After a nearly fifteen year legal and political odyssey–Washington DC voters like me voted at the nearly 69% level for medical access to cannabis in 1998!–the DC city government has finally issued the last of the necessary forms to in effect allow medical cannabis to finally be employed by sick, dying and sense-threatened medical patients.
With three medical cannabis dispensaries up and running, the only thing they lack are legally compliant patients.
Residents of D.C. that need medical cannabis, who possess a physician’s recommendation, can download the necessary forms here.
On Friday, marijuana reformers recorded the closest vote for a legalization measure on the floor of a state legislature in recent history.
Rep. Diane Russell’s LD 1229, which would place the question of legalization before Maine voters this fall, was narrowly rejected in a 71 to 67 vote. We only managed to get this vote so close because of the outpouring of support via phone and email that Representatives heard from their constituents. Never doubt the power that making you opinion known to your elected officials has a very quantifiable effect.
The good news is that the fight for legalization in Maine still isn’t over for this year. Representative Russell just informed us that she intends to continue the fight for legalization to the floor of the State Senate. The Senate will vote on LD 1229 as soon as Monday.
[UPDATE: Unfortunately, Monday's Senate vote fell short: http://bangordailynews.com/2013/06/10/politics/state-house/maine-senate-opposes-sending-recreational-marijuana-question-to-voters/. The Senate defeat ends the legislative effort for this year.]
On May 18th, The Panic Hour and PhillyNORML held “Smoke Down Prohibition V” in a free speech zone near the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, PA. As the name suggests, this was the fifth such event they had organized. The previous four were well attended, with hundreds of legalization advocates attending and peacefully demonstrating against our country’s failed policy of marijuana prohibition. You can view video of the largest event, held on April 20th of this year, by clicking here.
The previous rallies went off without a hitch. Protestors were peaceful and respectful while law enforcement kept their distance and allowed them to voice their constitutionally guaranteed rights (as evidenced in this video, where National Park Police refuse to interfere with the event). This time, things were different. It was immediately clear from the outset that the police were taking a different approach to Smoke Down Prohibition V, from the very beginning the police presence was massive, with a couple dozen officers standing by and a newly erected fence in place to keep the attendees contained.
Smoke Down Prohibition V continued as planned, despite the inclement weather and ominous group of National Park Service Officers and Philadelphia Police keeping watch. Speakers addressed the crowd of about 100 through the rain and things seemed to be going smoothly. However, as The Panic Hour’s N.a. Poe began the countdown to 4:20, a time at which the crowd traditionally engages in a moment of “cannabis reflection,” the police made their move. Rushing past a crowd of people openly smoking cannabis, they stormed the stage and began the process of violently detaining several marijuana activists, including N.a. Poe, radio host Adam Kokesh, and New Jersey Libertarian candidate for Senate, Don DeZarn. The travesty that followed can be best understood by watching cell phone video captured from the scene below:
(Poe’s arrest starts around 1:50 mark, he is in the hat and yellow shirt being violently pinned to the ground by law enforcement.)
When the dust settled, several were detained and released. N.a. Poe and Adam Kokesh were taken into federal custody. For six days they were held in solitary confinement at a nearby federal detention center, with Poe being denied even a single phone call. The confinement was supposed to provide him with one hour out of solitary for every 23 hours he was in, but this often did not occur, with Poe spending over 36 hours straight in his cell at points. During these six days, he was also denied recreation, access to lawyers, and medical treatment.
Photo Credit: Vanessa Maria, The Panic Hour
When they were brought up for a hearing on their charges, Poe was charged with felony assault on a federal officer and resisting arrest though Kokesh ultimately had his charges dropped to citations. Unfortunately, Poe still must appear in court under these trumped up allegations, which it seems rather clear to any who watched the countless videos, filmed at multiple angles, never happened.
Despite law enforcement’s best efforts to silence him, Poe remains undaunted in his fight against our nation’s absurd marijuana policy. “The suppression of freedom of speech and targeting of activists expressing their views at the birthplace of liberty is a travesty that casts a bright light on the failure of marijuana prohibition at a federal level,” he stated.
N.a Poe and The Panic Hour have long been supporters and friends of NORML and the marijuana legalization movement and the seemingly purposeful targeting of him and several other marijuana activists is an appalling example of the lengths law enforcement will go to, not just to criminalize marijuana smokers, but to silence our ability to utilize our First Amendment rights speak out against this prohibition. NORML will keep you updated as his case moves forward, you can click here to learn more how you can help by supporting N.a. Poe’s legal defense fund.
Not ones to be intimidated, The Panic Hour and PhillyNORML will be hosting Smoke Down Prohibition VI on June 30th, featuring a pro-legalization march with the Cannabus and live comments from N.a. Poe (who will have to be video streamed in as the conditions of his release require him to stay off of federal park property). Stay tuned to The Panic Hour and PhillyNORML‘s facebook pages for more info very soon.
Legislation that allows for the therapeutic use of cannabis by qualified patients, Assembly Bill 6357, was approved today by members of the New York state Assembly in a 95-38 vote. The debate now moves to the Senate where members are expected to take up companion legislation, Senate Bill 4406, in the coming days.
These measures would allow for the therapeutic use of cannabis by qualified patients who possess a recommendation from their physician. They are being supported by a bi-partisan coalition of more than 50 lawmakers.
Under these measures, state-registered patients diagnosed with one of over a dozen serious medical conditions — including cancer, HIV, post-traumatic stress, arthritis, diabetes, or epilepsy — would be allowed to possess up to 2 and one-half ounces of cannabis. The measure also allows for the establishment of licensed not-for-profit and for-profit facilities to produce and distribute cannabis to qualified patients. Non-registered patients would be able to present an affirmative defense of medical necessity at trial.
New York voters strongly support allowing patients to have access to marijuana therapy. According to a 2013 Sienna Research Institute poll, 82 percent of New Yorkers — including 81 percent of Democrats and Republicans — endorse the use of marijuana when authorized by a physician. This is an increase in support of 21 percent since pollsters last asked the question in 2012.
Despite this widespread public support, Senate Co-Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County) has stated his opposition to the measure. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated he opposed the measure, but was keeping an “open mind” on the issue.
If you live in New York, it is imperative that your elected officials hear from you. Please take a minute and click here to quickly and easily contact your State Senator, Senate Co-Leader Skelos, and Governor Cuomo and tell them to stand with the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers by supporting this important legislation.
NORML will continue to update you in the coming weeks as this proposal moves forward. You can track the progress of marijuana law reform legislation in other states via NORML’s ‘Take Action’ page here.
Students for Sensible Drug Policy and the Silver Tour will convene a medical marijuana training session and lobby day in Washington D.C. to encourage Congress and the Obama Administration to allow states greater autonomy to create their own cannabis policies without political pressure from the federal government.
Lobby training session is scheduled for Sunday, June 16, with legislative lobbying all day Monday, June 17.
For more information about the schedule, speakers and activities, please visit here.
Joining SSDP is the senior citizen medical cannabis educational project The Silver Tour, which is looking for crowdsource funding to bring The Silver Tour bus to Washington, D.C.
According to their webpage they’ve already raised $5,500 of the $10,000 needed.
Last week, the Oregon House of Representatives voted 36 to 23 in favor of Senate Bill 281, which adds Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a qualifying condition to the state’s medical marijuana program.
Speaking in favor of the bill, Rep. John Lively (D-Springfield) stated, “Each person who suffers has different levels of how they’re impacted and what it takes to recover. This is about providing a legal avenue for people suffering from PTSD.”
SB 281 was previously approved by the State Senate in April and now awaits Governor Kitzhaber’s signature.
This week, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed two historic measures into law, making Colorado the first state in the country to officially authorize a legalized and regulated cannabis market.
These measures, House Bills 1317 and 1318, are the first-in-the nation regulations governing the statewide commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to those age 21 and older. HB 1317 establishes a regulatory framework for retail cannabis businesses, which are anticipated to begin operating in early 2014. House Bill 1318 proposes tax rates for commercial marijuana production and sales.
These regulations were drafted by the legislature with guidance from a task force, created at the request of the Governor. Colorado NORML served on this task force as a representative for marijuana consumer interests.
The Colorado Department of Revenue is anticipated to more details for the program in the coming weeks. The proposed tax rates in HB 1318 must be approved by a majority of state voters. They seem likely to do so, as recent polling revealed that 77% of Colorado voters support the 15% excise tax on cannabis sales (which is designated for school construction) and an additional 10% sales tax to cover the costs of regulating the industry.
The regulations in House Bill 1317 would require marijuana retail outlets to license with the state and for the first nine months, only currently operating medical marijuana dispensaries can apply. Owners must also be Colorado residents. Initially, these stores must sell marijuana that they cultivated themselves, but by October 2014 this restriction will be lifted to allow independent growers and retail outlets. State residents will be able to purchase up to one ounce of usable marijuana at a time, while out of state visitors will be capped at one quarter ounce per purchase. Possession of up to one ounce of marijuana would be legalized for everyone over the age of 21, regardless of residency.
For more information on Colorado’s marijuana program, click here.
The nation’s so-called ‘drug czar’, Gil Kerlikowske, convened a press conference last week to release new government data on drug use in America. The major talking points for the presentation were two fold:
*Insist that cannabis is linked to crime
*The public sentiment in favor of legalization is an unfortunate attraction to ‘bumper sticker solutions’
One could write a doctoral thesis on Mr.Kerlikowske’s supposition and claims, but suffice for space and time, let’s let the now much more watchdog media on the issue of ending cannabis prohibition better describe what they’ve figured out about ONDCP propaganda, data and the intellectual crime of omission. (Boy, do I have a book recommendation for them…)
Slate reported on the ONDCP’s well established proclivity to throw out data and insinuate causality…using squishy terms like ‘linked’:
On Thursday, Gil Kerlikowske, the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, announced the results of a study that—at least according to him—demonstrated a link between marijuana use and crime. The study analyzed data collected via the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring program (ADAM II), which took urine samples from arrestees in five cities over a 21-day period last year. “Marijuana remained the drug most often detected in ADAM II arrestees in all five sites in 2012, ranging from 37 percent of ADAM II arrestees testing positive in Atlanta to 58 percent testing positive in Chicago,” the study reported. “In three of the five sites, over half of the adult male arrestees tested positive for marijuana.”
Kerlikowske, who opposes marijuana legalization, said in a speech Thursday that the study showed that America needs to “acknowledge and come to grips with the link between crime and substance use.” But correlation is not causation. Just because a high percentage of arrestees tested positive for marijuana does not mean that smoking marijuana made them commit crimes. Here are other things that over half of the adult male arrestees probably had in common: pants, food in their stomachs, a mother who loves them, an impoverished background, an affinity for one or more of the local sports teams.
Now, Kerlikowske only said that drug use and crime were linked, not that drug use causescrime. But still, the implications are obvious. Kerlikowske is not a stupid man, and he’s not actually a terrible drug czar. He has argued that drug abuse needs to be treated as a public health issue, not just a matter of criminal justice, and I couldn’t agree more. In his speech, Kerlikowske mentioned the need to move the drug policy reform debate beyond “bumper stickers.” One good way to do that is to move beyond studies that don’t necessarily say anything at all.
Reason’s Mike Riggs (a prolific and resourceful blogger about criminal justice matters) took the ONDCP to task one step further by busting the office for omitting alcohol related data and not informing the public more accurately about the most problematic and abused drug for incoming criminal defendants: alcohol
The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy released a study last week that found the majority of arrestees in five metropolitan areas tested positive for marijuana at the time they were booked, and that many other arrestees tested positive for harder drugs. There was one drug missing from the report, however, and it appears it was omitted intentionally. That drug is alcohol.
When I wrote up the 2012 annual report on the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program II, I noticed that the methodology section contained a list of “data domains”; basically, a guide to the questions researchers asked each arrestee. Every question listed had a corresponding chart in the findings section of the report, save one: The data that researchers collected about alcohol consumption–how often arrestees had consumed five or more alcoholic drinks in a single session over the last three, seven, and 30 days, as well as in the past 12 months–was omitted from the report.
Update: Watch the very interesting panel discussion—where the major take away point from the data and interpretation of it is that it unlikely that the country will return to a time when a majority of Americans support cannabis prohibition law enforcement.
Also and maybe of far greater significance is the white paper by Brookings scholars William Galston and E.J. Dionne, Jr., The New Politics of Marijuana Legalization: Why Opinion is Changing’. It is an extraordinarily well researched and data-rich paper that well demonstrates a very large, and apparently sustainable shift in public attitude about cannabis, moving from one of great intolerance twenty-five years ago to one of seeking alternative public policies to prohibition, such as decriminalization and legalization.
I highly commend any one serious-minded about cannabis law reform to read and archive the paper.
Washington, D.C., Wednesday, May 29 from 2:00-3:30 PM (eastern), the Brookings Institute is holding its second in a series of public policy review panels examining the ever-evolving changes of cannabis laws—mainly at the state level, with little-to-no federal reforms—where state legislatures and/or voters have voted to replace prohibition laws with decriminalization, medical access to cannabis or outright legalization.
This second panel in the series looks at the emerging public polling data, along with vote totals in states with binding initiatives, which strongly indicate a profound shift in public attitude about cannabis in favor of it’s reform and what are the political implication for federal lawmakers.
At no time in previous history is there greater public and political support for legalization than right now. This public policy series at Brookings reflects the need to cast sober and dispassionate policy analysis, coupled with acknowledgement of change in public sentiment, in the fast changing public policy realm that elected policy makers and their staff; media and academics need to be made fully aware as the country apparently morphs from seventy-five years of cannabis prohibition, to one of ‘tax-n-control’.
If you can’t attend in person, Brookings and WOLA are making this important public panel discussion on cannabis legalization available via webcast.
From Brookings’ press release:
Last November, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize marijuana, and they may not be the last: legalization now has the support of about half the country, up from 25 percent two decades ago. But legalization remains controversial among the public and contrary to federal law and policy. Is a new national consensus emerging, or a new stage of the culture war? Either way, what are the implications?
On May 29, Governance Studies at Brookings and the Washington Office on Latin America will host a public forum to discuss changing attitudes towards marijuana legalization. Brookings Senior Fellows William Galston and E.J. Dionne will present findings of a detailed study of evidence from opinion surveys, some of it newly available. Two experts on politics and public opinion will comment. After the program, speakers will take audience questions.
Panelists include: Senior Fellows at Brookings William Galston and E.J. Dionne, Jr.,; Pollster Anna Greenberg and RealClear Politics Sean Trend
Moderated by Senior Fellow at Brookings Jonathan Rauch