Legislation


December 5, 2009 – Canada’s justice minister says people who sell or grow marijuana belong in jail because pot is used as a “currency” to bring harder drugs into the country.

“This lubricates the business and that makes me nervous,” Rob Nicholson told the Commons justice committee yesterday as he faced tough questions about a controversial bill to impose automatic prison sentences for drug crimes, including growing as little as one pot plant.

“Marijuana is the currency that is used to bring other more serious drugs into the country,” the minister said.

Canada’s Controlled Drugs and Substances Act currently contains no mandatory prison sentences and judges use their own discretion about whether to send drug pushers and growers to jail.

But the Conservatives have proposed legislation which would impose one-year mandatory jail time for marijuana dealing, when it is linked to organized crime or a weapon is involved.

The sentence would be increased to two years for dealing drugs such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines to young people, or pushing drugs near a school or other places frequented by youths.

The proposed legislation would impose six months for growing one to 200 marijuana plants to sell, and two years for big-time growers of 500 plants or more.

The bill is arguably the most controversial piece of justice legislation introduced by the Conservative and critics have warned that, if passed, it could flood prisons and jails.

Opposition critics voiced concerns yesterday that a crackdown would not only target big-time dealers, but would end up sending drug addicts to provincial prisons, which have few treatment programs in place. Source.

November 15, 2009 – Here’s an update on some of the more significant legislation moving (or not) on the Hill.
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Medical Marijuana

Late last month, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) reintroduced H.R. 3939, the Truth in Trials Act, which would allow defendants in federal medical marijuana prosecutions to use medical evidence in their defense — a right they do not have under current federal law. The bill currently has 28 cosponsors and has been endorsed by more than three dozen advocacy, health, and civil liberties organizations. It is before the House Judiciary Committee.

That isn’t the only medical marijuana bill pending. In June, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the Medical Marijuana Protection Act, which would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug and eliminate federal authority to prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal. The measure has 29 cosponsors and has been sitting in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce ever since. Frank introduced similar legislation in the last two Congresses, but the bills never got a committee vote or even a hearing. Advocates hoped that with a Democratically-controlled Congress and a president who has at least given lip service to medical marijuana, Congress this year would prove to be friendlier ground, but that hasn’t proven to be the case so far.

In July, the House passed the District of Columbia appropriations bill and in so doing removed an 11-year-old amendment barring the District from implementing the medical marijuana law approved by voters in 1998. Known as the Barr amendment after then Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), the amendment has been attacked by both medical marijuana and DC home rule advocates for years as an unconscionable intrusion into District affairs. The Senate has yet to act. Among the proponents for removing the Barr amendment: Bob Barr.

Marijuana Decriminalization

In June, Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the Personal Use of Marijuana By Responsible Adults Act, which would remove federal criminal penalties for the possession of less than 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) and for the not-for-profit transfer of up to one ounce. The bill would not change marijuana’s status as a Schedule I controlled substance, would not change federal laws banning the growing, sale, and import and export of marijuana, and would not undo state laws prohibiting marijuana. It currently has nine cosponsors and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

And just so you don’t get the mistaken idea that the era of drug war zealotry on the Hill is completely in the past, there is Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL). In June, Kirk introduced the High Potency Marijuana Sentencing Enhancement Act, which would increase penalties for marijuana offenses if the THC level is above 15%. Taking a page from the British tabloids, Kirk complained that high-potency “Kush” was turning his suburban Chicago constituents into “zombies.” Nearly six months later, Kirk’s bill has exactly zero cosponsors and has been sent to die in the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Industrial Hemp

Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) again introduced an industrial hemp bill this year. HR 1866, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009 would remove restrictions on the cultivation of non-psychoactive industrial hemp. They were joined by a bipartisan group of nine cosponsors, a number which has since grown to 18. The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce and House Judiciary committees upon introduction. Six weeks later, Judiciary referred it to its Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, where it has languished ever since. Source.

November 4, 2009 – Maine becomes 3rd State to License Medical Marijuana Providers; Vote Seen as Latest Advance Spurred by Obama Policy.Picture 5

(AUGUSTA, Maine) – In a landmark vote, Maine voters today approved Question 5, making the state the third in the country to license nonprofit organizations to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients and the first ever to do so by a vote of the people.

With 49 percent of the vote tallied, the measure was cruising to an easy win with 60.2 percent voting “yes” and 39.8 percent voting “no.”

Under the measure, the state will license nonprofit organizations to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients and set rules for their operation. While 13 states permit medical use of marijuana, only Rhode Island and New Mexico have similar dispensary provisions, both of which were adopted by the states’ legislatures. Maine’s original medical marijuana law was passed in 1999.

“This is a dramatic step forward, the first time that any state’s voters have authorized the state government to license medical marijuana dispensaries,” said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C., which drafted the initiative and provided start-up funding for the campaign. “Coming a decade after passage of Maine’s original marijuana law, this is a huge sign that voters are comfortable with these laws, and also a sign that the recent change of policy from the Obama administration is having a major impact.”

In October, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a formal policy indicating that federal prosecutors should not prosecute medical marijuana activities authorized by state law.

Question 5 also expands the list of medical conditions qualifying for protection under Maine’s law to include several conditions that are included in most other medical marijuana states, including intractable pain, agitation of Alzheimer’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (“Lou Gehrig’s disease”). Source.

October 12, 2009 – Californians have made it clear at the ballot box that they favor legalizing marijuana use for medical purposes. But, as critics feared, Prop. 215, the medical marijuana initiative that was passed 13 cali_pot_0311years ago, has only opened the door to abuse.

It’s estimated that there are 40 marijuana dispensaries in Long Beach and 800 or more in Los Angeles alone. L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley decided last week that most of them are operating illegally, and wants to shut them down.

That may be too harsh. As supporters of medical marijuana rightly contend, closing all dispensaries would punish people who are entitled to marijuana.

Prop. 215 and the state law permitting collective cultivation of marijuana were meant to help chemotherapy and others suffering from pain or nausea to obtain marijuana with a doctor’s recommendation. An actual prescription wasn’t needed. Given an opening, marijuana dispensaries cropped up everywhere, providing a safe, although apparently illegal, way for just about everyone to obtain the drug at competitive prices.

There is a better way to regulate marijuana. For starters, people who really need and want marijuana for their medical conditions should get a prescription — from a doctor — and fill the prescription at a pharmacy, just as they would obtain any medication. The whole process must be confidential. Keeping a list of medical marijuana users is unjust and unnecessary.

The next step would be to bow to the will of Californians, who generally favor decriminalizing marijuana use. It’s estimated that California is losing tens of millions of dollars from illegal marijuana sales — revenue it could collect if marijuana sales were legal. Once it’s legal, of course, prescriptions would not be necessary, and dispensaries could be tightly regulated, similar to the way liquor stores are regulated. Age limits, proximity of dispensaries to schools and residential areas would have to be regulated and enforced. Just as liquor can’t be sold without a license, street sales would be illegal.

Legalizing marijuana would go a long way toward reducing trafficking, which has turned Mexican border cities into horrific battlegrounds as drug cartels fight each other and the police, many of whom are so corrupt as to make regulation farcical.

If America learned anything from Prohibition, it’s that criminalizing a substance people want will only drive them to get it illegally. That lesson applies to marijuana. Legalize it. Regulate it. And enforce the regulations. The time has come. Source.

September 7, 2009 – When a white cop handcuffed a black professor outside his own home we had a beer summit in the name of better race relations. That summit addressed the number one social problem in this country since 1619 (the date the first African slaves were sold in the U.S.)medical-marijuana

I’m calling for a marijuana summit. This summit will benefit the health of millions, while saving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.

The federal government must concur with what we the people already know. In the Obama Transition Team’s own on-line poll, respondents overwhelmingly selected legalizing marijuana as our country’s number one priority. This May, even a Zogby poll commissioned by the conservative O’Leary Report, found 52 percent of American voters in favor and only 37 percent opposed to legalizing (and taxing) marijuana.

I call on Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, to have a frank discussion with doctors and researchers on medical cannabis and the efficacy of various routes of administration. Sadly, Kerlikowske seems to be using the same illogic as his predecessors in the drug office. He recently cited a University of Washington treatment program as the information source for his position that cannabis is bad stuff. Why? Because people who had a choice between treatment and going to jail chose treatment. Duh. I am disappointed in Kerlikowske. I expect more from a former Seattle police chief and Obama appointee.

The chief administrative law judge of the Food and Drug Administration, in a 1988 decision, found that cannabis is one of the safest therapeutic agents known to man. The FDA in 2005 said that liquid marijuana (Sativex) is safe enough to test on humans, cancer patients in fact. The government needs to look at the types of cancers that cannabis has been shown to treat. Chief Kerlikowske has said he wants to hear from the doctors on this.

When he does he’ll find that we have a national organization, the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine, which will give him the real dope on the medical utility of cannabis. We can tell him of the benefits that our patients have received. I have incredible, compelling stories. There is the 85-year-old ex-Marine cancer survivor who was dying from starvation and used cannabis as an appetite stimulant and mood elevator. The 26-year-old. hemiplegic woman with intractable epilepsy that was well controlled by cannabis. The Vietnam vet who got surgery to remove shrapnel, due to intractable seizures, and as a result of the surgery got double vision and headaches. Cannabis allows him to productively participate in civic affairs. And the examples go on and on, including paraplegics with intractable pain, patients successfully treated for gastrophoresis , post-traumatic stress disorder, cyclic vomiting syndrome. I’ll tell him about the productive lives of my patients. They include the principal of a high school, the mayor of a small city, a deputy sheriff, an assistant DA, a counselor at a drug treatment program, a very famous movie director, and lots of people with everyday jobs in construction, medicine, education—contractors, developers, doctors, nurses, professors.

Kerlikowske has tried to mitigate his earlier statements by saying he only meant smoked marijuana. He was recently quoted as saying that “the FDA has not determined that smoked marijuana has a value, and this is clearly a medical question that should be answered by the medical community.” Speaking as the vice president of the AACM, let me assure the drug czar that cannabis is medicine whether smoked, vaporized, sprayed sublingually, dropped sublingually, drunk in beverages, made into tea, eaten, or used topically.

Kerlikowske is wise to say he will listen to the doctors. If he had a medical background I don’t believe he would say it’s okay to have intractable seizures, excruciating migraines, phantom limb pain, or to suffer with the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease, or to die of malnutrition. Like thousands of American physicians, he would see the medical efficacy of cannabis. I have literally hundreds of patients with those conditions and a thousand more with chronic pain, cancer, and failed back syndrome who have benefited from the medicinal use of cannabis, smoked or otherwise.

The Drug Czar is on a listening tour. Let’s give him an earful. It is not marijuana that is dangerous, but the laws which restrict research on it and make it difficult for people to use it therapeutically. That is real risky. We need to get the federal government out of the way, to honor the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution limiting the federal government’s authority, and to affirm that the 1925 Linder decision—recognizing the right of states to regulate the practice of medicine—still means something. It is time for the drug czar to listen to America. It is time for the marijuana summit.

By David Bearman, M.D., physician, founder of the Isla Vista Medical Clinic, former Goleta Water District boardmember, and current Goleta West Sanitary District boardmember. Source.

August 21, 2009 – We never thought of Barney Frank as a big health-care player. But the Congressman is all over the Internet today because he told a woman who compared Obama’s health plan to Hitler’s policies that “trying to have a conversation with you would be like trying to argue with a dining room table.” And he asked her, “On what planet do you spend most of your time?”
Frank also mentioned that he — like some other Democratic congressmen, but unlike the Obama administration — would support a shift to a single-payer health-care system. (Watch the video:

That got us wondering: What other health-care positions has Frank taken? We looked through the legislation he’s sponsored this year, and came upon the Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, which the Congressman introduced in June. The basic gist is that federal law should not prohibit the prescription or use of medical marijuana in states that have acted to legalize medical marijuana.

The relationship between federal and state laws regarding medical marijuana has been something of a gray area for years now. Under the Bush administration, the DEA busted some medical marijuana dispensaries in California; the Obama administration has said it wouldn’t do this.

“There are some people who are in severe pain for whom nothing else seems to work,” Frank said in a statement when he introduced the bill. “For the federal government to come in and supersede state law is a real mistake.” By Jacob Goldstein. Source.

The US House of Representatives Thursday passed the District of Columbia appropriations bill and in so doing removed an 11-year-old amendment barring the Picture 8District from implementing the medical marijuana law approved by voters in 1998. Known as the Barr amendment after then Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), the amendment has been attacked by both medical marijuana and DC home rule advocates for years as an unconscionable intrusion into District affairs.

Bob Barr, lobbied to repeal anti-medical marijuana legislation he wrote
Ironically, Barr, who was defeated in a Republican primary in 2004 in part because of his opposition to medical marijuana, has become an advocate of drug law reform — including for repeal of his amendment. He has done stints with both the ACLU and the Marijuana Policy Project.

“Today represents a victory not just for medical marijuana patients, but for all city residents who have the right to determine their own policies in their own District without federal meddling,” said Aaron Houston, MPP director of government relations. “DC residents overwhelmingly made the sensible, compassionate decision to pass a medical marijuana law, and now, 10 years later, suffering Washingtonians may finally be allowed to focus on treating their pain without fearing arrest.”

With Republicans in control of the House until 2006, Congress had reapproved the Barr amendment in every DC appropriations bill until this year. But even under Republican control, pressure had begun to mount after the 2004 death of DC resident Jonathan Magbie, a quadriplegic medical marijuana user who was arrested and died in a DC jail for lack of adequate medical care.

“Had the District been able to implement its medical marijuana law when it passed in 1998, Mr. Magbie may well be alive today — and free to treat his pain as he and his doctor saw fit,” Houston said. “Perhaps now nobody in the District will ever have to suffer as he and his family did simply for using the medicine that works best for them.” Source.

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