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Marijuana Eradication is Destroying Everything Except Marijuana

As a child, my folks took me to see the magnificent trees in Sequoia National Park and I'll never forget it as long as I live. It's a precious ecosystem, housing the largest trees in the world as well as countless other unique plant-life not found anywhere else on earth. Not surprisingly, it's also a great place to grow marijuana and that could soon become its downfall:

In Sequoia National Park, $1 million has been spent since 2006 on marijuana plantation cleanup alone, and the damage done to Crystal Cave will be felt for years to come, said the park spokeswoman, Adrienne Freeman.

"We are continually discovering new species in that cave, and we are letting Mexican cartels threaten to wipe that out," she said. [CNN]

She's damn right we're letting them do it. We've surrendered the fate of irreplaceable national treasures to these drug traffickers, simply because we won't allow responsible Americans to produce their own marijuana on private property. The consequences of our failure are catastrophic, yet the solution is painfully simple.

It's really amazing to watch the police, the forest service, and the press just cringing and whining about this awful problem, without uttering a word about how we're going to save our forests from imminent destruction. They seriously don’t have a clue. You can read any of the dozens of recently published stories on this topic without seeing anyone even attempt to figure it out. Their only idea is to keep pulling up pot plants, as the growers plant ever more to ensure that some survive.

Fortunately, there exists one perfect solution to this problem. And it offers far more than the salvation of our precious wilderness. When we fix our marijuana laws, I guarantee you, we will solve problems we didn’t even know we had.

I'm Upset

You Can Make a Difference


Dear friends,

Let Congress know that you support marijuana decriminalization.

Take Action
Email Congress

I’m upset.

I go to receptions and happy hours in Washington, DC and see politicians kicking back with a glass of beer or wine. Sometimes it’s right after a hearing or press conference where they've just talked about the dangers of marijuana and the need to toughen penalties. So their drug of choice is fine, but anyone who uses a different drug should be sent to jail? Let's call them out on their hypocrisy!

Now is the time to wake them up.  Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) has introduced a bill to decriminalize marijuana. That’s in addition to the other bill he introduced on medical marijuana that we emailed you about last week. Many members of Congress say they agree with Rep. Frank, but most only say so in private. If you want them to say it in public too, please urge your representative to support Rep. Frank’s decriminalization bill. And forward this alert to all your friends and family so they can email Congress too.

The latest polls show rising support for ending marijuana prohibition.  California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for a debate on legalizing marijuana.  So has New York Governor David Paterson. The time is right to put pressure on Congress.

No one should lose their freedom simply for what they put into their body, unless they hurt someone else. Passing this bill would be a major step toward dismantling the hypocritical and costly war on drugs.

Thanks for all you do.


Bill Piper
Director, Office of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance Network


Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. September Agenda

Monthly Public Meeting Agenda

Held at the Lawrence Township Library

Tuesday, September 8, 2009; 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

7:00 PM:  Call meeting to order.  Approve minutes.  Discuss:

Ø  See photos and video of the August 21 court house rally to support multiple sclerosis (MS) patient John Wilson, who faces 20 years in prison for growing marijuana to treat his disease.  Wilson was forbidden by the judge to even mention his medical condition during the upcoming trial.  This trial is drawing national attention.  Tell the National MS Society; answer their survey. Will Wilson be the last NJ casualty of this inhumane policy? 

Ø  Seton Hall Position Paper and Philadelphia Weekly article support NJ’s Compassionate Use Act (S119). 

Ø  CMMNJ is scheduled to appear at the following upcoming events:

·         Sun., 9/13, 10 AM - 4 PM; Hamilton Septemberfest, Veteran’s Park, Hamilton Twp., NJ;

·         Sat., 9/19, High Noon; Boston Freedom Rally, Boston Common, Boston, Mass.;

·         Thurs. – Sat., 9/24-26, National NORML Conference, San Francisco, CA.;

·         Sun., 10/4 12:30 PM – 4 PM, Lawrence Community Day, Village Park, Lawrence Twp., NJ;

·         Sat., 10/10, 10 AM – 5 PM, Ewing Community Fest, The College of New Jersey, Ewing Twp., NJ.

Ø  The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which was approved by the state senate in February, is due for a vote by the Assembly this fall, after the November elections.  The Assembly Health Committee made significant, very restrictive changes to the bill.  Tell your legislators that you want the Senate version of the bill that does not contain these restrictions, to pass into law.  See CMMNJ’s recent blog for talking points—but tell your story in your own words.  Don’t let a possibly unworkable bill pass into law.

Ø  CMMNJ is now a cause on FacebookSee Ken’s birthday wish.  See NORML NJ’s new web site.

Ø  Treasury report: Current account balances: Checking: $4168.21; PayPal: $191.02.  Please consider a tax-deductible donation to CMMNJ, a 501(c)(3) organization.  All funds received go towards public education about medical marijuana.  Donations may be made securely through Paypal or checks made out to “CMMNJ” and sent to corporate headquarters at the address below.  Get a free t-shirt for a donation above $15—specify size.  Thank you for your support.

Scheduled meetings are Sept. 8, Oct. 13, & Nov. 10, 2009.  CMMNJ meetings are held on the second Tuesday of the month at the Lawrence Twp. Library from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM.  All are welcome.  Snacks are served.  The library is at 2751 Brunswick Pike, Lawrence Twp., Tel. #609.882.9246.   (Meeting at the library does not imply their endorsement of our issue.)  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

Lawrence Township, NJ
United States

It's Time to Fix Maryland's Medical Marijuana Law

Anyone in Maryland who thinks the problem is solved should read this. This isn't about politics and it isn’t about pot. These are real people who need the freedom to treat their illnesses in the way that works for them, without having to worry about the cops getting involved.

Even people who still don’t understand medical marijuana should be opposed to spending tax dollars dragging cancer patients through the court system.

MS Patients to Speak at Pharmacy Board Medical Marijuana Hearing Weds. in Mason City



MS Patients to Speak Out at Pharmacy Board Medical Marijuana Hearing Wednesday in Mason City

 CONTACT: Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications ............... 415-585-6404 or 202-215-4205

 MASON CITY, IOWA -- Iowa multiple sclerosis patients who have benefited from medical marijuana, including one of four patients currently receiving medical marijuana from the U.S. government, will provide testimony Wednesday in Mason City at the second Iowa Board of Pharmacy hearing to examine the medical value of marijuana.

     WHAT: Iowa Board of Pharmacy hearing on medical marijuana.

     WHO: Patients providing testimony will include:
     Barbara Douglass of Storm Lake, one of four patients still receiving medical marijuana from the U.S. government in a program closed to new enrollment in 1992. As Douglass is too ill from multiple sclerosis to attend in person, her statement will be read by Jim Morrison. She will be available for phone interviews from 8 a.m. till noon on Wednesday, at 712-732-2919.
     Ray Lakers of Des Moines, MS patient who found relief from medical marijuana and was jailed for possession of less than a gram of marijuana in 2005.
     Ladd Huffman of Calumet, Vietnam veteran with MS who was approved for the federal medical marijuana program just as it was shut down, barring him from receiving medication. His statement will be read by Jim Morrison as Huffman is also too ill to attend, but he will be available for phone interviews from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, at 712-446-2463.

     WHEN: Wednesday, Sept. 2, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

     WHERE: The Music Man Square (Reunion Hall), 308 S. Pennsylvania Ave., Mason City.

     With more than 27,000 members and 100,000 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


Mason City, IA
United States

Warning: People Who Eat Tortillas Might be Marijuana Growers

The panic over escalating outdoor marijuana cultivation just climbed about five notches on the absurdity scale. I feel bad for laughing because there's nothing funny about racial profiling or our failed marijuana policy, but it's just so ridiculous I can't help myself:
DENVER - A federal warning to beware of campers in national forests who eat tortillas, drink Tecate beer and play Spanish music because they could be armed marijuana growers is racial profiling, an advocate for Hispanic rights said Friday. The warnings were issued Wednesday by the U.S. Forest Service, which is investigating how much marijuana is being illegally cultivated in Colorado's national forests following the recent discovery of more than 14,000 plants in Pike National Forest. "That's discriminatory, and it puts Hispanic campers in danger," said Polly Baca, co-chairwoman of the Colorado Latino Forum. [AP]
No kidding. It also puts me in danger, being that it's only been a month since I last enjoyed tortillas and Mexican beer on a camping trip. The whole thing is so preposterous one scarcely knows where to begin:
Marvink Correa, spokesman for the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, said federal officials are painting an unfair stereotype of Hispanics. "When I go camping, I'll be sure to play nothing but Bruce Springsteen," he said.
He's sort of joking, but this is a seriously messed up situation. The government can't go around telling everyone to watch out for folks who play Spanish music outdoors. That kind of hysteria has a tendency to get innocent people hurt. Campgrounds are already filled with paranoid drunken weirdos and they definitely don't need any encouragement to start flipping out on each other.

The whole stupid war on marijuana in this country started as an ill-conceived xenophobic attack on Mexican culture and it seems we've now come full-circle. This is a disaster and it wouldn’t be happening if our marijuana policy weren't such a mind-bending theater of idiocy and intolerance. If we don't want Mexicans – or anyone else – growing pot in our national parks, then the only solution is to let the American people grow their own marijuana on private property.

Further Proof That Medical Marijuana Laws Are Working

The Atlantic has an interesting story about the evolving medical marijuana economy in Colorado. The new administration's stated policy of respecting medical marijuana laws is beginning to have a visible – and very positive – impact:

Most of the farmers Kathleen works with have been cultivating their product illegally for many years--the oldest has been in the illicit business for 35, more than half have grown marijuana for over two decades. Now that they sell their product to a legal commercial enterprise, weed farmers will have to register their income and pay taxes on it, just like anyone growing tomatoes or tobacco. "To have these people coming out of the closet after so many years, that's the really heartening thing about what's happening right now," Kathleen says.
Pretty cool, huh? Just watch as the introduction of a more tolerant marijuana policy completely fails to destroy society and instead becomes the driving force behind a more responsible and accountable marijuana industry. These are nice people who don't want to be criminals and if you give them a chance to pay taxes and operate legally, that's exactly what they'll do.

All of this perfectly illustrates the absurdity of our opposition's frequent insistence that reforming marijuana policies will create more marijuana activity. Clearly, marijuana has long been part of Colorado's economy and the only big difference here is that more people will be paying taxes and patients won’t have to buy their medicine on the black market.

The closer you look, the better it gets:

Since marijuana farmers have begun selling exclusively to legitimate dispensaries, the underground market for illegal weed has been quashed, putting drug dealers out of business for lack of available stock. One such dealer I talked to in Boulder, who I will call Quark at his request, told me that with the supply of high-quality Colorado hydroponic weed redirected to dispensaries, he has only been able to procure cheap Mexican schwag for the past few months. Since the implications of indirect association with brutal Mexican cartels unsettles him, Quark is currently seeking a regular job so he will have money to pay tuition this year.
There you have it, ladies and gentlemen. Simply legitimizing one sector of the state's marijuana economy is all it takes to send shockwaves throughout the black market. Medical marijuana laws have done more to restore law and order than decades of aggressive drug war policing. It really is that simple.

Feature: Mexico and Argentina Enact Drug Decriminalization

In the last eight days, the decriminalization of drug possession has gone into effect for 150 million Latin Americans. Last Thursday, as part of a broader bill, Mexico (pop. 110 million) decriminalized the possession of small amounts of all drugs through the legislative process. Four days later, the Argentine Supreme Court declared unconstitutional that country's law criminalizing drug possession. While the Argentine case involved marijuana possession, the ruling clears the way for the government to draft a new law decriminalizing all drug possession.
Latin America map (
The shift in policies toward drug users in the two countries is a dramatic indication of the seismic shift in drug policy already well underway in Latin America. Colombia's high court declared the law against drug possession unconstitutional in 1994. Brazil has had a version of decriminalization since 2006 -- users cannot be imprisoned, but can be forced into treatment, educational programs, or community service -- and Uruguay now allows judges to determine if someone in possession of drugs intended to use them or sell and to act accordingly. Movement toward decriminalization is also underway in Ecuador.

That reformist zeitgeist is perhaps best encapsulated in the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, led by former presidents Cesar Gaviria of Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, and Enrique Cardoso of Brazil. In its report earlier this year, Drugs and Democracy: Toward a Paradigm Shift, the commission called for decriminalization of drug use, especially marijuana, and treating drug use as a public health -- not a law enforcement -- issue. A similar commission got underway in Brazil last week.

"Decriminalization permits a distinction between users and drug traffickers," said John Walsh of the Washington Office on Latin America. "This allows governments to focus their efforts in reducing the terrible harms caused by the big criminal networks and the violence related to the illicit traffic, instead of repressing users and small-scale dealers."

"What's happened in Mexico and now Argentina is very consistent with the broader trend in Europe and Latin America in terms of decriminalizing small amounts of drugs and promoting alternatives to incarceration and a public health approach for people struggling with drug addiction," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "The decision in Argentina reminds me of similar rulings in Colombia more than a decade ago and in Germany before that, and, more generally, what's been going on in the Netherlands, Portugal, and Switzerland. In some cases, there is a legal or constitutional notion about personal sovereignty or autonomy, but there is also a recognition of the failures of the drug war approach vis a vis low-level offenders. There is a kind of human rights element that you see popping up in both contexts," Nadelmann said.

But the devil is in the details. Mexico's decriminalization, for example, comes as part of a broader law aimed at "narcomenudeo," or small-scale drug dealing. In addition to decriminalizing drug possession, the law for the first time allows state and local authorities to arrest and prosecute drug offenders. Previously, such powers had been the sole province of federal authorities. The new law also allows police to make undercover drug buys, a power they did not previously possess. (To read the full text of the law in Spanish, go to page 83 of the Official Daily.)

Under the Mexican law, the amounts of various drugs decriminalized are as follows:

  • opium -- 2 grams
  • cocaine -- 1/2 gram
  • heroin -- 1/10 gram
  • marijuana -- 5 grams
  • LSD -- 150 micrograms
  • methamphetamine -- 1/5 gram
  • ecstasy -- 1/5 gram

For Mexican drug reformers, the law is definitely a mixed bag. The Collective for an Integral Drug Policy, a Mexico City-based reform think-tank, felt compelled to note that while "the law represents certain advances... it could have very negative consequences for the country" because the public health and human rights perspectives are not implicated strongly enough in it.

While the collective applauded the law's distinctions between consumer, addict, and criminal; its rejection of forced drug treatment, its lip service to harm reduction, and its recognition of the traditional, ritual use of some substances, it challenged other aspects of the law. "It focuses on intensifying a military and police strategy that has proven to be a failure," the collective said, alluding to the more than 12,000 people killed in prohibition-related violence since President Felipe Calderon unleashed the military against the cartels in December 2006.

"The law will criminalize a vast group of people who make a living off the small-time dealing of drugs, but who in reality do not consciously form part of organized crime," but who are instead merely trying to make a living, the collective argued. "Imprisoning them will not diminish the supply of drugs on the street, nor will it improve public security, yet it will justify the war on drugs, since the government will be able to boast of the number of people incarcerated with this policy."

"Mexican decriminalization will have no impact whatsoever on the broader issues of drug trafficking and violence," agreed Nadelmann. "From the legal and institutional perspective, this is very, very significant, but in terms of actual impact on the ground in Mexico, that remains to be seen."

The collective also criticized the law's provision allowing police to make drug buys to nab small-time dealers and warned that the small quantities of drugs decriminalized "are not realistic" and will as a consequence lead to "a significant increase in corruption and extortion of consumers by police forces."

University of Texas-El Paso anthropologist Howard Campbell, who has studied the street drug scene across the river in Ciudad Juarez, was more cynical. "It was a good move by the government to make that distinction between users and traffickers, but I'm not sure what the effects of the law will be," he said. "All over Mexico, cops prey on junkies, and one effect of this might be to give low-down junkies a bit of a break from the cops. On the other hand, street-level drug dealing is often controlled by the cops... but if the cops are corrupt and in control, it doesn't really matter what the law says."

Campbell also doubted the new law would have much effect in reducing the prohibition-related violence. "I don't think it will have much initial impact, but still, the overarching importance of this law is symbolic. It shows that governments can revamp their policies, not just keep on working with failed ones," he said.

In Argentina, the situation is less dire and the reform is less ambiguous. On Tuesday, the Argentine Supreme Court, ratifying a series of lower court decisions in recent years, declared that the section of the country's drug law that criminalizes drug possession is unconstitutional. While the ruling referred only to marijuana possession, the portion of the law it threw out makes no distinction among drugs.

The decision came in the Arriola case, in which a group of young men from the provincial city of Rosario were each caught with small amounts of marijuana, arrested, and convicted. Under Argentina's 1989 drug law, they faced up to two years in prison.

But imprisoning people absent harm to others violated constitutional protections, a unanimous court held. "Each individual adult is responsible for making decisions freely about their desired lifestyle without state interference," their ruling said. "Private conduct is allowed unless it constitutes a real danger or causes damage to property or the rights of others. The state cannot establish morality."

"It is significant that the ruling was unanimous," said Martin Jelsma, coordinator of the Drugs and Democracy program at the Transnational Institute, which has worked closely with Latin American activists and politicians on drug reform issues. "It confirms the paradigm shift visible throughout the continent, which recognizes that drug use should be treated as a public health matter instead of, as in the past, when all involved, including users, were seen as criminals."

That paradigm shift has also occurred within the current Argentine government of President Cristina Kirchner, which favors a public health approach to drug use. The government has been waiting on this decision before moving forward with a bill that would decriminalize possession of small quantities of all drugs.

"The declaration of the unconstitutionality of the application of the drug law for marijuana possession is a great advance since it eliminates the repressive arm from a problem that should be confronted with public health policies," said Intercambios, an Argentine harm reduction organization. "Whatever retreat in the application of the criminal law in relation to drug users is positive; not only to stop criminalizing and stigmatizing users, but to permit the advance of educational, social, and health responses that are appropriate for this phenomenon."

Some Argentine harm reductionists warned that while the ruling was of transcendent importance, its real impact would be measured by its effect on the policies of the state. "In the vertical sense, it should oblige all the judges in the country to take heed of this declaration of the unconstitutionality of punishing drug possession for personal use," said Silvia Inchaurraga of the Argentine Harm Reduction Association (ARDA). "In the horizontal sense, it should force all the agencies of the state involved in drug policy to redefine their involvement to guarantee that they do not fail to comply with international human rights treaties subscribed to by the country," she added.

For the Argentine section of the global cannabis nation, it was a happy day. "Wow! This feels like honest good vibrations from the Supreme Court and the government," said Argentine marijuana activist Mike Bifari. "They really do have this new policy of generally being more tolerant and talking about human rights in the drug issue nationally and internationally, instead of that tired old war on drugs."

The Supreme Court decision will pave the way to full decriminalization, he said. "Although this was a marijuana case, the current law is about all types of drugs," said Bifari. "Now we have to wait for the government's scientific committee to come up with a draft of a new drug law, and that will be the government's bill in the congress. We think there are going to be lot of media debates and lots of discussion, and what we will try to do is to occupy all the different cultural spaces and try to advance on issues such as access and medical marijuana."

And so the wheel turns, and the United States and its hard-line drug policies are increasingly isolated in the hemisphere. As anthropologist Campbell noted, "This is happening all over Latin America. You'd think we might be able to do it here, too."

Medical Marijuana: Will Foster Extradited to Oklahoma

Medical marijuana patient Will Foster is behind bars in Oklahoma after being picked up last Friday by Oklahoma law enforcement officials. He had been held at the Sonoma County Jail in Santa Rosa, California, for the past 15 months as he fought bogus marijuana cultivation charges there -- he was a registered patient with a legal grow -- and, after the California charges were dropped, on a parole violation warrant from the Sooner State.
Will Foster (
Foster had been arrested and convicted of growing marijuana in Oklahoma and sentenced to 93 years in prison in the 1990s. After that draconian sentence focused national attention on his case, he was eventually resentenced to 20 years in prison. He later won parole and moved to California, where he served three years on parole and was discharged from parole by California authorities.

That wasn't good enough for vindictive Oklahoma authorities, who wanted to squeeze more years out of Foster. He refused to sign Oklahoma paperwork requiring him to return there to serve out the remainder of his sentence. He also refused to sign paperwork that extended his original service. Oklahoma authorities issued a parole violation warrant, and the governors of both states signed it.

Foster had sought to block extradition by filing a writ of habeas corpus -- he had won a similar writ against Oklahoma earlier -- but that effort failed last Friday, and Oklahoma authorities were there to whisk him away. Foster is scheduled to be held at the Tulsa County Jail before being assigned to a prison in the Oklahoma gulag.

Efforts by Foster supporters to secure his release continue and are now focusing on Oklahoma parole authorities and the state governor. For more information about the Foster case, see our Chronicle story here and Ed Rosenthal's blog here.

Drug War Chronicle will continue to follow the Foster case. Look for a feature article next week.

Medical Marijuana: First California DEA Arrests Under Obama Took Place Last Week

A massive DEA operation featuring dozens of heavily armed agents and at least four helicopters ended with the arrests of five people in California's Lake County last week. According to California NORML, the arrests are believed to be the first since the Obama administration announced it would not target medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal unless they violated both state and federal law.

The DEA seized 154 marijuana plants from Upper Lake resident Tom Carter, and arrested him, former UMCC dispensary operator Scott Feil and his wife, Steven Swanson, and Brett Bassignani. Carter is a registered medical marijuana patient and provider, and his wife, Jamie Ceridono, told the Lake County News he was growing for several patients and his grow was legal under state law.

The genesis of the bust appears to lie with an alleged May deal between a DEA informant and Bassignani to purchase marijuana. According to documents filed by Carter's federal defenders late last week, the informant claimed to have arranged to buy marijuana from Carter and to have left a voicemail message for Carter to set up the deal. That same informant allegedly made a deal to buy marijuana from Bassignani.

In the document, the federal defenders said prosecutors made no claim that Carter ever heard the phone message the informant allegedly left, and they set out no evidence linking Carter and the informant.

"All the complaint says is that another individual, Mr. Bassignani, called the informant, claimed he worked for 'Carter Construction,' and arranged a marijuana deal," Carter's defense attorneys wrote. "The deal later took place, and the only other reference to Mr. Carter is the conclusory claim that the informant 'had agreed on the price with Carter.' No context, no specifics, and no other information is provided in the complaint which indicates that Mr. Carter in fact talked to the informant, arranged a marijuana deal, and indicated that he (Carter) was knowingly involved in a marijuana transaction."

Moving that the two felony counts of marijuana trafficking against Carter be dismissed, the attorneys added: "This complaint is sadly deficient with regard to whether Mr. Carter has done anything to indicate that he conspired to break the law. It should be dismissed accordingly."

It is unclear why Feil and his wife were arrested. They are neighbors of Carter and his wife.

Carter and Feil are being held in Oakland, where they are set to have initial detention hearings this week. Federal prosecutors have asked that Carter be held pending trial "on the basis of flight risk and danger to the community."

Carter is a long-time resident of Upper Lake, prominent construction contractor, and community benefactor.

"California already has enough federal marijuana criminals," said CANORML coordinator Dale Gieringer, "It's time for concrete changes in federal law."

While the Obama administration has announced it would not go after law-abiding medical marijuana providers, the DEA has conducted at least two raids against providers in San Francisco and Los Angeles, although there have been no arrests in those cases. The administration has not announced any changes in federal laws or regulations around medical marijuana, and Bush appointees continue to serve in the DEA and the US Attorney's Office of Northern California, which is prosecuting the case.

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