Wyoming court rejects Boulder man's medical pot defense
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — People who legally obtain medical marijuana in other states are not exempt from criminal prosecution for drug possession in Wyoming, the state Supreme Court has ruled.
The court unanimously ruled last week in the case of Daniel J. Burns, of Boulder, who was arrested in March 2009 in Laramie County on a felony drug possession charge after being caught with more than a pound of marijuana in his vehicle.
Colorado is one of 16 states and the District of Columbia that allow medical marijuana use or make special concessions on penalties for marijuana users with a medical condition.
But medical marijuana advocates say it's important for marijuana users to understand that they can't possess the drug in states where it is illegal.
"This certainly should serve as wake-up call to Colorado's 100,000-plus medical marijuana patients that their rights will not necessarily be respected in Wyoming and other states," Brian Vicente, head of the marijuana-advocacy group Sensible Colorado, said Thursday.
Burns, who has a Colorado registry card and doctor's certification to use marijuana for medical purposes, argued that Wyoming drug laws exempt people who are prescribed drugs by a doctor.
However, the Supreme Court ruled this week that under Colorado's medical marijuana laws, doctors do not prescribe medical marijuana but simply recommend use of marijuana for treatment. A person who receives a doctor's recommendation must apply for the Colorado medical marijuana registry card and the state determines whether to issue one.
"Importantly, it is not the action of the physician that determines any potential possession of marijuana by the patient," the court opinion, authored by Justice Michael Golden, said. "Clearly, therefore, the physician is not prescribing or ordering the possession of marijuana."
Tina Kerin, a member of the public defender's office who served as part of Burns' defense team, said the team is considering asking the state court to rehear the case. Rehearings are rarely granted by the Supreme Court, Kerin said.
Keith Stroup, lawyer for the Washington-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said states with medical marijuana laws do not allow doctors to prescribe the drug because marijuana is still an illegal substance under federal law.
"So if a doctor should attempt to prescribe it he would lose his license and, of course, there would be no protection for the patient either," St. Pierre said.
No one has been prescribed marijuana since the early 1940s, he said.
Stroup also noted that some states with medical marijuana laws do allow use by residents of other states with such laws, but not all of them.
Lawmakers In Montana Hear Medical Marijuana Testimony
On Friday more than 100 people came to testify at the capitol building in Helena, Montana on the subject of medical marijuana and its patients. Citizens from all areas of the political spectrum came to let lawmakers know what they think as the politicians decide on how best to regulate the state’s cannabis industry.
From those who feel the medical marijuana law never should have been passed to those patients and activists who think its the best thing that ever happened to them, the session produced many opinions and one thing is for certain: stricter regulations are coming to medical marijuana in Montana. There is a perception that the system is “out of control” and that is where politicians shine. They will push each other down to build up the “crisis” then “solve” it.
It remains to be seen how far Montana lawmakers will take these regulations; there is even a chance for a vote to repeal the law altogether. That would be completely unacceptable and must not be allowed to happen. Spread the word, and if you live in Montana, get on your representatives.
Oregon Could Legalize Pot By 2012
The executive director of the Hemp and Cannabis Foundation is working to get a measure on the ballot in 2012 to legalize marijuana in the state of Oregon. Paul Stanford also says it should be taxed like cigarettes and liquor to generate millions of dollars of revenue for the state. He says it would be regulated and distributed to people over the age of 21. “We want to regulate it so that businesses like bars and taverns that bar the admission of minors can offer that as a business,” he said.
He says it would bring a steady flow of cash for the state. “Alcohol revenues bring in about $75 million. It will create lots of new jobs. It will create all these new industries. We think it will be billions and billions of dollars in the long run.” Some say it’s a drug that is safer than beer and wine. “It affects your brain differently,” said Chris Becket, who agrees with the idea. “I don’t think it affects it as severely as alcohol does, especially when you’re driving.” But not everyone is ready to walk through a haze of smoke. “Typically, people that are smoking marijuana become more apathetic, and they lose their desire to get out, work and accomplish things,” said Wayne Turner. About 90 percent of the revenue brought in would go to the state’s general fund. In order to get the idea on the ballot, Stanford needs to get nearly 90,000 signatures.
LA City Council Approves New Medical Marijuana Law
The Los Angeles City Council Friday capped the number of pot shops at 100, with only those that opened on or before September 14, 2007, qualifying to enter a new lottery system that will determine who may continue to operate. The urgency ordinance approved on a 12-0 vote follows a judge's December ruling that struck down L.A.'s old ordinance as arbitrary and capricious. The L.A. City Council acted amid concerns that pot shops were sprouting back up across the city. “Already in my district, I have illegal operators who are already redecorating and remodeling their shops ready to reopen," Councilman Paul Krekorian of the San Fernando Valley said. Councilman Jose Huizar said illegal pot shops already were popping back up in his East L.A. district.
“It is affecting the quality of life," Huizar said. "The sooner we put this genie back in the bottle, it's going to improve the quality of life for thousands and thousands of Angelinos.” The new ordinance eliminates a grandfather clause that allowed as many as 187 pot shops in L.A. It retains restrictions that keep shops at least 1,000 feet away from schools, parks and churches. The law also creates a lottery to select the 100 that may remain open. Councilman Richard Alarcon said the lottery was a bad idea. “By doing a lottery, we are not able to select who the best providers will be," Alarson said. "We could literally end up with the worst providers of the bunch."
Alarcon ended up supporting the measure, and successfully lobbied the council to explore establishing and advisory council on medical marijuana. Medical marijuana advocates said the city's law remains too restrictive, and could prevent people who need pot from getting it. T.V. personality Montel Williams became emotional as he described how he desperately needed pot to treat pain caused by multiple sclerosis. “Every single one of those doctors has recommended for me to continue using marijuana because I came to a point that opiates don’t do it," Williams said. Williams is a national advocate for medical marijuana. He was arrested earlier this month for possession of a pot pipe at the Milwaukee Airport. Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian said he was sympathetic to medical marijuana users but thought the cap and other restrictions would prevent another explosion of pot shops. L.A. had as many as 1,000 at one point. "I for one am not comfortable with opening it up to the wild west again," Krekorian said
Washington Debates Big Changes To Medical Marijuana System
Some state lawmakers are proposing major changes to Washington's voter-approved medical marijuana system. The bill debated in the Senate health committee Thursday was proposed by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle. It would give medical marijuana users more protections against arrest than they currently have.
The bill also would bring the supply chain of medical pot out of the current legal gray area. Under Kohl Welles' proposal, the state could license growers, processors and sellers of medical marijuana. Qualified patients could avoid arrest by showing proper documentation, and there would be a voluntary, secure registry of authorized patients. Right now, marijuana patients are only allowed to offer a defence in court if they're arrested and charged for possession.
N.J. Advocates For Medical Marijuana Blast Proposed Regulations
Medical marijuana advocates say the regulations New Jersey has proposed for medical pot don't make sense for businesses, patients or doctors. Advocates used a state Senate committee hearing today mostly to blast the proposed regulations, which had few defenders there. The hearing was a step in a rare constitutional manoeuvre the state Legislature is using to try to force Gov. Chris Christie's health department to come up with new regulations.
Some lawmakers say the rules drafted by the Christie administration don't follow the intent of the legislation that authorized medical marijuana. After the hearing, the next step is a vote to invalidate the regulations. That can't happen for at least 20 days.
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