• by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 7, 2010

    Obama administration officials strongly oppose plans by the city of Oakland to license and tax industrial sized medical cannabis producers, according to a just published report on CaliforniaWatch.org, the website of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

    Sources at the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the United States attorney’s office in San Francisco said that federal officials would likely pursue criminal or civil litigation against local marijuana growers as well as Oakland city officials if they decide to move forward with plans to license medical cannabis farming. “Oakland would be on the hook for violating state and federal law,” an unnamed administration official told the website.

    Oakland City Attorney John Russo confirmed that DOJ officials are opposed to the city’s licensing plan. “They’ve expressed their concerns that the path Oakland is taking is in violation of the law,” Russo said in a prepared statement.

    Oakland officials are seeking to license up to four industrial-sized medical marijuana grow operations within the city limits. The permits do not set limits regarding the quantity of cannabis that licensed producers may cultivate at each given site. City officials began accepting applications from prospective growers in November.

    According to the California Watch report, federal officials are also planning to initiate a broader crack down on marijuana production and distribution statewide. The story reports that DOJ and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials met with California’s four U.S. attorneys on November 10 “to develop a plan to deal with some of the loopholes and gray areas in the state’s medical marijuana program.”

    The administration’s threats appear to be in conflict with an October 19, 2009 DOJ memo stating, “As a general matter, pursuit of [federal law enforcement] priorities should not focus federal resources … on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” Nevertheless, as previously reported by Americans for Safe Access and others, the administration since issuing that memo has engaged in an estimated 30 federal raids of medical marijuana providers, producers, and laboratory facilities that engage in the testing of cannabis potency and quality.

    NORML will have further details on this story in Thursday’s weekly media advisory.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director November 10, 2010

    Despite last week’s defeat of Proposition 19 at the polls, new taxes on marijuana are coming to California.

    As I write today in High Times online, California voters on election day by wide margins endorsed citywide medical marijuana tax ordinances in Albany, Berkeley, La Puente, Oakland, Rancho Cordova, Richmond, Sacramento, San Jose, and Stockton. You can read the full details of each of these tax measures, as well as Los Angeles’ latest medi-pot tax plan, here.

    While the bulk of these new tax plans impose fees on the dispensaries themselves — fees that will no doubt indirectly be passed on to the consumer via higher retail prices for cannabis — at least one plan (Rancho Cordova’s Measure O) seeks to impact patients directly by instituting local fees on personal home grows.

    While it is possible (read: likely) that this exorbitant fee will be eventually struck down by the courts as an undue infringement upon patients’ rights under Prop. 215, it could be months or years before such a clarification by the courts is made.

    Patient advocacy groups like Americans For Safe Access oppose the implementation of such medi-tax laws, noting that they could unduly raise the already inflated black market price of medical cannabis, lead to fewer dispensaries, and ultimately limit patients’ access. Nonetheless, it is hardly surprising to see a majority of Californians, at a time of record budget deficits, voting to impose additional taxes upon a minority subset of their community.

    In short, the success of these tax measures at the ballot box is yet further evidence that with or without Prop. 19, more and more city governments — rightly or wrongly — are going to be looking at new ways to raise revenue from California’s burgeoning cannabis industry and its consumers. Industry insiders and those they represent, patients especially, would be best advised to begin playing an active role in their local politics, or else risk suffering the consequences of unreasonable taxation without representation.

    You can read my full thoughts on this developing issue, and comment on it, by clicking here: Like It Or Not, Pot Taxes Are Coming to California.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director December 30, 2009

    #1 Obama Administration: Don’t Focus On Medical Marijuana Prosecutions
    United States Deputy Attorney General David Ogden issued a memorandum to federal prosecutors in October directing them to not “focus federal resources … on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” The directive upheld a campaign promise by President Barack Obama, who had previously pledged that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.” Read the full story here.

    #2 Public Support For Legalizing Pot Hits All-Time High
    A majority of U.S. voters now support legalizing marijuana, according to a national poll of 1,004 likely voters published in December by Angus Reid. The Angus Reid Public Opinion poll results echo those of separate national polls conducted this year by Gallup, Zogby, ABC News, CBS News, Rasmussen Reports, and the California Field Poll, each of which reported greater public support for marijuana legalization than ever before. Read the full story here.

    #3 Lifetime Marijuana Use Associated With Reduced Cancer Risk

    The moderate long-term use of cannabis is associated with a reduced risk of head and neck cancer, according to the results of a population-based control study published in August by the journal Cancer Prevention Research. Authors reported, “After adjusting for potential confounders (including smoking and alcohol drinking), 10 to 20 years of marijuana use was associated with a significantly reduced risk of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.” Read the full story here.

    #4 AMA Calls For Review Of Marijuana’s Prohibitive Status
    In November, the American Medical Association resolved that marijuana should longer be classified as a Schedule I prohibited substance. Drugs classified in Schedule I are defined as possessing “no currently accepted use in treatment in the United States.” In a separate action, the AMA also determined, “Results of short term controlled trials indicate that smoked cannabis reduces neuropathic pain, improves appetite and caloric intake especially in patients with reduced muscle mass, and may relieve spasticity and pain in patients with multiple sclerosis.” Read the full story here.

    #5 California: Lawmakers Hold Historic Hearing On Marijuana Legalization
    State lawmakers heard testimony in October in support of taxing and regulating the commercial production and distribution of cannabis for adults age 21 and older. Additional hearings, as well as a vote on Assembly Bill 390: the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, are scheduled for January 12, 2010. Read the full story here.


  • by Allen St. Pierre, Former NORML Executive Director October 25, 2009

    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

    Prohibition Pragmaticism

    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 ColumbiaStephen 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

  • by Russ Belville, NORML Outreach Coordinator September 12, 2009

    Richard LeeNORML is proud to confirm that Richard Lee, the self-professed ‘Mayor of Oaksterdam’ will be speaking at the 2009 NORML National Conference in San Francisco, CA.

    Richard Lee has been working to end cannabis prohibition for nearly two decades. In 1992 he co-founded Legal Marijuana – The Hemp Store in Houston, Texas, one of the first hemp products retail outlets in the United States. In 1997, Richard relocated to Oakland, California, where he co-founded the Hemp Research Company, which supplied medical cannabis to the Oakland Cannabis Buyers’ Club, and promoted efficient and environmentally friendly methods of cannabis horticulture. Two years later he opened the Bulldog Coffeeshop, the second retail cannabis outlet in "Oaksterdam." In 2003, Richard founded the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance, the political action committee that passed Oakland’s Measure Z — making private sales, cultivation, and possession of cannabis the lowest law enforcement priority and mandating that Oakland tax and regulate cannabis as soon as possible under state law. More recently, he founded the first-ever cannabis college in the United States, Oaksterdam University, which seeks to provide students with the highest quality training for the cannabis industry.

    Richard was one of the driving forces behind the recent passage of Oakland’s Measure F, which imposes the nation’s first ever business tax on retail marijuana sales, and is presently spearheading The Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, which seeks to allow California adults 21 years of age and older to possess and consume, cultivate, and possess small amounts of cannabis. Richard will be discussing and debating various aspects of both of these reform endeavors, and what they mean for the cannabis community, at NORML’s 2009 conference.

    Richard Lee says, "Yes we cannabis" and so should you! Meet the Mayor of
    Oaksterdam and hundreds of other likeminded people at NORML’s 38th annual conference, taking place September 24-26 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown San Francisco. For registration information, please visit: http://www.norml.org/conference.

    More about Richard Lee:

    San Francisco Examiner: Pro-Pot Activists Take Step Toward Putting Legalization On Ballot

    Sacramento Bee: Oakland pot tax adds fuel to legalization fire

    CNBC’s Marijuana Inc profiles Oaksterdam University

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