By Steve Elliott
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) on Thursday filed an amendment to Senate Bill 2569, the "Bring Jobs Home Act," that would explicitly allow states to pass medical marijuana laws despite the federal Controlled Substances Act. The amendment would also bar prosecutions of patients and doctors involved in medical marijuana when they are in compliance with state laws.
Amendment 3630 allows states to "enact and implement laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of marijuana for medical use" without federal prosecution," reports Phillip Smith at StoptheDrugWar.org.
The amendment then lists 33 states and the District of Columbia that have medical marijuana laws at variance with the federal Controlled Substances Act, including 10 states that allow only for the use of CBD oil (cannabidiol), which, unlike THC, isn't psychoactive, reports Matt Ferner at the Huffington Post.
"What we're trying to do is look at the law and allow states that have changed their laws and have allowed medical marijuana to do so, for doctors to be able to prescribe and for people to be able to get those prescriptions without being worried about the federal government coming in and arresting them," said Brian Darling, Sen. Paul's communications director.
By Steve Elliott
If officials at Chicago's Swedish Covenant Hospital get their wish, authorized medical marijuana patients could one day buy their cannabis at a hospital dispensary, just like patients buying antibiotics or pain relievers at the hospital's pharmacy.
"We have professionals who very much would like to prescribe these drugs, we have the system in place to manage it and we have the patient population that needs it," said Marcia Jimenez, director of intergovernmental affairs at Swedish Covenant Hospital, reports Becky Schlikerman at the Chicago Sun Times. "It just made a lot of sense."
The hospital would like to be the first in Illinois to take advantage of the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes in the state. Illinois has agreed to issue 60 permits to sell medical marijuana, 13 of which will be in Chicago.
Swedish Covenant would really like one of those, but is hamstrung by federal law, under which marijuana is illegal for any purpose, classified as a dangerous Schedule I controlled substance with no medical uses.
"If the hospital were to become a dispensary at this point, we would be violating the federal law and jeopardizing reimbursements for Medicare and Medicaid, Jimenez said. Hospital administrators are also worried they could be targeted for "criminal activity" and get in tax trouble with the Internal Revenue Service.
By Steve Elliott
When limited marijuana legalization measure Initiative 502 was on the Washington state ballot back in 2012, one of the main selling points touted by its supporters was the the measure would help eliminate racial disparities in low-level marijuana enforcement -- the kind that exist practically everywhere, and which were the subject of a recent American Civil Liberties Union study. But sadly, it appears I-502 didn't make a lot of difference in that regard.
African Americans were still disproportionately cited by Seattle police for using marijuana in public in the first six months of 2014, reports Bob Young at The Seattle Times.
In a report required by the Seattle City Council, the police had to admit that of 82 tickets written for public cannabis consumption in the first half of 2014, 37 percent of those went to black people. Blacks account for just 8 percent of Seattle's population.
Fifty percent of the tickets for public consumption went to whites, who are 70 percent of Seattle's residents.
Of course, racially discriminatory enforcement of marijuana laws was one of the main arguments for legalizing pot in the first place. A national study by the ACLU found that almost four blacks are arrested on marijuana charges for every white person arrested.
City council will decide whether to enact the measure or refer it to voters at its meeting on August 4
South Portland city officials confirmed Wednesday that a citizen initiative to make marijuana possession legal for adults within city limits has qualified for the November 2014 ballot. Citizens for a Safer Maine submitted more than 1,500 signatures, and just 959 valid signatures of registered city voters were required.
The South Portland City Council will consider whether to enact the measure or refer it to city voters at its meeting scheduled for August 4.
“Voters were very receptive during the signature drive,” said MPP Maine political director David Boyer. “Most people agree law enforcement officials have more important things to do than punish adults for using a substance that is less harmful than alcohol.
"If this measure passes, police can use their discretion to stop arresting adults for simple marijuana possession,” Boyer said.
The initiative would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It would remain illegal to consume or display marijuana in public. The measure also includes a statement in support of regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol at the state level.
“We hope to see as much support and enthusiasm among city council members as we have among voters,” Boyer said. “This is an opportunity for council members to demonstrate leadership on this issue. It’s time to move beyond the status quo of prohibition and start making progress.”
Could the Green Mountain State become the Green Marijuana State? Researchers from the RAND Corporation will study the issues related to potentially legalizing the production, distribution and possession of marijuana in Vermont, officials said on Wednesday.
In May 2014, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill that requires the state secretary of administration to report to the General Assembly regarding the taxation and regulation of recreational marijuana in Vermont. A May poll from the Castleton Polling Institute found 57 percent of Vermonters favor cannabis legalization, reports the Marijuana Policy Project.
“We are pleased to help the state of Vermont think through the potential consequences associated with alternative marijuana policies,” said Beau Kilmer, project leader and co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center.
Kilmer met with state Secretary of Administration Jeb Spaulding and other Vermont officials this week to discuss the study.
The law calls for the report to analyze the possible taxing systems for the sale of marijuana in Vermont, including sales taxes, use taxes and excise taxes, as well as the potential revenue each may raise. In addition, the study will examine any savings or costs to the state that would result from regulating marijuana and the experiences of other states with regulating and taxing marijuana. Issues surrounding public health and public safety also will be addressed.
Death Fuels Demand for Emergency Access to Medical Marijuana for Critically Ill Patients in New York
Anna Conte, a nine-year-old from Orchard Park, New York, who died last week after falling into a coma following a severe seizure, was laid to rest on Wednesday. Anna suffered from Dravet syndrome, a life-threatening seizure disorder that has been treated with medical marijuana in states where it is legal. Medical marijuana has dramatically reduced the number of seizures in many children with similar seizure disorders.
In an effort to help their daughter, the Conte family joined the successful fight to pass a medical marijuana bill in New York. The Contes travelled repeatedly to Albany, persuading several powerful New York senators to support the bill and generating thousands of phone calls and emails to Albany leadership. Advocates around the state came to know and love Anna and her family and admire their selfless advocacy which was always accompanied with a sense of humor.
Tragically, Anna Conte did not live long enough to benefit from the law that her family helped pass. Governor Cuomo, who signed the bill into law just days before Anna’s passing, has said that it will take 18 months or longer for New York to implement the law and develop the full medical marijuana patient access system.
Families and advocates are urgently calling upon Governor Cuomo to take immediate action establishing expedited access to medical marijuana for those patients and families, like the Conte’s, who cannot wait until the full system is up and running.
On Wednesday — the first anniversary of Gov. Hassan’s signing of H.B. 573 — Rep. Donald ‘Ted’ Wright will join patients and advocates at a demonstration in front of the State House
One year after New Hampshire adopted a law intended to allow seriously ill people to use medical marijuana, patients are still facing criminal penalties for marijuana possession.
On Wednesday — the first anniversary of Gov. Maggie Hassan’s signing of H.B. 573 — Rep. Donald “Ted” Wright (R-Tuftonboro) will join patients and advocates at a demonstration in front of the New Hampshire State House to discuss a list of grievances and requests to the governor. Patients will then deliver the list to Gov. Hassan’s office.
The list of grievances and requests is pasted below and available online at http://mpp.org/NHgrievances.
“Patients have nothing to celebrate on the first anniversary of New Hampshire’s medical marijuana law,” said Matt Simon, the Goffstown-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Implementation of the program has been beset by needless delays, and people with debilitating conditions still face criminal penalties for possessing any amount of marijuana. This situation is unacceptable.
“We’re fed up with state officials’ stonewalling,” Simon said. “It’s time to start listening to the seriously ill people the medical marijuana law was intended to help.”
New law allows people suffering from seizure disorders to access medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it; it also allows minors to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program if they receive parental consent
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on Sunday signed a bill into law that will expand access to the state’s medical marijuana program.
SB 2636, sponsored by Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago), expands the qualifying conditions of the program to include seizure disorders, such as epilepsy and those associated with brain injuries. Illinois is now one of 23 states with workable medical marijuana programs that allow the use of medical marijuana in the treatment of seizure disorders.
“Medical marijuana is an effective treatment option for people suffering from seizure disorders,” Lindsey said. “As more elected officials become familiar with its medical benefits, more states will adopt laws that allow it.”
SB 2636 will also allow the health department to develop rules so that minors may participate in the Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program if they receive parental consent in addition to recommendations from their physicians. Illinois was one of three states with workable medical marijuana programs that prohibit minors from participating.
In a report published earlier this month, the World Health Organization (WHO) made a clear call for broad drug policy reforms, including decriminalization of drug use, harm reduction practices such as syringe exchange and opioid substitution therapy, and a ban on compulsory treatment for people who use drugs. This report by the United Nations’ leading health agency focuses on best practices to prevent, diagnose and treat HIV among key populations.
In a section titled “Good practice recommendations concerning decriminalization”, the WHO report makes the following recommendations:
• Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration.
• Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize the use of clean needles and syringes (and that permit NSPs [needle and syringe programs]) and that legalize OST [opioid substitution therapy] for people who are opioid-dependent.
• Countries should ban compulsory treatment for people who use and/or inject drugs.
By Steve Elliott
In a bit of news that surprises absolutely no one, a majority of Arizona's sheriff's and county attorneys officially oppose the legalization of marijuana. Just to make sure we know that, they helpfully approved a resolution by voice vote at their annual meeting.
The resolution came as marijuana advocates have selected Arizona for a legalization drive for 2016, reports Yvonne Wingett Sanchez at the Arizona Republic. The Marijuana Policy Project plans to pursue full recreational legalization through a voter initiative in the state.
The resolution adopted by a voice vote of the Arizona County Attorney & Sheriff's Association meeting includes nearly two dozen whiney points outlining why the group refuses to join the 21st Century. It includes such fanciful Reefer Madness claims as marijuana being harmful to teen IQ (it actually grows brain cells) and pot use "leading to risky behavior."
The exercise in futility, I mean the law enforcement resolution, cites more than two pages of references to support its outlandish statements.
Graphic: 420 Petition
A far-reaching marijuana decriminalization law took effect on Thursday in the District of Columbia that replaces jail time with a $25 fine for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana. However, advocates emphasize that there is still more work to be done in the nation’s capital to reduce severe racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement by D.C. police officers.
The Drug Policy Alliance has published an online resource that explains what the public needs to know about D.C.’s new marijuana decriminalization law.
Here are a few highlighted facts from our new overview of D.C.’s new decriminalization law:
• Under the new law, a person found in possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is issued a notice of violation that imposes a $25 fine for marijuana possession as well as forfeiture of any visible marijuana and any paraphernalia.
• Police officers are prohibited from using the smell of marijuana as rationale for conducting criminal searches. D.C.’s decriminalization law is the first in the country to provide this protection in statute.
• The possession of marijuana remains unlawful in D.C., and possession of marijuana weighing more than one ounce is still a crime in the District.
• Smoking or otherwise consuming marijuana in a public space is still a crime.
By Steve Elliott
A marijuana decriminalization law passed by the D.C. Council took effect at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday in Washington, D.C. The new law, like others around the United States, eases penalties for minor cannabis possession.
Unless someone is found to possess more than an ounce of marijuana in D.C., they will now simply be written a $25 ticket and the officer will confiscate the pot, reports Melanie Eversley at USA Today. Police can no longer detain someone simply because they smell marijuana, and they can no longer demand identification from anyone carrying under an ounce.
Civil violation notices that police already handed out for littering have been changed to also include possession of marijuana, and they now list the $25 fine for pot. Possession of less than an ounce of cannabis will cost less than the fine for throwing a roach on the ground -- that would get you fined $75 for littering.
"As of midnight Wednesday night, no member can make or approve an arrest for marijuana possession without having first taken this training," Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump told the the Washington Times.
Friday Panel: Marijuana Arrests: The Gateway to Mass Incarceration
Marijuana arrests and mass incarceration will take center stage at Netroots Nation 2014 this week in Detroit.
On Friday, July 18 at 4:30 p.m., the ninth annual gathering of progressive voices will feature a panel, “Marijuana Arrests: the Gateway to Mass Incarceration.” The panel will feature Kassandra Frederique, a policy coordinator for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).
Frederique is currently organizing with groups around the state of New York to address bias policing practices, unlawful marijuana arrests and collateral consequences of criminalization.
“I’m thrilled to see Netroots Nation examine the failed war on drugs and how marijuana arrests fuel mass incarceration,” Frederique said. “Netroots Nation is a cutting-edge incubator of ideas and I’m excited to have a rich discussion during the panel and action from folks afterwards.”
Every 48 seconds someone is arrested for marijuana possession in the United States. Most of these arrests are of people of color, despite the fact that white people use and sell marijuana at higher rates. In this panel they will explore how the Drug War and biased policing practices fuel marijuana arrests and, in turn, mass incarceration.
Historic Vote Falls on Heels of Votes in May to Prohibit DEA from Undermining State Medical Marijuana and Hemp Laws
Meanwhile Conflict Over Washington, DC Decrim Law and Legalization Ballot Measure Increases
In a historic vote, the U.S. House on Wednesday passed a bipartisan amendment by Representatives Denny Heck (D-WA), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) preventing the Treasury Department from spending any funding to penalize financial institutions that provide services to marijuana businesses that are legal under state law. The amendment passed 231 to 192.
In May, the House passed an amendment prohibiting the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from undermining state medical marijuana laws and passed two amendments prohibiting the DEA from interfering with state hemp laws.
“Congress is yet again rejecting the failed war on marijuana,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “They have read the poll numbers and are doing both what is right and what is politically smart.”
Persons Caught With Up to One Ounce of Marijuana Will Be Fined $25 by D.C. Police Officers
House Republicans Want to Overturn Law While White House Defends It
By Steve Elliott
A far-reaching marijuana decriminalization law on Thursday takes effect in the District of Columbia, replacing jail time with a $25 fine for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana as the result of a year-long effort in the nation’s capital to reduce severe racial disparities in marijuana law enforcement by D.C. police officers.
The “Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014” takes effect despite an ongoing Republican-led effort in Congress to block D.C. officials from implementing the law. It was approved by the D.C. Council 10-1 in April and signed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray in March.
“We are hopeful that marijuana decriminalization will reduce excessive racial disparities in the enforcement of D.C.’s marijuana laws,” said Grant Smith, deputy director of national affairs with the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “While marijuana decriminalization is undeniable progress, the real solution is to join states like Colorado and Washington and legalize marijuana. Thankfully, D.C. voters are going to have that opportunity in November.”