Medical Marijuana

RSS Feed for this category

Medical Marijuana: Maine Activist Wins Acquittal on Growing, Trafficking Charges

Long-time Maine medical marijuana and marijuana legalization advocate Donald Christen is innocent of marijuana cultivation and trafficking, a jury found last week as it acquitted him of the charges. The verdict could have far reaching effects in the state, according to Christen's lawyer, Walter McKee.

"We had raised the affirmative defense that the marijuana being cultivated or being furnished was medical marijuana," McKee told the Kennebec Journal after the verdict. "Don acknowledged that he cultivated marijuana and he acknowledged that he possessed it with the intent to furnish it, but indicated that what he was cultivating and what he had possessed with the intent to furnish was medical marijuana, for one patient in particular."

The jury's acquittal came after Justice William Anderson told jurors Christen had met the criteria for medical marijuana under the state statute. Christen was arrested on the charges in December 2004 when police raided his home, which had served since the previous October as the Medical Marijuana Distribution Center. He was growing plants for a handful of patients. Under Maine's medical marijuana law, there are provisions to protect patients from prosecution, but none for allowing them to obtain their medicine. Christen filled that gap, and now he has broken new ground with his acquittal.

This is just the latest poke in the eye of Maine authorities from Christen. The veteran gadfly has bedeviled police and politicos in the state for more than a decade as founder of the legalization group Maine Vocals and organizer of the annual Maine Hempstock celebration. Don't count on him to rest on his laurels now.

Feature: Gazing Into the Crystal Ball -- What Can We Expect in 2009?

In the other feature article in this issue, we looked back at last year, examining the drug policy high and lows. Here, we look forward, and not surprisingly, see some of the same issues. With a prohibitionist drug policy firmly entrenched, many issues are perennial -- and will remain issues until they are resolved.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/crystalball.jpg
gazing into the future of drug policy reform '09 (picture from wikimedia.org)
Of course, America's drug war does not end at our borders, so while there is much attention paid to domestic drug policy issues, our drug policies also have an important impact on our foreign policy. In fact, Afghanistan, which is arguably our most serious foreign policy crisis, is inextricably intertwined with our drug wars, while our drug policies in this hemisphere are also engendering crisis on our southern border and alienation and loss of influence in South America.

Medical Marijuana in the States

In November, Michigan voters made it the 13th medical marijuana state and the first in the Midwest. Now, nearly a quarter of the US population resides in medical marijuana states, and it is likely that number will increase this year. Legislative efforts are underway in Kansas, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York, among others, and chances are one or more of them will join the club this year. Interest in medical marijuana is also emerging in some unlikely places, such as Idaho, where one legislator has vowed to introduce a bill this year, and South Dakota, where activists who were defeated at the polls in 2006 are trying to get a bill in the legislature this month.

California's Grand Experiment with Medical Marijuana

As with so many other things, when it comes to medical marijuana, California is a different world. With its broadly written law allowing virtually anyone with $150 for a doctor's visit to seek certification as a a registered medical marijuana patient, and with its thriving system of co-ops, collectives, and dispensaries, the Golden State has created a situation of very low risk for consumers and significant protections even for growers and sellers.

With tax revenue streams from the dispensaries now pouring into the state's cash-starved coffers, medical marijuana is also creating political facts on the ground. The state of California is not going to move against a valuable revenue generator.

And if President-Elect Obama keeps his word, the DEA will soon butt out, too. But even if he doesn't, and the raids against dispensaries continue, it seems extremely unlikely that the feds can put the genie back in the bottle. The Bush administration tried for eight years and managed to shut down only a small fraction of operators, most of whom were replaced by competitors anyway.

The state's dispensary system, while currently a patch-work with some areas well-served with stores and other whole counties without any, is also a real world model of what regulated marijuana sales can look like. Despite the wailing and gnashing of teeth by pot foes, the dispensaries have, for the most part, operated non-problematically and as good commercial and community neighbors.

California's medical marijuana regime continues to evolve as the state comes to grips with the reality the voters created more than a decade ago. We will continue to watch and report as -- perhaps -- California leads the way to taxed and regulated marijuana sales, and not just for patients.

What Will Obama Do?

It will be a new era in Washington, DC, when President-Elect Obama becomes President Obama in less than three weeks. While the president cannot pass laws, he can provide leadership to the Congress and use his executive powers to make some changes, such as calling off the DEA in California, which he has promised to do.

The one thing we know he will not do is try to legalize marijuana. In response to publicly generated questions about marijuana legalization, his team has replied succinctly: No.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/barackobama.jpg
What will President Obama do?
One early indicator of Obama's proclivities will be his selection of a replacement for John Walters, the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. While there has been speculation about some possible candidates, none of them very exciting for drug policy reformers, no candidate has yet been named.

President Obama will also submit budgets to Congress. Those documents will provide very clear indications of his priorities on matters of interest to the reform community, from the controversial program of grants to fund anti-drug law enforcement task forces to spending levels for drug prevention and treatment, as well as funding for America's foreign drug war adventures.

The conventional wisdom is that Obama is not going to expend political capital trying to undo decades of drug war policies, but perhaps the budget axe will do the talking. Goodness knows, we don't have any money to waste in the federal budget these days.

What Will the Congress Do?

Democrats now control not only the White House, but both houses of Congress. One area we will be watching closely is the progress, if any, of federal sentencing reform. There are now more than 100,000 federal drug war prisoners, too many of them low-level crack offenders serving draconian sentences thanks to the efforts of people like Vice President elect Joe Biden, a long-time congressional drug warrior. Several different crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity bills have been introduced. The best was authored by Biden himself, a sign of changing times, if only slowly changing. It is past time for one of these bills, hopefully a good one, to pass into law.

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced a federal marijuana decriminalization bill last year. The best prediction is that it will go nowhere, but we could always stand to be pleasantly surprised.

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), head of the House Judiciary Committee, has emerged as a strong critic of federal interference in state medical marijuana programs. Conyers could use his position to highlight that issue, and possibly, to introduce legislation designed to address the problem of federal interference.

One area where the Congress, including the Democratic leadership, has proven vulnerable to the politics of tough on crime is the federal funding of those anti-drug task forces. In a rare fit of fiscal sanity, the Bush administration has been trying for years to zero out those grants, but the Congress keeps trying to get them back in the budget -- and then some. We will be watching those funding battles this year to see if anything has changed.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/coca-museum-la-paz.jpg
Coca Museum, La Paz, Bolivia
Mexico

With the death toll from prohibition-related violence topping 5,000 last year, Mexico is in the midst of a multi-sided war that is not going to end in the foreseeable future, especially given America's insatiable appetite for the forbidden substances that are making Mexican drug trafficking organizations obscenely wealthy. With the $1.4 billion anti-drug military and police assistance known as Plan Merida approved last year by the Bush administration and the Congress, the US is now investing heavily in escalating the violence.

The National Drug Information Center has identified Mexican drug trafficking organizations as the nation's number one criminal threat, and chances are the violence south of the border will begin to ooze across the line. That will only add to the pressure among law enforcement and political figures to "do something." But given the current mindset among policymakers, just about anything they may be inclined to do to "help" is unlikely to be helpful.

The cartel wars in Mexico are also having an impact on Mexican domestic politics, with President Felipe Calderón's popularity suffering a significant decline. The angst over the escalating violence has already provided an opening for talk about drug policy reform in Mexico, with the opposition PRD saying that legalization has to be on the table, and Calderón himself announcing he wants to decriminalize drug possession (although how that would have any noticeable impact on the traffic or the violence remains unclear).

Look for the violence to continue, and watch to see if the resulting political pressure results in any actual policy changes. Drug War Chronicle will likely be heading down to Tijuana before too long for some on-scene reporting.

The Andean Drug War

... is not going well. Despite pouring billions of dollars into Plan Colombia, coca production there is at roughly the same level as a decade ago. Cocaine exports continue seemingly immune to all efforts to suppress them, although more appears to be heading for Europe these days. During the Bush administration, the US war on drugs in Colombia has morphed into openly supporting the Colombian government's counterinsurgency war against the leftist FARC rebels, who have been weakened, but, flush with dollars from the trade, are not going away. Neither are the rightist paramilitary organizations, who also benefit from the trade. Will an Obama administration try something new?

Meanwhile, Bolivia and Venezuela, the only countries singled out by the Bush administration as failing to comply with US drug policy objectives, have become allies in an emerging leftist bloc that seeks to challenge US hegemony in the region. Both countries have thrown out the DEA -- Venezuela in 2005, Bolivia last fall -- and are cooperating to expand markets for Bolivia's nascent coca industry. Bolivian President Evo Morales acknowledged this week that some coca production is being diverted to cocaine traffickers, but said that he does not need US help in dealing with it.

And in Peru, where President Alan García has sent out the army to eradicate coca crops in line with US policy, unrest is mounting in coca growing regions, coca farmers are pushing into indigenous territories, causing more problems, and the Shining Path insurgency, once thought decisively defeated, has reemerged, although apparently minus its Maoist ideology, as a criminal trafficking organization and protector of coca farmers. The Peruvian government blames the Shining Path for killing 25 soldiers, police, and anti-drug workers in ambushes last year. Look for that toll to increase this year.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/opium-smaller.jpg
Afghan opium
Afghanistan

More than seven years after the US invaded to overthrow the Taliban and destroy Al Qaeda, Afghanistan is the world's largest opium producer, and has been each year since the Taliban were driven from power. While US drug war imperatives remain strong, they are in conflict with the broader objectives of the counterinsurgency there, and any efforts to suppress poppy planting or the opium trade will not only have a huge impact on the national economy, but are likely to drive Afghan farmers into the waiting arms of the resurgent Taliban, which is estimated to make hundreds of millions of dollars a year off taxing and protecting the trade. That buys a lot of guns to point at Afghan, American and NATO troops.

President elect Obama has vowed to reinvigorate the US war in Afghanistan by sending 20,000 additional troops, and NATO has reluctantly agreed to attack the drug trade by going after traffickers linked to the Taliban or various warlords -- but not those linked to the government in Kabul. Last year was the bloodiest year yet for coalition forces in Afghanistan; look for this year to top it.

Feature: New Jersey Medical Marijuana Bill Heads for Senate Floor After Favorable Committee Vote

New Jersey took a step toward becoming the 14th medical marijuana state Monday as a Senate committee heard testimony, then voted 6-1 (with two abstentions) to send Senate Bill 119, the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, to the Senate floor, where it could be voted on as early as next month. The state Assembly has yet to vote on the bill, but Gov. Jon Corzine (D) has indicated he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/barroffice.jpg
Jim and the late Cheryl Miller, with Gary Storck and Jacki Rickert, outside former US Rep. Bob Barr's office (photo from immly.org)
The bill, passed by the Senate's Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, would set up a registry program with the Department of Health and Senior Services for people with debilitating medical conditions, including cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, or other diseases that cause wasting, chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms. Registered patients or their caregivers could possess up to six marijuana plants and an ounce of usable marijuana.

The bill would also address what has been a thorny issue in some states that have approved medical marijuana laws: the question of supply for people who cannot grow their own. To address the supply problem, the bill foresees the licensing of collective gardens where patients could obtain medical marijuana.

Monday's hearing featured testimony from patients, experts, and drug reformers, as well as written testimony from the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the New Jersey League for Nursing, the New Jersey chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization in support of the bill.

It began with an impassioned argument by Sen. Nick Scutari (D-Union County), the bill's original sponsor. "There is no price we would not pay, no limits to which we would not go" to prevent loved ones from suffering needlessly, Scutari told his colleagues on the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

Scutari addressed opponents who argued that the state should wait for the US Food and Drug Administration to approve marijuana. "There is little comfort in the promise of a better drug 10 years from now," he said, noting that the federal government has ignored recommendations to conduct clinical trials with medical marijuana.

Dr. Denis Petro, a board-certified neurologist in neighboring Pennsylvania with a quarter-century of experience in neurology, clinical pharmacology, and marijuana research also testified. He told the committee how he conducted the first American study of marijuana's beneficial effects for multiple sclerosis (MS) patients 1981. It was time for New Jersey to approve a medical marijuana bill, he told the committee.

"There is no doubt that medical marijuana will eventually be allowed in New Jersey", said Kenneth Wolski, an RN, who with Jim Miller, the widow of New Jersey medical marijuana patient/activist Cheryl Miller, co-founded the Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey to press for such a bill five years ago. "There is too much logic, common sense, compassion and science that supports it. Logic says that doctors prescribe far more dangerous and addicting drugs than marijuana; common sense says that this issue ought to be decided in the privacy of the doctor-patient relationship, in the best interest of the patient; Compassion says that no patient should suffer needlessly; and there is a wealth of scientific evidence that supports the safety and efficacy of medical marijuana," Wolski concluded.

Although medical marijuana legislation had been offered each year since 2004, it had failed to move. But the Senate Health committee made up for lost time Monday, immediately voting to send the bill to the Senate floor with its stamp of approval. Patients and advocates were quick to thank the committee.

"It really brings me to tears, not just for me as someone suffering from multiple sclerosis, but as a registered nurse and for all the people that I've treated," said Elise Segal, who had testified in support of the bill earlier in the day.

"We want to thank the senators on the committee for voting for the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act," said Roseanne Scotti, director of the Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey office and a tireless campaigner in Trenton. "The bottom line is about compassion. If you or someone you love is seriously ill and none of the available medications relieved the suffering, wouldn't you want access to medical marijuana if a doctor recommended it? New Jerseyans overwhelmingly support this legislation and we are grateful to the committee for hearing their voices."

"I am pleased to see the support of the committee for Senate Bill 119," said Dr. Petro. "With passage of the legislation, patients with serious and life-threatening disorders can be offered a safe and effective alternative when conventional therapy is inadequate. The bill represents a positive step toward a rational policy regarding medical marijuana."

"I am thrilled that today members of the Senate Health Committee supported the common sense and compassionate response to suffering," said Nora Bertocci, a registered nurse and chair of the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which works with sick and dying patients on a daily basis. "Medical marijuana is used very successfully in other states and in other countries. We should not be asking 'why should we legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes?' but rather 'why shouldn't we?'"

Since California led the way in 1996, 13 states have passed laws providing for the medicinal use of marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State. Last month, Michigan voters made it the first Midwest state to join the list. If the New Jersey Assembly acts next year, it could become the first Mid-Atlantic state to join.

Press Release: Sacramento Becomes 48th California County to Adopt Medical Marijuana ID Card Program

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
DECEMBER 16, 2008

Sacramento Becomes 48th California County to Adopt Medical Marijuana ID Card ProgramCounty Was Third Largest Without State-Mandated System

CONTACT: Aaron Smith, MPP California policy director, 707-291-0076

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Sacramento County Board of Supervisors decided today to adopt a medical marijuana identification card system, 4 to 1, making it the 48th county to adopt plans to comply with a requirement of a 2003 state law.

    By giving patients the option of obtaining cards identifying them as qualified medical marijuana patients, law enforcement officers will be able to quickly discern whether they are operating within the law, sparing taxpayers the burden of costly, time-consuming false arrests, advocates said.

    The only counties larger than Sacramento that have yet to obey the law requiring a medical marijuana I.D. card program are San Diego and San Bernardino. Those two counties have challenged the program in court three times, all of which have failed. The San Diego County Board of Supervisors has announced its intention to make a final appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    Meanwhile, Ventura County became the last in Southern California – other than San Diego and San Bernardino – to implement a medical marijuana I.D. card program Monday.

    "The decision today signals the beginning of a new an era for California's medical marijuana law,” said Aaron Smith, California policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "It should now be crystal clear to all state and local officials that it's their duty to carry out state law and the will of the voters – regardless of their personal opinion on this issue."

    Patients hailed the Sacramento board's vote as a boon for medical marijuana patients and law enforcement alike.

    "By choosing to offer medical marijuana I.D. cards, the supervisors aren't just demonstrating their respect for the law and the will of the voters," said Candice Works, a Sacramento medical marijuana patient and former substance abuse counselor with Kienböck's disease, a rare and painful bone condition. "They're also showing they care about protecting patients from false arrest and saving our police from wasting time investigating law abiding patients. It's in everybody's interest to ensure our medical marijuana program functions as smoothly as possible, and that's what the I.D. card program does."

    With more than 26,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit www.MarijuanaPolicy.org.

####
Location: 
CA
United States

New Jersey Medical Marijuana Bill Gets Favorable Committee Vote

As a native New Jerseyan, I'm pleased to report that a committee of the state senate gave its approval yesterday to the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act. One of the cosponsors of the bill, Sen. Loretta Weinberg, even represents my hometown. The upcoming Drug War Chronicle will have a feature story on the vote, and Phil actually got a preliminary version of that to me last night, so I thought I would make it available here on the blog. The article will be finalized sometime Thursday, but in the meanwhile you can read it here.

CMMNJ Minutes & Senate Hearing News

Minutes from our Monthly Public Meeting, Lawrence Township Library, Tuesday, December 9, 2008; 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM Meeting was called to order at 7:15 PM and adjourned at 8:30 PM. The October 2008 minutes were approved. Ø The NJ State Senate Health Committee will hold hearings on the “New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act” (S119) on Monday, 12/15/08 at 9:30 AM in the State House Annex. Let Ken know if you plan to attend/submit testimony. Ken to prepare Press Releases. Members may contact senate health committee members to show your support at: https://secure2.convio.net/dpa/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction... Ø Michigan became the 13th medical marijuana state last month. CMMNJ issued a press release http://drugsense.org/temp/78oTtWM2Mcyv.html & published a letter-to-the-editor (LTE): http://drugsense.org/temp/d9s28IMQbWPM.html Ø CMMNJ sent NJEA the letter: “DARE propaganda about medical marijuana” http://drugsense.org/temp/d8UEdGVs4w1l.html A CMMNJ NJEA member also sent a similar letter. Ø Discussion re: how to most effectively use CMMNJ’s 1100 names of supporters of S119. Ø Update on NJ Crohn’s patient Mike Miceli who was arrested 9/4/08. Mike had major abdominal surgery since his arrest; CMMNJ sent a letter to the prosecutor at Mike’s request. Also, CMMNJ sent a letter to NJ Attorney General Anne Milgram on behalf of MS patient John Wilson who was arrested on 8/18/08 for medical marijuana “manufacture” in Somerset Co. Ø Donald Abrams, MD at San Francisco General Hospital is seeking patients who consume cannabis for a government-funded study. Please directly contact him at 415-476-9554 (x315). Ø Recommendations on medical marijuana for President-elect Obama from the ACLU & ASA are at: http://www.aclu.org/transition/#_Toc212436207 & http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=5612 CMMNJ’s recommendations are: 1. Reschedule marijuana to a more appropriate schedule. 2. Stop all federal harassment of medical marijuana patients and distributors. 3. Pass the New Jersey bill into law. Ø CMMNJ appeared at: The Ewing Twp., NJ “CommunityFest” on the campus of TCNJ on 10/25/08; and at the Fourth Annual Medical Marijuana Candlelight Vigil in Philadelphia at City Hall on 11/1/08. Ø CMMNJ has new photos, etc. on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=502598656 Ø Ken attended the SSDP conference 11/22-23/08 in College Park, MD on the campus of U. of MD Ø Treasury report: Checking account ($2167.92); Paypal account ($577.58). Fund raising? Ø Web site update: Gary updated web site (www.cmmnj.org) for 12 hours @ $15.00 per hour = $180.00. Ø Lawrence Twp. Library OK’d CMMNJ’s dates for 2009 meetings--the 2nd Tues. of each month. Next Meeting: January 13, 2009 at the Lawrence Twp. Library, from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM. All are welcome. Light refreshments are served. (Meeting at the library does not imply their endorsement of our issue.) For more information, please contact: Ken Wolski, RN, MPA Executive Director, Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. www.cmmnj.org 844 Spruce St., Trenton, NJ 08648 (609) 394-2137 ohamkrw@aol.com
Location: 
NJ
United States

Press Release: NJ Moves One Step Closer to Allowing Medical Marijuana

[Courtesy of Drug Policy Alliance] FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, December 15, 2008 NJ Moves One Step Closer to Becoming the Fourteenth State to Allow Access to Medical Marijuana Bill Voted Out of Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens, Heads to Full Senate Vote Next Patients, Doctors and Advocates Applaud Compassionate Use Legislation Trenton, NJ — New Jersey moved one step closer today to becoming the fourteenth state in the nation that allows access to medical marijuana. The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee held a hearing today on Senate Bill 119 and voted the bill out of committee with six affirmative votes, one negative, and two abstentions. Senate Bill 119 would allow patients suffering from certain debilitating and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis to use and possess medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The bill would also allow for the licensing of centers where qualifying patients could safely access medical marijuana. The program would be administered by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. Patients, doctors, and advocates applauded the committee's action on Senate Bill 119. The bill now moves to the full senate for a vote. "We want to thank the senators on the committee for voting for the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act," said Roseanne Scotti, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey. "The bottom line is about compassion. If you or someone you love is seriously ill and none of the available medications relieved the suffering, wouldn't you want access to medical marijuana if a doctor recommended it? New Jerseyans overwhelmingly support this legislation and we are grateful to the committee for hearing their voices." Senate Bill 119 is sponsored by Senators Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union), Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic), Sandra B. Cunningham (D-Hudson), Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), Brian P. Stack (D-Hudson), Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Salem, Cumberland, Gloucester), Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), and Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex). Senator Scutari, prime sponsor of the legislation, testified before his colleagues on the health committee. Dr. Denis Petro, internationally known expert on medical marijuana, who testified regarding the scientific support for medical marijuana, praised the committee for voting in support of the legislation. "I am pleased to see the support of the committee for Senate Bill 119," said Petro, a board-certified neurologist in Pennsylvania with more than 25 years experience in neurology, clinical pharmacology and marijuana research. "With passage of the legislation, patients with serious and life-threatening disorders can be offered a safe and effective alternative when conventional therapy is inadequate. The bill represents a positive step toward a rational policy regarding medical marijuana". Thirteen states now have laws allowing seriously ill patients access to medical marijuana—Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State. The New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the New Jersey League for Nursing, the New Jersey chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization all submitted testimony today at the hearing in support of Senate Bill 119. "I am thrilled that today members of the Senate Health Committee supported the common sense and compassionate response to suffering.'' said Nora Bertocci, a registered nurse and chair of the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which works with sick and dying patients on a daily basis. "Medical marijuana is used very successfully in other states and in other countries. We should not be asking 'why should we legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes?' but rather 'why shouldn't we?' '' Scott Ward, a 24-year-old diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November 2006 while training for the Marine Corps Marathon, tried every legally prescribed medicine his doctors suggested while searching for relief from his symptoms, before he decided to try medical marijuana which has drastically improved his quality of life. Ward was excited by the committee's action and hopeful that the legislation would continue to progress to passage. "To say that I am happy and grateful that the majority of the Senate Health Committee voted in favor of S119 would be an understatement. I came here today to fight for the basic right to live a pain-free life; to be able to get out of bed in the morning not feeling terrible. To use marijuana, my medicine, which works for me," said Ward. "The Senate Health Committee's vote is incredibly encouraging and I urge the rest of the legislature to follow their lead quickly so that other New Jerseyans suffering like myself may find some relief." # # #
Location: 
NJ
United States

Press Release: NJ Moves One Step Closer to Allowing Medical Marijuana

[Courtesy of Drug Policy Alliance] FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, December 15, 2008 NJ Moves One Step Closer to Becoming the Fourteenth State to Allow Access to Medical Marijuana Bill Voted Out of Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens, Heads to Full Senate Vote Next Patients, Doctors and Advocates Applaud Compassionate Use Legislation Trenton, NJ — New Jersey moved one step closer today to becoming the fourteenth state in the nation that allows access to medical marijuana. The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee held a hearing today on Senate Bill 119 and voted the bill out of committee with six affirmative votes, one negative, and two abstentions. Senate Bill 119 would allow patients suffering from certain debilitating and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis to use and possess medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation. The bill would also allow for the licensing of centers where qualifying patients could safely access medical marijuana. The program would be administered by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. Patients, doctors, and advocates applauded the committee's action on Senate Bill 119. The bill now moves to the full senate for a vote. "We want to thank the senators on the committee for voting for the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act," said Roseanne Scotti, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey. "The bottom line is about compassion. If you or someone you love is seriously ill and none of the available medications relieved the suffering, wouldn't you want access to medical marijuana if a doctor recommended it? New Jerseyans overwhelmingly support this legislation and we are grateful to the committee for hearing their voices." Senate Bill 119 is sponsored by Senators Nicholas P. Scutari (D-Middlesex, Somerset, Union), Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic), Sandra B. Cunningham (D-Hudson), Raymond J. Lesniak (D-Union), Brian P. Stack (D-Hudson), Stephen M. Sweeney (D-Salem, Cumberland, Gloucester), Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen), and Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex). Senator Scutari, prime sponsor of the legislation, testified before his colleagues on the health committee. Dr. Denis Petro, internationally known expert on medical marijuana, who testified regarding the scientific support for medical marijuana, praised the committee for voting in support of the legislation. "I am pleased to see the support of the committee for Senate Bill 119," said Petro, a board-certified neurologist in Pennsylvania with more than 25 years experience in neurology, clinical pharmacology and marijuana research. "With passage of the legislation, patients with serious and life-threatening disorders can be offered a safe and effective alternative when conventional therapy is inadequate. The bill represents a positive step toward a rational policy regarding medical marijuana". Thirteen states now have laws allowing seriously ill patients access to medical marijuana—Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington State. The New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, the New Jersey League for Nursing, the New Jersey chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization all submitted testimony today at the hearing in support of Senate Bill 119. "I am thrilled that today members of the Senate Health Committee supported the common sense and compassionate response to suffering.'' said Nora Bertocci, a registered nurse and chair of the New Jersey Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, which works with sick and dying patients on a daily basis. "Medical marijuana is used very successfully in other states and in other countries. We should not be asking 'why should we legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes?' but rather 'why shouldn't we?' '' Scott Ward, a 24-year-old diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November 2006 while training for the Marine Corps Marathon, tried every legally prescribed medicine his doctors suggested while searching for relief from his symptoms, before he decided to try medical marijuana which has drastically improved his quality of life. Ward was excited by the committee's action and hopeful that the legislation would continue to progress to passage. "To say that I am happy and grateful that the majority of the Senate Health Committee voted in favor of S119 would be an understatement. I came here today to fight for the basic right to live a pain-free life; to be able to get out of bed in the morning not feeling terrible. To use marijuana, my medicine, which works for me," said Ward. "The Senate Health Committee's vote is incredibly encouraging and I urge the rest of the legislature to follow their lead quickly so that other New Jerseyans suffering like myself may find some relief." # # #
Location: 
NJ
United States

Americans for Safe Access: December 2008 Activist Newsletter

ASA Sues Calif. DMV for Discriminating Against Patients

Medical Marijuana Patient with Clean Driving Record Has License Revoked

The loss of a medical marijuana patient's drivers' license has resulted in a lawsuit against California's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Americans for Safe Access filed the suit in Merced on behalf of Rose Johnson, a 53-year-old patient from Atwater, who had her license renewal denied in July solely because of her status as a medical marijuana patient. Despite a clean driving record and 37 years without an accident, Ms. Johnson was denied a license after DMV obtained her medical records, which revealed that her doctor had recommended cannabis as a treatment.

ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford

According to the DMV, Ms. Johnson's license was revoked "because of...[an] addiction to, or habitual use of, [a] drug," which they claim renders her unable to safely operate a motor vehicle. DMV provided no evidence in support of the decision.

"The DMV cannot simply disregard California's medical marijuana law," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who is representing Ms. Johnson. "When the voters of California enacted the Compassionate Use Act, they never intended to authorize the DMV to strip medical marijuana patients of their drivers' licenses. The DMV should not be in the business of revoking the licenses of drivers like Ms. Johnson simply because she is a medical marijuana patient."

ASA has received widespread reports of the California DMV suspending or revoking the licenses of medical marijuana patients in at least eight counties -- Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Glenn, Merced, Placer, Sacramento, and Sonoma. DMV has stripped medical marijuana patients of their drivers' licenses by classifying them as habitual "drug abusers," despite California's legal protections for patients.

In 2007, Ms. Johnson's home county of Merced instituted a policy that instructs Sheriff Deputies to respect state law and not cite medical marijuana patients or seize their medicine.

"The DMV is not under a different set of requirements than local police in California," said Elford. "The failure to uphold California's medical marijuana law is entirely inappropriate for any local or state agency."

The lawsuit, part of a campaign by ASA to fully implement California's medical marijuana laws, is expected to be heard in Merced Superior Court in the next few months.

For more on ASA's court filing, see ASA's website.

 

 

 

New Administration a Chance for Change on Medical Marijuana

President-elect Promised New Federal Policy on State Programs

Americans for Safe Access, along with medical marijuana patients across the country, is celebrating the historic election of President-elect Barack Obama. His election has provided a sense of relief for individuals who use or provide cannabis in accordance with their state laws. Like all of his Democratic primary rivals, President-elect Obama repeatedly pledged to end federal raids against the individuals and collectives authorized by state law to use or provide medical cannabis. ASA's government affairs team in Washington, DC is working hard to ensure the President-elect honors his campaign promise to end federal interference with state medical marijuana programs.

Campaign pledges have been broken before. George W. Bush campaigned saying medical marijuana should be left to the states to decide. Yet the Bush Administration has only increased federal interference with state medical marijuana programs. It has dramatically increased paramilitary-style raids against patient collectives in California that are operating in compliance with state law and local regulation. In just the past few years, the federal government has brought charges against more than 100 individuals authorized by their state law to use or provide medical cannabis.

But it is not just patients the Bush Administration has targeted. They have also been waging a campaign of intimidation against property owners. Scores of landlords throughout California have received letters from the Department of Justice, in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration, that threaten asset forfeiture and federal prosecution if they continue to lease to medical cannabis collectives.

Caren Woodson, Director of Governmental Affairs Caren Woodson, Director of Governmental Affairs

In his victory speech, President-elect Obama told us that "victory alone is not the change we seek; it is only the chance for us to make that change." The transition to a new Presidential administration and a new Congress offers unique opportunities for implementing a more compassionate approach to medical marijuana. ASA's Government Affairs Office is working on Capitol Hill to advance ASA's National Policy Agenda. ASA is calling for a comprehensive federal policy that provides safe access to cannabis for individuals fighting HIV/AIDS, cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, and other serious diseases.

 

ASA's Capitol staff will be working overtime, along with much of Washington, D.C., as the new Administration takes over. But they are counting on change coming from the grassroots, too.

"We're counting on our members to support our efforts and reinforce our work in their communities," said Caren Woodson, ASA's Director of Governmental Affairs, who is leading the effort. "The opportunity for real change is here."

To help guide policy decisions in the new Administration and Congress, ASA has assembled a set of comprehensive recommendations. You can see them on ASA's website.

ASA has made its recommendations to President-elect Obama; you can share your own on his website, www.change.gov.

ASA Chapter Profile: Maryland

ASA chapters and affiliates are making tremendous strides to educate the public and to improve medical cannabis laws across the country. Some of the most exciting growth of ASA chapters and leaders is taking place in Maryland, right outside our nation's Capitol. Under the direction of Tony Bowles (Montgomery Co.), Jay Hartman (Prince George's Co.), and Tom Adkins (Eastern Shore), Maryland now has three active ASA chapters organizing citizens to fix the state's flawed medical cannabis law.

ASA Maryland's festival booth ASA Maryland's festival booth

Although Maryland passed a medical cannabis law in 2003, the state still criminalizes individuals who use or obtain cannabis as recommended by a licensed physician. Every year, Maryland wastes precious law enforcement resources arresting and prosecuting scores of individuals who legitimately use medical cannabis to control symptoms of a serious or chronic illness.

The core leadership of Maryland's three chapters meets regularly in person and by phone to plan projects and coordinate activities. The three chapters work together on all projects, sharing in the effort, and giving each chapter action more impact.

Since 2007, ASA chapters in MD have hosted numerous meetings, provided trainings and teach-ins across the state, organized art parties, and created a public presence by attending street festivals in Bethesda, Wheaton, Fell's Point, and outside the M&T Bank Stadium during the Baltimore Ravens' home games - all to spread awareness about medical cannabis and recruit new members.

All three chapters are focused on building their membership base. They regularly send volunteers out to communities throughout the state to canvass and petition, meeting hundreds of medical cannabis patients and supporters who are ready for change.

The chapters worked with the Drug Policy Alliance to promote the Maryland Patients for Access campaign, designed to build grassroots support and identify potential leadership for upcoming reform efforts. In addition to public awareness sessions, the ASA chapters host spokesperson and media trainings, making Marylanders better informed about the challenges that patients face and helping patients navigate law enforcement encounters.

The chapters are educating both state and federal lawmakers by getting everyday citizens to stand up for medical cannabis. They are recruiting constituents for meetings with state legislators, providing them with information, prepping them for the meeting, and organizing carpools to get there.

The Maryland ASA chapters are successful examples of how activists can work together to start new chapters in their region, build strong lists by gathering contacts and letting the public know they exist, and coordinate campaigns with each other and ASA's national offices.

For more information on Maryland ASA, contact Tony Bowles md4safeaccess@gmail.com or Jay Hartman bluejaybird@gmail.com.

You Can Help Encourage Obama to Answer Questions About Our Marijuana Policy

President-elect Obama has created a web page to accept policy questions from the public. Users can vote for their favorites and his transition team has pledged to answer the most popular questions. At this moment, I’m seeing these two in the top ten:

"Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?"

"13 states have compassionate use programs for medial Marijuana, yet the federal gov't continues to prosecute sick and dying people. Isn't it time for the federal gov't to step out of the way and let doctors and families decide what is appropriate?"


Showing that we care about these issues is vitally important, so please head over to change.gov and vote for these questions. Registration is easy and the questions should be right there on the front page (where they’ll stay if we make sure to vote for them).

This is a very cool opportunity to show the strength of our movement by making marijuana reform the #1 issue on Obama’s website.  Please help, and forward the link to your friends and family. Votes close at noon tomorrow, so please don’t delay. Thanks!

Update: As noted in comments, I failed utterly to comprehend the fact that 12:00 am is midnight (duh!), so this post actually went up 9 minutes before the deadline (our time stamp is an hour ahead for some reason). So I'm an idiot, but the good news is that marijuana legalization ended up being the #1 question. I doubt I'm going to like the answer we get, but at least we've sent a message that marijuana reform is far from a fringe issue in 2008.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School