News Nuggets

THE STATE

Organica operator charged with 24 felonies; ASA threatens suit

Jeff Joseph, the operator of the popular Culver City cannabis club Organica, has been charged with 24 felonies after local and federal agents raided the collective and several others as part of an ongoing crackdown on medical-marijuana operations.

Joseph is being held on $525,000 bail on charges of marijuana trafficking and possession, money laundering and a host of other allegations. His attorney, Eric Shevin, called the charges “politically driven,” accusing Los Angeles Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley of targeting his client as a warning to other collectives.

In a related development, Americans for Safe Access, a nationwide medical-cannabis advocacy group, episode, has threatened to take legal action against the city of Los Angeles unless L.A. City Atty. Carmen Trutanich drops lawsuits filed against Organica and two South L.A. dispensaries to shut them down. Joe Elford, chief counsel for ASA, sent letters to Trutanich and Cooley stating that the organization would join the lawsuits on behalf of the defendants unless they were withdrawn.

UC San Diego report: Cannabis has medical value

Cannabis has effective therapeutic value in treating pain, concluded researchers at UC San Diego’s Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research following five clinical trials.

The results of the trials, which the researchers presented to state lawmakers in February, show cannabis to be effective in easing pain associated with diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other illnesses for which standard medical treatments have not provided adequate relief, says Dr. Igor Grant, the center’s director.

“These findings provide a strong, science-based context in which policymakers and the public can begin discussing the place of cannabis in medical care,” Grant stated in a news release.

The center’s report to the state legislature can be found at www.cmcr.ucsd.edu.

Seal Beach pays $32.5K to settle cannabis lawsuit

The city of Seal Beach has paid $32,500 to a former resident who alleged police officers had wrongly confiscated about 50 of his medical-marijuana plants and forced him to become a drug informant.

Bruce Benedict sued the Seal Beach Police Department in August for $1 million, claiming officers had acted improperly in 2008 when they entered his home, photographed his cannabis and turned evidence over to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency—which later arrested Benedict. Seal Beach officers then pressured Benedict to set up illegal drug deals to avoid federal charges, the lawsuit alleged. Benedict was a state-registered medical-cannabis patient for hepatitis C at the time of his arrest.

Attorneys for Seal Beach say the suit was settled “for economic reasons.” In June, the city of Garden Grove paid $219,000 to settle a lawsuit by a cannabis patient who claimed police wrongfully confiscated 8 grams of his medicine.

Ammiano re-submits legalization bill

State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has resubmitted a bill that would legalize, tax and regulate cannabis if passed.

The new bill, AB 2254, replaces Ammiano’s AB 390, which cleared the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee in January but died after the legislative year expired. Ammiano has promised to keep introducing versions of AB 390 until his proposal is finally heard.

AB 2254 was promptly hailed by California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, who said, “It makes no sense for taxpayers to be paying money to arrest, prosecute and imprison pot offenders, when they could be reaping the revenues of a legally regulated market.”

THE NATION

Disruptive flyer blames behavior on cannabis cookies

Kinman Chan says he wasn’t trying to terrorize fellow passengers on a U.S. Airways flight to San Francisco when he allegedly attacked crew members—he was just really high on cannabis-laced cookies.

So says the FBI agents who investigated the incident in early February after the San Francisco resident’s behavior forced the plane to be diverted to Pittsburgh. Chan told agents he had taken a “double dose” of enhanced cookies before suddenly screaming in the plane’s restroom, dropping his pants and fighting with crew members trying to get him to sit down.

The incident—taking place less than two months after a man tried to blow up a plane over Detroit—amused no one. Crew members subdued Chan with a chokehold and he was arrested upon landing, charged with interfering with a flight attendant’s duties. He was later released on bond.

Iowa pharmacy board to recommend reclassifying pot

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy has voted unanimously to ask state lawmakers to reclassify cannabis from a Schedule I to Schedule II drug, which would allow its use for medical purposes.

The vote, considered an important first step toward legalizing compassionate use in the state, followed a series of hearings in which the board heard from medical experts, advocates and opponents of medical marijuana and others about their views on cannabis. According to news reports, 90 percent of those who addressed the board said they were in support of medical cannabis.

Board chairman Vernon Benjamin said he was convinced by the weight of the medical and scientific evidence to vote in favor of recommending the reclassification.

Michigan overwhelmed by medical-cannabis applications

State health officials in Michigan say they’re having trouble keeping up with a flood of applications for medical-marijuana permits.

Medical-cannabis patients in the state aren’t legally required to have a state-issued permit, but police frequently ask to see the permits to verify that the patient is legally allowed to use the drug. Without the permit, patients could find themselves arrested by unconvinced officers.

But health officials overseeing Michigan’s compassionate-use program say the sheer volume of applications they’ve received could result in patients waiting longer than the statutorily mandated 20 days for their permits. Authorities say they had expected to get 5,000 to 10,000 applications in the first year of the program. After just 10 months, however, they’ve received more than 16,000, resulting in significant delays.

THE WORLD

UN narcotics watchdog warns Canada over medical marijuana

The United Nations’ drug watchdog agency has warned Canada that its medical-cannabis program may violate a 49-year international treaty promise to keep marijuana out of the hands of criminals.

In its annual report, the Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board noted that Canada is one of the few countries in the world that allows cannabis use for medical reasons. The agency then stated that, as a signer of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotics, Canada must ensure that it is the only distributor of marijuana for any reason.

Medical-cannabis proponents worry that Canada’s ruling Conservative Party may use the warning to further its push toward scaling back the nation’s compassionate-use program.

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