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Pot and the GOP: Is the Party of ‘Just Say No’ Morphing Into the Party of ‘Just Say Grow’?

The Republican Party is a long way from becoming the Pot Party. Nonetheless, conservative attitudes are changing at the grassroots level. The percentage of Republicans in favor of legalizing marijuana has risen quickly since 2005, jumping 7 points. And as their constituents have moved on the issue, more Republican candidates and lawmakers are refusing to toe the party line.
Publication/Source: 
Newsweek (NY)
URL: 
http://www.newsweek.com/2010/10/25/the-conservative-case-for-legalizing-pot.html

California Chamber of Commerce in Anti-Prop 19 Radio Attack Ad Campaign

The California Chamber of Commerce has begun a $250,000 radio ad campaign against Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative. The first ads hit the airwaves last Friday, the business group announced in a statement.

Here is the Prop 19 language that has the Chamber so bestirred: "No person shall be punished, fined, discriminated against, or be denied any right or privilege for lawfully engaging in any conduct permitted by this Act or authorized pursuant to Section 11301 of this Act. Provided however, that the existing right of an employer to address consumption that actually impairs job performance by an employee shall not be affected."

The Chamber wants employers to continue to be able to fire workers for failing a drug test for marijuana, even though such test do not measure actual impairment, but only the presence of metabolites in the body. Those metabolites can remain for days or even weeks after the psychoactive effects of marijuana have worn off.

"Imagine coming out of surgery and the nurse caring for you was high or having to work harder on your job because a co-worker shows up high on pot," intones a woman's voice in the ad. "It could happen in California if Proposition 19 passes. Prop 19 would do more than simply legalize marijuana.  Prop 19 is worded so broadly is would hurt California's economy, raise business costs and make it harder to create jobs."

The Chamber has prepared a legal analysis that argues that Prop 19 would create a "protected class" of pot-smoking workers, and "expose workers to increased risk of injury, jeopardize federally funded projects and jobs, and add more liabilities and costs to already overburdened employers." 

"The employer impacts and workplace safety concerns highlighted in CalChamber’s legal analysis have been prominently featured in the many statewide editorials opposing Proposition 19," said Allan Zaremberg, president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce. "We want to be sure we reinforce the facts with voters so they understand that this measure will undermine the ability of employers to ensure a safe work environment and create higher costs for those who provide and create jobs."

In addition to the Reefer Madness-style fear-mongering already cited, the Chamber ad falsely claims that "employees would be able to come to work high, and employers wouldn’t be able to punish an employee for being high until after a workplace accident," when the initiative clearly states they can sanction actual impairment.

It's the final stretch in the campaign, and big business has begun the mud-slinging.

CA
United States

California Blacks Disproportionately Busted for Marijuana, Report Finds [FEATURE]

In a new report released Friday, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the California NAACP charged that African-Americans have been disproportionately targeted in low-level marijuana possession arrests. The report, Arresting Blacks for Marijuana Possession in California: Possession Arrests in 25 Cities, 2006-2008, found that despite lower use rates, African-Americans were three, four, six, or even 13 times more likely to be arrested for pot possession than whites.

The report's release is timed to give Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization initiative, a boost in the few remaining days until election day. It was released at a press conference where California NAACP and DPA representatives were joined by Prop 19 campaign head Richard Lee, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) executive director Neill Franklin, Hollywood actor Danny Glover, and former US Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders. 

The report found that in Los Angeles, with 10% of the state's black population, blacks were seven times more likely to get busted than whites. In San Diego, the state's second largest city, blacks were six times more likely to get busted. Ditto for Sacramento. In Torrance, blacks were 13 times more likely to be busted than whites.

"This report documents enormous, widespread race-based disparities in the arrests of nonviolent, low-level marijuana possession offenders," said Stephen Gutwillig, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "The context is an enormous increase in the number of arrests for low-level possession in the past 20 years. Arrest rates for all other crimes have plummeted, from rape and murder to all other drug possession crimes, but marijuana possession arrests have tripled since 1990, from around 20,000 then to 61,000 last year. This was made possible by the targeting of communities of color, specifically African-Americans and Latinos, and more specifically, young African-Americans and Latinos."

It's not just that blacks are arrested disproportionately to whites. They are also arrested at rates far exceeding their percentage of the population. In Los Angeles, blacks make up 10% of the population, but 35% of all marijuana possession arrests. In Sacramento, it's 14% and 50%.

"These disparities were built from routine, pervasive, system-wide police practices," said Gutwillig. "This is not the result of a few racist cops; this is the way the system works."

"I don't think there is any question this is a civil rights issue," said California NAACP executive director Alice Huffman. "If you don't believe that, you don't believe in justice in America."

"We're spending billions of dollars each year on the war on drugs," said Dr. Elders. "It's been a war on young black males. Wars are supposed to end sometime. It's time to end this war. Proposition 19 is an opportunity to take drugs out of the hands of the drug cartels and put them where they can be controlled and taxed."

"This is not about a right to get high, it's an issue of a policy that does not work and is damaging to our society and most importantly, specifically damaging to people of color," said LEAP's Neill Franklin. "Marijuana prohibition is the most dysfunctional public policy in this country since slavery. The violence generated in our communities is unbelievable and it's because of the criminal market this policy creates. The lives of young African-Americans are being lost every day, and whether they lose their lives to violence or to a prison sentence, both are devastating," he said.

"This is an opportunity for law enforcement to get it right," said the former Maryland narcotics officer. "We spend a majority of our time dealing with low-level drug offenders, mainly marijuana," Franklin said. "In the 1960s, we solved nine out of 10 murders; now it's six out of 10. When you apprehend a murderer, murders go down. But when you take someone off the streets for selling marijuana, sales don't go down, and the violence increases because people are fighting for market share."

"I want to say publicly that I support Proposition 19," said film star Danny Glover. "The current laws do not work; they have failed us," he said. "We know we are arrested disproportionately. This is a civil rights issue," he maintained.

"I'm not a marijuana smoker, although I have tried it in the past, but I don't want to stand in the way of people who want to use marijuana recreationally," Glover continued. "This is a long battle, and we're on the right side."

"I've always seen cannabis prohibition as causing a war between police and citizens," said Lee. "Police are supposed to serve and protect, not wage war on the populace. We need police back protecting us from real criminals, not ourselves."

The Prop 19 campaign and DPA did it again this week, this time with Latino marijuana possession arrest rates. But it's already clear that racial disparities in the enforcement of California's pot laws exist, and simply decriminalizing marijuana possession, as Gov. Schwarzenegger did last month, will not change anything in that regard, at least not directly. Minority youths can still be hassled, harassed, and searched for an infraction, just as they were for a misdemeanor. It will take legalization to end such practices.

Oakland, CA
United States

Prop 19 Down in LA Times Poll

Two California polls last week showed Proposition 19 trailing as election day draws near. A Los Angeles Times/USC poll released Friday also had the marijuana legalization initiative trailing by 39% to 51%, with 10% undecided.

Last Wednesday, a Public Policy Institute of California poll had the measure losing 49% to 44%. But that same day, a SurveyUSA poll had it winning 48% to 44%.

Prop 19 had led in most polls taken this year and maintained a 1.2% lead in the Talking Points Memo Polltracker, which has not yet included the LA Time/USC poll. Looking at just the polls conducted in October and including the polls mentioned in this article, Prop 19 trailed by an average of 47.5% to 46.3%. At press time that had shifted to 49.6% to 43.7%.

The conventional wisdom is that in initiative elections, the burden of persuading voters is on the initiative. The electorate must be convinced to move from the status quo. But despite a late infusion of cash this month, the Prop 19 campaign does not have the funds to try to sway voters through TV ad campaigns in this state with some of the most expensive media markets in the country. Yes on 19 and allied organizations are engaged in a substantial get out the vote campaign, though.

The LA Times/USC poll found the measure supported by Democrats and independents, but opposed by Republicans. Men were split on the issue, with women leaning against it. Both sides in the campaign have considered mothers to be a key demographic.

Prop 19 continues to have support among likely voters under 40, winning by 48% to 37%. Among voters over 65, only 28% support it, with 59% opposed. The LA Times/USC poll showed Latinos swinging against Prop 19 by a two-to-one margin -- a finding at odds with most other polls. It also showed white voters opposing the measure. In most other polls, white voters favored it by a small margin.

The LA Times/USC poll surveyed 441 likely voters by telephone, including both cell phones and land lines, between October 13 and 20. The margin of error for the sample is +/- 4.6%.

CA
United States

European Union Uses Weak Evidence to Urge Mephedrone Ban

The European Commission, the executive body of the European Union (EU), called for an EU-wide ban on the synthetic drug mephedrone last week, describing it as "dangerous psychoactive substance," but based that call on scanty evidence. The stimulant drug, with effects likened to those of cocaine and ecstasy, is already illegal in 15 EU countries, but remains available in 12 more.

mephedrone sample (photo from mephedrone.org)
Mephedrone, also known as meow meow, MCAT, or meph, is derived from cathinone, the psychoactive stimulant in khat. It first appeared in European markets in 2007, presumed to be courtesy of Chinese manufacturers, and has been popular in the club scene. For the last year, mephedrone has been breathlessly reported on, especially by tabloids in Britain, where it is now banned.

"It is a dangerous drug that is available online and on the street corner. People have died because of this drug, so I urge governments to move fast to control and criminalize it," said justice commissioner Viviane Reding in a Wednesday statement. "We have a responsibility to protect young people against dangerous new psychoactive substances."

The commission claimed that mephedrone "has been linked to at least 37 deaths in the UK and Ireland alone" and acted in an emergency manner because of a mephedrone risk assessment report published last week by the European Monitoring Center on Drugs and Alcohol (EMCDDA). The commission added that the report "showed that mephedrone can cause acute health problems and lead to dependency."

But the report itself says that no direct causal link can yet be made between mephedrone and the reported deaths. "There have been a very limited number of deaths reported to be related directly to the use of mephedrone," the EMCDDA report said.

There are only two in which mephedrone appears to be the sole cause of death. Of the other 35 reported deaths, the EMCDDA report noted, "In some of these cases it is likely that other drugs and/or other medical conditions or trauma may have contributed to or been responsible for death. The inquests into the deaths are pending for the majority of these cases therefore it is not possible at this time to determine the contribution of mephedrone."

The evidence base for assessing mephedrone is weak, the report found. "The studies available on mephedrone are few, largely preliminary and focused on user self-reports. To date no epidemiological data on prevalence has been published. The majority of studies originate from the United Kingdom and evidence from other member states is scarce."

As a result, EMCDDA warned against a rush to judgment about mephedrone's danger. "Taken as a whole, the scientific evidence base available for drawing conclusions is limited and this proviso should be borne in mind when interpreting the findings of the risk assessment exercise," the report said.

But that, of course, is what the EU has done with its call for a union-wide ban on the new club drug. That didn't sit well with former British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs head David Nutt, who was fired for criticizing the government there as "politically motivated rather than scientifically justified" for rescheduling cannabis to a more serious schedule.

"An EU-wide ban on mephedrone is remarkable for its lack of scientific evidence," Nutt told EUobserver. "The report primarily relies on user experiences and a handful of hospital admissions, with no formal studies to demonstrate the actual or potential harms of the drug. It is not yet possible to say how harmful mephedrone is given the lack of evidence. However, by legislating on a substance without reliable scientifically-based evidence, we run the risk of causing more harm through criminalizing users than might be caused by the drug itself. The evidence on drug harms should not be sacrificed for political and media pressure."

Cops Under Pressure to Deny They Support Legalizing Marijuana

During California gubernatorial debates last week, Meg Whitman was asked about her position on Proposition 19 and marijuana legalization and said: "Every single law enforcement official in this entire state is against Proposition 19." "She's absolutely wrong...A lot of police officers both retired and on duty are in favor of passing it because they realize that the 'war on drugs' has failed and is going to fail," said former San Jose Chief of Police Joseph McNamara. Scores of former officials recently signed a letter saying that marijuana prohibition only fuels more dangerous crime by enriching Mexican drug traffickers who put guns on American streets -- but every member of the California police department waited until after they'd retired to sign.
Publication/Source: 
The Huffington Post (CA)
URL: 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/21/cops-blast-meg-whitman-fo_n_771899.html

PPIC Poll: Prop 19 Behind 49% to 44%

Proposition 19, the initiative to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in California, has lost support and is now trailing, according to poll results released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). The landline and cell phone poll of 2,002 adults surveyed between October 10 and 17 has Prop 19 losing, 49% to 44%, with 7% undecided.

The numbers for Prop 19 are down eights from PPIC's September poll, which had it winning with 52%. But they are almost the mirror image of SurveyUSA poll also released Wednesday that showed Prop 19 leading 48% to 44%.

In the new PPIC poll, the initiative lost significant support among independents (from 65% to 40%) and Latinos (63% to 42%), and among almost all demographic groups. Whites are now more likely to oppose the support Prop 19 by a thin margin, a reversal from last month.

This poll is the fifth of 15 polls taken this year to show Prop 19 trailing. Ten others had it ahead, but only four of them had it at 50% or over, and the last one to do so was last month's PPIC poll. According to the Talking Points Memo Polltracker, the average of all polls has Prop 19 leading 46.8% to 44.5%.  As of publication time, it had not been updated with Wednesday's two polls, but in terms of the poll averages, they would be a wash.

This is going to get very tense for the next 12 days.

CA
United States

Arizona Medical Marijuana Initiative Poised for Victory [FEATURE]

Less than two weeks out from election day, the Arizona medical marijuana initiative, Proposition 203, appears poised for victory. If it wins, Arizona will become the 15th medical marijuana state. Or maybe the 16th -- polls close an hour earlier in South Dakota, which also has a medical marijuana initiative on the ballot.

Lily Rose, cancer survivor and Prop 203 spokesperson
"It's going real well," said Andrew Myers, spokesman for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project (AMMPP). "Prop 203 is the most popular of any of the initiatives or the candidates, including John McCain."

A Rocky Mountain poll released last week had Prop 203 passing with 54% among registered voters and 52% among likely voters. By comparison, Sen. John McCain in a runaway race has support at 49%, according to the poll.

The poll showed strong support among voters under 55 and a near even split among older voters, with 41% supporting and 43% opposed. Two-thirds of Democrats support the measure, as do 57% of independents. Republicans are divided, with 48% opposing, but 40% supporting.

"We expect that Arizonans will support Prop 203 the same way we supported medical marijuana before," Myers said, noting that voters had passed medical marijuana initiatives in 1996 and 1998. "Those votes demonstrated a high level of support, and we came back and drafted a complete piece of legislation. We were able to learn a lot of lessons about how these programs operated in other states, and apply those lessons in our initiative."

Under the initiative, patients suffering from a specified list of diseases or conditions (cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, Chrohn's disease, Alzheimers, wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, severe muscle spasms) or "any other conditions or its treatment added by the Department [of Health]" could use marijuana upon a doctor's recommendation. Patients or designated caregivers could possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of usable marijuana.

The initiative envisions a system of state-registered, nonprofit dispensaries that could grow, process, sell, and transport medical marijuana and be remunerated for costs incurred in the process. In most cases, patients or their caregivers would not be allowed to grow their own medicine. Instead, unless they live more than 25 miles from the nearest dispensary, they would have to purchase their medicine at a dispensary. Patients and their caregivers outside that range would be allowed to grow up to 12 plants.

Arizonans have also twice voted to approve medical marijuana, in 1996 and again in 1998. In 1996, the initiative passed, only to be rejected by the state legislature, which placed it on the ballot two years later in order to give voters a chance to rectify their mistake. But the voters again approved medical marijuana, only to find out later that the measure was unworkable because the initiative mandated that physicians prescribe -- not recommend -- medical marijuana. That meant that doctors who wanted their patients to use marijuana would run up against the DEA, which controls doctors' ability to prescribe controlled substances.

In 2002, voters rejected a decriminalization initiative that had, as Myers put it, "a wacky medical component." Under that measure, the state Department of Public Safety would have had to distribute seized marijuana for free to medical marijuana patients.

Organized opposition has been late and limited. All of the state's sheriffs and district attorneys signed on to a letter opposing Prop 203 earlier this month. Medical marijuana in other states has led to "disastrous results," the letter claimed. "Marijuana floods the state that legalizes it and becomes readily available through grow-houses and independent distributors... Prop 203 would endanger the good people of Arizona by increasing the amount of illegal drugs in our State. We believe Prop 203 will lead to increased crime and vehicle accidents and will drain the resources of law enforcement agencies."

The letter warns that passage of the measure would mean "kids (any age)" could use medical marijuana with their parents' permission, but fails to mention either that a doctor's recommendation would be required or that other medications are available to children when needed.

It also warns that "you can pilot an airplane, navigate a watercraft and drive an automobile and cannot be charged with DUI if you only have marijuana metabolites in your system and you are a medical marijuana cardholder" -- failing to mention that the presence of metabolites, which can remain in the system form weeks, is not an indicator of impairment.

More serious opposition is centered on Keep AZ Drug Free/No on Prop 213, which has been the recipient of $10,000 donations from both former Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo and the Arizona Cardinals NFL team. This group has been active in getting op-eds published, doing call-ins to radio talk shows, and participating in public forums, but still doesn't seem to be gaining much traction.

"For a long time, we didn't hear a peep out of the opposition, but lately it's been getting intense and they've been getting increasingly strident," said Myers. "It's funny because their arguments have been very inaccurate, especially at the beginning of the campaign. I don't think they actually read the initiative before they came out against it."

The campaign is running on limited resources. The Marijuana Policy Project put $500,000 into the signature gathering phase of the campaign, but hasn't funded the actual election campaign. That means AMMPP is having to rely largely on local donations, and while the campaign isn't broke, like the opposition, it isn't exactly rolling in money, either.

"We're talking to as many voters as we can, we have TV ads up and running, but what we can do will depend on funding in these final days," said Myers. "We have an extensive cable TV buy in Phoenix and Tucson, but we haven't made our final spending decisions yet."

1996, 1998, 2002, 2010. It looks like the fourth time may be the charm for medical marijuana in Arizona.
 

AZ
United States

SurveyUSA: Prop 19 Ahead 48% to 44%

Proposition 19, the initiative to legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in California, is maintaining a narrow lead, according to poll results released Wednesday by SurveyUSA. The poll of 621 likely and actual voters (early voting started two weeks ago) was taken between Friday and Sunday and had the initiative leading 48% to 44%, with 8% undecided.

[Editor's Note: A Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday night had contrary results. It was too late for this week's Chronicle, but you can read about it here.]

 

Election Day not far away
The findings are roughly in line with more than a dozen other polls taken on Prop 19 this year, all but four of which have the measure leading. According to the Talking Points Memo Polltracker, the average of all polls has Prop 19 leading 46.8% to 44.5%. The polltracker, however, has not been updated with this latest SurveyUSA poll. Once it is, support will increase slightly, while opposition will decrease slightly.

SurveyUSA has done six polls on Prop 19, and they show support declining slightly from 50% in the earliest surveys. They also show opposition rising slightly. It was at 40% in July, peaked at 43% in September, then declined to 41% early this month before rising to 44% in the current poll.

With a four percent margin of error, this latest SurveyUSA poll shows a very tight race indeed. With undecideds beginning a not unexpected peeling off toward a "no" vote, voter turnout is going to be key to victory on November 2.

CA
United States

Cops Used Fake Patient IDs to Buy Medical Pot; Was It Entrapment?

Location: 
MI
United States
Oakland County Sheriff's deputies used phony Michigan medical marijuana cards -- created on a county computer -- to trick state-approved medical marijuana providers into selling the drug to the police. Days after the drug buys, county narcotics agents raided two medical marijuana dispensaries. Defense attorneys for more than two dozen people arrested in the raids are crying foul, saying their clients were trapped into lawbreaking while trying to stay within the state law.
Publication/Source: 
Detroit Free Press (MI)
URL: 
http://www.freep.com/article/20101020/NEWS05/10200341/Cops-used-fake-patient-IDs-to-buy-medical-pot-was-it-entrapment-

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