By Steve Elliott
Hard-rock legends Aerosmith, in Uruguay for a concert Wednesday night, praised President José Mujica during an official visit Tuesday afternoon. Singer Steven Tyler called Mujica "one of the best presidents in the Americas," adding that more presidents should be like him. Tyler expressed admiration for Mujica's work on marijuana legalization and helping the poor.
Uruguay is on track to become the first nation in the world to fully legalize cannabis since the Single Convention Treaty on Narcotics established worldwide marijuana prohibition in 1961.
"Your president is a freedom fighter and in many ways we fight for freedom ourselves with music," Tyler said, reports Edgar Zúñiga of NBC Latino.
"He gives 70 percent of his salary for people's homes," Tyler said. "Here in this small country, Uruguay, I think he's doing it the right way, grass roots and we believe in that."
A former leftist guerrilla, President Mujica is widely considered "the world's poorest president," and donates most of his pay to a program which provides free homes to the country's poor, mostly households headed by single mothers. The program also provides medical care. Mujica has already given more than $300,000 to the program, according to Joaquín Constanzo with Uruguay's presidential press office.
By Steve Elliott
The Michigan Supreme Court is looking at a historic case that will determine whether Michigan communities can ban medical marijuana and possibly whether state residents can keep using cannabis at all for medicinal reasons.
Those united against medical marijuana patients include the State Bar of Michigan and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, both of which are trying to get the entire medical marijuana law thrown out, reports Bill Laitner at the Detroit Free Press.
That would cancel the wishes of the 63 percent of Michigan voters who approved the medical marijuana law in 2008, according to groups opposing the medical marijuana ban, which include the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the libertarian Cato Institute, based in Washington, D.C.
A few Michigan communities have passed bans on medical marijuana "that carry serious penalties, and that includes jail time," according to activist Tim Beck, 61, of Detroit. The ordinances "didn't even mention medical marijuana -- they just said that any activity that was illegal under federal law was also illegal in their community," Beck said.
The case stems from retired attorney John Ter Beek's 2010 lawsuit to overturn a medical marijuana ban in Wyoming, a suburb of Grand Rapids. Ter Beek is a state-registered medical marijuana patient with a paintful neurological disorder and diabetes, according to the lawsuit.
More Than 1,000 Experts and Advocates to Strategize About Marijuana Legalization, Criminal Justice Reform, Public Health, and Post-Prohibition Models for Drug Control
New Era: Colorado Embarks on Implementation of Historic Marijuana Legalization Law
Which state will be next to legalize marijuana? What do the Obama Administration’s recent announcements about marijuana legalization and mandatory minimums really mean? What are some solutions to the national overdose crisis that takes more lives than car accidents or gun violence?
Why do blacks go to jail for drugs at 13 times the rate of whites even though they use and sell drugs at similar rates? What role can faith leaders play in organizing and mobilizing their congregations to end the drug war?
More than 1,000 people will gather to ponder these questions and many more at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver, October 23-26 at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel.
By Steve Elliott
The mother of a Washington state man who died in jail after turning himself in on a minor marijuana charge has filed a notice of claim against Snohomish County, indicating she will seek $10 million in a lawsuit.
Just months after the death of Michael Saffioti, 22, Washington state voters legalized recreational marijuana. It took only one day in jail for Saffioti, who suffered from severe allergies, to die once he was jailed, reports Nina Shapiro at the Seattle Weekly.
Saffioti had an extreme allergy to dairy products, as well as asthma; according to his mother, Rose, Michael felt better when he used marijuana.
He didn't have his medical marijuana authorization, though, which led to a pot possession charge for which he turned himself in.
Michael had already spent time in jail for marijuana. During a previous stay, other inmates called him "Bubble Boy" because his food was wrapped in plastic because of his allergies, reported The Everett Herald last year.
But something went wrong after Saffioti turned himself in to the Lynwood Police Department. An officer at Lynwood noted his health conditions, including the severe dairy allergy, and "determined that he could not be properly supervised at the city jail due to his medical issus." He was transferred to Snohomish County Jail.
By Steve Elliott
The group "Weed Wyoming" plans to file a state ballot initiative for 2016 to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana.
Members believe the medical marijuana initiative has a better chance than an all-or-nothing attempt for outright legalization, according to a Weed Wyoming press release.
The initiative would allow qualified patients to grow up to 10 marijuana plants, and possess up to 10 ounces. Marijuana could be smoked anywhere where tobacco smoking is allowed. If the cannabis is being vaporized rather than smoked, "it may be used anywhere within the State," according to the measure's language.
The Wyoming chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is also trying to put an initiative on the 2016 statewide ballot to legalize hemp and cannabis.
By Steve Elliott
The National Cannabis Industry Association will host education and networking events this week for industry stakeholders and organization members. MJ Freeway is sponsoring the NCIA events in Portland, Oregon (on Monday) and Tacoma, Washington (Tuesday).
The Cannabis Industry Reception in Portland will serve as a networking opportunity for interested parties in the state's marijuana industry who want to meet NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith and members from within the state. Attendees can potentially join the organization themselves, and can learn more about the NCIA's activities both at the state and the national level.
The Oregon reception will take place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Monday, September 30, at the Paragon Restaurant in Portland.
The Washington Educational Series Event will focus primarily on the state's legalization of retail marijuana sales through I-502, exploring the implementation of the legislation and its impact throughout the country. Also presented will be information about what NCIA itself is doing to advance the industry's interests.
The Washington event opens its doors at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 1, at the Pacific Grill in Tacoma.
For more information about either event, or to register for either, visit the NCIA events page at http://thecannabisindustry.org/events.
By Steve Elliott
After spending the last three-and-a-half years in federal prison with no bail, Reverend Roger Christie, the founder of a Hawaii-based ministry that promoted marijuana use as a religious sacrament, pleaded guilty on Friday in federal court to possession of almost 300 cannabis plants, but reserved the right to appeal his case based on religious grounds.
Christie's case has received national attention, with cannabis advocates saying his pre-trial detention with no bail is unconstitutional. Many called him a political prisoner in the War On Drugs.
Christie, who founded The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry (THC Ministry), entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess marijuana and two counts of failing to file tax returns, for the years 2008 and 2009, reports John Burnett at the Hawaii Tribune Herald.
Sentencing is scheduled for January 22 at 2:45 p.m., before U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi. Christie faces up to 20 years' imprisonment on the marijuana charge, with a mandatory minimum of five years. The maximum term on each tax offense is one year.
Christie will forfeit is Wainaku apartment as part of the plea deal. He will also forfeit the $21,494 confiscated by federal agents during a raid in 2010.
Other marijuana-related charges against Christie were dropped as part of the plea deal.
By Steve Elliott
The disturbing trend of racial disparities in marijuana arrests continued in 2012 in Philadelphia, according to an annual review of cannabis arrest statistics from Philly NORML.
The Philly affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, using data from the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System, found that there were 6,614 marijuana-related arrests in Philadelphia during 2012. Of those, 4,272 were for simple possession only.
African-Americans were arrested for marijuana possession at five times the rate of whites in Philadelphia. All other drug arrests are more equal when compared by race, according to Philly NORML.
About 75 percent of the marijuana possession arrests were of people between the ages of 18 and 34. Ninety percent were male.
By comparison, whites and blacks were arrested in almost equal numbers for opiates and cocaine.
When looking at the state of Pennsylvania as a whole, of all adults arrested for simple marijuana possession, 85 percent were men and 71 percent were white. Of adults arrested for sales and/or manufacture of cannabis, 58 percent were white and 90 percent were male.
"Marijuana arrests in Philadelphia continue with a disturbing trend of racial disparity," said Chris Goldstein of Philly NORML. "Black and white Americans consume marijuana at nearly equal rates and the city's population is admirably diverse, yet it is residents of color who continue to be the focus of law enforcement."
Heads of State from Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico Expected to Call for Global Drug Policy Reform
President Mujica of Uruguay Makes First-Ever UN Address; Will Meet With President Pérez Molina of Guatemala to Discuss Marijuana Reform and Alternatives to Prohibition
Drug policy reform will be a major focus at this week's UN General Assembly, with at least four heads of state expected to call for major global drug policy reform.
One year ago, the presidents of Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico made headlines at the UN General Assembly by calling for alternatives to the War On Drugs. Since then, Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states – and the first political jurisdictions in the world – to legalize the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adults.
Uruguay is likely to join them soon –- the country’s House passed a marijuana legalization bill in July and its Senate is expected to follow suit in October. On September 24, Uruguayan President José Mujica addressed the UN General Assembly for the first time.
“More and more governments appear to recognize the need for a new direction in global drug policies,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Importantly, we now have presidents in Colombia, Guatemala and Uruguay who are willing to push the envelope in challenging the failed prohibitionist regime.”
By Steve Elliott
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is trying, through social media, to win online voting for a contest that will award a Super Bowl ad to a small business. But the odds are long for the cannabis advocacy group, according to some observers.
"[A]nyone who thinks a marijuana advocacy ad will run during the game on Fox this February may be smoking something already," wrote Jack Neff of Ad Age. "That doesn't mean the parties involved mind the publicity being stirred up."
Intuit is holding the contest; the company said in July that it would give one small business a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl. But when NORML entered the contest, it set off a burst of media attention and raised questions about what, exactly, is a "small business."
Uniliver's vice president of media for the Americas, Rob Master, tweeted to former Intuit Quickbooks marketing executive Seth Greenberg, who launched the contest, that it is "creating tons of buzz around potential marijuana ad winner -- definition of earned media."
Greenberg, who left Intuit in July to become chief marketing officer of Lifelock, replied: "That's one type of 'buzz' we didn't expect."
By Steve Elliott
Missouri lawmakers who want to relax the state's marijuana laws are looking at a renewed push for reforms. House Democrats Chris Kelly of Columbia and Rory Ellinger of Universal City were among the speakers at a Thursday forum on cannabis policy.
Reps. Kelly and Ellinger both supported legislation earlier this year which would have reduced marijuana possession penalties to a low-level misdemeanor with no jail time, similar to a traffic ticket, reports CBS St. Louis. St. Louis and Columbia already have such decriminalization ordinances on the books.
Rep. Kelly said he would also favor full legalization only if there were enough organizational support from pro-marijuana groups, reports The Columbia Missourian.
Kelly said he wasn't sure if it would be better to seek legislative approval of lower marijuana penalties, or to put any proposed reforms on a statewide ballot to let the voters decide for themselves.
(Photo of Rep. Chris Kelly: ChrisKelly24.com)
By Steve Elliott
An attorney representing Arizona's top health official says that a constitutional right to control your own health care does not mean that medical marijuana patients have the right to grow their own cannabis.
Attorney Gregory Falls, representing Arizona Health Director Will Humble, is asking Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper to throw out claims by two men that, as legally registered medical marijuana patients, they are constitutionally entitled to plant, grow and harvest their own supply, reports Howard Fischer ofCapitol Media Services in the Arizona Daily Star.
According to Falls, the fact that Arizona voters allowed those with a doctor's authorization to obtain and use cannabis does not mean patients can ignore other provisions of the medical marijuana law. The law approved by voters in 2010 says patients living within 25 miles of the nearest state-licensed dispensary have to buy their marijuana from the store.
The ability for nearly 40,000 Arizona medical marijuana patients statewide to legally grow their own hangs on the outcome of the battle. A decision against Humble would mean each of them has the right to grow up to 12 plants.
By Steve Elliott
Groups supporting Michigan's medical marijuana law are joining forces to protest the case of a six-month-old Lansing girl who was removed from her home after a complain involving medical marijuana use by her parents.
Dozens of people held signs and chanted "Free Bree" outside the Grand Tower in Lansing on Tuesday to protest the Michigan Department of Human Services' removal of Brielle Green from parents Steve and Maria Green, reports Ken Palmer at the Lansing State Journal.
"These are good parents, good loving parents," said Charmie Gholson, founder of Michigan Moms United, one of the groups organizing Tuesday's press conference.
The Green case is among dozens in which state case workers have ignored patient protections in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act while trying to remove children from parents who are registered medical marijuana patients or caregivers, according to Gholson.
"There's nowhere to go when (Children's Protective Services) does this," Gholson said. "When they took Bree on Friday, that really was the last straw."
An Ingham County Family Court referee, acting on a petition by CPS case workers, on Friday ordered the infant removed from her parents' home because her mother -- a registered, legal medical marijuana caregiver -- had cannabis in the house, according to the groups.
Grover Norquist and Representative Earl Blumenauer identify unjust application of tax code for legal marijuana businesses at press conference with the National Cannabis Industry Association
Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) president Grover Norquist, and National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) executive director Aaron Smith held a press conference on Thursday to mark the release of a new white paper from ATR entitled "Legal Cannabis Dispensary Taxation: A Textbook Case of Punishing Law-Abiding Businesses Through the Tax Code." The paper calls for reform of Internal Revenue Code Section 280E, which essentially forces medical marijuana providers to pay taxes based on gross receipts rather than income, unlike all other small businesses.
Additionally, the paper details Americans for Tax Reform’s endorsement of H.R. 2240, the Small Business Tax Equity Act, introduced earlier this year by Rep. Blumenauer and strongly supported by the NCIA. Norquist also sent a letter explaining his support for H.R. 2240 to House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp.
By Steve Elliott
New Zealand's first cannabis museum is opening, featuring more than 100 books, articles, photographs and displays. The facility also includes space for community groups, recording facilities, and a movie projector.
Legalise Cannabis House in Dunedin, where the museum is located, is becoming the national headquarters of the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party and includes a broadcasting studio and computer equipment for running the organization's political campaigns.
"Cannabis is such a taboo subject, but New Zealand has the highest [cannabis consumption] rate in the Western world per percentage of population; we are like the most stoner country in the West," said Legalise Cannabis House Manager Abe Gray, reports Hamish McNeilly at the Otago Daily Times.
Gray stressed that no marijuana is on display, but users are encouraged to visit Dunedin's 4:20 protests which are featured in the museum.
"There will be no cannabis smoked or sold in the house," Gray said. "There will only be information."
The protests began on the campus of the University of Otago in mid-2004 when people began gathering under a walnut tree near the Union Building at 4:20 p.m. each Friday to support cannabis law reform.
"We had to have a museum because we had so much memorabilia about the 4:20s," Gray said.
The protests were a magnet for tourists, and the museum is likely to draw crowds, as well, according to Gray.