Medical Marijuana, Video

MPP Joins Maryland Patients to Testify in Support of Medical Marijuana

March 30th, 2012 3 Comments Morgan Fox

Last week, a number of medical marijuana patients and supporters, including MPP’s Dan Riffle, were at the Maryland statehouse to testify on the need to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest.

Here is some TV coverage of the hearing:

The bill, sponsored by Sen. David Brinkley, is based on one of two draft bills proposed by members of Maryland’s medical marijuana workgroup. Only one version, the one suggested by Del. Dan Morhaim and MPP’s director of state policies Karen O’Keefe, would provide patients with safe and reliable access to their medicine.

Unfortunately, Gov. O’Malley has promised to veto the bill in its current form due to concerns of possible federal prosecution of state employees. To date, no state official has been charged with a crime for following medical marijuana laws. The bill is now being amended in an attempt to ease these unjustified concerns.

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Research, Tax and Regulate

More Americans Support Taxing Marijuana Than Junk Food

March 29th, 2012 6 Comments Kate Zawidzki

A national Rasmussen poll released today indicates that 47% of American adults answered “yes” to this question: “To help solve America’s fiscal problems, should the country legalize and tax marijuana?” Forty-two percent disagreed, and a whopping 10% were undecided.

Forty-seven percent is impressive, especially when one considers that this figure could grow to 57% if we’re able to persuade the undecided folks to come to our side through positive news coverage, paid advertising, and person-to-person contact.

The 47% is a national figure, which means support for taxing marijuana is surely higher in states like Colorado and Washington, both of which will have marijuana-taxation initiatives on their ballots this November 6. (And, of course, support would necessarily be lower than 47% in states like Alabama and Mississippi.)

The same Rasmussen poll also indicates that only 42% of Americans “favor so-called ‘sin taxes’ on sodas and junk food.”

In case you’re thinking that the 47% figure is a decrease from previous polling … it’s not. The national Gallup poll, released in October, found that 50% of American adults “think the use of marijuana should be made legal.”

So, these are two different marijuana questions. It makes sense that (slightly) more people are comfortable with the simple use of marijuana than the overall legalization and taxation of marijuana — which would involve retail establishments, large-scale grow operations, and maybe even advertising.

I’m very excited about the 47% figure, and I’m looking forward to working with our allies to pass the Colorado ballot initiative in just seven months.

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Republican-led New Hampshire Senate passes medical marijuana bill!

March 28th, 2012 14 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Exciting news! In a 13-11 vote, the New Hampshire Senate voted today to approve New Hampshire’s medical marijuana bill, SB 409. This is a huge victory for New Hampshire patients and their families.

With this vote, New Hampshire’s Senate became the first Republican-led state senate in the nation to pass an effective medical marijuana bill. Eight Republicans voted in favor, joined by all five Senate Democrats.

Last year, the House passed a similar bill in a 229-96 vote, with more than half of Republicans voting in favor.

Unfortunately, Governor Lynch (a Democrat) has vetoed medical marijuana legislation in the past. His press secretary has already indicated that he will veto the bill despite the strong, bipartisan support it enjoys in both chambers of the legislature.

Several senators who voted “no” today are not certain in their opposition, and advocates are still optimistic about gaining support from additional senators (those who did not have the luxury of being present for the bill’s public hearing) as the bill continues moving through the process.

The bill will next be referred to the House Health and Human Services Committee for a hearing in April or May, and the process will continue from there.

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Medical Marijuana

N.H. Senate committee unanimously votes to protect patients

March 22nd, 2012 5 Comments Kate Zawidzki

In a huge victory for patients and their families, this afternoon the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 5-0 to approve New Hampshire’s medical marijuana bill, SB 409. The full Senate will vote on the bill next week.

The four Republican members of the committee — including Senate Majority Leader and former U.S. Congressman Jeb Bradley — and the one Democrat all voted in favor of the bill, having considered over two and a half hours of testimony at a March 8 public hearing.

SB 409, sponsored by Sen. Jim Forsythe (R-Strafford), would allow patients with serious illnesses such as MS, cancer, AIDS, PTSD, and intractable pain to register with the Department of Health and Human Services and receive ID cards protecting them from arrest if marijuana is recommended by their doctors. Qualifying patients would be permitted to cultivate up to six mature plants in an enclosed, locked facility.

MPP, patients, and our allies have been lobbying for medical marijuana in the state for several years. In 2009, the Democrat-controlled state legislature passed medical marijuana legislation, but Gov. John Lynch (D) vetoed the bill, even after changes were made to specifically address his concerns. The House voted to override Lynch’s vote, but the Senate veto override vote came two votes shy.

In November 2010, the leadership in both chambers shifted after Republicans won 3:1 majorities in the state House of Representatives and Senate. Last year, the New Hampshire House of Representatives showed that compassion is not a partisan issue, voting 221-96 for medical marijuana legislation. Last year’s bill passed the same Senate committee by a narrower, 3-2, margin but did not receive a Senate floor vote.

If you live in New Hampshire, please ask your senator to vote in favor of SB 409 so that patients may finally have the relief they deserve.

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iOS and Sony Hacker Arrested … for Marijuana Possession

March 16th, 2012 7 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Apple, a company with more cash on hand than the U.S. Treasury, couldn’t stop him from jail breaking the iPhone’s iOS software. He cracked Sony’s PlayStation 3 software, at the time thought to be the most secure video game platform available. But George Hotz seems to have met his match in Texas. According to, Hotz, who has a medical marijuana card from his home state of California, was stopped at the border patrol checkpoint in Sierra Blanca while on his way to the SXSW conference where he was scheduled to speak. If the location sounds familiar, it’s because it happens to be the same checkpoint where Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg were busted for marijuana possession.

Hotz was arrested for possession of a quarter ounce of marijuana and chocolate edibles containing less than an eighth ounce of marijuana. Rather than being issued a citation and released, as Snoop Dogg was, the local sheriff charged Hotz with a felony, using the weight of the chocolate (rather than the amount of marijuana it contained) as a “correct” indication of how much he possessed.

Who is being served by Texas law enforcement’s focus on arresting individuals for marijuana possession? Certainly not the taxpayers, who end up carrying the financial burden of the misguided war on marijuana users. Last year, Texas cut over $31 billion in spending to close their budget deficit, including cuts to public education, health and human services, and ending financial aid for nearly 60,000 college students. Yet, these senseless arrests and prosecutions continue. Hotz is just the latest victim of the Sierra Blanca checkpoint and of a war that results in 750,000 arrests like this one, with billions of dollars wasted each year.

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Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Activist and Cancer Patient Angel Raich Thrown Out of Hospital for Vaporizing Marijuana

March 14th, 2012 22 Comments Morgan Fox

Well, it doesn’t get much more despicable than this. Yesterday, a registered medical marijuana patient with terminal cancer was forced to leave UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco because she was using a vaporizer to ingest her medicine.

A spokesperson for the hospital claimed that use of the vaporizer violated their non-smoking policy. First of all, vaporizing is NOT smoking!

Then, the hospital claimed that even marijuana in vapor form can damage the lungs of other patients. I challenge the hospital to deliver evidence of this, especially considering that a recent study shows marijuana, even smoked marijuana, has little effect on long-term pulmonary function. To the best of my knowledge, there is no data showing any second-hand effects from vaporized marijuana.

This patient happened to be none other than Angel Raich, a long-time medical marijuana activist who battled the federal government in the U.S. Supreme Court for the right to use marijuana to treat the symptoms of her incurable brain tumor.

Marijuana is an accepted medicine in the state of California. For a state university hospital to threaten a terminally ill patient with arrest and federal prosecution, instead of making accommodations so that the patient could use her medicine, is inexcusable.

Just to give you another example of people being denied treatment simply because they use marijuana to treat their conditions, here is a video from our friends at Reason about a man who was taken off a kidney transplant list because he used a legal medicine that his doctor recommended.

What happened to the Hippocratic Oath?

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Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Advocates Urge New Hampshire Senate Committee to Support New Bill

March 12th, 2012 2 Comments Kate Zawidzki

A hearing on New Hampshire’s medical marijuana bill, SB 409, ran past 5 p.m. Thursday evening. The Senate Health and Human Services Committee, chaired by Sen. Jeb Bradley (R-Wolfeboro), listened to two and a half hours of testimony, nearly all of which was offered in support of the bill.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Jim Forsythe (R-Strafford), introduced the measure and made a strong case that support for the bill transcends partisan boundaries.

“I have never used marijuana in my life, but it’s clear to me that marijuana does have legitimate medical uses,” Forsythe explained. “This bill is carefully designed to protect the rights of patients and doctors while minimizing the potential for the law to be abused, and I strongly encourage my colleagues in the Senate to support this sensible, compassionate reform.”

Sen. Ray White (R-Bedford) and Sen. John Gallus (R-Berlin) are the bill’s Senate co-sponsors. Sen. White also spoke in favor of the bill, along with House co-sponsors, Rep. Evalyn Merrick (D-Lancaster), a cancer survivor, and Rep. Jennifer Coffey (R-Andover), a licensed EMT.

Several patients offered compelling testimony, including former Manchester resident Ron Mitchell, a severe pain patient who testified that his quality of life has improved dramatically since he moved to Vermont in 2010 and was legally recommended marijuana by his doctor. Ron told committee members he has dramatically reduced his use of prescription pain medicine by using medical marijuana, and he added that he and his wife would like to move back to New Hampshire but will not be able to do so unless this law passes.

I reminded the committee that a similar bill had only fallen two votes short of becoming law in 2009 and described the impact of that narrow defeat on the lives of New Hampshire patients.

“Seriously ill patients shouldn’t have to wait any longer for safe, legal access,” I told committee members. “These laws are not causing problems in states such as Vermont or Maine, or surely we would hear about them here in New Hampshire.”

The hearing’s final speaker, Bill Alleman of Weare, simply noted that while about 20 private citizens spoke in favor of the bill, the only three speakers opposed were employees of the executive branch. “Do you represent the executive branch, or do you represent the people?” he asked.

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Grand jury releases findings on the death of Eric Perez

March 12th, 2012 7 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Late last week, a West Palm Beach grand jury dealt a significant blow to the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). It found a young man died under their watch due to “fundamentally inadequate” medical care. You may remember the disturbing story of Eric Perez, who died in custody after having been arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana while he was on probation.

While incarcerated, Perez reported to guards that he was hallucinating; he vomited and soiled himself in his cell but received no medical attention. It wasn’t until almost an hour after he stopped breathing that anyone from DJJ noticed, and by then it was too late. Apparently, the cause of death was a hemorrhage caused by head injuries. Earlier in the evening, guards joked and engaged in horseplay with Perez and other juvenile offenders while conducting a routine search. Perez was “roughly tossed in the air” and struck his head on the wall or celling. Perez developed painful headaches and loss of balance and struck his head again when he fell into the corner of a table.

Former Miami-Dade Superintendent Dale Dobuler was not surprised when he heard of this incident. Dobuler was brought in as superintendent after a very similar incident occurred in 2003. Dobuler has since left his position and notes that these types of occurrences will continue unless and until there is a change of attitude within the DJJ. He describes DJJ as being “great at firing people,” but unable to solve greater systemic problems.

Marijuana prohibition didn’t kill Mr. Perez. A brutal combination of head trauma and a lack of compassion and competence on the part of the Miami-Dade Juvenile Detention Center staff, guards, and supervisors did that. However, taking another approach to marijuana possession can prevent tragedies like this. MPP’s model bill to end marijuana prohibition and replace it with a system of regulated and taxed adult only use — along with our decriminalization bill — would give law enforcement other tools to use, besides juvenile incarceration, when dealing with a minor in possession of a small amount of marijuana.

Under the provisions of MPP’s tax-and-regulate bill, adults could use marijuana much like they are currently allowed to use alcohol. The bill provides for civil citations, drug education, and community service for minors found with marijuana, as does our decriminalization bill. These bills still penalize juveniles who use or possess marijuana, but they do so in a way that does not involve incarcerating youth. Surely, Mr. Perez would have gotten the medical attention he so desperately needed had he been cited and sent home to his family as opposed to jailed and ignored.

You can read The Miami Herald account of the grand jury report here. A copy of the full report can be found here.

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Prohibition, Video

Pat Robertson Supports Marijuana Reform, Endorses Ballot Initiatives in Colorado and Washington

March 8th, 2012 8 Comments Morgan Fox

Earlier this week, Tom Angell of LEAP showed me this video of TV evangelist and political pundit Pat Robertson speaking out about prison overpopulation and harsh sentences for non-violent offenders. In this clip, Robertson, who is known for being a staunch social conservative, repeatedly calls for marijuana to be made legal.

Throughout this segment, Robertson repeatedly blames liberals for the “tough-on-crime” approach that has led to massive over-incarceration. Traditionally, most people are probably used to hearing liberals blaming conservatives for the very same thing. The truth is that there is more than enough blame to spread around on both sides of the political spectrum. It is interesting to note, however, that these statements come just as Vice President Biden is publicly cementing the Obama administration’s firm stance against real reform, even as leaders from across Latin America are calling for decriminalization.

Yesterday, Robertson went a step further and announced his endorsement of Amendment 64 in Colorado and I-502 in Washington, both of which would end criminal penalties for adult marijuana use and treat marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. While he will not be campaigning for the initiatives, Robertson said the time has come for people of all political and moral backgrounds to get behind them.

“I just want to be on the right side,” he said. “And I think on this one, I’m on the right side.”

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Prohibition, Research, Tax and Regulate

Surprise! Joe Biden Says Something Dumb

March 6th, 2012 33 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Our vice president has a long and storied history of eyebrow-raising and indecipherable comments – “Bidenisms” as they’re known – and he had another doozy to offer yesterday. Speaking to a group of Latin American leaders, who have grown increasingly emboldened in their calls for legalization of marijuana and other drugs due to the deaths of tens of thousands of their citizens at the hands of powerful, murderous drug cartels, Biden offered this: “It warrants a discussion. It’s totally legitimate for this to be raised. It’s worth discussing … but there is no possibility that the Obama-Biden administration will change its policy on legalization.”

Huh? Why bother having the discussion if you’re only going to listen to your half of it? That’s like a judge presiding over a criminal trial even though he’s already sentenced the defendant. Call off your research and pack up your “totally legitimate” policy arguments, this administration won’t be listening to any of it. For an administration that claims it wants to put science before ideology and politics when it comes to drug policy, this seems to indicate there is “no possibility” there will be a change in policy no matter how much scientific research is done. At least legalization is in his vocabulary, I suppose.

Of course, what’s important here is that, whether the administration is listening or not, this conversation is happening. More and more people, including influential heads of state, are joining our side and calling for the end of marijuana prohibition. Voters in Colorado and Washington state will have a chance to join them this November, and if the polls are right, the administration will hear them loud and clear.

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