July 2009

July 31 2009 – Seattle – ​Could the world’s biggest celebration of ganja be gone-ja? (Now the article has its obligatory pot pun.) With a new administrationowljesterhempfest-thumb-450x164 that might be a little less drug war-crazy and hard times leading state governments to study the budget benefits of marijuana legalization, this should be a banner year for Hempfest. But festival organizers say banners may in fact be their undoing. That and the bum economy, of course.

The Parks Department, say organizers, is looking to collect $100 per “commercial banner,” its standard fee for events. Hempfest organizers didn’t pay the fees last year, and feel they shouldn’t have to this year either, as they believe that the city isn’t clear on what constitutes a commercial banner and that some of the fees may unconstitutionally suppress speech.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the city and the festival have clashed: They fought over permitting in both 2006 and 2007. “I don’t think the city is out to get us–they’ve been really fair to us, in general” says McPeak, who adds that “everyone’s looking to get revenue” in the bad economy. “But the best way to stop a free speech organization is to raise their costs until they can’t operate anymore.”

Both the Parks Department and Hempfest say they are awaiting an opinion from the City Attorney’s office on how the commercial banner rule should be interpreted; but neither the City Attorney’s office nor the Parks Department has responded yet to SW requests for further comment.

McPeak says Hempfest cost $260,000 last year, and ended up $3,000 in the black. (It’s a non-profit, all-volunteer affair, so the money goes back into the next year’s festival.) But money’s tighter this year. So he’s calling for people to pitch in. “Nationally, we have a dialogue on decriminalization, regulation, and legalization that we haven’t had in over thirty years. It would be a terrible time in the movement for Hempfest to go away.”

Should you like to send a token of support to the supporters of tokin’, you can do so via NORML. By Damon Agnos. Source.

July 31, 2009 – Jamaica – In the desperate US economy, some argue that legalising and taxing marijuana could plug multibillion-dollar holes in US 20090730T190000-0500_156422_OBS_A_CURE_FOR_THE_US__MARIJUANA_TAXES__1government coffers.

Daniel Stein says the salvation of US taxpayers could be marijuana.

As Washington breaks the bank on Wall Street bailouts, President Barack Obama’s stimulus package and other spend-now, pay-later measures, most observers agree that politicians will eventually need to increase revenue or cut spending to cover the federal government’s debts.

Stein believes Washington could begin to balance its books now if politicians would take a serious look at his industry.

The owner of two retail outlets that he claims generate US$1 million in revenue annually, Stein says he pays around US$80,000 a year in sales taxes to the state of California. But the federal government, which does not acknowledge Stein’s sales as legitimate commerce, gets nothing from his business.

Sound odd? Not if you know that Stein sells marijuana.
In fact, because US federal authorities have spent time trying to close his and other medical-marijuana clubs, Washington is losing money on him.

Cannabis is good for the economy

Imagine how much the feds would save if they stopped cracking down on sellers, Stein says.

“Cannabis is good for the economy,” he said. “It’s been here the whole time, but it’s had a bad rap the entire time.”

As more people begin to see the merits in Stein’s logic, that bad rap is changing. While legalisation, decriminalisation and the medical use of marijuana continue to be debated in terms of public health, lawmakers and policy analysts are increasingly touting the economic benefits of regulating and taxing weed, which the Office of National Drug Control Policy says is the most popular illegal drug in the US.

Critics of legalising marijuana say the potential economic benefits of regulating and taxing the drug would obscure the less-tangible, long-term downsides of making it more prevalent in society.

“The argument wholly ignores the issue of the connection between marijuana and criminal activity and also the larger picture of substance abuse,” said David Capeless, the district attorney of Berkshire County in Massachusetts and the president of the state’s district attorneys’ association. “It simply sends a bad message to kids about substance abuse in general, which is a wrong message, that it’s not a big deal.”

A 2004 report by the drug policy office said drugs cost Americans more than US$180 billion related to health care, lost productivity and crime in 2002. That study lumped the effects of marijuana in with more-dangerous drugs, such as cocaine and heroin.

But marijuana advocates say history is on their side. They muster arguments similar to those that led to repealing Prohibition during the Great Depression.

“In the early 1930s, one of the reasons that alcohol was brought back was because government revenue was plummeting,” Harvard economist Jeff Miron said. “There are some parallels to that now.”

Definitive figures on the size of the untapped marijuana market don’t exist. It’s a grey market, after all. But there are plenty of studies indicating we are not talking about chump change.

American marijuana trade valued at US$113 billion annually

In a 2007 study, Jon Gettman, a senior fellow at George Mason University’s School of Public Policy, valued the American marijuana trade at US$113 billion annually. Between drug enforcement and potential taxes, the federal government and the states were losing almost US$42 billion a year by keeping marijuana illegal, the study indicated. Gettman is a former staff member of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, a US non-profit that lobbies on Capitol Hill for marijuana legalisation.

“It’s a very large, significant economic phenomenon, and it is diverting an incredible amount of money from the taxable economy,” Gettman said.

Miron says he is interested in the topic as a libertarian who believes the government shouldn’t ban any drugs. He offers more-conservative numbers, estimating that federal and state treasuries would gain more than US$6 billion annually if marijuana were taxed like alcohol or tobacco. At the same time, relaxing laws against use of marijuana would save nearly $8 billion in legal costs, he says.

The Obama administration seems to be inching toward a more permissive stance on marijuana. Last month, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced he would end raids on clubs like Stein’s, fulfilling a pledge Obama had made on the campaign trail.

“It’s a major break from the ‘just say no’ mentality,” said Allen St Pierre, the executive director of NORML, referring to Holder’s announcement.

Stein is somewhat relieved. The raids had been wreaking havoc on California’s budding marijuana industry, he says. Two years ago he was forced to move one of his clubs, The Higher Path, to a new location on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, after the Drug Enforcement Administration sent his landlord a letter saying agents could seize the building.

Medical marijuana

“Medical marijuana is very, very satisfying, but it’s very nerve-racking and dangerous,” Stein said.

St Pierre says 13 states have adopted laws to allow medical marijuana, while an additional handful have decriminalised possession, meaning the penalties associated with marijuana are negligible.

Of course, critics of decriminalisation are also vocal. Calvina Fay, the executive director of the Drug Free America Foundation, says Gettman, Miron and others fail to account for marijuana’s adverse side effects, from lethargy to impaired driving to tendencies among weed smokers to try more-serious drugs. “Those who are using drugs are less productive than those who aren’t,” Fay said.

A spokesman for the drug policy office declined to comment, saying the office wanted to wait until the Senate has confirmed Obama’s drug czar nominee, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske.

But according to the FBI’s most recent data, approximately 870,000 people in the US were arrested on marijuana violations in 2007. Nearly 15 million Americans use marijuana on a monthly basis, according to the latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health. The same study found that more than 100 million Americans had tried marijuana at least once in their lives. Advocates of decriminalisation say those statistics argue against the vision of mass lassitude put forward by their opponents.

“Most people either did the drug themselves or their friends did,” Miron said. “They know those extremes are not right.”

California has come closest to outright legalisation of the marijuana industry. Sacramento already collects around $18 million in sales taxes a year from $200 million worth of medical-marijuana purchases, according to data supplied by California’s State Board of Equalization. Now Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco Democrat, is sponsoring new legislation that would legalise marijuana completely – and tax it. The state estimates the proposal could generate $1.3 billion a year.

“The war on drugs has failed,” Ammiano said. “It seems to me there is across both aisles that assessment, and California is in an egregious economic abyss. The economic situation makes (legalisation) viable.”

The pro-marijuana lobby argues that US agriculture could expand significantly if farmers were allowed to openly cultivate weed. In a 2006 study, Gettman calculated that marijuana was one of the biggest cash crops in the US, with 56 million plants worth almost $36 million.

In the United Kingdom, where restrictions on marijuana research are less onerous than in the US, companies such as GW Pharmaceuticals are moving quickly to develop other drugs from the plant. In the company’s 2008 annual report, GW executives said they had received approval to market Sativex, a cannabis-derived painkiller, in Canada. The report said the company is seeking approval of the drug from European regulators and is working with the US Food and Drug Administration as well.

A spokesman for the company, John Dineen of the London public-relations firm Financial Dynamics, says executives would prefer not to be quoted in a story about the economic consequences of marijuana legalisation. By John Dyer. Source.

July 30, 2009 – Stratford, Ontario, Canada – Private-sector funding for establishing hemp-processing factories may be a hard sell at the moment, but Gordon Scheifele is undaunted in his passion for developing the enormous potential for hemp.
Picture 40

Earlier this week on a farm just east of Tavistock, Mr. Scheifele was showing a group of 16 mostly student workers how to distinguish male and female buds on hemp plants within a 10-acre seed crop.

Plants showing yellowish male buds, he explained, were to be pulled — a task known as roguing. The plants with female buds, which will develop into seeds that can be certified for resale, were to be left alone to grow to maturity.

Mr. Scheifele spared few details in explaining to the young workers — area students ranging from Grade 9 level to first-year university — the potential that industrial hemp holds for the future of farming and manufacturing.

The list includes building and insulation materials for houses, material for garment and bags, a substitute for plastic in the automotive industry, an antiseptic and absorbent bedding for horses or other livestock.

That’s apart from the edible seeds that are rich in essential fatty acids and the seed oil that can be used in the making of non-dairy cheese and yogurt.

The immediate task at the farm — which is one of several in the Stratford-Tavistock-New Hamburg area with a total footprint of about 85 acres — is to produce “certified seeds” that farmers can plant to develop their own crops for industrial use.

The crop is monitored by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and must meet a high standard of purity. Industrial hemp approved for cultivation contains only small quantities of the psychoactive drug delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that is contained in marijuana. Approved hemp contains less than 0.3 per cent THC compared to 10 to 30 per cent in marijuana.

A hemp researcher and the secretary-treasurer of the Ontario Hemp Alliance, Mr. Scheifele has been extolling the value of hemp for more than a dozen years.

Still, he acknowledges that even 11 years after the Canadian government removed it from a prohibited list (because of its genetic association with marijuana) development of a hemp industry remains a challenge.

“It’s globally revolutionary but it doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. Ontario processing plants — one in Delaware and one in Stirling — that were funded by the provincial and federal governments more than a year ago are apparently still trying to line up private sector funding.

Ontario production that was up to 2,000 acres in 1998-99, when the crop became legal, is currently down to 300-400 acres, said Mr. Scheifele.

Despite the reduction, Mr. Scheifele is optimistic.

“It’s been very difficult but it’s coming,” he said, referring to efforts to produce enough product to meet industrial demand while at the same time developing processing plants that will provide a market for Ontario-grown hemp.

Stonehedge Bio-Resources Inc., based in Stirling Ontario, planned to open its Hempcrete plant this year to produce a building material similar to concrete that incorporates hemp fibre.

The company expected to produce some $17 million annually in hemp fibre, wood-like chips, pellets, matting and seed products.

Stemergy in Delaware, formerly Hempline Inc., operates a large research-and-development facility at Delaware Ontario and since 1998 has created technology and expertise for extracting and refining the fibres in stem fibre plants.

Company officials could not be reached for comment.

The Ontario Hemp Alliance is holding its third annual hemp maze and field day Aug. 15 and is promising demonstrations, vendors and food. By DONAL O’CONNOR. Source.

July 30, 2009 – California voters may soon get a chance to weigh in on whether marijuana should be legalized and taxed by the state. If enacted, this may help thePicture 39 state’s budget by providing revenue from a brand new source, while also freeing up money that previously went to enforcement efforts against marijuana growing. Of course, marijuana would still be illegal under federal law, but this may be a turning point in the legalization movement — the point where politicians desperate for tax revenues see dollar signs instead of prison bars when looking at the cannabis plant.

And make no mistake — this is not medical marijuana we are talking about. From the wire service report:

A proposed ballot measure filed with the California attorney general’s office would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of pot. Homeowners could grow marijuana for personal use on garden plots up to 25 square feet.

Now, 25 square feet sounds like a lot, but it’s really only a plot five feet by five feet. Assumably, this was written into the ballot measure so marijuana (at least initially) wouldn’t be sown by agribusinesses in 1,000-acre fields. But even with the land-use restriction, the initiative is remarkable for the lack of other restrictions. No mention is made of “medical” or “medicine” or any of that — just “adults.”

There are even two ballot measures to choose from. The second one is even less restrictive:

The Tax, Regulate and Control Cannabis Act of 2010 would set no specific limits on the amount of pot adults could possess or grow for personal use. The measure would repeal all local and state marijuana laws and clear the criminal record of anyone convicted of a pot-related offense.

Bet that would save a few dollars on prisons. And even if these ballot measures fail, state legislators are introducing bills to do exactly the same thing. So, while it should not in any way be seen as inevitable, it now appears possible that California may soon legalize and tax marijuana, used for recreational purposes.

While the concept of taxing marijuana is a new one for most people to consider, it actually has a long history. The very first federal law dealing with (pun intended) marijuana was the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. Earlier laws outlawing “narcotics” had left out marijuana (or, in the spelling more common at the time, “marihuana”), so this was a more specific law dealing only with cannabis (and hemp). It ostensibly levied a tax on marijuana, which was widely used in medical products of the day. The tax was pretty low (the base rate for a doctor was one dollar for a tax stamp, per year), but the penalties for not paying the tax were the real purpose of the law. The law did not make marijuana illegal, so what the feds would clap you in prison for was not ponying up the tax. This had to be softened during World War II, when hemp was necessary for military supplies (hemp ropes, before nylon became widespread) and the planting of hemp was actually encouraged by the federal government (as in the “Hemp for Victory” movie put out by the feds in 1942).

Later, in the 1950s, marijuana was flat-out made illegal at the federal level. And then, at the beginning of the 1970s, the Controlled Substances Act codified all illegal drugs, and superceded the 1937 Marihuana Tax Act.

But taxing illegal drugs, including marijuana, didn’t end there. The next iteration of taxing marijuana came as a result of individual states being annoyed at the federal government. I believe the first of these was Arizona, which (in the late 1970s and early 1980s) had to watch as the feds made a lot of money off the drug traffickers moving through their (border) state. In the 1980s, the big weapon used in the Drug War was property confiscation. So the federal Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) would catch a semi truck full of bales of weed on an Arizona highway, and they would impound the truck. Later, they’d sell the truck in a government auction, and the DEA got to keep the money. Arizona was annoyed at being cut out of the profits, so they instituted a state tax on marijuana and other illegal drugs. This way, when the semi was auctioned, they could claim “unpaid taxes” on the cargo, and get their cut of the money raised. Many other states followed suit, and passed their own drug taxes for the same purpose — forcing the feds to share the spoils. They all sold (and some still sell) drug tax stamps for this purpose (Nebraska’s stamp unquestionably has the most creative design).

So, once again, the purpose of the tax was disingenuous. The states had no interest in making drugs legal, they just wanted a cut from any busts the feds made in their state. But now, for the first time, California seems to be seriously considering both legalization and taxation simultaneously — in other words, they are interested in the tax revenues themselves, rather than a back-door method of gaining windfall taxes from federal busts.

But I would caution the state lawmakers — and the people advocating for the new laws — to be conservative in estimating the revenue gained from these taxes. This is a by-product of the 100-year history of the Drug War itself. When you read in a newspaper that “$6 million worth of drugs captured” this dollar amount is often vastly overstated. And, even taking such estimates seriously, there’s a factor that most people don’t even take into consideration, which shouldn’t be ignored.

Say you want to estimate how much money California would make off a new marijuana tax. You come up with an estimate of how much pot is sold in the state (let’s call it $100 million, just for argument’s sake — since I have no idea what the actual figure is). You then estimate how much the market will grow, due to it now being legal. But then you’ve got to subtract anyone who grows their own at home, since they won’t be selling it to anyone (the tax is usually levied on point of sale, but I guess if it was a production tax they’d theoretically tax peoples’ back gardens as well). Finally, you come up with a figure.

But the big factor most people will miss is that the price of something which was previously illegal will go down if it is made legal. The price of moonshine during Prohibition was about ten times what hard alcohol sold for afterwards. Meaning, overnight, that “$100 million” market becomes “$10 million.” When something is illegal, most of the price is for the risk involved in producing it and getting it to the customer. Remove the risk, the price always drops. Always. Especially if a law passes without a “25 square foot” restriction, because then farmers out in California’s Central Valley will start growing massive amounts of marijuana (and as every economist knows, when the supply goes up, the price goes down).

So California should be careful when estimating what effect a (legal) marijuana tax would have on the state’s coffers. An easy way to avoid some of this problem would be to design the tax on “weight” rather than as a sales tax (percent of purchase price, in other words). Then the projections for anticipated revenue might be a little easier to make, because the price per ounce to the customer wouldn’t really matter, as the state would be guaranteed a certain dollar amount no matter how low it went.

A recent poll showed that 56% of California voters already approve of the concept of legalizing and taxing marijuana for personal, recreational use. Meaning that a ballot initiative has a fairly good chance of passing. I would just caution everyone to be realistic when making estimates as to how much tax revenue would be raised by doing so. California has such massive budget problems right now that a marijuana tax certainly couldn’t hurt the state’s cash flow. And, with the voters apparently ready to approve such a scheme, it looks entirely possible that it could happen. But overestimating the revenues expected could actually undermine the case for doing so. The advocates for legalization and taxation should be careful when drawing up their estimates, and keep their promises of tax revenue realistic, to better convince voters of the practicality of the idea. By Chris Weigant.

July 30, 2009 – Gov. Ted Kulongoski announced last week his intent to take pen in hand and make Oregon the seventh state to legalize the growing of hemp.1207324301

By signing into law Senate Bill 676, which allows farmers to grow hemp statewide and was passed by a veto-proof 27-2 margin, Kulongoski is among the few politicians taking small steps to reverse an agricultural mistake made 72 years ago.

Small steps, unfortunately, are the biggest ones Oregon lawmakers could take because hemp is still banned by federal law.

Oregon became the first Western state to legalize the growing of hemp since 1999, adding to a slowly building snowball of states that could eventually push the U.S. Legislature to remove the archaic and unnecessary ban.

Hemp growing was banned for all the wrong reasons seven decades ago. Its illegalization has a somewhat complicated history that was largely due to business considerations, rather than drug concerns, involving powerful figures of the time and some slick political maneuvering. Maneuvering that stripped away hemp and its benefits for most of the 20th century, long after America’s founding fathers, including George Washington, were known to cultivate the plant on their own land.

The short version, which is by no means the complete story, is this: Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, and William Randolph Hearst, a newspaper mogul, are largely to blame. Hearst owned hundreds of acres of timber. As hemp-based paper became more cost effective, the value of such land was threatened. Anslinger fueled anti-hemp propaganda that Hearst published in his newspapers. In 1937, Anslinger presented Congress with a ban against hemp and cannabis, which passed.

Unfortunately, some people—many of whom compose our federal Legislature—still believe hemp and marijuana are equally dangerous.

Hemp is a non-hallucinogenic variety of the cannabis sativa plant. You could smoke hemp for days and never feel anything more than throat irritation.

This is a shortsighted view of an agricultural plant that can be manufactured more cheaply and used for more products than many of the standard fibers used for clothing, rope, paper, food and other everyday objects.

America spends about $360 million per year importing hemp, according to the Eugene Register-Guard—money that could benefit local farmers, while the cheaper costs of local cultivation would translate into higher profits for local storeowners.

Opponents of decriminalization contend that it will increase marijuana growing on Oregon farms and thus heighten use of the drug in the region.

Oregon state Sen. Floyd Prozanski, a supporter of legalizing hemp since 1997, optimistically predicts the national ban will be lifted in about two years with increased pressure on the federal level. Politicians of traditionally conservative states aren’t likely to support the move, while political campaigns nationwide receive money from companies that would not like to see hemp’s competition in the marketplace.

Let’s hope Prozanski is right that change is coming. Let’s hope U.S. lawmakers will refuse to succumb to political pandering this time around and reverse a terrible mistake. by Ben Lundin. Source.

July 29, 2009 – Editor’s Note: Eugene Davidovich is a medical marijuana patient who was arrested during Operation Endless Summer (also known as Operation Picture 38Green Rx). He is currently being charged with four counts of possession, transportation and sale of marijuana but he believes he was targeted for being a medical marijuana patient. SDNN political editor Hoa Quach has invited him to blog about the charges brought forth against him and his trial. This is a blog entry by Davidovich, the views expressed here are his own and does not reflect the views of any SDNN employee.

It has now been over five months since my house was raided and I was arrested in Operation Green Rx [Operation Endless Summer]. In these five months my career, family, personal life, and everything else that used to make up the life of Eugene has dramatically and permanently changed.

Prior to the arrest I was working full-time at an IT company, managing e-commerce integration projects for large corporations. At the time, I was also studying to take the PMI Certification. I figured being certified as a professional project manager by the PMI Institute, combined with my years of experience, military service, and having completed a bachelor’s degree in Business and an MBA would surely help put me on the right track towards an excellent career in the corporate world and would allow me to secure a stable and comfortable future for my wife and son.

This all changed one morning in February, when armed detectives from the San Diego Police Department raided my house. They searched everything at home and found nothing of interest aside from piles of baby clothes, diapers, and mine and my wife’s clothes and personal belongings. After rummaging through our items and not finding anything illegal, I feel that the detectives became frustrated and decided to use psychological intimidation. It began with them telling my wife that our son would be taken, that we would lose all our belongings, that I was a danger, and how could she be married to someone like me, etc. The badgering went on for hours. I was kept in handcuffs for about eight hours that day, a good part of which I spent on my front porch, in front of my neighbors.

After being taken off in a police car, the officer took me to my storage unit, where the others detectives were already waiting. Having found nothing illegal there either, the detectives decided to take me to the precinct for one more round of questioning. Keep in mind, I had asked for an attorney and invoked my rights, immediately after the first detective told me I was under arrest.

At the precinct, the first 45 minutes I spent handcuffed in the back of the police car in the garage while some of the officers and detectives finished lunch. Once properly fed, they decided to continue the questioning. Detective Decastro ordered an officer to take me out of the car and place me on the chair in front of where Detective Decastro and an older gray haired detective sat. The questioning had hardly begun when Detective Decastro pulls out two black three inch plastic binders, opens one of them and tells me that I am not alone, and that he plans on bringing all us “medical pot people” down.

At this point I realized what this was about. I realized that this man sitting in front of me has no respect for the laws in place protecting patients from individuals specifically in his situation. The folders he pulled out contained the names of several dozen individuals he was investigating. Once he realized I was not planning on having any discussions with him, he quickly placed the binders back in the plastic box and wheeled it off.

Another plain closed officer was assigned to transport me to jail, and I was quickly rushed off to the San Diego jail, downtown. After spending some time in jail, the details of which I will discuss another time, I was bailed out, and finally made it home.

The raid, hours handcuffed and being paraded in front of my neighbors while my wife was being interrogated, as well as the psychological intimidation tactics used by the detectives both at my house and at the precinct, reminded me of the military. In some of the training and seminars I had gone through while in the Navy, they illustrated what being a prisoner of war would be like if captured, where psychological intimidation and warfare is used, detention, etc.

Two weeks later I was due for an arraignment in court which happened to land on the same day as San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis’ news conference about Operation Endless Summer. In this news conference she said “don’t mess with the military” and talked about cleaning up drug dealing on Navy bases.

When I walked into the courthouse I saw a camera there, and specifically asked the judge not to have my face shown on television as I was worried about my job. The judge denied my request and allowed the coverage to proceed. The evening news quickly picked up the story and that night showed video of me at the arraignment hearing, painting me as the poster child of this operation. They mentioned my name and showed my picture following the description of the total number of illegal drugs seized during Operation Endless Summer, with no mention of the fact that this was actually Operation Green Rx, and that not a single one of the images shown on television that night, or since has been an image of something that belonged or is alleged to belong to me.

The next day at work was awkward, to say the least. In fact, that night I was already receiving calls from coworkers asking if it was really me they had seen on television the night before. Needless to say, I was not able to remain there for long, and had to resign. In the few weeks following my arraignment, I was literally watching my life and everything I had worked very hard for completely be disassembled and destroyed.

What was most painful for me to see about the press conference and the initial news coverage was that my service to this country had been tainted and smeared making me out to be someone who preys on the military rather than a patriot and a veteran.

The little savings that I did have, went to bail, my attorney, and the other legal expenses, leaving me in a situation where I am now on the verge of bankruptcy and can no longer afford to retain my attorney. This means that I might be forced to either represent myself or go with a public defender, the majority of who are overloaded with the other cases.

The DA’s office as displayed at my preliminary hearing on July 13 has dedicated huge amounts of resources to prosecuting my case and damaging my reputation. There were several attorneys and investigators working together with the DA that day against me. The DA is not limited in their resources as I am.

In addition to this top notch prosecution team now focused on putting me away, the DA’s office has decided to remove any chance I could possibly have for getting a job in San Diego to help pay for my defense and try to get back on my feet, by labeling this a “High Profile” case.

My name now appears on the DA’s Web site in the “High Profile Cases Section.” It states that I am charged with transporting more than 28 grams making me out to be a narcotics trafficker, which simply is not true and a complete misrepresentation of the charges against me.

On Monday, I went in to court for another arraignment. This time instead of one camera, there were several there to film the proceedings. My attorney and I both answered a few questions to one of the reporters who requested an interview. The arraignment was allowed to be continued August 28. This was per my request to have more time to try to raise money to keep my defense attorney and not have to switch to a public defender.

I plan on raising the money to retain my one defense attorney, Mike McCabe, to defend me from this prosecution team and this smear campaign through grassroots fund raising efforts. There are many in the community who are demanding answers to why these bias driven prosecutions are allowed to continue, why the District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis publicly says she support safe access and medical cannabis while at the same time in court allows the designation of detectives as chief investigative officers on medical cases, when their medical training is based on a handout that states cannabis is illegal, a highly addictive narcotic, and is not medicine.

If the narcotics task force, the county, and the DA’s office would invest even a third of the effort and funding into productive outreach to medical collectives and began to actually work with patients instead of creating roadblocks and these bias driven prosecutions, then I am certain that all the public concerns would have already been addressed with relation to medical cannabis collectives, legal zoning ordinances and permits for collectives would be an issue of the past as it is with many cities in California, and I would still be happily building a career managing projects, raising my son, and focusing on my future rather than having to fight for something that has been sanctioned under state law for over thirteen years.

It is now more crucial than ever for supporters, patients, doctors, law enforcement officials, and our health department to continue the dialog recently started by the City Council in the last few weeks. It is also just as critical for the people of San Diego to see with transparency these cases and demand accountability from the people behind these investigations. The senseless waste and harassment needs to stop.

The solution is not bans, moratoriums, or prosecutions. Outright bans result in lawsuits, moratoriums in years of stalling and extensions of the moratoriums with no clarification for patients, and prosecutions result in patients and collectives having to operate so deeply underground that any potential benefit they could be bringing to the community is stifled by the environment of fear.

The solution will only be discovered through collaboration, outreach, understanding, and education of between all the parties involved. Until there is clarity patients will continue to suffer, our law enforcement will continue to operate under “vague laws”, and the lives of innocent law abiding citizens will continue to be destroyed by a select bias driven few. By Eugene Davidovich. Source.

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July 29, 2009 – SAN FRANCISCO — Oakland pot activists fresh off a victory at local polls on the taxing of medical marijuana took their first official step Tuesday oaksterdam1toward asking California voters to legalize pot.

A proposed ballot measure filed with the California attorney general’s office would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of pot. Homeowners could grow marijuana for personal use on garden plots up to 25 square feet.

The measure’s main backer is Oakland medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee, who helped push a first-of-its-kind tax on city medical marijuana dispensaries that passed with 80 percent of the vote last week.

The statewide measure needs nearly 434,000 signatures to make the November 2010 ballot.

“It’s one more pretty amazing element in the momentum toward ending statewide prohibition,” said Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance.

His group would rather wait until 2012 to build more support for a ballot initiative but would be happy with an earlier victory, he said.

A similar but less restrictive pot legalization initiative was filed two weeks ago by a group of Northern California criminal defense lawyers.

The Tax, Regulate and Control Cannabis Act of 2010 would set no specific limits on the amount of pot adults could possess or grow for personal use. The measure would repeal all local and state marijuana laws and clear the criminal record of anyone convicted of a pot-related offense.

Both ballot measures would be competing with a bill introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano to tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

The San Francisco Democrat is pushing legalization as a way to generate revenue for the cash-starved state from California’s massive marijuana industry. He plans to hold hearings on the legislation this fall. By MARCUS WOHLSEN. Source.

July 27, 2009 – Last week I posted an article reflecting the potential health benefits of marijuana. That article resulted in several posted comments as well as other marijuana-leaf(4)informal observations from readers regarding the issue of the drug’s legalization and its potential taxation. In this article, I will discuss the pros and cons of marijuana legalization and taxation.

The Top 10 List – (not necessarily in the order of their priority)

Most popular arguments against legalization:

1. Marijuana use often leads to stronger drugs such as cocaine and heroin (the Gateway Theory).
2. Driving under the influence will lead to more highway deaths and injuries.
3. Heavy marijuana smoking will cause serious physical as well as psychological damage to its users.
4. Legalization would increase the chance of the drug becoming available to minors.
5. Use of marijuana is morally wrong.
6. Secondhand smoke will cause harm to innocent bystanders.
7. Arresting marijuana users will keep those people most likely to commit more serious crimes off the streets.
8. The easy availability of drugs would create new consumers rather than rescuing current ones.
9. Legalization will send a message to children that drug use is acceptable.
10. Legalization could led to neglect of children by drug-addicted parents.

Most popular arguments in favor of legalization:

1. If used in moderation, marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol or tobacco.
2. If marijuana is legalized, the FDA or other state agencies could regulate its quality and safety.
3. Drug dealers and other dangerous folks would lose a big slice of their business.
4. Legalization will reduce crime by reducing drug disputes while allowing police and court resources to be freed up for more serious crimes.
5. For some people marijuana (like alcohol, cigarettes or sex) is one of life’s pleasures and limiting the use of the drug intrudes on personal freedom.
6. Unlike tobacco and alcohol, there are many documented positive medical benefits associated with marijuana use.
7. Legalizing tobacco and alcohol, while criminalizing the use of marijuana, sends a confusing message to young people who view the inconsistencies as hypocritical and leads to a general disrespect for the law.
8. Legalization can lead to taxation as well as other economic benefits for states in desperate need of additional revenue.
9. By inhaling marijuana vapor rather than smoking it as a cigarette (joint), adverse health risks can be greatly limited.
10. Legalization can lead to the legal cultivation of the hemp plant which can provide a variety of “green” products such as fabrics, paper and other useful applications.

Now, if you come down on the side of legalization, the next question is whether it should it be taxed and, if so, how much new revenue would it generate?

Lets look at the potential revenue that may become available to the nearly bankrupted state of California if marijuana is made legal and is taxed. A bill by San Francisco assemblyman Tom Ammiano, would legalize the cultivation, possession and sale of marijuana by people 21 and older. It would charge growers and wholesalers a $5,000 initial franchise fee and a $2,500 annual renewal fee while assessing a levy of $50 per ounce fee on retailers.

According to a February report from a marijuana advocacy group (NORML), marijuana legalization could yield California taxpayers over $1.2 billion per year and provide additional spin-off benefits up to $12 – $18 billion annually. Those spin-off benefits include industries such as coffeehouses, tourism and industrial hemp.

I invite the reader to proffer their comments and opinions regarding the legalization and taxation of marijuana. Also, if I have missed any reasonable argument either for or against legalization please let me know via your posted comments. Let the debate begin.

Other informative web-sites:

U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency
NORML – Working to reform marijuana laws
Hemp Facts
Why we say yes to drugs – Salon
Other arguments pro and con


July 28, 2009 – OAKLAND, California (CNN) — Richard Lee greets students, shopkeepers and tourists as he rolls his wheelchair down Broadway at the speed of Picture 37a brisk jog, hailing them with, “Hi. How ya doin’?”

In this nine-block district of Oakland, California, called Oaksterdam, Lee is a celebrity.

Oaksterdam is Lee’s brainchild, a small pocket of urban renewal built on a thriving trade in medical marijuana. The district’s name comes from a marriage of Oakland and Amsterdam, a city in the Netherlands renowned for its easy attitude toward sex and drugs.

Lee is the founder of Oaksterdam University, which he describes as a trade school that specializes in all things marijuana: how to grow it, how to market it, how to consume it. The school, which has a curriculum, classes and teachers, claims 3,500 graduates.

Lee also owns a medical marijuana dispensary, a coffee house, a large indoor marijuana plantation, and a museum/store devoted to the cause of legalizing marijuana.

“I really see this as following the history of alcohol. The way prohibition was repealed there,” Lee says, adding that he believes he is close to achieving his mission.

Lee is organizing a petition drive to place a marijuana legalization measure on the ballot in 2010, and he thinks the measure stands a good chance of being approved by voters.

A recent California Field Poll showed that more than half the people in the state, where marijuana for medical use was approved more than a decade ago, would approve of decriminalizing pot.

The state’s faltering economy is one reason why. If legalized, marijuana could become California’s No. 1 cash crop. It could bring in an estimated $1 billion a year in state taxes.

Democratic State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is spearheading a cannabis legalization bill in the California Assembly. He believes the state’s need to increase tax revenues will work in his bill’s favor.

“I think it’s a seductive part of the equation,” he says.

Ammiano says there are a number of ways legalized pot could be marketed, “It could be a Walgreens, it could be a hospital, a medical marijuana facility, whatever could be convenient. Adequate enforcement of the rules. Nobody under 21. No driving under the influence.”

Even California’s Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, says legalizing marijuana deserves serious consideration.

“I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana,” Schwarzenegger says.

But Ammiano says selling a legalized marijuana bill to his fellow legislators remains a delicate matter.

“If we held the vote in the hallway, we’d have it done,” Ammiano says. “But people are necessarily cautious. They are up for re-election.”

And that is why Lee believes voters will approve a marijuana initiative long before the state Assembly acts. Sitting under grow lights in a warehouse filled with hundreds of marijuana plants, Lee sums it up this way: “For some people cannabis is like a religion. As passionate as some people are about their religions and freedom to think what they want and to worship as they want.”

But all of that is baloney to Paul Chabot. He is president of the Coalition for a Drug Free California. He says voters should not be fooled by promises of big bucks flowing to the state from marijuana taxes.

“It’s their way of sort of desensitizing our communities, our state and our nation to a drug problem that we clearly need to put our foot down on, and say, ‘No more. Enough is enough.’ ”

Chabot points out that California’s medical marijuana law has been poorly regulated, and he expects more of the same if marijuana becomes legalized for everyone.

But a substantial number of Californians seem to believe that no amount of enforcement is going to make pot go away — and that it’s time for the state to begin taking a cut of the action. By Chuck Conder. Source.

July 28, 2009 – An interesting article from Workforce Management:

Now that more states are legalizing the sale of the marijuana used solely as a Medical-Marijuanamedicine, the next hurdle for reformers who say the drug is more cost-effective than pharmaceuticals is getting those who pay for health care—insurers and employers—to reimburse patients for its use.

Reimbursing patients who use it could push them away from otherwise costly drugs that some advocates say are not as effective. Employers, as payers of health care, should champion the legalization of medical marijuana as a potential cost-saving tool, advocates say.

It’s certainly the case that many patients can effectively treat specific conditions with marijuana at a lower cost than the pharmaceutical alternatives. For starters, marijuana is vastly cheaper than Marinol, which contains the same main ingredient. It would be interesting to see some research into how medical costs for marijuana patients compare overall to those of patients treating the same conditions with other drugs. While you’re at it, it would worth investigating which group is happier with their medicine.

To whatever extent medical marijuana offers savings on health care costs, it’s another example of the massive often-invisible expenses created by the insane federal prohibition of medical marijuana. It’s presently illegal under federal law for health care providers to cover marijuana-related expenses, which just goes to show how DEA raids were just one dimension of the government’s continuing war on medical marijuana. Source.

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