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Press Release: Medical Marijuana Heads to House Floor as Ways and Means Committee Passes Bill, 10-8

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
MAY 12, 2009

Medical Marijuana Heads to House Floor as Ways and Means Committee Passes Bill, 10-8
Passage Sets Up First-Ever House Floor Vote on Medical Marijuana

CONTACT: Former Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover)......................................................(763) 439-1178

ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- The House version of Minnesota's medical marijuana bill, H.F. 292, now moves to the House floor after clearing its final committee last night, passing the Ways and Means Committee, 10 to 8. Companion legislation has already passed the Senate.

     Rep. Tom Rukavina (DFL-Virginia), sponsor of the bill, said, "I have been pleased with the increasing support in the latest committees. Public support for protecting patients who need medical marijuana is overwhelming, and the scientific evidence is clear that this really can help some very sick people. This is going to be the year that Minnesota joins the 13 states that have already acted to protect medical marijuana patients from arrest."

     Medical marijuana bills are now moving forward in a number of states, including Illinois, New Jersey and New Hampshire, where medical marijuana legislation has passed both legislative houses and is awaiting a conference committee to reconcile differences. Rhode Island legislators are presently considering a measure to expand that state's medical marijuana law, first adopted in 2006.

     Thirteen states, comprising approximately one-quarter of the U.S. population, now permit medical use of marijuana under state law if a physician has recommended it. The newest such law was enacted by Michigan voters last November, passing with a record-setting 63 percent "yes" vote.

     Medical organizations which have recognized marijuana's medical uses include the American Public Health Association, American Nurses Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, and American College of Physicians, which noted "marijuana's proven efficacy at treating certain symptoms and its relatively low toxicity," in a statement issued last year.

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Location: 
St. Paul, MN
United States

DrugSense ALERT: #402 Governor Asks: What If Pot's Legal and Taxed?

DrugSense FOCUS Alert #402 - Monday, 11 May 2009 Last Wednesday morning the readers of the The Sacramento Bee were treated to the front page article, below. Since then the press articles and editorial page content have been slowly increasing. The items can be accessed at http://www.mapinc.org/people/Schwarzenegger. The news clippings are worthy of letters to the editor. As this is sent the largest California newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, has not mentioned Governor Schwarzenegger' comments. Thus a message to the newspaper may also be appropriate. See http://drugsense.org/url/bc7El3Yo for contact details. ********************************************************************** GOVERNOR ASKS: WHAT IF POT'S LEGAL AND TAXED? As California struggles to find cash, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday it's time to study whether to legalize and tax marijuana for recreational use. The Republican governor did not support legalization - and the federal government still bans marijuana use - but advocates hailed the fact that Schwarzenegger endorsed studying a once-taboo political subject. "Well, I think it's not time for ( legalization ), but I think it's time for a debate," Schwarzenegger said. "I think all of those ideas of creating extra revenues, I'm always for an open debate on it. And I think we ought to study very carefully what other countries are doing that have legalized marijuana and other drugs, what effect did it have on those countries?" Schwarzenegger was at a fire safety event in Davis when he answered a question about a recent Field Poll showing 56 percent of registered voters support legalizing and taxing marijuana to raise revenue for cash-strapped California. Voters in 1996 authorized marijuana for medical purposes. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, has written legislation to allow the legal sale of marijuana to adults 21 years and older for recreational use. His Assembly Bill 390 would charge cannibis wholesalers initial and annual flat fees, while retailers would pay $50 per ounce to the state. The proposal would ban cannibis near schools and prohibit smoking marijuana in public places. Marijuana legalization would raise an estimated $1.34 billion annually in tax revenue, according to a February estimate by the Board of Equalization. That amount could be offset by a reduction in cigarette or alcohol sales if consumers use marijuana as a substitute. Besides raising additional tax revenue, the state could save money on law enforcement costs, Ammiano believes. But he shelved the bill until next year because it remains controversial in the Capitol, according to his spokesman, Quintin Mecke. "We're certainly in full agreement with the governor," Mecke said. "I think it's a great opportunity. I think he's also being very realistic about understanding sort of the overall context, not only economically but otherwise." Schwarzenegger previously has shown a casual attitude toward marijuana. He was filmed smoking a joint in the 1977 film, "Pumping Iron." And he told the British version of GQ in 2007, "That is not a drug. It's a leaf." Spokesman Aaron McLear downplayed the governor's comment as a joke at the time. Even if California were to legalize marijuana, the state would hit a roadblock with the federal government, which prohibits its use. Ammiano hopes for a shift in federal policy, but President Barack Obama said in March he doesn't think legalization is a good strategy. Any study would find plenty of arguments, judging by responses Tuesday. Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, said he's open to a study, but he remains opposed to legalization. He warned that society could bear significant burdens. He downplayed enforcement and incarceration savings because he believes drug courts are already effective in removing low-level offenders from the system. "Studies have shown there is impairment with marijuana use," DeVore said. "People can get paranoid, can lose some of their initiative to work, and we don't live in some idealized libertarian society where every person is responsible completely to himself. We live in a society where the cost of your poor decisions are borne by your fellow taxpayers." But Bruce Merkin of the Marijuana Policy Project said studies show alcohol has worse effects on users than marijuana in terms of addiction and long-term effects. His group believes marijuana should be regulated and taxed just like alcoholic beverages. "There are reams of scientific data that show marijuana is less harmful than alcohol," Merkin said. "Just look at the brain of an alcoholic. In an autopsy, you wouldn't need a microscope to see the damage. Marijuana doesn't do anything like that." Schwarzenegger said he would like to see results from Europe as part of a study. The Austrian parliament last year authorized cultivation of medical marijuana. But Schwarzenegger talked with a police officer in his hometown of Graz and found the liberalization was not fully supported, McLear said. "It could very well be that everyone is happy with that decision and then we could move to that," Schwarzenegger said. "If not, we shouldn't do it. But just because of raising revenues ... we have to be careful not to make mistakes at the same time." ********************************************************************** PLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTER Please post copies of your letters to the sent letter list ( sentlte@mapinc.org ) if you are subscribed. Subscribing to the Sent LTE list will help you to review other sent LTEs and perhaps come up with new ideas or approaches. To subscribe to the Sent LTE mailing list see http://www.mapinc.org/lists/index.htm#form Suggestions for writing LTEs are at our Media Activism Center http://www.mapinc.org/resource/#guides ********************************************************************** Prepared by: Richard Lake, Senior Editor www.mapinc.org === . DrugSense provides many services at no charge, but they are not free to produce. Your contributions make DrugSense and its Media Awareness Project (MAP) happen. Please donate today. Our secure Web server at http://www.drugsense.org/donate.htm accepts credit cards and Paypal. Or, mail your check or money order to: DrugSense 14252 Culver Drive #328 Irvine, CA 92604-0326 (800) 266 5759 . DrugSense is a 501c(3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the expensive, ineffective, and destructive "War on Drugs." Donations are tax deductible to the extent provided by law.
Location: 
CA
United States

Solidarity Event to Protect Safe Access

It's back....the Colorado Board of Health is once again considering restricting patient access to medical marijuana. At the upcoming July hearing, the Board will be voting on a rule which would rip patients out of safe caregiver relationships and force them onto the streets in search of medicine. Show your support on July 20th by attending the Hearing and Board vote. This is NOT a rally. This is a formal Hearing and we need supporters to dress nice and act in a professional manner. NOTE - Many have already submitted written comments to the Board of Health. Thank you. Any new or additional comments need to be submitted by May 15.
Date: 
Mon, 07/20/2009 - 8:30am
Location: 
900 Auraria Parkway Tivoli Student Union, Conference Room 250
Denver, CO 80204
United States

Medical Marijuana: Petition Drive Gets Underway for 2010 South Dakota Initiative

In 2006, South Dakota became the only state to defeat an initiative legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana, with proponents coming close, but ultimately short, with 48% of the vote. Now, after the state legislature ignored an opportunity to act on the issue this year, activists are ready to try the voters once again.

South Dakotans for Safe Access filed papers Monday to put its proposed initiative on the 2010 ballot. Supporters need to gain 16,776 valid signatures of registered voters by next April 6 to make the ballot.

Under the proposed measure, patients with debilitating medical conditions and a doctor's recommendation -- or their designated caregivers -- could possess up to six plants and one ounce of usable marijuana, as well as incidental seeds, stems, and roots. Patients would register with the state and be issued ID cards.

The movement is in stronger shape in South Dakota this time, organizer Emmett Reistroffer of Sioux Falls told the Rapid City Journal. It has more patients, doctors, former law enforcement officials, and others than in 2006, he said. "They know this law is best for South Dakota versus what we have now, which calls these patients criminals," said Reistroffer.

The effort will run up against a Republican political establishment implacably opposed to medical marijuana. Attorney General Larry Long earlier this year refused the opportunity to work with proponents to address law enforcement concerns and objections. But at least one thing will be different: In 2006, the Bush administration sent the drug czar's office to South Dakota to energize opposition to that initiative. There is little indication the Obama administration will go to the same effort to interfere in state medical marijuana initiatives.

Medical Marijuana: Another California Dispensary Raid

A Bakersfield medical marijuana dispensary was raided Wednesday afternoon by Kern County sheriff's deputies and DEA agents. Three men were arrested, and police said they seized two pounds of marijuana and two loaded handguns.

The target of the raid was the Green Cross Compassionate Co-op at 309 Bernard Street in east Bakersfield, one of the first to open in the city since Sheriff Donny Youngblood raided a half-dozen dispensaries in 2007. Youngblood has said he will not interfere with the operation of nonprofit medical marijuana co-ops, but he has also said that dispensaries for profit should expect to be treated like drug dealers.

It is unclear at this point how Youngblood determined the Green Cross Compassionate Co-op was not a legal co-op under California law and guidelines issued by the state attorney general.

US Attorney General Eric Holder has said that the Justice Department would not act against California dispensaries unless they violated both state and federal law. At least one dispensary, Emmalyn's in San Francisco, has been subjected to a DEA-led raid.

But Wednesday's Bakersfield raid appears to have been led by the crusading Sheriff Youngblood. A DEA spokesman told local media its agents were there only in a backup capacity.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Calls for Marijuana Legalization Debate

Considering that he vetoed a hemp bill in 2006, this is about as good a statement as I would expect from him:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says California should study other nations' experiences in legalizing and taxing marijuana, although he is not supporting the idea.

He says it's time to debate proposals such as a bill introduced in the state Legislature earlier this year that would treat marijuana like alcohol.

State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco Democrat, says taxing marijuana at $50 per ounce would bring more than $1 billion a year to the state.

Schwarzenegger said during a Tuesday news conference that "it's time for debate" on the idea. [NBC]

I like what's happening with this "let's debate it" line we keep hearing lately. It's a way for public officials to show interest in the subject without alienating anyone who feels strongly about the issue. Perhaps it has come to the Governator's attention that 56% of Californians support legalizing marijuana.

Considering the famous Schwarzenegger-smoking-pot video that's all over the web, some will accuse him of hypocrisy should his position ultimately fall anywhere short of outright support for legalization. Still, it's notable in and of itself that we're beginning to see politicians shifting away from knee-jerk opposition to reform, in favor of the more open-minded position of endorsing a debate on the subject.

Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Dispensary Bill Passes Senate

For the second time, the Rhode Island Senate has approved a bill that would allow dispensaries to provide marijuana to patients qualified under the state's existing medical marijuana law. The bill now heads to the House, where a committee vote was scheduled for Thursday.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/carcieri.jpg
Gov. Donald Carcieri, unsuccessful medical marijuana foe
Rhode Island approved a medical marijuana law in 2006, but that law did not provide a legal avenue for patients unable to grow their own medicine or find a caregiver to grow it for them to otherwise procure it. The bill would create "compassion centers" for the distribution of marijuana to people with severe, debilitating illnesses, including cancer, Hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

Some 681 people are already registered with the Rhode Island Department of Health under the state's medical marijuana program.

The Senate approval of the compassion center program came on a 35-2 vote Wednesday. The vote came after bill sponsor Sen. Rhoda Perry (D-Providence) told her colleagues support for the bill was growing and it appeared the state police had dropped their opposition.

The Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition, which has lobbied hard for medical marijuana, praised the Senate for passing the bill. Spokesman Jesse Stout said it would make Rhode Island the second state after New Mexico to authorize nonprofit dispensaries for patients.

The Rhode Island Senate passed a similar bill last year, but it didn't make it through the House. Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) has vetoed medical marijuana bills twice, but was overriden by the legislature. A spokesman for the governor told the Providence Journal he continued to have "serious concerns with how the compassion centers would be set up and regulated."

Canada: Provincial Court Rules Ontario Benefits Law Discriminates Against Alcoholics, Drug Addicts

An Ontario law that bars alcoholics and drug addicts from receiving long-term disability benefits violates the provincial Human Rights Code, the Ontario Divisional Court ruled last Friday. The ruling effectively strikes down a provision of the Ontario Disability Support Program enacted by the former Conservative government in 1997 that barred people from receiving long-term benefits if their "sole impairment" was addiction.

Last week's ruling was the latest in a 10-year legal struggle by two Ontario men, Robert Tranchemontagne and Norman Werbeski, who suffer from alcoholism. The pair were denied long-term assistance under the Disability Support Program and were instead found to be eligible only for Ontario Works benefits.

Unlike the disability program, the employment program requires recipients to be involved in "employment assistance activities." Ontario Works also offers substantially smaller benefits, $536 a month, compared to $959 a month under the disability program.

The pair lost when they appealed the ruling to the provincial Social Benefits Tribunal, but in 2006, the Canadian Supreme Court ordered the tribunal to reconsider the case with an eye toward seeing if the law violated the Human Rights Code. The tribunal did so, and found that the exception for addiction disability indeed violated the code.

The Ontario government appealed that ruling, and a hearing was held in December. There, government witnesses argued that almost all addicted people could work and that lower payments could provide an incentive for recovery. But medical experts for the two men retorted that addicts are in a better position to recover if their lives are stable, with low stress, and adequate income to support themselves.

The Ontario Divisional Court justices sided unanimously with the two men. The government failed to provide a "tenable justification" for its decision to treat addicts differently from other people with disabilities, wrote Justice Denise Bellamy for the court. The Ontario law "promotes a stereotypical attitude towards addicted persons. It suggests that those who do not suffer from an additional medically recognized disorder are not genuinely disabled, or in any case are not as disabled as persons with concurrent disorders," wrote Judge Bellamy.

"The Human Rights Code does not permit us to choose between the disabilities we like and those we do not," said attorney Lesli Bisgould. The Ontario government should now "move on" and not bother to appeal any further, she told the National Post.

Ontario is pondering whether to pursue the appeal, government lawyers said.

Law Enforcement: Florida House Passes Watered Down "Rachel's Law" in Bid to Protect Informants from Dangerous Assignments

Inspired by the murder of Florida State University graduate Rachel Hoffman, 23, after Tallahassee police sent the small-time pot dealer out with $13,000 to buy cocaine and guns from people she didn't know, the Florida House of Representatives Monday passed a bill that would require police departments to protect confidential informants. But the measure was considerably weakened after law enforcement lobbyists protested it could weaken their ability to wage the drug war.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/rachelhoffman.jpg
Rachel Hoffman
Hoffman had been busted on small-time marijuana dealing charges and was on probation when she was busted again in 2007. Rather than face the threat of probation violation and prison time, the young woman agreed to work as a confidential informant for the Tallahassee Police Department. Her body was found in May 2007, 36 hours after she went to meet the drug dealers and lost contact with her police supervisors.

In its current form, the bill, HB 271, would require departments to have written policies on confidential informants and to train officers on those policies. It would also require departments to "consider" factors such as an informant's age and maturity, whether the informant is in drug treatment, and the risk of physical harm.

Hoffman's parents and the bill's sponsor, Rep. Peter Nehr (R-Tarpon Springs), wanted to bar police from using people in drug treatment as informants and from using nonviolent informants to try to entrap people with violent criminal histories. The original version of the bill would also have required police to tell potential snitches they had the right to talk to a lawyer before agreeing to work with police.

But law enforcement lobbyists, including the Florida Sheriffs Association, prevailed in watering down the bill. They told legislators any restrictions would discourage recruitment of snitches and deny them a valuable crime-fighting tool.

"Any one of these things would have saved Rachel's life," Margie Weiss, Rachel's mother, told the Pensacola News Journal after a committee meeting earlier this month where the bill was gutted.

"Rachel Hoffman's death was unnecessary and unneeded," said Nehr after the measure passed the House.

The measure as passed won't provide as much protection to informants as the original bill, but it at least serves notice to law enforcement that it needs to consider more than just making the next drug bust. It now goes to the state Senate.

Medical Marijuana: New Hampshire Bill Passes Senate, Awaits Governor's Signature

New Hampshire is poised to become the 14th medical marijuana state after a bill legalizing the therapeutic use of marijuana passed the state Senate on a 14-10 vote Wednesday. A similar measure has already been approved by the House.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/new-hampshire-statehouse.jpg
New Hampshire Statehouse
The Senate amended the bill to include a panel to review questions of how patients would access medical marijuana. It also strengthened privacy provisions in the bill. Those changes are seen as minor and are expected to be approved by the House.

The bill would allow patients or their caregivers to grow up to six marijuana plants and possess up to two ounces of usable marijuana. Only patients with enumerated conditions, including chronic pain, seizures, muscle spasms, and severe nausea or vomiting, would be eligible under the bill.

New Hampshire law enforcement lobbyists opposed the bill, and Gov. John Lynch (D) has expressed sympathy for law enforcement concerns. He has also expressed concern that medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law. But he has not said he would veto the bill.

After the vote, advocates launched a statewide ad campaign featuring Multiple Sclerosis patient Sandra Drew, asking Gov. Lynch to sign the bill.

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