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Feature: CAMP Makes Little Headway Against California Marijuana Growers

Fall has arrived, and with it the annual effort by law enforcement across the country to eradicate the outdoor marijuana crop. Nowhere is the effort more elaborate or impressive than California, where the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) has been heading out into the countryside to rip up pot crops since 1983. CAMP, an amalgam of 110 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, racks up big numbers every year, but there is little indication that the program has any impact whatsoever on the price or availability of marijuana in California.

Last year, CAMP raiders seized more than 1.6 million marijuana plants, the majority of them from large gardens nestled within the state's national parks and forests. This year, the total will be significantly higher, according to CAMP.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/camp1.jpg
CAMP photo (calguard.ca.gov)
"Our plant count is definitely higher this year, and we still have a few more weeks to go," said CAMP spokeswoman Bureau of Narcotics Affairs Special Agent Holly Swartz to Drug War Chronicle. "This year so far, we're at 2.49 million."

The numbers sound impressive at first glance, but not so much when compared to estimates of outdoor marijuana production in the state. According to researcher and policy analyst John Gettman's Marijuana Production in the United States (2006), which relied on official government statistics to arrive at its estimates, the 1.6 million plants CAMP eradicated made up less than 10% of the 17.4 million plants planted.

Similarly, while CAMP proudly boasts that over its near quarter-century history it has eradicated $27.6 billion worth of pot plants, Getttman puts the value of last year's outdoor crop alone at $12.3 billion. (Never mind for now that CAMP apparently values each plant at about $4,000, while Gettman assesses them at under $1,000).

While CAMP cannot claim to make a significant dent in California marijuana production, neither can it offer evidence that its efforts have increased prices or decreased availability. "We don't evaluate prices or availability," CAMP spokeswoman Swartz conceded, while insisting that the program was having an impact. "The majority of the gardens are run by Mexican trafficking organizations, and taking them out must have an impact," she said.

"Nobody has seen anything on price or availability from these folks for a long time, and as far as I can tell, prices here have been steady for a decade," said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML.

"What they achieve is virtually nothing," said Bruce Mirken, the San Francisco-based communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "The number of plants they manage to eradicate has risen twelve-fold over a decade, yet marijuana is by far the number one cash crop in the state. If the idea is to get marijuana off the streets, this is as crashing a failure as any program you've ever seen."

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/camp2.jpg
CAMP photo (calguard.ca.gov)
But CAMP is also protecting the public safety, said Swartz. "It's a huge threat to public safety," she said. "You have people out enjoying public lands and they come across drug trafficking organizations and people with guns."

CAMP has seized a total of 34 weapons so far this year, up slightly from the 29 seized in 2006.

The threat is not just to the public, said Swartz. "Every year since the mid-1990s, there have been shots fired during at least one garden raid."

CAMP has brought it on itself, said Mirken. "CAMP has literally driven the growers into the hills," said Mirken. "There's a good case to be made that all this stuff they're moaning about being so terrible -- growing in the forests, the wilderness areas -- is the direct result of their efforts. All they do is aggravate the problems associated with marijuana production, all of which could be resolved if we treated it the same way we treat California's wine industry."

"This thing with the huge plantations in the national forest has really taken off since 2001, and I suspect it has to do with the border crackdown since then," said Gieringer. "I think some Mexican groups may find it easier to just grow it here. There has been really striking growth in the number of plants they are eradicating, and it will be even higher this year."

But the resort to the use of public lands by marijuana growers predates this decade and was driven by tough war on drugs tactics a generation ago, Gieringer noted. "This whole problem started during the Reagan administration, with the asset forfeiture laws they passed. Before that, people grew on their own land," he said. "Growing in the forests is one of the fruits of that aggressive enforcement strategy."

But despite the seeming ineffectiveness and unforeseen consequences of CAMP, the program is not facing any threat to its existence. Part of the reason is that it is relatively inexpensive. According to Swartz, the California general fund paid only $638,000 to fund CAMP last year, while the DEA and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program kicked in another $1.4 million and the Forest Service $20,000.

"It's not a huge amount of state money, but it would pay for a bunch of students who are getting their fees increased every year to go to the University of California," said Mirken. The figure also does not include the resources and staff time local law enforcement entities are putting into the program, he noted.

"It's just not that expensive," said Gieringer, "especially because they don't generally bother to chase down, arrest, and prosecute people."

In its more than 475 raids last year, CAMP arrested a grand total of 27 people. Swartz did not have arrest figures for this year.

There is another reason CAMP seems almost irrelevant, said Mendocino County Supervisor John Pinches. Mendocino is part of the state's famed Emerald Triangle, where marijuana-growing has been a local industry for decades now.

CAMP doesn't engender the hostility among his constituents that it once did, Pinches said, in part because it doesn't seem to have any effect on the county's number one industry. "Marijuana growing is out of control here," he said. "We hired economic consultants to analyze our economy, and they found that two-thirds of our economy is the marijuana business. With the medical marijuana and the cards and the caregivers, it's just blooming like crazy. Legal businesses can't hire help; they can't compete with growers paying $25 or $30 an hour to trimmers," he said.

But Pinches, who earlier this year authored a successful resolution at the Board of Supervisors calling for marijuana to be legalized, taxed, and regulated, said he now voted to participate in CAMP. "I had always voted against CAMP; I called it the best government price support system for any farm crop in the country," said Pinches. "But now it's so out of hand with gardens of tens of thousands of plants that we're almost forced to do something," he said. "Still, CAMP gets such a small percentage of the crop that I bet deer and wild hogs get more of it than CAMP, and they do it for free," he snorted.

For Pinches, a situation where his county's largest cash crop and economic mainstay is also the subject of continuing, though largely ineffective, law enforcement efforts is mind-boggling. "This is what inspired me to write that resolution we sent to all our congressmen and the president," said Pinches. "Didn't we learn anything from Prohibition days? Whether you love it or hate it, it's time to legalize marijuana."

That looks like the only way CAMP will be stopped. As Swartz noted: "We're law enforcement. We enforce the law. If they change the law, we will change our activities, but until then, we will enforce the law."

Feature: Wisconsin Medical Marijuana Bill to Be Introduced

Ten years ago Tuesday, Wisconsin medical marijuana patient Jacki Rickert led a 210-mile trek of wheelchair-bound patients to the state capitol in Madison in a "Journey for Justice" seeking legal access to the medicine they said made their lives bearable. This Tuesday, Rickert commemorated that anniversary with a press conference at the capitol, where she was joined by two state representatives who announced they would introduce a medical marijuana bill this session. They are calling it the "Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act."

With a history of failed medical marijuana bills in the state and a legislature with one house controlled by Republicans, proponents are not predicting certain victory this session, but they do say they will give it their best shot.

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Jacki Rickert and Gary Storck, with Jim and the late Cheryl Miller, outside former Rep. Bob Barr's office (immly.org)
While medical marijuana is legal in 12 states, a victory in Wisconsin would be the first in the Midwest. But Wisconsin will have to hustle to be the first; legislative efforts have already advanced in Illinois and Minnesota, and Michigan looks to be set for a statewide initiative in November 2008.

If Reps. Frank Boyle (D-Superior) and Mark Pocan (D-Madison) have their way, Wisconsin will be in the thick of the race. "We want to make sure that this is the year Wisconsin gets it," Boyle said at the Tuesday press conference. "Twelve states have now legalized medical marijuana, and I'm sick and tired of the state of Wisconsin dying a most regressive death in what used to be progressive tradition."

While the measure is still in the drafting stage, according to a cosponsoring memo being circulated by Boyle and Pocan, the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act's key provisions include the following:

  • Provide a medical necessity defense to marijuana-related prosecutions and property seizure actions. A person may evoke this defense if they are undergoing a debilitating medical condition or treatment and have written consent from their physician or obtained a valid registry ID card from the Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS). Conditions include cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or HIV, diseases that cause wasting away, severe pain or nausea, seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms, and any other medical condition or treatment in rules promulgated by DHFS.
  • Create a maximum authorized amount of marijuana a patient may have, thus establishing clear limits for both patients and law enforcement officials.
  • Prohibit the arrest of a physician who provides a written certification in good faith. Also, the primary caregiver is protected by the same exceptions under the law.
  • The defense may not be applicable if the patient performs an illegal act while using marijuana. This includes driving or operating a motor vehicle, operating heavy machinery, smoking near a school, park or youth center, at a person's employment, etc.
  • Require DHFS to establish a registry for medical users of marijuana and an ID card to a qualifying patient.
  • This bill only changes state law regarding marijuana. Federal law on marijuana does not change. However, 99% of marijuana arrests are made by state and local officials, not federal officials.

"If someone has the written consent of their physician or has obtained a valid registry card from DHFS, they would be allowed to have the possession or be able to grow a certain amount of medicinal marijuana," Pocan explained.

"Please, we have to make this legal," Rickert told the press conference. "I beg all of you. We know it works. We know it's not going to kill us," Rickert said. "I have never had an allergic reaction to a God-given herb."

Rickert wasn't the only patient speaking Tuesday. A 21-year-old, who called herself only Lynn, said she had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two years earlier, and lost her sight, mobility and independence from the disease. Lynn told the crowd smoking medical marijuana worked on her symptoms when nothing else did, eventually allowing her to be well enough to live on her own.

"If you had a 19-year-old daughter who was in pain every day, what would you do to help?" Lynn asked. "You could be put on five different drugs three times a day every day, like I was. Or you can take pot, and now I'm on two drugs a day."

Another patient, J.F. Oschwald of Colorado, addressed the press conference from his wheelchair. "Medicine is medicine and if they can regulate morphine then they can regulate marijuana," he said.

"This was a nice start," said medical marijuana patient Gary Storck, who, along with Rickert, is a cofounder of the Wisconsin medical marijuana advocacy group Is My Medicine Legal Yet?. "We had a number of patients speak, as well as Boyle and Pocan, and we got some good media coverage," he told the Chronicle.

Responses at the capitol have grown less frosty than a decade ago, Storck said. "When I go up there lobbying with patients, I'm seeing changed attitudes. We're being well-received, and you can see that some of the staffers are really affected. It looks like this is finally gaining some legs," he said.

Part of the change in attitude is due to the educational efforts of medical marijuana activists and proponents, said Storck. "Patients are more willing to come out and let their stories be told, and that only helps," he said. "The fact that other states are passing it or coming close to passing it helps, too. We're ringed by states where they're already a little closer."

But with Republicans controlling the state Assembly, it will be a difficult battle this two-year session, he said. "We've got an agreement from one senator to hold an informational hearing in November, but I'm afraid this will just be caught up in politics as usual this session. I'm hoping the Democrats will take back the Assembly next year -- that would really improve our chances. Gov. Doyle has already said he will sign a medical marijuana bill," Storck added.

Still, Storck, Rickert, IMMLY and other medical marijuana supporters aren't waiting for next year. "There's always the hope the legislature will come to its senses," he said. "Legislators have until October 4 to sign on as cosponsors, and we're hoping a senator or two will sign on so it can move. While we think we'll have better luck with a Democrat-controlled legislature, we will continue to push now."

Two People I Know Were Sentenced to Prison Last Week

The Paey Pardon, as Scott blogged about here and here, was a nice piece of news, of the kind that doesn't come around too often. The last such pleasant surprise I had came in late 2000, when Kemba Smith and Dorothy Gaines were pardoned by then-President Clinton. I immediately left a message for my friend Rob Stewart, who had played a major role in bringing the Gaines case to prominence by writing it in the old Drug Policy Letter (Drug Policy Foundation, predecessor to Drug Policy Alliance), which led to coverage of her case by Frontline. Rob told me later he had two messages on his voicemail -- one from me and one from Dorothy Gaines. These moments are rewards for all the rest of it. Unfortunately, not many political leaders seem to be of the moral caliber of Gov. Crist, and there are many more victims of the drug laws who remain unpardoned. Two of them, whom I happen to know, were sentenced to prison a week ago. One of them was Bryan Epis, the first person prosecuted by the feds for medical marijuana. He received the same 10-year sentence. The other was William Mangino, a pain physician in Pennsylvania, sentenced to 8 1/2 - 20 years. Bryan was allowed to remain free pending appeal. See our upcoming Chronicle newsbrief for some detail. Bryan actually told me a few days before the court date that he anticipated getting another 10 years, but being allowed to stay free pending appeal, and he was right. He says he has a good chance on appeal, and it sounds like it -- the prosecution really acted unethically in his case, and the judge, who is by no means biased toward defendants, commented that there are issues the appellate court may want to look at. Dr. Mangino predicted a harsh sentence, and that he would not be allowed to stay free pending appeal. Unfortunately, he was right too. Christine Heberle's blog post on the War on Doctors/Pain Crisis blog lays out the glaring absence of any crime. Accountability for injustices committed under the guise of law may be too much to hope for. But at least we should have justice now. I simply don't feel that letting people like Richard Paey and Bryan Epis and Bill Mangino live their lives unmolested by the government is asking for too much.
Location: 
United States

Waiting to Inhale Screening

The Public Square at the Illinois Humanities Council and the Columbia College Television Department present the free Chicago premiere of Waiting to Inhale.

The post-screening discussion will focus on medical marijuana, its context within the "War on Drugs," and drug policy reform. Jed Riffe, director and producer of Waiting to Inhale; Melanie Dreher, Dean of the College of Nursing at Rush University; and James Gierach, a former Cook County prosecutor, local advocate for drug policy reform, and featured speaker with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, will appear on the panel. Noted documentarian Gordon Quinn, president and founder of Kartemquin Films, will moderate the discussion.

This event is co-sponsored by the Columbia College Chicago Television Department.

Waiting to Inhale examines the heated debate over marijuana and its use as medicine in the United States. Twelve states have passed legislation to protect patients who use medical marijuana. Yet opponents claim the medical argument is just a smokescreen for a different agenda—to legalize marijuana for recreation and profit. What claims are being made,and what is at stake?

The film takes viewers inside the lives of patients who have been forever changed by illness—and parents who lost their children to addiction. Is marijuana really a gateway drug? What evidence is there to support the claim that marijuana can alleviate some of the devastating symptoms of AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis? Waiting to Inhale sheds new light on this controversy and presents shocking new evidence that marijuana could play a large role in the future of medicine.

For more information about Waiting to Inhale, visit the film’s official website.

ABOUT THE SPEAKERS

Jed Riffe, director and producer of Waiting to Inhale, is an award-winning independent filmmaker, broadcast journalist, and digital media producer. He is the senior producer for Jed Riffe Films, LLC. Over the last 25 years, Riffe has produced numerous highly-acclaimed documentary and dramatic films and interactive projects for PBS, NHK-TV (Japan), cable, international broadcast, and the web. He produced and directed Ishi, The Last Yahi , a dramatic documentary film, which won six Best Documentary awards, was released theatrically in 35mm, nominated for a national EMMY and broadcast on The American Experience. Riffe's documentary film, Who Owns the Past?, was broadcast nationally in the fall of 2001 on the PBS series Independent Lens. Riffe is Series Producer of California and the American Dream, a four-hour independently-produced, nationally-broadcast PBS Series. Riffe produced, directed, and co-wrote the series’ opening episode, California’s ”Lost” Tribes, and produced the fourth episode, Ripe for Change, with Emiko Omori--who also directed the award-winning film.

Melanie C. Dreher, PhD, RN, FAAN is the Dean of the College of Nursing of Rush University. Dr. Dreher is a nationally recognized leader in nursing education and has led a distinguished career as a researcher on the health and welfare of underserved communities and the influence of culture in patient-provider communication. Dr. Dreher came to Rush from the University of Iowa College of Nursing, where she served as Dean. During her tenure she was instrumental in establishing their Masters in Nursing and Health Care Practice degree, which became the national model for professional nursing education. A past president of the national nursing honor society Sigma Theta Tau International, Dreher was paid the tribute of having the "Melanie Dreher Dean's Award" named in her honor in 2001.

James Gierach is a practicing attorney who has experienced the effect of the war on drugs from both sides of the legal system. As a Chicago prosecutor in the Cook County State's Attorney's Office in the early 1970s, Jim scrutinized and perfected search-warrant complaints for narcotics officers to "make the charges stick" in court. He also worked "homicide court" and witnessed the violence that exists as a direct result of drug prohibition. Referred to as "Illinois' preeminent conscientious objector" to the war on drugs, Gierach has spent the last dozen years fighting drug prohibition as a candidate for Cook County State's Attorney and Illinois governor in primary elections and as a featured speaker with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Gordon Quinn is president and founder of Kartemquin Films. During his 35-year career, he has produced an impressive list of documentaries, including the critically acclaimed Hoop Dreams. Recently, he co-directed and co-produced Vietnam, Long Time Coming, which was broadcast on NBC and received a National Emmy and the Directors Guild of America Award. His film GOLUB premiered at the New York Film Festival. He executive produced 5 Girls, which aired on PBS in fall 2001 and is executive producer of Refrigerator Mothers, which was broadcast on PBS in the summer of 2002. Quinn was series executive producer/producer on Kartemquin's PBS series The New Americans, broadcast in 2003. He is a member of theBoard of Directors at the Illinois Humanities Council and the Advisory Committee of The Public Square at the IHC.

This screening and discussion are part of The Public Square at the IHC's Civic Cinema program, a series of films, forums, and conversations that uses the most exceptionally creative and engaging documentary films of our times as a springboard for talking about some of the most pressing and challenging social issues facing us.

For more information call 312.422.5580 or e-mail The Public Square.

Date: 
Thu, 09/20/2007 - 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Location: 
1104 S Wabash Ave., 8th Floor
Chicago, IL 60605-2328
United States

Medical Marijuana Advocate Memorialized in US House of Representatives

Joe Zoretic, a founder of the Ohio Patients Network (medical marijuana advocacy group), was memorialized in Congress this week by presidential candidate and US Representative from Ohio Dennis Kucinich. The following transcript comes from the Congressional Record (PDF here or search at Thomas for HTML):
IN REMEMBRANCE OF JOSEPH STEPHEN ZORETIC HON. DENNIS J. KUCINICH OF OHIO IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES Monday, September 17, 2007 Mr. KUCINICH. Madam Speaker, I rise today to reflect on the life of a courageous and passionate man, Joseph Stephen Zoretic, who dedicated his life to fighting for sensible drug policy and to free others from suffering. Along with his devoted wife, Dee Dee, he was a founding member of the Ohio Patient Network and its lobbying component, the Ohio Patient Action Network. Joe started his life-long residency in the Cleveland area on December 25th, 1968. He became an active figure in the medical marijuana movement in the 1990s, when his wife was diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and needed cannabis to relieve the pain other medications could not. Since then, Joe provided policy ideas and inspiration to the state marijuana legalization activist community, from speaking at mainstream political events to testifying for better drug policy. Even if it meant going to jail, Joe stood up for what he knew: that love and bravery can overcome injustice. Madam Speaker and colleagues, please join me in honoring and remembering an extraordinary husband, father, citizen, and activist, Joseph Stephen Zoretic, who demonstrated the power we all possess to make change in this world.
And let us also honor and remember Joe Zoretic here. We will keep fighting in your name.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

National Mobilization to the Governor's Los Angeles Office

Over the past several years, the Bush administration's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has victimized patients and providers throughout California, undermining state law and stooping to new levels to shut down access for sick and dying patients in California. ASA has been working for the past five years to thwart the DEA's efforts, but as they escalate their tactics, we too must escalate our response and actions! We must put an end to the attack on patients and providers! Americans for Safe Access has launched a new pressure campaign, calling on Governor Schwarzenegger to "Stand Up for Patients' Rights: Defend California's Medical Marijuana Laws." We are calling on Governor Schwarzenegger to defend the rights of medical cannabis patients and caregivers and the will of the voters in California by standing up to the Bush Administration. We are urging him to take a stand against federal medical cannabis enforcement and to support efforts to harmonize federal law with the compassionate laws of California and the eleven other states that allow medical cannabis use. Go to www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/StandUpAction to take action immediately. ASA's new campaign consists of statewide call in days, legislative visits from constituents and lobbyists, and sign-on letters from key public officials and organizations. Our goal is to create a tipping point for pressuring the governor by organizing a mass mobilization on Thursday, October 11th, to Governor Schwarzenegger's office in Los Angeles. There, we will invite the governor to publicly stand up to the Bush administration, calling on them to end the attacks on patients and providers. Visit www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/StandUp to read more about the campaign, the mass mobilization, and to take action. Over the next several weeks, ASA will be calling on all of the medical marijuana supporters in California to take action with four action items. A description of each item can be found at www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/StandUp. Those will include: 1. National Mobilization to the Governor's Los Angeles Office on Thursday, October 11th. 2. Call Governor Schwarzenegger's Office and Demand that He Stand Up for Patients' Rights! 3. E-mail the Governor. Ask Him to Defend California's Medical Marijuana Laws and Call on the Bush Administration to End the War on Patients. 4. Spread the Word! Download and Distribute! Once more, a description of each action item can be found at www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/StandUp . With your help, working with the governor, we can help make this campaign the strongest response to the DEA's attacks on patients the Bush administration has seen. Don't forget to go to www.AmericansforSafeAccess.org/StandUp to begin pressuring the governor to stand up for patients rights! If you have any questions on this campaign, please contact Sonnet@AmericansforSafeAccess.org. Thank you for your support and for taking action!
Date: 
Thu, 10/11/2007 - 12:00pm
Location: 
300 South Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
United States

Chris Dodd Advocates Marijuana Decriminalization

Nothing to see here. Just another presidential candidate appealing to voters by observing the absurdity of the way marijuana users are treated in America.

Dodd also pledges to protect medical marijuana and reform the crack/powder sentencing disparity. Notice how he lumps these issues together. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the democratic drug policy platform.

Location: 
United States

ASA’s Media Summary for the Week Ending 9/14/07

ASA ACTION: Defense of Patient Collectives Advances

Butte County, California has tried to limit patients’ ability to organize as collectives, but ASA is fighting that in court, arguing that county policy does not conform with state law. A win for patients would mean that the most seriously ill would have better access, since the policy being challenged prevents those who cannot actively participate in a growing collective from receiving medicine from it.

Ruling allows medical pot lawsuit to proceed
by Terry Vau Dell, Chico Enterprise-Record
A Superior Court judge has ruled law enforcement response toward medical marijuana co-operatives or collectives in Butte County is out of step with state law. Joe Elford, chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access, the medical marijuana advocacy group that filed the lawsuit, cheered the pretrial ruling.

DISPENSARIES: Kern and San Mateo Counties Hear from Patients

Recent federal raids in both Kern and San Mateo counties have created a crisis of access for many patients in those communities. Local officials are being asked to stand up for their constituents and find ways to ensure the safe access that state law says is a patient’s right. ASA activists in San Mateo were instrumental in getting their local representatives to look at the issue, calling council members and supervisors, sending hundreds of e-mails, and organizing activists to testify at meetings.

Medical pot advocates ask county to help
by Jason Kotowski, Bakersfield Californian
Medical marijuana advocates packed Tuesday night's meeting of the Kern County Human Relations Commission to ask the county to intercede and protect pot dispensaries. Life's been tough since every medical marijuana dispensary in the county closed after federal drug raids at one of the shops, advocates told the commission.

Kern County Human Relations Meeting to discuss medical pot
KGET - TV
Local medical marijuana patients plan to speak out about the recent raids that shut down several dispensaries around town.

San Mateo County may regulate pot dispensaries
by Michael Manekin, San Mateo County Times (CA)
Two weeks after the DEA raided three San Mateo medical marijuana dispensaries that the county district attorney said violated state law, the County Counsel's office is preparing guidelines for the distribution of medical marijuana.

Advocates urge San Mateo to adopt pot resolution
by Michael Manekin, San Mateo County Times (CA)
Medical marijuana patients and advocates, upset over the federal raid and shutdown of three medical cannabis dispensaries in downtown San Mateo last week, turned out en masse for a Tuesday night San Mateo City Council meeting.

Laguna Hills approves ban on medical marijuana dispensaries
by Alejandra Molina, Orange County Register (CA)
Laguna Hills leaders on Tuesday passed a permanent ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.

CALIFORNIA: Collective Garden Uprooted, Patient Protests

At least one patient has stepped forward to publicly protest the destruction of a cannabis garden in Northern California, saying six of the 100 plants were his. Under state guidelines, all counties must allow any qualified medical marijuana patient to cultivate at least six mature plants. Many patients band together to grow their medicine at common locations for better management of the plants.

Agents destroy pot garden; user says drug prescribed
by Ryan Sabalow, Redding Searchlight-Record
Federal agents raided a 100-plant garden on property along Backbone Ridge near here Wednesday, outraging at least one area man who claims the feds destroyed his medicinal marijuana, which is legal under California law.

ILLINOIS: Senator’s Support for Medical Marijuana Lacks Action

When Illinois Senator Richard Durbin, who holds the key leadership position of Assistant Majority Leader, stated his support for legal access to medical marijuana, many patients and advocates took heart. But at least one editorial board wondered why Congress continues to authorize raids on medical marijuana patients and those who care and provide for them.

Medicinal marijuana laws far too hazy
EDITORIAL, Daily Illini
In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin came out in favor of changing federal law to allow physicians to prescribe medicinal marijuana to their patients. While Durbin reiterated that this is not exactly high on his priority list and that he has no specific plans to bring it up in Washington, one wonders how much the federal government needs to be involved in the first place.

FEDERAL: Why Conservatives Should Defend Medical Marijuana

The Republican Party’s turn toward Federalist principles of state sovereignty and a more limited central government has had effects on many areas of American life. But not all are enthusiastic about defending state laws that protect medical marijuana patients from being jailed for following their doctors’ advice. This commentator notes a curious lack of consistency.

Federalism should extend to marijuana raids
by Radley Balko, Polico.com
If ever there were an issue for which federalism would seem to be an ideal solution, it’s the medical marijuana issue, which touches on crime, medical policy, privacy and individual freedom — all the sorts of values-laden areas of public policy that states are best equipped to deal with on a case-by-case basis, and for which a one-size-fits-all federal policy seems particularly clunky and ill-suited.

RHODE ISLAND: More Patients Served in Law’s Second Year

The scientific consensus about the therapeutic potential of cannabis is compelling, but nothing shows better than the experience of patients the importance of making access to medical marijuana safe and legal, as Rhode Island has done. The patient perspective is conveyed particularly well in this week’s article from the Providence Journal.

For more than 300 Rhode Islanders, marijuana provides legal relief
by Amanda Milkovits, Providence Journal (RI)
Rhode Island's new state law, called the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act, allows patients with debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer, HIV and multiple sclerosis, to possess up to 12 marijuana plants and 2.5 ounces of marijuana. As of early last month, 302 patients and 316 caregivers were enrolled in the program, according to the state Department of Health. A total of 149 physicians in Rhode Island have referred patients to the program.

Patients Say Marijuana Law a Success
Associated Press
Medical marijuana users say Rhode Island's law leaves gray areas, but they're content nonetheless.

COLORADO: Activist-Patient Lobbies for Support

One of the medical marijuana patients active in the Frontrange chapter of ASA has been pressuring medical organizations to support safe access. The ASA activist has also petitioned the Colorado health department to expand the list of conditions for which cannabis may be legally recommended.

Local man tangles with American Cancer Society, police in his campaign to promote medical marijuana
by J. Adrian Stanley, Colorado Springs Independent
American Cancer Society officials didn't waste any time removing medical marijuana activist Matthew Schnur from their local event in August.

FEDERAL: Lies to Doctor Backfire on DEA

When undercover federal agents were turned away from a California medical marijuana dispensary because they did not have valid doctors’ recommendations, the DEA fabricated identities and medical conditions for them, so they could trick a local cannabis specialist into giving them recommendations the dispensary could verify. When the DEA then raided the dispensary and the doctor discovered that he’d been duped, he filed suit, alleging the government had violated the US Supreme Court’s Conant decision, which protects doctors who recommend cannabis from federal interference.

Doctor's suit progresses: Judge decides First Amendment suit in pot sting has merit
by Ryan Sabalow, Redding Record Searchlight
A federal judge rejected a government move to throw out a First Amendment lawsuit filed by a Redding doctor caught up in a sting against a local medical marijuana dispensary.

Will Snoops Get Stopped?
by Fred Gardner , CounterPunch
U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton has denied the Drug Enforcement Administration's motion to dismiss a civil suit brought by Philip A. Denney, MD. The case will be tried in June 2008 in Sacramento. Denney is seeking to enjoin government agents from infiltrating a medical practice under false pretenses.

CALIFORNIA: Another County Implements ID Cards

In 2003, the California legislature directed county health departments to provide medical marijuana patients who want them with ID cards that both protect them from arrest and allow law enforcement to better identify qualified patients. But there was no deadline for when the ID cards should be made available, so some counties have been slower than others to get with the program.

Monterey County Begins Distribution Of Medical Marijuana Cards
The KSBW Channel
Medical marijuana cards are now available in Monterey County. Monterey County joined the statewide medical marijuana identification card program for those who have a doctor's note to use the drug.

CANADA: Health Officials Try to Limit Doses

Doctors and medical marijuana patients in Canada are under pressure from federal officials to limit the amounts being prescribed and used. One patient notes that officials never asked about her prescriptions for heroin or cocaine they way they are going after her cannabis use.

New dosage limits for medical marijuana: But where's the science?
by Pauline Comeau, Canadian Medical Association Journal
New evidence-based guidelines are urgently needed to help doctors negotiate Canada's hazy medical marijuana landscape, particularly in light of Health Canada's efforts to impose new dose limits, say the nation's leading cannabis researcher and doctors who have been queried about their marijuana authorizations.

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Feature: Battlelines Forming Over 2008 Oregon Medical Marijuana Ballot Issues

Oregon's Medical Marijuana Act (OMMA) will be ten years old next year, and with the nation's second largest number of registered patients -- some 16,000 of them -- it is certainly a success by some measures. But while the self-financing, state-regulated program rolls along, it looks as though it is going to be a hot issue in next year's elections.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/oregon-petitioning.jpg
Oregon petitioning (courtesy voterpower.org)
On one hand, OMMA is under direct attack in a crime-fighting initiative filed by a powerful and well-connected Republican political figure who is a veteran and inveterate initiative campaigner. On the other hand, some of the same medical marijuana campaigners who organized the 1998 initiative victory that created OMMA have filed an initiative that would broaden the program by creating a state-regulated system of dispensaries. And that's got some patients and activists feeling caught between the frying pan and the fire.

It is very early in the game, with the filing of initiatives being only the first step in a long and sometimes Byzantine process, and it is not certain that either of these two initiatives -- or a number of others already filed -- will actually be going before the voters in November 2008. But the maneuvering has already begun.

Former Republican state legislator and 2002 gubernatorial nominee Kevin Mannix has made a political career as a moralizing, tough on crime politician. In 1994, he authored a successful initiative instituting mandatory minimum sentences for people convicted of violent crimes. Other accomplishments he touts are a crime victims' rights amendment to the state constitution and an anti-stalking law.

Mannix is not one to rest on his laurels, and this year, he has already filed a dozen or so initiatives on topics ranging from regulating strip clubs to more mandatory minimum sentences -- this time for drug dealers -- to allocating a share of lottery profits to "CSI: Oregon" to requiring the state police to hire more officers. But the initiative that has the medical marijuana community on edge, the Oregon Crime Fighting Act, is a direct attack on OMMA and the medical marijuana regulation system it created.

Along with provisions calling for mandatory minimum 25-year sentences for some repeat sex offenders and making repeated drunk driving arrests felonies, the proposed initiative would "replace the 'Medical Marijuana Act' with the following Marijuana Derivative and Synthetic Cannabinoid Prescription Program," a strange Mannix concoction that would have the state of Oregon provide synthetic THC in the form of Marinol to any patient who needed but could not afford it.

Mannix told the Chronicle Thursday he filed the OMMA repeal initiative because of abuses in the program. "Law enforcement reports to me that the whole system is very loosely drawn in this state, so that they are running up against cases where people are found with a variety of drugs, including cocaine and meth along with marijuana, and they present cards saying they are caretakers for 50 people," he said.

OMMA regulations allow for caregivers to grow for only four people.

Also, Mannix argued, since Oregon has decriminalized marijuana possession, there is really no need for a state medical marijuana law. "If someone wants to possess and smoke marijuana for whatever reason, they're not subject to a criminal charge," he said.

Oregon medical marijuana activists who spoke with the Chronicle view the Mannix initiative with real concern. "Mannix is a real problem," said Madeline Martinez, head of Oregon NORML. "He has opposed OMMA from the beginning. He's always been a moral crusader, and we're very concerned about him, we're frightened he's going to take our program away from us."

"Some in the community take it very seriously, some don't," said Anthony Johnson, political director for Voter Power, the group that mobilized support for the successful 1998 OMMA initiative. "We take it very seriously, because Mannix has the backing of a lot of powerful interests, and with enough money, you can get on the ballot, and then you can run ads to campaign against OMMA," he said.

"OMMA is popular in Oregon," Johnson complained. "He must think the only way he can win the repeal of OMMA is by tying it to other provisions that crime-weary voters will find attractive, like longer sentences for sex offenders."

"It should be the primary focus of activists in Oregon to try to defeat the Mannix initiative," said Leland Berger, activist attorney, Oregon election law expert, and legal advisor to Voter Power. "If it were to pass it would be very problematic."

Berger has been putting his lawyerly acumen to work in preliminary skirmishes designed to slow the Mannix initiative's progress. He filed a petition to challenge the initiative's ballot title, arguing that it only said "replace" OMMA when the initiative would effectively repeal it. There could be more legal challenges coming down the pike, as well, he said.

But while Berger said defeating the Mannix initiative should be the "primary focus" of activists, he and his colleagues at Voter Power have already filed several initiatives themselves, including an initiative that would create the Oregon Regulated Medical Marijuana Supply System, or a network of state-sanctioned dispensaries.

Under the proposed dispensary initiative, the state of Oregon would set up a system of licensed medical marijuana growers who could provide marijuana to nonprofit dispensaries and be reimbursed for their production costs. The dispensaries would in turn be able to dispense medical marijuana to registered patients and be reimbursed for their expenses. The proposal calls for the program to be self-funding, paying for itself with fee revenues -- 10% of earnings -- and for it to fund the distribution of medical marijuana to indigent patients and further research.

While there is general agreement that something needs to be done about supply issues, the deepening of OMMA through the creation of a dispensary system worries some patients and activists, in part for fear of sparking DEA raids like those plaguing California's booming dispensary scene, in part out of disdain for the flashy -- some say greedy -- entrepreneurial style sometimes evident in California. But that is not stopping Voter Power from moving forward.

"We feel this is necessary for two reasons," said Voter Power's Johnson. "First and foremost, to get medicine to the patients who need it. The current law is very unfair to many patients who can't grow their own and don't have connections to a garden. They have to rely on the charity of others or go to the black market," he said. "But we also think our initiative will protect OMMA because it will generate millions of dollars in revenues for the state budget. Voters and politicians like programs that can fund other programs or make tax increases unnecessary."

Johnson pointed to yet a third reason for pushing a dispensary initiative. "Other ideas that have been floated, like state gardens or donation clubs, are good ideas, but they require legislative action, and the legislature has proven unwilling to solve the supply crisis. We think it's up to voters, activists, and patients to do it -- that's why we're called Voter Power."

But some important Oregon activists disagree. "I believe going forward with a dispensary initiative could in fact harm patients," said Oregon NORML's Martinez. "If we have a dispensary model like the California model, that will give ammunition to Mannix. We're very concerned about him. In fact, we're telling our members don't sign any petitions that mention medical marijuana. This cycle we don't want to do anything, and we don't want to sign anything," she said. "A dispensary initiative will distract us from fighting Mannix, and I think our priority has to be protecting the 16,000 patients who are now benefiting from the law."

That position brought a quick retort from Berger. "I find it very strange that the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is against reforming the marijuana laws," he said.

A lot of patient concern about a dispensary initiative has to do with "those terrible headlines from California" about dispensaries being raided, said Martinez. "We see things differently up here," she said. "We don't want corner dispensaries, and we are scared of being raided. That hasn't happened yet here, but when you start mixing this stuff up, then you have the DEA coming in, and we're very afraid that will happen with this initiative," she said.

Martinez also pointedly recalled that Voter Power had tried a similar initiative in 2004 that had received only 43% of the vote. "When this was tried before, the voters said no," she said. "Why do they think it can win this time? It hasn't even been polled," she said.

"The current initiative is much more tightly drawn than in 2004," responded Johnson. "That initiative was quite radical and expansive, like a wish list for activists, while this one is limited to trying to establish licensed and regulated dispensaries."

Johnson also disputed the idea the initiative would create a "California model." "There is no statewide regulation of dispensaries in California," he said. "Our statewide regulation adds legitimacy, as well as tighter structure and much greater control of what's going on."

As for potential DEA raids, Johnson pointed out that the initiative sets cultivation and possession limits under the levels that trigger federal mandatory minimum sentences, perhaps providing a disincentive for federal prosecutors to send in the SWAT teams.

Battle lines are being drawn in the Oregon medical marijuana community. While it is united its opposition to the Mannix initiative, there are deep strategic and philosophical divisions over how to move forward. While those are to be expected, the atmosphere can sometimes grow nasty, and that does the movement little good.

"Even though there is widespread agreement that the current system of supply is inadequate, there is disagreement among advocates in Oregon about whether to go forward with licensed and regulated dispensary proposals," Berger said. "Some of that is based on real concerns about dispensaries, but some of it has descended to personal attacks on the motivations of proponents, and that's really disappointing. Nobody circles the wagons and opens fire inward better than our movement," he said. "We need to support each other more; there are just too few of us."

Neither the Mannix initiative nor the dispensary initiative are done deals, and Berger said that the latter must do well in polling if it is to move forward. In any case, it looks as if the voters of Oregon will once again be deciding the fate of medical marijuana in the Beaver State.

Fundraiser for Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy Featuring Tom Robbins

Please join the Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy for a reception and reading with Tom Robbins. RSVP is required -- Purchase Tickets at www.SensibleMarijuanaPolicy.org or call (617) 901-7765. As always, anyone with questions should feel free to contact me directly. All my best, Whitney A. Taylor, Campaign Manager Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy P.O. Box 130151, Boston, MA 02113 (617) 901-7765 (phone), (617) 451-1897 (fax) www.SensibleMarijuanaPolicy.org
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