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).
Next to ObamaCare, cannabis is the hottest, most discussed subject in the media. Twenty states and D.C. have medical marijuana, 14 states have decriminalized marijuana, two states have legalized it for everyone and several more states are poised to pass legalization laws.
Americans still have questions, and beginning on November 23, Cannabis Planet TV has announced it will be taking to the airwaves in a dozen cites with the information on all things cannabis.
Originally seen only in California, Brad Lane’s Cannabis Planet will be aired weekly beginning November 23. TV stations in Massachusetts, Louisiana, Florida, Texas and California will air a new show every week. More stations are being added daily. Cannabis Planet is entertainment with an emphasis on medical research, cannabis cooking, cultivation, cannabis celebrities and legalization advances in American and around the globe.
The first show features longtime federal marijuana recipients, stockbroker Irvin Rosenfeld, who gets free government pot to treat his tumors, and glaucoma patient Elvy Musikka. Interviewees also include Dr. Julie Holland, author of The Pot Book, and Mara Gordon, international medical cannabis expert. There will be holiday cannabis cooking tips from Chef Mike Delao, hemp tips and music by the Trevor Green Band.
By Michael Bachara, Hemp News Correspondent
After a panel of appointed experts can appease federal officials with a set of rules, Oregon farmers may sow a crop of industrial hemp next spring. The committee of agricultural experts and state officials has been selected by the Oregon Department of Agriculture, and will come together in December to establish proper procedures for hemp cultivation in Oregon.
"The committee hopes to set up a program that will meet what the federal government calls a ‘robust’ standard," according to Jim Cramer, a market and certification official at the Department of Agriculture. "The goal is to do so in time for planting."
In 2009, Senate Bill 676, spearheaded by Oregon State Senator Floyd Prozanski, was passed by the Oregon legislature and then-Governor Theodore Kulongoski signed the historic bill into law. Since the passage, Oregon farmers have been hesitant to begin growing due to fear that they’d be prosecuted by the Drug Enforcement Administration for possession of a schedule I controlled substance.
In recent months, hemp’s legal status gained momentum. The federal justice department said it won’t prosecute cases in states such as Washington and Colorado that legalize and regulate marijuana.
By Steve Elliott
The father of a two-year-old girl in Alabama with a rare neurological and epileptic disorder has started an online petition asking Governor Robert Bentley and state lawmakers to allow the use of a a form of medical marijuana that could help control the girl's frequent, violent seizures.
Dustin Chandler, a police officer in Pelham, and his wife Amy recently visited Gov. Bentley in Montgomery to ask for his support for medical marijuana, reports Martin J. Reed at al.com. Their daughter, Carly, is unable to walk, talk or feed herself.
The online petition at Change.org focuses on cannabidiol (CBD), a non-intoxicating cannabinoid from marijuana that can treat inflammation, pain, anxiety, diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. It can also treat Carly's violent seizures that occur several times a day -- seizures which pharmaceutical medications cannot control.
"The main fact that we want people to understand is we're not trying to get our two-year-old high," Chandler said. "They won't get stoned. This is a natural treatment ... that might have great benefit in helping her seizures. The life that she has, I'm trying to give the best quality to her."
By Steve Elliott
A Seattle-based medical marijuana patient advocacy group, the Cannabis Action Coalition, has filed a recall petition against Governor Jay Inslee with state Attorney General Bob Ferguson's office.
The petition alleges corruption related to the Washington State Liquor Control Board's implementation of cannabis legalization Initiative 502.
"It's pretty clear that no matter which party prevails, the losing party will file an expedited appeal with the Washington State Supreme Court, said activist Steve Sarich, who heads up the CAC. "The best information we have is that this could happen within 10 days of the Superior Court decision."
Sarich was a guest on Tuesday's "Mike Bastinelli Show." Sarich talked about the flaws in I-502 that will affect medical marijuana patients in Washington, and the group's allegations against Gov. Inslee.
Sarich ran the No On I-502 campaign. He opposed the measure because of its per se DUI level of 5 nanograms of THC of milliliter of blood (5 ng/mg), which is not a true level of impairment; because it didn't remove any of the laws that made marijuana illegal in the first place (in fact, it added several new ways you can be arrested for cannabis); and because it will result in the over-taxation of medical marijuana, because of claims that the MMJ community is cutting into the revenue stream of proposed recreational marijuana outlets.
By Steve Elliott
Michigan cannabis advocates hope that their successes at the ballot box this year will help increase pressure on state legislators to legalize or decriminalize marijuana.
Voters in Ferndale, Jackson and Lansing last week all approved ballot measures that removed all city penalties for possession of marijuana by adults on private property, reports Jake Neher at Interlochen Public Radio.
Tim Beck, an activist who helped organize those campaigns, said their success sends a message to the Legislature that marijuana penalties need to be reduced statewide.
"Like 17 other states have done, including Ohio," Beck said. "It's the equivalent of a traffic ticket in Ohio -- a $100 fine. That should be very simple," he said during a guest appearance on "Off the Record," a show on Michigan Public Radio.
"And there's huge public support," Beck said, "as demonstrated in all of these elections that we've had." But it's still too soon for a statewide ballot initiative, he said.
"The funders that funded the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in (2008), they need to see poll numbers, OK?" Beck said. "Michigan, right now, is 'hardcore support' at 52 percent for full legalization of marijuana. That's not good enough to run a ballot initiative. We need to get those numbers up."
Two activist groups of medicinal cannabis advocates are calling on Michigan's Department of Human Services to conduct "a complete review of practices conducted by Child Protective Services, and enact reforms that improve public and family safety."
According to The Human Solution and Michigan Moms United, an ever-growing number and variety of communities and parents have been targeted and victimized by CPS. Parents, grandparents, foster parents and anyone impacted by the overreaching Michigan Child Protective Service agency are invited to attend to speak to media and call for reform.
"The attacks of CPS are far-reaching and affect people from every walk of life," said Maria Green of the Free Bree Foundation. "CPS has a pattern of moralizing their own beliefs to families across the nation by removing children from parents with alternative lifestyles, such as homeschooling, homosexuality and transgenderism, vaccination-free medical choices, and all-natural living, among others."
The recent Bree Green medical marijuana custody case in Ingham County generated a great deal of interest regarding actions committed by Child Protective Services, but for years advocates and victims have been calling on a national level for a complete reform of family court laws.
By Steve Elliott
Pop sensation Miley Cyrus fired up a joint onstage Sunday at the MTV European Music Awards in Amsterdam immediately after accepting the Best Music Video award for "Wrecking Ball," according to multiple press reports.
Cyrus pulled out a cannabis joint and had a quick smoke onstage, reports Nadeska Alexis at MTV News.
"I couldn't fit this award in my bag but I did find this, so thank you guys very much," she said as she pulled a joint out of her purse and lit it up, with fans cheering wildly, reports Randee Dawn at NBC News.
MTV censored the footage of Cyrus smoking weed when airing the EMAs in the United States, reports Nellie Andreeva at Deadline.
"We applaud MTV for taking responsible actions to eliminate the drug use from its U.S. broadcast, and we urge them to make that a uniform policy for all of its programming, said Parents Television Council President Tim Winter. Winter had slammed MTV for Cyrus's twerking at the Video Music Awards back in August.
At Briefings with OAS and Congress, Victims to Join Latino and Human Rights Leaders in Calling for Alternatives to Drug Prohibition and Militarization
Coalition of NGOs to Present Comprehensive New Report to Congress on “Rethinking the Drug War” in Mexico and Central America
Mexican poet and peace leader Javier Sicilia on Tuesday will arrive in Washington, DC, to speak firsthand about the pain and devastation caused by the failed War On Drugs. Sicilia’s two-day visit is part of the bi-national “Voices of the Victims” Tour, traveling to a dozen cities in the U.S. and Canada to call for an end to the Drug War that has left more than 80,000 people murdered, 25,000 disappeared and 250,000 displaced in Mexico in just seven years.
Sicilia on Tuesday morning will participate in a discussion at the Organization of American States (OAS) of its groundbreaking report, “Scenarios for the Drug Problem in the Americas 2013-2025,” released in May, which lays out different options for the future of drug policy in the hemisphere -– scenarios that break sharply from the U.S.-led Drug War and include various forms of decriminalization and regulation.
The OAS is the most prominent multilateral institution to endorse an open discussion of alternatives to drug prohibition, which has caused or contributed to widespread violence, corruption and human rights abuses in Mexico and Central America.
By Steve Elliott
A criminal record usually limits opportunities. But now there's a $1,000 law school scholarship available where applicants must prove they've already been in trouble with the law.
The Appelman Law Firm, LLC, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says the idea is designed to reward those who've made better choices after a conviction -- "those who have managed to turn their lives around and intend to pursue a career in criminal defense."
"There's a real need for passionate attorneys in criminal defense," said Avery Appelman, the firm's founder. "Nothing instills a great passion for justice quite like having suffered through the process yourself."
That's where the Appelman Law Firm Criminal Defense Scholarship comes in, and Appelman isn't alone in thinking a criminal record shouldn't be a barrier to making a better life.
"There are just too many ways to run afoul of the law for anyoen to think they are immune," Appelman said. "A mistake can easily lead to an arrest or jail."
Attempts to determine just how many criminal statutes exist have failed, because there are so many. An estimate from the government in the 1980s put it at about 3,000 in the federal system alone. Shortly afterward, another study from the American Bar Association said that was too low a figure, but couldn't come up with a better number.
Adding in state crimes only makes the situation worse. For many, avoiding a criminal record has become more a matter of luck than of being a good citizen.
By Steve Elliott
A Missouri Drug Task Force cop who debated marijuana legalization advocates from the group Show-Me Cannabis at a town hall meeting apparently got butt-hurt during the debate because some people disagreed with his point of view.
When he got safely home at his computer and away from "those people," he posted a rant on Facebook in which he "basically call[ed] the legalization advocates a bunch of stupid potheads," reports Ray Downs at the St. Louis Riverfront Times.
Seemingly upset that these folks dared to hold an opinion different than his when it comes to cannabis, the petulant policeman, Sgt. Kevin Glaser of the SEMO Drug Task Force -- who evidently is having some real difficulty adjusting to the realities of modern America -- got home and really gave those weed-suckers a piece of his mind.
"It was held at the Cape Girardeau Library," Sgt. Glaser posted. "This was a good location because it afforded many in the group an opportunity to actually visit a library, probably for the first time in their life." But wait, he really got going, after that.
"My views and opinions were not well received and they appeared to have very closed minds towards what i had to say," Sgt. Glaser posted (you'll have to imagine him sniffling to himself indignantly as he furiously typed). "Many impressed me as having no minds at all. Or at least very slow functioning minds."
Javier Sicilia to Speak at Stanford University of Pain Caused by Failed Drug War – and Need for Alternative Drug Policies to Prevent Future Victims
Mexican poet and peace leader Javier Sicilia on Wednesday will visit the Bay Area to speak firsthand about the devastation and pain caused by the Drug War in Mexico.
Sicilia’s visit –- to Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies on Wednesday, October 30, at 4:30 pm -– is part of the bi-national, 11-city “Voices of the Victims” Tour calling for an end to the Drug War that has left more than 80,000 people murdered, 25,000 disappeared, and 250,000 displaced from their homes in Mexico.
The Voices of the Victims Tour began on October 23-26 in Denver, Colorado, at the 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), during which 24 representatives from the Mexican victims’ organization, the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, participated in panels and roundtable discussions to strategize with activists from around the world about how to bring the war on drugs to an end.
By Steve Elliott
A prisoner in Missouri who is serving a prison term of life without parole for marijuana has asked the governor for clemency after serving 20 years.
Jeff Mizanskey was arrested on December 18, 1993, when he drove a friend to a motel in Sedalia, Missouri, to meet two men, reports Ray downs at Riverfront Times. To this day, Mizanskey says he had no clue his friend, Atilano Quintana, was going there to buy a few pounds of marijuana.
What Quintana didn't know was that his two friends who were in the motel with a brick of cannabis had been busted the day before, with 13 bricks, and they had agreed to roll over and ensnare more buyers. There were cops and surveillance equipment in the adjoining room; Quintana and Mizanskey were busted.
The surveillance video shows Quintana was the one who made the purchase, and the was the one in possession of the package when he and Mizanskey were arrested. Quintana got a 10-year sentence for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, a Class B felony.
But this was Mizanskey's third pot charge. He'd been busted in 1984 for selling an ounce of pot to a narc, and in 1991 for possession of more than 35 grams.
Jeff, who had never done prison time and never had a violent offense, was given life without parole under Missouri's "prior and persistent drug offender" law.
By Steve Elliott
A national cannabis education tour called "Weed Not Greed" is planning to launch next year, according to a press release from a group behind the plans.
"Weed Not Greed is on a mission to organize a national tour for cannabis visibility and education to re-legalize this long-cultivated plant of medicine, fiber, and consciousness," reads a Monday press release from the group. "To free innocent individuals incarcerated due to unconstitutional cannabis prohibitions, our group of passionate progressives will span the country visiting major metropolises.
" We are insisting on the right for anyone to grow, possess, consume, or distribute cannabis for all the gifts it has provided humanity over our thousands-year history together," the statement reads.
“We are making clear that cannabis use is a civil right, and the freedom to choose its use is as constitutional a right as freedom of religion and the pursuit of happiness,” said Weed Not Greed founder David Kowalsky.
"The mission," according to Kowalsky, "is to educate the unknowing and to raise the issue above the level of a key election topic (of which numerous polls now show a majority of Americans favoring legalization) to immediate health and economic concern. The number of neurological and muscular diseases that cannabis can treat is shown in the dozens, including many types of cancer."
By Steve Elliott
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is challenging a proposal to put a ballot measure which would legalize medical marijuana before state voters in the November 2014 general election. Bondi on Thursday sent a petition to the Florida Supreme Court, along with the campaign's ballot language and petitions.
Atty. Gen. Bondi claims that People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM), led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, filed misleading ballot language in describing how widely medical marijuana would be allowed under the measure, reports Scott Powers at the Orlando Sentinel.
Bondi also complained that the ballot language failed to note that even if Florida voters approve the measure, marijuana will still be illegal under federal law.
"Its true scope and effect remain hidden," Bondi claimed in her petition to the Supreme Court.
She charged the wording was too broad and would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for almost any condition, and additionally argued that medical marijuana could not be called "legal" as long as it's illegal under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in federal law.
Bondi's arguments would come as quite a surprise to the patients of California, who have had safe access to medical marijuana for 17 years under state law, and to patients in 19 other states which also passed medical marijuana laws without asking for federal permission.