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ONDCP: Drug Czar Again Reveals Shocking Gap in Vocabulary, Knowledge Base

In Fresno, California, Wednesday to witness a massive marijuana eradication bust, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) head Gil Kerlikowske once again revealed a startling gap in his vocabulary. Kerlikowske claimed not to know a word that should be de rigeur in any drug policy debate, and he claimed the president was unaware of it, too.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/gilkerlikowske.jpg
Gil Kerlikowske
"Legalization is not in the president's vocabulary, and it's not in mine," he admitted to the Fresno Bee.

It's not the first time Kerlikowske has relied on that trope. In fact, it appears to be one of his favorite stock phrases.

Not content with displaying his lack of vocabulary, Kerlikowske went on to display an equally stunning lack of knowledge about the emerging consensus on the myriad medicinal uses of marijuana. "Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit," he said, ignoring an ever-growing pile of research finding just the opposite.

Obama's Drug Czar Says Marijuana Is Dangerous and Isn't Medicine

For the first time since taking office, Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske has worked up the nerve to make a definitive statement about why he thinks marijuana is bad:

The nation's drug czar, who viewed a foothill marijuana farm on U.S. Forest Service land with state and local officials earlier Wednesday, said the federal government will not support legalizing marijuana.

"Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit," Kerlikowske said in downtown Fresno while discussing Operation SOS -- Save Our Sierra -- a multiagency effort to eradicate marijuana in eastern Fresno County. [Fresno Bee]

After having declined for months to actually engage the marijuana debate, it looks like someone finally sat Kerlikowske down and explained that if he's serious about being drug czar, he's gotta start lying and trying to scare people. And as you can see, he sucks at that.

Still, his statement that marijuana has no medical value is surprising, not only because it's just false, but also because he serves at the pleasure of a president who has ordered an end to federal interference with state medical marijuana laws. There's a conflict here that's difficult to reconcile and I hope the press will push the administration for some clarification as to whether the president stands by this statement. It's not the position Obama's taken previously, nor does the current political climate look favorably upon this sort of antiquated anti-pot propaganda.

I shudder to think where Kerlikowske is going with this, but regardless of his present agenda, he should be cautioned against adopting the rhetoric of his widely discredited predecessor. Unfortunately, until the drug czar's office is no longer mandated by law to oppose legalization in any form, we can expect more of this nonsense from anyone who bears the drug czar title. In the meantime, I agree with Pete Guither that this guy is a riot.

Obama's drug czar declares marijuana has no medical value

[Courtesy of MPP] 

Dear friends:

“Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit.”
— White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, at a Fresno, Calif., press conference yesterday

Not again.

In fact — and it's getting a little tiresome to keep repeating it — the esteemed Institute of Medicine, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Lymphoma Foundation of America, American Academy of HIV Medicine, and dozens of other medical organizations recognize marijuana's medical value.

What's more, President Obama's own statements on the campaign trail about marijuana's medical efficacy run counter to his new drug czar's statements yesterday. 

We need to stop this in its tracks. Would you please speak out against this ridiculous, outdated argument:

1. Please use MPP's online action center to e-mail the president about the drug czar's statement.

2. Please call the drug czar's office at (202) 395-6700 to politely complain that we're still hearing this sort of nonsense.

We need to make sure the drug czar receives the message loud and clear that the anti-science Bush era is over.

Thank you,

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: Congress and Obama Administration Embrace Major Drug Policy Reform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 22, 2009 CONTACT: Bill Piper at 202-669-6430 or Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 Congress and Obama Administration Embrace Major Drug Policy Reform Crack/Powder Disparity, Syringe Exchange Funding, Medical Marijuana, HEA Reform All Advancing Decades of Harsh and Ineffective Federal Laws Likely to be Dismantled this Year At least four of the worst excesses of the federal war on drugs appear likely to be rolled back this year – the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity, the federal ban on the funding of syringe exchange programs, the all-out federal war on medical marijuana, and the HEA AID Elimination Penalty. All four reforms are advancing quickly in Congress. “Policymakers from the President of the United States on down are calling for a paradigm shift so drug use is treated as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Eliminating the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity, repealing the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange programs to reduce HIV/AIDS, allowing the District of Columbia to move forward with medical marijuana, and reforming the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty are all examples of pairing action with rhetoric.” The House Crime Subcommittee is expected to pass legislation today eliminating the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity that punishes crack cocaine offenses one hundred times more severely than powder cocaine offenses. Both President Obama and Vice-President Biden have spoken in support of eliminating the disparity. In numerous statements this year, Justice Department officials have called on Congress to eliminate the disparity this year. Last week, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee repealed the 20-year ban prohibiting states from spending their share of HIV/AIDS prevention money on syringe exchanges program to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne diseases. The full U.S. House takes up the underlying bill later this week. The ban is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans. If the ban is not repealed, as many as 300,000 Americans could contract HIV/AIDS or hepatitis C over the next decade. President Obama called for elimination of the ban on the campaign trail. In legislation last week, the U.S. House repealed a provision of federal law that overturned a medical marijuana law approved by Washington, DC voters, setting the stage for the nation’s capital to make marijuana available to cancer, AIDS, and other patients, possibly as soon as next year. Earlier this year Attorney General Eric Holder declared that the Justice Department would no longer arrest medical marijuana patients, caregivers and providers, even if they violated federal law, as long as they were following the laws of their states. 13 states have legalized marijuana for medical use, but the Bush Administration raided medical marijuana dispensaries and made numerous arrests and prosecutions. In a vote yesterday, the House Education and Labor Committee reformed the HEA AID Elimination Penalty that denies loans and other financial assistance to students convicted of drug law offenses, including simple marijuana possession. Since 1998, more than 180,000 students have lost aid and many, no doubt, have been forced to drop out of college. Although the Obama Administration has not stated where it stands on the underlying law, it has said it wants to remove a question from financial aid applications that ask students if they have ever been convicted of a drug crime. In other drug policy news, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Rep. Ron Paul (R- Texas) have introduced bi-partisan legislation to decriminalize possession of marijuana for personal use. Sen. Jim Webb, D-VA, President Reagan’s Secretary of the Navy, has introduced bipartisan legislation to create a national commission to study the U.S. criminal justice system and make recommendations on how to reduce the number of Americans behind bars, with a particular emphasis on reforming drug laws. Almost a third of U.S. Senators are cosponsors of the bipartisan bill and it is expected to pass the Senate sometime this year. “The ice is starting to crack,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The decades of harsh and ineffective laws that have led to overstuffed prisons and a growing HIV epidemic are starting to be challenged and hopefully soon dismantled.” ###

Press Release: Oakland Voters Approve Taxing Cannabis Dispensaries

[Courtesy of DPA] FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 22, 2009 CONTACT: Laura Thomas at (415) 283-6366 or Tommy McDonald at (510) 229-5215 Oakland Voters Approve Taxing Cannabis Dispensaries; Measure Expected to Produce $300,000 Annual Revenue for Essential Services DPA Congratulates Oakland Voters on Passing Medical Cannabis Revenue Measure, Expects other Cities to Follow Efforts to tax cannabis to generate revenue for California’s sagging coffers received a boost last night as Oakland voters approved Measure F by 80 percent Measure F adds a 1.8 percent gross receipts tax to medical cannabis dispensaries, producing nearly $300,000 in annual revenue. Early returns showed Measure F passing by the largest margin of all of the revenue measures on Tuesday’s ballot. The tax will go into effect in January 2010. “Oakland voters know a good idea when they see one,” said Laura Thomas, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Once again, Oakland voters are ahead of the curve and we hope the rest of the state will follow their lead. The politicians need to listen to the wisdom of the voters.” Medical cannabis dispensaries in Los Angeles and other communities also are pushing for new taxes, and should be recognized as a revenue source. Dispensaries already contribute payroll taxes, sales taxes, and licensing and other fees to government coffers. Marijuana sales have the potential to raise millions for California if regulated and taxed. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced a bill (AB 390) where California would tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol. Recent estimates from the state Board of Equalization showed a possible $1.4 billion annual revenue stream. “Taxing medical marijuana is a no brainer and fiscally makes sense for a cash-strapped state like California. But this is the tip of the iceberg,” added Thomas. “Once Californians see the benefits of taxing and regulating medical marijuana in Oakland, the next logical step is to tax and regulate all marijuana revenue across the state.”
Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States

Tax Us: Oakland Voters Approve Medical Marijuana Dispensary Tax -- Dispensaries Supported It

Drug War Chronicle Voters in Oakland, California, approved by a wide margin a measure to tax medical marijuana sold at the city's four dispensaries. The measure is the first in the country to impose a special tax on medical marijuana. The special tax was supported by the city's medical marijuana community, led by Oaksterdam University head and Coffeeshop Blue Sky owner Richard Lee. Lee and other supporters, including city council members, said the dispensaries wanted to do their part to help the city during economic hard times. The all mail-in vote took place during the one-month period beginning June 22, and the votes were being counted Tuesday night. According to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, as of 8:00pm Tuesday, the ballot measure, known as Measure F, was winning with 79.9% of the vote. The measure creates a special business tax rate on dispensaries of $18 for every $1,000 in gross sales and is expected to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for the city. Currently, the dispensaries are paying the same business tax rate as any other retail business in the city, $1.20 per $1,000. The measure will take effect on January 1. The measure was part of a package of revenue measures before Oakland voters. All passed, but none by as large a margin as Measure F. That's just the latest sign of acceptance of marijuana in a very pot-friendly city. In 2004, voters there approved a measure requiring police to make arresting adults for small-time pot offenses their lowest priority.
Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States

Apple's New Marijuana Feature for iPhone is a Smart Business Move

The press has been having a field day over a new iPhone application that helps users locate medical marijuana. As if the iPhone needed more product recognition, it is once again the most-discussed commodity on the web thanks to Apple's shrewd decision to approve this unique feature:

Here's how it works. The application displays an interactive map dotted with doctors who can prescribe medicinal marijuana treatment for their patients.

It also shows -- after, presumably, users have procured prescriptions -- the medicinal marijuana suppliers within the users' vicinity. And, what's more, the application includes a database of lawyers who specialize in marijuana-related cases, in [case] should users encounter skeptical local authorities. [ABC News]

The whole thing is just brilliant. They'll sell many thousands of these apps at $2.99 each, not to mention additional iPhone sales resulting from the massive press coverage. Of course, any time a marijuana-related story gets big coverage, you can count on someone in the press to botch the story. This time it was Alex Salkever at Daily Finance, who wrote:

I expect a backlash will hit Apple for having greenlighted Cannabis. Legalization opponents call marijuana a gateway drug that leads users to harder narcotic substances.

Wait a second. Apple just generated explosive international press for offering an innovative product and here we have a business columnist who thinks it's a mistake? Where is this "backlash" going to come from? If you want a controversy, you're going to have to start it yourself.

Medical marijuana has been legal in California for more than a decade and it's working so well that the Governor is now talking about legalizing marijuana outright. For many years now, the only controversy surrounding medical marijuana has been the DEA's widely unpopular interference with it, and President Obama has drawn nothing but praise for putting a stop to that.

Ironically, Salkever's analysis isn't just wrong, it's really the perfect opposite of what's going to happen here. Apple is doing this precisely because it's a good business strategy to reach out to marijuana culture and especially legal patients. Fears of "backlash" are what led Kellogg's to drop Michael Phelps and they got crucified for it, which is exactly what would have happened to Apple if they blocked services for medical marijuana patients.

Patients Defeat Effort to Restrict Medical Marijuana in Colorado

special to Drug War Chronicle Colorado medical marijuana application Monday night, Colorado's rapidly increasing number of medical marijuana patients and burgeoning medical marijuana industry won a major victory against state regulators trying to cramp their style -- and fiddle with a medical marijuana law written into the state constitution by voter initiative nine years ago. After a marathon public hearing packed with nearly 400 medical marijuana supporters, the Colorado Board of Health rejected a controversial proposal from the state Department of Public Health and Environment that would have tightened up the definition of a caregiver and would have limited caregivers to providing for no more than five patients. The vote comes on the heels of Rhode Island legislation establishing a dispensary system, the third state in the nation to legislatively approve dispensaries, and the first on the east coast. Rhode Island's legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) to pass the law, which they did 35-3 in the Senate and 67-0 in the House. "It's a great win for Colorado," said a tired but elated Brian Vicente Tuesday morning. "We took on the machine and won." Vicente is head of Sensible Colorado, which worked with Colorado NORML, SAFER, the Marijuana Policy Project, and Americans for Safe Access to spearhead the campaign to keep the Colorado program intact. The Board of Health was originally scheduled to vote on the proposal in February, but was forced to postpone the vote until it could find a venue large enough to accommodate the hundreds of people who wanted to have their voices heard during a public hearing. A 2004 effort by the Board of Health to impose similar restrictions was thrown out by the courts because it held no public hearing then. "The health department seems to be a glutton for punishment," said Vicente. "This is the second time we've beaten them on this issue. I'm fairly confident this will keep them quiet for awhile." Between February and now, the state's medical marijuana program has gone into overdrive. The number of patients is increasingly dramatically, with some 2,000 patients added in June, bringing the state's total to more than 9,000. And with the change of administrations in Washington, dispensaries have begun proliferating. There are now nearly 40, most of them in the Denver metro area. Nearly 600 different physicians have issued recommendations for medical marijuana. Two provisions of the health department proposal earned the most denunciations from patients and providers: One would tighten the definition of who qualifies as a licensed caregiver; the other would limit the number of patients a caregiver can provide for to five. There is currently no limit on the number of patients a caregiver can grow or otherwise provide for. Colorado medical marijuana certificate
(courtesy Cannabis Culture Magazine)
Supporters of the proposal -- basically limited to police, prosecutors, and the state's chief medical officer -- told the Board of Health Monday that the current situation, which sets no limits on the number of people for whom caregivers can provide, was susceptible to fraud and caused confusion over who could legally grow. Dr. Ned Calonge, the chief medical officer, warned that the medical marijuana program will "continue to grow out of control" unless the restrictive rules were adopted. The 2000 initiative defines caregivers as people who have a "significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient," he said, adding that he did not think that allowed for the creation of dispensaries. Capping the number of patients a caregiver could provide for at five was reasonable, Calonge said. "We define a primary caregiver as significantly participating in a patient's everyday care," he said. "If those caregivers are making home visits to each patient, considering travel time, they could visit five patients a day. We believe we have ample precedent and supportive evidence for this number," he said. Denver Assistant District Attorney Helen Morgan told the board some counties aren't prosecuting marijuana grows because of confusion over who is allowed to grow medical marijuana. She also said that authorities in Denver have found large marijuana grows whose operators claim to be providing medical marijuana. That claim was echoed by Holly Dodge, deputy district attorney for El Paso County, who spoke on behalf of the Colorado District Attorney's Council. "There is no way of appropriately protecting a patient when they have a caregiver with 300 other patients," she said. "That's not caregiving, that's marijuana growing." But Calonge, Dodge, and Morgan were definitely in the minority, with the sometimes raucous crowd hissing and booing their comments. For most of the day, the board heard from patient after patient, as well as caregivers, dispensary operators, and doctors, that the system was working just fine as it is. The board was also clearly warned that it would be slapped with an already prepared lawsuit today if it voted to adopt the restrictive proposal. Colorado "Marijuana Boot Camp" for activists,
organized by SAFER, November 2008 One physician opposing the restrictive proposal was Dr. Paul Bregman, who warned it would drive patients to the streets in search of their medicine. "More regulation drives people to the black market, and that means patient care suffers," said Bregman. Damien LaGoy told the board he smokes marijuana to counter the side effects, including nausea, of his daily doses of HIV medication. He gets his medicine from a caregiver who serves nine people, he said, adding that if couldn't use that caregiver he would be forced to trawl Colfax Avenue in search of street dealers. "I might as well not have a license and just go buy it on the street like everyone else," he said. Dispensary operator Jim Bent told the board the proposal threatened patient health and treated marijuana dispensaries unfairly. "If this law passes, patients will lose their access to safe medicine and some will die," he said. "Please be compassionate." Bent also rejected any limits on the number of patients a dispensary can handle. "I'd like to be under the same standards as Walgreens or a Wal-Mart pharmacy," he said. Former Denver senior deputy district attorney Lauren Davis told the board the proposal would not address law enforcement concerns raised earlier in the day and could even be counterproductive. "Limiting caregivers will increase the number of small-grower operations," she said. At the end of the day, the Board of Health agreed with opponents of the rule change. It voted 6-3 to reject the proposal. "They received more emails and written comments on this than they had on any issue in history," said Vicente. "They had hundreds of people show up to testify against this. They heard from an impressive array of experts, doctors, lawyers, writers of the law, sick patients, and caregivers. The board listened."
Location: 
Denver, CO
United States

Health Board votes down pot restriction (We Won!)

[Courtesy of Sensible Colorado]

A Stunning Victory for Patients' Rights


Late last night the Colorado Board of Health rejected a series of controversial restrictions to the state's medical marijuana law.  The proposals were met with vast opposition from across the state, with approximately 1000 opponents attending the hearing.  Hundreds testified against the changes including lawyers, doctors, care providers, veterans, and numerous health-care and religious organizations.

Learn more about the Hearing here.


"This is a historic victory for patients' rights and safe access to medicine," said Brian Vicente executive director of Sensible Colorado, the non-profit organization which headed opposition to the plan. "Please help us continue our successful work on behalf of medical marijuana patients and providers by becoming a Sensible Colorado monthly donor today.  As little as $5 a month can make a huge difference in our ability to fight for patients' rights and sensible drug reform."

Many thanks to the hundreds of individuals and organizations who attended the Hearing or submitted written comments.  Your grassroots support absolutely helped sway the vote in the right direction.  Special thanks to our coalition partners SAFER, MPP, ASA, and Norml.  

Location: 
CO
United States

New York Times Struggles With Marijuana Addiction

First, The New York Times ran an alarming, anecdotal scare story about marijuana addiction in which they tracked down a couple people who weren't happy with their lives and gave them a forum in which to blame all their problems on marijuana.

Then, The Times invited 5 experts to debate the subject and, shockingly, they all seem to agree that marijuana addiction is overblown and our policies should be changed to reduce penalties for marijuana use.

It's getting harder and harder to find anyone who actually knows anything about marijuana and yet still believes people should be punished for using it.

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