Marijuana Prohibition Turns 100 Today. What Is There to Celebrate?
Robert Watson, Rhode Island lawmaker who ripped pot smokers, busted for marijuana possession
Obama gets an F for his stance on Medical Marijuana!
Today, Americans for Safe Access — an Oakland, Calif.-based medical marijuana advocacy organization — gave President Barack Obama an overall failing grade for his policies toward MMJ.
"While the prevailing public perception is that President Obama has addressed the issue of medical cannabis," the group said, "that perception could not be further from the truth."
The ASA broke its views down into four categories, separately grading each.
Enforcement — Grade F
President Obama is responsible for new intimidation strategies and more than 100 aggressive criminal enforcement raids in medical cannabis states since taking ofï¬Âï¿½ce in January 2009. By comparison, former President George W. Bush conducted just over 200 such raids during his eight years in ofï¬Âï¿½ce. Since the Justice Department memo was issued in October 2009, the Obama Administration has used federal agencies to execute at least 87 raids, resulting in no fewer than 27 indictments.
Housing & Employment — Grade C-
Despite a recent HUD decision to have local housing authorities address the issue of medical cannabis use and cultivation in public housing, hundreds of thousands of patients across the country are vulnerable to eviction and harassment. For years the federal government’s draconian rules on drug use in public housing have been applied to medical cannabis patients.
Patients are equally, if not more, vulnerable to discrimination at the workplace. Court decisions have upheld such discrimination and, as a result, patients face an uphill battle to achieve rights afforded most others in society.Arizona, Maine, Michigan and Rhode Island have established explicit protections from discrimination on housing and jobs, but such helpful measaures are insufï¬Âï¿½ cient to address a problem that needs federal leadership. According to a statement by HUD, it is the responsibility of local Housing Authorities to “determine, on a case by case basis, the appropriateness of program termination for the use of medical marijuana.” Patients are thus unable to determine whether or not they may use their medication until after they are facing termination.
Financial Services — Grade F
Over the past three years, several large banks and ï¬Âï¿½nancial institutions have, based on federal law, refused to provide services to medical cannabis businesses that comply with local and state laws. These companies includeCitigroup, Wells Fargo & Company, Bank of America Corporation, and credit card service providers. This has caused hardship for medical cannabis providers who rely on ï¬Âï¿½nancial institutions to handle cash and credit card transactions safely and efï¬Âï¿½ciently.
In addition, the Internal Revenue Service under the Obama Administration has begun audits of state compliant medical cannabis providers, threatening to bankrupt them by denying their deductions and demanding more taxes. Recently, it was revealed that the FDIC is putting pressure on banks to investigate and report medical cannabis businesses and their ï¬Âï¿½nancial transactions. Yet when 15 Congressional representatives demanded the Treasury Department stop threatening banks that provide accounts to medical cannabis patients and providers, the Treasury Department claimed no such pressure had been applied. Banks still say Treasury is responsible, and patients and providers continue to have their accounts closed.
Veterans — Grade C-
In 2010, the Department of Veteran Affairs responded to pressure by veterans and patient advocates and improved their policy on medical cannabis. Previous VA policy treated medical cannabis use as criminal, often resulting in patients who used medical cannabis being denied treatment by the VA. Now the VA recognizes medical cannabis may help some veterans and lets VA physicians decide if cannabis use would interfere with a patient’s other medications. VA physicians are still barred from recommending medical cannabis to their patients, forcing veterans to consult doctors outside of the VA system. VA physicians also still ultimately have the authority to deny pharmaceutical medications to patients who use medical cannabis.
Washington: Governor Refuses To Sign New Medical Marijuana Law
Montana governor vetoes repeal of medical marijuana law
Seattle Protesters Tell Drug Czar: Gil, Get With The Times
The Editorial Board’s meeting with Gil Kerlikowske turned into a big deal. Kerlikowske, the former police chief here in Seattle, is now director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. In other words, he’s the “Drug Czar” -- a title he made fun of in our meeting when he responded to a question by saying, “If I knew the answer, I’d be more than a czar. I’d be king.”
In the paper of Sunday, Feb 20, The Times published an editorial arguing that marijuana be legalized,regulated, taxed and sold by the state of Washington. Two days later we received a request from Kerlikowske’s office that he wanted to talk to us; he could pay a visit March 4 at 2:45 p.m. Sure, we said.
Clearly this was because of our editorial. I recalled a year ago, when I wrote a column saying that legalization was coming, and that I favored it, that I received a call from Kerlikowske's office for the first (and only) time. The Director would like to talk with me, the woman said. Would I be available at 3:00 the following afternoon? Yes, I said, I would. I wondered if he was going to chew on my ear, but in the event he missed the call, and instead sent me a copy of a speech he had given to police chiefs in San Jose.
This time around, the word got out, probably through me, that he had asked to speak to the Times Editorial Board. Dominic Holden of The Stranger called me and asked me about it and put out a report on their blog,The Slog. Holden quoted me accurately, but his headline framed Kerlikowske’s visit as an attempt to “bully” The Seattle Times. It was a stretch to call it that. Holden wrote that it was “an apparent attempt by the federal government to pressure the state's largest newspaper to oppose marijuana legalization. Or at least turn down the volume on its new-found bullhorn to legalize pot.”
NORML, The National Organization to Reform the Marijuana Laws, picked up the story from The Slog. Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, portrayed Kerlikowske’s visit as an effort to “squelch” our mainstream-media voice.
I started getting emails. Here was one from a woman in New Mexico:
“Please, give Mr. Kerlikowske hell for all of us. To want to actually come down to censure (and censor) your paper - your editorial opinion is downright unconstitutional and un-American.”
And this morning there were picketers from Sensible Washington, the group that ran the marijuana legalization initiative last year, and are running one, Initiative 1149, this year. They were picketing The Times in favor of our editorial stance and against Kerlikowske. Some of the signs portrayed his visit as an attack on the freedom of the press.
I couldn't think of anything Kerlikowske could do to squelch the freedom of The Seattle Times, and I never interpreted his visit that way. The folks that did were well-meaning, and regarding cannabis legalization I agree with them. But Kerlikowske was not bullying us, or threatening us, or attacking our freedom to air our opinions. As it turned out, he was cordial and almost laid-back. At one point he steered the conversation to prescription drug abuse, which had nothing to do with our editorial. When we asked him about legal marijuana he did disagree with us, but so gently that some of the attendees wondered why he had come at all.
Like many powerful people, he was careful what he said, responding to some questions without answering them as they were cast. For example, my first question to him related the costs of marijuana prohibition, and ended with the question of whether they were “worth it” (which I think of as “the Madeleine Albright question”). He didn’t answer it.
Later, when I asked him whether the War on Drugs was a success, he did a double-take: Didn’t I know that one of his first acts as Drug Czar was to declare the War on Drugs over? Hadn’t I seen that?
No. I thought the War on Drugs was still on.
“The War on Drugs is over,” he said. “We’ve stopped looking at it as a criminal justice issue alone.”
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