Medical Marijuana

Join Grace Slick and MPP for an Exclusive Art Exhibition

August 15th, 2011 19 Comments Kate Zawidzki

You are invited to a private showing of the 420 Collection, a special exhibit featuring art by Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship’s Grace Slick, supporter of efforts to end prohibition and ensure safe and legal access to medical cannabis. Grace has created a series of paintings and limited edition prints especially for this exhibit and will be in attendance to discuss the inspiration behind this exclusive collection.

A portion of each sale will benefit the Marijuana Policy Project.

Don’t miss this unique opportunity to view and purchase art by singer/songwriter Grace Slick and support MPP’s work to make marijuana legal for adults.

The 420 Collection : Art by Grace Slick
Wednesday, Aug 24, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Gallery 319, 1331 3rd St. Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401
For more information: 707-539-1978 or 415-515-0450
RSVP to [email protected]
Read the rest of this entry »

Read more



Medical Marijuana, Research

Michigan Attorney General Wants to Make Life Harder for Sick People

August 12th, 2011 27 Comments Morgan Fox

Have you ever noticed how prohibitionists in power keep fighting medical marijuana by saying that it is out of control, and somehow causing a breakdown in society, endangering the public, sending the wrong message to kids, etc.? Have you also noticed that they will freely spend time and taxpayer money trying to undermine medical marijuana programs and restrict the rights of patients?

We’re seeing it in Arizona with Gov. Jan Brewer’s egregious lawsuit to interfere with her state’s voter-approved medical marijuana law, which even the federal government thinks is a waste of time. We’re seeing it in Oregon, where a local sheriff is so hellbent on denying the 2nd Amendment rights of medical marijuana patients that he is willing to use state funds to take his case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Now, long-time medical marijuana foe Bill Schuette, attorney general of Michigan, has announced his plans to  introduce legislation this fall that would supposedly stop the abuse of the medical marijuana system there.

Hold on a minute. Aren’t law enforcement supposed to enforce the laws, not make them? That’s a topic for another time.

The main focus of the as-yet-unfinished bill will be curbing the amount of “drugged-driving” accidents by severely limiting the ability of medical marijuana patients to ever drive a car.

From the press release:

“Schuette noted confusing inconsistencies between the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code and the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act must be eliminated to preserve safety on Michigan roadways.  A longstanding safety provision in the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code prohibits driving with any amount of marijuana in your system.  In contrast, the MMMA references driving “under the influence of marijuana,” a term which is not defined in state law or by uniform scientific standards, and creates a different standard for medical marijuana users. …

Schuette cited statistics recently released by the Michigan State Police which indicate that marijuana-related fatalities remain the most common drug-related automobile fatality, and that such fatalities are on the rise in Michigan.

“Driving with marijuana in your system is unsafe and jeopardizes the safety of our roadways,” said Schuette.  “If you take drugs, don’t take the wheel.”

It is never a good idea to get behind the wheel while impaired by any substance. That being said, the statements of the attorney general can best be described as baseless fear-mongering.

First of all, multiple studies and mountains of anecdotal evidence have proven that merely having marijuana in one’s system is not an indicator of impairment, or even intoxication. Marijuana metabolites can stay in one’s system for up to a month after using it, and THC can stay in one’s system for a week. Yet the effects wear off within a few hours. The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act recognizes this by changing the wording of driving restrictions for medical marijuana patients to driving “under the influence,”, meaning that the patient has medicated recently and is still experiencing some intoxicating effects. Despite Schuette’s claim, “under the influence” is used in the provision of Michigan’s DUI laws that apply to all other prescription medications — MCL 257.625 (1)(a).

Under the changes proposed by Schuette, this difference would be removed, making it illegal for patients to operate a car with any marijuana in their system whatsoever. Most medical marijuana patients always have marijuana in their system. Even those who only use occasionally may have to use large amounts that can leave traces in the body for some time.

Basically, this amounts to saying that if a person finds that marijuana is the best medicine to treat their condition, he or she must forfeit their driving privileges or wait weeks after medicating to drive. This restriction is not applied to any other medicine in Michigan. This is medical bigotry, plain and simple. Patients are already dealing with trying to live normal lives and treat their conditions. They have it hard enough as it is. And Bill Schuette wants to make their lives even harder.

Secondly, the assertion that marijuana is involved in more automobile related fatalities than any other drug is completely false, unless one uses the definition that the Attorney General would like to apply to medical marijuana patients. The study cited in the press release used just that definition, however, and counted every fatal accident in which the driver had any marijuana in his or her system! This means that if someone smokes a joint, and three weeks later gets in a car (maybe after a few cocktails) and kills someone, it is a marijuana-related auto fatality.

It sure is easy to scare people when you don’t care about science.

This is illustrative of the need to get away from chemical intoxication testing and go back to physical impairment tests in driving situations. It should not matter what is in someone’s bloodstream, particularly for medical marijuana patients. Whether or not they are impaired should be the primary concern for law enforcement, and they don’t need fancy blood tests or saliva swabs to determine that. They’ve been doing just fine since the invention of the automobile.

 

Read more



Medical Marijuana

Washington, D.C. Inches Closer to Medical Marijuana

August 5th, 2011 13 Comments Kate Zawidzki

It’s now been almost 13 years since nearly 70% of D.C. voters approved an initiative enacting a medical marijuana law in the nation’s capital, though you’d be forgiven if you hadn’t noticed. An obscure budget provision known as the “Barr Amendment” stalled implementation for years, and when it was finally removed (after MPP hired Congressman Barr to help defeat his own amendment) in late 2009, the D.C. Council went to work passing an amendment to the law making the proposed program much more restrictive. Since then, the glacial pace of implementation has kept medicine from patients for another year.

But finally, there’s progress. Today, the D.C. Department of Health is making applications available for prospective cultivation center operators. You can read the official notice in today’s DC Register. Only those who submitted the required letter of intent back in June will be able to apply. There were over 100 letters submitted by groups interested in operating cultivation centers, including Benjamin Bronfman, the fiancé of rapper M.I.A. of Paper Planes fame.

Today’s notice applies only to cultivation centers, not dispensaries, so advocates will have to wait a little longer for those. There’s also no word on when patients will be able to apply to the program. Still, it’s progress.

 

Read more



Medical Marijuana

Department of Justice tells AZ Gov. Brewer: “Dismiss your lawsuit, you have no case!”

August 4th, 2011 19 Comments Kate Zawidzki

A funny thing happened on Monday. The Department of Justice filed a brief regarding state medical marijuana laws in Arizona . . . and it was a good thing, and was met with appreciation from the medical marijuana movement! Seriously. After the disappointments of the vague, not very helpful Cole memo, and the expected but still disappointing DEA denial of marijuana’s medical value, it was great to see the Department of Justice (DoJ) doing the right thing regarding medical marijuana, even if it was only in a limited way.

As you may know, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, last seen promoting states’ rights and vowing to fight on when it comes to illegal immigration, and her Attorney General, Tom Horne, had filed a suit as plaintiffs against the federal government, requesting permission to move ahead with Arizona’s medical marijuana program implementation. This was ridiculous, since no other governor has needed federal permission to move ahead with medical marijuana implementation, even though some others have also tried to use the red herring threat of federal action to slow implementation. Apparently, the DoJ also thinks Brewer’s claims are ridiculous, and it said as much in its withering Motion to Dismiss brief, in which it took apart each of the state of Arizona’s arguments, urging the court to dismiss the case. If the court dismisses the case, Brewer’s logical course of action would be to fully implement Arizona’s medical marijuana law, including licensing more than 100 dispensaries, though given her intransigence, that course of action is sadly not a given.

Throughout its brief, the DoJ basically said that the state of Arizona has no case and that plaintiffs Gov. Brewer and AG Horne have invented a controversy where none exists. Further, the brief notes that a state is not allowed to bring a case asking two sides to fight it out, without taking a position on the law in question, belying Gov. Brewer’s claims upon the suit’s filing of being a neutral party seeking “clarity.” The American judicial process simply does not work that way. In its brief, the DoJ’s criticism of the plaintiffs’ complaint was often direct and sometimes even slightly mocking, which was definitely appreciated by this reader.

The brief attacks the premise of Arizona’s suit in several ways. It says that the suit does not raise a substantial federal question (which it must in order to be heard first in federal court) because it asks for a declaratory judgment on the validity of a state law. It is amusing to watch the federal government explain Constitutional Law 101 to Gov. Brewer, noting that, “there is no federal jurisdiction of a suit by a state to declare the validity of its regulations despite possibly conflicting federal law” (p. 6). The brief also states directly that Arizona has not asserted any “actual, concrete controversy” in its complaint. The brief criticizes the plaintiffs for not identifying a controversy between the parties in the suit and notes the plaintiffs’ failure to take a side as a fatal flaw in the lawsuit, accusing the state of Arizona of “attempt[ing] to manufacture disputes among other parties” (p. 9). The brief criticizes Arizona’s decision to create twenty fictitious defendants, ten on one side of the law and ten on the other, states its doubts about the existence of the hypothetical defendants, and notes definitively that “parties cannot have ‘adverse legal interests’ necessary to establish a live controversy, when one party (particularly the plaintiff) professes to take neither side of the dispute” (p. 10). Finally, the brief denies that Arizona even has standing to raise such a claim, as it has not suffered any “injury in fact.” Basing standing on the idea that some Arizonans disagree about federal law’s effect on Arizona’s medical marijuana law will not work, nor will an unspecific suggestion about a “supposed risk that Arizona citizens will lose revenue or property” (pp. 11-12).

More importantly on a national level, this DoJ brief appears to affirm the following interpretation of the Ogden and Cole Memorandums, along with other relevant case law and actual enforcement: that there has been no demonstration that the federal government is interested in prosecuting state employees for implementing state medical marijuana programs and issuing dispensary licenses. The DoJ cites the lack of any “genuine threat that any state employee will face imminent prosecution under federal law” (p. 2) and notes that “plaintiffs can point to no threat of enforcement against the State’s employees” (p. 10). The brief notes that Arizona has no “concrete plan to act in violation of the Controlled Substances Act,” as it has refused to accept dispensary applications and issue licenses (an act that MPP believes, based on relevant court precedent, would clearly not be such a violation). The brief notes that Arizona was not able to produce any threat, generalized or specific, directed towards its state employees, and it points to the omission of any state employee threats in Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke’s letter on the issue (p. 14). The brief dismisses Arizona’s suggestion that Arizona state employees are subject to federal prosecution as “mere speculation” (p. 15). It sums up this argument when it says:

Plaintiffs identify no prior instances in which the federal government has sought to prosecute state employees for the conduct vaguely described in Plaintiffs’ complaint. Without evidence of such prior prosecutions, Plaintiffs cannot credibly show a genuine threat of imminent prosecution in this case. (p. 15)

This message from the DoJ is heartening, along with U.S. Attorney Burke’s clear statement that going after state employees “is not a priority for us, and will not be.” This brief also comes on the heels of the statement of former U.S. Attorney and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who said definitively about his decision to implement the state’s medical marijuana program:

I don’t believe the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey, given the narrow and medically based nature of our program, will expend what are significantly lessening federal law enforcement resources in the context of the federal budget, on going after dispensaries in New Jersey, our Department of Health or other state workers who are helping to implement this program.

These recent events all suggest that the Department of Justice is interpreting its guidance to mean that state employees can fully implement medical marijuana programs, like those in Arizona and Rhode Island, with no fear of prosecution. So let’s get it done, Governors Brewer and Chaffee! Time is wasting, and people are hurting and need their medicine now.

 

Read more



Prohibition

Marijuana Prohibition Leads to Death of Young Man

August 3rd, 2011 71 Comments Kate Zawidzki

On July 2, Eric Perez turned eighteen. On July 10, his family mourned his untimely death.

Mr. Perez suffered a medical emergency while being held at a detention center in Florida. Despite vomiting and crying for help, Mr. Perez was left to suffer for over six hours before receiving medical attention. Tragically, by the time he was seen by emergency personnel, it was too late. So what was Mr. Perez doing in a detention center to begin with? The non-violent act of possessing a small amount of marijuana.

On the night of June 29, three days before his eighteenth birthday, police stopped Mr. Perez for riding his bicycle without a night-light. Police searched Mr. Perez and found the marijuana. Mr. Perez was on probation for a “years old” robbery charge and was cuffed and sent to a detention center. It was in this detention center that he breathed his last breath.

Let’s engage in a thought experiment here. Say Florida had a taxed and regulated system of marijuana distribution for adult, non-medical use. In that scenario, Mr. Perez is never arrested for possessing a small amount of a relatively harmless drug. He may even be praised for choosing to ride his bicycle as opposed to driving a car. Perhaps he’s given a ticket or sent to drug education for underage possession of marijuana. Either way, in this hypothetical, Mr. Perez is not in jail during his medical emergency, thus providing him a better chance of receiving prompt medical attention. Mr. Perez could still be alive.

Even a policy that simply decriminalizes the possession of only a small amount of marijuana would have been preferable. Fourteen other states have already removed the possibility of jail time for possessing a small amount of marijuana and replaced it with a simple civil violation. If Florida were one of them, Mr. Perez would have been given a ticket and sent on his way. Again, all indications point to the fact that had his medical emergency happened on the outside, he would have stood a much better chance of surviving.

Unfortunately for Mr. Perez’s family, we do not live our lives in hypotheticals. Policy decisions carry with them very real consequences. When it comes to our current marijuana policy, those consequences tend to lean towards the tragic — lost lives, destroyed families, and government waste. Until we replace our failed marijuana policies with more sensible and less destructive alternatives, we will continue to see stories like Mr. Perez’s.

 

Read more



Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Volunteers Needed for Seattle Hempfest

August 1st, 2011 3 Comments Morgan Fox

MPP is excited to be cosponsoring the 2011 Seattle Hempfest on Friday, August 19, through Sunday, August 21, and we’re looking for volunteers to help us out!

We need people to help us staff our table, as well as people to sign Hempfest attendees up for our free e-mail alerts.  Everyone who volunteers will receive a free MPP t-shirt and get to meet lots of great supporters, all while enjoying the world’s largest marijuana-policy-related event. As an added bonus, the person who collects the most email sign-ups on each day will receive a special gift from MPP!

This is the 20th anniversary of Seattle Hempfest, and promises to be one of the most memorable to date. All across the country, people are reconsidering their marijuana laws, and the wind is finally at our backs. This year’s festival is a great opportunity to celebrate the progress we’ve made as a movement, and to build the relationships and tools necessary for continued victory.

Would you please volunteer a few hours of your time on Friday, August 19, through Sunday, August 21, to help us spread the word about the important work MPP is doing to reform marijuana laws across the country?

If you would like to help, please e-mail me here with the following information:

•               Your name

•               Your phone (home and/or cell)

•               Days you’re willing to volunteer (Friday, Saturday and/or Sunday)

•               Time slots you are available (scheduling to follow based on availability)

 

For more information on Hempfest, visit http://www.hempfest.org/.

Thank you for your interest, and we hope to see you there!

Read more