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MPP testifies before Congress

Dear Friends:

Yesterday, MPP's Aaron Houston testified before Congress, urging lawmakers to rein in the DEA. You can read his testimony (posted on the House Appropriations Committee's Web site) here, or watch him discuss it below.

Each year, Congress passes a spending bill that funds the Justice Department, including the DEA. At yesterday's hearing about next year's budget, MPP asked Congress to tell the DEA to:

  • Stop interfering with state and local law enforcement in California and other medical marijuana states;
  • Immediately stop the practice of sending letters to landlords of state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries, threatening to seize their assets; and
  • Stop blocking medical marijuana research and approve the application for a medical marijuana research facility at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

MPP was the only reform organization to provide expert testimony at the hearing yesterday. In fact, MPP is the only marijuana policy reform organization with a full-time lobbyist on Capitol Hill. Would you please support this important work by making a contribution today? We appreciate anything you can give.

Thank you,

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 $2.35 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2009. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

Marijuana: Connecticut Decriminalization Bill Wins Committee Vote

A bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession in Connecticut leapt its first hurdle Tuesday night, passing 24-14 in the legislature's Joint Judiciary Committee after a hearing last week. The bill, SB 349, passed after being amended to not apply to minors and by reducing the amount of pot in question.
Gov. Rell showed great cruelty to patients with her veto of Connecticut's medical marijuana bill, so it's not surprising she wants to continue persecuting non-medical users too.
As originally filed, the bill would have made possession of less than an ounce an infraction punishable only with a fine, while possession of between an ounce and a quarter pound would be a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine and one year in jail. But in debate Tuesday, sponsors accepted both the amendment regarding minors and one reducing the decrim amount to one half ounce.

The Connecticut committee vote comes just months after neighboring Massachusetts became the latest state to decriminalize. The effort is being pursued vigorously by some Democratic legislators, including Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-New Haven), who is one of the bill's sponsors. Looney and others argued that the state could save $11 million a year in policing, judicial, and probation costs by issuing tickets for offenders instead of requiring arrests and court hearings.

House Republican leader Lawrence Cafero (R-Norwalk), a former expulsion officer for the Norwalk schools, opposed the measure, saying he had seen high-achieving students turn into poor students after becoming regular pot smokers. "I've seen kids who are getting high at 7:00 in the morning, sometimes at 12 years old,'' Cafero told the committee. "It ruins a lot of lives. It ruins a lot of families. It's not a matter of efficiency. It's not a matter of money. It's a matter of lives.''

Pulling out all stops, Cafero also refrained the "not your parents' marijuana" argument and the "sending the wrong message" argument. "What is the message that we as a legislature will send when we decriminalize marijuana?'' Cafero asked. "That sends a wrong message.'' Cafero even complained that if the bill passes, a person speeding on Connecticut highways could face a larger fine than someone possessing "15 marijuana joints."

That last debating point drew a sharp retort from Sen. Edwin Gomes (D-Bridgeport), who argued it was entirely appropriate for a speeder to pay a higher fine than a pot smoker. "That person who is speeding should be fined more than someone who has less than a half ounce of marijuana because he is more of a hazard to the public,'' said Gomes.

Another bill supporter, Rep. Ernest Hewett (D-New London) said stopping people who wanted to smoke marijuana was all but impossible and that lawmakers should focus on more serious drug problems. "I think alcohol is the real problem. We're just disregarding that,'' Hewett said.

The bill must still win floor votes in both houses of the General Assembly, and even then, it faces the likelihood of a veto by Gov. Jodi Rell (R), who has never met a marijuana reform bill she liked. Two years ago, she vetoed medical marijuana legislation that had passed both houses. Tuesday night, one of her spokesmen suggested strongly she would veto this one if it made it to her desk. "Whether it's little or a lot, it is an illegal substance, and the governor does not support the bill,'' said Christopher Cooper after the vote.

Medical Marijuana: Oakland Cannabis Community Offers City Help on Taxes

Three Oakland city council members want to raise taxes on medical marijuana revenues, and, as is rarely the case, the objects of that potential tax are fine with that. The proposed business tax rate on medical marijuana sales would double, from $12 to $24 per each $1,000 in gross revenues, according to a report from
Oaksterdam tent, San Francisco Cannabis Day 2005 (Tim Castleman, courtesy SF Bay Area IndyMedia)
The move is being championed by council members Rebecca Kaplan, Nancy Nadel, and Jean Quan. The trio reported in an agenda report dated for next week that the tax increase could bring in somewhere between $200,000 and $400,000 a year in additional revenues for the city. That suggests medical marijuana sales in the city are running somewhere between $16 million and $32 million a year.

Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University, owner of the Bulldog Cafe and SR-71 dispensary, and primary champion of Oaksterdam, the notion of revitalizing a hunk of downtown Oakland through the marijuana industry, said he had been working with council members on the proposal and that the industry was behind it. "We believe we should be paying more taxes, and we want to help the city more in its economic crisis," Lee said.

Lee also suggested that taxes should not be borne solely by dispensaries, but also by suppliers and nurseries. That would help further legitimate the industry, he said.

Medical Marijuana: Minnesota Bill Wins Committee Vote, Heads for Senate Floor
Minnesota State Capitol
The Minnesota medical marijuana bill, SF 97, cleared its fourth and final Senate committee hurdle Thursday, winning approval of the Senate Finance Committee on a 9-3 vote. It is now headed for a Senate floor vote.

"I am delighted that this compassionate, sensible bill is now on its way to the Senate floor," said bill sponsor Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing). "With Michigan's medical marijuana law taking full effect this weekend, I am increasingly optimistic that Minnesota will soon become the 14th state to get politics out of the doctor-patient relationship and protect medical marijuana patients from arrest."

A companion measure in the House has also been passed by four separate committees. It has not had a House floor vote.

In 2007, a similar bill won a Senate floor vote, but in the face of a veto threat by Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the House never put it to a vote. Pawlenty's position hasn't changed this year, although he did say he might reconsider if law enforcement did not oppose it. But so far, there's no sign of that.

The Media's Approach to Marijuana Coverage Has Changed Dramatically

This CNBC appearance by MPP's Rob Kampia is an exhibit in the rapid evolution of marijuana policy coverage in the mainstream press:

Radley Balko pretty much nails what I wanted to say about this:

Former DEA chief Asa Hutchinson is the only person on CNBC’s (oddly enormous) panel arguing against legalization. These aren’t stoners or activists. They’re financial reporters and pundits. And they seem to be uniformly in favor of legalizing. This debate has come a long, long, way since the 1980s.
I've been critical of CNBC in the past, but this more than surpasses my expectations. Asa Hutchinson probably feels like he was ganged up on, but he should just consider himself lucky that the press didn't start asking these questions a long time ago.

Press Release: Senate Finance Committee Passes Medical Marijuana Bill, 9-3

Minnesota Cares logo

APRIL 2, 2009

Senate Finance Committee Passes Medical Marijuana Bill, 9-3


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

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- The Senate Finance Committee passed the Senate version of Minnesota's medical marijuana bill, S.F. 97, today by a vote of 9 to 3. Having passed this final Senate committee, the bill now moves to the Senate floor.

     "I am delighted that this compassionate, sensible bill is now on its way to the Senate floor," said bill sponsor Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing). "With Michigan's medical marijuana law taking full effect this weekend, I am increasingly optimistic that Minnesota will soon become the 14th state to get politics out of the doctor-patient relationship and protect medical marijuana patients from arrest."

     Laws removing criminal penalties for patients using medical marijuana with their doctor's recommendation are in effect in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Michigan's law, which takes full effect on April 4, is the most recently enacted, passing with a record-setting 63 percent "yes" vote last November.

     Numerous other states, including Illinois, New Hampshire and New Jersey, are presently considering similar legislation. The Obama administration recently announced a policy of non-interference with state medical marijuana laws, pledging to conduct raids or arrests only when individuals have violated both state and federal law.

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


St. Paul, MN
United States

The Drug Czar's Office Doesn't Know What to Say About Marijuana

Ever since Obama's awful attempt to duck the marijuana legalization debate last week, it's becoming increasingly clear to me that the issue of marijuana reform is a major challenge for the new administration. They aren't ready to endorse legalization, but they're equally intimidated by the rapidly growing movement to reform marijuana laws.

Another example is found at the drug czar's blog, which posted the video of Obama's statement, yet withheld any further comment on the matter. It 's a subtle, yet profound departure from the way this blog was run during the previous administration. Every post related to marijuana ended with, "Click here to learn more about how marijuana is highly f#$king toxic."

I can't prove that, though, because they deleted everything when Obama took office (which just further demonstrates that the new ONDCP is a very different creature). Considering that ONDCP's charter mandates opposition to drug policy reform efforts, their failure to actually even applaud Obama's statement against marijuana legalization is remarkably tame.  

It almost feels like we're running out of people to argue with.

End the D.C. medical marijuana ban

Dear Friends:

A decade has passed since Congressman Bob Barr thwarted the will of D.C. voters by blocking a medical marijuana program, voted into law by nearly 70% of the district. Please help MPP remove the legislation blocking D.C. from implementing its medical marijuana program.

Since 1999, when Congressman Barr's legislation took effect, national support for medical marijuana has grown to nearly 80%, the American College of Physicians (America's second largest medical association) has come out in support of medical marijuana, and even Congressman Bob Barr has switched sides, lobbying with MPP to repeal his own legislation and allow D.C. medical marijuana patients the protections they deserve.

Please take action today. Send an e-mail to Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes-Norton and ask her to remove the Barr Amendment from the D.C. appropriations bill.


Ben Morris
Assistant Manager of Government Relations
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, DC
United States

Obama Doesn't Know What to Say About Marijuana

Pete Guither points to yet another prominent example of the Obama administration's glaring inability to explain the president's position on legalizing marijuana:

When asked why Obama opposes legalization, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs literally said this:

"Uh, he, he does not think that, uh, uh, that that is uh, uh, [pause] he opposes it, he doesn't think that that's the, the right plan for America."

It's a comical and precious moment, like when the teacher calls on that half-asleep kid who never has a clue. Except, as Paul Armentano points out, they knew perfectly well that this was a hot issue in their online forum and that the press would likely be asking about it. Clearly, they are badly boxed in, simultaneously reluctant to embrace reform, while equally hesitant to offend marijuana reform advocates with the typical anti-pot propaganda you'd expect from a guy who just said he opposes legalization.

The result is a ridiculous and failed effort to laugh the issue off, even as everyone stares at them expectantly. They're still working from the old rules which state that drug legalization questions are best handled by chuckling and mockery, followed by a quick pivot towards a more "serious" issue. That advice is no longer very good.

Press Release: Medical Marijuana Implementation Starts April 4, Patients Available for Interviews

MARCH 31, 2009

Medical Marijuana Implementation Starts April 4, Patients Available for Interviews

CONTACT: Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications ............... 415-585-6404 or 202-215-4205

LANSING, MICHIGAN -- Full implementation of Michigan's medical marijuana law, passed by voters with 63 percent of the vote last November, begins April 4, and Michigan Department of Community Health offices will be open to accept applications on Monday, April 6. Because of great interest in the new law, a number of patients have agreed to make themselves available for media interviews.

     In the period leading up to full implementation, medical marijuana patients have been able to defend themselves against marijuana-related charges, but have not had the protection from arrest that will now be available to those who take advantage of the registration process and obtain a state ID card. Michigan is the 13th state to remove criminal penalties for medical marijuana patients, and medical marijuana bills are presently under consideration in several state legislatures, including Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire and New Jersey.

     Patients available for interviews include:

     Lynn Allen, Williamston, suffers from AIDS and hepatitis C, contracted from a blood transfusion.

     Stephanie Annis, Oakland County, suffers from severe nausea resulting from 10 abdominal surgeries.

     Jon Dunbar, Kalamazoo, suffers severe, chronic pain due to spinal problems.

     For further information on the new law or to arrange interviews with any of these patients (or others who may become available as the implementation date approaches), please contact MPP director of communications Bruce Mirken at 415-585-6404 (office) or 202-215-4205(cell).

     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


United States

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