Medical Marijuana

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Feature: Nail-Biting Time for South Dakota's Medical Marijuana Initiative

With election day little more than a week away, proponents of South Dakota's medical marijuana initiative are increasingly nervous about the measure's prospects in the face of a coordinated onslaught by the state's Republican political establishment, state and local law enforcement, and even the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office). Given South Dakota's social conservatism and a number of hot-button other issues on the ballot, including abortion and gay marriage, the assault by law enforcement only makes voter approval of the measure more difficult. But with no polling on the issue in the state since 2002 (when it got 64% approval), it is hard to gauge exactly where the vote is likely to go.

Known on the ballot as Initiated Measure 4, the medical marijuana measure would allow patients who suffer from specified medical conditions, have the okay of their doctor, and register with the state to use marijuana to alleviate their conditions. The measure also allows registered patients or their caregivers to grow up to six marijuana plants. If the measure passes, South Dakota would become the 12th state to legalize marijuana. If the measure fails, South Dakota would become the first state where voters explicitly rejected medical marijuana.

Beginning late last week, the organized opposition began fighting in earnest with a series of press conferences featuring Attorney General Larry Long (whom organizers were forced to successfully sue over biased ballot language), local law enforcement officials, and deputy drug czar Scott Burns. Burns called medical marijuana "a con" and accused initiative supporters of playing on the sympathies of voters to advance a dangerous agenda.

"It's a step backwards in South Dakota and a step backwards nationally," said Burns at a Sioux Falls press conference last Friday. "Do not fall for the con."

"The risk far outweighs the benefits," said Minnehaha County (Sioux Falls) Sheriff Mike Milstead at the same widely televised and reported press conference. "There's great concern about how easily this marijuana could fall into the wrong hands."

Some South Dakota law enforcement officials have gone further in their arguments against the measure. In a conversation with Drug War Chronicle Thursday, Hughes County (Pierre) Sheriff Mike Leidholt complained that initiative language barring registered patients from being prosecuted as drugged drivers because of residual metabolites in their systems would result in them being able to get away with driving while intoxicated. "If we can't test for the metabolite, how are we to enforce the law, or is that a free pass?" he asked.

Leidholt also expressed concern that marijuana grown for registered patients would escape into the larger market. "This measure allows any patient or caregiver to have up to six marijuana plants," he said. "One marijuana plant can produce up to 13,000 joints. If you have that much, what happens to the rest of it?"

[Editor's Note: We report, you decide. Assuming a joint weighs between one-half gram and one gram, that comes to somewhere between 15 and 30 pounds of smokeable bud. By our calculations, it would take a marijuana plant the size of a full-grown oak tree to produce that many joints.]

Leidholt conceded that marijuana may help a small number of seriously ill people in the state, but argued that that does not outweigh the need to keep marijuana off the streets. "I feel bad for those people, but the dangers are too great," he said.

That argument wasn't flying with Valerie Hannah of Deerfield, a combat medic in the Gulf War who know suffers chronic pain from nerve damage and who is serving as the primary spokesperson for South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana, the group behind the initiative. "We really need this for patients who are truly ill so they can have another means of release," she told the Chronicle.

Hannah and former Denver police officer Tony Ryan, who now lives in Sioux Falls, are the group's public face. Both are appearing in TV commercials airing around the state -- when they can squeeze in among all the abortion, gay marriage, tobacco tax, elected office, and other campaign commercials that are cluttering the airwaves.

"What law enforcement is doing is a real disappointment, but my biggest disappointment is Larry Long bringing in the national deputy drug czar to propagandize at press conferences," she said. "They're really starting to pull out the drug war money and going to town with it."

Hannah is in a lonely fight. No other medical marijuana patient in the state has yet stood up to be counted alongside her. But that is not surprising in a state where anyone who admits to marijuana use could be served with a search warrant and ordered to submit to a drug test, then prosecuted for "unlawful ingestion" of marijuana.

"People are scared here," Hannah said. "Not only are they scared to come out, some people who use medical marijuana have even told me they voted against it because they were afraid law enforcement would look at their ballots and somehow persecute them. It is past time for people to get over their fears and realize this is really all about sick and dying people."

While Hannah other initiative supporters are working frantically to secure victory on November 7, the outcome is "kind of iffy," she said. "Faced with all these false claims from law enforcement and the fear in the air in this state, I don't know how this will come out."

Hannah held out some hope though, citing surprising support among farmers and ranchers in the sparsely-populated, libertarian-leaning northwest part of the state. "That is good, but most of the votes are in the East, especially in Sioux Falls," she noted. With some 177,000 residents in the metro area, Sioux Falls accounts for about one-quarter of the state's population.

"Western South Dakota is a place where outlaws went to hide from the law -- and they stayed -- so it may be fertile ground for medical marijuana even if just for the tax money. But if they lose in Sioux Falls, they lose the entire state," said University of South Dakota political science Professor David Vick. "The city has been growing rapidly, and the small towns around there have become suburbs, and they vote like suburbs," he told the Chronicle.

Vick had a hard time imagining that the measure would succeed. "My opinion is that it will probably not pass," he said. "On the East side of the state, you tend to have values voters who vote along religious lines and conservative political lines. The only way I see this passing is if people vote for it in a backlash against government intrusion or fiscal conservatism. Of course, there are people who have found assistance from medical marijuana or know someone who has, and they could vote for it."

It now looks like an uphill battle in South Dakota, but we will not really know until the votes are counted.

13,000 Joints

That's what a South Dakota sheriff just told me you could get from one marijuana plant. Hmmm, if a joint is somewhere between one-half gram and one gram, that comes to somewhere between 6,500 and 13,000 grams, or 15 to 30 pounds. I would like to meet the grower who can produce such copious quantities. The indoor growers I know estimate they can get maybe one gram of usable marijuana per watt of light in a growing cycle. That means a person growing plants under a 1000 watt light will produce perhaps two pounds of smokable bud, but that typically comes from numerous plants under the light--and if the grower knows what he's doing and everything goes just right. I'm not sure where they're getting a 15 or 30 pounds from one plant. Maybe the sheriff know of some monster mutant strain indigenous to the Dakotas, but somehow I doubt it You can read more about this tomorrow in the story I'm preparing on the South Dakota medical marijuana initiative.
Location: 
SD
United States

Video Offer: Waiting to Inhale

Dear Drug War Chronicle reader:

Many drug reform enthusiasts read on our blog last month about a new video documentary, Waiting to Inhale: Marijuana, Medicine and the Law, and an exciting debate here in Washington between two of my colleagues and a representative of the US drug czar's office that followed the movie's screening. I am pleased to announce that DRCNet is making this film available to you as our latest membership premium -- donate $30 or more to DRCNet and you can receive a copy of Waiting to Inhale as our thanks for your support.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/waitingtoinhale-small.jpg
I've known about Waiting to Inhale for a few years, and I am pretty psyched to see it out now and making waves. People featured in the movie -- medical marijuana providers Mike & Valerie Corral and Jeff Jones, patient spokesperson Yvonne Westbrook, scientist Don Abrams -- are heroes whose stories deserved to be told and whose interviews in this movie should be shown far and wide. You can help by ordering a copy and hosting a private screening in your home! Or you and your activist friends can simply watch it at home for inspiration. (Click here for more information including an online trailer.)

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

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

Sincerely,


David Borden
Executive Director

Europe: Spanish Medical Marijuana Group Goes Public with "Therapeutic Cannabis Bank"

A Spanish medical marijuana activist group, the Amigos de María, has announced the creation of the first publicly known medical marijuana dispensary in the country. Operating through the Internet, the "Cannabis Pharmacy" will provide information about medical marijuana, encourage patients to grow their own, and put patients in contact with listed growers who are prepared to donate part of their crops for patients.

While the Cannabis Pharmacy is the first public dispensary, it is not the first Spanish dispensary. As the group noted, "We are aware that other groups have been doing this for several years in a more or less clandestine form. The only new thing is that we have gone public in the hope that our politicians take note of the matter and normalize, once and for all, the use of cannabis, and until that time arrives, we can reduce the risks of the therapeutic use of cannabis."

Spain is moving jerkily toward acceptance of medical marijuana, with Catalan authorities having authorized a pilot program for marijuana in pharmacies last year. Earlier this year, authorities in Barcelona announced plans for a trial of the marijuana-based sublingual spray Sativex that will involve up to 600 patients and 60 participating pharmacies.

But the Spanish government does not recognize the informal dispensaries, making the move by the Amigos de María a challenge to the government. The Amigos are ready. "We are not afraid because we are convinced that what we are doing is right and will help the people," a spokesman told the Basque newspaper Noticias de Alava. "The law is only good if it is just, and in this case it isn't."

The group has already aroused the ire of the Ministry of Health, which accused it of encouraging youth marijuana use -- a big issue in Spain these days. The Amigos rejected that charge, noting that "At no time have we attempted, as the health minister insinuated, to promote the use of marijuana among young people, and it seems incredible to us that since our project is directed toward sick adults, that the health ministry mixes the two and says it is worried this will normalize use among the youth."

And so the battle is joined.

Canada Grows Medical Marijuana for Its Citizens

In case anyone forgot. CBC News now reports that demand for government marijuana is increasing. Since this particular marijuana isn’t supposed to be very good, my guess is that Canadian patients simply prefer the convenience of not having to buy their medicine from criminals on the street.

So Canada spends tax dollars to provide medical marijuana to sick people, while here in America, we spend tax dollars trying to prevent sick people from getting medical marijuana.

If that doesn’t boggle your mind, consider that Canada provides marijuana even though Sativex is already available up there. Meanwhile our drug warriors want sick people here to wait indefinitely while the FDA figures out how to approve Sativex without admitting that marijuana plants are literally soaked in medicine.

And while Canadian patients are choosing between spliffs and sublingual sprays, Americans patients are choosing between suffering and breaking the law.

Even drug-fearing Americans generally agree that this doesn’t make much sense. But if our drug warriors are correct that marijuana can’t heal the sick without hurting kids, then we’ll be thanking them next year when all Canadian children become crack-addicted sex-workers.

Location: 
United States

The Deputy Drug Czar Comes to South Dakota

Scott Burns, deputy director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota's largest city, on Friday. The only apparent reason for his presence was to try to defeat the medical marijuana initiative on the November 7 ballot. Burns showed up for a press conference with state and local law enforcement officials opposing the initiative.
"It's a step backwards in South Dakota and a step backwards nationally," said Burns. "Do not fall for the con." "The risk far outweighs the benefits," said Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead, who opposes the measure. "There's great concern about how easily this marijuana could fall into the wrong hands."
Burns went on to argue that marijuana was not a medicine, that legalizing medical marijuana would lead to an increase in teen drug use, and that it's just not a good idea, darn it! The press conference got play in the Sioux Falls Argus-Leader and on the main Sioux Falls TV station, KELOland, but both media outlets made sure to include opposing voices. There hasn't been a lot of other coverage of the initiative, a mere handful of stories. The Argus-Leader editiorialized briefly and feebly—sorry, the link seems to have vanished—against the initiative, with its four-sentence editorial complaining that marijuana didn't come in pill form and that passing the initiative would pose problems for police. Both reasons given are lame. Yes, raw marijuana is plant material. It is not processed, standardized, subject to FDA scrutiny (for what that's worth). But that certainly does not stop patients from rapidly learning to titrate their dosage and to figure out which strains work for them. The law enforcement excuse is even sillier. The South Dakota initiative provides for a state registry of patients and caregivers. If a county sheriff believes he may have evidence of a marijuana grow, the only thing he would have to do is pick up the phone and call the Health Department. If the person is not on the registry, let the evidence be gathered and the search warrant be issued. Two weeks until election day. Will South Dakota voters be as compassionate as those in other states? We will soon see.
Location: 
Sioux Falls, SD
United States

Law Enforcement Condemns Marijuana Measure (South Dakota)

Location: 
Sioux Falls, SD
United States
Publication/Source: 
KELO TV Sioux Falls
URL: 
http://www.keloland.com/News/NewsDetail6371.cfm?Id=0,51855

Stand Up to the DEA! (Americans for Safe Access San Diego Action, 10/31)

Please forward this message Patients to Protest DEA Raids at upcoming San Diego Conference Medical cannabis (marijuana) patients and advocates will protest outside a DEA conference in San Diego on Tuesday, October 31, at 12:00 PM. The peaceful protest is in response to recent DEA raids of medical cannabis collectives in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and elsewhere. DEA Administrator Karen Tandy and the Regional DEA Directors will be present at the conference on October 31. This is an opportunity to let Administrator Tandy and the DEA know that California will not tolerate federal raids on collectives and cooperatives that are in compliance with our state law. We need every patient and advocate to attend this protest. Your voice does make a difference. Bring signs, organize a carpool, and invite all your friends! Stand Up to the DEA! Tuesday, October 31, 2006 * 12:00 PM Marriott Mission Valley 8757 Rio San Diego Dr. San Diego, CA 92108-1620 There will be an organizational meeting the night before in San Diego. Call (619) 723-6572 or (323) 464-7719 for information. Reply to this message for flyers and posters. To find out what else you can do to stop the federal assault on medical cannabis, visit http://www.safeaccessnow.org/
Location: 
San Diego, CA
United States

Stand Up to the DEA!

Please forward this message Patients to Protest DEA Raids at upcoming San Diego Conference Medical cannabis (marijuana) patients and advocates will protest outside a DEA conference in San Diego on Tuesday, October 31, at 12:00 PM. The peaceful protest is in response to recent DEA raids of medical cannabis collectives in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and elsewhere. DEA Administrator Karen Tandy and the Regional DEA Directors will be present at the conference on October 31. This is an opportunity to let Administrator Tandy and the DEA know that California will not tolerate federal raids on collectives and cooperatives that are in compliance with our state law. We need every patient and advocate to attend this protest. Your voice does make a difference. Bring signs, organize a carpool, and invite all your friends! Stand Up to the DEA! Tuesday, October 31, 2006 * 12:00 PM Marriott Mission Valley 8757 Rio San Diego Dr. San Diego, CA 92108-1620 There will be an organizational meeting the night before in San Diego. Call (619) 723-6572 or (323) 464-7719 for information. Reply to this message for flyers and posters. To find out what else you can do to stop the federal assault on medical cannabis, visit http://www.safeaccessnow.org/
Date: 
Tue, 10/31/2006 - 12:00pm
Location: 
8757 Rio San Diego Drive
San Diego, CA 92108-1620
United States

Medical Marijuana Policy Signed by CHP, Attorney General, Governor; ASA Lawsuit Settlement Yields Binding "Consent Decree" and $75,000 in

For Immediate Release-October 19, 2006 Contact: William Dolphin 510-919-1498 Medical Marijuana Policy Signed by CHP, Attorney General, Governor ASA Lawsuit Settlement Yields Binding "Consent Decree" and $75,000 in Legal Fees California's medical marijuana patients are now protected from arrest and seizure of their marijuana, thanks to a binding agreement between an advocacy group and state officials. The signed agreement settles a lawsuit filed last February against the California Highway Patrol by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) on behalf of qualified medical cannabis patients who had lost their medicine in CHP traffic stops. CHP had a policy of seizing any cannabis found, regardless of whether the officer was shown patient documentation or not. On August 22, 2005, as a result of the lawsuit, CHP adopted a new policy that respects the rights of qualified patients to possess and transport medical cannabis. The new settlement agreement - signed by CHP officials and counsel for Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Governor Schwarzenegger - makes binding the policy adopted last year. Qualified patients, whether they have a state ID card or not, are allowed to have either the quantities specified by SB420 or the local county guideline amounts, whichever is greater. "We're urging local officials around the state to adopt similar law enforcement policies," said Kris Hermes, ASA legal campaign director. "Medical cannabis patients have rights under the law that must be respected, and this consent decree acknowledges that." As part of the settlement, ASA received reimbursement of $75,000 in legal fees for prosecuting the case. ASA received the money yesterday. "California's private attorney general statute encourages concerned citizens to fix flawed policy through litigation and allows for the award of attorney fees where appropriate," said Joe Elford, ASA Chief Counsel. "This case corrects an egregious policy that completely ignored the right of sick and dying Californians to possess marijuana for medical use." The new consent decree is at http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/CHP_Settlement.pdf. A photo of ASA staff members with an enlargement of the $75,000 check can be seen at http://www.safeaccessnow.org/img/original/CHP_ Settlement.jpg. The CHP policy that went in to effect in August 2005 is at http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/CHP_policy_update.pdf. # # # With more than 30,000 members, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research. _______________________ _______________________ Caren Woodson Americans for Safe Access www.SafeAccessNow.org
Location: 
CA
United States

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