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 # 3. August 2004

Welcome to the Safe Access Now Newsletter List

This is one in a series of 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 (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. Local SAN updates
  2. Private and public agencies
  3. Who we are
  4. SAN Guideline basics
  5. Donate to SAN
  6. SAN newsletter archives


Late Breaking News:
Governor vetoes SB 1494, medical marijuana cleanup bill

Despite vowing to support medical marijuana, Governor Schwartzenegger again broke another campaign promise by vetoing the "cleanup" bill for SB 420, signed last fall by his Democratic predecessor in office. This is actually a mixed bag for patients because the way that the bill worked was to reassert that patients can have any amount consistent with their medical need, already established by Prop 215 and the Trippett decision. However, it also removed some protections intended only for cardholders that had accidentally been extended to all qualified patients. Instead, HS 11362.7 will stand unchanged, as passed by the legislature last year. In other words, the state default amount remains at six mature or 12 immature plants and eight ounces of dried bud or conversion per patient.

Local SAN Updates: City and county reports

When SB 420 was first raised as a proposal, it caused many of the local proposals to be scrapped as localities. When the bill authorized 6 pounds of cannabis, we thought our work was done. After the DA's association got that guideline reduced by 92% during the dark of night after there were supposed to be no changes, local governments used that unfair default amount as an excuse to stop considering patient's rights. However, during the past six months or so we have had important movement around the state as we press our campaign for Safe Access Now.

For this issue we wanted to give local chapters a say in what's going on around the state so we can learn from and support each other in this campaign for medical rights. Below are some of the highlights based on local reports. If your information is not listed here or if you have something new to contribute, please drop me a line and we'll include it in the next newsletter.

Del Norte County -- SAN representative Doug McCarty has gotten assurances that the current guidelines are in no danger of being scaled back in the wake of SB 420. Likewise, the numbers are not likely to be increased there, so patients are highly recommended to get a physician's letter of exemption if they need to keep more than one pound of bud at a time.

Humboldt County -- After months of uncertainty, the County Task Force returned to the Supervisors with a proposal to maintain the SAN-style guidelines of three pounds processed plus a garden area of up to 100 square feet per patient. The TF had considered amounts of up to six pounds and 200 square feet, but ultimately fell back to the amounts agreed to last year by SAN and DA Paul Gallegos. The Supervisors voted unanimously to accept the guidelines. The main distinction from the previous version, other than being approved by the Board, is that it eliminates the limits on lamp wattage and the reference to 99 plants in favor of allowing any amount of plants. The 99-plant issue, which has proven hot in such discussions, is based on federal sentencing guidelines and is not an element of the question of garden size and yields.

This policy is a vindication of the SAN guidelines and also the most hard-fought policy in the state, involving a DA's policy, a recall election, modifications to the state law to protect it, a referral to the Board, appointment of a taskforce, five months of very hard taskforce work, and now an approval by the Supervisors. As far as we are aware, this is the first county guideline s to be aproved by any Supervisors since the passage of SB 420. Special recognition goes to SAN representative Jason Fishbain and TF members Eric Heimstadt, Ellen Komp of CLMP, and patient and advocate Rhonda Olson. It was Supervisor Roger Rodoni who introduced the ordinance, which has a final reading and vote before becoming county policy. The DA's office has already dropped several cases based on the new policy. Police agencies in towns such as Eureka have stated that they refuse to abide by the policy, which may see class action and individual lawsuits against police as a result of the failure to protect patients' rights. If any patients are charged for amounts less than those in the county guidelines and without evidence of sales, please have them contact SAN, the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project or the Medical Marijuana Patients' Union to see if we can help them arrange a counter-suit to collect damages from Eureka or whichever jurisdiction is to blame.

Kern Co. -- After years of hard work by SAN representative Joe Fortt, including an appearance at the Board of Supervisors last fall, DA Edward Jagels has announced a policy to allow Prop 215 patients up to 49 plants and 2 pounds of medical marijuana, provided there are no indicia of sales. The policy was announced in a March 17 memorandum distributed to Kern Co. officials. Medical marijuana supporters are seeking to have the guidelines considered by the county Board of Supervisors. Special thanks to Joe as well as DC Dustin Costa and attorney William McPike for filing papers to get access to these documents. McPike is well known for his efforts to use the demurrer to help medical marijuana patients get charges dropped against them, and DC is the organizer of the Weedstock gatherings that include legal trainings for patients. Fortt is now collecting signatures to get the Board of Supervisors to pass an ordinance memorializing the countywide policy as 6 pounds and 200 square feet and up to 99 plants per patient. He said he expects to submit letters of support this Fall. Fortt is also pursuing being appointed as the designated operator of a patient ID program that will be web-based for regular access. More petitioners are needed to ensure a good outcome, so if you can help please drop Fortt an email.

City of Long Beach -- After having it brought to their attention that the City Police had an official policy of disregarding doctor's recommendations and arresting all patients for medical marijuana, the City Council took action and ordered the police to come up with a new policy of tolerance. Acting on complaints from medical users, Councilmen Dan Baker (Second) and Val Lerch (Ninth) brought the issue to the council. "My concern is that we have had a state law on the books for eight years and it is my strong belief that we have not been following that law," Baker said. Special thanks to SAN activists and community advocates Diana Lejins, Bill Britt, and David Zink for getting the City to take action.

City of Oakland -- Once the bright spot on the state medical marijuana map, the City of Oakland has somewhat degenerated into a political fiefdom of agencies. On the one hand, the Council has voted to keep the individual guidelines in place for qualified patients and their caregivers while adopting a pro-rata HS 11362.77(a) guideline for collectives and dispensaries. A proposal to reduce the dozen or so Downtown dispensaries to one location was moved up to allow 4 clubs, but due to heavy-handed regulations and incompetent handling by those in charge of implementing the program, only three dispensaries have been given permits, and one of them had to move its main location to a secondary site. Several of the dispensaries that were not granted permits have refused to close down, and the City's role in any federal cases is subject to question. Recently there was a raid on what was reported as being the largest indoor garden in Oakland history -- a garden that was associated with one of the local dispensaries, although published details remain hazy. In light of the confusion, SAN director Chris Conrad spoke in favor of a city initiative to regulate and tax all sales of cannabis to adults in the City as being the most realistic way to protect access to cannabis for patients who do not have the interest or ability to grow their own medicine. That measure, the Oakland Cannabis Initiative, has qualified for the November City Ballot. San Francisco and other localities are considering similar proposals, depending on the outcome of that vote.

City of San Diego -- The city medical marijuana taskforce has stopped holding regular meetings with no modification to the current guidelines. At the final meeting, a law enforcement representative indicated that care is being taken to check for medical authorizations when cannabis is encountered. Some patients have indicated that police have been less than consistent on this point, and the Taskforce is likely to hear more about the issue during its' occasional meetings. For more information contact SAN representative Robert Sterner MD. The county does not have distinct guidelines yet.

City of Sebastopol -- When backroom pressure from certain elements of the law enforcement community caused recently elected DA Passalaqua to feed rumors that he was going to stop relying on the scientific Sonoma Guidelines and take a more politically motivated tact of moving toward the SB 420 default guidelines, the Sebastopol City Council sent him their own political message by increasing the city guidelines to 4.5 pounds of processed bud and 150 square feet of garden canopy. This has been looked upon very favorably by patients who had wanted the federal IND amount of 6 pounds to be the basis of local policy.

San Francisco -- Safe Action Now director Chris Conrad has been meeting with various people at the office of DA Kamal Harris to formulate a basic policy on patient guidelines. Deputy DA Russ Guintini is interested in working out a policy that also creates guidelines for dispensaries, which is beyond the normal scope of the SAN project. There is a plan to create an advisory taskforce of interested parties to review the issue in the context of Proposition S, the voter initiative that calls on the City to grow medical marijuana if necessary to keep it available for patients. One concern is that no new policies should be allowed to interfere with the present configuration and relationships among dispensaries, caregivers and patients or reduce access in any way.

Santa Cruz County -- SAN representative Andrea Tischler and Mike Corral of WAMM have agreed to ask the County Supervisors to adopt a medical marijuana guidelines ordinance that allows 3 pounds of bud and 100 square feet of garden canopy to any qualified patient or their caregiver, and if the patient has a physician's letter of exemption, the letter will cover up to 6 pounds and 200 square feet. Some key officials have agreed to support the measure when it is introduced, hopefully near the end of the summer but in time for the fall harvest. Meanwhile the WAMM garden has been replanted in compliance with a federal injunction against police raids, based on the Ninth Circuit's Raich decision.

Sonoma -- New DA Passalaqua, who campaigned as being better on medical marijuana than DA Mike Mullins had been, has been hedging on retaining the current guidelines, much less expanding them. Through a series of quiet meetings he sent messages that he was going to cut them back until the Sonoma Alliance for Medical Marijuana finally confronted him and the news media got wind of the fight. Although he has not changed the policy, as of this mailing, DA Passalaqua has managed to damage relations with the patients and the greater community, hurt his chances for reelection and encouraged the City of Sebastopol to adopt its own guidelines that are closer to the federal IND dosages than the countywide compromise has been. Doc Knapp, Kumari, Mary Pat and Monty Jacobs are among those who have fought to keep the current guidelines, as well as numerous members of SAMM who stood behind them and in some cases argued that SAMM needed to take a more aggressive stance when the DA began to back down from his campaign promises. The vote to retain Humboldt DA Gallegos and for the county to subsequently endorse his guidelines that are nearly identical to those in Sonoma, may have also helped encourage the change.


Public and Private Agencies

California Highway Patrol -- If police don't have to follow the law, how can we expect patients to? The CHP has announced that it will not respect the state law as regards patient possession and transportation of cannabis, HS 11362.7 (SB 420). In addition, it has sent officers out to give false and misleading statements to public forums and governing bodies, claiming there is no protection under state law. The facts are quite the contrary -- the California Vehicle Code and Health and Safety Code all specify that certain activities are illegal "except as authorized by law." Prop 215 authorized possession and cultivation by qualified patients and caregivers, then SB 420 authorized possession, cultivation, sales, intent to sell, processing, transportation and other activities in certain medical situations. Furthermore, CHP has refused to return medical marijuana that is not illegal and therefore not contraband subject to seizure, which is essentially a form of theft. The State Constitution does not allow state agencies such as CHP to ignore state law or give precedence to federal law over state. We need copies of their official policy and records of such statements to file a complaint with the state and Attorney General Lockyer in order to get a cease-and-desist order against the CHP. Again, if anyone qualifies for damages, we would like to hear about it so that we can refer them to an attorney. The Medical Marijuana Patients Union (MMPU) is also interested in filing such a lawsuit. Please contact Pebbles Trippett for more information.

California Narcotics Officers Association -- The CNOA is a private group that gives trainings to police on marijuana detection and enforcement. Unfortunately, this private membership lobbying organization does not respect state law as regards medical marijuana. In fact, its website specifically claims that medical marijuana is a hoax and their training to police is that it has no medical value and no safe dosage. This is also the agency that perpetuates the myths of "one pound per plant" and "three to four joints per gram." As a result, police often give false testimony in court and exaggerate the elements of a case to infer intent to distribute, HS 11359, which is not covered by Proposition 215 (HS 11362.5), although it is repeatedly exempted in SB 420 (HS 11362.765 and HS 11362.775).


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.


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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