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Feature: Medical Marijuana -- A Progress Report

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #493)
Drug War Issues

A little more than a decade after California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, making it the first state to approve the use of medical marijuana, the movement continues its slow spread across the country. Now, medical marijuana is legal in 12 states (with varying degrees of protection), and roughly 50 million people -- or about one out of six Americans -- live in those states.

federally-approved patient Irv Rosenfeld hands his empty federal medical marijuana canister to Montel Williams, while Reps. Sam Farr, Maurice Hinchey and Ron Paul observe
On the Pacific Coast, medical marijuana is legal from the Canadian border to the Mexican border (Washington, Oregon, California), as well as in Alaska and Hawaii. In the intermountain West, Colorado, Montana, and Nevada were joined this year by New Mexico as states where medical marijuana is legal. The other regional medical marijuana hotbed is the Northeast, where Maine, Rhode Island, and Vermont allow its use, and only a veto from Republican Gov. Jodi Rell kept Connecticut from joining those ranks this year.

While it may be a bit of an exaggeration to speak of a pincer movement aimed at the heartland, medical marijuana is on the move. In addition to the 12 states where it is legal, a number of other states, including Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, and New York have seen progress in state legislatures and are inching closer to approving medical marijuana. Meanwhile, a medical marijuana initiative is getting underway in Michigan, and activists are eyeing similar initiative campaigns in a handful of other states.

But at the same time, the federal government remains staunchly opposed to medical marijuana. The Justice Department and the DEA continue to harass patients and providers, especially in California, where a loosely-written Prop. 215 has led to the most wide-open medical marijuana scene in the country. While the DEA, sometimes working with recalcitrant state and local law enforcement officials, has been raiding dispensaries for years, this week the agency unveiled a new tactic against them: It sent letters to dozens of Los Angeles area landlords who rent to dispensaries, threatening them with civil forfeiture and possible criminal action if they continue to rent to what the DEA considers criminal drug trafficking organizations.

Americans for Safe Access demonstration
Similarly, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) regularly sends out its shock troops to attempt to defeat medical marijuana legislation and initiatives at the state level. The DEA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) all attempt to block independent research on the therapeutic uses of cannabis and throw whatever obstacles they can imagine in the path of medical marijuana.

But the federal government is under attack by medical marijuana advocates coming from several different angles. In Congress, the most significant piece of medical marijuana-related legislation is the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would bar the use of federal funds to persecute patients and providers in states where it is legal. Hearings and a vote in the House on Hinchey-Rohrabacher are expected in the next week or two. While approval appears unlikely this year, supporters, including the group spearheading the effort, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), expect to pick up votes and edge ever closer to the needed majority.

In the meantime, there are three legal challenges to the federal hard line on medical marijuana:

Dr. Ethan Russo addresses Patients Out of Time medical marijuana conference
Clearly, the medical marijuana movement is trying to advance on many fronts, and while the disparate groups that make up the movement may be on the same page, they aren't always reading the same paragraphs. With a movement that includes groups like MPP, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), which seek an end to marijuana prohibition outright, and groups like the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which seeks broader drug policy reform, as well as organizations like ASA and Patients Out of Time (POT), which focus exclusively on medical marijuana, it is little surprise that while there is broad strategic agreement, there are tactical differences.

Groups differ on the utility of acting at the state versus the federal level, over whether initiatives or legislative action is preferable, and over who should be the public face of the movement, among other issues. For some, even winning more victories at the state level is not as important as changing the parameters of the debate.

For MPP, which is hard at work in the states as well as on Capitol Hill, meaningful change will result from continuing to hammer away at the federal level, said Dan Bernath, MPP assistant director of communications. "There will probably be a vote on Hinchey-Rohrabacher within a week or two, and we think we will pick up at least 20 votes," he said.

But with the amendment having garnered 163 votes last year, an additional couple of dozen votes would still leave it well short of the 218 votes needed to ensure passage in the House. "It is not likely to happen this year," Bernath conceded, "but it is important that we continue to build momentum for the future. The safer it looks for politicians, the easier it is for them to vote for it."

While passage of Hinchey-Rohrabacher would not change the federal marijuana laws, it would effectively protect patients, Bernath said. "If the Department of Justice loses funding to go after medical marijuana in the states, that would be 100% protection for patients."

ASA, while supporting Hinchey-Rohrabacher, was quick to point out that the protection provided by Hinchey-Rohrabacher would only apply to patients in states where medical marijuana is legal. "Hinchey has been something for certain drug reform organizations and proponents to rally around to help turn the tide on medical marijuana," said ASA spokesman Kris Hermes, "but it is certainly not the be all and end all. It would unfortunately only protect patients and providers in those 12 states, but does little to address the concerns of doctors, patients, and caregivers in the rest of the country."

More promising for ASA, Hermes said, are the federal lawsuits. "The ruling by the DEA judge in the Craker case certainly adds to the growing chorus in support of doing further research on the subject," he argued. "And if we can win our case against HHS and the FDA, that would only build pressure on the government's position that marijuana has no medicinal value."

Some patient-oriented groups would rather concentrate on medium-term movement-building than short-term political victories. "While we accept the strategy of most people working within the movement, which is to change the law and get the patients their medicine, we don't always agree with the tactics," said Al Byrne, spokesman for Patients Out of Time, which has concentrated on educating the public and especially the medical profession about medical marijuana. "We need to let educators lead the movement into the future, not lobbyists, lawyers, and legislators," he argued. "Picking up the states one by one is worthwhile, but after a while it's sort of redundant. We don't think we will see real meaningful change until the medical community accepts marijuana as medicine."

Patients Out of Time has for the past several years worked to bring the medical community on board through its series of conferences on cannabis therapeutics, which bring together scientists, researchers, and medical professionals from around the country and the world to discuss the latest advances. POT's Fifth National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics is set for next April in California.

Winning more medical marijuana victories at the state level is not redundant for MPP. To get change at the federal level will require more states getting aboard the medical marijuana bandwagon, said Bernath. "The way change will happen is that when enough states adopt their own medical marijuana laws, the federal government will no longer be able to ignore this."

To that end, MPP will continue to push for passage of state medical marijuana laws, sometimes through the initiative and referendum process and sometimes through the legislative process. In Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and New York, medical marijuana legislation got some traction this year. "We can pick up next year where we left off," said Bernath.

DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann, whose organization is working on medical marijuana bills legislation in Connecticut and New Jersey, was quick to add those states to the list. DPA sees more bang for the buck in legislative efforts than initiatives, he said. "Legislative campaigns cost money, but not as much as ballot initiatives, and they have the advantage of generating enormous amounts of free media," he said. "Since a major part of the medical marijuana effort is about public education, the more hearings you have and the more media they generate, the better."

Bernath also pointed to MPP involvement in a Michigan medical marijuana initiative campaign that is just getting underway and suggested there may be more initiatives in other states. "The polls are looking pretty good in Arizona, Idaho, and Ohio," he said.

"This is where MPP and DPA have a slightly different philosophy," said Nadelmann. "I hope the Michigan initiative wins, and it would be helpful if it did, but as a matter of resource allocation, I'm skeptical about the value added of spending all that money to win one more state. But that's a judgment call," he added.

NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre drew a distinction between states that accepted medical marijuana through the initiative process and those that accepted it through the legislative process. "The initiatives covered a greater number of stakeholders and are more functional than the ensuing laws, which are very narrow in scope, serve fewer stakeholders, and haven't changed the federal dynamic of those states' representation in Washington," he argued. "If you look at who is supporting Hinchey-Rohrabacher, it is the delegations from the Western and Rocky Mountain states where support is strongest -- the states where medical marijuana came about through the initiative process."

On the other hand, St. Pierre acknowledged, states that have legalized medical marijuana through the legislative process have fewer problems with recalcitrant law enforcement. "In large parts of initiative states like California, Washington, and Oregon, the police simply ignore the law," he pointed out. "But when a medical marijuana bill goes through the legislature, law enforcement is part of the process. The police got to have their say. They lost, but at least they were sitting at the table."

Eleven years ago, no patients were protected by state medical marijuana laws. Now, some 50 million Americans live in states where they could be, and that's progress. But it also means that some 250 million Americans continue without the protection of state medical marijuana laws, and despite tentative advances in the South and the Midwest, today those areas remain without any such laws. In the last few years, progress has been made, but at a painfully slow pace. Perhaps that will change next year, with a number of states well into legislative consideration of medical marijuana bills.

And perhaps things will change at the federal level the year after that, especially if the Democrats extend and deepen their control of Congress. But at this juncture, the only likely federal changes will come if one of the lawsuits turns out victorious, and that means going back to the states and whittling away at medical marijuana prohibition one statehouse or one popular vote at a time.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Anonymous (not verified)

The same folks who are trying to forward Sativex and prevent people from growing their own cannabis? The same folks who also hired arch prohibitionist liar and former right hand (wo)man of John Walters, Dr. Andrea Barthwell? ("Medical marijuana is a cruel hoax" was and is her mantra...except when it comes to the medical marijuana that GW wants to sell. Then it's magically A-OK.) What's up with this?

Fri, 07/13/2007 - 2:15pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm not familiar with the idea that 24 states has medical marijuana in the 70's but that's pretty much ancient history anyway. Medical marijuana patient have an urgent need that can't wait til America sees the light regarding recreational use of marijuana, let alone other prohibited drugs. The movement to legalize MMJ benefits the broader cannabis legalization movement by providing evidence that using marijuana does not hurt people, evidence that is impossible to deny. Referendums to legalize marijuana in 2006 in Nevada (44%) and Colorado (41%) did much better than they would have 10 years ago. It's very understandable to get frustrated and angry at the crap being thrown in our faces, but it's not like this is the first attempt at social progress that took so damn long in America. Americans are pretty dense self-righteous folk with a tendency to be much more concerned with their own rights than other people's.

Fri, 07/13/2007 - 5:36pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

you would be wise to review the 1970's -- it's the exact same stuff today. right down to some of the same individuals.

as to the comment to "be careful and you won't get caught" -- you, sir, are the biggest part of the problem.


Sat, 07/14/2007 - 10:39am Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

In the 70s, I'm told (and I've read), there was a belief that marijuana legalization was basically around the corner and all but given. That's not the belief now in our movement. So that's one big difference between now and the 70s.

Another big difference is that public support for legalization marijuana is higher now than in the 70s (

Three other major differences is that our movement (collectively) now has a broad-based approach that takes on policies toward other drugs, harm reduction (driven by the AIDS crisis) and some of us calling for legalization; we have the medical marijuana issue; and we have a multiplicity of organizations, none of them with exactly the same set of benefits and vulnerabilities.

The 70s were also followed by the Reagan presidency, and a conservative political movement of growing effectiveness and power, major outside factors that basically shut the effort down. I hope we don't face another such development, but I also don't think they'll be able to shut us down this time. I agree that we should study the past to attempt to avoid making mistakes that may have been made before, and to try to prepare against possible pitfalls along the way.

That said, just as I don't see how the facts are consistent with the idea that no one is being protected by medical marijuana laws, I don't see how what's happening today is the same as what happened in the 70s.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Sat, 07/14/2007 - 11:22am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey (CMMNJ) is one of the "disparate groups that make up the (medical marijuana) movement."

It is true that Hinchey-Rohrabacher would only apply to patients in states where medical marijuana is legal, and it would unfortunately only protect patients and providers in those 12 states.

Though NJ is not one of the 12 states, CMMNJ actively supports the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment. We believe passage of this amendment will be a strong selling point to our legislators who are considering the "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" (S 88 & A 933).

Ken Wolski, RN, MPA
Executive Director
Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, Inc.
844 Spruce St.
Trenton, NJ 08648
[email protected]

Sat, 07/14/2007 - 11:31am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Yeah Ken! NJ should join the club!
The Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Act protects patients -- we've had 0 federal raids...
Jesse Stout, Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition

Sat, 07/14/2007 - 11:42am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

the next step will probably be that they declare all the state laws to be in violation of the 14th amendment -- since they provide an "excepted class." oops, can't have exceptions and equality at the same time now can we?

it's time to stop chasing after the low hanging fruit and chop the goddam tree down. and anyone pretending to be a "leader" needs to step up to that challenge.

Sun, 07/15/2007 - 11:22am Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Those of us in leadership positions find we have to deal with the world the way it is and not the way we want it to be. The tree isn't going to fall this year or this decade. Most of us feel that being able to actually change laws and help people in the present instead of an undefined future gets us taken more seriously by the public than merely standing outside and shouting, and helps to build the movement. We need to shout out the truth too, but that's not a good argument for not getting what changes we can get in the meanwhile. The important thing is that efforts to also advance the full legalization viewpoint also happen.

Unfortunately the public isn't with us yet. That's not going to change overnight; it's going to continue changing gradually, until the point is reached when things are ready to transform more quickly, but no one knows when that will be. It's easy to say things like "anyone pretending to be a leader" will do what you want them to do, but that's really not a well thought out sentiment -- particularly because it doesn't acknowledge the reality of where politics and opinion are at in this country and how slowly social change has happened in every other major issue. Leaders have to meet people where they are at now, not where we hope they will get to someday; and leaders have to work with the world the way the world actually works and not the way we wish it would work.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Sun, 07/15/2007 - 11:38pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Hey fellow Marijuana Freedom Fighters,

I have a favor to ask, please video the video below on youtube and rate it, and share it with friends you know would support it. It is very important to get this some real exposure if we have any hope of making a change to the current Medical Marijuana climate. We need to stop the DEA and Federal Government from interfering in State Rights for Medical Marijuana Patients and Medical Marijuana Providers. v=zfyeihsPK08

We also need you to Digg or Stumble or or whatever social bookmarking site you use to get this to the top of the page. hinchey...

Together we can make a difference and get some good legislation passed. If this passes it greatly increases the chances of more states like NY and others passing Medical Marijuana Reform. Lets help those in the most need get the medicine they require to live a more comfortable life.

Thank you for your support,

Mary Wannaseed

Spread The Seeds Of Truth, Free The Weeds Of Freedom

Sun, 07/15/2007 - 3:43pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Hey fellow Marijuana Freedom Fighters,

I have a favor to ask, please video the video below on youtube and rate it, and share it with friends you know would support it. It is very important to get this some real exposure if we have any hope of making a change to the current Medical Marijuana climate. We need to stop the DEA and Federal Government from interfering in State Rights for Medical Marijuana Patients and Medical Marijuana Providers.

Hinchey Medical Marijuana Amendment Video

We also need you to Digg or Stumble or or whatever social bookmarking site you use to get this to the top of the page.

Hinchey Medical Marijuana Amendment Link.

Together we can make a difference and get some good legislation passed. If this passes it greatly increases the chances of more states like NY and others passing Medical Marijuana Reform. Lets help those in the most need get the medicine they require to live a more comfortable life.

Thank you for your support,

Mary Wannaseed

Spread The Seeds Of Truth, Free The Weeds Of Freedom

Sun, 07/15/2007 - 3:48pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

that isn't done by pruning a few branches here and there -- that activity simply keeps the tree alive. hmmmm.

boldness is required: that is the stuff of leadership.

sorry, but begging for crumbs is in no way leadership -- nor will it lead to the changes that need to be made.

everyone who looks at the more than ample evidence sees that's it's time to end the drug war. that is allegedly the point of your very organization dave. so what are you doing -- "hoping" that some time several decades from now that medical marijuana will be legal at the federal level (like cocaine, meth, fentanyl. etc)? and then what's the plan -- keep "hoping" that we can change a few possession laws for recreational users here and there? how many decades do you figure that ought to take? think you'll be alive to see it? how will that stop drug testing and swat raids? how many more innocent deaths and arrests should we tolerate in the name of this alleged "progress" being made bit by bit over decades?

america didn't happen because people tried to change a thing or two here and there. and the drug war isn't going to end by chipping away making exemptions to the law for an extremely tiny minority of the people who are impacted by these insane and unjust laws.

you get what you ask for in life, and what you are willing to work for -- so why is everybody asking for (and working for) so little?

all of society is negatively impacted by the drug war -- so ALL of society has a vested interest in fixing it. if alcohol prohibition could be eliminated all at once (in only 13 years mind you), then why are we supposed to believe (and be paralyzed by) the idea that ending the tyranny of prohbition II should take several lifetimes to eliminate? am i supposed to believe that americans in general are too stupid to come to the same conclusions as all of us who have examined the available evidence? if we get it, then so can everybody else. americans "aren't ready" for the truth? is the earth flat?

cheerleading another med-pot initiative or another handful of hinchey votes is the equivalent of declaring that the latest cocaine seizure is "proof that the war is working."


Mon, 07/16/2007 - 11:31am Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)


It's easy to say that everyone who who is confronted with the evidence agrees that the drug war isn't working. That's mostly true. But how does one get the evidence in front of 300 million people? We already know that merely putting it in front of politicians doesn't work in most cases, because of politics. We don't have the hundreds of millions of dollars, or perhaps billions of dollars, that would be needed to run the kind of ad campaign necessary to raise awareness to that degree by itself. The Internet reaches a lot of people, but that takes a long time.

And so we are dependent on the mainstream media. And unfortunately, the mainstream media does not see legalization as a newsworthy issue right now, for the most part. That is a major obstacle -- a highly successful writer who is sympathetic and who used to work at a number of major news publications told me this.

If you're going to say that DRCNet should be doing more to educate people about prohibition/legalization itself, I might agree with you, we want to do more in that category of our work. But if you're going to say that instead of lobbying for things that could actually happen now, we should instead be lobbying for a full legalization bill in Congress, even just for marijuana -- well I think also lobbying for such a bill might be worth considering, but you should expect to get maybe three cosponsors, if for that matter anyone is even willing to introduce the bill. Unfortunately marijuana smokers are not likely to come out of the woodwork to demand that Congress pass such a bill, because people just aren't like that most of the time.

One way to get the issue into the mainstream media is to run initiatives as MPP has done in Nevada. If I had millions of dollars to spend on initiatives, I might do something like that too, and hope that each time we tried it the percentage voting yes continued to increase. I'm not sure that would gain any recognition from you, however, as you didn't seem to consider it worth even a mention in your blog post that criticized MPP. You did, however, see fit to slam them for the Playboy Mansion fundraisers -- which you described as mere "parties" -- without mentioning the fact that there were fundraiser that in fact raised quite a lot of money.

We could do a direct action blocking the DEA office in Washington, make them arrest a bunch of us, and hope that that helps to spark some positive discussion. If done well, it probably would spark some useful discussion in the media, one friend of mine thinks a lot. But then it would be over, and we'd be left with what is really just one positive contribution to the effort but not the quick, dramatic, change that you say you're looking for.

You also have ignored the point made by myself and at least one other person posting here that every other major social reform in history has taken many decades to accomplish. Why do you think this issue could advance any differently than any other issue?

If you have any actual ideas of what we can do to quickly accomplish the monumental task of reaching America at large with this information that we have, or changing things quickly in some other way, by all means share them with the class. In the meanwhile, I am going to proceed with the only strategy that at this point seems possible to me, which is to use educational strategies to raise awareness of the consequences of prohibition, while lobbying for reforms that can be accomplished in the present and building the movement.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Mon, 07/16/2007 - 6:06pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

it's about tyranny.

it's about calling attention to the fact that we're punishing people who aren't doing anything to anybody -- and not just over drugs. you'd think 231 years would have been a long enough time to figure out what being "equals" means. it means you don't get to punish people for doing things to themselves.

we have everything we need in terms of evidence and a transmission medium. the internet is "free" dave -- and the most effective and efficient method of disseminating data ever conceived. the pace of life and change is occuring at an ever accelerating rate, so social changes do not require anywhere near the amount of time they used to require -- if you actually have your shit together.

we're in an information war and getting our asses kicked -- despite having all of the proof we need. so we clearly need to do something different than using the same failing tactics of the past 35+ years. and we need to make way better use of our limited resources.

i've been doing the fundamental work that needs to be done and will continue to put together my war plan. but where is the plan from anyone else dave? that's the problem! the "leaders" have no plan. fer crying out loud, until i did the work there wasn't even a single place to find all the pertinent data. c'mon already, decades of arguing back and forth over the data and nobody bothered to do job one?!

i don't mind doing all the work, but if you think i'm going to sit around and quietly wait for the "leaders" and mindlessly cheerlead over pyrrhic victories -- so sorry. i didn't come here to play patty-cake: we're in a war.

where is the ten simple talking points paper for our side to use to counter the one the bad guys have been using (very effectively i might add) since they first drafted it back in 1996?

what effort is being made to gather the hundreds of groups of people out there biting at little bits into a coherent whole? where is the "alliance?" what is being "coordinated?"

where is the plan for this election cycle? what do the "leaders" of drug reform plan to do to get in the faces of the current crop of presidential candidates? are they waiting until americans are "ready" to discuss it? and discuss what -- a needle exchange program!? change doesn't happen by waiting for people -- it happens by challenging them -- and leading them toward the goal.

as to the mpp stuff, you probably should have read farther back on my blog -- i didn't just slam them for the playboy parties, i spelled it out completely when they did the 2006 efforts in nevada and south dakota:

while everyobody was getting a boner over med-pot initiatives, the bad guys stayed busy making even more laws, and foisted off the "combat meth act" on us. and if you think that particular piece of legislation has anything to do with the "meth epidemic" then you really aren't paying attention.

lastly, i have not ignored your point that social efforts take time -- like i keep saying 231 years is more than ample time to get people to stop practicing tyranny in the very place designed for the job.

so who wants to raise their hand in support of tyranny?

Tue, 07/17/2007 - 8:23am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

Although I was thrilled to read this debate, I'm also heart-broken from the fighting.
Here are my thoughts on all this, after spending about 10 years on drug war research:

Dave, I could never accomplish what you have done with this organization. It provides a great service, which is why I sport a "Stop the Drug War .org" sticker on my new car and donate. But I whole-heartedly agree with Brian that resources are NOT being used very well at all, and not just by DRCNet. It's advertising I yearn for the most. Ads that put the truth out there, no matter what people might think about it. Shock people - it's OK. SAFER had huge success getting the word out with truthful shock ads, and on only $50,000. That was seasonal - we need year-round ads. If we had started these ads 10 years ago, the term "Legalize drugs" wouldn't sound near as scary today. We SHOULD be shouting this horrible injustice out in the streets! You of all people know exactly how people are suffering, and that we are paying our government to bring the suffering!
You should be CREATING more Brian Bennetts, not fighting the one you have!!
You are wrong when you say people aren't ready. When I pass out my doorknob bags of information, 98% of the people I run into say, "The drug war's a joke." We MUST collect these people together with ads that will rid them of the fear and hopelessness that keeps them from saying what they know. LEAP just sent me a letter stating that 78% are dissatisfied with the drug war, and 85% want legalized regulation once they've heard a LEAP speaker tell the truth about the drug war. WE ARE READY, we just need that leader!
We also need a solution to be presented; here's my idea:
First, heavy public education shows how illegal drugs are safer than alcohol and that prohibition makes things worse.
Then sell everything that is for adults only in separate rooms or buildings where I.D. is required to enter. Include alcohol, tobacco, nudey magazines, public education on responsible use and medical/treatment information. Real companies make everything just like Marlboro makes its products. Packages are labeled so that anyone can learn the truths about their drug of choice as they shop.
That's all I have so far, but it would take cigs and beer out of every corner store! (Wine should also be in grocery stores)
Lastly, Dave, I have asked this question to many people, including Ed Rosenthal at his speech in Monterey: "Why don't the 100+ groups pool their efforts and work together to at least end federal cannabis prohibition?" The answer was the same as yours, but I won't accept this situation. Yes, it is very good for everyone to be doing their own thing, getting different jobs done, but only when there is a Common Goal. That goal must center on ending the drug war, not mending it bit by bit. Yes, we MUST get out enmass together, with the rallies, marches, protests, sit-ins, action alerts - it is the only peaceful way to honestly see real change with this kind of tyranny. We have to show up - please lead us. I don't think they are ignoring us as much as I think they never hear from most of us. It's your job to get folks fired up for change and then point them in the right direction, Dave. I love your passion, but it still leaves me cold.

To have all the info and all the money that orgs have.... If it were me, I would put public education and involvement as the #1 priority, because that's the only way congress will change on this. LEAP is doing a great job on this, but yes, they were cops, so people will listen, and that is why everyone who knows the drug laws are wrong should immediately back LEAP up. But even LEAP doesn't satisfy me when it comes to advertising-to-the-point-of-normality or putting pressure on people to put pressure on congress to change their evil ways.

As far as MPP, I am absolutely disgusted. They are WORSE than government tyranny, because they purport to help us when they are just enjoying donor funds. I condemn their parties while millions are suffering. Want proof MPP is toothless? A large part of their job is to lobby congress, right? Hinchey amendment. What happened to all the lobbying they did - even with the new congress? How many civilians actually asked congress for the amendment? How many civilians wrote in to keep funding the raids, if any?

This brings me to Brian. Is it true that you won't participate in these exercises when an opportunity comes to us to contact congress on a very specific action? Shame on you. I think medical marijuana is a red herring, too - totally bungling things up with "You can use it but you can't" and $400 ounces being sold in ziplocks. (Yes, some people have safe access - I enjoyed that too, even after paying $350 for a card, then driving for an hour to get to a shop that had been burglerized, so there were no meds there, and the shop owner didn't care if I had meds or not - he was just mad he got robbed. People in spastic pain need lots of meds, so how do the clubs justify their obscene prices?) BUT, as I've said, I think the main problem the movement has is the lack of people contacting congress about this change. As tyrannical as they are, if we speak up collectively, laws will change when they suspect their re-election might be in danger. It did not help us that the bill the Hinchey amendment was in didn't have a bill number until a day before the vote, so we looked stupid when we called in to ask for support. Crap like that keeps people from making contact, plus the incredibly complicated Craker mess - no one knows what to say when they call about that! Which is why Action Pages are so important - they get people involved immediately. JUST DO IT - our voice is being measured at every chance we get! I was also disappointed when you didn't bring your plan to the table when asked - I want to hear it!!

Go for the gusto and focus on ending Prohibition II (As Brian said, it only took 13 years, but that was with the already-familiar alcohol, plus there is SO much more black market money to be lost when the drug war ends). There will still be states' laws that will need to be hashed out after federal prohibition is gone, but that is where we need to focus: Federal Prohibition. We have the Constitution, government's own statistics (Courtesy of Brian's site) and Science on our side - use it all, Please! The only way we can get the feds to control the feds is to get the people to start speaking up. It's backwards to go after states first - it is pruning, and I want to see more chopping at the root: Government loves to control us. Tyranny.
Ron Paul said he'll end the drug war if elected... could the end be in 2008? How would NORML and MPP really feel about that? They are just as worried about losing their jobs as the DEA is, from what I've seen.

Mon, 07/30/2007 - 1:17pm Permalink
borden (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Not sure if anyone is still reading this thread or not, and I don't know who posted the last comment, so I can't reply by email. If you're reading this, feel free to get in touch.

The Hinchey amendment did not have a bill number because amendments don't have bill numbers. They eventually get assigned amendment numbers, generally during the day on which they are going to come up. So there is nothing anyone could have done to change that. The instructions that we and other organizations put out -- refer to it as Rep. Hinchey's amendment to the Science-Commerce-Justice appropriations bill (if I remember correctly) -- were correct instructions, and were the only ones available.

LEAP speakers are very effective, but there is no possibility of getting a large percentage of the voting public to sit down and listen to their speeches. That's the core problem with Brian's argument: Yes, we should be able to persuade enough people to get the laws changed, and not only for marijuana. But only if we can reach them, and given the resources that are available to our movement currently, that can only be done in relatively slow ways. In LEAP's case, the hope is that by influencing politically active audiences who influence other people's opinions, the word will gradually spread out into larger society. But that is by definition a slow process. Brian argued that the Internet is free and so we can reach everyone. Sorry, that's not true, you can post on any chat group you want to, but that takes time and time is limited, the only way to reach everyone is to spam them, and most of your emails will end up in spam filter boxes and then your site will get blacklisted and you won't reach anyone.

Advertising, as you've advocated, would require a colossal amount of money to be able to do this effectively. If SAFER's ads were effective (I don't remember the details, but I'll take your word for it and I can believe it, I seem to remember that they were), it's because they were done in a targeted way during a specific campaign, which made them newsworthy -- there was something current for people to talk about. Outside of the context of specific campaigns, ads don't do a lot unless multiple millions of dollars are put in, in order to air them repeatedly, and frequently, over an extended period of time. I would be hesitant to embark on an ad campaign, other than as a test, unless someone were willing to commit to providing that level of resources for the program. Remember, we don't get to put the money wherever we want, generally the big funders give money to the programs about which they are persuaded. And if you don't spend the money the way you said you would, they don't fund you the next time.

As far as the negative view of MPP, I really find this viewpoint unjustified. I know the people there, and I know that they are in fact fighting for the cause, they were anxiously sitting up waiting to see how the vote turned out, etc. The Hinchey vote didn't go as well as we hoped it would -- we're all disappointed -- but there are other campaigns they've been involved in or spearheaded that have led to victories. So when I see someone like Brian completely ignoring all of those and making the claim that MPP or any other group in the movement isn't doing anything -- well, I know that just isn't true, so it kind of irks me, and sometimes I speak up.

Finally, I feel that unless you have done extensive analysis, not only of the votes on Hinchey, but of the work that groups did prior to the vote to try to influence it, I don't feel that you are in a position to venture an informed opinion on how hard a group tried, how how well crafted their strategy was, or whether or not there was actually a chance. There are some important factors that were at work that affected things. First, there were 15 members of Congress who voted Yes on Hinchey in 2006, but who are no longer serving in the Congress. Just to break even, we had to get 15 new people on board. Second, we all know (because it has been widely discussed on news media) that the Democrats are scared silly about 2008 and are anxious to avoid doing anything that could complicate their fight sfor the White House and for keeping and growing their new majorities in Congress. There has been a lot of criticism from the liberal end that they are not doing enough to try to end US involvement in the war in Iraq. Well, some of the politics that are affecting that doubtless affect other things too, maybe including this. Third, many of the newly-elected Democrats are from centrist or conservative districts in which the voting margins shifted only slightly to put them in office. These are the hardest kinds of Democrats to bring on board with anything that could be portrayed by a future political opponent as "soft on drugs." They want to stay in office and the rest of the Democrats want them to stay in office too. So I don't think it's surprising at all that as many of the freshmen Democrats voted against us as did -- we got over half of them, and in the circumstances that might not be bad, I'm not really sure. There were several Yes votes from last year that turned into No votes this year, and people are still trying to interpret that; many of them were from the Congressional Black Caucus, and that seems a little strange as overall support in the CBC for this has been strong (and mostly still is).

I don't want to be an apologist here, but the fact is that a number of organizations really went all out to try to influence this vote, a lot of our members lobbied and lots of other work was done. This may indeed be a time to question whether the Hinchey amendment strategy should be continued, but in my opinion it's also a time to thank the people who have been working hard on it for their efforts rather than issue unsupportable condemnations of them!

Ultimately it's the members of Congress who voted No who are to blame for the failure of the amendment. Unfortunately, the Democrats, while sympathetic to much of what we are trying to accomplish, do not consider our issue a priority. The more we lobby them, the more likely it is that they will, so I really appreciate your words about how important it is to participate in specific actions to Congress.

David Borden, Executive Director the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Tue, 07/31/2007 - 3:20pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

How do you prevent med marijuana users from selling their allotment?

Sun, 12/30/2007 - 9:49pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

it time to put a stop to all of this prop 215 people think thay can smoke any were and it smells bad . i all so think they
should do back ground checks on all of the smokers . and check there record first .its geting bad out here

Sun, 04/13/2008 - 8:14pm Permalink
Andrew R. (not verified)

How can i make a difference in my state to get it passed as medicaly accepted. I live in Idaho and have many friends including myself that live in pain or take very high doses of pain pills to sufice. I live in pain from the moment i wake up to the time i go to bed.

Thank you very much
andrew R.

Fri, 11/06/2009 - 1:52pm Permalink

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