Posted by George Pappas
1. Attorney General Issues Comprehensive Medical Cannabis Guidelines
On Monday, California Attorney General Jerry Brown issued long-awaited guidelines which direct law enforcement on dealing with medical cannabis. The guidelines were developed in close coordination with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), and are an incredible step forward for California’s medical cannabis law. Though they explicitly instruct police to abide by state and not federal law when it comes to medical cannabis, perhaps the most significant aspect is its recommendations for operating medical cannabis dispensaries in accordance with state law. Specifically, the Attorney General states that, “a properly organized and operated collective or cooperative that dispenses medical marijuana through a storefront may be lawful under California law.”
The guidelines are the culmination of years of work by ASA and other advocates to educate and urge action from the Attorney General and other state officials. The move by the Attorney General signifies strong leadership from California’s top law enforcement official in backing our medical cannabis law, and will ultimately lead to fewer unnecessary arrests, citations and seizures of medicine from qualified patients. They provide direction for patients, police, lawyers, judges and public officials to better understand their rights, responsibilities, and obligations under state law.
This strong statement of support for CA’s medical cannabis law comes at a time of escalating aggression by the federal government. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Department of Justice continue to undermine California law through raids, seizures, prosecutions, and imprisonment of state-sanctioned patients and providers. In response, a number of California mayors and other elected officials have voiced their frustration with DEA to House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-MI), calling for oversight hearings. In adding to the plea to federal agents to let California implement its own laws, Attorney General Brown told the LA Times, “Hopefully the feds will back off in instances where people are really following these guidelines.”
2. Santa Barbara Protesters Call for End to DEA Aggression
Santa Barbara organizer Mark Russell led a crowd of about 100 demonstrators in a march on Wednesday to show solidarity in the face of the federal government’s threats to shut down the numerous medical cannabis dispensaries in town. Protesters marched from the waterfront to the heart of downtown, proudly sporting T-shirts reading “I Am Not a Criminal,” and “No Access Is Not a Solution,” and chanting “Protect our rights! All of our rights!”. The protest was a phenomenal display of strength and community in opposition to the actions of the DEA.
The group was peaceably assembled on both sides of the street, and there were no police officers present or necessary. However, the message was one of anger and frustration with a federal agency (DEA) that takes it upon itself to undermine the laws of any state it wishes. Innocent people are being systematically locked up by our government just to prove a political point, and it cannot continue. “It’s not right that the federal government is trying to control peoples’ lives,” said one protester.
Present at the march was national medical cannabis activist Elvy Musikka — one of the few people in the country provided cannabis by the federal government for medical reasons. Elvy’s presence was symbolic of the hypocrisy of the federal position on medical cannabis, which still makes the claim that there are “no medical benefits” to the plant whose therapeutic properties are widely recognized by researchers all over the world and by many of the most respected health care groups in the US.
The City of Santa Barbara recently approved an ordinance to regulate cannabis dispensaries, a proactive step being taken by a large number of cities and counties to embrace California’s medical cannabis law, and one that’s expected to increase with the release of dispensary guidelines from Attorney General Jerry Brown. Mark Russell’s protest is a model of action for other California communities who want to stand up against DEA’s threats on our communities.