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If Pawlenty Wants to Be President, He Should Reconsider His Opposition to Medical Marijuana

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has declined to seek a 3rd term, prompting speculation that he's planning to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. Wouldn't it be strange if Pawlenty's presidential ambitions had something to do with his decision to veto a bill that would stop police from arresting terminally ill medical marijuana patients? Does Pawlenty think that Americans want a president who supports arresting people who are about to die?

Someone should show him the polling data on medical marijuana. Is Pawlenty aware that an anti-medical marijuana candidate got crushed by a pro-medical marijuana candidate in the 2008 presidential election?

Opposing medical marijuana in any way is politically risky, but Pawlenty specifically turned his back on people who are dying. In today's political climate, that's a big mistake.

Press Release: After Making History in Senate, Medical Marijuana Bill Poised for House Floor Vote Later This Year

JUNE 1, 2009   

After Making History in Senate, Medical Marijuana Bill Poised for House Floor Vote Later This Year

CONTACT: Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications ............... 415-585-6404 or 202-215-4205

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS -- Although the clock ran out before it could be acted on by the Illinois House of Representatives this weekend, medical marijuana legislation is now well positioned for a House floor vote, possibly before the end of the year, advocates said today.

     Within 48 hours of passing the Senate 30-28, the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act had already soared through the House Human Services Committee and was ready for its final reading and vote on the House floor. Tax legislation, however, occupied all of the House's time in the session's final hours.

     "This bill gained more and more momentum at every stage of the legislative process, and I think the pace at which it moved is testament to the support it enjoys," said Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), deputy majority leader and chief House sponsor of SB 1381. "Although today's top priority was the tax bill, I think the time has come for Illinois to enact a medical marijuana law. We just need to shore up a few votes before calling this bill to the floor."

     The measure could be brought to the House floor for a vote during the November veto session or when the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2010 for the second half of the current session.

     "Of course I'm disappointed," said Jamie Clayton of Grafton, an AIDS patient who participated in a groundbreaking FDA-approved study proving medical marijuana's efficacy in treating pain caused by nerve damage. "But the fact remains that we made it further than ever before. Hundreds of patients like myself came forward this year to plead with our legislators to enact this law, and we will not give up, ever. As someone who volunteered for a clinical study that proved the benefits of medical marijuana, I've felt the relief it can provide first-hand and learned how it can allow me to cut back on some of the prescription narcotics I have to take. A lot of people need this law, and we're not going away."

     With more than 27,000 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


United States

Video: Orange County Seniors Demand Medical Marijuana Access

This video by "Drug Crazy" author Mike Gray is from Orange County, California -- not a liberal bastion, but medical marijuana has been state law there for over 12 years. Senior citizens are calling for access to medical marijuana, local authorities are sympathetic, and advocates are willing help. But they can't find a landlord willing to rent to them, presumably because of threats by the US DEA to use asset forfeiture laws to take the property away. Along with the sheer barbarism of these federal policies, the video also hints at what may be the largest tragedy, people who because of those policies never find out that marijuana could have helped them.
United States

Press Release: Medical Marijuana Bill Quickly Passes House Health and Human Services Committee

MAY 28, 2009   

Medical Marijuana Bill Quickly Passes House Health and Human Services Committee
Quick Approval Shows Surging Momentum


CONTACT: Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications ............... 415-585-6404 or 202-215-4205

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS -- In a move whose speed took even supporters by surprise, the House Health and Human Services Committee approved the medical marijuana bill passed by the full Senate yesterday. The committee had approved the House version of the bill earlier in the year, but needed to ok the Senate version, which had received several amendments.

     "I am delighted by the way this legislation has continued to pick up momentum," said Dan Linn, Executive Director of the Illinois Cannabis Patients Association. "Illinois voters overwhelmingly want to protect patients who need medical marijuana, and both houses of the legislature are hearing that message loud and clear."

     Julie Falco of Chicago, who uses medical marijuana to relieve the painful symptoms of multiple sclerosis and who has been advocating for medical marijuana legislation since 2004, said, "I want to personally thank all the members of the committee for listening to the patients who need this medicine and understanding why we don't have time to wait. We don't want to be criminals for simply trying to cope with our illnesses, and I truly believe this will be the year we finally get some relief."

     Swift committee passage is seen as greatly increasing the chances that the full House will act on the measure before the end of the legislative session May 31.

     With more than 27,000 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


United States

New Drug Czar Doesn't Care About Medical Marijuana

In an interview with National Journal, Gil Kerlikowske didn't have much to say about medical pot:

NJ: Do you have plans to review potential changes to the country's medical marijuana policies?

Kerlikowske: I have not had my meeting with the attorney general, who had made some statements, but I plan on following up with that pretty closely.

NJ: Will you at least be conducting a study on the topic?

Kerlikowske: I don't know. I think it is a little premature, and frankly, looking at the overdose deaths -- there is such a huge increase in people dying from prescription drug overdoses -- is a little higher on my priorities right now than the medical marijuana issue....

Well that makes sense, but considering that there's a raging controversy in America right now over the federal government's war on medical marijuana, maybe the drug czar should at least be able to provide a little insight instead of changing the subject. Of course, it's likely that Kerlikowske's attempts to downplay the issue are actually intended to dismiss potential controversy surrounding the new administration's positive statements on the issue, i.e. medical marijuana isn't a top concern, so don't give us a hard time for not raiding dispensaries.

This 'medical marijuana isn't a priority' stuff is fine for now if it means they won't be interfering with state laws, but it's a pretty weak cop-out in the long run. Eventually, Washington will have to come to terms with the deep unpopularity of the war on medical marijuana. That means declaring an end to federal raids based on firm moral and scientific grounds, rather than vague policy statements.

They seem to understand that public opinion requires a new direction with regards to medical marijuana policy, but if that much is understood, why tiptoe around it? If the goal is to avoid controversy, then tell us exactly what we want to hear, follow through on it, and the matter will be closed.

For starters, why not look into rescheduling marijuana so it isn't any more illegal than these FDA-approved pharmaceuticals that are killing so many people?

If Pure THC Pills are FDA-Approved, What's the Big Deal About Marijuana Potency?

NY Daily News reports that incoming CDC Chief Thomas Freidman is "in favor of developing a synthetic marijuana spray to be used for medicinal purposes." That's good news, I suppose, but what really caught my attention about the story was its repetition of the bizarre and wildly false assertion that synthetic THC doesn’t get you high:

Marinol is prescribed for treating vomiting in chemotherapy patients and other uses. It provides relief, not a high.

Says who? The first thing anyone who's ever taken Marinol will tell you is that the stuff gets you blasted for several hours. In fact, that's one of the primary reason patients prefer the herbal alternative. With marijuana, you can control your dose more effectively to achieve the desired effect. The spray was developed for the exact same reason, thus by suggesting that Marinol doesn’t get you high, the NY Daily News completely misses the point of why a spray even exists. It's ridiculous.

We've heard this crap before and I just don’t understand why anyone would struggle with the concept that a pure THC pill would make you high as hell. I suppose it's a convenient claim for pharmaceutical execs trying to separate their product from its controversial context and it's certainly convenient for drug warriors desperately endeavoring to explain why one is medicine and the other is poison. But it's bullshit and it shouldn’t take a scientist to deduce that you will not remain sober after swallowing concentrated THC. That's like saying heroin gets you high but synthetic opiates don't.

Hilariously, there's a side column of "relevant articles" on the page with the top item titled Marijuana Potency Higher Than Ever. We're actually supposed to be intrigued and perhaps alarmed by the fact that domestic marijuana potency now averages 10% THC, meanwhile the FDA has long approved a 100% THC pill that's proven to be completely safe in every way, except that some people think it's a little too strong and want weed instead.

It's amazing the lengths some people will take to rationalize the mindless paradox of arresting medical marijuana patients while simultaneously trying to sell them potent THC pills.

Medical Marijuana: New York Bill Wins Senate Committee Vote

With Democrats in control of the New York state Senate, a medical marijuana bill has for the first time been passed by a Senate committee. In previous years, medical marijuana bills had managed to pass in the House, but not in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The bill, S04041, passed the Senate Health Committee Tuesday. It must now pass the Senate Codes Committee before proceeding to a Senate floor vote. The identical House version of the bill, A7542, has been referred from the House Health Committee to the House Codes Committee.

Under the bills, New Yorkers suffering from a "serious condition" can be certified by a physician as benefiting from the use of medical marijuana. It also creates a registry program. Any patient or caregiver registered with the state would be able to possess up to 2 ½ ounces of marijuana and up to 12 plants.

With friendly leadership in both chambers, New York could become the 14th medical marijuana state. But time is running out -- the session has only about a month to go, and leaders have plenty of other issues on their plates.

Both the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Policy Project have been involved in pushing for the legislation.

Medical Marijuana: Bill Passes Illinois Senate, Heads to House

The Illinois Senate Wednesday approved SB 1381, which would allow seriously ill patients with certain debilitating medical conditions to use marijuana with a physician's recommendation. The measure passed by a margin of 30-28 with bipartisan support. The Senate defeated a similar measure last year.
Illinois State House
Attention now moves to the House, where a companion bill, HB 2514, passed one committee in March. But it is expected that the House will take up the Senate version for debate.

The spring portion of the Illinois legislative session ends after this week, and it is unlikely the House will act before that. But the legislature reconvenes in the fall.

"I'm very proud of my fellow senators for recognizing modern scientific research, listening to reason, and passing this very sensible bill," said sponsor Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), a four-term former states attorney. "This bill has been amended several times to address the concerns of law enforcement, and the version we're sending to the House would likely be the most strictly controlled medical marijuana law in the country."

Those amendments tightened requirements to participate in the program, lowered the quantities of marijuana allowed, and strengthened the role of the state police in oversight of the program.

"I've been pleading with our legislators to enact this law for five years now," said Julie Falco, a Chicago resident who has lived with multiple sclerosis for over 20 years. "This medicine not only helps me control my muscle spasms and pain, it has also allowed me to discontinue using virtually all pharmaceutical medications, most of which had horrible side effects. I don't just support this bill; I desperately need it to become law."

Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), sponsor of the House version of the medical marijuana bill, said he hopes that the recent Senate victory will give his wavering colleagues in the House enough political cover to send this legislation to the governor for signature. "Opposition to this bill is dwindling because all legitimate concerns have been addressed," Lang said. "I think that there is a true desire in the General Assembly to pass this bill for the patients who need it and I'm confident that my colleagues in the House will give this issue the attention it deserves."

The Marijuana Policy Project and the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative have both been active in pushing the Illinois bill.

Update: The measure passed the House Health and Human Services Committee unexpectedly quickly Thursday afternoon, increasing the likelihood of a House floor vote before the session ends Sunday.

Feature: Health Canada Adjusts Medical Marijuana Program, Doubles Number of People Providers Can Grow For -- From One to Two

Faced with a series of federal court decisions striking down the federal government's Medical Marijuana Access Regulations (MMAR) as unconstitutionally restrictive, Health Canada responded this week by increasing the number of people for whom a medical marijuana provider can grow from one to two. The tepid reform drew loud condemnation from advocates and members of parliament.

The move comes more than a year after a federal judge threw out the one provider-one patient restriction as "arbitrary" and "not rationally related to legitimate state interests," and thus unconstitutional. The government lost again in the Federal Court of Appeal last fall, and the Canadian Supreme Court refused to hear its appeal in a decision released last month.

According to testimony in that case, some 400,000 Canadians use medical marijuana. But little more than 2,800 have registered as patients with the MMAR. Only about 2,000 have registered as medical marijuana growers, and only about 300 of them are growing for someone other than themselves. As for actually receiving medical marijuana from Health Canada, as of July 2008, only 673 registered patients were doing that.

Medical marijuana patients and advocates have cited an unhelpful bureaucracy and lower quality marijuana from Health Canada's monopoly supplier as reasons for not using the government pot. Many patients turn to the "compassion clubs" that provide higher grade medical marijuana outside the scope of the MMAR, or else to the black market.

The new regulations are in force, said a Health Canada spokesman. "As a result of the Federal Court ruling, the government has moved quickly to address this regulatory void and has modified the regulations to allow one designated person to now produce marijuana for up to two authorized persons," spokesman Philippe Laroche said."This modification is currently in force."
Philippe Lucas (from
"This is a slap in the face to Canada's critically and chronically ill bordering on contempt of court," said Philippe Lucas, a member of the Victoria, BC, city council and founder of the Vancouver Island Compassion Society. "As usual, Health Canada is doing as little as possible to meet the real needs of medical marijuana users in our nation. This means patients are going to find themselves once again struggling to fix a program that's been declared unconstitutional five times in the past five years."

The changes are an "outrage" and run contrary to the spirit of the court decisions, said Alison Myrden, an outspoken Canadian medical marijuana advocate. "None of us will settle for this," she told the Canwest News Service. "This is so disingenuous of our government, because we are sick and dying people. We'll have to go back to court again."

"This is ridiculous bordering on outrageous," said Jay Leung of the BC Compassion Club in Vancouver. "When you consider how sick and fragile a lot of these patients are, it's really quite criminal that they are spending all these resources to make medical marijuana inaccessible despite the fact that the courts keep ruling that those who are ill and can benefit from cannabis have the right to access it. They set up this shoddy program in order to avoid violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but this just shows that they are not really interested in helping ill Canadians."

It wasn't just activists. New Democratic Party MP Libby Davies, who represents Vancouver East, told Canwest the government's response was "abysmal" and would likely once again be struck down by the courts. "From the beginning, the federal government has been dragged kicking and screaming into accepting the use of marijuana for medical reasons," said Davies.

"There is no doubt this will not stand up to further legal scrutiny," said Lucas.

Liberal MP Keith Martin, who has introduced a private bill to decriminalize marijuana possession, said the new two-person limit showed the Conservative government was unwilling to disentangle concerns about illegal drug use and medical marijuana. "They lump them all in together," said Martin.

Saying he was "disappointed but not surprised," Lucas added that Health Canada has been intransigent under both Liberal and Conservative governments. "There has been a pattern of resistance and entrenching their failed policies, and it's been about the same under the last three health ministers. None of them have ever spoken about the program," he noted. "There has not been near enough public scrutiny. We need an investigation of the incredible cost to taxpayers when the government has to repeatedly spend money in failed litigation."

Lucas also warned that Health Canada could face suits for damages from aggrieved patients. "Health Canada is making itself increasingly vulnerable to civil suits," he said. "The patients of this country aren't going to put up with any more of this. I wouldn't be surprised to see civil litigation to strike the program or get reparations for Health Canada's intransigence," he predicted.

In the meantime, the Vancouver Island Compassion Society and its fellow organizations across Canada will fill the void -- despite being outside the purview of the law. "We operate with the support of our local communities and we're not seen as a police priority," Lucas said. "Since we are supplying more medical marijuana to patients than Health Canada and at no cost to taxpayers, there is little motivation to attack organizations that actually help critically and chronically ill Canadians instead of increasing their stress and anxiety."

Job Opportunity: National Field Coordinator, Americans for Safe Access, Oakland, California

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research. ASA works in partnership with state, local and national legislators to overcome barriers and create policies that improve access to cannabis for patients and researchers. ASA has more than 30,000 active members with chapters and affiliates in more than 40 states.

ASA provides legal training for and medical information to patients, attorneys, health and medical professionals and policymakers throughout the United States, and also organizes media support for court cases, rapid response to law enforcement raids, and capacity-building for advocates. ASA's successful lobbying, media and legal campaigns have resulted in important court precedents, new sentencing standards, and more compassionate community guidelines

The mission of Americans for Safe Access is to ensure safe and legal access to cannabis (marijuana) for therapeutic uses and research.

The field coordinator is responsible for building and maintaining ASA's field of organizers, and for maintaining communication between the field, ASA staff and ASA campaigns. The position is supervised and accountable to the Chief of Staff. This is a full-time, salaried position, based out of ASA's Oakland, CA headquarters.

Specific tasks and responsibilities include recruiting new volunteer organizers and managing their development; reaching out to field organizers from other organizations and to other key allies; scheduling and staff tabling outreach at public events and conferences; following up with new contacts from public events and conferences; conducting web and email outreach; collecting new contacts through internet, personal, and chapter-based outreach; adding new emails to email lists regularly; maintaining regular communication with key organizers & chapter leaders including convening monthly organizer conference calls; providing information, guidance, assistance, and training to local leadership; maintaining project and program-based materials and distributing such to organizers; maintaining relationships with field organizers from other organizations with other key allies; maintaining internet responsibilities including updating the website, managing listserves and discussion forums, and utilizing social networking tools; sending monthly action packets to organizers; coordinating regular trainings; visiting chapters and affiliates as needed; maintaining clear records of organizers, including updating contact information and tracking communication and activities; advising and participating in strategic planning with chapter leaders and key organizers; being a liaison with staff through regular meetings; setting up constituent meetings on legislation; coordinating grassroots actions based on current programs, projects and campaigns; organizing court support for medical marijuana defendants; writing campaign materials, activist alerts, updates, and letters to organizers; creating and maintaining political materials for national and state-based outreach; writing regular reports of grassroots activity for distribution to staff and the public; and posting to blog and discussion forums regularly.

Experience and qualifications include a minimum of 2-5 years experience in grassroots organizing; political campaign and/or lobbying experience preferred; a commitment to the mission and goals of Americans for Safe Access; computer literacy, and being comfortable with acquiring new skills; exceptional time management and prioritization skills; remaining calm under pressure; flexibility at setting (and re-setting) priorities and managing multiple projects; exceptional communication, organizational and diplomacy skills with strong written communication skills; a sense of humor, high ethical professional standards, and multi-cultural perspective; working well in a team environment; a flexible schedule, including availability to work occasional evenings and weekends, and to travel periodically throughout the state and nationally; and dedication to working closely and cooperatively in a community-based organization with diverse staff, volunteers, and community members.

If interested, please submit a cover letter and resume to No phone calls or faxes please.

ASA is an equal opportunity employer. People of color and women are strongly encouraged to apply.

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