49 Republicans and 170 Democrats approve historic amendment intended to prevent the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration from raiding state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries
By Steve Elliott
After years of effort and six previous tries, an unprecedented victory has finally happened. Congress on Thursday night approved a measure (219-189) that will prevent the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from interfering with state medical marijuana laws. The legislation marks the first time in history that Congress has voted in favor of ending the federal government’s war on medical marijuana patients and providers. A record-high 49 Republicans joined 170 Democrats in voting for the measure.
The vote on Amendment 25 to H.R. 4660, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), stops the Department of Justice, including the DEA, from spending funds to prevent states from implementing their own medical marijuana laws. The amendment has been offered seven times since 2003. It received a then-record high 165 votes in 2007, which included 15 Republicans.
By Steve Elliott
In a refreshing bit of "if it's legal, it's legal," parolees in Washington state will be allowed to smoke marijuana starting on June 1, according to the Washington Department of Corrections.
The new policy will permit the state's 14,000 parolees to use cannabis like any other adult in the state under I-502, the legalization measure approved by voters in 2012, reports Chris Ingalls at King 5.
Interestingly, the DOC didn't change its policy until recreational marijuana was legalized by state voters; medical marijuana patients on parole have for years been denied their medicine in Washington state, despite their demonstrated medical need for it.
"We're putting some changes into effect so that we won't routinely test offenders in the community for THC," said Annmarie Aylward, assistant secretary at the Department of Corrections.
The DOC routinely tests parolees' urine for traces of six types of drugs, including THC (the main active ingredient in marijuana), but that list will be reduced to five, starting on June 1.
"We don't want them held to that level when, as a citizen, you wouldn't be held to that level either," Aylward said.
But the Department of Corrections insists it isn't "endorsing" the use of cannabis.
"There's no way the Department of Corrections is endorsing the use of marijuana," Aylward said. "We are simply aligning with state law."
Minnesota Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Bill Into Law; Patients and Advocates to Hold Event at Governor’s Residence to Highlight How the Bill Will Not Help Tens of Thousands of Seriously Ill Minnesotans
Group will deliver 33 flowers to Gov. Dayton at 11 a.m. on Friday; each flower will represent 1,000 Minnesotans — based on state officials’ estimates — who will still not be allowed to access medical marijuana because the governor blocked more effective, widely supported legislation
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton on Thursday signed a bill into law officially making Minnesota the 22nd state in the nation to allow people with debilitating conditions to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Patient advocates celebrated the passage of SF 2470, which will protect some patients from arrest, prosecution, and discrimination, as well as license two cultivators of medical marijuana and eight distribution centers across the state.
However, advocates voiced concerns that the law prohibits smoking medical marijuana as well as the use and possession of the dried, whole-plant flowers, which is the method and form most widely and effectively used.
Amendments Prohibit DEA from Undermining State Medical Marijuana Laws; Prohibit DEA from Blocking Production of Hemp; Deny Proposed DEA Budget Increase
DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart Increasingly At Odds With President Obama, Justice Department and Congress; Lawmakers and Advocates Call for Her to be Fired
The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on Thursday on at least four amendments checking the Drug Enforcement Administration's power and cutting its budget.
The DEA has existed for more than 40 years, but little attention has been given to the role the agency has played in fueling mass incarceration, racial disparities and other problems exacerbated by the Drug War. Congress has rarely scrutinized the agency, its actions or its budget, instead deferring to DEA Administrators on how best to deal with drug-related issues.
That all has changed recently as more members of Congress have called out the DEA and its beleaguered head, Administrator Michele Leonhart.
“There’s unprecedented support on both sides of the aisle for ending the federal war on drugs and letting states set their own drug policies based on science, compassion, health, and human rights,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “The more the DEA blocks sensible reforms the more they will see their agency’s power and budget come under deeper scrutiny.”
The Marijuana Policy Project on Thursday launched two hard-hitting television ads that urge New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and State Senate Majority Co-Leader Dean Skelos to support the Compassionate Care Act, a bill that would allow seriously ill people to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it.
The New York State Assembly approved the Compassionate Care Act Tuesday (91-34) for the fifth time since 2007. Gov. Cuomo has not expressed support for the measure, and in previous years, Senate leaders have not allowed it to receive a vote on the Senate floor.
One of the television ads features Dr. Richard Carlton, a Port Washington psychiatrist whose wife, Joan, is suffering from late stage Parkinson’s disease. In an emotional plea to Gov. Cuomo, he says, “Knowing there’s a medication that could help my wife, but that medication is illegal here in New York, is agonizing; it’s causing me a tremendous amount of grief.”
He then says, “Gov. Cuomo, patients have waited long enough for relief. Please support the Compassionate Care Act.”
The ad will air for approximately two weeks on News 12, CNN, Lifetime, and the Oprah Winfrey Network on Long Island, on News 12 in Westchester, and on a variety of programs in Albany, including the Today Show and Ellen. Watch the ad online at http://youtu.be/XHq9XwpSbNo.
Advocates will urge regulators to more swiftly implement program that will provide seriously ill patients with legal access to medical marijuana; hearing will take place at the Department of Health and Human Services Brown Building Auditorium at 9:30 a.m. ET Thursday
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services is scheduled to hold a public hearing Thursday on its proposed rules for the patient registry portion of the state’s medical marijuana program. Patients and advocates will comment on the draft rules (available here) and the impact of a memo from the attorney general’s office (available here) that has delayed implementation of the program.
The Marijuana Policy Project is urging regulators to begin issuing ID cards to patients as quickly as possible.
“It is critical that the state begin issuing ID cards to patients as soon as the rules for the patient registry have been finalized,” said Matt Simon, a Goffstown-based New England Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “There is no reason to delay the program, and many patients can’t afford to wait any longer for relief.
"Our state should not continue to criminalize seriously ill people who are using medical marijuana under their doctors’ supervision,” Simon said.
Vote on Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s amendment to Justice Department funding bill is expected TONIGHT or Thursday
Congress is expected to vote on a measure Wednesday night or Thursday that is intended to protect medical marijuana patients and providers in states where medical marijuana is legal.
The amendment to H.R. 4660, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, offered by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), would prohibit the Department of Justice, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), from spending funds to arrest state-licensed medical marijuana patients and providers.
It will be the seventh time the amendment has been offered since 2003.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) has been lobbying in support of the measure since its initial introduction.
Marijuana policy organization makes maximum financial contribution to challenger of former congressman that called medical marijuana a ‘sham’
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) PAC on Wednesday endorsed Republican congressional candidate Igor Birman and contributed $5,000 to his campaign, the maximum allowed under federal law. Birman is challenging former Congressman Doug Ose in a hotly contested Republican primary race in California’s 7th Congressional District, which consists of eastern Sacramento County.
MPP PAC attributed the endorsement to Birman’s strong support for ending marijuana prohibition and his ability to work with members of all parties to enact much-needed changes to federal law. The endorsement was also motivated by the radical anti-marijuana views of former Congressman Ose, who once said during a radio interview that medical marijuana is “a sham that was foisted on the people of [California].”
Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones endorsed Ose last month, citing the former Congressman’s opposition to regulating and taxing marijuana — an idea supported by 55 percent of California voters, according to a Field Poll released in December.
“Igor is among the growing number of Republicans with common sense views on marijuana," said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Like William F. Buckley, Milton Friedman, and other thinking conservatives, he recognizes the wasteful and counterproductive nature of marijuana prohibition.
New York One Step Closer Becoming 23rd Medical Marijuana State
Patients and Families Cheer Assembly Action, Call for Vote in the Senate
The New York State Assembly on Tuesday passed the Compassionate Care Act (A. 6357-B/Gottfried) by a bipartisan vote of 91–34. This is the fifth time that the Assembly has passed a medical marijuana bill, and comes just months after the Assembly included the measure in their one-house state budget proposal. The bill remains stalled in the Senate.
The bill, known as the Compassionate Care Act, would provide relief for thousands of New York patients suffering from serious and debilitating conditions -– such as cancer, MS, and epilepsy -- by allowing the use of medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider. Patients, caregivers, and providers watched from the gallery as the Assembly debated and then voted overwhelmingly in favor of the bill.
“Once again the Assembly has shown that it understands the needs of seriously ill patients in New York,” said Donna Romano of Syracuse. “As someone who lives with MS and seizures, I know medical marijuana can help alleviate my suffering and that of thousands of other New Yorkers.
"I hope the Senate will finally do the right thing and pass the Compassionate Care Act now," Romano said.
By Steve Elliott
Hemp has been legally planted in Kentucky for the first time in decades, signaling the tentative return of a crop which once was a lucrative industry for the Bluegrass State.
University of Kentucky researchers on Tuesday planted a small crop of 13 varieties of hemp seeds, finally released last week by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) after pointless bureaucratic wrangling.
Although industrial hemp was an indispensable crop for Kentucky through World War II, it was the first time it had been legally planted in the state since the 1970s, reports Janet Patton at the Herald Leader.
University of Kentucky agronomists RIch Mundell and David Williams will supervise the hemp study. The plants are expected to sprout in 7 to 10 days and will be harvested in October. Each variety will be evaluated for its seed and fiber production.
"It's exciting to be working on something different, and we're very hopeful it will be successful," said Williams. "Generally speaking, compared to some crops, it's not difficult to grow.
"But there are some things that are unknown today," Williams continued. "In particular, differences in the varieties of hemp we have access to today."
While much of the economic interest in hemp decades ago was based on its fiber, now there's more focus on the seeds, which can be press for a nutritious oil which contains essential fatty acids (EFAs) Omega 3 and 6.
Democratic State Sen. Tick Segerblom and former Nevada Republican Senate Caucus Executive Director Joe Brezny are first to sign the petition
2016 ballot measure would replace the underground marijuana market with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed like alcohol
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol on Tuesday launched a signature drive in support of a 2016 ballot measure that would end marijuana prohibition in Nevada. State Sen. Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) and former Nevada Republican Senate Caucus Executive Director Joe Brezny were the first to sign the cannabis legalization petition at a news conference in Sen. Segerblom's law office.
“Marijuana prohibition has been just as big of a failure as alcohol prohibition,” Segerblom said. “If we can regulate alcohol, there’s no reason why we can’t begin regulating marijuana in a similar fashion and raise more money for our schools. It just makes sense.”
The initiative would make private possession of up to one ounce of marijuana legal for adults 21 years of age and older. It would establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, licensed cultivation facilities, licensed manufacturing facilities, licensed testing facilities, and licensed distributors.
By Steve Elliott
Nebraska won't be harvesting a legal hemp crop this fall, despite the Legislature's passage of a law allowing the cultivation of industrial hemp for research. State bureaucrats at the Nebraska Department of Agriculture are still working on the rules.
The bill in question, LB 1001, tasked the state agriculture department with devising rules and regulations for hemp cultivation in the Cornhusker State, reports Nicholas Bergin at the Lincoln Journal Star. The department is still researching hemp programs in other states, but won't have their ducks -- or maybe I should say hemp plants -- in a row in time for spring planting.
"There will be no hemp research projects initiated under a program this year," said spokeswoman Christin Kamm of the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. Kamm didn't say when the first crop might be planted.
The industrial hemp bill, which passed overwhelmingly on a 39-2 vote, will allow the University of Nebraska and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture to grow hemp, a variety of cannabis that unlike recreational marijuana does not contain enough THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) to produce a high.
By Steve Elliott
Is it an inventive new way to clear marijuana cases off the docket, or is it simply a way of separating medical marijuana patients from their money? The Mendocino County Sheriff's Department is flush with cash due to what some are calling "the Mendocino Model," and others are calling the Mendocino shakedown.
When District Attorney David Eyster took over in Mendocino just over three years ago, he said felony cannabis prosecutions were overwhelming his staff and his budget, reports Lee Romney at the Los Angeles Times. The cases took an average of 15 months to resolve.
Now the cases clear in about three months and the Sheriff's Department has plenty of cash. You see, Eyster found a section of the California health and safety code -- actually intended to reimburse police for the cost of cleaning up meth labs -- and reworked it.
In exchange for paying "restitution" of $50 per plant and $500 per pound of processed marijuana, suspects can plead to a misdemeanor and get probation, under Eyster's method. The restitution is supposed to be for actual enforcement costs, according to the law, but defendants are required to waive itemized accounting, stating the amount owed is "reasonable."
Cash, trucks, and equipment also occasionally have to be given up under Eyster's "global restitutions" plan.
The program is only available to those without criminal records, or who haven't trespassed, grown on public lands or degraded the environment.
More Than Half of All States Have Some Kind of Medical Marijuana Law
Support for Changing Federal Law at Unprecedented Level in Congress
As early as this Thursday the U.S. House could vote on a bipartisan amendment to the Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill that would prohibit the federal government from wasting taxpayer money interfering with state medical marijuana laws. The amendment is being offered by five Republicans and five Democrats.
A vote several weeks ago on allowing Veterans Administration doctors discuss medical marijuana with their patients received 195 yes votes. Support for letting states set their own marijuana policy without federal interference is rising quickly.
“This vote is about letting states help their citizens without interference from out-of-control federal agencies,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Members of Congress have an opportunity to both protect the patient/doctor relationship and save taxpayer money.
"No person should have to fear being arrested for following the advice of their doctor,” Piper said.
The amendment is being sponsored by Reps. Rohrabacher (R-CA), Farr (D-CA), Young (R-AK), Blumenauer (D-WA), McClintock (R-CA), Cohen (D-TN), Broun (R-GA), Polis (D-CO), Stockman (R-TX), and Lee (D-CA).
Patients and Caregivers from Across New York Come to Albany to Attend Floor Vote and Demand Passage in Senate
The New York State Assembly on Tuesday will vote on the Compassionate Care Act -- A.6357-B (Gottfried), New York’s comprehensive medical marijuana bill. The bill would help provide relief to thousands of New Yorker’s who are currently suffering with debilitating medical conditions such as, cancer, multiple sclerosis, severe seizure disorders, and other serious conditions.
Traveling from New York City, Westchester, and Central New York, patients will gather in Albany for an advocacy day and to hear the Assembly debate and vote on the bill. The bill would create one of the nation’s most tightly regulated medical marijuana programs and allow patients with seriously and debilitating conditions to access marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider.
What: Compassionate Care NY Advocacy Day
When: Tuesday, March 27th – Assembly Session at 2 PM
Location: New York State Capitol, Outside Assembly Chamber, Albany, NY
Who (patients and providers, including):
Holly Anderson, Rochester -- Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester
Dawn Carney, Mount Vernon - Person living with HIV/AIDS
Nancy Rivera, Troy - Grandmother and four-time cancer survivor
Donna Romano, Syracuse - MS patient
Kate Hintz, North Salem- Mother of Morgan, who suffers from a severe and life-threatening seizure disorder