Patient advocates hold San Jose protest

Posted on October 22nd, 2010 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , .

CaliforniaMedical marijuana patient advocates and other stakeholders staged a protest Oct. 14 as criminal proceedings began at the Terraine Courthouse in San Jose, Calif. The protest came in response to aggressive enforcement actions over the past two weeks by several police departments and the state Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement. The sweep, which resulted in the arrest of nearly two dozen medical marijuana patients and providers in Santa Clara County on Oct. 1 and 7, was dubbed Operation "Up in Smoke."

"We demand that the Santa Clara County District Attorney immediately drop the charges," said Lauren Vazquez, director of the Silicon Valley chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). "In a democratic society, we develop laws that protect our sickest people, not that leave them susceptible to police harassment and criminal prosecution." Police officers posed as sick patients, claiming immobility and homelessness, in order to entrap medical marijuana delivery services, many of which were family-run businesses. The arrestees included senior patients and many who were born and raised in Santa Clara County.

The Oct. 1 multi-agency actions focused on delivery services in the greater San Jose area, resulting in 22 arrests. On October 7, police raided a local dispensary, New Age Healing Collective, and made at least one additional arrest. According to local news sources, police seized about 25 pounds of medical marijuana and more than 200 plants on October 1, and about 40 pounds from the October 7 dispensary raid. Charges against patients included possession, possession with intent to sell, and conspiracy to distribute. Many of the arrestees were apparently coerced to sign statements that they were selling drugs for profit.

Santa Clara Police Chief Stephen Lodge claimed that, "Those arrested have perverted the important role of a caregiver for seriously ill patients for their own financial gain"—but has provided no evidence of wrongdoing. In fact, those arrested claim to be operating under Health and Safety Code Section 11362.775, which defines collective and cooperative association, not "caregiving," defined under a different statute of the Medical Marijuana Program Act, passed by the California legislature in 2003. "Police ought to fully understand the law before conducting aggressive and harmful actions against law-abiding medical marijuana patients," responded Vazquez.

The enforcement actions come as the San Jose City Council is in the midst of developing a local ordinance that would regulate and license the dozens of dispensaries that currently operate in the area. The San Jose City Council also recently voted to place Measure U on the November ballot, which would tax medical marijuana patients 10%, in addition to the existing state sales tax patients already pay. "How can the City of San Jose charge patients an exorbitant tax and at the same time arrest and prosecute them?" asked Vazquez. Americans for Safe Access strongly opposes San Jose's tax measure, as well as other local measures across California that impose an unreasonable taxes on patients, whose medicine is already prohibitively expensive. (Americans for Safe Access, Oct. 13)



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