By Steve Elliott
Two publications have launched a federal lawsuit against the state of Colorado over laws prohibiting the state's legal recreational marijuana industry from advertising on television, radio, online or in print.
A suit filed this week in U.S. District Court in Denver by High Times magazine and Denver alternative weekly newspaper Westword says that the rules are "unjustifiably burdensome" and unconstitutionally violate First Amendment free speech rights, reports Keith Coffman at Reuters.
"Government restrictions on commercial speech that concerns lawful activity and is not misleading violate the First Amendment," the complaint reads.
Colorado's recreational marijuana law doesn't allow advertising on television, radio, the Internet, or in print unless they can establish that no more than 30 percent of the targeted audience is under the age of 21, an unrealistic and almost Kafka-esque restriction. The advertising limits do not apply to Colorado's medical marijuana industry, which has been around since 2001.
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers' office said it was reviewing the complaint.
The lawsuit names as defendants Gov. John Hickenlooper and the head of a state department which oversees the marijuana industry. It says that Colorado's voters approved recreational marijuana and its regulation like alcohol, and that no such ad bans apply to the alcohol industry.
Proposals Aim to Decriminalize Possession of All Drugs, Establish Medical Marijuana Program, Create New Regulatory Structure for Drug Control
Mexico Building on Momentum Throughout the Americas to Dismantle the Failed Drug War
Two bills were introduced in Mexico City on Thursday that would reform drug policies in North America's largest city and on a national level. The first bill seeks to decriminalize the possession of marijuana for personal use, removes incarceration as the first response for the possession of other illicit substances, and creates a limited mechanism for the sale of marijuana if certain requirements are met.
Possession of less than 5 grams of marijuana would not lead to any form of prosecution or jail time. Additionally, the bill establishes threshold quantities for cocaine, heroin and other illicit substances, under which people who use drugs can be referred to a “Dissuasion Committee” -– based on principles of collaboration and human rights -– that offers information and support to minimize the risks and harms of drug use.
By Steve Elliott
Italy's constitutional court on Wednesday struck down the country's marijuana law which tripled sentences for selling, growing or possessing cannabis. The law has been blamed for prison overcrowding in the country.
The court ruled that the law, passed in 2006 by Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government, was "illegitimate," without going into details, reports Steve Scherer at MSN News. Some estimates suggest 10,000 people could be released from Italian jails, which are the most overcrowded in the European Union.
The prison rights group Antigone says the harsh drug law was the biggest reason for Italy's prison overcrowding problem. According to the group, 40 percent of all inmates in Italian prisons are serving sentences for drug crimes.
About 62,000 inmates are crammed into cells built for fewer than 48,000, according to official data.
The 2006 drug law classified marijuana and hashish as equal, legally, to cocaine and heroin. It boosted sentences for cannabis cultivation, sale and trafficking from 2-6 years to 6-20 years.
The drug law previously in place will now take effect after the court's ruling. Crimes related to hard drugs like cocaine and heroin will once again carry longer prison sentences than cannabis.
Neither the old law, nor the new one, made it a crime to consume marijuana, but both outlawed its possession.
Measure would establish a legal market for licensed businesses to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older; 53 percent of Rhode Island voters support such a law, according to a January poll
Rhode Island Senate Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Josh Miller and House Judiciary Committee Chairwoman Edith Ajello announced Wednesday that they will introduce a bill to make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.
“Marijuana prohibition has been a long-term failure,” Sen. Miller said. “Forcing marijuana into the underground market ensures authorities have no control of the product. Regulating marijuana would allow the product to be sold safely and responsibly by legitimate businesses in appropriate locations.”
The measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and grow up to two marijuana plants (only one may be mature) in an enclosed, locked space. It would also establish a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, and testing facilities, and enact an excise tax of up to $50 per ounce on the wholesale sale of marijuana flowers applied at the point of transfer from the cultivation facility to a retail store (a special 10 percent sales tax would also be applied at the point of retail sales).
The Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation would be required to establish rules regulating security, labeling, health, and safety requirements.
Measure with bipartisan support would replace criminal penalties and potential jail time with a civil fine of up to $100 for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana
A news conference with the bill sponsors will be held at 12:30 p.m. ET, immediately preceding the House committee hearing
The New Hampshire House of Representatives Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing Thursday, February 13, on a bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana. A news conference featuring the bill's sponsors and other supporters will begin at 12:30 p.m. in the lobby of the Legislative Office Building in Concord. It will immediately precede the public hearing, which will be held in Rooms 202-204 of the Legislative Office Building.
HB 1625, sponsored by Rep. Adam Schroadter (R-Newmarket) and a bipartisan group of seven cosponsors including Sen. Jeff Woodburn (D-Dalton), would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana punishable by a civil fine of up to $100. It would also make cultivation of up to six plants a Class A misdemeanor instead of a felony.
Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $2,000. New Hampshire is the only state in New England that treats simple marijuana possession as a criminal offense with the potential for jail time.
By Steve Elliott
The January death of a 58-year-old Kansas woman in jail after being arrested for marijuana she'd legally purchased in Colorado is being investigated by local authorities as family members continue to look for answers. Her sister alleges that jail guards stood by, ignoring her pleas for help.
Brenda Sewell and her sister Joy Biggs had been pulled over January 20 in Goodland by the Kansas Highway Patrol for speeding, reports Glenn E. Rice at The Kansas City Star. A trooper arrested them after finding a small amount of marijuana, according to relatives.
Family members want to know why Sewell started foaming at the mouth, and why jailers took so long to help as her sister and another cellmate tried to revive the woman.
While in Colorado, Sewell had bought some cannabis to help ease pain associated with her ailments, as well as to manage nausea and improve her appetite, according to her younger brother, Rick Ray of Kansas City. Sewell had 31 grams of marijuana in a sealed jar when she was stopped by the Kansas Highway Patrol, according to Biggs. The officer claimed he smelled marijuana.
U.S.: Bill Would Repeal Law Prohibiting Drug Czar From Studying And Supporting Marijuana LegalizationSubmitted by steveelliott on Wed, 02/12/2014 - 17:17
'Unmuzzle the Drug Czar Act' Introduced in Congress Tuesday Would Repeal Law Prohibiting the Drug Czar From Studying Marijuana Legalization and Requiring Opposition to Marijuana Legalization Efforts
Rep. Steve Cohen's bill comes one week after congressional members slam ONDCP for failing to acknowledge facts about marijuana and relying on marijuana propaganda
Did you know the Drug Czar is prohibited by law from supporting, or even studying marijuana legalization? U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) on Tuesday introduced a bill that would change federal law so that the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), commonly known as the “Drug Czar,” is no longer prohibited from studying the legalization of marijuana and no longer required to oppose attempts to legalize marijuana for medical or broader adult use.
“We applaud Rep. Cohen for challenging these absurd and antiquated rules,” said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Prohibiting the drug czar’s office from studying marijuana legalization is like prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from exploring new ways to reduce pollution.”
“A majority of Americans think marijuana should be made legal for adults,” Riffle said. “The federal government’s top drug policy official should not be required to blindly oppose them. Our nation’s marijuana policy should be guided by science, not politics.”
Eighteen Members of Congress joined together Wednesday in calling on President Obama to use his authority to reclassify marijuana from its current position as a dangerous drug, alongside heroin and LSD, with no medical value. A letter sent by federal legislators says that marijuana's current status "makes no sense," and requests that President Obama "instruct Attorney General Holder to delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way." The Congressional letter comes just days after Obama told The New Yorker magazine that marijuana was less dangerous than alcohol.
Although marijuana was sold as an over-the-counter medicine until the 1930s, produced by the likes of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970 classified marijuana as a Schedule I substance. Ignoring White House-appointed commissions, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) judges, and reports, all calling for marijuana's reclassification, the federal government has refused to recognize the medical science and popular will in order to maintain marijuana's current status.
Clueless Commissioner Claims Medical Marijuana 'Bad For Your Health'
By Steve Elliott
The Marion County Board of Commissioners Oregon on Wednesday passed a resolution opposing the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries, and opposing the legalization of marijuana. One clueless county commissioner claims it's because medical marijuana is bad for your health.
The resolution sets a direction for county policy, reports Michael Rose at the Statesman Journal, and could lead to a complete ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in the county.
In fact, county employees have already busily started drafting an ordinance that would prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries in Marion County, according to Milne. Isn't it remarkable how much time these folks find to stymie the will of the voters?
"We believe there is a detrimental effect to the health, safety, and, quite frankly, the peace of our community," claimed Marion County Commissioner Patti Milne, who didn't really explain how she felt making medicine available to sick people would be bad for their health or for anyone else's peace.
Milne claimed Oregon's marijuana laws are in conflict with federal law. She claimed communities are "scrambling to figure out" ways to effectively regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.
The dispensary ban could be on the commission's agenda as early as February 19, according to Milne.
Vigorous Debate Showed Bipartisan Interest for Marijuana Reform But Failed to Clear Committee As a Result of Lingering Political Fears and Constitutional Arguments
On a tie vote of 5 to 5, New Mexico State Senator Ortiz y Pino’s (D-12-Bernalillo) Senate Joint Resolution 10 (SJR10) on Tuesday failed to pass the Senate Rules Committee. SJR10 would have allowed for the possession and personal use of marijuana by persons 21 years of age and older and for the regulation of the production, sale and taxation of marijuana in New Mexico.
“We were encouraged by the thoughtful and vigorous debate by members from both sides of the aisle where both Republicans and Democrats voiced support for marijuana reform. Although they acknowledged the racially disparate impact that New Mexico’s current marijuana laws have on our communities of color and our youth, they chose not to give their constituents the opportunity to vote on this issue,” said Emily Kaltenbach, New Mexico state director with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Sadly, it also appears they are far too concerned that it would be a detriment on the campaign trail.”
By Steve Elliott
A California association of drug cops on Monday asked President Obama to retract his recent comments concerning marijuana being no more harmful than alcohol.
"The California Narcotic Officers' Association takes strong issue with your comparison of marijuana and alcohol," CNOA president Steve Riddle wrote to Obama in an open letter. The letter suggests that Obama "reevaluate" his comparison of alcohol and marijuana.
"Today's marijuana is far more potent that the marijuana that you have so honestly acknowledged using during your teens and early adulthood," Riddle writes. "Moreover, the increasingly popular Butane Hash Oil exceeds 80 percent THC, making it far more potent than the marijuana of one to three percent THC that characterized your era. Additionally, I would ask that you consider your recent comments in light of the documented material on marijuana harms that are posted on the White House Website."
"The comments of the President of the United States -- on any issue -- are taken very seriously," Riddle's letter reads. "When the President speaks, the media, teachers, children, and for that matter, the world listen. This is particularly true when the President speaks on an issue that is at the forefront of our culture such as drug use.
"It's not enough for the President to simply say that drug use is 'not something I encourage,'" Riddle wrote. "When it comes to the use of drugs, it is imperative that the President of the United States 'discourage' their use."
By Steve Elliott
Florida lawmakers on Monday introduced identical bills in both houses of the Legislature to legalize medical marijuana in a bid to win approval before a constitutional amendment on the issue is decided by voters in November.
Democratic Senators Jeff Clemens and Joe Saunders brought patients and family members to the news conference announcing the bill, which they said would effectively implement by statute the constitutional amendment upon which voters will decide this fall, reports Bill Cotterell of Reuters.
"This bill puts patients before politics," said Cathy Jordan of Parrish, Florida, president of the Florida Cannabis Action Network. Jordan has lived for 28 years with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Her speech is slurred by her illness; she sat in her wheelchair as her husband, Robert, read her statement at the news conference announcing the bill.
The constitutional amendment on this November's ballot -- and the newly introduced bills -- would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS, ALS and other severe afflictions.
The legislative session which starts March 4 will be the fourth year a medical marijuana bill has been introduced. Republicans in the Florida Legislature strongly oppose the constitutional amendment, and they are joined in their opposition by GOP Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi.
By Steve Elliott
Maryland gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur, a Democratic state delegate, is asking the state's lieutenant governor and attorney general -- who are the front runners in the campaign for the governor's mansion -- to join her in backing marijuana decriminalization.
Running for the Democratic nomination for governor, Mizeur faces Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler in next year's primary. She estimated that taxing cannabis could net up to $157.5 million in new revenue for the state annually.
The Maryland Marijuana Decriminalization Act -- which would reduce penalties for possession of an ounce or less of cannabis to a $100 fine -- may have the votes to pass in the Maryland Legislature, which is run by Democratic supermajorities, reports David Weigel at Slate.
"Marijuana's time as a controlled, illegal substance has run its course," Mizeur said. "Marijuana laws ruin lives, are enforced with racial bias and distract law enforcement from serious and violent crimes.
"A Maryland with legalized, regulated and taxed marijuana will mean safer communities, universal early childhood education and fewer citizens unnecessarily exposed to our criminal justice system," she said.
By Steve Elliott
Kentucky residents favor medical marijuana by a margin of 15 percentage points, according to a new WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll released on Sunday night. According to the poll, 52 percent favor allowing the use of medical marijuana in Kentucky, while 37 percent oppose it and 12 percent are not sure.
Senator Perry Clark (D-Louisville) sponsors Senate Bill 43, which would legalize the medicinal use of cannabis in Kentucky, as has been done in 20 other states, reports Joe Arnold at WHAS11. "The science is far on our side," Clark said. "Cannabis is medicine. It's medicine in its many forms."
Predictably, law enforcement opposes the bill, claiming it would be easy to abuse.
"It's very difficult to regulate," claimed Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer. "The laws are vague. They're not well thought out. So, there's a host of issues that go with it aside from it not being proven."
"You have of lot of testimony on both sides of folks saying it makes me feel better or doesn't," Brewer claimed, ignoring the fact that nobody's saying it doesn't. "But in the end, there's never been any scientific evidence that this is a viable medicine for out illnesses," he lied, ignoring thousands of scientific studies which show exactly that.
By Steve Elliott
Medical marijuana advocates will rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, February 12, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., as part of a push to reform the state's strict cannabis laws.
Medical Marijuana Day will include lobbying, advocacy and training, according to Norma Sapp, director of the Oklahoma chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), reports Tim Farley at the Oklahoma Gazette.
An advocacy training session is scheduled for 10 a.m. in Room 104 at the Capitol, according to Sapp. The meeting is designed to help advocates effectively lobby their elected representatives and how to fill a bill as it progresses through the Legislature.
NORML volunteers will be on the 4th Floor Rotunda all day to help arrange meetings between voters and their lawmakers, according to Sapp.
According to a 2013 survey from SoonerPoll.com, 71 percent of likely Oklahoma voters support medical marijuana. Other surveys show 57 percent prefer treating minor cannabis violations as noncriminal offenses, with fines only.
A bill was introduced in this legislative session by state Sen. Connie Johnson (D-Forest Park) which would legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in Oklahoma. Two other cannabis-related bills from the 2013 legislative session are still alive, including one proposal which would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for patients.