N.J. Sen. Scutari to schedule hearing to void proposed medical marijuana rules

Category: Politics | Posted on Wed, January, 12th 2011 by THCFinder

TRENTON — A state senator said he's taking the next step toward voiding Gov. Chris Christie's proposed strict medical marijuana regulations after the Christie administration missed today's deadline to submit a new version of them.

A hearing on the issue has been scheduled for Jan. 20 before the state Senate's health committee.

That's the next step in a little-used legislative process to force an administration to redo regulations — the nuts-and-bolts of how a law is to be carried out. After the hearing, lawmakers could vote to require the Republican governor's administration to write new rules, said state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, a Democrat from Linden.

The issue is simple: Legislators believe the Christie administration's plan on how to disburse marijuana to patients is so restrictive that it undermines the intent of the law adopted last year to do so.

The proposed regulations are the only ones in the nation to limit the potency and variety of pot that's made available to patients. They also require doctors who recommend marijuana to undergo more training.

New Jersey became the 14th state to adopt a law allowing patients with some medical conditions to use pot to ease their symptoms. People with glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and other conditions say the drug can help relieve pain and nausea.

Signing the bill was one of the last acts as governor for Democrat Jon Corzine. A day later, Christie, who upset Corzine in an election the previous year, was sworn in.

Christie said he supported the concept of medical marijuana — but not the law that Corzine signed.

His critics on the issue say he tried to use the regulations to rewrite the law.

Christie says he's just using his authority to fill in blanks left in the law.

Last month, Christie struck a deal with Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Democrat from Princeton who pushed for legal cannabis for patients, to make changes to his regulations. Among them: allowing six establishments to both grow and distribute the drug — as the law called for. Previously, Christie had wanted only two places to be allowed to grow it and four to distribute it.

But Scutari, the Legislature's other chief advocate of medical pot, didn't agree to the deal. And 10 days after it was struck, the Senate sided with him and voted to tell the administration that the regulations didn't meet the Legislature's intent.

The vote gave the Christie administration 30 days to draft new regulations. Scutari said Christie hasn't complied with that resolution — or even formally introduced the reworked regulations from the deal he struck with Gusciora.

"He hasn't even done what he said he would do," Scutari said.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Senior Services didn't immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Chris Goldstein, a spokesman for the Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, founded in 2003 to support legalization efforts, said it's frustrating for patients that legal pot isn't available yet to patients who would qualify for it.

"A year later, we thought we would have the program running, and we don't," he said. "There's not a cannabis plant growing yet."



Marijuana statements show AG John Suthers needs to get a life, says advocate Brian Vicente

Category: Politics | Posted on Mon, January, 10th 2011 by THCFinder

‚ÄčIn touting the break-up of an alleged drug ring said to be using medical marijuana as cover, Colorado Attorney General John Suthers suggested a link between the MMJ biz and illegal dealing.


Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente sees this statement and others as evidence Suthers is wasting taxpayers' money on an anti-pot campaign.

"I certainly don't feel like the arrest of a small group of citizens should serve as an indictment of the medical marijuana program and the many people who find benefit from our constitutional amendment," Vicente says.

"Certainly, people should not be using it as a front for recreational sales -- but what we have are simply allegations. We don't really know if that happened or not," he points out, adding, "The really surprising thing to me about this incident was the politically charged nature of attorney general Suthers's comments."

In a press release about the arrests, which included Laura Vanwormer, co-owner of Colorado CHRONIX, a meet-up group, Suthers said:

"This case, while disturbing, should come as no surprise to Coloradans who have been concerned that there is a nexus between Colorado's booming medical marijuana industry and illegal distribution of the drug. This case counters the contention among marijuana advocates and some public officials that a regulated medical marijuana system will undercut the illicit market for marijuana."

These remarks smack of "a political stunt," Vicente maintains. When Suthers "arrests people and the same day issues various proclamations about how all medical marijuana is a farce and people are using the law as a front and all this garbage -- which is, by and large, untrue -- it begs the question of what role the attorney general is playing. Are there no other crimes or more pressing issues than people selling medical marijuana? It's sort of shocking that he doesn't have anything better to do, and fundamentally, I think he's wasting taxpayer dollars on these probably fruitless prosecutions."

Not that Vicente denies the possibility of individuals legally selling medical marijuana to patients at the same time they're dealing pot for recreational use in violation of federal law.


"There was a gray area for many years," he says, "when it was arguably legal to have dispensaries, but people were trying to figure out what the laws were. But more and more, those laws have become clearer, and there's a transition from the gray market to the mainstream market. And by and large, the vast majority of providers are simply medical providers. They're not dealing in any recreational fashion."

As such, he describes the allegations in last week's bust, if proven true in court, as isolated incidents, despite his belief that "John Suthers and his cronies are attempting to paint them as commonplace occurrences."

Could this tack be an attempt to undermine a campaign to legalize marijuana for adult use in 2012?

"There is a back story here," Vicente allows. "The reason we have an illicit market is because marijuana is not yet legal for all adults. We don't see large scale alcohol distribution rings being busted by the state, and once marijuana is legal for adult use, hopefully at the end of 2012, I think we're going to see that illicit market absolutely fade away. And these law enforcement officials will be forced to focus on real crime -- on the problems that are actually nagging at our society. They'll be forced to use taxpayer dollars more effectively."

In the meantime, Vicente points to "Not So Fast, Mr. Suthers," a Sunday column by theDenver Post's Vince Carroll, as a way of portraying Suthers as a zealot on the issue of medical marijuana. Carroll -- a conservative on many issues, but a supporter of medical marijuana -- actually needles Vicente in the piece, scoffing at his suggestion that young people may turn away from trying pot because many of the patients using it medically are elderly. But he saves his heaviest ammunition for the AG, writing, "The more implacable opponents of dispensaries and decriminalization, Suthers included, rarely acknowledge the social costs of the war on pot or its toll on personal freedom and civil liberties -- or even that some dispensary patients actually are seeking pain relief as opposed to a recreational high."

Vicente expresses his thoughts about Suthers's "crusade" more bluntly.

"I really think attorney general Suthers needs to get a life," he says. "There are more important priorities, more important things to use our state's resources for, than targeting adults for allegedly selling a drug less harmful than alcohol. This political posturing is getting absurd."



Oakland city officials subject to arrest over pot laws

Category: Politics | Posted on Sun, December, 19th 2010 by THCFinder

Oakland is facing another possible legal hurdle in its efforts to regulate and tax marijuana farms.


The website California Watch obtained a letter sent by Alameda County district attorney to Mayor-elect Jean Quan. The district attorney warns that city officials could be subject to arrest by federal drug agents if they decide Oakland is violating California's medical marijuana law.


The Oakland city council approved an ordinance allowing marijuana cultivation in July. It is set to meet Tuesday to discuss the issue. Applications for marijuana growing permits are due the next day.




Former NM Gov. Gary Johnson: I smoked pot from 2005-2008

Category: Politics | Posted on Tue, December, 7th 2010 by THCFinder

Former NM Gov. Gary Johnson told the conservative magazine The Weekly Standard that he used marijuana for medical purposes from 2005-2008, before his state had passed a medical marijuana law.

Johnson has long portrayed himself as someone who has used marijuana. "I don't drink. I don't smoke pot. But I have drank and I have smoked pot," is a line we've personally heard the governor use in stump speeches at the NORML National Conference in Portland, the Seattle Hempfest, and the Cypress Hill Smokeout in San Bernardino, just three of the many pro-marijuana events Johnson has attended in support of his "Our America Initiative". The Standard interviewed the possible candidate for the Republican nomination for president and became the first journalists to press Johnson on the time frame of his past-tense marijuana references.

“It’s not anything I volunteer, but you’re the only person that actually asked about it,” Johnson told The Standard. “But for luck, I guess, I wasn’t arrested.” Smoking marijuana for medicinal purposes was not legal in New Mexico until 2007.  However, Johnson says he needed medical marijuana after a 2005 paragliding accident in Hawaii. He fell about fifty feet straight down to the ground and suffered multiple bone fractures, including his T12 vertebrae. “In my human experience, it’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt,” he said.

According to The Standard, Johnson says “Rather than using painkillers, which I have used on occasion before, I did smoke pot, as a result of having broken my back, blowing out both of my knees, breaking ribs, really taking about three years to recover.”

The Standard points out that Johnson's honesty about his illegal medical marijuana use may be a handicap in appealing to Republican primary voters but it may be easier to sell to the typically more-conservative primary voter than his stances on other traditional Republican issues.

The issue of marijuana in presidential politics has been with us ever since Republican Richard Nixon declared drugs "Public Enemy #1". We've seen pot-friendly candidates when Democrat Jimmy Carter called for federal decriminalization of marijuana in the 1976 campaign through Republicans Sen. Mike Gravel and Rep. Ron Paul calling for an end to marijuana prohibition in the 2008 campaign. We've seen pot-using candidates like Democrats Bill Clinton (who didn't inhale), John Kerry, John Edwards, and Al Gore (who admit they inhaled), and Barack Obama (who inhaled, frequently, that was the point) and even Republican George W. Bush (who didn't want the kids doing what he did).

Gov. Johnson, however, presents us with a potential candidate who is not just pro-decrim like Carter, but actually pro-legalization. A candidate who not only admits he inhaled like Obama but did so just two or three years ago, after his terms as governor of New Mexico. The fact that we can have a major presidential hopeful with a legitimate political chance talking openly about legalization and his recent marijuana use shows just how far we've come in forty years of marijuana law reform.



I was gonna join the Chamber of Commerce, but then I got high

Category: Politics | Posted on Sun, December, 5th 2010 by THCFinder

I was gonna join the chamber, but then I got high

Don't think those suits over at the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce are a bunch of stodgy old squares. On Wednesday, they'll link arms with the long-haired hipsters who run one of San Jose's premier medical marijuana shops -- Harborside Health Center -- for a ribbon-cutting.

Did the chamber types think Harborside was some chichi spa? Nope. Outgoing CEO Pat Dando said they were fully hip. They checked things out and concluded the dope distributors were worthy.

Harborside has been a chamber member for a year, Dando said, and its Oakland site has been a member of that city's chamber of commerce, too.

"They are a business in good standing with the city," Dando said.

Well, kind of. Harborside has certainly made every effort to comply with government rules. Wednesday's ribbon-cutting is billed as "an event to foster positive community relations." Harborside even boasts it has made contributions to the community by sponsoring toy and blood drives.

But San Jose technically doesn't allow medical marijuana outfits. While the city is considering possible medical marijuana zoning, that's yet to be approved; a council discussion is scheduled for Dec. 13. In the meantime, medical marijuana collectives remain about as legal under San Jose zoning as brothels.

Dando said that, much like city officials caught in the fog of conflicting marijuana laws, the chamber is feeling its way through the haze.

"It's one of those unusual circumstances we deal with," Dando said. "Truth be told, this is new territory."

Read the full story HERE


Good & Bad News for California Medical Marijuana Patients

Category: Politics | Posted on Thu, November, 25th 2010 by THCFinder

First, the good news: California attorney general candidate Steve Cooleyconceded the election to his opponent, Kamala Harris. While Harris may not be the most outspoken supporter of Prop 215 or medical marijuana patients, she is sure to be a better option.



Cooley’s history of antagonism toward the medical marijuana field and complicity with federal law enforcement as district attorney of Los Angeles would have meant trouble for the state’s more than 350K registered patients. Disaster averted!

Unfortunately, the marijuana-hostile legal and civic environment that Cooley helped create in Southern California resulted in Los Angeles and Orange County supervisors voting to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in all unincorporated areas. Rather than use the tools at their disposal to deal with illegal dispensaries, the supervisors elected to effectively deny patients in those areas access to their medicine unless they feel like a nice long drive (assuming they are able to travel, or even get out of bed).

L.A. County patients can take one small comfort, though. It appears that higher politics has left Cooley feeling a little burned out, judging from a statement he released suggesting that this is his last term in office:

“I will complete my third term and finish my career as a professional prosecutor in the office where it began over 37 years ago,” he said.

Good riddance.





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