Medical Marijuana

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Marijuana: Pot Continues to Climb in Public Opinion Polls -- Zogby Goes Over 50%

Support for marijuana legalization or decriminalization among the American public continues to climb and may now be a majority position, if a pair of recently released polls are any indication. An ABC News/Washington Post poll released April 30 found that 46% of those surveyed supported "legalizing small amounts of marijuana for personal use," or decriminalization, while a Zogby poll released Wednesday found that 52% supported the legalization, taxation, and regulation of pot.

The 46% figure in the ABC News/Washington Post poll is the highest since the poll first asked the question in the 1980s, and more than double what the figure was just a dozen years ago. Support for decriminalization hovered at around one-quarter of the population throughout the 1980s, and was at 22% as recently as 1997. By 2002, support had jumped to 39%, and now it has jumped again.

When it comes to political affiliation, support for decrim is at 53% for independents, 49% for Democrats, and 28% for Republicans. Since the late 1980s, Democratic support has jumped by 29 points and independent support by 27. Even among Republicans, support for decrim has increased by 10 points.

Support was highest among people reporting no religious affiliation, with 70%, and lowest among evangelical white Protestants, at 24%. People under age 30 supported decrim at a rate of 57%, nearly twice that of seniors, at 30%. People in between the young and the old split down the middle.

The numbers were even better in the Zogby poll. Confronted with a straightforward question about marijuana legalization, 52% of respondents said yes, 37% said no, and 11% were not sure.

The pollsters asked: "Scarce law enforcement and prison resources, a desire to neutralize drug cartels and the need for new sources of revenue have resurrected the topic of legalizing marijuana. Proponents say it makes sense to tax and regulate the drug while opponents say that legalization would lead marijuana users to use other illegal drugs. Would you favor or oppose the government's effort to legalize marijuana?"

The poll was commissioned for the conservative-leaning O'Leary Report and published Wednesday as a full page ad in the Washington, DC, political newsletter The Hill. In that poll, the sample of respondents was weighted to reflect the outcome of the 2008 presidential race, with 54% Obama supporters and 46% McCain supporters.

"This new survey continues the recent trend of strong and growing support for taxing and regulating marijuana and ending the disastrously failed policy of prohibition," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project."Voters are coming to realize that marijuana prohibition gives us the worst of all possible worlds -- a drug that's widely available but totally unregulated, whose producers and sellers pay no taxes but whose profits often support murderous drug cartels," Kampia said. "The public is way ahead of the politicians on this."

Medical Marijuana: Another California Dispensary Raid

A Bakersfield medical marijuana dispensary was raided Wednesday afternoon by Kern County sheriff's deputies and DEA agents. Three men were arrested, and police said they seized two pounds of marijuana and two loaded handguns.

The target of the raid was the Green Cross Compassionate Co-op at 309 Bernard Street in east Bakersfield, one of the first to open in the city since Sheriff Donny Youngblood raided a half-dozen dispensaries in 2007. Youngblood has said he will not interfere with the operation of nonprofit medical marijuana co-ops, but he has also said that dispensaries for profit should expect to be treated like drug dealers.

It is unclear at this point how Youngblood determined the Green Cross Compassionate Co-op was not a legal co-op under California law and guidelines issued by the state attorney general.

US Attorney General Eric Holder has said that the Justice Department would not act against California dispensaries unless they violated both state and federal law. At least one dispensary, Emmalyn's in San Francisco, has been subjected to a DEA-led raid.

But Wednesday's Bakersfield raid appears to have been led by the crusading Sheriff Youngblood. A DEA spokesman told local media its agents were there only in a backup capacity.

Another Medical Marijuana Raid in California

This is interesting/disturbing:

Kern Sheriff’s deputies and agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency were searching a medical marijuana store in east Bakersfield Wednesday afternoon.

Calls to the sheriff’s department were not immediately returned. A spokesman from the DEA said that agency was there only to assist. The spokesman said the sheriff’s department was the lead agency in the case.

Sheriff Donny Youngblood said his office will not interfere with the operation of non-profit medical co-operatives run by patients for patients. But, he said, dispensaries that sell marijuana for a profit should be expected to be treated like other drug dealers. [KGET]

DEA explained that they're "only there to assist," but that doesn’t eliminate the possibility of federal charges down the road. This isn’t the first time DEA has "assisted" local law enforcement during a dispensary raid. I just spoke with Caren Woodson at Americans for Safe Access and they're waiting to learn more about the situation.

I'll update as details emerge.

Update: ASA just informed me that this appears to be a DEA raid being assisted by local authorities, rather than the other way around.

Update 2: Turns out it really was a state raid, based on a state warrant. ASA got some mixed messages from the PR dept. at DEA.

Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Dispensary Bill Passes Senate

For the second time, the Rhode Island Senate has approved a bill that would allow dispensaries to provide marijuana to patients qualified under the state's existing medical marijuana law. The bill now heads to the House, where a committee vote was scheduled for Thursday.
Gov. Donald Carcieri, unsuccessful medical marijuana foe
Rhode Island approved a medical marijuana law in 2006, but that law did not provide a legal avenue for patients unable to grow their own medicine or find a caregiver to grow it for them to otherwise procure it. The bill would create "compassion centers" for the distribution of marijuana to people with severe, debilitating illnesses, including cancer, Hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

Some 681 people are already registered with the Rhode Island Department of Health under the state's medical marijuana program.

The Senate approval of the compassion center program came on a 35-2 vote Wednesday. The vote came after bill sponsor Sen. Rhoda Perry (D-Providence) told her colleagues support for the bill was growing and it appeared the state police had dropped their opposition.

The Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, which has lobbied hard for medical marijuana, praised the Senate for passing the bill. Spokesman Jesse Stout said it would make Rhode Island the second state after New Mexico to authorize nonprofit dispensaries for patients.

The Rhode Island Senate passed a similar bill last year, but it didn't make it through the House. Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) has vetoed medical marijuana bills twice, but was overriden by the legislature. A spokesman for the governor told the Providence Journal he continued to have "serious concerns with how the compassion centers would be set up and regulated."

Medical Marijuana: New Hampshire Bill Passes Senate, Awaits Governor's Signature

New Hampshire is poised to become the 14th medical marijuana state after a bill legalizing the therapeutic use of marijuana passed the state Senate on a 14-10 vote Wednesday. A similar measure has already been approved by the House.
New Hampshire Statehouse
The Senate amended the bill to include a panel to review questions of how patients would access medical marijuana. It also strengthened privacy provisions in the bill. Those changes are seen as minor and are expected to be approved by the House.

The bill would allow patients or their caregivers to grow up to six marijuana plants and possess up to two ounces of usable marijuana. Only patients with enumerated conditions, including chronic pain, seizures, muscle spasms, and severe nausea or vomiting, would be eligible under the bill.

New Hampshire law enforcement lobbyists opposed the bill, and Gov. John Lynch (D) has expressed sympathy for law enforcement concerns. He has also expressed concern that medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law. But he has not said he would veto the bill.

After the vote, advocates launched a statewide ad campaign featuring Multiple Sclerosis patient Sandra Drew, asking Gov. Lynch to sign the bill.

Medical Marijuana: Minnesota Bill Passes Senate
Minnesota State Capitol
The Minnesota Senate Wednesday approved SF 97, the state's medical marijuana bill. Victory came on a narrow 36-28 vote after debate pitting concern about those suffering from the pain of serious illness against fears that allowing patients to use marijuana would result in an increase in drug abuse in the state.

Law enforcement has consistently opposed the medical marijuana bill. But Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing) said during the debate that the issue is a medical issue, not one to be decided by "our brothers and sisters in blue."

The Senate has passed medical marijuana legislation before, but it has not been approved by the House. Advocates, such as the Marijuana Policy Project-backed Minnesotans for Compassionate Care, believe they have the votes to pass the House this year, but they still face a veto threat from Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R). Whether either chamber could muster the votes to override a veto is questionable.

The House is expected to take up the bill next week.

Rhode Island Senate Votes to Create Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Good news from Rhode Island:

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The Rhode Island Senate Wednesday afternoon approved a bill to allow licensed dispensaries -- known as "compassion centers" -- to grow and sell marijuana to the estimated 600 patients who currently have the state's blessing to use the drug for medicinal purposes.

The vote was 35-2. The bill now moves to the House. [Providence Journal]

This should get through the House, but Gov. Carcieri vetoed a similar bill last year and is likely to do the same this time around. Click here to contact him.

New Hampshire Senate Votes to Legalize Medical Marijuana

Good news from New Hampshire:

CONCORD, N.H.—The state Senate has joined the House in endorsing medicinal marijuana use by residents with crippling ailments.

The 14-10 Senate vote Wednesday sent the bill back to the House to review relatively minor changes. If the House endorses the changes and Gov. John Lynch signs the bill, New Hampshire would be the 14th state to legalize medicinal marijuana. [Boston Globe]

It looks like this will get through the House, but I don't know anything about Gov. Lynch's intentions. Click here to contact him.

Minnesota Senate Votes to Legalize Medical Marijuana

Good news from Minnesota:

After a debate pitting compassion for those suffering from the pain of cancer or HIV-AIDS against concerns about abuse and violence from expanded availability of a "gateway drug," the Minnesota Senate gave tentative approval Wednesday to the use of marijuana for medical purposes in the state.

The 36-28 vote came despite questions about whether the measure fully defines who would be eligible and whether it provides proper safeguards against potential abuse. [Star-Tribune]

The bill could still get blocked in the House and a veto from Gov. Pawlenty is a definite possibility. If you're in Minnesota, click here to contact your legislators in support of medical marijuana.

The Federal Government Grows Some of the Worst Marijuana in America

This story from FOX Memphis provides a rare glimpse into the federal government's massive marijuana grow-op:

My favorite part is when Dr. Mahmoud Elsohly boasts about the high quality of the government pot he grows, then proceeds to demonstrate by sticking his hand in a barrel of disgusting brown schwag. It's all ground up, and you can see the stems sticking out. Anyone can plainly see that the government's weed just sucks.

I also noticed how the FOX story explained that the marijuana is used for research purposes, but conveniently left out the fact that the government actually provides medical marijuana to a small group of patients, while simultaneously prohibiting medical marijuana under federal law. I guess that contradiction was too much for a local FOX affiliate to explore in a fluffy pot-porn segment. Or, more likely, Dr. Elsohly never mentioned it to the reporter.

Given the popular urban myth that government-grown marijuana is super-potent, it's amusing to consider how stunningly bad it actually is. Ironies aside, however, it's actually a serious problem that these guys don't know what they're doing. They won't make any of their product available to researchers seeking to make marijuana an FDA-approved medication, and even if researchers gained access, the material is so weak that you couldn't do much with it.

Someone else needs to be growing marijuana for research purposes, but the DEA won't allow it because they're afraid of what the research will show. Our friends at MAPS and ACLU have spent years in court trying to gain approval for one well-qualified scientist to grow research-grade marijuana, and they've been blocked at every turn. Unless the Obama Administration intervenes before May 1, the DEA's Final Order will take effect and the effort to establish an independent source of research-grade marijuana will return to square one.

Click here to encourage Obama to support science over politics by allowing independent marijuana cultivation for research purposes.

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