Feds Threaten to Prosecute Medical Marijuana Providers 'Whose Actions Are in Clear and Unambiguous Compliance' With State Law
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Wed, May, 4th 2011 by THCFinder
Last week Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire vetoed a bill that would have clarified the rules for growing and supplying medical marijuana in her state, citing threats of federal prosecution. Gregoire was responding to an April 14 letter in which the U.S. attorneys for Washington, Jenny Durkan and Michael Ormsby, warned that dispensary operators and the state regulators who oversee them both could be prosecuted, since "we maintain the authority to enforce [federal law] vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law." USA Today reports that U.S. attorneys in California, Colorado, Montana, and Rhode Island have made similar threats. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, no fan of medical marijuana to begin with, has cited these letters as a reason to delay implemention of dispensary regulations in his state.
These prosecution threats blatantly contradict the Justice Department's official medical marijuana policy, which Attorney General Eric Holder says is "to go after those people who violate both federal and state law." In their letter (PDF), Durkan and Ormsby try to reconcile their stance with Holder's by distinguishing between "seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regime," who will be left alone, and "business enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana" (i.e., dispensaries), which will be subject to prosecution. Yet the October 2009 memo (PDF) that explained the DOJ's new policy of restraint drew no distinction between patients and providers, advising U.S. attorneys to avoid cases involving "individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." It explicitly mentioned "caregivers" who supply patients with marijuana as one example of such individuals.
As I noted at the time and have pointed out since, the requirement of "clear and unambiguous compliance" with state law allows DEA raids and federal prosecutions to continue in states, such as California and Montana, where the rules for growing and supplying medical marijuana are unclear. But as I said last July, the definitive test of whether the new policy means anything in practice, and whether it can be said to fulfill Obama's campaign promise to stop interfering with state decisions regarding medical marijuana, will be in jurisdictions with "laws that explicitly authorize and regulate the production and distribution of medical marijuana." If the DEA raids government-licensed dispensaries that are "in clear and unambiguous compliance" with state law, I wrote, "Obama's bad faith will be clear and unambiguous." It is getting clearer every day.
A recent Reason-Rupe poll found that 69 percent of Americans think the federal government should respect state policy choices regarding the medical use of marijuana.
Billionaire May Try to Legalize Medical Marijuana in Ohio
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Tue, May, 3rd 2011 by THCFinder
One of the biggest backers of medical marijuana in the country, Peter Lewis is seeking proposals to conduct a ballot initiative campaign to legalize marijuana for medical use in Ohio.
Fifteen states, according to the request for proposals, have made marijuana legal for qualified patients, most through the passage of similar voter initiatives. The first was California in 1996.
Now Lewis is considering pushing it through in his home state of Ohio. That’s where Progressive (nyse: PGR), the auto insurer founded by his father and run by Lewis for many years, is headquartered. Lewis, who now spends much of his time in Florida, gave up his CEO role in 2000 but remains chairman. About 90% of his net worth is held in shares of Progressive.
“Of the states that continue to prohibit medical use of marijuana, Ohio stands out as having particularly high levels of voter support,” stated the RFP, “This provides an opportunity to enact a new law that will directly help patients and to do so in a manner that will serve as a model for other states.” The goal of the proposals, due May 15, is not just to pass a voter initiative legalizing medical marijuana in Ohio but to design a campaign that could create a model for future campaigns in other states. Funding will be based on whether someone can make a convincing case that Ohio is the best state in which to win.
“You shouldn’t take it as a given that there will be a ballot initiative this campaign,” said Graham Boyd, Lewis’ lawyer and adviser, “But we want to see proposals.” He would not comment on whether Lewis is considering conducting similar ballot initiatives in other states.
Lewis has already given millions to the reform group, Marijuana Policy Project including $900,000 in 2010. He also gave $200,000 in support of California’s Proposition 19, the bill that sought unsuccessfully last November to legalize marijuana in California. Other billionaires who gave money in support of that bill include George Soros and Facebook billionaires Dustin Moskovitz and Sean Parker.
Lewis may have personal reasons for being so passionate about medical marijuana. He was once arrested for cannabis possession in New Zealand; his lawyer told the court he uses the drug to combat pain from a partial leg amputation.
Arizona medical marijuana law no shield for users, growers, prosecutor says
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Mon, May, 2nd 2011 by THCFinder
Arizona's top federal prosecutor joined a growing chorus of law officers across the country Monday in saying that the state's medical marijuana law doesn't protect users, growers or sellers from federal prosecution.
U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, in a letter to Arizona's health director, said his office will abide by a 2009 Justice Department memo that discourages prosecution of medical marijuana users. But he said anyone who possesses or distributes marijuana is still violating federal law.
"This compliance with Arizona laws and regulations does not provide a safe harbor, nor immunity from federal prosecution," Burke wrote to Will Humble, director of the state Department of Health Services.
Burke's letter follows similar correspondence in recent weeks between federal prosecutors, attorneys general and governors in several other states, and dispensary and greenhouse raids in Washington, Montana and California.
Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire on Friday vetoed a bill in her state to regulate the medical-marijuana industry, which has been operating underground since voters approved it in 1998. Federal prosecutors there also made good on a promise to crack down on landlords who leased their property to dispensaries.
Gregoire and other governors have said they don't want to put state employees at risk of prosecution.
In his two-page letter, Burke said "individuals and organizations - including property owners, landlords and financiers" could be prosecuted under federal drug-trafficking laws. But he made no mention of state employees, who have been processing ID cards for hundreds of medical-marijuana users and are preparing to license dispensaries and cultivation sites this summer.
"The public should understand, however, that even clear and unambiguous compliance with (Arizona Medical Marijuana Act) does not render possession or distribution of marijuana lawful under federal statute," Burke wrote.
Burke said the state's medical pot law, approved by voters in November, does not apply on Arizona Indian reservations.
Dad Gives Toddler Battling Brain Cancer Medical Marijuana
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Mon, May, 2nd 2011 by THCFinder
Bill Would Regulate "Wild West" of Medical Marijuana
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Fri, April, 29th 2011 by THCFinder
The "wild west" of medical marijuana dispensaries could be coming to an end in California.
State lawmakers are working on a bill that would ban medical marijuana dispensaries from operating within 600 feet of residential areas.
Anaheim City Councilwoman Kris Murray, who is pushing the measure, told the Los Angeles Times that some California residents don't feel safe on their own streets anymore.
Sen. Doug La Malfa said the 1996 ballot measure permitting medical marijuana sales has created a "wild west" in the industry and legislators have been trying to catch up.
In San Jose, the city had conversations of using eBay to auction of MCD permits when it talked of reducing the number of medical marijuana dispensaries from over 100 to 10.
If passed, the legislation would create buffer zones in residential neighborhoods where medical marijuana clubs would not be allowed to operate. Cities would also be given the power to adopt stricter regulations if they so choose.
Pass it to the Right: Medical Marijuana Gaining Steam in Illinois
Category: Medical Marijuana | Posted on Thu, April, 28th 2011 by THCFinder
Back in November, Senate Bill 1381, which would have legalized medical marijuana, failed to receive enough votes.
The man behind the bill, Rep. Lou Lang (D-16thDistrict) told Skokie Patch in the past that many lawmakers were for the legislation – enough to pass it and then some – but that they wouldn't vote for it because of possible political fallout.
Back then, Lang fell short by seven votes during a lame-duck season in Congress. Some lawmakers feared Illinois would become another California.
Fast forward to today and a similar bill is gaining steam, as Lang and new allies – some Republican – are laying out a stricter set of rules for the bill.
The bill has new life, mainly because Republican Representative and House Minority Leader Tom Cross said he will support legalizing medical marijuana. His support came after talking to cancer patients and a disabled veteran.
The controversial plant would treat people with HIV/AIDS, cancer and severe glaucoma, among other illness. Yet Illinois lawmakers want to make sure that to make their state doesn’t become another California.
In California, for example, a person could receive a prescription for stating that they are simply having frequent headaches, something Illinois lawmakers don't want for the state.
Marijuana distribution sites in Illinois would also be not-for-profit, unlike those in California. There would also be severe penalties for those that sell the plant after obtaining it through prescription.
"How do you turn down the people who are sick? Who are in pain? People who haven't been able to have a quality life," Lang asked elected officials in Illinois. "This is not a bill about drugs. This is a bill about health care."
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