Seattle Hempfest divided over marijuana legalization
By Los Angeles Times (MCT)
- good legalization good // bad leagalization... BAD!!!!
SEATTLE - Washington's annual Hempfest - a three-day celebration of pot, bongs and hemp bead necklaces that is typically one of Seattle's largest festivals - was uncharacteristically worked up Saturday over what should have been cause for laid-back cheering: a fast-gaining ballot initiative to legalize possession of small quantities of marijuana.
Ballot measures to legalize marijuana are sprinting toward the polls in three Western states in November. Marijuana supporters say Washington's vote on Initiative 502 is important to maintain national momentum on an issue that is beginning to see steady gains in popular support.
But the pro-marijuana community here is deeply divided over the measure. Beneficiaries of the state's medical marijuana law fear that legalizing and regulating pot use would subject pot patients to potential arrest under the measure's strict impaired-driving provisions.
The result has been an undercurrent of discord amid the celebratory haze on the scenic Seattle waterfront. Dedicated pot proponents find themselves amazed to be in opposition.
"I never in a million years imagined myself to be on a stage advocating against the passage of a marijuana legalization law," Steve Elliott, who writes the "Toke Signals" column for the Seattle Weekly, said at a civilized but highly divided debate on I-502 on the "Hemposium" stage.
Legalization measures also are on the ballot in Oregon and Colorado. Washington's I-502 would eliminate civil and criminal penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for people 21 years and older and set up regulations for the substance to be taxed and sold at state-licensed stores.
Its most controversial feature - at least among marijuana proponents - is that it would set up a new driving standard based on a definable blood limit for marijuana. This is a stricter regulation than the current impaired-driving laws and one that many medical marijuana patients believe they would be unable to meet after regular medicinal doses.
They are fear they might be subject to arrest for driving even days after their last marijuana dose.
I-502 has gained substantial mainstream support in liberal western Washington, where Seattle's mayor, its city attorney, several members of the city council, two former U.S. attorneys and the former special agent in charge of the local office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have all come out in favor of it, along with a number of state legislators.
"Here's what we know: Prohibition has not worked," Mayor Mike McGinn told supporters who lazed in the grass a cloud of cannabis haze. "It's fueled criminal violence. Right now in this city, people are murdering each other over pot.... It's time to stop. It's time to tax it, regulate it, legalize it." Steve Sarich, a longtime activist in the medical marijuana community who heads the official campaign to defeat I-502, was not even invited to attend Saturday's debate at Hempfest.
The opposition was instead left to Elliott and legislative analyst Kari Boiter to argue.
But so fractious has been the discussion within the pro-marijuana community that a spokesman for the group opposed to the law because of its concerns over how it would affect medical marijuana users was not invited to the debate.
The opposition was instead left to Elliott and a legislative analyst, Kari Boiter.
"They've locked us out of the debate," Sarich said.. "But quite frankly, Hempfest is 250,000 people and 60 voters, so we don't necessarily expect to make a whole lot of converts, because most of the people here don't even vote." "Never has an issue divided our community like 502," said debate moderato Don Wirtshafter. "Hopefully, here we can use the Hempfest festival to work toward more energy, and what we can agree on." The head of the campaign to pass I-502, Alison Holcolmb, urged the crowd to remember that it's already a crime to drive while under the influence of marijuana.
But opponents said it is wrong to force a vote on an initiative about which so many are so deeply divided when a less controversial ballot measure might be taken up later.
"I don't want to see another law on the books that police can use to harass us with," Boiter said of the controversial driving provisions.
Keith Stroup, a co-founder of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told the crowd that while the initiative was "not perfect," it was important to capitalize on the momentum of three recent national polls that have shown 50 percent popular support or more across the nation for marijuana law reform.
"For the first time in the 41 years that NORML has been involved in legalization of marijuana, we actually have won the hearts and minds of the majority of the American public, and that is terribly important," Stroup said.
He said wins in Washington, Colorado and Oregon could begin to provide the basis for pushing Congress, until now steadfastly opposed to ending marijuana criminalization, to start reconsidering.
"We need to have one or two or three states with the courage to stand up to the federal government and say, 'To hell with you,'" he said. "This initiative, if it passes, and I fully believe it will, will forever be seen as the defiant step that led to the end of marijuana prohibition. They will be writing about this, folks, in history books for decades."
Narc Is So Despised, A Local Strain Of Marijuana Was Named In His 'Honor'
A former Washington drug cop so notorious for his misdeeds and aggressive tactics that a strain of medical marijuana was named after him in retaliation has been federally indicted for unlawfully selling guns.
Roy Alloway spent 32 years in law enforcement, the last 10 of which he was involved in the WestNET regional drug task force. Alloway took something of an unhealthy personal interest in giving additional pain to medical marijuana patients, according to many activists in the area, who "see him as a cop determined to lock up even legal users of pot," wrote Nina Shapiro at the Seattle Weekly.
Alloway made a career of trashing houses and intimidating their occupants, apparently not giving a damn if the people he harassed were legitimately sick or not.
And that's exactly why a potent marijuana strain was named "Alloway" in his "honor." Created by a well-known Everett breeder associated with advocate Steve Sarich of CannaCare, the Alloway strain includes the genetics of popular Seattle strain PermaFrost, with a little White Widow reputedly in the mix as well.
"Where do you begin?" said Sarich, who was raided by Alloway and WestNET in 2007. "This guy is a real piece of shit, and has been for years," Sarich told Toke of the Town Monday afternoon. "I can't wait to see how many of the cases Alloway was involved with are overturned, if he gets locked away on these charges."
For just one example of how he habitually got down, there was the infamous May 2010 raid by Alloway and other WestNET goons of an Olalla, Washington home linked to a Tacoma medical marijuana dispensary known as North End Club 420.
According to a mom who lived at the house, the Rambo wanna-be's handcuffed her 14-year-old son, took money kept in the Mickey Mouse purse of her nine-year-old daughter and seemed to take an unsavory glee in loudly announcing that their dad was "going to jail" because he was a "drug dealer."
As if that weren't enough, clueless WestNET agents illegally seized signed petitions for marijuana legalization from the home (they were later forced to return the petitions).
Thank goodness that prosecution fell apart, like so many of WestNET's vendettas, I mean cases, when Pierce County prosecutors decided to drop all charges against Guy Casey and Mike Schaef, owners of The Tacoma Patient Resource Center, also known as North End Club 420. Prosecutors said "there were too many holes in the case," and their star witness was a known meth head, thief and violent offender whose testimony was seen as "not credible."
Now it seems Alloway, a former Bremerton police officer, was busily violating the law for years, even as he harassed medical marijuana patients who weren't.
Alloway, 56, allegedly purchased almost 400 guns from three different federally-licensed firearms dealers between January 2005 and November 2010, federal prosecutors say, reports Josh Farley at the Kitsap Times.
When he wasn't busy brandishing his pistol in the faces of medical marijuana patients and handcuffing their children, Alloway was allegedly selling pistols to undercover agents with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives during gun shows.
Federal agents accuse Alloway of selling the guns without being properly licensed for the purpose of making a profit.
Alloway, a longtime Bremerton undercover narcotics detective, worked for both the West Sound Narcotics Enforcement Team (WestNET), a task force made up of officers from several local agencies, and the Bremerton Police Department's Special Operations Group.
He retired in May 2010 after a career "full of commendations." Yes, they're still decorating police for harassing medical marijuana patients.
The statutory maximum for Alloway's alleged crime as charged is five years in federal prison.
Alloway's South Kitsap home was raided by federal agents in November as part of a sweep of several suspects accused of illegal gun sales around Western Washington.
Federal prosecutors emphasized that the paperwork required during gun sales is important, because law enforcement can trace the weapon's sale, should the gun ever be used in a crime.
So, ironically, big "law and order" guy Alloway probably did far more to facilitate real crimes -- including cop killings -- than all the medical marijuana patients he ever hassled.
"Gun shows are legal, but funneling illegal gun sales through gun shows is not," said U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan. "Illegal gun sales allow guns to get in the wrong hands and blocks [sic] our ability to trace guns used in violent crimes. These defendants knew better, but put their profit ahead of the safety of the community."
- Isn't That a HOOT!
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.
The District will join 15 states in implementing a medical marijuana program full of stringent medical stipulations on Friday.
Only patients suffering from HIV/AIDS, cancer, glaucoma or multiple sclerosis who have a recommendation from a District-based doctor will be eligible for the medication, which will be distributed via a network of five dispensaries and 10 growing operations located within city limits.
Consumption will be limited to two ounces per month, per patient. Distribution of the drug will not begin immediately, and many of the details in the new program have yet to be hashed out.
"District residents suffering from painful conditions like cancer and HIV/AIDS will soon have one more option to help relieve their symptoms," D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said in a statement to DCist, a local news blog.
The measure will be published in the DC Register on Friday as emergency legislation, though a final version is expected within a month.
The legalization of medical marijuana has long been in the works in D.C. In 1998, 69 percent of voters approved a city referendum that would have allowed individuals to obtain and use medical marijuana at the recommendation of their physicians, but the measure failed to gain congressional approval.
In 2009 a similar proposal did pass through Congress, though the District did not begin to establish rules for the program until a year later. A draft of regulations for the program was eventually submitted to the D.C. Council in December but had not been implemented until now.
Some city residents have expressed frustration with the slow execution.
"To put this succinctly, we are very disappointed you have chosen to delay this program while thousands of District residents continue to suffer," wrote Adam Eidinger, president of the District of Columbia Patients' Cooperative, in a March 29 letter addressed to D.C. Major Vincent Gray.
On campus, Georgetown University College Democrats has participated in events about drug policy reform and sponsored an event with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
"I hope it will spark a meaningful discussion on campus about drug policy and reform," College Democrats President Vail Kohnert-Yount (SFS '13) said.
Joseph Knowles (COL '12), chair of Georgetown College Republicans, said he was more wary.
"Much of this movement has been hijacked by the pro-legalization movement in general," he said.
“In this case it was clear you didn’t intend to break the law, which is in a state of flux as we speak,” Spokane County Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen said during this afternoon’s sentencing hearing. “But the jury found you guilty. That’s what I’m stuck with.”
Eitzen imposed the least-possible jail term under the state’s standard sentencing guidelines, which is six months given Shupe’s criminal history, but then delayed the punishment if Shupe appeals, and comes up with a $5,000 bond. He also was ordered to avoid selling drugs to anyone.
“I think it’s funny that he may be the only person convicted for a dispensary, which may be legal in a week,” said defense attorney Frank Cikutovich, referring to efforts in Olympia to clarify the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana law. “I think it was a complete waste of resources as far as the county is concerned.”
Shupe had argued during last month’s trial that the state’s medical marijuana law enables dispensaries to supply doctor-approved marijuana patients, provided they serve just one patient at a time.
Prosecutors disputed that interpretation, arguing that the medical marijuana law, approved overwhelmingly by voters in 1998, makes no provisions for commercial dispensaries. Jurors agreed with the prosecution.
The case was watched closely by authorities and dispensary operators alike, with both sides hoping that the jury would provide guidance for what many argue is a confusing state law.
Outside the courthouse, about two dozen marijuana advocates spent the afternoon protesting Spokane’s crackdown on medical pot dispensaries. Shupe — who has a doctor-issued medical marijuana card — joined them and smoked some marijuana before heading to court.
Shupe, who has a previous felony conviction for growing marijuana at his home in 2006, said he hopes to avoid prison time. He still faces felony drug charges in Oregon related to a 2009 arrest.
Shupe credits what he calls the “military industrial complex” for keeping marijuana illegal, saying military officials are afraid no one will fight wars if marijuana is legal.
Protester Dennis Whited planned to attend Shupe’s sentencing. Whited owns the dispensary Medical Herb Providers. He began using medical marijuana after losing his leg in a motorcycle accident nearly two years ago.
He said he has no plans to close his dispensary but has been ordered out of his rental property on Freya Street after his landlord was warned by federal authorities about possible prosecution.
He said he’ll find a new building or will become a mobile dispensary.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Whited said.
Meanwhile, in Olympia, state lawmakers are attempting to provide greater clarity in the voter-approved medical marijuana law. A proposal to regulate pot farms and medical marijuana dispensaries has cleared each legislative chamber but backers are still trying to iron out minor differences in each version.
Without the legislative guidance, communities have taken different approaches to enforcement. Seattle-area police and prosecutors, for example, have made enforcement of medical marijuana their lowest priority and have let dispensaries operate openly without interference.
Shupe’s defense attorney, Frank Cikutovich, said his client sold marijuana only to doctor-approved medicinal users. Cikutovich said Shupe routinely kicked out patrons who tried to buy pot without proper authorization.
Posted: 11:50 pm PDT April 7, 2011
Updated: 12:48 am PDT April 8, 2011
Spokane, Wash. -- As the federal government works to close medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane, many store owners are fighting back and keeping their doors open for patients.
"We're of course nervous and upset as are all my patients," said Charles Wright, owner of THC pharmacy
Wright said he serves more than a thousand patients every month and hopes he can continue to do so.
As the federal government works to close medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane, many store owners are fighting back and keeping their doors open for patients. KXLY4's Annie Bishop reports. On Wednesday, Mike Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District announced a crack down on medical marijuana dispensaries. Ormsby said the dispensaries are illegal under federal law. "When it comes down to it creates a climate of fear that is ridiculous," said Wright
"My phone has been ringing off the hook all day, little old ladies crying and screaming. I've got people in wheel chair who are freaking out. These people can't go out on the street and get drugs," he said In 1998, voters approved the use of medical marijuana in Washington without the fear of being criminally charged. Then, in 2008 lawmakers approved a law allowing medical marijuana users a 60 day supply of no more than 24 ounces and no more that 15 plants.But how the marijuana is bought and sold is vague and left open for interpretation. Since 2008, nearly 40 marijuana dispensaries have popped up in Spokane County, serving several hundreds of patients everyday. "We will keep the doors open as long as it seems reasonable,"said Wright "Our patients are in tremendous need, we are going to do everything we can to support them," he said.
Weylin Colebank owns Essence of Mother Earth in north Spokane and serves 400 patients a month. Colebank said he too will stay open until the feds force him out.
"I'm fearful, I really don't want to go to jail but I think what I'm doing is right and my patients really need it," said Colebank "If they put me in jail, they put me in jail, I don't want to go but I will go," said Colebank.