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How to Win a Marijuana Debate on Television




1. Argue that marijuana should be legal. Being right will give you an immediate advantage. This argument won't guarantee success by itself, but you can't win without it. There has never been a documented instance of someone looking intelligent while arguing that marijuana should be against the law.

2. Try not to say anything completely insane. It's clear that Calvina Fay has come unhinged when she claims that, "about 60% of everybody out there using drugs is involved in abusing children." Such statements will cause viewers to associate your position with derangement. Similar lapses can be observed at other points in the debate when Calvina is speaking.

3. Be the last person to talk. Notice how Rob Kampia concludes the debate with a series of correct statements. Speaking last will help prevent viewers from becoming confused by your opponent's ideas. If the moderator offers your opponent the final word, draw attention away from their comments by transitioning between the following series of facial expressions: surprise → skepticism → amusement.

I Visited Imprisoned Medical Marijuana Patient Will Foster in Jail Last Night

I finally made into the Sonoma County Jail yesterday to visit medical marijuana patient Will Foster, who has been sitting there for the past 16 months first fighting off a bogus marijuana cultivation charge--since dropped by prosecutors--and now fighting off the zealous efforts of Oklahoma parole authorities to return him to the state where he was originally sentenced to a cruel and insane 93 years in prison. I don't want to recount the entire sorry tale--you can read my recent article about his case here--but in a nutshell: Thanks in part to a publicity campaign started by DRCNet, Foster was able to get that horrid original sentence reduced to 20 years, he eventually won release and was paroled to California, which released him from parole after three years of good behavior. That wasn't good enough for Oklahoma, which still wants a few more pounds of flesh. Oklahoma issued a parole violation extradition warrant a few years back, which foster successfully--and unusually--beat with a habeas corpus writ, a California judge throwing out the warrant. So Oklahoma parole officials issued another extradition warrant, this time trying to add new charges after the fact to increase Foster's potential exposure. That warrant is keeping him in jail right now. Foster and his allies are conducting a two-track effort to win his release: First, a political track attempting to get either the California governor or the Oklahoma governor to rescind the extradition warrant. You can help with this. Ed Rosenthal has a Free Will Foster blog post that will show you what actions to take. Second, Foster has prepared another habeas writ. It will have a hearing August 4, and I will attend. He could walk free that day, but he might want to walk fast--Oklahoma is vowing to immediately issue a new extradition warrant. To me, that's a sign of what vengeful, vindictive, authoritarian pricks inhabit the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. But that's just me. There may be a protest at his hearing. Details are sketchy at this point, but if you're in the neighborhood and interested, just email me for now: psmith@drcnet.org After 16 months in the slammer, Foster isn't looking so good. He's got big dark circles under his eyes and his skin has that jailhouse pallor. He has long suffered from arthritis, which is what he used marijuana for, and he also suffers from injuries in a car accident a couple of months before he was arrested and jailed. The nice folks at the Sonoma jail have plied him with all sorts of pharmaceuticals, but no pot, of course. Still, Foster remains strong in spirit and firm in his resolve. This guy is a determined fighter, not just for his freedom, but for what is right. Will Foster never hurt a soul. Why years of his life have been taken away from him and his loved ones for growing a plant is beyond me. If you believe in justice, take the time to help him out. Will Foster isn't the only drug war POW, but he is fortunate in the sense that at least some one is paying attention to his plight. Today is Bastille Day. In lieu of mob action to free the prisoners, will you pay some attention to a drug war prisoner you know? Send a letter? Make a visit? Send a check to commisary? Agitate with your elected officials? Something? Let's not forget our imprisoned brothers and sisters!

"The potent smell of marijuana legalization is in the air"

This report from CBS News is a perfect example of how much the debate has changed. The story itself is great (a revealing look into the unimpressive origins of our marijuana laws), but it's the packaging and context that jumped out at me.

(CBS)  This story was written by Charles Cooper and Declan McCullagh as part of a new CBSNews.com special report on the evolving debate over marijuana legalization in the U.S. Click here for more of the series, Marijuana Nation: The New War Over Weed

The giant "Marijuana Nation" banner at the top of the page is emblematic of the mainstream media's sudden fascination with marijuana legalization. Unsurprisingly, the story is pulling huge web traffic thanks to Digg.com, whose visitors love stories about legalizing marijuana.

It took a long time, but the press has finally picked up on the fact that skeptical drug war reporting is extremely popular with the public. That simple concept appears to be reshaping and amplifying the drug policy debate right before our eyes.

New Hampshire Governor Vetoes Medical Marijuana Bill; A Handful of Additional Votes Needed to Override

The House passed the bill 234-138 and the Senate passed it 14-10. If my calculations are correct, that means a successful override needs 14 more votes in the House and 2 more in the Senate. If an override effort is made, it will happen when the legislature returns in September. Until then, it's time to let those legislators know what they need to do. Here is Gov. Lynch's veto message press release in its entirety:
Gov. Lynch’s Veto Message Regarding HB 648 By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on July 10, 2009, I vetoed HB 648-FN, an act relative to the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. I have tremendous compassion for people who believe medical marijuana will help alleviate the symptoms of serious illnesses and the side effects of medical treatment. Although opinion of the medical community on the efficacy of medical marijuana remains mixed, I have been open, and remain open, to allowing tightly controlled usage of marijuana for appropriate medical purposes. But in making laws it is not enough to have an idea worthy of consideration, the details of the legislation must also be right. I recognize that the sponsors of this legislation, and the members of the conference committee, worked hard to attempt to address the concerns raised about this legislation. However, after consulting with representatives of the appropriate state agencies and law enforcement officials, I believe this legislation still has too many defects to move forward. Law enforcement officials have raised legitimate public safety concerns regarding the cultivation and distribution of marijuana. These concerns have not been adequately addressed in this bill. Marijuana is an addictive drug that has the potential to pose significant health dangers to its users, and it remains the most widely abused illegal drug in this State. I am concerned about the quantities of the drug made available to patients and caregivers under this bill, particularly because there are different types of marijuana and the potency of marijuana can vary greatly depending on how it is cultivated. I am troubled by the potential for unauthorized redistribution of marijuana from compassion centers. In addition to patients and designated caregivers, an unlimited number of “volunteers” can receive registry cards and receive the full protections afforded under this legislation to authorized cardholders. The provisions made for law enforcement to check on the status of an individual who asserts protection under the proposed law are too narrow. There are also many inconsistencies and structural problems in the legislation that would greatly complicate its administration and would pose barriers to controls aimed at preventing the unauthorized use of marijuana. The bill does not clearly restrict the use of marijuana to those persons who are suffering severe pain, seizures or nausea as a result of a qualifying medical condition. The bill requires compassion centers to hold a license to cultivate and distribute marijuana for medicinal purposes, but the bill does not contain clear provisions regarding a licensing process or standards. Compassion centers can be penalized for distributing amounts of marijuana that exceed permissible limitations, without the compassion centers having the means to know how much marijuana the patient already possesses. Caregivers in some instances are required to control the dosage of marijuana without any real means to accomplish this task. The bill leaves unclear the authority of a landlord to control the use of marijuana on rented property and in common areas of property. While the bill contemplates self-funding, there have been inadequate fiscal studies. The Department of Health and Human Services’ administrative responsibilities are of such a magnitude under this legislation that the fees potentially would be so great as to deny access to anyone but the wealthiest of our citizens, resulting in potential inequities. I understand and empathize with the advocates for allowing medical marijuana use in New Hampshire. However, the fact remains that marijuana use for any purpose remains illegal under federal law. Therefore, if we are to allow its use in New Hampshire for medical purposes, we must ensure that we are implementing the right policy. We cannot set a lower bar for medical marijuana than we do for other controlled substances, and we cannot implement a law that still has serious flaws. Therefore, I am regretfully vetoing HB 648-FN.

I Was Turned Away Again Trying to Visit Medical Marijuana POW Will Foster in Jail Last Night

You remember Will Foster: The Oklahoma arthritis sufferer who was sentenced to 93 years in prison for growing a closetful of pot plants, eventually got his sentence reduced to 20 years, got paroled to California, and finished parole there, but whom neanderthal Oklahoma parole officials want to drag back to that benighted state to extract yet another pound of flesh. Will has been sitting in the Sonoma County Jail for 16 months now after a bogus bust of his legitimate medical marijuana garden. The local charges were eventually dropped, but Foster remains behind bars and deprived of his liberty because of Oklahoma's pending parole violation extradition warrant. The extradition warrant has been signed by the governors of both California and Oklahoma, but either could end this tragedy by rescinding his signature. Those are the two obvious political pressure points. Will has fended off extradition by filing a writ of habeas corpus (he won an earlier one), but that means he stays in jail in California for as long as it takes to resolve that--unless one of those governors acts. I wrote about his plight here. Ed Rosenthal has organized a campaign to Free Will Foster. Go there and do what he asks. So, anyway, I went to see Will last night. It was my second attempt to visit him. I was turned away a few nights ago because I was wearing steel-tipped shoes. Who knew? Well, I didn't see him last night, either. After his girlfriend, Susie Mueller, and I arrived at 7:15 to get in line for the 7:30 sign-in for the visits set for 8:15, then waited before getting in line for the actual 8:15 visit, the whole place went into lockdown. We waited awhile to see if the lockdown would be quickly lifted, but it wasn't, so we left. I'll try again next week. Sheesh, it's starting to feel like it's as hard to break into one of these joints as it is to break out.

Europe: Dutch Cannabis Commission Recommends Making Coffee Shops "Members Only," Legalizing Cultivation for Supply

Holland's famous cannabis coffee shops should become "members only" to serve local communities and prevent "drug tourism," a commission set up to advise the Dutch government recommended last week. It also suggested the country experiment with legalizing the supply of cannabis to those coffee shops.

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The Bulldog coffee shop, Amsterdam
"Coffee shops should again become what they were originally meant to be: vending points for local users and not large-scale suppliers to consumers from neighboring countries," said the body. "In some aspects, the situation has gotten out of hand," it added.

The retail sale of cannabis through licensed coffee shops has been tolerated -- though technically still illegal -- since 1976. There are currently some 700 coffee shops, each of which can keep 500 grams of cannabis on hand. While popular, the coffee shop system has come under increasing pressure, with critics citing the aforementioned drug tourism, as well as the development of organized crime links in the cannabis trade.

The "members only" policy is already set to go into effect in the border province of Limburg, and two other border councils, Roosendaal and Bergen-op-Zoom, responded to drug tourism by simply closing all their coffee shops last fall.

Under the Dutch system, while the sale of cannabis is permitted, its production to supply the tolerated coffee shop market is not, leading to the "backdoor problem," where coffee shops are forced to deal with illegal growers and traffickers. The commission recommended experimenting with legalizing the supply chain for the coffee shops in a bid to solve the backdoor problem.

The commission's report will form the basis for a government reevaluation of drug policy, which is due to be presented to parliament in September, Justice Ministry spokesman Wim van der Weegen told Agence France-Presse.

But at least one influential Dutch newspaper, NRC Handelsblad, said the commission's proposals are untenable. In an editorial last Friday, the newspaper argued that as a member of the European Union, Holland can neither exclude foreigners from the coffee shops nor legalize cannabis production for commercial purposes. The solutions to Holland's "drug problem" lie not in the Hague, but in Brussels, the editorial said.

Europe: Copenhagen Ponders Cannabis Decriminalization, Coffee Shops

In its glory days, the Copenhagen neighbourhood of Christiania was known as the place to go to purchase cannabis. It even had a "Pusher Street" where vendors sold their wares. But a conservative Danish government cracked down on Christiania's hash sellers in 2003, and six years later, the Copenhagen city government is starting to wonder whether that was a mistake.

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entrance to Christiania, Copenhagen (courtesy Wikimedia)
The City Council's Social Affairs Committee has issued a report on cannabis policy and is calling on the council to seriously consider decriminalization as a means of reducing gang violence. Since the crackdown on Christiania, the hashish trade has been pushed out into the rest of the city, with police admitting that much recent gang violence is linked to the geographical expansion of the trade.

The report called on the council to consider decriminalization as "a possible alternative" to prohibition. It found that cannabis prohibition has neither lessened use rates nor reduced crime related to its sale. It also noted that "easy access to cannabis has not been shown to lead to more users or addicts."

The report was largely based on the Global Cannabis Commission Report published by the British Beckley Foundation. That report sought "more rational and effective" approaches to cannabis control.

The go-ahead for the report came in February, when the Social Democrats, the largest party on the council, joined with the Social Liberals, the Red-Green Alliance, and the Socialist People's Party to approve it. The three smaller parties already backed the legal sale of cannabis in small quantities for personal use, or "the Amsterdam model," but the Social Democrats are not willing to go that far.

According to the Copenhagen Post, a recent poll found 59% support for Amsterdam-style cannabis cafes. Still, Social Democrats social affairs spokesman Thor Gronlykke told the newspaper his party would only support a model that aims to limit the number of abusers and addicts.

The Red-Green Alliance is ready to go much further. It has long supported the Amsterdam model and has campaigned for cannabis to be legalized and sold as freely as alcohol and tobacco are now.

"It's completely ridiculous that police use more time and energy looking for clumps of cannabis at Christiania than they do finding the people behind human trafficking," wrote Mikkel Warming, deputy mayor for social affairs, on the party's website. "The legalization of cannabis would get rid of a huge part of gangs' income base."

Decriminalization is also supported by Liberal Party council candidate Lars Dueholm. If he wins a seat on the council, decriminalization would become even more likely.

"For me there are two important reasons to decriminalise cannabis," he said. "One is the fact that we're pouring millions, if not billions, of kroner into gang pockets because they're the only ones selling hash when it's illegal."

Still, even if the Copenhagen City Council approved decriminalization and/or cannabis cafes, the measure would have to win approval by the Danish parliament.

Europe: Londoners Fined For Marijuana Possession Are Tearing Up Their Tickets

Since the British Labor government's rescheduling of cannabis as a more serious drug went into effect in January, police have undertaken a three-pronged strategy to deal with pot smokers. A first offense garners a written warning, a second offense garners a $128 fine, and a third offense earns prosecution. But second-time cannabis offenders, those who face the fine, are not lining up to pay those fines.

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UK Parliament building, London
According to the London Standard, which filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the data, only 42% of those ticketed had paid their fines within the regulation 21 days they are allowed. The courts will have to pursue each individual to collect the fine, a process the courts already have problems with in regard to collecting fines in general.

Of the 565 ticketed pot possessors who have failed to pay, only 13 are described by the Metropolitan Police as subject to prosecution with a court hearing pending. Another 470 are marked merely as "fine registered," with the pursuit of payment being delegated to magistrates. And 82 cases are simply marked "unpaid," although officials told the Standard those, too, would be pursued.

As interesting as the non-payment rate, however, is the window the data open on the level of cannabis enforcement in London. In the fourth period from January through April, police issued warnings to 12,482 people, issued fines to 977 second-offenders, and sent 530 third-offenders off to court.

At that rate, London police will warn, fine, or arrest about 42,000 people a year for minor cannabis infractions. Those kinds of numbers put London in the same league as New York City at the height of the Giuliani crackdown when New York City accounted for roughly 10% of all pot arrests in the United States.

Feature: Censorship in South Dakota -- Marijuana Activist Silenced By Judge as Condition of Probation

For most of this decade, Bob Newland has been the voice of marijuana law reform in South Dakota. The photographer and Black Hills resident has organized Hempfests, lobbied for reform legislation in the state capitol, relentlessly crisscrossed the state from the Black Hills to the Sioux Valley, and organized medical marijuana petition drives. He is the director of South Dakota NORML and founder of South Dakotans for Safe Access. As a marijuana reform activist, Newland has been unstoppable -- until now.

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Bob Newland
Newland was arrested earlier this year after being pulled over while driving for carrying slightly under four ounces of marijuana on what his lawyer described as a "mission of mercy." Originally charged with possession with intent to distribute, the veteran activist accepted a plea bargain and pleaded guilty to possession of under a half-pound of marijuana, an offense that carries a sentence of up to two years in the state penitentiary. Prosecutors agreed to make no sentencing recommendations.

On Monday, Newland appeared in court in Rapid City to learn his fate. Judge John Delaney didn't throw the book at him -- he was sentenced to one year in jail, with all but 45 days suspended -- but threw him a curveball instead. While under the court's supervision for the next year, Newland must not exercise his First Amendment right to advocate for marijuana law reform in South Dakota.

According to the Rapid City Journal, which had a reporter in the courtroom, Judge Delaney had two issues with Newland's marijuana reform advocacy. He was determined that Newland not appear to have gotten off lightly, and he did not want Newland's words to encourage young people to drink or use drugs.

"You are not going to take a position as a public figure who got a light sentence," Delaney warned Newland before talking about how juvenile courts are packed with kids who have drug problems. "Ninety-five percent of my chronic truants are using pot," Delaney said.

The no free speech probation condition raised ire and eyebrows not only in South Dakota, but across the land. Concerns are being expressed not only by drug reformers and civil libertarians, but also by legal scholars.

"Surrendering our First Amendment rights cannot be a condition of probation," said Allen Hopper, litigation director for the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "The Constitution clearly protects the right to advocate for political change without fear of criminal consequence. It is a shame that the court feels obligated to muzzle protected speech in a misguided effort to guard society from unfounded fears of open debate. Bob Newland is just the latest victim of a baseless drug policy that continues to clog our prisons and trample our rights."

"Courts impose conditions on probationers all the time, but this sort of condition is very unusual," said Chris Hedges, professor of law at the University of South Dakota. "People ought to be able to argue that the law should be changed, but now he can't do that. We always have to be concerned when someone's speech is infringed," she said.

"Bob is a classic example of an individual activist who was one of the lone activists in the whole state and who now knows smartly the pains of prohibition," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of national NORML. "Those of us familiar with South Dakota laws and practices were not surprised with the jail time, but clamping down on First Amendment rights is something else. Judges put all kinds of restrictions on people on probation, but they don't usually say you can't engage in First Amendment activity."

It was precisely Newland's role as the face of marijuana reform in the state that earned the censorious probation, St. Pierre said. "Bob's pot bust was hardly an aberration, but the judge recognized he had the state's leading reefer rabble rouser in front of him. Had the judge had Joe Blow in front of him, I can't imagine that he would be saying you can't talk to anybody about this."

"It's appalling," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "I can't imagine any reason why anyone should, as part of a criminal sentence, be barred from arguing that the law he was arrested on is wrong and should be changed. This is profoundly troubling. Whatever you think of the individual or the law, we do have something called the First Amendment, and it should apply to Mr. Newland as well as anyone else. I can't imagine how the people of South Dakota could be endangered by allowing Mr. Newland to advocate for what he believes in."

"It's really sad what happened to Bob on Monday," said Emmett Reistroffer, who has stepped up to take Newland's place as leader of South Dakotans for Safe Access, which currently has a signature gathering drive under way to get a medical marijuana initiative on the 2010 ballot. "I've never heard of that before in my life. I'm not an attorney, but the first thing I think is what basis does the judge have for depriving someone of their First Amendment rights?"

Newland himself was surprised at the probation condition, but uncertain as to whether it was worth fighting. In what may be his last words on the subject -- for the next year, anyway -- he told the Chronicle he feared the "negative effects" of challenging it. In other words, he doesn't want to get thrown in jail for even longer than he will already have to serve.

"This seems to me to be a quite unusual sentence provision, of a sort I have never encountered in all my years of activism and watching other people get sentenced for illegal substances. It certainly plays at the edges of suppression of speech of the sort we expect to see in totalitarian countries," he said. "Judge Delaney wanted to make a statement with the sentence, and he surely did. If I were inclined to fight the provision, the immediate negative effects on my life would almost certainly outweigh any gain I could accomplish. Therefore, I must say that I accept the judge's decision in the same light that I accept all the other provisions of the sentence. If this statement so far hasn't taken me over the boundaries of taking a 'public role' in reform advocacy, I'd probably better wait a year to add to it."

But Newland may not be silenced just yet. Those words were written Wednesday, before the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project had a chance to discuss the issue with him. That organization is definitely interested in pursuing the case. If Newland wants to move forward with challenging the no free speech provision, drug reform groups will stand with him, said St. Pierre and Mirken.

"Drug policy reform groups have an immediate interest in this case," said St. Pierre. "It sets a terrible precedent and is such an aberration to be told what political subjects you can talk about. The right to exercise political speech is the fulcrum this will turn on."

Newland may also gain some reassurance from law professor Hutton. Newland should be free to challenge the no free speech condition without fear of legal reprisal, said Hutton. "If he just filed something to challenge that, it cannot be used against him," she said.

Ironically, the judge's probation condition may prove to be a boon to the movement in South Dakota, said St. Pierre. "Just the fact that this has happened has caught the attention of people around the world," he said. "Painful as this is, Bob is now probably going to raise the profile of this debate higher than 10 years of wearing out shoe leather -- and without saying a word."

Feature: Censorship in California -- MPP Marijuana Ad Campaign Hits Bumps as Stations Reject It

The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) kicked off a TV ad campaign aimed at gaining support for a California marijuana legalization bill in the legislature on Wednesday, but ran into problems with several TV stations around the state, which either rejected the ad outright or just ignored MPP efforts to place it. Still, the spots are up and running on other Golden State stations.

Playing on California's budget crisis -- the state is $26 billion in the hole and currently issuing IOUs to vendors and laying off state workers -- the 30-second spots feature middle-aged suburban Sacramento housewife Nadene Herndon, who tells the camera:

"Sacramento says huge cuts to schools, health care, and police are inevitable due to the state's budget crisis. Even the state's parks could be closed. But the governor and the legislature are ignoring millions of Californians who want to pay taxes. We're marijuana consumers. Instead of being treated like criminals for using a substance safer than alcohol, we want to pay our fair share. Taxes from California's marijuana industry could pay the salaries of 20,000 teachers. Isn't it time?"

As Herndon finishes speaking, the words "Tax and regulate marijuana" appear on the screen, as well as a link to Controlmarijuana.org. Clicking on that link actually takes you to MPP's "MPP of California" web page.

"I'm a medical marijuana user," Herndon told the Chronicle. "I was at Oaksterdam University with my husband looking at some classes, and the chancellor [Richard Lee] came out and said I would be perfect for an ad they were thinking about. I talked to my husband, and he said maybe I should do it. It is a cause near and dear to my heart, so I did," she said.

The response from acquaintances has been very positive, she said. "I've gotten lots of positive messages, and a few who are worried for my safety or that my house might be vandalized," said Herndon. "I have gotten a couple of odd phone calls, though, so I've changed my number."

The spots are aimed at creating public support for AB 390, a bill introduced in February by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). That bill would legalize the adult possession of marijuana and set up a system of taxed and regulated cultivation and sales.

The bill and the ad campaign come as support for marijuana legalization is on the rise in California. A recent Field poll showed support at 56%. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has gone on the record saying that legalization needs to be discussed. And, thanks to the state's medical marijuana laws, millions of Californians can see with their own eyes what a regime of legal marijuana sales might look like.

It would appear that marijuana legalization is a legitimate political topic in California, but that's not what a number of the state's major market TV stations think. At least six stations have rejected or ignored the ads. Oakland NBC affiliate KTVU and San Francisco ABC affiliate KGO declined to air the ad, as did San Jose NBC affiliate KNTV. Three Los Angeles stations, KABC, Fox affiliate KTTV, and KTLA also refused to air the ad.

KGO told MPP that they "weren't comfortable" with the spot, while KNTV said only that "standards rejected the spot." KABC claimed the ad "promotes marijuana use."

But while some local stations have balked, the ad is running on stations in Oakland, Sacramento, and San Francisco, as well as on MSNBC, CNBC, and CNN, via California cable operators.

"We are astonished that major California TV stations chose to censor a discussion that Governor Schwarzenegger has said our state should have on an issue supported by 56% of voters, according to the Field poll," said Aaron Smith, MPP California policy director. "The two million Californians who use marijuana in a given month deserve to have their voices heard -- and their tax dollars should help solve the fiscal emergency that threatens our schools, police and parks."

"That those stations would refuse to run the ad is appalling," said MPP communications director Bruce Mirken. "This wasn't something we expected; this wasn't a stunt to get press coverage. This was intentionally a very innocuous ad."

Mirken took special umbrage at KABC's suggestion that the ad "promotes marijuana use." "It's a really tortured reading of that ad to claim that," he said. "The ad is simply recognizing the reality that there are lots of marijuana consumers out there unable to pay taxes on their purchases because we have consigned marijuana to a criminal underground," he said.

Alison Holcomb, drug policy director for the ACLU of Washington, told the Huffington Post that while the refusals don't "implicate the First Amendment from a legal standpoint," she believes the practice "undermines a core principle underlying the First Amendment: that the strength of a democracy flows from the exchange of ideas."

As Holcomb noted, the various stations' refusal to accept the ad is not a First amendment violation in the strict sense -- no governmental entity is suppressing MPP's right to seek air time to run its ad, and the stations are within their legal rights to refuse it. But the effect is to suppress MPP's ability to compete in the marketplace of ideas, and MPP smells a double standard.

"When the governor of the state has said we ought to have this debate, it would seem to mean letting all sides air their views," said Mirken. "Pretty much all of these stations that rejected our ad have aired ONDCP anti-marijuana ads, which are often blatantly dishonest, so they are effectively taking sides in the argument. That feels fundamentally unfair."

The battle continues. As of Thursday, MPP was effectively shut out of the Los Angeles market, except for the cable news networks. But Mirken said he hoped to have the ad on the air there by the weekend.

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