Sunday, October 25, 2009

ASA: Behind the DOJ Memo

10/25/09 by Chris Goldstein

Scoop: Staffers at Americans for Safe Access met with Department of Justice officials before the memo on medical marijuana was released last week.

My role with several marijuana reform non-profits in New Jersey and Pennsylvania requires interaction with the national reform groups. One that has represented patients with great passion and success is Americans for Safe Access.

They have aggressively pursued issues related to medical marijuana laws and then the rights of patients under those laws. ASA has chapters in several states with main offices in California and Washington DC.

On Wednesday I called ASA's DC office to check in about some literature for events. Their Director of Government Affairs is Caren Woodson. She's an experienced beltway player who has led protests on the street and meetings on The Hill. We've interviewed many times for podcasts and radio and have been working together as advocates this year.

After talking business I asked her what she thought of the Department of Justice memo. Caren's usual, very professional tone changed and there was excitement in her voice: She and Steph Sherer, ASA's Director, had been invited for a meeting with DOJ officials the week before. This was the only known meeting of advocates with the DOJ on this issue.

That morning I had just happened to have wrapped up a telephone radio interview with an author of a book on public education. I asked Caren for an interview right away. The recording took 12 minutes and it aired that night on KSFR 101.1FM with my show Active Voice Radio.

LISTEN- MP3 of Caren Woodson's 10/21/09 interview

In the past, ASA was protesting in front of the Department of Justice: Loudly and very visibly protesting at that. Now they are invited in for meetings. There was no stronger indicator this week of this tangible shift in federal policy on medical cannabis.

The impact of the DOJ memo is already being felt locally in NJ/PA. Two major editorials were published in the immediate wake of the news. The NJ General Assembly is expected to see The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act in a floor vote this fall.PA should have the first public legislative hearings on the issue soon.

Philadelphia Inquirer: Easing Their Pain
The Obama administration's new policy on medical marijuana should make it easier for New Jersey and Pennsylvania to legalize its use for seriously ill patients. The Justice Department has removed a major legal hurdle by issuing a memo directing federal prosecutors in states that allow medical marijuana not to target patients or their sanctioned suppliers when the drug is purchased for legitimate purposes. Read Full Editorial
Times of Trenton: It's About Time
New Jersey legislators, poised to vote on the issue, may be encouraged by the federal change of heart. It reflects the opinion of a majority of Americans -- and 82 percent of N.J. residents -- who favor dispensing marijuana to patients. With the new federal policy in place, there is no reason for New Jersey to any longer delay legalizing medical marijuana. Read Full Editorial

NJ residents who support medical marijuana can CLICK HERE TO CONTACT ELECTED OFFICIALS IN NJ

More information about medical cannabis in NJ can be found at the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey

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