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Medical Marijuana: In Wake of Holder Comments, Federal Judge Postpones Sentencing of California Medical Marijuana Provider Charles Lynch

Charles Lynch expected to be sentenced to a mandatory minimum federal prison term Monday for operating a medical marijuana dispensary legal under state and local laws, but it didn't happen. Instead, US District Court Judge George Wu postponed the proceedings, telling prosecutors he wanted more information about what appears to be a Justice Department change of heart and policy regarding such prosecutions.

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Charlie Lynch (from friendsofccl.com)
Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department would only prosecute medical marijuana providers who violated both state and federal law. Lynch's case is one where he was clearly in compliance with state law in operating his Morro Bay dispensary.

Under Bush administration policy, which did not recognize any distinction between medical and non-medical marijuana, California dispensary operators were targeted for DEA raids and federal prosecutions with no regard for their compliance with state laws. Prosecutions like those of Lynch, who was found guilty in federal court last August, generated loud and boisterous solidarity movements, protests, and scorn toward the federal government.

Judge Wu said he did not believe the apparent change in policy would affect Lynch's conviction, but he said he wanted to consider any new information about the policy change before he imposed sentence on the 47-year-old Lynch.

Federal marijuana law calls for mandatory minimum sentences in cases involving more than 100 pounds or plants, as was the case with Lynch. We can only hope, given the apparent turnaround in federal policy, that Judge Wu finds a way to make his sentence fit the new reality.

Europe: Italian High Court Okays Lonesome Shepherd's Pot Smoking

For the second time in eight months, the Italian Court of Cassation, the country's highest court, has crafted a quirky exception to that country's laws against marijuana possession. In a ruling last week, the high court held that a shepherd's marijuana use was justified because he was alone with his flock.

The shepherd, identified only as Giorgio D., was convicted of possession after police found 38 grams of pot in his car as he drove off for an extended stay with his flock in the mountains of Alto Adige, in the country's far north. But the Court of Cassation upheld his appeal of the conviction, ruling that he was justified in possessing small amounts of the drug because of the "long and solitary period" he was about to spend "in the countryside and the mountains, due to the migration of his flock of sheep."

Back in June 2008, the same court overturned the marijuana possession conviction of a practicing Rastafarian, known only as Giuseppe G. In that case, the high court held that his use of marijuana was allowed because for him the herb "was a possible conveyor to a psychophysical state connected to contemplative prayer in the belief that the sacred herb grew on the tomb of Solomon, acquiring its potency from that wise king."

Well, that's a start. Now, if only Italy would get around to making it so you don't have to be a Rastaman or a shepherd to be able to smoke pot in peace.

Medical Marijuana: Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire Bills Advance

Medical marijuana supporters won committee votes this week in two states and a full House vote in one more. Legislative committees in Illinois and Minnesota advanced bills, while the New Hampshire House passed its bill.

In the Granite State, the New Hampshire House approved HB 648 which would allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The bill passed by a vote of 234-138. The vote marked the first time a medical marijuana measure had won in a floor vote in either New Hampshire chamber.

"This vote proves that House members have taken this debate seriously, listened carefully to the testimony of patients who rely on medical marijuana for relief from terrible, debilitating conditions, and understand their duty as elected officials to provide for their needs with responsible, compassionate legislation," said Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth), co-sponsor of the bill. "Now it's up to my colleagues to do the same, and end the ongoing harassment of patients who have committed no crimes, and who only wish to be protected from arrest for using the proven, safe medicine their doctors recommend."

Now, the New Hampshire Senate needs to get to work. Matt Simon of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy is confident they will. "This vote shows New Hampshire is ready to protect patients by enacting a responsible medical marijuana law," he said. "Public opinion may soon become public policy," alluding to polls showing 71% support for it in the state.

That same day, the Illinois Senate Public Health Committee passed SB 1381 on Wednesday. A companion bill, HB 2514, passed the House Health and Human Services Committee March 4.

Sponsored by a former three-term state's attorney, Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton), the bill would allow seriously ill patients with specified debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana without fear of arrest provided they have a doctor's recommendation. The favorable committee votes clear the way for possible floor votes in both houses, a first in Illinois.

"This is an important step for suffering Illinoisans who rely on medical cannabis because they, in consultation with their doctors, have determined it is the best treatment available to them," Haine said. "I'm grateful to my colleagues in the public health committee who listened to science and reason today and made the sensible, compassionate decision to pass this bill."

One day earlier, the Minnesota House Public Safety and Oversight Committee advanced that state's medical marijuana bill, HF 292, but only after amending it. The bill passed the committee on a 9-6 vote after it was altered so that it must be reapproved in two years and so it would be more difficult for patients to grow their own medicine.

State law enforcement testified in opposition to the measure Tuesday and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty continues to vow to veto any such legislation that crosses his desk, but former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper told the committee that despite hearing similar plaints in Washington state, the sky had not fallen. He suggested that police should leave doctoring to the doctors.

"The police, as important as our voice is in the conversation in the dialog about drug policy, are not physicians, are not care givers," Stamper said. "And that it is inappropriate for the police to substitute our judgment for that of physicians and those in need of the care of physicians."

The Minnesota bill is advancing in both houses, having now survived six different committee votes. It remains to be seen whether it will get floor votes in both chambers, and whether it will pass with enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto.

Feature: More Than A Quarter Million Marijuana Smokers in Drug Treatment Each Year -- Are We Wasting Valuable Treatment Resources?

Even as the demand for drug treatment slots continues to grow, an increasing number of people who enter drug treatment are being treated for marijuana as their primary drug of abuse, leading some observers to question whether scarce drug treatment resources are being wasted on people who don't need drug treatment. In its most recent set of drug treatment statistics released last week, the 2007 Treatment Episode Data Sets (TEDS), the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported that some 288,000 people underwent treatment for marijuana that year, or 15.8% of all drug treatment episodes.

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marijuana -- sometimes but not usually a reason for treatment
The number is actually down slightly from its 2005 peak of 301,000 people in treatment for marijuana, but in line with trends for the past decade. Since 1997, the number of people getting treatment for marijuana each year has increased by roughly 50%, or about 100,000 people.

Former drug czar John Walters was fond of using the increase in the number of people being treated for marijuana to argue that it showed the increasing seriousness of marijuana use as a drug problem, but a closer look at the SAMHSA paints a different picture.

Of the people getting treatment for marijuana in 2007, 37.7% had not even smoked in the past month, raising questions about whether they even met the standard (but still arguable) definitions of marijuana abuse or dependence. When you add in the number who had smoked 1-3 times in the past month, the number rose to 53%. Other data set numbers raise similar questions. Only 14.8% of people in treatment for marijuana were self-referrals, as opposed to 56.9% getting treatment because they were ordered to by a court and another 28% in treatment because of referrals from family, schools, employers, or substance treatment or medical providers.

By way of contrast, the self-referral percentages for other drugs are much higher. Among alcohol users in treatment, 29% were self-referrals, for heroin, 58%; cocaine, 36%. Only methamphetamine users had a similar self-referral rate, with 20%.

People in treatment for marijuana are also younger than people in treatment for other drugs. For marijuana, 40% were under 19 at the time of admission, compared to 9% for stimulants, 11% for alcohol, 5% for opiates, and 3% for cocaine. A whopping 75% of people in treatment for marijuana were under age 30, compared to no more than 40% for any other of the major drugs.

The American Psychological Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) defines substance abuse as "a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as manifested by one or more of the following occurring within a twelve-month period:

(1) Recurrent substance use resulting in a failure to fulfill major role obligations at work, school, or home (e.g. repeated absences or poor work performance related to substance use, substance related absences, suspension, or expulsions from school; neglect of children or household).

(2) Recurrent substance use in situations in which it is physically hazardous (e.g. driving an automobile or operating a machine when impaired by substance use).

(3) Recurrent substance related legal problems (e.g. arrest for substance related disorderly conduct).

(4) Continued substance use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by effects of substance (e.g. arguments with spouse about consequences of intoxication, physical fights).

While it would appear questionable that all those people being treated for marijuana fit those criteria, a SAMHSA researcher said this is indeed the case. Deborah Trunzo, DASIS team leader for SAMHSA's Office of Applied Statistics, said that DSM diagnosis is not reported by all states, but in those states that did report: "Almost three quarters of marijuana admissions for whom DSM diagnosis was reported in 2007 had a DSM diagnosis of marijuana abuse or dependence. The remaining quarter had a DSM diagnosis of abuse or dependence on another substance or a psychiatric disorder. The data from 2006 were similar."

The no use in the past month figures for marijuana are not that shocking either, said Dr. Peter Delaney, Assistant Surgeon General and director of the Office of Applied Studies at SAMHSA. "You may have noticed that 29% of all admissions report no use of their primary substance in the 30 days prior to admission ranging from a low of 16% for heroin to a high of 50% for hallucinogens," Delaney pointed out. "There are a number of explanations for this including individuals coming into treatment may have been on a wait list and may not be currently using their primary drug of choice while preparing to enter treatment -- individuals enter treatment from the jail, other treatment settings, or are referred from court even though they have been abstinent for some time."

There are other explanations, too, Delaney said. "Some people may not be using marijuana presently but report it as the 'favorite' drug, others who are referred for marijuana problems may actually be reporting that alcohol is the problem but the referral trumps the report and finally, as one of the state representatives noted when asked about this phenomenon, many individuals entering treatment do not tell the truth about their use, and providers often see increases in reporting of use at discharge because treatment works."

Not surprisingly, drug reformers, academics and treatment professionals had significantly different takes on the SAMSHA marijuana treatment numbers and what they mean.

"There really is marijuana dependence, and there is an effective treatment for it, but, as the SAMSHA data reveal, it has little to do with what's going on in treatment programs around the US," said Dr. Mitch Earleywine, associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York -- Albany and author of "Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence."

The problem is with the way marijuana fits into the hallmark symptoms of dependence, which are tolerance and withdrawal, Earleywine said. "It is hard to document marijuana tolerance, but the Marinol (THC) studies show tolerance so everyone assumes there must be marijuana tolerance. Also, novice users are less good at knowing how much of a hit they can hold, so experienced users often look more sensitive to marijuana because they're really just more efficient about how they smoke," he said.

Marijuana withdrawal is so subtle it took 2,000 years to document, Earleywine added. "The symptoms are irritability, moodiness, disturbed sleep, craving for marijuana, and -- get this -- loss of appetite," he noted. "When withdrawal occurs, it appears to dissipate within about three weeks, at most." For Earleywine, marijuana withdrawal is about as serious as withdrawal from caffeine.

"The SAMSHA data's suggestion that folks in treatment haven't used marijuana in a month makes it pretty clear that they aren't really dependent at the time of treatment," Earleywine said. "That fact doesn't mean they couldn't benefit from some therapy, but it confirms that an inpatient stay is ridiculous. And yes, someone addicted to crack or meth is missing the chance if some marijuana user is in the program instead."

Noting that only about 15% of people in treatment for marijuana sought treatment themselves and more than half are there because of the courts, Earleywine suggested that most of the rest don't need to be there, either. "Usually, those remainder folks are in there because some family member found a joint and demanded treatment. As you can imagine, clinical work with these guys can be a complete waste of time."

He cited a case in point. "I remember one case that involved a woman in her early twenties in a wheelchair who lived with her parents," he related. "Her folks found her stash and sent her to a ritzy place filled with Betty Ford types. The poor woman had no negative consequences at all. The first week she kept stating this fact but it was interpreted as 'denial,' so she had to spend the next two weeks pretending she really had a problem so the staff would tell her parents that she was making progress."

Earleywine was similarly critical of the DSM-IV criteria for dependency that included repeated legal problems related to smoking pot. "Obviously, these are a confounding of drug laws and enforcement practices. If abuse statistics rise, it can have little to do with the drug or the rates of misuse and everything to do with how much the cops feel like busting people."

"These figures show that there are an awful lot of people in treatment for supposed marijuana abuse or dependency who, by everything we can glean from the numbers, don't look very much like addicts," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "They are disproportionately employed compared to people in treatment for other drugs, especially when you consider how young the population in treatment for marijuana is. Their lives have not been rendered unlivable by a drug problem, but because of an arrest, they are given a choice between treatment and jail when they actually need neither," he said.

"What is really striking is the extraordinarily high percentage of people referred by the criminal justice system versus the amazingly low percentage of self-referrals. These are not people who walked into the clinic saying 'I need help,'" Mirken said.

"These are people being coerced into treatment mandated by the courts," said Paul Armentano, Deputy Director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "Nationally, more than half have been referred to treatment by the criminal justice system. These are people who have been arrested, they're likely not regular users, they quit using while going through the court system, but are mandated to take treatment to avoid going to jail. You don't see this pattern when it comes to other drugs, where people are much more likely to seek treatment themselves."

"These figures reflect the obsessions and myopia of the Bush administration," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Part of it reflects the ideology of abstinence -- that once you're in the system you have to stay clean. But it means that people who are recreational marijuana users are unnecessarily put into treatment, wasting their time, money, and energy, and wasting valuable treatment resources. Most people understand that marijuana treatment programs are mostly silly, but everyone has to participate in the charade because possession or use of marijuana remains a criminal offense."

Patricia Greer, president of the executive committee of the Association for Addiction Professionals, was reluctant to downplay marijuana abuse or dependency, but did hint that perhaps some people in treatment did not need to be there. "If you are a chronic user, you could probably use treatment," she said, "but if you're a recreational user just smoking on the weekend, why not treat it like a DWI with a little counseling?" she suggested.

Greer was also hesitant to differentiate between problems with different drugs. "Empirically, they may look different, but in terms of psychological dependence, they are very much alike," she said. "The question is whether your life is unmanageable, are you experiencing employment, school, or relationship consequences. If so, you have a problem. Marijuana may not look that serious, but if it's serious to the people around you, then, yes, it's serious."

There is a small percentage of the marijuana using population who can fairly be identified as dependent, said Armentano. "The Institute of Medicine study said that among those who smoked marijuana, about 9% may exhibit some symptoms of dependency at some point in their lives. Other reviews have placed that number much lower," he noted. "Still, there are a small number who probably are, and those are the people who are voluntarily checking themselves in for treatment."

But there is dependency and then there is dependency, Armentano argued. "People become dependent on all sorts of things, but it's important to delineate marijuana from many other substances when we're talking about physical dependence," he argued. "If alcohol addicts try to quit cold turkey, they can die from withdrawal, and alcohol is not alone in that. But if we're talking about marijuana, we're not talking about serious withdrawal symptoms; we're talking about a little irritability and maybe a couple of nights of trouble falling asleep."

"The majority of our people are being treated for alcohol dependence," said Christine Jones, clinical supervisor for the Pennington County City/County Alcohol and Drug Program in Rapid City, South Dakota. "People with chronic alcoholism remain our biggest problem. For a few years, we had an awful lot of meth, but now it's OxyContin and prescription opiate abuse."

When asked specifically about marijuana, Jones said it is common as a secondary drug of abuse, but her facility was mainly treating alcoholism and meth and opiate dependence. "We have a few who are primary marijuana abusers, but the numbers are way higher for alcohol," she said. "Most of our clients are court ordered."

That led Jones to ask whether the treatment community was doing its job properly. "The question is how well does the substance abuse field do at gate-keeping so that it is addressing clinical needs rather than judicial concerns," said Jones. She said that treatment providers should be assessing clients through procedures such as the American Society for Addiction Medicine's patient placement criteria, which uses a six-dimensional matrix to assess treatment needs. "It is the responsibility of the drug and alcohol field to ensure that the level of treatment they are obtaining is appropriate for what their needs are," she said.

"If you have a marijuana smoker, and he is using occasionally and holding a job and maintaining his responsibilities, it's a misuse of money to send him to a treatment center," said Jones. "Use isn't an automatic indicator that someone needs treatment, but if someone is having repeated problems with marijuana and lots of other problems in his life, you might want to take a look at how the problems and the marijuana use are related," she said.

But drug reformers remained unconvinced, and had suggestions for what to do. "We need to change our marijuana laws," said Mirken. "There is probably a small percentage of people who have a genuine problem with marijuana, and treatment should be available for them, but not coerced treatment for marijuana possession, which is leading to a completely dysfunctional situation. In most states, there are waiting lists for treatment slots. You have to ask how many treatment slots are being occupied by court-ordered marijuana treatment when there are folks with serious problems with cocaine and heroin sitting on waiting lists and not getting help. If that's the case, it's an outrage."

"The single most important thing we can do is make treatment available for people who want it before they get arrested," said Nadelmann. "To the extent that people are being diverted to treatment in the criminal justice system, we have to insist on the primacy of treatment principles over criminal justice principles. When the criminal justice system is involved in drug treatment, that means coerced abstinence, and that's a fundamental problem. Abstinence may work for some people, but it is a mistake to apply that to entire populations of people with drug issues caught up in the criminal justice system," he said.

"There's a superb treatment for marijuana dependence developed by Roger Roffman at the University of Washington and his colleagues," said Earleywine. "It consists of about 12 sessions of outpatient meetings that focus on identifying why you want to quit, what situations usually lead to use, how to change your thoughts about use, how to prevent relapse, how to handle various life stressors, and great ways to plan alternative fun activities. Extremely few programs around the country use this approach. Most of the drug treatment centers around the country have inpatient stays and 12-step meetings with the occasional watered-down group version of some of the topics from the established treatment."

"It's absurd to mandate people attend treatment who don't need it, it's a waste of taxpayer and private dollars," said Armentano. "There are hundreds of thousands of people seeking treatment for real drug problems who can't get it because treatment slots are limited. To think that we are sending hundreds of thousands of marijuana users to treatment who don't need it at a time when treatment resources are so limited is just ridiculous. This is a policy that is purposefully endangering the health of those who most desire or need drug treatment."

Medical Marijuana: DEA Raids San Francisco Dispensary Despite Holder Vow

One week after Attorney General Eric Holder said the federal government would not raid or prosecute medical marijuana providers unless they were breaking both state and federal law, DEA agents Wednesday evening raided Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic in San Francisco. The clinic is a cooperative operating under temporary city permits as it completes the city licensing process and thus, apparently legal under state law. Now, medical marijuana providers and activists don't know what federal policy really is.

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Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic (from bayareacannabis.org)
The raid on Emmalyn's was done by the DEA only -- no state or local law enforcement was involved -- and the DEA, typically tight-lipped, has not explained how or whether Emmalyn's was in violation of state law.

"Because so little information has been released thus far, we have more questions than answers," added Aaron Houston, director of government relations for the Marijuana Policy Project. "But with an actual shooting war along our Mexican border, not to mention federal law enforcement there being so overwhelmed that traffickers coming through the border with up to 500 pounds of marijuana are let go, it's very hard to believe that this is the best use of DEA resources, especially in a city with an active program to license and regulate medical marijuana providers."

"It's déjà vu all over again at the Justice Department," said Stephen Gutwillig, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "The ink's barely dry on the Obama administration's kinder, gentler approach to medical marijuana, and the DEA is up to its old tactics. San Francisco sets the standard for medical marijuana dispensary regulation. Surely, state and local authorities are capable of policing their own system, just as the feds surely have more pressing issues to address."

"It is disturbing that, despite the DEA's vague claims about violations of state and federal laws, they apparently made no effort to contact the local authorities who monitor and license medical marijuana providers," said MPP California policy director Aaron Smith. "For an agency that for eight years said it couldn't care less about state law to suddenly justify raids as an effort to uphold state law simply doesn't pass the smell test."

Holder has twice made remarks suggesting a shift in federal policy toward medical marijuana providers in states where it is legal, but only in response to direct questions. He has not issued an unsolicited policy statement or issued any policy directives.

"Attorney General Holder needs to be specific about when federal law enforcement will and will not harass medical marijuana patients and their providers," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "The Justice Department needs to prioritize. Even if a medical marijuana patient or provider is in technical violation of some state law or regulation, that doesn't mean the federal government should be wasting scarce resources arresting people over it. Doesn't the Obama Administration have more important issues to deal with right now?"

Obama Won't Say Why He Opposes Marijuana Legalization

The overwhelming popularity of marijuana questions on the president's website has repeatedly forced him to address the issue, yet his answers are utterly lacking in substance. From Change.gov in December:

President-elect Obama is not in favor of the legalization of marijuana.

And at today's event:

"No, I don't think that is a good strategy to grow our economy."

As lame as these responses are, you can bet he'd never have said anything at all if marijuana questions hadn’t repeatedly pulled the most votes on his website. There's a subtle and revealing undertone to all of this insofar as Obama has publicly declined to actually challenge the merits of our argument in any way.

For all of the stereotypical anti-pot talking points at his disposal, Obama chooses to take the softer path of pushing the matter aside as best he can and moving on. Is that because he can't refute our arguments, he doesn't want to, or both? I'm operating under the assumption that 1) Obama privately agrees with us, but remains concerned about the political consequences of associating himself with that viewpoint, and 2) Obama has enough respect for the potency of our movement that he doesn't want to piss us off any more than he has to.

As frustrating as all of this is, we'd be foolish to miss the significance of our success at strong-arming the reform argument into a high profile discussion of the economy. It's not everyday that a sitting president is forced to comment on the legalization of marijuana. The fact that this even happened means we're doing something right.

Obama Insults Online Community for Supporting Marijuana Legalization

At his Online Town Hall meeting this morning, President Obama joked about the overwhelming popularity of marijuana legalization questions on his online forum.



Well, Mr. President, if you "don't know what this says about the online audience," allow me to clue you in. We're more than just some nicknames on a computer screen. We're Americans and we have the same right as anyone else to be heard and to be treated with respect.

As nearly a million among us are arrested each year for marijuana, it should come as no surprise to you that we've come together to ask why. The reason you find us in every category of your site is because the harms of the war on drugs reach into every facet of American life. Drug prohibition destroys all it touches and there is scarcely a problem we face as a nation that couldn’t be made more manageable by ending this great war that continues to stigmatize and divide us.

You can trivialize and dismiss our argument, but you cannot silence our movement. You make us more powerful with every public forum you hold.

Update: This quote from Jack Cole at LEAP pretty much sums it up:

"Despite the president's flippant comments today, the grievous harms of marijuana prohibition are no laughing matter. Certainly, the 800,000 people arrested last year on marijuana charges find nothing funny about it, nor do the millions of Americans struggling in this sluggish economy. It would be an enormous economic stimulus if we stopped wasting so much money arresting and locking people up for nonviolent drug offenses and instead brought in new tax revenue from legal sales, just as we did when we ended alcohol prohibition 75 years ago during the Great Depression."

Uh-Oh! Medical Marijuana Raid in San Francisco

Very unsettling:

Federal drug agents raided a medical marijuana facility in San Francisco Wednesday night.

The raid occurred at Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic at 1597 Howard Street. DEA spokeswoman Casey McEnry told CBS 5 the documents regarding the raid are sealed, so the DEA was not able to give many details.

"The documents relating to today's enforcement operation remain under court seal. Based on our investigation we believe there are not only violations of federal law, but state law as well." [CBS]

By claiming the case involves violations of state law, DEA is able to maintain the appearance of abiding by the attorney general's pledge to respect state medical marijuana laws. We're left to wonder if that will now become their blanket justification, to be invoked each time they elect to move in on an established medical marijuana provider. No one was arrested in today's raid, so we'll likely be waiting a while to find out what the hell happened.

The skeptical interpretation is that nothing's changed, that the feds will simply be more careful with the wording they use to describe future enforcement efforts that target medical providers. A worst-case scenario would the adoption of a policy in which the full force of federal law is brought down upon any medical marijuana provider who is accused of even a minor violation of state law. Defendants facing only federal charges would have no means to contest the grounds on which they were targeted to begin with. The practical value of Obama's purported policy shift would be negligible.

However, even if that's DEA's gameplan (which wouldn’t surprise me at all), I doubt it could withstand scrutiny. The salient question of why DEA is usurping the responsibilities of state law-enforcement won't escape notice and press coverage of these events grows increasingly competent as the issue continues to boil.

Obama's position on medical marijuana owes a great deal to pure political pressure resulting from the deep unpopularity of the raids themselves. The public simply hates this and won't be satisfied with a fictitious shell-game solution that merely reframes what DEA is actually doing.

Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Full New Hampshire House, 234-138

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
MARCH 25, 2009

Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Full New Hampshire House, 234-138

Vote Marks First Time House Has Passed a Medical Marijuana Bill

CONTACT: Matt Simon, NH Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy, (603) 391-7450

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — The New Hampshire House passed a bill today, 234-138, that would allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana if their doctor recommends it – a first for either chamber of the state's legislature.

    Now that the bill – HB 648, sponsored by Evalyn Merrick (D-Lancaster) – has cleared the House, patients and advocates are calling on the Senate to pass it and send it to Gov. John Lynch to make it law without delay.

    "This vote proves that House members have taken this debate seriously, listened carefully to the testimony of patients who rely on medical marijuana for relief from terrible, debilitating conditions, and understand their duty as elected officials to provide for their needs with responsible, compassionate legislation," said Sen. Martha Fuller Clark (D-Portsmouth), co-sponsor of the bill that the House passed today. "Now it's up to my colleagues to do the same, and end the ongoing harassment of patients who have committed no crimes, and who only wish to be protected from arrest for using the proven, safe medicine their doctors recommend."

    In 2007, a bill similar to the one currently under consideration was defeated by only nine votes – an incredibly slim margin considering it had been negatively recommended by the House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee that year. The same committee gave HB 648 an "ought to pass" recommendation March 18. Also, a 2008 Mason-Dixon poll showed that 71 percent of New Hampshire voters support such a law, and medical marijuana advocates say legislators have learned a lot in two years about both medical marijuana and medical marijuana policy.

    "This vote shows New Hampshire is ready to protect patients by enacting a responsible medical marijuana law," said Matt Simon, NH Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy executive director. "Public opinion may soon become public policy."

    Thirteen states already have medical marijuana laws which effectively protect qualifying patients from arrest and help them safely access marijuana. Michigan became the most recent last year when 63 percent of voters passed its medical marijuana law by ballot initiative. Of the 11 states that have collected such data, not one has seen youth marijuana use rates increase after establishing a medical marijuana law. In fact, each of those states, including California, has actually seen youth marijuana rates decline, in some cases dramatically.

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Location: 
NH
United States

Press Release: Medical Marijuana Passes House Public Safety Policy & Oversight Committee, 9-6

Minnesota Cares logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
MARCH 24, 2009

Medical Marijuana Passes House Public Safety Policy & Oversight Committee, 9-6

CONTACT: Former Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover)........................................................(763) 439-1178

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- The House Public Safety Policy and Oversight Committee passed the House version of Minnesota's medical marijuana bill, H.F. 292, today by a vote of  9 to 6. The vote is the latest in a string of solid committee wins for the House and Senate versions of the popular measure.

     Norm Stamper, former chief of police for the city Seattle, testified in favor of the bill. "As Seattle's police chief, I had real-world experience dealing with Washington's medical marijuana law, and can say from first-hand knowledge that medical marijuana is not a problem for law enforcement," Stamper said. "The Minnesota bill has solid safeguards built into it, and the problems being speculated about by some opponents simply do not reflect reality."

     Laws protecting patients from arrest and jail for using medical marijuana with their doctor's recommendation are in effect in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Michigan's is the most recently enacted, passing with a record-setting 63 percent "yes" vote last November.

     Organizations that have recognized marijuana's medical uses include the American College of Physicians, American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, among others.
   

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Location: 
St. Paul, MN
United States

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, 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