Medical Marijuana

I Spoke With Florida Gov. Rick Scott About Marijuana

February 29th, 2012 37 Comments Kate Zawidzki

I just returned to D.C. from a conference in Palm Beach, where I briefly spoke with Gov. Rick Scott (R) about medical marijuana.

When I told him I was representing the Marijuana Policy Project, he responded by saying that he had received only one communication about medical marijuana during these first 14 months of his governorship. (It’s likely that he meant to say that he had spoken with only one constituent personally, as opposed to having received only one email message or one phone call from Florida constituents.)

In any case, his comment struck me as odd, because Floridians have consistently been more active via MPP’s website than MPP’s supporters in literally any other state. This has impressed me, because Florida is only the fourth most populous state, and Florida usually has almost no marijuana-related legislative activity in Tallahassee. So you’d think that Californians or New Yorkers would be more active than Floridians, but this hasn’t been the case.

I have no reason to believe that Gov. Scott was trying to fib, because there was no particular advantage or disadvantage to his taking a position on medical marijuana. Indeed, he wasn’t even taking a position on the issue.

But I’d like to view my conversation with the governor as a challenge to anyone in Florida who hasn’t already called or emailed Gov. Scott to say they’d like him to support medical marijuana legislation in Tallahassee. So, if you haven’t already done so, would you please call or email him?

If you live in Florida, you have a greater ability to influence his thinking than I do. And – if you do contact his office – please be polite, because I have the impression that he’s open-minded on our issue, at least in the long run.

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Medical Marijuana

Obama’s DOJ: A Disaster for Medical Marijuana Patients

February 27th, 2012 24 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Once again, Obama’s DOJ shows no sympathy for medical marijuana patients.

Last April, 12 HIV/AIDS activists were arrested outside of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office as they protested funding cuts to HIV/AIDS and needle exchange programs in D.C. The protesters were offered the standard “Deferred Prosecution Agreement,” requiring them to stay away from the Cannon House Office Building for six months, perform 32 hours of community service, and test negative in three drug tests. If they were able to meet these requirements, the charges against them would be dropped.

Within three months, all of the protestors had completed their community service hours, and 10 of the 12 successfully produced negative drug tests. And this is where the story gets complicated

Two of the protestors, Antonio Davis and David Goode, used medical marijuana, recommended by their physicians, to deal with pain and other side effects caused by their HIV/AIDS treatment regimens. And though both men submitted letters from their doctors verifying their need for medical marijuana and, moreover, were assured by a judge that marijuana would not be screened for, the U.S. attorney for the District refused to honor the original deal spelled out in the Deferred Prosecution Agreement.

Now, the case has been transferred from one prosecutor to another and yet another, with each new prosecutor setting new conditions and requiring more community service time from the protestors. All of the protestors are now being required to complete a third 32-hour stretch of community service … or go to trial.

But because of failed drug screenings, medical marijuana patients Davis and Goode don’t have this option. They must go to trial and could face up to six months in jail. Meanwhile, Davis has stopped using his doctor-recommended marijuana and is suffering both mentally (worrying about possible consequences of a conviction) and physically (losing 20 pounds) because of it.

It’s insane that federal prosecutors are treating these medical marijuana patients so harshly. Marijuana has continually been shown to reduce the nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite caused by HIV/AIDS and by the various medications used to treat HIV/AIDS. Observational research has found that by relieving these side effects, medical marijuana improves the likelihood that patients will adhere to life-prolonging treatments. Furthermore, clinical trials have shown that marijuana can significantly reduce a specific type of pain that often afflicts patients with HIV/AIDS — neuropathy, a painful nerve condition for which there are currently no FDA-approved treatments. (Visit the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research website to view more studies on marijuana’s therapeutic value.)

The story here is just another piece to add to the very puzzling pattern of the Obama administration burying its head in the sand. In the past several months, the administration has cracked down on patients and providers, refused to let a clinical study proceed, and continued to ignore medical evidence … evidence that medical marijuana actually helps sick people! The story here is but one glimpse into the suffering caused by federal obstinance in regard to medical marijuana, and as the old saying goes, “if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.”




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Congress Tells States They Can Drug Test for Unemployment Benefits

February 24th, 2012 27 Comments Morgan Fox

Last week, the political blustering of federal lawmakers once again resulted in a law that unfairly targets marijuana users without any proof of effectiveness. On Friday, Congress reached a payroll and benefits deal that allows states to drug test any person applying for unemployment benefits if that person is looking for work in a field where drug testing is commonplace.

Thankfully, states have the option to not take part in this plan. The recent surge in states considering such policies, however, may mean that they may soon become much more common.

Florida’s experience with drug testing people applying for public benefits should have been a wake-up call for lawmakers. After passing a bill requiring unemployment beneficiaries to submit drug tests, Florida authorities soon discovered that not only was drug use extremely rare among those applying for assistance, but drug testing was actually costing the taxpayers more money! The whole point of the law was to decrease costs, so that tough-on-crime politicians could grandstand about how tax dollars in their districts aren’t buying drugs for lazy people.

Congress really needs to stop wasting its time worrying about the tiny percentage of people on public assistance that are marijuana users and instead consider all the taxpayer money they are wasting by arresting people for marijuana use at all.

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Not Very Metal: Megadeth Frontman Endorses Rick Santorum

February 19th, 2012 29 Comments Kate Zawidzki

UPDATE: Dave Mustaine has clarified his position, saying that he likes Santorum but does not officially “endorse” him.


I was shocked to learn that Dave Mustaine, the singer of Megadeth, endorsed Rick Santorum for president.

If you’re not a fan of heavy metal, you might not know that Megadeth is one of the most popular metal bands of all time — and they’re certainly one of the most political bands in any music genre.  Dave Mustaine actually covered the presidential race for MTV News in 1996.

As one of two MPP staffers who regularly  listens to heavy metal, I can say with confidence that Dave Mustaine should have endorsed Ron Paul — if Mustaine wanted to be at all representative of his fans.

Disciples of heavy metal are disproportionately libertarians:  The anti-authority music lyrics go hand-in-hand with the anti-authoritarian policy positions of libertarians like Ron Paul.

Also, fans of heavy metal are more likely to be marijuana users than the average citizen.  (If you don’t believe me, go to an Ozzy Osbourne concert and breathe deeply.)  So when Mustaine endorses Rick Santorum, Mustaine is basically saying that it is just fine with him if literally millions of his fans continue to face arrest … for doing no harm to others.

On principal, Mustaine should have endorsed Ron Paul. And, even if only for selfish reasons, Mustaine should not have endorsed Rick Santorum, who seeks to incarcerate a large portion of the people who pay Mustaine’s salary.

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Robin Thicke Busted for Marijuana in NYC

February 17th, 2012 5 Comments Morgan Fox

Well, another celebrity was arrested for using marijuana. Do you feel safer?

R&B singer Robin Thicke was arrested today near Madison Square Garden when they saw him smoking a joint inside an SUV. He was ticketed and released.

Now, since police actually witnessed him smoking, this arrest is far more legitimate than the improper marijuana possession arrests of tens of thousands of New York City residents during “stop and frisk” actions.

Currently, possession of small amounts of marijuana is decriminalized in New York, and criminal charges should only be brought if the marijuana is openly displayed or used in public, which was the case here. Recently, however, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly had to issue a directive to the NYPD to actually obey the law and stop tricking people into pulling their marijuana out of their pockets to warrant a criminal charge.

The fact remains that arresting Robin Thicke for misdemeanor marijuana possession does not make the community safer. While police were busy arresting a non-violent entertainer (and having him sign autographs), a crime with an actual victim most likely went unseen and unpunished.

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Georgia Student Sues School After Being Victimized by Humiliating Drug War Tactics

February 16th, 2012 24 Comments Morgan Fox

A Georgia school system is being sued by a student after an incident that occurred during a marijuana investigation. The victim, who was in seventh grade at the time, was humiliated by school officials in front of other students after being implicated in an investigation. The details speak for themselves:

The student, identified in court documents as D.H., said officials at Eddie White Academy initially strip-searched three other students on Feb. 8, 2011, after suspecting they had marijuana. One of them accused D.H. of having drugs, and he was brought to then-vice principal Tyrus McDowell’s office.

While the three classmates watched, D.H.’s pockets and book bag were searched but didn’t find anything, the lawsuit said. One of the students told school officials he had lied about D.H. having drugs, but administrators continued the search as D.H. begged to be taken to the bathroom for more privacy, according to the lawsuit.

D.H. was ordered to strip and again, no drugs were found.

This sad event was not only illegal according to the U.S. Supreme Court, but it was also representative of some of the more repulsive aspects of the government’s war on marijuana users. Let’s see …

Read the rest of this entry »

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Massachusetts Supreme Court Undermines Voters, Overturns Lower Court Ruling on “Intent to Distribute” Charge

February 14th, 2012 17 Comments Morgan Fox

An opinion released yesterday by the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts stated that a person found with a small amount of marijuana could still be charged with intent to distribute, despite a 2008 law removing criminal penalties for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

The statement comes from the ruling on a 2010 case in which a person with around six grams of marijuana in three separate bags was charged with intent to distribute marijuana. Defense attorneys argued that intent did not matter if the amount was less than an ounce because there are no criminal charges for that amount. A lower court judge agreed, but was overruled by yesterday’s decision.

The law that removed criminal penalties for small amounts, passed through referendum in 2008 by a significant majority of voters, was not intended to remove penalties for sale of marijuana. But intent to sell is something entirely different. It is highly doubtful that anyone with less than an ounce has the intent to distribute any of it. The burden of proof must lie on the state when charging someone with so little marijuana with being a distributor. To have it otherwise could provide overzealous prosecutors with a method of circumventing the 2008 law.

In this particular case, the ruling is based on pretty flimsy evidence. The defendant had six grams of marijuana stored in three separate bags when he was searched. Even though the police did not witness him conduct a sale, he was charged with intent to distribute simply because his marijuana, which was less than a quarter of what he would need to invoke criminal penalties, was not stored in a single container! Read the rest of this entry »

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Tony Bennett Calls for Drug Legalization Following the Death of Whitney Houston

February 13th, 2012 16 Comments Kate Zawidzki

A day after Whitney Houston’s unexpected death, singer Tony Bennett, music icon and winner of 17 Grammy Awards, paid tribute to the award-winning star at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party. He took this opportunity not only to honor her life and accomplishments and sing a song in her memory, but also to advocate for the legalization of drugs.

(Photo Credit: AP)

In spite of the fact that there is speculation that Houston’s death was drug-related, given her history with drug use (including marijuana), Bennett bravely spoke up about what so many already know: the war on drugs is a failure and is more harmful to society than the drugs themselves. For marijuana offenses alone, there were over 850,000 arrests in 2010, and 88% of those were for simple possession.

Watch this video of Tony Bennett speaking up for change. He gets it, and he had the courage to say so.

(Author’s Edit: Original video was taken down by YouTube user. New video links to CNN’s coverage, with Tony Bennett’s comments, as well as a panel discussion including Arianna Huffington, who echoed Bennett’s sentiments that the war on drugs has failed.)

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Medical Marijuana

DOJ bullies Delaware into suspending medical marijuana dispensary program

February 12th, 2012 21 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The Obama administration’s stunning betrayal of medical marijuana patients claimed a new victim today. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell announced that he would halt the implementation of the state’s medical marijuana dispensary program following a vague and threatening letter from U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly III.

Oberly’s letter, dated February 9 but made public today, says that patients and individual caregivers would not be federal enforcement priorities, but that entities distributing marijuana “could” be targeted. It also says that state employees would not be immune from liability under the Controlled Substances Act for acts mandated by the Delaware medical marijuana law.

Mr. Oberly’s intimidating sentence about state employees is particularly outrageous given that the Delaware law does not require any violation of federal law. Mr. Oberly does not say what actions he believes would constitute violations of the CSA.

In Delaware, state employees would not possess, cultivate, or dispense marijuana. They would merely register those entities that would no longer be criminalized under Delaware law and set up rules dispensaries would abide by for such protections. No court has found that such conduct would constitute a federal crime, and the federal government has not taken any criminal or civil actions against states with medical marijuana programs.

U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby in the Eastern District of Washington state sent a similarly vague letter, which was used as a reason for Gov. Christine Gregoire to veto a dispensary regulation bill. Yet, when an Arizona paper asked why state employees would be at risk in Washington but apparently not in Arizona, U.S. Attorney Ormsby said his concern was that state employees would be grading and handling – and thus possessing – marijuana under the Washington proposal. However, this was likely not even an accurate understanding of the Washington bill.

Following a two-year campaign led by legislators, patients, and MPP, Delaware became the 16th medical marijuana state last May. An affirmative defense went into effect on July 1, allowing qualifying patients who possess marijuana to prove the defense in court to avoid a conviction. The Markell administration was expected to release rules for dispensaries in the coming weeks, with three dispensaries being registered by the end of the year. The rules would also provide for ID cards to protect patients from arrest. Halting the dispensary program forces patients to the criminal market, or leaves them with no access to their medicine at all.

If you live in Delaware, please urge Gov. Markell to reverse course, to stand by patients, and to fully implement the compassionate law. Regardless of where you live, please let President Obama know it’s past time to live up to his word. If the Obama administration’s hostility to medical marijuana patients and providers will affect your vote in November, or your willingness to donate or volunteer for him, please let his campaign know.

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Fox Cancels Only Show to Support Drug Policy Reform

February 10th, 2012 24 Comments Morgan Fox

Yesterday was a sad day for drug policy in the mainstream media. Early in the afternoon, executives at Fox Business Network announced that they were dropping “Freedom Watch with Judge Napolitano” in favor of … reruns.

Those of you who are familiar with the show know all about host Judge Andrew Napolitano and his pointed attacks on anything threatening to liberty. What you may not know is that he was also a vocal critic of the war on drugs. His show was one of the few that would give airtime to spokespeople for organizations working to end prohibition, and he treated them fairly and with respect. Judge Napolitano frequently speaks out about the militarization of the police that has come about as a result of the war on drugs, particularly on marijuana.

So as a way to say “thanks” to Judge Napolitano for standing up for freedom, I am posting clips of the times he was nice enough to have us on his show. We at MPP can’t wait to see what the Judge will be up to next. Read the rest of this entry »

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