December 5, 2009 – In September, ladymag Marieclaire ruffled some feathers when it published a piece about women who smoke weed. But its most interesting effect was not the “marijuana moms” chatter it unleashed, and instead the fact that it brought to the mainstream media a more open discussion of the fact that women can be avid tokers, too.

Public acceptance of pot is at an all-time high, and the fact that women have drastically changed their attitudes may be what is most fascinating about the sea change in public opinion — and policy — regarding marijuana. In 2005, only 32 percent of polled women told Gallup they approved legalizing pot, but this year 44 percent of them were for it, compared to 45 percent of men. In effect, women have narrowed what had been a 12-point gender gap.

Women are also smoking more weed. The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that current marijuana use increased from 3.8 to 4.5 percent among women, while there was no significant statistical change for men.

Indeed, it appears the growing acceptance of marijuana is fueled by women having joined the movement for reform.

Women “can reach people’s hearts and minds,” says Mikki Norris, co-author of Shattered Lives: Portraits from America’s Drug War, managing editor of the West Coast Leaf, and director of the Cannabis Consumers Campaign. “I think we can really take it from the third- to the first-person, and make it personal.”

Norris, who’s participated in numerous successful marijuana campaigns, may be onto something. If pro-weed women are a new momentum behind the normalization of marijuana, they may also become the driving force behind game-changing drug reform.

If that’s the case, then it’s worth examining why some women have signed onto the marijuana reform movement — because it may soon be why many others will as well.

‘A bigger amygdala’

The avenue through which women have been foremost leaders in the movement is medical marijuana advocacy.

There are currently 13 states that have legalized medical marijuana use and at least 14 other states with pending legislation or ballot measures. In California, where cannabis has been legalized for medical use since 1996, a Field poll found 56 percent support for adult legalization — and the matter may very well make its way onto the 2010 ballot.

Every woman I spoke to referenced cannabis’ medicinal properties as a major reason they are so personally impassioned by the marijuana reform debate.

One of these is Valerie Corral, dubbed “the Mother Teresa of the medical marijuana movement,” by Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Corral was introduced to the medical benefits of marijuana in 1973, when she was the victim of a car crash that left her an epileptic. At one point, while on pharmaceuticals, she was having up to five seizures each day.

In 1974, her husband read an article in a medical journal that described how positively rats had reacted to cannabis when treated for certain ailments. Soon thereafter, Corral started applying a strict regimen of marijuana, and kept a catalog of its effects.

“Within a few weeks, I noticed change,” Corral said. And over time, she was able to control seizure activity in a way that allowed her to wean herself off the prescription drugs. To this day she does not take anything other than marijuana for her epilepsy.

Not only did medical marijuana change Corral’s quality of life, it changed its course. She went on to found Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM), a patient collective based in Santa Cruz, Calif. that offers organic medical marijuana and assistance to those who have received a terminal or chronic illness diagnosis.

WAMM currently serves about 170 patients. When I spoke to Corral, she was late to hit the road for her Thanksgiving holiday. She had spent the morning with a patient who was anxious about his radiation therapy. She then spent the afternoon delivering marijuana before counseling — “and learning from” — terminal patients.

While Corral knows first-hand the physical benefits of marijuana, she believes its most important effect is “the way it affects how we look at things that are difficult.”

“No matter what else happens to us,” Corral said, “the quality with which we live our lives is so important.”

Cheryl Shuman, a 49-year-old optician in Los Angeles, would agree. Up until she started using cannabis therapy to treat her cancer, she was on a daily regimen of 27 prescription drugs, attached to a mobile intravenous morphine pump, and undergoing constant CAT and MRI scans. In 2006, her doctors told her she’d be dead by the end of that year.

“I had to make a decision [regarding] which way I was going to go and quite frankly, I thought if I am going to die, I want to control how my life is going to be,” Shuman said, her voice breaking. “And the only side-effects were that I was happy and laughing.”

It turns out those may not have been the only effects of her cannabis therapy. Her cancer has been in remission for 18 months now — and that coincides precisely with the start of the marijuana treatment.

Shuman had previously used pot medicinally in 1994, when going through a harrowing divorce. Up to 80 milligrams of Prozac a day, coupled with multiple therapy sessions a week, did not help her get over the sense that she could barely make it through each day.

During one session, she says, “my therapist said, ‘I could lose my license, but I think what would help you more than anything is just smoking a joint.’ I didn’t know how to respond! I said I couldn’t do that — I don’t drink, I’ve never even smoked a cigarette!”

But after researching medical marijuana and realizing that cannabis had been available in pharmacies until the early 20th century, Shuman acquiesced and tried a joint. At 36 — after learning to inhale — Shuman says she found she “finally had some peace.”

This year, Shuman became the founding director of Beverly Hills’ National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) chapter — and she hopes to attract women to the cause.

Corral, for her part, acknowledges that the role she fills within the marijuana movement is one that fits the traditional female archetype. “Maybe it’s because we have a bigger amygdala,” she laughs, referring to the part of the brain that processes emotions. “It probably is!”

Debby Goldsberry, director of the Berkeley Patients Group, a medical marijuana dispensary, feels similarly: “It’s our job in our families and in our circles of friends to be caregivers. It makes sense that women would gravitate to cannabis.”

In a recent study of a sample of patient reviews at a chain of medical marijuana assessment clinics in California, Craig Reinarman, a sociology professor at UC-Santa Cruz, found that only 27.1 percent of the patients were female. Another study, conducted on a sample of patients at Goldsberry’s Berkeley dispensary, found that 30.7 percent of those patients were women.

Those numbers are close to the general expert estimate that women constitute about a third of marijuana consumers.

Mainstream myth-busting

Since more women are smoking weed, it’s no surprise there has finally been an onslaught of girl stoner coverage in the corporate media.

It probably started with “Weeds” — a Showtime series about a bodacious soccer mom who deals and smokes pot — which is now readying for its sixth season premiere. But the big dam opener this year was the aforementioned publication of the Marieclaire article, “Stiletto Stoners,” which paints the portrait of a whole class of “card-carrying, type A workaholics who just happen to prefer kicking back with a blunt instead of a bottle.”

Julie Holland, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine, has been called onto NBC’s Today Show twice now to explain why women are gravitating towards weed.

During one of her appearances, Holland seemingly shocks the hosts by telling them that 100 million Americans have tried weed — 25 million of them over the past year. The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that 10.6 million women used marijuana in 2008.

Also surprising to the TV hosts was Holland’s assertion that marijuana is the least addictive substance among many. According to a 1999 Institute of Medicine report, the rate at which people who try a substance and go on to become addicted is 32 percent for nicotine, 23 percent for heroin, 17 percent for cocaine, 15 percent for alcohol, and 9 percent for cannabis.

“Look at what the choices are. Cannabis isn’t toxic to your brain, to your liver, it doesn’t cause cancer, you can’t overdose, and there’s no evidence that it’s a gateway drug,” Holland said. “I believe that the majority of adults can healthfully integrate altered states into their lives, and it makes sense to do it with the least toxic substance you can. ”

The public seems to agree.

Societal mores around marijuana are at their most progressive in at least 40 years, when Gallup first started asking Americans whether they believed marijuana ought be legalized. This year, 44 percent of those polled — up from 36 percent in 2005 — said they are in favor of legalization. A May Zogby poll found marijuana legalization was even more popular with its respondents, at 52 percent.

Harry Levine, professor of sociology at Queens College and co-author of Crack in America: Demon Drugs and Social Justice, attributes a lot of the mainstreaming of progressive views on pot to the medical marijuana movement.

“What it has done is change the image of marijuana from this tie-dye 1960s hippie-dippy kind of thing to a real drug, a real substance that has medical uses,” he said. “You can separate it from the scary image of drugs.”

Why do girls smoke?

As weed is no longer considered by the public to be a “hard drug,” three presidents — 41, 42, and 43 — have admitted to smoking marijuana. “The whole association of failure and dropouts [with marijuana] has been smashed in an important kind of way,” Levine says.

In other words, you can smoke pot and be successful. Look at Natalie Angier, for example. In her book Woman: Intimate Geography, this Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer interjects a personal note of — and case for — female empowerment through weed:

All the women in my immediate family learned how to climax by smoking grass — my mother when she was over thirty and already the mother of four. Yet I have never seen anorgasmia on the list of indications for the medical use of marijuana. Instead we are told that some women don’t need to have orgasms to have a satisfying sex life, an argument as convincing as the insistence that homeless people like living outdoors.

As Angier writes, alcohol is a “global depressant of the nervous system” so marijuana can be a woman’s best friend. In that vein, Holland has clinically observed that many of her female patients choose marijuana over alcohol — for all kinds of social situations — because it makes them “more present instead of absent.”

“You can relax but not be incapacitated. You can keep your wits about you and protect yourself,” Holland told me, adding that women don’t always tolerate alcohol the way men do.

Diana, 37, a published writer in Madison is one such woman. She uses marijuana as a social lubricant: “If I drink, I know I’ll be throwing up by night’s end, even if it’s only a couple of beers. But with weed, I know I can make it to closing time — and keep up with all the steely-stomached drinkers.”

Paloma, 25, a Bay Area union organizer, told me she smokes weed two to three times a week to “relax, sleep, work on arts and crafts or clean the house and cook” without being distracted by what she calls her “explosive” attention deficit disorder.

A few women smokers said they did not initially like the effects marijuana had on them. Tessa, 29, a doctoral student in Portland, said, she didn’t enjoy weed in college “because I would not be able to do anything besides be high and stupid. Now I know to smoke less — maybe a hit or two — and then relax on that.”

What a lot of women like Tessa don’t know is that there are several kinds of weed that have different effects on the mind and body. Women who live in places where marijuana can be purchased at dispensaries are often more attuned to the fact that cannabis sativa gives a euphoric head high while cannabis indica results in a lazy body high. And then there are hybrids — the equivalent to blends in wine culture.

Ally, 34, an architect and mother in San Francisco, sees weed as similar to vino: “Smoking a joint and taking a bath is what drinking a glass of wine and taking a bath was to my mom,” she says, balancing a baby on her knee. “It’s ‘me’ time!”

Think of the children!

The acceptance of pot has led to discussion of how marijuana reform might positively impact families and children. This may change the debate because family values have long been employed by drug warriors as reasoning for why weed ought remain criminalized.

Enter Jessica Corry, a pro-life Republican from Denver. A mother of girls aged two and four, this 30-year-old newly-minted lawyer is widely hailed as a rising star in Colorado politics. She is currently working on her first book, which she described to me as an “analysis of how race consciousness and political correctness are silencing America’s students and our entrepreneurial spirit.”

A real conservative. Yet she is also one of the most outspoken proponents of marijuana legalization.

In 2006, she started a group called Guarding Our Children Against Marijuana Prohibition, which supported a statewide initiative to legalize marijuana.

“I had high-ranking Republicans politely encouraging me to write my political eulogy,” Corry said. “Fortunately, they were wrong. While the initiative failed, it garnered more general election support than that year’s Republican candidate for governor.”

Corry doesn’t smoke pot — though she is open about past use. “As a mother,” she says, “I’m far more concerned about my kids having access to a medicine cabinet than having access to a joint or a liquor cabinet. Marijuana, when consumed independently, has never been linked to a single death.”

Mothers like Corry are drawn to marijuana regulation as part of a larger appeal that encourages the use of harm reduction to more pragmatically deal with substance abuse. Examples of harm reduction include providing designated drivers for drinkers and clean needles for heroin addicts.

Concerned moms may be moved to action by studies such as the Teen Survey, conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia. This year, there was a 37 percent increase in teens who said pot is easier to buy than cigarettes, beer or prescription drugs. Nearly one-quarter said they can get weed within the hour.

Those stats matter to women. In light of this, children and family will be included in the mission statement of the Women’s Alliance, a group NORML will launch next year. The coordinator, Sabrina Fendrick, plans to include mention of how current marijuana policy undermines the American family and sends mixed messages to young people.

An economic savior?

The harm reduction approach extends itself from families and children to our ailing economy. With the largest economic recession since the Great Depression firmly in place, more people see the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana for adults.

Economist Jeffrey Miron has calculated that, assuming a national market of about $13 billion annually, legalization would reap state and federal governments about $7 billion each year in extra tax revenues and save about $13.5 billion in law enforcement costs.

This kind of math attracts libertarian support, ranging from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California who recently called for an open discussion on legalization, to Rep. Ron Paul, a physician and Republican congressman from Texas, who has long advocated it.

The problem with a fiscal approach, however, might be that it could have more traction as a top-down rather than a bottom-up movement. Deborah Small, a drug reform veteran and founder of Break the Chains, a group that engages communities of color around drug reform policy, believes the reason the medical marijuana movement has been so successful is that its female leaders have made it a “real grassroots movement.”

“Male-dominated libertarian philosophy and money has dominated” the general marijuana reform movement, Small says, and “there’s a struggle in this next stage to see whether the movement will be driven by people with a lot of money or people on the ground — or if they can agree to work together.”

Perhaps male drug reform leaders can learn from the ladies. Jessica Corry, the GOP mom from Denver, turns the economic discussion back to the home: “It’s generational child abuse to waste billions of dollars every year on marijuana prohibition.”

Mikki Norris, the California marijuana activist, observed gender-specific focus groups in Oakland on Measure Z, a 2004 ballot initiative that ultimately succeeded in making marijuana the lowest law enforcement priority. She heard the women’s group speaking on behalf of their children — “they wanted money for their kids’ education and they didn’t want kids arrested for pot.” Men, on the other hand, were more worried about children getting involved with drugs, she told me.

Norris said, “I just think women have a better grasp of home economics,” or what’s really important in a family.

Today’s economic climate lends itself to easy parallels with the fight to repeal Prohibition in the 1920s, which was also framed as a family issue. Harry Levine, the sociologist, reminded me of Pauline Sabin, a high-society Chicago feminist who organized women in the fight to repeal the 18th Amendment.

“Sabin said that because of the violence, the corruption, the bootleggers, and all the resulting lost tax revenue, that alcohol undermined the home and therefore women should speak out for themselves and children,” Levine said.

Many point to the moment when women joined the fight against Prohibition as the tipping point for the ultimate success of the movement.

Women as a new force

The women in the marijuana reform movement have different reasons for trumpeting policy change. Some see cannabis as a medicinal wonder drug, others see tangible — and sensible — socio-economic benefits to taxing and regulating it.

Trends indicate that as more states legalize the use of cannabis for medical purposes, more people will discover first-hand that legalization of marijuana does not equate with anarchy and instead with more effective control of a substance so readily available to Americans — and American kids — across the country.

And as Californians may next year, Americans will soon be exposed to the choice between regulating marijuana for adult use or continuing a failed drug war that incarcerates 850,000 people a year — tearing apart families, ruining futures, and siphoning from public funds that might otherwise benefit the next generation. All this for a relatively mild psychotropic that at least a third of us has tried.

As the recession continues to unravel communities across the country, the economic incentive to end this drug war will affect the opinions of many who might never otherwise have considered legalization. The time may very well be now.

Similar to the prohibition of alcohol in the early twentieth century, what we have today is a federal policy that is at odds with public opinion. It is a policy without a plurality of citizen supporters.

And many women are at the vanguard of the movement that recognizes this and is fighting for change. Source.

December 4, 2009 – Wisconsin – To celebrate his 54th birthday last April 23, medical marijuana advocate Gary Storck began lobbying for the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act at the state Capital with his friend Mary Powers, a wheelchair-bound U.S. Army veteran who was fighting AIDS, Hepatitis C and several forms of cancer.

“By the summer’s end we were there weekly, and I would make a short movie each week, just a couple minutes, ‘The Mary and Gary Show’,” Storck said. “There are seven on YouTube. Mary and I hit more than 80 offices, and soon other patients joined us. Mary was often having a hard time, but she was always there waiting for me in the rotunda on lobby days. She became a familiar figure in the hallways and offices.”

Mary’s last day of lobbying was Oct. 7.

“She was using an oxygen tank,” Storck said. “I took her into (Senate Republican leader) Scott Fitzgerald’s office to show them the face of medical marijuana, after his spokesperson, Kimber Leidl, issued statements saying ‘the risks outweighed the benefits’.”

Mary Powers died in her sleep Oct. 22.

“It devastated our tight little group. Jacki (Rickert), myself and others had spoken to Mary every day,” Storck said. “We are grieving, but we know Mary is with us, and her efforts have inspired many more to pick up this cause. Her suffering was too great, and we are glad she is free. Mary was also the founder of Wisconsin Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access, and we are trying to carry on her work with another veteran.”

Storck discovered the medicinal benefits of marijuana by accident in 1972 when it relieved his congenital glaucoma. He was inspired to fight for medical marijuana in 1997 when a staph infection after his third open heart surgery almost killed him.

“As a doctor was removing the staples from the wound left in my groin by the heart lung pump, she infected me with staph,” he said. “48 hours later I was
deathly ill. I went to the ER and right into surgery. They took a lot of infected tissue out of my right groin. What followed were the worst 2 weeks of my life. I had several more surgeries, including removal of a 32-square-inch skin graft off my thigh to cover the hole in my groin. I was on the strongest antibiotics and a morphine drip. I believed I would die there in that hospital.”

On the ninth day on what he thought was his deathbed, Storck said he was visited by a “cannabis angel” with an edible. The cannabis angel returned the next day.

“By the third day, I was able to go outside and smoke a joint. And it was the best joint ever, because I knew I was going to make it out alive!” Storck said.

“And I vowed that day that I would use this extra time I was given to see that medical cannabis was finally legal in Wisconsin. It’s looking like, with a little luck and the blessings of the cannabis angels, that those efforts will soon come to fruition. But, there is still a lot of work yet, and the people of Wisconsin need to make their 80% support heard. But from a very long view, we are very close to the Promised Land.”

KEY POINTS OF THE JACKI RICKERT MEDICAL MARIJUANA ACT

The Act allows three categories of medical marijuana users:

1) cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, a positive HIV test, Crohn’s disease, a Hepatitis C virus infection, Alzheimer’s disease, Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis, nail patella syndrome,

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, or the treatment of these conditions;

2) a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition, or the treatment of such a disease or condition, that causes wasting away, severe pain, severe nausea, seizures, or severe and persistent muscle spasms;

3) any other medical condition or treatment for a medical condition designated as a debilitating medical condition or treatment in rules promulgated by the Department of Health Services.

A qualifying patient may invoke the medical necessity defense if he or she acquires, possesses, cultivates, transports, or uses marijuana to alleviate the symptoms or effects of his or her debilitating medical condition or treatment.

Maximum authorized amount of marijuana: 12 marijuana plants and three ounces – approximately 85 grams – of marijuana leaves or flowers.

The bill requires DHS to establish a registry for medical users of marijuana. A person claiming to be a qualifying patient may apply for a registry identification card by submitting a signed application, accompanied by a written certification and a registration fee of not more than $150. Source.

December 03, 2009 – The latest reports out of Trenton are that by the time the current governor leaves office, New Jersey is likely to have a law authorizing medical marijuana. So on a recent trip to California I decided to check out a marijuana clinic to see what the future will be like.

I was amazed at what I witnessed when I first walked in the door of the clinic on a downtown street in Oakland. The proponents of medical marijuana argue that those who need it are often suffering from dreadful, debilitating diseases. So I felt great sympathy for the patients as I watched them walk into the back room of the clinic to get their prescriptions filled. I could only imagine the agony these poor, unfortunate souls must have been experiencing.

Amazingly, though, every single one of them exited with a spring in his step. One young patient had apparently experienced such a miraculous cure that he picked up a skateboard and went swooping away on the sidewalk after he picked up his pot. Imagine that. The guy was probably confined to a wheelchair just the other day. Now he was doing ollies and fakies halfway to Berkeley.

I was impressed. I was equally impressed by the coffee and the chocolate cake. Did I mention that the clinic is also a coffee shop? It’s called the Blue Sky, and it’s modeled after the marijuana dispensaries in Amsterdam. In fact, the locals call this part of Oakland “Oaksterdam” to highlight the resemblance.

The difference is that in Amsterdam the pot is sold to everyone. In California, you have to have a photo ID that identifies you as a patient. I got talking to some of the staff and the patients. It turns out there are a surprisingly large number of illnesses that will qualify you for that ID card. If you’re having a hard time sleeping, for example, the doctor might prescribe some “Blue Dream.” Other maladies will respond to a dose of “Green Cush” or perhaps a few hits of “Querkle.”

Another good thing about this clinic was that it didn’t have the antiseptic air of a typical health clinic. On a sunny Sunday afternoon there was a jazz band playing on the sidewalk outside. Apparently jazz musicians long ago discovered the healing properties of marijuana, and they are eager to share their knowledge with the general public.

Down the block is an educational institution called Oaksterdam University. There, students take 13-week courses in the growing of this miracle medicine. They can even buy seedlings if they care to grow some of their own at home, a practice also permitted under California law.

Somewhere in there, I began to suspect that these patients weren’t as sick as advertised. Perhaps they were just sick of not being high.

Sure enough, it turns out the ultimate goal of California’s pot proponents is to make this miracle drug available to all adults without a prescription. On the café’s counter next to the cake was a petition calling for a referendum that would make marijuana legal for all Californians over the age of 21. It would be highly taxed and both the state and the municipality would get a share.

The owners of the Blue Sky and other clinics around California already make a point of collecting tax on every transaction and handing that revenue over to the government. The idea is that the pols in cash-strapped California will become as dependent on that revenue stream as the patients are on their prescriptions.

I’ve listened to a lot of the debate over medicinal marijuana in New Jersey, and our pols insist that our medical-marijuana law would be different than California’s, with tighter controls. I doubt it. The same dynamic at work in the Golden State is at work in the Garden State. When it comes to legalization, medicinal marijuana is just the camel’s nose under the tent.

The funny thing is, there’s another Camel headed the other way. The cigarette manufacturers are finding their product becoming more tightly regulated just as the pot growers are watching their regulations loosened. Many municipalities are banning the smoking of cigarettes on streets, in parks and just about anywhere in public. Meanwhile, the pot smokers in California are already agreeing to similar restrictions as part of that referendum.

So we may wind up with a situation in which pot smokers and cigarette smokers are treated equally under the law. They’ll be able to smoke, but just in private. Only their taxes will be public.

That’s fine with me. I don’t smoke either pot or cigarettes. But if the potheads want to join the nicotine fiends in lowering my tax burden, that may be the best prescription of all. By Paul Mulshine Source.
New Jersey considers a medical marijuana law – Video:

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.

December 2, 2009 – New Jersey is poised to become the next state to allow residents to use marijuana, when recommended by a doctor, for relief from serious diseases and medical conditions.

The state Senate has approved the bill and the state Assembly is expected to follow. The legislation would then head to the governor’s office for his signature.

Gov. Jon Corzine, the Democrat who lost his re-election bid last month, has indicated he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk before he leaves office in January. It would likely be one of Mr. Corzine’s last acts before relinquishing the job to Republican Chris Christie.

Mr. Christie has indicated he would be supportive of such legislation, but had concerns that one draft of a bill he read didn’t have enough restrictions, a spokeswoman said.

The bill has been endorsed by the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians and the New Jersey State Nurses Association.

Some lawmakers oppose the legislation, saying they fear the proliferation of marijuana dispensaries, as in California, where medical marijuana is legal. “It sends a mixed message to our children if you can walk down the street and see pot shops,” said Republican Assemblywoman Mary Pat Angelini.

Federal law bars the use of marijuana. But legislatures in several states, including California, Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Vermont, permit use of the drug for medical purposes. Attorney General Eric Holder said earlier this year that federal prosecutors wouldn’t prosecute people complying with state medical marijuana laws.

The New Jersey bill would allow people with debilitating medical conditions to grow, possess and use marijuana for personal use, provided that a physician allows it after completing a full assessment of the patient’s history and condition. The conditions that are stipulated in the Senate bill include cancer, glaucoma and human immunodeficiency viruses.

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, a Democrat who has led the fight for the medical-marijuana bill, said that was not a final list. He said the Senate bill would have to be reconciled with whatever the Assembly might pass.

Support for the legislation stems partly from sympathy for the plight of John Ray Wilson, a New Jersey resident who suffers from multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. Mr. Wilson is scheduled to go on trial in December on felony drug charges, including operating a drug-production facility and manufacturing drugs. State police said they found 17 mature marijuana plants growing alongside his home in 2008. He has pleaded not guilty.

The Superior Court judge who will oversee the case has barred Mr. Wilson from explaining to the jury that he uses marijuana for his multiple sclerosis instead of more conventional medicines, which he said he can’t afford, since he has no medical insurance.

If convicted, Mr. Wilson faces up to 20 years in prison. “It definitely helps for pain,” Mr. Wilson said. “Stress can bring MS on. And I’m definitely under some stress.”

David Wald, a spokesman for the state attorney general, which is arguing the state’s position, said: “We’re prosecuting the law.”

At least two lawmakers, including Mr. Scutari, have asked Mr. Corzine to pardon Mr. Wilson. “I think it’s unfair,” said Mr. Scutari. “To try to incarcerate him for years and years doesn’t serve a good government function.”

The governor’s office said it wouldn’t comment on pardons involving an ongoing case.

Mr. Wilson’s case hasn’t persuaded Ms. Angelini, who voted against it in the health committee. As the executive director of Prevention First, an antidrug and antiviolence nonprofit, she said she was concerned that the bill would open the door for more liberal drug policies.

“If the drug laws are lax,” she said, “that can open it up to eventual drug legalization.”

By SUZANNE SATALINE. Source.

December 2, 2009 – Stephany Bowen suffers from fibromyalgia, diabetic neuropathy and chronic pain from four back surgeries, a metal plate in the back of her neck and hypertension in her right leg.

Her daily ritual includes insulin, Vicodin and up to two bowls of marijuana, which she claims eases nausea caused by her medication and takes her mind off her pain.

She said she is unable to work and rarely leaves home. Her marijuana use is a crime under state law, but she is hopeful that one day that will change.

“I believe it does have medicinal qualities to it,” said Bowen, 46, of Penn Hills. “Since marijuana is grown naturally, it should be legal.”

Momentum supporting that position is growing. Since 1996, 13 states have legalized medical marijuana.

State Rep. Mark Cohen, D-Philadelphia, introduced House Bill 1393 in April that would legalize marijuana for medical purposes. A public hearing is scheduled tomorrow in Harrisburg before the House Health and Human Services committee.

The bill aims to ease the lives of suffering patients, take money away from the drug trade and create about $25 million a year in tax revenue from the sale of marijuana, Cohen said.

“The bill has a 1-in-4 chance of becoming law, but I think that health care groups will lean toward it,” he said.

Rep. Eddie Day Pashinski, D-Luzerne, chairman of the subcommittee on drugs and alcohol, said the decision to legalize marijuana should rest with the medical community.

“Doctors should determine whether there’s a place for the drug in the treatment of their patients,” he said.

The American Medical Association last month changed its position on medical marijuana, urging the federal government to reconsider pot’s classification as a Schedule 1 drug. The goal is to clear the way to conduct clinical research and develop marijuana-based medicines, according to the association.

The AMA’s statement was a topic of conversation recently at the first meeting of Pittsburgh NORML, the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reformation of Marijuana Laws.

A group of about 20 members, who ranged widely in age and profession, discussed methods of spreading information about medical marijuana.

“We will be organized and professional,” said Patrick Nightingale, a Downtown defense attorney and founder of Pittsburgh NORML. “We’re not a bunch of freaks getting together to get stoned.”

Nightingale, a former Allegheny County assistant district attorney, said he supports complete legalization.

“It concerns me as an attorney that I’ve had to prosecute and defend folks for conduct no different than buying a six-pack or bottle of wine,” he said.

Tomorrow’s public hearing is a small step forward for supporters of the bill, but with just six co-sponsors there’s a chance it will never reach a vote, said Rep. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler.

“Marijuana is still considered a gateway drug, and a lot of the people who are fighting for this bill want to use the legislation as a step-off point for legalizing all marijuana,” said Vulakovich, a former police officer.

Gov. Ed Rendell maintains his position on medical marijuana, said spokesman Gary Tuma.

“If a reasonable, well-crafted bill reached his desk,” Tuma said, “he would sign it.” By Kyle Lawson Source.

About state House Bill 1393
Although federal law prohibits the use of marijuana, Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington permit the use of marijuana for medical purposes. In Arizona, doctors are permitted to prescribe marijuana. (The Obama administration recently directed federal prosecutors to back away from pursuing cases against medical marijuana patients.)

State House Bill 1393 would legalize marijuana for use by patients with cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS or any other health issues that a licensed doctor deems treatable by marijuana in a manner that is superior to treatment without marijuana.

Patients who qualify would be required to have a registry identification card and possess no more than six marijuana plants and one ounce of pot.

To read the bill, go online, select “Bill #” at the top under “Find Legislation By,” type in “H 1393” and click “Go”

Source: State House Bill 1393

All those in favor

A Gallup poll in October found that 44 percent of Americans were in favor of making marijuana legal — not just for medicinal purposes — and 54 percent opposed it. U.S. public support for legalizing marijuana was fixed in the 25 percent range from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, but acceptance jumped to 31 percent in 2000 and has continued to grow throughout this decade, according to Gallup.

Source: http://www.gallup.com

GARLAND, Texas – For 22 years, Tim Timmons has fought the pain of multiple sclerosis.

Prescribed medicine couldn’t stop the spasms or help him sleep, he said. Ultimately, Timmons said, relief came in the form of illegal marijuana, which is why he is now pushing for the drug to be legalized.

While 13 states have legalized medical marijuana, Texas isn’t one of them. Timmons said he wants that to change since he feels like he’s been forced to support organized crime.

“I have to support black market crime, but they’re the ones forcing me to do it,” he said. “I don’t want to support organized crime more than anyone would.”

Studies have shown that marijuana can ease muscle spasms and numb pain.

The Texas legislature voted down the last three medical marijuana bills that would have given doctors the authority to prescribe the drug.

In the past, lawmakers defended the ban on medical marijuana by citing the American Medical Associations’ position on the topic. But, after 72 years, that position may be changing. The AMA announced last Tuesday that it’s reversing its policy of classifying the drug as a Schedule 1 narcotic, stating that the issue needs to be reviewed. The announcement was in response to a new medical report by the AMA’s Council on Science and Public Health, which detailed various medical benefits.

Many pharmacists and doctors argue that those benefits can be obtained through legalized drugs that contain the active ingredient in marijuana, THC.

“What they fail to understand is there is THC available in a legal dose called Marinol,” said Donna Barsky, a Plano pharmacist. “It’s a prescription item. All a doctor has to do is write a prescription for it.”

Opponents of medical marijuana say it’s healthier because smoking the drug can pull unhealthy substances into the lungs.

“Marinol just plain doesn’t work, or causes worse situations than you had starting off,” Timmons said.

Another medical marijuana bill is expected to be filled in the Texas legislature in 2011. by Steve Stoler Source.