By Steve Elliott
I guess no group is immune to ignorance. A group representing 57 Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest on Wednesday morning announced it opposes the legalization of marijuana for recreational purposes.
The Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians are hurting my heart, announcing they have passed a resolution calling for the group to work closely with the dim-witted Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) anti-cannabis group spearheaded by former U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy and former federal drug policy advisor Kevin Sabet.
The Native American organization and SAM on Wednesday morning jointly released a statement that the tribes "stand strongly in opposition" to legalized marijuana in the Pacific Northwest, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian. The group represents tribal governments in Oregon, Idaho, Washington, southeast Alaska, northern California and western Montana.
The Indian tribes "stand with SAM in support of their principles," said Simon Lee Sampson of Yakama Nation.
According to a statement from the Native American group, it supports "drug prevention, intervention, treatment, and recovery efforts that focus on reducing marijuana use, especially among youth."
"We cannot deny that marijuana legalization will have a devastating impact on our communities and we want none of it," said a deeply clueless Sampson.
By Steve Elliott
The San Diego City Council on Tuesday passed regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries limiting the stores to no more than four per council district.
On an 8-1 vote, with Council Mark Kersey casting the lone dissenting vote, the council set zoning and operating restrictions for the medical marijuana collectives, reports ABC 10 News.
The council has visited the issue numerous times since the Compassionate Use Act was approved by California voters in 1996. Zoning and operating rules passed in 2011 were repealed after medical marijuana advocates got enough signatures to force their reconsideration.
While advocates considered the 2011 rules too strict, calling them a "de facto ban," removing them had the effect of making all dispensaries in San Diego illegal. The restrictions in the new plan are even tighter than the 2011 ones were.
"We can't afford to turn our backs on this, otherwise there will be a continued proliferation of these illegal operations and, chances are, there will be further and greater abuses of the system," alarmist Councilwoman Marti Emerald claimed. "These drugs are going to wind up in the hands of kids and people who really don't need this for medicine," she said, not mentioning where she got her medical credentials.
Emerald asked for a staff report in a year, to make sure the dispensaries are abiding by the rules while still providing safe access for patients.
By Steve Elliott
Despite hostility from Governor Martin O'Malley, Maryland lawmakers are moving forward on bills which would either reduce marijuana penalties, or legalize cannabis entirely.
Dozens of people on Tuesday testified before legislators and called for an end to the state's war on marijuana, which they said has done more harm than good, reports Megan Brockett at Capital News Service.
One bill would reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana to a ticket and a fine, reports Pat Warren at CBS Baltimore. The other would make pot legal for adults 21 and older, with regulation and taxes.
In a heated debate, proponents of both bills pointed to what they called the negative consequences of marijuana prohibition, including barriers to employment and education created by pot arrests and the racial disparities that often surface in enforcement. In 2010, Maryland had the fourth-highest marijuana arrest rate in the nation, with African-Americans being arrested for possession at higher rates than whites in every county in the state, according to a report released last October by the American Civil Liberties Union.
By Steve Elliott
A group in Texas called Republicans Against Marijuana Prohibition (RAMP) will hold their inaugural meeting in Houston on March 15. According to RAMP, the group "serves as a voice for all Republicans who opposed the failed policy of prohibition."
The meeting, which will be held at King Street Patriots, "will highlight the fundamentals of marijuana policy," according to the group. "RAMP will explore the four major initiatives gaining traction nationwide: medical marijuana, decriminalization, industrial hemp, and the legalization model to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol," according to a press release.
RAMP says its mission is to "work within the GOP to educate and connect with lawmakers, party leadership, and grassroots activists."
According to the group's founder and executive director, Ann Lee, the conservative principles of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and individual liberty are the focal point of RAMP's message. "RAMP believes these core Republican ideals have been greatly eroded by government policies that criminalize responsible adults for using cannabis," a statement from the group reads.
Lee, the group's founder, is a lifelong Republican, octogenarian, and mother of five sons. She changed her viewpoint on marijuana after a workplace accident left her son, Richard Lee, as a paraplegic.
Anti-Legalize-and-Regulate Cops Accidentally Highlight Own Ignorance of Drug War Issues
Pro-Legalize-and-Regulate Cops Guardedly Optimistic About Future of Law Enforcement
I wish I could've been there. A clueless police chief was practically laughed out of the Maryland Legislature on Tuesday.
The oppositional side of the hearing on legalization and regulation of marijuana in the Maryland Senate turned into a comedy of errors, courtesy of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and Maryland Sheriffs’ Association. The gallery erupted in laughter and outrage after Annapolis Chief of Police Michael Pristoop cited a hoax story about deaths attributed to marijuana overdose in Colorado. He was publicly corrected by one of the presiding senators, who pulled up the hoax on his phone and explained the story was a joke.
Other questionable statements included Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis’s point that marijuana shouldn’t be legalized because police would have to retrain expensive drug-sniffing police dogs, an officer making light of the dangers of alcohol use, a DA asserting “no one goes to jail for marijuana,” and comments on how absent (constitutionally required) probable cause other than the supposed smell of marijuana, police would be less able to conduct pretextual stops such as stop-and-frisk.
Forum Addresses Issues Pertinent to D.C. Residents Affected by Criminal Justice System
A coalition of civil rights and civil liberties’ organizations is hosting "Race, Policing and Criminal Justice," a D.C. mayoral forum on Thursday that will educate the public about candidate’s views on criminal and racial justice issues.
On any given day in the District, more than 16,000 people are under court-ordered supervision or incarcerated. Thousands more D.C. residents are affected by a loved one’s involvement in the criminal justice system and how law enforcement interacts with the community.
This forum provides an opportunity to educate the public about how candidates view criminal and racial justice issues pertinent to D.C. residents.
This free event is being co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital, Washington Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, D.C. National Lawyers Guild, Drug Policy Alliance, DC Branch of the NAACP, Howard University Chapter of the NAACP, Collective Power, Defending Dissent, DC Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, We Act Radio and Acqunetta Anderson ANC4A01.
All of the mayoral candidates have been invited to participate in this forum and an independent moderator will present prepared questions to the candidates who attend. Each candidate will have equal time and opportunity to respond to each question.
By Steve Elliott
A week after an advocacy group announced it would postpone efforts to get marijuana legalization on the Missouri ballot, Governor Jay Nixon told a national audience on Sunday morning that the Legislature would consider medical marijuana.
"Medicinally, I think folks are beginning to see there are things the medical community can help on," the governor said on the CNN show "State of the Union." "Our Legislature might consider that."
"It's a step in the right direction," said Amber Iris Langston of Show-Me Cannabis, a pro-legalization organization in Missouri, reports Tess Koppelman at Fox 4 KC. "I'll take it as a green light."
"I don't think Governor Nelson takes chances with his political support, so it's a strong indication there's support for medical marijuana in Missouri," Langston said. "It's a shame our politicians don't have the courage to stand forward on this issue and say this policy isn't working; this policy is destructive to people in our communities."
While she's happy to see the Governor talk about medical marijuana, Langston said she'd like to also see him support bills that would decriminalize the herb for adults. Missouri has some of the harshest marijuana laws in the country; you can be jailed for up to a year for a single gram.
Republican State Senator, Joe Robach, and Former U.S. Senator Al D’Amato, Announce Support for Compassionate Care Act
Patients, Families, Doctors, Advocates: No More Delays, It’s Time for the State Senate to Vote
Senator Joseph Robach (R, C, IP – Rochester) stated his support for the Compassionate Care Act in a Monday meeting with the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester. The bill would allow New Yorkers with serious and debilitating conditions to access to medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider.
Senator Robach is the third senate Republican to announce his support for the Compassionate Care Act. Last week, two Western Region Republicans -- State Senator George Maziarz (R - Newfane) and State Senator Mark Grisanti (R, IP - Buffalo) -– declared their support and called for a vote.
The Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester has worked tirelessly to secure support for the Compassionate Care Act and released a statement Monday with comments by its leaders and members applauding the Senator’s leadership in supporting a comprehensive legislative solution to help seriously ill New Yorkers. Caregivers and patients also applauded the Senator’s support.
“As a constituent and a mother of child with a severe seizure disorder that would be alleviated by the use of medical marijuana, I am thrilled that Senator Robach stated his support for the Compassionate Care Act,” said Christine Emerson of Rochester. “Too many seriously ill New Yorkers, including my daughter Julia have suffered long enough.
By Steve Elliott
Voters on Ohio overwhelmingly approve of medical marijuana, according to a poll released on Monday.
The Quinnipiac University poll of Ohio voters found 87 percent support legalizing medicinal cannabis, while only 11 percent oppose, reports Jackie Borchardt at the Northeast Ohio Media Group.
Ohio voters also approve of allowing adults to possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use, but by a much narrower margin, with 51 percent favoring and 44 percent opposed.
Ohioans' views of marijuana are complicated, according to Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Qunnipiac University Polling Institute. "Twice as many voters think alcohol is dangerous than marijuana, and about half the state's voters think the two are equally harmful," Brown said.
Support for legalization is strongest among voters 18 to 29 years old; 72 percent of this age group approve, with just 25 percent opposing. But Baby Boomers and Generation Xers reported higher rates of marijuana usage than younger voters.
"No one should be surprised that support for legalization is strongest among younger voters," Brown said, reports Jim Provance at The Blade of Toledo.
More than half of Ohio voters -- 55 percent -- claimed they'd never tried marijuana.
The poll surveyed 1,370 registered Ohio voters from February 12-17 on land lines and cell phones. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
By Steve Elliott
Marijuana legalization is on the move in the New Hampshire Legislature, with the House Ways and Means Committee reviewing HB 492, which gained initial approval from the House on a 170-162 vote last month.
A report, including expected revenues and regulatory expenses, is expected from the committee as soon as next month, reports John Toole at the Eagle Tribune.
Matt Simon, New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), said he expects HB 492 to have smooth sailing in the House, but not the Senate. "We think it will pass in the House," he said. "We have no illusions about it passing the Senate or becoming law this year."
But, either way, Simon said, it's advancing the ball down the field. "This sets us up well in a year or two to pass something like that," he said.
The House passed a similar bill last year, which then died in the Senate. Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who opposes legalization, would likely veto any such bill that reached her desk, in any event.
"Legalizing marijuana won't help us address out substance use challenge," Hassan said in her State of the State address this month. "Experience and data suggests it will do just the opposite," she claimed.
"The evidence suggests that legalizing marijuana will increase the number of minors who use this drug, will make our workforce less productive and our roads less safe, and will undermine public health," Hassan claimed.
By Steve Elliott
The problem with lawmakers writing the rules for medical marijuana is that they are just learning about it, themselves. That issue was highlighted in Georgia this week when House Bill 885, which had been doing great in the conservative Legislature, ran into a potentially fatal roadblock.
The bill's author, state Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), admitted that just over a month ago, he knew "next to nothing" about medical marijuana, reports Paul Crawley at 11Alive News. But when Peake met families of several young children with life-threatening seizures which might be helped be cannabis oil, he wrote his bill, which has now run into a snag.
"They cannot import it from Colorado or any of the other 20 states that have legal (medical) marijuana and without (a) local supply, the bill's dead," said activist James Bell of the Georgia C.A.R.E. Project. Bell pointed out that federal law prohibits Georgia from bringing cannabis across state lines, and state law won't allow it to be grown there.
"These people are going to the black market in order to get medicine, the cannabis medicine, so they're creating criminals out of people that should not be criminal," Bell said.
By Steve Elliott
A advocacy group on February 17 launched an online petition to legalize and regulate cannabis in the European Union. The petition, called "Weed Like To Talk," is on The European Citizens' Initiative petition site operated by the European Commission.
The petition says it offers "A European solution to a European problem: legalizing cannabis."
"The ECI Weed Like To Talk aims at making the EU adopt a common policy on the control and regulation of cannabis production, use and sale," the petition site reads.
"There is currently a heterogeneous legal map as regards cannabis policies in the EU," the petition reads. "The question of coherence and discrimination is worth asking. A common policy on the control and regulation of cannabis production, use and sale would: (a) ensure equality before the law and non-discrimination of all EU citizens; (b) protect consumers and monitor health security; (c) end cannabis trafficking. Let’s leap toward the legalization of cannabis and the harmonization of national legislations across the EU."
"While cannabis has become a worldwide debate over the last decades, the European Union somehow managed to avoid it," the Weed Like To Talk site reads. "It cannot do so anymore."
"Our aim is to legalize cannabis production, sale and use at the European Union level while checking if the ECI fulfills its mission of participatory democracy," the site reads.
By Steve Elliott
Despite the Obama Administration's message to bankers -- that even though marijuana sales are a federal crime, they can still provide banking services to this new industry without fear of prosecution, if they follow guidelines -- the nation's bankers say that doesn't change the fact that any bank which does so could be prosecuted.
While many in the cannabis movement praised the policy change as giving financial institutions the green light to finally serve the cannabis industry, bankers just don't see it that way, reports Herb Weisbaum at NBC News.
According to bankers, the guidance from the Justice Department and the Treasury Department doesn't change federal law, and a change in federal law is the only thing that would mean banks wouldn't be subject to prosecution for handling marijuana money. Besides, the new guidelines require lots of complicated paperwork and due diligence to satisfy federal regulators and prosecutors.
The guidance is a red light instead of a green light, said the Colorado Bankers Association. The group's senior vice president, Jenifer Waller, said the government detailed "all the risks involved of banking the marijuana industry" and "made it very clear that financial institutions can still face criminal liability."
By Steve Elliott
Location, location, location. Girl Scout Danielle Lei picked her location well when she set up a stand to sell Girl Scout Cookies outside the Green Cross medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco. Hungry patients bought all the cookies Lei had in just 45 minutes.
Lei sold 117 boxes of cookies in just two hours, reports Mashable. The profits from the cookie sales will go to charitable organizations, including several benefiting Alzheimer's research.
Danielle's mom, Carol Lei, said she believes the entrepreneurial experience is a good way to start a conversation with her daughter about different kinds of drug use. "You put it in terms that they may understand," Carol said. "I'm not condoning it; I'm not saying go out in the streets and take marijuana."
Carol said she thought this would be a good way for her daughter to learn that some people use marijuana as medicine, while others just get high, reports NPR. "They learn that they're not drugged out," Lei said. "Many have serious needs, and are just a little different."
The Green Cross had no problem with Lei's cookie stand; staff members bought boxes and kept their patients updated through the dispensary's Facebook page.
The Attorney General’s office has advised the Department of Health and Human Services to delay issuing ID cards until alternative treatment centers are open, which would leave patients vulnerable to arrest for much longer than legislators intended
At a Friday public meeting of the Therapeutic Use of Cannabis Advisory Council, advocates urged the Department of Health and Human Services to disregard a controversial advisory opinion from the Attorney General’s office that would create a significant delay for patients who are desperately waiting for legal protections. In a memo dated February 13, Senior Assistant Attorney General Michael Brown opined that the Department should delay issuing any patient ID cards until the alternative treatment center (ATC) regulations are finalized and the facilities are open.
HB 573, the bill that created New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law, was signed into law by Gov. Maggie Hassan on July 23, 2013. The Department is not required to finalize its rules for authorizing alternative treatment centers until January 2015.
As a result, patients do not expect to have legal access to medical marijuana until the summer of 2015 at the earliest. Those who have been approved for the program and issued ID cards, however, would be protected from arrest in the interim.