Archive for the ‘Cannabis and the Law’ category

HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup Raided in Amsterdam

November 23rd, 2011

Early this morning, Dutch authorities raided the HIGH TIMES Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam.  UPDATE from HIGH TIMES Magazine:

According to representatives for HIGH TIMES magazine, sponsors of the 24th Annual Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam, the event will continue tonight with a scheduled concert at the Melkweg concert hall (Lijnbaansgracht 234), followed by a full day of the expo (including voting) at the Borchland (Borchlandweg) on Thursday, the final day of the competition. An additional voting station will be set up starting at 2PM on Thursday at the Melkweg, which will remain open until the beginning of the official Cannabis Cup awards ceremony at 8PM. (read more)

Click here to view the embedded video.

According to the East Bay Express:

…police in Amsterdam are in the process of raiding the 24th annual High Times Cannabis Cup Expo. Possession of marijuana has been decriminalized in the Netherlands. But according to tweets on the scene, “everyone will have their buds confiscated, but no one will be charged or fined. This is the first time this has happened in 24 years.”

We broke the news on NORML SHOW LIVE this morning and spoke with Tim Martin of John Doe Radio, who has been in contact with numerous attendees in Amsterdam, including Scott from Rare Dankness Seeds, who called in live to the show (listen here).  According to Scott, much of the Dutch concern is over the concentrates – butane hash oil, for instance – that is considered a “hard drug” in Holland.

“They herded everybody toward one exit, like you’re getting on a ski lift at Vail… then one by one they had about 40 cops there for a little talk and search… People were dropping grams and grams of hash on the ground… baggies littering the floor… people were smoking it if you had it because you weren’t rolling out with it!”

According to Scott there has been one arrest of a vendor who was caught with a lot of “shake” (leaves and stems) which, according to Dutch law, are to be immediately disposed of.  Other reports indicate that there were checks of individuals to ensure they weren’t violating the 5-gram personal possession limit and checks of vendors for compliance with the 500-gram vendor possession limit.

It should be noted that none of this is precipitated by any change in Dutch law.  These limits on personal and vendor possession, disposal of trimmings, and prohibitions on cannabis concentrates have existed throughout the 24-year history of the Cannabis Cup.

What has changed is a new, more conservative government in the Netherlands that seeks to “send a message” about cannabis use.  They began with the closing of border coffee shops to all but Dutch, Belgian, and German passport holders, claiming that “foreign drug tourism” was leading to a host of social ills.

DEA raids Washington marijuana dispensaries in cities that set marijuana as lowest enforcement priority.

November 15th, 2011

Click here for more coverage of Washington
Multiple news outlets are reporting DEA and local officials raiding over a dozen dispensaries in the Seattle-area counties of King, Thurston, and Pierce in Washington State.

The Olympian reports:

The Thurston County Narcotics Task Force served search warrants at five medicinal marijuana dispensaries Tuesday morning and shut them down, according to a police spokesman.

The News-Tribune reports:

Five dispensaries were targeted in Thurston County and five in Pierce County, law enforcement officials reported. So far, no arrests have been reported from the searches in Pierce and Thurston counties.

The warrants targeted locations that are suspected of not complying with state law on medical marijuana, Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said.

“The places we hit are not compliant with state law so we initiated enforcement,” he said. “There are facilities and people that are in compliance with the law that we did not hit.”

KOMO reports:

Medical marijuana activist group ‘Sensible Washington’ tells KOMO News searches have been conducted so far at Seattle Cannabis Co-op, Game Collective, Tacoma Cross, Lacey Cross and Seattle Cross among others.

KOMO News asked DEA spokeswoman Jodie Underwood if agents were serving search warrants on dispensaries in other counties as well and she acknowledged agents were serving several search warrants locally.

Remember, these raids are taking place in Tacoma, which just had an election last week on this very issue of marijuana law enforcement:

(Seattle Times) Tacoma voters easily passed citywide ballot Initiative No. 1 — the measure seeking to make “marijuana or cannabis offenses … the lowest enforcement priority” of the city.

After Tuesday night’s count, 65 percent of voters favored the measure, while 35 percent cast no votes.

And Seattle, which had made marijuana law enforcement its cops’ lowest priority in 2003 by a 58% vote:

(Seattle P-I) Since Seattle voters famously made the Emerald City a bit greener by mandating that cops mellow out when it comes to marijuana possession busts, a funny thing has happened.

Nothing. Nada. Nil. No crazy hopheads running amok with “reefer madness.” No groundswell of support to legalize the drug (at least no more than usual), and no discernible protest by law enforcement that a pro-drug message effectively has been sent — or received.

“I’d say it’s had little to no effect,” said [former] City Attorney Tom Carr, an outspoken opponent of Initiative 75, the 2003 ballot measure that directed Seattle police to make low-level pot busts their lowest priority. “And that’s good. It hasn’t been a problem. You can tell by the numbers.”

Seattle is so accepting of marijuana that the new city attorney, Pete Holmes, won’t even prosecute you for personal possession and believes marijuana should be legalized, as does the mayor, Mike McGinn.  Even the Seattle City Council is unanimous in their support for medical marijuana dispensaries.

The people of Washington State don’t seem to have as much problem with marijuana as the people of Washington, D.C.

Cato, Cannabis, Conference and Coalescing For Reforms

November 14th, 2011

Joining my colleagues and friends Morgan Fox of Marijuana Policy Project, Paul Armentano of NORML and Norman Stamper of LEAP, I’m an honored contributor to a series of essays published by the Cato Institute’s Unbound series on the topic of cannabis law reform and the war on some drugs.

My essay examines 1) identifying concerns for reformers, 2) why cannabis law reform enjoys ever-increasing public support, 3) who supports continuing cannabis prohibition and 4) what are some steps to hasten reforms.

Many thanks to Cato’s Jason Kuznicki for inviting an array of contemporary essays from the perspectives of active reformers!

Allen St. Pierre, executive director, NORML, November 11, 2011:

With so many onerous institutional discriminations and restrictions—and the price of medical cannabis remaining inordinately high because of the existence of cannabis Prohibition—patients who genuinely need access to this low toxicity, naturally occurring herbal medicine would be far better served by ending cannabis Prohibition entirely than in trying to carve out special legal exemptions to the existing Prohibition.

The other essays in the series from Fox, Armentano and Stamper are found here.

Speaking of Cato, tomorrow they’re hosting what I hope is a news-making conference in Washington, D.C. that examines the growing tide of public wont and scientific research in support around the world for a different direction then ‘prohibition’ laws for currently illicit drugs like cannabis, instead favoring the emerging public health and criminal justice doctrine of ‘harm reduction’.

The line up of speakers and topics should not be ignored by the media and policymakers as Cato has assembled an impressive line-up:

Former President, Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mexico, Jorge Castaneda
Speaker of the House of Deputies, Uruguay, Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou
Wall Street Journal, Editorial Board Member and Columnist, Mary Anastasia O’Grady
Columnist Glenn Greenwald
Law Professor and LEAP board member, Leigh Maddox
Drug Policy Alliance, Director, Ethan Nadelmann, Ph.D
Daily Caller, Editor, Tucker Carlson

Video messages are expected from former President, Mexico, Vicente Fox and former US Secretary of State, George Schultz.

Looks like you can watch the conference at Cato Live!

This Week in Weed: November 6th-12th

November 12th, 2011

This Week in WeedThe latest installment of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.

This week, lawyers from the NORM Legal Committee bring lawsuits against the federal government and a new study looks at how medical marijuana laws affect youth drug use.

Be sure to tune in to NORMLtv every week to catch up on the latest marijuana news. Subscribe to NORMLtv or follow us on Twitter to be notified as soon as new content is added.

Cannabis’ Impact on Health Justifies Its Legalization, Not Its Criminal Prohibition

November 10th, 2011

The theme of the November issue of the academic online journal CATO Unbound is “If Not Now, When? The Slow Rise of Marijuana Reform.”

I have the lead essay in the journal, which also features forthcoming contributions from NORML’s Executive Director Allen St. Pierre and other notable drug law reform advocates.

Below is an excerpt from my commentary, entitled, “Cannabis Impact on Health Justifies Its Legalization, Not Its Criminal Prohibition.”


CANNABIS’ IMPACT ON HEALTH JUSTIFIES ITS LEGALIZATION, NOT ITS CRIMINAL PROHIBITION

via CATO Unbound

In July 2011, the Obama Administration rebuffed an administrative petition filed by a coalition of public interest organizations, including NORML, which sought to reassess cannabis’ Schedule I status under federal law. Yet little if any scientific basis exists to justify the federal government’s present prohibitive stance, and there is ample scientific and empirical evidence to rebut it.

… Ultimately, … none of the potential health risks associated with the adult, responsible use of cannabis in any objective way justify the substance’s present Schedule I prohibitive status or legitimize the use of state and federal force to restrict consumers from engaging in the plant’s production, distribution, or consumption. Nor do they justify the Obama Administration’s present heavy-handed attempts to interfere with the rule of law in states that have enacted policies that diverge from that of the federal government’s.

The concerns raised by federal lawmakers and the present administration regarding the potential health implications of cannabis do not validate the drug’s continued criminalization. Just the opposite is true. There are numerous adverse health consequences associated with alcohol, tobacco, and prescription pharmaceuticals – all of which modern scientific inquiry has determined to be far more dangerous and costlier to society than cannabis – and it’s precisely because of these consequences that these products are legally regulated and their use is restricted to particular consumers and specific settings. Similarly, a pragmatic regulatory framework allowing for the limited legal use cannabis by adults would best mitigate the health risks associated with the drug’s use and abuse. At a minimum, this framework would require federal lawmakers to reschedule cannabis from its archaic and unscientific Schedule I prohibitive status. At best, such a scheme would demand that cannabis be ‘descheduled’ and removed the from the federal Controlled Substances Act altogether.

You can read my entire essay here.

Continue to check back often to the CATO Unbound website as several other essays on the topic, including a commentary by LEAP’s Norm Stamper, will be added to the site and discussed in the coming days.

‘We The People?’ — Voters Act To Reduce Municipal Marijuana Penalties, Cops Have Other Ideas

November 9th, 2011

Two municipal election results from yesterday ought to come as no surprise.

In the cities of Kalamazoo, Michigan and Tacoma, Washington, municipal voters overwhelmingly favored local ballot measures to mandate that the criminal enforcement of cannabis possession offenses be law enforcement’s “lowest priority.”

In Tacoma, voters decided in favor of Initiative 1, which states that minor marijuana offenses shall be “the lowest enforcement priority of the City of Tacoma.”

In Kalamazoo, voters approved a similar ‘deprioritization’
measure
by a margin of almost 2 to 1.

Given that one out of two Americans now favor outright legalizing the adult use of the marijuana plant, and given that voters have consistently voted in favor of similar ‘deprioritization’ measures before (e.g., Seattle, 2003; Oakland, 2004; Columbia, Missouri, 2004; Santa Cruz, 2006;Denver, 2007; etc.) last night’s results are hardly surprising.

Equally unsurprising is the response from local law enforcement, whose public comments once again belie the myth that ‘police just enforce the laws; police don’t make the laws.’

Marijuana amendment will have little effect on law enforcement in Kalamazoo, chief says
via The Kalamazoo Gazette

Little, if anything, about how his officers do their job will change, Kalamazoo Public Safety Chief Jeff Hadley said Wednesday, less than a day after city residents voted to make possession of a small amount of marijuana the lowest priority for police.

“I certainly respect the democratic process,” Hadley said. “It certainly gives you an insight to what some of the voters are thinking in terms of their views on marijuana. However, it really has little to no impact on how we operate at Public Safety.”

The ballot measure, which amends the city charter, was overwhelmingly endorsed by voters Tuesday, with 65 percent giving their approval.

The ballot question voters approved Tuesday was: “Shall the Kalamazoo City Charter be amended such that the use and/or consumption of one ounce or less of usable marijuana by adults 21 years or older is the lowest priority of law enforcement personnel?”

Hadley reiterated Wednesday what he has said previously about the ballot measure, which is that it will have no effect on his agency because the city charter only addresses ordinances and marijuana possession and use are illegal under state and federal law, which will continue to be enforced.

“The charter amendment only has an impact on city ordinances, which we do not have any existing city ordinances relative to the possession or use of marijuana and we still have every obligation to enforce state and federal laws,” the chief said.

For further analysis on law enforcement’s resistance to marijuana law reform, please see NORML Outreach Coordinator Russ Belville’s excellent, archived commentary on The Huffington Post here.

NORML Attorneys file multiple constitutional challenges to federal medical marijuana crackdown

November 7th, 2011

NORML Attorneys Matt Kumin, David Michael, and Alan Silber, have filed suit (read here) in the four federal districts in California to challenge the Obama Administration’s recent crackdown on medical marijuana operations in the Golden State. Aided by expert testimony from NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano and research from California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, the suits seek an injunction against the recent federal intrusion into state medical marijuana laws at least and at most a declaration of the unconstitutionality of the Controlled Substances Act with respect to state regulation of medical marijuana.



Video streaming by Ustream
The NORML attorneys allege the federal government has engaged in entrapment of California patients and their caregivers.  They point to the courts’ dismissal of County of Santa Cruz, WAMM et al. v. Eric Holder et al. where the Department of Justice (DOJ) “promised a federal judge that it had changed its policy toward the enforcement of its federal drug laws relative to California medical cannabis patients.”  So after 2009, California providers had reason to believe that the federal government had changed its policy.  The legal argument is called ‘judicial estoppel’, which basically means that courts can’t hold true to a fact in one case and then disregard it in another.

Kumin, Michael, and Silber also argue the government has engaged in ‘equitable estoppel’, which most people commonly think of as ‘entrapment’.  That is to say, you can’t bust a person for committing a crime when the authorities told him it wasn’t a crime to do it!

Under established principles of estoppel and particularly in the context of the defense of estoppel by entrapment, defendants to a criminal action are protected and should not be prosecuted if they have reasonably relied on statements from the government indicating that their conduct is not unlawful. That principle should be applied to potential defendants as well, the plaintiffs in this action.  Such parties, courts have noted, are “person[s] sincerely desirous of obeying the law”. They “accepted the information as true and [were]…not on notice to make further inquiries.” U.S. v. Weitzenhoff, 1 F. 3d 1523, 1534 (9th Cir. 1993).

The US Constitution figures prominently in the legal challenge as well.  The 9th Amendment says that “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”  The NORML attorneys argue that threatening seizure of property and criminal sanctions violates the rights of the people to “consult with their doctors about their bodies and health.”

The 10th Amendment provides that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  The NORML attorneys argue that the States have the “primary plenary power to protect the health of its citizens” and since the government has recognized and not attempted to stop Colorado’s state-run medical marijuana dispensary program, it cannot suggest Colorado has a state’s right that California does not.

The 14th Amendment says that all citizens have equal protection under the law.  The NORML attorneys argue that the federal government:

1. Actively provides cannabis for medical purposes to individuals through its own IND program.
2. Actively allows patients in Colorado to access medical cannabis through a state-licensing system that allows individuals to make profit from the sales of medical cannabis.
3. Actively restricts scientific research into the medical value and use of cannabis to alleviate human suffering and pain.

Thus, according to Kumin, Michael, and Silber, the government can’t be allowing Colorado medical marijuana commerce, engaging it its own IND program that mails 300 joints a month to four federal medical marijuana patients yet squelching all attempts to study medical value of marijuana, then have a rational basis for shutting down medical marijuana dispensaries in California.  Under the 14th Amendment, the feds can’t treat Californians differently than Coloradoans and differently than four US citizens who get legal federal medical marijuana.

Finally, while acknowledging that Raich v. Gonzales 545 US 1 (2005) set the precedent that the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce Clause does allow the feds to prosecute California’s medical marijuana, the NORML attorneys argue:

…it is still difficult to imagine that marijuana grown only in California, pursuant to California State law, and distributed only within California, only to California residents holding state-issued cards, and only for medical purposes, can be subject to federal regulation pursuant to the Commerce Clause. For that reason, Plaintiffs preserve the issue for further Supreme Court review, if necessary and deemed appropriate.

We will keep you posted on all updates related to this groundbreaking lawsuit.  Archive of our interview with the lead attorneys in this case is available in our “Audio/Video” section on The NORML Network.

Click here to join NORML today and help us in the fight to legalize marijuana.

NORML Attorneys File Suit Against Federal Government

November 7th, 2011

Today, three NORML Legal Committee attorneys will announce lawsuits against the federal government with hopes of ending the medical marijuana crackdown in California. Attorneys Matt Kumin, David Michael, and Alan Silber are coordinating the effort which aims to enjoin the federal government from this latest round of federal enforcement actions against the growers and dispensaries in the state.

The group plans on using a variety of legal theories including the 9th and 10th Amendments, equal protection and due process, and collateral estoppel in their case. NORML’s Deputy Director Paul Armentano has also personally filed a declaration in this suit, which will be raised in each of the four federal districts in California.

NORML will have a more in-depth look at the suit later today when it is formally announced.

Medical marijuana turns 15 years old – Has it reached its zenith?

November 4th, 2011

Tomorrow, November 5th, 2011, marks the fifteenth anniversary of California’s passage of Prop 215, The Compassionate Use Act. The Act passed with 55.58% of the vote and remains the greatest achievement in marijuana law reform in the “War on Drugs” era.

NORML's Chart of Legalization Polls - data compiled by Russ Belville from various organizations asking a form of the question "Should marijuana be legalized in America?" (click graphic for full-sized version)

The successes of Prop 215 are well documented.  Two years following its passage, the rest of the West Coast and Alaska passed their own medical marijuana initiatives, with close to equal (OR 55%) or greater (WA 59% & AK 58%) support than California voters gave Prop 215.

The next decade saw twelve more states and the District of Columbia passing medical marijuana laws, with seven of those states doing so through the legislature.  Five of the citizen initiatives topped 60% support.  As states passed medical marijuana, some added more conditions for qualification, some legislated dispensary operations, and the most recent have instituted protections for the rights of patients to drive, work, have a home, get an organ transplant, and raise their kids.  In some ways, medical marijuana has improved in fifteen years.

In the 21st Century, medical marijuana support has flatlined and support for legalization of marijuana has almost doubled.

But a closer examination reveals a reform strategy that has stalled out and may even be in decline.  The last election saw Oregon fail to pass a dispensary measure for the second time with about the same support after six years.  South Dakota defeated medical marijuana with only 36% support, a drop of 12 points since they tried in 2006.  Arizona only barely passed medical marijuana with 50.13% support, when they had previously seen 65% in 1996 and 64% in a 1998 referendum (both 1990’s Arizona Acts were invalidated.)

Indeed, the national polls show a stalling on the medical marijuana issue as well.  When Gallup asked about support for medical marijuana and legalized marijuana in 1999, support was 73% and 29%, respectively.  We assume that someone who supports legalization for healthy people probably supports legalization for sick people, too, so that means 44% of those polled only support medical marijuana, not legalization.  But in the latest 2011 poll, legalization support has hit 50% while in the 2010 poll, medical support had dropped to 70%, down 8 points since 2005.  How has the support for legalization doubled (25% to 50%) since Prop 215 while support for making a medical exception to criminal marijuana has flatlined?

Your Bill of Rights does not fully apply in the shaded states

We’ve seen how courts, legislatures, and law enforcement have supported medical exceptions – by trying to make those exceptions as narrow and costly as possible.  No state followed California’s lead in making marijuana available by doctor’s recommendation for any other illness for which marijuana provides relief”, instead crafting strict condition lists and patient registries.  The West Coast standard of a dozen or more home-grown plants became 3-6 plants or no home growing at all.  The precedent of a half-pound or more of usable medicine became 1 or 2 ounces, tracked to the gram and filmed at all times.  Courts all across the Ninth Circuit have ruled that medical marijuana use does not protect patients from job discrimination and patients still experience housing, child custody, and medical procedure discrimination on a daily basis.

Medical marijuana laws have become stricter since California's Prop 215

Oregon legislators proclaimed the medical marijuana program rife with abuse on the sole evidence that 50,000 patients had signed on, so they doubled the mandatory registry fee (up to ten times greater if you’re poor and previously got a discounted fee) to reduce the medical marijuana registry numbers.  Oregon sheriffs are in agreement with the ATF that patients have no Second Amendment rights.  Colorado legislators passed a series of medical marijuana business regulations making it more difficult and expensive to operate a dispensary than a liquor store and impossible to be a personal caregiver who just supplies marijuana to a patient.  Montana outright repealed medical marijuana, saved only by a governor’s veto, only to enact new strict regulations to decimate (literally) the medical marijuana program.  California localities continue to restrict dispensary operations.  Washington’s governor vetoed a dispensary measure.  Arizona’s governor is stonewalling implementation of dispensaries.  Alaska, Maine, Nevada, and Vermont still have fewer than 1,000 protected patients.  New Jersey and District of Columbia leaders are dragging their feet and haven’t implemented their programs yet.

What don't we have on site? Spell check.

The basis of medical marijuana restrictions and discrimination depends on a federal Schedule I designation that defines the use of cannabis by healthy people a criminal act.  These restrictions, dropping poll numbers, and failing medical marijuana initiatives indicate a substantial portion of Americans that believe “compassionate use” is a ruse (I wonder what gave them that idea?).

I believe that there are three basic stands on medical marijuana among the voters not personally invested in the issue:

  1. The people who believe pot smoking is evil and will never support anyone using it for any reason (“prohibitionists”).
  2. The people who believe pot smoking is evil, but letting cancer and AIDS patients suffer is more evil (“medicalizers”).
  3. The people who don’t believe pot smoking is evil and would allow any adult to use it (“legalizers”).

If there are 1.5 million pot smokers protected from arrest by medical marijuana laws, why have marijuana arrests continued to climb?

The prohibitionists will never support medical marijuana and the legalizers have always supported medical marijuana.  So the fate of any medical marijuana proposal rests on whether a coalition of legalizers and medicalizers can form a majority.  Over the past fifteen years, forming that majority has required more restrictive definitions of medical marijuana to assuage the medicalizers who increasingly think evil pot smokers are getting through the loopholes.  Worse, forming that coalition requires legalizers to tacitly agree that healthy pot smoking is evil.

When medical marijuana began in the Nineties, the rallying cry was “If there’s going to be a ‘War on Drugs’, let’s get the sick and dying off the battlefield.”  If that’s the case, why do we continue to see a rise in “casualties” on the battlefield?  Even in medical marijuana states, annual arrests of cannabis consumers continue to rise.  All medical marijuana has done for marijuana convicts is improve their population’s average level of health in sixteen states.

It's time to stand up for healthy marijuana users

Medical marijuana started a revitalization of marijuana activism.  But I believe it has reached a point where any future medical marijuana laws will have to be increasingly restrictive.  And the near future holds DEA rescheduling of plant THC for use by Big Pharma in devices that will provide all the medical relief without the “high”, which will cleave some of the medicalizers away from further reforms.  We’ve gotten to a point in time where half as many people only support “medical legalization” over a decade and support of legalization for all adults now outnumbers opposition for the first time.

This is not to argue that we give up on medical marijuana campaigns.  It is to argue that the campaigns need to be re-framed away from “Oh, no, this isn’t legalization at all!” to “Yes, we’re going to legalize for sick people first”.  Until marijuana is supported as a good thing for all and not an evil thing we allow medical exceptions for, medical marijuana patients will remain in second-class citizenship and healthy marijuana smokers will remain behind bars.

This Week in Weed: Oct. 30th – Nov. 5th

November 4th, 2011

This Week in WeedThe latest installment of “This Week in Weed” is now streaming on NORMLtv.

This week, even more elected officials speak out against the federal government’s marijuana crackdown and call for rescheduling. We also look at the results from two of the latest cannabis-related studies.

Be sure to tune in to NORMLtv each Thursday afternoon to catch up on the latest marijuana news. Subscribe to NORMLtv or follow us on Twitter to be notified as soon as new content is added.