Prohibition, Research

London Calling

September 30th, 2008 2 Comments Kate Zawidzki

I’m off to London to represent MPP at the launch of the Beckley Foundation’s Global Cannabis Commission Report October 2 and 3.

This document, put together by some of the world’s top researchers and drug policy analysts, promises to be of great value in efforts to base marijuana policy on facts and data rather than spin or political expediency. So you won’t see me posting for a few days (outside of meetings, I will be fully occupied recovering from jet lag), but I will post a full report early next week.


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Accountability for Rachel Only Scratches the Surface

September 26th, 2008 3 Comments Kate Zawidzki

I’ve written before about the death of Rachel Hoffman, a recent Florida State graduate who was murdered in a botched drug sting after Tallahassee police used a petty marijuana charge to pressure her into acting as an informant.

It’s at least a little comforting to see that there’s now some accountability for some of the principals involved in this tragic event.

But I can’t help wondering what would have happened had Rachel, through luck and grace, avoided her awful fate. What if she had safely purchased the drugs and weapons the cops had put her in harm’s way for? What if this dangerous scheme had led to drug convictions for these two smalltime thugs?

Would these officers still face disciplinary action? Or would their reckless caper be rewarded? I think we all know the answer.

Real accountability in Rachel Hoffman’s death won’t come until we acknowledge that the petty marijuana offense that dragged her into this situation should never have been a crime in the first place.

By the way, please check out this short tribute my colleagues John Berry and Joe Haptas made for Rachel.

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

More Claptrap From the Drug Czar

September 25th, 2008 6 Comments Kate Zawidzki

On Tuesday, the Office of National Drug Control Policy sent out an email and put up a post on its blog (yes, ONDCP really has a blog, but unlike ours, they don’t let readers post comments — why, I wonder?) promoting a new “Marijuana Awareness Kit.” Actually, it’s mostly a rehash of old material, but still an interesting window into ONDCP’s thought process.

The packet’s introduction, for example, warns, “The fact is, cigarettes and marijuana are now tied as the illegal substance kids report is the easiest for someone their age (12 – 17) to buy.”

That’s roughly true, give or take a little and depending on what survey you look at. It also demolishes ONDCP’s rationale for maintaining marijuana prohibition: that in order to “protect the children,” we must keep marijuana illegal for adults, and any lessening of adult penalties will lead to an explosion of marijuana use among our kids. Read the rest of this entry »

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Medical Marijuana

San Diego and San Bernardino counties just got a little lonelier…

September 24th, 2008 2 Comments Kate Zawidzki

California’s medical marijuana state ID cards protect qualified patients and caregivers from arrest, and each of the state’s 58 counties is required to make them available to their residents. However, in a crusade against the voter-approved medical marijuana law, some counties have refused to implement the program.

Fortunately, most counties are respecting the rule of law – even in traditionally conservative, rural and agricultural communities. Just yesterday, the Board of Supervisors in Kings County unanimously voted to implement the ID card program and the cards will be available to local patients very soon. The decision comes only two weeks after another San Joaquin Valley county, Fresno, also moved to implement the program. These developments are significant because San Joaquin Valley voters rejected Proposition 215 twelve years ago and the region has been painfully slow in implementing the state law ever since.

Have these agricultural, Republican-dominated communities been suddenly overrun by drug legalizers? Hardly. Instead, local policymakers across California – in red and blue counties alike – are acknowledging that the state’s medical marijuana law is here to stay. It’s unfortunate that counties like San Diego and San Bernardino are continuing to ignore state law, but these scofflaws are increasingly looking less credible and more like isolated, rogue elements every day.

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MPP Recognized by Project Censored

September 23rd, 2008 No Comments Kate Zawidzki


Every year around this time,  Project Censored recognizes the 25 “most censored” news stories from the prior year — stories of great public significance that got little or no attention from the mass media. This year, they’ve honored MPP and NORML’s Paul Armentano for pointing out the alarming rise in marijuana arrests.

Since The Project Censored materials were written, the latest FBI Uniform Crime Reports survey has been released, showing yet another marijuana arrest record.


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Silly Season in Massachusetts

September 22nd, 2008 3 Comments Kate Zawidzki

On Saturday, New Bedford Standard-Times columnist Jack Spillane weighed with an eminently sensible and amusing take on the opposition to Question 2 , the marijuana decriminalization initiative on the November ballot in Massachusetts. He quotes some funny/scary dialogue from the press conference held by prosecutors and other opponents that managed to escape the notice of other reporters. The silliness begins with Bristol County District Attorney Sam Sutter:

And “I don’t want to hear,” he said, those “specious” and “bogus” arguments that marijuana is like alcohol. Alcohol, he informed the media event, can have health benefits. You know, like wine, he said.

And tobacco? Why, that takes a long time to do damage, he informed.

Ah, Sam, say it ain’t so.

Not to be outdone, Fall River Mayor Bob Correia trotted out the time-tested “gateway” argument.

“Marijuana,” he said, is “the one they start our children off with!” Read the rest of this entry »

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Medical Marijuana, Research

Marijuana, the FDA, and the Broken System of Pharmaceutical Research

September 19th, 2008 3 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Medical marijuana advocates often hear that marijuana can’t be a real medicine because it hasn’t been approved by the FDA. One common response to this is that the Drug Enforcement Administration continues to block the only avenue that could produce the research needed to seek FDA approval for medical marijuana, over a year and half after an administrative law judge ruled that the project should go ahead

But that’s just the start. The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a scathing critique of the drug company research that does lead to FDA approval,  demonstrating that the system is even more fundamentally rotten than most of us suspected. The author is Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, arguably the most prestigious medical journal on the planet, and now a professor at Harvard Medical School. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rachel Hoffman: A Cautionary Tale

September 19th, 2008 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

This is the story of Rachel Hoffman, a young girl who has now become just one more victim of the government’s war on marijuana users. A casual marijuana user, Rachel became embroiled with the Tallahassee Police Department, forcing her into a dangerous situation as an untrained informant.

Did you know you can help MPP without spending a dime? Sign up for MPP’s free e-mail alerts and you’ll learn about ways to help us spread the word whenever important developments happen. Let’s make sure we never see the need for a video like this again.

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House of Representatives Endorses Marijuana Regulation — Well, Almost

September 18th, 2008 4 Comments Kate Zawidzki

On Wednesday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives endorsed nearly all of MPP’s arguments for regulating and taxing marijuana as we now regulate beer, wine, and liquor. But don’t get your hopes up too much: The word “marijuana” never appears in the resolution hailing 75 years of successful alcohol regulation and the end of Prohibition.

Nevertheless, try reading the following excerpts and mentally substituting the word “marijuana” for “alcohol”:

Whereas passage of the 18th Amendment, which prohibited ‘the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors’ in the United States, resulted in a dramatic increase in illegal activity, including unsafe black market alcohol production, organized crime, and noncompliance with alcohol laws … Read the rest of this entry »

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Marijuana Laws and Marijuana Use — What the National Research Council Said

September 17th, 2008 3 Comments Kate Zawidzki

One of the arguments raised regularly by opponents of marijuana law reform is the claim that any lessening of penalties will lead to higher rates of marijuana use, and from that all sorts of terrible consequences will flow. This argument has already been raised against Question 2 in Massachusetts. It’s one of those claims that makes intuitive sense, but research suggests it’s simply not true.

That’s not just my opinion. A few years ago the White House asked the National Research Council to look at the data being collected about illegal drugs in order to better understand how that data could be used to inform policy. The NRC report, “Informing America’s Policy on Illegal Drugs: What We Don’t Know Keeps Hurting Us,” looked in some detail at what research tells us about the effect of drug laws. Read the rest of this entry »

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