GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin have a track record of opposing efforts to reform marijuana laws in the Badger State, but a recent comment from Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has some marijuana advocates hopeful for progress during the 2017 legislative session.
“If you get a prescription to use an opiate or you get a prescription to use marijuana, to me I think that’s the same thing,” Vos said, a surprising position after years of GOP opposition to legalizing any form of marijuana. “I would be open to that.”
Of course this came as a surprise to many, especially after Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Governor Scott Walker have both repeatedly stated that they will continue to oppose any effort to advance the issue in the state of Wisconsin. Regardless of the lack of support from GOP leadership, Sen. Van Wanggaard is expected to sponsor legislation that would make it legal to possess cannibidiol (CBD) – the marijuana extract known for treating seizures associated with epilepsy – during the upcoming legislative session.
It is with great sadness I report on the death of one of the most outstanding activists in the NORML family – Ben Masel has passed away at age 56 following his battle with lung cancer.
Friends are leaving tribute on Ben’s Facebook page.
I met Ben at the 2009 Great Midwest Harvest Fest. He and Gary Storck flew me out to speak to the crowd of thousands on the campus of University of Wisconsin and the statehouse steps. I quickly found him to be exceptionally brilliant (he was just shy of “grand master” in chess) and loaded with fabulous stories of his past activism with the Yippies.
Ben had hoped to make it out to the NORML Conference last week, but obviously his health had taken a turn for the worse. The NORML Board presented to him a special award for his lifetime of work. My own tribute to Ben appears in the August 2011 issue of HIGH TIMES Magazine where we named him “Freedom Fighter of the Month”… unfortunately too late for him to read it. It will be one of my bigger disappointments that Ben never received the recognition he deserved while he was alive to enjoy it.
Following is the article for HIGH TIMES with my sincere condolences to family and friends who had the privilege of knowing and loving him more than I.
If you watched the TV news coverage of the Wisconsin labor protests in Madison last February, you may have seen this month’s Freedom Fighter Ben Masel. A longtime activist with Madison NORML, Ben was instrumental in creating the vibrant cannabis community in the state, including organizing Weedstock and the Great Midwest Harvest Fest that celebrates its fortieth anniversary this October 1-3 (see madisonhempfest.com). He’s currently been fighting over the past few legislative sessions to get Wisconsin to pass the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act.
While Ben fights for the end of marijuana prohibition, his activism also extends into mainstream politics as well. He’s a passionate civil libertarian, advocating equally for free speech and gun rights, personal privacy and a return to stronger congressional control of war powers. Ben has run many times for elective office, from a challenge to Governor Tommy Thompson in 1990 to his current candidacy for the US Senate seat held by Herb Kohl. He first caught attention for his radicalism when at age 17 he became the youngest person placed on President Nixon’s infamous “enemies list” and “the man” has kept his eye on Ben ever since.
This March at the age of 56, Ben received the horrible news that he’d been stricken by lung cancer. Speaking to the Wisconsin State Journal, Ben said, “I’m feeling pretty upbeat about stuff. Not about having (cancer), but overall. I’m definitely not in the ‘Oh, no, poor me, I’ve got cancer’ mode.” In reviewing our records, we’re stunned and embarrassed that Ben had not been listed among the 206 activists who’ve won the award since 1990. Everyone at NORML and HIGH TIMES extends our highest hopes for Ben’s good health.
UPDATED: NORMLtv is now streaming the presentation of Ben’s award from this year’s conference in his honor:
Looks like the ‘Natural State’ is joining the 20 or more states that will have cannabis law reform legislation in 2010 with a medical cannabis bill.
PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Health officials have proposed new rules governing how up to three medical marijuana stores would operate in Rhode Island.
The revised regulations released Friday explain in more detail how andwhen the stores would notify police and state officials in the event of emergencies. The public can comment on the draft rules during a Feb. 2 meeting.
Rhode Island lawmakers voted in June over the objection of Gov. Don
Carcieri (kuh-CHEHR’-ee) to allow up to three nonprofit stores to sell
marijuana to registered patients who use it for pain relief. The state
allowed patients to possess marijuana in 2006 but never made clear how they could legally get the drug.
Once the rules are approved, applications will be accepted to open
Quinnipiac poll 59% say medical marijuana is a ‘good idea’
Philadelphia- A majority of Pennsylvanians favor passage of the medical marijuana bill according to a new Quinnipiac Poll released yesterday. Specifically asked about the current legislation, this is the strongest indicator yet of the tremendous popular support for safe, therapeutic cannabis access here in PA.
The greatest support came from Democrats with 67% in favor and from residents of the Northeast portion of PA who supported the issue at 72%.
Republicans were more evenly divided on the question 49% positive and 47% not. Women strongly supported medical marijuana at 57% ‘good idea’ and just 36% saying ‘bad idea.’
Nearly even support was found among all age groups 18 to 55+ and all income levels, with a close average of 60% saying ‘good idea’ to the concept of a state authorized medical cannabis program. The medical marijuana question was the last one posed to voters during the lengthy poll that mostly dealt with the PA gubernatorial candidates.
Comparatively, medical marijuana is more positively favored by every single category of voter than any of the gubernatorial candidates.
Therapeutic cannabis received significantly greater favorable poll support than Governor Rendell, Attorney General Tom Corbett or the job of the PA legislature.
Asked ‘how satisfied are you with the way things are going in Pennsylvania today’ the totals were equal ‘Smmwt Satisfied’ 38%, ‘Smmwt Dissatisfied’ 38%.
Pennsylvanians for Medical Marijuana (PA4MMJ) recently participated in the historic first hearings on HB 1393. The bill would legalize medical marijuana access in PA and create Compassion centers for cannabis to be sold, with a tax, to authorized patients.
More about medical marijuana in pa at www.pa4mmj.org
Three great Wisconsin medical cannabis patient heroes: Ryan Nofsinger, Christine Harrington and Jacki Rickert testify at the medical cannabis bill’s hearing this Tuesday in a video Mickey Kienitz did for madison.com.
Doctor-legislator eyes new medical marijuana measure; Positive signs from D.C., legalization in other states buoy pot advocates
by Alan Brody
When Del. Dan K. Morhaim is in the emergency room, he can administer cocaine to anesthetize a patient. But he cannot write a prescription for marijuana as a pain reliever or nausea remedy.
That’s just one of the flaws in Maryland’s narrow medical marijuana law that Morhaim (D-Dist. 11) of Owings Mills, an emergency physician at Sinai and Northwest hospitals in Baltimore, is out to fix during next year’s legislative session.
“Physicians prescribe drugs that have risks and benefits, and we make those judgments all the time,” he said. “There’s a whole method of accountability and responsibility and constraints that control that.”
While budget discussions will take center stage in Annapolis, medical marijuana advocates believe the momentum for their cause has never been greater.
U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. has said federal narcotics
agents will not crack down on pot dispensaries or prosecute users in states where the drug is allowed for medicinal purposes, reversing a Bush administration policy.
And last month the American Medical Association shifted its stance in urging the federal government to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II controlled substance, which is less restrictive than the Schedule I group it is currently in, alongside Ecstasy, heroin and PCP.
Under current state law, Marylanders can be arrested and charged for possession of marijuana, but they can avoid jail time and receive a maximum $100 fine if they can prove they have it for medicinal use.
Morhaim’s proposal would be set up similar to the state’s slots
legislation. Companies that want to grow the plant would have to bid for a license and be regulated by the state to ensure it is being done in a safe location and properly manufactured. The producers would then give a portion of its gross sales revenue to the state.
United States Virgin Islands
USVI NORML Announces Citizens’ Initiative
St. Thomas, USVI, 12/18/09– USVI NORML, a local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, is excited to announce the undertaking of a territory-wide petition to place the choice for the legal reform and legalization of cannabis on the November 2010 ballot.
In order to collect the required amount of registered voter signatures the group will be hosting several voter registration drives so the voices of all Territorial citizens will be heard. Chapter President Linda Adler has stated that, “Although this will be a tremendous effort to empower the people of the Territory, it won’t take away from our continuing mission of education and independent economic development”.
For more information on upcoming events, petition locations, or membership/donation opportunities please contact the NORML offices at (340) 244-9179 or visit http://www.usvinorml.org/. Please direct all correspondence and membership applications to:
P.O. Box 535
St. Thomas, USVI 00804
USVI NORML is a non-profit organization based in the US Virgin Islands. Their mission is to de-criminalize cannabis in the Territory as well as educate, protect our youth, reduce crime, and promote a healthy and positive lifestyle.
Executive Director, USVI NORML
(340) 244 9179 P.O. Box 535
St. Thomas, USVI 00804
Last January I proclaimed in the The Hill‘s Congress blog: “Marijuana law reform is no longer a political liability; it’s a political opportunity.” Ten months later it appears that an unprecedented number of state-elected officials are heeding the message. Here’s just a sample.
COLORADO: Last week the Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice recommended legislators to substantially reduce marijuana penalties so that the possession of up to four ounces of pot would classified as a petty offense. Offenses involving greater amounts of cannabis (up to 16 ounces) would be reduced to a misdemeanor. State Attorney General John Suthers told the Denver Post that he supports the Commission’s recommendations which, if enacted, would make Colorado’s pot possession laws among the most lenient in the nation.
RHODE ISLAND: A special nine-member Senate panel met for the first time this week to debate revising the state’s criminal marijuana policies. The panel’s chair, Democrat Sen. Joshua Miller, said that the task-force will primarily focus on the subject of decriminalization, but that members will also likely debate the merits of taxing a regulating the adult use of cannabis. The panel’s recommendations to the legislature are due on January 10, 2010. In 2009, Rhode Island’s legislature became only the second to approve legislation licensing the establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries.
WISCONSIN: Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle recently announced his support for legislation that seeks to make Wisconsin the fourteenth state to allow for the legal use of medical cannabis. Both the Assembly and the Senate Public Health Committees are scheduled to hear testimony in favor of the legislation, known as the Jacki Rickert Medical Marijuana Act, on Tuesday, December 15, 2009.
WASHINGTON: Incoming Seattle city attorney Peter Holmes announced this week that his office will no longer charge anyone with simple marijuana possession offenses. “We’re not going to bring any more (marijuana possession) charges,” he said. There are other more important, more pressing public safety matters in need of attention with the limited resources we have.” Holmes added that he supports legislation that stalled in 2009 that seeks to depenalize marijuana. Those proposals are expected to be heard by the legislature in 2010.
PENNSYLVANIA: Next month legislators will hold their first hearing — ever — on legalizing the use of medical cannabis. The House Committee on Health and Human Services will hear testimony on HB 1393, The Barry Busch Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act of 2009, on Wednesday, December 2, at 11am in Room 140 of the Main Capitol. Contact Philly NORML for further details.
ARKANSAS: Democrat Senator Randy Laverty announced this week that he is considering introducing legislation to lessen or eliminate criminal penalties for marijuana possession offenses. Legislators in several other states, including New Hampshire and Texas, are also expected to debate marijuana legalization proposals in 2010.
CALIFORNIA: In the coming months legislators are expected to hold additional hearings on Assembly Bill 390, the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, which seeks to tax and regulate the commercial production and retail sale of cannabis to those age 21 or older. The California Assembly Committee on Public Safety is anticipated to vote on the measure by late January. The vote will mark the first time that California, or the legislature of any state, has voted on the issue of cannabis regulation in over three decades.
By any standard, 2010 will be a historic year for legislative activity regarding marijuana law reform. Will you play a role in bringing common sense marijuana regulations to your community? Get active, get NORML, and be the change you want to see!
A quick review from this week’s avalanche of cannabis-related news, comes a stark contrast that reveals: Four Prohibition Pragmatists And A Drug War Whore
Wisconsin – When asked by the media about a recently introduced medical cannabis bill in his state, as well as to comment on the Obama administration’s new policies on medical cannabis, Governor Jim Doyle said he has no problem with the use of cannabis to treat severe pain and other medical conditions by way of a physician’s recommendation, and that restricting the use of medical cannabis makes no sense when doctors can already prescribe more dangerous drugs like morphine.
British Columbia – Stephen Gamble, president of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of B.C., recently came out in favor of fire department inspections of the home gardens of federal medical cannabis patients and caregivers in BC, to make sure the cannabis grow operations are safe, and not creating fire hazards. However, numerous medical cannabis patients and advocates in B.C. have spoken out against the proposal citing special federal privacy protections for medical patients.
Washington, D.C. – The Transportation and Security Administration (TSA), in numerous media reports, acknowledged another major departure from prior administrations regarding federal medical cannabis policies: State-compliant medical cannabis patients may not be harassed or arrested for their medical cannabis whilst traveling in federally-controlled airports.
Oakland NLC member Robert Raich, for years, has been pursuing the TSA to allow medical cannabis patients flying out of Oakland International Airport to lawfully possess their medicine in compliance with TSA rules, which are to concentrate on terrorism and public safety concerns, (i.e., weapons, explosives, knives, etc…), and that pilots and the airline crew are not liable for the presence of lawfully possessed medical cannabis.
New Hampshire – New Hampshire’s new US attorney, John Kacavas, told the media that he will not prosecute medical cannabis patients. [The new policy from Obama]…”is saying in a smarter battle against drugs, people who use it to improve their appetite, people who use it to alleviate their pain probably ought not to be prosecuted federally.”
Then…The Drug War Whoring
Washington, D.C. – In one of the grossest, most gratuitous, desperate attempts to get media attention I’ve ever seen (which says a lot…), former public relations flack for the infamous House Select Narcotics Committee (sui generis of many bad, failed and constitutional-warping anti-drug legislation of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Thankfully this congressional committee no longer exists, and these days the once leaders of the group, like powerful New York democrat Charlie Rangel, now support decriminalizing cannabis) and former drug czar Barry McCaffrey’s in-house anti-pot propagandist Bob Weiner employs PRNewswire to hump his absurd press release attacking President Obama’s and Attorney General Eric Holder’s clarification of their ‘hands off’ policies regarding the use of federal law enforcement in states with medical cannabis laws (and presumably in states without state protections for medical cannabis patients).
In a country where approximately 75% of the population support medical access to cannabis, one has to wonder what is wrong with people like Bob Weiner. What does he not get? Or, is the only source for his revenue and self-being these days–almost eight years after taxpayers stopped funding his anti-cannabis propaganda when Weiner, a Democratic political appointee, lost his job when the Bushies took over in 2000–is to whore himself out to the media and anti-drug groups as some kind of anti-cannabis zealot, one that mocks science with his ignorance and drips contempt for the compassion that others seem to possess.
Weiner, a self-proclaimed expert on cannabis, does not seem to understand that 1) cannabis is not prescribed anywhere in the US, 2) the DOJ memo only impacts federal, not state attorneys, 3) Weiner claims, relying on unnamed law enforcement agents, that 9 out of 10 medical cannabis patients are frauds, citizens ‘faking’ a medical need ‘just to get high’, 4) Weiner oddly compares a non-toxic and therapeutic substance like cannabis to laetrile, therein invoking the late Senator Kennedy to supposedly prove the “false hope” of medical cannabis, when, in fact, Senator Kennedy supported both patient access to medical cannabis and active cannabis medical research at the University of Massachusetts @ Amherst, and 5) Weiner whines that politics, not science is the controlling factor; feigns there is a dearth of science regarding cannabis (when there are over 17,500 studies relating to cannabis and/or cannabinoids).
Watch Weiner and the so-called war on drugs get rightly ridiculed by Penn and Teller…or the entire episode here.
Feast your eyes on Weiner’s Wednesday PRNewswire release to see what a real drug war whore looks like seeking the media and public spotlight:
Medical Marijuana: ‘Be Careful,’ ‘Ex-White House Drug Spokesman Bob Weiner Tells DOJ About ‘New Lax Enforcement’ Policy; ‘Use May Explode in Healthy People’
WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — “Be careful about the new lax enforcement policy for medical marijuana,” former White House Drug Policy Spokesman Bob Weiner is telling the Department of Justice and the Obama Administration.
“You may get way more than you bargained for”, Weiner cautions of the new policy barring states attorneys from busting and prosecuting users and caregivers of so-called “medical” marijuana who act “in accordance with state law.”
“Prescription marijuana use may explode for healthy people.”
Unfortunately, as many as 90% of purchases at clinical distribution centers are “false defenses”, some law enforcement agents report – “which means individuals are not really sick but simply want the pot,” Weiner asserts.
“Medical marijuana is not as effective as other healing mechanisms for many illnesses such as glaucoma, pain, or nausea that users try it for because of false hype leading to false hope. Just as laetrile was legalized in the 1970’s in 27 states to cure cancer but was found to be useless apricot pits, leading Senator Kennedy in a Senate hearing to decry the ‘false hope’ delaying true treatment, ‘medical’ marijuana today could be a placebo delaying far better treatments,” according to Weiner.
“Many medical marijuana advocates press its use for pain killing and appetite enhancement,” Weiner asserted, “but you might feel just as good after a shot of gin. Science, not politics, must drive what is determined to be safe and effective medicine in America. The medical marijuana advocates never mention the potentially better applications of THC in marijuana from suppositories, jells, aerosols, or the already approved pill Marinol — they just want the high from the smoked version.
“There is a real danger that if marijuana is made essentially a prescription drug, its abuse and usage explosion could parallel other prescription drugs over the last decade, such as OxyContin, which have tripled nationally and quintupled in many locations because of the ease of availability.”
“No one wants to deny a dying cancer patient a hit of grass, if that’s what he or she wants. But to announce and implement a policy of broad-brush non-enforcement when there is so much loose about usage of medical marijuana and its distribution is a dangerous policy.”
“The new policy, a three-page DOJ memo anyone can download, does not only say leave the users alone. It also says leave the ‘caregivers’ alone if they comply with state law. The distribution centers, which are suppliers, and the staff could well be considered ‘caregivers’. DOJ would have serious problems discerning between illicit dealers and distributors.”
Weiner served as White House Drug Policy Office spokesman for 6-1/2 years and communications director of the House Select Narcotics Committee for five years.
Contact: Bob Weiner/Rebecca Vander Linde 301-283-0821/202-306-1200
SOURCE Robert Weiner Associates Issues Strategies