Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Richest One Percent Moves to Kill Medical Marijuana in Florida — Again

by David Downs
Tue, Apr 26, 2016 at 9:42 AM

We recently wrote about how U.S. medical and recreational legalization efforts this election cycle are “dangerously overextended.” Many campaigns have very little cash and will fail if opposition donors mount a serious effort.

That appears to be happening in Florida, where activists at United For Care are working to pass a medical-marijuana initiative, after failing to gather a 60 percent majority vote in 2014.

On Friday, billionaire drug war profiteer Mel Sembler vowed to raise $10 million to defeat Measure 2.

Sembler told a Florida reporter that: “We’re trying to save lives and people’s brains,” the Drug Free America founder said. “It’s not a medicine.”
GOP mogul and pot war profiteer Mel Sembler
  • GOP mogul and pot war profiteer Mel Sembler

Sembler’s criteria for opposing medical marijuana appear to lack any rational basis beyond the profit motive. 

States with medical cannabis laws have 25 percent less opioid overdoses than those without, and Florida is in the grips of a raging prescription pill overdose epidemic. Medical-cannabis legalization is also associated with reductions in road fatalities, and does not increase teen use, research shows.

Cannabis’ medical use is supported by a majority of U.S. doctors; 56 percent support full legalization. Twenty-four states now have medical-cannabis laws, covering hundreds of millions of people.

Sembler did not respond to requests for comment.

United for Care did not respond to questions about its viability as of press time this morning. United for Care’s John Morgan wrote in a fundraising email to followers:

“I've got a message for Mel Sembler: BRING. IT. ON. No amount of money and lies are going to stop us from winning this time. We will pass Amendment 2 in November. We will bring compassion to Florida. We will match their lies with the truth about medical marijuana.”

Approximately 65-68 percent of Floridians support medical cannabis, two polls show.

But experts say attack ads will peel away supporters, and getting them back can take four times as much money to counter negative ad spending. Opposition ads promise to be apocalyptic in the opioid-epidemic-ridden Southern state.  Opponents of medical-cannabis legalization in 2014 told voters that edibles would be the new teen date-rape drug if Florida legalized medical cannabis.

If Sembler succeeds, it will add fuel the populist streak in American culture — where just one member of the richest one percent can defeat the majority will of 20 million people.

In 2014, a 58 percent majority of Floridians supported medical-cannabis legalization, but Sembler’s spending prevented activists from obtaining the super-majority 60 percent needed to pass the initiative.

The governors in Arizona and Massachusetts have also asked Sembler for money, reports state.

In 2012, The Nation magazine called the strip mall developer Sembler the GOP Mogul behind drug treatment “torture” centers shut down for child abuse allegations. Sembler has taken hundreds of thousands of federal tax dollars to push workplace drug testing. And Sembler’s government-enabled chain of mandatory pot rehab clinics was forced to close after investigations and lawsuits began to mount in several states.

"The Semblers have been waging a war on marijuana for decades.

Before they led Save Our Society from Drugs, and its sister nonprofit, the Drug Free America Foundation, the Semblers were at the helm of STRAIGHT, Inc., which operated drug abuse treatment centers, mostly for teenagers, from 1976 through 1993. 

Former clients of the rehab center recount episodes of brutal beatings, rape and systematic psychological abuse.”

“Though the STRAIGHT drug rehab clinic no longer exist, the Sembler network of anti-drug nonprofits have proliferated, in part because of the family’s extensive political connections. Mel, who served as a major fundraiser for George H.W., Jeb and George W. Bush, was appointed as the Ambassador to Italy in 2001. Betty Sembler, awarded “honorary agent status by the DEA,” has led various anti-drug commissions and task forces on the state and federal level.”

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Canada May Fully Legalize Marijuana by Spring 2017

by David Downs
Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 12:46 PM

Legal in Canada in 2017, maybe.
  • Legal in Canada in 2017, maybe.
Our calm, rational neighbors to the North may begin legalizing cannabis for all adults as early as the spring of 2017.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Canada’s health minister Jane Philpott told a United Nations special session on drugs in New York recently that Canada's legalization push is designed to control access to cannabis, which is widely available under pot prohibition in North America. More and more groups are saying that prohibition has failed.

More …

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

New Group 'Doctors For Cannabis Regulation' Is Going to Euthanize the War on Weed

by David Downs
Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 1:52 PM

Dr. David Nathan.
  • Dr. David Nathan.
You don’t have to be pro-marijuana to oppose the harms of prohibition — just ask a new group of leading doctors dealing a devastating blow to the drug war.

Former US Surgeon General Dr. Jocelyn Elders, integrative medicine pioneer Dr. Andrew Weil, and professors from top medical schools have teamed up to create the nation’s first doctors group to advocate for cannabis’ legalization and regulation.

Doctors for Cannabis Regulation debuted Monday with a press conference and included the most credible line-up of physician voices on cannabis policy ever assembled.

Dr. Jocelyn Elders.
  • Dr. Jocelyn Elders.
The group includes: Dr. H. Westley Clark, former director of the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment; Dr. David Lewis, founder of Brown University's Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies and professor emeritus of community health and medicine, Brown University Alpert Medical School; Dr. Chris Beyrer, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Public Health and Human Rights; and Dr. David Nathan, founder and president of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation.

The group has incredible intellectual power and scientific authority to counter claims from the prison-industrial complex that legalizing cannabis will harm public health. Today, the New York Times reported on how police and establishment politicians are trying to pervert the FDA-caused opioid overdose crisis into the basis for opposing cannabis regulations. (Cannabis has no functional overdose and one of the lowest dependence profiles of any drug. Meanwhile, fifty Americans will die today from overdoses of Vicodin, Oxycontin and other prescription opioids. The overdose epidemic is so bad, it has started dragging down the life expectancies for whites.)

A 2015 MedScape survey found 59 percent of doctors favor total legalization. This week, I reported for Scientific American that cannabis' Schedule 1 designation by the Drug Enforcement Administration has become impervious to the broad opinion of scientists and doctors.


Criminal sanctions for cannabis use vastly outweighs the harms of its abuse, DCR member Dr. Clark stated in a press release.

“The potential for marijuana abuse is a serious issue, especially among our nation’s youth. And especially at a time when very powerful strains of cannabis and concentrates are available that simply didn’t exist in the past. But the consequences of being convicted under current marijuana laws are lifelong and severe, and it is beyond dispute that African Americans and Hispanics are disproportionately affected. Legalizing and regulating cannabis goes a long way towards addressing the incarceration epidemic in this country, as well as enabling research into the public health ramifications of this wide variety of cannabis."

In February, the California Medical Association came out in favor of the Adult Ue of Marijuana Act, which should appear on California's ballot this fall. The American Medical Association — which is currently opposed to cannabis legalization for adults — should follow suit, stated Dr. Lewis.

"The medical profession should join with the public to design a safe and effective public health approach to legalizing marijuana use. Our over-reliance on the criminal justice system has caused needless harm to thousands of families without meetings its goals. The public already ‘gets it’ that the war on drugs has failed. As always, we physicians are obligated to explain all the scientifically-proven risks of using marijuana to our patients, their families and to the public."

Doctors have stood by as the drug war has destroyed millions of lives. Their tacit support for the drug war, and ongoing inaction amounts to negligence under the Hippocratic Oath, stated Dr. Breyer.

"As physicians we have a professional obligation to do no harm. The prohibitionist policies of the last five decades have directly and indirectly contributed to lethal violence, disease, discrimination, forced displacement, injustice and the undermining of people’s right to health. Current cannabis laws are based on ideas about drug use and drug dependence that are not scientifically grounded. They need to change, and doctors must participate in that process as stewards of the public health."
As calls for the DEA to reschedule cannabis reach a fever pitch, it’s time for doctors to truly lead the conversation and help put science above the politics of marijuana — which are rooted in racism, culture wars, bureaucratic doublespeak, and profiteering by drug testing companies, private prisons, and police unions.

Doctors for Cannabis Regulation president Dr. David Nathan stated:
”Doctors for Cannabis Regulation is an organization whose time has come. Just as public support for cannabis legalization has been growing for the past 40 years, physicians are now increasingly willing to voice their pro-legalization views. Because no national organization has existed to represent them, however, there has often been a vacant seat at the table when legalization and regulation are debated. DFCR is a clarion call for physicians everywhere who want to promote the public health by advocating for smart government regulation of cannabis."

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Medical Marijuana Providers Score Major Victory in Federal Court

by David Downs
Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 10:54 AM

Lynnette Shaw
  • Lynnette Shaw
The federal war on legal medical marijuana providers is paused for now, thanks to a major legal victory in California.

Lynnette Shaw, who is one of California’s oldest dispensary operators prevailed Wednesday in her bid to overturn a nineteen year-old civil injunction barring her from the cannabis trade for life. Shaw won using the argument that Congressional law now forbids the Department of Justice from spending a single cent interfering with state-legal medical cannabis businesses.

In October, a District Judge sided with Shaw and called the government’s argument "tortured." The Department of Justice moved to appeal the decision in March. But the DOJ could see that they were losing the appeal, so on Wednesday, US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit granted the DOJ’s own motion to dismiss the case. Rather than continuing to pursue Shaw and potentially setting an even bigger legal precedent, the DOJ gave up the case. Shaw is now free to run a dispensary.

Licensed dispensary operators, edibles makers, and growers in the twenty-three states with medical pot laws can breathe easier today, legal experts said.

“This to me, I believe, is the end of the medical marijuana war,” Shaw said. “We are ending that war — starting now.”

"It’s hard to overstate the significance of this ruling," said Alex Zavell, a California medical marijuana regulatory expert with the Oakland law firm of Robert Raich.

In 2014, the US Congress de-funded the DOJ’s war on medical marijuana through the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment. The Amendment was renewed with even bigger Congressional support in 2015. The DOJ had hoped the courts would narrowly interpret the Amendment. They have not.

"[The case] means that so long as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment remains in effect, the Department of Justice will be barred from expending funds to target medical cannabis businesses that operate in compliance with state law," said Zavell.

"This is a victory for everybody," said Shaw.

The win is also very symbolic. Shaw’s injunction nineteen years ago was part of the first wave of federal intimidation of state-legal cannabis patients after California legalized medical marijuana in 1996. Since then, twenty-two other states have followed.

Shaw ran arguably the first lawful dispensary in California, with a permit from the city of Fairfax. In 2011, as part of the most recent federal crackdown, the DOJ used the old injunction to close her dispensary, the Marin Alliance of Medical Marijuana. The DOJ threatened to seize the property of Shaw's landlord.

The Obama Administration has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on similar federal interference operations in states with legal pot regimes. Governor Jerry Brown has criticized the operations of these "federal gendarmes" in California.

Shaw's legal team was led by attorney Greg Anton. Anton motioned to sue the government for monetary damages related to frivolous lawsuits, if the DOJ used the same failed argument in the Ninth Circuit that it used in District Court. As the April 19th deadline to file such an argument neared, the DOJ kept stalling, and then motioned to dismiss, said Shaw.

"All they had was the same argument, 'We don’t have to obey Congress. We don’t have to obey the constitution'," said Shaw.

Congressman Dana Rohrabacher also leaned on the DOJ, she said. Rohrabacher sent the Inspector General evidence that the DOJ was breaking federal law in the Shaw case.

"If they come after me, they can be arrested with a felony, from [Attorney General] Loretta Lynch on down," Shaw said.

Correction: the original version of this article misattributed the following quote to Lynette Shaw: “[The case] means that so long as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment remains in effect, the Department of Justice will be barred from expending funds to target medical cannabis businesses that operate in compliance with state law." The quote is attributed to Alex Zavell. The story also misidentified Zavell as a lawyer. Zavell is not an attorney.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Maine Legalization Is Back From the Dead

by David Downs
Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 10:08 AM

Legalization efforts are alive again in Maine. On Friday, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol announced that legalization efforts have been resurrected after a Superior Court judge ruled that state officials improperly disqualified a legalization ballot measure.

Scott Anderson and David Boyer from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. - CRMLA
  • Scott Anderson and David Boyer from the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.
Maine was percieved as one of the states most likely to legalize cannabis in the 2016 election until Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said March 2 that the Campaign had failed to gather the required 61,123 signatures needed to qualify the measure. Dunlap said the Campaign had fallen about 10,000 signatures short after his office invalidated more than 5,000 petition forms that included over 26,000 signatures.

More …

Friday, April 8, 2016

New White House Drug Czar: 'Treat Pot Like Tobacco'

by David Downs
Fri, Apr 8, 2016 at 11:54 AM

The White House’s drug czar Michael Botticelli — a recovering addict — is tempted by the delicious smell of cannabis while walking down the street in Washington DC, he told the New York Times Magazine, in a short Q&A that illustrates a potential new federal response to state marijuana legalization.

Michael Boticelli.
  • Michael Boticelli.
It’s no surprise Drug Czar Botticelli said he opposes marijuana legalization.

"I think that there is a middle ground where you can move people away from the criminal-justice system without some of the challenges that might come along with legalization," he told Ana Maria Cox, in the interview published Wednesday.

More …

Thursday, April 7, 2016

2016's Pot Legalization Efforts Are 'Dangerously Overextended'

by David Downs
Thu, Apr 7, 2016 at 12:35 PM

Up to 96 million Americans could live in states that legalized medical marijuana or recreational cannabis this November — but that’s not going to happen if supporters, allies and industry don’t pitch in, experts warned Wednesday.

Marijuana law reform efforts in California, Nevada, Arizona, Massachusetts, Maine, Florida, Arkansas, Missouri and Ohio in 2016 are "dangerously over-extended," said Ellen Flenniken, of the Drug Policy Alliance in a webinar Wednesday. "This is what keeps me up at night."

A string of 2016 losses "could debilitate us for years," said Drug Policy Alliance's Tamar Todd, in the webinar titled "DPA: California’s path to legalizing cannabis." The webinar was hosted by the pot tech company MJ Freeway.

Won't Legalize Itself: Medical and adult-use pot law reform efforts are over-extended nationwide. - BROOKINGS INSTITUTION
  • Brookings Institution
  • Won't Legalize Itself: Medical and adult-use pot law reform efforts are over-extended nationwide.

More …

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Marijuana Could Lose Its Federal 'Most Dangerous Drug' Status By June

by David Downs
Wed, Apr 6, 2016 at 2:15 PM

"Dutch Crunch" medical marijuana
  • "Dutch Crunch" medical marijuana
Marijuana could shed its federal designation as one the world’s most dangerous drugs as early as this summer, a new memo has revealed.

Currently marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug, lumped with heroin and cocaine as having no accepted medical use, and a high potential for abuse. The US Drug Enforcement Administration could decide to change marijuana’s status "in the first half of 2016," according to a memo the DEA sent to lawmakers today.

Downgrading pot from Schedule I — where it’s been since 1970 — to a lower level could allow for easier medical research on cannabis. Many close observers of the DEA don't expect the administration to fully de-schedule cannabis, however, because its leadership remains hostile to marijuana. The DEA's chief Chuck Rosenberg called medical marijuana a "joke" in 2015. As a result of his comment, more than 150,000 people have signed a petition to fire Rosenberg.

More …

Friday, April 1, 2016

Ohio Could Have Medical Marijuana by November

by David Downs
Fri, Apr 1, 2016 at 12:29 PM

Ohio, a pivotal midwestern state for the medical marijuana movement, may again vote on medical pot legalization in November. And strong voter sentiment, coupled with a professional, if last-minute campaign, is increasing the chances that the swing state of twelve million people will vote yes.

More …

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