Archive for the ‘LITIGATION’ category

Florida: Medical Cannabis Measure Qualifies For 2014 Ballot

January 24th, 2014

The Florida Division of Elections today confirmed that proponents of a 2014 statewide measure to allow for the physician-supervised use of cannabis have gathered sufficient signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

The measure seeks to authorize doctors to recommend cannabis therapy to their patients at their discretion and authorizes the state Department of Health to register and regulate centers that produce and distribute marijuana for medical purposes.

Backers of the measure, United for Care, turned in over 683,000 valid signatures from Florida voters to qualify the measure. The initiative seeks to amend the state constitution.

Survey data released in November by Quinnipiac University reported that 82 percent of Florida voters support reforming state law to allow for the medicinal use of marijuana. Because the proposed measure seeks to amend the state constitution, 60 percent of voters must decide in favor of it before it may be enacted.

Proponents of the measure still await a ruling from the Florida Supreme Court as to whether the measure will appear before voters this fall. State Attorney General Pam Bondi is contesting the language of the measure in a suit backed by House Speaker Will Weatherford, Senate President Don Gaetz and Gov. Rick Scott.

The state Supreme Court must decide on the issue by April 1.

Colorado Raids Linked to DOJ Memo Violations & Drug Gangs

November 22nd, 2013

imgresOn Thursday November 21, US law enforcement agents, along with local police officers raided 14  medical marijuana locations around Colorado (including dispensaries, grow warehouses and 2 private residences), making it one of the largest federal raids since the state’s medical marijuana laws went into effect.  A search warrant identifies 10 target subjects, noting alleged violations to the latest DOJ memo dealing with state pot laws that contradict federal policy.

On August 29th, the Justice Department issued a memo to federal prosecutors indicating it wouldn’t interfere with legal marijuana businesses that are acting compliance with state law, so long as they strictly adhere to eight specific areas of concern such as preventing distribution to minors and cultivation on public lands.  Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice in Denver said that “there are strong indications that more than one of the eight federal prosecution priorities identified in the Department of Justice’s August guidance memo are potentially implicated.”  Two of those violations appear to include trafficking marijuana outside of states where it has been legalized and money laundering.  No arrests have been made in this case as of yet.

Many of the locations raided on Thursday had multiple marijuana-related businesses at a single address.  According to the Denver Post, “Investigators believe the businesses that were raided are all “one big operation…[and that] those targeted in the raids had been actively purchasing area dispensaries and growhouses over a sustained period of time.”

Juan Guardarrama, One of the named targets, is known to have a criminal history with potential ties to Cuban and Colombian drug gangs, according to the Miami Herald.  In 2012 Guardarrama, who is also referred to as “Tony Montana” from the Al Pacino movie “Scarface,” asked undercover police officers to transport his CO-grown marijuana to Florida and?to?”take out”?his?partner.  He pleaded guilty earlier this year in Miami in a racketeering case.

This case clearly has a lot of moving parts, and more information is needed to understand the full scope of the situation.  But, if evidence proves that there have been large-scale violations to any of the recent DOJ memo’s eight areas of concern, one can’t be surprised that the federal government would act in accordance to its own guidelines.  As more information emerges, the public will get a better understanding of the story and the alleged players involved in this operation.

NORML Partners with The Family Law & Cannabis Alliance

October 24th, 2013

momforpot

It’s no secret that there has been a proliferation government agencies across the country removing minors and infants from their home, based solely on the fact that a parent is a cannabis consumer, and the false presumption that the presence of marijuana poses a danger.  This even occurs in states with a legal medical marijuana program, or where marijuana possession is no longer a criminal offense.  Some of these experiences can be incredibly traumatic to the child, as well as the parents, as officers have a tendency to use aggressive and sometimes militaristic tactics while engaging with these families.

FLCAlogo_innerbottomtxt_smallNORML receives dozens of calls and emails every month from devastated parents who have lost custody of their children to state agencies, and we remain committed to providing support and resources to those forced into these unfortunate circumstances.  In light of such efforts, we are pleased to announce that NORML has recently partnered with the newly formed Family Law and Cannabis Alliance (FLCA), founded by longtime drug reform activists Jess Cochrane and Sara Arnold.  The FLCA is an informational clearinghouse that provides educational resources, advocacy information and legal referrals geared  toward reformers & affected families on the crossover of marijuana laws & the child protection system.

Sabrina Fendrick, Director of Women’s Outreach said, she is “looking forward to working with the Family Law and Cannabis Alliance to raise awareness about the devastating effects, and sometimes dangerous practice, of child services in removing children from their safe and loving homes for the mere fact a parent is a cannabis consumer.  It is time to end this destructive policy, and put an end to marijuana prohibition once and for all.”

Click here for more information on the Family Law and Cannabis Alliance.

US Supreme Court Refuses To Review DEA’s Denial Of Petition That Sought To Reclassify Cannabis

October 8th, 2013

United States Supreme Court yesterday declined to review a lower court ruling upholding the federal government’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule I prohibited substance that lacks medical utility or adequate safety.

In January, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the US Drug Enforcement Administration had acted properly when it rejected an administrative petition calling for a scientific review of marijuana’s safety and therapeutic efficacy. Petitioners had requested a hearing to determine whether existing science contradicts the federal categorization of cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance that possesses “a high potential for abuse;” “no currently accepted medical use in treatment;” and “a lack of accepted safety for the use of the drug … under medical supervision.” The DC Court of Appeals affirmed the DEA’s position that insufficient clinical studies exist to warrant a judicial review of cannabis’ federally prohibited status. On Monday, the US Supreme Court denied an appeal to review that decision, rejecting petitioners’ argument that adequate peer-reviewed studies already exist to sufficiently contradict the plant’s placement in Schedule I – the same classification as heroin and PCP.

The DEA’s stance willfully ignores volumes of scientific studies. For example, a 2012 review of FDA-approved clinical trials assessing the safety and therapeutic efficacy of cannabis, published in The Open Neurology Journal, concluded: “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification [of marijuana] is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.”

The case is Americans for Safe Access et al. v. Drug Enforcement Administration, case number 13-84, in the United State’s Supreme Court.

25 Years Ago: DEA’s Own Administrative Law Judge Ruled Cannabis Should Be Reclassified Under Federal Law

September 5th, 2013

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.

Michigan: Medical Marijuana Act Trumps Per Se Driving Law

May 22nd, 2013

A Michigan traffic safety law that prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle by persons who possess any presence of THC in their blood, regardless of whether or not they are behaviorally impaired by the substance, may not be strictly applied to state-qualified medical cannabis patients. So decided the Michigan Supreme Court on Tuesday in the case People v Koon.

In a unanimous opinion, the Court determined that legal protections extended to state-qualified patients under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, enacted by voters in 2008, supersede the state’s zero tolerance, internal possession law. As a result, the Court determined that state prosecutors must establish that authorized patients charged under the statute are actually impaired by their cannabis use in order to gain a DUI criminal conviction.

According to the syllabus of the Opinion:

“The MMMA [Michigan Medical Marihuana Act] does not define what it means to be ‘under the influence,’ but the phrase clearly contemplates something more than having any amount of marijuana in one’s system and requires some effect on the person. Thus, the MMMA’s protections extend to a registered patient who internally possesses marijuana while operating a vehicle unless the patient is under the influence of marijuana. The immunity from prosecution provided under the MMMA to a registered patient who drives with indications of marijuana in his or her system but is not otherwise under the influence of marijuana inescapably conflicts with MCL 257.625(8) [the state's zero tolerance per se DUI law], which prohibits a person from driving with any amount of marijuana in her or system.”

The state’s zero tolerance per se drug law remains applicable to non-patients. Under such laws, motorists are guilty per se (in fact) of a criminal traffic safety violation if they engage in the act of driving while detectable levels of certain controlled substances or, in some cases, their inert metabolites (byproducts) are present in the defendants’ blood or urine. Proof of actual impairment is not a requirement for a conviction under the law.

To date, ten states — Arizona, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Rhode Island, Utah, and Wisconsin — have enacted legislation imposing zero tolerance per se thresholds for the presence of cannabinoids and/or their metabolites. (State-authorized medical cannabis patients in Arizona and Rhode Island are exempt from prosecution under these per se statutes unless the state can provide additional evidence of psychomotor impairment.)

Five additional states impose non-zero-tolerant per se thresholds for cannabinoids in blood: Montana (5ng/ml — law takes effect on October 1, 2013), Pennsylvania (1ng/ml), Ohio (2ng/ml), Nevada (2ng/ml) and Washington (5ng/ml). Most recently, Colorado lawmakers approved legislation stating that the presence of THC/blood levels above 5ng/ml “gives rise to permissible inference that the defendant was under the influence.” State-qualified patients in Colorado, Montana, and Nevada are not provided legal exemptions from these statutes, although legislation is presently pending in Nevada to do so.

NORML believes that it is inadvisable to infer behavioral impairment based on the presence of blood/cannabinoid levels alone — a position that we outline here, here, and in public testimony here.

Such caution is similarly expressed by the United States National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration, which acknowledges: “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects. … It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone.”

A 2013 review of per se drugged driving laws and their impact on road safety found “no evidence that per se drugged driving laws reduce traffic fatalities.”

Florida: Lou Gehrig’s Disease Patient Sues for Cannabis Protection

May 8th, 2013

Longtime Florida activist Cathy Jordan, a 63-year-old woman who consumes cannabis to mitigate symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS aka Lou Gehrig’s disease), a debilitating condition that she has lived with since 1986, today filed a suit against Sheriff Brad Steube of Manatee County, FL.

Ms. Jordan alleges wrongful conduct on the part of the sheriff’s department when, on February 15, 2013, they raided her home and confiscated 23 medical cannabis plants, which were being cultivated for her by Cathy’s husband Robert Jordan. The Jordans were both cooperative when the sheriff’s department arrived at their home, and they acknowledged they were growing medical marijuana for Cathy’s medical use. The police raid of the Jordan’s home came just days after lawmakers introduced legislation, the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act, which sought to authorize the physician-supervised use of cannabis for those diagnosed with serious debilitating conditions. (Florida lawmakers failed to hold hearings or vote on the measure.)

After the Manatee County State Attorney’s office reviewed the facts of the case, they issued a memorandum on April 2, 2013 declining to prosecute either Cathy or her husband. The Manatee County State’s Attorney’s office found that they could not likely overcome a medical marijuana necessity defense, which would be raised by the defendant should a prosecution be initiated. However, the sheriff’s department has refused to return any of the cannabis that they confiscated from Ms. Jordan during the February 15 raid.

With this lawsuit, the plaintiffs seek a declaratory judgment finding that they have a legal right to cultivate and possess medical marijuana under Florida law; an injunction barring the sheriff’s department from making further seizures of medical marijuana from Cathy and Robert Jordan; and an injunction barring the initiation of criminal charges against either of the plaintiffs for their continued cultivation and possession of medical marijuana.

The lawsuit has been filed by Norm Kent of Fort Lauderdale, Chair of the NORML Board of Directors. NORML intends to file a friend of the court brief in the case once the defendants are served.

Kent stated: “This suit embodies NORML’S commitment to patients who have a medical need for marijuana, while simultaneously showing how the responsible use of cannabis by adults should not be restricted by law enforcement authorities. We intend to prevail in this suit so that seriously ill patients like Cathy no longer have to fear arrest or state interference for simply using their medicine.”

Added NORML Legal Counsel Keith Stroup: “Cathy Jordan is a courageous woman who has been fighting for many years to legalize the medical use of marijuana for herself and other seriously ill patients. We are proud to stand with Cathy and Robert Jordan to challenge he senseless arrest of patients who use marijuana medically.”

Florida is not among the 18 US states that presently exempt qualified patients from arrest for engaging in physician-authorized cannabis therapy.

California: Supreme Court Upholds Authority Of Cities To Prohibit Medical Marijuana Facilities

May 6th, 2013

The California Supreme Court ruled today that municipalities possess the legal authority to prohibit the establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries.

The unanimous ruling upheld a 4th District Court of Appeals opinion (City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients’ Health and Wellness Center, Inc.) which held that local zoning measures banning the establishment of brick-and-mortar facilities that engage in the distribution of cannabis to state-authorized persons are not preempted by state law. Other lower courts had ruled against such local bans, arguing that cities can’t use zoning laws to bar activity legal under state law.

It is estimated that some 200 California cities presently impose moratoriums on medicinal cannabis facilities. At least 50 municipalities have enacted local regulations licensing dispensaries.

Opined the Court:

“We have consistently maintained that the CUA (the California Compassionate Use Act aka Proposition 215) and the MMP (the Medical Marijuana program Act) are but incremental steps toward freer access to medical marijuana, and the scope of these statutes is limited and circumscribed. They merely declare that the conduct they describe cannot lead to arrest or conviction, or be abated as a nuisance, as violations of enumerated provisions of the Health and Safety Code. Nothing in the CUA or the MMP expressly or impliedly limits the inherent authority of a local jurisdiction, by its own ordinances, to regulate the use of its land, including the authority to provide that facilities for the distribution of medical marijuana will not be permitted to operate within its borders.”

Although language included in Proposition 215 explicitly called for the state government “to implement a plan for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana,” to date, lawmakers have failed to enact any specific statewide regulations regarding the retail production and distribution of cannabis to those patients authorized to consume it.

Commenting on the ruling, California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer said, “The court essentially affirmed the status quo. Local governments may choose to allow or limit dispensaries as they please. The unfortunate result of this decision is to leave many needy patients without legal access to medical marijuana in their communities, thereby promoting illegal black market suppliers. It is time for the state and federal governments to step up to the plate and fulfill the mandate of Prop 215 to implement a system of ‘safe and affordable’ access for all patients in medical need.”

Legislation is presently pending in both the California Assembly (AB 473) and Senate (SB 439) to impose statewide regulations governing the dispensing of marijuana produced for medical purposes.

Full text of the California Supreme Court’s opinion is available online here.

Florida State Attorney Drops Charges Against Bob and Cathy Jordan

April 4th, 2013

Today I share with you wonderful news from an all too conservative state, Florida, where the sun shines on everything but justice for cannabis users.

Just a few weeks ago, I announced that the ‘New NORML’ would have an active, working legal committeethat would make a difference for all of us.

Last month, State Senator Jeff Clemens in Tampa announced that he was introducing a medical marijuana bill in Florida, which would allow for the establishment of dispensaries in our state.

The bill was named the ‘Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act’, in honor of a woman who has beenopenly using cannabis as medicine for over a quarter century, championing our cause from her wheelchair while living with an incurable condition- ALS; Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Backed by her loving husband, Bob, who cultivates two-dozen plants on their farm for her personal use, Cathy has been a public advocate for cannabis law reform. Here she is:
http://medicalmarijuana411.com/mmj411_v3/?p=10558

One day after the state senator introduced the medical necessity legislation, publicizing her name and address, the DEA and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office paid her a not-too-polite visit, raiding her home, dressed in swat uniforms, armed with machine guns and wearing masks, seizing her cannabis and arresting her husband for cultivation. Her wheelchair was no defense.

One NORML lawyer from our NLC legal committee immediately stepped up to the plate to come to her defense. Florida CAN, the Cannabis Action Network, contacted Michael C. Minardi, of Stuart, Florida. He undertook the defense.

Michael had already prevailed on a medical necessity case on the west coast of Florida, and he at once met with Bob and Cathy Jordan. Both were adamant that they would take no pleas, but instead sought to fight for their right to use marijuana as medicine.

Based in South Florida, I volunteered with another NLC Committee member, my law office partner, Russell Cormican, and entered into a civil retainer agreement with Cathy Jordan, to prosecute a pro bono civil legal action seeking a declaratory judgment that Cathy’s possession of cannabis warranted a judicial order stating that such ownership was entirely medicinal and lawful.

I could not do it alone, so I contacted NLC Committee member Matt Kumin, who immediately agreed to join the cause on behalf of NORML, coming in as amicus curiae. “This is an impact case,” he concluded.

Together, we decided that we had a viable claim Cathy had a legal right to grow her medicine, and a court would conclude as much. Matt brought in two more NLC colleagues, Alan Silber and David Michael. These guys are already arguing tough cases in the Ninth Circuit. But we have a good plaintiff and a strong case.

This past Monday, the State Attorney dismissed all charges against Cathy and Bob Jordan. The decision by the State Attorney, explaining why he filed a ‘no information.” ratifies the defense of medical necessity for patients, and caregivers as well. The prosecutor’s determination goes beyond the customary and routine post of ‘case declined.’

The decision outlined by the chief prosecutor goes out of its way to acknowledge the legal basis of the medical necessity defense and the ‘progressive, neurodegenerative disease’ that Cathy Jordan deals with daily. The state attorney said he could not in ‘good faith’ proceed with a criminal prosecution against an individual with such a compelling medical reason to use marijuana. It was a courageous decision to see a prosecutor protect a pot patient.

The result came about in no small part to Bob Jordan, Cathy Jordan’s husband. He refused to accept a probationary plea offer. “If I could handle Vietnam,” he told me last week, “I can take whatever the State wants to try and hit me with. I am protecting my wife. No deals. No nothing. I want a trial. I want a jury to see my wife and try to convict her.”

Michael C. Minardi and his client even refused to cop a plea to a deferred prosecution. Matt. Kumin, who has never met Bob, called him, “my hero.” Armed with solid case law, a determined defendant, and a courageous lawyer- Michael Minardi- the good guys prevailed.

A talented team of NLC amicus curiae attorneys are now preparing to go to court and seek a judgment declaring that the use of cannabis by Cathy Jordan should continue as an exception to Florida drug statutes, based on her use being lawful, medically necessary, and legally protected. Hell, we might even get her pot back through a replevin action.

Unfortunately, Florida is a conservative state. I won’t mislead you. The Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Bill is already ‘stuck like chuck’ in a legislative committee.

However, also due to the efforts of NLC Committee member, Michael C. Minardi, the criminal prosecution of Cathy and Bob Jordan is dead in the water.

Remember the TV show, ‘The Naked City,’ that ‘there are 8 million stories in the Naked City; this has been one of them.’

My friends, there are thousands of Cathy Jordans across America who still need our help. There are hundreds of you capable of assisting so many of them. The spiritual rewards of engaging such tasks enrich your soul and make your practice so much more meaningful.

Please consider also asking a friend to help expand ranks by joining NORML today. In fact, this week we are promoting new memberships by offering up a NORML Hemp Baseball Cap. Wear it to the ballpark, and let everyone know that it is NORML to smoke pot. Cheer for your home team, but stand up for freedom.

Today, all of us throughout the country celebrate the victory of Cathy and Bob Jordan. We also thank the lawyer, Michael C. Minardi of Stuart, Florida, who stood up for them.

We are all cannabis warriors with stories of our own to tell, lives of our friends to illuminate. Never forget the cause you are fighting for is more than to torch up a joint. It is to light a torch for personal sovereignty and individual freedom.

Thank you.
Norm Kent
Chair, NORML Board of Directors