Lawmakers reconvening for 2019 legislative session. If you live in South Carolina, click here to voice your support for medical cannabis in South Carolina!
Lawmakers are reconvening this week in Columbia as the 2019 legislative session kicks off. Two bills have already been introduced that would establish a medical cannabis program, with more on the way. This could be a big year for patients seeking access to medical cannabis in the Palmetto State.
The two bills that have already been introduced, one by Rep. Rosalyn Henderson-Myers and another by Rep. J. Todd Rutherford, would both create programs that are similar in many ways to the medical cannabis laws in 32 other states and Washington, D.C. In addition, Sen. Tom Davis and Rep. Peter McCoy, who sponsored legislation last year, are also expected to introduce their own legislation measures shortly. Similar bills passed out of the House and Senate committees last year, but didn't receive a floor vote before adjournment.
Make sure your lawmakers heard about a poll recently published by Benchmark Research, which found that 72% of South Carolinians, including 63% of Republicans, support providing access to medical cannabis for patients. Support is strong, and it's time to get it done.
Please forward this message to friends, family, and supporters in South Carolina.
Our allies at Patients Out of Time, in partnership with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission and the Maryland Cannabis Industry Association, are hosting two half-day seminars about medical marijuana and the endocannabinoid system this week — one in Columbia and one in La Plata. Registration is required and the events are free for physicians.
Medical Cannabis 101: The Physician’s Primer
University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center
5 Garrett Rd.
La Plata, MD 20646
Friday, October 23, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Click here to register
Both of these events will feature Dustin Sulak, D.O., who will touch on the literature on endocannabinoid physiology, clinical applications of cannabinoids, and share his experience overseeing 18,000 medical marijuana patients in New England. Mary Lynn Mathre, RN, MSN, CARN, President of Patients Out of Time, will also speak on the history of medical cannabis and the discovery of the endocannabinoid system. Eric Sterling, a member of the Maryland medical marijuana commission, will speak at the Columbia event about the programs details. These events will be particularly beneficial for Maryland physicians, so please send this along to any doctors you know in the state.
On April 24, the Missouri House and Senate passed a bill that would eliminate the possibility of jail time for people caught with up to 10 grams of marijuana — at least the first time. The bill, SB 491, was sent to Gov. Jay Nixon for his signature on April 28. He has until May 13 to sign the bill or veto it.
Nearly half a million Missouri residents already live in cities, including St. Louis and Columbia, which have local ordinances that treat possession of 35 grams or less as a non-arrestable offense.
SB 491 isn’t the only marijuana-related bill on the move.
Earlier this month, SB 951 passed out of committee; it may soon receive a vote in the Senate. While far from perfect, it would allow a broad range of severely ill patients to use medical marijuana products that include THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. A second, very limited bill, HB 2238, would allow some patients to access CBD-rich cannabis oil with trace amounts of THC. It passed both houses and will be sent to Gov. Nixon for his signature. For an overview of the bill, click here.
The Missouri Legislature made significant progress this year to improve marijuana-related laws, due in large part to the hard work from groups like Show-Me Cannabis.
The US has been the major proponent for the international war on drugs, yet Eric Holder resisted pressure from the UN to sue Washington and Colorado over regulating marijuana last March. Now, a rough draft of a document detailing the United Nation’s future plans for combating illicit drug use has been leaked and reported by the Guardian.
The document, still a rough draft, is meant to ultimately form the UN’s statement on drug policy to be released in the Spring. The draft shows some difference of opinion, particularly among South American countries. According to the document, many countries are ready to end the United States-led plan of prohibition and focus on rehabilitation and treatment for drug users. Columbia, Guatemala, and Mexico have argued that prohibition allows the market to be controlled by dangerous cartels, while Venezuela is calling for a discussion of the economic implications of current drug policy. The European Union also indicated that the final document should include treatment as an alternative to incarceration for drug dependent offenders.
Support for a policy shift from incarceration to treatment has been growing steadily over the years according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer, which cites statements from international leaders and a 2002 committee for the European Parliament, among other indicators. Apparently, the now clear difference in opinion is anything but new.
"The idea that there is a global consensus on drugs policy is fake," said Damon Barrett, deputy director of the charity Harm Reduction International. "The differences have been there for a long time, but you rarely get to see them. It all gets whittled down to the lowest common denominator, when all you see is agreement. But it's interesting to see now what they are arguing about."
Click here to read more about international marijuana policies.
Last Friday, the Organization of American States (OAS) gathered in Bogotá, Colombia for the release of its $2 million report, ”The Drug Problem in the Americas,” which characterized marijuana as a relatively benign drug.
The 400-page study concluded that if the United States was sincere in its desire to reduce drug violence in the western hemisphere, then it would have to seriously rethink its stance on marijuana and look into more rational drug policies:
“It would be worthwhile to assess existing signals and trends that lean toward the decriminalization or legalization of the production, sale, and use of marijuana. Sooner or later decisions in this area will need to be taken.”
The discussion is long overdue, according to OAS Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza, and most Latin American leaders – “whose countries suffer the bloody brunt of the largely failed U.S.-led drug war” – agree.
This is not the first time the Obama Administration has been asked by its neighboring governments to consider adopting more lenient marijuana policies in order to help combat the violent drug cartels that plague Latin America. The question was raised at last year’s Summit of the Americas.
The response from American officials was typical: making marijuana legal is not an option they will consider.
Rafael Lemaitre, spokesman for the White House’s drug czar, said in response to the report that “any suggestion that nations legalize drugs like heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine runs counter to an evidenced-based, public health approach to drug policy and are not viable alternatives.”
It is hardly “evidence-based” to lump marijuana in with the other drugs mentioned in that statement. Studies have conclusively shown that marijuana is objectively safer than all of them, including legal alcohol. Nor is it in the interest of public health to continue allowing the marijuana industry to be controlled by violent criminal organizations.
Latin America can attest to the fact that this drug war has a real body count. The United States needs to take responsibility for its failed policies and be willing to listen to its neighbors.
If you are one of the many people that showed your friends, co-workers, and family the video of Columbia, Mo. SWAT officers raiding the home of Jonathan Whitworth and shooting his dogs immediately after kicking in the door, then you helped make a real difference for the people of Columbia and elsewhere.
According to Ken Burton, police chief of Columbia, the public outcry that followed the release and viral spread of this disturbing video forced his department to make major changes to the way in which it uses its SWAT teams. The direct result of this has been that “dynamic entry” of the sort that led to the tragic events in the video has not been used for drug enforcement once in 2011!
This is a wonderful example of how information-sharing and public pressure can have a direct impact on the unjust and violent policies of the war on drugs. We have the power to change things for the better, and we have to use it. Simply sharing videos is not enough, however. We need to consistently engage anyone and everyone on the issues arising from the prohibition of marijuana, and keep doing so until the truth is impossible to ignore. This is a good start!
In the latest development in the quest for justice in Columbia, Missouri, Jonathan Whitworth and family are suing the officers responsible for a botched February SWAT raid that endangered their lives and resulted in the death of one of their dogs.
This story received national attention when a video was released showing the police entering the home in what they call a “dynamic entry” and immediately opening fire, killing one dog and injuring another. After enormous pressure from the media and activist community, the Columbia Police Chief agreed to revise the city’s SWAT guidelines to prevent further incidents.
Unfortunately, the officers involved were never disciplined for their dangerous behavior, and both the chief and police review board found that they had acted appropriately. While this family will have to suffer the lasting pain of losing a pet and the trauma of a violent intrusion in their lives, the paramilitary thugs that terrorized them, over a gram of marijuana and a pipe, suffered no consequences whatsoever.
Let’s hope the judge hearing this case feels differently.
Just in case you haven’t seen the video, this is what the officers are being sued for:
In the aftermath of the recently release video showing a family terrorized and their pets shot by a SWAT team in Columbia, Missouri, that city's police chief is now saying he supports efforts to change marijuana laws so officers will no longer need to spend time and resources enforcing them.
During a press conference yesterday, Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton went out of his way to state his support for ending marijuana prohibition.
"I applaud your efforts," he told a reporter who asked about campaigns to change marijuana laws. "If we could get out of the business [of going after marijuana offenders], I think there would be a lot of police officers that would be happy to do that."
After reviewing the results of a four-month internal investigation, the chief announced that his officers acted appropriately during the February SWAT raid that resulted in the death of a dog and endangered a young child.
Columbia police are currently updating their policies to hopefully prevent further incidents, but the decision to use extreme force in executing a warrant for marijuana possession has been widely criticized as being contrary to city law. Columbia passed a law in 2004 making marijuana violations the lowest law enforcement priority. Unfortunately, as the chief points out, state laws can still interfere with officers' abilities to go after real criminals.
Chief Burton also acknowledged that violence surrounding marijuana is often associated with the illegal market created by prohibition, and not the drug itself. "Crimes do occur because of marijuana," he said. "And you may make the argument that it's because it's not legal, and you may be right."
And if there was any lingering doubt about the sincerity of his remarks, the chief even gave a big thumbs up to the cameras.
Well, a big thumbs up to you too, chief. Hopefully, you won't have to worry about enforcing irrational marijuana laws for much longer.