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Join ASA at Medical Cannabis Conference

[Courtesy of Americans for Safe Access]

Doctors, patients, and researchers from around the world are gearing up for the 5th National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, hosted by Patients Out of Time on April 4-5. Click here to register for the conference.

Patient Out of Time's Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics will feature patients, activists, doctors, and researchers gathering to discuss the latest research on medical marijuana. This important conference only happens once every other year, so if you are a patient, doctor, researcher, and/or supporter, we strongly encourage you to consider attending the conference, which will be held on the Monterey Peninsula. The conference is less than a month away, and the registration price increases after March 20, so register today!

Several members of ASA's Medical and Scientific Advisory Board have been asked to present at the conference, including Philippe Lucas whose talk will be "Putting the Compassion in Compassion Clubs." This cutting edge conference is an excellent opportunity for patients, and their physicians, to learn about exciting and important developments in research.

Started in 2000, the Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics is the only national conference organized specifically by patients where attendees will learn about the scientific evidence supporting the therapeutic use of cannabis. It offers the opportunity to meet, network, and share experiences with a diverse national gathering of patients, medical cannabis researchers, our allies and supporters.

Join ASA at the 5th National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, April 4-5, 2008, at Asilomar Conference Center, in beautiful, coastal Pacific Grove, California. If you are a patient, please share this information with your medical cannabis physician. The conference has been accredited by University of California, San Francisco which means your physician could be eligible to receive Continuing Medical Education credits.

For more information, see their website at www.MedicalCannabis.com/Conference.htm.

See You in California,

Caren Woodson
Director of Government Affairs
Americans for Safe Access

P.S. Help send ASA's staff and supporters to the National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics. Become a member of ASA today!

Location: 
Pacific Grove, CA
United States

Medical Marijuana at the Statehouse: Prospects for 2008

A dozen years after California voters ushered in the age of legal medical marijuana by supporting Proposition 215, the legal use of the herb for medicinal purposes has spread to 11 other states -- Alaska, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington -- but in recent years, progress has been excruciatingly slow.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/cmmnj2.jpg
2005 Coalition for Medical Marijuana-NJ press conference
The last statewide initiative to go to voters failed in 2006 in South Dakota -- the only state where voters have rejected an initiative legalizing medical marijuana -- and last year, it took Herculean efforts by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) to revive and rescue the medical marijuana bill there, making the Land of Enchantment the only state to be added to the list of medical marijuana states in 2007. (Rhode Island legislators, who had passed a sunsetted bill in 2006, made it permanent last year.)

This year, serious efforts to pass medical marijuana laws at the state house are underway in several more states, with most of the efforts being run by local groups backed by either the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) or the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). Here's a look at the states where there has been or will be action at the state house on medical marijuana:

Alabama: A medical marijuana bill was introduced last week by Rep. Laura Hall (D), but has yet to be assigned a bill number. This will mark the second year in a row that Alabama legislators have had a medical marijuana bill before them. There will be hearings this year, said Loretta Nall, executive director of Alabamians for Compassionate Care, the local group coordinating the effort to pass the bill.

One of those who will testify is Jacki Phillips, whose son, Michael Phillips, had testified in support of medical marijuana in the past. Michael Phillips, who throughout his life suffered from seizures related to brain tumors, died last December in a New Orleans hotel room during the DPA conference.

"I'm going to tell those lawmakers that the system killed my son," said Phillips. "I truly believe that if he could have gotten the marijuana and it had been regulated like other seizure medicines, he would be alive today. I'm not asking them to legalize it for potheads," she said, "I'm a Southern Baptist and I believe God gave you a brain to use, but using marijuana for medical purposes would help a lot of people."

Marijuana didn't stop Michael Phillips' seizures, his mother said, "but it gave him the chance to function on a normal level for a period of time." When he smoked marijuana, she said, he would still have seizures, but their frequency and intensity was greatly reduced.

Connecticut: After seeing a medical marijuana bill pass the legislature there last year only to be vetoed by Gov. Jodi Rell (R), activists there have found little traction on the issue this year as the legislature debates other criminal justice and drug policy issues.

"We were emboldened last year and then deeply disappointed that people still essentially have to commit a crime to get access to medicine," DPA policy director Gabriel Sayegh told the Hartford Business Journal earlier this month. But despite little progress this year, "there is no doubt we are going to continue with this," he vowed.

Illinois: A medical marijuana bill, SB 2865, has passed committee votes and is now headed to the Senate floor, but its House companion bill, HB 5938, lost a committee vote this week. Still, that doesn't mean the measure is dead.

"Unlike many states, losing a committee vote doesn't kill your bill," said MPP's Mirken, who spent part of this week at the state capitol in Springfield accompanying patients as they lobbied legislators.

MPP and local reform groups IDEAL (Illinois Drug Education and Legislative Reform) and Illinois Compassion Action Network are keeping the pressure on. This week, MPP released a poll showing 68% support for medical marijuana in the state.

Kansas: The first effort at passing a medical marijuana bill in Kansas, supported by the Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition and former Republican Attorney General Robert Stephan, ended a couple of weeks ago, bottled up in committee by a hostile committee chair. While disappointing, that is hardly surprising, given the torturous legislative process facing any new bill.

Kansans should not be disheartened that they did not achieve victory in their first try, said MPP's Mirken. "It has been a multi-year struggle in all the states that have passed these laws," he said. "It's no surprise that it will take more than one year in Kansas."

Minnesota: Last year, a medical marijuana bill passed the state Senate, but died of inaction in the House in the face of veto threats from Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty. But MPP and local affiliate Minnesotans for Compassionate Care are again working with friendly legislators. A Republican House member, Rep. Chris DeLaForest, is cosponsoring a House bill this year.

Minnesota's is a two-year legislative session, so that means only a House bill must pass this year, provided it is congruent with the already passed Senate bill.

"We are sitting in the House waiting for it to be brought up," said Mirken. "We're hoping it will pass and the governor will see the light."

New Jersey: For the fourth consecutive year, a medical marijuana bill, AB 804 has been introduced by Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) and a companion bill has been introduced in the state Senate. DPA's New Jersey office is working the legislature, but there seems little likelihood the Senate will act.

"The Senate has always been the hold-up," said Ken Wolski, RN, executive officer of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey. "Although Gov. Corzine has said he would sign a bill if it gets to his desk, the Assembly doesn't really want to mess with it if the Senate won't move on it, so here we are."

New York: A medical marijuana bill, SO4768, initially introduced last year was reintroduced in January. It passed the Assembly last year, but was referred at that time to the Senate Health Committee where it has languished ever since. Given the turmoil in Albany in the wake of this week's resignation of Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer, said MPP's Mirken, it will take awhile for the dust to settle. "We're trying to figure out how the Spitzer follies will change the situation, " he said. "While we have some hopes for New York, at this point, medical marijuana is not on the top of anybody's agenda."

One optimistic sign, said Mirken, was that the new governor, David Paterson, is on much better terms with Republican Senate majority leader Joseph Bruno. Another is that, like Minnesota, New York has a two-year session, so a bill will not have to again pass the Assembly.

The medical marijuana movement has mowed its way through most of the low-hanging fruit of the initiative states and now faces the long, hard slog through the legislative process if it wants to get more states on board. While it is less expensive to attempt to win in the legislature than at the ballot box, it is also much more difficult and complicated.

"A lot of politicians are needlessly skittish about the politics of this," said Mirken. "If it were just a vote on the merits, it would pass today. Everywhere, we can produce polling numbers to show these guys a medical marijuana vote is not going to hurt them, but there is a deeply ingrained fear of being portrayed as soft on drugs, and that's very difficult to overcome. It's a real struggle," he said.

When pressed on where victories might come this year, Mirken was careful. "I'd say there was a fighting chance in Illinois, Minnesota, and New York, but in an election year, politicians are more timid than usual," he offered.

The real best shot this year, he said, is likely Michigan, where an initiative has been approved for the November ballot.

Europe: Dutch Government to Review Marijuana Laws, Moves to Ban Grow Shops

The Dutch government will undertake a review of its 30-year-old policy of pragmatic tolerance of marijuana use and possession and regulated -- although still illegal -- marijuana sales, Dutch News reported last week. Christian Democratic Health Minister Ab Klink agreed to undertake the review at the behest of parliamentarians concerned that the easy availability of the weed is leading to increases in youth drug abuse.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/maastricht-coffee-shop.jpg
downstairs of a coffee shop, Maastricht (courtesy Wikimedia)
That same day, Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin also signaled that he wants to crack down on marijuana growing and criminalize the "grow shops" that provide seeds, lights, and other specialized growing equipment to marijuana cultivators. While the Dutch tolerate marijuana possession and sales, marijuana growing remains illegal and growers are subject to arrest.

Although the Netherlands has become famous for its tolerant approach to soft drugs and other vices, such as prostitution, the conservative Christian Democratic government has been trying to reverse the situation. It has reduced the number of coffee shops that sell marijuana, particularly near schools, and it is considering various measures to limit "drug tourism," including the fingerprinting of foreign coffee house customers.

This week, the city of Maastricht failed in a bid to relocate some of its coffee shops to areas on the edge of the city. Every day, around a thousand foreigners, mainly neighboring Germans and Belgians, visit the city to buy marijuana, and the city had hoped to reduce congestion in its center by moving some of the shops to "coffee corners" on the edge of town.

But a Dutch judge ruled Tuesday that the city had not provided sufficient grounds for granting building permits for the new coffee shops. The ruling came after neighboring local councils complained that Maastricht's move would simply shift the problems of congestion and associated crime in their direction.

Still, according to reports compiled by Expatica, an English-language Dutch news service, Maastricht remains undeterred. In response to the ruling, the mayor has already placed "portocabins" near the new locations.

If the Wrong People Find You With Pot, They'll Ruin Your Life

It's just that simple. If there is one universal truth in the marijuana debate, it is that the punishment for pot is always vastly more damaging than the effects of the drug itself:
NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - When a Westchester father found a marijuana cigarette in his son's pocket he went to North Salem High School for help. The 16-year-old boy told his dad he bought the joint in the school library for $20.

The school suspended the teen, Pablo Rodriguez, for nine weeks.

Many of his neighbors hearing the case believe the suspension is too long and they've begun a petition asking school officials to reconsider.

The teen's father, also named Pablo Rodriguez, says they would never have known about the marijuana in his son's pocket if he didn't tell them. The elder Rodriguez says he now believes parents should keep quiet if they learn their children are doing drugs. [Newsday.com]
Yeah, don't bother asking the school for "help" when it comes to marijuana or other drugs. That's not a service most schools provide. Marijuana policies both large and small are typically structured around the theory that badly injuring those who are caught will deter others. In the process, parents become disillusioned, students who need help are afraid to ask, and students who were doing just fine are suspended for 9 weeks.

Let's just review once again the lesson learned by Mr. Rodriguez:
The elder Rodriguez says he now believes parents should keep quiet if they learn their children are doing drugs.
Nothing could more perfectly illustrate the failure of a drug policy than its ability to encourage secrecy among parents who want help. Anyone who is concerned about marijuana affecting academic performance can begin by not denying marijuana users the opportunity to perform academically.
Location: 
United States

March 2008 Cannabinoid Chronicles, 50th Issue

[Courtesy of The Vancouver Island Compassion Society] The March 2008 issue of the Cannabinoid Chronicles (our 50th edition!) is available online for viewing, and can be found at: http://www.thevics.com/publications/vol5/VICSNews5_7.pdf.
Location: 
Canada

Jamaica: Government Considering Marijuana Legalization, Official Says

The Jamaican government is considering whether to legalize or decriminalize marijuana as part of possible changes to the island nation's drug laws, an official told the Associated Press last Friday. The herb is revered by Jamaica's Rastafarians and widely consumed, grown, and trafficked in the Caribbean nation.

A seven-member government commission has been researching drug law reforms. Some Jamaican law enforcement officials have complained that marijuana cases clog the courts and jails.

"We have discussed it, and we are preparing a report to present to the prime minister," said Deputy Prime Minister Kenneth Baugh.

It wouldn't be the first time. A blue ribbon commission recommended in 2001 that the personal and religious use of marijuana be decriminalized, but lawmakers have failed to act since then, at least in part out of fears that the US would impose economic sanctions if they did. In 2003, the government said a decrim bill was coming soon, but five years later, we're still waiting.

Europe: Czech Supreme Court Throws Out Medical Marijuana Grow Conviction

The Czech Supreme Court has reversed a pair of marijuana cultivation convictions against a 57-year-old retiree who grew the plants to treat her ulcers and foot pains, Czech Radio reported Monday. The high court has ordered the Prague Municipal Court to reexamine the case.

The unnamed woman from a village in Central Bohemia grow some 70 marijuana plants in her vegetable garden. A regional court in the town of Nymburk twice found her guilty of illegal possession and production of marijuana. She was given a suspended two-year sentence, but appealed to the high court.

The ruling was hailed by drug reformers, who said it could set an important precedent. The ruling could mean courts would have to examine cultivation cases on an individual basis to see if there was a medical defense.

"I think this is a very important decision and I hope everybody, I mean the police and lower courts, will accept it," said Ivan Douda, a founder of a Prague drug clinic. "We were waiting for this ruling for a long time. As it is now, many Czechs are using cannabis for medicinal purposes and they have to grow it illegally. It is a very bad thing if law doesn't respect this reality and if people can't use something that is good for their health."

The Supreme Court ruling does not make marijuana cultivation legal, but does appear to offer a sort of medical necessity defense. Under current law, pot growers face up to five years in prison. But Czechs are among the most prolific marijuana smokers in Europe, and pressure has been mounting for marijuana law reforms there. Last summer, deputies introduced a bill that would dramatically lower penalties for possession and small-scale cultivation, but it has not been acted on yet.

Medical Marijuana: Kansas Bill Dies as Legislative Deadline Passes

A bill that would have legalized medical marijuana in Kansas is officially dead for this session. It was stalled three weeks ago in the Senate Committee on Health Care Strategies after members chose not to advance it, and under the rules of the legislature, it had to leave the Senate by last Friday.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/robertstephan.jpg
Robert Stephan, KSCCC press conference, August 2007
The Senate committee held a hearing on February 11, but did not vote on it and took no further action. Committee chair Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), an opponent of the bill, blocked any votes.

Committee vice chairman Pete Brungardt (R-Salina) told the Kansas State Collegian the consensus among committee members was that more effective and legal drugs exist. "The impression you get with casual talk from members is that it was not supported," Brungardt said.

The bill, the Medical Marijuana Defense Act, would have allowed people with "debilitating medical conditions," including but not limited to cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, to grow, possess, and use small amounts of marijuana upon written certification by a doctor.

The bill was pushed by the Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition, which enlisted former Kansas Attorney General Robert Stephan as a legal consultant and prominent supporter. Stephan joined coalition head Laura Green in testifying before the committee.

"I hope these people who oppose medicinal marijuana never have to suffer like the people I have seen and talked with and the people who use it as a last resort," Stephan told the Collegian this week. "If I was a researcher, I'd probably say, 'May God have mercy on their souls.'"

Green said coalition members plan to reintroduce the bill during the 2009 Kansas legislative session. "That's very disappointing for us that they wouldn't take the vote in the committee to advance the bill," she said. "We'll hope that whatever committee it goes through next year that they'll have the political willpower to at least hold a vote in the committee."

Medical Marijuana: Michigan Petition Signatures Approved, Measure Headed for November Ballot Unless Legislature Approves It First

The Michigan Board of Canvassers Monday officially certified that the Michigan Compassionate Care Coalition had handed in enough valid signatures for its medical marijuana initiative to be transmitted to the state legislature. Under Michigan law, the legislature has 45 days to approve the measure. If it fails to act, the measure goes to the voters in November.

Organizers handed in 496,000 signatures, nearly two hundred thousand more than needed for the initiative to qualify. The Board of Canvassers found that 80% of the signatures were valid, leaving the measure qualified by a comfortable margin.

The initiative is almost certain to be on the November ballot, given the Michigan legislature's history of inaction on the issue. The legislature has considered several medical marijuana bills in recent years, but none of them have gained traction despite broad approval for medical marijuana in the state.

The initiative would:

  • Allow terminally and seriously ill patients who find relief from marijuana to use it with their doctors' approval.
  • Protect these seriously ill patients from arrest and prosecution for the simple act of taking their doctor-recommended medicine.
  • Permit qualifying patients or their caregivers to cultivate their own marijuana for their medical use, with limits on the amount they could possess.
  • Create registry identification cards, so that law enforcement officials could easily tell who was a registered patient, and establish penalties for false statements and fraudulent ID cards.
  • Allow patients and their caregivers who are arrested to discuss their medical use in court.

Twelve states currently have working medical marijuana laws, but they are clustered in the Northeast, Intermountain West, and Pacific Coast. If there are no victories in neighboring state legislatures this year, Michigan could become the first Midwest state to approve medical marijuana.

Benefit Dinner for Patients Out of Time

Please join us for a great meal, a program celebrating the late Mae Nutt, live music by Dark Chocolate, comedy by Ngaio Bealum, and a live and silent auction. Cost is $80/person. Registration deadline is March 25, 2008. For more information, see http://www.medicalcannabis.com/. Patients Out of Time is a non-profit organization that uses 100% of its funding to carry out its mission. There is no paid staff; all work is done by volunteers.
Date: 
Fri, 04/04/2008 - 7:30pm - 11:00pm
Location: 
800 Asilomar Avenue
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
United States

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