Prohibition

Obama Ignores Popular Marijuana Question. Again.

January 31st, 2012 31 Comments Morgan Fox

This should come as no surprise by now, but President Obama has once again failed to address questions about the need for marijuana policy reform in a public forum. Once again, this issue was among the most popular, but it seems that after laughter, disagreement, and capitulation, the president’s responses are wearing thin, and the question will no longer be asked or answered.

Last week, the White House asked for people to submit questions to be asked during a Google+ Hangout with the president. As usual, marijuana questions dominated the site. Unfortunately for the majority of Americans who support making marijuana legal, the popularity of this issue no longer matters.

First, NORML’s question was removed for being inappropriate.

Then MPP’s question suffered the same fate. Read the rest of this entry »

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Medical Marijuana

Vermont to Consider Adding PTSD to Medical Marijuana Qualifying Conditions

January 27th, 2012 22 Comments Morgan Fox

Vermont was the ninth state to allow seriously ill patients to use marijuana to treat certain illnesses, and now it may become the third to make post-traumatic stress disorder one of those qualifying illnesses. A new bill, introduced by Rep. Jim Masland, would allow patients afflicted with the serious psychological condition from war or other trauma to use medical marijuana without fear of arrest.

There are many people suffering from PTSD who have tried treating their symptoms with marijuana and have found it to be far more effective than the prescription pharmaceuticals they had been directed to use. Unfortunately, there is little scientific research to support their claims, and the federal government recently denied permission to study the potential benefits of marijuana for returning veterans.

If the law passes, Vermont will join New Mexico and Delaware as the only states to allow medical marijuana to be recommended for PTSD out of the 16 states (and the District of Columbia) that permit marijuana treatment for other conditions.

In June 2011, Vermont passed a bill that would regulate the establishment of four non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state.

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Prohibition

Marijuana Policy Project Turns 17!

January 25th, 2012 3 Comments Morgan Fox

I am pleased to announce that today is the 17th anniversary of the founding of the Marijuana Policy Project!

Since our formation in 1995, MPP has worked tirelessly to reform marijuana policies around the country and put an end to the harms caused by marijuana prohibition. It’s been a difficult struggle that does not appear to be getting any easier, but despite powerful opposition, we’ve made great strides. Here are just 17 of the things we’ve helped accomplish in the last 17 years:
Read the rest of this entry »

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Prohibition

Polish Lawmaker Stands Up for Marijuana Rights

January 20th, 2012 7 Comments Morgan Fox

Earlier today, Polish lawmaker and philosopher Janusz Palikot announced that he was going to smoke a joint in Parliament to kick off a campaign to make marijuana possession legal in Poland. Right now, police have the choice of arresting people or simply ticketing them for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Palikot wants all penalties removed, and he is willing to walk the walk.

Don’t you wish we had politicians like this in the United States?

This plan did not sit well with fellow MP and speaker Ewa Kopacz, who immediately informed the prosecutor of Palikot’s plan.

That sounds a little more like what we’re used to over here.

The prosecutor’s reaction was also pretty familiar to those who have experienced the workings of marijuana prohibition. Even though the joint that Palikot ended up lighting was not even marijuana but some sort of cannabis incense (hopefully not the synthetic cannabinoids like K2 or Spice we’ve all been hearing so much about), he could be charged simply for talking about smoking real marijuana. Apparently in Poland, it is illegal to advertise or promote the substance, which the prosecutor alleges is what Palikot did today. He could face up to a year in prison for this act of political theater.

This sort of reaction definitely sounds familiar, and it came as no surprise to Palikot:

“I want to condemn the hypocrisy concerning marijuana consumption,” Palikot told reporters. “Someone said they would smoke a joint in parliament and the reaction was tantamount to someone announcing a coup d’etat.”

Poland is one of several European countries that are reviewing their drug laws and taking steps to soften their marijuana policies. Most recently, lawmakers in Copenhagen, Denmark introduced a bill that would allow for possession and sales of marijuana within certain areas of the city

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Medical Marijuana

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer relents; dispensaries will be registered

January 13th, 2012 14 Comments Kate Zawidzki

UPDATE: On Tuesday, an Arizona state court ordered the state to implement the dispensary provisions of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act. The court also declared three medical marijuana regulations invalid and upheld other challenged regulations. The health department had said the state might wait until September or later to issue dispensary registrations. Hopefully, this means dispensaries will finally be registered by spring.

Today, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) announced she will not re-file her lawsuit questioning the validity of Arizona’s medical marijuana program. She also announced that once litigation is resolved challenging the health department rules, her health department will begin issuing dispensary registrations.

Gov. Brewer’s announcement follows a January 4 ruling dismissing her lawsuit. Judge Susan Bolton agreed with the ACLU, Department of Justice, and other attorneys, and found that there was no genuine, imminent threat that state employees would be prosecuted. Bolton said that Brewer could re-file if the problems with her complaint were addressed.

The U.S. attorney for Arizona at the time the case was filed, Dennis Burke, sent a letter to the Arizona health department on May 2, 2011 that flew in the face of the Obama Administration’s stated policy of not targeting those complying with state medical marijuana laws. Burke’s letter said “the [federal] CSA may be vigorously enforced against those individuals and entities who operate large marijuana production facilities” even if they are in compliance with state laws, as well as those who “knowingly facilitate the actions of traffickers.” After receiving the letter, Gov. Brewer directed Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne to file the litigation requesting clarity, even though Burke told media outlets that his office would not target state employees.

Today, Gov. Brewer wrote the acting U.S. attorney for Arizona, Ann Birmingham Scheel, noting her plans to finally move forward. Brewer requested clarification as to whether there are any activities state employees should not engage in and said “the Department of Justice and the administration which you serve will have a lot of explaining to do to the citizens of our country, and State of Arizona employees in particular, if the State’s reasonable and straightforward requests for clarity are ignored, and the Department of Justice then ambushes State employees with prosecution or civil penalties for implementing the AMMA and licensing medical marijuana dispensaries.”

Now, only one governor is stubbornly refusing to move forward with implementing a duly enacted medical marijuana dispensary program: Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) of Rhode Island. Here’s hoping he finally sees the light.

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Research

New Study Shows Moderate Marijuana Use is Not Associated with Breathing Problems

January 11th, 2012 14 Comments Morgan Fox

A study released by the American Medical Association is getting a whole lot of attention this week, as it rightly should. This study, which shows that people who smoke marijuana exhibit little to no harmful pulmonary effects from their use, pokes a gigantic, gaping hole in one of the most often-employed attacks against marijuana reform.

According to the 20-year study, those who used marijuana occasionally (2-3 times a month) did not show any decrease in lung functioning and, in some cases, actually showed improvements. This is in glaring contrast to cigarette smokers, who displayed significantly less breathing ability at the end of the study. Even some heavy marijuana users showed no decrease in function.

Of course, this is antithetical to what prohibitionists and scaremongers have been claiming about marijuana for decades. One of the most commonly used arguments against marijuana reform is that it is too dangerous to be used as a medicine because of the lung damage caused by smoking (even though many patients prefer vaporizing or eating their medicine). By this logic, making marijuana legal for recreational use is out of the question because of the threat to public health and the associated costs that would be incurred.

The American Medical Association just invalidated that argument. This is the latest in what appears to be a trend of science exposing the lies in the major prohibitionist talking points.

Take teen use, for example. The drug czar has repeatedly tried to blame medical marijuana and reformers on the increase in teen marijuana use, saying that it “sends the wrong message” to young people. By looking at the available data for medical marijuana states, however, MPP was able to show that in most of those states, teen use actually decreased after the implementation of medical marijuana laws. It appears that the message reformers are sending teens is that marijuana is not as glamorous when being used by a cancer patient. That is quite a bit better than the message being sent by the government, which is that teens cannot handle hearing legitimate policy debates and that it is worth lying to them and arresting them to stop others from using marijuana in the future (a tactic we can see has failed by comparing our continuously high arrest rates with the increasing rate of teen and adult use).

Another point, brought up most often by law enforcement, is that if more people are using marijuana, the roads will become more dangerous. They conjure images of stoned drivers and bloodstained pavement and complain about lack of effective tools by which to judge marijuana impairment. This argument was similarly refuted by a recent study that showed traffic fatalities also decreased in states that allowed the medical use of marijuana. Apparently, access to marijuana leads to a drop in alcohol sales, particularly among people who may self-medicate with alcohol for painful conditions. This, combined with the fact that driving while under the influence of marijuana is far safer (yet still potentially dangerous; no one should drive impaired on any substance), leads to a marked decrease in fatal car accidents.

(As a side note, there is a time-tested and proven way of determining impairment caused by any substance or condition. It is called Standardized Field Sobriety Testing and has been in use since there have been cars on the roads. In recent years, this tool has become much more accurate through research and increased training protocols.)

The vast majority of arguments against reform tend to be based on emotion. They have little to do with facts. As more and more research becomes available that disproves the propaganda, hopefully more people will see through the smokescreen of lies and fear. When they do, our nation will make great strides toward enacting rational marijuana policies.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

The Tragedy of Marijuana Prohibition Strikes Ogden, Utah

January 10th, 2012 54 Comments Kate Zawidzki

No family should have to deal with the consequences of the events that occurred in Ogden, Utah on January 3, 2012. So it is with great respect to the families of both Jared Francom and Matthew David Stewart, who no doubt are both dealing with incredible grief of contrasting nature, that I’m offering up these comments.

Whenever a member of law enforcement is killed in the line of duty, like Officer Jared Francom recently was, it’s a tragedy. When the “target” of the military tactical style operation that led to the shootout leaving the officer dead appears to have been a personal marijuana grow, it’s also infuriating.

At 8:40 p.m. on Wednesday, January 3, 2012, members of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force in Ogden, Utah conducted a “knock and enter” warrant on the home of 37 year-old army veteran Matthew David Stewart. According to reports, they knocked and no one answered. When they forcefully entered his home in paramilitary style gear, with guns drawn, they encountered gunfire. When it was all said and done, one member of the task force was fatally injured, five members were wounded, Stewart was injured and faces likely charges of aggravated murder (which carries the death penalty) and multiple counts of attempted aggravated murder.

According to DEA Special Agent in Charge Frank Smith, the victims and other agents involved in this operation are heroes, and they were “protecting the public.” I tend to agree with Agent Smith, members of the task force are heroes, but in this instance, they certainly were not protecting the public.

The only public reports about why Stewart was raided indicate that Stewart had a personal, indoor marijuana grow for medical reasons. It’s been reported that Stewart suffers from PTSD and grew a small amount of marijuana to self-medicate. In addition, it has been speculated that the reason why Stewart failed to answer the knock is because he was asleep at the time. He worked the midnight shift and would typically be asleep at the time the raid was conducted.

So, it seems an army veteran who suffers from PTSD was suddenly awoken to armor-clad armed men in his home and he allegedly opened fire. The army vet now likely faces the death penalty. One officer is dead. Five wounded. Countless lives have been ruined.

I’d like Agent Smith to explain to Stewart exactly why he was a threat to the public. There has been no allegation that Steward sold marijuana, or gave it away to kids, or that he was a danger to anyone before the paramilitary-style raid on his house. In fact, his neighbors were shocked to learn that there was any drug activity in the area, dispelling the notion that Stewart was an immediate threat to anyone. Without making a fuss and without causing problems in his neighborhood, Stewart simply grew marijuana for personal medical reasons.

I’d also like Agent Smith to explain to Officer Francom’s family why Stewart’s personal medical grow warranted the over-the-top means of enforcement that has been linked to so many needless deaths and injuries.

Finally, I’d like Agent Smith to explain to everyone why — as he stated to Fox 13 News — this situation isn’t a legalization issue? Clearly, the officers involved were just doing their job. They were enforcing enacted laws that their superiors wanted enforced. However, if marijuana were legal, this and numerous other prohibition-related deaths, including the death of another Utah man at the hands of this very same task force, would never have happened.

So long as marijuana remains a law enforcement issue as opposed to a public health issue, we’ll keep seeing tragic stories like these. Officers and civilians shot, and often times killed, over a naturally occurring plant that is safer than alcohol. It’s sad and it’s sickening, and it’s about time that we finally rethink our nation’s devastating marijuana prohibition.

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Prohibition

Snoop Dogg Busted Again

January 9th, 2012 13 Comments Morgan Fox

Eminent rapper and marijuana aficionado Snoop Dogg was arrested over the weekend when officers at a Texas checkpoint searched his tour bus and found a few joints. He was issued a citation and released.

Imagine that, Snoop Dogg has a few joints in his tour bus! That means the town of Sierra Blanca, TX should stop what it is doing and investigate immediately!

It should be noted that this is the same town in which Willie Nelson was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession in 2010.

What is it with this particular town busting celebrities who are famous for proudly using marijuana? Could it be as simple as publicity stunts? Perhaps the local law enforcement really, really doesn’t like marijuana users, and they are intent on picking on the most famous of them. It is not a big jump in logic to assume that marijuana might be found on either of their buses, but does that make them priorities? Another thing I wonder about is how many illicit drug shipments get through that same checkpoint while the other officers are searching for anything they can find that will incriminate the entertainers?

This is just one more example of the folly of our governments’ approaches to marijuana. Taxpayers get to see their hard-earned money being spent to investigate and prosecute famous musicians, as well as more than 750,000 less-than-famous marijuana users every year, while serious crimes go undetected and unpunished right under the noses of law enforcement.

Will putting Snoop Dogg in jail make anyone safer? No. The same goes for any non-violent marijuana user. Yet our society continues to allow the arrests of these individuals at nearly record rates. Unfortunately, most of those people do not have millions of dollars, teams of lawyers, or the power of public sentiment on their sides. They are just statistics in a war that has gone on far too long.

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Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Lawsuit Illustrates Gov. Jan Brewer’s 10th Amendment Hypocrisy

January 9th, 2012 2 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has made a name for herself nationally by asserting her state’s sovereignty, famously “bucking the feds” on both immigration and health care reform and citing the 10th Amendment as justification for her actions.

However, on the subject of Arizona’s medical marijuana law, which was passed by voters in 2010, Gov. Brewer has taken a strikingly different approach.

Last year, Gov. Brewer sued in federal court, asking U.S. District Judge Susan Bolton to determine whether the state law is valid and refusing, in the interim, to implement a key part of the law that required the state to register 125 dispensaries. The ACLU and U.S. government argued for the dismissal.

Last Wednesday, Judge Bolton threw out Gov. Brewer’s lawsuit challenging Arizona’s medical marijuana law. Gov. Brewer filed suit while refusing to implement a key part of the law that required the state to register 125 dispensaries.

Judge Bolton’s decision was based largely on the fact that the state had no plans to violate the federal Controlled Substances Act and that there was no imminent threat of state workers being federally prosecuted. Gov. Brewer may refile her lawsuit within 30 days if she amends her claims, and she has indicated that she intends to do so.

Brewer’s lawsuit has been an unbelievable affront to the voters, a waste of taxpayer money, and a direct impediment to sick people’s access to medicine they desperately need, all coming from a governor obsessed with “standing up to the feds” on some issues, but not on behalf of seriously ill citizens in Arizona.

Arizona residents are encouraged to call Governor Brewer and tell her to stop challenging Arizona’s voter-enacted medical marijuana law!

The message for Gov. Brewer is simple: follow state law!

 

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Research

Marijuana in Middle Age: Two Interesting Studies

January 5th, 2012 6 Comments Morgan Fox

Attention middle-age marijuana users: you now have one more piece of ammunition to use against people who say that marijuana use is making you slow.

According to a study published last year in the American Journal of Epidemiology, moderate marijuana use, both past and current, has no long-term effects on cognitive function and memory. Of the 9,000 adults around the age of 42 that were surveyed, those that had used drugs in the past (even the recent past) scored equal to or slightly better than those who had never used any drugs when tested at age 50.

“Overall, at the population level, the results seem to suggest that past or even current illicit drug use is not necessarily associated with impaired cognitive functioning in early middle age,” said lead researcher, Dr. Alex Dregan, of King’s College London.

That is certainly good news, especially for the more than 17 million regular marijuana users in the United States. However, it is important to differentiate between users and abusers, especially considering that harder drugs were included in the survey. Dr. Dregan goes on to say:

“However,” he told Reuters Health in an email, “our results do not exclude possible harmful effects in some individuals who may be heavily exposed to drugs over longer periods of time.”

It seems safe to say we can add this study to the others showing that cognitive impairment from marijuana is only temporary and will not, as they say, make you dumb.

Another study that this demographic should find interesting was published last year in the Journal of Analytic Toxicology. Many people in this age group often worry that a failed drug test could jeopardize their jobs or put their families at risk. According to this study, zinc is very effective at interfering with standard urine test accuracy when it comes to detecting marijuana and two other drugs. It is also basically untraceable.

Both zinc sulfate and zinc supplements are effective in interfering with the detection of all three drugs by Immunalysis drug detection kits. Also, no suitable method could be established to detect zinc in urine samples. Zinc can be an effective adulterant in urine for some illicit drugs that are commonly screened under routine drug testing.

This information is intended to be educational, and one should certainly never risk his or her employment based on something read in a blog. The noblest option is to tell any employers requesting a drug test that the content of one’s urine has nothing to do with the quality of one’s work. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing from jobs these days, so this study could provide some food for thought.

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