Safe Access Now Director's Newsletter

Working to provide medical marijuana patients and caregivers with a reasonable "safe harbor" from arrest based on federal research

Director: Chris Conrad. Coordinator: Ralph Sherrow

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Volume 1 # 3, December 2003 / January 2004

Season's Greetings from Safe Access Now

This is one in a series of occasional newsletters to let you know the status of the Safe Access Now medical marijuana garden guidelines campaign. For more information on our project and the science behind it, please visit our website. Feel free to forward this link to interested people.

  1. Humboldt County Board to review SAN guidelines
  2. SB 420 causing more confusion
  3. Ralph Sherrow steps down as SAN activist coordinator
  4. Karen Byars to coordinate SAN reps
  5. Injunction granted against feds to protect patients
  6. Who we are
  7. SAN Guideline basics
  8. Donate to SAN

Humboldt BOS reviewing SAN guidelines

Humboldt County Supervisors voted to keep the guidelines set by County District Attorney Paul Gallegos in place until Jan. 20, when the proposal to make them permanent will come back to the board. The Board has been asked to formalize the popular guidelines in the wake of SB420, which empowers local governments to set minimum guidelines to protect patients from arrest. The existing county guidelines were adopted by DA Paul Gallegos and closely approximate the Safe Access Now Guidelines to protect patients and caregivers who possess up to three pounds of bud and up to 99 growing plants as long as the canopy does not exceed 100 square feet total. The number 99 is in deference to federal sentencing laws.

Humboldt County Sheriff Gary Philp asked the supervisors to wait until he has the chance to discuss the proposed guidelines with other city law-enforcement agencies. Philp said he hopes area law-enforcement agencies can "reach some type of agreement." Patients are concerned that such an approach could politicize the issue and result in biased and unacceptable figures being arbitrarily imposed, but expressed confidence in the Board's ability to recognize that the SAN guidelines are a compromise with the federal medical marijuana dosage of more than six pounds per patient per year.

Jason Fishbain 707-616-7278 will spearhead the effort to get patients to call their board members and come to the BOS hearings to insist that Gallegos guidelines be retained or expanded to the dosages given to the federal medical marijuana patients.


SB 420 causing more confusion

Senate Bill 420, the impetus that has led to the review of the medical marijuana policy in Humboldt County and elsewhere, was supposed to clarify the enforcement of Prop 215. At this point, however, it is adding to the confusion on two fronts, at least. The first is which city and county agencies have authority and what process is required to set higher guidelines than those in HS 11362.77 (see The second is how its articles apply to qualified patients who do not sign up for the voluntary ID card program.

A new twist is that the ID card program, set to go into effect Jan. 1, has been delayed by both a Department of Health Services demand for startup funds in addition to the card fee which is supposed to pay for the process -- and at the request of Governor Schwartzenegger, who has touted his support for medical marijuana in the past but wants time to review all new state policies. Without an ID card program, the protections for registered patients seem to be a moot issue. Bill author John Vasconcellos expressed frustration at the idea that a state agency would fail to carry out the law and instead seek almost a half million dollars to do its assigned job. "Departments are there to carry out the law -- not (flout) it," he told the Sacramento Bee.

Some patient advocates have supported the bill, others opposed it. What seemed clear last week was that we were going to have to live with it, since it has been enacted as law. As we go into the coming year, one thing is certain: It is more important than ever for SAN activists to work on getting Safe Access guidelines implemented locally. Please contact us to get involved.


Ralph Sherrow steps down as SAN activist coordinator

It is with great regret that Safe Access Now announces that Ralph Sherrow is stepping down as our campaign coordinator. Due to recent health problems and the stress of coordinating SAN representatives throughout the state, Ralph has asked to be relieved of his responsibilities. He will continue to consult with me on the progress and development of the campaign and various materials that are provided to our activists and supporters, although he feels that he should step down in the best interests of SAN and his own well being.

Ralph has been essential to the formation of SAN. His contributions are unequivocal: SAN would not exist were it not for Ralph, who co-founded this organization with me. When I attended an Oakland meeting and announced my plan to launch this campaign only if I had at least one committed helper, it was Ralph who stepped up to the plate and offered immediate support. He has been unwavering in his role ever since, advising me on our literature and tactics, emailing and snail mailing materials to people, interviewing potential representatives and maintaining several email lists. While Ralph has at times been blunt and outspoken, there was never any doubt that he had anything other than the best interests of California patients and caregivers and our guidelines project in mind.

SAN wishes to express a great appreciation to Ralph for making his important and lasting contribution to all of California. We honor his work and look forward to continuing and expanding upon it. Please join us in thanking Ralph for his terrific support and wishing him a fond farewell.

While recognizing that Ralph is irreplaceable, SAN is happy to announce that Karen Byars has offered to help take up some of the slack, as has Jason Fishbain. Anyone else who wishes to help us fill the gap he leaves should contact me at to discuss how we might proceed.

To send him a personal message of support, email to:

Ralph Sherrow <>


Byars joins Safe Access Now team

The next time you click on the email link at, you'll be hearing back from someone who is both new and familiar. Long-time California community organizer Karen Byars is stepping up to help coordinate the SAN reps around the state and keep the issue on the front burners. Karen is well known within environmental circles as well as for being a top signature gatherer for the California Hemp Initiatives and Proposition 215. She has recently worked with the Berkeley Patients Group and Americans for Safe Access.

Exactly what she can do and is willing to do is still in discussion, but hopefully Karen will be responding to emails, mailing out documents to people who need it, taking phone calls and helping local contacts to take action in getting Safe Access guidelines adopted. She will be working closely with Chris Conrad in developing statewide tactics on how to best achieve our goals, and will have the daunting task of handling communications for our network.

One project we need your help with is to send out a mailing to notify county boards, DAs and local law enforcement of the "no arrest" provision of HS 11362.7. That means compiling lists, assembling mailing packages and sticking stamps onto envelopes. It should be done as early in the year as possible, so if you can help get the ball rolling, please let Karen know.

Karen wants to hear from you about what you are doing, what you have planned in your county, and how we can help out. Please contact her at


Injunction granted vs feds to protect state patients

A judge of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals joined in a Ninth Circuit decision that it appears unconstitutional for Ashcroft and the Department of Justice/DEA to enforce the Controlled Substances Act to arrest medical marijuana patients who are engaged in activities that are legal under state law. The immunity is contingent on there being no commercial activities because the CSA relies on the federal commerce clause (Article I, Section 8) of the US Constitution. As such, it does not apply to groups like the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Coop that distributed marijuana for money. The ruling does bode well for Santa Cruz's WAMM medical marijuana cooperative and can be cited as precedent in other federal cases, unless and until it is appealed to the full Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court, at which point its effect will become more dubious.

Part of the significance of this decision is how it will play out given the changes in California law embodied by SB 420 (HS 11362.7). The new State law allows caregivers, providers and even helpers to be paid for services as well as being reimbursed for expenses. The statute declares that it is an exercise of States' Rights under the Tenth Amendment, but the courts have held that commercial activity within a state (intrastate) still affects interstate commerce. The question is whether there are sufficient elements in state law to differentiate it from previous cases and get that issue reviewed favorably in light of more recent federal cases.

In the meantime, it is still recommended that legal medical marijuana gardens be kept small, discreet, and free of any indicia of commercial intent. Also, be sure to contact your local officials about adopting Safe Access guidelines.


Who we are

SAN is a non-partisan organization dedicated to the proper implementation of uniform guidelines in all of California's counties in compliance with H&S code 11362.5, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. It was founded by Chris Conrad with Ralph Sherrow and has activists in about half the counties of California. We are an educational and activist organization only, and in no way supply medicine. Our proposal has been to stop the arrests as well as the prosecution of patients by creating a safe harbor of presumed compliance with the law.

We work with all levels of government to achieve this goal.


SAN guideline basics

Since the federal government's IND program has established more than six pounds per year of marijuana as a safe and effective standard, with some patients receiving even more, SAN proposes that patients should be allowed to cultivate and consume that amount as a reasonable level of compliance. However, since many patients use less than that amount, we offer a compromise of allowing up to 3 pounds of processed cannabis bud per patient per year, which typically requires a canopy area of 100 square feet. Any amount of plants could be grown to fill in this area without exceeding the yield, but since a 5 year federal sentences is mandatory for growing 100 or more plants, we advocate 99 plants as the voluntary ceiling for patients. In addition, our proposals allow a physician to write a note that will exempt patients who need more from being bound by these figures. See our website for more details.


Please donate to Safe Access Now

Safe Access Now does not charge for the time and materials we expend to advance the safe harbor proposal for patients, but that does not mean it does not cost money to run this campaign. If you can help with a donation of any size, please send it to our financial coordinator, Chris Conrad, with a note saying it is intended for Safe Access Now work. If you plan to donate $100 or more and want a tax deduction, we can arrange a fiscal sponsor. Cash is great, but something of a mailing risk.

We do not have a bank account in our name, so please make checks out to either Chris Conrad or Family Council on Drug Awareness, and mail to:

Safe Access Now, PO Box 1716, El Cerrito CA 94530.

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