December 9, 2009 – If you want to watch a trial where the defendant has no moral culpability, is prevented from testifying truthfully and where the prosecution distorts an otherwise reasonable law beyond all rationality, you can see one this month right in Somerville. John Wilson, a multiple sclerosis patient treating himself with home-grown marijuana, is charged with operating a drug manufacturing facility. There is no charge, nor any evidence whatsoever, that he supplied or intended to supply marijuana to anyone but himself.

An individual with no prior record growing marijuana plants for home use should be eligible for pre-trial intervention; but this case is being handled by the state’s Organized Crime/Gangs Unit. Wilson refused to plead guilty and accept several years in prison (a potential death sentence), so the state is seeking the maximum 20-year sentence. To justify its “manufacturing” charge, the state determined that every day a plant grew constituted a separate offense. It matters not a whit that the statute (N.J.S.A.2C:35-1.1 et seq.) is intended to combat drug distribution chains and those who pose the greatest danger to society. It ignores a statutory intent focused on harm to victims and the actor’s role in a drug distribution network. Section 4 of the statute even excludes coverage where an individual is compounding or preparing the substance for his own use.

The state senators who sponsored our long-overdue and aptly named Compassionate Use Act passionately expressed their dismay over this prosecution, calling it “a severe, inappropriate, discompassionate and inhumane application of the letter of the law.” Sen. Scutari went on to label it “cruel and unusual to treat New Jersey’s sick and dying as if they were drug cartel kingpins” and characterized it as a waste of taxpayer money. Sen. Lesniak observed, “Without compassion and a sense of moral right and wrong, laws are worth less than the paper they’re printed on.”

This brutally honest and on-target criticism has drawn accolades from around the country. Lawmakers obviously “get” the difference between drug cartel criminals and suffering people who turn to medical marijuana out of desperation. Even though the law does not currently recognize medical marijuana use as a defense, it does not require that the figurative book be thrown at a patient.

To compound the cruel absurdity of this prosecution, it is being conducted with full awareness of legislative action that would protect Wilson from a prison sentence. New Jersey’s Senate passed the Compassionate Use Act, and it has been favorably voted out of the Assembly Health Committee. Once technical revisions are completed, it is expected to pass the full Legislature, and Gov. Corzine has stated publicly that he would sign it. Informed and enlightened people accept the voluminous scientific evidence of the efficacy of marijuana to alleviate the nightmare of multiple sclerosis and many other conditions.

Outrageously, but understandably, the prosecution desperately wants jurors to be denied all the truly relevant facts. It has fought to forbid Wilson from mentioning his disease, that marijuana has been proven to be an effective palliative for multiple sclerosis, that he was using it solely for that purpose, that 13 other states have legalized it for that purpose and that New Jersey is about to. All the jurors will be allowed to hear is evidence proving Wilson “manufactured” marijuana. This is the type of injustice one is accustomed to seeing in a dictatorship — not in America.

Wilson’s plight is additional evidence that our nation’s founders were wise indeed when they recognized the crucial role “jury nullification” plays in any democratic system of government. Our founders knew that there are times when, to do actual justice, jurors must refuse to follow the letter of the law and act on their instincts of what is right. But if we expect trial by jury to continue to be the final bulwark against unjust prosecutions, jurors must have the truth. They will not get it in court in this case.

Instead of seeking justice, the Attorney General’s Office wastes public resources, its power, its credibility and worst of all, its integrity to inflict inhumane punishment on a suffering patient who merits no blame, a patient whom legislators are working to protect. It is execrable that it tortures the law to demand a maximum prison sentence on a patient suffering a crippling, incurable disease for conduct that helped him, harmed no one and that will soon be as legal as it has always been moral.

In the strife of every battle for human rights, someone is the last one martyred. Despite overwhelming evidence that John Wilson is a patient and not a drug kingpin, it is shameful that the state Attorney General’s Office knowingly and aggressively seeks to sacrifice him. Is this to be what is allowed to pass for justice in New Jersey?

Edward R. Hannaman, an attorney from Ewing, is a member of the board of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ).

December 3, 2009 – Marijuana is California’s largest agricultural commodity with $14 billion in sales yearly, distancing itself from the state’s second largest—milk and cream—which bring in $7.3 billion a year. But California’s coffers only receive a fraction of the marijuana sales, $200 million coming from the sale of medical marijuana. That could all change with Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s (D-San Francisco) Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act (AB 390).

Since February, when the bill was introduced, it has made little headway in the Legislature. But in October, a hearing on the bill was held by the Public Safety Committee; marking the first time a legislative committee held a hearing on marijuana legalization.

AB 390 would create a system that would regulate marijuana much like alcohol is regulated. Those over the age of 21 could purchase pot from vendors with licenses to do so. The state’s Legislative Analyst and the Board of Equalization have estimated that pot sales could bring up to $1.3 billion in revenue yearly. That number is based off a proposed $50-per-oz. levy placed on marijuana purchases and sales tax.

With a projected deficit of $20 billion facing the state next fiscal year, sources of guaranteed revenue are needed. But there are those that believe that the social issues legalizing pot could have far outweigh any economic benefits.

“Why add another addictive element to our society? I don’t think we should criminalize marijuana, but I don’t think having marijuana where you can buy it like cigarettes or alcohol is something we ought to be doing as a society. I believe we are moving in the wrong direction on that,” said Steve Francis, a former San Diego mayoral candidate and founder of the site KeepComingBack.com—a site that focuses on news and research of alcohol and drug addiction.

Francis says that legalizing marijuana would ultimately cost the state money. He cited a report issued by the Marin Institute that found the economic cost of alcohol use is $38 billion annually, with the state covering $8.3 billion for health-care treatment of alcohol-caused illnesses, plus crime costs, traffic incidents and reduced worker productivity. The taxes and fees collected from alcohol sales only cover 22 percent of total government costs. He says there is every reason to believe the same would happen with marijuana.

“Whatever taxes the author of the legislation thinks we are going to collect on the taxation of marijuana will be very little compared to the social costs on California,” he said.

But the economic impact legalizing marijuana could have goes beyond taxation. Nearly a fifth of California’s 170,000 inmates are locked up because of drug-related crimes. Although most are convicted on crimes more severe than possession, legalizing marijuana would save the state $1 billion in law enforcement and corrections costs.

Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray says the best solution is to repeal the prohibition of marijuana, allowing the substance to become regulated and less available to children.

“We couldn’t make this drug any more available if we tried,” he said in TIME. “Unfortunately, every society in the history of mankind has had some form of mind-altering, sometimes addictive substance to use, misuse, abuse or get addicted to. Get used to it. They’re here to stay. So let’s try to reduce those harms, and right now we couldn’t do worse if we tried.”

Even if California were to legalize marijuana, there are those that believe that the gray area between federal and state law would only widen. Since California’s Compassionate Use Act was passed in 1996, medicinal marijuana has become more accessible to those need it. But it has opened the gates of confusion, as federal laws still consider marijuana illegal. In fact, cannabis is described as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has no medical use and cannot be prescribed by a physician. Many California municipalities have been reluctant to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, even though they were legalized 13 years ago.

There has been some indication that the federal government is starting to ease its control of marijuana. A few days after Ammiano introduced AB 390, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that states should be allowed to determine their own rules for medical marijuana and that federal raids on dispensaries would stop in California. President Obama’s nomination of Gil Kerlikowske to be the so-called drug czar and head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy indicated that a softer federal stance on marijuana is being taken. Kerlikowske is the former police chief in Seattle, where he made it clear that going after marijuana possession was not a priority for his department.

A vote by the Public Safety Committee on AB 390 is expected in January. Ammiano said the bill could take between a year and two years before it is heard or voted on in the Legislature. Until then, the debate over decriminalizing marijuana will continue amidst one of California’s worst economic times. BY Landon Bright Source.

July 12th, 2009 Art Bell and Willie Nelson talk about hemp cannabis marijuana in this clip no longer available on the original Coast to Coast site.

In this clip from Friday May 9th, 1997, country music legend Willie Nelson chats with Art Bell about the state of hemp criminalization. You may find it surprising how little has changed in the last dozen years.

While several states now allow medical marijuana and thousands of people have been able to emerge from under the dark cloud of criminalization, millions more still fear for their freedom because they enjoy the benefits of this herb superb. The country as a whole still suffers under the unnecessary burdens of the expensive and ineffectual War On Drugs while being denied the financial benefits of this valuable commercial crop.

Everything that Willie Nelson and Art Bell discussed more that 12 years ago still holds true today. In the meantime, the financial bubbles blown around the high tech industry and real estate have collapsed, leaving us with an even greater need for realizing both cost savings and income from decriminalized marijuana.

Family farms still need a viable commercial crop that they can grow at a profit without relying upon subsidies. U.S. citizens need their faith restored in a criminal justice system awash in corruption and discriminating against minorities in the name of a phony war on drugs that has become in reality a war on U.S. citizens.

The U.S. has created the biggest jail system in the world, one of the largest in all of history, at a huge expense for the sake of stopping citizen access to the most beneficial and useful of all known plants. Many ill people who would benefit from medical marijuana are still prohibited from gaining otherwise ready relief from their symptoms.

As I find myself repeating myself once again, I am amazed at the continued resistance to marijuana decriminalization from elected government officials negligent in their duty to those who they supposedly represent. These politicians were not elected to become our oppressors, prosecutors and jailers.

The few rays of hope that have appeared to make medical marijuana available in a handful of states and relaxed enforcement of marijuana laws in a few communities are still small compared with the unnecessary pain, suffering and economic damage created by the ongoing ill-conceived national prohibition.

Still, we can appreciate the advances that have been made. Some progress has been achieved and momentum is visibly building in a positive and peaceful direction.

Take stock of both how far we have come and how far we have yet to go as you listen to Art Bell and Willie Nelson. You are part of this history and everything you do contributes to the changes to come. Source.

July 7, 2009 – In California it has been over a decade since the Compassionate Use Act. Several years since SB420, and almost a year since the California Attorney General’s guidelines. We have even had The san-diego_harborCalifornia Third District Court of Appeal last week issue a ruling reaffirming patients rights to collectively cultivate medical marijuana.

However here in San Diego we still have our leadership debating whether marijuana is medicine. The San Diego DA’s Office and Bonnie Dumanis have stated numerous times that there is no such thing as a legal collective or cooperative, and that anyone who engages in an attempt to cultivate and distribute collectively is obviously in it for profit, “why else would they get in to this activity”.

In California it has been over a decade since the Compassionate Use Act. Several years since SB420, and almost a year since the California Attorney General’s guidelines. We have even had The California Third District Court of Appeal last week issue a ruling reaffirming patients rights to collectively cultivate medical marijuana.

However here in San Diego we still have our leadership debating whether marijuana is medicine. The San Diego DA’s Office has stated numerous times that there is no such thing as a legal collective or cooperative, and that anyone who engages in an attempt to cultivate and distribute collectively is obviously in it for profit, “why else would they get in to this activity”.

We have judges who refuse to accept a written physician’s recommendation for medical marijuana as a valid patient status in court, and refuse to allow court qualified expert witnesses to testify in medical marijuana cases that are brought in by the defense.

In these same cases, San Diego narcotics detectives are allowed to testify as ‘experts’ on medical cannabis, even though they have received no more then 1 hour of medical marijuana training in their entire career, are not familiar with the laws already in place, and have testified in court that they have never seen a legal collective.

All while the San Diego county board of supervisors makes “illegal dispensaries illegal” adding more confusion to the already confusing serpentine roadmap of laws that patients have to go through.

By their actions and statements the District Attourney, Chief of Police, and our County Board have all made it clear, San Diego is NOT a safe place for any collective cultivation efforts, here patients are rounded up in drug sting operations, prosecuted, and forced into taking plea bargains. The few that put up a fight are thrown in jail.

There are many collectives in San Diego that have gone above and beyond what is required in order to comply and stay within the law. Yet every attempt made to date by in San Diego has resulted in long investigations, prosecutions, and collectives having to operate so deeply underground and under such intense daily fear and pressure, that the potential public benefit they could be bringing to the community and to patients is stifled by this environment of fear.

We as a community need to educate the public on the truth and benefits of medical cannabis and the laws already in place. How many more years need to pass and how many more lives need to be destroyed until there is change in San Diego and until patients rights are respected?

I am Eugene Davidovich and have been a resident of San Diego for over 20 years, honorably discharged from the US Navy, and having completed an MBA, I built a successful career in Software Development Project Management. I also am a medical cannabis patient and operated a non profit collective here in San Diego until last February when my house was raided and I arrested in ‘Operation Green Rx’ later announced by the District Attorney in a press conference as ‘Operation Endless Summer’.

In this operation a local San Diego Police Detective lied to his doctor about his identity and condition, obtained a valid recommendation for medical marijuana and joined the majority of the medical collectives and coops listed on the San Diego section of the CA NORML list.

The detective called me and joined the collective over the phone. Then after verifying his eligibility with his doctor I allowed him to join the collective. While pretending to be a sick patient, he requested that I deliver medical cannabis to him. Having seen him once and provided him with a ¼ ounce of medical cannabis, I am now facing 4 felony charges, $65,000 bail, and permanent profoundly traumatic damage to my professional and personal life.

Please join me in the struggle for patients’ rights to collectively cultivate and distribute medication by supporting me in court on July 13th, 2009 at 8:15am.

To learn more about my case and to see the actual footage of the undercover operation where I deliver the medication to the undercover officer, please visit http://www.eugenedavidovich.com

by Eugene Davidovich. Source.

July 6, 2009 – Have you ever looked at our marijuana policy? I mean, really looked at it?

WHEN WE THINK of the drug war, it’s the heavy-duty narcotics like Decrim-300x250.300wide.250highheroin and cocaine that get most of the attention. And why not? That’s where the action is. It’s not marijuana that is sustaining the Taliban in Afghanistan, after all. When Crips and Bloods descend into gun battles in the streets of Los Angeles, they’re not usually fighting over pot. The junkie who breaks into your house and steals your Blu-ray player isn’t doing it so he can score a couple of spliffs.

No, the marijuana trade is more genteel than that. At least, I used to think it was. Then, like a lot of people, I started reading about the open warfare that has erupted among the narcotraffickers in Mexico and is now spilling across the American border. Stories of drugs coming north and arsenals of guns going south. Thousands of people brutally murdered. Entire towns terrorized. And this was a war not just over cocaine and meth, but marijuana as well.

And I began to wonder: Maybe the war against pot is about to get a lot uglier. After all, in the 1920s, Prohibition gave us Al Capone and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and that was over plain old whiskey and rum. Are we about to start paying the same price for marijuana?

If so, it might eventually start to affect me, too. Indirectly, sure, but that’s more than it ever has before. I’ve never smoked a joint in my life. I’ve only seen one once, and that was 30 years ago. I barely drink, I don’t smoke, and I don’t like coffee. When it comes to mood altering substances, I live the life of a monk. I never really cared much if marijuana was legal or not.

But if a war is breaking out over the stuff, I figured maybe I should start looking at the evidence on whether marijuana prohibition is worth it. Not the spin from the drug czar at one end or the hemp hucksters at the other. Just the facts, as best as I could figure them out. So I did. Here’s what I found.

In 1972, the report of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse urged that possession of marijuana for personal use be decriminalized. A small wave of states followed this recommendation, but most refused; in Washington, President Carter called for eliminating penalties for small-time possession, but Congress stonewalled. And that’s the way things have stayed since the late ’70s. Some states have decriminalized, most haven’t, and possession is still a criminal offense under federal law. So how has that worked out?

I won’t give away the ending just yet, but one thing to know is this: On virtually every subject related to cannabis (an inclusive term that refers to both the sativa and indica varieties of the marijuana plant, as well as hashish, bhang, and other derivatives), the evidence is ambiguous. Sometimes even mysterious. So let’s start with the obvious question.

DOES DECRIMINALIZING CANNABIS HAVE ANY EFFECT AT ALL? It’s remarkably hard to tell—in part because drug use is faddish. Cannabis use among teens in the United States, for example, went down sharply in the ’80s, bounced back in the early ’90s, and has declined moderately since. Nobody really knows why.

We do, however, have studies that compare rates of cannabis use in states that have decriminalized vs. states that haven’t. And the somewhat surprising conclusion, in the words of Robert MacCoun, a professor of law and public policy at the University of California-Berkeley, is simple: “Most of the evidence suggests that decriminalization has no effect.”

But decriminalization is not legalization. In places that have decriminalized, simple possession is still illegal; it’s just treated as an administrative offense, like a traffic ticket. And production and distribution remain felonies. What would happen if cannabis use were fully legalized?

No country has ever done this, so we don’t know. The closest example is the Netherlands, where possession and sale of small amounts of marijuana is de facto legal in the famous coffeehouses. MacCoun and a colleague, Peter Reuter of the University of Maryland, have studied the Dutch experience and concluded that while legalization at first had little effect, once the coffeehouses began advertising and promoting themselves more aggressively in the 1980s, cannabis use more than doubled in a decade. Then again, cannabis use in Europe has gone up and down in waves, and some of the Dutch increase (as well as a later decrease, which followed a tightening of the coffeehouse laws in the mid-’90s) may have simply been part of those larger waves.

The most likely conclusion from the overall data is that if you fully legalized cannabis, use would almost certainly go up, but probably not enormously. MacCoun guesses that it might rise by half—say, from around 15 percent of the population to a little more than 20 percent. “It’s not going to triple,” he says. “Most people who want to use marijuana are already finding a way to use marijuana.”

Still, there would be a cost. For one thing, a much higher increase isn’t out of the question if companies like Philip Morris or R.J. Reynolds set their finest minds on the promotion of dope. And much of the increase would likely come among the heaviest users. “One person smoking eight joints a day is worth more to the industry than fifty people each smoking a joint a week,” says Mark Kleiman, a drug policy expert at UCLA. “If the cannabis industry were to expand greatly, it couldn’t do so by increasing the number of casual users. It would have to create and maintain more chronic zonkers.” And that’s a problem. Chronic use can lead to dependence and even long-term cognitive impairment. Heavy cannabis users are more likely to be in auto accidents. There have been scattered reports of respiratory and fetal development problems. Still, sensible regulation can limit the commercialization of pot, and compared to other illicit drugs (and alcohol), its health effects are fairly mild. Even a 50 percent increase in cannabis use might be a net benefit if it led to lower rates of use of other drugs.

SO WOULD PEOPLE JUST SMOKE MORE AND DRINK LESS? Maybe. The generic term for this effect in the economics literature is “substitute goods,” and it simply means that some things replace other things. If the total demand for transportation is generally steady, an increase in sales of SUVs will lead to a decrease in the sales of sedans. Likewise, if the total demand for intoxicants is steady, an increase in the use of one drug should lead to a decrease in others.

Several years ago, John DiNardo, an economist now at the University of Michigan, found a clever way to test this via a natural experiment. Back in the 1980s, the Reagan administration pushed states to raise the drinking age to 21. Some states did this early in the decade, some later, and this gave DiNardo the idea of comparing data from the various states to see if the Reagan policy worked.

He found that raising the drinking age did lead to lower alcohol consumption; the effect was modest but real. But then DiNardo hit on another analysis—comparing cannabis use in states that raised the drinking age early with those that did it later. And he found that indeed, there seemed to be a substitution effect. On average, among high school seniors, a 4.5 percent decrease in drinking produced a 2.4 percent increase in getting high.

But what we really want to know is whether the effect works in the other direction: Would increased marijuana use lead to less drinking? “What goes up should go down,” DiNardo told me cheerfully, but he admits that in the absence of empirical evidence this hypothesis depends on your faith in basic economic models.

Some other studies are less encouraging than DiNardo’s, but even if the substitute goods effect is smaller than his research suggests—if, say, a 30 percent increase in cannabis use led to a 5 or 10 percent drop in drinking—it would still be a strong argument in favor of legalization. After all, excessive drinking causes nearly 80,000 deaths per year in the United States, compared to virtually none for pot. Trading alcohol consumption for cannabis use might be a pretty attractive deal.

BUT WHAT ABOUT THE GATEWAY EFFECT? This has been a perennial bogeyman of the drug warriors. Kids who use pot, the TV ads tell us, will graduate to ecstasy, then coke, then meth, and then—who knows? Maybe even talk radio.

Is there anything to this? There are two plausible pathways for the gateway theory. The first is that drug use of any kind creates an affinity for increasingly intense narcotic experiences. The second is that when cannabis is illegal, the only place to get it is from dealers who also sell other stuff.

The evidence for the first pathway is mixed. Research in New Zealand, for example, suggests that regular cannabis use is correlated with higher rates of other illicit drug use, especially in teenagers. A Norwegian study comes to similar conclusions, but only for a small segment of “troubled” teenagers. Other research, however, suggests that these correlations aren’t caused by gateway effects at all, but by the simple fact that kids who like drugs do drugs. All kinds of drugs.

The second pathway was deliberately targeted by the Dutch when they began their coffeehouse experiment in the ’70s in part to sever the connection of cannabis with the illicit drug market. The evidence suggests that it worked: Even with cannabis freely available, Dutch cannabis use is currently about average among developed countries and use of other illicit drugs is about average, too. Easy access to marijuana, outside the dealer network for harder drugs, doesn’t seem to have led to greater use of cocaine or heroin.

So, to recap: Decriminalization of simple possession appears to have little effect on cannabis consumption. Full legalization would likely increase use only moderately as long as heavy commercialization is prohibited, although the effect on chronic users might be more substantial. It would increase heroin and cocaine use only slightly if at all, and it might decrease alcohol consumption by a small amount. Which leads to the question:

CAN WE STILL AFFORD PROHIBITION? The consequences of legalization, after all, must be compared to the cost of the status quo. Unsurprisingly, this too is hard to quantify. The worst effects of the drug war, including property crime and gang warfare, are mostly associated with cocaine, heroin, and meth. Likewise, most drug-law enforcement is aimed at harder drugs, not cannabis; contrary to conventional wisdom, only about 44,000 people are currently serving prison time on cannabis charges—and most of those are there for dealing and distribution, not possession.

Still, the University of Maryland’s Reuter points out that about 800,000 people are arrested for cannabis possession every year in the United States. And even though very few end up being sentenced to prison, a study of three counties in Maryland following a recent marijuana crackdown suggests that a third spend at least one pretrial night in jail and a sixth spend more than ten days. That takes a substantial human toll. Overall, Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron estimates the cost of cannabis prohibition in the United States at $13 billion annually and the lost tax revenue at nearly $7 billion.

SO WHAT ARE THE ODDS OF LEGALIZATION? Slim. For starters, the United States, along with virtually every other country in the world, is a signatory to the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs (and its 1988 successor), which flatly prohibits legalization of cannabis. The only way around this is to unilaterally withdraw from the treaties or to withdraw and then reenter with reservations. That’s not going to happen.

At the federal level, there’s virtually no appetite for legalizing cannabis either. Though public opinion has made steady strides, increasing from around 20 percent favoring marijuana legalization in the Reagan era to nearly 40 percent favoring it today, the only policy change in Washington has been Attorney General Eric Holder’s announcement in March that the Obama administration planned to end raids on distributors of medical marijuana. (Applications for pot dispensaries promptly surged in Los Angeles County.)

The real action in cannabis legalization is at the state level. More than a dozen states now have effective medical marijuana laws, most notably California. Medical marijuana dispensaries are dotted all over the state, and it’s common knowledge that the “medical” part is in many cases a thin fiction. Like the Dutch coffeehouses, California’s dispensaries are now a de facto legal distribution network that severs the link between cannabis and other illicit drugs for a significant number of adults (albeit still only a fraction of total users). And the result? Nothing. “We’ve had this experiment for a decade and the sky hasn’t fallen,” says Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has even introduced a bill that would legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana; it has gained the endorsement of the head of the state’s tax collection agency, which informally estimates it could collect $1.3 billion a year from cannabis sales. Still, the legislation hasn’t found a single cosponsor, and isn’t scheduled for so much as a hearing.

Which is too bad. Going into this assignment, I didn’t care much personally about cannabis legalization. I just had a vague sense that if other people wanted to do it, why not let them? But the evidence suggests pretty clearly that we ought to significantly soften our laws on marijuana. Too many lives have been ruined and too much money spent for a social benefit that, if not zero, certainly isn’t very high.

And it may actually happen. If attitudes continue to soften; if the Obama administration turns down the volume on anti-pot propaganda; if medical dispensaries avoid heavy commercialization; if drug use remains stable; and if emergency rooms don’t start filling up with drug-related traumas while all this is happening, California’s experience could go a long way toward destigmatizing cannabis use. That’s a lot of ifs.

Still, things are changing. Even GOP icon Arnold Schwarzenegger now says, “I think it’s time for a debate.” That doesn’t mean he’s in favor of legalizing pot right this minute, but it might mean we’re getting close to a tipping point. Ten years from now, as the flower power generation enters its 70s, you might finally be able to smoke a fully legal, taxed, and regulated joint. By Kevin Drum. Source.

June 17th, 2009 – Each day an estimated 6,000 Americans will try marijuana for the first time. It’s the most common illicit drug in the United States with nearly 15 million people using it at least once a month. Picture 35
Melissa Etheridge took medical marijuana to help her through her chemotherapy.

Melissa Etheridge took medical marijuana to help her through her chemotherapy.

All this week, “Anderson Cooper 360” is taking a close look at the deeply divisive issue of drug legalization in a series of reports. It’s a special “360” investigation called “America’s High: The case for and against pot.”

The topic of medical marijuana inspires particular controversy. As of right now, 13 states have laws that permit marijuana, also know as cannabis, to be taken for medical conditions. There is no prescription for cannabis; instead doctors issue a recommendation in these states.

But is it safe? Is it effective? Does it actually work?

Melissa Etheridge says it worked for her. The Grammy Award-winning singer- songwriter turned to marijuana after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. Video Watch Etheridge talk about how marijuana affected her »

In an interview, Etheridge talked to CNN’s Anderson Cooper on why she did it and how she believes it helped restore her health. She’s now pushing for its legalization.

The following is an edited version of the interview.

Melissa Etheridge: I’m actually grateful for my cancer diagnosis.

Anderson Cooper: Grateful because it changed your life?

Etheridge: It changed my life; woke me up totally.

Cooper: What is the pain [of chemotherapy] like?

Etheridge: It was just a general pain of your body dying, of all your cells dying. Your appetite is gone. And you are nauseous. And your hair is falling out. Your skin — it’s like death. And the only thing I could do is lay there. I can’t — it hurt to — light hurt, sound hurt. I couldn’t read anything. I just laid there.

(Etheridge didn’t want to use Vicodin or other prescription pills, she said.)

All of these things have side effects. So, the steroids and the pain relief that they give you on that first day when you go into chemotherapy causes constipation. So they will — here is a pill for the constipation which will give you diarrhea. And you get huge side effects from all of this.

Cooper: The first time you did [marijuana], it made a big difference?

Etheridge: Instantly — and instantly within a minute relieves the nausea, relieves the pain. And all of a sudden I was normal. You don’t take medicinal marijuana to get high.

Cooper: So you weren’t getting high?

Etheridge: No you don’t get a high. No it’s not a high. It was normal. And I could — all of a sudden I could get out of bed. I could go see my kid. And it was amazing. (Etheridge often didn’t smoke; the marijuana was mixed into butter and spread on food, or run through a vaporizer.)

Cooper: Did you ever worry about becoming addicted? They were saying this is a gateway drug?

Etheridge: No. Not at all. If you were on that side, you would understand what I mean. It is almost laughable to think that you could be addicted. This is not at all.

Cooper: You mention you still have a prescription. Do you still use marijuana?

Etheridge: Yes, I do. The effects on my gastrointestinal system leave me with a real intolerance for acid of any kind, and so acid reflux is a constant problem. I don’t want to take the little pills that they give you that have all the side effects to help with that.

And I do use it — I’m one of the users that would like in a stressful situation or maybe when I’ve eaten that cheese pizza with my kids that I will do that and it settles — totally completely settles all that.

Cooper: Most people eat the cheese pizza after the marijuana.

Etheridge: That is true.

Cooper: You’ve got it backwards.

Etheridge: No. It’s not like that. I know.
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Cooper: There’s more than, I think, 200,000 people in California who are registered to receive medicinal marijuana. Do you really believe that all those people though have legitimate reasons to be getting marijuana?

Etheridge: Yes. Who are we to say what a legitimate reason is? If it helps somebody at the end of the day instead of drinking a couple of glasses of wine, to have a few tokes, who are we to say? Why must we in this country be so judgmental about this? These people are not hurting anybody. They are not hurting themselves.

Source.

June 2nd, 2009 – Democratic gubernatorial candidate Carl Bergmanson chided Gov. Corzine for not using his political muscle to force passage of the medical marijuana bill and went on to call for the government to stop enforcing laws against use of the substance for any purpose.

The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, which passed the state Senate in March, has not been posted for a vote in the Assembly. It is on the agenda for Thursday’s meeting of the Assembly Heath and Senior Services Committee, however.

“New Jersey needs a Governor who is a leader, not a bystander. The Medical Marijuana bill is a great example – Jon Corzine says he will sign the bill, but sits by as it languishes in the Assembly, which is controlled by our own party. He needs to put the arm on (Assembly Speaker) Joe Roberts to get it to the Governor’s desk,” he said.

Bergmanson, the former mayor of Glen Ridge, said that enforcing laws against marijuana use in general “wastes valuable resources and makes criminals out of otherwise law-abiding citizens.”

Bergmanson is the only one of Corzine’s three primary challengers who has held elected office, but he has little money and generally polls within the margin of error.

By Matt Friedman, Source