Marijuana

RSS Feed for this category

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.

Europe: Germany Opens Door to Medical Marijuana

Beginning this week, a handful of patients in Germany have approval to start receiving medical marijuana from a Belgian firm that produces it for the Dutch government's medical marijuana program. Belgian medical wholesaler Arsus NV, whose subsidiary Fagron Netherlands supplies medical marijuana in Holland, announced in a Monday press release that its Fagron Germany subsidiary has been granted an exclusive license to import and distribute medical marijuana in Germany.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/bfarmgebauderuckansicht.jpg
Germany's Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, Bonn (courtesy Wikipedia)
Medical marijuana is not recognized by Germany's Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (Bundesinstitut für Arzneimittel und Medizinprodukte - BfArM), but the regulatory agency has allowed four patients to use marijuana since August 2007. Those exceptions came at the urging of doctors and only after it was established that no other treatments were effective.

Germany is now inching closer to full membership in the medical marijuana club, which is currently limited to a small number of countries, including Canada, Holland, and Israel. The US has its own federal medical marijuana program, but since access to it was cut off more than two decades ago, it will go extinct as soon as the last remaining patients receiving marijuana under it do.

On the other hand, the US is also home to the largest population on the planet living in jurisdictions where states have legalized medical marijuana. Roughly one-quarter of the US population lives in medical marijuana states. But they remain vulnerable to federal interference.

Africa: Debate Over Marijuana Legalization in Morocco Hits the Airwaves

Since at least the 15th Century, farmers in Morocco's Rif Mountains have been growing marijuana, which they typically process into hashish. For decades, Moroccan hash has been a mainstay of European marijuana markets. In recent years, production reached a peak of 135,000 hectares in 2003 before declining to about 60,000 hectares this year and last in the face of aggressive government efforts to eradicate crops and break up trafficking organizations.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/moroccohashish.jpg
Moroccan hashish field
But while the half-decade of harsh repression has led to ever-larger seizure numbers, it has also led to ever-larger arrest figures and stoked resentment in traditional marijuana growing regions. Efforts to reduce cultivation through alternative development programs have proven only partial successful, and now the debate over what to do about marijuana production has broken out into the public sphere.

On Wednesday, December 3, Moroccan Television's second station, 2M, broadcast a live debate on possible approaches to cannabis cultivation called "Cannabis and Hashish: What Approach To Take?" Participating in the discussion were Khalid Zerouali, executive director of migration and customs; Chakib Al Khayari, president of the Association for Human Rights in the Rif region, Professor Mohamed Hmamouchi, director of the National Institute of Medicinal Plants; Hamid El Farouki, director of development at the Agency for Promotion and Development of the Northern Region; and researcher Abderrahman Merzouki.

According to a report on the debate made available by the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD), the panelists discussed three questions:

  • To what degree have alternative development projects been able to support the populations in replacing their illicit traditions?
  • Is it possible to direct the cultivation of cannabis towards therapeutic and industrial uses and, in a general way, towards an alternative economy in these regions?
  • What is the role of regional and international cooperation in this domain?

While government ministers Zerouli and El Farouki called eradication programs a success, citing a 55% reduction in cultivation since 2003, human rights advocate Al Khayari characterized that figure as "not realistic." He said new marijuana fields that had not been counted had sprung up in various regions. Merzouki supported this opinion, and denounced human rights violations against farmers whose fields were eradicated. The law enforcement approach should immediately be replaced by a social approach, he said.

Al Khayari added that alternative development projects tried for the past quarter-century have had some successes, but have not managed to blunt marijuana production. Part of the problem, he said, is that such products are limited. Another part of the problem was that the project designers and managers have not taken into consideration the economic problems and cultural traditions of marijuana cultivation areas.

According to Al Khayari, cannabis cultivation in the Rif predates the arrival of the Arabs. Even the porters of the Koran pray to Allah to protect their sacred plant, he noted.

Professor Hmamouchi insisted that lack of basic infrastructure in some producing regions, a result of the traditional marginalization of the Rif, were a fundamental impediment to alternative development programs. Hmamouchi proposed a larger investment in the National Initiative for Human Development to develop new projects that could help the producing regions.

As the debate wound down, human rights advocate Al Khayari proposed legalizing marijuana as the only practical solution for the traditional producing regions, a view that was seconded by Hmamouchi. Legalization should come within a framework that would regulate cultivation and allow for medicinal and industrial (hemp) cultivation, said Al Khayari.

Even Customs Minister Zerouli agreed that it was a provocative idea for the historical producing regions. He said he would discuss the notion in a more profound way with the participation of civil society as a means of reducing illicit drug trafficking.

Meanwhile, cultivation continues, as do eradication and arrests. And some 800,000 Moroccans derive at least part of their income from it.

Feature: In Holland, Cannabis Politics Heats Up

For more than 30 years under the policy of "gedoogbeleid," which could best be translated as "pragmatic tolerance," the Dutch have allowed the sale of personal amounts of marijuana through the coffee house system, even though doing so is technically illegal. But lately, especially for those of us on this side of the water, a black cloud appears to be hovering over the coffee shops. The number of coffee shops has contracted from about 1,500 in 1995 to 720 now, as successive governments have tightened the screws. The current national government is hostile, if somewhat divided on the issue, and recent headlines about moves to close coffee shops in some border towns and reduce their numbers across the country add to the ominous picture.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/smokey.jpg
Smokey coffee shop (courtesy amsterdam.info)
But the picture is nowhere near as gloomy as presented by the occasional Reuters or Associated Press report covering such developments. Dutch cannabis policy is approaching a tipping point, the status quo is under pressure, but in the medium-term, the end result is more likely to be a move to regulate cultivation as well as retail sales, perhaps under gedoogbeleid policies that leave the laws on the books but ignore them in practice, than the end of the coffee houses and retreat back into prohibition.

Three parties in coalition form the national government: the Social Democrats (PvdA), the Christian Democrats (CDA), and Christian Union (CU), a fundamentalist Christian Party. The two Christian parties oppose drug use in general and the coffee shop system in particular, and would like to see it go away. But the most powerful party in the coalition, the Social Democrats, is much less hostile, and even amenable to regulating cannabis production as well as retail sales.

While the Christian parties appear implacable in their opposition on moral grounds, the PvdA and the opposition parties are arguing more pragmatically over a pair of issues that have come to symbolize the "problems" of the coffee shops. One is the endless influx of cannabis buyers from neighboring countries with more repressive laws, who clog the city centers of border towns and sometimes deal with hard drug dealers and create public nuisances as well. The other major issue around the coffee shops is the "backdoor problem," wherein, while retail sales at the coffee shops are tolerated, the wholesale supply of cannabis to the coffee shops remains tethered to a criminal netherworld.

"It is true that some problems have arisen around the coffee shops," said Joost Sneller, assistant to opposition DP66 Party MP Boris van der Ham, "but a lot of that has to do with vagueness surrounding cultivation, and not with the coffee shops themselves. The backdoor problem is only a problem because we make it so," Sneller argued. "There is one simple solution, and that is legalization of backdoor purchase and the regulation of the entire soft drugs chain. The selling of cannabis should be licensed," he said.

"The coffee shops are a good way to deal with soft drugs and regulate their sales," agreed Velzen van Krista, an opposition Socialist Party MP. "The coffee shop system definitely ensures that people who buy soft drugs don't get mixed up with hard drug sellers."

While the coffee shops are a good interim measure, the best approach would be to simply regulate the whole trade, said van Krista. "Our people don't use soft drugs at a higher rate than surrounding countries, and since it is being used anyway and making it illegal doesn't help, we might as well just legalize it," she argued. "That would create legal jobs, taxable income, quality control, even jobs in security work, because there is a lot of dough in growing."

Marc Josemans, a coffee shop proprietor since 1983, is president of the Maastricht coffee shop association, representing all 14 coffee shops in the border city. The Maastricht association is one of eight regional associations, all of which are organized into the national coffee shops association, LOC, which represents about a third of all coffee shops in the Netherlands.

"The best solution for the problem of foreign cannabis consumers who visit our city just for the coffee shops, 43% of all visitors, is that their governments take responsibility by creating a safe place where people can buy their products without coming into contact with the hard drugs," said Josemans. "In the meantime, we will relocate some coffee shops to the outskirts of town especially for those foreign coffee shop visitors."

Van Krista also suggested moving border town coffee shops to non-tourist areas. "The people coming to the coffee shops aren't coming to look at our beautiful cities but to go to the coffee shops," she said, "so I think we should locate them in the outskirts or in industrial zones."

As for the backdoor problem: "We need one transparent line of production, consumption, and sale of cannabis," said Josemans. "That's the only solution. By regulating our back door, we can benefit from quality controls on cultivators and tax revenues like the coffee shops. We cannot imagine that the soft drugs policy that has been proven to work will be thrown overboard because some politically in-charge moralists believe in a 'drug-free' world," Josemans said.

But while there is much talk within the national government about the "coffee shop problem," by the terms of the accord they reached when they took power in 2007, the coalition parties are bound not to attempt to alter the status quo on the coffee shops during their term in office, which ends in 2010. The accord was an attempt to gloss over ideological differences between the parties, and the result was that the only official national government position is a desire to close down coffee shops within 250 meters of secondary schools. But the only officials who can act to close coffee shops are municipal authorities, and they are much less hostile than elements of the governing coalition.

"The government thus put the responsibility for the administration of cannabis policies for the next few years at the local level," noted Joep Oomen of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD), who observes Dutch developments from nearby Antwerp, Belgium.

It is at that level, where officials have day-to-day experience dealing with coffee shops and the issues around them, that support for complete legalization is growing -- and it is growing in an effort to find pragmatic solutions to the real problems around Holland's half-baked cannabis policies. The ball really got rolling last month, when the mayors of the southern border towns of Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom announced they would close all the shops in their cities because of the influx of foreigners. That led the mayor of Eindhoven to announce a proposal for a municipal cannabis garden to supply coffee shops in his city in a bid to reduce the illicit cannabis trade that exists outside the coffee shop system and causes many of the problems associated with foreign "drug tourism."

Those moves in turn led to the November 13 "Weed Summit," where the 30 most involved mayors called for a "simple and transparent policy, including a legal system to supply the coffee shops that would be carried out in coordination with European governments." This proposal was also signed by the mayors of Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom, whose announcement of looming coffee house closures now appears more an effort to goad policy-makers than a genuine intent to shut them down.

"Please note the difference here between announcing the shut down and actually closing them down," said ENCOD's Oomen. "Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom just announced that they will close down all coffee shops, but we have to see how that takes place in practice. Dutch administrative requirements are famous for being heavily bureaucratized, so the owners have the possibility to slow down this process," he noted.

The situation in Amsterdam, which garnered international press service reports when Mayor Cohen announced he would close 20% of the city's coffee shops because they are within the 250-meter school zone, is similar, said Oomen. "The mayor has said he will not effectively start closing until two years from now, not coincidentally the year in which new elections will take place. Some people see in the announcements of the mayors a way to force national politicians to take a clear decision on this and not leave the responsibility on them."

"Cohen threatened to close down well known coffee shops just to make the discussion more clear," agreed van Krista. "This has really helped clarify the discussion."

The mayors were also responding to recent rumblings from the governing coalition about shutting down the coffee shops altogether. On November 8, CDA leader Pieter van Geel announced he favored closing down the coffee shops, prompting a quick rejection of that idea by his coalition partners the PvdA, and spurring the mayors to act.

"That seems to be the case," said Sneller. "Remember that the mayors are fueling the debate this year. We don't think the mayors are responding with a sort of anti-restriction Pavlovian response, but that they really believe regulation is the best course."

Perhaps, said Oomen, all of the scary noises from the Christians are a good thing. "The pressure from the right provokes the discussion, and in this discussion, people almost automatically reach the conclusion that a regulation is a much better option than total prohibition. It is becoming more likely that a future Dutch government without the Christian Democrats and without too heavy US or UN pressure will take important steps towards regulation."

Last week, ENCOD, the Cannabis College, and the Dutch Drug Policy Foundation tried to stoke the embers of reform with a Cannabis Tribunal at the Hague. The tribunal challenged Dutch parties to disprove the proposition that "Cannabis prohibition has more negative effects than positive ones." The only politician who took up the challenge was Cisca Joldersma, spokesperson for the CDA on drug issues, who faced off against Hans van Duijn, former head of the Dutch Police Association and a supporter of legalization. Joldersmas' arguments, based solely on opinion without resort to evidence, were deemed "without merit" by the judge of the tribunal, law professor Hendreik Kaptain of Leiden University. The organizers concluded that a parliamentary debate on cannabis prohibition is urgently needed, as no Dutch political party can explain why it should be maintained.

And so it goes in Holland. Despite the bluster of some of its members, the governing coalition is not going to touch cannabis policy. That leaves the initiative in the hands of the mayors and other interested parties -- at least until 2010, when the Dutch will have the chance to replace an at best cannabis-neutral government with a cannabis friendly one. Then, perhaps, that famous Dutch gedoogbeleid can expand to encompass the entire cannabis complex.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School