Tax and Regulate

Oct. 17: You’re invited to a special event for Michigan’s YES on 1 campaign!

Proposal 1, the Michigan legalization ballot initiative, is up in the polls, but it’s still too close for comfort. The opposition campaign is just a couple of big checks away from being able to launch a large misinformation campaign.

We’re in the final weeks of the election, and we need to make sure the Yes on 1 campaign has the resources it needs to educate voters about the benefits of legalizing marijuana. Next week, I hope you’ll join me in Ann Arbor for a special evening to support this important campaign.

RSVP via phone (517-974-2265) or email ( If you can’t attend, please consider making a contribution directly to the campaign here. And please share the word with other supporters. Let’s win this!

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Medical Marijuana

New Trade Association Launches for Legal Marijuana Industry

In the latest sign of the growing legitimacy and political clout of America’s emerging marijuana industry, medical marijuana business leaders and others have announced the creation of the National Cannabis Industry Association, an organization founded with the express purpose of improving business conditions for the burgeoning marijuana industry. From today’s New York Times:

Based in Washington, the group, the National Cannabis Industry Association, will focus primarily on lobbying, but will also help medical marijuana businesses navigate a patchwork of laws that differ depending on location.

“This is an industry that is emerging — from the dispensaries to the ancillary businesses that are now coming out of the shadows,” said Aaron Smith, a medical marijuana advocate in Phoenix and the group’s executive director. “While there is good work being done, there isn’t anyone out there representing the industry’s interests directly.”

The group’s board members, which include some of the more prominent names in the medical marijuana industry, say the need for a national association has become increasingly apparent with the explosion of the legal marijuana business. Such businesses include dispensaries, growing facilities and equipment suppliers.

According to a press release the group sent out this morning, "In addition to working to repeal the federal prohibition of marijuana, NCIA is already focusing on more immediate policy goals for the industry such as ensuring that the nation’s revenue and banking policies are not out of step with state laws allowing medical cannabis sales."

Readers may remember Aaron Smith from his past work as MPP’s California state policy director, where he helped advance marijuana law reform legislation in the California state legislature by working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle (and was also a frequent contributor to this blog!). We wish him all the best in his new role at NCIA.

You can learn more about the group at

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Medical Marijuana

Pardon me for caring

Nov 25, 2008 Kate Zawidzki

Aaron Smith, Bush, Charles Lynch, Pardon

Yesterday, George W. Bush began the time-honored tradition of granting pardons to convicted felons in the president’s final days in the White House. 14 pardons and two commuted sentences were announced late last night, and more are expected to be handed down before he leaves office on January 20.

Two former politicians who have been convicted of public corruption charges are looking to the president in hopes that he will shorten their prison sentences. Some pundits are even speculating that he may offer “preemptive” pardons to those involved in the unconstitutional torture of terrorism suspects after 9-11.

I wonder if President Bush has given any thought to pardoning some of the medical marijuana patients and caregivers his administration has helped to prosecute?

One such unfortunate person who comes to mind is Charles C. Lynch of Morro Bay, California.

When Charles opened a city-licensed medical marijuana collective on California’s Central Coast, the community welcomed him with open arms. The city’s mayor even helped cut the ribbon at the chamber of commerce welcoming ceremony. The collective provided a safe and legal supply of medical marijuana to seriously ill patients for nearly a year before federal agents raided the facility and arrested Charles on federal drug charges.

During the ensuing trial, federal prosecutors described Charles as a common drug dealer and blocked any mention of medical marijuana from being brought forth by his defense. As a result, a jury found Charles guilty on five counts of federal drug charges. His sentencing hearing is set for January 5 and he could face up to 100 years in prison for following his heart (and state law) by helping patients to get their medicine.

I can’t think of anyone more deserving of a presidential pardon than Charles C. Lynch and others like him whose only crime was helping to relive suffering.

For more on Charles' plight, check out this video.


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Medical Marijuana

Blog Wars Episode V: The Empire's Hacks

Nov 18, 2008 Kate Zawidzki

Aaron Smith, drug czar, Medical Marijuana, ONDCP, propaganda

Yesterday, the San Francisco Chronicle’s “City Insider” blog picked up my last post about ONDCP’s spurious claims that San Francisco houses more medical marijuana facilities than Starbucks shops. A senior health inspector for the city told The Chronicle that ONDCP's claim that nearly 100 medical marijuana facilities are operating downtown was “extremely incorrect.” The city official confirmed that there are actually 24 medical marijuana facilities in the entire city.

The Chronicle further pointed out how absurd ONDCP's claims were from the perspective of anyone who actually knows San Francisco, and noted that ONDCP couldn't even get their numbers straight when it came to how many Starbucks are in the city.

It didn’t take long for the ONDCP to respond with a new blog post announcing the “good news” that their previous post received some “MSM (mainstream media) attention.” The fact that the drug czar's office considers an article calling them liars to be “good news” should tell you all you need to know about George W. Bush’s drug policy hacks.

ONDCP also altered its original post by reducing its random figure of 98 dispensaries to 71 – an equally arbitrary number. They claim to have obtained their list of medical marijuana dispensaries from a Google search; however the I use doesn’t yield results approaching anywhere near 71. Of course, a link to ONDCP’s source is conspicuously missing from their post.

ONDCP also decided to take a swipe at MPP and other supporters of medical marijuana by calling us “Washington, D.C. based lobbying groups that, attempting to legalize marijuana outright, prey on the compassion of voters.” Apparently, then, the dozens of prestigious medical organizations that support medical marijuana are also nothing more than predators for legalization...?

It's ONDCP that's really the distant Washington, D.C.-based group preying on taxpayers - who are forced to pay for the outright lies broadcasted on their blog, regardless of what San Francisco city officials or its hometown newspaper have to say about reality.

The truth is that San Francisco's leaders have worked hard to regulate the city's medical marijuana facilities, and it's the federal government's war on marijuana users that has caused real harm to the city. 

The good news is that we don't have to wait too long before these buffoons are out of a job. Let's just hope the new guard will not only be able to count better than Bush's folks but will make better policy too.

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Medical Marijuana

Lies, damned lies

Just one day before Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved their state’s medical marijuana ballot measure, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) falsely claimed that there are currently 98 medical marijuana dispensaries operating in downtown San Francisco.

After drawing attention to the ONDCP’s boldface lie here on our blog, I decided to check in with San Francisco’s Health Department – the agency responsible for licensing medical marijuana facilities within the city.

Sure enough, according to them, the ONDCP’s figure is inflated by more than 400 percent: there are actually only 24 medical marijuana dispensaries operating in all of San Francisco.

One would think that the federal government would have done its homework before spending your hard-earned tax dollars posting lies online and even going so far as to fabricate a map showing make-believe medical marijuana club locations.

Sadly, in classic drug-warrior form, the ONDCP are continuing to lie to the public about medical marijuana without even an attempt to back their claims.

On a more jovial note about the ongoing anti-marijuana nonsense, our friend Mark Hughes in MPP’s Communications Department developed this hilarious parody of the ONDCP’s absurd new advertising campaign -- enjoy:


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Medical Marijuana

A dozen years and counting...

Nov 06, 2008 Kate Zawidzki

Aaron Smith, California, Proposition 215

Yesterday marked the 12th anniversary of the passage of the first state law that effectively lifted criminal sanctions on the medical use of marijuana, California’s Proposition 215. In the years since 56% of California voters decided to stop criminalizing the ill, and public support for legal access to medical marijuana has grown to nearly 80%. That public sentiment has translated into policy reforms in at least 12 other states.

One would think that California’s law enforcement officials would do just that: enforce the law. But some of them spend time and even tax dollars lobbying against the state’s medical marijuana laws.


The California Narcotics Officers’ Association’s (CNOA) position paper on medical marijuana asserts, “There is no justification for using marijuana as a medicine.” The CNOA ignores hundreds of studies on the efficacy of marijuana as medicine and the dozens of credible scientific and medical organizations that have publicly supported medical marijuana access.

Disinformation about medical marijuana isn't limited to privately funded Web sites like The Sheriff’s Department in California’s capital county uses local tax dollars to maintain a Web page that claims, “There are no medically accepted uses for smoking marijuana.”

The medical community doesn’t share the sheriff’s medical opinion. Even the U.S. government’s Institute of Medicine (IOM) found, "Nausea, appetite loss, pain, and anxiety are all afflictions of wasting and all can be mitigated by marijuana ... there are patients with debilitating symptoms for whom smoked marijuana might provide relief."

The Sacramento Sheriff’s Department makes even more bizarre claims in its attempt to play doctor on the Internet -- such as claiming that marijuana could cause “increased facial and body hair” in women or that it can cause “diminished or complete loss of sexual pleasure.” Fortunately for the 14.5 million people who use marijuana, none of these far-fetched claims have been substantiated by science.

The sad fact is that California’s law enforcement lobby began campaigning against Proposition 215 in 1996 and when voters didn’t side with them, some its members never stopped.

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Medical Marijuana

White House fibs about medical marijuana in California (again)

Nov 04, 2008 Kate Zawidzki

Aaron Smith, California, drug czar, ONDCP

Last week, the illustrious Bruce Mirken told us about how opponents of Michigan’s “Proposal 1” are lying to voters by saying that there are “pot-smoking clubs” in every neighborhood in California.

Now the marijuana-obsessed Drug Czar’s Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) is spewing more hogwash about California’s medical marijuana situation.

The ONDCP’s blog is claiming that there are more medical marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco than Starbucks coffee shops. Their “analysis” concludes that “in downtown San Francisco alone, there are 98 marijuana dispensaries, compared to 71 Starbucks Coffee shops.”

Surprise! Contrary to their own stated policy of "maximizing the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information" the ONDCP is lying to us.

There are only 25 medical marijuana dispensaries in the entire city of San Francisco. This figure was reported in a San Francisco Chronicle article just last month.

ONDCP's bogus San Francisco map

San Francisco’s dispenaries are tightly regulated by local land-use ordinances and, contrary to the ONDCP’s claims, there is no evidence that they cause an inordinate amount of crime.

Most patients in San Francisco actually want to see more points of access to medical marijuana in their city. After all, there are almost 60 Walgreens pharmacies successfully dispensing Oxycontin, morphine, and a number of other potentially dangerous medications within city limits.

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Medical Marijuana

California’s Terminator Kills Medical Marijuana Employment Rights Bill

Oct 01, 2008 Kate Zawidzki

Aaron Smith, AB 2279, drug testing, leno

A staggering $15.2 billion budget deficit in California didn’t stop Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger from sending thousands of state-legal medical marijuana patients into unemployment. Last night, the “Governator” vetoed A.B. 2279, which would have made it illegal for employers to fire or deny employment to state-legal medical marijuana patients for testing positive for marijuana.

A.B. 2279 included provisions that exempted safety-sensitive positions and didn’t force employers to violate federal law. But you wouldn’t know it by listening to the bill’s opponents.

Schwarzenegger’s veto message states that he couldn’t support the bill because “Employment protection was not a goal of the initiative as passed by voters.” Apparently the governor thinks that voters want to force medical marijuana patients into unemployment rather than allow them to work and pay taxes like those who use physician-prescribed Oxycontin do.

California's medical marijuana law still enjoys overwhelming support from voters and it clearly demands that seriously ill patients not be subject to sanction for their use of medical marijuana.

Schwarzenegger, who freely admits his past use of marijuana and says he did it because he “always knew how to enjoy [himself],” just declared that if you use it as part of a physician-approved treatment, you don’t deserve to be employed.

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Medical Marijuana

San Diego and San Bernardino counties just got a little lonelier...

Sep 24, 2008 Kate Zawidzki

Aaron Smith, California, ID cards

California's medical marijuana state ID cards protect qualified patients and caregivers from arrest, and each of the state's 58 counties is required to make them available to their residents. However, in a crusade against the voter-approved medical marijuana law, some counties have refused to implement the program.

Fortunately, most counties are respecting the rule of law – even in traditionally conservative, rural and agricultural communities. Just yesterday, the Board of Supervisors in Kings County unanimously voted to implement the ID card program and the cards will be available to local patients very soon. The decision comes only two weeks after another San Joaquin Valley county, Fresno, also moved to implement the program. These developments are significant because San Joaquin Valley voters rejected Proposition 215 twelve years ago and the region has been painfully slow in implementing the state law ever since.

Have these agricultural, Republican-dominated communities been suddenly overrun by drug legalizers? Hardly. Instead, local policymakers across California – in red and blue counties alike – are acknowledging that the state's medical marijuana law is here to stay. It's unfortunate that counties like San Diego and San Bernardino are continuing to ignore state law, but these scofflaws are increasingly looking less credible and more like isolated, rogue elements every day.

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