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.