Releaf Magazine

Eric Holder Says DOJ Will Let Washington, Colorado Marijuana Laws Go Into Effect

WASHINGTON -- The United States government took a historic step back from its long-running drug war on Thursday, when Attorney General Eric Holder informed the governors of Washington and Colorado that the Department of Justice would allow the states to create a regime that would regulate and implement the ballot initiatives that legalized the use of marijuana for adults.

A Justice Department official said that Holder told the governors in a joint phone call early Thursday afternoon that the department would take a "trust but verify approach" to the state laws. DOJ is reserving its right to file a preemption lawsuit at a later date, since the states' regulation of marijuana is illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.

Deputy Attorney General James Cole also issued a three-and-a-half page memo to U.S. attorneys across the country. "The Department's guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health and other law enforcement interests," it reads. "A system adequate to that task must not only contain robust controls and procedures on paper; it must also be effective in practice."

The memo also outlines eight priorities for federal prosecutors enforcing marijuana laws. According to the guidance, DOJ will still prosecute individuals or entities to prevent:

  • the distribution of marijuana to minors;
  • revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
  • the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
  • state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
  • violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
  • growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
  • preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.

The eight high-priority areas leave prosecutors bent on targeting marijuana businesses with a fair amount of leeway, especially the exception for "adverse public health consequences." And prosecutors have shown a willingness to aggressively interpret DOJ guidance in the past, as the many medical marijuana dispensary owners now behind bars can attest.

U.S. Attorneys will individually be responsible for interpreting the guidelines and how they apply to a case they intend to prosecute. A Justice Department official said, for example, that a U.S Attorney could go after marijuana distributors who used cartoon characters in their marketing because that could be interpreted as attempting to distribute marijuana to minors.

But the official stressed that the guidance was not optional, and that prosecutors would no longer be allowed to use the sheer volume of sales or the for-profit status of an operation as triggers for prosecution, though these factors could still affect their prosecutorial decisions.

The Obama administration has struggled with the legalization of medical marijuana in several states. Justice Department Officials had instructed federal prosecutors across the country not to focus federal resources on individuals who were complying with state laws regarding the use of medical marijuana. But the U.S. attorneys in several states that had legalized medical marijuana rebelled, and what was known as the Ogden memo faced stiff resistance from career prosecutors.

"That's just not what they do,” one former Justice official told HuffPost. “They prosecute people."

As a result of the internal pushback at DOJ, a new memo was issued by Deputy Attorney General James Cole in 2011 that gave U.S. attorneys more cover to go after medical marijuana distributors. Federal prosecutors began threatening local government officials with prosecution if they went forward with legislation regulating medical cannabis.

After recreational marijuana initiatives passed in Washington and Colorado in November, President Barack Obama said the federal government had “bigger fish to fry” and would not make going after marijuana users a priority.

Holder said back in December that the federal response to the passage of the state ballot measures would be coming “relatively soon.”

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson told HuffPost his office was preparing for the “worst-case scenario” of a federal lawsuit against the law.

UPDATE: 6:15 p.m. -- Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), who'd been pressing Holder to make a decision and respect the will of the states' voters, applauded the move, saying in a statement that "the Justice Department should focus on countering and prosecuting violent crime, while respecting the will of the states whose people have voted to legalize small amounts of marijuana for personal and medical use." He had previously scheduled a hearing on the issue for Sept. 10.

At issue will be how the U.S. Attorneys will implement the directive. John Walsh, the lead prosecutor for the District of Colorado, has previously aggressively interpreted guidance from Justice higher-ups and targeted medical marijuana dispensaries that were not accused of breaking any state laws, like those that were operating near schools. His reaction Thursday to Holder's announcement might not give Colorado business owners much confidence that he intends to modify his approach.

"Of particular concern to the U.S. Attorney’s Office are cases involving marijuana trafficking directly or indirectly to children and young people; trafficking that involves violence or other federal criminal activity; trafficking conducted or financed by street gangs and drug cartels; cultivation of marijuana on Colorado’s extensive state and federal public lands; and trafficking across state and international lines," Walsh said. "In addition, because the Department of Justice’s guidance emphasizes the central importance of strong and effective state marijuana regulatory systems, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to focus on whether Colorado’s system, when it is implemented, has the resources and tools necessary to protect those key federal public safety interests. To accomplish these goals, we look forward to closely working with our federal, state and local partners."


Via Huffington Post

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Utah Republican Lawmaker, Mormon Moms Fight For Cannabis Oil For Epileptic Kids

A conservative Republican Utah state lawmaker is backing an unexpected group of advocates: Mormon moms fighting for medical cannabis for their children.

State Rep. Gage Froerer (R-Huntsville) has committed to help Hope 4 Children With Epilepsy, an advocacy group fighting for safe access to cannabis oil. The oil contains little to no THC, the chemical that causes the high in marijuana, but is high in cannabidiol, a compound that may fight seizures in some forms of epilepsy. Though legal in neighboring Colorado, the oil is not legal in Utah.

Froerer said he hopes to change that with his support of the group, which was founded by four Mormon moms.

“If there’s anyone who can do it, it’s conservative Mormon moms from Utah,” joked Hope 4 Children With Epilepsy cofounder Jennifer May in a phone call with The Huffington Post. May’s son, Stockton, 11, suffers from a rare form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome, which causes five to 30 seizures per day.

May told The Associated Press that she used to think giving a marijuana derivative to children was crazy. But after witnessing unbelievable success stories like that ofCharlotte Figi -- a 6-year-old girl who suffers from the same syndrome as May's son -- she changed her tune.

"We’re not expecting this to be any kind of miracle cure," May said. "But the results thus far with the children have been amazing with very little side effects. It’s just something that needs to be available."

May considered moving her family to Colorado to get safe access to cannabis oil for her son. “But we decided it wouldn’t do anyone else any good if we just left and didn’t fight to get this here.

“Some people think we’re crazy for not just going over there and bringing it back,” May said. “But when you think about how often our kids are in the hospital, our choice is between telling our physicians and risking getting in trouble, or not telling our physicians and risking life-threatening drug interactions with our children.”

Instead, May joined other parents of children with disabilities to rally for cannabis oil access in Utah.

May and her cofounders are careful to distance themselves from medical marijuana.

"In Utah, a medical marijuana program is not going to go over very well," May said. "Politicians here have promised to never let medical marijuana in the state and we don't want to be seen as a toe in the door." May said she hopes the state can simply categorize cannabis oil as legal instead of legalizing medical marijuana.

"It’s not making the kids high, it’s shown to be effective, but it’s labeled as medical marijuana," May said. "We want to change that."

After convincing Froerer, that goal may soon be a reality.

In a meeting with Utah's Substance Abuse Advisory Council next month, Froerer will appeal to the council to legalize cannabis oil with a THC content of less than 0.5 percent -- less than that found in hemp oil at the grocery store. He has committed to sponsoring legislation, if necessary.

“As legislators, I think we have a duty to think about what’s best for the people of our state,” Froerer told HuffPost. “If we can provide this without causing any unintended consequences, we should do so.”

There have been no clinical trials testing cannabis oil for epilepsy, according to The Salt Lake Tribune. But there have been examples of success, including Charlotte Figi, the girl with epilepsy from a conservative Colorado military family shown on the CNN documentary "Weed." Regular doses cut her seizures from 300 a week to 1, according to the documentary.



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Great work, pigs

Raid Of The Day: Florida Cops Raid Cathy Jordan, Medical Marijuana Activist Who Suffers From Lou Gehrig's Disease


On Monday, the Miami Herald posted an article about rising support for legalized medical marijuana in the state of Florida. The article mentioned an pro-pot activist named Cathy Jordan, who uses the drug to mitigate the symptoms of Lou Gehrig's disease. The article mentioned Sen. Jeff Clemens (D-Lake worth), who is sponsoring a bill to legalize the drug. That bill is named after Jordan.

The Bradeton Herald now reports that just hours after that article ran, a team of ski-mask-clad deputies from the Manatee County Sheriff's Department staged a guns-drawn raid on Robert and Cathy Jordan's home. According to Robert Jordan, the cops seized 23 marijuana plants, including the two mature plants his wife uses to treat her illness. They made no arrests.

The raid is a stark example of the troubling trend of using paramilitary police tactics to send a political message. Set aside for a moment the sheer cruelty of sending government agents to separate a suffering, terminally ill woman from the medication that gives her some relief. (And yes, that's a major thing to set aside.) Why ski masks? Why come in with guns drawn? Did the Manatee County Sheriff's Department really think that wheelchair-bound Cathy Jordan and her 64-year-old husband were a threat?

No, of course they didn't. This was about making an example of someone. Cathy Jordan's name is on a bill to legalize medical pot in Florida. So it was up to Florida law enforcement to bring the boot down upon Cathy Jordan's neck.

The police will say they were merely enforcing the law. Nonsense. First, Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube has discretion about which laws he enforces, and to what degree. He doesn't have the resources to enforce every law, all the time. He has to prioritize. And how he prioritizes -- how he uses the resources available to him -- is certainly something the public should consider when evaluating how well he's doing his job. Cathy Jordan's pot plants weren't harming anyone. I suppose it's now up to Manatee County residents to decide if sending a team of cops to take pot plants away from a sick woman was an appropriate use of public resources.

Second, even if we were to concede that Jordan was breaking the law, and that the Manatee County Sheriff's Department has an obligation to enforce that law, how it's enforced is also a matter of policy -- and something for which Manatee County residents can hold Sheriff Steube accountable.

In the end, it's a pretty safe bet that these deputies won't be disciplined or reprimanded, and that Sheriff Steube won't suffer any political consequence for the way this action was carried out.

And that's where all of this begins to get scary. It's one thing for a few bad cops or a power-tripping sheriff to use excessive force to make an example of someone because of a disagreement over politics or public policy. There will always be bad actors. It's how we react that matters. Whether or not the public supports medical marijuana itself isn't really the point, here. You can shut down a pot shop or take plants away from a sick person without pointing guns and donning a ski mask.

Here is the point: If we've reached the point where we're okay with -- or at best complacent about -- the government using violence to make an example of someone because of their political activism, then we've lost our grip on the principles that make free societies free. That these excessive, militarized raids on medical marijuana grows, clinics, and activists have been going on since the 1990s is a strong -- and sad -- indication that we let go of those values a long time ago.

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The man behind the plan

Rep. Jared Polis Hosts Reddit AMA Thread, Talks Federal Marijuana Legalization: 'The Drug War Has Failed, Time To Try A New Approach'

The Huffington Post

Just before President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Colorado Congressman Jared Polis started an "Ask Me Anything" Reddit thread and discussed, among many things, his bill (HR-499) that would end the federal ban on marijuana and would allow states to decide for themselves if they want pot legal or not, as Colorado and Washington did in November.

Polis opened the thread with:

Hi! I'm holding my seat on the House floor getting ready for the State of the Union address which starts at 9 pm eastern. I will be around until then, then you can look for me on tv greeting the President (I got a good seat), then I'll be back when it's done to answer some more of the top questions. Let's have some fun!

The Colorado lawmaker took a break during the SOTU address and then resumed the AMA around 10:30 and had a very candid, often funny, conversation with hundreds of eager Redditors.

Polis discussed his thoughts on marijuana legalization federally and in Colorado as well as brief, but revealing bits about his homosexuality, life in Boulder, Colorado and much more.

Below are some of the best segments of his lengthy Reddit thread.

Redditor Salacious asked: What moneyed interests are blocking real progress on marijuana legalization? What are the non-monetary political concerns?

JP: The law enforcement industrial complex. All those on the gravy train of the drug war which means parts of law enforcement and their private sector vendors.

hubert1504 asked: Certain municipalities in Colorado are attempting to keep marijuana illegal in their jurisdictions. Some still write tickets for marijuana paraphernalia, accessories explicitly legalized in the state constitution. What can be done to see that these municipalities respect the will of the voters of Colorado?

JP: The will of the voters (Amendment 64) leaves it up to counties and cities how to regulate marijuana. I fully expect that many counties and cities will retain or enact bans. That is entirely their choice. The answer is to elect a different city council if you don't like their decisions.

Just as when federal prohibition ended for alcohol, many counties remaind "dry" and there are dry counties to this day.

iamaredditer asked: Why do you think the current administration has been so harsh on medical marijuana dispensaries?

JP: I reject the premise of the question.

Wow, that sounds legalistic. I always wanted to reject the premise of a question. THis is my first time I've said that!

AnyWho, the administration has been very clear through the Ogden memo that medical marijuana dispenseries that are clearly following state law are the lowest enforcement priority. This means that largely the feds have left medical marijuana dispenseries alone. In my state of Colorado that has been the case. I understand that in California there have been several raids, but these are of dispenseries that are operating in a gray area or a outright illegal manner under California laws. California state needs to tighten its laws to have less ambiguity so the feds don't have a pretense to come in.

powderitis asked: What can congress do to help the DEA reschedule marijuana from a class 1 drug up to lets say a class 3 or 4 or completely unschedule the drug? As a doctor I can prescribe Cocaine for my patient legally but if I have a patient on marijuana they are still breaking the federal law.

JP: Thank you for highlighting the absurdity of current law.

BlackbeltJones asked: To what extent can law enforcement realistically prevent diversion of marijuana to minors? And on THC DUI bill....

I believe law enforcement is in a better position to prevent distribution to minors if it is legal and regulated vs. banned because the corner drug dealer doesn't care about selling to a kid.

I think having a THC DUI is a good idea. We need to strongly discourage people from using marijuana and driving.

Thanks for the invite from Denver maybe some time I'll drop by if I'm Denver

DersTheChamp asked: What is your main arguement for legalizing marijuana, I have always wanted to know a politicians take on this.

The drug war has failed and it's time to try a new approach.

stealthisbook asked: Since you represent one of the largest brewing constituencies in the US and also are a proponent of marijuana reform, how do you feel about the common comparison of marijuana being safer than alcohol?

I don't think either is healthy, but clearly marijuana in moderation is not as harmful as being an alcoholic or drinking too much.

Sam_Coleridge asked: Congressman Polis, as I understand it, you represent the great state of Colorado. My question is how has cannabis legalization affected your state and would you recommend the legal parameters your state has set in place for cannabis to be applied to other states or even for federal law?

I would definitely recommend what our state has done for medical marijuana.

We have a great regulatory system that keeps people safe, prevents kids from getting access, keeps the criminal element out, etc. Nothing is perfect but I give CO an A.

It's too early to tell for full legalization, it just started but I do think they have a great process to determine the rules that will hopefully result in a good system.

Throughout the AMA, Polis would occasionally go off on tangents with Redditors and talk about his personal life, after one Redditor named "bizzle6" asked, "Do you get tired of hearing how rich you are?" Rep. Polis had a funny and smart response:

JP: How rich I am, how gay I am, how Jewish I am, how handsome I am (well, maybe not so much that last one). I am fine with my identities of course (one has to get used to things). I always try not to judge people or assume things because of their identities. Someone's wealth, sexual orientation, etc says nothing about whether they are a good person or not.

Polis also briefly discussed his personal life in Boulder when a Redditor from Boulder wrote about some of their favorite spots in the college town:

JP: We live near Pearl Street mall so usually hang out downtown, you'll typically see me walking with our little dog Gia and/or our son (1.5 years old).

Redditor "interstate73" asked Rep. Polis about the record numbers of LGBT lawmakers in Congress and Colorado's openly-gay House speaker Mark Ferrandino: What do you think of the record numbers of LGBT members of this congress (of which you are a member)? Will Steve King and Michelle Bachmann willingly go within 15 feet of you? Do you think the Supreme Court will strike down DOMA and Prop 8? And what do you think the prospects are for legal gay marriage are in Colorado at the state level? The Colorado House speaker IS openly gay, after all.

JP: Yeah it's really exciting. We have six out LGBT House members now and one in the Senate. I think there will be more and more. I get along fine with Bachmann and King. I mean I haven't made out with them or anything, but we get along just fine.

Our Speaker Mark Ferrandino is great and CO will soon be signing civil unions into law. I think if legal gay marriage was brought before the voters it would probably pass.

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Michigan Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Illegal, State Supreme Court Rules 4-1


Medical marijuana users in Michigan aren't allowed to buy pot from shops or other patients, according to a 4-1 ruling by the state Supreme Court Friday.

Michigan had over 124,000 registered medical marijuana users as of December. Legally, they will only be able to grow their own marijuana or have it grown for them by one of the nearly 26,000 caregivers licensed by the state.

The Supreme Court upheld a decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals after hearing arguments in October. The case involving Mt. Pleasant dispensary Compassionate Apothecary considered the legality of commercial transfers of medical marijuana between patients, and the tribunal of three judges determined those transfers were illegal under the Medical Marijuana Act.

The ruling allowed prosecutors to shut down dispensaries found selling marijuana, though some communities had chosen to wait for the Supreme Court decision before taking action, according to the Associated Press. Compassionate Apothecary was shut down as a public nuisance.

Back in 2008, Michigan became the 13th state to legalize medical marijuana use. The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act gave patients suffering from diseases like HIV, glaucoma and cancer the ability to use marijuana for medical relief if they received a prescription from a doctor.

Even though voters approved the use of medical marijuana for ailing residents, users and activists faced several legal challenges. Several cities across Michigan denied pot dispensaries from opening up shop -- by denying the businesses certificates of occupancy, changing zoning laws or by simply banning dispensaries altogether. A few cities crafted ordinances outlawing medical marijuana use altogether, which were later struck down.

A state statute that took effect in April 2009 called for a review board to consider conditions that weren't included under the original act, like Parkinson's disease, anorexia and post-traumatic stress disorder. The board convened for the first time in December.

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Leaving the states alone? NO!

Aaron Sandusky Sentenced: Marijuana Dispensary Operator Gets 10 Years In Federal Prison

sandusky marijuana aaronsanduskylegalfund com-thumb-450x379A Southern California man was sentenced Monday to 10 years in federal prison for operating medical marijuana dispensaries, even though they are legal in the state.

Rancho Cucamonga resident Aaron Sandusky, 42, ran three Inland Empire dispensaries known as G3 Holistics. “I want to apologize to those with me and their families who have been victimized by the federal government who has not recognized the voters of this state," Sandusky said in court Monday. His G3 dispensaries served 17,000 medical marijuana patients, according to marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.

"It's really sad that Justice Department is able to find the resources to repeatedly undermine President Obama's campaign pledges not to interfere with state medical marijuana laws," Tom Angell, chairman of marijuana advocacy group Marijuana Majority, told The Huffington Post.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said Sandusky was abusing the state system on a large scale -- with at least 1,000 marijuana plants -- and making a large profit. In a memo, prosecutors said Sandusky is an "unrepentant manipulator who used the perceived ambiguity surrounding 'medical' marijuana to exploit a business opportunity for himself."

Sandusky "used G3 as a means to replace the vast income he lost from the collapse of his real estate business," the prosecution memo continued. "Defendant built a veneer of legitimacy around his criminal enterprise using his customers' good-faith search for pain relief. There is absolutely no altruistic component to defendant's continued and sustained criminality."

Kevin A. Sabet, former senior White House official in charge of drug policy, told HuffPost that the sentencing was appropriate because Sandusky was "exploitative." "People aren't supposed to parade around with a green cross slapped onto their storefront when they're really just about distributing marijuana to anyone who can pay $100 to get a card," Sabet said. "Even advocates admit that it's a ruse."

But Sandusky "still feels really strongly … that what he was doing was right," said his girlfriend, Darlene Buenrostro. "He's very passionate and very caring and generous, and everybody that is here to support him has been witness to that," she said in the video above, referring to about a dozen supporters who came to the courthouse Monday.

The U.S. Attorney's office had sent Sandusky letters in October 2011 warning that the stores violated federal law, and, in response, Sandusky closed two of them. The next month, federal agents raided the remaining store, in Upland, twice. They seized marijuana plants and $11,500 in cash, effectively wiping out Sandusky's business.

With medical marijuana legal in California since 1996, but illegal under federal law, Sandusky's case came down to the ruling of U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson. Because of the amount of marijuana involved, Sandusky received the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Anderson said in court Monday that Sandusky had "kind of lost his way about what's right and what's wrong -- his moral compass."

Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, told HuffPost that a federal judge must consider federal law, not state law. "Under federal law, marijuana is illegal. When there is a conflict with state law, federal law takes precedent," he said.

California's four U.S. attorneys launched a crackdown on the state's marijuana dispensaries in 2011, and hundreds of retail stores have shut down. In September 2012, the feds began to focus on shutting down pot shops in LA, where more than 700 dispensaries operate.

"We have had more than 90 percent compliance with owners shutting down when warned, and we'll continue to shut down more," Mrozek told HuffPost. "Sandusky refused to come into compliance with the law."

Mrozek said that the retail stores are also in violation of California law because they are operating as for-profit enterprises and because they are not operating as the primary caregiver to patients, as the state law requires.

Judge Anderson did not allow Sandusky to claim entrapment based on the public statements of President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder about medical marijuana.

Throughout his first campaign, Obama had said he wouldn't use federal resources to circumvent state laws about medical marijuana. During a 2009 press conference, Holder followed up on that promise, saying that federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries would end unless the shops violated both state and federal law.

Sabet defended Obama to HuffPost, saying the administration is "not going after the 2 percent with cancer or the so-called 90 percent with back pain. They're going after the large distributors only."

But Angell said that is still inconsistent with Obama's promise to stay away from states where pot is legal.

"President Obama is not only sitting by and letting this happen, but is able to keep generating great headlines by saying things like how his administration has 'bigger fish to fry' than marijuana users in states where it's legal," Angell said. "All we need is for the president to match his administration's actions with his great rhetoric. Is that too much to ask?"

Sandusky has started a petition at to request a presidential pardon. His petition has 5,878 signatures and needs 19,122 more by Jan. 16 to reach the goal of 25,000. Sandusky's lawyer said he will take the case to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Cannabis helps everyBODY

Doctor says marijuana reduced infant's brain tumor, should be used for children

According to the Huffington Post on Dec. 1, a formerly skeptical doctor says medical marijuana should be a part of a pediatrician's arsenal to help children after he witnessed a remarkable reduction in a baby's brain tumor.

Dr. William Courtney, a former skeptic, has drastically changed his tune after he witnessed the effects of marijuana treatment on an 8-month-old patient. Dr. Courtney said that the baby had a "very massive centrally located inoperable brain tumor." The child's father wanted non-traditional treatment.

"They were putting cannabinoid oil on the baby's pacifier twice a day, increasing the dose... And within two months there was a dramatic reduction, enough that the pediatric oncologist allowed them to go ahead with not pursuing traditional therapy."


After eight months of treatment, the tumor was greatly reduced in size. Dr. Courtney says that because of the cannabis treatment and the excellent results, "This child is not going to have the long-term side effects that would come from a very high dose of chemotherapy or radiation."

The child is being called a miracle baby. Dr. Courtney further stated, "I would have to agree that this is the perfect response that we should be insisting is front line therapy for all children before they launch off on all medications that have horrific long term side effects."

Nineteen states now have medical marijuana rules on the books. Each state has its own specific rules of use, amounts, reciprocity, et cetera. Those laws, however, are for adults.

So what do you think? Obviously, for this child it worked. Still, treating a child with marijuana is more than a little controversial. Should there be studies done? Should it be allowed as a treatment of last resort? If you had a young child with inoperable cancer, would you consent to trying this route?

Admittedly, it's a hard question to answer when you're not in the situation. But if medical marijuana works this well with cancers, do we have the right to withhold it, especially from children with their entire life in front of them? Please leave a comment and wade into this somewhat sticky issue.

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Prohibition doesn’t work

Rachel Maddow Draws Parallels Between Marijuana Legalization In Colorado, Washington And End Of Alcohol Prohibition

The Huffington Post  |  By

Leave it to Rachel Maddow to provide one of the most well-thought-out segments on the historic passage of ballot measures in Colorado and Washington that made marijuana for recreational use legal last week. She's not the first to do so, but unlike so many other media reactions there was no snickering or giggling or talk of Cheetos and Goldfish from Maddow on the subject. Instead, she took a careful look at booze laws in various states and the end of alcohol prohibition -- which she draws several parallels to regarding Colorado and Washington's ending of marijuana prohibition in their states and the unknown drug policy world the United States has just entered into.

There has been much discussion about the federal response to marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington: How do the feds intend to enforce marijuana laws? Will the federal government allow state marijuana markets to bloom? Will marijuana businesses be able to have bank accounts? And much, much more. But Maddow deftly points out that the same kind of questioning and general lack of sure-footing was also present when alcohol prohibition ended in 1933.

"When prohibition ended in 1933, Americans could legally buy and sell and drink booze for the first time in thirteen years," Maddow says. "And people were obviously psyched when prohibition ended, but there was a lot of policy to figure out in terms of how the country would sell and regulate alcohol. Would cities do it? Would states do it? The federal government? Should you have to apply for a license to sell alcohol? How old should you have to be in order to drink alcohol?"

Sound familiar? It's much of the same, if not entirely the same, questions that come up with marijuana legalization. Well, Maddow says that even the solution back in 1933 is similar to the solution that Colorado and Washington state voters approved last Tuesday.

"States came up with their own answers to those questions and the laws between the states -- even all these decades later -- are still really diverse."

Maddow goes on to describe the various ways that states continue to regulate alcohol sales differently from one another and how the ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington compare in their relation to regulating marijuana sales.

After a thoughtful history lesson, Maddow then speaks with Neill Franklin, executive director of marijuana reform group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, who offers even further detail on the states' roles in ending alcohol prohibition in 1933 and how similarities between then and now with marijuana.

And Maddow is right, the federal government's enforcement intent on marijuana law remains unclear, now a week since Amendment 64 passed in Colorado and Initiative 502 passed in Washington. Attorney General Eric Holder, who was a vocal opponent of California's legalization initiative in 2010 saying he would "vigorously enforce" federal marijuana prohibition, remained silent on the issue during the election cycle and has continued to remain silent now that Colorado and Washington have passed their measures.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, who has been a vocal opponent of Amendment 64 but has said that he intends to respect the wishes of the voters, did have a phone call with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder last week to discuss Colorado's legalizing of marijuana and how the feds might respond, but the results of that call gave no clue as to whether or not the Department of Justice will sue to block the marijuana measures in Colorado and Washington, according to The Associated Press.

If the Obama administration does decide to crackdown on legalized marijuana in Colorado -- where more people voted for marijuana legalization than for the president's reelection -- the administration could face some serious political fallout with much of the same population of the Centennial State that handed him Colorado on election night, namely: the left-leaning and youth voters who support pot's legalization.

However many proponents of legalization say they don't foresee federal agents interfering in states that have legalized cannabis, NBC News reported, citing the federal government's silence on the issue this election cycle.

There is also the July report from GQ which stated that President Obama wants to "pivot" on the war on drugs during his second term. Marc Ambinder writes:

Don't expect miracles. There is very little the president can do by himself. And pot-smokers shouldn't expect the president to come out in favor of legalizing marijuana. But from his days as a state senator in Illinois, Obama has considered the Drug War to be a failure, a conflict that has exacerbated the problem of drug abuse, devastated entire communities, changed policing practices for the worse, and has led to a generation of young children, disproportionately black and minority, to grow up in dislocated homes, or in none at all.

Optimism about a second-term Obama administration that turns around its stance on marijuana might be difficult for some marijuana business owners who have seen the Department of Justice aggressively crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries in states like California and Colorado where hundreds of pot shops have been shuttered just since the beginning of 2012.

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Life for herb?

Aaron Sandusky Convicted: G3 Holistic Medical Marijuana Shop Owner Faces 10 Years To Life In Prison

The Huffington Post

A Southern California man faces ten years to life in prison for operating a medical marijuana dispensary, despite the fact that such businesses are legal in the state of California.

Rancho Cucamonga resident Aaron Sandusky was convicted in a federal court Friday of two marijuana-related counts. The first is conspiracy to manufacture marijuana plants and maintain a drug-involved premises. The second count is possession of marijuana plants with intent to distribute -- which essentially means he was running a pot shop, notes LA Weekly. On each count, the jury found that Sandusky had worked with at least 1,000 marijuana plants.

Sandusky, 41, faces a minimum of 10 years to life in prison. He was taken into custody after the trial and the sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 2013.

The charges stem from Sandusky's three medical marijuana collectives, known as "G3 Holisitic," in the Inland Empire cities of Upland, Colton and Moreno Valley. The U.S. attorney's office had sent Sandusky letters in Oct. 2011 warning him that the stores were violating federal law, and in response Sandusky closed two of them.

The next month, federal agents raided the remaining store, in Upland, twice. They seized marijuana plants and $11,500 in cash, effectively wiping out Sandusky's entire business.

The conviction at the federal court level is a blow to the medical marijuana community in California, some of whom have been supporting Sandusky through a website raising money for his legal defense.

His case also underscores the contrast between California -- which recognizes the medicinal properties of pot and protects marijuana dispensaries -- and federal law, which classifies marijuana as an illegal controlled substance with no accepted medical use.

Federalism issues didn't come into play during the trial, which Zach Weissmueller, a writer for libertarian magazine Reason, believes weakened Sandusky's case. In a blog for Reason, Weissmueller writes:

The federal government was successful in quelling any discussion of medical marijuana laws, federalism, or jury nullification--all of which were specters looming over the case when they discussed it in open court while jurors were not present. In closing statements, the federal prosecutors were sure to emphasize to jurors that personal feelings, political beliefs, and morals do not matter. The law is the law.One prosecutor instructed the jury "not to debate the law, but to apply the law." If there was one important takeaway from the prosecution's closing, it was this phrase, emblazoned on one of their presentational slides: "Factual determination, not moral judgment."

Another point of contention during the trial was the fact that the judge did not allow Sandusky to claim entrapment based on President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder's public statements on medical marijuana.

Throughout his first campaign, Obama had said he wouldn't use federal resources to circumvent state laws about medical marijuana. During a 2009 press conference, Holder followed up on that promise, saying that federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries would be coming to an end unless the shops violated both state and federal law.

Sandusky had been charged along with five others who worked at G3, all of whom took plea deals and avoided a trial. During the course of the trial, G3 co-founder and owner John Leslie Nuckolls II, one of the men charged, admitted to having worked for the county District Attorney's Office and the DEA, reports the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.

In an August interview with ReasonTV (video above), Sandusky had called the conflict between California medical marijuana laws and federal drug laws a "constitutional battle" and vowed to defend the 10th Amendment right for states to pass their own laws. "If I have to go to jail for 20 years defending it, then so be it," said Sandusky. "If a jury finds me guilty of violating federal law, then I'll go do the time."

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