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Did You Know? Teen Marijuana Use Rates in Medical Marijuana States vs. Other States, on ProCon.org

Did you know that teen marijuana use dropped following the passage of state medical marijuana laws, in states that have such laws (on average) as well as in other states?

See Teen Marijuana Use, 1999-2006, on the web site medicalmarijuana.procon.org, part of the ProCon family.

Follow Drug War Chronicle for more important facts from ProCon.org over the next several weeks, or sign up for ProCon.org's email list or RSS feed. To read last week's ProCon "Did You Know" blurb, click here.

ProCon.org is a web site promoting critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship by presenting controversial issues in a straightforward, nonpartisan primarily pro-con format.

Synthetic "Legal" Marijuana is Becoming Popular, So They're Trying to Ban it

One of the most interesting and least-discussed issues in drug policy over the past year is the emergence of synthetic marijuana products, sold under names such Spice and K2, which are being sold openly in head shops around the country. There's one important difference between this and the fake pot that's been advertised in High Times for many years…it actually gets you high.

The manufacturers behind this trend are reluctant to explain what's in their product, but the consensus seems to be that they've synthesized a unique combination of cannabinoids that aren't technically marijuana, but sure as hell do the trick. I'm not a scientist, but I've tried the stuff and it's legit. The effects, coupled with the fact that it's sold in stores and doesn’t come up on any drug tests is enough to get a lot of people pretty excited about it.

I'm a little confused about the legality of all this, given the breadth of federal legislation dealing with synthetic drugs. Nevertheless, legislators in Kansas and Missouri are trying to ban it, which gives the impression that it's legal for now:

Missouri state Rep. Ward Franz, R-West Plains sponsored a bill that would add K2 to Missouri’s list of illegal drugs. That bill was heard before the House Public Safety committee Tuesday.

"We don’t know much about this, but it’s going to end up killing somebody," Franz said.

Or maybe it will cure cancer. Jut because it's a drug and people like it doesn’t mean anyone has to die. In a sane society, the invention of a substance that enhances enjoyment would be considered cause for celebration, not a massive public health scare.

Decades into our failed and vastly counterproductive effort to eradicate marijuana, we have an opportunity not to ban something similar without first studying it to see if it's actually dangerous. If synthetic marijuana products are prohibited without any effort to understand them, it will prove that the anti-drug zealots care more about imposing sobriety than protecting health.

As advocates for sensible drug policy, we should defend the legality of new drugs as vigorously as we oppose prohibition of the old ones.

Medical Marijuana: Colorado Senate Passes Bill to Restrict Physicians' Recommending

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/colorado-application.jpg
Colorado state medical marijuana application
Stunned at the rapid increase in the number of registered medical marijuana patients in the state, the Colorado Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to impose new restrictions on physicians who make medical marijuana recommendations. The Senate voted 34-1 to pass SB 109.

Sponsored by Sens. Chris Romer (D-Denver) and Nancy Spence (R-Centennial), the bill would require physicians who make medical marijuana recommendations to have a "bona fide" relationship with patients, including treating a patient before he applies for medical marijuana, conducting a thorough physical exam, and providing follow-up care. The bill would also bar doctors from being paid by dispensaries to write recommendations and require that they not have any restrictions on their medical licenses. Doctors would have to keep records of all medical marijuana recommendations and provide them to state health agencies seeking to investigate doctors for violating state laws.

The bill would also require persons between 18 and 21 to get recommended by two different physicians.

Colorado began registering medical marijuana patients in June 2001 after voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing its use. For years, the number of patients hovered around 2,000, but after state courts last year threw out a regulation limiting the number of patients for whom caregivers could provide to five and the Obama administration signaled that it was not going to interfere in medical marijuana states, the numbers exploded. By last September, there were more than 17,000 registered patients, and now the number is near 40,000. A similar boom has gone on with dispensaries, with Colorado now second only to California in their numbers.

The bill was supported by Colorado law enforcement and the Colorado Medical Association, but was opposed by most medical marijuana patients and providers.

"This is the beginning of the end of the Wild West" for the state's booming medical-marijuana industry, said bill sponsor Sen. Chris Romer.

"This bill is an unprecedented assault on the doctor-patient privilege that would hold medical marijuana doctors to a higher standard than any other doctor," medical marijuana attorney Robert Correy told lawmakers. "This would cause human suffering. The most sick and the most poor would be disproportionately harmed. You're going to see the Board of Medical Examiners conducting witch hunts against medical marijuana providers."

The bill now moves to the House.

Law Enforcement: Massachusetts Family Sues, Claims Man Beaten to Death by Police after Caught Smoking Joint at Sobriety Checkpoint

The family of a Massachusetts man who died in police custody after being stopped at sobriety checkpoint filed a federal lawsuit January 28 claiming police beat him to death. The federal civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit names dozens of state troopers, local police, and county sheriff's deputies assigned to a North Andover checkpoint the night of November 25.

That was the night Kenneth Howe, a passenger in a vehicle driven by one of his friends, was killed after an altercation at the checkpoint. The official version of events is that Howe assaulted an officer, tried to flee, was taken into custody, and became unresponsive during booking. Police took him to a hospital, where he died.

The family has a different version of events. Citing the driver of the pickup, they say Howe was smoking a joint when the truck suddenly came upon the checkpoint. He attempted to buckle his seat belt and put out the joint when a female trooper came to his window and ordered him out of the truck. Howe held up his hands and tried to explain that the joint was all he was holding.

Then, according to the lawsuit, the trooper "forcefully removed Kenneth from the truck and screamed, 'He assaulted me.' At that point, between approximately 10 and 20 law enforcement officers swarmed on Kenneth." Then Howe was dragged on the ground to a state police cruiser and taken away.

The lawsuit cites more than 40 photographs of the incident taken by a local newspaper photographer who was there covering the checkpoint. They show Howe face down on the ground and surrounded by police officers. The lawsuit says there are additional photos showing Howe's bruised and bloodied body.

The lawsuit also cited a finding by a state medical examiner who ruled Howe's death a homicide. He was killed by "blunt impact of head and torso with compression of chest," family attorney Frances King said at a press conference before filing the suit.

"There is no rationale and no justification for beating this man to death," King said as she stood beside Howe's wife and two of his daughters.

The death is being investigated by the Essex District Attorney's office, but King said the US attorney's office and FBI needed to step in. "It is nothing short of absurd" to have state police within the prosecutor's office investigate other state police, she said.

Marijuana: It's Pot Week in Providence as Rhode Island Solons Introduce Decrim Bill, Ponder Prohibition

It's been a big week for marijuana at the statehouse in Providence, with lawmakers Tuesday introducing a decriminalization bill and hearing testimony on the effects of marijuana prohibition Wednesday. Also this week, the state Department of Health held the final round of public comment on proposed rules for the state's new medical marijuana compassion center program.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/risenate.jpg
Rhode Island Senate Chamber
Introduced by Rep. John Edwards (D-Tiverton), HB 7317 would decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of weed. People caught with less than an ounce would be subject to a $150 fine, but no criminal record. Fines would go to the state general fund if the person is cited by state police, but to localities if cited by local police. Simple possession is currently a misdemeanor with up to a year in jail and a $500 fine.

"This legislation is less about the ongoing debate over the decriminalization of marijuana and more about providing some relief to the taxpayers of this state," Edwards said. "The average cost to keep someone [in prison] is more than $44,000 per year. Rhode Island taxpayers should not be paying to keep someone locked up due to a simple possession charge."

Edwards said his bill would help in three different ways. "First, we wouldn't tie up our criminal courts with these minor offenses. Second, the entity that catches the individual keeps the fine and finally, we save some money by not having to house and feed these individuals at taxpayer expense," he explained.

On Wednesday evening, the state Senate Commission on Marijuana Prohibition held what should be its final hearing -- it was supposed to report back to the General Assembly by last week. Created by a legislative resolution last summer, the commission is charged with undertaking a thorough evaluation of the impact of marijuana prohibition.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition head Jack Cole, a former undercover narc in New Jersey, told the committee in written testimony that arresting marijuana users is a luxury Rhode Island can't afford. "A tremendous amount of the staff time and funding for law enforcement is wasted arresting nonviolent drug users who hurt no one,'' said Cole. "Let police get back to protecting all of us from violent criminals and child molesters. We will all be much better off.''

Also this week, the state Department of Health held what is likely to be its final hearing on draft regulations for licensing up to three nonprofit "compassion centers," or dispensaries. For the next two weeks, anyone can submit written comments to the department, then it will decide how to proceed. It can file the regulations as is, make minor changes, or make major changes. If the latter, another public hearing must be held.

Once the regulations are filed, they will take effect in 20 days. Then, Rhode Island's more than 1,200 medical marijuana patients will have one more option in addition to growing it themselves or having a caretaker do it for them.

Americans for Safe Access: February 2010 Activist Newsletter

New Jersey became the 14th state to establish protections for patients who use cannabis on the advice of their doctors. The "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" signed into law by Governor Jon Corzine shields qualified patients from arrest and prosecution for possession and transportation, and mandates distribution of medical cannabis by state-regulated "Alternative Treatment Centers." As the 11th most populous state in the nation, New Jersey is the third largest state to pass medical cannabis legislation, after California and Michigan.

"The passage of New Jersey's medical cannabis law is a victory for commonsense health policies," said Caren Woodson, ASA's government affairs director. "It's only a matter of time before the federal government catches up."

The bill was passed by a 48-14 vote by the General Assembly and a 25-13 vote by the State Senate after years of lobbying by patients and advocates. New Jersey officials must now develop regulations for administering the program that will go into effect in six months. The law prohibits patients from cultivating their own medicine, requiring them to purchase their medicine from one of the six distribution centers to be established by the state.

The number of patients who will qualify for access through the state-run program is unclear, since lawmakers intentionally excluded the primary condition for which patients use cannabis: chronic pain. Among the qualifying conditions for which a doctor may recommend cannabis are cancer, HIV/AIDS, Lou Gehrig's disease, muscular dystrophy and multiple sclerosis.

Following the signing of his state's medical cannabis bill, U.S. Representative Donald Payne (NJ-10) added his name to the list of co-sponsors on the federal Truth in Trials bill, which would allow medical cannabis patients who face federal marijuana charges that they were acting in compliance with state law. Currently, federal rules of evidence prevent cannabis patients from using any type of medical defense.

The "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" can be downloaded here.

Maryland to Consider Medical Cannabis Bill

Maryland Delegate Dan Morhaim announced at a January 26 press conference that he will be introducing a bi-partisan bill to protect the state's medical cannabis patients.

The bill would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug under state law and allow eligible patients to obtain and possess medical cannabis when recommended by a physician. Similar to New Jersey's recently enacted law, patients would be required to purchase their medicine from designated centers run and regulated by the state.
Morhaim estimates that Maryland could register 1,000 qualified patients per month, if the bill is passed.

District of Columbia Takes Up Implementation

Medical cannabis patients in Washington, D.C. are edging closer to legal protection, in the wake of a lifting of the Congressional ban on implementing the medical cannabis initiative passed overwhelmingly by city voters in 1998. City Councilmember David Catania has introduced a bill, co-sponsored by nine of the 13 council members, that would put Initiative 59 into effect.

The council will consider regulations on how many dispensaries to allow, whether they'll be nonprofit, for which conditions patients can qualify, and rules for cultivation. Catania has said he anticipates five to 10 nonprofit dispensaries in the city, restricted to locations at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks and other dispensaries.
A council spokesperson predicted the council will pass the bill by late spring, and may be approved in Congress by the end of summer.

California Supreme Court Nixes Quantity Limits on Medical Marijuana

Protection from arrest upheld for state-issued ID cardholders
In a unanimous ruling, the California Supreme Court said lawmakers cannot impose limits on how much cannabis qualified patients may possess or cultivate. The published decision in People v. Kelly struck down plant and possession guidelines established by the state legislature in 2003, declaring the limits to be an unconstitutional change to the Compassionate Use Act approved by voters in 1996. Under the ruling, California patients are entitled to quantities consistent with their reasonable personal use.

The court left intact the legislature's voluntary ID card program, which provides protection from arrest and prosecution for card-carrying patients who are within state or local guidelines for personal-use quantities. Californians who exceed those guidelines may still have to go to court to prove their compliance with state law.

"The California Supreme Court did the right thing by abolishing arbitrary limits on medical marijuana possession and cultivation," said Joe Elford, ASA Chief Counsel. "At the same time, the court may have left too much discretion to law enforcement. Qualified patients should not fear arrest and prosecution."

The ruling affirms the decision of an appellate court to overturn the conviction of a southern California man, Patrick Kelly, who uses cannabis to treat a number of serious medical conditions, including hepatitis C, chronic back pain, and cirrhosis. A jury had concluded that the 12 ounces of dried cannabis and 7 plants Kelly had at his home exceeded the limits of 8 ounces and six mature plants established by the legislature's 2003 Medical Marijuana Program Act.

In an unusual twist, attorneys for both Kelly and the State of California told the court that the legislative limits on medical marijuana should be abolished as unconstitutional. Both parties also opposed the appellate court's invalidation of the entire statute, Health & Safety Code Section 11362.77, which protects ID cardholders from arrest and prosecution if they are in compliance with local or state guidelines. The state high court agreed, and reversed the appellate decision on the ID card program.

The California Supreme Court decision can be downloaded here.

Appeals Court Requests More Briefs on Dispensary Bans

In a critical case that addresses the right of medical cannabis dispensaries to operate, a California appeals court has asked for additional briefs. The case of Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim, brought by attorney Anthony Curiale and argued at appeal by ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, raises the question of whether the legislature's 2003 Medical Marijuana Program Act preempts municipalities from banning dispensaries. ASA argues that it does, but the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District has asked for additional arguments on the legislature's intent, as the law specifies exemptions from statutes that could be the basis for such bans. A favorable ruling would mean legal challenges to any local ordinances that ban collectives and cooperatives from dispensing cannabis to qualified patients.

LA to Regulate Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

Restrictions on Locations May Be "Poison Pill"

The second largest city in the U.S. has adopted regulations for the operation of medical cannabis dispensaries. After more than two years of lobbying by ASA and other patient advocates, the Los Angeles City Council passed an ordinance establishing rules for the operation of patient collectives and cooperatives that dispense medical cannabis.

"This is a bittersweet victory for medical marijuana patients in Los Angeles," said Don Duncan, who led the lobbying effort as ASA's California director. "We've fought hard for sound regulations, but this ordinance includes "poison-pill" restrictions that threaten to wipe out nearly all of the dispensaries in the city."

More than 500 medical cannabis dispensaries currently serve Los Angelenos. The new regulations limit the number of dispensaries that may operate in the city to 70, though the 137 dispensaries that were registered with the city two years ago, when the city council established an Interim Control Ordinance, can apply to remain open.

Among the new rules with which dispensaries must comply are restrictions on location. The ordinance establishes buffer zones of 1,000 feet around schools, parks, and other "sensitive use" locations, and prevents any dispensaries from being located adjacent to residential or mixed-use buildings.

"Dispensaries will be unable to locate in virtually any of the commercial zones in the city," said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes. "They will be relegated to remote industrial zones, making access unnecessarily onerous for many patients."

The vast majority of registered dispensaries cannot comply with the ordinance's proximity restrictions and may be forced to move, but a concession won by ASA creates an exception for operators who can demonstrate they have been "good neighbors" in their current location.

Los Angeles joins more than 40 other cities and counties in California that have adopted regulations for the distribution of medical cannabis through patient collectives and cooperatives.

ASA Affiliate Packs Sheriff Candidates Forum

At a recent forum, candidates for sheriff in Sacramento County, California, faced questions on medical cannabis from a host of patients and advocates organized by Crusaders for Patients Rights (CPR), an ASA affiliate. The January 20 forum was sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs' Association and the Sacramento County Law Enforcement Managers' Association.

Prior to the forum, Lanette Davies of CPR urged members at the organization's meeting to attend, which she then followed up with an announcement of the forum on the ASA Sacramento email list. The result was that of the 50 people in attendance at the forum, a dozen were patients or advocates.

Questions for the candidates were selected by the League of women Voters from cards submitted by attendees. Thanks to the strong showing by CPR, 25-30 of the cards submitted had questions about medical cannabis, with two being presented to the candidates for sheriff.

Bret Daniels, a former sheriff's deputy, gave his full support. Jim Cooper, a captain in the department who is currently the mayor of Elk Grove, said he supports legitimate patients but feels there is too much abuse. Scott Jones, also a department captain, states he supports the law. The three men are seeking to replace Sheriff John McGinness, who is retiring after one term.

The forum has been broadcast twice on local cable channels.

Hope Unlimited Meeting: Compassion and Support

All are welcome at the Hope Support Group Meeting. Responsible onsite medication is allowed for legal medical cannabis patients. Learn more about what types of medical cannabis may work for your condition! Each Hope meeting is a chance to make friends and get support! For more information, call 414-418-0140, e-mail hopeisunlimited@gmail.com for more information, or see http://hopeisunlimited.blogspot.com/.
Date: 
Wed, 02/10/2010 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: 
3949 Ohio Street
San Diego, CA
United States

Medical Marijuana ExtravaGANJA

Comedian Howard Rover, The Comedy Store, NUG Magazine and San Diego Americans for Safe Access presents: Medical Marijuana ExtravaGANJA! A night of comedy! Tickets are only $10.00 at the door -- cash only or by calling 619-446-9786. Don't miss this great show and opportunity to support a worthy cause.
Date: 
Tue, 02/09/2010 - 8:30pm - 11:00pm
Location: 
916 Pearl St.
La Jolla, CA 92037
United States

Dennis Peron at Southern Oregon University

Long time gay rights and cannabis activist Dennis Peron founded California's dispensary in San Francisco in 1990. In 1996 he co-authored the Compassionate Use Act, the ballot initiative which legalized marijuana for medical use in California. Dennis will speak about his fight to decriminalize cannabis and share his thoughts on the future of medical marijuana and comprehensive tax and regulation in Oregon and California. The second part of this event will be opened up to questions from the audience. For more information lease call 541-488-2202 or visit www.AshlandAltHealth.com. Admission is free.
Date: 
Tue, 02/09/2010 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm
Location: 
1250 Siskiyou Boulevard
Ashlanf, OR 97520
United States

Medical Marijuana: Colorado Bill to Rein-In Booming Scene Passes Senate

Stunned at the rapid increase in the number of registered medical marijuana patients in the state, the Colorado Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to impose new restrictions on physicians who make medical marijuana recommendations. The Senate voted 34-1 to pass SB 109. Sponsored by Sens. Chris Romer (D-Denver) and Nancy Spence (R-Centennial), the bill would require physicians who make medical marijuana recommendations to have a "bona fide" relationship with patients, including treating a patient before he applies for medical marijuana, conducting a thorough physical exam, and providing follow-up care. The bill would also bar doctors from being paid by dispensaries to write recommendations and require that they not have any restrictions on their medical licenses. Doctors would have to keep records of all medical marijuana recommendations and provide them to state health agencies seeking to investigate doctors for violating state laws. The bill would also require persons between 18 and 21 to get recommended by two different physicians. Colorado began registering medical marijuana patients in June 2001 after voters approved a constitutional amendment legalizing its use. For years, the number of patients hovered around 2,000, but after state courts last year threw out a regulation limiting the number of patients caregivers could provide for to five and the Obama administration signaled that it was not going to interfere in medical marijuana states, the numbers exploded. By last September, there were more than 17,000 registered patients, and now the number is near 40,000. A similar boom has gone on with dispensaries, with Colorado now second only to California in their numbers. The bill was supported by Colorado law enforcement and the Colorado Medical Association, but was opposed by most medical marijuana patients and providers. "This is the beginning of the end of the Wild West" for the state's booming medical-marijuana industry, said bill sponsor Sen. Chris Romer. "This bill is an unprecedented assault on the doctor-patient privilege that would hold medical marijuana doctors to a higher standard than any other doctor," medical marijuana attorney Robert Correy told lawmakers. "This would cause human suffering. The most sick and the most poor would be disproportionately harmed. You're going to see the Board of Medical Examiners conducting witch hunts against medical marijuana providers." The bill now moves to the House.
Location: 
Denver, CO
United States

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