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New Biography Says Obama Smoked Pot -- A Lot

President Obama has written about his drug use as a teenager, but excerpts from a new biography of the president portray him as a party hardy high school and college marijuana user. And that has reform advocates calling foul on a president who laughs off serious questions about marijuana legalization and whose Justice Department is cracking down on medical marijuana distribution.

The new biography, Barack Obama: The Story, is written by veteran Washington political journalist David Maraniss and contains extensive material about the president's smoke-filled young adulthood including his leading role in the Choom Gang, with "choom" used as verb meaning to get high.

Obama choomed his way through the Punohao School in Honolulu and Occidental College in Los Angeles, Maraniss reports, citing interviews with the president's erstwhile colleagues. And young Obama wasn't just experimenting; he showed signs of being a serious pothead.

He created a pot-smoking trend among his peers called "TA," short for "total absorption," and also is credited with popularizing the notion of "roof hits," or rolling up all the windows in a car while smoking, then tilting one's head back and sucking the last remnants of smoke from the roof.

Young Barry and his Choom Gang buddies were so serious about their fun that they assessed penalties on their peers for wasting smoke by not inhaling fully. If you wasted smoke, you were penalized by being passed by the next time the joint came around. "Wasting good bud smoke was not tolerated," a member of the gang told Maraniss.

The president-to-be was also an eager pot smoker. He was known for elbowing his way in out of turn when a joint was being passed, shouting "Intercepted!" and taking an extra hit.

Obama seemed to retain his marijuana-friendly attitude until he attained the presidency. While there are no stories of him getting baked while editing the Harvard Law Review, he was critical of the drug war while an Illinois senator, and as a presidential candidate, he vowed to not go after medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

But as president, he has converted himself into a full-blown prohibitionist, laughing off marijuana legalization, continuing to fund the drug war at the same high levels (and with the same law enforcement heavy spending ratio), and attempting to export US drug war strategies to violence-wracked areas like Mexico and Central America. And, after a year and a half of relatively benign neglect, his Justice Department has turned on medical marijuana providers with a vengeance.

The publication of the Maraniss excerpts provoked a response from Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, who chided the president for his shifting stance and warned there could be a political price to pay.

"Barack Obama won a lot of hearts and minds some years ago when he talked so openly and frankly about his youthful marijuana use. That contrasted refreshingly with Bill Clinton's hemming and hawing about not having inhaled, much less George Bush's refusal to even acknowledge what old friends revealed about his marijuana use," Nadelmann noted. "But the president has been losing lots of hearts and minds, especially those of young voters, with his striking silence on marijuana issues since he became president -- apart from providing lame excuses for the federal government's aggressive undermining of state medical marijuana laws.

"Most disappointing is his failure to say a word as president about the fact that half of all drug arrests each year are for nothing more than possessing a small amount of marijuana, which is something Barack Obama did lots of in his younger days, or to offer any critical comments about the stunning racial disproportionality in marijuana arrests around the country," Nadelmann continued. "Roughly twice as many people are arrested for marijuana possession now as were arrested in the early 1980s, even though the number of people consuming marijuana is no greater now than then. If police had been as keen on making marijuana arrests back then, it's quite likely that a young African American man named Barry Obama would have landed up with a criminal record -- and even more likely that he would not have his current job."

Recent polls show support for marijuana legalization at 50% or higher, with even higher levels of support among liberals and Democrats. It is time for Obama to address the issue, Nadelmann said.

"President Obama needs to come clean once again about marijuana -- but this time he needs to speak not of his own youthful use but rather of the harmful consequences of today's punitive marijuana policies for young Americans today," he said.

Washington, DC
United States

We're Winning Any Time the President is Forced to Say the Word "Legalization"

This MSNBC footage is pretty exciting to see.

Obama got dragged kicking and screaming into this debate, and it's a significant moment even if he didn’t give up any new ground. Just look at what happened here. Obama had to travel all the way to Colombia to argue against legalizing drugs, and he didn’t do a particularly good job. The drug war debate looked nothing like this just a few short years ago, i.e. I do not recall Bill Clinton or George W. Bush being forced into any situations like this one.

The impact of a symbolic moment like this is something we can't exactly measure, but my take on the situation is that the lights are being turned on. People are talking about the drug war more than ever before, which creates a kind of pressure that hasn’t existed in the past.

When both sides of the debate are talking about policy change, that says a lot, even if one side isn't serious about it. Opponents of legalization are now in the awkward position of pretending that there's some kind of 3rd way to handle this, and they're going to look sillier from one day to the next as the problem gets worse under their watch. What happens after the "reforms" offered by the Obama Administration and people like Kevin Sabet fail to save a single life south of our border? We're going to find out.

What's So Funny About the War on Drugs?

For all the progress that's been made towards bringing the drug policy debate into the political mainstream, there remains a tragic tendency among many in the press to burst out laughing at the idea of fixing our disastrous drug laws. The latest embarrassing example comes courtesy of Al Kamen in The Washington Post:

Yes, we know that jobs and the economy are the marquee issues for this campaign. Even major topics such as war and education are getting short shrift among the wannabe nominees.

But those reefer-mad kids over at Students for Sensible Drug Policy are trying to, uh, smoke the candidates out on their favorite subject.
...

Pass the chips, dude. This is some entertaining TV. 

Pass the chips? Wow. I can't speak for Al Kamen, but there's nothing about the War on Drugs that makes me hungry for junk food. Eric Sterling didn't like Kamen's tone very much either and responded with a deservedly harsh letter to the editor:

Regarding Al Kamen’s Jan. 18 column “ ‘Reefer Madness’ for the YouTube Generation”:

This article is consistent with my hypothesis that the rules of professional conduct of journalists or some style manual require that articles about drug policy include a joke about chips, brownies or junk food. Can reporters and editors be so humor-deprived that they always have to joke about laws and policies that every year put hundreds of thousands of cannabis users in handcuffs, give them a criminal record and cost hundreds of millions of dollars on pointless police overtime. Ha, ha, ha, “pass the chips”; I’m dying with laughter.

Kamen's childishness is meant to be cute, I assume, but it plainly belittles a gutsy effort by a concerned group of young Americans to ask valid questions of candidates on the campaign trail. How odd it is that he calls attention to these young activists bravely confronting prominent politicians, only to turn around and insult them. For what…caring about something?

Is the arrest of close to a million Americans a year for marijuana a strange or entertaining thing to be upset about? For that matter, is our world-record incarceration rate and the spiraling costs that go along with it? Is the escalating violence in Mexico amusing to anyone? If these things aren't funny, then we should be applauding rather than laughing when someone works to ensure that we don't ignore these issues entirely when choosing our next president.

Members of Congress to Introduce Historic Legislation Ending Marijuana Prohibition (Press Release)

MEDIA ADVISORY                                                                                                                                    June 22, 2011

Thursday: Members of Congress to Introduce Historic Legislation Ending Marijuana Prohibition

The Legislation, Modeled after the Repeal of Alcohol Prohibition, Comes on the 40th Anniversary of the Failed War on Drugs and on the Heels of a Global Commission Report Recommending Marijuana Legalization

Teleconference: Rep. Barney Frank and Leading Organizations Working to End the Failed War on Marijuana Explain the Significance of the Legislation

CONTACT: Morgan Fox, communications manager………………......(202) 905-2031 or mfox@mpp.org

WASHINGTON, DC - Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) will introduce bi-partisan legislation tomorrow, June 23, ending the federal war on marijuana and letting states legalize, regulate, tax, and control marijuana without federal interference. Other co-sponsors include Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). The legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal. The legislation is the first bill ever introduced in Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition.

            Leading critics of the war on marijuana will explain its significance for state and national marijuana policy at a national tele-press conference on Thursday.

What:  Tele-Press Conference on the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011

When:Thursday, June 23. 2:00pm EST / 11am PST

Call-in Info: 1-800-311-9404; Passcode: Marijuana

Who:  

·        Representative Barney Frank (D-4th/MA)

·        Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)

·        Aaron Houston, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)

·        Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

·        Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)

Last week marked the 40th Anniversary of President Nixon declaring a war on marijuana and other drugs. In an oped in the New York Times last week, timed for the 40th Anniversary, former President Jimmy Carter called for reforming marijuana laws.

The legislation also comes on the heels of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which released a report on June 2 calling for a major paradigm shift in how our society deals with drugs, including calling for legal regulation of marijuana. The report sent a jolt around the world, generating thousands of international media stories.  The commission is comprised of international dignitaries including Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations; Richard Branson, entrepreneur, founder of the Virgin Group; and the former Presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Switzerland. Representing the U.S. on the commission are George P. Shultz, Paul Volcker, and John Whitehead.

46.5% of Californians voted last year to legalize marijuana in their state, and voters in Colorado, Washington and possibly other states are expected to vote on the issue next year. In the past year at least five state legislatures have considered legalizing marijuana, including California, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington. 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, but the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to arrest people under federal law and U.S. Attorneys have in recent months sent threatening letters to state policymakers in an apparent attempt to meddle in state decision-making.

Rep. Frank’s legislation would end state/federal conflicts over marijuana policy, reprioritize federal resources, and provide more room for states to do what is best for their own citizens.

With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.

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Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Bills to Ensure Fair Treatment of Medical Cannabis Industry Members Are Introduced in U.S. House (Press Release)

National Cannabis Industry Association

For Immediate Release -- WEDNESDAY, MAY 25

Bills to Ensure Fair Treatment of Medical Cannabis Industry Members Are Introduced in U.S. House

The logic behind the introduction of the “Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2011” and the “Small Business Banking Improvement Act of 2011” stands in sharp contrast to the actions of U.S. Attorneys who hope to keep medical cannabis sales underground, untaxed and unregulated

CONTACT: Steve Fox, NCIA dir. of public affairs at 202-379-4861 ext. 2 or Steve@TheCannabisIndustry.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, for the first time in history, two bills that would benefit members of the medical cannabis industry were introduced in Congress. The introduction of the bills, which address banking and tax issues faced by medical cannabis providers, follow months of advocacy by the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). The bills were part of a coordinated introduction of three bills to protect and support medical marijuana patients and providers in states where the use of medical marijuana is legal. The third bill, the “States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act,” would modify federal law so that individuals acting in compliance with state law are immune from federal prosecution.

            The industry bills were introduced with bipartisan lead sponsors. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) are the lead sponsors of the “Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2011,” which would amend Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code so that medical marijuana providers can take standard business deductions like any other business. The “Small Business Banking Improvement Act of 2011,” sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), would allow financial institutions to work with medical marijuana businesses without the fear of running afoul of federal banking regulations.

            These bills have been introduced at a time when the nation is witnessing a strange reaction by U.S. Attorneys to the development of state-regulated systems of medical marijuana distribution. In October 2009, the Department of Justice issued a memo to federal prosecutors, instructing them to de-prioritize the prosecution of individuals acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. This has given states like New Mexico, Colorado and Maine the ability to establish tightly regulated system. Yet some U.S. Attorneys, faced with the prospect of sensible regulations being established in other states, have issued misleading and threatening letters to sidetrack legislative and administrative progress.

            “There are hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients in this country who benefit when they are able to purchase their medicine from safe, reliable and regulated establishments,” said Steve Fox, NCIA’s director of public affairs. “It is time for the federal government to acknowledge that these businesses are providing a service to their communities, not causing them harm. Without these regulated, tax-paying businesses, all medical marijuana sales would occur underground. The profits would bolster the criminal market and local, state and federal governments would receive no tax revenue. These medical marijuana providers are not looking for special treatment. They just want to be able to function in a manner similar to any other legal business. That is what these tax and banking bills would allow.”

*     *     *     *     *

            The mission of the National Cannabis Industry Association is to defend, promote and advance the interests of the cannabis industry and its members. NCIA publicly advocates for the unique needs of the emerging cannabis industry and defends against those aiming to eliminate the legal market for cannabis and cannabis-related products. For more information, please visit www.TheCannabisIndustry.org.

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NCIA logo

A Big Day on the Hill (Action Alert)

 

 

Send an email!

Dear friends,

It’s not often that three bills related to medical marijuana are introduced in Congress on the same day. In fact, it has never happened in history – until today!

This is big news, and we are hoping you will help spread the word in Washington.

All three bills would benefit medical marijuana patients and their providers. The “States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act,” which has been introduced in past sessions of Congress, would modify federal law so that individuals acting in compliance with state law are immune from federal prosecution.

The other two bills – the “Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2011” and the “Small Business Banking Improvement Act of 2011” – have never been introduced before and address critical tax and banking issues faced by medical marijuana centers and dispensaries as they attempt to serve patients, comply with statewide regulations, and pay their fair share of taxes.

Having lobbied Congress for years on these issues, MPP is excited to see the sponsors of these pieces of legislation sending a strong message to the rest of the nation about the need for the federal government to respect state medical marijuana laws and to treat fairly the individuals following them.

Now that these bills have been introduced, we need members of the House to sign on as co-sponsors. This is where you come in. We have drafted an email for you to send to your U.S. representative. With less than two minutes of your time, you can let your representative know that his or her constituents care about this issue. This really makes a difference.

The tides of history are turning in our favor. But with people like you speaking out, they will turn even faster.

Thanks for taking action!

Sincerely,

Rob Kampia signature (master)

Rob Kampia thumbnail (master)Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

 

To contact MPP, please click here or reply to this e-mail. Our mailing address is Marijuana Policy Project, 236 Massachusetts Ave. NE, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20002. Any donations you make to MPP may be used for political purposes, such as supporting or opposing candidates for federal office.

   

Patient Advocates Back Three Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in Congress (Press Release)

For Immediate Release: May 25, 2011

Patient Advocates Back Three Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced Today in Congress 

Advocacy Group Unveils New Program to Build More Skilled, Responsive Grassroots Force

Washington, DC -- Three medical marijuana bills were introduced today in Congress with support from patient advocates. The most significant of the three bills is one introduced by Congressman Frank (D-MA), which reclassifies marijuana from its current status as a dangerous drug with no medical value. Another bill, introduced by Congressman Polis (D-CO), will allow banks and other financial institutions to provide services to medical marijuana businesses without being subject to "suspicious activity" reporting requirements. The third bill, introduced by Congressman Stark (D-CA), changes the federal tax code "to allow a deduction for expenses in connection with the trade or business of selling marijuana intended for patients for medical purposes pursuant to State law."

"All of these bills will have a positive effect on hundreds of thousands of Americans and only a negligible impact to the rest of the country," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "This kind of policy shift is a no-brainer and should garner the bipartisan support of Congress."

To shore up support for these and other local and state medical marijuana bills, ASA is launching a new advocacy program.

The introduction of Congressional legislation today comes as ASA is equipping patient advocates with new tools to lobby local, state and federal governments. ASA unveiled a new program today that establishes a "Medical Cannabis Think Tank "to provide activists the support they need to analyze pending or proposed legislation and to lobby for the best laws possible. To support the lobbying effort, ASA also unveiled its new "Online  Training Center," with more than 4 hours of educational streaming video and over 400 pages of instruction manuals and worksheets. ASA's program also includes an improved "Raid  Response Center" to better prepare for aggressive federal interference.

As part of its "Sick and Tired" campaign, ASA and others filed a writ Monday in the DC Circuit to compel the federal government to answer a 9-year-old petition to reclassify cannabis. The Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) argued in the writ that the government has unreasonably delayed an answer to the petition in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. "The Drug Enforcement Administration has the opportunity right now to address the needs of patients across the country by reclassifying cannabis," continued Sherer. "However, since Congress can also reclassify cannabis, we are urging passage of the Frank bill in order to take advantage of all points of leverage."

If passed, the Frank bill would not only recognize marijuana's medical value, but also provide a medical necessity defense in federal court, a right not currently afforded to patients and caregivers who are in compliance with their local and state laws. The Frank bill would also usher forth greater research into the therapeutic properties of cannabis and create incentives for the development of new cannabis-based medication.

Advocates hope the Polis bill, if passed, will end the current ban on services for medical marijuana businesses by institutions like Wells Fargo, CitiCorp and Bank of America. The Stark bill has the potential to end dozens of audits by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) currently taking place, and settle once and for all whether the IRS can demand tax on gross or just net proceeds.

Further information:

Rescheduling bill (Frank):

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Frank_bill_2011.pdf

Banking bill (Polis):

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Polis_bill_2011.pdf

IRS bill (Stark):

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Stark_bill_2011.pdf

ASA Think Tank: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/section.php?id=384

ASA Online Training Center:

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/article.php?list=type&type=385

ASA Raid Response Center:

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/article.php?list=type&type=168

# # #

Medical Marijuana Businesses Subject of Federal Tax Proposal Sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis

Marijuana businesses looking for help navigating the federal tax code are watching a congressional proposal sponsored by Colorado Rep. Jared Polis. Polis and other House members introduced legislation about medical marijuana. One of the bills would allow marijuana-related businesses to claim business deductions on their federal taxes. Currently the IRS does not permit marijuana-related business to claim business deductions.
Publication/Source: 
Greenfield Daily Reporter (IN)
URL: 
http://www.greenfieldreporter.com/view/story/589a297db7004f0b976148ab7fbfbdc0/CO--Marijuana-IRS/

Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, Denver Attorney Give Their Take on Fed Pot Letter

Location: 
CO
United States
Colorado Rep. Jared Polis and Denver attorney Robert Corry spoke out this week against federal scare tactics they said were being used to create uncertainty in Colorado’s medical marijuana community. "I hope the Justice Department will respect the laws passed by the voters of Colorado and the rules propagated by our General Assembly...The Department should follow the principles it outlined in the Ogden memo: that those who are in clear compliance with state laws will not be raided. Colorado has the most robust regulatory structure in the country and our dispensaries are clearly operating under state law," said Rep. Polis. Robert Corry added, "This campaign of fear on the part of the Obama Administration is reprehensible, even more so given our own Colorado Attorney General (former U.S. Attorney)'s apparent alliance with the Obama Administration against Colorado’s citizens...The U.S. government should begin with prosecuting itself, specifically the Food and Drug Administration. Since 1978, the FDA has distributed medical marijuana to patients through the Compassionate Investigational New Drug Program."
Publication/Source: 
The Washington Independent (DC)
URL: 
http://washingtonindependent.com/108761/polis-denver-attorney-give-their-take-on-fed-pot-letter

Hearing Set for Bill Legalizing Marijuana in Maine

Location: 
ME
United States
At 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, supporters of legalized marijuana in Maine will crowd into a hearing room in Augusta to support a Portland legislator's bill to decriminalize pot. Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, sponsor of LD 1453, "An Act To Legalize and Tax Marijuana," said she was thrilled to learn about the hearing that has been scheduled before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
Publication/Source: 
The Portland Daily Sun (ME)
URL: 
http://portlanddailysun.me/news/story/hearing-set-bill-legalizing-marijuana

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