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The Perfect Argument for Medical Marijuana in Michigan

Wow. The drug czar likes to complain about the deep pockets of the "pot lobby," and he's lucky it's a lie. If we could afford to put this video on the airwaves across America, the federal war against medical marijuana would be over in the blink of an eye. This is the truth about why we do what we do. These are the people who pay the price for our brutal drug laws and their stories are in our hearts each day as we fight for change. If you live in Michigan, please vote YES on Prop. 1. Tell your friends. Tell your mom. With your support, we can win another important victory for seriously ill patients.

Watch our new medical marijuana TV ads

Dear friends:

MPP's Michigan campaign committee hit the airwaves with two hard-hitting new TV ads, urging voters to pass the medical marijuana initiative there on November 4.

One ad features Michigan resident Deb Brink, who used medical marijuana to ease the side effects of chemotherapy during cancer treatment. The other spotlights Dr. George Wagoner, who lost his wife of 51 years, Beverly, to ovarian cancer last year. He explains how marijuana helped ease her suffering when drug after drug failed.

If a majority of Michigan voters pass MPP's initiative on November 4, Michigan law will change to allow patients to use, possess, and grow their own marijuana for medical purposes with their doctors' approval.

Michigan might be just days away from becoming the 13th state to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest and prison — and the first in the Midwest — but our opponents are pushing back hard, and we need the financial help of supporters like you to win. Would you please donate to MPP's campaign committee today, so that we have the funds it will take to win on Election Day?

We are counting on people like you to lend your voice for what's right in these final days. Thank you in advance for any help you can give.

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.

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Prevention: Drug Czar's Billion Dollar Anti-Drug Media Campaign a Waste of Money, Study Finds

Despite spending more than $1 billion between 1999 and 2004, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign has failed to demonstrate any measurable positive effects -- and it some cases, it may even have made youths more likely to use drugs, a new study has found.
John Walters
The campaign, memorable for its over-the-top TV ads linking marijuana smokers to terrorists and drivers who run down children in fast-food parking lots, was initiated in 1998 and originally derived from a Partnership for a Drug-Free America program. Its goal is to reduce teen drug use.

The findings come from a congressionally-mandated study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communication. The researchers conducted four rounds of interviews conducted between 1999 and 2004, each involving about 5,000 to 8,000 youths between the ages of 9 and 18 years. The study will be published in the December edition of the American Journal of Public Health.

"The evidence does not support a claim that the campaign produced anti-marijuana effects," concluded the authors, led by Professor Robert Hornik. "There is little evidence for a contemporaneous association between exposure to anti-drug advertising and any of the outcomes... Non-users who reported more exposure to anti-drug messages were no more likely to express anti-drug beliefs than were youths who were less exposed," they wrote.

"Despite extensive funding, governmental agency support, the employment of professional advertising and public relations firms, and consultation with subject-matter experts, the evidence from the evaluation suggests that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign had no favorable effects on youths' behavior and that it may even have had an unintended and undesirable effect on drug cognitions and use," the report said.

The authors found that the anti-drug ads may have inadvertently suggested to youth that other kids were doing drugs. That could have had pushed more kids to try drugs, they suggested.

"Youths who saw the campaign ads took from them the message that their peers were using marijuana," the report found. "In turn, those who came to believe that their peers were using marijuana were more likely to initiate use themselves."

While the anti-drug message may have been muddled, the ads were seen. Overall, 94% of the youths interviewed reported seeing one or more ads a week, with an average frequency of two or three a week.

Still, teen marijuana use is down, declining by 40% between 1997, before the campaign began, and 2007, according to the annual Monitoring the Future surveys of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders.

In an interview with ABC News last week, lead author Hornik said that the reported decline in marijuana use "could be due to lots of influences, not just the campaign." He said he had gone into the study expecting positive results, "but we couldn't find 'em."

This would appear to be a program ripe for the chopping block when Congress returns next year. After all, we are in for a time when we can't afford to be paying for unproven programs.

Feature: NORML Does Berkeley

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) held its 37th annual conference last weekend in Berkeley, California, and what better locale than the pot-friendly San Francisco Bay area? Just across the bay from San Francisco, just a few miles up the road from Oakland's Oaksterdam, just a couple of hours down US 101 from Northern California's marijuana-growing epicenter, Berkeley is the kind of place where NORML is, well, normal.
conference poster
The setting, too, was superb, in a hotel on the Berkeley marina, with views of the bay and the San Francisco skyline to one side and the Berkeley hills to the other. Hotel employees and security guards limited their policing to making sure people smoking stayed away from building entrances: "We don't care what you're smoking, just don't do it within 25 feet of the door," they pleaded.

Tie-dyed, long-haired, pot-bellied, aging-hippy mountain pot growers proudly bearing mason jars full of their best home-grown buds rubbed shoulders with suit-and-tie East Coast politicos. Research scientists mingled with hard-core legalizers. Media types met media critics. Lonely activists from the far provinces found their movement peers... and realized they were not alone. And loads of remarkably normal looking people roamed the halls, perused the vendors' tables, listened to conference sessions, and periodically wandered out back to join the non-stop medicating and just plain relaxing going on in the outdoors (in accordance with California's strict anti-smoking laws).

Compared to some other drug reform conferences, with their dizzying array of panels, often four or five at the same time, the NORML conference agenda was blessedly succinct. For the most part, it was one session per time block. On Friday, it was "Pot, Politics 2008 and Beyond," "The Legal Marijuana Generation -- Growing Up and Raising Children in the Age of Legal Pot," "Getting the Story Wrong -- How the Media Lie About Cannabis," followed by a trio of breakout sessions on activism Friday afternoon. On Saturday, it was "What if We Arrested 20 Million Americans -- and No One Noticed?," "The Politics of Marijuana and Health," lunch with a keynoted speech by California Assemblyman Mark Leno (D), "Drug Testing and Cannabis Use: The Case Against Legally Sanctioned Discrimination Via Forensics," and "Oaksterdam, USA (Cannabis Freedom is Closer Than You Think)," "Pot Culture." Sunday was devoted to sessions on setting up and operating dispensaries in California.

"This is not your parent's prohibition," said NORML board chair Steve Dillon, quickly hitting the conference's theme in his remarks opening the event. "It's much worse, much more costly. It's costing us the loss of freedom, our property, and our access to compassionate care. But marijuana prohibition is doomed to fail," he said to cheers. "It's totally illogical and counterproductive to continue to try to prohibit marijuana, but our government will have to be forced to end prohibition. We must elect new leaders and restore our damaged Constitution," he said.

"Marijuana prohibition is deeper and more entrenched than ever," said NORML executive director Alan St. Pierre, reprising the theme. "We'll be arresting a million people a year for pot by 2010 or 2012," he predicted. Marijuana prohibition is becoming harsher and more intensive."

But the prospects for positive change are the best in decades, St. Pierre argued. "If Barack Obama is elected, we will have the best chance for reform in the past 35 or 40 years. Maybe we can actually have an MD for a drug czar, or maybe Dr. Ethan Nadelmann," he daydreamed, to loud applause.

Also speaking at the opening session was Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington, who told the crowd it will take a long, hard, social, cultural, political, and legal battle to do away with "these stupid, absurd, insane marijuana policies." The people are way ahead of the politicians on marijuana legalization he said, urging people to put the pressure on their elected officials.

The day's second session, on the current state and future of marijuana reform politics was wide-ranging, with topics being discussed including the lowest priority initiative in Fayetteville, Arkansas, California Attorney General Jerry Brown's recent directive to law enforcement on medical marijuana, and the role of local activists in fending off an electoral backlash in Mendocino County. The session also saw attention to the big picture, with Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann, Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) head Rob Kampia, and Oregon NORML head Madelyn Martinez discussing current and future state-level efforts. (See a detailed story on those plans here.)

An especially illuminating panel took place Friday afternoon, with former NORML head and founder Richard Cowan moderating a panel on the press that included NORML's Paul Armentano, MPP direction of communications Bruce Mirken, Oregon activist and XM talk radio host "Radical Russ" Belville, and long-time pot beat reporter Ann Harrison. "We've been lied to and lied about," snorted Cowan, as he prepared to get out of the way and let the panelists explain how and why.

Armentano shone with a dissection of press coverage of the results of scientific studies on marijuana. "Less than 5% of cannabis studies are reported at all by the mainstream media," he noted, citing hard numbers from last year, "and those the media does focus on are the studies that focus on the dangers. Studies with health findings that do not support the dangers of cannabis are typically ignored," he added, listing a number of studies and how and with what frequency they were reported.

Armentano also created a typology of marijuana reporting in the mainstream press. "News reports must have alarmist headlines," he enumerated. "They must be based on press releases prior to publication of the actual research. They must be highly selective. And they must make no reference to earlier contradictory data."

Belville echoed Armentano's analysis of marijuana story types, presenting a list of common pot stories: "It's not your mother's marijuana," "Medical Marijuana Can Cause Adverse Effects, Researchers Say," "Teen Marijuana Use Linked to Later Illness."

Citing the work of political theorist George Lakeoff, Belville then explained how such headlines fit into a "frame," or pre-designed narrative form in which marijuana is associated with vice and filthy hippies. "We have to change the frame," he said in his finest radio announcer voice. "Say cannabis instead of marijuana -- it doesn't have all the bad associations."

Although Ann Harrison has now moved to working on human rights issues, the veteran reporter had plenty of advice for journalists continuing to cover the marijuana. "There was a surge in 2007 marijuana arrests in California," she noted. "What are the costs? How much are the feds paying? That's what reporters need to be asking." But reporters need to find that human angle, she reminded. "Stories run on emotion," Harrison said.

MPP's Mirken had advice on how to influence the media, especially when unhappy with its coverage of the marijuana issue. "Start with the reporter, be polite, take a positive approach, and be specific and factual with your complaint," he said. "Perhaps he will make a retraction or positively update the story, perhaps not. But the idea is to start establishing relationships" that can guide the reporter in the right direction, he said.

An exhaustive recounting of all the conference sessions is beyond the scope of this article. Readers who want more should check out the NORML blog and others who blogged on the conference, because there is much much more that was worthwhile and informative there.

Europe: Dutch Marijuana Export Industry Generates $2.7 Billion a Year, Prohibition-Related Violence

Dutch marijuana growers are earning about $2.7 billion a year from exporting their crops, mostly to their European neighbors, Dutch police commissioner Max Daniel told the newspaper NRC Handelsblad last weekend. But the black market trade is also engendering violence, he said.
downstairs of a coffee shop, Maastricht (courtesy Wikimedia)
Daniel estimated that more than 500 metric tons of marijuana grown in the Netherlands, or 80% of the total crop, is destined for export. He said the numbers are based on police figures. "In the Netherlands, we have 400,000 cannabis users," Daniel said. "If that was it, we would have a much more manageable problem."

Under Dutch law marijuana possession and production are criminal offenses, but in practice, police tolerate the sale of marijuana in coffee shops, the possession of small amounts, and the growing of up to four plants. Larger grows, including those that supply the coffee shops, are illegal.

But because marijuana production remains prohibited, Holland, like other countries, faces the problems associated with the black market, including prohibition-related crime and violence. Daniel put it starkly: "Today, cannabis is involved in nearly all major cases involving murder, weapons, and drugs."

And the marijuana trade is seeping into the legitimate economy. Banks finance marijuana grows, companies fund university research in agricultural methods, and the Dutch exchequer benefits from the coffee house sales.

"In the production of cannabis," said Daniel, "the criminal and non-criminal worlds have become increasingly intertwined. Many people have become rich by growing cannabis. You can become a millionaire within 10 years. Many of the proceeds are invested legally in real estate. But I don't believe that someone who has had people killed 14 or 15 years ago can turn into a good citizen."

Marijuana: Florida State Students Approve Marijuana-Alcohol Penalty Equalization Initiative

Students at Florida State University (FSU) have voted for the second time to urge administrators to lower penalties for on-campus possession to be equal to those for on-campus underage drinking. Students at FSU passed a similar measure in 2006.
FSU campus
In the October 15 election, 2,835 students voted on the equalization initiative. Some 1,850 voted in favor and 985 voted against, giving the measure 65% of the vote.

The initiative was sponsored by FSU NORML. Now, student leaders will use the vote to try to persuade campus administrators to heed the wishes of students.

FSU students have also signaled their support for broader marijuana law reform. In August, the FSU Student Government Association passed a resolution supporting Barney Frank's federal decriminalization bill.

"If the federal government decided that it was in their best interest to leave it up to the states to decide, it would leave the door open for us to further work on trying to get it decriminalized in Florida," said FSU NORML president John Mola.

The work by activists is paying off -- at least at the student politics level. FSU Sen. Forat Lufti, who is not a pro-legalization activist, said the votes showed that FSU students care deeply about marijuana policy.

"A lot of students feel strongly about the decriminalization of marijuana," Lutfi said. "As senators, it's our duty to represent the voice of all students. That was my main concern: to make sure their voice was heard," he said in reference to the August vote.

Feature: Beyond 2008 -- Looking Past the November US Elections

With the November 4 elections now less than two weeks away, most people, drug reformers included, are focused on the near term. Drug reformers in particular are watching with great interest as Michigan voters decide on medical marijuana, Massachusetts voters decide on marijuana decriminalization, and California voters decide whether to approve a groundbreaking treatment-not-jail initiative.
(chart appears courtesy MPP)
But some are looking past next month's elections and plotting the future of drug reform. Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project is one of them. At last weekend's National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) conference in Berkeley, Kampia laid out his vision for the next few years.

But before that, he bluntly predicted success in Massachusetts and Michigan. "We are looking at a pair of major victories on November 4," he told the cheering crowd.

With a dozen medical marijuana states already and Michigan poised to be the breakthrough state in the Midwest, MPP will be aiming at placing medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot in three more states in 2010 -- Ohio, Massachusetts, and Arizona, Kampia said.

He also listed nine states where MPP is working to move medical marijuana forward through the legislative process. In four of them -- Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York -- significant progress has already been made, and MPP will attempt to build on that. In five other states -- Delaware, Iowa, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Virginia -- work is just getting started in the legislature.

How successful MPP will be in the near future depends greatly on the outcome of next month's national election, warned MPP communications director Bruce Mirken. "The overarching thing is we will push ahead with as much of this as we can, but it will all be affected by next month's election," he said. "That will either give us a major push or make our lives much more complicated. We're hopeful it will be the former."

But regardless of what happens in November, MPP will also be returning to Nevada in what would be a third bid to actually legalize marijuana possession there. "We will try to file a legalization initiative in Nevada in 2012," Kampia said.
(chart appears courtesy MPP)
"Nevada is definitely on the agenda," said Mirken. "We've always considered Nevada to be an ongoing project, we got significantly closer on our last attempt, and we're definitely looking at going back."

One clear sign of MPP's intentions in Nevada is their latest hiring announcement. It includes five positions in the state.

MPP isn't the only national reform organization eyeing the future. "We have a lot planned," said Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) executive director Ethan Nadelmann, "but the bigger question right now is what will happen with California's Proposition 5 (related story here). It contains a marijuana decriminalization provision, and if it passes, it will affect a larger number of people than any decrim measure ever."

But while the outcome of Prop. 5 will have an immediate impact, it will also set the course for DPA's future work in the Golden State. "What we do next in California depends on Prop. 5," he said.

Whatever happens in California, DPA will be continuing to work on medical marijuana legislative efforts in three states -- Alabama, Connecticut, and New Jersey -- as well as implementing the hard-won New Mexico medical marijuana law's distribution provisions, and working with local activists in Maine to get a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot there. The Connecticut legislature passed a medical marijuana bill last year, only to see it vetoed by Republican Gov. Jodi Rell. None of the efforts in the other states have gotten that far yet.

"We will go back and push for medical marijuana in Connecticut," said Nadelmann. "But again, it will depend on our ability to get Gov. Rell to be more flexible. Our legislative sponsor in Alabama has said she is prepared to run with it again, and our New Jersey office has lined up a bunch of legislators to support medical marijuana," he added.

Meanwhile, while MPP is eyeing another legalization run in Nevada four years from now, activists in Oregon's fractious cannabis community are preparing a pair of competing initiatives for the 2010 ballot. Oregon NORML is working on the Oregon Tax Act of 2010, which would regulate and tax adult sales, license the cultivation of marijuana for sale in state-run liquor stores and adults-only businesses, allow for adults to grow their own and farmers to grow hemp without a license, and remove taxation from medical marijuana.

While the Tax Act would do away with the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) by rendering it redundant, Voter Power, the group of activists who got OMMA passed a decade ago, have their own initiative in the works. The Voter Power initiative would allow for dispensaries and Patient Resource Centers (PRCs) to sell smokeable marijuana, edibles, tinctures, and lozenges to patients, for growers to legally sell marijuana to dispensaries and PRCs, and for 10% of gross revenues to go back into the Oregon Medial Marijuana Program.

But wait, there's more: According to Kampia, the ACLU is organizing for decriminalization efforts in Montana and Washington, and activists in five additional states -- Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Tennessee, and Wisconsin -- are working on medical marijuana efforts in their state legislatures.

Right now, all eyes are on November 4, but reforming the drug laws is a work in process, and that process is set to advance in the coming years.

Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey Meeting

Please join us for our next monthly public meeting. For more information, as well as minutes from our last meeting, see
Tue, 12/09/2008 - 7:00pm - 9:00pm
United States

October Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. Meeting Minutes

Monthly Public Meeting Lawrence Township Library Tuesday, October 14, 2008; 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Minutes: Meeting was called to order at 7:35 PM and adjourned at 8:57 PM. The September 2008 minutes were approved. Correspondence was reviewed. Discussion included: Mike Miceli’s arrest on 9/4/08 for using marijuana for Crohn’s Disease: Mike spent nine days in the hospital following his arrest and now faces major abdominal surgery since he can no longer use marijuana. Also, efforts on behalf of MS patient John Wilson who was arrested for medical marijuana use in Somerset Co. CMMNJ sent a follow-up letter to Gov. Corzine re: Miceli and Wilson; proposed letter to Wilson’s prosecutor was discussed. Wilson faces 20 yrs. CMMNJ was at the Hamilton Twp., NJ “Septemberfest” 9/14/08. Over 200 people signed statements supporting medical marijuana and we made $370. Hamilton Twp. mayor's office complained that a 12-year-old brought home a troubling message after visiting our booth. Board discussion included draft guidelines for our volunteers when talking with Middle School children. The Lawrence Twp. 2008 “Community Day” was Sunday, 10/5/08 in Lawrenceville. We made $90 and collected 54 signatures. Jim & Cathi attended the 14th Annual NY State Harvest Festival and Rally. They also attended the MS Bike Ride on 9/28 in Ocean City, NJ and distributed literature and displayed the Cheryl Miller Memorial Wheel Chair. Upcoming events: Ewing Twp., NJ “CommunityFest” is 10/25/08 on the campus of TCNJ from 10 AM to 5 PM. Late entry: A Candlelight Vigil for Medical Marijuana Patients will be held at City Hall in Philadelphia, PA on Saturday, 11-1-08 at 8-PM. Volunteers needed for both. CMMNJ has new photos on Facebook at: AARP: “AARP has not taken a position on the medical use of marijuana.” Also, Sen. Lautenberg “sort of” replied to request for him to sponsor a senate companion bill to H.R. 5842. F/U needed to clarify issue. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) conference call was 9/25/08. Pre-written, customizable letters are available for NJ residents to urge their legislators to support the “NJ Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act” (S-119 & A-804) through NORML at: & through DPA at: Do it today! Treasury report: Checking account ($2356.72) plus Paypal account ($575.69). 501(c)(3): CMMNJ received its Sales Tax Exempt Certificate (Form ST-5) from the IRS. Progress of fund raising letter? CMMNJ submitted our 26-minute DVD, “Marijuana is Medicine” to the Garden State Film Festival & developed an advertising poster. Web site update: Gary Sage is keeping the web site ( updated at $15/hr. Next Meeting: December 9, 2008 at the Lawrence Twp. Library, from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM. There will be no November meeting this year, due to the holiday on the 2nd Tues. of the month. For more info, contact: Ken Wolski, RN, MPA, Executive Director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc., 844 Spruce St., Trenton, NJ 08648, 609.394.2137,
United States

Could Mexico City Become the Next Amsterdam?

As the failure of the drug war in Mexico becomes increasingly difficult to deny, we’re beginning to see a change in the tone of the drug policy discussion:

The architect of Mexico's offensive against drug traffickers, President Felipe Calderon, has sent a proposal to Congress that would decriminalize small amounts of drugs by giving those consumers the choice of treatment instead of jail time. Authorities hope the change would free up resources to go after higher-level criminals.

The speaker of Mexico City's legislative assembly has gone even further, saying he wants to turn the capital into another Amsterdam by legalizing small sales of marijuana, which he calls a "soft drug" currently controlled by criminals. [Chicago Tribune]

Can you even imagine how U.S. drug warriors would react if Mexico tried to legalize marijuana sales? Move over Cuban Missile Crisis, this would really be the greatest national security nightmare in American history. I’m not kidding, because these drug war cheerleaders really are more afraid of an 1/8 ounce of marijuana than the devil himself.

But as far as Mexico is concerned, regulated marijuana sales would be frickin’ ingenious. You could de-fund a major sector of the blackmarket economy, while cashing in on massive tourism income. It would be like Amsterdam, except with delicious tacos instead of the wretched crap that passes for food in the Red Light District.

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