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  • by Sabrina Fendrick December 12, 2012

    Defense Attorney Lauren K. Johnson won a major court victory for parents who legally use marijuana for medical purposes last week in Los Angeles.  In the case of Drake A. (case # B236769), Division Three of the Second Appellate District, California Court of Appeal ruled on December 5, 2012 that there was no evidence showing that the defendant, a father, is a substance ab­user for simply being a legal medical marijuana patient. The court confirmed that while parents who abuse drugs can lose custody of their children, a parent who uses marijuana for medical reasons, with a doctor’s approval, isn’t necessarily a drug abuser.

    The father, “Paul M.” was placed under DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) supervision after he testified in an October 2011 hearing that he used medical marijuana about four times a week for knee pain.  During that same hearing, he also stated that he never medicates in front of his children, nor is he under the influence while they are in his care.  DCFS supervision requires drug counseling, parenting classes and random drug testing.  During subsequent drug screenings the father tested positive for marijuana, and negative for all other drugs.  As a result, the Superior Court of Los Angeles ruled that the child was to become a “dependent of the court based on the trial court’s finding that [the] father’s usage of medical marijuana placed the child at substantial risk of serious physical harm or illness…”.

    “Paul M.” appealed the former court’s ruling, which was challenged in the Second Appellate District of California.  The Appellate court subsequently ruled in favor of reversing the Superior court’s judgment.  The official ruling stated “[that the] DCFS failed to show that [the] father was unable to provide regular care for Drake [the minor child at issue] due to father’s substance abuse.  Both DCFS and the trial court apparently confused the meanings of the terms ‘substance use’ and ‘substance abuse’.”

    Johnson issued a press release noting that this is the first case to distinguish between marijuana use and abuse with regards to child protection laws. “In overturning a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling against the plaintiff, Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, the Appellate Court said the ‘mere usage of drugs,’ including marijuana, is not the same as substance abuse that can affect child custody, as alleged in this case by the lower court.”  She went on to say, “The ruling illustrates a growing recognition of the legitimate use of medical marijuana in this state and other states. We want kids to be safe, but we also want parents to be able to use legally prescribed medications when children appear not to be at demonstrated risk of harm.”

    This has been a pervasive issue in California, as well as other medical marijuana states. Legal patients have lost custody of their children and been forced to turn their children over to a juvenile protection agency.  The NORML Women’s Alliance has been working hard to bring this issue to the forefront.  NORML Women’s Alliance Director Sabrina Fendrick issued the following statement; “This ruling is a small victory in our fight for legal marijuana patients’ parental rights.  We hope that future judicial hearings, as well as child protection agencies will utilize this judgment and adopt new policies that reflect the Appellate court’s ruling.”

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director October 2, 2012

    In a 11-2 vote, the Los Angeles City Council voted to overturn their ban on medical cannabis dispensaries. The council had previously voted 14-0 in favor of banning all dispensaries in the city.

    Advocates vowed to overturn the ban and collected the more than 27,425 signatures required to force the council to either repeal the ban on their own or put the issue before voters early next year.

    This is an evolving situation and NORML will keep you updated as it develops.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director September 27, 2012

    These are the last days to register online to attend NORML’s 2012 national conference, ‘The Final Days of Prohibition,’ taking place Thursday, October 4th through Saturday, October 6th at The Omni Los Angeles Hotel.

    Former CA Assemblyman and peace activist Tom Hayden will speak on Thursday morning. Best-selling travel author and TV host Rick Steves and NORML Founder Keith Stroup will address attendees at Friday’s Keynote luncheon, "Observations on the Final Days of Prohibition".

    Round-table sessions and plenary speeches at NORML’s 41st annual conference include:

    • Pot-n-Politics 2012: A Review of Statewide Reform Initiatives Impacting Cannabis Consumers
    • Cannabis and the ‘Demo’ Gap: Who Does Not Support Cannabis Legalization and What Can We Do About It
    • Cannabis Legalization and Taxation: What Might It Look Like?
    • Broken Promises: Obama Administration and Federal Blowback Against Medical Cannabis Industry
    • The Changing Face of the Medical Cannabis Community
    • Seventy-Five Years of Cannabis Prohibition in America: A Review of the Cannabis Prohibition Epoch in America
    • Past is Prologue – Women’s Role in Ending American Prohibition[s]

    States NORML’s Executive Director Allen St. Pierre: “2012 marks the beginning of the end of cannabis prohibition. A majority of Americans for the first time now acknowledge wanting to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system of legalization and regulation, and this November, voters in a handful of states are poised to embrace this common sense policy. The 2012 national NORML Conference reflects upon the decades of failure imposed by prohibition, celebrates our recent progress at amending this policy, and looks forward to the very near future when cannabis prohibition is abolished once and for all.”

    Social events include a Wednesday night welcoming reception, a Thursday night Activist Awards Ceremony, a joint High Times/NORML party and ‘Not-So-Silent’ Auction, a NORML Women’s Alliance Luncheon, and a Saturday night fundraiser at ‘The Hemp Museum’ in downtown Los Angeles.

    NORML invites the public to join hundreds of like-minded marijuana law reformers at the nation’s only annual conference dedicated to ending cannabis prohibition.

    Online registration and day passes, as well as details regarding conference speakers, agenda, and social events, is available at here.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director September 17, 2012


    Today, the LA City Clerk announced that a referendum to overturn the recent Los Angeles City Council medical marijuana dispensary ban has qualified for the ballot.

    Organizers had previously submitted signatures to the city and were informed today that they surpassed the 27,425 valid signatures required to qualify. There are now three possible outcomes for this effort: the LA City Council could choose to overturn the dispensary ban on their own, call for a special election on the issue, or place the referendum on the ballot for the March mayoral election.

    The enforcement of the ban on medical cannabis dispensaries will remain suspended until the referendum is resolved. NORML will keep you updated as the situation progresses.

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director August 30, 2012


    In July, members of the LA City Council approved a blanket ban on marijuana dispensaries in the city. This ban has now been suspended for the time being thanks to the efforts of medicinal cannabis supporters in the City of Angels.

    Today, medical marijuana advocates turned in nearly double the 27,425 signatures required to force a voter referendum on the dispensary ban. The ban has been suspended temporarily to allow the city clerk 15 days to verify the signatures and see if the referendum officially qualifies. If it does, the council must either repeal the ban entirely or place the issue before voters in March 2013.

    NORML will keep you posted as this situation evolves.

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