Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Issue Of Rescheduling

Below is a link to a position paper PAN published in 2011,
Removing Cannabis From The Controlled Substances Act Why Rescheduling Marihuana Will Not End The State-Federal Conflict Over Medical Cannabis.
We are re-posting this link by popular demand as the issue of rescheduling cannabis v. reclassifying continues.  Marihuana penalties under Schedules II - V are more harsh than under Schedule I.  Collectives and personal cultivation would remain a punishable federal offense.  Rescheduling could do more harm than good and does nothing to put hemp back to work.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sacramento Drafts Statewide Medical Cannabis Guidelines

State Assembly Member Tom Ammiano has ‘introduced’ AB 473 and while the bill appears in the legislative counsel’s digest at, the only statement regarding the intent of the bill is to “provide a comprehensive state regulatory structure for medical cannabis cultivation, processing, testing, and distribution.” 

The full text of the bill is not yet published but the media reported extensively last week that Ammiano’s proposed regulatory body for collectives is the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC). 

Ammiano Suggests Marijuana Industry Be Policed By Alcohol Board [Updated]

Medical Marijuana Patients Wary of Booze Cops Regulating Pot

The idea has sparked a variety of criticism.  Statewide guidelines seem like a sane prospect for collectives operating in areas where local regulations are non-existent, until one considers the jeopardy of placing every cultivator, hash maker, baker, trimmer… under a ‘comprehensive structure’ while federal prohibition is still in full affect.  Ammiano has urged that his legislation is needed in order to appease federal authorities citing Colorado’s statewide regulations.  However, Colorado continues to suffer federal interference and local bans despite a statewide program.  

Law enforcement officials around California are not keen on an alcohol – medical cannabis legal fusion.  Many patient advocates aren’t either, fearing the exposure of patients intimately involved with cannabis production, and additional fees and taxes that will put ma & pop collectives out of operation.  Others debate whether this is a step toward an adult recreation model and if that is a good or bad thing when considering this bill is supposed to be about Prop. 215, and not-for-profit patient collectives.  Some see this proposal as Ammiano’s attempt to generate significant revenue to fund a large enforcement bureaucracy off the backs of patients.  How much is a gram of cannabis going to cost when the cultivator pays a fee to grow, trimmer has to be licensed, mandatory testing fees, the dispensary is paying additional State fees and taxes? 

State Senator Mark Leno has hinted that he is working on a proposal as well.  Last year his bill was based on the State Attorney General Guidelines leaving enforcement to the municipalities.  Leno claims to be a patient advocate and concerned about affordable access to medical cannabis.  We shall see what/if he presents in this 2013 session.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Prisoner Outreach Workshop - Spring 2013

Letter Writing To Political Prisoners Of Conscience and Compassion

These prisoners are serving federal prison sentences for their outspoken and visible involvement with providing or cultivating cannabis for compassionate purposes. 

Many of these prisoners serve their time in prisons far from their homes and families and therefore rarely get visitors.  Mail call is an extremely important time of day.

Please write today!

Make sure you include the prisoner ID# on the envelope or post card and include a return address.

Here are some other useful tips when writing to someone in prison:

This list is not comprehensive. If you know someone serving federal time for his/her involvement with medical cannabis, please contact

Please write to:

Dustin “DC” Costa 62406-097   (9/18)
USP Florence Admax
U.S. Penitentiary
P.O. Box 8500
Florence, CO 81226

Jonathan M. Chapman 63546-097    (3/14)
FCI Lompoc
Federal Correctional Institution
3600 Guard Road
Lompoc, CA  93436

Roger Christie 99279-022     (unknown)
FDC Honolulu
Federal Detention Center
P.O. Box 30080
Honolulu, HI 96820

Tim Dellas 93161-011     (11/15)
Federal Prison Camp
P.O. Box 6000
Sheridan, OR 97378

Marc Scott Emery 40252-086      (7/14)
FCI Yazoo City Medium
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 5888
Yazoo City, MS 39194

Bryan James Epis 09636-097    (9/16)
FCI Terminal Island
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 3007
San Pedro, CA 90731

Scott Eric Feil 14313-111    (12/15)
CI Taft
Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 7001
Taft, CA  93268

Marion P. Fry 15840-097       (9/15)
FCI Dublin
Federal Correctional Institution
5701 8th St. - Camp Parks
Dublin, CA 94568

Virgil Edward Grant 47375-112       (2/14)
FCI Terminal Island
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. Box 3007
San Pedro, CA 90731

James Dale Holland 62466-097       (7/13)
Community Corrections Office
2425 South 200 Street
Seattle, WA 98198

Charles Edward Lepp 90157-011      (1/18)
FCI La Tuna
Federal Correctional Institution
Federal Satellite Low
P.O. Box 6000
Anthony, TX  88021

Richard Ruiz Montes 63130-097       (9/25)
Federal Correctional Institution
3600 Guard Road
Lompoc, CA 93436

Van Phong Nguyen 13254-041      (5/23)
FCI Safford
Federal Correctional Institution
P.O. BOX 9000
Safford, AZ 85548

Luke Scarmazzo 63131-097        (4/27)
USP Lompoc
U.S. Penitentiary
3901 Klein Blvd.
Lompoc, CA 93436

Dale C. Schafer 15839-097       (9/15)
CI Taft
Correctional Institution
P.O. Boc 7001
Taft, CA 93268


How To Contact Your Congressional Representatives - It's Time To End Cannabis Prohibition

January 29, 2013

Representative Adam Schiff
2411 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4176
Facsimile: (202) 225-5828

Dear Congressmember Adam Schiff,

I write you to about ending cannabis prohibition.  For too long prohibition has denied our business sector the opportunities that come with industrial hemp.  For too long the ‘War On Drugs’ has incarcerated non-violent Americans solely for possession of ‘marihuana.’  For too long America has missed out on the revenue from sales of cannabis products, whether industrial, therapeutic or recreational.  For too long the DEA has interfered with States that already have approved and supported medical cannabis laws on their books.  It’s time for Congress to draft sensible national cannabis policies and stop punishing people over a plant.

I personally have a long history as a cannabis activist and have worked with numerous organizations throughout the country on this issue.  Currently, I am the executive director of Patient Advocacy Network – a charitable 501(c)(3) organization providing education and training to medical cannabis patients and providers, and advocating for patients’ rights and protection.  I have seen first hand the violence and destruction of the DEA’s ‘smash and grab’ tactics here in Los Angeles. 

Please find enclosed a copy of a position paper published by Patient Advocacy Network regarding the issue of ‘rescheduling’ cannabis.  This brief paper explores the Controlled Substances Act highlighting that many of the penalties for cannabis offences under Schedules II – V are more severe than under Schedule I.  However, there are many options for regulating cannabis other than the CSA.

I thank you for your time and consideration.  I look forward to working with you and your staff on this issue until cannabis is safe and legal and all the prisoners of compassion and conscience are free. 

Truly yours,

CC:  President Barack Obama, Senator Barbara Boxer and Senator Diane Feinstein
Enclosure: Position Paper (12 pages)

Removing Cannabis From The Controlled Substances Act Why Rescheduling Marihuana Will Not End The State-Federal Conflict Over Medical Cannabis


Monday, January 28, 2013

It’s Time To End Cannabis Prohibition

We, the people, have the power to end cannabis prohibition.  When we all contact Congress together across the country demanding an end to the failed prohibition on marijuana and hemp, the support for change will be undeniable.  Constituents have great power but only if we use it.

President Obama, the Department of Justice and the Supreme Court have all stated that change in national marijuana policy must come from the Congress.  When PAN met with a number of Congressional offices, we were told that very few people and in some cases no one has contacted their office regarding cannabis issues.  We are about to change that!! 

Enclosed is this post is a three page action kit for you to download, print and share.  It provides the basic tools on how to find your representatives, how to contact your representatives and what to say/write.   

Cannabis Freedom Campaign 4/20 is a commitment by every American that supports the end of cannabis prohibition to contact their Congressional Representative once a month between now and April 20, 2014, when we will rally in Washington D.C. 

Save all your correspondence with your Representatives.  Send a copy of your letters to Congress, to President Obama.  Let him know you are regularly engaging Congress.  Follow-up with your Representative monthly. 

Have fun with this!  Get your friends and family involved.  Between 64 and 82 % of voting Americans support reforming of our marijuana laws.  Write letters together.  Hand-deliver them to your Congressional member’s district office.  Meet his/her staff in person; get their business cards.  Be kind and friendly, but make sure they know you are not giving up until Congress ends cannabis prohibition.  Make a video about your visit and encourage others to get involved.   Post your efforts to your social networks.   Issue a press release.  Write a letter to the editor.  Call in to your local talk radio programs.  Make it undeniable that there is a nationwide movement to get Congress to end its failed marijuana policies now.

It’s time to end cannabis prohibition, release the prisoners and put Mary Jane back to work -  for the health, safety and economy of America. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Primary Election in the City of Los Angeles

This evening five Los Angeles Mayoral Candidates participated in a candidates’ forum facilitated by the League of Women Voters and sponsored by numerous neighborhood councils and residential interests and held in the back of the Forest Lawn Cemetery. 

There is a Primary Election in the City of Los Angeles on March 5, 2013.  In addition to a new mayor voters can choose a new controller, city attorney and eight council seats are up for grabs.  However, statistically most LA voters will not participate.  Voter fatigue from The 2012 Election is one reason; a lack of knowledge is another.  LA conveniently has its elections when most voters aren’t paying attention, so to speak.  Here’s what the full race looks like:

The five Candidates addressed questions about the suspected topics: jobs and business, taxes, infrastructure, city pensions, staff raises, utility hikes and… medical marijuana.

The five Candidates placated their public safety conscience audience by supporting strict regulatory schemes and limiting the number of collectives to 100 to 200; none of the Candidates stated support for an all-out ban.  They outwardly appeared to recognize the need for ‘compassion clinics’ – just a lot fewer.  There were jibes made about LA having more collectives than Starbucks.  While that might be true, Starbucks isn’t the only place one can get coffee in LA.  One can get a cup of coffee in City Hall. 

A very brief synopsis of their 90-second answers in order on what each would do as mayor on the medical marijuana issue:
Current Councilmember Jan Perry said she ‘sees it as a land use issue’ and supports keeping dispensaries away from residential areas;
Former assistant to the current LA mayor and former Goldman Sachs employee Emmanuel Pleitez folded the question into an overall ‘drug issue’ regarding public safety and violence in neighborhoods;
Current Controller and former councilmember Wendy Greuel declared the City has the ‘right to regulate’ and pointed to continued lawsuits due to lack of regulation;
Current Counclmember and former council president Eric Garcetti wants rescheduling and federal involvement in turning  marijuana into a ‘medicine;’
And Former U.S. prosecutor, conservative talk radio show host and AIDS patient advocate Kevin James wants to allow 150 collectives, spread out more evenly across the city.

PAN will continue to forward any pertinent election information.  If you are not registered at your current address, you have until February 19, 2013, and can do so at

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Legal Volatility of LA’s Conflicting Medical Marijuana Initiatives

Three competing measures will appear on the May 21, 2013, ballot in the City of Los Angeles in an attempt to regulate the city’s medical marijuana dispensaries.  The Los Angeles City Council has attempted to regulate collectives for nearly 7 years, unsuccessfully, including a failed moratorium, a failed ban and hundreds of lawsuits against the City.  Some frustrated dispensary operators have taken matters into their own hands with two legally shaky voter initiatives that may do more harm than good.  The LA City Council has responded to these initiatives by voting to put its own measure on the ballot, which is about as legally sound as its previous ordinances.

The Medical Marijuana Collectives Initiative Ordinance sponsored by the Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods is made up of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 770, the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance, and Americans for Safe Access.  If it’s true that what we say enough times becomes so, then this ordinance is aimed to shut down every dispensary in Los Angeles.  Seventeen sections of the initiative begin, Every medical marijuana collective is prohibited…” (pages 5-6).  Everyone’s illegal including the patients, “It is unlawful to own, establish, operate, use, or permit the establishment or operation of a medical marijuana collective, or to participate as an employee, contractor, agent or volunteer, or in any other manner or capacity in any medical marijuana collective” (page 4).

The Committee to Protect Patients and Neighborhoods has adopted most of its language from LA City Councilmember Paul Koretz’ proposed ordinance, the Limited Immunity Ban.  Who’s immune?  A small group of collectives hoping to create a dispensary monopoly by declaring that all other ‘competition’ and their patients are illegal. Exempt are those operating in the City as of September 14, 2007, as evidenced by a collective tax registration or tax exemption certificate issued by the City on or before that date” and the collective has to prove registration under at least two other schemes (page 5) already deemed unlawful.  Interestingly, labor unions usually don’t try to put their members or potential members out of work.  However, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union mission in Los Angeles is to put as many collectives out of business as possible – a legally questionable tactic in itself for a labor union.


The Regulation of Medical Marijuana for Safe Neighborhoods and Safe Access is sponsored by Angelenos for Safe Access and founded by David Welch, a Los Angeles-based attorney.  According to this proposal, “this initiative is not intended to conflict with federal… law…, [is to] be interpreted to be compatible with federal.. enactments” (page 3); and "nothing in this section implies or authorizes that any activity connected with the distribution or possession of cannabis is legal unless otherwise authorized and allowed by… federal law."  However, the proposal does conflict with federal law. The U.S. Department of Justice and the DEA are clear that its position is that marijuana is still federally illegal and therefore, no one can comply with this ordinance. 

Angelenos for Safe Access then give their power away to LA City Council by allowing the council to amend or repeal the ordinance.  “The provisions of the Los Angeles Municipal Code added by, amended by, or contained in this initiative measure may be amended to further its purposes by ordinance passed by a majority vote of the Council…” (page 15). The purpose of the voter initiative is to create policy that lawmakers failed to enact and they can’t change.  After all the frustration with the City’s inability to properly regulate collectives and after all the money and effort spent to get an initiative on the ballot, Angelenos for Safe Access defeat their own efforts.  It’s hard to know if Welsh’s group is working on behalf of the collectives and their patients or federal authorities and city officials.
All of these proposed regulations present legal issues with arbitrary dates and numbers.  Public safety would be compromised by a handful of collectives attempting to serve over 400,000 patients in Los Angeles.  Prices would increase. The number of compassion and discount programs would decrease.  Low-income, disabled and seriously ill patients, those for whom Proposition 215 was crafted, will have the least amount of safe, affordable access.  The Los Angeles Police Department has long stated that it wants to see 12 or fewer dispensaries in LA; 14 or fewer is what the DEA can eliminate in a day.  The language within these initiatives demonstrates that those intimately involved with these initiatives have financial and political motives that are helping law enforcement and political officials, and not the patients. 


Links To Initiatives:

Medical Marijuana Collectives Initiative Ordinance

Regulation of Medical Marijuana for Safe Neighborhoods and Safe Access

LA City Council Motion Initiative Ordinance


News Links:

Injunction issued against L.A.'s medical marijuana law

Federal crackdown on medical pot sales reflects a shift in policy

Los Angeles City Council votes to ban marijuana shops

Marijuana: A failure to regulate, but not by dispensaries
L.A.'s Latest Try at Regulating Pot: 'Limited Immunity' for Marijuana Shops

In Los Angeles, advocates push dueling medical marijuana measures


Monday, January 07, 2013

Vindictive Prosecution V. Viana Hagiu

PAN's president Degé Coutee with defendent Viana Hagiu

Over three years ago Viana Hagiu had her health, home and her livelihood stripped from her when she was arrested for doing what thousands of people are doing throughout Los Angeles.  She was a director of a medical marijuana dispensary in LA’s San Fernando Valley.

On August 25, 2009, the Devonshire Division of the Los Angeles Police Department raided Cannamed Of Northridge, a dispensary in the north end of the Valley.  At about 5:30 p.m. several vans and SUV’s along with nearly 20 officers, most in SWAT-style gear, surrounded the small shop at gunpoint and ordered its occupants outside to be detained.  Officers rushed the facility to execute a search warrant that turned up $120.00 in cash and less than 4 lbs. of dried cannabis flowers.

Viana was eventually brought back into the shop where she was interrogated about money, other directors and the few cannabis plants on-site.  She says that several times during the interrogation LAPD Narcotics Officer Kenneth Lewis told her “shut your pie hole you bitch” and “shut the fuck up, bitch.”

Officer Lewis then asked Viana who was at her home.  “I told him my disabled, adult daughter was at the house,” states Viana.  “I told him she was bipolar, schizophrenic, suicidal and begged him not to break down the door.  I offered him my house keys,” Viana continues.

When Lewis told her he didn’t care, Viana, who was still handcuffed, said she began to get dizzy and a bad headache, her speech became slurred.  She requested her blood pressure medication.  She states an officer got the pills from her purse, put the bottle in front her but never gave her one.  She was booked at the Devonshire Division where she was forced to sign a confession while nearly fainting and without her glasses – being told by officers she was only signing for her personal possessions. 

Viana continued to complain of a headache and needing her blood pressure medication.  Officers at the Devonshire Division stated that no nurse was at their facility and transferred Viana to the Van Nuys jail to be seen by that jail’s nurse.  “My blood pressure was 258/222 and my pulse was 122,” Viana recalls.  “The nurse told officers ‘take her to ER right now’.”  She spent the night in ER under close observation of doctors and police.  The following morning her bail was set for $50,000 because officers claimed she had 50 lbs. and once paid, Viana was released.
Cannamed’s directors state they held all of the appropriate permits and licenses required by the State of California and the City of Los Angeles including participating in the City’s moratorium registration.  They say they paid all applicable taxes and fees, were good neighbors and tenants, and enforced strict membership registration and policies.  Cannamed still cannot understand why the LAPD spent the resources to raid such a small collective and three homes: hers, a volunteer and a security guard.  For the last three years the LA County DA has wasted untold resources keeping her case tied up in court – Viana will not take any plea.  “I’ve done nothing wrong,” she contends.

During the raid the LAPD tore the door off the frame of Viana’s home, ransacked the entire house, and held her daughter at gunpoint.  As a result her landlord evicted them immediately.  Viana has not regained all of her speech since that night in custody and continues to have other health problems.  She says the raid, the resulting 3 years of legal fees, and the fact that her health no longer allows her to work regularly has financially ruined her. 

Viana wants to continue to fight her charges, which started as possession with intent, those were dropped, and then cultivation and a gun enhancement charge were added.  (The collective’s licensed security guard carried a gun.)  And while she has never been charged with it, the prosecution continues to hammer at the judge that Viana is a ‘profiteer.’  “The amount of money I have to live off of is the amount I wish for these [prosecutors and police],” states Viana.

Those wanting to make a tax-deductible donation to the Viana Hagiu Legal Defense Fund can do so at   Get hearing updates, meet Viana and learn about the upcoming comedy fundraiser by signing up for email updates at