By Steve Elliott
The second-ranking Democrat in the Arizona House, saying legislation is better than a voter initiative, wants to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use.
Cannabis advocates are gearing up to put the issue on the 2016 ballot, pointed out Rep. Ruben Gallego of Phoenix, but he wants the issue debated through the legislative process, reports Howard Fischer at Capitol Media Services. Gallego said that lawmakers are better suited to come up with a comprehensive plan, without unforeseen problems, than advocates circulating petitions.
The Arizona Constitution sharply limits tinkering by the Legislature with voter-approved initiatives; such rules were passed after lawmakers twice gutted medical marijuana laws approved by the voters, before voters finally sealed the deal in 2010. Gallego believes, therefore, that any mistakes included in voter initiatives could be difficult to correct after the fact.
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert), while admitting that attitudes around marijuana are softening in Arizona and elsewhere, said he's still opposed to legalization. He said just because voters were in favor of it, is no reason for him and others who are against cannabis legalization to vote for it. (Heck, I don't see much reason for voters to elect Farnsworth again, either.)
Mothers Speak About the Devastation and Loss Caused by the Preventable Drug Overdose, Mass Incarceration, and Prohibition-Related Violence
Moms From California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New York and Texas Available to Discuss Personal Experience with Drug War
This holiday season, A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) and moms from around the country will share their stories of loss while calling for an end to the War On Drugs, which has been so disastrous for tens of millions of families. Many of the moms leading this campaign have been personally impacted by the war on drugs.
Leaders of the Moms United campaign from around the country include: Gretchen Burns Bergman (San Diego, CA), the mother of two sons who have struggled with heroin addiction and repeated incarceration; Julia Negron (Florida), a mother of a son whose son served several prison terms for drug possession; Denise Cullen (Palm Desert, CA), a social worker specializing in grief counseling, whose son died from an overdose five years ago, Joyce Rivera (New York, NY) who founded St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction in the Bronx and is the sister of an injection drug user who died of HIV/AIDS, Kathie Kane-Willis (Chicago), Director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy Roosevelt University, Charmie Gholson (Michigan), Director of Michigan Moms United, and Joy Strickland (Dallas, Texas), who lost her son to teen violence.
By Steve Elliott
Ignoring opposition from marijuana advocates and civil libertarians, the Denver City Council on Monday night voted to ban people from smoking legal marijuana in private yards or on balconies if the activity can be seen from the street or sidewalk.
The council passed the measure on a 7-5 vote on the first reading, report Lance Hernandez and Jaclyn Allen at The Denver Channel.
"Everyone up here tonight is going to make some enemies," Councilman Charlie Brown, normally a strong advocate of regulating marijuana, told his fellow council members. "I can't support it," he said. "I believe in individual property rights."
"Government can't solve all these problems," Brown said. "And neither can our police department."
"I would rather see police going after serious drug problems than playing security patrol for the Stepford Wives," one opponent of the ordinance told the council.
But a parent who favors the ordinance claimed that allowing residents to smoke cannabis in their front yards "undermines our conversations with our children by making it appear OK." (Umm... wait, I thought it was legal now?)
It's ridiculous that people can drink on their own property, but are prohibited from smoking marijuana in the same locations, according to cannabis advocate Mason Tvert, a major backer of Amendment 64, the legalization measure approved last year by Colorado voters.
By Steve Elliott
Democratic legislators in New York state have scheduled public hearings in Mineola and Buffalo next month on legalizing marijuana for medicinal uses.
Some lawmakers in Albany want to allow cannabis for cancer and other life-threatening diseases, reports Teri Weaver at Syracuse.com. The New York State Assembly, controlled by Democrats, has passed medical marijuana bills several times in recent years, but the Senate, run mostly by conservative Republicans, hasn't yet voted on the issue.
However, Senate GOP leaders now share power with a small group of independent Democrats, and one of those, Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) supports legalizing cannabis for medicinal use.
While Gov. Andrew Cuomo hasn't endorsed medical marijuana, he has left the discussion open, and a bill proposed by Sen. Savino and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) would legalize and regulate the dispensing and sales of medical marijuana.
Under the bill, medical professionals who can prescribe controlled substances could authorize patients for medicinal cannabis. Authorized patients would register with the New York Department of Health; the authorization process and the dispensing of medicinal cannabis would be part of a newly adopted statewide prescription monitoring system which was instituted to reduce abuse of controlled substances.
By Steve Elliott
The Denver City Council on Monday continued to wrestle with the issue of where, exactly, it's OK to smoke marijuana now that it's legal in Colorado. Marijuana advocates are protesting a proposed ordinance that would make it illegal to consume cannabis, even on private property, if it's in public view.
About half the council believes adults should be free to smoke marijuana in their front yards -- after all, it's their own private property. They call the policy hypocritical. The others want the law to forbid people from doing so where others can see the "display."
Council members may take their cue from Aspen, which recently passed its own consumption rules. Aspen's rules allow people to follow the same guidelines as with alcohol, under which it's OK for people to smoke pot on their own property.
One of the most vocal opponents in the debate is Councilwoman Jeanne Robb, who wants public consumption of marijuana to be banned. Robb's amendment would ban smoking in front of a house, in the front yard, on a front porch or on a balcony if it could be visible from a public street or a sidewalk.
Robb was working Monday night to find a majority of votes on the 13-member council, which requires 7 votes. Monday's night vote is the first of two that would be required for the legislation to become city law; the final vote is set for December 2.
By Steve Elliott
Peter Lewis, the billionaire chairman of Progressive Insurance and a prominent donor to marijuana legalization, died Saturday afternoon at age 80 at his home in Coconut Grove, Florida, according to his adviser Jennifer Frutchy.
Lewis was a high-profile backer of drug-law reform, reports Luisa Kroll at Forbes. He spent almost $3 million on the November 2012 election, contributing $2 million to the I-502 marijuana legalization drive in Washington state and another $1 million to the medical marijuana effort in Massachusetts; both were successful.
"We were, of course, incredibly grateful for Mr. Lewis's significant contributions that made Initiative 502 possible," I-502 author Alison Holcomb told David Holley of Bloomberg News. "We're very hopeful that others will follow in the example he set."
Cynics pointed out that Progressive Insurance is the chief source of the auto insurance policies that those convicted of driving under the influence of marijuana in Washington (cannabis DUI) under I-502 will be forced to buy; 502, in addition to legalizing possession of up to an ounce of pot, created a whole new crime in Washington state, that of driving with more than 5 ng/ml of THC in the blood (previously, law enforcement had to prove actual impairment to make a DUI stick).
By Steve Elliott
Former U.S. Representative William D. Delahunt wants to get into the medical marijuana business. Delahunt, a former Congressman from Massachusetts and longtime Norfolk County District Attorney, has filed applications with the state to open dispensaries in Plymouth, Taunton and Mashpee.
Delahunt said that his past experience as both a district attorney (for 21 years) and as a member of Congress make him especially well-suited to operate medical marijuana dispensaries. He represented the former 10th Congressional District in Massachusetts for seven terms, from 1997 to 2011.
Massachusetts has received 100 applications to open dispensaries; the law limits the number to 35 statewide, including at least one per county, but no more than five, reports Patrick Ronan at the Quincy Patriot Ledger.
The Massachusetts Department of Health on Friday released information on the 100 applications for dispensaries it has received, including the applicants' names and the cities and towns in which they want to open stores. Massachusetts' medical marijuana law requires that all dispensaries be run by nonprofits.
The state will announce its final selections on January 31 for the 35 available licenses, according to spokesman David Kibbe.
Patient advocates call on Congress to adopt binding changes to new federal policy
Medical marijuana advocates Americans for Safe Access (ASA) on Monday issued a report that analyzes the Obama Administration's latest enforcement guidelines for federal prosecutors in states that regulate medical marijuana distribution. The report, "Third Time the Charm? State Laws on Medical Cannabis Distribution and Department of Justice Guidance on Enforcement," shows that states have already enacted regulations that meet federal concerns, and some would have stronger regulations if it were not for federal threats that disrupted the legislative process.
The report concludes with recommendations for how federal and state legislators can protect patients and harmonize state and federal policies.
Medical marijuana patients greeted the Department of Justice (DOJ) memo issued August 31 by U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole with cautious optimism. The memo is the third from the Obama Administration that attempts to rein in federal prosecutors in states that allow for regulated distribution of marijuana.
The first memo, issued in October 2009 by Cole's predecessor, then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, did not stop various federal prosecutors from attempting to thwart the implementation of several state medical marijuana laws. A report issued by ASA earlier this year put the cost of federal interference with state medical marijuana programs at more than $300 million.
By Steve Elliott
A policeman in Buffalo, New York who recently was awarded Officer of the Month honors has been fired after he was caught growing 82 marijuana plants at his home.
James Hamilton was arraigned on Thursday on charges of operating a cannabis-growing operation at his home after a six-month investigation led to his dismissal from the Buffalo Police Department, reports Phil Fairbanks at The Buffalo News. Hamilton had been a cop for less than a year.
"Like any organization, you have bad apples," claimed Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda on Thursday.
Rookie cop Hamilton, 29, recent Officer of the Month, now faces multiple drug and weapons charges. Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy C. Lynch claimed 82 marijuana plants and 4 pounds of marijuana were found in Hamilton's basement. Police also seized a 12-gauge shotgun.
Hamilton was arraigned before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, who entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf. "My client is innocent," said defense lawyer Matthew Borowski. "And he intends to fight these charges."
By Steve Elliott
Parents who use marijuana -- even those who use it medicinally -- face a lot of judgments, and can sometimes even lose custody of their children. Parents 4 Pot, a new group based in Northern California is fighting the stigma surrounding the subject.
The new group has a Facebook page and plans to launch a website, reports Robin Wilkey at The Huffington Post. Next on the agenda is forming a board of directors and then advocating specific legislation.
"What we aspire to do is change the way people understand and talk about cannabis in our community," said organizer Mickey Martin, the author of Medical Marijuana 101 and founder of a company which produces cannabis-infused medibles. Martin is the father of two boys.
Martin in 2007 faced federal charges related to his medibles company, Tainted Inc., eventually being sentenced to probation for "marijuana manufacturing" and distribution charges that could have gotten him a decade in prison.
"There are many parents who lose their freedom, or whose children lose their freedom, every day to these policies and laws, and as a society we sit by and watch," Martin said. "It is not OK anymore."
Holder: “We Will Never Prosecute or Incarcerate Our Way to Becoming a Safer Nation”; 1 in 100 Americans Behind Bars Inadvisable and Unsustainable, Financially and Morally
DPA's Ethan Nadelmann: Historic Significance of Holder’s Critique Cannot Be Denied
Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday offered the Obama Administration’s most forceful critique to date of U.S. mass incarceration policies, at a meeting of the hemisphere's security ministers in Medellín, Colombia. He also emphasized the Obama Administration's efforts to scale back mandatory minimum sentencing policies.
“The path we are currently on is far from sustainable,” said Holder. “As we speak, roughly one out of every 100 American adults is behind bars.
"Although the United States comprises just five percent of the world’s population, we incarcerate almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners," Holder said. "While few would dispute the fact that incarceration has a role to play in any comprehensive public safety strategy, it’s become evident that such widespread incarceration is both inadvisable and unsustainable.
"It requires that we routinely spend billions of dollars on prison construction – and tens of billions more, on an annual basis, to house those who are convicted of crimes," said the Attorney General. "It carries both human and moral costs that are too much to bear. And it results in far too many Americans serving too much time in too many prisons – and beyond the point of serving any good law enforcement reason.”
State-regulated businesses to begin selling marijuana to adults on January 1, 2014
What is being called "the world's first-ever marijuana retail license" was issued in Central City, Colorado on Thursday. The recipient of the local license, Annie's, which is currently operating as a medical marijuana center, still must receive its state license. Businesses in localities across Colorado are scheduled to begin selling marijuana to adults 21 and older starting January 1, 2014.
"Colorado is moving forward and leaving marijuana prohibition behind," said Marijuana Policy Project director of communications Mason Tvert, who co-directed the successful campaign in support of the statewide ballot initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol in Colorado.
"For the first time in history, those who sell marijuana are receiving licenses from the state instead of rap sheets," Tvert said. "Marijuana will be sold to adults by legitimate, taxpaying businesses instead of drug cartels in the underground market.
"Colorado is proving to the rest of the world that marijuana can be regulated like alcohol," Tvert said. "It will not be long before voters and lawmakers in other states decide to adopt similar policies. Marijuana is objectively less harmful than alcohol, and it is finally starting to be treated that way."
By Steve Elliott
West Virginia lawmakers on Wednesday got a draft of a bill that would legalize medical marijuana in the state.
Nearly identical bills were introduced in the House in the past two legislative sessions, reports Dave Boucher at the Charleston Daily Mail, but both died in committee.
If that happens again, the Senate would never see the bill, but Senate Health Committee Chairman Ron Stollings (D-Boone), a physician, said there are medical uses for cannabis. The issues, Sen. Stollings said, are the logistics and liability of providing safe access to patients.
The draft legislation was briefly discussed on Wednesday when it was presented to a joint House and Senate health committee.
House Health Committee attorney Charles Roskevensky described the measure as a "very rough draft" for an eventual bill that could be introduced in the 2014 session of the West Virginia Legislature.
Under the measure, qualified patients could possess up to six ounces of usable cannabis, and would be allowed to grow 12 mature marijuana plants and twelve seedlings, if they don't have a caregiver who grows for them. Caregivers would have the same limits for each of their qualified patients.
Patients would be allowed to buy from licensed caregivers or from compassion centers (marijuana dispensaries) after being authorized by a physician with whom they have a "bona fide doctor-patient relationship," according to the bill.
By Steve Elliott
Federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Internal Revenue Service agents, along with officers of the Denver Police Department, on Thursday morning are conducting raids at multiple medical marijuana facilities in the Denver, Colorado area.
A statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Denver confirmed the ongoing raids, reports Michael Roberts at Westword. "Our sources tell us it's likely to continue throughout the day and involvers a notable number of targets," Roberts wrote.
A statement from Jeff Dorschner, spokesman for U.S. Attorney John Walsh, gives few details about the raids. Early reports filtering in placed the number of raided operations between 20 and 40.
"The Drug Enforcement Administration, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations, the Denver Police Department and state and local law enforcement are today executing lawfully obtained search warrants and seizure warrants," reads Dorschner's statement.
The raided locations included "a couple" in Boulder County, according to a law enforcement source, reports Mitchell Byars at the Boulder Daily Camera.
By Steve Elliott
With backers of an initiative gathering signatures for next year's ballot, medical marijuana has the support of an amazing 82 percent of voters in Florida, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday. The same poll found that 48 percent of voters favor overall legalization.
"If the folks who want to legalize medical marijuana in Florida can get their proposal on the ballot, they are overwhelmingly favored to prevail next November," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Support for the proposed constitutional amendment which could appear on the 2014 ballot is very strong among voters of every political affiliation, every age and every income level, reports Marc Caputo at the Bradenton Herald. Independent voters show the highest level of support at 88 percent, according to the poll.
The 82-16 overall support for medical marijuana is the biggest ever recorded in Florida. The previous crest of support was about 70 percent, taken in a poll earlier this year by People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM), the group behind the constitutional amendment.