ASA of the Motherload is proud to announce the successful launch of a Public Education Program, in regards to Medical Marijuana, with the help of the editor of our county paper; "The Ledger Dispatch."
The general public in our area is very uneducated when it comes to
marijuana and its general benefits so our chapter found it pertinent to initiate public education on the matter or even just let county residents know that this is an issue and it is not going anywhere, the newspaper being a very effective and successful tool!
Below are three articles written by the editor Raheem Hosseini and inspired by the passion and perseverance of members of ASA of the Motherload and our "poster child" Allen Toupe.
You might be surprised to find out that your local newspaper editor is accepting of the issue and willing to represent a positive connotation on the issue just as we were! LTE's are necessary to voice your opinion and share it with local residents!
In the Fight for Truth,
Jacques Nicholas Toupe
CEO Sierra Foothills Compassionate Care
IONE CA 95640
*"State triples medical pot fees"***
Friday, January 26, 2007
By Raheem Hosseini
A marijuana plant from a legal garden maintained by Ione resident Allen Toupe. The state is tripling its fees for medical marijuana ID cards. Photo by: Courtesy to the Ledger Dispatch
The Amador County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday quietly adopted the state's request for a staggering fee increase for its medical marijuana identification card program, more than tripling what county residents currently pay to obtain the voluntary IDs.
The resolution increasing the state's share from $13 to $142 per card was on the Jan. 23 meeting's consent calendar, which was adopted without discussion. The county currently charges $48 per card, ratcheting up the total cost to $190 for an ID card that must be renewed every year.
"They're pretty hefty," said Angel LeSage, public information officer for the Department of Public Health, of the fee increase. "We're looking at our system and what we have to do."
LeSage told the Ledger Dispatch that that means reviewing what, if any, type of outreach has to be done to inform the public.
The reason given by the state Department of Health Services for the 109 percent increase to its share of the fees is that the program has been operating under a major deficit, which is due to a significantly smaller number of ID card applications being filed than expected. The state Legislature passed Senate Bill 420 in 2003, creating the voluntary program that lets people in the state obtain an ID card with a doctor's recommendation. Since then, only 5,631 cards have been issued. California NORML, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reforming the state's marijuana laws, estimates there are 150,000 to 350,000 medicinal marijuana patients in California.
Ione resident Allen Toupe is one of those patients, as well as the holder of his own ID card. A cancer patient who had his bowels and colon removed three years ago, Toupe began taking medicinal cannabis when his doctors could no longer prescribe opiate-derived pain killers like methadone, valium or liquid oxycontin. Instead, his doctor suggested a drug that has been far
less invasive yet much more taboo.
Perhaps ironically, the man Toupe says he now is is a far cry from the incapacitated addict legal pharmaceuticals made him.
"I was on so many drugs that it was killing me," he said. "No one, and I mean no one ever documented has died from marijuana."
With the new fee bumped up to nearly $200, Toupe said even more chronic pain sufferers and terminally ill patients will be dissuaded from participating in the ID program, especially since there are no local dispensaries where people like Toupe can fill their prescriptions. He belongs to a group of roughly 30 local medicinal marijuana users who pool their resources and
travel to the Bay Area to fill their prescriptions in bulk.
"If they're going to charge that kind of money, they should allow safe access," Toupe said.
But while the county hasn't placed a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries, as many cities and counties across the state have, the requirements for obtaining a use permit have proven restrictive. The board of supervisors last extended an urgency moratorium in August 2005, which ended last year.
Without local access, the end result is that many patients with legal access to medicinal marijuana are turning to illegal procurement to fill their prescriptions, according to Bruce Mirken, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project.
And while an ID card isn't required for protection under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, Mirken said the cards make it easier for patients to navigate law enforcement and dispensary requirements.
"We do worry that there will be some folks who won't be able to get cards because of the cost," he added.
Here in Amador County, a patient with a doctor's recommendation is legally permitted to maintain six mature marijuana plants or 12 immature plants, though a doctor can recommend more.
One reason so few applications have been turned in is that only 23 of the state's 58 counties currently offer the ID card program. San Diego recently filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against the state in an attempt to resist implementing such a program.
While San Diego lost its suit, proponents of the ID card program say the state must now prepare its coffers for future lawsuits from dissenting counties, necessitating the substantial fee increase. Part of the reason counties have bucked against state law comes from the fact that the federal government still considers marijuana an illegal narcotic and doesn't allow
for medicinal uses.
"We were a little worried when we first started (our program)," LeSage admitted.
Amador County had one of the first pilot programs offering ID cards, something Toupe praises the county for doing.
"I've never had any problem with law enforcement or the county," he said, adding that police officers will sometimes bring cadets by his house to show them what a legal marijuana garden looks like.
But the argument that the conflict in state and federal law leaves counties in a precarious legal position doesn't sit well with Toupe or Mirken.
"It frankly doesn't make a lot of sense to me," Mirken said. "They're not the ones at risk if the feds want to come in."
That burden rests with the state, which, again, factors into the fee increase that will go into effect this March.
"I'll still get (the ID card) because I believe in the program," Toupe told the Ledger Dispatch, "but some people don't have the same outlook as me."
*"Pot war lingers on for region"*
Friday, February 02, 2007
By Raheem Hosseini
The medical benefits of legal pharmaceuticals like methodone verus federally illegal drugs like marijuana continues to stir debate. Photo by: Courtesy to the Ledger Dispatch
When it comes to current drug laws, perhaps none are more schizophrenic than the ones surrounding the issue of medical marijuana. Legal in some states - including California - outlawed in others and still very much illegal at the federal level, small counties like Amador often serve as ground zero in the battle over conflicting drug policies.
"Technically, people possessing marijuana at the state level can be prosecuted at the federal level," explained Melinda Aiello, chief assistant district attorney for Amador County.
While Amador was one of the first counties to implement a medical marijuana identification card program created by the state Legislature in 2003, it has been less receptive to the idea of licensed pot dispensaries setting up.
In the summer of 2005, the county instituted an indefinite moratorium on issuing use permits to businesses where individuals could obtain marijuana with a licensed doctor's recommendation.
The rationale then was that a June 6, 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the federal government could enforce federal drug laws in states with conflicting legal codes could potentially leave the county vulnerable to lawsuits.
Even back then, it was a bitter pill to swallow, with then-District 3 Supervisor Richard Vinson calling a legal system that allows alcohol and tobacco sales but outlaws medical cannabis "terribly confused."
That confusion has persisted, with more than a third of California counties so far refusing to implement ID card programs like the one in Amador, and many local municipalities enforcing their own moratoriums.
*One man's fight*
Allen Toupe is not your stereotypical marijuana user. He doesn't have droopy eyes and giggle uncontrollably or even utter a single "man" during an hour-long interview. The Ione father of two is one of a growing number of people both locally and nationally hoping to alter the perception of medicinal cannabis, which continues to encounter fierce opposition in some
Toupe's own medical history reads like a Russian melodrama. Nearly losing his left foot to a grisly Rototiller accident at the age of 3, Toupe was infected with dirty blood during a transfusion, leaving him with Hepatitis C. Years later, he was diagnosed with a rare strain of cancer called cryogobulinemia, which turns one's blood into cold, clotted sludge. As a result, Toupe had his colon and bowels removed three years ago, which is
what ultimately convinced his doctor to recommend marijuana for the pain.
Toupe credits the recommendation with saving his life from an overload of legal, opiate-derived pharmaceuticals like methodone and liquid Oxycontin and helping him keep his 10-year-old son.
"I was completely incapacitated," he said of the effect legal
pharmaceuticals had on him. "Those drugs weren't helping me."
Toupe was something of a pioneer in terms of medical marijuana ID cards.
When the county geared up its program in 2005, Toupe was the 23rd person in the state to get one. The last time he renewed his card, he was listed as No. 1,415.
Each California county has its own unique experience with the medical marijuana issue. Amador and Calaveras counties have ID card programs, but no licensed businesses where patients can fill their prescriptions. El Dorado County has neither an ID card program nor any dispensaries, but at least one of those issues will be revisited this month, with that county's board of
supervisors set to discuss a possible ID card program at an upcoming meeting.
"No decision has yet been reached, including whether dispensaries will be allowed in the county," said Margaret Williams, public information officer for the El Dorado County Department of Public Health.
Yet while the county as a whole currently has a temporary moratorium against medical marijuana dispensaries, the city of Placerville approved them in 2004 and has one currently in operation. The manager for the dispensary said he had a relatively easy time gaining approval for the nonprofit business
and has encountered no legal headaches since.
"Counties and cities don't really have a leg to stand on," Matt Vaughn, corporate executive officer of Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association, said of the precarious legal position local municipalities put themselves in by erecting moratoriums. "It just takes a legal challenge to (overturn) it."
After the MMCA threatened its own legal challenge against Placerville in 2004, the city formed a committee to draft its dispensary ordinance and passage was granted. Since then, Vaughn said his business has not had to weather one federal raid, which hasn't been the case for several other dispensaries operating in the state.
*"That other muddled war"*
Friday, February 02, 2007
By Raheem Hosseini
I remember Nancy Reagan shaking hands with Gary Coleman on a very special episode of "Diff'rent Strokes." I remember watching eggs fry in a hot skillet and growing hungry for my brain on drugs. I remember sitting in a darkened theater with about 15 other filmgoers and being unable to move because the horrifying drug opus "Requiem for a Dream" had reduced us to quivering masses. I remember that commercial with the two guys sitting at a bar, talking about how smoking marijuana helped the terrorists.
I remember just saying no to that last one.
When it comes to the war on drugs, I consider myself a conscientious objector. And it's not because I foster romantic notions regarding experimentation and individual freedom, but because this intractable conflict has trudged on too selectively.
If you want to know what the difference is between crack and powder cocaine, it's these three things: Price, race and jail time.
And more than a decade after Californians passed the landmark Compassionate Use Act of 1996, the federal and state governments continue to stare at each other across the medicinal marijuana legal divide. Stuck in the middle are the chronically and terminally ill, who can't freely access pain medication that would quell their agony. But hey, if they want to go down to the corner pharmacy for something a lot less effective yet far more addictive, current drug laws say no problem.
While counties like Amador do allow qualified medical patients to procure voluntary medical marijuana identification cards with a doctor's recommendation, these same communities don't permit the cannabis dispensaries that could actually fill the prescriptions. You can find them in metropolitan areas, but many suburban and rural communities have placed moratoriums on medical marijuana dispensaries for fear that the federal government will knock them down.
It's a credible fear.
Drug enforcement agents jack-booted their way into several dispensaries last year, including ones in Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles and elsewhere. And while most dispensaries go about their business without federally sanctioned harassment, the raids that have occurred have been high profile enough to scare the timid. In the eyes of U.S. law, Hippie Hank and Chemo Carl are the same.
And yet, a recent government-funded survey found that illicit drug use among teens is actually on the decline, compared to a rising number of American youth who are beginning to abuse legal, prescription drugs.
So where's the drug protection that we actually need?
Allergies, nausea, muscle aches, impotence, depression, short attention spans, hair loss, chunky thighs - is there any ailment there isn't a drug for?
And here's a question for all the adults: Whatever happened to sucking it up? Is life in the 21st century that unbearable, or are we ODing on a custom-fit society, where every petty grievance has a magic elixir and every wayward blister has a reconstructive surgeon and anesthesiologist standing by.
That's a rhetorical question. The answer is 'yes.'
But if the adults are acting like big babies, then the federal government is thriving in the role of enabler. The Federal Drug Administration will greenlight Oxycontin, now a popular street drug because of its ability to knock fiends on their duffs, but hold up even discussing RU-486 until the nomination of its new director is held up by the Senate.
A $26 million fine against ineffective diet pills notwithstanding, the FDA has proven itself less as a competent oversight body and more as the gatekeeper of massive political contributions from the pharmaceutical industry.
As a result, the message given to America's youth is decidedly mixed. Kids may be young, but they're not stupid. They can smell the hypocrisy like it's oregano baking in a hot baggy.
After 88 years of this decomposing drug war - longer if you count Maine's passage of its prohibition law in 1846 - we still can't pick our battles.
Heck, we can't even keep steroids out of major league sports.
And just like that other disastrous conflict thousands of miles away, our war on drugs shows no signs of abating.