Monday, November 30, 2009

Hamas Approves Law To Execute Pot Dealers In Gaza

If you sell pot on the Gaza Strip, be careful or you could lose your head.

By Steve Elliott in Toke of the Town

Selling pot can now officially get you killed in Gaza City -- by the government, that is.

Despite the area's proud tradition of fine hashish (Blond Lebanese, anyone?) the Hamas-run government of Gaza has approved a law that will allow for the execution of "convicted drug dealers," its attorney general said today, according to the Associated Press.

The Islamist government ruling Gaza is taking a page from the tired old playbook of drug prohibitionists in America and worldwide -- that imposing draconian sentences will reduce drug smuggling and discourage drug use. The policy, in place for close to a century in many parts of the world, has proved to be a colossal failure.

Hamas has cracked down on drugs, saying it has arrested more than 100 drug dealers and users. Dozens of pounds of contraband, mostly marijuana, have been seized.

Blithely undeterred by the facts, Gaza's attorney general blamed the Israeli government for not punishing potheads severely enough (or killing them quickly enough). If the intent is to prove governments in the Middle East can have drug policies even dumber than those of the United States, then mission accomplished!

Atty. Gen. Mohammed Abed: We can have drug laws even dumber than the Americans'!
​Surprise, surprise: They say it's all the fault of the Jews. "The Zionist law included light punishments that encouraged rather than deterred those who take and trade in drugs, and there is no objective, national or moral justification for continuing to apply it," said Attorney General Mohammed Abed, who certainly doesn't sound like a very fun guy.

"The government has approved a decision to cancel the Zionist [Israeli] military law with regard to drugs and enact Egyptian law 19 of 1962," said Abed, who was appointed in October. "The latter law is more comprehensive in terms of crime and criminals and the penalties more advanced, including life sentences and execution."

According to Abed, the Egyptian drug law will remain in effect until a new law can e passed by the Palestinian Parliament, which has met only rarely since the 2006 elections.

Egypt ruled the Gaza Strip from 1948 until the 1967's Six Day War, when Israel seized the territory along with the Sinai peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and east Jerusalem.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sativa Takes Top Spot: Super Lemon Haze Repeats As Cannabis Cup Champion

Screen shot 2009-11-29 at 6.49.55 PM.png
Mighty Super Lemon Haze extended for another year its reign over the Dutch pot scene at this year's Cannabis Cup Awards.
​A heady sativa, Super Lemon Haze repeated as the favorite Dutch coffeeshop strain at the 22nd Cannabis Cup in Amsterdam. It won last year as well, as reported at, and is the first strain to repeat since the Green House's Super Silver Haze in 1999.

Vanilla Kush from Barney's placed second in the competition for the top prize. Headband Kush from Green Place finished third.

Both the Green House and Barney's continued to dominate the Cup as the two powerhouses have for a decade. The last shop to win the Cup other than the Green House or Barney's was The Noon with the legendary Blueberry, all the way back in 2000.

Read the Rest at Toke of the Town

Friday, November 27, 2009

Judge Orders Cop To Give Man Back 11 Pounds, A Little At The Time

Washington judge gives the green light to medical pot patient (Photo: Pablo-flores, Wikimedia Commons)​

By Steve Elliott at Toke of the Town

An interesting thing is happening in states which have legalized medical marijuana. There's an ongoing culture war between cops who hate all marijuana, period, and patients who take the law at its word when it says they can use pot legally. From time to time, the patients win big.

Such is the case in Kent, Washington, where King County Judge Mary Roberts ordered the police department to give 11 pounds of seized marijuana back to Matthew Zugsberger, who holds a valid California medical marijuana card.

After police (with the aid of a trusty drug dog) found the stash in the trunk of Zugsberger's car last February in the parking lot of a pharmacy in Kent, they arrested the Californian and his girlfriend and seized the weed.

Zugsberger says the cops accused him of importing marijuana from Canada (which does happen a lot in this area, being not far from the B.C. border). "Why the hell would I buy pot from Canada if I have a field of it in my back yard?", Zugsberger reasonably asked, according to the Seattle P.I.

The California man said he began using marijuana medicinally in 2007 to manage nausea caused by a severe injury sustained while working as a underwater welder in the Gulf of Mexico. After the accident, he was prescribed opiate painkillers; Zugsberger said the drugs gave him liver problems, and he was concerned about becoming addicted to them.

Zugsberger pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession and was sentenced to three months' probation. But defense attorney Aaron Pelley wasn't done with the case. Pelley, who is active with Seattle-based medical marijuana advocacy organization Cannabis Defense Coalition, filed a petition in August seeking the return of the marijuana to his client, since Zugsberger is a legal medical pot patient.

Continue reading at Toke of the Town

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

7 Ways Weed Makes Thanksgiving Even Better

Let's get really basted. (Photo by Gary M. Stolz, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)

By Steve Elliott in Toke of the Town

​Few things in life are as natural a fit as THC and Thanksgiving. I mean, come on - a holiday which heralds hoggishness, and an herb which makes you hella hungry? We're talking a hook-up made in hemp heaven.

But wait! That's not the only way marijuana can improve your Thanksgiving experience this year. I feel a list coming on.

1) Make the most of the best pig-out chance of the year. Any self-respecting stoner is going to augment his or her capacity for Thanksgiving largesse by generously applying nature's favorite appetite stimulant.

To be sure you've got your bases properly covered, Toke of the Town suggests you consider a new round of smoking between each course of the meal. At the very least, toke up again before dessert.

If you're in a situation where smoking ain't cool, don't trip. Just prepare and consume some marijuana edibles ahead of time - and if the gathering's going to last awhile, bring along some extras in your pocket. (Toke of the Town recommends sativa strains; a heavy indica, especially combined with all that tryptophan from the turkey, could make you drowsy.)

Read the rest at Village Voice Media's new blog, Toke of the Town: 7 Ways Weed Makes Thanksgiving Even Better

Friday, November 20, 2009

It's Obvious: CA Medical Assoc. Says Pot Prohibition Is 'Failed Public Health Policy'

Drug War protester in Huntington Beach, Calif. (Photo by The November Coalition)

By Steve Elliott in Chronic City

In a laudable nod to the obvious, members of the California Medical Association's (CMA) House of Delegates have endorsed a resolution stating that the criminal prohibition of marijuana is a "failed public health policy."

As enacted, Resolution 704a-09, the "Criminalization of Marijuana" states: "[The] CMA considers the criminalization of marijuana to be a failed public health policy, ... and encourage[s] ... debate and education regarding the health aspects of changing current policy regarding cannabis use." [PDF] The CMA has more than 35,000 members statewide.

A report just published in the British Columbia Mental Health and Addictions Journal highlights another good reason to question marijuana prohibition: Health-related "social costs" per user are eight times higher for alcohol users than for those who use marijuana, and more than 40 times higher for tobacco smokers.

The report gauges related costs per user at more than $800 yearly for tobacco; $165 for alcohol; and only $20 for cannabis.

Read the rest at Chronic City in the SF Weekly blog, "The Snitch": Chronic City: It's Obvious -- State Medical Association Says Pot Prohibition Is 'Failed Public Health Policy' | Digg story

Thursday, November 19, 2009

L.A. District Attorney Says City Councils Have 'No Authority' Over Medical Pot

D.A. Steve Cooley (left) and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich: They'll keep busting dispensaries no matter what the City Council says!

By Steve Elliott in Chronic City

It was a petulant fit of pique, certainly entertaining, and potentially hilarious -- if safe access for so many medical marijuana patients weren't hanging in the balance.

After things didn't go his way at Monday's Los Angeles City Council joint committee meeting, District Attorney Steve Cooley pronounced Tuesday that he'd keep prosecuting medical marijuana dispensaries, even if the council adopts an ordinance that doesn't ban sales. Cooley said his office was already prosecuting some dispensaries, and he promised to step up such efforts in December.

The D.A.'s public meltdown was a result of his frustration that the council ignored the advice of L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich and changed a provision in L.A.'s proposed medical marijuana ordinance, allowing cash transactions as long as they complied with state law.

"The City Council has no authority to amend state law or Prop. 215. Such authority is solely possessed by California voters," Cooley said. "What the City Council is doing is beyond meaningless and irrelevant."

It was a richly ironic little hissy fit, given that drama king Cooley just handed pot advocates one of their best arguments in the unfolding culture war between those who insist on the lawful implementation of Proposition 215, California's medical marijuana law, and those asserting, damn it, all weed sales are illegal, medical or not.

"Undermining these laws via their ordinance powers is counterproductive, and quite frankly, we're ignoring them," sputtered a tantrum-prone Cooley. "They are absolutely so irrelevant it's not funny."

The revelation that city councils are "irrelevant" and can't "undermine" the state's medical marijuana law will certainly come as encouraging news to dispensary operators in Gilroy and at least 130 other cities statewide which have banned dispensaries outright. Eight counties (Amador, Contra Costa [ban leaves one dispensary open], El Dorado, Madera, Merced, Riverside, Stanislaus, and Sutter) have dispensary bans in place. In addition, at least 64 more cities and six counties (Madera, Nevada, Tulare, San Bernardino, Placer, and San Diego) have dispensary moratoriums in place, by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy's count (ONDCP numbers and "facts" are always suspect).

At this point, L.A. City Council Members are probably wondering why they've spent four years and a ton of taxpayer money wrestling with this issue, given Cooley's new position that the city council has "no authority" to amend Prop. 215.

Read the rest at Chronic City in the SF Weekly blog, "The Snitch": Chronic City: L.A. District Attorney Says City Councils Have 'No Authority' Over Medical Pot

Monday, November 16, 2009

L.A. Panels Reject Ban On Medical Marijuana Sales

L.A.'s dispensaries remain open, for now. (Photo by digitalshay)

Ignoring the advice of anti-pot City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, two Los Angeles City Council committees today rejected a proposed ban on sales of medical marijuana.

​Anti-pot zealots within L.A. city government had coordinated an 18-month assault on the dispensaries, with headline-grabbing pronouncements from media hogs Trutanich and Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley dominating coverage of the issue in recent weeks.

Both Trutanich and Cooley have been widely quoted in the press as claiming that most of the dispensaries are operating in violation of state law. Cooley's recent declaration that "approximately zero" of the dispensaries were operating legally sent chills and outrage through the medical marijuana community, seeming to echo San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis' statement that there are "no such things" as legal dispensaries.

The planned finalé, however, doesn't seem to be going according to script. This meeting was widely seen in the marijuana community as an attempt to deliver a coup de grace to the burgeoning dispensary scene in Los Angeles, but it didn't turn out that way.

Medical marijuana patients and providers turned out in large numbers for the meeting, a joint session of the city council's Public Safety and Planning and Land Use committees. Dozens of dispensary owners and pot users argued that the ban would simply put an end to safe access to marijuana for city patients. Don Duncan, California director for patient advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), said of the proposed ban, "It simply won't work."

Council members on both committees wrestled with the idea of ignoring the opinion of the city's top prosecutor. But after four hours of a contentious and heated hearing, council members had heard more than enough.

"When can we finally stop the merry-go-round?" asked Councilman Dennis Zine, who has been involved with the dispensary issue since 2005. Zine proposed an alternate provision allowing dispensaries to accept cash for marijuana as long as they comply with state law.

A complete sales ban would have taken Los Angeles into legally perilous and untested territory. Both ASA and a group called the Union of Medical Marijuana Patients threatened to sue the city if the council adopted the ban.

Chief Deputy City Attorney William Carter, sent by Trutanich to do the dirty work of arguing before a largely hostile audience that state law and state court decisions mean collectives cannot lawfully sell pot, found his remonstrations falling upon deaf ears despite his best attempts to whip up some anti-weed hysteria.

Councilman Zine, by way of contrast, sounded like the voice of reason, urging the council to adopt a less authoritarian interpretation of the law that would not conflict with how dispensaries operate in Los Angeles and in much of California.

A disappointed David Berger, special assistant to Trutanich, grudgingly allowed that it is up to the city council to decide whether to heed the advice of the city attorney's office. "Our duty is to advise them on what the law allows for and not to go on a whim. They decided to go a different way."

The unyielding position of Trutanich and his minions didn't go unnoticed, or unremarked upon, by Councilman Ed Reyes. "I think they are very, very narrow in that they're taking their prosecutorial perspective," an annoyed Reyes said.

"We need something on the books now. There is no reason we should delay, Reyes said. The full city council is expected take up the long-delayed dispensary regulations as soon as Wednesday.

"My primary concern is making sure we allow enough flexibility so that people who are sick have access, that we do not create an environment where the only function of the ordinance will be to eradicate them all," Reyes said a day before the meeting. "I don't think it's fair or humane to people who are really sick who need it."

Councilman Paul Koretz, former mayor of West Hollywood, said the regulations backed by  by the City Attorney's Office are "unworkable.''

"I think we have one goal here, which is to provide access but at the same time eliminate the problems that medical marijuana dispensaries have been causing," Koretz said. And to do that, I would ask colleagues why we have to take the hardest-ass approach to the law that we could, rather than trying to take the approach that will make this as practical as possible.'' 

A crowd of about 400 people filled the main council chamber for the hearing, with the proceedings often becoming raucous. Most of the speakers were medical marijuana supporters, along with a sprinkling of community activists and conservatives who supported the ban.

Marijuana supporters argued that dispensaries should be regulated, not banned, with a reduction in the number of shops and a crackdown on operations that become a public nuisance.

The proposed ordinance would have "effectively shut down the city's medical marijuana distribution system by banning all sales of marijuana and sharply curtailing collectives' ability to grow and obtain medicine,'' according to the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

"Los Angeles would be foolish to pass this unworkable, ill-conceived ordinance," said California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer before the meeting. "The city would be better advised to adopt of system of licensed regulation and taxes, which has proven successful elsewhere in the state."

NORML estimates that closing most or all dispensaries would cost Los Angeles between $36 million and $74 million in lost sales taxes, and the loss of jobs to 6,500 dispensary employees.

"Neither the Los Angeles City Attorney nor the City Council has the right to ban activity that is protected under state law," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. "Medical marijuana sales have been deemed legal by the state legislature, the courts, and the California Attorney General."

The number of dispensaries ballooned from only four in 2005, when the city council first began to take notice, to more than a thousand, the city attorney's office estimates. In 2007, when Los Angeles adopted a dispensary moratorium, 186 pot shops were in business. Hundreds more soon slipped through a boilerplate hardship exemption, and the rush was on.

A recent poll showed that more than three-quarters of Los Angeles County residents favored regulation, rather than elimination, of the dispensaries.

Californians legalized medical marijuana with Proposition 215 in 1996. The law was expanded with SB 420 in 2003, allowing collectives to grow the herb.

According to guidelines issued by Attorney General Jerry Brown (PDF), medical marijuana providers are supposed to operate as non-profits.

Chronic City: L.A. Panels Reject Ban On Medical Marijuana Sales

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Marijuana Decrim, Frank Chopp, and the Case of the Missing Balls

Frank Chopp doesn't want to blow his speakers. (Photo:

Ever know someone who had a really hot car, but they were afraid to really drive it?

That's how Washington's Speaker of the House Frank Chopp rolls.

How about the guy who had the 300-watt stereo system, but would never crank it up because "I don't want to blow the speakers"?

That's how Frank Chopp gets down.

And that's exactly how Chopp was getting down when a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession died in the Washington Legislature last spring.

According to multiple, well-placed sources (both inside the Legislature and those observing), Chopp, through a lack of political will and leadership, is the legislator most responsible for the death of marijuana decrim in the last session. A reliable inside source, in a position to know, tells me Chopp doesn't want to force a "controversial" marijuana decrim vote by the entire Legislature, because he doesn't want to force fellow Democrats (in the majority) to vote on pot any time before the 2010 elections.

The dude has a commanding Democratic majority in the state legislature, yet seems eerily unwilling to actually use that power to achieve progressive goals. Is that due to the fact that he's practically a sponsored candidate of the far-right Building Industries Association of Washington (BIAW), which funded both of Dino Rossi's reactionary (and unsuccessful) campaigns for Governor? Maybe. Chopp has worked with the BIAW to oppose consumer protection legislation supported by his own party.

"This is democracy at its worst," State Senator Brian Weinstein (D-Mercer Island) told The Stranger in a 2007 interview. "Here is one guy who overruled 30 Democratic senators and the Democratic House Judiciary Committee. There's no point in doing the fact finding, holding eight hours of hearings, of doing the right thing, if a dictator can just pull the rug out from under you."

"Weinstein went as far as to say Chopp killed the bill because he was sucking up to the BIAW," The Stranger's Josh Feit reported. According to Weinstein, Chopp wanted the BIAW on his side come election time to protect the Democratic majority. "And," Weinstein added derisively, "not do anything with it." (Chopp claims the BIAW had nothing to do with his decision.)

Democratic Rep. Brendan Williams (D-Olympia), who wore a defiant "No BIAW" pin to a Democratic holiday fundraising event in 2008, said he’s not running again because Chopp has neutered the Democratic agenda in Olympia by cozying up with the BIAW. Williams has been a major victim of Chopp’s alliance with the builders assocation: Two years in a row Williams’s homeowner bill of rights was killed at the last minute by Chopp. The BIAW was upset that homeowners would, my goodness, have the basic right to sue for faulty construction.

"Losing his majority" seems to be a deep and recurring fear for Chopp; it seems not to have occurred to the man that the reason he enjoys a big Democratic majority in the House is that maybe, just maybe, the voters support the Democratic agenda. His continual trumpeting of the "One Washington" theme sounds less like a yen for unity and more like a call for capitulation to conservatives. This is probably why Dominic Holden of Seattle alternative newspaper The Stranger has called Chopp a "feckless sissy."

The House Speaker has gone so far to appease the GOP that one prominent Demoractic State Senator, asked if Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna would be the Republican nominee for governor in 2012, replied, “Who knows? The GOP could run Chopp.”

Chopp's leadership style, or lack thereof, has been a growing source of controversy within progressive Democrats for some time now. Over and over, you see Chopp described as "the most powerful politician in the state," but you'd never guess it from his unwillingness to go out on a limb, to take a stand, to have a backbone.

This is frustrating for progressive Democratic voters who (over?)assume that having a liberal House Speaker like Chopp would result in more progressive advances. Granted, Chopp has passed the estate tax, collective bargaining for state employees, a housing trust fund, the highest minimum wage in the country, opportunity grants for college tuition, and other achievements.

But edge a little farther out the progressive limb and it doesn't take long to run into a laundry list of disappointments. Progressive wish-list items like environmental protections on Maury Island, payday-loan guidelines to protect low-income borrowers (which even Georgia has), ratcheting down the more than 400 lucrative tax loopholes handed out by the state to corporations... all unfulfilled promises, all due to Chopp's failure, despite wide party and voter support, to make it happen.

Labor unions, disappointed by Chopp's (and Gov. Chris Gregoire's) failure to bring the Workers Privacy Act (WPA) to a vote in the 2009 session, in an unprecedented move, declined to endorse any candidates this year. (The WPA supports First Amendment privacy rights of individual conscience, including opinions about politics, religion, unionization, and charitable giving. The WPA would have made sure that employees who resist any indoctrination of this kind by their employers would not be punished, and was unanimously approved by the state Democratic Party.)

Chopp, who grew up in Bremerton, likes to describe himself as a "Bremerton Democrat" (translation: "I'm almost like Norm Dicks. Besides, I don't smoke pot; I drink beer. Vote for me, please!"), presumably to distance himself from the "effete Seattle liberal" image that scares him so badly ("One Washington," remember?) Basing public policy on fear of what the conservative, largely rural, eastern Washington might think seems to be Chopp's mode of operation.

Chopp "repeatedly refused to provide any responses to citizens on the issues through the 2008 Political Courage Test when asked to do so by national leaders of the political parties, prominent members of the media, Project Vote Smart President Richard Kimball, and Project Vote Smart staff," according to Project Vote Smart. That would require, like, taking a stand, you know?

But it is perhaps telling that a few years ago Chopp, in the "Washington Gubernatorial Election 1996 National Political Awareness Test," wouldn't list marijuana decrim as a cause he supported:
Chart: Project Vote Smart

The 400 Dollar Man

Even Chopp's own constituents seem, well, unenthusiastic about him, at least when it comes to campaign donations.

In 2004, Chopp raised $91,585.80 for his reelection campaign -- but only an embarrassing $400 came from residents from his own district -- a total of three of them. The lion's share is from corporations, PACs and unions. Most of the rest is from individuals who live outside the district.

By way of contrast, Chopp's district mate, Ed Murray (who, unlike Chopp, was running essentially unopposed) got plenty of contributions from district residents.

Playing It Safe? Really?

The richly ironic thing is, Frank Chopp thinks he's playing it safe by not letting the Dems vote on marijuana decrim -- when, in fact, he's dangerously out of step with the people of Washington on this issue.

A recent poll shows a whopping 81 percent of Washington voters believe the state's pot laws are not working. Alison Holcomb, director of the ACLU of Washington's Drug Policy Project, says public opinion is firmly behind pot decrim.

Yet Chopp's timidity on the marijuana issue kept the bill (whose prime sponsor in the House was Rep. Dave Upthegrove of south King County) from moving forward. What, exactly, must we do to convince Chopp to actually lead, rather than dodge furtively about in the shadows like a spooked quail?

Marijuana Laws Cost Us, Big Time: At Least $177 Million Per Year (and counting)


Rep. Brendan Williams of Olympia, one of the decrim bill's co-sponsors, used the cost-saving argument, vainly hoping hidebound conservative legislators would be attracted by fiscal responsibility. "Do you choose to provide health care for x number of children, or fund criminalizing marijuana possession?", he reasonably asked, citing a cost analysis of marijuana arrests taken from Washington State Institute for Public Policy data showing, based on the number of arrests in 2007, Washington would save at least $7.5 million by decriminalizing pot.

Throw in the $170 million the state of Washington wastes each year enforcing its futile and outdated marijuana laws -- which have no impact on marijuana use, according to the most extensive study ever undertaken on marijuana arrests -- and pretty soon you're talking real money.

And what do Washington's citizens get for their $177 million a year? Well, marijuana arrests, lots of them: 16,473 in 2007 -- 90 percent (14,766) of which were for simple possession (which would be decriminalized under the bill in question). Marijuana arrests accounted for almost half (48%) of all drug arrests in Washington during 2007.

Remember: The state of Washington is dealing with a $9 billion shortfall this year, yet somehow, even while cutting vital educational services, parks, and health care, finds money to bust pot smokers.

But I guess a paltry few million here and there doesn't mean a lot to the man who supports a project as monstrously expensive as what has been dubbed the "Choppway" or "Choppaduct" to replace Seattle's aging Viaduct -- even though voters in Chopp's district rejected an "elevated rebuild" by a convincing 73 percent.

The decrim bill would reduce the penalty for possessing up to 40 grams of marijuana to a civil infraction, subject to a $100 fine. Under current state law in Washington, having even one joint is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail. (A similar measure passed by a 30-point margin in a Massachusetts voter initiative last year.)

The bill almost immediately hit a roadblock after being introduced in January 2009. Rep. Chris Hurst of Enumclaw (office telephone 360-786-7866), a former narcotics officer(!) who chairs the Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Committee, refused to give the bill a hearing. Ex-cop Hurst claimed he actually "supports" decrim, but said Washington state "should not act ahead of the federal government."

In fact that has never -- even once -- been a problem in the 13 states, including even Mississippi, that have decriminalized. Besides, according to Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), an attorney and former head of the King County Bar Association's Drug Policy Project, "Federal law clearly allows the states to prescribe their own penalties, whether civil or criminal."

Make no mistake about it: If House Speaker Frank Chopp had demonstrated a little leadership (or cojones) on this issue, he could have asked Hurst to pass the decrim bill out of committee. But he didn't... which brings us back to the case of the missing balls.

Will Frank Chopp Ever Grow A Pair?

Not unless his constituents (that's you, the voters) insist upon it; growth isn't always easy or comfortable. But if you make opposing marijuana decrim more uncomfortable for Frank Chopp than supporting it, he'll come around. It's amazing how fast these things can sprout once they get some proper support. (No, I'm not suggesting you think of yourself as a jockstrap.)

Call or write Rep. Chopp's office (contact info at bottom) and let him know that you, like the majority of Washingtonians, support decriminalizing marijuana.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D- Seattle, has authored legislation making possession of 40 grams or less of marijuana a civil infraction rather than a misdemeanor. Though the bill didn't get far last session (thanks in large part to Frank Chopp), Sen. Kohl-Welles plans on once again pushing it hard when the Legislature gets to work in 2010.

A matching bill will once again be introduced in the State House, where it has considerable Democratic support. “It will definitely be debated,” said Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, D-Lynnwood, who supports decriminalizing marijuana use and co-sponsored the House bill last spring.

This legislation is getting talked about among lawmakers seeking ways of cutting costs in the face of a $2 billion hole in the current budget, according to the Everett Herald-Net.

We all owe a big thanks to the members of the State Senate Judiciary Committee (which passed it 5-3 last spring) who supported the bill. The members of the committee who voted to pass were prime sponsor Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Committee Chair Sen. Adam Kline, Committee Vice Chair Sen. Debbie Regala, and the eloquent, intelligent and articulate Sen. Rodney Tom, all Democrats; and Republican Sen. Bob McCaslin, who bravely crossed party lines to make this a bipartisan effort.

On the other hand, Sen. Jim Hargrove and Sen. Pam Roach, along with Sen. Mike Carrell (the three Senate committee members who voted against the bill), proved that they don't mind wasting millions of your tax dollars on futile, pointless and cruel marijuana enforcement. Vote these clowns out of office next chance you get.

Contact Info For House Speaker Frank Chopp's Office

Call Speaker Chopp's office and let him know you support marijuana decrim.
(Etiquette hint: it's probably best not to talk about the missing balls.)

Rep. Frank Chopp
P.O. Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7920
E-mail Representative Chopp
District/Position: 43/2 (Democrat)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Big Brother Watching? Pot Dispensaries Appeal Court Order To Turn Over Client Names

Watching you? (Photo by LiveBloid, Wikimedia Commons)

By Steve Elliott in Chronic City

Five medical marijuana dispensaries in Dana Point, Calif., are appealing an Orange County Superior Court ruling ordering them to turn over records -- including client lists -- to the city as part of an investigation into dispensary operations.

"I think everyone kind of had the same idea about appealing the order for the reason of protecting third-party names and some of the privileged items that we believe shouldn't be disclosed," attorney Lee Petros, representing the Point Alternative Care dispensary, told the Orange County Register.

All five pot dispensaries in Dana Point must hand over their records to the city by Dec. 7, according to a ruling by Judge Glenda Sanders. Sanders also ordered the disclosure of member names to be limited to city attorneys, a financial consultant retained for advice in the investigation, and the assistant city manager, "who will oversee and assist the consultant in his analysis," according to the Register.

Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Policy Project hopes the appeal succeeds. "For city officials to be allowed to receive confidential medical information for what appears to be a fishing expedition would be an extremely dangerous precedent," Mirken told me. "It would be nice if patients could have complete trust in their local officials, but they don't, and for good reason."

Read the rest at Chronic City in the SF Weekly blog, "The Snitch": Chronic City: Pot Dispensaries Appeal Order To Turn Over Client Names

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

American Medical Association Reverses Position, Calls For Review Of Medical Marijuana

Coming to a dispensary near you (Photo by Coaster 420, Wikimedia Commons)

By Steve Elliott in Chronic City

For years, one of the main arrows in the quiver of anti-pot zealots in arguing against medical marijuana (along with the federal pot prohibition, recently blunted by the Obama Administration) has been "But the American Medical Association says pot has no medical value." As of today, that's no longer true.

In a move considered historic by supporters of medical marijuana, the AMA voted today to reverse its long-held position that marijuana should continue to be classified under federal law as a Schedule I substance with no medical value. The organization, which is the largest physician-based group in the United States, adopted a report, "Use of Cannabis for Medicinal Purposes," drafted by the AMA Council on Science and Public Health (CSAPH), which affirms the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana and calls for further research.

The CSAPH report concludes that "short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis."

And in a move that could eventually have enormous public policy repercussions, the physicians' group urges that "the Schedule I status of marijuana be reviewed with the goal of facilitating clinical research and development of cannabinoid-based medicines, and alternate delivery methods."

Read the rest at Chronic City in the SF Weekly blog, "The Snitch": Chronic City: American Medical Association Reverses Position, Calls For Review of Medical Pot

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy 66th Birthday To Joni Mitchell

Happy 66th birthday to the beautiful and wonderful Joni Mitchell, born November 7, 1943!

"Back then, I didn't have a big organization around me. I was just a kid with a guitar, traveling around. My responsibility basically was to the art, and I had extra time on my hands. There is no extra time now. There isn't enough time." ~ Joni Mitchell

"Sorrow is so easy to express and yet so hard to tell. " ~ Joni Mitchell

With David Crosby about 1968

With Graham Nash, Big Sur Folk Festival, 1969

"There are things to confess that enrich the world, and things that need not be said." ~ Joni Mitchell

"This is a nation that has lost the ability to be self-critical, and that makes a lie out of the freedoms." ~ Joni Mitchell

"You could write a song about some kind of emotional problem you are having, but it would not be a good song, in my eyes, until it went through a period of sensitivity to a moment of clarity. Without that moment of clarity to contribute to the song, it's just complaining." ~ Joni Mitchell

"“All I really, really want our love to do is to bring out the best in me and in you too.” ~ Joni Mitchell

“I want to have fun. I want to shine like the sun. I want to be the one that you want to see. I want to knit you a sweater. I want to write you a love letter. I want to make you feel better. I want to make you feel free.”
~ Joni Mitchell

“I love you when I forget about me.” ~ Joni Mitchell

“Do you see how you hurt me, baby? So I hurt you too. Then we both get so blue. I am on a lonely road and I am traveling, looking for the key to set me free.”
~ Joni Mitchell

“But you're bound to lose
If you let the blues
get you scared to feel”
~ Joni Mitchell

“When I think of your kisses my mind see-saws.” ~ Joni Mitchell

“Oh, the jealousy, the greed is the unraveling. It's the unraveling and it undoes all the joy that could be.” ~ Joni Mitchell

“You know that it never has been easy/ Whether you do or do not resign/ Whether you travel the breadth of the extremities/ Or stick to some straighter line.” ~ Joni Mitchell

“Tears and fears and feeling proud to say 'I love you' right out loud.” ~ Joni Mitchell

With Neil Young

“I've looked at life from both sides now/ From win and lose and still somehow/ It's life's illusions I recall/ I really don't know life at all.” ~ Joni Mitchell

“I remember that time you told me, you said
"Love is touching souls."
Surely you touched mine
'Cause part of you pours out of me
In these lines from time to time.
You're in my blood like holy wine,
You taste so bitter and so sweet.”

~ Joni Mitchell

“You're in my blood like holy wine,
You taste so bitter and so sweet.
I could drink a case of you darling
Still I'd be on my feet.
I would still be on my feet.”

~ Joni Mitchell

“They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot,
With a pink hotel,
A boutique, and a swinging hot spot.”
~ Joni Mitchell

"We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." ~ Joni Mitchell

"And maybe it's the time of year. Yes, and maybe it's the time of man. And I don't know who I am, but life is for learning." ~ Joni Mitchell

"Got to get back to the land and set my soul free ." ~ Joni Mitchell

“And the seasons, they go round and round,/ And the painted ponies go up and down./ We're captive on the carousel of time.”
~ Joni Mitchell

"I learned a woman is never an old woman. " ~ Joni Mitchell

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Marijuana Arrests Have No Impact On Usage; Washington State Wastes $170 Million A Year

The most extensive study yet undertaken on U.S. marijuana arrests and penalties, released today, finds no relationship between marijuana arrest and use rates. The report further finds that current penalty structures act as a price support mechanism that boosts the illegal market.

Assembled by Jon Gettman, adjunct assistant professor in criminal justice at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., the new report says:

• Marijuana arrests have almost doubled since 1991 -- but levels of marijuana use have remained fundamentally unchanged

• Penalties that increase for larger amounts of marijuana encourage consumers to make multiple small purchases, acting as a de facto price support for the illicit market

• Florida has the nation's harshest marijuana penalties, while the District of Columbia has the highest arrest rate for marijuana offenses

• Although African Americans use marijuana at a rate only about 25 percent higher than whites, blacks are almost three times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession as whites

Washington state: Harsh penalties, $170 million per year wasted on marijuana enforcement

• There were 16,473 arrests for marijuana offenses in Washington in 2007, representing an arrest rate of 255 per 100,000, which ranks Washington at number 26 in the nation

• There were an estimated 630,000 past year marijuana users in Washington during 2007. Reconciling this estimate with the
number of arrests for marijuana offenses provides an arrest rate of 2,615 per 100,000 users, which ranks Washington at number 34 in the nation

• In terms of overall severity of maximum sentences for marijuana possession, Washington's penalties are rather stiff, ranking number 8 in the nation (based on penalties for a first offense). When it comes to penalties for just under 1 ounce of marijuana, Washington is ranked at number 8 (because of similarities between states there are only 12 rankings in this category).

• Marijuana possession arrests accounted for 90% of all marijuana arrests in Washington during 2007. (Nationally, marijuana possession arrests account for 89% of all marijuana arrests.)

• There were 14,766 arrests for marijuana possession in Washington in 2007, and 1,707 arrests for marijuana sales.

• The arrest rate for marijuana possession in Washington was 228 per 100,000 for 2007, while the arrest rate for marijuana sales was 26.

• Marijuana arrests accounted for 48% of all drug arrests in Washington during 2007.

• Marijuana arrests in Washington increased from 14,726 in 2003 to 16,473 in 2007. The arrest rate in 2003 was 240 per 100,000 while in 2007 it was 255.

• Marijuana arrests cost $169.39 million in Washington for 2006.

• There were 630,000 annual marijuana users in Washington during 2007, of which 397,000 reported marijuana use in the past month.

For more details, see the Washington state report [PDF]).

Populous King County leads the state in number of marijuana arrests. But statistically, Garfield County is by far the worst place in the state to live if you're a pothead. Marijuana arrest rates there are almost double anywhere else in Washington...

...That is, unless you're a black pothead. In which case, you rrrreally don't wanna live in Lincoln County -- where marijuana arrest rates of blacks are more than four times that of any other county in the state. Selective enforcement, anyone?

MPP's Rob Kampia: "a failed policy... doing nothing but harm" (Photo: Marijuana Policy Project)

"These figures paint a devastating portrait of a failed policy that burns through tax dollars while doing nothing but harm," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) in Washington, D.C. "Most Americans agree that marijuana prohibition doesn't work, even if most politicians aren't yet ready to publicly agree with their constituents."

Gettman's summary report is available here: Marijuana Arrests in the United States (2007).

The full Marijuana Policy Almanac includes state rankings and individual reports for all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.

Chronic City: Academic Study Shows Marijuana Arrests Have No Impact On Usage Rates

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Maine Votes “Yes” On Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

This scene, from a Sacramento, CA dispensary, is coming to Maine soon. (Photo: Sacramento Bee)

Becomes 3rd State to License Medical Marijuana Providers; Vote Seen as Latest Advance Spurred by Obama Policy

In a landmark vote, Maine voters today approved Question 5, making the state the third in the country to license nonprofit organizations to provide medical marijuana to qualified patients and the first ever to do so by a vote of the people. With 49 percent of the vote tallied, the measure was cruising to an easy win with 60.2 percent voting “yes” and 39.8 percent voting “no.”

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

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

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

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

A Maine law approved in 1999 by public referendum allowed an individual suffering from one of four specific conditions to grow, possess and use small amounts of marijuana if a physician determines the effect of the drug may be beneficial.

Campaign manager Jonathan Leavitt of the organization Maine Citizens for Patient Rights told the Bangor Daily News earlier Tuesday evening that he was confident Mainers would approve the measure.

“This confirms what our polling has told us all along,” he said. Leavitt said he expected some advantage in the southern part of the state, but “only a small percentage.”

Leavitt acknowledged that his group had run a low-profile campaign. “The credibility of this issue is so strong, we didn’t need to convince anyone that this was the right thing to do,” Leavitt said.

Big Surprise: Pot-Hating Cops Whine About Outcome

Question 5 passed despite being opposed by the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Maine Office of Substance Abuse, the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Maine Prosecutors Association.

As usual, there was some sour-grapes whining from pot-phobic cops. Kennebec County District Attorney Evert Fowle, who also is president of the Maine Prosecutors Association, told the Bangor Daily News Tuesday night the measure would prove difficult to enforce because of its complexity and breadth.

“It’s a very poor law,” he said. “This was written by self-proclaimed marijuana activists. … The ultimate goal of the people behind this law is to legalize marijuana.”

Regardless, he added, “We’ll do our best to make this law work and respect the will of the voters.”

Make sure you do that, Evert.

Marijuana Policy Project

With more than 29,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit MarijuanaPolicy.Org

N. California's Top Federal Prosecutor: 'Really Not A Change At All' In Medical Pot Enforcement

By Steve Elliott in Chronic City

​Ah, "guidelines." They're a little more lax than "rules," which are a little looser than "laws." When it comes to guidelines, that's their strength -- and that's their weakness. Whereas laws and rules are "broken," guidelines can simply be "ignored."

That truism is abundantly illustrated by this week's statements from George W. Bush appointee Joseph Russoniello, federal prosecutor for the northern district of California. "I think it's unfortunate that people have for some reason picked up on this as a change in policy," Russoniello told Mission Local, "because it's really not a change at all."

When asked if federal officials will halt investigation, prosecution, and Drug Enforcement Agency raids of medical marijuana operations in California, Russoniello replied, "The short answer is no."

An Oct. 19 memo from Deputy Attorney General David Ogden told federal prosecutors in California and the other 13 states that have legalized medical marijuana that law enforcement should focus their efforts on major drug trafficking networks, rather than patients and providers "in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws."

Read the rest at Chronic City in the SF Weekly blog, "The Snitch": Chronic City: N. California's Top Federal Prosecutor -- 'Really Not A Change At All' In Medical Pot Enforcement | Digg story