Posts Tagged ‘New Mexico’
SANTA FE, NM — A bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults and depenalize the possession of up to a half pound of pot narrowly passed the New Mexico House Tuesday. The measure was approved on a vote of 37-33.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a former prosecutor, has vowed to veto any marijuana decriminalization bill that passes the legislature.
Introduced by Rep. Emily Kane (D-Albuquerque), House Bill 465 would decriminalize the possession of up to four ounces. Possession of between four and eight ounces would be a petty misdemeanor, but the maximum sentence would be a fine.
Under current law, possession of up to an ounce is petty misdemeanor punishable by fines and jail time, while possession of between one and eight ounces is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
“Why on God’s green Earth would we want to spend money throwing college kids in jail for having a few joints when we could be spending that money on early childhood education?” asked Rep. Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe) during the debate.
Criminalizing marijuana users is “institutional state stupidity,” he added.
“Spending $5 million a year to arrest people with small amounts of marijuana is a waste of resources,” said Rep. Kanel. “We could put that money to better use.”
“Why are we not legalizing it?” asked Rep. Bill McCamley (D-Las Cruces), unwilling to stop with half-measures. McCamley laughed at the notion pot smokers were a threat to public safety. Instead, he said, they typically “watch PBS, laugh, eat some Cheetos and go to bed.”
Speaking in opposition to the bill was former police officer Rep. Bill Rehm (R-Albuquerque), who said he had seen “the bad side” of marijuana. He said he had once stopped a car full of teen pot smokers who then attacked him with a screwdriver.
The bill now heads to the Senate, which has only a handful of days to act on it. Even if the bill were to pass the Senate, it still faces an uphill fight. Gov. Susana Martinez has said she would veto the bill if it reached her desk, and the margin of passage in the House isn’t enough to override that veto.
“As a prosecutor and district attorney, the governor has seen first-hand how illegal drug use destroys lives, especially among our youth, and she opposes drug legalization or decriminalization efforts,” her office said in an earlier statement re-released on Monday. “Proponents of these efforts often ignore the fact that the vast majority of people convicted for possessing small amounts of marijuana are diverted to treatment programs and those who are sentenced to prison are individuals with long criminal records with convictions for things like assault, burglary, and other crimes.”
In a recent poll conducted by Research and Polling, Inc, and commissioned by Drug Policy Alliance found that 57% of New Mexican voters are in favor of reducing possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use from a misdemeanor crime to a civil penalty with smaller fines and no jail time.
If decriminalization is going to happen in New Mexico this year, it’s going to require quick action in the Senate and the rapid building of veto-proof majorities in both houses.
[Editor's Note: Decriminalization means the removal of the possibility for criminal charges, making possession a civil offense akin to a traffic citation. Depenalization means the removal of the possibility of jail or prison time while possession remains a criminal offense.]
By William Breathes
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, a majority of New Mexicans think marijuana should be regulated and taxed, while 57 percent say penalties and a jail time should be reduced for possession of small amounts.
“The dramatic shifts we’ve seen on the national level regarding marijuana penalty reduction are also reflected in our state. The money spent arresting, incarcerating, and prosecuting adults for simple marijuana possession could be better spent elsewhere,” said Emily Kaltenbach, state director for the Drug Policy Alliance.
The poll, conducted this month, asked 514 voters whether New Mexico should reduce adult possession of small amounts from a misdemeanor to a civil penalty – effectively decriminalizing it. Fifty-seven percent agreed, while 40 percent said they strongly agreed. That’s good, so do we.The poll also pitched the question of whether or not marijuana should be regulated “like alcohol” – a message we’ve heard more and more of, especially in New Mexico’s northerly neighbor, Colorado where voters approved Amendment 64 pushed by the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol campaign.
Also interesting is how the study shows that as many as 40 percent of voters polled said their state legislators wouldn’t do a damn thing about decriminalizing marijuana. New Mexico senators and representatives take notice: thirty-one percent said they would be more likely to vote you into office if you ran on a marijuana reform platform.
Not surprisingly, young people and democrats favored marijuana reform more so than old people and republicans. Sixty-one percent of voters between 18 and 64 agreed, while only 40 percent of those 65 and up agreed with reworking existing marijuana laws.
According to the Drug Policy Alliance, there were 3,277 marijuana possession arrests in New Mexico in 2010 alone. That’s about one-third of all drug arrests in that state, with one county – Dona Ana – being especially bad with 28 percent of all marijuana-related arrests. The state currently spends about $5 million on marijuana enforcement alone.
There is hope, though. As we told you earlier this month, several bills are going before the New Mexico state legislature this year including House Bill 465 which would make possession of an ounce or less a civil penalty with a $50 maximum fine. Her bill would also lessen penalties for larger amounts up to eight ounces. Another bill from State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino would require the state to conduct a financial study on what impact legalizing and regulating small amounts of marijuana would have at the state level.
Currently the penalty for possession of an ounce or less is 15 days in jail and a $100 fine. Possession of over an ounce but under eight ounces is a misdemeanor as well, with up to a year in prison and a $1,000 fine. More than eight ounces is a felony, with up a year-and-a-half in jail. Cultivation of any amount is a felony, with up to nine years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
New Mexico Department of Health’s Medical Cannabis Medical Advisory Board Will Hear the Petition, Today, in Santa Fe
Psychiatrists, Military Veterans and Other Patients Scheduled to Testify at the Hearing, Asking the Governor and the Secretary of Health Not to Take Away Their Medicine
Today, from 1 to 5 pm, the New Mexico’s Medical Cannabis Program’s Medical Advisory Board will hold a public hearing to consider Dr. William Ulwelling’s petition to remove PTSD from the list of eligible medical conditions for enrollment in the program. The hearing is scheduled in the Harold Runnels Building’s auditorium, 1190 St. Francis Drive in Santa Fe. The Secretary of Health will have the final decision.
In defense of keeping PTSD as an eligible condition, the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Patient’s Alliance, the Drug Policy Alliance, and others are banding together for a campaign they are calling, Don’t Take Away Our Medicine – a Campaign to make sure the voices of patients are heard loud and clear. Members of this campaign, including psychiatrists and PTSD patients are scheduled to testify in opposition of the petition.
Montel Williams, Emmy award-winning talk-show host, decorated former naval intelligence officer, and medical cannabis patient is supporting the Don’t Take Away Our Medicine campaign, declaring his support of the efforts to keep PTSD as a qualifying condition in New Mexico.
“I’m a proud 22-year veteran of the United States Marines Corps and Navy,” said Montel Williams, a sufferer of multiple sclerosis since 1999 who uses medical cannabis to ease his severe neuropathic pain. “I find it egregiously offensive that we can send our children off to die for our freedom, and then so callously turn our backs on their freedom when they return home. Governor Martinez, I urge you to promote New Mexico as a model to the nation and listen to the stories of US military veterans who swear on their honor that it has saved their lives. Please don’t turn your back on our walking wounded.”
Today, more than 3,000 New Mexican residents with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are actively enrolled in our state’s Medical Cannabis Program. Many of them are military veterans, patients living with disabilities, and victims of serious trauma and violent crime.
“When I returned home from Afghanistan I was diagnosed with PTSD. I worked with my doctor and tried many prescription drugs. Taking handfuls of pills every day, every one with a different set of side effects was hard on my body, and I still experienced some symptoms,” said Michael Innis, who served in the General Infantry and who was awarded a Purple Heart after the convoy he was traveling with got hit by an IED and was then ambushed. “Cannabis was not my first choice of medicine, but I tell you first hand, this medicine works for me. Cannabis allows me to leave my house and has helped me to return to work.”
The Campaign is standing up to protect the legal rights of patients to access safe medicine. They are asking for all compassionate New Mexicans to join them in telling the New Mexico Secretary of Health and the Governor to protect the rights of seriously ill New Mexicans and to reject the request to rescind PTSD as a qualifying condition by signing on to the Campaign: donttakeawaymymedicine.org
The right to use medical cannabis was approved in 2009, when PTSD was added to the list of conditions eligible under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act. Since then PTSD has become the disabling condition most frequently indicated by patients in the program, and today accounts for 40% of the diagnoses of the citizens in our state’s medial cannabis program.
“The current pharmaceutical cocktails given to sufferers of PTSD have limited efficacy, have significant debilitating side-effects, and have in many cases proven deadly,” stated Lisa Walker, M.D. a board-certified psychiatrist. “Given these facts, along with the experience of thousands of patients whose quality of life has been improved by its use, medical cannabis should continue to be an available treatment for the suffers of PTSD.”
“We will not allow the removal of PTSD as a qualifying condition for the medical cannabis program to happen quietly,” said Emily Kaltenbach, the NM State Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Patients deserve, above all, the freedom to choose the safest and most effective treatment for their disabling conditions.”
By Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town
Libertarian presidential candidate and former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson has selected retired California Judge Jim Gray, a prominent marijuana legalization advocate, to be his running mate.
Judge Gray’s selection “puts pot front-and-center in the campaign,” a Johnson campaign staffer told Will Rahn of The Daily Caller, before adding that the campaign’s defining issue will likely remain Johnson’s opposition to the war in Afghanistan.
“The thought process all along has been to find somebody that can articulate libertarian ideals and beliefs and I’ve thought all along that he would be a really solid pick,” Johnson toldReason‘s Garrett Quinn late Sunday night.
“I agreed to run only if we were going to run to win,” Judge Gray said. “I am not going to do this ‘Let’s have a moral victory’ stuff. I believe, and I think he agrees, that we have a good, solid 1 1/2 percent chance of winning this election.”
Judge Gray served in the Peace Corps, was an attorney in the Navy JAG Corps, and prosecuted cases for the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney’s office, according to a biography on his website. He ran as a Libertarian against California Democratic Senator Barbra Boxer in 2004.
The judge was picked after several other possible choices for Johnson’s running mate — including Fox News regular Judge Andrew Napolitano, former California Rep. Barry Goldwater, Jr., and Daily Caller editor-in-chief Tucker Carlson — had all turned the position down.
But a campaign staffer claimed Judge Gray was “Johnson’s favorite from the beginning.”
“Gary had liked him from the very beginning,” a staffer said. “Every time we would bring up somebody else, Gov. Johnson would say, ‘What about Jim Gray?’ ”
Gray, a former conservative Republican, became a Libertarian after deciding that the drug laws do more harm than good. He has written several books bout law, politics and the Drug War, and was a prominent supporter of Prop 19, which would have legalized marijuana if it had passed in 2010, but lost by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin.
“I was a drug warrior until I saw what was happening in my own courtroom,” Judge Gray said in 2010.
Johnson and Gray will be on the general election ballot in at least 49 states if they secure the Libertarian Party nomination. Johnson has 15 percent support in his home state of New Mexico in a matchup against Barack Obama and apparent GOP nominee Mitt Romney, according to a recent Public Policy Polling survey.
If Johnson can pull down five percent of the vote nationwide this year, the Libertarian Party’s candidate in the 2016 presidential election will get $90 million in federal funding, the Johnson staffer told The Daily Caller.
Johnson originally ran as a Republican candidate for president. He’s now considered the front-runner in the Libertarian Party nomination. The financially strapped third party will formally select its nominees for president and vice president at a convention in Las Vegas this week.
Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.
Take California. While the state has had medical marijuana dispensaries for more than 15 years, it remains a target for federal law enforcement officials, where the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration arrested nearly 8,500 people for marijuana-related offenses between 2004 and 2010.
California’s hardly alone. Several other states with dispensaries have seen an increase in both arrests and the confiscation of marijuana plants. However, a look at DEA records shows what appears to be an uneven enforcement policy among pot-friendly states over the past several years.
For example, while arrests and eradication in California climbed fairly steadily in the seven-year time frame, they remained essentially flat in Maine. Colorado, meanwhile, saw a reversal in both trends halfway through the time period.
Americans for Safe Access, which advocates the legalization of medical marijuana, says the Justice Department has conducted nearly 200 raids on dispensaries and growers since President Barack Obama took office.
“The assault on medical marijuana patients currently under way by the Obama administration is unprecedented in this country’s history,” said Steph Sherer, the organization’s founder and executive director. “The intensity and breadth of the attacks has far surpassed anything we saw under the Bush administration and has resulted in the roll-back of numerous local and state laws, not just in California.”
The government’s focus on the industry has taken many lawmakers and medical marijuana activists by surprise. During his presidential campaign four years ago, Obama vowed to maintain a hands-off approach toward pot clinics and dispensaries that adhere to state law.
Perhaps not surprisingly, California, which legalized marijuana in 1996 and has long been considered a hub for the pot community, has been the state most targeted by federal officials. In 2004, the DEA made 869 marijuana-related arrests, seizing 1.2 million plants that were cultivated to produce marijuana buds. Both numbers climbed steadily through 2009, according to statistics provided by the DEA, peaking at 1,738 arrests and 7.5 million plants. (In 2010, the numbers slipped slightly to 1,591 arrests and 7.4 million plants.)
California and federal officials have been at odds for years over medical marijuana, since the Controlled Substances Act still classifies the drug as illegal. Federal prosecutors have frequently targeted dispensaries that make profits, noting California law requires those facilities to run as not-for-profit collectives. Those dispensaries, though, are often significant sources of tax income.
Michigan may not boast the hard arrest and confiscation numbers that California does, but federal officials have been even more active there since medical marijuana was legalized in 2008. Arrests have climbed 223 percent since legalization (from 290 in 2007 to 647 in 2010). Plant seizures have increased by 68 percent in that time, according to the DEA.
Similarly, Montana, which legalized medical usage in 2004, saw a slight increase in arrests (with the biggest spike coming the year dispensaries opened) between 2004 and 2010. Last year, though, federal officials executed a series of raids that largely shut down pot providers in the state.
Since New Mexico legalized medicinal marijuana in 2007, however, arrests (which were never noteworthy to begin with) have dropped — from 16 in 2006 to just 4 in 2010 — while confiscations have generally fallen over the years, but spiked in 2010, with more than 8,400 plants destroyed.
It’s worth noting that these DEA statistics, while interesting, do not paint a complete picture. The agency focuses on big targets and distributors (including growers who work within the boundaries of the state law as well as those who do not). Its numbers do not include individuals who are arrested on possession charges, something that’s largely done on a city and county basis.
DEA officials play down the numbers, noting there are intangible factors that cause them to fluctuate each year.
“It’s difficult to draw conclusions based on the superficial data you’re looking at,” says Todd Scott, an agent who has worked with the DEA for 17 years. “What prompts a raid on [a dispensary] is a whole host of factors. I think there’s a misconception that a particular raid is a medical marijuana raid. If you find a grow, you don’t often know prior to that that it’s a ‘medical marijuana grow’.”
The reasons for the raids vary, as they do with any criminal investigation. There are some red flags, though. For instance, if a dispensary is suspected of illegally trafficking pot to people without prescriptions, that could attract federal attention. If a grow operation is of a substantial size (with tens of thousands of plants), that too can turn heads (since it’s such a flagrant violation of the Controlled Substances Act). Growers and dispensaries, though, say there has not been an obvious pattern to recent raids.
Nowhere is the fluctuation more in evidence than Colorado, where medicinal pot has been legal since 2000. From 2004 to 2007, arrests and eradications varied somewhat, but not wildly. They peaked at 341 in that period, while the DEA destroyed between 5,000 and 7,500 plants per year. In 2008, though, things changed considerably.
Plant eradications skyrocketed to over 30,000, while arrests fell to just 36. The numbers ebbed and flowed a bit more in the following two years, but arrests remained low, while more plants were destroyed.
Meanwhile, in Rhode Island (which legalized the drug for medicinal purposes in 2006), the threat of raids and employee prosecution from the U.S. Attorney’s office has kept dispensaries from opening. But looking at the DEA’s arrest record, no one seems to be taking much notice of the pot trade in the state. Through 2010, federal officials had only made nine arrests — and destroyed just 16 plants.
The DEA notes that cases tend to roll from one to another. An arrest in one incident can lead to tips about other illegal activity, which can explain the discrepancies. And since federal officials focus their efforts on larger busts, some operations might be too small to capture their attention.
“We are a proactive agency,” says Scott. “We don’t have to wait for a bank to get robbed or a car to get stolen to launch an investigation. As a federal agent, is it a productive use of my time to investigate a guy with five plants? Probably not. Is it worth my time for a guy who’s growing 500 plants? Well, probably so. But is there a number [that constitutes a cut-off point]? No.”
by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive DirectorApril 11, 2012
From the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines
IACM-Bulletin of 8 April 2012
World: Increasing numbers of patients use cannabis for medicinal purposes
An increasing number of patients in the world are using cannabis for therapeutic reasons, with available data from countries, which have installed programs for their citizens. Good data are available for Israel, Canada, the Netherlands and many states of the US with medicinal cannabis laws and registries. In several more countries only a few patients are allowed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes, including Germany, Norway, Finland and Italy. In many other countries such as Spain and some states of the US without a registry such as California the number of medicinal users is estimated to be high, but no detailed data are available.
The numbers in California with hundreds of cannabis dispensaries and clinics that issue medical cannabis recommendations are unclear, since the state does not require residents to register as patients (see below**)
Most of the 16 states that allow the medicinal use of cannabis require a registration. Recently the press agency Associated Press published data on registered patients in different states of the USA based on state agencies responsible for maintaining patient registries:
State: Number of registered patients (per 1,000 of the whole population) –
Colorado: 82,089 (16.3)
Oregon: 57,386 (15.0)
Montana: 14,364 (14.5)
Michigan: 131,483 (13.3)
Hawaii: 11,695 (8.6)
Rhode Island: 4,466 (4.2)
Arizona: 22,037 (3.5)
New Mexico: 4,310 (2.1)
Maine: 2,708 (2.0)
Nevada: 3,388 (1.3)
Vermont: 505 (0.8)
Alaska: 538 (0.8)
Patient registration is mandatory in Delaware, New Jersey and the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.), but their registries are not yet up and running. Washington State has neither voluntary nor mandatory registration.
Data from Israel show that in August 2011 6,000 patients got medicinal cannabis (0.8 patients in 1,000). It is estimated that the number increases to 40,000 in 2016 (5.2 patients in 1,000 citizens).
In Canada 12,116 patients were allowed to use cannabis on 30 September 2011 (0.35 patients in 1,000 citizens).
Numbers of patients using cannabis from the pharmacies in the Netherlands were estimated to be 1,300 in 2010 (0.08 patients in 1,000 citizens). However, many patients in the Netherlands use cannabis from the coffee shops or grow their own.
In Germany about 60 patients are currently allowed to use cannabis for medicinal purposes.
(Sources: Associated Press of 24 March 2012, website of the Israeli Prime Minister of 7 August 2011, UPI of 31 October 2011, Pharmaceutisch Weekblad No. 20, 2011)
**[Editor's note: CA NORML published a white paper last May estimating that California has 750,000 - 1,125,000 citizens who possess a physician's recommendation to use cannabis medicinally.]
By Milan Simonich firstname.lastname@example.org
SANTA FE — Bobbie Wooten, paralyzed from the waist down for 33 years, is one of 4,300 people in New Mexico certified by the state to use medical marijuana.
But Wooten, 51, says she has taken to buying marijuana illegally from street dealers in her hometown of Silver City because she cannot find a state-authorized producer nearby.
“It’s risky,” she said. “I taught special education for seven years, and I might want to go back to that someday. I don’t want to lose my license, but I need the marijuana.”
Wooten says she is taking her chances on a criminal charge because marijuana is effective in alleviating chronic spasms in her legs a condition called intractable spasticity.
Marijuana also allows her to continue functioning normally, she says. Wooten dislikes Valium, another treatment option, because she says it makes her tired and causes her to lose focus.
For a time, Wooten grew her own marijuana, which is permitted under state law for patients who need the drug for medical reasons.
But that led to a confrontation with a landlord. Finding no licensed supplier to accommodate her, she said, she began breaking the law.
Wooten’s case illustrates a larger fight that has been under way in New Mexico for a year.
The state Department of Health has authorized 25 nonprofit corporations to produce and supply marijuana to patients in the medicinal program. Six other companies that want to be marijuana producers sued the state last April, claiming they were
being shut out of the marketplace by a ponderous and byzantine selection process.
These upstart companies with colorful names such a Veggies Inc. and New Mexico Sunshine Inc. have entered into mediation with the state.
But their attorney, Paul Livingston, said five of the six were notified last month that they did not qualify to be producers. He said the selection system was arbitrary, the reasoning unexplained.
In his lawsuit, Livingston said more than 100 entities had applied to be licensed marijuana producers, incurring “substantial expense” to prepare an application.
To even start the process, people trying to break into the marijuana business must form a nonprofit New Mexico corporation.
Dr. Catherine Torres, Secretary of Health, appeared before a state legislative committee in December to explain her ideas for administering the medical marijuana program. She said her agency’s careful approach had prevented problems that California and other states were experiencing.
For instance, Torres told legislators that New Mexico would not allow storefront marijuana dispenseries. It also had limited the types of diseases for which marijuana could be prescribed.
Such safeguards had prevented abuses and unchecked growth in the program, she said.
The Department of Health promulgates rules on how the program works, and Torres as the executive in charge decides how many licenses are needed and who gets them.
The state increased the number of corporations licensed as producers to 25 when it had about 3,300 medical marijuana patients. Another thousand patients have since been cleared for medical marijuana use.
But those figures can be misleading. State records show that about 2,200 or more than half of the state’s medical marijuana patients are licensed to grow their own.
All of the licensed corporate producers pay state fees of $10,000 to $30,000 a year, said state Sen. Cisco McSorley.
Under his bill approved this year and signed by Gov. Susana Martinez, that money will remain with the Department of Health. This regular flow of cash will provide the department with the resources necessary to administer the medical marijuana program, said McSorley, D-Albuquerque.
Charles “Blacke” Rountree is a Democratic candidate for the state Senate and president of GrassRoots Rx, one of the 25 licensed providers of marijuana in New Mexico.
Rountree said his company’s marijuana, produced in Cibola County and free of pesticides, helps patients with painful diseases such as cancer and AIDs. It also is effective in treating anxiety in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder, he said.
Rountree said his operation employs a driver who delivers marijuana to certified patients at their homes.
“Some people are meeting in parking lots. We don’t have any of that going on,” he said.
Medicinal marijuana, misunderstood for a time, is gaining acceptance as people see the good it does for those with chronic pain, a terminal disease or a debilitating illness, Rountree said.
Wooten, a paraplegic, for a time grew her own marijuana with the state’s permission, making her one of the thousands of patients who also are producers. But then her landlord saw marijuana plants in her home and threatened to evict her.
Wooten got a lawyer and fought back. Even the state said she had a legal right to grow marijuana. Ultimately, though, she agreed to move when her lease expired.
Wooten said then heard of a licensed producer in Alamogordo, but decided not to chance the three-hour drive for marijuana.
“I’d have to cross the Border Patrol checkpoint, and that worried me,” she said.
In fact, the state Department of Health warns medical marijuana patients that New Mexico law does not protect them at places such as airports and immigration checkpoints.
Even with the complaints and glitches, McSorley said New Mexico’s program works remarkably well. He called sit a model for how to help the sick and anxious without marijuana distribution spinning out of control.
None of that is a help to Wooten, who says the program’s shortcomings have turned her, a disabled middle-aged woman with four college degrees, into a lawbreaker.
Oregonians love marijuana. Take a walk along Southeast Clinton Street some summer evening and you’ll get contact confirmation.
The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, from 2009, estimated that between 7.7 and 11.3 percent of adult Oregonians had blazed in the previous 30 days. That’s the seventh-highest rate in the nation, behind a bunch of states like Alaska and New Hampshire whose citizens are essentially snowed into their grow houses half the year.
We harvest it by the bale, too. Oregon’s marijuana crop was valued at more than $210 million in a 2006 paper by activist Jon Gettman. That makes it the state’s fourth-largest cash crop behind hay, wheat and onions.
And yet, for a state that prides itself on its progressivism, Oregon lags behind California and Colorado, where medical marijuana patients are free to shop at for-profit dispensaries. Here, as in Washington, Montana and New Mexico, patients must grow their own or persuade another cardholder to grow it for them without state oversight. That’s hardly a reasonable way to dispense “medicine.”
Will 2012 be the year we finally make progress? Here’s a primer to the state of weed in the state.
Hey, man, what’s up with Oregon’s 420 laws?
Well, it’s still illegal. Possession of more than an ounce is still a class B felony, and possession of less than an ounce is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. The Portland Police Bureau investigated about 860 marijuana-related cases in 2011, according to bureau spokesman Sgt. Greg Stewart.
Bummer, dude! Are we gonna, like, fix that?
Possibly by the end of 2012. There are three organizations gathering voter signatures to place legalization measures on the ballot in 2012. The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, headed by activist Paul Stanford, is pushing the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act. Oregon NORML is behind Sensible Oregon, a legalization measure similar to NORML-backed initiatives in California and Colorado. Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative director Robert Wolfe has written a constitutional amendment legalizing the personal use, possession and production of marijuana by adults.
Whoa, there are three different legalization plans? That’s weird. Are they super different?
The initiatives vary mainly in complexity.
The first plan, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, is five pages of legislation allowing Oregonians over the age of 21 to grow and use marijuana without a license and establishing an Oregon Cannabis Commission, similar to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, to govern the licensing and taxation of commercial cultivation and sale.
OCTA is the latest version of the project to which Stanford has dedicated his career. “This initiative, I started drafting it in 1988, and I’ve had input from over 100 experts and lawyers around the world,” he says. The biggest change to the new OCTA, according to Stanford, is the separation of the OCC from the OLCC—since a 2011 poll indicated “people don’t want to see people buying alcohol and marijuana at the same time.”
The second plan, Sensible Oregon’s measure, takes a less proscriptive approach. Instead, it just repeals the Oregon statutes banning the manufacture, delivery and possession of marijuana and replaces them with language that prohibits the restriction of those activities by adults over the age of 21. It also directs the Oregon Health Authority to come up with rules governing the legal sale of marijuana by the beginning of 2014.
“Sensible Oregon is a statutory initiative that would remove all civil and criminal penalties for the possession, the transportation, the cultivation and the use of marijuana for adults, and it allows [you] to cultivate in your yard as long as you give it away,” says Oregon NORML director Mary Anne Sanford. “We’re leaving everything else intact.”
The third plan, OMPI’s measure, is the simplest of the bunch. It’s only three sentences enshrining the right of adults to grow, possess and use marijuana in the state constitution.
“There’s two ways to go with these things,” says Wolfe of legalization. “You can write 10 to 30 pages and impose on Oregon a fully conceived new marijuana economy, or you can ask a simpler question that’s relevant to a lot more people, which is, should we suffer fairly harsh criminal penalties for possessing marijuana and maybe growing a couple plants yourself?”
Cool beans, man. So will any of them make it to the voting round?
It’s too early to say—petitioners have until July 6 to turn in enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot (116,283 signatures to amend the constitution, 87,213 to change state law). OCTA has gathered more signatures to date than its competitors (about 30,000, according to Stanford), but the campaign has already spent over $97,000. It’s now broke.
“We had a benefit that wasn’t beneficial in July,” Stanford says. “I’ve donated about $80,000 [from the Hemp and Cannabis Foundation], which amounts to about 80 percent, maybe 95 percent, of the funds raised so far. I’m ready to contribute another $5,000.”
OMPI’s campaign has fewer signatures but more cash, thanks in large part to $45,500 in donations from the Foundation for Constitutional Protection, a group based in Austin, Texas, that funds marijuana legalization efforts.
“I don’t think OCTA or the Sensible Oregon measure has any chance at all,” Wolfe says. “[Sensible Oregon] doesn’t have any resources. OCTA [has been] stalled out for months. We, on the other hand, are just now developing, and we have the funding in place to push forward.”
As of press time, Sensible Oregon’s ballot title had not been approved by the state. The campaign has recorded donations of $534.
“They’re all trying to get to the same end,” NORML’s Sanford says of the measures. “One’s really long, one’s absolutely one sentence, and ours is just trying to get to provide it to people.”
If any of the initiatives succeeds in making the 2012 ballot, Oregon will not be alone in voting on legalization. The backers of Initiative 502, a Washington state measure similar to OCTA, say they’ve turned in over 100,000 more signatures than they need to qualify for the ballot, and the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012, a legalize-and-tax initiative in Colorado, claims to have submitted sufficient signatures to qualify as well.
Whoa, déjà vu! Haven’t we voted on this before?
Speak for yourself, gramps. Marijuana legalization last made the ballot in 1986, when supporters of the Oregon Marijuana Initiative spent about $50,000 only to see the measure fail with just 26 percent support. Previous versions of Stanford’s Oregon Cannabis Tax Act have failed to make it to the ballot in 1996, 1998 and 2010.
So what will this mean for all my friends with little cards for their backaches and nausea?
The many dispensaries, co-ops, delivery services and other assorted businesses that have sprung up to serve the 57,389 patients enrolled in the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program continue to exist in a regulatory vacuum.
Two Washington County dispensaries, Wake n Bake and Serene Dreams, were shut down by police in 2011. At least one Portland dispensary, Foster Healing Center, closed its doors voluntarily after then-U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton issued a warning in June that “the sale of marijuana for any purpose—including as medicine—violates both federal and Oregon law and will not be tolerated.”
Holton’s warning didn’t stop OMMP cardholders from opening dispensaries and delivery services in disused storefronts across the city. Potlocator.com lists 21 dispensaries in Portland, each of them operating within their own interpretation of Oregon law.
Can’t trust the Man, man.
Indeed. In the absence of clarified rules from the state, Don Morse, director of Human Collective, a Tigard “OMMP membership support group,” is seeking to bring some order to his industry through the creation of a trade group, the Oregon Greener Business Bureau.
Created in December at the first-ever OMMP Business Conference in Clackamas, the OGGB requires its five members to abide by strict rules: They must document all transactions, test all dispensed marijuana for pesticides, use medicine vials with childproof caps, and not dispense more than an ounce per week to any one patient, and will not business names or carry merchandise that “reflects recreational use.”
“Because there are no legislative rules or guidelines for this industry, we have created our own,” Morse says. “Believe me, there are plenty of resource centers and dispensaries that are not applying this level of common sense.”
Morse says the organization is seeking to hire a lobbyist, and hopes to get some of its self-regulations enshrined in law in 2013.
This was a bust and buy operation.
Officials in Albuquerque, N.M., were forced to pay a medical marijuana patient $3,100 after police destroyed her pot crop.
The woman said she was considering further legal action against the town over the weed-whacking officers.
The incident occurred in August 2010, when a neighbor of Armijo — concerned that the woman was suicidal — asked police to check on her.
Cops arrived to find the woman was gone. But her marijuana plants were front and center inside the house, sprouting beneath a grow light.
The officers pulled the pot from her pots and held the weed as evidence. By the time Armijo convinced police that she was licensed to grow medical marijuana, her crop — stuffed inside a paper bag — was ruined.
“Everything was gone,” she told the television station. “It was complete destruction.”
Albuquerque city Risk Manager Peter Ennen said it was a routine settlement distinguished only by the drug element.
“It’s something out of the ordinary that it’s a claim for medical marijuana plants,” Ennen told KOAT-TV.
House Resolution 1983 has been stalled in committee since Last June
HR 1983, the State’s Medical Marijuana Protection Act of 2011, introduced by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), explicitly states it will exempt people complying with state medical marijuana laws from federal arrest and prosecution.
Officially titled “To provide for the rescheduling of marijuana and for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various states”, the measure also calls for an immediate rescheduling review by the federal government that would reclassify cannabis from Schedule I to Schedule III under the federal Controlled Substances Act, officially recognizing the plant’s accepted medical use and streamlining the federal approval process for medical marijuana research. It is cosponsored by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), Rep. Fortney Stark (D-CA). and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).
“The time has come for the federal government to stop preempting states’ medical marijuana laws,” Frank said. “For the federal government to come in and supersede state law is a real mistake for those in pain for whom nothing else seems to work. This bill would block the federal prosecution of those patients who reside in those states that allow medical marijuana.”
Sixteen states — Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington — and the District of Columbia have enacted laws protecting medical cannabis patients and often their providers from state prosecution. However, in all of these states, patients and providers still face the risk of federal sanction — even when their actions are fully compliant with state law.
Medical cannabis patients should feel safe from federal threats whether they are cultivating their own medicine, picking it up at a dispensary etc. When dispensaries are shut down, or gardens get plowed by the DEA, the real losers are the ill people using medical cannabis in order to treat their conditions. Often times these patients have already paid hundreds of dollars to be registered with the state, only to have the feds squash their efforts. Imagine having your local pharmacy getting shut down, terrorist style, leaving you without safe access to quality medicine. HR 1983 would provide the protection these patients need and deserve.
The time, money, and manpower spent by local, state, and federal authorities, to harass and prosecute medical cannabis patients is staggering, especially considering budget concerns in all parts of the U.S. In many states where medical cannabis laws have been passed, local municipalities have been collecting millions of dollars in taxes. So let’s see, less money out, more money in… HR 1983 absolutely makes sense for community budgets.
In states where dispensaries are allowed to operate, the cost of opening one can be staggering. Regulations in states, such as Colorado, can push the cost into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is nothing new, there is always a cost to do business, but the difference between dispensary owners and most business owners is the constant threat of DEA raids and asset forfeiture. These operators are most often good people who really want to be an accepted part of the community, yet the federal government considers them drug dealers using it’s influence to manipulate local governments to go against the will of the voters. Add the legal costs to fight for your right to operate and I wonder how these people are able to stay open? Passing HR 1983 would allow them to fully integrate into communities without constant federal harassment.
The known benefits of medical cannabis are a proven reality and how many more unknown benefits could be discovered if legitimate research could be done openly. Just look to Israel as an example. Since their government loosened the restrictions on cannabis research, a couple real quality studies are in the works. It’s no secret research and development is expensive. Passing this resolution would help entrepreneurs feel far more comfortable about investing capital in cannabis research once they don’t have to worry about the Feds kicking down the door. Imagine if we could isolate each of the hundreds of psychoactive components contained in the cannabis plant and test each one for potential ways to treat incurable diseases and conditions. Do we really want all this work to be done overseas? What about all the potential high paying research jobs this could create? H. R. 1983 would help make cannabis safer and create jobs here in the United States.
As a cannabis law reform and legalization advocate, I can appreciate what enacting this resolution has to offer. I personally see the biggest hurdle for marijuana law reform as breaking the decades old negative stereotypes created by the government propaganda machine. If people where allowed to use medical cannabis and the public saw crime rates fall and heard miracle cancer stories, maybe it could change their perceptions. Additionally, many people who use medical cannabis recreationally might actually be using it for medical reasons and just don’t know they are. Depression, anxiety, and other conditions often go undiagnosed, often leaving people to “self-medicate” on their own.
Bottom line, this bill doesn’t have many glaring problems and if your state doesn’t have a medical cannabis law, then it doesn’t really effect you anyway. The bill is currently in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, chaired by Rep. Frederick Upton; it was assigned to the Subcommittee on Health and hasn’t budged since. Contact your congressman and tell them to co-sponsor the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act now!
Here’s a great video from friend of the blog, Jay Selthofner talking about HR 1983
And here’s a link to the full text of the bill: