Friday, December 24, 2010

Missoula District Court: Jury pool in marijuana case stages ‘mutiny’

A funny thing happened on the way to a trial in Missoula County District Court last week.
Jurors – well, potential jurors – staged a revolt.
They took the law into their own hands, as it were, and made it clear they weren’t about to convict anybody for having a couple of buds of marijuana. Never mind that the defendant in question also faced a felony charge of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs.
The tiny amount of marijuana police found while searching Touray Cornell’s home on April 23 became a huge issue for some members of the jury panel.
No, they said, one after the other. No way would they convict somebody for having a 16th of an ounce.
In fact, one juror wondered why the county was wasting time and money prosecuting the case at all, said a flummoxed Deputy Missoula County Attorney Andrew Paul.
District Judge Dusty Deschamps took a quick poll as to who might agree. Of the 27 potential jurors before him, maybe five raised their hands. A couple of others had already been excused because of their philosophical objections.
“I thought, ‘Geez, I don’t know if we can seat a jury,’ ” said Deschamps, who called a recess.
And he didn’t.
During the recess, Paul and defense attorney Martin Elison worked out a plea agreement. That was on Thursday.
On Friday, Cornell entered an Alford plea, in which he didn’t admit guilt. He briefly held his infant daughter in his manacled hands, and walked smiling out of the courtroom.
“Public opinion, as revealed by the reaction of a substantial portion of the members of the jury called to try the charges on Dec. 16, 2010, is not supportive of the state’s marijuana law and appeared to prevent any conviction from being obtained simply because an unbiased jury did not appear available under any circumstances,” according to the plea memorandum filed by his attorney.
“A mutiny,” said Paul.
“Bizarre,” the defense attorney called it.
In his nearly 30 years as a prosecutor and judge, Deschamps said he’s never seen anything like it.
“I think that’s outstanding,” John Masterson, who heads Montana NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), said when told of the incident. “The American populace over the last 10 years or so has begun to believe in a majority that assigning criminal penalties for the personal possession of marijuana is an unjust and a stupid use of government resources.”
Masterson is hardly an unbiased source.
On the other hand, prosecutor, defense attorney and judge all took note that some of the potential jurors expressed that same opinion.
“I think it’s going to become increasingly difficult to seat a jury in marijuana cases, at least the ones involving a small amount,” Deschamps said.
The attorneys and the judge all noted Missoula County’s approval in 2006 of Initiative 2, which required law enforcement to treat marijuana crimes as their lowest priority – and also of the 2004 approval of a statewide medical marijuana ballot initiative.
And all three noticed the age of the members of the jury pool who objected. A couple looked to be in their 20s. A couple in their 40s. But one of the most vocal was in her 60s.
“It’s kind of a reflection of society as a whole on the issue,” said Deschamps.
Which begs a question, he said.
Given the fact that marijuana use became widespread in the 1960s, most of those early users are now in late middle age and fast approaching elderly.
Is it fair, Deschamps wondered, in such cases to insist upon impaneling a jury of “hardliners” who object to all drug use, including marijuana?
“I think that poses a real challenge in proceeding,” he said. “Are we really seating a jury of their peers if we just leave people on who are militant on the subject?”
Although the potential jurors in the Cornell case quickly focused on the small amount of marijuana involved, the original allegations were more serious – that Cornell was dealing; hence, a felony charge of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs.
Because the case never went to trial, members of the jury pool didn’t know that Cornell’s neighbors had complained to police that he was dealing from his South 10th Street West four-plex, according to an affidavit in the case. After one neighbor reported witnessing an alleged transaction between Cornell and two people in a vehicle, marijuana was found in the vehicle in question.
The driver and passenger said they’d bought it from Cornell, the affidavit said. A subsequent search of his home turned up some burnt marijuana cigarettes, a pipe and some residue, as well as a shoulder holster for a handgun and 9mm ammunition. As a convicted felon, Cornell was prohibited from having firearms, the affidavit noted.
Cornell admitted distributing small amounts of marijuana and “referred to himself as a person who connected other dealers with customers,” it said. “He claimed his payment for arranging deals was usually a small amount of marijuana for himself.”
Potential jurors also couldn’t know about Cornell’s criminal history, which included eight felonies, most of them in and around Chicago several years ago. According to papers filed in connection with the plea agreement, Cornell said he moved to Missoula to “escape the criminal lifestyle he was leading,” but he’s had a number of brushes with the law here.
Those include misdemeanor convictions for driving while under the influence and driving with a suspended license, and a felony conviction in August of conspiracy to commit theft, involving an alleged plot last year to stage a theft at a business where a friend worked, the papers said. He was out on bail in that case when the drug charges were filed.
In sentencing him Friday, Deschamps referred to him as “an eight-time loser” and said, “I’m not convinced in any way that you don’t present an ongoing threat to the community.”
Deschamps also pronounced himself “appalled” at Cornell’s personal life, saying: “You’ve got no education, you’ve got no skills. Your life’s work seems to be going out and impregnating women and not supporting your children.”
The mother of one of those children, a 3-month-old named Joy who slept through Friday’s sentencing, was in the courtroom for Friday’s sentencing. Cornell sought and received permission to hug his daughter before heading back to jail.
Deschamps sentenced Cornell to 20 years, with 19 suspended, under Department of Corrections supervision, to run concurrently with his sentence in the theft case. He’ll get credit for the 200 days he’s already served. The judge also ordered Cornell to get a GED degree upon his release.
“Instead of being a lazy bum, you need to get an education so you can get a decent law-abiding job and start supporting your family,” he said.
Normally, Paul said after the sentencing, a case involving such a small amount of marijuana wouldn’t have gone this far through the court system except for the felony charge involved.
But the small detail in this case may end up being a big game-changer in future cases.
The reaction of potential jurors in this case, Paul said, “is going to be something we’re going to have to consider.”

via Billings Gazette

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hemp Car To Make Record 10,000-mile Trip

A hemp-fueled car scheduled to begin a record-breaking 10,000-mile trip around North America July 4 debuted Thursday in Washington at a conference devoted primarily to legalizing marijuana.

The car is a white, modified 1983 Mercedes diesel station wagon festooned with colorful hemp-related logos and the Virginia license plate "HEMPCAR." It is the creation of Grayson and Kellie Sigler, who plan to use roughly 400 gallons of hemp biodiesel during their trip. The trip will take the Siglers through 40 cities over three months, to the West Coast and then back east through Canada.

The drive should set a world distance record for a vehicle using hemp for fuel. Hemp oil converts into a biodiesel fuel fairly simply once mixed with caustic lye dissolved in methanol, a technique which makes the oil less viscous and more combustible.

"Hemp oil can be burned directly, but this is much cleaner," explained environmental defense attorney Don Wirtshafter, proprietor of the Ohio Hempery, the Athens,Ohio-based company providing the oil. "You get fuel and glycerine from the process, and the glycerine can be used to make soap or candles. We like to use potassium hydroxide as the caustic agent, because it results in a beautiful fertilizer."

Biodiesels can be made from any vegetable oil or animal fat and burn in any unmodified diesel engine. The only modification made to the hemp car was the replacement of rubber hoses with synthetic rubber tubes -- biodiesels erode rubber.

"Hemp oil has the same energy as diesel," Wirtshafter said. "Whatever your car does on diesel, it'll do on hemp. It's even possible to process hemp for a gasoline engine, but it's more complex."

When asked why one should use hemp for fuel, Wirtshafter responded, "What humanity is doing on a massive scale right now is pulling carbon out of the ground in the form of fossil fuels and spewing it out as carbon dioxide gas, adding to global warming. Biofuels, hemp included, give us the chance to grow our fuel, thereby living off the energy from the sun rather than spending our 'savings bank' of hydrocarbons. At the same time, like all plants, hemp would absorb carbon dioxide as a natural life process."

Hemp is legal in some 30 countries, including all of Europe, Canada and China. As a crop, its fiber yields textiles such as paper, cloth and rope, while its oil is used for paint, varnish, lubricants and highly nutritious food. Cultivating hemp has been illegal in the United States since 1937, because marijuana is made from hemp's flowers, buds and leaves. This ban was briefly suspended during World War II, when the United States could not import hemp fiber from the Far East for use in rope.

Hemp legalization advocates argue that the plant is ideal for biofuel use. "It yields about four times more seed oil than soybeans," Greyson Sigler said. "It grows widely in all climates with little fertilizer or pesticides needed than most crops. It's cheap, drought-resistant and very easy to cultivate. Hemp is, in my opinion, the world's most prodigious renewable resource. It could help California out with its power problems and keep the U.S. from drilling for oil in Alaska."

Sigler added that biodiesel releases 80 percent less emissions on average than gas.

"There are no sulfur byproducts, although there are slightly increased nitrogen oxide emission, most of which can be tuned out," he said. Sulfur and nitrogen oxides are pollutants and common byproducts of combustion.

While the conference at which the hemp car debuted was more focused on legalizing marijuana for responsible adult recreational use, the meeting's director, Allen St. Pierre, stressed the hemp legalization debate should expand to include the plant's industrial applications.

"It's just so hard to get beyond the giggle, the public trivialization of this," said St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. "We call it the 'rope vs. dope debate.'"

"But I have great faith that the pragmatism of big oil companies will move legalization forward," he added. "You'll start to see a cultural eraser -- it's not the hippies in the park that are asking for it to be legal, but people who will note at least six or seven of the founding fathers were prolific hemp growers, including Jefferson and Washington."

The hemp oil used for the record-setting trip comes from Canada. Though hemp oil currently costs some $50 per gallon, Wirtshafter hopes legalization could drive the cost down in the United States to as low as pennies per gallon. "We're not going to be economical until we're able to produce hemp oil without our handcuffs on," he said.

The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws gave $1,000 to subsidize the hemp car and may sponsor more funds in the coming months. "We were very impressed. We thought they were very well-versed and serious-minded. They weren't full of hyperbole, and they weren't naïve -- they knew this was going to be difficult."

The Sigler's car is not the first hemp-fueled vehicle. In fact, Gatewood Galbraith, who ran for governor of Kentucky in 1991 on a pro-hemp platform, drove around in a retrofitted Mercedes Benz during his election campaign.

The Siglers expect to get a warm reception during their trip. "Most people are really happy about it," Grayson Sigler said. "We got truckers blowing their horns and people flashing their lights on the way here. We even ran into some police officers who think it's fun."

St. Pierre noted that the only distinctive side effect bystanders may experience from the car is "a funky odor. Most people who are familiar with the smell of burning seeds of marijuana will sniff and say, 'Hey, it's an odd smell.'"

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Marijuana, Once Divisive, Brings Some Families Closer

To the rites of middle-age passage, some families are adding another: buying marijuana for aging parents.

Bryan, 46, a writer who lives in Illinois, began supplying his parents about five years ago, after he told them about his own marijuana use. When he was growing up, he said, his parents were very strict about illegal drugs.

“We would have grounded him,” said his mother, who is 72.

But with age and the growing acceptance of medical marijuana, his parents were curious. His father had a heart ailment, his mother had dizzy spells and nausea, and both were worried about Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. They looked at some research and decided marijuana was worth a try.

Bryan, who like others interviewed for this article declined to use his full name for legal reasons, began making them brownies and ginger snaps laced with the drug. Illinois does not allow medical use of marijuana, though 14 states and the District of Columbia do. At their age, his mother said, they were not concerned about it leading to harder drugs, which had been one of their worries with Bryan.

“We have concerns about the law, but I would not go back to not taking the cookie and going through what I went through,” she said, adding that her dizzy spells and nausea had receded. “Of course, if they catch me, I’ll have to quit taking it.”

This family’s story is still a rare one. Less than 1 percent of people 65 and over said they had smoked marijuana in the last year, according to a 2009 survey by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. But as the generation that embraced marijuana as teenagers passes into middle age, doctors expect to see more marijuana use by their elderly patients.

“I think use of medical marijuana in older people is going to be much greater in the future,” said Dan G. Blazer, a professor of geriatric psychology at Duke University who has studied drug use and abuse among older people.

The rate for people ages 50 to 65 who said they smoke marijuana was nearly 4 percent — about six times as high as the 65-and-over crowd — suggesting that they were more likely to continue whatever patterns of drug use they had established in their younger years. In both age groups, the rate of marijuana abuse was very low, about 1 in 800.

Cannabinoids, the active agents in marijuana, have shown promise as pain relievers, especially for pain arising from nerve damage, said Dr. Seddon R. Savage, a pain specialist and president of the American Pain Society, a medical professionals’ group.

Two cannabinoid prescription drugs are approved for use in this country, but only to treat nausea or appetite loss. And while preliminary research suggests that cannabinoids may help in fighting cancer and reducing spasms in people with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease, the results have been mixed.

Dr. Savage said doctors should be concerned about older patients using marijuana. “It’s putting people at risk of falls, impaired cognition, impaired memory, loss of motor control,” she said. “Beside the legal aspects, it’s unsupervised use of a pretty potent drug. Under almost all circumstances, there are alternatives that are just as effective.”

Dr. Savage added, however, that there was a considerable range of opinions about marijuana use among pain specialists, and that many favored it.

Older people may face special risks with marijuana, in part because of the secrecy that surrounds illegal drug use, said Dr. William Dale, section chief of geriatrics and palliative medicine at the University of Chicago Medical Center, who said he would not oppose a law allowing medical marijuana use in Illinois.

The drug raises users’ heart rates and lowers their blood pressure, so doctors needed to weigh its effects beside those of other medications that users might be taking, he said. But patients do not always confide their illegal drug use, he said.

“It’s a fine balance between being supportive of patients to gain their trust and giving them your best recommendations,” Dr. Dale said. “I wasn’t taught this in medical school.”

For some families, marijuana, which was once the root of all their battles, has brought them closer together. Instead of parental warnings and punishment, there are questions about how to light a water pipe; instead of the Grateful Dead, there are recipes for low-sodium brownies.

But for parents, there is also the knowledge that they are putting their children at risk of arrest.

“I was very uncomfortable getting my son involved,” said the father of Alex, 21. The father, who is 54, started using marijuana to relieve his pain from degenerative disc disease. He soon discovered that Alex, who lives in Minnesota a few miles away, had access to better marijuana than he did.

Alex’s father had smoked marijuana when he was younger; Alex, by contrast, had been active in antidrug groups at his school and church. In college, he started smoking infrequently and studying marijuana’s medicinal properties.

“When he told me he was using cannabis, I think he expected it to be a bigger deal for me,” Alex said. “But it opened my eyes to what he was going through.”

Before trying marijuana, Alex’s father took OxyContin, a narcotic, which he said made him “feel like a zombie.” He also took antidepressants to relieve the mood disorder he associated with the OxyContin. Marijuana has helped him cut down on the painkillers, he said.

He and Alex have smoked together twice, but it is not a regular practice, both said. Yet they say the drug has strengthened their relationship.

“We spend our bonding time making brownies,” Alex said.

Florence, 89, an artist who lives in New York, smokes mainly for relief from her spinal stenosis — usually one or two puffs before going to sleep, she said. She buys her pipes through an online shop and gets her marijuana from her daughter, Loren, who is 65.

“A person brings it to me,” said Loren, who uses marijuana recreationally. “I’m not out on a street corner.” Florence said that she had told all of her doctors that she was using marijuana, and that none had ever discouraged her or warned of interactions with her prescription drugs, including painkillers.

“I think I’ve influenced my own physician on the subject,” she said. “She came to me and asked me for some for another patient.”

A version of this article appeared in print on October 10, 2010, on page A14 of the New York edition.

via [ The New York Times ]

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Pot Legalization in CA Polling Over 50%

A few short months ago, California's Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010, seemed likely to fade away in a puff of smoke. After more than three decades on the front lines of the disastrous "war on drugs," I feared this best-hope-to-date chapter in the battle for sane drug laws was a lost cause. But something has changed in the public's consciousness, and in its resolve.

On September 30 the Public Policy Institute of California published the results of its new poll. It shows Proposition 19 winning, by a resounding 52-41 margin. Other polls are similarly encouraging.

What, apart from a smart, well-run campaign, explains this big swing in momentum?
For one thing, more and more police officers have decided that the 40-year drug war is a farce and a failure. These cops have been eyewitnesses to the ruinous effects of drug arrests on the lives of the people they've been hired to protect and serve, and they're finally speaking out. Members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, in particular, have been reaching out to service clubs, civic groups, and fellow cops throughout the state. They've been especially persuasive in countering the escalating fear-mongering misrepresentations of anti-19 forces.

Parents, including multiplying ranks of formerly resistant single moms, fed up with violence in their neighborhoods, with marijuana's ready availability in schools, and with the heartbreaking realities of their teenage children's criminal records, are at last speaking out against the absurdity of the state's marijuana laws. (And they won't be dissuaded from voting for Proposition 19 simply because of their governor's cynical, last-minute but long-overdue gesture in reducing penalties in simple pot possession cases.)

Surprising numbers of conservative Californians have joined forces with civil libertarians to create a formidable bloc of states' rights advocates opposed to indefensible government intrusion into our everyday lives.

Human and civil rights advocates, such as the NAACP, have taken official positions in opposition to the deep-seated racism reflected in drug law enforcement, and in support of Proposition 19.
And, of course, Golden State voters are increasingly motivated by reliable estimates that California, buried under a mountain of debt and forced to slash vital services, stands to capture up to $1.4 billion in new revenues, along with substantial savings in law enforcement and other criminal justice costs.

But perhaps the biggest boost to the pro-19 campaign may be found in the vast army of young adults working for its passage. A natural anti-prohibition demographic, young Californians not only oppose their state's marijuana laws they are investing substantial time and energy to the cause of replacing them. They've organized, mobilized, gone door to door, rallied their friends.
Cynics take note. These young people will show up at the polls. And, in all likelihood, they will cast the decisive votes that will restore adult possession of marijuana as a basic freedom.

via[ Alternet ]

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Cannabis-enhancing plant to be marketed worldwide as new drug

When consumed, kanna decreases anxiety, suppresses the appetite, causes euphoria and enhances the effects of other psychoactive herbs.

South African Bushmen have been chewing kanna (Sceletium tortuosum) for hundreds of years to reduce stress, relieve hunger and elevate their moods. Now there are plans to market the exotic plant worldwide as a new over-the-counter drug, according to

The first license ever issued to market kanna was given to the South African company HGH Pharmaceutical, who intend to sell it as a dietary supplement.

"We're positioning [the product] for everyday people who are having a stressful time in the office, feeling a bit of social anxiety, tension or in a low mood," said Nigel Gericke, director of research at HGH.

Though the company intends to produce their kanna product in pill form, the plant is traditionally chewed, smoked or made into a tea. When it is consumed, users are said to receive a head rush similar to the effect of smoking a cigarette, but without the risk of chemical addiction or health concerns.

At intoxicating levels, kanna taken alone can cause euphoria and sedation. Users also claim increased personal insight, as well as a grounded feeling without any perceptual dulling.

Aside from its potential health benefits and mood-altering qualities, the plant is also well known for its ability to enhance the effects of other psychoactive drugs-- particularly cannabis. Thus, its role as a potentiator for more controversial drugs could lead to road blocks in getting approval by U.S. regulators. The American company working with HGH to distribute the product in the U.S. said it did not know when exactly it could be available for consumers, though they were tentatively planning a product launch sometime in 2011.

"It's a product with huge potential," said Ben-Erik Van Wyk, a University of Johannesburg botanist. "Anyone who has chewed it and has experienced the sensation of the plant definitely knows there's something happening."

Van Wyk also said that he hopes the product can draw attention to the ancient wisdom of the San Bushmen, and raise awareness about the need to protect cultural diversity around the world. There is also great optimism that the marketing and production of the plant could boost local economies.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pot raid at school turns up tomatoes

One more reason why the drug war doesn't work
Police last month raided an Española-area school looking for marijuana growing in a greenhouse, but all they found there were tomatoes.

Patricia Pantano, education director of the Camino de Paz Montessori School and Farm in Cuarteles, between Española and Chimayó on N.M. 76, said the raid occurred Sept. 21 during the lunch hour.

"We were all as a group eating outside as we usually do, and this unmarked drab-green helicopter kept flying over and dropping lower," she said. "Of course, the kids got all excited. They were telling me that they could see gun barrels outside the helicopter. I was telling them they were exaggerating."

After 15 minutes, Pantano said, the helicopter left, then five minutes later a state police officer parked a van in the school's driveway. Pantano said she asked the officer what was happening, but he only would say he was there as a law-enforcement representative.

Then other vehicles arrived and four men wearing bullet-proof vests, but without any visible insignias or uniforms, got out and said they wanted to inspect the school's greenhouses. Pantano said she then turned the men over to the farm director, Greg Nussbaum.

"As we have nothing to hide, you know, they did the tour and they went in the greenhouses and they found it was tomato plants and so that was the story," she said.

State police spokesman Lt. Eric Garcia said he knew nothing about the school incident. But he said the Region III Narcotics Task Force — involving state police, county deputies and other law-enforcement agencies, plus National Guard helicopters — did conduct raids on suspected marijuana growers in southern Santa Fe County.

The one successful raid during that week occurred Sept. 20 when police found some 35 marijuana plants on a property on Gold Mine Road near Cerrillos. According to the application for the search warrant, the plants were spotted from the air and when agents arrived on the ground they noticed "a distinct smell of raw marijuana," found some plants in a shed and others "in plain view." The document says the agents later contacted the resident, Kathrine Moore, who admitted the marijuana belonged to her. No arrests have been made.

Residents in the Cerrillos and Madrid areas have complained that the flyovers are scaring livestock, disturbing the peace in the rural areas and resulting in invasions of private property without search warrants.

Marianna Hatten, who runs the High Desert Ranch Bed & Breakfast on Gold Mine Road, said the entire area was subjected to "10 hours of assault" for the 35 plants. "I think it would be found illegal to use aerial surveillance from 60 feet when there's no probable cause," she said.

The nine-acre Camino de Paz Montessori School and Farm in Cuarteles is about eight years old and this year has 12 students, ages 11 to 14, who participate in farming as a context for learning mathematics and science.

Some parents, who did not want to be named, said they, too, were concerned about the raid on their children's school.

Pantano said she did not want to make too big an issue out of the raid, but questioned why such a commotion was necessary when anyone who asked would have been given a tour of the greenhouses.

"We're sitting here as a teaching staff, always short on money, and we're thinking, 'Gosh, all the money it takes to fly that helicopter and hire all those people, it would be great to have this for education.' "
via [ SantaFe New Mexican ]

Friday, October 1, 2010

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger Just Decriminalized Marijuana in California

The bill SB 1449

The exact words form the Governor himself:
To the Members of the California State Senate:
I am signing Senate Bill 1449.

This bill changes the crime of possession of less than an ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor punishable only by a $100 fine to an infraction punishable by a $100 fine. Under existing law, jail time cannot be imposed, probation cannot be ordered, nor can the base fine exceed $100 for someone convicted of this crime.

I am opposed to decriminalizing the possession and recreational use of marijuana and oppose Proposition 19, which is on the November ballot.

Unfortunately, Proposition 19 is a deeply flawed measure that, if passed, will adversely impact California’s businesses without bringing in the tax revenues to the state promised by its proponents.

Notwithstanding my opposition to Proposition 19, however, I am signing this measure because possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction in everything but name. The only difference is that because it is a misdemeanor, a criminal defendant is entitled to a jury trial and a defense attorney.

In this time of drastic budget cuts, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement, and the courts cannot afford to expend limited resources prosecuting a crime that carries the same punishment as a traffic ticket.

As noted by the Judicial Council in its support of this measure, the appointment of counsel and the availability of a jury trial should be reserved for defendants who are facing loss of life, liberty, or property greater than $100.
For these reasons, I am signing this bill.

Sincerely, Arnold Schwarzenegger

Although the Governor doesn't support the legalizing of marijuana outright it is a step foward.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Prop 19 Gains Support

SACRAMENTO - A new poll finds growing support for a November ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana in California, but a hard-fought measure to suspend the state's global warming law continues to trail.

Today's survey by the nonpartisan Field Poll also shows eroding fondness for an initiative that would change the threshold for the Legislature to pass a budget from two-thirds to a majority.

Prop. 19 on the Nov. 2 ballot would legalize marijuana and tax its production, distribution and sale. A Field Poll in July showed the measure trailing, 44 percent to 48 percent.

But with less than six weeks until the election, today's Field Poll shows more voters warming to the measure. It now leads 49 percent to 42 percent, with 9 percent undecided, despite little visible campaigning by proponents and opposition from influential law enforcement groups and every candidate for statewide office.
"(Proponents) are not doing much, but voters seem to be reconsidering and thinking that it's not such a bad idea," said Field Poll Director Mark DiCamillo. "But they've got to get above 50 percent. They're close but not there. And there's going to be a 'no' campaign."

People's attitudes toward the initiative heavily reflect whether they live along the coast (support) or inland (oppose), are Republican (oppose) or Democrat (support), are young (support) or old (oppose) and a man (support) or woman (narrowly oppose.)
The measure also is riding a wave of rising acceptance of marijuana use in the Golden State over the past 40 years.

In 1969, only 13 percent of voters supported legalizing marijuana, with far more preferring tougher penalties, according to an accompanying Field Poll report. Now almost a majority of voters back legalization, and majorities of voters of all types back the state's medical marijuana law approved in 1996.

Double-digit percentages of voters oppose Prop. 23. Bankrolled largely by out-of-state oil interests, the measure would suspend California's global-warming law until unemployment drops to 5.5 percent for four quarters. Republicans are the only voter group that backs the idea, but not a majority, with 33 percent of GOP voters opposed, according to the poll.

Prop. 25, the budget majority vote initiative, had strong support from all voter groups in July. But the measure, which is heavily backed by unions allied with Democrats, has lost some Republican backing.

"I think we're in the midst of a Republican reappraisal," DiCamillo said. "Now they're thinking through implications of what a majority vote really means."
Today's poll of 599 likely voters was conducted Sept. 14-21 for The Press-Enterprise and other California media subscribers. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.

Californians in growing numbers are supporting Prop. 19, a ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana.

September 2010
49 percent
42 percent
9 percent
July 2010
44 percent
48 percent
8 percent
source: Field poll

via[ Press-Enterprise ]

Officer Shoots Pregnant Unarmed Woman During Drug Raid

A pregnant, unarmed woman was shot during a drug raid in Spokane, Washington on Friday morning, and she remained hospitalized as investigators pieced together exactly what happened in the county's third officer-involved shooting within a month.

A Washington State Patrol detective sergeant shot the woman, who is 39 weeks pregnant, while "serving a search warrant" at the Victoria Apartments on Lincoln Street, according to the Spokane County Sheriff's Office, reports Meghann M. Cuniff of the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

The shooting is being investigated by the Sheriff's office, along with members of the Spokane Police Department and the Washington State Patrol.

Officers found no weapons in the home, confirmed Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Dave Reagan. He claimed they did, however, find drugs -- crack cocaine, marijuana, and controlled prescription medications -- during execution of the search warrant.

But a woman who identified herself as the victim's mother, but who wouldn't give her name, said there were no drugs or weapons in the home.

"During the entry, a female suspect inside the apartment became non-compliant with officers' instructions," Reagan claimed. "When she attempted to flee out a bedroom window, officers attempted to restrain her. During efforts to prevent her escape, a shot was fired and the woman suffered a minor wound to her upper torso. She fell out the window and received first aid from containment officers stationed at the back of the apartments."

Sgt. Reagan offered no further details about why the detective used deadly force, which law enforcement officers are trained to use only if they believe their lives are in danger.

No explanation has been offered as to exactly how a fleeing, pregnant, unarmed woman -- attempting to escape out a window -- was a threat to any of the officers' lives.

The woman said the shooting occurred just before 9 a.m., after investigators had declared the apartment cleared.

Tensions ran high for hours after the shooting as the victim's family arrived and her mother told them of the gunfire.

"They shot an unarmed pregnant lady for no reason!" she screamed outside the apartment complex.

She said her daughter is expecting a baby boy, and experienced labor pains Thursday night.

"They better hope nothing happened to that baby," the woman said.

Reagan said he didn't have an update on the woman's condition.

It appeared the woman was shot in the arm or shoulder area, according to a neighbor, Jason Thompson. He said she was bleeding, but conscious and alert after the shooting.

Thompson said he saw the encounter as he was heading to his car, and believes the woman was unarmed. He said he didn't know her name, but that she appeared to be in her early 20s.

Neighbor Carmen "Boots" Nelson said she and her stepson were inside her apartment when they heard a gunshot.

Nelson said neither she nor her stepson heard officers yell any commands before the shooting.

"I heard one gunshot, a woman screamed and a man hollered out afterward," Nelson said. "I'm upset a pregnant woman was shot. I believe she didn't deserve it."{

The shooting blocked the apartment building's parking lot and closed Sinto Avenue between Monroe and Lincoln streets for more than eight hours.

Authorities would not identify the Washington State Patrol sergeant who shot the woman, but said he has been placed on paid leave, which is standard procedure.

The Sheriff's Office is leading the investigation under the "critical incident protocol" that calls for outside agencies to lead inquiries into officer-involved shootings.

Friday's shooting involved members of the multi-agency Quad City Drug Task Force, which investigates drug dealing in Lewiston, Clarkston, Moscow and Pullman.

via [ Toke of the Town]

Friday, September 17, 2010

Big Alcohol Fueling Opposition to California Marijuana Initiative

According to a recently filed campaign finance report, the campaign to defeat a marijuana legalization initiative in California is receiving substantial funding from the alcohol industry. Now marijuana advocates are fighting back, calling on the opposition campaign to explain why it is working with Big Alcohol to keep marijuana illegal.

On September 7th, the California Beer and Beverage Distributors contributed $10,000 to the No on Prop. 19 campaign, which calls itself "Public Safety First." Proposition 19 would establish a legally regulated marijuana market in which marijuana is controlled and taxed in a fashion similar to alcohol.

It's clear why the alcohol industry is in this fight -- to protect its turf and keep Californians drinking. This is the same California Beer and Beverage Distributors gave $100,000 to oppose Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act (NORA), which would have reduced marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction. With marijuana being the second most popular recreational substance (despite its prohibition), the booze industry must recognize the threat legal marijuana poses to its bottom line. Thus, it has a vast financial interest in keeping marijuana illegal and steering Californians away from using it.

But why does the No on Prop. 19 campaign share Big Alcohol's goal of an alcohol-only society? It seems odd that a group that purports to be committed to enhancing public safety wants to ensure Californians can only drink and cannot use marijuana as a safer recreational alternative.
After all, every objective study on marijuana has concluded that it is far safer than alcohol to the user and society. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol use alone contributes to more than 35,000 deaths each year -- including several hundred from overdoses -- whereas marijuana use does not contribute to any deaths and has never resulted in a fatal overdose in history. Also, whereas alcohol is a major contributing factor in domestic violence, sexual assaults, fights, and other violent crimes, marijuana has never been found to contribute to such problems.

In light of "Public Safety First's" decision to team up with the alcohol industry to ensure the booze keeps flowing and the pot does not, Safer Alternative For Enjoyable Recreation (SAFER), the organization I run, called on No on Prop. 19 Campaign Manager Tim Rosales to explain the campaign's desire to ensure alcohol is the only legal intoxicant available for adults.

Mr. Rosales has yet to respond to the upwards of 1,000 e-mails he has received from Prop. 19 supporters throughout California and across the nation. So I'll ask him again here:
Mr. Rosales, if you and your campaign are so concerned about public safety, why do you want to continue driving Californians to drink, and why on earth wouldn't you want adults to be able to make the rational choice to use a far less harmful substance?

Needless to say, I won't be holding my breath as I await his response... I'll just be at the bar drinking my worries away until the day I can legally make the safer choice to use marijuana instead.


21st annual Freedom Rally

The Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition (Mass Cann) will host its 21st annual Freedom Rally Saturday, September 18, beginning at High Noon on the Boston

Thursday, September 16, 2010

FARMINGTON: Marijuana stolen from police

FARMINGTON -- About 1,000 marijuana plants were stolen from a Farmington law enforcement storage facility overnight Tuesday.

Farmington police officers discovered the break-in Wednesday at 9:30 a.m., according to police Chief Jack Peck.

An overhead garage door had been "pried open" and much of the marijuana, seized Tuesday in a northern Franklin County drug raid, was gone, Peck said.

The facility is on U.S. Route 2, also known as Farmington Falls Road, east of downtown. It is a half mile from the town police station.

Two electronic garage doors are the only entrance to the building, according to Peck, and the police department has the only remotes to open the doors.

Only the town stores equipment at the facility, he said, and nothing other than the marijuana was taken.

Interviews of residents in adjoining homes, in some cases less than 20 feet away, turned up no witnesses, according to Peck. And rain overnight may have interfered with an attempt by a state police K-9 unit to track the marijuana.

State police and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency are assisting in the investigation. Officials with the MDEA did not return requests for comment.

Law enforcement officials on Tuesday night hauled the plants to the Farmington facility, according to Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety. He was unable to provide the exact time of delivery.

While town police store their evidence at the station, it is common for outside police agencies to request overnight storage at the U.S. Route 2 facility.

"To my understanding it was the plan to move the marijuana plants Wednesday," Peck said.

There are no alarms or security lighting at the building, according to Peck, and the only lighting is provided by lights along the road. He plans to discuss installing an alarm with town selectmen.

"It's not designed, nor was it, to be a evidence storage facility," Peck said.

The incident is sure to have an impact on how and where law enforcement agencies choose to keep their evidence.

"The DEA will be reviewing their polices as to where evidence is stored temporarily or permanently in the state as a result of this," said McCausland.

The marijuana plants had been seized from the properties of a father and son in Phillips, according to McCausland.

Tad Smith, 45, and Joseph Smith, 64, were both charged with felony cultivating marijuana after multiple law enforcement agencies early Tuesday morning discovered the plants on and around their properties.

Materials linked to processing marijuana, such as packaging materials and scales, were also found during the raid, according to McCausland. If convicted of the charge, they face up to 10 years in prison, according to McCausland.

Seventeen handguns were also seized from the father and son during the raid. No charges were filed related to the handguns.

Both men had been released Tuesday on $500 cash bail each.

via [Morning Sentinel]

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Activist's Harsh Words For City Attorney Delivered Hours Before Pot Shop Was Raided

A Los Angeles police raid of a Venice medical marijuana dispensary last week, at a time when the city of L.A. has stated it will hold off on pot-shop enforcement, happened on a day when a City Hall activist happened to have been badmouthing the City Attorney on the issue via web radio.

Zuma Dogg played audio of his Thursday web-radio show for the Weekly. He said, in part, "I'd like to send this one out to Carmen Trutanich" while calling the City Attorney "incompetent" and a "moron" over his handling of enforcement of the city's medical marijuana ordinance. Zuma Dogg described his "broadcasting-live" location as as a Venice collective with "Green" in its title.

Thursday night (reportedly at about 7:45 p.m. -- an odd time for such action) the the Green Goddess Collective at 70 Windward Ave. was raided by police. A representative of the collective told Yo! Venice! that the shop was raided for allegedly failing to shut down under the new city law and for operating without proper permits.

The representative claims the dispensary was running legally the city "until further judicial notification," and that it will ask for a restraining order to prohibit further police action against it.

While police confirmed the raid to the Weekly, a City Attorney's spokesman said he did not know anything about the police action Thursday.

Zuma Dogg over the weekend tweeted, "Was it coincidence LAPD busted a collective SAME DAY ZD said he was broadcasting @ area collective?"

Zuma Dogg says he befriended people who worked at the dispensary he had mentioned, telling them he'd give it a plug on his web radio show after finding out they played it over the store's sound system.

On Thursday he let loose with his usual mix of dance music, but stated that he was broadcasting live from a "Green' collective in Venice.
At the same time, he called Trutanich several names.

The City Attorney has held a hard line against dispensaries and has been quick to move against out-of-compliance shops that are the source of complaints in L.A. neighborhoods.

However, last month the city backed down on enforcement against pot shops after it realized its ordinance, contrary to the desires of some of those City Council members who voted for it, would only allow about 40 of nearly 600 pot shops in the city survive.
The pause in enforcement would only last until court challenges to the law were worked out in court later this month.

On the timing of the raid last week, Zuma Dogg thinks it was supicious, but he adds, "Maybe it's a coincidence."


Issue licences for cannabis: UK expert

A licence to smoke cannabis legally has been proposed by one of Britain's leading experts on the drug.

Professor Roger Pertwee said making cannabis as available as alcohol would prevent drug-related crime, and reduce the chances of people being introduced to harder narcotics.

But he cautioned that it might be necessary to prevent vulnerable individuals obtaining the drug.

"You'd need to have a minimum age of 21, and I would suggest you might even have to have a licence," said Pertwee, from the University of Aberdeen, who pioneered early research on the effects of cannabis in the 1960s and 1970s.

"You have a car licence and a dog licence; why not a cannabis licence?"

The idea would mean only those not suffering from a serious mental illness or at risk of psychosis would be legally allowed to buy the drug.

Research has shown an association between smoking cannabis and a greater chance of some individuals developing schizophrenia.

Pertwee said cannabis appeared to increase the risk of psychosis in people already predisposed to the illness because of their genes or traumatic childhood.

He called for a greater debate on the recreational use of cannabis, and said in principle he was in favour of legalisation, if the right framework could be found.

"We need to explore all the various options," said Pertwee, who is speaking at the British Festival of Science at Aston University, Birmingham, this week.

"At the moment cannabis is in the hands of the criminals, and I think it's crazy.

"We're allowed to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes. Cannabis, if it's handled properly, I think is no more dangerous than that."

He pointed out that currently anyone wanting to take cannabis was forced to grow it illegally or buy it from illegal dealers.

The drug was supplied with no indication of what it contained, or what might have been added to it. People also tended to smoke cannabis in groups, which increased the likelihood of psychological dependency.

Licensed suppliers of the drug would also be less likely to provide a "gateway" to harder, more dangerous drugs.

"I think this could be the way forward, but it might not work," said Pertwee. "It depends on a private company being willing to produce a branded product."

Pertwee also highlighted the danger posed by new cannabis-like drugs being manufactured in laboratories.

Some acted in a similar way to cannabis but were far more potent, while potentially having other as-yet unknown effects.

An example of one such drug was the painkiller JWH-081, which had been developed purely for research purposes. The drug acts on the same cannabinoid receptors in the brain which are sensitive to the active ingredients in cannabis.

Anyone could find the recipes for making these drugs in the scientific literature, said Pertwee.

"Any chemist could come along, read the paper, and make the compound," he added.

A loophole in the law opened the door to the drugs being used as "legal highs".

"It means you could buy these compounds and take them," said the professor. "I believe this is a major problem."

via PAA

Legalizing pot would free up police to fight violent crime, law enforcement group says [Updated]

Legalizing marijuana would put a big dent in drug cartels and free up police, prosecutors and judges to go after violent crimes, a law enforcement group said Monday in endorsing Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization measure.
Proposition 19’s passage in November would decriminalize an estimated 60,000 drug arrests made in California each year, said former Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray.
Beat police would have more time to go after burglars, robbers and those committing violent assaults, he said.
On-the-job experience demonstrated the futility of trying to enforce laws prohibiting the possession and use of small amounts of cannabis, Gray said at a news conference held by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a nonprofit organization supporting Proposition 19.
“I was a drug warrior until I saw what was happening in my own courtroom,’’ said Gray, a former federal prosecutor.
Current laws are making pot more readily accessible to youngsters than would be the case if it were regulated and taxed by the government, similar to tobacco and alcohol, Gray said.
Juvenile gangs use pot sales as a recruiting tool, he said. Gray was joined by former San Jose Police Chief Joseph McNamara in arguing that much of the money flowing to violent drug cartels comes from the illegal sale of marijuana.
Citing White House statistics, McNamara said 60% of cartel money stems from marijuana. Those who argue that a black market would remain aren’t paying attention to history, McNamara said.
After the prohibition on alcohol was repealed, bootleggers disappeared, said McNamara, now a research fellow in drug policy at Stanford University. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, based in Massachusetts, was started in 2002 by five former police officers who viewed the war on drugs as a failure. Neill Franklin, a retired narcotics officer, recently took over as executive director.
[Corrected, 4:22 p.m.: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Franklin formed the group.]
Proposition 19 would make it legal to grow, possess and use up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. It would also permit state and local governments to regulate and tax retail sales for adults 21 and older. State officials estimate passage could generate up to $1.4 billion in new tax revenue per year.
Active law enforcement groups, including the California Police Chiefs Assn., are opposed to the measure, saying it would increase usage and promote crime. Gray, the retired judge, said he believes that many in law enforcement support legalization but are afraid to say so because of political pressure on the job.
“They have a political job, so they can’t tell the truth," Gray said. “People are free to speak out honestly only after they are retired.”
-- Catherine Saillant

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Canadian pot activist Marc Emery sentenced to five years in US prison

Marc Emery, Canada's enigmatic "Prince of Pot" who sold millions of marijuana seeds over the Internet, will face a five year punishment in the United States after a U.S. district judge in Seattle handed down his sentence on Friday.
Emery, founder and publisher of Cannabis Culture magazine, is a longtime and highly vocal Canadian marijuana activist. His wife Jodie maintains that U.S. authorities targeted his operation over other Canadian seed-sellers because of all the funding he's provided to the legal movement to regulate cannabis in the U.S.
Emery's sentence, issued by U.S. District Judge Ricardo S. Martinez, includes four years of supervised probation. He was convicted on a single charge of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana.
U.S. authorities had described him as one of the country's "most wanted drug trafficking targets," according to CNN. The investigation, now concluded with Emery's trial and sentencing, was ongoing for over five years. Though indicted in 2005, Emery was not handed over to U.S. authorities until May 10 of this year. He pleaded guilty 14 days later.
In a press release lauding the government's efforts, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) declared a significant victory in the battle against marijuana legalization efforts.
"Hundreds of thousands of dollars from Emery's illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada," read a statement from DEA administrator Karen P. Tandy. "Drug legalization lobbyists now have one less pot of money to rely on."
Emery's prosecutors vehemently denied that politics played any role in the trial.
"Marc Emery decided that U.S. laws did not apply to him, but he was wrong," U.S. Attorney Jenny A. Durkan said Friday, according to CNN. "Emery put his personal profits above the law. He made millions of dollars by shipping millions of seeds into the U.S. He sold to anyone who would pay him -- with no regard for the age or criminal activities of his customers. Now, Emery is paying the price for being part of the illegal drug trade that damages lives, homes and the environment."
Emery was facing more than 30 years in a U.S. prison before he cut a deal with U.S. authorities in Sept. 2009, agreeing to plead guilty in exchange for the five-year sentence.
"Upon my conviction, my wife Jodie will organize a campaign to have me transferred back to a Canadian jail - if transferred my sentence would reflect Canadian rules of release, so a 5-year sentence may see me released after a few years to day parole," he wrote, explaining the agreement to a guilty plea.
In a letter to the court, Emery said his seed-selling business, though a form of "civil disobedience," was "arrogant" and wrong.
"I regret not choosing other methods — legal ones — to achieve my goals of peaceful political reform," he wrote. "In my zeal, I had believed that my actions were wholesome, but my behavior was in fact illegal and set a bad example for others."
"The judge said he had received hundreds of letters — including one in crayon — supporting Emery," The Seattle Times noted.
Emery was to be transferred to a federal prison in El Reno, Oklahoma following his sentencing, Cannabis Culture said. His wife and supporters said they planned to protest his imprisonment during a series of Sept. 18 rallies.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Officials believe marijuana laws will ease nationwide

Local, state and federal political figures told a crowd at the Colorado Cannabis Convention on Saturday that they believe marijuana laws nationwide will continue to become less restrictive, with full legalization a real possibility.

But, the politicians said, marijuana activists will need to be both patient and persistent to make that happen.

"Don't expect the legislature to solve all of these problems in one year," said state Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver. "Don't expect every piece of legislation to be perfect. The law usually moves in baby steps over time."

The legislative panel — featuring Steadman; state Rep. Joe Miklosi, D-Denver; Denver Councilman Chris Nevitt; and the district director for U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. — was one of the main events of the convention's final day. (Another was a better-attended autograph-signing session by the marijuana-infused hip-hop group Cypress Hill.)

Organizers had predicted the convention could attract as many as 100,000 people; attendance was steady Saturday, but no official head count was available. Event organizer Michael Lerner, a California media magnate whose properties include Kush magazine and, said he was pleased with the event.
"Phenomenal," he said. "Completely incident-free."

Polis had been expected to speak at the legislative panel but had to cancel at the last minute. Nonetheless, Polis district director Andy Schultheiss told the crowd that Polis is supportive of marijuana activists and said the congressman from Boulder has signed on as a co-sponsor to a bill that would give full protection from federal prosecution to the medical-marijuana industry and another that would legalize marijuana altogether for adults.

Polis also is a co-sponsor on a bill that would allow defendants in medical-marijuana states to raise a medical defense in federal court.
The bills have not yet had a congressional hearing.
"The number of members of Congress who say, like Jared Polis, that marijuana should be legalized is growing," Schultheiss said. ". . . Social change takes time, and we are in the middle of it now."

None of the panel members differed greatly in their opinions, and they spoke to an audience of the converted. When Miklosi said of medical-marijuana, "This can be a positive force in society," the comment drew cheers.

Earlier in the day, a panel of lawyers was less optimistic about the immediate political future of marijuana. Attorney Rob Corry said efforts at the state Capitol to craft rules for the medical-marijuana industry amounted to an attempt to "regulate us out of existence." Brian Vicente, with Sensible Colorado, said the bills would hurt small marijuana growers and patient cooperatives.

And attorney Sean McAllister urged medical-marijuana growers and caregivers to refuse to cooperate with police investigations.

"Say, 'It's medical, it's legal and other than that you can talk to my attorney,' " McAllister said.

via: Denver Post

Saturday, March 27, 2010


California | November Initiative Could Lead to Lost Income in Humboldt County

REDWAY, Calif. -- The smell of pot hung heavy in the air as men with dreadlocks and gray beards contemplated a nightmarish possibility in this legendary region of outlaw marijuana growers: legal weed.

If California legalizes marijuana, they say, it will drive down the price of their crop and damage not just their livelihoods but the entire economy along the state's rugged northern coast.

"The legalization of marijuana will be the single most devastating economic event in the long boom-and-bust history of Northern California," said Anna Hamilton, 62, a Humboldt County radio host and musician who said her involvement with marijuana has mostly been limited to smoking it for the past 40 years.

Local residents are so worried that pot farmers came together with officials in Humboldt County for a standing-room-only meeting Tuesday night where civic leaders, activists and growers brainstormed ideas for dealing with the threat. Among the ideas: turning the vast pot gardens of Humboldt County into a destination for marijuana aficionados, with tours and tastings -- a sort of Napa Valley of pot.

Many were also enthusiastic about promoting the Humboldt brand of pot. Some discussed forming a cooperative that would enforce high standards for marijuana and stamp the county's finest weed with an official Humboldt seal of approval.

Pot growers are nervous because a measure that could make California the first state to legalize marijuana for recreational use will appear on the ballot in November. State officials certified Wednesday that the initiative got enough signatures.

The law, if approved, could have a profound effect on Humboldt County, which has long had a reputation for growing some of the world's best weed.

In recent years, law enforcement agents have seized millions of pot plants worth billions of dollars in Humboldt and neighboring counties. And that is believed to be only a fraction of the crop.

"We've lived with the name association for 30 or 40 years and considered it an embarrassment," said Mark Lovelace, a Humboldt County supervisor. But if legalization does happen, he said, the Humboldt County name becomes the region's single most important asset.

"It's laughable at this point to try to be hush-hush about it," he said.

Humboldt County's reputation as a marijuana mecca began in the 1970s. As pot users began to notice a decline in the quality of Mexican weed, refugees from San Francisco's Summer of Love who moved to the forested mountains along California's conveniently remote North Coast began figuring out better ways to grow their own. The Humboldt name soon became a selling point for marijuana sold on street corners across the country.

These days, the small towns in this region about five hours north of San Francisco are dotted with head shops and garden supply stores.

California is one of 14 states that allow people to grow and use marijuana for medical purposes, but recreational use remains illegal. ( And will remain illegal under federal law, regardless of how California votes. )

For decades, the outlaws, rebels and aging hippies of Humboldt County have been hoping for legalization. But now that it appears at hand, many clandestine growers fear it will flood the market with cheap, corporate-grown weed and destroy their way of life.

About 20 pot growers gathered on a patio outside the meeting Tuesday to discuss the dilemma posed by legalized pot. Many wore baseball caps and jeans, just like farmers anywhere else in America. No one addressed anyone else by name, a local custom driven by fear of arrest, but that didn't stop some in the group from lighting up their crop.

Many complained that legalization would put them in the same bind as other small farmers struggling to compete against large-scale agribusinesses.

A dreadlocked younger grower who said he had already been to prison for marijuana objected that no one could replicate the quality of the region's weed. When he was a kid, he said, "Humboldt nuggets -- that was like the holy grail."

"Anyone can grow marijuana," he said. "But not everyone can grow the super-heavies, the holy bud."

Under the ballot measure, Californians could possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. They could cultivate gardens up to 25 square feet, which is puny by Humboldt County standards. City and county governments would have the power to tax pot sales.

Some growers Tuesday fantasized about mobs of tourists in limos streaming to the county. Others were not thrilled with the idea of paying taxes on their crop.

Many agreed with the sentiment on a sticker plastered on a pizza joint's cash register: "Save Humboldt County -- keep pot illegal."


Use: California is one of 14 states that allows people to grow and use marijuana for medical purposes, but recreational use remains illegal. ( And will remain illegal under federal law, regardless of how California votes. )

Measure: Under the ballot measure, Californians could possess up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use. They could cultivate gardens up to 25 square feet. City and county governments would have the power to tax pot sales.

In Oregon: In 1973, Oregon became the first state in the nation to decriminalize marijuana, making the sentence for possession of less than an ounce akin to receiving a traffic ticket.

via: NORML

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Marijuana legalization

Pot advocate Mason Tvert filed language on Wednesday for a November ballot initiative that would allow Coloradans 21 and older to use marijuana. Does that mean Colorado is about to be embroiled in a full-scale movement to legalize weed?

Not necessarily.

"There isn't some large campaign being launched," says Tvert, reached during a business trip in San Francisco. "It's just something we wanted to make sure was possible if we decided to do it." He explains the he and his colleagues at SAFER, the marijuana reform organization Tvert runs, wanted to file the appropriate paperwork for such a contingency before key election deadlines had passed. But they're far from launching an official political operation.

After all, Tvert, who's never one to turn down a press opportunity, wasn't really looking to get the word out about the filing at all. "If we knew this was happening, we'd be the first ones to let people know about it," he says.

If Initiative 47, as its titled on state paperwork, moves forward, it would ask voters to authorize a comprehensive regulatory system that would control marijuana similarly to how the state currently manages alcohol, says Tvert. In this model, both pot shops and pot grows would have to be licensed, there'd be limitations as to where one could use it and nothing in the law would supersede current rules about driving under the influence of drugs.

A lot of considerations will go into whether or not advocates decide this is the year to fight marijuana prohibition in Colorado, says Tvert. That includes timing issues, funding potential and what happens with current state attempts to regulate medical marijuana.

If the time does seem right, rest assured Tvert will have a whole lot more to say about it.

via: Westworld

Friday, January 8, 2010

Marijuana Stores Trump Starbucks In Denver

If you want more proof that selling legal pot is a booming business, consider this statistic: Denver has more medical-marijuana shops than Starbucks Corp. locations.

Denver's City Treasurer Steve Ellington tells ABC New affiliate Channel 7 that at least 390 pot dispensaries applied for a sales-tax license recently. That compares to 208 Starbucks in the entire state of Colorado, the station reports. Denver's city council took a step toward regulating the marijuana stores last night, and the businesses are filing their tax applications.

The Denver statistic sheds light on a business that is becoming more institutionalized as local governments try to figure out ways to raise revenue. The Denver council will hold a public hearing and take a final vote Monday. Only a day later, on Tuesday, a California Assembly panel is expected to vote on a bill that would legalize pot across the state.

Denver is an example of how desperate politicians are to collect taxes on this burgeoning industry. The marijuana dispensaries are rushing to get their sales-tax applications filed to beat a deadline as part of a new law being considered. The change in law: No marijuana store can be within 1,000 feet of schools or child-care centers unless you get your tax application in before a deadline.