Breaking News:Against Jeff Sessions for Attorney General

State & Local Government

RSS Feed for this category

Medical Marijuana: LA City Council Votes to Cap Medical Marijuana Dispensaries at 70

Under a measure passed Tuesday by the Los Angeles City Council, the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city will shrink by more than 90%. The council voted to cap the number of dispensaries at 70, while recent estimates put the number of actually operating medical marijuana outlets in the city at between 800 and 1000. The vote is only the latest in the council’s torturous and twisted four-year effort to regulate the city’s booming medical marijuana retail industry. There were four dispensaries in the city when the council first tackled the issue in 2005. By the time the council issued a moratorium on new dispensaries in 2007, there were 186. In the past two years, their numbers have increased four-fold from there. Of the dispensaries that legally registered with the city prior to the moratorium, officials believe 137 are still open. Those establishments will be allowed to stay open, but may have to move to comply with restrictions on where they may locate. "I think we should hold true to those that followed the rules," said Councilman Dennis Zine, explaining why he voted to reward dispensaries that were legally registered. If Los Angeles actually does cap dispensaries at 70, that will mean roughly one dispensary for every 50,000 residents. In Oakland, the only other large city in the state to impose a cap, four dispensaries serve 100,000 residents each. Other, smaller, California cities with caps include Berkeley (one dispensary for each 34,000 residents), Palm Springs (one for each 24,000 residents), West Hollywood (one for every 9,000 residents), and Sebastopol (one for every 3,500 residents). The council will continue working on its medical marijuana dispensary regulation ordinance tomorrow (Wednesday), and could even see a final vote then.
Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States

Press Release: Tues. -- NY Assembly Hearing on Rockefeller Drug Reform Implementation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 7, 2009 CONTACT: Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384 or Anthony Papa at (646) 420-7290 NY State Assembly Hearing on Tuesday to Map Out Next Steps in Implementation of Historic Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Courts, Treatment Providers and Community-Based Programs to Brief Lawmakers on Expanded Access to Drug Treatment and Alternatives to Incarceration for Most Drug Offenses The New York State Assembly on Tuesday will hold a key hearing to press forward with implementation of the Rockefeller Drug Law Reform of 2009, soliciting feedback from courts, treatment providers and community-based programs on their readiness and resource needs to carry out the groundbreaking new law. The reform, which took effect on Oct. 7, eliminated mandatory minimum sentences for most drug offenses, restored discretion to judges to sentence individuals to probation, drug treatment or other alternatives to incarceration, and allows approximately 1,000 people convicted under the old Rockefeller Drug Laws to apply for re-sentencing. “As someone who spent 12 years behind bars on Rockefeller charges and another 12 fighting the inhumane laws, I am thrilled that the law has been changed,” said Anthony Papa, author of 15 Years to Life. “But Rockefeller reform will only be real when those who are behind bars are allowed to come home and those who need help get treatment instead of a jail cell.” At Tuesday’s hearing, lawmakers will explore a wide range of issues related to the Rockefeller reform, including: What steps has the court system taken to prepare for and implement the new judicial diversion program, and to ensure that persons who are resentenced have access to community-based reentry programs? Are there sufficient community-based treatment programs available to serve individuals sentenced to treatment or probation, or those released from prison? What are the barriers faced by formerly incarcerated individuals with a history of substance abuse in obtaining public benefits, medical assistance, employment and affordable and stable housing? These reforms will allow people to reclaim their dignity as we shift from a punitive criminal justice model to a much needed holistic public health framework," said Shreya Mandal, Mitigation Specialist for the Legal Aid Society. "Now it is time to see this reform through by empowering formerly incarcerated individuals with comprehensive re-entry planning. Reform also calls for revamping outdated modes of drug treatment, both in and out of prison, and for making progressive changes in how we respond to addiction.” Under more limited reforms to the Rockefeller laws signed by Gov. George Pataki in 2004 and 2005 – which authorized resentencing and eliminated life sentences for individuals convicted of certain drug felonies – 584 individuals were released from prison, and just 9 percent of these people returned to jail, far lower than the state’s 39 percent overall recidivism rate. These results counter claims made by district attorneys and law enforcement officials that sentencing reform leads to disaster. “Opponents of reform try to scare the public with claims that the ‘sky is falling’ every time individuals with substance abuse problems are sent to treatment instead of prison,” said Glenn Martin, Vice President of Development and Public Affairs for The Fortune Society. “But by working collaboratively among treatment providers and Alternatives to Incarceration programs, stakeholders can ensure the success of New York’s movement toward a public health and safety approach to drug use.” Enacted in 1973, the Rockefeller Drug Laws were intended to target drug kingpins, but instead the laws led to the incarceration of thousands of individuals, mostly people of color, for low-level, nonviolent offenses, many with no prior criminal records. Approximately 12,000 people remain locked up for drug offenses in New York State prisons, at a cost of roughly $45,000 per year to incarcerate a single person, compared to an average cost of $15,000 per year for drug treatment, which is proven to be 15 times more effective at reducing crime and recidivism. The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation's leading organization working to end the war on drugs and promote new drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights. For more information, please visit: www.drugpolicy.org. What: NY State Assembly Hearing on Rockefeller Drug Law Reform When: 10:30 A.M. Tuesday, December 8th, 2009 Where: Assembly Hearing Room 250 Broadway, Room 1923, 19th Floor New York, NY
Location: 
NY
United States

Law Enforcement: Man Trying to Snuff Joint at Checkpoint Ends Up Dead -- Attorney Accuses Police

A Worcester, Massachusetts, man who died after being taken into custoday at a sobriety checkpoint last week was beaten by as many as 20 police officers, an attorney for his family said Monday. Kenneth Howe, 45, died at the Andover State Police barracks when police noticed he "became unresponsive" during booking.

The official version of the story, promulgated to the local media by Essex County District Attorney's Office spokesman Steven O'Connell is that Howe, a passenger in a vehicle stopped at the checkpoint, made "furtive movement," then "jumped out of the vehicle, struck the trooper, and fled." After a brief chase on foot and an "ensuing struggle," Howe was handcuffed and charged with assault and battery on a police officer.

O'Connell said that Howe was taken to the Andover barracks, and, while being booked "slumped over and became unresponsive." He was taken to Lawrence General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12:45am last Thursday.

But today, attorney Frances King, hired by Howe's widow to represent her and her three young children, painted a starkly different picture of the events leading to Howe's death. Citing the testimony of the driver of the vehicle in which Howe was riding, King said Howe was pulled out of the truck, beaten by police, and dragged before he collapsed next to a police cruiser. The driver has made a taped statement about what he saw that night, King said.

The "furtive movements" were Howe attempting to snuff out a marijuana joint and put on his seat belt, King said. A female state trooper approached the truck, and Howe held up his hands and tried to explain that all he had in his hand was the joint. The trooper then reached into the truck, pulled Howe out, and screamed that he had assaulted her, King continued.

"Our position is that he never assaulted her," King said. Quite the contrary, she maintained: "It appears there were at least 10 to 20 officers all over the deceased, hands flailing." Howe was also "seen handcuffed and slumping to the ground, dragged over to the cruiser," she said.

The sobriety checkpoint was staffed by Massachusetts State Police, North Andover police and the Essex County Sheriff's Department. It was stopping every vehicle for a "threshold observation" to check for impaired drivers, a practice upheld by the US Supreme Court.

The Essex County District Attorney's Office is investigating, said O'Connell. An initial autopsy has been performed, but the cause of death has not been determined. Toxicology results are also pending. Police said they found one oxycodone tablet on Howe, for which he had a prescription.

"At this point, we're confident the Essex County DA's office is conducting a thorough investigation and that they are taking the case very seriously," King said. "I think it's only fair to allow the DA to conduct an investigation."

You don't need a crystal ball to see the lawsuit waiting to be filed here. But that won't come until after the Essex County District Attorney's Office investigates and exonerates the officers involved.

Medical Marijuana: In Slap to DA, Jury Acquits San Diego Medical Marijuana Dispensary Operator

In a blow to hard-line San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, who has yet to find a medical marijuana dispensary she considers legal and who has coordinated a series of raids on dispensaries in recent years, a jury in San Diego Tuesday acquitted the manager of a local dispensary of marijuana possession and distribution charges.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/medmj-bag.jpg
California medical marijuana bags (courtesy Daniel Argo via Wikimedia)
Jovan Jackson, 31, a Navy veteran, cried as the not guilty verdicts were read. He was, however, convicted on possession of Ecstasy and Xanax, small quantities of which were found in his home during an August 2008 raid.

Still, Jackson expressed relief outside the courthouse. "I was very thankful," Jackson said. "This has been a long road. It hasn't been easy. I felt like a lot of weight was on my shoulders."

Jackson's was the first medical marijuana case to go to trial since a series of Dumanis-orchestrated raids on dispensaries in September that resulted in 31 arrests and the closing of 14 San Diego-area dispensaries. Dumanis led other mass raids in 2006 and in February of this year.

Jackson operated the Answerdam Alternative Care Collective, which was twice approached by undercover officers who had fraudulently obtained medical marijuana recommendations. Since the narcs had proper documentation under California law, and since they joined the collective by paying a $20 fee, Jackson let them purchase medical marijuana.

Prosecutors presented evidence of $150,000 in credit card receipts and five pounds of marijuana seized during raids at the dispensary as evidence that, "This case is about making money, plain and simple," as Deputy District Attorney Chris Lindberg put it to the jury.

But a large-scale operation is not out of line for a collective that boasted 1,649 members, as defense attorney K. Lance Rogers told the jury. He also reminded jurors that the narcs had signed up for the collective under false pretenses and that state law allows medical marijuana patients to legally buy marijuana from a collective that grows it.

Jurors agreed, acquitting Jackson on the marijuana charges. Jurors told reporters after the trial that they found Jackson innocent because the state laws regarding medical marijuana sales from collectives were vague.

"On a personal level, if you're going to hold somebody to a law, you have to define that law," said juror Perry Wright.

It's not the end for Jackson. He faces up to three years in prison on the Ecstasy and Xanax possession charges, although he will most likely receive probation. And he faces another round of marijuana distribution charges from a similar undercover buy made this year.

Given the verdict in this case, DA Dumanis might want to consider whether a re-run trial is worth the taxpayers' money and whether any of her pending dispensary prosecutions should go forward. But she probably won't.

Feature: Medical Marijuana Gets Historic First Legislative Hearing in Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania House committee in Harrisburg held the first hearing ever on medical marijuana in the Keystone State today. The hearing, which featured a raft of supportive witnesses, sparked interest and questioning from legislators and left medical marijuana advocates optimistic.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/pamedmjvigil.jpg
PA night of candlelight vigils for medical marijuana, July 2009 (courtesy HempNews)
The hearing before the House Health and Human Services Committee was on HB 1393, introduced by Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia). The bill would provide immunity from arrest for patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other illnesses who have a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana and a registration ID card. Patients could possess an ounce of marijuana and up to six plants. The bill also provides for state-licensed compassion centers which could sell marijuana to patients. Such sales would be subject to state and local sales taxes.

Witnesses included patients, medical marijuana advocates, physicians, attorneys, and a rabbi. It wasn't completely one-sided -- there to testify against the bill were the Pennsylvania Elks and a woman who lost a daughter to a drug overdose.

Some witness testimony tugged heart strings. In one such moment, Charles Rocha, who had travelled from Pittsburgh, told legislators how, at age 24, he obtained medical marijuana for his breast cancer-ridden mother and how it helped her get through end of life hospice care.

But Sharon Smith gave an equally emotion-laden presentation. Smith, who started a drug-treatment advocacy group after her daughter's death from a heroin overdose in 1998, worried that allowing medicinal use of marijuana would lead to drug abuse and addiction, citing supposed "abuses" that have occurred in other medical marijuana states.

Smith also said legislators shouldn't be the ones deciding whether any given substance is a medicine. "Let the medical experts decide, not the legislators," she told the committee.

Smith's concern about abuse potential was addressed head-on by Edward Pane, CEO of Serento Gardens Alcoholism and Drug Services, Inc. in Hazleton. He told the committee that the gateway theory had been discredited and that patients given small amounts of marijuana were unlikely to develop a physical dependency.

"Concerns that the medical use of marijuana will spur individuals into the world of chemical addiction are baseless," said Pane, a part-time instructor on addictions studies at the University of Scranton.

HIV sufferer Brad Walter of Larksville told the committee he smoked marijuana four or five times a day to alleviate gastrointestinal distress from the 14 pills he takes each day for his diseases. Walter said he obtained marijuana on the black market because nothing else, including Marinol, worked as well.

Also appearing before the committee was a delegation from the Jewish Social Policy Action Network, including Dr. Howard Swidler, MD, Chief of Emergency Medicine at Warren Hospital, Conservative Rabbi Eric Cytryn of Harrisburg, and former Montgomery County Commissioner Ruth Damsker, whose husband died of brain cancer. The trio packed a punch, and legislators were especially intrigued by Swidler's testimony, interrupting him frequently with questions.

"Marijuana is non-addicting," Dr. Swidler bluntly avowed. "There is no physical dependence or physical withdrawal associated with its use. It is, from a practical standpoint, non-toxic. Marijuana is safer by some measures than any other drug," he told the committee. "There is simply no known quantity of marijuana capable of killing a person."

Saying she wanted to address a "common myth" that medical marijuana is a stalking horse for legalization, Damsker said: "This bill is about people like my late husband, Dr. Jeffrey Damsker, who could have benefited from medical marijuana while undergoing chemotherapy for a malignant brain tumor. This bill is about a better quality of life for Pennsylvania patients. This bill is about compassion, and it's about science."

"I am here to state that Jewish values and ethics unequivocally support passage of HB 1393," said Rabbi Citron.

While the committee Democrats were generally supportive, that wasn't the case with Republican committee co-chair Rep. Matt Baker (R-Wellsboro), who said that federal health officials had found little evidence of marijuana's medical benefits and that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. "I can't support the legalizing of medical marijuana," he said.

Similarly, Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett, who is running for his party's gubernatorial nomination, objected. In a letter to the committee, Corbett said the measure would weaken existing drug laws and make a dangerous substance more available.

With Republicans in control of the state Senate, the bill's immediate prospects are cloudy. Spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Lawrence) have said Senate Republicans have no intention of moving on the bill even if were to pass the Democratically-controlled House.

But even a House vote is a ways off. Committee Chairman Frank Oliver (D-Philadelphia) said he plans to hold hearings across the state before taking a committee vote.

Still, after the session, supporters were stoked. "It was a great hearing," said Rep. Cohen, the bill's sponsor. "We moved the bill forward dramatically. There was a lot of thoughtful testimony."

"I feel very positive," said Chris Goldstein of Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana, which has led the campaign in the Keystone Stone. "This was the first medical marijuana hearing ever in Pennsylvania, and the legislators asked a lot of good questions. This was a non-voting hearing, and we still had 18 of 26 committee members show up, and they extended the hearing an hour past when it was supposed to end."

That the bill managed to get a hearing at all was a good sign, Goldstein said. "The legislature has been wrapped up dealing with the budget crisis, and there is a lot of stuff that isn't even going to get heard. That there were hearings at all says a lot. And, frankly, we look forward to having hearings all across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."

"Getting a hearing is always important, particularly in a state without a lot of progress before," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), whose Bob Ceppecchio testified at the hearing. "It has generated a lot of press interest, and even if a bill isn't going to pass immediately, the educational process takes a huge leap when you start airing the issue in this kind of official forum."

"This will inevitably succeed," said addiction specialist Pane. "On one side, we have overwhelming support and the scientific evidence, and on the other side, hyperbole."

Pane said he thought he had gotten through the hostility of Republican co-chair Baker when he reminded legislators about how they struggled to get drug treatment resources. "People are not endangered by marijuana being in the hands of doctors, but they don't give you the resources to keep it out of the hands of 12-year-olds."

"I think this has a realistic chance of passing in 2010," said Goldstein. "Progress has been lightning-fast so far. We just started talking about a bill in March, it got introduced in April, it was supposed to have a hearing in September, but the budget crisis happened. A lot of important issues are getting dealt with, but medical marijuana got a hearing today."

Feature: At the Statehouse -- Salvia Banned in Four More States This Year

Hysteria over salvia divinorum, the fast-acting, short-lived psychedelic member of the mint family, continued in state legislatures this year. Although after five years, the DEA has not found a reason to add salvia to the federal list of controlled substances, that hasn't stopped state legislators from trying. This year, four more states joined the list of those that have criminalized it, while bills to do the same were introduced in seven others.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/salvialeaves.jpg
salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid.org)
Next week, we will conclude our review of drug policy-related issues in state legislatures with a look at sentencing reform, drug testing, meth-related measures, and some odds and ends.

Salvia Bills That Passed

Nebraska: Salvia Divinorum became a Schedule I controlled substance in February, after LB 123 passed the unicameral legislature on a 44-0 vote that same month. The governor quickly signed the bill.

North Carolina: A bill to prohibit the use, possession, sale, or manufacture of Salvia Divinorum, SB 138, passed the House on a 45-0 vote in May and the Senate on a 96-15 vote in August. It was signed into law that same month and went into effect December 1.

Ohio: Salvia Divinorum became a Schedule I controlled substance in April, 90 days after Gov. Ted Strickland (D) signed a bill banning the plant that passed the legislature late last year.

South Dakota: Possession of less than six ounces of salvia divinorum became a misdemeanor and possession of more became a felony after HB 1090 passed the House 67-2 and the Senate 34-0 in February. Gov. Mike Round (R) signed the "emergency" legislation in March, and it went into effect immediately. Curiously, the bill does not criminalize salvia sales.

Salvia Bills That Did Not or Have Not Passed

Alabama: A bill to make Salvia Divinorum a Schedule I controlled substance, HB 475, was introduced in February. It was assigned to the Judiciary Committee, where it has been sitting since May.

Kentucky: A bill to make Salvia Divinorum a Schedule I controlled substance, HB 228, passed the House on a 99-0 vote in February and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee, where no action has since occurred.

Maryland: A bill to make Salvia Divinorum a Schedule I controlled substance, HB 8, died in March after being reported unfavorably out of the House Judiciary Committee. A companion bill, SB 9, died without any action being taken.

Michigan: A bill to make Salvia Divinorum a Schedule I controlled substance, HB 4849, was introduced in April, referred to the Committee on Health Policy and promptly went nowhere. Its companion measure, SB 570, met a similar fate.

New Jersey: SB 2436 and its companion measure, AB 1323, would make Salvia Divinorum a Schedule I controlled substance. Both were both introduced at the end of 2008 for the 2009-2010 legislative session, and neither has gone anywhere.

Pennsylvania: A bill to make Salvia Divinorum a Schedule I controlled substance, SB 769, was introduced and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee in April. It hasn't moved since. A companion measure, HB 2037, was introduced in October and sits before the House Judiciary Committee.

Texas: A bill that would make it a crime to provide Salvia Divinorum to minors, SB 257, was introduced last November. It was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 30-1 vote in April. In the House, the bill was approved by the Criminal Jurisprudence Committee in May, and has done nothing since. Another bill, HB 126, which would make Salvia a controlled substance in Penalty Group III (along with LSD and pentobarbital, among others), was introduced last November, referred to the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee in February, and allowed to die there in March.

Law Enforcement: Utah "Meth Cops" Lose Out on Health Claims

More than 50 Utah law enforcement officers have filed workers compensation claims over ailments they believe were caused by exposure to methamphetamine labs, but none have been approved, and most have been dismissed for lack of evidence or because officers sought dismissal in a bid to come up with evidence. Only five cases are still pending.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/methlab4.jpg
meth lab
"They have to have enough evidence to justify the claims," said Carla Rush, adjudication manager for the Utah Labor Commission, which handles the claims. "Preferably a doctor saying they have been injured in a work-related exposure to meth. That would be the best evidence."

Scores of Utah police officers participated in breaking down clandestine meth labs in the 1980s and 1990s, wearing only standard police-issue uniforms. That was before they understood the caustic nature of some of the chemicals involved in cooking meth. Now, officers on meth lab duty wear air tanks and hazmat suits.

Those officers from the old days began filing claims asserting that a variety of physical ailments they were suffering were the result of meth lab exposure. By 2006, the Utah legislature commissioned a half-million dollar study to explore the issue. But that study, which was meant to establish a causal link between meth exposure and everything from cancer to nerve damage, was inconclusive.

The state has also paid out tens of thousands of dollars to the Utah Meth Cops Project for a scientifically unsupported detox regime backed by the Church of Scientology. But toxicologists say that toxins would have left the officers' bodies long ago, and the detox program is little more than quackery.

How about a study of legalization, to eliminate the meth lab problem once and for all -- followed by a detox from the consequences of prohibition?

Law Enforcement: Federal Judge Slams NYPD for Widespread Lying in Drug Cases

The federal judge hearing a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the NYPD by two men who claim they were busted on bogus drug charges has blasted the department as plagued by "widespread falsification by arresting officers."

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/judgeweinstein.jpg
Judge Weinstein
The comments from Brooklyn Federal Judge Jack Weinstein came in his decision refusing to throw out the lawsuit by Maximo and Jose Colon, who claim that Queens narcs arrested them last year on false cocaine sales charges. A surveillance tape of the bust exonerated the brothers and led to the charges against them being dropped and the indictment of arresting Detectives Henry Tavarez and Stephen Anderson.

"Informal inquiry by [myself] and among the judges of this court, as well as knowledge of cases in other federal and state courts... has revealed anecdotal evidence of repeated, widespread falsification by arresting officers of the New York City Police Department," Weinstein wrote. "There is some evidence of an attitude among officers that is sufficiently widespread to constitute a custom or policy by the city approving illegal conduct."

Weinstein's attack came after he gave Afsaan Saleem, the attorney representing the city, a chance to document steps the department and prosecutors have taken to address false testimony -- often called "testilying" -- and fabrication of criminal charges by NYPD officers. Saleem couldn't come up with enough to satisfy the judge.

The Colon case is only the most recent of a number of scandals that have left the department's credibility tattered. This year alone, hundreds of drug cases have been dismissed because of corruption in the Brooklyn South narc squad, three officers have been arresting for covering up the sodomizing of a pot smoker in a Brooklyn subway station, and a Bronx detective was convicted of perjury.

As New York Civil Liberties Union president Donna Lieberman told the New York Daily News: "The NYPD has a serious credibility issue if federal judges are convinced the department puts officers on the stand who lie."

Feature: Medical Marijuana Gets Historic First House Hearing in Pennsylvania

A Pennsylvania House committee in Harrisburg held the first hearing ever on medical marijuana in the Keystone State today. The hearing, which featured a raft of supportive witnesses, sparked interest and questioning from legislators and left medical marijuana advocates optimistic. The hearing before the House Health and Human Services Committee was on HB 1393, introduced by Rep. Mark Cohen (D-Philadelphia). The bill would provide immunity from arrest for patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other illnesses who have a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana and a registration ID card. Patients could possess an ounce of marijuana and up to six plants. The bill also provides for state-licensed compassion centers which could sell marijuana to patients. Such sales would be subject to state and local sales taxes. Witnesses included patients, medical marijuana advocates, physicians, attorneys, and a rabbi. It wasn't completely one-sided—there to testify against the bill were the Pennsylvania Elks and a woman who lost a daughter to a drug overdose. Some witness testimony tugged heart strings. In one such moment, Charles Rocha, who had travelled from Pittsburgh, told legislators how, at age 24, he obtained medical marijuana for cancer-ridden mother and how it helped her get through end of life hospice care. But Sharon Smith gave an equally emotion-laden presentation. Smith, who started a drug-treatment advocacy group after her daughter's death from a heroin overdose in 1998, worried that allowing medicinal use of marijuana would lead to drug abuse and addiction, citing supposed "abuses" that have occurred in other medical marijuana states. Smith also said legislators shouldn't be the ones deciding whether any given substance is a medicine. "Let the medical experts decide, not the legislators," she told the committee. Smith's concern about abuse potential was addressed head-on by Edward Pane, CEO of Serento Gardens Alcoholism and Drug Services, Inc. in Hazleton. He told the committee that the gateway theory had been discredited and that patients given small amounts of marijuana were unlikely to develop a physical dependency. "Concerns that the medical use of marijuana will spur individuals into the world of chemical addiction are baseless," said Pane, a part-time instructor on addictions studies at the University of Scranton. HIV sufferer Brad Walter of Larksville told the committee he smoked marijuana four or five times a day to alleviate gastrointestinal distress from the 14 pills he takes each day for his diseases. Walter said he obtained marijuana on the black market because nothing else, including Marinol, worked as well. While the committee Democrats were generally supportive, that wasn't the case with Republican committee co-chair Rep. Matt Baker (R-Wellsboro), who said that federal health officials had found little evidence of marijuana's medical benefits and that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. "I can't support the legalizing of medical marijuana," he said. Similarly, Republican Attorney General Tom Corbett, who is running for his party's gubernatorial nomination, objected. In a letter to the committee, Corbett said the measure would weaken existing drug laws and make a dangerous substance more available. With Republicans in control of the state Senate, the bill's immediate prospects are cloudy. Spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Lawrence) have said Senate Republicans have no intention of moving on the bill even if were to pass the Democratically-controlled House. But even a House vote is a ways off. Committee Chairman Frank Oliver (D-Philadelphia) said he plans to hold hearings across the state before taking a committee vote. Still, after the session, supporters were stoked. "It was a great hearing," said Rep. Cohen, the bill's sponsor. "We moved the bill forward dramatically. There was a lot of thoughtful testimony." "I feel very positive," said Chris Goldstein of Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana, which has led the campaign in the Keystone Stone. "This was the first medical marijuana hearing ever in Pennsylvania, and the legislators asked a lot of good questions. This was a non-voting hearing, and we still had 18 of 26 committee members show up, and they extended the hearing an hour past when it was supposed to end." That the bill managed to get a hearing at all was a good sign, Goldstein said. "The legislature has been wrapped up dealing with the budget crisis, and there is a lot of stuff that isn’t even going to get heard. That there were hearings at all says a lot. And, frankly, we look forward to having hearings all across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." "Getting a hearing is always important, particularly in a state without a lot of progress before," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), whose Bob Ceppecchio testified at the hearing. "It has generated a lot of press interest, and even if a bill isn't going to pass immediately, the educational process takes a huge leap when you start airing the issue in this kind of official forum." "This will inevitably succeed," said addiction specialist Pane. "On one side, we have overwhelming support and the scientific evidence, and on the other side, hyperbole." Pane said he thought he had gotten through the hostility of Republican co-chair *** when he reminded legislators about how they struggled to get drug treatment resources. "People are not endangered by marijuana being in the hands of doctors, but they don't give you the resources to "I think this has a realistic chance of passing in 2010," said Goldstein. "Progress has been lightning-fast so far. We just started talking about a bill in March, it got introduced in April, it was supposed to have a hearing in September, but the budget crisis happened. A lot of important issues are getting dealt with, but medical marijuana got a hearing today."
Location: 
Harrisburg, PA
United States

StoptheDrugWar.org Legislative Action Center

The links on this web page allow visitors to review the voting records of federal and state legislators on matters of importance to drug policy reform. Please note that this is a work in progress, and that so far it is only our federal voting scorecard that is officially ready for public consumption.

There is other information that can be found by following links -- bills of interest at the federal and state level, and voting records at the state level -- that has not yet gone through our review process for accuracy. Feel free to take a look, and let us know if you spot anything we've missed or gotten wrong.

Click here for our current action alerts.

Click here to see a list of federal votes we've tracked, with their outcomes, and follow the links on that page for details on the vote outcomes by member and state.

Click here to look up federal and state legislators, and their voting histories, by zip code.

Click here to read a list of current federal bills we are following.

Click here to read a list of state bills we are following (not yet proofread).

Click on the following links to look up members of Congress by name or state:
Scorecard: House of Representatives, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st session)
Scorecard: US Senate, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st session)
Scorecoard: House of Representatives, 2008 (110th Congress, 2nd session)
Scorecard: House of Representatives: 2007 (110th Congress, 1st session)
Scorecard: House of Representatives: 2005 (109th Congress, 1st session)

More is coming soon, including write-your-legislator web forms for a range of action alerts, federal bills of interest, state bills of interest, and state legislator voting records.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School