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. Co-Founder: Ralph Sherrow

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 Volume 2 # 2. June 2004

Welcome to the Safe Access Now Newsletter List

This is one in a series of newsletters to let you know the status of California's medical marijuana garden guidelines. For more information on our project and the science behind it, please visit our website (link above).

These newsletters are issued on an occasional basis. To subscribe drop a note with the subject "Subscribe SAN" to to be added to our list for future issues. To unsubscribe from this newsletter send a message with the subject "Unsubscribe SAN." Feel free to forward to interested people.


  1. Vindication for SAN in Humboldt County
  2. Raich v Ashcroft leads to federal injunctions
  3. SB 420 Update
  4. Cannabis collectives taking root
  5. SAN Regional reports and updates
  6. Who we are
  7. SAN Guideline basics
  8. Donate to SAN

Humboldt County Taskforce backs SAN guidelines

After six months of study and debate, the Humboldt County Medical Marijuana Taskforce came to an agreement on 6/7/04 that vindicated DA Paul Gallegos and endorsed the Safe Access Now Guidelines. These allow patients to possess 3 pounds of dried mature female cannabis flowers and up to 100 square feet of garden area. The removal of plant counts is also consistent with SAN policy; its reference to the number of 99 plants has always been a jurisdictional factor and an advisory to patients against federal mandatory minimum prison sentences.

Next comes a vote before the Board of Supervisors to decide if the guidelines will remain as County policy or be modified again. The SAN guidelines have been fully or partially adopted in various localities throughout the state, beginning with Sonoma County. They are currently under consideration in San Francisco and Santa Cruz Counties. This outcome bolsters our campaign, and we invite everyone to come to our website and sign up to get your local city or county to adopt the guidelines, as well.

There are downloadable PDF files and text files of all the documents and materials you need to make a case for this compromise amount, based on the federal IND program and the federal yields study in Mississippi.


Raich v Ashcroft leads to federal injunctions

The federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of California patients Diane Monson and Angel Raich that the Controlled Substances Act is probably being unconstitutionally applied to patients whose use is legal in California and their cannabis is wholly produced and consumed within the state. Click here to download ruling as a PDF file.

This has led to two injunctions against the DEA to prevent raids on the gardens that provide for the patients in that case as well as for the Wo/men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM). Federal prosecutors have since issued a request for the US Supreme Court to hear the case. In the previous medical marijuana case, McCaffrey v. Oakland Cannabis Buyers Coop, the Supreme Court withheld judgement on as to Constitutionality of the Controlled Substances Act as being an overreach of the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

These circumstances weigh favorably for patients, caregivers and collectives that operate within the state. The extent to which it might support dispensaries is not clear in that there have been no cases in which a State has protected a class of cannabis sales activities. SB 420 is the first law since passage of the Controlled Substances Act that authorizes sales of cannabis within a state.


SB 420 Update: Sponsors won't budge on plant counts

When Senator Vasconcellos and Assemblyman Leno introduced SB 420, it was meant to make life easier by issuing patients voluntary, state approved ID cards to protect them from arrest over gardens and supplies of cannabis. Then a citizen taskforce was created to review the data and found that the federal IND program, which provides participating patients on average more than 6 pounds per year, is the only scientific study of daily medical marijuana dosages. At the last minute, to placate since-recalled Governor Davis, they inserted an unscientific floor of 6 mature plants plus 8 ounces of processed cannabis bud or conversion -- less than 1/12th as much as the federal government provides IND patients. We fought hard against these numbers but, in the end, the facts lost out to politics.

Although local guidelines greater than the defaults were specifically protected in HS 11362.77, anti-patient forces mobilized throughout the state to undermine them. Vasconcellos' office has asked SAN to document any rollbacks that occur around the state to show what is happening and encourage him to fix the numbers. We need all SAN reps to help by sending any information on this to Chris Conrad so we can guide this process. In the meantime, their office has offered to send letters of support for local efforts to win better guidelines.

The voluntary ID card system is taking shape and we have been advised that between July and the end of the year, all counties should be issuing and/or recognizing such cards. The question patients face is whether the card is right for them. While information is supposed to be confidential, not everyone is convinced of its security. Registering as a cannabis patient affords additional protections, such as immunity from arrest, but also adds restrictions including following the amounts stipulated above.

A "420 clean-up" bill is being considered this year that clearly states that a qualified patient or caregiver "may possess any amount consistent with the patient's medical needs." A number of provisions that it had afforded to patients are being made to apply only to cardholders. However the authors refuse to consider any substantive changes to benefit patients, such as incorporating fair and realistic guidelines or even fixing the phrase "6 mature or 12 immature" to "6 mature AND 12 immature" plants. It appears that no meaningful reforms will take place this session. It's not too early to start looking for sponsors for next year.


Collectives Taking Root

One of the highlights of SB 420 is a provision that protects patients working collectively or cooperatively:

HS 11362.775. Qualified patients, persons with valid identification cards, and the designated primary caregivers of qualified patients and persons with identification cards, who associate within the State of California in order collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes, shall not solely on the basis of that fact be subject to state criminal sanctions under Section 11357, 11358, 11359, 11360, 11366, 11366.5, or 11570.

Patients throughout the state are looking to collectives as a way to take care of their needs while complying with the law. Although this provision applies to qualified patients and caregivers as well as cardholders, it works particularly well for people who rely on the SB 420 default guidelines. The reason is quite clear. While those limits make it difficult for an individual to provide for a reasonable dosage, a collective has the advantage of the economy of scale. Here are a few examples.

HS11362.77 specifies 8 ounces of bud or conversion plus "6 mature OR 12 immature plants." Does the word "mature" mean a ripe plant, or one in its early flowering stage? While SAN would argue that "mature" means "ripe", law enforcement might interpret it otherwise. Plants, especially outdoors, almost never all go to flower and ripen at exactly the same time. So, a cardholder is growing 12 vegetative plants outdoors and one begins to flower, at that point does the patient have to destroy the flowering plant, destroy all their immature plants, wait for the plant to ripen, or what? The law is clear that you can't have both under the default provision, and the patient is at risk.

Likewise, a patient growing indoors runs their 12 plants through six weeks of vegetative growth, selects 6 and flowers for 10 weeks. Now they have invested four months into their garden and harvest six plants for one pound of bud, perfect for a three pounds-per-year dosage. Unless a policeman comes in, in which case they have too much processed bud and they are subject to arrest anyway. The alternative, using a continuous harvest that yields 8 ounces every two months requires having both veg and flowering plants going at the same time, which is forbidden.The patient is constantly at risk with this requirement, has to go buy seeds, clones or processed marijuana to meet their shortfall, and might well be better off not having a card because that gives them more freedom to litigate their situation under HS 11362.5.

Now let's look at an 8 cardholder collective* that plants 96 starts outdoors in March and thins down to 48 flowering plants in August that mature and are ready for harvest in October. If they get four ounces per plant, the nominal average yield, they now have 24 ounces each: Three times more than the limit, making them subject to arrest and prosecution. If they are not arrested and the garden seized, they each get a pound and a half -- roughly half their annual need. In a few months they have to go onto the street to buy the balance of their need, once more putting themselves at risk. So this system does not work when the pathents need more than 8 ounces per year, and is likely to produce more than the limit. Once again, having cards is working against the patients; while the plant count by itself would be workable, the limit on processed bud is not.

* Why eight members? Because 8 x 12 (maximum veg plants) = 96 -- still below the 100 plant figure that triggers a federal mandatory minimum sentence for five years in prison.

Next, let's look at an 8 cardholder collective growing indoors. Three patients each have 12 vegetative plants, for a total of 4 mothers and 32 starts at various stages of growth. Each plant is grown in veg for 10 weeks so they get a little bigger than usual and there are 3 plants ready to put into flower at any given time. Five patients each have 6 flowering plants for 30 plants total in staggered growth cycles that are harvested three per week. Say the yield per plant is a fairly large 2 ounces, which comes to 6 ounces per week. Presuming there is never any problems with insects, mold or other adversity, that yields 170 grams split between 8 people, or 21.25 grams (3/4 oz) per week each: 2.43 pounds per year. This is still less than the 3 pounds that SAN considers a reasonable floor, there is constant risk of garden loss due to theft or pests, and the chances of its working out are minimal at best.

If you have a suggestion for the ideal number of patients and configurations to successfully follow a 420 collective model, please send it to SAN for review and we can let others know about it.


Local SAN activities: Send in your update

SAN activists are working on guidelines and collectives in numerous locations, including the battle for patients' SAN guidelines for Humboldt County. We are active in the mountains, the Central Valley, the Coastal communities and throughout the state.

Our next issue will focus on regional activities of SAN reps. If you have any information to add to the updates, please send them to Chris Conrad.


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. Patients with a physician's letter stating that this dosage is inadequate should be allowed up to six pounds processed and 200 square feet of garden. 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.


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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