September 6, 2012
California Supreme Court Upholds that Municipalities May Not Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
On August 22, the California Supreme Court dismissed Pack et al. v. Long Beach, a state appellate court case holding that cities may ban cannabis dispensaries. Now that the Supreme Court has dismissed the case, it is hence easier for California state and local government to regulate medical marijuana cultivation and distribution. Still, there are other appellate court cases to come before the Supreme Court. City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients’ Health and Wellness Center, Inc. ruled in the appellate court that state law cannot keep cities from regulating zones for or even prohibiting dispensaries. Los Angeles v. Alternative Cannabis Collective, et al., however, contradicts the former Riverside ruling, n holding that Los Angeles county cannot ban cannabis collectives due to conflict with state law. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Pack et al. v. Long Beach significantly indicates the potential for California State law to prevail and override local laws banning medical marijuana dispensaries.
September 6, 2012
Medical Marijuana Act Qualifies for Arkansas's November Ballot
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act of 2012 will now
appear on the November electoral ballot. The Act proposes to lift criminal and
civil penalties for marijuana possession and use of up to two and a half ounces
for qualified patients, including those suffering from cancer, Crohn’s, post-traumatic
stress disorder, and fribromyalgia. To facilitate and regulate the distribution
of medical marijuana, the Act would also permit state establishment of
nonprofit dispensaries for approved patients. Patients may also cultivate fixed
amounts of cannabis, themselves. If passed, the Medical Marijuana Act would
render Arkansas the 18th state to allow for medical marijuana.
August 17, 2012
No Tax Deductions for Cannabis Dispensaries
In spite of their compliance with state laws, medical cannabis dispensaries may not file business deductions on their federal tax returns. Tax Court Judge Diane Kroupa ruled that under federal law – Section 280E of the federal tax code provision – it is illegal to deduct expenses from the trade of a controlled substance, such as marijuana. Hence, in Olive v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, Kroupa had rejected a petition from the Vapor Room to deduct expenses in spite of its legitimacy under California law.
August 10, 2012
Congress Introduces Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act
House Bill 6335, also known as the Medical Marijuana
Property Rights Protection Act, is aimed at the Controlled Substances Act, so
that patients who possess medical marijuana in compliance with state law are
exempt from civil forfeiture of their property due to state and federal
conflict in regards to marijuana laws. California Democrat Congresswoman
Barbara Lee introduced the bill in response to the increased federal raids and
civil forfeitures in California lately. She hopes that the bill will “provide
clarification to California businesses and security for California patients.”
She sees the federal crackdown on medical marijuana as conflicting with voters’
will and undermining democracy. Lee and her eight co-sponsors now await action
to be taken on the bill after review from multiple Congress committees.
August 7, 2012
American Judo Athlete Expelled from the Olympics for Marijuana Use
Nicholas Delpopolo, 23-year-old American judoka, has been expelled from the Olympics after failing a drug test on account of eating food that had been baked with marijuana. Delpopolo claims he was unaware the baked goods contained cannabis. He was tested on July 30, the day of his competition, and accepted the disqualification gracefully, concluding with hopes to represent the United States in the future. Italy’s 50 km race walk athlete, Alex Schwazer, also was expelled from the Olympics after failing a drug test. Schwazer broke the Olympic record in Beijing, but he is not competing in London this year due to his failed drug test. Meanwhile, past time marijuana users Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt have both proven to be major champions, winning multiple medals in London this year.
August 3, 2012
Raids on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Boost the Federal Asset Forfeiture Fund
Adding up to $1.8 billion, the asset forfeiture fund under the Obama administration is higher than it has ever been. Correspondingly, law enforcement agencies have received more than the fund than ever before, totaling $445 million in 2011. The “equitable sharing agreement” with local law enforcement provides an incentive to execute federal raids – an increasing amount of which on medical marijuana dispensaries – hence providing law enforcement with a portion of the profits seized. In 2011, California received 18 percent or $80 million of all shared asset forfeiture, further illustrating the pervasive financial influence from the dispensaries. The Obama administration’s continued crackdown on dispensaries in medical marijuana states across the country indicates that 2012 may show an even higher record for the federal asset forfeiture fund.
August 2, 2012
Michigan Court of Appeals Upholds that Cities Cannot Ban Medical Marijuana
In 2010, medical marijuana patient John Ter Beek and
the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit with the city of Wyoming,
Michigan, which upheld an ordinance banning medical marijuana. Judges Joel
Hoekstra, Douglas Shapiro, and William Whitbeck found the ordinance
unenforceable, ruling that local governments could not use the federal
marijuana prohibition to undermine state law. The court’s decision in favor of
Ter Beek should now set the precedent, standing as an example to other cities
in Michigan, such as Livonia, that had attempted to undercut Michigan citizens’
2008 decision to allow patients treatment with medical marijuana.
August 2, 2012
Sheriff's Deputies Seize 3,200 Pounds of Marijuana from Santa Cruz Northern Mountains
Out to determine the legitimacy of marijuana grows in
compliance with state laws, Santa Cruz sheriff’s deputies stumbled upon ten
spots – four of which were so “egregiously out of compliance that we seized all
of the plants,” said Sergeant Peter Hansen. Deputies seized a total of 1,100
plants that weighed 3,200 pounds from these four spots alone. The growers,
however, were fortunate enough to be spared arrest and instead received
citations. The main issue is the great confusion surrounding the legality of
growing medical marijuana and the various rules and regulations that become
ambiguous in actual practice.
August 2, 2012
Arizona May Expand Its Medical Marijuana Program
Though Arizona’s medical marijuana program currently
permits patients subject to cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, chronic pain, hepatitis C,
and muscle spasms to use medicinal cannabis, the law mandates that petitions be
considered that permit expansion of use to treat more conditions. Upon the
receipt of petitions to include medical marijuana treatment of sleeping
disorders and skin conditions, Will Humble, state health director, explained
that these conditions would only be incorporated into the treatment program if
scientific evidence proves that marijuana may be helpful. Already, he has
rejected requests to add migraine headaches, anxiety, depression, and
post-traumatic stress disorder.
August 1, 2012
DEA Overrides Local State Officials in Continued Raids of San Francisco Cannabis Dispensaries
With the increased number of raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, patients are being forced into finding medicine on the black market. Recently, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag threatened two nine-year running San Francisco city-permitted dispensaries with criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture. Both dispensaries, HopeNet and Vapor Room, fully legitimate by California state laws, are shutting down today. In response, activists against this new surge of raids on these well-established, law-abiding institutions are holding a “funeral procession” march from the Haight district to the Golden Gate Federal Building, location of Melinda Haag’s office and a press conference that starts at 5 pm. HopeNet and Vapor Room, however, are not the only dispensaries threatened as such, for similar threats have recently been made against nine other San Francisco dispensaries. In an October press conference with all of California’s U.S. Attorneys present, an escalated attack on California’s medical marijuana businesses was agreed upon. Nevertheless, this decision was in direct contradiction with Attorney General Eric Holder’s now empty statement that going after medical cannabis establishments in compliance with state laws would be a low priority. Nevertheless, numerous elected officials have publicly opposed this slew of federal attacks, though not yet to any avail.
July 30, 2012
D.C. Circuit to Hear Americans for Safe Access v. DEA
After the DEA’s ten-year denial of the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis’ (CRC) 2002 petition requesting a reassessment of
marijuana’s therapeutic value, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) v. Drug Enforcement Administration is a lawsuit finally challenging the controlled substances act’s classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug containing no medical value. The US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit has agreed to hear oral arguments in order to reconsider marijuana’s medical value. Finally patients may have advocacy in court, especially after numerous studies have hence, since 2002 (and prior), proven the medicinal effects of marijuana, and which are only validated by the medical marijuana laws in 17 states. The ASA appeal claims that the government has been arbitrary and dismissive of contrary evidence in its denial of cannabis to patients throughout the country. The ASA thus compels the DEA to re-analyze all scientific data impartially in order to reassess the value of cannabis.
July 27, 2012.
Law Enforcement Cracks Down on Synthetic Marijuana, a Poor and Dangerous Alternative to the Real Leaf
Executed in 31 states and about 100 cities, the DEA’s Operation Log Jam aims to crack down on synthetic marijuana and other synthetic substitutes for drugs such as cocaine or methamphetamine. Law Enforcement agencies have raided smoke shops and other stores carrying these synthetic drugs. While synthetic marijuana has become an alternative to the real Schedule I leaf, hallucinogenic bath salts and other dubious ingredients in mock cannabis have proven to be far more detrimental. Though the physical health affects of cannabis are essentially innocuous, synthetic marijuana has been shown to induce seizures, psychotic fits, and sometimes death. Synthetic marijuana sold under names such as “Spice” and “K2” has already been outlawed, and law enforcement plans to eliminate the rest of the designer drugs that have remained on the market. While sometimes deceptively packaged as incense, bath salts, or plant food, if ingested as one would ingest real drugs, these synthetic intoxicants have fatal potential. Aside from shutting down the manufacturers and raiding the shops stocked with synthetic drugs, Operation Log Jam intends to make it clear that these artificial mock substances are illegal, as well.
July 26, 2012
Massachusetts Sanctions Measure to Legalize Medical Marijuana for November Ballot
Just last week, Massachusetts approved a statewide proposal to place a medical marijuana measure on the November ballot. If passed, the measure would remove statewide criminal and civil penalties for the possession of marijuana for qualified patients, as well as set up and regulate 35 dispensaries to distribute medical cannabis. If approved, Massachusetts would become the 18th state to legalize medical marijuana, and continue the trend in New England. The Massachusetts Medical Society, the largest doctors’ organization in the state, however, is campaigning against the measure. Nevertheless, at the current moment, a survey revealed that 53 percent of voters would support the bill.
July 25, 2012
Los Angeles City Council Bans Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
With over 900 medical marijuana dispensaries in the City of Los Angeles alone, many fear that the marijuana business is getting out of control. For that reason, the Los Angeles City Council voted 14-0 to ban dispensaries until further evaluation from the State of California’s highest court. All of the dispensaries registered with the city will be sent letters ordering them to immediately shut down. Those that violate the ban will be subject to legal action from the city. The ban, introduced by City Councilman Jose Huizar, was intended to allow the city a fresh start, after so many dispensaries had proliferated throughout the city, in compliance with California’s hazy laws regarding how to legitimately establish and run medical marijuana collectives, cooperatives, and storefronts. Under the ban, patients and their caregivers will be able to cultivate and distribute medicinal cannabis in groups of no more than three. The ban has left many angry and confused, while meanwhile, many patients do not have the time or expertise to grow their own marijuana. Still, the city may not even have the resources to shut down every dispensary within Los Angeles City limits. Nevertheless, the ban is still in effect until declared otherwise.
July 24, 2012
Belize Proposes to Decriminalize Marijuana
The Minister of National Security has recently appointed a committee to evaluate the potential decriminalization of marijuana in Belize. Such decriminalization denotes that criminal penalties may be removed or reduced, and at times replaced by probationary measures, for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Currently, possession of under 60 grams of marijuana calls for criminal charges, including up to three years imprisonment or a fine of up to $50,000. The committee proposes to decriminalize marijuana possession of up to 10 grams, which instead of criminal penalties, will be subject to fines or mandatory drug education. The intention behind the proposal is to reduce penalties for already marginalized sectors of the population who are generally disadvantaged in terms of employment and social mobility. The committee hence only wants to reduce crime via decriminalization and regulate marijuana in Belize.
July 20, 2012
Medical Cannabis Dispensary to Open in Montclair, New Jersey in August
In spite of New Jersey’s medical marijuana laws, Governor Christie’s administration had been slow to launch a medical marijuana program. In fact, Christie had often been criticized for rendering New Jersey’s medical marijuana laws to be the strictest in the country, as he has endeavored to keep New Jersey from becoming “like Colorado or California.” He reasoned that New Jersey medical marijuana should not “become a cottage industry for unscrupulous doctors who will write prescriptions no matter what and for folks who might run these facilities who care more about profit than they care about compassionate care for individual citizens who qualify for it.” Nevertheless, two medical marijuana dispensaries will be set up in each of three regions in the state – northern, southern, and central – and patients will need to present a state-registered ID card, or else one verified by state-registered caregivers.
Funeral director Joseph Stevens is now the chief executive officer of Greenleaf Compassion Center, New Jersey’s first dispensary authorized to grow marijuana, which will open in Montclair next month. Stevens noted that people with severe terminal illnesses often turn to heavy painkillers, such as morphine, in order to treat their symptoms. Marijuana, he reasons, is a better alternative to such pharmaceuticals, as it does not leave patients in a stupor, as would oxcyodone, for example. By early August, Stevens intends to be at the store, helping patients register with the state, before even purchasing their medication.
July 20, 2012
National Cancer Institute, a Government Agency, Upholds the Medical Benefits of Marijuana
The National Cancer Institute, found at www.cancer.gov
, upholds the medicinal benefits of cannabis, hence contradicting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the approved Schedule 1 categorization of marijuana, both of which deny that cannabis has any redeeming medical value. Nevertheless, the National Cancer Institute has listed the benefits of medical cannabis to include antiemetic effects, appetite stimulation, pain relief, and reversed insomnia, thereby advocating that physicians recommend cannabis predominantly for symptom management. The resulting conclusion is the inherent contradiction regarding medical cannabis among different government agencies.
July 19, 2012
Arkansas May Be the First Southern State to Legalize Medical Marijuana
The Arkansas Medical Marijuana Act, supported by Arkansans for Compassionate Care (ACC) and funded by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), will require 62,507 signatures by August 13 in order to qualify for the November ballot. So far, the Secretary of State reports that the ACC is a little more than halfway there. The ACC modeled the Arkansans Medical Marijuana Act after Maine’s initiative, and has been careful to avoid other regulatory issues present in the medical marijuana laws of other states.
July 18, 2012
Washington Initiative 502 to Legalize and Tax Marijuana
Originally introduced during the summer of 2011, Initiative 502 was short of the required 241,153 signatures until this past April, and has hence been advanced to the November 2012 ballot. The measure would legalize possession of small amounts of regulated marijuana or cannabis products for those over twenty-one, remove state criminal penalties, and tax marijuana sales. The 25% excise tax revenues would go toward substance-abuse prevention, education, research, and healthcare. DUI laws prohibiting driving under the influence would be amended to include minimum thresholds for THC blood concentration.
July 17, 2012
Oregon Proposes Marijuana Legalization Measure for the November Ballot
The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 2012 (OCTA) has officially been approved for the November ballot, following suit with Washington and Colorado, which will include similar proposals on their November ballots. OCTA will appear on the ballot as Measure 80, and proposes to regulate marijuana for adults over 21, as well commercial sales through stores licensed by the State of Oregon. Ninety percent of tax revenue from cannabis sales would go towards the state’s general fund, seven percent toward drug treatment programs, and the rest toward Oregon’s startup “hemp food, fiber and bio-fuel industries.”
July 16, 2012
Obama's Promise Broken as Feds Raid Oakland's Harborside Health Center
It appears as if the Federal Agencies are cracking down even harder on California’s flourishing medical marijuana industry. Just days ago, the feds targeted Harborside Health Center, a medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland. Harborside had grown to be not only the “largest pot shop” out there, but also a salient example of what a legitimate establishment, in total compliance with state laws, should look like. In spite of abiding by all of California’s regulations, such as being farther than within 1,000 feet of a school, quintessential leader in the medical marijuana industry was targeted for merely being too popular. The sheer conflict between state and federal law is the sole reason the feds have shut down an otherwise lawful institution. The consequence is that patients are denied secure, safe access to their medicine and are forced to find smaller dispensaries, which often are not as legitimate or well run as Harborside was. Yet, not only have patients’ rights been compromised and lawful institutions persecuted, but Obama has blatantly failed to keep his promise to keep medical marijuana dispensaries a low priority, given his claim that targeting law-abiding establishments that comply with state medical marijuana laws would be a waste of time and resources. With his election looming in the near future, Obama needs to reinstate his low-priority policy in regards to medical marijuana, an industry that has helped rehabilitate California’s economy, and especially Oakland’s, during one of the state’s most severe financials crises.
July 13, 2012
"Truth in Trials" Act Would Allow Medical Marijuana Recognition in Federal Trials
Congressman Sam Farr’s new bill, the “Truth in Trials” Act, would allow defendants involved in federal marijuana case to present evidence that they conformed to their state’s medical marijuana law. Currently, federal rules of evidence exclude medical marijuana recommendations in compliance with state laws. Farr seeks for the bill to prevent law enforcement and judicial officials’ time and resources from being wasted on prosecuting people who follow state laws. Hence, the bill aims to bring about fair treatment to medical marijuana patients in federal trials.
July 10, 2012
Marijuana Possession Reduced to Non-Arrestable Offense in Chicago
Chicago City Council has voted for a measure to go into effect August 4 that reduces the number of arrests for marijuana offenders who posses 15 grams or less on their person. The policy, however, excludes cases in which offenders have been caught in parks, at schools, or smoking in public. The policy, of course, is at odds with state law, that holds marijuana possession as a misdemeanor offense, meriting 30 days to a year behind bars. Those who voted for the policy were aware of the unfair proportion of black and Hispanic youth who are arrested for marijuana. In fact, data propose that these minorities constitute 95% of marijuana arrests in Chicago.
July 9, 2012
Kentucky Senator Advocates for Medical Marijuana
Once a major grower of marijuana during WWII, Kentucky might have another chance to rekindle its compassionate roots. Democrat Senator Perry Clark from Louisville has introduced a proposal, called the Gatewood Galbraith Medical Marijuana Memorial Act, to legalize medical marijuana in Kentucky. The proposal will be considered at next year’s General Assembly. The proposal allows for patients to have up to five ounces of marijuana and to cultivate no more than five plants at a time. Empathetic to patients’ rights and the movement for marijuana law reform, Perry clams that prohibition of “the miracle plant” is a “liberty issue.”
July 5, 2012
Will Uruguay Be the First Country to Directly Legalize Marijuana?
While Uruguay has already legalized marijuana possession for personal use, Congress will vote on a proposal by President Jose Mujica to legalize its production and sale. Mujica’s incentive behind the proposal is to reduce violence by taking marijuana out criminal hands in illegal trafficking, as well as to monitor consumer use. Furthermore, Mujica intends for profits from underground marijuana sales to finally surface from the black market. Mujica considers drug addiction to be a completely different issue from drug trafficking, and does not support the legalization of other drugs. Moreover, the proposal includes stipulations to increase the prison time for cocaine traffickers.
California Overturns Ban on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
July 5, 2012
On July 2, the California’s Second District Court of Appeal overturned Los Angeles County’s ban on marijuana dispensaries, thereby affirming their legality under state law, which municipalities have no right to override. The municipal ban was no more than a nuisance for state courts and time spent futilely for Los Angeles City Council. This decision in County of Los Angeles v. Alternative Medicinal Cannabis Collective moreover overturns a May 2011 junction that the Los Angeles Superior Court had granted to the county.
July 3, 2012
The American Medical Association Suggests Change of Marijuana Scheduling in Order to Facilitate Medicinal Testing
With the Schedule I designation of no redeeming medical value, it has come into question whether or not marijuana, legalized medically in 17 states, should be categorized as such. Marijuana’s current Schedule I status inhibits researchers from full access to cannabinols in order to assess their medicinal benefits for pain or other problems. Proven already to have at least some medicinal value, marijuana has no place among heroin and other toxic substances in Schedule I, for not only does the category do no justice to the plant’s value, but makes it so that scientists must constantly receive DEA approval along every step of their research and access cannabis only from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the nation’s one legal source. Not only does the AMA support a review of marijuana’s scheduling, but also the American College of Physicians, and many other doctors, as well.
June 29, 2012
Stats Show that Marijuana Arrests Closely Correlate with Race
In a study by Jon Gettman, Ph.D., at Shenandoah University, findings illustrated a disproportionate amount of blacks arrested for marijuana nationwide, and hence, inherent racism in the War on Drugs. Statistics alone prove this point. While blacks account for only 12% of the population and 14% of all those who use marijuana, they comprise 31% of all marijuana arrests. Furthermore, in a 2007 national count, blacks were arrested at a rate of 598 per 100,000 for marijuana possession, while whites were only arrested at 195 per every 100,000. A 2006 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that, in spite of the higher number of African American drug defendants, merely 700,000 blacks apparently sold drugs juxtaposed with 2.5 million whites. Rather than just list numbers however, it is important to consider the larger situation: an approximately $14 billion untapped marijuana industry, for in whose absence instead exists a legal framework that functions to disproportionately and unfairly incarcerate marijuana “offenders,” based evidently on race.
June 28, 2012
Springfield, Missouri Petitions to Reform Marijuana Laws
By August 1, NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) must gather over 2,000 signatures for its petition to decriminalize marijuana in Missouri. Under current Missouri law, it is a misdemeanor to possess up to 35 grams of marijuana. NORML’s petition aims to replace misdemeanor charges with a mere fine of $150. A poll has recently suggested that more than half the electorate favors the decriminalization and regulation of marijuana in a fashion similar to that of tobacco and alcohol. Still, more conservative voices in Springfield fear that legalizing marijuana will only enhance its influence as “gateway” drug.
June 25, 2012
New Hampshire Governor Rejects Measure on Medical Marijuana
Deviating from New England’s recent trend toward state legalization of medical marijuana, Democrat Governor John Lynch rejected Senate Bill 409, allowing for medical patients to personally possess and cultivate cannabis. Governor Lynch’s decision, however, came as no surprise, given his previous veto to medical marijuana legalization in 2009. He reasoned on this most recent occasion that the bill failed to provide adequate restrictions regarding medical cannabis recommendations and cultivation. Furthermore, Governor Lynch opposed the bill’s provisions allowing teenagers under 18 to use marijuana for medical purposes. Still, the ultimate verdict on the bill resides with the New Hampshire state chambers, whose upcoming June 27 decision on whether or not override Governor Lynch’s veto rests on merely two additional state Senate votes in favor of the bill.
June 24, 2012
New York State Senate Refuses to Pass Marijuana Decriminalization Bill, Intended to Counter NYC's Stop-and-Frisk Policy
On June 21, Senate Republicans rejected a bill to decriminalize public possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana, thereby keeping it a misdemeanor, rather than merely a civil fine. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had originally hoped the bill would function as a check on the new stop-and-frisk policy in New York City, which, seeking to reduce crime on the street, authorizes police to stop and search people they consider to look suspicious. As a partial attempt to remove illegal guns from the street, the policy has had the side affect, in addition to racial profiling, of increasing arrests for the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Out of more than 53,000 misdemeanor marijuana arrests in 2011, at least half the defendants were either African American or Hispanic. In response, Governor Cuomo and Democrats in the State Assembly had proposed a $100 civil fine for possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana, in hopes to alleviate the negative effects of misdemeanor marijuana charges, particularly for inner city and minority youth.
June 20, 2012
Los Angeles City Council Contemplates Ban on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
Los Angeles City Council currently has two proposals on the table: one, to ban dispensaries all together, and two, whether or not to permit up to 100 dispensaries to operate in Los Angeles. According to the deputy city attorney, the dispensaries’ profits apparently contradicted the principle that they operate as nonprofit collectives. City Council, however, is engaging an issue yet to be reconciled by state and federal law: while California holds the legality of patients’ rights and existence of dispensaries on their behalf, federal law has categorized marijuana as a Schedule I drug, defined as lacking any legitimate perks. Los Angeles criminal defense attorney Allison Margolin, deemed “LA’s Dopest Attorney,” recommends that City Council avoid the issue altogether, given that it falls under nebulous jurisdiction. Meanwhile, in the absence of municipal interference, the continued existence of dispensaries may continue to satisfy the will of Los Angeles residents, ensure safe access to patients’ medicine, and help invigorate an ailing economy.