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The Speakeasy Blog

Arizona Governor's Medical Marijuana Lawsuit Dismissed

A federal judge Wednesday threw out a lawsuit filed on behalf of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) that had blocked the implementation of the state's voter-approved medical marijuana dispensary program. Brewer and state health officials had sued to ask the court for clarification about whether the state's medical marijuana law was preempted by federal drug laws, saying they feared going forward would put state employees at risk of federal prosecution.

Chronicle story here.

Medical Marijuana Update

The latest on the medical marijuana front -- Chronicle story here.

This Week in History

Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past. In Drug War Chronicle, here.

Supreme Court Asked to Take Drug Dog Case

The US Supreme Court has upheld drug dog sniffs of vehicles, luggage at airports, and packages in transit. Now, the state of Florida wants it to uphold a drug dog sniff at your front door. Chronicle story here.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

The Chronicle may have taken a week off, but drug prohibition-related police corruption didn't. And so we have two weeks worth of corrupt cops. Chronicle story here.

Statewide Colorado Marijuana Initiative Turns in Signatures

Proponents of a Colorado marijuana legalization initiative turned in more than 159,000 signatures to the secretary of state's office Wednesday, nearly twice as many as the 86,500 required for the measure to be approved for the November ballot. The state has 30 days to verify the signatures and approve the measure for the ballot. Chronicle story here.

The Top Ten Domestic US Drug Policy Stories of 2011 [FEATURE]

We can put 2011 to bed now, but not before looking back one last time at the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was a year of rising hopes and crushing defeats, of gaining incremental victories and fending off old, failed policies. And it was a year in which the collapse of the prohibitionist consensus grew ever more pronounced. Chronicle feature story here.

Washington Marijuana Legalization Initiative Hands in Signatures

Washington state marijuana legalization initiative supporters turned in enough signatures last week to almost guarantee that the measure will be on the ballot in November. Now, we wait for the state to make it official. Chronicle story here.

At Year's End, Five More US Drug War Deaths

Five people, including a Florida police officer, have died in recent days in incidents related to domestic drug law enforcement. They become the 49th through 54th persons to die in US domestic drug law enforcement operations so far this year. Of those 54, three were law enforcement officers. Chronicle story here.

The Top Ten International Drug Policy Stories of 2011

The new year is almost upon us and 2011 will soon be a year for the history books. But we can't let it go without recognizing the biggest global drug policy stories of the year. From the horrors of the Mexican drug wars to the growing clamor over the failures of prohibition, from the poppy fields of Afghanistan and the Golden Triangle to the coca fields of the Andes, from European parliaments to Iranian gallows, drug prohibition and its consequences were big news this year. Chronicle yearly feature story here.

Mexico Drug War Update

There has been no holiday break in Mexico's prohibition-related mayhem, but it's now looking like this year's death toll is going to be down slightly from last year. Chronicle story here.

This Week in History

Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past. Chronicle story here.

Marc Emery Christmas Prison Blog

Marc Emery is approaching the halfway mark of his prison term. In a blog post on, "It's a Wonderful Life," he posts a few of the 3,500 letters of support he's received and reminds us that there are hundreds of thousands of nonviolent drug war prisoners in the US.

Pain Patients Lose a Leading Advocate, Siobhan Reynolds, 1961-2011

Siobhan Reynolds (left) at 2004 Congressional briefing, with Dr. Frank Fisher, Ron Libby and Maia Szalavitz (photo courtesy PRN)
My friend and colleague Siobhan Reynolds, founder of the Pain Relief Network (PRN), died in a plane crash this weekend outside Columbus, Ohio. The pilot of the plane, her partner Kp Byers, was also a pain activist, an attorney whose practice had focused since 1992 on defending medical professionals caught in the crosshairs of the drug war. Radley Balko has written an extensive tribute to Siobhan, online here. So does Jacob Sullum at Reason.

As Radley has noted and as many others will doubtless note, Siobhan's work organizing media and legal support for patients, doctors, pharmacists and nurses was a courageous one. An article in the New York Times last year by Adam Liptak shows the degree to which prosecutors and even some judges felt threatened by the scrutiny Siobhan and PRN had drawn to their handling of certain cases, and the lengths to which they were willing to abuse legal process to shut her down. Perhaps the daring of riding in a small plane is a mirror of the daring she showed in her career taking on the government.

PRN did shut down last year, the organization's financial resources and Siobhan's own resources depleted by the struggle. But Siobhan was working on forming a new patient advocacy organization, Radley noted. I hope that others will take up that torch in her name. The under-prescribing of opiates to many patients who need them, and the injustice of lengthy mandatory minimum drug sentences being leveled at doctors and others over prescribing practices that at worst are debatable, is one of the most challenging problems in the drug war to take on. There is far too little help -- medical, advocacy, or otherwise -- for the people most deeply affected. Among those people were her husband, the late Sean Greenwood.

The Pain Relief Network still has an online presence, and its home page provides Siobhan's reasons for the organization's closure and her hopes of what could happen in the future. Our own web site has an archive devoted to the pain under-treatment issue, much of the material in it about Siobhan's work.  Also, Siobhan wrote several articles this year on prohibition and the drug war's impact on the doctor-patient relationship, the articles linked to from her web site.

Last but not least, in the YouTube video posted below, "Being Unable to Help," Siobhan talks about what was impossible to do for her husband in the current medical and legal environment. Share it widely.


Jurors Can (and Should) Refuse to Convict in Marijuana Cases

Paul Butler has an important piece in the New York Times reminding all of us that we don’t have to enforce unjust laws when we serve on a jury.

IF you are ever on a jury in a marijuana case, I recommend that you vote “not guilty” — even if you think the defendant actually smoked pot, or sold it to another consenting adult. As a juror, you have this power under the Bill of Rights; if you exercise it, you become part of a proud tradition of American jurors who helped make our laws fairer. [NYT]

Jury nullification is a critical safeguard against abuses of prosecutorial power in our criminal justice system, and Paul Butler would know. He used to be a prosecutor himself.

Taking your conscience with you into the jury booth is an act of patriotism, and it's something every citizen should know they have to right to do. It's becoming increasingly clear that Americans don’t want a war on marijuana anymore, and refusing to convict our friends and neighbors is one very strong way to make that sure that message is heard.

What if Legalizing Marijuana Turns Our Kids Into A Bunch of Bong-Mongering Hippies?
That's what Sue Rusche wants to know, and someone better give her an answer, because Sue Rusche is one of the nation's leading experts at being afraid of drugs.

In many state legislatures around the country, or by ballot (direct voter) referendum, important decisions are or will be made as to legalization of marijuana in some form. Before voters cast their ballots, or their elected officials decide, think about what will happen to children if marijuana becomes accessible to adults, much like alcohol. []

Well, I'll tell you exactly what I think will happen: marijuana will be as easy for kids to obtain as alcohol currently is.

But before Sue Rusche runs screaming for the hills, she might be interested to know that marijuana is currently easier to buy than beer if you're underage. It has something to do, I think, with the fact that alcohol retailers are regulated and subject to inspection to ensure compliance with age restrictions. It's a great system, the best anyone's ever come up with for distributing stuff that can mess people up pretty bad.

So yeah, if legalizing marijuana makes it as available to our children as alcohol, that will mean we've reduced underage access and achieved the biggest victory in the history of parental anti-pot paranoia. 

Mexico Drug War Update

2011 is wrapping up as slightly less bloody than 2010 in Mexico's plague of prohibition-related violence, but the death toll this year is still well above 10,000. Chronicle story here.

Medical Marijuana Update

More restrictions on medical marijuana, more California dispensaries close, more Montana dispensary operators head for federal prison, and California activists file an initiative to regulate and tax the industry at the state level. Chronicle story here.

This Week in History

Events and quotes of note from this week's drug policy events of years past, in Drug War Chronicle, here.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

There's big problems in the Nassau County, Florida, sheriff's office, and more drug prohibition-related police misconduct as well. Chronicle story here.

Gary Johnson to Seek Libertarian Presidential Nomination

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson is set to give up on the Republicans and seek the Libertarian Party presidential nomination, is reporting. Chronicle story here.

Montreal Agency Calls for Four Safe Injection Sites

Montreal wants four safe injection sites for hard drug users. The city's public health agency and mayor have given the okay, but now they need provincial funding and federal approval. Chronicle story here.

Barney Frank's Awesome Marijuana Legalization Rant

If you haven't seen this yet, please click away my friends, for it is glorious.

Hopefully, Barney Frank's retirement will give him more to go on TV and embarrass prominent pundits for knowing nothing about marijuana.

Opponents of Medical Marijuana Get Humiliated in New York Times

Posted in:

Last week's NYT editorial from fanatical anti-pot crusader David Evans generated some powerful responses from readers. Here's my favorite.

Mr. Evans, who is not a doctor and doesn’t specialize in any of the illnesses he cites, overextends his expertise when he advises me and other readers that medical marijuana does not help me and others like me.

I have Parkinson’s disease, and I have used marijuana on occasion to relieve the uncomfortable stiffness that I suffer from time to time. It works.

Mr. Evans insists that “numerous safe and effective F.D.A.-approved medications are available for these conditions.” He’s right; I’m on several of them. But these drugs have unpleasant and, in one case, potentially debilitating side effects when used on a long-term basis. How easy it is for an anti-marijuana crusader to dismiss its medical benefits; how wrong he is to advocate denying me something that eases my suffering.

New York, Dec. 14, 2011

For me, this point really cuts directly through all the distracting nonsense people like David Evans keep peddling. Leaving aside the disingenuous arguments that the science doesn't confirm marijuana's medical efficacy (it does), that prominent medical associations don't support it (they do), that the drug's availability will cause crime (it doesn't), or that compassionate laws send the wrong message to children (they don't), the medical marijuana debate really comes down to a decision about how to deal with sick people who choose this drug as part of their treatment.

Does anyone think that this Parkinson's patient, Ed Sikov, should be put in handcuffs, dragged down to the police station and charged with a crime because he finds marijuana helpful for mitigating his stiffness? 

North Carolina Opium Law Snares Prescription Pain Pill People


North Carolina's drug laws, which severely punish people who traffic in opiates, are yielding harsh prison sentences for people possessing or trafficking small quantities of prescription pain pills. That is leading to renewed debate in the Tarheel State about whether the laws are too harsh. Chronicle story here.

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