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Opponents of Medical Marijuana Are Getting Lonely and Discouraged

I like this post from Pete Guither about a small group of Californians plotting to fight back against the medical marijuana movement. The odds are stacked against them in that the public opposes them, they keep losing in court and they don’t have any money to fund their advocacy efforts.

I can't help but think that this is how drug policy reformers must have felt during the Reagan years. It's amazing that we've come so far now, our opponents are the ones bunkered down trying to figure out a way to stop the momentum of marijuana reform.

Free Marc Emery!! Canada's Prince of Pot Has Begun His Journey Into America's Gulag

Marc Emery is no longer a free man. Canada's Prince of Pot was taken into custody today. He turned himself in at the BC Supreme Court in Vancouver, and is now jailed in Vancouver awaiting imminent extradition to the US, where he is set to plead guilty to one count of marijuana distribution for selling pot seeds over the Internet. Emery is expected to be sentenced to five years in federal prison in the US for his seed sales. He sold millions of seeds in the decade prior to his 2005 arrest and became a leading hemispheric advocate for marijuana legalization, using the profits from his seed sales to fund reformers across the continent. He also called out then drug czar John Walters for lying about marijuana and interfering in Canadian domestic politics, leading then DEA head Karen Tandy to issue this press release lauding his arrest as a blow to the legalization movement:
Today's DEA arrest of Marc Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine, and the founder of a marijuana legalization group -- is a signficant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the U.S. and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement. His marijuana trade and propagandist marijuana magazine have generated nearly $5 million a year in profits that bolstered his trafficking efforts, but those have gone up in smoke today. Emery and his organization had been designated as one of the Attorney General's most wanted international drug trafficking organizational targets -- one of only 46 in the world and the only one from Canada. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery's illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canda. Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on.
Can you say politically motivated? I knew you could. One American attorney familiar with his case told me this weekend that Emery could have fought the prosecution and sought to have shown that it was unlawfully politically motivated, but that Emery and his Canadian legal team didn't want to take that risk. That's understandable, given that Emery was looking at decades or even life in prison if he lost. Now, America's legions of unknown marijuana martyrs are being joined by one very big name. Let's hope that Emery's unjust imprisonment turns a spotlight on the hideousness of a US federal legal system that turns a blind eye to torture but cages a man for selling pot seeds. The Vancouver Sun's Ian Mulgrew sums it up nicely in an op-ed piece entitled Marc Emery's Sentence Reeks of Injustice and Mocks Our Sovreignty:
After two decades as Canada's Prince of Pot, Marc Emery will surrender himself today in B.C. Supreme Court and become the country's first Marijuana Martyr. Emery will begin serving what could be as long as five years behind bars as Uncle Sam's prisoner for a crime that in Canada would have earned him at most a month in the local hoosegow. It is a legal tragedy that in my opinion marks the capitulation of our sovereignty and underscores the hypocrisy around cannabis. Emery hasn't even visited America but he was arrested in July 2005 at the request of a Republican administration that abhorred his politics. He is being handed over to a foreign government for an activity we are loath to prosecute because we don't think selling seeds is a major problem. There are at least a score of seed-sellers downtown and many, many more such retail outlets across the country. In the days ahead, once the federal justice minister signs the extradition papers, Emery will be frog-marched south to Seattle where his plea bargain will be rubber-stamped and he will be sent to a U.S. penitentiary. For comparison, consider that the B.C. Court of Appeal last year said a one-month jail sentence plus probation was appropriate punishment for drug and money-laundering offences of this ilk. The last time Emery was convicted in Canada of selling pot seeds, back in 1998, he was given a $2,000 fine.
There's more at the link above, but you get the gist. Mulgrew, of course, is right on the money. The Canadian government has shamefully failed to protect one of its citizens from the crazed drug war machine south of the border, and the US government is shamelessly imprisoning yet another non-violent pot person--this time mainly to shut him up. We should demand that Marc Emery and all other marijuana prisoners be immediately released. Short of that, we should, as Emery requests, demand that he be allowed to serve his time at home in a Canadian prison.

Police Discover World's Most Expensive Marijuana

Police in Texas just made a remarkable discovery that could potentially turn the domestic marijuana industry upside down. Although a recent drug raid only turned up a single marijuana plant, officers determined that it is the most valuable marijuana ever reported. According to Sheriff Thomas Kerss, this type of marijuana has a street value of $6,000 per ounce!

That's some very impressive pot. According to the government's own data, collected by the National Drug Intelligence Center, high-grade marijuana prices top out at around $7,500 per pound in high-value markets. That's around $470 an ounce. Similarly, the marijuana magazine High Times estimates the average price of high-grade marijuana at $428 per ounce in August 2009.

As you can see, the marijuana just discovered in Texas is more than 12 times as valuable as anything currently on the market. Even the hippies at High Times have never heard of anything like this, but maybe that's because the police are doing such a good job keeping it off the streets.

Or maybe the police lied about how much it's worth. After finding only one little pot plant in a big dramatic drug raid, they wildly inflated the value of their drug seizure in order to make newspaper headlines. It's happened before, although this is by far the most laughably outrageous marijuana price ever claimed by police in the three years I've been documenting this behavior.

At $6,000 an ounce, that would mean one little joint costs $200. A dimebag would be invisible to the naked eye. It just doesn’t make sense, which is why I refuse to believe it's an honest mistake when cops say stuff like this. Narcotics investigators buy drugs all the time so they can arrest people for selling to them. They know the market well and if their estimates come out all crazy, it's because they're trying to impress people with the fruits of their filthy labor.

But the stupidity doesn’t end there. Lying about the value of marijuana rather obviously encourages people to grow it. If these guys really gave a damn about "winning" the war on drugs, they wouldn’t be running around in the middle of an economic crisis telling people you can make thousands of dollars from a single marijuana plant. Nonsense like that could quickly blow up in your face.

Unless, of course, the people who get paid a good salary and benefits to bust marijuana growers actually want more people to do it. Say it ain't so.

Update: I just heard back from KRTE9 News and the online version of the story has been corrected to say $6,000 per pound, which makes a lot more sense. I'm told that "the DEA mistakenly told the sheriff 6,th an oz," which is pretty weird. That means multiple law enforcement agencies were involved in disseminating this number and no one noticed how absurd it was?

I'll take their word for it that someone just screwed up here, which is what a couple readers suggested to me as well. But please understand that this is hardly the first time I've encountered police claiming ridiculous marijuana prices that artificially inflated the value of their drug seizures. Whether it's done deliberately or not, this behavior serves to misinform the public and shouldn’t be tolerated.

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Dr. Drew & The Drug Czar Join Forces to Scare Parents About Marijuana Legalization

As a teenager I used to listen to Dr. Drew's Loveline radio show every night. I learned a lot about sex and drugs that I was better off hearing on the radio than finding out the hard way and I'll always be grateful for that. But I gotta say, I liked Dr. Drew a lot better when he was co-hosting with Adam Carolla, as opposed to the, um, drug czar.

This live web chat is so painfully boring and redundant you can guess where I found the link. But at least they had the guts to sort of vaguely pretend to respond to a marijuana legalization question:

shortpumppreppy: There is so much public buzz in favor of the legalization of marijuana, how can I keep my teens from being swayed?

Director Kerlikowske: I think that the biggest influence on young people is often the parents or the caregiver in the house. If they stress the risks and dangers of drugs, regardless of what the discussion in the media might be about marijuana being legalized, they will have more influence than what happens on a news report that night. The marijuana today has a very high content of THC, which is the psychoactive component in marijuana, and it can have very serious effects on adolescents. The research on this is very clear.

Dr. Drew: Once again the Director and I agree. Not only that, but addiction to cannabis is probably the most common one I deal with today. Make no mistake about it. In addition, I would urge parents to ask their children to move away from the idea that there are "good" drugs and "bad" drugs; let the legal process do that.

Let the what? Yeah, who needs doctors anyway when we can let lawyers tell us what drugs we need. I agree that it's dumb for parents to lump all drugs into one of two extreme categories. But it's even dumber when the government does that.

Maybe Dr. Drew is hinting at the idea that the harms of drugs are circumstantial rather than purely pharmacological, which would be a valid observation. If he'd actually said that, it would've been his most interesting and helpful contribution to the entire conversation. But it also would have confused the living hell out of the drug czar, whose appalling cluelessness about drugs is probably the reason Dr. Drew was brought in to begin with.

Surprise! Police Chief Makes Bad Argument Against Legalizing Marijuana

Nobody opposes marijuana legalization except more than those who personally profit from prohibition. That much is easy to understand. What's not so easily understood are the arguments they use:

[El Centro Police Chief] McGinley says if pot is legalized in California, it will be a devastating blow to a battle law enforcement has been fighting for years.

McGinley says the move would turn back the clock, and take away all the time and effort law enforcement has spent educating people on the dangers of drugs. [KSWT 13 News]

Actually, that time and effort is already gone. And I love how he uses the term "educating" as a euphemism for smashing down doors, handcuffing people and taking them to jail.

Still, if you think about it, his argument really strikes at the heart of why law enforcement tends to instinctively oppose fixing our drug laws. They've been "educating" the hell out of everyone for decades and hurting an awful lot of people in the process. It would be supremely embarrassing if it suddenly became clear to everyone that legalization actually works a lot better.

Europe: Dutch Border Town Cannabis Coffee Shop Owners Lose Court Battle Against Ban

Six Dutch border town cannabis coffee shop owners seeking to block local authorities from shutting them down lost a court battle last Friday. A judge in Breda in the southern Netherlands ruled that the coffee shop owners had chosen the wrong judicial venue for their challenge of the ban.
downstairs of a coffee shop (courtesy Wikimedia)
On Wednesday, seven of the eight border town coffee shops closed their doors. An eighth stayed open, but the owner said he was only selling coffee.

The coffee shop owners are challenging a decision by the mayors of Roosendaal and Bergen-op-Zoom, both near the Belgian border, to close all eight coffee shops in their communities in a bid to stop "drug tourism." An estimated 25,000 foreigners pour into the two towns each week to take advantage of the Dutch policy that tolerates retail marijuana sales. They are blamed for causing problems ranging from public urination to traffic congestion to hard drug dealing.

Under the ban, the coffee shops could stay open and serve alcohol, but could not sell marijuana. If they continued to sell marijuana, they could be punished with a five-year closure.

The ban by the mayors comes as the Dutch government wrestles with how to reduce or eliminate the number of foreigners coming to Holland from more repressive neighboring countries to buy marijuana. Last week, a leaked letter from three Dutch ministers suggested the government would seek a "members only" policy for the coffee houses.

Under European Union law, countries cannot discriminate by nationality, so the Dutch cannot ban foreigners from becoming coffee house members. But the Dutch government wants to get around the law by requiring that marijuana be purchased only with credit cards issued by Dutch banks.

Feature: What's the Matter With San Diego? Another Round of Medical Marijuana Raids and Arrests Hit "America's Finest City"

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis claims to be a friend of medical marijuana, but one would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the local medical marijuana community who would agree with her. This "friend" coordinated mass raids against medical marijuana dispensaries there in 2006, again in February of this year, and yet again just last week.
courthouse demonstration (courtesy William West,
It is part and parcel of a pattern of bitter, recalcitrant refusal on the part of San Diego county officials to abide by the will of the voters and accept the state's medical marijuana law. The conservative county Board of Commissioners is notorious for its opposition to medical marijuana, going so far as pursuing a quixotic and costly legal challenge to state laws, which it lost in every court that heard it.

On Tuesday, the Board unanimously extended for 10 months a moratorium on new dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county. After its court challenge to the state law was defeated, the Board is now grudgingly allowing staff to develop regulations for dispensaries, but in the meantime, DA Dumanis is picking them off in batches.

The city of San Diego has been a bit more friendly. Last week, just one day before Dumanis' raiders struck, the City Council voted to implement a task force to create recommendations for regulating collectives and co-ops in accordance with guidelines issued earlier this year by the state attorney general. But if the City Council is working with the medical marijuana community, the San Diego Police Department is not. Instead, it has joined forces with Dumanis and her conservative cronies to attack the dispensaries.

Last week's raids shuttered 14 dispensaries in San Diego, the North County, and South Bay, and resulted in 33 arrests -- 31 under state charges and two under federal charges -- including wheelchair-bound patients hauled away by armed and uniformed law enforcement agents. Dumanis assembled squads of San Diego Police, San Diego County Sheriff's officers, DEA agents, and IRS agents to swoop down on the dispensaries, make arrests, seize cash and medicine, and disrupt the local medical marijuana distribution system.

While the DEA was present, last week's raids were Dumanis's baby. Only two of those arrested face federal charges.

"It was a joint investigation with the sheriff's department and the police department," said San Diego DEA spokeswoman Amy Roderick. "We were asked for our assistance. We were not at every location."

Roderick declined to spell out how DEA San Diego is interpreting the current Justice Department position on not pursuing medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal unless they are in violation of state law. "I can't comment on policy," she said. "It's not made by the DEA."

"Like most San Diegans, I support the use of legitimate and legal medical marijuana use," Dumanis said at a press conference touting the busts. "However, it appears these so-called 'marijuana dispensaries' are nothing more than for-profit storefront drug dealing operations run by drug dealers hiding behind the state's medical marijuana law."
Donna Lambert (courtesy William West,
"We're not surprised at all, but very disappointed," said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "What Dumanis is doing is simply unacceptable. If she has legitimate concerns about how dispensaries are operating, whether they're operating as collectives, she could use civil actions, she could use letters and accountants. There is no call for bringing in the DEA, arresting people in wheelchairs, scaring the hell out of patients, and shutting off medical marijuana access for very sick people. It's her tactics that we're really concerned with," she said.

"But also her misrepresentations to the public of what she's doing and her unproductive strategy of pointing out what she says is illegal, but not saying what is legal," Dooley-Sammuli continued. "Collective operators are doing their best to comply with the law, but she doesn't have answers for them. People have gone out of their way to follow the guidelines, but got raided anyway."

I don't think Bonnie Dumanis has ever seen a legal dispensary in 13 years," said Dion Markgraff, San Diego coordinator for Americans for Safe Access "She can't follow the plain language of the law, but instead she holds some impossible standard that no one else knows about," he said.

"We're on the front lines of the most terrorist county in the whole state," Markgraff continued. "The DA is sending in cops who lied to doctors to get valid recommendations, and then busting dispensaries that are operating according to the law. At worst, maybe somebody didn't file this or that piece of paper or had a zoning issue, but there was certainly nothing criminal."

Markgraff himself has had a taste of the DA's bitter medicine. "I was raided two months ago for 32 immature plants," he related. "My girlfriend and I both have medical marijuana recommendations, and I had a state caregiver card. The cops laughed at my card, then stole it. They took everything, they arrested me and my girlfriend, they took my kid, they gave us both $130,000 bail. Now we're fighting this Kafkaesque, Orwellian system where the prosecutors and the judges don't give a shit about legality."

There was nothing unique about police seizing his daughter, Markgraff said. "They do it all the time. The first thing they say is 'we're going to take your kids if you don't plead.' When they're using your kids as leverage, that's really ugly," he said.

"We have not, and will not prosecute people who are legitimately and legally using medical marijuana," Dumanis said at the press conference. "It's a shame that a few illegal drug dealers are trampling on the compassion shown by voters in passing California's medical marijuana law."

Medical marijuana patient and now criminal defendant Donna Lambert begs to differ. She joined a 10-person medical marijuana collective after the 2006 raids that disrupted supplies. "I provided medical marijuana to a valid qualified patient who was an undercover cop who lied to a doctor to get a doctor's recommendation," said Lambert, who was one of 14 people arrested in the Operation Green RX raids conducted in February. "There was no dispute about my patient status or his patient status."

In Operation Green RX, as many as ten detectives spent six months becoming qualified medical marijuana patients on fraudulent grounds and then joining medical marijuana collectives. Undercover San Diego Police Detective Scott Henderson lied to a doctor to obtain a valid medical marijuana recommendation and then reached out to Ms. Lambert for help. When, believing she was lawfully helping another patient, she supplied him with medical marijuana, Lambert became yet another of Dumanis' victims.
San Diego demonstration against 'Operation Green RX' (courtesy William West,
Lambert, a 47-year-old San Diego resident, began relying on marijuana to cope with chemotherapy. She struggles with a number of serious illnesses, including hepatitis C, cirrhosis, cancer and Sjoegrens Disease. She was bound over for December trial during a preliminary hearing last week, despite the judge in that hearing noting that she was clearly not in it for profit. "My attorney says they've never dismissed a medical marijuana sales case in San Diego," she said.

"They are a little more conservative down there than the other coastal cities," said San Francisco-based Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Bruce Mirken when asked what was the matter with San Diego. "It seems like the county is more a problem than the city, and some of their officials, including the DA, are particularly bad."

California's confused medical marijuana law is part of the problem, said Mirken. "It doesn't specify with absolute clarity what is legal and what isn't when it comes to medical marijuana distribution. Everyone is operating on the attorney general's guidelines, which haven't been tested in court, and that leaves room for interpretation, so you have fertile ground for officials who choose to be jerks to wreak a great deal of havoc. That's what's happening in San Diego County."

"People got up in arms at the DEA, but in this case, they were playing a supporting role," said Mirken. "The real problem is local officials who think medical marijuana is okay as long as you don't actually get it from anyone. The law says patients can have marijuana, so it makes sense to have an aboveground, organized distribution system. We have working models for that in places like San Francisco and Oakland. It's not that hard to do if you have the political will to do it," Mirken said.

"It's just been an ongoing battle for lo these many years," said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML in San Francisco. "The city of San Diego isn't so bad, but the county is more conservative. The county board of commissioners is the one that filed the lawsuit trying to overturn the state medical marijuana law. And the DA is just bad. We initially approved of her election; she is gay, and was viewed as progressive, but she's been really tough on medical cannabis. Still, I see a glimmer of hope here. In half of her statements, Dumanis seems to be saying that there might be some legal dispensaries around, but nobody's clear on who they are."

San Diego medical marijuana patients and activists aren't seeing glimmers of hope; they're seeing red. "We need to replace the DA, most of the county board, and the county sheriff," said Lambert. "They are all working together to subvert the state law. It doesn't matter to them if people are following the law or not, she just lies through her teeth about it. I am the perfect example of her lies."

"Dumanis has made a political calculation that this will appeal to her conservative base," said Markgraff. "There is no one currently running against her, but we are trying to get someone to do that. There are plenty of people upset with her, and now just in the medical marijuana community. She's ripe for being thrown out," he said.

"We are mobilizing in San Diego," said Dooley-Sammuli. "Patients and medical marijuana supporters are working to put pressure on her to stop these tactics, and we're working with the newly created city task force to craft regulations, but this is really all about Bonnie Dumanis and the upcoming election. She is hoping this will work for her politically, and we're working to see that it doesn't."

San Diego activists told the Chronicle of many more horror stories about medical marijuana persecution under DA Dumanis. While they are working to get rid of Dumanis and bring a measure of real justice to the DA's office, the Chronicle will be digging a little deeper into the alleged abuses.

Are these ads too hot for TV?

[Courtesy of MPP] 

Dear friends:

Do you think these ads are too hot for TV? New York City's ABC, Fox, and CBS affiliates do — they've rejected them.

NY ad - Joel  

These stations have no problem airing lewd and violent commercials selling products like video games and reality shows, but they're rejecting ads asking the New York Legislature to allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana (something that 76% of New Yorkers support). What's wrong here?

We have a real shot at making New York the 14th medical marijuana state and the third to have state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. But before the legislature returns for a special session, they need to hear our message.

Don't let big media bureaucrats stand in the way of justice and compassion. Please join me in ensuring that as many New Yorkers as possible view these compelling ads by donating to the ad buy today.

Fortunately, many other stations have approved the ads. Let's show ABC, FOX, and CBS that their rejections have simply inspired supporters nationwide to light up the rest of the airwaves with these ads.

The ads are starting to air today, and any money you generously donate in response to this message will go straight into the purchase of more airtime. I invite you to give what you can today — $10, $25, $50, or more — to spread these ads across the airwaves.

The last time TV stations rejected one of our ads, it turned into a massive national news story. The same could happen this time with these ads.  By donating to the ad campaign today, you can be part of making a big media splash that puts voters face-to-face with the patients they have the chance to protect from arrest, while at the same time exposing the outrageous hypocrisy shown by some stations in rejecting the ads.

If you donate in response to this message, I'll make sure to send you a personal message in a few weeks to show you exactly how your investment in this special project paid off.

Thank you for considering this timely request.


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.

United States

The Marijuana Ads That ABC, FOX, and CBS Refused to Show You

New York City is the marijuana arrest capital of the world, which makes it harsh terrain for seriously ill patients who rely on medical marijuana for relief. An effort is under way to legalize medical marijuana in New York and remove sick people from the drug war battlefield.

Unfortunately, three of the biggest TV stations in New York City don't want you to know about it. ABC, FOX, and CBS affiliates all refused to run ads in support of protecting medical marijuana patients. This is the message they don't want you to hear:

These are seriously ill patients fighting for compassion and equality. To silence them is an act of appalling cruelty and ignorance. Whatever petty political considerations might motivate these TV stations to censor the medical marijuana debate are trivial compared to the real human suffering that will continue if patients are denied the opportunity to speak up.

Medical marijuana is supported by 76% of New Yorkers, so to suggest that there's anything inherently offensive about airing that viewpoint is just pure fiction. According to MPP's Bruce Mirken, CBS stated that they rejected the ad because they're "concerned about viewer reaction." Really, CBS? Is there anything objectionable about the idea of not arresting people with auto-immune disease? The most likely "viewer reaction" is that people will agree to support legislation that protects patients from arrest.

Please help us show these TV stations that their censorship is what's offensive, not the effort to protect seriously ill patients. Click to contact ABC, FOX, and CBS and let them know that silencing patients is both politically and morally wrong.

Europe: Dutch Border Town Cannabis Coffee Shop Owners Lose Court Battle Against Ban--UPDATED, Shops Now Closed

UPDATE: Seven of the eight shops in the two towns are closed as of today. The eight remains open, but says it is selling only coffee. Six Dutch border town cannabis coffee shop owners seeking to block local authorities from shutting them down lost a court battle last Friday. A judge in Breda in the southern Netherlands ruled that the coffee shop owners had chosen the wrong judicial venue for their challenge of the ban. The coffee shop owners are challenging a decision by the mayors of Roosendaal and Bergen-op-Zoom, both near the Belgian border, to close all eight coffee shops in their communities in a bid to stop “drug tourism.” An estimated 25,000 foreigners pour into the two towns each week to take advantage of the Dutch policy that tolerates retail marijuana sales. They are blamed for causing problems ranging from public urination to traffic congestion to hard drug dealing. Under the ban, the coffee shops could stay open and serve alcohol, but could not sell marijuana. If they continued to sell marijuana, they could be punished with a five-year closure. The lawyer representing the coffee house owners, Harry Nieland, said Tuesday that his clients had not yet decided whether they would abide by the ban on marijuana sales or challenge it. The ban by the mayors comes as the Dutch government wrestles with how to reduce or eliminate the number of foreigners coming to Holland from more repressive neighboring countries to buy marijuana. Last week, a leaked letter from three Dutch ministers suggested the government would seek a “members only” policy for the coffee houses. Under European Union law, countries cannot discriminate by nationality, so the Dutch cannot ban foreigners from becoming coffee house members. But the Dutch government wants to subvert the law by requiring that marijuana be purchased only with credit cards issued by Dutch banks.

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