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Connecticut Becomes 17th Medical Marijuana State

Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) last Friday signed into law the medical marijuana bill, House Bill 5389, passed last month by the legislature, making Connecticut the 17th state to legalize the medicinal use of the herb, along with the District of Columbia. Now, licensed physicians will be able to prescribe it to adults suffering from specified diseases or medical conditions.

Medical marijuana is coming to Connecticut (CO DOT)
"For years, we've heard from so many patients with chronic diseases who undergo treatments like chemotherapy or radiation and are denied the palliative benefits that medical marijuana would provide," Malloy said in a signing statement. "With careful regulation and safeguards, this law will allow a doctor and a patient to decide what is in that patient’s best interest."

Under the new law, patients must receive a written recommendation from a physician and register with the Department of Consumer Protection. Patients and their primary caregivers can possess up to a one-month supply, although how much that is has yet to be determined. It will be decided by a board of eight physicians.

Qualifying conditions include cancer, glaucoma, AIDS or HIV, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, damage to the nervous tissue of the spinal cord with objective neurological indication of intractable spasticity, epilepsy, cachexia (emaciation often caused by cancer or cardiac diseases), wasting syndrome, Chrohn's disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other medical conditions, treatments and diseases.

Patients will be able to obtain their medicine at licensed dispensaries. Only certified pharmacists may apply to run the dispensaries. They will be supplied by at least three, but no more than 10, licensed medical marijuana growers, each of which will pay a fee of $25,000.

"We don't want Connecticut to follow the path pursued by some other states, which essentially would legalize marijuana for anyone willing to find the right doctor and get the right prescription," Malloy said. "In my opinion, such efforts run counter to federal law.  Under this law, however, the Department of Consumer Protection will be able to carefully regulate and monitor the medicinal use of this drug in order to avoid the problems encountered in some other states."

Malloy thanked Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-New Haven, Hamden), State Senator Eric Coleman (D-Bloomfield), State Representative Gerald Fox, III (D-Stamford), and State Representative Penny Bacchiochi (R-Somers, Stafford, Union) for their leadership in passing the bill.

Passage of the bill comes after years of work by patients and advocates, including seeing an earlier version of the bill passed by the legislature only to be vetoed by then Gov. Jodi Rell (R).

Hartford, CT
United States

Medical Marijuana Update

It's been a pretty quiet week on the medical marijuana front. Heck, it looks like even the DEA took a break -- no raids to report. Let's get to it:

National

On Memorial Day, a veterans' group slammed the Obama administration for its stance on medical marijuana. Veterans for Medical Cannabis had petitioned the administration to look into the reliable new science showing that medical marijuana has benefits and asked the administration to change its policies to allow vets to use it for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. What they got instead was a canned non-response from drug czar Gil Kerlikowske.

Arizona

Last Friday, the Department of Health Services held a hearing on requests to expand its fledgling medical marijuana program to allow use of the herb for a variety of conditions, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Besides PTSD and migraines, the requests for covered conditions include depression and general anxiety disorder. The law already permits medical marijuana use for such medical reasons as cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, chronic pain, muscle spasms and hepatitis C.

Also last Friday, the application period for people seeking to open dispensaries ended. The Department of Health Services will issue only 126 dispensary permits statewide, but had received nearly 500 applications, along with a $5,000 fee, $4,000 of which is non-refundable. The department will review the applications and grant permits on August 7. If an application passes review and is the only application in its district, it will be granted a permit. In districts with multiple applications, those that survive the review process will enter a lottery to see who gets the permit.

California

Last Wednesday, a San Diego medical marijuana prosecution ended in a mistrial after jurors deadlocked and the judge dismissed prosecutors' request to retry the case "in the interest of justice." The effort by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis to convict Therapeutic Healing operator Dexter Padilla was only the latest in her ongoing campaign against medical marijuana. In dismissing the prosecution request for a new trial, the judge accused the DA's office of being "disingenuous" in its arguments in the case.

Also last Wednesday, the state Supreme Court denied review of a key medical marijuana case, handing a victory to patients and providers. Attorney General Kamala Harris and law enforcement had asked the court to review People v. Colvin, which upheld certain protections for patients and providers, in a bid to get the court to rule that patients in collectives must help cultivate their medication. The court declined to review the case, affirming that patients are not required to help grow their medicine.

On Tuesday, the LA city council moved closer to a ban on dispensaries. A council committee approved a recommendation to ban dispensaries while allowing small groups of patients and their primary caregivers to grow their own. A counterproposal that would allow up to 100 existing dispensaries to stay open also won a committee recommendation. In 2007, the city imposed a moratorium on dispensaries, but a loophole allowed hundreds of new pot shops to proliferate. In reaction, lawmakers approved an ordinance two years ago that called for a lottery to limit which dispensaries should be allowed to operate. But City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has argued that the ordinance should be revoked because it may violate federal law. The turning point was an appellate court ruling last year that Long Beach, which also imposed a lottery, was violating federal law by in effect sanctioning the distribution of drugs. The proposed ban in Los Angeles would last at least until the California Supreme Court reviews the Long Beach case.

Colorado

On Tuesday, patients and supporters petitioned to add PTSD to the list of conditions that can be treated with medical marijuana. The effort is a reprise of a failed attempt to add it in 2010. That year, the Colorado Department of Public Health opposed legislation that would have added PTSD. Now, we will see if the department has changed its mind.

New Jersey

Last Wednesday, Newark Mayor Cory Booker came out in support of medical marijuana. His support came amidst of series of Twitter tweets he sent out critical of the war on drugs, and while he said he didn't support all-out drug legalization because of fears of addiction, he told one follower, "However, I'm with you on medical marijuana, and NJ should do more to make it real for those who need it."

Washington

On Tuesday, medical marijuana advocates sent a letter to the Kent City Council opposing a planned ordinance that would ban all medical marijuana access points within the city, including collective grows, which are explicitly allowed by state law. The letter signed by Sensible Washington and state Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) calls on the city "to respect the wishes and demands of the voters of Washington State, to act in adherence to the laws adopted by our state in regards to medical cannabis (pursuant to RCW 69.51a), and to cease and desist any and all attacks on qualifying medical cannabis patients, medical providers,  and safe access points within the City of Kent." The statute mentioned reads as follows: "Qualifying patients may create and participate in collective gardens for the purpose of producing, processing, transporting, and delivering cannabis for medical use." The city council is scheduled to take up the ordinance on June 5.


 

Marijuana Legalization Advocate Wins Texas Congressional Primary

Former El Paso city councilman Beto O'Rourke has defeated US Rep. Silvestre Reyes in the battle for the Democratic Party nomination for the seat Reyes has held since 1996. According to election results from the Texas Secretary of State's office early Wednesday morning, O'Rourke had picked up 51.3% of the vote to Reyes' 41.3%, meaning O'Rourke also avoids the need for a run-off election.

Beto O'Rourke (betoforcongress.com)
O'Rourke is a vocal drug policy reformer who has specifically called for marijuana legalization, while Reyes, a former Border Patrol official, has built a career on tough on the border and tough on drugs politics.

O'Rourke garnered national attention in 2009, when he championed a council resolution calling for a national conversation on legalizing and regulating drugs as a possible solution to the drug cartel violence just over El Paso's border in Mexico. The mayor vetoed the unanimously-passed resolution and the council was set to override the veto until Congressman Reyes threatened that the city would lose federal funding if it insisted on pushing the legalization conversation. The override vote failed, but O'Rourke has managed to use the issue as a launching pad for his campaign against what had been a heavily-favored incumbent.

O'Rourke has spoken eloquently of the violence in Mexico and its roots in drug prohibition, including at Drug Policy Alliance conferences, and is the coauthor, along with fellow El Paso city council member Susie Byrd, of Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the US and Mexico, which calls explicitly for marijuana legalization.

"O'Rourke's victory demonstrates that support for drug policy reform, and even for legalizing marijuana, is no detriment to electoral success - in fact it was a key asset in his triumph," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of Drug Policy Action, the Alliance's campaign and lobbying arm.. "Reyes' surprising defeat, meanwhile, shows that kneejerk support for persisting with failed drug war tactics can hurt politicians at the ballot box."

Earlier this month, the Democratic primary for Attorney General in Oregon featured a similar dynamic. Ellen Rosenblum won a surprising victory over favorite Dwight Holton, in a race in which medical marijuana became a major issue. Rosenblum is supportive of patients' right to safe and legal access to medical marijuana, while her opponent, former Interim U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton, is sharply critical of the program. Although Holton was heavily favored early in the race, he was targeted for defeat by supporters of medical marijuana after actively trying to undermine responsible state regulation. With no Republican filing for the office, Rosenblum is all but certain to be the state's next attorney general.

"Beto O'Rourke's congressional victory in Texas, coming on the heels of Ellen Roseblum's victory in Oregon's attorney general race, shows that drug policy reform is no longer a third rail in American politics," said Jill Harris, managing director of strategic initiatives for Drug Policy Action. "In both of those races, the candidates' views on marijuana reform were used against them in attacks by their opponents - and in both cases, the voters supported the pro-reform candidate. A majority of Americans now favor treating marijuana like alcohol, and strong majorities of both Democrats and Republicans say the federal government should not interfere with state medical marijuana laws. From blue states like Oregon to red states like Texas, it's a new day for the politics of drug policy reform."

Having won the Democratic primary, O'Rourke is well placed for a victory in November in this solidly Democratic district that has sent Reyes to Washington eight times. But now, it's a drug reformer El Paso is likely to send to Congress, not a drug warrior.

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

El Paso, TX
United States

New Biography Says Obama Smoked Pot -- A Lot

President Obama has written about his drug use as a teenager, but excerpts from a new biography of the president portray him as a party hardy high school and college marijuana user. And that has reform advocates calling foul on a president who laughs off serious questions about marijuana legalization and whose Justice Department is cracking down on medical marijuana distribution.

The new biography, Barack Obama: The Story, is written by veteran Washington political journalist David Maraniss and contains extensive material about the president's smoke-filled young adulthood including his leading role in the Choom Gang, with "choom" used as verb meaning to get high.

Obama choomed his way through the Punohao School in Honolulu and Occidental College in Los Angeles, Maraniss reports, citing interviews with the president's erstwhile colleagues. And young Obama wasn't just experimenting; he showed signs of being a serious pothead.

He created a pot-smoking trend among his peers called "TA," short for "total absorption," and also is credited with popularizing the notion of "roof hits," or rolling up all the windows in a car while smoking, then tilting one's head back and sucking the last remnants of smoke from the roof.

Young Barry and his Choom Gang buddies were so serious about their fun that they assessed penalties on their peers for wasting smoke by not inhaling fully. If you wasted smoke, you were penalized by being passed by the next time the joint came around. "Wasting good bud smoke was not tolerated," a member of the gang told Maraniss.

The president-to-be was also an eager pot smoker. He was known for elbowing his way in out of turn when a joint was being passed, shouting "Intercepted!" and taking an extra hit.

Obama seemed to retain his marijuana-friendly attitude until he attained the presidency. While there are no stories of him getting baked while editing the Harvard Law Review, he was critical of the drug war while an Illinois senator, and as a presidential candidate, he vowed to not go after medical marijuana in states where it is legal.

But as president, he has converted himself into a full-blown prohibitionist, laughing off marijuana legalization, continuing to fund the drug war at the same high levels (and with the same law enforcement heavy spending ratio), and attempting to export US drug war strategies to violence-wracked areas like Mexico and Central America. And, after a year and a half of relatively benign neglect, his Justice Department has turned on medical marijuana providers with a vengeance.

The publication of the Maraniss excerpts provoked a response from Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, who chided the president for his shifting stance and warned there could be a political price to pay.

"Barack Obama won a lot of hearts and minds some years ago when he talked so openly and frankly about his youthful marijuana use. That contrasted refreshingly with Bill Clinton's hemming and hawing about not having inhaled, much less George Bush's refusal to even acknowledge what old friends revealed about his marijuana use," Nadelmann noted. "But the president has been losing lots of hearts and minds, especially those of young voters, with his striking silence on marijuana issues since he became president -- apart from providing lame excuses for the federal government's aggressive undermining of state medical marijuana laws.

"Most disappointing is his failure to say a word as president about the fact that half of all drug arrests each year are for nothing more than possessing a small amount of marijuana, which is something Barack Obama did lots of in his younger days, or to offer any critical comments about the stunning racial disproportionality in marijuana arrests around the country," Nadelmann continued. "Roughly twice as many people are arrested for marijuana possession now as were arrested in the early 1980s, even though the number of people consuming marijuana is no greater now than then. If police had been as keen on making marijuana arrests back then, it's quite likely that a young African American man named Barry Obama would have landed up with a criminal record -- and even more likely that he would not have his current job."

Recent polls show support for marijuana legalization at 50% or higher, with even higher levels of support among liberals and Democrats. It is time for Obama to address the issue, Nadelmann said.

"President Obama needs to come clean once again about marijuana -- but this time he needs to speak not of his own youthful use but rather of the harmful consequences of today's punitive marijuana policies for young Americans today," he said.

Washington, DC
United States

Status Report: Statewide Marijuana Legalization Initiatives [FEATURE]

As summer draws near, the election picture when it comes to statewide marijuana legalization initiatives is becoming a bit clearer. At the beginning of the year, activists in eight states undertook efforts to get initiatives on the ballot, but the field has been winnowed.

With polling this year starting to show majority support for legalization and regulation, 2012 could be the year that legalization actually wins, and voters in at least two states -- Colorado and Washington -- will have the chance to make that happen. Initiatives in those two states have already been approved for the ballot, and the election campaigns are underway.

Four separate and competing initiatives from a divided marijuana movement came up short in the past few weeks in California, while the Show Me Cannabis Regulation initiative in Missouri, long on heart but short on funds, gave up the ghost for this year earlier this month. Activists in both states are planning to return to the fray in 2014.

That leaves four states -- Michigan, Montana, Oregon and Nebraska -- where initiatives are still in the signature-gathering phase. Within a few weeks, we will know for sure whether any of them will make it to the ballot in November, but as of this week, Oregon appears best placed to join Colorado and Washington in the fall.

Here's how it's looking in the four states where initiatives are still trying to qualify for the ballot:

Michigan

The Committee for a Safer Michigan is currently circulating petitions for its constitutional amendment to repeal marijuana prohibition. The committee has until July 9 to gather the 322,609 valid voter signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot. So far, it has only handed in about 35,000, but organizers say many signature-bearing petitions are still out in the field.

"The number of signatures we have in hand is significantly lower than the real number," said Brandi Zink, campaign volunteer coordinator. "We have 2500 volunteers out there with petitions."

If each volunteer signature gatherer has only come up with 100 signatures so far, that would be another 250,000, putting the 306,000 valid signatures within reach.

The campaign will make a big push in the final weeks, but desperately needs money, Zink said.

"We've been reaching out to the political parties here," she said. "We have friends in the Democratic Party and Ron Paul supporters among the Republicans. We are going to be at every major festival and we're still recruiting volunteers, but we still need help and we still need donations.  Anyone who would like to give generously to our effort will be most appreciated. We certainly have the will and the boots on the ground. If we had money, we can get this on the ballot and win."

Zink called on drug reformers across the country to chip in.

"We're asking people in the reform movement to please contribute," she said. "If you're not in Michigan, this is how you can make a difference here. What we're doing in the Midwest can have an impact throughout the nation."

Montana

Montana First
, the same group of activists and supporters who last summer and fall organized the successful signature-gathering campaign to put the IR-124 medical marijuana initiative on the November 2012 ballot to undo the legislature's destruction of the state medical marijuana distribution network, is also working on a legalization initiative, Constitutional Initiative No.110 (CI-110).

It would add two sentences to the state constitution: "Adults have the right to responsibly purchase, consume, produce, and possess marijuana, subject to reasonable limitations, regulations, and taxation. Except for actions that endanger minors, children, or public safety, no criminal offense or penalty of this state shall apply to such activities."

To qualify for the ballot, campaigners need to gather some 45,000 valid voter signatures, and Montana law also requires that those signatures include 10% of voters in at least 40 of 100 of the state's electoral districts. They have until June 22, and they're less than halfway there, but still holding out hope.

"We're making a serious run, and we have one month left. We're behind on our goals, but we're accelerating rapidly, and that gives me some cause for optimism," said Montana First's John Masterson. "We have about 20,000 signatures so far and we're gearing up for primary day on June 5. If we do everything right on that day we could double what we have," he said.

"We've got a small army of signature-gatherers on the street, and we have some paid signature-gatherers, too," Masterson said. "People are coming out from under their rocks despite the federal raids, despite the radical acts of the legislature, despite their fears. They are saying they have to stand up and fight for the right of adults to use cannabis in responsible ways."

Nebraska

The Nebraska Prop 19 2012 Cannabis Initiative would amend the state constitution so that any law regarding the private, non-commercial cultivation and consumption of marijuana would be forbidden, with the legislature directed to enact regulations for commercial sales and cultivation. Any current laws violating the amendment, such as the current marijuana laws, are declared null and void and convictions for violations of them are set aside.

 

In addition to the web site above, the campaign has a Facebook petition page and has shown some signs of life, holding events in Lincoln and Omaha, but has otherwise been remarkably stealthy. While the initiative was filed by McCook attorney Frank Shoemaker, the signature-gathering campaign has reportedly been taken on by the Nebraska Cannabis Alliance.

 

We have no reliable reports of far the campaign has progressed, but it needs just under 50,000 signatures to make the November ballot and has until July to do so.



Oregon

In Oregon, two separate initiatives appear poised to make the ballot with six weeks left to gather signatures. The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA) initiative, which would allow for the legal cultivation and sale of marijuana, needs 87,213 valid signatures to make the ballot. The Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative constitutional amendment, which would give adult Oregonians the constitutional right to possess marijuana, has to reach a higher threshold of 116,284.

Both measures have until July 6 to turn in signatures, but also face a Friday deadline for turning in enough signatures to qualify for early verification by the secretary of state's office. The early verification allows campaigns to know whether they have come up short because of invalid signatures and gives them six weeks to make up the difference. Both initiatives appear well-placed to do so.

"As of Sunday, we had 109,000 signatures in hand," said Paul Stanford, the primary force behind OCTA. "That's 127% of the total. Assuming an invalidation rate of 30% to 35%, we need to turn in 132,000 to 136,000. We're getting about 10,000 a week, and we have six and a half weeks left," he said.

Stanford has largely funded the OCTA campaign through his multi-state chain of medical marijuana clinics -- not dispensaries -- and said he had pumped $60,000 of his money into the campaign this month.

"We need 116,300 signatures turned in for early approval, and we currently have 132,000," said Robert Wolfe, proponent for OMPI. "We are going to make the ballot, no question about it. The secretary of state will disqualify some percentage, so we're aiming for 185,000 and we'll be collecting up until the deadline."

Both men said that in the event both measures made the ballot, they would complement -- not contradict -- each other.

"The OMPI is a constitutional amendment that requires that the state regulate cannabis, and our OCTA initiative would fulfill that regulatory requirement and save the legislature from contentious debate," said Stanford.

While Wolfe agreed that the two measures could complement each other, he also expressed concerns about mixed messaging.

"There is a difference in the messaging," he said. "We've been careful to frame this as an issue of social justice and wasted resources, while a lot of the OCTA supporters have a more strident marijuana lifestyle message. Those aren't the voters we're trying to attract. We can't win an election with hardcore cannabis supporters alone; we have to appeal to mainstream voters by talking about things they think are important."

Still, having two marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot is the kind of problem activists in other states wish they had.

What happened to California?

While the failure of the Missouri initiative to make the ballot was not a huge surprise -- it faced big obstacles in the south-central state -- the failure of an initiative to make the ballot in California was a surprise and a disappointment to many reformers, especially after the state came so close with Proposition 19 in 2010.

But the failure of Prop 19, along with the conflicts over medical marijuana, may have sealed the fate of initiative efforts in the Golden State this year, said long-time California scene-watcher and CANORML head Dale Gieringer.

"We just voted on this, and people didn't quite buy it," he said, referring to the Prop 19 defeat. "And the polling hadn't moved. We have a fair amount of chaos in our medical marijuana system, and as long as California voters don't have the confidence we can regulate medical marijuana well, I think they're reluctant to open the doors to further chaos with legalization."

The ongoing federal crackdown on medical marijuana wasn't helping, either, he added.

The failure in 2010 also scared off big money funders, said Gieringer, who estimated it would cost a million dollars just to make the ballot.

"There wasn't the money to do it. We tried in 2010, and it's hard to come back two elections in a row," he said. "Since the polls hadn't moved, the funders weren't terribly interested and thought they could get better bang for their buck in Colorado and Washington and maybe Oregon."

Although there were four separate initiatives, he said, "You add up all the funding for all the initiatives, and it's just not very much. Even if there had been only one initiative, it wouldn't have had a chance."

California led the way with medical marijuana in 1996 and with Proposition 19 in 2010, but if activists in Colorado, Washington, and maybe Oregon, Montana, Michigan, or Nebraska have their way, it will not be the first state to legalize marijuana.

Medical Marijuana Update

The Rhode Island governor has finally opened the door to compassion centers, a medical marijuana initiative campaign is getting underway in North Dakota, people are going to federal prison in Montana, and the battles continue in California. Let's get to it:

California

Last Wednesday, Fresno police said they would shut down a newly opened dispensary. The California Herbal Relief Center opened quietly and said "a loophole" in the city code allowed it to circumvent the city's ordinance against dispensaries, but Fresno police were having none of it. The department has sent the operator  a "hand delivered note that he needs to stop doing what he is doing," a police spokesman said.

On Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, advocates held a three-day unity event in Sacramento to rally support for state-regulated medical marijuana industry. About 200 people turned out Saturday to rally for a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) that would do just that. On Monday, reformers took to the capitol to lobby for the bill, Assembly Bill 2312.

On Monday, a federal appeals court ruled that cities do not violate the rights of the disabled when they ban dispensaries. A three-judge panel of the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected a claim by patients from Costa Mesa and Lake Forest that those cities' efforts to close dispensaries violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law does not protect the use of drugs banned by the federal government, the court held.

Also on Monday, the LA branch of the NORML Women's Alliance launched a voter education project aimed at identifying favorable (or unfavorable) candidates Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge in the June 5 primary election. Candidates for Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles County are being asked their positions on issues relating to medical marijuana, as well as three-strikes laws, mandatory minimum sentencing and the recent United States Supreme Court mandate to end overcrowding in California prisons.

Also on Monday, Tulare County filed suit against five collective members for growing medical marijuana in the wrong place. The lawsuit asserts that they are violating the county's land use ordinance by growing marijuana in a rural area near Cutler in northern Tulare County zoned exclusively for agriculture. Under the county's ordinance, medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives must operate in a commercial or manufacturing zone. This is not the first time Tulare County has sued medical marijuana growers. In 2009, the county sued Foothill Growers Association for growing marijuana in a building on agricultural property near Ivanhoe and cited the same ordinance. The collective put up a court fight but lost.

On Tuesday, Novato's last remaining dispensary announced it was closing. The Green Door Wellness Education Center will shut its doors June 15. It had been open since April 2010. The city has a moratorium on dispensaries, and the second-to-the-last one, the Green Tiger, closed in April under federal pressure.

Also on Tuesday, an attorney filed a suit to block Nevada County from enforcing an emergency marijuana cultivation ordinance it passed earlier this month. Attorney Jeffrey Lake is seeking a temporary restraining order on behalf of Americans for Safe Access Nevada County, Grassroots Solutions and Patricia Smith, who is the founder of the nonprofit patient advocacy group and the ASA chapter.

On Wednesday, Imperial Beach initiative campaigners announced they had gathered more than 2,000 signatures in less than two months for a municipal initiative to repeal a ban on dispensaries and replace it with reasonable regulations. Canvass for a Cause, a San Diego based nonprofit with the largest gay rights field program in the county, has partnered with San Diego Americans for Safe Access, a local chapter of the nation’s largest medical marijuana patients’ rights advocacy group on this campaign. They will hand in signatures to the city clerk on Saturday.

Maine

Last week, a medical marijuana clinic opened in Brewer. It is operated by Wellness Connection of Maine.

Massachusetts

Last Wednesday, the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance filed a lawsuit challenging the language in a likely ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana. The lawsuit argues that the language is "misleading" and the initiative has "radical components." Attorney General Martha Coakley's office has already certified the ballot initiative titled, "An Act for the Humanitarian Use of Medical Marijuana." Proponents of the initiative must now collect 11,485 signatures by early July to get the initiative on the November ballot.

Over the weekend, the Massachusetts Medical Society approved a resolution opposing the legalization of medical marijuana without further scientific study. It did, however, pass another resolution calling on the DEA to reclassify marijuana to permit more studies.

Michigan

On Tuesday, the Marijuana Policy Project warned that more bad bills are coming in the state Senate. The bills would dramatically undermine the state's medical marijuana law, the group said, and it urged Michiganders to contact their senators.

Montana

On Monday, a Kalispell landlord was sentenced to a year in federal prison for renting a property to a medical marijuana business. Jonathan Janetski pleaded guilty to maintaining a drug involved premises, but he said he had no ties to the growing operation. The prosecution said Janetski wasn't just a landlord, that he didn't take money for rent for a year, and that he was an equal partner.

North Dakota

On Tuesday, a medical marijuana initiative campaign got underway. Rep. Steve Zaiser (D-Fargo) turned the proposed law in to the secretary of state's office for its approval, which is needed before signature-gathering can commence. The proposed law says someone with a "debilitating medical condition" may grow and use marijuana, and possess up to 2 ½ ounces of the drug. It says people with cancer, the HIV virus, post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions may use marijuana legally.

Rhode Island

On Tuesday night, Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) signed the bill allowing compassion centers to open. Championed by Sen. Rhoda Perry and Rep. Scott Slater, the bill was crafted to allay the governor's concerns, which had caused him to block them from opening more than a year ago. The amended law only allows centers to possess 1,500 ounces at one time and they can have no more than 99 mature plants at one time. Patients and caregivers will be able to sell any excess medical marijuana they produce directly to the centers as well.

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

Marijuana Legalization Hits 56% Support in Rasmussen Poll

A Rasmussen poll of likely voters released Tuesday found support for legalizing and regulating marijuana at 56% nationwide, a significant increase over a March Rasmussen poll and in line with other recent polls that show legalizing gaining majority support and trending upward.

The poll comes ahead of elections in November that will see votes in at least two states, Colorado and Washington, vote on marijuana legalization initiatives. Efforts are still underway to get on the ballot in four other states -- Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, and Oregon. The poll did not break down support by state.

Legalization garnered majority support among both sexes and across age groups, although with some significant differences. While 61% of men supported "legalizing marijuana and treating it like alcohol or cigarettes," only 52% of women did, reflecting a gender gap apparent in other polls. And while even seniors came in with 50% support, only 49% of respondents with minor children supported legalization.

Support in that demographic jumped, however, when pollsters asked if they would favor legalization "if no one under 18 could buy it, it was banned in public, and there were strict penalties for driving under the influence." Under those conditions, support among parents jumped to 58% and support among Republicans increased to 52%, bumping up overall support for legalization one point to 57%.

The poll also asked whether it should not be a crime "for someone to smoke marijuana" in private. Only 32% agreed that private pot-smoking should remain a crime, while 68% disagreed.

The same poll asked whether US drug consumption is a major cause of drug violence in Mexico and Central America, with 62% agreeing that it is. More surprisingly, 47% said they agreed with legalizing marijuana and cocaine if it would reduce the violence along the Mexican border. But in another question in the poll, only 11% agreed with legalizing and regulating cocaine.

The poll sampled 1,000 likely voters. It has a margin of error of +/- 3%.

Medical Marijuana Update

The biggest medical marijuana news this week has to be the Oregon election that saw a pro-medical marijuana attorney general candidate win against a former interim US Attorney, but there was plenty of other news, as well. Let's get to it:

National

Last Wednesday, Mitt Romney got asked about medical marijuana and didn't much like the question or really answer it. "Aren't there issues of significance that you'd like to talk about?" Romney asks the interviewer. "The economy, the economy, the economy. The growth of jobs. The need to put people back to work. The challenges of Iran. We've got enormous issues that we face, but you want talk about -- go ahead -- you want to talk about marijuana? I think marijuana should not be legal in this country. I believe it is a gateway drug to other drug violations. The use of illegal drugs in this country is leading to terrible consequences in places like Mexico -- and actually in our country."

On Tuesday, a Mason Dixon poll found broad support for medical marijuana among Republicans. Some 67% of Republicans said federal officials should respect state medical marijuana laws. So did 75% of Democrats and 79% of independents.

Also on Tuesday, researchers reported that smoking marijuana can relieve MS symptoms. Researchers at the University of California at San Diego found that smoked marijuana relieved pain and muscle tightness spasticity. The research was published in the peer-reviewed Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Arizona

As of Monday, Arizona started accepting dispensary applications. Arizona has some of the strictest dispensary rules in the country, including requirements that a licensed physician be employed on premises, that letters be obtained showing dispensaries are complying with zoning laws, and that they have a business plan showing they are operating as nonprofits. Then there is the $5,000 application fee and the preference that will be shown to those who can prove they have $150,000 in the bank. Still, competition is expected to be fierce for the licenses, which will be capped at 125 statewide. Interested parties have until May 25 to apply.

California

Beginning Saturday, a medical marijuana "Unity" conference gets underway in Sacramento. It goes through Monday and is aimed in part at obtaining passage of Assembly Bill 2312 to regulate medical marijuana cultivation and distribution statewide. The conference is sponsored by the PAC Californians to Regulate Marijuana as well as  Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, California NORML, the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, and the Emerald Growers Association. The conference will focus on skill-building and grass roots leadership, with a day of lobbying set for Monday.

Last Thursday, a Santa Barbara dispensary operator took a plea deal. Charles Restivo, operator of the Pacific Coast Collective between 2008 and 2010, was arrested after a four-dispensary raid by local law enforcement in February 2010. He was charged with possession of marijuana for sale and cultivation of marijuana for sale since authorities argued the dispensary was violating state laws regarding medical marijuana. Under the deal, Restivo pleaded guilty to one new count of possession of concentrated cannabis (hash) in return for the other charges being dropped. He will get three years probation.

Also last Thursday, the Clear Lake city council voted to oppose Measure D, the Lake County marijuana cultivation initiative set to go before voters June 5. The council's action follows similar votes taken by the Lake County Office of Education Board of Trustees Wednesday night, the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday and the Lakeport City Council last week. It is also opposed by the Sierra Club, the Lake County Deputy Sheriffs Association, Kelseyville Business Association, Lake County Chamber of Commerce, California Women for Agriculture, Lake County Farm Bureau, the Buckingham and Clear Lake Riviera homeowners associations, and the Lake County Association of Realtors' Board of Directors. Measure D would allow 12 female plants to be grown in residential areas on lots under a half acre, 24 plants on lots larger than a half acre and 84 plants on larger parcels.

On Tuesday, the DEA and local police raided a Fontana dispensary. The raiders hit Holistic Meds RX, detaining four people, and seizing large quantities of medical marijuana. It was a federal warrant, but town and San Bernadino County police aided the DEA. Dispensaries have opened in Fontana, but have been unable to get permits because the city considers the businesses illegal.

On Wednesday, the Los Angeles city council postponed adopting a "gentle" ban on dispensaries proposed by Councilman Jose Huizar. The move came after Councilman Paul Koretz instead proposing allowing some dispensaries to continue to operate if they agreed to city regulations. Koretz called Huizar's "gentle" ban, which would close all dispensaries, but allow personal and collective grows, in reality a "vicious, heartless" ban. The city is home to an uncertain number of dispensaries, somewhere in the hundreds.


Colorado

On Monday, 25 dispensaries targeted by federal officials had to be closed down. That was the second wave of dispensaries threatened by US Attorney John Walsh, who earlier forced 22 out of business. He says a third wave of threat letters is forthcoming. In the first wave, Walsh targeted dispensaries within 1,000 feet of schools; in the second wave, he targeted dispensaries within 1,000 feet of college campuses. No telling yet what his criteria will be next time.

On Tuesday, the Dacono city council moved forward with its ban on dispensaries, as well as grows and edibles manufacturing. The council voted 4-2 for the ban, but must do so one more time on June 11 before it takes effect. The town has had a temporary moratorium on new medical marijuana businesses since July 2010, but that edict expires on July 1. The town has three existing dispensaries, but they would be forced to close if the ban passes.

Michigan

Last Friday, the state appeals court confirmed the conviction of a man who had a medical marijuana card, but not a fence. Lewis Keller of Emmet County got busted with 15 plants on his property. Under state law, he could have 12, but it had to be fenced. Keller said he knew he was over the limit, but he didn't realize the plants had to be secured.

On Tuesday, the Jackson city council got an earful from advocates concerned about its proposed medical marijuana ordinance. Under the proposed ordinance, qualifying patients or primary caregivers who are registered by the Michigan Department of Community Health to grow marijuana could do so in their homes. Patients could consume the drug only in their homes or their primary caregivers' homes. Patients and primary caregivers also could grow medical marijuana at non-dwelling locations in certain commercial and industrial business districts.
The city has had a moratorium on medical marijuana operations during the drafting of the ordinance. The city council will revisit the issue next week.

New Hampshire

On Wednesday, the House passed a medical marijuana bill already passed by the Senate. It now goes back to the Senate for approval of changes. Gov. John Lynch (D) has vowed to veto the bill over concerns over distribution, just as he did in 2009, when a veto override failed by two votes in the Senate.

New York

On Wednesday, a Siena College poll found majority support for medical marijuana in the Empire State. The poll had 57% supporting it and only 33% opposed. A bill in the Assembly has been stalled since Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signaled that this was not the year for it.

Oregon

On Tuesday, Ellen Rosenblum defeated former interim US Attorney Dwight Holden in the fight for the Democratic Party nomination for state attorney general. Oregon medical marijuana activists and national drug reformers rallied against Holden and supported medical marijuana-friendly Rosenblum as she picked up 63% of the vote against the former front-runner. Activists said the vote shows opposing medical marijuana carries a political price tag.

Rhode Island

On Wednesday, the House passed compromise dispensary legislation. A similar measure has already passed the Senate, so after the formalities of concurrence votes, the measure will head to Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I), who is expected to sign it.

Washington

On Monday, the Pasco city council moved closer to banning grows. A workshop discussion that night leaves little doubt that the city will outlaw medical marijuana gardens in the city at its next meeting to avoid violating federal anti-drug laws. Pasco is among Washington cities that have been waiting for nearly a year for the legislature to act to clarify a law allowing cities to write their own rules for medical marijuana garden collectives. The council is expected to vote on the ordinance Monday.

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

Would Romney be Worse for Medical Marijuana Than Obama? Ctd

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/DEAraid.jpg
Andrew Sullivan responds to my statement that, regarding medical marijuana, "I honestly doubt Romney could be any worse than [Obama] if he tried."

I don't. The man doesn't even drink coffee. His impulse when seeing a man with muscular dystrophy in desperate need of medical marijuana was to listen, ignore and then walk away. Obama deserves criticism on medical marijuana - but the notion that there would be no difference between his DEA and Romney's strikes me as ... well I can't help remembering how, in 2000, I thought Gore would be no different than Bush.

I do agree that Obama is almost certainly a lot less hostile to the issue than Romney is on a personal level. I could have been clearer that my point wasn't so much to suggest that they would definitely be equally bad on the issue, but rather that it's incoherent to defend Obama's actions based on the premise that Romney would obviously be worse. I've been told more than once that I should mute my criticism of Obama and instead encourage the medical marijuana community to support him for fear of Romney, and I think that's rather ridiculous.

What worries me is that Obama seems to be getting a pass on some things that I suspect would invite more vigorous outrage if carried out by Romney. When the President claimed that the raids were focused on groups that violated their own state laws, even Andrew Sullivan, an outspoken critic of the raids, agreed it was a fair point. He later went on to say, "I also wish some states had exercized more discretion and care in allowing for medical marijuana."

I understand Andrew's concern, but let's not forget what happened when states did exercise discretion and care in attempting to regulate medical marijuana activity. Obama's DOJ threatened to arrest not only the providers, but also the state officials monitoring them to ensure compliance with state law. Federal posturing stalled efforts to regulate dispensaries in Washington and Rhode Island, and resulted in the elimination of a strict plant-tagging program in California that was becoming a model for effective regulation.

What we've got now is the functional equivalent of chasing off the code inspectors and then claiming that our restaurants are dirty. Sure, there's been some excessive profiteering and other abuses in the medical marijuana industry, but to a large extent, those problems are a result of federal interference and not an excuse for it.

Any discussion of Obama's approach to medical marijuana is incomplete if it doesn't address the far-reaching implications of these efforts to thwart regulation at the state level. This is true not only because these events show how this administration has posed an existential threat to medical marijuana in states that are trying to launch programs, but also because they vividly illustrate the inaccuracy of Obama's recent suggestion that his DOJ is merely upholding local laws.

The fact that he's comfortable misrepresenting events that have unfolded before our eyes means that not enough pressure is being applied from Obama's pro-medical marijuana base, and I'm worried that fear of Romney is part of the reason why.

Update: To be clear, none of this is to suggest that Andrew Sullivan hasn't done enough to criticize Obama on this issue. He's done an awesome job of that. 

Follow Scott Morgan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drugblogger

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

Medical Marijuana Ally Wins Oregon AG Race

In an Oregon primary election where medical marijuana was a prominent campaign issue, former judge and ally of the state's medical marijuana community Ellen Rosenblum came from behind to decisively defeat former interim US Attorney Dwight Holton Tuesday in the campaign for the Democratic Party's nominee for state attorney general.

Oregon Democratic Party attorney general nominee Ellen Rosenblum (ellenrosenblum.com)
Drug reformers who aided the Rosenblum campaign said as election results came in that they showed attacking medical marijuana patients and their distribution systems was "not a smart political move."

"As attorney general, I will make marijuana enforcement a low priority, and protect the rights of medical marijuana patients," Rosenblum says on her campaign website.

According to the Oregon Secretary of State's unofficial election results Tuesday evening, with 100% of the vote counted, Rosenblum had won with 63% of the vote, compared to 37% for Holton.

The winner of the Democratic Party nod is almost certain to be the next state attorney general. The Republicans didn't even field a candidate for the post, and in a primary where the Democratic attorney general race attracted more than 183,000 voters, the Republican non-race attracted fewer than 9,000 write-in votes.

Holton was an early favorite in the race and had the support of law enforcement constituencies, but aroused the ire of medical marijuana supporters for his actions as interim US Attorney last year, when he oversaw several raids against medical marijuana providers and sent out letters threatening asset forfeiture to other providers and their landlords. It didn't help when he called the the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program "a train wreck" during the campaign and pledged to work with Republican legislators to "fix" it.

The state's medical marijuana and marijuana legalization advocates mobilized to defeat Holton and encourage support for Rosenblum. But national drug reform activists, heartened by the grass roots response and emboldened by the opportunity to inflict a political price on those participating in the federal crackdown on medical marijuana distribution, mobilized as well.

Through its lobbying and campaign arm, Drug Policy Action, the Drug Policy Alliance kicked in $100,000 in donations to the Rosenblum campaign and Citizens for Sensible Law Enforcement (CSLE), which, among other things, launched a series of radio ads against Holton. CSLE is also the group behind the I-24 marijuana legalization initiative, one of two Oregon legalization initiatives edging very close to making the November ballot.

DPA ally and deep-pocketed drug reform donor John Sperling, founder of the University of Phoenix, also contributed $100,000 to the Rosenblum campaign.

DPA and Oregon medical marijuana advocates were quick to claim the election result showed there was a price to be paid for going against the drug reform tide. It was a message they wanted both prosecutors and the Obama administration to hear.

"Dwight Holton’s defeat in the Oregon Attorney General’s race should be taken as a clear and unambiguous message to US Attorneys around the country and to the national Democratic leadership that attacking state-approved medical marijuana programs is not a smart political move," said Jill Harris, managing director of strategic initiatives for Drug Policy Action, and a native of Eugene.

"Medical marijuana has overwhelming public support -- it is now legal in 16 US states and the District of Columbia, and national polls have consistently shown support in the 70-80% range for well over a decade. Drug war rhetoric and tactics will not be tolerated, and organizations like Drug Policy Action will be there to defend patients’ rights to safely access the medicine they need," she said in a Tuesday night statement.

No Oregon groups have yet released any statements, but there was much joy on their list serves Tuesday night. "I hope that law enforcement is paying attention as well," said one poster. "As this just goes to show that Oregon is sick of them wasting their resources on marijuana."

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

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