Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Bill Introduced Again in West Virginia

Manypenny

Last week, Delegate Mike Manypanny (D-Taylor) introduced a medical marijuana bill for the third time in the West Virginia Legislature, and this time it looks like people are taking a lot more notice.

It is certainly positive to see the media covering both sides of the issue, including MPP communications director Mason Tvert being quoted in the Charleston Gazette:

"There is no reason this should not be discussed. It is an issue taken up in dozens of states. It is time for it to be discussed in West Virginia.

"This is part of a nationwide increase in momentum. We've seen medical marijuana bills introduced throughout the country, including states many people might think would not be supportive," Tvert said during a telephone interview.

A majority of West Virginia voters believe the state should enact a law allowing seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana, according to a January 2013 poll conducted by Public Policy Polling.

Stay tuned for updates and coverage from the Mountain State!

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Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana Supporters Rally in Sacramento Today

The Marijuana Policy Project and a coalition of advocacy and labor groups staged a demonstration today to protest the federal government's escalated attack on California's medical marijuana laws. A rally of medical marijuana patients and supporters took place in front of the Sacramento Federal Building and features state legislators, advocates, labor unions, and dispensary operators impacted by the recent Department of Justice (DOJ) crackdown in California.

Since the beginning of October, U.S. attorneys in California have released statements giving some medical marijuana businesses 45 days to close or risk prosecution. They have also issued threats to landlords, indicating that they will be prosecuted and their property seized if they rent to medical marijuana businesses. In addition, media outlets have been warned that advertising for medical marijuana businesses, a major source of media revenue in California, could lead to federal charges as well.

“The recent announcements by the U.S. attorneys of the intent to target the California medical marijuana industry are a waste of law enforcement resources and a betrayal of campaign promises made by President Obama,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “Shutting down businesses that provide medical marijuana to patients, and threatening their landlords and media advertisers, will not have any effect on the illicit marijuana market. This crackdown will hurt the California economy, deprive state and local governments of vital revenue, and, most importantly, put patients in danger. Any attack on the ability to safely access medical marijuana is an attack on patients.”

“The Department of Justice and President Obama could easily stop this interference at any time and allow California to deal with medical marijuana in the way that is best for its residents,” said Kampia. “Since the federal government cannot be trusted to respect states’ rights when it comes to medical marijuana, concerned citizens should urge their congressional representatives to support H.R. 1983 – The States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act – which would remove the threat of federal intrusion in states that permit the medical use of marijuana.”

Sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) and co-sponsored by several prominent lawmakers, this bill would remove the ability of the federal government to enforce provisions of federal law that are contrary to states’ medical marijuana laws. The bill would also pave the way for changing the classification of marijuana in the Controlled Substance Act to Schedule III or lower. For more information on this bill, please visit our Federal Policy page.

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Medical Marijuana

Obama’s New Tactic Against Medical Marijuana Patients: Suspend Free Speech

In the latest move of the Obama Administration’s incomprehensible attack on medical marijuana, U.S. attorneys announced today that they will begin to prosecute media outlets that publish advertisements for medical marijuana! It seems that when it comes to medical marijuana users, or the states in which they live for that matter, the Bill of Rights means practically nothing.

First, there was the memo released by the ATF this month warning firearms dealers that it was against the law to sell guns or ammunition to medical marijuana patients, effectively eliminating the Second Amendment rights of hundreds of thousands of patients in states where medical marijuana is legal. Then on Friday, when the U.S. attorneys from California unveiled their intent to shut down the medical marijuana industry and drive patients into the hands of gangs and other illicit dealers, they said that one of their core tactics was to intimidate landlords and property owners who rent to dispensaries by threatening them with seizure of their assets. While this may not be a direct violation of the law (unfortunately), it certainly treads on the spirit of the Fourth Amendment’s protections of life, liberty, and property. Now, those same attorneys are stomping on the First Amendment as well.

The actions of the Department of Justice are simply baffling.

In its vain and misguided attempt to stymie medical marijuana and stop the reform movement from making any further policy gains, the DOJ is basically trying to shut down two industries that make money, employ many people throughout California, and earn tax revenue for a state in a disastrous economic situation. Neither of these moves makes any sense. Shutting down the medical marijuana industry is not going to stop marijuana production. Denying them the ability to advertise by prosecuting those who publish the ads will not stop marijuana distributors from making a profit. It will, however, be disastrous for the publishing industry. Both the medical marijuana and publishing industries provide much-needed jobs and revenue to California. These methods are quite simply poor tools to accomplish an illegitimate goal. The fact that the media, which has the ability to sway public opinion against the administration, is being targeted seems particularly stupid.

Now, there are of course justifiable reasons for not allowing advertisement for some illegal activity. It is interesting to note, however, that pharmaceutical companies that sell drugs for billions in profits (the very reason the DOJ claims the marijuana industry is so evil) are allowed to advertise freely in all mediums.

Constitutional and federal law aside, it is morbidly fascinating from a philosophical standpoint that the administration is subverting the right to use marijuana to treat one’s illness by attacking two other, more deeply-held rights. After all, it certainly seems that more Americans care about free speech and property rights than they do about bodily autonomy. Will this policy end up being counterproductive to the stated goals of the administration?

Probably. Just like every facet of prohibition, it is pretty much doomed to failure in the long run.

If you’d like to tell the president how you feel about this, please go here or call (202) 456-1111.

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Medical Marijuana||Research

Rand Study Shows Closing Dispensaries Increases Crime

In medical marijuana states, it is pretty common to hear sensational news reports about crime associated with dispensaries. Stories of violent robberies, late-night burglaries, diversion and illegal sales, weapons, and even murder get a lot of attention from the media. They get even more attention from law enforcement, who see such stories as yet another way to convince people that medical marijuana is dangerous and scary and should be revoked.

Law enforcement is so desperate to prove this connection between dispensaries and crime that they searched all over the country for data that would support their hypothesis.

Lo and behold, it turns out the exact opposite is true.

Today, the non-partisan Rand Corporation released a study on crime near dispensaries conducted in Los Angeles before and after a recent ordinance forced the closure of nearly 400 locations. According to the report, crime increased by as much as 54% in the areas surrounding dispensaries that were forced to close within ten days of the ordinance going into effect. Neighborhoods near dispensaries that stayed open showed no increase in crime during that period.

We at MPP have been saying for some time that by closing dispensaries in medical marijuana states (or localities, even), authorities are driving patients into the illicit market. While I would hesitate to call such an act a crime, as opposed to a necessity, this study apparently shows that other sorts of crime are affected by the presence of dispensaries. Some contributing factors include the large volume of people there throughout the day, the security measures put in place to protect patients and employees, and the fact that the police actually depend on dispensary video surveillance to prevent and solve crimes!

Authorities should take note of this information, particularly in places like Michigan and Montana, where the medical marijuana industries have been all but shut down recently by overzealous public officials and community groups. Most of these groups depended on overblown concerns about community safety for their efforts to be successful. It’s time for a little education.

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Medical Marijuana

The New York Times Supports Medical Marijuana for New York

Earlier this week, I wrote about the trend in journalism to blame marijuana for the violent outbursts of murderous youth. While this unscientific blame game will probably continue in the foreseeable future, it’s nice to see that the primary target of my wrath in this instance, The New York Times, has redeemed itself.

On Wednesday, the juggernaut of journalism on the East Coast wrote an editorial urging New York’s Governor Cuomo to follow the lead of New Jersey and allow seriously ill New Yorkers to use marijuana to treat their illnesses. Coming from a publication of their size and prominence, this is a fairly significant statement, and hopefully one that will garner a lot of support for medical marijuana in the near future.

Here is the editorial in its entirety:

There is no good reason to deprive patients with cancer or H.I.V. or Lou Gehrig’s disease of the relief from pain or extreme nausea that could come from using marijuana.

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who once opposed his state’s medical marijuana law, has changed his mind, deciding earlier this month to allow six alternative treatment centers to begin dispensing the drug to those in need, possibly by early next year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York needs to change his mind as well.

Governor Cuomo said during his 2010 campaign that he opposed legalization of medical marijuana. Recently, he said he was still opposed but that he was “reviewing” the issue and “we’re always learning and listening, talking and growing. We hope.” It shouldn’t take much more personal growth to make the right call.

Governor Cuomo should ask Governor Christie about how he resolved his own doubts. Mr. Christie could explain how his law is the nation’s most restrictive and how the federal Justice Department has indicated that its agents will rightly direct their energies in New Jersey to go after big-time marijuana traffickers, not doctors or alternative centers helping the desperately ill.

Under New Jersey’s law, doctors can recommend that a patient suffering from a specific disease or condition use marijuana of limited strength. Patients cannot grow their own, and they can only purchase 2 ounces every 30 days. Physicians must register to recommend the marijuana use, and patients and caregivers must undergo background checks to get ID cards.

Mr. Cuomo should champion a similar and humane system and ensure that New York’s residents coping with illness have the same chance at relief.

 

Good recovery, NYT. Please keep it coming!

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Prohibition||Tax and Regulate

Mainstream Media Broadcasts MPP's Call for Change Around the World

One of the most encouraging signs of change for the movement to end marijuana prohibition has been the vastly increased level of mainstream media coverage it has received in the last year or so. Last week was no exception. When U.S. officials released new data showing the number of Americans both using and being arrested for marijuana had increased, MPP was there to put those findings in context, and mainstream media outlets all over the world helped to spread our message about the failure of prohibition and the need for a regulated marijuana market.

Here's a look at some highlights:

CNN's "The Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer:

The Associated Press:

Mike Meno, a spokesman for the pro-legalization Marijuana Policy Project, said the survey is more proof that the government's war on marijuana has failed in spite of decades of enforcement efforts and arrests.

"It's time we stop this charade and implement sensible laws that would tax and regulate marijuana the same way we do more harmful — but legal — drugs like alcohol and tobacco," Meno said.

(Note: This article was reprinted in literally hundreds of news outlets, and my quote was included among the AP's top quotations of the day.)

NPR:

TOVIA SMITH (reporter): But advocates of legalizing marijuana insist the news that marijuana use is up only goes to show that cracking down on users doesn't work.

Mr. MIKE MENO (Marijuana Policy Project): The government's been sending the wrong message to people for decades by classifying marijuana alongside drugs like heroin and LSD. And they should just give it up.

SMITH: That's Mike Meno with the Marijuana Policy Project that supports making pot totally legal, as a ballot question in California this year would do. He says marijuana use isn't increasing because people see it as less harmful but rather because the sale of marijuana is uncontrolled and unregulated.

Mr. MENO: We need to apply the same type of sensible regulations that we do to alcohol and tobacco, two things that you need an ID to buy, that you need to be a licensed vendor to sell. Drug dealers who sell marijuana do not check IDs.

NPR: (again)

"What people are responding to is the realization that the government has been lying for decades and that marijuana is less harmful than legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco," says Mike Meno, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which favors legalization.

[...] Polls indicate the [Proposition 19] has roughly a 50-50 chance of passing. Both marijuana advocates and opponents agree that passage would have an enormous impact, with other states likely to follow suit and the drug becoming more readily available to young people.

"If California were to pass Proposition 19, it would be revolutionary," says Meno, the Marijuana Policy Project spokesman. "People would see that the sky doesn't fall, the police will have more resources to fight crimes and there will be more revenues for local budgets."

The other big story last week was how the California Beer and Beverage Distributors were helping to fund the campaign against Prop. 19, which would end marijuana prohibition in California. Steve Fox, MPP's resident alcohol vs. marijuana guru, said the motivation behind the donation was clear -- "the alcohol industry is trying to kill the competition" -- and his comments were picked up by the Sacramento Bee, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Oakland Tribune, among others.

As more and more mainstream media outlets help to shine a light on the failure of (and motivation behind) marijuana prohibition, it's going to be increasingly difficult for our opposition to continue denying reality and maintain the failed status quo.

Find out how you can help MPP keep up the pressure in the media by visiting here.

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Medical Marijuana

Marijuana and Young ADHD Patients -- the Dialogue Continues.

Nov 25, 2009 Kate Zawidzki

ADHD, Media, New York Times, science

My  recent post about medical marijuana and  young patients got picked up by the folks over at OpposingViews.com. And that prompted writer Katherine Ellison, whose New York Times story I'd taken issue with to post the following response:

a couple corrections for you

Hi, Bruce --

For the record, my byline is Katherine, not Kathy. And I guess I can understand your frustration at not having a story that reflects your advocate's view of marijuana as a safe , cure-all drug, appropriate for all ages. However, I stand by my reporting, which I think was a responsible effort to bring awareness to an increasing problem of irresponsible doctors given way too much leeway with an untested drug on adolescents.

- kathyellison November 25, 2009 10:28AM

Oh dear. I generally don't like to get into fights with reporters, but I'm grateful that Opposing Views allowed me to post the following response:

First, Katherine, I apologize for using your name as you signed it on your emails to me rather than as published in your byline. Nevertheless, I find it frustrating that you appear to be deliberately misinterpreting both what I've written here and what I said on the phone during our lengthy conversation.

You know full well that I don't consider marijuana a cure-all and that I do not expect you to endorse my opinions in print. I do expect you, in reporting a scientific issue, to actually address the relevant science in a way that will enlighten readers.

Your story failed to explain meaningful scientific evidence provided to you by both me and Paul Armentano suggesting a positive effect of marijuana on ADHD as well as the biochemical basis for such an effect being plausible. You included a scientifically nonsensical quote from Stephen Hinshaw calling marijuana for ADHD "one of the worst ideas of all time" because marijuana disrupts attention and memory in normal people. But we know that the brains of ADHD patients don't work like those of normal people -- which is why stimulants like Ritalin have a calming effect, the exact opposite of their effect on most of us. Did you even bother to ask Hinshaw this obvious followup question?

You also included a cavalier quote from Edward M. Hallowell claiming that marijuana use "can lead to a syndrome in which all the person wants to do all day is get stoned, and they do nothing else" -- without bothering to note that this so-called "amotivational syndrome" has been debunked again and again. One example that I sent you, and which you apparently ignored, was the 1999 Institute of Medicine report commissioned by the White House, which states on pages 107-108, "When heavy marijuana use accompanies these symptoms, the drug is often cited as the cause, but no convincing data demonstrate a causal relationship between marijuana smoking and these behavioral characteristics." Many other expert reviews have come to the same conclusion.

I am not asking you to agree with me or to tout marijuana as a cure-all, which it manifestly is not. As a longtime health journalist myself, all I am asking is for you to do your homework as a reporter.

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Medical Marijuana

Medical Marijuana and Young Patients

Nov 23, 2009 Kate Zawidzki

ADHD, autism, Charles Lynch, Media, New York Times, science

Lately there has been a small burst of media fascination with what by most accounts is a rare occurrence: Use of medical marijuana recommended by a physician by patients under 18. Any psychoactive drug, including marijuana, should be used with caution in children, but there is no reason that these infrequent cases should be shocking. Indeed, they should be taken as signposts on the road to urgently-needed research.

Sad as it is to contemplate, kids do get deadly illnesses like cancer and AIDS. Medical marijuana dispensary operator Charles Lynch faced an enhanced federal prison sentence for providing medical marijuana to 17-year-old cancer patient Owen Beck, who survived his cancer partly thanks to Lynch’s help, and who attempted to testify on Lynch’s behalf but was barred from doing so. And millions of young people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have been prescribed stimulants like Ritalin and Adderall, whose side effects can include psychotic symptoms and interference with growth, not to mention sudden death when used by patients with some preexisting heart conditions.

Unfortunately, a story in Sunday’s New York Times looking at marijuana as a treatment for young people with ADHD managed to avoid shedding much light on the issue. Instead, the focus seemed to be on sensational quotes ("worst idea ever," "safer than aspirin") rather than a serious look at the science.

Writer Kathy Ellison did briefly reference a study in the journal Schizophrenia Research, but without properly explaining it. Of the 25 young people with ADHD in this study, the marijuana users scored healthier than non-users on nearly every measure of mental functioning, including specific measures of hyperactivity and disorganization. This was particularly striking because in the same study a separate group of individuals at genetic risk for schizophrenia were made worse by marijuana. The published study includes a discussion of the biochemical mechanisms by which marijuana might help ADHD. This is consistent with published case reports that have found a beneficial of THC on ADHD.

Meanwhile, ABC’s “Good Morning America” did a more respectful job in reporting on the mom of an autistic child who says that a small amount of marijuana, administered under a doctor’s care, has literally saved her child’s life. Others have told similar stories.

We don’t know nearly enough yet to state definitively that marijuana is helpful for youthful ADHD and autism. But we do know enough to say that proper research is urgently needed, and that this is a serious enough issue that the media need to treat it seriously.

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Medical Marijuana

The Goof Heard ‘Round the World

Nov 16, 2009 Kate Zawidzki

Eric Holder, Media, Obama

In case anyone needs proof of the mass media’s tendency to repeat government pronouncements without bothering to check their accuracy, here’s a small but telling example:

Inexplicably, when the U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo last month explaining that it would generally refrain from prosecuting medical marijuana activities that are clearly legal under state law, it mistakenly indicated that there are 14 medical marijuana states. DOJ’s goof was to include Maryland, where medical marijuana is not actually legal, but where state law provides for reduced penalties to patients who successfully present a medical-necessity defense.

DOJ’s goof has now traveled though most of the known universe, repeated by credulous news media. The Associated Press, after talking to MPP, at least included an explanatory note about the discrepancy, but others just repeated the mistake with no explanation, including Katie Couric of CBS, the  Washington Post, Voice of America, the Guardian of London, and even the editorial page of the New York Times.

C’mon, guys, tell me that fact-checking isn’t entirely dead. Kudos to those media outlets that got it right, including CNN.

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Tax and Regulate

The Show Your Friends and Family Must See

Oct 26, 2009 Kate Zawidzki

Media, Michael Pollan, The Botany of Desire

pPBS3-6700974reg

“The best gardeners of my generation are not hybridizing roses, are not working with orchids. They are working with this incredibly valuable and incredibly interesting plant called cannabis.”
--Michael Pollan

Before Michael Pollan’s best-selling books about food and the food industry, he wrote a fascinating volume about humanity’s symbiotic relationship with plants, called “The Botany of Desire.” That book is now a PBS special, airing for the first time this week, on October 28 at 8 p.m. If you have friends, family, coworkers, etc., who’ve never thought about our relationship with marijuana beyond the latest hysterical news story, this is the show they need to see.

The program traces the evolution of our relationship with four plants: the apple, the tulip, the potato, and cannabis.  And they aren’t as different as you might think. For example, both the apple and cannabis (now, of course, generally called marijuana in this country) have alternated between being treasured and being reviled.

The segment on marijuana (you didn’t really think we’d be focusing on tulips, did you?) is not a brief for ending prohibition. What it is, though, is a remarkably insightful and thoughtful look at how humans have related to this plant, what it’s taught us about our own physiology, and how we have helped it spread throughout the world. Though the marijuana segment is just one quarter of a two-hour program, it may be the best exploration of marijuana ever shown on U.S. television.

And yes, the segments on tulips, apples, and potatoes are pretty good too.

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