Medical Marijuana

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Italy signals major overhaul of drugs laws (EuroNews, France)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://euronews.net/create_html.php?page=detail_info&article=390711&lng=1

It's time to legalize marijuana in Illinois (Chicago Sun-Times)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.suntimes.com/news/anderson/132863,CST-EDT-monroe12.article

Election 2006: Massachusetts Voters in Four More Districts Continue the Clamor for Marijuana Law Reform

Since 2000, marijuana reform activists associated with MassCann, the Bay State NORML affiliate, and the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts have sponsored advisory marijuana reform questions in state representative and senate districts and have won every one. The trend continued this year, with reform questions in four more districts being approved by voters.

According to DPFMA board member John Leonard, a question asking whether representatives in the 1st and 12th Plymouth Representative Districts should be instructed to support marijuana decriminalization passed in both, with margins of 61% and 60% respectively. In the 3rd Middlesex Senate District and the 7th Norfolk Representative District, voters were asked to vote on questions asking whether to instruct their representatives to support medical marijuana legislation. Those questions won with 67% in Middlesex and 64% in Norfolk.

According to MassCann, more than 420,000 Massachusetts residents in 110 communities had voted to urge their legislators to embrace either decriminalization or medical marijuana before Election Day. We can now add another 63,000 pro-reform votes and four more communities to the tally.

In a debate last month, newly elected Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick said he's "very comfortable" with the idea of marijuana legalization but would veto a decriminalization bill if it came to his desk because "I just don't think it ought to be our priority." Hopefully the legislature will give him the opportunity to change his mind.

Election 2006: South Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Backers Vow to Try Again After Narrow Defeat

In an unexpectedly strong showing, an initiative that would have allowed seriously ill patients to use marijuana garnered nearly half the votes in the socially conservative Upper Midwest state of South Dakota. But it couldn't quite get over the top, losing by a margin of 48% to 52%. South Dakota thus earns the distinction of being the only state where voters have rejected medical marijuana at the ballot box.

Backers of the effort, while disappointed, are undeterred, and have already announced they will try again in 2008 or 2010. But the state will remain a tough nut to crack.

A stark illustration of the political atmosphere in the state when it comes to marijuana was the fact that South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana, the initiative organizers, could only come up with two patients willing to go public about their marijuana use. But perhaps that should be no surprise in a state where "ingestion" of marijuana is a criminal offense for which people are routinely sentenced to jail time and a public acknowledgment of one's marijuana use could became the basis for a search warrant demanding a urine sample, which would then be used to file ingestion charges.

The measure won majority support in Minnehaha County (52%), where nearly a quarter of the state's voters reside, the college town environs of Brookings County (52%) and Clay County (62%), Gateway Computers' home Union County (51%), the Black Hills' Lawrence County (52%), and a handful of other sparsely populated West River counties. But in most of the state's East River farm country counties, voters rejected the measure, sometimes narrowly, but occasionally by large margins, and even Pennington County, the home of Rapid City, the state's second largest city, voted narrowly against it (51%).

While initiative supporters ran a relatively low-profile campaign -- the state's ballot was full of hot button issues, including an abortion ban and a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage -- opponents led by Republican South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long rallied local law enforcement in opposition to the measure. Long also called in the big guns from Washington, DC, bringing White House Office on National Drug Control Policy Deputy Director Scott Burns to the state for a series of widely publicized press conferences denouncing the measure as a "con" and a "sham."

Drug czar John Walters himself weighed in on the state initiative with a press release the Friday before the election. "This proposal is a scam being pushed on the citizens of South Dakota by people who want to legalize drugs," Walters warned. "Marijuana is a much more harmful drug than many Americans realize. There are more teens now in treatment for marijuana dependence than for all other illegal drugs combined. It is unfortunate that people who have been trying to legalize this drug for many years are exploiting the suffering of genuinely sick people to further their political ends."

The intervention by South Dakota law enforcement and federal drug warriors was key in preventing the measure from passing, said initiative spokesperson and medical marijuana patient Valerie Hannah, a Gulf War veteran who uses the drug to ease the symptoms of neurological disorders she suffers as a result of her service. "Attorney General Long bringing in the drug czar's people really hurt us," she told Drug War Chronicle. "They said things like having a caregiver just meant somebody to get high with, which is just not the case."

For the national marijuana reform movement, the South Dakota loss -- its first at the polls -- was a tough blow, but movement leaders vowed to try again. "We knew from the early polling that this would be an uphill fight, particularly on a ballot filled with hot-button issues, and with the White House and the whole state establishment, including the attorney general, against us," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which provided support for the South Dakota effort. "The fact that we came this close against such powerful opposition is remarkable. Working with the local activists who started this effort, we plan to try again with another medical marijuana initiative in South Dakota in November 2008 or 2010," he announced.

"Every day, science continues to prove the medical value of marijuana," Kampia continued. "In just the last two months we've seen evidence of remarkable benefit against hepatitis C and even potential against Alzheimer's disease. It's tragic that brave patients like Val Hannah, who spoke out for the initiative, will continue to face arrest and jail for simply trying to preserve their health, but in the long run, science and common sense will triumph over ignorance and fear."

"South Dakota's result, while disheartening, does nothing to change the fact that according to national polls, nearly eight out of ten Americans support the physician-approved use of medicinal cannabis," said Paul Armentano, senior policy analyst for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

Sick people like Hannah remain at risk of arrest and imprisonment for using marijuana to relieve their symptoms, but she refused to be saddened by the outcome. "I'm proud of what we did. We came very close, and this means people here are waking up. The South Dakotans who supported us made a wise choice. Next time, we will be working to get the education and knowledge out to the public more efficiently so they can make a more informed decision," she said. "We can pass this in South Dakota, perhaps through another ballot initiative in 2008. I remain hopeful," she added.

Missoula OKs initiative relaxing enforcement of marijuana laws (Helena Independent Record, MT)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.helenair.com/articles/2006/11/09/montana/a06110906_02.txt

Voters take on pot, sick pay, minimum wage and healthcare (Los Angeles Times)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/politics/cal/la-me-state8nov08,0,6561989.story?coll=la-center-politics-cal

South Dakotans defeat medical marijuana measure (Pioneer Press, MN)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/15954962.htm

Looking Bad for the Statewide Marijuana Initiatives

It's just after 1AM Eastern time, and it looks like the Colorado, Nevada, and South Dakota marijuana initiatives are all headed for defeat. It ain't over 'til it's over, of course, but it's almost over. The South Dakota medical marijuana initiative is losing by 52% to 48% with more than two-thirds of the votes counted. The margin has been similar all night long. There's a slim chance late votes from Rapid City could switch the result, but we are rapidly approaching the point where it becomes mathematically impossible. The Nevada "tax and regulate" initiative is losing by 56% to 44%. I can't tell from the Nevada secretary of state's web page what percentage of the vote has been counted, but it is substantial, and the numbers have been in this range all night. The Colorado legalization initiative is losing by 61% to 39% with 47% of the vote counted. Both CNN and the Rocky Mountain News have called this election already. If these results hold, that's a big disappointment, although not a big surprise. There are other drug policy-related issues and candidacies to report on, and if you don't see me blogging about them here this week, look for the full breakdown in the Chronicle on Friday.
Location: 
United States

Medical Marijuana: First New Federal Prosecution in Three Years Underway in California

The US Justice Department had not prosecuted a California medical marijuana patient since 2003, but that changed Wednesday as the federal trial of Merced County medical marijuana patient and provider Dustin Costa got under way in Fresno. Costa, a leading medical marijuana activist, was originally arrested on state charges, but Merced County prosecutors handed his case over to the feds when it became apparent that California's Compassionate Use Act would make it impossible to convict him under California law.

The last federal medical marijuana patient and provider trial in California was the Ed Rosenthal debacle. In that case, Rosenthal was convicted on federal marijuana manufacture charges after the jury was not allowed to hear testimony relating to medical marijuana. Rosenthal was convicted, but when jurors learned the rest of the story, many of them publicly denounced the trial and the verdict, and the federal judge trying the case sentenced him to only one day in jail.

In Costa's case, the 60-year-old retired Marine who headed the Merced Patients Group, a nonprofit cultivation collective, was originally arrested by Merced County sheriff's deputies when they raided a greenhouse he was using to cultivate marijuana for patients in March 2004. But local prosecutors turned the case over to the feds, and Costa was re-arrested on federal charges in August 2005. Since then, he has been imprisoned at the Fresno County Jail. If convicted on the charges, he faces a mandatory minimum 20-year federal prison sentence.

Costa now faces federal charges of cultivation, possession with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm. As in the Rosenthal case, Costa will not be allowed to even mention medical marijuana or its legality under state law during the trial.

"Dustin Costa is a victim of the federal government's refusal to respect medical science," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, a national medical marijuana advocacy group. "He and all the others being denied a medical defense at trial are the new targets in our government's war on patients."

Costa may be the first medical marijuana patient to be tried by the feds since the Rosenthal trial, but he probably will not be the last. According to figures compiled by Americans for Safe Access, at least 91 other California patients and providers have been arrested on federal marijuana charges and are awaiting trial.

Last Minute Lies in Nevada and South Dakota

Opponents of MPP’s ballot initiatives have resorted to making stuff up out of thin air. Not that they were telling the truth before, but they’ve achieved a new level of dishonesty somehow.

In Nevada, the ironically-named Committee to Keep Nevada Respectable has produced a radio ad saying that the law will prevent workplace drug-testing. That’s a great idea for a law, but Question 7 doesn’t do anything like that.

Check out this lively debate between Neal Levine of the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana and Todd Raybuck of the Committee to Keep Nevada Respectable. When Levine points out that marijuana revenues currently support criminals, Todd Raybuck, a police officer, retorts that in his experience marijuana is usually exchanged casually between friends and family members, not dangerous criminals. Really, Todd? You’re making it sound like marijuana users are normal everyday people.

Meanwhile, in South Dakota, MPP’s medical marijuana initiative is being attacked with stone-age rhetoric courtesy of Save Our Society From Drugs.

This prohibitionists' radio ad — which is airing around the state — lies to voters, claiming, "Smoked marijuana is not medicine. In fact, every major medical association has rejected this notion." This is blatantly false: The American Nurses Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Academy of Sciences, and many others recognize marijuana's medical value.

I don’t know why they’re even bothering to lie about a medical marijuana initiative. The results are in on MMJ laws: they’re harmless. Beyond that, teenage use has gone down in every state that’s passed one. SOSFD should save their energy for when we come around trying to legalize crack, since they’re so sure that’s what we’ll be doing.

I’ve had friends tell me I’m crazy if I think marijuana will ever be legal in this country, but honestly I’m surprised that it hasn’t happened yet. I’m surprised that with so many problems here and abroad, we’re still finding resources to target healthy people who aren’t causing problems. I’m surprised that our opposition remains so confident that a massive permanent international war is by far the best option.

Clearly, the tiny fraction of human history during which drugs have been illegal has been remarkably tainted by unprecedented drug-related social problems, and it takes a great fool to call it a coincidence.

Tomorrow brings the possibility of unlikely but important victories, so with high-hopes and low-expectations I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Stay tuned.

Location: 
United States

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