Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pro-Pot Travel Writer Rick Steves Talks Amsterdam

With medical access to pot and all-out legalization gathering steam in the U.S., Rick Steves, travel author and TV personality, gives a glimpse as to what the future possibly holds for pro-pot forces through the lens of Amsterdam.

Steves, who also co-sponsored Washington's I-502 initiative, points to the history of the city, which parallels America's situation. Hard drug use by visiting sailors were rampant in some parts of the city. Though the Dutch are not pro-drug by nature, they approved the opening of coffee shops that allowed the sale of pot. By also legalizing prostitution, the Dutch authorities were able to drive out gangs, dealers and pimps out of the city.

The numbers of coffee shops exploded in the '80s and '90s, reaching a high in the 700s and settling to about 200 today. The shops, which cannot openly advertise their botanical wares, that had complaints about noise or flouted the rules in place were shut down.

"They have a 25-year track record of not arresting pot smokers, and have learned that if you want to control a substance, the worst way to do it is to keep it illegal," he writes for The Huffington Post.

The city quarter that was home to the hard drug use that spurred the opening of coffee shops, or Zeedijk, is now a gentrified part of Amsterdam. The Dutch use half the pot as Americans and have fewer hard drug users than other parts of Europe.

But despite their successes, pressure from the provincial villages and towns may roll back the country's drug policies, at least for tourists. Coffee shops will be prohibited from selling marijuana to tourists, though Amsterdam is fighting the law.

"No one would say smoking pot is healthy," he writes. "It's a drug. It's dangerous, and it can be abused. The Dutch are simply a fascinating example of how a society can allow marijuana's responsible adult use as a civil liberty and treat its abuse as a health-care and education challenge rather than a criminal issue."

Sensible Washington Proposes Alternative Legalization to I-502

Pro-pot group Sensible Washington seeks to file an initiative to repeal pot prohibition in the state. Though it sounds like I-502, Sensible Washington hopes to address its shortcomings voiced by other pro-pot groups.

The group's initiative repeals the civil and criminal penalties for adult who posses and use cannabis and removes the drug from Washington's list of controlled substances. It would not change the legal penalties for minors or driving while under the influence.

"Initiative 502 has caused a massive rift in the cannabis reform community and we want to give people a viable alternative," the group told

If I-502 fails, Sensible Washington says their initiative will offer another option for the statewide legalization of cannabis. But even if I-502 passes, Sensible Washington's proposal addresses taking marijuana off the state's Schedule I controlled substances list.

Sensible Washington plans to file the initiative in January 2013. The group will have until July to collect the necessary signatures to appear on the general election ballot in November.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

L.A. Councilman Outs Himself as Medical Pot Patient

In the wake of the Los Angeles City Council's wholesale ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, Councilman Bill Rosendahl revealed to the L.A. Times that he has had a prescription for medical cannabis for 10 years.

Rosendahl uses pot to deal with the pain in his feet associated with neuropathy. A long time advocate of legalizing cannabis across the country, Rosendahl is the first member of the L.A. City Council to out himself as using medical marijuana.

"I think the war on drugs is destroying this great nation," Rosendahl is quoted as saying.

The L.A. Times also notes that dispensaries have been contributing to the reelection campaigns of councilmembers who've displayed a pro-pot posture.Rosendahl's reelection campaign in March accepted about $8,900 from the storefronts, which made up about 10 percent of the funds he raised.

Paul Koretz, another councilman who fought the outright dispensary ban, raised about 9 percent of his reelection funds, or $7,300, from the businesses.

"I'm an unabashed supporter of medical marijuana. I think it's a matter of life and death, literally. So they know keeping me in office would be a positive thing for them," he said.

Monday, July 30, 2012

What's Next for Medical Marijuana in L.A.? Advocates Plan to Take it to the People.

Medical marijuana access advocates may have been handed a defeat with their recent battle with the L.A. City Council's blanket ban on dispensaries, but they have their eyes on winning the war.

L.A. officials are crowing about the ban, with Jane Usher from the City Attorney's Office telling, "We do expect tremendous voluntary cooperation. Nobody likes to be the subject of a criminal prosecution. The harder cases, we'll work with LAPD. We'll be complaint driven. We'll only pursue those dispensaries that are disrupting their neighborhoods."

But after the vote that banned the dispensaries, the city council then voted for 182 of the storefronts to remain open. The process could take months and Americans for Safe Access is also planning on a ballot initiative to overturn the ban.

Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access states, "The tens of thousands of patients harmed by this vote will not take it sitting down. We will campaign forcefully to overturn this poor decision by the council."

In the meantime, some dispensaries are referring their patients to stores in other, pot-friendly cities outside of the L.A. City Council's reach, such as West Hollywood.

So despite the efforts of some in Los Angeles, a blanket ban still faces an uphill fight — and very well may be thrown out by the voters, while patients are inconvenienced by having to drive further for their medicine.