Marijuana Policy

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Taking the Moral High Ground

(from DrugWarRant

Long-time DRCNet collaborator and current Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative Associate Director Troy Dayton is organizing religious leaders in support of Question 7 to legalize adult marijuana use in Nevada.

The Reno Journal-Gazette now reports that 32 churches in the state have pledged to support the initiative:

Protestants believe that laws should curb "gross outburst of sin," said the Rev. Ruth Hanusa, minister of the Campus Christian Association at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Instead of curbing use, she said, marijuana laws are causing more problems.

"We don't live in a perfect world, and often we don't have ideal choices, but we look to find the lesser evil," Hanusa said. "Part of our call to be good stewards of our community's resources requires us to recognize that. The current policy is overkill and does not promote the common good. Controlling marijuana through regulations makes more sense."
Calls for reform from religious leaders may intrigue the media, but it comes as no surprise to us that religious leaders are taking a stand against the brutal violence, shameful hypocrisy, and unforgiving callousness that characterize our nation’s war on drugs.

The moral high ground will always belong to us; never those who continue to fan the flames of failure with deceitful rhetoric.

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Religious Leaders Unite on Marijuana Initiative (Nevada)

Reno, NV
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Reno Gazette-Journal

Marijuana Initiative Gets Idaho High Court's Go Ahead

Boise, ID
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The Oregonian

Documentary: Waiting to Inhale

Dear Drug War Chronicle reader:

Many drug reform enthusiasts read two weeks ago on our new blog about a new video documentary, Waiting to Inhale: Marijuana, Medicine and the Law, and an exciting debate here in Washington between two of my colleagues and a representative of the US drug czar's office that followed the movie's screening. I am pleased to announce that DRCNet is making this film available to you as our latest membership premium -- donate $30 or more to DRCNet and you can receive a copy of Waiting to Inhale as our thanks for your support.
I've known about Waiting to Inhale for a few years, and I am pretty psyched to see it out now and making waves. People featured in the movie -- medical marijuana providers Mike & Valerie Corral and Jeff Jones, patient spokesperson Yvonne Westbrook, scientist Don Abrams -- are heroes whose stories deserved to be told and whose interviews in this movie should be shown far and wide. You can help by ordering a copy and hosting a private screening in your home! Or you and your activist friends can simply watch it at home for inspiration. (Click here for more information including an online trailer.)

Your donation will help DRCNet as we pull together what we think will be an incredible two-year plan to substantially advance drug policy reform and the cause of ending prohibition globally and in the US. Please make a generous donation today to help the cause! I know you will feel the money was well spent after you see what DRCNet has in store. Our online donation form lets you donate by credit card, by PayPal, or to print out a form to send with your check or money order by mail. Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, our lobbying entity, are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible donations can be made to DRCNet Foundation, our educational wing. (Choosing a gift like Waiting to Inhale will reduce the portion of your donation that you can deduct by the retail cost of the item.) Both groups receive member mail at: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

Thank you for your support. If you haven't already checked out our new web site, I hope you'll take a moment to do so -- it really is looking pretty good, if I may say so myself. :) Take care, and hope to hear from you.


David Borden
Executive Director

Book Review: "Pot Politics: Marijuana and the Costs of Prohibition," Mitchell Earleywine, ed. (Oxford University Press, $45.00 HB)

Phillip S. Smith, Writer Editor, 9/29/06

Psychologist and addiction researcher Mitchell Earleywine advanced our understanding of marijuana with his aptly-named 2002 book, "Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence." Now, the State University of New York-Albany professor is out as the editor of a brand-new volume of essays devoted to outlining the costs of marijuana prohibition and thinking about the strategies that can undo it. "Pot Politics" boasts nearly 400 pages of top-notch research and analysis by some of the best thinkers in the marijuana reform movement, ranging from activists to academics, economists to social philosophers, and beyond.
With "Pot Politics" the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Standing alone, each of the 17 essays -- on topics including the efficacy of workplace drug testing, the effects of marijuana on driving, the philosophical and religious bases of marijuana policy, the mass media's distorted reporting on marijuana, and the economic consequences of prohibition -- is a cogent, sometimes eloquent, critique of some aspect of the marijuana laws. But taken as a whole, "Pot Politics" is a devastating assault on pot prohibition as a whole and a reasoned, thoughtful argument for marijuana legalization.

I've been writing the Drug War Chronicle for five years now, and following the marijuana law reform movement for decades before that, and I'm usually hard-pressed to hear or read something about pot policy that I haven’t seen before. That's not the case with "Pot Politics." Yes, I was familiar with Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron's work on the economics of marijuana prohibition, but I hadn’t seen him put the data together on the national level, broken down state-by-state. According to Miron -- and after reading his essay, who's going to argue with him? -- we are paying nearly $8 billion a year to continue the folly of arresting and jailing marijuana offenders. At the same time, by refusing to do the sane thing and tax and regulate marijuana sales, we are foregoing more than $6 billion annually in lost tax revenues. Hell, $6 billion pays for three weeks of the Iraq war. Or we could find other uses for it.

An essay by University of Washington School of Social Work faculty members Roger Roffman and Anne Nichol is similarly fresh -- and full of smart ideas that could advance the movement. "The anti-prohibition movement will enhance its effectiveness in promoting liberalized policy and better serve the public if the movement's mission is expanded to include the dissemination of accurate, thorough, and balanced marijuana educational information, tailored for each of its current and potential constituencies," the pair convincingly argue. If the movement can provide honest, useful information about the possible adverse consequences of marijuana use to users, potential users (youths), users beginning to experience problems, dependent heavy users, concerned others, and service providers, its credibility will be enhanced among the public at large and fill a harm reduction information gap within the marijuana community.

That's good, solid, innovative thinking, and that's just what our movement needs. Charles Thomas of the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative (IDPI) provides more of that with a pair of essays describing the sometimes surprising positions of various religious denominations on marijuana and related issues and making the crucial point that pot law reform is simply not going to happen without bringing religiously-inclined people -- the vast majority of Americans -- over to our side. But, as Thomas' detailed analysis of the various denominations' stances suggests, the distance may not be that far. Still, for a movement that is largely secular, if not downright hostile to organized religion, thinking about broadening our ministry to reach out to our brethren in the pews is absolutely necessary.

Essay after essay is replete with this sort of provocative information and analysis. Yes, some of the pieces read more like research reports than persuasive writing, but behind the occasionally stolid prose there is useful data carefully evaluated. Academic rigor may not always make for the flashiest writing, but it has other qualities to recommend it.

Still, it took Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) to lay out the futility of marijuana prohibition in a nutshell. "The illogic of America's pot policy -- and its obvious solution -- became stunningly clear to me one day while I was waiting in line for a beer at a concert," he wrote in the forward to this volume. "I was... getting a beer for myself and a friend. When I turned to leave, I was approached by a kid clearly under the legal drinking age. He offered to trade me two joints for both of my beers. Then and there I understood the folly of America's pot policy. Here's a kid who can't get alcohol because it's taxed and regulated who has no problem whatsoever getting pot -- precisely because it's not taxed and regulated."

The marijuana reform movement understands this almost intuitively, but the rest of the polity is not quite there yet. "Pot Politics" will help the movement marshal its best arguments -- moral, legal, theological, pragmatic -- to move the rest of us forward, it will be an eye-opener for students and movement newcomers, and even for seen-it-all movement graybeards, there are going to be a few occasions when you stop and say to yourself, "Wow, why didn’t I ever think of that before?" "Pot Politics" is a welcome addition, both to the knowledge base on marijuana policy and its consequences and to the drug reformer's arsenal.

Feature: Colorado Marijuana Legalization Initiative Trails, But the Fight Is On

Last year, SAFER Colorado largely flew under the radar to a surprise win with its Denver marijuana legalization initiative. This time around, SAFER Colorado's Colorado Marijuana-Alcohol Equalization Initiative, now known officially as Amendment 44, is not having it so easy. But initiative organizers say they are within striking distance and preparing for a frantic last few weeks before the November elections.
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Like the Denver initiative, which legalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults via a municipal ordinance (and which city officials promptly ignored), Amendment 44 is elegant in its simplicity. Voters will be asked: "Shall there be an amendment to section 18-18-406 (1) of the Colorado revised statutes making legal the possession of one ounce or less of marihuana for any person twenty-one years of age or older?"

If voters approve of the measure, Colorado could become the first state in the nation to vote to legalize the weed. Or, in a perfect world, it would join Nevada, where an initiative to allow the possession and sale of limited amounts of marijuana is on the ballot and very competitive.

But the fight is on. In the last two weeks, Coloradans have witnessed dueling press conferences, a challenge to Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who owns the Wynkoop Brewery, a debate between SAFER Colorado's Mason Tvert and Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, a failed challenge to some bad ballot guide language, repeated visits by high-profile, out-of-state anti-drug crusaders, and the emergence of a parents' group in favor of the initiative.

At a news conference in front of the state capitol last week, Guarding Our Children Against Marijuana Prohibition made its public debut. “We need to rethink marijuana prohibition and what it says about the priorities of Colorado and this nation,” said Jessica Peck Corry, cofounder of the organization. “The science shows that marijuana is far less harmful than alcohol and for our children’s sake it is time we treat it that way," said the conservative Republican public policy analyst with the Independence Institute in Golden, Colorado, who is also the mother of a 16-month-old daughter.

"I'm not a marijuana user," Corry told Drug War Chronicle Wednesday. "I see the drug war, however, as a greater threat to my daughter's future than the recreational use of marijuana by adults could ever be. Our government has spent $2 billion in anti-drug ads since 1998. I'd rather have this money spent on college scholarships for needy kids from our poorest communities. It's time to wake up to the fact that prohibition isn't working," she explained. "We say our nation trusts adults to make decisions in their private lives. It's time we live up to this promise."

"We're doing something right," said SAFER Colorado's Mason Tvert in between press events. "We've got two people running this whole campaign, no millions of dollars, no office, no multiple phone lines, and we're in a very competitive fight," he told Drug War Chronicle. "While the Rocky Mountain News had us down 42% to 53%, they only polled people who had voted in previous elections. But we're not too concerned with polling; last year, we were polling lower than this in Denver, and we won."

What SAFER Colorado is concerned with is winning the campaign and using innovative tactics. Thursday, for instance, Tvert issued a challenge to Mayor Hickenlooper on the occasion of the opening of the Great American Beer Fest. Since "marijuana is safer than alcohol" is SAFER's constant -- and so far successful -- refrain, Tvert challenged Hickenlooper and Peter Coors. For every beer they drank, Tvert said, he would take a hit of marijuana. Neither Coors nor the mayor bit, but the challenge garnered even more media attention for Tvert and the initiative.

"This ongoing duel with the mayor is a win-win for us," Tvert exclaimed. "Either he shows up and gets killed or he doesn’t show up and looks bad. We're trying to do something fun and new and interesting that clearly explains our position that marijuana is safer than alcohol. We hope Bill O'Reilly is watching; we'd love for him come after us."

As in Nevada, the opposition is gearing up in Colorado, and it's bringing in outsiders from national anti-drug organizations. Coming to the rescue of Colorado children are such self-appointed crusaders as Dads and Mad Moms Against Drug Dealers head Steven Steiner, who, after his son died of an Oxycontin overdose, took funding from Oxycontin's manufacturer, Purdue Pharma, to campaign against marijuana legalization and even medical marijuana. He hit town on Thursday. Already parachuting in to help stop the initiative is long-time anti-drug zealot Calvina Faye, executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation. Former White House deputy drug czar Dr. Andrea Barthwell has joined the carpetbagging crew, too; she plans to wage the fight with a series of lectures to alert people to the dangers of the devil's weed.

"These folks are crazy," moaned SAFER Colorado's Tvert. "These people who come out here like Calvina Faye talking about 'our' children in 'our' state -- she lives in Florida and she doesn’t even have children! And Andrea Barthwell, with her little marijuana lectures. At her first one, the only person to show up was our infiltrator, and they threw him out. The lectures are designed to convince you that marijuana is bad, but apparently you had to already agree with that to attend," he snorted.

But it's not all outsiders. Leading Colorado elected officials, including Attorney General John Sutherland and Lt. Gov. Jane Nelson are members of a new "grassroots" organization opposing the measure, Stop Amendment 44. That group has so far managed to line up the Colorado PTA, the Colorado Education Association, and the Colorado Association of School Executives against the initiative.

The group is led by Boulder County Republican Party chairman Rob McGuire, whom Tvert qualified as a worthy adversary. "He's very sharp and he uses clever positions," Tvert said. "But he's only doing this because the governor asked him to. Still, the group is a problem. Groups are beginning to come out against us."

McGuire may be a sharp operator -- we wouldn’t know because he would not return repeated calls for comment -- but the Stop Amendment 44 web site has things as crazy as anything Calvina Fay or Steven Steiner ever said. One page warns that "Marijuana Gumballs can pack enough THC to kill a small child!," a patently absurd proposition. Another page on the site, "He Was Only 12 Years Old -- Now Disabled By Marijuana" is written by Colorado anti-marijuana crusader Beverly Kinard and pretty much speaks for itself.

It looks like October is going to be a very interesting month in Colorado. Can SAFER Colorado pull another upset like it did in Denver last year? The element of surprise is gone, but the group and its allies hope their message and their media assault can combine to compensate for that and make Colorado the first state where voters have chosen to legalize marijuana.

Is it my breath? or the travails of alternative advocacy journalism.

Sometimes I feel like the Rodney Dangerfield of alternative advocacy journalism. I just don’t get no respect, especially from drug reform foes (for some reason). The two big stories I'm working on this week are the marijuana initiatives in Colorado and Nevada, where big fights are brewing. Here is a list of people or organizations involved in trying to defeat the initiatives who either refused to talk to me or failed to respond to repeated calls about their efforts: The Denver DEA—their public information officer is out of town this week, and I must go through him. Colorado Lt. Gov. Jane Norton's office—they recommended I talk to other opponents. Rob McGuire of Stop Amendment 44—three calls went unreturned. The Delta/Montrose County Drug Task Force—I'm still waiting for that return call. Las Vegas Police Lt. Stan Olsen—didn’t respond to two calls. The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce—no response to two calls. The North Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce—no response to one call. The Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce—no response to two calls. The spokesman for Nevada Communities Against Marijuana—no phone number listed on the web site, no response to two email requests. I would like to incorporate what they say into my articles, I really would. But I can't make 'em talk to me. Sometimes when this occurs, I grab a quote from some publication they deemed talk-worthy. Other times, I just say "fuck 'em;" they get to spew their bullshit in enough venues already. Plus, I usually know what they're going to say anyway. Still, even advocacy journalism strives for balance--if it wants to be good advocacy journalism--and if I had my druthers, I'd be talking to these folks.
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Doctor lashes out after drugs conviction (The Australian)

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Feature: Nevada Marijuana Initiative Organizers See Tight But Winnable Race Going Into Final Stretch

Nevada may be on the brink of becoming the first state to vote to end marijuana prohibition. Four years after the Marijuana Policy Project first tried to get over the top in Nevada, the Washington, DC-based group and its local affiliate, the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana (CRCM) have a poll showing victory to be within their grasp.
2002 DEA propaganda page opposing the Nevada initiative the first time around
The Nevada marijuana regulation initiative, now known as ballot Question 7, would allow persons 21 and older to possess up to an ounce of marijuana. It also allows for the regulated sale of marijuana in state-licensed stores while mandating restrictions on where and how such businesses can operate. The initiative calls for tax revenues from marijuana sales to be divided between state-sponsored alcohol and drug treatment and the state's general fund. The initiative also increases penalties for anyone providing marijuana to a minor and increases the maximum sentence for a driver who kills someone while driving impaired by any substance.

According to internal polling results released last week, when potential voters were read the actual ballot language and asked if they would vote for the marijuana initiative, 49% said they would while only 43% said they would not. That poll, conducted by a nationally-known, California-based polling firm, contradicts one by the Reno Gazette-Journal days earlier that found the initiative losing by a margin of 37% to 55%. A Las Vegas Review-Journal poll Tuesday had the initiative losing 42% to 51%.

"The polls jibe," said CRCM campaign manager Neal Levine. "The Reno Gazette-Journal poll asked if people favored the legalization, use, possession, and transfer of marijuana, while our poll used the actual ballot language. The explanation of the difference lies in the wording of the question asked. The Review-Journal poll, while it shows us behind, shows a huge upward trend over their last poll. Their language wasn’t as slanted, but it still didn’t ask the question voters will be asked on the ballot. What is consistent is that the campaign is trending up," he told the Drug War Chronicle.

"What we've said all along is that the polls have us about even," Levine continued. "That means we have a real shot now, and we're going to need all our people to register and turn out to vote. We will be campaigning hard," he vowed.

"We're running a very aggressive campaign," said Levine. "We have a very detailed and layered plan, which we're already in the process of rolling out, and we're very excited about our chances. We have new web animation that explains the initiative in clear terms, we have a way of virally spreading our stuff using Youtube, we have home phone banking. We're the subjects of a documentary film, and part of what we get from that deal is that the filmmakers are providing weekly webisodes. The first one goes up Friday," he said. "We're also releasing our first web TV commercial this week. And we've got a bunch of stuff rolling out over the next few weeks."

If the campaign is trending up, the opposition is gearing up. Opponents of the measure organized as Nevada Coalitions Against Marijuana have begun lining up opponents, including the Clark County (Las Vegas) commission; the Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, and Reno Sparks chambers of commerce; and the Nevada AFL-CIO. But the heart of the opposition appears to be the Nevada law enforcement establishment. Clark County Sheriff Bill Young, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Detective Todd Raybuck, and Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lieutenant Stan Olsen were, for example, the prime movers in getting the Clark County commission to approve a resolution condemning the measure.

But that move may have gotten them and the commissioners in trouble. Nevada law bars public officials from advocating for or against ballot initiatives, and when CRCM got wind of the meeting, several dozen supporters led by Levine showed up to remind them of the law. "According to Nevada Revised Statutes 281.554, government officials and employees are prohibited from expending public funds, time, or resources to oppose or support a ballot question," Levine said in televised confrontation with the commission. "This rule applies to the Clark County commission." The commission ignored Levine's complaint, and then passed the resolution.

"The Nevada statutes are pretty clear. Once an initiative is on the ballot, public officials can't use government resources to advocate for or against it," Levine explained. "When the Clark County commission, acting on the request of the sheriff, put a resolution opposing our initiative on the agenda, we showed up to tell them it was illegal, but they did it anyway. They broke the law."

CRCM filed a complaint with the Nevada Attorney General's Office, which is now weighing it. In the meantime, CRCM has used the whole episode to garner even more press. "From a politics standpoint, we used them breaking the law to come out and oppose our initiative to get our message out. That story was covered by the media all over the state."

CRCM was able to do the same sort of political ju-jitsu with the visit earlier this month of Office of National Drug Control Policy head John Walters. Although his trip to Nevada was ostensibly for other purposes, Walters spoke out against the initiative and even gave out the web address for Nevada Coalitions Against Marijuana. "I got an op-ed printed in the Reno paper and the Las Vegas weekly criticizing Walters for coming out here and wasting the taxpayers' money to advocate against a state initiative," Levine said.

Now, with little more than a month to go to election day, the campaign is getting serious on both sides. CRCM is poised to win a historic victory, but it looks like this is going to be a nail biter on election night.

Hemp: North Carolina Governor Signs Bill to Study Industrial Use

North Carolina Governor Michael Easley has signed a bill that will create a commission to study the industrial uses of hemp. With that move coming as California awaits Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision on whether to sign a hemp bill there and North Dakota finalizes rules that would allow farmers to grow hemp under a 1999 law, it appears the hemp logjam is beginning to break -- at least in the states.

The Beneficial Uses of Industrial Hemp Act, passed as part of the as part of the Studies Act of 2006, will lay the groundwork for industrial hemp farming in the heavily agriculture Tarheel State.

According to the new law, a commission will be created to study ""the uses of industrial hemp oil as an alternative fuel and motor oil; the uses of omega-3 rich industrial hemp seed and industrial hemp oil in snack foods, body care products, and food supplements; the uses of industrial hemp fibers as raw materials for construction and paper products and for fabric; and the uses of industrial hemp in the manufacture of recyclable car parts."

The commission will be comprised of 15 members, including delegates of the Governor, the Commissioner of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, House and Senate leaders, Agriculture Committee chairs, the President of the NC Farm Bureau, and the deans of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill, the Fuqua School of Business at Duke, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NCSU and the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at NC A&T. The commission will report its findings and recommendations to the 2007 General Assembly and the Environmental Review Commission by December 1, 2006.

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