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 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 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.

GREELEY, Colo. — Health and law enforcement officials around the nation are scrambling to figure out how to articleLargeregulate medical marijuana now that the federal government has decided it will no longer prosecute legal users or providers.

For years, since the first medical marijuana laws were passed in the mid-1990s, many local and state governments could be confident, if not complacent, knowing that marijuana would be kept in check because it remained illegal under federal law, and that hard-nosed federal prosecutors were not about to forget it.

But with the Justice Department’s announcement last week that it would not prosecute people who use marijuana for medical purposes in states where it is legal, local and state officials say they will now have to take on the job themselves.

In New Hampshire, for instance, where some state legislators are considering a medical marijuana law, there is concern that the state health department — already battered by budget cuts — could be hard-pressed to administer the system. In California, where there has been an explosion of medical marijuana suppliers, the authorities in Los Angeles and other jurisdictions are considering a requirement that all medical dispensaries operate as nonprofit organizations.

“The federal government says they’re not going to control it, so the only other option we have is to control it ourselves,” said Carrol Martin, a City Council member in this community north of Denver, where a ban on marijuana dispensaries was on the agenda at a Council meeting the day after the federal announcement.

At least five states, including New York and New Jersey, are considering laws to allow medical marijuana through legislation or voter referendums, in addition to the 13 states where such laws already exist. Even while that is happening, scores of local governments in California, Colorado and other states have gone the other way and imposed bans or moratoriums on distribution even though state law allows it.

Some health and legal experts say the Justice Department’s decision will promote the spread of marijuana for medical uses because local and state officials often take leadership cues from federal policy. That, the experts said, could lead to more liberal rules in states that already have medical marijuana and to more voters and legislators in other states becoming comfortable with the idea of allowing it. For elected officials who have feared looking soft on crime by backing any sort of legalized marijuana use, the new policy might provide support to reframe the issue.

“The fact that the feds are backing off is going to allow changes that are going to make it more accessible,” said Bill Morrisette, a state senator in Oregon and chairman of a committee that oversees the state’s medical marijuana law. Mr. Morrisette said he expected a flurry of proposals in the Legislature, including a plan already floated to have the state grow the marijuana crop itself, perhaps on the grounds of the State Penitentiary in Salem.

“It would be very secure,” he said.

Here in Greeley, anxiety and enthusiasm were on display as the City Council considered a ban on dispensaries.

Most of those who testified at the hearing, including several dispensary operators, opposed the ban and spoke of marijuana’s therapeutic benefits and the taxes that dispensary owners were willing to pour into Greeley’s budget, which has been battered by the recession.

But on the seven-member Council, the question was control. Mr. Martin, for example, said that he hated to see the spread of marijuana, but that the barricades had fallen. Still, he said he opposed a local ban on dispensaries.

“If we have no regulations at all, then we can’t control it, and our police officers have their hands tied,” Mr. Martin said.

Mayor Ed Clark, a former police officer, took the opposite tack in supporting the ban, which passed on a 6-to-1 vote.

“I think we do regulate them, by not allowing dispensaries,” Mr. Clark said.

The backdrop to the debate here in Colorado is a sharp expansion in marijuana dispensaries and patients, fueled in part by the State Board of Health decision in July not to impose limits on the number of patients handled by each marijuana provider.

The state attorney general, John W. Suthers, said the federal government’s retreat, combined with the growth in demand, had created a legal vacuum.

“The federal Department of Justice is saying it will only go after you if you’re in violation of state law,” Mr. Suthers said. “But in Colorado it’s not clear what state law is.”

In New Hampshire, by contrast, where the state legislature is scheduled to meet this week to consider overriding the governor’s veto and passing a medical marijuana law, government downsizing has colored the debate.

The state agency that would be responsible for licensing marijuana dispensaries has been battered by budget cuts, said Senator Sylvia B. Larsen, the president of the New Hampshire Senate and a Democrat. Concerns about the department, Ms. Larsen said, have made it harder to find two more votes in the Senate to reach a two-thirds majority that is needed to override a veto by Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat.

An even odder situation is unfolding in Maine, which already allows medical marijuana and where residents will vote next month on a measure that would create a new system of distribution and licensing.

The marijuana proposal, several political experts said, has been overshadowed by another fight on the ballot that would overturn a state law and ban same-sex marriage.

The added wrinkle is that opponents of same-sex marriage, said Christian Potholm, a professor of government at Bowdoin College, have heavily recruited young, socially conservative voters, who by and large tend to not be concerned about medical marijuana expansion.

“The 18- to 25-year-old vote is going to be overrepresented because of the gay marriage situation, so overrepresented in favor of medical marijuana,” Professor Potholm said.

Some legal scholars said the federal government, by deciding not to enforce its own laws (possession and the sale of marijuana remain federal crimes), has introduced an unpredictable variable into the drug regulation system.

“The next step would be a particular state deciding to legalize marijuana entirely,” said Peter J. Cohen, a doctor and a lawyer who teaches public health law at Georgetown University. If federal prosecutors kept their distance even then, Dr. Cohen said, legalized marijuana would become a de facto reality.

Senator Morrisette in Oregon said he thought that exact situation — a state moving toward legalization, perhaps California — could play out much sooner now than might have been imagined even a few weeks ago. And the continuing recession would only help, he said, with advocates for legalization able to promise relief to an overburdened prison system and injection of tax revenues to the state budget. 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

United States Congress
HR 858 – would prohibit the marketing, sale or shipment in interstate commerce of products designed to assist in defrauding a drug test

Alabama
HB 434 – would authorize the use of medical marijuana by certain qualifying persons who have been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition

California
AB 390 – would legalize (and tax) the possession, sale, use and cultivation of marijuana by people over 21

Connecticut
SB 349 – would reduce the penalty for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to an infraction

HB 6156 – an act to authorize the medical use of marijuana

HB 5175 – an act to allow patients to benefit from relief of neurological symptoms without fear of prosecution

Hawaii
SB 401 – would allow a qualifying patient to possess 12 marijuana plants and 7 ounces of marijuana at one time; prohibit identification of the site where marijuana is grown on a registry card; prohibit a certifying physician from naming a patient’s particular debilitating condition; allow a caregiver to grow marijuana for no more than 5 patients

HB 226 – would allow a qualifying patient to possess 12 marijuana plants and 7 ounces of marijuana at one time

SB 223 & HB 1191 – would create marijuana distribution stamp system for medical marijuana in Hawaii

HB 1194 – would require the department of health to grow, manage, operate, and dispense medical marijuana collectives to qualifying patients

HB 227 & SB 400 – would decriminalize possession of less than 1 ounce of marijuana and make the possession a civil violation subject to a fine of not more than $100

HB 190 – would decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana from a petty misdemeanor to a violation

HB 1192 – would make the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a civil offense and imposes fines

HB 1193 – would provide that the enforcement of laws related to the personal use of marijuana by adults shall be the lowest law enforcement priority for state

HB 305 – would provide the authority, procedures, and licensing, related to the production of industrial hemp in the State

Illinois
SB 1381 & HB 2514 – Create the Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act.

Maine
LD 250 – An Act To Streamline and Clarify Laws Pertaining to the Civil and Criminal Possession of Marijuana

Minnesota
SF 97 & HF 292 – would allow medical marijuana

HF 608 – would provide for the development and regulation of an industrial hemp industry; authorize rulemaking; provide a defense for possession and cultivation of industrial hemp; modify the definition of marijuana

Missouri
HB 277 – the bill reclassifies marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II and would allow patients to use medical marijuana with a doctor’s certification. If passed, would be submitted to a referendum vote in 2010.

Montana
SB 326 & HB 73 – would revise and expand the existing medical marijuana laws to include treatment for additional medical conditions, allow minors to use parentally designated caregiver, allow registered patients and caregivers to obtain medical marijuana from any registered caregiver, increase the amount of medical marijuana that registered patients may possess and protect additional rights of approved users and mmj cardholders

HB 0541 – would reduce penalties for possession of marijuana

New Hampshire
HB 648 – permits the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes if prescribed by a physician

HB 575 – would prohibit driving with any amount of any Schedule I controlled substance in a person’s blood or urine and impose the same penalties as driving while intoxicated (note: I figured this would be bad because you could get busted for a DWI while totally sober because you smoked three days before and failed a urine screen)

HB 555 – provides that a person who is in possession of up to one ounce of marijuana shall be subject to a $100 fine and forfeiture of the marijuana

HB 399 – permits the development of an industrial hemp industry in New Hampshire. The bill also establishes an industrial hemp special program fund, into which certain fees and seed sale revenues shall be deposited.

New Jersey

S 119 & A 804 – Establish the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act

New York
S 1682 – provides that no candy or confection sold in this state shall be packaged, shaped or manufactured to resemble marijuana or marijuana products or to imitate the flavor of marijuana

A 1195 – prohibits the sale and purchase of urine with the intent to defraud drug screening tests; further provides penalties for violations under this section

A 552 – creates the crime of aggravated criminal sale of marihuana; makes it a class E felony

Oklahoma
SB 732 – creates a task force to study the medicinal uses of Delta-9-Tetra-Hydrocannabinol

Oregon
SB 388 – Permits medical marijuana cardholders to possess certain amounts of hashish and food and tincture that incorporate marijuana or hashish. Changes amounts of marijuana that medical marijuana cardholder and primary caregiver may collectively possess. Decreases amount of marijuana that may be possessed by persons responsible for marijuana grow sites to 24 ounces. Creates exception to allow persons responsible for marijuana grow sites to store medical marijuana cardholder’s marijuana if cardholder cannot store marijuana at cardholder’s residence. Increases allowable size of marijuana seedlings. Directs Department of Human Services to prepare manual describing rights and obligations of medical marijuana cardholders, primary caregivers, and persons responsible for marijuana grow sites, and requires those persons to state in applications for registry identification cards that they have read manual.

SB 285 – directs State Board of Pharmacy to classify marijuana as controlled substance in Schedule II

HB 2503 – prohibits discrimination in employment under certain circumstances if discrimination is based on person’s status as medical marijuana registry cardholder or use of medical marijuana off property or premises of employment or during hours that are not hours of employment. Makes such discrimination unlawful employment practice. Allows employers to discipline employees who use medical marijuana on property or premises or during hours of employment.

HB 2497 – expands ability of employer to prohibit use of medical marijuana in workplace (Is this ultimately good or bad? I’m torn.)

HB 2341 – modifies definition of marijuana for purposes of controlled substances laws (making it Schedule II)

Rhode Island
S 185 – would make various changes to the medical marijuana act, including the creation and regulation of compassion centers to aid qualifying patients and their registered primary caregivers

H 5006 – would make it a crime to defraud the administration of a drug and alcohol test

H 5220 – they mentioned something about “blunt cigars” (no clue??)

South Dakota
HB 1128 – allow a medical necessity to be used as a defense in certain cases involving the possession or use of marijuana

HB 1127 – provide safe legal access to medical marijuana for certain qualified persons

Tennessee
HB 1271 & SB 1062 – allows person convicted of simple possession of marijuana after July 1, 2009, who has no prior drug convictions to have records expunged after completing entire sentence and those convicted before July 1, 2009, one year after completing sentence

HB 368 & SB 209 – enacts “Medical Marijuana Act of 2009″

Texas
HB 287 – would reduce penalties for possession of marijuana

HB 164 – would allow the medical use of marijuana

Vermont
S 71 – would establish a sensible state marijuana policy

H 150 & H 217 – would decrease penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana

Washington
SB 5798 & HB 2046 – would allow medical marijuana

SB 5615 & HB 1177 – would make possession of less than 40 ounces of marijuana a civil infraction

Original article here.