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Flying Robots to Assist in Outdoor Marijuana Eradication

Ever since I pointed out last week that the drug war will soon be fought mostly by robots, further examples have come pouring in. We're now well past the point at which anyone can plausibly deny the inevitability of a future in which drug war robots patrol the streets thrilling children, terrifying the elderly, and wreaking general havoc of epic distopian proportions. Skeptics will know I'm right when the lighter gets shot out of your hand with lasers every time you try to smoke some drugs.

Yeah, if I was wrong about anything, it was how soon my horrific predictions would come true:
The U.S. Forest Service has purchased a pair of flying drones to track down marijuana cultivators operating in remote California woodlands.

Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who oversees the Forest Service, tells The Associated Press the pilotless aircraft will allow agency law enforcement officers to pinpoint marijuana fields and size up potential dangers before agents make arrests.


The SkySeer drones cost $100,000 each and weigh only four pounds. [AP]

Isn't that just the most ridiculous thing you've ever heard? F'ing robots flying around the woods trying to catch you growing weed? I predict that outdoor marijuana cultivation remains unaffected, but reported UFO sightings increase dramatically.

And the creepy thing about all this is that it was reported just one week after my initial expose on this topic. Could it be that the drug war geniuses are taking cues from my blog? Just in case, let me clarify that my point wasn't that it's a good idea for the drug warriors to build horrible robots, but simply that they are mad enough to do it. I guess I was right either way.

[Thanks to tv/movie star Aaron Houston for the link]

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New Study: Pot Smokers Aren't Drug Addicts, They Just Like Pot

If you took the Drug Czar's word for it, you'd think all marijuana users were helpless dope fiends who just need the cops to take their pot away and throw their sorry asses in rehab. But if you take the Drug Czar's word on this, or anything else for that matter, you'll be wrong. People smoke pot because they want to, and that's a scientific fact.

Via NORML, a new study helps clarify what we've all been struggling so hard to explain:
Understanding the Motivations for Recreational Marijuana Use Among Adult Canadians

Substance Use & Misuse, Vol. 43, Issue 3 & 4, February 2008: pages 539-572

The primary purpose of this study was to develop a better understanding of what motivates a selected group of adult[s] to use marijuana and to explore the social contexts in which it is used. …. Using interviews to gain insight into the subjective experiences of the participants, this research corroborated the results of previous studies that found that most adult marijuana users regulate use to their recreational time and do not use compulsively. Rather, their use is purposively intended to enhance their leisure activities and manage the challenges and demands of living in contemporary modern society. Generally, participants reported using marijuana because it enhanced relaxation and concentration, making a broad range of leisure activities more enjoyable and pleasurable.
It is so rare to hear the typical marijuana user described in this way (accurately) that I had to reread this just to be sure. The abstract is revealing as well:
They were predominantly middle class, employed in a wide range of occupations, and used marijuana recreationally to enhance relaxation and concentration while engaged in leisure activities.
Holy hookah, Batman! These hippies have jobs and happy lives!? Somebody better drug test them soon, otherwise they might make it their whole lives without anyone realizing what losers they are.

Seriously though, the idea that marijuana users are somehow mentally and physically handicapped is easily the most pernicious and inaccurate absurdity ever infused into the marijuana debate. It's just not true at all. Yet this mindless stereotype continues to be reinforced as the counterculture tends to embrace the drug openly, while more typical users remain stigmatized by the fear of arrest, drug testing, or being mistaken for a hippie.

The point here isn't just that marijuana use is seldom more than a harmless hobby, although that is true. Arguing that marijuana is harmless hasn't advanced our cause, so we must look beyond opportunities to simply make that argument on its own. The point here is that the typical marijuana user isn't someone who can benefit from criminal justice intervention. Just think about how damaging these punishments for marijuana can be and imagine what happens each time they are applied to someone whose life was previously going just fine:
Possible jail time
Substantial legal costs/fines
Loss of employment
Loss of drivers license
Loss of child custody
Loss of federal aid for education
Loss of federal aid for housing
Loss of federal aid for food
For many decades now, we've been ruining the lives of healthy, happy people for using marijuana. We're able to do this because we tell ourselves that they need us to help them. They are addicts. They are lazy. They are going to get cancer or depression. But wait, what if they're not? Oh my God, what have we done?
Location: 
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Europe: Dutch Smoking Ban Will Not Apply to Marijuana, Health Minister Says

As of July 1, it will be illegal to light up a cigarette in restaurants, hotels, bars, and coffee shops in Holland, but the smoking ban does not apply to joints constructed solely of marijuana. According to NIS News, Dutch Health Minister Ab Klink sent a letter to that effect to the Lower House Wednesday.

Under the tobacco ban, smoking tobacco in bars and other public accommodations will be allowed only in closed off areas where no service is provided. But the Tobacco Act applies only to the smoking of products wholly or partially made of tobacco. Pot smokers who roll their joints without adding tobacco will be able to continue to toke in peace in Holland.

But many Dutch and other European marijuana aficionados are accustomed to rolling their joints with tobacco. In his letter, Klink said he does not expect that marijuana smokers will switch en masse to non-tobacco-laced joints, but he will arrange a study to see whether the smoking habits of coffee shop customers change as a result of the new law.

Politics: New York Governor Admits Past Cocaine, Marijuana Use, Few Are Bothered

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David Paterson
New York Gov. David Paterson unapologetically admitted to having used cocaine and marijuana in a television interview on NY1 News over the weekend, and for the most part, the revelation was greeted with a collective yawn. A handful of professional anti-drug advocates could be found to express their dismay, but otherwise, it appeared as if admissions of past drug use by politicians don't carry much negative weight anymore.

In his first TV interview since becoming governor in the wake of Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal and subsequent resignation, Paterson was asked by host Dominic Carter if he had ever used illicit drugs. Paterson responded that he had spoken publicly about the issue during the 2006 campaign:

Dominic Carter: You have?

David Paterson: Yes

Dominic Carter: Marijuana?

David Paterson: Yes

Dominic Carter: Cocaine?

David Paterson: Yes

Dominic Carter: You used cocaine, governor?

David Paterson: I'd say I was 22 or 23, I tried it a couple of times, yes.

Dominic Carter: When is the last time that -- is that the only time you've tried cocaine, governor?

David Paterson: Yeah, around that time, a couple of times and marijuana, probably, when I was about 20. I don't think I've touched marijuana since the late 70s.

Such admissions once marked a death knell for public office, as attorney Douglas Ginsburg found out early in the Reagan administration, when his admission of previous pot-smoking saw his nomination to the Supreme Court go up in smoke. But in recent years, politicians including former New York Gov. George Pataki, current New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and, of course, former President Bill Clinton have all admitted to past marijuana use, with no apparent impact on their political viability. More recently, Sen. Barack Obama's admission of youthful cocaine and marijuana use does not seem to be dragging him down.

But that didn't stop Calvina Fay, director of the Drug Free America Foundation, from worrying that admissions like Paterson's "send the wrong message" to America's youth. Politicians need to accompany such admissions with anti-drug propaganda, she suggested in an interview with the New York Sun. "It's really their responsibility to take that extra step and to talk about how it's not something they are proud of. It's not something that is smart, that they were literally risking their life, and risking their future, so that our children don't get the idea that you can just do drugs and someday be governor," she said.

Joe Califano, head of the Center on Alcohol and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, echoed the thought. "I think they ought to be honest but I think they also have to say this is not something you should do," he said. "That other piece is very important."

But in an interview with Newsday columnist Ellis Hennican, Drug Police Alliance executive director Ethan Nadelmann said the number of drug users in America had reached critical mass and it was time for "a more realistic" discussion of drug use.

"With numbers like these, the notion that someone has to lie is ludicrous at this point," said Nadelmann. "Look at the cohort of people age 30 to 60," he said. "A pretty substantial minority has done cocaine. Despite all the drug-war rhetoric, the vast majority of people who used cocaine did not go on to develop a coke habit or end up in terrible states. Some did. But the addiction rate was probably similar to that of alcohol."

One more politician has come out of the closet. Not only is Gov. Paterson an example to other elected officials, he is also in a position to do something about New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws. Let's see if he can offer up something other than mere memories.

They Won't Give Up -- Alaska Supreme Court Hears Oral Argument in State's Bid to Overturn Legal Marijuana At Home

For more than 30 years, Alaska's courts have held that the state constitution's privacy protections barred the state from criminalizing adults possessing and consuming small amounts of marijuana in the privacy of their homes. Although voters passed an initiative recriminalizing marijuana in 1991 and more than a decade passed before the courts found that measure unconstitutional, Alaska's courts have never wavered from the landmark 1975 decision in Ravin v. State that legalized home possession.

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propaganda show by Gov. Murkowski and drug czar Walters
That has never set well with prohibitionists, as evidenced by the 1991 initiative. Two years ago, after the courts restated their adherence to Ravin, then-Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) tried again to undo the status quo. Then, he managed to push through the legislature a bill that would once again recriminalize marijuana possession, and he stacked it with a series of "legislative findings" based on one-sided science designed to make the case that the nature of marijuana had changed so dramatically since the 1970s that Alaska's courts should rethink their position.

But when that law took effect in June 2006, the ACLU of Alaska sued the state, and Juneau Superior Court Judge Patricia Collins struck it down that summer, saying it conflicted with the state supreme court's decision in Ravin. The state appealed, and last Thursday, the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case.

Former Assistant Attorney General Dean Guaneli came out of retirement to reprise his old role as lead man in the Alaska law enforcement establishment's effort to undo the Ravin decision. It's not your father's marijuana, he argued, saying that it is far more potent than before, that pregnant women in Alaska are more prone to using marijuana than elsewhere in the country, and that 10% of users become dependent on the drug. All of this, he argued, is sufficient for the state high court to revisit and reverse its decision in Ravin.

The ACLU, representing itself and two anonymous plaintiffs, however, argued that the court should not bow to politically motivated findings that were tailor-made for the case. The court "needs to look with extreme skepticism at the legislature's findings" before overturning decades of decisions protecting Alaskan's rights to privacy, said ACLU attorney Jason Brandeis during the hearing.

The court will not issue a decision on the case for six months to a year, but it was being watched with interest by observers across the country. Marijuana law reform proponents in particular are hoping that Alaska will continue to be in the vanguard.

"Alaska currently has the best marijuana laws in the country -- it's perfectly legal to possess small amounts in your home -- and it would be a terrible setback if this court were to reverse a decision in place for more than 30 years," said Keith Stroup, founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). "But so far, the courts there have held it is unconstitutional to attach penalties to the private use of marijuana."

"This is a very important case that deals with some fundamental legal principles," said Jason Brandeis, who argued the case along with Adam Wolf of the national ACLU's Drug Law Reform Project. "First, there is the matter of stare decisis, respect for precedent. What we are asking the court to do is respect the precedent of Ravin and continue to rule that absent a really good reason, the state can't invade the sanctity of the home and preclude adults from engaging in certain types of conduct," he said.

"The state says it has new evidence that marijuana is dangerous, and that justifies the state piercing the sanctity of the home, but our position is simply that they don't have the scientific evidence to support that claim," said Brandeis. "The question is whether adults using marijuana at home rises to a level of social harm that justifies abrogating their privacy rights. We don't think so."

While the Alaska ruling will be important as an example to the rest of the country, said Stroup, it will also have a practical impact. "One reason this case is so important is that so long as it is legal to have small amounts at home, even if the police smell marijuana, that's not probable cause for arrest or a search warrant," he pointed out. "That's important."

For Ravin to be overturned, said Brandeis, the court would have to find a "close and substantial" relationship between preventing an adult from smoking marijuana at home and the state's interest in protecting the public health and safety. A ruling like that would be "a big step backwards," he said. "It would be a big blow to our privacy rights, and we take our privacy very seriously up here."

Brandeis refused to predict the outcome of the case, but sounded confident. "It's pretty clear the court knows what the issues are," he said. "There were a lot of questions about what level of deference the court should give the legislative findings, and I think we presented strong arguments that the court should not defer in this situation."

Stroup was not quite as cautious. Despite what he described as Gov. Murkowski's "reefer madness" and the legislative findings it inspired, Stroup pronounced himself confident that Ravin will be upheld. "I don't think we'll lose this," he said. "I have no reason to believe the Alaska Supreme Court will do anything differently than it did in Ravin."

Medical Marijuana: California Dr. Molly Fry Sentenced to Five Years

A federal judge in Sacramento sentenced Dr. Marion "Mollie" Fry and her companion, attorney Dale Schafer, to five years in federal prison for conspiring to grow and distribute marijuana on March 19. Fry, who used marijuana herself in connection with radical breast cancer surgery, and Schafer, who used it for back pain and a dangerous form of hemophilia, also provided marijuana to patients under California's Compassionate Use Act.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/fry-schafer-family.jpg
Fry, Schafer and family at August 2007 demonstration (courtesy indybay.org)
But the Justice Department prosecuted the couple under the federal marijuana laws, leaving US District Judge Frank Damrell Jr. no choice but to impose the mandatory minimum five-year prison sentenced required under the law because they had more than 100 plants.

"It is a sad day, a terrible day," Damrell said during sentencing, adding that if it were up to him, the punishment would have been less. But he also criticized Fry and Schafer for refusing to accept a plea bargain that could have left them free. "You had the opportunity to resolve this case, but you wanted to soldier on, knowing that your kid would be left behind," he told the couple.

In a departure from normal practice on the federal bench and to the delight of supporters who packed the courtroom, Judge Damrell granted the pair bail, so they will remain free while their case is appealed. Damrell, who is also presiding over the Bryan Epis case and has granted him bail too, said the exceptional circumstances of the case create "serious issues that need to be decided by an appellate court." Among those, he noted, are Fry and Schafer's claim they were entrapped.

Marijuana: Barney Frank to Introduce Federal Decriminalization Bill

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) used a Friday night appearance on the HBO program "Real Time," hosted by Bill Maher, to announce that he planned to file a federal bill decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana this week. Frank, who has long been a supporter of marijuana law reform, said that federal law unfairly targets medical marijuana patients in states where it is legal. He also argued that decisions about whether to make marijuana illegal should be left up to the states.

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Barney Frank
Asked by Maher as to why he would push a pot decriminalization bill now, Frank said the American public has already decided that personal use of marijuana is not a problem. "I now think it's time for the politicians to catch up to the public," Frank said. "The notion that you lock people up for smoking marijuana is pretty silly. I'm going to call it the 'Make Room for Serious Criminals' bill."

Elaborating on his TV remarks in a Sunday interview with the Associated Press, the Massachusetts congressman said elected officials are lagging behind public opinion on the issue. "Do you really think people should be prosecuted for smoking marijuana? I don't think most people agree with that. It's one area where the public is ahead of the elected officials," Frank said. "It does not appear to me to be a law that society is serious about."

He seemed particularly irked by DEA raids and federal prosecution of medical marijuana patients and providers in California. "I don't think smoking marijuana should be a federal case," he said. "There's no federal law against mugging."

A dozen states have already decriminalized marijuana possession, with the New Hampshire House voting to approve such a measure last week. But the Granite State bill is opposed by state Senate leaders and the governor.

Rep. Frank's bill had not appeared on the Congressional web site as of Thursday afternoon.

Netherlands Rated More Stable and Prosperous Than U.S.

A new global study ranks the Netherlands 9th in the world in stability and prosperity. The U.S. follows at a distant 22nd. I'll give you one guess where I'm going with this. Ok, times up. If you said, "Scott will argue that superior quality of life in the Netherlands proves that an enlightened marijuana policy won't destroy society," you win a cookie.

Indeed, superior quality of life in the Netherlands proves that an enlightened marijuana policy won’t destroy society, and there are no complications which ought to prevent anyone from understanding this. A bunch of white Europeans have been prancing around for decades allowing one another to sell and smoke marijuana openly, culminating in their designation as the 9th best nation in the world. Not to mention their progressive policies on psychedelic mushrooms, safe injection sites, drug sentencing, and criminal justice spending, none of which have produced outcomes resembling those we've been told to expect should we abandon our obscenely harsh approach to these matters here in the U.S. The numbers speak for themselves.

If you ask a drug warrior about this, they will change the subject, but it is just a fact that you can allow adults to manufacture, distribute, and consume marijuana and everything will be fine.
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Watch the video / 67% support for MPP's medical marijuana initiative in Michigan

[Courtesy of MPP] 

A new, independent poll published in a prominent Michigan political newsletter shows that 67% of Michigan voters favor the passage of MPP's medical marijuana initiative in the state. This is a significant increase in support from polls conducted in previous years. It also cuts across all demographics, which bodes very well for making Michigan the 13th medical marijuana state this November.

Momentum is clearly on our side, but we still need the resources to mount an effective campaign this year to ensure we win on November 4. Would you please make a donation to MPP's campaign committee, the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care, today?

Shortly after our initiative was certified for the November ballot, local pundits on the public television talk show “Off the Record” spoke glowingly of MPP’s campaign. Host Tim Skubick praised MPP’s strategy of flying under the radar, and one of the guests noted, “This is the most organized of the ballot proposals that are out there right now.” Click here to watch these reporters gush over MPP.

Back to the poll: Conducted by the Lansing-based consulting firm Marketing Resource Group (MRG) and published in "Inside Michigan Politics," it found that 67% of Michiganders support the passage of the medical marijuana law, with 28% opposed and only 5% undecided.

Earlier this month, the nearly half-a-million signatures we had submitted to the state government came back with a whopping 80% validity rate. Now the medical marijuana initiative advances to the Michigan Legislature. If, as expected, the legislature chooses not to act on the initiative after 40 days, Michigan voters will decide the issue at the polls on November 4.

The overwhelming amount of support reflected in the local media coverage and this latest poll is not altogether surprising: Five Michigan cities — Ann Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale, Flint, and Traverse City — passed local medical marijuana initiatives by wide margins from 2004 to 2007. And previous polling — such as a 2005 survey that found 61% in favor of protecting medical marijuana patients — has always indicated that a majority of Michiganders support reform.

But the MRG poll demonstrates that this support is surging statewide as voters hear more about the issue, and now two out of three Michigan residents are saying they’d vote to protect patients from the threat of arrest and jail.

Despite this encouraging poll, the fact remains that the campaign still has a long way to go, and we'll need substantial resources to maintain this momentum. Would you please consider donating to the campaign today to help ensure a victory in November? Thank you for supporting this important work.

Sincerely,
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 to the Michigan campaign today will be doubled.

Location: 
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Americans for Safe Access Introduces New Video Testimonials

Dear ASA Supporter,

As the National Field Coordinator for ASA I meet patients, medical professionals, caregivers, and people from all walks of life on a daily basis. When meeting people new to the movement I am regularly asked who supports medical cannabis and why should I get on board? In the past, I would then take several minutes to explain, but that is about to change today!

I am very excited to announce that ASA has developed a new type of outreach and education tool, which also happens to be rather entertaining! Today, we are releasing three video testimonials which at www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/VideoTestimonial to help spread the word about medical cannabis.

"I had to pack up all my belongings, sell the family home, and move across the country to California to be safe to be a patient."
- Steve from Oakland speaking about his move from Virginia to Oakland to become a legal medical cannabis patient. Watch Steve's whole story.

The video testimonial project has been designed to help educate people about medical cannabis by having patients and supporters share their stories. This project was also designed to help people like you educate your friends and family about medical cannabis by sharing these videos with your community.

"Even my 80-year-old mother approves of me being a patient. She says to people, 'If it helps her pain then it is okay.'"
- Carole from the Fremont talking about being out as a medical cannabis patient with her family. Watch Carole's whole story.

Over the next month, ASA will be releasing a new testimonial each week beginning next Monday. Be sure to visit www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/VideoTestimonial next Monday to view the next installment of ASA's video testimonials. We will be releasing a new video every Monday through the end of April. In the meantime, click here to view the first three videos today!

Thank you to Carson Higby-Flowers for volunteering to record, edit, and produce the testimonials. Also, thank you to all of the brave patients, supporters, and advocates who took the time to come in and participate in the video shoot.

Keep spreading the word about medical cannabis and forward this message on to your family, friends, and community members. Also, if you belong to an online social networking page like MySpace, Facebook, Tribe, and/or host your own personal blog, I strongly encourage you to link to the video testimonials.

Sincerely,

Sonnet Seeborg Gabbard
Field Coordinator
Americans for Safe Access

P.S. Let us know if you are interested in participating in the next video testimonial shoot at the ASA headquarters (date and time have yet to be determined). E-mail Jocelyn@AmericansforSafeAccess.org if you are interested.

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