wife Jodie embrace in the visitors’ area of U.S. medium-security prison in Yazoo City, Mississippi.

Photograph by: Contributed , Cannabis Culture

YAZOO CITY PRISON, Mississippi — Vancouver cannabis crusader Marc Emery may be facing two more frustrating years behind bars in the Deep South of the United States. But he’s more confident than ever he’s winning the war on drug prohibition.

The Prince of Pot believes the drug legalization campaign he’s waged for more than 30 years is already over at the "intellectual" level. And it’s only a matter of time before marijuana and other recreational drugs are sold in stores in Canada and the U.S. – and taxed and regulated just like liquor and cigarettes.

"The end of prohibition is close, five years for marijuana or less," he told me from inside the U.S. federal correctional complex where he’s serving a five-year term for selling marijuana seeds. "And I can take a lot of credit for it."

Crisply dressed in khaki prison fatigues and black boots, Emery said he was heartened that John McKay, the former U.S. attorney who helped put Emery in jail, has had a Saul-on the-road-to-Damascus conversion and is now championing a Washington State initiative to legalize pot.

He’s also encouraged that a raft of Canadian VIPs, including four former B.C. attorneys-general, have jumped on the decriminalization bandwagon.

"I’m running out of people who disagree with me anymore," the pot entrepreneur quipped, as we sipped pop together inside the visitors’ area of the massive, razor-wire-clad jail northwest of the Mississippi state capital of Jackson.

The 54-year-old activist, who once raised the ire of Canadian and U.S. cops by publicly flaunting his marijuana-smoking habits, even admits he doesn’t miss the weed that he first smoked in 1980, when he was 22.

"It’s the most common question I’m asked in letters and even among inmates here, but I have never once thought of marijuana in the actual in two years," he said in a prison email. "Not missed smoking it. In fact, I’ve never thought about it once."

Emery explained that this might stem from the realization that he misses nothing except his devoted wife, Jodie, who runs what remains of his once-thriving pot empire – which, he says, grossed $15 million between 1995 and 2005.

The 27-year-old Jodie, now owner and operator of Cannabis Culture on West Hastings, flies down from Vancouver to visit him every two to four weeks.

"I think of her every hour of every day," Emery said, adding he spends much of his time practising bass guitar and honing his skills as leader of Yazoo, an interracial rock band named after the prison’s rural hometown, known for its blues musicians.

"I never believed I would emerge from prison an accomplished musician, a band leader, playing music I have loved my whole life, with other far more accomplished and talented musicians," he said in another email. "This is a miracle that I’m very grateful for."

My prison visit, which Emery says is the first by any journalist in the two years since he’s been locked up in the U.S., wasn’t easy to arrange. And I wasn’t allowed to bring in a pen, notepad, tape recorder or other reporting tools. Taking pictures on the property was also a no-no, and my rental car was searched. But what really surprised me was how tanned and fit Emery looked compared to how he appeared when I last saw him on TV in Vancouver.

I asked him whether this wasn’t due to the fact that prison had forced him to give up marijuana (and that being caught with pot could lead to a whole range of punishments, including up to three months in solitary).

Emery insisted this was not so. It was simply that he was much less stressed and had far fewer legal/ money worries than when, at the helm of the world’s largest marijuana seed-selling business, he was facing the sobering prospect of extradition to the United States.

Judging by what he says and how he appears, he’s fitting well into prison life as the only Canadian among 1,700 mostly black inmates, many of them serving what appear to be cruelly long sentences for crack cocaine and other drug offences.

Coming from outside with no "cultural baggage" obviously helps, as it does for former newspaper publisher Conrad Black, another Canadian celebrity who’s been doing hard time in the U.S. south.

But Emery says prison life is probably harder on Black because he’s older and used to luxury in his life. "I come from a more working class/ middle class background so it’s not so difficult for me," he said.

The Mississippi climate is also in his favour.

Indeed, Emery says he far prefers the fresh air and sunny climate in the Magnolia State to the "morose" Vancouver weather.

"And I have never had an unkind word spoken to me by any inmate in two years," he said.

"And I am frequently asked, probably every day, for some help or information, as they think of me as a useful, knowledgeable person."

What perhaps misses most are fresh vegetables. However, little niceties are generally only a postage stamp away.

Yes, in the absence of cash, the $1 postage stamp is the universal prison currency.

And he says you can buy services like getting your hair cut, your cell cleaned, your running shoes washed or your headphones fixed for one to five stamps.

Smoking is officially prohibited, but contraband cigs tend to get broken up into four or five small cigarettes and sold for, say, stamps apiece. That means a single street cigarette can fetch $25 . . . with a couple of batteries and a piece of toilet paper serving as a makeshift lighter.

So life is not overly harsh. Indeed, Emery, who shares a cell, thinks he has fewer grey hairs now than when he did when he was in Vancouver.

"I didn’t know your hair could reverse its direction like that regarding colour," he told me. "I was losing my hair from 2002 to 2004. When I look at my hair, its thicker than it was some 10 years ago."

But is the natural-born showman, known in Vancouver for his take-no-prisoners outbursts, really a changed individual? Can a leopard change his spots?

Well, he says he’s matured and learned to tone things down: "Confrontation will get you nowhere good in prison."

Violence in a medium-security prison, though, is always just around the corner. And Emery tells me that only a couple of weeks ago a Hispanic inmate suspected of being an informant was bludgeoned half to death by two others. He was apparently beaten over the head by a metal door-locker lock inside a sock.

Emery’s official release date is July 9, 2014. But he could be free as early as next year, if Ottawa allows him to be transferred back to Canada.

On his return to B.C., he plans to have a big welcome-back bash outside the Vancouver Art Gallery, followed by a world tour with Jodie, including stops in Jamaica and Italy.

As for his career future, he says he’ll finish the autobiography he’s writing and try to become a radio talk show host, a job he used to do back in his hometown of London, Ont.

"One of the problems of the so-called entertainment right-wing radio shows I hear on many AM and FM channels here is they don’t respect facts or balance.

"The discussion is all one-sided, and often just derision, insult and talking in a circular manner," he said.

"I believe I can provoke but still welcome all sides in a discussion."

Like it or not, in other words, you’ll be hearing a lot more from Emery whatever band — or bandwagon — he’s heading.

jferry@theprovince.com

Read more: http://www.timescolonist.com/news/Marc+Emery+claims+victory+drug/6538092/story.html#ixzz1tTmf0274