2012 Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Users List Revealed!

August 30th, 2012 20 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Today, we’re really excited to be announcing the final list of the 2012 Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Users! Over 3,000 of our supporters voted to help us develop the final list – which can be seen here – so thank you for your input!

The final list is a combination of MPP’s 13 automatic qualifiers (including President Obama and Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, among 11 others) and the 37 individuals who received the most votes from our list of 150+ nominees. We borrowed the great definition used by Out Magazine for their “Power 50” list to rank these 50 individuals by their “power to influence cultural and social attitudes, political clout, individual wealth, and a person’s media profile.”

It was really interesting to see who made the final cut and who just missed out. Actors made up 40% of the final list with 20 people, and Morgan Freeman took the #1 spot in terms of total votes, appearing in over 33% of the survey responses. Politicians, with 11 finalists, and entertainers (with 7 finalists, including Jon Stewart, who comes in at #7 on our list), rounded out the second and third place categories.

There were a few people who I thought would make the final list who didn’t end up making the cut, including Lady Gaga (#52), Glenn Beck (#63), and Wiz Khalifa (#86). These are some pretty big names within their respective categories, but they ended up missing out. It was also interesting that only five musicians made the final list; I certainly was expecting a few more (including the two mentioned above)!

Since this will be an annual list, we’re looking forward to seeing how much changes over the next year. There are sure to be some significant names who drop off the list, as well as new additions who either just missed out this year or weren’t even eligible yet because we weren’t aware of their past (or current) marijuana use.

If you haven’t already, check out the final list, and leave a comment below with your thoughts! Who didn’t make the cut that should have? Who do you think is most likely to drop off over the next year? Was someone not even nominated who should have been? We want to hear from you, so be sure to let us know what you think! Again, thanks for voting!

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Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Medical Marijuana Faces Further Delays

August 29th, 2012 3 Comments Kate Zawidzki

After a long delay in New Jersey, many medical marijuana patients are still waiting for their medicine. Then-Gov. John Corzine first signed the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act in January 2010, but since then, implementation of the measure has been slow. Although the state originally planned to have the necessary alternative treatment centers open in July 2011, the state’s first licensee, Greenleaf Compassion Center, is not scheduled to open until September of this year. A total of only five other planned facilities have been approved, four of which still have no approved location. Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer) has even called for a hearing into the cause of the delays, protesting that there is “no adequate explanation” for the current situation. Difficulties with organization, vetting the necessary officials, and objections by local authorities have all been cited by the Star-Ledger as causes.

Dr. Walter Husar, a neurologist from Rockaway, complains that along with disorganized lists of participating physicians, strict regulations are another barrier to safe access to the drug. Under the current system, patients must have an existing “bona fide” relationship with one of the limited number of participating physicians, as defined here.  The physicians must then submit an official statement recommending the patient. The doctor must then transfer a unique reference code to the patient, who can then use it to register him- or herself. The registration of a patient is only valid for 90 days, after which the doctor and the patient must repeat the process. According to Chris Goldstein with the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey, this is the only state where only the doctors on an official list can prescribe marijuana. Sixteen other states, plus the District of Columbia, have medicinal marijuana programs. Access to marijuana in New Jersey is also limited to patients with one of a set list of serious medical conditions such as cancer, AIDS, and multiple sclerosis, with use for some conditions only permitted when other treatments have failed or particular complications are present.

Husar and other doctors report themselves flooded with calls from potential patients. However, in a stark demonstration of the difficulty of joining the program, more physicians than patients have been registered. Approximately 50 patients have been recognized as eligible for medical marijuana, while only around 150 physicians are participating, out of over 30,000 in the state.

Husar agrees that marijuana can be helpful for multiple sclerosis sufferers in particular, citing his 25 years of experience with such patients, some of whom obtained the drug illegally. He is, however, concerned that since there is still no legal source of medical marijuana, even the patients who are already registered with the program may be subject to legal penalties if they are caught with their medicine. Under New Jersey’s current laws, this is a serious risk. Possession of even the smallest amount is punishable by up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine, while those caught growing even a single plant could be subject to a felony conviction, a fine of up to $25,000, and a prison sentence of up to five years.

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Medical Marijuana

Los Angeles City Council sics feds on dispensaries

August 23rd, 2012 15 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The Los Angeles City Council has lost it.

In a slap in the face to voters and patients, the City Council voted yesterday to direct the LAPD to coordinate with the DEA and the district attorney to enforce its recent ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, which is scheduled to go into effect on September 6.

The ban seems unlikely to stick: It is subject to both a legal challenge and a referendum petition. If advocates collect enough signatures, the odds strongly favor voters rejecting the ban. A 2009 MPP-commissioned poll found that 77% of L.A. County voters preferred regulation and licensing to a ban. Only 14% favored a complete ban on dispensaries. It is hard to overstate how out of touch this action is with voters. Los Angeles voters not only support medical marijuana; in 2010, 54% voted for Prop. 19, which would have allowed for marijuana to be sold for adults’ use. Meanwhile, some courts have found that cities canʼt ban dispensaries and that doing so is preempted by state law. The California Supreme Court is taking up the issue.

But even if the ban is overturned by voters or in court, the damage done by calling in the feds could be extreme and irreversible for some. Letters from federal prosecutors threatening property forfeiture have resulted in hundreds of dispensaries closing statewide. Under California law, the penalties for violating the ban (if it wasnʼt overturned in courts) would be civil fines or misdemeanors. But in federal court — where perfect compliance with state law is no defense — harsh felony penalties could be imposed.

How many patients will have to go to the streets and risk muggings and contaminated marijuana if the LAPD and feds shut down their access? How many properties will become vacant? How many compassionate retailers will lose their livelihood or perhaps even their freedom? City law required dispensaries to employ security guards. How many crimes will result from the security guards being gone, as well as from this large market moving underground and due to the diverted law enforcement time?

In March 2013, I expect that Los Angeles voters will repeal the ban. As they do so, theyʼll also have a chance to elect new council members for more than half of the seats. It’s about time politicians realize that if they wage a war on medical marijuana, their political futures may become collateral damage.

For more information on the outrageous ban, you can listen to an archive of MPP’s Sarah Lovering on KPFK. Sarah’s segment aired on Uprising! this morning, Thursday, August 23. It begins about 20 minutes in, or one-third of the way.

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Medical Marijuana

New Jersey Finally Accepting Patient Applications For Medical Marijuana

August 9th, 2012 6 Comments Morgan Fox

Today, after a delay of more than two years, patients eligible for New Jersey’s medical marijuana program were finally allowed to apply for the licenses that would protect them from arrest. Seriously ill individuals who could qualify for the program have been waiting diligently while the state government dragged its feet with implementation since the law took effect in mid-2010.

Unfortunately, it could be some time before licensed patients will be able to legally acquire their medicine. New Jersey’s law does not allow for home cultivation, and all medicine must be purchased at state-licensed nonprofit dispensaries. Licensing of these dispensaries has been consistently delayed as well. To date, only six have been granted preliminary approval, and only one is preparing to serve patients.

This is great news for the seriously ill of the Garden State and their families. If there are no further delays, patients should be able to access their medicine by the end of the year. How easily they will be able to get it will be another story, but at least licensed patients will no longer have to fear being treated like criminals for using the medicine that works best for them.

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Medical Marijuana

North Dakota Medical Marijuana Campaign Turns In Signatures

August 9th, 2012 5 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The first-ever ballot initiative dealing with medical marijuana in North Dakota has taken a step forward. On Monday, more than 20,000 signatures were delivered to North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger by North Dakotans for Compassionate Care — well above the 13,500 required to qualify the initiative for November’s ballot. Jaeger will have approximately one month to review the signatures and certify the initiative for the ballot.

The proposed law would allow patients to grow and possess limited amounts of marijuana. Qualifying medical conditions would include cancer, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other serious illnesses. Marijuana dispensaries would also be licensed and subject to regulation by the North Dakota Health Department.

While neighboring Montana currently allows medicinal marijuana under the 2009 Medical Marijuana Act, South Dakota voters rejected similar ballot initiatives in recent years, with 52 percent opposed in 2006 and 63 percent voting against it in 2010.

Dave Schwartz, campaign director for the advocacy group, commented however that attitudes have shifted recently in favor of medical marijuana as many people have had personal contact with someone who has or could have benefited from marijuana’s pain-relieving and anti-nausea effects. “[One] of the myths that we often hear is that this is only for people to just go ahead and get high, and that’s not the case,” Schwartz said. “This is about medical patients who would benefit greatly from it.”

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U.S. Olympian Nicholas Delpopolo Tests Positive for Marijuana

August 6th, 2012 7 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Nicholas Delpopolo, a Yugoslav-born American judo competitor in the London Olympics, has been disqualified on account of a positive drug test. This is the fifth positive drug test reported by the IOC for this year’s testing program but the first to turn up positive during the competition itself. The 23-year-old tested positive for marijuana metabolites, substances that would appear in the blood for several weeks after consuming marijuana. By way of explanation, he stated that he had recently consumed food that, unbeknownst to him, contained cannabis.

Delpopolo is not the first athlete this year to be disqualified for cannabis, as Scott Morgan explains in his post here. Information from the World Anti-Doping Agency suggests that anti-doping policies in sports are simply concerned with performance-enhancing substances which might give the user an unfair advantage, including stimulants and anabolic steroids. However, caffeine, a stimulant, is not on the list of prohibited substances, while marijuana metabolites are. The justification for this is not clear. Enhancement of athletic performance has not been proven, and there is no evidence that past marijuana use would endanger competitors. No explanation of the inclusion of marijuana on the list is given anywhere on the site. Has the WADA included cannabinoids on its list of prohibited substances out of legitimate concern for fairness in competition, or is this simply a concession to the prohibitionist attitudes of authorities who wish to police athletes’ personal lives?

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