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Press Release: Elected Officials and Advocates Applaud Change to Marijuana Arrest Policy, Pledge Further Reform

For Immediate Release:

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, And Council Members Melissa Mark-Viverito and Jumanne D. Williams Joined by Advocates in Front of Police Headquarters to Applaud Change in Policy for Marijuana Arrests

Policy Shift by NYPD Could End Tens of Thousands of Arrests in NYC, Save Tens of Millions of Dollars and Reduce the Funneling of Young Men of Color into the Criminal Justice System

Elected Officials and Advocates Affirm Support for Legislation in Albany that Standardizes Penalties for Marijuana Possession Offenses to Permanently Curb These Arrests Statewide

New York, NY– Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito and Council Member Jumaane D. Williams, joined by advocates from the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives, VOCAL NY, and the Drug Policy Alliance, gathered in front of One Police Plaza today to celebrate an internal order issued by NYPD Commissioner Raymond Kelly to all precinct commanding officers to stop arresting New Yorkers for small quantities of marijuana if the marijuana was not in plain view.

In 2010, over 54,000 people – mostly black or Latino – were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana in New York State. Over 50,000 of those arrests occurred in New York City, making it the most frequent arrest citywide. On Monday, September 19th, responding to mounting public pressure from elected officials and advocates, NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an operations order that clarified existing marijuana possession laws, instructing officers not to arrest people for marijuana in public view when complying with an officer's demand to "empty their pockets". This change could lead to the reduction of tens of thousands of arrests in New York City.

"The internal directive issued by Commissioner Kelly is a positive step toward a more equitable criminal justice system that treats everyone the same, regardless of race or socioeconomic status,” said Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries. “The NYPD's aggressive stop and frisk practices that have lead to the explosion of improper marijuana arrests in communities of color have helped poison the relationship between the community and police. We will continue to push for the passage of state legislation that changes public view possession of small quantities of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a violation.”

Commissioner Kelly’s operations order can be made permanent, and apply to all of New York State, by passing A.7620 (Jeffries) and S.5187 (Grisanti, R-Buffalo). This legislation would standardize penalties for marijuana possession offences, protect New Yorkers from illegal searches, save taxpayer dollars, and bring down the disproportionately high number of arrests among black and Latino men for marijuana-related crimes by eliminating the misdemeanor charge.

"The New York City Police Commissioner did the right thing when he issued his directive not to arrest people who produce small amounts of marijuana in public view when compelled by police," said  New York State Senator Mark Grisanti (R- Buffalo). "Unfortunately, this order does not impact people in Buffalo who experience these same situations every day. We can make this order permanent and have it apply statewide by passing legislation in Albany that will help put an end to these racially biased, fiscally wasteful, and unlawful arrests for small amounts of marijuana."

Council Member Mark-Viverito introduced a City Council resolution that Council Member Williams is sponsoring that supports the passage of this legislation.

“The directive issued by Commissioner Kelly is a huge victory for communities of color in the city of New York, who for years have been disproportionately targeted for small-time marijuana arrests” said Council Member Melissa Mark-Viverito.  “Finally, the NYPD will be respecting the intent of the State law that de-criminalized small amounts of marijuana decades ago, and our youth will no longer face arrest for this small-time offense.  I personally raised this issue with Commissioner Kelly at two different Council hearings earlier this year as a major concern for my district and communities like mine across the city.  I applaud the Commissioner for acting on the concerns that so many of us in the Council and beyond have been expressing about this policy.  We will continue to closely monitor how stop and frisk policies are carried out in our city and to advocate for the passage of the State legislation introduced by Senator Grisanti and Assemblyman Jeffries.”

Marijuana has been decriminalized since 1977, making possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana a violation, punishable by a $100 fine, not arrest and jail. However, possessing or burning marijuana in public view is a criminal offense punishable by arrest and jail.

"Commissioner Kelly has finally answered the alarm sounded by advocates and our communities,” said Council Member Jumaane D. Williams. “However, it will take continued vigilance on all of our parts to make sure that officers are patrol are heeding the message and bringing an end to the racial inequality and fiscal waste of this disturbing trend of illegal arrests. We also must continue to push for the bipartisan state legislation that will ensure this order is made permanent for all New Yorkers.”

Since 1996, the New York City Police Department has made over 535,000 arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Although the “public view” provision was meant to criminalize public display and smoking of marijuana, most of these arrests were not for that offense, but instead the result of complying with an officer's demand to disclose contraband or from a police search and being improperly charged for "marijuana in public view" instead of the non-criminal violation offense. Although marijuana use is higher among whites, 86% of those arrested for marijuana possession were young Black and Latino youth.

Advocates who have worked for years to address the out of control marijuana arrests by NYPD weighed in on the significance of the recent directive.

“It must be noted that these spurious arrests are largely a result of a racially biased and improper stop and frisk practice that often result in illegal searches, and this order does not address this injustice,” said Kyung Ji Rhee, director of  Institute for Juvenile Justice Reform and Alternatives. “We will continue to hold NYPD accountable on this front.”

“It’s about time!,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.  “I just want to give a belated thanks to Ray Kelly for agreeing at last to comply with both the spirit and letter of the marijuana decriminalization law that New York enacted back in 1977.”

"We can't talk about marijuana arrests without bringing up why they happen in the first place - stop and frisks and illegal searches that are targeted in communities of color," said Alfredo Carrasquillo, a community organizer for VOCAL-NY who has been arrested in the past for marijuana possession. "That won't necessarily change as a result of this new policy, but it should. Mayor Bloomberg must also seal the records of people who have been convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana in the past given that he knows how difficult it can make finding a job or housing."

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Location: 
1 Police Plaza
New York, NY
United States

Members of Congress to Introduce Historic Legislation Ending Marijuana Prohibition (Press Release)

MEDIA ADVISORY                                                                                                                                    June 22, 2011

Thursday: Members of Congress to Introduce Historic Legislation Ending Marijuana Prohibition

The Legislation, Modeled after the Repeal of Alcohol Prohibition, Comes on the 40th Anniversary of the Failed War on Drugs and on the Heels of a Global Commission Report Recommending Marijuana Legalization

Teleconference: Rep. Barney Frank and Leading Organizations Working to End the Failed War on Marijuana Explain the Significance of the Legislation

CONTACT: Morgan Fox, communications manager………………......(202) 905-2031 or [email protected]

WASHINGTON, DC - Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) will introduce bi-partisan legislation tomorrow, June 23, ending the federal war on marijuana and letting states legalize, regulate, tax, and control marijuana without federal interference. Other co-sponsors include Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). The legislation would limit the federal government’s role in marijuana enforcement to cross-border or inter-state smuggling, allowing people to legally grow, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal. The legislation is the first bill ever introduced in Congress to end federal marijuana prohibition.

            Leading critics of the war on marijuana will explain its significance for state and national marijuana policy at a national tele-press conference on Thursday.

What:  Tele-Press Conference on the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011

When:Thursday, June 23. 2:00pm EST / 11am PST

Call-in Info: 1-800-311-9404; Passcode: Marijuana

Who:  

·        Representative Barney Frank (D-4th/MA)

·        Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)

·        Aaron Houston, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)

·        Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

·        Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)

Last week marked the 40th Anniversary of President Nixon declaring a war on marijuana and other drugs. In an oped in the New York Times last week, timed for the 40th Anniversary, former President Jimmy Carter called for reforming marijuana laws.

The legislation also comes on the heels of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which released a report on June 2 calling for a major paradigm shift in how our society deals with drugs, including calling for legal regulation of marijuana. The report sent a jolt around the world, generating thousands of international media stories.  The commission is comprised of international dignitaries including Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations; Richard Branson, entrepreneur, founder of the Virgin Group; and the former Presidents of Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, and Switzerland. Representing the U.S. on the commission are George P. Shultz, Paul Volcker, and John Whitehead.

46.5% of Californians voted last year to legalize marijuana in their state, and voters in Colorado, Washington and possibly other states are expected to vote on the issue next year. In the past year at least five state legislatures have considered legalizing marijuana, including California, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington. 16 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use, but the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) continues to arrest people under federal law and U.S. Attorneys have in recent months sent threatening letters to state policymakers in an apparent attempt to meddle in state decision-making.

Rep. Frank’s legislation would end state/federal conflicts over marijuana policy, reprioritize federal resources, and provide more room for states to do what is best for their own citizens.

With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.

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Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

85% of Grandparent Respondents Favor Marijuana Legalization, According to GRAND Magazine Reader Poll (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 26, 2011

CONTACT: Rosa Mangiardi at (415) 728-2113

85% of Grandparent Respondents Favor Marijuana Legalization, According to GRAND Magazine Reader Poll

Online Magazine for Grandparents Releases Response Results to Op-Ed Question Posed in its March/April Issue


St. Petersburg, FL. (PRWEB) Attitudes about the criminalization of marijuana may be changing among the elders of our society, as the more than 70 million of the baby boomer generation, one to widely experiment with recreational drug use, have and will become grandparents.

GRAND Magazine, the online magazine for today's grandparents, released today results from their poll question which appeared in the March/April issue. It asked readers if it was time to legalize marijuana. 85% responded that they agreed it was.

The reader respondents who are pot proponents argued in their responses that it is hypocritical to outlaw pot when cigarettes, alcohol and fat-laden foods are legal but account for so many health issues among our population. They point out that marijuana is used to treat medical symptoms such as pain and nausea, and that in some states it is legal for shops to dispense medical marijuana. The billions that are spent in the U.S. on policing and courts related to this issue could be spent on better schools or infrastructure.

Grandparents who are part of the baby boomer generation (those born from 1946 to 1964)(1) have a unique perspective on marijuana, having come of age during a time when pot use became mainstream. 21st century grandparents are a group with a significant influence on the country’s youth as they are the primary caregivers for more than 6 million children(2). In fact, approximately 75 percent of all non-parental care of children is provided by a grandparent(3), representing a large shift in family dynamics. Now it seems that as they guide and influence new generations, they view marijuana use increasingly as a harmless indulgence rather than a gateway to a lifetime of drug abuse.

Among the reader response comments were:

“I am a grandparent strongly in favor of decriminalization. I would much rather my grandkids smoke pot than use cigarettes or alcohol. I expect I will need cannabis for my health soon and don’t want (it) to be illegal. The whole charade needs to stop; we are blowing far too much money on the drug war and have no positive results to show for it. The whole approach is counterproductive,” said D.W., Guysville, OH.

“I am a grandparent of a 17 year-old granddaughter who has been struggling with drug addiction since she was 14 years old. I believe that marijuana is a gateway drug and it has always been her reluctance to give up pot that has brought her back again and again to more dangerous drugs. I understand that the same arguments that have been used for years with the responsible adult consumption of alcohol apply to responsible adult use of pot. … I would vote against legal sale of marijuana…,” said A.C.

To read additional reader responses, click here

The link to the page in the GRAND magazine March/April online edition op-ed reader poll that asks, ‘Is it time to legalize marijuana?’ is: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/grand/20110304_v3/index.php#/51/OnePage

GRAND Magazine
GRAND magazine is an online bi-monthly magazine that serves the more than 70 million U.S. grandparent market. It is delivered exclusively in digital format. It is published by GRAND Media, LLC, which was established in 2004. For more information about GRAND magazine visit: http://www.GRANDmagazine.com.

1. U.S. Census Bureau
2. American Community Survey, 2007, U.S. Census Bureau
3. State Fact Sheet for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children, 2007, AARP Foundation, Brookdale Foundation Group, Casey Family Programs, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Defense Fund, and Generations United

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Bills to Ensure Fair Treatment of Medical Cannabis Industry Members Are Introduced in U.S. House (Press Release)

National Cannabis Industry Association

For Immediate Release -- WEDNESDAY, MAY 25

Bills to Ensure Fair Treatment of Medical Cannabis Industry Members Are Introduced in U.S. House

The logic behind the introduction of the “Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2011” and the “Small Business Banking Improvement Act of 2011” stands in sharp contrast to the actions of U.S. Attorneys who hope to keep medical cannabis sales underground, untaxed and unregulated

CONTACT: Steve Fox, NCIA dir. of public affairs at 202-379-4861 ext. 2 or [email protected]

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, for the first time in history, two bills that would benefit members of the medical cannabis industry were introduced in Congress. The introduction of the bills, which address banking and tax issues faced by medical cannabis providers, follow months of advocacy by the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). The bills were part of a coordinated introduction of three bills to protect and support medical marijuana patients and providers in states where the use of medical marijuana is legal. The third bill, the “States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act,” would modify federal law so that individuals acting in compliance with state law are immune from federal prosecution.

            The industry bills were introduced with bipartisan lead sponsors. Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) are the lead sponsors of the “Small Business Tax Equity Act of 2011,” which would amend Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code so that medical marijuana providers can take standard business deductions like any other business. The “Small Business Banking Improvement Act of 2011,” sponsored by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), would allow financial institutions to work with medical marijuana businesses without the fear of running afoul of federal banking regulations.

            These bills have been introduced at a time when the nation is witnessing a strange reaction by U.S. Attorneys to the development of state-regulated systems of medical marijuana distribution. In October 2009, the Department of Justice issued a memo to federal prosecutors, instructing them to de-prioritize the prosecution of individuals acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. This has given states like New Mexico, Colorado and Maine the ability to establish tightly regulated system. Yet some U.S. Attorneys, faced with the prospect of sensible regulations being established in other states, have issued misleading and threatening letters to sidetrack legislative and administrative progress.

            “There are hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients in this country who benefit when they are able to purchase their medicine from safe, reliable and regulated establishments,” said Steve Fox, NCIA’s director of public affairs. “It is time for the federal government to acknowledge that these businesses are providing a service to their communities, not causing them harm. Without these regulated, tax-paying businesses, all medical marijuana sales would occur underground. The profits would bolster the criminal market and local, state and federal governments would receive no tax revenue. These medical marijuana providers are not looking for special treatment. They just want to be able to function in a manner similar to any other legal business. That is what these tax and banking bills would allow.”

*     *     *     *     *

            The mission of the National Cannabis Industry Association is to defend, promote and advance the interests of the cannabis industry and its members. NCIA publicly advocates for the unique needs of the emerging cannabis industry and defends against those aiming to eliminate the legal market for cannabis and cannabis-related products. For more information, please visit www.TheCannabisIndustry.org.

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Patient Advocates Back Three Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in Congress (Press Release)

For Immediate Release: May 25, 2011

Patient Advocates Back Three Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced Today in Congress 

Advocacy Group Unveils New Program to Build More Skilled, Responsive Grassroots Force

Washington, DC -- Three medical marijuana bills were introduced today in Congress with support from patient advocates. The most significant of the three bills is one introduced by Congressman Frank (D-MA), which reclassifies marijuana from its current status as a dangerous drug with no medical value. Another bill, introduced by Congressman Polis (D-CO), will allow banks and other financial institutions to provide services to medical marijuana businesses without being subject to "suspicious activity" reporting requirements. The third bill, introduced by Congressman Stark (D-CA), changes the federal tax code "to allow a deduction for expenses in connection with the trade or business of selling marijuana intended for patients for medical purposes pursuant to State law."

"All of these bills will have a positive effect on hundreds of thousands of Americans and only a negligible impact to the rest of the country," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "This kind of policy shift is a no-brainer and should garner the bipartisan support of Congress."

To shore up support for these and other local and state medical marijuana bills, ASA is launching a new advocacy program.

The introduction of Congressional legislation today comes as ASA is equipping patient advocates with new tools to lobby local, state and federal governments. ASA unveiled a new program today that establishes a "Medical Cannabis Think Tank "to provide activists the support they need to analyze pending or proposed legislation and to lobby for the best laws possible. To support the lobbying effort, ASA also unveiled its new "Online  Training Center," with more than 4 hours of educational streaming video and over 400 pages of instruction manuals and worksheets. ASA's program also includes an improved "Raid  Response Center" to better prepare for aggressive federal interference.

As part of its "Sick and Tired" campaign, ASA and others filed a writ Monday in the DC Circuit to compel the federal government to answer a 9-year-old petition to reclassify cannabis. The Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) argued in the writ that the government has unreasonably delayed an answer to the petition in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. "The Drug Enforcement Administration has the opportunity right now to address the needs of patients across the country by reclassifying cannabis," continued Sherer. "However, since Congress can also reclassify cannabis, we are urging passage of the Frank bill in order to take advantage of all points of leverage."

If passed, the Frank bill would not only recognize marijuana's medical value, but also provide a medical necessity defense in federal court, a right not currently afforded to patients and caregivers who are in compliance with their local and state laws. The Frank bill would also usher forth greater research into the therapeutic properties of cannabis and create incentives for the development of new cannabis-based medication.

Advocates hope the Polis bill, if passed, will end the current ban on services for medical marijuana businesses by institutions like Wells Fargo, CitiCorp and Bank of America. The Stark bill has the potential to end dozens of audits by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) currently taking place, and settle once and for all whether the IRS can demand tax on gross or just net proceeds.

Further information:

Rescheduling bill (Frank):

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Frank_bill_2011.pdf

Banking bill (Polis):

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Polis_bill_2011.pdf

IRS bill (Stark):

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Stark_bill_2011.pdf

ASA Think Tank: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/section.php?id=384

ASA Online Training Center:

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/article.php?list=type&type=385

ASA Raid Response Center:

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/article.php?list=type&type=168

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New Jersey Attorney General Meets with Medical Marijuana Advocates (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 5/25/2011

CONTACT: Ken Wolski at 609-394-2137 or [email protected], or Chris Goldstein at 267-702-3731

New Jersey Attorney General Meets With Medical Marijuana Advocates

[Trenton - New Jersey] Attorney General Paula Dow sat down with the Coalition for Medical Marijuana NJ (CMMNJ) on May 24th at her office in Trenton.  The AG and her staff held the meeting to hear concerns from local advocates about the compassionate use marijuana program that has now been suspended by Governor Christie.

Ken Wolski RN, the executive director of CMMNJ, was grateful for the interaction.

“Attorney General Paula Dow and First Assistant Phillip Kwon took time out their demanding schedules to listen to some very serious issues for New Jersey's medical marijuana law," said Wolski, "Qualifying patients continue to wait for this program and we hope that some of their concerns were heard. The Office of the Attorney General plays a key role in the implementation and administration of the compassionate use law.”

On April 22, 2011 Dow sent a letter to the Department of Justice in Washington DC requesting clarification about the medical marijuana law. Several US Attorneys have recently issued letters in other states with a clear description of how federal authorities will prosecute medical marijuana facilities, even if they are permitted under state law. In Washington, Montana and other states the letters were accompanied by DEA raids of local medical cannabis dispensaries.

NJ Attorney General Paula Dow stated in the meeting that she sent a follow-up letter to the US Department of Justice, addressed to US Attorney General Eric Holder, on May 23, 2011.

Paul Fishman, the US Attorney for New Jersey, has not sent any communication regarding the NJ medical marijuana law before or after Dow’s requests. A spokesperson at the US DOJ said the April 22nd letter from New Jersey had been received and was under review.

Chris Goldstein, the media coordinator at CMMNJ also attended the meeting.

“Not a single person in New Jersey has been able to register for medical cannabis, despite many promises from Governor Christie,” said Goldstein, “But I think that we had a meaningful exchange of new ideas with Attorney General Dow. The intent of The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act is to grant legal access to seriously ill residents. There are some methods that the AG's office can explore to actively protect New Jersey’s medical cannabis patients today."

New Jersey passed the first compassionate use law in the country that forces patients into a centralized system of just six Alternative Treatment Centers to access all of their state-legal cannabis. There are no provisions in the NJ law to allow patients or caregivers to cultivate cannabis on their own. The law was supposed to have been fully implemented in the summer of 2010 but has suffered numerous delays.

CMMNJ’s Ken Wolski is looking forward to meeting with the one state official who has exercised the most influence over the medical marijuana law: Governor Chris Christie.

“It is long past time for Governor Christie to actually meet with patients and advocates in our state to discuss the compassionate use law.”

Location: 
NJ
United States

Medical Marijuana Advocates Sue Federal Government Over Rescheduling Delay (Press Release)

For Immediate Release: May 23, 2011

Medical Marijuana Advocates Sue Federal Government Over Rescheduling Delay/Writ filed today in DC Circuit Court for unreasonable delay in answering 9-year-old petition

*Washington, DC* -- A Coalition of advocacy groups and patients filed suit in the DC Circuit Court today to compel the Obama administration to answer a 9-year-old petition to reclassify medical marijuana. The Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) has never received an answer to its 2002 petition, despite a formal recommendation in 2006 from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the final arbiter in the rescheduling process. As recently as July 2010, the DEA issued a 54-page "Position on Marijuana," but failed to even mention the pending CRC petition. Plaintiffs in the case include the CRC, Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Patients Out of Time, as well as individually named patients, one of whom is listed on the CRC petition but died in 2005.

"The federal government's strategy has been delay, delay, delay," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel of ASA and lead counsel on the writ. "It is far past time for the government to answer our rescheduling petition, but unfortunately we've been forced to go to court in order to get resolution." The writ of mandamus filed today accuses the government of unreasonable delay in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. A previous cannabis (marijuana) rescheduling petition filed in 1972 went unanswered for 22 years before being denied.

The writ argues that cannabis is not a dangerous drug and that ample evidence of its therapeutic value exists based on scientific studies in the US and around the world. "Despite numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies establishing that marijuana is effective" in treating numerous medical conditions, the government "continues to deprive seriously ill persons of this needed, and often life-saving therapy by maintaining marijuana as a Schedule I substance." The writ calls out the government for unlawfully failing to answer the petition despite an Inter-Agency Advisory issued by the Food and Drug Administration in 2006 and "almost five years after receiving a 41-page memorandum from HHS stating its scientific evaluation and recommendations."

The two largest physician groups in the country -- the American Medical Association <http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/AMA_Report.pdf> and the American College of Physicians <http://www.acponline.org/advocacy/where_we_stand/other_issues/medmarijuana.pdf> -- have both called on the federal government to review marijuana's status as a Schedule I substance with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. The National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health, added cannabis to its website earlier this year as a Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) and recognized that, "/Cannabis/ has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years prior to its current status as an illegal substance."

Medical marijuana has now been decriminalized in 16 states and the District of Columbia, and has an 80% approval rating among Americans according to several polls. In a 1988 ruling on a prior rescheduling petition, the DEA's own Administrative Law Judge Francis Young recommended in favor of reclassification stating that, "Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man."

A formal rejection of the CRC petition would enable the group to challenge in court the government's assertion that marijuana has no medical value. "Adhering to outdated public policy that ignores science has created a war zone for doctors and their patients who are seeking use cannabis therapeutics," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of ASA and a plaintiff in the writ. Jon Gettman, who filed the rescheduling petition on behalf of the CRC added that, "The Obama Administration's refusal to act on this petition is an irresponsible stalling tactic."

A synthetic form of THC, the main chemical ingredient in the cannabis plant, is currently classified Schedule III for its use in a prescribed pill trademarked as Marinol®. The pill goes off-patent this year and companies vying to sell generic versions are petitioning the government to also reclassify the more economical, naturally-derived THC (from the plant) to Schedule III. The rescheduling process involves federal agencies such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse, HHS, and DEA. On average, it takes 6 months from HHS review to final action, whereas it's been nearly 5 years since HHS issued its recommendation on the CRC petition, more than twice as long as any other rescheduling petition reviewed since 2002.

Further information:

Writ filed today: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/CRC_Writ.pdf

ASA backgrounder on rescheduling:

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Rescheduling_Backgrounder.pdf

CRC rescheduling petition:

http://www.drugscience.org/PDF/Petition_Final_2002.pdf

2006 HHS recommendation:

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/HHS_Rescheduling_Recommendation.pdf

2010 DEA Position on Marijuana:

http://www.justice.gov/dea/marijuana_position_july10.pdf

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Cops Hold Vigil in DC and Say: Legalize Drugs to Stop Police Deaths

NEWS ADVISORY: May 11, 2011

CONTACT: Tom Angell - 202-557-4979 or [email protected]

Cops Attend Candlelight Vigil and Say "Legalize Drugs" to Honor Fallen Colleagues
Peace Officers Memorial Day Expected to Draw Tens of Thousands to Washington, DC

WASHINGTON, DC -- In conjunction with Peace Officers Memorial Day, some police are pointing out how too many law enforcers are killed in the line of duty enforcing a senseless and unwinnable "war on drugs."  The group, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), is calling for the legalization and regulation off all drugs, and they're telling stories about their fallen friends and colleagues to back up their case.

"When one of my best friends was killed doing an undercover drug purchase, it opened my eyes to the fact that not only are these drug laws ineffective, but they lead to brave and dedicated law enforcers losing their lives," said Neill Franklin, a 34-year veteran of the Maryland State Police and the Baltimore Police Department, now LEAP's executive director. "Ed Toatley was one of the best narcotics agents the state of Maryland ever had, but this failed drug war wasn't worth him losing his life over."

See http://copssaylegalize.blogspot.com/2011/05/remembering-our-fallen-comrades.html for more information about Ed Toatley's story.

WHO: Former police officers who support legalizing drugs

WHAT: Candlelight vigil in remembrance of fallen colleagues

WHEN: Friday, May 13 @ 7:30 PM EST

WHERE: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial; on E St. between 4th and 5th Sts., NW, Washington, DC

The candlelight vigil, which officially begins at 8:00 PM, is sponsored by the National Law Enforcers Memorial Fund and is part of National Police Week. 25,000 to 40,000 police officers and family members are expected to attend official events over the course of the week. The group of pro-legalization police officers will be available for on-site press interviews around 7:30 PM, before the start of the vigil.

More information about Police Week can be found at http://www.policeweek.org/schedule.html.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) represents police, prosecutors, judges, prison warders, federal agents and others who want to legalize and regulate drugs after fighting on the front lines of the "war on drugs" and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence. More info at http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com.

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Location: 
E St. between 4th and 5th Sts., NW National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial
Washington, DC 20004
United States

Maryland Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Defense and Study Bill (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                             May 10, 2011

 

Maryland Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Defense and Study Bill

Gov. O’Malley Fulfills Promise to Offer Limited Patient Protections

CONTACT: Morgan Fox, communications manager………………………..202-905-2031 or [email protected]

ANNAPOLIS – Maryland became the 16th state to remove criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana today when Gov. Martin O’Malley signed SB 308 as promised. The bill allows seriously ill patients to avoid prosecution when charged with marijuana possession and creates a commission to study medical marijuana laws and make recommendations on how Maryland can institute such a program. This is the first time since 2003 that additional protections were considered, and it’s an important step toward protecting medical marijuana patients from arrest and ensuring that they have safe access to their medicine.

“We’re very happy that the Governor signed this bill into law and listened with compassion to seriously ill Marylanders who use marijuana to treat their conditions,” said Dan Riffle, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project. “We look forward to the study group created here making helpful recommendations to further protect such patients.”

Under the new law, individuals diagnosed with debilitating medical conditions, such as cancer or multiple sclerosis, can avoid conviction if charged with the non-public use or possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. An existing sentencing mitigation will remain part of the law, meaning patients who don’t qualify for the full affirmative defense would still have the opportunity to present evidence of medical necessity and have their sentence reduced to a $100 fine. In addition, a work group consisting of medical, legal, and law enforcement experts would be convened to recommend more comprehensive legislation next year. Advocates hope to be able to use that recommendation to pass a bill that offers patients complete protection from arrest and prosecution.

The work group should have the ability to observe a well-regulated medical marijuana program run by their neighbors in the District of Columbia. In April, the District began implementation of its long-awaited medical marijuana program by accepting applications for licensed and well-regulated cultivation centers and dispensaries. That program should be fully operational later this year.

With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.

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Location: 
MD
United States

Medical Marijuana Advocates Stage National Day of Action Against Federal Interference (Press Release)

PRESS RELEASE
Americans for Safe Access
For Immediate Release:
May 2, 2011
Contact: ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer at 510-872-7822 or ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes at 510-681-6361

Medical Marijuana Advocates Stage National Day of Action Against Federal Interference
Rallies in Sacramento & DC as advocates deliver federal "Cease & Desist" orders across the US

Washington, DC -- Patients and their supporters rallied at the Justice Department in Washington, DC today to protest increased federal interference in medical marijuana states. More than 200 supporters also rallied today in Sacramento for medical marijuana patients Dr. Mollie Fry and her husband Dale Schafer as they surrendered to federal authorities to serve out 5-year prison terms. On Thursday, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided several distribution centers in Spokane, Washington, as a state bill to license such facilities was vetoed the next day by Governor Gregoire. Thursday's actions are the latest in a string of more than 100 aggressive SWAT-style federal raids carried out since President Obama took office.

"Patients are sick and tired of being singled out, stigmatized and harassed over the medication they choose," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical marijuana patients' rights group organizing the protest. "At minimum, the federal government must end its intimidation tactics of threats and harmful raids," continued Sherer. "But more importantly, medical marijuana is an urgent public health issue that President Obama should address by working with -- not against -- the patient community."

As part of its "Sick and Tired" campaign, ASA also organized the delivery of "Cease & Desist" orders to federal officials today in 10 medical marijuana states, including Arizona (Phoenix, Tucson), California (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco), Colorado (Denver), Maine (Portland), Michigan (Detroit, Lansing), Montana (Billings), Nevada (Las Vegas), Oregon (Eugene, Portland), Rhode Island (Providence), and Washington (Everett, Seattle, Spokane).

The national day of action comes at a time of heightened federal attacks on medical marijuana states, routinely timed to coincide with state legislative actions. Threats of criminal prosecution have been made by U.S. Attorneys against local and state officials in California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island and Washington. In March, more than two-dozen federal raids in Montana were timed to coincide with deliberation on a pending bill to repeal that state's medical marijuana law. After Governor Schweitzer later vetoed the bill, US Attorney Michael Cotter issued a threatening letter to the state's legislative leadership, further discouraging them from adopting a cultivation and distribution licensing law.

"The imprisonment of Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer is emblematic of a failed federal policy," said Sherer. Fry and Schafer were raided by the DEA in 2001, despite approval from local law enforcement to cultivate medical marijuana. Fry and Schafer were later charged and tried in 2007 for manufacturing, and conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana. They were denied a medical defense despite their adherence to state law and ultimately convicted. In order to obtain the mandatory minimum 5-year sentence, the government was able to add up multiple years of harvests to arrive at more than 100 plants. The Obama administration vigorously fought an appeal of their sentence in the Ninth Circuit.

Adding to the cost of incarceration, both Fry and Schafer are in need of medical attention. Fry, a breast cancer survivor, and Schafer, a hemophiliac, will also be leaving behind a family of 5 children and 2 grandchildren, and will miss the birth of another grandchild in October. Advocates are calling on President Obama to grant clemency and commute Fry and Schafer's sentence. In April, ASA issued a report card, giving Obama a failing grade on medical marijuana. "President Obama has given us nothing but broken promises and half-measures, and patients deserve better," said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes.

Further information:
ASA's "Sick and Tired" campaign page: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/article.php?id=6369
ASA's "Cease & Desist" order: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/ASA_Cease_Desist.pdf
Threatening letters from US Attorneys: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/DOJ_Threat_Letters.pdf
Obama Report Card: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Obama_Report_Card.pdf

# # #

With over 50,000 active members in all 50 states, 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 use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.

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