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Chronicle AM -- December 19, 2013

Today we have a plethora of pot polls, hope on banking, an important decision by Washington state regulators, and hints of change to come from Canada's Tories, among other news. Let's get to it:

Marijuana Policy

AP Poll Finds Opposition to Legalization Declining. In a poll released Thursday, the Associated Press found opposition to legalizing small amounts of marijuana declining, from 55% in 2010 to 29% now. At the same time, the poll reported support for legalization rising from 33% to 36%. The poll included an option for "neither support nor oppose," with 33% choosing that response. While support is up slightly, according to the poll, a good chunk of those opposed in 2010 have moved to "neither support nor oppose" now.

Wall Street Journal Poll Explores Attitudes on Where Marijuana Should Be Sold. In a poll released Thursday, the Wall Street Journal found that the most popular locations where Americans wanted legal nmarijuana to be sold were pharmacies (69%), followed by pot shops (60%), liquor stores (39%), coffee shops (17%), and supermarkets (13%). The poll also reported that 53% said the sale and possession of small amounts should not be legal, but that 80% said it should be regulated like alcohol. Go figure.

Arizona Pot Polls All Over the Place. Three Arizona polls on marijuana legalization have come up with wildly different results. Two polls from earlier in the year had support for legalization at 56% and 60%, but one just released had support at only 39%. That one is from Susquehanna Polling and Research, which only does polls for candidates who are Republicans and which had Romney beating Obama in Pennsylvania three days before the 2012 election. Obama won the state by five points.

Relief on Banking Could Come Early Next Year. Marijuana businesses could enjoy access to banking and financial services early next year, Jack Finlaw, chief legal counsel to Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) said Thursday. "What we're being told," Finlaw said during a teleconference, "is probably in the first quarter of 2014 there will be some guidance issued that's comparable to the Cole memo from the Department of Justice that will give, maybe not a green light, but a yellow light to banks to allow them to do business [with marijuana businesses] -- to take deposits, to set up checking accounts, to set up small business loans, to allow these businesses to accept purchases through debit cards or credit cards, to allow what normal businesses are allowed to do." The comment comes after a meeting of the Bank Secrecy Advisory Group in Washington, DC, last week.

St. Louis Legalization Debate Packs 'Em In. A Wednesday night debate on marijuana legalization filled the St. Louis Ethical Society to overflowing as Show Me Cannabis Regulation executive director John Payne took on Missouri Narcotics Officers Association vice president John Grellner for 90 minutes of heated, but polite debate. Show Me Cannabis is working to put a legalization initiative on the ballot next year.

Medical Marijuana

Washington Regulators Recommend Letting Patients Keep Their Personal Grows, But Eliminating Collective Grows. The state Liquor Control Board has reversed itself and is now recommending that patients be able to keep their grows of up to six plants. "Allow home grows and the ability for a qualified patient or designated provider to possess marijuana plants. A qualified patient or designated provider may possess 6 plants, 3 flowering and 3 nonflowering," the board recommended. But it also recommended eliminating collective gardens, the backbone of the state's dispensary system.

New York Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Long Island Public Hearing. A medical marijuana bill, the Compassionate Care Act, got a public hearing Wednesday in the chamber of the Nassau County Legislature. It had one earlier this month in Buffalo. The hearings are designed to mount public pressure on the state Senate to get the bill through.

International

UN Security Council Has "Deep Concerns" About West African Drug Trade. In a presidential statement Wednesday after a briefing from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, the UN Security Council expressed "deep concern" about a growing drug trade in West Africa and its links to terrorism. Ki-moon told the Security Council $1.2 billion worth of cocaine transits the region each year, where governments are weak, borders are porous, and extremists are on the march.

Canada's Tories to Modernize Marijuana Laws? Canada's governing Conservatives could modify the country's pot laws, Justice Minister Peter McKay hinted Wednesday. Fining marijuana users instead of arresting them is one possibility, he said. "That doesn't mean decriminalizing or legalizing, but it does mean giving police options, for example, to issue fines in addition to any other sanctions, or as a substitute for other sanctions," MacKay told QMI Agency. "These are things that we are willing to look at in the new year, but there's been no decision taken."

Welfare Drug Testing Bill Passes Michigan Senate

In one of its final acts of the 2013 session, the Michigan Senate last Thursday passed a bill that would allow drug testing of some welfare recipients for "reasonable suspicion." The bill passed the GOP-dominated chamber on a straight party line vote.

The measure is Senate Bill 275, sponsored by Sen. Joe Hune (R-Hamburg Township). A similar measure passed the House in May. Neither bill has been approved by the other chamber, but both will still be alive and could pass next year.

The bill directs the state Department of Human Services to set up a three-county pilot project of drug screening and testing for the Family Independence Program, the state's program that provides cash assistance to poor families with children and pregnant women.

If the initial screening creates "reasonable suspicion" of drug use, recipients would be required to submit to a drug test. Those who tested positive would be referred for treatment, with a second positive test leading to loss of benefits.

"We have children going to school hungry every day without proper clothing because their parents are addicted to drugs and alcohol," claimed state Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) in remarks reported by Michigan Live. "They receive welfare money but they don't spend it on their children. They spend it on their addiction."

The measure passed the Senate in a straight party-line vote. All Democrats opposed the measure despite winning an amendment that would allow children whose parents test positive for illegal drugs to continue receiving benefits through a third party, such as a guardian.

Drug testing has been a big issue for Michigan Republicans this year. Earlier this year, the legislature passed and Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed into law a bill allowing the state to cut unemployment benefits to anyone who failed a pre-employment drug test.

Lansing, MI
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

Oregon's plan to regulate dispensaries statewide moves ahead, Washington state looks like it will let medical marijuana patients keep their personal grows, a new national certification program is announced, and more. Let's get to it:

National

On Tuesday, Americans for Safe Access launched the Patient Focused Certification program, which will independently certify the quantity and reliability of medical marijuana products sold at licensed businesses. The program will be based on new quality standards set by the American Herbal Products Association and the American Herbal Pharmacopeia.

California

Last Thursday, the Shasta County planning commission voted to move forward with restrictions on medical marijuana grows. Planners voted 3-2 to limit outdoor gardens, placing restrictions on the number of plants allowed based on property size, among other considerations.

On Tuesday, Lake County supervisors approved a new cultivation ordinance. The unanimously approved ordinance bans outdoor grows within "community growth boundaries" and limits indoor grows to 100 square feet and 1,200 watts of lighting. Outdoor grows can't occur within a thousand feet of schools or other youth-oriented facilities and will be limited to six mature or 12 immature plants. The ordinance goes into effect 30 days from Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, the Long Beach city council continued to wrestle with the dispensary issue. Council members voted to direct the planning commission to consider a cap on dispensaries and setback restrictions. The city attorney is also asking for further clarity from the council, whose proposed restrictions have prevented him from drafting a workable ordinance. The city banned collectives of more than three persons last year, causing the number of dispensaries in the city to shrink from 55 to six.

Also on Tuesday, Tulare County supervisors adopted criteria providing general guidelines for law enforcement and county officials. This is a first step toward adopting regulations and restrictions on cultivation, which the county will take up next month. The guidelines call for grows and dispensaries to be licensed by the state and be nonprofit. They would also bar anyone with a felony conviction from being involved in a medical marijuana operation.

Colorado

Last Thursday, state health officials said they were considering lowering medical marijuana patient fees. Currently, patients pay $35 a year for their medical marijuana cards; the fee would drop to $15 under the proposal. That's because the state fund that pays for the patient registry is awash with more than $13 million in cash.

Guam

Last Thursday, a medical marijuana bill got a second public hearing. The measure, Bill 215, was supported by numerous members of the public, but Department of Public Health Director James Gillan said he couldn't support it because of the "administrative and regulatory burden" it imposes. The Committee on Health is still accepting written testimony on the measure and for those who wish they will keep their testimony confidential, and bill cosponsor Sen. Tina Muna Barnes said she was working on amendments based on feedback from the hearings.

Illinois

Last Friday, Illinois officials unveiled a new web site to provide information on medical marijuana. The state's new medical marijuana law goes into effect January 1, and the website provides information about implementation updates, draft and final administrative rules, application forms, FAQ's, press releases and other materials related to medical marijuana.

On Monday, state financial regulators filed a complaint against the doctor who runs Wicker Park's first medical marijuana business. Dr. Brian Murray of Good Intentions LLC is accused of accepting fees from potential patients before establishing a "legitimate physician-patient relationship," which is required under state law. He was charging patients $99 before their evaluations, which can't be done before the law goes into effect. Good Intentions manager Daniel Reid slammed the complaint, calling it "utterly false, entirely speculative and anti-patient."

Massachusetts

Last Thursday, the Department of Public Health announced the members of the committee to review medical marijuana business applications. The complete list of names is at the link. The committee will be charged with evaluating and scoring 100 applications submitted for up to 35 medical marijuana dispensary licenses.

New Jersey

Last Thursday, the Assembly Health Committee approved an expansion of the medical marijuana program that would allow patients to buy the drug in another state and use it in New Jersey. The bill, Assembly Bill 4537, now heads to the full Assembly, but faces a veto threat from Gov. Chris Christie (R).

Oregon

Last Wednesday, a committee approved draft rules for state-regulated dispensaries. They include onerous security requirements, hefty fees, and criminal background checks. The application process for state-regulated dispensaries will begin on March 3.

Washington

Last Thursday, the state Liquor Control Board signaled it would recommend medical marijuana patients could keep their personal grows though not at the same plant quantity levels as law currently allows. State officials including staff of the Board had proposed eliminating the patient grows as part of the adoption of general marijuana legalization, which does not include the right to grow your own. But that proved hugely unpopular with patients. The board is expected to formalize its support for patient grows with a vote this week.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM -- December 16, 2013

Uruguay's president defends marijuana legalization there and finds an ally, marijuana bills are popping up in some surprising countries, the Justice Department says we have a federal prison crisis, and much more. Let's get to it:

Uruguayan President Jose Mujica has some harsh words for his critics and finds some support, too.
Marijuana Policy

Denver City Council Takes Up Decriminalization for 18-to-20-Year-Olds. The Denver city council will today vote on whether to decriminalize marijuana possession for people between the ages of 18 and 20. Councilman Albus Brooks, who is pushing the measure, said it would address an inequity in how offenses are currently prosecuted. Juveniles with small amounts are not arrested, but instead sent to a juvenile assessment center, and adults 21 and over who violate the city's pot laws face only small fines, but people over 17 but younger than 21 face up to a year in jail. Brooks' bill would treat the under-21s like those over 21.

Missouri Marijuana Legalization Debate in St. Louis Wednesday. Show-Me Cannabis Regulation executive director John Payne will debate Jason Grellner of the Missouri Narcotics Officers Association Wednesday night in St. Louis. Click on the link for details. Show-Me Cannabis Regulation is attempting to get a legalization initiative on the 2014 ballot.

Medical Marijuana

Public Hearing on New York Medical Marijuana Bill on Long Island Wednesday. The New York Assembly Health Committee will hold hearings on pending medical marijuana legislation Wednesday on Long Island. Click the link for time and place details.

Illinois Launches Medical Marijuana Information Website. Illinois state officials have launched a new website described as the "central location" for information on new medical marijuana laws that go into effect January 1. The public can learn about implementation updates, draft and final administrative rules, application forms, FAQ's, press releases and other materials related to medical cannabis on the site.

Massachusetts Medical Marijuana Dispensary Selection Committee Named. The Department of Public Health last Thursday named the members of a committee that will review 100 applicants for up to 35 dispensaries. Click on the link to see the complete list.

Drug Testing

Minnesota Welfare Drug Testing Law Could Be Costly. A new state law requiring welfare recipients with past felony drug convictions to submit to drug tests "could end up costing taxpayers far more than it saves" while burdening poor families with complex paperwork they could find it difficult to comply with, county officials and advocacy groups said. The law contains costly local mandates and complicated rules that apply only to a tiny fraction of state welfare recipients. Only 0.4% of Minnesota welfare recipients have felony drug convictions, compared to 1.2% among the adult population overall. "I don't think anyone is under the illusion that this is about saving taxpayers money," said Heidi Welsch, director of family support and assistance for Olmsted County. "This is punitive."

Defense Department Now Testing for Synthetic Marijuana. The Defense Department has begun testing for synthetic cannabinoids in its random drug testing program, the head of the program said Friday. "The message we're getting out now is that when you participate in our random urinalysis program, synthetic marijuana products or synthetic marijuana will now be tested along with our other drugs," Army Lt. Col. Tom Martin said. Fake weed had been showing up in 2.5% of drug tests in a random study conducted by the Army, he added.

Sentencing

Justice Department Identifies "Growing Crisis" in Federal Prison System as "Increasingly Critical Threat." An Office of the Inspector General report issued last week, Top Management and Performance Challenges Facing the Department of Justice-2013, identified a number of challenges facing the department, but singled out "the growing crisis in the federal prison system" as an "increasingly critical threat" to the department's ability to fulfill its mission. The crisis is two-fold, the report says: escalating costs of running the prison system and rising security and safety issues due to chronic overcrowding. The department identified sentencing reform initiatives and the Smart on Crime initiative as responses, but noted that their impacts are still unclear.

Cornyn Introduces Federal Prison Reform Bill. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) last week introduced the Federal Prison Reform Act (Senate Bill 1783), which would allow nonviolent, low-risk offenders to complete work, education, skills training, or rehabilitation programs in order to earn up to half of their remaining sentence in home confinement or a halfway house. Cornyn is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, where the bill has been referred.

International

Uruguay's President Has Harsh Words for INCB Head. Uruguayan President Jose Mujica fought back this weekend after Raymond Yans, head of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) criticized Uruguay's decision to legalize marijuana and said it had failed to consult with the board. "Tell that old man to stop lying," Mujica said in an interview with Uruguay's Canal 4. "Let him come to Uruguay and meet me whenever he wishes… Anybody can meet and talk to me, and whoever says he couldn't meet with me tells lies, blatant lies. Because he sits in a comfortable international platform, he believes he can say whatever nonsense," he added. Mujica noted the INCB's relative quiescence before the legalization of marijuana in two US states and accused him of having double standards. "Does he have different rules: one for Uruguay and other for the world's strong countries?"; he asked.

Guatemalan President Supports Uruguay Marijuana Legalization. At a Central American summit in Panama City Saturday, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina called Uruguay's marijuana legalization "an important step" that could serve as "a pilot plan" in the regional war against drug trafficking. "I think the step Uruguay took is an important one and is a valuable experience," Pérez Molina said. "It could serve as a pilot plan for all of Latin America, and we hope it will be an experience that eventually all countries can adopt," he added.

Israeli Knesset Passes Medical Marijuana Bill. The Knesset Sunday approved an updated version of Israel's medical marijuana law that will centralize marijuana collection and increase the number of doctors allowed to prescribe it. Some medical marijuana growers and patients aren't happy with the centralization, saying that direct contact between patients and growers is important.

Slovenia Parliament Will Discuss Marijuana Legalization Bills. After a pro-legalization citizens' initiative succeeded in forcing parliament to take up the issue, the Slovenian parliament will hold formal hearings on three legalization bills. It's not clear when that will happen.

Sri Lanka Government Will Submit Medical Marijuana Bill. Sri Lanka's minister of indigenous medicine, Salinda Dissanayake, said Saturday he will submit a bill to parliament to allow marijuana to be used as medicine. The bill would amend the country's Ayurveda Act, which deals with traditional medicine. The same ministry had tried in 2008 to get permission to grow marijuana as medicine, but that didn't happen.

Michigan Senate Republicans Scapegoat Poor With Welfare Drug Test Bill

In one of its last acts of the legislative session, the Michigan Senate passed a bill mandating drug testing for selected welfare applicants and recipients. It was a straight party-line vote.

Scrooge goes to Lansing. Bah, humbug! (wikimedia.org)
The bill, Senate Bill 275, is similar to a measure passed earlier this year by the House. It would require the state Department of Human Services to create a drug screening and drug testing pilot project in three counties. People who are determined to be at risk of drug use would be required to take a drug test. If they failed, they would be referred to a drug treatment program. A second failed drug test would result in the loss of benefits.

Senate Republicans originally wrote the bill so that children whose parents were cut off because of a failed drug test would lose their benefits as well. Because they care so much about the kids, I suppose. Democrats managed to get an amendment passed that would allow a third party to receive the benefits for the children.

The Republican-dominated legislature earlier this year passed a bill, signed into law by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, allowing the state to cut off unemployment benefits for anyone who fails a drug test required by a prospective employer.

I'll write a straight news article about this later today. But I'll take a moment now to note that this kind of cheapjack, poor-bashing legislation is almost entirely the exclusive domain of the Republican Party.

Location: 
Lansing, MI
United States

Chronicle AM -- December 12, 2013

A push is on to end the federal ban on needle exchange funding, a secret federal panel meets to discuss marijuana banking issues, UN anti-drug bureaucrats are still unhappy with Uruguay, more bodies show up in Mexico, and more. Let's get to it:

A move is on to end the federal ban on funding needle exchanges.
Marijuana Policy

Federal Banking Panel Meets on Pot Sales. The Bank Secrecy Act Advisory Group (BSAAG) met in Washington, DC, Thursday to discuss how to deal with banking issues related to medical marijuana and legal marijuana industries. Under current federal laws, marijuana sellers can't set up bank accounts or process credit card transaction because financial institutions fear being implicated in drug trafficking or money laundering cases. The meeting is closed-door, and there is no word yet on what, if anything, was decided.

One Year In, Coloradans Still Like Marijuana Legalization. A Public Policy Polling survey released this week found that Coloradans still support marijuana legalization. The poll found 53% agreed that marijuana use should be legal. It will be interesting to see the poll numbers a year from now, when Coloradans have had time to experience a legal marijuana industry. That begins on January 1.

Washington State Regulators Want to Ban Pot Smoking Wherever Alcohol is Sold. The state Liquor Control Board, which is also in charge of legal marijuana commerce, has proposed banning marijuana consumption in businesses licensed for liquor sales, but a Wednesday meeting saw loud opposition, in particular from Frankie Schnarr, owner of Frankie's Sports Bar and Grill in Olympia. Schnarr years ago emerged victorious in a battle with the board over whether he could open the second floor of his bar to smokers, who joined a "club" for the privilege. Schnarr opened his club to pot smokers after I-502 passed, and now claims 13,500 club members. Schnarr and others said the proposed rule was aimed directly at him. The board will vote on the proposed rule next week.

Philadelphia "Smoke Down Prohibition" Marijuana Prosecutions Continue, So Will Demonstrations. Comedian NA Poe will be sentenced Friday in federal court for smoking pot at Independence Hall as part of Philly NORML's ongoing Smoke Down Prohibition demonstrations. Two more members of the "Liberty Bell 4," Chris Goldstein and Don Dezarn will go on trial next week for puffing pot in demos this past summer, while a fourth, US Marine veteran Mike Whiter will make his first court appearance on similar federal charges. Click on the link for more details and how you can participate.

Gov. Cuomo Dismisses New York Legalization Bill as "Non-Starter." Well, that didn't take long. Yesterday, state Sen. Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan) announced she was introducing a marijuana legalization bill. That same day, a Cuomo spokesman scoffed at the bill, calling it "a non-starter."

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Medical Marijuana Expansion Wins Assembly Committee Vote. A bill that would allow Garden State medical marijuana patients to buy the drug in other states and bring it back with them passed the Assembly Health Committee on a 7-4 vote Thursday. But Gov. Chris Christie (R) has said he will veto it or any other expansion of the state's program.

Harm Reduction

Maryland Docs, Scientists Call for End to Federal Needle Exchange Funding Ban. In the wake of the budget agreement announced this week by congressional negotiators, more than 70 Maryland-based doctors and scientists sent an open letter to Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) urging her to act to get the longstanding ban on federal needle exchange funding lifted. The ban had been overturned in 2010, but was reinstated without any public debate during budget negotiations the following year.

Pain Pills

State Attorneys General Call on FDA to Reconsider Zohydro Approval. The FDA is running into more flak over its October decision to approve the first hydrocodone-only drug in America, Zohydro, which will be available in a time-release form. Four US senators challenged the decision earlier this week, and now, 28 state attorneys general have asked the agency to reconsider. They cited the roll-out of earlier pain relieving drugs in time-release formulas, which they said resulted in "overzealous pharmaceutical sales" and "doctors overprescribing narcotics," among other ills. But Attorneys General are typically trained as lawyers, not doctors or pharmacists, and they seem oblivious to the continuing problem of undertreatment of pain that their campaigns foster. The FDA said it would reply directly to the law enforcement officials.

International

UNODC Criticizes Uruguay Marijuana Legalization. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) isn't happy with Uruguay. The South American nation's decision to legalize marijuana is a blow against international cooperation in the war on drugs, said UNODC head Yuri Fedotov. "Just as illicit drugs are everyone's shared responsibility, there is a need for each country to work closely together and to jointly agree on the way forward for dealing with this global challenge," he said in a statement. He also called the move "unfortunate."

More Mass Graves in Mexico. Authorities in the central Mexican state of Morelos have uncovered two mass graves containing at least 20 bodies. Authorities believe some of the bodies are victims of the Beltran Leyva cartel, which was largely dismantled two years ago. Others were apparently killed more recently. The discovery comes on the heels of a similar gruesome find in western Michoacan state, where the latest count had 66 bodies removed from mass graves there. More than 100,000 people are estimated to have been killed in Mexico's prohibition-related violence since 2006 and tens of thousands more have disappeared, including more than a thousand in the past two years in Moreleos, according to the state human rights commission.

Medical Marijuana Update

A busy Tuesday in California, herbal medicine experts make a call, New Jersey's third dispensary opens, Florida's Supreme Court hears a challenge to an initiative, and more. Let's get to it:

National

On Wednesday, the American Herbal Pharmacopeia classified marijuana as a botanical medicine. Americans for Safe Access called it "an historic move" that will "lay the scientific foundation for quality assurance and expanded research." The American Herbal Pharmacopeia is the world's leading expert organization on herbal medicines.

California

On Tuesday, Fresno County supervisors took a first step toward banning grows. The board voted unanimously for a total ban, rejecting a second option that would have banned outdoor cultivation and allowed limited indoor cultivation. A final vote is expected on January 7.

Also on Tuesday, about 200 people showed up for a Lake County Board of Supervisors meeting to provide input on a proposed new cultivation ordinance. The county's interim ordinance, passed last summer, linked plant numbers to parcel size and banned cultivation on vacant lots, but placed no limit on indoor grows. The proposed ordinance would go further, banning outdoor cultivation in community growth boundaries and limiting indoor cultivation to 100 square feet with indoor lighting not to exceed 1,200 watts. Outside of community growth boundaries, plant numbers are capped at six mature or 12 immature plants on parcels larger than one acre. A vote is expected at next week's board meeting.

Also on Tuesday, the Long Beach city council punted on providing new guidelines for where dispensaries can operate. With only two-thirds of members present, the council decided to wait until next week to deal with the issue. The council had earlier proposed a raft of restrictions on dispensary locations, but city staff said they were unworkable.

Also on Tuesday, Santa Cruz County supervisors voted to push large grows out of the urban areas. Under the new rules, only 100-square foot personal grows are allowed in residential areas, while rural properties of less than five acres can grow 1,000 square feet, and larger parcels can grow up to 3,000 square feet.

Also on Tuesday, Butte County supervisors amended their cultivation ordinance to require each lot with a garden to have an occupied residence with water and sewage and to increase civil penalties for violations to $500 a day for the first violation and $1,000 a day for subsequent ones. It's not going to stop there. The county says it will seek to reduce the number of plants allowed and enact other restrictions at the next board meeting in January.

Also on Tuesday, the San Jose city council rejected a ban on dispensaries, but voted instead to enact stricter enforcement rules. Effective immediately, dispensaries are barred from operating within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, rec centers, libraries and other marijuana vendors, or within 500 feet of rehabilitation centers and 150 feet of residential properties. Dispensary advocates vowed to repeat a successfully signature drive that staved off implementation of new rules in 2011 if necessary.

On Wednesday, San Jose began enforcing the new regulations with a crackdown on dispensaries located next to residences. While the city had previously gone after clubs that drew complaints, it is now broadening enforcement and is sending letters to dispensaries located next to residences telling them to shut down or relocate.

Also on Wednesday, California NORML announced that a patient will file a petition to ask the state Supreme Court to review the recent Third District Appellate Court decision upholding the city of Live Oak's ban on medical marijuana cultivation. The patient is Live Oak resident James Maral, who suffers from a painful life- and limb-threatening condition caused by insufficient blood supply to muscles and nerves.

Colorado

Last Friday, a Loveland doctor was convicted of a criminal offense for recommending medical marijuana to an undercover police officer. Dr. Dallas Williams, 75, was arrested in March 2012 after the narc wore a wire to the doctor's office and said he needed marijuana for "severe pain." Prosecutors argued there was neither a proper assessment nor a proper doctor-patient relationship. He was convicted of attempting to influence a public servant.

Connecticut

Last Wednesday, the Watertown city council voted for a six-month moratorium on dispensaries. The city wants time to develop new regulations.

On Monday, the Wallingford planning and zoning commission voted for a nine-month moratorium on dispensaries. The moratorium will "give this commission time to determine how it wishes to deal with these uses," Corporate Counsel Janis Small said.

Florida

Last Thursday, the state Supreme Court heard arguments on whether a medical marijuana initiative should be approved to go on the ballot. Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) is seeking to have it disqualified on the grounds that the initiative language is misleading and that it would clash with federal law. But People United for Medical Marijuana, the group behind the initiative argued that the initiative is clear. The high court will decide in a few weeks.

Massachusetts

On Tuesday, the Fairhaven planning board approved a medical marijuana zoning bylaw. The 7-1 vote marked a departure from the board's discussions just two months ago, when it voted to institute a temporary moratorium on all medical marijuana dispensaries in town, but now a dispensary wants to come to town. The vote must be approved by a town meeting.

Michigan

On Tuesday, three medical marijuana bills passed the House Judiciary Committee. One would allow the use of edibles, one would allow for dispensaries, and one would allow pharmacies to sell medical marijuana -- if federal law ever changes. The legislature adjourns Thursday, so action on the first two is unlikely before then, but the third bill has already passed the Senate, so the House could vote on it before adjourning.

New Jersey

Last Wednesday, the state's third dispensary officially opened in Woodbridge. The Garden State Dispensary began registering patients last month, and 400 people have already purchased their medicine there. The other two medical marijuana dispensaries in New Jersey are located in Egg Harbor and Montclair.

Oregon

On Wednesday, the legislative panel charged with crafting statewide dispensary regulations held its final meeting.The committee has met since September to hammer out details such as security, background checks and marijuana testing. A draft version of the rules -- covered in 30 pages -- lays out requirements for Oregon's medical marijuana industry.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Medical Marijuana Update

Arkansas Baptists reject medical marijuana, and so do some California communities. New Jersey's governor mouths off, and Illinois and Massachusetts communities move to regulate soon-to-arrive medical marijuana businesses. Let's get to it:

Arizona

Last Wednesday, a judge ruled that Maricopa County had no enforceable zoning ordinance with which to restrict medical marijuana dispensaries. Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon's ruling supplements one he issued last month overturning the county's zoning ordinance for dispensaries. In that ruling, he found that the ordinance violated the state's medical marijuana law and appeared to be an effort to thwart the law.

Arkansas

On Tuesday, word came that the state Baptist convention rejected medical marijuana. Delegates there approved a resolution opposing the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act and any other attempts to legalize medical marijuana in the 2014 elections. The resolution calls on good Baptists "to reject the notion that the largely unsupervised cultivation, marketing, distribution, and smoking of marijuana is compassionate and sound medical practice, to recognize the proposed medical marijuana laws as clandestine attempts to take the first step toward the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Arkansas, to refuse to sign petitions to qualify these measures for the ballot, and to soundly reject all of them at the ballot box in the November 2014 general election."

California

Last Tuesday, the Laguna Hills city council voted to ban dispensaries. The town becomes the latest Orange County community to formalize its ban. "I don't believe that marijuana has any place in our society," Councilman Randal Bressette said. "Every opportunity I have to protect our residents from the demons of that drug, I will do so."

Also last Tuesday, a Los Angeles judge blocked a Mar Vista dispensary from opening. Superior Court Judge James Chalant issued a temporary restraining order against the dispensary, saying it violates Proposition D, the measure passed earlier this year by city voters that dramatically limited the number of dispensaries.

On Monday, the Ventura city council gave final approval to a dispensary ban. The ban had won preliminary approval on a 4-3 vote last month, and the vote stayed the same Monday. The ban also applies to delivery services.

On Tuesday, a dispensary operator was named mayor of Sebastopol. Robert Jacob, founder and executive director of the Peace in Medicine dispensaries, was elected mayor of the Sonoma County town by the city council. He is a council member and had served as vice mayor for the past year. [Editor's Note: This is my town; this is my mayor.]

Also on Tuesday, the Napa city council voted to repeal an ordinance that would have allowed a dispensary to operate there. The council voted 3-2 for repeal, saying a dispensary would increase youth access to marijuana. Council members also scoffed at the notion that medical marijuana patients are actually sick.

Also on Tuesday, Solano County supervisors voted to ban dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county. Dispensaries are already banned in six of the county's cities; only Vallejo has not moved to ban them. Having dispensaries in rural areas would place "an undue burden" on cities that have a ban, one supervisor claimed.

Illinois

Last Wednesday, Chicago officials proposed tight regulations on dispensaries and medical marijuana grows. Alderman Ed Burke and the city Department of Planning and Development are recommending that dispensaries and grows only be allowed in manufacturing districts and that they be required to obtain special use permits. Some 22 dispensaries would be allowed.

On Tuesday, the Wheaton city council approved an ordinance limiting dispensaries to districts zoned for manufacturing. The vote in the Chicago suburb was 6-1.

Iowa

On Sunday, a state senator said he would again introduce a medical marijuana bill. Sen. Joe Bolckom (D-Iowa City) has introduced such bills four times in the past decade. This time, he said, he would model his bill on the law in place in New Mexico.

Massachusetts

On Tuesday, the Newton board of alderman approved zoning regulations for dispensaries that would limit them to mixed-use zones outside city centers. The move comes before a citywide moratorium is set to expire at the end of the month.

Michigan

Last Thursday, the state appeals court agreed to hear two cases on whether workers fired for medical marijuana use can receive unemployment benefits. Lower courts have overturned the decisions of a state agency and ruled in favor of people who sought benefits after being dismissed, but medical marijuana foe Attorney General Bill Schuette argues that the state's medical marijuana law only protects people from criminal prosecution, not civil sanctions.

New Jersey

On Monday, Gov. Chris Christie (R) said he was through expanding the state's medical marijuana law and called medical marijuana a stalking horse for legalization. His remarks came in response to efforts to allow New Jersey patients to buy their medicine in other states and bring it home.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM -- December 3, 2013

Denver's city council calls off ban on "front porch" marijuana smoking, New Jersey's governor claims medical marijuana is a ploy, Vermont rolls out a naloxone pilot project, Colombia's FARC want decriminalization, and more. Let's get to it:

Naloxone can reverse opioid drug overdoses. Now, a pilot program is getting underway in Vermont.
Marijuana Policy

Denver City Council Reverses Course, Votes Down Front-Porch Pot Smoking Ban. In something of a surprise move, the Denver city council Monday night voted 7-6 for an amendment to its marijuana ordinance that removes the ban on smoking on one's own property if it is visible to the public. The ban had passed last week on a 7-5 vote. Now, one more vote is needed next week to approve the ordinance.

Jackson, Michigan, Cops Will Heed Voters' Will on Decriminalization Initiative. Police in Jackson, Michigan, will enforce a new marijuana ordinance that tells them to leave alone people over 21 who possess up to an ounce of pot on private property. Police Chief Matthew Hein said police will not enforce state law, which is harsher, except in limited circumstances, such as when a known drug dealer with multiple convictions is caught with less than an ounce.

Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Governor Just Says No to Expanding Medical Marijuana Program. Gov. Chris Christie (R) told reporters Monday he opposes expansion of the state's medical marijuana law because it is just a backdoor route to marijuana legalization. "See this is what happens. Every time you sign one expansion, then the advocates will come back and ask for another one," the governor said during a press conference. "Here's what the advocates want: they want legalization of marijuana in New Jersey. It will not happen on my watch, ever. I am done expanding the medical marijuana program under any circumstances. So we're done."

Michigan House Judiciary Committee Hears Medical Marijuana Bills Thursday. The House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Thursday on three medical marijuana bills.HB 4271 would protect locally licensed dispensaries to help ensure patients have regular and safe access to their medicine. HB 5104 would create clear legal protection for marijuana extracts, which are often used in edibles. The third bill, SB 660, would create a "pharmaceutical grade" standard for medical marijuana.

Harm Reduction

Vermont Pilot Program for Naloxone to Fight Drug Overdoses Gearing Up. The Vermont Health Department is launching a pilot program to distribute naloxone as an antidote for opioid drug overdoses. The drug will be distributed directly to drug users, their friends, and family members. The Health Department said it is working with law enforcement to provide protections for people who report overdoses.

Sentencing

Kentucky Lawmaker Seeks Harsher Heroin Sales Sentences. State Sen. John Schickel (R-Union) Monday announced plans to pre-file a bill that would impose harsher sentences for heroin distribution. He blamed a 2011 sentencing reform law for making the state attractive to heroin dealers. Under that law, heroin sales went from a Class C to a Class D felony. The sponsor of that law, Rep. John Tilley (D-Hopkinsville) said heroin use has indeed increased, but not because of the reform. The causes "are much more complex, with the chief ones being the state's recent crackdown on prescription drug abuse and the new tamper-resistant versions of the pain drugs Oxycontin and Opana," which were formerly crushed and abused by pain-pill addicts.

International

Colombia's FARC Calls for Decriminalizing Coca Growing. Colombia's FARC guerrillas called for the decriminalization of coca growing and drug use as it entered a third round of peace talks with the government of President Juan Manuel Santos. The FARC is proposing "demilitarization of anti-drug policies, non-intervention by imperialism, and decriminalization of the rural poor" who grow coca, said FARC negotiator Pablo Catatumbo. Drug policy is the third item on the talks' agenda; already covered are agrarian reform and the FARC's return to political life after a peace agreement. Still to be decided are drug issues, reparations for victims of the five-decade-old conflict, and disarmament.

Spanish Cannabis Club Persecuted, Needs Your Help. The Spanish cannabis social club Pannagh is being prosecuted as drug traffickers by Spanish authorities and needs your support before a court date Thursday. Click the story link above to read more and see how you can help. Their web page (see above) has been closed down by Spanish authorities, and Pannagh members, who transparently grew small amounts of marijuana for themselves, are facing years in prison and asset forfeiture on trumped up charges.

Morocco Lawmakers Meet Tomorrow to Discuss Legalizing Hemp, Medical Marijuana. Lawmakers in Rabat will meet Wednesday to debate whether to allow marijuana cultivation for medical and industrial purposes. The debate is being pushed by the Party of Authenticity and Modernity. More than three-quarters of a million Moroccans depend on marijuana cultivation for the livelihoods, with most of it processed into hashish for European markets.

Denver City Council Set to Deliver Symbolic Slap in the Face to Marijuana-Friendly Voters

The Denver city council is poised to give final approval today to an ordinance that would prevent people from smoking pot on their own property if they are visible to the public. The police chief says it would be a low priority, and even the Denver Post thinks it's stupid, but it looks like that won't stop the council.

The ordinance passed a first vote on a margin of 7-5 last week, and the council votes typically don't change.

Here is the Denver Post's latest story on the vote.

And here is the Denver Post's Monday editorial, which slams the council for pursuing the idea. "The proposal is unenforceable, will provoke fruitless disputes and, if it were followed, would restrict many pot users almost exclusively to the indoors," the Post noted.

Location: 
Denver, CO
United States

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