Prohibition, Research

Inventor of Fake Marijuana Wants the Real Thing Taxed and Regulated

September 30th, 2011 2 Comments Morgan Fox

The news has been all abuzz for the last several months about various forms of designer drugs meant to mimic marijuana. Called Spice, K2, and a million other mildly clever names, these substances usually consist of a synthetic cannabinoid sprayed over plant matter. The resulting euphoria is supposed to be similar to the effects of marijuana. Unfortunately, it is also untested and has been reported to have all sorts of nasty side effects. Enter the DEA, who recently asked the FDA to temporarily ban several of these chemicals, pending a more permanent solution.

Needless to say, most people probably wouldn’t use these chemicals if they could legally use marijuana. Many users of the synthetics report drug tests for probation or work to be their main reason for using it. The Navy had to start testing for it regularly, so prevalent was its use among the oft-drug-tested sailors. Once again, we have prohibition encouraging people to use drugs more dangerous than marijuana.

The inventor of these substances, John W. Huffman of Clemson University, strongly warns against using them and thinks they should be banned. What does he think should be legal?

 

In an interview this week with the L.A. Times, Huffman said marijuana should be taxed and regulated, and had this to say:

“You can’t overdose on marijuana, but you might on these compounds,” he said. “These things are dangerous, and marijuana isn’t, really.”

I wonder if the DEA will listen. Probably just the “dangerous” part.

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Prohibition

The Gender Gap: Are Women the Key to Ending Marijuana Prohibition?

September 30th, 2011 20 Comments Kate Zawidzki

As a female working in the generally male-dominated world of marijuana policy reform, you’d think I’d be accustomed to the gender gap that exists between male and female support for the taxation and regulation of marijuana. And yet, I’m continually shocked when poll after poll reveals sizeable differences among levels of support between the two genders. Although nationwide support for legalizing marijuana has never been higher, we’re going to need the backing of the ladies to push the issue over the tipping point.

As a matter of fact, women generally tend to lag at least five percentage points behind men when it comes to support for ending marijuana prohibition. In national polling, for example, a March 2011 Pew Research Center poll found 48% of males favor marijuana legalization, while female support trailed at 42%. An October 2010 Gallup poll showed a more striking gap between male and female support, with 51% of males and only 41% of females in favor of making the use of marijuana legal.

Unfortunately, this gender gap also exists in state-level polling, as evidenced by the following cases from Colorado and Washington state. An August 2011 Public Policy Polling poll of Colorado voters found 54% of males, but only 49% of females, support making marijuana usage legal in the state, while a September 2011 Strategies 360 poll of Washington state voters showed 56% of males and a whopping 37% of females think the use of marijuana should be made legal in Washington. That’s a difference of nearly twenty percentage points!

Colorado and Washington state are notable examples here, as voters in both states will likely have the opportunity to vote on state ballot initiatives to tax and regulate marijuana in 2012. With voters in those states currently split on the issue, a boost in female support is exactly what’s needed to achieve strong majority support for taxing and regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. And speaking of alcohol, just as women were pivotal in bringing about the repeal of its prohibition in the 1930s, so too will they be instrumental in effecting the end of marijuana prohibition.

In fact, perhaps we can learn something from our Prohibition-era sisters. Did you know that many of the women who initially supported alcohol prohibition ultimately grew disenchanted with it and fought for its repeal? Pauline Sabin, founder of the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform, favored prohibition in the beginning because she thought it would be best for her children. But Sabin, like many others, finally came to the conclusion that the prohibition against alcohol was more dangerous and destructive than the substance itself. Perhaps, someday soon, more and more women will come to realize that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is the prohibition against it.

Though women are increasingly coming out in support for reforming our country’s marijuana laws, from “stiletto stoners” to “marijuana moms” and “ganja grannies,” we need to broaden our base to include more women who aren’t necessarily marijuana users, but who share the belief that our current marijuana policies have failed and it’s time for a new approach. Whether they’re ultimately inspired by personal liberty arguments, maternalistic concerns for children and family, issues of public safety, or economic cares related to the waste of public resources, women could very well be the driving force in getting the nation to that critical moment when the demand for the end of marijuana prohibition simply cannot be denied. I hope to see the female voters in states like Colorado and Washington leading the charge in 2012.

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Why do you think women are more reluctant than men to support the end of marijuana prohibition? And what can we collectively do to try to change that? Please comment or send me an email at [email protected].

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Medical Marijuana

Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee Chooses Feds Over Patients

September 29th, 2011 26 Comments Kate Zawidzki

This evening, Governor Lincoln Chafee issued a press release stating that he will not be moving forward on issuing certificates of operation to the three entities chosen by the state Department of Health to bring safe, affordable and reliable medical marijuana to Rhode Island’s most sick and suffering patients. Gov. Chafee has asked the General Assembly to work with him to create a model that does not draw the attention of the federal government.

This whole thing started over two years ago when the General Assembly passed legislation creating compassion centers in Rhode Island. Since then Maine, Vermont, Delaware, Arizona, and New Jersey have all enacted laws allowing for regulated dispensing of medical marijuana. As you may recall, after passage of these laws – or during debate of them – the DOJ through several United States Attorneys fired off scary sounding letters to state officials claiming that they’ll bust up people acting in compliance with these compassionate and popular state laws. A funny thing happened though, all of these states, with the exception of Rhode Island, have moved forward with giving patients the humane option of safe access despite the fact that the laws irk officials in DC.

And now we have the actions of one Gov. Lincoln Chafee. A man who claims to understand that patients need safe access yet steadfastly refuses to allow them that access. A man who refused to hand a confessed killer over to the feds to face the death penalty because it was against Rhode Island’s public policy while at the same time ignoring another public policy decision of the state to allow safe access to medical marijuana because the feds asked him to!

At this point, I’m not sure what to make of all this and what it means for patients in Rhode Island. I do know that it’s outrageous, disappointing and downright mean-spirited. I also know that this is sure to be the beginning of a discussion, not the end.

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Medical Marijuana

Feds Say Constitution Does Not Apply to Medical Marijuana Patients

September 27th, 2011 16 Comments Morgan Fox

We are all used to the federal government offering only limited deference to states when it comes to medical marijuana. And we are certainly used to it refusing to admit that patients have a legal right to use marijuana for medical purposes, or even that marijuana has medical value at all.

Apparently, it also thinks that those who are abiding by state law and using medical marijuana do not have certain constitutional rights, either.

In a memo issued last week by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the federal government asserted that it is a violation of federal law to possess a gun or ammunition if you are a marijuana user. This broad definition also includes individuals who are state-legal medical marijuana patients.

It is important to note that this is only the opinion of the BATFE and is not legally binding. A case dealing with this issue for an individual patient has not been taken up on a federal level, yet many who are charged with federal marijuana violations often find themselves facing additional firearms charges extending from searches of their property. The Department of Justice has so far kept fairly close to its word when it comes to leaving medical marijuana patients alone, but one could easily imagine a situation in which a firearm violation could be used to prosecute a particularly meddlesome patient who may not be doing anything involving marijuana that would warrant investigation.

It is also important to remember that the federal government cannot force state and local law enforcement to enforce federal law. For example, the DEA can’t make the Colorado state police ignore their medical marijuana laws and start arresting patients for violating the Controlled Substances Act. So don’t start worrying that just because you have a medical marijuana card, you are about to be raided because you own a firearm. In fact, a court decision in Oregon ruled that states have every right to allow patients to possess firearms and may even grant them concealed-carry licenses if they wish.

However, federal law enforcement does reserve the right to charge you with firearms violations if you are a patient and own a gun. This should be no more worrisome in practical terms than the Department of Justice asserting that it has the legal right to charge you with marijuana violations if you are a patient and own some medicine.

This is much more troubling in terms of individual rights and human dignity. The Second Amendment clearly states our rights as citizens to possess firearms. The federal government, however, seems to think that people who use marijuana to treat their illnesses can not only face arrest for doing so, but are also not entitled to the same constitutional rights as everyone else. Regardless of the promises to not target medical marijuana users, it is pretty clear that the government views them as second-class citizens. This discrimination cannot be tolerated in a free society.

The full memo can be viewed here.

 

Special thanks to Ed Docter from the Montana Cannabis Industry Association for the tip.

 

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Prohibition

Second Highest Year in U.S. History for Marijuana Arrests

September 27th, 2011 10 Comments Morgan Fox

Last week, we discussed the near record number of arrests for simple marijuana possession in 2010, and how no matter how many people we arrest for marijuana violations, the rates of use are unaffected.

Just to put that in perspective, it turns out that last year was the second biggest year for marijuana arrests in United States history!

Check it out:

It is very disturbing to see how far the actions of our law enforcement community really are from public opinion and actual rational thought when it comes to policy. The year with the second highest number of arrests in national history came simultaneously with an increased acceptance of marijuana use and an increase in public support for change. How does this make sense?

The good news is that we can stop this by supporting state and national reform measures in any way possible. While exact statistics aren’t available yet, it is certain that a noticeable percentage of the decrease in arrests over the last two years was due to MPP’s Question 2 passing in Massachusetts and going into effect in 2009. This initiative removed criminal penalties for the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana and replaced the criminal penalty with the equivalent of a parking ticket. If we keep working together to pass sane, rational marijuana laws, we can make that number drop before next year.

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Medical Marijuana, Research

Rand Study Shows Closing Dispensaries Increases Crime

September 21st, 2011 3 Comments Morgan Fox

In medical marijuana states, it is pretty common to hear sensational news reports about crime associated with dispensaries. Stories of violent robberies, late-night burglaries, diversion and illegal sales, weapons, and even murder get a lot of attention from the media. They get even more attention from law enforcement, who see such stories as yet another way to convince people that medical marijuana is dangerous and scary and should be revoked.

Law enforcement is so desperate to prove this connection between dispensaries and crime that they searched all over the country for data that would support their hypothesis.

Lo and behold, it turns out the exact opposite is true.

Today, the non-partisan Rand Corporation released a study on crime near dispensaries conducted in Los Angeles before and after a recent ordinance forced the closure of nearly 400 locations. According to the report, crime increased by as much as 54% in the areas surrounding dispensaries that were forced to close within ten days of the ordinance going into effect. Neighborhoods near dispensaries that stayed open showed no increase in crime during that period.

We at MPP have been saying for some time that by closing dispensaries in medical marijuana states (or localities, even), authorities are driving patients into the illicit market. While I would hesitate to call such an act a crime, as opposed to a necessity, this study apparently shows that other sorts of crime are affected by the presence of dispensaries. Some contributing factors include the large volume of people there throughout the day, the security measures put in place to protect patients and employees, and the fact that the police actually depend on dispensary video surveillance to prevent and solve crimes!

Authorities should take note of this information, particularly in places like Michigan and Montana, where the medical marijuana industries have been all but shut down recently by overzealous public officials and community groups. Most of these groups depended on overblown concerns about community safety for their efforts to be successful. It’s time for a little education.

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

FBI: 750,000 People Arrested for Simple Marijuana Possession. And For What?

September 20th, 2011 33 Comments Morgan Fox

The FBI released their annual Uniform Crime Report yesterday, and the results are anything but surprising. Across the country, people continue to be arrested for marijuana-related violations at an alarming rate, despite the steadily decreasing stigma associated with it and increasing efforts at reforming our irrational marijuana laws. And guess what? It still isn’t working. Our esteemed leaders claim otherwise, even while admitting that they need to change their tactics!

Over the past year, the Obama administration stated that the “war on drugs” is over, and that the government was going to shift its focus away from law enforcement and interdiction and instead put more effort toward public health and education with regard to drugs. At a press conference just last week, Office of National Drug Control Policy director Gil Kerlikowske stated that we cannot arrest our way out of the drug problem.

If these statements are true, then how do they justify the arrests of more than 853,000 people for marijuana-related violations in 2010? That’s one person arrested every 19 seconds! The Drug Czar maintains that law enforcement protocols are still considered a useful tool for eliminating suppliers and dealers as a way to decrease overall use.

Okay, that seems like it makes sense. So how many of those 853,000 arrests were for sale or manufacture of marijuana? The answer is just over 103,000. That means that more than 750,000 people were arrested last year for simple possession! A remarkably small number of people who may have distributed marijuana were arrested last year, along with three quarters of a million simple users, in an effort to curb marijuana use nationwide. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tax and Regulate

ACLU Endorses Colorado Initiative to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol

September 16th, 2011 19 Comments Morgan Fox

On Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union officially announced its endorsement of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol in Colorado, which is currently collecting signatures to be on the ballot in 2012.

Among the reasons cited for the endorsement are the disproportionately high arrest rates of minorities for simple possession of marijuana and the unjustifiable expense of public funds.

According to a statement from the ACLU: “The war on drugs has failed. Prohibition is not a sensible way to deal with marijuana. The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will move us toward a more rational approach to drug laws.”

Colorado currently represents the best chance of any of the states to end marijuana prohibition by taxing and regulating this relatively safe substance. We need all the help we can get to gather the signatures necessary to get this initiative on the ballot. If you want the chance to vote on a sensible marijuana policy for Colorado please volunteer or donate here. Even if you don’t live in Colorado, please consider helping out. Once one state begins to tax and regulate marijuana, it won’t be long before others follow suit.

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Prohibition

Missouri Governor’s Son Arrested for Marijuana Possession

September 16th, 2011 22 Comments Morgan Fox

UPDATE: As of Nov. 7, charges against Willson Nixon have been dropped. Too bad that only seems to happen for the children of the powerful. In other news, Missouri will consider dropping marijuana charges for everyone!

ORIGINAL:In other Missouri news, college student Willson Nixon was arrested for possession of marijuana at a house party earlier this week. This happens every day in Missouri and around the country, unfortunately endangering the ability of students to continue their educations or find employment after college. Willson Nixon just happens to be the son of Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.

When asked about the incident, the Governor had this to say:

This is a private matter that will be handled through the municipal process.  My son is a fine young man, and we will be working through this issue as a family.

It is unclear what kind of penalty Willson will pay for his youthful indiscretion, but it doesn’t sound like Dad is going to let him off the hook completely. Hopefully, this incident will remind the governor that marijuana prohibition hurts everyone, even “fine young men” like his son.

He should be thankful Willson wasn’t arrested like this:

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Prohibition

Missouri School to Drug Test Entire Student Body. Seriously.

September 12th, 2011 17 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Update: The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against Linn State Technical College.

When I saw this story in my Google news alerts today, I thought for sure there must be some mistake. Nope, no mistake. Linn State Technical College, a 1,200-student two-year college just outside of Jefferson City, Missouri, plans to require all incoming freshmen to submit to mandatory urinalysis drug testing. The screening will test for 11 drugs, including marijuana, and students who test positive will be kicked out unless they test clean after 45 days and take a drug-prevention course or engage in other unspecified activities. For good measure, students will have to pay $50 for the tests themselves (no word on whether the test actually costs $50) and will not be reimbursed if they pass.

It’s an unprecedented invasion of privacy – no public college has ever required mandatory drug testing of its entire student body. There are some high schools that drug test students, mostly those participating in sports and other extra-curricular activities, as the Supreme Court has upheld suspicionless drug testing in only limited circumstances. Not surprisingly, evidence shows that making students pee in a cup is not an effective deterrent of drug use.

Ironically, the college claims it’s testing its students to help them prepare for their life after school in the United States where it claims most employers drug test. As the ACLU rightly points out, there’s no reason an institution of higher learning can’t accomplish this by, you know, educating their students. And for the record, I’m an attorney, I’ve held at least six jobs since graduating from college, and I’ve never been forced to take and pass a drug test as a precondition of employment.

Speaking of the ACLU, if you or someone you know is a student at Linn State, they’re looking for plaintiffs to help challenge this policy in court. Hopefully some good old-fashioned public outcry will solve this problem without the help of courts.

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