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Europe: Dutch Marijuana Trade Under Pressure

An increase in police raids on Dutch marijuana grows has caused prices to increase and potency to decline, the Netherlands Institute of Mental Health and Addiction (Trimbos Institute) reported Tuesday. Meanwhile, the city of Rotterdam announced this week it has ordered nearly a third of the city's cannabis coffee shops to close because they are too close to schools. Other locales could follow as concern rises over youth drug use.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/maastricht-coffee-shop.jpg
downstairs of a coffee shop, Maastricht (courtesy Wikimedia)
According to the Trimbos report [sorry, Dutch only], Dutch marijuana, or nedervviet, had an average THC level of 16%, down from 17.5% last year. At the same time, it now costs 20% more than last year, going for a little over $10 per gram. The price increase is the first one since Trimbos started monitoring pot prices in 1999.

According to Bloomberg News, Dutch police have stepped up raids on the estimated 40,000 home grows in the Netherlands. Police in Rotterdam reported earlier this year they had shut down 600 of the estimated 6,000 home grows there since 2005.

Growing more than five marijuana plants remains illegal in the Netherlands, even though authorities turn an official blind eye to regulated marijuana sales in the coffee shops, leading to a state of affairs known as the "back door problem." Marijuana is bought and leaves the coffee shops openly through the front door, but to supply themselves, coffee shop owners must deal with illicit growers who come in through the back door.

Rotterdam is also taking the lead on shutting down coffee shops near schools. "The sale of soft drugs will have to end by June 1, 2009, in a total of 18 coffee shops within 200 to 250 meters (yards) of schools," said the city council in a statement early this week. It said it was worried about soft drug use among vulnerable young people.

With a national government that would like to shut down the coffee shops, the Dutch marijuana business is under increasing pressure. At the back door, police are squeezing supply, and at the front door, local officials are pulling out the pad-locks. Don't expect the Dutch marijuana community to just roll over and take it, however.

Marijuana: Hawaii Supreme Court Rejects Religious Use Defense

In a split decision, the Hawaii Supreme Court has ruled against a Big Island man who claimed he smoked marijuana as part of his religion and thus should not be prosecuted. In its September 21 decision in State v. Sunderland, the Court rejected Joseph Sunderland's argument that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protected him from prosecution, but failed to address his contention that privacy provisions of the Hawaii state constitution also protected him from arrest for using marijuana in his home.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/volcano-national-park.jpg
Volcano National Park, Hawaii Island
The case started in 2003, when a Big Island police officer searching for a missing child spotted a marijuana pipe on Sunderland's kitchen table. Sunderland admitted the pipe was his, said he had used it to smoke marijuana that morning, and told the officer he had a right to use it for religious purposes. Sunderland presented a membership card in The Cannabis Ministry, a religious organization headed by Roger Christie that uses marijuana as a sacrament.

Sunderland was subsequently charged with promoting a detrimental drug in the third degree, the Hawaiian version of a paraphernalia law violation. Before trial, Sunderland filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that his constitutional right to the free exercise of religion precluded his prosecution for using marijuana.

"I believe that God put the holy herb onto this earth to help mankind to better understand Him," Sunderland told the trial court.

The trial court disagreed with Sunderland's legal argument, and Sunderland was found guilty and fined $175. He appealed, and now the state Supreme Court has shot him down.

Citing precedent to reject the applicability of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to the states, the court held that under controlling law, the state has a legitimate "compelling interest" in regulating marijuana use, and thus, "the free exercise clause of the First Amendment is not a viable defense."

But there may still be a glimmer of hope for both Sunderland and the rest of Hawaii's pot smokers. The Supreme Court did not address Sunderland's contention that Hawaii privacy protections should immunize his in-house marijuana use, arguing that he had failed to present it in a timely fashion. But in his dissenting opinion Justice Levinson suggested that such a right indeed exists.

The framers of Hawaii's constitution meant to limit criminal sanctions to cases where people are harmed, Levinson argued. "The issue is whether... a fundamental right to privacy... constrains the state from criminalizing mere possession of marijuana for personal use. My thesis is that it does," Levinson wrote.

Sunderland's attorney, public defender Deborah Kim, said she planned to ask the high court to address the privacy issue. "The court has ducked the question of whether the right to privacy prevents the police from enforcing marijuana laws when someone is using marijuana in their home for religious purposes," Kim said. "The question is still very much open."

Marijuana: Pot Prohibition Costs $41 Billion a Year in Enforcement Costs, Lost Tax Revenues, Study Finds

Last week, the Chronicle reported on yet another record high number of marijuana arrests, with more than 800,000 people busted for pot last year. This week, a leading researcher put a price tag on marijuana prohibition: $41.8 million a year in law enforcement spending and lost tax revenues.

According to public policy and economic development analyst Jon Gettman of Drug Science, author of the report, Lost Revenues and Other Costs of Marijuana Laws, governments at all levels spend $10.7 billion on arresting, prosecuting, and punishing marijuana offenders. At the same time, by maintaining the policy of marijuana prohibition, those governments are forgoing an estimated $31.1 billion a year in lost tax revenues by keeping the $113 billion a year marijuana industry in the underground economy.

Gettman's analysis is based primarily on official government figures on US marijuana supply, prices, and arrests. Perhaps even more surprising than the costs associated with pot prohibition is the huge size of the domestic marijuana market, which Gettman pegs at more than 31 million pounds.

"This report documents a massive waste of taxpayer dollars in pursuit of eradicating a government-forbidden plant, and the financial waste hit all-time high levels last year, as the FBI just reported there were a record 829,627 marijuana arrests in 2006," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "Prohibition has done nothing to reduce marijuana use, which remains at about the level it's been for decades, but prohibition has created a massive underground economy that's completely unregulated and untaxed. The parallels with Alcohol Prohibition in the 1920s, including the needless violence and a huge underground economy, are eerie."

John McCain is Sick of Being Asked About Medical Marijuana

SSDP activist Jon Perri just nailed John McCain over his opposition to medical marijuana. McCain is noticably frustrated about being forced to repeatedly explain his lack of compassion for patients. He belittles Perri, only to subsequently apologize for doing so.


Note how McCain emphasizes his opposition to medical marijuana, but still claims he would not arrest patients. That's sort of the point of the question, Senator.

Cheers to Jon Perri for asking the question smartly and maintaining his composure despite McCain's interruptions. At this pace, one wonders if the Senator will have a complete meltdown the next time this question is asked of him.

Location: 
United States

Record Marijuana Seizures Mean There's More Pot, Not Less

The Drug Czar's blog once again demonstrates a remarkable misunderstanding of how drug enforcement works. Or they're just pretending not to understand:

Pot Seizures Way Up in Oregon

More bad news for Mexican drug cartels:

"Harvest season this year has law enforcement scrambling to deal with the largest crop of marijuana in Oregon history.

From counties long known for illegal foliage to those where marijuana is rare, narcotics agents say they are tracking and hacking an unprecedented number of plants in remote and rugged rural areas.

By mid-September, they had seized about 220,000 plants statewide, nearly a 100 percent jump from last year's haul of about 120,000 plants. Almost all of the crops, DEA officials say, are grown by Mexican drug cartels expanding their California operations." [Oregonian]

Government anti-drug officials, of all people, should understand that high seizures mean there's just lots of marijuana to be found. The article even says it's "the largest crop of marijuana in Oregon history." This isn't bad news for Mexican drug cartels, it's bad news for the 20-year-old federally-funded marijuana eradication effort that hasn't accomplished anything. The problem is just getting worse.

What could be more dishonest than pretending that a record crop is good news for marijuana eradication? That is just like saying that record forest fires are good news because we're putting out more fires than ever before.

As usual, the DEA eagerly claims that "almost all of the crops" are grown by Mexican drug cartels, as though white people in Oregon want nothing to do with marijuana cultivation. Um, have you seen those people? Seriously, I've met lots of white people from Oregon, and I swear half of them were just waiting for me to stop talking so they could go water their pot plants in the woods.

And, as I've explained previously, no one ever gets caught planting pot in the woods anyway, so how could police possibly know who's doing it? They have no clue, and it's precisely because no one ever gets caught growing pot in the woods that more and more people are planting more and more pot in the woods. How long must all of this go on before the Drug Czar's office stops citing it as evidence of the effectiveness of marijuana eradication?

Location: 
United States

ASA’s Media Summary for the Week Ending 9/28/07

ASA ACTION: New Election for Medical Marijuana Measure

Three years after election officials said a local medical marijuana measure narrowly failed, a judge has ordered a new election. At issue are electronic voting machines that election officials did not properly maintain to ensure data was available for the recount requested by Americans for Safe Access. Whatever the outcome of the new election, ASA has won a victory for the democratic process.

Judge voids results of Berkeley measure on medical pot
by Henry K. Lee, San Francisco Chronicle
An Alameda County judge has voided election results for a failed 2004 Berkeley medical marijuana measure, ordering it returned to the ballot next year because county election officials failed to hand over data from voting machines, attorneys in the case said Thursday.

Berkeley Election Nullified Based on Misconduct by Officials
Bay City News Service
A judge has nullified the results of a Berkeley medical marijuana ballot measure in 2004 because of what she said was misconduct by Alameda County election officials. Smith also ordered that the county refund $22,000 that Americans for Safe Access had to pay for a recount of the election results as well as some legal fees for the group's lawyers.

FEDERAL: Raid on Maker of Medicinal Edibles

DEA agents staged another paramilitary-style raid in Northern California, kicking down doors at locations allegedly related to a maker of medicinal edibles, arresting three people, and even killing an employee’s dog. Despite hysterical language from the DEA about mistaking the edibles for regular candy, all the products in question are clearly labeled as medicinal and are available only to qualified patients in dispensary settings. Like the other raids around the state, the DEA appears intent on disrupting patient access as much as possible before the next election cycle. See ASA’s press release on this situation at http://safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=5084

Feds Raid Pot-Laced-Candy Factory
by Paul Elias, Associated Press
Federal agents said Thursday they shut down a factory that made marijuana-laced barbecue sauce, chocolate-covered pretzels and other "enhanced" snacks intended for medical users of the drug.

Oakland company raided for allegedly selling pot-laced foods
by Leslie Griffy, Mercury News (CA)
Federal drug agents busted an Oakland company that allegedly distributed pot-laced treats to medical marijuana clubs across the state, officials said today.

NEW MEXICO: New State Law Close to Implementation

Thanks to the intervention of Governor and Presidential-candidate Bill Richardson, patients in New Mexico are now being afforded a measure of protection. The state may be the first to provide medical marijuana directly to patients, though the state attorney general has expressed concerns about the federal government going after state employees who are implementing the law.

Medical Marijuana Rules Close To Final
by Vanessa Reyes, KFOX TV - Las Cruces
The rules of the medicinal marijuana law in New Mexico are close to becoming final after a public hearing with the New Mexico Department of Health and a medical board.

FEDERAL: Dispensary Landlords Threatened in Santa Barbara

One of the latest tactics being used by the DEA to thwart patient access in California is the intimidation of the landlords whose buildings dispensaries are renting. The DEA has been sending letters to the landlords, telling them that the government may seize their buildings, even if they have nothing to do with the operation of the dispensaries. After the DEA raided the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Center in West Hollywood several years ago, they even used asset forfeiture to seize the building the city had provided for the collective’s use.

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Risk Eviction
KEYT TV Santa Barbara
Federal Drug Enforcement agents are pressuring Santa Barbara Medical Marijuana Dispensaries to close their doors for good. The owner of one shop on Victoria Street says his landlord received a strongly worded letter from the DEA threatening to take their property if they don't comply.

Feds Target S.B. Medical Marijuana Shops
Santa Barbara Independent
After enjoying years of relatively hassle-free business, Santa Barbara’s medical marijuana scene is feeling the heat this week, with a distinctly ganja-scented cloud of uncertainty hanging over its future in the wake of a federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) letter-writing campaign.

FEDERAL: Sacramento Dispensary Raided

DEA Agents raided one of the leading dispensaries in California’s capital this week, leading to patient protests. The operators were among a group who have been working to establish “best practice” guidelines for patient care. ASA’s emergency response meant activists were immediately calling the media and organizing 100 patients to turn out at the dispensary. The Sacramento ASA chapter leader was interviewed by the local media, which filmed the raid in progress. For more on ASA’s raid response, see http://safeaccessnow.org/blog/?p=7.

Medical pot dispensary raided by DEA agents
by Niesha Lofing, Sacramento Bee
Federal authorities raided a medical marijuana dispensary Wednesday in Sacramento as employees, customers and medical marijuana advocates protested out front. Kris Hermes, legal campaign director of Americans for Safe Access, said River City Patient Center is part of an association of medical marijuana collectives in the Sacramento region, established to "spread and protect good business practices around medical marijuana dispensing."

Medical Marijuana Dispensary Raided By DEA
KCRA TV - Sacramento
A medical marijuana dispensary was raided Wednesday by officials from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

DISPENSARIES: Patient Demand Driving Debate

California patients have come to rely on medical marijuana dispensing collectives for several reasons: safe, reliable access; selection of different varieties of marijuana; and staff who can help choose the right one for a particular patient or condition. In addition, most patients are like most Californians, they live in densely populated urban areas that make cultivating difficult. Local officials are also realizing the benefits of regulated dispensaries: reduced crime, better oversight, and accountability. Read more about it at www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/DispensaryReport.

Mayor sees complexities of pot
by Wendy Leung, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
When it comes to questions about marijuana, Don Kurth rarely has yes or no answers.

Cannahelp Owner Due in Court Wednesday
KESQ ABC TV (Palms Springs)
The owner of a former El Paseo medical marijuana dispensary that recently reopened on Highway 111 and then closed again -- is due in court Wednesday morning along with his two managers for their preliminary hearing on drug charges.

Norco City Council likely to ratify marijuana dispensary ban
by Sarah Gordon, Press-Enterprise (CA)
Norco is poised to join several other Inland cities in prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries within its borders. Medical-marijuana advocates are awaiting the outcome of a court challenge to the city of Fresno's ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, but they plan to keep pushing for access, city by city, said Kris Hermes, spokesman for the Oakland-based Americans for Safe Access.

Livermore joins other cities in banning pot clubs
by Eric Kurhi, Mercury News (CA)
Livermore joined neighbors Dublin and Pleasanton in banning medical cannabis dispensaries within city limits by passing a similar ordinance Monday night.

FLORIDA: Patient Needs Inform Plea for Protection

This OpEd describes the patient need that drives the demand for legal access to medical marijuana. With an unusually large number of senior citizens whose age-related conditions are frequently treatable with medical cannabis, Florida is a state that should be providing protection to those whose doctors are recommending it.

Medical marijuana could relieve many in pain, if we'll let it
by Robyn Chaky, OpEd, Ocala Star-Banner (FL)
Imagine you are forced to put on a pair of short shorts every morning when you wake up because if long pants were to lightly brush your skin during the day, the sensation would be similar to a thousand spiders crawling up your legs.

WISCONSIN: Passage of Medical Bill Urged

The state legislature in Wisconsin is again considering removing criminal penalties for medical marijuana patients. Three out of four voters think it’s a good idea, and this editorial board agrees.

A higher tolerance
EDITORIAL, Badger-Herald
Reps. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and Frank Boyle, D-Superior, recently introduced legislation that would legalize medicinal marijuana in Wisconsin. We urge the state to lift its ban and pass the bill.

VETERANS: Medical Marijuana May Help PTSD

Using cannabis in the treatment of psychological disorders remains controversial, but many of those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress report that cannabis eases their symptoms, and more doctors are now recommending it for those patients.

Medical Pot and the Iraq Veteran
by Colby Buzzell, Esquire Magazine
We're back from the war. We can't sleep. We're getting divorced. If marijuana is good for post-traumatic stress, who are we to deny its medicinal properties?

WASHINGTON: Revising Patient Guidelines for Amounts

State officials are grappling with the problem created by setting arbitrary limits on the amount of medical marijuana patients may possess. Unlike other drugs where dosage is decided by doctors working with patients, many medical marijuana laws set one amount for all patients. Washington officials are discovering that what constitutes a 60-day supply varies considerably, depending on the individual and the condition being treated.

Standard dosage sought for medical marijuana
by Lynn Marshall, Los Angeles Times
Patients using marijuana for ailments such as chronic back pain and cancer are allowed by Washington state law to possess a two-month supply of the drug. But medical marijuana doesn't come with a standard dose or even a standard method of taking the drug.

MORE ABOUT AMERICANS FOR SAFE ACCESS

Find out more about ASA at AmericansForSafeAccess.org. More medical marijuana news summaries can be seen at AmericansForSafeAccess.org/News

Location: 
United States

Harvard Scientists Build Very Cool Bong

At last, a solution to the problem of not being able to get high during a brain scan:
Smoking during a brain scan is not easy. Why would you want to? Because functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) allows researchers to observe activity in the brain, and doing so while smoking tobacco or pot could enhance our understanding of addiction and how to treat it.


Displaying skills that would put MacGyver to shame, Frederick constructed a makeshift water pipe inside of a picnic cooler, then ran 2.4 meters of tubing to a plastic facemask that rests inside of the scanner. Since the mask is made from materials that are not magnetic, it will not interfere with the imaging. [Wired]
In college, my friend Derek conducted some remarkably similar research. Lacking an MRI scanner, he simply conducted informal interviews to see how the device affected participants.
To be sure that the contraption can get people high, Lindsey and her associates asked nine volunteers to inhale smoke from a marijuana cigarette with exactly 3.51 percent THC, then checked to see how much of the drug made it into their blood. Using the mask, the subjects got almost as high as if they had puffed on a joint directly. The researchers suggested using stronger weed to achieve more realistic effects.
These people are geniuses. Next they need to build a device to administer nachos during a brain scan. Hypothesis: Scott Morgan will experience feelings of contentment.
Location: 
United States

Michigan medical marijuana campaign needs your urgent help

MPP’s campaign to pass a medical marijuana initiative in Michigan urgently needs your help.

In May, the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care (MCCC) began gathering signatures to place a statewide medical marijuana initiative on the November 2008 ballot.

If you live in Michigan, MCCC needs you to collect signatures or to make a sizable donation to ensure the initiative gets on the ballot. If you don’t live in Michigan, MCCC needs you to donate money to support the signature-gathering effort.


Four months into the signature drive, MCCC has collected half the signatures that are needed. And since the signature drive must be completed by mid-November — which is just two months away — your help is needed now.

Michigan law requires MCCC to collect 304,101 valid signatures in order to place the medical marijuana initiative on the November 2008 ballot. Because the validity rate for the signatures that are being collected is hovering around 60%, this means we actually need to collect about 500,000 raw signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot. So far, we have about 250,000 raw signatures in-hand, so we’re halfway there.

It’s going to cost about $500,000 to obtain the remaining 250,000 raw signatures that are needed — or about $2 apiece. This means we need to spend more than $8,000 per day — every day, including Saturdays and Sundays — between now and the middle of November to qualify the initiative for the statewide ballot.

Would you please visit www.StopArrestingPatients.org to donate $10 or more today?  If everyone on this e-mail list were to donate just $10, we’d have literally twice as much money ($1,000,000) as will be needed to complete the signature drive.

Making Michigan the 13th state to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest is crucial to our national strategy: Michigan is the country's eighth largest state and would be the first medical marijuana state in the Midwest.

Would you please lend your support today?

I’ll be grateful for anything you can do to help.

Sincerely,

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 2007. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

Location: 
MI
United States

Trinity County CA Increases MMJ Patient Guideline to 3 Pounds

Safe Access Now is pleased that Trinity County Supervisors have adopted new medical marijuana guidelines consistent with the SAN recommendation of 3 pounds per patient. The county at the same time increased its garden plant count allowing up to 36 plants per patient, 12 mature and/or 24 immature. Trinity County joins Sonoma, Humboldt, and Santa Cruz counties in using the three pound per patient supply standard. SAN recommends allowing any number of plants so long as the garden canopy does not exceed 100 square feet. Del Norte, Sonoma, Humboldt, Mendocino and Santa Cruz utilize the 100 square foot garden standard. Congratulations to the patients and County Supervisors in Trinity County.
Location: 
CA
United States

Marijuana: Four Initiatives Make November Ballot In Idaho Town

A central Idaho marijuana legalization advocate's three-year struggle to get marijuana initiatives on the ballot in the town of Hailey will come to fruition in November. City officials announced last Friday that a package of marijuana initiatives proposed by Ryan Davidson will be on the November 6 ballot.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/selkirk-mountains-northern-idaho.jpg
Selkirk mountains, northern Idaho
Davidson sought in 2004 to file initiative petitions seeking the legalization of marijuana with the communities of Sun Valley, Hailey, and Ketchum, but local officials in all three locales balked. Sun Valley officials refused to process the initiatives, claiming they were unconstitutional. Davidson and his group, the Liberty Lobby of Idaho, took the municipality all the way to the Idaho Supreme Court, which issued a decision in Davidson's favor last year.

Davidson won a second court victory last month, when a US District Court issued a preliminary injunction barring the city of Hailey from requiring that initiative initiators be residents of the city.

Now, Davidson has four different marijuana initiatives on the November ballot. The first would mandate the city to revise its ordinances to regulate and tax marijuana sales and require it to advocate for the reform of marijuana laws at the state and national level. If approved by voters, city officials would have up to a year to implement the new ordinance. A second initiative would legalize the medical use of marijuana. The third initiative would make enforcement of marijuana laws the lowest law enforcement priority, while the fourth initiative would allow for the use of industrial hemp.

Local officials are resigned to letting the voters decide. "The only way this is going to go away is to let the people vote on it," said Hailey City Council President Rick Davis at a Monday council meeting.

"The voters have to vote on this; the Supreme Court was very clear," said Hailey city attorney Ned Williamson.

Voters in Hailey will get their chance in November. But Ketchum and Sun Valley could be next. Davidson told the Idaho Mountain Express he hoped to have initiatives on the ballot in those two cities for next May's local elections.

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