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Medical Marijuana Regulations: We need your input!

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Sensible Colorado - working for an effective drug policy

 


Medical Marijuana Regulations:  We need your guidance 

 

Dear Supporters of Sensible Drug Policy,
 
Interesting news!

 

Colorado State Senator Chris Romer has requested that Sensible Colorado contact our large database of patients and supporters to request input on a bill he plans to run in 2010-- a statewide bill to Regulate Medical Marijuana Sales.  Senator Romer has told Sensible Colorado that he wants to see our state become a leader in alternative therapies-- including medical marijuana-- for all seriously ill people. 
 
The Senator wants to hear from you.  Please take advantage of this unique opportunity to help shape the future of medical marijuana in Colorado.  Contact Sen. Romer today with your guidance and comments at:  sen.romer@gmail.com.  To assist with this process, we have linked a copy of Sensible Colorado's White Paper titled "Medical Marijuana Dispensaries:  Benefits and Regulation" HERE and have included an email template below.    
 
--Here is a sample email--
 
Dear Sen. Romer,
 
On behalf of Sensible Colorado and the movement for safe access in Colorado, I applaud you for examining the important issue of medical marijuana regulation in our state.  It is vital that Colorado's sick patients have safe and reliable access to this doctor-recommended medicine.  Please keep in mind that medical marijuana dispensaries are utilized by the sickest members of your community, so please act to preserve these facilities.  Here are some ideas for sensible regulation:
 
-- Arbitrary caps on the number of dispensaries can be counterproductive.  Policymakers do not need to set arbitrary limitations on the number of dispensaries allowed to operate within a community because, as with other services, competitive market forces will be decisive. 
 
--Regulations are best handled by Health and Planning Departments, not law enforcement.  Let's leave medical issues to health professionals.  Law enforcement agencies, having little expertise in health and medical affairs, are ill-suited for handling such matters.
 
--Restrictions on the locations of dispensaries are often unnecessary and can create barriers to access.  Certainly we don't want dispensaries-- or liquor stores for that matter-- next to schools.  However, patients benefit from dispensaries being convenient and accessible, especially if the patients are disabled. 
 
--Patients benefit from onsite consumption and proper ventilation systems.  Dispensaries that allow patients to consume medicine onsite encourage members to take advantage of non-marijuana, therapy services and allow for greater social interaction, which can have positive psychosocial health benefits for this chronically ill population.  
 

Thanks for your time and for the opportunity to comment on this important topic.
 
Sincerely,
 
[NAME]

Sensible Colorado | PO Box 18768 | Denver CO 80218

Location: 
CO
United States

Our Side: San Diego ASA Protests State Narcs Lobby Awards

San Diego's ASA chapter protested outside the California Narcotics Officers Association awards ceremony this week. As well they should -- CNOA is a statewide drug police union that has a nasty habit of publishing some of the most warped propaganda about the drug war I've seen. Larger copies of the protest photos, and more of them, online here.
Location: 
San Diego, CA
United States

Nice Article on Wisconsin's Medical Marijuana Bill and the Movement Supporting It

The Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act, a bill named after a well-known Wisconsin medical marijuana patient and activist, was mentioned here last week. Check out another article about from two days ago in the Express Milwaukee newspaper, Medical Marijuana Advocates Won't Wait. Good article -- and good title, why should they have to wait?
Location: 
WI
United States

Public Opinion: In Gallup Poll, Support for Legalizing Marijuana Reaches All-Time High, Majority in West

According to the most recent Gallup poll, 44% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, while 54% oppose it. The 44% figure is the highest since Gallup began polling on the issue nearly 40 years ago.

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In 1970, only 12% of respondents favored legalization. That figure climbed to 28% in 1977, then declined slightly and reached a plateau with support holding at around 25% for the next two decades. But in the past decade, public opinion has begun to shift, with support hitting 34% in 2002, 36% in 2006, and now, 44%.

Conversely, opposition to legalization is now at an all-time low. It was 84% in 1970, 66% in 1977, and around 73% for most of the Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton eras. But beginning in about 1996, opposition began to decline, dropping to 62% in 2002, 60% in 2006, and now, 54%.

A related question -- whether marijuana should be legalized and taxed to raise revenues for state governments -- won similar support levels in the Gallup poll. Some 42% of respondents said they would favor such a move in their state, while 56% were opposed. In the West, however, support for tax and legalize has gone over the top; 53% favor such an approach.

Looking at various demographic groups, support for marijuana legalization is highest among self-described liberals, at 78%. Only 26% of conservatives and 46% of moderates supported legalization. Similarly, 54% of Democrats, 49% of independents, and 28% of Republicans supported legalization.

There is also a clear generational divide. Half of those under age 50 support legalization, compared to 45% aged 50 to 64, and only 28% of seniors.

Support for legalization has swollen among certain demographic groups since the last Gallup poll on the issue in 2005. The number in favor of legalization jumped more than 10 points among women (+12), young people (+11), Democrats (+13), liberals (+15), moderates (+11), and residents of the West (+13).

If these rates of increase in support for legalization continue over the medium term, the world as we know may indeed end in 2012.

Medical Marijuana: California Judge Issues Injunction Blocking LA Dispensary Moratorium

A California Superior Court judge ruled Monday that the City of Los Angeles' moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries is invalid and granted a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the ban. The Green Oasis dispensary and a number of other collectives sued the city last month seeking to overturn the moratorium.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ventura-dispensary.jpg
medical marijuana dispensary, Ventura Blvd., LA (courtesy wikimedia.org)
They argued that the City Council violated state law when it extended its original moratorium in March. They also argued the measure was unconstitutionally vague.

Superior Court Judge James Chalfant concluded that the city did not follow state law when it moved to extend the moratorium, but had instead relied on an out-of-date local ordinance. "The city cannot rely on an expired ordinance," he said as he issued the injunction.

The injunction applies only to Green Oasis, but the ruling appears to challenge the city's ability to enforce the moratorium against the hundreds of dispensaries that have opened in the city in the last two years. According to some estimates, the city could have as many as a thousand dispensaries operating right now. With the Green Oasis ruling, other dispensaries will be inspired to join the lawsuit or file lawsuits of their own.

The ruling only adds to the confusion around the legality of dispensaries in California in general and Los Angeles in particular. Also on Monday, the Obama administration issued a memo saying that prosecuting medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal should not occur unless the providers are violating state law. But last week, LA District Attorney Steve Cooley argued that under his interpretation of state law, "100%" of LA dispensaries are illegal, and he was going to move against them.

In the meantime, more dispensaries continue to open in Los Angeles. And now, in the wake of this week's ruling, the LA city council is moving in an expedited manner to get a handle on them. It expects to have plans in place next week to begin to shut down hundreds. This is a battle that is far from over.

Europe: In Opinion Poll, Romanians Reject Marijuana Legalization

Last month, a Romanian presidential committee recommended decriminalizing the possession of "soft" drugs, implementing needle exchange programs, and legalizing prostitution. A poll this month suggests the committee and President Traian Băsescu have some work to do in winning over the Romanian public -- at least on the drugs issue.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/traianbasescu.jpg
Traian Băsescu
According to a poll conducted by eResearch Corporation, an Angus-Reid affiliate, only 34% of Romanians agree with decriminalization, while 59% oppose it.

Băsescu came to power in 2004 as head of the Alliance for Truth and Justice, a coalition consisting of the Democratic and National Liberal parties, and vowed to institute reforms in the former communist satrapy. His Presidential Committee for the Analysis of Social and Demographic Risk was part of that pledge.

"Drug abuse needs to be discouraged, but with the adequate difference made between soft drugs and hard drugs, especially the ones injected such as heroin, which have devastating negative effects," the report said. But the report also called for "disincrimination (sic) of drug consumption -- but not of trafficking -- to bring consumers to the surface."

According to another eResearch poll, Romanians are going for bringing sex work in from the cold. That poll found that 56% supported legalizing prostitution, while only 37% opposed it.

Feature: Justice Department Issues Medical Marijuana Policy Memo -- No Prosecutions If Complying With State Law

In a new federal medical marijuana policy memo issued Monday to the DEA, FBI, and US Attorneys around the country, the Justice Department told prosecutors that medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal should not be targeted for federal prosecution unless they are violating state law. The memo formalizes statements made by Attorney General Eric Holder in February and March that going after pot-smoking patients and their suppliers would not be a high Justice Department priority .

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/wisconsin-medmj-demo-2009.jpg
Madison, WI medical marijuana march, this month, by 'Is My Medicine Legal Yet?'
The memo marks a sharp break with federal policy under the Clinton and Bush administrations, both of which aggressively targeted medical marijuana operations, especially in California, the state that has the broadest law and the highest number of medical marijuana patients.

The announcement of the policy shift won kudos from the marijuana and broader drug reform movement. But some reformers questioned what the shift would actually mean on the ground, pointing to DEA raids and federal prosecutions that have occurred since Holder's signal this spring that the feds were to back off, as well as continuing controversies, especially in California, over what exactly is legal under state law. Others noted that for real protection to be in place, federal law -- not just prosecutorial policy -- needs to change.

Not everyone was pleased with the move. Comments critical of the move have come down from some conservative politicians and a handful of newspaper editorial boards. But they appear to be a distinct minority.

In the memo, federal prosecutors were told that going after people who use or provide medical marijuana in accordance with state law was not the best use of their time or resources. According to the memo, while the Justice Department continues to make enforcing federal drug laws a key mission:

"As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources."

But the memo also said that federal prosecutors should continue to target marijuana production or sales operations that are illicit but hiding behind state medical marijuana laws. It explicitly singled out cases which involve violence, the illegal use of firearms, selling pot to minors, money laundering or involvement in other crimes.

"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal," said Attorney General Holder.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/dojmemo.jpg
DOJ memo
Head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske was quick to point out that the memo didn't legalize marijuana or medical marijuana, and that prosecutions could continue. "It is important to recognize that these guidelines provide clarity for federal prosecutors regarding the appropriate use of federal resources," he said in a statement Monday. "They do not declare marijuana, whether 'medical' or not, as legal under federal law; nor do they preclude the appropriate prosecution, under federal law, of marijuana dispensaries in those states that allow them. The Department of Justice's guidelines strike a balance between efficient use of limited law enforcement resources, and a tough stance against those whose violations of state law jeopardize public health and safety. Enforcing the law against those who unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit will continue to be an enforcement priority for the US government," the drug czar warned.

The DEA was also quick to point out that while it "welcomes" the new guidelines, it will continue to go after "criminals." "These guidelines do not legalize marijuana," the agency said in a Thursday statement. "It is not the practice or policy of DEA to target individuals with serious medical conditions who comply with state laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Consistent with the DOJ guidelines, we will continue to identify and investigate any criminal organization or individual who unlawfully grows, markets or distributes marijuana or other dangerous drugs. Those who unlawfully possess firearms, commit acts of violence, provide drugs to minors, or have ties to other criminal organizations may also be subject to arrest."

Despite the disclaimers and demurrals, patient advocates hailed the move. "This is a huge victory for medical marijuana patients," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, the nationwide medical marijuana advocacy organization, which had been in negotiations with the Justice Department to get written guidelines issued. "This indicates that President Obama intends to keep his promise not to undermine state medical marijuana laws and represents a significant departure from the policies of the Bush Administration," continued Sherer. "We will continue to work with President Obama, the Justice Department, and the US Congress to establish a comprehensive national policy, but it's good to know that in the meantime states can implement medical marijuana laws without interference from the federal government."

"This is the most significant, positive policy development on the federal level for medical marijuana since 1978," said the Marijuana Policy Project in a message to its list members Monday.

"It's great to see the Obama administration making good on the promises that candidate Obama made last year. These new guidelines effectively open the door to sensible collaboration between state governments and medical marijuana providers in ensuring that patients have safe and reliable access to their medicine," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "What remains unclear is how the Justice Department will respond to rogue state attorneys, such as San Diego's Bonnie Dumanis, who persist in undermining state medical marijuana laws in their local jurisdictions. Now is the right time for the Obama administration to move forward with federal legislation to end the irrational prohibition of medical marijuana under federal law."

While the policy memo was "encouraging," the "proof will be in the pudding," said California NORML head Dale Gieringer, who also cited the recent raids in San Diego, as well as the August federal indictment of two Lake County medical marijuana providers. "Note that the new Obama policy has a glaring loophole, emphasizing that 'prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing which cases to pursue, and... it is not a good use of federal manpower to prosecute those who are without a doubt in compliance with state law,'" Gieringer said. "The salient question is, who decides what is 'without a doubt' in compliance with state law? As shown by the recent statements of LA's DA and City Attorney, there exist significant doubts about the legality of most dispensaries in California. It remains to be seen how far the administration's new policy guidelines will go to prevent further abuses, when what is really needed is fundamental reform of federal laws and regulations."

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley was not concerned about the subtleties of the policy shift as much as he was about turning a blind eye to a violation of federal law. "I think that marijuana is a gateway to harder drug use," Grassley said in a Wednesday statement. "Medical marijuana brings a certain amount of legitimacy to an illegal drug, even though it attempts to do it in a legal way. We have a federal law that is intended to outlaw its use. That federal law ought to be enforced. It was enforced in the previous administration and I think having a national program against drug use is very, very important."

Demonstrating a lack of information about who is supplying California medical marijuana dispensaries, Grassley attempted to link them to Mexican drug cartels. While some medical marijuana providers may be acting legally under state law, he said, "most of the marijuana that flows into the United States comes from the drug lords."

But Grassley appeared to be fighting a lonely rear-guard action. In what may be a sign that even politicians in Washington understand the popularity of medical marijuana, the Obama administration move has generated little other critical comment from the right or from the mainstream media. While numerous newspaper editorial boards have come out in favor of the move, the Christian Science Monitor was nearly alone among major newspapers in condemning it.

And so opens the next chapter in America's long, twisted path to the acceptance of medical marijuana.

Medical Marijuana Isn't a Trojan Horse. The Drug War is a Trojan Horse.

Charles Lane at The Washington Post stepped in it big time yesterday with an awful piece that literally had to be edited after publication for shocking insensitivity. Now he's returned with another, falling back on the desperate argument that medical marijuana is a Trojan Horse for recreational legalization.

Listen, medical marijuana isn't a trick and it's pathetic to pretend that the people trying to legalize marijuana are behaving surreptitiously when we've been screaming "legalize marijuana" at the top of our lungs for a damn long time now. You can't blame us for the fact that the medical marijuana debate necessarily serves to illustrate so much about the absurdity of marijuana prohibition as a whole. Nor does it in any way undermine our credibility when we place the interests of seriously ill patients before those of casual users when setting our political priorities.

Critics of medical marijuana advocacy often accuse us of demanding unusual regulatory exceptions for marijuana, complaining that it hasn’t been approved by the FDA and that the whole concept of medicine by referendum is absurd, as though there exists any other path for us to take. It really shouldn’t be necessary to explain all the ways in which endemic and entrenched anti-pot prejudice across numerous government agencies renders preposterous any notion that we could just play this out by the usual rules. We've been trying that for decades now and we get cheated at every turn, so you can save your appeals to procedure.

Marijuana can't be treated like other medicines, because it's nothing like them. It was here first and it's vastly cheaper, safer, and more versatile than its modern pharmaceutical counterparts. It's a bush that just grows out of the ground and what we want is for the government to stop arresting people who've found ways to use it. There's nothing even the least bit complicated or disingenuous about that.

Those who now lament the cascading political momentum of medical marijuana as some sort of grand conspiracy have it exactly backwards. Marijuana was prohibited through a vicious series of outrageous lies and perversions of science. We all know the history of racism, demagoguery, and blind hysteria that somehow turned a helpful plant into a scary satanic deathbush. From the very beginning, there has never been a time when any of this made sense. To now stand proudly atop the pedestal of prohibition while questioning our credibility and our motives is just insane.

Yes, there is a massive lie at the center of this debate, but we're not the ones telling it. The drug war itself is the true Trojan Horse that masquerades as a symbol of health and safety, while harboring destruction within its folds.

On the heels of victory...

Dear friends:

Following the enormous victory for medical marijuana patients and their caregivers on Monday, a strong MPP champion on Capitol Hill, Congressman Sam Farr (D-Calif.), plans to introduce an important bill in Congress next week.

While the new Department of Justice policy creates a de facto protection for patients and caregivers who are "in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana," the Farr bill — which MPP staff helped write years ago — will codify this protection in law.

It will also address another injustice:  Currently, medical marijuana patients in the 13 states where medical marijuana is legal are barred from telling federal jurors that their use of marijuana was for medical purposes, even when state laws explicitly permit medical use. Congressman Farr's Truth in Trials Act would guarantee defendants in federal medical marijuana cases the right to explain that their marijuana was for medical use. And more importantly, defendants could be found not guilty if the jury finds that they followed state medical marijuana laws.
 
Will you please urge your member of Congress to co-sponsor this legislation? MPP's online action system makes it easy: Just enter your contact information and we'll do the rest.

This is such an exciting time for our issue. Thank you for standing with us in the fight.

Sincerely,

 

Rob Signature

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

P.S. As I've mentioned in previous alerts, a major philanthropist has committed to match the first $2.35 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2009. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

Press Release: U.S. Attorney’s Announcement Brings New Hope for Medical Marijuana Bill in New Hampshire

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE           

OCTOBER 22, 2009

 

U.S. Attorney’s Announcement Brings New Hope for Medical Marijuana Bill in New Hampshire

Medical marijuana vote Oct. 28; poll shows 71% support

CONTACT: Matt Simon, NH Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy…………………(603) 391-7450

CONCORD – Patients and their advocates received new hope Tuesday in their effort to pass a medical marijuana bill in New Hampshire.  The U.S. attorney for New Hampshire, John Kacavas, announced that his department will not prosecute seriously ill patients who use marijuana to relieve their suffering.

The statement from Kacavas came one day after the Obama administration issued guidelines to federal prosecutors and the DEA directing them not to expend limited resources prosecuting medical marijuana patients in states where doctors may legally recommend the drug.  Kacavas went a step further, telling reporters his office would not prosecute patients for possessing marijuana regardless of whether HB 648 passes or fails. 

When the bill was debated earlier this year, many legislators expressed concern that a New Hampshire law could not protect patients from federal prosecutions.  In light of Kacavas’ announcement, advocates say it is now clear that patients have nothing to fear from federal agents in New Hampshire.

“It’s great to hear that I’m safe from the federal authorities,” said 24-year old Clayton Holton, a Somersworth resident who suffers from muscular dystrophy and lost his ability to walk at age 10.  “Unfortunately, if HB 648 doesn’t pass, I’ll still have to live in fear of New Hampshire state and local police.”

A 2008 Mason-Dixon poll showed that 71% of New Hampshire voters support allowing seriously and terminally ill patients access to medical marijuana for personal use if their doctors recommend it.

Matt Simon, executive director for the NH Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy, praised the announcement from Kacavas but pointed out that of the more than 800,000 marijuana arrests that take place each year in the US, 99% are made by state and local law enforcement officers.  “If legislators want to see some of New Hampshire’s most vulnerable citizens receive protection from arrest, there is no good reason left for them to vote against HB 648,” he said.

Cancer survivor Dennis Acton, a Fremont resident, also cheered the new development.  “It’s great to see the federal government finally acknowledging that states should be free to determine their own policies,” he said.  “Now it’s clear that the responsibility of changing this law rests with our own state legislature, and nobody else.”

The bill is scheduled for a final vote in the House and Senate Oct. 28.  Two-thirds majorities will be necessary to override Gov. John Lynch’s veto and pass the bill into law.  When the bill passed June 24, the House vote was 232-108 (68%) and the Senate vote was 14-10, only two votes short of the override threshold.

Location: 
NH
United States

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