Monday, December 31, 2012

Reflections on a Collective: Shari Albert's Medical Marijuana Education

While most joke about writers and actors waiting tables and working at call centers until their big break, Shari Albert writes about her experiences working in a Los Angeles medical marijuana collective.

Though she originally took the job as a means of survival between gigs after appearing in the Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning film "The Brother’s McMullen," she found herself liking the job's human contact and the availability of pot.

She writes: "In LA, you can go entire days without talking to another human, but this job forced me to get out of the house, interact with people whose lives were very different than mine, and learn, in the process, to let go of a lot of judgment I didn’t even knew I carried with me.

"On the flip side, I was smoking WAY too much weed. I realized this when hanging out with a friend, hitting the bong about three times more than he did, and not even getting high. At five feet tall, my tolerance felt like a football player's. He was concerned, as was I."

The schizophrenic nature of Los Angeles' medical pot laws are also touched on, such as pot, or "medicine," technically not being "sold."

Albert has since gone on to star in "Ugly Betty," "King of Queens," and "Law & Order." She's now working on a web series about a medical marijuana collective...of course.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

DEA Uncooperative in LAPD Investigation of Drug Suspect's Death

In a display of just how crazy the "war on drugs" has gotten, the Los Angeles Police Department is investigating a murder that occurred during the Drug Enforcement Agency's watch — and is getting stonewalled in their inquiry, the LA Times reports.

The investigation, which has been ongoing for the past two years, involves the arrest and subsequent death of Alberto Arriaga, who had been fingered by a DEA informant as a supposed meth dealer.
When he was taken in by the LAPD to be booked, Arriaga said he had no medical issues, but later complained of abdominal pains and that he was beaten by the DEA agents. He was taken to a hospital and died 16 hours later.

Homicide investigators tasked with investigating the death were told the DEA agents needed to find legal representation, then were told the questioning would have to be done after the autopsy was completed.

However, the agency did not make the agents available. Los Angeles prosecutors then decided that local police had no jurisdiction to question federal agents. The US Attorney agreed to do the questioning — but to date, it has not occurred.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

City of Oakland: 'There is No Science' When it Comes to the Feds and Medical Pot

In an effort to stop the federal government from closing the Harborside Health Center medical marijuana dispensary, the city of Oakland stated that "In the (federal) government's world, there is no science," during a lawsuit Reuters reports.

Harborside, which claims to be the biggest medical pot dispensary in the world, is estimated to generate about $1.4 million in sales tax revenues for the city this year. Though the federal government attempted to seize the dispensary's assets in July, Oakland took the government to court in October to stop the proceedings.

Cedric Chao, who represents Oakland, stated the government's own researchers discover new medical uses for pot and "sought exclusive ownership rights to cannabis compounds."

The federal government asserts federal law trumps state laws and municipal laws which allows medical marijuana, of course. This is despite the numerous states that have OK'd pot for medical use and that Washington state and Colorado approved of its recreational use.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Washington City's Proposed Changes in Zoning Medical Marijuana Businesses Causes Uproar

Proposed zoning changes for medical marijuana facilities in Everett, Wash. have access advocated up in arms. The proposed law would allow the city to close medical marijuana operations on nuisance grounds, but would allow collective farms to conduct business in parts of the town designated as industrial, away from its residential areas.

Despite the fact that marijuana is legal in Washington for medicinal and recreational purposes, Everett's city council is worried about the federal government closing the medical pot businesses.

"We want to make sure we are honoring state law. We also want to make sure that the federal law is not going to put us in a bad situation," said Everett city spokesperson Kate Reardon told KOMO News.

However, the city's justification does not satisfy medical marijuana users who are protesting the proposed changes. "Why is is fair for someone in Seattle or Shoreline to have that right, or the corner store, when these people in Everett can't? It's just not fair," said Jeremy Kelsey of the Medical Marijuana Patients' Network.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Medical Marijuana User Faces Termination of Housing Benefits — In Colorado (as in Pot-is-Legal-in-Colorado Colorado)

A Longmont, Colorado woman is facing termination of her Section 8 benefits because of her use of medical marijuana — despite the fact that the state was one of two that recently legalized recreational use of the drug, Denver NBC affiliate 9News reports.

Ashley Weber, who was paralyzed because of a drunk driver, depends on the monthly check from the Longmont Housing Authority to rent a house for herself and her three year old son. It also provided the funds that made her bathroom wheelchair accessible.

Weber uses medical marijuana in edible form. She says it helps with the pain from her injuries and muscle spasms. When she submitted paperwork that included her medical marijuana expenses during a yearly renewal, the housing authority stopped her benefits.

A spokesman for the agency said it has zero tolerance policy for drug use.

Again — Colorado. Legalized pot. What the hell?

"When I got the letter, I was sick to my stomach," Weber said. "I would have nowhere else to go.

Weber has found an attorney to represent her, pro bono. If her benefits are not reinstated, the lawyer plans to file suit against the housing agency.

Angelinos to Vote on Virtually the Same Pro-Medical Pot Initiatives in March

Los Angeles will have not one, but two medical marijuana initiatives to vote on in March. But it's not what you're expecting, with anti-pot group facing off against a pro-pot group. Instead it's a sort-of ludicrous Sophie's choice that puts the initiatives of two medical marijuana groups up against each other.

The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Control Act would only allow those dispensaries that opened and registered with Los Angeles as of Sept. 14, 2007. It's estimated that only about 100 clubs currently meet that criteria, the reports.

The Medical Marijuana Collectives Initiative Ordinance would allow dispensaries if they register with the city and adhere to policies decided on by the city. The proposed law would also give priority to those dispensaries that "operated as of September 14, 2007; timely registered with the City; have not ceased operations for 90 days except to relocate or in response to federal action; provide no ingress/egress from adjacent residential zoned lots; pass annual LAPD background checks; and after 300 days maintain a certain distance from schools, parks, and other designated places."

Over 450 medical marijuana dispensaries currently operate within Los Angeles.

So what are the possible outcomes? Both initiatives are shot down, but considering the overwhelming support for medical pot by Angelinos, that's not likely. One of the initiatives pass, which is pretty likely. Or, both initiatives pass, causing even more confusion in the Los Angeles dispensary industry — while not as likely as just one of the measures massing, this is still a very strong possibility...and once again, confusion will rule.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Forget Amsterdam — Marijuana Tourism may Take Off in Seattle and Aspen

With the future of Amsterdam's legendary coffee shops up in the air, will marijuana tourism in Colorado and Washington take up the slack for Americans looking for a legal toke?

It's one of the possible unintended consequences of the states legalizing pot, the Sandusky Register reports. While tourist officials in Aspen downplay the possibility of the city becoming "Aspendam," as some are saying tongue in-cheek, ski resorts are quietly investigating the possibility to adding adults-only cannabis lodges.

Seattle's "Hempfest" draws 250,000 visitors to the event, and are left alone, for the most part, by local law enforcement and city officials.

Now that pot is legal in Washington, even larger numbers are expected. Vivian McPeak, the event's executive director, said, "People travel to Seattle from other states and countries to attend Seattle Hempfest every year to experience the limited freedom that happens at the event. It's reasonable to assume that people will travel to Washington assuming that the federal government doesn't interfere.

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo, whose jurisdiction includes Aspen, takes a tolerant attitude toward the possibility of pot tourism.

"For me, it's going to be live and let live. If people want to come to Colorado because pot is legal — and that's the sole reason — it's up to them. I am not the lifestyle police," he said.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Marijuana Advocates Try to Read the Tea Leaves in Obama's Latest Medical Pot Statement

In a recent interview with ABC's Barbara Walters, President Obama had this to say about casual users who are now smoking legally under the protection of Colorado and Washington: "We've got bigger fish to fry."

He continued, "It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal."

What he actually meant, though, is making pro-legalization and pro-access advocates each give their own conflicting opinions on the subject, according to the Eureka, Calif.'s Times-Standard.

Mark Lovelace, a district supervisor in Humoldt County, expressed his reservations about the quote. "A statement to Barbara Walters is far from substantive policy," he said.

"I would welcome any movement from the feds that would allow state and local government to regulate marijuana,” he added. "Even better would be to see not just a hands-off approach, but...a cooperative approach."

But others took his statement at face value. Joe Elford, general counsel for Americans for Safe Access, said, "It's a tremendous step forward. It suggests the feds are taking seriously enough the idea that there should be a carve-out for states with marijuana laws."

However, with federal raids on dispensaries commonplace despite then-presidential candidate Obama's promises to be hands-off when it came to medical marijuana, others aren't so optimistic about the future.

Alison Sterling-Nichols, former Humboldt Growers Association and Emerald Growers Association executive director voiced her doubts about the President and government agencies having "bigger fish to fry."

"Honestly, he said that in '08 when he was running for president about medical marijuana," she said.

Reefer Madness Redux: I-502 Makes Educators Ask Hard Questions About Policies, Anti-Drug Curriculum

Now that pot is legal in Washington state and Colorado, how will anti-drug crusaders now address the subject now that it's as legal as alcohol and tobacco? More importantly, how will those in schools discuss this "gateway drug"?

According to an article by the West Seattle Herald, the change in law is making educators examine what they're teaching to kids in terms of drug prevention. With the voter OK for legalization, it's making them realize that they may need to reexamine what they're teaching.

"Especially with the marijuana laws that passed recently, I think that one of the things we are not doing well at our school, and I think at many of our schools, is we are not really educating our kids very well," Diane Garcia, a principal at Cascade, a middle school, said.

Surprisingly, one of the school's counselors, Julian McCullough, admitted that not all students fit the stoner/underachiever stereotype and that some are better at coping that others and identifying kids who use drugs may not be easy as others want believe. While some students may have performance that plummets if they start to use marijuana, others maintain their grades.

"I’m sure that we have kids who are using regularly who come to school and get really good grades, play sports, and just do really well," McCullough said.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Appellate Court Reverses Conviction of Dispensary Owner

A Washington appellate court overturned a lower court's conviction against Scott Shupe, the owner of Change, one of the first medical marijuana dispensaries open in Spokane.

Shupe was found guilty of manufacturing, possessing and selling marijuana. However, the appellate court supported his defense that he was a legitimate dispensary owner.

The state's prosecutors presented a case that was torn apart on Shupe's appeal. The prosecutors did not answer Shupe's defense that he was a dispensary owner working within the letter of the law. The defense successfully argued that the warrants issued did not have probable cause and that the information for the basis of the warrant was not creditable because the informant for the warrant did not see the marijuana in question or see any sales taking place.

In addition, according to KXLY, the police did not prove that Shupe sold marijuana or that it was being transported because they did not conduct an undercover operation against Change — despite having an opportunity to do so.

However, possibly the most important and telling detail in Shupe's defense, that wasn't mentioned by the court, was the overwhelming legalization of marijuana by Washington state's voters.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Through the Looking Glass: How Prohibitionists See Advances in Pot for Medical Access and Legalization

With the advances made in the last year with brining marijuana to the mainstream, it's easy to forget there's a vocal percentage who will never see any benefit to using pot for medicine or recreation.

Charles "Cully" Stimson takes exception to the burgeoning cannabis culture in the US, and penned an opinion column in Milwaukee-Wisconsin Sentinel Journal, "How pot advocates are manipulating the truth". He's a former prosecutor (of course) and defense attorney (though probably not for those damned grasshoppers!) and a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation.

It should be noted that The Heritage Foundation is a Republican think tank that claims Rush Limbaugh as their own (marijuana isn't the same as prescription pain killers, I suppose) as well as Ed Meese, Ronald Reagan's attorney general who had his own prohibitionist war on porn.

The usual alarmist rhetoric is trotted out like a dead horse, waiting to be kicked.

Taxes? You're living in a fool's dream that it'll raise taxes because prices will plunge! Never mind about the usual conservative dogma about all taxes being bad.

It'll just make gang wars worse in states that don't legalize pot! Never mind that the real problem is that the federal government won't accept that its laws on pot need reforming.

Marijuana is bad for your health! Never mind…oh, just never mind.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Los Angeles Still Can't Make Up Its Mind About Disepnsaries

The Los Angeles City Planning Commission approved a plan to allow the city's dispensaries to remain open, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.

However, not all of the city's dispensaries would qualify. Those that have been in business since September 2007, that have registered with the city, are up to date on their taxes and agree to regulations regarding zoning and their hours would be able to continue to service their patients. Less than 182 dispensaries in Los Angeles meet those criteria.

The plan was passed by a 5-0 vote by the committee. Dispensaries have been operating in a legal gray zone since October, when the LA City Council scrapped plans to ban all dispensaries.

However, the new proposal does not give the storefronts immunity from state and federal law enforcement agencies. The dispensaries would only give immunity from local law enforcement.

The entire proposed law may be moot, however, as medical access supporters are circulating a petition for two initiatives that would OK much more lenient rules than those passed by the commission.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bogus: Institutes of Higher Learning in Colorado, Washington a Buzzkill for Marijuana-Minded Students

College students may have been the biggest supporters of pot legalization in Colorado and Washington, but ironically they may benefit the least from the new laws. 

Many universities and colleges have anti-marijuana codes of conduct on their books (which seem as quaint as curfews and single-sex dorms) and because of the federal funding many of the institutions receive from the government, anti-drug enforcement is still alive and well.

The penalty for toking it up in campus — even in a state that's decriminalized weed? Expulsion.

"Everything we've seen is that nothing changes for us," Darin Watkins, a spokesman for Washington State University in Pullman, told the Associated Press.

Of course, as the decades of anti-drug policy has shown and as the surging popularity of legalization demonstrates, just because someone bans something, it doesn't mean people will stop doing it.

"People in dorms now who want to smoke, they do it," Anna Marum, a Washington State senior, says. "I do think more people will be smoking in the dorms when marijuana is legal for use."

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Humbolt State University Launches Program to Study Pot, the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research

Humbolt State University opened the Humboldt Institute for Interdisciplinary Marijuana Research. While other universities have programs to study drugs and drug use, officials from Humbolt State's program are claiming that it's the first to dedicate itself to the study of marijuana, the Eureka Times-Standard reports.

Humbolt County's reputation as one of the best places to grow marijuana puts HSU in a unique position to study pot as it grows in acceptance. Lectures the institute sponsored include a talk on local marijuana enforcement, and how growing marijuana affects wildlife. A symposium in October brought Humboldt County Sheriff Mike Downey, District Attorney Paul Gallegos, two county supervisors and a Fish and Game biologist to discuss how marijuana production impacts the environment as well as policies regarding the drug.

Erick Eschker, co-chair for the institute and an economics professor at the university, said, "If anyone is going to have a marijuana institute, it really should be Humboldt State. It has the potential to be a world-class institute, and we're just getting going."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Late Actor Larry Hagman Wanted People to "Eat a Little of Larry" in Marijuana Cake

The general public may remember Larry Hagman as the backstabbing oil mogul JR Ewing or Air Force Major Anthony Nelson and Jeannie's "master" in "I Dream of Jeannie." But with his recent passing, a pro-marijuana side of the actor came to light.

Hagman, who embraced solar power and became an outspoken anti-tobacco campaigner after years of cigarette smoking in his later years, embraced pot as a medicine after being diagnosed for cancer. He told Germany's Bunte magazine, "The cancer and the chemotherapy really took it out of me. I lost 30 pounds, weighed only 171 pounds. Marijuana actually brought my appetite back."

The actor also told The New York Times he wanted his remains to be "spread over a field and have marijuana and wheat planted and harvest it in a couple of years and then have a big marijuana cake, enough for 200 to 300 people. People would eat a little of Larry."

Friday, November 23, 2012

DEA Shuts Down Operations on the Big Island of Hawaii

The DEA has — for the time being at least — closed shop on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that budget cuts to the U.S. Department of Justice closed the DEA's office and hangar at the Hilo International Airport.The airport facilities provided aviation support for the agency's operations on the island.

Though the office and hangar were vacated on Oct. 1, the Hawaii County Police Department was not aware the DEA left until it was contacted by the newspaper. Office space set aside for the DEA in the police department's Hilo and Kona offices are also unoccupied.

The DEA states that it will continue conduct its operations from Honolulu (on the island of Oahu).

Wolf Daniel Braun, former president of the now-defunct Peaceful Sky Alliance, said, "Joy, joy. The DEA has been no friend of mine, or of the medical marijuana community."

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

In Wake of Washington, Colorado Legalization, Congresspeople Pile on to Stop Government from Enforcing Federal Drug Laws

Failure, the saying goes, is an orphan and success has many fathers. With the success of marijuana legalization measures in Washington State and Colorado, lawmakers are piling on to make it known that they support marijuana (at least for medical use) and that the federal government should keep their hands off state laws.

The Huffington Post reports that 18 representatives signed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder and Drug Enforcement Administrator Michele Leonhart asking that they stop prosecuting medical marijuana cases and halt any plans to enforce federal drug laws against Oregon and Washington. Congressmen Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.) and Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) were among the signees of the letter. The letter states:
While we recognize that other states have chosen a different path, and further understand that the federal government has an important role to play in protecting against interstate shipments of marijuana leaving Colorado and Washington, we ask that your departments take no action against anyone who acts in compliance with the laws of Colorado, Washington and any other states that choose to regulate marijuana for medicinal or personal use. The voters of these states chose, by a substantial margin, to forge a new and effective policy with respect to marijuana. The tide of public opinion is changing both at the ballot box and in state legislatures across the country. We believe that the collective judgment of voters and state lawmakers must be respected.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Medical Marijuana Vending Machine Company's Stock Surge After Profile

Medbox, a manufacturer of medical marijuana vending machines profiled in The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch and the subject of this earlier post, saw its shares climb a whopping 3,000 percent from $4 a share to $215 after the news item spotlighted the company.

Executives in the company called for investors to chill out, settling the stock to about $100 a share.

But even that price is still too high, according to the company. “We believe an appropriate trading range is between $5 and $10 but, alas, the market will do what it will do,” Medbox founder Vincent Mehdizadeh told MarketWatch in a follow-up article.

Mehdizadeh doesn't know if several large buyers or a single hedge fund was the cause of the rapid increase in Medbox's share price. However, it does demonstrate that Wall Street's acceptance of marijuana, at least for medical use, as a bona fide industry may be at hand.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Feds Mum on Response on Voters' OK of I-502

Washington state's governor told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the federal government hasn't made any plans as to what their plans are regarding its legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

Gov. Chris Gregorie said, "I told them, 'Make no mistake, that absent an injunction of some sort, it's our intent to implement decriminalization.' I don't want to spend a lot of money implementing this if you are going to attempt to block it."

Despite her statement, the U.S. Justice Department has not indicated what their intentions are. However, they did indicate that they want to treat Washington and Colorado, the other state that approved pot for recreational use, the same way — despite that the two states' laws will not be identical.

Gregorie added, "It's not a simple analysis for them. There's a difference between our two initiatives, and they want to look at that. They clearly want to know how things are going to flow, how regulations develop, how enforcement would be taken, taxes would be gathered."

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch Examines Investing in the Exploding Pot Industry for Fun, But Mostly Profit

Like writers, investors are often told to go with what they know. With one third of Americans now living in states that have OK'd medical marijuana, and Washington and Colorado voters approving of its recreational use, The Wall Street Journal's MarketWatch takes a look at possible investment opportunities in cannabis.

The post claims the medical marijuana industry is worth about $1.7 billion nationwide, and also uses the services and products of other industries, such as insurance companies, lawyers and agricultural equipment.

 Derek Peterson, CEO of GrowOp Technology, said, "Call it the 'green rush.' The industry is expanding, and there are all kinds of investment opportunities."

Possible over the counter stocks weed investors might be interested are Medbox, which dispenses medical pot through vending machines. A patient's identity is confirmed via a fingerprint reader. The company has 140 machines installed, with another 40 coming online the next quarter.

Other companies, like Steep Hill, are betting that the federal landscape for marijuana will change dramatically in the next 10 years. The company is a quality control lab for growers, and tests the pot for mold, bacteria or pesticides contamination. Steep Hill is betting on federal acceptance of medical pot and recreational use in the next decade.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Despite Legalization, Feds Promise Buzzkill in Washington, Colorado

Despite voters approving the use of marijuana for recreational use in Washington state and Colorado, the Department of Justice promises that it will continue to enforce existing drug laws — despite the will of the people in the states, reports CBS News.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, told the Associated Press, "Federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug, so don't break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly."

Despite the tongue-in-cheek quote from Hickenlooper, who was against the pro-legalization initiative, the U.S. Attorneys were just-the-facts in their (predictable) statement.

"The department's enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged. In enacting the Controlled Substances Act, Congress determined that marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance. We are reviewing the ballot initiatives and have no additional comment at this time," Justice Department spokeswoman Nanda Chitre stated.

The U.S. Attorneys in Colorado and Washington issued identical quotes.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Polls Point to Washington State's I-502 Passage, Despite Medical Users' Reservations

On the eve of the vote for Washington state's Initiative 502 vote — which would legalize cannabis use by adults — NORML's blog reports that a recent pool pegs support at 56 percent.

Those that do not support the I-502 comes in at 37 percent, with another 7 percent undecided. All indicators, then, point to its passage.

However, the initiative is not without its problems and detractors. It's still controversial among proponents of medical use, citing I-502's provisions for driving under the influence and research that points to THC levels over that threshold being in the body up to a month after ingestion. Medical advocates are also concerned that marijuana used as medication will be taxed at the same 25 percent rate as those using it for recreation.

Others are still clinging to the drug war dogma that pot is a "gateway drug."

"I had a judge speak at one of my D.A.R.E. graduations and he talked about the hundreds of cases that go through his court and out of all those cases maybe two people didn't start by smoking marijuana," Clarkston Police D.A.R.E. Officer John Morbeck told KLEW.

However, the anti-drug forces' arguments are sounding more and more like alarmist 1920's-era anti-alcohol temperance rhetoric to an increasingly skeptical public.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

FBI: Someone is Arrested for Pot every 42 Seconds

By the time you finish read this post, about four people would have been arrested for a marijuana-related crime. A study from the FBI found someone is arrested every 42 seconds for crimes related to cannabis.

Most of those arrests, or about 87 percent, are for possession reports. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a pro-legalization group made up of former law enforcement officers, are using the study as proof that the decades-long war against drugs is a quagmire. They claim there were about 1.5 million drug arrests in 2011, or one arrest every 21 seconds.

Neill Franklin, a former narcotics officer and the current head of LEAP said, "Even excluding the costs involved for later trying and then imprisoning these people, taxpayers are spending between one and a half to three billion dollars a year just on the police and court time involved in making these arrests.

"That’s a lot of money to spend for a practice that four decades of unsuccessful policies have proved does nothing to reduce the consumption of drugs. Three states have measures on the ballot that would take the first step in ending this failed war by legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana. I hope they take this opportunity to guide the nation to a more sensible approach to drug use.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Marijuana Majority

Conor Friedersdorf, a writer for The Atlantic, penned an article about the growing acceptance of marijuana and the growing call for reforming drug laws that are falling on the deaf ears of politicians

Citing the legalization referendums in Washington state, Colorado and Oregon as well as two additional states voting on allowing medical cannabis, the article ("The End of Laughing at Marijuana Reformers") also notes that according to a Gallup poll a majority of Americans support legalization for the first time.

Most telling of all are supports who come from literally every political stripe and background. Comedian and Daily Show host Jon Stewart, actors Morgan Freeman and David Duchovny are on board for legalization, but so are ultraconservative pundits Glenn Beck and Bill O'Rielly, televangelist Pat Robertson and David Koch, the money man behind many Republican candidates.

Though the political process is accepted to be slow when it comes to change, there continues to be no movement in at least acknowledging marijuana reform — even with all the support it has from liberals and conservatives. The article poses a puzzling question in that while Bill Clinton admitted to smoking but not inhaling, and Barak Obama admits to smoking and inhaling, both have so far continued the "war on drugs."

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I-502 Assumes Tokers will Consume '2 Grams Per Use' (Head Scratch), Has Ramifications for Revenue Projections

Washington state NPR affiliate KPLU took note of a sharp-eyed observation from a Reddit user that the consumption assumption in the Washington Voter's Guide for Initiative 502, which would legalize pot, pegs it at two grams per use.

To put that in perspective, the user commented that the amount I-502 is assuming per smoking session would amount to "Cheech and Chong sized monster joints."

However, casual users report smoking about a quarter to half a gram per session in a pipe with joints coming in at about .7 grams. Though some users claim to use as much as 1.5 grams per session, they added it was rare and they were not functional.

Individuals using two grams a day would probably be serious medical users with grave health conditions, the article noted.

The overestimation of use has a serious impact on the revenue projections of I-502. The assumption of two grams per use versus the reality of most users reporting a quarter to an eighth of that assumption means the actual taxes the initiative will bring in (if it's voted into law) will be much less than expected.

Friday, October 26, 2012

California Appeals Court OKs Medical Marijuana Defense for Dispensaries, Rules Members do Not Need to Grow Marijuana

Americans for Safe Access (through the SF Weekly) announced that the Fourth District Court of Appeal for California unanimously affirmed medical marijuana as a legal defense for dispensaries and reversed the conviction of San Diego dispensary operator Jovan Jackson.

Jackson's dispensary was raised twice; once in 2008 and another in 2009. He was acquitted the first time around, but Howard Shore, the San Diego Superior Court Judge for the second case, called medical marijuana "dope" and described the proposition that legalized medical pot "a scam." Jackson was found guilty and spent 180 days in jail.

The appellate ruling overturned the conviction. It also allows future medical marijuana operators to use medical marijuana as a valid legal defense. More importantly, the court decided that members of the dispensary or collective did not need to have an active role in the growing the plants.

"...the collective or cooperative association required by the act need not include active participation by all members in the cultivation process but may be limited to financial support by way of marijuana purchases from the organization," the court stated. "Thus, contrary to the trial court’s ruling, the large membership of Jackson’s collective, very few of whom participated in the actual cultivation process, did not, as a matter of law, prevent Jackson from presenting an MMPA defense."

Feds Raid 9 Dispensaries in Los Angeles, Orange County, Arrest 12

The Associated Press reports that federal law enforcement officials raided nine medical marijuana dispensaries in Orange County and Los Angeles County on Oct. 25. They also took 12 employees of the dispensaries into custody.

The 12 individuals were part of an grand jury indictment for drug trafficking. The storefronts supposedly generated "tens of millions of dollars in income," according to the article, and were not reporting it to the IRS.

Despite a voter-approved mandate that allows medical marijuana in California, the U.S. Attorneys do not recognize its legitimacy. Though the Los Angeles City Council tried, and failed, to pass a ban on the dispensaries, the federal government has initiated a crackdown on the Southern California area — despite the support of the law.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shortcomings of Washington's I-502 in the National Spotlight

NPR's All Things Considered profiled the three states considering marijuana legalization, and put the unique problems of Washington's Initiative 502 in the national spotlight.

While the criticisms of the I-502 are well known to marijuana advocates on both sides of the intuitive in the states, it's one of the few times that its strange politics have been brought to a national audience.

On one side, Alison Holcomb, a criminal defense attorney and pro-I-502 organizer, is quoted as saying, "We've reached a place in our society, nationwide, where now a majority support marijuana legalization."

However it's the dissenting voices, particularly in the medical marijuana community, that may be a surprise to those outside of the state and those who aren't acquainted with the initiative. Steve Sarich, a dispensary owner, brings up the biggest sticking point of those who are against I-502 — the low THC threshold that would make almost all medical marijuana users guilty of driving under the influence, even when they're not.

Sarich is sure the push for legalization is an attempt by law enforcement to intimidate medical marijuana users with the THC threshold.

 "All they have to do is sit a half a block down the street and wait for me to pull away from the curb, and I'm going to jail for [a DUI]," he said.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Romney Takes Stand on Medical and Legalized Marijuana — And, Surprise, He Doesn't Support Either

While no one expects Mitt Romney to endorse marijuana in any form — be it for medical use or outright legalization — it's rare that a candidate will ever take a stand as clearly as he did on marijuana.

When a reporter for a CBS affiliate in Colorado pressed Romey for an answer about medical marijuana (she also asked about gay marriage and college tuition for children of illegal immigrants) he made it known he wanted to change the subject, but not before belittling the question.

“Aren’t there issues of significance you’d like to talk about," reported the Republican candidate as saying. "The economy, the growth of jobs, the need to put people back to work, the challenges of Iran? We’ve got enormous issues that we face. But go ahead, you want to talk about medical marijuana?"

The answer Romney ultimately gave with regards to medical marijuana was this: "I think medical marijuana should not be legal in this country. I believe it's a gateway drug to other drug violations. The use of illegal drugs in this country is leading to terrible consequences in places like Mexico, and actually in our own country. I oppose legalization of marijuana. I oppose legalizations of other kinds of drugs."

Romney's absolutist "Just Say No" stance is curious, however, because Colorado is a battleground state. Polls have found that Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson could potentially spoil the state for Romney because of his pro-marijuana platform.

See the interview here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Police Chief Returns Stolen Medical Marijuana to Grower

When Thomas Davis, a Maine medical marijuana grower, discovered that his plants were stolen he made frantic calls to state representatives, the governor, the district attorney and the police. It's not that Davis was looking for someone to investigate the crime — he was looking for someone who could return the plants.

Davis reported the plants as being stolen. Police then questioned Aaron Pert, who admitted stealing the pot and recovered the plants in and held onto it for two days. The police weren't sure if they had the jurisdiction to release the marijuana back to Davis because of concerns over federal law.

However, Ellsworth Police Chief John DeLeo made the call to return the plants. The Bangor Daily News reports DeLeo felt the marijuana was legally Davis' as far as he was concerned. However, keeping the pot outside of Davis' greenhouse rendered 85 percent of it unusable.

But he did see one positive outcome of the burglary — cooperation between medical growers and police.

David said: "It’s not the Wild West out here. I feel like most of what I’m salvaging is a chance to get this out to the public, to let people know they can’t target medical marijuana patients and growers. The police will protect us."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

L.A. Councilman Who Made the Case for Medical Pot Not Seeing Reelection

Bill Rosendahl, the Los Angeles councilman whose passionate testimony in support of medical marijuana was instrumental in overturning the city's wholesale dispensary ban, will not be seeking reelection for his seat.

Rosendahl, whose West L.A. district includes Westchester to Pacific Palisades, made the announcement and that his reason was to concentrate on his cancer treatment. The support he gave to the cause of medical marijuana wasn't the first time Rosendahl was in the political spotlight for his progressive views. As the first openly gay man elected to the L.A. city council, he is a champion of gay rights issues.

Prior to his career in politics, Rosendahl was a talk show host and producer. He is determined to beat his disease, and told the L.A. Times that he would like to return to TV or radio if his health improves.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dispensary Owner, Law Enforcer Agree that I-502 if Flawed, but for Different Reasons

The Herald profiled battle lines being drawn over Washington state's I-502 ballot initiative and the strange alliances being formed on both sides. Groups that found themselves on opposite ends of marijuana prohibition are finding that they have common goals, albeit for different reasons.

Jeremy Kelsey, who runs the Medical Marijuana Patients Network and whose shop won the gold cup in a recent High Times expo, voiced his skepticism at decriminalizing marijuana in the state before it's reclassified at the federal level. And he also is concerned that if the Washington initiative passes, the feds will continue to conduct raids against storefronts — any storefronts — that sell pot.

Kelsey's opposition to I-502 is joined by Pat Slack, commander of the Snohomish Regional Drug Task Force. His reasons for opposing the measure are because it enforcement of the law isn't spelled out for law enforcement officers like himself. Although anyone over the age of 21 would be allowed to possess marijuana, anyone younger would be arrested and tried under existing state laws regarding the drug.

"Who's most negatively impacted by being arrested for possession? Our youth. It impacts their ability to get jobs and get college funding. Initiative 502 doesn't do anything for them — nothing," he told the newspaper.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Pro-Access Groups, Patients and Unions Worked to Overturn L.A. Dispensary Ban

The Los Angeles Times reports that yesterday's repeal of the city council's dispensary ban demonstrates the growing clout of pro-pot organizers, unions and patients in the face of the anti-marijuana sentiment of the city's powers that be.

Rather than put the repeal of the ban on the upcoming ballot, the city council voted, 11 to 2, to get rid of the law entirely. (The issue will be voted on again at the next week because the measure did not pass unanimously.)

 The so-called "gentle ban" would have closed all dispensaries and only allow patients to grow their own marijuana, despite the protests and testimony of patients and patient groups that it's not practical for many of them to grow their own pot.

Testimony given by Bill Rosendahl, a councilman and medical marijuana user, also shifted support to repealing the ban.

"Where does anybody go, even a councilman go, to get his medical marijuana?" Rosendahl asked his colleagues.

Despite the support for the repeal, Councilmen Jose Huizar and Mitchell Englander voiced plans to move forward against the dispensaries. Englander, according to introduced a motion of enforcement against the storefronts and Huizar commented that the recent federal raids on Los Angeles dispensaries were "our relief."

Monday, October 1, 2012

Medical Marijuana Laws Change the Emerald Triangle — Not for the Better, Some Say

The growing acceptance of medical marijuana may have an unintended consequence — squeezing out the small scale, outdoor growers of California's famed Mendocino and Humboldt counties.

The pot grown in the area, prized by connoisseurs of cannabis, brings in less cash each year. The farmers in the area, who take pride in the organic way they grow their crops, blame the fall in price to large-scale indoor grow operations that supply the dispensaries, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"It used to be a contest to see who could drive the oldest pickup truck. There's just been this huge influx of folks who have money on their mind, instead of love of the land. A lot more gun-toters. A lot more attack dogs," one grower says.

The old timers, who funded schools, roads and fire stations in their remote towns, complain that the newcomers aren't interested in investing in their communities. But the irony doesn't end there. In many cases, parents are discovering that their children are behind some of the large pot grow houses.

Though they've pushed for legalization and the medical use of pot, the growers are discovering that now that they're on the verge of achieving what they've always wanted, it may put them out of business. Some of them suspect California's medical marijuana law was a ruse by Bay Area pot activists to monopolize the market with large scale growers in Oakland.

"Ultimately we worry about Winston or Marlboro getting some land and doing their thing. We see it time after time in America — big corporations come in and take over," another grower worried.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Stop Federal Raids, Los Angeles Times Opines

The Los Angeles Times is siding with advocates of medical marijuana and is calling on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to stop the current federal crackdown on dispensaries in the city.

The newspaper also points a finger at the lack of legal guidance from Sacramento. The murky legal climate in Los Angeles surrounding dispensaries, with the city council attempting to ban all facilities in the city and the subsequent petition to keep them open, is a direct result of that absence of leadership. The state legislature and the state's attorney general, Kamala Harris, have failed to put in place regulations for the cities to follow.

While the L.A. Times recognizes that federal law enforcement agencies are under no obligation to follow state or city laws — and they've demonstrated that they consider medical pot to be illegal, despite the will of the states — the situation in the state's capital isn't helping either.

"...the raids are likely to drive away businesspeople who want to run clean, safe storefronts serving sick people, sending the trade further underground and into the hands of a more criminal element," the paper's editorial board wrote. "That's why we urge Holder to rein in the four California U.S. attorneys spearheading the aggressive new stance, at least until we have some clarity on what's allowable and what isn't."

Friday, September 28, 2012

States Flirting with Legalization May See Drug Enforcement as More Trouble than its Worth

In a post on authored by the Libertarian-leaning, the trend of Western states to legalize marijuana is compared to movements during prohibition to withdraw enforcement of the Volstead Act.

The upcoming legalization votes in Washington, Oregon and Colorado may force Democrats and Republicans alike to reconsider their stance on national drug policy. "If any of these ballot initiatives pass," the group writes, "it might be the most consequential election result this fall, forcing both major parties to confront an unjust, irrational policy that Americans increasingly oppose."

Though Oregon's measure is trending to maintain marijuana prohibition, the ballot initiatives in Washington and Colorado are looking hopeful for advocates of legalization. However, similar support was reported by polls in California's bid for legalization in 2010, but it fizzled and pot remained illegal.

The motivation for what may be the beginning of the end of the war on drugs? The realization that the constant costs of enforcement outweigh the benefits — if any — to society.

"That does not mean all these people are current marijuana consumers, eager for the lower prices, convenience, quality, and variety promised by a legal market," the group states. "But they, along with their friends and relatives, have had enough direct and indirect experience with cannabis to decide that prohibition costs more than it's worth."

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Court Decision Advance Medical Marijuana in Michigan, But Montana Denies Right to Pot as Medicine

If you think confusing medical marijuana laws are just for California, think again. One case in Michigan is a step forward for medical marijuana and another in Montana is a step back.

Courts in Michigan have decided that there is a "bona fide" relationship between patients and the doctors who prescribed them the medical marijuana. In this case, the issue at hand was Robert Ward's arrest following the discovery of 23 marijuana plants in a secured area. The prosecution questioned the doctor/patient relationship between Ward and Dr. Robert Townsend, the physician who signed off on his card.

The Weed Blog reports the court found in favor of Ward because Townsend kept detailed records of his patients, that he actually met his patients (and was not a "hotel or Internet doctor," and that the as-needed directions for the use of the pot was not an issue.

However, the Montana Supreme Court — usually known for upholding individual rights — ruled that there is no right medical marijuana. The decision puts new restrictions on dispensaries, such as them to three patients and prohibiting the storefronts from making a profit. This ruling was delivered despite a lower court blocking the new rules.

An attempt was made by the state's legislature to ban medical marijuana, despite the will of the voters who approved the measure and a veto by Gov. Brian Schweitzer. American Medical News reports that the Montana Marijuana Act, which outlined the new restrictions for storefronts, was then approved by the state's legislature.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Los Angeles DA Hopefuls Want to Continue Dispensary Shutdown

If you didn't need any more confirmation of the anti-medical marijuana climate in the nation's second largest city, the most recent debate between the two candidates duking it out for the position of Los Angeles District Attorney, Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson, should confirm any lingering doubts.

Despite being a non-partisan race, the Democratic party endorsed Lacey; the Republicans are backing Jackson. They different on their opinion of a proposition that only a serious or violent crime would trigger a mandatory 25 sentence for someone with a "third strike" (Lacey supports it and Jackson opposes it). Lacey supports driver's licenses for illegal immigrants, while Jackson is against it (on the grounds it will encourage Mexican drug cartel activity).

However the one issue they agreed on? Continuing the prosecution of medical marijuana dispensaries, according to radio station KPCC.

Lacey: "It's my position that over-the-counter sales for money of marijuana are illegal."

Jackson: "Those folks are simple drug dealers."

Dispensaries Selling to Patients OK in Washington, Seattle Politicians Say, Feds Have it Wrong

The recent federal crackdown on Seattle's dispensaries has, predictably, caused the city's pro-cannabis forces to demand the DEA and US Attorney's office to leave the storefronts alone. But another, unexpected voice has been drawn into the debate — lawmakers.

Despite the justification that the only dispensaries that are near schools will be affected, State Representative Roger Goodman of Kirkland told National Public Radio Affiliate KPLU that the federal government is overreaching.

“Our message to the federal government is, get off our backs. We’re doing it right. The federal policy for the last 40 years has been the most corrosive, disastrous bipartisan failure in social policy and health policy. And the states are getting it right," he said.

Goodman isn't a lone voice in his dissent against the status quo of drug policy and dogma. Seattle city council member Nick Licata went on record saying that even if the dispensaries are selling medical marijuana near schools, it's not a violation of state law. Illegal sales of marijuana near schools are prohibited, but sales to patients at dispensaries are approved.

The US Attorney's office did not comment to KPLU, only saying that marijuana sales were illegal under federal law.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Facing Legalization in Washington, Oregon and Colorado, Anti-Pot Groups Think of the Children

Anti-marijuana groups, coming to terms with the real possibility of legalization in Washington state, Oregon and Colorado, have broken out the "won't someone think of the children?!" argument, Reuters reports.

Identifying their core constituents as soccer moms, the groups hold grassroots meetings in private suburban homes. There, anti-drug crusaders testify as to the evils of allowing even one marijuana plant to grow out of fear of possible corruption of their innocent offspring.

In the case of Colorado Republican State Representative Kathleen Conti, she talks about marijuana being the gateway drug and her son turning to heroin (never mind about social and parental factors or research pointing to alcohol as a gateway drug).

The groups are active in the states that will be voting on legalizing pot. The Colorado group raised the most money out of the other groups with nearly $200,000 in its warchest.

Pro-pot groups, such as the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, argues against the prohibitionist rhetoric of anti-marijuana groups. Its co-director, Mason Tvert, co-director of the group, points to a Centers for Disease Control study that found that teen pot smoking went down after pot was legalized for medical use in Colorado.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Medical Marijuana Could Cost Obama the Election, Executive Director for American for Safe Access Argues

Steph Sherer, executive director for pro-medical marijuana organization Americans for Safe Access, argues in The Huffington Post that allowing cannabis to those with a medical need could be a defining issue of the presidential election.

Despite Obama's generally progressive policies, she argues, the president has taken a hardline against states that have approved of the use of marijuana as a medicine and the dispensaries that allow access to patients. "Things would be different," she writes, "if the President would apply his campaign slogan, 'Forward,' to our cause: stopping the raids and prosecutions of state-permitted institutions, and moving public health policy forward by ending the conflict between state and federal law."

With Republican candidate Mitt Romey and President Obama in a virtual tie in many polls, Sherer points to the seven percent showing Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson is pulling in the swing state of Colorado. That seven percent may prevent Obama from taking its electoral votes.

There's little downside, Sherer adds. Most adult support medical marijuana (a whopping 80 percent) and another 76 percent do not support the raids against dispensaries.

"With the public on our side, why should patients and our loved ones be silent?" She states.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reason.TV Examines the Unraveling of L.A.'s Latest Attempt to Ban Medical Pot, and its Backlash

Libertarian-leaning Reason.TV posted an online video story about the ban on medical marijuana in Los Angeles and the subsequent public outcry and petition to restore access to patients.

More than 50,000 residents of the city signed a petition to end the ban, effectively ending it before it had a chance to go into effect on Sept. 6.

Don Duncan, the California director of pro-access organization Americans for Safe Access chalks up the action as huge win for patients and those who support the rights of patients to have access to medical marijuana.

"We're letting the city council know that they can't just come in and trump the will of the people, and that when they do things that are very unpopular, the people can stand up and say stop," he told Reason.TV.

Duncan added that the petition may only the be the beginning, as L.A.'s City Attorney and law enforcement officials are determined to define medical cannabis as illegal.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Seattle Proposes New Zoning Laws for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Seattle is hoping to avoid the legal quagmire plaguing Los Angeles' medical marijuana industry with a new set of zoning regulations.

The West Seattle Herald reports that a governmental task force made up of members of the city's mayor's office, councilmembers and the city attorney are establishing where medical cannabis can be grown, processed and dispensed.

Unlike Los Angeles, which enacted a city-wide ban on medical marijuana dispensaries that is currently in contention, Seattle hopes to provide access to patients who need the drug.

"I support safe and responsibly run access points for medical cannabis in Seattle; it's important that these access points be subject to zoning laws and other city regulations just like any other business or land use," City Attorney Pete Holmes stated in a press release.

The proposal would prohibit dispensaries in single family and multifamily residential zones, neighborhood commercial 1 zones as well as the Pioneer Square Mixed, International District Mixed and Residential, Pike Place Mixed and Harborfront communities. Dispensaries would be limited to 45 cannabis plants, 72 ounces of useable cannabis, and marijuana products that could reasonably be produced with 72 ounces of useable cannabis.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Los Angeles Medical Pot Dispensary Ban Suspended as Petition Draws 50,000 Signatures

Medical Marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles received a temporary reprieve from the city council's order to close — which may be permanent — with the submission of 50,000 signatures on a petition to put the issue on an upcoming ballot (petitions require a minimum of 27,425 registered voters to place an issue on a ballot).

Though the ordinance to close all the dispensaries in Los Angeles was to take effect on Sept. 6, the city attorney notified the public that it would not enforce the law until a statistical sampling of the signatures were verified, reported.

Despite the public outcry, Councilman Jose Huizar (the architect of the current dispensary ban) maintained that the storefronts were illegal, regardless of the sentiment of voters — the same voters who approved the medical marijuana ordinance in 1996.

However, the ban comes as differing court decisions have thrown the legal landscape of storefront dispensaries into chaos. Huizar may want to put the genie back in the bottle, but there's no way the pot genie is going back in anytime soon.