Medical Marijuana

Arkansas Medical Marijuana Initiative Cleared for Ballot in November!

September 27th, 2012 4 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a medical marijuana voter initiative can remain on the state’s ballot for the upcoming elections. The Coalition to Preserve Arkansas Values had brought suit against the initiative, claiming that its proposed description on the ballot was misleading, in that it did not sufficiently emphasize the illegality of marijuana under federal law. The proposed language has already been revised more than once in response to similar comments from the state’s attorney general. The court characterized the ballot summary for Arkansans for Compassionate Care’s initiative as “an adequate and fair representation without misleading tendencies or partisan coloring,” dismissing the conservative coalition’s complaint.

If the initiative, known as Issue 5, is successful, medical marijuana patients approved by the state’s Department of Health would be authorized to possess marijuana, as well as to cultivate a limited number of plants for their own use. They would also be permitted to purchase the drug from any of a maximum of 30 non-profit dispensaries. The approved summary of the initiative mentions specific diseases for which marijuana could be authorized as a treatment, including AIDS, cancer, glaucoma, ALS, PTSD, and Crohn’s disease, as well as any “chronic or debilitating” disease which produces particular symptoms including severe nausea, chronic pain, wasting, persistent muscle spasms, or seizures. The measure has a slight lead in the polls.

Arguments from opponents of the issue were based on speculation or distraction rather than medicine. Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council Action Committee, a member of the coalition which filed suit against the measure, claimed that the “real agenda” of the initiative was to completely legalize marijuana. He based this on the fact that many supporters of medical marijuana also support farther-reaching marijuana law reform. Larry Page, the director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council, another member of the coalition, made a similar red-herring argument, calling it “the first incremental step to legalizing marijuana for recreational use.”

But the question on the ballot, of course, deals with the medical use of marijuana for serious illnesses, which the scientific evidence supports. Cox further claimed in complete seriousness that since smoking tobacco is harmful for your health, medical marijuana must be useless and even harmful. He added the claims that marijuana is addictive and that marijuana use would increase if medical use were allowed. Studies show, however, that relaxing criminal penalties has no effect on usage rates, while the Institute of Medicine states that if marijuana dependence exists, it is mild and rare compared to most other drugs. Voters will hopefully see through the coalition’s claims to the contrary, making Arkansas the 18th state in the U.S., and the first in the South, to recognize the medical value of marijuana.

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Prohibition

UPDATE: Sierra Blanca Sheriffs to Fiona Apple: Shut Up and Sing

September 25th, 2012 2 Comments Morgan Fox

As we covered earlier, Fiona Apple was recently arrested for possession of marijuana and hash in Sierra Blanca, TX. Penalties for hash are severe in Texas, and Apple is facing up to ten years in prison. She is out on bail and was able to perform on stage. In response to some statements Fiona Apple made about her treatment after being arrested , a spokesman for the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office fired off an interesting letter.

From the Daily Beast:

 

First, Honey, I’m already more famous than you, I don’t need your help. However, it would appear that you need mine….

Two weeks ago nobody in the country cared about what you had to say, — now that you’ve been arrested it appears your entire career has been jump-started. Don’t worry Sweetie, I won’t bill you…

Next, have you ever heard of Snoop, Willie or Armand Hammer? Maybe if you would read something besides your own press releases, you would have known BEFORE you got here, that if you come to Texas with dope, the cops will take your DOPE away and put YOU in jail…

Even though you and I only met briefly in the hallway, I don’t know you but I’m sure you’re an awesome and talented young woman and even though I’m not a fan of yours, I am sure there are thousands of them out there, and I’m sure that they would just as soon you get this all behind you and let you go back to what you do best—so my last piece of advice is simple “just shut-up and sing.”

Sincerely,

Rusty Fleming

I’m not sure what is more disturbing: the fact that Fleming is reveling in the fame he gets by wasting taxpayer dollars going after high-profile, non-violent marijuana users, or the condescending, paternalistic tone he uses to try to belittle Apple.

If you have a problem with this sort of behavior from a public official, please call the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Office at (915) 369-2161 and politely let them know.

 

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Prohibition, Uncategorized

End Of Democracy Watch: Springfield, Missouri

September 25th, 2012 11 Comments Kate Zawidzki

When a dedicated group of activists hoping to reform Springfield, Missouri’s punitive marijuana laws turned in thousands of signatures they had collected fair and square, they thought the next step would be for voters in Springfield to decide whether or not to support their proposal. In other words, they thought the initiative process works like common sense says it should. They were wrong. What happened next is an example of disenfranchisement so egregious it belongs in a work of fiction.

The Springfield City Council, as is their legal right, went ahead and passed the ordinance, meaning it would not be placed on the November ballot. Their stated reason for this was that they didn’t want the city to have to front the cost of printing the issue on general election ballots. In other words, they were just trying to save the city some money, they said. Normally, at this point, the story would be over. But this is Springfield.

Immediately after the council passed the ordinance, they voted to “table” it, so they could amend the law to their liking. Some wanted to raise the $150 fine, which they thought was too low. Others wanted to remove a provision establishing a “citizen oversight commission.” It gets worse. After 150 people showed up to offer their testimony—the overwhelming majority in support of the original ordinance—four of the nine councilmembers moved forward with a plan to repeal the entire ordinance, stripping citizens of their fundamental right to vote on the proposal. Here’s a quote from one of those councilmembers, and I promise I’m not making this up: “I’m going to support passing, and then gutting, the entire ordinance,” said Councilman Jeff Seifried. “This is the fiscally responsible way to do business.”

Last night those oligarchs councilmembers followed through on their intentions and repealed the ordinance. The petitioners from Show Me Cannabis Regulation who gathered the signatures are assessing their options now. They have 30 days to gather more signatures to repeal the council’s vote (which, of course, could then be overturned by the council). More likely, they’ll sue to challenge the council’s action as violating the city charter’s initiative language. Either way, one thing is clear: the Springfield, Missouri City Council does not care about your voting rights.

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Prohibition

Marijuana Decriminalization Gets Conservative Support In Indiana

September 24th, 2012 18 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Marijuana reform is a hot topic of conversation in state legislatures around the country and not just in traditionally liberal states like California and Rhode Island. In fact, bills to make marijuana possession punishable by a fine only, rather than jail time, were introduced this year in conservative bastions like Arizona and Tennessee, and it’s a too-well-kept secret that such laws have been on the books since the ’70s in Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, and several other less-than-liberal states.

You can now add Indiana to the list of states where the conversation has gone mainstream. Last week, influential Republican state Senator Brent Steele (R-Bedford) announced he’d be introducing legislation to make possession of up to 10 grams of marijuana an “infraction,” punishable by fine, rather than a criminal misdemeanor.

“We have to ask ourselves as a society, do we really want to be locking people up for having a couple of joints in their pocket,” Steele told local media. “Is that how we want to be spending our criminal justice resources?” Steele also pointed out that several other states have already embraced similar policies, noting that “society didn’t melt down, and we didn’t turn into a drug-crazed culture as a result of it.”

Similar legislation has been introduced before by state Senator Karen Tallian (D-Portage), but without the support of Republicans, who hold a majority in both chambers, it never got off the ground. Speculation is that Steele’s support could change that. Steele, who is closely allied with Indiana prosecutors and is described by Indiana political veterans as a “rock-ribbed law-and-order guy,” chairs the powerful Senate Committee on Corrections, Criminal and Civil Matters where the bill would likely be assigned.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition, Research

New Study Adds to Research Showing Marijuana Could Stop Cancer

September 24th, 2012 18 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Breast cancer kills. Even mentioning the term can be a little creepy. However, thanks to slow but steady scientific progress, it’s not the killer it once was. We’re starting to understand that genetics plays a role in a minority of cases. We’ve found clear links to obesity, high-fat diets, and cigarette smoking. Lack of exercise probably plays a role, too. Regular screening seems like a good idea, but, like many ideas in science, it has some controversy. Treatments are markedly better than they once were, but they can be tough.

The cannabis plant could help. We all know that THC improves appetite and nausea for anyone enduring chemotherapy. This relief is quite the feat. I don’t want to upset anyone’s stomach with a description, but nausea is no treat. We’re not talking about the average queasiness here. Chemotherapy often creates the kind of nausea that prevents any kind of concentrated effort, any movement, and just about any pleasant thought. Never mind eating enough to stay strong and healthy during a challenging time. Unfortunately, nausea drugs can be pricey. Most require that a patient swallow them — hardly a delightful thought under the circumstances. The lucky few who can get a pill down still have to wait for digestion before they feel better. Inhaled cannabis can do all that in seconds for a fraction of the cost. Which would you choose for yourself or your loved ones?

But new evidence suggests that cannabis has the potential to combat breast cancer itself, not just battle the side effects of chemotherapy. A few years ago, we saw that THC, one of the 60+ chemicals unique to the cannabis plant, keeps human breast cancer cells from spreading. Last year, researchers at Harvard showed that CBD, another treasure from the plant, essentially makes breast cancer cells kill themselves. Now researchers in Japan have focused on CBDA, CBD’s precursor. They showed that it also keeps breast cancer cells from spreading.

What does this mean for use of the plant in treating breast cancer patients or preventing breast cancer in the first place? Alas, we have no idea. That, in some ways, is the saddest part. Wouldn’t it be great to know if the whole plant, with all these helpful substances combined into one source, could ward off breast cancer in an actual human being? It’s going to be hard to find out given our current laws. Prohibition has made research with the whole plant an unparalleled hassle. Most researchers are stuck trying to use one cannabinoid at a time. They often get synthesized chemicals from labs rather than extracts from the plant. They study cell lines in petri dishes instead of breast cancer in real people.

Are those who use cannabis regularly less likely to get breast cancer? It’d be great to know. Currently though, there’s little research funding for any study that might prove that cannabis is not evil. In addition, under prohibition, those who use cannabis are often frightened to tell doctors or researchers that they do. Any study of this type would need money to be done right. And there’s just not much money out there for this kind of work. A cure for breast cancer might rest in a simple green plant that’s been around for millennia. Why don’t we try to find it?

It looks like the U.S. would rather let people die than admit we made a mistake prohibiting marijuana.

 

Dr. Mitch Earleywine is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University at Albany, State University of New York, where he teaches drugs and human behavior, substance abuse treatment and clinical research methods. He is the author of more than 100 publications on drug use and abuse, including “Understanding Marijuana” and “The Parents’ Guide to Marijuana.” He is the only person to publish with both Oxford University and High Times.

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Prohibition

Free Fiona! – Singer Facing 10 Years in Jail for Hash

September 24th, 2012 7 Comments Morgan Fox

In a bizarre case of history repeating itself, another celebrity has been arrested in the Texas border town of Sierra Blanca. Sitting just 10 miles from the Mexico border, Sierra Blanca has an interstate running through it that has become quite a lucrative source of cash and publicity for the local sheriff. In the past several years, Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg (I mean, Snoop Lion), and hacker George Hotz have all been stopped at the same check point and either cited or arrested for marijuana possession.

Now Fiona Apple has joined the club, and it is no laughing matter. Apple was caught with a small amount of marijuana and hash, but it is more serious than it seems. In Texas, possession of any amount of hash is treated as a felony. The amount Apple supposedly had on her bus is punishable by at least two years in prison, and up to 10!

Texas law punishes hash and other marijuana concentrates much more severely than simple marijuana, even though they are essentially the exact same thing aside from the potency. Anything under four grams gets you the penalty Apple is facing, but anything over that can get you 20 years in prison, and over 400 grams can put you behind bars for 99 years.

Texas is one of the few states that make this dubious distinction, but it isn’t the worst. Last April, Oklahoma passed a law making manufacture of hash punishable by a life sentence.

We’ll keep you updated, but it looks like this talented singer could be doing serious time for merely traveling through the wrong town carrying a substance that is safer than alcohol.

Note to celebrities or anyone traveling in a fancy tour bus: STAY AWAY FROM SIERRA BLANCA.

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Prohibition

Another Group of Victims in the War on Marijuana

September 20th, 2012 8 Comments Kate Zawidzki

In another example of drug war excess, officers raided and vandalized the home of Beach Park, Illinois resident Paul Brown on Friday afternoon of last week. The apparent impetus for the raid was a mysterious package delivered to the house 10 minutes earlier. Brown’s son-in-law, Wilmer Aries, received the package and noted that it was not addressed to any of the house’s residents. Instead, it bore the name “Oscar” and an unfamiliar last name.

Brown, a 58-year-old architect, explained that the officers with the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group broke down his front door in the no-knock raid, handcuffed him, and pointed a gun at his face. “The garage door was open. They could have just walked in,” he said. “They didn’t have to crash the front door down.”
Although the officers seized the package, claiming it contained marijuana, their two-hour ransacking of the house, including ripping out insulation from the basement walls, uncovered no evidence to incriminate anyone in the house and led to no arrests. “They were upset they didn’t find anything. When I asked them who was going to pay for the door they basically said, ‘Not us’,” said Brown, who noted the door on his luxury home was valued at $3,000 some 12 years ago and the lock set was another $130 from Home Depot.

Brown even noted that the officers, far from apologizing for their mistake, seemed to be congratulating each other on the operation with high fives and fist-bumps. His subsequent calls to the MEG were not returned, nor were calls from news outlets. He has hired a lawyer to file a civil suit and explains that he and his 77-year-old mother-in-law were particularly shaken by the incident. “She’s afraid to even take a nap on the couch now,” he said. “I can hardly sleep. It changes your frame of mind.” His lawyer, Christopher Cohen, characterized the Browns as “innocent bystanders in the war on drugs.”

As Reason.com notes, this is not the first time a wrongful no-knock raid was carried out in the U.S. based simply on the delivery of a package of marijuana. In 2008, the home of Cheye Calvo, mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, was raided by a SWAT team and his two dogs fatally shot. The mayor complained, leading to an investigation, but as the raid was ultimately ruled legitimate, this will likely not be the last such incident.

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Uncategorized

Take a Quick Survey about Medical Marijuana!

September 14th, 2012 6 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Are you a medical marijuana patient — or if it’s not yet legal in your state, would you be if the option were available? Medical Marijuana Business Daily, one of the leading business news sources for the medical marijuana industry, is asking for people to complete a quick (and anonymous) survey. The questions are focused on giving feedback to dispensary owners, to let them know what patients are looking for when they pick their provider.

It’ll just take a few minutes of your time, and no contact information is required, so please head on over and take their survey!

Also, for those readers who are involved in the industry on the business side, MPP’s Rob Kampia will be giving the keynote address at Medical Marijuana Business Daily’s National Medical Marijuana Conference on November 8 in Denver. Check out what the conference has to offer here. If you buy your ticket before October 31, you save $150!

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Prohibition, Video

Bill O’Reilly Doesn’t Get Us At All

September 14th, 2012 44 Comments Morgan Fox

On his wonderfully fair and balanced show on Thursday, Bill O’Reilly was nice enough to highlight our Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Users list. He then started on a long rant, joined by his co-hosts, about the evils and deadly health risks associated with using marijuana. Apparently, these folks didn’t quite get the message.

O’Reilly seems to think that MPP just wants everyone to use marijuana, and that the organization “devotes its life to trying to convince you to get stoned and inebriated.” What he fails to understand, and what many supporters of prohibition refuse to believe, is that marijuana reform is not about getting high. It is about changing our obviously failed policies that put non-violent adults in jail while making it easier for young people to obtain. It is about changing the focus of law enforcement away from people who are already using marijuana and allowing police to focus on more serious crimes.

Papa Bear and friends also didn’t understand the message behind the list, which is that these influential marijuana users likely would not be where they are today had they been arrested for marijuana. How much human potential are we squandering when we arrest three quarters of a million people for marijuana possession every year, saddling them with a criminal record that limits their educational options and job opportunities?

After totally missing the point, the three pundits then proceeded to rattle off a long series of completely inaccurate and unsubstantiated talking points about how marijuana is deadly and will turn you into a zombie. They covered all the bases, too, from the debunked gateway theory to the “lazy stoner” myth.

It is really pretty sad, considering a brief look at MPP’s website would have clarified our mission for O’Reilly and provided all of them with actual scientific research on the effects of marijuana.

And we’re the lazy ones?

Here’s the video. Try not to throw anything through your screen.

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Uncategorized

Pepperdine Shuts Down MPP Internship

September 12th, 2012 15 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Last Monday, the State Policies department at MPP eagerly awaited the arrival of our new intern, who was slated to begin her semester-long internship with us that morning. We were puzzled when she didn’t show up and shocked when we learned the reason why — the deans of the internship program at Pepperdine University, where she is a student, would not approve an internship at MPP for academic credit because it was “not in keeping with the university mission and the student handbook.”

According to its website, the university’s mission is detailed as follows: “Pepperdine is a Christian university committed to the highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values, where students are strengthened for lives of purpose, service, and leadership.” The university’s affirmation statement goes on to say that, “As a Christian university, Pepperdine affirms that truth, having nothing to fear from investigation, should be pursued relentlessly in every discipline.”

In reading Pepperdine’s mission and vision statements, we at MPP considered our mission and that of Pepperdine as not only compatible but also complementary. MPP believes that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is prison, and we seek to reduce penalties for both the medical and non-medical use of marijuana in order to reduce that harm. We firmly believe that there is a disconnect between what the science says about marijuana use and what policies stand as law — laws which create far greater harms than those inflicted by the substance itself. In sum, an internship with MPP means engaging in very challenging and controversial work, undertaken for the greater good and the pursuit of truth.

Many prominent religious leaders and organizations support marijuana policy reform, along the spectrum of medical marijuana, decriminalization, and taxation and regulation. Seemingly, the Christian message is, or should be, one of mercy, humanity, and stopping the nation’s failed war on marijuana users.

In the spring of 2012, conservative Christian televangelist and founder of the Christian Coalition Pat Robertson spoke out in favor of ending marijuana prohibition, citing concerns about prison overpopulation and harsh sentences for non-violent offenders:

We’re locking up people that take a couple puffs of marijuana and, and the next thing they know they got ten years, they got mandatory sentences. And these judges they say, they throw up their hands and say ‘there’s nothing we can do there’s mandatory sentences.’ We got to take a look at what we’re considering crimes and that’s, that’s one of them. I mean I’m, I’m not exactly for the use of drugs, don’t, don’t get me wrong, but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana – criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of, of pot and that kind of thing – I mean it’s costing us a fortune and it’s ruining young people! Young people go into prisons . . . as youths and they come out as hardened criminals. It’s not a good thing.

Robertson went on to endorse taxation and regulation initiatives that will appear on two states’ November 2012 ballots, 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. More recently, several African-American clergy members endorsed Washington’s I-502, noting the harms of marijuana prohibition and the racially disproportionate nature of its enforcement.

When MPP led a taxation and regulation ballot initiative in Nevada in 2006, at least 33 clergy members endorsed the measure. In fact, many religious leaders oppose our current marijuana policies specifically for faith-related reasons. As the Rev. David Scheuneman, a Unitarian Universalist community minister in Las Vegas, noted: “One of the roles of religion is to point out hypocrisy in society. By any means, marijuana is less dangerous to individuals and society than alcohol.”

Supportive voices from the faith community have been (and will continue to be) crucial to efforts to reform our nation’s broken marijuana policies. In their public endorsements of marijuana policy reform, the religious leaders outlined above have demonstrated that their Christian values are very much compatible with MPP’s mission. It’s disappointing that Pepperdine would not allow one of their students to work on this very important issue — an issue so clearly related to values of mercy, compassion, justice, and the pursuit of truth.

* Interestingly, David Campbell, a lecturer in economics from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business, recently signed on to a letter of public support for Colorado’s Amendment 64 featuring over 100 college professors.

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