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Bob Barr Praises Federal Court Ruling Upholding Right of States to Allow Medical Use of Marijuana

Atlanta, GA - “The principle of federalism seemed dead three years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed the federal government to run roughshod over state laws permitting the medical use of marijuana,” says Bob Barr, the Libertarian Party presidential nominee. Barr says the tide may be turning with the recent decision by U.S. District Court Judge Jeremy Fogel, who refused to dismiss a case by city and state officials against the federal government for raiding a medical marijuana group in San Cruz, California. “Keeping the case alive was significant enough,” notes Barr. “But Judge Fogel suggested that the Bush administration might have violated the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution in adopting a policy intended to effectively void California’s medical marijuana law." As Judge Fogel explained, a trial must proceed on whether the federal government attempted to make ‘California’s medical marijuana laws impossible to implement and thereby forcing California and its political subdivisions to recriminalize medical marijuana.’ In short, says Barr, the courts may end up deciding that while the federal government may implement a policy that runs contrary to state rules in an area of traditional state authority, namely the criminal law, Washington may not work to overturn state law. “After spending billions of dollars and arresting millions of people, we seem no closer to eliminating illicit drug use than we were at the start,” Barr says. “But we certainly have lost a lot of our freedom. While we might disagree about the best approach to problem drug use, we should be willing to accept the compassionate use of marijuana by those who are sick and dying. Certainly states have authority under the Constitution to allow doctors to prescribe marijuana as medicine. The federal government has no constitutional authority to interfere,” insists Barr. Barr says that neither Sen. Barack Obama nor Sen. John McCain is willing to consider real change to current policy. “Sen. Obama says the federal government shouldn’t interfere with state policy, but he says he doesn’t want to waste his political capital on the issue," Barr explains. "Sen. McCain was for respecting state authority before he was against it. Neither the Democratic nor the Republican presidential candidate is willing to put constitutional principle—or the lives of those who are suffering from AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, and more—before federal power." Barr says as president, he would "direct the DEA to initiate, for the first time, a truly open and objective scientific evaluation of the medical potential of marijuana." Moreover, Barr says he would ensure that all federal officials, including those in the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Agency, respect the decisions of states that choose to allow the medical use of marijuana. Finally, Barr would undertake a comprehensive review of federal crimes, which have expanded far beyond the few narrow cases foreseen by the nation’s Founders. "What the federal government does, it should do well, but it attempts to do far too much today," Barr says. "We must never forget that we are supposed to be living in a free society." "Such a decision, especially if upheld on appeal, would have significant and positive repercussions in other matters of public policy in which the federal government has used the power of federal law to thwart decisions by citizens of individual states," Barr notes. Libertarian Party presidential candidate Bob Barr represented the 7th District of Georgia in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. (This press release was reprinted by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)
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Medical Marijuana: Los Angeles City Council Extends Moratorium

A year-old moratorium on the opening of new medical marijuana dispensaries within the Los Angeles city limits will be extended for at least another six months. The Los Angeles City Council voted Tuesday to extend the moratorium for that period as it wrestles with new draft regulations covering the dispensaries.

Los Angeles is home to hundreds of dispensaries and had seen a dispensary boom prior to the moratorium that was first enacted in August 2007. Under guidelines published last week by Attorney General Jerry Brown, dispensaries are legal, but only if they are established as co-ops or collectives and are nonprofits -- a restriction that is certain to meet with legal challenges. It is unclear how many LA dispensaries meet those criteria.

The council voted to extend the moratorium on a 14-0 vote. Prior to voting, Councilman Dennis Zine said the continued moratorium would give the city attorney's office time to craft a dispensary policy that would ensure marijuana is made available to legitimate medical patients while preventing "abuses."

Under California's medical marijuana law, a legitimate patient is anyone who has received a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana. The broadly written state law does not limit such recommendations to a defined set of diseases or symptoms. Instead it lists a number of diseases, such as cancer, AIDS, and glaucoma, then adds the words "or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief."

Marijuana: Fayetteville, Arkansas, Lowest Priority Initiative Turns in More Signatures

A municipal initiative that would add Fayetteville, Arkansas, to the growing list of cities and counties that have adopted lowest law enforcement priority initiatives for adult marijuana possession offenses appears headed to the November ballot after organizers handed in nearly 1,000 new signatures last Friday.

Petitioners turned in more than 5,000 signatures on August 20, but after they were examined by city officials, only 3,385 signatures were found to be valid. It takes 3,686 signatures to put the initiative on the ballot.

The Fayetteville City Clerk was examining the signatures this week. Even if only 300 of them turn out to be valid, the measure will be on the November ballot.

Sponsored by an umbrella group known as Sensible Fayetteville, the measure would not only direct Fayetteville police and prosecutors to make such offenses their lowest priority, it would also order the city clerk to send an annual letter to state and federal officials. That letter would say:
"The citizens of Fayetteville have passed an initiative to deprioritize adult marijuana
offenses where the marijuana is intended for personal use and request that the federal and Arkansas state governments take immediate steps to enact similar laws." The letter would be sent each year until state and federal laws change.

"We needed about 300 additional signatures, and so far, we've collected upwards of 900," Ryan Denham, campaign director told the Northwest Arkansas Morning News last Friday. "We've almost tripled what we needed, and we're still going. We'll turn them in at the end of the day."

The two-week final push to get over the hump was the culmination of a months-long campaign, Denham said. "We've been working on this since last November. We've been at the post office, the University of Arkansas and we've been going door-to-door. This is a local campaign, but it's a national issue and we hope people understand that," he said.
"A number of cities are starting to recognize what a waste the current policy is," Denham added. "Marijuana arrests are clogging the system and wasting our resources. We'd rather not have an adult arrested for possessing one ounce of marijuana. We'd rather see them cited."

Similar laws have been passed by communities in Missouri, Montana, Washington, California and Colorado, as well as nearby Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Marijuana: SAFER Takes on the NFL, Cites "Hypocrisy" of Player's Huge Fine for Marijuana Possession

New England Patriots running back Kevin Faulk was suspended for one week and fined two weekly paychecks, or about $300,000, by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell this week after pleading guilty in July to misdemeanor marijuana possession charges. That has the marijuana reform group SAFER (Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation) crying foul.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/saferbillboard.jpg
SAFER Ricky Williams billboard, 2007 (saferchoice.org)
SAFER, whose primary argument is that marijuana is safer than alcohol and should not be treated more harshly, announced Thursday that it would deliver an online petition and letter calling for changes to the NFL's marijuana policy to Goodell today in New York City. For SAFER, the huge fine assessed against Faulk is rank hypocrisy from a sporting organization that accepts hundreds of millions of dollars in alcohol advertising.

The petition reads as follows:

"Players with the National Football League who use marijuana instead of alcohol to relax and recreate are making a rational choice to use a less harmful substance.

"Suspending these players and taking away hundreds of thousands (or sometimes millions) of dollars for using marijuana is driving them to use alcohol, a drug that -- unlike marijuana -- contributes to violent and aggressive behavior. Unless the NFL plans to suspend every player who receives a speeding ticket -- which is considered an offense on par with marijuana possession in some states -- it has absolutely no reason to suspend players for the simple use and possession of marijuana. Doing so is not only irrational, but given the NFL's acceptance and blatant promotion of alcohol, it is exceptionally hypocritical.

"Marijuana is safer than alcohol and the National Football League's substance abuse policy should be changed immediately to reflect that fact."

"The NFL has no problem with players using alcohol and it accepts hundreds of millions of dollars to promote booze to football fans of all ages," said SAFER executive director Mason Tvert. "Yet the league punishes those players who make the safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol to relax and recreate. The NFL is driving its players to drink. Every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is far less harmful than alcohol both to those who use it and to others around them," Tvert said. "It is a mystery why Commissioner Goodell and the NFL would want to steer the biggest, toughest guys in the country away from using marijuana and toward using alcohol, which contributes to aggressive behavior and countless violent crimes."

This isn't the first time SAFER has gone after the NFL's marijuana policy. Last October, the group erected a billboard across the street from Invesco Field in Denver that featured an image of NFL superstar Ricky Williams in a Denver Broncos jersey, urging the recently reinstated player to "Come to Denver: Where the people support your SAFER choice."

Presidential Politics: Both Major Party Tickets Include Former Drug Users

Democratic Party presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama has famously confessed to teenage drug use in his published memoirs. Now, with Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain having announced his selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential ticket-mate, both major parties have confessed former drug users on the ticket.

Palin has smoked pot, she told the Anchorage Daily News in a 2006 interview. Here are the relevant paragraphs:

Palin doesn't support legalizing marijuana, worrying about the message it would send to her four kids. But when it comes to cracking down on drugs, she says methamphetamines are the greater threat and should have a higher priority.

Palin said she has smoked marijuana -- remember, it was legal under state law, she said, even if illegal under US law -- but says she didn't like it and doesn't smoke it now.

"I can't claim a Bill Clinton and say that I never inhaled."

Reports of Palin's comments excited an immediate reaction from the Marijuana Policy Project, whose executive director, Rob Kampia, called on Republicans to respect states' rights when it comes to marijuana policy. "That she used marijuana is no big deal, but what is a big deal is that she thinks that the 100 million Americans who have used marijuana, including herself, belong in jail. That wouldn't be good for her kids," he said.

"Perhaps most importantly, Alaska is one of 12 states that allow the medical use of marijuana, and one in five Americans currently live in those states. The heavy hand of the federal government has trampled state authority and tried to interfere with the implementation of these state-level medical marijuana laws. The GOP ticket should embrace the time-honored Republican principle of local control by promising to end the federal government's war on sensible medical marijuana laws in both red and blue states," Kampia continued.

Although confessed former drug users are now on both major party tickets, drug policy and drug reform are nowhere to be seen so far in either party's platform or the nominee's campaign events. If you want to discuss drug policy reform in the 2008 presidential election, you have to talk to the Greens, Nader, or the Libertarians.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Victim’s Rights in the War on Drugs

Pete Guither pointed out the other day that the Republican platform contains this vague statement on victim’s rights:

The innocent have far fewer rights than the accused. We call on Congress to correct this imbalance by sending to the states for ratification a constitutional amendment to protect the rights of crime victims.

I wonder if such a law would protect victims of armed robbery when police search their home, arrest them for marijuana, confiscate even more of their money than the robbers did, and ultimately decline to investigate the initial robbery for which they were called in the first place.

Victim’s rights is an interesting idea. Let’s talk about it after we end the drug war.

Palin Pick Makes Medical Marijuana a Problem Issue For McCain

We know she used marijuana when it was legal in Alaska. And we know that she hypocritically claims to oppose legalization. But Sarah Palin is also governor of a state that’s had a medical marijuana program for ten years. How does she feel about that?

Does Sarah Palin share John McCain’s open hostility towards seriously ill patients who use marijuana on the advice of their doctors?



Frankly, I highly doubt Palin agrees with this. It’s bad politics for her in Alaska and, for that matter, everywhere else as well. If pressed, she’ll be forced to take the party line, but that won’t go well for her. Palin can’t conveniently defend federal supremacy over state medical marijuana laws because she’s already argued that her own past marijuana use was legal in Alaska. She can’t defend medical marijuana raids without labeling herself a criminal.

The point isn’t that there’s anything damaging about her admitted marijuana use or that people who admit trying marijuana become obligated to support medical access. Neither is true. The point, rather, is that Palin’s personal story highlights the absurdity of bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. telling people all the way up in Alaska what sorts of petty drug laws they ought to have. She doesn’t want to go there. It’s a terrible jumping-off point for initiating a defense of federal authority to arrest sick people.

That’s why the Obama campaign would be smart to apply pressure here. Public support for medical marijuana is overwhelming and the video of McCain literally turning his back on a wheelchair bound patient is compelling. This debate polarizes independent and libertarian voters in Obama’s favor, while forcing McCain to defend another unpopular Bush policy. Biden’s obnoxious drug war background also becomes a counterintuitive asset, as he can ably deflect any shrill attacks from the law & order crowd on the right.

As the democrats clamor for opportunities to puncture the narrative of McCain/Palin as a "reform" ticket, there is nothing to lose, and potentially much to gain by directly challenging McCain’s deeply unpopular views on medical marijuana.

(This blog post was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

BREAKING: People Smoke Pot at Outdoor Concerts

In a daring undercover investigation, anti-marijuana activist Lisa Silverman has exposed the seedy criminal underworld that lurks along the lawn at a Ziggy Marley show:

In August, Silverman attended a Ziggy Marley concert at the Del Mar Racetrack, just as she had the previous year, to see if pot smokers were as abundant as before. Sure enough, bongs, blunts and joints were ablaze.

Not only were the pot-puffing reggae fans not intimidated by security guards, they offered some to anti-marijuana crusader Silverman, 49. [San Diego Union-Tribune]

Actually, when the pot-smokers said "You want something, lady?" they weren’t really offering her a hit, they just wanted to know why she was crawling around on all fours sniffing people’s belongings and blowing out their matches.

"There were very few attendees who were not smoking marijuana," Silverman said, recounting her reconnaissance mission recently to a stunned board of directors for the fairgrounds.

The board of directors was indeed stunned by Silverman’s story, given that they’d posted signs at every entrance reminding security not to let the notorious complainer and buzzkill, Lisa Silverman, into any more reggae concerts.

At a recent concert at the Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre in Chula Vista, hip-hop superstar Snoop Dogg concluded his set by urging listeners to "smoke some chronic," slang for high-grade marijuana.

"Almost immediately, you could see the plumes of smoke go up," Kelly said.

San Diego songwriter Steve Poltz said he remembers attending an outdoor concert featuring James Taylor when the mellow superstar caught a whiff of marijuana smoke.

"Ah, yes," Taylor mused. "The fine scent of herb being carried on the evening zephyr."

At which point someone shouted "Dork!" and Taylor was struck with a flying beer can, proving yet again why people shouldn’t be allowed to use marijuana in public.

How Much More Public Support Does Medical Marijuana Really Need?

CNN hosted an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday which featured democratically elected questions courtesy of the popular website Digg.com. Unsurprisingly, one of the top questions was about marijuana policy reform. Here is her response (it’s the 3rd question):



Obviously, Pelosi is very supportive of medical marijuana and despite her pessimism about achieving full-scale legalization, she didn’t actually say she opposed it. Ideologically, I’d have to say this was pretty good coming from the Speaker of the House. But, as Paul Armentano points out, Pelosi’s advice to supporters of medical marijuana just doesn’t add up. She laments Congress’ intransigence on the issue and encourages constituents to contact their representatives, as though this is all just a matter of showing politicians where the people stand.

Alas, we kinda tried that already. Public support for medical marijuana has been overwhelming for a long time. Reformers are 9-1 when it comes to passing state-level medical marijuana laws at the ballot box. State legislatures in Hawaii, New Mexico and Rhode Island have passed laws to protect patients, drawing praise from constituents. The only memorable instance of a politician being damaged for his position on medical marijuana involved Bob Barr, who lost his House seat following attacks for opposing medical marijuana. He’s come around since then.

What, other than legalizing medical marijuana in a dozen states, could the people possibly do to show the politicians in Washington, D.C. that we’re serious about this? You want us to go legalize medical marijuana everywhere else in America? We’ll do it. You want more research proving that it works? Let us know when you’re done reading what we’ve already given you, and we’ll gladly send the rest. Worried about the message to young people? Teenage use is down in states with medical marijuana laws.

You see, our feet are tired. Our throats are hoarse. Our keyboards are cracking, our sharpies are dry and we’re almost out of posterboard. With all of that in mind, Nancy Pelosi, since you do agree with us and you’re the Speaker of House now, we were hoping there might be something else you could do.

Medical Marijuana: Washington State Fight Over Allowable Quantities Continues

After being roundly chastised by more than a hundred medical marijuana patients and activists at an angry Monday meeting, the Washington state Health Department has extended the deadline for comments on its proposed medical marijuana quantity limits until 5:00pm PDT today. Assistant Health Secretary Karen Jensen made the announcement at the end of the meeting in Tumwater.

Washington voters approved a medical marijuana initiative in 1998 that allowed patients to have a 60-day supply, but just what that constituted has never been specified. Last year, the legislature passed a measure directing the Health Department to spell out acceptable amounts.

In an earlier draft proposal, the Health Department suggested allowing patients 35 ounces of marijuana and a 100-square foot growing space. But after criticism from Gov. Christine Gregoire (D), whose office argued that the original draft was too generous and had not had sufficient input from law enforcement and doctors, the department came back with a more restrictive proposal: 24 ounces of marijuana, six mature plants, and 18 seedlings.

At the Tumwater meeting, patients, doctors, and activists harshly criticized the new draft as unfair, unrealistic, and unduly influenced by law enforcement. "We're not criminals. We're patients," said Melissa Leggee of Spokane in remarks reported by the Seattle Times. "We just want to be left alone to do what we need to do to survive."

"You're going to make everyone in this room a felon," if the proposed limit is adopted, Steve Sarich, of Kirkland, told the panel of Health Department officials. Sarich is director of CannaCare, which provides legal assistance and starter plants to patients.

Dr. Karen Hamilton, of Redmond, who has treated patients helped by marijuana, said the proposal would "effectively take treatment out of the doctors' hands," adding that there is no "one-size-fits-all" appropriate marijuana dose.

And speaker after speaker told the panel that six plants could not provide the amount of marijuana most patients need to alleviate their pain, nausea, and other symptoms of the more than a dozen diseases the drug can be used to treat. If patients cannot provide for themselves, they said, they will have to turn to the black market.

Gregoire's interference in the drafting process prompted Troy Williams of Clark County to urge the Health Department to stand up to the governor and protect the rights of patients. Department officials should "stand up, have some courage, and tell the governor to shove it," he said.

Assistant Secretary Jensen said that once the comments period ends today, the agency will take about a month to evaluate them and adopt a quantities rule. If substantial changes are made to the current draft, she said, a new round of comments will follow. Substantial changes are precisely what patients and their advocates want to see.

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