Next week, legendary travel host Rick Steves will be visiting Michigan to give talks in support of Prop 1, the ballot initiative to legalize and regulate marijuana. Known for his hit PBS series “Rick Steves’ Europe,” Rick’s engaging personality and first-hand experience seeing the benefits of legalization in his home state of Washington make this an event you don’t want to miss.
You can catch him in two locations, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor. Both speaking events are free and open to the public. The tour schedule is listed below.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 2
It’s Time for a New Approach: Rick Steves on why legalization is a better solution
Time: 7:30 p.m., doors at 7:00 p.m.
Location: Peter Martin Wege Theatre, 341 Ellsworth Ave. SW, Grand Rapids
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 3
It’s Time for a New Approach: Rick Steves on why legalization is a better solution
Time: 8:30 p.m., doors at 8:00 p.m.
Location: Rackham Amphitheatre, 915 E Washington St., Ann Arbor
As a board member of NORML, Rick Steves has been a long-time advocate for sensible marijuana policies. Audiences around the country have heard his informative and entertaining talks on marijuana legalization, and now you have a chance to see him, too. Register for one of the events above and share the word by inviting friends and family.
A measure to legalize marijuana for recreational use in California appears headed for the Nov. 8 ballot.
A coalition that includes former Facebook President Sean Parker on Tuesday said it has collected 600,000 signatures, more than enough to qualify the initiative. …
The coalition, which includes some law enforcement and civil rights leaders, needed to collect 365,880 signatures of registered voters to qualify the initiative, which would also place a 15% tax on retail sales of the drug.
This November, California voters will finally have the opportunity to pass smart marijuana policy that is built on the best practices of other states, includes the strictest child protections in the nation and pays for itself while raising billions for the state
Last week, a federal court ruling struck a blow against censorship directed at marijuana policy reform advocates at Iowa State University. The case, brought by two students with the university's chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), was heralded as a major victory by the plaintiffs.
...the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa issued a permanent injunction barring Iowa State University (ISU) administrators from using a trademark policy to prevent the campus chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML ISU) from printing t-shirts depicting a marijuana leaf. Students Erin Furleigh and Paul Gerlich, both former presidents of the group, sued ISU in July 2014 as part of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education’s (FIRE’s) Stand Up For Speech Litigation Project.
Because ISU had rejected the student group’s t-shirts “due to the messages they expressed” in an effort to “maintain favor with Iowa political figures,” the court found that ISU engaged in unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment.
The court also denied the defense of qualified immunity to the named defendants, including ISU President Steven Leath and Senior Vice President Warren Madden, meaning that they may be held personally liable for violating Furleigh and Gerlich’s First Amendment rights. In so ruling, the court found that “a reasonable person would understand that Defendants’ actions treaded on Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights of political expression and association.”
Senior District Judge James Gritzner, who issued the ruling, observed that “[t]he development of First Amendment doctrine in the university context has repeatedly affirmed that student groups may not be denied benefits on the basis of their espoused views.” After reviewing the record, the court concluded that “Defendants took action specifically directed at NORML ISU based on their views and the political reaction to those views so that Defendants could maintain favor with Iowa political figures.”
In their original complaint, the students detailed how the university censored the group’s t-shirts based on their marijuana-related messaging and imagery, removed NORML ISU’s advisor, and implemented new guidelines for using ISU’s trademark in order to restrict NORML ISU’s speech. And in a January 2015 ruling, the court rejected every argument ISU made in its initial attempt to have the case dismissed.
You can view the full press release here.
A report released today by Dr. Jon Gettman shows that despite increasing support for ending marijuana prohibition, arrests for possession are actually increasing in some states. The report and other information can be found on Dr. Gettman's new site, RegulatingCannabis.com.
According to a blog by Paul Armentano at NORML:
In a recent poll commissioned by the Oklahoma chapter of NORML, voters spoke loud and clear in favor of improving marijuana laws in the state, and an overwhelming majority support legal access to medical marijuana. If you live in Oklahoma and you agree it’s time to establish a compassionate and sensible medical marijuana law, tell your legislators today!
Over 71% of voters in the state support allowing seriously ill patients to possess marijuana for medical purposes with a physician’s recommendation, with broad support among both parties. Medical marijuana is a safer alternative to many pharmaceutical medications, which can have harmful side effects and even lead to overdose deaths. Seriously ill patients in the state deserve an option that will not make them criminals just for seeking a safer alternative.
Sen. Constance Johnson has long been a champion of medical marijuana in the state, but her efforts to bring relief to seriously ill patients have been blocked by leadership. If you are an Oklahoma resident, send a clear message to your senator and representative that it’s time to stop frustrating the will of the voters and support a compassionate law for Oklahomans!
Six National Drug Policy Organizations Call on President Obama to End Unnecessary Assault on Medical Marijuana Providers
In the wake of recent attacks on medical marijuana providers and patients by multiple branches of the federal government, including Monday's raids on Oaksterdam University in Oakland, CA, a coalition of six national drug policy reform organizations is appealing to President Obama and his administration to follow its own previously stated policies respecting state medical marijuana laws. In the letter, posted in full below, the organizations call on the Obama administration to bring an end to the federal government’s ongoing campaign to undermine state efforts to regulate safe and legal access to medical marijuana for those patients who rely on it.
The Obama Administration’s National Drug Control Strategy Report 2012, reportedly being released in the coming days, is expected to cling to failed and outdated marijuana policies which further cement the control of the marijuana trade in the hands of drug cartels and illegal operators, endangering both patients in medical marijuana states and citizens everywhere. The members of this coalition stand together with members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, current and former Latin American leaders whose countries are being ravaged by drug cartels, state officials from five medical marijuana states, and tens of millions of Americans in their call for a more rational approach to marijuana policy.
THE LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA:
April 4, 2012
President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington D.C. 20500
Via Fax: 2024562461
Dear Mr. President:
Our coalition represents the views of tens of millions of Americans who believe the war on medical marijuana patients and providers you are fighting is misguided and counterproductive. As your administration prepares to release its annual National Drug Control Strategy, we want to speak with one voice and convey our deep sense of anger and disappointment in your lack of leadership on this issue.
Voters and elected officials in sixteen states and the District of Columbia have determined that the medical use of marijuana should be legal. In many of these states, the laws also include means for providing medical marijuana patients safe access to this medicine. These laws allowing for the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana actually shift control of marijuana sales from the criminal underground to state-licensed, taxed, and regulated producers and distributors.
Instead of celebrating – or even tolerating – this state experimentation, which has benefited patients and taken profits away from drug cartels, you have turned your back as career law enforcement officials have run roughshod over some of the most professional and well-regulated medical marijuana providers. We simply cannot understand why you have reneged on your administration’s earlier policy of respecting state medical marijuana laws.
Our frustration and confusion over your administration’s uncalled-for attacks on state-authorized medical marijuana providers was best summed up by John McCowen, the chair of the Mendocino County (CA) board of supervisors, who said, “It's almost as if there was a conscious effort to drive [medical marijuana cultivation and distribution] back underground. My opinion is that's going to further endanger public safety and the environment – the federal government doesn't seem to care about that.”
The National Drug Control Strategy you are about to release will no doubt call for a continuation of policies that have as a primary goal the ongoing and permanent control of the marijuana trade by drug cartels and organized crime. We cannot and do not endorse the continued embrace of this utterly failed policy. We stand instead with Latin American leaders, members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and the vast majority of people who voted you into office in recognizing that it is time for a new approach on marijuana policy.
With approximately 50,000 people dead in Mexico over the past five years as the result of drug war-related violence, we hope that you will immediately reconsider your drug control strategy and will work with, not against, states and organizations that are attempting to shift control of marijuana cultivation and sales, at least as it applies to medical marijuana, to a controlled and regulated market.
Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)
National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA)
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)
cc: Eric Holder, Attorney General, Department of Justice
James Cole, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice
Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
This should come as no surprise by now, but President Obama has once again failed to address questions about the need for marijuana policy reform in a public forum. Once again, this issue was among the most popular, but it seems that after laughter, disagreement, and capitulation, the president’s responses are wearing thin, and the question will no longer be asked or answered.
Last week, the White House asked for people to submit questions to be asked during a Google+ Hangout with the president. As usual, marijuana questions dominated the site. Unfortunately for the majority of Americans who support making marijuana legal, the popularity of this issue no longer matters.
Then MPP’s question suffered the same fate.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition spokesperson Stephen Downing submitted a video question that quickly became the second most popular on the site. During the forum, however, the folks at Google decided that the president had already answered their question in previous forums and opted to ignore the people and ask inane questions about midnight snacks and tennis instead.
The White House, of course, had nothing to do with the exclusion of a marijuana reform question (or so they say).
The time has come to demand real answers to these pressing questions, not jokes or simple platitudes. Marijuana prohibition is a failed policy that causes far more harm than good, and alternatives must be seriously discussed in open forums before this juggernaut can do any more damage.
It is time for the president to take this issue seriously.
Today, a coalition of organizations supportive of medical marijuana patients and providers -- including MPP, Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), NORML, California NORML, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) -- is calling on President Obama to withdraw his nomination of Michele Leonhart to serve as administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The following is a from press release just sent out on behalf of the coalition:
Ms. Leonhart, who is currently the DEA’s acting-administrator, has not demonstrated that she is capable of leading the agency in a thoughtful manner at a time when 14 states have enacted medical marijuana laws and science is increasingly confirming the therapeutic benefits of the substance.
Under Leonhart's leadership, the DEA has staged medical marijuana raids in apparent disregard of Attorney General Eric Holder's directive to respect state medical marijuana laws. Most recently, DEA agents flouted a pioneering Mendocino County (CA) ordinance to regulate medical marijuana cultivation by raiding the very first grower to register with the sheriff. Joy Greenfield, 69, had paid more than $1,000 for a permit to cultivate 99 plants in a collective garden that had been inspected and approved by the local sheriff.
Informed that Ms. Greenfield had the support of the sheriff, the DEA agent in charge responded by saying, “I don’t care what the sheriff says.” The DEA's conduct is inconsistent with an October 2009 Department of Justice memo directing officials not to arrest individuals “whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”
Ms. Leonhart has also demonstrated that she is unable to be objective in carrying out the duties of the administrator as it relates to medical marijuana research. In January 2009, she refused to issue a license to the University of Massachusetts to cultivate marijuana for FDA-approved research, despite a DEA administrative law judge’s ruling that it would be “in the public interest” to issue the license. This single act has blocked privately funded medical marijuana research in this country. The next DEA administrator will likely influence the outcome of a marijuana-rescheduling petition currently before the agency. It is critical that an administrator with an open mind toward science and research is at the helm.
“With Leonhart’s nomination pending, one would expect her to be more — not less — respectful of the Department of Justice and the rights of individuals in medical marijuana states,” said Steve Fox, director of government relations at the Marijuana Policy Project. “Such behavior is an ominous sign for the future of the DEA under her leadership. Moreover, she has continually demonstrated her desire to block privately funded medical marijuana research in this country. The Obama administration has reversed many Bush administration policies over the past 18 months. It is time to transform the culture at the DEA by either withdrawing Leonhart’s nomination or directing her to change her attitude toward medical marijuana.”
Researchers at the University of Michigan have sifted through nationwide data to determine the prevalence of different drug-related emergency room visits and (surprise, surprise!) their recently released results show that “marijuana dependence was associated with the lowest rates” of emergency room visits.
NORML’s Paul Armentano has broken down the study here on Alternet:
Among those surveyed, subjects that reported using cannabis were the least likely to report an ED visit (1.71 percent). Respondents who reported lifetime use of heroin, tranquilizers, and inhalants were most likely (18.5 percent, 6.3 percent, and 6.2 percent respectively) to report experiencing one or more ED visits related to their drug use.
Investigators concluded, “[M]arijuana was by far the most commonly used (illicit) drug, but individuals who used marijuana had a low prevalence of drug-related ED visits.”
Paul also points to a recently released RAND study that found California hospitals received only 181 admissions related to marijuana in 2008, compared to an estimated 73,000 such admissions related to alcohol.
This is extremely valuable information in the debate over marijuana prohibition, since opponents of legalization—including the nation’s drug czar—consistently argue that marijuana’s “social costs” are a leading reason why we shouldn’t lift prohibition.
When they make this argument, Gil Kerlikowske and others will always mention the social costs of alcohol without including any supporting evidence to show that marijuana leads to similar results. The reason they don’t cite such evidence, of course, is because they don’t have any. Findings about the extremely low level of emergency room visits for marijuana compared to alcohol and other drugs simply drive another nail into such blissfully ignorant prohibitionist logic.
Oh, and if anyone tries to argue that this situation will somehow change drastically in a regulated marijuana market, consider this: More than 3 million Californians currently use marijuana (at least once) annually, yet fewer than 200 of them end up in the hospital for related reasons.
Kerlikowske and others shy away from stats like these, however, because they are further evidence of marijuana’s high margin of safety—and the insanity behind its prohibition.