Marijuana Legalization vs. Gay Marriage: Obama's Hypocrisy on States' Rights
In a now-familiar story of drug war overkill, D.C.-based hemp store Capitol Hemp will shutter the doors of its two locations in response to a government raid of their premises. In addition to clothing and toiletries made from industrial hemp, Capitol Hemp sells artisan glass pipes that could be used to smoke either tobacco or hemp’s notorious and illegal cousin, marijuana. Because the store also sold books advocating marijuana legalization, the pipes were deemed illegal “drug paraphernalia” by federal prosecutors.
Capitol Hemp does not sell marijuana, although marijuana for medicinal use is legal in the District of Columbia. Federal agencies and prosecutors, however, are not bound by state or local law and can continue to harass or indict small businesses that operate on the fringe of American drug policy. In an apparent break from prior internal guidelines, the Obama administration’s Department of Justice has led a crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries, going as far as giving Californian businesses an ultimatum to shut down or face federal criminal charges.
This naked attack on duly-enacted state policies stands in stark contrast to President Obama’s recent pronouncement that states ought to be able decide their own course when it comes to persecuting gays.
Federalism is the sensible proposition that the federal government should transfer more responsibility to state governments, which are closer to the people and are therefore better able to serve the democratic public. But there is no defensible principle of federalism that would justify, on the one hand, relentlessly suppressing state-led drug tolerance while, on the other hand, endorsing a state-led attack on civil rights. The localized effects of the drug trade make it suited for local enforcement and policymaking, while the national import of civil rights — and America’s history of state-led discrimination of racial minorities — caution against a preference for federalism in the civil rights context.
President Obama’s inconsistent policy of federalism is devoid of logic, but is rife with political opportunism. The Obama administration can claim federal supremacy when it comes to its domineering obstruction of local drug policy, but it can sound the trumpet of federalism to avoid alienating any independents while it placates supporters of gay marriage.
This sort of “pragmatism” may make for a shrewd campaign strategy, but it leads to an incoherent and unpredictable federal policy that provides little guidance to citizens trying to make an honest living in compliance with the law. Established businesses like Capitol Hemp are left guessing whether their operations are legal or if federal officials will decide to prosecute them.
People should not live at the mercy of the President's whims. Rather than decide federalism on a politically motivated case-by-case basis, President Obama should implement a principled policy that rationally distributes authority between federal and state policymakers.
Marijuana advocates protest outside Lakewood Obama office
A handful of marijuana reform advocates gathered on a sidewalk outside an Obama campaign office in Lakewood Thursday morning to draw attention to what they characterized as the Obama Administration’s aggressive use of federal law to interfere with the rights of medical marijuana businesses and patients in Colorado and elsewhere.
“Under Obama’s watch, staff members have been getting aggressive. We’re here to let patients know about the aggressive tactics of the Obama Administration,” said attorney Brian Vicente, executive director of Sensible Colorado.
Vicente said that when he was campaigning for president, Obama pledged to leave medical marijuana issues up to individual states but that since winning election the Department of Justice has been working to close dispensaries in Colorado and elsewhere.
“We’re just asking Obama to respect his campaign pledges,” said Vincent Palazzotto, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of America.
Vicente emphasized that he didn’t necessarily expect the eventual Republican nominee to be any better on this issue than Obama, though he noted that Ron Paul is an advocate of state’s rights on marijuana.“We just want people to be aware of what he has done. We want Obama to live up to his promises,” Vicente said.
The Obama campaign’s Colorado press secretary declined comment.
Vicente and others at the street-side gathering were particularly incensed about recent DOJ letters to 23 Colorado dispensaries that are operating legally under Colorado law, but which the federal government has determined are located too close to educational facilities. Dispensary owners were told to close or face the consequences.
Vicente and Palazzotto used the press conference to announce the launch of the Patient Voter Project, a joint effort of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Sensible Colorado, Safer Alternative for Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), Medical Marijuana Assistance Program of America (MMAPA) and Just Say Now.
Vicente said the mission of the Patient Voter Project is to shine a light on the Obama administration’s behavior in the state and to keep medical marijuana patients and others up-to-date about the latest “hostile actions” being carried out by the administration.
“Our goal is simple,” said Vicente. “We want the Obama administration to end its attacks on legitimate and legal providers of medical marijuana and to trust the state of Colorado to regulate the industry in a thorough and competent manner, as it has done already. The people of this state, and especially medical marijuana patients, support the state-regulated medical marijuana system. They have no desire to have the medical marijuana market driven back underground. If the Obama administration prefers that medical marijuana be sold underground, it is our duty to explain that to the people of this state.”
“What the Obama administration is doing is wrong,” added Palazzotto. “As an organization dedicated to serving the needs of patients, we feel it is our responsibility to make the public aware of these unjust and unnecessary actions. Patients, and those who support them, need to know which elected officials are on their side and which ones are trying to deny patients safe access to their medicine.”
“Having had AIDS for almost twenty years, I’ve had more than my share of troubles and uncertainties,” said Damien LaGoy, a medical marijuana patient. “Now with President Obama’s recent efforts to shut down medical marijuana stores in Colorado, I have to live with the uncertainty of not knowing where — or if — I’ll be able to get my doctor-recommended medicine in the future. We need President Obama to respect Colorado voters and stop shutting down state-licenced medical marijuana stores in our state.”
LaGoy told the Colorado Independent that because of medical marijuana he has been able to gain weight and become healthier. He said the dispensary closed to where he lives is one of those targeted by the DOJ for closure.
Wanda James, a medical marijuana business owner, was not able to attend the press conference, but provided the following statement: “In 2008, I served on Barack Obama’s Colorado finance team and helped raise over $100,000 for his presidential bid. I now feel deceived by President Obama’s backpedaling on medical marijuana. The aggressive actions by his US Attorney in Colorado shows a great disrespect for our state’s voters, who both support medical marijuana and helped President Obama get elected.”
Also on Thursday, proponents of a statewide initiative to regulate marijuana like alcohol said they have collected more than 12,000 additional signatures to cure its petition to place a measure on the November ballot. Just over 2,400 additional valid signatures are needed.
Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler determined earlier this year that the group had not collected enough signature to make it on to the ballot in November.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol will deliver the new petitions to the Secretary of State’s office Friday, and will first hold a news conference at which former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson will endorse the initiative and discuss why he supports ending marijuana prohibition and regulating it like alcohol.
Los Angeles - A privately-owned Cessna aircraft carrying over 20 pounds (10 kgs) of marijuana, on Thursday, strayed into the restricted airspace of President Obama's helicopter, Marine One. The Air Force hurriedly scrambled up two F-16 fighters to intercept the plane.
According to Huffington Post, the police discovered that the general aviation plane, a Cessna 182, was part of a marijuana smuggling operation after it was forced to land at Long Beach Airport.
The Secret Service said that though the plane was never a threat to the president, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) scrambled two F-16 fighters from March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, California, to intercept the Cessna plane over Los Angeles at about 11:30 a.m. PST.
Herald Sun reports NORAD said in a statement: "Two F-16 fighters scrambled out of March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, California, to respond to a temporary flight restriction violation by a Cessna 182 aircraft over Los Angeles. After intercepting the aircraft, the F-16s followed it until it landed without incident at approximately 12:30pm MST, where the plane was met by local law enforcement."
According to Los Angeles Times, U.S. Secret Service agency spokesman Brian Leary, said: “A civilian aircraft entered the restricted airspace in violation of the temporary flight restrictions imposed by the FAA. The aircraft was diverted to Long Beach Airport, and the airspace restriction violations do not appear to be of protective interest.”
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Virginia Kice, said the Homeland Security Investigations unit questioned the pilot and later turned him over to Long Beach police. The man remains in police custody and will face local prosecution.
NORAD spokesman Michael Kucharek declined to say how close the Cessna came to Marine One, the helicopter carrying the president to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) for a scheduled flight to San Francisco.
The Federal Aviation Administration had notified pilots that an eight-mile radius around Los Angeles International Airport was off-limits to air traffic on Thursday, but according to spokesman Brie Sachse, the Cessna pilot violated the radius.
The Secret Service did not release the particulars of the plane involved saying it was not the practice to release the identity of planes involved in security breaches.
The Herald Sun reports that President Obama had attended a fundraising concert featuring Foo Fighter in Los Angeles. The flight to San Francisco was delayed by the appearance of the Cessna in the president's airspace, but the president finally took off on Air Force One at 11:40 a.m. PST and arrived in San Francisco at 12:40 p.m. PST where he attended three fundraisers.
Obama's War on Pot
In a shocking about-face, the administration has launched a government-wide crackdown on medical marijuana
by: Tim Dickinson
Back when he was running for president in 2008, Barack Obama insisted that medical marijuana was an issue best left to state and local governments. "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue," he vowed, promising an end to the Bush administration's high-profile raids on providers of medical pot, which is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia.
But over the past year, the Obama administration has quietly unleashed a multiagency crackdown on medical cannabis that goes far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush. The feds are busting growers who operate in full compliance with state laws, vowing to seize the property of anyone who dares to even rent to legal pot dispensaries, and threatening to imprison state employees responsible for regulating medical marijuana. With more than 100 raids on pot dispensaries during his first three years, Obama is now on pace to exceed Bush's record for medical-marijuana busts. "There's no question that Obama's the worst president on medical marijuana," says Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "He's gone from first to worst."
The federal crackdown imperils the medical care of the estimated 730,000 patients nationwide – many of them seriously ill or dying – who rely on state-sanctioned marijuana recommended by their doctors. In addition, drug experts warn, the White House's war on law-abiding providers of medical marijuana will only drum up business for real criminals. "The administration is going after legal dispensaries and state and local authorities in ways that are going to push this stuff back underground again," says Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance. Gov. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, a former Republican senator who has urged the DEA to legalize medical marijuana, pulls no punches in describing the state of affairs produced by Obama's efforts to circumvent state law: "Utter chaos."
In its first two years, the Obama administration took a refreshingly sane approach to medical marijuana. Shortly after Obama took office, a senior drug-enforcement official pledged to Rolling Stone that the question of whether marijuana is medicine would now be determined by science, "not ideology." In March 2009, Attorney General Eric Holder emphasized that the Justice Department would only target medical-marijuana providers "who violate both federal and state law." The next morning, a headline in The New York Times read OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO STOP RAIDS ON MEDICAL MARIJUANA DISPENSERS. While all forms of marijuana would remain strictly illegal under federal law – the DEA ranks cannabis as a Schedule I drug, on par with heroin – the feds would respect state protections for providers of medical pot. Framing the Obama administration's new approach, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske famously declared, "We're not at war with people in this country."
That original hands-off policy was codified in a Justice Department memo written in October 2009 by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden. The so-called "Ogden memo" advised federal law-enforcement officials that the "rational use of its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources" meant that medical-marijuana patients and their "caregivers" who operate in "clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law" could be left alone.
At the same time, Ogden was concerned that the feds not "be made a fool of" by illegal drug traffickers. In that vein, his memo advised U.S. attorneys to focus on going after pot dispensaries that posed as medicinal but were actively engaged in criminal acts, such as selling to minors, possession of illegal firearms or money-laundering. The idea, as Holder put it, was to raid only those hardcore traffickers who "use medical-marijuana laws as a shield."
The Ogden memo sent a clear message to the states: The feds will only intervene if you allow pot dispensaries to operate as a front for criminal activity. States from New Mexico to Maine moved quickly to license and regulate dispensaries through their state health departments – giving medical marijuana unprecedented legitimacy. In California, which had allowed "caregivers" to operate dispensaries, medical pot blossomed into a $1.3 billion enterprise – shielded from federal blowback by the Ogden memo.
The administration's recognition of medical cannabis reached its high-water mark in July 2010, when the Department of Veterans Affairs validated it as a legitimate course of treatment for soldiers returning from the front lines. But it didn't take long for the fragile federal detente to begin to collapse. The reversal began at the Drug Enforcement Agency with Michele Leonhart, a holdover from the Bush administration who was renominated by Obama to head the DEA. An anti-medical-marijuana hard-liner, Leonhart had been rebuked in 2008 by House Judiciary chairman John Conyers for targeting dispensaries with tactics "typically reserved for the worst drug traffickers and kingpins." Her views on the larger drug war are so perverse, in fact, that last year she cited the slaughter of nearly 1,000 Mexican children by the drug cartels as a counterintuitive "sign of success in the fight against drugs."
In January 2011, weeks after Leonhart was confirmed, her agency updated a paper called "The DEA Position on Marijuana." With subject headings like THE FALLACY OF MARIJUANA FOR MEDICINAL USE and SMOKED MARIJUANA IS NOT MEDICINE, the paper simply regurgitated the Bush administration's ideological stance, in an attempt to walk back the Ogden memo. Sounding like Glenn Beck, the DEA even blamed "George Soros" and "a few billionaires, not broad grassroots support" for sustaining the medical-marijuana movement – even though polls show that 70 percent of Americans approve of medical pot.
Almost immediately, federal prosecutors went on the attack. Their first target: the city of Oakland, where local officials had moved to raise millions in taxes by licensing high-tech indoor facilities for growing medical marijuana. A month after the DEA issued its hard-line position, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag warned the city that the feds were weighing "criminal prosecution" against the proposed pot operations. Abandoning the Ogden memo's protections for state-sanctioned "caregivers," Haag effectively re-declared war on medical pot. "We will enforce the Controlled Substances Act vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana," she wrote, "even if such activities are permitted under state law." Haag's warning shot had the desired effect: Oakland quickly scuttled its plans, even though the taxes provided by the indoor grows could have single-handedly wiped out the city's $31 million deficit.
Two months later, federal prosecutors in Washington state went even further, threatening state employees responsible for implementing new regulations for pot dispensaries. U.S. attorneys sent a letter to Gov. Christine Gregoire, warning that state employees "would not be immune from liability under the Controlled Substances Act." Shocked by the threat – "It subjected Washington state employees to felony criminal prosecution!" – Gregoire vetoed the new rules. A similar federal threat in Rhode Island forced Chafee to follow suit, putting an indefinite hold on the planned opening of three state-licensed "compassion centers" to distribute marijuana to seriously ill patients.
In isolation, such moves might be seen as the work of overzealous U.S. attorneys, who operate with considerable autonomy. But last June, the Justice Department effectively declared that it was returning to the Bush administration's hard-line stance on medical marijuana. James Cole, who had replaced Ogden as deputy attorney general, wrote a memo revoking his predecessor's deference to states on the definition of "caregiver." The term, Cole insisted, applied only to "individuals providing care to individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses, not commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana." Pot dispensaries, in short, were once again prime federal targets, even if they were following state law to the letter. "The Cole memo basically adopted the Bush policy," says Kampia, "which was only that the Justice Department will not go after individual patients."
In reality, however, the Obama administration has also put patients in the cross hairs. Last September, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms moved to deprive Americans who use medical marijuana of their gun rights. In an open letter to gun sellers, the ATF warned that it is unlawful to sell "any firearm or ammunition" to "any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for me dicinal purposes." If your doctor advises you to use medicinal pot, in other words, you can no longer legally own a gun. Hunting advocates were outraged. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, wrote a furious letter calling on the Justice Department to reassess its "chilling" policy, declaring it "unacceptable that law-abiding citizens would be stripped of their Second Amendment rights."
Since the federal crackdown began last year, the DEA has raided dozens of medical-cannabis dispensaries from Michigan to Montana. Haag, the U.S. attorney for Northern California, claims the federal action is necessary because the state's legalized pot dispensaries have been "hijacked by profiteers" who are nothing more than criminals.
It's true that California has no shortage of illegal pot dealers. Nonmedical marijuana is the state's largest cash crop, raking in an estimated $14 billion a year. And demand is growing, in part because former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger thwarted a ballot measure aimed at full legalization in 2010 by removing criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of pot. But instead of focusing limited federal resources on off-the-grid growers in places like Humboldt County, who are often armed and violent, Haag targeted Matthew Cohen, a medical-marijuana farmer in Mendocino who was growing 99 plants under the direct supervision of the county sheriff. As part of a pioneering collaboration with local law enforcement, Cohen marked each of his plants with county-supplied tags, had his secured facility inspected and distributed the marijuana he grew directly to patients in his nonprofit collective.
Cohen appeared to be precisely the kind of caregiver that the Ogden memo advised should be given safe harbor for operating in "clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law." But last October, DEA agents stormed Cohen's farm in the middle of the night and cut down his crop. Sheriff Tom Allman, who learned of the raid on his turf only an hour before it was executed, was outraged. "Matt Cohen was not in violation of any state or local ordinances when federal agents arrived at his location," Allman says. In January, Haag took the fight to the next level, threatening county officials like Allman with federal sanctions. Three weeks later, county supervisors voted to abandon the program to license and monitor Mendocino's legal growers. "This is a huge step backward," says Allman.
Haag's treatment of urban dispensaries has been equally ham-handed. She recently shuttered one of the oldest dispensaries in the state, a nonprofit that serves a high percentage of female patients in Marin County, which has the nation's highest rate of breast cancer. She has threatened to seize the properties that landlords rent to legal pot dispensaries. And in San Francisco, she targeted Divinity Tree, a cooperative run by a quadriplegic who himself relies on prescribed cannabis for relief from near-constant muscle spasms. At a time of high unemployment and huge budget deficits, the move killed more than a dozen jobs and deprived the state of $180,000 in annual tax revenue. In San Diego alone, the feds have shut down nearly two-thirds of the county's dispensaries. Statewide, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union estimates, the federal crackdown has destroyed some 2,500 jobs in California. It also sent street prices soaring by at least 20 percent, putting more money in the hands of actual criminals.
In addition, the federal war on medical marijuana has locked pot dispensaries out of the banking system – especially in Colorado, home to the nation's second-largest market for medicinal cannabis. Top banks – including Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America – are refusing to do business with state-licensed dispensaries, for fear of federal prosecution for money-laundering and other federal drug crimes. In a House hearing in December, Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado warned Attorney General Holder that strong-arming banks will actually raise the likelihood of crime. If pot dispensaries have to work outside the normal financial system, Polis told Holder, "it makes the industry harder for the state to track, to tax, to regulate them, and in fact makes it prone to robberies, because it becomes a cash business."
The IRS has also joined in the administration's assault on pot dispensaries, seeking to deny them standard tax deductions enjoyed by all other businesses. Invoking an obscure provision of the tax code meant to trip up drug kingpins, the IRS now maintains that pot dispensaries can deduct only one expense – ironically, the cost of the marijuana itself. All other normal costs of doing business – including employee salaries and benefits, rent, equipment, electricity and water – have been denied.
The agency has used the provision to go after Harborside Health Center, one of the largest and most respected providers of medical cannabis in California. Its Oakland branch, serving 83,000 patients in conforming with state law, paid more than $1 million in city taxes last year – placing it in the top 10 percent of local businesses. "It's incredibly tightly run and very, very professional," says Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance. "But it's also big – and it may be that big is bad as far as the feds are concerned." Slapped with an IRS bill for $2.5 million in back taxes, Harborside now faces bankruptcy. "It's profoundly inaccurate to characterize us as a 'drug-trafficking' organization," says Harborside president Steve DeAngelo. "We are a nonprofit community-service organization that helps sick and suffering people get the medicine they need to be well. This is not an attempt to tax us – it's an attempt to tax us out of existence."
Supporters of medical marijuana are baffled by Obama's abrupt about-face on the issue. Some blame the federal crackdown not on the president, but on career drug warriors determined to go after medical pot. "I don't think the federal onslaught is being driven by the highest levels of the White House," says Nadelmann. "What we need is a clear statement from the White House that federal authorities will defer to responsible local regulation."
The White House, for its part, insists that its position on medical pot has been "clear and consistent." Asked for comment, a senior administration official points out that the Ogden memo was never meant to protect "such things as large-scale, privately owned industrial marijuana cultivation centers" like the one in Oakland. But the official makes no attempt to explain why the administration has permitted a host of federal agencies to revive the Bush-era policy of targeting state-approved dispensaries. "Somewhere in the administration, a decision was made that it would be better to close down legal, regulated systems of access for patients and send them back to the street, back to criminals," says DeAngelo. "That's what's really at stake."
The administration's retreat on medical pot is certainly consistent with its broader election-year strategy of seeking to outflank Republicans on everything from free trade to offshore drilling. Obama's advisers may be betting that a tough-on-pot stance will shore up the president's support among seniors in November, as well as voters in Southern swing states like Virginia and North Carolina that are less favorable to drug reform. But the president could pay a steep price for his anti-pot crackdown this fall, particularly if it winds up alienating young voters in swing states like Colorado, where two-thirds of residents support medical marijuana. In November, Colorado voters will likely consider a referendum to legalize all pot use for adults – and undercutting enthusiasm for the issue will only dampen turnout that could benefit the president. "Medical marijuana is twice as popular as Obama," notes Kampia. "It doesn't make any political sense."
The sharpest and most surprising rebuke to the administration has come from centrist governors who are fed up with the war on medicinal pot. In November, Gregoire and Chafee issued a bipartisan petition to the DEA, asking the agency to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, the same as cocaine and meth – one with a recognized medicinal value, despite its high potential for abuse. "It's time to show compassion, and it's time to show common sense," says Gregoire. "We call on the federal government to end the confusion and the unsafe burden on patients."
A petition by two sitting governors is historic – but it's unlikely to shift federal policy. Last June, after a nine-year delay, the Obama administration denied a similar petition. An official at the Department of Health and Human Services left little hope for reclassification, reiterating the Bush-era position that there is "no accepted medical use for marijuana in the United States."
For law-enforcement officials who handle marijuana on the front lines, such attitudes highlight how out of touch the administration has become. "Whether you call it medical or recreational, the marijuana genie is out of the bottle, and there's no one who's going to put it back in," insists Sheriff Allman of Mendocino, whose department had been targeted by federal prosecutors for its attempts to regulate medical pot. "For federal officials who plug their ears and say, 'No, it's not true, it's not true,' I have some words for them: You need to get over it."
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Articles: Secret Life of Water, Little Black Book of Marijuana, CHAMPS preview Special, Releaf report, CannaBuzz, CannaChef Interviews: "Joey's Mom" Mieko Perez
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Obama’s Opportunity: Will the White House Snub Marijuana Yet Again?
By Erik Altieri, NORML Communications Coordinator
Last week, the White House launched the next in its long line of social media engagement initiatives, this one entitled “Your Interview With the President.” The concept was simple, anyone could upload their question to the President on YouTube, others would vote on them, and the highest rated ones would be posed to the Commander in Chief in a Google+ Hangout on January 30th.
This seemed to be a logical opportunity to ask the administration about marijuana legalization. Last Tuesday, I posted NORML’s question to the White House YouTube page for consideration. We asked, “With over 850,000 Americans arrested in 2010, on marijuana charges alone, and tens of billions of tax dollars being spent locking up marijuana users, isn’t it time to regulate and tax marijuana?”
The reception was overwhelmingly positive, in just several hours the question received over 4,000 “thumbs up” votes and was one of, if not the, most popular question on the service. Then a peculiar thing happened, the question was removed. After becoming the most positively voted upon question in less than a day, the White House removed the question, deeming it “inappropriate.”
We informed our audience of the censorship and encouraged them to engage the White House on their own, using our question or a one of their own choosing. Over the next several days the program was inundated with marijuana law reform questions. At first, many met the same fate as our original question and were removed from the site. It seems our persistence ended up paying off and the page administrator finally gave up trying to censor the incoming questions and most marijuana inquiries have remained up since.
Voting closed last night at midnight and I made some rough calculations of the final results to see how we performed. Of the top 160 questions asked, marijuana reform questions accounted for 105 of them. Reposts of our question brought in an estimated 17,524 up-votes in addition to the 4,028 the original received before being removed. Combined, that is over 21,000 votes for one question, which is 5 times as many votes as any other question on the page. The 105 marijuana reform questions in the top 160 brought in over 74,000 votes, dwarfing any other topic.
Now, we wait. “Your Interview With the President” is scheduled to take place tomorrow, January 30th. Considering this is the same individual who previously stated that, “we need to rethink and decriminalize our marijuana laws” and that legalization is a “perfectly legitimate topic for debate,” maybe he will take this opportunity to address the issue seriously for once. In an election year, this could go a long way towards winning back those who feel disenfranchised with the administration over a perceived lack of progress on the issue and amped up raids on medical programs in states such as California and Colorado.
The American people are ready for our debate Mr. President, are you?
- Happenens again... Surprise Suprise...
Arapahoe County District Judge Carlos Samour dismissed the case against Dr. Manuel Aquino-Villaman following a hearing Friday. Samour said Aquino-Villaman's actions were lawful under the Colorado Constitution, according to a court summary of the hearing. He also said the charges should be dropped because officials failed to preserve key evidence. Aquino-Villaman had been charged with felony conspiracy to distribute marijuana, in addition to forgery and attempt to influence a public servant.
It is rare for a judge to dismiss charges before trial, but this is the second time it has happened for a medical-marijuana doctor this year in Arapahoe County. In May, a different judge dismissed the case against Dr. Toribio Robert Mestas, also saying that the doctor's actions were protected by the Colorado constitution.
The Arapahoe County district attorney's office declined to comment on the most recent dismissal, saying it has not yet decided whether to appeal.
Attorney Lauren Davis, who represented Aquino-Villaman, said both cases show a hostility toward medical marijuana by prosecutors in the 18th Judicial District, which includes Arapahoe County.
"Their bias against medical marijuana in Arapahoe and Douglas counties is an affront to the constitutional rights of patients and recommending physicians," Davis said.
Although the doctors — two of more than 1,000 physicians who have recommended medical marijuana in Colorado — are no longer facing criminal charges, neither is currently practicing medicine.
In March, Aquino-Villaman voluntarily surrendered his license in the midst of a state Medical Board investigation into a marijuana recommendation he wrote for a pregnant woman. Aquino-Villaman denied wrongdoing and said the woman never disclosed her pregnancy. But his attorney said Aquino-Villaman, now 71, could not afford to continue fighting for his license.
Last month, Mestas agreed to temporarily stop practicing while he is the subject of a Medical Board investigation. A public document about the investigation says only that a Medical Board inquiry panel "had significant concerns that (Mestas) provided substandard care to multiple patients."
In both Aquino-Villaman's and Mestas's criminal cases, undercover police officers posed as patients who complained of injuries or other aches in attempting to obtain a medical-marijuana recommendation. After brief exams, the doctors provided the recommendations.
Prosecutors argued that the exams were substandard and that the officers never complained of "severe pain" — the condition for which they were recommended marijuana. But the judges ruled the doctors' diagnoses were reasonable based on the officers' statements.
"The presumption is that doctors are entitled to rely on what patients tell them in the course of an examination," Davis said. "It's not the doctor's job to play policeman."
John Ingold: 303-954-1068 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Read more: Medical-marijuana case against Aurora doctor dismissed - The Denver Post http://www.denverpost.com/news/marijuana/ci_19542409#ixzz1gUpCPTtT
Obama pardons 5, commutes 1 sentence for convictions including selling drugs, gambling
By Associated Press
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Monday pardoned five people convicted of charges ranging from intent to distribute marijuana to running an illegal gambling business.
And he issued his first commutation, ordering the release of a woman next month after serving 10 years on a 22-year sentence for cocaine distribution.
The actions mark Obama’s third set of pardons. He pardoned eight people earlier this year, and issued nine pardons in December 2010.
None of those pardoned was well-known, as was the case with the president’s previous orders. The cases date back to 1984, when Martin Kaprelian of Park Ridge, Ill., was sentenced to nine years in prison for conspiracy to transport stolen property in interstate commerce, and other related charges.
Obama commuted the 2001 prison sentence of Eugenia Marie Jennings of Alton, Ill. Jennings was convicted in 2001 for distributing cocaine, and sentenced to 22 years in prison. The president ordered her to be released next month, but kept intact her eight years of supervised release.
Others who received pardons:
— Lesley Claywood Berry Jr. of Loretto, Ky., sentenced in 1988 to three years in prison for conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana.
— Dennis George Bulin of Wesley Chapel, Fla., sentenced in 1987 to five years of probation and a $20,000 fine for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute in excess of 1,000 pounds of marijuana.
— Ricky Dale Collett of Annville, Ky., sentenced in 2002 to one year of probation for aiding and abetting in the manufacture of 61 marijuana plants.
— Thomas Paul Ledford of Jonesborough, Tenn., sentenced in 1995 to one year of probation for conducting and directing an illegal gambling business.
Medical Marijuana Raids Not What Obama Promised, Panel Says
As federal raids on pot shops continue throughout the country, drug policy experts allege that President Obama and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have contradicted their earlier positions on medical marijuana. Cannabis policy experts and advocates from all over the United States convened in Los Angeles last week to discuss the current state of the reform movement. The latest Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) annual conference drew diverse opponents of the War on Drugs, including law enforcement, medical marijuana patients, needle exchange proponents, and drug legalization advocates.
In a specific session titled "State of the Movement: Whither Medical Marijuana?”, panelists and audience members discussed Obama’s campaign promises to end federal raids on medical marijuana patients and clinics in states where such use was legally authorized.
In a Mar. 22, 2008 interview with The Mail Tribune’s Editorial Page Editor, Gary Nelson, then candidate Barack Obama said in part:
"When it comes to medical marijuana, I have more of a practical view than anything else. My attitude is that if it's an issue of doctors prescribing medical marijuana as a treatment for glaucoma or as a cancer treatment, I think that should be appropriate because there really is no difference between that and a doctor prescribing morphine or anything else.” He then elaborated, "What I'm not going to be doing is using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue simply because I want folks to be investigating violent crimes and potential terrorism. We've got a lot of things for our law enforcement officers to deal with."
On Feb. 29, 2009 Attorney General Eric Holder said that he did not expect raids on medical marijuana clinics to continue. "He was my boss during the campaign, he is formally and technically and by law my boss now. So what he said during the campaign is now American policy."
On Oct. 19, 2009 the Department of Justice issued its now famous Ogden memo which announced that prosecutorial priorities should not target "individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." Most observers believed that medical marijuana users and caregivers who complied with state law would no longer be the focus of federal prosecution.
Panelists at the DPA conference lamented that these campaign promises and DOJ overtures have been reversed by the actions of several US attorneys who have authorized raids on marijuana clinics, issued warning letters to state attorneys general in the 16 states where medical marijuana is currently legal, pushed for disproportionate taxation on marijuana clinics, and even threatened to target media who publish ads for medical marijuana clinics.
Tom Daubert, Founder, Patients and Families United (Helena, MT)
Allen Hopper, Police Practices Director, ACLU of Northern California (San Francisco, CA)
Michael Kennedy, High Times Attorney (New York, NY)
Karen O’Keefe, Director of State Policies, Marijuana Policy Project (Washington, DC)
Steph Sherer, Executive Director, Americans for Safe Access (Washington, DC)
F. Aaron Smith, Executive Director, National Cannabis Industry Association (Phoenix, AZ)
Tamar Todd, Staff Attorney, Drug Policy Alliance (Berkeley, CA)
The panelists stated that the DOJ has not issued a formal statement announcing a policy reversal, a reason for the timing of the recent raids, or an indication that actions against medical marijuana clinics would escalate or cease.