Once again, federal law enforcement is cracking down on medical marijuana businesses. On Thursday, just as Gov. Chris Gregoire was considering a veto of a bill that would establish the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington, federal agents raided several Spokane dispensaries.
Technically, these actions were in step with the Ogden memo, since Washington‚Äôs medical marijuana law does not explicitly allow and regulate dispensaries. Earlier this month, however, U.S. Attorneys warned Gov. Gregoire that they could still prosecute any medical marijuana businesses, even if they were allowed under the proposed bill. This prompted the governor to threaten a veto of the bill.
As if to illustrate their point, the DEA decided to start raids at a critical legislative juncture, which can only serve to compound the fears of nervous lawmakers and the governor.
Legislators should not allow this intimidation to affect their judgment. Several states have established licensed medical marijuana industries without seeing the type of aggression we are witnessing here. The key point to remember is that there is still no indication that the feds will go after medical marijuana businesses in states that have already established their legality. This means we need to pass laws protecting safe access as soon as possible!
The Oklahoma Legislature just passed a bill that would make manufacturing hash a felony punishable by up to¬†life in prison! You read that right ‚Äď life in prison for a substance that has never caused an overdose death.
This is costly ‚Äď if five people are convicted under this new provision and spend just 10 years in prison, the result is¬†a bill of over $1 million to taxpayers. It‚Äôs also just plain stupid. Here are some other crimes and their maximum punishments under Oklahoma law:
* Domestic abuse ‚Äď 1 year
* Drinking and driving with a child in the car ‚Äď 4 years
* Aggravated assault resulting in ‚Äúgreat physical injury‚ÄĚ ‚Äď 5 years
* Assault with intent to kill ‚Äď 5 years
* Kidnapping a child ‚Äď 5 years
* Second degree rape ‚Äď 15 years
* Sexual battery of a child ‚Äď 20 years
Apparently, the Oklahoma Legislature thinks that making hash, a concentrated form of marijuana, is deserving of more punishment than all of these crimes that involve actual victims who have suffered actual harm.
Governor Brian Schweitzer stood up for the voters, medical marijuana patients, and their caregivers Wednesday when he declared his intent to issue an amendatory veto for SB 423. This bill would have drastically hindered the ability of seriously ill patients to become qualified for the program and would have eliminated the bustling legitimate medical marijuana industry, forcing patients to grow their own or resort to the illicit market. Schweitzer said he will send the bill back with amendments that allow strictly licensed commercial growing and distribution, as well as protect the privacy of patients.
The governor stated that the bill, as written and passed by the House and Senate, is unconstitutional. He also expressed disappointment in the legislature for wasting nearly the entire session trying to thwart the will of Montana voters by passing bills that are nothing but repeal in disguise.
Schweitzer said he doesn’t believe the bill will survive a legal challenge.
“I’m kind of disgusted right now,” he said…
‚Ä¶ Schweitzer criticized the Legislature for managing to “squander away” most of the 90-day legislative session before sending him the bill. He said lawmakers already know it’s unconstitutional, which is why they put a “severability clause” in it, saying if a court strikes down part of the bill, the rest stands. Severability clauses are common in complex bills.
“Why don’t you just pass something that works, that’s constitutional and that can survive the test of time?” he asked.
If the legislature does not transmit the bill in time for an amendatory veto, Gov. Schweitzer will be forced to either veto it outright or allow it to become law. From his statements, it‚Äôs not hard to guess which way he‚Äôs leaning.
In addition, it appears that the governor of Montana did not overreact to recent statements from U.S. Attorneys in Washington that the federal government could prosecute medical marijuana businesses and state employees involved in licensing them. Unlike Gov. Gregoire, he probably looked at the absence of such prosecutions in states like Rhode Island, Maine, Colorado, and New Mexico, all of which have state-licensed dispensaries. Just because the Department of Justice says they can go after marijuana businesses does not mean that they will, and the experiences of these states suggest that they are not likely to do so, particularly in states that have clear regulations allowing dispensaries.
Let‚Äôs all reach out and thank Governor Schweitzer for treating medical marijuana in a rational, principled, and compassionate manner. If he keeps standing up for the will of the people of Montana, his re-election is ‚Äúguar-an-dang-teed!‚ÄĚ
This unfortunate situation lends itself to serious contemplation of our current draconian marijuana laws. In Connecticut, as well as in Rhode Island, the possession of even a small amount of marijuana is considered a crime. Criminal convictions haunt individuals as a mark on their records, even if jail time is avoided. Many people will have a difficult time obtaining gainful employment, college admission or loans, and housing because of their record. Are these drastic results really justified for something as simple as possessing a small amount of a substance proven safer than alcohol?
Legislators in both Rhode Island and Connecticut have the opportunity this year to end the heavy-handed practice of labeling anyone a criminal for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Both states have bills pending that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, replacing the current criminal penalties with a more rational civil fine.
Finally, I would like to commend the minority leader for his subsequent bravery and honesty in addressing his entire chamber about this issue. He explained that prescription medications have caused severe side effects, and that marijuana alleviated bouts of pancreatitis, which put him into a coma for five days last November. I am glad he has found a medicine that helps alleviate his pain. Protecting patients, such as Rep. Watson, is why we worked so hard to pass Rhode Island‚Äôs medical marijuana law. Rhode Island‚Äôs law, for which Rep. Watson voted, includes protection from conviction for unregistered patients who have doctors‚Äô recommendations, as well as protection from arrest for those who register.
Our summertime fundraiser at the Playboy Mansion just got even more exciting. The Marijuana Policy Project and GreenLife Medical Systems present to you the¬†Liberty Belle Ball where freedom is beautiful and victory is our goal.
Join us on July 7, 2011, as we proclaim our liberty from propaganda and blind acceptance of the status quo. We’ll rally together to declare independence from our government‚Äôs shameful bias against cannabis as a medicine, an industrial fiber, and an alternative to alcohol.
The¬†Liberty Belle Ball is a celebratory show of force for common sense marijuana laws. Get your¬†tickets to the Ball today, before the price increases on Monday, May 16.¬†Visit¬†www.mpp.org/pb2011 for more details.
Part of the price of each ticket is tax-deductible, and 100% of the net proceeds will benefit our work to end marijuana prohibition in the U.S.‚Ä®¬†‚Ä®In other words, this is a win/win/win situation: You attend an unforgettable party, you receive a tax deduction, and you help change our nation’s absurd marijuana laws.
In addition to the Mansion’s famous attractions, the Ball will also feature a major music act, burlesque performances, patriotic body painting, a silent art auction featuring classic Marilyn Monroe pinup photographs, and many other delights.
Guests are encouraged to dress to impress. Those dressed as ‚Äúliberty belles‚ÄĚ will be eligible to enter a drawing for fabulous prizes.
If you are one of the many people that showed your friends, co-workers, and family the video of Columbia, Mo. SWAT officers raiding the home of Jonathan Whitworth and shooting his dogs immediately after kicking in the door, then you helped make a real difference for the people of Columbia and elsewhere.
This is a wonderful example of how information-sharing and public pressure can have a direct impact on the unjust and violent policies of the war on drugs. We have the power to change things for the better, and we have to use it. Simply sharing videos is not enough, however. We need to consistently engage anyone and everyone on the issues arising from the prohibition of marijuana, and keep doing so until the truth is impossible to ignore. This is a good start!
I‚Äôm starting to sound like a broken record. Yesterday, the DEA, assisted by local law enforcement, raided several Michigan medical marijuana businesses and arrested the owners. No information has been released since the investigation is ongoing.
This sounds awfully familiar. Last month, federal authorities cracked down on medical marijuana facilities in Montana and California. According to all available information, those raided were in compliance with state law and were legitimate businesses.
It seems that the DEA is going to continue taking an active role in investigating and prosecuting medical marijuana patients and caregivers, regardless of Justice Department direction to the contrary. While they are legally allowed to enforce federal law in states where medical marijuana is permitted, the current policy directs them to only do so if state law is being broken.
I‚Äôm left wondering why the DEA is involved if the people and organizations being targeted are operating within state law. If these ‚Äúcriminals‚ÄĚ are not following state law, why is it necessary to call in the feds? One would think local law enforcement is perfectly capable of enforcing their own state‚Äôs laws and wouldn‚Äôt want anyone nosing in on their jurisdiction. Could it be that some law enforcement and certain politicians see this as a way to impose extreme penalties on a group of people with whom they have personal and ideological problems?
Or is the DEA simply taking it upon themselves to interpret state law, storming in when someone is operating within a legal gray area?
Either way, the DEA has no business going after medical marijuana businesses in the states. This is a state issue that is best dealt with through debate and regulation, not with assault weapons and battering rams.
In a great show of respect for the will of the voters in Montana, Gov. Schweitzer vetoed H.B. 161, the bill that would have repealed Montana‚Äôs medical marijuana law. That law, which was approved by a large majority of voters in 2004, has come under criticism lately, and overzealous lawmakers are doing everything they can to gut or eliminate the program.
While this is a wonderful sign of support from the governor, medical marijuana patients and businesses are still at risk. The legislature is currently considering another bill that would seriously damage the ability of patients to access their medicine, and would destroy the legitimate medical marijuana industry that has emerged in Montana. S.B. 423, and especially the House version of the bill, would add to the already staggering unemployment rate in Montana and would effectively send patients back to criminal organizations to get their medicine. It would also severely limit the number of patients for whom a caregiver can grow marijuana.
Hopefully, the Senate will reject the House‚Äôs version of ‚Äúrepeal lite‚ÄĚ and insist on a more compassionate proposal. Even if the Senate rejects the House‚Äôs unworkable bill, though, the Senate version was also too onerous and unworkable, especially for pain patients. Patients will likely need to rely on the governor to see the error in this bill as well, and suggest reasonable regulations for Montana‚Äôs medical marijuana industry that do not hurt patients or their caregivers.
The Maryland Legislature passed a bill this week that will help protect some patients from conviction if they can prove that their marijuana use was medical. The bill allows patients charged with possession to have their cases dismissed if they can show that they have a diagnosis of a debilitating medical condition from a doctor with whom they have an ongoing relationship. Lesser protections are also included that reduce the penalty in the case of non-debilitating conditions if patients can prove that their use was medical.
In addition, this bill would create a study panel of policy and health experts to look into the best ways to implement a comprehensive medical marijuana program in Maryland in the future.
While the overall bill is less than what we hoped for, it is definitely a step in the right direction. After all, anything that can help keep a patient out of jail is a good thing. The creation of the study panel bodes extremely well for all the medical marijuana patients in the state as well. It is certainly an indicator that lawmakers are willing to work with us on this issue, and are being responsive to the overwhelming support for such a program in Maryland.
The bill is now awaiting Gov. Martin O’Malley’s signature, which he has already promised.
Last week, the House Human Services Committee, ignoring the will of the people, took the imperfect S.B. 423 and made it completely unworkable. Committee Chairman Dave Howard called medical marijuana a ‚Äúscourge‚ÄĚ and tried to get the bill as close to repeal as possible. We expect a full House vote as early as Monday, April 11.
So what exactly is going on in Montana? First, there was the initial push for repeal with H.B. 161. That bill stalled in the Senate, but was immediately followed by a rash of federal raids on medical marijuana businesses, which whipped the legislature into a frenzy to do something, anything, about this medical marijuana ‚Äúscourge.‚ÄĚ With full repeal supposedly off the table, S.B. 423 moved forward, which would have restricted the rights of patients severely and eliminated most medical marijuana businesses. When the legislature couldn‚Äôt agree on that, the full repeal bill reared its ugly head again. This time, it was approved by both the Senate and the House.
The bottom line is that everything comes down to Gov. Schweitzer. Since it is obvious that the legislature as a whole can‚Äôt decide on a humane and reasonable solution to the alleged problems in Montana‚Äôs system, we must ask the governor to support the will of the voters, by rejecting repeal of the medical marijuana law and proposing amendments that do not strip it of its substance.
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"Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use."