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Oakland

  • by Aubrie Odell, NORML Junior Associate November 5, 2017

    In March of this year, Oakland City Council implemented the Equity Permit Program for aspiring marijuana entrepreneurs in the new green economy. This program is designed to address the past disparities in the cannabis industry by giving priority to the victims of the war on drugs and minimizing barriers to entry into the industry; ultimately trying to level the playing field within the medical cannabis arena. The Oakland City Council found that the Black community has been dramatically overrepresented in cannabis-related arrests in the past 20 years, accounting for 90% of these arrests at times.

    The city is including an incentive for non-equity applicants by fast-tracking permits from property owners who offer free rent to equity applicants as a way to assist the entrepreneurs who have had little access to capital. Additionally, tax revenue collected from this new licensing process will be used to establish an assistance program for equity applicants, offering no-interest startup loans, exemption from the permit application fee, and technical assistance.

    To qualify as an applicant and receive this assistance, the individual must be an Oakland resident with an annual income that’s less than 80 percent of the Oakland Average Medium Income and either has a past marijuana conviction in Oakland or has lived for ten of the last twenty years in police beats that experienced a disproportionately higher amount of law enforcement.

    Although the program may not perfect, Oakland is setting an example of how to begin to address marijuana-related oppression that has impacted historically marginalized groups. Other states that have legalized marijuana, or are in the process of doing so, should look to the Oakland model because legalization alone will not address the historic injustices perpetrated by law enforcement under prohibition.

    However, as states both decriminalize and legalize the recreational use of marijuana, researchers still find enormous racial disparities within arrest rates. From a 2013 ACLU report, researchers found that although marijuana use rates are almost equal among Black and White individuals, Black people are 3.73 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession compared to their White neighbors. Even with decriminalization, most states still have outrageous fines in lieu of jail time—$5 worth of marijuana can result in a $150 fine in Ohio. For most people, that is a large portion of their paycheck that would otherwise go towards rent, food, and other basic necessities. And, most importantly, the same racial disparities within arrest rates of marijuana possession are likely replicated in civil offenses for marijuana possession. Even with decriminalization, police are still going to be targeting Black people at the same rate. In Washington, DC last year, arrests for public use of marijuana nearly tripled just one year after marijuana use (but not marijuana sales) became legal in the city. Many of these arrests directly impact poor people and minorities, especially because it’s only legal to consume marijuana on privately owned property. Individuals who rent or are in public housing cannot enjoy private consumption.

    So, even when more states begin to legalize marijuana, Black individuals are still going to be less likely to be able to thrive in the regulated marijuana market because of the copious amount of fines, prison time, and harassment from law enforcement. Not to mention, even when fines are replaced for minor marijuana possession instead of jail time, those that are unable to pay the fine may be arrested or forced to appear in court–raking in additional fines to pay. However, not even programs similar to Oakland’s are enough to resolve these discrepancies. A number of states have laws that don’t allow those with past convictions to apply to open a marijuana business, which disproportionately discriminates against minorities that have been targeted for marijuana possession offenses prior to legalization. To rid of this disparity, states with legalization laws should be issuing automatic expungements of prior marijuana-related arrests.

    The enforcement of marijuana prohibition has gone out of its way to marginalize the Black community, so it’s only right that each state work just as hard to remedy this problem. A great place to start is with a program that allocates a certain amount of funds, resources, and applications for minorities who want to start a marijuana business, in states that have legalization laws. Without these programs and without recognizing these injustices, racial disparities will continue and Black people will not be given a fair opportunity to thrive in a regulated marijuana market.

  • 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.”

  • by Erik Altieri, NORML Executive Director April 3, 2012

    Richard Lee Speaking at a NORML Conference
    Earlier this week, agents with the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service raided several properties owned by longtime marijuana law reform advocate Richard Lee. Richard has devoted over a million dollars of his own money and countless hours of his life to championing Proposition 19 and marijuana legalization in California, to say nothing of all the time and passion he has poured into helping revitalize his community of Downtown Oakland, can you give him just a minute of your time and sign his petition to President Obama?


    Click here to sign

    From Richard Lee:

    On Monday, April 2, my school — Oaksterdam University in Oakland — was raided by the DEA, IRS, and US Marshals. Oaksterdam provides training to the medical cannabis industry, and is fully compliant with state and local law.

    President Obama promised at the beginning of his administration to respect state medical marijuana laws. He has broken this promise time and time again — and the consequences have been devastating.

    This was a senseless act of intimidation. But I’ve been an activist far too long to become intimidated — and with the majority of Americans and common sense on our side, I know this is a fight we can win.

    With our government trillions in debt, why is our government using taxpayer dollars to come after me, Oaksterdam, and the thousands of patients who need medical marijuana just to get through the day?

    Tell President Obama and the DEA: Enough is enough. Keep your campaign promise, and stop the raids on the medical cannabis industry!


    Click here to sign!

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator April 2, 2012

    WANTED: For spending $1.5 million to try to legalize marijuana and for providing truthful education about it.

    OAKLAND — Federal agents swooped in Monday morning to search Oakland’s Oaksterdam University in Oakland, the state’s first cannabis industry training school.

    Agents with the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation division are searching the university at the corner of 16th Street and Broadway, in the heart of the city’s widely recognized downtown cannabis-oriented district, authorities said.

    The university has been cordoned off by yellow caution tape.

    Arlette Lee, an IRS spokeswoman, said she could not say why the agents were there other than to confirm that they were serving a federal search warrant.

    Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/04/02/BABJ1NTK9T.DTL#ixzz1qtvKIJo3

    [UPDATE!] You can view video from yesterday’s federal raid, coverage of today’s march and protest in San Francisco, and also read Richard Lee’s first public statement since the DEA and IRS took action against him here.]

    Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam University, was the man who poured $1.5 million of his own money into the Prop 19 effort in 2010 to legalize marijuana in California.  That effort garnered the greatest-ever support for statewide marijuana legalization at 46.5%.

    Wall Street bankers looted and wrecked the economy? Eh, whaddaya gonna do? People are learning the truth about marijuana and its prohibition in there? Better send in federal agents right away! (Photo: Oaksterdam)

    Oaksterdam was founded in November of 2007 to provide training for the caregivers and collectives providing cannabis medicine to California’s medical marijuana patients.  But rather than just establish a “grow school”, Richard Lee also seeded the curriculum with classes covering the entire cannabis industry, including how to address the political and legal impediments that prohibition of cannabis for healthy people imposes on getting medicine to sick people.

    The recent “crackdown” by the four US Attorneys in California, which has included threatening letters to landlords of medical marijuana dispensaries as well as outright raids of longstanding, community-approved outlets like Berkeley Patients Group, has been devastating to Oaksterdam’s enrollment.

    There is now no doubt in my mind that this is a full-court press by the Obama Administration to squelch the voices of legalization, retard the propagation of truth about marijuana, and stall our growing political momentum long enough for the campaign donors in Big Pharma to get cannabinoid pharmaceuticals through the FDA approval process.

    Colorado and Washington – 2012 is THE year.  Failure to pass legalization this year gives the government four more years before they have to worry about serious attempts at legalization.  By then, a few more states will have passed medical marijuana laws without home grow.  By 2016, Sativex and other cannabinoid pharmaceuticals are brought to market.  Those states without home grow will then begin switching their state-run dispensary patients to Sativex.  States with home grow will be under great pressure to do the same.

    [NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano adds: I have tremendous personal respect for Richard Lee, having advocated along side with him in support of Prop. 19 — the statewide initiative he boldly and generously spearheaded in 2010 — and having lectured at Oaksterdam University, the groundbreaking educational facility he founded. On more than one occasion I ended my lectures at O.U. by highlighting the difference between changing public opinion and changing culture. Richard’s activism — opening the nation’s first brick-and-mortar cannabis ‘college,’ bankrolling Proposition 19 which nearly succeeded in legalizing the adult use of marijuana in California, and revitalizing downtown Oakland — fell into the latter category. He was changing the culture. And that is why the federal government and the Obama/Holder administration is trying to silence him today.]

     

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator May 31, 2011

    At Least 1 – 1.5 Million Americans are Legal Medical Marijuana Patients

    Market for these patients in sixteen states and D.C. estimated at between $2 – $6 billion annually

    MAY 31, 2011 – We don’t know his or her name, but somewhere in one of sixteen states and the District of Columbia is America’s 1,000,000th legal medical marijuana patient. We estimate the United States reached the million-patients mark sometime between the beginning of the year to when Arizona began issuing patient registry identification cards online in April 2011.

    16 states, the Capitol, and ONE MILLION legal marijuana users.

    Between one to one-and-a-half million people are legally authorized by their state to use marijuana in the United States, according to data compiled by NORML from state medical marijuana registries and patient estimates.  Assuming usage of one-half to one gram of cannabis medicine per day per patient and an average retail price of $320 per ouncethese legal consumers represent a $2.3 to $6.2 billion dollar market annually.

    Based on state medical marijuana laws, the amounts of cannabis these legal marijuana users are entitled to possess means there is between 566 – 803 thousand pounds of legal usable cannabis allowed under state law in America.  These patients are allowed to cultivate between 17 – 24 million legal cannabis plants.  There may possibly be more, as California and New Mexico “limits” may be exceeded with doctor’s permission and some California counties explicitly allow greater amounts, so there may be as much as 1 million pounds of state-legal cannabis allowed under state law in America.

    Active Medical Marijuana State (Total population of sixteen medical marijuana states + D.C. = over 90 million.  D.C., Delaware, and New Jersey programs are not yet active.) # Legal Medical Marijuana Patients (% of state population)
    California (1996) – No central state registry, 2% – 3% of overall population estimate by Dale Gieringer at California NORML by comparing rates in Colorado & Montana. ~750,000 (2.00%)

    ~1,125,000 (3.00%)

    Washington (1998) – No registry, 1% – 1.5% of overall population estimate by Russ Belville at NORML by comparing rates in Oregon & Colorado. ~67,000 (1.00%)

    ~100,000 (1.50%)

    Oregon (1998) – Centralized state registry data published online. 39,774 (1.04%)
    Alaska (1998) – No data online, verified by author’s call to Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics. 380 (0.05%)
    Maine (1999) – Centralized state registry data published online. 796 (0.06%)
    Nevada (2000) – 2008 figures from ProCon.org, awaiting return call from state for official number. 860 (0.03%)
    Hawaii (2000) – Estimate from Pam Lichty of Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii; program is run by law enforcement who are reluctant to release data. ~8,000 (0.59%)
    Colorado (2000) – Centralized state registry data published online. 123,890 (2.46%)
    Vermont (2004) – No data online, verified by author’s call to Vermont Criminal Information Center. 349 (0.06%)
    Montana (2004) – Centralized state registry data published online. 30,609 (3.09%)
    Rhode Island (2006) – Centralized state registry data published online. 3,069 (0.29%)
    New Mexico (2007) – Centralized state registry data published online. 3,615 (0.18%)
    Michigan (2008) – Centralized state registry data published online. 75,521 (0.76%)
    Arizona (2010) – Centralized state registry data published online. 3,696 (0.06%)
    TOTAL US LEGAL MARIJUANA USERS ~1,100,000 (1.22%)

    ~1,500,000 (1.67%)

    Yet after fifteen years, one million patients, and a million pounds of legal marijuana, few if any of the dire predictions by opponents of medical marijuana have come to fruition.  Medical marijuana states like Oregon are experiencing their lowest-ever rates of workplace fatalities, injuries, and accidents.  States like Colorado are experiencing their lowest rates in three decades of fatal crashes per million miles driven.  In medical marijuana states for which we have data (through Michigan in 2008), use by minor teenagers is down in all but Maine and down by at least 10% in states with the greatest proportion of their population using medical cannabis. (more…)

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