San Francisco Supervisors, Oaksterdam official speak

San Francisco Supervisors, Oaksterdam official speak at medical marijuana rally at City Hall

By: Bay City News | 04/03/12 4:55 PM

An enthusiastic crowd of more than 200 medical marijuana patients and supporters rallied at San Francisco City Hall on Tuesday to hear six city supervisors and an Oaksterdam University official decry a recent federal crackdown on cannabis dispensaries.

The midday protest was planned five weeks ago, according to Americans for Safe Access Executive Director Steph Sherer, but coincidentally came the day after Monday’s federal searches of Oaksterdam University, a cannabis industry trade school in Oakland.

Oaksterdam Executive Chancellor Dale Jones, speaking from the steps of City Hall, evoked both the raids and the unrelated mass shooting that also occurred in Oakland on Monday and resulted in the deaths of seven people at Oikos University.

“Two universities were struck yesterday,” said Jones, who said police resources should be used to prevent violence and not to stop patients from obtaining medical marijuana.

“Why are law enforcement officers guarding a plant that hasn’t killed a person in human history?” she asked.

Jones told the crowd, “This raid was meant to demoralize us, but it did not cripple us, it merely galvanized us.”

Federal agents searched Oaksterdam’s headquarters and four other Oakland sites associated with Oaksterdam President Richard Lee on Monday. The school teaches courses on marijuana horticulture and dispensary management.

Joshua Eaton, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, said he could not comment on possible next steps in the investigation or on when the search warrants used in the raids will be unsealed.

Tuesday’s San Francisco rally was aimed at protesting a crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries announced in October by the four regional U.S. attorneys in California, including Haag, who is the chief federal prosecutor for Northern California.

The prosecutors said they planned to target large-scale commercial enterprises that operate under the guise of providing medical marijuana. Haag said her office would begin by concentrating on dispensaries near schools and parks.

California’s Compassionate Use Act, approved by state voters in 1996, allows seriously ill patients to use marijuana with a doctor’s permission, but federal laws criminalizing the drug make no exception for state medical marijuana laws.

Eaton said Haag had no comment onTuesday’s protest.

Six supervisors — a majority of the 11-member Board of Supervisors — told the crowd they opposed the crackdown, as audience members cheered and waved signs saying “Cannabis is medicine, let states regulate.”

They were Board President David Chiu and Supervisors John Avalos, David Campos, Jane Kim, Christina Olague and Scott Wiener.

“What people are asking for is something simple: they need access to their medicine,” Olague said.

“I hope that in a few short years, everyone in the United States will understand what we are fighting for,” Chiu said.

Several other legislators and officials, including San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, Marin and Sonoma, and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, did not attend the rally in person, but sent representatives with messages of support.

Charley Pappas, a patient and the former operator of the now-closed Divinity Tree Patients Wellness Cooperative in the city, said, “We’re not a profit-making criminal organization. We are supplying medicine for those who need it.”

The dispensary on Geary Street at the edge of the Tenderloin District, which was near a small public playground, was forced to shut down after Haag’s office threatened Pappas’s landlord with forfeiture of his property.

After the speeches, the crowd marched two blocks to the Federal Building, which houses Haag’s office, and chanted “Shame, shame, shame” and “We’re patients, not criminals” at the building before dispersing.

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner:

Oaksterdam University Raided




Uploaded by on Apr 3, 2012

Students diligently studying for finals at Oaksterdam University, California?s unaccredited cannabis industry training school, are getting a lesson in Federal Law 101 this week, after agents raided the institution. The raid comes as DEA officials are increasing pressure on medical marijuana dispensaries, which they claim violate national restrictions.

University head Richard Lee, a prominent Oakland citizen and marijuana activist who was instrumental in pushing California legalization effort Proposition 19, was not arrested during the raid and his lawyers appear confident his school and coffee shops will reopen.

Federal marijuana trial adjourned again


A federal court trial date for three men charged in a Lenawee County marijuana growing operation has once again been adjourned.

No new date has been scheduled for a trial that was to begin March 27 for Barry Lee Fisher of Onsted, Todd Bacon of Kalamazoo and Lloyd Richard Smoke of Clayton.

A federal district court notice stated a March 19 plea deadline and the trial date were adjourned by agreement of all parties in the case. Hearing and trial dates have been adjourned several times, reportedly to allow plea negotiations to continue.

The three men were transferred from Lenawee County District Court to federal district court in Detroit a year ago. Fisher and Bacon were arrested after a Feb. 17, 2011, bust of a marijuana growing operation at the Oak City Antiques store in Clinton Township and a rented house in Tipton. The OMNI Team 3 drug enforcement unit reported seizing 345 marijuana plants. Fisher and Bacon face marijuana manufacturing and conspiracy charges. Smoke, the owner of the antique store, was charged with maintaining drug-involved premises.


ACLU drops appeal over ordinance banning marijuana growing

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed papers Wednesday to end its battle against a Livonia ordinance that bans marijuana growing and other operations that violate federal law.

The ACLU filed suit in Wayne County Circuit Court in December 2010 on behalf of two plaintiffs, asking that Livonia’s zoning ordinance amendment be thrown out. They claimed the ordinance violated the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA).

Wayne County Circuit Judge Wendy Baxter ruled in Livonia’s favor July 22, 2011, upholding Livonia’s zoning ordinance and ruling the MMMA unconstitutional, as a violation of federal law. Baxter’s opinion also led to an injunction barring the two plaintiffs from violating Livonia’s ordinance.

The ACLU appealed the case to the Michigan Court of Appeals in August 2011. Now, that case has been dropped.

First to adopt ordinance

The City of Livonia was the first municipality in the state to adopt an ordinance that bans businesses, like medical marijuana dispensaries, that violate federal law. Since then, at least 20 other communities have enacted similar ordinances.

“Other states have found that medical marijuana growing operations and dispensaries attract crime,” said Livonia Mayor Jack Kirksey. “We are pleased that our effort to protect Livonia’s residents and businesses has been vindicated. It is apparent that other communities in Michigan have similar concerns about crime and believe this type of zoning ordinance is the right way to go.”

Kirksey added: “Despite claims by the ACLU, our approach was never aimed at preventing people with debilitating conditions from easing their pain. The City Council enacted this ordinance to prevent marijuana production or sales shops and other illegal operations, and the crime associated with them, from locating in our neighborhoods, across from schools, or next to the local pizza shop, gymnastics studio or hair salon.”

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette supported Livonia’ in the case, filing a brief in June 2011 to Livonia City Attorney Don Knapp said the ACLU recognizes it cannot risk losing again at the Court of Appeals because it would mean the end of the MMMA. “It is difficult to imagine anyone, especially the ACLU, dismissing an appeal that they believe they will win,” he said.

When the case was originally filed, the ACLU also named two Oakland County cities – Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills – as defendants in the Wayne County case because the plaintiffs, Robert and Linda Lott, lived in Birmingham and Linda Lott belonged to a private social club in Bloomfield Hills. Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills objected to their inclusion in the Wayne County case, accusing the ACLU of “forum shopping.” The Court of Appeals compelled the ACLU to pursue those defendants in Oakland County’s courts.

Birmingham case continuing

In November, the Oakland County Circuit Court also ruled against the ACLU, saying there was no need to strike down the Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills ordinances because the harm the Lotts claimed to fear was strictly hypothetical. The ACLU decided to take Birmingham’s portion of the case to the Court of Appeals, but did not file an appeal against Bloomfield Hills.

Linda Lott died Dec. 14. Nevertheless, Robert Lott and the ACLU continued the fight against Livonia and Birmingham, and filed motions to extend deadlines in the Livonia case in February and earlier this month. While the ACLU has dropped the case against Livonia, the case against Birmingham is apparently continuing.

The portion of Livonia’s zoning ordinance in question states that “Uses for enterprises or purposes that are contrary to federal, state or local laws or ordinances are prohibited.” The ACLU claimed this contradicted the MMMA because federal law prohibits activities which the MMMA permits.

Both Baxter’s decision and Livonia’s zoning ordinance are available at .

The link for Baxter’s decision is .
For Livonia’s zoning ordinance amendment, go to .

The Real Facts About Marijuana DUI Laws

Submitted by NORML on Mar 21, 2012

By "Radical" Russ Belville

I was recently interviewed by Keegan Hamilton of the Seattle Weekly regarding my research posted here on per se DUID statutes and the effects they had on DUID arrest statistics, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reports (see: Thirteen states have marijuana per se DUID statutes).  Keegan’s piece was fair and entitled “Marijuana DUI Law Impact Remains Unclear Despite Analysis of Arrest Statistics”, which is true.  His lede paragraph:

After Nevada enacted a strict “per se” law restricting the amount of THC motorists are allowed to have in their blood, drugged driving arrests increased a whopping 76 percent statewide. But when a similar policy took effect in Ohio, arrests there decreased by a modest 4.8 percent. Such is the conflicting data recently presented by NORML, which further muddies the debate about Washington’s proposal to legalize marijuana and start treating stoned drivers like drunks.

Keegan goes on to fairly report:

Taken with a sizable grain of salt, it makes interesting to look at how changes in arrest patterns were markedly different across the country. In addition the 76 percent spike in Nevada, Indiana drugged driving arrests shot up 33 percent after adopting a per se THC blood limit, while Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Iowa all saw modest single digit increases. Five states had single digit decreases in drugged driving arrests.

But for some people, all they had to see was that first sentence with “drugged driving arrests increased a whopping 76 percent statewide” to fire up the laptop for another round of Frighten The Patients!!! into voting against legalization of marijuana.  This from a blog post entitled “Marijuana DUIs Went Up 76% In Nevada With Per Se Limit

Numbers Put The Lie To Claims Washington’s I-502 Won’t Harm Patients

Well, if the message you’re sending them is “open season on medical marijuana patients,” then congratulations; mission accomplished!

After Nevada enacted a strict “per se” law restricting the amount of THC motorists are allowed to have in their blood, “drugged driving” arrests increased 76 percent statewide, reports Keegan Hamilton at Seattle Weekly.

What do you bet that a big portion of that 76 percent increase in cannabis DUIs came at the expense of medical marijuana patients — many of whom must medicate at a level such that they will show up over the limit any time they are tested?

As Keegan’s piece (if you bothered to read past the first sentence) pointed out, there is no way of knowing, since these law enforcement agencies haven’t been keeping separate track of marijuana DUIDs vs. other drug DUIDs vs. alcohol DUIDs.  Now here’s some differences between Nevada and Washington, the details the author of this piece is not telling you, facts one can easily glean from reading the entire piece Keegan wrote on Seattle Weekly, or by merely paying close attention to the graphic included on this post. I know facts get in the way of sensationalism and page hits, but let’s indulge:

— Nevada can bust you per se for 2ng/mL of THC in blood, a lower threshold than I-502′s 5ng/mL
— Nevada can bust you per se for 10ng/mL of THC in urine, a standard that I-502 does not include and Washington law currently does not have
— Nevada can bust you per se for 15ng/mL of THC metabolites in urine, a standard that I-502 does not include and Washington law currently does not have
— Nevada can set up a roadside sobriety checkpoint and sniff around every driver who passes through, which is unconstitutional in Washington.

Also, if the author would care to follow up on the DUID stats in Nevada (which, again, are not the stats of only-marijuana DUIDs; they include alcohol DUIDs as well), he’d find that since medical marijuana passed there in 2000:

2001 = 8,824 Nevada DUIDs
2002 = 5,186 Nevada DUIDs*
2003 = Incomplete Data*
2004 = 9,133 Nevada DUIDs
2005 = 9,746 Nevada DUIDs
2006 = 11,060 Nevada DUIDs
2007 = 12,538 Nevada DUIDs
2008 = 14,445 Nevada DUIDs
2009 = 15,234 Nevada DUIDs
2010 = 13,412 Nevada DUIDs

*Hmm, what’s going on there with 2002 & 2003?  Well, a little digging into the data (something I’m paid to do) and you find that unlike the rest of the years on this list, in 2002, the year before the per se DUID went into place, only 3 law enforcement agencies reported their arrest data to the FBI.  In the other years, there were 31 to 34 of Nevada’s law enforcement agencies reporting.  In 2003, the year the 2ng/mL per se DUID went into effect, Nevada’s data was so incomplete the FBI didn’t even bother reporting it in the Uniform Crime Report.

So, if we’re willing to concede a pattern of an upward trend in DUID arrests 2001-2009, then it’s safe to say 2002′s complete data would be at least 8,824, if not more DUID arrests.  So the actual increase 2002-2004 is more likely around +3.5% or lower, not +76%.  Also, interesting, is it not, that in 2010, DUID arrests dropped almost 12%!  This as applications to Nevada’s program were quadrupling and when new applications out-numbered renewals 2.3-to-1.

Now, I knew all this as I wrote my original piece, but I decided to publish it as-is lest anyone accuse me of ignoring facts that might color the outcome.  Here they are, the facts, number of DUIDs reported to the FBI the year before and the year after a per se DUID went into effect.  Like any researcher, you start with a hypothesis (“Passing a per se DUID will make DUIDs go way up”) and you collect data to support or disprove the hypothesis.  I contend, and Keegen pointed out, that this data is illustrative, but ultimately useless, since there are so many variables at play.  Most notably, none of these states have legalized marijuana.

But since we’re illustrating and bringing up “Nevada is a medical marijuana state…”, let’s take a look at the other significant medical marijuana state in the debate, Michigan.  Now, it’s true, Michigan’s per se passed in 2003 before its medical marijuana law did in 2008, but it isn’t like many of those medical marijuana patients in Michigan weren’t already toking before the law hit the books.  After their per se DUID law passed, DUID’s dropped almost 9% from 50,022 to 45,568.  What about after medical marijuana?

2008 = 35,534 Michigan DUIDs
2009 = 38,941 Michigan DUIDs
2010 = 34,882 Michigan DUIDs

So… there were 23% fewer DUID arrests in 2010 in Michigan than the year after per se DUID hit the books, even after registering 131,483 patients, even as the cops there can bust them per se for ANY ng/mL of THC in blood or urine.  Also of note – for those 2008 & 2009 numbers, cops could also bust tokers for any metabolite in urine as well, until in 2010 their Supreme Court ruled metabolites aren’t drugs.

Finally, the caption on my picture used without my permission that reads “NORML’s “Radical” Russ Belville thinks a “huge rash of DUIs” which might follow passage of I-502′s per se THC blood limits might really be a good thing” is disingenuous and unbecoming of an alleged professional journalist.  There is nothing good about anyone getting a DUI they don’t deserve; my quote clearly states that if such a thing happened, there would be public outrage.  Also, the concluding “Washington patients, how do you feel about becoming part a “huge rash of DUIs?” Radical Russ seems to think you should take one for the cause”, is insulting, especially considering I smoke more pot more often than most Washington patients, though I’m once again not surprised to find the author forgetting about the 90% of Washington’s pot smokers who currently don’t have protection from prosecution for possession of a pound and a half and fifteen mature plants.

I’m also embarrassed about the “Tool of the Town” quip I made once, off-handedly, on my show – that was uncalled for.  It also was so uncreative in comparison to the ad hominem attacks fostered by the author upon many of my readers who had visited his blog to offer comments.  From here on out, I strive to be civil and attack ideas only.  Foremost on my list: the idea that one should pass up the first opportunity one’s state has had in 40+ years of Drug War to finally begin dismantling prohibition because one fears they may smoke pot, drive, get pulled over, demonstrate impairment, fail a sobriety test, get taken for a blood draw, and have it come up >5ng/mL and be convicted of a DUID, which they’d be convicted of now if they went to court with >5ng/mL, unless they had $10-$15,000 to hire a really creative lawyer.


St. Petersburg marijuana grow house charges dropped; others may follow

St. Petersburg marijuana grow house charges dropped; others may follow

By Stephen Nohlgren, Times Staff Writer
In Print: Wednesday, March 21, 2012

LARGO — Amid allegations that narcotics deputies trespassed and lied to gather evidence, the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday that it is dismissing charges against an accused St. Petersburg marijuana grower and will reconsider dozens of similar cases.

The dropped case was against David Cole, 60, who said he was growing pot in his shed to treat his multiple sclerosis symptoms.

His attorneys were scheduled Tuesday to grill a key deputy under oath about possible misconduct within the narcotics unit. But that opportunity evaporated along with the case.

"Information came to light Friday that calls into question the veracity of those involved in making that case to the point where I believe the right thing to do is to have that case dismissed,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said on Tuesday.

Gualtieri would not give more details because his internal affairs office is now investigating how the Cole case and others stemming from the two-year surveillance of a Largo hydroponics store were handled.

Sworn search warrant applications by deputies Paul Giovannoni and Michael Sciarrino — the lead detectives in the grow house cases — said they could smell indoor pot farms from public sidewalks and neighbors’ yards. But defense attorneys think that the two deputies and at least one supervisor trespassed to get their information, which is illegal.

Neither Gualtieri nor Beverly Andringa, executive assistant state attorney, could pinpoint Tuesday how many grow house cases are in jeopardy, saying only that they number in the dozens.

"We need to look at them all,” Gualtieri said. "Because the information we have goes to general veracity. Once there is that allegation, then it touches anything that certain people may have touched.”

Giovannoni and Sciarrino declined to comment.

Cole said he was relieved to have the charges dropped. He was caught with 87 plants at varying stages of growth and acknowledges that medical marijuana is illegal in Florida. He had no criminal history in Florida and says his attorney advised that he probably could have plea bargained for nothing more than probation as punishment.

But when he heard the deputies might have trespassed and lied about it, Cole said, he told his attorney to reject any plea bargain and use his case to pressure the Sheriff’s Office for answers. He was particularly angered by concrete blocks stacked in stair-step fashion on his neighbor’s property next to his fence. Cole thinks officers might have put them there to vault his fence.

"We have to make sure that the people we employ for our protection acted appropriately,” Cole said Tuesday. "That’s more important to me than what happens to me.”

Cole’s case is where Tuesday’s canceled deposition of former narcotics deputy Kyle Alston came in.

Alston had already been deposed in February, in a Tarpon Springs grow house case. Defense lawyer Newt Hudson asked if Alston had ever seen Sciarrino and Giovannoni "climb over fences,” shorthand for trespassing.

Alston refused to answer.

Hudson is now trying to use this refusal, along with other information, to have his Tarpon Springs client’s search warrant thrown out, killing any prosecution.

Hudson also alerted other grow house lawyers, some of whom are sharing information and call themselves the Scent of Justice Gang in mocking reference to the marijuana sniffing.

Clearwater lawyer Douglas deVlaming scheduled Alston to give testimony in Cole’s case on Tuesday, this time with a judge standing by to rule on whether Alston had to answer questions.

"We believe Kyle Alston was going to come in and testify to the truth . . . that these guys were jumping fences,” deVlaming said Tuesday. "And I also believe Kyle Alston has told that to internal affairs.”

Alston declined to comment.

DeVlaming applauded the sheriff and the state attorney for re-evaluating all the grow house prosecutions but said defense lawyers will continue to subpoena Alston for testimony in other cases as long as any charges are pending.

DeVlaming also said State Attorney Bernie McCabe should convene a grand jury to examine the grow house cases, or federal prosecutors should weigh in.

"We want to have confidence that we can trust police officers,” deVlaming said, "and quite frankly, dropping cases and throwing a few underlings under the bus isn’t going to cut it with us.”

Gualtieri estimated it would take about three weeks to complete an internal affairs investigation.

"I met with my captain this morning. We are trying get it done fairly, but also as quickly as possible,” Gualtieri said. "I don’t want a rush to judgment.”

Besides re-evaluating pending grow house cases, both he and Andringa said they will also examine investigative techniques on cases recently resolved through plea bargains or convictions.

"Many (cases) may be involved before it is all said and done.” Gaultieri said. "Many may go.”

Information about alleged trespassing surfaced in the last few weeks, he said. Cole’s case was one of several under scrutiny when deVlaming subpoenaed Alston for deposition.

The timing of Tuesday’s scheduled deposition accelerated the decision to drop Cole’s charges, Gualtieri said.

"Depending on what questions are asked in deposition it could frustrate our investigation because (defense lawyers) don’t know what we know,” Gualtieri said. "They don’t know where we are going and what we need to do. That could cause information to get out and affect other witnesses in this investigation.”

That argument is not swaying defense attorneys to back off.

Clearwater lawyer Bjorn Brunvand said he will seek an expedited deposition in the next few days of Alston, Gualtieri and a Progress Energy Florida employee who helped officers find out how much power grow house suspects were using.

"I would not be surprised if the same thing happened in my case,” Brunvand said, referring to charges against Cole being dropped.

Largo lawyer John Trevena said complaints against the grow house deputies date back to 2008. One client was caught with 93 plants and sentenced to three years in prison after a detective secured a search warrant by stating that he could smell marijuana from a sidewalk.

Trevena said he had a National Weather Service meteorologist ready to testify that the wind was blowing away from the detective that night, but nobody in the court system would listen.

He will also seek depositions if his clients’ cases aren’t resolved, Trevena said. "I am not going to let my clients’ futures rely on (the sheriff’s) investigation. I am going to conduct my own investigation.”

Stephen Nohlgren can be reached at (727) 893-8442 or