By Steve Elliott
A Maryland state panel on Tuesday worked on the final details to create a medical marijuana system from scratch, but a few points remain unresolved as the commission moves toward next week's deadline.
The Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission on Wednesday released a second draft of regulations to create the program, reports Erin Cox at The Baltimore Sun. The 81 pages of rules were reworked after the first draft came under fire at a public hearing last month.
Among the many changes in the second draft was removal of a provision that would have effectively banned medical marijuana growers or dispensaries within Baltimore city limits.
The panel also decided to create a digital registry of medical marijuana patients, in an effort to assure only patients receive cannabis. It also tweaked the rules about how patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can access the herb.
But still missing from the revisions are details about how much patients and distributors will pay to participate in the program.
The Maryland Legislature passed a medical marijuana law earlier this year which allows for up to 15 growers and about 100 dispensaries across the state. It is up to the Medical Marijuana Commission to decide how to implement that law.
By Steve Elliott
Mayor Michael Nutter and City Councilman James Kenney have reached a compromise on a bill which will make Philadelphia the largest city in America to decriminalize marijuana.
People caught with fewer than 30 grams of marijuana, just over an ounce, would only be issued a citation and fined $25 under the plan, reports Chris Hepp at Philly.com. They would face no criminal charge or arrest.
The compromise calls for a separate offense and penalty for public use of cannabis. Those caught using marijuana in public would be charged with a noncriminal summary offense, and would face a $100 fine or up to nine hours of community service, according to Kenney.
The compromise ends a conflict between Councilman Kenney and Mayor Nutter which began following the Philadelphia City Council's 13-to-3 vote in June to pass Kenney's marijuana decrim bill.
Kenney argued that cannabis arrests are disproportionately affecting African Americans. Philly police arrested 4,336 people for marijuana possession last year, 83 percent of them black.
But Mayor Nutter called the legislation "simplistic" and declined to immediately sign it. This week, with the deadline for his signature approaching, Kenney and and mayor began meeting to work out a compromise.
By Steve Elliott
An Iowa man who had faced 15 years as a habitual offender and a mandatory three-year prison term for treating his cancer with cannabis oil has been sentenced to probation, as a district judge used his sentencing discretion.
Benton Mackenzie, 48, was charged along with his wife, Loretta, and son, Cody, reports Brian Wellner at Quad-City Times.
A jury found the Long Grove couple guilty of manufacturing marijuana, a Class C felony, at their trial this summer. District Judge Henry Latham barred Mackenzie from mentioning to jurors that he grew the marijuana to treat his cancer, or anything about his medical condition.
Mackenzie suffers from late stage angiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessels in which tumors appear as skin lesions. Several lesions have grown from the size a pea a year ago to larger than a grapefruit now.
His backside and right leg are covered in lesions, and Mackenzie has had severe swelling recently. He was in the hospital on Sunday and has trouble walking due to the swelling, according to his wife.
Mackenzie said he grew marijuana at home until his arrest a year ago, treating his cancer with oil derived from the plant. The treatment kept the lesions small and prevented the cancer from spreading for two years, he said.
In the wake of tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, that focused the public’s attention on the increasing militarization of police, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Tuesday held a hearing on police militarization. Retired Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, who oversaw and now regrets his role in the militaristic response to the Seattle WTO protests in 1999, has been in consultation with the Committee and has submitted written testimony which appears in its entirety below.
Meanwhile, in New York City, a group of dignitaries including former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the former presidents or prime ministers of Brazil, Switzerland, Colombia, Chile, Portugal, Poland, Greece and Mexico, and a long list of other top leaders are meeting this morning to release a new report calling for putting public health and safety first through the decriminalization of drug use and possession and the institution of legalized regulation of drug markets.
“The drug war is inextricably linked to most major issues of our time, from immigration to police militarization,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officers opposed to the War On Drugs. "It’s the cause of much of the violence on our streets and in communities worldwide.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy on Tuesday released a new, groundbreaking report at a press conference in New York City. The event was live-streamed and speakers included Richard Branson, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Colombian President César Gaviria, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss and others.
The report reflects a new evolution in the thinking of the Commissioners, who reiterate their demands for decriminalization, alternatives to incarceration, and greater emphasis on public health approaches – and now also call for permitting the legal regulation of psychoactive substances. The Commission is the most distinguished group of high-level leaders to ever call for such far-reaching changes.
“When the Commission released its initial report just three years ago, few expected its recommendations to be embraced anytime soon by current presidents," said Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann. "But that’s exactly what happened, with Colombian President Santos and Guatemala President Perez-Molina speaking out boldly, former Mexican President Calderon calling on the United Nations to reassess the prohibitionist approach to drugs, and Uruguayan President Mujica approving the first national law to legally regulate cannabis.
"Meanwhile, one Commission member, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, has opened up the drug policy debate in West Africa, recruiting some of the region’s most distinguished figures," Nadelmann said.
Activist Alan Gordon Claims Deliberate Crown Non-Intervention in Known Large Religious/Medical Grow Operation Sets “Unacceptable and Unconstitutional” Precedent Which Tramples Others’ Racial and Religious Rights
Cannabis activist Alan Gordon of Bermuda told Hemp News on Monday that an unconstitutional double standard has occurred, in that the Crown is prosecuting Black Rastafarian and atheist cannabis defendants, despite turning a deliberately blind eye to a Gordon’s own Hebrew religious large-scale cultivation and Christian medical-religious distribution of the plant.
Gordon said that in a medical/religious context, he cultivated more than 80 plants this year, approximating 10 pounds of finished cannabis, and distributed it with the Bermuda Police Services’ full prior knowledge. Gordon provided corroborating correspondence, and said the Public Safety Ministry was also told ahead of time -- and yet no apparent action was taken by either agency to effectively stop the cultivation and distribution of the cannabis before it found its way into the community.
“When the Ministry and Police opted not to interfere with my attempt to make Hebrew Biblical medicinal anointing oil (from the recipe in Exodus 30:23) this past grow season, they did so because they assumed Parliament would bring reform so quickly that dealing with it was not worth the trouble and expense,” said Gordon. “But how is prosecuting Black Rastafarians in the public interest, if prosecuting me isn’t?”
Site closes an education gap since the science of medical cannabis is generally not part of today's medical training
Scitent, Inc., a provider of eLearning business solutions for healthcare organizations, nonprofits, and associations, on Monday launched The Medical Cannabis Institute, a website featuring continuing medical education (CME) on medical cannabis topics.
The site is designed to help educate a growing global community of healthcare professionals, caregivers, and patients who want and need to learn about the science behind and clinical application of medical cannabis, according to Scitent.
The Medical Cannabis Institute's charter group of content providers includes Patients Out of Time, the Society of Cannabis Clinicians, and Healthy Choices Unlimited, and comprises distinguished faculty and healthcare professionals who are experts in medical cannabis.
As of September 1, 23 states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana and three states have pending legislation. As the legalization of medical cannabis advances across the United States, The Medical Cannabis Institute brings together content from experts in the field to close the education gap.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy on Tuesday will release Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work, a new, groundbreaking report at a press conference in New York City.
The event will be live-streamed and speakers include former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Colombian President César Gaviria, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, Richard Branson and others.
The Commissioners will then meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson in the afternoon following the press conference.
The report reflects the evolution in the thinking of the Commissioners, who reiterate their demands for decriminalization, alternatives to incarceration, and greater emphasis on public health approaches and now also call for permitting the legal regulation of psychoactive substances. The Commission is the most distinguished group of high-level leaders to ever call for such far-reaching changes.
In 2011, the Commission’s initial report broke new ground in both advancing and globalizing the debate over drug prohibition and its alternatives. Saying the time had come to “break the taboo,” it condemned the Drug War as a failure and recommended major reforms of the global drug prohibition regime.
By Steve Elliott
Organizer Paul Stanford, who owns Hemp News and directs the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp (CRRH), still expects the two-day Hempstalk festival to occur in downtown Portland, but the free event is still waiting for a city permit, with just three weeks to go.
It's been eight months now since Portland Mayor Charlie Hales directed city staff to try and find a way to accommodate the festival, which advocates the legalization of marijuana and hemp for all uses, reports Andrew Theen at The Oregonian.
"It's outrageous," Stanford said on Friday from Spain, where he's speaking at an international cannabis festival. "They're yanking us around," he said of the city's handling of Hempstalk's permit.
Hempstalk Festival is marking its 10th anniversary this year, and Stanford has planned a downtown showcase for the event. Musical acts including Lukas Nelson (Willie's son) are slated to perform, and the event, scheduled for September 27 and 28, has been extensively promoted.
Portland city officials initially denied Stanford's application for an event permit back in December, claiming past Hempstalks at Kelley Point Park in Northy Portland have featured lax security and marijuana use.
By Steve Elliott
The Oregon Health Authority has levied its first fines against medical marijuana dispensaries for violating the rules.
Portland Compassionate Caregivers this week paid $6,500 in fines for 13 "serious" violations, including poor record keeping and evidence of cannabis consumption on the premises, reports Anna Staver at the Statesman Journal. The state subsequently ordered the dispensary to close, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian.
"This penalty sends a message in no uncertain terms -- you must comply with Oregon law or you will pay the price," said Tom Burns, director of Pharmacy Programs for the Oregon Health Authority.
The shop was cited for violations during an unannounced, mandatory annual on-site inspection. OHA's regulations to enforce the state's 2013 medical marijuana dispensary law require an on-site inspection of each facility within six months of receiving a license, and annually thereafter.
William Lupton, the operator of Portland Compassionate Caregivers, paid the fines on August 26. According to the state's agreement with Lupton, the dispensary, at 4020 SE Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard, may reopen, but must first be inspected again.
By Steve Elliott
A new survey shows that a growing majority of Americans continue to support marijuana legalization in the United States.
The CivicScience survey, released last week, asked more than 450,000 adults over the last two years: "Would you support or oppose a law in your state that would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol?"
Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they support cannabis legalization, with 39 percent saying they "strongly support" and 19 percent saying they "somewhat support" it, reports Matt Ferner at the Huffington Post. Thirty-five percent oppose marijuana legalization, with 29 percent "strongly opposing" and 6 percent "somewhat" opposing the move. Seven percent were too wishy-washy to even express an opinion on the issue.
When breaking out the data from the last three months of responses, from May to August this year, CivicScience saw an increase in support and a decrease in opposition to marijuana legalization. Of those who responded most recently, 61 percent said they strongly or somewhat support cannabis legalization, while just 30 percent said they were opposed.
Sixty percent of men and 55 percent of women support legalization, according to the survey. Support was strongest among those between 25 and 34 years old; the only age group which opposed legalization was people over 65.
By Steve Elliott
Some recreational marijuana retailers in Clark County, Washington, are planning to sue cannabis growers, claiming they're working together to keep prices high.
The class action suit is being filed on behalf of I-502 marijuana retailers everywhere in the state, not just in Clark County, with the eventual hope of bringing down the sky-high cost of weed for consumers, reports Tim Becker at KOIN 6.
"There's a reason that the prices are so high here, and it is not the free market at all," said attorney Liz Hallock, who said she hasn't finished writing the lawsuit.
"The charges are unfair competition, anti-trust, and the per se violations are collusion and intent to price fix," Hallock said.
Legal marijuana costs about $35 a gram in Clark County. Meanwhile, in Colorado, the other state where recreational cannabis is legal, a gram is only $15.
It's that $20 difference that Hallock said is caused by marijuana producers' artificially inflating prices to retailers.
"When producers here in Washington are asking for $12 to $13 a gram, they're marking up the prices 1,300 percent, which does not benefit the consumer at all," Hallock said.
The larger growers are setting the high prices, and smaller producers are following their lead, according to Hallock, who spent the last two months investigating and gathering evidence that the growers' conduct violates Washington's Consumer Protection Act.
By Steve Elliott
South Carolina lawmakers earlier this year passed one of those "CBD only" bills that allow parents to possess cannabidiol oil, derived from the marijuana plant, for treatment of epileptic seizures. But CBD oil can't be legally made in South Carolina, and it's against federal law to transport it across state lines, so a new Medical Marijuana Study Committee is working out the details of how, exactly, to implement their new law.
That committee met for the first time on Wednesday at the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, reports Robert Kittle at WSPA.
CBD oil doesn't have the mind-altering effects of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the which gets users high. As written, South Carolina's CBD-only law is just for patients in a clinical trial to treat epilepsy, and it provides no way for them to legally obtain the oil.
Janel Ralph of Myrtle Beach, whose five-year-old daughter Harmony has lissencephaly, which causes seizures, wants the law expanded so that it's not just a clinical trial and not just for epilepsy. She said the law, as written, doesn't really help.
"You're saying you can get it," she said. "You're saying you can give it to your child, and yes we're going to let you do this. But then they're not giving you any way to actually get it legally."
New campaign commercial features after-school program leader from Eugene
Oregon's campaign to regulate, legalize and tax marijuana has won several new endorsements and on Thursday released a new campaign commercial featuring an after-school program leader from Eugene.
Some of the most recent endorsers of Measure 91 include:
• The City Club of Portland, an independent, non-profit, non-partisan education and research-based civic organization that studied Measure 91 in detail, wrote up a 20-page research report about it and concluded "the Measure is well-written, comprehensive and could be implemented successfully" and that "the social costs of the current system are too high."
• The Oregonian, the largest newspaper in the state, which concluded "The measure would be worth supporting for reasons of honesty and convenience alone, but it also would raise millions of dollars per year for schools and other purposes."
The Democratic Party of Oregon, the largest political party in the state, which concluded: "Measure 91 is the right approach to legalization in Oregon, strictly regulating use while funding law enforcement and schools."
By Steve Elliott
Timothy Sturgis just wanted to be left alone to grow his marijuana. When the time came, Sturgis, 42, on Tuesday night shot himself after a two-hour standoff with law enforcement.
Sturgis kept a loaded gun in every room of his home in Ashille, reports Holly Zachariah at The Columbus Dispatch
A German shepherd guarded the 21 acres surrounding a well-hidden farmhouse, and a Doberman pinscher kept wath inside. An alarm at the end of the long driveway was triggered whenever anyone approached.
Sturgis shot himself after a standoff in the woods and thick, 14-foot-high weeds and brush behind his home at 15240 Lockbourne Eastern Road in Ashville. He was pronounced dead at 8:56 p.m. on Tuesday night.
"Just talked to him Sunday, always a friendly guy asking how things were going," commented "ThisNameWasntTaken" on Topix.com. "Total shock."