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Press Release: Sacramento Becomes 48th California County to Adopt Medical Marijuana ID Card Program

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
DECEMBER 16, 2008

Sacramento Becomes 48th California County to Adopt Medical Marijuana ID Card ProgramCounty Was Third Largest Without State-Mandated System

CONTACT: Aaron Smith, MPP California policy director, 707-291-0076

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors decided today to adopt a medical marijuana identification card system, 4 to 1, making it the 48th county to adopt plans to comply with a requirement of a 2003 state law.

    By giving patients the option of obtaining cards identifying them as qualified medical marijuana patients, law enforcement officers will be able to quickly discern whether they are operating within the law, sparing taxpayers the burden of costly, time-consuming false arrests, advocates said.

    The only counties larger than Sacramento that have yet to obey the law requiring a medical marijuana I.D. card program are San Diego and San Bernardino. Those two counties have challenged the program in court three times, all of which have failed. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has announced its intention to make a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Meanwhile, Ventura County became the last in Southern California – other than San Diego and San Bernardino – to implement a medical marijuana I.D. card program Monday.

    "The decision today signals the beginning of a new an era for California's medical marijuana law,” said Aaron Smith, California policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "It should now be crystal clear to all state and local officials that it's their duty to carry out state law and the will of the voters – regardless of their personal opinion on this issue."

    Patients hailed the Sacramento board's vote as a boon for medical marijuana patients and law enforcement alike.

    "By choosing to offer medical marijuana I.D. cards, the supervisors aren't just demonstrating their respect for the law and the will of the voters," said Candice Works, a Sacramento medical marijuana patient and former substance abuse counselor with Kienböck's disease, a rare and painful bone condition. "They're also showing they care about protecting patients from false arrest and saving our police from wasting time investigating law abiding patients. It's in everybody's interest to ensure our medical marijuana program functions as smoothly as possible, and that's what the I.D. card program does."

    With more than 26,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit www.MarijuanaPolicy.org.

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Location: 
CA
United States

When it Comes to Marijuana Laws, Obama’s Website Should be Called Same.gov

Did anyone notice how the marijuana legalization question was ranked #1 on Obama’s Change.gov site, but he answered the question 4th? Not only did Obama’s team fail to explain the "no" answer, but they didn’t even honor the 1st place popularity rank the question earned when it drew the most votes from the public.

There’s nothing surprising about any of this, but it is indeed perfectly emblematic of the profound lack of seriousness with which this issue is treated in our political culture. The marijuana question was answered second to last and received the shortest response of all the questions. It’s just not something our political leadership wants to talk about. There is scarcely anything less important to them than this and they’d really appreciate it if we stopped asking about it.

But we won’t stop. Certainly not now. Perhaps we appreciate the symbolism behind Obama’s Change.gov campaign even more than its authors do. Yes, we surged at the opportunity to push forward ideas long relegated arbitrarily to the political fringe. We seized upon this new venue for unfiltered political dialogue, an entirely unclaimed territory in which we had yet to be told we were unwelcome. We clutched it in our collective fist, squeezed it with all our might, and recoiled in disgust when it squirted us in the eye.

Sure, we got burned, but we saw it coming. They didn’t see us coming. They never could have imagined that this experiment with online democracy would find us standing at the front of the line. They shook their heads, sighed and joked that this is what you get when you let the frickin’ internet dictate political priorities.

Well, it’s fine with me if they think that, because they’re the ones kissing the internet’s ass in the first place. Will they now retreat to the editorial pages and go back to letting the pundits tell them what the people want?

New Jersey Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Favorable Committee Vote

As a native New Jerseyan, I'm pleased to report that a committee of the state senate gave its approval yesterday to the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. One of the cosponsors of the bill, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, even represents my hometown. The upcoming Drug War Chronicle will have a feature story on the vote, and Phil actually got a preliminary version of that to me last night, so I thought I would make it available here on the blog. The article will be finalized sometime Thursday, but in the meanwhile you can read it here.

CMMNJ Minutes & Senate Hearing News

Minutes from our Monthly Public Meeting, Lawrence Township Library, Tuesday, December 9, 2008; 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Meeting was called to order at 7:15 PM and adjourned at 8:30 PM. The October 2008 minutes were approved. Ø The NJ State Senate Health Committee will hold hearings on the “New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act” (S119) on Monday, 12/15/08 at 9:30 AM in the State House Annex. Let Ken know if you plan to attend/submit testimony. Ken to prepare Press Releases. Members may contact senate health committee members to show your support at: https://secure2.convio.net/dpa/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction... Ø Michigan became the 13th medical marijuana state last month. CMMNJ issued a press release http://drugsense.org/temp/78oTtWM2Mcyv.html & published a letter-to-the-editor (LTE): http://drugsense.org/temp/d9s28IMQbWPM.html Ø CMMNJ sent NJEA the letter: “DARE propaganda about medical marijuana” http://drugsense.org/temp/d8UEdGVs4w1l.html A CMMNJ NJEA member also sent a similar letter. Ø Discussion re: how to most effectively use CMMNJ’s 1100 names of supporters of S119. Ø Update on NJ Crohn’s patient Mike Miceli who was arrested 9/4/08. Mike had major abdominal surgery since his arrest; CMMNJ sent a letter to the prosecutor at Mike’s request. Also, CMMNJ sent a letter to NJ Attorney General Anne Milgram on behalf of MS patient John Wilson who was arrested on 8/18/08 for medical marijuana “manufacture” in Somerset Co. Ø Donald Abrams, MD at San Francisco General Hospital is seeking patients who consume cannabis for a government-funded study. Please directly contact him at 415-476-9554 (x315). Ø Recommendations on medical marijuana for President-elect Obama from the ACLU & ASA are at: http://www.aclu.org/transition/#_Toc212436207 & http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=5612 CMMNJ’s recommendations are: 1. Reschedule marijuana to a more appropriate schedule. 2. Stop all federal harassment of medical marijuana patients and distributors. 3. Pass the New Jersey bill into law. Ø CMMNJ appeared at: The Ewing Twp., NJ “CommunityFest” on the campus of TCNJ on 10/25/08; and at the Fourth Annual Medical Marijuana Candlelight Vigil in Philadelphia at City Hall on 11/1/08. Ø CMMNJ has new photos, etc. on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502598656 Ø Ken attended the SSDP conference 11/22-23/08 in College Park, MD on the campus of U. of MD Ø Treasury report: Checking account ($2167.92); Paypal account ($577.58). Fund raising? Ø Web site update: Gary updated web site (www.cmmnj.org) for 12 hours @ $15.00 per hour = $180.00. Ø Lawrence Twp. Library OK’d CMMNJ’s dates for 2009 meetings--the 2nd Tues. of each month. Next Meeting: January 13, 2009 at the Lawrence Twp. Library, from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM. All are welcome. Light refreshments are served. (Meeting at the library does not imply their endorsement of our issue.) For more information, please contact: Ken Wolski, RN, MPA Executive Director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. www.cmmnj.org 844 Spruce St., Trenton, NJ 08648 (609) 394-2137 ohamkrw@aol.com
Location: 
NJ
United States

The Real Reason Obama Won’t Support Marijuana Legalization

Much has been made of the fact that a marijuana legalization question was ranked #1 when President-elect Obama opened his Change.gov website up to questions from the public. In an open vote, the public spoke loudly and clearly that marijuana reform was the very first issue that the new President should address. For our trouble, we’ve been rewarded with the sorriest excuse for an answer that Obama’s transition team could possibly have provided:

Q: "Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?" S. Man, Denton

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

Care to elaborate? You see, we all knew what the answer was. The point was that we all wanted to know why.

As frustrating and insulting as it is to witness an important matter brushed casually to the side without explanation, Obama’s answer actually says a lot. It says that he couldn’t think of even one sentence to explain his position. Within the vast framework of totally paranoid anti-pot propaganda, Obama couldn’t find a single argument he wanted to associate himself with. That’s why he simply said "No. Next question."

All of this highlights the well-known fact that Obama agrees that our marijuana laws are deeply flawed. He‘s said so, and has back-pedaled recently for purely political reasons. If Obama’s transition team tried to give an accurate description of his position on marijuana reform it would look like this:


Q: "Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?" S. Man, Denton

A: President-elect Obama will not use his political capital to advance the legalization of marijuana. While he agrees that arresting adults for marijuana possession is a poor use of law enforcement resources, he believes that the issue remains too controversial to do anything about it.


It’s really that simple, which makes our job quite difficult. Any ideas?

Update: Paul Armentano says to keep doing what we've been doing and I agree. The fact that we've provoked dialogue about marijuana reform on the President-elect's website is quite remarkable. The "Open for Questions" feature will reopen for new questions soon and we'll be back to push drug policy reform to the top yet again.

On that note, please be advised that the site we're talking about is Change.gov, not Change.org. Change.org has been linked repeatedly in the comment section below, but that is not Obama's site. It fills a similar role and is worth visiting, but that's not where we should focus our energy if we want to directly confront Obama himself. I'm a little concerned that mixing these sites up could dillute our message, so please stay focused on Change.gov. I will post something when the next round of questions is open.

Press Release: NJ Moves One Step Closer to Allowing Medical Marijuana

[Courtesy of Drug Policy Alliance] FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, December 15, 2008 NJ Moves One Step Closer to Becoming the Fourteenth State to Allow Access to Medical Marijuana Bill Voted Out of Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens, Heads to Full Senate Vote Next Patients, Doctors and Advocates Applaud Compassionate Use Legislation Trenton, NJ — New Jersey moved one step closer today to becoming the fourteenth state in the nation that allows access to medical marijuana. The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee held a hearing today on Senate Bill 119 and voted the bill out of committee with six affirmative votes, one negative, and two abstentions. Senate Bill 119 would allow patients suffering from certain debilitating and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis to use and possess medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The bill would also allow for the licensing of centers where qualifying patients could safely access medical marijuana. The program would be administered by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. Patients, doctors, and advocates applauded the committee's action on Senate Bill 119. The bill now moves to the full senate for a vote. "We want to thank the senators on the committee for voting for the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act," said Roseanne Scotti, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey. "The bottom line is about compassion. If you or someone you love is seriously ill and none of the available medications relieved the suffering, wouldn't you want access to medical marijuana if a doctor recommended it? New Jerseyans overwhelmingly support this legislation and we are grateful to the committee for hearing their voices." Senate Bill 119 is sponsored by Senators Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union), Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic), Sandra B. Cunningham (D-Hudson), Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), Brian P. Stack (D-Hudson), Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Salem, Cumberland, Gloucester), Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), and Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex). Senator Scutari, prime sponsor of the legislation, testified before his colleagues on the health committee. Dr. Denis Petro, internationally known expert on medical marijuana, who testified regarding the scientific support for medical marijuana, praised the committee for voting in support of the legislation. "I am pleased to see the support of the committee for Senate Bill 119," said Petro, a board-certified neurologist in Pennsylvania with more than 25 years experience in neurology, clinical pharmacology and marijuana research. "With passage of the legislation, patients with serious and life-threatening disorders can be offered a safe and effective alternative when conventional therapy is inadequate. The bill represents a positive step toward a rational policy regarding medical marijuana". Thirteen states now have laws allowing seriously ill patients access to medical marijuana—Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State. The New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the New Jersey League for Nursing, the New Jersey chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization all submitted testimony today at the hearing in support of Senate Bill 119. "I am thrilled that today members of the Senate Health Committee supported the common sense and compassionate response to suffering.'' said Nora Bertocci, a registered nurse and chair of the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which works with sick and dying patients on a daily basis. "Medical marijuana is used very successfully in other states and in other countries. We should not be asking 'why should we legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes?' but rather 'why shouldn't we?' '' Scott Ward, a 24-year-old diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November 2006 while training for the Marine Corps Marathon, tried every legally prescribed medicine his doctors suggested while searching for relief from his symptoms, before he decided to try medical marijuana which has drastically improved his quality of life. Ward was excited by the committee's action and hopeful that the legislation would continue to progress to passage. "To say that I am happy and grateful that the majority of the Senate Health Committee voted in favor of S119 would be an understatement. I came here today to fight for the basic right to live a pain-free life; to be able to get out of bed in the morning not feeling terrible. To use marijuana, my medicine, which works for me," said Ward. "The Senate Health Committee's vote is incredibly encouraging and I urge the rest of the legislature to follow their lead quickly so that other New Jerseyans suffering like myself may find some relief." # # #
Location: 
NJ
United States

Press Release: NJ Moves One Step Closer to Allowing Medical Marijuana

[Courtesy of Drug Policy Alliance] FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, December 15, 2008 NJ Moves One Step Closer to Becoming the Fourteenth State to Allow Access to Medical Marijuana Bill Voted Out of Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens, Heads to Full Senate Vote Next Patients, Doctors and Advocates Applaud Compassionate Use Legislation Trenton, NJ — New Jersey moved one step closer today to becoming the fourteenth state in the nation that allows access to medical marijuana. The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee held a hearing today on Senate Bill 119 and voted the bill out of committee with six affirmative votes, one negative, and two abstentions. Senate Bill 119 would allow patients suffering from certain debilitating and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis to use and possess medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The bill would also allow for the licensing of centers where qualifying patients could safely access medical marijuana. The program would be administered by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. Patients, doctors, and advocates applauded the committee's action on Senate Bill 119. The bill now moves to the full senate for a vote. "We want to thank the senators on the committee for voting for the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act," said Roseanne Scotti, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey. "The bottom line is about compassion. If you or someone you love is seriously ill and none of the available medications relieved the suffering, wouldn't you want access to medical marijuana if a doctor recommended it? New Jerseyans overwhelmingly support this legislation and we are grateful to the committee for hearing their voices." Senate Bill 119 is sponsored by Senators Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union), Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic), Sandra B. Cunningham (D-Hudson), Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), Brian P. Stack (D-Hudson), Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Salem, Cumberland, Gloucester), Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), and Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex). Senator Scutari, prime sponsor of the legislation, testified before his colleagues on the health committee. Dr. Denis Petro, internationally known expert on medical marijuana, who testified regarding the scientific support for medical marijuana, praised the committee for voting in support of the legislation. "I am pleased to see the support of the committee for Senate Bill 119," said Petro, a board-certified neurologist in Pennsylvania with more than 25 years experience in neurology, clinical pharmacology and marijuana research. "With passage of the legislation, patients with serious and life-threatening disorders can be offered a safe and effective alternative when conventional therapy is inadequate. The bill represents a positive step toward a rational policy regarding medical marijuana". Thirteen states now have laws allowing seriously ill patients access to medical marijuana—Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State. The New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the New Jersey League for Nursing, the New Jersey chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization all submitted testimony today at the hearing in support of Senate Bill 119. "I am thrilled that today members of the Senate Health Committee supported the common sense and compassionate response to suffering.'' said Nora Bertocci, a registered nurse and chair of the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which works with sick and dying patients on a daily basis. "Medical marijuana is used very successfully in other states and in other countries. We should not be asking 'why should we legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes?' but rather 'why shouldn't we?' '' Scott Ward, a 24-year-old diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November 2006 while training for the Marine Corps Marathon, tried every legally prescribed medicine his doctors suggested while searching for relief from his symptoms, before he decided to try medical marijuana which has drastically improved his quality of life. Ward was excited by the committee's action and hopeful that the legislation would continue to progress to passage. "To say that I am happy and grateful that the majority of the Senate Health Committee voted in favor of S119 would be an understatement. I came here today to fight for the basic right to live a pain-free life; to be able to get out of bed in the morning not feeling terrible. To use marijuana, my medicine, which works for me," said Ward. "The Senate Health Committee's vote is incredibly encouraging and I urge the rest of the legislature to follow their lead quickly so that other New Jerseyans suffering like myself may find some relief." # # #
Location: 
NJ
United States

Americans for Safe Access: December 2008 Activist Newsletter

ASA Sues Calif. DMV for Discriminating Against Patients

Medical Marijuana Patient with Clean Driving Record Has License Revoked

The loss of a medical marijuana patient's drivers' license has resulted in a lawsuit against California's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Americans for Safe Access filed the suit in Merced on behalf of Rose Johnson, a 53-year-old patient from Atwater, who had her license renewal denied in July solely because of her status as a medical marijuana patient. Despite a clean driving record and 37 years without an accident, Ms. Johnson was denied a license after DMV obtained her medical records, which revealed that her doctor had recommended cannabis as a treatment.

ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford

According to the DMV, Ms. Johnson's license was revoked "because of...[an] addiction to, or habitual use of, [a] drug," which they claim renders her unable to safely operate a motor vehicle. DMV provided no evidence in support of the decision.

"The DMV cannot simply disregard California's medical marijuana law," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who is representing Ms. Johnson. "When the voters of California enacted the Compassionate Use Act, they never intended to authorize the DMV to strip medical marijuana patients of their drivers' licenses. The DMV should not be in the business of revoking the licenses of drivers like Ms. Johnson simply because she is a medical marijuana patient."

ASA has received widespread reports of the California DMV suspending or revoking the licenses of medical marijuana patients in at least eight counties -- Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Glenn, Merced, Placer, Sacramento, and Sonoma. DMV has stripped medical marijuana patients of their drivers' licenses by classifying them as habitual "drug abusers," despite California's legal protections for patients.

In 2007, Ms. Johnson's home county of Merced instituted a policy that instructs Sheriff Deputies to respect state law and not cite medical marijuana patients or seize their medicine.

"The DMV is not under a different set of requirements than local police in California," said Elford. "The failure to uphold California's medical marijuana law is entirely inappropriate for any local or state agency."

The lawsuit, part of a campaign by ASA to fully implement California's medical marijuana laws, is expected to be heard in Merced Superior Court in the next few months.

For more on ASA's court filing, see ASA's website.

 

 

 

New Administration a Chance for Change on Medical Marijuana

President-elect Promised New Federal Policy on State Programs

Americans for Safe Access, along with medical marijuana patients across the country, is celebrating the historic election of President-elect Barack Obama. His election has provided a sense of relief for individuals who use or provide cannabis in accordance with their state laws. Like all of his Democratic primary rivals, President-elect Obama repeatedly pledged to end federal raids against the individuals and collectives authorized by state law to use or provide medical cannabis. ASA's government affairs team in Washington, DC is working hard to ensure the President-elect honors his campaign promise to end federal interference with state medical marijuana programs.

Campaign pledges have been broken before. George W. Bush campaigned saying medical marijuana should be left to the states to decide. Yet the Bush Administration has only increased federal interference with state medical marijuana programs. It has dramatically increased paramilitary-style raids against patient collectives in California that are operating in compliance with state law and local regulation. In just the past few years, the federal government has brought charges against more than 100 individuals authorized by their state law to use or provide medical cannabis.

But it is not just patients the Bush Administration has targeted. They have also been waging a campaign of intimidation against property owners. Scores of landlords throughout California have received letters from the Department of Justice, in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration, that threaten asset forfeiture and federal prosecution if they continue to lease to medical cannabis collectives.

Caren Woodson, Director of Governmental Affairs Caren Woodson, Director of Governmental Affairs

In his victory speech, President-elect Obama told us that "victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change." The transition to a new Presidential administration and a new Congress offers unique opportunities for implementing a more compassionate approach to medical marijuana. ASA's Government Affairs Office is working on Capitol Hill to advance ASA's National Policy Agenda. ASA is calling for a comprehensive federal policy that provides safe access to cannabis for individuals fighting HIV/AIDS, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, and other serious diseases.

 

ASA's Capitol staff will be working overtime, along with much of Washington, D.C., as the new Administration takes over. But they are counting on change coming from the grassroots, too.

"We're counting on our members to support our efforts and reinforce our work in their communities," said Caren Woodson, ASA's Director of Governmental Affairs, who is leading the effort. "The opportunity for real change is here."

To help guide policy decisions in the new Administration and Congress, ASA has assembled a set of comprehensive recommendations. You can see them on ASA's website.

ASA has made its recommendations to President-elect Obama; you can share your own on his website, www.change.gov.

ASA Chapter Profile: Maryland

ASA chapters and affiliates are making tremendous strides to educate the public and to improve medical cannabis laws across the country. Some of the most exciting growth of ASA chapters and leaders is taking place in Maryland, right outside our nation's Capitol. Under the direction of Tony Bowles (Montgomery Co.), Jay Hartman (Prince George's Co.), and Tom Adkins (Eastern Shore), Maryland now has three active ASA chapters organizing citizens to fix the state's flawed medical cannabis law.

ASA Maryland's festival booth ASA Maryland's festival booth

Although Maryland passed a medical cannabis law in 2003, the state still criminalizes individuals who use or obtain cannabis as recommended by a licensed physician. Every year, Maryland wastes precious law enforcement resources arresting and prosecuting scores of individuals who legitimately use medical cannabis to control symptoms of a serious or chronic illness.

The core leadership of Maryland's three chapters meets regularly in person and by phone to plan projects and coordinate activities. The three chapters work together on all projects, sharing in the effort, and giving each chapter action more impact.

Since 2007, ASA chapters in MD have hosted numerous meetings, provided trainings and teach-ins across the state, organized art parties, and created a public presence by attending street festivals in Bethesda, Wheaton, Fell's Point, and outside the M&T Bank Stadium during the Baltimore Ravens' home games - all to spread awareness about medical cannabis and recruit new members.

All three chapters are focused on building their membership base. They regularly send volunteers out to communities throughout the state to canvass and petition, meeting hundreds of medical cannabis patients and supporters who are ready for change.

The chapters worked with the Drug Policy Alliance to promote the Maryland Patients for Access campaign, designed to build grassroots support and identify potential leadership for upcoming reform efforts. In addition to public awareness sessions, the ASA chapters host spokesperson and media trainings, making Marylanders better informed about the challenges that patients face and helping patients navigate law enforcement encounters.

The chapters are educating both state and federal lawmakers by getting everyday citizens to stand up for medical cannabis. They are recruiting constituents for meetings with state legislators, providing them with information, prepping them for the meeting, and organizing carpools to get there.

The Maryland ASA chapters are successful examples of how activists can work together to start new chapters in their region, build strong lists by gathering contacts and letting the public know they exist, and coordinate campaigns with each other and ASA's national offices.

For more information on Maryland ASA, contact Tony Bowles md4safeaccess@gmail.com or Jay Hartman bluejaybird@gmail.com.

You Can Help Encourage Obama to Answer Questions About Our Marijuana Policy

President-elect Obama has created a web page to accept policy questions from the public. Users can vote for their favorites and his transition team has pledged to answer the most popular questions. At this moment, I’m seeing these two in the top ten:

"Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?"

"13 states have compassionate use programs for medial Marijuana, yet the federal gov't continues to prosecute sick and dying people. Isn't it time for the federal gov't to step out of the way and let doctors and families decide what is appropriate?"


Showing that we care about these issues is vitally important, so please head over to change.gov and vote for these questions. Registration is easy and the questions should be right there on the front page (where they’ll stay if we make sure to vote for them).

This is a very cool opportunity to show the strength of our movement by making marijuana reform the #1 issue on Obama’s website.  Please help, and forward the link to your friends and family. Votes close at noon tomorrow, so please don’t delay. Thanks!

Update: As noted in comments, I failed utterly to comprehend the fact that 12:00 am is midnight (duh!), so this post actually went up 9 minutes before the deadline (our time stamp is an hour ahead for some reason). So I'm an idiot, but the good news is that marijuana legalization ended up being the #1 question. I doubt I'm going to like the answer we get, but at least we've sent a message that marijuana reform is far from a fringe issue in 2008.

DEA Says it Has a Policy of Not Arresting Medical Marijuana Patients

Months ago, Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) sent a pointed inquiry to the DEA demanding an accounting of the costs and methodology behind the federal raids against medical marijuana dispensaries in California. DEA’s response (pdf) recently became available and contains some interesting information, including this:

DEA does not investigate or target individual "patients" who use cannabis, but instead the Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) involved in marijuana trafficking.

Again, the agency does not target individual users who are
engaged in "simple possession" of the drug - even though they too are violating federal law and entitled to no immunity.

It’s not really news that DEA avoids arresting patients, but it’s remarkable to see it in writing. This serves to remind us that DEA in fact bears no legal obligation whatsoever to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that have approved medical use. The organization’s enforcement priorities with regards to medical marijuana are shaped by politics, not a sense of legal obligation, thus patients have been quietly left off the battlefield in recognition of the obscene PR fiasco that would result if they were visibly targeted. Keep this in mind if Obama’s pledge to end medical marijuana raids is met with resistance from anyone who claims that "federal law must be enforced."

DEA’s concession also helps to illuminate the complete incoherence of any argument that state-level marijuana reforms are rendered impotent in the face of incongruous federal drug laws. Such reforms have enormous practical value by dramatically reducing the threat of arrest and conviction under state laws, which have always been the only real threat facing individual users.

This acknowledgment should end debate over the importance of state-level marijuana reform.

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