Denver DA Makes Ludicrous Claims; Links Medical Marijuana to Murder


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Morrisey
District Attorney Mitch Morrissey confused by science

At a Denver City Council hearing held on Monday to discuss implementing a 5% marijuana sales tax, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey held the floor to claim that medical marijuana dispensaries are a haven for assaults, robberies, and murder.

“We have had 12 homicides related directly to medical marijuana,” Morrissey told the council. “We have had over 100 aggravated robberies and home invasions. Many of you probably didn’t read about the double-execution-style homicide that we had here in Denver… This is an ugly secret.”

Several council members expressed their shock and concern over the DA’s previously unheard-of claims. When questioned about the validity of his statistics on Tuesday, though, Morrissey clarified that he’d cited “loose figures” and that none of the homicides actually occurred at a medical marijuana facility. In reality, most of the homicides happened during home invasions, and in some cases, it is uncertain whether marijuana played a role.

Mason Tvert, communications director at MPP, spoke to The Huffington Post to help set the record straight:

 “Morrissey’s suggestion that the state- and locally-regulated medical marijuana industry is somehow at fault for crimes that occurred entirely outside of its scope is ludicrous and irresponsible. I cannot imagine any other instance in which he would place blame for violent crimes on law-abiding businesses and citizens who have fallen victim to them.”

Tvert’s claim that dispensaries are not causing violent crime is backed by police statistics. In 2009, the Denver Police Department found that robbery and burglary rates at dispensaries were lower than area banks and liquor stores and on par with those of pharmacies. In 2010, police in Colorado Springs found that robbery and burglary rates at area dispensaries were no higher than at non-marijuana-related businesses. Discussing the findings, Sgt. Darrin Abbink said, “I don’t think the data really supports [dispensaries] are more likely to be targeted at this point.”

Of the robberies and assaults that have occurred, industry representatives say that medical marijuana dispensaries may only be targeted because current banking laws force them to deal in cash rather than credit.

Tvert continued, “If Morrissey is truly concerned about enhancing public safety, he should be testifying in support of policies that will eliminate the underground marijuana market and replace it with a system in which marijuana is regulated like alcohol. He should not be resorting to scare tactics and reefer madness.”

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States Require Testing Marijuana for Safety, Potency


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Just as marijuana reform advocates predicted, marijuana in a legal market will be safer for users. In response to Colorado and Washington’s legalization laws, laboratories are springing up that test marijuana for its safety, purity, potency, and active ingredients.

Like alcohol,lab 2 the regulatory boards in Colorado and Washington will require marijuana products to carry health warnings, ratings for potency, and certification that the product meets safety standards. The regulations are designed to control for adverse health effects that could result from a consumer’s lack of knowledge or from a producer’s poor growing techniques.

Labs are also moving into Oregon, following the state legislature’s recent approval of a bill to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries. Medical experts, politicians, and marijuana research groups have chimed in to support the proposed state requirements for testing.

From the Washington Post:

“This does demonstrate a shift in how we are beginning to treat marijuana in this country,” said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for MPP. “Legal products are regulated and sold in a controlled marketplace. And that’s what we are going to see – are already beginning to see – with marijuana, be it for medical purposes or simply for adult use.”

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Arizona Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Thriving


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Since August 2012, Arizona has seen 98 registration certificates awarded for those wanting to open medical marijuana dispensaries. Last December saw the opening of the first dispensary, Arizona Organix, and 16 were reportedly open in late April 2013. However, Arizona state government has not been the industry’s biggest supporter.

Arizonaarizona-map-images Attorney General Tom Horne, Rep. John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills, and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery have all done their part to derail progress for medical marijuana, and you can find those details here. Luckily, the courts have supported the will of the voters against challenges to the program. The Arizona Department of Health Services is still issuing ID cards for medical marijuana patients, and the list of approved dispensaries continues to grow.

New dispensaries are still burdened by heavy restrictions and regulations, but access to medical marijuana for patients has never been better. In fact, the Arizona Health Department reports that “47 dispensaries have been inspected and approved to operate, and 35 of those are open and operating throughout the state. Approximately 90% of all Arizonans now live within 25 miles of an operating dispensary.” Arizona’s medical marijuana industry, despite troubles from the government, continues to prosper and works to improve access to all patients in need.

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Oregon Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill Sent to Governor


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While many spent the past few days celebrating with friends and family, the Oregon Legislature was still hard at work in Salem. Last Wednesday the state Senate passed an amended version of HB 3460 – a bill to allow and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. On Saturday the House agreed with the Senate version, meaning the bill is one signature away from bringing safe and consistent access to the nearly 55,000 medical marijuana patients in Oregon. The bill is now awaiting Gov. Kitzhaber’s signature.

HB 3460 – a summary can be found here (PDF) – would create medical marijuana facilities that will be allowed to transfer usable marijuana and immature marijuana plants to medical marijuana patients and their designated primary caregivers. If signed, Oregon will become the 13th state with legal medical marijuana dispensaries. If you are Oregon resident, please ask the governor to sign HB 3460.

Big thanks are in order to Sam Chapman and Oregonians for Medical Rights who orchestrated the lobbying effort to see this bill through.

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Two Vermont Dispensaries Begin Serving Patients


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Champlain Valley Dispensary

Vermont’s medical marijuana patients have finally been afforded a safe, legal option that doesn’t require the hassle of cultivating marijuana plants! As reported by The Burlington Free Press, two dispensaries have now opened their doors to patients: Vermont Patients Alliance held a “soft opening” late last week in Montpelier and Champlain Valley Dispensary opened Monday in Burlington.

The Free Press reported that both dispensaries are now open three days a week. A third dispensary has been approved and plans to locate in Brandon. A total of four dispensaries are allowed under the law MPP and our allies worked hard to pass in 2011.

These dispensaries will expand access and make life much easier for many patients. However, there is still room for improvement in Vermont’s medical marijuana law. For example, it only allows a maximum of 1,000 patients to be served by dispensaries. Additionally, patients who designate a dispensary are no longer permitted to cultivate their own plants.

State-regulated dispensaries are now open in the following seven states: NM, ME, CO, AZ, NJ, RI, and VT. State-regulated dispensaries are allowed, but have not yet been selected, in four additional states: MA, CT, NV, and DE. In the District of Columbia, dispensaries should be serving patients soon.

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Nevada Senate Passes Medical Marijuana Dispensary Bill


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Sen. Tick Segerblom

Yesterday, the Nevada Senate passed SB 374, which would allow and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and growers in the state. Sponsored by Sen. Tick Segerblom, the bill received a 17-4 vote — well above the 2/3 votes needed to advance the bill to the Assembly. The legislature is scheduled to adjourn by early Tuesday morning, so time is running short.

Despite the constitutional rights established in Article IV, Section 38 of the Nevada Constitution, the legislature failed to provide seriously ill patients with a way to obtain medical marijuana — other than growing it themselves or finding a volunteer to do so. SB 374 aims to fix that shortfall by authorizing and regulating producers and providers.

There are still several critical steps ahead for this bill. If you are a Nevada residentplease ask your assembly member to support SB 374.

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San Diego Mayor Urges Jurors to Ignore Federal Law


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The Mayor of San Diego is encouraging jurors of an upcoming medical marijuana case to reject the prosecution’s argument, which rests on the fact that marijuana is banned at the federal level.

The feds arrested Ronnie Chang of San Marcos in 2009 for operating a medical marijuana dispensary. He is just one of the many Californians who have faced legal consequences for their state-sanctioned efforts to bring relief to patients.

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Mayor Bob Filner

Mayor Bob Filner is outraged at Chang’s situation. “Someone should not be going through this stage of prosecution for trying to help people to have access to medical marijuana,” he told reporters.

A champion for civil rights and a former Freedom Rider, Mayor Filner wants jurors to send a message to the federal government this fall, when Chang’s trial is expected to begin.

“[I]t’s time, like with Prohibition, to step back and say this was a stupid thing to do…and juries ought to take the lead in saying that to the federal government.”

In a process known as “jury nullification,” Mayor Filner hopes that those selected to listen to Chang’s case will place their consciences above the evidence and acquit him of any wrong doing.

Let’s hope the jury heeds Mayor Filner’s bold cry for action.

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Help Stop DEA Raids for Good


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Just this week, DEA agents raided two medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego. The raid came one day after the owner of one of the facilities testified at a city council hearing on regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries.

Ironically, it also comes as the Obama administration announces their new drug control strategy, which they call a “21st century approach to drug policy.” To hear them tell it, we’re now focused on treatment and prevention rather than arrests and prosecutions. Of course, that’s not true, and no one knows that better than medical marijuana providers in California and elsewhere. Fortunately, there is a way to change all that.

Ask your elected officials in Congress to support H.R. 689.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has introduced the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act. If passed, his bill would reschedule marijuana, recognizing its medical value, and prevent the DEA from going after patients, doctors, or dispensaries.

It’s vital that your representatives in Congress know that you support medical marijuana and that people who provide doctor-recommended medicine to sick people are not criminals. Please write your elected officials today, and when you’re done, forward this to friends so they can do the same.

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Rhode Island Opens First Medical Marijuana Dispensary


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Rhode Island, the second New England state to permit the sale of medical marijuana, opened its first dispensary on Friday.

Located on in Providence, the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center Slater-1-RIwill initially sell marijuana cultivated by growers participating in the state’s medical marijuana program; however, it plans to begin growing its own medicine to sell as soon as possible.

The state will likely add more dispensaries in the coming months in Warwick and Portsmouth.

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Arizona Bill Would Shut Down Dispensaries


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Kimberly Yee
Sen. Kimberly Yee

State Senator Kimberly Yee said she would amend her medical marijuana labeling bill — SB 1440 — so that a first-time violation would not result in the permanent closure of legal dispensaries. This is one of many problems with the bill.

This didn’t occur, and the future of medical marijuana is in jeopardy. If you are an Arizona residentplease write your legislators today.

SB 1440 is billed as a way to label medical marijuana edibles so they won’t fall into the hands of children. That’s a great idea, and we support it. However, the rules are vague, and the bill contains a one strike and you’re out clause, which would permanently close a dispensary for even a minor violation.

Arizona voters have said “yes” to medical marijuana three times, but some elected officials ignore the will of the voters and the plight of patients.

It’s clear that the intent of SB 1440 is not to protect children but to shut down licensed dispensaries that provide relief to thousands of Arizonans with serious medical conditions. It’s being pushed by medical marijuana opponents and is a back-door attempt to gut the program.

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