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Medical advocates hold national day of action

Posted on May 2nd, 2011 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , , .

Patients and their supporters rallied at the Justice Department in Washington DC on May 2 to protest increased federal interference in medical marijuana states. More than 200 supporters also rallied in Sacramento for medical marijuana patients Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband Dale Schafer as they surrendered to federal authorities to serve out five-year prison terms. Last week, the DEA raided several distribution centers in Spokane, Wash., as a state bill to license such facilities was vetoed the next day by Gov. Christine Gregoire. The Spokane actions are the latest in a string of more than 100 aggressive SWAT-style federal raids carried out since President Obama took office.

"Patients are sick and tired of being singled out, stigmatized and harassed over the medication they choose," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical marijuana patients' rights group organizing the protest. "At minimum, the federal government must end its intimidation tactics of threats and harmful raids. But more importantly, medical marijuana is an urgent public health issue that President Obama should address by working with—not against—the patient community."

As part of its "Sick and Tired" campaign, ASA also organized the delivery of "Cease & Desist" orders to federal officials in 10 medical marijuana states, including Arizona (Phoenix, Tucson), California (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco), Colorado (Denver), Maine (Portland), Michigan (Detroit, Lansing), Montana (Billings), Nevada (Las Vegas), Oregon (Eugene, Portland), Rhode Island (Providence), and Washington (Everett, Seattle, Spokane).

Threats of criminal prosecution have been made by US attorneys against local and state officials in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island and Washington. In March, more than two-dozen federal raids in Montana were timed to coincide with deliberation on a pending bill to repeal that state's medical marijuana law. After Gov. Brian Schweitzer later vetoed the bill, US Attorney Michael Cotter issued a threatening letter to the state's legislative leadership, further discouraging them from adopting a cultivation and distribution licensing law.

"The imprisonment of Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer is emblematic of a failed federal policy," said Sherer. Fry and Schafer were raided by the DEA in 2001, despite approval from local law enforcement to cultivate medical marijuana. The pair were tried in 2007 for manufacturing and conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. They were denied a medical defense despite their adherence to state law, and ultimately convicted. In order to obtain the mandatory minimum five-year sentence, the government was able to add up multiple years of harvests to arrive at more than 100 plants. The Obama administration vigorously fought an appeal of their sentence in the Ninth Circuit.

Adding to the cost of incarceration, both Fry and Schafer are in need of medical attention. Fry, a breast cancer survivor, and Schafer, a hemophiliac, will also be leaving behind a family of five children and two grandchildren, and will miss the birth of another grandchild in October. Advocates are calling on President Obama to grant clemency and commute the couple's sentence. In April, ASA issued a report card, giving Obama a failing grade on medical marijuana. "President Obama has given us nothing but broken promises and half-measures, and patients deserve better," said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes. (ASA, May 2)

Graphic: ASA

 

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