Click on Magazine to see December 2011 Issue!!!!
Billionaire May Try to Legalize Medical Marijuana 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.
Thanks to Alan Johnson, a reporter at the Columbus Dispatch, who first tipped me off to this story. Here is his piece.
- BUY PROGRESSIVE INURANCE!!!!
No big mystery. Few people, including federal prosecutors, have any interest in preventing seriously ill people from using the drug when recommended by their doctors after other treatments have failed.
But would-be marijuana profiteers and their political allies – including the Tacoma City Council – weren’t content with the voters’ mandate for a nonprofit system. Perceiving a lax attitude in the Obama administration, they launched a marijuana trafficking industry that – for all the talk about suffering patients – was really about the money. (Ask the sick people being forced to pay as much as $400 an ounce for the drug.)
The Obama administration, it turns out, isn’t so lax after all. Lately, the Justice Department has been warning that sticking the “medical” label on cash-oriented operations won’t stop the feds from prosecuting, fining and confiscating the property of marijuana dealers – and the officials who abet them.
Gov. Chris Gregoire did precisely the right thing last month when she vetoed most of a bill that would have licensed for-profit marijuana dispensaries and grow operations.
Marijuana aficionados have accused her of caving to empty threats from this state’s two U.S. attorneys. In fact, the former attorney general was reading the legal landscape accurately.
The threats are originating in Washington, D.C. – not this state – and they are serious. Multiple states have been getting them, along with dozens of federal raids on marijuana dealers.
This new reality makes the official licensing of marijuana dispensaries a reckless action, for local governments as well as the state.
The Tacoma City Council, which has licensed roughly three dozen, has been waiting on legislative action to back up its local tolerance policy. But the Obama administration has made the Legislature irrelevant to any scheme for selling marijuana. Whatever happens in the special session, the City Council will be exposing landlords and city employees to serious legal risk if it doesn’t shut down anything that resembles a for-profit marijuana operation.
In Olympia, lawmakers would be wise to regroup, stop trying to extend faux legality to the industry and focus on passing a responsible budget this month.
There remains the problem of helping legitimate patients get access to therapeutic marijuana. Unfortunately, hack practitioners have passed out so many medical authorizations to common drug-seekers that it’s impossible to know how big a problem this is.
The industry has employed what amounts to a human shield strategy – hiding thousands of recreational users among the people who genuinely need the drug. It has every financial incentive to keep the numbers of “patients” as high as possible, and it takes only a handful of quacks and fly-by-night clinics to mass-produce the dubious authorizations needed to keep the industry swimming in cash.
The biggest favor the Legislature could do for the legitimate patients is enforce what the 1998 initiative envisioned: a strictly nonprofit system in which authorization happens in the context of established doctor-patient relationships. Then allow for a non-profit supply as needed.
Stop the gold rush. Weed out the drug-seekers. As night follows day, the Justice Department will lose interest in this state’s medical marijuana.
In an April 11 ruling, Justice Donald Taliano found that doctors across the country have “massively boycotted” the medical marijuana program and largely refuse to sign off on forms giving sick people access to necessary medication.
As a result, legitimately sick people cannot access medical marijuana through appropriate means and must resort to illegal actions.
Doctors’ “overwhelming refusal to participate in the medicinal marijuana program completely undermines the effectiveness of the program,” the judge wrote in his ruling.
“The effect of this blind delegation is that seriously ill people who need marijuana to treat their symptoms are branded criminals simply because they are unable to overcome the barriers to legal access put in place by the legislative scheme.”
Taliano declared the program to be invalid, as well as the criminal laws prohibiting possession and production of cannabis. He suspended his ruling for three months, giving Ottawa until mid-July to fix the program or face the prospect of effectively legalizing possession and production of cannabis.
The judge’s decision comes in a criminal case involving Matthew Mernagh, 37, of St. Catharines who suffers from fibromyalgia, scoliosis, seizures and depression.
Marijuana is the most effective treatment of Mernagh’s pain. But despite years of effort, he has been unable to find a doctor to support his application for a medical marijuana licence.
Mernagh resorted to growing his own cannabis and was charged with producing the drug.
Taliano found doctors essentially act as gatekeepers to the medical marijuana program but lack the necessary knowledge to adequately give advice or recommend the drug. He also found that Health Canada has made “no real attempt to deal with this lack of knowledge.”
Taliano said the issue is Canada-wide.
Twenty-one patients from across the country testified in the case, saying they were rejected by doctors a total of 113 times.
One Alberta patient was refused by 26 doctors; another in Vancouver approached 37 physicians without finding a single one to sign off on the form.
Patients also face lengthy delays — as long as nine months — in having their medical marijuana applications processed by Health Canada.
“The body of evidence from Mr. Mernagh and the other patient witnesses is troubling,” Taliano wrote. “The evidence of the patient witnesses, which I accept, showed that patients have to go to extraordinary lengths to acquire the marijuana they need.”
Lawyer Alan Young, a longtime advocate of marijuana legalization, said the ruling is a step in the right direction.
“It’s significant because it’s a Superior Court ruling which has binding effect across the province,” Young said.
“By enacting a dysfunctional medical program the government now has to pay the high cost of losing the constitutional authority to criminalize marijuana.”
He said the real test, however, will be whether the judgment stands up in the Ontario Court of Appeal.
“If the government is not successful on appeal, they are going to be caught between a rock and a hard place because they don’t have an alternative program in mind,” he said. “They don’t have a plan B. They’re in trouble.”
The medical profession has been wary of the medical marijuana program since it came into effect in August 2001.
On May 7, 2001, the Canadian Medical Association wrote a letter to the federal health minister expressing concerns with recommending a drug that has had little scientific evidence to support its medicinal benefits.
“Physicians must not be expected to act as gatekeepers to this therapy, yet this is precisely the role Health Canada had thrust upon them,” the letter stated.
- Seems like there is gonna be quite a bit of american tourist dollars pointing north in the next three months, and possibly indefinately if canada decriminalizes it as a whole.
By John Fryar
© 2011 Longmont Times-Call
“It kind of makes it a real mixed bag for us,” Boulder County Drug Task Force Cmdr. Tom Sloan told Twin Peaks Rotary Club members on Thursday.
Sloan added, however, that state and local governments’ inspection staffs eventually will bear most of the burden of enforcing state and local rules for businesses that dispense or grow medical marijuana in Boulder County.
The Boulder County Drug Task Force will focus its efforts on complaints alleging criminal wrongdoing by the owners or employees of medical marijuana centers, Sloan said.
Despite the rapid growth of medical marijuana businesses in Boulder County over the past three years, “we’ve not had any issues with any of our dispensaries on a criminal level,” Sloan told his Rotary Club audience.
There have been some problems with marijuana growing operations that exceed the limits and restrictions set by state and local laws, Sloan said.
He noted last August’s discovery of growing sites that covered 6 acres and included about 7,500 plants near Miller Rock, southeast of Colo. Highway 7 and Colo. Highway 72.
Authorities said last year it was unclear if that crop was even destined for sale in Boulder County, but it was the largest illegal marijuana growing operation in the county’s history.
Sloan said that, when it comes to the medical marijuana that’s allowed to be grown and distributed under what he called a poorly written state constitutional amendment adopted by Colorado voters in 2000, “I have to deal with it,” even if he has “very little interest in it.”
Sloan said marijuana — whether it’s sold illegally on the street or legally possessed by medical marijuana patients and their caregivers — can be “quite a distraction” for law enforcement agencies, if only because there’s so much of it in Boulder County and such a high demand for it.
He said he’d prefer to have the Boulder County Drug Task Force concentrate on cases involving other kinds of illegal substances, like cocaine and methamphetamine.
The task force, managed by the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, is a multiagency unit of officers and investigators from the Boulder, Erie, Lafayette, Louisville and University of Colorado police departments and the sheriffs’ office. Longmont is not a member, but Sloan said his task force works closely with the Longmont Police Department’s drug enforcement unit.
The Longmont City Council is expected to resume its discussion of potential restrictions on medical marijuana centers — and possibly an outright ban — on Tuesday night.
Lafayette and Lyons are in the midst of adopting medical-marijuana regulation ordinances. Louisville and Boulder allow but regulate medical marijuana centers, while Erie and Superior have banned them.
Posted at: 04/01/2011 8:42 PM
By: Gadi Schwartz, KOB Eyewitness News 4; Charlie Pabst, KOB.com
Nonprofit groups hoping to sell medical marijuana in New Mexico are suing Governor Martinez and the state health department, saying not enough applications are being approved.
Since New Mexico's medical marijuana law went into effect, only 25 nonprofits have been approved out of 116 applications.
Before they can sell medical pot, applicants must spend time and money forming a nonprofit, selecting a board and setting up a business.
The lawsuit, filed Friday, says those groups have done all of that, but still haven't been given licenses, while a select few have.
Dominick Zurlo with the New Mexico Department of Health said Friday, "We want to make sure that we can provide the best services for the patients so yeah there is no way to actually say it's going to take us two months, three months, it really depends on the quality of the proposal."
Calls to the lawyer filing the suit were not returned Friday.
Compassionate Pain Management's owner Shaun Gindi says he saw the devastation in Japan on the news, and floated the idea of donating some of his profits to help on Facebook.
After he got tons of positive feedback, he started brainstorming ideas for the campaign. After rejecting names like "Bake for the Quake" and "Joint Relief," he settled for what he thought was a more appropriate name of "Joints for Japan."
At Compassionate Pain Management's two locations in Lakewood and Louisville, joints sell for $5 a piece for those with a medical marijuana card and prescription. Gindi has promised 100 percent of the profits from those sales for at least the next two to three weeks to go to the Red Cross for recovery efforts in Japan.
Because marijuana remains illegal in the eyes of the federal government, charitable giving is not recognized as a write-off. Gindi says his donations are completely from the heart.
"It feels great to be able to do this. It feels great to give back," Gindi said.
Compassionate Pain Management is a licensed medical marijuana facility that pays Colorado state taxes and has 18 full-time employees.
Gindi believes more businesses in the industry should come together and donate for charitable causes, especially to let the community know that most medical marijuana facilities are in business for the right reasons.
"I think that we need to stand up and do whatever we can to get rid of the stigma that's attached to this. I don't think they [the people of Japan] care where help is coming from, not in the condition they are in now. Anyone that can help out should help out. It's devastated over there," he said.
When dispensaries began applying to cities for business licenses last year, the municipalities approached the Washington Cities Insurance Authority with two questions: Are dispensaries legal, and do we have to issue licenses?
In December, Mark Bucklin, general counsel for the risk pool, issued a memo with the answer: "No!"
Although incorporated as non-profit collectives and funded by donations, Bucklin wrote, dispensaries appear to be simply selling marijuana, making them illegal businesses and not deserving of a business license.
Acting on the memo, cities began a campaign of shutting down dispensaries, The Seattle Times reported Friday.
Tacoma, which had issued cease-and-desist letters to eight dispensaries in October, issued letters to 19 more dispensaries last week.
However, those enforcement actions likely will be stayed pending the outcome of legislation currently under consideration by the state Legislature, city spokesman Rob McNair-Huff said.
"This is a tough issue," he said. "There is a legitimate need [for access to medical marijuana]. This is why we need to get clarity from the Legislature."
Other cities including Shoreline, Lake Forest Park and Federal Way have moved to close dispensaries.
"These municipalities are panicking and coming up with dumb answers," Douglas Hiatt, a Seattle attorney who represents dispensaries, said. "These [dispensaries] are trying to help people get medicine."
A bill that would resolve legal questions about dispensaries appears to be gaining support in the Legislature.
The proposal, SB 5073, would legalize dispensaries and license and regulate commercial grow operations and processors, its authors said.