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

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

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

Obama Pledged To Stop DEA Raids On Oregon Medical Marijuana:

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

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

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

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

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

[Thanks, Bruce Mirken]

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gretchen Steele 

For Immediate Release: May 12, 2008

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-------------------------------

Location: 
MN
United States

Stop Saying Medical Marijuana is Politically Risky and Just Look at the Polls

Karen Brooks at the Dallas Morning News blog badly misses the point in regards to Barack Obama's support for medical marijuana:

Just got a notice from the happy folks over at the Marijuana Policy Project that Sen. Barack Obama "stands with us" on access to medical marijuana.

I'm not sure this helps his campaign, although the growing number of states (a dozen, at least) that have approved the use and prescription of medical marijuana may mean that he'll get support on the issue. Here in Texas, the decriminalization legislation - way stronger stuff than what the Medical Pot People are pushing - comes from both sides of the aisle.

So I guess what I'm saying here is, uhm, who knows if this will help or hurt him.

Well, allow me to relieve you of your uncertainty. Polling consistently shows overwhelming public support for medical marijuana. Do you know what medical marijuana's record is with voters? It's 10-1 at the state level, losing only in South Dakota, which ain't really Obama territory anyway. Supporting medical marijuana is among the safest policy positions one can take in 2008, and there's not a shred of evidence to the contrary. I look forward to a point when it's no longer necessary to illustrate this.

Secondly, Brooks buy into the myth that federal interference somehow makes medical marijuana laws ineffective:

Anyway, these laws and ordinances quickly go up in smoke when the feds - who just can't stand the idea of anyone smoking pot and getting away with it - decide to bust down doors and haul away the cancer patients and their docs anyway.

While I appreciate the implied sympathy for patients and doctors, this hyperbolic assessment of the force of federal law vastly overstates the impact of the DEA's campaign against medical marijuana. Despite federal interference, medical marijuana is more available to patients than ever before. The number of dispensaries that have been raided is dwarfed by the number that are open right now, at this exact moment. The idea that medical marijuana laws have been crippled by federal law enforcement is just as fictitious as can be.

My point here is not to excuse the ongoing raids and other atrocities that do still occur. Rather, it must be understood that the Drug Czar badly wants the public to believe that these laws don’t work because he knows we're going to keep passing them in new states and we're 10-1 so far. The only reason DEA even bothers to keep conducting these ugly and unpopular medical marijuana raids is so that the media will falsely report that these laws just "go up in smoke" as Brooks now suggests. That argument is then used against new medical marijuana initiatives to imply that there's no point in passing them, even though existing laws protecting patients have generally been very effective at preventing sick people from getting arrested.

Both of the above points are common misconceptions, and I don’t fault Brooks for indulging them. Still, it is vital that the discussion of medical marijuana continue on a sound factual basis as we proceed towards a showdown between Obama and McCain on this issue.

So, to recap, I submit the following two propositions:

1. Medical marijuana is overwhelmingly supported by the American public.

2. Federal efforts to shut down medical marijuana distribution in states were it is legal have failed utterly.

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

Obama speaks out on medical marijuana

[Courtesy of Marijuana Policy Project] 

Dear friends:

On the verge of becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) has renewed his commitment to protecting medical marijuana patients from arrest and jail.

Here is a quote from Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt from an article in today's San Francisco Chronicle:

"Voters and legislators in the states — from California to Nevada to Maine — have decided to provide their residents suffering from chronic diseases and serious illnesses like AIDS and cancer with medical marijuana to relieve their pain and suffering. Obama supports the rights of states and local governments to make this choice — though he believes medical marijuana should be subject to (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) regulation like other drugs.”

With Sen. Obama now widely expected to win the Democratic nomination and in a year when Democrats are favored to win the White House, this means we might be only eight months away from having a White House that stands with us on medical marijuana access.

You can also watch a video of Sen. Obama talking about medical marijuana here.

In the months leading up to the New Hampshire Democratic primary election, MPP helped persuade all of the Democratic presidential candidates and three of the Republican candidates to pledge to end the arrest of patients in states with medical marijuana laws.

In response to questions from MPP on the campaign trail, Sen. Obama stated that arresting medical marijuana patients is not a good use of resources and promised to end the federal raids on state medical marijuana patients and their caregivers.

Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) has also promised MPP that she would end the raids.

Unfortunately, the Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), earned a grade of “F” from MPP for his inhumane stance on medical marijuana. In response to repeated questions from MPP on the campaign trail, Sen. McCain incorrectly stated that a majority of medical experts oppose medical marijuana, and he also gave a patient who was politely questioning him a glimpse of McCain's famous temper.

Congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.), who also remains in the Republican race, has been an outspoken opponent of marijuana prohibition and has consistently voted in favor of legislation to end the DEA's raids on patients.

Please visit MPP's campaign site, www.GraniteStaters.com/candidates, for statements from each of the candidates.

MPP is the only drug policy reform organization that's systematically influencing the presidential candidates to take positive positions on medical marijuana — and punishing those who don't. Would you please consider making a donation to support our work today?

Sincerely,
Kampia signature (e-mail sized)

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

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

Press Release: Former Sheriff, Legislator Speaks Out for Medical Marijuana in New Ad

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
MAY 8, 2008

Former Sheriff, Legislator Speaks Out for Medical Marijuana in New Ad Advocates Address Most Recent Mistruths from Dakota County Attorney

CONTACT: Neal Levine, MPP director of state campaigns, (612) 424-7001

MINNEAPOLIS — Proponents of a bill to protect seriously ill patients from arrest for using medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation released their latest TV ad today featuring former Fillmore County sheriff and state representative Neil Haugerud, who suffers from severe, intractable pain due to inflammation of the spine.

    Opposition to the bill, which according to a new KSTP poll has the support of 64 percent of Minnesotans and has already passed the Senate, has been largely confined to a handful of members of the law enforcement community. Gov. Tim Pawlenty has threatened to veto the bill as long as law enforcement opposes it, but advocates and patients maintain that that opposition relies on false, misleading arguments.

    "Law enforcement I think is stepping out of bounds," Haugerud says in the ad. "Law enforcement is there to enforce the laws in relation to what the law is – they really don't need to influence ... what the law should be." The new ad is online at http://minnesotacares.org/Ads_video.html.

    "Neil Haugerud knows this issue from both sides – as a longtime sheriff, and now as a patient suffering severe pain every day, who might benefit from medical marijuana," said Neal Levine, director of state campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project. "We urge the House to quickly send this to the governor’s desk, and hope that Governor Pawlenty will reject the misinformation coming from a few in law enforcement and sign this compassionate, tightly crafted bill into law."

    The most egregious misinformation came from Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom, who in a May 1 e-mail to legislators accused medical marijuana supporters of making "inflammatory, slanderous and extremely offensive" charges – for calling him on his misstatements, which included objections to portions of the bill that were removed or amended at law enforcement's request over a year ago. Backstrom's statements are available at http://minnesotacares.org/backstrom_email_mn_house.html and http://minnesotacares.org/mm_email_mn_house.html. Detailed, sourced refutations of 32 false claims in these statements are available here: http://minnesotacares.org/32_false_law_claims_mm.html, and video responses to the most blatant falsehoods are at http://minnesotacares.org/Videos.html.

    With more than 23,000 members and 180,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit www.MarijuanaPolicy.org.

####
Location: 
Minneapolis, MN
United States

Americans for Safe Access: May 2008 Activist Newsletter

California Medical Marijuana Employment Rights Bill Advances

Legislation Moves to Assembly with Committee Approvals, Union support

An ASA-sponsored bill that would establish employment rights for medical marijuana patients in California advanced through the state Assembly last month. With support from three unions representing nearly 1 million workers in California, AB 2279 passed through both the Assembly's Labor and Employment and Judiciary committees on party-line votes. The bill will be voted on next by the Assembly, before passing to the state senate and then the governor's desk.

The new employment rights bill prohibits discrimination against patients but leaves intact existing state law prohibiting medical marijuana consumption at the workplace and protects employers from liability by allowing exceptions for jobs where physical safety could be a concern.

California joins Oregon and Hawaii in considering laws to protect medical marijuana patients from employment discrimination.

ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford

"We're grateful for the support of the state legislature in preserving the rights of patients to work and be productive members of society," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. "With the jobs of thousands of sick Californians hanging in the balance, we are hopeful that the full Assembly will act in similar fashion to the Labor and Judiciary Committees."

ASA lobbying for the bill helped garner the endorsement last month of the statewide California Labor Federation, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), all powerful unions whose voices in defense of workers are listened to in California's capital. ASA also secured support from the National Lawyers Guild and several HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations.

Introduced in February by Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and sponsored by ASA, AB 2279 is designed to rectify a January ruling by the California Supreme Court that found employers can fire patients for using medical marijuana, even when they are entitled to do so under state law. That landmark case, Ross v. RagingWire, was argued before the supreme court by ASA's Elford.

Gary Ross Gary Ross, speaking to the media

Assemblymember Leno and the other authors of California's Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420) had filed a 'friend of the court' brief in support of Gary Ross, the engineer who lost his job at RagingWire Telecommunications in 2001 after failing a drug test. Ross had told his employer that he used medical cannabis on his doctor's advice to treat injuries sustained during his military service, but RagingWire terminated him anyway.

The legislation that would reverse the Ross decision has moved quickly because Assemblymember Leno and ASA were prepared for an adverse ruling by the court, having begun drafting the bill last year. In addition to Assemblymember Leno, the bill's co-authors are Patty Berg (D-Eureka), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego). More about the bill can be seen at www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/AB2279.

ASA has received hundreds of reports of employment discrimination in California since 2005. Employers that have been accused of discriminating against patients include Costco Wholesale, UPS, Foster Farms Dairy, DirecTV, the San Joaquin Courier, Power Auto Group, as well as several construction companies, hospitals, and various trade union employers.

New Patient Bill in Congress

In other legislative news, a new bill to protect medical marijuana patients is also being considered in Washington, DC.

Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the "Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act," HR 5842 last month. The act would change federal policy on medical marijuana in a number of ways.

It would reclassify marijuana to make it available by prescription and create a regulatory framework for the FDA to begin a drug approval process for marijuana. The act would also prevent interference by the federal government in any local or state run medical marijuana program.

The bill is co-sponsored by Representatives Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Sam Farr (D-CA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Ron Paul (R-TX).

Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics a Success

Last month, several of ASA's Medical and Scientific Advisory Board members - including Philippe Lucas, Rick Doblin, Ph.D, Robert Melameade, Ph.D, and Jahan Marcu. - were among the experts, researchers and physicians presenting at the Fifth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics, hosted by national non-profit group Patients Out of Time at Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California.

ASA had a booth at the conference and made contact with researchers, doctors and activists from across the country and the world. ASA staff was joined by members, chapters, and affiliates from all over the country, including representatives from California, Hawaii, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, and North Carolina.
While there, ASA Field coordinator Sonnet Seeborg Gabbard and Carson Higby-Flowers filmed several testimonials of patients and researchers that are being posted on ASA's blog and YouTube.

Highlights from the conference,include Dr. Donald Tashkin's presentation of various research that demonstate even long-term heavy cannabis smoking does not increase cancer risk and Dr. Steve Hosea's talk about the need for "evidence-based" medical cannabis research to underscore our efforts to educate lawmakers and physicians.

Chris Conrad discussed the problems with current cannabis cultivation limits, noting that even California law does not allow patients to produce amounts established by the federal IND program.

Dr. Arno Hazekamp talked about why cannabis tea is one of the two recommended methods of medicinal cannabis consumption by the Dutch government. Dr. Natalya Kogan from Hebrew University in Jerusalem presented information on the potential of CBD, one of the cannabinoids in marijuana, for protecting against an array of conditions from diabetes to Alzheimer's.

Dr. Mark Ware from McGill University in Canada shared his findings from a placebo-controlled clinical trial that showed the effectiveness of higher-potency cannabis in reducing neuropathic pain and increasing quality of sleep.

Dr. Donald Abrams of San Francisco General Hospital and UCSF medical school discussed why cannabis should be part of palliative care and pain management.

Dr. Juan Sanchez-Ramos presented an overview of cannabinoid research on movement disorders such as Parkinson's and Huntington's. And ASA Medical Advisory Board member Rick Doblin, PhD discussed the struggle to end the federal government's monopoly on the supply of cannabis available for research as a means to expand therapeutic research in this country.

ASA Chapter Update: New Jersey

by Ken Wolski, RN, MPA

One of the many active local ASA chapters and affiliates working to defend patients and their caregivers is the Coalition for Medical Marijuana - New Jersey (CMMNJ).

For the past several months, the CMMNJ has been trying to capitalize on the American College of Physicians' January 2008 position paper supporting medical marijuana. Members of CMMNJ have written press releases, letters and OPEDs and sent them to such organizations as the American Medical Association and the New Jersey Medical Society, as well as media outlets - all highlighting this important endorsement of medical marijuana. CMMNJ is using the endorsement of physicians and scientists to keep the issue current in New Jersey and gain national support for rescheduling marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a more appropriate classification.

To stay abreast of the latest research advances, CMMNJ members Ken Wolski and Jim Miller attended the group's Fifth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics last month. The conference brought some of the leading researchers from across the country and around the world together with medical marijuana patients and advocates. Both Ken and Jim are on the Advisory Board of the sponsoring organization, Patients Out of Time.
CMMNJ is also working with NORML and Drug Policy Alliance to urge citizens to tell NJ legislators to support the "NJ Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" (S-119 & A-804).

As part of educating the public, CMMNJ members are making their voices heard in the media. Jim Miller had two letters to the editor published in the Asbury Park Press recently. Ken's letter "Smoke Screen to Marijuana Therapy" was published in the Times of Trenton, and Scott Ward's article, "For an MS patient, this drug makes all the difference," was published by the Newark Star Ledger.

CMMNJ also participated in this year's Drug Peace March in Philadelphia on May 3 in conjunction with PhillyNORML. CMMNJ continues to have monthly public meetings at the Mercer County Library in Lawrence Township, NJ on the second Tuesday of each month, from 7 to 9 pm.

To enhance its fundraising, CMMNJ has obtained designation as a 501(c)(3) organization by the IRS, so contributions to the group are now income tax deductible. CMMNJ plans to send a letter to supporters as a fundraiser and is also continuing to seek grant money to supplement merchandise sales (t-shirts, wristbands, lapel pins and DVDs).
A special fund-raising event to commemorate the 5th anniversary of the death of Jim Miller's wife Cheryl will be held June 7 at a location in Ocean County, NJ from 2 to 6pm.

To find out more about CMMNJ, see their profile on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502598656.

Marijuana Warriors and Statistical Illness (was "Here We Go Again" or "Walters Is At It Again")

A number of our readers wrote in this weekend to point out that drug czar John Walters was stumping the "marijuana causes mental illness" bandwagon. It was probably inevitable. After all, a year ago we reported, "Reefer Madness Strikes a Leading British Newspaper," and this and other spurious claims have continued to emanate from various outlets and agencies ever since. Still, propaganda is no less irritating for having anticipated it. So I could only sigh when I received a copy of a New York Times story that a member had forwarded, with his note "Walters is at it again." The article did quote people on the other side, which is good. But there's no way around the headline, which is what most people will ever read and which did not reflect any controversy or disagreement over the drug czar's claims. Master stats and criminology expert Matthew Robinson (author of the famed "Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics" picked a similar title for his detailed critique of Walters, "Here We Go Again: White House Makes Scary Claims About Marijuana." I'll leave it to readers to follow the link for the bulk of Robinson's analysis, but the major thing to keep in mind is that Walters has not met the three-level burden of proof to back up his claims. Those levels are the following:
  1. One must show a correlation. Marijuana use and mental illness have to show up in many of the same people. That might not be so hard to demonstrate, but the reason for the correlation may be as simple as the fact that lots of people use marijuana, so most physicial or psychological issues may be represented among its users. Which leads to the second needed level:
  2. One must show a temporal order. That is, it is necessary to prove that marijuana use preceded the onset of mental illness. If marijuana use began later, there obviously is no causation. Even if they start at about the same time, there may be no causation.
  3. And then there is a third, very crucial intellectual requirement for drawing the conclusion that marijuana use causes mental illness. That is the need to demonstrate a "lack of spuriousness" -- which means eliminating the possibility that other factors could have led to both the marijuana use and the mental illness. For example, physical or other life issues may have led an individual to become depressed, and that person may have then begun using marijuana because of being depressed. Or there could be biological or personality factors that make both depression and drug use more likely. Or there could be other things going on.
And now you know more about statistics than the drug czar does. :)

Medical Marijuana: House Judiciary Chair Calls Out DEA on California Raids

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the powerful chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has sent a letter to the DEA questioning its priorities and asking for an accounting of costs incurred in the dozens of raids it has launched against California medical marijuana patients and providers in the last two years. The letter could be the prelude to hearings on the topic, if medical marijuana defenders, including a number of elected officials, have their way.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/conyers-perry-fund.jpg
John Conyers, at DRCNet event in 2005
In the April 29 letter to DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart, Conyers wrote that he received numerous complaints from Californians, including elected officials, about "DEA enforcement tactics" regarding raids on medical marijuana dispensaries. The Californians were urging him to hold hearings, the chairman told Leonhart, but first, "I want to give you the opportunity to respond to these complaints."

Noting an increase in "paramilitary-style enforcement raids against individuals qualified to use medical marijuana under state law, their caregivers, and the dispensing collectives established to provide a safe place to access medical cannabis," as well as the sending of letters threatening property confiscation or even arrest to hundreds of landlords who rent to dispensaries, Conyers had a handful of pointed questions:

  • Is the use of asset forfeiture, which has typically been reserved for organized crime, appropriate in these cases? Has the DEA considered the economic impact of forfeiture in a stalled economy?
  • "Given the increasing levels of trafficking and violence associated with international drug cartels across Mexico, South America, and elsewhere," is this really where the DEA wants to spend its resources?
  • Has the DEA considered the impact of its tactics on the ability of California state and local entities to collect lawful taxes on an economic activity legal under state law?
  • Given increasing support for medical marijuana from medical associations and in the scientific literature, and the acting director's discretion in prioritizing DEA activities, "Please explain what role, if any, scientific data plays in your decision-making process to conduct raids on individuals authorized to use or supply cannabis under state law?"

Conyers also appears to call for an inter-governmental commission composed of lawmakers, law enforcers, and people affected by medical marijuana policy "to review policy and provide recommendations that aim to bring harmony to federal and state laws." Such a commission could be part of a process that eventually brings a relaxation of federal medical marijuana policy.

"Finally," Conyers concluded, "attached with this letter is a list of approximately 60 raids the DEA conducted between June 2005 and November 2007. Please provide an accounting of the costs, in dollars and resources, used to conduct law enforcement raids on the attached list of individuals. Please include information about: whether any arrests were made in the course of these raids, and, if so, how many people were arrested; under what circumstances was a warrant issued and for what content; whether any criminal or other charges have been brought by the DOJ; what, if any, content was seized or destroyed; and finally, the current status of these cases."

Also attached to the letter were statements condemning the DEA raids from the Los Angeles City Council, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, and a resolution from the California legislature.

Ordinarily, one would not expect the DEA to be quick to reply to such inquiries, even from someone like Chairman Conyers. But with the threat of possible hearings hanging over its head, perhaps the agency will find the courtesy of a reply the lesser of two evils.

Europe: Dutch Marijuana Tax Revenues at $600 Million a Year, Crop Is Country's Third Largest Export

Marijuana is big business in the Netherlands, if estimates from the Dutch TV program Reporter are to be believed -- and no one is challenging them. According to the news program, the Dutch government is raking in 400 million euros (a little more than $600 million) a year in taxes from the country's 730 marijuana-selling coffee shops.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/maastricht-coffee-shop.jpg
downstairs of a coffee shop, Maastricht (courtesy Wikimedia)
Reporter estimated total sales at the coffee shops at 265,000 kilos of hashish and marijuana annually, with an annual gross revenue of about $3.2 billion.

In response, the Dutch Finance Ministry said it did not know how much tax revenue it collected from the coffee shops. According to department employees who asked for anonymity, "they do not want to know about it in The Hague, as it is all much too politically sensitive."

But the coffee shops account for at most 40% of the marijuana grown in Holland, with the rest being exported untaxed via the black market. Although Dutch police bust 15 marijuana grows a day, they have not been able to make a significant dent in domestic production. That means Dutch marijuana exports are also a significant economy activity.

"As export product, Dutch cannabis comes second or third after cucumbers and tomatoes. Germany and the United Kingdom are big customers," said police commissioner Max Daniel, head of the police unit responsible for tackling marijuana grows.

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, 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, 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