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Medical Marijuana Ally Wins Oregon AG Race

In an Oregon primary election where medical marijuana was a prominent campaign issue, former judge and ally of the state's medical marijuana community Ellen Rosenblum came from behind to decisively defeat former interim US Attorney Dwight Holton Tuesday in the campaign for the Democratic Party's nominee for state attorney general.

Oregon Democratic Party attorney general nominee Ellen Rosenblum (ellenrosenblum.com)
Drug reformers who aided the Rosenblum campaign said as election results came in that they showed attacking medical marijuana patients and their distribution systems was "not a smart political move."

"As attorney general, I will make marijuana enforcement a low priority, and protect the rights of medical marijuana patients," Rosenblum says on her campaign website.

According to the Oregon Secretary of State's unofficial election results Tuesday evening, with 100% of the vote counted, Rosenblum had won with 63% of the vote, compared to 37% for Holton.

The winner of the Democratic Party nod is almost certain to be the next state attorney general. The Republicans didn't even field a candidate for the post, and in a primary where the Democratic attorney general race attracted more than 183,000 voters, the Republican non-race attracted fewer than 9,000 write-in votes.

Holton was an early favorite in the race and had the support of law enforcement constituencies, but aroused the ire of medical marijuana supporters for his actions as interim US Attorney last year, when he oversaw several raids against medical marijuana providers and sent out letters threatening asset forfeiture to other providers and their landlords. It didn't help when he called the the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program "a train wreck" during the campaign and pledged to work with Republican legislators to "fix" it.

The state's medical marijuana and marijuana legalization advocates mobilized to defeat Holton and encourage support for Rosenblum. But national drug reform activists, heartened by the grass roots response and emboldened by the opportunity to inflict a political price on those participating in the federal crackdown on medical marijuana distribution, mobilized as well.

Through its lobbying and campaign arm, Drug Policy Action, the Drug Policy Alliance kicked in $100,000 in donations to the Rosenblum campaign and Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement (CSLE), which, among other things, launched a series of radio ads against Holton. CSLE is also the group behind the I-24 marijuana legalization initiative, one of two Oregon legalization initiatives edging very close to making the November ballot.

DPA ally and deep-pocketed drug reform donor John Sperling, founder of the University of Phoenix, also contributed $100,000 to the Rosenblum campaign.

DPA and Oregon medical marijuana advocates were quick to claim the election result showed there was a price to be paid for going against the drug reform tide. It was a message they wanted both prosecutors and the Obama administration to hear.

"Dwight Holton’s defeat in the Oregon Attorney General’s race should be taken as a clear and unambiguous message to US Attorneys around the country and to the national Democratic leadership that attacking state-approved medical marijuana programs is not a smart political move," said Jill Harris, managing director of strategic initiatives for Drug Policy Action, and a native of Eugene.

"Medical marijuana has overwhelming public support -- it is now legal in 16 US states and the District of Columbia, and national polls have consistently shown support in the 70-80% range for well over a decade. Drug war rhetoric and tactics will not be tolerated, and organizations like Drug Policy Action will be there to defend patients’ rights to safely access the medicine they need," she said in a Tuesday night statement.

No Oregon groups have yet released any statements, but there was much joy on their list serves Tuesday night. "I hope that law enforcement is paying attention as well," said one poster. "As this just goes to show that Oregon is sick of them wasting their resources on marijuana."

(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.)

OR
United States

Mitt Romney's Crazy Comments on Medical Marijuana

The instant I write something suggesting that Romney wouldn't be any worse than Obama on medical marijuana, along comes Romney flipping out on a reporter for merely asking about it. The fun starts at 2:10:

So…Mitt Romney totally hates marijuana, but also doesn’t think it's important enough to be worth talking about. It's a horribly tone-deaf and idiotic thing to say in Colorado, where marijuana policy is a major issue and a legalization initiative is hitting the ballot the same day Romney is asking Coloradans for their votes. Language like that is also just perfect for alienating the Ron Paul crowd, whose support he desperately needs if he's going to get anywhere in the general election. 

But just when you thought Romney was completely clueless on this, watch the end of the interview (at about 4:50) and you'll see him saying marijuana is a state issue that's irrelevant to his presidential campaign. Seriously? You wait until the interview is over to say something interesting about this?

A lot of people in Colorado and elsewhere would be very excited to think that Mitt Romney would leave marijuana policy up to the states. To even suggest such a thing is a very clever hedge that might work to earn some sympathy from libertarian-leaning republicans.  But if you're gonna take that path, don't precede it by saying pot is a horrible gateway drug and insulting everyone by insisting the issue isn't even significant enough to discuss.

It really shouldn’t even be necessary to explain to a prominent politician that people ask questions because they care about the subject. It's just impossibly rude and stupid to mock anything any reasonable person asks you, especially when it has to do with a policy as deeply unpopular and controversial as the government's ongoing war on medical marijuana. If marijuana is important enough to arrest people for possessing, then it's important enough to discuss. And if it's important enough to discuss, then no politician who can't or won't discuss it intelligently is fit to hold public office.

It should soon become clear to Mitt Romney that he can't visit states like Colorado without taking questions about marijuana, and when that happens, he'd be very wise to tell us a lot less about how marijuana is a "gateway drug," and a lot more about how it's a state issue.

Follow Scott Morgan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drugblogger

(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.)

Gary Johnson Picks Judge Jim Gray for Libertarian Party Ticket

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who is seeking the Libertarian Party presidential nomination, has selected California Judge Jim Gray as his running mate, the Daily Caller reported Monday.

Gov. Gary Johnson
Johnson, a pro-drug reform Republican, sought the GOP presidential nomination earlier this year, but switched gears (and parties) and entered the Libertarian nominating fray after failing to gain traction with Republicans.

His selection of Judge Gray, a prominent advocate of marijuana legalization, "puts pot front and center in the campaign," a Johnson staffer told the Caller. But that staffer added that Johnson's opposition to the war in Afghanistan will remain the campaign's central issue.

As governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, Johnson emerged on the national scene as one of the first elected officials to embrace drug law reform and helped lay the groundwork for the passage of a medical marijuana law there under his successor, Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson.

Like Johnson, Gray is a former Republican turned Libertarian whose vantage point on the criminal bench turned him away from the drug policy status quo and toward drug legalization. He is the author of several books on drug policy and the law and was an outspoken supporter of California's 2010 Proposition 19, as well as a proponent of this year's Regulate Marijuana Like Wine initiative, which failed to gather enough signatures to make the ballot.

“Jim Gray is not only a highly-respected jurist, but he is also a proven leader on issues of concern to Americans -- from drug policy to civil liberties to ethics," Johnson said in a statement Monday. "I am proud he is joining me to offer America a real choice in this election, and excited that his forceful and extremely credible voice will be a vital part of our campaign. Judge Gray is a reformer with the track record and credentials to prove it, and I urge the Libertarian Party to nominate him for Vice-President of the United States."

Gray, for his part, said he was "excited" to join Johnson in campaign that will provide voters with "a credible, proven alternative" to the choices offered by the two major parties.

"Especially with the candidacy of former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson, the 2012 election offers an historic opportunity for libertarian ideals and policies to be a very real part of the national debate," Gray said. "As the only candidates for president and vice president who will be on the ballot in all 50 states who will cut federal spending by 43%, oppose the war in Afghanistan and the failed and expensive war on drugs, repeal the Patriot Act, support gay marriage equality and the legalization of marijuana, we will offer voters a choice voters crave."

According to the Daily Caller, Gray wasn't the campaign's first choice, although Johnson kept suggesting his name. The Caller reported that Fox News host Judge Andrew Napolitano, former California Rep. Barry Goldwater, Jr., and Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson all turned down a place on the ticket before the campaign offered the nod to Gray.

"Gary had liked him from the very beginning," the Johnson adviser said. "Every time we would bring up somebody else, Gov. Johnson would say 'what about Jim Gray?' He was Johnson's favorite from the beginning."

Johnson still has to win the Libertarian Party nomination, which has its nominating convention this week in Las Vegas, but is expected to easily do so. For a complete list of Libertarian presidential nominee candidates, go here.

A Johnson-Gray Libertarian Party ticket emphasizing marijuana legalization and broader drug law reform could potentially impact the presidential race in at least two states identified as "toss ups" by the campaign watch site Real Clear Politics. In Colorado, the electorate will also be voting on a marijuana legalization initiative, Amendment 64, while in New Hampshire, pot politics is also a hot issue, with both medical marijuana and decriminalization before the legislature this session.

(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.)

Oakland 4/20: "Obama, You're Alienating Your Base" [FEATURE]

4/20 is supposed to be a day of cannabis celebration, but in Oakland last Friday it was a day of protest and demonstration. Angered by the ongoing federal crackdown on medical marijuana distribution and shocked and infuriated by the April 2 raids on Oaksterdam University and associated businesses, protestors gathered outside the federal building in downtown Oakland to denounce the administration before marching to President Obama's Northern California campaign headquarters to deliver a letter demanding the administration cease and desist.

Delivering a message to the Obama campaign: Back off!
"Terrorist Haag Wanted for War Crimes Against Humanity," read one hand-made sign, an expression of the widespread anger against the US Attorney for Northern California, who has targeted Northern California dispensaries as part of the ongoing federal offensive against medical marijuana distribution.

Printed green, white, and red "Cannabis medicine, let states regulate" sign waved among the crowd, as chants of "Obama, keep your promise!" and "Stop the lies, legalize!" echoed through the courtyard of the towering federal building.

But it's not just marijuana advocates who are angry. "What happened here two weeks ago with the raid of Oaksterdam was an attack on our local and our members," said Matt Witemyre, special project union representative for UFCW Local 5, which represents Northern California dispensary workers. "We're here to register our displeasure with the administration's actions and we're stopping by campaign headquarters to let them know we do not support these policies. We're here in solidarity with our brothers and sisters. They had good jobs and good benefits, and in the midst of the worst economic crisis in the country in decades, the administration is destroying these jobs. It makes no sense," he fumed.

Richard Lee addressing an admiring and supportive crowd.
"We're behind you 100%," said Bob Swanson, representing Oakland Supervisor Nate Miley. "We ask that President Obama back off and rein his people in. Marijuana is medicine; let the people have it. Leave Richard Lee alone -- he's a good man and had done wonders for Oakland."

Lee himself made an appearance. "This was supposed to be a day of celebration, but it's a day of protest," he said to loud cheers and cries of support.

There was also support from the other side of San Francisco Bay, with representatives of San Francisco United, a medical marijuana coalition opposing the federal attacks, standing in solidarity with their brethren in the East Bay.

"We are outraged and disgusted with what happened here two weeks ago," said SF United's Stephanie Tucker, referring to the Oaksterdam raids. "We won't be treated this way. Obama, you are alienating your voter base. Rein in the Department of Justice and the US Attorneys. They are going after a peaceful and well-regulated community," she said to more cheers.

The president isn't winning friends in Oakland...
"We're here to protest the outrageous use of federal resources and what our federal government has done, raiding Oaksterdam and many other well-respected and -loved cannabis establishments here in California," said California NORML executive director Dale Gieringer. "This is not the kind of change we were expecting from the Obama administration."

Friday was also Gieringer's birthday, and the crowd gave the veteran activist a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday to You" to mark the occasion.

"They said they wouldn't waste Justice Department resources on medical marijuana, but we've seen DEA raids all up and down the state, we've seen Treasury attacking the banks, we've seen the IRS going after dispensaries, we've seen BATF saying that medical marijuana patients don't have the right to bear arms, we've seen the Justice Department deny that marijuana has any medical value," Gieringer continued.

"They've turned down a rescheduling petition after nine years of delay and ignored hundreds of studies to the contrary. This administration was supposed to respect science, but it's turned its back on it. This makes no sense at all, and we're going to deliver a message to the Obama administration," he said before leading the chanting, banner-waving crowd on the short march to Obama campaign headquarters.

Passing cars honked in support as the crowd gathered in front of Obama headquarters. Richard Lee's replacement as head of Oaksterdam, Dale Sky Jones, and UFCW representative Dan Rush hand-delivered a letter to campaign staffers demanding the administration cease and desist.

...and neither is US Attorney Melinda Haag.
"What advantages do we derive from continuing this failed policy of prohibition?" asked Jones. "They're committing robbery with a badge, empowering terrorists and cartels, and denying a proven medicine to patients in the guise of keeping it from our kids. We ended the first failed Prohibition. We can do it again, President Obama. We must repeal prohibition," she insisted.

After handing over the letter at the doorway to the campaign headquarters, the crowd lingered to chant and wave signs, making sure the campaign noticed their presence.

"The local staff has heard our cries, and they support us," said Jones. "They will take the letter we've written and deliver it straight to him."

The Obama campaign has gotten the letter, but has it gotten the message? Time will tell, but the demonstrators in Oakland Friday put the campaign on notice that the administration is losing friends in California with its attacks on medical marijuana.

(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.)

Oakland, CA
United States

Could Romney Beat Obama by Changing His Stance on Marijuana?

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When you've been arguing as long as I have that politicians are missing an opportunity by ignoring supporters of marijuana reform, it's fun to see the Washington Post join the conversation.

Here’s a radical proposal for Mitt Romney: If he wants to pick up the much-coveted support of Ron Paul’s energized and organized “army,” the best way to their hearts might be through marijuana.

Pot legalizers note that he could couch his support in terms of a 10th amendment argument — essentially saying it should simply be up to states to decide for themselves. That would allow him to maintain his own opposition to legalization while also giving a shout-out to social conservatives, who love a good nod to state’s rights. [Washington Post]

At first glance this strikes me as a bit too ingenious to actually happen in real life. But nothing is impossible when it comes to the possibility of Mitt Romney changing his position on controversial issues in the hopes of getting himself elected.

I don't see any reason that the instinctive anti-pot posturing we've come to expect from him couldn't get tweaked just enough to open an interesting new angle for the Romney campaign. The real challenge would be conveying the actual facts of the matter to Romney's team in such a way that they recognize the opportunity that exists and the limited scope of the measures required to take advantage of the situation.

Unfortunately, I doubt anyone they'd listen to is actually trying to sell them this storyline, but if someone did, they might begin by introducing the following:

A. Support for medical marijuana is around 80% nationally.

B. Support for marijuana legalization is around 50% nationally.

C. Obama's pledge to respect state medical marijuana laws generated positive media attention and widespread public support.

D. Obama's violation of that pledge drew negative media attention and widespread public disapproval.

E. Obama's recent assault against medical marijuana is very unpopular in Colorado, a key swing state.

F. Romney has no other plausible plan for appealing to Ron Paul's vigorous support base.

A simple nod to state's rights on this issue would ignite a hard-to-reach constituency, while creating virtually zero political risk. Romney would basically be adopting the same medical marijuana position that Obama used successfully in '08. It's a perfect flanking maneuver that would more or less render the candidates indistinguishable on marijuana policy, a comparison that primarily hurts Obama because his supporters expect him to be better.

Would anyone from the right or the left criticize the Romney campaign for doing this? Would any republicans get upset about Romney's state's rights position on medical marijuana and opt instead to support Obama and his incoherent, contradictory position that nobody even understands? No, they wouldn't. It's probably only a slight exaggeration to say that Romney would literally lose zero votes by doing this, while picking up a potential windfall of libertarian-leaning republicans just waiting for Romney to give them a reason to get on board.

Unfortunately, at present, the chances of something like this working are much higher than the chances of it actually happening, because politicians and their handlers remain convinced that no one in America supports any change in our marijuana policy, despite the abundance of very clear evidence to the contrary.

(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.)

Follow Scott Morgan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drugblogger

Mexico Presidential Candidate Vows to End Drug War

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), the candidate-in-waiting of the center-left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), said last week that he would end the US-backed war on drugs in Mexico if he is elected president. He said his government would instead concentrate on creating jobs and fighting corruption.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (wikimedia.org)
His comments come as the region is awash in criticism of US-style drug wars and calls for a discussion of alternatives, including decriminalization and legalization. Regional heads of state will meet to discuss the issue later this month, and it looks likely to be on the agenda at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia next month.

AMLO was also the PRD candidate in the 2006 elections, barely losing to National Action Party (PAN) candidate Felipe Calderon in a hotly contested election. At least in part to strengthen his stature amid accusations of election fraud, Calderon called out the military to fight Mexican drug trafficking organization shortly after taking office. Since then, more than 50,000 people have been killed in prohibition-related violence, shaking the country's confidence in its institutions.

Lopez is currently trailing the Institutional Revolutionary Party's (PRI) candidate Enrique Pena Nieto and PAN nominee Josefina Vazquez Mota in national polls. In one poll early this month, Pena Nieto had 36%, Vazquez Mota had 29%, and AMLO had 17%. In another, the figures were Pena Nieto at 49%, Vazquez Mota at 28%, and AMLO at 19%.

"We're going to stop the war (against organized crime) and justice will be procured," if he is elected, AMLO said in remarks reported by the Mexico City daily La Jornada. "We are not going to use this strategy because it has not produced results. There will be jobs, we'll fight corruption and calm down the country. We know how to do it, I'm sure," he said.

He also vowed to end impunity and criticized the government's use of high-profile arrests and heavily-covered presentations of captured capos to the media as evidence it was actually achieving anything in its battle with the drug cartels.

"Politicians who want to resolve everything through the use of the media are responsible for the lack of security and violence, because they have not established justice, employment and wellbeing. They look the other way and, continue a policy that produces poverty, resentment, hate, hostility, insecurity and violence; they want to resolve it with wars, threats of a crackdown and PR stunts," he said.

"How are those who have no moral authority, who are dishonest and corrupt, going to guarantee justice?" AMLO asked. "With what moral authority can they ask others to do right if they don't do it themselves? And furthermore they let established interest groups make decisions just like in the past in this country."

Bernardo Batiz, whom Lopez Obrador has named as his attorney general-in-waiting if he wins, added that they want to bring social peace and respect for the human rights of victims, witnesses, and criminals alike.

"We propose to move from a war where there are enemies to a justice system with humane criteria," he said. He also vowed there would not be harsher laws, more prisons, more soldiers in the streets, or "complicity with anybody," a clear reference to the widespread suspicion in Mexico that the Calderon government is cozy with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman and his Sinaloa cartel.

While AMLO and company were campaigning against the drug war, PAN candidate Vazquez Mota was doing some drug-related politicking herself. On Saturday, as she filed documents needed to make her the official PAN candidate, Vazquez Mota also handed in a drug test and a lie detector test she said showed she has no ties to organized crime.

The election is July 1.

Medical Marijuana Update

Federal threats continue to hover over medical marijuana distribution across the country, and local battles continue as well.

California

Last Wednesday, the Yuba City city council voted to ban outdoor grows. The council approved an immediate 45-day ban and could extend it for up to a year, which the city says it plans to do. The council also imposed restrictions on indoor grows, saying patients must register them with the city, limit them to 50 square feet, hide any evidence of a grow from onlookers, and lock up their yards, as well as their greenhouses.

Last Friday, Vallejo police raided the Red Dog Green Collective and arrested its owners. It was the third Vallejo dispensary raid in the past three weeks. Police say the crackdown is part of an ongoing move against local dispensaries. They come at a time when the city was about to begin collecting a 10% tax on dispensary sales that voters approved in November.The owners pleaded not guilty Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a Riverside County judge ruled in favor of a dispensary, ordering the city of Rancho Mirage to move ahead with the inspection and permitting process for the Desert Heart Collective. The collective opened in 2010, but was later shut down by the city. Desert Heart filed a $2 million civil lawsuit against the city in February 2011. The city prohibits dispensaries "due to the significant negative secondary effects that such dispensaries have been found to create -- such as increased crime," the city attorney claimed. The city also argued that granting a permit to Desert Heart would expose it to federal prosecution, but the judge accepted Desert Heart's argument that by granting the permit, the city neither commanded the activity nor had anything to do with marijuana.

Also on Tuesday, the DEA and local police raided an Upland dispensary that has been at odds with the city for the past two years. G3 Holistic was the targeted operation, and the raiders seized 25 pounds of marijuana and 89 pounds of edibles. G3 President Aaron Sandusky said DEA agents entered with guns drawn and handcuffed four patients who were present. There were "acting like a terrorist organization," he said. The city of Upland and G3 have been engaged in a lengthy court battle that will soon find its way to the state Supreme Court.

Also on Tuesday, US District Court Judge Andrew Guilford set a March 26 hearing date in a case in which patients and collectives in Costa Mesa are seeking to enjoin federal authorities from sending letters ordering the closure of medical marijuana collectives in the city. The unique argument in the case is that since Congress belatedly acknowledged the votes of District of Columbia voters to authorize medical marijuana there, California patients are being denied the same right to vote to approve medical marijuana there.

And then there are the Tuesday night city council and county board of supervisors meetings:

On Tuesday, the California Coastal Commission approved a Humboldt County ordinance limiting indoor marijuana grows. The county's Local Coastal Plan limits indoor grows to 50 square feet and has other regulations.

Also on Tuesday, the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors upheld an appeal against a would-be dispensary in Oceano. A resident had complained that the proposed dispensary would be within 1,000 feet of a park.

Also on Tuesday, the Amador County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to lift a 4-month-old ban on medical pot gardens and allow any single garden to be used to grow as many as 12 plants per patient for as many as two patients for a maximum of 24 plants. That is only a third of the capacity recommended in February by the county's Planning Commission. Supervisors cited a deadly marijuana-garden robbery in September as they voted for tighter limits.

Also on Tuesday, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted to fine a property owner and tenant of a property where medical marijuana was being cultivated. County inspectors found 82 plants growing on the property in January; county code allows only 12 plants per parcel. The tenant disposed of the out of compliance plants the next day, but the county is still imposing a whopping $58,000 fine.

Also on Tuesday, the Madera County Board of Supervisors voted to ban cultivation within 2,000 feet of a school or church and to require that caregivers and patients live together. California's voter-approved medical marijuana law makes no such requirement.

Also on Tuesday, the Needles city council approved a special election for a proposed city ordinance creating a medical marijuana business tax. The approval is to put a tax in place for up to 10% on gross sales of marijuana. If the tax is approved by voters, the city council would approve an ordinance related to the tax. Language has already been created for that ordinance. The ordinance defines how businesses would pay the tax, defines marijuana, marijuana business and other terms.

Colorado

On Tuesday, Boulder County DA Stan Garnett sent a letter to federal prosecutors asking them to halt their crackdown on dispensaries that are abiding by state law. "I can see no legitimate basis in this judicial district to focus the resources of the United States government on the medical marijuana  dispensaries that are otherwise compliant with Colorado law or local regulation," Garnett wrote in the letter to Colorado US Attorney John Walsh. "The people of Boulder County do not need Washington, DC, or the federal government dictating how far dispensaries should be from schools, or other fine points of local land-use law." Walsh has sent threat letters to 23 Colorado dispensaries, forcing them to close.

Also on Tuesday, a proposed medical marijuana initiative was filed for the November ballot.The new measure, Proposed Initiative No. 65, would give doctors discretion to recommend marijuana for any medical condition. Currently, a doctor must diagnose a patient with one of eight medical conditions in order for the patient to qualify for medical marijuana. Proponents will need to gather 86,000 valid voter signatures to make the ballot.

Florida

On Tuesday, medical marijuana advocates unveiled billboards urging viewers to educate themselves about the issue. "Legalize Medical Marijuana" shouts one, with a godlike hand extending from the heavens, a marijuana leaf in its palm. Facing it is the photo of a senior in a wheelchair and the caption "I'm a Patient Not a Criminal." The billboards urge readers to contact the Silver Tour, a group founded by 1970s pot smuggler and recently released federal drug war prisoner Robert Platshorn to enlighten senior citizens about the benefits of the herb.

Maryland

Last Thursday, Gov. Martin O'Malley's office said he would veto any legislation legalizing medical marijuana in the state. His spokesman cited concerns about federal scrutiny. The comments came as legislators began debating three medical marijuana bills in the House of Delegates. "We have some serious concerns about liability," said O'Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory. "Those concerns were raised by US attorneys across the country. Based on those concerns, it is probably likely we would veto any legislation."

Montana

Last Tuesday, the Montana Supreme Court set an April 30 hearing date for arguments over whether a judge was right to block portions of last year's medical marijuana overhaul by the legislature. District Judge Jim Reynolds last year blocked four provisions of the law from taking effect, including a ban on profits from medical marijuana sales. State prosecutors argue that the commercial sale of marijuana is illegal under state and federal law, and that Reynolds abused his discretion with his injunction. The groups challenging the new law, led by the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, say Reynolds should have gone further and blocked the entire law.

New Jersey

Last Wednesday, the Plumstead Township Committee reversed itself and voted to support the introduction of an ordinance that would allow a medical marijuana company to apply for an operating permit. Members said they feared the township could be sued for not complying with the state's medical marijuana law, and that without an ordinance, a medical marijuana operation could set up near a school. The committee repealed a December ordinance blocking permit applications not in compliance with federal law. Efforts to open dispensaries in New Jersey have been plagued by NIMBYism.

On Monday, a California man charged for possessing medical marijuana hosted a rally outside the Middletown court house. Eric Hafner was charged with marijuana and paraphernalia possession, but is arguing that his California doctor's recommendation for him to use marijuana should be honored in New Jersey. Hafner suffers from PTSD, but that syndrome is not recognized under New Jersey's law, so he his supporters organized a rally in support of adding PTSD to that list. They walked along Kings Highway, outside of the Middletown courtroom building, before during and after his case was being heard, showing signs and offering information about the cause and Hafner's case to anyone cared to listen.

On Tuesday, Ken Wolski announced that he had been selected Green Party US Senate candidate. Wolski, one of the state's most well-known medical marijuana activists, is head of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey.

(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.)

Why Obama Won't Oppose Marijuana Legalization in an Election Year

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The anti-marijuana zealots at the Christian Science Monitor are at it again, pleading with the President to please, please, please help promote pot prohibition. They're frustrated that Vice President Biden traveled all the way to Mexico to lament legalization talk among Latin American leaders, yet the Obama Administration remains silent regarding marijuana legalization measures hitting the ballot in Colorado and Washington this year.

The administration needs to step up and make a strong case against legalization in the US in order to counter a well-financed, well-organized pro-marijuana effort. One argument is that the cartels would actually welcome legalization, in the same way that US casino owners have welcomed state gambling lotteries. To drug dealers, the more addicts the better.

Biden did say a debate in Latin America about legalization would help “lay to rest some of the myths that are associated with the notion of legalization.”

How about he and Obama start to challenge those myths in states like Colorado and Washington? [CSM]

They're not going to do that. See, it really isn't at all a coincidence that Joe Biden happened to not be in America when he made the only anti-legalization remarks of his vice-presidential career. As much as I'd love the notoriously gaffe-prone VP to spend more time discussing his dumb ideas about drugs, he actually knows better than to do that.

In case anyone has managed to miss the memo somehow, a majority of Americans don't want a war on marijuana anymore. Seriously, the Christian Science Monitor should be grateful that the Obama Administration has done as much as it has to piss off the marijuana reformers who helped put this President in office. Alienating half the electorate and way more than half the Obama base with a bunch of pea-brained anti-pot propaganda is more likely to compromise Obama's Colorado campaign than it is to stop the momentum of the marijuana reform movement.

That's why Obama never talks about marijuana, ever, unless publicly forced to do so, and it's also why his Administration has taken no ownership of its outrageous betrayal of the President's pledge to protect medical marijuana patients. From now until November, President Obama will pretend to the very best of his ability that there is no such thing as marijuana. Bet on it.

In fact, if I am wrong, and the President actually engages in the sort of desperate anti-pot posturing proposed by the Christian Science Monitor, I will even buy a subscription to that stupid newspaper just so I can read them gloating over 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.)

Saying "Ron Paul Can't Legalize Marijuana" Is Stupid and Misses the Point of his Candidacy

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I don't know how else to describe my reaction to this piece by Chris Roberts in SF Weekly. It's truly a first-rate hack job that must be seen to be believed.

A growing number of marijuana activists are embracing Paul as a pot-friendly alternative to President Barack Obama, whose Justice Department has done more to dismantle state-legal medical marijuana than George W. Bush's crew ever did. 

These supporters ignore a key point: If Paul were president, he wouldn't be any better for legalizing marijuana than President Obama -- or worse than Romney or Santorum.

Marijuana was criminalized by the feds in 1970, when the Controlled Substances Act was passed by Congress (under pressure from Richard M. Nixon's administration). Only Congress can repeal an act of Congress, just as only Congress can amend the Constitution, raise taxes, and wage war (legally). 

The whole thing is a pretty embarrassing mischaracterization of the executive branch's critical role in setting national drug policy priorities. Heck, even the above paragraph points to Nixon as the protagonist in the story of how modern drug prohibition was born. Electing a president who is committed to correcting that mistake is one of the most powerful forward steps this movement can take, and this is true for several reasons that ought to be obvious:

  1. The president appoints the nation's top drug policy officials, including heads of the ONDCP (the Drug Czar) and the DEA, and can exert tremendous influence over their budgets and enforcement priorities.
  2. The president has the power to veto bad laws. If anyone is concerned about congress passing dumb anti-drug legislation in the future (a legitimate concern if ever one existed), they would be wise to support candidates who would reject our continued decent into endless drug war oblivion.
  3. The president can pressure congress to implement sensible reforms, including the passage of legislation to fix problems created by congress in the past. Not a walk in the park when it comes to drug policy, not even close, but technically true nevertheless, and certain to become critically important as the movement for drug policy reform continues its present momentum and exerts increasing influence over both the executive and legislative branches of government.
  4. The president has the loudest microphone on the planet and can use it to change the way people think about the issues facing our nation. This alone suffices to illustrate unequivocally why putting a marijuana reform advocate into the White House would be the greatest watershed moment in the history of this movement. One can't even begin to calculate all the ways in which the president's influence could be used to advance the cause of reform. I can’t believe it's even necessary to explain this, because honestly, when has anyone ever seriously suggested that the president's opinion on any matter of intense political debate was somehow irrelevant because the president lacks the powers of congress? That notion is too plainly absurd to justify further refutation.
  5. The mere act of electing a president who openly supports marijuana legalization or other drug policy reform positions makes a devastatingly powerful statement about the potency of those political ideas. This is known as the concept of a "mandate," wherein the electorate's choice of a certain candidate, particularly when made decisively, is seen as a message to our political culture that this candidate's platform reflects the values of the American people. When marijuana reform is included in that package, it speaks to the tone of the political climate on that issue and sends a message to congress that their constituents are ready to see real changes considered in a serious way. 

All of these points, and I'm sure I missed several more, serve to illustrate why it is just stupid to even suggest that the president cannot serve as a powerful champion of marijuana legalization and other drug policy reforms. And yet, the assertions to which I respond here weren't leveled against the perceived front-runner in the republican primaries. All of these plainly farcical distortions of the president's power to influence national drug policy were directed at Ron Paul.

Ron Paul, though I know some will disagree or hope otherwise, is really a protest candidate, albeit a very popular and effective one. His goal is primarily to introduce into our political discourse ideas which he and his supporters feel have been unduly dismissed and disregarded by the political establishment. Ron Paul and his supporters already consider the campaign a success, because it's done exactly that.

His advocacy for the reform of marijuana laws ranks among the most popular aspects of his candidacy, resonating with his base of hardcore libertarian-minded supporters, while simultaneously piquing the interest of many on the left, who've been disgusted by Obama's brazen assault on medical marijuana. For anyone who cares about making long-term political progress on these issues, it makes absolute sense to cheer for the only candidate who is talking about it.

Publicly supporting politicians who publicly support marijuana reform is a necessary step towards demonstrating the political viability of the issue on a larger scale, so that future candidates for any elected office will have more reason to consider including this position in their platform. Simultaneously, the process of raising the profile of the debate over marijuana and other drug policy issues during a period of intense campaign season press coverage is an obvious and very effective way of marketing this idea to the public, increasingly support for it, and convincing future candidates to adopt it.

I really don’t know how much more completely one can misunderstand the significance of Ron Paul's marijuana advocacy than by arguing that it is pointless unless he A) gets elected President of the United States, and B) immediately legalizes marijuana throughout the nation. That is a standard so preposterous, so plainly unreasonable and bizarre, that, if taken seriously, it could call into question the importance of drug policy reform efforts in general. That's why I took this much time to respond, and why I hope Ron Paul's critics, regardless of their motives, will dispense with this particular brand of nonsense permanently.

Update: And, of course, there's also the president's power to pardon people for drug crimes. The president can just send anyone home from jail and erase their charges. That's kind if a big deal, yes?

(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.)

Ron Paul Explains Why Other Candidates Won't Discuss the Drug War

If you've been following our coverage of the presidential candidates in New Hampshire, you'll find this to be a refreshing change in tone.

I think he's exactly right, and it's worth pointing out that you don't have to be just like Ron Paul to win points with voters by supporting drug policy reform. Paul's libertarian philosophy doesn't resonate well with many progressives, who are otherwise impressed with his drug policy positions. Any number of politicians on the left could earn enormous support, especially from young voters, just by copying Ron Paul's approach to marijuana policy and ignoring much of the rest of what he stands for.

Ron Paul is a complicated political personality, but the lessons to be learned from his politically successful advocacy of drug policy reform shouldn't be too difficult to grasp: public support for changing our drug laws creates a substantial and growing opportunity for politicians with the wisdom to capitalize on 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.)

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