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Another Crazy Medical Marijuana Lie From the Drug Czar

Our friends at MPP just caught the drug czar literally editing out the most important part of the American Medical Association's new position on medical marijuana. According to a new ONDCP "factsheet":

The American Medical Association: "To help facilitate scientific research and the development of cannabionoid-based medicines, the AMA adopted (a) new policy … This should not be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, or that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product."

Notice how it doesn't say what the "new policy…" actually is? That's because the original quote says, "the AMA adopted new policy urging the federal government to review marijuana’s status as a Schedule I substance." Leaving that part out isn't just confusing and dishonest; it looks ridiculous.

If it's now ok to use ellipses to pervert policy positions, maybe I'll just take AMA's statement and do this with it:

"This should…be viewed as an endorsement of state-based medical cannabis programs, the legalization of marijuana, [and] that scientific evidence on the therapeutic use of cannabis meets the current standards for a prescription drug product."

Yeah, I like the sound of that. But I'm not going to print it on a "factsheet," because it's not true.

As accustomed as I am to seeing the drug czar's office routinely deploying these sorts of sleazy semantic deceptions, I'm genuinely awed by this one. They buried the lead so blatantly that anyone who reads it ought to just end up wondering what the hell AMA's "new policy" on medical marijuana actually is. And once Google answers that question in a half-second, you might as well have just told the truth or scrubbed AMA off the site altogether like I suggested weeks ago.

NJ Medical Marijuana Trial Takes an Interesting Turn

Prosecutors in the trial of multiple sclerosis patient John Wilson probably aren’t too happy about this:

A judge reversed course today, allowing a man on trial for possession of 17 marijuana plants that he was growing during the summer of 2008 to testify about his medical condition.

Judge Robert Reed had earlier ruled that defendant John Ray Wilson could not present a defense based on this medical condition.

But then, after taking the stand in his own defense today, and after multiple conferences among the lawyers and the judge, Wilson was allowed to say "I told them(the arresting officers) I was not a drug dealer and I was using the marijuana for my MS(Multiple Sclerosis)." [NBC]

Unfortunately, that's all the judge would allow. Since New Jersey currently has no medical marijuana law, discussion of the defendant's medical use is considered prejudicial to the jury. We can only hope they got the message. John Wilson is a patient, not a criminal.

Regardless of the outcome here, this whole shameful episode powerfully illustrates the urgency of New Jersey's pending medical marijuana legislation. This trial should never have happened in the first place, but the least we can do is make sure it never happens again.

"No one threw bong water at me, but it came pretty close"

I enjoyed this story about Colorado State Senator Chris Romer's visit to the Cannabis Holiday Health Fair. As a proponent of stricter regulations that could close many Colorado dispensaries, Romer isn't exactly regarded as a friend of medical marijuana. Nevertheless, he used the event as an opportunity to build relationships and work to find common ground with the patient community. It sounds like a lot of people were impressed to learn how well he understood the issue.

There's an important lesson here for folks on either side (or stuck in the middle) of any debate over public policy regarding medical marijuana (and hopefully other pending reforms). Romer approached the conflict by trying to open more dialogue, rather than sitting in an office somewhere plotting against people. In the process, he was able to build some sympathy for his position, while also gaining some sympathy for the concerns of his opponents.

Supporters of medical marijuana should also take note of the bad publicity you earn by lashing out against opponents in an unprofessional way. The article quotes Romer saying that, "I did have some people yelling at me and throwing F-bombs." In an otherwise positive article about open communication between patients and politicians, this unnecessary ugliness stood out and reflected badly on the patient community. Bitterness and hostility are in no short supply when it comes to debating drug policy, but it's best to vent such frustrations among friends and never in the company of those we hope to influence. People who don't already agree with you will usually mistake your fury for craziness.

Still, I think there's a positive message here about how communities can work together to make drug policy reforms work in everyone's best interest. As medical marijuana continues to gain ground and broader legalization builds momentum, it's going to become necessary for competing interests to cooperate and find common ground. That's what has to happen and every good example we set goes a long way.

Latest Drug War Lie: Debating Medical Marijuana Causes More Kids to Smoke Pot

New data on youth drug use was released today and, as we've come to expect, the drug warriors would rather lie about it than learn from it. Instead of focusing on the fact that more high school seniors are smoking marijuana than cigarettes (proving what a perfect failure our marijuana laws truly are), the drug czar and his minions tried to claim that debating drug policies causes more young people to do drugs:

The increase of teens smoking pot is partly because the national debate over medical use of marijuana can make the drug's use seem safer to teenagers, researchers said. In addition to marijuana, fewer teens also view prescription drugs and Ecstasy as dangerous, which often means more could use those drugs in the future, said White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske.

The "continued erosion in youth attitudes and behavior toward substance abuse should give pause to all parents and policy-makers," Kerlikowske said. [AP]

Wait, what was that about the medical marijuana debate causing an increase in teen pot-smoking? According to The Associated Press, that's what the "researchers said," but the only reference to medical marijuana in the whole study tells a more interesting story:

Marijuana use began to decline in 1997 among 8th graders and then did the same in 1998 among 10th and 12th graders. The rate of decline was rather modest, however, perhaps due in part to effects of the public debates over medical use of marijuana during that period.

So they never said marijuana use "increased" because of the medical marijuana debate. Not even close. All they did was speculate that a decrease -- which took place 12 years ago – would "perhaps" have been steeper if it weren't for the debate over medical marijuana. I'll give you one guess where I'm about to go with this…

Teen marijuana use declined following the emergence of a national debate over medical marijuana. That's what actually happened and the suggestion that such declines would have been greater if it weren't for marijuana activism is about as logical as arguing that Sgt. Pepper would have been an even better record if The Beatles weren't on acid.

Rates of high school marijuana use had been climbing rapidly until 1996, when California voters legalized medical marijuana, after which point they declined for 10 years straight. Now I'm not saying that the debate over medical marijuana caused a reduction in teen marijuana use, but even if I did, it would still make a lot more sense than what we read yesterday from The Associated Press.

Of course, I completely understand that journalists can’t possibly read and digest a 700+ page report. That's understandable, as is some reliance on press releases when piecing a story together. But if you're getting all your information from the drug czar, you should be awfully careful not to get taken advantage of. A really good sign that you've been completely worked over is if you end up reporting that the legalization debate causes kids to do drugs.

Europe: Czech Government Announces Decriminalization Quantities; Law Goes Into Effect on New Year’s Day

The Czech cabinet Monday approved a Justice Ministry proposal that sets personal use quantity limits for illicit drugs under a penal code revision that decriminalizes drug possession in the Czech Republic. The law and its quantity limits will take effect on January 1. The Czech government had approved the decriminalization law late last year, but failed to set precise quantities covered by it, instead leaving it to police and prosecutors to determine what constituted a “larger than small” amount of drugs. The resulting confusion--and the prosecution of some small-scale marijuana growers as drug traffickers--led the government to adopt more precise criteria. Under the new law, possession of less than the following amounts of illicit drugs will not be a criminal offense: Marijuana 15 grams (or five plants) Hashish 5 grams Magic mushrooms 40 pieces Peyote 5 plants LSD 5 tablets Ecstasy 4 tablets Amphetamine 2 grams Methamphetamine 2 grams Heroin 1.5 grams Coca 5 plants Cocaine 1 gram Possession of “larger than a small amount” of marijuana can result in a jail sentence of up to one year. For other illicit drugs, the sentence is two years. Trafficking offenses carry stiffer sentences. Justice Minister Daniela Kovarova said that the ministry had originally proposed decriminalizing the possession of up to two grams of hard drugs, but decided that limits being imposed by courts this year were appropriate. "The government finally decided that it would stick to the current court practice and drafted a table based on these limits," Kovarova said. The Czech Republic now joins Portugal as a European country that has decriminalized drug possession.
Czech Republic

Final Medical Marijuana Meeting at Iowa Board of Pharmacy

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy will hold a special, one-day meeting to decide the medical marijuana issue. This meeting will be open to the public. For more information, please contact: Lloyd K.Jessen, R.Ph., J.D. Executive Director Iowa Board of Pharmacy RiverPoint Business Park 400 SW 8th Street, Suite E Des Moines, Iowa 50309-4688 (515) 281-5944
Wed, 02/17/2010 - 9:00am - 5:00pm
600 East Locust Street
Des Moines, IA
United States

Man Gets Tased and Dies After Trying to Swallow Marijuana During Police Encounter

I just can't possibly tell you emphatically enough, if you're approached by police, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO EAT YOUR STASH:

It's just chilling to watch this young man struggle for his life. The tasing certainly didn’t help either, but I'm not ready to join the ranks of commenters I've seen around the web who are calling this a murder. From what I can see, the officers did as they were trained and it's just a shame that police are now encouraged to zap anyone who struggles with them. It's unclear to me whether the tasing contributed to the choking and/or whether some of Grande's resistance was caused by his inability to breathe.

What is clear as day, however, is that Andrew Grande would still be alive today if it weren't a crime to possess marijuana. As long as police continue to arrest and criminally charge marijuana users, there will be no end to tragedies like this one. It may be easy for some to blame Grande's panic-induced actions for his death, but that's only half the story. If fear of our drug laws leads people to take such risks, then there is something wrong with our drug laws.

The leaders of the war on drugs are constantly claiming that they are only trying to help people like Andrew Grande. The drug czar upon taking office exclaimed, "we're not at war with people in this country," and he might even genuinely believe that to be true. But such assurances are worthless as long as people are so intimidated that they'd sooner risk choking to death than receive the sort of "help" our drug policy is known for.

Victory! Congress lifts ban on Washington, D.C.'s medical marijuana law

Dear friends:

The great news just keeps coming in.

Minutes ago, Congress voted to finally lift the 11-year ban on Washington, D.C.’s medical marijuana law.

The House voted 221-202 and the Senate voted 57-35 to approve the measure.

For the last 11 years, under a provision known as the Barr amendment, Congress has prevented Washington, D.C. from implementing the medical marijuana law passed by 69% of voters in 1998.

Repealing this amendment has been a primary focus of MPP's federal lobbying efforts for many years. In 2007, we even hired former Congressman Bob Barr (R-Ga.) — the original author of the amendment — to lobby to overturn it. And our lobbyists have worked directly with members of the House and Senate and their staff since 2006 to eliminate this democracy-unfriendly law.

In fact, senior appropriators in Congress sought out MPP staff to work through specifics and to help better understand D.C.'s medical marijuana law and the complicated legal maneuverings that led to the blocking of its implementation.  

MPP would like to thank Congressmen Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), Dave Obey (D-Wis.), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) for their strong and abiding support of allowing D.C. to implement its medical marijuana law.

I also want to thank MPP's 29,000 dues-paying members, whose support helped to make this win possible. If you'd like to see more of these kinds of successes, I hope you'll donate to MPP's federal lobbying efforts. We're turning supporters' donations into results, and we can't do it without you.

Today's vote represents a victory not just for medical marijuana patients, but for all Americans, who have the right to determine their own policies without federal meddling. We'll be celebrating this victory in D.C. at our anniversary gala on January 13, and I hope you'll join us.



Rob Kampia

Executive Director

Marijuana Policy Project

Washington, D.C.

P.S. Time is running out on our matching campaign! A major philanthropist has committed to match the first $2.35 million that MPP can raise in 2009. Make twice the impact and donate today.

Washington, DC
United States

Congress Ends Ban on Medical Marijuana in Washington, D.C.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                 

DECEMBER 13, 2009

Congress Ends Ban on Medical Marijuana in Washington, D.C.

Only Obama’s Signature Now Needed on Historic Measure

CONTACT: Aaron Houston, MPP director of government relations ……………………… 202-420-1031

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Senate today passed historic legislation to end the decade long ban on implementation of the medical marijuana law Washington, D.C. voters passed in 1998.

            “This marks the first time in history that Congress has changed a marijuana law for the better,” said Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C.

            The “Barr amendment,” a rider attached to appropriations for the District, has forbidden D.C. from extending legal protection to qualified medical marijuana patients and has long been derided as an unconscionable intrusion by the federal government into the District's affairs. The omnibus spending bill, now approved by both chambers of Congress, removes this onerous provision, allowing the District to finally implement its voter-approved law. President Obama is expected to sign the bill shortly.

          “This is not only a huge victory for medical marijuana patients and for D.C. self-government, it marks a history-making shift on the medical marijuana issue," Houston said. “This is the first time Congress has ever given its assent to a state or local law that permits medical use of marijuana. It shows that Congress is listening to voters, who have supported protection for medical marijuana patients for well over a decade, as well as to the medical community’s growing recognition of marijuana’s medical value.

         “Coming on top of the announcement that the Department of Justice will not interfere with state medical marijuana laws, this shows that the ground has fundamentally shifted. It’s time for the federal government to take the logical next step as the American Medical Association just suggested, and reconsider marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I drug, which bars medical use.”

         Congressman Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) originally removed the ban from the D.C. appropriations bill back in July after years of working to protect patients in Washington, D.C. Congressman David Obey (D-Wis.) helped ensure that the change made it through the legislative process and into the omnibus spending bill Congress passed today.

         Medical marijuana is legal under the laws of 13 states, with bills under consideration in several others, including New York, New Jersey, and Illinois.

         With more than 29,000 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


Washington, DC
United States

Congress: Budget Deal Includes Series of Drug Reform Victories

US House and Senate negotiators in conference committee approved the finishing touches on the Fiscal Year 2010 budget Tuesday night, and they included a number of early Christmas presents for different drug reform constituencies. It isn't quite a done deal yet -- this negotiated version of the FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act must now win final approval on both the House and Senate floors. But they are up-or-down, no-amendments-allowed votes -- if the bill passes, it will include the drug reforms.
US Capitol, Senate side
What the conference committee approved:

  • Ending the ban on federal funding for needle exchange programs -- without previous language that would have banned them from operating within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, and similar facilities. (Instead it seems to give local authorities the ability to overrule state or other officials on location choices.)
  • Ending the ban on the use of federal funds for needle exchanges in the District of Columbia.
  • Allowing the District of Columbia to implement the medical marijuana initiative passed by voters in 1998 but blocked by congressional diktat ever since.
  • Cutting funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy's National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign from $70 million this year to $45 million next year.

In a news release after agreement was reached, this is how the committee described the language on needle exchange:

Modifies a prohibition on the use of funds in the Act for needle exchange programs; the revised provision prohibits the use of funds in this Act for needle exchange programs in any location that local public health or law enforcement agencies determine to be inappropriate.

Its description of the DC appropriations language:

Removing Special Restrictions on the District of Columbia: ...Also allows the District to implement a referendum on use of marijuana for medical purposes as has been done in other states, allows use of Federal funds for needle exchange programs except in locations considered inappropriate by District authorities.

And its language on the youth media campaign:

National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign: $45 million, $25 million below 2009 and the budget request, for a national ad campaign providing anti-drug messages directed at youth. Reductions were made in this program because of evaluations questioning its effectiveness. Part of the savings was redirected to other ONDCP drug-abuse-reduction programs.

Citing both reforms in the states -- from medical marijuana to sentencing reform -- as well as the conference committee's actions, Drug Policy Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann stopped just short of declaring victory Wednesday. "It's too soon to say that America's long national nightmare -- the war on drugs --is really over," Nadelmann. "But yesterday's action on Capitol Hill provides unprecedented evidence that Congress is at last coming to its senses when it comes to national drug control policy."

As noted above, there are still two votes to go, and reformers are applying the pressure until it is a done deal. "Hundreds of thousands of Americans will get HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C if Congress does not repeal the federal syringe funding ban," said Bill Piper, DPA national affairs director. "The science is overwhelming that syringe exchange programs reduce the spread of infectious diseases without increasing drug use. We will make sure the American people know which members of Congress stand in the way of repealing the ban and saving lives."

Washington, DC, residents got a two-fer from the committee when it approved ending the ban on the District funding needle exchanges and undoing the Barr Amendment, the work of erstwhile drug warrior turned reformer former Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA). Barr's amendment forbade the District from implementing the 1998 medical marijuana initiative, which won with 69% of the vote.

"Congress is close to making good on President Obama's promise to stop the federal government from undermining local efforts to provide relief to cancer, HIV/AIDS and other patients who need medical marijuana," said Naomi Long, the DC Metro director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "DC voters overwhelmingly voted to legalize marijuana for medical use and Congress should have never stood in the way of implementing the will of the people."

"The end of the Barr amendment is now in sight," said Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. "This represents a huge victory not just for medical marijuana patients, but for all city residents who have every right to set their own policies in their own District without congressional meddling. DC residents overwhelmingly made the sensible, compassionate decision to pass a medical marijuana law, and now, more than 10 years later, suffering Washingtonians may finally be allowed to focus on treating their pain without fearing arrest."

Medical marijuana in the shadow of the Capitol? Federal dollars being spent on proven harm reduction techniques? Congress not micromanaging DC affairs? What is the world, or at least Washington, coming to?

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