Politics & Social Justice Archive


Many States Moving Forward With Medical Marijuana Plans — Despite Recent Federal Warnings

Saturday, May 7th, 2011

Much has been made in the mainstream media in recent weeks regarding the federal government’s attempts to intimidate states into dropping their medical marijuana programs. But much less media attention has been paid to the reality that in several states, lawmakers are continuing to move forward with medical cannabis legalization efforts despite the Justice Department’s recent rhetorical smack-down.

Here’s a run down of the latest statewide developments and what you can do to help.

Connecticut: Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Public Health on Tuesday decided in favor of Governor’s Bill 1015, which amends state law to “authorize an individual to use marijuana for medical purposes as directed by a physician.” Members of the Judiciary had previously endorsed the bill, which is backed by Gov. Dan Malloy, in April. “States have a right to decide this for themselves,” Michael P. Lawlor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s senior criminal justice adviser told The Connecticut Mirror this week. If enacted, Connecticut will become the sixteenth state since 1996 to authorize the state-sanctioned use of cannabis when recommended by a physician. You can support this effort via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

Delaware: Lawmakers are in the final stages of making Delaware the sixteenth state to allow for the physician-authorized use of marijuana. On Thursday, May 5, House lawmakers approved an amended version of Senate Bill 17, The Delaware Medical Marijuana Act. Senate Bill 17 amends state law so that physician-supervised patients with an authorized “debilitating medical condition” can possess and use marijuana for medical purposes. The measure would also provide for the establishment of non-profit “compassion centers” that would be licensed by the state to produce and dispense medical cannabis. Because House lawmakers made amendments to the Senate version of the bill, the measure must return to the Senate for an additional vote. In March, members of the Delaware Senate voted 18 to 3 in favor of the measure. You can learn more about this measure and how to support it via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

Ohio: Legislation that seeks to legalize the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana was reintroduced this week in the Ohio Legislature. House Bill 214, the Ohio Medical Compassion Act, amends state law so that physician-supervised patients with an authorized “debilitating medical condition” can possess and grow marijuana for medical purposes. Full text of the measure can be read here. HB 214 would allow qualifying patients to possess up to two hundred grams of usable marijuana and twelve mature cannabis plants. Qualifying patients from other medical marijuana states would be provided legal protection under this measure. HB 214 has been referred to the House Committee on Health and Aging, but has yet to be scheduled for a hearing. You can contact your state lawmakers in support of this measure here.

Vermont: Vermont lawmakers have cleared the way for the enactment of the state-licensed distribution of medical marijuana. On Thursday, May 5, House lawmakers voted 99-44 in favor of Senate Bill 17, which allows for the state-sanctioned sale of marijuana to qualified patients. Under the bill, four dispensaries may be established to serve up to 1,000 patients. House lawmakers overwhelmingly decided to pass the measure despite warnings from the US Department of Justice claiming that the operation of such facilities could place citizens and state officials in conflict with federal law. Senators previously passed a version of SB 17 in April and are expected to concur with the minor changes made by the House. State Gov. Peter Shumlin supports the measure. Vermont lawmakers legalized the use of marijuana as a medicine in 2004, but the law presently provides no legal source for cannabis aside from home cultivation.

Currently, both Colorado and New Mexico authorize the state-sanctioned distribution of cannabis.

Read the original post on the NORML blog.

marijuanaissafer Paul Armentano is the author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People To Drink?.

Obama Administration Steps Up Its Rhetoric In Medical Marijuana States

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

The Obama administration’s position on medical marijuana, circa 2009 (via the Ogden memo to all United States attorneys):

“The prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, and the disruption of illegal drug manufacturing and trafficking networks continues to be a core priority in the Department’s efforts against narcotics and dangerous drugs, and the Department’s investigative and prosecutorial resources should be directed towards these objectives. As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

The Obama administration’s position on medical marijuana, circa 2011 (via the May 2, 2011 letter sent from the office of the United States Attorney, District of Arizona, to the Arizona Department of Health Services re: the implementation of the voter-approved Medical Marijuana Program):

“The United States Attorneys Office … will vigorously prosecute individuals and organizations that participate in the unlawful manufacturing, distribution and marketing activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.”

A lot can change in two years — including the administration’s attitude toward the state-authorized use and distribution of cannabis for medical purposes.

In April, NORML blogged about the U.S. Department of Justice, particularly U.S. Attorneys Jenny Durkan of Seattle and Michael Ormsby of Spokane, threatening “civil and criminal legal remedies” (read: sanctions) against Washington state citizens, including state employees, who assist with or engage in the production or distribution of medical cannabis, “even if such activities are permitted under state law.” The U.S. Attorneys’ threats came in response to an inquiry from Gov. Chris Gregoire, a Democrat, who most likely was seeking ‘political cover’ so that she could publicly ‘justify’ her veto of legislation (SB 5073) that sought to license and regulate the dispensing of medical cannabis to qualified persons, and would have enacted additional legal protections for patients who voluntarily participated in a statewide registry. The threats worked; Gov. Gregoire cited them in her veto statement Friday.

In fact, the threats worked so well, that in recent days U.S. Attorneys in other states with active medical marijuana programs have begun issuing similar menacing statements.

Last week in Colorado, where state regulators have licensed over 800 state-licensed medical cannabis dispensaries, U.S. Attorney John Walsh sent a letter to the state’s Attorney General alleging that the federal Justice Department will “vigorously” prosecute individuals or organizations engaged in “unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.” A spokesman for Walsh’s office adds, “In the eye of the federal government, there’s only one type of marijuana. And marijuana is a Schedule I controlled [federally prohibited] substance.”

Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke fired off a similarly worded letter this week to Will Humble, the director of the state Department of Health Services, which is overseeing the implementation of Proposition 203. Under the law, which was approved by voters last fall and was enacted on April 15, the state must register qualified patients who have a doctor’s recommendation for cannabis and also license dispensaries to provide it to them. However, according to Burke, said dispensaries that are compliant with the state’s law will “not [be] protect[ed] from [federal] criminal prosecution, asset forfeiture, and other civil penalties.”

Finally, in Rhode Island, Gov. Lincoln Chafee announced this week that he is suspending the state’s nascent medical marijuana distribution program, set to begin this June. In March, the representatives from the Rhode Island Department of Health selected three applicants to operate the state’s first-ever, government licensed medical cannabis dispensaries. (The dispensaries program was initially approved by lawmakers in 2009, but the winning applicants were not decided upon until two years later.) Predictably, Chafee’s abrupt change of heart came after receiving a hand-delivered letter from U.S. Attorney Peter F. Neronha Friday threatening to prosecute civilly and/or criminally those involved in the dispensary program.

So what’s the impetus for the Obama administration’s sudden decision to play rhetorical hard ball? NORML Outreach Coordinator and podcaster Russ Belville speculates:

“Mr. Obama’s … true intention is to stifle the development of any viable legal cannabis distribution industry. By sending threat letters to Rhode Island and Arizona, states that have created clear and unambiguous laws for medical cannabis providers to follow, it is obvious that Mr. Obama isn’t opposed to medical cannabis, per se, but terribly opposed to medical cannabusiness.

Belville adds: “If (medical cannabusiness) establish (themselves), people will become accustomed to safe, secure, well-run businesses that deliver consistent, reliable, tested cannabis products. They’ll appreciate the way these places revitalize sagging economies, provide jobs, and contribute taxes to budget-starved localities. They’ll realize all the scaremongering by the government about what would happen if marijuana was legal, even for sick people, was hysterical propaganda. [And] they’ll begin to wonder why we don’t just legalize cannabis for everyone, create more jobs, raise more revenue, and use these established businesses as the distribution points.”

Read the original post at the NORML blog.

marijuanaissafer Paul Armentano is the author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People To Drink?.

A Centennial Anniversary That’s Hardly Worth Celebrating

Friday, April 29th, 2011

Marijuana prohibition ‘celebrates’ its centennial anniversary today. That’s right, the government’s war on cannabis consumers is now officially 100-years-old.

Self-evidently, cannabis has won.

Although many credit the passage of the federal Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 with the initiation of pot prohibition, the reality is that one hundred years ago today, Massachusetts Governor Eugene Foss signed the first statewide anti-pot prohibition into law. Following Massachusetts, over 30 states quickly followed suit — including California, Maine, Indiana and Wyoming in 1913 — leading the way for federal prohibition some two-and-a-half decades later.

Of course, cannabis use was practically non-existent in Massachusetts (as well as in most of the rest of the country) in 1911. Yet today, 100 years following the plant’s criminalization, the state boasts one of the highest rates of pot use in the nation.

Former NORML Board Member Richard Evans, author of Massachusetts House Bill 1371, the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act, nails it:

“Despite a century of ever-zealous enforcement and thunderous propaganda at taxpayer expense, marijuana inextricably permeates our culture. Its cultivation, commerce and use have proven ineradicable. We have tried mightily and we have failed to extirpate it. If anyone, anywhere, believes that spending more money on marijuana enforcement will drive out pot, let that person come forward and tell us plainly what it will take to make that happen, how much it will cost, and where the money will come from.

The futility of enforcement, however, is not the urgent reason to legalize it. The reason is that prohibition has become a destructive force in our society.

Most perniciously, marijuana prohibition provides the tools and the excuses for the oppression of minorities. No historian denies that the early drug laws were conceived for that purpose, and today’s grotesquely disproportionate incarceration rate of African-Americans proves that the drug laws have shamefully accomplished that purpose.

Prohibition divides us. Getting caught with pot, or the fear of getting caught, divides parents and teens, employers and employees, friends, neighbors, colleagues, doctors and patients, and citizens and the police. That divisiveness weakens us as we face colossal challenges like a sick economy, the insolvency of states and municipalities, climate change and our addiction to imported oil. As long as cannabis remains illegal, it cannot be a part of the solution to those colossal challenges.

… Our immediate challenge is not to legalize cannabis, but to legalize serious talk about it, without smirks and snickers. How legalization can best protect public health and safety, and discourage abuse, and how to tax the substance, are issues not just for politicians, but for everyone. Legalization is no longer for stoners; it’s for taxpayers, entrepreneurs and grandparents, horrified at the likely state of the planet on which their grandchildren will grow up.

Let the debate begin now, lest another hundred years go by.”

Read the original post on the NORML blog.

marijuanaissafer Paul Armentano is the author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People To Drink?.

Medical Marijuana Rules Finalized In Arizona, Washington, DC

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Regulations have been finalized to allow for the sanctioned-use and dispensing of medical cannabis in two more regions of the country: Arizona and in the nation’s capitol, Washington, DC.

In Arizona, representatives from the Arizona Department of Health Services have approved rules governing the state’s soon-to-be-implemented Arizona Medical Marijuana Program. Voters directed the state to approve regulations regarding the use and distribution of medicinal marijuana in November when they decided in favor of Proposition 203 — making Arizona the fifteenth state since 1996 to legalize the physician-authorized use of cannabis. Program rules, physician certification forms, and answers to frequently asked questions are all available online from the Arizona Department of Health Services here.

Arizona patients may begin qualifying for the program next week, and dispensary applications will be accepted beginning June 1. All patients initially approved by the state will have the option to cultivate their own marijuana. However, patients who reside within 25 miles of a state-licensed dispensary will lose this option once such facilities are up and running later this fall.

In the District of Columbia, city leaders have finally signed off on long-awaited rules regulating patients’ use and access to cannabis. Those rules are expected to take effect April 15. The just-finalized regulations will permit D.C. officials to allow as many as ten cultivation centers and five dispensaries in the District. Permit applications are anticipated to be available by April 17.

The forthcoming rules implement facets of I-59, the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative, a 1998 municipal ballot measure which garnered 69 percent of the vote yet was never implemented. Under the new regulations, qualifying D.C. patients will be able to obtain medical cannabis at licensed dispensaries, but will not be permitted under the law to grow their own medicine.

Washington DC’s forthcoming program is limited to residents of the District of Columbia and is not reflective of any broader change in federal policy.

Additional information on these and other state medical marijuana programs is available from the NORML website here.

Read the original article on the NORML blog.

marijuanaissafer Paul Armentano is the author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People To Drink?.

Pot For Pain: The Verdict Is In

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s media advisories and legislative updates delivered straight to your in-box, sign up for ‘NORML News’ here.]

Cannabis inhalation and the administration of cannabinoids are both associated with “significant analgesic effects” in the treatment of chronic non-cancer pain, according to a systemic review of randomized controlled trials to be published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

Investigators from the University of Toronto, Hospital for Sick Children, conducted a literature review regarding the efficacy of cannabinoids in the treatment of chronic pain, including neuropathic pain, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and mixed chronic pain. Eighteen randomized controlled trials published between 2003 and 2010 involving a total of 766 participants met inclusion criteria. Four of the trials assessed inhaled cannabis, while other studies assessed the analgesic properties of either plant-derived cannabinoids or synthetic cannabinoids.

“Overall the quality of trials was excellent,” authors wrote. “Fifteen of the eighteen trials that met inclusion criteria demonstrated a significant analgesic effect of cannabinoid as compared to placebo, several reported significant improvements in sleep. There were no serious adverse effects.”

Researchers noted that all four trials involving inhaled cannabis “found a positive effect with no serious adverse side effects.” They added: “Of special importance is the fact that two of the trials examining smoked cannabis demonstrated a significant analgesic effect in HIV neuropathy, a type of pain that has been notoriously resistant to other treatments normally used for neuropathic pain. In the trial examining cannabis based medicines in rheumatoid arthritis a significant reduction in disease activity was also noted, this is consistent with pre-clinical work demonstrating that cannabinoids are anti-inflammatory.”

Investigators concluded, “[C]annabinoids are a modestly effective and safe treatment option for chronic non-cancer (predominantly neuropathic) pain. Given the prevalence of chronic pain, its impact on function and the paucity of effective therapeutic interventions, additional treatment options are urgently needed. More large-scale trials of longer duration reporting on pain and level of function are required.”

NORML has additional information on the analgesic properties of cannabinoids in its handbook, Emerging Clinical Applications for Cannabis and Cannabinoids, here.

Read the original post on the NORML blog.

marijuanaissafer Paul Armentano is the author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People To Drink?.

The Feds Finally Recognize The Anti-Cancer Potential Of Cannabis - 36 Years Too Late!

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Scientific trials have for decades documented the anti-cancer properties of cannabis and its constituents. Yet it took until this week for the website of the National Institute of Cancer, a component of the U.S. government’s National Institutes of Health, to finally acknowledged the herb’s therapeutic utility for patients living with disease or suffering from the adverse side-effects of cancer treatment.

In a newly added section to the website, entitled ‘Cannabis and Cannabinoids,’ the Institute states:

Cannabinoids may cause antitumor effects by various mechanisms, including induction of cell death, inhibition of cell growth, and inhibition of tumor angiogenesis and metastasis. Cannabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their nontransformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death.”

…The potential benefits of medicinal cannabis for people living with cancer include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and improved sleep. In the practice of integrative oncology, the health care provider may recommend medicinal cannabis not only for symptom management but also for its possible direct antitumor effect.”

It’s a stunning acknowledgment, given that the NIH is a branch of the very same government that presently maintains that the cannabis plant and all of its naturally-derived components have ‘no accepted medical use.’ Yet it also begs the question: Where has the National Institute of Cancer been all these years?

After all, the anti-tumor activity of cannabinoids were initially documented in 1975! That’s right; it’s taken 36 years for the Institute to get with the program.

Hopefully it won’t take them another 36 years to demand that the Feds finally assess whether these preclinical results are replicable in human trials.

Read the original post at the NORML blog.

marijuanaissafer Paul Armentano is the author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People To Drink?.

Cannabis Inhalation Associated With Spontaneous Tumor Regression, Study Says

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

[Editor's note: This post is excerpted from this week's forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML's media advisories and legislative updates delivered straight to your in-box, sign up for 'NORML News' here. To read more about the anticancer properties of cannabinoids, please see NORML's literature review here.]

Cannabis inhalation is associated with spontaneous brain tumor regression in two subjects, according to a pair of case reports to be published in Child’s Nervous System, the official journal of the International Society for Pediatric Neurosurgery.

Investigators at the British Columbia Children’s Hospital in Vancouver documented the mitigation of residual tumors in two adolescent subjects who regularly inhaled cannabis. Authors determined that both subjects experienced a “clear regression” of their residual brain tumors over a three-year-period.

“Neither patient received any conventional adjuvant treatment” during this time period, investigators wrote. “The tumors regressed over the same period of time that cannabis was consumed via inhalation, raising the possibility that cannabis played a role in tumor regression.”

Researchers concluded, “Further research may be appropriate to elucidate the increasingly recognized effect of cannabis/cannabinoids on gliomas (brain cancers).”

A 2006 pilot study published in the British Journal of Cancer previously reported that the intratumoral administration of the cannabinoid THC was associated with reduced tumor cell proliferation in two of nine human subjects with brain cancer.

Separate preclinical studies assessing the anticancer activity of cannabinoids and endocannabinoids indicate that the substances can inhibit the proliferation of various types of cancerous cells, including breast carcinoma, prostate carcinoma, and lung cancer.

Commenting on the two new case reports, researcher Jahan Marcu — who has previously documented the inhibitory effects of cannabinoids on human glioblastoma cell proliferation and survival — wrote in the blog Freedom Is Green: “Can marijuana contribute to the regression or remission of certain cancers? Given the slow progress of clinical trials for whole plant Cannabis, it can be frustrating waiting for years, even decades, trying to answer these vital questions. But for the two young women with brain cancer in (this) report, a shift to a cannabis lifestyle may have made a difference.”

Read the original post on the NORML blog.

marijuanaissafer Paul Armentano is the author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People To Drink?.

Is New England The New Hotbed For Marijuana Law Reform?

Friday, March 4th, 2011

The northeast has historically been a hotbed for marijuana use — with five of the six New England states self-reporting some of the highest percentages of marijuana consumption in the nation. But recently New England has also become a regional leader in marijuana law reform.

Lawmakers in every New England state are now debating marijuana law reform legislation. Here’s a closer look at what’s happening.

Connecticut: The nutmeg state is the only northeast state besides New Hampshire that has yet to enact some form of marijuana decriminalization or medicalization. But that drought may end this year. Weeks ago, newly elected Democrat Gov. Dan Malloy publicly affirmed his support for legislation that seeks to reduce minor marijuana possession to a noncriminal offense. Malloy endorsed reducing adult marijuana possession penalties from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $1,000 fine) to an infraction, punishable by a nominal fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. Gov. Malloy has also spoken out in favor of legalizing the physician-authorized use of medical marijuana. (Similar legislation was passed by the legislature in 2007, but was vetoed by then-Gov. Jodi Rell.) You can contact your state elected officials in favor of both of these proposals here and here. You can also get involved with Connecticut NORML here.

Maine: Maine voters have twice approved ballot initiatives in recent years addressing the medical use and distribution of medical cannabis. And in 2009, Maine lawmakers increased the amount of marijuana that may be classified as a civil offense from 1.25 ounces to 2.5 ounces (the second highest threshold in the nation). This year state lawmakers have introduced a pair of bills, LD 754 and LD 750, to expand the state’s existing marijuana decriminalization law. LD 754 would amend existing law so that the adult possession of over 2.5 ounces but less than 5 ounces is classified as a civil violation. LD 750 would amend existing law so that the cultivation of up to six marijuana plants by an adult is also classified as a civil violation. Both measures have been referred to the Joint Committee Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. You can contact your lawmakers in support of these measures here. NORML is also working with state lawmakers regarding the introduction of separate legislation to legalize adult marijuana possession, production, and distribution. You can learn more about this pending legislation here.

Massachusetts: In 2008, a whopping 65 percent of voters in endorsed Question 2 decriminalizing the adult possession of an ounce or less of cannabis to a fine-only civil offense. Now a coalition of state lawmakers are backing House Bill 1371 to legalize and regulate adult marijuana production and sales in Massachusetts. You can watch a 60-minute discussion with the bill’s lead sponsor and supporter here. You can contact your state elected officials in support of HB 1371 here, or by visiting the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition/NORML here. You can learn about a separate state legislative effort to regulate the use of medical marijuana here.

New Hampshire: Lawmakers this week heard testimony in favor of House Bill 442, which legalizes the physician-supervised use of medical marijuana. (Similar legislation passed both the House and the Senate in 2009, but was vetoed by Governor John Lynch.) You can write your lawmakers in favor of HB 442 via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here, or by contacting NHCompassion.org.

Rhode Island: In coming days, Rhode Island state regulators will become only the third in the nation to begin licensing medical marijuana dispensaries. A coalition of lawmakers is also debating the amending the state’s penalties for non-patients. House Bill 5031 amends state law so that the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by one year in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. You can voice your support for HB 5031 by clicking here.

Vermont: Two separate marijuana law reform measures are pending before Vermont lawmakers. Senate Bill 17 proposes expanding the state’s medical marijuana law to permit the establishment of two nonprofit medical marijuana dispensaries in the state. You can learn more about this measure here. House Bill 427 amends state law so that the adult possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is reduced from a criminal misdemeanor (punishable by six months in jail and a $500 maximum fine) to a civil offense, punishable by a $150 fine, no jail time, and no criminal record. Passage of the measure, which has been endorsed by Democrat Governor Peter Shumlin, will allow state law enforcement to reallocate an estimated $700,000 annually in criminal justice resources. You can contact your House member in support of HB 427 here.

For up-to-date information on marijuana law reform measures pending in other states, please visit NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.

Read the original article at NORML.

marijuanaissafer Paul Armentano is the author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People To Drink?.

DEA Enacts Federal Ban On ‘Marijuana-Like’ Herbal Products Sold Over The Counter

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) today, as anticipated, exercised its ‘emergency scheduling authority’ to criminally prohibit the possession and sale of chemical agents contained in so-called ‘fake’ herbal marijuana products, commonly sold over the counter under the brand names ‘K2’ and ‘Spice.’ The agency had initially announced its intent to outlaw the chemicals last November.

The specific compounds prohibited under the new DEA ban are: JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-200, CP-47,497, and cannabicyclohexanol. Each of these compounds is now placed in the same category as heroin under federal law.

“Except as authorized by law, this action makes possessing and selling these chemicals or the products that contain them illegal in the United States,” the DEA stated in a press release. “This emergency action was necessary to prevent an imminent threat to public health and safety.”

The agency says that the federal ban will remain in effect for at least one year while the DEA and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) “further study whether these chemicals should be permanently controlled.”

The chemicals in question are synthetic cannabinoid agonists. Once ingested, they interact with endogenous cannabinoid receptors to elicit certain physical and euphoric effects associated with the ingestion of marijuana. They are added to inert herbs to temporarily induce euphoria in the user.

Though NORML takes no official position regarding the use or regulation of these synthetic products, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano issued the following statement:

“The popularity of these products is a predictable outgrowth of criminal marijuana prohibition. As prohibition is apt to do, it has driven the production of a commodity into the hands of unregulated, unknown dealers, driven up the potency of the commodity, and in doing so created a scenario where the consumer is faced with a potentially greater health risks than they would be had they simply had the legal choice to use the product they actually desired, in this case cannabis.

“Since most manufacturers of these products reside overseas and are not subject to federal laws and regulations, it is unlikely that the DEA’s action – as well as the similar bans in other states – will in any way halt the dissemination, use, or misuse of these products by the public. Most likely, the clamp down will likely only make the situation more dangerous – from both a legal standpoint and from a health standpoint – to the consumer.

Read the original article on the NORML blog.

marijuanaissafer Paul Armentano is the author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People To Drink?.

“Legitimate Debate?” Not If The Drug Czar Has His Way

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

Several weeks ago, President Obama stated that he believed the subject of drug legalization and regulation was “an entirely legitimate topic for debate.” Yet recent actions by White House Office of National Drug Control Policy head Gil Kerlikowske imply that this administration has no interest in having this debate in the public arena — at least not in Seattle.

On Friday, February 18, the Seattle Times editorial board opined in favor of House Bill 1550, which legalizes and regulates the “production, distribution, and sale” of marijuana to adults. (You can contact your state elected officials in support of the measure here.) The editorial, titled “The Washington Legislature should legalize marijuana” did not mince words.

Marijuana should be legalized, regulated and taxed. The push to repeal federal prohibition should come from the states, and it should begin with the state of Washington.

… Some drugs have such horrible effects on the human body that the costs of prohibition may be worth it. Not marijuana. This state’s experience with medical marijuana and Seattle’s tolerance policy suggest that with cannabis, legalization will work — and surprisingly well.

Not only will it work, but it is coming.

According to Seattle Times editorial page editor Ryan Blethen, the public’s reaction to the paper’s pot-friendly position was overwhelming.

“It is rare we publish an editorial on a hot topic and receive near universal praise. But that is what happened last week when we came out in support of Washington state legalizing cannabis,” Bethen wrote in February 25 commentary. “When people take the time to e-mail or call me about an editorial, it is usually because they do not agree with the editorial page. This editorial was different. The compliments rolled in, the discussion in the comments section of the editorial is nearing 600 and is interesting and thoughtful — which is not always the case — and so far the editorial has been recommended by about 3,000 people on Facebook.”

Yet there was is one prominent, former Seattle resident who is clearly not amused by the Times call for “a sober discussion about marijuana.” That person is the Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske.

The Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger has the details — and they aren’t pretty.

White House Requests Meeting with Seattle Times to Bully Against Pro-Pot Editorials
via The Stranger

The Stranger has learned that immediately after the Seattle Times ran an editorial last week supporting a bill to tax and regulate marijuana, the newspaper got a phone call from Washington, D.C. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy director Gil Kerlikowske wanted to fly to Seattle to speak personally with the paper’s full editorial board.

The meeting is scheduled for next Friday, an apparent attempt by the federal government to pressure the state’s largest newspaper to oppose marijuana legalization. Or at least turn down the volume on its new-found bullhorn to legalize pot.

Bruce Ramsey, the Seattle Times editorial writer who wrote the unbylined piece, says the White House called right “right after our editorial ran, so I drew the obvious conclusion… he didn’t like our editorial.”

… This isn’t the first time the Obama Administration has campaigned to keep pot illegal. Kerlikowske, who is also Seattle’s former police chief, also traveled to California last fall to campaign against Prop 19, a measure to decriminalize marijuana and authorize jurisdictions to tax and regulate it.

NORML Has long argued that pot prohibition can not withstand careful and consistent scrutiny from the mainstream media. The Drug Czar knows this to be true better than anyone; hence the White House’s need to try and squelch any media-led ‘legitimate debate.’ Fortunately, the genie is out of the bottle and isn’t going back — at least not in Seattle. In fact, just days after The Drug Czar’s phone call, the Seattle Times reiterated their editorial support for legalization, stating “the costs of prohibition in police, courts, jails, gang warfare, civil liberties and blighted lives are too high, especially for a product that lends itself so well to be handled like alcohol.”

Like it or not President Obama, you are going to get your debate. We’re ready; are you?

Read the original article at NORML.

marijuanaissafer Paul Armentano is the author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People To Drink?.