MJ News for 10/27/2014

7greeneyes

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http://www.sfgate.com/health/article/Marijuana-ban-to-have-rare-hearing-in-federal-5849294.php




Marijuana ban to have rare hearing in federal court




Marijuana users and growers usually try to stay out of federal courts, which strictly enforce the nationwide laws against the drug and have rebuffed challenges to the government’s classification of pot as one of the most dangerous narcotics.

But that could change this week when a federal judge in Sacramento, in a criminal case against seven men charged with growing marijuana on national forest land in Trinity and Tehama counties, hears what she has described as “new scientific and medical information” that raises questions about the validity of the federal ban.

The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies marijuana, along with such drugs as heroin, LSD and ecstasy, in Schedule One — substances that have a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use, and can be dangerous even under a doctor’s supervision. The classification amounts to a nationwide prohibition on the possession, use or cultivation of the drug. The DEA reaffirmed marijuana’s status in 2011, and a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., upheld it last year.

But the hearing that starts Monday may be the first of its kind in a criminal case since the early 1970s, shortly after Congress put marijuana in Schedule One under the DEA’s supervision, said Zenia Gilg, the San Francisco criminal defense lawyer who filed the current challenge.

“At that point, not a lot was known about the medicinal benefits of marijuana,” said Gilg, a member of the legal committee of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “It’s about time somebody looked at the new evidence.”

That will be U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller, who granted the hearing, scheduled for three days, over prosecutors’ objections. In an April 22 order, she said lawyers for the defendants had presented expert declarations “showing there is new scientific and medical information raising contested issues of fact regarding whether the continued inclusion of marijuana as a Schedule One controlled substance ... passes constitutional muster.”

She issued the order in a case that, based on the evidence so far, has little to do with medical marijuana — the defendants are charged with growing a large tract of pot plants on forest land, and there’s been no indication that it was for medical use. But Gilg said that’s irrelevant if they were charged under an unconstitutional law.

As Gilg acknowledges, it will not be an easy case to win. She and her colleagues must prove not merely that the federal law is misguided, based on current research, but that it is entirely irrational. An initial ruling would apply only to the current defendants, but the impact would be broader if higher courts weighed in.

Support for defense

The witness list includes doctors and researchers who laud marijuana’s medical benefits and say it is much less hazardous than tobacco, alcohol and some everyday medications, and a former FBI analyst who says the federal ban has been socially destructive. Defense lawyers say they also are drawing support from an unlikely source — President Obama’s Justice Department, which, while defending the federal ban in court, has advised federal prosecutors not to charge people who are complying with their state’s marijuana laws.

California, 20 other states and Washington, D.C., allow the medical use of marijuana, and two of those states, Colorado and Washington, have also legalized personal use.

“If marijuana is actually such a dangerous drug, the rational response by the Department of Justice would be to increase, not decrease, prosecution in those states,” Gilg said in court papers. She also argued that the government’s state-by-state enforcement policy is discriminatory.

The government’s expert witness is Bertha Madras, a Harvard professor of psychobiology and a former official in the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush. In a court declaration, she said marijuana “has a high potential for abuse” and is properly classified among the most dangerous drugs.

Medical uses debated

Contrary to popular notions, Madras said, marijuana is addictive for frequent users, interferes with concentration and motivation, and can cause brain damage. Marijuana smoke contains “significant amounts of toxic chemicals,” she said. And despite “anecdotal evidence” that it helps some patients feel better, she said, there are no valid long-term studies that support its use as medicine — in fact, although some of the plant’s ingredients may be beneficial, “there is no such thing as medical marijuana.”

Nonsense, said Dr. Philip Denney, a defense expert witness and a founding member of the Society of Cannabis Clinicians. Despite government restrictions on the supply of marijuana for research, he said in a declaration, new studies have shown “remarkable promise” in using marijuana to relieve pain and treat numerous illnesses, including forms of hepatitis, gastrointestinal and sleep disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Marijuana, Denney said, is a “nontoxic, nonlethal substance” with little potential for abuse and no recorded cases of fatalities, in contrast with the deaths caused by alcohol and tobacco. He said its side effects pale in comparison with the serious illnesses that can be caused by heavy doses of pain relievers like Tylenol and Advil and the hallucinatory effects of the main ingredient in NyQuil and Robitussin cough syrups.

Another defense expert, James Nolan, a chief of crime analysis and research for the FBI during President Bill Clinton’s administration, said the main harm caused by marijuana is “its status as an illegal substance,” which has relegated much of its distribution to criminals and cartels and ruined the lives of many of its users.

Mueller, who will weigh the conflicting testimony, is a former Sacramento city councilwoman and federal magistrate who was appointed to the bench by Obama in 2010. She is the first female judge in the Eastern District, which includes Sacramento and Fresno.
 

7greeneyes

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http://www.oregonlive.com/marijuana/index.ssf/2014/10/marijuana_news_us_sen_jeff_mer.html




Jeff Merkley first U.S. senator to support legalizing pot




U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley plans to vote for Measure 91, which would legalize marijuana for recreational use in Oregon, making him the first U.S. senator to do so, according to Talking Points Memo.

"I lean in support of it," the Democratic senator told Sahil Kapur, TPM's senior congressional reporter last week. (Oregonian senior political reporter Jeff Mapes reported on Merkley's stance earlier this month.)

"I think folks on both sides of the argument make a good case," Merkley said. "And there is concern about a series of new products — and we don't have a real track record from Colorado and Washington. But I feel on balance that we spend a lot of money on our criminal justice system in the wrong places and I lean in favor of this ballot measure."

Other marijuana news worth a look this morning:

Mark Kleiman, the chief pot consultant to Washington, chimed in last week with his take on Oregon's legalization measure. Bottom line: Measure 91 is imperfect and, if passed, should be fixed by the Oregon Legislature, but it's worth a yes vote.

Of the measure's shortcomings, Kleiman writes:

Measure 91 does not reflect a sophisticated understanding of the problems of illicit markets or a nuanced view about substance use disorder. Focusing on the goal of eradicating the illicit cannabis market in Oregon, it doesn’t pay enough attention to the risk that Oregon might become a source of illicit supply to neighboring states. Focusing exclusively on preventing use by minors, it neglects the risk of increasing dependency among adults.

The basic fact about a legal cannabis market is that the product will be remarkably cheap to grow; once competition and industrial-style production have taken effect, a legal joint would cost (before tax) about what a tea-bag costs, rather than the illegal or medical-dispensary price, which is 100 times as high. And the tax provided for in Measure 91 would add only about 50 cents to the price of a joint: not a high price to pay for two hours or more of being stoned.
 

7greeneyes

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/27/even-when-states-legalize_n_6053626.html




Even When Medical Marijuana Is Legal, There's Still A Part Where People Have To Break A Law




CHICAGO (AP) -- As more states legalize medical marijuana, there's one stage in the process nobody wants to talk about: the part where people still have to break the law.

After growers obtain licenses, plan for security and build facilities, they then must obtain their first seeds or cuttings - while regulators turn a blind eye.

"It has to be hush-hush," said Bradley Vallerius, an attorney focused on the emerging industry in Illinois. "I've seen the moment where the client realizes this is a problem" - and wonders how they're supposed to get started.

The situation is known as the "immaculate conception" or the "first seed" problem. Those involved see it as an absurd consequence of the nation's patchwork of laws, with 23 states allowing medical marijuana sales, Colorado and Washington state allowing recreational use and a federal prohibition in place.

While marijuana may not be hard to find, getting the first seeds for medical operations often involves either descending into the underground market or crossing state lines - a violation of state and federal laws.

One Colorado grower, Toni Fox, says she ordered her first seeds for a medical crop five years ago from advertisers in High Times magazine. If they showed up at all, they came hidden in packages with T-shirts and coffee mugs.

In Illinois, where medical marijuana growing permits will be granted later this year, suit-and-tie capitalists are connecting with black-market growers for seeds or cuttings. Online, seed banks in the Netherlands and Canada promise discreet shipping in unmarked packages.

Most state laws are silent on the issue, forcing officials into a "don't ask, don't tell" stance. In Washington state, growers have a 15-day, no-questions-asked period during which they can bring non-flowering plants into their operation, which must then be bar-coded and registered.

In one Seattle case, a medical grower trying to break into the recreational market accumulated more than 2,000 plants. Police, responding to complaints about the smell, seized all but 45 plants.

The grower, Matthew Segal, faces no charges but estimates the raid cost him about $1 million. He has since sold one of his marijuana dispensaries and put his house up for sale to help cover the losses. "When (state governments) look the other way, it turns the regulations into Swiss cheese," Segal said.

In Nevada, where the first medical marijuana business certifications will be awarded next month, state law allows registered patients, who can legally grow up to 12 plants, to sell plants to a cultivation center - just once.

"We've learned from what a lot of other states have done. We've tried to avoid a lot of the pitfalls," said Pam Graber, spokeswoman for the Nevada Medical Marijuana Program.

But the Nevada law says nothing about where patients are supposed to get seeds or plants. "We cannot offer suggestions," Graber said.

Illinois officials danced around the question at a meeting for aspiring businesses.

"We're expecting that any applicant that is proposing an operations plan is going to have a plan for getting the operations started," program director Bob Morgan said when pressed for details on acquiring startup seeds or plants.

State Rep. Lou Lang, who sponsored Illinois' medical marijuana law, concedes lawmakers knew there was an issue. "We did not address it in the bill on purpose," he said. "We can't sanction in a law doing an illegal act."

David Ittel has sold indoor gardening supplies for decades at shops in Illinois and Wisconsin. Ittel won't say that the light timers and water pumps he sells have been used in illegal operations, but is meeting with aspiring medical marijuana business owners in Illinois.

"I've had people ask me: Can I help them get seeds? That's not what I do," Ittel said.

He believes some business owners will get plants in Illinois on the black market. Another source will be out-of-state growers in legal markets. Ittel believes starter plants will be brought into Illinois covertly.

With its thriving recreational market, Colorado would seem a likely source. But it's risky for growers to divert plants out of state, cautioned Colorado Director of Marijuana Enforcement Lewis Koski.

"I'm not aware of a lawful way for that to occur," Koski said. "A business could have their license revoked. The members of the company could face criminal charges."

Ultimately, there will need to be a federal solution, said Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project, a national group that supports regulated marijuana.

Otherwise, he said, "there isn't much of an option for states except to look the other way and understand that there has to be a way for regulated businesses to operate."

Sara Gullickson, of Newton, Massachusetts-based consulting company DispensaryPermits.com, doesn't advise clients on the question. But she knows the score.

"They have to get (seeds or plants) from another state," she said, "and it's not legal, but that's what they do."
 

7greeneyes

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http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/25/opinion/no-progress-on-marijuana-arrests.html




(New York) No Progress on Marijuana Arrests





When he ran for mayor, Bill de Blasio condemned police practices under which young black and Latino men were unfairly — sometimes illegally — charged with possessing tiny amounts of marijuana, placing them at risk of losing jobs, access to housing or eligibility for military service even though such charges are often dismissed.

His promise to address this problem was supported in minority communities that bear the brunt of this destructive policy. But a new analysis of state data shows that low-level marijuana arrests during the de Blasio administration have continued at roughly the same level as under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. That’s not what the voters signed up for.

Since 1977, state law has barred arrests for possession of trivial amounts of the drug unless it is being smoked or displayed in public. In 1990, there were fewer than 1,000 such arrests in New York City. Yet in 2011, that number had shot up to an astonishing 50,000.

By then it was clear that police officers were illegally charging people with “public possession” by tricking them into removing the drug from their pockets during constitutionally questionable searches. Arrests for this misdemeanor dropped to 28,600 last year — still more than any city in the world — after Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly ordered officers to follow the law.

Defense lawyers, however, say that defendants who have noncriminal amounts of marijuana are still being cuffed and taken to jail by officers who purposely seek out concealed amounts of marijuana. This week, for example, Jim Dwyer of The Times reviewed a case in which the occupants of a car were taken to jail for a marijuana pipe — containing only residue — that was allegedly in “public view” when cops riffled through the car and found it.

The new analysis of state arrest data on people caught with tiny amounts of the drug, by the Marijuana Arrest Research Project and the Drug Policy Alliance, shows that between March and August this year, during the de Blasio administration, officers made 15,324 misdemeanor arrests under the statute that contains the “public view” provision — or about 500 more than in the comparable period in 2013, during the Bloomberg administration.

Despite the common argument that such arrests take criminals off the streets, three-quarters of those arrested had no prior criminal conviction. The report notes that the people arrested for marijuana possession “are not criminals; they are ordinary high school and college students and young workers” who will be saddled with arrest records that colleges, employers, landlords, creditors and occupational licensing boards can easily find online.

Race drives arrests, with black neighborhoods having arrest rates many times those of white neighborhoods with residents of the same class and income levels. Moreover, 86 percent of people arrested were black or Latino, despite data showing that whites and minorities use marijuana at similar rates. The report attributes the racial imbalance in arrests to the fact that police officers patrolling white neighborhoods typically do not search the vehicles and pockets of white citizens, thus allowing them to go about their lives without fear of arrest and incarceration.

Mr. de Blasio’s team has produced contrived numbers in an unpersuasive attempt to prove that the arrest picture is somewhat improved. But there’s no hiding the fact that New York City is still administering unfair police practices that disproportionately penalize communities of color and damage the lives of the overwhelmingly young people who are targeted. Public anger around this issue will continue to grow until Mr. de Blasio changes the very ugly status quo.
 

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http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacobsu...ccidentally-gave-kids-marijuana-on-halloween/





The Man Who Accidentally Gave Kids Marijuana On Halloween




In a recent column, I noted the lack of evidence that people try to get kids high on Halloween by passing off cannabis candy as ordinary treats. The closest thing I found to that that sort of incident was a 2000 case in Hercules, California, involving marijuana disguised as miniature chocolate bars that turned up in children’s trick-or-treat bags. Police traced the pot to a postal worker, who obtained it from an undeliverable package without realizing what was actually inside the wrappers. The San Francisco Chronicle explained:

"The treats were the product of a failed and undetected attempt to mail 5 ounces of marijuana to someone in San Francisco, said Hercules Police Chief Mike Tye.

“Somebody tried to mail it and didn’t have enough postage or the address was wrong,” he said.

Because the package, which contained four bags of Snickers bars destined for San Francisco, did not have a return address, it landed in the dead-letter office—where it was taken by a postal employee who planned to hand the candies out to trick-or-treaters.

“A lot of their dead mail, stuff that’s nonperishable, is given away to charity,” Tye said. “(The employee) picked up the candy along with a bunch of canned goods. He took the other items to a church but kept the candy.”


Because police were convinced that the postal worker had made an honest mistake, he was neither charged nor publicly named. His error is obviously quite different from deliberately giving out marijuana-infused candy disguised as unspiked versions of the same products: Not only was the marijuana distribution inadvertent, but no one would mistake marijuana buds for a Snickers bar once the package was opened. Press coverage of the incident may nevertheless have fed rumors about malicious strangers trying to trick kids into ingesting cannabis.

Although no such pranks have been discovered so far in Colorado, where dispensaries have been selling marijuana edibles for years, police in that state are urging parents to be on the lookout for candy that is unfamiliar or seems to have been tampered with. Such precautions hardly seem adequate in dealing with a determined cannabis concealer, who could always rewrap marijuana-infused treats in familiar packaging or dose conventional candy with store-bought tincture.

For parents who worry about such trickery, CB Scientific has a solution: a kit that you can use to quickly test Halloween treats for cannabis. The Florida-based company, which should be paying a commission to cops in Denver and Pueblo, sells the kits, each of which can be used to test three samples, for $15, so the cost of screening every tiny chocolate bar, jawbreaker, and jelly bean can quickly add up. It would be considerably cheaper just to throw out the entire haul and buy your kid replacement candy, although you can never be completely sure that no one has tampered with the stuff at the store either. As far as we know, it has never happened. But it’s possible!
 

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http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/10/27/meet-lebanons-cannabis-farmers-joining-fight-against




Meet Lebanon's cannabis farmers joining the fight against IS





It's the end of a plentiful harvest for 65-year-old farmer Abo Hamoudi.

"There's nothing but this land that can give us products," he says.

"We don't have anything else. We don't have jobs and our country is poor. We grow this for our livelihood."

But Mr Hamoudi is growing an illicit crop.

He produces hashish from the cannabis plant on his one-hectare farm in the Bekaa Valley in east Lebanon.

It's illegal to grow or sell cannabis in Lebanon, but it's the only life Mr Hamoudi has ever known.

"Growing up, I saw my parents planting it so we continued to grow it. Not just us, all of the Bekaa grows it too," he says.

Mr Hamoudi is from Lebanon's fertile Bekaa Valley near the border with Syria.

Local clans in this impoverished area have taken the law into their own hands.

In the past, the Lebanese army would descend yearly on this area to destroy the illicit crop, leading to heavy clashes with cannabis farmers.

Mr Hamoudi says for the last two years, the army has looked the other way.

"They're distracted with Islamic State and are fighting on the border. And we also fight with the army. In two days my turn to fight will come on the border between here and Syria. We fight them on the border so they don't come inside here."

Marijuana growers say they'll be the country's first line of defence against any Islamic State or Jabhat al Nusra militants coming across the border from Syria which lies about 40 kilometres from Bekaa Valley.

Abo Hamoudi says he's well prepared to fight off an insurgency.

"I'll burn a tank if I hit it with it. If I hit a pick-up with Islamic State people in it, it will burn. If I hit any vehicle with Islamic State in it, I'll burn it."

Lebanon's Chief of Drugs Enforcement, Colonel Chassan Chamseddine admits its armpower has been stretched to the limit, and that the cannabis farmers can be useful - despite their illegal harvesting activities.

"I think they're using Islamic State militants as an excuse to justify having weapons but the real reason is to protect their hashish," he says.

"But of course if there's any assault from outside of Lebanon into Lebanon they may use their weapons to help the army. But the Lebanese army has the official duty to defend the people."
 

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