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Prickly Progressives Impede Pot Progress

Progress Now, a Colorado-based advocacy group issued a statement condemning Focus on the Family President James Dobson for using a signature gathering service that has also worked with the marijuana reform group SAFER.

James Dobson is spending tens of thousands of dollars of Focus on the Family's money to hire paid signature collectors to solicit people for the so-called "marriage initiative" under the guise of protecting Colorado's families. He needs 68,000 valid signatures by August 8 to qualify. Many of these very solicitors paid for by Dobson also are working to collect signatures for an initiative to legalize marijuana in Colorado simultaneously.

For starters, they’re just signature gathers. They’re professionals who work for whoever pays them. It would make as much sense to complain that SAFER and Dobson patronized the same Kinkos.

What’s really troubling here is the implicit negativity of Progress Now’s statement. While they claim that “this is about hypocrisy” and “not about the merits of legalization,” I don’t think you can feign neutrality on the marijuana reform issue while simultaneously trying to skewer a political opponent simply for operating in proximity to it.

For a real example of hypocrisy, try to reconcile Progress Now’s seemingly positive positions on drug policy with their refusal to support marijuana reform in Colorado.

Progress Now accepts suggestions regarding their policy positions here.

My suggestion is not to say this unless you mean it:

[We] support reform to drug laws so that less people are sent to prison and more people are rehabilitated from chemical addictions.
Location: 
United States

Feature: Holy Smoke Bust Mobilizes Interior British Columbia Cannabis Community

Although the owners of Holy Smoke, the Nelson, British Columbia, head shop and culture center, wouldn’t exactly put it this way, the raid on their shop two weeks ago tomorrow is igniting a holy war in the cannabis-friendly Kootenay region of the province. When Nelson city police ended a de facto truce by arresting Holy Smoke co-owner Paul DeFelice for allegedly selling marijuana at the store, Holy Smoke and its supporters started mobilizing to fight back, and they've only just begun.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/nelson2.jpg
Nelson, British Columbia: Conflict Amidst the Beauty, Thanks to the Drug Warriors
Just north of the US-Canada border above Spokane, Washington, Nelson, a city of 10,000 located along the shoes of Kootenay Lake's West Arm, is a veritable reefer redoubt. While official figures are naturally impossible to come by, marijuana growing is a major local industry, both in Nelson and in the nearby Slocan Valley. Area youths take it across the mountainous, forested border on foot and by mountain bike, on skis and on snowmobiles, while bigger operations may employ helicopters and sophisticated tracking devices. Area merchants have told DRCNet they know when the crops are coming in because that's when their sales increase.

Holy Smoke is the most visible symbol of the region's cannabis culture, but there are plenty more if one looks, from the hemp shop on downtown Baker Street to the dreadlocked young denizens of the town to the four marijuana grow supply shops -- the small town has twice the number of the entire Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area -- not to mention the smell of sativa and indica smoke washing through the air not infrequently.

The shop, co-owned by DeFelice, Alan Middlemiss, and attorney Dustin Cantwell, has been a center of the region's cannabis culture since it opened in 1996. A year later, Nelson police raided it, but were laughed out of court by a judge who demanded they learn how to properly do searches, and since then they have largely left the place alone. Even as whispers that marijuana was being sold from the store spread within the community, police failed to act. In fact, Nelson police told DRCNet off the record earlier this year that they believed selling at the shop had made street dealers scarce. If so, that has all changed now.

DRCNet attempted to speak with Nelson police this week, to no avail. The officer in charge of the raid, Sgt. Steve Bank, curiously warned that more arrests were coming, then went on vacation, and no one else at the department wanted to talk about the raid.

With DeFelice facing possible prison time for alleged marijuana sales -- something Holy Smoke is careful to neither confirm nor deny given the parlous legal situation -- and police threatening more busts in the near future, the shop and its supporters are rallying around the cause. "We are preparing to take a 'lowest law enforcement priority' measure to the city council," said Middlemiss, "and we are taking to the streets."

At the same time six Nelson police officers were raiding Holy Smoke and arresting DeFelice, a 15-year-old girl was dosed with Rohypnol and raped, Middlemiss said. "If the police had their priorities straight, that might not have happened."

Holy Smoke and its supporters will tap into the Nelson area's long traditions of nonviolent protest and counterculture activism, he said. "Nelson has a long and glorious history of nonviolent action, from the First Nations to the Doukhobors [a Russian sect that emigrated to the region a century ago] to the draft dodgers, even the Japanese who were interned in camps near here in World War II organized and protested. We have a rebellious nature here, but we've been lulled into complacency," he told DRCNet.

The Kootenay region cannabis nation will hold a mass march and protest in Nelson on August 5. "I think there is huge support for responsible marijuana use around here, for reordering police priorities, for making adult marijuana use the lowest priority," said Middlemiss. "But we need to be consolidating, we need a really large march, and we're hoping people will literally come out of the hemp woodwork for it. This will be a massive pro-marijuana rally, not a smoke-in, and we are expecting mass support," he said.

"Look, our community has had enough of US choppers flying around looking for a benign herb, we've had enough of illegal DEA operations in our country, we've had enough of wasting our tax dollars on nonviolent drug offenses," Middlemiss continued. "We want to get to the bottom of our drug problems, but the police are the worst way of going about it."

Support for Holy Smoke and marijuana legalization is not limited to the dreadlocked set. "Our supporters include bus drivers, janitors, mothers, lawyers, dentists. The chamber of commerce and local businesses will support us at the city council," said Middlemiss. "Heck, the chamber has even asked us to advertise because they get so many people coming to town and asking them how to find us."

With similar attacks on another cannabis café, Hamilton's Up in Smoke, and a new conservative national government rumbling ominously about toughening the marijuana laws, the Holy Smoke folks are feeling like they may be pawns in a larger, more sinister game. "The conservatives want to stifle the alternative culture, but here in Nelson, it is part of the fabric of the city and every business in town depends on the cannabis economy. We are wondering if the marching orders are coming from Washington," Middlemiss said.

"I think this is part of some sort of joint DEA-Canadian justice ministry operation," said Holy Smoke co-owner Dustin Cantwell. "The orders for this must have come from on high. The conservatives who came to power with Prime Minister Harper and his gang are embracing the American agenda, and they're starting with folks like us who stick out of the water. But we're the tip of the iceberg. Below the water line is our mass base."

Holy Smoke is still open and still smoking, both indoors in its smoking room and outdoors on the nearby public land turned into a mini-park by local cannabis consumers who enjoy looking across the lake at Elephant Mountain as they toke. And it remains headquarters both for the local cannabis community and the upcoming protests. Contact them via the web site if you want to help.

Belgian Cannabis Activists to Plant Seeds to Protest Seed Ban

Here is the text of a press release from ENCOD and "Draw Up Your Plant," a Belgian pot users' organization: Belgian cannabis consumers united in "Draw Up Your Plant" will put the seed for the first mother plant, in spite of controversy on the possession of seeds Thursday 27 July, 12 hs. in the Botanic Garden of Antwerp (in front of the glasshouses) On Thursday 27 July, a seed of cannabis will be put in a flowerpot. The scene of this event will be the Botanic Garden at the Leopoldstraat in Antwerpen, Belgium, at 12.00 hs. From this seed the first motherplant of our association 'Draw Up Your Plant' will grow, that later this year will be used to provide our collective cannabis plantation with clones. Possession of cannabis seeds in Belgium is prohibited by law. Possession of 3 grams of cannabis by adults is tolerated by a ministerial decree of 2005. Sometimes you find seeds in a bag of cannabis. So this is another example of the contradictions within the law. The Belgian drug policy also in this case does not guarantee legal security to the citizens of our country. If I get stopped by the police who finds 3 grammes of cannabis with one seed in my possession, am I committing a criminal offence? Do I loose the right on the possession of these 3 grams of cannabis? Or does the police confiscate the seed and am I allowed to keep my cannabis? How can I escape persecution in this case? Should I sort the seed off my cannabis first? And what do I do with the seeds? Is there a place where I can bring them? In short, enough questions to answer. Maybe we will get to know the solution for this dilemma on Thursday 27 July in the Botanic Garden of Antwerp. There a cannabis seed will be used that has been taken from the dosage of personal use (of less than 3 grammes) of one of the members of "Draw Up Your Plant". . What will be the reaction of the authorities? Best wishes, Stijn Goossens Philippe De Craene Joep Oomen TREKT UW PLANT (vzw i.o) STAD/ENCOD/VOLVOX Lange Lozanastraat 14 2018 Antwerpen Tel. 03 237 7436 GSM: 0479 982271 / 0486 499 453 E-mail:encod@glo.be / TrektUwPlant@yahoo.com Website: www.encod.org / www.hardcoreharmreducer.be / www.cannaclopedia.be
Location: 
Antwerp
Belgium

Kootenay Cannabis Community Mobilizing Over Holy Smoke Bust

The powerful cannabis community in BC's Kootenay region is not taking the Holy Smoke bust lying down. Holy Smoke will undertake a strong legal defense, and supporters will hold what they promise to be the largest pot rally in the area's history on August 5. Here is an update from Holy Smoke co-owner Alan Middlemiss from the Cannabis Culture forums: http://www.cannabisculture.com/forums/showflat.php?Cat=&Board=current&Nu... This is an update about the situation here in Nelson... The "Imminent arrest" threats seem to have subsided to threats of "Imminent vacations", with the crown attorney and the lead officer on summer holidays for the next 2 weeks or more. Apparently they cannot get any warrents to search or arrest anyone caught up in "operation vista" until the crown gets back. So we wait, and work. We are moving the date of our community rally to Saturday August 5th. There are several reasons for this not the least of which is the forecast for heavy rains this saturday. We plan to go to the Spearhead outdoor concert in Kaslo the night before and spread the word to the masses. There is quite a lot of interest from a broad range of people in Nelson, so it promises to be the biggest pot rally ever held in the Kootenays. I will fill in the blanks shortly. Sorry about the changed date, but its all for the best.
Location: 
Nelson, BC
Canada

Canada: Nelson, British Columbia, Head Shop Busted for Marijuana Sales

The Holy Smoke Culture Shop and Psyche-Deli in Nelson, British Columbia, was busted Saturday night and one of the owners, Paul DeFelice, was jailed on marijuana and psilocybin distribution charges.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/holysmoke.jpg
As a Nelson resident for much of the past four years, this writer has been aware of Holy Smoke, but has never published articles about the activist-oriented establishment. Nelson police have never seemd to have an issue with them.

But it was Nelson City Police who raided Holy Smoke on Saturday, and DeFelice told the Nelson Daily News he was not surprised. Since the change in federal government, he said, police have been given marching orders to make "small-time" busts. "It's pretty screwed priorities when there's murders and violence and robberies, home invasions that they make the priority in something where there's no victim and no complainants," said DeFelice.

Still, the bust was "all good," DeFelice said. "The idea is in the long run we want to be left alone because we're not hurting anybody but at the same time, if they want to come after us, plenty of arguments that we want to make in court, plenty of answers to legal questions that I want to hear. I want to hold the powers that be to account," he said. "I want to educate the public, and if they're going to shine a spotlight on me and give me a platform, I'll definitely use it."

Police are promising more arrests, but the Holy Smoke bust is already a symbolic blow to the Nelson area's burgeoning marijuana community. The area and the nearby Slocan Valley are notorious pot-growing zones -- while hard numbers are hard to come by, one indication of the size of the local industry is the four marijuana grow equipment shops in Nelson. The Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area has two.

Feature: Judge Throws Out Part of Alaska Marijuana Recriminalization Law, Up to An Ounce is Now Legal At Home

Gov. Frank Murkowski's two-year effort to recriminalize marijuana in Alaska hit a roadblock Monday when a Superior Court judge struck down the part of the law he pushed through the legislature earlier this year. Judge Patricia Collins threw out the section of the law that criminalizes the possession of marijuana for personal use in the privacy of one's home, but reduced the exempt amount from four ounces to one ounce. Collins also left intact portions of the law increasing penalties for marijuana offenses.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/murkowskiwalters.jpg
propaganda show by Gov. Murkowski and drug czar Walters
In a 1975 decision, Ravin v. State, the Alaska Supreme Court held that the state constitution's privacy provisions barred the state from criminalizing the possession of personal amounts of marijuana in one's home. A 1991 initiative recriminalized marijuana possession, but when that law was eventually challenged in 2004, the Alaska court's upheld Ravin, saying the popular vote could not trump the state constitution.

Ever since, Gov. Murkowski has worked to undo those decisions. Last year, a determined lobbying effort financed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) managed to fend off action at the statehouse, but Murkowski managed to push the bill through earlier this year. Included in the law is a series of "findings" designed to demonstrate that marijuana is so much more dangerous now than in 1975 that the state Supreme Court will have to decide differently when it weighs the issue again.

"Unless and until the Supreme Court directs otherwise, Ravin is the law in this state and this court is duty bound to follow that law," Collins wrote in her decision as she granted summary judgment to the American Civil Liberties Union. The group had filed suit to block the law as soon as it became law in June.

"The drug war has wreaked havoc on the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution, but fortunately many state constitutions still shield individuals from drug war excess," said Allen Hopper, an attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "This ruling is incredibly significant from a national perspective, because there are a number of states with similar privacy rights in their constitutions that may afford protections to adult marijuana users."

"The state of Alaska has charted a different course from that of the federal government's failed policy on marijuana," said Michael MacLeod-Ball, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska. "This ruling affirms Alaska's commitment to fundamental privacy rights over reefer madness."

"We're certainly pleased we at least got a partial victory," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for MPP, which also chipped in on litigation costs. "And we're hopeful the Supreme Court will recognize the nonsensical nature of the findings the state wrote into the law in an effort to override the state constitution. But the court decision still left in place draconian new penalties for larger amounts and reduced the amount one can keep at home. The battle has begun, but it has a ways to go," he told DRCNet.

Alaska Department of Law spokesman Mark Morones told DRCNet the state would be quick to appeal the decision. "We are pleased the judge made an expeditious ruling," he said. "It's always been our position that the issue of the legality marijuana and the privacy debate really do have to go back to the Supreme Court for a final determination of the right to privacy and the state's safety interest in being able to prosecute marijuana cases. We plan to appeal expeditiously," Morones said.

In her decision, Collins explained that she limited it to the possession of less than one ounce because the ACLU argued that the only issue at stake in the case was the government's ability to regulate the possession of small amounts of marijuana. "No specific argument has been advanced in this case that possession of more than one ounce of marijuana, even within the privacy of the home, is constitutionally protected conduct under Ravin or that any plaintiff or ACLU of Alaska member actually possesses more than one ounce of marijuana in their homes," Collins wrote.

Department of Law spokesman Morones took heart in that portion of the ruling. "Our initial interpretation of this case at this point is that Judge Collins' decision makes it clear that the state has the ability to regulate marijuana use in amounts greater that one ounce," he said.

As things now stand in Alaska, possession of an ounce at home is okay, possession of up to four ounces is a misdemeanor, and possession of more than four ounces is a felony. Soon it will be time for the Alaska Supreme Court to definitively resolve the issue -- one more time. Both sides are already gearing up for the appeal, which will go directly to the Supreme Court. According to Morones, the process could take months or perhaps a year. In the meantime, Alaska once again stands as the only state in the nation where people can legally possess small amounts of marijuana.

Editorial: Not Playing by the Rules, Not Making Sense

David Borden, Executive Director, 7/14/06

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David Borden
Call me old fashioned, but I like it when rule-makers play by the rules. I like it when the law corresponds to reality, both in wording and interpretation. I like it when laws make sense.

I don't like it when legislators thumb their noses at their constitutions to enact laws they know don't pass muster. Unpopular Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski's marijuana re-criminalization bill, partially struck down by a Superior Court judge this week based on the state Supreme Court's standing word, is a good example. The bill signed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to change California's initiative-enshrined treatment-not-jail law in ways that contradict the voters' choice is another.

As worrisome as methamphetamine recipes floating around the Internet may be for some, the bill signed by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm aiming at those almost certainly flouts the First Amendment. Are they going to sue publishers of online, academic chemistry texts that happen to include information on this legally-prescribable schedule II substance?

I don't like "legal fictions" -- definitions in the law that have to then be dealt with as if they were real when in fact they're not. The much criticized asset forfeiture laws, in many of which a mere object is the entity that gets accused of the crime (allowing the government to take property from innocent owners) rely on that fiction for their justification. Another such fiction is laws in 21 states, including another from Michigan, that categorically equate certain drug activity with child abuse -- whether a child was actually abused or not.

It's important to remember that child abuse laws are already on the books -- if a child is getting abused, some form of intervention by the law to address the situation is appropriate. But if a parent, for example, takes some methamphetamine while at home in order to stay up late to meet a critical work deadline, but without acting aggressively or neglecting the family's needs, how is that child abuse? Many people take meth or similar drugs on prescription from their doctors for very similar purposes. Doing so without a prescription is illegal, and can certainly be disconcerting. Some meth users do become unstable or violent. But are the two situations really so very different -- inherently, by definition -- for the latter to qualify as child abuse, even if no actual abusive acts ever take place?

Even when meth is being manufactured, it's fictional to equate it with abuse categorically, the legitimate dangers of meth manufacturing notwithstanding. If chemicals are being handled in a way that subjects children to harm qualifying as abuse, and if it's done intentionally or with clear, willful recklessness, then it doesn't matter whether it's meth or another drug or the stuff in those bottles underneath your kitchen sink, it's still abuse (or perhaps endangerment). But the fact that it's a drug being manufactured is purely incidental.

It's not legal hair-splitting to say that, because applying the label of "child abuse" creates an appearance that the accused is a monster who probably belongs in jail and almost certainly shouldn't be entrusted with children. But that may not at all be the case; the user may be a responsible user who takes perfectly good care of the kids. The user may be addicted and need help, but never raise a hand against a son or daughter or place them in danger. Even the dealer or manufacturer may only be trying to get by in difficult economic circumstances -- the illegal activity may be what one is doing in order to provide better for the children. That's a sad circumstance, but it's a circumstance faced by many. Disconcerting, yes, but child abuse?

The most offensive thing about the California development is that it was a coalition of law enforcement groups and drug court judges who pressed for the bill. They don't like the restrictions Prop 36 put on them. But so what? They have the right to field their own counter-initiative (with private money, of course), if they think they could win it. They lost pretty badly the first time. But the voters spoke, and the state constitution says that counts.

I don't think our law enforcers -- judges, of all people -- should disrespect the constitutions whose tenets are intended to stand over and bind them. Though they claim to hold law in reverence, in this they have trampled it. Call me old fashioned, but I don't think that's good for our country.

ACLU Alaska press release

And another ACLU item, this one about the Alaska victory that came as expected -- hopefully not just a short term victory, but only time will tell about that. Read our feature story in the Chronicle from about a month ago.
Adults Have Privacy Right to Use Marijuana in the Home, Says Alaska Judge in Landmark Ruling ACLU Wins Multi-Year Battle to Protect Alaska Residents From Drug War Excesses FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 11, 2006 JUNEAU - In a landmark ruling, an Alaska state court judge has upheld adults' right to possess and use small amounts of marijuana within their homes. The American Civil Liberties Union, which challenged the law, said the ruling confirmed that the state constitution protects adults who use and possess marijuana in their homes from police surveillance, searches, arrest and prosecution. "The drug war has wreaked havoc on the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution, but fortunately many state constitutions still shield individuals from drug war excess," said Allen Hopper, an attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "This ruling is incredibly significant from a national perspective, because there are a number of states with similar privacy rights in their constitutions that may afford protections to adult marijuana users." With the court's ruling, Alaska remains the only state in the nation in which adults are legally free to possess and use small amounts of marijuana within their homes. "The state of Alaska has charted a different course from that of the federal government's failed policy on marijuana," said Michael MacLeod-Ball, Executive Director of the ACLU of Alaska. "This ruling affirms Alaska's commitment to fundamental privacy rights over reefer madness." The ACLU filed suit against the State of Alaska after it passed a law earlier this year that would have re-criminalized adult use and possession of small amounts of marijuana within the home. Since 1975, the Alaska Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the state constitution's privacy provisions protect adults' possession of small amounts of marijuana in the home, and the state court's ruling relied in part on those decisions. A similar law was proposed in 2005 by Governor Frank Murkowski, but failed to pass following testimony by international, national and state scientific experts that adult use of marijuana is no more dangerous today than it was in 1975. In the 1975 ruling, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in Ravin v. State that the state constitution's right to privacy protects adults who use and possess marijuana within the home from criminal prosecution. Judge Patricia Collins of the Juneau Superior Court relied on the Ravin decision to reaffirm that the relatively minor dangers associated with adult possession and use of small amounts of marijuana within the home do not justify government surveillance and searches of homes or criminal prosecution. Her ruling was issued late yesterday. The State of Alaska argued that since the 1975 Ravin decision, marijuana has become more potent and dangerous, justifying a revisiting of the Supreme Court's previous ruling. Judge Collins disagreed, stating in her opinion that the "[Ravin] decision is law until and unless the supreme court takes contrary action." The ruling is online at: www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/decrim/26112lgl20060711.html The ACLU's legal papers are available at: www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/decrim/26060lgl20060630.html Additional background information on ACLU of Alaska v. State of Alaska can also be found at: www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/decrim/26076prs20060630.html
Location: 
Juneau, AK
United States

Judge Invalidates Alaska Marijuana Recriminalization Law, As Expected

Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003118645_webpot10.html

Commission Candidate Espouses Marijuana Legalization (Lee County, Florida)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.news-press.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060710/COLUMNISTS01/607100327/1075

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