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  1. Washington, D.C. -- In its bid to fend off congressional interference with a pending marijuana decriminalization law, the District might have prompted President Obama to make an interesting declaration. The White House on Monday said it “strongly opposes” the amendment attached last month to the House spending bill that includes the D.C. budget. The amendment, offered by Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), would bar the District government from spending any money on provisions that weaken its drug laws. The Harris Amendment, the Obama administration says, “undermines the principles of States’ rights and of District home rule” — which, setting aside the fact that the District is not a state, explicitly suggests that the White House believes marijuana policy should be left to individual jurisdictions. The Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocacy group, called that a “groundbreaking policy position” in a news release. “It is great to see the White House accepting that a majority of Americans want marijuana law reform and defending the right of D.C. and states to set their own marijuana policy,” said Bill Piper, the group’s director of national affairs. “The tide has clearly shifted against the failed war on drugs and it’s only a matter of time before federal law is changed.” The administration statement is not a total surprise: It is in keeping, for instance, with the Justice Department’s express hands-off policy toward local marijuana liberalization efforts across the country, and Obama has made comments tolerating the legalization laws in Colorado and Washington as “experiments.” But framing the debate as a matter of “states’ rights” could have an effect on the national debate over cannabis laws. What may be of greater interest on the local level is that the White House statement also appears to endorse concerns that the Harris Amendment may have inadvertently legalized marijuana, saying the budget rider “poses legal challenges to the Metropolitan Police Department’s enforcement of all marijuana laws currently in force in the District.” The D.C. decriminalization law is set to pass through a congressional review period and take effect later this week. Should the Harris Amendment subsequently become law, police could be barred from enforcing the new law, which makes small-time marijuana possession punishable by a $25 civil citation, without having a local criminal statute left to enforce. City lawyers were tasked with examining the possible effects of the amendment, officials said last month, but the results of any review have not been released. The White House statement on the spending bill, which is now on the House floor, also includes opposition to restriction on local funding for abortions, the ban on federal funding for needle exchange, and cuts to the District’s college tuition grant program. If the House passes the budget bill as expected, its inclusion in any spending law would be subject to negotiation with Democrats, and Obama’s opposition could be helpful in that process. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) called it “indispensable” in a Monday statement. But it is hardly a magic bullet: In a high-stakes 2011 budget negotiation, Obama famously traded away the District’s ability to spend locally raised tax funds on abortion in talks with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio). Mike DeBonis covers local politics and government for The Washington Post. He also writes a blog and a political analysis column that runs on Fridays. Source: Washington Post (DC)
  2. CO Attorney Claims Requiring Marijuana Business to Pay Taxes Violates US Constitution Colorado Attorney Rob Corry is asking the Denver District Court to block marijuana taxes in Colorado, claiming that requiring marijuana businesses to pay taxes violates the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution. The Fifth Amendment protects people from self-incrimination. Corry argues that by paying taxes, marijuana sellers and growers are effectively forced to incriminate themselves under federal law, which still considers marijuana to be illegal. As a part of his case, Corry is seeking a preliminary injunction to block the state from collecting tax on marijuana. If the injunction is denied, Corry plans to advise his marijuana shop clients to stop paying their taxes. However, if shops do that, it is likely their retail licenses would be revoked by the state, forcing them to close and putting the country’s first legal marijuana system in jeopardy. Corry’s lawsuit has the potential to backfire for marijuana advocates. A strict interpretation of that argument could pave the way for Colorado’s own court system to find its state system for selling pot illegal. Corry called that an outside chance, but didn’t seem concerned at the possibility. The state attorney general’s office is not paying much attention to the sit. Carolyn Tyler, spokesperson for Attorney General John Suthers stated, “Mr. Corry’s claims are bizarre and lack legal and logical consistency. We will aggressively defend the state against any legal challenge.” Corry has been known for his radical stance on marijuana in the past. His opposition to the 2013 ballot question that enacted taxes on marijuana led to more scrutiny and stricter regulations of marijuana from the city of Denver, rather than eliminating taxes for marijuana businesses as Corry had hoped. [Source]
  3. Feds Call Out CO in Releasing Study on Teen MJ Use Colorado -- Federal drug abuse officials called out Colorado by name Wednesday in releasing a new national survey of illicit drug use among teenagers, saying marijuana legalization efforts are clearly changing youth attitudes in a dangerous way. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy noted many teens report getting their marijuana from others with medical marijuana access. Past-month pot use by high schoolers jumped over five years, and perceived risk by teens is plummeting, said the annual report of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Colorado, Washington and other states heading toward legalization are conducting a "large social experiment (that) portends a very difficult time" for drug-abuse control, said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Legalization advocates, meanwhile, cited other statistics in the report showing the recent national trend in high school use of pot is flat. The most recent three years of the survey show little change in self-reported use in the annual tally. In 12th-graders, for example, use in the past month was 22.7 percent of respondents, little changed from 22.9 percent in 2012 or 22.6 percent in 2011. A similar flat trend held among 10th- and eighth-graders in those years. The federal officials cited changes from 2008 to 2013 to make their point: Past-month use by 12th-graders nationally rose from 19.4 percent to 22.7 percent; among 10th-graders, use went from 13.8 percent to 18 percent. Snipped Complete Article: http://drugsense.org/url/S6C3cpEd
  4. Pot Shots Fired: Recreational vs. Medicinal Washington State -- As Washington begins to accept applications for the state’s first regulated recreational pot shops, cries of protest about its plans for medical marijuana are coming from unexpected quarters: the left. A year after voters put their state on track to become one of the only places in the world where marijuana can be legally owned and sold for purely recreational use, the state legislature still has to decide what to do with its rickety, fifteen-year-old medical-marijuana system. With the Department of Justice’s hawkish eyes trained on the state—determined to ensure that the drug, which is still illegal under federal law—remains under strict control, some bureaucrats and lawmakers are afraid that Washington’s unregulated medical-marijuana system could doom the whole experiment. Read More...
  5. Raids on Colorado Pot Hint at a Crackdown Colorado -- The coordinated raids of at least a dozen Denver dispensaries on Thursday are the latest federal law enforcement actions to occur in the wake of legalization votes last November in Colorado and Washington states. The coordinated raids in Colorado follow raids that took place in Washington this summer, and when analyzed side by side, the federal actions hint at an emerging pattern in organized pot crackdowns. Characterized by cooperation across multiple levels of government and timed to deliver maximum political effect, this new method of federal interference with the medical marijuana movement sends a clear message to a marijuana industry still in its formation stages. Read More...
  6. Details of WV Medical Marijuana Bill Emerge Charleston, W.Va. -- The first details about a proposal to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes in West Virginia emerged on Wednesday during a legislative committee meeting. The legislature's Joint Health Committee was told during an interim meeting that a bill allowing the use of medical marijuana is being drafted for consideration in the upcoming legislative session. The National Conference of State Legislatures says 20 states and the District of Columbia allow the use of medical marijuana, though it's still prohibited under federal law. West Virginia lawmakers have spent time learning about the issue in at least one previous interim meeting earlier this year. Charles Roskovensky, chief counsel for the House Committee on Health and Human Resources, told the joint committee that a bill he's drafting for them would allow people with certain illnesses like cancer and glaucoma to possess up to six ounces of marijuana. If the bill becomes law, registered patients would be able to purchase medical marijuana at five 'compassion centers' throughout the state that would be chosen through a competitive bid process, he said. Registered patients would also be allowed to have a limited number of 12 marijuana plants, he said. Roskovensky said the bill was not in its final form and solicited suggestions from lawmakers who serve on the Joint Health Committee, and directed questions about the proposal to the committee's co-chairmen. It wasn't clear how much support the proposal would have in the committee. No vote was taken and comments were limited, with most questions and discussion being deferred to another time. Still, marijuana legalization supporters celebrated that the discussion was happening at all. "Marijuana has proven medical benefits, and seriously ill individuals should be able to use it without fear of arrest and prosecution," Marijuana Policy Project legislative analyst Matt Simon said in a prepared statement. "We are pleased to see legislators are educating themselves on the issue, and we hope they will move forward with this compassionate and much-needed legislation." Source: Associated Press (Wire)
  7. Restrictive new ordinance passes 4-1, sharply limits sites where dispensaries may locate Ordinance will make it harder for patients like Rudy Reyes, a Cedar Fire victim burned over 60% of his body, to obtain medical marijuana.“Virtually all of them are either undeveloped land, cement factories, mining operations, even land that’s zoned for treatment of radioactive materials,” -- Kate Valentine of Americans for Safe Access July 2, 2010 (San Diego) – A restrictive new ordinance passed Wednesday by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors will sharply limit locations where medical marijuana dispensaries are allowed and make it extremely costly for operators. The measure passed by a four-to-one vote. Supervisor Ron Roberts cast the lone dissenting vote. “I think we’re violating the spirit of the law,” said Roberts, referring to the ballot initiative approved by California voters 14 years ago to legalize medical marijuana. The new regulations limit dispensaries to industrial zones and require an armed license, video monitoring and license fees of up to $20,000. Supervisor Dianne Jacob introduced an amendment which further restricts allowable locations by increasing minimum distance between dispensaries and homes from a proposed 500 feet to 1,000 feet, as well as raising distances from churches, parks and schools from 600 to 1,000 feet. These are the same distances required for strip clubs. County planners contend that there are at least 15 potential sites that could meet those guidelines, including areas near Gillespie Field and the Ramona Airport, as well as freeway-close locations in Alpine, Borrego Springs, Campo, and Julian. But there’s a big catch. “Virtually all of them are either undeveloped land, cement factories, mining operations, even land that’s zoned for treatment of radioactive materials,” said Kate Valentine of Americans for Safe Access, a group that supports access for medical marijuana patients. There are no buildings on the sites, Valentine added. So add costs of building a new structure to the already steep price of opening a dispensary in the unincorporated area. Supervisors Pam Slater-Price and Greg Cox acknowledged that patients may have to drive long distances to get their medical marijuana prescriptions filled in cities within the county where permitting is more lenient. Slater-Price cautioned patients to refrain from taking their medications until after they drive home. Supervisor Horn recently expressed frustration that federal law prohibits distribution of medical marijuana in pharmacies. San Diego’s Board of Supervisors have fought a long battle against medical marijuana access. In 2005, Supervisors Bill Horn, Slater-Price and Jacob voted to oppose a state law that required counties to create medical marijuana registries and issue I.D. cards to patients. The County’s district attorney also helped federal drug agents crack down on dispensaries locally. Supervisors used taxpayer money to file a lawsuit in 2006 seeking to overturn Proposition 215, the measure passed by both state and county voters a decade earlier. The County lost its case in court but fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which last year refused to consider the County’s appeal. Critics of medical marijuana dispensaries contend that some are fronts for illicit drug use. Strolling down the boardwalk at Venice beach, the air is redolent with the aroma of weed. A hawker outside a marijuana clinic advises passersby that “the doctor is in.” Several speakers from anti-drug groups asked Supervisors to ban marijuana cooperatives outright, an option that County Counsel has said would not be legal. Where to strike a balance between reasonable access for patients suffering from cancer or other medical conditions while preventing access to unauthorized individuals remains a bone of contention. At Wednesday’s hearing, numerous medical marijuana patients testified that medical marijuana provided their only source of relief from painful and debilitating symptoms –with fewer side effects than other prescription pain medication options. Medical marijuana is also useful in alleviating nausea among chemotherapy patients. The County’s new ordinance requires dispensary operators to maintain accurate records of transactions including names and contact information of suppliers. It also prohibits sale of foods or beverages containing marijuana. The clinics would be regulated by the Sheriff, a choice some medical marijuana advocates have also criticized, arguing that the Department of Health and Human Services would be a preferably regulatory entity to have oversight over dispensaries. “I’m more convinced than ever that what we’re doing is the wrong thing,” said Roberts, who also cast the lone dissenting vote in 2009 against drafting the controversial ordinance. In casting that vote, he stated, “At some point, some of the leaders of this community need to accept that (Proposition) 215 is the law.” Roberts’ opponent in the November election, Steve Whitburn, also supports patients’ access to medical marijuana and opposes the County’s tough new ordinance. But Jacob insisted that the Board has taken the high road. “What the staff brought before us is the best we can do,” she concluded. http://eastcountymag...e.org/node/3686 Trix
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