California, Sacramento

Medical marijuana by city.

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California, Sacramento

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Dec 03, 2007 7:55 pm

The Sacramento Bee wrote:Medical Pot Dispensary Raided by DEA Agents

The Sacramento Bee
Thu, 27 Sep 2007
by Niesha Lofing

Federal authorities raided a medical marijuana dispensary Wednesday in Sacramento as employees, customers and medical marijuana advocates protested out front.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration served a federal search warrant around 9 a.m. at River City Patient Center at 1512 El Camino Ave., along with three other locations associated with the dispensary, said Gordon Taylor, the agent in charge of the DEA office in Sacramento.

Search warrants also were served at a storage facility near the dispensary, a home in Wilseyville and a home in Acampo, he said.

DEA agents seized a total of several pounds of processed marijuana, 45 marijuana plants, an undetermined amount of cash, $32,000 from four bank accounts, marijuana-laced food, computer information, documents and indoor marijuana-growing equipment, Taylor said.

The business is owned by William Pearce, Taylor said. Five employees at the dispensary were detained and questioned, but released. Pearce also was detained Wednesday, Taylor said. No arrests have been made.

The operation Wednesday was the result of a more than yearlong investigation.

Taylor acknowledged the conflict between federal and state law, which permits medicinal use of marijuana, but said state law "is simply not working" and is creating a permissive environment for marijuana use.

"I think the situation in this state has gotten really out of hand," Taylor said, adding that the DEA is increasingly seeing marijuana being sold for medicinal purposes to able-bodied young people. "I don't think the general public really knows what's going on behind the doors of these medical marijuana dispensaries and if they did, they'd be outraged."

Internal Revenue Service officials also were on the scene Wednesday investigating the dispensary's finances. Seizure warrants had been served on several bank accounts associated with the dispensary, Taylor said.

Kim Stabnau, 27, a dispensary employee, stood outside the business near other protesters late Wednesday morning, handing out pamphlets. Stabnau was among the employees who were questioned by DEA agents.

Stabnau said the dispensary has thousands of customers, whom she referred to as patients, who will be without medical marijuana due to the raid.

"It affects a lot of people's lives in many ways," she said.

Steve Sallagoity, 46, is a dispensary customer and frequents the business two or three times a week. He is a cancer survivor and is diagnosed with hepatitis C, and he began using medical marijuana in 1996. He said the raid will force him to buy marijuana on the black market or from another cannabis club.

"It's very upsetting because there's people out there doing meth and they are stopping people that actually need medical marijuana," Sallagoity said. "They need to quit harassing medical marijuana patients."

The raid on River City Patient Center is the fourth DEA raid on a Sacramento-area medical marijuana dispensary in three years, Taylor said.

Kris Hermes, legal campaign director of Americans for Safe Access, said River City Patient Center is part of an association of medical marijuana collectives in the Sacramento region, established to "spread and protect good business practices around medical marijuana dispensing."
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Baker's pot bust bares legal clash

Postby palmspringsbum » Wed Dec 12, 2007 5:26 pm

The Sacramento Bee wrote:Baker's pot bust bares legal clash

by Stan Oklobdzija, Sacramento Bee
October 6th, 2007

Paula Brown used to be the Betty Crocker of medical marijuana in Sacramento.

Her south Sacramento home was the epicenter of confections such as "Bomb Banana Bread" and "Bubblin' Blueberry Muffins," which she baked and sold to about a dozen regular patients who she says use marijuana to ease the pain of various medical ailments.

But about a month ago, Brown came home to find a cavalcade of police cars hauling away her marijuana plants and carting off her cooking supplies, down to the blenders and mixing bowls.

The Sacramento County Sheriff's Department said that Brown, or "Cookey" as she's known to friends, went outside the law in the manufacture of the "Spectacular Munchies" she advertises on her business card.

"The number of plants (deputies) found exceeded the limits of Proposition 215," said Sgt. Tim Curran, the department spokesman, referring to the 1996 voter initiative that allows Californians to obtain marijuana for medicinal purposes with a doctor's recommendation.

Turning the marijuana into "Crazy Krispy Treats" and other food products also violated the law, Curran said.

However, William Panzer, the Oakland attorney who helped craft Proposition 215, said police may have acted outside their authority in shutting down Brown's business.

"There's no difference in marijuana whether you cook it or eat it or smoke it," he said.

Regarding the number of plants, Panzer said that prohibition exists in a gray area of the law -- one he's successfully challenged about a dozen times in counties across the state.

Brown isn't sure what to think, partly, she said, because she can't get anyone from the Sheriff's Department to return her calls.

Having lost at least $20,000 in plants, grow lights and baked goods to the Sheriff's Department, Brown said she's effectively out of business and her 14 clients are without medicine.

"As far as I'm concerned, they just robbed me," she said.

On Aug. 31, deputies conducted a probation search on Brown's two children, ages 22 and 20, both of whom live with her, Curran said.

According to Brown, the deputies left with 14 mature marijuana plants and about 25 to 30 seedlings. They also took the high-powered lights she uses to grow the plants, about 100 assorted baked goods and a variety of baking supplies.

Brown's case is an example of two medical marijuana laws clashing with one another, Panzer said.

Proposition 215 passed a little over 10 years ago with 56 percent of the vote and became known as the Compassionate Use Act.

It was followed in 2003 by Senate Bill 420, which sought to clarify the proposition. It set six mature marijuana plants or 12 immature plants and up to 8 ounces of dried bud as the maximum one could possess for medicinal purposes without a doctor's recommendation for more.

"What it said is that if you have more than this, you are a felon," Panzer said.

But according to Panzer, this doesn't jibe with the California Constitution, which says that if a law passes by initiative, the Legislature has no authority to amend it. Since Proposition 215 has no limit on the amount of medical marijuana one can possess, setting a cap on plants or processed bud is unconstitutional, he said.

Since it was signed four years ago, "I've challenged it about a dozen times in counties around the state and won it every time," he said.

Curran said the department stands by the charges. It's the department's understanding that "what she was doing was violating the conditions in the proposition," he said.

Ultimately, the arbiter on this case will be the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office, which has yet to receive the case, said spokeswoman Lana Wyant.

Meanwhile, Brown is looking to take legal action to recover her supplies. But without the income from her business, she said, getting a lawyer is tough.

"I've talked to a couple of attorneys," she said. "They said to start saving my money. I said, 'What money?' "
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Former fugitive fails to show for court hearing

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Dec 24, 2007 4:41 pm

The Sacramento Bea wrote:Former fugitive fails to show for court hearing

The Sacramento Bea
By Denny Walsh -
Published 9:38 am PST Friday, December 21, 2007

Louis Wayne Fowler, who was a fugitive for three years in the 1980s in a $5.1 million embezzlement scheme, failed to show up Friday in Sacramento federal court, where he was scheduled to enter a guilty plea to drug and weapon charges.

U. S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia revoked Fowler's $250,000 bail, secured by his parents' Rio LInda home, and also ordered that a no-bail bench warrant be issued for Fowler's arrest. The judge said he would hold the two orders until mid-afternoon Friday to give Fowler's attorney, Johnny Griffin III, an opportunity to track his client down.

The 53-year-old Fowler, who had been operating a Folsom Boulevard marijuana dispensary until his arrest in 2005, was scheduled to plead guilty to manufacturing at least 1,000 marijuana plants and carrying a firearm in connection with drug trafficking.

He served seven years in state prison in the 1990s for embezzling $5.1 million from the State Water Resources Control Board, where he worked as an entry-level accountant from 1982 to 1985. With his crime not yet detected, he departed the agency for Arizona, where he lived under an assumed name, operated two video rental stores and lived a high life distinguished by $100 bills paid to strip-tease dancers, the purchase of expensive guns and the production of homemade pornographic videos, some starring Fowler.

He had one too many brushes with the law in Arizona, and a fingerprint tripped him up and he was extradited back to Sacramento.

Griffin told Garcia he had made numerous telephone calls Friday morning trying to locate Fowler. The attorney said he talked to Fowler's mother, who said as far as she knew he had gone to court.
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Pot seller now a fugitive

Postby palmspringsbum » Sat Dec 29, 2007 7:38 pm

The Sacramento Bee wrote:Pot seller now a fugitive

<span class=postbigbold>Judge revokes bail of $250,000 secured by house owned by mom after he skips a federal change-of-plea hearing.</span>

<table class=posttable width=180 align=right><tr><td class=postcell><img class=postimg src=bin/fowler_louis-wayne.jpg></td></tr><tr><td class=postcell><span class=postbold>Louis Wayne Fowler faced a sentence of 10 years for cultivation. </span></td></tr></table>The Sacramento Bee
By Denny Walsh -
Published 12:00 am PST Saturday, December 29, 2007

Louis Wayne Fowler, one in a long line of people who found out the hard way that the zero tolerance federal policy on marijuana use means just that, is still on the lam to avoid prosecution in Sacramento.

The 53-year-old Fowler, who had been operating a Folsom Boulevard medical marijuana dispensary until he was arrested by Drug Enforcement Administration agents in 2005, failed to show up Dec. 21 for a change-of-plea hearing in federal court.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Garcia revoked the $250,000 bail secured by a Rio Linda residence owned by Fowler's mother, where he had been living under house arrest.

The judge also ordered that a no-bail warrant be issued for Fowler's arrest.

As of Friday, neither his attorney nor his family had heard from Fowler.

"I just hope I haven't seen my brother for the last time," said his sister, Pat Fowler.

His attorney, Johnny Griffin III, said he hoped in vain to hear from his client over the Christmas holiday after stressing to Fowler's mother how important it is that he surrender.

It falls to the U.S. Marshals Service to look for Fowler.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Carolyn Griffin, the agency's warrant supervisor in Sacramento, said the investigation is under way.

The case has been assigned to Deputy U.S. Marshal Marco Rodriguez, according to Griffin.

She said anyone with information that might assist in Fowler's capture should telephone Rodriguez at (916) 930-2047 in Sacramento.

Fowler was scheduled to plead guilty Dec. 21 to cultivating at least 1,000 marijuana plants and carrying a firearm in connection with drug trafficking.

He faced a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison on the cultivation charge.

California voters ratified doctor-recommended marijuana for medicinal use in 1996, and Fowler left his job at his parents' print shop and opened a cannabis store, Alternative Specialties, in August 2004.

But, the following June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state law does not protect pot dealers from the federal statute outlawing the substance.

On the day of the high court's ruling, Fowler told The Bee that his business would remain open.

"I am proceeding as usual," he said at the time. "I've always been violating federal law since I opened, and the Supreme Court ruling just means that I'm still violating federal law.

"But I am in compliance with California law."

Fowler said then that he was inundated with calls from patients wondering how the ruling would affect his business.

"These are very sick people, and they are worried that we might shut down," he said. "I've reassured them that we aren't going anywhere."

A month later, DEA agents armed with search warrants swooped down on Fowler's pot shop, his home, his car and the homes of relatives, seizing marijuana, guns and cash.

Less than a week after that a DEA criminal complaint hit him with drug and weapons charges, and he was arrested and held without bail.

In 2006, Griffin persuaded U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory G. Hollows to cut Fowler loose on bail with electronic monitoring.

Griffin reported to Garcia on Dec. 21 that the electronic tracking device his client was wearing had been compromised around 10 a.m. that day, the very time Fowler was due in court.

The device was removed from Fowler's ankle and left in the residence.

Fowler served seven years in state prison in the 1990s for embezzling $5.1 million from the State Water Resources Control Board, where he worked as an entry-level accountant from 1982 to 1985.

Most of the money has never been recovered.

With his crime not yet detected, he departed for Arizona, where he lived under the name of William Rice, a Sacramento man who died after being electrocuted on July 6, 1985.

Fowler operated two video rental stores in Arizona and lived the life of a big spender.

Authorities caught up with him in 1989, and he was extradited to Sacramento.
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Altered state

Postby palmspringsbum » Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:42 am

News & Reivew wrote:Altered state

<span class="postbigbold">Legalization and pot clubs grow increasingly popular,but California lawenforcement, leadersand other squares still can’t think outside of the box</span>

By Nick Miller |
The Sacramento News & Review | 27 Aug 09

Daylight blinds you as you emerge from the BART station underground onto the sidewalk. Your eyes adjust and the first thing you see is President Barack Obama smiling, so lifelike you could almost reach out and shake his hand. Except he’s just a two-dimensional cardboard cutout in a window display below a sign reading “Oaksterdam University.”

Inside this hall of knowledge, the aroma is unmistakable: marijuana.

Richard Lee, founder and president of Oaksterdam University, is at the far end of the room. It’s been a busy August for the marijuana maverick: He launched an initiative that will give Californians the chance to vote for the legalization of marijuana as soon as next year, if it qualifies for the ballot, which shouldn’t be too hard. Recent polls show that nearly 60 percent of voters might approve such a proposition.

In short, 2009 has been a sea-change year for marijuana. Thanks to Obama, the recession and the explosion of cannabis clubs across the state, legislators are now more willing than ever to go where no politician has gone before. San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has even introduced a bill to legalize pot for adults over 18.

It hasn’t been easy keeping up with the times, and here in Sacramento, officials are years behind when it comes to following the state’s existing medical-marijuana laws. All that may become moot if marijuana is fully legalized. Lee’s confident it will come to pass.

“It’s not a total lock, but it’s doable,” he says.

Lee’s downtown neighborhood, “Oaksterdam” —a portmanteau of Oakland and the Netherlands’ capital—is an example of what regulated, taxed and controlled cannabis can look like. Medical-marijuana collectives, pot-friendly coffeehouses, a weed university complete with a student center and store—Lee’s helped transform Oakland’s blighted, crime-riddled downtown into a unique hub that feeds the city treasury’s coffers to the tune of almost $1 million a year.

This July, Oakland became the first city in America to place a special tax on cannabis sales, which could rake in another $1 million annually. And that’s just the beginning. Number crunchers predict that legalizing marijuana could bring in $2 billion annually statewide. At least. That figure caught the attention of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who stated in May that it’s “time for a debate” on the subject.

Here in Sacramento, the number and unprecedented popularity of dispensaries recently caught City Hall with its pants down, forcing officials to scramble to control a multimillion-dollar industry that exploded under its nose—an industry they still deem “illegal.”

But Californians have made up their minds. They love their pot, and legalization almost seems inevitable.

A little background: In 1996, some 5,382,915 voters took a first step and decided to legalize medical marijuana. The Compassionate Use Act, or Proposition 215, a controversial ballot measure that allowed patients with a doctor’s recommendation to possess and cultivate medical marijuana for personal use, passed with more than 55 percent of the vote.

But the law had loose ends: Could patients form co-ops, or collectives, where cultivated marijuana could be sold? How much marijuana is enough for one person? Who determines said amount: the state, the county, the city, doctors or patients?

It took California eight years to come up with answers to those questions, but finally, in 2004, the Legislature passed the Medical Marijuana Program Act, or Senate Bill 420. Among its many provisions, the law provided counties guidelines for how much cannabis a patient could grow or possess, and also required counties to implement a voluntary identification-card program to protect both patients and caregivers from arrest.

The law also gave patients and caregivers the right to lawfully form collectives, or cannabis dispensaries, which the state requires cities to regulate. Today, there are more than 40 such medical collectives in the Sacramento area, potentially serving 100,000 patients.

The collectives operate in a regulation-free netherworld, but still pay taxes. According to the California State Board of Equalization, statewide medical-marijuana outlets paid more than $18 million in taxes in 2007, and has likely increased since then.

In spite of all this, lawmakers and authorities continue to reject medical marijuana’s legitimacy. Is it that Sacramento can’t keep up—or is the city dragging its feet on purpose?

<span class="postbigbold">Federal flip-flop</span>

“When I first got started here in Sacramento, people were walking in saying they had confrontations with police,” said Lanette Davies, recalling medical marijuana’s early days in the state capital. Davies operates Canna Care, a dispensary in north Sacramento, and is also the Sacramento coordinator for Americans for Safe Access, a member-based organization of patients, doctors, scientists and activists who promote secure and lawful cannabis use.

To be sure, access to legal medical marijuana has been anything but safe during the past decade. Medical cannabis remains illegal under federal law, a fact hammered home by frequent Drug Enforcement Administration raids on collectives.

Under the Bush administration, the DEA raided more than 50 medical-cannabis clubs in 2007 alone, in many cases seizing assets and shutting down rightful tax-paying businesses.

One technique the feds used here in Sacramento, asset forfeiture, involved the DEA notifying landlords with dispensaries as tenants that they could seize their property as complicit in a drug offense; many area landlords received DEA letters in 2007.

The feds also have charged hundreds of people in California with medical-cannabis-related crimes in the past 13 years. SN&R has reported on many of those accused, including Cool residents Mollie Fry and her husband, Dale Schafer (see “Cali-nullification” by Cosmo Garvin; SN&R News; August 23, 2007).

Fry, a cancer survivor, and her husband were caregivers, cultivating marijuana for patients and also for Fry’s own medicinal use. In 2001, DEA officers showed up at their home, arresting the couple and carting away patient records and 34 cannabis plants. It took years for a grand jury to indict the husband and wife, but in 2007 the couple finally went to trial. A year later, a federal judge sentenced Fry and Schafer to five years in prison; the couple currently is free on bail as the case waits to be heard in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Many local dispensaries also have been raided by the feds, mostly on the Bush administration’s watch.

The most notable local DEA raid was on the River City Patient Center in 2007, then located on El Camino Boulevard near Interstate 80. At that time, the club had been in operation for almost three years—pretty much since the implementation of S.B. 420—and, according to owner Bill Pearce, already had paid nearly $750,000 in taxes to the Board of Equalization and $250,000 to the Internal Revenue Service. But the DEA shut River City down anyway.

Bush left office in January, but the future of federal medical-marijuana policy remains in limbo, thanks to the Obama administrations waffling on the issue.

“Of course I inhaled,” Obama admitted on the campaign trail. “That was the point.” He promised that as president, he would end DEA raids on cannabis dispensaries, much to the delight of the state’s medical-marijuana patients.

However, when four Southern California dispensaries were raided in January, after Obama’s inauguration, medical-marijuana advocates cried foul. So, on March 18, the administration trotted out U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to explain that the DEA had been ordered to cease the raids, seemingly upholding Obama’s campaign promise.

Yet in July, Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske—whose appointment was celebrated by medical-marijuana advocates for his supposed liberal views on the topic—announced in Fresno that “Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit.” It wasn’t just a step backward. The drug czar’s pronouncement literally flies in the face of Proposition 215.

The feds, though, aren’t the only ones finding it difficult to cope with this paradigm shift: Sacramento officials also have a longstanding track record of rejecting the state’s marijuana laws.

<span class="postbigbold">Confusion in the city</span>

Sacramento ASA coordinator Davies has witnessed firsthand the city and county’s disregard for medical marijuana’s legal standing. At one point during the past five years, she remembers county officials actually telling her, “The sheriff doesn’t talk to people like you.”

For years, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors refused to approve the state-mandated medical-marijuana ID program. Advocates and patients appeared before the supervisors twice to persuade them to implement the rule and failed both times. The third time was the charm, and the program was finally approved last December, by a vote of 4-1.

However, although the county is now on board, the city continues to drag its feet.

Obama’s election stimulated an unprecedented expansion of area dispensaries, the number of which nearly doubled during the first half of this year, according to longstanding club owners.

According to Assistant City Manager Gus Vina, the sudden explosion of clubs caused the Sacramento County district attorney’s office to request that city officials begin formulating a regulatory ordinance for the dispensaries—something the city should have undertaken five years earlier upon the passage of S.B. 420.

As one city council staffer put it, this “caused the city to take its head out of the sand, which is where it had been.”

According to Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy’s district director Joann Cummins, the extent of the city’s engagement with medical marijuana up until then was that “Robbie Waters would look through SN&R for the [dispensary] ads, then call the DEA.”

Waters did not return calls to comment by deadline; the council member now supports medical marijuana.

In late May, city council referred the matter to committee for investigation. On July 14, the committee recommended enacting a 45-day moratorium on any new dispensaries, which the council approved.

“We’re in research mode,” explained Vina, who’s been charged by the mayor with reaching out to the dispensary stakeholders and drafting an ordinance.

In the meantime, the city still won’t recognize medical-marijuana dispensaries as legitimate businesses.

“Everything that’s here now is still illegal,” Sheedy said last week, arguing that a catch-all loophole in city code—which states that if a business’ use is not specifically permitted under code, it’s by default banned—prohibits city cannabis dispensaries.

As Vina put it, “It’s tricky, because how do you put a moratorium on something that’s illegal?”

“Nobody has a business license to operate,” she added.

<span class="postbigbold">But whose fault it this?</span>

“These cities that are enacting bans [moratoriums] in my opinion are violating state law,” argues Aaron Smith, California director for the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocate group. He cited S.B. 420, which “specifically allows for monetary reimbursement for marijuana and collective cultivation.” Smith says it’s up to the city council to come up with an ordinance, as required by law, not ban legitimate tax-paying businesses.

Sheedy said she views dispensaries as “backdoor, industrial-area businesses,” and that any cannabis-club regulations likely will have the look and feel of the city’s recent payday loans ordinance. She also said the city is looking at Malibu’s medical-marijuana ordinance as a model.

Malibu’s law has sharp teeth: With a population less than 20,000, it only permits three dispensaries, enforces tough land-use restrictions and, this past June, actually denied one of the city’s two grandfathered dispensaries, Green Angel Collective, a permit to continue business operations.

ASA representative Davies also supports the Malibu model.

Vina conceded that the city is in the “very beginning” phase and is actively moving forward to develop fair and informed regulations. He explained that dispensaries recently were given 30 days to register with the city if they wanted to operate as a legitimate cannabis club. Forty dispensaries signed up—a number that Vina called “surprising,” since he’d anticipated “half as many.” (See “Marijuana map,” page 30.)

He also explained that the city likely will extend its moratorium for six to nine more months in September, with the goal of reaching out to stakeholders and introducing a draft ordinance by the end of October.

Until then, medical-cannabis dispensaries will continue doing business as usual—and will pay city taxes. But they will do this illegally in the eyes of the city—even 13 years after Proposition 215.

<span class="postbigbold">Pols go to pot</span>

Tom Ammiano relaxes in a leather chair, his pink tie looking like a Mondrian painting gone wild in this otherwise very sophisticated Capitol office. The freshman Assembly member made national headlines when he introduced a bill this year that would legalize all forms of marijuana, adult and medicinal, in California.

“It will be sooner than we thought,” Ammiano says of the legalization, Assembly Bill 390, which is on a two-year track. “There’s a seduction to [legalizing marijuana] now, because there is a monetary advantage. That’s all we can talk about here: our budgetary crisis. So it’s kind of a perfect storm.”

Unlike most pols, Ammiano actually knows what he’s talking about when it comes to cannabis. He jokes about the drug’s pop-culture ubiquity, laughing at former NBA player Stephon Marbury’s bizarre cannabis confession earlier this month, but also notes that such figures as the late economist Milton Friedman supported marijuana deregulation.

The former San Francisco supervisor has firsthand history with medical marijuana. His partner used cannabis to help alleviate the nausea caused by AIDS. Ammiano thinks marijuana will eventually become a state’s rights issue—“and California will be way ahead of the curve.”

Kind of like Richard Lee in Oakland.

Wearing Easton batting gloves to better helm his wheelchair, Lee rolls down Broadway on the 19th Street crosswalk. “I’m going to have to shave probably,” he laughs; later that day, at 4:20 p.m., Fox Business News will interview the entrepreneur on cable TV.

While Sacramento officials still debate the legality and function of medical-cannabis dispensaries, Lee’s transformed pot into a bona fide boon industry.

“Potentially, it could be $10 [million] to $20 million [a year],” Lee says of the prospective tax influx Oakland would see if his 2010 initiative passes. “And then there’s the indirect taxes,” he notes: rental cars, meal, hotels and visitors traveling across the country to take his Oaksterdam University courses.

“I grew pot for a long time and have been doing this for a long time,” he begins, peering through his dark aviator glasses. “I designed all these classes—except for the marijuana cooking. I don’t know anything about cooking.”

Lee’s two-year-old cannabis-industry college teaches everything from horticulture to history to how to finagle out of a legal snafu if vigilante cops sniff out your cultivation operation. The latter course may be dropped if his initiative goes all the way.

Specifically, the “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010” would give cities and counties a choice to legalize and regulate the cultivation, processing, transportation, distribution and sale of marijuana, just like alcohol. Lee, who says the initiative has more than $1 million in its war chest, will have the 434,000 required signatures by Christmas. He’s confident the initiative will make the 2010 ballot.

A young black woman stops Lee at the street corner. “Can I shake your hand?” she asks. “Thank you so much for everything.”

Lee humbly smiles.

He leads the way east down Broadway and stops in front of a building that looks just like one of the many blighted storefronts at K Street Mall. Except this building has been reclaimed and now houses Oaksterdam University Student Union. Alumni pennants and even an Oaksterdam cheerleader outfit adorn its window display.

Inside are pool tables, a shuffleboard, posters of famous cannabis users like Al Gore and Schwarzenegger, bongs, Volcano vaporizers, ashtrays, tables, Christmas lights and even a students-only pot dispensary in the back.

“You play pool?” Lee asks.


“You smoke? Or is that a journalistic conflict of interest?”


Lee pulls up to a square table and opens his black suitcase, revealing a velvet bag filled with marijuana. He rolls a joint, thick and tight. Two other students come over to the table: David Rodrigues, a mid-20s Boston Red Sox fan who drove across the country from Massachusetts to take Lee’s horticulture class; and Louis Santiago, a New Jersey cannabis advocate.

“I just want to say thank you and tell you how excited I am to take this knowledge back home and show people how it’s done,” Rodrigues tells Lee, who again smiles.

Later, Lee explains that he’s also opened university branches in the East Bay, Los Angeles and Michigan.

“Thirteen medical-marijuana states and our government still hasn’t changed,” he says. “It’s a joke, right? Federal prohibition—it’s going to fall eventually.”

Back at the Capitol, Ammiano also is optimistic.

“Gov. Schwarzenegger made his little lame-ass attempt to say we should discuss it. Candidates are disappointing—but they always are. You have to lower the bar with them. This is a public policy issue. And I think it’s worthy of discussion here.”

Ammiano is confident A.B. 390 eventually will pass.

Locally, however, legalization isn’t even on the radar.

“I’m not going into the legalization,” Sheedy said. “I’m just interested in medicinal.”

She may be dealing with legalization quicker than she thinks. Marijuana’s momentum is building, tax revenues are falling and taxing marijuana may prove irresistible to cash-strapped politicians. That’s just fine by the MPP’s Smith.

“I think the fact that things have moved along so quickly is pleasantly surprising,” he said. “I think we’ve known for a long time that marijuana prohibition is on the way out.”
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Medical marijuana activist Ryan Landers speaks

Postby palmspringsbum » Mon Nov 02, 2009 12:18 am

The Sacramento Press wrote:Medical marijuana activist Ryan Landers speaks

by Cheyenne Cary
The Sacramento Press - 31 Oct 09

Medical cannabis in California wouldn't be what it is today if it wasn't for Ryan Landers. The Sacramento activist helped to develop the laws, policies and realities of medical marijuana in a career of activism that spans more than a decade. He was there to help roll Proposition 215 into motion in 1996 and had a significant hand in crafting SB 420 in 2003.
"I live the cause," he said. "When I'm not out testifying or counseling or negotiating for the cause, I'm just home and sick."

He's a 15-year survivor of HIV/AIDS, a personal fact that he doesn't usually publicize partly due to prior experience.

Landers, now 37, became a member of Californians for Compassionate Use in 1995. CCU is the group behind the successful Prop. 215 ballot initiative that won state medical legalization.

"When we got started, the public perception was really different," Landers said. "As we were collecting signatures, people were shocked. 'What do you mean you want to change drug laws?'"

As a volunteer, Landers ran information tables and collected signatures at California colleges, the Capitol, bookstores and food co-ops. “The press was giving us coverage every night, and I started appearing on TV,” Landers said.

Prop. 215 landed on the 1996 ballot and swept through into law on a 55.6% margin.

Landers is no stranger to news cameras and microphones. His media skills made public figures of his friends Steve Connell and Jacqueline Mahone, who testified beside him for years. He has also worked extensively with activists like East Bay resident Dr. Frank Lucido and Sacramento attorney Joseph Farina, to whom Landers says he probably owes his life.
Getting a tattoo at 16 changed his life forever. He was diagnosed HIV positive in 1995.

He started medicating to help deal with the nausea and pain that the HIV virus and medication brought with it. Cannabis helps relieve his neuropathic pain and allows him to eat and keep food down once a day, even though he hasn't been hungry in 15 years.

Landers' activism reads like a history of medical pot. He testified in the California State Legislature against SB 535 (1997), SB 847 (1999), SB 848 (1999), and SB 187 (2001). He helped to author a revised version of SB 187, which went on to become the successful SB 420.

In appearance, Landers is not what you'd expect when you think of a cannabis activist. He keeps his hair cropped and short, reminiscent of his service with the Navy during the first Gulf War, and stays snappily dressed in three-piece suits on a normal day of business. He looks nothing like Tommy Chong.

The medical cannabis cause wound up making Landers a parent. As he was working with teens at risk of expulsion for cannabis use, he took two kids under his wing and eventually officially adopted them. David, 23, and Nate, 24, both graduated with their senior classes. More recently, they made him a grandfather at 37.

"In the end, that's why I could never walk away, when I thought about how many lives in the community could stand to benefit from this," Landers said. "If what I was doing was dangerous, or if it were wrong, I wouldn't be doing it."

(This story was written by former Sacramento Press intern Cheyenne Cary.)

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