Mexico Marijuana Legalization Bill Introduced By Lawmaker

Reuters  |  Posted: 11/15/2012

Marijuana Legazliation Mexico

In this Oct. 25, 2012 photo, soldiers stand in a marijuana plantation found during a reconnaissance mission before burning the plants near the town of Lombardia in Michoacan state, Mexico. (AP Photo/Alexandre Meneghini)

 

By Noe Torres

MEXICO CITY, Nov 15 (Reuters) – A leftist Mexican lawmaker on Thursday presented a bill to legalize the production, sale and use of marijuana, adding to a growing chorus of Latin American politicians who are rejecting the prohibitionist policies of the United States.

The bill is unlikely to win much support in Congress since a strong majority of Mexicans are firmly against legalizing drugs, but may spur a broader debate in Mexico after two U.S. states voted to allow recreational use of marijuana last week. U.S. officials have said it remains illegal and that they are reviewing the state actions.
The split between local and federal governments in the United States is feeding a growing challenge in Latin America to the four-decade-old policies that Washington promoted, and often bankrolled, to disrupt illegal drug cultivation and smuggling.
“The prohibitionist paradigm is a complete failure,” said Fernando Belaunzaran, the author of the bill from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), who presented the proposal in Mexico’s lower house of Congress.
“All this has done is spur more violence, the business continues. The country that has paid the highest costs is Mexico,” he said in a telephone interview.
A conflict between drug gangs and security forces has killed more than 60,000 people during the six-year rule of outgoing President Felipe Calderon, who has repeatedly demanded the United States to do more to curb demand for illegal drugs.
Frustration with U.S. policy deepened after voters in Washington state and Colorado approved the recreational use of marijuana.
Still, there is little popular support for marijuana legalization in Mexico. Recent polls show two-thirds or more of Mexicans are opposed to making it legal. Several other bills to legalize the drug have been rejected in recent years.
Mexican leftists form the second biggest bloc in the lower house, behind the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that won the presidency in an election in July. The leftist coalition has more seats than Calderon’s conservatives.
“It is important to open the debate, but I do not think this will advance,” said political analyst Fernando Dworak. “In reality, it is just not part of the legislative agenda.”
Across Latin America, there is a growing view that Washington’s “war on drugs” is not working.
Uruguay’s government submitted a legalization bill to Congress this week that would put the state in charge of marijuana cultivation and distribution, while also allowing for individuals to grow plants at home.
In September, Calderon and the leaders of Colombia and Guatemala – historically three of the most reliable U.S. partners on drug interdiction – called on world governments to explore new alternatives to the problem.
The chief advisor of incoming President Enrique Pena Nieto, Luis Videgaray, said last week that the votes in Washington and Colorado mean Mexico must rethink its approach to the trade, though he said Pena Nieto was opposed to legalization of drugs.
Last week, the governor of Chihuahua, one of the Mexican states worst hit by drugs violence, told Reuters Mexico should legalize export of marijuana. The governor, Cesar Duarte, is an ally of Pena Nieto, who takes office on Dec. 1. (Additional reporting by Michael O’Boyle; Editing by Jackie Frank)

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US Supreme Court to consider challenge to 1965 Voting Rights Act

By Tom Carter
12 November 2012

 

On Friday, the Supreme Court announced that it would consider a legal challenge to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act ranks among the most significant reforms that emerged from the upheavals of the civil rights period. The act overruled and abolished the myriad state laws designed to disenfranchise black voters in many Southern states, and established a strict regime of federal oversight for those areas of the country that had a history of discriminatory voting practices.

The Voting Rights Act followed on the heels of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which outlawed racial segregation in schools, workplaces and other institutions. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks were in attendance when President Lyndon Johnson signed the act into law on August 6, 1965. Soon after its enactment, the Supreme Court ruled that the act was constitutional.

In the period leading up to the enactment of the act, demands for the abolition of the racist institutions maintained in the southern region of the United States won broad and determined support in the working class, both inside the United States and internationally.

One of the stricter provisions of the act, known as “Section 5,” requires certain local authorities with a history of voter discrimination to obtain “pre-clearance” from the federal government before enacting any laws or regulations that pertain to voting. The purpose of Section 5 is to prevent those authorities from reenacting the antidemocratic legislation that existed before the passage of the act.

Since 1982, the “pre-clearance” provisions have been invoked more than 2,400 times to prevent state and local laws and regulations from being enacted, including several times in the run-up to last week’s presidential elections.

In July of this year, the Voting Rights Act was successfully invoked on appeal to block a reactionary voter ID law in the state of Texas that could have prevented 1.5 million people from voting in that state. (See “Voting rights in America under attack”) Similar legislation was recently blocked in Florida and South Carolina.

The Voting Rights Act has always been a thorn in the side of right-wing local administrations, particularly in the southern region of the US, and in recent years the attacks on the act have grown bolder. This year, the state of Texas argued through one of its attorneys that it should be free to enact literacy tests, which are strictly prohibited by the 1965 act.

In 2009, Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts stated that “things have changed in the South” and that he thought certain provisions of the Voting Rights Act raised “serious constitutional questions.” Supreme Court commentators have generally understood this statement to mean that the court will welcome cases challenging the act.

The challenge to the Voting Rights Act accepted by the Supreme Court on Friday was brought by Shelby County, Alabama. The suit alleges that legislation signed into law in 2006 by President George W. Bush reaffirming and reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional because the problems that the act sought to address have already been cured. Naturally, a decision on the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act would affect not just that county in Alabama, but tens of millions of voters throughout the South. Naked short-term political interests are no doubt in play, as the direct beneficiary of any weakening of the Voting Rights Act would be the Republican Party, and, in particular, its various Southern groupings.

The emerging pretext for weakening or abolishing the Voting Rights Act—namely that “things have changed” and that voting rights are more or less secure—should be viewed with the deepest skepticism. Voting rights in the US are, in fact, under mounting attack, as documented by a recent World Socialist Web Site report: “The 2012 elections and the assault on voting rights in the US”.

Reactionary “Voter ID” laws such as were recently passed in the state of Indiana threaten to disenfranchise millions of voters. Meanwhile, restrictive ballot access laws in effect in many states limit access to the ballot to those parties with millions of dollars to spend petitioning and litigating in court. Parties fortunate enough to secure ballot access return the following election to find that the ballot access requirements have been raised.

In all, 13 Republican congressmen retained their seats in last week’s elections because they were the only candidates on the ballot.

The borders of congressional districts are redrawn almost every year (a process known as “gerrymandering”), resulting in voting districts with absurd spaghetti-like shapes. Many people in the recent elections went to the same polls they visited in previous years only to discover that they were now voting in a different district.

Last week’s election, like many previous elections, was plagued with myriad troubles, and details are still emerging of voter intimidation, malfunctioning voting machines, confusing directions, misleading automated phone calls (voters were reminded on election day to “vote tomorrow”), discouraging long lines at the polls (four hours in one area of Detroit), and official results at odds with exit polls.

In one cellphone video posted on YouTube, a voter repeatedly attempts to cast a vote for Obama using a touchscreen voting machine, but even though the voter’s finger clearly touches Obama’s name, the screen repeatedly selects Romney’s name instead.

A decision by the Supreme Court overturning or weakening the Voting Rights Act would open the floodgates for antidemocratic and discriminatory laws and regulations to be enacted at the local level around the country, and would constitute a further blow to democratic legal protections won by the working class in earlier struggles. Most importantly, such a decision would add momentum to the campaign by the ruling class to strip down or eliminate all significant social reform legislation dating from the 20th century.

A decision in the case is expected by June.

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Marijuana Law Introduced to Uruguay Congress

By PABLO FERNANDEZ Associated Press

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay November 16, 2012 (AP)

Uruguay came one step closer to turning the government into the country’s leading pot dealer on Thursday, as lawmakers formally introduced to Congress a framework for regulating the production, sale and consumption of marijuana.

The proposal is much more liberal than what Uruguay’s government initially proposed months ago, when President Jose Mujica said only the government would be allowed to sell pot.

The draft law would instead create a National Cannabis Institute with the power to license individuals and companies to produce and sell marijuana for recreational, medicinal or industrial uses. It would foster marijuana growing clubs to provide the weed to their members. And most significantly, it would allow anyone to grow a limited amount of marijuana in their own homes, and possess marijuana for their own consumption.

“The thrust is the same, to create state-controlled markets. This provides the legal framework,” Colette Youngers, a drug policy expert at the Washington Office on Latin America who came to Montevideo to advise lawmakers and others drafting the proposal, told The Associated Press. “The main difference is that they have incorporated the idea of cultivation for personal use, and also the cannabis clubs, which was not in the initial proposal.”

Uruguay Marijuana.JPEG

AP

A marijuana grower shows plants he is growing… View Full Caption

Uruguay still hopes to drive big-time drug dealers out of the marijuana business and enable pot smokers to buy their weed legally without having to feed the illegal and violent industry that provides addicts with harder drugs such as cocaine and its derivatives.

It also still wants to track pot consumption through a confidential database — perhaps by giving people accounts and cards with magnetic stripes that would track purchases while concealing user’s identities, she said.

The proposed law would allow anyone to grow up to possess up to 40 grams (nearly 1.5 ounces) of pot for their own consumption, and grow six pot plants in their own homes, producing up to 480 grams (a little more than a pound) of marijuana at a time. People could join clubs of up to 15 pot smokers who together could grow up to 90 plants and stockpile 7,200 grams (254 ounces, or nearly 16 pounds) a year. The identity of pot buyers would remain protected by law.

Aspects of the proposal are similar to the law voters just approved in the U.S. state of Colorado, which also enables individuals to grow six plants at a time for personal use. In contrast, Washington state’s new law does not allow individuals to grow pot. But these states and Uruguay all represent a significant shift in public opinion about marijuana, said Youngers.

“The government is still investigating what is going to be the best way to implement this,” Youngers said. “This is an experiment. No country has done this before. So they need to have a law that lays out the framework, but have the flexibility to adjust this as they implement it.”

Ruling party Deputy Sebastian Sabini told the AP that opposition lawmakers were invited Thursday to present alternatives to the proposal. He expects it to be quickly forwarded by the Commission on Addiction to the full lower house of Congress, which will pass the law next month. Uruguay’s Senate would then take it up early next year, and if it passes, developing the necessary infrastructure and regulations would take much of 2013. Mujica’s ruling Broad Front coalition enjoys ample majorities in both houses, so passage isn’t in doubt.

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Law, Science, and the Coming Brawl Over Marijuana

The federal government is on the wrong side of science over medical marijuana. Until that changes, there’s no chance for legalization.

banner_pot.jpg

Colorado’s newly-passed Amendment 64 contemplates a brave new world in which adults in the state will be able to lawfully smoke small amounts of marijuana purchased from licensed (and heavily taxed) local retailers. But that world isn’t even scheduled to begin until 2014, and only then if there are significant changes in the many assorted ways in which federal law criminalizes recreational marijuana possession and use. There is the legal component to the issue. There is the political component to it. And of all the paths forward there is one that is clearest and the most fair. What are the odds that it is the one Washington now chooses?
Since Colorado (and Washington state) legalized the use of recreational marijuana last week, the national conversation about what comes next has focused primarily on the obvious conflict between federal and state authority. On the one hand, we have the Controlled Substances Act, the venerable federal statute that for the past four decades has labelled marijuana as a “Schedule 1” substance on par with heroin. And on the other hand we have a clear policy choice made by voters in the election of 2012 that marijuana should be treated like alcohol. There’s been a rebellion out west, in other words, which the feds are destined to win.
But there is another conflict here that’s been splayed open by the ballot initiatives, one which is more fundamental to the future of lawful marijuana use than any argument the feds will now use to stop the state initiatives. It’s the ongoing conflict over the science of marijuana, over the quality of proof of its medicinal values, which is central to the coming court fights. Until the Drug Enforcement Administration changes its marijuana classification, until lawmakers recognize its therapeutic uses, reformers like those in Colorado and Washington will be crushed in court.
The federal policy choice on marijuana’s classification is the horse. The Justice Department’s coming use of that policy against the states is the cart. And that’s why the timing of the state initiatives is so compelling. Just last month, a few weeks before the election, a panel of three federal judges in Washington, D.C., heard oral arguments in a case on this very point called Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration. The feds say that studies of the virtues of medical marijuana are not rigorous enough to warrant a change in DEA policy. The reformers say there is enough proof, and testimony, to justify the change.
So far, the case hasn’t gotten nearly as much coverage as it should have, and as it would have had the hearing been held this week (last Tuesday, Massachusetts also became the 18th state to legalize the use of medical marijuana). But here’s all you need to know about the institutional forces of the law which are working against the reformers. Referring to the DEA, Judge Merrick Garland asked a question a million judges before him have asked when evaluating whether to push a federal agency to do something it hasn’t before wanted to do: “Don’t we have to defer to their judgment?”
Their judgment. The Colorado and Washington initiatives are the most forceful and populist responses yet to the antiquated judgment of DEA policy makers. The state measures also are a repudiation of Congress’ discriminatory marijuana laws and the law-and-order lobby’s priorities. And even if the new state laws stand today on poor legal ground–let’s face it, they do–the success of the initiatives out West already has sent a strong political message to Washington on marijuana policy: You can’t go back. You can no longer stay still. The only choice left is to figure out the smartest way to go forward.
Something’s gotta give. Right now, a White House that prides itself on being on the right side of science when it comes to global warming is on the wrong side of science when it comes to medical marijuana. Right now, a Congress that praises states’ rights is hampering the ability of states to experiment with new sources of revenue. Right now, the federal government in all its forms is taking a position which may have made sense in the early 1970s but which is now directly at odds with the testimony of thousands of military veterans who say marijuana helps ease their pain.
The faces of the movement aren’t just the young voters out West who think it’s absurd that they can drink alcohol but can’t get high. They aren’t just the entrepreneurs in Colorado who are making the marijuana industry a burgeoning, tax-revenue-generating retail industry. They aren’t the conservative figures who want to stop paying the prison costs of incarceration for marijuana offenses. They are also American war veterans like Michael Krawitz. He’s a disabled plaintiff in the ongoing DEA lawsuit in Washington. Here’s how The Guardian explains why:

Krawitz had been receiving opiate-based pain relief from the VA until they discovered a prescription for medical marijuana he had received while abroad. They asked him to take a drug test and when he refused, they stopped his treatment. “It said right there in the contract that if they find illegal drugs in your system they they will not give you any pain treatment,” he said. “I found that offensive. I’ve been getting this pain treatment for years.”

The Colorado and Washington measures aren’t likely a tipping point for marijuana legalization. But they may be a tipping point toward a federal drug policy that recognizes that marijuana is different from heroin–and even that would be a long-overdue step in the right direction. The Justice Department soon will challenge the state initiatives in court and the feds almost certainly will win. No federal judge wants to be the one to declare marijuana “legal” before Congress or the DEA does. What the White House ought to do in the meantime, however, is demand a broad new review of the federal government’s marijuana policies.
At a minimum, such a review ought to embrace the following truths, which appear to millions of Americans, including millions of young people who came out to vote for President Obama, to be self-evident. The Controlled Substances Act didn’t come down from the mountaintop. Marijuana’s “Schedule 1” classification isn’t engraved in stone. And the DEA and its policy experts are hardly the Sanhedrin. Whatever else they mean, the Colorado and Washington laws mean the time has come for the feds to better justify a drug policy that has lost key pillars of its factual and political support.
If the administration undertakes this sort of review–“hopefully, the historic in in Colorado will help pressure the federal government to bring a more science-based approach to drug laws,” coyly says Brian Vicente, one of the attorneys behind Amendment 64–it will help insulate the White House from progressive complaints about the coming federal litigation to block the two legalization measures. And it will hardly outrage conservatives, many of whom, like the Koch brothers, support legalization efforts. Such a review, you could say, is the very least the President could do for all those people who came out to vote for him these past two cycles.
That, anyway, is the larger view. For a closer look, I asked Professor Sam Kamin, who teaches at the University of Denver Law School, to share his thoughts on what’s likely to happen next in Colorado. Kamin has closely followed Colorado’s successful embrace of medical marijuana as well as its new dance with outright legalization. Here is a (slightly) edited transcript of our email interview:
COHEN: The voters have spoken. Colorado’s Constitution is changed. But isn’t the next step legislation and regulation within the state to determine how it is all going to work? I’m sure you’ve thought about happens now within the state government. As specifically as you can, please walk me through the next few weeks and months.

KAMIN: Everything now depends on what the federal government does next. We know that our governor has been in conversations with the Attorney General Holder about what the Justice Department will do next, but so far he has not been particularly forthcoming about what he has learned. If the federal government indicates a willingness to permit Washington and Colorado to proceed with legalization- and I very much doubt that it will–then the legislature and administrative agencies in these states will begin work on how the industry will be taxed and regulated. This should not be a particularly complicated task; Colorado has regulated and taxed medical marijuana since 2010. Little would need to change about this regulation except removing the requirement that those seeking to buy marijuana from a licensed retailer obtain a doctor’s recommendation first.

COHEN: The average citizen in Colorado who voted for this Amendment is wondering when she’ll be able to buy marijuana and smoke it legally without a medical certification. Is that completely dependent upon how the coming legal fight plays out? And is the expectation that the feds will challenge the initiative at the point of sale? 

KAMIN: I think this is the crucial question. The federal government has always had the power to shut down state experimentation with marijuana legalization. Marijuana remains a controlled substance whose sale and manufacture are prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Thus, every sale of marijuana in every state–whether it has legalized marijuana for medical purposes or otherwise–remains a federal crime. The federal government could thus arrest every person who sells marijuana in these states or at least arrest enough of them to make the others reconsider their choices.

A less confrontational approach would be to file suit–as the federal government did in Arizona to enjoin the enforcement of SB 1070–to prevent the implementation of Amendment 64.  Interestingly, there is little the federal government could do about Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana–the federal government lacks the power to force the states to criminalize any particular conduct. The states are under no obligation to mirror the CSA or to help the federal government enforce it. Thus, the states may presumably repeal their marijuana prohibitions without running afoul of federal law.

However, the second part of Amendment 64–requiring the state to set up procedures for the licensing of recreational marijuana dispensaries–is more problematic. The federal government could allege that such state-level sanctioning of marijuana businesses would constitute an impermissible obstacle to the enforcement of the CSA. Where state and federal law conflict, the federal law is supreme.

COHEN: The Justice Department has said since the election that Amendment 64 doesn’t change federal law and of course it doesn’t. Is there any way for the initiative to survive without a change to the federal classification of marijuana as a controlled substance on par with heroin? How can Colorado and Washington (state) move Washington to reevaluate that classification?

KAMIN: A little-understood aspect of the marijuana legalization movement is that the reclassification of marijuana would likely prove fatal to the legalization movement. Currently, marijuana is a Schedule I narcotic, a drug whose manufacture and sale are strictly prohibited. If it were re-classified to a less serious category it would then be available as medicine, likely subject to a doctor’s prescription. Of course, such a rule, which the federal government would likely enforce more strictly than it has the current prohibition, would forbid the licensing of recreational dispensaries in the states. Marijuana law reform has been proceeding along parallel tracks–in the courts, Congress and in the states–and those different tracks are beginning to create tensions.

COHEN: Look into your crystal ball. What’s the most likely outcome here? If there is to be a surprise, legally or politically, what do you figure it will be?

KAMIN: I imagine we will see something less than the dramatic federal response described above. I imagine the federal government will offer the states a return to the status quo prior to November 6. That is, I can imagine the Justice Department telling the states that it will continue to grudgingly permit the states to continue with medical marijuana but that full legalization is a bridge too far. This was essentially the message that Attorney General Holder sent to the California voters who ultimately rejected Proposition 19 in 2010. It was a difficult message for the Obama administration to send in a presidential election year in a swing state, however. With the election now passed, we may see a repeat of 2010. Like everyone else, though, I’m simply guessing.

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Marijuana Party political candidate has a new source of financing

Bob erb marijuana party millionaire

Canadian Bob Erb speaks to CBC News about his $25-million lottery prize. (CBC/Screengrab)

A Canadian man and former Marijuana Party political candidate has a new source of financing for his fight to legalize it: a $25-million lottery prize.

Bob Erb of Terrace, British Columbia, won the money on Friday night, splitting the $50-million jackpot with a group of oil workers in neighboring Alberta.

“I just went in, checked the lottery ticket — 25 and a whole bunch of zeroes,” Erb said, according to CBC News.

“I pulled the ticket out (of the machine) and I said, ‘Oh my God. I think I won $25 million.’”

He collected his money today from B.C. Lottery Corporation, but the winning ticket almost didn’t happen.

More from GlobalPost: Pensioner finds $23-million lottery ticket in her car just in time

On his way to his father’s funeral in Calgary, Erb purchased tickets from a gas station stop during the trip. A store clerk misunderstood his request, and gave him an extra ticket.

“He (cashier) was going to delete that one. I said ‘I might as well take it, it might be the one,’” Erb told his hometown newspaper, The Standard.

A seasonal construction worker, Erb said he intends to continue working. He plans to spend money on charity, family, oh, and “the legalization, decriminalization of marijuana.”

Erb ran for the B.C. Marijuana Party in the 2001 provincial election, finishing third among five candidates with 810 votes in the electoral district of Skeena. The winner had 8,653 votes.

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KELLY: Hemp vs. oil: How corporate & gov’t collusion perverted the free market

Travis Kelly

 

mmj2

Since the days of Cain and Abel, hemp has been one of the world’s largest and most versatile crops, used to make textiles, paint, soap, rope, building materials, fuel oil, protein supplements, and medicines. An acre of hemp produces far more paper than an acre of trees — and you would have to smoke an acre of it to get high, as industrial hemp, though similar in appearance to its close cousin, marijuana (cannabis), contains almost no THC.
Today, in only one industrialized nation in the world, is the cultivation of hemp illegal. You guessed it: Ours truly. And it makes as much sense as outlawing ALL mushrooms because some of them are psychoactive or poisonous. How this travesty came about in 1937 is a lesson in the collusion of big corporations with big government and big media to pervert the free market and stymie competition.
In the early 1930s, Henry Ford’s experimental biomass plant in Michigan extracted methanol, charcoal, tar pitch, and other distillates from hemp, demonstrating that it was an alternative to fossil fuels as an energy source, as well as a competitor to other petrochemical products then being introduced by the DuPont corporation, DuPont had a powerful ally in Washington — Secretary of Treasury Andrew Mellon, a banker who also had a controlling interest in the Gulf Oil Corporation.
Mellon appointed his loyal nephew, Harry Anslinger, as chief of the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1932. Anslinger promptly began lobbying Congress to outlaw “marihuana,” using a series of hysterical propaganda stories run by newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst — that era’s Rupert Murdoch. Hearst owned vast timber lands in the Northwest that supplied the wood pulp for most of the American newspaper industry; DuPont chemicals were used to process that pulp. The “reefer madness” scare featured lurid, racist stories of “Mexicans and Negroes” going on murderous rampages while stoned; innocent white women seduced into ruin; teenagers going instantly insane after a puff; and other fearmongering fictions.
Anslinger told Congress that hemp — ALL hemp, whether smokable or not — was “entirely the Monster Hyde, the harmful effects of which cannot be measured.” The Marijuana Tax Act was rammed through Congress in secret committees controlled by DuPont allies. That same year, 1937, DuPont filed its patent on Nylon, which took over the textile and cordage markets that had been dominated by hemp. DuPont also supplied GM, which produced more than half of all American cars, with its petrochemical paints, varnishes, plastics and rubber, all of which could have been produced equally well from hemp. But no more. The competition had been criminalized.
The prohibition was suspended during WWII, with a Hemp for Victory campaign, then reinstated in 1955. Since then, our closest cousins, England, Australia and Canada (1998), have all legalized industrial hemp. China is the world’s number-one producer, exporting most of it to us — the world’s leading hemp importer — exacerbating our trade imbalance.
As global oil supplies continue to decline versus growing demand, and become harder to extract and import due to geological and political factors, domestic hemp could easily replace many petrochemical products with significant advantages.
Hemp is a renewable resource, one of the fastest growing and most productive plants on earth, yielding four crops and 25 tons of dry matter per hectare per year. It requires few pesticides and no herbicides. It is now being used as a building material, Hempcrete, and, combined with fiberglass and flax, to make body panels for automobiles. It has also proved excellent as a “mop crop” for cleaning up contaminated soil. In all these cases, hemp is carbon neutral or even carbon negative, scrubbing and sequestering CO2 from our warming atmosphere.
Several states have licensed the growing of industrial hemp — California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia — but have not yet grown a single plant due to continued resistance by the DEA, who is still stuck in 1930s “reefer madness” paranoia, despite now overwhelming evidence that hemp’s cousin, marijuana, is far less harmful than alcohol for both health and public safety. To grow industrial hemp, the DEA must issue a permit under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act — and it never does.
Colorado can join that roster on Nov. 6 by voting for Amendment 64. Eventually, we will budge the DEA from its archaic stupidity, end the virtual dictatorship of the petrochemical industry, and safeguard our national security by again realizing Thomas Jefferson’s maxim: “Hemp is of first necessity to the wealth and protection of the country.”
Travis Kelly is a web/graphic designer, writer and cartoonist in Grand Junction. See his work or contact him at www.traviskelly.com.

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Should pot be legal? NO: Voters should hold out for real reform, not fall for this narrow proposal

 

Washington voters are being told a big lie. New Approach Washington, the campaign behind Initiative 502, is advertising that it will “legalize” marijuana. It would not.

DOUGLAS HIATT • Published October 08, 2012

No Prohibition 

 

It creates a very narrow exception that defines the possession of one ounce by adults over 21, and the state’s rules for production, as “not a violation” of the law.

I-502 leaves every single law now making marijuana illegal on the books. Walk out of the state-sanctioned, licensed and taxed store and hand the marijuana to your significant other and it is a delivery of marijuana. This is not comprehensive, real reform.

What I-502 does change is our DUI law. Our current DUI laws are working just fine and result in conviction rates of over 90 percent. This initiative sets unneeded, unasked for and unscientific levels for impairment for adults (5 nanograms, rejected three times by the Colorado Legislature), while establishing a zero-tolerance provision for all drivers 16 to 21.

It also takes away your ability to defend yourself. If you meet the levels, you are guilty. No explaining that you are a patient, no arguing about the levels or tolerance, nothing. For drivers age 16 to 21, any detectable amount of marijuana will result in a DUI conviction and disastrous effects on their parents’ insurance.

This is not based on impairment; it is simply a new penalty for marijuana for kids. But it is a very impactful one for parents with teenage drivers. What parent wants to face the requirements for insurance and the expense of a DUI, all because of some youthful experimentation?

This initiative is also being sold as “pitting the citizens of Washington state against the federal government” and “carefully drafted” to withstand federal preemption. Not true. I-502 essentially wastes your vote to force federal change and will likely result in the federal courts construing this initiative to change the law to one ounce decriminalized, with nowhere legal to buy it and leaving the terrible changes to our DUI laws.

As U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan has stated, she knows of no attorney who thinks that this will survive federal preemption analyses. There are ways to avoid this drafting problem. See sensiblewashington.org for real cannabis reform.

Because the federal government will not allow the state to begin regulating and taxing a federally banned substance, these projections are moot. I-502 imposes taxes at three distinct levels and does not allow growers and sellers to be the same entity. This will produce taxes that will make the store-bought marijuana way too expensive to even begin to impact the current market.

I-502 will have absolutely no effect on criminal organizations in Mexico or anywhere else. To actually get the benefit of ending prohibition, as we did with alcohol, you have to actually legalize the substance in question, not play games and pander to fears. I-502 also fails to legalize hemp, which would open a $430 million domestic hemp market currently supplied primarily by China.

With regard to other criminal justice savings, because more than 90 percent of current marijuana possession charges are the result of traffic stops, the 10,000 possession arrests per year can easily be converted into 10,000 (or more) DUI arrests, thereby eliminating any savings in the criminal justice system stemming from reduced prosecutions. The zero-tolerance driving standard for drivers 16 to 21 will eliminate any savings on criminal justice costs and produce much misery for many families.

Just say no to I-520.

Douglas Hiatt is a Seattle-based criminal defense attorney and a co-founder of Sensible Washington, which opposes Initiative 502 and advocates for legalization of hemp and cannabis.

Read more here: http://www.theolympian.com/2012/10/07/2278108/should-pot-be-legal-no-voters.html?storylink=addthis#.UHMRJ5sAzPs.facebook#storylink=cpy

NJWeedman found not guilty in pot distribution case

 

MOUNT HOLLY — A jury found Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion not guilty Thursday in the Rastafarian activist’s marijuana distribution case.

The decision came after Forchion was nearly held in contempt of court in the morning as he delivered his closing argument.

 

Stay tuned for details of Thursday afternoon’s verdict.

Forchion, formerly of Pemberton Township, tried to introduce his jury nullification argument into the closing, but was quickly stopped by Superior Court Judge Charles Delehey, who had barred any discussion of it.

Forchion began verbally sparring with Delehey, who then ordered the jury out of the room and told the defendant he would be held in contempt if he continued to ignore the court’s orders.

“If you want to make a martyr of yourself, the court will deal with you,” the judge said. “You’ve done everything you can to disrupt this trial.”

Jury nullification would allow the jurors to disregard the law they were ordered to follow in considering the case and acquit a defendant, no matter what the evidence, in effect nullifying or invalidating the law.

Forchion, wearing a “Marijuana … It’s OK. It’s Just Illegal” T-shirt, refused to talk to his court-appointed attorney during the brief recess, but when Delehey and the jury returned, he toed the line and abandoned his blatant jury nullification pitch.

Instead, the legalization activist focused the jury on his plight as a licensed medical marijuana patient in California who brought a pound of pot to New Jersey in April 2010 for his own use.

“I don’t use it the way the state says. To me, it’s medicine, it’s food,” Forchion said, noting for the jury that he had been eating pot-laced cookies throughout the trial. “I feel I’m the victim of a flawed law.”

The state alleged that because of the sheer volume of the marijuana, his intent was to distribute it. Burlington County Assistant Prosecutor Michael Luciano told the jury that the case was not “a political referendum” on medical marijuana or legalization.

“It is not a litmus test on the war on drugs,” he said.

Luciano also said the numbers and common sense should lead to a guilty verdict, noting that Forchion had enough pot on him when he was stopped by police in Mount Holly on April 1, 2010, to smoke for months.

By Luciano’s calculations, Forchion would have to smoke two to three joints an hour nonstop for 24 hours to get through the pound of marijuana in about six months. NJWeedman disputed the prosecutor’s math and said it doesn’t fairly portray how he uses the drug.

“He had more than any person could smoke on their own,” Luciano said, reminding the jurors that they didn’t have to find he was selling it to convict him and that sharing also constitutes distribution. “He was going to distribute this for profit. He was going to distribute it because that’s what he believes, that’s his drug, that’s his food and that’s his plant.”

At a trial earlier this year, Forchion was convicted of possession, but the jury deadlocked on the more serious distribution charge, leading to this week’s retrial.

 

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In 1994, California voters passed the harshest three-strikes law in the country

 

 

In 1994, California voters passed the harshest three-strikes law in the country. Soon after, stories began to emerge about people receiving life sentences for petty crimes such as stealing a pair of gloves or a slice of pizza. Such cases challenged the commonly held belief that the law applied only to violent criminals.

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Our interest in this issue deepened when we read the results of a 2010 report, shared with us by the Three Strikes Project at Stanford Law School. The study showed that more than 4,000 inmates in California are serving life sentences for nonviolent offenses under the three-strikes law. While it is possible that some of the inmates may be eligible for parole after 25 years, a majority face the prospect of decades of prison time. Many of these stiff sentences struck us as egregious.

Although judges have sentencing discretion in a very narrow band of three-strikes cases, the reality is that judges almost universally consider themselves bound under California law to impose a life sentence for a third felony offense, no matter how minor.

When we began working on this Op-Doc, as well as other short-format videos profiling nonviolent “three strikers” and their families, a portrait quickly emerged of Californians struggling with extreme poverty whose lives — in the words of one woman we interviewed — “can just be thrown away.” We also learned that the law is disproportionately applied to minorities, the mentally ill and the poor.

The case of Shane Taylor, the subject of this video, is common in many ways, but also unusual in that his judge and prosecutor have gone on record saying that his sentence is unfair and should be modified. Under current law, revising a sentence after it has been imposed is nearly impossible.

On Nov. 6, voters in California will decide whether to adopt Proposition 36, a ballot initiative that would reform the most draconian aspects of the law — and, in our view, restore the original intent of voters, which was to lock away violent career criminals for life, without unjustly throwing away the lives of small-time, nonviolent offenders like Mr. Taylor. Like most Californians, we believe that the punishment should fit the crime. We’re encouraged that polls show broad public support for the measure.

Kelly Duane de la Vega and Katie Galloway received the best documentary screenplay award this year from the Writers Guild of America, West, and the Gotham Independent Film Award for best documentary last year, for their film “Better This World.” Funding for the production of this video was raised in part by David W. Mills, a Stanford law professor who supports Proposition 36 and has advocated reform of California’s three-strikes law.

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Summary Of Oral Arguments In Federal Cannabis Rescheduling Case

 

 

Summary Of Oral Arguments In Federal Cannabis Rescheduling Case

http://www.theweedblog.com/summary-of-oral-arguments-in-federal-cannabis-rescheduling-case/

October 17, 2012

Federal Appeals Court Hears Case On Medical Value Of Marijuana

By Jonathan Bair, Americans for Safe Access

This morning, the federal Appeals Court for the DC Circuit heard an appeal in the case called Americans for Safe Access v Drug Enforcement Administration. The case is an appeal of the DEA’s rejection of a petition filed in 2002 seeking to change the placement of marijuana as a Schedule I drug per the Controlled Substances Act. Based on the scientific evidence, ASA and our fellow plaintiffs feel that it is simply untrue that cannabis is a drug with a “high potential for abuse” and “without accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” The hearing today offered a glimpse at the Court’s approach to this topic.

In front of a packed courtroom in Washington, the three-judge panel questioned ASA’s Chief Counsel Joe Elford and a federal lawyer about the merits of the scientific case, and the crucial legal issue of “standing.” Standing is a legal concept that restricts the right to sue to injured parties – people who are directly hurt by what they are fighting, and can get relief from a legal judgement. The issue of standing has been the reason why two prior appeals of the DEA’s classification of marijuana were rejected. In the past, patients have not been part of lawsuits against the Controlled Substances Act. The three judges were Merrick Garland, Karen Henderson, and Harry Edwards.

ASA’s Chief Counsel Joe Elford opened his appeal by arguing that the federal “Department of Health and Human Services plays a game of gotcha” by tightly controlling research access to cannabis and then claiming that there is not enough compelling research to justify reconsidering it as Schedule I. The Drug Enforcement Administration erred by determing that cannabis has a high potential for abuse when its findings determine its abuse and harm potential is less than other substances in less-controlled schedules, such as cocaine.

Elford opened his arguments with the issue of standing. He pointed to the affidavit of plaintiff Michael Krawitz, a veteran denied access to Veterans Administration services because of his medically necessary use of marijuana. The Veterans Administrastion’s harmful policy is based on marijuana’s status as a Schedule I substance. He also spoke of the many members of Americans for Safe Access, who are fearful of the consequences of cultivating their own cannabis for their medical needs, and that a medical necessity defense in court could be allowed if marijuana were not in Schedule I.

Elford then turned to the issue of the merits of the DEA’s position on marijuana’s medical value, to prove their position was “arbitrary and capricious” and therefore impermissible. The contention that there is not a complete consensus was argued to be an unreasonable interpretation of the regulatory standard, and that many of HHS’s standards are inapplicable to an organic substance. Significantly, the lack of access to marijuana for medical research is a consequence of the scheduling, yet the lack of suitable research is cited by the DEA as a reason for maintaining the schedule. Despite this lack of research access, ASA cited a growing body of high-quality scientific and medical research into the benefits of marijuana.

Judge Garland asked Elford if he was arguing that marijuana in fact meets HHS’s standard for studies. ASA’s counsel cited over 200 studies and argued that a circular standard is impossible to meet. He also said that, given that the schedule is relative, the DEA is ignoring even its own studies showing that marijuana has merely a “mild” potential for abuse.

Joe Elford concluded by arguing that Schedule I was an inappropriate classification of marijuana and it caused harm to patients and prevented meaningful medical research. Rescheduling marijuana would allow for a reasonable policy solution for suffering patients and uphold the intent of the Controlled Substances Act.

Judge Edwards asked about the standing of Mr. Krawitz, and his access to medical marijuana. The judges asked about access in medical states and noted that marijuana would not be legal just because it were rescheduled.

Federal counsel Lena Watkins then presented her position against appealing the DEA’s decision to continue cannabis in Schedule I. She noted that state legislatures or popular votes do not determine accepted medical use. She said that research is inadequate and has not progressed, and argued that the government does provide access for research. Turning to the abuse potential, Watkins said, “marijuana is the most widely abused drug in America,” and dependency is a factor in making that assessment.

The judges questioned the level of access provided for research, and Watkins said that fifteen studies of a specific federal “quality” metric have been allowed. Pressed to explain why these studies haven’t persuaded the DEA that marijuana has medical benefits, she said, “we don’t have the final results yet.” To many in the audience, the circular nature of the government’s position on the science of marijuana was clear. The judges then invited Elford to give a rebuttal.

Focusing on rebutting the government’s claims about research, Elford argued that there has been adequate study and even more since this case was filed in 2002, and noted that he would like to admit additional evidence to the case. Summarizing by turning the government’s “no substantial evidence” argument on its head, Elford said that both sides agree more research needs to be done and that research can only happen if marijuana is released from Schedule I. Requiring the DEA to make scientific determinations on a new schedule would lead to better policy and more relief for suffering patients.

The patients spoke out at a well-attended press conference after the hearing, and Americans for Safe Access is proud to have given patients a day in court. Many observers felt the judges were willing to consider the argument of Michael Krawitz’s direct harm from the Controlled Substances Act, and this issue of “standing” has been the Achilles heel of past lawsuits against Schedule I. However, Judge Garland asked at one point, “Don’t we have to defer to the agency? We’re not scientists. They are.”

We’ll find out whether the judges felt the DEA’s science is adequate, or if patients can sue for a medical necessity defense against harsh marijuana laws, when the judges rule. We don’t expect it for a few months. This opportunity is thanks to the brave plaintiffs who took on the federal government on behalf of many others.

Jonathan Bair is ASA’s Social Media Director. Recordings of any kind were not allowed in the courtroom.

Source: Americans for Safe Access

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"Overgrowing the Government"

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