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FBI Study Shows Marijuana Arrests Do Not Deter Use

MPP - Tue, 30/10/2012 - 11:29

Marijuana arrests continued at disturbing levels in 2011, the vast majority of which were for simple possession. According to the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report, 757,969 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana, more than 87% of which were for possession. This is a slight decrease from 2010.  Marijuana arrests accounted for slightly less than half of all drug arrests last year.

In 2011, one American was arrested for marijuana possession every 42 seconds.

Despite intensive law enforcement resources being used to arrest and punish marijuana users, rates of marijuana use continue to rise. The “National Survey on Drug Use and Health” — commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and released in late September — showed that marijuana use had slightly increased nationally between 2010 and 2011. According to the report, more than 29.7 million people aged 12 and older used marijuana at least once in the past year.

“It’s obvious that decades of law enforcement efforts have failed to reduce the availability or use of marijuana.  Arresting one American for marijuana possession every 42 seconds is an exercise in futility, especially when one considers that marijuana is safer than alcohol,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. “A business that continues to employ bad policies will eventually fail, but taxpayers are being forced to continually bail out the fiscally irresponsible and morally bankrupt institution of marijuana prohibition. A majority of Americans are tired of this nightmare.  It’s time for politicians to regulate marijuana like alcohol.”

A Rasmussen poll in May showed that 56% of voters supported removing criminal penalties for adult marijuana use and instead taxing and regulating the substance in a manner similar to alcohol. In November, voters in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon will have the opportunity to end marijuana prohibition in their states.

While the graph below may look like an improvement, it is important to remember several things: 1) Marijuana arrests account for 50% of all drug arrests. 2) 86% of all marijuana arrests are for simple possession. 3) This means that 43% of all drug arrests are for marijuana possession. 4) Arresting 655,416 people in one year for possession of a plant that is demonstrably safer than legal alcohol is indefensible. We must also remember that this number can easily start to climb again if we do not continue to work for reform. Please do your part to help cut marijuana arrests dramatically next year and donate whatever you can to support Amendment 64 in Colorado. There is only one week left until the election, and every little bit helps convince voters who are still undecided. Together, we can help Colorado become the first place in the world to make marijuana legal!

World Series Highlights Importance of Medical Marijuana Reciprocity

MPP - Wed, 24/10/2012 - 13:25

When the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers face off in game one of the World Series tonight, it will be the first time two teams from different medical marijuana states meet in the Fall Classic (The Giants and Angels played an intrastate series in ’02). There may be a smattering of Tigers fans in attendance, but unless they’re transplants living in California, they probably won’t be medical marijuana patients. When the series shifts to Detroit for game three, however, patients in California will be able to follow their team to Detroit with their medicine. Why the difference? Reciprocity.

Reciprocity is what allows patients to travel from one medical marijuana state to another. States that have it recognize the legitimacy of those out-of-state patients’ ID cards, at least for a short period of time and under some limited exceptions. For example, some states only provide protections for visiting patients who would qualify under their own laws, so a patient from California who uses marijuana to treat insomnia would not be able to use marijuana in Arizona, where insomnia is not a qualifying condition.

Here’s what Michigan’s law says:

“Visiting qualifying patient” means a patient who is not a resident of this state or who has been a resident of this state for less than 30 days.

A registry identification card, or its equivalent, that is issued under the laws of another state … that allows the medical use of marijuana by a visiting qualifying patient … shall have the same force and effect as a registry identification card issued by the department.

There are 17 states that allow patients with doctors’ recommendations to use medical marijuana, but only five—Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Montana, and Rhode Island—include reciprocity. All of those states’ laws were drafted by MPP.

So how does a medical marijuana patient travel, you might ask? It would be very risky to drive from, say, California to Michigan, since that would involve passing through plenty of states that don’t recognize any form of medical marijuana. And while you might think the T.S.A. won’t take too kindly to flying with medical marijuana, they do have an unofficial policy of deferring to state and local authorities, and there are a few examples of patients boarding planes after their medication turned up at the security checkpoint. Obviously we don’t recommend Giants fans doing so without checking with the T.S.A. in Detroit first.

So there you have it. No word on whether two-time Cy Young winner, World Series champion, and noted marijuana user Tim Lincecum is aware of the policy.

Denver Medical Marijuana Industry to be Featured on “60 Minutes”

MPP - Fri, 19/10/2012 - 13:29

Denver’s flourishing and tightly regulated medical marijuana industry will be the subject of a “60 Minutes” report this Sunday.

With Colorado voting on whether to regulate and tax the rest of the state’s marijuana market on Nov. 6, this should be an interesting episode.

Viewers can see the segment on Sunday, Oct. 21 at 7:30 p.m. ET and 7:00 p.m. PT on their local CBS affiliate. Those of you in the Denver area can see it at 6:00 p.m. MT on Channel 4.

UPDATE: The full segment can be viewed here.

Brutality of NYPD “Stop and Frisk” Policy Revealed

MPP - Fri, 19/10/2012 - 13:10

A new audio recording reveals a disturbing example of current NYPD practices, specifically the “stop and frisk” policy of stopping and searching pedestrians without warrants or probable cause. A 17-year-old named Alvin, who made the recording, explains in the video below that he had been repeatedly stopped and searched by the police for no apparent reason and so had decided to record the next incident. Upon being asked why they are stopping him, the officers on the recording explain that his offense is “looking back at us like that” and “being a fucking mutt.” They then threaten to slap him in the face and break his arm.

The full audio recording is available at The Nation.

The NYPD’s numbers report that the department stopped and frisked 684,330 people last year, which as the Wall Street Journal points out, was “14 percent more than in 2010 and about seven times the number in 2002.” City officials claim the program is effective in reducing crime and getting guns off the streets. However, the New York Civil Liberties Union disputes this, pointing out that less than 0.2 percent of the stops yielded any guns, and approximately 88 percent of the stops did not result in arrests or even citations.

One aspect of the stop and frisk policy, namely the “Operation Clean Halls” program, is ostensibly aimed at drug dealing in and around low-income apartment buildings. The tactics are now being challenged in court, with Assistant District Attorney Jeannette M. Rucker testifying that people are being arrested on trespass charges for being in or around buildings which they actually live in or where friends they’re visiting live.

The tactic also seems to facilitate arrests on marijuana charges. In 2011, there were approximately 50,000 arrests made in the city for minor marijuana possession. This is despite a New York state law, which since 1977 has essentially decriminalized possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana. Under this law, the offense is only punishable by small fines or up to 15 days in prison if it is the individual’s third such offense within a three-year period. A new lawsuit filed by the Legal Aid Society claims that people are being illegally arrested on minor marijuana charges, sometimes for “public display” of marijuana, which is a criminal offense carrying up to 90 days in prison. Attorneys suggest, however, that the “public display” often simply involves defendants in stop-and-frisk encounters being ordered by police to empty their pockets.

This seems to be not only an attempt to get around the decriminalization law, but also in violation of the recent directive from the city’s Police Commissioner criticizing such practices. Governor Cuomo also introduced legislation earlier this year to remove the “public display” loophole, but the proposed measure did not pass.

As marijuana possession is generally a private activity, which goes mostly undetected without intrusive practices by the police, the stop-and-frisk program is likely responsible for the bulk of these unnecessary arrests. The solution seems obvious: the city should simply abandon the stop-and-frisk program, thereby saving a great deal of time and money, not to mention sparing innocent New Yorkers needless harassment.

How Will Mainstream Media Spin This Government Study?

MPP - Fri, 19/10/2012 - 12:20

The Rorschach Inkblot test asks people to make up stories about ambiguous pictures. Rorschach’s hope was that the tales people told about each blot would reveal something about personal predilections and an approach to the world. Well, our friends at the National Institute on Drug Abuse have just published a nice inkblot test for the media. The experiment, “Tolerance to Effects of High-Dose Oral D9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Plasma Cannabinoid Concentrations in Male Daily Cannabis Smokers,” is about (you guessed it!) developing tolerance to THC. We’ll see how media handle the implications of the results. It’s either a reassuring result for those concerned about safety on the roads or a chance for misguided alarms about purported dependence.

The experimenters drafted 13 guys who were experienced cannabis smokers to stay in the lab for several days. Each day, they had to swallow more and more Marinol. Marinol is pure THC in a pill, but without the cannabinoids and various compounds found in whole plant cannabis that mitigate the psychotropic effects of THC and perform other beneficial health functions. Many people have reported that Marinol left them far more impaired than plant cannabis, undoubtedly for this very reason. In fact, one guy dropped out “for personal reasons” and another “due to psychological reactions to THC.” These guys had smoked marijuana at least 1,000 times, so I’m guessing that they would have had a handle on “psychological reactions to THC” if they’d been allowed to (heaven forbid!) use their own stash. But the dosage was nothing to sneeze at — 120 mg of THC per day — or the equivalent amount of THC as three joints of decent medical cannabis in the U.S.

Why use Marinol instead of vaporized cannabis? As the authors proudly assert, “Many patients take oral cannabinoids daily for weeks or months with persisting beneficial clinical effects.” Yes. It is now okay for researchers at NIDA to say that oral cannabinoids are good. They mean Marinol, of course, but explaining why this wouldn’t apply to edibles is going to take quite the pretzel twist of logic. Stay tuned.

So what happened? As the title suggests, subjective reactions dropped dramatically in a few days. The guys were only about half as “high” by day five as they were on the first day of taking Marinol. But the amount of THC in their blood remained the same. That’s the definition of tolerance — a decreased effect with the same dosage. So the same guy with the same amount of THC in his blood felt fewer effects on one day than he did a couple days before.

What does this mean? Ah! That’s the real Rorschach Inkblot test for the media. What it really means is that tolerance to the subjective effects of THC is a lot like the tolerance we see for prescription drugs like Vicodin and other over-the-counter drugs like Benadryl. Folks who feel high at first don’t feel it after a few doses. It’s not much of a leap to assume that these effects correlate with motor skills. All the worry about medical users screwing up at work is probably misplaced; they’ll be tolerant after a few doses. And per se driving laws that suggest that a certain amount of THC in the blood means someone is definitely impaired are on thin ice. Different people with different levels of tolerance will react differently to the same dosage.

But Vicodin and Benadryl are not the center of fierce and emotional debates about driving. Antihistamines and prescription opiates alter subjective states. They can impair performance on the road, too, but their subjective effects decrease after a few doses. Notice that you don’t see widespread debate about how much of each of these drugs you’re allowed to have in your blood when you sit behind the steering wheel. Why should cannabis be any different?

As an aside, roadside sobriety tests that require actually doing something (standing on one foot, walking a straight line) are a good indicator of how well people can drive. They certainly beat the number of nanograms of metabolites of cannabis, Vicodin, or Benadryl per unit of blood. They’re also sensitive to conditions that have nothing to do with drugs, like fatigue or illness. But if the media mention any of these points, color me surprised.

What will the media do instead? I’m guessing here, and I hope I’m wrong. But I bet they’ll scream, “Tolerance! Oh no! That means THC leads to dependence.” This little logical leap is quite elegant. Alarmists might use these data to say that THC must be likely to cause dependence. Of course, one symptom does not make a dependence diagnosis. And we might actually have to think a minute about why tolerance is a symptom of dependence in the first place. With toxic drugs like alcohol and tobacco, the more you ingest, the more you hurt yourself. So tolerance to these drugs means people take more to get the same subjective effect, leading them to more and more damage. For alcohol and tobacco, this means greater risks of cancer, for example. But THC’s toxicity has been hard to find without elaborate equipment looking intensely at dinky portions of the brain after multiple years of use. And some of these studies end in big surprises. For example, two years of exposure has made rodents more likely to stay alive and less likely to get tumors, which is the exact opposite of toxicity.

So, we’ve discovered that the subjective effects of THC decrease after repeated doses. The finding’s unambiguous, but the stories people will tell about it could be as different as responses to an ink blot. Unfortunately, this ambiguity could end up having serious implications as states continue to experiment with alternatives to marijuana prohibition.

 

Dr. Mitch Earleywine is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University at Albany, State University of New York, where he teaches drugs and human behavior, substance abuse treatment and clinical research methods. He is the author of more than 100 publications on drug use and abuse, including “Understanding Marijuana” and “The Parents’ Guide to Marijuana.” He is the only person to publish with both Oxford University and High Times.

Want to Help Make Marijuana Legal this November? It’s Your Call …

MPP - Fri, 19/10/2012 - 08:46

We are now 18 days away from the elections, and three states are poised to lead the way in ending marijuana prohibition! Passage of any of these initiatives will set the tone for marijuana reform nationwide, so it’s important to everyone who cares about this issue, no matter what state you live in.

As more and more people learn about the failure of marijuana prohibition and are presented with the facts, support for changing our laws grows. We can’t change the conversation, however, until we start it. Now, you have the opportunity to start a conversation about marijuana reform with the people in a position to make that reform reality: registered voters.

The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has set up a system that makes it easy for anyone to call registered voters in Colorado and ask them to vote “YES” on Amendment 64.

Just click here and you can help change history:

 

You can make the difference in this election. It’s your call.

 

“Code of the West” illustrates need for sensible regulation

MPP - Wed, 17/10/2012 - 10:57

Of the 17 states that have passed medical marijuana laws, only one — Montana — has experienced a serious legislative effort to repeal the law.

How could this have happened, and what can advocates in other states learn from Montana’s experiences?

Fortunately for those of us who work to pass — and improve — medical marijuana laws, an excellent new documentary film provides a unique and insightful view of Montana’s 2011 repeal effort. Code of the West, directed and produced by Rebecca Richman Cohen, recently made its debut and is now being screened at film festivals and other venues across the United States.

I had the honor of presenting Code of the West at its New Hampshire debut Friday evening at the New Hampshire Film Festival in Portsmouth. As an MPP legislative analyst monitoring the ongoing action in Montana, I was familiar with the events depicted, but seeing these events unfold on the big screen — against the stunning backdrop of Montana’s rugged mountains — provides a more complete experience than any number of newspaper articles could possibly supply.

In a nutshell, the repeal advocates depicted in Code of the West are appalled by the proliferation of unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries in Montana and by the ease with which non-patients appear to be qualifying for medical marijuana cards. Instead of seeking regulations to curb these perceived abuses, they lead an organized effort to repeal the law.

Despite being a very well-made film, a few scenes in Code of the West are difficult to watch:

  • One repeal-supporting legislator foolishly compares medical marijuana to the deadly poison arsenic.
  • A grandmother suffering from advanced cancer loses access to medical marijuana and is left with no choice but to manage her pain with morphine.
  • A repeal supporter admits that some seriously ill patients benefit from medical marijuana but continues pushing — not for regulation and restrictions to prevent abuse, but for a full repeal.

The film’s main subjects are medical marijuana advocates led by Tom Daubert — a well-respected political professional whose life is turned upside-down by an unjust federal prosecution — and repeal advocates led by a group of concerned parents and Montana House Speaker Mike Milburn.

Although the attempt at full repeal does not succeed, the film does not have a happy ending for patients and their advocates, as legislators resist common sense efforts to regulate the medical marijuana industry. Instead, they opt to pass SB 423, an ultra-restrictive “repeal in disguise” that will dramatically limit patients’ access.

A year after the film’s action concludes, Montana’s struggle to achieve a sane medical marijuana policy continues, and many conflicts described in the film remain unresolved.

Despite his efforts to pass regulations and improve Montana’s medical marijuana law, federal prosecutors brought felony charges against Daubert for his involvement with a medical marijuana dispensary, giving him little choice but to plead guilty. In September, Judge Dana Christenson ignored prosecutors’ request for a lengthy prison term and instead sentenced Daubert to five years of probation.

Another of the film’s subjects, Daubert’s former business partner Chris Williams, was recently convicted on eight felony counts and, astonishingly, faces mandatory minimum sentences that could keep him incarcerated for life. Williams’ attorney is currently seeking a new trial. Sadly, yet another of Daubert’s former business partners, Richard Flor, was sentenced to a five-year prison term earlier this year and died in federal custody August 30 after being denied medical care that had been recommended by a judge.

Fortunately, Montana voters will have an opportunity to reject the legislature’s “repeal in disguise” when they go to the polls Nov. 6. Regardless of how Montana’s IR-124 fares at the ballot box, Montana’s legislature should learn from the experiences portrayed in Code of the West and pass sensible regulations for medical marijuana providers in 2013.

For more information on Code of the West, including how to schedule a screening in a town near you, click here. If you submit a request, you’ll receive more details, including information on screening fees and the option to preview the film.

Maine Police Support State Law, Return Patient’s Medicine

MPP - Wed, 17/10/2012 - 09:50

A medical marijuana grower in Ellsworth, Maine received a pleasant surprise on Saturday: a marijuana delivery from the police. Thomas Davis, a state-licensed medical marijuana caregiver and grower, lost 17 marijuana plants from his greenhouse in a burglary on Wednesday night. The thief, 32-year-old Aaron Pert, was arrested soon afterward and charged with offenses including marijuana possession, burglary, and theft. He confessed to breaking into the greenhouse and stealing the plants and led the police to the location where he had hidden the majority of the stash. However, the police delayed returning the marijuana to Davis for two days, concerned that they might be violating federal law, which makes all marijuana possession, cultivation, and distribution criminal offenses.

According to Ellsworth police lieutenant Harold Page, this was the first case in the state in which marijuana had been stolen from a licensed medical marijuana provider, so the police department consulted with the Maine DEA as well as the state’s attorney general as to whether they should return the plants. Ellsworth Police Chief John DeLeo stated on Monday that as far as he was concerned, returning the plants was legal.

The delay led to the majority of the marijuana being ruined by mold. Davis estimated that he lost about six months’ worth of the crop and could only salvage 15 percent of it, enough for one month. He mentioned other licensed marijuana providers who are considering giving him some of their own plants to make up for the loss, but said that otherwise, his patients might soon need to look elsewhere for their medicine.

Davis, however, sees an upside to the situation. He said thieves may have assumed that they could steal from legal medical marijuana growers with impunity, since theft of plants from illegal marijuana growing operations would certainly go unreported to the police. Hopefully, as Davis suggests, his case will serve as a precedent for both the police, who might not be so hesitant to return stolen marijuana in the future, and to potential thieves. “It’s not the Wild West out here,” he said. “I feel like most of what I’m salvaging is a chance to get this out to the public, to let people know they can’t target medical marijuana patients and growers. The police will protect us.”

Los Angeles City Council Reverses Course, Votes to Rescind Dispensary Ban

MPP - Tue, 02/10/2012 - 12:26

The astute readers of the MPP blog no doubt recall the Los Angeles City Council’s terrible decision to ban medical marijuana dispensaries back in July. Unfortunately, the council didn’t stop there. They then made the decision to circumvent California law by asking the LAPD to work with the Drug Enforcement Agency to shut down dispensaries that were based in L.A. After the ban was passed – and while the council was busy making fast friends with the DEA – activists were busy gathering the necessary signatures to place a referendum on a ballot to repeal this ban. The activists succeeded, meaning the council had two options: repeal the ban themselves or put the referendum on a special election or the March mayoral ballot allowing the residents of Los Angeles to have the final say.

Today the council – joined once again by Councilmember Bill Rosendahl who returned to council duties after going through chemotherapy – held their vote on whether or not the previously enacted ban would stand. In a move that surprised me, the council preliminarily voted to repeal the ban by an 11 – 2 vote. The council will have to take a second vote on repealing the ban next week. If eight of the 11 “yes” votes hold steady, the ban will be repealed.

The council also took up a proposal to urge state lawmakers in Sacramento to pass sensible regulations that would allow medical marijuana patients to safely and immediately obtain their medicine while preventing diversion and unsavory business practices. This entirely reasonable request of Sacramento passed easily: 13 – 0.

MPP is incredibly grateful for all the good and hard work put in by local activists who gathered the necessary signatures to force the repeal vote. This would never have happened without their commitment to safe access.

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Initiative Cleared for Ballot in November!

MPP - Thu, 27/09/2012 - 14:01

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a medical marijuana voter initiative can remain on the state’s ballot for the upcoming elections. The Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values had brought suit against the initiative, claiming that its proposed description on the ballot was misleading, in that it did not sufficiently emphasize the illegality of marijuana under federal law. The proposed language has already been revised more than once in response to similar comments from the state’s attorney general. The court characterized the ballot summary for Arkansans for Compassionate Care’s initiative as “an adequate and fair representation without misleading tendencies or partisan coloring,” dismissing the conservative coalition’s complaint.

If the initiative, known as Issue 5, is successful, medical marijuana patients approved by the state’s Department of Health would be authorized to possess marijuana, as well as to cultivate a limited number of plants for their own use. They would also be permitted to purchase the drug from any of a maximum of 30 non-profit dispensaries. The approved summary of the initiative mentions specific diseases for which marijuana could be authorized as a treatment, including AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, ALS, PTSD, and Crohn’s disease, as well as any “chronic or debilitating” disease which produces particular symptoms including severe nausea, chronic pain, wasting, persistent muscle spasms, or seizures. The measure has a slight lead in the polls.

Arguments from opponents of the issue were based on speculation or distraction rather than medicine. Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council Action Committee, a member of the coalition which filed suit against the measure, claimed that the “real agenda” of the initiative was to completely legalize marijuana. He based this on the fact that many supporters of medical marijuana also support farther-reaching marijuana law reform. Larry Page, the director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, another member of the coalition, made a similar red-herring argument, calling it “the first incremental step to legalizing marijuana for recreational use.”

But the question on the ballot, of course, deals with the medical use of marijuana for serious illnesses, which the scientific evidence supports. Cox further claimed in complete seriousness that since smoking tobacco is harmful for your health, medical marijuana must be useless and even harmful. He added the claims that marijuana is addictive and that marijuana use would increase if medical use were allowed. Studies show, however, that relaxing criminal penalties has no effect on usage rates, while the Institute of Medicine states that if marijuana dependence exists, it is mild and rare compared to most other drugs. Voters will hopefully see through the coalition’s claims to the contrary, making Arkansas the 18th state in the U.S., and the first in the South, to recognize the medical value of marijuana.

UPDATE: Sierra Blanca Sheriffs to Fiona Apple: Shut Up and Sing

MPP - Tue, 25/09/2012 - 11:02

As we covered earlier, Fiona Apple was recently arrested for possession of marijuana and hash in Sierra Blanca, TX. Penalties for hash are severe in Texas, and Apple is facing up to ten years in prison. She is out on bail and was able to perform on stage. In response to some statements Fiona Apple made about her treatment after being arrested , a spokesman for the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office fired off an interesting letter.

From the Daily Beast:

 

First, Honey, I’m already more famous than you, I don’t need your help. However, it would appear that you need mine….

Two weeks ago nobody in the country cared about what you had to say, — now that you’ve been arrested it appears your entire career has been jump-started. Don’t worry Sweetie, I won’t bill you…

Next, have you ever heard of Snoop, Willie or Armand Hammer? Maybe if you would read something besides your own press releases, you would have known BEFORE you got here, that if you come to Texas with dope, the cops will take your DOPE away and put YOU in jail…

Even though you and I only met briefly in the hallway, I don’t know you but I’m sure you’re an awesome and talented young woman and even though I’m not a fan of yours, I am sure there are thousands of them out there, and I’m sure that they would just as soon you get this all behind you and let you go back to what you do best—so my last piece of advice is simple “just shut-up and sing.”

Sincerely,

Rusty Fleming

I’m not sure what is more disturbing: the fact that Fleming is reveling in the fame he gets by wasting taxpayer dollars going after high-profile, non-violent marijuana users, or the condescending, paternalistic tone he uses to try to belittle Apple.

If you have a problem with this sort of behavior from a public official, please call the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office at (915) 369-2161 and politely let them know.

 

End Of Democracy Watch: Springfield, Missouri

MPP - Tue, 25/09/2012 - 07:18

When a dedicated group of activists hoping to reform Springfield, Missouri’s punitive marijuana laws turned in thousands of signatures they had collected fair and square, they thought the next step would be for voters in Springfield to decide whether or not to support their proposal. In other words, they thought the initiative process works like common sense says it should. They were wrong. What happened next is an example of disenfranchisement so egregious it belongs in a work of fiction.

The Springfield City Council, as is their legal right, went ahead and passed the ordinance, meaning it would not be placed on the November ballot. Their stated reason for this was that they didn’t want the city to have to front the cost of printing the issue on general election ballots. In other words, they were just trying to save the city some money, they said. Normally, at this point, the story would be over. But this is Springfield.

Immediately after the council passed the ordinance, they voted to “table” it, so they could amend the law to their liking. Some wanted to raise the $150 fine, which they thought was too low. Others wanted to remove a provision establishing a “citizen oversight commission.” It gets worse. After 150 people showed up to offer their testimony—the overwhelming majority in support of the original ordinance—four of the nine councilmembers moved forward with a plan to repeal the entire ordinance, stripping citizens of their fundamental right to vote on the proposal. Here’s a quote from one of those councilmembers, and I promise I’m not making this up: “I’m going to support passing, and then gutting, the entire ordinance,” said Councilman Jeff Seifried. “This is the fiscally responsible way to do business.”

Last night those oligarchs councilmembers followed through on their intentions and repealed the ordinance. The petitioners from Show Me Cannabis Regulation who gathered the signatures are assessing their options now. They have 30 days to gather more signatures to repeal the council’s vote (which, of course, could then be overturned by the council). More likely, they’ll sue to challenge the council’s action as violating the city charter’s initiative language. Either way, one thing is clear: the Springfield, Missouri City Council does not care about your voting rights.

Marijuana Decriminalization Gets Conservative Support In Indiana

MPP - Mon, 24/09/2012 - 08:26

Marijuana reform is a hot topic of conversation in state legislatures around the country and not just in traditionally liberal states like California and Rhode Island. In fact, bills to make marijuana possession punishable by a fine only, rather than jail time, were introduced this year in conservative bastions like Arizona and Tennessee, and it’s a too-well-kept secret that such laws have been on the books since the ’70s in Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, and several other less-than-liberal states.

You can now add Indiana to the list of states where the conversation has gone mainstream. Last week, influential Republican state Senator Brent Steele (R-Bedford) announced he’d be introducing legislation to make possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana an “infraction,” punishable by fine, rather than a criminal misdemeanor.

“We have to ask ourselves as a society, do we really want to be locking people up for having a couple of joints in their pocket,” Steele told local media. “Is that how we want to be spending our criminal justice resources?” Steele also pointed out that several other states have already embraced similar policies, noting that “society didn’t melt down, and we didn’t turn into a drug-crazed culture as a result of it.”

Similar legislation has been introduced before by state Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage), but without the support of Republicans, who hold a majority in both chambers, it never got off the ground. Speculation is that Steele’s support could change that. Steele, who is closely allied with Indiana prosecutors and is described by Indiana political veterans as a “rock-ribbed law-and-order guy,” chairs the powerful Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters where the bill would likely be assigned.

New Study Adds to Research Showing Marijuana Could Stop Cancer

MPP - Mon, 24/09/2012 - 07:46

Breast cancer kills. Even mentioning the term can be a little creepy. However, thanks to slow but steady scientific progress, it’s not the killer it once was. We’re starting to understand that genetics plays a role in a minority of cases. We’ve found clear links to obesity, high-fat diets, and cigarette smoking. Lack of exercise probably plays a role, too. Regular screening seems like a good idea, but, like many ideas in science, it has some controversy. Treatments are markedly better than they once were, but they can be tough.

The cannabis plant could help. We all know that THC improves appetite and nausea for anyone enduring chemotherapy. This relief is quite the feat. I don’t want to upset anyone’s stomach with a description, but nausea is no treat. We’re not talking about the average queasiness here. Chemotherapy often creates the kind of nausea that prevents any kind of concentrated effort, any movement, and just about any pleasant thought. Never mind eating enough to stay strong and healthy during a challenging time. Unfortunately, nausea drugs can be pricey. Most require that a patient swallow them — hardly a delightful thought under the circumstances. The lucky few who can get a pill down still have to wait for digestion before they feel better. Inhaled cannabis can do all that in seconds for a fraction of the cost. Which would you choose for yourself or your loved ones?

But new evidence suggests that cannabis has the potential to combat breast cancer itself, not just battle the side effects of chemotherapy. A few years ago, we saw that THC, one of the 60+ chemicals unique to the cannabis plant, keeps human breast cancer cells from spreading. Last year, researchers at Harvard showed that CBD, another treasure from the plant, essentially makes breast cancer cells kill themselves. Now researchers in Japan have focused on CBDA, CBD’s precursor. They showed that it also keeps breast cancer cells from spreading.

What does this mean for use of the plant in treating breast cancer patients or preventing breast cancer in the first place? Alas, we have no idea. That, in some ways, is the saddest part. Wouldn’t it be great to know if the whole plant, with all these helpful substances combined into one source, could ward off breast cancer in an actual human being? It’s going to be hard to find out given our current laws. Prohibition has made research with the whole plant an unparalleled hassle. Most researchers are stuck trying to use one cannabinoid at a time. They often get synthesized chemicals from labs rather than extracts from the plant. They study cell lines in petri dishes instead of breast cancer in real people.

Are those who use cannabis regularly less likely to get breast cancer? It’d be great to know. Currently though, there’s little research funding for any study that might prove that cannabis is not evil. In addition, under prohibition, those who use cannabis are often frightened to tell doctors or researchers that they do. Any study of this type would need money to be done right. And there’s just not much money out there for this kind of work. A cure for breast cancer might rest in a simple green plant that’s been around for millennia. Why don’t we try to find it?

It looks like the U.S. would rather let people die than admit we made a mistake prohibiting marijuana.

 

Dr. Mitch Earleywine is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University at Albany, State University of New York, where he teaches drugs and human behavior, substance abuse treatment and clinical research methods. He is the author of more than 100 publications on drug use and abuse, including “Understanding Marijuana” and “The Parents’ Guide to Marijuana.” He is the only person to publish with both Oxford University and High Times.

Free Fiona! – Singer Facing 10 Years in Jail for Hash

MPP - Mon, 24/09/2012 - 07:11

In a bizarre case of history repeating itself, another celebrity has been arrested in the Texas border town of Sierra Blanca. Sitting just 10 miles from the Mexico border, Sierra Blanca has an interstate running through it that has become quite a lucrative source of cash and publicity for the local sheriff. In the past several years, Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg (I mean, Snoop Lion), and hacker George Hotz have all been stopped at the same check point and either cited or arrested for marijuana possession.

Now Fiona Apple has joined the club, and it is no laughing matter. Apple was caught with a small amount of marijuana and hash, but it is more serious than it seems. In Texas, possession of any amount of hash is treated as a felony. The amount Apple supposedly had on her bus is punishable by at least two years in prison, and up to 10!

Texas law punishes hash and other marijuana concentrates much more severely than simple marijuana, even though they are essentially the exact same thing aside from the potency. Anything under four grams gets you the penalty Apple is facing, but anything over that can get you 20 years in prison, and over 400 grams can put you behind bars for 99 years.

Texas is one of the few states that make this dubious distinction, but it isn’t the worst. Last April, Oklahoma passed a law making manufacture of hash punishable by a life sentence.

We’ll keep you updated, but it looks like this talented singer could be doing serious time for merely traveling through the wrong town carrying a substance that is safer than alcohol.

Note to celebrities or anyone traveling in a fancy tour bus: STAY AWAY FROM SIERRA BLANCA.

Another Group of Victims in the War on Marijuana

MPP - Thu, 20/09/2012 - 14:05

In another example of drug war excess, officers raided and vandalized the home of Beach Park, Illinois resident Paul Brown on Friday afternoon of last week. The apparent impetus for the raid was a mysterious package delivered to the house 10 minutes earlier. Brown’s son-in-law, Wilmer Aries, received the package and noted that it was not addressed to any of the house’s residents. Instead, it bore the name “Oscar” and an unfamiliar last name.

Brown, a 58-year-old architect, explained that the officers with the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group broke down his front door in the no-knock raid, handcuffed him, and pointed a gun at his face. “The garage door was open. They could have just walked in,” he said. “They didn’t have to crash the front door down.”
Although the officers seized the package, claiming it contained marijuana, their two-hour ransacking of the house, including ripping out insulation from the basement walls, uncovered no evidence to incriminate anyone in the house and led to no arrests. “They were upset they didn’t find anything. When I asked them who was going to pay for the door they basically said, ‘Not us’,” said Brown, who noted the door on his luxury home was valued at $3,000 some 12 years ago and the lock set was another $130 from Home Depot.

Brown even noted that the officers, far from apologizing for their mistake, seemed to be congratulating each other on the operation with high fives and fist-bumps. His subsequent calls to the MEG were not returned, nor were calls from news outlets. He has hired a lawyer to file a civil suit and explains that he and his 77-year-old mother-in-law were particularly shaken by the incident. “She’s afraid to even take a nap on the couch now,” he said. “I can hardly sleep. It changes your frame of mind.” His lawyer, Christopher Cohen, characterized the Browns as “innocent bystanders in the war on drugs.”

As Reason.com notes, this is not the first time a wrongful no-knock raid was carried out in the U.S. based simply on the delivery of a package of marijuana. In 2008, the home of Cheye Calvo, mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, was raided by a SWAT team and his two dogs fatally shot. The mayor complained, leading to an investigation, but as the raid was ultimately ruled legitimate, this will likely not be the last such incident.

Take a Quick Survey about Medical Marijuana!

MPP - Fri, 14/09/2012 - 11:51

Are you a medical marijuana patient — or if it’s not yet legal in your state, would you be if the option were available? Medical Marijuana Business Daily, one of the leading business news sources for the medical marijuana industry, is asking for people to complete a quick (and anonymous) survey. The questions are focused on giving feedback to dispensary owners, to let them know what patients are looking for when they pick their provider.

It’ll just take a few minutes of your time, and no contact information is required, so please head on over and take their survey!

Also, for those readers who are involved in the industry on the business side, MPP’s Rob Kampia will be giving the keynote address at Medical Marijuana Business Daily’s National Medical Marijuana Conference on November 8 in Denver. Check out what the conference has to offer here. If you buy your ticket before October 31, you save $150!

Bill O’Reilly Doesn’t Get Us At All

MPP - Fri, 14/09/2012 - 10:48

On his wonderfully fair and balanced show on Thursday, Bill O’Reilly was nice enough to highlight our Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Users list. He then started on a long rant, joined by his co-hosts, about the evils and deadly health risks associated with using marijuana. Apparently, these folks didn’t quite get the message.

O’Reilly seems to think that MPP just wants everyone to use marijuana, and that the organization “devotes its life to trying to convince you to get stoned and inebriated.” What he fails to understand, and what many supporters of prohibition refuse to believe, is that marijuana reform is not about getting high. It is about changing our obviously failed policies that put non-violent adults in jail while making it easier for young people to obtain. It is about changing the focus of law enforcement away from people who are already using marijuana and allowing police to focus on more serious crimes.

Papa Bear and friends also didn’t understand the message behind the list, which is that these influential marijuana users likely would not be where they are today had they been arrested for marijuana. How much human potential are we squandering when we arrest three quarters of a million people for marijuana possession every year, saddling them with a criminal record that limits their educational options and job opportunities?

After totally missing the point, the three pundits then proceeded to rattle off a long series of completely inaccurate and unsubstantiated talking points about how marijuana is deadly and will turn you into a zombie. They covered all the bases, too, from the debunked gateway theory to the “lazy stoner” myth.

It is really pretty sad, considering a brief look at MPP’s website would have clarified our mission for O’Reilly and provided all of them with actual scientific research on the effects of marijuana.

And we’re the lazy ones?

Here’s the video. Try not to throw anything through your screen.

Pepperdine Shuts Down MPP Internship

MPP - Wed, 12/09/2012 - 08:55

Last Monday, the State Policies department at MPP eagerly awaited the arrival of our new intern, who was slated to begin her semester-long internship with us that morning. We were puzzled when she didn’t show up and shocked when we learned the reason why — the deans of the internship program at Pepperdine University, where she is a student, would not approve an internship at MPP for academic credit because it was “not in keeping with the university mission and the student handbook.”

According to its website, the university’s mission is detailed as follows: “Pepperdine is a Christian university committed to the highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values, where students are strengthened for lives of purpose, service, and leadership.” The university’s affirmation statement goes on to say that, “As a Christian university, Pepperdine affirms that truth, having nothing to fear from investigation, should be pursued relentlessly in every discipline.”

In reading Pepperdine’s mission and vision statements, we at MPP considered our mission and that of Pepperdine as not only compatible but also complementary. MPP believes that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is prison, and we seek to reduce penalties for both the medical and non-medical use of marijuana in order to reduce that harm. We firmly believe that there is a disconnect between what the science says about marijuana use and what policies stand as law — laws which create far greater harms than those inflicted by the substance itself. In sum, an internship with MPP means engaging in very challenging and controversial work, undertaken for the greater good and the pursuit of truth.

Many prominent religious leaders and organizations support marijuana policy reform, along the spectrum of medical marijuana, decriminalization, and taxation and regulation. Seemingly, the Christian message is, or should be, one of mercy, humanity, and stopping the nation’s failed war on marijuana users.

In the spring of 2012, conservative Christian televangelist and founder of the Christian Coalition Pat Robertson spoke out in favor of ending marijuana prohibition, citing concerns about prison overpopulation and harsh sentences for non-violent offenders:

We’re locking up people that take a couple puffs of marijuana and, and the next thing they know they got ten years, they got mandatory sentences. And these judges they say, they throw up their hands and say ‘there’s nothing we can do there’s mandatory sentences.’ We got to take a look at what we’re considering crimes and that’s, that’s one of them. I mean I’m, I’m not exactly for the use of drugs, don’t, don’t get me wrong, but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana – criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of, of pot and that kind of thing – I mean it’s costing us a fortune and it’s ruining young people! Young people go into prisons . . . as youths and they come out as hardened criminals. It’s not a good thing.

Robertson went on to endorse taxation and regulation initiatives that will appear on two states’ November 2012 ballots, Amendment 64 in Colorado* and I-502 in Washington, both of which would end criminal penalties for adult marijuana use and treat marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. More recently, several African-American clergy members endorsed Washington’s I-502, noting the harms of marijuana prohibition and the racially disproportionate nature of its enforcement.

When MPP led a taxation and regulation ballot initiative in Nevada in 2006, at least 33 clergy members endorsed the measure. In fact, many religious leaders oppose our current marijuana policies specifically for faith-related reasons. As the Rev. David Scheuneman, a Unitarian Universalist community minister in Las Vegas, noted: “One of the roles of religion is to point out hypocrisy in society. By any means, marijuana is less dangerous to individuals and society than alcohol.”

Supportive voices from the faith community have been (and will continue to be) crucial to efforts to reform our nation’s broken marijuana policies. In their public endorsements of marijuana policy reform, the religious leaders outlined above have demonstrated that their Christian values are very much compatible with MPP’s mission. It’s disappointing that Pepperdine would not allow one of their students to work on this very important issue — an issue so clearly related to values of mercy, compassion, justice, and the pursuit of truth.

* Interestingly, David Campbell, a lecturer in economics from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business, recently signed on to a letter of public support for Colorado’s Amendment 64 featuring over 100 college professors.

Gary Johnson Calls Attention to Marijuana Prohibition

MPP - Mon, 10/09/2012 - 10:48

Gary Johnson, this year’s Libertarian Party candidate for president, spoke at a rally on Tuesday outside the Democratic National Convention. He criticized both President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for avoiding one of the nation’s most important political issues. Obama has laughed off or ignored persistent questions about marijuana legalization, while Romney is equally dismissive, calling the issue insignificant.

During his two terms as governor of New Mexico, Johnson established himself as the highest-ranking public official to call for a dramatic shift in the nation’s drug laws. He explains that during his two terms, he applied a cost-benefit analysis to every issue. Regarding costs of the war on drugs, he has cited the United States’ world-record incarceration rate and the fact that approximately half of current criminal justice expenditures deal with drug cases.

On his campaign website, the former governor also refers to the harms of alcohol prohibition and the parallel harms of current drug prohibitions, including the enrichment of organized crime and the associated violence. The site clearly states his support for legalizing marijuana, specifying that the federal government should “end its prohibition mandate” and allow the states to determine their own policies. This is one area where he agrees with former Republican presidential contender and libertarian icon Ron Paul, to whom he has compared himself and whose supporters he may be courting. Although he does not explicitly call for legalization of other drugs, he does refer to drug abuse as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice problem, making reference to the decriminalization which is in effect in Portugal and presenting it as a model for the U.S. to consider.

Johnson’s support in national polling remains quite low, and his name has often been omitted from the polls. It is likely that he will be excluded from the presidential debates, which does not bode will for his chances of ultimately winning the presidency. However, Johnson is the most prominent advocate of drug policy reform in the race and is expected to be on the ballot in all 50 states. Support of even 5% puts him at the top of the pack of third parties, as it dwarfs the best-ever presidential results for both the Libertarian Party itself and the Green Party, whose candidate Ralph Nader won 2.7% in the 2000 elections. His position in the race not only makes him a significant figure in the drug policy reform movement, but should work to raise public awareness of the issue and to improve the prospects for real reform.

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