Medical Marijuana

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Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc. October Minutes and DOJ Memo

Monthly Public Meeting Minutes

Lawrence Township Library

Tuesday, October 13, 2009; 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

7:15 PM:  Meeting called to order.  September 2009 minutes approved.  Discussion:

Ø  Assemblyman and doctors support medical marijuana in New Jersey.  All three gubernatorial candidates said they support medical marijuana during their recent debateLibertarian candidate for governor also supports the bill.  See the excellent article in Inside New Jersey, “Medical marijuana bill gains momentum in New Jersey.” 

Ø  The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which was approved by the state Senate in February, is due for a vote by the Assembly this fall.  Tell your legislators that you want the Senate version of the bill to pass into law.  This version does not contain the very restrictive changes to the bill that was released by the Assembly Health Committee.  See CMMNJ’s recent blog for talking points—but tell your story in your own words.  Don’t let a possibly unworkable bill pass into law.  CMMNJ working on postcard project.

Ø  Support multiple sclerosis (MS) patient John Wilson, who faces 20 years in prison for growing marijuana to treat his MS.  Wilson was forbidden by the judge to even mention his medical condition during the upcoming trial.  Wilson’s next pre-trial hearing will be on 10/30 at 9AM.  Also, a Warren County NJ mother, day care operator, and Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) president faces many years in prison after her September arrest for medical marijuana that she used to treat severe anxiety.

Ø  CMMNJ is scheduled to appear at the following upcoming events (volunteers needed):

·         10/17 & 11/21, 11:30 AM, Medical Marijuana Info Seminar, Collingswood, NJ Public Library (free);

·         10/19, 6:00 PM, Ocean Co. Community College Medical Marijuana Debate, SGA Room 100;

·         Tues., 10/20, 7 PM, NORML NJ Open Mtng., Dog House Saloon, 270 Pascack Rd., Wash. Twp, NJ 07676;

·         11/17 – 19, League of Municipalities Conference at Atlantic City Convention Center (set-up is 11/16).

Ø  CMMNJ representatives recently appeared at the following events: 9/13, Hamilton Septemberfest, Hamilton Twp., NJ; 9/19, Boston Freedom Rally, Boston, Mass.; 9/24-26, NORML Conference, San Francisco, CA.; 10/4 Lawrence Community Day, Lawrence Twp., NJ.; NY State Harvest Festival; 10/10,  Ewing Community Fest, TCNJ, Ewing Twp., NJ.; Wisconsin

Ø  CMMNJ raised $178 as a cause on FacebookSee Ken’s Facebook page & Facebook Friends of CMMNJ!

Ø  Treasury report: Current balances: Checking: $4974.21; PayPal: $436.19.  Please consider a tax-deductible donation to CMMNJ, a 501(c)(3) organization, to fund public education about medical marijuana.  Donations may be made securely through Paypal or checks made out to “CMMNJ” and sent to the address below.  Get a free t-shirt for a donation above $15—specify size.  Thank you for your support.

Scheduled meetings are Nov. 10, & Dec. 8, 2009.  CMMNJ meetings are held on the second Tuesday of the month at the Lawrence Twp. Library from 7:00 PM until 9:00 PM.  All are welcome.  Snacks are served.  The library is at 2751 Brunswick Pike, Lawrence Twp., Tel. #609.882.9246.   (Meeting at the library does not imply their endorsement of our issue.)  For more info, 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

DOJ Memo: Hands off medical marijuana users and caregivers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 20, 2009 CONTACT: Ken Wolski at (609) 394-2137 DOJ Memo: Hands off medical marijuana users WHO: Attorney General Eric Holder WHAT: Announced formal guidelines for federal prosecutors in states that have enacted laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes WHEN: October 19, 2009 WHERE: Washington, D.C. WHY: For clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors in medical marijuana states. For the first time federal authorities have been instructed not to arrest or prosecute medical marijuana patients or caregivers in the 13 states with legalized access. In a major reversal from Bush Administration policy, the Department of Justice issued a memo today to prosecutors that stated: “As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources.” Full text of the memo is available on the Department of Justice Blog: http://blogs.usdoj.gov/blog/archives/192 CMMNJ welcomes this announcement from federal authorities recognizing the medical benefits of marijuana and upholding the rights of Americans to safely use marijuana under a doctor’s supervision. With New Jersey in the final legislative phase for The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act A804/S119 this memo may serve to alleviate any outstanding concern of federal interference with our proposed state law. While the DOJ memo puts in writing statements made by Attorney General Eric Holder in March, it does not change federal law in any way. The memo is targeted to federal prosecutors in the states that have passed ballot initiatives or legislation allowing safe medical marijuana access. It urges them to use their discretion and allocate their resources appropriately, taking into consideration an individual’s full compliance with their state law. The memo was copied to all United States Attorneys, as well as administrators in the DEA and the FBI. Current legislation: The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act A804/S119 has passed the Assembly and Senate Health committees and a Senate floor vote. The issue has received favorable editorials from most newspapers in the state. Now it must see an Assembly floor vote and may require an additional concurrence vote in the Senate. Recent polls show between 70% - 86% of New Jerseyans favor medical marijuana access. There is certainty bi-partisan political support for the bill, but passage this year remains far from assured. New Jersey would become the 14th state in the nation to legalize medical marijuana if it passes this legislation into law in the near future. More information at www.cmmnj.org CMMNJ, a 501(c)(3) public charity, is a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate the public about the benefits of safe and legal access to medical marijuana. For more info, 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 media@cmmnj.org

Medical Marijuana Victory

You Can Make a Difference

 

Dear friends,

Today we have something huge to celebrate.

All your calls and letters to the White House this year have paid off: The Obama administration just announced that it's directing federal drug agents not to arrest or harass medical marijuana patients who comply with state laws.

Your determination to hold the administration accountable turned campaign promises into official policy. Congratulations! Donate now to turn this momentum into more medical marijuana victories.

The next step is to protect patients by making sure that states with medical marijuana laws also provide safe and legal ways for people to obtain their medicine.

We have a perfect chance to do that in Maine on Election Day. An initiative on the state's November ballot would create a legal, regulated distribution system for medical marijuana. 

We can reach 35,000 Mainers who support the initiative to make sure they cast their vote, but we need your help to do it. Will you make a donation to help us call Maine voters?

Raising $10,000 in the next week will allow us to conduct the outreach that could make the difference on Election Day. 

A victory will not only protect patients in Maine, but build momentum for medical marijuana efforts around the country. Please donate now and help us reach our $10,000 goal.

Sincerely,

Bill Piper
Director, Office of National Affairs 
Drug Policy Alliance Network

Yes, we did: Obama ends medical marijuana raids in 13 states

Dear friends: Ready for some great news? The Obama administration is directing federal prosecutors not to arrest medical marijuana patients and caregivers who are complying with state laws. On Monday, federal prosecutors, as well as top officials at the FBI and DEA, will reportedly be told that it isn’t a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana, if they are complying with state law. This is the most significant, positive policy development on the federal level for medical marijuana since 1978. Under the Bush administration, the feds had continued to raid, arrest, and otherwise terrorize medical marijuana and their caregivers in the 13 states that have passed medical marijuana laws. This new policy is a major change. MPP was instrumental in obtaining a promise from President Obama during the presidential campaign that, if elected, he would halt these arrests. MPP was the only reform organization to testify on Capitol Hill urging the issuance of the guidelines and, later, was the only group to work with leaders in Congress to get a House committee to urge the administration to adopt the written guidelines. Our lobbyists have also been in contact with top officials at the Justice Department about the guidelines. We're thrilled to see this promise come to fruition, and I hope you’ll join me in celebrating this news -- some of the best we’ve had for medical marijuana patients in years. Thank you for helping to make this momentous change happen. And if you’d like to help keep pushing, please: 1. Use MPP's easy online action center to tell your members of Congress that you support this new policy. 2. Donate to MPP’s federal lobbying work here. Sincerely, Rob Kampia Executive Director Marijuana Policy Project Washington, D.C. P.S. As I've mentioned in previous alerts, a major philanthropist has committed to match the first $2.35 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2009. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

DrugSense FOCUS Alert #417: Los Angeles Prepares for Clash Over Marijuana

LOS ANGELES PREPARES FOR CLASH OVER MARIJUANA ********************************************************************** DrugSense FOCUS Alert #417 - Sunday, 18 October 2009 Today the New York Times focused on the issue of medicinal marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles but also covered the growing battle over the dispensaries across the state. As stated in the article State Attorney General Jerry Brown's guidelines, which you may read at http://drugsense.org/url/kKMJR2lu, do "allow for nonprofit sales of medical marijuana" by cooperatives or collectives properly established in accordance with the state's laws. Letter writing activists may find targets for their efforts both in California and other states at http://www.mapinc.org/topic/dispensaries and articles about California marijuana issues at http://www.mapinc.org/find?115. ********************************************************************** Source: New York Times (NY) Copyright: 2009 The New York Times Company Contact: letters@nytimes.com Author: Solomon Moore LOS ANGELES PREPARES FOR CLASH OVER MARIJUANA LOS ANGELES -- There are more marijuana stores here than public schools. Signs emblazoned with cannabis plants or green crosses sit next to dry cleaners, gas stations and restaurants. The dispensaries range from Hollywood-day-spa fabulous to shoddy-looking storefronts with hand-painted billboards. Absolute Herbal Pain Solutions, Grateful Meds, Farmacopeia Organica. Cannabis advocates claim that more than 800 dispensaries have sprouted here since 2002; some law enforcement officials say it is closer to 1,000. Whatever the real number, everyone agrees it is too high. And so this, too, is taken for granted: Crackdowns on cannabis clubs will soon come in this city, which has more dispensaries than any other. For the first time, law enforcement officials in Los Angeles have vowed to prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries that turn a profit, with police officials saying they expect to conduct raids. Their efforts are widely seen as a campaign to sway the City Council into adopting strict regulations after two years of debate. It appears to be working. Carmen A. Trutanich, the newly elected city attorney, recently persuaded the Council to put aside a proposed ordinance negotiated with medical marijuana supporters for one drafted by his office. The new proposal calls for dispensaries to have renewable permits, submit to criminal record checks, register the names of members with the police and operate on a nonprofit basis. If enacted, it is likely to result in the closing of hundreds of marijuana dispensaries. Mr. Trutanich argued that state law permits the exchange of marijuana between growers and patients on a nonprofit and noncash basis only. Marijuana advocates say that interpretation would regulate dispensaries out of existence and thwart the will of voters who approved medical cannabis in 1996. Whatever happens here will be closely watched by law enforcement officials and marijuana advocates across the country who are threading their way through federal laws that still treat marijuana as an illegal drug and state laws that are increasingly allowing medicinal use. Thirteen states have laws supporting medical marijuana, and others are considering new legislation. No state has gone further than California, often described by drug enforcement agents as a "source nation" because of the vast quantities of marijuana grown here. And no city in the state has gone further than Los Angeles. This has alarmed local officials, who say that dispensary owners here took unfair advantage of vague state laws intended to create exceptions to marijuana prohibitions for a limited number of ill people. "About 100 percent of dispensaries in Los Angeles County and the city are operating illegally," said Steve Cooley, the Los Angeles County district attorney, who is up for re-election next year. "The time is right to deal with this problem." Mr. Cooley, speaking last week at a training luncheon for regional narcotics officers titled "The Eradication of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles County," said that state law did not allow dispensaries to be for-profit enterprises. Mr. Trutanich, the city attorney, went further, saying dispensaries were prohibited from accepting cash even to reimburse growers for labor and supplies. He said that a recent California Supreme Court decision, People v. Mentch, banned all over-the-counter sales of marijuana; other officials and marijuana advocates disagree. So far, prosecutions of marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles have been limited to about a dozen in the last year, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for Mr. Cooley. But Police Department officials said they were expecting to be called on soon to raid collectives. "I don't think this is a law that we'll have to enforce 800 times," said one police official, who declined to speak on the record before the marijuana ordinance was completed. "This is just like anything else. You don't have to arrest everyone who is speeding to make people slow down." Don Duncan, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, a leader in the medical marijuana movement, said that over-the-counter cash purchases should be permitted but that dispensaries should be nonprofit organizations. He also said marijuana collectives needed more regulation and a "thinning of the herd." "I am under no illusions that everyone out there is following the rules," said Mr. Duncan, who runs his own dispensary in West Hollywood. "But just because you accept money to reimburse collectives does not mean you're making profits." For marijuana advocates, Los Angeles represents a critical juncture -- a symbol of the movement's greatest success, but also its vulnerability. More than 300,000 doctors' referrals for medical cannabis are on file, the bulk of them from Los Angeles, according to Americans for Safe Access. The movement has had a string of successes in the Legislature and at the ballot box. In the city of Garden Grove, marijuana advocates forced the Highway Patrol to return six grams of marijuana it had confiscated from an eligible user. About 40 cities and counties have medical marijuana ordinances. But there have also been setbacks. In June, a federal judge sentenced Charles C. Lynch, a dispensary owner north of Santa Barbara, to one year in prison for selling marijuana to a 17-year-old boy whose father had testified that they sought out medical marijuana for his son's chronic pain. The mayor and the chief of police testified on behalf of Mr. Lynch, who was released on bail pending appeal. And last month, San Diego police officers and sheriff's deputies, along with agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, raided 14 marijuana dispensaries and arrested 31 people. In an interview, Bonnie Dumanis, the district attorney for San Diego County, said that state laws governing medical marijuana were unclear and that the city had not yet instituted new regulations. Ms. Dumanis said that she approved of medical marijuana clubs where patients grow and use their own marijuana, but that none of the 60 or so dispensaries in the county operated that way. "These guys are drug dealers," she said of the 14 that were raided. "I said publicly, if anyone thinks we're casting too big a net and we get a legitimate patient or a lawful collective, then show us your taxes, your business license, your incorporation papers, your filings with the Department of Corporations." "If they had these things, we wouldn't prosecute," she said. Marijuana supporters worry that San Diego may provide a glimpse of the near future for Los Angeles if raids here become a reality. But many look to Harborside Health Center in Oakland as a model for how dispensaries could work. "Our No. 1 task is to show that we are worthy of the public's trust in asking to distribute medical cannabis in a safe and secure manner," said Steve DeAngelo, the pig-tailed proprietor of Harborside, which has been in business for three years. Harborside is one of four licensed dispensaries in Oakland run as nonprofit organizations. It is the largest, with 74 employees and revenues of about $20 million. Last summer, the Oakland City Council passed an ordinance to collect taxes from the sale of marijuana, a measure that Mr. DeAngelo supported. Mr. DeAngelo designed Harborside to exude legitimacy, security and comfort. Visitors to the low-slung building are greeted by security guards who check the required physicians' recommendations. Inside, the dispensary looks like a bank, except that the floor is covered with hemp carpeting and the eight tellers stand behind identical displays of marijuana and hashish. There is a laboratory where technicians determine the potency of the marijuana and label it accordingly. (Harborside says it rejects 80 percent of the marijuana that arrives at its door for insufficient quality.) There is even a bank vault where the day's cash is stored along with reserves of premium cannabis. An armored truck picks up deposits every evening. City officials routinely audit the dispensary's books. Surplus cash is rolled back into the center to pay for free counseling sessions and yoga for patients. "Oakland issued licenses and regulations, and Los Angeles did nothing and they are still unregulated," Mr. DeAngelo said. "Cannabis is being distributed by inappropriate people." But even Oakland's regulations fall short of Mr. Trutanich's proposal that Los Angeles ban all cash sales. "I don't know of any collective that operates in the way that is envisioned by this ordinance," said Mr. Duncan, of Americans for Safe Access. Christine Gasparac, a spokeswoman for State Attorney General Jerry Brown, said that after Mr. Trutanich's comments in Los Angeles, law enforcement officials and advocates from around the state had called seeking clarity on medical marijuana laws. Mr. Brown has issued legal guidelines that allow for nonprofit sales of medical marijuana, she said. But, she added, with laws being interpreted differently, "the final answer will eventually come from the courts." ********************************************************************** PLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTER Please post copies of your letters to the sent letter list ( sentlte@mapinc.org ) if you are subscribed. Subscribing to the Sent LTE list will help you to review other sent LTEs and perhaps come up with new ideas or approaches. To subscribe to the Sent LTE mailing list see http://www.mapinc.org/lists/index.htm#form Suggestions for writing LTEs are at our Media Activism Center http://www.mapinc.org/resource/#guides ********************************************************************** Prepared by: Richard Lake, Senior Editor www.mapinc.org === DrugSense provides many services at no charge, but they are not free to produce. Your contributions make DrugSense and its Media Awareness Project (MAP) happen. Please donate today. Our secure Web server at http://www.drugsense.org/donate.htm accepts credit cards and Paypal. Or, mail your check or money order to: DrugSense 14252 Culver Drive #328 Irvine, CA 92604-0326. (800) 266 5759 DrugSense is a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the expensive, ineffective, and destructive "War on Drugs." Donations are tax deductible to the extent provided by law.
Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States

Oakland Airport's Awesome Marijuana Policy

Medical marijuana patients know all too well the anxiety of deciding whether/how to travel with their medicine. More than a decade after medical marijuana became legal in California, airports remain hostile territory for patients, who find themselves surrounded by drug sniffing dogs and unfriendly security personnel. Fortunately, there's one airport where patients are welcome:  

Oakland International Airport may be the nation's only airport with a specific policy letting users of medical marijuana travel with the drug.

It states that if deputies determine someone is a qualified patient or primary caregiver as defined by California law and has eight ounces or less of the drug, he or she can keep it and board the plane.

Deputies warn the pot-carrying passengers that they may be committing a felony upon arrival when they set foot in a jurisdiction where medical marijuana is not recognized. But they say they don't call ahead to alert authorities on the other end.

"We never have. We're certainly within our right to, but we never have," said Sgt. J.D. Nelson, a spokesman for the sheriff's office. "Our notification of the passengers is for their own safety and well-being." [Oakland Tribune]

How cool is that? These guys are genuinely looking out for the best interests of the patients and it’s a wonderful thing to see. As you might guess, it wasn't always like this and a little agitating was necessary to bring this policy about. Still, the fact that patients can now feel safe at the airport is an achievement worth noting.

The hard truth behind medical marijuana advocacy is that legalization is just the first step in the process. You have to continue the fight in hundreds of other venues just to ensure that the law is upheld. Everywhere you go, you'll find people who've been trained to regard marijuana users as criminals and that mentality doesn’t just disappear with the flip of a switch. Nevertheless, as time passes, we're able to carve out safe terrain for patients in places that once seemed impossible.

Obama's New Medical Marijuana Statement: What Just Happened?

Today's news that DOJ is officially calling on federal prosecutors to respect state medical marijuana laws is already a top story in every major news outlet. Although the announcement merely formalizes existing administration priorities, it has done so with considerable fanfare and the medical marijuana community is naturally quite thrilled about it.

This event -- and the substantial attention it has drawn -- provides yet another important measure of the rapidly evolving political landscape surrounding marijuana policy in America. It's important to understand how this happened, which is why I think this comment from Glenn Greenwald is a little bit off the mark:

The Obama administration deserves major credit not only for ceasing this practice, but for memorializing it formally in writing.  Just as is true for Jim Webb's brave crusade to radically revise the nation's criminal justice and drug laws, there is little political gain -- and some political risk -- in adopting a policy that can be depicted as "soft on drugs" or even "pro-marijuana."

It's just not at all clear to me at this point what political risk exists with regards to protecting medical marijuana. Public support has ranged from 70-80% for a long time. We have a 9-1 record passing state-level initiatives to legalize medical marijuana, losing only in South Dakota. Obama's campaign promises on this issue earned only praise, while contrary statements from Romney, McCain and Giuliani ignited a firestorm of public outrage. Who even opposes medical marijuana anymore other than paranoid politicians, power-hungry police and creepy old drug war demagogues?  Even Michelle Malkin and Bill O'Reilly are cool with it.

The real story behind what happened today, I believe, is that the new administration sees public support for medical marijuana as the safest course from a purely political standpoint. They didn't have to issue this statement at all, let alone on a Monday morning, and I can only assume that they're perfectly content to make major headlines with it. As such, this event is significant not only for its implications with regards to medical marijuana, but also because it fundamentally reframes the political calculus that has long driven drug policy decision-making in Washington, D.C.

There are many good things to be said about all of this, but praising Obama's political courage may serve only to unintentionally re-inflate the dubious notion that there's anything to fear by standing with us in the first place.

Justice Department Issues Medical Marijuana Policy Memo; Says No Prosecutions If In Compliance With State Law

Editor's Note: We wanted to get this important story posted today, but we will develop it further for the Drug War Chronicle on Friday. In a new federal medical marijuana policy memo issued this morning to the DEA, FBI, and US Attorneys around the country, the Justice Department told prosecutors that medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal should not be targeted for federal prosecution. The memo formalizes statements made by Attorney General Eric Holder in February and March that going after pot-smoking patients and their suppliers would not be a high Justice Department priority. The memo marks a sharp break with federal policy under the Clinton and Bush administrations, both of which aggressively targeted medical marijuana operations, especially in California, the state that has the broadest law and the highest number of medical marijuana patients. The announcement of the policy shift won kudos from the marijuana and broader drug reform movement. But some reformers questioned what the shift would actually mean on the ground, pointing to DEA raids and federal prosecutions that have occurred since Holder's signal this spring that the feds were to back off, as well as continuing controversies, especially in California, over what exactly is legal under state law. Others noted that for real protection to be in place, federal law—not just prosecutorial policy—needs to change. In the memo, federal prosecutors were told that going after people who use or provide medical marijuana in accordance with state law was not the best use of their time or resources. According to the memo, while the Justice Department continues to make enforcing federal drug laws a key mission:
"As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources."
But the memo also said that federal prosecutors should continue to target marijuana production or sales operations that are illicit but hiding behind state medical marijuana laws. It explicitly singled out cases involving which involve violence, the illegal use of firearms, selling pot to minors, money laundering or involvement in other crimes. "It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal," said Attorney General Holder. "This is a huge victory for medical marijuana patients," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, the nationwide medical marijuana advocacy organization, which had been in negotiations with the Justice Department to get written guidelines issued. "This indicates that President Obama intends to keep his promise not to undermine state medical marijuana laws and represents a significant departure from the policies of the Bush Administration," continued Sherer. "We will continue to work with President Obama, the Justice Department, and the US Congress to establish a comprehensive national policy, but it's good to know that in the meantime states can implement medical marijuana laws without interference from the federal government." "This is the most significant, positive policy development on the federal level for medical marijuana since 1978," said the Marijuana Policy Project in a message to its list members today. "It's great to see the Obama administration making good on the promises that candidate Obama made last year. These new guidelines effectively open the door to sensible collaboration between state governments and medical marijuana providers in ensuring that patients have safe and reliable access to their medicine," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "What remains unclear is how the Justice Department will respond to rogue state attorneys, such as San Diego's Bonnie Dumanis, who persist in undermining state medical marijuana laws in their local jurisdictions. Now is the right time for the Obama administration to move forward with federal legislation to end the irrational prohibition of medical marijuana under federal law." While the policy memo was "encouraging," the "proof will be in the pudding," said California NORML head Dale Gieringer, who also cited the recent raids in San Diego, as well as the August federal indictment of two Lake County medical marijuana providers. "Note that the new Obama policy has a glaring loophole, emphasizing that 'prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing which cases to pursue, and ... it is not a good use of federal manpower to prosecute those who are without a doubt in compliance with state law,'" Gieringer said. "The salient question is, who decides what is 'without a doubt' in compliance with state law? As shown by the recent statements of LA's DA and City Attorney, there exist significant doubts about the legality of most dispensaries in California. It remains to be seen how far the administration's new policy guidelines will go to prevent further abuses, when what is really needed is fundamental reform of federal laws and regulations." And so opens the next chapter in America's long, twisted path to the acceptance of medical marijuana.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Medical Marijuana: Wisconsin Bill to Be Filed

Wisconsin legislators will get another crack at passing a medical marijuana bill. State Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Madison) and Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Waunakee) announced October 8 they were sponsoring LRB 2517, the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act, named after the long-time Mondovi patient and activist. They are currently looking for cosponsors.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/wisconsin-medmj-demo-2009.jpg
IMMLY march last week, Madison
Rickert famously led a 210-mile march in her wheelchair to the state house in 1997 seeking to bring attention to her cause. Since then, she and the group Is My Medicine Legal Yet (IMMLY) have worked tirelessly to get a medical marijuana bill passed in the Cheesehead State. A 2007 bill died in committee. This year, IMMLY communications director Gary Storck and terminally ill disabled veteran Mary Powers have been leading weekly delegations of patients to the capitol to meet with and educate lawmakers.

Under the proposed legislation, terminally or seriously ill patients could obtain a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana. Possession of either the recommendation or a state ID issued by the Department of Human Services would protect patients and caregivers from arrest and prosecution. Patients and caregivers could grow up to 12 plants and possess up to three ounces of marijuana. The bill also provides for a dispensary system similar to the state-regulated one recently set up in Rhode Island.

"It's a situation that makes a lot of sense and it's also a situation dealing with compassion -- how can you not have compassion for someone who says, 'look the nausea is really upsetting, the chemo treatments are really tough and this is the only way I can find a little bit of relief from the pain,'" said Erpenbach at a press conference announcing the bill.

The legislators' action came a week after IMMLY led a demonstration of hundreds of patients and supporters at the state capitol in Madison. Now, with the bill circulating and about to be filed, it will be time to return to the mundane art of state house lobbying.

Visit http://www.youtube.com/1Rx100372 for IMMLY video selections.

Feature: Maine Medical Marijuana Dispensary Initiative Ahead in November Election Campaign

In a little more than two weeks, Maine residents will go to the polls to vote on a measure that would build on the state's decade-old existing medical marijuana law by creating a system of dispensaries. Despite some grumbling from the usual suspects and announced opposition from some not-so-usual suspects, proponents of the measure say they are confident it will win easily on November 3.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/mainecoast.jpg
Maine coast
Sponsored by Maine Citizens for Patient Rights and the Maine Medical Marijuana Policy Initiative, and funded primarily by the Drug Policy Alliance, the Maine Medical Marijuana Act would:

  • Establish a system of nonprofit dispensaries which would be overseen and tightly regulated by the state;
  • Establish a voluntary identification card for medical marijuana patients and caregivers;
  • Protect patients and caregivers from arrest, search and seizure unless there is suspicion of abuse;
  • Create new protections for qualified patients and providers in housing, education, employment and child custody;
  • Allow patients with Lou Gehrig's disease and Alzheimer's disease access to medical marijuana;
  • Require the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a procedure for expanding the list of conditions for which marijuana can be used; and
  • Keeps current allowable marijuana quantities at 2.5 ounces and six plants.

When voters go to the polls on November 3 to vote on Question 5, the Medical Marijuana Act, this is the question they will be asked: "Do you want to change the medical marijuana laws to allow treatment of more medical conditions and to create a regulated system of distribution?"

"We feel the campaign is in really good shape right now," said Jonathan Leavitt, who is leading the charge for the initiative.

The existing law needs reform to make it workable, Leavitt said. "In the 10 years since the medical marijuana law went into effect, it has barely been utilized because patients have not had a legal means of obtaining their medicine except to grow their own, and that's just not workable for a seriously ill patient," he said. "With this measure, qualified patients will have full access to their medicine through the establishment of not-for-profit medical marijuana dispensaries."

The measure's language protecting patients from discrimination in housing, employment, and child custody issues is necessary because patients have suffered in the past, Leavitt said. "This will provide a security blanket for qualified patients by really putting in black and white the full legal protections they need."

The child custody provision says that medical marijuana patients cannot be denied visitation or custody of a minor child unless their behavior is "unreasonably dangerous to the minor." That provision drew criticism from the Maine Prosecutors Association, which announced last month it is opposing the measure, but is not putting money into doing so.

"This law reeks of paranoia that the entire criminal justice system is not to be trusted," said association president Evert Fowle, without a hint of irony. Medical marijuana patients across the country, including Maine, have seen their children seized or have lost custody battles solely because of their medical marijuana use or production.

Physicians in Maine can be found on both sides of the question. Dr. John Woytowicz, a family physician in Augusta, told the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, "I don't start with medical marijuana as the first choice for a medical condition. It's part of a whole assessment of what can be done for a given condition. And I put it very frankly to the patient that I would like to explore all opportunities and this could be one of the options as well. My experience is for the appropriate patient, it can be a good option for them, and most people have been benefitted by it with the minimal amount of side effects." Mark Publicker, an addiction specialist with Mercy Recovery Center in Westbrook, told MPBN, "I would advocate for limiting access to marijuana and not to regard it as a medication."

The measure has drawn fire from one unexpected direction: the Maine Vocals, a group of longtime marijuana and medical marijuana legalization activists. The Vocals and its offshoot, Maine Citizens for Medical Marijuana, have announced they oppose the initiative.

"I favor what we have now and working to make it better," said Maine Vocals founder Don Christen. "But this isn't the way. They're just instilling the government into this program, and the government doesn't want it to work," he said.

"The initiative puts DHS in charge of the distribution centers and the overall medical marijuana law, and we're not happy about that because that's the department that has been taking people's children away," said Christen. "DHS is like law enforcement when it comes to medical marijuana. We would like instead to see it in a different department's hands, and with a board of patients and doctors instead of politicians."

"When it came to administering the dispensaries, it was either law enforcement or the Department of Human Services," Leavitt replied. "We thought DHS would be a better fit for questions around the medicinal use of marijuana. DHS also has a mandate to deal with child custody issues, so we included the child custody language because we want it crystal clear that patients will be protected, including around these issues."

Christen also took issue with the $5,000 fee required of dispensary operators. "That's a bit ridiculous," he snorted. "The cost will be prohibitive for a lot of people."

Leavitt responded that such fees had worked in other states and that they were necessary to ensure the measure did not impose a burden on taxpayers.

Christen also objected to the patient ID card system on both philosophical and practical grounds. "After 9/11, Maine opted out of the federal Real ID program," he said. "We don't believe in making lists of everybody up here. And the ID card system gives rights and privileges to those with cards that other patients don't have."

About that, Christen is correct, but only to a point. To enjoy the full protections of the measure, patients, caregivers, and dispensary operators must register with the state and obtain an ID card. Qualifying patients who do not obtain an ID card could still be subject to arrest, but could present their status as medical marijuana patients as an affirmative defense to prosecution and move to have the charges dismissed. But those same patients can be arrested today.

Christen also complained that the measure would bar people who have marijuana felonies from acting as caregivers or dispensary operators or employees. "Those who have marijuana felonies, including myself, will be taken out of the picture," he said, noting that he himself had only gotten out of jail on a marijuana charge 10 days ago.

"We say they haven't read the bill," Leavitt responded. "They talk about how they are fearful they will be knocked out of the loop because they are marijuana felons, but marijuana felons would not be considered felons under this measure."

Actually, the language is a bit ambiguous. It says that someone convicted of a "felony drug offense" cannot be affiliated with a dispensary, but also says that doesn't apply if the felony is more than 10 years old or if it was "an offense that consisted of conduct that would have been permitted under this chapter." Whether Christen would qualify might depend on whether the medical marijuana growing he was convicted for was found to be consistent with the new law's cultivation provisions, and perhaps with yet-to-be-written regulations.

Leavitt wasn't pleased with the not-so-friendly fire. "The Maine Vocals just haven't done the work to get something on the ballot, let alone passed," Leavitt said. "They're doing a great disservice to patients by speaking out against us."

But even with the criticism from the Vocals, it appears that Maine will be the next medical marijuana state to adopt the dispensary system.

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