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Europe: Britain Goes After Medical Marijuana Suppliers

In two separate trials, one beginning this week and one beginning next week, British authorities are prosecuting medical marijuana providers under the country's drug laws, the Guardian reported. The continued prosecution of medical marijuana providers comes despite the government's downgrading of marijuana from a Class B drug to the less serious Class C in 2004.

Four members of Therapeutic Help from Cannabis for Multiple Sclerosis (THCforMS( faced charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana this week in crown court in Carlisle. THCforMS supplies free cannabis exclusively to MS sufferers and says on its web site it has handed out 33,000 cannabis chocolate bars to patients.

Next week, Bud Buddies founder Jeffrey Ditchfield goes on trial in Mold crown court on nine counts of cultivation and distribution of cannabis. Bud Buddies offers a number of marijuana preparations for anyone with a proven medical need and requires documentation of that need from a physician.

Under current British marijuana law, all of the defendants mentioned face up to 14 years in prison.

Meanwhile, life has become more difficult for as many as 30% of British MS sufferers who use the herb to alleviate the pain and spasms associated with the disease. One of those patients, who asked not to be identified, said she had applied to use the marijuana tincture Sativex on a trial basis, but was turned down. The preparation is currently undergoing a three-year trial. "I find it inconceivable that the crown sees these prosecutions as in the public interest when there is still no legal way for the people who are helped by cannabis to obtain and use it," she said.

The British Medical Association said in a 1997 report: "While research is under way the police, the courts and prosecuting authorities should be aware of the medicinal reasons for the unlawful use of cannabis by those suffering from certain medical conditions for whom other drugs have proved ineffective."

Even if the crown prosecutors don't get it, some trial courts do -- or at least they did. Up until last year, medical marijuana patients and providers successfully raised the "necessity" defense, which allows illegal acts to prevent a greater harm. But an appeals court ruling last year held that the "necessity" defense did apply to the use of marijuana to relieve chronic pain.

British Tabloids At It Again With More Reefer Madness

A fine example of yellow journalism appears in today's London Daily Mail. Citing increased marijuana arrests figures since the weed was downgraded from Class B to Class C, the Daily Mail headlines its story "Massive Explosion in Cannabis Possession," implying that use had somehow gone through the roof when it is actually police practices driving the numbers. "Cannabis crime has exploded," the Daily Mail hyperventilates, meaning more people are getting arrested. There is more of this crap at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article...
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United States

Santa Cruz Marijuana Measure Could Face Legal Challenges

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United States
Publication/Source: 
Santa Cruz Sentinel
URL: 
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/archive/2006/July/20/local/stories/01local.htm

36th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival

October 7-8, Madison, WI, 36th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, sponsored by Madison NORML. At the Library Mall, downtown, visit http://www.madisonnorml.org for further information.
Date: 
Sat, 10/07/2006 - 12:00pm - Sun, 10/08/2006 - 6:00pm
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Madison, WI
United States

17th Annual Boston Freedom Rally

September 16, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 17th Annual Boston Freedom Rally. On Boston Common, sponsored by MASS CANN/NORML, featuring bands, speakers and vendors. Visit http://www.MassCann.org for further information.
Date: 
Sat, 09/16/2006 - 1:00pm - 7:00pm
Location: 
Boston, MA
United States

Seattle Hempfest

August 19-20, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest, visit http://www.hempfest.org for further information.
Date: 
Sat, 08/19/2006 - 12:00pm
Location: 
Seattle, WA
United States

Middle East: US Troops, Iraqi Police Seize Marijuana Plants

US troops and Iraqi police seized and destroyed a bumper crop of marijuana plants last week, according to a report in Stars & Stripes. Based on a military press release, the report said soldiers from the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, which has responsibility for most of northern Iraq, discovered the field in an unnamed location.

According to the military press release, the field contained "juvenile marijuana plants grown in a series of furrows. The owner claimed he was growing sesame." Police put the value of the field at $2 million. The crop was cut down and destroyed, and the man arrested.

While drug use and trafficking was rare under the repressive regime of Saddam Hussein, the chaos and violence into which the country has descended since the US invasion in 2003, has both increased drug use and made the country more attractive to smugglers. That is to be expected, complained Hamid Ghodse, head of the International Narcotics Control Board, the United Nations body charged with monitoring compliance with UN anti-drug treaties.

"Whether it is due to war or disaster, weakening of border controls and security infrastructure make countries into convenient logistic and transit points, not only for international terrorists and militants, but also for traffickers," Ghodse told the BBC in referring to Iraq last year.

"You cannot have peace, security and development without attending to drug control," Ghodse added, staying on point. But in Iraq, maybe we'd all be better off if everyone just smoked some herb and chilled out.

Feature: Judge Throws Out Part of Alaska Marijuana Recriminalization Law, Up to An Ounce is Now Legal At Home

Gov. Frank Murkowski's two-year effort to recriminalize marijuana in Alaska hit a roadblock Monday when a Superior Court judge struck down the part of the law he pushed through the legislature earlier this year. Judge Patricia Collins threw out the section of the law that criminalizes the possession of marijuana for personal use in the privacy of one's home, but reduced the exempt amount from four ounces to one ounce. Collins also left intact portions of the law increasing penalties for marijuana offenses.

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propaganda show by Gov. Murkowski and drug czar Walters
In a 1975 decision, Ravin v. State, the Alaska Supreme Court held that the state constitution's privacy provisions barred the state from criminalizing the possession of personal amounts of marijuana in one's home. A 1991 initiative recriminalized marijuana possession, but when that law was eventually challenged in 2004, the Alaska court's upheld Ravin, saying the popular vote could not trump the state constitution.

Ever since, Gov. Murkowski has worked to undo those decisions. Last year, a determined lobbying effort financed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) managed to fend off action at the statehouse, but Murkowski managed to push the bill through earlier this year. Included in the law is a series of "findings" designed to demonstrate that marijuana is so much more dangerous now than in 1975 that the state Supreme Court will have to decide differently when it weighs the issue again.

"Unless and until the Supreme Court directs otherwise, Ravin is the law in this state and this court is duty bound to follow that law," Collins wrote in her decision as she granted summary judgment to the American Civil Liberties Union. The group had filed suit to block the law as soon as it became law in June.

"The drug war has wreaked havoc on the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution, but fortunately many state constitutions still shield individuals from drug war excess," said Allen Hopper, an attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "This ruling is incredibly significant from a national perspective, because there are a number of states with similar privacy rights in their constitutions that may afford protections to adult marijuana users."

"The state of Alaska has charted a different course from that of the federal government's failed policy on marijuana," said Michael MacLeod-Ball, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska. "This ruling affirms Alaska's commitment to fundamental privacy rights over reefer madness."

"We're certainly pleased we at least got a partial victory," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for MPP, which also chipped in on litigation costs. "And we're hopeful the Supreme Court will recognize the nonsensical nature of the findings the state wrote into the law in an effort to override the state constitution. But the court decision still left in place draconian new penalties for larger amounts and reduced the amount one can keep at home. The battle has begun, but it has a ways to go," he told DRCNet.

Alaska Department of Law spokesman Mark Morones told DRCNet the state would be quick to appeal the decision. "We are pleased the judge made an expeditious ruling," he said. "It's always been our position that the issue of the legality marijuana and the privacy debate really do have to go back to the Supreme Court for a final determination of the right to privacy and the state's safety interest in being able to prosecute marijuana cases. We plan to appeal expeditiously," Morones said.

In her decision, Collins explained that she limited it to the possession of less than one ounce because the ACLU argued that the only issue at stake in the case was the government's ability to regulate the possession of small amounts of marijuana. "No specific argument has been advanced in this case that possession of more than one ounce of marijuana, even within the privacy of the home, is constitutionally protected conduct under Ravin or that any plaintiff or ACLU of Alaska member actually possesses more than one ounce of marijuana in their homes," Collins wrote.

Department of Law spokesman Morones took heart in that portion of the ruling. "Our initial interpretation of this case at this point is that Judge Collins' decision makes it clear that the state has the ability to regulate marijuana use in amounts greater that one ounce," he said.

As things now stand in Alaska, possession of an ounce at home is okay, possession of up to four ounces is a misdemeanor, and possession of more than four ounces is a felony. Soon it will be time for the Alaska Supreme Court to definitively resolve the issue -- one more time. Both sides are already gearing up for the appeal, which will go directly to the Supreme Court. According to Morones, the process could take months or perhaps a year. In the meantime, Alaska once again stands as the only state in the nation where people can legally possess small amounts of marijuana.

Editorial: Not Playing by the Rules, Not Making Sense

David Borden, Executive Director, 7/14/06

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David Borden
Call me old fashioned, but I like it when rule-makers play by the rules. I like it when the law corresponds to reality, both in wording and interpretation. I like it when laws make sense.

I don't like it when legislators thumb their noses at their constitutions to enact laws they know don't pass muster. Unpopular Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski's marijuana re-criminalization bill, partially struck down by a Superior Court judge this week based on the state Supreme Court's standing word, is a good example. The bill signed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to change California's initiative-enshrined treatment-not-jail law in ways that contradict the voters' choice is another.

As worrisome as methamphetamine recipes floating around the Internet may be for some, the bill signed by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm aiming at those almost certainly flouts the First Amendment. Are they going to sue publishers of online, academic chemistry texts that happen to include information on this legally-prescribable schedule II substance?

I don't like "legal fictions" -- definitions in the law that have to then be dealt with as if they were real when in fact they're not. The much criticized asset forfeiture laws, in many of which a mere object is the entity that gets accused of the crime (allowing the government to take property from innocent owners) rely on that fiction for their justification. Another such fiction is laws in 21 states, including another from Michigan, that categorically equate certain drug activity with child abuse -- whether a child was actually abused or not.

It's important to remember that child abuse laws are already on the books -- if a child is getting abused, some form of intervention by the law to address the situation is appropriate. But if a parent, for example, takes some methamphetamine while at home in order to stay up late to meet a critical work deadline, but without acting aggressively or neglecting the family's needs, how is that child abuse? Many people take meth or similar drugs on prescription from their doctors for very similar purposes. Doing so without a prescription is illegal, and can certainly be disconcerting. Some meth users do become unstable or violent. But are the two situations really so very different -- inherently, by definition -- for the latter to qualify as child abuse, even if no actual abusive acts ever take place?

Even when meth is being manufactured, it's fictional to equate it with abuse categorically, the legitimate dangers of meth manufacturing notwithstanding. If chemicals are being handled in a way that subjects children to harm qualifying as abuse, and if it's done intentionally or with clear, willful recklessness, then it doesn't matter whether it's meth or another drug or the stuff in those bottles underneath your kitchen sink, it's still abuse (or perhaps endangerment). But the fact that it's a drug being manufactured is purely incidental.

It's not legal hair-splitting to say that, because applying the label of "child abuse" creates an appearance that the accused is a monster who probably belongs in jail and almost certainly shouldn't be entrusted with children. But that may not at all be the case; the user may be a responsible user who takes perfectly good care of the kids. The user may be addicted and need help, but never raise a hand against a son or daughter or place them in danger. Even the dealer or manufacturer may only be trying to get by in difficult economic circumstances -- the illegal activity may be what one is doing in order to provide better for the children. That's a sad circumstance, but it's a circumstance faced by many. Disconcerting, yes, but child abuse?

The most offensive thing about the California development is that it was a coalition of law enforcement groups and drug court judges who pressed for the bill. They don't like the restrictions Prop 36 put on them. But so what? They have the right to field their own counter-initiative (with private money, of course), if they think they could win it. They lost pretty badly the first time. But the voters spoke, and the state constitution says that counts.

I don't think our law enforcers -- judges, of all people -- should disrespect the constitutions whose tenets are intended to stand over and bind them. Though they claim to hold law in reverence, in this they have trampled it. Call me old fashioned, but I don't think that's good for our country.

Philanthropist Pledges $3.5 Million Matching Grant to MPP

Here is an email that went out today from the Marijuana Policy Project: Philanthropist pledges $3.5 million matching grant to MPP! Dear Phil Smith: The Marijuana Policy Project has received a commitment from a major philanthropist to match the first $3.5 million we can raise from the rest of the planet. This is a huge opportunity for MPP and all of us who are working to end marijuana prohibition. If we succeed at securing $3.5 million + $3.5 million = $7.0 million in revenues this year, all of the projects mentioned below will be fully funded this year ... and into next year. Would you please help make this financial windfall a reality by making your own contribution today? The matching funding comes in two stages. The first $2.3 million that you and other MPP allies donate will be matched by $2.3 million from the philanthropist. Then, if we can raise an additional $1.2 million from you and other allies, the philanthropist will again match that with $1.2 million of his own. We've already raised $2,026,479 this year. If each of the 101,000 subscribers on this e-mail list were to donate just $5 each, we would immediately jump over the $2.3 million hurdle. But not everyone on this e-mail list will donate $5 — or even read this e-mail message — so please consider donating $10, $50, $250 (you'll receive a DVD of MPP's TV debates and other highlights), or $1,000 (you'll become a Lifetime Member of MPP). Does money really make a difference? In a word, "Yes." Please consider these two thoughts: - Because 78% of the American people already support allowing patients to use marijuana "to reduce pain and suffering," according to the latest Gallup poll, the only thing that's preventing us from making medical marijuana legal in Michigan, Ohio, Florida, and all 50 states is our ability to hire lobbyists and/or to put medical marijuana initiatives on the ballot. - Because 36% of the American people say "the use of marijuana should be made legal," according to Gallup, we need to continue dedicating resources to educating the public on the harms of marijuana prohibition ... until a majority of voters agree. In short, money is one of the most critical factors that will determine how quickly we — which includes you — can end marijuana prohibition. It's not the academic commitment of the people who agree with MPP ... or the righteousness of our cause ... or our willpower, or our intelligence. These elements are all important, but it's money that translates good ideas into good laws. If you're able to help us reach the $3.5 million milestone — preferably by October 1, so that we can actually use the money to pass key ballot initiatives this November 7 — we'll be able to fully fund the following: - MPP's ballot initiative in Nevada to end marijuana prohibition entirely, which Nevadans will be voting on this November. - The ad campaign we recently launched on Jim Hightower's national radio show. - Local ballot initiatives to make adult marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority for local police in Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Missoula County (Montana), and Portland (Oregon) ... which all five communities are voting on this November. - The medical marijuana initiative in South Dakota that — if passed by a majority of the voters this November — would make South Dakota the 12th medical marijuana state ... and the first medical marijuana state in the midwest. - Public opinion polling to help us determine where to run similar statewide medical marijuana initiatives in 2007 and 2008. Will you please help achieve what you believe in by voting with your dollars today? MPP is doing everything it can to end the government's war on marijuana users, but we need the financial means to achieve the goal. I want to thank you in advance for any help you can provide. Financial support from supporters like you is literally the only thing that makes our work possible. Sincerely, Rob Kampia Executive Director Marijuana Policy Project Washington, D.C. P.S. If you join MPP's pledge program at a level of $5 or more per month, you'll receive your choice of MPP's colorful "Stop Arresting Patients" t-shirt, a DVD of the award-winning medical marijuana documentary Waiting to Inhale, or the DVD BUSTED: The Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters. And if you donate $250 or more (or sign up for a monthly pledge of at least $50), we'll also mail you a compilation DVD featuring the TV and radio ads, TV news coverage, and raw video coverage from MPP's campaigns last year
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United States

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