Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

Feds Approve Marijuana Legalization Laws!

August 29th, 2013 35 Comments » Morgan Fox

At a press briefing Thursday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it will allow Colorado and Washington to move forward with implementation of laws establishing state-regulated systems of marijuana production and distribution.

“Today’s announcement is a major and historic step toward ending marijuana prohibition,” said MPP director of federal policy Dan Riffle. “The Department of Justice’s decision to allow implementation of the laws in Colorado and Washington is a clear signal that states are free to determine their own policies with respect to marijuana.

“We applaud the Department of Justice and other federal agencies for its thoughtful approach and sensible decision. It is time for the federal government to start working with state officials to develop enforcement policies that respect state voters, as well as federal interests. The next step is for Congress to act. We need to fix our nation’s broken marijuana laws and not just continue to work around them.”

james cole
Dep. Attn. Gen. James Cole

While the memo reiterates that marijuana use and distribution are still in violation of federal law, it lays out the priorities for the Department of Justice in states where marijuana policy differs from federal law:

 

  • the distribution of marijuana to minors;
  • revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
  • the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
  • state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
  • violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
  • growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
  • preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.

After the last memo issued by Cole regarding state medical marijuana law and federal enforcement, states with very clear policies in place to control and regulate marijuana distribution saw little or no interference. This latest memo seems to echo that position in the cases of Washington and Colorado for adult use, so hopefully we can expect the Department of Justice to continue this trend moving forward.

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Prohibition

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee to Hold Hearing on ‘Conflicts Between State and Federal Marijuana Laws’

August 26th, 2013 2 Comments » Morgan Fox

UPDATE: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will testify at the hearing.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced Monday that the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on “Conflicts Between State and Federal Marijuana Laws.” Sen. LeahyLeahy has reportedly invited U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to speak to the committee.

The hearing is scheduled for September 10 at 10 a.m. ET in Room 216 of the Hart Senate Office Building.

Sen. Leahy has said he believes state laws making marijuana legal for adult or medical use “should be respected.”

MPP’s director of government relations Dan Riffle had this to say:

“Two states have made marijuana legal for adult use and are establishing regulated systems of production and distribution. Twenty states plus our nation’s capital have made it legal for medical use. By failing to recognize the decisions of voters and legislators in those states, current federal law is undermining their ability to implement and enforce those laws.

“Marijuana prohibition’s days are numbered, and everyone in Washington knows that. It’s time for Congress to stop ignoring the issue and develop a policy that allows states to adopt the most efficient and effective marijuana laws possible. We need to put the ‘reefer madness’ policies of the 1930s behind us and adopt an evidence-based approach for the 21st century.”

This could be a really big deal. We’ll keep you posted.

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Research

National Institute on Drug Abuse Shows They Know Nothing About Marijuana

August 21st, 2013 12 Comments » Morgan Fox

On Monday, Politifact published the results of its research into the accuracy of MPP’s statement in a recent ad that marijuana is objectively safer than alcohol.

As expected, the statements in the ad were true (despite PolitifactPolitifact giving a strange conclusion as to why it was only mostly true). What was unexpected, however, was the response from the National Institute on Drug Abuse:

“Claiming that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol cannot be substantiated since each possess their own unique set of risks and consequences for a given individual,” wrote the institute. NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health, funds government-backed scientific research and has a stated mission “to lead the nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction.”

MPP’s Mason Tvert had this to say:

“Our federal government has been exaggerating the harms of marijuana for decades, but at this point it has gone off the deep end,” Tvert told The Huffington Post. “NIDA’s statement that marijuana can be just as toxic as alcohol would be on par with the FDA announcing sushi is as fattening as fried chicken.”

“This is gross negligence on the agency’s part and should be addressed immediately by the White House,” Tvert continued. “It is one thing for our federal officials to convey their opposition to marijuana policy reform. It is an entirely different and more disturbing situation when they are conveying opposition to scientific evidence.”

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Tax and Regulate

New York City Comptroller Says Regulate and Tax Marijuana

August 16th, 2013 5 Comments » Mason Tvert

New York City Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu made headlines this week when he proposed regulating and taxing marijuana sales for adults 21 and older. In a formal statement, he said:

New York City’s misguided war on marijuana has failed, and its enforcement has damaged far too many lives, especially in minority communities. It’s time for us to implement a responsible alternative. Regulating marijuana would keep thousands of New Yorkers out of the criminal justice system, offer relief to those suffering from a wide range of painful medical conditions, and make our streets safer by sapping the dangerous underground market that targets our children. As if that weren’t enough, it would also boost our bottom line.

Although the city comptroller isn’t in a position to make legislative changes to marijuana laws — such as in Albany, where politicians have repeatedly failed to pass medical marijuana legislation — it is very noteworthy that a citywide elected official in the nation’s largest city is speaking out on the issue.

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Medical Marijuana

Delaware Moving Forward With Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program

August 16th, 2013 3 Comments » Mason Tvert

Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) informed state lawmakers Thursday that the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will be moving forward with drafting regulations for a medical marijuana dispensary program. This is very welcome news that is long overdue. In a letter to the legislators who sponsored the state’s medical marijuana law, Markell said:

As a result of our review of policies in Rhode Island, New Jersey and other states, I have become convinced that proceeding with our program, while making considered modifications to address federal concerns, is the appropriate course for Delaware. Therefore, I am writing you to inform you that [the Department of Health and Human Services] will proceed to issue a request for proposal (RFP) for a pilot compassion center to open in Delaware next year.

Despite enacting the law in 2011 and ordering DHHS to issue regulations for medical marijuana patient ID cards, Markell halted the process of setting up compassion centers in 2012 after receiving a somewhat threatening letter from the U.S. attorney. As a result, patients have not been able to legally obtain medical marijuana because the law does not allow home cultivation. If you live in Delaware, please take a moment to email our legislative champions to thank them for their hard work on behalf of medical marijuana patients. You can also email Gov. Markell to thank him for moving forward. Finally, please share this great news with your friends and family in The First State.

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Prohibition, Tax and Regulate

CNN Reports Changing Attitudes on Marijuana

August 14th, 2013 2 Comments » Morgan Fox

CNN reports today that it’s not just the network’s medical expert Dr. Sanjay Gupta who has come around on marijuana policy reform.

kilmer_beau
Beau Kilmer

The nation has moved from the abstract matter of “if” to the more tangible debate over “how,” said Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Center and co-author of “Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know.”

Changing attitudes about weed are part of a larger shift in the country’s collective thoughts on federal drug policy. Just this week, on the heels of CNN’s Sanjay Gupta reversal of his stance on medical marijuana, Attorney General Eric Holder announced an initiative to curb mandatory minimum drug sentences and a federal judge called New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional.

Read the entire article here.

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Medical Marijuana, Tax and Regulate, Video

MPP’s Worst State Legislators of 2013

August 13th, 2013 10 Comments » Mason Tvert

MPP  released a video last week listing the country’s “Worst State Legislators of 2013” on marijuana policy issues. The seven state representatives and one state senator were selected based on their legislative efforts to maintain or expand marijuana prohibition policies, as well as statements they made, during the 2013 legislative sessions. Watch the video countdown below. 

The Huffington Post reports:

The video counts down the MPP’s top eight marijuana policy offenders, alongside some direct quotes that are questionable, to say the least.

Take, for instance, Rep. Darryl Rouson (D-St. Petersburg), who called bongs and pipes “utensils of death;” Rep. Luke Malek (R-Coeur d’Alene) who called medical marijuana a “farcical predatory scheme;” and Rep. David Howard (R-Park City) — whose home state of Montana has been battling a crippling meth epidemic — who called marijuana a “poison” and “the most dangerous drug there is.”

The list also garnered some local media attention in Colorado, where the #1 worst legislator of 2013, Sen. John Morse (D), is facing a highly talked-about recall election, and in Iowa, where the #7 worst legislator, Rep. Clel Baudler (R), bragged about being listed.

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Prohibition

Child Taken From Marijuana Using Parents, Murdered in Foster Care

August 8th, 2013 7 Comments » Morgan Fox

One of the more horrific examples of how the war on marijuana hurts families is making the rounds right now, and it illustrates just one of the more serious hypocrisies of prohibition.

Last week, the story broke that a two-year-old child had sustained fatal injuries at the hands of her foster care provider. After the parents were called to the hospital for the last days of their Alexandria Hill’s life, the death was ruled a homicide and the foster guardian charged with murder.

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Alexandria Hill

This would be tragic by itself, if not for the additional circumstances surrounding the case. According to the parents, the child was removed from their custody because it was discovered that they used marijuana while the child was asleep. She was kept in state custody even after her father reported noticing bruises and other signs of abuse and neglect during their visits.

According to child protection services around the country, marijuana use is synonymous with neglect. There are a shocking number of cases where families are ripped apart because of a parent’s marijuana use, even in states where that use is legal for medical reasons. Marijuana is also frequently employed as a weapon in divorce custody battles.

There are many reasons to place children in foster care, but that placement should never put the child at greater risk. Responsible marijuana use alone is nowhere close to a good enough reason for inflicting such trauma on a family.

After all, this would not have happened if the parents were responsibly sipping a glass of wine after they had put their daughter to bed.

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Research, Video

Dr. Sanjay Gupta Reverses Stance on Marijuana

August 8th, 2013 13 Comments » Morgan Fox
Sanjay_Gupta
Dr. Sanjay Gupta

CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has spent the last year creating an investigative report on marijuana, and the former critic of marijuana policy reform has changed his mind drastically on the subject.

On Wednesday night, Dr. Gupta told Piers Morgan that “We’ve been terribly and systematically misled in this country for some time and I did part of that misleading,” when it comes to marijuana and its medical applications.

You can watch the segment here:

Dr. Gupta’s documentary, “Weed,” will premiere on CNN Sunday, August 11 at 8:00 pm ET.

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Prohibition

Investigation of Drug Treatment Centers Finds Widespread Corruption

August 8th, 2013 23 Comments » Kate Zawidzki

A recent investigation into drug treatment centers in southern California found rampant financial corruption and inflated reporting of patient attendance.

The investigation, conducted by the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reportingcirsm.jpg.221x0_q85_crop and CNN, found that dozens of clinics showed signs of deception and questionable billing practices. The two worst offenders, Able Family and GB Medical Services, were virtually empty storefronts run by convicted criminals that bribed clients and submitted fake names to a government insurance provider in order to collect millions in taxpayer money. Over the past two years alone, the clinics indicted by the investigation received $94 million in public funds.

According to CNN’s interviews with former state officials, California’s Department of Health Care Services has “fielded concerns about rehab clinic fraud for at least five years yet has done almost nothing to combat it.”

While these findings demonstrate the need for reform in California’s regulation of drug treatment centers, they also provide additional evidence that the number of people in treatment for marijuana use is inflated.

A 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that a majority (57%) of participants in drug treatment programs for marijuana were referred there by the criminal justice system. In other words, users who were arrested for simple possession were offered the choice of “treatment” or jail time.

With all of the money to be made from these programs – through forced attendance or unscrupulous government agencies forking over taxpayer money for fake clients – it is of little surprise that some of the most vocal critics of marijuana policy reform own and operate treatment clinics.

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