Pro-Decriminalization Candidate Ahead in Vermont Gubernatorial Primary

August 25th, 2010 18 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Unofficial vote totals show that marijuana decriminalization supporter Peter Shumlin won the Vermont Democratic primary for governor yesterday by an agonizingly tight margin of fewer than 200 votes. Although votes are in from all 260 precincts, towns and cities have a couple of days to certify official results. Currently president pro tempore of the Vermont state Senate, Shumlin has been a staunch supporter of efforts to remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana in Vermont—something MPP has spent years lobbying for.

“Small marijuana offenses, when you’re already on probation, can send you to prison,” Shumlin told the Rutland Herland in June. “That doesn’t seem to me to be the best use of scarce taxpayer dollars.”

While a recount is likely because the final tally was so close, Shumlin’s victory in a five-person primary is yet another example of how candidates can benefit — not suffer — from supporting efforts to reform marijuana laws. Assuming Shumlin is the Democratic candidate, Vermont’s general election will also be of greatest interest to marijuana policy reformers. The Republican candidate for governor, Brian Dubie, is an opponent of decriminalization, and the race is expected to be close.

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate, Video

MPP’s Rob Kampia Talks Marijuana Reform on Fox Freedom Watch

August 23rd, 2010 54 Comments Kate Zawidzki

MPP executive director Rob Kampia appeared on Fox Business News’s “Freedom Watch” with Judge Andrew Napolitano this weekend to discuss the merits of ending marijuana prohibition in the United States.

Joined by John Stossel, Rob debated pundit S.E. Cupp, who claimed that marijuana policy reformers were “confused” about how to treat marijuana.

“We’re not confused,” Rob responded. “It’s pretty clear that marijuana would actually be better if it was regulated and taxed, rather than keep it in the hands of drug dealers, where it’s untaxed and unsafe. And let’s not joke around here; marijuana is clearly safer than alcohol. So if we’re going to regulate and tax alcohol in our society, we should surely do the same with marijuana.”

You can watch the entire clip below:

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Officer Who Shot Unarmed Trevon Cole is Cleared, Family Mulls Lawsuit

August 23rd, 2010 31 Comments Kate Zawidzki

A coroner’s inquest jury ruled this weekend that the fatal shooting of Trevon Cole by a Las Vegas narcotics officer during a botched marijuana raid in June was justified, despite reports of conflicting testimony and contradictory evidence.

Cole, 21, was shot dead in front of his pregnant fiancée after officers raided their Las Vegas home on June 11. He was unarmed. It was later revealed that officers meant to target a different man with the same name, who they claimed was a major marijuana dealer. Officers were serving a search warrant on Cole after allegedly buying 1.8 ounces of marijuana from him over a five-week period.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Detective Bryan Yant, who has been involved in other questionable shootings, testified that he fired the fatal shot after Cole stood up and moved his hands toward the officer “in a shooting motion.”

“Unfortunately he made an aggressive act toward me,” Yant said, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal. “He made me do my job.”

It took the jury only 90 minutes to clear Yant, even though the Review Journal and other sources report that his testimony and that of others were riddled with disturbing inconsistencies, including:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

National Black Police Association Endorses Prop 19

August 20th, 2010 14 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The National Black Police Association yesterday became the latest group to endorse California’s Proposition 19, the November ballot measure that would make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. From the Los Angeles Times:

The National Black Police Assn., which has about 15,000 members, is the second African American organization to back the measure. The California NAACP has also endorsed it, citing the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of African Americans caught with marijuana.

Ron Hampton, the police association’s executive director, said he decided the group should get behind the measure because it would eliminate laws that have a negative impact on the black community.

“It means that we will be locking up less African American men and women and children who are using drugs,” said Hampton, a retired Washington, D.C., police officer with 25 years experience. “We’ve got more people in prison. We’ve got more young people in prison. Blacks go to jail more than whites for doing the same thing.”

Hampton said that the money being spent on the war on drugs could be better spent on education, housing and creating jobs. “It just seemed like to me that we have been distracted in this whole thing,” he said. “We can take that money, and focus and concentrate on things that really make a difference in our community.”

For more, watch LEAP executive director Neill Franklin discuss the endorsement on MSNBC:

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Medical Marijuana

Sidelined Because He Can’t Use the Medicine that Works

August 20th, 2010 19 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The idiocy of our country’s approach to medical marijuana was on full display for all to see at the Minnesota Vikings training camp yesterday.

Since the age of 10, Percy Harvin, a Vikings wide receiver, has suffered from chronic, debilitating migraines. Luckily, later in life, Harvin found a therapeutic substance that not only relieved his migraines effectively, but also allowed him to play football. It was marijuana.

But during last year’s NFL combine, Harvin, a promising prospect, tested positive for marijuana, and was subsequently drafted much lower than expected. The Vikings finally picked him 22nd overall, reportedly after a long talk about his marijuana use, and specifically, how it needed to stop if he wanted to keep playing.

Harvin complied, and the migraines didn’t seem to be a problem for much of his breakout rookie season. “Questions about his ability as a receiver seem silly now,” Jim Trotter of Sports Illustrated wrote at the time. “The only thing that has slowed him is migraines.” Toward the end of last season, the migraines got worse, and Harvin was sidelined. Except now he wasn’t able to use marijuana to treat them, and nothing else seemed to work.

On Monday, after another stint in the hospital, Harvin was finally back in uniform at Vikings training camp. Cindy Boren of the Washington Post describes what happened next:

Harvin, who has battled migraines since he was 10 and sought treatment last year at the Mayo Clinic, had not practiced for two weeks because of migraines, returning to the field only Monday. Suffering another attack Thursday, he managed to return to the field and looked up to the sky to field a punt. He doubled over, vomited and seemed momentarily unresponsive and was taken to the hospital. The scene was so disturbing for players that the rest of practice was called off.

If medical marijuana were legal in the United States, and treated like any other legitimate medicine by the NFL, then Harvin could consult with a doctor about the best way to use marijuana to help relieve these awful migraines. (And anyone who is a migraine sufferer knows just how awful they can be.) More importantly, the Vikings could have a productive wide receiver. Instead, they’re forced to stand by idly as their $1.04 million investment is carted off the field in an ambulance, overcome by pain that could easily be relieved by a safe, non-toxic medicine.

How’s that for sensible marijuana policies?

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Medical Marijuana

Paul Campaign Clarifies Medical Marijuana Stance

August 20th, 2010 27 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Many readers have been questioning the accuracy of an Associated Press article I blogged about recently claiming Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul, who has defended the rights of states to pass medical marijuana laws, “is opposed to the legalization of marijuana, even for medicinal purposes.”

As a former reporter, I always strive for accuracy, so I just got off the phone with a representative of the Paul campaign in order to clarify the candidate’s position — which isn’t as simple as the AP made it out to be.

“Doctor Paul’s stance has not changed, and that is a case of sloppy reporting,” said Nena Bartlett, Paul’s assistant campaign manager. “His position is that it’s a states’ rights issue.”

However, when I asked Bartlett if Paul personally supports medical marijuana laws, and would, for example, vote for a bill protecting patients from arrest if he were a member of a state legislature, she demurred.

“I’m actually not positive that he’s taken that stance,” Bartlett said. “He just believes it should be left up to the states … I’m not sure if that’s a position he would take at this time. It’s a decision for doctors and patients at the local level.”

So there we have it. Rand Paul believes the federal government should not interfere in state medical marijuana laws. But he does not support such laws himself, at least not at this time. It was therefore inaccurate for the AP to say he “is opposed” to medical marijuana laws. (Though the Paul campaign will not say he’s “in favor” of them either.) I regret having helped to spread that misinformation, and want to apologize to our readers.

MPP’s blog — like nearly every other one online — relies almost entirely on outside news organizations to provide us with information that we then analyze and make entertaining for our readers. As this episode demonstrates, sometimes news outlets get it wrong—even ones as old and esteemed as the AP. With that in mind, I hope our readers will appreciate where we’re coming from, and understand that we will always do what’s in our power to promote accurate information — and correct something when it’s wrong.

As always, thanks for reading.

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate, Video

Gary Johnson on Ending Marijuana Prohibition: ‘It’s Gonna Happen’

August 19th, 2010 60 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Check out former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (R) — an expected 2012 presidential contender — discussing the need to end marijuana prohibition last night on MSNBC.

“I think it is at a tipping point, and people are ahead of the politicians on this one, and it’s still gonna happen. It’s gonna happen. I think statistically we’re about two and half years from 50 percent of Americans actually understanding this. From my own experience it’s really thin ice. With just a little bit of knowledge on this issue, people seem to move on this issue. People seem to be embracing this notion of, ‘Gee, it’s not working, we really have to do something different.’”

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Medical Marijuana

Feds Say Leonhart is ‘Right Choice’ for DEA, Despite Widespread Calls for Her Withdrawal

August 18th, 2010 73 Comments Kate Zawidzki

One month after MPP and an ideologically diverse coalition of drug policy reformers and advocacy groups called on President Obama to withdraw Michele Leonhart as his nominee for DEA administrator, a spokesperson for the White House has declared that the president is confident that the Bush holdover is the “right” choice for the job. Mike Riggs has the story in The Daily Caller:

Obama is confident that Leonhart is the right choice, the White House staffer said, and that as of Friday the president wasn’t considering anyone else for the position. In other words, the response from 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. to a chorus of concerns boils down to: Leonhart or bust.

MPP and others – including FireDogLake’s Jane Hamsher and the states-rights group the Tenth Amendment Center – pointed to Leonhart’s interim leadership of the DEA, which has included federal raids on state-legal medical marijuana providers and the denial of medical marijuana research applications, as evidence that she is continuing Bush-era policies that Obama promised to end. During the campaign, and in an October memo from the Department of Justice, the president and his administration pledged to end federal raids on state-legal medical marijuana providers.

But when Riggs asked the feds whether recent raids in California violate the spirit of the October memo, spokespeople for both the White House and DOJ seemed to backtrack on the president’s pledge.

But the White House and the Justice Department both told TheDC that Holder’s memo does not give dispensaries carte blanche to grow or sell marijuana, and that recent raids don’t conflict with what Obama expressed while campaigning.

“I wouldn’t say the memo ‘discourages’ certain raids,” a DOJ offical told TheDC. Rather, “it talks about prioritizing resources most efficiently.” And both the White House and the DOJ argued that the gist of the Holder memo was that the DEA would “not focus its limited resources on individual patients with cancer or other serious diseases.”

One can’t help but wonder, with the nomination of Leonhart, the ongoing raids, and this type of public about-face on the issue, if President Obama is now reneging on his campaign pledge to approach medical marijuana issues differently than his predecessor.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs thinks it’s absurd to even suggest such a thing. “I hear these people saying he’s like George Bush,” Gibbs said recently. “Those people ought to be drug tested. I mean, it’s crazy.”

Crazy is exactly right, Mr. Gibbs. I mean, it’s not like President Obama picked the same person George W. Bush did to lead the DEA, and has insisted on standing by her while she employs the same policies that were in place under Bush. Oh wait …

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The MPP Insider, Episode #013

August 18th, 2010 15 Comments Kate Zawidzki

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Medical Marijuana

Germany Ready to Approve Medical Marijuana

August 17th, 2010 6 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Medical marijuana will soon be more widely available to qualifying patients in Germany, according to a government health spokesperson. From the English-language news site The Local:

Doctors could write prescriptions for cannabis, and pharmacies would be authorised to sell the plant once the law had been adjusted, a member of [Germany’s] junior coalition party, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), said Monday.

Marijuana would also be permitted for use as a pain reliever for the terminally ill in hospices and other care facilities, making it a legal part of their emergency pain-relief stocks.

[…] According to the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (ACM), only 40 patients in the country are currently allowed a medical marijuana prescription – even though law enforcement generally tolerates small amounts for personal use.

Meanwhile, patients in 36 of the 50 United States are still treated as criminals if they relieve their symptoms through marijuana, and our federal government persists in incorrectly classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug—meaning it has “no accepted medical value”—while at the same time blocking the much-needed research necessary to move marijuana through the FDA approval process.

Elsewhere, Great Britain has approved liquid marijuana for medical use, and Israel is seeking to further expand its own medical marijuana law—even allowing hospitals to administer medical marijuana to patients.

Make sure to tell your elected officials that you’re tired of seeing the United States lag behind while other developed nations implement compassionate and science-based medical marijuana policies by visiting MPP’s Federal Action Center.

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