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Battle Plan to End California Medical Marijuana Crackdown
On October 7, 2011, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a crackdown on medical cannabis patients’ cooperatives, collectives, gardens, and others. The scope of the crackdown is shocking. Federal officials and agencies are threatening providers, growers, and property owners. They are seeking to intimidate elected officials, financial service providers, legal gun owners, and media outlets. This may be the broadest and most serious threat to medical cannabis yet.
Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation’s leading medical cannabis patient advocacy organization, has a plan to stop the federal interference and intimidation and take back the momentum for patients. The four components that comprise this plan are: (1) putting direct political pressure on lawmakers to oppose the DOJ’s tactics; (2) reframing the national conversation about medical cannabis; (3) using new legal initiatives to stall or stop federal pressure; (4) supporting local advocates who are coping with the fallout of federal pressure in cities and counties statewide. To accomplish all of this, ASA must expand its staff, operational capacity, and grassroots base. We need timely support from our constituents to rise to the occasion and stop the federal attack.
“Stop the Attack” involves recruiting state and federal lawmakers to put direct political pressure on the DOJ; and mobilizing a well-trained and strategic grassroots base to visit every district office in the state to clearly demonstrate support for standing up to federal interference and intimidation. Our elected officials need to know there is a safe political space to stand in supporting medical cannabis. This political push will not just focus on stopping the activity we do not want. ASA staff and members will be advocating for state and federal legislation that will help stop the federal pressure.
Local, state, and federal lawmakers are already responding to this effort. State Senators Mark Leno (D-SF) and Leland Yee (D-SF), Assembly Member Tom Ammiano (D-SF), California Attorney General Kamala Harris, and several local elected officials have already spoken publicly in opposition to the crackdown. California Board of Equalization Member Betty Yee spoke up in opposition to the federal crackdown in front of a crowd of almost three hundred medical cannabis advocates in Sacramento on Novenmber 9, 2011, leading the crowd in chanting "We're patients, not criminals!"
US Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) spoke up early in the crackdown, and more recently, seven other Members of Congress joined them in signing a letter to President Obama calling for rescheduling of medical cannabis.
In addition to political solution, ASA will also be launching a proactive media campaign designed to reframe the national conversation about medical cannabis, by bringing the patients’ needs back to the forefront. This plan involves indentifying new opinion leaders to speak out about the federal crackdown and need for federal reform; and includes innovative new strategies to get patients’ faces back in front of policy makers, media, and voters.
ASA has already filed a groundbreaking Tenth Amendment lawsuit to fight back against federal threats against stakeholders, including cultivators, providers, and property owners. We are also expediting work on important state litigation that will help establish the right or patients to acquire medicine inside a cooperative or collective and federal litigation to force a change in the classification of medical cannabis under federal law.
ASA must also help support local advocates coping with the fallout from the federal interference and intimidation in cities and counties. Some local officials have stalled efforts to implement medical cannabis programs, leaving patients and providers alike in limbo. ASA has already dramatically expanded our capacity to support local advocates by providing a free online Advocates Training Center, which uses videos and digital workbooks teach grassroots organizers basic, intermediate, and even advanced organizing skills. The program is also available in an inexpensive paper workbook format. Visithttp://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/TrainingCenter to learn more.
ASA realizes that our grassroots base will need more than just training to be effective. That is why we have organized our innovative Medical Cannabis Think Tank and Policy Shop to help support local efforts to implement medical cannabis laws, stop bans, and when necessary adopt voter initiatives and referendums. The Think Tank and Policy Shop gives local activists a vehicle through which to use our expertise and experience, while acting as effective local leaders in cities and counties statewide. Visithttp://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/PolicyShop to learn more.
Using political, media, and legal strategies, ASA can stop the federal attack on medical cannabis in California and support local advocates fighting back in their communities. We have done it before. ASA was instrumental in stopping a similar attack by the Bush Administration in 2007 and 2008. But to be effective we need the participation andsupport of our constituents.