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Wow, These 4/20 Celebrations Are Surprisingly Safe

Actually, I'm not very surprised. But this should come as a shock to anyone who thinks we need cops to protect us from the dangers of marijuana:
SANTA CRUZ -- The phrase "getting baked" took on a dual meaning Monday for several thousand marijuana enthusiasts who braved record-breaking heat to smoke up at the annual 4/20 party in Porter Meadow at UC Santa Cruz.

Despite the 96-degree heat, which shattered a 110-year-old record of 88 degrees for the day, there were no medical incidents reported. [San Jose Mercury News]
There were also no reported incidents of anyone stealing from their little sister, or getting straight D's, or leaving their ex-girlfriend 27 messages, or making their mother cry, and other stuff like that…

Obama's Fraudulent Pledge to Respect Medical Marijuana Laws

The legal plight of medical marijuana provider Charlie Lynch has provided a useful instrument with which to measure the new administration's commitment to respecting state medical marijuana laws. Attorney General Eric Holder has stated that only cases involving violation of state laws will be pursued, prompting the judge in Lynch's trial to request guidance from the Dept. of Justice before handing down the sentence. Here's what came back:

…in response to the Court's inquiries, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General has reviewed the facts of this case and determined that the investigation, prosecution, and conviction of defendant are entirely consistent with the policies of DOJ and with public statements made by the Attorney General with respect to marijuana prosecutions.

Huh!? That can only be true if Lynch violated California's medical marijuana laws, which hasn't been proven in court (he was only charged under federal law), and is entirely inconsistent with his well-documented cooperation with local authorities including the city council and chamber of commerce.

Charlie Lynch is exactly the sort of defendant we aren't supposed to be seeing anymore under Obama, and yet here he is, scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday and the new administration won't lift a finger to stop it. He'll likely receive a 5-year mandatory minimum for doing something the President has repeatedly said would not be prosecuted under his administration. It's just that simple.

On Thursday, we'll find out exactly how much Obama's campaign promises were worth. This won't go down quietly. Stay tuned.

Media Advisory -- DOJ: Policy Statements on Medical Marijuana Don't Affect Federal Sentencing 4/23

MEDIA ADVISORY Americans for Safe Access For Immediate Release: April 21, 2009 DOJ: Policy Statements on Medical Marijuana Don't Affect Federal Sentencing Advocacy group to argue at 4/23 sentencing hearing that Lynch did not violate state law Los Angeles, CA -- Legal counsel for the advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access (ASA) will appear on behalf of Charles C. Lynch at his federal sentencing hearing on Thursday, April 23rd to challenge the federal government's claim of state law violations. Even though defendants are prevented from using a medical marijuana defense in federal court, they can argue state law compliance at sentencing. ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford will argue that Lynch in no way violated state law, something that U.S. Attorney Thomas O'Brien has alleged in his sentencing recommendations. At Lynch's previously scheduled sentencing hearing on March 23rd, federal district court Judge George H. Wu asked for written clarification from the U.S. Attorney General as to whether recent statements by that office would impact Lynch's sentencing. In a brief filed Friday, U.S. Attorney O'Brien stated that "the Deputy Attorney General has reviewed the facts of this case and determined that the investigation, prosecution, and conviction of defendant are entirely consistent with the policies of DOJ and with public statements made by the Attorney General with respect to marijuana prosecutions." Lynch's sentencing, which was originally postponed until April 30th, was changed by Judge Wu to April 23rd. What: Sentencing hearing for Charles C. Lynch at which state law compliance will be argued by Chief Counsel for medical marijuana advocates Americans for Safe Access When: Thursday, April 23rd at 10:30 a.m. Where: Los Angeles Federal Court, 312 N. Spring Street, Courtroom 10 "It's bad enough that the Justice Department is accusing Lynch of violating state law in order to sentence him in federal court," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. "But, there is not even any evidence that state law was violated." Despite a March 2008 public statement by then-Senator Obama that he was "not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws" on medical marijuana, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has since stated that the DOJ would still "go after those people who violate both federal and state law." Advocates contend that the federal government should not even be prosecuting violations of state medical marijuana law. "It's disingenuous to accuse people of state law violations and then prosecute them under federal law, thereby denying them an adequate defense in federal court," continued Elford. Because of the June 2005 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Gonzales v. Raich, federal medical marijuana defendants are prohibited from entering evidence related to medical marijuana or their compliance with local and state laws. With more than two dozen pending federal medical marijuana cases, advocates are demanding that the government cease prosecutions or remove them to state court where evidence can properly be heard. Defense attorneys are seeking time served for Lynch, but he faces a mandatory minimum of 6 years and the possibility of up to 20 years in federal prison. Before his medical marijuana dispensary was raided by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents in March of 2007, Lynch had operated for 11 months without incident, and with the blessing of the Morro Bay City Council, the local Chamber of Commerce, and other community members. Two months after Lynch closed his dispensary, Central Coast Compassionate Caregivers, he was indicted and charged with conspiracy to possess and possession with intent to distribute marijuana and concentrated cannabis, manufacturing more than 100 plants, knowingly maintaining a drug premises, and sales of marijuana to a person under the age of 21. None of the federal charges constitute violations of local or state law. Further information: DOJ Response to Judge Wu's request for clarification: Charles C. Lynch Interview with John Stossel: Friends of Charles C. Lynch website: # # #
Los Angeles, CA
United States

TV Ad Campaign Boosts Medical Marijuana Bill

APRIL 21, 2009

TV Ad Campaign Boosts Medical Marijuana Bill
With Senate Vote Nearing, Spots With Real Patients to Air in Chicago, Peoria, and Decatur/Springfield/Champaign

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

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS -- With a Senate floor vote on medical marijuana legislation expected by the end of the month, supporters are taking to the airwaves with a pair of TV spots in which real Illinois medical marijuana patients tell their stories. The spots, introduced at a Statehouse press conference today, have begun airing in the Chicago, Peoria, and Decatur/Springfield/Champaign media markets.

     The ads, featuring Lucie Macfarlane of Joliet and Lisa Lange Van Camp of Lindenhurst, can be viewed at

     "I used to be on so many narcotics that I had lost my desire to live," said Macfarlane, who suffers from neurofibromatosis, a painful disease that causes tumors to grow on nerve tissue. "Marijuana literally helped save my life by allowing me to cut back on the highly addictive painkillers that I had been prescribed for over a decade. I'm now totally off Oxycontin and am only taking Norco and marijuana for my pain. I'm grateful for the opportunity to share my story with other Illinoisans, some of whom may be in need of this law more than I am."

     "Nobody should ever have to live in fear of arrest for treating their illness," said Lisa Lange Van Camp, a Lindenhurst resident who lives with severe osteoarthritis, complicated by a rare condition, Dercum's disease. To date, Lisa has had both knees replaced, had one spinal fusion and currently needs five more spinal levels fused. "I should have the right to make my own treatment decisions regarding medical cannabis, based on my physician's recommendation, and to do so with dignity.  I hope our lawmakers hear this message loud and clear and pass the medical marijuana bill without delay."

     "Seriously ill patients like Lisa and Lucie should not have to fear being arrested for using a medicine that can, and has, helped them," said Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), a four-term former state's attorney and sponsor of the medical marijuana bill. "It is our hope that my colleagues in the Senate will recognize that there are many patients out there who could benefit from this legislation and pass this sensible, compassionate bill now. We have changed the bill significantly to meet the concerns of law enforcement. It's time for the state of Illinois to meet the concerns of her citizens who are suffering and might be helped by the restricted use of marijuana."

     Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), sponsor of the House version of the medical marijuana bill, said he hopes the new ads remind people how important the legislation is for real, suffering Illinois citizens.

     "These ads are a forceful reminder about what this bill is really about -- providing for the health and comfort of seriously ill patients who seek relief from a proven safe, effective treatment," Lang said.

     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


United States

Medical Marijuana Advocates to Announce TV Ad Campaign at Statehouse Press Conference Tuesday

APRIL 20, 2009

Medical Marijuana Advocates to Announce TV Ad Campaign at Statehouse Press Conference Tuesday
Spots to Feature Patients Benefiting from Medical Marijuana

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

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS -- Supporters of the medical marijuana bill that will soon be voted on by the Illinois Senate will unveil a new TV ad campaign in support of the bill at a Statehouse press conference Tuesday. The new spots, featuring two patients who have benefited from medical marijuana, will be shown at the news conference, and DVD copies will be made available to the media.

     WHAT: Press conference to announce new TV ad campaign in support of medical marijuana legislation.

     WHO: Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), sponsor of the Senate medical marijuana bill; Lucie Mcfarlane, Joliet resident whose use of medical marijuana for the pain caused by neurofibromatosis has allowed her to greatly reduce her reliance on highly addictive narcotic painkillers; Lisa Lange Van Camp of Lindenhurst, who uses medical marijuana to treat severe osteoarthritis complicated by Dercum's disease.

     WHEN: Tuesday, April 21, 2009, 10:15 a.m.

     WHERE: Illinois State Capitol, Press Room, West Second Mezzanine, Springfield.

     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


United States

Drug Raids: Michigan Student Shot in the Chest Over "Spoonsful" of Marijuana to Be Charged

Derek Copp, the 20-year-old Grand Valley State University student who was shot in the chest during a March 11 drug raid on his Allendale, Michigan, apartment, will be charged with an unspecified drug possession offense. The Ottawa County prosecutor's office has authorized an arrest warrant, said Copp's attorney Fred Dilley.

While a Western Michigan Enforcement Team (WMET), a multi-jurisdictional anti-drug task force, raided Copp's apartment in search of evidence of drug dealing, authorities have never said exactly what -- if anything -- was recovered in the raid. Copp's attorney said early on after the raid that all that was found was a few "spoonsful" of marijuana.

Copp was not armed. He was shot once by Ottawa County Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Huizenga, a WMET member and member of the SWAT team, as Huizenga came through a glass door into the apartment and encountered Copp.

Huizenga has now been charged with a misdemeanor -- careless discharge of a firearm -- and was arraigned Monday. He was first put on unpaid leave, but has now been returned to the job to perform administrative duties by the sheriff's office, which said he was reinstated because it would take a long time for the case to be heard.

The shooting of Copp led to angry protests by college students and others in the area, as well as calls for an investigation by university officials and local newspaper editorial pages. An investigation is being done, but it is being conducted by the Michigan State Police, which partners with WMET.

Feature: ASA in Federal Appeals Court Seeking to Force Government to Correct Medical Marijuana Misinformation

The medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) was in federal appeals court Tuesday arguing that it and its members had the right to force the federal government to correct inaccurate statements about the therapeutic properties of marijuana. Lawyers for the Obama administration opposed them.

In 2004, ASA filed a petition under the Data Quality Act seeking to force the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to correct its statements that marijuana has no accepted medical use in the United States. The Data Quality Act requires federal government agencies to use reliable science when making regulations and disseminating information.

After two years of delays, HHS rejected ASA's petition. The group then filed suit in federal district court to force HHS to comply, but the trial judge threw out the lawsuit, finding that the act did not provide for judicial review. ASA then appealed to the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which is where Tuesday's hearing took place.

"The science to support medical marijuana is overwhelming," said ASA executive director Steph Sherer. "It's time for the federal government to acknowledge the efficacy of medical marijuana and stop holding science hostage to politics."

The Obama administration has vowed to make science -- not ideology -- the basis for federal government policies. On March 9, President Obama issued a memorandum to all executive department and agency heads saying: "The public must be able to trust the science and scientific process informing public policy decisions," and calling for "transparency in the preparation, identification, and use of scientific and technological information in policymaking."

But it had other concerns last Tuesday, when Justice Department lawyers argued against ASA in court. Assistant US Attorney Alisa Klein told a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit that the law allowing private citizens to seek correction of government information had "no judicially enforceable rights" and that it requires only that agencies review such requests -- not that they act on them. Otherwise, she said, the courts would be swamped with requests to second-guess government decisions on a multitude of subjects.

The government's position would make the law meaningless, retorted Alan Morrison, founder of Public Citizen's Litigation Group, who argued the case along with ASA chief counsel Joe Elford. While some disputes are too subjective for courts to intervene, others can be measured objectively. "Two plus two is four, not five," Morrison noted. The law provides judges a role in keeping the government honest, he added.

Members of the three-judge panel seemed torn. "The statute is amazing and troubling," said Judge Marsha Berzon. But she told Klein that the law appears to allow people affected by government misinformation to get it corrected, under court order if necessary.

"The case before the 9th Circuit is about the right of private parties to seek action to challenge the government's dissemination of false information," said ASA spokesman Kris Hermes. "When HHS says on its web site that there is no currently accepted medical use of marijuana in the US, we and our members suffer by having to counter that disinformation. We have to educate the public, public officials, physicians, and lawyers on the reality of medical marijuana, and we are using that as giving us standing for the lawsuit."

ASA executive director Sherer herself claims to have suffered from government misinformation. In the group's brief to the appeals court, it relates how Sherer rejected medical marijuana as a treatment for her condition based on government statements it had no medical value. Only after suffering serious side effects from conventional medications and at her physician's urging did she finally try medical marijuana, and then found it brought her relief.

"Our aim is to correct the misinformation that the federal government is disseminating about medical marijuana, specifically that marijuana has no medicinal value," said ASA spokesman Kris Hermes. "We are using an administrative mechanism -- the Data Quality Act -- in order to achieve that, but the government has so far refused to respond substantively to our petition."

A victory at the 9th Circuit would mean that the ASA lawsuit could move forward. That would most likely mean the case would be remanded back to district court to force the federal government to issue a substantive response to the ASA petition.

"If they agree their information is inaccurate and not based on scientific evidence, they would simply correct the statements they are making," said Hermes. "But if they do not choose to admit that they are disseminating unscientific information, we may have to challenge them on the merits again in district court," he said.

While an eventual victory in the case would have no immediate impact on federal medical marijuana policy, said Hermes, it could help lay the foundations for moving marijuana off Schedule I as a dangerous drug with no accepted medical use. "That could be the first domino in a series of falling dominos that will affect federal policy," he said.

The 9th Circuit is now considering the case.

Feature: Mexico's Congress Hosts Forum on Marijuana Regulation, Decriminalization

President Obama flew into Mexico City Thursday to, among other things, restate his support for the existing drug war paradigm as he reiterated his backing for Mexican President Felipe Calderón's bloody war against Mexico's wealthy, powerful, and violent drug trafficking organizations, the so-called cartels. It's too bad he didn't schedule his trip for a few days earlier, because then he could have seen a new drug policy paradigm being born.

Earlier in the week, the Mexican Congress held a three-day debate on the merits of decriminalizing the personal use of marijuana. The debate, known as the Forums on the Regulation of Cannabis in Mexico, brought together government officials, elected representatives, academics and experts in a lively discussion of Mexican marijuana policy.

Although Mexico is a socially conservative country, and marijuana use is popularly -- if unfairly -- associated with lower-class criminality, the blood-stained fall-out from President Calderón's war against the cartels is creating social and political space for reform discussions that would have been impossible a decade ago. Since Calderón unleashed the Mexican army against the cartels at the beginning of 2007, the death toll has climbed to more than 10,000, and the spectacular, exemplary violence has shocked Mexican society.

While President Calderón has proposed legislation that would offer pot smokers treatment instead of jail, Calderón and his ruling conservative National Action Party (PAN) have stopped short of calling for legalization or decriminalization. The left-leaning Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) supports decriminalization, while the smaller Social Democratic Party (PSD) has called for the decriminalization of the possession of all drugs.

In 2006, Calderón's predecessor, Vicente Fox, moved to pass decriminalization legislation. But he pulled the bill after being pressured by the US.

While Obama has not weighed in on marijuana legalization or decriminalization in Mexico, the DEA has. Either course would mark "a failure" of US and Mexican drug policy, DEA chief of intelligence Anthony Placido told El Universal Wednesday. "The legalization of marijuana in Mexico would create more misery and more addicts," he said. Nor would it weaken the cartels, he argued; instead, they would simply shift their attention to other illegal activities.
''Global Marijuana Day'' demonstration in Mexico City, May 2008
PSD Deputy Elsa Conde last year introduced three bills that would legalize medical marijuana, legalize hemp, and decriminalize marijuana possession, but the debate in Congress this week does not pertain to any particular piece of legislation. Instead, it lays the groundwork for future policy changes. Lawmakers have said they wanted to hear various viewpoints before considering any changes in the law.

Even the ruling PAN appears open to some sort of reform. "It's clear that a totally prohibitive policy has not been a solution for all ills," said Interior Department official Blanca Heredia. "At the same time, it's illusory to imagine that complete legalization of marijuana would be a panacea."

When it came to marijuana, said Heredia, neither total legalization nor prohibition should be the policy, but something in between. "Every new solution is necessarily partial," she said. "Every decision runs risks and brings with it new problems. We have to try to balance things carefully, to rigorously analyze the impact that different proposals would have on the drug market and the organized crime industry."

Javier González Garza, leader of the left-leaning Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) in the Chamber of Deputies, said that while he favored decriminalizing marijuana, the topic should be discussed separately from other types of drugs, such as cocaine, heroin, and the synthetics.

"What we don't want is the criminalization of our youth for consuming or carrying marijuana," said González. "That is the central point. If we made consuming or carrying marijuana a serious crime, there aren't enough jails in Mexico to hold everybody."

While the politicians talked politics, others took the discussion to loftier realms. Philosopher Rodolfo Vázquez Cardoso questioned whether it is ethically justifiable to criminalize the possession of drugs for personal use. He noted that while the theme of most discussion was the harmful effects of drug use, the central theme should instead be that of freedom.

"There is no legitimate objective of the judicial system to promote good living or virtue because that enters into conflict with the capacity of each individual to choose freely and rationally how to live his life and choose the ideals of virtue in accord with his own preferences," said Vázquez. Drug prohibition, he added, is based on "repressive paternalism" and violates the principle of personal autonomy.

For Ana Paula Hernández of the Angélica Foundation, human rights and the rule of law were key concerns. She cited the "unmeasured militarization of the country as a consequence of the war against organized crime" and warned that those most affected by the drug war were the poor peasant communities that were "the weakest link" of the drug production chain.

"These ideas about controlling prohibited drugs are innovative," said political scientist and drug policy expert Luis Astorga. "When it comes to drugs, we don't have to follow the path of the United States, which hasn't worked. We need to develop ideas and policies distinct from those of the US. We have a very good opportunity to do something independent, as they have in Europe and Canada," he said.

But Armando Patrón Vargas of the National Council Against Addiction in the Health Department said decriminalization wasn't necessary because Mexico doesn't criminalize drug addiction. "I don't see any urgent need to modify the status [of marijuana] and decriminalize use," he told the forum. The Mexican government guarantees treatment of addicts, he said, even if the investment in treatment is inadequate.

Dr. Humberto Brocca, a student of herbal and traditional medicine and a member of the pro-reform Grupo Cáñamo (Cannabis Group) told the forum it was time to end the prejudice and social stigma against pot smokers and urged legislators to be fearless in moving toward regulation "because fear is not a good advisor."

Brocca told the Chronicle Wednesday that while he did not expect quick change in the drug laws, the forum was a start. "It means that society is demanding some truth about important issues," he said.

Even the half-measure of decriminalization would make a big difference, he said. "It would take cannabis out of the criminal circuit and it would lower prices and guarantee good quality," Brocca said. "It would also remove cannabis from its role of rebellious banner for youth, thus making it less attractive for them. It would also help law enforcement to not waste its time on petty issues and focus on important ones, like going after the traffickers. And it would liberate the many people who currently serve time for nothing."

Mexico's lawmakers have had their chance to discuss marijuana law reform. Now it is time to craft and pass the necessary legislation to put those reforms in place. But with mid-term elections coming up in a couple of months, little is likely to happen before then.

CU-Boulder Reminds Students to Have a Massive Pot Party on 4/20

If you don't want 10,000 people to smoke pot on your campus on 4/20, the last thing you should do is send them a note ahead of time encouraging them not to do that:

TO: All CU-Boulder Students
FROM: Office of the Chancellor
DATE: April 15, 2009
SUBJECT: A statement from the CU-Boulder leadership to CU Students on the 4-20 gathering

Dear Students:

As another April 20 approaches, we are faced with concerns from students, parents, alumni, Regents, and community members about a repeat of last year’s 4/20 “event.”

Let us start by saying that we share their concerns. A gathering of thousands on our campus for the sole purpose of engaging in unlawful activity is contrary to everything that CU-Boulder stands for and is in no way condoned. This event only serves to harm the reputation of this great university and is comprised in large part of individuals with no investment in the university at all.

The increasingly large crowds that have gathered in recent years present safety risks for participants, whether students or people not affiliated with the campus. This activity violates a number of campus regulations designed to provide for the well-being of our campus and neighboring community.

On April 20, 2009, we hope that you will choose not to participate in unlawful activity that debases the reputation of your University and degree…[CelebStoner]

Oh, you are so screwed now. Whose idea was this? The administration should have just been thankful that 4/20 lands on a Monday this year and left it at that. You just had to challenge them, didn't you? Well, bring a gas mask to work on Monday, you genius.

We'll Pay You $14 billion to Legalize Marijuana

Our friends at NORML paid a visit to the Treasury Department today:

Earlier this morning, the organization presented a mock check to the U.S Treasury Department in the sum of $14 billion dollars. The check total represents the combined savings and tax revenues that would be generated by regulating the sale and production of cannabis like alcohol.

"We represent the millions of otherwise law-abiding cannabis consumers who are ready, willing, vocal and able to contribute needed tax revenue to America’s struggling economy," NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said at a press conference at the steps of the general post office in New York City. "All we ask in exchange for our $14 billion is that our government respects our decision to use marijuana privately and responsibly." [The Hill]

Is anyone still confused about why marijuana reform is an economics issue? Mr. President?

Anyway, assuming the desperate folks at the treasury didn't attempt to cash it, let me be the first to offer a home for that large novelty check which would surely just take up space around the NORML office. It will make a sweet conversation piece. Give me that giant check, you hippies.

Allen St. Pierre, photo from The Hill Blog
Washington, DC
United States

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