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.





Medicinal Cannabis and its Impact on Human Health

8 09 2011

In this myth shattering, information packed documentary, learn from physicians and leading researchers about medicinal cannabis and its demonstrated affects on human health. This game-changing movie presents the most comprehensive synopsis to date of the real science surrounding the world’s most controversial plant.

http://vimeo.com/20129106

Executive Producer: James Schmachtenberger
Director & Producer: Lindsey Ward
Director of Photography: Troy Brajkovich

Topics include:
*What the consensus is from over 15000 scientific and medical trials
*What conditions have been proven to benefit from medical marijuana
*Its historical use as medicine dating back over 5300 years
*Methods of delivery and their different advantages
*Government sponsored studies intended to show Marijuana having negative effects that yielded the exact opposite results
*Common myths about negative effects of Marijuana and what the research really says about these topics

Via:  medicinalgenomics.com





Lester Grinspoon – How Medical Marijuana helped his sick son

24 05 2011

Moving story by Lester Grinspoon – Associate Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School – how Medical Marijuana helped his sick son .





Medicinal cannabis patients classed as ‘drug addicts’ by Oregon sheriffs

13 04 2011

Despite the amount of illegal firearms and genuinely harmful drugs that America seems to be knee-deep in, police in Oregon are concerned that card-holding medicinal marijuana users might be legally carrying guns.

Under the U. S. Gun Control Act of 1968, guns may not be sold to drug addicts. Most people would agree that this is a good idea, as the mental image of a ‘drug addict’ is almost always negative: shaking, dirty, paranoid, and incapable of rational thought. Nobody wants to arm that person.

An elderly medicinal marijuana user

An elderly medicinal marijuana user in Oregon (image courtesy of NORML)

Concealed Handgun Permits are refused

The sheriffs of Oregon, however, are classing medicinal cannabis users as drug addicts and refusing to issue concealed handgun permits to them. The sheriff’s office, by state law, should not refuse to grant such a license provided a list of conditions is met. These conditions usually  include U.S. citizenship, completing  a gun safety course, no criminal record, no mental illness or substance abuse problems. Again, these are all reasonable requirements, but the medicinal cannabis patients who fulfill them are still being refused the permit.

Use of prescribed marijuana should not limit a person’s rights

Retired school bus driver Cynthia Willis is one such patient, and along with three co-plaintiffs she is part of a potentially landmark case currently under consideration by the Oregon Supreme Court. Cynthia likes to carry a Walther P-22 automatic pistol, which she says she’s never had to draw, for self-defense. She also uses cannabis to control muscle spasms and pain from her arthritis, but says she never uses it when she plans to carry her gun (or drive). So far she’s won two court cases on the argument that prescribed drug use does not disqualify a person from holding a concealed gun permit, and medicinal cannabis is a prescribed drug like any other.

Outdoor medicinal marijuana

An outdoor medicinal marijuana crop in America

More at stake than the right to carry a concealed firearm

What is at stake here is not just the right of medicinal cannabis users to carry (concealed) firearms: by Oregon law, if someone doesn’t have a concealed gun permit but does have a gun license, they can simply carry the gun openly, as Cynthia plans to do if she loses her case. Given the tragic events in Alphen aan den Rijn on Saturday as the latest in a long line of horrific shootings by licensed gun owners throughout the world,  it can be argued that gun licenses should be revoked altogether.

How do you abuse your own medicinal cannabis crop?

The underlying issue of concern in Oregon is the classification of medical marijuana patients as ‘drug addicts’, with all the negative connotations of this epithet. Although cannabis seeds have never been illegal in Oregon, and it was the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of bud back in 1973, courts recently decided that employers had the right to fire medicinal cannabis users. The sheriffs of this county openly argue that the majority of medicinal card holders are abusing the right to use ganja as a medicine, despite the fact that buying, selling, and dispensaries are still prohibited so patients must grow their own (or have someone grow it for them without profit) in order to do so.

Flyer for the Oregon NORML Cannabis Cafe, with buds

NORML is active in Oregon, which was the first state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of cannabis.

Defending the rights of medical marijuana users

Executive Director of NORML Allen St. Pierre is focused on defending the right of every medicinal marijuana card holder to be treated like any other citizen: “A person who uses medical cannabis should not have to give up their fundamental rights as enumerated by the Constitution,”‘ St. Pierre said.

Source material for this article here .





Canadian study shows relief for chronic neuropathic pain

31 08 2010
There’s now more scientific evidence for what many patients have known for awhile: Smoking marijuana can ease chronic neuropathic pain and help patients sleep better, according to a team of researchers in Montreal.
The new study, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that pain intensity among patients decreased with higher-potency marijuana, reports Caroline Alphonso of The Globe and Mail. The study represents an important scientific attempt to determine the medicinal benefits of cannabis.

Patients suffering from neuropathic pain often use opioid pain medication, antidepressants and local anesthetics, but all of those drugs have limitations, and the side effects of these substances can rival the conditions they are supposed to treat. Unlike “normal” pain, which results from stimulation of pain receptors in the body, neuropathic pain results from damage to or dysfunction of the central or peripheral nervous system, reports Deborah Mitchell at EmaxHealth. Read the rest of this entry »




Germany: Lawmakers ready to approve use of medical marijuana

18 08 2010

Medical cannabis will be available in Germany soon, with the center-right coalition preparing to make groundbreaking changes to drug laws, a government health spokeswoman said this week.

A gem of German technology

Cannabis was illegal throughout Germany until the federal constitutional court decided on 28 April 1994 that people need no longer be prosecuted for possession of soft drugs for personal use. Since then, most German regional governments have tolerated the sale and use of soft drugs.

In some cities, cannabis supply is now tolerated in a similar way to the Netherlands. In other places the courts still treat possession as an offense. For example, in one state, Schleswig-Holstein, no charges are usually brought for possession of less than 30 g, but in Thuringia people are prosecuted for possessing even tiny amounts.

In March 1999, Germany’s drug tsar, Christa Nickels, said she considered it sensible to use cannabis products such as marijuana and hashish for therapeutic purposes in medicine.

With the new law coming, doctors could write prescriptions for cannabis, and pharmacies would be authorised to sell the plant once the law had been adjusted, a member of the junior coalition party, the pro-business Free Democrats (FDP), said Monday.

Marijuana would also be permitted for use as a pain reliever for the terminally ill in hospices and other care facilities, making it a legal part of their emergency pain-relief stocks.

The new law will end a long-running struggle between German officials, doctors and health insurers over use of the proven herbal therapy for treating the pain stemming from diseases such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

According to the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines (ACM), only 40 patients in the country are currently allowed a medical marijuana prescription – even though law enforcement generally tolerates small amounts for personal use.

Almost two years ago, the conservative Christian Democrats, the FDP and the center-left Social Democrats all voted against loosening medical cannabis laws. Opponents had warned of the drug’s alleged potential for addiction and doubted its medical benefits.

Sources: Student BMJ

The Local





Veterans Affairs makes exception for Medical Marijuana

26 07 2010

A veteran who grows his own cannabis for medical purpose

The Department of Veterans Affairs will formally allow patients treated at its hospitals and clinics to use medical marijuana in states where it is legal, a policy clarification that veterans have sought for several years.

A department directive, expected to take effect next week, resolves the conflict in veterans facilities between federal law, which outlaws marijuana, and the 14 states that allow medicinal use of the drug, effectively deferring to the states.

The policy will not permit department doctors to prescribe marijuana. But it will address the concern of many patients who use the drug that they could lose access to their prescription pain medication if caught.

Under department rules, veterans can be denied pain medications if they are found to be using illegal drugs. Until now, the department had no written exception for medical marijuana.

This has led many patients to distrust their doctors, veterans say. With doctors and patients pressing the veterans department for formal guidance, agency officials began drafting a policy last fall.

“When states start legalizing marijuana we are put in a bit of a unique position because as a federal agency, we are beholden to federal law,” said Dr. Robert Jesse, the principal deputy under secretary for health in the veterans department.

At the same time, Dr. Jesse said, “We didn’t want patients who were legally using marijuana to be administratively denied access to pain management programs.” Read the rest of this entry »





Smoking ban? On tobacco yes, Cannabis… not!

23 07 2010

Forbidden to toke, 50€ fine... could this become a common sign in California?

Finally, someplace gets it right when it comes to smoking.

Medical marijuana will not be subject to the smoking ban adopted by the Sebastopol City Council on Tuesday — at least for the time being.

The council unanimously(!) voted to remove medical marijuana from the proposed ordinance and focus only on the use of tobacco after a series of speakers, several of whom said they used cannabis for medical purposes, expressed fears that the ordinance would interfere with their legal use of pot.

The ordinance had originally included cannabis, as well as a number of other substances, including crack cocaine, reports George Snyder at Sonoma West Times & News.

The council decided to focus on tobacco alone at the suggestion of council member Linda Kelley as a way to allow medical marijuana users to not become entangled in potential legal issues outlined by City Attorney Larry McLaughlin.

In addition, although recreational pot use is not currently legal, that could change with Prop 19, which would legalize cannabis for adults, on the November ballot, McLaughlin said.

By limiting the focus of the smoking ordinance on the effects of nicotine and tobacco smoke, the council was told, the ordinance could sidestep the marijuana issue.

The council could, perhaps in six months or a year, revisit the marijuana exemption to see if complains about pot smoke indicated a problem, suggested council member Larry Robinson, who had long pushed adoption of the smoking ordinance.

“The point is not to infringe on the rights of people in their home, but to protect others in their homes,” Robinson said.

The city had been working since 2008 to make the smoking ordinance more comprehensive, according to City Manager Jack Griffin.

“The city has already established smoking bans in public parks and playgrounds,” Griffin said. “The proposed ordinance significantly increases the city’s smoking regulations to include a number of additional locations, most notably multi-family dwelling units.”

Current regulations focus on outlawing smoking in public places including retail stores, restaurants, banks, offices, theaters, auditoriums and other businesses.

The biggest change in the proposed ordinance would ban smoking in apartments (“multi-family dwelling units”), as well as in unenclosed apartment complex common areas except designated smoking areas.

The ordinance would require each lease or rental agreement in apartment complexes to contain provisions outlining the new rules.

Single-family homes would not be affected by the ordinance.

Source: Toke of the Town





Cannabis tax in California would generate 1.2 Bil.$ a year!

16 07 2010

California — Here’s a sure sign that  marijuana dispensaries are on their way to becoming big business: On July 13 the city council of Berkeley, Calif., asked voters to approve a 2.5 percent tax on the city’s  marijuana outlets, three of which grossed a total of $19 million last year, all cash. “This is huge,” says Mayor Tom Bates.

A dispensary in Oakland, Ca.

The tax will not only help close a $16.2 million budget gap, but it also makes sure that as the sale of pot goes mass market, the local community benefits, not outside business interests, Bates says. “We don’t want to have Philip Morris coming in here, sucking up all the money.”

Taxing pot sales is a growing trend across the nation as fiscally challenged cities eye the public’s budding acceptance of cannabis use. Denver has generated $1.2 million since December, when the city began collecting sales taxes from its 256 dispensaries. On June 15, Washington, D.C., approved a 6 percent tax on what will eventually be five dispensaries. Read the rest of this entry »





Colorado companies allowing their employees to use medical marijuana?

19 03 2010

Medicinal cannabisWhen it comes to medical marijuana, Colorado employers are caught between conflicting laws.

The state’s medical-marijuana amendment, passed by voters in 2000, says that employers don’t have to accommodate medical-marijuana use in the workplace.

But another Colorado law, enacted a few years ago to protect cigarette smokers, prohibits firing employees for engaging in legal activities during nonworking hours.

That suggests that people who smoke medical marijuana before arriving at work could be protected under state law, whether their employers like it or not. And with roughly 30,000 Coloradans now estimated to be qualified to use medical marijuana, employers are growing increasingly uneasy.

Read the rest of this entry »








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