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.





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





Dutch Coffeeshop Pass System Approved By European Court

16 12 2010

Coffeeshops will be effectively restricted from selling cannabis to non-residents, and Amsterdam is no exception. The controversial ‘weed pass’ system planned by the new Dutch government is not in conflict with the European treaty on free movement of goods, nor the current anti-discriminatory legislation, it was announced yesterday.

Man smoking a joint in an Amsterdam coffeeshop

Will tourists still be allowed to share cannabis bought by a resident?

The coalition government, already troubled by internal conflict and scandal in their first few months, asked that the European Court examine the new measure for possible conflict with existing legislation. The European Court has allowed the plans in order to combat the ‘drug tourism’ problems that residents have been experiencing in border towns.

Amsterdam relies on tourists, many of whom openly state that they would not visit the city if they were banned from coffeeshops, for a great deal of revenue. The Mayor of Amsterdam Eberhard van der Laan doubts that the pass system will improve anything, stating that street dealing and the problems associated with it will only increase. Despite this the government will not make an exception for the city that has been a Mecca for marijuana lovers for over three decades and a symbol of free thought and acceptance for hundreds of years.

The pass system will be implemented as soon as possible in the province of Brabant (in the south of the Netherlands, bordering Belgium) although details have not yet been released on who will approve, issue and control the passes, nor how they should be applied for. Other issues, such as whether tourists will be allowed into coffeeshops simply to drink coffee and if there will be restrictions on residents sharing legally purchased cannabis with non-residents, have yet to be explored.





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!





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!





The High Cost of Empty Prisons

14 10 2009

New York:

prisons cost a heap of money and are a massive financial burden

Last Wednesday (07/10/09), changes to New York´s notorious Rockefeller drug laws went into effect, allowing judges to shorten the prison terms of some non-violent offenders; particularly those incarcerated for non-violent crimes such as cannabis posession. This measure will further reduce New York´s prison population, which has already declined in the past 10 years from about 71,600 in 1999 under Mayor Rudy Giuliani to about 59,300 today – The state´s crime rate also dropped substantially during that time.
Nevertheless, the state has been slow to close prisons;  this is a multi-billion-dollar industry – opposition from the correction officers´ union and politicians from the upstate areas where most of our correctional facilities are has been fierce.

It was not until earlier this year that policymakers in Albany, confronted with fiscal crisis, mustered the will to shut three prison camps and seven prison annexes which amounted to a total of about 2,250 prison beds. This move is expected to save $52 million over the next two years.
But the state could go further… The prison system still has more than 5,000 empty beds in 69 prisons. What´s more, there are other ways to lower the prison population. For starters state lawmakers could repeal the Rockefeller mandatory sentencing provisions that remain on the books. This could automatically release hundreds (maybe thousands) of prisoners currently incarcerated where the presiding judge was obliged to impose a mandatory-minimum sentence.

Read the rest of this entry »





Cannabis Patents – Cannabinoid Patch

12 10 2009

United States Patent US6113940:
Cannabinoid patch and method for cannabis transdermal delivery.

Cannabis as a medicine, medicinal marijuana, seeds, hemp, sativa, patentWe  found this patent application in the U.S for a cannabis patch similar to the nicotine patch which has been commercially available for years. Several companies (and even the U.S government – see our previous article “U.S Government Patents Cannabis“) have recently started to take notice of the medicinal properties of cannabis and have started a rush to patent any possible application of this wonderful natural herb. Part of this trend could be linked to the legalization movement which has successfully highlighted several medical advantages to cannabis over traditional pharmaceuticals, particularly the lack of significant negative side-effects when treating serious illness.

Here are the links to both the Patent outline and the Application in .pdf form








%d bloggers like this: