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Virginia Senator Jim Webb Speaks Out Against Marijuana Laws

Senator Webb is known for speaking his mind, which is a good thing since he's interested in reforming drug laws:

Freshman Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's name has come up as a possible Democratic VP candidate. Judging from his new book, A Time to Fight, the decorated Vietnam vet might be a good choice. "The time has come to stop locking up people for mere possession and use of marijuana," he writes. "It makes far more sense to take the money that would be saved by such a policy and use it for enforcement of gang-related activities."

Webb, who took office in 2007, criticizes the drug war and prison-industrial complex: "Either we are home to the most evil population on earth, or we are locking up a lot of people who really don't need to be in jail, for actions that other countries seem to handle in more constructive ways." [celebstoner]

This all sounds pretty good to me, although I would remind him that a lot of the worst "gang-related activities" are caused by drug prohibition. Just say "violent crimes," instead. Good start though, Senator. If Dick Morris gives you any lip over this, stomp him with your famous combat boots.

Minnesota medical marijuana bill dies one step from governor

[Courtesy of Marijuana Policy Project] 

Dear friends:

Although we made unprecedented progress this year, yesterday the Minnesota House of Representatives adjourned for the year without bringing MPP's medical marijuana bill up for a vote.

The bill had passed the Senate at the beginning of Minnesota's biennial session and was endorsed by the Minnesota Nurses Association, the Minnesota Public Health Association, the Minnesota AIDS Project, the Minnesota Senior Federation, and hundreds of doctors and thousands of nurses who signed statements of support. Recent polling showed more than 2-to-1 support among Minnesotans.

However, a small but vocal group of law enforcement officials spread mistruths, exaggerations, and outright lies about the bill in an attempt to kill it — such as claiming that medical marijuana lacks support from the medical community and that medical marijuana laws increase teen use. We fought back hard, blanketing the airwaves with these TV ads, generating thousands of phone calls from constituents to their state representatives, and releasing a series of Web videos documenting our opponents' lies. But in the end, the opposition's false claims swayed legislators enough to keep us from getting the vote.

However, the battle to protect Minnesota patients is far from over. The work we've done this year leaves us in a stronger position than ever: Prior to this session, no medical marijuana bill had passed a single House committee, while our bill passed out of five this time around. And polling clearly indicates that our public-relations and grassroots-organizing efforts have increased Minnesota voters' support for medical marijuana.

Despite the failure of the House to bring this popular bill up for a vote on the floor, the momentum is on our side in Minnesota, and we'll be back to finish the job next session.

Kampia signature (e-mail sized)

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

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

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"You Don't Want This!"

It's funny because it's true. At least I think that's why it's funny. Anyway, I hope the whole movie is Tim Meadows getting stoned, acting super intense, and reverse peer pressuring people.

Update: I posted this back in December and repost it today after actually seeing the film, which really does feature numerous scenes in which Tim Meadows acts super intense and reverse peer pressures people. I guess it doesn't have much to do with drug policy, but the whole movie is really funny and you deserve a good laugh after reading the other depressing stuff I usually write about here.

Act Now to Protect Medical Cannabis Patients

[Courtesy of Americans for Safe Access] Dear ASA Supporter,

Last month, Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) and a small bi-partisan coalition of Members of Congress introduced H.R. 5842, the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act. The legislation will help protect individuals who use or provide medical cannabis in accordance with their state law.

Visit to take action now!

If passed, this important legislation would, among other things, reschedule marijuana from a Schedule I to Schedule II drug according the Controlled Substances Act and provide clearer protections for qualified patients, their caregivers, and safe-access sites authorized by state or local law. Take action now to protect patients and their caregivers!

Visit to write Congress now! Urge your U.S. Representative to support the Patient Protection Act!

Thanks you for supporting ASA and our efforts to secure safe access for medical cannabis patients. Please forward this message to friends, co-workers, and family members to encourage them to join you in this statewide movement to protect safe access!


Sonnet Seeborg Gabbard
Field Coordinator
Americans for Safe Access

P.S. The only way we can continue to work on legislation like the Patient Protection Act is with your continued support. Become a member of ASA today!

Canada: Marijuana Legalization Retains Majority Support, Poll Finds

More than half of Canadian adults believe marijuana should be legalized, according to a poll done by the Angus Reid Global Monitor. According to the poll, 53% of respondents agreed that marijuana should be legalized.

The poll results are in line with early Angus Reid polls on marijuana legalization in Canada. In a July 2007 poll asking the same question, 55% said pot should be legalized; in an October 2007 poll, 51% said it should be legalized.

In 2004, the former Liberal government introduced legislation that would have decriminalized the possession of up to 15 grams of marijuana, but that legislation never went anywhere. The current Conservative government disagrees with legalization sentiment and is currently pushing a bill that would create mandatory minimum six-month jail sentences for marijuana growers.

The same poll asked Canadians whether they would support legalizing other drugs, but found few takers. Nine percent would support legalizing powder cocaine or ecstasy, 8% would support legalizing heroin or crack cocaine, and 7% would support legalizing methamphetamine.

Europe: Despite British Marijuana Reclassification, No Jail for Low-Level Sellers

Last week, the British government announced it was returning marijuana to Class B drug status, signaling an end to the four-year experiment that saw the herb downgraded to a less serious Class C drug. That meant marijuana sellers could theoretically face up to 14 years in prison. Under guidelines issued Monday by the Sentencing Guidelines Council, however, it appears that many pot sellers will face no more than low-level sanctions.

For the first time in four years, the Sentencing Guidelines Council has promulgated a range of sentencing options for every offense that can be dealt with at a magistrate's court. Under the new guidelines, marijuana users who grow their own stash and occasionally provide marijuana to friends could be punished with only a fine or probation. Even those who supply larger amounts of marijuana or other drugs to share with a small circle of friends could receive probation, according to the guidelines.

For small-scale growing or sales of marijuana, the top end punishment in magistrate's court under the guidelines is 12 weeks in custody, but that sentence would be imposed only if there were aggravating factors. Commercial cultivation or large-scale sales offenses would be handled in the more serious Crown Court, where stiffer penalties are applied.

Opposition Conservatives were quick to pounce on the apparent contradiction between the government's announced hard line and the sentencing council's guidelines. "Once again we see mixed messages going out about drugs," said Tory justice affairs spokesman Nick Herbert in a Monday statement. "Just as the government finally admits that they got it wrong when they lowered the classification of cannabis, these guidelines would see most dealers receive weak and often poorly enforced community sentences."

But despite the posturing of the Tories, the sentencing council's guidelines seem in line with the recommendations of the government's Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which opposed the reclassification.

Medical Marijuana: GOP Attacks Obama for Suggesting He Would End Raids

With Sen. Barack Obama now the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, the Republican Party is looking for potential weaknesses and thinks it has found one in his relatively progressive stance on medical marijuana. On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee issued a press release saying Obama's position on medical marijuana and the DEA raids on patients and providers "raises serious doubts" about an Obama candidacy.

The attack came after the San Francisco Chronicle published an article Monday detailing Obama's position on medical marijuana, from comments he made in November to a response he more recently provided to the paper's candidate questionnaire. In responding to the Chronicle's medical marijuana question, the Obama campaign said he endorsed a hands-off federal policy:

"Voters and legislators in the states -- from California to Nevada to Maine -- have decided to provide their residents suffering from chronic diseases and serious illnesses like AIDS and cancer with medical marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering," said campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt. "Obama supports the rights of states and local governments to make this choice -- though he believes medical marijuana should be subject to (US Food and Drug Administration) regulation like other drugs," LaBolt said. He added that Obama would end DEA raids on medical marijuana providers.

Sen. Hillary Clinton has also suggested she would end the raids, according to Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, a New Hampshire-based activist group that specializes in trying to get candidates on the record on medical marijuana. Republican nominee Sen. John McCain has waffled on the issue, according to Granite Staters, which has him saying he would end the raids at one point, but saying he would not end them a few weeks later.

But in was Obama who was in the GOP bull's-eye over medical marijuana this week. "Barack Obama's pledge to stop Executive agencies from implementing laws passed by Congress raises serious doubts about his understanding of what the job of the President of the United States actually is," said RNC communications director Danny Diaz in the press release. "His refusal to enforce the law reveals that Barack Obama doesn't have the experience necessary to do the job of president, or that he fundamentally lacks the judgment to carry out the most basic functions of the executive Branch. What other laws would Barack Obama direct federal agents not to enforce?" Diaz asked.

Obama's refusal to countenance continued DEA raids would mean he would violate his oath of office by not protecting and defending the Constitution, the RNC charged. The Supreme Court has upheld the authority of Congress to regulate the use of marijuana, it noted.

Whether the Republican Party can gain advantage by attacking Obama on the medical marijuana issue remains to be seen. In poll after poll, American voters have said they support access to medical marijuana for sick people. It is currently legal in 12 states and under serious consideration in several more this year.

Attacking Obama for Supporting Medical Marijuana Isn't Going to Work

As I'm constantly pointing out, political strategists always have the hardest time coming to terms with widespread public support for reforming marijuana policies. Maybe their hearts are in the wrong place, or they only read each other's books, or, more likely, they're all stuck in 1988 and they think if someone yells "Drugs! Crime!" loud enough, all the voters are gonna jump out of their socks and vote for whoever promises the most ass kickings.

That's why today's frantic press release from the RNC lambasting Obama over medical marijuana is as predictable as it is foolish. Just look at the remarks from Obama that RNC highlights in an attempt to make people afraid of him:

Obama Pledged To Stop DEA Raids On Oregon Medical Marijuana:

Obama Pledged To Stop The Drug Enforcement Administration’s Raids On Oregon Medical Marijuana Growers. Willamette Week: “Would you stop the Drug Enforcement Administration’s raids on Oregon medical marijuana grows?” Obama: “I would because I think our federal agents have better things to do, like catching criminals and preventing terrorism. The way I want to approach the issue of medical marijuana is to base it on science. And if there is sound science that supports the use of medical marijuana and if it is controlled and prescribed in a way that other medicine is prescribed, then it’s something we should consider.” (James Pitkin, “Six Minutes With Barack,” Willamette Week, 5/14/08)
That's what we're supposed to be worried about? Americans overwhelmingly support medical marijuana and will greet all of this with a gigantic yawn, if not a backlash against McCain. But that won't stop the RNC from trying:
WASHINGTON – RNC Communications Director Danny Diaz released the following statement today:

“Barack Obama’s pledge to stop Executive agencies from implementing laws passed by Congress raises serious doubts about his understanding of what the job of the President of the United States actually is. His refusal to enforce the law reveals that Barack Obama doesn’t have the experience necessary to do the job of President, or that he fundamentally lacks the judgment to carry out the most basic functions of the Executive Branch. What other laws would Barack Obama direct federal agents not to enforce?”

So conducting violent raids on medical dispensaries, while ignoring the will of voters, the advice of doctors, and the medical needs of sick Americans is one of "the most basic functions of the Executive Branch"?

I wish the RNC the best of luck calling attention to Barack Obama's statements on medical marijuana. I really do, and I will gleefully post every press release they dare to send out about it because their candidate's views on this issue are deeply unpopular with Americans.

Few things I've written have generated more web traffic than this post revealing how John McCain literally turned his back towards a wheelchair bound medical marijuana patient who asked him for help. So if the clever strategists in the republican party want to play hardball over medical marijuana, they'd better put their helmets on.

[Thanks, Bruce Mirken]


(This blog post was published by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

The Obama Campaign's Poor Handling of the Marijuana Decriminalization Issue

In February, Barack Obama reversed his past statements in favor of marijuana decriminalization. He reiterated his concerns over the incarceration of first-time non-violent offenders, but maintained that people who commit crimes (i.e., marijuana) should be punished. I'm sure his campaign advisors thought it was a smart move to distance the Senator from marijuana reform, but it didn’t work.

This transcript from FOX News' Hannity & Colmes earlier today shows exactly why. The segment begins with a clip of Obama advocating marijuana decriminalization in 2004, followed by this comment from republican strategist Kevin Madden:

MADDEN: …Look, there's — if — for anybody who's wondering why Barack Obama was listed by National Journal as the number one liberal in the Senate, it's votes like this, it's a world view like this when it comes to law enforcement issues like the criminal laws that relate to marijuana.

This crystallizes, for a lot of Americans out there, in middle America exactly who Barack Obama is and what he would do as president.

Clearly, Obama is still being subjected to the same predictable and vindictive partisan attacks that he sought to avoid by dismissing decriminalization. Obama's revised rhetoric simply failed to prevent those accusations. It also ignored the views of the American people, 72% of whom support decriminalization according to the most recent poll, conducted by Time/CNN.

From now through November, Obama will be falsely and repeatedly accused of being pro-marijuana. Yet, because he recently rejected decriminalization, he can’t explain why it's a good idea. He will instinctively point towards his recent backpedal, which just makes him look weak. Rather than standing with 72% of Americans and making strong arguments for marijuana reform that most voters would agree with, Obama is stuck debating the meaning of decriminalization and struggling to define his views on the issue. He could instead be scoring points with voters that will appreciate some long overdue straight talk on this issue.

It is doubly silly when one considers the popularity of marijuana reform with libertarian-minded swing voters. A pro-reform stance could earn independent votes without costing him anything from his base, which cares way too much about the war and the economy to be turned off by a position on marijuana that liberals overwhelmingly support anyway.

Obama's communication skills, combined with broad public support for reforming marijuana laws, can still make this issue an asset for his campaign. But that can only happen if he goes on the offensive and takes a stand for sensible marijuana policies rather than hedging and trying to duck partisan attacks that are going to happen anyway. If Obama doubts his ability to sell Americans on an idea 72% of them already agree with, I'd be happy to help draft some talking points.

(This blog post was published by's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Press Release: Religious Leaders Urge Minnesota House, Governor to Pass Medical Marijuana Bill

Gretchen Steele 

For Immediate Release: May 12, 2008

Religious Leaders Urge Minnesota House, Governor to Pass Medical Marijuana BillFifty Clergypersons from Nine Denominations Take Action for Compassion

Contact:  Charles Thomas, IDPI executive director, 301-938-1577

    Fifty religious leaders throughout the state are urging the Minnesota House to pass a bill to allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation.

    Denominations with official positions supporting medical marijuana include the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Union for Reform Judaism, Episcopal Church, and United Church of Christ.  In addition to clergy from these denominations, medical marijuana supporters in Minnesota include clergy from Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran, and Baptist congregations.

    Clergy from these nine denominations endorsed the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative’s statement of principle reading, “Licensed medical doctors should not be punished for recommending the medical use of marijuana to seriously ill patients, and seriously ill patients should not be subject to criminal sanctions for using marijuana if the patient’s physician has told the patient that such use is likely to be beneficial.”

    This is precisely what S.F. 345, Minnesota’s medical marijuana bill, would accomplish.  Similar laws have been enacted in 12 other states.  Patients in Minnesota suffering from cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other serious illnesses who find marijuana to be helpful currently face a terrible choice: Either continue to suffer needlessly or risk arrest and jail. Although the Senate has already passed the bill, and polls show an overwhelming majority of Minnesotans in favor of it, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has threatened to veto is as long as members of the law enforcement community oppose it.

    “Medical marijuana is an issue of mercy and compassion,” said the Rev. Mark Stenberg from Mercy Seat Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.  “It's immoral to punish people for making an earnest attempt at healing.  As people of faith, we are called to stand up for humans who are suffering needlessly.”

    A letter featuring the statement signed by fifty Minnesota religious leaders was sent to all members of the state House.  Many of the clergypersons followed up by making phone calls to their representatives.

    “The moral choice on this issue is clear,” said Charles Thomas, executive director of IDPI, which is coordinating the religious lobbying efforts in Minnesota.  “We pray that the House, the law enforcement community, and Governor Pawlenty will heed this call for compassion.”


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