Breaking News:Against Jeff Sessions for Attorney General

Marijuana

RSS Feed for this category

The Debate Rages On (And We're Winning it)

CBS is hosting an excellent point-counterpoint discussion about legalizing marijuana, featuring Judge James Gray of LEAP and David Evans of the Drug Free America Foundation. You rarely get to see the debate unfold in this much detail, so it's a very illuminating dialogue, even though Evans has thus far failed to actually address Gray's main arguments. Judge Gray just laid down the law in his last entry, so we'll find out tomorrow if Evans has anything left.

On a side note, my attention was immediately drawn to the pictures of Gray and Evans that appear at the top of the page. Judge Gray appears in full color, while Evans is in black & white. This struck me as the perfect metaphor for the debate that follows.

Marijuana Legalization Confusion in Connecticut

Drug policy reformers did a double-take today when the following "Budget Suggestions" were discovered on the website of Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell:

January 9, 2009: Decriminalize marijuana – allow for medicinal purposes and collect taxes on it purchase. Create a tax stamp for these packages – anyone caught with a bag of marijuana without the stamp should face harsher penalties than someone caught with a bag with a stamp.

February 3, 2009: Legalize marijuana and have the Department of Agriculture grow it for sale in 1 ounce bags -- sell it over the Internet.

March 2, 2009: Increase revenue by legalizing marijuana and administering its sale and tax to be sold in pharmacies as well as in liquor stores. Apply law enforcement standards currently used for alcohol. This would save money in not having to chase drug dealers and generate huge revenues.

This is surprising stuff to see on the site of a governor who'd vetoed medical marijuana legislation. And, unfortunately, it was too good to be true.

It turns out these ideas came from unnamed current or former state employees as part of a program called the Innovative Ideas Initiative. They're not endorsed by the Governor's Office, although a much better job could have been done to explain the source of the proposals when posting them under a picture of Gov. Rell. It wasn't until reporters started calling her office today asking about marijuana legalization that the whole story emerged.

So I suppose you could argue that there's not much of a story here, but I do find it amusing to see the debate over marijuana legalization popping up where you least expect it.

What Drives Medical Marijuana Prices In California?

When you take the time to look at what’s really going on with the suppliers of medical marijuana these days it’s no wonder that there is so much political opposition to medical marijuana dispensaries. What is really going on in the medical marijuana supply scene? GREED. When the people passed Proposition 215, they did so believing that the spirit of the law they were voting for would be followed, and it would mean that seriously ill people would be able to obtain and use a natural medicine to relieve their suffering. They never intended to give rise to huge profit machines that only benefit those with the ability to grow and distribute medical marijuana. As we look around the State of California, though, we begin to see that the spirit of the law that people so readily supported to help the suffering is falling by the wayside to make room for PROFIT. Proposition 215 was written to allow people with the ability to grow medical marijuana to grow their own supply of medicine without fear of arrest. The law also intends to allow those persons to grow additional medicinal marijuana for others that are not able to grow it for themselves. The growers are supposed to provide the medical marijuana to those individuals at a price which allows them to recover their operating expenses (and maybe even make a small profit), but it was never intended to give rise to operations where the growers and distributers of the medical marijuana charge overinflated prices to those individuals who can least afford it. All anyone has to do is look at the prices that are being charged by the medical marijuana growers and distributers in dispensaries all over California. Medical marijuana is averaging $60 for an eighth of an ounce, and there is no way that such prices can be justified without factoring in huge profit margins. It is so often said that the medical marijuana suppliers of today are simply charging what they have to in order to keep afloat. What doesn't add up is that you can buy marijuana almost anywhere on the streets for around $5 - $10 per eighth ounce while supposedly legitimate providers are charging around $60 for the same amount. Medical marijuana providers use the excuse that they have a lot of expenses like lighting, utilities, security, etc., and so they have to charge that much to cover their costs of operations. I ask you though… Who actually has the greater operating expenses; those who grow legally or those who grow illegally? Medical marijuana providers no longer have to hide in the shadows to produce their product; they can grow it freely and they can organize in public storefronts and can advertise openly if they so choose. Shouldn't their operating expenses be quite a bit lower than those for the illegal growers who still have to hide their operations and activities in order to avoid arrest and prosecution, and that loose so much of their crops every year to police raids? That brings us to wonder again why legitimate medical marijuana providers are charging six times or more what illegal growers are. There is one answer that keeps rearing its ugly head; GREED.

ASA Fresno Chapter Patients and Caregivers Monthly Meeting

ASA Fresno Chapter Patients and Caregivers Monthly Meeting

Tuesday, November 10th at 6:00 pm

Full Circle Brewing Company - 620 "F" Street in Fresno

This month's meeting will feature guest speaker Attorney William Logan. Attorney Logan is very knowledgeable about cannabis law issues, and he gives an interesting and informative presentation for those interested in this important subject. Attorney Logan will hold an involved question and answer session after his presentation. We request that anyone wanting to have any question(s) answered by Attorney Logan will write their question(s) down and give them to either Diana or Tommy prior to the start of the meeting. This way everyone has an equal chance of getting their question(s) answered by Attorney Logan, and we can avoid duplicate questions being asked. ASA Fresno Chapter monthly meetings are open to the public. Please bring anyone you know who would like to learn more about medical cannabis issues. Thank you for your continued support of safe access to medicinal cannabis.
Location: 
Fresno, CA
United States

Marijuana: Colorado Ski Town Votes to Legalize It, Measure Passes With 73%

Residents of the Colorado ski town of Breckenridge overwhelmingly voted to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana Tuesday. The measure passed with 73% of the vote.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/breckenridge.jpg
Breckenridge, Colorado
That means as of January 1, people in Breckenridge can legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana under local ordinance. The measure also legalizes the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.

"This votes demonstrates that Breckenridge citizens overwhelmingly believe that adults should not be punished for making the safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol," said Sean McAllister, Breckenridge attorney and chair of Sensible Breckenridge, a local project of the statewide marijuana law reform group Sensible Colorado.

"As state and national focus grows on this important issue, the popular ski town of Breckenridge has taken center stage on marijuana reform -- and not just for medical purposes," said Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado. "With this historic vote, Breckenridge has emerged as a national leader in sensible drug policy."

The campaign, which had no formal opposition, received a chorus of local support including endorsements from Breckenridge Town Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron, former Colorado State Representative and Breckenridge resident, Gary Lindstrom, and the Summit Daily News.

Measure 2F was placed on the ballot when over 1,400 local supporters signed a petition supporting the reform measure.

Under Colorado state law, possession of up to an ounce is decriminalized and punishable by a $100 fine. But Breckenridge police will "still have the ability to exercise discretion," said Chief Rick Holman. "It's never been something that we've spent a lot of time on, so I don't expect this to be a big change in how we really do business," he told the Summit Daily News.

Breckenridge residents had voted for Amendment 44, a statewide legalization initiative, by the same percentage in 2006. That initiative won only 41% of the vote statewide.

Denver became the first city to vote to legalize marijuana possession under municipal ordinance in 2005.

Marijuana Legalization: California Poll of Primary Voters Finds Narrow Majority Say Keep It Illegal

A poll released this week suggests backers of California marijuana legalization initiatives have their work cut out for them. The Capitol Weekly/Probolsky Research poll of 750 primary voters in late October found 52% wanted to keep marijuana illegal, while 38% supported legalization.

An April Field poll found that 56% of respondents supported legalization. But that support came in the context of a polling question about legalizing and taxing marijuana in the context of California's ongoing budget crisis. In that poll, respondents said they favored "legalizing marijuana for recreational use and taxing its proceeds."

The difference in poll questions influenced the way people responded, said poll director Adam Probolsky. "By saying there is a chance to help solve the budget crisis, you'd push some people toward making it legal," he said. "It makes it more palatable to people. If we had asked the same question, and said some studies show we'd have 10,000 more highway deaths, you'd push it the other way."

The two polls also sampled different voter pools. The Capitol Weekly poll was based on likely June primary voters, which is a smaller and more conservative group than general election or registered voters. The Field poll looked at registered voters.

While the poll may be a shot across the bow for legalization initiative organizers, it may not accurately predict how such a campaign will fare, Probolsky said. "This doesn't test the push messages -- closing the state budget gap versus the public safety messages," he said. "You need to test half a dozen of those pros and cons to see where the initiative lies."

When measured by party affiliation, only 25% of Republicans supported legalization, compared to 45% of Democrats and nearly 48% of voters who declined to state a party preference. Voters over 65 were most likely to oppose legalization, with 56% saying prohibition should continue. But that was only one point higher than the 55% of 18-to-34-year-olds.

The poll was taken the same week the Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF) held a hearing on his marijuana legalization bill at the state capitol in Sacramento. It also comes as petition-gatherers for at least three different legalization initiatives pound the pavement for signatures.

Europe: Dutch Cannabis Café Owner on Trial Over Amount of Pot on Hand

In what is widely viewed as a test case as the Netherlands tilts toward a tougher stance toward cannabis use and sales, the owner of one of the country's biggest cannabis coffee shops went on trial this week on drug trafficking charges. Meddy Willemsen, 58, owned and operated the Checkpoint coffee shop in Terneuzen near the Belgian border until it was shut down in May 2008.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/maastricht-coffee-shop.jpg
downstairs of a coffee shop (courtesy Wikimedia)
Now, he and 16 managers and suppliers are on trial in Middleburg. Prosecutors are calling them an organized crime ring.

Checkpoint was serving up to 3,000 customers a day, mainly Belgian and French, but was closed after investigators twice found large amounts of cannabis on the premises. They found 120 kilograms on premise in 2007 and 110 kilos in May 2008.

Under Holland's "tolerance" policy toward cannabis, people can purchase up to five grams per day at licensed coffee shops. Coffee shops are limited to having five pounds on hand. That law has been widely, if quietly, flouted. For a high-volume coffee shop like the Checkpoint, for example, five pounds could be going out the door every hour five grams at a time.

Like all Dutch coffee shops, the Checkpoint also suffered from the "back door" problem. While the Netherlands provides for legal sales, it does not provide for a legal cannabis supply to the coffee shops. That leaves the supply, a $4 billion a year black market business, to an ever-responsive criminal underground.

"The question is whether the conditions of the government's tolerance policy have been violated," Judge Saskia Meeuwis said at the start of the trial.

Prosecutors certainly thought so. "This is clearly a contravention of the spirit of the tolerance policy devised by the government to respond to local demand," said Middelburg prosecution spokeswoman Elke Kool. "This is the biggest-ever case of its sort. We are dealing with a real criminal organization here."

But Raymond Dufour of the Netherlands Drug Policy Foundation told Cannazine the case shows that the current system does not work. "Coffee shops are only allowed to have 500 grams of cannabis in stock," he said. "Everybody knows that if you have 2,500 clients a day, you need more than 500 grams. It's just a silly condition. Everybody in Terneuzen must have known this."

The trial comes as the Netherlands moves to tighten the reins on the coffee shops. The national government announced in September that it wanted to reserve coffee shops for local users -- not foreign drug tourists. The city of Amsterdam has moved to cut the number of its coffee shops in half, while other cities are imposing zoning restrictions on them. In southern Limburg province, 30 coffee shops will become members-only clubs next year, while in two border towns, local authorities are shutting down all coffee shops in a bid to defeat drug tourism.

In April last year, Checkpoint introduced a customer card system intended to prevent customers from exceeding the daily five gram limit and prevent minors from entering the shop.

A verdict in the Checkpoint case is expected December 2.

Feature: Maine Voters Approve Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Voters in Maine Tuesday approved Question 5, the Maine Medical Marijuana Act, an initiative instructing the state government to set up a system of state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. The measure passed with 59% of the vote.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/maineplea.jpg
a plea from a patient -- Maine voters listened (courtesy mainecommonsense.org)
Sponsored by Maine Citizens for Patient Rights (MCPR) and the Maine Medical Marijuana Policy Initiative (MMMPI), and funded primarily by the Drug Policy Alliance, the Maine Medical Marijuana Act will:

  • Establish a system of nonprofit dispensaries which would be overseen and tightly regulated by the state;
  • Establish a voluntary identification card for medical marijuana patients and caregivers;
  • Protect patients and caregivers from arrest, search and seizure unless there is suspicion of abuse;
  • Create new protections for qualified patients and providers in housing, education, employment and child custody;
  • Allow patients with Lou Gehrig's disease and Alzheimer's disease access to medical marijuana;
  • Require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a procedure for expanding the list of conditions for which marijuana can be used; and
  • Keep current allowable marijuana quantities at 2.5 ounces and six plants.

"We weren't surprised at all by the outcome," said Jonathan Leavitt of Maine Citizens for Patients Rights, who had predicted weeks ago the measure would cruise to victory. "We would have done a lot better in most elections, but this time there was a big turnout from the hard-core religious right," he said, referring to the heated battle over a gay marriage referendum that went down to defeat the same day.

"We're really tickled," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which also supported the campaign. "This was a state election with some controversial issues, but medical marijuana wasn't one of them. Oh, the usual suspects objected, but nobody was listening. This suggests the comfort level with medical marijuana is growing by leaps and bounds."

Some long-time Maine marijuana activists, such as the Maine Vocals, had joined the "usual suspects" in opposing the measure. They argued that the measure gave too much power to the state. But their complaints appeared to have little impact on the electoral outcome.

"It's great to see Maine leapfrog other states in adopting cutting-edge medical marijuana legislation," said Jill Harris, DPA managing director for public policy. "What's especially nice is that the medical marijuana guidelines recently issued by the US Department of Justice provide reassurance to Maine officials that they can implement the new law without fear of reprisal by federal authorities."

"This is a dramatic step forward, the first time that any state's voters have authorized the state government to license medical marijuana dispensaries," said MPP executive director Rob Kampia. "Coming a decade after passage of Maine's original marijuana law, this is a huge sign that voters are comfortable with these laws, and also a sign that the recent change of policy from the Obama administration is having a major impact."

Maine becomes the sixth state to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, and, as Kampia noted, the first one to approve state-licensed dispensaries through a popular vote. New Mexico and Rhode Island approved state-licensed dispensaries through the legislative process, while California, Colorado, and Washington adopted locally-approved dispensaries through the initiative process.

In New Mexico, there is currently one state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary; in Rhode Island none yet exist. In Colorado, by contrast, there are nearly a hundred, while in California, the number of locally-permitted (or not) dispensaries is somewhere shy of 2000. In Washington State, the number of dispensaries is much lower, but still higher than in states where dispensaries are licensed by the state.

"The trend toward licensed dispensaries is a good thing," said Kris Hermes, communications director for Americans for Safe Access, the nation's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "Back in 1996, when the first initiative was passed in California, that initiative included language calling on the state and federal governments to work together to create a plan for distribution. But because the federal government was not only unhelpful, but actually working to actively undermine medical marijuana distribution in California during the Bush years, people at the local level were forced to develop a model they could advance. What we now have in California is a local model of distribution," he noted.

While locally-approved dispensaries appear to provide access to medical marijuana to greater numbers of people, they are also subject to more harassment and even prosecution by the state or even the federal government. The Obama administration has declared it will not go after dispensaries operating in accord with state law, but in states like California and Colorado, where local prosecutors determine legality -- not a state law -- dispensary operators could still see themselves prosecuted by the feds.

One such incident occurred in September in San Diego, where hard-line county District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis led joint state and federal raids against dispensaries, and at least two people were charged with federal marijuana distribution offenses. Similarly, the Los Angeles county prosecutor has warned that he considers almost all LA-area dispensaries to be illegal.

"That's the fundamental difference Maine, New Mexico, and Rhode Island on one hand, and California and Colorado on the other," said MPP's Mirken. "The latter have a large number of dispensaries, but they are operating in a grey area. In California, we've seen the feds justify participating in raids where local DAs say the dispensaries aren't legal."

That could continue to happen, even with the Obama edict, Mirken said. "Until the courts settle these issues, it's not shocking that the feds might defer to local prosecutors," he said. "There's something to be said for legal clarity."

What is needed, said Hermes, is federal acceptance of medical marijuana. "As long as the federal government continues to deny medical marijuana's efficacy and refuses to develop a national plan that goes beyond law enforcement, states will have to develop their own laws to deal with the issue of distribution," he said. "Having said that, we continue to work with the Obama administration to develop that national policy, and hopefully, one day soon we will have a policy that obviates the need for individual policies at the state level."

In the meantime, it's up to the states. In Maine, that means getting the state-licensed dispensary system up and running. "The process starts when the governor signs it into law, which we expect shortly," said Leavitt. "He will then set up a task force to pull together appropriate oversight for the new law. We hope to be part of that stakeholder process. I think it will take at least three or four months before we actually have functioning dispensaries."

The Border: US Begins Turning Busted Smugglers Over to Mexico for Prosecution

For years, getting caught trying to smuggle drugs across the US-Mexican border meant being handed over to US authorities for prosecution. Problem was, US Attorneys on the border were so swamped with marijuana smuggling cases, the general rule was they wouldn't prosecute for less than 500 pounds. Instead, local prosecutors got those cases, but they were swamped, too. As a result, thousands of Mexican marijuana smugglers never faced prosecution in the US -- they were simply deported back over the border to Mexico.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/reynosa-hidalgo.jpg
Reynosa/Hidalgo border crossing (courtesy portland.indymedia.org)
But now, according to the New York Times, under an agreement reached last month, US authorities have begun returning captured Mexican pot smugglers to Mexico for prosecution by Mexican authorities. Late last month, Sonora, Mexico, resident Eleazar Gonzalez-Sanchez won the dubious distinction of being the first person turned over to Mexican authorities after he was popped with 44 pounds by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Nogales, Arizona, border crossing.

The border agreement is a sign of "our effort to enhance cooperation between the US and Mexico on prosecuting drug trafficking cases," said Arizona US Attorney Dennis Burke.

There is plenty of work to do. In the past year, ICE opened 646 smuggling cases out of busts at the Nogales port of entry. In the fiscal year ending in October 2008, ICE busted 71,000 pounds of pot on the Arizona border.

The program is a pilot program currently operating in Arizona. US officials will be monitoring the cases returned to Mexico, and if satisfied with the results, may extend it all along the border.

New Evidence Proves That Legalization Won't Increase Marijuana Use

No concept is more central to any defense of our oppressive marijuana laws than the argument that use will increase dramatically under legalization. Opposition to marijuana reform rests in its entirety upon the premise that marijuana = bad & more marijuana = more bad.

And yet, there exists a powerfully simple example of how wrong that is. There's really nothing groundbreaking about this latest data, but I can only assume it's surprising new information for anyone who thinks legalization is a one-way ticket to oblivion:

Dutch among lowest cannabis users in Europe-report

AMSTERDAM, Nov 5 (Reuters) - The Dutch are among the lowest users of marijuana or cannabis in Europe despite the Netherlands' well-known tolerance of the drug, according to a regional study published on Thursday. Among adults in the Netherlands, 5.4 percent used cannabis, compared with the European average of 6.8 percent, according to an annual report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction, using latest available figures. [Reuters]

When it comes to debating the impact of allowing marijuana sales, there is no data more important, more relevant and more revealing than this. The Dutch people can buy marijuana anytime they want, but a huge majority of them choose not to. All of this serves to illustrate a very simple, yet significant, fact about marijuana that everyone should know: people who don’t want marijuana will not use it no matter how legal and available it is.

The very idea that there exists a vast population of potential marijuana users deterred solely by the drug's illegal status is just wrong. That's not how this works. You see, no one respects our marijuana laws. People who enjoy marijuana will overwhelmingly make their own decision about it and the only thing the government can do is literally rip it out of our freedom-loving hands one at a time. We all know how badly that effort has played out.

The bottom line here is that when we debate marijuana policy, we are not weighing competing visions of how much marijuana use is acceptable in our society. The only question to be addressed – the only issue we have control over – is whether it makes moral and practical sense to punish people for marijuana. We don't get to decide how many people will use it. But it's our decision how to treat those who do.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School