Denver Lawyer Loses Liability Insurance over Mmedical-marijuana Clients

By | Colorado Medical Marijuana Law, General Medical Marijuana Information, News | No Comments

5/13/2012 By John Ingold The Denver Post

In what appears to be a first-of-its-kind event nationwide, a Denver lawyer has lost her liability insurance because part of her practice involves representing medical-marijuana businesses.

Ann Toney’s insurance company told her last month that it will not renew her malpractice coverage. In its terse notice, the Hanover Insurance Group explained that Toney’s practice “does not meet current underwriting guidelines because of the following risk factors: Area of practice involving medical marijuana.”

Toney, a former prosecutor who has taught classes on medical-marijuana law for the Colorado Bar Association, said she was surprised. Most of her work representing medical-marijuana businesses came one or two years ago, when the state’s laws for such businesses were in flux.

She said she has always advised clients that marijuana sales remain illegal federally and made sure her clients are in compliance with state medical-marijuana law.

“You represent people under the laws of Colorado,” she said. “What’s the alternative? No one’s going to get any help following the law in Colorado?”

Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said he knows of no other lawyer to lose insurance because of work with medical-marijuana businesses.

“We’re certainly afraid we’re going to start seeing more now,” St. Pierre said.

He said 625 lawyers nationwide are members of NORML.

Toney’s nonrenewal started brewing earlier this year, when she asked to add a new lawyer to her firm’s coverage. The insurance company asked for more information about Toney’s work in the medical-marijuana field. T

oney replied that 70 percent of her practice involves drunken- and drugged-driving cases, with the remaining 30 percent consisting of criminal defense and medical-marijuana business representation.

Hanover’s nonrenewal notice followed Toney’s response.

Toney said her insurance broker has told her that she will have a hard time getting new insurance because she was dropped by a previous carrier.

Still, Toney said she is confident she can find another carrier willing to take her business.

“I’ll find coverage,” she said. “My only question is, How much more is it going to cost me?”

John Ingold: 303-954-1068 or jingold@denverpost.com

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Economists say U.S. would save billions if pot was legal

By | General Medical Marijuana Information, Medical Marijuana Law | No Comments

MSN Now Wednesday, April 18, 10:45 am :

Where there’s pot, there’s gold. So conclude more than 300 economists who say that the government — if it got out of the business of enforcing marijuana laws — could save a whopping $7.7 billion annually. Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron also figures there’s another $6 billion to be mined each year by taxing the drug at rates similar to booze and tobacco. The economists, who have signed a petition, don’t exactly go as far as Miron in suggesting pot be legalized but maintain that it’s high time, so to speak, for an “open and honest debate.”

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Lawmakers In 5 States Tell Feds To Back Off Medical Marijuana

By | Colorado Medical Marijuana Law, General Medical Marijuana Information, Medical Marijuana Law, News | No Comments

Posted: 04/ 2/2012 4:26 pm by

WASHINGTON — Elected lawmakers in five states have a message for the federal government: Don’t interfere with state medical marijuana laws.

In an open letter to the federal government, lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle called on the government to stop using scarce law enforcement resources on taking pot away from medical marijuana patients.

“States with medical marijuana laws have chosen to embrace an approach that is based on science, reason, and compassion. We are lawmakers from these states,” the lawmakers explained in their letter.

“Our state medical marijuana laws differ from one another in their details, such as which patients qualify for medical use; how much marijuana patients may possess; whether patients and caregivers may grow marijuana; and whether regulated entities may grow and sell marijuana to patients. Each of our laws, however, is motivated by a desire to protect seriously ill patients from criminal penalties under state law.”

The letter — signed by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-Calif.), Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-Wash.), Rep. Antonio Maestas (D-N.M.), Sen. Cisco McSorley (D-N.M.), Assemblyman Chris Norby (R-Calif.), Rep. Deborah Sanderson (R-Maine) and Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Colo.) — comes directly on the heels of a federal raid in the heart of California’s pot legalization movement: medical marijuana training school Oaksterdam University in downtown Oakland, where U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials on Monday blocked off doors with yellow tape and carried off trash bags full of unknown substances to a nearby van. An IRS spokeswoman could not comment on the raid except to say the agents had a federal search warrant.

The lawmakers called on President Obama to live up to his campaign promise to leave the regulation of medical marijuana to the states, adding raids would only “force patients underground” into the illegal drug market.

The president as a candidate promised to maintain a hands-off approach toward pot clinics that adhere to state law. At a 2007 town hall meeting in Manchester, N.H., Obama said raiding patients who use marijuana for medicinal purposes “makes no sense.” At another town hall in Nashua, N.H., he said the Justice Department’s prosecution of medical marijuana users was “not a good use of our resources.” Yet the number of Justice Department raids on marijuana dispensaries has continued to rise.

Read the full letter here:

Over the last two decades, 16 states and the District of Columbia have chosen to depart from federal policy and chart their own course on the issue of medical marijuana, as states are entitlir doctors’ medical advice or risking arrest and prosecution. They have stopped using their scarce law enforcement resources to punish patients and those who care for them and have instead spent considerable resources and time crafting programs that will provide patients with safe and regulated access to medical marijuana.States with medical marijuana laws have chosen to embrace an approach that is based on science, reason, and compassion. We are lawmakers from these states.

Our state medical marijuana laws differ from one another in their details, such as which patients qualify for medical use; how much marijuana patients may possess; whether patients and caregivers may grow marijuana; and whether regulated entities may grow and sell marijuana to patients. Each of our laws, however, is motivated by a desire to protect seriously ill patients from criminal penalties under state law; to provide a safe and reliable source of medical marijuana; and to balance and protect the needs of local communities and other residents in the state. The laws were drafted with considered thoughtfulness and care, and are thoroughly consistent with the American tradition of using the states as laboratories for public policy innovation and experimentation.

Unfortunately, these laws face a mounting level of federal hostility and confusing mixed messages from the Obama Administration, the Department of Justice, and the various United States Attorneys. In 2008, then candidate Obama stated that as President, he would not use the federal government to circumvent state laws on the issue of medical marijuana. This promise was followed up in 2009 by President Obama with a Department of Justice memo from former Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden stating that federal resources should not generally be focused “on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” This provided welcome guidance for state legislators and administrators and encouraged us to move forward with drafting and passing responsible regulatory legislation.

Nonetheless, the United States Attorneys in several states with medical marijuana laws have chosen a different course. They have explicitly threatened that federal investigative and prosecutorial resources “will continue to be directed” towards the manufacture and distribution of medical marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law. These threats have generally been timed to influence pending legislation or encourage the abandonment of state and local regulatory programs. They contradict President Obama’s campaign promise and policy his first year in office and serve to push medical marijuana activity back into the illicit market.

Most disturbing is that a few United States Attorneys warn that state employees who implement the laws and regulations of our states are not immune from criminal prosecution under the federal Controlled Substances Act. They do so notwithstanding the fact that no provision exists within the Controlled Substances Act that makes it a crime for a state employee to enforce regulations that help a state define conduct that is legal under its own state laws.

Hundreds of state and municipal employees are currently involved in the licensing and regulation of medical marijuana producers and providers in New Mexico, Colorado, Maine, and California, and have been for years. The federal government has never threatened, much less prosecuted, any of these employees. Indeed, the federal government has not, to our knowledge, prosecuted state employees for performing their ministerial duties under state law in modern history. It defies logic and precedent that the federal government would start prosecuting state employees now.

Recognizing the lack of any real harm to state employees, a number of states have moved forward. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie drew on his own experience as a former United States Attorney in deciding that New Jersey state workers were not realistically at risk of federal prosecution in his decision to move forward implementing New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. Rhode Island, Vermont, Arizona, and the District of Columbia are also in the process of implementing their state laws.

Nonetheless, the suggestion that state employees are at risk is have a destructive and chilling impact. Washington Governor Christine Gregoire vetoed legislation to regulate medical marijuana in her state and Delaware Governor Jack Markell suspended implementation of his state’s regulatory program after receiving warnings from the United States Attorneys in their states about state employees. Additionally, a number of localities in California ended or suspended regulatory programs after receiving similar threats to their workers.

We, the undersigned state legislators, call on state and local officials to not be intimidated by these empty federal threats. Our state medical marijuana programs should be implemented and move forward. Our work, and the will of our voters, should see the light of day.

We call on the federal government not to interfere with our ability to control and regulate how medical marijuana is grown and distributed. Let us seek clarity rather than chaos. Don’t force patients underground, to fuel the illegal drug market.

And finally, we call on President Obama to recommit to the principles and policy on which he campaigned and asserted his first year in office. Please respect our state laws. And don’t use our employees as pawns in your zealous and misguided war on medical marijuana.

Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-CA)

Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-WA)

Representative Antonio Maestas (D-NM)

Senator Cisco McSorley (D-NM)

Assemblymember Chris Norby (R-CA)

Representative Deborah Sanderson (R-ME)

Senator Pat Steadman (D-CO)

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US Attorney Continues Medical Marijuana Crackdown

By | Colorado Medical Marijuana Law | No Comments
5:37 PM, Mar 23, 2012 Written by: Chris Vanderveen

BOULDER – Colorado’s top federal prosecutor has made good on his promise to continue his crackdown on the state’s medical marijuana industry.

On Friday, US Attorney John Walsh sent letters to the owners of 25 medical marijuana dispensaries telling them they had a month and a half to either shut down or face the possibility of prosecution and property seizure. All, he said, are located within 1,000 feet of a school.

Two months ago, Walsh sent out similar warnings to 23 dispensaries.

“I would say to any medical marijuana dispensary owner whose facility is within a thousand feet of a school that they will be receiving this letter,” he told 9NEWS in January.

Friday’s round of warnings, according to a news release put out by his office, represents a “second phase of an initiative to close all marijuana stores within 1,000 feet of schools.”

The letters, according to the release, formally notify “them that action will be taken to seize and forfeit their property if they do not discontinue the sale and/or distribution of marijuana within 45 days from today.”

Walsh was unavailable for comment on Friday.

This all comes at a time when the Boulder County District Attorney is continuing to ask Walsh to halt the ongoing crackdown.

Last week, Boulder County DA Stan Garnett wrote a letter to Walsh asking the feds to focus their resources elsewhere.

“The people of Boulder County,” he wrote, “do not need Washington, D.C. or the federal government dictating how far dispensaries should be from schools.”

He added that prosecution of dispensary owners acting within the confines of state law serves “no practical purpose.”

This week, Walsh responded with his own letter to Garnett which said that he respectfully disagrees with the state prosecutor’s opinion.

“I believe that enforcing federal law to protect our children and young people from drug abuse is not only a legitimate use of federal resources, but a core responsibility for me and this office,” Walsh wrote.

Garnett said on Friday that he will hold firm with his position.

“I think there are other laws that could be enforced that would actually help us with public safety and not just be symbolic window dressing which this seems to be to me,” he said.

Marijuana, medical or not, remains illegal under federal law. In 2000, Colorado voters approved the limited use of medical marijuana.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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