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Medical Marijuana Update

A patient sues the Border Patrol over harassment at checkpoints, Minnesota expands its program to include chronic pain, a New Hampshire patient wins permission to seek medical marijuana next door in Maine, and more.

National

On Monday, a medical marijuana patient sued the Border Patrol over his right to carry medical marijuana. A New Mexico man filed a federal lawsuit Monday charging that Border Patrol agents are not following a new rule that allows him to carry medical marijuana without risk of federal charges. Raymundo Marrufo is seeking an injunction against the agency over questions it asks travelers at border checkpoints. Marrufo contends that the Rohrabacher Amendment, which bars the Justice Department from interfering in medical marijuana states, makes questioning travelers about medical marijuana illegal. "Whether it is a sense of entitlement, indifference or simply ignorance of the law, the court must immediately issue an injunction enjoining the United States Border Patrol from asking questions and conducting searches that violate that Rohrabacher Amendment," the complaint states.

Arizona

Last Friday, the state Supreme Court issued a mixed ruling on medical marijuana DUID. The state's high court ruled last Friday that medical marijuana cardholders don't have immunity from prosecution under the state's DUID law, but also held that cardholders can try to mount a defense showing that they did not have enough marijuana or pot metabolites in their system to actually be impaired.

California

On Monday, the city of Eureka began a temporary moratorium on commercial medical marijuana grows. The move is designed to ensure local decision-making when the state's new Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act goes into effect on January 1. Localities that have not acted to regulate medical marijuana by then will lose control of regulation to the state.

On Tuesday, the Newport Beach city council gave final approval to a medical marijuana ban ordinance. The ordinance bans the cultivation, processing, distribution, and delivery of medical marijuana, but appears to have been enacted to ensure the city -- not the state -- is able to regulate medical marijuana when the state's new Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act goes into effect on January 1.

Also on Tuesday, a state appeals court upheld Fresno County's ban on medical marijuana grows.. The 5th District Court of Appeals held that the local ban does not conflict with state laws allowing medical marijuana cultivation because those laws do not expressly bar a local government from restricting land uses.

Florida

Last Friday, the state approved five medical marijuana growers. The state Department of Health has named the five operations that will be allowed to grow high-CBD, low-THC marijuana. The state's law limits the use of oils derived from the plants to patients suffering from cancer or a disease that"chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms that can be treated with low-THC cannabis."

Minnesota

On Wednesday, the state announced it would allow medical marijuana for people in chronic pain. State Health Commissioner Ed Ehringer announced today that people suffering from chronic pain will be allowed to participate in the state's medical marijuana program beginning next August. The public had backed broadening access, but a panel of medical experts had advised against it. "The relative scarcity of firm evidence made this a difficult decision," Commissioner Ehlinger said. "However, given the strong medical focus of Minnesota's medical cannabis program and the compelling testimony of hundreds of Minnesotans, it became clear that the right and compassionate choice was to add intractable pain to the program's list of qualifying conditions. This gives new options for clinicians and new hope for suffering patients."

New Hampshire

Last Tuesday, a New Hampshire woman won approval to seek medical marijuana in Maine. A woman suffering from late-stage lung cancer can seek to buy medical marijuana in neighboring Maine, a judge ruled last Tuesday. Linda Horan, 64, said she could be dead by the time dispensaries open in New Hampshire, so she sued the state to get an ID card that would allow her to purchase it in Maine. The state had argued that issuing her an ID card would undermine its need to control distribution, but the judge wasn't buying that argument. "She is suffering from a painful, terminal disease and is also undergoing chemotherapy. There is no dispute that cannabis can ameliorate some of her suffering," wrote Judge Richard McNamara. "She will suffer irreparable harm if relief is not granted."

North Dakota

On Monday, a medical marijuana initiative was approved for signature gathering. An initiative campaign led by North Dakotans for Compassionate Care has been approved for signature gathering. Organizers will need some 13,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

Ohio

On Tuesday, a House medical marijuana task force was announced. House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) said that the House is preparing to launch a task force to study the legalization of medical marijuana. The move comes a month after voters defeated a pot legalization initiative that would have also allowed for medical marijuana.

Pennsylvania

Last Wednesday, the medical marijuana bill won a committee vote. The House Rules Committee voted 25-8 last Wednesday to advance a medical marijuana bill. The bill has already passed the Senate, but still needs a House floor vote. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has said he will sign the bill.

Wyoming

On Sunday, the state's medical marijuana initiative was faltering amid inflighting. The head of Wyoming NORML resigned and said he believes the effort to get a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot is over. Chris Christian said petitioners had gathered only about 5,000 of the 20,000 voter signatures required to make the ballot. NORML Deputy Director Lee Roth wasn't ready to call it quits, though; he said he hoped new leadership would bolster support.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: USPS Warns Newspapers on Pot Ads, MX to Debate Cannabis Next Month, More (12/2/15)

The Postal Service has warned newspapers in the Pacific Northwest that carrying pot business ads could violate federal law, a New Mexico medical marijuana patient is suing the Border Patrol over access to his medicine, Minnesota has approved medical marijuana for chronic pain patients, and more.

Minnesota chronic pain patients will participate in the state's medical marijuana program beginning next August. (wikimedia.org)
Marijuana Policy

US Post Office Warns Pacific Northwest Newspapers About Carrying Pot Business Ads. In a memo last Friday, the USPS in Portland warned newspapers that they could be violating federal law by running advertising for marijuana businesses. The memo noted that is illegal "to place an ad in any publication with the purpose of seeking or offering illegally to receive, buy, or distribute a Schedule I controlled substance." Newspapers in Oregon have contacted Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), both of whose offices said they had been in contact with USPS about "what appears to be an outdated interpretation" of the law.

Arizona Poll Has Voters Evenly Split on Legalization. There will likely be a legalization initiative on the ballot next year, and a new poll suggests it will be in for a fight. The Morrison-Cronkite Poll has the issue in a statistical dead heat, with 49% of voters in support and 51% opposed. The demographics favor the opposition, the pollster said. "Predictably, those 30 and younger (69%) and those age 31 to 55 (57%) are more likely to favor legalization than those 56 and older (36%)," said David Daugherty, associate director at Morrison Institute, who oversees the survey. "It is important to note, Republicans and older adults vote in larger numbers than either Democrats or young adults, which would, at least at this point in time, point toward likely defeat of the legalization of recreational marijuana."

Medical Marijuana

Patient Sues US Border Patrol Over Right to Carry Medical Marijuana. A New Mexico man filed a federal lawsuit Monday charging that Border Patrol agents are not following a new rule that allows him to carry medical marijuana without risk of federal charges. Raymundo Marrufo is seeking an injunction against the agency over questions it asks travelers at border checkpoints. Marrufo contends that the Rohrabacher Amendment, which bars the Justice Department from interfering in medical marijuana states, makes questioning travelers about medical marijuana illegal. "Whether it is a sense of entitlement, indifference or simply ignorance of the law, the court must immediately issue an injunction enjoining the United States Border Patrol from asking questions and conducting searches that violate that Rohrabacher Amendment," the complaint states.

Minnesota to Allow Medical Marijuana for Chronic Pain. State Health Commissioner Ed Ehringer announced today that people suffering from chronic pain will be allowed to participate in the state's medical marijuana program beginning next August. The public had backed broadening access, but a panel of medical experts had advised against it. "The relative scarcity of firm evidence made this a difficult decision," Commissioner Ehlinger said. "However, given the strong medical focus of Minnesota's medical cannabis program and the compelling testimony of hundreds of Minnesotans, it became clear that the right and compassionate choice was to add intractable pain to the program's list of qualifying conditions. This gives new options for clinicians and new hope for suffering patients."

Ohio House to Create Medical Marijuana Task Force. House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) said Tuesday that the House is preparing to launch a task force to study the legalization of medical marijuana. The move comes a month after voters defeated a pot legalization initiative that would have also allowed for medical marijuana.

Wyoming Medical Marijuana Initiative Effort Falters Amid Infighting. The head of Wyoming NORML resigned on Sunday and said he believes the effort to get a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot is over. Chris Christian said petitioners had gathered only about 5,000 of the 20,000 voter signatures required to make the ballot. NORML Deputy Director Lee Roth wasn't ready to call it quits, though; he said he hoped new leadership would bolster support.

International

Mexico to Open National Debate on Marijuana Legalization Next Month. Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said Tuesday that the government will launch an informational website about marijuana with scientific and technical papers and will begin a series of public debates on marijuana policy in the third week in January. "To be effective, we must consider the different alternatives as well as the costs, benefits and viability of each of them and their impact on the population," he said. "Mexico will have to decide in the next months which policy it will need to face a phenomenon that affects different areas and aspects of the lives of millions of Mexicans."

Police Took More From Citizens Than Burglars Did Last Year

This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

When you think about getting property stolen, you think about criminals, but maybe you should be thinking about the police. Law enforcement use of asset forfeiture laws to seize property -- often without a criminal conviction or even an arrest -- has gone through the roof in recent years, and now the cops are giving the criminals a run for their money -- and winning.

According to a new report on asset forfeiture from the Institute for Justice, police seized $4.5 billion in cash and property through civil forfeiture last year. That exceeds the $3.9 billion worth of property stolen in burglaries during the same period. The valuation of burglary proceeds is from the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report.

Now, not every dollar seized by police is "stolen." Some of it is seized legitimately from real criminals who should pay for the damage their crimes cause. But in too many cases, property is seized from people who have not been convicted of anything, like Charles Clarke.

Clarke, a 24-year-old college student, was relieved of $11,000 in cash by federal agents at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport after a ticket agent reportedly told them he smelled like marijuana. They stopped and searched him at the airport, found no drugs or other banned items, and never charged him with a crime, but they took his money.

Clarke says the cash was money he had saved over five years for college tuition. A federal judge this month said he was inclined to believe Clarke and has ordered the feds to actually show he made the money from drug dealing, as they claimed.

Clarke may get his money back, but it is an uphill battle. Unlike criminal law, where prosecutors must prove the guilt of the defendant, under civil asset forfeiture law, the burden of proof falls on the person from whom the money or property was seized. The property owner must prove that the property was not the proceeds of crime. And he must pay attorneys to fight for him. And he may not win.

With police racking up billions in seizures each year, law enforcement itself begins to take on the appearance of a criminal enterprise. It's an enterprise with an ever-expanding appetite. According to Armstrong Economics, federal prosecutors seized an estimated $12.6 billion between 1989 and 2010, and the trend is upward. Federal asset forfeiture proceeds hovered at just under a billion dollars a year until 2007, doubled to two billion by 2009, and doubled again to over four billion in both 2013 and 2014.

Abuses of civil asset forfeiture have struck a chord with the public, and states are now beginning to pass laws banning or severely restricting civil asset forfeiture. Both New Mexico and Michigan did this year, and so did Wyoming, but that law fell victim to a governor's veto.

Likewise, the issue is again gaining attention in Congress, which passed minor asset forfeiture reforms after a similar outcry 15 years ago. There are at least two bills going after civil asset forfeiture in this Congress, including one from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and a bipartisan bill that would bar the use of civil asset forfeiture funds by the DEA to eradicate marijuana.

But until federal legislation actually passes, it's still open season on the citizenry.

Did "LSD Toxicity" Kill Troy Goode, Or Was It The Police Hogtie? [FEATURE]

This article was written in collaboration with AlterNet and first appeared here.

A man who died after being hogtied by police in South Haven, Mississippi, earlier this year, was killed by "complications of LSD toxicity," the State Medical Examiner office announced Tuesday, ruling the death "accidental" in an official autopsy report. But given that there are no known cases of fatal LSD overdoses, the examiner's findings are hard to credit.

Troy Goode and his wife (family photo)
The family of Troy Goode isn't buying it. And they have their own, independent autopsy findings and the science of psychedelics to back them up.

Goode, his wife, and friends were in the parking lot of a Widespread Panic concert before the show when he began behaving erratically after taking several hits of LSD. His wife attempted to drive him home, but at some point, he got out of the car and began creating a disturbance. Police were called, and they chased and arrested him, hogtieing him face down on a stretcher. He was charged with resisting arrest, then taken in an ambulance to a hospital, where he died two hours later.

Last month, Goode's family and their attorney, Tim Edwards, cited an independent autopsy report that found Goode died after being hogtied and left prone for an extended period. That stress position caused him to have trouble breathing and, as his heart attempted to compensate, it went into cardiac arrhythmia.

"He was suffocating. His heart increased into what is called tachycardia," Edwards said. "There is no scientific basis to attribute his death to LSD. This was lethal force, putting someone in a prolonged hogtied position," Edwards said. "This was not a situation where a 300-pound man attacked a police officer in the dark. This was a science nerd."

At the time, Edwards said the family was asking the Justice Department to open a civil rights investigation into Goode's death and that the family planned to file a lawsuit in January seeking compensation and a ban on hogties.

The Goode family, now represented by attorney Kevin McCormack, isn't any happier today. McCormack said he was "shocked and surprised" by the official autopsy finding.

"It says the cause of death was due to complications resulting from LSD toxicity. My initial reaction when I read that was shock and surprise. As I mentioned numerous times, there's not a single reported death in all of the medical literature from the beginning of human time, not a single reported death due to LSD toxicity," said McCormack.

"In the medical literature there are cases where people took 1000 and 7000 times more LSD than Troy did and ended up fine," said McCormack. "I have no idea what they would mean by complications. What we do know is that LSD, even extremely high doses, is very unlikely to kill anyone and that hogtieing is extremely likely to kill someone," said McCormack.

"We know why Troy died, we know what caused it, and we know it was not LSD," said McCormack.

The widely-acclaimed drug information website Erowid has reviewed the evidence around LSD fatalities, and it backs up what the Goode family lawyers have been saying: "Put simply, LSD does not cause death at recreational or therapeutic doses… Fewer than a handful of human deaths have been tied in the medical literature to the pharmacological effects of LSD, and none of these deaths have been unquestionably attributable to LSD's actions."

Erowid is relying on the scientists:

"No well-documented human deaths resulting directly from the toxic effects of LSD itself have occurred, though LSD has been implicated in accidental deaths, suicides, and homicides," Haddad and Winchester noted in 1990.

"LSD is not toxic in the biological sense," Dr. Paul Gahlinger wrote in his 2001 book "Illegal Drugs: A Complete Guide to Their History, Chemistry, Use and Abuse."

"There have been no documented human deaths from an LSD overdose," a 2008 review of the scientific literature by Passie et al concluded.

Erowid expanded on the accidental death theme to note that some deaths have been associated with inebriated or combative behavior, "including falling or jumping from a height or dying after beaten by police."

Goode was beaten by police, bitten by a police dog, and then restrained. The official autopsy notes cuts to his cheek and chin, bleeding between his scalp and his brain, more cuts or scrapes on his chest, and three fractured ribs. Goode also suffered puncture wounds from a dog bite to his left arm and bruises on both wrists, both ankles, "multiple contusions on the lower left leg," and bruises and cuts or scrapes to his right thigh.

But it was the LSD that killed him, according to Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Erin A. Barnhart, M.D., who signed the autopsy report: "Based on the autopsy findings and current investigational information, the 30-year-old male died as a result of complications of LSD toxicity."

DeSoto County District Attorney John Champion is prepared to wrap it all up. He said Tuesday that, based on the evidence, there was no police misconduct. Now it's up to the family to decide whether to pursue other means of recourse.

Southaven, MS
United States

Chronicle AM: Autopsy Claims Hogtied Man Was Killed By LSD, MA Init Hands in Sigs, More (12/1/15)

With signatures handed in today, Bay Staters should be voting on legalization next year. (www.regulatemassachusetts.org)
Marijuana Policy

Massachusetts Legalization Initiative Campaign Hands in Signatures. The Marijuana Policy Project-backed Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol today turned in more than 103,000 signatures to advance its initiative to legalize marijuana. The campaign only needs 64,750 valid voter signatures to qualify.

Medical Marijuana

North Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Gets Go Ahead for Signature Gathering. An initiative campaign led by North Dakotans for Compassionate Care has been approved for signature gathering. Organizers will need some 13,000 valid voter signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.

Drug Policy

Bernie Sanders Returns to Criminal Justice, Marijuana Legalization Themes. At a campaign speech in New Hampshire Monday night, the Vermont independent senator and Democratic presidential contender reiterated his concerns about drug and criminal justice policy, saying the country needs "major reforms in a very broken criminal justice system." Sanders called for investing in jobs and education, "not more jails and incarceration, removing marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, and treating substance use "as a serious health issue, not a criminal issue."

Law Enforcement

Mississippi Man Hogtied By Police Died of "LSD Toxicity," Autopsy Says. The Mississippi State Medical Examiner has ruled that Troy Goode, who died after being hog-tied and arrested by police in Southaven after a concert, was not killed by police action. Instead, he ruled the death an "accident," related to "complications of LSD toxicity." That he actually died of "LSD toxicity" is extremely unlikely. His family attorney says the family is "shocked and surprised" by the finding.

(This article was prepared by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also pays the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Chronicle AM: DEA Snitching Issues, Dutch Towns Want Regulated Marijuana Grows, More (11/30/15)

Marijuana Policy

Cherokee Chief Vetoes Marijuana Legalization Study Resolution. The principal chief of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, Patrick Lambert, has vetoed a resolution authorizing a feasibility study to examine the "issues and impacts associated with the legalization of cannabis" on tribal lands. "I have stated my opposition to the recreational use of drugs many times, and this includes marijuana," Chief Lambert wrote in his veto letter to Tribal Council Chairman Bill Taylor. Tribal members supporting legalization, organized as Common Sense Cannabis, responded with a statement saying Lambert was misguided: "In Chief Lambert's veto letter, he solely focuses on the 'recreational' marijuana, in which we call personal use. He cites recreational drug use as the problem in our community. While he is right about drug use as a problem, it does not stem from cannabis use. The problem lies with legal prescription pills and other synthetics, such as meth and heroin." The group is calling for the veto to be overridden in a tribal council meeting this Thursday.

Medical Marijuana

Florida Approves Five Medical Marijuana Growers. The state Department of Health has named the five operations that will be allowed to grow high-CBD, low-THC marijuana. The state's law limits the use of oils derived from the plants to patients suffering from cancer or a disease that "chronically produces symptoms of seizures or severe and persistent muscle spasms that can be treated with low-THC cannabis."

New Hampshire Woman Wins Approval to Seek Medical Marijuana in Maine. A woman suffering from late-stage lung cancer can seek to buy medical marijuana in neighboring Maine, a judge ruled last Tuesday. Linda Horan, 64, said she could be dead by the time dispensaries open in New Hampshire, so she sued the state to get an ID card that would allow her to purchase it in Maine. The state had argued that issuing her an ID card would undermine its need to control distribution, but the judge wasn't buying that argument. "She is suffering from a painful, terminal disease and is also undergoing chemotherapy. There is no dispute that cannabis can ameliorate some of her suffering," wrote Judge Richard McNamara. "She will suffer irreparable harm if relief is not granted."

Law Enforcement

Justice Department Inspector General Slams DEA Snitch Practices. In its semiannual report to Congress, the DOJ's OIG criticized the DEA for failing to have guidelines for the use of "high-level and media-affiliated sources," failing to effectively review snitches' authorization to conduct "Otherwise Criminal Activity," and failing to review its continued use of long-term snitches. The report also noted that the DEA was at times uncooperative, including efforts to obstruct the OIG's reviews of snitch file reviews and long delays in providing requested information.

International

European Parliamentary Council Calls for Public Health-Oriented Drug Policy. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in advance of next year's UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drugs, has called for a public health approach to drug policy. "The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe stresses that the world drug problem constitutes a major public health threat, for both individual drug users and society as a whole… the committee strongly supports the call for a change in approach to drug policy and calls on member States to adopt and promote a public-health-oriented drug policy based on prevention, treatment and harm reduction. It also invites all participants of the UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem to defend a new approach to drug policy, which should shift the emphasis from criminal justice to public health."

Dutch Localities Call for Regulated Marijuana Cultivation. The association of Dutch localities, VNG, has issued a new report calling for the government to regulate and license marijuana cultivation as a means of squeezing out smugglers and organized crime. The Dutch allow for the sale of small amounts of marijuana, but there is no legal provision for supplying the crop. 'The current situation cannot continue,' the report states. 'As local officials, we are experiencing major social problems… By turning a blind eye [to marijuana], the government is giving criminals free rein to sell their products. The cannabis industry is loosely entwined with organized crime, which is also involved in ecstasy and human trafficking," the report says.

Uttarkakhand to Become First Indian State to Allow Hemp Cultivation. The state government is now allowing farmers to grow hemp plants with less than 1.5% THC for industrial purposes. The crop can only be sold to the state government, not private buyers.

Chronicle AM: AK to Allow Some Social Pot Smoking, Sentencing Reform Moves in Congress, More (11/23/15)

Marijuana Policy

You'll be able to toke up with this at some Alaska pot shops. (wikimedia.org)
Alaska Will Allow Marijuana Use at Some Stores. The state's Marijuana Control Board voted 3-2 last Friday to allow consumption at some pot shops, making it the first state to do so. Board Chairman Bruce Schulte said there seemed to be public demand for such an option.

New Jersey Marijuana Arrests Going Up, Not Down. Even as state legislators discuss marijuana legalization, New Jersey cops are busily arresting pot smokers at a record pace. Marijuana arrests jumped 10% in 2012 and 10% again in 2013, according to New Jersey State Police Uniform Crime Reports. The 24,765 marijuana arrests is the highest number in 20 years, and nearly double the amount in 1993.

Vermont Legalization Supporters Release Report. The Vermont Cannabis Collaborative has released a report outlining a legalization framework for state lawmakers. The report calls for home grows of up to nine plants, craft growers who could grow up to 99 plants, and large-scale operators, who could have a grow space of up to 30,000 feet. There's much more at the report link.

Medical Marijuana

Arizona Supreme Court Mixed Ruling on Medical Marijuana DUID. The state's high court ruled last Friday that medical marijuana cardholders don't have immunity from prosecution under the state's DUID law, but also held that cardholders can try to mount a defense showing that they did not have enough marijuana or pot metabolites in their system to actually be impaired.

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Bill Wins Committee Vote. The House Rules Committee voted 25-8 last Wednesday to advance a medical marijuana bill. The bill has already passed the Senate, but still needs a House floor vote. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) has said he will sign the bill.

Heroin and Prescription

Maryland Legislator Proposes Heroin Maintenance Program. Delegate Dan Morhaim (D) said last Thursday he plans to offer legislation next year to provide free heroin to addicts in a bid to reduce crime.

Asset Forfeiture

New Mexico Senators Sue Albuquerque Over Asset Forfeiture. A bipartisan pair of state senators have filed a lawsuit against the city of Albuquerque over its vehicle seizure program, which they say violates the state's recently passed asset forfeiture reforms. Sens. Lisa Torraco (R-Albuquerque) and Daniel Ivey-Soto (D-Albuquerque) are seeking an injunction to stop the city from seizing vehicles without the owner first being convicted of a crime.

Harm Reduction

FDA Approves Narcan Nasal Spray. The Food and Drug Administration last Thursday approved a naloxone nasal spray to stop or reverse opiate overdoses. The FDA said it was as effective as the injectable form of the drug.

Sentencing

Historic Sentencing Reform Bill Passes House Judiciary Committee. Last Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee voted unanimously to advance the Sentencing Reform Act. The bill, introduced by Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), and sponsored by thirty other Representatives, would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, expand the federal "safety valve" (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and make many of the sentencing reductions retroactive. The bill is also moving in the Senate, where the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced its version last month.

International

China Bans More Than a Hundred New Psychoactive Substances. China last month banned more than a hundred new psychoactive substances, including alpha-PVP, more widely known as "flakka." It is now illegal to distribute flakka, synthetic opiates, and a score of other chemicals.

Mounting Pressure on DEA Head to Resign For Calling Medical Marijuana "A Joke"

Medical marijuana patients and supporters gathered today at DEA headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, to hand in more than 100,000 petition signatures demanding the resignation or firing of DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg after he called medical marijuana "a joke."

Medical marijuana is no joke said 100,000 signatures delivered to the DEA today. (wikimedia.org)

The petition, which was started only two weeks ago, has more than doubled the number of signatures on an earlier petition that helped prompt the ouster of Rosenberg's predecessor, former DEA head Michele Leonhart.

After walking from the nearby site of the International Drug Reform Conference, the group held a brief press conference in front of the DEA building. It was led by petition organizer Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority, whose own mother is a patient.

"My mom uses medical marijuana to deal with the severe pain caused by multiple sclerosis," he said. "This issue is no laughing matter for her and millions of other people who have seen the benefits of cannabis for themselves."

Also addressing the press conference were medical marijuana patients and the parents of young medical marijuana patients.

"There is no doubt that my son Jagger is alive today because of medical cannabis," said Sebastian Cotte, who helped carry the petitions. "Cannabis has tremendously decreased the pain and seizures caused by his mitochondrial disease, while improving his quality of life. For our family, this is no joke."

"There's nothing funny about suicidal thoughts, and those are something my family and I lived with day-to-day die to my military-related PTSD," said Navy veteran T.J. Thompson. "Using medical marijuana not only helps with my condition, but it has also had the added effect of making me a better father and husband."

Medical marijuana is now legal in 23 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam, and 17 more states have more limited laws allowing for the use of marijuana extracts, primarily for children suffering seizure disorders. According to Americans for Safe Access, which supported the petition, more than two million Americans now use medical marijuana in accordance with state laws.

An ever-increasing mountain of scientific studies have shown that medical marijuana is beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of serious conditions, including cancer, AIDS, epilepsy, and many others. With his remarks about medical marijuana as "a joke," DEA head Rosenberg made clear that he was either ignorant of the science around medical marijuana or indifferent to it.

The petition delivery came one day after a bipartisan group of members of Congress sent a letter to President Obama calling for Rosenberg's head, saying his comments "send a clear signal to the American people that the federal government isn't listening to them. It erodes trust. Cavalier statements like these fly in the face of state policy and the experience of millions of patients."

The letter blasted Rosenberg's statements as relics of "a throwback ideology rooted in the failed war on drugs" and accused him of "trivializing" both the science and the experience of millions of American who have used medical marijuana.

"Mr. Rosenberg's statements send a clear signal to the American people that the federal government isn't listening to them…Through his statements, Mr. Rosenberg has demonstrated that he is not the right person to hold the job of head of the DEA, and we urge you to find new leadership that can work to develop the right tools to properly rationalize our treatment of marijuana," the letter said.

It was signed by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Sam Farr (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and Ted Lieu (D-CA). Blumenauer himself took to the House floor to echo the call for Rosenberg's resignation or firing.

"This is going to be a political problem for the Obama administration until they fix it," warned Angell.

Arlington, VA
United States

Burn the Drug War on the National Mall This Saturday!

[Update: Catharsis took place as planned. Photos from the event can be found on the event's Facebook page.]

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/catharsis-cell-burning.jpg
This coming weekend, the National Mall in Washington, DC, will be the scene of a two-day vigil highlighted by the ceremonial burning of an interactive art installation dedicated to victims on the drug war in the shadow of the Washington monument.

The event is Catharsis on the Mall: A Vigil for Healing the Drug War, open to the public and featuring exhibits, art, music, dance, and nationally known speakers, including famed civil rights attorney Billy Murphy Jr.; Ifetayo Harvey, who lost her father at age four to prison and deportation for a first-time drug offense; and Anthony Papa, sentenced to fifteen years to life imprisonment for a first-time drug offense.

The vigil's centerpiece is the "Temple of Essence," a structure that "offers a space for healing personal and collective trauma, engaging community, and allowing the release of negative energy." It's the temple that will burn on Saturday night.

"People will see they are not alone in this struggle," said Michael Verdon, temple artist and US Air Force veteran. "As the temple burns, we will turn our individual experiences into a collective memory and heal as a community. Afterwards, our vigil will continue with cathartic dancing until sunrise."

Members of the public are invited to share their drug war stories during open mike sessions, as well as writing them within the temple's walls and leaving mementos before it burns.

"Through art and peaceful expression, we are demonstrating the transition to a more compassionate society," said event organizer and civil rights attorney, Robert Haferd. "This vigil is the first of its kind on the National Mall, and we are delighted that the National Park Service, Park Police, and the DC Fire Department have partnered with us to make it possible.

The event is organized by Washington DC-area artists, social justice advocates, and Burning Man participants. Speakers and installations will be provided by national and local drug policy organizations, including Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).

The vigil is timed to coincide with the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, which will bring more than one thousand researchers, academics and advocates to our nation's capital to work toward ending the war on drugs.

"From the recently-leaked United Nations document calling for drug decriminalization, to growing bipartisan support for ending mass incarceration and allowing cannabis research, we are transitioning from the traumatic war on drugs to policies grounded in public health and human rights," said Natalie Lyla Ginsberg, event organizer and Policy and Advocacy Manager for MAPS. "It’s time to come together to heal and celebrate."

See you there!

Washington, DC
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

A petition calling on President Obama to fire the DEA head keeps getting more signatures, the Florida medical marijuana initiative is halfway home on signature gathering, a New Jersey school becomes the first in the country to allow medical marijuana on campus, and more. 

National

Last Friday, a petition to fire the DEA head for calling medical marijuana "a joke" had 16,000 signatures. People so inclined can add theirs here. Actually, the petition now has some 27,000 signatures, having gained 11,000 more since the linked story was published yesterday.

By Monday, the petition had more than 80,000 signatures. Uh, make that 83,044 signatures at latest count. DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg is still getting heat over his statement that medical marijuana is "a joke." It's just his latest comment suggesting the nation's top drug cop is not that well-informed in his subject area.

California

Last Tuesday, the Newport Beach city council gave first approval to a medical marijuana ban. The council voted unanimously to approve the first reading of the ordinance, which will ban the cultivation, processing, distribution, and even delivery of medical marijuana. The city is acting to avoid losing licensing and regulatory authority under the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which was signed into law last month. The law says that if localities fail to enact rules or bans by year's end, the state will have sole licensing and regulatory authority there.

Florida

Last Friday, the state Supreme Court canceled its medical marijuana initiative hearing. Backers of a 2016 medical marijuana initiative have just seen one obstacle removed from their path. After Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) announced she would ask the high court to block the initiative, the state Supreme Court has canceled a hearing on it set for December 8. The initiative from United for Care is already well-advanced in the signature gathering process. A similar initiative failed last year with 58% of the vote—60% was needed because it was a constitutional amendment.

As of Monday, the medical marijuana initiative had nearly half the necessary signatures. The initiative from United for Care has already gathered 342,582 valid voter signatures. That puts it half-way to the 683,179 valid voter signatures to place the initiative on the November 2016 ballot. Petitioners have until February to get the rest of the signatures.

Illinois

ByMonday, more than $200,000 worth of medical marijuana had been sold in the state's first week of sales. Only a handful of dispensaries are open in the state, but they took in $211,000 in sales after opening last Monday. The medi-weed was selling for around $450 an ounce, or $16 a gram.

Maryland

Large Number of Applicants Will Delay Maryland Program. Nearly 900 people have applied to grow or sell medical marijuana in the state, and that is going to delay the program's rollout, Hannah Byron, the executive director of the state's medical marijuana commission said Thursday. She said the commission will extend the application period and revise the timeline, which had originally anticipated the first stage of the application review would be done by January.

Missouri

As of last Friday, Kansas City hospitals were denying cannabis oil to epileptic patients. That's Kansas City, Missouri. The state passed a law last year allowing for such use, but no hospitals in the Kansas City area will allow their doctors to write a recommendation. The hospitals cite lack of standardized dosages for children and concerns about side-effects and interactions with other medications. Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City will start a study on cannabis oil for epileptic patients next year, but has no plans to widely recommend it. On the other side of the state, the Comprehensive Epilepsy Care Center in St. Louis does allow doctors to write recommendations.

New Jersey

Last Wednesday,a Garden State school became the first in the nation to permit medical marijuana on campus. The Larc School in Bellmawr Wednesday night adopted a policy allowing a teenage girl with autism and epilepsy to consume medical marijuana edibles while at school. The move comes just two days after Gov. Chris Christie (R) signed into law a bill requiring school districts to adopt such policies.

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