Archive for the ‘lawsuit’ category

Kentucky Sues Feds Over Confiscated Hemp Seeds

May 17th, 2014

Earlier this week, the Drug Enforcement Administration ordered that 250 pounds of hemp seed be seized at Louisville Airport in Kentucky. The seeds were being imported by the Kentucky government from Italy to plant at state universities in their hemp pilot program. Kentucky legalized industrial hemp in 2013 and the federal government approved legislation this year that allowed states to engage in limited hemp cultivation.

When the DEA refused to return the seeds under reasonable conditions, the Kentucky Agriculture Department filed suit against the Justice Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Attorney General Eric Holder.

On Friday, there was a preliminary hearing regarding the lawsuit. During the hearing, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II stated that the DEA must explicitly state what would need to be done for those participating in the pilot program to have the seeds returned. Federal officials responded that the Kentucky Department of Agriculture must fill out a narcotics license in addition to providing memorandum of agreement with the departments of universities planning to cultivate the crop.

In an interview discussing the hearing with the Huffington Post, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer stated, “It sounds like a victory, but I’m not going to declare victory until those seeds go in the ground. It was very positive today. But we’ve felt pretty good throughout this entire process over the last several weeks, and the DEA would come back and change again. I’m not celebrating. It will be a victory when I have those seeds in hand.”

Elected officials across the state have voiced their support for the hemp program and decried the actions of federal officials. US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated, “It is an outrage that DEA is using finite taxpayer dollars to impound legal industrial hemp seeds.”

According to the Congressional Resource Service, the US is the only developed nation that fails to cultivate industrial hemp as an economic crop. However, in February, members of Congress for the first time approved language in the omnibus federal Farm Bill allowing for the cultivation of industrial hemp in agricultural pilot programs in states that already permit the growth and cultivation of the plant.

The next court hearing is expected to occur on Wednesday, May 21. NORML will keep you updated as the situation evolves.

Federal Lawsuit Filed to Derail Washington State from Collecting Taxes on Marijuana Sales

May 12th, 2014
Martin Nickerson
Martin Nickerson, owner of Northern Cross Collective Gardens

Martin Nickerson has filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Washington, attempting to bar the state from collecting taxes on marijuana sales. Washington state officials are demanding that he pay taxes on those sales to the tune of $62,000. However, since Nickerson is under prosecution for the criminal sale of marijuana as a medical marijuana producer, he claims that forcing him to pay taxes on his sales would violate his constitutional right against self-incrimination.

Alison Holcomb, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who was the main author of Washington State’s successful ballot initiative, said the lawsuit has a low probability of taking down the state’s legal marijuana system.

Suppliers like Nickerson have already made public their intent to break federal law, Holcomb said, so paying taxes on their proceeds would not do much to further incriminate them.

“Paying taxes on marijuana implicates you, but so does everything else about being engaged in this system,” she said.

Ultimately, the case brings into question whether federal laws trump state laws when it comes to collecting tax revenue generated from marijuana sales. The outcome of this case could have a significant impact on medical marijuana businesses around the country.

Another Ugly Moment For US’ War Against Marijuana Consumers

July 31st, 2013

arrestedIn what can only be described as a horrible tragedy for college student Daniel Chong–as well as for the American taxpayer–the Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration has agreed to pay $4.1 million dollars to Mr. Chong for falsely imprisoning him after an April 20, 2012 party, and worse, literally forgetting about him in a holding cell for five days where Mr. Chong drank his own urine to survive, and cut himself to leave a dying message to his mother.

To date no DEA field agents or local managers have been held responsible for this gross error (ironically, only the taxpayer is left being the responsible party in this legal nightmare).

This kind of abuseful and money-wasting government nitwittery is another prime example of why cannabis prohibition must end in America post haste.

San Diego Union Tribune article about the settlement, and previous news coverage, is below:

DEA settles left-in-cell case for $4M

By Jeff McDonald1:08 a.m.July 30, 2013

Daniel Chong, the self-confessed pot smoker who was caught up in a drug sweep last year and nearly died after federal agents inadvertently abandoned him in a holding cell for five days without food or water, is now a millionaire.

Attorney Eugene Iredale announced Tuesday he reached a $4.1 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, without even filing a lawsuit.

The harrowing experience for Chong, 25, an engineering student, began on a Friday night in 2012, when he admittedly went to some friends’ house in University City to celebrate April 20, a special date for marijuana users.

Chong didn’t know it at the time, but the home had been under surveillance by a federal narcotics task force.

Drug agents executed a search warrant early in the morning of April 21, Among other things, they found 18,000 ecstasy pills, marijuana and several weapons in the residence, according to court papers.

The agents also found Chong sleeping on a couch in the front room and transported him and six others to the San Diego field office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for follow-up interviews.

Chong said he answered all of the agents’ questions and they agreed to send him home without criminal charges.

But instead he was returned to a temporary holding cell, where he spent the next four days without food or water. He has said he became delirious, drank his own urine, ate the broken shards of his glasses and used the glass to cut the message “sorry mom” in his own forearm.

He said he kicked the door and screamed for help but agents never came to his assistance. DEA agents admitted later they “accidentally” left Chong in the cell and took the unusual step of apologizing publicly to the UCSD student.

DEA officials declined to comment about the case Monday.

Findings of an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Justice have not been released.

Suit Before Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals Seeks To Halt Federal Actions Against California’s Medical Cannabis Providers

October 25th, 2012

On Wednesday, October 24, a group of California dispensary operators, medical cannabis providers, and patients, as Plaintiffs, filed their Opening Brief before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, asking the Circuit Court to hold that Plaintiffs, in their continuing litigation against the Federal Government, have a constitutional Ninth Amendment and Substantive Due Process fundamental right to distribute, possess and use medical cannabis. The brief, filed by members of the NORML Legal Committee, also contends that the Federal Government’s criminal prohibition of medical cannabis has no rational basis and thus violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Plaintiffs further contend that the Federal Government is Judicially Estopped from enforcing medical marijuana prohibition in states that allow such activity because the Administration has previously asserted in public and in court that they would no longer do so.

Plaintiffs in November 2011 initially filed suit in California’s four federal districts against Eric Holder (United States Attorney General), Michelle Leonhart (Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the individual US Attorneys of each California District: Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego — following increased efforts from the Obama administration and the state’s US Attorneys to crack down on the production and distribution of medical cannabis. Plaintiff’s are asking the Ninth Circuit to reverse the district court’s dismissal of that complaint, and to allow the plaintiff’s the opportunity to prove their contentions in a court of law.

Three members of the NORML Legal Committee — Matt Kumin and David Michael from San Francisco and Alan Silber from Roseland, NJ — are representing the Plaintiffs in this appeal. In a press release, they stated, “The ill, in compliance with state law and with a physician’s recommendation, are made to suffer needlessly by the federal threats and denial of access to medical cannabis due to irrational governmental policy. Judicial intervention is the only way to stop the federal government from acting irrationally and from willfully ignoring the science supporting the use of cannabis as medicine.”

The cases are El Camino Wellness Center, et al. v. Eric Holder et al. (Sacramento), Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, et al. v. Eric Holder, et al. (San Francisco), and Alternative Community Health Care Cooperative, et al. v. Eric Holder, et al. (San Diego).

Other NLC attorneys who participated in the litigation of these cases are Lance Rogers of San Diego, Mark Reichel of Sacramento and Edward Burch of San Francisco.

A copy of Plaintiff’s Opening Brief is available here.

This Week in Weed: April 8th-15th

April 13th, 2012

This Week in Weed

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

In this episode: NORML attorneys file a lawsuit in NJ, DC announces 6 marijuana cultivation centers, a new poll shows growing support for legalization, and more.

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New Jersey: NORML Lawyers File Constitutional Lawsuit Over State’s Failure To Implement Two-Year-Old Medical Cannabis Law

April 5th, 2012

Members of the NORML Legal Committee filed suit yesterday against the State of New Jersey over regulators failure to implement the Compassionate Use of Medical Marijuana Act.

First signed into law by former Gov. Jon Corzine on January 18, 2010, the law — which establishes the creation of up to six state-licensed ‘alternative treatment centers’ to provide medicinal cannabis to qualified patients — was initially scheduled to take effect in July 2010. Since that time state regulators, at the behest of present Gov. Chris Christie, have unduly delayed the law’s implementation. To date, not a single patient in New Jersey has been afforded legal protections under the Act in the 27 months since the measure was signed into law.

On Wednesday, April 4, NORML Legal Committee attorneys William H. Buckman of Moorestown and Anne M. Davis of Brick filed a lawsuit on behalf of a New Jersey medical patient who would qualify for cannabis access. The suit also represents one of the few medical doctors who have registered with NJ to recommend medical marijuana. Named in the suit are the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and the newly appointed director of the Medicinal Marijuana Program John O’Brien.

Read the press release below:

CONSTITUTIONAL LAWSUIT FILED OVER FAILED NJ MEDICAL MARIJUANA PROGRAM

Trenton: Today a lawsuit was filed against the State of New Jersey over the failure to implement the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. Named in the suit are the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Commissioner Mary O’Dowd and the newly appointed director of the Medicinal Marijuana Program John O’Brien.

Civil rights attorneys William H. Buckman of Moorestown and Anne M. Davis of Brick brought the suit on behalf of a New Jersey medical patient who would qualify for cannabis access. The suit also represents one of the few medical doctors who have registered with NJ to recommend medical marijuana.

The compassionate use law was passed in January 2010 with a six-month implementation timeline. But since 2010 a series of politically motivated regulatory, legislative and bureaucratic delays have kept the program from operating at all. None of the six approved Alternative Treatment Centers have been fully permitted by DHSS to open.

“We represent a patient who suffered actual damages as a result of these delays,” said Anne Davis, “He cannot utilize the cannabis because New Jersey’s lack of a working program means he could lose his disability pension if he tested positive for cannabis.”

Davis continued, “Our neighbors with AIDS, cancer, MS and the worst of medical conditions have testified before the legislature and changed the law. Now, patients and doctors have to go to court to win the rights that they should have already been afforded.”

The lawsuit gathers more than two years of facts demonstrating that those in charge of the implementation process for New Jersey’s medical marijuana program have been unable or unwilling to put the law into place.

“Today we are filing suit to require the DHHS to do what every other citizen must do — follow the law,” said William Buckman, “We are also insisting that pursuant to the legislature’s will, sick people have access to medical marijuana without fear of arrest.”

This Week in Weed: March 4th-10th

March 9th, 2012

This Week in Weed

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

This week in weed: a recent study further illustrates marijuana’s effectiveness in treating chronic pain and a federal judge dismisses the NORML Legal Committee lawsuit against the federal government.

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Georgia Student Sues School After Being Victimized by Humiliating Drug War Tactics

February 16th, 2012

A Georgia school system is being sued by a student after an incident that occurred during a marijuana investigation. The victim, who was in seventh grade at the time, was humiliated by school officials in front of other students after being implicated in an investigation. The details speak for themselves:

The student, identified in court documents as D.H., said officials at Eddie White Academy initially strip-searched three other students on Feb. 8, 2011, after suspecting they had marijuana. One of them accused D.H. of having drugs, and he was brought to then-vice principal Tyrus McDowell’s office.

While the three classmates watched, D.H.’s pockets and book bag were searched but didn’t find anything, the lawsuit said. One of the students told school officials he had lied about D.H. having drugs, but administrators continued the search as D.H. begged to be taken to the bathroom for more privacy, according to the lawsuit.

D.H. was ordered to strip and again, no drugs were found.

This sad event was not only illegal according to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it was also representative of some of the more repulsive aspects of the government’s war on marijuana users. Let’s see …

We have authority figures pressuring suspects into implicating innocent people and then refusing to listen when the accusation is recanted or outside evidence proves the implicated person was not involved.

Those same authorities conduct illegal searches using humiliating and forceful methods, without respect for privacy, due process, or human dignity.

The victim is forced to carry the stigma of the incident, which has very real effects on his or her ability to prosper and live a normal life. At the same time, respect for the authorities in question and the system they represent is shaken and often never recovered.

“This situation has broken the very foundation of my child’s education because in order for him to learn, he has to believe that what schools are trying to teach him is right and now he questions them after they stripped him of his clothes and dignity,” she said. “His trust is broken.”

This is just a microcosm of what the war on marijuana does to our society. We should all be ashamed that we have allowed it to continue for so long that it is finally and exactly mirrored in our schools. Is this the environment where our youth will learn and grow?

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Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer relents; dispensaries will be registered

January 13th, 2012

UPDATE: On Tuesday, an Arizona state court ordered the state to implement the dispensary provisions of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. The court also declared three medical marijuana regulations invalid and upheld other challenged regulations. The health department had said the state might wait until September or later to issue dispensary registrations. Hopefully, this means dispensaries will finally be registered by spring.

Today, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) announced she will not re-file her lawsuit questioning the validity of Arizona’s medical marijuana program. She also announced that once litigation is resolved challenging the health department rules, her health department will begin issuing dispensary registrations.

Gov. Brewer’s announcement follows a January 4 ruling dismissing her lawsuit. Judge Susan Bolton agreed with the ACLU, Department of Justice, and other attorneys, and found that there was no genuine, imminent threat that state employees would be prosecuted. Bolton said that Brewer could re-file if the problems with her complaint were addressed.

The U.S. attorney for Arizona at the time the case was filed, Dennis Burke, sent a letter to the Arizona health department on May 2, 2011 that flew in the face of the Obama Administration’s stated policy of not targeting those complying with state medical marijuana laws. Burke’s letter said “the [federal] CSA may be vigorously enforced against those individuals and entities who operate large marijuana production facilities” even if they are in compliance with state laws, as well as those who “knowingly facilitate the actions of traffickers.” After receiving the letter, Gov. Brewer directed Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne to file the litigation requesting clarity, even though Burke told media outlets that his office would not target state employees.

Today, Gov. Brewer wrote the acting U.S. attorney for Arizona, Ann Birmingham Scheel, noting her plans to finally move forward. Brewer requested clarification as to whether there are any activities state employees should not engage in and said “the Department of Justice and the administration which you serve will have a lot of explaining to do to the citizens of our country, and State of Arizona employees in particular, if the State’s reasonable and straightforward requests for clarity are ignored, and the Department of Justice then ambushes State employees with prosecution or civil penalties for implementing the AMMA and licensing medical marijuana dispensaries.”

Now, only one governor is stubbornly refusing to move forward with implementing a duly enacted medical marijuana dispensary program: Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) of Rhode Island. Here’s hoping he finally sees the light.

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Judge Nixes Lawsuit Challenging AZ Medical Marijuana Law

January 5th, 2012
​A federal judge on Wednesday granted an American Civil Liberties Union request to throw out a lawsuit filed by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer seeking to strike down the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law that would allow sick patients to access important medicine.Gov. Brewer, a notorious opponent of medical marijuana, argued in the May lawsuit that state officials fear federal prosecution for implementing the law -- this in spite of the fact that Arizona's former top federal prosecutor specifically said publicly that the federal government "has no intention of targeting or going after people who are implementing or who are in compliance with state law." Continue reading "Judge Nixes Lawsuit Challenging AZ Medical Marijuana Law" >