Prohibition, Video

Obama Thinks Drug Policy Is “Serious Issue,” and Not Much Else

January 28th, 2011 51 Comments Morgan Fox

President Obama held another public forum yesterday on Youtube, and once again the questions were dominated by concerns about our nation’s drug policies. Many in the reform movement were worried that we would be ignored or laughed off again. Well, the President did respond: Read the rest of this entry »

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Medical Marijuana

Hawaii Looks to Expand Medical Marijuana Program

January 25th, 2011 12 Comments Morgan Fox

Medical marijuana patients in the Aloha State could be looking at major improvements to their ability to access their medicine. Last week, two proposals were introduced in the state legislature to augment the 10-year-old law.

Sen. Will Espero proposed a bill that would increase the number of plants a patient can personally grow from four to 10. Patients would also be able to designate a caregiver to grow the same amount of plants instead, and each caregiver would be able to take on up to four patients. This bill would also keep patients’ names and grow site locations private, and would allow a person with a qualifying condition to get a medical marijuana recommendation from a doctor other than his or her primary care physician.

A bill that would set up state-licenced compassion centers was also introduced by Sen. J. Kalani English. While the licensing fees and taxes for these businesses would be large, this proposal would be the first of its kind to allow dispensaries to provide marijuana to non-Hawaii residents who are legal medical marijuana patients in their home states.

Of course, the police are fighting this tooth and nail, and are trotting out the same old predictable arguments. According to Sen. Espero, Hawaii lawmakers aren’t buying it anymore. And neither is the new governor.

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Medical Marijuana

Medical marijuana bill introduced in Idaho!

January 20th, 2011 32 Comments Kate Zawidzki

On Wednesday, January 19, Idaho State Representative Tom Trail introduced legislation that would protect seriously ill residents in his state from arrest and prosecution for using marijuana with their doctors’ recommendations. Rep. Trail, a Republican from Moscow, Idaho, recognized the compassionate need for a distinction between medical and non-medical use of marijuana and acted on it.

If passed, Idaho would become the 16th state, along with the District of Columbia, to distinguish between medical and non-medical marijuana use. Idaho is surrounded by medical marijuana states, sharing borders with Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and Montana. Additionally, Idaho borders Canada, a medical marijuana country.

Although the bill is solid, Rep. Trail has his work cut out for him. In a state as “red” as they get, dispelling myths and making sure the truth is heard can be difficult. However, the soft-spoken conservative from Moscow, Idaho seems to be an ideal champion for this issue.

If you live in Idaho and would like to be updated on Rep. Trail’s efforts, or for updates on marijuana legislation in any state, please sign up for MPP’s state specific e-mail alerts at

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VIDEO: Utah Man Killed in Outrageous Police Raid

January 20th, 2011 76 Comments Kate Zawidzki

UPDATED: Shocking. That’s the only word that comes to mind when seeing the video of Todd Blair, 45, gunned down by armed police storming his home on a no-knock raid in Utah last September. Blair, no doubt surprised by the sound of yelling and having his door kicked in, emerges from an interior doorway holding a golf club over his head. Before Blair can react, Sgt. Troy Burnett shoots him three times and Blair slumps to the floor dead.

No “drop the weapon,” no “get down on the ground,” just bang!, bang!, bang! It’s a chilling scene that’s over before it started, and all the police found was a small amount of marijuana and an empty vial alleged to have contained other drugs.

This type of raid won’t come as a surprise to regular readers of our blog, of course. We see these stories all the time because they’re playing out every day in this country at an alarming rate. Lives are ruined and lost, and for what? A few grams of marijuana? It’s just another—albiet outrageous—example of how prohibition has failed as a policy at every conceivable turn. If videos like this aren’t a sure sign that it’s time to end marijuana prohibition and adopt sensible polices like taxation and regulation, then I’m not sure what is. (originally written by John Berry, with updates by Dusty Trice)

Please donate to the Marijuana Policy Project!

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Courts To Hear Cases on Employment, Concealed Weapons Rights for Medical Marijuana Patients

January 20th, 2011 9 Comments Morgan Fox

Two cases involving medical marijuana patients have reached the supreme courts of their respective states, and their results could have far-reaching implications for medical marijuana in the future.

In Washington, the state Supreme Court announced it will hear the appeal of a woman who was fired from her job at a telephone call center for testing positive for marijuana on a workplace drug test, despite being a registered medical marijuana patient. While the medical marijuana law in Washington does not protect patients using marijuana in the workplace, the patient had never used her medicine while on the job, and did not work in a role where residual intoxication could prove dangerous to others. Her employer terminated her for using a medicine that she was legally allowed to use in her own home.

It is not known whether this company, Teletech, has fired employees for testing positive for other controlled substances that they have been using legally on the advice of a physician. My guess is they have not.

The final ruling in this case will clarify the rights of employers and employees in medical marijuana states and will no doubt influence the language of future bills, as will the case of Joseph Casias, a Michigan medical marijuana patient who was fired under similar circumstances.

And on March 3, the Oregon Supreme Court will tackle the case of Cynthia Willis, a medical marijuana patient and long-time holder of a concealed-carry handgun permit. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters denied Willis’ permit renewal after he learned that she was a patient, citing conflict with federal law barring drug users from possessing firearms.

So far, the lower courts have sided with Ms. Willis. Let’s hope the highest court in the state does, too. People should never be denied their constitutional rights simply because they are sick.

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Why Are Some Cops So Hostile to Marijuana Policy Reform?

January 19th, 2011 57 Comments Morgan Fox

This article by Rob Kampia was recently in Huffington Post:

A few years ago, when the Marijuana Policy Project was lobbying the Minnesota legislature to pass a modest medical marijuana bill, the state prosecutors association led the opposition. Rank-and-file police from the Twin Cities left their beats to fill up committee hearing rooms — in uniform, with handguns strapped to their waists — in an attempt to intimidate the state legislators on the committees.

And law enforcement lied, lied, lied, so much so that we started distributing daily “Law Enforcement Lie of the Day” videos to all state legislators and political reporters in the state. We also slammed the leading local prosecutor’s office with phone calls from angry constituents; he privately threatened to arrest us for “obstructing justice.” I almost wish he had arrested us so that he would have had to explain why trying to help sick people interferes with justice, but he didn’t.

For a couple years, it was all-out warfare, but we finally passed a medical marijuana bill through the legislature in May 2009, only to see Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) veto the bill, saying he preferred to “stand with law enforcement.”

State prosecutors, police, sheriffs, and attorneys general — not to mention federal DEA and FBI agents — are almost universally opposed to marijuana policy reform measures in every state, to the point where they actually spend time and taxpayer money campaigning and lobbying against us. Why?

1. IGNORANCE: For the most part, rank-and-file cops aren’t trained scientists or policy experts. They don’t spend much time reading medical studies or public policy analyses, and they generally don’t have much knowledge about the issue beyond how it directly affects their jobs. When presented with such information, they tend to listen to the people they encounter most in their work. Unfortunately, those people are almost always government officials or those with a vested interest in keeping marijuana illegal, such as drug treatment specialists. Since this information comes from “trusted sources,’ it’s usually accepted as fact, and differing viewpoints are therefore ignored.

2. JOB SECURITY: Before MPP helped decriminalize marijuana possession in Massachusetts in November 2008, we learned that marijuana-possession arrests accounted for 6% of all arrests in that state each year. So, to some extent, law enforcement was opposing our ballot initiative because they were concerned that some of them might need to be laid off if there were fewer “criminals” to arrest and prosecute. As for me, I never thought that 6% of law enforcement would be laid off; more likely, we were freeing up law enforcement to go after real criminals. Which leads me to…

3. QUALITY OF LIFE: According to the FBI, 48 law-enforcement officers nationwide were feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2009, and none of these were killed by enforcing drug laws. It makes sense that going after murderers would be more dangerous than sniffing under college students’ doors. But policing exists to make society safer, and hunting down nonviolent marijuana users at the expense of thousands of unsolved assaults, rapes, and murders does nothing to accomplish this.

4. COGNITIVE DISSONANCE: It’s hard for any person to change his or her political opinion after years of believing that opinion. So you can imagine how it would be even harder to change your opinion on an issue after you’ve ruined the lives of hundreds or thousands of people by arresting them on that issue. In other words, once a cop arrests marijuana users, testifies against them in court, and moves up the political food chain because of all this, it’s almost impossible for that cop to then declare, “I was wrong.”

Thankfully, there’s an organization of principled law enforcement professionals who are neither ignorant, self-serving, nor mentally calcified. I’m talking about Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, an organization that deserves your wholehearted support.

And there is another ray of hope: When I talk to cops on the beat in the District of Columbia, where I live, I ask them, “What’s the worst crime you usually have to deal with?” They almost always answer, “Domestic violence.” I ask, “Is marijuana involved in that?” They laugh and say, “Never. It’s almost always alcohol.” So should marijuana be decriminalized, or maybe even legalized? “Probably, but the higher-ups would never go for that,” they say.

So there you have it: There are plenty of police officers who see the futility and unfairness of marijuana prohibition up close, but most law enforcement officials with real authority support marijuana prohibition. Why the discrepancy?

The most obvious explanation is that the higher-ups are (1) more likely to be appointed or hired by mayors and city councils, and (2) responsible for presenting departmental budgets to those politicians every year. So perhaps there’s a fifth reason why so many law enforcement officials are hostile…

5. FEAR OF OUT-OF-TOUCH POLITICIANS: Politicians are far behind the public when it comes to understanding the harms of marijuana prohibition. Whether politicians are afraid of being perceived as “soft on crime,” of sticking their necks out on what is still a fairly contentious issue, or of offending particular special interest groups, opposition remains high among elected representatives. Law enforcement officials looking for bigger budgets and better jobs will echo these politicians ad nauseum, providing them with political cover and legitimacy. And there we have a self-perpetuating cycle.

This is why it’s important to engage law enforcement on this issue at every opportunity. Whether it is the cop on your corner or the chief of police, opening the dialogue is vitally important.

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The MPP Insider, Episode #022

January 7th, 2011 17 Comments Morgan Fox

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