Florida Lawmakers Pass Bong Ban

April 30th, 2013 7 Comments Kate Zawidzki

What’s older than Florida’s senior population? The Florida Legislature’s mindset when it comes to marijuana.

Last Friday, the state Senate voted 31-2 in favor of a bill that would ban the sale of assorted pipes, bongs, and hookahs. House Bill 49 passed in the House days earlier by a vote of 112-3.

Jeff Clemens
Sen. Jeff Clemens

Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake Worth), one of the few dissenting voices in the Senate, argued that marijuana is far safer than other drugs and should be allowed under strict regulation.

The bill now heads to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature. If signed, vendors will be criminalized, the sale of various pipes will become a first-degree misdemeanor, and any subsequent violation will jump to a third-degree felony.

Out-of-touch lawmakers don’t seem to realize that House Bill 49 will do nothing to curb marijuana use. In their quest to harass responsible marijuana users, the Florida Legislature has only harmed legitimate business people.

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Help Stop DEA Raids for Good

April 26th, 2013 3 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Just this week, DEA agents raided two medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego. The raid came one day after the owner of one of the facilities testified at a city council hearing on regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries.

Ironically, it also comes as the Obama administration announces their new drug control strategy, which they call a “21st century approach to drug policy.” To hear them tell it, we’re now focused on treatment and prevention rather than arrests and prosecutions. Of course, that’s not true, and no one knows that better than medical marijuana providers in California and elsewhere. Fortunately, there is a way to change all that.

Ask your elected officials in Congress to support H.R. 689.

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) has introduced the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act. If passed, his bill would reschedule marijuana, recognizing its medical value, and prevent the DEA from going after patients, doctors, or dispensaries.

It’s vital that your representatives in Congress know that you support medical marijuana and that people who provide doctor-recommended medicine to sick people are not criminals. Please write your elected officials today, and when you’re done, forward this to friends so they can do the same.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Colorado Court Allows Employers to Discriminate Against Patients

April 25th, 2013 1 Comment Kate Zawidzki

On Thursday, a Colorado Court of Appeals panel ruled that a quadriplegic medical marijuana patient fired for off-the-job marijuana use had no expectation of job security, creating a disquieting legal situation in the state.

Brandon Coats
Brandon Coats

Despite lacking evidence that he was impaired on the job, the Dish Network fired telephone operator Brandon Coats after he tested positive for marijuana. Coats took his employers to court, arguing that his termination violated Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute, which states employees cannot be fired for engaging in legal activities when off-the-clock.

Unfortunately for Coats and the thousands of patients like him, a trial court ruled against him, citing a previous case that declared Colorado’s medical marijuana law only exempts patients from prosecution.

The decision makes it clear: Colorado’s Lawful Off-Duty Activities Statute does not cover legal state activities that conflict with federal law. Meaning, employees may smoke tobacco, drink alcohol, and risk developing a myriad of ailments, but if those employees opt to use a safer substance by following a doctor-recommended course of treatment, they must do so with the knowledge that their voter-approved choice could mean losing their source of income.

Employers are prevented from discriminating against employees based on medical conditions or treatments. Medical marijuana patients should be treated equally, not worse than people who use dangerous narcotics at the direction of their physicians.

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Michigan Lawmakers Introduce Decriminalization Bill

April 24th, 2013 1 Comment Kate Zawidzki
Rep. Jeff Irwin

Michigan Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) introduced a bipartisan bill Wednesday that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana.

Currently, possession of any amount of marijuana in Michigan could result in a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000 . House Bill 4623 would re-label the offense as a civil infraction punishable by a fine based on whether it was a repeat offense.

Rep. Mike Shirkey

“We know, and the people here in Michigan know, that marijuana prohibition is not working,” Rep. Irwin said today during a press conference at the state Capitol, where he was joined by the bill’s Republican co-sponsors, Rep. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville).

“This is the right time to have this debate in Michigan,” said Rep. Shirkey. “We’re using a lot of money, energy and resources in Michigan and across the nation to accomplish something we’ve failed at.”

If you live in Michigan, please ask your legislators to support marijuana decriminalization!

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Medical Marijuana, Research, Video

Washington Post Explores Medical Marijuana Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy

April 24th, 2013 6 Comments Morgan Fox

In a Washington Post video posted today, two families discuss their search for effective treatments for their children’s chronic and debilitating seizures and how they arrived at medical marijuana as the best option. Unfortunately, there is little understanding as to how and why medical marijuana works so well for certain conditions, but more and more researchers are starting to look into it.

These particular cases, and those like them, illustrate the need for greatly expanded research into the potential medical benefits of marijuana. If only the government agencies in charge of authorizing such studies would allow them to proceed…

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Supreme Court Rules Against Automatic Deportation for Marijuana Possession

April 23rd, 2013 1 Comment Kate Zawidzki

In a 7-2 vote on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that deportation is not mandatory if a legal immigrant is convicted of possessing a small amount of marijuana.

The ruling was in response to Moncrieffe v. Holder. Immigration officials automatically deported Adrian Moncrieffe, a Jamaican citizen who has lived in the United States since he was three years old, after he was convicted under Georgia law for possession and intent to distribute 1.3 grams of marijuana.

Justice Sotomayor

“Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote on behalf of the majority that a conviction for marijuana possession does not rise to the level of an aggravated felony if it is a small amount and the defendant was not being paid for it,” reported Reuters.

Moncrieffe could still face deportation, but Tuesday’s ruling means that he and others like him can contest the decision in further immigration proceedings.

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Tax and Regulate

Puerto Rico Senator Introduces Bill to Make Marijuana Legal for Adults

April 23rd, 2013 2 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico has entered debate over marijuana. Sen. Miguel Pereira filed a bill last week that would permit adults 21 and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana, arguing that 80 percent of inmates are serving time for non-violent crimes and that possession cases cost the government money.

Sen. Miguel Pereira

The actions of the former federal prosecutor and corrections secretary roused mixed emotions. Supporters marched through the streets towards the Capitol building on Saturday in excitement, while critics called for his resignation.

Amidst the cheers and jeers were also voices of reason. During a press conference, Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla stated, “I don’t have a problem with an open debate about the possibilities, benefits or drawbacks of such a measure.” Justice Secretary Luis Sanchez Betances similarly stated that the proposal opens the door for discussion.

Marijuana possession in Puerto Rico can carry up to three years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

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Medical Marijuana

Connecticut Officials Hear Testimony on Medical Marijuana Regulations

April 23rd, 2013 2 Comments Kate Zawidzki

Officials from Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection (DCP), which has been charged with organizing the state’s medical marijuana program, heard compelling public testimony Monday morning as the department prepares to establish rules regarding dispensary operations.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a medical marijuana bill into law last May, and the state began accepting applications for medical marijuana licenses in October. Unfortunately, there are no dispensaries currently operating in the state, and it is illegal for patients to grow plants for personal use.

Tracey Fanning
Tracey Gamer Fanning

This loophole has left patients like Tracey Gamer Fanning in an unnerving legal gray-zone. Tracey was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2006. The myriad medication she was prescribed left her bedridden and unable to function. This all changed when her doctor recommend she try marijuana. “It gave me my life back,” she told CBS.

Despite the impact it’s had on Tracey’s cancer, every time she uses the drug she is breaking the law. Dedicating her limited time to medical-marijuana advocacy, Tracey lined up to speak at Monday’s hearing.

I want the politicians to see my face, the face of a mother from West Hartford who is just grateful to be at the dinner table in the evening instead of in bed, of someone who is so thankful to be part of her children’s lives, of someone who lost an advertising career but gained a life mission.

The DCP has composed a 70-page draft of regulations that mimics the state system that controls the distribution of such pharmaceuticals as OxyContin.

MPP’s Director of State Policies, Karen O’Keefe, expressed concerns over the expense of the system of production and distribution. “The provision that requires $2 million in an escrow for producers, that’s a huge sum of money,” Karen stated. “It could edge out the little guy.” MPP has submitted suggested changes to the state regulations.

The DCP will accept written comments until Friday.

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Prohibition, Research

National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy Proposed

April 22nd, 2013 16 Comments Kate Zawidzki
Rep. Steve Cohen

More and more states, in conflict with federal policy, are permitting the use of medical marijuana and decriminalizing its recreational use. In order to examine this unnecessary conflict as well as the current federal policy’s broad impacts, Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) introduced legislation last week to create a National Commission on Federal Marijuana Policy.

“[I]t’s important that we understand the impact of current federal policy and address the conflict with those state laws that allow for medicinal or personal use of marijuana,” said Congressman Cohen.  “This conflict is only going to continue to grow…we must provide certainty to the millions of individuals and businesses that remain caught in a web of incompatible laws. “

Congressman Cohen is optimistic that a national commission would provide the government with the tools necessary to create sensible policy.

A similar commission was created in 1971. Released two years later, the “National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse,” which was led by former Pennsylvania Governor Raymond P. Shafer, called for the decriminalization of marijuana.

The Shafer Commission’s recommendations were disregarded and the War on Drugs nonsensically expanded. As a result, countless responsible marijuana users have been saddled with criminal records, nonviolent offenders have been crammed into our overcrowded prisons, and taxpayer dollars and law enforcement resources continue to be wasted in the attempt to impose failed marijuana policies.

The majority of Americans believe marijuana should be taxed and regulated like alcohol. Forty years of ignorance is enough; it’s time to re-evaluate federal policy.

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More Editorial Support For Marijuana Policy Reform

April 22nd, 2013 No Comments Kate Zawidzki

Last week was very eventful for marijuana policy reform. The Oregon Senate approved a bill granting PTSD sufferers access to medical marijuana, the Vermont House passed a bill to remove criminal penalties for marijuana possession, and, in a victory that was years in the making, the Illinois House voted in favor of medical marijuana legislation.

The passing of House Bill 1 in Illinois is an example of public education at its finest. News organizations across the state set space aside to show their support for medical marijuana without reluctance.

Editorials in the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Journal-Standard described the drug’s ability to alleviate suffering, and they also clearly addressed the bill’s strict guidelines to ease the fears of any hesitant readers.

Editorials like those composed in Illinois and other states such as Maine provide readers with a great service, and they can make all the difference in garnering support for marijuana policy reform.

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