Medical Marijuana Advocates File Briefs in Federal Court Opposing Disclosure of Private Patient Records

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford 415-573-7842 or ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes 510-681-6361

Medical Marijuana Advocates File Briefs in Federal Court Opposing Disclosure of Private Patient Records

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, an opponent of medical marijuana, is willing to comply with court order

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The country's leading medical marijuana
advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), filed an amicus
"friend of the court"
brief today defending the privacy rights of patients across the U.S.
The federal case U.S. v.
Michigan Department of Community Health
is the result of the
Justice Department seeking private patient records from the state's
medical marijuana program. Last June, the federal Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA) subpoenaed the private records of 7
state-registered patients, but after the Department of Community Health
(DCH) refused to turn over the documents based on provisions in
Michigan's medical marijuana law, the Obama Administration took the
state to court.

"Patient privacy is an important ethical and public health issue of our
time, regardless of whether patients benefits from the use of medical
marijuana," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, author of the amicus
brief filed today. "We must do
everything we can to protect that right to privacy, especially for
medical marijuana patients who remain vulnerable due to an outdated
federal law." Following the subpoenas for patient records, the DEA
conducted raids in July and December of last year, targeting several
state-compliant patient cultivators. No one was indicted as a result of
the raids, but the DEA claims to be engaged in an ongoing investigation.

Though the names of the patients have been redacted in court documents,
the DEA is seeking "copies of any and all documents, records,
applications, payment method of any application for Medical Marijuana
Patient Cards and Medical Marijuana Caregiver cards and copies of front
and back of any cards located for the seven named individuals." Similar
subpoenas were quashed in another district court in 2007, when the G.W.
Bush Administration sought the private records of 17 registered
patients in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program.

Incoming Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, a vocal opponent of
medical marijuana whose office is defending the state, now appears
ready and willing to turn over the documents if so ordered. Despite the
provision of Michigan law which states that the disclosure of
confidential patient information "is a misdemeanor offense, punishable
by up to 6 months imprisonment or a fine of up to $1,000.00," Schuette
agreed to comply with a court order to turn over the documents as long
as "DCH, its employees and agents will be immunized from liability for
providing information that is confidential" under the state medical
marijuana law.

District
Court Judge Gordon J. Quist postponed a January 12th hearing in the
case in order to allow
briefs from the Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs
(MACC), a group of more than 40 Michigan patients and providers
attempting to intervene as an affected party in the case. Cannabis
Patients United (CPU) also filed an amicus brief Tuesday. A hearing
on the briefs is now scheduled for 9am on February 1st at the federal
courthouse, 110 Michigan
St. NW in Grand Rapids. The briefs in support of nondisclosure argue in
part that not only should Michigan and federal privacy law be upheld,
but that
disclosing private records will have a chilling and harmful effect on
patients throughout the U.S. given the continuation of aggressive
federal enforcement
actions under the Obama Administration.

Further information:

ASA amicus brief opposing disclosure of private patient records:
http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/MI_DEA_Subpoena_Amicus.pdf
DEA petition to subpoena private patient records in MI:
http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/MI_DEA_Subpoena_Petition.pdf
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's response to DEA subpoenas:
http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/MI_DEA_Subpoena_AG_Response.pdf

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Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

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