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Marijuana Policy Project: Watch / listen to our ads in New York and Rhode Island

Dear friends:

Yesterday, MPP began airing this TV ad in New York State, urging concerned citizens to ask their state senators to make New York the 13th medical marijuana state.

The ad features Burton Aldrich, a quadriplegic father of five who relies on medical marijuana to control the excruciating pain and violent spasms related to his condition. In the ad, Aldrich says, "I don't know if I would be around if it wasn't for marijuana. It shouldn't be a crime to treat pain and suffering.”

The New York Assembly passed MPP's bill last June with a 95-52 vote, and now we need the state Senate to act before it adjourns on June 23. You can read media coverage of our campaign here.

As you may know, MPP is 100% dependent on financial help from supporters like you to keep this ad on the air over the next few weeks. If you support MPP's aggressive and effective campaigns to pass medical marijuana laws, would you please help today?

And last week, MPP began airing this radio ad in Rhode Island. You can listen here as medical marijuana patient George Des Roches asks, "Have you ever had a gun held at you to buy your medicine? I have, seven times." You can also see the Providence Journal's coverage of the ad here.

MPP passed a law protecting Rhode Island medical marijuana patients from arrest and jail in 2006. However, because some patients are unable to grow their own marijuana or to find a caregiver who can, they must risk buying marijuana on the criminal market. At least three, including George, have either had guns held at them or been mugged while trying to obtain medical marijuana on the streets.

The radio ad urges Rhode Islanders to pressure the Rhode Island House to pass legislation to allow three nonprofit organizations to dispense medical marijuana to registered patients. The Senate passed such legislation by a 29-6 vote on May 15 but — so far — the House has yet to take action.

The bill is supported by the state medical and nurses associations, as well as the Rhode Island State Council of Churches, the Rhode Island chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the Rhode Island Office of the Public Defender, and — according to MPP's new poll — 69% of Rhode Island voters.

We're only able to press forward with ads like these with the financial support of our e-mail subscribers and other dues-paying members. Would you please help us keep these ads on the air by making a donation today?

Thank you,
Kampia signature (e-mail sized)

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 $3.0 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2008. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

Reuters Should Stop Printing Mindless Anti-Pot Propaganda

No one other than the Drug Czar publishes more misleading headlines about marijuana than Reuters news service. Heck, the Drug Czar even gets his blogging ideas from them.

Via NORML, just look at these two recent Reuters headlines regarding recent marijuana research:

Heavy marijuana use shrinks brain parts

Marijuana may up heart attack, stroke risk

All of this sounds very disturbing, of course, but as is always the case with scary marijuana headlines, there turns out to be far more to the story and far less for marijuana users to worry about. In this case, both studies relied on small samples of obscenely heavy marijuana users (up to 350 joints per week!).

Let me be the first to concede that if someone smokes marijuana all day every day, there is something wrong with them. They may be treating a medical and/or psychological condition and their use may even be understandable under some unusual circumstance. But these are not the people we should study if we want to know the effects of marijuana. The lessons we learn from observing them won't apply to anyone but them.

Beyond all of that, neither of these studies even shows what the headline said. They just didn't. Sarah Baldauf at U.S. News & World Report helpfully points out that the "shrinking brain" study researchers didn't know what size the participants' brains were before initiating marijuana use. It's possible that people with a smaller hippocampus and amygdala are more likely to become compulsive marijuana users, and that the drug doesn’t change brain size at all. Brain size is also a deeply flawed measure of intelligence anyway. In sum, the story isn't news, it's nonsense.

As for the marijuana-heart disease link, the study didn’t address whether the subjects actually had heart disease. Its conclusions were based on heightened levels of a protein that's associated with heart disease. It means nothing, even if you leave aside the fact that the subjects of the study smoked an unbelievable 78-350 joints per week.

In fairness to Reuters, both stories included a strong counterpoint from MPP's Bruce Mirkin, arguing that the absurdly high marijuana consumption of the study participants rendered any conclusions meaningless. Nonetheless, we should not be grateful simply because a reformer got a quote in a story that should never have been published.

We could go on all day about bad things that marijuana "might cause," "could lead to," or "may be associated with," but none of that means a thing unless it's actually true. What is true, and will always be true, is that the war on marijuana users harms far more people than marijuana ever could.

Press Release: New York Patients Announce Medical Marijuana TV Ad Campaign

Gretchen Steele

For Release: June 3, 2008

Bryan O’Malley, 518-455-4941 (office)/518-495-2181 (cellular)
Dan Bernath, MPP Assistant Director of Communications, 202-462-5747 ex. 115

New York Patients Announce Medical Marijuana TV Ad Campaign Legislation Would Protect Seriously Ill from Arrest, Jail

ALBANY, NEW YORK — Hoping to build support in Albany for legislation to protect seriously ill New Yorkers from arrest for using doctor-recommended medical marijuana, patients at a press conference today unveiled a new TV ad that begins airing today across the state. The bill has passed the Assembly, but has not been acted on in the state Senate.

The ad – available at and – features Kingston resident Burton Aldrich, a quadriplegic who relies on medical marijuana to control the excruciating pain and violent spasms related to his condition. In the ad, Aldrich says, "I don’t know if I would be around if it wasn’t for marijuana."

"I use medical marijuana with my doctors' support because I can't find anything that works as well with as few side effects," Aldrich said. "I have no choice but to break the law in order to find relief. That's wrong. I'm counting on the Senate to do the sensible, compassionate thing and make it right."

Bill sponsor Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried called on his Senate colleagues to finish the work the Assembly started last year when it passed a medical marijuana bill, 95-52.

"When the law says we must arrest sick and dying patients for seeking relief from debilitating pain, then it's time to change the law," the Assembly Health Committee chair said. "There’s no excuse for this cruel injustice."

Following the press conference, patients from across the state joined Aldrich to lobby senators to support medical marijuana legislation. Those lobbying included Bruce Dunn of Otsego County, who suffers chronic pain from a vehicle accident in 1988; Barbara Jackson, a cancer survivor from the Bronx who was arrested for using marijuana to treat dangerous appetite loss; and Richard Williams of Richmondville who has battled HIV for 20 years and also has hepatitis C.

With more than 23,000 members and 180,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit

Albany, NY
United States

Press Release: New York Patients to Announce TV Ad Campaign, Urge Senate to Pass Medical Marijuana Law

Gretchen Steele
For Release: June 2, 2008

Bryan O’Malley, 518-455-4941 (office) / 518-495-2181 (cellular)
Dan Bernath, MPP Assistant Director of Communications, 202-462-5747 ex. 115

**MEDIA ADVISORY** New York Patients to Announce TV Ad Campaign, Urge Senate to Pass Medical Marijuana Law

Patients with serious medical conditions from the across the state will join Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried (D, WF – Manhattan) to unveil a new TV ad campaign urging the Senate to pass medical marijuana legislation before its June 23 adjournment. Right after the press conference, patients with serious conditions will lobby their senators on the issue. Journalists are invited to follow along.

WHAT: Press conference to announce new TV ad campaign for New York's medical marijuana bill followed by "lobby day"

WHO: Scheduled participants include:

• Assembly Health Committee Chair and sponsor Richard N. Gottfried

• Burton Aldrich, a quadriplegic father of five from Kingston, featured in the ads

• Glenn Amandola, a retired New York City police officer who suffers from chronic pain and a seizure disorder after being injured on the job

• Bruce Dunn of Otsego County, who suffers chronic pain from a vehicle accident in 1988

• Fred McLaughlin, a multiple sclerosis patient from Long Island

• Barbara Jackson, a cancer survivor from the Bronx who was prosecuted for using marijuana to treat dangerous appetite loss

• Richard Williams of Richmondville who has battled HIV for 20 years and also has hepatitis C

WHEN: Tuesday, June 3 at 10:30 a.m.

WHERE: Room 823, Legislative Office Building, Albany

Albany, NY
United States

Ruling clouds Mendocino pot measure

Ukiah, CA
United States
The Press Democrat (CA)

Marijuana: Hawaii County Council Rejects "Green Harvest" Eradication Program

By the narrowest of margins, the Aloha State's Big Island Hawaii County Council has rejected a state and federally funded marijuana eradication program known as "Green Harvest." The action came during a council meeting last week, when the council tied 4-4 on whether to continue to support the widely criticized program. The tie vote meant the motion to accept the funding failed.
Volcano National Park, Hawaii Island
"Green Harvest" began in Hawaii three decades ago and has been controversial ever since. Many residents opposed the program, saying low-flying helicopters searching for pot fields disrupted rural life and invaded their privacy. Others argued that the program has done little to eradicate marijuana and even promoted the use of other, more dangerous drugs.

By the 1990s, council members heeding public complaints began expressing reservations about the helicopter missions. In 2000, they rejected $265,000 in federal eradication funds, two-thirds of the program's money that year. But the following year, they once again accepted the full amount offered.

But last week's vote means the council will say "no thanks" to $441,000 in state and federal funds for "Green Harvest." It also means the county will save the $53,000 from its own budget that would have been its share of the operation's financial burden.

Last month, the council had narrowly approved "Green Harvest" on a 5-3 vote, but that vote had to be redone because the council failed to publish the legislation in local newspapers, as required by law. That provided the opportunity for Councilman Angel Pilago to change his vote and kill the program.

"This will have long-term impacts," Pilago said. "When we institute programs we, the county government, need to look at if they are detrimental to people's rights and the health and safety of the community. That's what we do," he told the Associated Press after the vote. "It's about home rule," he said. "The county must be assertive and aggressive and not defer certain powers to the state and federal governments. We must not cede those powers."

Pilago is running for mayor of Hawaii County, and his vote on "Green Harvest," as well as his support for a lowest law enforcement priority initiative currently underway there, could help him draw a contrast between himself and incumbent Mayor Harry Kim, who is a "Green Harvest" supporter.

"My position is no secret," Kim told the AP. "I support eradication, as long as it's done in a way that is not harmful to people who should not be harmed, as far as noise and catchment systems and all those concerns. I'm against all drugs. Marijuana is an illegal drug."

Medical Marijuana: California Appeals Court Throws Out Quantity Limits

In a May 22 decision, the California 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles has ruled that state lawmakers unconstitutionally overstepped their bounds by limiting the amount of marijuana patients could possess. California's Compassionate Use Act became law as the result of a 1996 voter initiative, and the legislature cannot amend initiatives, the court held.
California medical marijuana bags (courtesy Daniel Argo via Wikimedia)
Seeking to regulate medical marijuana in the state, the legislature passed a bill that set limits on the amount of pot patients could possess. That bill set the limit at eight ounces of dried marijuana and six mature or 12 seedling plants.

Prosecutors used that provision of the law to charge medical marijuana patient Patrick Kelly with marijuana possession and sales after they busted him with 12 ounces. Kelley was a registered patient, but did not have a doctor's recommendation that he needed more than the eight ounces envisioned by the legislative action. Prosecutors were wrong to charge Kelly, the court held.

"The CUA does not quantify the marijuana a patient may possess. Rather, the only 'limit' on how much marijuana a person falling under the act may possess is it must be for the patient's 'personal medical purposes,'" Justice Richard Aldrich wrote.

"The legislature... cannot amend an initiative, such as the CUA, unless the initiative grants the legislature authority to do so," Aldrich continued in the 7-2 opinion. "The CUA does not grant the legislature the authority to amend it without voter approval."

The unconstitutional provision was part of a 2004 bill by Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) that sought to clarify the state's medical marijuana law. The following year, Vasconcellos got a bill passed that removed the cap language, but it was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who argued that it removed "reasonable and established quantity guidelines."

Australia: Doc Group Lobbies for Tougher Western Australia Marijuana Laws, Cites Mental Health Threat

The Australian Medical Association has called on the state government of Western Australia to introduce harsher marijuana laws. It warned of an increased risk of schizophrenia among pot smokers, citing a new review of international research on the links between marijuana and mental illness.

Western Australia has some of the most tolerant pot laws in the country. While the possession, use, or cultivation of any amount of marijuana remains illegal, under the state's 2004 Cannabis Control Act, adults possessing 30 grams or less or two or less non-hydroponically-grown plants can avoid a criminal conviction if they pay a fine or attend drug classes.

The Western Australia government has promised to toughen marijuana laws so that any adult who grew marijuana or possessed more than 15 grams of it would face criminal charges. But it has so far failed to introduced the legislation.

On Saturday, AMA president Dr. Rosanna Capolingua called on Western Australia Health Minister Jim McGinty to get moving. "The soft marijuana laws certainly do not help support the message that marijuana is not a soft drug," Dr. Capolingua told the newspaper The West. "Even though punitive measures are not always smiled upon as far as drug abuse goes, it really gets down to when do we start protecting people from substances such as marijuana and when do we need laws to protect people?"

Capolingua's tough stance puts her and the AMA at odds with its own official position on marijuana adopted two years ago. In its Position Statement -- Cannabis, 2006, the AMA had this to say about criminal penalties for drug use:

"It is often cited that criminal penalties will act as a deterrent to use. There is no evidence to support this. In A Public Health Perspective on Cannabis and Other Illegal Drugs, the Canadian Medical Association highlights the profound impact on health status associated with having a criminal record. The presence of a criminal record can severely limit employment prospects leading to poor health."

"Evidence indicates that strict drug laws in general encourage people to take more potent drugs and to consume them in unsafe ways. Prohibition also makes users less likely to seek treatment when they get into difficulty. 'Prohibition is the cause of a significant proportion of the health costs associated with illicit drug use and it hinders the achievement of the objective of harm minimization.' Research indicates that the introduction of liberal drug laws may result in a slight increase in temporary drug use but that it is unlikely to increase, and may even decrease, drug related health costs."

Marijuana: Idaho Resort Town Passes Three Initiatives -- Again

For the second time in less than a year, voters in the Sun Valley town of Hailey, Idaho, have approved a trio of marijuana reform initiatives. A measure legalizing medical marijuana, another legalizing industrial hemp, and a third directing the city to make marijuana law enforcement its lowest policing priority all passed. A fourth initiative that would have directed the city to tax and regulate marijuana distribution failed.
Selkirk mountains, northern Idaho
Voters passed the same three initiatives in November, but city officials balked at enforcing them. That stance was strengthened by a December opinion from the Idaho Attorney General's office that the local initiatives conflicted with state law.

But Ryan Davidson, chairman of the Idaho Liberty Lobby, the group that organized both efforts, put the initiatives back on the ballot. Another round of ballot box victories would make it "politically less viable" for local officials to oppose the will of the voters, he told the Idaho Mountain News.

Where things will go from here remains to be seen. The Hailey mayor, a city councilor, and the chief of police sued the city earlier this month over the initiatives in search of a judgment the city can use as a guide for dealing with them.

Medical Marijuana: Employment Rights Bill Passes California Assembly

A medical marijuana employment rights bill that would protect California patients from being fired because their medication is marijuana passed the California Assembly Wednesday. Introduced by leading legislative medical marijuana defender Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), and cosponsored by Assemblymembers Patty Berg (D-Eureka), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego), the bill, AB 2279, would overturn a January California Supreme Court decision, Ross v. Raging Wire.

In that case, the state Supreme Court upheld the ability of employers to fire employees who test positive for marijuana even if they are patients. That decision left the state's estimated 150,000 registered medical marijuana patients facing renewed job insecurity.

AB 2279 would undo that ruling. It would "declare it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a person in hiring, termination, or any term or condition of employment or otherwise penalize a person, if the discrimination is based upon the person's status as a qualified patient or primary caregiver, or a positive drug test for marijuana, except as specified."

The bill also provides authorization for those who have been discriminated against by employers because of their medical marijuana use to sue for damages, seek injunctions and other appropriate relief. It would not prevent an employer from firing an employee who is impaired on the job because of medical marijuana use.

"AB 2279 is not about being under the influence while at work. That's against the law, and will remain so," said Leno, the bill's author. "It's about allowing patients who are able to work safely and who use their doctor-recommended medication in the privacy of their own homes, to not be arbitrarily fired from their jobs. The voters who supported Proposition 215 did not intend for medical marijuana patients to be forced into unemployment in order to benefit from their medicine," Leno continued.

"The California Assembly has acted to protect the right of patients to work and be productive members of society," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, the medical marijuana advocacy group that argued the case before the Court and is now a supporter of the bill. "The state Senate now has the important task of passing this bill with the aim to protect the jobs of thousands of Californians with serious illnesses such as cancer and HIV/AIDS."

"It's important that we not allow employment discrimination in California," said Gary Ross, the former plaintiff in Ross v. Raging Wire. "If the Court is going to ignore the need for protection, then it's up to the legislature to ensure that productive workers like me are free from discrimination."

The bill has broad support from labor, business, civil rights, and medical groups. It now heads to the state Senate.

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