Just Say Now

Progressive political blog FireDogLake launched its online marijuana legalization campaign yesterday. Complete with a website and an advisory board that includes former law enforcement officers, physicians, and activists, the campaign—called “Just Say Now”—is designed as a “transpartisan” nexus of sorts for the growing nationwide movement to end marijuana prohibition.

Partnering with FDL for the campaign is Students For Sensible Drug Policy, which recently made an excellent decision by naming our former colleague Aaron Houston as its new executive director. Though we miss Aaron’s presence in the office, his new position ensures that he’ll continue to play a leading role in combating the destructive policies of marijuana prohibition.

For more, check out this clip of FireDogLake founder and publisher Jane Hamsher announcing the “Just Say Now” campaign on CNN.

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Medical Marijuana||Prohibition

Rep. Mark Souder, Longtime Anti-Marijuana Zealot, Resigns Amid Scandal

Rep. Mark Souder (R-Indiana), perhaps the most fanatic opponent of sensible marijuana laws in the U.S. Congress, announced that he is resigning this morning amid revelations that he had an affair with a 45-year-old staffer.

Souder, who was preparing to run for his ninth term in office, has spent the last 16 years fighting for cruel and unscientific drug policies, many of which have caused irreparable harm to his country and his constituents. Among the lowlights:

  • In defiance of mountains of evidence saying otherwise, Souder has repeatedly declared that marijuana cannot be a medicine and has vocally supported efforts to stop the advance of medical marijuana laws that protect and provide care for patients.
  • Souder was a primary author and defender of the “Aid Elimination Penalty” provision of the Higher Education Act, which for more than a decade prevented thousands of students with even minor drug convictions from receiving federal financial aid for college. (Luckily, that provision might soon be overturned, despite Souder’s best efforts.)
  • Over the years, Souder’s office has issued numerous press releases spewing long-debunked nonsense about marijuana, such as this one, which claims “smoked marijuana, along with tobacco and alcohol, is the gateway drug for all other drug abuse” and that the Obama administration’s position on state medical marijuana laws will “over the next few years, result in higher crime rates, more highway deaths, and destroyed lives.”

During his reign of ignorance, Souder also had several notable run-ins with MPP staffers.

  • At a 2001 hearing of a U.S. House subcommittee, Souder got into heated debate with MPP executive director Rob Kampia, who was testifying in favor of removing criminal penalties for medical marijuana patients. Souder told Kampia: “You’re an articulate advocate for an evil position.”
  • In a scene from the 2007 Showtime documentary “In Pot We Trust,” MPP director of government relations Aaron Houston asked the congressman if there were any chance he’d ever change his position on medical marijuana. “There isn’t such a thing as medical marijuana, so I would never change my mind,” Souder replied. When Houston pointed out the government’s own Institute of Medicine found otherwise, Souder slammed a door in his face after twice declaring, “There is no such thing as medical marijuana.”

But now, it seems, Souder’s days of opposing compassionate and science-based drug policies are finally at an end. It’s about time, Congressman. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

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Medical Marijuana

MPP's Aaron Houston on CNN

Dec 11, 2009 Kate Zawidzki

Aaron Houston, Barr amendment, Medical Marijuana

The following clip aired last night on "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer.

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Medical Marijuana

DEA in California: New story but same old dirty tricks

Mar 26, 2009 Kate Zawidzki

Aaron Houston, California, DEA, Eric Holder, san francisco

Yesterday, armed federal DEA agents raided Emmalyn's California Cannabis Clinic, a licensed medical marijuana facility in San Francisco. This action - seemingly at odds with the recent policy change announced by the U.S. Justice Department - drew the ire of San Franciscans, who overwhelmingly support medical marijuana access.

[caption id="attachment_408" align="aligncenter" width="320" caption="DEA raids S.F. medical marijuana collective, photo by MPP's Troy Dayton - March 25, 2009 "]DEA raids S.F. medical marijuana collective, photo by MPP's Troy Dayton - March 25, 2009 [/caption]

According to a vague statement released by the DEA last night, the collective was not complying with state law and therefore wasn't subject to the recent policy change.

However, the San Francisco Department of Public Health has issued a conditional permit to the collective, which was actively working with the city to obtain a permanent license. The medical marijuana permitting process in San Francisco is one of the more difficult in the state and includes mandatory inspections for compliance.

MPP is asking supporters to demand an explanation from the White House about this recent attack on San Francisco patients.

"Because so little information has been released thus far, we have more questions than answers," Aaron Houston, MPP director of government relations says. "But with an actual shooting war at the Mexican border, not to mention federal law enforcement there being so overwhelmed that traffickers coming through the border with up to 500 pounds of marijuana are let go, it's very hard to believe that this is the best use of DEA resources, especially in a city with an active program to license and regulate medical marijuana providers."

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Prohibition||Tax and Regulate

MPP's Aaron Houston on CNBC Tonight

Jan 22, 2009 Kate Zawidzki

Aaron Houston, drug war, law enforcement

Tonight at 8:40 p.m. Eastern time, MPP director of government relations Aaron Houston will debate former Drug Enforcement Administration chief Asa Hutchinson on "CNBC Reports." The debate airs right before the premier of CNBC's documentary about the marijuana business, "Marijuana Inc.: Inside America's Pot Industry." The live debate will only be shown once (the documentary will repeat at 1 a.m. Eastern), but will also be available on CNBC's Web site.

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Medical Marijuana||Research

DEA Quashes Medical Marijuana Reseach Project

Jan 12, 2009 Kate Zawidzki

Aaron Houston, DEA, science

    The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected the decision of Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner and blocked a medical marijuana research project at the University of Massachusetts Amherst -- a project considered vital if marijuana is ever to be an FDA-approved medicine. The DEA's ruling, dated Jan. 7, was only released today.

    MPP and other supporters of research reacted with outrage. "It's no surprise that an administration that has rejected science again and again has, as one of its final acts, blocked a critical research project," said Aaron Houston, MPP's director of government relations. "With the new administration publicly committed to respecting scientific research and valuing data over dogma, this final act of desperation isn't surprising, but the true victims are the millions of patients who might benefit."

    Professor Lyle Craker had applied for permission to cultivate marijuana for use in medical research. At present, marijuana for research can only be obtained through the National Institute on Drug Abuse -- a government monopoly that does not exist for any other Schedule I drug. Because NIDA's marijuana is of notoriously poor quality and has only been inconsistently available to researchers, scientists and advocates consider Dr. Craker's project essential to the advancement of medical marijuana research.

    The long and difficult process of seeking approval culminated on Feb. 12, 2007, in a ruling by Judge Bittner that Craker should be allowed to proceed. But such administrative law judge rulings are not binding on the DEA. In the nearly two years since the ruling, several small, pilot studies have shown marijuana to safely and effectively relieve nerve pain that afflicts millions suffering from HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other conditions, making more advanced research -- including strains custom-tailored for various conditions, which was one of the goals of Craker and his colleagues -- vital.

    "Once again, science has taken a back seat to ideology in the Bush administration, with research that could benefit millions needlessly stalled," Houston said. "They can delay progress, but they cannot stop it."

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Marijuana Arrests Set New Record -- Again

Sep 15, 2008 Kate Zawidzki

Aaron Houston, Dan Bernath, drug czar, law enforcement

The latest Crime in the United States report from the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program is out, and the news is disturbing. Marijuana arrests set another all-time record in 2007, totaling 872,720 -- that's a marijuana arrest every 36 seconds.

Arrests for marijuana possession totaled 775,138, greatly exceeding arrests for all violent crimes combined, which totaled 597,447.

Bizarrely, at his recent press conference announcing new drug use survey data, White House drug czar John Walters stated, "We didn't arrest 800,000 marijuana users," and called that figure, when raised by MPP's Aaron Houston and Dan Bernath, a "lie."

Well, he was sort of right. Dan and Aaron were low by 72,000.

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