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Oregon OCTA Marijuana Legalization Initiative Makes Ballot

The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) initiative has qualified for the November ballot, the Oregon Secretary of State Election Division's official Twitter feed announced last Friday evening. That means voters in three Western states will vote on versions of marijuana legalization this year. The other two are Colorado and Washington.

The OCTA campaign and allies were quick to react.

"Today is an historic day for Oregon and for the national movement for common-sense marijuana policy," Paul Stanford, chief petitioner said in press release the same night. "Oregon's long had an independent streak and led the nation on policies that benefit the public good. Regulating marijuana and restoring the hemp industry is in that tradition of independent, pragmatic governance. Whether you're liberal or conservative, urban or rural, young or old, regulating and taxing marijuana and hemp makes sense for Oregon."

OCTA now becomes Measure 80 on the November Oregon ballot. It would regulate marijuana for adults 21 and over, with commercial sales only through state-licensed stores. The state's general fund would receive 90% of tax revenues, estimated at more than $140 million annually. Another 7% would go to drug treatment programs, and the remaining 3% would go toward promoting Oregon’s hemp food, fiber and bio-fuel industries.

Regulating marijuana is a more rational approach to decreasing crime and improving youth and public safety, said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, which supports the initiative.

"When the voters of Oregon pass this commonsense initiative, it will take money right out of the pockets of violent gangs and cartels and put it into the state's tax coffers, where it can be spent on improving schools, roads and public safety," said the 34-year career law-enforcement officer and veteran of narcotics policing in Baltimore. "Plus, when cops like me are no longer charged with chasing down marijuana users, we will be able to fully focus on stopping and solving serious crimes like murders, rapes and robberies."

Parts of organized labor are taking an interest in the job potential of a legal marijuana commerce.

"We support Measure 80 because it'll get middle-class Oregonians back to work, it’s as simple as that," said Dan Clay, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 555. "Whether it's hemp biofuel refineries on the Columbia River or pulp and paper mills in central Oregon, hemp makes sense and fits Oregon's renowned sustainability economy."

A hundred days out from election day, it looks like we've got us a possible marijuana legalization trifecta.

Salem, OR
United States

Dr. Bronner's Head Arrested in White House Hemp Civil Disobedience Action

protest cage with "Mr. President, Let U.S. Farmers Grow Hemp" sign
David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, which imports more than 20 tons of hemp oil each year from Canadian farmers, was arrested by members of the DC Metropolitan Police Department after committing an act of civil disobedience within sight of the White House early Monday morning. Bronner and fellow hemp activists pulled up to 16th and H Streets NW, unloaded a jail cell-like structure (to prevent police from immediately interfering), which Bronner locked himself into with 12 hemp plants. He then proceeded to harvest the plants and press hemp oil from them. (Bronner was planning to spread the oil on slices of bread and share it with onlookers, but that was unconfirmed at press time.) [Ed: Read our accompanying interview with David Bronner here, and watch video footage here.]

Bronner said he was waging a "beer bet" with President Obama that the hemp plants are not marijuana and have no drug value. The plants were grown from Canadian hemp seed, and under Canadian regulations, hemp can have no more than 0.3% THC, meaning the plants have no use as a medicinal or recreational drug.

"The industrial hemp plants I am harvesting and processing into oil cannot produce a high of any kind, but according to the Obama administration I'm in possession of approximately 10 pounds of marijuana," said Bronner. "President Obama's US Attorney who handles drug cases in Washington, DC will not be able to prove my hemp has any more drug value than a poppy seed bagel.  The Obama position on hemp is not science-based or good for the US economy. We've lobbied and campaigned for over a decade and feel abandoned by our president, who as an Illinois state legislator voted twice for hemp cultivation."

Activists at Vote Hemp, with which Bronner is affiliated, held meetings with the Office of National Drug Control Policy in 2010 to seek a change in hemp policy, but that effort went nowhere. They then took advantage of the White House's public online petition program to ask it to revise US drug policies to allow for domestic hemp production -- it took a federal court order several years ago to force the DEA to allow hemp products to be imported -- but after a seven month delay, all they got was a slap in the face.

That slap came in the form of a one-paragraph response from ONDCP head Gil Kerlikowske entitled "What We Have to Say About Marijuana and Hemp Production."

David Bronner at the White House, with media and supporters
"America's farmers deserve our Nation's help and support to ensure rural America's prosperity and vitality," Kerlikowske wrote. "Federal law prohibits human consumption, distribution, and possession of Schedule I controlled substances. Hemp and marijuana are part of the same species of cannabis plant. While most of the THC in cannabis plants is concentrated in the marijuana, all parts of the plant, including hemp, can contain THC, a Schedule I controlled substance. The administration will continue looking for innovative ways to support farmers across the country while balancing the need to protect public health and safety."

"I expected more from President Obama," Bronner said. "The president can simply direct the Department of Justice to respect industrial hemp grown pursuant to existing state hemp programs, such as North Dakota's. Everyone is sick and tired of America's bankrupt policy on hemp that forces our company to send well over a hundred thousand dollars every year to Canadian farmers. I had hoped that President Obama would not succumb to drug warriors' hysteria regarding hemp. I really don't know what else to do to get our 'Chief Law Enforcement Officer' to take a rational science-based approach to hemp policy in this country."

If the administration won't act, perhaps Congress will. Last week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) cosponsored an amendment to the Agriculture Department reauthorization bill. That amendment clarifies that hemp is an "agricultural crop" and should not be considered the same as marijuana.

While Bronner and other hemp activists support that effort, they argue that it's not the law but its deliberate misreading that is at the root of the problem.

"Senator Wyden's effort is truly commendable, but in my view the existing prohibition of hemp farming stems less from current law than the deliberate misinterpretation of existing law by regressive drug warriors entrenched in the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and other high level members of the Obama Administration," Bronner said.

Now, with civil disobedience within eyeshot of the White House, the hempsters are hoping to up the pressure on the White House to act.

[Disclosure: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps is a financial supporter of this newsletter.]

Washington, DC
United States

Interview: David Bronner and the White House Hemp Civil Disobedience

David Bronner grinds hemp plants into oil, H St. outside Lafayette Park at the White House, 6/11/12
[This interview with David Bronner was conducted Sunday afternoon, prior to today's civil disobedience action. Read our accompanying news report on the action here, and watch video footage here.]

Drug War Chronicle: You have been making efforts to get the Obama administration to reassess its hemp policy. How has that been going?

David Bronner: It's been incredibly frustrating. It's been clear for some time that Obama is being incredibly lame on this. It took them seven months to answer our hemp petition, and when they did, it was with this Orwellian response calling hemp marijuana and opposing legalization. They also refused to meet with a North Dakota delegation, where everyone from the governor on down wants to grow hemp, so what are we going to do?

Chronicle: And now we have the Wyden-Paul amendment. What do you think of that and what are its chances?

Bronner: The introduction of the Wyden amendment is good news. Rand Paul came on board, too. The drug warriors will try to strip it out of the farm bill, of course, but maybe the energy out of this civil disobedience action will do the trick. The introduction of the amendment last week certainly sets up this action nicely.

Chronicle: You will be transporting hemp plants to the vicinity of the White House and processing them to produce hemp oil, but the federal government doesn't differentiate hemp from marijuana. You're going to have about 10 pounds of hemp. Aren't you worried about the possible legal consequences?

Bronner: I will be inside a steel cage to prevent police from getting to me while I prepare the hemp oil-

Chronicle: That's a switch.

Bronner: Yeah, although I do expect to eventually be arrested. I'll plead not guilty; this isn't marijuana. I'll fight them all the way, unless all they want to do is give me something like a traffic ticket. Medical marijuana has provided many opportunities for civil disobedience, but hemp is different. You're not going to have a farmer spending months growing a hundred acres for an act of civil disobedience, so I'm doing it.

Chronicle: But it's not just about hemp or what goes on in Washington, DC, for you, is it?

Bronner: We just gave $50,000 to the cannabis legalization campaign in Colorado. Although that initiative does direct the legislature to enact a hemp farming program, this is mainly about legalization. We'll give money to the Washington state effort, too, because once one or two states go, there will be a seismic shift, and the prohibition of hemp will become increasingly lame and untenable.

[Disclosure: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps is a financial supporter of this newsletter.]

Washington
United States

Hemp Civil Disobedience at the White House NOW

David Bronner, president of the widely-known Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, locked himself in an iron cage with hemp plants (the non-psychoactive type) this morning to protest the federal government's ban on hemp. Dr. Bronner's uses hemp oil in its soaps, imported from Canada. There is a live stream at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/hempaction2, though I just got a malware infection message from my browser the site so proceed with caution. David is just being taken away to a police cruiser right now.

In a few moments I will be posting an interview Phil conducted yesterday with David, and a short news report on the action, and photos from this morning, which also discusses an amendment to the federal farm bill being submitted by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Rand Paul (R-KY), the first Senate pro-hemp legislation.

Chronicle Book Review: Home Grown

Home Grown: Marijuana and the Origins of Mexico's War on Drugs, by Isaac Campos (2012, University of North Carolina Press, 331 pp., $39.95 HB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer, Editor

For anyone with a serious interest in the history of marijuana prohibition, Isaac Campos has made an indispensable contribution to the literature with Home Grown, his scholarly work on the history of marijuana in Mexico. In so doing, he not only opens up a previously neglected area of marijuana research -- Mexico! -- but also makes a compelling case for a revisionist view of the standard narratives of pot prohibition in the United States.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/homegrown.jpg
Relying on archival research, access to thousands upon thousands of Mexican press articles over more than 150 years, and the latest social science insights into the social and cultural construction of narratives about drug use, as well as some groundbreaking Mexican intellectual and scientific history, the University of Cincinnati historian covers the career of marijuana in Mexico from its introduction by Spanish colonists shortly after Conquest through its prohibition throughout nationwide by the new revolutionary government in 1920.

Campos traces marijuana's arrival in Mexico to at least as far back as 1530, when one of the conquistadors was granted royal approval to import it for hemp farming. Back then, it was known as canamo, the Spanish word for cannabis. Hemp farming never really took off in Mexico, but the plant itself, a native of Southwest Asia, certainly went native, so to speak.

And that was part of pot's problem. While efforts to farm hemp had largely died out by the beginning of the 19th Century -- mainly for lack of reliable seed supplies -- knowledge of the plant spread during the colonial era among Mexico's indigenous population, which was already well-versed in the use of a wide variety of herbs and plants, including psychoactive ones. Indigenous medical and spiritual practices, which were closely tied, ran afoul first of the Inquisition, which tried to suppress them as the devil's work, and later, of modernizing Mexico, which wanted to shun its "primitive" or "degenerate" indigenous heritage for "civilized" European status.

Campos notes the first report of smoking marijuana for its psychoactive effects in 1846. By then, the plant had been thoroughly Mexicanized, so much so that it was considered indigenous and its introduction as cannabis forgotten. In fact, many observers didn't even realize that the demon weed, now becoming known as "marijuana" was the same plant as cannabis.

As Campos shows in painstaking historical detail, over the next century and a half, marijuana developed a reputation as a bringer of madness and violence, a view that was widely shared both by the indigenous masses and scientific and medical scholars. Newspaper reports of marijuana were almost exclusively and unanimously about people who had smoked it, then committed horrid crimes of violence while driven insane by its pernicious effects. Peasants were known to scream in terror or make the sign of the cross at the mere sight of the plant, associated as it was not only with madness, but with indigenous witchery.

Throughout the 19th Century, there was no counter-narrative to Mexican reefer madness (in fact, when one Mexican physician dared to challenge the orthodox view in 1938, he was nearly drummed out of the profession amid great scandal). Marijuana made you crazy, and the only people who smoked it were criminals, prisoners, and soldiers in barracks. That was the common wisdom, and it was universally supported by the science of the day.

Since running amok on weed seems so foreign to our cultural experience with the drug, Campos devotes some effort to explaining why the reports of madness and mayhem were so consistent. Did it actually make people go crazy? Here he delves into set and setting, the social construction of drug use, and the modern of science of marijuana to suggest that while people may have occasionally really rampaged on reefer, it is more likely that the reports conflated marijuana and other drug use, especially alcohol; that the existing narratives created a sort of "placebo effect" where people did what was expected of them -- go crazy on weed -- that the reports were sometimes made up to sell newspapers, and that because Mexican law provided a sort of insanity defense for people who were intoxicated, people claimed to have been under the influence to avoid criminal sanctions for their crimes.

By the late 19th Century, the repression of marijuana was underway in Mexico. First came restrictions on the sale of marijuana at herbolarias, the market herb stalls operated by indigenous women (you can still see them at the Sonora witches' market in Mexico City), then state and local bans, and in 1920, national marijuana prohibition in Mexico.

Campos' history of marijuana in Mexico is fascinating in its own right and is an outstanding contribution to the literature in itself, but he makes a real contribution to our understanding of pot prohibition in the US as well. The standard narrative, laid down by Bonnie and Whitebread in The Marijuana Conviction and Musto in The American Disease, and relied on by most later scholars, is that Reefer Madness was largely fueled by prejudice and racism toward Mexicans and their drug.

Campos shows that while anti-Mexican sentiment indeed played a role in the construction of the Reefer Madness narrative, that narrative was as much a Mexican import as the weed itself. Mexican public and scientific opinion fully embraced the "marijuana is madness" meme, English-language Mexican newspaper reports of pot atrocities were reprinted widely in the US -- sometimes the same Mexican press story would circulate for years in the US, being reprinted at different times by different newspapers, often with sensational embellishments. Mexico delivered a nicely-wrapped, full-blown Reefer Madness narrative into the eager arms of the likes of Harry Anslinger, who would use it as the basis of our very own version of Reefer Madness.

And that means we have to revise the standard narrative on the history of pot prohibition in the US. We didn't cram marijuana prohibition down Mexico's throat; the Mexicans did it themselves, and the process began long before the US began trying to impose its prohibitionist views on the rest of the world. And, as Campos makes abundantly clear, blaming it on racism directed at Mexicans is just too simple.

Home Grown is a most welcome and important contribution to the history of marijuana prohibition. It has broadened our understanding of how we got to this place, and it belongs on the book shelf of every serious student of the topic.

The Drug Czar's False Statement About Marijuana and Hemp Should be a Bigger Scandal

My latest Huffington Post rant calls out the drug czar's preposterous excuses for the ban on industrial hemp cultivation. Check it out

Hemp Farming Bill Filed in Kentucky

A bill to allow farmers to register to grow industrial hemp in Kentucky was filed last Thursday. House Bill 286 has 12 cosponsors.

hemp field at sunrise (votehemp.com)
The bill would create a process through which farmers could apply to grow hemp and then be vetted by state officials. If applicants passed a background check, they would pay a fee to be registered to grow hemp.

Hemp production is prohibited under federal law (unless the DEA authorizes a permit, which it doesn't), and the bill acknowledges as much, saying "nothing in [this bill] shall be construed to authorize any person to violate any federal rules or regulations."

But bill supporters said passage of a hemp legalization bill would send a message to Washington that Kentucky is joining the list of states that want to grow hemp. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, a former House member, is among those supporters.

"This sends a message that this is something we're serious about here in Kentucky," Comer said.

According to the industry group Vote Hemp, nine states have passed bills authorizing either hemp production or research into it, while eight states have passed resolutions calling for legal hemp production.

Kentucky passed a hemp research bill in 2001, and hemp production bills have been introduced there each year since 2009.

Hemp is produced in at least 30 countries, and can be legally imported to the US, but not grown here because the DEA refuses to make a distinction between industrial hemp and marijuana. Hemp is the only plant that can be imported, but not produced here.

The bill was filed Thursday by Rep. Richard Henderson (D-Jeffersonville), with co-sponsors including former House Speaker Jody Richards (D-Bowling Green), David Osborne (R-Prospect) and Mary Lou Marzian (D-Louisville).

The bill has been assigned to the Agriculture and Small Business Committee.

Lexington, KY
United States

Mitt Romney Doesn't Know What Industrial Hemp Is

This is…I mean, what can I even…oh whatever, just watch.

Um, it's what the Constitution was written on. But it's illegal now, and we're trying to get to the bottom of the situation. Our best guess presently is that there's been a big misunderstanding of some sort. The DEA seems to think hemp is drugs. It's not, though. Could you look into it for us?

*Thanks to our friends at Students for Sensible Drug Policy for hitting the ground in New Hampshire and making this happen.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Newt Gingrich Says George Washington Would Have Punished Pot Growers

Pot growers such as…George Washington? This gem comes courtesy of our friends at SSDP who are on the ground in New Hampshire confronting candidates about the War on Drugs.

Newt is apparently unaware that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson both grew marijuana crops for the purpose of harvesting hemp. Or, maybe that's just not what Newt had in mind when he heard the question. But even if he'd known or understood, what then would he have said? It's nevertheless a fact -- a very stupid fact -- that it's presently illegal to grow hemp anywhere in America, and no one better try to make rope and paper the way our forefathers did, or there'll be hell to pay.

Whatever Newt may or may not know about hemp farming at Mount Vernon and Monticello is beside the point. The real story here is that our government is so embarrassingly terrified of the marijuana plant that modern farmers aren't even permitted to grow harmless and useful hemp crops for fear of…hell, who even knows.

Hemp isn't even a drug, and we're at war with it because it looks like one. If you can think of anything stupider than that, please don't tell Newt Gingrich about it.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

White House Rebuffs Marijuana Legalization Petitions

As promised, the White House has responded to the online petition to "Legalize and Regulate Alcohol," and seven other similar pot petitions as well, but the response wasn't favorable. That's not particularly surprising, given that the person chosen to deliver the response, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) head Gil Kerlikowske, is mandated by law to oppose legalization.

"Isn't it time to legalize and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol?" asked the petition submitted by "Erik A" of Washington, DC. "If not, please explain why you feel that the continued criminalization of cannabis will achieve the results in the future that it has never achieved in the past?

The threshold for an official response was at least 25,000 signatures by 30 days from October 3. The marijuana legalization petition was by far the most popular, with more than 74,000 signatures as of Friday night. Another seven petitions similarly calling for one form of pot legalization or another, which Kerlikowske also included in his response, carried an additional 76,000 signatures.

The marijuana legalization petitions far exceeded all others. Currently, the other leading contenders are banning puppy mills (30,234), abolishing the TSA (28,515), and two other issues that are closely related to marijuana reform -- allowing for industrial hemp (20,498) and ending the war on drugs (18,614).

The official response from drug czar Kerlikowske is certain to disappoint and infuriate marijuana legalization supporters and drug reformers, but should come as little surprise. Under the 1998 ONDCP Reauthorization Act, the drug czar is required by law not only to not spend any money to study legalization but also to "take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize" a Schedule I substance, a category that under federal law includes marijuana. The drug czar could no more come out for marijuana legalization than the 17th Century Holy Office could endorse a universe without the earth at its center.

That the administration chose the drug czar to respond sends a strong signal that legalization talk will go nowhere in this administration. That it chose to release its response during the late Friday afternoon "news dump," when it will hopefully vanish over the weekend suggests that it realizes it isn't going to win many political points with its position.

"Our concern about marijuana is based on what the science tells us about the drug's effects," Kerlikowske begins before warning that "marijuana use is associated with addiction, respiratory disease, and cognitive impairment." He then wheels out marijuana treatment admissions and emergency room visits, reminds that potency has increased, and concludes that "simply put, it is not a benign drug."

Kerlikowske asserts that the administration is "ardently support[ing] ongoing research" into marijuana as a medicine, but scoffs at smoked marijuana as a medicine. Then he actually addresses the petition.

"As a former police chief, I recognize we are not going to arrest our way out of the problem," the drug czar continued. "We also recognize that legalizing marijuana would not provide the answer to any of the health, social, youth education, criminal justice, and community quality of life challenges associated with drug use."

Instead, Kerlikowske recommends, not surprisingly, his own 2001 National Drug Control Strategy, "emphasizing prevention and treatment while at the same time supporting innovative law enforcement efforts that protect public safety and disrupt the supply of drugs entering our communities." What is needed is not marijuana legalization, but more drug treatment and more drug courts, Kerlikowske concludes.

The legalization petition was drafted in response to the White House's We the People campaign "because we want to hear from you," according to the web page. "If a petition gets enough support, White House staff will review it, ensure it is sent to the appropriate policy experts, and issue an official response."

The drug czar's recitation of the harms associated with marijuana use is certainly debatable and will doubtlessly be thoroughly criticized in days to come. But as the administration response makes clear, that marijuana is a dangerous drug that Americans cannot be trusted with to use responsibly is the official line, and they're sticking to it.

Washington, DC
United States

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