MJ News for 09/12/2014


Jul 25, 2008
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Philadelphia Nears Deal to Ease Marijuana Laws

People in Philadelphia caught with small amounts of marijuana or smoking it in public may soon face no more than a written citation and a modest fine as the City Council moved Thursday to decriminalize the drug after a reversal by Mayor Michael A. Nutter.

The mayor, who had scoffed at arguments that black men are unfairly targeted in arrests involving marijuana, announced his support of decriminalization this week. He had declined to sign a bill the Council passed in June, saying it needed more study.

Under the measure, which if approved would be effective Oct. 20, people stopped with less than 30 grams of marijuana, about one ounce, will be fined $25, and those caught using it in public will be fined $100 or be required to perform up to nine hours of community service.

In neither situation will violators be arrested, taken to police stations, fingerprinted or left with a criminal record — all of which stigmatize small-time users, making it harder to find and keep jobs or attend college, advocates of decriminalization say.

Of the more than 4,000 arrests in Philadelphia each year for possessing small amounts of marijuana, 83 percent are of blacks or Latinos, said James F. Kenney, a City Council member who sponsored the decriminalization bill.

“It follows you,” he said. “If you’re young, black and trying to find a job in this economy, it’s very difficult. With a criminal arrest, it’s impossible. On top of that, you’re not eligible for college financial aid and you can’t go into the military.”

Mr. Kenney said nearly three out of four of those arrested have no previous police record. Moreover, he said, possession is already effectively decriminalized for white residents, whom the police rarely target. “There are no arrests at Phish concerts or fraternity parties,” he said.

In August, Mr. Nutter, who is African-American, called that argument “a bogus issue” and an “insult to the community.” He denied that the police discriminate against blacks. Arrest rates on marijuana charges are higher for blacks because, the mayor said, there is more police “engagement” in black communities, where most of the city’s shootings and homicides take place. Blacks, like whites, want safe neighborhoods without “knuckleheads” smoking marijuana on the corner, the mayor said.

On Wednesday, in an appearance with Mr. Kenney, who is white, the mayor said he would support an amended version of the bill that included a separate civil offense for marijuana use in public. In cases of possession or use, police officers will write a notice of violation and confiscate the marijuana.

“We want to ensure that the punishment for using or possessing small amounts of marijuana is commensurate with the severity of the crime, while giving police officers the tools they need to protect the health and well-being of all Philadelphians,” Mr. Nutter said.

An amended version of the original bill was introduced in the Council on Thursday, with a vote scheduled for next week. The mayor has said he will sign it.

The District of Columbia and 17 states have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use, according to Norml, which advocates legalizing the drug. Colorado and Washington State this year became the first states to allow the sale and use of recreational marijuana.

Under Pennsylvania law, possession of small amounts or public use of marijuana is still subject to arrest and heavy fines. A spokesman for the State Police said the agency would enforce the state statute along portions of Interstate highways it patrols in the Philadelphia limits. “As far as our department is concerned, it’s not going to change anything for us,” said the spokesman, Trooper Adam Reed.


Jul 25, 2008
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Colorado marijuana tax revenues surge as recreational sales surpass medical

New revenue figures out of Colorado show that legal recreational marijuana sales have surpassed medical marijuana sales. The milestone is largely symbolic, but the overall trend shows a strong increase in recreational sales since the spring.

One of the challenges facing Colorado's legal marijuana market has been the slower-than-expected shift from medical to recreational sales. As the Brookings Institution's John Hudak noted recently, "For years it has been an open secret in Colorado that some people were using medical marijuana without a legitimate medical condition. One goal of creating the retail market was to draw those gray-market users away from medical and toward recreational."

But recreational marijuana is taxed at a much higher rate than medical weed, making it considerably more expensive. Many users opted to stick with the medical market, and still more have continued to buy marijuana through black market channels where its even less expensive.

Many legalization proponents welcomed the latest sales figures. But they don't necessarily mean the imminent demise of Colorado's black market. "I don’t think the increase in sales necessarily reflects a decrease in the black market, although it may," Brookings' Hudak said in an interview. The sales increase could be due to "increases in marijuana tourism - an industry growing pretty rapidly in the state."

A cultural shift is also likely under way, as more residents dip their feet in the recreational market. "It might reflect a relaxation of state residents where people are coming around and saying 'Ok, this is real, this is legit and I'm not going to get arrested for it.'"

A recent NBC/Marist poll, for instance, found that the majority of Colorado adults - 55 percent - say they favor the legal status of marijuana there. And while the tax revenues from marijuana sales have been slower to materialize than expected, they are picking up steam.

Total revenue from marijuana taxes, licenses and fees topped 7 million dollars in June, and is likely to keep rising as more retail outlets enter the market.

If the latest sales figures do portend a shift from the black market and legal market, it will likely be due to a combination of higher quality and decreasing prices, Hudak said.

One last finding: July marked the first time that Denver County represented less than half of the total marijuana sales. This suggests that the marijuana market in Colorado is truly becoming statewide.


Jul 25, 2008
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(Michigan) Judge: Congress, DEA determine if marijuana should be classified as dangerous drug, not court

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A federal judge in Grand Rapids has rejected claims that marijuana is wrongly classified as a dangerous drug.

The judge also ruled that federal policy relaxing enforcement of marijuana laws in states that permit recreational or medicinal use does not amount to selective prosecution based on residency.

They contended that marijuana should not be classified as a Schedule 1 drug, like heroin and LSD, under the Controlled Substances Act.

As part of his 15-page opinion rejecting defense requests to dismiss charges, U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker provided a historical look at marijuana in the U.S. and the country’s growing acceptance, but noted that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and Congress have not acted to reclassify the drug.

The recreational use of marijuana is legal under state law in Colorado and Washington, while 23 states, including Michigan, and the District of Columbia, allow medical marijuana.

“Public perception of marijuana is changing,” Jonker wrote.

“And available experts may be ready to testify in support of some medically safe and valuable use for the drug today. But there was and is plenty of objective medical information (both from the 1970s and today) to provide a rational basis for Congress to place marijuana on Schedule 1 of the CSA, and to leave future changes in scheduling to the DEA,” Jonker wrote.

“The most defendants can show is that there is not a complete consensus in the scientific community on this issue. But that puts the issue squarely in the hands of Congress and the DEA, not the courts,” he said.

Jonker said that marijuana and other drugs, like cocaine, have been in the country before its founding, regularly prescribed by “both legitimate and not so legitimate” physicians for a variety of ailments. But public perception changed with Congress enacting the first federal drug legislation in 1906. States began banning sale and possession.

Congress in 1937 passed the Marijuana Tax Act which imposed taxes on the drug whenever it changed hands.

“Such was the status quo on the federal level, mostly leaving the American public to ‘frolic in the autumn mist,’ until 1970 and the advent on the ‘War on Drugs,’” Jonker wrote, referencing lyrics from Peter, Paul and Mary's "Puff, the Magic Dragon."

The Controlled Substances Act established five schedules for drugs. For inclusion on Schedule 1, Congress or the DEA must find the drug has high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in the U.S, and a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug under medical supervision.

“Since passage of the CSA, the DEA has been petitioned to reclassify marijuana but has declined to do so,” Jonker wrote.

“Congress has weighed in on several occasions, rejecting any medical use of marijuana. … In short, both Congress and the DEA have repeatedly reaffirmed the original decision of Congress to treat marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. Congress is currently entertaining proposals to modify the Controlled Substances Act, but unless and until Congress or the DEA acts, the possession and sale of marijuana remains a federal crime throughout the United States.”

The judge also determined that the defendants were not victims of selective prosecution. The defense says the Department of Justice has a policy “to forego prosecution of those distributing cannabis in states where it has been made legal for medical and/or recreational use … .”

The judge said the defense “over read” the policy statements, and that there is “no hard and fast set of rules, as defendants suggest.”

If they had, it “would not automatically establish and unconstitutional selective prosecution.”

In all, 37 were arrested in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Oceana counties and Traverse City. The judge noted that the government contends the defendants did not comply with state or federal law.


Jul 25, 2008
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Marijuana, Federal Power & the States

States appear increasingly unhappy with federal marijuana policy. Two dozen states allow medical marijuana under state law, over a dozen states have largely decriminalized marijuana possession, and two states — Colorado and Washington — have legalized marijuana possession, use and sale under state law. This fall, two more states — Oregon and Alaska — may opt to legalize marijuana and additional states are considering authorizing medical marijuana, including Florida. This week, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Ohio, Ed Fitzgerald, also came out in support of medical marijuana (perhaps in an effort to aid his flagging campaign). Nonetheless, marijuana remains a controlled substance under federal law.

Tomorrow the Center for Business Law & Regulation at Case Western Reserve University School of Law will be hosting a conference on Marijuana, Federal Power and the States that will explore the legal and policy issues arising from the decision of some states to legalize marijuana. Topics will include everything from preemption and the commerce clause to youth access and the problems faced by banks that deal with marijuana-related businesses. Presenters include Ernest Young (Duke), Angela Hawken (Pepperdine), Robert Mikos (Vanderbilt), Julie Hill (Alabama) Doug Berman (OSU), Mark Kleiman (UCLA), Alex Kreit (TJSL), Brannon Denning (Cumberland), John Hudak (Brookings) and the VC’s own Will Baude (Chicago). Here’s more on the conference. The webcast will be available here.


Jul 25, 2008
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Emerald Triangle’s ‘Murder Mountain’ In Marijuana Country Living Up To Its Name

ALDERPOINT, Humboldt County (CBS SF) — Marijuana sales nationwide are estimated to hit $104 billion this year, and a lot of it is coming from California’s Emerald Triangle of Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties.

It’s not like the old hippy days any more according to residents, especially on a place they call “Murder Mountain.”

Miles off the main highway in southern Humboldt’s Marijuana country, the area is nicknamed after a serial killing long ago. People are still dying there, and disappearing without a trace.

Take the case of Garret Rodriguez, a young surfer from San Diego. “He was just the best, funny, smart, loving,” said his aunt Bonnie Taylor.

Bonnie says even though his family begged him not to, Garret took off two years ago to work on a marijuana farm there. “He was told he could make a lot of money,” said Bonnie.

At first he checked in regularly with the family. Then suddenly last spring – silence. “I was trying to call him, couldn’t get ahold of him. I was worried what was going on up there” she said.

“These cases are becoming more and more frequent up in our area,” said Chris Cook, a private investigator hired by the family. She quickly learned neighbors suspected Garret was dead, and they told her they thought they knew who did it.

She reported her findings to the local sheriff, but said, “they did not appear to be interested.”

A frustrating situation not just for Garret’s family but the community, who knew they had a killer in their midst. Months went by with no arrests. The sheriff’s department says some folks in the nearby town of Alderpoint decided to take the law into their own hands.

According to the sheriff’s department, eight men known as the “Alderpoint 8″ after the name of their town formed a posse, confronted the man they believed to be the suspect, shot him twice, once in the arm and once in the leg, and then forced him to take them to the body.

An anonymous call alerted the sheriff, who confirmed it was Garret, buried in a shallow grave. He’d been shot to death.

For local residents the Alderpoint 8 have become heroes. “We know all of them and they are all really good people, they just took it into their own hands to get her son’s body back,” said Ladonna, a local resident. “Somebody had to go and get him!” said Courtney, another local mom with a young child.

Both didn’t want to give their full names.

But almost a year later there are still no arrests in the case. Lt. Steve Knight with the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department says it’s not a simple situation. “The local growers don’t want law enforcement coming in to where marijuana is at. They are afraid that we will see the marijuana and will take it from them, and that is their living,” he said.

He says since the vigilantes also committed crimes, they won’t come forward as witnesses. “It’s just like what it was back in the prohibition days. Many of these communities will try and solve their problems on their own. And by the time that happens unfortunately the problem has magnified,” said Lt. Knight.

In fact, this summer two more people were gunned down on murder mountain. A family member tells us at least one of the men was a member of the Alderpoint 8. “I just feel helpless. I grew up here and I am trying to raise my son here,” said Courtney.

“Law enforcement cannot keep up with what is going on in our area. It’s out of control! It’s out of control,” said Chris Cook.

The sheriff did make an arrest in the latest two homicides. But there’s still no one arrested or charged in Garret’s case.


Jul 25, 2008
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(UK) Cannabis picnic in Southsea criticised

A health official has warned people to "steer well clear" of a "cannabis picnic" in Portsmouth.

The picnic on Saturday has been organised by Hampshire Cannabis Community.

The group, which believes the class B drug should be legalised, said many people were unaware it can be used for medicinal purposes.

Dr Janet Maxwell, director of public health for Portsmouth City Council, encouraged people not to go.

Police have warned they will not tolerate the use of illegal drugs at the event in Castle Field, Southsea.

But Simon Dignam, from Hampshire Cannabis Community said: "I can't say people will or won't smoke. If they do it's not up to me to say no."

The picnic will feature information stalls and speakers including MS-sufferer Clark French. He founded United Patients Alliance, which aims to advance legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use.

Dr Maxwell said: "We have to keep bringing home to people that the long term effects of this drug are really damaging.

"Anything that encourages [drug use] and plays to particularly vulnerable youngsters could be harmful.

"If people want to have a good time then there's plenty of other ways to have a good time and have a party and enjoy themselves.

"We have some fantastic festivals in Portsmouth - music festivals, food festivals - and those are the sorts of things we would encourage rather than things that are promoting drug use.

"Steer well clear... we've got a wonderful city, with wonderful opportunities. It's a fantastic place to live, a fantastic place to work and study, and I wouldn't see this [event] as a place to go."

In response, Mr Dignam said: "It's part of their job. They're going to say that. But I can't see any harm in people turning up.

"I've heard there's people with their kids coming and families. It's going to be a peaceful and friendly event."


Jul 25, 2008
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Senior Cannabis Crusader at Rotary Club: A Day’s Work

The 2008 recession and its fickle recovery left deep doubts about whether America still offers that one irresistible bargain: Work hard and you will have a better life. If some polls and pundits have declared the American Dream dead, there are those in occupations old and new, fading and emerging, who defy the numbers. They strive, as Thoreau once advised, to live the life they’ve imagined. This column will tell their stories.

Sue Taylor stands before her Rotary Club audience in her “principal’s suit” -- matching black blazer and pants, heels, pearls and a pocketbook holding a secret.

At 67, Taylor has made a giant leap. The retired principal of two Catholic schools today calls herself America’s only full-time senior cannabis advocate. She’s paid $4,500 a month to tell Grandma and Grandpa and those closest to them that marijuana -- in joints, cookies, just about any form imaginable -- can ease pain and promote sleep and appetite.

She points to her traveling medicine show’s cache of balms, sprays, tinctures, ointments and salves, all infused with cannabis.

“Sometimes you need just a little,” she tells 15 Rotarians gathered for coffee and eggs at the Lone Tree Golf Course in Antioch, California. Everything she’s brought this morning can be used by the elderly to make life better, she says, holding tubes of cream.

Marijuana, tea, dope, herb, grass, pot -- a weed by any other name still conjures evil for many in the plus-65 set. Taylor says her generation was scared stiff by the 1936 classic “Reefer Madness,” and is in desperate need of her message.

She goes to nursing homes, assisted living complexes, senior centers and health fairs. If it would help, she’d take her crusade to the opening of an envelope.

“Our seniors are our forgotten ones,” Taylor says. “Just give them a pill or whatever. They’re going to die anyway. That’s the attitude I’m fighting.”

Marijuana Dispensary

Cracking the Rotary took some doing. For two years, she tried chapters in and around her stomping grounds of Oakland and got the brush. She persisted because, man, if the Rotarians said yes, she’d have the ear of mainstream America.

Taylor works for Harborside Health Center in Oakland, which bills itself as the world’s largest medical marijuana dispensary. It has 150,000 registered patients and gross annual revenues of $25 million, with a modern-looking and closely supervised retail operation. Five years ago, founder Steve DeAngelo decided that for the elderly to accept marijuana as medicine, get themselves California’s doctor-authorized card and shop at places like his, they’d need coaxing.

When he met Taylor, he knew she had the passion and the wardrobe. DeAngelo’s look? Decidedly un-Rotarian. He wears two ponytails behind each ear. In a website photo, co-founder David Wedding dress -- yes, the “d” is lowercase -- sports a ZZ Top beard and purple hat.

“Sue bridges the gap for us,” DeAngelo said.

Grandmother of Two

And if her wardrobe doesn’t do the trick, her resume just might. Six of her 18 years in education were spent as a principal. In those days, she railed against marijuana and threatened to call the police on her own three sons if it ever showed up in the house.

“If you had told me I’d be promoting cannabis someday,” Taylor tells Rotarians, “I would have said you’ve been smoking too much.”

The grandmother of two starts each morning with a kale-spinach smoothie and occasionally takes an edible non-psychoactive form of cannabis for back pain. She says she’s never smoked it.

It’s the kind of detail she peppers throughout her speeches, stories from her own life.

Growing Up Poor

She grew up poor in San Mateo, California, the seventh of 12 children of African-American and Creole parents. One detail she doesn’t drop on her audience: She met her best friend, Sonia Long, way back in the seventh grade and they stayed close through boyfriends, husbands, kids.

After high school, Taylor went to junior college, then to San Francisco State, where she earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, and began teaching.

In 1971, she married an electrical contractor. The couple built a home in Oakland Hills. The neighborhood was upper middle class, with manicured lawns and boats parked in the driveways.

“We had the perfect American family life,” she said after her talk. “We were the Huxtables.”

Perfect, that is, until she and her husband separated in 2005 and he moved back to his home state of Alabama.

A year later, Taylor sold the house, for $800,000. “I looked around and thought these people died a long time ago,” she said. “They just hadn’t been buried yet.”

Universal Energy

She moved to Atlanta and earned a certificate as a metaphysical minister. No longer a practicing Catholic, she nevertheless felt more spiritual, tapping a universal energy she calls God and dreaming of a day she’d open a holistic health center.

In 2009, her oldest, Jamaal, called from back home with a stunning suggestion for funding her center. Getting licensed as a medical marijuana dispensary would generate profits and help cover other expenses.

“I sent this boy to Catholic school from kindergarten through 12th grade and to college,” she tells the Rotary Club. “I done all this and here he calls me and tells me he wants to sell weed?”

She hurried back to California, not with enthusiasm but dread. “I thought I was losing him to drugs,” she says.

She began researching marijuana’s medicinal effects when she learned her best friend, Sonia, had developed a fast-moving pancreatic cancer. In early December of that year, Sonia told Taylor that her aunt had suggested a cannabis cookie for her pain. Sonia said no.

Black Pocketbook

“I don’t put drugs in my body,” she said even as morphine coursed through her bloodstream. Taylor wasn’t sure what she thought about marijuana, but she knew the morphine was turning her friend into a zombie.

In a rare lucid moment for Sonia, Taylor took her out of the nursing home on a shopping spree. In Nordstrom, Sonia bought Taylor a black pocketbook. Sonia died the next month, in January 2010, at age 63. Taylor never mentions it in her speech, but she takes the pocketbook with her for strength and inspiration on important days like this, her first Rotary Club appearance.

After Sonia was gone, Taylor dove deeper into the research. She and her son had gone as far as applying for a dispensary license. The project ended when county supervisors voted to ban such facilities. For Taylor, it was only the beginning. She began volunteer work for Harborside before being hired in 2011, meeting elderly cancer patients who testified to marijuana’s good effects. She thought of Sonia.

Helping People

Now she’s convinced the cookie would have made her friend more available to loved ones in her final days. “It would have kept her present,” she said. “The morphine kept her dead.”

Taylor had come full circle since her principal days.

“I became a believer,” she said, and finally understood “why I’m here.” Once she helped children. Now she helps people on the other end of life.

“It’s the same job, don’t you see?” she says. “This is what I was meant to do. I’m livin’ the dream.”

Back in front of the Rotarians, she clenches her fists and says she’s an aging senior who doesn’t want to end up on 20 pharmaceutical drugs. “In my opinion, those are the real drugs,” she says.

Balms, Creams

With the variety of cannabis available, Taylor says, people don’t have to smoke it and they don’t have to feel a “high” using it. She heads behind the small wooden dais to her balms, creams and sprays.

“I brought some samples,” she says, “not for you to try,” rather to get a sense of what they look like.

“Does anyone have a question?” she says.

A lawyer in the audience says he represented a city that wanted to license a growing facility and he got a letter from the local district attorney threatening him with prison time. There are still contradictory messages sent, Taylor says. While California allows certain marijuana enterprises, it’s still not legal by federal law.

Another man wants to know why drug companies haven’t jumped in. If marijuana is so good, surely they see a chance to profit. Taylor tells him companies are doing some work but progress is slow.

“Look, I’m not trying to convince you to use cannabis,” she concludes. “I just want you to get the education. I care. I just care.”

The warm applause makes her smile. She packs up her samples and reaches for her black pocketbook.

Outside, Taylor is asked why she’s so committed to the cause.

“See this pocketbook?” she says, her tears spilling freely.

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