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GOP Effort to Block DC Marijuana Reforms Continues, Advocates Pressure Dems [FEATURE]

Marijuana (STDW) - Wed, 12/10/2014 - 02:49

[This article was written in partnership with Alternet, and was originally published here.]

[image:1 align:right]Reflecting the will of the voters, the elected representatives of the people of Washington, DC -- the DC city council -- approved marijuana decriminalization earlier this year. District voters went even further than the council in last month's elections, approving an initiative to legalize the possession and cultivation of small amounts of pot with a whopping 70% of the vote.

Now, congressional Republicans are working feverishly to block the District from putting the results of this exercise in democracy into effect. Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) is leading a House effort to block federal funds being used for DC pot law reforms. Harris has crafted an amendment to the DC appropriations bill that would bar the use of federal or local funds to implement the reforms, and Rep. Harold Rodgers (R-KY), head of the House Appropriations Committee, has agreed to include Harris's amendment in the bill.

And, according to the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), which has been deeply involved in DC marijuana reform efforts, "Democrats are rumored to be cutting a deal with Republicans" that would sacrifice legalization in order to save decriminalization."

[Update: Late Tuesday afternoon, DPA released the following report: "Currently, sources are reporting that Congress is considering allowing Initiative 71, approved by 70% of District residents, to stand while preventing future action on the District of Columbia's ability to tax and regulate marijuana. These reports stand in sharp contrast to a previously reported deal that would have stopped the ballot measure from taking effect."]

House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) hasn't exactly quelled those rumors. At a press conference last Friday, she said she supported the District's autonomy, but stopped short of saying any Republican moves to block the implementation of decriminalization or legalization would be a "deal breaker" on agreement for a broader appropriations package. (Republicans are also seeking to use the appropriations bill to overturn DC firearms safety laws.)

[image:2 align:left caption:true]"I have expressed concerns about treating the District of Columbia in a fair way, respecting home rule," Pelosi said. "I'm not saying any one of them is a deal breaker, but I'm saying this is an array of concerns that we have: clean air, good food standards, workplace safety, fairness to the District of Columbia, how the top line dollar is allocated within the legislation."

That not-so-ringing endorsement of the District's ability to democratically determine its own drug policies, as well as the rumored deals, has prompted DPA and other reform supporters to ramp up the pressure on congressional Democrats. In an open letter to the Democratic leadership today, a number of civil rights and other advocacy groups, including DPA, DC Votes, and the DC branches of the ACLU, NAACP, and NOW, called on the Democrats to grow a backbone.

"As you conclude negotiations over the FY15 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, we urge you to reject all efforts to include undemocratic restrictions on DC's rights," said the letter addressed to Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). "As you know, the spending bill passed by the House included new provisions that would interfere in the District of Columbia's local affairs, including language intended to overturn the results of a local voter initiative. The undersigned organizations advocate on diverse issues, but are united in our opposition to the inclusion of social policy riders targeting the District of Columbia in the appropriations bill."

[image:3 align:right]"Democratic leadership made it clear they would stand with voters on this crucial racial justice issue, and push back against Republican opposition to the DC law," said Michael Collins, policy manager at DPA's office of national affairs. "Democrats have always made claims of supporting DC home rule now is their chance to stand with 70% of voters in the District who voted for marijuana reform," Collins said.

Advocates are particularly dismayed given the racial disparities in the enforcement of marijuana laws in the District. According to a 2013 ACLU report, not only did DC have the highest per capita number of pot possession arrests -- more than three times the national average -- but it also saw black people arrested for pot possession at a rate more than eight times that of whites. In that regard, DC was second, trailing only the state of Iowa among the 50 states.

The Republican efforts to interfere -- and block these moves to reduce racial disparities in the District -- takes on added salience in the context of weeks of protests nationwide over racially biased policing.

"In light of recent events in Ferguson and New York, it is particularly disturbing that Congress would choose to overturn the will of the voters in a majority black city," said DPA policy manager and vice-chair of the DC Cannabis Campaign, which was responsible for the passage of Initiative 71, the legalization initiative. "DC voters chose to reform their marijuana laws, which have a direct impact on how communities of color interact with police. Congress is poised to undermine that."

But the Republican Party is no longer a monolith when it comes to marijuana law reform. On at least five votes this year, some Republican legislators voted in favor of such reforms. It is questionable whether the GOP could block DC's reforms on a straight up-and-down vote. By tying the effort to the broader appropriations bill, however, the issue is placed in the hands of the congressional leadership, and that could leave the District hanging out to dry. It's time for Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to stand up for the District and for democratic principals, the advocates say, and they are prodding them today.

Categories: Marijuana

Chronicle AM: NV Marijuana Init Qualifies for 2016, Iran Meth Up, SE Asia Poppy Production Up, More (12/9/14)

Marijuana (STDW) - Tue, 12/09/2014 - 23:16

A Nevada legalization initiative is the first to qualify for the 2016 ballot, a new poll identifies an amorphous "marijuana middle," meth is on the rise in Iran, and so are poppies in the Golden Triangle, and more. Let's get to it:

[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy

"Marijuana Middle" Identified in Third Way Poll. A new national poll from the centrist think-tank Third Way finds Americans almost even split on legalization (50% yes, 47% no), but with a broad and deep "marijuana middle" that may not support legalization in its own state, but does support federal action to allow states that have legalized it a "safe haven." Two-thirds said Congress should pass a "safe haven" law, while 60% said legalization should be up to the states, not the federal government. The poll also examined the demographics of the "marijuana middle." Click on the link for all the details.

JAMA on the Impact of Marijuana Legalization. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Monday published "The Implications of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado." (Click the title link to read the article.) The authors found an increase in reports of emergency room visits for marijuana intoxication, as well as problems related to the production of new marijuana products, ranging from burns caused by exploding hash-oil labs to problems associated with the overindulgence in edibles. But the authors also found that legalization was increasing access to marijuana for medical reasons, including pain control, where it is much safer than opiates.

Anchorage Assembly to Hold Hearing on Banning Pot Businesses. At the behest of Assembly member Amy Demboski, the Anchorage Assembly will hold a hearing on her proposal to ban licensed pot businesses in the city one week from today. Supporters of legalization are looking for people to show up. Click on the link for more information.

Illinois Appeals Court Rules Worker's Admission of Off-Duty Marijuana Use Not Sufficient to Deny Unemployment Benefits. A worker who was fired from his job after admitting smoking marijuana when confronted with a random drug test (which he passed) cannot be denied unemployment benefits, the state's 5th District appellate court has ruled. The case is Eastham v. The Housing Authority of Jefferson County.

It's Official -- Nevada Initiative Qualifies for 2016 Ballot. Nevada is first out of the blocks to legalize marijuana via an initiative in 2016. Secretary of State Ross Miller Monday certified that the initiative had qualified for the ballot. Now, voters will have the opportunity to legalize it in the 2016 elections -- unless the state legislature acts first to approve the measure.

Prescription Opiates

Doctors Are Cutting Back on Prescriptions for Pain Relievers. In a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), researchers report that half of primary care physicians are reducing their prescribing of opiate pain relievers compared to last year and that 85% of doctors believe they are overprescribed. The doctors reported concerns about addiction, overdoses, and traffic accidents. But an even greater number -- 90% -- were confident in their own ability to correctly prescribe opiates.

International

Meth in Iran. Reuters has a report on the increase of methamphetamine use in the Islamic Republic. The news agency notes that meth seizures more than doubled between 2008 and 2012 and that last year alone, the government seized 3.6 tons of speed. The report cites experts as saying the rise of meth is being driven by increased development in the country and a more complicated and faster-paced lifestyle.

Opium Production Thriving in the Golden Triangle, UN Reports. Opium production in Southeast Asia's Golden Triangle has increased for the eighth straight year, the UN said Sunday in its Southeast Asia Opium Survey 2014. The acreage under cultivation increased slightly, giving the region to ability to produce about 76 tons of heroin. Myanmar accounts for most of the Golden Triangle production, and the Shan State accounts for most of Myanmar's production. The Golden Triangle is the world's second largest opium production region, behind Afghanistan, but only produces about one-fifth the amount Afghanistan does.

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CN ON: OPED: Drugs Are A Health Matter, Not A Criminal Issue

Marijuana (MAP) - Tue, 12/09/2014 - 08:00
The Peterborough Examiner, 09 Dec 2014 - There is a discussion that is gaining traction in many circles across the country and at many levels, and it's about drugs. Not medications like antibiotics or blood pressure pills, but psychoactive substances that, when ingested, inhaled, injected or absorbed through skin or mucous membranes, affect brain chemistry and alter mental functions. These include legal substances like the highly addictive nicotine in tobacco, or the alcohol that is found in beer, wine or spirits. It includes prescribed narcotics and stimulants. And it includes a wide range of illegal substances like cannabis, methamphetamine, LSD and heroin.
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US CA: Police: Marijuana Dispensaries Hurt Communities

Marijuana (MAP) - Tue, 12/09/2014 - 08:00
Daily Pilot, 09 Dec 2014 - The Costa Mesa City Council has postponed its discussion of a new report by the police department that urges caution about the potential effects of medical marijuana dispensaries returning to the city. The discussion is now scheduled for 7 p.m. during the council's Dec. 16 meeting. It was originally set for Tuesday's meeting.
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Chronicle AM: DC Pot Battle Unsettled, Federal Racial Profiling Ban, Budapest Drug Testing, More (12/8/14):

Marijuana (STDW) - Mon, 12/08/2014 - 21:58

DC's marijuana reforms remain under threat from congressional Republicans, Washington state's pot-sellers are feeling burdened by taxes, California doctors reject denying transplants to medical marijuana patients, the Justice Department issued racial profiling guidelines for federal law enforcement, and more. Let's get to it:

[image:1 align:left caption:true]Marijuana Policy

Nancy Pelosi Pledges Support for DC Autonomy as Possible Battle Over Marijuana Reforms Looms. At a press conference last Friday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said she supported the District's autonomy, but stopped short of saying any Republican moves to block the implementation of decriminalization or legalization would be a "deal breaker" on agreement for a broader appropriations package. "I have expressed concerns about treating the District of Columbia in a fair way, respecting home rule," Pelosi said. "I'm not saying any one of them is a deal breaker, but I'm saying this is an array of concerns that we have: clean air, good food standards, workplace safety, fairness to the District of Columbia, how the top line dollar is allocated within the legislation." Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) is leading a House effort to block federal funds being used for pot law reforms, and the Rep. Harold Rodgers (R-KY), head of the House Appropriations Committee wants to see Harris's amendment included in the appropriations bill. Stay tuned.

Tax Issues Fueling Concerns Among Washington State Pot Retailers. The state's 25% excise tax and the federal government's refusal to let pot businesses to deduct legitimate business expenses -- such as state taxes -- is putting the squeeze on the state's fledgling retail industry. That's helping to contribute to retail marijuana prices that are higher than black market prices, but still not enough to be profitable under the weight of the state and federal taxes. There could be a fix coming in the state legislature; efforts are also underway to change the federal tax code to recognize legal pot businesses.

Medical Marijuana

California Doctors Reject Denying Organ Transplants to Medical Marijuana Patients. The California Medical Association (CMA) voted unanimously this past weekend to urge transplant clinics in the state against removing patients from organ transplant lists based on their medical marijuana status or use. The CMA House of Delegates was in San Diego for its annual meeting, and voted Saturday on Resolution 116-14 in support of patients' ability to remain on transplant lists despite their medical marijuana use. "I am very proud of my colleagues at the CMA, who once again endorsed the principle that medical decision for the benefit of patients be based on science and not moralistic prejudices," said Dr. Larry Bedard, a retired Marin General Hospital emergency physician and 30-year CMA delegate who currently serves on its Marijuana Technical Advisory Committee.

Law Enforcement

Justice Department Unveils Racial Profiling Ban for Federal Law Enforcers. The Justice Department today issued guidelines that will ban federal law enforcement agents from profiling on the basis of race, religion, national origin, and other characteristics. The guidelines cover federal agencies within the Justice Department, including the FBI, the DEA, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. They also extend to local and state officers serving on joint task forces alongside federal agents. The new guidelines will not apply to security screeners in airports and at border checkpoints, nor are they binding on state and local police forces.

International

Budapest Mayor Wants Mandatory Drug Tests for Teenagers, More. Mayor Mate Kocsis wants mandatory annual drug testing for city teenagers, as well as for elected officials and journalists. He said the idea was to target "those most at risk, decision-makers and opinion-formers." Kocsis is a member of the governing Fidesz Party, whose parliamentary group will discuss his proposal today. In August, Kocsis managed to get a needle exchange program for injection drug users shut down. He has also introduced legislation to ban picking through garbage and sleeping on the streets.

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US MA: Editorial: Time For A Pot Caucus?

Marijuana (MAP) - Mon, 12/08/2014 - 08:00
Boston Herald, 08 Dec 2014 - Well, gee, who could have seen this coming? Some lawmakers on Beacon Hill are now considering a legislative push to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, citing steps that have already been taken to loosen the state's pot laws.
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US NY: As Marijuana Grows Into Industry, New Tips

Marijuana (MAP) - Mon, 12/08/2014 - 08:00
Buffalo News, 08 Dec 2014 - A retired Buffalo police officer has started an online business that sells hundreds of products made from hemp. A truck driver is thinking about getting into the marijuana industry once he gets too old to stay on the road. And a former cosmetics and fashion executive wants to offer advice to companies making pot-infused skin care and beauty products, or develop the items herself.
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CN NF: Justice Slams Officers For Disregard Of Charter Rights

Marijuana (MAP) - Mon, 12/08/2014 - 08:00
The Western Star, 08 Dec 2014 - A Supreme Court justice has thrown out evidence from a traffic stop in the case against two Quebec men charged with drug offences in the fall of 2011. Justice Laura Mennie granted the application to exclude evidence from the Oct. 24, 2011 traffic stop that led to the charges of two counts each of trafficking in marijuana and cannabis resin and two counts each of possession of illegal drugs for the purposes of trafficking against Sylvain Charbonneau, 59, and Jean Dessailliers, 44.
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US CA: Butte Supes to Review Cost of Marijuana Cultivation

Marijuana (MAP) - Mon, 12/08/2014 - 08:00
Chico Enterprise-Record, 08 Dec 2014 - OROVILLE - Butte's supervisors will be considering the costs associated with enforcing the voter-approved tighter medical marijuana cultivation regulations. Measure A, which was passed in the election Nov. 4, sharply limits the physical size of medical marijuana gardens.
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US NY: Column: Time To End Mass Incarceration

Marijuana (MAP) - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 08:00
Buffalo News, 07 Dec 2014 - The Moral and Political Case for Reforming the Criminal Justice System There isn't much room for optimism among progressives these days. President Obama's avenues to legislative achievement in his final two years are narrow and seem mostly to lead to the right toward a corporate tax reform in one instance, and a NAFTA-style trade deal with the Asia-Pacific region in another.
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US AK: Column: My Visit To Marijuana Land

Marijuana (MAP) - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 08:00
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 07 Dec 2014 - Linden Staciokas Chronicles of a Diagnosis FAIRBANKS - I have never used any illegal drugs. For one thing, I always have been too cheap to spend the money to get stoned. And I could never stomach the thought of using a substance that had passed through who knew how many grimy hands, adulterating it with who knew what. When I go to a restaurant I have to force myself not to think about the number of opportunities there are for my food to be sneezed on between the kitchen and my table; the idea of using unregulated drugs practically makes me break out in hives.
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US OK: Column: Testing For Pot

Marijuana (MAP) - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 08:00
Tulsa World, 07 Dec 2014 - The Next Great Roadside Attraction THE AMERICAN VOICES website recently requested reader comment about a portable Breathalyzer test that soon will be available to help police identify drivers impaired by marijuana. Here's how self-described scarf knitter Angela Dixon responded:
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UK: The 'Big Buddha' Flooding UK With Cannabis Seeds ... Sold

Marijuana (MAP) - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 08:00
The Mail on Sunday, 07 Dec 2014 - How 'Headshop' Dealers Make Millions and a Mockery of Drug Laws by Passing Off Hallucinogenic Skunk Starter Kits As 'Souvenirs' FLASHING a smug grin as he poses proudly in a field of flourishing cannabis plants, this is the businessman responsible for allegedly flooding Britain with high-strength cannabis, fuelling a multi-millionpound market in home-grown illegal drugs.
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UK: Huge Rise In Skunk-Triggered Illness

Marijuana (MAP) - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 08:00
The Mail on Sunday, 07 Dec 2014 - YOUNG people are being treated in record numbers for mental health problems which have been caused by cannabis. Official figures show more than 5,000 under-25s were treated for addiction and psychiatric problems with the drug over the past year.
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US WA: Editorial: Medical-Marijuana Shops Creating a Hazy

Marijuana (MAP) - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 08:00
Seattle Times, 07 Dec 2014 - THE world is watching Washington's historic experiment with marijuana legalization, and we're screwing it up. A painstakingly slow launch of recreational marijuana stores, with their sky-high prices and scarcity in Seattle, gets most headlines. But the truth is that experiment is utterly undermined by a much larger, wildly unregulated medical-marijuana market.
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US DC: OPED: Big Pot?

Marijuana (MAP) - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 08:00
Washington Post, 07 Dec 2014 - The Marijuana Industry Is Following Big Tobacco's Lead - With Dire Consequences Last month, people voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Oregon, Alaska and the District. As the movement toward marijuana legalization continues, lawmakers and policy experts are looking to the experiments in Colorado and Washington for guidance.
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US MA: Rules For Pot Site Debated In Essex

Marijuana (MAP) - Sun, 12/07/2014 - 08:00
Boston Globe, 07 Dec 2014 - A new town bylaw restricting medical marijuana sites is a focus of renewed debate in Essex, even as three groups pursue final state approval to open dispensaries in other communities north of Boston. The Essex bylaw, approved by Attorney General Martha Coakley last month, forbids any medical marijuana facility from being located within 2,500 feet of a school, preschool, day care center, playground, or athletic field, or within 1,500 feet of a residential dwelling.
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US WA: Pot Store Stays Open, Judge Rules, Until Church's Suit

Marijuana (MAP) - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 08:00
Seattle Times, 06 Dec 2014 - Uncle Ike's Pot Shop will stay open - for now, at least. Mount Calvary Christian Center, which is next door to the recreational pot store in the Central District, has sued over the store's location, and asked a judge to close the store until the lawsuit is decided.
Categories: Marijuana

US AK: Editorial: Regulating Marijuana On The Local Level

Marijuana (MAP) - Sat, 12/06/2014 - 08:00
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, 06 Dec 2014 - City, Borough Governments Need to Set Up Rules Before the State Does to Meet Community Expectations This week's meeting of Fairbanks-area government leaders about how to regulate the sale of marijuana went well enough following last month's passage of Measure 2 on the statewide ballot.
Categories: Marijuana

Chronicle AM: INCB Head Frets Over Pot, MS Welfare Drug Test Fiasco, SWAT Fights Back, More (12/5/14)

Marijuana (STDW) - Fri, 12/05/2014 - 21:13

Global anti-drug bureaucrats are grumbling about marijuana legalization in America, one New York county decides to do asset forfeiture for misdemeanor drug offenses, Mississippi's food stamp drug testing program comes up snake-eyes, the SWAT boys fight to keep their military toys, and more. Let's get to it:

[image:1 align:right]Marijuana Policy

Missouri Legalization Initiative Petition Open for Public Comment. A legalization initiative petition sponsored by Show-Me Cannabis has been submitted to the secretary of state's office, and Missouri residents now have 30 days to comment on the initiative petition. They can do so here (it's Petition 2016-009). This is essentially the same petition submitted a month ago, but has been resubmitted with grammatical fixes.

INCB Head Complains About Legalization in US States. Lochan Naidoo, president of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) is concerned about the implications of marijuana legalization in US states. "Legalization for recreational use is definitely not the right way to go," he told Reuters in an interview. "We do know about the damage that cannabis does to the brain," the South African physician said. "I'm not sure how well people are going to be able to protect their children." Naidoo added that the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs requires countries to comply with its provisions banning marijuana, and the US should do so in "all its territories."

Asset Forfeiture

New York County Approves Asset Forfeiture for Misdemeanor Drug Cases. Legislators in Orange County Thursday approved a law that allows authorities to seize cash and cars from defendants in misdemeanor drug cases, but only after they have been convicted. The measure passed on a party-line vote with Republicans voting for it and Democrats against despite fierce opposition from sitting Democrats and audience members. DA David Hoovler has portrayed the measure as means of keeping seized assets in the county instead of sending the money to the general fund in Albany, as required under the state's asset forfeiture law.

Drug Testing

Mississippi Welfare Drug Testing Program Has Only Two People Testing Positive. The state law that went into effect in August has so far resulted in 3,656 Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, the food stamp program) applicants being screened for drug use, 38 being selected for drug testing, and a grand total of two testing positive for drugs. It's not clear how much the state has spent implementing the program, but Cassandra Welchin, policy director of the Mississippi Low Income Child Care Initiative, said the result was clear. "It's just a waste of money," she said. "Poor working families don't need a barrier to services and this is just another barrier."

Law Enforcement

SWAT Lobby Fights Back Against Policing Reforms in Wake of Ferguson. The National Tactical Officers Association (NTOA), which represents more than 1,500 SWAT teams across the country, has mobilized to protect the federal program that provided military surplus equipment to local law enforcement. NTOA sent emails to all 535 members of Congress urging them not to end or tighten up the Pentagon's 1033 program, which transfers equipment including armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and bayonets to local departments. NTOA executive director Mark Lomax has also been busy, reaching out to congressional offices and testifying before both the House and Senate Homeland Security committees. And it looks like it worked -- Congress will take no action on the program as this year's session winds down. Click on the link for much more.

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