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Illinois Medical Marijuana Bill Passes House Committee for the First Time Ever, 4-3

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
MARCH 4, 2009

Illinois Medical Marijuana Bill Passes House Committee for the First Time Ever, 4-3

Patients, Supporters Hail Passage as Important Step to Protecting Seriously Ill Who Use Doctor-Recommended Medical Marijuana

CONTACT: Dan Bernath, MPP assistant director of communications, 202-462-5747 ex. 2030

SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS — The Illinois House Human Services Committee passed a bipartisan bill today, 4-3, that would allow seriously ill patients with certain debilitating conditions who have their doctors’ recommendations to use medical marijuana without fear of arrest. A companion bill, SB 1381, is sponsored by three-term former state's attorney Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) in the Illinois Senate and is expected to receive a hearing in the Senate Public Health Committee next Tuesday.

    HB 2514, the House medical marijuana bill, is sponsored by Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie).

    Although this isn't the first time a medical marijuana bill was introduced in the Illinois House, this is the first time a House committee passed such a bill. Advocates hope state lawmakers will note that 63 percent of Michigan voters approved a similar law last November and that a 2008 statewide poll shows 68 percent support among Illinois voters for such a law.

    "Doctors need every safe, effective medicine available to them when treating patients with serious conditions such as cancer, HIV/AIDS and multiple sclerosis," said Dr. Jay Riseman, a Springfield physician who testified before the committee today. "I've seen medical marijuana work for patients when nothing else did, and I should be able to recommend it to my patients without leaving them vulnerable to arrest and even jail."

    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 http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.

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Location: 
IL
United States

Senate Committee Passes Medical Marijuana, 4-3

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

MARCH 3, 2009

Senate Committee Passes Medical Marijuana, 4-3

CONTACT: Former Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover)......................................................(763) 439-1178

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- The Senate version of Minnesota's medical marijuana bill, S.F. 97, cleared its second hurdle in the Senate today, passing the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 4 to 3.

     "I am increasingly confident that this will be the year that Minnesota joins the 13 other states that have acted to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest," said bill sponsor Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing). "This is an issue where science, compassion and simple common sense come together."

     A previous version of the bill passed the Senate and every House committee in the 2007-2008 session, but was never brought up for a vote on the House floor. A hearing on the companion House bill is expected in the House Civil Justice Committee shortly.

     Thirteen states, comprising approximately one-quarter of the U.S. population, now permit medical use of marijuana under state law if a physician has recommended it. The newest such law was enacted by Michigan voters last November, passing with a record-setting 63 percent "yes" vote. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder reaffirmed on Feb. 25 that the Obama administration intends to pursue a policy of non-interference with these state laws. Medical organizations that have recognized marijuana's medical uses include the American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, and American College of Physicians.

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Location: 
MN
United States

California DMV Agrees to Let Medical Marijuana Patients Drive

Everywhere you look, the irrational persecution of medical marijuana patients is going out of style:

Oakland, CA -- The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issued a new policy yesterday with regard to how it treats qualified medical marijuana patients. The DMV Driver Safety Procedure Manual was revised to include reference to medical marijuana, stating that "use of medicinal marijuana approved by a physician should be handled in the same manner as any other prescription medication which may affect safe driving." [Americans for Safe Access]

The policy change stemmed from a lawsuit brought by Americans for Safe Access on behalf of a patient who lost her license despite decades of perfect driving. ASA notes that several counties in California have been designating patients as "drug abusers" solely due to their medical use of marijuana.

The mind-bending stupidity of all this is staggering when you consider the plethora of popular perfectly-legal pharmaceuticals that won't affect your driving privileges despite turning you into a slobbering zombie for 8 hours. Fortunately, the idiots who've been playing doctor/cop at California's DMV can look forward to a shiny new memo telling them to cut the crap.

Medical Marijuana Bill Faces Senate Committee Hearing Tuesday

Minnesota Cares logo

MEDIA ADVISORY

MARCH 2, 2009  

Medical Marijuana Bill Faces Senate Committee Hearing Tuesday

CONTACT: Former Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover)..........................................…………(763) 439-1178

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA — Minnesota's medical marijuana bill faces its next crucial committee test in the Senate Judiciary Committee this Tuesday. If passed, the measure would make Minnesota the 14th state to permit medical use of marijuana by seriously ill patients with a physician's recommendation. The newest such law, in Michigan, was passed by voters in November with a record-setting 63 percent voting "yes."

    WHAT: Senate Judiciary Committee hearing and vote on medical marijuana legislation
    WHO: Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing) and committee members
    WHEN: Tuesday, March 3, 3 p.m.
    WHERE: Rm. 15, State Capitol, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul

Location: 
MN
United States

Obama administration ends DEA raids in California!

Dear friends:

When I spoke with Barack Obama at a Capitol Hill reception in September 2004 (two months before his election to the U.S. Senate), he said he agreed with me that states should have the right to determine their own medical marijuana policies without federal interference.

That was the beginning of a series of events that culminated two days ago, when Attorney General Eric Holder announced — while standing next to the current DEA administrator — there will be no more DEA raids on medical marijuana establishments in California or elsewhere. This is significant, given that Holder is the "top cop" of the nation and the boss of the DEA!

Medical marijuana patients, dispensary owners and staffers, growers, MPP staffers, and other activists are breathing a sigh of relief ... having been terrorized by the Bush administration for eight years.  How did we get to this point?

Please watch this one-minute video clip of Obama responding to one of our campaign volunteers in New Hampshire on August 21, 2007, in the heat of the presidential primary campaign ...

After that, Obama publicly reiterated that he would discontinue Bush's policy, including in an interview with the editorial board of an Oregon paper. And, since Obama was elected, we've kept in touch with high-level staffers in the White House and on his transition team, as a way of keeping this issue on their radar screen until the policy was officially changed. 

Then, when Bush holdovers in the DEA raided five medical marijuana dispensaries in California in the days after Obama took office on January 20, MPP barraged the media and MPP members barraged the Obama administration to demand an end to the DEA's raids (and to fire the Bush holdovers).

And, of course, MPP and a host of other organizations — including conservative groups like Citizens Against Government Waste — have built support for the annual vote (from 2003 to 2007) on the House floor for an amendment that would have forbidden the DEA and the Justice Department from spending taxpayer money to subvert state-level medical marijuana laws.

All of this advocacy by thousands of patients, dispensary owners, volunteers, paid lobbyists, medical associations, and so many others has paid off. You did it; we all did it.

Now it's time for us to take our work to the next level by (1) enacting medical marijuana laws in Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York; (2) improving California's and Rhode Island's existing medical marijuana laws in order to provide licenses to dispensaries in both states; (3) reopening the federal "compassionate IND program" so that patients in all 50 states can obtain legal access to medical marijuana; and (4) passing our medical marijuana ballot initiative in Arizona in November 2010.

Please consider making a financial donation to all of this work.  Thanks so much ...

Sincerely,
Kampia signature (e-mail sized)

Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

REPORTER:  "Right after the inauguration, there were some raids on California medical marijuana dispensaries. Was that a deliberate decision by you, by the Justice Department? As a prediction of policy going forward, do you expect those sorts of raids to continue? (muffled) The president said during the campaign —"

ATTORNEY GENERAL ERIC HOLDER:  "Well, what the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing here in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign, he is formally and technically and by law my boss now, and so what he said during the campaign is now American policy."

Press Release: Attorney General Eric Holder Says Obama Administration Will End Bush's Policy of Arresting Medical Marijuana Patients and Providers

For Immediate Release: February 26, 2009 For More Information: Bill Piper at 202-669-6430 or Tony Papa at 646-420-7290 Attorney General Eric Holder Says Obama Administration Will End Bush’s Policy of Arresting Medical Marijuana Patients and Providers In response to a reporter’s question yesterday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they are legal. His statement was the second time this month that the Obama Administration indicated they would discontinue President Bush’s controversial policy of arresting medical marijuana patients and providers. President Obama said on the campaign trail last year that he would end the raids. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided a medical marijuana dispensary in California on the day President Obama took office and raided several dispensaries on the day Eric Holder took office. Asked yesterday if such raids were going to continue, Holder said “No.” "What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy." In a statement a few weeks ago, a White House spokesperson said, "The President believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind." "Within 24 hours of taking office President Obama signaled his Administration would eliminate the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity and support federal funding for syringe exchange programs," said Ethan Nadelmann executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Now his attorney general is saying the Administration will let states set their own marijuana policies. While certainly not a high priority, it seems clear that the President wants to treat drug use as a health issue not a criminal justice issue."

Job Opportunity II: Executive Director, Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, Providence, RI

The Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC) is hiring an executive director for its Providence office.

The executive director will lead RIPAC, both executing day-to-day operations and planning long-term strategic goals. The executive director will develop advocacy strategies and implement campaigns on the state and municipal levels. He or she will manage the organization's office and full-time and part-time staff, and administer the organization's finances and accounting. He or she will also be RIPAC's point person in conducting outreach to the media, other advocacy organizations, patients, caregivers, law enforcement, the medical profession, funders and citizens. This will include scheduling and facilitating educational presentations and patient meetings, and editing print publications and web pages. The executive director will secure RIPAC's six-figure annual budget through grants and donations. The successful candidate will enter training May 1, 2009 and assume full responsibility August 1, 2009. This is a full-time position with an annual salary of $40,000 plus flexible health benefits.

Qualifications include a college degree or equivalent experience, with preference given to candidates with backgrounds in law, law enforcement, or medicine; excellent organizational skills and attention to detail; excellent interpersonal communication skills and proven ability to quickly build and maintain relationships with individuals in medical, legal, and government settings; reliable access to a car and the ability to travel within Rhode Island as needed; excellent writing skills; and proficiency with Microsoft Office (including Word, PowerPoint, Excel). The ability to speak Spanish is an advantage, but is not required, and experience maintaining web sites in HTML is an advantage, but is not required.

To apply, send a cover letter, resume, and two professional references to RIPAC at jobs@ripatients.org or 145 Wayland Avenue, Providence, RI 02906. Applications will be accepted until February 28, 2009.

RIPAC is Rhode Island's grassroots medical marijuana community of patients, caregivers, and advocates. RIPAC connects and educates patients, doctors, nurses, lawyers, police, reporters, and legislators about medical marijuana in Rhode Island. RIPAC is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Visit http://www.RIpatients.org for further information.

Medical Marijuana: New Jersey Bill Passes State Senate

The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (S119) passed the state Senate Monday on a 22-16 vote. Gov. Jon Corzine (D) said Wednesday he would "absolutely" sign the bill, but it must first get through the Assembly, where it faces votes in the health committee and by the Assembly as a whole.

The day was also notable for what happened right after the bill passed. Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex), a well-known jokester, pretended to answer a phone on the podium, then yelled out to bill sponsor Sen. Nick Scutari (D-Linden): "Excuse me, Sen. Scutari, I just what you to know that was congratulating you, and it was from Michael Phelps," to groans and embarrassed laughter from the chamber, which, not surprisingly, contained several seriously ill medical marijuana patients but no college-aged bong-hitters.

And that could be a sign of changing times, too. The joke went over like a lead balloon, a local TV station made an evening news feature of Codey's joke and the unamused reactions of medical marijuana patients and supporters, and the Asbury Park Press even editorialized that Codey should apologize for his "tasteless gag." The days of cheap laughs from comparing seriously, even terminally ill patients with Cheech & Chong may be coming to an end.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/cmmnj2.jpg
Jim Miller, husband of well-known patient/activist the late Cheryl Miller, at CMMNJ press conference introducing Sen. Scutari's first medical marijuana bill
Under the bill, there would be no penalties for the possession, use and cultivation of a small amount of marijuana when a licensed physician recommends it for a patient with a debilitating medical condition. Qualifying medical conditions include chronic pain, cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn's disease. Patients would be issued ID cards in a program run by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and permitted to grow up to six plants and possess one ounce of marijuana, or have a registered caregiver grow it for them.

"The bill is very conservative," said Ken Wolski, executive director of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey. "No medical marijuana state has a smaller plant limit or possession amount. Still, it will help a tremendous number of patients here. We applaud the senators who supported this bill."

Still, bill sponsor Sen. Nick Scutari (D-Linden) was understandably proud. "If medical marijuana can ease some of the suffering of a patient who's dying from a chronic, severe or terminal disease, state government should not stand in the way of that relief," Scutari said after the vote.

"For the sake of our most vulnerable, our sick and dying patients struggling for relief, now is the time for New Jersey to join the growing list of states allowing compassionate use of medical marijuana," said Roseanne Scotti of the Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey office.

On Wednesday, Gov. Corzine reiterated his previously articulated support for medical marijuana legislation. Appearing on WNYC radio's "Brian Lehrer Show," he responded to a question about whether he would sign this bill by saying "absolutely."

Now, it's on to the state Assembly. If the bill makes it to the governor's desk, New Jersey would become the 14th medical marijuana state, joining Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Feature: End of an Era? No More DEA Raids on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, US Attorney General Says

In response to a question at a Wednesday news conference, US Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department will no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they are legal under state law. The announcement marks the fulfillment of a President Obama campaign promise, and it marks the end of 13 years of stubborn federal resistance to state medical marijuana programs.

   

DEA raids of medical marijuana facilities in California continued after Obama's election in November and even after his inauguration last month. Holder was asked if those raids represented Justice Department policy under the new administration.

"Shortly after the inauguration there were raids on California medical marijuana dispensaries. Do you expect these to continue?" the reporter asked, noting that the president had promised to end the raids in the campaign.

"No," Holder responded. "What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy." (Watch the video here.)

Nearly 75 million Americans live in the 13 states where medical marijuana is legal. But because of the federal government's refusal to recognize state medical marijuana laws, dozens of dispensaries in California have been raided by the DEA, typically in over-the-top paramilitary-style operations. More than a hundred people are facing prosecution, sentencing, or are already imprisoned under draconian federal marijuana laws because of their roles in operating dispensaries.

"There has been a lot of collateral damage in the federal campaign against medical marijuana patients," said Steph Sherer, medical marijuana patient and executive director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation's largest medical cannabis advocacy organization. "We need to stop the prosecutions, bring the prisoners home, and begin working to eliminate the conflict between state and federal medical marijuana laws."

At an ASA press conference hastily called for Thursday afternoon, Sherer elaborated. "I'm overjoyed to finally hold a press conference with some great news," she said. "Today is a victory and a huge step forward in what has been at times a cruel and tragic period. My outrage over the raids was shared by millions of Americans, and now our collective voice has been heard in Washington. We look forward to working with the Obama administration to harmonize the conflicts with state laws once and for all."

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/charlielynch.gif
Charlie Lynch (from friendsofccl.com)
But for some patients and dispensary operators, the damage has already been done. Larry Epstein operates a legal medical cannabis dispensing collective in Marina Del Rey, California, that was raided by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) on February 4, despite President Obama's statements on the campaign trail indicating a change in federal policy.

"We had been operating as a legitimate cooperative dispensary per California law for a number of years," said Epstein. "But the DEA came in here as if we were operating an illegal drug cartel. They stole all our property, all our product, and froze our bank accounts. Now, we can't pay our taxes; that's part of what they stole. It's devastating when they do those types of actions, never mind the hundreds of patients who rely on our facility to get their medicine."

Heather Poet operates a medical cannabis dispensing collective in Santa Barbara, California. The Justice Department has pressured her landlord to evict the collective using threats of prosecution and civil asset forfeiture. Her case prompted US Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) to ask Attorney General Holder to stop any and all prosecutions of property owners in a February 16 letter.

"Our landlord has twice been threatened by the US Attorney for the Central District of California, most recently just last month," Poet said. "If he did not initiate the termination of our lease for the 'illegal use' of his property -- we were operating legally under California law -- they would begin forfeiture proceedings against his property. That's when I contacted Rep. Capps. Within a week, she had contacted ASA and begun working on that letter. We are so grateful and proud of her for working so quickly to protect our rights and those of our patients. This has been a real travesty for so many sick people in California who have had to worry. Now, thousands of people will be able to breathe easier."

One person who isn't breathing easier just yet is Charles C. Lynch, a Morro Bay dispensary operator arrested and convicted on federal marijuana distribution charges. Lynch faces the dubious distinction of being perhaps the last person sent to prison under the federal war against medical marijuana; he faces at least a five-year mandatory minimum sentence when he is sentenced March 23.

"I became a medical marijuana patient in 2005 and decided we needed a dispensary here in the San Luis Obispo area so patients didn't have to drive 90 miles to Santa Barbara," Lynch explained. "Before I opened the dispensary, I called the DEA and asked them their policy. They told me it was up to the cities and towns, so I got a business license from the city of Morro Bay, and opened up on April 1, 2006. The mayor, the city attorney, and council members all came by to visit the facility. We even joined the Morro Bay Chamber of Commerce. I did everything I thought was necessary to run a legitimate business."

But thanks to a recalcitrant local sheriff who, lacking any basis under state law to go after the dispensary, sicced the DEA on it, Lynch's dispensary was raided. "In March 2007, they raided me, took all my money and froze my bank account. They made it sound like I was selling drugs to children in the schoolyard. The city of Morro Bay reissued my business license -- the DEA had stolen it, too -- and I reopened for business. Two weeks later, the DEA threatened my landlord with forfeiture unless he evicted us for good, so on March 16, 2007, the dispensary closed for good."

That has been sufficient to slake the fed's thirst for vengeance in many dispensary raids: Trash the premises, steal the money and property, and drive the business out of existence. But in other cases, federal prosecutors wanted an extra pound of flesh and actually prosecuted dispensary operators. Charles Lynch falls into that unfortunate latter category.

"On July 17, 2007, I woke up to federal agents banging down my door with an arrest warrant for federal marijuana distribution charges," Lynch related. "I had a spotless record, but I had to post a $400,000 bond to get out of federal detention. The DEA and the sheriff did everything in their power to defame me, destroy me, and destroy my life. Now, I have been found guilty on five counts of distribution and await sentencing. I'm filing for bankruptcy, my friends are scared to talk to me because the feds are breathing down my neck. They've destroyed my life."

Clearly, Attorney General Holder's announcement Wednesday is a major breakthrough for the medical marijuana movement. Just as clearly, there are still messes to clean up and injustices to be righted. It is only when there is no one remaining in or threatened with federal prison for helping sick patients that the medical marijuana movement will have achieved real justice.

Medical Marijuana Raids are Officially Over


In a press conference intended to celebrate a series of DEA raids on Mexican cartels operating in the U.S., Attorney General Eric Holder was asked about the medical marijuana raids. He said this:



What's particularly delightful about this is that DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart was standing right next to him. It would have been nice if the cameras had turned to capture Leonhart's expression as her new boss announced the termination of the vicious campaign for which she bears great responsibility.

Although we've known this was coming for some time now, it's particularly gratifying to watch the Attorney General's mouth form the words we've waited 10 years to hear. So many have sacrificed so much to get us to this point. There were so many times when this fight looked hopeless to everyone but us, which is worth keeping in mind the next time someone tells us we're asking for too much.

As a decade of bad policy is brushed aside with scarcely a whimper, it's becoming clear how fictitious and contrived this debate has been from the beginning. One can scarcely overstate how ridiculously unfounded the fears of our political culture have proven to be. It's amazing to think that our government remained invested in this preposterous crusade for so long not because our leaders necessarily believed in it, but often because they simply lacked the courage to consider a change of course.

As sad as that sounds, there's a lesson here in that the best arguments for reform will often have more to do with politics than policy.

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