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  1. BoingBoing
  2. Mark Frauenfelder
  3. 2010-04-09

"Keep Pot Illegal!" say Humboldt County dope farmers

  1. BoingBoing
  2. Mark Frauenfelder
  3. 2010-04-09

"Keep Pot Illegal!" say Humboldt County dope farmers

  1. BoingBoing
  2. Mark Frauenfelder
  3. 2010-04-09

"Keep Pot Illegal!" say Humboldt County dope farmers

  1. Los Angeles Times
  2. John Hoeffel
  3. 2010-01-26

LA City Council approves ordinance to shut down hundreds of dispensaries

 In a 9-3 vote, the Los Angeles City Council today gave its final approval to an ordinance that will shut down hundreds of medical marijuana dispensaries and impose strict rules on the location and operation of the dispensaries that are allowed.

The measure passed quickly, without debate.

The ordinance, which the council first began discussing more than 4 1/2 years ago, will cap the number of dispensaries at 70 but make an exception to allow all those that registered with the city in 2007 and have remained open. City officials believe that number is around 150.

Hundreds of dispensaries have opened in Los Angeles as the City Council debated its proposed ordinance and failed to enforce a moratorium on new dispensaries. City officials believe there are more than 500 that will be required to close under the ordinance, but some are already preparing to sue the city and collect signatures to force a referendum on the ordinance.

The ordinance also requires dispensaries to be at least 1,000 feet from other dispensaries and so-called sensitive uses, such as schools, parks and libraries. Among other restrictions, dispensaries will be required to close at 8 p.m. and will not be permitted to allow marijuana use at the stores.

The ordinance will not take effect until after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa signs it and the City Council approves the fees that dispensaries will have to pay to cover the city's cost of monitoring. City officials are studying those costs and expect to propose the fees soon.

Once the ordinance is in place, the city attorney's office will send letters to affected landlords and dispensary operators telling them that they must close immediately. If the dispensaries remain open, the city attorney's office likely will take them to court.

  1. Los Angeles Times
  2. John Hoeffel
  3. 2009-11-16

West Hollywood's medical marijuana success story

 

A few miles from Los Angeles City Hall, a small experiment in marijuana regulation has been underway for years. While the state's largest city passed a flawed moratorium, failed to enforce it, debated proposed rules endlessly and watched flummoxed as dispensaries multiplied, West Hollywood pressed ahead.

Confronted with its own dispensary explosion in 2005, the city surrounded by L.A. imposed a moratorium on dispensaries, clamped interim rules on the ones that were open, passed a strict ordinance and capped the number allowed at four, all within two years.

When the West Hollywood City Council updated its ordinance earlier this month, the vote was unanimous, no residents spoke in opposition and the city's dispensary operators lined up in support.

Today, in contrast, two Los Angeles council committees will hold what is sure to be a boisterously contentious hearing as they try to finish an ordinance now in its fifth draft.

In West Hollywood, city officials say, it's been more than two years since a resident has complained about a dispensary. Neighborhood watch leaders say their streets are safer because the dispensary guards are required to walk nearby blocks. School officials welcome dispensaries as neighbors. And the L.A. County Sheriff's Department, which patrols the city, says there have been no recent crimes at dispensaries and no calls from agitated neighbors.

"We've been on top of this from Day 1," said Lisa Belsanti, a senior management analyst with the city who helped draw up its rules. "There's a problem, but it's in Los Angeles, it's not in West Hollywood."

Cities with no medical marijuana regulations, including Los Angeles, San Diego and Long Beach, have seen an outcry from neighborhoods upset that dispensaries open wherever they want, often in close proximity, and attract nuisances, such as traffic, and real dangers, such as robberies.

But some cities, notably San Francisco and Oakland, have tightly regulated their dispensaries, and officials there say they have had little or no trouble with them.

Although at 1.9 square miles and about 36,000 people West Hollywood is a fraction of L.A.'s size, it offers an example of how a city that adopted rules and enforced them has largely eliminated its problems.

"We've kept them on a short leash," said City Councilman John Duran, who has been involved with medical marijuana issues for years. "Today, we have minimal complaints, and they are acting responsibly."

West Hollywood -- with its large population of gays and seniors and its pride in its progressive politics -- welcomed medical marijuana as word spread that it can help AIDS patients and glaucoma sufferers. But it too experienced a neighborhood backlash as the number of dispensaries started to climb in 2004 and 2005.

Three appeared within a block of Fountain Day School. One, the Farmacy, was around the corner. Its customers lit up in a parking lot shared with the private school, upsetting parents.

"All of a sudden they started opening up boom, boom, boom, boom, boom," said Andrew Rakos, the school's general manager. "Our parent organization came to me and said we're not happy about this. There was an immediate influx of a lot of unsavory people."

The Farmacy is run by a pharmacist, JoAnna LaForce, who has treated critically ill patients with marijuana for more than 15 years. She contacted the school's parent organization, offered tours of her store, hired security and banned smoking in the parking lot. The Farmacy, like the other dispensaries, belongs to the Chamber of Commerce and its manager serves on a community advisory board.

"We're just part of the community, a part of the neighborhood. They don't see us as a risk," said LaForce, who has watched the situation in Los Angeles with dismay. She also has Farmacy dispensaries in Venice and Westwood that followed the rules to operate under the city's moratorium.

Rakos is now one of the Farmacy's most valuable supporters. Because it was within 500 feet of the school, the city wanted the Farmacy to move by the end of the year. But Rakos asked the City Council to make an exception, and it did. "We felt that it was important for the city to know that there are some businesses that are not only respectful, but listened to the needs of the community," he said.

In Los Angeles, a controversial draft ordinance has ping-ponged between the council and the city attorney's office. Neighborhood activists and dispensary operators have been largely excluded, except to speak at public hearings. West Hollywood officials, however, worked closely with residents, dispensary owners and the Sheriff's Department.

The West Hollywood ordinance restricts where dispensaries can open, sets security requirements, limits hours and bans on-site consumption. It goes further than the proposed Los Angeles ordinance to ensure that dispensaries are responsible neighbors.

The dispensaries must provide nearby residents with the name and phone number of a contact person. To discourage robberies, dispensaries must deposit each day's cash. Security guards have to patrol a two-block radius to prevent loitering and smoking, and guards must be unarmed. "We don't want the wild, wild West shootouts over marijuana and cash," Duran said.

The city also requires the dispensary operators to meet regularly with city officials to discuss problems. Those meetings are now very short. "We go in there for 10 minutes," LaForce said, "and they say -- the sheriffs in there -- any problems? No. Any concerns? No."

City officials were alarmed recently when Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley said he believed most dispensaries were illegal and threatened to prosecute them. But Sheriff Lee Baca, who has advised cities to ban dispensaries, said he considers West Hollywood a model and even suggested Los Angeles adopt the same ordinance.

Baca said his deputies work closely with the city's dispensaries. "I know they're transparent, and I think the key is that our people can go in there at any time and look at their documentation," he said. "What we're interested in is organizations that try to blend commercial sales with medical sales. That's clearly illegal."

West Hollywood has four approved dispensaries, all on busy Santa Monica Boulevard.

Don Duncan, the area's most visible medical marijuana advocate as the California director for Americans for Safe Access, runs the unflashy Los Angeles Patients & Caregivers Group. A security guard is always on the sidewalk in front of the cannabis-green storefront.

"We haven't had a complaint in three years," Duncan said.

The Farmacy, unlike most outlets, leaves its door open, inviting passersby to check out its surf-and-Buddha-influenced vibe. Alternative Herbal Health Services, across the street, is more discreet, with a colorful sign much like those found at natural food stores.

Near the west end of town is the Zen Healing Collective, with an enormous neon cannabis leaf in the window.

A fifth dispensary, the Sunset Super Shop, which city officials want to shut down, occupies a metaphorical sweet spot on the Sunset Strip between the Hustler Hollywood boutique (sex) and the Whisky a Go Go (rock 'n' roll).

One issue still troubles some West Hollywood officials: that people exploit the state's medical marijuana laws to buy pot simply to get high or to resell. "There are a lot of people that hang around that look to us as undesirables, but we don't really get many complaints from the community," said sheriff's Lt. Dave Smith.

Duran believes the downside does not outweigh the benefit of giving truly sick people safe access to marijuana and creating a system that allows the city to monitor sales.

"We're the home of the Sunset Strip," he said. "We've had people smoking marijuana on Sunset since 1920. That's not going to change."

 

  1. Oakland Tribune
  2. Angela Woodall
  3. 2009-11-13

Marijuana laws spur small businesses in Oakland, elsewhere

An incremental acceptance of medical marijuana has spurred a cottage industry of business ventures — from iPhone applications to lobbyists — whose expansion shows no sign of slowing despite the recession. Instead, pot is the new growth industry.
The market began to take off in 1996, when California became the first state to approve the sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Today, medical marijuana sales in California are estimated at $700 million to $2 billion per year. Profits from "canni-businesses" as a whole are potentially much greater.
"It is a social movement with cash flow," said James Anthony, an activist and attorney who has advised numerous dispensaries, of which there are at least 2,100 nationwide, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
The group estimates that Californians alone consume nearly $6 billion of marijuana annually.
The money has always been there, Anthony said. It has just risen to the surface because people think there is less risk of being prosecuted.
The most obvious beneficiaries of what has been dubbed a "hempire" are dispensaries, growers and doctors, who charge up to $200 per consultation.
Newer are the small business ventures such as delivery services and publishers of books about how to start pot-related businesses. Pharmacologists are standardizing the safety and strength of the pot consumed in everything from lemon bars to olive oil.
Companies are preparing special machines, packaging and containers for the industry.
Hotels also are affected by cannabis-related tourism, conventions and competing trade shows that draw thousands to cities. And if anyone has trouble finding what they need, the iPhone and iTouch offer a cannabis application that allows users to locate resources worldwide.
Media involved with pot also have expanded. The Web-based station "Marijuana Radio" has been featured on the front page of the iTunes comedy podcast section, and the Denver Westword news weekly went further by posting a help wanted ad for a reviewer of Colorado's marijuana dispensaries and their products.
In addition, the number of pot lawyers and political consultants have exploded, and a half-dozen marijuana lobbying groups have sprung up in Washington, D.C., a few on K Street. Oakland activist Richard Lee said he spent more than a $1 million gathering signatures for a measure that would permit adults to possess cannabis for personal use and allow local governments to tax it.
Cannabis has become a regular political issue instead of just a crazy, hippie dream, Lee said. His "Oaksterdam University" was the first cannabis college. There are now at least a half-dozen in California, and others are looking at creating online versions of the classes available for about $50 a seminar.
Lee said last year he took in between $4 million and $5 million from his businesses, which also include an advertising agency, a tour company, a bicycle rental and glassblowing business, a gift shop selling souvenirs and merchandise, and the Bull Dog Café in downtown Oakland. (Visitors can take an "Oaksterdam" tour of the city's cannabis dispensaries through Segway of Oakland.)
The Harborside Health Center, an Oakland dispensary that offers numerous services, had about $20 million in gross revenues last year and expects to pay $400,000 in taxes to Oakland in 2010, according to founder and longtime activist Stephen DeAngelo. He employs 76 full-time workers, up from 43 in 2008.
"We are seeing the first stages of this industry that has been in the shadows come into the light," said DeAngelo, a longtime advocate for cannabis legalization. "A legal cannabis industry would be a huge economic benefit."
Those potential benefits have prompted cash-strapped cities and states to take another look at marijuana. Oakland in 2004 became the first city to license medical cannabis outlets. That year, the city's four licensed dispensaries reported $26 million in revenue. Advocates projected income to reach $64 million in 2009.
Those numbers are dwarfed by the $280 billion pharmaceutical industry. But the pot-based figures were enough to convince Oakland voters in July to approve a tax on the proceeds of medical marijuana sales that could raise $300,000 per year for the city.
Advocates also were heartened recently by signals from President Barack Obama's administration that federal authorities were backing off pursuing smokers or distributors of medical cannabis as long as they operate according to the laws of their state.
That does not mean selling marijuana is legal or that the patchwork of local, county, state and federal law has been coordinated. But, DeAngelo said, "it is a significant change."
"Every day I went to work," he said, "I didn't know if I would be going to prison or coming home at night."

 

  1. Esquire
  2. John H. Richardson
  3. 2009-10-27

One City's Insane Fight Against Obama's Sane New Pot Policy

 Two years ago, in the throes of a Bush administration that disregarded states' rights whenever it felt like getting high on itself, there were fewer than two hundred medical-marijuana outlets in Los Angeles. Today, even the most conservative estimates say that number has quadrupled. On one stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard alone, four thriving pot shops estimate their tax payments at $4 million a year. Got an emergency radiation treatment and can't find the nearest store? There's an iPhone app for that.

With patient demand pushing dispensaries in several of the fourteen states that allow medical marijuana to expand their business, the Obama administration last week ordered the Justice Department to respect state laws and stop harassing them.

You would think, after our new president's ups and downs on what is ultimately the road to wholesale legalization, that calling off the pot bullies would be, by all accounts, A Good Thing. Hundreds of thousands — if not millions — of Americans have used the approved stuff, after all, whether as therapeutic medicine or therapeutic something else.

Trouble is, all this common sense seems to have fried the brains of the law-enforcement leaders in the City of Los Angeles. They've suddenly come up with a bizarre new interpretation of the law — that the requirement for pot dispensaries to be "nonprofit" actually means that they can't accept cash.

Yes, you read that right. This is how Deputy City Attorney David Berger put it: "We can still use state law to enforce, and we still believe that the only legal way to do that is to enforce against the selling of marijuana, as opposed to giving it away as a collective."

This has to be the first time in American history that the government is ordering its citizens to start collectivizing our farms.

The backwards logic was codified in the fourth version of a draft ordinance that City Attorney Carmen Trutanich submitted last Tuesday to the Los Angeles city council. Apparently a hard-core member of the Marxist-Leninist wing of the Republican party, Trutanich even argued that dispensary owners shouldn't use cash to pay for labor or fertilizer — that the voters of California actually intended for marijuana to be produced and dispensed, unlike all other drugs in the known universe, on a pure barter system. (This from the man who made Michael Jackson's funeral look like it switched from the Staples Center to Tammany Hall.)

Naturally, the government's marijuana bait-and-switch over the past eight days has producers and dispensers very upset. When I spoke with her late last week, Yamileth Bolanos, owner of a shop called PureLife Alternatives and president of an influential medical-marijuana trade group, summed up the general sentiment:

"They expect people who are sick and on chemotherapy to get up and farm their own crop? If you're not directly involved in growing the crop, you can't have any of it?"

Imagine the unintended consequences, Bolanos said. "They say there's between 250,000 and 300,000 medical marijuana patients in the city of Los Angeles, and we don't have wide-open spaces here where we can grow. That means every building in Los Angeles will be a grow site."

The draft ordinance is city's latest attempt to bring some kind of order to the explosion of pot stores, all of which have so far failed. Bolanos insists that she and the marijuana community want to be partners in this, helping to clean up the shady cannabis clubs that don't pay taxes or check prescriptions. "We've been screaming for regulation," she told me. "I've gone to the city council and said, 'Show us the rules. Tell us what to do, so we can provide for patients in a safe manner.' [But] the city let the situation get out of hand — they wouldn't give us regulations, so we made up our own regulations, we started accrediting clubs. We follow the rules very strictly, but what they're asking us to do now is impossible."

For example, the draft ordinance includes a clause saying you can't have a shop across an alley from a residential area. "That alone wipes us all out," Bolanos says. "Who doesn't have an alley behind a commercial property in Los Angeles? That's how the blocks were built — the outer block is commercial and there's residential behind it."

A true believer in medical marijuana, Bolanos began smoking when she was diagnosed with liver cancer. "I use cannabis every day — I have a new liver, I don't want to put any medicine in my body that will tax my liver. What are people supposed to do, go back to the streets? That's what they're doing: they're sending sick people out on the street to get their medication."

As a result, she has no sympathy for the argument that the government should just stop the charade and legalize pot altogether. "No, no, I am not for full legalization — this is medicine to me. There are real patients here. It's very sad that because of a few people who are abusing the system, the real patients have to suffer. What is the old line? Non-sinners pay for what sinners do?"

Despite all that, nobody really thinks this fight is about medicine. It's about the virtual legalization of drugs that is slowly but surely happening in California. Here's are some of the online reviews for a club in Reseda called Nature's Natural Collective Care, for example:

 

"They have a nice little smoke room where you can try your samples and they have a few water pipes, glass pipes, papers in there for you to use. I was asking about a certain strain and the guy busted out the Cannibible and gave me the low down on that strain. I like that type of service."

"They have over 60 strains at times all capped at $50 an 1/8th and no more than $400 an oz on the highest quality. With ounces ranging from like $180-$400. They even let you have free samples."

"Full O's are all sub $400 for great shit and the service here from the budtenders is beyond fantastic. Their knowledge and ability to work with you is amazing."

 

As the right-wingers warned from the beginning, medical marijuana is turning out to be the genie you can't stuff back in the bottle. Even if the L.A. city council's rushed vote comes down in favor of the Trutanich ordinance, it seems likely that the regulations will be overturned in the courts — which is exactly what happened with Trutanich's last attempt to shut down the clubs. The state attorney general has already gone on record saying — and reiterated to Esquire.com when we asked him for comment — that the law allows sales. In the end, this case of bureaucratic bullying — and others across the country as states come to terms with a (relatively) sane White House pot policy — will be just another pointless and expensive skirmish on the inevitable road to marijuana legalization.

But for now, the fight is on: One day after Trutanich submitted the draft ordinance, the LAPD raided Nature's Natural.

"We expect more," Bolanos says. "They told us there are going to be more. We are in the fight for our lives."



Read more: http://www.esquire.com/the-side/richardson-report/obama-medical-marijuana-laws-102709#ixzz0VBMkLJTH

  1. Gallup
  2. Lydia Saad
  3. 2009-10-22

U.S. Support for Legalizing Marijuana Reaches New High

 Gallup's October Crime poll finds 44% of Americans in favor of making marijuana legal and 54% opposed. U.S. public support for legalizing marijuana was fixed in the 25% range from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, but acceptance jumped to 31% in 2000 and has continued to grow throughout this decade.


Support for Making Use of Marijuana Legal: 1969-2009 Trend

"The highest level of support for decriminalizing the use of marijuana today is seen with self-described liberals, among whom 78% are in favor."

Public opinion is virtually the same on a question that relates to a public policy debate brewing in California -- whether marijuana should be legalized and taxed as a way of raising revenue for state governments. Just over 4 in 10 Americans (42%) say they would favor this in their own state; 56% are opposed. Support is markedly higher among residents of the West -- where an outright majority favor the proposal -- than in the South and Midwest. The views of Eastern residents fall about in the middle.

 

  1. Los Angeles Times
  2. John Hoeffel
  3. 2009-10-19

Judge grants injunction against city's medical marijuana dispensary ban

 A Superior Court judge concluded today that Los Angeles' moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries is invalid and granted a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the ban sought by a dispensary that had sued the city.

Judge James C. Chalfant determined that the city failed to follow state law when it extended its initial moratorium. "The city cannot rely on an expired ordinance," he said.

Green Oasis and a number of other medical marijuana collectives sued the city last month, challenging its efforts to control the dispensaries. The lawsuit argued that the City Council violated state law when it extended the ban until mid-March and that it is unconstitutionally vague.

Although the injunction applies only to Green Oasis, the judge's ruling calls into question the city's power to enforce the moratorium against hundreds of dispensaries that have opened in the last two years. The ruling could inspire other dispensaries to join the lawsuit or file similar actions.

 

Despite the moratorium, the city has seen explosive growth in the number of dispensaries. Under the ban, the city allowed 186 outlets to remain open. Many more – the exact number is unknown – are operating in neighborhoods across the city, and more continue to open.

In its answer to the lawsuit, the city argued that the moratorium is not subject to the conditions and limitations of state law because it is not an ordinance dealing with zoning, but with public safety. Zoning ordinances cannot be extended beyond 24 months. The city adopted the first of two moratoriums on Aug. 1, 2007.

The judge rejected that argument.

The city also argued that a decision to issue an injunction would cause "grave irreparable harm." "This lawsuit is not just about one 'bad apple.' It is about illegally dealing marijuana," the city's answer said. "Hundreds of unlawful marijuana stores have cropped up throughout the City and will likely attempt to bootstrap their illegal operation on the outcome of this action."

Jeri Burge, an assistant city attorney, told the judge this morning that granting the injunction would "reward illegal conduct."

"You're going to open the floodgates," she said.

Robert A. Kahn, an attorney for Green Oasis, argued that the dispensary did nothing wrong, noting that, under state law, the moratorium expired 45 days after it was first enacted. "The did not believe they were violating the law," he said.

The L.A. City Council has struggled for more than two years to write a permanent ordinance to replace the temporary ban.

Dan Lutz, a co-owner of Green Oasis and president of the collective association, filed the lawsuit after the council voted to shut down his dispensary, which opened in May.

Lutz, like hundreds of other dispensary owners in Los Angeles, had filed a request with the council for an exemption from the moratorium so he could operate, but opened without permission. The council failed to act on these requests until June, an oversight that prevented city officials from taking legal steps to close the dispensaries.

  1. The Hill
  2. Bridget Johnson
  3. 2009-10-19

New DOJ guidelines to back medical marijuana laws

 The Obama administration is set to make a sharp turn from the Bush administration when it comes to state laws regarding medical marijuana usage, the Associated Press reported late Sunday.

The guidelines to be issued to federal prosecutors Monday will suggest that it's not a good use of time to go after users and distributors of medical marijuana in the 14 states that allow such usage, while encouraging that illegal pot operations involving violence, firearms and sale to minors still be pursued.

Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana,NevadaNew MexicoOregonRhode IslandVermont and Washington currently have state laws allowing at least limited use of marijuana for medical purposes. The AP reported that federal prosecutors in these states, as well as top officials at the FBI and DEA, would being receiving the three-page Justice Department memo outlining the new policy.

Under the George W. Bush administration, medical marijuana dispensaries were still targeted for violating federal law despite state laws allowing pot for medical use. Attorney General Eric Holder signaled a shift in this policy in March, stating that federal enforcement would concentrate on illegal marijuana operations that use medical pot allowances as a cover.

The move doesn't come as a surprise, as Obama the candidate had expressed support for states that allowed medical marijuana.

"I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users," then-Sen. Barack Obama said on the campaign trail in New Hampshire.

  1. The Daily News
  2. Bruce Mirken
  3. 2009-10-14

Why is L.A.'s district attorney helping Mexican drug cartels?

LAST Thursday, Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley announced a sweeping new plan to boost the profits of Mexican drug cartels, a plan almost certain to increase the slaughter these vicious gangs are perpetrating on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Of course, Cooley didn't call it that. He claimed, on dubious legal grounds, that all medical marijuana dispensaries in the county are illegal and announced plans to crack down on them. While no one denies that L.A.'s attempts - or, more accurately, nonattempts - to regulate these operations have been a mess, Cooley's crackdown is guaranteed to make a bad situation worse.

While state law is not as precise as it might be in setting legal parameters for dispensing medical marijuana, guidelines issued last year by state Attorney General Jerry Brown make clear that dispensing collectives are legal and can include storefront operations.

"It is the opinion of this Office that a properly organized and operated collective or cooperative that dispenses medical marijuana through a storefront may be lawful under California law," the guidelines state, so long as other requirements are met.

It may well be that some are operating outside these guidelines, but until and unless Cooley closely inspects their operations, he is simply making things up. That's not how law enforcement should operate.

But even if Cooley were right on legal grounds, as policy his stand borders on the insane.

California law unmistakably gives patients the right to use and possess marijuana for medical purposes when recommended by their physician. And a flood of medical research over the last several years - much of it conducted by the University of California - has confirmed that marijuana can indeed provide safe, effective relief for a number of conditions, including certain hard-to-treat types of excruciating nerve pain.

So the question facing local leaders is not whether patients can have medical marijuana, but how they will obtain it. Will it be from licensed businesses operating under appropriate rules and regulations, or from drug dealers on the streets? Does Cooley really believe it's better for either patients or communities to have the state's medical marijuana patients - who number more than 200,000 by most estimates - getting their medicine from street dealers?

Sending patients to the streets for their medicine is clearly dangerous, subjecting sick people to risky transactions in order to purchase medicine of unknown quality, purity and origin. But it's the question of origin that should alarm all of us.

We know that a significant amount of street marijuana can be traced to the murderous Mexican cartels - vicious gangs who make around two-thirds of their profits from the illicit marijuana trade, according to U.S. and Mexican officials. We know that these gangs are operating in at least 230 U.S. cities, including Los Angeles, Hacienda Heights and Garden Grove.

A mass shutdown of medical marijuana dispensaries will simply hand these thugs a massive new pool of customers and millions of dollars in extra profits. There is a better way.

The experience of other cities, including Oakland and San Francisco, has shown that well-crafted regulations can allow medical marijuana patients to access their medicine safely, from well-run organizations that follow the law and respect their neighborhoods.

In San Francisco, medical marijuana dispensaries have simply ceased being controversial, as explained last year by C.W. Nevius, arguably the San Francisco Chronicle's most conservative local columnist:

"Quietly, with little fanfare, San Francisco is on the way to becoming a model for medical marijuana clubs done the right way. Exploitative, profit-hungry drug clubs are being forced out and community-based, patient-friendly ones are becoming the norm. Neighbors have shut down dispensaries in school zones, and patient services have been increased."

It's long past time for California's legislature to set clear, statewide standards and licensing rules for medical marijuana providers. But until then, local officials like Cooley need to use common sense and not pursue policies that will simply enrich murderous thugs.

Bruce Mirken is director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project, www.mpp.org

  1. CBSNews.com
  2. John Blackstone
  3. 2009-07-26

High Stakes: A Call to Legalize Marijuana

 In Oakland, Calif., Richard Lee runs a string of businesses, from coffee shops to glass blowing that are helping revitalize the once-decaying downtown. 

But Lee's business empire is built on an unusual foundation: Selling marijuana 

In the back of his Blue Sky Coffee Shop there's a steady stream of cash buyers, and not just for coffee. 

"In the front you get the coffee and pastries, and in the back you get the cannabis," Lee said. 

A salesman told customers, "You're welcome to pull the bags out and smell the herb as you like." 

What's going on here is illegal under federal law, but permitted under California law that since 1996 has allowed marijuana for medical use. 

A dozen other states have similar laws. One customer named Charles said pot is exactly what his doctor ordered. 

"So that's what relieves my anxiety and allows me to cope and feel good," he said. 

Lee has dubbed his Oakland neighborhood "Oaksterdam" . . . with a nod to Amsterdam and its liberal drug laws. His goal is to make this a tourist destination, with marijuana its main attraction. 

"Does that worry people around here?" asked Blackstone

"No, people around here love it 'cause they see how much we've improved the neighborhood," Lee said. 

Next door to where Lee sells marijuana, Gertha Hays sells clothes. She says the dispensary brings people from all walks of life. "There's no particular pothead," she said, "so everyone comes over there." 

"So these aren't just druggies in there?" Blackstone asked. 

"No, not at all. If you look and see who comes up and down thethe block you'll see it's so diverse," Hays said. 

Part of the Oaksterdam neighborhood is a nursery growing a cash crop: Medical marijuana is now estimated to be a $2 to 3 billion business in California. 

"Yeah, there's a lot of people making a lot of money," lee said. 

(CBS)
There are now several hundred medical marijuana dispensaries in California . . . and much more marijuana being sold on the street. 

"We estimate, overall, [the] California cannabis industry is in the neighborhood of around $15 billion," lee said. 

While there is disagreement over the real size of the marijuana market it's big enough to have captured the attention of lawmakers trying to fill a huge hole in the state budget. 

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is pushing legislation to legalize pot so the state can inhale new taxes. 

"I thought it was high time, no pun intended, for this to be on the table," Ammiano said. "I'm trying to beat everybody to the punch with the jokes, because I get a lot of 'em," he laughed. 

There are many who ridicule the idea, but the state tax board estimates Ammiano's proposed tax of $50 an ounce could bring in $1.5 to 2 billion a year. 

"We find that highly unlikely," said Rosalie Pacula, of the Rand Drug Policy Research Center. She says California is likely to be disappointed by the revenue raised on marijuana that now sells for about $150 an ounce. 

"If you try to impose a tax that is that high, you have absolutely no incentive for the black market to disappear," she said. "There is complete profit motive for them to actually stay." 

The tax proposal, though, has started an unusual political discussion. According to one poll, 56 percent of California voters say marijuana should be legalized and taxed. Even California's Republican governor has not snuffed out talk of legalization. 

"No, I think it's not time for that, but I think it's time for debate," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said. "All of those ideas for creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it." 


Check out reports on the debate over legalization in CBSNews.com's special section "Marijuana Nation."


Of course, Governor Schwarzenegger, from his earlier life, does have some experience . . . 

. . . as does the president himself. 

"I inhaled, frequently," Mr. Obama admitted on the campaign trail, in a nod to President Bill Clinton's earlier quasi-admission. "That was the point." 

And while the president says he is opposed to legalizing pot ("No, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy"), his administration has ordered the DEA to stop raiding state-approved medical marijuana dispensaries. 

It's a big change from decades of viewing the plant as the indisputable evil portrayed in the 1936 film "Reefer Madness." 

But that old image has been going up in smoke for decades. 

It was along for the trip in 1969 in the movie "Easy Rider," and on the cover of Life Magazine. On TV today it's just a part of suburban life in the series "Weeds." 

And then there's the growing recognition of marijuana as medicine. 

"Marijuana has been a medicine for 5,000 years," said Dr. Donald Abrams of San Francisco General Hospital. "It's only for the last 70 years that it hasn't been a medicine in this country." 

Dr. Abrams has been studying marijuana for twelve years and is convinced it is both effective and safe. 

"I think marijuana is a very good medicine," he said. "I'm a cancer doctor. I take care every day of patients who have loss of appetite, nausea, pain, difficulty sleeping and depression. I have one medicine that can treat all of those symptoms, instead of five different medicines to which they may become addicted. 

"And that one is marijuana, and they're not gonna become addicted to it?" Blackstone said. 

"That's correct," said Dr. Abrams. 

But those who have been fighting the war on drugs say that, just because marijuana may be medicine, that doesn't mean it should be legal. 

"There's just no doubt about it that the drug cartels and the drug organizations are very much involved in the production and sale of marijuana, said Roy Wasden, police chief in Modesto, Calif., where a lot of marijuana is grown. 

"You can be out walking through the national forest, and if you hike into one of these marijuana grows, you'll be at great risk," he said. 

And drug fighters warn aging boomers that marijuana isn't the gentle weed they remember. Today's pot is a whole different kettle of fish 

"The marijuana of the 1960s and Woodstock is not what's being sold on the streets in the United States today, said Chief Bernard Melekian, head of the California Police Chiefs Association. "The narcotic portion, the THC of marijuana in the '60s, hovered around one or two percent. THC today is around 27 to 30 percent. 

"You have a very significantly different plant." 

Teaching people to grow that plant is another one of Richard Lee's businesses. 

Lee runs Oaksterdam University, where students also learn how to stay within the state's medical marijuana laws. 

"So you can't plant those seeds until you know what the law is?" Blackstone asked. 

"Right," said Lee. "Vote today and get high tonight." 

Students like Darnell Blackman and Barbara Kramer see an opportunity to do good . . . and to do well . . . by growing marijuana. 

"Just like aspirin or ibuprofen or any of those other medications, cannabis is just another way of helping people," said Blackman. 

"I thought maybe there was some way that I could get in the ground floor, get ahead of the curve on where this industry might be going," said Kramer. 

There are still plenty of obstacles before it's a legal industry. Chief Wasden says this is no time for a surrender in the war on drugs. 

"Fewer kids are using drugs today," he said. "We're not losing the war on drugs. Kids are starting to understand the negative, negative consequences of drug abuse. Do we need to introduce another dependency-driven substance into our community when in fact we're making progress?" 

But in the community now known as Oaksterdam, the drug warriors are nowhere to be seen . . . as a whole neighborhood goes to pot. 

  1. The Sacramento Bee
  2. Dan Walters
  3. 2009-07-26

Legal pot could generate $1.4 billion in revenue, tax board says

 California could see a nearly $1.4 billion per year increase in state revenues were it to legalize marijuana, the state Board of Equalization says in an analysis of pending legislation to to do that.

The bill (Assembly Bill 390) by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, is still awaiting its first committee hearing and is likely not to be considered until next year. It would impose not only sales taxes but a $50 per ounce fee on marijuana sales, which would be licensed by the state much as alcoholic beverages are regulated.

Today, although considered illegal by federal authorities, California allows limited sales of marijuana for medicinal purposes, subject to local control, in accordance with a ballot measure approved by voters in 1996. And the state imposes sales taxes on those pot transactions. But wider sales would, under the Ammiano bill, be dependent on federal permission.

California is considered by federal authorities to be the nation's top marijuana producing state with 8.6 million pounds a year, valued at $13.8 billion, making it one of the state's largest agricultural crops, much of which is exported to other locales.The Board of Equalization analysis concludes that assuming 16 million ounces of marijuana consumption inCalifornia a year, legalization under AB 390 would generate $990 million from the $50 per ounce special levy and $392 million in sales taxes.

"We can no longer afford to keep our heads in the sand when it comes to marijuana," Ammiano said in a statement. "The move towards regulating and taxing marijuana is long overdue and simply common sense. The benefits of regulation are clear - controlling marijuana would generate up to $1.3 billion in much needed revenue for the state, restrict access to only those over 21, end the environmental damage to our public lands from illicit crops, and improve public safety by redirecting law enforcement efforts to more serious crimes.

"It defies reason to propose closing parks and eliminating vital services for the poor while this potential revenue is available. California has an historic opportunity to be the first state in the nation to enact a smart, responsible public policy for the control and regulation of marijuana."

 

 

  1. The Los Angeles Times
  2. John Hoeffel
  3. 2009-06-28

L.A. is trying to weed out pot sellers

A city inspector dropped by the Bulldog Cafe Collective on Melrose Avenue last week to see if it was still in business. It was. Inside the spare, modern interior, dusky green marijuana buds were still displayed in plastic jars. An owner who is often at the store tweezed whimsically named strains into small vials for customers.

The store near Hancock Park is among the first 14 medical marijuana dispensaries targeted for extinction by a City Council chagrined that it allowed hundreds to open in Los Angeles despite a 21-month-old moratorium.

City officials plan to decide this week on the next enforcement step.

On Monday, the council will accelerate its drive to roll back the number of dispensaries, holding hearings on 29 more. "We were trying to factor in a significant number so that we can make some headway," said Councilman Ed Reyes, the chairman of the planning committee. "I thought we were going too slow."
 
As the council embarks on this effort, it faces some obstacles.

The task is herculean, requiring hearings that could easily tie up the planning committee for hundreds of hours. The hearings have been rocky, as council members have struggled with complicated issues and dispensary operators have complained that they were being railroaded. And, if dispensaries refuse to buckle, the city could face costly court battles.

One of the Bulldog Cafe's owners, Anthony Folsom, said the rush to close dispensaries would hurt responsible businessmen and Los Angeles. "The city seems to be caving to political pressure," he said. "People who are in it for the right reason are going to get out, and what they are going to be left with is drug dealers."

The council wound up in this situation because it failed to act on dispensaries' applications for hardship exemptions from the moratorium. That inaction, which lasted almost 17 months, encouraged dispensaries to open; the city attorney's office had decided it could not take dispensaries to court until the council denied their applications.

In the last few months, applications poured in.

On June 9, when the council voted to stop accepting them, there were about 550. The decision did not become effective until Tuesday. By then, the total had hit 883.

"That's a huge number," Reyes said. "Thank God we stopped it."

The moratorium does not spell out what qualifies a dispensary for a hardship exemption, and the city attorney's office has advised the council only that its decisions must be fair and rational.

That vague advice led Councilman Richard Alarcon to warn recently that the city could find itself snarled in lawsuits. "This is a very dangerous road we're going down," he said. "It's going to cost us a ton of money."

Reyes has held just two hearings so far, on the Bulldog Cafe and New Age Wellness, a dispensary that has not yet opened in Venice. They were marked by awkward moments. Council aides presented some inaccurate and unverified information, and Reyes tried to silence the dispensaries' attorneys when they responded to it.

At one point, Stewart Richlin, the attorney for New Age Wellness, leaped up and cried out, "I'd like to challenge that. That's hearsay within hearsay." He kept interrupting until he made his point, which turned out to be correct.

Richlin and medical marijuana advocates were disturbed that Reyes allowed most speakers just one minute.

"Gee, why should they give a full minute?" Richlin said recently. "What if they gave 10 seconds or two seconds? Then you could give your name, and they could say, 'Guilty, death sentence.' I mean this is a kangaroo court.' "

Reyes made no apologies for the procedures. "It's not a debate. It's a hearing," he said. "If it was a debate, I would never finish an item."

The council's decision to reject the applications from the Bulldog Cafe and New Age Wellness suggests it is unlikely to grant many exemptions.
 
The Bulldog Cafe, which originally opened in North Hollywood, was one of 186 dispensaries that met all of the city's requirements to operate during the moratorium. But its owners say they were forced to move by their landlord, who received a letter from the Drug Enforcement Administration that threatened the landlord with felony charges.

The move required them to get a hardship exemption from the City Council to be allowed to open in a different location.
 
 
"This, I think, is the classic hardship case," said Thomas J. Gray, the Bulldog Cafe's attorney.

Many of the city's legal dispensaries, possibly more than 50, filed similar applications when their landlords evicted them after receiving DEA letters. The council appears disinclined to give the letters much weight.

That dismays medical marijuana advocates who believe these dispensaries followed the rules. "I don't understand why the city is going to be hostile with them," said Degé Coutee, who runs the Patient Advocacy Network.
 
In denying the Bulldog Cafe's application, Reyes noted that the store had moved into the same block as the John C. Fremont library, calling that "an overwhelming factor."

Cindy Chvatal, head of the Hancock Park Homeowners Assn., said many parents whose children use the library and a nearby preschool have complained to her about the dispensary's location.

The city has not adopted an ordinance to control dispensaries and has no restrictions on where they can operate. But, Reyes said, "we have enough common sense to know what we want and don't want."

The council is considering a proposal to keep them 1,000 feet from libraries and other places children frequent.

New Age Wellness claimed as its hardship that it could not open before the moratorium because of uncertainty caused by federal raids and confusion over the city's proposed rules.

Its owners also said they are veteran healthcare professionals. They said that they worked with city officials to plan their store on Rose Avenue so it would comply with any future ordinance and that they have spent at least $108,000.

"We have a lot at stake to lose," said Curt Moore, one of the owners.

But its location also sparked concerns. Neighbors were already irritated by a nearby dispensary.

Whitney Blumenfeld, an aide to Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes Venice, urged the council to reject the "build it first and ask for forgiveness later" approach.
 
 

  1. WBZTV.com
  2. 2009-06-22

Barney Frank Files Bill To Decriminalize Pot

 A controversial law in Massachusetts could go national if Congressman Barney Frank gets his way. 
 
Frank has filed a bill that would eliminate federal penalties for personal possession of less than 100 grams of marijuana. 
 
It would also make the penalty for using marijuana in public just $100. 
 
"I think John Stuart Mill had it right in the 1850s," said Congressman Frank, "when he argued that individuals should have the right to do what they want in private, so long as they don't hurt anyone else. It's a matter of personal liberty. Moreover, our courts are already stressed and our prisons are over-crowded. We don't need to spend our scarce resources prosecuting people who are doing no harm to others." 
 
Frank filed a similar bill last year, but it failed. 
 
The law passed in Massachusetts last November. 
 
Ten other states have also reduced penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana – in some cases they are a civil fine. These states include California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, and Oregon. 

  1. WebMD
  2. Kelli Miller Stacy
  3. 2009-05-25

Marijuana Chemical May Fight Brain Cancer

 The active chemical in marijuana promotes the death of brain cancer cells by essentially helping them feed upon themselves, researchers in Spain report.

Guillermo Velasco and colleagues at Complutense University in Spain have found that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, causes brain cancer cells to undergo a process called autophagy. Autophagy is the breakdown of a cell that occurs when the cell essentially self-digests.

The team discovered that cannabinoids such as THC had anticancer effects in mice with human brain cancer cells and people with brain tumors. When mice with the human brain cancer cells received the THC, the tumor growth shrank.

Two patients enrolled in a clinical trial received THC directly to the brain as an experimental treatment for recurrent glioblastoma multiforme, a highly aggressive brain tumor.  Biopsies taken before and after treatment helped track their progress.  After receiving the THC, there was evidence of increased autophagy activity.

The findings appear in the April 1 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

The patients did not have any toxic effects from the treatment. Previous studies of THC for the treatment of cancer have also found the therapy to be well tolerated, according to background information in journal article.

Study authors say their findings could lead to new strategies for preventing tumor growth.

  1. News Review
  2. Phillip S. Smith
  3. 2009-05-25

Marijuana’s tipping point

 Sometime in the last few months, the notion of legalizing marijuana crossed an invisible threshold. Long relegated to the margins of political discourse by the conventional wisdom, pot freedom has this year gone mainstream.

Public support for legalization is climbing to a majority position, with a just-released Zogby poll finding that 52 percent support the legalization, taxation and regulation of pot. In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to have softened his position on pot by calling for an “open debate” on the subject. Meanwhile, Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco introduced Assembly Bill 390, legislation that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.

Yes, there is a new freedom in the air when it comes to marijuana.

Newspaper columnists and editorial page writers across the land have taken up the cause with gusto, as have letter writers and bloggers. Last week, even a U.S. senator got into the act, when Virginia Sen. Jim Webb told CNN that marijuana legalization is “on the table.”

But despite the seeming explosion of interest in marijuana legalization, the eventuality of legalization seems as distant as ever, obscured behind a wall of bureaucracy, vested interests and craven politicians. Drug War Chronicle spoke with some movement movers and shakers to find out just what’s going on … and what’ not.

“There is clearly more interest and serious discussion of whether marijuana prohibition makes any sense than I’ve seen at any point in my adult lifetime,” said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “It’s not just the usual suspects.”

Mirken cited a number of factors for the sudden rise to prominence of the marijuana issue. “I think it’s a combination of things: Michael Phelps, the horrible situation on the Mexican border, the state of the economy and the realization that there is a very large industry out there that provides marijuana to millions of consumers completely outside the legal economy that is untaxed and unregulated,” he said. “All of these factors have come together in a way that makes it much easier for people to connect the dots.”

“Things started going white hot in the second week of January,” said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “It’s helped galvanize a certain zeitgeist that is palpable and that almost everyone can appreciate.”

With the accumulation of arguments for legalization growing ever weightier, the edifice of marijuana prohibition seems increasingly shakier than ever.

Still, translating the zeitgeist into real change remains a formidable task, said Mirken, who said he is waiting for the other shoe to drop. “We have to prepare for an Empire Strikes Back moment,” he said. “I predict that within the next year, there will be a concerted effort to scare the daylights out of people about marijuana.”

Activists need to keep hammering away at both the federal government and state and local governments, Mirken said. “We are talking to members of Congress and seeing what might be doable. Even if nothing passes immediately, introducing a bill can move the discussion forward.”

Part of the problem of the mismatch between popular fervor and actual progress on reform is partisan positioning, said St. Pierre. “Even politicians who may be personally supportive and can appreciate what they see going on around them as this goes mainstream do not want to hand conservative Republicans a triangulation issue. The Democrats are begging for a certain degree of political maturity from the reform movement,” he said. “They’re dealing with two wars, tough economic times, trying to do health-care reform. They don’t want to raise cannabis to a level where it becomes contentious for Obama.”

The window of opportunity for presidential action is four years down the road, St. Pierre postulated. “If Obama doesn’t do anything next year, they will then be in re-election mode and unlikely to act,” he mused. “I think our real shot comes after he is re-elected.”

  1. AZ Central
  2. John Simerman
  3. 2009-05-18

A change in tone on marijuana debate

 OAKLAND, Calif. - Here in the East Bay's growing hotbed of marijuana-related commerce - an uptown stretch that some call "Oaksterdam" - the buzz just got thicker.

They're talking about it at Oaksterdam University, where seminars fill up months in advance on marijuana law, cultivation, bud-tending and other pot topics; and at a shop that sells the latest hash-making machines and German vaporizers, while a dozen people wait for patient ID cards in the back, some with babies on their laps.

In the backroom of the dispensary Coffeeshop Blue Sky, mention of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's recent statement that "it's time for debate" about legalizing pot drew a wide smile from Air Force veteran Rosanne Rutherford, who sat waiting to plunk down $22 for some "Blue Dream" in a brown paper bag.

"It's been demonized for years, just because of politics," said Rutherford, 41. "It was a happy surprise. How things change."

Even the most ardent pot advocates say they're a bit dizzy over the governor's comments and the speed of an apparent shift in public opinion toward legalizing and taxing pot. A Field Poll in April found 56 percent of California voters now favor it. As recently as 2004, a similar poll found less than 40 percent did. Nationally, a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 46 percent of Americans favor legalizing small amounts of pot for personal use, up from 22 percent in 1997.

And while some marijuana reform advocates expect a federal prohibition to remain firmly in the way of legalizing pot use for years, others say they aim to press the issue with a state ballot measure, possibly as early as next year.

In the meantime, Democratic state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced a bill this year to legalize personal possession and use of marijuana and clear the way for retail pot sales should the feds change course. The state Board of Equalization estimates that Ammiano's bill could raise more than $1.3 billion a year for the state, though some scholars in marijuana policy call that a pipe dream.

Advocates and scholars see several factors converging, the largest being the economy and a desperate hunt for new revenue. A political shift with the new Obama administration may play a role, and the fact voters are more apt to have smoked weed, along, perhaps, with a growing sense of futility in the war on marijuana and the cost in lives along the Mexican border.

"I've never seen a ... phone survey that showed more than half of adults favoring legalization. I've certainly never seen a governor putting forth the idea of debating the issue, much less an actual bill," said Robert MacCoun, a University of California-Berkeley public policy professor. "It's a comfort zone for politicians we didn't have 10 years ago."

Another possible factor: a public sense that Proposition 215, which legalized medicinal marijuana use in 1996, has caused few major problems, despite local battles over pot clubs, bad actors and high-profile dispensary raids.

"They see the sky hasn't fallen," said Richard Lee, president of Oaksterdam University. "You talk about the system being abused. Everybody's like, So?' "

Not so fast, say anti-drug activists. Schwarzenegger's comments, in response to a reporter's question about the Field Poll, amounted to a populist nod, but no endorsement. He remains against legalization, he said. Schwarzenegger also said the experiences of countries such as his native Austria that have legalized pot and found troubling results should be studied, noted Calvina Fay executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation.

"I don't think he was saying it's time to legalize drugs," said Fay, who claims health care costs from addiction would far outweigh the tax benefits. "He was saying legalization or quasi-legalization hasn't worked."

Advocates say they hope for an ear from the Obama administration, which has signaled it has no plans to go after pot clubs in states with medicinal marijuana laws. But a campaign for legalization would be different, MacCoun said. "The Obama administration has no interest in fighting this battle, but if forced to, they will," he said.

One scholar who favors a change in marijuana policy cautioned that a full-scale commercial market would drive up abuse.

"The beer industry is in the business of making drunks, and they're pretty good at it. I would think the pot industry would be good at creating zonkers," said Mark Kleiman, a UCLA public policy professor and author of "Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results."

Some, like Lee, envision a local coffeehouse model like Amsterdam. Others imagine it more like wine country, spurring a vibrant tourist market. Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, said a ballot measure now would surely fail. Still, he counts himself surprised and "enormously pleased" with the new polls and the prospect of a public debate.

"We've had a long debate on marijuana, but until now it's always pussy-footed around the issue" of legality, he said. "The economy in general has forced a change in values."

  1. MSNBC
  2. Brian Alexander
  3. 2009-04-15

Medical marijuana requests climb sky high

 The number of ailing people turning to medical marijuana to ease their symptoms has spiked this year, say dispensary owners in some of the 13 states where it's legal.

Requests have jumped anywhere from 50 to 300 percent, they say, since President Barack Obama took office and signaled that he won’t use federal marijuana laws to override state laws as the Bush administration did. Others say the economic downturn may also be responsible as more people without insurance are seeking alternatives to costly medications.

In the past few months, marijuana co-ops, clubs, businesses and even lawyers who have advocated for looser dope regulations say they've been inundated with requests for information and certifications that permit people to use marijuana for medical purposes.

“I have been flooded with calls,” reported Seattle attorney Douglas Hiatt, a long-time marijuana advocate. “It’s ‘Where can I find a doctor [to prescribe it]? How can I start a co-op?’ You wouldn’t believe it.”

Under the George W. Bush administration, federal authorities maintained that federal marijuana laws took precedence over state law, even in states that had approved therapeutic cannabis. But Obama indicated during the presidential campaign that he supported the controlled use of marijuana for medical purposes, saying he saw no difference between medical marijuana and other pain-control drugs.

“My attitude is if the science and the doctors suggest that the best palliative care and the way to relieve pain and suffering is medical marijuana, then that’s something I’m open to,” Obama said in November 2007 at a campaign stop in Audubon, Iowa. “There’s no difference between that and morphine when it comes to just giving people relief from pain.”

In February, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder pledged to limit Drug Enforcement Administration raids of prescription cannabis dispensaries to those businesses and organizations that break both state as well as federal laws.

“Our focus will be on people, organizations that are growing, cultivating substantial amounts of marijuana and doing so in a way that’s inconsistent with federal and state law,” he said.

300 percent increase
Hard numbers and state-to-state, year-over-year sales comparisons are difficult to come by because state laws vary and because some states are still creating their programs; New Mexico expects to license its first legal marijuana producer this month. But the state of Colorado has tracked registered medical marijuana users since implementing its law on June 1, 2001. As of the end of 2008, there were 4,720 applications received, almost all of which had been approved. But as of February 28 of this year, that number stood at 6,796, an increase of 2,076 in just two months.

“I have had a 300 percent rise at my business,” reported the owner of Colorado’s Boulder County Caregivers, a marijuana dispensary. (She asked not to be named since she also works in local government.)

Her numbers are rising despite obstacles that remain in the path of those seeking access. For example, many doctors are reluctant to authorize their patients to use marijuana either because its efficacy has not been proven in rigorous trials, shown to be superior to other drugs, or because they themselves fear risking their own federal license to prescribe medications like opiate pain killers if they are seen to be defying federal drug law.

“I have legitimate cancer patients who cannot get a doctor to sign,” the Boulder dispensary owner said. “Their doctor will say ‘Talk to your oncologist,’ and the oncologist will say ‘Talk to your other doctor.’ So I see the same doctors’ names over and over. Patient records show the same two clinics because so many go there since their own doctors will not do it for fear of federal retribution.”

Some organizations leap this hurdle by providing their own doctors.

“I have 12 doctors working with us right now,” said Paul Stanford, director of The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, based in Portland, Ore. THCF has started clinics in eight states, often by bringing along one of its own paid doctors who happens to be licensed in that state.

Stanford claimed his clinics are booming, too, with about 50 percent more calls and patient certifications than before the new administration took office.

In addition to the Obama administration's position on medical marijuana, demographics may also be a co-factor in the overall rise. Many people born after World War II have had at least some exposure to marijuana, and now that the government has indicated it will be more lenient, might be more inclined to turn to the party drug of their youth to ease the maladies of age. Few people under 65, “are truly naïve to cannabis,” suggested Dr. Frank Lucido, an Oakland, Calif., physician who has long been a leader in California’s medical marijuana community.

Economy may be playing role
Lucido has seen an increase in patients, too, but a slight one, a much smaller bump than he would have expected. It’s possible, he speculated, that because so many dispensaries have opened in California, some offering quickie — and often dubious — medical exams to certify patient need, that the total number of medical marijuana consumers has boomed, but that many are avoiding more stringent practitioners like himself. (While the state of California tracks the number of medical marijuana identification cards issued each year that allow patients to purchase from dispensaries, no numbers are out yet for 2009.)

One final possibility for the increase in numbers is economic. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that at least 45 million Americans under age 65 are now without health insurance.

As the number of medical marijuana outlets expands, and fear of federal drug charges diminishes, some of those people, faced with paying out of pocket for pharmaceutical drugs or for cannabis, “will turn to medicine that is good for a whole bunch of ailments, that you can grow yourself and not spend a tremendous amount of money on,” Hiatt said. “That’s very appealing to lots of people.”

  1. The Raw Story
  2. David Edwards and Joe Byrne
  3. 2009-04-12

Mexican ambassador: US should take marijuana legalization seriously

Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan joined CBS' Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation today to talk about the violence on Mexico's border resulting from the drug trade. Among other things, the senior diplomat told Schieffer that the U.S. should take the debate over marijuana legalization seriously. 

"Those that suggest that some of these measures need to be looked at understand the dynamics of the drug trade; you have to bring demand down and one way to do it is to move in that direction [towards legalization]...There are many others who believe that doing this will just fan the flames," Sarukhan told Schieffer.

Some authorities close to the border violence are beginning to advocate for a legalization scenario. At the end of February, Terry Goddard, Arizona's Attorney General, said that while he's not in favor of legalizing marijuana, he thinks it should be debated as a way of curbing violence in the increasingly deadly clashes between Mexico's gangs. In addition, three former presidents of Latin America - Former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo - have all urged the United States and Latin American governments to move away from jailing drug users, to debate the legalization of marijuana, and to place more emphasis on the treatment of addicts.

"This is a debate that needs to be taken seriously, that we have to engage in on both sides of the border: both in producing, in trafficking, and in consumption countries," he said of the marijuana legalization debate.

  1. New York Times
  2. Solomon Moore
  3. 2009-03-31

Dispensers of Marijuana Find Relief in Policy Shift

LOS ANGELES — The air inside the Los Angeles Patients and Caregivers Group was pungent with the aroma of premium hydroponic marijuana, but the proprietor, Don Duncan, said on Thursday that he was breathing a bit easier.
A day before, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. had said that the federal authorities would no longer take action against medical marijuana dispensaries if they were in compliance with state and local laws.
While 13 states, including California, have laws allowing medical use of marijuana, they had not been recognized by the federal government. One of Mr. Duncan’s two marijuana dispensaries was a target, in 2007, of one of the scores of raids involving medical marijuana that the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted in Los Angeles during the Bush administration.
Mr. Duncan, a founder of Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, said he was meeting with officials at City Hall at the time of the raid, trying to work out a local ordinance under Proposition 215, which allows the medical use of marijuana.
“I got a call and found out they smashed through our window and pried open the back door,” Mr. Duncan said. Since then, he has operated only one dispensary, fearing he could again be a target of the federal authorities.
Mr. Holder’s statement that he would not authorize raids on medical marijuana dispensaries appeared to shift Justice Department policy, at least rhetorically, away from the Bush administration’s stated policy of zero tolerance for marijuana, regardless of state laws. Advocates of medical marijuana welcomed the change.
But conversations with government officials on Thursday revealed disagreement within the administration about how great a shift Mr. Holder’s statements represent.
A spokesman for the drug enforcement agency, Garrison Courtney, pointed out that the attorney general’s statement indicated that the federal authorities would continue to go after marijuana dispensaries that broke state and federal laws by selling to minors, selling excessive amounts or selling marijuana from unsanctioned growers.
Mr. Courtney said that the agency had raided only a fraction of the thousands of marijuana dispensaries now operating and that agents had used discretion to go after only the worst offenders.
Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the United States attorney in Los Angeles, said his office had prosecuted only four medical marijuana dispensary cases since the passage of Proposition 215, a 1996 ballot measure that made California the first state to legalize medical marijuana. That measure set off a decade-long fight over several legal issues.
The case of Charles Lynch, a dispensary operator whose business was raided on the same day as Mr. Duncan’s, was the most prominent. Mr. Lynch was convicted and will be sentenced on Monday in federal court. He faces a minimum of five years in federal prison for charges that included selling to a minor under the age of 21
Mr. Lynch’s lawyers argued that he violated no state laws while operating his dispensary and said that by registering with the local Chamber of Commerce and paying taxes, he was working to abide by the law. Mr. Mrozek said Mr. Lynch had broken local and federal laws.
“Charles Lynch might be the last man to go to jail for medical marijuana,” Mr. Duncan said.
A Justice Department official said the situation of marijuana dispensary operators already in the criminal justice system would be decided case by case.
Mark Agrast, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning research group in Washington, said Mr. Holder’s statement indicated a more pragmatic and less ideological approach to drug enforcement.
“This is an example of recognizing the limited resources they have, so they have to make decisions about the soundest use of available resources,” Mr. Agrast said.
The attorney general’s comments also indicated that the Justice Department would allocate greater resources for investigations of white-collar crime, including financial crime, and other enforcement areas that received less attention during the Bush administration.
Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group that supports medical marijuana, agreed that Mr. Holder’s statement signaled a shift in policy.
“Attorney General Holder is saying something explicitly different from both Bush and Clinton,” Mr. Nadelmann said. “He’s saying that these medical marijuana laws are kosher by state law and we’re not going after those. He’s saying federal law doesn’t trump state laws on this.”
Mr. Duncan, the dispensary owner, said he was cautiously optimistic about Mr. Holder’s statement but would reserve judgment about how much things would change in his business.

“I think we’re going to see less and less federal interference,” he said. “At the same time, there’s going to be more and more scrutiny from state and local agencies.”LOS ANGELES — The air inside the Los Angeles Patients and Caregivers Group was pungent with the aroma of premium hydroponic marijuana, but the proprietor, Don Duncan, said on Thursday that he was breathing a bit easier.

A day before, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. had said that the federal authorities would no longer take action against medical marijuana dispensaries if they were in compliance with state and local laws.

While 13 states, including California, have laws allowing medical use of marijuana, they had not been recognized by the federal government. One of Mr. Duncan’s two marijuana dispensaries was a target, in 2007, of one of the scores of raids involving medical marijuana that the Drug Enforcement Administration conducted in Los Angeles during the Bush administration.

Mr. Duncan, a founder of Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, said he was meeting with officials at City Hall at the time of the raid, trying to work out a local ordinance under Proposition 215, which allows the medical use of marijuana.

“I got a call and found out they smashed through our window and pried open the back door,” Mr. Duncan said. Since then, he has operated only one dispensary, fearing he could again be a target of the federal authorities.

Mr. Holder’s statement that he would not authorize raids on medical marijuana dispensaries appeared to shift Justice Department policy, at least rhetorically, away from the Bush administration’s stated policy of zero tolerance for marijuana, regardless of state laws. Advocates of medical marijuana welcomed the change.

But conversations with government officials on Thursday revealed disagreement within the administration about how great a shift Mr. Holder’s statements represent.

A spokesman for the drug enforcement agency, Garrison Courtney, pointed out that the attorney general’s statement indicated that the federal authorities would continue to go after marijuana dispensaries that broke state and federal laws by selling to minors, selling excessive amounts or selling marijuana from unsanctioned growers.

Mr. Courtney said that the agency had raided only a fraction of the thousands of marijuana dispensaries now operating and that agents had used discretion to go after only the worst offenders.

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the United States attorney in Los Angeles, said his office had prosecuted only four medical marijuana dispensary cases since the passage of Proposition 215, a 1996 ballot measure that made California the first state to legalize medical marijuana. That measure set off a decade-long fight over several legal issues.

The case of Charles Lynch, a dispensary operator whose business was raided on the same day as Mr. Duncan’s, was the most prominent. Mr. Lynch was convicted and will be sentenced on Monday in federal court. He faces a minimum of five years in federal prison for charges that included selling to a minor under the age of 21

Mr. Lynch’s lawyers argued that he violated no state laws while operating his dispensary and said that by registering with the local Chamber of Commerce and paying taxes, he was working to abide by the law. Mr. Mrozek said Mr. Lynch had broken local and federal laws.

“Charles Lynch might be the last man to go to jail for medical marijuana,” Mr. Duncan said.

A Justice Department official said the situation of marijuana dispensary operators already in the criminal justice system would be decided case by case.

Mark Agrast, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal-leaning research group in Washington, said Mr. Holder’s statement indicated a more pragmatic and less ideological approach to drug enforcement.

“This is an example of recognizing the limited resources they have, so they have to make decisions about the soundest use of available resources,” Mr. Agrast said.

The attorney general’s comments also indicated that the Justice Department would allocate greater resources for investigations of white-collar crime, including financial crime, and other enforcement areas that received less attention during the Bush administration.

Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, an advocacy group that supports medical marijuana, agreed that Mr. Holder’s statement signaled a shift in policy.

“Attorney General Holder is saying something explicitly different from both Bush and Clinton,” Mr. Nadelmann said. “He’s saying that these medical marijuana laws are kosher by state law and we’re not going after those. He’s saying federal law doesn’t trump state laws on this.”

Mr. Duncan, the dispensary owner, said he was cautiously optimistic about Mr. Holder’s statement but would reserve judgment about how much things would change in his business.

“I think we’re going to see less and less federal interference,” he said. “At the same time, there’s going to be more and more scrutiny from state and local agencies.”

  1. Los Angeles Times
  2. Josh Meyer and Scott Glover
  3. 2009-03-19

U.S. won't prosecute medical pot sales

 U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday that the Justice Department has no plans to prosecute pot dispensaries that are operating legally under state laws in California and a dozen other states -- a development that medical marijuana advocates and civil libertarians hailed as a sweeping change in federal drug policy.

 

In recent months, Obama administration officials have indicated that they planned to take a hands-off approach to such clinics, but Holder's comments -- made at a wide-ranging briefing with reporters -- offered the most detailed explanation to date of the changing priorities toward the controversial prosecutions.

 

 

The Bush administration targeted medical marijuana distributors even in states that had passed laws allowing use of the drug for medical purposes by cancer patients, those dealing with chronic pain or other serious ailments. Holder said the priority of the new administration is to go after egregious offenders operating in violation of both federal and state law, such as those being used as fronts for drug dealers.

 

"Those are the organizations, the people, that we will target," the attorney general said.

 

Medical marijuana activists and civil libertarians embraced Holder's latest statement as the most forceful affirmation of what long had been anticipated: a landmark turnaround from the Bush administration's policy of zero tolerance for cannabis use by patients.

 

"Whatever questions were left, today's comments clearly represent a change in policy out of Washington. He's sending a clear message to the DEA," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

 

Cultivating, using and selling medical marijuana are allowed in some instances under California law. But such actions are outlawed entirely under federal law, which supersedes those of the states. A dozen other states have laws similar to California's, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, an organization that supports the legalization of the drug.

 

In the 13 years since California voters made the state one of the first to legalize medical marijuana, federal officials have won all the major legal battles, including one at the U.S. Supreme Court in 2001 in which their right to prosecute marijuana sellers was upheld. But supporters of medical marijuana have fought back on the political front, and Holder's announcement is their biggest victory so far.

 

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for Thomas P. O'Brien, the U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, said the office already focused on egregious offenders such as those who sell drugs to minors and people with bogus prescriptions or those who operate away from their approved location.

 

"In every single case we have prosecuted, the defendants violated state as well as federal law," Mrozek said.

 

Despite the abundance of medical marijuana dispensaries in Southern California, Mrozek said prosecutors have charged only four operators and their associates in the last seven years.

 

Obama suggested during the presidential campaign that medical marijuana dispensaries operating within state law would not be subject to prosecution if he were elected.

 

But soon after his inauguration, the Drug Enforcement Administration raided several dispensaries in the Los Angeles area and near Tahoe, in what appeared to be a continuation of policies enforced under previous administrations. At Wednesday's briefing, his first major sit-down with reporters, Holder was asked if the Justice Department planned to raid any more clinics.

 

"The policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law, to the extent that people do that and try to use medical marijuana laws as a shield for activity that is not designed to comport with what the intention was of the state law," Holder said. "Those are the organizations, the people, that we will target. And that is consistent with what the president said during the campaign."

 

A Justice Department official confirmed that Holder's comments effectively articulated a formal Obama administration policy of not going after such clinics.

 

"Before, he didn't really lay out the policy. Today, he stated the policy," said the Justice Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

 

"If you are operating a medical marijuana clinic that is actually a front, we'll come after you," the official said. "But if you are operating within the law, we are not going to prioritize our resources to go after them."

 

Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project said he still has some concerns: What happens to dispensary operators caught up in raids during the last days of the Bush policy, and would federal drug agents resist "trumping up" violations to circumvent the Obama administration's edict.

 

"The devil is going to be in the details of implementation," Mirken said. "I think you have to assume that there are people within the DEA and some in local law enforcement who still don't like medical marijuana and would like to find an excuse to continue making arrests of law-abiding dispensary operators."

  1. Wall Street Journal
  2. Stu Woo and Justin Scheck
  3. 2009-03-10

California Marijuana Dispensaries Cheer U.S. Shift on Raids

SAN FRANCISCO -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement that the federal government will no longer raid medical-marijuana dispensaries was cheered by California dealers as well as state legislators who seek to legalize and tax sales of the drug.
 
Under the Bush administration, the Drug Enforcement Agency raided dispensaries across the country. Such seizures were especially common in California, which in 1996 became the first state to legalize marijuana sales to people with doctor's prescriptions -- in opposition to federal laws banning any use of the drug.
 
The attorney general signaled recently that states will be able to set their own medical-marijuana laws, which President Barack Obama said during his campaign that he supported. What Mr. Obama said then "is now American policy," Mr. Holder said.
 
"We may be seeing the end of an era," said Rob MacCoun, a law professor who studies drug policy at the University of California, Berkeley. "It's not likely to be a priority for the Obama administration."
 
That news relieved Kevin Reed, who owns the Green Cross, a medical-marijuana-delivery service in San Francisco. He said he wasn't too concerned about raids because they usually target large dispensaries that "get out of control" with high traffic and cash flow. But federal seizures were constantly "in the back of your head," Mr. Reed said.
 
Mr. MacCoun said the Obama administration's stance may help to legitimize a "quasi-legal" marijuana culture in California. The state has as many as 200,000 medical-marijuana users, the most out of the 13 states that allow such use of the drug.
 
The state law doesn't specify for what ailments the drug can be prescribed. Californians who seek out certain doctors can easily obtain a prescription for marijuana use; some high-school students do this as soon as they turn 18.
 
Mr. Holder's announcement also was praised by backers of a proposal to legalize sales of marijuana for recreational use in California. Democrat Tom Ammiano, an assemblyman from San Francisco, introduced the bill, which proposes regulating the drug like alcohol, allowing its sales to people ages 21 and older. "This is a significant step," Mr. Ammiano said. "There's a lot of support for the bill, and the context of the conversation is going to change."
Mr. Ammiano's office has estimated that marijuana is a $14 billion crop in California. Taxing the drug $50 an ounce, it said, would generate more than $1 billion annually for a cash-strapped state that closed a $42 billion budget deficit just last month.
 
The proposal faces opposition from police groups and other state legislators. "Legalizing marijuana would be a horrible thing to do to our communities," said Jeff Miller, a Republican assemblyman from Corona. "It would be the springboard for other problems, and that's just not the right thing to do for our children."
The federal government may also challenge the bill if it passes. "No one should assume that just because the Obama administration is tolerant of medical marijuana, that they'll be as tolerant of recreational marijuana," said Mr. MacCoun, the Berkeley professor.
 
Thad Kousser, a political-science professor at the University of California, San Diego, said he thinks the proposal won't get that far, calling it a "press release" meant to spark debate. The professor's prediction: "The bill's going to go up in smoke."

  1. SF Weekly
  2. Joe Eskenazi
  3. 2009-02-23

Ammiano to Introduce Legislation Monday to Allow Pot

 The story SF Weekly broke on Friday is true: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano will announce legislation on Monday to legalize marijuana and earn perhaps $1 billion annually by taxing it. 

Quintin Mecke, Ammiano's press secretary, confirmed to SF Weeklythat the assemblyman's 10 a.m. Monday press conference regarding "new legislation related to the state's fiscal crisis" will broach the subject of reaping untold -- and much-needed -- wealth from the state's No. 1 cash crop. 

Mecke said Ammiano's proposed bill "would remove all penalties in California law on cultivation, transportation, sale, purchase, possession, or use of marijuana, natural THC, or paraphernalia for persons over the age of 21." 

The bill would additionally prohibit state and local law officials from enforcing federal marijuana laws. As for Step Two -- profit -- Ammiano's bill calls for "establishing a fee on the sale of marijuana at a rate of $50 per ounce." Mecke said that would bring in roughly $1 billion for the state, according to estimates made by marijuana advocacy organizations. 

  1. NORML
  2. 2009-02-19

Marijuana May Be Protective Against Injury, Study Says

Lausanne, Switzerland: The use of cannabis is not a contributing causal factor in injuries requiring hospitalization, and may even protect users against the likelihood of sustaining such injuries, according to the results of case-control study published online in the journal BMC Public Health.

Investigators at the Luasanne University Hospital in Switzerland assessed the association between the use of cannabis and/or alcohol and the risk of injury among 486 patients aged 16 and older.

Investigators reported: "Alcohol use in the six hours prior to injury was associated with [an elevated] relative risk compared with no alcohol use. Cannabis use was inversely related to risk of injury."

Researchers also analyzed subjects' drug use for the time period exactly one week prior to the patients' hospitalization. They reported, "More patients reported alcohol use in the six-hour period prior to injury (case period) than in the corresponding six-hour period the previous week (control period). ... For cannabis, fewer people reported use prior to injury (case period) than in the control period."

Despite the study's relatively small sample size, investigators concluded: "The results for cannabis use were quite surprising. ... The present study in fact indicated a ‘protective effect' of cannabis use in a dose-response relationship."

Commenting on the study's results, authors speculated that "cannabis is consumed in relatively safer, low risk environments" (e.g., at home) compared to alcohol, which is often consumed at bars or prior to going out in public.

prior case-control study conducted by the University of Missouri also reported an inverse relationship between marijuana use and injury risk, finding, "Self-reported marijuana use in the previous seven days was associated ... with a substantially decreased risk of injury."

For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: paul@norml.org. Full text of the study, "Alcohol and cannabis use as risk factors for injury – a case-crossover analysis in a Swiss hospital emergency department," is available online from BMC Public Health at:www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/9/40.

  1. San Francisco Examiner
  2. Tamara Barak Aparton
  3. 2009-02-18

Recession threatens to burn out pot clubs

SAN FRANCISCO – One might guess that tough economic times would only fuel the desire for mind-altering substances. For San Francisco’s cannabis clubs, however, nothing could be further from the truth.

The deepening economic crisis has hit the dispensaries hard, forcing the nonprofit collectives to cut staff, business hours and donations to charities.

Charlie Alazraie, manager of Bay Area Safe Alternatives, said business has dropped about 60 percent since summer, as the economy forces patients to buy smaller quantities. Alazraie had to let go of one full-time employee and two part-time workers at the small Western Addition collective.

Also halted were donations to soup kitchens and low-cost health clinics that serve many of BASA’s patients. The previously profitable collective was hit with a penalty last quarter after paying their sales tax late for the first time.

“This year we’re going to be so much in the red, I don’t want to find out. I know it’s going to be ugly,” Alazraie said. “We’re in arrears with our vendors, with architects, with everything.”

The collective has always had a commitment to provide free medical marijuana for those in impossible situations — people who are critically ill and living in poverty were subsidized with money set aside from sales. In the past, the number of people who qualified hovered around 36. Today, there are 60.

The recession hit right after many San Francisco pot clubs had spent tens of thousands of dollars to comply with legislation passed in 2005 requiring them to meet city permit regulations.

Kevin Reed, founder of the Green Cross, which delivers medical marijuana to patients in San Francisco, said his sales are down 25 percent in the past 40 days, and dropped 45 percent in the past two weeks.

To survive, the collective cut its hours and cut its 12 employees’ pay by $2 an hour.

“It’s amazing to me,” Reed said. “It’s an industry I never thought could be affected.”

Reed said he thought marijuana would be a recession-proof product, much like alcohol.

“I always heard that if the economy went bad, people would be depressed,” he said. “The whole theory got blown out the window for me.”

The cost of the pot hasn’t risen, but the $300-an-ounce price tag has become a heavy burden for people who have lost their jobs and cut back on expenses. Insurance does not cover medicinal marijuana.

“The only busy day we’ve had in the past 40 days is when we offered a one-third off discount for veterans,” Reed said. “It seemed like half the veterans in the state signed up.”

 

Green sector

 

The recession is weighing on medical pot sales in The City.

30 Known medical marijuana dispensaries (clubs and delivery services) in San Francisco

Known medical marijuana dispensaries (clubs and delivery services) in San Mateo

$103 Cost of state medical marijuana card

$300 Approximate cost of an ounce of medical marijuana

  1. CNJ Online
  2. 2009-02-13

DEA should cease medical marijuana raids

 During the presidential campaign President Obama was asked several times what his attitude would be toward federal Drug Enforcement Agency raids on medical marijuana patients and medicine providers. Many believe these raids are calculated to undermine the laws of the 13 states that allow patients with a physician’s recommendation to use marijuana medicinally.

On every occasion, Obama said he would stop the federal raids.

Thus he told the Mail Tribune in Oregon last March that “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.”

Last May an Obama spokesman, speaking of state medical marijuana laws, told the San Francisco Chronicle that “Obama supports the rights of states and local governments to make this choice.”

It is true that although 13 states have such laws, federal law, counter to known scientific evidence, maintains an absolute prohibition on the possession or use of any amount of marijuana, even for life-saving medicinal uses.

Under the law, then, the federal government could target any of the millions of Americans who use marijuana for any purpose.

Traditionally, the feds had confined their activities to large-scale traffickers and growers of 1,000 plants or more. In recent years, however, they have targeted dispensaries and a few patients. It is those raids that Obama promised to end.

The day after President Obama was inaugurated, however, the DEA raided two dispensaries in the Lake Tahoe area in California, as well as a couple’s home in Colorado. Then on Feb. 3, the day Attorney General Eric Holder took office, the DEA raided four dispensaries in the Los Angeles area. No one was arrested, but $10,000 in cash and 224 kilograms of marijuana and marijuana-infused products were seized.

The DEA is still under the control of acting administrator Michele Leonhart, a Bush appointee. It appears as if these warriors want to persecute a few more patients before they are turned out of office — or perhaps establish precedents that will prevent or delay President Obama from fulfilling his promise.

We can understand some delay in naming new top officials at the DEA and in fact would urge President Obama to take the time to find qualified and sensible people who understand and respect science. In the meantime, however, given that the DEA is part of the Justice Department, Attorney General Holder has full authority to order a stop to such raids and to fire those who ordered them. He should do so immediately.

  1. Safercolorado.org
  2. 2009-02-13

Putting marijuana in perspective

Marijuana is far less addictive than alcohol.

graph

 

  1. Birmingham Weekly
  2. Courtney Haden
  3. 2009-02-06

Making the case for medical marijuana (in Alabama)

As the planning session broke up in elegant old Prince Hall downtown, the former gubernatorial candidate strode over and asked a visitor, “So, do you think we’re batshit crazy?”

All Loretta Nall and the Alabamians for Compassionate Care want to do is persuade our monumentally intractable legislature, on the cusp of an election year, to disregard 70 years of social taboos and a federal pharmaceutical jihad to ordain that the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes shall be legal throughout the state.

Of course they’re crazy. But folks like Susan B. Anthony and Martin Luther King Jr. used to be called that, too.

For many, the phrase “medical marijuana” conjures up visions of tie-dyed zonkers malingering their way through bales of government ganja. (In terms of image, Nall says, “Cheech and Chong have not necessarily been our friends.”) 

The people at Prince Hall Saturday afternoon looked neither hippie nor dippy. For them, medical marijuana is a crucial factor in improving the quality of life for chronically ill people, and they couldn’t be more serious about changing the law.

Our modern hysteria over the use of marijuana would have bemused our ancestors. The Chinese employed it 4,000 years ago as an anesthetic, in ancient India, doctors prescribed it to mothers in labor and the Egyptians of long-ago dynasties even used it in suppositories for hemorrhoids. Here in America, many of the Founding Fathers grew hemp on their plantations, and marijuana was widely used as a pain reliever in an age before the invention of aspirin.

Widely used in Dixieland, too. I remember perusing my father’s dusty old volumes from the Medical Association of the State of Alabama and marveling that, as late as 1900, “botanical” doctors, “vitapathists” and homeopathics shared the same professional listings as degree-holding practitioners. Marijuana was only one of the natural remedies that infused the homemade tonics and elixirs of Alabama physicians.

The tale of how marijuana became proscribed instead of prescribed is too lengthy and weird to delve into here, but suffice to say the federal government’s prohibition of pot has been every bit as effective as its prohibition of booze. 
Despite a long and unimaginably expensive “war on drugs,” millions of otherwise law-abiding citizens continue to enjoy marijuana recreationally. In 2007, more than 775,000 of them were arrested just for possessing the drug, according to the FBI.

While researching ways to test for marijuana intoxication in the Seventies, clinicians discovered reefer’s salutary effects on intraocular pressure, which indicated that marijuana might prevent blindness in glaucoma patients. Soon after, experimental data revealed that the active ingredient in marijuana, THC, could stimulate appetite for AIDS victims and chemotherapy patients. Subsequent tests have shown that medical marijuana can help over 250 conditions, including asthma, arthritis, epilepsy and MS.

The ACC’s mission is to pass the Michael Phillips Compassionate Care Act, named after the late Millbrook resident. Phillips was born with a brain tumor and damaged by futile surgeries to control his seizures. Unlike the many legal drugs prescribed for him, medical marijuana lessened the severity and frequency of his attacks. A bold advocate for cannabis during his short 38 years, he fearlessly testified to the drug’s efficacy in a number of public venues. Noting that more than a dozen states have already okayed the medical use of marijuana, Phillips memorably observed, “How come here I’m a criminal, but in California I can be a patient?”

State Representative Patricia Todd is sponsoring this bill for strong personal reasons. “I feel very passionately about this,” she told the Weekly recently. “I watched my mother die painfully, and I would have done anything to ease that pain.”

Todd admits she’s received flak from loyal supporters who’d prefer she steer away from this controversy, but she believes a majority of Alabamians empathize with her experience. As she puts it, “I believe in the wisdom of the people.”

Is the Compassionate Care Act a gateway legislation to decriminalizing the chronic? Nall says no: “We’re not interested in legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes. This is a medical matter.” Is there any way on earth that the ACC could get this bill through a legislature genetically predisposed to gridlock? Nall is optimistic. Working with Ken Collins of the Drug Policy Alliance, she has surveyed House members and found more support than resistance. “I think there’s a 50-50 chance we could get it through the House this session,“ she said.

The ACC is taking no chances. Already trained to lobby lawmakers effectively, they plan a day of action in Montgomery March 3. (Although federal law is still immutable when it comes to prosecuting users, the Supreme Court last year let stand a California court ruling that state medical marijuana laws trump federal statutes.)

In the end, the compelling reason to pass the Phillips Act is compassion. Meeting a fellow named Tim at Prince Hall would have convinced you of that. A cerebral palsy sufferer, he has tried all manner of muscle relaxants to control the spasms that knot up his musculature, but discovered that marijuana has the best effect on his symptoms with the fewest side effects. He can’t afford to use the synthetic legal THC drug called Marinol, which is not covered by Medicare, so he has risked arrest and imprisonment for 20 years to obtain a remedy he uses only behind closed doors in his bedroom.

Tim is candid about championing medical marijuana — It’s all about the quality of life for me — but he quickly asserts that it’s not for everybody. The reason he supports the Compassionate Care Act is deeply personal. “I don’t feel it’s a question of if it’s going to pass. The question is, when,” he said. “So I feel like I’m fighting against the clock. With the stress of the cerebral palsy, you just never know when your time is coming. Plus, I want the advantages of being able to play with my kids and not having to lie to them about what I’m doing because it’s illegal.”

  1. The Press-Enterprise
  2. Imran Ghori
  3. 2009-01-22

S.B. County accused of violating Brown Act

 San Bernardino County is being accused of violating the Brown Act, California's open-meeting law, as it challenges the state's medical marijuana user program.

San Bernardino County joined San Diego County three years ago in challenging the program, which requires it to issue medical-marijuana identification cards to patients.

The counties petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case last week. The courts have so far ruled against them, upholding the medical marijuana law approved by voters in 1996.

The Marijuana Policy Project, a national marijuana policy reform organization, said Wednesday that the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has failed to keep the public informed of its decisions to appeal.

The group filed a complaint with the district attorney's office in September after an Aug. 26 meeting where the board discussed the lawsuit in closed session but made no announcement of any action taken.

That same day, a sheriff's spokeswoman announced that the county was appealing the case to the California Supreme Court.

Aaron Smith, California policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said his group has been stymied in its attempts to find out the status of the case.

"They seem to have a certain arrogance where they feel like they can flout any state law, including the open-meeting laws," he said.

The county counsel's office was given the authority to pursue the case as far as necessary when the county joined the lawsuit in January 2006, county spokesman David Wert said.

No announcement was necessary at the Aug. 26 meeting because no action was taken, he said.

Terry Franke, general counsel for Californians Aware, an open government advocacy group, said the board must report on any decisions made in closed session about whether to pursue the appeals.

The district attorney's Public Integrity Unit is reviewing the complaint, said spokeswoman Susan Mickey.

  1. NORML Blog
  2. Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
  3. 2009-01-16

You Asked For The Public’s Opinion...

 In August I commented on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s revealing interview with CNN, where she called on the public to actively voice their support for marijuana law reform.

“We have important work to do outside the Congress in order for us to have success inside the Congress.” Pelosi said. “[W]e need peoples’ help to be in touch with their members of Congress to say why this (marijuana law reform) should be the case.”

Ask and you shall receive.

In the past few months the public has taken their message to the hallowed halls of Washington, DC in unprecedented numbers:

Over 700 individuals have posted comments to The Hill.com’s influential Congress Blog calling on lawmakers to amend federal marijuana policy;

 In December, a question calling for the legalization of marijuana bested over 7,300 public policy issues to claim the top spot in Change.gov’s inaugural ‘Open for Questions’ poll;

In a follow up poll conducted by Change.gov this month, marijuana law reformed was the eighth-most popular question voted on by the public, out of a staggering 76,000 issues.

This week, the question “legalize the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana” finished first (by nearly 5,000 votes) in Change.org’s inaugural “Ideas for Change’ online poll.

And finally, in yet a third poll hosted by the Obama Transition Team, the public's call for "ending marijuana prohibition" is -- you guessed it -- is polling ahead of all other issues. (To participate in the latest poll, please visit http://citizensbriefingbook.change.gov and click on "popular ideas.")

In short Madam Speaker, the people have done their part — just as you requested. The question now is: When are your colleagues and the incoming administration going to do their part to end the federal government’s war on marijuana consumers?

  1. SF Gate (San Francisco Chronicle)
  2. F. Aaron Smith
  3. 2009-01-16

A neglected revenue source for California - marijuana

Only if you lived in a cave could you avoid news about California's dire financial situation. The governor and legislators still disagree about what to do, but all of the proposals aimed at closing the state's $42 billion budget gap are painful and politically unpopular. One obvious way to take a big chunk out of the deficit - without closing schools or putting the sick and elderly out on the streets - hasn't even been discussed. Tax marijuana.

 New sin taxes are likely going to be part of the solution to our financial woes. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a nickel-per-drink alcohol tax increase last year. More recently, Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, introduced legislation to tack on an additional $2.10 per pack in cigarette taxes. Yet marijuana, California's largest cash crop, is completely untaxed.

The marijuana crop is valued at $13.8 billion annually - nearly double the value of our vegetable and grape crops combined. Our state is the nation's top marijuana producer. Indeed, the average annual value of our marijuana crop is more than the combined value of wheat and cotton producedin the entire United States.

According to government surveys, 14.5 million Americans use marijuana at least monthly but both the producers and consumers of this crop escape paying any taxes whatsoever on it. While precise figures are impossible given the illicit nature of the market, it is reasonable to suggest that California could easily collect at least $1.5 billion and maybe as much as $4 billion annually in additional tax revenue, if we took marijuana out of the criminal underground and taxed and regulated it, similar to how handle beer, wine and tobacco.

Marijuana prohibition costs us in other ways as well.

Last year, the state's Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) eradicated 2.9 millionmarijuana plants. CAMP and similar efforts have never made the slightest dent in the availability of marijuana, but they do involve many thousands of person-hours of effort and the use of helicopters and other expensive equipment - all at taxpayers' expense.

It gets worse. Some 70 percent of the plants CAMP seized were on public lands - often remote corners of national forests, parks and other wilderness areas. These clandestine gardens pose a threat to our environment as well as the safety of hikers and other visitors to our parks. Regulating marijuana would remove incentives to grow these secret farms on public land and save millions in eradication and environmental clean-up costs. After all, there's a reason we never hear of criminal gangs planting illicit vineyards in our national forests.

California's taxpayers are also paying law enforcement officers to arrest marijuanaconsumers. According to FBI statistics, California arrested 74,119 people on marijuanacharges in 2007 - nearly 80 percent of those were for simple possession. Chasing down people for using this plant costs us real money and isn't proving an effective strategy for curbing its use.

Every lost revenue source or misplaced expenditure is another deep cut into public safety, schools, and other essential services. It's time to tax and regulate the state's largest cash crop.

  1. The Free Press
  2. Bob Fitrakis & Harvey Wasserman
  3. 2009-01-15

Obama's marijuana prohibition acid test

The parallels between the 1933 coming of Franklin Roosevelt and the upcoming inauguration of Barack Obama must include the issue of Prohibition: alcohol in 1933, and marijuana today. As FDR did back then, Obama must now help end an utterly failed, socially destructive, reactionary crusade.

Marijuana prohibition is a core cause of many of the nation's economic problems. It now costs the U.S. tens of billions per year to track, arrest, try, defend and imprison marijuana consumers who pose little, if any, harm to society. The social toll soars even higher when we account for social violence, lost work, ruined careers and damaged families. In 2007, 775,137 people were arrested in the U.S. for mere possession of this ancient crop, according to the FBI’s uniform crime report.

Like the Prohibition on alcohol that plagued the nation from 1920 to 1933, marijuana prohibition (which essentially began in 1937) feeds organized crime and a socially useless prison-industrial complex that includes judges, lawyers, police, guards, prison contractors, and more.

A dozen states have now passed public referenda confirming medical uses for marijuana based on voluminous research dating back 5,000 years. Confirmed medicinal uses for marijuana include treatment for glaucoma, hypertension, arthritis, pain relief, nausea relief, reducing muscle spasticity from spinal cord injuries and multiple sclerosis, and diminishing tremors in multiple sclerosis patients. Medical reports also prove smoked marijuana provides relief from migraine headaches, depression, seizures, and insomnia, according to NORML. In recent years its use has become critical to thousands of cancer and AIDS sufferers who need to it to maintain their appetite while undergoing chemotherapy.

The U.S. ban on marijuana extends to include hemp, one of the most widely used agricultural products in human history. Unlike many other industrial crops, hemp is powerful and prolific in a natural state, requiring no pesticides, herbicides, extraordinary fertilizing or inappropriate irrigation. Its core products include paper, cloth, sails, rope, cosmetics, fuel, supplements and food. Its seeds are a potentially significant source of bio-diesel fuel, and its leaves and stems an obvious choice for cellulosic ethanol, both critically important for a conversion to a Solartopian renewable energy supply.

Hemp was grown in large quantities by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and many more of the nation's founders, most of whom would likely be dumbfounded to hear it is illegal (based on entries in Washington's agricultural diaries, referring to the separation of male and female plants, it's likely he and his cohorts also raised an earlier form of "medicinal" marijuana).

Hemp growing was mandatory in some circumstances in early America, and again during World War II, when virtually the entire state of Kansas was planted in it. The current ban on industrial hemp costs the U.S. billiions of dollars in lost production and revenue from a plant that can produce superior paper, clothing, fuel and other critical materials at a fraction the financial cost and environmental damage imposed by less worthy sources.

On January 16, 1919, fundamentalist crusaders help pass the 18th Amendment, making the sale of alcohol illegal. The ensuing Prohibition was by all accounts a ludicrous failure epitomized by gang violence and lethal "amateur" product that added to the death toll. Its only real winner was organized crime and the prison-industrial complex.

In 1933, FDR helped pass the 21st Amendment repealing Prohibition, which ended a costly era of gratuitous social repression and gave the American economy---and psyche---a tangible boost.

Marijuana prohibition was escalated with Richard Nixon's 1970 declaration of the War on Drugs. There was a brief reprieve when Steve Ford, the son of President Gerald Ford appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone barefoot and claiming that the best place to smoke pot was in the White House. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter’s last year in office, 338,664 were arrested for marijuana possession.

Ronald Reagan renewed the War on Drugs and declared his “Zero Tolerance” policy, despite his daughter Patti Davis’ claim the Gipper smoked weed with a major donor. Following Reagan, President George Herbert Walker Bush recorded a low of 260,390 marijuana possession arrests, but the numbers climbed again under Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, both of whom are reported to have smoked it themselves (though Clinton claims not to have inhaled).

On a percentage basis, at least as many American high school students smoke pot than students in Holland, where it is legal. In the midst of the drug war, U.S. students report virtually unlimited access to a wide range of allegedly controlled substances, including pot. Because so many Americans use it, and it is so readily available, the war on marijuana can only be seen as a virtually universal assault on the basic liberties of our citizenry.

In a 2005 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services survey, more than 97 million Americans admitted to having tried marijuana at least once. President-elect Obama makes it clear in his book Dreams From My Father that he has smoked---and inhaled---marijuana (he is also apparently addicted to a far more dangerous drug, tobacco). His administration should tax marijuana rather than trying to repress it. Like alcohol and tobacco, a minimum age for legal access should be set at 21.

As a whole, the violent, repressive War on Drugs has been forty years of legal, cultural and economic catastrophe. Like FDR, Obama must end our modern-day Prohibition, and with it the health-killing crusade against this ancient, powerful medicinal herb.

  1. The Daily Triplicate
  2. Adam Madison
  3. 2009-01-12

Pot grower sues for ‘lost profit’

 A Gasquet man currently facing marijuana-sales charges has sued the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office for “lost profit” after his marijuana plants were destroyed prior to the dismissal of a previous marijuana-sales case.

Kirk David Stewart, 45, filed the suit Jan. 2, claiming the Sheriff’s Office should have returned 93 confiscated plants to Stewart — or at least the cash amount that could have been made by harvesting them.

The suit states that “Mr. Stewart is requesting the fair market value” of the 93 marijuana plants that were destroyed.

“If there is any truth to the true market value of the marijuana the (Drug) Task Force say they are taking off the streets, then Mr. Stewart’s plants are worth upwards of several hundred thousand dollars,” said Jon Alexander, Stewart’s attorney.

Stewart was arrested in January 2007 after a search warrant was served on a Crescent City residence on Union Street that he owned.

Authorities confiscated 93 plants along with numerous items used to grow marijuana, including grow lights, exhaust fans, ballasts and pots.

The suit alleges that Alexander sent a request to the Sheriff’s Office in August 2007 asking for the return of the plants confiscated from Stewart.

In April 2008, the charges against Stewart were dismissed by the DA’s office because Stewart was found to be in compliance with the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Proposition 215), according to the suit.

“He brought these certificates saying there were 10 people he was in care for,” said District Attorney Mike Riese.

Equipment, not plants, returned
Alexander said Stewart’s case should not have taken as long as it did to be dismissed.

“His case did not need to languish for an entire year — allowing his marijuana to rot,” the lawyer said.

In May 2008, the growing equipment had been returned to Stewart at the Sheriff’s Office, but the plants were not, the suit states.

A copy of the evidence release form included in the lawsuit states, “unable to release MJ plants — they were destroyed.”

Riese suggested another reason why the Sheriff’s Office doesn’t ever give back confiscated drugs after a case is dismissed.

“The feds don’t recognize Prop. 215,” he said. “Under federal law, marijuana is an illegal substance.”

The DA said the Sheriff’s Office abides by federal laws and if it gave drugs back to someone who was exonerated, the office could be under federal suspicion for drug trafficking.

“If they do something with it — it’s part of a distribution chain,” said Riese.

New charges pending
Stewart now faces several new marijuana-sales charges.

He is charged in Del Norte County with planting and cultivation of marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale, selling in lieu of a controlled substance (trading in drugs) and being a felon in possession of a firearm, said  Riese. 

Stewart was arrested at his trailer in Gasquet last April 17 with Fred Kenneth Otremba, 48, of Crescent City, after the federal Drug Enforcement Agency served a search warrant at the trailer with the help of the Sheriff’s Office.

Otremba is currently facing a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

The Sheriff’s Office said Otremba and Stewart were trimming marijuana when authorities arrived.

The arrests were part of a DEA operation called “Operation Green Acres.”

As the lead agency in the raid, the DEA confiscated 100 pounds of processed marijuana, 22 firearms and 84 plants, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Riese said that because the two men were in Del Norte County when they were arrested, he filed local charges against them — so he wouldn’t have to wait for federal charges to be filed.

Riese said the men have appeared in court and the case will most likely go to trial.

Stewart has already voiced the defense of being a Prop. 215 caregiver just like he did in 2007, Riese said.

“It’s the same thing, he’s saying they are compassionate caregivers —they gave a certificate saying ‘these are the people we care for,’” said Riese.

“So I said, ‘prove it,’” he said, adding that in 2007 Stewart wasn’t required to prove he had been the caretaker of his “clients.”

Riese said Stewart provided him with nearly a dozen of the Prop 215 certificates for the new case.

Alexander has since filed a motion to suppress the warrant that led to the DEA confiscation of the processed marijuana, plants and firearms.

Stewart was already convicted around a decade ago in Del Norte County for marijuana sales, said Riese.

Riese said Stewart was sentenced  to 180 days in jail and felony probation after he was found guilty of being in possession of a 10-pound bag of pot for sale.

The DA did not think the Prop. 215 compliance defense will work because of the 100 pounds of pot that were found in the new case.

“It’s just not going to fly this time,” said Riese.

The fate of confiscated drugs
Sheriff Dean Wilson commented on the office’s policies on the confiscation of illicit substances and on what he sees as problems with Stewart and Alexander’s suit.

When processed marijuana —most commonly the dried and packaged buds of the plant — is confiscated it is kept until the case has been adjudicated, said the sheriff.

Wilson said all the processed pot is kept in evidence, and “we’ll test a small portion of the marijuana.”

The test would indicate the THC (tetra-hydra-cannabinol) content of the drug, which is the chemical that gives users the “high.”

“The rest of it will be held in evidence up to the point to where the case is adjudicated,” said Wilson.

Some cases take so long that “the marijuana actually grows mold on it before they would get it back,” said the sheriff.

Wilson said his office hasn’t given back any confiscated drugs, to his knowledge.

He said pot-plant confiscation is different. When plants are confiscated they are literally torn from the ground or planters they are in and thrown in the back of a vehicle.

“We retain a small percent of the plant, then record the amount of THC,” said the sheriff. “Once that is done, it just sits in our impound and rots.”

The sheriff said at the “rotting point,” the plants are shredded and buried, while processed pot is eventually burned.

Wilson said the burning, shredding and burying of confiscated pot occurs in Del Norte County.

“Usually, locally we can take care of the marijuana,” he said.

Wilson said the policy is the same for most confiscated organic drugs, such as hallucinogenic mushrooms.

Chemical drugs, such as methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy pills and prescription narcotics, cannot be disposed of in Del Norte County, he said.

“We just don’t have the facilities — so we have to take all the white dope over to Shasta County,” said Wilson.

Once or twice every year, the office clears out or destroys all of its drug evidence for cases that have been resolved, he said.

Misinterpretation of Prop. 215?
The sheriff said that he felt the suit misrepresented Prop. 215.

“The law, the way that it states it, is ‘if I’m growing marijuana for medicinal purposes — I’m not allowed to make a profit from it,’” said Wilson.

“So how could he ask for the profit from the plants?” he said about Stewart and Alexander’s suit.

The sheriff said if Prop. 215 medicinal use is granted, the “personal use” pot is not to be sold or bartered with.

Wilson said that makes the suit’s claim for “lost profit” a moot point.

“If you’re not doing a commercial operation, then what is the profit of a plant that you can’t legally sell?” he asked.

Alexander called Wilson’s interpretation of Prop. 215 “simply not true.”

The attorney said, “I would like to see Sheriff Wilson’s socialist view of medicine extended to the country’s pharmaceutical companies.”

  1. San Gabriel Valley Tribune
  2. Sandra T. Molina
  3. 2008-12-31

Group seeks return of pot plants from Montebello PD

LOS ANGELES - Medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access filed legal briefs Monday accusing the city of Montebello of contempt of court for refusing to return medical marijuana wrongfully seized more than four years ago.

On Oct. 15, 2004, local police seized marijuana plants, growing equipment, and personal correspondence from the Montebello home of Terry Gene Walker.
Police criminally charged Walker, regardless of his status as a medical marijuana patient, said Joe Elford, chief counsel for Oakland-based ASA, who is representing Walker in his contempt claim.
 
Walker's criminal case was dismissed.
 
In March 2006, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge ordered the Montebello Police Department to return all property seized from Walker, including 42 marijuana plants, 22 cultivation lamps and personal correspondence and books.
 
"Mr. Walker demonstrated that he lawfully possessed the marijuana at issue for his medical use," Elford said.
 
He said Walker, who suffers from cervical disc degenerative disease, presented the Police Department with the court order, but was denied the return of his belongings.
 
Montebello City Attorney Arnold Alvarez-Glasman said the Police Department took the position against returning an illegal substance.
 
"Federal law states it is still illegal to possess marijuana," he said.
 
Under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes as recommended by a physician who has determined that the person's health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.
 
It also states that patients and their primary caregivers who obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes upon the recommendation of a physician are not subject to criminal prosecution or sanction.
 
"We are going to file contempt charges against cities and counties that run afoul of their obligation under the state's medical marijuana law," Elford said. "The indiscretion of cities like Montebello will not be tolerated."
 
In addition to the return of property, Elford is seeking a monetary fine and payment of Walker's attorney fees.
 
Alvarez-Glasman said he will advise his client to defend the filing.
 
"We still have to review and evaluate the case, but if directed to do so, we will diligently defend the city's position," he said.
 
A date for the hearing has not yet been set.
  1. NORML
  2. Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
  3. 2008-12-27

Arizona Attorney General says he might consider pot legalization

PHOENIX - Attorney General Terry Goddard said Tuesday he might be willing to consider legalizing marijuana if a way can be found to control its distribution - and figure out who has been smoking it.  

Goddard said marijuana sales make up 75 percent of the money that Mexican cartels use for the other operations, including smuggling other drugs and fighting the army and police in that country.  He said that makes fighting drug distribution here important to cut off that cash.  

He acknowledged those profits could be slashed if possession of marijuana were not a crime in Arizona.  But Goddard said a number of other hurdles remain before that even becomes a possibility.  

Goddard's comments came after a press conference Tuesday announcing the breakup of a major ring that police said has been responsible for bringing about 400,000 pounds of marijuana across the border and into Arizona each year since 2003.  

The operation has so far led to the indictment of 59 people and the arrest so far of 39 of them, some in this country legally and others who were not.  

Phoenix Police Lt.  Vince Piano said the operation was very sophisticated, complete with specially designed heavy-duty trucks to actually let vehicles drive over the border fence.  

They also had solar-powered radio towers and a network of lookouts who told the trucks, each carrying up to 2,500 pounds of marijuana, when to move and when to hide under camouflage.  He said there even was a system of "food drops" to supply the drivers.  

Piano said this operation was one of several under contract to Mexican drug lords to transport the marijuana from the border through the Tohono O'odham Reservation all the way to Phoenix.  

Piano said busting this organization doesn't stop the flow of drugs, saying this is one of several "transportation groups" working with the cartel.  But he said it disrupts at least part of the flow.  

The issue of Arizona drug laws came up during questions about the operation of drug cartels and the violence associated with their operations, particularly in the Mexican state of Sinaloa.  

"The key is, they will no longer exist when people don't buy marijuana," said Matthew Allen, special agent in charge of the office of investigations for U.S.  Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  "This is a market-driven economy and this is a market-driven activity." 

Allen said the question of legalization to eliminate those profits is a policy question.  

"But if we're going to go down that road, what is the acceptable amount of marijuana that you want a bus driver to have in their system," he continued.  

"I believe it's zero," Goddard said later.  

Goddard said there is a lot of time and money spent on enforcement activities like the one that resulted in the bust announced Tuesday.  He said that requires "a hard look" at the issue.  

But Goddard said it's not as simple as simply declaring it legal.  He said there would need to be some controls on who gets the drugs - and how much they use.  

"Right now I've not found, and do not know of, a way to make a prescription control over marijuana as a consumer product.  As long as we can't do that, as long as we can't put it behind the counter and in a safe distribution, I don't believe there's any way to make it legal." 

Goddard said no one has found a way to put the kind of controls on marijuana he would want before he would consider legalizing it.  

"If they could do that, we could certainly cut the legs out of some of these criminal activities.  But until they do, we're going to have to continue to go after the folks that are moving marijuana and are thereby funding violent crimes throughout the hemisphere." 

Allen backed up Goddard's statements that the smuggling operation is not simply about marijuana.  

He said Mexican cartels also are in the business of smuggling cocaine and other drugs on behalf of other cartels in places like Colombia.  He said they make up the money they lose when those drugs are seized through the profits they make selling marijuana in the United States. 

  1. News.com.au
  2. 2008-12-26

Pot-smoking cows could stop BSE, maybe

A NEW Zealand pro-cannabis groups says it has scientific evidence that cannabis can stop the development of mad cow disease.

It was not clear whether the findings applied to both cows and humans.

The National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (Norml) said a French study showed cannabidiol might be effective in preventing bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), known as mad cow disease, the New Zealand Press Association reported today.

Scientists at the National Centre for Scientific Research in France found cannabidiol - a non-psychoactive ingredient - may prevent the development of prion diseases (progressive neurodegenerative disorders), the most well known of which is BSE, Norml said.

Researchers found cannabidiol inhibited the accumulation of prion proteins in infected mice and sheep.

Norml spokesman Chris Fowlie said the discovery added to the scientific evidence supporting a bill from a New Zealand Greens MP  to legalise the medicinal use of cannabis.

"(It) should be supported by any MP with a clear head. Unfortunately most politicians act like mad cows whenever cannabis is mentioned," Mr Fowlie said.

 

  1. The Chronicle Herald
  2. Dean Beeby
  3. 2008-12-08

Researchers high on ancient pot find

 OTTAWA — Researchers say they have located the world’s oldest stash of marijuana, in a tomb in a remote part of China.

The cache of cannabis is about 2,700 years old and was clearly "cultivated for psychoactive purposes," rather than as fibre for clothing or as food, says a research paper in the Journal of Experimental Botany.

The 789 grams of dried cannabis was buried alongside a light-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian man, likely a shaman of the Gushi culture, near Turpan in northwestern China.

The extremely dry conditions and alkaline soil acted as preservatives, allowing a team of scientists to carefully analyze the stash, which still looked green although it had lost its distinctive odour.

"To our knowledge, these investigations provide the oldest documentation of cannabis as a pharmacologically active agent," says the newly published paper, whose lead author is American neurologist Dr. Ethan B. Russo.

Remnants of ancient cannabis have been found in Egypt and other sites, and the substance has been referred to by authors such as the Greek historian Herodotus. But the tomb stash is the oldest so far that could be thoroughly tested for its properties.

The 18 researchers, most of them based in China, subjected the cannabis to a battery of tests, including carbon dating and genetic analysis. Scientists also tried to germinate 100 of the seeds found in the cache, without success.

The marijuana was found to have a relatively high content of THC, the main active ingredient in cannabis, but the sample was too old to determine a precise percentage.

Researchers also could not determine whether the cannabis was smoked or ingested, as there were no pipes or other clues in the tomb of the shaman, who was about 45 years old.

The large cache was contained in a leather basket and in a wooden bowl, and was likely meant to be used by the shaman in the afterlife.

"This materially is unequivocally cannabis, and no material has previously had this degree of analysis possible," Russo said in an interview from Missoula, Mont.

"It was common practice in burials to provide materials needed for the afterlife. No hemp or seeds were provided for fabric or food. Rather, cannabis as medicine or for visionary purposes was supplied."

The tomb also contained bridles, archery equipment and a harp, confirming the man’s high social standing.

Russo is a full-time consultant with GW Pharmaceuticals, which makes Sativex, a cannabis-based medicine approved in Canada for pain linked to multiple sclerosis and cancer.

The company operates a cannabis-testing laboratory at a secret location in southern England to monitor crop quality for producing Sativex, and allowed Russo use of the facility for tests on 11 grams of the tomb cannabis.

Researchers needed about 10 months to cut red tape barring the transfer of the cannabis to England from China, Russo said.

The inter-disciplinary study was published this week by the British-based botany journal, which uses independent reviewers to ensure the accuracy and objectivity of submitted papers.

The substance has been found in two of the 500 Gushi tombs excavated so far in northwestern China, indicating that cannabis was either restricted for use by a few individuals or was administered as a medicine to others through shamans, Russo said.

"It certainly does indicate that cannabis has been used by man for a variety of purposes for thousands of years."

Russo, who had a neurology practice for 20 years, has previously published studies examining the history of cannabis.

"I hope we can avoid some of the political liabilities of the issue," he said, referring to his latest paper.

The region of China where the tomb is located, Xinjiang, is considered an original source of many cannabis strains worldwide.

  1. Matador Nights
  2. Sascha Matuszak
  3. 2008-12-07

Guide to Smoking Pot Around the World

From an American kid hitting a bong while watching Harold and Kumar to a Moroccan enjoying hash with his afternoon tea, people all over the world smoke cannabis.
 
Despite the popularity of weed and hash, most governments in the world have deemed it harmful to the individual and society as a whole.
 
There are only 11 nations in the world where weed and hash have been decriminalized. A handful of countries impose mandatory prison sentences and other harsh punishments for the possession or sale of any form of weed and hash. Another handful look the other way when dealing with cannabis.
 
Some places that are easy on weed heads can be broken up by region:
 
Latin America
In Latin America, cannabis is tolerated and/or decriminalized in most countries, with the exception of Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras and Guatemala. Marijuana grows well in Central and South America and is a large part of the economy.
 
Governments tend to have more to worry about than whether someone is smoking a joint. For travelers, this means that smoking in South America is probably okay, but caution should be used.
 
Only Peru considers cannabis to be a legal drug, provided you are not in possession of another drug. I get the impression that throughout Latin America, the tolerance doesn’t typically extend to tourists, especially if the police can get a bribe out of it, but you should never travel with pot and risk being searched.
 
I would highly recommend caution throughout Mexico, Panama, Guatemala and even Costa Rica. Although weed is sold to tourists all the time in quantities up to 1/4 pound, those buyers in turn, are often set up for the policia.
 
In this particular region, weed may be tolerated, decriminalized or even legal up to small amounts (usually about 20 grams), but as always, keep a low profile.
 
Photo by martin cleary
 
Here’s a quick break down:
Europe
Europe is another region where cannabis is generally tolerated, decriminalized or even legal.
 
We all know about the Netherlands. It is legal to buy and smoke herb in the Netherlands, in amounts up to five grams per person per day. People regularly smoke in public parks and anywhere else they can find a bench and a view.
 
In the Netherlands, one notices that tourists (especially American tourists) go a little overboard and smoke their way into oblivion. The only caution I would take here is making sure you don’t get duped at the coffee shops or robbed by opportunistic thugs.
Photo by Shira Golding
 
North Africa
The other region where weed is ok is North Africa. In Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco, locals smoke hash, a fine alternative to alcohol and accepted in society. However, this societal norm does not necessarily apply to tourists.
 
In other words, locals may be puffing, but if the laws still consider what you are doing as illegal, a cop can still make money off you. I recommend smoking with friends only in this region.
Having said all that, these are the nations in which cannabis is legal for consumption and where you should be able to smoke in peace:
Photo courtesy of author
I use “up to five grams” because I like to err on the side of caution. I have smoked publicly with fishermen in Thailand, tea merchants in Egypt, farmers in SW China and all my homies throughout Europe and the US. I will continue to do so.
 
People all over the planet understand the need to just relax and do your thing after a long day. Some do it with alcohol, some with tea, some with weed, and some with a book.
 
Stick to the nations numbered above and if you need to puff elsewhere, be careful.
  1. NORML
  2. Paul Armentano
  3. 2008-11-26

Election 2008: Truth Prevails

The politics of compassion have overcome the politics of fear.

Tonight, Michigan became thethirteenth state to legalize the physician supervised possession and use of cannabis. According to early returns, more than 60 percent of Michigan voters decided in favor of Proposal 1, which establishes a state-regulated system regarding the use and cultivation of medical marijuana by qualified patients.

Voters endorsed the measure despite a high profile, deceptive, and despicable ad campaign by Prop. 1 opponents — who falsely claimed that the initiative would allow for the open sale of marijuana “in every neighborhood, just blocks from schools.” (In fact, Proposal 1 does not even allow for the creation of licensed cannabis dispensaries.)

Michigan’s new law goes into effect on December 4th, at which time nearly one-quarter of the US population will live in a state that authorizes the legal use of medical cannabis.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, some 65 percent of voters (and virtually every town) decided “yes” on Question 2, which reduces minor marijuana possession to a fine-only offense. Like in Michigan, voters rejected a high-profile, deceptive ad campaign by the measure’s opponents, who argued that it would increase adolescent drug abuse, permit large-scale marijuana trafficking, endanger workplace safety, and sharply increase traffic fatalities.

Question 2 is expected to become law in 30 days — making Massachusetts the thirteenth state to decriminalize the personal possession and use of cannabis. (Note: Under state law, politicians have the option of amending the new law.)

NORML celebrates both victories and recognizes that neither would have been possible without the grassroots efforts of Michigan and Massachusetts state activists — who laid the groundwork for both campaigns by successfully passing a series of similar, municipal initiatives over the past several years.

Once again, voters have rejected the Bush doctrine on drugs. They’ve rejected the lies put forward by drug warriors and law enforcement, and demonstrated — overwhelmingly — that truth, compassion, and first-hand experience are more persuasive than the deception and scare tactics of those who would take away our freedoms and confine us in cages.

In short, it is the cannabis community, not the Drug Czar, that is shaping America’s marijuana policy, and tonight we go to bed knowing that millions of Americans will wake up tomorrow with a better, brighter, and more tolerant future than they had today.

 

  1. The Mail Online
  2. Fiona MacRae
  3. 2008-11-21

Cannabis 'could stop dementia in its tracks'

Cannabis may help keep Alzheimer's disease at bay.


In experiments, a marijuana-based medicine triggered the formation of new brain cells and cut inflammation linked to dementia.

The researchers say that using the information to create a pill suitable for people could help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer's.

elderly woman
cannabis
 

 

The incurable disease affects 400,000 Britons, with around 500 new cases diagnosed every day as people live longer.

For some sufferers, drugs can delay the progress of devastating symptoms such as memory loss and the erosion of ability to do everyday things such as washing.

 

However, there they do not work for everyone and, with the number of patients forecast to double in a generation, there is a desperate need for new treatments.


The US researchers studied the properties of a man-made drug based on THC, the chemical behind the 'high' of cannabis.

When elderly rats were given the drug for three weeks, it improved their memory, making it easier for them to find their way round a water maze, the Society for Neuroscience's annual conference heard yesterday (WEDS).

Researcher Dr Yannick Marchalant said; 'Old rats are not very good at that task.  When we gave them the drug, it made them a little better at that task.'

Other experiments showed that the drug acts on parts of the brain involved in memory, appetite, pain and mood.

The Ohio State University experiments also showed that the drug cut inflammation in the brain and may trigger the production of new neurons or brain cells.

Researcher Professor Gary Wenk said: 'When we're young, we produce neurons and our memory works fine.

'When we age, the process slows down, so we have a decrease in new cell formation through normal ageing.

'You need these cells to come back and help form new memories and we found that this THC-like agent can influence the creation of these cells.'

Although the drug used was not suitable for use in people, the results could aid the creation of new medicines for Alzheimer's.

It is likely such a drug would be taken to prevent the disease, rather than treat it.

Asked if those with a family history of Alzheimer's should smoke cannabis to prevent them developing the disease, Dr Wenk said: 'We're not saying that but it might actually work.

'What we are saying its that it appears that a safe, legal substance that mimics the important properties of marijuana can work on the brain to prevent memory impairments in ageing.  So that's really hopeful.'

Dr Marchalant added: 'We hope a compound can be found that can target both inflammation and neurogenesis, which would be the most efficient way to produce the best effects.'

The medicinal properties of cannabis have already been harnessed to treat multiple sclerosis. 

Sativex, a cannabis-based drug, has been shown to ease the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, including pain, spasms, shaking, depression and anxiety.

The Alzheimer's Society cautioned against using cannabis itself to stave off dementia.

Professor Clive Ballard, the charity's director of research, said: 'There are encouraging findings from studies with animals suggesting that some cannabis derivatives may help protect nerve cells in the brain. 

'We therefore look forward to robust clinical trials into potential benefits of non-psychoactive components of cannabis. 

'It is important for people to note that these treatments are not same as recreational cannabis use which can be potentially harmful.'

  1. OnMarijuana
  2. 2008-11-19

Marijuana is safer than aspirin.

When Bayer introduced aspirin in 1899, cannabis was America’s number one painkiller. Until marijuana prohibition began in 1937, the US Pharmacopoeia listed cannabis as the primary medicine for over 100 diseases. Cannabis was such an effective analgesic that the American Medical Association (AMA) argued against prohibition on behalf of medical progress. Since the herb is extremely potent and essentially non-toxic, the AMA considered it a potential wonder drug.

Instead, the invention of aspirin gave birth to the modern pharmaceutical industry and Americans switched away from cannabis in the name of “progress.” But was it really progress? There can be no doubt that aspirin has a long history as the drug of choice for the self-treatment of migraines, arthritis, and other chronic pain. It is cheap and effective. But is it as safe as cannabis?

History:

The Law:

Marijuana side effects and dangers:

Aspirin side effects and dangers:

If you think that cannabis is actually safer than aspirin, you are not alone. In October 2000, Dr. Leslie Iversen of the Oxford University Department of Pharmacology said the same thing.

In her book, ‘The Science of Marijuana,’ Dr. Iversen presents the scientific evidence that cannabis is, by-and-large, a safe drug. Dr. Iversen found cannabis had “an impressive record” when compared to tobacco, alcohol, or even aspirin.

“Tetrahydrocannabinol is a very safe drug,” she said. “Even such apparently innocuous medicines as aspirin and related steroidal anti-inflammatory compunds are not safe.”

So if safety is your concern, cannabis is clearly a much better choice than aspirin. If you eat it or vaporize it, it just might be the safest painkiller the world has ever known.

comparingdangers.jpg

 

Dependence: How difficult it is for the user to quit, the relapse rate, the percentage of people who eventually become dependent, the rating users give their own need for the substance and the degree to which the substance will be used in the face of evidence that it causes harm.

Withdrawal: Presence and severity of characteristic withdrawal symptoms.

Tolerance: How much of the substance is needed to satisfy increasing cravings for it, and the level of stable need that is eventually reached.

Reinforcement: A measure of the substance’s ability, in human and animal tests, to get users to take it again and again, and in preference to other substances.

Intoxication: Though not usually counted as a measure of addiction in itself, the level of intoxication is associated with addiction and increases the personal and social damage a substance may do.

This chart originally appeared on DrugWarFacts.org.

I tracked it down at SaferChoice.org.

  1. www.sfgate.com
  2. John Coté
  3. 2008-11-17

Marijuana hotspots vs. Starbucks -- who wins?

Good news for all you caffeine-adverse medical marijuana users out there, courtesy of the federal drug czar (We know. How often does that happen?)

There are more medical marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco than Starbucks Coffee shops. Or at least, so says the Office of National Drug Control Policy in a posting on its official blog, pushingback.com.

Seem a little far-fetched? It sure looks that way.

The feds contend there are 98 marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco, compared to 71 Starbucks Coffee shops. They even provide a Google map mashup showing the supposed locations of both.

But their numbers don't add up, and medical marijuana types are peeved.

First, the map is not click-able, so you can't zoom in to determine exact addresses. Even so, there appear to be dispensaries listed in highly improbable places, like two on Leavenworth between California and Clay streets -- a section at the top of Nob Hill sporting Victorians, a couple of corner stores and a laundromat, but no apparent pot for sale.

San Francisco's Department of Public Health, which issues permits for medical marijuana dispensaries, is also befuddled by the federal data.

"It was extremely incorrect," said Larry Kessler, a senior health inspector at the department. "I don't know how they got that."

DPH lists 24 dispensaries in the city that either have permits or are trying to obtain one.

The federal drug office says their information includes those dispensaries, plus dozens more that are unregulated yet easily findable through a Google search.

"This is information that is readily available to any teenager," said Rafael Lemaitre, a spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy. He called the state's medical marijuana law "essentially a fraud that's been perpetrated on the people of California" because of the potential for abuse.

But when asked for the data used to create the map, Lemaitre provided a list with 74 entries for marijuana dispensaries, not the 98 claimed.

He said some alternative medicine-type spots were removed from the list because the feds are actually unsure if they sell pot.

Of the 74, six of them don't list addresses in San Francisco. Five of those say they offer marijuana delivery service to the city, while a sixth is in Los Angeles.

Of those with city addresses, some are clearly marijuana dispensaries, like The Vapor Room on Haight Street. But other listings include 12 Galaxies, the Mission District nightclub that closed in August, and businesses with defunct Web sites and phone numbers that just ring and ring.

The data also has at least one double listing. It includes both ACT UP, the AIDS organization that used to run a dispensary at 1884 Market St., and Market Street Cooperative, which currently operates the dispensary at that location.

Lemaitre said it's difficult to get precise data on "the illegal drug business."

"Drug dealers and proprietors of medical marijuana dispensaries aren't kind enough to provide us with their sales data and operating locations," he said.

Bottom line though: the data the feds turned over listed less than 71 actual marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco, meaning Starbucks wins.

Venti cappuccinos for everyone.

 

  1. Splice Today (www.splisetoday.com)
  2. Russ Smith
  3. 2008-11-17

Legalize It.

With a recession in sight, the case for legalizing marijuana and taxing it for government revenue seems more practical than ever.

Any American, given about a minute, can tick off a list naming examples of disgrace in our 21st century society. You pick your hobbyhorse, I’ll pick mine, and let the free-for-all begin. It’s mind-boggling, at least in this corner, that there’s still actually a debate among politicians and citizens over the issue of medicinal marijuana use. In 1982, as a young man not yet 30, my mother was slowly dying of brain cancer, and one day she asked if I could purchase a small quantity of pot to relieve the pain of chemotherapy.

I hadn’t used the illegal substance for several years, but it wasn’t hard to find, and so on a visit to our house she was given a small bag of Mexican grass, and for the first time in her life she toked up. It wasn’t to her liking and so that experiment ended, but, after years of worrying about this sort of drug use among her five sons—my parents swallowed all the scare tactics from the government and media in the 1960s—she’d come to realize that in the scheme of things, smoking marijuana wasn’t, in the vast majority of cases, likely to derail a person’s life. As for her fellow cancer patients, Mom said, “Look, we’re dying, it’s not as if puffing on a joint [I’d never heard her say that word and was slightly taken aback] will be the ‘gateway’ to heroin.” None of my friends and acquaintances who are physicians disagree with that simple statement.

It’s my opinion that not only should marijuana be freely available to those suffering from ravaging diseases—as if the plant is any more harmful than the other drugs dispensed several times a day—but it ought to be legalized and sold at pharmacies and maybe even convenience stores. I understand this is an issue that no politician will touch—in the early 1990s Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke, once considered a rising star in national Democratic circles did himself no favors by advocating decriminalization—but if you suspend immediate judgment and think about it, who would it harm?

Consider this: In 2007, according to the FBI’s “Uniform Crime Report [http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=7698], cited by The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), a record number of 872,721 people were arrested for marijuana violations, and 89 percent of those Americans were nabbed for “personal use.” Violent crime ebbs and flows, often depending on locale, but someone please explain to me why people who favor smoking pot, which is arguably much less dangerous than excessive consumption of alcohol, are the prey of police officers across the country? Maybe it’s a matter of low-hanging fruit, but the waste of time in arresting offenders, court appearances and in many instances, incarceration, is a crime in and of itself. Does it make any sense at all to jail a 23-year-old, throwing him into a prison population that will likely result not in “rehabilitation,” but a needlessly disrupted life?

One significant fact that would grab the attention of federal and local office-holders (at least in private), charged with juggling budgets, is the vast stream of revenue each of the country’s 50 states would realize as a result of selling marijuana, like cigarettes, on the open market, with every pack or pouch of pot fetching several dollars in “sin taxes.” The government could regulate the potency and purity of the marijuana, and sell it for a reasonable, if high, price, nearly obliterating the black market, thus further making a significant dent in the ranks of those who profit from manufacturing and selling large amounts of the drug. Like alcohol and tobacco, vendors would be prohibited from selling marijuana to those under 21, and the requisite health warnings would be prominently placed on each unit sold.

It’s an unfortunate reality that the political bureaucracy, even if there was an eventual consensus on legalizing marijuana, would take years to implement such a dramatic change—one can only imagine the ballot propositions, constitutional amendments and the like that would have to be traversed, not to mention the harrumphing of cultural conservatives who’d like to lord over the private lives of citizens—and so any economic windfall is in the future. Which is a shame, since given today’s perilous financial climate, a new infusion of cash, every single day, would help shorten a recession. Then again, if legislators acted now the benefits could be realized in time for the next, and inevitable, economic downturn.

As for the “morality” of legalizing marijuana, I just don’t want to hear it. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity can stuff it. No one would force people to start smoking the stuff, just as no one forces people to take a drink, indulge in a tobacco habit or pop anti-depressants.

As Barack Obama prepares to occupy the Oval Office in January, this modest (in my opinion) proposal is worthy of his consideration, especially if he does intend to follow FDR’s example and set forth a very ambitious agenda for the first year of his presidency, before he begins his 2012 campaign. I’m not naïve and don’t expect Obama will even give a moment’s thought to the subject—hell, if he lifts the embargo on Cuba next year, that’ll be amazing, and long overdue, enough.

Nevertheless, the legalization of marijuana is an initiative that shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand: correcting the travesty of arresting harmless and non-violent citizens, plus the monetary gain is extraordinarily compelling. All that’s needed is a group of politicians with vision and guts to bring the issue to the forefront of debate in the United States.

  1. Mt. Shasta Herald
  2. Paul Boerger
  3. 2008-11-11

Seized pot must be returned, police should not assist feds

Siskiyou County, Calif. - In late August, California Attorney General Jerry Brown released new medical marijuana guidelines in August, seeking to clarify how California law enforcement officers should deal with various aspects of the issue.

Among the subjects addressed in the guidelines are returning marijuana seized by police to legitimate medical users and cooperation between federal and state law enforcement with regards to conflicting marijuana laws. Brown recommends that California law enforcement officers “not arrest individuals or seize [medical] marijuana under federal law” and states that seized medical marijuana from legitimate users must be returned upon an order from a court.

California voters legalized marijuana for medical purposes if recommended as a treatment by a physician with the passage of Proposition 215, the “Compassionate Use Act,” in 1996.

Senate Bill 420 Medical Marijuana Program Act, passed in 2003, amended Proposition 215, including setting possession limits of six mature plants and eight ounces of dried pot.

SB 420 also allowed counties to set their own limits beyond the eight ounces and six plants, which has led to a wide range of limits throughout California.

Two recent Appellate Court decisions, People vs Kelly and People vs Phomphakdy, struck down the possession amounts in SB 420 as having unconstitutionally amended a proposition. According to the courts, a proposition passed by the people may not be substantially amended except by a further vote of the people. The Attorney General has appealed the People vs Phomphakdy case to the California Supreme Court, seeking to reinstate the limits.

The federal government, however, does not recognize California medical marijuana laws and classifies marijuana as a Schedule I illegal drug, the highest and most dangerous classification, along with heroin and PCP. Medical marijuana patients have been arrested, doctors recommending marijuana have been prosecuted, and medical marijuana dispensaries have been raided and shut down with prison sentences meted out to the proprietors.

How law enforcement deals with the conflict between state and federal law has continued to be an issue with questions arising as to whether police should return marijuana confiscated from medical users and at what level they should cooperate with federal authorities in arresting citizens with a marijuana recommendation.

In the new guidelines Attorney General Brown says the “incongruity between federal and state law has given rise to understandable confusion, but no legal conflict exists merely because state law and federal law treat marijuana differently.”

“Indeed, California’s medical marijuana laws have been challenged unsuccessfully in court on the ground that they are preempted by the [federal] Controlled Substances Act,” Brown says. “Neither Proposition 215, nor the MMP, conflict with the CSA because, in adopting these laws, California did not ‘legalize’ medical marijuana, but instead exercised the state’s reserved powers to not punish certain marijuana offenses under state law when a physician has recommended its use to treat a serious medical condition.”

Brown goes on to state that under the above conditions, California law enforcement officers should respect state law.

“In light of California’s decision to remove the use and cultivation of physician-recommended marijuana from the scope of the state’s drug laws, this Office recommends that state and local law enforcement officers not arrest individuals or seize marijuana under federal law when the officer determines from the facts available that the cultivation, possession, or transportation is permitted under California’s medical marijuana laws,” Brown stated.

Siskiyou County Public Defender Lael Kayfetz agrees with Brown’s stance and says he is “walking a fine semantic line to implement the clear desires of California voters.”

“The guidelines are an admonition from the Attorney General to California peace officers that they are California peace officers and should act according to California law and let the federal government do what it is going to do,” Kayfetz said. “Brown is also a law enforcement officer. He cannot just disregard what the federal government says. He is in a very difficult position.”

Siskiyou County Sheriff Rick Riggins said, “That’s what our officers are supposed to do.”

“If medical marijuana users have their paperwork in order, our officers leave them alone,” Riggins said. “We stood down on the amounts. We are waiting to see what happens in the Supreme Court. We’re back to 215 at this point. We are concentrating on the big illegal gardens.”

Riggins noted that, “I don’t have a problem if somebody needs it.”

“I like that the new guidelines spell out what the doctors are supposed to do,” Riggins said.

The new guidelines state that a physician recommending medical marijuana should do the following:

Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus said the Attorney General’s suggestion that local authorities not arrest individuals or seize marijuana under federal law “appears to conform to California law.”

“This is consistent with the practice in Siskiyou County as I understand it, and is a common sense approach to the distinction between state and federal law,” Andrus said. “We have plenty of work to do without making arrests or seizing substances to which only federal law applies.”

On the limits Andrus said, “Now that courts have agreed we will not be enforcing those limits unless the California Supreme Court overturns that decision when they review the decision.”

“However, the AG seems to ignore the fact that much more of SB 420 also amends Proposition 215 and would likely be found unconstitutional on the same principle if challenged in appellate court,” Andrus said. “This area of the law is very difficult for law enforcement and for medicinal marijuana practitioners alike. Until given further direction we will simply be following the language of Proposition 215 and enforcing where people possess more than reasonably dictated by their needs as defined in the body of the Initiative.”

On the issue of returning seized marijuana, Brown says if a person establishes to the satisfaction of the court they are legitimate medical marijuana users, the marijuana must be returned.

“If a person whose marijuana is seized by law enforcement successfully establishes a medical marijuana defense in court, or the case is not prosecuted, he or she may file a motion for return of the marijuana,” Brown states. “If a court grants the motion and orders the return of marijuana seized incident to an arrest, the individual or entity subject to the order must return the property.”

In addition Brown says that law enforcement agencies who return the marijuana are not liable for federal prosecution.

“State law enforcement officers who handle controlled substances in the course of their official duties are immune from liability under the Controlled Substances Act,” Brown says.

Kayfetz agrees with the interpretation of returning seized marijuana if it is found to be medically legitimate.

“The mandate from the Attorney General is clear,” Kayfetz said. “If the court orders it, the marijuana must be returned.”

Sheriff Riggins says returning seized medical marijuana is “not anything we haven’t been doing.”

“Once the court orders it, we will return it,” Riggins said.

Andrus said that the statute Brown cites – 21 U.S.C. § 885(d) of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which states that law enforcement officers are immune from prosecution in handling illegal substances in the course of their duties – is unclear.

“The AG states that state law enforcement officers who handle controlled substances in the course of their official duties are immune from federal prosecution,” Andrus said. “However, the statute relied upon by the AG is not so clear and does not seem to have been written with these circumstances in mind. It would be arguable at best to suggest that a peace officer is ‘engaged in the enforcement of [a] law ... relating to controlled substances’ when he is giving marijuana back to a private citizen. I would not consider it clear based upon this federal statute that a law enforcement officer may hand marijuana over to a private citizen.”

Americans for Safe Access, an organization that defends the use of medical marijuana, applauded the Attorney General’s guidelines.

“Today we stand beside the Attorney General of California in his effort to fully implement the state’s medical marijuana law,” said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. “We welcome this leadership and expect that compliance with these guidelines will result in fewer unnecessary arrests, citations and seizures of medicine from qualified patients and their primary caregivers.”

ASA is now calling for the federal government to come into “alignment” with state medical marijuana laws.

“It is now up to Congress and the new President to align federal policy with California and other medical cannabis states,” said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes. “It is time to resolve the federal-state conflict that serves only to undermine California and other states’ sovereignty and inflict harm on seriously ill patients and their care providers.”

  1. NORML
  2. Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director
  3. 2008-11-11

Truth Prevails!

The politics of compassion have overcome the politics of fear.

Tonight, Michigan became thethirteenth state to legalize the physician supervised possession and use of cannabis. According to early returns, more than 60 percent of Michigan voters decided in favor ofProposal 1, which establishes a state-regulated system regarding the use and cultivation of medical marijuana by qualified patients.

Voters endorsed the measure despite a high profile, deceptive, and despicable ad campaign by Prop. 1 opponents — who falsely claimed that the initiative would allow for the open sale of marijuana “in every neighborhood, just blocks from schools.” (In fact, Proposal 1 does not even allow for the creation of licensed cannabis dispensaries.)

Michigan’s new law goes into effect on December 4th, at which time nearly one-quarter of the US population will live in a state that authorizes the legal use of medical cannabis.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, some 65 percent of voters (and virtually every town) decided “yes” on Question 2, which reduces minor marijuana possession to a fine-only offense. Like in Michigan, voters rejected a high-profile, deceptive ad campaign by the measure’s opponents, who argued that it would increase adolescent drug abuse, permit large-scale marijuana trafficking, endanger workplace safety, and sharply increase traffic fatalities.

Question 2 is expected to become law in 30 days — making Massachusetts thethirteenth state to decriminalize the personal possession and use of cannabis. (Note: Under state law, politicians have the option of amending the new law.)

NORML celebrates both victories and recognizes that neither would have been possible without the grassroots efforts of Michigan and Massachusetts state activists — who laid the groundwork for both campaigns by successfully passing a series of similar, municipal initiatives over the past several years.

  1. The Matt Tribune
  2. Matt
  3. 2008-10-10

Michigan voters to decide on medical marijuana

DETROIT - Michigan may become the latest state to let some severely ill patients use marijuana to treat pain, nausea and other symptoms.

If the Nov. 4 ballot proposal is approved, Michigan law would allow doctors to recommend marijuana for patients with cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS and other conditions the state agrees are covered under the law.

Those patients would register with the state and could legally buy, grow and use small amounts of marijuana to relieve pain, nausea, appetite loss and other symptoms.

Similar medical-marijuana laws have been enacted in a dozen states in recent years, most by ballot initiative.

While the measure would remove state-level penalties for registered patients using marijuana, it wouldn't create legal dispensaries for the drug, nor would it affect the federal ban on marijuana.

But the Drug Enforcement Administration and other federal agencies are focused on battling large-scale drug trafficking operations, not small-scale users, said DEA Detroit office spokesman Rich Isaacson. Medical-marijuana patients typically would not be targeted by the DEA, he said.

The Michigan initiative, on the ballot as Proposal 1, is spearheaded by the Ferndale-based Coalition for Compassionate Care. Spokeswoman Dianne Byrum says the law would apply to "a very small percentage" of the population, perhaps less than half of 1 percent, and would not affect state narcotics laws except for patients who have a doctor's recommendation to use cannabis.

"When nothing else works, this is an option for them," she said.

The measure is opposed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, and Attorney General Mike Cox, a Republican.

Republican State Sen. Tom George of Kalamazoo, a medical doctor, says he believes legalizing medical marijuana is unnecessary because there are other and better medications to treat nausea, pain and other symptoms. Those include topical anti-nausea treatments and a synthetic version of marijuana's major active ingredient in a pill called Marinol.

"I just don't think there's much medical cause for" the initiative, George said.

A report by the independent Citizens Research Council of Michigan says the initiative, if passed, could create some confusion for local law enforcement officials when it comes to telling the difference between legal medical use of marijuana and illegal recreational use.

  1. San Francisco Chronicle
  2. Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
  3. 2008-10-10

Governor vetoes medical marijuana bill

(10-01) 18:02 PDT SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill sponsored by medical marijuana advocates that would have protected most employees from being fired for testing positive for pot that they used outside the workplace with their doctor's approval.

The measure, AB2279 by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would have overturned a state Supreme Court ruling in January that allowed employers to punish workers for using medical marijuana that was legalized by a state ballot measure in 1996. Under Leno's measure, the only workers who could have been fired for using medical marijuana would have been those in safety-related or law-enforcement jobs.

In its 5-2 ruling, the Supreme Court said the initiative, Proposition 215, exempted medical marijuana patients and their caregivers from state prosecution, but wasn't intended to limit an employer's authority to fire workers for violating federal drug laws.

Schwarzenegger used the same rationale in his veto message Tuesday.

"I am concerned with interference in employment decisions as they relate to marijuana use," the governor wrote. "Employment protection was not a goal of the initiative as passed by voters in 1996."

Medical marijuana supporters disagreed.

"The intent of 215 was to treat marijuana like other legal pharmaceutical drugs," said Dale Gieringer, a co-author of the ballot measure and California coordinator of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Leno said he wasn't surprised by the veto in light of the state Chamber of Commerce's opposition to his bill. He said the court majority, and the governor, apparently presumed that "the voters who supported Prop. 215 in 1996 intended that only those medical marijuana patients who are unemployed could make use of (the law)."

The court ruling upheld a Sacramento County company's firing of a computer technician who tested positive for marijuana. The employee, Gary Ross, had a doctor's note to use the drug for pain caused by back spasms. He said he had never used marijuana at work or been impaired by its effects on the job.

But the court said neither Prop. 215 nor California's disability discrimination law requires employers to allow workers to use drugs banned by federal law. Congress has classified marijuana among the most dangerous drugs and does not recognize any legitimate use.

Leno's bill passed both houses on bare-majority, party-line votes. It would have prohibited employers from firing or discriminating against employees whose marijuana use has been approved by their doctors, as long as they did not take the drug at the workplace or during work hours.