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Illinois Medical Marijuana Bill Passes House Committee for the First Time Ever, 4-3

MARCH 4, 2009

Illinois Medical Marijuana Bill Passes House Committee for the First Time Ever, 4-3

Patients, Supporters Hail Passage as Important Step to Protecting Seriously Ill Who Use Doctor-Recommended Medical Marijuana

CONTACT: Dan Bernath, MPP assistant director of communications, 202-462-5747 ex. 2030

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS — The Illinois House Human Services Committee passed a bipartisan bill today, 4-3, that would allow seriously ill patients with certain debilitating conditions who have their doctors’ recommendations to use medical marijuana without fear of arrest. A companion bill, SB 1381, is sponsored by three-term former state's attorney Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) in the Illinois Senate and is expected to receive a hearing in the Senate Public Health Committee next Tuesday.

    HB 2514, the House medical marijuana bill, is sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

    Although this isn't the first time a medical marijuana bill was introduced in the Illinois House, this is the first time a House committee passed such a bill. Advocates hope state lawmakers will note that 63 percent of Michigan voters approved a similar law last November and that a 2008 statewide poll shows 68 percent support among Illinois voters for such a law.

    "Doctors need every safe, effective medicine available to them when treating patients with serious conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and multiple sclerosis," said Dr. Jay Riseman, a Springfield physician who testified before the committee today. "I've seen medical marijuana work for patients when nothing else did, and I should be able to recommend it to my patients without leaving them vulnerable to arrest and even jail."

    With more than 26,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit


United States

Senate Committee Passes Medical Marijuana, 4-3

Minnesota Cares logo


MARCH 3, 2009

Senate Committee Passes Medical Marijuana, 4-3

CONTACT: Former Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover)......................................................(763) 439-1178

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- The Senate version of Minnesota's medical marijuana bill, S.F. 97, cleared its second hurdle in the Senate today, passing the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 4 to 3.

     "I am increasingly confident that this will be the year that Minnesota joins the 13 other states that have acted to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest," said bill sponsor Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing). "This is an issue where science, compassion and simple common sense come together."

     A previous version of the bill passed the Senate and every House committee in the 2007-2008 session, but was never brought up for a vote on the House floor. A hearing on the companion House bill is expected in the House Civil Justice Committee shortly.

     Thirteen states, comprising approximately one-quarter of the U.S. population, now permit medical use of marijuana under state law if a physician has recommended it. The newest such law was enacted by Michigan voters last November, passing with a record-setting 63 percent "yes" vote. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reaffirmed on Feb. 25 that the Obama administration intends to pursue a policy of non-interference with these state laws. Medical organizations that have recognized marijuana's medical uses include the American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, and American College of Physicians.


United States

How Come the Dutch Smoke Less Marijuana Than Americans?

You don't have to look very hard to find drug war zealots insisting vociferously that Dutch drug policy is a raging trainwreck. But the truth is that rates of marijuana use in the Netherlands are far lower than ours, despite the fact that they sell awesome pot over the counter seven days a week to anyone over 18.

That's why Dr. Fredrick Polak, a Dutch psychiatrist and drug policy reformer, has spent years trying to get U.N. Drug Czar Antonio Maria Costa to acknowledge and address the success of Dutch marijuana policy. He's asked Costa about this on 4 separate occasions so far and each time the U.N. drug czar changed the subject. Here's an awesome video of Dr. Polak causing Costa to go a little nuts (seriously watch it, it rocks).

Anyway, Dr. Polak has teamed up with the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union on a campaign to continue confronting Costa until he actually gives an intelligent response (or admits he doesn’t have one). They're asking for our help and they've made a cool new site where everyone can participate. Check it out.

California DMV Agrees to Let Medical Marijuana Patients Drive

Everywhere you look, the irrational persecution of medical marijuana patients is going out of style:

Oakland, CA -- The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issued a new policy yesterday with regard to how it treats qualified medical marijuana patients. The DMV Driver Safety Procedure Manual was revised to include reference to medical marijuana, stating that "use of medicinal marijuana approved by a physician should be handled in the same manner as any other prescription medication which may affect safe driving." [Americans for Safe Access]

The policy change stemmed from a lawsuit brought by Americans for Safe Access on behalf of a patient who lost her license despite decades of perfect driving. ASA notes that several counties in California have been designating patients as "drug abusers" solely due to their medical use of marijuana.

The mind-bending stupidity of all this is staggering when you consider the plethora of popular perfectly-legal pharmaceuticals that won't affect your driving privileges despite turning you into a slobbering zombie for 8 hours. Fortunately, the idiots who've been playing doctor/cop at California's DMV can look forward to a shiny new memo telling them to cut the crap.

Medical Marijuana Bill Faces Senate Committee Hearing Tuesday

Minnesota Cares logo


MARCH 2, 2009  

Medical Marijuana Bill Faces Senate Committee Hearing Tuesday

CONTACT: Former Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover)..........................................…………(763) 439-1178

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA — Minnesota's medical marijuana bill faces its next crucial committee test in the Senate Judiciary Committee this Tuesday. If passed, the measure would make Minnesota the 14th state to permit medical use of marijuana by seriously ill patients with a physician's recommendation. The newest such law, in Michigan, was passed by voters in November with a record-setting 63 percent voting "yes."

    WHAT: Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and vote on medical marijuana legislation
    WHO: Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing) and committee members
    WHEN: Tuesday, March 3, 3 p.m.
    WHERE: Rm. 15, State Capitol, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul

United States

Obama administration ends DEA raids in California!

Dear friends:

When I spoke with Barack Obama at a Capitol Hill reception in September 2004 (two months before his election to the U.S. Senate), he said he agreed with me that states should have the right to determine their own medical marijuana policies without federal interference.

That was the beginning of a series of events that culminated two days ago, when Attorney General Eric Holder announced — while standing next to the current DEA administrator — there will be no more DEA raids on medical marijuana establishments in California or elsewhere. This is significant, given that Holder is the "top cop" of the nation and the boss of the DEA!

Medical marijuana patients, dispensary owners and staffers, growers, MPP staffers, and other activists are breathing a sigh of relief ... having been terrorized by the Bush administration for eight years.  How did we get to this point?

Please watch this one-minute video clip of Obama responding to one of our campaign volunteers in New Hampshire on August 21, 2007, in the heat of the presidential primary campaign ...

After that, Obama publicly reiterated that he would discontinue Bush's policy, including in an interview with the editorial board of an Oregon paper. And, since Obama was elected, we've kept in touch with high-level staffers in the White House and on his transition team, as a way of keeping this issue on their radar screen until the policy was officially changed. 

Then, when Bush holdovers in the DEA raided five medical marijuana dispensaries in California in the days after Obama took office on January 20, MPP barraged the media and MPP members barraged the Obama administration to demand an end to the DEA's raids (and to fire the Bush holdovers).

And, of course, MPP and a host of other organizations — including conservative groups like Citizens Against Government Waste — have built support for the annual vote (from 2003 to 2007) on the House floor for an amendment that would have forbidden the DEA and the Justice Department from spending taxpayer money to subvert state-level medical marijuana laws.

All of this advocacy by thousands of patients, dispensary owners, volunteers, paid lobbyists, medical associations, and so many others has paid off. You did it; we all did it.

Now it's time for us to take our work to the next level by (1) enacting medical marijuana laws in Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York; (2) improving California's and Rhode Island's existing medical marijuana laws in order to provide licenses to dispensaries in both states; (3) reopening the federal "compassionate IND program" so that patients in all 50 states can obtain legal access to medical marijuana; and (4) passing our medical marijuana ballot initiative in Arizona in November 2010.

Please consider making a financial donation to all of this work.  Thanks so much ...

Kampia signature (e-mail sized)

Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

REPORTER:  "Right after the inauguration, there were some raids on California medical marijuana dispensaries. Was that a deliberate decision by you, by the Justice Department? As a prediction of policy going forward, do you expect those sorts of raids to continue? (muffled) The president said during the campaign —"

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER:  "Well, what the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing here in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign, he is formally and technically and by law my boss now, and so what he said during the campaign is now American policy."

Press Release: Attorney General Eric Holder Says Obama Administration Will End Bush's Policy of Arresting Medical Marijuana Patients and Providers

For Immediate Release: February 26, 2009 For More Information: Bill Piper at 202-669-6430 or Tony Papa at 646-420-7290 Attorney General Eric Holder Says Obama Administration Will End Bush’s Policy of Arresting Medical Marijuana Patients and Providers In response to a reporter’s question yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they are legal. His statement was the second time this month that the Obama Administration indicated they would discontinue President Bush’s controversial policy of arresting medical marijuana patients and providers. President Obama said on the campaign trail last year that he would end the raids. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided a medical marijuana dispensary in California on the day President Obama took office and raided several dispensaries on the day Eric Holder took office. Asked yesterday if such raids were going to continue, Holder said “No.” "What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy." In a statement a few weeks ago, a White House spokesperson said, "The President believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind." "Within 24 hours of taking office President Obama signaled his Administration would eliminate the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity and support federal funding for syringe exchange programs," said Ethan Nadelmann executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Now his attorney general is saying the Administration will let states set their own marijuana policies. While certainly not a high priority, it seems clear that the President wants to treat drug use as a health issue not a criminal justice issue."

Feature: California Assemblyman Introduces Landmark Bill to Legalize, Tax, and Regulate Marijuana

California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) told a press conference in his home town Monday he had introduced a bill that would create a system of taxed and regulated legal marijuana sales and production. If the bill were to pass, California would become the first state in the nation to break so decisively with decades of pot prohibition.
Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, sponsor of AB 390
Under the bill, AB 390, the state would license producers and distributors, who would pay an excise tax of $50 per ounce, or about $1 per joint. Anyone 21 or over could then purchase marijuana from a licensed distributor. The bill also would allow any adult to grow up to 10 plants for personal, non-commercial use. The bill would not alter California's medical marijuana law.

Ironically it was California which passed the nation's first marijuana prohibition bill, in 1913, according to a history compiled by Drug WarRant's Peter Guither. Federal marijuana prohibition was enacted in 1937.

As currently written, the taxation and regulation aspects of AB 390 would not go into effect until six months after federal marijuana laws were changed, but the removal of marijuana as a controlled substance under California law would go into effect upon passage of the bill. That is likely to change.

"We've just come through a torturous budget process in this state, and the marijuana industry in California is $14 billion going up in smoke," said Ammiano. "We need to capture some of that. This would also allow us to save money on law enforcement, incarceration, and even the environment."

According to research done by the state Board of Equalization, which handles taxes for the state, legalizing and taxing marijuana sales would generate about $1.3 billion in tax revenues a year. It would also, the board said, lead to a 50% decrease in retail prices.
Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan
"This is a responsible measure for prioritizing law enforcement," the board's Betty Yee told the assembled media. "These numbers are a credible new estimate."

"It's ironic that the largest cash crop in the state is not being taxed," said Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. "We need to devote our law enforcement resources to violent crime. We're losing the war. It's time for regulation and fiscal responsibility."

"This bill is a winning proposition for California's taxpayers," said Dale Gieringer of California NORML (CANORML). "In this time of economic crisis, it makes no sense for California to be wasting money on marijuana prohibition, when we could be reaping tax benefits from a legal, regulated market instead."

It also comes at a time when support for marijuana legalization on the West Coast has gained majority status. In a Zogby International poll released last week, 58% of West Coast respondents said they favored taxing and regulating marijuana.

"This is indicative of what an important moment we are at," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "This week, we saw Dan Walters, a middle of the road columnist for the Sacramento Bee do a column saying now is the time to do this. The Los Angeles Times said it was time for the feds to rethink this. There is a growing sense that Ammiano has captured that the way we've been dealing with marijuana since 1937 doesn't make a bit of sense and rethinking is required."
Judge James P. Gray, Orange County Superior Court
"This is landmark legislation," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "There has never been a legalization bill in the history of marijuana law reform. This is the first such bill."

But, St. Pierre revealed, before summer is here, at least two more states will see similar bills. "California is leading the country in the discussion, but it won't be by itself. By June, there will be 45 or 50 million people having a discussion about legalizing marijuana -- not decrim, not medical, not lowest law enforcement priority, but marijuana legalization."

"I think with the introduction of this bill, we have reached the tipping point in the discussion about marijuana," said St. Pierre. "When the largest state in the nation, facing crushing economic times, is forced to review the festering situation of all that untaxed marijuana and it already has the example of retail access through the dispensaries, the discussion has changed."

"You don't know if you're at the tipping point until you've gone past it, but we could be," said Mirken. "Nobody imagines it's going to get done overnight, but we've suddenly reached the point where it's no longer a fringe issue, and that's huge."

"I think this is the beginning of the end," said Southern California legalization activist Clifford Shaffer, creator of the Let Us Pay Taxes web site, which pleads "Take our Money Please," purportedly on behalf of the California marijuana industry. "A number of factors have come together, such as public education, the obvious failure of the drug war, and the economy, and they are producing a 'perfect storm' for reform. We will see big changes in the coming year and this bill is a good start," Shaffer predicted.

Acceptable progress this year, said Mirken, would be for the bill to move forward at all. "A good year would be getting a couple of committee hearings and though a couple of committees, laying the groundwork for actual passage in a year or two. The conversation was long overdue, but it has now been engaged."

"I'm not so naïve as to think it will pass this year," agreed CANORML's Gieringer. "I think the conflict with federal law will pose problems with law enforcement for sure, and we know the governor always supports law enforcement. This is the opening shot in a process that could take several years to work out, but we have now opened the debate. For all the years I've been dealing with this issue, politicians have been afraid to say anything more than medical marijuana or decriminalization, but as long as you don't move beyond decrim, you still get all the problems of prohibition," he argued.

"It's essential to get past decriminalization; it keeps the problems of prohibition and doesn't bring any revenue to the state," Gieringer continued. "We need a viable solution, not some half-baked one that wouldn't solve the problems. And I think we're close to having a majority here in California. I know we have majority support in Oakland, San Francisco, and other parts of Northern California. I think we're getting there."

It's been 96 years since California passed that first marijuana prohibition law. Can prohibition be ended before it enters its second century? Thanks to Assemblyman Ammiano's AB 390, we can dream that maybe it just might.

Job Opportunity II: Executive Director, Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, Providence, RI

The Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC) is hiring an executive director for its Providence office.

The executive director will lead RIPAC, both executing day-to-day operations and planning long-term strategic goals. The executive director will develop advocacy strategies and implement campaigns on the state and municipal levels. He or she will manage the organization's office and full-time and part-time staff, and administer the organization's finances and accounting. He or she will also be RIPAC's point person in conducting outreach to the media, other advocacy organizations, patients, caregivers, law enforcement, the medical profession, funders and citizens. This will include scheduling and facilitating educational presentations and patient meetings, and editing print publications and web pages. The executive director will secure RIPAC's six-figure annual budget through grants and donations. The successful candidate will enter training May 1, 2009 and assume full responsibility August 1, 2009. This is a full-time position with an annual salary of $40,000 plus flexible health benefits.

Qualifications include a college degree or equivalent experience, with preference given to candidates with backgrounds in law, law enforcement, or medicine; excellent organizational skills and attention to detail; excellent interpersonal communication skills and proven ability to quickly build and maintain relationships with individuals in medical, legal, and government settings; reliable access to a car and the ability to travel within Rhode Island as needed; excellent writing skills; and proficiency with Microsoft Office (including Word, PowerPoint, Excel). The ability to speak Spanish is an advantage, but is not required, and experience maintaining web sites in HTML is an advantage, but is not required.

To apply, send a cover letter, resume, and two professional references to RIPAC at or 145 Wayland Avenue, Providence, RI 02906. Applications will be accepted until February 28, 2009.

RIPAC is Rhode Island's grassroots medical marijuana community of patients, caregivers, and advocates. RIPAC connects and educates patients, doctors, nurses, lawyers, police, reporters, and legislators about medical marijuana in Rhode Island. RIPAC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Visit for further information.

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