Tax and Regulate

Californians want marijuana legal and taxed

April 30th, 2009 28 Comments Kate Zawidzki

One of California’s most respected polling firms, Field Research, just released data showing that 56% of registered voters in the state support legalizing and taxing marijuana as a means of generating revenue for the ailing state budget.

The poll asked voters for their opinions on various tax proposals. Making marijuana legal turned out to be among the most popular. The marijuana tax beat out carbon taxes, gas taxes, and business property taxes, among others.

Hopefully this poll will ensure that A.B. 390, a state bill to tax and regulate marijuana in California, will pick up more support in Sacramento.

The Washington Post also just released a national poll showing that 46% of Americans support “legalizing the possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” To put this number into perspective, Americans are now more likely to support marijuana legalization than approve of either party’s job performance in Congress.

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Medical Marijuana

“It shouldn’t be a crime to treat my pain”

April 30th, 2009 6 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Earlier today, MPP announced the launch of a TV ad campaign in New Hampshire. The ad features Sandy Drew, a retired nurse and multiple sclerosis sufferer, and calls on Gov. John Lynch (D) to sign the medical marijuana bill.

The Senate passed the bill yesterday by a 14-10 vote. It now heads back to the House (which easily passed it last month) to accept the minor changes the Senate made to the bill. Gov. Lynch could then either sign it, veto it, or let it become law without his signature.

Sandy’s ad is airing on WMUR and major cable stations including CNN, Fox, and MSNBC throughout the state. You can watch it here now:

Gov. Lynch has expressed concerns about the bill, but has not said what he will do once the bill reaches his desk. If you live in New Hampshire, please join with the courageous patients like Sandy and urge Gov. Lynch to sign the medical marijuana bill.

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Medical Marijuana

Senate Win for Rhode Island Compassion Centers Rounds Out Big Day for Medical Marijuana

April 29th, 2009 27 Comments Kate Zawidzki

We just got word that the Rhode Island Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill, 35-2, that would establish “compassion centers” to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients, making access for the seriously ill far safer and more reliable.

Just to recap, that means three huge victories for medical marijuana patients and advocates today. Earlier, the senates in New Hampshire and Minnesota both passed bills that would protect seriously ill patients from arrest for using medical marijuana with their doctor’s recommendation.

That brings all three states much closer to improving the lives of their seriously ill medical marijuana patients, but we aren’t there yet, so stay tuned.

Although a vote for a bill similar to those in Minnesota and New Hampshire by the Illinois Senate didn’t take place today, that’s not necessarily bad news. It gives the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Haine, more time to build support among his colleagues after amending the bill to address the concerns made by some law enforcement officials.

Meanwhile, many of those same law enforcement officials and the drug-war supporting organization Educating Voices have announced a press conference at the Statehouse tomorrow at 10 a.m. Central to argue against Haine’s bill.

I mention their press conference because I think it’s important to air all sides of this debate. I also think it helps the cause of seriously ill patients who rely on medical marijuana for people to hear the rationale behind those who would continue to make them criminals.

Oh, Illinois residents, please let your representatives know it’s time to end the cruel, senseless war against medical marijuana patients. We’re close to ending it in Illinois, but they need your help.

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Prohibition

Mexico moves to decriminalize marijuana

April 29th, 2009 27 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Update (8/21/2009): Mexican President Felipe Calderón has signed this legislation into law. Click here to read more.

Mexico’s Senate passed a bill on Tuesday decriminalizing possession of small amounts of marijuana and other drugs. The bill would make it legal to carry up to 5 grams of marijuana in Mexico and defers low-level drug dealing cases to the Mexican states.

Proposed by President Felipe Calderon, the bill seeks to free up law enforcement resources in order to better fight violent drug cartels that have drawn international attention. The legislation must pass in the lower house before being sent to the president and signed into law.

This is notable not only because a similar proposal was vetoed by former Mexican President Vicente Fox under pressure from then-President Bush, but also because it closely follows Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan’s April 12 statement on Face the Nation that ending marijuana prohibition is a debate that should be happening on both sides of the border.

U.S. and Mexican officials estimate that between 60% and 70% of the drug cartels’ profits come from marijuana sales in the U.S.  So while efforts to decriminalize marijuana possession in Mexico are laudable, ambitious legislation in the U.S. is needed to fully combat the rising tide of violence along the border.

See this piece from Reuters for more information on Mexico’s decriminalization bill.

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Medical Marijuana

… More Good News, This Time From Minnesota

April 29th, 2009 6 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Minnesota’s Senate just followed its New Hampshire counterpart with a medical marijuana victory of its own, passing its medical marijuana bill 36-28. The process in Minnesota is a little complicated: Today’s vote was technically made by the Senate’s Committee of the Whole, and needs an official vote that will probably take place later this week. But today’s victory is a very good sign.

Supporters in Minnesota can help seal this victory by contacting their representatives in both chambers urging them to pass this medical marijuana bill now.

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Medical Marijuana

First Win of the Day!

April 29th, 2009 10 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The New Hampshire Senate just passed their medical marijuana bill, 14-10. If you live in New Hampshire, you can send Gov. John Lynch a fax urging him to allow the bill to become law. It’s free.

As I said last night, this could be a big day for medical marijuana across the country, and this is a great start. More to come …

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Medical Marijuana

Historic Medical Marijuana Votes This Week

April 28th, 2009 21 Comments Kate Zawidzki

It’s never easy to know for sure, but this week could be huge for medical marijuana reform if things go just right in state legislatures across the country. The senates in Illinois, Minnesota, and New Hampshire all could vote to pass medical marijuana bills as early as tomorrow. At the same time, the Rhode Island Senate could vote on a bill creating medical marijuana compassion centers, making safe access to qualified patients in the state far less burdensome.

So stay tuned – we’ll let you know as soon as we know.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Obama’s 100-Day Grade on Marijuana Policy: Incomplete

April 27th, 2009 20 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Aaron Houston, MPP’s director of government relations, has just posted some thoughts on President Obama’s first 100 days on the Congress Blog of the Capitol Hill political paper, The Hill. You can read all of Aaron’s thoughts here. The bottom line: “While we have a pretty good idea of where Obama is heading on issues like the economy and health care, his direction on marijuana and drug policy remains unclear.”

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Medical Marijuana

Lynch sentencing delayed – again

April 24th, 2009 20 Comments Kate Zawidzki

After a lengthy hearing, Judge George Wu once again deferred his sentencing decision in the case of the federally prosecuted California medical marijuana provider, Charles C. Lynch.

Judge Wu indicated that he’s leaning toward a more lenient sentence than the five-year mandatory minimum sought by the federal prosecutor and said he needs a way around the mandatory minimum and alternatives to prison for Lynch, who operated his medical marijuana collective in compliance with state and local law.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Tax and Regulate

NPR Celebrates 4/20 by Getting the Story Wrong

April 21st, 2009 35 Comments Kate Zawidzki

On Monday, National Public Radio marked the unofficial marijuana holiday 4/20 with a story called, “What If Marijuana Were Legal? Possible Outcomes?” We were not impressed, but you can listen to the story and read a transcript here.

After reviewing it, I wrote the following e-mail to the reporter and assorted NPR honchos:

I read the transcript of this — haven’t had the chance to hear it on the radio today — and I must say I’m profoundly disappointed. You weren’t interested in talking to us for the piece, but if you had, we might have helped you avoid some factual errors and highly questionable conclusions presented effectively as uncontested fact.

For example, vaporizers such as the Volcano, are not “supposed to provide a milder smoking experience.” They allow inhalation of cannabinoid vapors without smoking  — and thus without the tars and other combustion products implicated in respiratory problems caused by smoking. A minor point? Maybe, but not when you consider that the health risks of smoking are cited regularly by proponents of prohibition as one of the great dangers of marijuana.

And the suggestion that legalization would lead to more potent marijuana stands economic reality on its head. Economic and policy experts who have studied this conclude pretty much across the board that prohibition increases the potency of whatever contraband substance is prohibited. As Dr. Stephen Kisely wrote in the Dec. 2008 Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. “Where potency has increased, this could actually be due to the drug’s illegal status. Reducing the bulk of contraband enhances logistics of supply and profitability. For instance, the major effect of alcohol prohibition in the United States was an increase in the consumption of spirits at the expense of beer.”

This is not exactly rocket science, but since you had the issue addressed by a spokesman for a group of narcotics officers, you got the official law enforcement spin, not actual research. And I can’t help but note that while you told me when we spoke a few weeks ago that you didn’t want to use advocacy groups for one side or the other, you did end up using advocates for the pro-prohibition side, but not their opponents (and if NPR doesn’t recognize that narcotics officers’ groups are advocates for prohibition, you guys need to get out more).

I will not belabor you with further examples, but there are several others I could cite. Please understand that my dismay is not about MPP not being mentioned or quoted — frankly, we get plenty of press, and one story more or less is no big deal — it’s about NPR’s consistent failure to do competent reporting on marijuana issues. This is not just you, it appears to be a systemic problem with NPR’s news, and it’s a constant source of frustration to those of us who wish that such a large, influential, noncommercial broadcast network had higher standards.

Regards,
Bruce Mirken, Director of Communications
Marijuana Policy Project

Postscript: I did get a response from the reporter, which he asked me to keep confidential, and I will honor that request. Suffice it to say that it did not address the story’s errors of fact.

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