Medical Marijuana

The Buck Stops Where?

October 28th, 2011 22 Comments Morgan Fox

After the recent federal crackdown on medical marijuana in California, advocates are understandably upset and want to show it. This week, they took their complaints right to the top, with hundreds of people turning out to protest President Obama in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Shortly after this, however, the U.S. Attorneys in charge of the California crackdown said that the Obama administration had nothing to do with it.

According to a statement made by California Eastern District spokesperson Lauren Horwood prior to these protests, “California U.S. Attorneys decided to take action on their own because the situation has grown out of control among recreational users. But she acknowledges they received Obama’s blessing.” (quote from original author paraphrasing Horwood) After a massive outcry, and after protests specifically targeted at Obama, the story changed.

“What I said, or at least meant to say, was that the U.S. Attorneys in California saw the need for coordinated enforcement actions and spoke with folks in Main Justice in D.C. (not the Obama Administration),” she told the Huffington Post in an email.

Okay, so who at Main Justice is responsible?

According to Horwood, approval came from Deputy Attorney General James Cole, author of the Cole Memo that said only individual medical marijuana patients should expect to be left alone by federal law enforcement, not growers or distributors. Cole, however, seemed to be awfully uncomfortable talking about this for being the person directly responsible and lobbed the blame back to the U.S. Attorneys in California when asked if other medical marijuana states should expect this type of enforcement.

Okay, so is it really the California U.S. Attorneys who are responsible? Wait, no.

Kevin Sabet, former senior policy advisor for the Office of National Drug Control Policy, was not as uncomfortable answering that question, however. “Remember, all actions have to be approved by Attorney General Holder, so it’s hard to imagine that California would be the only place the Department of Justice is focusing on,” Sabet said.

So now the blame is on Holder?

Why can’t we get a straight answer from these people?

Whatever the reasoning for the crackdown, it appears that everyone is trying to draw responsibility away from the men at the top, but not allow it to be put solely on themselves either. After seeing the outrage of medical marijuana supporters in California this week, perhaps the president realized that this sort of interference is alienating his base. And while Attorney General Holder is surely thankful that this issue is distracting people from the fact that the DOJ and ATF provided Mexican drug cartels with assault rifles for two years, he certainly doesn’t need any more blame for unpopular decisions heaped upon him when he is under the gun. And the U.S. Attorneys certainly don’t want to look like they are going rogue, but direct popular anger at their bosses.

We are basically left with two options: either Obama is knowingly breaking his campaign promise to leave medical marijuana alone, or he has completely lost control of the Department of Justice.

And unless the former is true, everyone in the chain of command has the power to stop this wasteful insanity and allow states to run their medical marijuana programs free from unwanted federal interference.

The buck stops with all of them.

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Medical Marijuana

Study: Marijuana component effective in combating chemotherapy-induced nerve pain

October 24th, 2011 7 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Research continues to show cannabinoids are remarkably helpful for symptomatic as well as therapeutic treatment in cancers. Inhaled cannabis has a long history of use by some patients to mitigate pain without the sedating side effects of opiates. THC, the main psychoactive component of cannabis, has been shown to restrict metastases and growth in a variety of tumor cell lines. THC as Marinol, FDA approved, has been used in humans to mitigate nausea and vomiting side effects of chemotherapeutic agents for 25 years. In recent years, CBD (cannabidiol), a non-psychoactive constituent of the resin from some cultivars of cannabis, has also been found to work in concert with THC, through different mechanisms to inhibit or kill tumor cells. Now CBD is shown to prevent the dose limiting side effect of chemotherapy for advanced breast cancer in mice, according to data published in the journal Anesthesia and Analgesia.

Paclitaxel, used in advanced breast and ovarian cancer chemotherapy, causes nerve and muscle disturbances in “up to 93%” of patients. That is, Paclitaxel can cause severe pain to minor stimuli, limiting its usefulness in those patients. If use in humans was possible, CBD, which is non-toxic and non-psychoactive, would be an important contribution both for symptomatic and possible therapeutic benefit to patients afflicted with ovarian or breast cancer. Given the harmless profile of CBD in pre-clinical studies in a wide variety of cancers, it should be available as an alternative for any cancer patient. Being found in marijuana, a Schedule I drug, it is not available for any therapeutic use. In Europe and Canada, the combination of CBD and THC is available by prescription.


Dr. Joseph McSherry, a neurologist from Burlington, VT, was one of two physicians to serve on the Medical Marijuana Study Commission, which was established by the Vermont Legislature in 2002. His support and testimony helped Vermont become the ninth medical marijuana state in 2004. Even after his success in his home state, Dr. McSherry continues advocating for patients’ rights to use medical marijuana, including in New Hampshire, Iowa, Delaware, and Washington, D.C., by testifying at hearings, reaching out to doctors in other states, and meeting with lawmakers.

Dr. McSherry is a guest blogger for the MPP blog.

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Senators Hutchison and Coburn: Double Standard on States’ Rights

October 21st, 2011 4 Comments Kate Zawidzki

If you’ve been following news in the drug policy world, you know that Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) is sponsoring the National Criminal Justice Commission Act. The bill would create a blue-ribbon panel that, according to Webb, would “take the long-overdue step of undertaking a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, producing recommendations for changes in oversight, policies, practices, and laws designed to prevent, deter, and reduce crime and violence, improve cost-effectiveness, and ensure the interests of justice at every step of the criminal justice system.” Among the many reasons Webb feels the commission is needed, “the number of incarcerated drug offenders has soared 1200% since 1980.” Sounds sensible enough, right?

Last night, the U.S. Senate narrowly shot down an amendment that would have established such a commission. Why? States’ rights of course.

“We are absolutely ignoring the Constitution if we do this,” said noted drug warrior Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). “We have no role … to involve ourselves in the criminal court system or the penal system in my state or any other state.”

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) was even more incredulous: “This is the most massive encroachment on states’ rights I have ever seen in this body,” she said.

Never mind that the bill wouldn’t actually change any state laws; it would only establish a commission to review policies and make non-binding recommendations. At this point, you might be curious how these senators feel about the Department of Justice threatening to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries in California. So was I, so I called their offices.

“Given the senator’s strong support for states’ rights, where does s/he stand on the Department of Justice threatening to close medical marijuana dispensaries in California, even though medical marijuana is legal under state law,” I asked, after repeating each senator’s quotes above.  Not surprisingly, each time I was transferred around a couple times, given a “no comment,” and told to leave a voicemail that’ll almost certainly never be returned. Before Sen. Coburn’s office sent me to voicemail purgatory, I did get one staffer to mutter “um … well … he um … he’s opposed to medical … er, I’m not sure.”

Anyone else reminded of the Robot on Lost in Space: “does not compute?”

We will of course update this if we get any sort of official response. In the mean time, maybe you’ll have better luck than me. If you live in Texas, you can ask Sen. Hutchison again by calling 202-224-5922. If you’re reading this from Oklahoma, Sen. Coburn’s office number is 202-224-5754.

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Medical Marijuana

Nevada Medical Marijuana Patient Suing Federal Government After Being Denied Gun Purchase

October 21st, 2011 9 Comments Morgan Fox

In late September, I wrote about the letter sent by the ATF to all federally licensed firearms dealers, explaining that it was illegal to sell guns or ammunition to state-licensed medical marijuana users.

The reasoning behind this was a clause in the Federal Firearms Act that states that a person cannot purchase or possess a gun if they are “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana, or any depressant, stimulant, or narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.” The ATF reminded gun dealers that marijuana is still illegal according to the federal government, and that having a medical marijuana license was proof that a person fit the definition of an unlawful user or addict. Of course, a state-licensed patient is a lawful user as far as the state is concerned, but as we have seen, the feds do not care all that much about state law.

In a debate between MPP’s Steve Fox and former head of the ATF Mike Sullivan, Sullivan repeatedly claimed that the ATF’s hands were tied in this matter. Contrary to the claims that the ATF is simply reminding gun dealers about the law, the ATF actually has the discretion to define what they consider to be an “unlawful user.” In the absence of a court decision clarifying the definition, the ATF had every right to issue a memo that instead declared state-legal medical marijuana users to be lawful users and exempt from this particular status. Instead, they decided to use the vague law as a cover to deny sick people their constitutional right to bear arms.

Well, it looks like this might get cleared up in the (reasonably) near future.

On Oct. 4, outspoken Nevada medical marijuana advocate Rowan Wilson was denied purchase of a handgun due to her status as a patient. On Oct. 17, she and her attorney announced that she is suing the ATF and the federal government.

If this case goes to trial, federal judges will have the ability to determine whether patients in jurisdictions that allow the medical use of marijuana are, in fact, unlawful users pursuant to federal firearms laws.

Let’s hope they side with Ms. Wilson.

So far, gun rights activist groups like the National Rifle Association have been largely silent on this issue, but smaller organizations such as the Montana Shooting Sports Association and the Independent Firearms Owners of America have offered their support.

When asked why gun rights activists should support medical marijuana patients in this instance, IFOA president Richard Feldman said, “Republicans, Conservatives and independents need to face the dire economic realities facing our nation and stop funding programs like the war on drugs that don’t work, corrupt law enforcement and grow criminal enterprises. Our experience with alcohol prohibition teaches us how to lessen both the harm and the costs to society from banning substances which otherwise law abiding individuals will pursue.  As gun owners many of us subscribe to the maxim, ‘Better to be caught by the police with one, than by a gang banger without one’!  It’s time American face reality, deal with it intelligently, and stop protesting it, regardless of the ‘it’ being guns or marijuana.”

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Prohibition Hurts Children Far More Than Marijuana

October 19th, 2011 10 Comments Morgan Fox

One of the most often-heard arguments against marijuana reform can basically be summed up as follows:

“But what about the children?”

Prohibitionists are quick to trot this one out whenever their other arguments have failed because it’s an easy way to elicit a strong emotional response. They claim that marijuana reform will lead to increased rates of use, developmental damage, and easier access to marijuana. Even talking about the issue will lead to higher rates of use, according to their arguments. Never mind that teen use rates tend to decrease in states that pass medical marijuana laws, or that licensed distributors would have ample reason to ID customers.

No, facts don’t really apply to this argument. It is very useful, however, when it comes to terrifying parents. According to the standard drug warrior mentality, the only way to keep kids away from marijuana is to arrest adults for using it. To do otherwise would “send the wrong message to our youth.”

Apparently, all this concern does not extend to children living on the U.S.-Mexico border:

SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) – Texas law enforcement officials say several Mexican drug cartels are luring youngsters as young as 11 to work in their smuggling operations.

Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told Reuters the drug gangs have a chilling name for the young Texans lured into their operations.

“They call them ‘the expendables,'” he said.

McCraw said his investigators have evidence six Mexican drug gangs — including the violent Zetas — have “command and control centers” in Texas actively recruiting children for their operations, attracting them with what appears to be “easy money” for doing simple tasks.

The policy of marijuana prohibition is the primary reason cartels are able to bring in so much profit from distribution within the U.S., the reason they are in such brutal competition with each other, and the catalyst for using cheap and available child conscripts within our borders. Instituting more rational marijuana policies and bringing marijuana into a regulated, legal market would greatly diminish the power of the cartels, as well as their need to corrupt our youth. Licensed businesses, unlike cartels, must obey child labor laws and other regulations in order to stay in business.

Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske and other prohibitionists don’t want to hear that, though. It seems as if they have no problem using imaginary children to scare people away from reform. Real children, however, are “expendable.”

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Historic National Support for Marijuana!

October 18th, 2011 5 Comments Kate Zawidzki

A new Gallup poll released yesterday shows that a record-high of 50% of Americans believe the use of marijuana should be made legal. That’s up from 46% just one year ago.

This is the first time we’ve hit the 50% mark on this highly respected annual survey, so this is significant.

Even the folks at Gallup seem to have a sense something historic is happening. As they noted in the release accompanying the survey results, “If this current trend on legalizing marijuana continues, pressure may build to bring the nation’s laws into compliance with the people’s wishes.”

On average, public support for making marijuana legal was increasing by 1.4% annually from 1995 to 2010. So the fact that there has been an increase of 4% in a single year not only shows that we’re making continued progress, but that we’re actually seeing an acceleration in progress.

As you know, MPP is spearheading a signature drive in Colorado for a ballot initiative that — if passed in November 2012 — would make the possession, use, and regulated production and distribution of marijuana legal for adults. This initiative is the best chance we’ve ever had to end marijuana prohibition in any state.

And today’s national Gallup poll shows that the Colorado polling is spot on. Specifically, recent Colorado polling has shown that at least 51% of Colorado voters support ending marijuana prohibition, which makes sense given that Colorado voters are more supportive than voters nationwide.

We need your help to turn these poll numbers into election results. Each signature needed to get the initiative on the ballot in Colorado costs $1 to collect. Would you please sponsor 10, 50, 100, or even 1,000s of signatures so that the campaign can wrap up the signature drive and start educating voters about the initiative?

Thank you.


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Tax and Regulate

National Poll Shows 50% of Americans Support Making Marijuana Legal

October 18th, 2011 4 Comments Morgan Fox

A new Gallup poll shows that 50% of voters nationwide answered “Yes” to the question, “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?” Only 46% of respondents answered “No.” This is the first time on record that more Americans support ending marijuana prohibition than support maintaining the status quo of arresting and prosecuting people for marijuana possession. Support for marijuana reform has been growing steadily over the last few decades, but this poll shows a 4% increase over last year, when Gallup asked respondents the same question.

Opinions were heavily divided by age, with support being strongest among 18-29 year olds (62%) and 30-49 year olds (56%). The results were also quite divided geographically, with the highest support coming from the West, Midwest, and East.

“This is an historic day in the decades-long war on marijuana. As of today, a majority of the American public believes the use of marijuana should be legal for adults,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “Moreover, it is clear from the levels of support among various age groups that support will only increase over time. None of this is surprising. Americans know that prohibition is a failed policy. It was true for alcohol, and it is true for marijuana, a substance far less harmful than alcohol. The American people are clearly saying it is time to stop arresting adults for using marijuana. Now it is time for our elected officials to listen to the public.”

This poll comes at an interesting time, with many states re-examining their marijuana laws and a series of bills sitting before Congress that would limit federal involvement in marijuana policy. Currently, the Obama administration is reversing its earlier stance of non-interference in medical marijuana states and is increasing efforts to shut down the medical marijuana industry in California and elsewhere, a move that experts say will drive medical marijuana patients into the criminal market to obtain their medicine. At the same time, several states, including Colorado, California, and Washington, are considering ballot initiatives that would tax and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.

The poll, conducted October 6-9 by Gallup, surveyed 1,005 registered voters from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It is available for download at

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Medical Marijuana

Obama’s New Tactic Against Medical Marijuana Patients: Suspend Free Speech

October 12th, 2011 56 Comments Morgan Fox

In the latest move of the Obama Administration’s incomprehensible attack on medical marijuana, U.S. attorneys announced today that they will begin to prosecute media outlets that publish advertisements for medical marijuana! It seems that when it comes to medical marijuana users, or the states in which they live for that matter, the Bill of Rights means practically nothing.

First, there was the memo released by the ATF this month warning firearms dealers that it was against the law to sell guns or ammunition to medical marijuana patients, effectively eliminating the Second Amendment rights of hundreds of thousands of patients in states where medical marijuana is legal. Then on Friday, when the U.S. attorneys from California unveiled their intent to shut down the medical marijuana industry and drive patients into the hands of gangs and other illicit dealers, they said that one of their core tactics was to intimidate landlords and property owners who rent to dispensaries by threatening them with seizure of their assets. While this may not be a direct violation of the law (unfortunately), it certainly treads on the spirit of the Fourth Amendment’s protections of life, liberty, and property. Now, those same attorneys are stomping on the First Amendment as well.

The actions of the Department of Justice are simply baffling.

In its vain and misguided attempt to stymie medical marijuana and stop the reform movement from making any further policy gains, the DOJ is basically trying to shut down two industries that make money, employ many people throughout California, and earn tax revenue for a state in a disastrous economic situation. Neither of these moves makes any sense. Shutting down the medical marijuana industry is not going to stop marijuana production. Denying them the ability to advertise by prosecuting those who publish the ads will not stop marijuana distributors from making a profit. It will, however, be disastrous for the publishing industry. Both the medical marijuana and publishing industries provide much-needed jobs and revenue to California. These methods are quite simply poor tools to accomplish an illegitimate goal. The fact that the media, which has the ability to sway public opinion against the administration, is being targeted seems particularly stupid.

Now, there are of course justifiable reasons for not allowing advertisement for some illegal activity. It is interesting to note, however, that pharmaceutical companies that sell drugs for billions in profits (the very reason the DOJ claims the marijuana industry is so evil) are allowed to advertise freely in all mediums.

Constitutional and federal law aside, it is morbidly fascinating from a philosophical standpoint that the administration is subverting the right to use marijuana to treat one’s illness by attacking two other, more deeply-held rights. After all, it certainly seems that more Americans care about free speech and property rights than they do about bodily autonomy. Will this policy end up being counterproductive to the stated goals of the administration?

Probably. Just like every facet of prohibition, it is pretty much doomed to failure in the long run.

If you’d like to tell the president how you feel about this, please go here or call (202) 456-1111.

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Medical Marijuana

Call President Obama TODAY

October 11th, 2011 26 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Today is the day to tell President Obama that you’re fed up with his broken promises and his attacks on medical marijuana providers. Please join thousands of Americans in a National Call-In Day taking place from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm ET.

As you no doubt have heard by now, all four U.S. attorneys in California announced on Friday that they plan to aggressively target state-legal medical marijuana providers for violations of federal law. With virtually no justification, the Obama administration is going to deny patients safe access to their medicine and force them back into the criminal market.

This new development is especially disturbing, considering President Obama’s previous position: In 2009, based on an earlier campaign pledge, his Justice Department issued a memo declaring that individuals acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws would not be prosecuted. Now, the president has gone back on his word.

Please join supporters of medical marijuana everywhere by making a quick call to the White House and telling President Obama how you feel. Finally, pass this along to all your friends so that we can generate as many calls as possible in opposition to this new policy!

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Obama: From First to Worst on Medical Marijuana

October 11th, 2011 49 Comments Kate Zawidzki

During his run for the presidency, Barack Obama instilled hope in medical marijuana supporters by pledging to respect state laws on the matter. And for the first two years of his term, he was generally faithful to his promise. Yet suddenly, and with no logical explanation, over the past eight months he has become arguably the worst president in U.S. history regarding medical marijuana.

1. In 1970, Nixon signed into law the Controlled Substances Act, which placed marijuana in Schedule I — the most restrictive of the five schedules, which declared that marijuana has no medical value whatsoever. Since then, all seven presidents have been content to keep marijuana in Schedule I, even going so far as to have (1) DEA bureaucrats overrule the DEA’s own administrative law judge on the matter, and (2) Health & Human Services reject scientific petitions for rescheduling.

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