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Medical Marijuana Update

The dispensary and cultivation wars continue in California, dispensaries are delayed in Nevada, a bill moves in New Jersey, and more. Let's get to it:

California

On December 15, the Palm Springs city council set the dispensary tax at 10%. That's for legal dispensaries. Unapproved dispensaries will have to pay 15%. The council also approved issuance of a fourth dispensary license for the city.

Also on December 15, the Indio city council revisited regulating dispensaries. The city currently bans them, and got on an update on developments from the city attorney meant to get the council thinking about whether they want to continue the current ban in their city or consider allowing them down the line. No action was taken.

On December 17, the Yucca Valley town council heard advocates call for it to reopen the area's only dispensary. Alternative Medicinal Solutions was forced to close its doors last month after a sunset clause kicked in. It had been permitted in 2008, but the town council voted in 2010 to ban dispensaries. It gave Alternative Medicinal Solutions until last month to close its doors. An attempt at a reprieve failed on a 3-2 vote in November. Since the topic wasn't on the agenda, the council didn't debate it and took no action.

On December 18, activists in Riverside began collecting signatures for a ballot measure allowing a limited number of dispensaries. They need 12,000 signatures to qualify for the June 2015 election or 18,000 to get a special election called sooner. The "Riverside medical marijuana restriction and limitation act" would create a process to allow about 10 or fewer dispensaries to open in commercial and industrial zones and would set out rules for how they would operate.

On December 19, Napa activists announced a referendum to overturn the city council's repeal of the city's medical marijuana ordinance. Napa's medical marijuana dispensary ordinance provided for the operation of one dispensary -- and possibly one additional dispensary after one year, with the dispensaries to be selected based upon merit following a rigorous selection process. But the city council voted to repeal it on December 3.

On December 20, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said a draft ordinance on dispensaries will go before the city council in February. The City Council passed regulations in 2011 that allowed dispensaries to open legally, but medical marijuana advocates considered them too restrictive and gathered enough signatures to get the ordinance rescinded. The result, however, was that storefront dispensaries were illegal once again, and city officials have been enforcing current laws to drive them out.

Last Tuesday, Lake County activists began signature gathering effort to force a popular vote on a marijuana cultivation ordinance recently passed by the board of supervisors. It bans outdoor cultivation in community growth boundaries; limits indoor grows to 100 square feet or less; keeps outdoor cultivation 1,000 feet from schools, parks or other facilities serving children; and 100 feet from water bodie; offers quicker abatement and makes the Lake County Sheriff's Office responsible for enforcement. The activists are organized as the Community Alliance to Ban Illegal Cannabis Cultivation (CABICC), which includes the United Food and Commercial Workers, CANORML, Americans for Safe Access, Patients Rights Coalition, Emerald Growers and California Cannabis Industry Association.

Florida

Last Friday, medical marijuana initiative organizers said they had gathered 700,000 signatures. United for Care needs some 683,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot, so organizers are hoping to have gathered 900,000 by the end of this month to provide a cushion for rejected signatures. The initiative still must be approved the state Supreme Court.

Maine

Last Thursday, Maine officials denied a request to use medical marijuana for Tourette's syndrome. The Department of Health and Human Services denied a request to add the disease to the list of qualifying medical conditions. The patient and his doctor had testified that medical marijuana helped the muscular tics caused by Tourette's, to no avail.

Nevada

Last Monday, a state official said dispensaries would not open until months after April 1, when a law allowing them goes into effect. Marla McDade Williams, deputy administrator of the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health, said the agency needs to hire more staff and that it could take up to four months to accept, review and approve license applications.

New Jersey

Last Monday, the Assembly passed a bill to expand the state's medical marijuana program. The bill would allow patients to obtain medical marijuana products outside the state and use them in New Jersey. Gov. Chris Christie (R) has vowed to veto it.

Oregon

On December 18, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that a medical marijuana patients whose hash was seized by police can have it back. Local prosecutors convinced a judge that hash wasn't covered under the state's law, but the appeals court disagreed.

Washington

On December 18, the state liquor control board recommended that patients be allowed to keep their personal marijuana grows. The recommendation reverses an earlier recommendation by regulators that the grows be eliminated under the state's marijuana legalization law, which does not allow home cultivation. But that earlier recommendation raised a real ruckus among patients and supporters, and the liquor control board has now changed its tune.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM -- December 20, 2013

A pair of state appeals courts slap down cops who take people's medicine and won't give it back, there are problems with Kansas' drug testing law, Peru is buying shining new toys to prosecute its drug war, and more. Let's get to it:

Hash is medicine, and the cops have to give it back, the Oregon appeals court ruled. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

DPA California Initiative Revised. The Control, Regulate and Tax Marijuana initiative, filed earlier this month by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), has been revised. The new version increases the personal grow limit from four plants to six, makes the 1,000-foot buffer rule around schools optional instead of mandatory, and makes the California Industrial Hemp effectively immediately. Left intact were no changes in criminal penalties, no changes in the state's medical marijuana law, and a 25% tax on adult retail sales. DPA head Ethan Nadelmann said in a conference call yesterday that the group would decide early next year whether to move forward for 2014.

Medical Marijuana

Oregon Appeals Court Rules Cops Must Give Back Seized Medical Hash. The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday in Oregon v. James Jonathan Ellis that a medical marijuana patient whose hash was seized during an arrest can get it back. A district court judge had refused to order it returned, finding that hash wasn't covered under the state's medical marijuana law, but the appeals court disagreed, citing the federal Controlled Substances Act's definition of marijuana, which Oregon's law adopted, and which includes "every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant or its resin."

Colorado Appeals Court Rules Cops Must Give Back Seized Medical Marijuana. The Colorado Court of Appeals ruled Thursday in Colorado v. Robert Clyde Crouse that a district court judgment ordering Colorado Springs Police to return marijuana seized from leukemia patient Crouse was correct. Colorado Springs authorities had argued that federal drug laws preempted their returning Crouse's medicine, but neither the district court nor the appeals court was buying it.

Wyoming Legislator to Introduce Medical Marijuana Bill. Rep. Sue Wallis (R-Recluse) said this week that she intends to introduce a bill in the legislative session that starts early next year to allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Wallis said the death a year ago of her husband, Rod McQueary, brought the issue of legalizing medical marijuana into sharp focus for her. She said he benefited greatly from medical marijuana from Colorado in his last days.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Legislator Introduces Asset Forfeiture Reform Bill. Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) has introduced a bill, House Bill 5213,that would prohibit civil asset forfeiture unless and until a person is convicted of a criminal offense. "Asset forfeiture was sold as a needed tool for law enforcement to attack drug kingpins and gang leaders," Rep. Irwin said. "[But] too often, law enforcement uses the current asset forfeiture law to take tens of millions of dollars every year, mostly from low-level users and small-time dealers. We need to change how asset forfeiture works. By requiring a person be convicted of a crime before their seized property is subject to forfeiture, we will stop the worst abuses and curtail the insidious incentives that lead some law enforcement to short circuit due process and the fundamental principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty."

Drug Testing

Kansas Drug Testing Law Punishes Welfare Recipients, But Lets Lawmakers Skate. The Kansas legislature this year passed a bill, Senate Bill 149, that allows for drug testing of welfare recipients. Amid charges of hypocrisy, solons added language to include drug testing of themselves. But Wednesday, the director of Legislative Administrative Services, who is charged with implementing legislator testing, told legislative leaders that the law does not include any ramifications for a positive drug test and does not explicitly make the results public, so he will be treating them as confidential medical records.

Sentencing

Connecticut Sentencing Commission Recommends Cutting Drug-Free Zones. The Connecticut Sentencing Commission recommended Thursday that lawmakers sharply curtail drug-free zones around schools. The commission said they created racial disparities, unfairly affecting blacks and Latinos, who are more likely to dwell in urban areas, where schools and day cares are more densely packed. The commission recommended scaling the zones back from 1,500 feet to 200 feet. It also recommended limiting drug-free zone charges to those actually intending to infringe on the zones, as opposed to those just passing through.

International

Peru in Half-Billion Dollar Deal to Buy Russian Helicopters for Anti-Drug, Anti-Terrorism Effort. The Peruvian and Russian governments announced a deal Wednesday in which Russia will provide 24 Mi-171 helicopters to the Peruvian armed forces. The Peruvians plan to use them for anti-narcotics and anti-terrorism work in the central mountain areas where coca leaf and cocaine production are widespread.

Belgian Cannabis Social Club Raided. Belgian police acting on orders of the Justice Ministry raided the country's second cannabis club Wednesday (sorry, link in Dutch only). Raiders hit the Mambo Social Club in Hasselt, which follows the country's one-plant-per-person guidelines, seizing plants, records, and computer equipment. No word yet on any criminal charges.

Medical Marijuana Update

A busy Tuesday in California, herbal medicine experts make a call, New Jersey's third dispensary opens, Florida's Supreme Court hears a challenge to an initiative, and more. Let's get to it:

National

On Wednesday, the American Herbal Pharmacopeia classified marijuana as a botanical medicine. Americans for Safe Access called it "an historic move" that will "lay the scientific foundation for quality assurance and expanded research." The American Herbal Pharmacopeia is the world's leading expert organization on herbal medicines.

California

On Tuesday, Fresno County supervisors took a first step toward banning grows. The board voted unanimously for a total ban, rejecting a second option that would have banned outdoor cultivation and allowed limited indoor cultivation. A final vote is expected on January 7.

Also on Tuesday, about 200 people showed up for a Lake County Board of Supervisors meeting to provide input on a proposed new cultivation ordinance. The county's interim ordinance, passed last summer, linked plant numbers to parcel size and banned cultivation on vacant lots, but placed no limit on indoor grows. The proposed ordinance would go further, banning outdoor cultivation in community growth boundaries and limiting indoor cultivation to 100 square feet with indoor lighting not to exceed 1,200 watts. Outside of community growth boundaries, plant numbers are capped at six mature or 12 immature plants on parcels larger than one acre. A vote is expected at next week's board meeting.

Also on Tuesday, the Long Beach city council punted on providing new guidelines for where dispensaries can operate. With only two-thirds of members present, the council decided to wait until next week to deal with the issue. The council had earlier proposed a raft of restrictions on dispensary locations, but city staff said they were unworkable.

Also on Tuesday, Santa Cruz County supervisors voted to push large grows out of the urban areas. Under the new rules, only 100-square foot personal grows are allowed in residential areas, while rural properties of less than five acres can grow 1,000 square feet, and larger parcels can grow up to 3,000 square feet.

Also on Tuesday, Butte County supervisors amended their cultivation ordinance to require each lot with a garden to have an occupied residence with water and sewage and to increase civil penalties for violations to $500 a day for the first violation and $1,000 a day for subsequent ones. It's not going to stop there. The county says it will seek to reduce the number of plants allowed and enact other restrictions at the next board meeting in January.

Also on Tuesday, the San Jose city council rejected a ban on dispensaries, but voted instead to enact stricter enforcement rules. Effective immediately, dispensaries are barred from operating within 1,000 feet of schools, parks, rec centers, libraries and other marijuana vendors, or within 500 feet of rehabilitation centers and 150 feet of residential properties. Dispensary advocates vowed to repeat a successfully signature drive that staved off implementation of new rules in 2011 if necessary.

On Wednesday, San Jose began enforcing the new regulations with a crackdown on dispensaries located next to residences. While the city had previously gone after clubs that drew complaints, it is now broadening enforcement and is sending letters to dispensaries located next to residences telling them to shut down or relocate.

Also on Wednesday, California NORML announced that a patient will file a petition to ask the state Supreme Court to review the recent Third District Appellate Court decision upholding the city of Live Oak's ban on medical marijuana cultivation. The patient is Live Oak resident James Maral, who suffers from a painful life- and limb-threatening condition caused by insufficient blood supply to muscles and nerves.

Colorado

Last Friday, a Loveland doctor was convicted of a criminal offense for recommending medical marijuana to an undercover police officer. Dr. Dallas Williams, 75, was arrested in March 2012 after the narc wore a wire to the doctor's office and said he needed marijuana for "severe pain." Prosecutors argued there was neither a proper assessment nor a proper doctor-patient relationship. He was convicted of attempting to influence a public servant.

Connecticut

Last Wednesday, the Watertown city council voted for a six-month moratorium on dispensaries. The city wants time to develop new regulations.

On Monday, the Wallingford planning and zoning commission voted for a nine-month moratorium on dispensaries. The moratorium will "give this commission time to determine how it wishes to deal with these uses," Corporate Counsel Janis Small said.

Florida

Last Thursday, the state Supreme Court heard arguments on whether a medical marijuana initiative should be approved to go on the ballot. Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) is seeking to have it disqualified on the grounds that the initiative language is misleading and that it would clash with federal law. But People United for Medical Marijuana, the group behind the initiative argued that the initiative is clear. The high court will decide in a few weeks.

Massachusetts

On Tuesday, the Fairhaven planning board approved a medical marijuana zoning bylaw. The 7-1 vote marked a departure from the board's discussions just two months ago, when it voted to institute a temporary moratorium on all medical marijuana dispensaries in town, but now a dispensary wants to come to town. The vote must be approved by a town meeting.

Michigan

On Tuesday, three medical marijuana bills passed the House Judiciary Committee. One would allow the use of edibles, one would allow for dispensaries, and one would allow pharmacies to sell medical marijuana -- if federal law ever changes. The legislature adjourns Thursday, so action on the first two is unlikely before then, but the third bill has already passed the Senate, so the House could vote on it before adjourning.

New Jersey

Last Wednesday, the state's third dispensary officially opened in Woodbridge. The Garden State Dispensary began registering patients last month, and 400 people have already purchased their medicine there. The other two medical marijuana dispensaries in New Jersey are located in Egg Harbor and Montclair.

Oregon

On Wednesday, the legislative panel charged with crafting statewide dispensary regulations held its final meeting.The committee has met since September to hammer out details such as security, background checks and marijuana testing. A draft version of the rules -- covered in 30 pages -- lays out requirements for Oregon's medical marijuana industry.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM -- December 9, 2013

A West Virginia man gets a first degree murder charge in his wife's accidental drug death, a Utah "Good Samaritan" overdose bill is moving, some US senators grumble about Zohydro ER, and we have a pair of stories about opiates in India. And more. Let's get to it:

Zohydro ER
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts High Court Rules against Prosecutors in Small-Time Marijuana Cases. Possession of up to an ounce of pot is decriminalized in Massachusetts, even if that less-than-an-ounce amount is divided up in separate baggies. The state Supreme Judicial Court ruled last month that possessing small amounts of marijuana in separate baggies is not sufficient evidence to charge someone with possession with intent to distribute. Prosecutors are grumbling.

Harm Reduction

Utah "Good Samaritan" Drug Overdose Bill Moving. A bill that would provide limited criminal immunity for people who report a drug overdose has passed the Criminal Justice Committee and will be taken up by the full legislature when it reconvenes next month. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Carol Spackman Moss (D-Holladay) and has the backing of harm reductionists and the Utah Statewide Association of Prosecutors alike. There were more than 500 drug overdose deaths in Utah last year.

Law Enforcement

COPS Program Worried About Police Militarization. Cop-watcher Radley Balko notes that the monthly newsletter of the Justice Department's Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) program is raising the alarm about the militarization of policing in the US. Balko cites a warning from COPS program senior policy analyst Karl Bickel: "Police chiefs and sheriffs may want to ask themselves -- if after hiring officers in the spirit of adventure, who have been exposed to action oriented police dramas since their youth, and sending them to an academy patterned after a military boot camp, then dressing them in black battle dress uniforms and turning them loose in a subculture steeped in an 'us versus them' outlook toward those they serve and protect, while prosecuting the war on crime, war on drugs, and now a war on terrorism -- is there any realistic hope of institutionalizing community policing as an operational philosophy?"

West Virginia Man Faces First Degree Murder Charge in Wife's Drug Overdose Death. Prosecutors have charged a Roane County man with first degree murder in the accidental drug overdose of his wife. Todd Honaker thought he was buying LSD, but instead gave his wife the synthetic drug 25b-NBOMe ("N-bomb"). The man who supplied the drug has been charged with delivery of a controlled substance. It's not clear why Honaker is facing such severe charges.

Pain Pills

Four Senators Scold FDA on Zohydro Approval. Four US senators have sent a letter to the FDA saying they disagree with its decision to approve Zohydro ER, a long-acting version of the pain reliever hydrocodone. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Joe Manchin (D-WV) said the decision "will only contribute to the rising toll of addiction and death" caused by the misuse of prescription drugs. Zohydro can be crushed and snorted by people seeking a strong, quick high, which the senators called "irresponsible." [Ed: As the item immediately below about pain control in India demonstrates, poorly conceived control measures can and do have a devastating impact on the lives of pain patients who end up under-medicated or un-medicated. We have this problem in the US too. Other measures than bans are needed to address prescription drug misuse -- the FDA was right to approve Zohydro.]

International

Less Than 4% of Indians Suffering From Chronic Cancer Pain Have Access to Morphine. Legal restrictions on access to opioid pain medications leave millions of Indians suffering from severe and chronic pain without access to relief, leading to an "epidemic of pain in India." Ironically, India produces 99% of the global supply of licit opium, most of which it exports.

Indian Authorities Warn of Rising Opium Cultivation in Northeast. Illicit opium production is on the rise in states such as Manipur and Nagaland, Indian drug experts said at a Saturday conference in Guwahati. Cultivation was increasing both as a cash crop and for personal consumption, the experts said. In some villages, between 60% and 90% of families were growing opium, they said.

Chronicle AM -- December 6, 2013

A new marijuana legalization has been filed in California, the Florida medical marijuana initiative faces a pair of challenges, the British Columbia decriminalization initiative is struggling, and more. Let's get to it:

Marijuana Policy

A New California Marijuana Legalization Initiative is Filed. The Control, Regulate, and Tax Marijuana Act was filed with the California attorney general's office Wednesday. It would legalize up to an ounce and four plants for people 21 and over and create a statewide system of regulated marijuana commerce. It's not clear, however, whether its backers will seek to gather signatures for 2014 or will use it as a place marker for 2016. Another legalization initiative, the California Cannabis Hemp Initiative of 2014 is in the signature-gathering phase, but lacks deep-pocketed financial backing.

Thinking About a Post-Pot Prohibition World. Martin Lee, the author of Acid Dreams and Smoke Signals, about the cultural histories of LSD and marijuana, respectively, writes about marijuana legalization as a beginning, not an end, and has some interesting and provocative thoughts about what should come next.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Supreme Court Hears Challenge to Medical Marijuana Initiative. The Florida Supreme Court Thursday heard arguments on whether the proposed constitutional amendment to allow medical marijuana should go on the November 2014 ballot. Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) had challenged it as misleading and in violation of federal law. The justices did not decide the issue, but a decision will be coming shortly.

Florida Medical Marijuana Initiative Needs a Lot of Signatures in a Hurry. The state Division of Elections reported Thursday that People United for Medical Marijuana, the group behind the initiative, has just under 137,000 signatures that have been validated. They need 683,149 by February. There is some lag between signatures gathered and signatures validated, and organizers say they have collected 400,000 signatures so far. But that means they need probably another 400,000 in just a few weeks just to have a cushion that would allow for the inevitable invalid signatures.

International

British Columbia Marijuana Decriminalization Initiative Campaign Struggling. Sensible BC's signature-gathering campaign to put a decriminalization initiative on the ballot in British Columbia looks like it is going to fall short. The group needs 310,000 valid signatures by Monday, but only has 150,000 gathered. But if they don't make it this time, that won't be the end of it. "Sensible BC is here to stay," said the group's Dana Larsen. "You can be quite sure we're going to try this campaign again sometime in the next year to year-and-a-half, if we don't succeed this time. We're not going away."

Report Says SE Asia Amphetamine Use is Fueling Rise in HIV Risk. An increase in injection use of amphetamines in Southeast Asia is raising the risk of the spread of HIV and requires "urgent" action, according to a new report from the Australian National Council on Drugs (ANCD) and the Asia-Pacific Drugs and Development Issues Committee. Not only injection drug use, but risky sexual behavior as well among amphetamine users, is part of the problem, the report says.

Medical Marijuana Update

Arkansas Baptists reject medical marijuana, and so do some California communities. New Jersey's governor mouths off, and Illinois and Massachusetts communities move to regulate soon-to-arrive medical marijuana businesses. Let's get to it:

Arizona

Last Wednesday, a judge ruled that Maricopa County had no enforceable zoning ordinance with which to restrict medical marijuana dispensaries. Superior Court Judge Michael Gordon's ruling supplements one he issued last month overturning the county's zoning ordinance for dispensaries. In that ruling, he found that the ordinance violated the state's medical marijuana law and appeared to be an effort to thwart the law.

Arkansas

On Tuesday, word came that the state Baptist convention rejected medical marijuana. Delegates there approved a resolution opposing the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act and any other attempts to legalize medical marijuana in the 2014 elections. The resolution calls on good Baptists "to reject the notion that the largely unsupervised cultivation, marketing, distribution, and smoking of marijuana is compassionate and sound medical practice, to recognize the proposed medical marijuana laws as clandestine attempts to take the first step toward the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Arkansas, to refuse to sign petitions to qualify these measures for the ballot, and to soundly reject all of them at the ballot box in the November 2014 general election."

California

Last Tuesday, the Laguna Hills city council voted to ban dispensaries. The town becomes the latest Orange County community to formalize its ban. "I don't believe that marijuana has any place in our society," Councilman Randal Bressette said. "Every opportunity I have to protect our residents from the demons of that drug, I will do so."

Also last Tuesday, a Los Angeles judge blocked a Mar Vista dispensary from opening. Superior Court Judge James Chalant issued a temporary restraining order against the dispensary, saying it violates Proposition D, the measure passed earlier this year by city voters that dramatically limited the number of dispensaries.

On Monday, the Ventura city council gave final approval to a dispensary ban. The ban had won preliminary approval on a 4-3 vote last month, and the vote stayed the same Monday. The ban also applies to delivery services.

On Tuesday, a dispensary operator was named mayor of Sebastopol. Robert Jacob, founder and executive director of the Peace in Medicine dispensaries, was elected mayor of the Sonoma County town by the city council. He is a council member and had served as vice mayor for the past year. [Editor's Note: This is my town; this is my mayor.]

Also on Tuesday, the Napa city council voted to repeal an ordinance that would have allowed a dispensary to operate there. The council voted 3-2 for repeal, saying a dispensary would increase youth access to marijuana. Council members also scoffed at the notion that medical marijuana patients are actually sick.

Also on Tuesday, Solano County supervisors voted to ban dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the county. Dispensaries are already banned in six of the county's cities; only Vallejo has not moved to ban them. Having dispensaries in rural areas would place "an undue burden" on cities that have a ban, one supervisor claimed.

Illinois

Last Wednesday, Chicago officials proposed tight regulations on dispensaries and medical marijuana grows. Alderman Ed Burke and the city Department of Planning and Development are recommending that dispensaries and grows only be allowed in manufacturing districts and that they be required to obtain special use permits. Some 22 dispensaries would be allowed.

On Tuesday, the Wheaton city council approved an ordinance limiting dispensaries to districts zoned for manufacturing. The vote in the Chicago suburb was 6-1.

Iowa

On Sunday, a state senator said he would again introduce a medical marijuana bill. Sen. Joe Bolckom (D-Iowa City) has introduced such bills four times in the past decade. This time, he said, he would model his bill on the law in place in New Mexico.

Massachusetts

On Tuesday, the Newton board of alderman approved zoning regulations for dispensaries that would limit them to mixed-use zones outside city centers. The move comes before a citywide moratorium is set to expire at the end of the month.

Michigan

Last Thursday, the state appeals court agreed to hear two cases on whether workers fired for medical marijuana use can receive unemployment benefits. Lower courts have overturned the decisions of a state agency and ruled in favor of people who sought benefits after being dismissed, but medical marijuana foe Attorney General Bill Schuette argues that the state's medical marijuana law only protects people from criminal prosecution, not civil sanctions.

New Jersey

On Monday, Gov. Chris Christie (R) said he was through expanding the state's medical marijuana law and called medical marijuana a stalking horse for legalization. His remarks came in response to efforts to allow New Jersey patients to buy their medicine in other states and bring it home.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM -- December 4, 2013

Some Denver city council members don't know when to give it a rest, some California US reps want stiffer penalties for pot grows on public lands, the Big Dog speaks on drug policy, Ecstasy may be on the rise, Morocco holds a historic hearing on cannabis, and more. Let's get to it:

Ecstasy seems to be making a comeback.
Marijuana Policy

Denver City Council Now Considering Cultivation Restrictions. Just when you thought it was safe again, after an effort to stop people from smoking marijuana on their own property in public view died Monday night, the Denver city council is now considering an effort to cap the number of plants that can be grown in a single household. The measure is sponsored by Councilwoman Jeanne Robb, the same person behind the failed private property smoking ban. The measure would be in conflict with Amendment 64, which is now part of the state constitution and clearly says anyone 21 or older can grow six plants "notwithstanding any other provision of law."

California US Senator, Representatives Seek Tougher Penalties for Federal Lands Marijuana Grows. Several California congressmen, including some who have been strong supporters of medical marijuana, have written a letter to the US Sentencing Commission seeking longer prison sentences for people growing on federal and some private lands. "We are concerned that existing guidelines do not address the long term detrimental threats these operations pose to the environment and nearby communities," the letter said. "The production and cultivation of controlled substances in particular marijuana, on public lands or while trespassing on private property is a direct threat to our environment and public safety." The signatories include Sen. Dianne Feinstein and US Reps. Doug Amalfa, Sam Farr, Jared Huffman, and Mike Thompson.

Drug Policy

Bill Clinton Says Attitudes Toward Drug Legalization Are Changing. Attitudes toward drug legalization are changing, former President Bill Clinton said in an interview with Fusion TV Tuesday. "The drug issue should be decided by people in each country, based on what they think is right," the ex-president opined. "We have a process in America for doing it that's being revisited state-by-state. And Latin America is free to do the same thing. It's obvious that attitudes are changing and opening up," he said. But he added that he didn't think hard drugs should be treated like marijuana. "It's also too complicated to say that if you legalize it, you wouldn't have any of these armed gangs trying to exercise a stranglehold over whole communities and lives, or that we could actually get away with legalizing cocaine and then the criminals would go away," he said.

Vermont Chief Justice Criticizes Drug War, "Tough on Crime" Approach. Vermont Chief Justice Paul Reiber has lashed out at the war on drugs and "tough on crime" approaches in general in a pair of recent speeches and a television interview. "Even with our best efforts, we are losing ground," Reiber told a crowd at Vermont Law School last month. "The classic approach of 'tough on crime' is not working in this area of drug policy. The public responds very well to this 'tough on crime' message, but that does not mean it's effective in changing individual behavior. If the idea is law enforcement alone will slow and eventually eliminate drug use altogether, that isn't going to happen… The criminal justice system can't solve the drug problem."

Club Drugs

Teen Ecstasy-Related Hospital ER Visits Doubled in Recent Years, Feds Say. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reported Tuesday that hospital emergency room visits linked to teen Ecstasy use had more than doubled between 2005 and 2011. The number jumped from about 4,500 to more than 10,000 during that period. One third of those cases also involved alcohol. Authorities worry the club drug is making a comeback, although the number of ER visits reported for ecstasy is a tiny fraction of the 1.5 million drug-related ER visits reported each year.

International

Morocco Parliament Holds Hearing on Legalizing Cannabis for Hemp, Medical Marijuana. Morocco's Party for Authenticity and Modernity held a historic hearing Wednesday about legalizing marijuana cultivation for hemp and medical marijuana. The party hopes to introduce legislation next year. Somewhere between 750,000 and a million Moroccans depend on the cannabis crop for a living, although lawmakers said small farmers currently reap very little profit, with most profits going to drug traffickers sending Moroccan hash to Europe.

Former Mexican Border State Governor Charged in US with Money Laundering for Cartels. Tomas Yarrington, the former PRI governor of Tamaulipas state, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville and McAllen, Texas, has been indicted by US authorities on charges he took millions in bribes from the Gulf Cartel. Prosecutors allege Yarrington started receiving bribes while running for governor of the state in 1999 and continued to do so throughout his term. He is being sought by US authorities, but has not been taken into custody in Mexico.

Chronicle AM -- November 29, 2013

Uruguay's marijuana legalization bill passes another hurdle, a Berlin borough wants cannabis cafes, Chicago proposes tough medical marijuana regulations, Kentucky officials hound the DEA about hemp, and more. Let's get to it:

Is this the face of marijuana legalization? Uruguayan President Jose Mujica (wikimedia.org)
Medical Marijuana

Chicago Proposes Strict Medical Marijuana Regulations. Chicago officials have proposed regulations that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries and grows only in manufacturing districts, would limit the number of grows to 22, and would require that dispensaries and grows be at least 2,500 feet from a school, day care center, or residential area. Medical marijuana becomes legal in Illinois on January 1.

Michigan Appeals Court to Hear Cases on Unemployment Benefits. The Michigan Appeals Court has agreed to hear two cases to determine whether someone fired for using medical marijuana can collect unemployment benefits. Lower court judges have overturned state agency rulings denying the benefits, but medical marijuana foe Attorney General Bill Schuette argues that the law only protects people from criminal prosecutions, not civil penalties.

Hemp

Kentucky Officials Send Letter to DEA Requesting Clarification on Hemp. Kentucky officials have sent a letter to the DEA asking for clarification of its position on industrial hemp. Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, US Sen. Rand Paul (R), and US Reps. John Yarmouth and Thomas Massie want the agency to tell them whether growing hemp in states that have enacted a regulatory framework remains illegal. They point to the federal government's response to marijuana legalization and argue that hemp should be treated the same way.

Drug Testing

Idaho Supreme Court Upholds Drug Possession Conviction Based Solely on Drug Test. Idaho's high court Tuesday upheld the conviction of a woman charged with drug possession after blood from her newborn child's umbilical cord tested positive for methadone. The court held unanimously that the drug test result was probable cause to support a possession conviction.

International

Uruguay Marijuana Legalization Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote. Uruguay is one step closer to becoming the first country to legalize the marijuana trade after the Senate Health Commission voted Thursday to approve the bill. The government-supported legislation has already passed the lower house and is expected to win final approval in the Senate next month.

Cannabis Cafes Coming to Berlin? Legislators in the hip Berlin borough of Friedrichschain-Kruezberg voted Thursday to approve cannabis coffee shops there. The move is the brainchild of Green Party Mayor Monika Hermann, who proposed it in September. Now, the borough must get the German federal government to agree. Under Article 3 of the German Narcotics Act, sufficient public interest could lead to law changes, provided there is public support and backing scientific evidence.

European Cancer Docs Say Restrictive Laws Aimed at Drug Abuse Block Millions from Pain Relief. The European Society for Medical Oncology warned that half the world's population lacks effective access to pain relievers because of restrictive laws aimed at reducing drug abuse. The group's Global Opioid Policy Initiative survey estimated that millions of cancer patients don't have access to seven cheap medicines essential for pain relief, including morphine and codeine. Access to such drugs "is catastrophically difficult" in many countries, the report's lead author said.

British Tories, Lib Dems At Odds Over Drug Policy. Britain's governing coalition is at odds with itself over drug policy after the new Liberal Democrat drugs minister, Norman Baker, said earlier this week that marijuana legalization "should be considered." That caused Conservative front-bencher and Justice Minister Chris Grayling to clarify that he and the Home Office "won't be considering it."

Northern Nigeria Alcohol Crackdown Sees 240,000 Bottles of Beer Destroyed. In attempt to deepen a sharia law ban on alcohol imposed in 2001, but largely ignored in hotels and the city's Christian quarter, Islamic police in the northern city of Kano destroyed 240,000 bottles of beer. They chanted "God is great" as they did so, and the head of the religious police warned that they will put an end to alcohol consumption. Multiple bombings of bars in the Christian quarter in late July carried out by suspected Islamic militants who complained the government wasn't enforcing sharia law adequately left 29 dead.

Peru Eradicates Record Amount of Coca. Peru, once again the world's largest coca and cocaine producer, announced Thursday that it had eradicated a record 55,000 acres of coca, about one-fifth of the total estimated 250,000-acre crop. That's a 60% increase in eradication over last year. The government said the increase was due to tougher anti-drug efforts and a weakening of the Shining Path in coca growing areas.

Israel Medical Marijuana Use up 30% This Year. Medical marijuana use is up sharply this year in Israel, according to the Health Ministry, which released figures showing 13,000 patients were approved to us it this year, up from 10,000 last year. The increase comes as the government is working on a new proposal to regulate medical marijuana. The Health, Agriculture, and Public Security ministries are expected to present it within the next couple of weeks.

Chronicle AM -- November 27, 2013

Denver wants to put the kibosh on outdoor pot-smoking, a California appeals court okays a local ban on medical marijuana grows, Costa Rica enacts a sentencing reform, and more. Let's get to it:

No medical marijuana grows for you in Live Oak, CA!
Marijuana Policy

Denver City Council Takes First Vote Approving Ban on Front Porch Toking. Despite heated public opposition, the Denver city council Monday night voted 7-5 to approve an amendment to the city's marijuana ordinance that would ban smoking on one's front porch or balcony. A second and final vote is set for next week, but is considered a formality.

Faced With 2016 Initiative, Arizona Legislator Urges Colleagues to Take Up Legalization. Rep. Ruben Gallegos (D-Phoenix) is calling on his fellow legislators to take up marijuana legalization because if they don't, voters will likely legalize it themselves at the polls in 2016. But a key Republican legislator, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert), head of the House Judiciary Committee, said he's opposed to the idea.

Medical Marijuana

Guam Public Hearing on Medical Marijuana Gets Emotional. Guamanian legislators heard heart-wrenching testimony Tuesday at the first of two public hearings for the Joaquin Concepcion Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013 (Bill 215) as several patients and caregivers described how medical marijuana had (and could) alleviate suffering. The Guam Medical Association is opposed. A second hearing is set for December 12.

California Appeals Court Upholds City's Ban on Medical Marijuana Cultivation. California's 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the city of Live Oak can ban medical marijuana grows, even personal ones. The court relied on the state Supreme Court's ruling in the Riverside case, in which the high court held that localities can regulate and even ban dispensaries. "This decision makes it imperative that California adopt legislation specifically recognizing the right of all patients in need to access medical marijuana," said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML.

International

Costa Rica Takes Softer Line on Women Caught Smuggling Drugs into Prisons. A bill signed into law earlier this year by President Laura Chinchilla reduces the possible sentences for women caught smuggling drugs into the country's prisons. The term has been reduced from between eight and 20 years to between three and eight years. The law also allows judges to consider alternative sentences, such as house arrest or confinement in a halfway house. The law is retroactive and will initially benefit about 100 women currently doing time for this offense.

Britain's New Drugs Minister Doesn't Rule Out Marijuana Legalization. Liberal Democrat Norman Baker, the new drugs minister in the coalition government dominated by the Conservatives, refused to rule out the possibility of marijuana legalization in his first appearance before parliament Tuesday. "I think it needs to be considered along with everything else. It is not my prime objective and I am not advocating it at the moment. We should be prepared to follow the evidence and see where it takes us," he said.

Chronicle AM -- November 25, 2013

Drug reform funder Peter Lewis dies, the Oregon legislature will consider a legalization initiative bill, medical marijuana patients are suing Health Canada, and more. Let's get to it:

"Warning! Your Family is in Danger!" anti-legalization poster courtesy of the Mexican government (cij.gob.mx)
Marijuana Policy

Oregon Legislature to Consider Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization Bill. State Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene), head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, unveiled a draft bill Friday that would ask voters in the November 2014 election to approve marijuana legalization. If they did, the legislature would be charging with coming up with regulations in 2015. If the draft bill fails to move in the legislature, activists are already working on a separate 2014 legalization initiative.

Outdoor Anniversary Pot Party Approved for Seattle Center.The city of Seattle has approved a permit for a multi-hundred person pot party to mark the first anniversary of legal weed in the state. The event will take place at Seattle Center on December 6 and will include a permitted outdoor marijuana-smoking area.

Denver City Council Debating Marijuana Smoking Restrictions. The Denver city council is today holding a public hearing on an ordinance regulating marijuana smoking on private property. The council is about evenly divided between members who want to ban pot-smoking visible from the street or sidewalks and those who don't. Marijuana Policy Project spokesman and Amendment 64 proponent Mason Tvert held a protest on his balcony this morning where he publicly -- and legally -- consumed "a more dangerous substance."

Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana States are Complying with Federal Enforcement Guidelines, Report Says. The medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access Monday released a report finding that medical marijuana states have enacted regulations that address federal enforcement concerns and calling on legislators and state rulemakers to keep the August 2013 Justice Department memo on enforcement guidelines in mind as they craft new laws and regulations. But DOJ memos aren't a solution, just a stop-gap until appropriate federal legislation is passed, the report said.

Public Hearings on Medical Marijuana Coming in New York State. Democratic lawmakers trying to push a medical marijuana bill through the legislature plan to hold public hearings next month in Buffalo and Mineola. For the past several years, bills have passed the Assembly, only to die in the more conservative Senate. Another bill is moving this year. Click on the link for hearing details.

Gone But Not Forgotten

Philanthropist, Drug Reform Funder Peter Lewis Dies. Peter Lewis, the man who took Progressive Insurance into the auto insurance big leagues, died Saturday in Florida. Over the past 30 years, Lewis gave millions of dollars to efforts to legalize marijuana, as well as other drug reform efforts, including a recent contribution to a proposed 2014 initiative in Oregon. He was 80 years old.

Pregnancy

Feticide Charge Dismissed Against Drug-Using Louisiana Woman. A Louisiana judge has ruled that a woman who allegedly snorted cocaine days before giving birth to a stillborn fetus cannot be charged under the state's feticide law. That law only applies to people other than the expectant mother, District Judge Trudy White ruled. The woman was charged after a parish coroner ruled the stillbirth a homicide, saying the mother's drug use "led to a normally healthy baby ending up dying." Prosecutors could still bring other charges against the woman, they said.

International

Medical Marijuana Patients to Sue Health Canada over Being Outed. Medical marijuana patients furious and frightened after Health Canada outed them by sending each one of them documents in a white envelope with "Medical Marijuana Access Program" written across the top, followed by the patients' names and addresses are planning a class-action lawsuit. Health Canada said last week the mailing was the result of administrative error, but that is not assuaging unhappy patients.

Government Sponsored Anti-Marijuana Legalization Marchers take to the Streets in Mexico. Organized by the National Social Leaders of Mexico (CONAL), and with the support of a federal government children's development program, anti-marijuana legalization marchers in small numbers took to the streets of at least 15 Mexican cities over the weekend. They oppose growing talk of legalization, which has occurred in the Mexico City city council and the national congress, among other places.

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