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California

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 1, 2012

    [Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s news alerts and legislative advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up here.]

    Total seizures of cultivated cannabis plants fell an estimated 35 percent between the years 2010 and 2011, according to statistics provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and published in the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics.

    Data for the year 2011 indicates that some 6.7 million cannabis plants were eradicated nationwide under the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, which is active in all 50 states. This figure represents the lowest total of cultivated plants eradicated since 2006, and is a 35 percent decrease from 2010, when the DEA reported eradicating some 10.3 million marijuana plants.

    The year-to-year drop was largely a result of a decline in the total number of plants eradicated in California. In 2010, the DEA reported eradicating some 7.4 million plants in California. That number fell to just under 4 million plants in 2011.

    Overall, approximately 60 percent of all of the marijuana plants eradicated in the United States in 2011 were from California plots.

    The DEA further reported having seized over $11 million in assets associated with its eradication efforts in California. Nationwide, the agency reported seizing over $42 million in assets associated with its Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program.

    According to a July 2012 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture fund under President Barack Obama is the largest on record, having grown from $500 million in 2003, to $1.8 billion in 2011. According to the GAO, the fund paid out approximately $79 million to California law enforcement agencies, the most in the nation, for their participation in federal raids and seizures.

    In recent months, the Justice Department has targeted numerous properties in California for civil asset forfeiture – including Harborside Health Center, the largest and most prominent medical marijuana dispensary in the state.

    Year-to-year cannabis eradication data is available from the Sourcebook here.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 31, 2012

    As I wrote last week in an op/ed for The Sacramento Bee, when it comes to the federal government’s policy on marijuana, not so much.

    Viewpoints: Science supporting medicinal pot is clear
    via The Sacramento Bee

    A dozen years ago, California lawmakers did something extraordinary. They authorized investigators throughout California to conduct a series of FDA-approved, gold standard trials to assess whether cannabis is safe and effective as a medicine.

    In all, researchers conducted more than a dozen clinical studies examining whether cannabis could meet objective standards of safety and therapeutic efficacy. For example, investigators at the University of California, San Francisco, assessed whether vaporizing cannabis could rapidly and consistently deliver the plant’s active ingredients to patients in a manner that is far safer than smoking. It could. At UC San Diego, clinicians examined whether inhaling cannabis posed potential harms to the immune system, particularly in subjects suffering from immune-compromised conditions like HIV. It didn’t. And at universities throughout the state, investigators studied whether marijuana provided statistically significant relief in a number of hard-to-treat conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and neuropathic (nerve) pain. Cannabis did so – consistently.

    … Nonetheless, policymakers – particularly those in Washington – have responded to these most recent scientific findings with no more than a collective yawn. Despite pledging to let “science and the scientific process … inform and guide decisions of my administration,” neither President Barack Obama nor Congress have taken any steps to amend federal law or federal policy to reflect the scientific reality that marijuana possesses well-established therapeutic value. In fact, this administration has taken just the opposite approach.

    In 2011, the Obama administration quashed out-of-hand an administrative petition that sought federal hearings regarding the present classification of cannabis as a substance with “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” In its rejection, the administration alleged, “The drug’s chemistry is not known and reproducible; there are no adequate safety studies; there are no adequate and well-controlled studies proving efficacy; the drug is not accepted by qualified experts; and the scientific evidence is not widely available.”

    Yet, the findings from California’s 12-year-old study program show that each of these claims is demonstrably false.

    It is long past time to reject the notion that we as a society possess insufficient evidence regarding the safety and efficacy of cannabis. The truth is that we know plenty. Most of all we know that there remains no valid scientific reason to justify the continued targeting, prosecution and incarceration of those Americans who consume cannabis responsibly.

    Read my entire commentary here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Director July 27, 2012

    This Week in Weed

    Click here to subscribe to NORMLtv and receive alerts whenever new content is added.

    The latest installment of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.

    This week: Oregon will vote on legalization, a new study on cannabis use and MS, and the LA City Council moves to ban medical marijuana dispensaries citywide.

    YouTube Preview Image

    Also, check out RAND Corporations presentation entitled “Should Marijuana Be Legalized?” which was presented on Capitol Hill this month. While NORML disagrees on many of the points made, RAND’s views make for a very interesting discussion.

    YouTube Preview Image
    Continued in Part 2 and Part 3

    Be sure to tune in to NORMLtv every week to catch up on the latest marijuana news. Subscribe to NORMLtv or follow us on Twitter to be notified as soon as new content is added.

  • by Sabrina Fendrick July 16, 2012

    Follow the NORML Women’s Alliance on Facebook and Twitter

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  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 12, 2012

    Many of California’s most prominent and well-respected medical cannabis dispensaries and related facilities — including Oaksterdam University, Berkeley Patients Group, and Harborside Health Center (HHC) — flourished under the George W. Bush administration. But they’ll be lucky to survive President Barack Obama’s first term.

    On Tuesday, federal prosecutors targeted Harborside Health Center in Oakland, as well as its sister facility in San Jose, for closure and civil asset forfeiture. In court papers filed by the US Attorney for the northern district of California, Melinda Haag, the federal government alleges that Harborside is “operating in violation of federal law” by providing cannabis to state-qualified patients.

    The actions taken by the US Department of Justice stand in sharp contrast statements made by President Obama prior to his election, when he pledged to no longer use federal “Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws” regulating the physician authorized use and distribution of medical cannabis — a promise this administration has repeatedly broken. The actions also contradict more recent statements made by US Attorney Eric Holder to Congress in June when he asserted that Justice officials are solely targeting individuals who are “taking advantage of those state laws and going beyond what those states have authorized.”

    Yet despite Eric Holder and the President’s claims to the contrary, the DOJ’s actions against Harborside are consistent with a growing trend by the Obama administration to target and close many of the state’s most prominent, longstanding, and well-respected medical cannabis operations — including the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (1996-2011), Berkeley Patients Group (2000-2012), and El Camino Wellness (2008-2012).

    In April, approximately 100 federal agents raided Oaksterdam University, a brick-and-mortar cannabis trade school in downtown Oakland, and several other properties rented by the facility’s founder Richard Lee. (To date, no criminal charges have been filed against Lee and O.U. has since re-opened.) Internal e-mails from the Oakland Police Department, made public earlier this week, reveal that local law enforcement officials had virtually no advance notice of the federal government’s actions against Oaksterdam, which they criticized as “resource-draining; … [it] exposed our staff to more conflict (harm) as well as complaints than necessary.”

    Commenting on this week’s action, US Attorney Melinda Haag pronounced:

    “This office has used its limited resources to address those marijuana dispensaries that operate close to schools, parks and playgrounds. As I have said in the past, this is a non-exclusive list of factors relevant to whether we should commence civil forfeiture actions against marijuana properties, and circumstances may require us to address other situations.

    I now find the need to consider actions regarding marijuana superstores such as Harborside. The larger the operation, the greater the likelihood that there will be abuse of the state’s medical marijuana laws, and marijuana in the hands of individuals who do not have a demonstrated medical need.

    The filing of the civil forfeiture complaints against the two Harborside properties is part of our measured effort to address the proliferation of illegal marijuana businesses in the Northern District of California.”

    However, in contrast to Haag’s public statement, the federal complaint filed Sunday cites no alleged violations of state law, instead claiming that HHC’s actions violate the federal US Controlled Substances Act.

    Speaking at a press conference today (Watch a recording of it here.)– Steve DeAngelo, Executive Director of Harborside Health Center — rebuffed Haag’s claims, stating that HHC is neither close to a school, nor out of compliance with state law. “Harborside has nothing to hide or be ashamed of,” DeAngelo said in a prepared statement. “We will contest the DOJ action openly and in public, and through all legal means at our disposal. We look forward to our day in court, and are confident that justice is on our side.”

    Harborside Health Center is licensed by the city of Oakland. It employs over 100 people and is Oakland’s second largest retail tax payer. Last year, HHC paid combined taxes in excess of $3 million, over a million dollars of which went directly to the City of Oakland.

    According to a post on the facility’s website, Harborside Health Center intends to remain open despite federal threats. It states: “Harborside is not in imminent danger of closing. We intend to keep the commitment we made six years ago to provide our patients with safe access to the medicine their doctors have recommended, for as long as we possibly can.”

    The US Attorney’s actions come the same week that former US House Speaker, Democrat Nancy Pelosi called on Congress to reform federal marijuana laws to acknowledge the plant’s therapeutic utility. Representative Pelosi had previously criticized the Obama administration’s actions this past May, stating, “I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California, and undermine a policy that has been in place under which the federal government did not pursue individuals whose actions complied with state laws providing for medicinal marijuana.”

    Harborside Health Center estimates that it serves over 100,000 members. The facility had previously been engaged in litigation with the Internal Revenue Service, which determined that the dispensary could not deduct standard business expenses such as payroll and rent, because it is involved in what the agency terms “the trafficking of controlled substances.”

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