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New York To Allow Limited Medical Marijuana

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will announce this week that he is issuing an executive order which will allow seriously ill patients to receive medical marijuana from hospitals.

The policy is intended for patients with serious diseases like cancer and glaucoma.

In light of how far the rest of the country has come, this seems like very small potatoes. But at least it's a step in the right direction.

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Feds Raid Dispensaries in Washington State

The DEA raided several medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington State yesterday. One had only been open a month.

Casey Lee, an employee at the Bayside Collective, said DEA agents served him with a search warrant and seized about "11 or 12 plants Wednesday morning. They also took marijuana in jars that is set aside for patients. He said the seized marijuana totaled about a quarter pound. The DEA agents seized his and another employee's cell phone, Lee added.

Fellow Bayside Collective employee Addy Norton said she was "terrified" during the raid, and DEA agents pointed guns in her face as they entered the building.

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A Medical Marijuana Death Sentence


R.I.P., Richard Flor, a 68 year old medical marijuana dispensary owner who has died in federal prison. The story will make you sick.

US District Court Judge Charles Lovell sentenced Flor to to 5 years in federal prison despite testimony that he was suffering from a variety of illnesses, including dementia, diabetes, hepatitis C, and osteoporosis. Lovell did recommend that Flor "be designated for incarceration at a federal medical center" where his "numerous physical and mental diseases and conditions can be evaluated and treated."

Months after beginning his sentence, he still hadn't been transferred to a medical facility. His lawyer described his condition in a brief:

On multiple occasions while in custody, Flor had fallen out of bed breaking his ribs, his clavicle and his cervical bones as well as injuring vertebrae in his spine. Flor also suffered from dementia, diabetes and kidney failure among other ailments,.

Here's what the Judge had to say: [More..]

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Malpractice Insur. Co. Cuts Denver Lawyer For Advising Medical Marijuana Businesses

In what appears to be a first nationally, a malpractice insurance carrier has refused to renew Denver lawyer Ann Toney's policy because she advises medical marijuana businesses.

In its terse notice, the Hanover Insurance Group explained that Toney's practice "does not meet current underwriting guidelines because of the following risk factors: Area of practice involving medical marijuana."

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Boulder DA to Feds: Back Off Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Stan Garnett, the District Attorney for Boulder, Colorado, has written a letter to Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh asking that the feds back off from threatening to prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries in Boulder that are in compliance with state law. From his letter, available here:

My view is that the resources of the United States Attorney’s Office should be focused elsewhere: on terrorism, serious economic crime, organized crime and serious drug dealing (involving significant amounts of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine). I can see no legitimate basis in this judicial district to focus the resources of the United States government on the medical marijuana dispensaries that are otherwise compliant with Colorado law or local regulation. The people of Boulder County do not need Washington D.C. or the federal government dictating how far dispensaries should be from schools, or other fine points of local land use law.

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Colo Appeals Court: No Medical Marijuana While On Probation

The Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled persons on probation may not use marijuana, even if they have a valid state license to do so. The opinion is here.

The Court based its decision on federal law which it says outlaws possession and use of marijuana. (Actually, federal law only bans possession, not use of a controlled substance but no one seems to raise creative ways one could use marijuana without actually or constructively possessing it.)[More...]

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DOJ Announcement on Latest California Medical Marijuana Raids

The Weed Wars continue. Here's the U.S. Attorney's press release on yesterday's California medical marijuana dispensary raids. DOJ's "justification" for the raids is in this earlier press release.

The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear two medical marijuana cases.

The California Supreme Court has jumped into the fray again over the legality of medical marijuana laws, deciding on Wednesday to review two lower court rulings that impact how and whether local governments can regulate pot dispensaries across the state.

In their weekly closed-door session, the justices voted unanimously to review cases out of Long Beach and Riverside that dealt with the ongoing conflict between California's voter-approved law allowing the use of medical marijuana and federal laws barring the use or sale of the drug. The state Supreme Court's rulings in the cases are likely to have a widespread impact in the Bay Area, where cities from San Jose to Oakland have regulations dealing with medical marijuana providers.

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Feds Warn 23 Colo. Marijuana Dispensaries to Shut Down

Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh has been busy filling in names to his latest form letter, warning 23 Colorado medical marijuana dispensaries to shut down within 45 days or face forfeiture of their businesses and any financial proceeds generated, as well as enhanced criminal charges.

The reason: The dispensaries are operating within 1,000 feet of a school, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 860(a). The letter is here. The press release is here. Similar letters were also sent to the landlords of the businesses and property owners. Landlords were warned about 21 USC 856(a).

The most significant line in the letter:

"The Department of Justice has the authority to enforce the federal law even when such activities may be permitted under state law."

What about the Odgen Memo? Walsh insists his letters are in compliance with it: [More...]

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Colorado Asks DEA to Reclassify Marijuana as Schedule II

The Colorado Department of Revenue joined the short list of two other states asking the DEA to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II controlled substance. Marijuana is currently a Schedule I controlled substance, a classification reserved for substances deemed to have no medicinal value or a high potential for abuse. From the DEA website:

Substances in this schedule have a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision. Some examples of substances listed in schedule I are: heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), peyote, methaqualone, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (“ecstasy”).

State law required the Director to write the letter. House Bill 1284, the 2010 law with regulations for medical marijuana, specifies the duties of the state licensing authority. It includes this provision:

"The state licensing authority shall....

....In recognition of the potential medicinal value of medical marijuana, make a request by January 1, 2012, to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration to consider rescheduling, for pharmaceutical purposes, medical marijuana from a schedule I controlled substance to a schedule II controlled substance.

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Latest DEA Statement on Marijuana Policy

There were at least 14 DEA raids on medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington state today. More than a dozen people were arrested.

Tonight, DEA Special Agent in Charge Matthew Barnes issued this statement:

"The DEA will exercise its investigative authority to pursue criminal actions for any violation of federal law, when warranted. This includes investigating organizations or individuals that grow, manufacture or distribute any illegal drug to include marijuana, and those who rent or maintain a property to facilitate drug trafficking."

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9 Congresspersons Ask Obama to Stop Medical Marijuana Raids

Via Huffington Post and NORML, here's the letter signed by 9 members of Congress asking President Obama to stop the raids on medical marijuana businesses.

It is our strong position that local and state governments must be allowed to develop, implement and enforce their own public health laws with regard to medical cannabis," the letter stated.

The letter asks Obama to administratively reschedule marijuana so it's no longer a Schedule I substance or publicly support H.R. 1983, States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, that would prohibit federal interference in state-run medical marijuana clinics. The bill was introduced by Rep. Barney Frank. [More...]

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9th Circuit Rules Doctor's Recommendation for Marijuana No Defense

Roshaja Harvey was found to have violated the terms of his supervised release for using marijuana. Harvey appealed, contending that because he had a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana in California pursuant to the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996, he did not violate the possession prohibition of the Federal Controlled Substances Act. He also argued a doctor's "order" was different than a "prescription."

The 9th Circuit has rejected his defense, affirmed the trial court's order, and added:

Whatever else “order” might mean under § 844(a) of the Controlled Substances Act, it does not include a mere recommendation from a physician pursuant to the Compassionate Use Act.

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Steamboat Springs Voters Reject Ban on Marijuana Businesses

Just another reason to ski in Colorado. Voters in Steamboat Springs yesterday rejected a proposal to ban medical marijuana businesses. Steamboat is in Routt County, and a separate proposal to ban the businesses throughout the county also failed. As one commenter to the article noted:

More people voted to retain MMJ businesses than voted for any member of the City Council.

In related news, Dan Hartman, the state's director of Medical Marijuana Enforcement has been reassigned to a different division. While the Department won't confirm it, many believe the reassignment came about because of his public stance opposing local bans of medical marijuana businesses. Here's the letter he wrote that was published in the Steamboat Springs Pilot: [More..]

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Colo. Issues First Medical Marijuana Business Licenses in Nation

Another first for Colorado: The Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division of the Department of Revenue has issued its first licenses to medical marijuana businesses. 11 businesses received the licenses and 7 have been notified they are next. 467 are in the final application phase.

Colorado is the first state in the nation to license marijuana dispensaries and infused-product businesses.

Medical-marijuana advocates say Colorado's regulations for cannabis businesses are the most comprehensive in the nation, and they credit the rules' thoroughness with shielding the businesses from federal raids.

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Calif. U.S. Attorney Defends Feds Medical Marijuana Crackdown

NBC News Los Angeles interviewed Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California (Los Angeles) this weekend on the recent federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries, their landlords and banks that do business with them.

According to Birotte, the crackdowns are on those who are making a profit, which is against California law. He insists they are only going after the profiteers since they are not in compliance with state law. His soundbite: "The compassionate use act has turned into the commercial use act." [More...]

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