Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Governor Wants to Delay Medical Marijuana Law

May 28th, 2010 19 Comments Kate Zawidzki

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said this week that he has no plans to try to make the state’s recently passed medical marijuana law more restrictive—as he had suggested he might do while on the campaign trail—but that he wants to delay implementation of the law by at least six months.

“I think the public would agree it has to be done correctly,’’ he told local outlets.

Christie’s actions are causing concern among some lawmakers and advocates, who say the process shouldn’t be unnecessarily prolonged. The state legislature has already passed the law, and there are seriously ill patients in New Jersey who are being forced to go without access or protection until it takes effect.

Stay tuned for updates.

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MPP Asks Minneapolis Mayor to Be Honest About Marijuana, Mayor Responds

May 28th, 2010 16 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak has recently taken to Minnesota’s airwaves in a misguided attempt to blame violence at the hands of criminal gangs on consumers of marijuana. “When you pay for marijuana, you are paying for the bullet that goes into the head of someone on the streets,” he told the Star Tribune, in one instance.

Today, MPP called upon Mayor Rybak to get honest about what actually fuels violence in the marijuana trade: prohibition. Here’s the statement by MPP’s Steve Fox:

“Like alcohol prohibition in the last century, marijuana prohibition has helped to fuel violent crime in Minnesota and across the country. Mayor Rybak is out of touch with reality if he does not recognize that prohibition—and any elected official who supports it—is to blame for giving criminals a virtual monopoly on marijuana’s lucrative trade. It is unrealistic to assume we can somehow magically remove the demand for marijuana. The only true solution is to regulate marijuana, and bring its sale under the rule of law, the same way we ended the criminal violence that stemmed from alcohol prohibition.

“If the mayor wants to end violence associated with marijuana, he too needs to be honest, and join the growing ranks of those calling for an end to prohibition and the failed policies that drive money into the hands of criminals, and yes, bullets into people’s heads.”

Well, as it turns out, the first call I got back about our release was from Mayor Rybak himself. He was not too pleased, to say the least. To his credit, the mayor seemed more nuanced and open-minded about the issue than some of the Minnesota headline writers have made him out to be. He reiterated that this is a complicated subject, but that he is open to a debate on solutions. “I’m telling people that we need to talk about this,” he told me.

If you’re in the Minneapolis area and want to tell Mayor Rybak what you think about this, he responds regularly to comments made on his Facebook page.

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Teachers Suspended for Screening MPP-Funded Film on Constitutional Rights

May 27th, 2010 18 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Two high-school teachers in Norfolk, Virginia have been placed on paid administrative leave because a parent objected to them handing out a one-page flier and showing a film, both about constitutional rights, to a 12th grade government class.

The handout, “When Dealing With Police …”, tells students what to do if they get stopped by police officers, if they see someone stopped by police officers, or if they get arrested (example: “Ask, ‘AM I FREE TO GO?’ If not, you are being detained. If yes, walk away.”)

And the film, “Busted: The Citizen’s Guide to Surviving Police Encounters,” should be familiar to many readers of this blog. It was produced a few years back by Flex Your Rights, the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes education on constitutional rights in police situations and recently put out another film, “10 Rules for Dealing With Police,” to more than respectable reviews. Both films received funding from MPP.

Anyone who has ever watched “Busted” knows it’s an entertaining presentation of Constitutional Rights 101. Featuring commentary from Ira Glasser, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union, the film depicts people in everyday police encounters and explains to viewers what rights they have at every step along the way. It’s been endorsed by Nobel Prize Winner Milton Friedman and former ACLU president Nadine Strossen, among others.

Not exactly the kind of product that should lead to teachers being removed from the classroom.

The parent who made the initial complaint (and courageously chooses to remain anonymous) told the Virginian Pilot that her daughter came home after viewing the materials, and said, “You won’t believe what we are learning in Government. They are teaching us how to hide our drugs.” I’d be curious to know if the parent even bothered to watch the film or read the flier herself before filing the complaint. Obviously her daughter missed the point, and now, unfortunately, her teachers aren’t there to explain it to her.

Here’s what Steve Silverman, the executive director of Flex Your Rights, had to say about the ordeal:

“It’s certainly disturbing that civics teachers are being punished for teaching students about how constitutional protections apply during police encounters. The Bill of Rights is not some abstract concept that ought to be forgotten after finals, nor is it a trick designed to protect evil-doers.

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Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Patient Denied Treatment in New Mexico Detention Center

May 26th, 2010 6 Comments Morgan Fox

According to a local news station, a New Mexico man who is registered with the state’s medical marijuana program was denied access to his medical marijuana, as well as any temporary replacement medication, while being held in the Dona Ana County Detention Center. The explanations offered by the detention center were confusing to say the least.

“[M]arijuana at this time is not approved to go into that facility,” said a spokesperson. “One of the reasons is when you smoke, whether it’s tobacco or marijuana, everyone around you is smoking it, too.”

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Innocent Mint Plants Become Collateral Damage in the War on Marijuana

May 25th, 2010 30 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Every once in a while, there is room for humor at the expense of America’s war on marijuana and this is a story that I couldn’t help but share:

In their unyielding pursuit to rid the world of all of its marijuana plants, police in Corpus Christi, Texas arrived at a city park last week to pull up hundreds of weeds. The only problem with their gardening project is that these weeds were not marijuana at all but a type of wild mint that grows in the area.

Corpus Christi’s KRIS TV news reports that police…

…spent an hour pulling up about 400 plants and filling several garbage bags with the weeds. But, when they got back to the police station and ran some tests it turned out the suspected pot plants were just a fairly common type of weed called ‘horse mint.’

This is clearly an embarrassing waste of public safety resources. However, I can’t help but think about how much more useful an activity like clearing weeds out of a park is compared to chasing down adults for growing marijuana plants on their own property.

What do you think?

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Arizona Medical Marijuana on Fox News Maker

May 25th, 2010 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

Andrew Myers discusses the ballot initiative that would allow seriously ill patients in Arizona to use medical marijuana without fear of arrest. With him his cancer patient Heather Torgerson, who uses marijuana to ease the effects of chemotherapy. Part 1 of 3. 03/28/2010

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Medical Marijuana

Bob Kerrey, Montel Williams Join Call for VA to Change Medical Marijuana Stance

May 25th, 2010 6 Comments Kate Zawidzki

We’ve written previously about the U.S. Veterans Administration’s disgraceful policy of not allowing its doctors to recommend medical marijuana to military veterans, even if they live in a state where medical marijuana is legal or suffer from a condition such as post-traumatic stress disorder, which affects one in five vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and studies have shown can be relieved through marijuana.

Yesterday, former Nebraska senator and governor and Vietnam veteran Bob Kerrey joined the growing call for the VA to change its stance and work to give veterans the care they deserve. In this very thoughtful piece in the Huffington Post, Kerrey and co-author Jason Flom call the VA’s policy “counterproductive and harmful.”

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Medical Marijuana

Congress Members Urge Change in Banking Rules for Medical Marijuana Providers

May 25th, 2010 4 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Last Friday, Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) sent a letter to the U.S. Treasury Department urging the Obama administration to address a problem affecting numerous medical marijuana providers in states like California and Colorado. Specifically, due to existing federal law, these providers are having difficulty establishing accounts with banking institutions. “Legitimate state-legal businesses are being denied access to banking services, which does not serve the public interest,” the letter stated.

The Marijuana Policy Project recognized this growing problem and worked diligently behind the scenes with Rep. Polis’s office to devise an effective lobbying strategy. The letter issued on Friday and signed by 15 members of Congress, including House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA), House Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee Chairman Jose Serrano (D-NY), was a result of those efforts.

With medical marijuana providers now operating in numerous states, this issue must be resolved. These are taxpaying entities and they must have access to secure and reliable banking institutions in order to operate efficiently and properly. We are proud of our role in helping to resolve this issue and we thank Congressman Polis and other stalwart supporters in Congress for their incredible and lasting commitment to protecting medical marijuana patients and their caregivers.

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Reports: Task Force Seizes Marijuana Petition Signatures, Handcuffs 14-Year-Old

May 24th, 2010 36 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Sensible Washington, a group gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would end marijuana prohibition in Washington state, reported last week that members of West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team (WestNet), a federally-funded drug task force, seized about 200 signatures during a raid on a medical marijuana club.

From Sensible Washington’s site:

“We have made repeated calls to WestNet’s office, but have yet to receive any assurance that the task force’s personnel have secured the signed petitions and that they plan to promptly return them to Sensible Washington.”

As if stealing signatures for a law-abiding ballot initiative doesn’t seem contemptible enough, Seattle Weekly reports that the same group made another raid on a provider’s home, in which they “handcuffed [the family’s] 14-year-old son for two hours and put a gun to his head. They also told the kid to say good-bye to his dad […]  because the dispensary owner was going to prison.”

And then it gets worse:

“And as the detectives looked for cash to prove that the dispensary was illegally profiting from pot sales, Casey says, they confiscated $80 that her 9-year-old daughter had received from her family for a straight-A report card. Where did they find it?

In the girl’s Mickey Mouse wallet, according to Casey. She also claims that the cops dumped out all her silverware, busted a hole in the wall, and broke appliances.”

Our friends at FireDogLake have organized a petition demanding that WestNet end these despicable raids and return the signatures. You can check it out here.

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Columbia Police Chief: ‘I’m With You on the Fight’ to End Marijuana Prohibition

May 21st, 2010 30 Comments Morgan Fox

In the aftermath of the recently release video showing a family terrorized and their pets shot by a SWAT team in Columbia, Missouri, that city’s police chief is now saying he supports efforts to change marijuana laws so officers will no longer need to spend time and resources enforcing them.

During a press conference yesterday, Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton went out of his way to state his support for ending marijuana prohibition.

“I applaud your efforts,” he told a reporter who asked about campaigns to change marijuana laws. “If we could get out of the business [of going after marijuana offenders], I think there would be a lot of police officers that would be happy to do that.”

After reviewing the results of a four-month internal investigation, the chief announced that his officers acted appropriately during the February SWAT raid that resulted in the death of a dog and endangered a young child.

Columbia police are currently updating their policies to hopefully prevent further incidents, but the decision to use extreme force in executing a warrant for marijuana possession has been widely criticized as being contrary to city law. Columbia passed a law in 2004 making marijuana violations the lowest law enforcement priority. Unfortunately, as the chief points out, state laws can still interfere with officers’ abilities to go after real criminals.

Chief Burton also acknowledged that violence surrounding marijuana is often associated with the illegal market created by prohibition, and not the drug itself. “Crimes do occur because of marijuana,” he said. “And you may make the argument that it’s because it’s not legal, and you may be right.”

And if there was any lingering doubt about the sincerity of his remarks, the chief even gave a big thumbs up to the cameras.

Well, a big thumbs up to you too, chief. Hopefully, you won’t have to worry about enforcing irrational marijuana laws for much longer.

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