By Steve Elliott
More than two out of every three physicians in the United States -- 67 percent -- say that medical marijuana should be an option for patients, according to the results of a new WebMD/Medscape poll.
WebMD on Thursday released Marijuana on Main Street, a special report looking at the debate over medicinal cannabis. The site surveyed nearly 3,000 consumers and Medscape surveyed more than 1,500 doctors about their opinions on legalization, cannabis as a treatment option, and the perceived risks and benefits of its use.
"Despite more than 20 years of anecdotal evidence about the medicinal effects of marijuana, doctors and consumers remain in search of answers," said Dr. Michael Smith, chief medical editor at WebMD. "The findings of our consumer-physician survey indicate the medical community's support for the use of marijuana as a treatment option, particularly among clinical specialists that have pioneered research.
"Yet these survey data suggest additional studies will inform decision-makers' confidence in where medical marijuana can help and where it might not," Dr. Smith added. Peer-review data on marijuana's health benefits remains limited.
The survey found that overall, 56 percent of respondents are in favor of national medical marijuana legalization.
Current 1,500-Foot Zone Blankets Almost All Urban Areas
CT Senate Bill That Would Reduce Enhancement Zones from 1,500 to 200 Feet Passes Judiciary Committee
The Prison Policy Initiative on Thursday released a report, “Reaching too far: How Connecticut’s large sentencing enhancement zones miss the mark”, that analyzes Connecticut’s failed 1,500-foot sentencing enhancement zones. Connecticut’s law, meant to protect children from drug activity, requires an additional sentence for certain drug offenses committed within 1,500 feet of schools, day care centers, and public housing projects.
The resulting sentencing enhancement zones are some of the largest in the country.
“The law’s sheer expanse means it fails to actually set apart any meaningfully protected areas and it arbitrarily increases penalties for urban residents,” explains report author Aleks Kajstura, legal director at the Prison Policy Initiative, a national, non-profit, nonpartisan research and policy organization, with a focus on how geography impacts criminal justice policy.
The report mapped eight of the zones in the state’s cities and towns and demonstrates that the law doesn’t work, and in fact cannot possibly work as written.
Supporters call on members of the House of Representatives to pass bills approved last week by the House Restorative Justice Committee that would replace criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois with a non-criminal fine
Panel discussion on collateral sanctions of marijuana arrests to take place Friday at Roosevelt University
Supporters of a bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois on Thursday released the results of a statewide poll showing strong support for such legislation. The Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee approved the bill last week, and supporters are now calling on members of the House to approve the proposal.
The Public Policy Polling survey shows 63 percent of Illinois voters support making possession of an ounce of marijuana a non-criminal offense punishable by a fine of up to $100. Only 27 percent oppose the proposal.
The poll found majority support across all reported genders, races, and political party affiliations. The survey, which polled 769 Illinois voters from March 28-30, is available at http://www.mpp.org/ILpoll.
Though not conducted with the methodological rigor of the Pew Poll that came out on Wednesday -- showing 54 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana and two-thirds believe drug policy should focus on treatment rather than prosecuting drug users -- Law Officer magazine has provided Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) a poll of its own showing an even more surprising finding: a majority of law enforcement officers also support marijuana policy reform.
Though some of the provided answers seemed to overlap, the overall effect is one indicating broad support for change among the readership of the publication, 97 percent of whom indicated they are or had been in law enforcement.
Some of the most surprising results include 66 percent saying marijuana possession should be legalized, decriminalized, legalized for medical reasons or illegal but only punished with fines, with the largest plurality (37 percent) supporting legalization. Even more surprising, almost 27 percent supported legalizing “the sale of marijuana in large quantities” with 36 percent calling for some form of change from the current model.
While support for decriminalizing possession of other drugs was significantly lower, 14 percent of this population (generally thought to be the most opposed to reform) supported changes in policy.
By Steve Elliott
Washington State University and private sector audit firm to produce ordered lists of applicants
The Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) on Wednesday approved staff’s recommendation for a lottery that will select the "apparent successful applicants" for marijuana retail licenses.
The independent, double-blind process will happen April 21-25, according to the WSLCB, and will produce a list of applicants that the agency will use to continue its retail licensing process. The agency said it expects to begin issuing retail licenses no later than the first week of July.
Initiative 502 directed the WSLCB to limit the number of marijuana retail stores by county. In its rules, the WSLCB limited the number of stores statewide to 334.
The most populated cities within each county are allotted a maximum number of stores, with the remainder at large within the county. The rules further state that if the WSLCB receives more applications for a jurisdiction than there are stores allocated, the state would use a lottery process for producing a ranked order of applicants.
Well, surprise, surprise: There are hella more prospective marijuana store applicants than there are licenses available. And many of the unsuccessful applicants are going to be quite upset, some of them after spending tens of thousands of dollars getting ready to go into the marijuana business. Expect a spate of bitter lawsuits on the horizon.
U.S.: DEA Head Tells Congress Her Agency Is 'Fighting Back' Against Administration's Tolerance of Marijuana LegalizationSubmitted by steveelliott on Wed, 04/02/2014 - 19:35
At a Wednesday House subcommittee hearing, DEA director Michele Leonhart publicly opposed Department of Justice position on legal marijuana in Colorado and Washington and warned of dangers of marijuana legalization … to pets
Dan Riffle of Marijuana Policy Project: 'It's Time For Her To Go'
Drug Enforcement Administration head Michele Leonhart apparently has no problem trash-talking her boss. The administrator of the DEA repeatedly criticized the Obama Administration at a Wednesday hearing on the DEA’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
In a memo released in July 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it would not interfere with the effective implementation of laws regulating the cultivation and sale of marijuana for adults in Colorado and Washington. When asked by Congressman Frank Wolf (R-VA) during a Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies subcommittee hearing whether the Obama Administration’s tolerant views toward legal marijuana had affected morale at the DEA, which is a branch of the DOJ, Leonhart replied that “Our agents are fighting back against those messages. It makes us fight harder.”
The DEA administrator had earlier criticized the DOJ for a perceived delay in issuing a response to Washington and Colorado’s new laws, claiming there was “a lot of confusion in those 296 days.”
Group Will Also Release New Report Detailing Collateral Consequences of Being Arrested for Marijuana in Illinois
Central Illinois man who was denied public housing assistance 13 years after being arrested for possessing 2.5 grams of marijuana will join Illinois religious leader and others at a news conference Thursday at 11 a.m. CT in the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago
Supporters of a bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Illinois will on Thursday release the results of a statewide poll that show strong support for such legislation. The Illinois House Restorative Justice Committee approved the bill last week, and supporters are now calling on members of the House to approve the proposal.
A new report, “Marked for Life: Collateral Sanctions in Illinois,” which details the impact of being arrested for a marijuana-related offense in Illinois, will also be released. Collateral consequences of marijuana arrests in Illinois will also be the subject of a panel discussion at the Fourth Annual Forum on Drug Policy, which will be held Friday at Roosevelt University. For details, visit http://bit.ly/1jlWPe8.
Two Out of Three Americans Think People Shouldn’t Be Prosecuted for Possession of Drugs Such as Cocaine and Heroin; 63 Percent Support Moving Away from Mandatory Minimums; 54 Percent Support Marijuana Legalization
DPA’s Ethan Nadelmann: It’s Time to Stop Arresting People for Drug Use or Possession
A new national survey released today by the Pew Research Center reveals that a broad majority of Americans are ready to significantly reduce the role of the criminal justice system in dealing with people who use drugs.
More than six in ten Americans (63 percent) say that state governments moving away from mandatory prison terms for drug law violations is a good thing, while just 32 percent say these policy changes are a bad thing. This is a substantial shift from 2001 when the public was evenly divided (47 percent good thing vs. 45 percent bad thing). The majority of all demographic groups, including Republicans and Americans over 65 years old, support this shift.
At the same time, there has been a major shift in attitudes on whether the use of marijuana should be legal. As recently as four years ago, about half (52 percent) said they thought the use of marijuana should not be legal; 41 percent said marijuana use should be legal. Today those numbers are roughly reversed – 54 percent favor marijuana legalization while 42 percent are opposed. Just 16 percent say it should not be legal for either medical or recreational use.
By Steve Elliott
Washington D.C. Mayor Vince Gray on Monday signed a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana in the nation's capital.
The D.C. City Council had approved the bill, which eliminates criminal offenses for an ounce of less of cannabis, and sent it to Mayor Gray's desk for his approval, reports Eyder Peralta at NPR.
Anyone caught with an ounce or less of marijuana will be charged with civil offense punishable by a $25 fine, repo0rts Martin Austermuhle at WAMU. Medical marijuana patients, of course, are exempt from this civil offense, since they are allowed to possess up to two ounces of dried cannabis.
Support grew for the measure after a 2013 ACLU report found that D.C. leads the United States in the rate of marijuana arrests, and that African American residents are eight times more likely than whites to be arrested for cannabis possession.
"This is a victory for the District and a victory for justice," said Council member Tommy Wells, who introduced the decrim bill. "This bill is a tremendous stride to end the disproportionate sociological and economic impact of marijuana arrests on African Americans -- arrests that pull families apart and keep our residents from jobs, higher education and housing opportunities," Wells said.
By Steve Elliott
State Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden) has introduced a bill that would legalize marijuana in New Jersey, creating a taxed and regulated system of distribution like the one in Colorado. The bill on Monday was endorsed by the New Jersey State Municipal Prosecutors Association, the president of which called it "silly" to spend money on marijuana cases.
The 7-2 vote, by the prosecutor's association's board of trustees, produced such high emotions that some prosecutors quit the association upon learning the results, according to the association's President Jon-Henry Barr, reports Susan K. Livio at The Star-Ledger.
"This is something a lot of prosecutors have been thinking but never talked about," Barr said. "I have spent hours and hours litigating the issue of suppression motions because usually the police will retrieve marijuana without a search warrant, and at the end of the day, it is all over a joint. It's just collectively brought me and so many prosecutors to the point where this is silly."
"We are spending too much time and getting not enough results when it comes to prosecuting small amounts of marijuana," Barr said, reports CBS New York's Marla Diamond.
By Steve Elliott
Several hundred people rallied at the Pennsylvania State Capitol in Harrisburg on Monday, urging state lawmakers to allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the production of industrial hemp, and the decriminalization of recreational cannabis.
The Keystone Cannabis Reform Rally featured speakers who urged the use of marijuana as medicine, in support of Senate Bill 1182, which is pending in a state Senate committee and would allow its use with a doctor's authorization, reports Jon Delano at KDKA.
Among the advocates was Heather Shuker of Valencia, whose 11-year-old daughter Hannah has a severe form of epilepsy with multiple seizures daily. "To see her suffer every day is pretty hard to deal with," Shuker said.
Military veteran Joe Mirt, who was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, said MS is "very painful and hard to manage. And I have found through cannabis I have relief." He said prescribed pharmaceutical anti-depressants only make him feel worse.
"They tell me I can raise a rifle for my state, but I can't raise a joint for my health," Mirt said, reports David Wenner at PennLive. Mirt said he's a veteran of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard and the war in Iraq. "You send us to fight your wars and do your bidding, but when we come home where's the support?"
By Steve Elliott
Effective immediately, it is now legal in Nevada to sell, grow, test and tax medical marijuana. The new medical marijuana law went into effect April 1, but it's no joke.
Government officials said it will be awhile before medical marijuana dispensaries are open for business; the same goes for indoor grow operations, or laboratories to test for potency and contaminants, reports Ray Hagar at the Reno Gazette-Journal. Patients in Washoe County who have a doctor's authorization will be able to buy medical marijuana in about months, according to local government representatives.
"There are so many what ifs," said spokesman Adam Mayberry of the city of Sparks. "The reports I have seen put it later this year or early 2015. It is possible you could see it by later this year -- and I want to emphasize late."
The newly legal industry is expected to be a job producer and a fresh source of tax revenue for state and local governments.
"Before, we were all talking about what to do but it wasn't yet legal," said state Senator Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas), who was the main sponsor of the 2013 bill which legalized dispensaries (medical marijuana was legalized by Nevada voters back in 2000, but patients have had no legal access to buy cannabis). "But as of (Tuesday), it will now be legal to have marijuana dispensaries, marijuana grow houses and marijuana cooking facilities for edibles in the state of Nevada."
By Steve Elliott
Marijuana-infused edible treats just came within a gnat's whisker of getting banned by Oregon health officials, but seem to have dodged the bullet, at least for now. Officials at the Oregon Health Authority got hundreds of emails opposing the ban, and the new set of rules released on Monday seeks only to ban marijuana-laced products that are made in packaged in ways that might appeal to children.
The new rules ban cannabis-infused edibles that are brightly colored or formed in the shapes of animals, toys, or candies, reports Chad Garland of the Associated Press. They require cannabis products to be sold in child-proof containers, with no cartoons or "bright colors."
In a release announcing the new rules, Tom Burns, director of Pharmacy Programs for the Oregon Health Authority, said "Marijuana isn't candy, and it shouldn't look like candy."
SB 1531, passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. John Kitzhaber earlier this month, required the health authority to set the rules. The bill also allows cities and counties to ban dispensaries within their borders, until May 2015 anyway.
The new law calls for the Oregon Health Authority to implement rules designed to keep marijuana away from children.
An earlier draft of the proposed rules would have instituted a blanket ban on all cakes, cookies, candy and gum that contain cannabis, but Burns said the agency had gotten "a couple hundred" emails from patients upset about that.
While Assembly Included Compassionate Care Act in Budget Proposal, the Senate and Governor Failed to Act
Advocates: To Alleviate Patient Suffering in New York, State Senate Must Immediately Bring Compassionate Care Act to Floor for a Vote
Governor Andrew Cuomo, Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Senate Co-Presidents Dean Skelos and Jeffrey Klein on Saturday announced that they had reach a budget agreement, but the deal excluded the Compassionate Care Act, a bill that would allow seriously ill New Yorkers access to medical marijuana under the supervision of their healthcare provider.
The Assembly had included the proposal as part of their one-house budget bill, but the Senate and Governor refused to include the bill in the final budget. The Compassionate Care Act has passed the Assembly four times, has bi-partisan support in the Senate, and is supported by a super-majority of New York voters. But senate leaders have refused to let the bill come up for a vote.
Patients, providers and caregivers were frustrated to learn that once again the Legislature refused to show the sick suffering some compassion and mercy. They urged immediate action by the Senate to pass the Compassionate Care Act as a stand-alone bill.
By Steve Elliott
Infighting between Republican Georgia lawmakers before final approval doomed a bill which would have legalized marijuana-derived CBD oil in the state for the treatment of seizures, even after both chambers of the Legislature passed the bill. But Governor Nathan Deal is now considering administrative action to allow families in the state to use the oil for debilitating seizures.
At a campaign stop in Athens over the weekend, Gov. Deal said he was considering creating a state program under the auspices of a college, perhaps Georgia Regents University, to provide a scientific environment to start clinical trials of CBD oil, reports April Burkhart of the Athens Banner-Herald.
"It's important for us to understand that this is not an issue we want to open the floodgate on," Gov. Deal ssaid. "It has to be done in a controlled environment. If we can move it in that direction it will lay the foundation for us to do something legislatively in future sessions. That's where we are trying to move."