Cannabis in California: A local and federal divide

1 12 2011

The recent history of cannabis in California  demonstrates a split between state and federal law that is rapidly widening. The first U.S. state to have, in 1913, prohibited the use of the devil’s herb imported by Mexican immigrants that was “marijuana”, California was also the first to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis in 1996.

15 years of legal ambiguity on medicinal marijuana

Dancers prepare at a pro-cannabis rally in California

Dancers prepare at a pro-cannabis rally in California

2 weeks ago, medicinal marijuana users celebrated 15 years of Proposition 215, the law legalizing therapeutic use of cannabis in California. The law allows patients in possession of a prescription to grow their own medicine or designate a legal grower (also known as a caregiver) to grow it for them, according to California state law.

Federal law, meanwhile, still does not recognize the therapeutic applications of cannabis, and logically the state laws can not override national laws. Since 1996, however, thousands of clinics have opened across the Golden State.  This  was not accomplished without legal difficulties and not all the dispensaries have remained open, but despite the paradox in legislation, the state’s entrepreneurs still managed to establish an industry of cannabis in California that is now estimated to be worth billions of dollars.

Local economy at risk

Given the very special status of the plant at federal and international levels, the medical cannabis industry in California is exclusively local, from production to distribution. For years the federal government has been trying to destabilize this market by various means.

On October 7th 2011, four District Attorneys in the Golden State claimed in a press conference that their goal was to address the production, distribution and marketing of cannabis in California. Shortly after, they sent dispensary owners an injunction to close their shops within 45 days.

Since then, the IRS has decided to claim retroactive taxes from the dispensaries in addition to new taxes on the sales of something that is still an illegal substance at a national level. This use of the tax system to put an end to an industry that seems to bother Washington is eerily reminiscent of the 1937 Marijuana Tax Act, which taxed cannabis suppliers all over America.

Even the banks are threatened with charges of money laundering if they agree to open accounts for business people  involved in the thriving Californian economy  of producing and distributing medical marijuana!

Medicinal Cannabis Dispensaries targeted

The legal status of dispensaries is comparable to the Dutch coffeeshop system, with one major difference: dispensaries go against American national policy, whereas coffeeshops have been licensed by the Dutch government. Some Californian cannabis clinics have become essential businesses for their local economy thanks to local taxes, while the federal government prefers not to touch a dime of this revenue.

It is these medicinal cannabis dispensaries which are the target of the Obama administration.  A complaint has been  filed by a group of activists and lawyers to stop this crusade against the clinics, targeting the Attorney General of the United States, the director of the DEA Michelle Leonard and the four District Attorneys who acted without authorization from their supervisors.

A confrontation between Washington and L.A?

Cannabis in California

Cannabis in California

The current situation creates a schism between local power and federal power. California’s economy is the eighth largest in the world, and cannabis in California allows the Golden State to prosper at the expense of the federal government and its repressive policies.

Californians have recently re-elected their former Governor and Attorney General Jerry Brown, who has always supported medical marijuana, and has even introduced legislation to improve the legal status of patients with prescriptions for cannabis. He also proposed that the distribution should be taken care of by non-profit organizations.

The support from Governor Brown, the complaint filed against representatives of the federal government and the choice of the people at the polls are all clear indicators of opposition to the policies of the federal government.

All that remains to be seen is how much wider the divide between state and federal law will be allowed to grow before one of the two sides makes a decisive move on the future of cannabis in California.





“Senora Cannabis” Alicia Castilla Released After 94 Days

25 05 2011

The 5th of May saw the release of 66 year old Alicia Castilla, who was held in prison for  94 days after police discovered marijuana plants at her home in Atlántida, Uruguay.

In a similar way to the Netherlands, laws in Uruguay allow possession of cannabis for personal use (although in Uruguay the amount considered reasonable for personal consumption is decided by a judge). Cultivation however is completely forbidden, a paradox that forces users to either (illegally) buy from criminal dealers or break the law by cultivating cannabis for their own use. Alicia Castilla, author of two books on cannabis, chose the latter option.

Alicia Castilla, cannabis activist and author, aka Senora Cannabis

Alicia Castilla, cannabis activist and author, aka Senora Cannabis

In January 2011 police raided the house she had bought with the intention of having ‘a peaceful place to spend my old age’, and discovered 29 unsexed cannabis seedlings.

“I think it’s an injustice that a person is in prison for planting what they consume,” Castilla told Spanish  newspaper El Pais. The grandmother affectionately nicknamed “Senora Cannabis” by her many supporters expressed emotional relief at this turn in a case that attracted attention from all over the world, especially in her native Argentina.

Following her arrest, Alicia Castilla was imprisoned in Canelones, a squalid and violent prison where inmates include murderers and crack addicts. After 45 days and repeated requests, she was transferred to CNR, a rehabilitation centre. Here she had access to a laptop and began drafting a third book, inspired by her experiences.

Until very recently the Supreme Court in Uruguay was refusing to grant provisional release to Alicia Castilla but an appeal for probation was finally granted by prosecutor Fernando Valerio. Alicia must now await the final ruling, which has already been delayed. She intends to continue campaigning for the legal right to cultivate cannabis even more passionately than before.

Sources: El Pais, Plantatuplanta





Cannabis Debates Begin Tomorrow

4 02 2011

In response to the current plans for limiting the right to buy cannabis to Dutch residents, and other related restrictions, a series of debates are taking place throughout the Netherlands during February and March. Beginning tomorrow (05/02) at the Cannabis College in Amsterdam, the Cannabis Debates are open to everyone over the age of 18 and attendance (14:00 to 17:00) is free.

Workable Cannabis Policy
The Cannabis Debates are organized by the VOC (lit. Society for the Abolition of Cannabis Prohibition) and THC (Taskforce for Cannabis Management), an independent work-group including members of the National Platform of Coffeeshop Unions (LOC) and the VOC. Their aim is to present a workable and well supported alternative to the potentially disastrous schemes favoured by the Cabinet.

This alternative is a clear and regulated management of cannabis, including growing, for personal use and would effectively remove the ‘back-door’ criminality from the ‘front-door’ legal sales. The contradiction between illegal wholesale supply and decriminalized personal supply is the root of the problems with the tolerance policy, caused not by going ‘too far’ as many politicians seem to think, but by not going far enough.
Concept model 'Van Gedogen Tot Handhaven'

Be part of the Cannabis Debates
The management concept presented by THC sets out a practical and safe system for regulating the cannabis trade and is entitled ‘Van Gedogen Naar Handhaven’ (‘From Tolerance To Management’). Contributions and suggestions are welcome from everyone who attends the debates (please bear in mind that the main language will be Dutch). Considering that the Tweede Kamer began their own debate on moving from cannabis tolerance to zero tolerance exactly a year ago today, the Cannabis Debates offer an essential opportunity to find a saner solution that must not be missed.

Other debate dates:

Zaterdag 26 februari:
Coffeeshop The Pink, Willemstraat 35, Eindhoven

Zaterdag 5 maart:
Koffieshop De Os, Korfmakersstraat 2, Leeuwarden

Maandag 21 maart:
Live 330 / Cremers, Korte Molenstraat 2, Den Haag

Source: VOC Nederland, Zaterdag 5 februari eerste cannabis debat in amsterdam





Cannabis Cultuurprijs (cannabis culture award)

13 11 2009

Cannabis Cultuurprijs 2009

The Cannabis Cultuurprijs 2009, now in its sixth year, is presented to individuals who have made significant contributions towards the acceptance of cannabis in all its forms and to the reintegration of marihuana and hemp culture into modern society.

At a time when ‘zero tolerance’ is replacing the ‘tolerance policy’ it is more important than ever to acknowledge those who have made a genuine difference to the perception and use of this unfairly maligned plant.

Though other prizes exist in the sphere of cannabis and hemp, only the Cannabis Cultuurprijs celebrates improvements to quality of life and knowledge in quite this way.

The prize itself promotes the achievements of the winner: a unique exhibit dedicated to each one is created for public viewing. Displays honoring previous winners Jack Herer and Ed Rosenthal are on show in the Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum. Last year’s winner, the late Simon Vinkenoog, is represented in the Hemp Gallery.

A monetary award of €3000 is also presented. It is independently funded and therefore free from political influence.

Update:

The Cannabis Culture Award was previously known as the Cannabis Cultuur Prijs and was initiated in 2004 by philanthropist Ben Dronkers in order to honor and reward people who have made outstanding contributions to the world of hemp and cannabis.

For more information about this year’s ceremony, please visit http://hashmuseum.com/cannabis-culture-awards .





Top U.K government scientist says: Cannabis evidence ‘was devalued’

29 10 2009

We came across this interesting thread on the BBC website which refers to a lecture given by Professor David Nutt, of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs.  Professor Nutt used a lecture at King’s College in London and a briefing paper to attack what he called the “artificial” separation of alcohol and tobacco from illegal drugs, accusing ex-Home Secretary Jacqui Smith of “devaluing” scientific research. He also criticizes the scare-tactics of the U.K government on the issue and claims that the link between cannabis use and schizophrenia is hugely over-exaggerated;  This story has some traction and has been on rotation on both BBC News 24 and British terrestrial television!  It is a blow to the U.K government as Professor Nutt is the new chairman of the Government’s Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs – popularly known as the government’s “Drug Czar”.

Many observers are worried about the contradictory and incoherent nature of the U.K’s current drug policy which clearly hasn’t worked – The U.K has the 3rd largest cannabis consumption rate in the western world! The Home Secretary has herself admitted to smoking cannabis as a student whilst attending Oxford University – making her a MASSIVE hypocrite – if she had been caught under her own rules, she would never have been able to hold the position of Home Secretary!

I also came across a video on the subject… enjoy!

Heres some links to other relevant articles that we’ve found on the BBC website:
Debate over cannabis classification
Q&A: Cannabis and health
Q&A: Cannabis guidelines

Its also interesting to see what the BBC themselves have to say about cannabis, it’s actually a really good, balanced and informative piece which drew a smile from us all!





Houses made of hemp could help combat climate change!

27 10 2009

professor pete walker - university of bath

We have recently come across this very interesting press release from Professor Peter Walker at the University of Bath (U.K) who is leading the research into the use of hemp-lime in construction.  Buildings and other infrastructure currently accounts for almost 20% of the UK’s eco-footprint.  This is another example of how this wonderful plant can help save reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  Recently we brought you the news that Hanes – one of the worlds biggest consumer brands – has been investing in a new hemp technology called Crailar which requires only a fraction of the water needed to make cotton; and we are very happy to announce that it is the subject of another of our articles, a Dutch company called Hempflax who has won the contract to supply the raw materials to Hanes – i.e. the HEMP!

Here’s the press release:

Houses made of hemp, timber or straw could help combat climate change by reducing the carbon footprint of building construction, according to researchers at the University of Bath.

Currently the construction industry is a major contributor of environmental pollutants, with buildings and other build infrastructure contributing to around 19% of the UK’s eco-footprint.  Researchers at the BRE Centre for Innovative Construction Materials are researching low carbon alternatives to building materials currently used by the construction industry.  Although timber is used as a building material in many parts of the world, historically it is used less in the UK than in other countries. Researchers at the Centre are developing new ways of using timber and other crop-based materials such as hemp, natural fibre composites and straw bales. Their work using straw bales as a building material has already been featured on Channel 4’s Grand Designs series.

Professor Peter Walker, Director of the Centre, is leading the research. He said: “The environmental impact of the construction industry is huge. For example, it is estimated that worldwide the manufacture of cement contributes up to ten per cent of all industrial carbon dioxide emissions.  “We are looking at a variety of low carbon building materials including crop-based materials, innovative uses of traditional materials and developing low carbon cements and concretes to reduce impact of new infrastructure. As well as reducing the environmental footprint, many low carbon building materials offer other benefits, including healthier living through higher levels of thermal insulation and regulation of humidity levels.”

Their research is being presented at the Sustainable Energy & the Environment showcase at the University of Bath.  The exhibition will be opened by David Willetts MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities & Skills, and will be attended by industrialists, research councils, local and national government representatives and other key stakeholders from across the South West.  The exhibition coincides with the launch of the Institute for Sustainable Energy & the Environment (I-SEE) at the University of Bath, which will bring together experts from diverse fields of science, engineering, social policy and economics to tackle the problems of climate change.

Read the rest of this entry »





Marc Emery – Prince of Pot

19 10 2009

Here’s a piece I found on Marc Emery on U.S TV – it includes an interview with his wife Jodie Emery and is well worth a watch!

Marc is one of the figureheads of the cannabis legalization movement and his treatment by U.S and Canandian prosecutors who circumvented normal procedure to extradite him from Canada is both contradictory and illegal in our eyes.  Further information can be found at drugwarrant.com

FREE MARC!








%d bloggers like this: