Executive director, Marijuana Policy Project
Unless people have been hiding under a rock this past couple months, they know that more than 55 percent of voters in Colorado and Washington legalized marijuana on November 6. As a result, many people have grand expectations of how we’re going to get closer to ending marijuana prohibition in the U.S. this year.
Here is what I think we can reasonably accomplish by the end of 2013:
1. Decriminalize Marijuana in Vermont: Gov. Pete Shumlin (D), a strong supporter of decriminalizing marijuana, partially campaigned on the issue and easily won re-election on November 6 with 58% of the vote. The Vermont Llegislature is poised to pass the bill he wants, so this legislation could become law by this summer.
2. Legalize Medical Marijuana in New Hampshire: Incoming Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) is a strong supporter of medical marijuana, so we expect her to sign a medical marijuana bill similar to those vetoed by former Gov. John Lynch (D) in 2009 and 2012.
3. Build Support for Legalization in the Rhode Island Legislature: We successfully legalized medical marijuana and decriminalized marijuana possession in Rhode Island in 2009 and 2012, respectively. There is now considerable momentum to tax and regulate (T&R) marijuana like alcohol, so we need to ensure that Rhode Island’s state legislature becomes the first to do so.
4. Increase Support for Legalization in California, Maine, and Oregon: There will be a sincere effort to pass T&R bills through the legislatures in these three states. Should they fall short, MPP and its allies will pursue statewide ballot initiatives in November 2016, at which time all three will be expected to pass.
5. Build Our Base of Support Online: People have said that the Internet is marijuana legalization’s best friend, and this could not have been more evident than it was last year. Campaigns mobilized their supporters, organizations raised funds, and the public was able to follow the progress in real time. Prohibitionists, who have depended on the government for its largess for years, are now at a disadvantage. Private citizens simply do not want to donate to them, and most information about marijuana is now reaching the public without being run through their filter.
6. Continue the Steady Drumbeat in the Media: National and local media outlets are covering the marijuana issue more than ever before. Communicating to voters through news coverage is the most cost-efficient way to increase public support for ending marijuana prohibition, so we need to keep the issue in the spotlight.
7. Build Support for Medical Marijuana in Congress: There are already approximately 185 members of the U.S. House who want to stop the U.S. Justice Department from spending taxpayer money on raiding medical marijuana businesses in the 18 states (and DC) where medical marijuana is legal. We want to reach 218 votes on this amendment, thereby ensuring the amendment’s transfer to the U.S. Senate for an up-or-down vote.
8. Build Support for Ending Marijuana Prohibition in Congress: Last year, the first-ever bill to end the federal government’s prohibition of marijuana attracted 21 sponsors. Our goal is to expand the number of sponsors to more than two-dozen during the 2013-2014 election season.
Looking outside our borders, we’re also seeing progress in Colombia, Uruguay, and Chile, which have all been steadily moving away from marijuana prohibition. Although this is good news, most members of the U.S. Congress do not care much about what South American countries think on marijuana policy, so we should temper the wonderful developments south of the U.S. border with limited expectations of what will happen in our nation’s capital.
Ultimately, the U.S. is the primary exporter of prohibition around the world. If we can solve the problem here, the rest of the world will have far more freedom to conduct their own experiments with regulating marijuana.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
WASHINGTON — An appeals court rejected the bid by medical marijuana backers to ease federal controls of the drug, ruling that the government properly kept the substance in its most dangerous category.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld the Drug Enforcement Administration’s decision to maintain marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act because there are no adequate scientific studies finding an acceptable medical use.
“The question before the court is not whether marijuana could have some medical benefits,” U.S. Circuit Judge Harry Edwards wrote in the opinion.
Edwards said the court’s review was limited to whether the DEA’s decision declining to reschedule the drug was arbitrary and capricious. He said the court found there was “substantial evidence” to support the agency’s determination that such studies don’t exist.
The case involves a 10-year-old petition from medical marijuana advocates who asked the DEA to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III, IV or V drug, which would allow for looser regulation. On June 21, 2011, the DEA rejected the request, stating that existing clinical evidence wasn’t adequate to warrant reclassification.
“To deny that sufficient evidence is lacking on the medical efficacy of marijuana is to ignore a mountain of well- documented studies that conclude otherwise,” Joe Elford, chief counsel with Americans for Safe Access, the medical marijuana advocacy
organization that brought the case, said in an e-mailed statement.
Elford told the court during arguments in October that there were more than 200 studies that the agency refused to consider.
The group said it will appeal the ruling, according to the statement.
Lena Watkins, a lawyer for the Justice Department, told the court in October that the studies cited by the marijuana proponents were rejected because the research didn’t meet government standards. She said about 15 studies meet the standards, though the government doesn’t have the final results yet.
The court also waved off claims that government blocked efforts to study the medical effects of marijuana, citing the Health and Human Services Department policy supporting the clinical research with botanical marijuana.
“It appears that adequate and well-controlled studies are wanting not because they have been foreclosed but because they have not been completed,” Edwards said in the ruling.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — President Barack Obama says he won’t go after pot users in Colorado and Washington, two states that just legalized the drug for recreational use. But advocates argue the president said the same thing about medical marijuana — and yet U.S. attorneys continue to force the closure of dispensaries across the U.S.
Welcome to the confusing and often conflicting policy on pot in the U.S., where medical marijuana is legal in many states, but it is increasingly difficult to grow, distribute or sell it. And at the federal level, at least officially, it is still an illegal drug everywhere.
Obama’s statement Friday provided little clarity in a world where marijuana is inching ever so carefully toward legitimacy.
That conflict is perhaps the greatest in California, where the state’s four U.S. Attorneys criminally prosecuted large growers and launched a coordinated crackdown on the state’s medical marijuana industry last year by threatening landlords with property forfeiture actions. Hundreds of pot shops went out of business.
Steve DeAngelo, executive director of an Oakland, Calif., dispensary that claims to be the nation’s largest, called for a federal policy that treats recreational and medical uses of the drug equally.
"If we’re going to recognize the rights of recreational users, then we should certainly protect the rights of medical cannabis patients who legally access the medicine their doctors have recommended," he said.
The government is planning to soon release policies for dealing with marijuana in Colorado and Washington, where federal law still prohibits pot, as elsewhere in the country.
"It would be nice to get something concrete to follow," said William Osterhoudt, a San Francisco criminal defense attorney representing government officials in Mendocino County who recently received a demand from federal investigators for detailed information about a local system for licensing growers of medical marijuana.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano said he was frustrated by Obama’s comments because the federal government continues to shutter dispensaries in states with medical marijuana laws, including California.
"A good step here would be to stop raiding those legal dispensaries who are doing what they are allowed to do by law," said the San Francisco Democrat. "There’s a feeling that the federal government has gone rogue on hundreds of legal, transparent medical marijuana dispensaries, so there’s this feeling of them being in limbo. And it puts the patients, the businesses and the advocates in a very untenable place."
Obama, in an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters, said Friday that federal authorities have "bigger fish to fry" when it comes to targeting recreational pot smokers in Colorado and Washington.
Some advocates said the statement showed the president’s willingness to allow residents of states with marijuana laws to use the drug without fear of federal prosecution.
"It’s a tremendous step forward," said Joe Elford, general counsel for Americans for Safe Access. "It suggests the feds are taking seriously enough the idea that there should be a carve-out for states with marijuana laws."
Obama’s statements on recreational use mirror the federal policy toward states that allow marijuana use for medical purposes.
"We are not focusing on backyard grows with small amounts of marijuana for use by seriously ill people," said Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner in Sacramento. "We are targeting money-making commercial growers and distributors who use the trappings of state law as cover, but they are actually abusing state law."
Alison Holcomb, who led the legalization drive in Washington state, said she doesn’t expect Obama’s comment to prompt the federal government to treat recreational marijuana and medical marijuana differently.
"At this point, what the president is looking at is a response to marijuana in general. The federal government has never recognized the difference between medical and non-medical marijuana," she said. "I don’t think this is the time he’d carve out separate policies. I think he’s looking for a more comprehensive response."
Washington voters approved a medical marijuana law in 1998, and dispensaries have proliferated across the state in recent years.
Last year, Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed legislation that would have created a state system for licensing medical dispensaries over concern that it would require state workers to violate the federal Controlled Substances Act.
For the most part, dispensaries in western Washington have been left alone. But federal authorities did conduct raids earlier this year on dispensaries they said were acting outside the state law, such as selling marijuana to non-patients. Warning letters have been sent to dispensaries that operate too close to schools.
"What we’ve seen is enforcement of civil laws and warnings, with a handful of arrests of people who were operating outside state law," Holcomb said.
Eastern Washington has seen more raids because the U.S. attorney there is more active, Holcomb added.
Colorado’s marijuana measure requires lawmakers to allow commercial pot sales, and a state task force that will begin writing those regulations meets Monday.
State officials have reached out to the Justice Department seeking help on regulating a new legal marijuana industry but haven’t heard back.
DeAngelo said Friday that the Justice Department should freeze all pending enforcement actions against legal medical cannabis providers and review its policies to make sure they’re consistent with the president’s position. He estimated federal officials have shuttered 600 dispensaries in the state and 1,000 nationwide.
DeAngelo’s Harborside Health Center is facing eviction after the U.S. attorney in San Francisco pressured his landlord to stop harboring what the government considers an illegal business.
"While it’s nice to hear these sorts of positive words from the president, we are facing efforts by the Justice Department to shut us down, so it’s hard for me to take them seriously," DeAngelo said.
The dispensary has a hearing Thursday in federal court on the matter.
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By Steve Goldstein
WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing early next year on federal marijuana policy, the head of the committee said Thursday. Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy said he intends to hold a hearing in light of recently passed state laws legalizing personal marijuana use. Given the fiscal constraints of federal law enforcement, Leahy asked in a letter to Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske how the administration plans to use federal resources in light of new laws in Colorado and Washington State, as well as what recommendations the agency is making to the Department of Justice. He also asked the ONDCP director what assurances the administration can give to state officials to ensure they will face no criminal penalties for carrying out their duties under those state laws.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
by David Borden, December 10, 2012, 02:54pm
- Colorado Amendment 64
- Executive Branch
- Federal Courts
- Marijuana Legalization
- Marijuana Policy
- Washington Initiative 502
A mostly great piece in Rolling Stone this weekend, "Obama’s Pot Problem," missed the mark on the federal preemption question — can the feds shut down Washington and Colorado’s legalized regulation systems? Tim Dickinson wrote the following on that subject:
[T]he administration appears to have an open-and-shut case: Federal law trumps state law when the two contradict. What’s more, the Supreme Court has spoken on marijuana law: In the 2005 case Gonzales v. Raich contesting medical marijuana in California, the court ruled that the federal government can regulate even tiny quantities of pot – including those grown and sold purely within state borders – because the drug is ultimately connected to interstate commerce. If the courts side with the administration, a judge could issue an immediate injunction blocking Washington and Colorado from regulating or taxing the growing and selling of pot – actions that would be considered trafficking under the Controlled Substances Act.
But a former Bush administration official quoted in the New York Times on Thursday, former DOJ civil division head Gregory Katsas, made the opposite prediction. Katsas was "skeptical" that a preemption lawsuit would succeed, according to the Times. Why? Perhaps because it’s not just that the feds can’t force states to criminalize drug possession, as Kevin Sabet selectively pointed out to Dickinson. It’s also the case that they probably can’t directly force the states to criminalize sales either. The Controlled Substances Act in fact leans against federal preemption of state drug policy, as pointed out in a law professors brief on preemption submitted in a California case this year.
Dickinson also pointed out that federal officials had used threats to prosecute state employees involved in implementing regulations for medical marijuana. In my opinion the US Attorney letters were deliberately vague — scary enough to influence state officials, but in most if not all cases stopping short of explicitly making that threat. A better piece of evidence, I think, is that in 16 years of state medical marijuana laws, no federal prosecutor has ever tried to actually invalidate such a law in court, not even after the Raich ruling. Why not? They must not think they have a slam dunk case. And if preemption is not a slam dunk for medical marijuana, then it’s not a slam dunk when it comes to legalization either, although there are additional arguments to throw against full legalization.
The reality is that no one knows how this will turn out if it goes to court. Raich established that federal police agencies can use their powers in medical marijuana states to continue to criminalize marijuana federally, justified by the Interstate Commerce Clause. But that is not the same as having the power to forbid states from granting exceptions to the states’ own anti-marijuana sales laws, which in legal terms is what the regulatory frameworks do, and plenty of smart lawyers are skeptical that they can do that. This is not a slam dunk either way.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
CANNABIS IN THE COLONIES
Indeed, cannabis has been grown in America since soon after the British arrived. In 1619 the Crown ordered the colonists at Jamestown to grow hemp to satisfy England’s incessant demand for maritime ropes, Wayne State University professor Ernest Abel wrote in "Marihuana: The First Twelve Thousand Years."
Hemp became more important to the colonies as New England’s own shipping industry developed, and homespun hemp helped clothe American soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Some colonies offered farmers "bounties" for growing it.
"We have manufactured within our families the most necessary articles of cloathing," Jefferson said in "Notes on the State of Virginia." "Those of wool, flax and hemp are very coarse, unsightly, and unpleasant."
Jefferson went on to invent a device for processing hemp in 1815.
TASTE THE HASHISH
Books such as "The Arabian Nights" and Alexandre Dumas’ "The Count of Monte Cristo," with its voluptuous descriptions of hashish highs in the exotic Orient, helped spark a cannabis fad among intellectuals in the mid-19th century.
"But what changes occur!" one of Dumas’ characters tells an uninitiated acquaintance. "When you return to this mundane sphere from your visionary world, you would seem to leave a Neapolitan spring for a Lapland winter – to quit paradise for earth – heaven for hell! Taste the hashish, guest of mine – taste the hashish."
After the Civil War, with hospitals often overprescribing opiates for pain, many soldiers returned home hooked on harder drugs. Those addictions eventually became a public health concern. In 1906, Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act, requiring labeling of ingredients, and states began regulating opiates and other medicines – including cannabis.
MEXICAN FOLKLORE AND JAZZ CLUBS
By the turn of the 20th century, cannabis smoking remained little known in the United States – but that was changing, thanks largely to The Associated Press, says Isaac Campos, a Latin American history professor at the University of Cincinnati.
In the 1890s, the first English-language newspaper opened in Mexico and, through the wire service, tales of marijuana-induced violence that were common in Mexican papers began to appear north of the border – helping to shape public perceptions that would later form the basis of pot prohibition, Campos says.
By 1910, when the Mexican Revolution pushed immigrants north, articles in the New York Sun, Boston Daily Globe and other papers decried the "evils of ganjah smoking" and suggested that some use it "to key themselves up to the point of killing."
Pot-smoking spread through the 1920s and became especially popular with jazz musicians. Louis Armstrong, a lifelong fan and defender of the drug he called "gage," was arrested in California in 1930 and given a six-month suspended sentence for pot possession.
"It relaxes you, makes you forget all the bad things that happen to a Negro," he once said. In the 1950s, he urged legalization in a letter to President Dwight Eisenhower.
REEFER MADNESS, HEMP FOR VICTORY
After the repeal of alcohol prohibition in 1933, Harry Anslinger, who headed the federal Bureau of Narcotics, turned his attention to pot. He told of sensational crimes reportedly committed by marijuana addicts. "No one knows, when he places a marijuana cigarette to his lips, whether he will become a philosopher, a joyous reveler in a musical heaven, a mad insensate, a calm philosopher, or a murderer," he wrote in a 1937 magazine article called "Marijuana: Assassin of Youth."
The hysteria was captured in the propaganda films of the time – most famously, "Reefer Madness," which depicted young adults descending into violence and insanity after smoking marijuana. The movie found little audience upon its release in 1936 but was rediscovered by pot fans in the 1970s.
Congress banned marijuana with the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Anslinger continued his campaign into the ’40s and ’50s, sometimes trying – without luck – to get jazz musicians to inform on each other. "Zoot suited hep cats, with their jive lingo and passion for swift, hot music, provide a fertile field for growth of the marijuana habit, narcotics agents have found here," began a 1943 Washington Post story about increasing pot use in the nation’s capital.
The Department of Agriculture promoted a different message. After Japanese troops cut off access to Asian fiber supplies during World War II, it released "Hemp For Victory," a propaganda film urging farmers to grow hemp and extolling its use in parachutes and rope for the war effort.
As the conformity of the postwar era took hold, getting high on marijuana and other drugs emerged as a symbol of the counterculture, with Jack Kerouac and the rest of the Beat Generation singing pot’s praises. It also continued to be popular with actors and musicians. When actor Robert Mitchum was arrested on a marijuana charge in 1948, People magazine recounted, "The press nationwide branded him a dope fiend. Preachers railed against him from pulpits. Mothers warned their daughters to shun his films."
Congress responded to increasing drug use – especially heroin – with stiffer penalties in the ’50s. Anslinger began to hype what we now call the "gateway drug" theory: that marijuana had to be controlled because it would eventually lead its users to heroin.
Then came Vietnam. The widespread, open use of marijuana by hippies and war protesters from San Francisco to Woodstock finally exposed the falsity of the claims so many had made about marijuana leading to violence, says University of Virginia professor Richard Bonnie, a scholar of pot’s cultural status.
In 1972, Bonnie was the associate director of a commission appointed by President Richard Nixon to study marijuana. The commission said marijuana should be decriminalized and regulated. Nixon rejected that, but a dozen states in the ’70s went on to eliminate jail time as a punishment for pot arrests.
"JUST SAY NO"
The push to liberalize drug laws hit a wall by the late 1970s. Parents groups became concerned about data showing that more children were using drugs, and at a younger age. The religious right was emerging as a force in national politics. And the first "Cheech and Chong" movie, in 1978, didn’t do much to burnish pot’s image.
When she became first lady, Nancy Reagan quickly promoted the anti-drug cause. During a visit with schoolchildren in Oakland, Calif., as Reagan later recalled, "A little girl raised her hand and said, ‘Mrs. Reagan, what do you do if somebody offers you drugs?’ And I said, ‘Well, you just say no.’ And there it was born."
By 1988, more than 12,000 "Just Say No" clubs and school programs had been formed, according to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library. Between 1978 and 1987, the percentage of high school seniors reporting daily use of marijuana fell from 10 percent to 3 percent.
And marijuana use was so politically toxic that when Bill Clinton ran for president in 1992, he said he "didn’t inhale."
MEDS OF A DIFFERENT SORT
Marijuana has been used as medicine since ancient times, as described in Chinese, Indian and Roman texts, but U.S. drug laws in the latter part of the 20th century made no room for it. In the 1970s, many states passed symbolic laws calling for studies of marijuana’s efficacy as medicine, although virtually no studies ever took place because of the federal prohibition.
Nevertheless, doctors noted its ability to ease nausea and stimulate appetites of cancer and AIDS patients. And in 1996, California became the first state to allow the medical use of marijuana. Since then, 17 other states and the District of Columbia have followed.
In recent years, medical marijuana dispensaries – readily identifiable by the green crosses on their storefronts – have proliferated in many states, including Washington, Colorado and California. That’s prompted a backlash from some who suggest they are fronts for illicit drug dealing and that most of the people they serve aren’t really sick. The Justice Department has shut down some it deems the worst offenders.
LEGAL WEED AT LAST
On Nov. 6, Washington and Colorado pleased aging hippies everywhere – and shocked straights of all ages – by voting to become the first states to legalize the fun use of marijuana. Voters handily approved measures to decriminalize the possession of up to an ounce by adults over 21. Colorado’s measure also permits home-growing of up to six plants.
Both states are working to set up a regulatory scheme with licensed growers, processors and retail stores. Eventually, activists say, grown-ups will be able to walk into a store, buy some marijuana, and walk out with ganja in hand – but not before paying the taxman. The states expect to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for schools and other government functions.
But it’s not so simple. The regulatory schemes conflict with the federal government’s longstanding pot prohibition, according to many legal scholars. The Justice Department could sue to block those schemes from taking effect – but hasn’t said whether it will do so.
The bizarre journey of cannabis in America continues.
Johnson can be reached at https://twitter.com/GeneAPseattleRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Colorado’s newly-passed Amendment 64 contemplates a brave new world in which adults in the state will be able to lawfully smoke small amounts of marijuana purchased from licensed (and heavily taxed) local retailers. But that world isn’t even scheduled to begin until 2014, and only then if there are significant changes in the many assorted ways in which federal law criminalizes recreational marijuana possession and use. There is the legal component to the issue. There is the political component to it. And of all the paths forward there is one that is clearest and the most fair. What are the odds that it is the one Washington now chooses?
Since Colorado (and Washington state) legalized the use of recreational marijuana last week, the national conversation about what comes next has focused primarily on the obvious conflict between federal and state authority. On the one hand, we have the Controlled Substances Act, the venerable federal statute that for the past four decades has labelled marijuana as a "Schedule 1" substance on par with heroin. And on the other hand we have a clear policy choice made by voters in the election of 2012 that marijuana should be treated like alcohol. There’s been a rebellion out west, in other words, which the feds are destined to win.
But there is another conflict here that’s been splayed open by the ballot initiatives, one which is more fundamental to the future of lawful marijuana use than any argument the feds will now use to stop the state initiatives. It’s the ongoing conflict over the science of marijuana, over the quality of proof of its medicinal values, which is central to the coming court fights. Until the Drug Enforcement Administration changes its marijuana classification, until lawmakers recognize its therapeutic uses, reformers like those in Colorado and Washington will be crushed in court.
The federal policy choice on marijuana’s classification is the horse. The Justice Department’s coming use of that policy against the states is the cart. And that’s why the timing of the state initiatives is so compelling. Just last month, a few weeks before the election, a panel of three federal judges in Washington, D.C., heard oral arguments in a case on this very point called Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration. The feds say that studies of the virtues of medical marijuana are not rigorous enough to warrant a change in DEA policy. The reformers say there is enough proof, and testimony, to justify the change.
So far, the case hasn’t gotten nearly as much coverage as it should have, and as it would have had the hearing been held this week (last Tuesday, Massachusetts also became the 18th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana). But here’s all you need to know about the institutional forces of the law which are working against the reformers. Referring to the DEA, Judge Merrick Garland asked a question a million judges before him have asked when evaluating whether to push a federal agency to do something it hasn’t before wanted to do: "Don’t we have to defer to their judgment?"
Their judgment. The Colorado and Washington initiatives are the most forceful and populist responses yet to the antiquated judgment of DEA policy makers. The state measures also are a repudiation of Congress’ discriminatory marijuana laws and the law-and-order lobby’s priorities. And even if the new state laws stand today on poor legal ground–let’s face it, they do–the success of the initiatives out West already has sent a strong political message to Washington on marijuana policy: You can’t go back. You can no longer stay still. The only choice left is to figure out the smartest way to go forward.
Something’s gotta give. Right now, a White House that prides itself on being on the right side of science when it comes to global warming is on the wrong side of science when it comes to medical marijuana. Right now, a Congress that praises states’ rights is hampering the ability of states to experiment with new sources of revenue. Right now, the federal government in all its forms is taking a position which may have made sense in the early 1970s but which is now directly at odds with the testimony of thousands of military veterans who say marijuana helps ease their pain.
The faces of the movement aren’t just the young voters out West who think it’s absurd that they can drink alcohol but can’t get high. They aren’t just the entrepreneurs in Colorado who are making the marijuana industry a burgeoning, tax-revenue-generating retail industry. They aren’t the conservative figures who want to stop paying the prison costs of incarceration for marijuana offenses. They are also American war veterans like Michael Krawitz. He’s a disabled plaintiff in the ongoing DEA lawsuit in Washington. Here’s how The Guardian explains why:
Krawitz had been receiving opiate-based pain relief from the VA until they discovered a prescription for medical marijuana he had received while abroad. They asked him to take a drug test and when he refused, they stopped his treatment. "It said right there in the contract that if they find illegal drugs in your system they they will not give you any pain treatment," he said. "I found that offensive. I’ve been getting this pain treatment for years."
The Colorado and Washington measures aren’t likely a tipping point for marijuana legalization. But they may be a tipping point toward a federal drug policy that recognizes that marijuana is different from heroin–and even that would be a long-overdue step in the right direction. The Justice Department soon will challenge the state initiatives in court and the feds almost certainly will win. No federal judge wants to be the one to declare marijuana "legal" before Congress or the DEA does. What the White House ought to do in the meantime, however, is demand a broad new review of the federal government’s marijuana policies.
At a minimum, such a review ought to embrace the following truths, which appear to millions of Americans, including millions of young people who came out to vote for President Obama, to be self-evident. The Controlled Substances Act didn’t come down from the mountaintop. Marijuana’s "Schedule 1" classification isn’t engraved in stone. And the DEA and its policy experts are hardly the Sanhedrin. Whatever else they mean, the Colorado and Washington laws mean the time has come for the feds to better justify a drug policy that has lost key pillars of its factual and political support.
If the administration undertakes this sort of review–"hopefully, the historic in in Colorado will help pressure the federal government to bring a more science-based approach to drug laws," coyly says Brian Vicente, one of the attorneys behind Amendment 64–it will help insulate the White House from progressive complaints about the coming federal litigation to block the two legalization measures. And it will hardly outrage conservatives, many of whom, like the Koch brothers, support legalization efforts. Such a review, you could say, is the very least the President could do for all those people who came out to vote for him these past two cycles.
That, anyway, is the larger view. For a closer look, I asked Professor Sam Kamin, who teaches at the University of Denver Law School, to share his thoughts on what’s likely to happen next in Colorado. Kamin has closely followed Colorado’s successful embrace of medical marijuana as well as its new dance with outright legalization. Here is a (slightly) edited transcript of our email interview:
COHEN: The voters have spoken. Colorado’s Constitution is changed. But isn’t the next step legislation and regulation within the state to determine how it is all going to work? I’m sure you’ve thought about happens now within the state government. As specifically as you can, please walk me through the next few weeks and months.
KAMIN: Everything now depends on what the federal government does next. We know that our governor has been in conversations with the Attorney General Holder about what the Justice Department will do next, but so far he has not been particularly forthcoming about what he has learned. If the federal government indicates a willingness to permit Washington and Colorado to proceed with legalization- and I very much doubt that it will–then the legislature and administrative agencies in these states will begin work on how the industry will be taxed and regulated. This should not be a particularly complicated task; Colorado has regulated and taxed medical marijuana since 2010. Little would need to change about this regulation except removing the requirement that those seeking to buy marijuana from a licensed retailer obtain a doctor’s recommendation first.
COHEN: The average citizen in Colorado who voted for this Amendment is wondering when she’ll be able to buy marijuana and smoke it legally without a medical certification. Is that completely dependent upon how the coming legal fight plays out? And is the expectation that the feds will challenge the initiative at the point of sale?
KAMIN: I think this is the crucial question. The federal government has always had the power to shut down state experimentation with marijuana legalization. Marijuana remains a controlled substance whose sale and manufacture are prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Thus, every sale of marijuana in every state–whether it has legalized marijuana for medical purposes or otherwise–remains a federal crime. The federal government could thus arrest every person who sells marijuana in these states or at least arrest enough of them to make the others reconsider their choices.
A less confrontational approach would be to file suit–as the federal government did in Arizona to enjoin the enforcement of SB 1070–to prevent the implementation of Amendment 64. Interestingly, there is little the federal government could do about Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana–the federal government lacks the power to force the states to criminalize any particular conduct. The states are under no obligation to mirror the CSA or to help the federal government enforce it. Thus, the states may presumably repeal their marijuana prohibitions without running afoul of federal law.
However, the second part of Amendment 64–requiring the state to set up procedures for the licensing of recreational marijuana dispensaries–is more problematic. The federal government could allege that such state-level sanctioning of marijuana businesses would constitute an impermissible obstacle to the enforcement of the CSA. Where state and federal law conflict, the federal law is supreme.
COHEN: The Justice Department has said since the election that Amendment 64 doesn’t change federal law and of course it doesn’t. Is there any way for the initiative to survive without a change to the federal classification of marijuana as a controlled substance on par with heroin? How can Colorado and Washington (state) move Washington to reevaluate that classification?
KAMIN: A little-understood aspect of the marijuana legalization movement is that the reclassification of marijuana would likely prove fatal to the legalization movement. Currently, marijuana is a Schedule I narcotic, a drug whose manufacture and sale are strictly prohibited. If it were re-classified to a less serious category it would then be available as medicine, likely subject to a doctor’s prescription. Of course, such a rule, which the federal government would likely enforce more strictly than it has the current prohibition, would forbid the licensing of recreational dispensaries in the states. Marijuana law reform has been proceeding along parallel tracks–in the courts, Congress and in the states–and those different tracks are beginning to create tensions.
COHEN: Look into your crystal ball. What’s the most likely outcome here? If there is to be a surprise, legally or politically, what do you figure it will be?
KAMIN: I imagine we will see something less than the dramatic federal response described above. I imagine the federal government will offer the states a return to the status quo prior to November 6. That is, I can imagine the Justice Department telling the states that it will continue to grudgingly permit the states to continue with medical marijuana but that full legalization is a bridge too far. This was essentially the message that Attorney General Holder sent to the California voters who ultimately rejected Proposition 19 in 2010. It was a difficult message for the Obama administration to send in a presidential election year in a swing state, however. With the election now passed, we may see a repeat of 2010. Like everyone else, though, I’m simply guessing.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
by Johnny Archer
Posted on October 22, 2012 at 6:43 AM
Updated today at 1:28 PM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Supporters of medical marijuana are touring the country and their unique vehicle is creating a lot of buzz along the way.
Sunday the Canna-bus mad a stop in Louisville. It’s a school bus that has been transformed into a rolling billboard for the legalization of cannabis movement.
Stacey Theis from Arizona is the driver and she said it is all about getting the word out about the benefits of medical marijuana.
“I’m just out there to tell everybody I can about the truth because they deserve to know the truth. They deserve to know that there is something to better their lives to fight for,” Theis said.
Theis and other pro-cannabis supporters argue medical marijuana is beneficial for a variety of chronic conditions like post traumatic stress disorder, cancer and multiple sclerosis.
Erin Grossman from Louisville was diagnosed with a neuro-degenerative disease in 2001. She said she pays about $500 dollars a month for treatment out of pocket, while Medicare pays the rest. However, Grossman said her medical bills would be cut dramatically if Kentucky were to legalize marijuana.
“Marijuana would remove about 80 percent of the prescriptions I’m currently taking,” Grossman said.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the FDA has not approved marijuana as a medicine for several reasons.
First there have not been enough clinical trials that show ‘marijuana-benefits’ outweigh its risks. Also, marijuana doesn’t have well defined and measurable ingredients. It has adverse health effects, and when smoked it can cause respiratory symptoms. Marijuana may also cause short term memory and impair motor coordination.
Despite the FDA’s reasons, 17 states in the U.S. have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.
Ron Moore with the Kentucky Veterans for Medical Marijuana is campaigning to legalize marijuana in Kentucky.
“The wave is cresting and I do believe if not this session, next session, we will at least get a hearing on it and that’s all we want,” Moore said.
For now, this bus will keep on “rolling green” to spread the message around the country.
The Canna-bus started its tour Wednesday in North Carolina and it will stop in several cities before completing its journey in Arizona.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Green Bus Tour for Marijuana Legalization
As we roll across America we may need the following things.
SPONSORS and Donations for fuel and food, we could not do this without you and you and you.
a warm place to sleep,
your support by sharing our posts,
Promoters to organize our upcoming arrivals
Bus Riders to promote
Testimonials from the public on video
your signature on the bus ceiling.
It’s your bus! Let’s make it legal!
All images are the property of the Green Bus Tour for Marijuana Legalization…
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 22, 2012
When: Monday October 22, 1:00pm
Where: City Hall Steps 801 Plum St. Cincinnati, Ohio
The CannaSense Campaign Tour to Legalize Marijuana Across the United States and End Prohibition 2, has begun with the Green Cannabus!
It’s Mission: The Green Cannabus is touring the United States this Election Year to spotlight Marijuana Legalization. Stacey Theis and friends started in North Carolina and will end up in Arizona after many city stops along the way.
Monday, the 22nd, the Cannabus is stopping in Cincinnati for a Meet and Greet and Press Conference to talk about why ending Cannabis Prohibition makes sense.
Speaking at the Press Conference will be CannaSense Campaign Director Stacey Theis, Jake Jones (Son of Deceased Drug War Victim, Gary Shepherd), Medical Cannabis Activist Tonya Davis with NORML Women’s Alliance, Ohio Alternative Treatment Amendment and Sponsor of the Ohio Medical Compassion ACT (HB 214). They will be sharing their stories and vision of how President Obama can re-schedule Cannabis so Doctors and Patients can decide healthcare choices, not our Government. They believe he can win back the voters he’s losing by keeping his 2008 campaign promise to let Medical Cannabis be a States Right issue.
Also speaking will be Moms, Dads, Grandparents and Patients from all walks of life…all wanting to end Prohibition 2 and to stop wasting tax payer’s dollars on wrecking the lives of families by arresting, prosecuting, caging up and creating criminals out of otherwise law abiding citizens.
No Victim, No Crime.
From 4-5pm, the Cannabus Folks will be guests on HempRock Radio which airs on WVQC-LP 95.7 FM, http://www.wvqc.org and with the WVQC Phone App at http://www.tunein.com. WVQC-LP broadcasts from Media Bridges studios in the Crosley Telecommunications Building on Central Parkway.
For more information, please contact Tonya Davis 937.479.0461 and go to
Respectfully, Tonya Davis
From Barney Frank to Ron Paul, these elected leaders are challenging the government’s pointless war on marijuana
October 9, 2012 3:16 PM ET
This month marks the 75th anniversary of marijuana prohibition in America – and the evidence suggests that the government ban may finally be on its way out. Last year, for the first time ever in this country, a Gallup poll found that a majority of Americans think marijuana should be legal, and several states have legalization bills on their ballots this fall.
Despite this changing landscape, most national politicians have been slow to adapt their stances on weed. But there are a number of political power players fighting to reform the pot policies that lock up more than 800,000 Americans per year. This fall, two third-party presidential candidates – Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson – favor legalization. And while winning is a very long shot for either of them, there are a growing number of elected officials – both Republicans and Democrats – on the right side of this issue. Read on for 10 of the strongest reform advocates in office today:
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts)
Frank, who plans to retire next year after three decades in Congress, has never been afraid to back marijuana reform. In response to the federal war on state medical marijuana programs, Frank recently introduced legislation to prohibit such interference. The States Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act would specify that no part of the Controlled Substances Act "shall prohibit or otherwise restrict" medical marijuana in states where it has been made legal or prescribed medically. It also calls for a review of marijuana’s Schedule I classification – which defines the plant as dangerous and not medically valuable – in favor of the less-restrictive Schedule III category. Unfortunately, since being referred to committee in May, the bill has seemingly stalled.
In the meantime, Frank has continued to speak out for both medical and non-medical marijuana users. "If there’s an activity that I could engage in without hurting anyone else, as an adult, but other people if they engage in it may abuse it, please don’t prevent me from doing it," Frank said last month. "Whether you want to do these things or not ought to be your own choice."
Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas)
Paul, another retiring congressman, is one of the most prominent voices for drug law reform. A sharp critic of the War on Drugs and its violations of civil liberties, Paul sees ending pot prohibition as part of his libertarian philosophy. Campaigning in the Republican presidential primary, he vowed to pardon all non-violent drug offenders if elected – a stance that made him very popular with young voters. Along with Barney Frank, Paul co-sponsored the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011, which would have amended the Controlled Substances Act to remove marijuana from the Schedule I category, leaving legalization and regulation up to the states. The bill is viewed as unlikely to pass.
Rep. Sam Farr (D-California)
Farr has been a leading legislative voice for medical marijuana patients’ rights at trial. "The federal government has tilted the scales of justice towards conviction by denying medical marijuana defendants the right to present all of the evidence at trial," he recently said. In 2009 and again this summer, Farr introduced the Truth in Trials Act, which would grant medical marijuana patients the ability to present courtroom evidence on their prescription-authorized use of the drug. The bill was promptly referred to the Judiciary Committee, and will likely die before making it to a vote. Nevertheless, Farr has thrown his weight behind other medical marijuana legislation, including the Rohrabacher-Hinchey-Farr-McClintock Medical Marijuana Amendment to bar federal funding for federal raids and the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-California)
A staunch Republican, Rohrabacher has called out President Obama for escalating the war on pot and has criticized federal pot prohibition as a drain on resources and an infringement on states rights. "I don’t believe that you protect people by throwing them in cages," Rohrabacher said last fall. "For us to be taking people for smoking a weed and putting them in prison or jail for that is a travesty. It’s against everything our founding fathers believed in and somehow we got away from that."
In May, Rohrabacher co-sponsored the bipartisan Rohrabacher-Hinchey-Farr-McClintock Medical Marijuana Amendment, which would have forbidden the Justice Department from using federal funding for raids on state-approved medical marijuana operations. (A week later, the House struck it down in a roll call vote.) Last year, he supported California’s unsuccessful legalization initiative, the Regulate Marijuana Like Wine Act; he has also co-sponsored the recent Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, the States Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act and the Truth in Trials Act.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California)
This August, Lee introduced the Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act to defend medical marijuana operators from losing their property – a tactic the federal government has used in both threats and reality. "The people of California have made it legal for patients to have safe access to medicinal marijuana, and as a result thousands of small business owners have invested millions of dollars in building their companies, creating jobs and paying their taxes," Lee said. "We should be protecting and implementing the will of voters, not undermining our democracy by prosecuting small business owners who pay taxes and comply with the laws of their states in providing medicine to patients in need." The bill has struggled to move since being referred to committee on August 14. Lee also co-sponsored the States Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, the Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 and the Truth in Trials Act.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado)
In 2010, when the feds raided a number of medical marijuana operations in Colorado, Polis spoke up in defense of his constituents. In a letter to Eric Holder, Polis urged the attorney general to enforce the Justice Department’s written guidelines, which discourage federal interference with legal medical marijuana operations at the state level. Polis also co-sponsored the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act and the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act – but it was his showdown this June with Drug Enforcement Agency head Michele Leonhart that really earned him his stripes. When Leonhart testified before a House judiciary subcommittee, Polis pressed her on whether drugs like crack and heroin are more or less dangerous than marijuana. Leonhart contended that "all illegal drugs are bad," refusing to acknowledge any distinction between pot and harder substances. "If you don’t know, you can look this up," Polis retorted. "You should know this as the chief administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency." Video of the exchange went viral, providing a clear example of the irrational beliefs behind pot prohibition.
Rep. Early Blumenauer (D-Oregon)
As a speaker at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws conference in 2010, Blumenauer told attendees they had reached their "decade of decision." Despite his past statements in favor of marijuana legalization, he is one of the weaker advocates on this list after failing to back Oregon’s legalization initiative, Measure 80, which will be on the ballot in November. However, Blumenauer has continued to speak out for drug reform, and he has co-sponsored many of the recent pro-pot bills, including the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, the States Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act and the Truth in Trials Act.
Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-Connecticut)
Last year, Connecticut’s governor signed a marijuana decriminalization bill into law. Instead of facing a $1,000 fine and possible jail time, marijuana offenders now must pay $150 for their first offense and between $200 and $500 for subsequent violations. This spring, Malloy also signed a new law making Connecticut the country’s 17th state to legalize medical marijuana. (As his opponents often point out, Connecticut’s governor has a personal stake in marijuana policy reform: His son, now in his twenties, has had multiple legal run-ins allegedly involving marijuana.)
Gov. Pete Shumlin (D-Vermont)
When Vermont legalized medical marijuana in 2004, the legislation had one gaping loophole: It did not allow for dispensaries. To assist the patients who were now legally allowed to use medical marijuana but forced to grow their own or buy on the black market, Shumlin signed a bill last summer authorizing up to four medical marijuana dispensaries in Vermont. And late last year, Shumlin joined two other governors – Washington’s Christine Gregoire (a Democrat) and Rhode Island’s Lincoln Chafee (an Independent) – in petitioning the Drug Enforcement Agency to reclassify marijuana, moving it out of the highly restrictive, non-medical Schedule I category to at least Schedule II, which would recognize marijuana’s medical benefits. (Shumlin has been harder on so-called synthetic marijuana, recently signing a ban on chemicals commonly found in the substances. "We’re not talking about a plant that is grown, like marijuana," he said. "This junk will kill you.")
Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan)
In 2008, while serving as chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Conyers slammed the Drug Enforcement Agency and its leader, Michele Leonhart, for executing pot raids on California’s regulated medical marijuana program. Pulling few punches, he made clear his opinion that dispensary-busting was an inappropriate response by the DEA and a waste of resources. "Please explain what role, if any, emerging scientific data plays in your decision-making process to conduct enforcement raids on individuals authorized to use or provide medical cannabis under state law," he wrote in a pointed letter to Leonhart. At a press conference last summer, Conyers went further, arguing for the decriminalization of marijuana for recreational use. He also co-sponsored Frank’s Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act.
Written by Alex Newman
Following the adoption of a new state law on jury nullification in June, a New Hampshire jury nullified its first major felony marijuana case on September 14 when jurors decided to free Doug Darrell, a 59-year-old father of four grown children who was growing illegal plants in his backyard. Activists hailed the decision as a significant victory for the jury nullification movement, which aims to revive awareness about the power inherent in juries to protect citizens from overzealous prosecutors and bad laws by nullifying cases.
Darrell, a Rastafarian piano tuner and woodworker who has been married for almost four decades, was arrested after a National Guard helicopter spotted some marijuana plants on his property in Barnstead. State prosecutors charged him with cultivation, a felony that could have carried up to seven years in prison.
It was clear that he had been growing the marijuana — nobody disputed that. Eventually Darrell was offered a deal that would have allowed him to avoid jail time and fines in exchange for a misdemeanor guilty plea. He refused, however, citing his religion and its view that marijuana is a sacrament. So the case went to trial.
Jurors, led by liberty-minded activist Cathleen Converse of the Free State Project, decided Darrell should be set free. “Mr. Darrell is a peaceful man, he never deals with the darker elements of society and he grows for his own personal religious and medicinal use,” Converse said during an exclusive interview with Free Talk Live, a freedom-oriented talk-radio program. “I knew that my community would be poorer rather than better off had he been convicted.”
So, to prevent that, she helped convince other jurors to do as the defense suggested: vote their conscience and declare Darrell a free man. “Many of us wondered what kind of precedent this would set,” Converse continued. “But after chewing on all of the possibilities and re-reading the definition of nullification, we all decided that the only fair thing to do was to vote with our consciences and acquit the defendant of all charges.”
Jury nullification, of course, is a time-tested practice that goes back to before the American Declaration of Independence. Essentially, it occurs when members of a jury decide to free somebody even though prosecutors prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused did indeed violate a criminal statute.
Juries have historically relied on nullification for various reasons including to reject unjust or unconstitutional laws, to free defendants in cases where laws have been misapplied by overzealous officials, and more. During alcohol prohibition it became commonplace as jurors refused en masse to convict their compatriots for drinking illegal substances.
Before that, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Jay informed a jury in 1794 that jurors have “a right to take upon yourselves to judge of both, and to determine the law as well as the fact in controversy.” Numerous other Supreme Court justices and Founding Fathers have touted the practice, too. And despite being largely overlooked today, activists across America are trying hard to build awareness about it.
In June, those nullification advocates secured a major victory. New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch signed HB 146 into law allowing defendants to inform jurors about the jury’s “right to judge the application of the law in relationship to the facts in controversy.” That law does not officially take effect until January, but it has already made waves throughout the state’s judiciary system.
“It’s a really important development,” Darrell’s defense attorney Mark Sisti told the New Hampshire Union Leader, adding that most state residents have no problem with moderate marijuana use by adults and that legislatures across America are rethinking their laws on the controversial plant. “We’re moving along a path we should have been on years ago.”
Sisti acknowledged, though, that the judge’s decision to instruct the jury about nullification was crucial to the victory. Judge James O’Neill, following the state’s model jury instruction on nullification, told jurors that "even if you find that the State has proven each and every element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt, you may still find the defendant not guilty if you have a conscientious feeling that a not guilty verdict would be a fair result in this case."
While warning that jury nullification is not a “get-out-of-jail-free card,” Sisti celebrated the ruling and the clearing of his client. "Cases like this shouldn’t be brought," he was quoted as saying. "And when they are brought, I think that safety valve, that nullification safety valve, is very important. Other states had better start waking up, because without it, people are going to be convicted of very serious charges through hypocrisy. The jury’s going to think they can’t do anything else, and that’s wrong."
The prosecutor who brought charges against Darrell for his illegal plants also admitted that the judge’s decision to instruct the jury on nullification was key to the government’s defeat, but she tried to downplay its effect going forward. “I don’t see it as being that significant in changing our practice and the practice of the court,” the prosecutor told the Union Leader.
Cathleen Converse, the juror who reportedly helped push the case for nullification, however, is among a growing number of Americans who believe that there should be a victim for something to be considered a crime. “Mr. Darrell seemed to be the only victim here,” she explained after the acquittal. “Almost everyone said this just shouldn’t have happened to these peaceful people.”
In New Hampshire — the official state motto is “Live Free or Die” — such views have become increasingly influential. That’s in part due to the birth of the Free State Project, an ongoing plan to have thousands of liberty-minded people from across America move to the Granite State to build a more libertarian society. FSP activists have already elected more than a few lawmakers, and their influence continued to grow.
"So far, over 12,750 participants have pledged to relocate to the state, and more than 1,000 have already moved, over a dozen of which are currently elected members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives," said Free State Project President Carla Gericke in a press release touting the acquittal. "Once here, participants are free to pursue their own causes and I’m excited to see that progress is being made."
While the Darrell case probably will not be shutting down the unconstitutional, trillion-dollar federal drug war anytime soon, analysts said it was an important milestone in several respects. For one, it illustrates the growing opposition to imprisoning people for drug use, which has been a key contributor to the fact that the United States has far more prisoners per capita than any other nation in the world. Well over a dozen states have already nullified federal marijuana laws.
More importantly, perhaps, the acquittal of Doug Darrell represents a significant revival of jury nullification. The centuries-old practice has always been a critical tool in the fight against government tyranny. So, with the victory in New Hampshire and many more anticipated in the near future, liberty-minded activists across America are hoping the trend spreads quickly to other states.
New Hampshire Passes Jury Nullification Law
Former Drug Warrior Persecuted for Activism Uses Arrest to Push Jury Nullification
Judge Sentences Politically Incorrect Juror to More Jury Duty
State Lawmakers Blast Obama’s War on Medical Marijuana
A Brilliant Exposition on the Effectiveness of Nullification
Drug War a “Failure,” Says N.J. GOP Gov. Chris Christie
The Other Unconstitutional War
By Alex Dobuzinskis
LOS ANGELES, Sept 7 (Reuters) – Nine former heads of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration urged Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday to take a stand against possible legalization of recreational marijuana in three western states, saying silence would convey acceptance.
The former officials said in a letter sent on Friday that legalization would pose a direct conflict with federal law, indicating there would be a clash between the states and the federal government on the issue.
Voters in Colorado, Washington state and Oregon are due to decide in November whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use and to regulate and tax its sale.
"To continue to remain silent conveys to the American public and the global community a tacit acceptance of these dangerous initiatives," they said in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters. A spokeswoman for Holder declined to comment on the letter.
The letter is similar to one they sent Holder in 2010 urging him to oppose a recreational pot legalization ballot measure in California. It was defeated with 53.5 percent of voters rejecting it.
Holder opposed the California measure before the vote, warning that U.S. officials would enforce federal laws against marijuana in California despite any state legalization.
Kevin Sabet, a former senior adviser on marijuana issues to President Barack Obama’s administration, said he would not be surprised if Holder took that same position again.
"Essentially, a state vote in favor of legalization is a moot point since federal laws would be, in (Holder’s) own words (from 2010), ‘vigorously enforced,’" Sabet said. "I can’t imagine a scenario where the Feds would sit back and do nothing."
Obama administration officials have until now said little about the upcoming ballot measures, although the federal government has cracked down on medical cannabis dispensaries in several states by raiding them and threatening legal action.
In recent years polls have shown growing national support for decriminalizing marijuana. In May, an Angus Reid survey showed 52 percent of those polled expressed support for legalizing pot. The poll of 1,017 respondents had a margin of error of 3.1 percent.
Gallup saw support hit 50 percent last year, the highest number the organization had ever measured on the question.
In the swing state of Colorado, the marijuana measure with its potential to bring out young voters is seen as potentially influencing votes for president. Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling said earlier this year that marijuana "could be a difference maker" in the state.
The nine signatories to Friday’s letter included John Bartels, who ran the DEA from 1973 to 1975, and Karen Tandy, who was in charge from 2003 to 2007.
Tom Constantine, who was in charge of the DEA from 1994 to 1999 and also signed the letter, said the former administrators hoped it would send a message to voters and alter the public debate.
He said the letter had been sent so "voters would know in all fairness that no matter what they vote on in Colorado or wherever it is, that federal law still prevails."
In response to a 2011 petition to legalize and regulate marijuana, Obama administration drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said at that time that federal officials were concerned about the drug because it was "associated with addiction, respiratory disease and cognitive impairment."
Legalization advocates say the decades-old drug war in the United States has failed, and they compare laws against marijuana to the prohibition of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933. They argue that society would be better served if marijuana could be taxed and regulated.
While no U.S. state allows recreational use of marijuana, 17 states and the District of Columbia permit its use in medicine.
"Anyone who is objective at all knows that current marijuana policy in this country is a complete disaster, with massive arrests, wasted resources, and violence in the U.S. and especially in Mexico," said Jill Harris, managing director of strategic initiatives for Drug Policy Action, which has poured money into legalization campaigns.
(Reporting By Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and David Brunnstrom)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
PUBLISHED FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2012 AT 6:19 PM / UPDATED AT 8:46 PM
CHRIS MACHIAN/THE WORLD-HERALD
Guilty verdict in case of Yippie caught with 155 pounds of pot
By Paul Hammel / World-Herald Bureau
LINCOLN — One of the original members of the ‘60s revolutionary group, the Yippies, was found guilty this week of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver after being caught with 155 pounds of baled pot in a van at Ashland, Neb.
Appearance. Although the level of quality of this bud far outweighs most that you find on the street in the UK it has still suffered at the hands of prohibition. It was to a level at which a dispensary wouldn’t take it that’s for sure. Most of the trim was left on along with some huge stalks – must have lost a few g in that alone.
Strains such as Kush have been made notorious through songs and celebrities professing their love for the strain. Those that have experienced Kush know why it is so famous. From Tahoe OG Kush to Afghan Kush the high is memorable. Cannabis is not a new plant created in a lab but rather has been used for centuries as medicine, religious herb and for recreation.
Two events took place in June that suggested a primer on how medical marijuana laws are working in Colorado might be appropriate. The first was an appellate court decision that the state Supreme Court declined to review. The holding was that if an employer has a zero-tolerance drug policy and an employee who uses medical marijuana tests positive and is discharged, the employee is not entitled to unemployment benefits even though the use of medical marijuana is not proscribed by state law.
The second event of note was a newspaper announcement that the Sunday night CBS news program 60 Minutes had interviewed Stan Garnett, Boulder, Colorado’s District Attorney, with respect to medical marijuana dispensaries operating in Colorado. Since the interview will not be broadcast until fall, an update might help those who wonder what is happening in the world of medical marijuana in Colorado. Although only applicable to Colorado, readers elsewhere can see how the Obama administration has lived up to promises made during the 2008 campaign.
During the 2008 campaign Mr. Obama said, with respect to medical marijuana laws, that if elected: “What I’m not going to be doing is using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue simply because I want folks to be investigating violent crimes and potential terrorism.” In February 2009 Attorney General Eric Holder said what the president said during the campaign “is now American policy” and in a subsequent press conference said the policy is to “go after those people who violate both federal and state law…” The administration did not rely on those statements to let people know what official policy was. David Ogden, then the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, put it in writing so everyone would understand.
October 19, 2009, Mr. Ogden, sent a memorandum to the U.S. attorneys in states that authorized the sale and use of medical marijuana. Its stated purpose was to provide “clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors.” Mr. Ogden began by saying: “Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug, and the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime…” However, he went on to say that “selected U.S. attorneys” to whom he sent his memorandum should “not focus federal resources in your states on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” Mr. Ogden and Colorado’s U.S. Attorney, John Walsh, would have been well served had Mr. Ogden stopped there since it was clear what he meant.
He didn’t. After explaining the meaning of “clear and unambiguous” as used in his memorandum he went on to say that “no State can authorize violations of federal law” which is, of course, exactly what medical marijuana legislation does. If a U.S. attorney decides to prosecute someone, Mr. Ogden continued, it is not necessary to prove that a state law was violated. The memorandum, he said, does not “‘legalize’ marijuana or provide a legal defense to a violation of federal law… Nor does clear and unambiguous compliance with state law… provide a legal defense to a violation of the Controlled Substances Act.” He repeats that in the penultimate paragraph of his memorandum saying the memorandum is not intended to preclude investigation, “in particular circumstances where investigation or prosecution otherwise serves important federal interests.” The foregoing, as all but the dullest reader can immediately see, is a crystal clear roadmap for U.S. Attorneys who wonder whom to prosecute. And that brings the curious to Colorado and to the even curiouser John Walsh.
Colorado citizens amended their state constitution in 2000 to permit the medical use of marijuana effective June 1, 2001. In 2010 a law was enacted that regulates medical marijuana dispensaries. John Walsh, apparently confused by the Ogden memo, has concluded that he can prosecute those who are in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with Colorado law as stated in the Ogden memorandum. In January, March and May, he sent waves of letters to dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools telling them they must close and describing in great detail the draconian penalties that may be imposed if they do not. Mr. Walsh was not concerned about whether local governments were content to have dispensaries closer than 1,000 feet to schools as Colorado law permits.
Mr. Garnett wrote Mr. Walsh in March expressing his opinion that the U.S. Attorney’s office could, instead of going after dispensaries, better use its efforts dealing with “terrorism, serious economic crime, organized crime and serious drug dealing…” In response, Mr. Walsh said, in effect, that his views about how far dispensaries should be from schools overrode local governments’ views. He did not say how his actions comported with Mr. Ogden’s memorandum.
What the Colorado court ruled does not run afoul of what Mr. Obama promised during the 2008 campaign. What Mr. Walsh has done, does. That is more than a pity. It is a travesty.
Christopher Brauchli can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com
By Scot Kersgaard
Thursday, May 10, 2012 at 2:29 pm
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (Amendment 64) will run its first television ad beginning tomorrow, May 11, during NBC’s “The Today Show.” The ad will also air during “Ellen,” and the Mother’s Day episode of “The Doctors.”
The ad features a young woman sitting at a laptop sending an email to her mother, explaining why she prefers marijuana over alcohol and asking her mother if she would like to talk about the issue. In particular, she tells her mother that marijuana poses less harm to her health than alcohol and that she feels safer around people using marijuana than she does around those using alcohol.
Betty Aldworth, advocacy director for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol addresses the media in Denver a few weeks ago. She is surrounded by campaign volunteers. (Kersgaard)
“Our goal with this ad is to start a conversation – and encourage others to start their own conversations – about marijuana,” said Betty Aldworth, advocacy director of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. “As more people talk to their family and friends about marijuana, more people understand that marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol and ought to be regulated like alcohol.”
The ad directs viewers to TalkItUpColorado.org, a website in support of Amendment 64. The site complements the campaign’s strategy of encouraging young pro-legalization voters to talk about the issue with their parents, grandparents and other older voters.
“We will win this election if more older folks come to appreciate that marijuana is an acceptable and less harmful alternative to alcohol for adults,” Aldworth said. “For years they have been led to believe marijuana is more dangerous than it actually is, and that marijuana users are all slackers and losers. Once they hear from those closest to them that marijuana is used by millions of hard-working and professional people for the same reasons most adults use alcohol, they’ll be forced to think about why they would prefer people use alcohol instead of a less harmful substance.”
Polls have shown a tight election, but one in which the measure has a strong chance of passing. Even Denver Republicans voted in favor of the measure during the recent county assembly.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
by Tim McGinnis
Read more: Local, News, Marijuana, Marijuana Bust, Marijuana Bust Related to Hells Angels Operation, Hells Angels Bust, Hells Angels Crime Bust, Bust Related to Hells Angels Operation, Murrells Inlet, Murrells Inlet Bust, 15Th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit, Drug Enforcement Unit, DEU, Crystal Lane
Picture from Operation Red Harvest that happened Monday
A man in Murrells Inlet was arrested for having $419,000 worth of marijuana plants and another $11,760 worth of processed marijuana.
The bust was made by agents assigned to the 15th Circuit Drug Enforcement Unit, or DEU. The agents work for the Georgetown County Sheriff’s Office and the Georgetown Police Department.
Agents also seized money from a house on Crystal Lane in Murrells Inlet. At that location, Daniel Richardson, 62, was arrested and charged with Manufacturing Marijuana and Possession with Intent to Distribute Marijuana.
The DEU says agents also searched a home on Sunnyside Avenue in Murrells Inlet, they say that home was an inactive grow, and was set up for a grow, but the plants had been removed.
Richardson is awaiting a bond hearing at the Georgetown County Detention Center.
The arrests are part of “Operation Red Harvest“, the 18 month investigation that started in 2010, and resulted in the arrests of several members of the motorcycle group, the Hells Angels. This search was one of eleven search warrants executed in Horry and Georgetown counties.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Apr 14, 2012 4:45 AM EDT
Wines fermented with weed were a novelty in the early 1980s, but now quite a few California winemakers are producing cannabis cuvées on the sly—with cabernet the variety of choice.
Last year, at a Burgundy dinner in New York, I was given a wine that smelled like no Burgundy I’d ever encountered. Instead, it had a pungent herbal aroma that called to mind a college dormitory on a Saturday night—that, or a Grateful Dead concert. The devilish grin on the face of the friend who offered me the mystery liquid confirmed it: what I had in my hand was a glass of pot wine—yes, as in marijuana-laced.
In the spirit of inquiry, I took a sip, and while it neither got me stoned nor made me want to ditch the glass of 1985 Roumier Bonnes-Mares that I was holding in my other hand, it was certainly a novel experience. But it turns out that pot wine isn’t such a novelty in California wine country; there apparently are quite a few winemakers surreptitiously producing cannabis cuvées.
Curious to learn more about this weediest of wines, I recently spoke with a California vintner who makes it on the side. For obvious reasons, he didn’t want his real name used, so I will refer to him as “Bud.” He told me pot wine holds an important distinction: in his view, it is “the only truly original style of wine created in the New World.” Bud said he is just one of a number of winemakers on the Central Coast who are blending two of California’s most prized crops. The recipe for pot wine, such as it is, consists of dropping one pound of marijuana into a cask of fermenting wine, which yields about 1.5 grams of pot per bottle; the better the raw materials—grapes and dope—the better the wine.
The fermentation process converts the sugar in grapes into alcohol, and alcohol extracts the THC from marijuana. Bud goes for maximum extraction: he keeps his weed wine in barrel for nine months before bottling it. He said he and other winemakers produce pot wine in small quantities, to be shared in “convivial moments with like-minded people.” Those who enjoy it evidently enjoy it a lot: Bud said that at certain wine events in San Francisco, New York, and Las Vegas, “I can’t show up unless I have some with me.”
Drugs have been on the periphery of the California wine scene going back a long time. In the late 1960s, Ridge Vineyards, located in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Silicon Valley and one of California’s most storied wineries, was something of a magnet for counterculture types. In his 2001 book, Zin: The History and Mystery of Zinfandel, David Darlington wrote that on “spectacular Monte Bello Ridge, psychoactive drugs proved quite popular; one Ridge acolyte—a full-bearded, red-headed individual named Jerry—reportedly ate LSD sixty-four days in a row, and bottling was frequently performed by someone who held a 750-ml glass vessel with one hand and a joint of primo sinsemilla with the other.” Having tasted Ridge wines from that period, I can tell you that they have aged beautifully and that I have never found any decayed roaches in the sediment. I can also tell you that this sort of thing no longer happens at Ridge.
“People love wine, and they love weed.”
Getty Images; AP Photo
It is unclear when pot wine originated, but Bud told me that it was being produced in California as far back as the early 1980s. At the time, the Reagan administration was ratcheting up the war on drugs, and marijuana wine had a whiff of danger about it. Bud said it typically was made then with rosé wines and that because of the legal risk involved, bottles were selling for more than $100. (Bud recently tasted a bottle from 1985 and found that it had held up amazingly well and was still very aromatic). These days, though, the marijuana is typically blended with robust reds such as cabernet sauvignon and syrah, and because cannabis has largely shed its illicitness in California, there is not much of a paying market now for pot wine; it’s really just a party drink that winemakers break out whenever the mood strikes.
Crane Carter, who is president of the Napa Valley Marijuana Growers, an organization he founded and which two years ago was granted membership in the Napa Valley Farm Bureau, says pot wine is increasingly fashionable in wine country. He told me that in Napa, much of the marijuana is used for wine comes from Humboldt County, which is California’s weed capital, but there’s also plenty of locally grown grass. Carter said cabernet, Napa’s main grape, is the variety of choice for marijuana-seasoned wine, and that fruit from the Stag’s Leap district is thought to pair particularly well with pot. According to Carter, pot wine delivers a quicker high than pot brownies, and the combination of alcohol and marijuana produces “an interesting little buzz.” He believes cannabis wine has a bright future in Napa. “People love wine,” he says, “and they love weed.” CONTINUE READING…
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April 12, 2012
Dear Ms. Krider,
Thank you for contacting me regarding the legalization of marijuana. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this issue.
The Ending Federal Prohibition on Marijuana Act of 2011 (H.R. 2306) would amend the Controlled Substances Act to remove marijuana from the list of substances illegal under the Act, except that it would remain illegal to ship or transport marijuana to states or localities where it remains illegal. H.R. 2306 was introduced on June 23, 2011, and referred to the House Judiciary and Energy and Commerce Committees, where it awaits further consideration. Please be assured I will keep your thoughts in mind should this or similar legislation come before me in the Senate.
Once more, thank you for sharing your thoughts. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of assistance in the future. I look forward to hearing from you again.
Rand Paul, MD
United States Senator
By Joseph Fraser
Posted: 12:00am on Mar 31, 2012
We call ourselves a free country, yet it is illegal to use marijuana on a recreational basis.
Seriously? Think about this, marijuana funds 60 percent of illegal drug operations across the United States. This market dictated by violence and extortion is really an unregulated form of capitalism. Ever wonder what capitalism would be without regulation? Just look at what the war on drugs has done to America. Some $1.5 trillion spent and nothing gained on the home front when it comes to the usage of drugs.
Ever wonder why? It’s simple, you can’t legislate free will, and any time the government deems it necessary to do so, it costs the taxpayer unmeasured amounts. Why unmeasured? With so much money spent to support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is likely we are borrowing money from the Chinese government to tell Bob he doesn’t have the freedom to enjoy a plant at his own discretion.
Isn’t it apparent that we have lost the war on drugs after arresting so many millions? According to Adam Liptak of The New York Times in 2008, “The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.”
On average, it costs our country about $40,000 per prisoner per year. It just doesn’t seem to be the real reason behind the drug war, does it? It’s almost like another dirty little government secret. It appears to be a racially motivated legislation. We all know minorities are filling these prisons, and we also know that the majority of these prisoners are criminally prosecuted and incarcerated based on nonviolent drug offenses.
Is it really worth $40,000 to keep one individual from getting high?
Meanwhile, this country is $16 trillion in debt. Do you want to cut grandma’s health care? Or should we cut back on the cost of the drug war by legalizing marijuana? You can’t have an honest conversation about reducing the nation’s debt burden without considering it.
America is known for its agricultural resources which it shares with people across the globe. So why should we be ashamed of producing a useful product that people might enjoy too? Everyone knows that hemp, a non-psycho-tropic form of marijuana, can be used to make lots of products. In fact, hemp was used to make rope for years, right here in Kentucky.
Instead of wasting money subsidizing farmers to not grow in this country, let the farmers earn an honest living, so they can once again put their children through college. Why is it in America we continue to hold back an industry because a certain uneducated part of the country doesn’t understand it or doesn’t believe in a person’s right to get high? News flash: Folks are still getting high, legal or not, like it or not.
Our government thinks it has the right to dictate a way of living to the American people. I say enough is enough. It is high time we start dictating to them what it is we will spend our money on. Let’s be serious in 2012 America, and it all starts with legalizing marijuana. It’s just common senseRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
OREGON–(ENEWSPF)–April 1, 2012. Ending marijuana prohibition is a serious issue. However, politicians are rarely willing to take the issue seriously. Some of the stuff that comes out of their mouths would suggest that they are joking, but they are completely serious. I read a media report that exemplifies the stupidity that permeates the halls of Washington D.C. not too long ago. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) told a constituent via letter that he doesn’t support the idea of marijuana legalization because marijuana can lead to death.
Almost every argument that marijuana opponents make should have a disclaimer at the end that states, ‘April Fool’s!’ because hardly any of their arguments are based in fact. The phrase that marijuana opponents are throwing around right now most often is that ‘if marijuana prohibition ends, there will be a ‘stoned driver epidemic.’ I would point to a study in AMERICA by the National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration who said the following, “Comparing traffic deaths over time in states with and without medical marijuana law changes, the researchers found that fatal car wrecks dropped by 9% in states that legalized medical use — which was largely attributable to a decline in drunk driving. The researchers controlled for other factors like changes in driving laws and the number of miles driven that could affect the results.” The link I provided in this paragraph clearly shows that worries about drugged driving are exaggerated.
I don’t have a team of researchers and untold resources to find facts like politicians and the government. So why is it so easy for me to find these obvious facts, yet the government and politicians act like they don’t exist? Is it an April Fool’s Day joke? Or is it blatant lying, because they say this stupid stuff 365 days a year? The fact of the matter is that when it comes to marijuana prohibition, the joke is on America. The joke is on all of the people that can’t get college aid because they were caught one time with marijuana in the wrong state. The joke is on all of the unemployed people that would love to work a legitimate job in the cannabusiness industry, but they are forced to live in poverty or pursue a non-honest living. The joke is on suffering patients that would love to give up their organ-killing pills for a harmless plant, but they are forced to be slaves to big pharm.
It’s beyond time that the citizens of America stand up, marijuana consumers and non-marijuana consumers, and demand that the government and politicians take this issue seriously, instead of trying to act like it’s some 365 day long April Fool’s joke. Generating tax revenue from a more than willing cannabis industry is a serious issue. Directing police resources towards REAL crime is a serious issue. Helping suffering people is a serious issue. Trying to figure out a way to harness the power of hemp for energy and textile purposes is a serious issue. The solution to so many problems is staring politicians and government officials in the face. Hopefully they quit trying to act the fool, and start taking their jobs seriously.
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Source: www.theweedblog.comRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
José Peña brought some roadside weeds home from Kansas. Cops decided it was reefer, and a Texas court sentenced him to life in prison – without the evidence. It took a decade for Peña to get back some of the pieces of his life.
José Peña was tired as he drove south toward Houston on the morning of Sept. 27, 1998. Following a quick trip north to Kansas in a rented van – to pick up the brother of a distant cousin’s son – he was on his way home to Houston, where he lived with his wife and four children. It was the kind of favor Peña often did for friends and family, no matter how distant the relation – and the kind of favor that irritated his wife. “I was tired, and I was trying to get home,” the 50-year-old recently recalled. “My wife was mad at me for doing favors for other people” when he could instead be home.
That morning, just before 8am, Peña was cruising south down I-45, a little more than two hours from home. He was driving in the right-hand lane through Leon County when he passed a state trooper sitting in his car on the grass median. He thought nothing of it – just another Texas trooper on a long and nondescript stretch of highway – until he noticed the trooper pull out onto the road and follow him. The officer, Mike Asby, a veteran member of the Texas Department of Public Safety, drove in the left lane until his car was parallel with Peña’s. Peña looked over at Asby. “He pulled up next to me, and I looked at him because I wasn’t not going to make eye contact” with an officer whom Peña thought was definitely checking him out for whatever reason.
Although Peña steadfastly maintains that he wasn’t doing anything wrong or unusual, Asby would later testify that Peña caught his attention because he was driving more slowly than the rest of traffic in a van caked with mud; when the van “weaved across the center stripe and also across the solid yellow line on the shoulder,” Asby testified in January 2003, he had to take action. “You’re required to stay in a single lane of traffic,” he said. He activated his lights and pulled Peña over.
Within the hour, Peña would be in handcuffs in the back of the trooper’s car, headed to the county jail in Centerville on a charge of marijuana possession. Nearly five years later, Peña would be convicted and sentenced to life in prison for possession of what the state said turned out to be 23.46 pounds of freshly cut marijuana that Peña was transporting in the back of the muddy blue van. Although Asby testified that this was not a normal highway drug bust – “normally,” he testified, marijuana moves north from Houston, already “dried out, cured, and ready to be sold” – he was certain that what he found casually laid out in the back of the van was pot because it smelled like pot – and he knows pot when he smells it. “It’s something that you learned in  years of experience being on the road?” prosecutor Whitney Smith (now Leon County’s elected D.A.) asked Asby.
“Yes, sir,” Asby replied.
Just Trust Us
There are at least two problems with the official story of Peña’s arrest and prosecution. First, Peña is adamant – and has been since 1998 – that what he was transporting was not marijuana, but actually hemp, pot’s non-narcotic cousin. Peña says he found the plants growing wild in Kansas and cut them down, thinking that he could use the stems and leaves in the various craft projects he made with leather and wood in his garage workshop; there was no doubt in Peña’s mind that what he was transporting was not marijuana. The second, and eventually more decisive problem with the official story of the Peña bust, is that prior to his trial, officials with the Department of Public Safety lab in Waco, where the plants were taken for testing, completely destroyed all of the case evidence – all 23.46 pounds of plant material – and then also lost the case file with all of the original documentation of the lab’s work on the case. By the time Peña was finally tried – more than four years later – there was absolutely no evidence to show the jury; instead, the state relied completely on the “experience” of Asby and of Waco lab supervisor Charles Mott (now retired) to persuade jurors that what they say they saw and tested was actually marijuana.
That is, it worked until late last year, when Peña’s conviction was finally overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, and Leon County subsequently dismissed the charges for good. In the intervening decade, however, Peña’s case became a political hot potato, catching the attention of judges and lawyers across the state who watched as the 10th Court of Appeals, based in Waco, played tug-of-war with the Austin-based CCA over the power of the Texas Constitution, and whether it affords citizens greater rights and protection against state power than does the U.S. Constitution.
It’s a conflict that has left the state of Texas divided and may mean – at least for the time being – that persons tried for crimes in one part of the state will be afforded greater protection from prosecutorial errors or malfeasance than are others. Frankly, says Keith Hampton, an Austin defense attorney who represented Peña just before his case was dismissed, you just “don’t see this happen very often.” Ultimately, whether the protections gleaned from the Texas Constitution by the 10th Court will remain in force and be applied to all Texans is still to be determined.
Weeds, Not Weed
Peña had a knack for creating handcrafted leather and wood items that sold like hotcakes, he says, at flea markets in and around Houston. He made personalized shellacked plaques and leather key chains with popular first names spelled out in tiny beads, and at a dollar a key chain, they sold well. So when he first saw the hemp plants growing on the roadside near Manhattan, Kan., they gave him an idea. He would take the plants – which, to an untrained eye, look exactly like marijuana plants – press the leaves, and then use them on plaques or affixed to the small leather wallets that he also had become expert at making. He recognized these as “volunteer” hemp plants – they grow wild across the country, reminders of the days when hemp farming was commonplace and even, during World War II, encouraged by the feds as supporting the war effort. By the Kansas roadside, they were scraggly and abundant. When he pulled into the Tuttle Creek State Park outside Manhattan, and saw the plants growing everywhere, he “loaded … up.”
Indeed, Peña thought nothing of the fresh-cut plants that he’d laid out in the back of the blue van he was driving. He knew – partly from experience of having smoked pot when he was younger, and partly because he knew that hemp was once a major agricultural commodity – that the plants were nothing more than weeds that looked like weed.
However, that’s not how Asby saw it. To him, it was clear that one thing, and only one thing, was taking place. Peña was moving a large amount of marijuana to Houston – as unusual as that might be, Asby acknowledged.
Peña repeatedly told Asby that the plants were hemp, and his insistence clearly gave some pause to Asby and the two backup officers who soon joined him. The three men stood next to the van pondering the notion that a plant could look like, but not actually be, marijuana. “I … questioned them, I said, ‘Well, he says it’s not marijuana,’” Asby recalled in court. “I knew that there was a substance called hemp and I was asking them. … And I asked them, ‘You ever heard of something like marijuana, just hemp, that is legal to have?’” he continued. “I don’t know that there is a legal kind. That was the question I was asking the officers: ‘Have you ever heard of this … where marijuana was cut and it turns out to be legal?’”
In the end, Asby was unpersuaded. “I just know marijuana smells like marijuana,” he testified in 2003. “And I have never found anything that I thought was marijuana that wasn’t.” He cuffed Peña and hauled him off to jail.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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. The Huffington Post has a story out today talking about how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) told a constituent via letter that he doesn’t support the idea of marijuana legalization because marijuana can lead to death.
There was a copy of the Mitch McConnell letter posted to grasscity.com by the constituent, which stated, “Hi Blades, got a letter back from Mitch McConnell about legalizing marijuana. I’ll let the letter speak for itself. WOWZA.” Below is the letter:
What an idiot right? Did Mitch McConnell actually think that this was a sufficient answer? When are we going to see a reefer madness politician admit the truth – they make more money opposing marijuana legalization than they do supporting it, so they will never support marijuana legalization as long as that’s the case. While I think that’s almost as ridiculous as the response Mitch McConnell gave, it would be a breathe of fresh air compared to the constantly BS that they always say.
Let’s analyze what Mitch McConnell wrote. The second paragraph states, “I have serious concerns about proposals to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. First, synthetic tetrahydrocannabinol, the primary ingredient in marijuana, is currently available in pill for for the treatment of HIV wasting syndrome and other illnesses.”
Politicians who are too lazy to educate themselves on the deficiencies of Marinol should be banned from talking about it, because it is a danger to society. What if people actually believed Marinol was the end all of medical marijuana, and relied solely on it to provide the benefits that raw cannabis provides? They would be putting themselves in harms way, as Marinol is not the same thing as real marijuana. Below is stellar information that proves why Marinol is not as good as real marijuana:
Marinol1 (dronabinol) is the only US FDA-approved synthetic cannabinoid. It is often marketed as a legal pharmaceutical alternative to natural cannabis.
Marinol is manufactured as a gelatin capsule containing synthetic delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in sesame oil. It is taken orally and is available in 2.5mg, 5mg and/or 10mg dosages. Marinol may be prescribed for the treatment of cachexia (weight loss) in patients with AIDS and for the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy in patients who have failed to respond adequately to conventional antiemetic treatments.
Despite FDA approval2, Marinol typically provides only limited relief to select patients, particularly when compared to natural cannabis and its cannabinoids. Marinol should remain a legal option for patients and physicians; however, federal and state laws should be amended to allow for those patients who are unresponsive to synthetic THC the ability to use natural cannabis and its cannabinoids as a medical therapy without fear of arrest and/or criminal prosecution. By prohibiting the possession and use of natural cannabis and its cannabinoids, patients are unnecessarily restricted to use a synthetic substitute that lacks much of the therapeutic efficacy of natural cannabis.
Marinol Lacks Several of the Therapeutic Compounds Available in Natural CannabisRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Marijuana Smuggler Who Served 30 Years in Prison Wants to Convince Florida Old Folks to Support Medical Marijuana
Lucy Steigerwald | March 16, 2012
Robert Platshorn is against the war on drugs; so much so that he spent 5k on two pro-pot billboards. The 69-year-old director of Florida National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) did so as part of "The Silver Tour," which is a campaign to convince senior citizens in South Florida that medical marijuana is a good thing.
Platshorn is a rare senior citizen indeed. Seniors (Florida has lots of ‘em!) are credited as the reason for the failure of California’s Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization initiative. And in in general, older populations do frown on legalization. Gallup in 2011 charted 39 percent of folks 65 and older as in support of legalization of marijuana; compare that to the 62 percent support from those aged 18-29. The thing about Platshorn, though, is that he spent much of his time in those younger, more pro-pot demographics in prison. In 2008, Platshorn finished out a 30-year term for marijuana smuggling as part of the "Black Tuna Gang."
As part of the Silver Tour, Platshorn put up two billboards in support of medical marijuana, one of which is to the right. They will run for a month.
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
Down the road apiece, just after a billboard advertising a service for clogged drains, stands the second big sign. "Reschedule Medical Marijuana" it reads. Below it is a quote from former administrative Judge Francis L. Young’s ruling about pot in a 1988 case: "One of the Safest Therapeutically Active Substances Known to Man."
The billboards urge viewers — some 54,500 cars pass that section of Sample Road daily, according to the state Department of Transportation — to learn more at The Silver Tour, the billboards’ sponsor.
Platshorn surely is not the most sympathetic face of the pro-legalization movement, at least not to those on the fence about the issue, but it’s cool that he’s now taking the slow and sneaky path to convince those most skeptical.
Here’s a sampling of a Miami Herald article written on the occasion of the former drug-smuggler’s release from jail. The implication seems to be that weed trafficking was a gentleman’s game in the 1970s. He was, after all, non-violent:
This was just business, and good business wasn’t violent, not in the mid-Seventies, when Platshorn ran his transcontinental racket. Marijuana suppliers were family-run enterprises mediated by political figures and local law enforcement intent on keeping a lid on the trade while lining their own pockets. And he trusted his partners. They were his stoner buddies, and he knew they’d come through for him.
"It was a hippie era," Platshorn says. "You tell a guy you’ll pay him $1 million, you pay him."
Those were the years before the cocaine blizzard swallowed South Florida, and Platshorn was just an entrepreneurial pothead leading the 007 existence he’d always dreamed of — and smoking some really good weed while he was at it.
Back in Florida, he had a handful of yachts at his disposal. From a posh suite at theFontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, he operated an auto auction, a marina club, and a barbershop. He used canal-front stash houses and wore stylish plaid leisure suits with broad collars as sharp as spearheads….
Platshorn and friends would be accused of smuggling, or at least attempting to smuggle, 500 tons of marijuana into the United States during the mid- to late Seventies. When the gang was busted in September 1978, the DEA proclaimed it the most sophisticated drug ring it had ever encountered.
Platshorn’s 1980 conviction was a major coup for drug enforcement agencies, the first join FBI/DEA enterprise. In all, eight of the gang’s central members were convicted in two federal trials, but the leaders — Platshorn and Robert Meinster — would pay the stiffest price: prison sentences totaling 108 years between them.
The rest here.
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A senior writer at the pot-smoker’s periodical is accused of involvement in one of New York’s biggest marijuana rings.
Mar 17, 2012 6:19 PM EDT
For almost forty years, High Times magazine has been the premier advocacy rag for marijuana, serving the passionate smoker much as Fox News and MSNBC serve the partisan political junkie. But in their effort to push out “the word of marijuana … the word of legalization … the word of growing,” as managing editor Natasha Lewin has put it, magazine staffers (and one can confidently say readers too) have inevitably pushed up against the law. Some are not just blowing smoke, but smuggling and dealing it too. Sometimes by the ton.
The latest alleged High Times trafficker is Matthew Woodstock Stang, known as “Magazine Guy” in the marijuana underworld. By day he’s employed as an advertising executive and senior writer for the magazine; by night, according to the Manhattan district attorney’s office, he’s a wholesaler in one of the city’s largest and longest-running marijuana rings.
This week his alleged partner, hip-hop magnate Kareem “Biggs” Burke, pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of conspiracy to distribute some 200 pounds of marijuana. Stang, meanwhile, still faces the much more serious charge of wholesaling multiton loads of pot, most of it grown indoors near Miami and trucked to a New York kingpin. If convicted, he faces 10 years to life in prison. As one federal agent said when Stang was first arrested in 2010, it’s “a case of art imitating real life.”
It’s also a case of history repeating itself. High Times was founded by a smuggler named Gary Goodson, a.k.a. Tom King Forcade, who over the years he has been described by his magazine as an “ace in the dope air force” and a “drug-culture mastermind.” He was certainly the latter. Within two years of High Times debuting in 1974—complete with centerfolds of flowering marijuana plants and prices for every kind of pot on the market—Forcade had as many as four million readers a month.
His smuggling, however, was woefully inept. In 1976 he secured a nine-ton load of marijuana that a friend had smuggled into Florida’s Everglades. But he neglected to hire help, which resulted in him taking 24 hours to load the bales into his Winnebago, which was then spotted by a wildlife officer. Police soon blocked the only road to Miami, forcing Forcade to jerk the camper into the swamp. He emerged undiscovered but mosquito-mauled three days later, determined to liquidate High Times—presumably to cover his loses.
Talked out of doing so by friends, Forcade returned to smuggling in 1978. The job called for a pilot to fly to Colombia, pick up a marijuana load, and kick it out over a remote location in southern Florida. Everything worked perfectly until Forcade, who was guiding the first plane to the drop point, radioed instructions for the pilot to “Get lower! Get lower!” The pilot got lower, hit a tree, and died. The gang lost its load.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Country music star and marijuana enthusiast Willie Nelson is endorsing the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 2012. The superstar appears in a recently released ad throwing his support behind the initiative to end the prohibition on marijuana and restore the production of hemp in Oregon.
The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act 2012 is a citizen’s initiative campaign to regulate marijuana and restore hemp. Just as ending alcohol prohibition and regulating that market has protected society, regulating marijuana will help wipe out crime. Restoring hemp, made from the seeds and stems of the marijuana plant for fuel, fiber and food, will put Oregon on the cutting edge of exciting new sustainable green industries and create untold multitudes of new jobs.
The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act 2012 (OCTA 2012) is gathering signatures to qualify for the November general election ballot. If passed, the legislation would:
- Regulate the legal sale of marijuana to adults through state-licensed stores
- Allow adults to grow their own marijuana.
- License Oregon farmers to grow marijuana for state-licensed stores.
- Allow unlicensed Oregon farmers to grow cannabis hemp for fuel, fiber and food.
- Raise an estimated $140 million a year by taxing commercial cannabis sales to adults 21 years of age.
- Save an estimated $61.5 million as law enforcement, corrections and judicial costs.
- Increase public safety.
- Restore respect for the law.
- Create environmentally sustainable jobs.
The following is the text of the OCTA 2012 advertisement by Willie Nelson:
“Hi, I’m Willie Nelson. I urge you to support the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act to regulate marijuana and restore industrial hemp. This initiative will end adult marijuana prohibition and let our criminal justice officers focus limited resources on real criminals, not on marijuana users like me. OCTA will also allow farmers to grow hemp for fuel, fiber & food, to create jobs and help our economy. Please support OCTA. Thank you!”
By all accounts, the prohibition on marijuana is a failure. Marijuana prohibition does not work: prohibition is a historical and contemporary failure. It is time to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. It is time to free the weed.
For more information about OCTA 2012, visit the website, sign a petition, make a difference.
For more political news, information, and humor, check out Left Coast Lucy on Facebook.
Continue reading on Examiner.com Marijuana: Willie Nelson endorses Oregon Cannabis Tax Act – Portland Progressive | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/progressive-in-portland/marijuana-willie-nelson-endorses-oregon-cannabis-tax-act#ixzz1pQo8nmGHRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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March 13, 2012, 11:29 a.m. EDT
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Mar 13, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) – Cannabis Science, Inc. CBIS -15.68% , a pioneering U.S. biotech company developing pharmaceutical cannabis (marijuana) products, is excited to be embarking on a medical marijuana documentary project. Pre-production of this groundbreaking educational film is currently underway.
Many documentaries about marijuana have been made, typically focusing on getting high or the medicinal effects and benefits. Cannabis Science will be first documentary to focus on the science behind medicinal cannabis, including untangling the history of marijuana’s reputation, the improvement it can bring to people’s daily lives, and what breakthroughs could be on the horizon for this emerging industry.
Modern science supports a long list of illnesses that cannabis can treat: Multiple Sclerosis, Cancer, Arthritis, HIV/Aids, Asthma, Alzheimer’s Disease, Anti-aging, Auto Immune Disease, brain trauma (closed head injury), Crohn’s Disease, chronic pain management, Diabetes, digestive illnesses, Gastro Intestinal Reflux Disease (GERD), high blood pressure, Glaucoma, Influenza, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Tourette Syndrome, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), etc. The science gives a foundation for understanding the broad spectrum of benefits that can be achieved by increasing the cannabinoid activity in people suffering from so many illnesses.
Part of the science that will be explored are the various forms marijuana can take as a medication, including edibles, pills, liquids, and strips that dissolve on the tongue. The documentary will investigate how these forms are processed in the body and can reverse or minimized the effects of disease. Cannabis Science is first and foremost a "patient orientated company." Therefore, patients will be interviewed, giving the audience a glimpse at the real, positive benefits the medicine provides for those with chronic illness, as opposed to the prevailing and false belief that marijuana is addictive and even harmful.
Other documentaries showcase marijuana culture, likening it to the popular view of the 1960s and marijuana use running rampant among the hippie population. Cannabis Science’s documentary, however, will show cannabis in a positive light and demonstrate that what has been, and is, taught by prohibitionists is false, and ignores modern science, history, and the voice of patients. The documentary will also focus on the co-founders of Cannabis Science, how the company is working to target critical illnesses, conducting much needed research, and is developing cannabis-based medications. The audience will hear the views of doctors who have discovered for themselves through treating patients the amazing benefits that cannabis based medicines can provide for their patients.
While the main focus of the documentary is not political, learning the truth about the science of cannabinoids will educate the public on the damage caused by prohibition. Patients whose circumstances could have drastically improved and who could have reduced the severity of their illnesses much earlier from medical marijuana will be interviewed. The film will explore the reasons behind the delay in world governments opening up to the idea that medical marijuana is a beneficial reality.
About Cannabis Science, Inc.
Cannabis Science, Inc. is at the forefront of pharmaceutical grade medical marijuana research and development. The second formulations will address the needs of patients choosing to use concentrated cannabis extracts to treat their ailments. Eventually, all Americans will have access to a safe and effective FDA approved medicine regardless of which state they live in. To maintain that marijuana is a dangerous, addictive drug with no medical value is scientifically absurd. Cannabis medicines, with no effective lethal dose, are far safer than aspirin, acetaminophen, and most other OTC drugs that kill thousands of Americans every year.
The Company works with world authorities on phytocannabinoid science targeting critical illnesses, and adheres to scientific methodologies to develop, produce and commercialize phytocannabinoid-based pharmaceutical products. In sum, we are dedicated to the creation of cannabis-based medicines, both with and without psychoactive properties, to treat disease and the symptoms of disease, as well as for general health maintenance.
Forward Looking Statements
This Press Release includes forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Act of 1934. A statement containing works such as "anticipate," "seek," intend," "believe," "plan," "estimate," "expect," "project," "plan," or similar phrases may be deemed "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Some or all of the events or results anticipated by these forward-looking statements may not occur. Factors that could cause or contribute to such differences include the future U.S. and global economies, the impact of competition, and the Company’s reliance on existing regulations regarding the use and development of cannabis-based drugs. Cannabis Science, Inc. does not undertake any duty nor does it intend to update the results of these forward-looking statements.
SOURCE: Cannabis Science, Inc.
Cannabis Science Inc. Dr. Robert J. Melamede, 1-888-889-0888 President & CEO firstname.lastname@example.org www.cannabisscience.com or Robert Kane, 1-561-234-6929 Investor Relations Management email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org www.cannabisscience.com CONTINUE READING…Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Medical marijuana backers to lobby California lawmakers rather than push for ballot initiative By Peter Hecht, McClatchy Newspapers
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Medical marijuana advocates are dropping efforts to qualify a November ballot initiative to regulate California’s dispensary industry and instead plan a media campaign to lobby the Legislature to tackle the issue.
Cannabis industry groups including dispensaries, medical marijuana growers and a powerful union drafted the proposed measure in the face of an ongoing federal crackdown on California’s $1.5 billion medicinal pot trade.
But a top campaign director said initiative planners instead have decided to run television and radio ads to urge lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown to enact rules governing how medical marijuana outlets operate in the state.
"We’re not doing the initiative. We’re pulling the plug on it," said Dan Rush, director of the Medical Cannabis and Hemp Division for the United Food and Commercial Workers, which has been organizing California pot workers for the past two years.
Rush said Thursday that he had secured $1.2 million in pledges, mostly from the dispensary industry, toward $2 million to gather signatures for a November initiative.
But with time running out and other major funders undecided over whether to pursue a ballot or legislative strategy, Rush said initiative backers decided to take their case to the Capitol instead. He said the money pledged to date will be used for "a full-on media campaign," including lobbying and likely television and radio spots this summer.
Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has introduced legislation seeking to accomplish many aims of the ballot initiative, the proposed Medical Marijuana Regulation, Control and Taxation Act.
Ammiano’s Assembly Bill 2312 would create a Board of Medical Marijuana Enforcement under the state Department of Consumer Affairs to approve or deny permits for dispensaries and oversee medical marijuana cultivation, transportation, distribution and sales.
The Ammiano bill also includes a provision in the proposed initiative to mandate that cities and counties permit one dispensary for every 50,000 residents unless local voters approve local ordinances to ban them.
But the Ammiano bill scraps plans for a 2.5 percent statewide tax on medical marijuana businesses in favor of provisions allowing local governments to impose a one-quarter percent to 2 percent tax on medicinal pot transactions.
"They were not going to get a tax passed in Sacramento," said Dale Gieringer, California director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws.
Even a regulatory measure for marijuana could prove a tough sell to lawmakers, many of whom are skittish about being portrayed as pro-dispensary.
The proposed ballot initiative came together after California’s four U.S. attorneys announced charges Oct. 7 against targeted dispensaries, growers and financial speculators in the medical marijuana market and threatened pot business landlords with seizures of properties.
Backers of the initiative were up against a June deadline to gather a half-million valid voter signatures to qualify the measure.
"I always felt it was an uphill battle because we started so late," Gieringer said.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Friday, March 9, 2012
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The New Hampshire House narrowly passed a bill to decriminalize a person’s first two marijuana possessions under one-half ounce.
Republican Speaker Bill O’Brien abstained from voting, allowing the bill to squeak by Thursday with a 162-161 vote. The House voted overwhelmingly 228-89 to kill a second bill to legalize and regulate the drug.
Under the decriminalization bill, first offenses would be violations punishable by a $250 fine. The second would be $500. Subsequent offenses would be misdemeanors subject to a year of jail time and a $1,000 fine. Offenders under 21 could also be ordered to take a drug awareness program.
All offenses are currently misdemeanors punishable by up to a $2,000 fine and a year in jail.
The bill now goes to the Senate. If it passes, Gov. John Lynch has promised to veto the measure.
"Marijuana is a controlled drug that remains illegal under federal law. New Hampshire parents are working to keep their kids away from marijuana and other drugs. We should not make the jobs of parents – or law enforcement – harder by sending a false message that some marijuana use is acceptable," Lynch spokesman Colin Manning said after the vote.
In the criminal justice committee’s report to the House, Rep. Kyle Tasker, a Nottingham Republican who co-sponsored the bill, called it "a measured and calculated reduction in penalties." Surrounding states have tried similar laws with good results, he wrote in the report.
According to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, 14 other states have decriminalized marijuana, including Massachusetts, Maine and Connecticut.
Rep. Stephen Shurtleff, a former U.S. marshal, said he supported decriminalization but felt a half-ounce was too much. That amount of marijuana would be equivalent to 20-30 joints, he said.
"When someone is carrying around 20-30 joints they’ve crossed the line into distribution," said the Penacook Democrat.
Lynch has opposed such bills in the past. In 2009 he vetoed a bill to establish three medical marijuana dispensaries that would have distributed 2 ounces every 10 days to severely ill patients whose doctors approved the drug’s use. Lynch cited concerns over cultivation and proliferation beyond the dispensaries as reasons for his opposition.
He also promised to veto another medical marijuana bill last year and a 2010 bill that would have decriminalized possession or transportation of less than one-quarter ounce of the drug. The Senate killed both before they reached his desk.
By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun
10:45 a.m. EST, March 9, 2012
His decision comes as states with programs similar to what Maryland is considering have come under fire from federal prosecutors and were forced to suspend all or parts of their programs. His decision could once again kill an effort that has stalled in the General Assembly for years.
Maryland legislators are to begin debating three medical marijuana bills in House of Delegates committee hearings today.
"We have some serious concerns about liability," said O’Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory. "Those concerns were raised by U.S. attorneys across the country. Based on those concerns, it is probably likely we would veto any legislation."
Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire recently vetoed parts of legislation in that state after U.S. attorneys said state employees would not be immune to liability for violating the federal Controlled Substances Act, which classifies marijuana as an illegal drug.
In Delaware, Gov. Jack Markell halted implementation of a program that would have distributed medical marijuana through nonprofit centers. He did this after the U.S. attorney there said state workers could be held liable and that possession and distribution of drugs was illegal under federal law even if allowed by a state.
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler‘s office also expressed concerns about the legality of medical marijuana in a letter to Baltimore County Del. Dan K. Morhaim, the lead sponsor for two of Maryland’s bills. Morhaim had asked whether the bills could lead to federal criminal liability.
"The federal law prohibits use and possession of marijuana, as well as distribution and manufacture, without regard to whether the marijuana is ultimately used to treat a medical condition," wrote Assistant Attorney General Kathryn M. Rowe.
Maryland Health Secretary Joshua M. Sharfstein is expected to testify today that his agency cannot support any of the bills, including one that he previously endorsed, according to a draft of his testimony.
"It is hard to imagine putting state employees in a position where they would face criminal liability," Sharfstein said in a phone interview Thursday.
Sharfstein killed efforts to legalize medical marijuana last year when he cited a lack of scientific consensus about the benefits of marijuana and concerns about regulating a program. Instead, the state agreed create a commission to study how to develop and implement a plan to distribute medical marijuana. The General Assembly did amend state law to allow sick people found with less than 1 ounce of the drug to argue medical necessity as a defense.
This year, lawmakers will consider two bills written using the commission’s recommendations and introduced by Morhaim, the only doctor serving in the General Assembly.
One of the Morhaim bills, backed by Sharfstein and law enforcement officials, calls for a strictly monitored program in which an educational research institution would be selected to dispense the drug to patients.
"This is something that needs to be done in a proper and rigorous way as you would do with any medication," said Paul Celano, who served on the commission and is president of the Maryland and D.C. Society of Clinical Oncology and chief of medical oncology at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
The second plan, which Morhaim favors, would allow doctors to prescribe medical marijuana to some patients and create a network of state-sanctioned and supervised dispensaries and growers. The bill is similar to one the Senate passed last year.
Del. Cheryl Glenn, a Baltimore City Democrat, has introduced the most liberal bill, which would allow individuals to grow marijuana. She said former talk show host Montel Williams, who said he smokes marijuana to deal with the pain of multiple sclerosis, will testify on behalf of her bill.
Glenn said she doesn’t worry about federal law because it is unlikely to be enforced.
"The federal government is on record saying this is not a priority for them," Glenn said. "If a state has a well-written law they are not going to seek any enforcement action. There is no need for patients with cancer and other diseases that become so debilitating to have to suffer."
Kate Bell, a criminal defense attorney with Kaminkow & Woods in Baltimore, said she has represented clients all over the state who have been arrested for possessing marijuana they used to help ease the pain of an illness. She supports Glenn’s bill because, she said, it would make the drug most accessible to patients.
"If you are buying it on the black market you are giving your money to a criminal organization," she said. "I have had sick people who have spent the night in jail. Something has to change."
Baltimore Sun reporter Annie Linskey contributed to this report.
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Gov. Nathan Deal has found an unlikely ally in his push to refigure who we lock up in Georgia: The Rev. Pat Robertson, who now backs the legalization of marijuana. From the New York Times:
“I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol,” Mr. Robertson said in an interview …. “I’ve never used marijuana and I don’t intend to, but it’s just one of those things that I think: this war on drugs just hasn’t succeeded.”
Mr. Robertson’s remarks echoed statements he made last week on “The 700 Club,” the signature program of his Christian Broadcasting Network, and other comments he made in 2010. While those earlier remarks were largely dismissed by his followers, Mr. Robertson has now apparently fully embraced the idea of legalizing marijuana, arguing that it is a way to bring down soaring rates of incarceration and reduce the social and financial costs.
“I believe in working with the hearts of people, and not locking them up,” he said.
Here’s a YouTube clip of remarks Robertson made along the same line last year, caught by CNN: