Marijuana

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Double standard persists on marijuana

Location: 
Miami, FL
United States
Publication/Source: 
Miami Herald
URL: 
http://www.miamiherald.com/884/story/127744.html

Medical marijuana bill wins OK

Location: 
Hartford, CT
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Advocate (CT)
URL: 
http://www.stamfordadvocate.com/news/local/scn-sa-marijuana3ajun02,0,7989888.story?coll=stam-news-local-headlines

Medical marijuana law expanded

Location: 
Montpelier, VT
United States
Publication/Source: 
Burlington Free Press (VT)
URL: 
http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070601/NEWS02/706010307/1007/NEWS05

Medical marijuana legislation heads to governor

Location: 
Providence, RI
United States
Publication/Source: 
WLNE-TV (RI)
URL: 
http://www.abc6.com/news/_26309___article.html/_.html

Feature: Battle Royal Looms as Canadian Government Set to Unveil Tough Anti-Drug Strategy

The Conservative government of Canadian Prime Minister Steven Harper is set to reveal what is expected to be a US-style approach to drug policy any day now. While action in parliament is unlikely until after the looming summer recess, battle lines are already being drawn in what promises to be a bitter fight.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/savecanada.jpg
pro-Insite demonstrators (photo courtesy timetodeliver.org)
Although the government has yet to reveal particulars, it is widely assumed that the new drug strategy will take a "tough on crime" approach to drugs, cracking down on grow-ops and drug sellers with harsher penalties, providing more money for law enforcement, and moving away from harm reduction approaches such as Vancouver's Insite safe injection site.

"There will be a heavier emphasis on enforcement, with some additional money for treatment," said Eugene Oscapella, head of the Canadian Drug Policy Foundation. "The other thing is they want mandatory minimum sentences for some drug offenses, especially serious trafficking offenses," he told Drug War Chronicle.

An early hint of the Harper government's drug policy came in March, when Conservatives allocated an extra $70 million over two years for enforcement, treatment, and prevention, but no mention was made of harm reduction programs. In Canada, these also include needle exchanges and the distribution of sterile crack pipes.

Of the additional funding, treatment programs will get nearly half, law enforcement about a third, and the rest will go into "just say no" style youth prevention program. The new drug strategy is also expected to endorse the use of drug courts, where drug offenders can be ordered into treatment programs instead of jail or prison.

The Canadian federal government currently spends about $350 million a year on anti-drug efforts, the vast majority of which goes to law enforcement, with lesser amounts for treatment and prevention, and a pittance for harm reduction. Canadian drug policy is guided by a 20-year-old national drug strategy that has been widely criticized for lacking clear direction, targets, and measurable results.

What the Harper government is proposing is not the answer, says a growing chorus of critics. The Liberal Party was quick off the mark to attack the yet-to-be-seen Conservative drug strategy.

"Stephen Harper's government is expected to announce next week new measures that will retreat from harm reduction measures that help Canadians, such as the safe injection site in Vancouver," said Liberal Health critic Bonnie Brown in a press release last week. "They are trying to do this under the guise of cracking down on illicit drug trafficking and prevention -- even though all the research suggests that an ideologically-motivated war on drugs is ineffective, while programs such as the safe injection site are producing positive results."

A series of reports -- including the Canadian Medical Association Journal and the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS -- have concluded that the site has had a positive effect on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and has not increased crime or addiction rates, or threatened public health and safety.

"Rather than focusing its efforts where they are needed most -- such as funding the safe injection site and other programs vital to a larger harm reduction strategy in Canada -- this government is putting its right-wing agenda ahead of scientific evidence, and at a tremendous cost to those affected by addiction," said Brown.

Brown's charge resonates with a number of Canadian researchers. "The science is there. What we're seeing here is political interference," said Dr. Thomas Kerr with the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, who has led several research studies on Insite. "I think it's a sad day for drug policy in Canada given that the Conservative government is now advocating a US-style approach to drug policy that's been shown to fail," he told reporters in Vancouver last week.

Kerr isn't the only one complaining. Several prominent researchers from across Canada have written an open letter to Health Canada criticizing it for calling for new research on Insite despite years of research showing positive incomes. The call for proposals from Health Canada ensures that the research will be superficial and inadequately funded, they said. They also took issue with a condition that researchers not be allowed to talk about their findings for six months after reports are submitted.

"Clearly what that does is to muffle people who might have something to say until after the curtain has dropped on this piece of political theatre," Benedikt Fischer, a director of the BC Centre for Addictions Research at the University of Victoria, said in an interview last Friday. "Overall, we get the feeling that what this is about is there's an attempt to instrumentalize science in a fairly cheap way for politics."

"The Conservatives don't like InSite," said Oscapella. "This is not an issue of science, but of ideology and playing to the peanut gallery. They have tried to misstate its purpose, what it has achieved, and the position of other countries. This is a propaganda exercise by the government to further its electoral objectives," he said.

"But the Liberals are no angels, either," he pointed out. "They had three opportunities to reform the cannabis laws and they didn't do that. I give them some credit for the medical marijuana regulations, but at the same time, the process is now incredibly cumbersome. They backed away from decriminalization. In effect, they backed a tough drug war, but with softer rhetoric."

"The Liberals are known to oppose from the left and govern from the right," said Dana Larsen, a New Democratic Party (NDP) candidate for a West Vancouver riding and head of the party's anti-prohibitionist wing, eNDProhibition. "Now they're in opposition, and they will say that Harper's drug war is wrong. But they passed our current drug law in 1996 despite testimony from nearly everyone it was bad law, and marijuana arrests went up every year the Liberals were in power."

But while the national NDP supports harm reduction and legalizing marijuana as part of its platform, its national leadership has not embraced the issue, Larsen said. "The party is good on policy, and the party spokesperson on drug issues, Libby Davies, is great, but we haven't succeeded yet in getting the party to make ending the drug war a priority."

Davies was traveling on personal business outside the country and unavailable for comment this week.

Canada will have all summer to brood over the coming battles over drugs and crime, but with the Harper government a minority government, it will have to reach out to the Liberals, the NDP, or the Bloc Quebecois to pass anything. None of the opposition parties seems likely to support a "tough on drugs" package like that now envisioned by the Conservatives.

"They don't have the votes to pass this by themselves," said Oscapella. "The fear is what happens if they get reelected with a majority. Then they could walk all over everybody."

Feature: Ed Rosenthal Convicted Again in Pyrrhic Victory for Feds

A federal jury Wednesday found "Guru of Ganja" Ed Rosenthal guilty for a second time of growing hundreds of marijuana plants in what is no more than a symbolic victory for federal prosecutors. Because Rosenthal has already served a lenient one-day sentence after he was first convicted of the same charges in 2003, US District Court Judge Charles Breyer, the presiding judge in the case, has already ruled that he cannot be resentenced.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/edrosenthalcourtdate.jpg
Ed Rosenthal at courthouse, with supporters, September 2006 (courtesy indybay.org)
Rosenthal's original conviction was overturned on appeal. Vengeful federal prosecutors angered by his public criticism of their methods retried him knowing they could not further punish him. They even filed additional charges that Judge Breyer threw out as vindictive.

The trial itself was noteworthy for the mass refusal of medical marijuana movement people subpoenaed to testify for the government to do so. Equally noteworthy was their escaping without contempt citations -- at least so far.

Rosenthal grew the plants to produce medical marijuana for use in California, where it is legal, but his defense was unable to explain that to the jury because it was blocked from doing so by Judge Breyer. Federal law and the federal courts do not recognize "medical" marijuana. Neither was Breyer willing to let defense attorneys go too far in urging the jury to vote its conscience.

"There are places that we can't go... There are answers too realistic, reasonable questions you may have that I can't give you," defense attorney Robert Ampranan told the jurors during final arguments. "I fear my government because it does not always tell us the truth. The federal government has had almost six years to complete this recipe... and yet their recipe, ladies and gentlemen, contains tainted, soiled, spoiled ingredients," he said. "If it smells like something that's going to make you sick, you have the right to reject it."

Shortly later, as Amparan compared Rosenthal's prosecution to past injustices done under color of law, such as slavery and the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, Breyer sent the jury from the courtroom and accused Amparan of trying to lead the jury into questioning the federal law itself. When Amparan replied that he wasn't, but that he intended to cite the false pretenses for the war in Iraq and the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina as other examples of government mistakes, the packed courtroom burst into cheers. Breyer warned that he would clear the courtroom if any more outbursts occurred, then ordered Amparan not to make that argument to the jury.

After deliberating for two days, the jury convicted Rosenthal of growing more than 100 marijuana plants, conspiring to cultivate the drug and maintaining a growing operation in a warehouse. He was acquitted of a fourth charge, and Breyer sternly ordered prosecutors to drop the fifth charge when the jury said it was deadlocked.

"It's a shame that the federal government continues to put California citizens in the position of having to set aside their own votes at the ballot box and pretend they don't know anything about the state law or medical science," said William Dolphin, a spokesman for the Rosenthal defense fund Green Aid. "After 60% of the jury pool just refused to be involved in a case like this, we ended up with a jury that felt like it had to follow the instructions of the court."

"The government has shown it can in fact win a conviction in a medical marijuana case in the most pot-sympathetic district in the country," said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML. "Of course, when we have to play by their rules and can't even mention the main element of the defense, it's an open and shut case. Ed was clearly growing pot, as was shown by the government."

If the verdict was somewhat anticlimactic, there was high drama and civil disobedience in court last Friday. That's when six medical marijuana movement witnesses subpoenaed by the government to testify against Rosenthal simply refused. Five others who were prepared to join them were dismissed on technical grounds.

One by one, recalcitrant witnesses Debbie Goldsberry, James Blair, Etienne Fontan, Evan Schwartz, Brian Lundeen, and Cory Okie told the court they would not participate in an immoral prosecution. (Read the transcript here.) "I told them I could not participate and go against the wishes of the community," said Goldsberry.

Judge Breyer praised the six for their dignified conduct and asked them if being sent to jail for the weekend would make them change their minds about testifying. When they replied in the negative, he sent them home for the weekend. They reappeared on Tuesday, reiterated their refusal to testify, and Breyer simply excused them.

The successful act of civil disobedience merits attention, said California NORML's Gieringer. "It's important that this gets some attention because it is one of the few actions where people have had the courage to risk going to jail for refusing to testify for the government," said Gieringer. "The prosecutor can file contempt charges if he wants, but I think the judge would be pretty unhappy. Rosenthal isn't going to jail in any case, so to have someone go to jail would be a real travesty."

"The community is getting fed up," said Green Aid's Dolphin. "The jury pool was not happy, the judge was not happy, and a dozen people subpoenaed to testify just said 'I'm not going to do it, and you can't make me.'"

The federal government prevailed by winning several convictions against Rosenthal, but the victory may be a pyrrhic one. The Justice Department and local federal prosecutors have managed to irritate just about everybody in Northern California, from the presiding judge on down. And the continuing persecution of Rosenthal and other medical marijuana providers has only strengthened the community and emboldened it to try new, provocative tactics.

Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana (ACMM) Meeting

Please join us at the next Advisory Committee on Medical Marijuana meeting.
Date: 
Mon, 06/18/2007 - 10:00am - 3:00pm
Location: 
800 NE Oregon St., Conference Room 1E
Portland, OR 97232
United States

Public Meet Up of Sweet.Net

Please join us for the public meeting of Sweet.Net, a Medical Cannabis Resource NetWork for patients as well as cardholders-to-be. Call 503.363-4588. For more information visit: http://www.mercycenters.org/events/Meet_PUB_Sweet.htm
Date: 
Mon, 06/04/2007 - 7:00pm
Location: 
Sweet Home, OR
United States

Europe: New Restrictions on Some Dutch Cannabis Coffee Shops

The Dutch government's tougher line on Holland's famous marijuana coffee shops is taking a toll. In Rotterdam, nearly half of the city's coffee shops will have to shut down because they are too near to secondary schools. Meanwhile, in the border city of Maastricht, where "drug tourists" from neighboring countries with more repressive pot laws flood into town to score, the local coffee shop association announced this week it will begin requiring fingerprint scans of all customers.

Holland currently has more than 700 coffee shops, down substantially from a peak of around 1,500. The coffee shops are much criticized by Holland's neighbors, and the current Dutch government would like to see them go away. Now, if a coffee shop shuts down it cannot be replaced by another. But the coffee shops retain popular support, at least in part because of the huge revenues they generate -- an estimated $1.5 billion per year.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/maastricht-coffee-shop.jpg
downstairs of a coffee shop, Maastricht (courtesy Wikimedia)
According to the Dutch news agency ANP, the move to restrict coffee shops in Rotterdam arose from concern about rising use of marijuana by school pupils and the problems caused by its sale and use. As a result, the city has decided to ban coffee shops within 200 yards of secondary schools. That means 27 Rotterdam coffee shops will be forced out of business.

In Maastricht, coffee shop owners are self-regulating to avoid violating Holland's famed tolerance policy regarding marijuana. Under the measure announced this week, they will begin fingerprinting customers and scanning their IDs beginning late this summer.

"This is not something that we are doing willingly, but with pain in our hearts," said Marc Josemans, head of the Union of Maastricht's Coffee Shops. "We're very afraid we're going to lose customers over this, and to be honest we're even a little ashamed we're doing it, but the City of Maastricht has such harsh punishments that we don't feel we have any choice," he told the Associated Press.

Coffee shops are licensed to sell up to five grams of marijuana per customer per day. They may not sell to anyone under 18, nor may they permit drugs other than cannabis on the premises. Since Maastricht Mayor Gerd Leers took office in 2002, police have strictly enforced the rules, resulting in the closing of 11 of the city's 26 coffee shops.

According to Josemans, the fingerprinting and ID scan will be tested at his coffee shop in August and will be in place in all Maastricht coffee shops by September. Attempting to assuage privacy concerns, Josemans said the fingerprints would be coupled with a digital photo and a scan of the customer's ID card, with all information except date of birth removed. The fingerprints would not be of a quality to help police, he said.

The information would be stored at each coffee shop. "We're not going to give this information to anybody else, and we're not linked to each other or the Internet," Josemans said.

Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Bill Passes With Veto-Proof Majorities

Only one man now stands between Rhode Islanders and a permanent medical marijuana law, and even he isn't going to be able to stop it. On Wednesday, the state Senate voted overwhelmingly for the bill. Last week, the state House passed it by a similar margin.

Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) has vowed to veto the bill. But with both houses passing the bill with more than 80% of the vote, the bill's legislative supporters should have no problem in securing the two-thirds vote needed to override the expected veto.

It wouldn't be the first time. In 2005, Gov. Carcieri vetoed a medical marijuana bill that is scheduled to sunset June 30, but in January 2006 the legislature overrode that veto -- the only time that any state legislature has overridden a veto in order to legalize medical marijuana.

The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act would "protect patients with debilitating medical conditions, and their physicians and primary caregivers, from arrest and prosecution, criminal and other penalties, and property forfeiture if such patients engage in the medical use of marijuana."

Under the bill, patients need a doctor's recommendation and a registry card from the state Department of Health. They and their registered primary caregivers can possess up to 12 plants and 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana.

The bill won broad support in the legislature thanks in part to the efforts of the Rhode Island Patients Advocacy Coalition, an umbrella group uniting patients, medical professionals and organizations, advocates, and just plain citizens who support legal access to medical marijuana.

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