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PRESS CONFERENCE RESCHEDULED: Medical Marijuana Advocates Refute Law Enforcement

APRIL 28, 2008

Medical Marijuana Advocates Offer Point-by-Point Refutations of Law Enforcement
Press Conference at 1 p.m. Tues. Will Also Feature Latest TV Ad Urging Governor to Allow Passage of the Medical Marijuana Bill 

CONTACT: Neal Levine, MPP director of state campaigns, (612) 424-7001

MINNEAPOLIS -- A press conference Tuesday will highlight false and misleading statements made by certain aspects of the law enforcement community during testimony before the legislature, as well as to the press, in an attempt to derail a bill that would protect seriously ill Minnesotans from arrest who use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

    Advocates will also unveil their latest TV ad urging the governor not to veto the bill as he has threatened to if it passes in the House.

    WHAT: Press conference refuting misleading-to-outright false statements made by certain aspects of the law enforcement community who oppose Minnesota's medical marijuana bill.

    WHO: Scheduled press conference participants include:

        * Neal Levine, Marijuana Policy Project director of state campaigns

        * KK Forss, an Ely photographer who suffers constant debilitating pain caused by a ruptured disk in his neck and nerve damage from subsequent surgeries and who is featured in the TV ad.

    WHEN: Tuesday, April 29, 1 p.m. Note: This is a change from the prior advisory.

    WHERE: State Office Building, Room 181

    With more than 23,000 members and 180,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit

Minneapolis, MN
United States

If Marijuana is Dangerous, How Come No One Gets Hurt at These Huge 4/20 Parties?

This year's 4/20 holiday was bigger and bolder than ever before, generating big headlines, big web traffic, and really really big pot parties. Even the Drug Czar participated by suggesting the holiday is dangerous and warning parents to keep a close eye on their children. But for all the fanfare, no one got hurt on 4/20.

I don't think one could possibly overstate how revealing that simple fact really is. Scanning the 4/20 news coverage, one fails utterly to find examples of the sort of negative outcomes we've been told to expect when people use this drug. Last week, more people got more stoned more publicly than any other day of the year. If pot is dangerous, this would be the time to learn that lesson in stark terms. So where are the hospitalizations? The fights? The car accidents?

In Boulder, CO a turnout of 10,000 produced no arrests or mishaps. This means not only that police were ignoring open marijuana use, but that the users were remarkably well behaved under the influence of the drug. They didn't fight, steal, damage property, or do anything else that would have forced the police to take action. Out of 10,000 people at a completely disorganized marijuana-themed event, nothing went wrong at all.

Similarly, at UC Santa Cruz a crowd of 6,000 led police to express embarrassment at their failure to suppress marijuana culture. And again, there were no arrests made for any offenses of any kind. Arrests and injuries are typical at sporting events, but not these giant impromptu 4/20 pot parties.

This quote from the Santa Cruz Sentinel illustrates that point nicely:
Monday, some readers and callers to the Sentinel expressed shock that police knew what was going on and yet nobody was arrested as they drove away from the gathering, apparently under the influence of marijuana.

Grant Boles, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol in Aptos, said the CHP made no arrests Sunday…
Amazingly, the California Highway Patrol had an uneventful afternoon on the biggest pot-smoking day of the year. I guess no hippies crashed their cars that day. No one swerved over the yellow line and got pinched for DUI. You can bet we'd know about it if they had. I'm not saying people should get stoned and drive. I'm asking where to find the carnage we've been told to expect from stoned drivers.

So often, we're told that if we change our marijuana laws, everyone will get stoned and it will be horrible. Yet, when marijuana is used gratuitously by massive crowds at unsanctioned events, negative outcomes are extraordinarily rare. The drug is simply not effective at hurting people.

The whole "marijuana is harmless" argument for reforming marijuana laws certainly has its limitations, but damn, look how amazingly safe marijuana is! Wow!
United States

Europe: Head of Dutch Police Union Says Legalize Marijuana, a Dutch Mayor is on the Same Wave-Length

Hans van Duijn, head of the Dutch police union, told Radio Netherlands Wednesday that the struggle to arrest marijuana growers and providers was pointless and that marijuana should just be legalized. Under Dutch practice, the sale and consumption of small amounts of marijuana are illegal but tolerated, while police continue to seek to arrest the people who supply the coffee shops where the weed is sold, as well as people who are growing or selling outside the coffee house system.

But attempting to arrest growers and suppliers detracts from police ability to deal with other, more serious, crime issues, van Duijn said. Unfortunately, the retiring union head added, Dutch politicians are reluctant to consider that possibility because of international pressure. They are "sticking their heads in the sand," he said.

Van Duijn also called for letting hard-core drug addicts use drugs under supervision. He said that is the only effective way to fight crime.

Meanwhile, the substitute lord mayor of Terneuzen, a city of 60,000 close to the Belgian border, has called for a pilot program for legal marijuana cultivation. Access to a legal supply of marijuana would solve the "backdoor problem" for the Dutch, wherein coffee shops can sell the weed, but no one can legally provide it for them. Substitute Lord Mayor Co Van Schaik told the Dutch news source PZC it was time for such a program.

Feature: Medical Marijuana Bill to Be Introduced in Mexico Next Week

Deputy Elsa Conde of the Social Democratic Alternative Party, or simply Alternativo, will introduce a bill to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in Mexico next week. A press conference to announce the move is set for Monday, and the bill should be filed Tuesday, a day before the Mexican congress goes on vacation.

The bill would make medical marijuana available for seriously ill patients. It proposes a system of licensed dispensaries to handle supply. The text of the bill was not available by Thursday afternoon.

"I will introduce the bill on Tuesday," said Deputy Conde, "If marijuana helps sick people, we should not punish them for using it," she said Thursday.
Elsa Conde
Alternativo is a small party with only four seats in the 500-member Chamber of Deputies, but bill supporters said the measure also has support from some members of the leftist Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD), at least one member of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), and may pick up some support from a key member of the conservative governing National Action Party (PAN). (The three big parties in Mexico are the PRD, the PAN, and the PRI.)

While the number of supporters from major parties is currently small, it is a prestigious group. The three PRD deputies who have signed on are all doctors, and the PAN member expressing support is the chair of the health committee in the Chamber of Deputies, where the bill will get its first hearing.

Deputy Conde has been working with a small group of activists, academics, lawyers, and celebrities known as Grupo Cáñamo (the Hemp Group). Last fall, Conde introduced a bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession in Mexico. The final bill in Conde's and Grupo Cáñamo's tripartite marijuana offensive, one that would legalize hemp production, is in the works.

Grupo Cáñamo came together to push for legislative reforms, said Mexico City activist Ricardo Sala, whose own organization, Convivencia, has been a leading voice for a more rational approach to drugs. "Deputy Elsa wanted to present some marijuana legislation, and she said we needed to show broad support, so we organized the group to help push that effort" he said. The group hopes to expand and broaden its mandate, but right now is focusing on marijuana issues, he said.

While Conde's decrim bill has gone virtually nowhere in the congress, the medical marijuana bill should have better prospects, said Jorge Hernández Tinajero, a member of AMECA (the Mexican Association for Cannabis Studies) and an advisor to Conde. "This measure is very attractive medically and scientifically," he said at a Grupo Cáñamo strategy session Thursday morning. "It will be easier to achieve than decriminalization."

Tinajero said he joined Grupo Cáñamo in a bid to move from street activism to the halls of power. "We do the global marijuana day marches," he noted, "but we have to do politics if we want to change the law."

For Dr. Humberto Brocca, a leading Mexico City drug treatment provider who specializes in acupuncture therapy and deals with the city's street youth population, making medical marijuana available to those who need it is paramount. "This is a human rights issue," he said at the Thursday meeting. "The right to health is fundamental."

There are challenges, said Brocca. "The government here is very moralistic, and what we need and want to do is move medical marijuana from the moral sphere to the scientific sphere. Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug with no medical use, and we need to open the scientific and political space to move it to Schedule II. What we need is to move beyond policy based on moralism to policy that is evidence-based."

"Cannabis users should not be persecuted, either for medical marijuana or personal use," said anthropologist Sandra Tovar, who is married to Brocca and has coauthored several books with him.

"I think this can pass," said Tinajero. "The PAN needs to have a human face, and taking a bold stance on a health issue may help them do it."

Whether or not the bill passes, consideration of it will advance the cause, said Brocca. "We need to make this a public discussion so we can educate not only the public, but also the medical community and the politicians. This effort can only help," he said.

Medical Marijuana: Watch this lying TV ad in Michigan

[Courtesy of Marijuana Policy Project] 

MPP’s medical marijuana initiative in Michigan is under attack by out-of-state prohibitionists, who have purchased thousands of dollars' worth of airtime on major TV stations in Michigan to run this outrageously false ad that claims “every major health organization rejects” medical marijuana.

This is a flat-out lie, of course. To the contrary, numerous major health organizations support medical marijuana access and even call on the government to change the law and stop arresting medical marijuana patients — including the American College of Physicians, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Lymphoma Foundation of America, AIDS Action Council, American Academy of HIV Medicine, National Association of People With AIDS, and many others.

We can’t let the drug warriors lie to the public and jeopardize our ability to pass the medical marijuana ballot initiative in Michigan. Would you please help us fight back with the truth by donating to our campaign today?

We know from past successes that we can pass state medical marijuana initiatives, and we can do it again in Michigan this November — if we have the financial resources to make sure voters hear the truth. Since our well-financed opposition is swarming the airwaves with false and fear-mongering ads, it's crucial that we have the funds to fully execute our campaign plan.
Would you give what you can today? If you help us respond, you’ll be able to tell your friends and family that you helped pay for the campaign that succeeded in making medical marijuana legal in Michigan.

Thank you in advance,
Kampia signature (e-mail sized)

Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

P.S. As I've mentioned in previous alerts, a major philanthropist has committed to match the first $3.0 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2008. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

United States

Police Admit Humiliation After 4/20 Celebration at UC Santa Cruz

As I noted earlier, the meteoric rise of the 4/20 marijuana holiday into a national phenomenon is really something to behold. While some may flinch at the spectacle of widespread open consumption, there's a message here about the unity of marijuana culture in America and the futility of criminalizing so many people.

Just look at the reaction of law-enforcement:
SANTA CRUZ -- For those who arrest people who use, abuse or sell drugs, Sunday's pot-smoking festival at UC Santa Cruz was "a moral slap in the face to the cause," said Rich Westphal, task force commander with the Santa Cruz County Narcotics Enforcement Team. [Santa Cruz Sentinel]

Here's how it went down:

Police may find all of this embarrassing, but it's not really their fault. Marijuana shouldn't be illegal. Any law targeting this many Americans is just flawed on its face. These gratuitous events are a symptom of the bunker mentality of our marijuana culture, which now erupts into a public free-for-all every year on April 20.

It is marijuana prohibition that glamorizes these events and makes them fun. That is just a fact, and one which shouldn't be lost on law-enforcement. These are anti-prohibition pot riots and they are the safest riots you'll ever find. You'd have to call the national guard if any other type of criminal gathered in such numbers.

So if you can't catch them all on the highways or in their homes, and you can't even catch them when they're all together in one place, maybe it's time to stop trying to catch them.

United States

4/20 Gets Bigger Every Year

In 2006, Colorado University police photographed participants in a 4/20 celebration and offered rewards for information leading to their capture. It didn't just fail, it backfired colossally, galvanizing contempt for the drug war and the petty police tactics that have spawned in its name.

Two years later, this quote says it all:
"We can't do the same thing year after year," [CU police Cmdr.] Wiesley said hours before Sunday’s smoking began. "So I doubt we'll do anything like the pictures. ... There's no way our 12 to 15 officers are going to be able to deal with a crowd of 10,000. We just can’t do strong enforcement when we're outnumbered 700 or 800 to one." []
This video, via Steve Bloom, shows that 4/20 has now evolved from a spattering of small secretive gatherings into a full-blown civil disobedience protest against the war on drugs:

Huge turnouts at 4/20 events this year, along with a Chicago Tribune report on the commercialization of the marijuana holiday, are a powerful signal that this phenomenon is becoming rather public. Pete Guither notes in a lovely reflection that we're on an unstoppable trajectory towards victory in the larger fight for drug policy reform and it's hard to argue when you see these teeming masses taking control, if only for a day.

I don't think smoking pot in a field is going to end the drug war. But the existence of these events, their size, the surrender of police, the fact that nothing bad happened; these things are illustrative of the resilient and massive drug war resistance.

If the war on drugs can be overwhelmed for one day, there is no doubt it can someday be overcome altogether.
United States

Press Release: Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act Introduced Yesterday in Congress

[Courtesy of Americans for Safe Access] For Immediate Release: April 18, 2008 Contact: ASA Government Affairs Director Caren Woodson (510) 388-0546 Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act Introduced Yesterday in Congress HR 5842 would reschedule marijuana for medical use, end federal interference in state laws Washington, D.C. -- Congressional Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the "Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act," HR 5842, yesterday, a bill co-sponsored by Representatives Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Sam Farr (D-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Ron Paul (R-TX). The act would change federal policy on medical marijuana in a number of ways. Specifically, HR 5842 would reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug, which cannot be prescribed, to a Schedule II drug, which would recognize the medical value of marijuana and create a regulatory framework for the FDA to begin a drug approval process for marijuana. The act would also prevent interference by the federal government in any local or state run medical marijuana program. Similar versions of HR 5842 have been introduced in prior Congressional terms, but have never made it out of committee. "It's time that the federal government take this issue seriously," said Caren Woodson, Government Affairs Director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a nationwide medical marijuana advocacy group working with Mr. Frank and other Members of Congress to change federal policy. "By disregarding marijuana's medical efficacy, and undermining efforts to implement state laws, the federal government is willfully placing hundreds of thousands of sick Americans in harms way." In addition to rescheduling marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), HR 5842 would provide protection from the CSA and the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) for qualified patients and caregivers in states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana. Specifically, the act prevents the CSA and FDCA from prohibiting or restricting: (1) a physician from prescribing or recommending marijuana for medical use, (2) an individual from obtaining, possessing, transporting within their state, manufacturing, or using marijuana in accordance with their state law, (3) an individual authorized under State law from obtaining, possessing, transporting within their state, or manufacturing marijuana on behalf of an authorized patient, or (4) an entity authorized under local or State law to distribute medical marijuana to authorized patients from obtaining, possessing, or distributing marijuana to such authorized patients. In December, U.S. House Judiciary Chair John Conyers stated publicly his concern about the tactics being used by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and promised oversight hearings. Since then, several California mayors have written to Conyers expressing their support for hearings, including the mayors of San Francisco, Oakland, West Hollywood, and Santa Cruz. Opposition to federal interference in state medical marijuana laws has also come from multiple city councils, members of the California Board of Equalization and the state legislature, as well as New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Further information: Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, HR 5842: ASA Fact Sheet on the Escalation of Harmful DEA Tactics: December 2007 Statement by House Judiciary Chair John Conyers: Letter from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom to Conyers: Letter from NM Governor Richardson to President GW Bush: # # #
Washington, DC
United States

Latin America: Brazilians Don't Say "Legalize It"

A solid majority of Brazilians consulted in a recent poll think marijuana smoking should remain a criminal offense, the Angus Reid Global Monitor reported Tuesday. The poll was done by Datafolha and published in the newspaper Folha de São Paulo.
Psicotropicus banner promoting marijuana (maconha) legalization
According to the polling data, 76% of respondents agreed that marijuana smoking should remain a crime, while 20% said it should not. The number wanting pot criminalized declined slightly from a similar 2006 poll, where 79% agreed, while the number of those saying it should not be a crime increased slightly, up from 18%.

In 2002, Brazilian lawmakers approved legislation that created alternative punishments, such as community service or drug treatment, for use of the drug. At the time, Brazil's National Antidrug Secretariat defended the decision. "Smoking marijuana is not a crime," said Paulo Roberto Uchôa, head of the secretariat. "A drug user is someone who needs counseling and information. The ones who traffic drugs are the criminals."

In 2005, Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil, an internationally recognized musician, went public with his marijuana habit, saying he had smoked for years. "I believe that drugs should be treated like pharmaceuticals, legalized, although under the same regulations and monitoring as medicines," he said then.

Now, if the Brazilian people can only catch up with their government. Usually, it's the other way around.

Marijuana: Nebraska Legislature Passes Stiffer Decrim Penalties, Bill Heads to Governor's Desk

The Nebraska legislature Tuesday gave its approval to a measure that will increase the penalties for small-time marijuana possession in the Cornhusker state. Under Nebraska's current marijuana decriminalization statute, in place since 1979, first-time possession of less than an ounce of weed is punishable by no more than a $100 fine, $200 for a second offense, and $300 for a third offense.

Under Legislative Bill 844, the maximum fine for first-time possession of less than an ounce will be $300, $400 for a second offense, and $500 for a third offense. The measure would also increase the maximum penalty for possession of more than an ounce, but less than a pound. Under current law, violators face a $500 fine and up to a week in jail. Under the new law, the fine would remain the same, but the maximum jail sentence would increase dramatically to three months.

The bill was introduced by State Sen. Russ Karpisek of Wilbur, who argued that fines should be increased because they are not as stiff as those facing minors caught possessing alcohol. In Nebraska, drinking under 21 can get you 90 days in jail and a $500 fine. The marijuana decrim penalties apply to both minors and adults.

Karpisek's reasoning must have appealed to his fellow legislators. The upward revision of decrim penalties passed on a 40-2 vote.

In 2006, there were 7,416 arrests and citations made for marijuana possession, sale and manufacture, according to the Nebraska Crime Commission. The commission did not break down those figures, but assuming roughly 90% of arrests and citations were for simple possession -- about the national average -- that means the state of Nebraska stands to see its pot fine revenues increase from somewhere around $600,000 a year to $1.8 million.

Nice racket.

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