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Cannabis News Roundup: October 15, 2012


(ASA) // The scientific merits of medical cannabis will be considered in federal court for the first time in nearly 20 years tomorrow. The US Court of Appeals in Washington, DC is set to hear oral arguments challenging the government’s classification of marijuana as a seriously dangerous drug, with no medicinal value. Their decision could come at any time, but proponents don’t expect an answer for several months. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is bringing the case against the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Here’s a recording of a teleconference briefing on the case, arranged by ASA. It features researchers, legal counsel and others, from October 4. One participant is Dr. Donald Abrams, Director of Clinical Programs at San Francisco General Hospital. He has studied medical cannabis since 1997.

(Harborside) // The City of Oakland has filed a complaint in US District Court asking the Justice Department “to enjoin and declare unlawful the federal government's attempt to close down” Harborside Health Center, arguing that federal agencies waited too long to file their case.

Additionally, a case against Harborside by it’s San Jose landlord was expected to be heard this month, but has been postponed due to a health issue. The action came after the US Justice Department threatened to seize that property because cannabis is stored in the building. The plaintiffs claims they didn’t realize that Harborside would have illegal materials on site. The plant is legally regulated under California laws, but is illegal under federal laws.

(SFGate) // The falling price of field-grown marijuana continues to undermine the off-the-grid ethos of Mendocino County. Prices have plummeted from around $5,000 per pound in the mid-1990s to under $2,000 today.

(Congress) // The confusion over state vs. federal regulations could be rectified if the Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act were approved. Sponsored by Representative Barbara Lee of Oakland, it would amend the federal Controlled Substances Act so as to “exempt real property from civil forfeiture due to medical marijuana related conduct that is authorized by State Law,” meaning a landlord, such as the one in the Harborside case, would be protected from property seizure.

Representative Lee is also a co-sponsor of the first bill in the history of the US Congress calling for the decriminalization of marijuana. Representatives Barney Frank and Ron Paul initially proposed the legislation.

But Dale Gieringer, California director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), emphatically says that all such legislation in Congress is effectively dead. He told me that he knows of at least half-a-dozen marijuana bills waiting to be heard in Washington and says, “There’s no chance of any hearings whatsoever. And I don’t think there will be until there is some change in the leadership of Congress.”

The reason these bills were even proposed, he says, was an attempt to bring some attention to the issue. Gieringer notes, “Oakland has been very vociferous about favoring controlled, regulated marijuana for a long time. In fact, as you may recall, in 2004, Oaklanders passed Measure Z, which puts the city on formal record for calling for taxation and regulation of cannabis for all adult use.” Representative Lee’s support of these measures is just part of her job, representing the will of the people in her district.

(State Capitol) // Cannabis legislation was also proposed last session on the state level, and it also didn’t get anywhere. Bay Area representatives, State Senator Mark Leno and State Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, sponsored the bills.

It’s clear that no politician is going to have any meaningful comments on this topic before next year – perhaps after that US District Court decision on the other side of the country, and well after next month’s elections.