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Medical Marijuana: Not in Iowa, Not This Year

There will be no relief for Iowa patients who could have been helped by medical marijuana. A bill that would have legalized the medicinal use of marijuana in the Hawkeye State died last week, after it failed to get reported out of committee in time for a legislative deadline.

Introduced by state Sen. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City), SF 293 would have allowed patients with qualifying medical conditions to use medical marijuana upon a doctor's recommendation and registration with the state. The bill would also have provided for the creation of "compassion centers," which could produce medical marijuana for numerous patients.

"The bill is essentially an attempt to address the suffering that people are in," Bolkcom said during a hearing last week. "People with severe medical conditions are not being helped by conventional medications. Studies have found that marijuana is an effective treatment."

But Sen. Merlin Bartz (R-Grafton) said that while he supported the notion of medical marijuana, he thought the bill lacked "correct checks and balances." Bolkcom agreed that the bill was perhaps not perfect, but vowed to return to the issue in coming years.

The Upper Midwest has so far remained immune to the lure of medical marijuana, with the closest medical marijuana states being Michigan to the east and Montana to the west. But that could change this year. Although South Dakota legislators killed a bill last month, legislative efforts in Minnesota and Illinois are still moving ahead.

Medical Marijuana: New Hampshire Bill Wins Committee Vote, Heads for House Floor

A bill that would allow patients suffering from specified diseases and conditions to use marijuana for medicinal purposes passed the House Health and Human Services Committee Wednesday on a 13-7 vote. The bill is now headed for a House floor vote next week.

Medical marijuana came before the House in 2007, too. But after passing out of committee, it was defeated on a vote of 186-177.

Last time, the committee made a "do not pass" recommendation to the House as a whole. This time, proponents hope the "do pass" from the committee can take the measure over the top.

The bill, HB 648, would set up a registry for patients with qualifying diseases or conditions whose doctors certified that they would be helped by the herb. Patients or caregivers could grow six plants and possess up to two ounces of marijuana. They could also possess up to 12 seedlings. Plants would have to be grown in a secure facility indoors.

"This is truly a matter of compassion. People who are suffering, at least in our state of New Hampshire, ought not to be called criminals," said Rep. Roger Wells (R-Hampstead), one of two committee Republicans to vote for the bill.

If it passed the measure, the committee would be going against the advice of "national drug experts," warned Rep. Peter Batula (R-Merrimack). "There is no right way to do the wrong thing," he said.

"The committee studied the bill very diligently, and now it has placed its stamp of approval on a well-written, responsible bill," said Matt Simon, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy, which supports the bill. "It was a good day for democracy."

It will be a better day for democracy if Granite State legislators enact the bill and the governor signs it into law. More than 70% of New Hampshire voters support medical marijuana, according to a 2008 Mason-Dixon poll.

Drug Raids: Cops Shoot Michigan Student Over "A Few Tablespoonfuls" of Marijuana

Grand Valley State University film student Derek Copp is an avowed marijuana aficionado, reform activist, and a "a left-wing hippie peace-keeping liberal," according to his Facebook page. As of last week, he is also a victim of the drug war, or, more precisely, of police heavy-handedness in enforcing what appears to be a petty violation of the marijuana laws. Copp was shot and seriously wounded March 11 by a police officer who was part of a task force raiding his residence with a search warrant.

According to a compilation of local media accounts of the shooting, an Ottawa County deputy coming through the apartment's back door shined a flashlight in Copp's face, causing him to raise his right hand to cover his eyes. The officer then fired one round, striking the student in the chest. Copp said he had no idea the man who shot him was a law enforcement officer.

"He never even had a chance to even see who was coming at him, with a bright flashlight in his face," said his mother, Sheryl Copp. "He had no clue. He heard someone knock on his door, and he had no clue."

According to the Ottawa County Sheriff's Office, Copp was shot in the chest by a sheriff's deputy acting as a member of the West Michigan Enforcement Team, which consists of Ottawa County deputies and members of the Michigan State Police. Police have not identified the deputy, nor is it known whether he has been suspended. Investigators said Copp, 20, did not threaten or confront police when they entered his home. Nor have they revealed the search warrant, what they were looking for, or what they found.

But an attorney hired by Copp's family after the shooting said it was all over a very small amount of marijuana. In a Tuesday statement, attorney Frederick Dilley said: "I have been asked what drugs may have been seized by those executing the search warrant at Derek Copp's apartment. To my knowledge, the raid resulted in the seizure of a few tablespoonfuls of marijuana, and nothing more," Dilley continues, "The primary concern remains the manner in which this raid was carried out. And the apparent lack of any justification whatsoever for the use of force... much less deadly force in executing a search warrant."

Dilley is not alone in his concerns. The Grand Valley State University Student Senate issued a statement the same day wishing "Derek a full and complete recovery" and questioning police conduct. "Even though this incident took place off-campus," the statement said, "Student Senate is greatly concerned with the actions of the law enforcement team. Student Senate will await a full and complete explanation from the Michigan State Police. Like all students, we want to know why the West Michigan Drug Enforcement Team entered Derek Copp's apartment and why a firearm was used."

Even the university president demanded to know what had happened to one of his students. In a Monday e-mail to the university community, President Thomas Haas wrote: "The fact that this incident took place off-campus diminishes neither my interest nor my concern. The university's campus security staff was not involved. Like many of you, I await a full and complete explanation from law enforcement, and I have made a formal request for such information. I want to know what brought the Enforcement Team to Derek's apartment and why a firearm was discharged."

The shooting has also led to at least two protest demonstrations by students demanding answers. "Justify This Shooting!" demanded one sign held by a demonstrator. "We want answers!" read another. "Marijuana or not, unjust shot!" and "Our campus is not a war zone!", students chanted at a campus demo on Friday.

The Michigan State Patrol is investigating the shooting. That means the state police are investigating themselves, since the Western Michigan Enforcement Team consists of state police and Ottawa County sheriff's deputies.

Obama to Reconsider Federal Blockade Against Medical Marijuana Research

Wow, it's almost hard to keep up. Here's yet another potentially major breakthrough on the medical marijuana front:

Days before President Bush left office in January, his administration fired a parting shot at Professor Lyle Craker's eight-year quest to cultivate marijuana for medical research by abruptly denying him a federal license despite a nearly two-year old Drug Enforcement Administration law judge's recommendation that he receive one.

But the new administration led by President Obama, who has publicly backed the use of marijuana for medical purposes to stave off pain, might reverse the decision and keep Craker's license application from going up in smoke.

A source familiar with the case said the White House will likely demand that the decision be reviewed.

"Basically they want to do an autopsy of what occurred and have it go through a proper review," the source said. [National Journal]

Anonymous sources can be misleading, so I called Aaron Houston at MPP, who told me the story is true and graciously did not request anonymity.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether the administration's review ultimately results in reversal of the research blockade, but the fact that they're looking into it is a very positive indication. It should prove difficult to examine this issue without seeing it for what it is: a prolonged and transparently dishonest effort to obstruct medical marijuana research by preventing researchers from producing marijuana and denying them access to existing sources.

Given yesterday's reaffirmation of Obama's pledge to respect state medical marijuana laws, it seems that a positive pattern has emerged here. The new administration is re-evaluating the issue from multiple angles and finding that medical marijuana has been mishandled at the federal level in more than one way. It's tremendously encouraging to see the executive branch taking interest in corrupt political obstructionism at the DEA. I'd encourage them to expand the inquiry beyond just medical marijuana.

Attorney General Holder Says Feds Will Respect State Medical Marijuana Laws

At a press conference yesterday:

U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said Wednesday that the Justice Department has no plans to prosecute pot dispensaries that are operating legally under state laws in California and a dozen other states -- a development that medical marijuana advocates and civil libertarians hailed as a sweeping change in federal drug policy. [Los Angeles Times]

This should remove doubt once and for all about the direction the new administration is heading with regards to medical marijuana. There's been some confusion about this, but Holder himself has been consistent in maintaining that medical marijuana providers operating legally under state law will be left alone.

The biggest remaining question is what will become of unresolved criminal cases initiated during the Bush administration. Charlie Lynch, whose recent federal conviction has become a national controversy, will be sentenced next week. Lynch and others like him are lingering casualties in a war that's been called off at the highest levels of government. The president and attorney general are on the right track, but the job isn’t done until the innocent victims of the war on medical marijuana are set free.

The Debate Over Medical Marijuana Should Have Ended a Decade Ago

NORML's Paul Armentano has a piece at reason marking the 10th anniversary of the government-funded Institute of Medicine report, which proved beyond any doubt that marijuana is medicine. The debate should have ended right then, but our opponents adopted a desperate strategy of claiming that the report said something other than what it clearly said.

Fortunately, the American people took matters into their own hands we've made tremendous progress over the past decade towards increasing patient access and changing the tone of the debate. Our opponents have almost entirely conceded marijuana's medicinal value and now resort to the pathetic fallback position of saying that smoking is bad and patients should take THC pills instead.

We've been proven right morally, scientifically and even politically. But it's still amazing to think that only a few short years ago our opponents were still claiming that marijuana wasn't medicine. Now that everyone knows those people were dead wrong, it's worth considering how phenomenally irresponsible it really was to withhold the truth about a medicine that could have helped people.

Paul makes an important point that after years of legal medical access in several states, anyone can plainly see that opponents of medical marijuana weren't just wrong about science. They were wrong about every single bad thing they said would happen if medical marijuana became legal. Many of those people are still considered experts on drug policy. They shouldn’t be.

Press Release: NH House Committee Passes Medical Marijuana Bill 13-7

MARCH 18, 2009

NH House Committee Passes Medical Marijuana Bill 13-7

Bill Would Make New Hampshire 14th State to Protect Seriously Ill Medical Marijuana Patients from Arrest

CONTACT: Matt Simon, NH Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy, (603) 391-7450

CONCORD, NEW HAMPSHIRE — The New Hampshire House Health, Human Services and Elderly Affairs Committee voted 13-7 to recommend passage of a bill today that would allow seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana if their doctor recommends it. The vote by the full committee came after a three-member subcommittee voted 2-1 in favor of the bill.

    Today's vote means the bill, HB 648, will now go to the House floor for a full vote by the chamber with the committee's "ought to pass" recommendation. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Evalyn Merrick (D-Lancaster).

    The committee's strong statement of support provided medical marijuana patients with a boost of confidence. Clayton Holton, a muscular dystrophy patient from Somersworth, said the vote made him feel hopeful that he'd be able to live the rest of his life in New Hampshire. "I'm happy that my family may not have to move to a state that allows medical marijuana," he said.

    Thirteen states already have medical marijuana laws which effectively protect qualifying patients from arrest and help them safely access marijuana. Michigan became the most recent last year when 63 percent of voters passed its medical marijuana law by ballot initiative. Of the 11 states that have collected such data, not one has seen youth marijuana use rates increase after establishing a medical marijuana law. In fact, each of those states, including California, has actually seen youth marijuana rates decline, in some cases dramatically.

    In 2007, a bill similar to the one currently under consideration was defeated by only nine votes – an incredibly slim margin considering it had been negatively recommended by the committee that today voted to approve HB 648. However, a 2008 Mason-Dixon poll showed that 71 percent of New Hampshire voters support such a law, and medical marijuana advocates say legislators have learned a lot in two years about both medical marijuana and medical marijuana policy.

    "The committee studied the bill very diligently, and now it has placed its stamp of approval on a well-written, responsible bill," said Matt Simon, executive director of NH Common Sense Marijuana Policy, which supports the bill. "It was a good day for democracy." 


United States

Medical Marijuana: Have a Piece of History and Help Change Federal Policy

Have a Piece of History
and Help Change Federal Policy

Dear ASA Supporter,

ASA was born in the midst of the federal government’s attacks on medical cannabis dispensing collectives in 2002. On January 22nd of this year we were all shocked and disappointed to see the DEA raid another dispensary during the first days of the new administration. Thousands of us voiced our outrage by calling the White House. Less than two weeks later, the White House responded by issuing a strong statement to the Washington Times, clearly indicating that the raids would soon end. It was a day so many of us will never forget.

Just a few weeks after the White House made its initial statement, Attorney General Eric Holder followed up to assure the public that policy would be changing. "What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing in law enforcement," Holder said. "What he said during the campaign is now American policy."

And so far, President Obama and Attorney General Holder have held true to their words. The DEA has not raided a medical cannabis provider since February 4th.

But that does not mean that our fight is over. There are still dozens of defendants awaiting federal trial on medical cannabis charges, several others who are already serving time and hundreds of thousands of Americans that live without safe access to their medication. There is obviously a lot of work left to do to protect safe access in this country and we need your help to do it! Please make a commitment now to the next phase of our fight by donating now.

I am excited to present a limited offer that will help you remember the day the White House came to its senses. The first 40 people to donate $1,000 will receive one of the last copies of the issue of the Washington Times featuring the White House statement in a front page story and a copy of the Los Angeles Times editorial supporting Attorney General Holder’s statement.

Act now!


Steph Sherer
Executive Director
Americans for Safe Access

Medical Marijuana: 10 years ago ...

Dear Friends:

Ten years ago yesterday, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its landmark report that forever changed the public debate on medical marijuana.

In November 1996, California became the first state to pass a medical marijuana ballot initiative. The following month, the Clinton administration struck back, threatening doctors if they recommended medical marijuana to patients. But the American Medical Association and the American public responded with outrage and condemnation, throwing the Clinton administration off-balance. The next month, in January 1997, the White House drug czar's office attempted to deflect attention by awarding $1 million in taxpayer money to the Institute of Medicine to conduct a two-year study of medical marijuana.

In 1997 and 1998, MPP brought dozens of patients to a series of IOM hearings to testify about their fear of being arrested. Indeed, many of the patients had already been arrested and/or incarcerated for using medical marijuana.

Then, on March 17, 1999, the Institute of Medicine finally released a report that was not at all what the drug czar's office had hoped for. The report contradicted the claims of the drug czar and other federals officials on a number of fronts:

1. It showed there is scientific evidence indicating that marijuana has medical uses.

2. It recommended that people with AIDS, cancer, and chronic pain who have an urgent need for marijuana be provided with immediate legal protection while further research is done on marijuana's medical uses.

3. It debunked the "gateway theory," saying that there is no evidence that using marijuana will "lead" someone to use cocaine and other drugs.

4. It said there is no evidence that allowing sick people to use medical marijuana will cause an increase in the recreational use of marijuana.

That report has been used as the intellectual foundation of most medical marijuana efforts in the decade since.

MPP co-founder Chuck Thomas with IOM investigators in 1998

The release of that report was the first time that MPP received a barrage of national media coverage, all over the course of just two weeks. But that media coverage pales in comparison to the coverage that MPP and the broader marijuana policy reform movement has been receiving over the last four months.

This is now a lesson in "be careful what you wish for." As the marijuana issue continues to explode across the political landscape in nearly all 50 states, MPP and our allies are getting stretched more and more thin ... as we attempt to capitalize on the opportunities that are presenting themselves in the news, in state legislatures, in Congress, and at the ballot box.

Anything you can give to help fund these exploding efforts would be greatly apprecated.

Thank you,

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

P.S. As I've mentioned in previous alerts, a major philanthropist has committed to match the first $2.35 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2009. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

Is it Even Intellectually Possible to "Oppose" Medical Marijuana?

I was taking this online poll at The Chicago Tribune about medical marijuana and the wording got me thinking:

Do you support the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes?

Naturally, over 90% said yes because only a small number of really difficult people still have a problem with medical marijuana. But what do these people even mean that they don't "support the use of marijuana for medical purposes?" There are FDA approved medications with the same active ingredient as marijuana. Saying "marijuana isn't medicine" isn't an opinion, it's a factual error.

Really, the poll question might as well read: Do you support the use of medicine for medicinal purposes?

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