July 28, 2014

Burn on the 4th of July: Marijuana, the Department of Homeland Security and the Liberty Bell

6/30/13 Drug War Tour on the march (photo by Elkanah Grogan)

PHILADELPHIA by Chris Goldstein 7/4/2013

We are celebrating an incredible revolution of ideas this week, one that has a living pulse today.

The Philadelphia of 1776 housed the women and men who crafted a new future for freedom. In 2013 it is where the United States federal government is displaying the tremendous cost and energy it will spend to arrest Americans simply for smoking marijuana.

On Sunday June 30th scores of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agents and National Park Service (NPS) Rangers along with Philadelphia Police (PPD) participated in a coordinated disruption of the monthly “Smoke Down Prohibition” protest in front of the Liberty Bell.

The six-month old event is organized (loosely) by comedy crew The Panic Hour and reform group PhillyNORML.

At 4:20PM many in the crowd lit cannabis joints in a symbolic protest against federal laws…as they have each month (in the same spot) since December 2012.

This time more than eighty members of law enforcement (all with guns, some in riot gear) were sent into the group of about 100 peaceful cannabis consumers who had just respectfully marched all the way from City Hall (in the rain) without incident.

But when protesters arrived at The People’s Plaza over a dozen people were roughly dragged to the ground by police, agents and rangers. Eight people were issued citations. I was one of those cited.

Video – http://youtu.be/HJisWNBFaz0 Photo set –

The strategies and tactics employed by the multiple agencies are a real window into the marijuana policy problem overall. More than 750,000 Americans will be treated the same way this year by police just for a small amount of pot; but most of the actual arrests won’t be so well documented.

President Obama, top-level politicians along with agency heads at the DEA, ONDCP and others claim that federal laws against possession of a few grams of weed isn’t on their radar. But that is a lie. We can see just how the federal government feels about marijuana legalization in their militarized response to a group of Americans openly carrying a little bit of cannabis.

Photo by Elkanah Grogan - 4:18PM on 6/30/2013 at Independence Mall

Drug War Tour

Sunday’s event was much more positive than the 15 minutes of intense police action against us.

Around 2:30PM a dedicated group of marijuana reform activists gathered under drenching but not uncomfortable summer rain in Love Park. Among the tourists snapping pictures we handed out leafy signs and umbrellas, staying upbeat with the comedy of The Panic Hour and a talk from anarchist writer Larkin Rose…both are actually best enjoyed standing in the rain anyway…like a Nine Inch Nails concert.

The Drug War Tour of Philly was organized by Mike Whiter, a US Marine combat veteran who wants Pennsylvania to legalize medical marijuana.

Participants included some seasoned activists like libertarian Adam Kokesh and Capt. Ray “Occupy” Lewis, the retired Philly Police Captain arrested at Occupy Wall Street. There were people of all ages and nearly every ethnicity, including a man in a wheelchair and a couple with a baby. We made for an excellent representative cross-section of our country.

Many were familiar faces to me; these are the people who have the courage to put forth a real effort for legalization. Everyone was there to walk twelve blocks in steady rain to ultimately enter a cage filled with federal agents for a joint smoking session.

The resolve and honest good nature of every single person involved remains an inspiration. Marching with them is always a privilege.

Steve Miller-Miller chants (photo by Elkanah Grogan)

At 3:15PM we left Love Park with local comic Steve Miller-Miller on the microphone “1-2-3-4 End The Lunatic Drug War!”

The amplifier was on the back on an old Army pickup truck (driven by an affable Libertarian survivalist), fittingly at the lead of the parade.

The event had a permit and an official police escort along with a PPD Civil Affairs unit. About ten Philly cops on bikes and in SUVs were focused on politely closing off intersections for our street march.

Our first stop was the West side of City Hall where I gave a talk directed toward Mayor Michael Nutter.

“There are more than 4,000 arrests each year in Philadelphia for marijuana and more than 80% of those are black men and women – but Mayor Nutter could de-prioritize marijuana possession.”

“Marijuana reform doesn’t have to start in Washington DC, it doesn’t have to start in Harrisburg it can start right here at City Hall.”

A recent resolution passed by the National Conference of Mayors pleaded with federal authorities to allow cities to direct their own criminal cannabis policies – reducing penalties. But a recommendation by the ACLU in their report highlighting the racial disparity to pot enforcement could be enacted by the Mayor at any time: de-prioritization; this directs police and prosecutors to take on serious crimes instead of busting people for weed.

Chants of “END THE DRUG WAR!” and “What do we want? LEGAL WEED! When do we want it? NOW!” echoed from the faces of the Gotham-style structure of Philly’s City Hall as we made our way up Market Street.

We had one more stop on our journey that turned into a powerful visit.

At 7th Street we made a left went one block to land in front of the Federal Detention Center. This is where comedian NA Poe and broadcaster Adam Kokesh were held on felony charges after DHS, Park Rangers and Philly Police arrested them at the May 18, 2013 “Smoke Down Prohibition” rally. (Video – http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=594_1369103091 )

Kokesh and Poe were held in the same cell inside for five days and they both spoke in front of the FDC,

“A lot of people are locked up in there because of the Drug War,” said Poe, but then there were several, very welcome interruptions to their speeches.

At first I thought some heavy rain might be falling nearby or a low, persistent thunder. But it was the prisoners inside the FDC banging on the windows in response to the protest on the street.

This was a profound and unique moment. We raised our voices with the prisoners of prohibition; the communication of the message was acknowledged by both sides. I saw tears mixing with the rain as cheers mixed with banging; a choir of voices, unified; all for legal marijuana.

6/30 FDC Video – http://youtu.be/HGtTH4_D8hE?t=5m53s

Keeping on schedule to reach the Liberty Bell by 4:20 we moved on with the march. In the 8tt Street underpass we took a break from the rain and listened to Ray Lewis give his view of drug laws.

The retired Philadelphia Police Captain used to respond to a lot of domestic violence calls, none of them he attributed to marijuana – but a lot of them seemed fueled by alcohol. The former cop joins a growing number of his colleagues who are taking the time to end a voice for change.

We continued our lively parade, a visible expression of a majority of Americans (likely even cops) in favor of legalization. We were energized by the brief respite and chanting for an end to cannabis prohibition.

In the distance we could see the massive police presence waiting for us.

Slowing leading the green camo truck up the center of a wet, reflective Market Street under cloudy skies to the small army of agents in front of Independence Hall was surreal. All of the protesters were calm.

6/30/13 marijuana march arrives at 5th and Market (Photo by Vanessa Maria at The Panic Hour)

 

Freedom cages and riot rangers

The area preserved for First Amendment activity at 5th and Market Street was ringed by metal barricade fencing when we arrived at 4:12. It is usually left open. We called it a “freedom cage” and walked inside.

Several dozen (visible) Department of Homeland Security agents deployed to our pot demonstration were in full black tactical gear with bullet-proof vests festooned (presumably) with extra magazines and other lethal equipment.

The several dozen Philly Police were all wearing baseball batting gloves (really) along with their guns and handcuffs.

National Park Service Rangers wore bullet-proof vests and were all carrying guns but there were also some special Rangers literally in GREEN riot gear with batons and helmets.

Oddly the US Fish and Wildlife Service also had another officer (also with a gun) who actually laid hands on a protester.

A processing tent was erected off to the side and staffed by more DHS, Rangers, Police and even the US Attorney’s Office.

Again this entire operation was staged because a group of Americans announced that we would smoke a joint at 4:20PM. (It probably even had a snappy code name…)

The federal response to this peaceful protest was way out of proportion.

I helped to lead the 4:20PM countdown at the first “Smoke Down Prohibition” in December and again at the largest gathering (so far) on April 20, 2013. There were only a few regular Rangers off in the far distance on those occasions. There was no metal fencing. One Ranger was close-by on 4/20/13 smiling and holding a video camera; not (visibly) armed with a gun.

A tolerant pragmatism on both sides and respectful détente seemed to be in effect among the local protesters and Rangers. So the disproportionate new tactics rolled out in May and June are clearly coming somewhere from the top -down.

Members of our group, including yours truly, were ready to take part in a civil disobedience action (openly smoking a marijuana joint) and to receive a citation. Smoking pot in public is something a reasonable person (even law enforcement) can agree is a minor issue, especially in the context of civil disobedience.

But Homeland Security, Park Rangers and Philly Police did not come with books of tickets, pepper spray and zip-ties; they appeared with loaded guns and metal handcuffs.

The world can now see the truth of US cannabis prohibition policy each month in Philadelphia. All of our federal AND local law enforcement resources are being aggressively deployed just to bust people with a joint.

Getting Cited

Chris Goldstein and Mike Whiter 4:20PM on 6/30/13 (photo by Elkanah Grogan)

Mike Whiter and I stood next to each other sharing a bullhorn with Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion at 4:19PM inside the federal freedom cage. Mike was wearing an olive green t-shirt with “Marines” emblazoned across it; I was in a pinstripe Ralph Lauren suit.

The rain stopped and the sun had just broken through the clouds over Independence Hall for the first time that day. The crowd huddled around Mike and me, not by design but by instinct.

We counted down from 20 seconds, the crowd got tighter but there was a small open circle right in front of me. People were already being pulled away from the edges and the atmosphere grew tense. Still I knew everyone was non-violent and sensed that everyone was prepared for the action.

As I got down from 10 seconds I put a joint in my mouth and when we reached “4:20” several lighters were held aloft and I lit it. Immediately squads of law enforcement weaved throughout the crowd. The young man on my left was pulled roughly away. I kept smoking the joint and told everyone to remain calm though the bullhorn.

I saw a tall Black man with long dreads holding only a video camera getting dragged to the ground by Rangers and Philly Police. Civil Affairs officers were rushing through the crowd as well. They seemed to be observing and even directing some arrests while ignoring others.

Those assembled made a powerful and poignant protest raising awareness for marijuana legalization. As their friends were roughly handled the Smoke Down participants shouted “No Victim; No Crime!” and many kept smoking.

I kept on toking my skinny but fragrant joint, catching the toughest buzz of my life. Mike got on the bullhorn pointing out that we were openly smoking marijuana…and that it was “really good” cannabis. Finally a local National Park Service Ranger approached me.

Since 2010 I’ve been peacefully protesting at 5th&Market for a variety of good causes. This particular Ranger and I had cordially interacted before. He wore a bark-brown and dark green uniform and reached up with a black leather glove to take the joint asking, “Is that marijuana?”

I smiled and said, “Yes, of course!” easing the joint from my right hand into his fingers as he seized my left elbow. He led me on a half-turn and we calmly walked over to the processing tent; a Philadelphia Police officer was at my right elbow and a Homeland Security agent followed behind.

Two separate Philly cops asked that I be handcuffed, but the Ranger replied that it was not necessary to both.

Mike continued smoking his joint for a few more puffs but was seized just after me in the same calm manner. Our interactions did not appear to be the norm. Many of those seized were needlessly manhandled and most were immediately released with no citations and no apology.

Over at the processing tent a man who had been carried over in handcuffs was yelling in pain saying his shoulder hurt from the position. His cuffs were eventually removed and he was sent away on an ambulance. Some of those detained were cited for “interference” not marijuana possession because they were seized while smoking tobacco cigarettes. Those cases could end up in court.

The Ranger briefly patted me down and asked for identification. I gave over my driver’s license and silently waited my turn.

I could see a Deputy US Attorney along with other higher-ups. Suddenly the Chief Ranger at Independence Mall National Historic Park, Patrick Suddath, came up and asked for me by name, then remarked that I was “overdressed.”

Suddath and I have interacted (cordially) before; during the local Occupy Wall Street encampment I traded my suit for cold weather gear.

“Liberty Bell tie; it’s for media appearances here,” I said.

The tie was a gift from fellow cannabis activist Colleen Begley; she bought it at the Independence Visitor Center gift shop. I hope Suddath noticed. He was quickly pulled away in another conversation.

Twenty minutes later the Rangers had filled out my citation for possession of a controlled substance and put the remaining ¼ of a joint into a plastic evidence bag. My name was then run for outstanding warrants and a Ranger took a digital photograph of me with the citation.

My interaction was boring, civil and by-the-book. But like all pot prohibition enforcement, they did not treat everyone the same way.

Video – http://youtu.be/HJisWNBFaz0 Photo set –

Rolling forward

Plans are already in the works for the July edition of “Smoke Down Prohibition.” Fundraising will take place to cover some of the citation fines from June and remain active for future events. Organizers and participants are determined to grow the action, swelling the number of cannabis consumers.

It is bizarre to be targeted by federal law enforcement in this fashion. Philadelphia Police Civil Affairs officers made a point tell us they had been briefed about the protest earlier in the week by federal agencies. This was likely a mild intimidation tactic but also an insight into the intense planning that went into the interruption of our protest.

Although fully armed and with just under one hundred cops, agents and rangers (don’t forget US Fish and Wildlife) law enforcement did not wait until 4:20PM but immediately encroached upon the protest – pulling people away before any joints were lit.

They interrupted our ability to peacefully gather and seek redress of our government. All of the officers who pledge to protect the US Constitution stood next to a monument to the First Amendment and willfully ignored it. Ultimately this is the length to which the federal government has always gone to defend and enforce this harmful policy – but now it is out in the open, symbolically and tangibly, for all to see.to

The heavily armed; grandly choreographed efforts against this awareness campaign for legal marijuana should be disturbing to all Americans.

Perhaps this is a hint into the Department of Homeland Security’s future tactics against cannabis consumers in Washington and Colorado. Or the reality could be that federal agencies take this approach to disrupt many groups simply for organizing around a political issue.

That is why I plan to continue participating in these monthly actions. We are not afraid to embrace our freedom.

My Green Pledge

The ability for The People to use the cannabis plant as we wish is a Civil Right and a Natural Right.

When the government insists on pursuing destructive forms against its own citizens it is our responsibility to dig deep and empower the foundations of our principals as a nation.

We the People hold unquestionable Civil and Human Rights to alter our United States government and organize it for our Safety and Happiness.

For seventy-five years we have endured the Prohibition of Cannabis at tremendous cost to our Lives and Liberties. We experience the current enforcement of these unreasonable laws as a modern tyranny.

We have diligently employed every legal and legislative avenue for decades to combat this injustice only to have all tiers of Government alter their form to maintain a policy that makes us suffer – by the millions – each year.

We The People of the United States of America are declaring our Right to utilize Cannabis.

Many of us will publicly exercise our liberties each month in front of Independence Hall, peacefully upholding the best of all American traditions in the face of armed federal troopers, until prohibition comes to an end.

One day I hope that same National Park Service Ranger can take a joint out of my hand not to cite me, but to share.

Happier times: The fourth "Smoke Down Prohibition" protest 4/20/13: there were no arrests or citations

Read more at freedomisgreen.com

Gallery: Liberty Bell gathering calls for federal marijuana legalization

Q&A with New Jersey Medicinal Marijuana Program Director

NJ Gov Christie denies stalling but admits rewriting medical marijuana law

IMPORTANT - Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions? chris(at)freedomisgreen.com

Support grows for NA Poe and Adam Kokesh: Jailed by Feds at Philly marijuana rally

Participants hold signs at the "Smoke Down Prohibition" marijuana protest in Philadelphia (photo via The Panic Hour)

5/22/13- PhillyNORML issued the following press release today.

CONTACT: Kevin Clough kevin@phillynorml.org

Supporters of N.A. Poe and Adam Kokesh will hold a brief press conference on May 23, 2013 at 2:30PM in front of the Byrne Federal Courthouse at 6th and Market Streets in Philadelphia.

Comedian/activist N.A. Poe and libertarian media host Adam Kokesh will appear for a detention hearing in Federal Magistrate Court on Thursday after they were targeted for arrest by National Park Rangers during a protest of America’s unjust marijuana prohibition laws in front of the Liberty Bell on May 18th, 2013.

Members of PhillyNORML, Adam vs The Man and The Panic Hour who witnessed the protest will be on hand at the press conference to discuss the events with the media.

Both Poe and Kokesh have been charged with a felony for resisting and/or impeding. Both were denied release or bail at their initial hearing on May20th.

Supporters are also gathering at the corner of 7th and ArchStreets for a solidarity demonstration at 10AM on May 23rd in front of the Federal Detention Center where the pair are being held.

Poe’s comedy/activism group The Panic Hour, PhillyNORML, PA Veterans for Medical Marijuana have gathered with hundreds of individuals for monthly “Smoke Down Prohibition” demonstrations since December 2012. Although many in the crowd participate in open cannabis smoking as an act of civil disobedience; there were no arrests, citations or encroachments by Park Rangers or Philadelphia Police at any of the four previous events.

The protests take place at Independence Mall National Historic Park on an area known as “The People’s Plaza” that is designated by the Park Service specifically for Free Speech. Poe and Kokesh were arrested next to a granite monument inscribed with the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

“We’ve engaged in many public events this year and the display of force from Rangers and Police I saw at the rally on May 18th was completely uncalled for,” said PhillyNORML Executive Director Kevin Clough.

The Panic Hour issued this statement: “These arrests only provide more evidence for the existence of a police state, the suppression of free speech, and failed drug policies. We are not deterred. We will continue to fight to get our friends removed from federal custody and continue to organize to legalize cannabis in PA.”

Clough assured that demonstrations to end cannabis prohibition will not stop in Philadelphia, “PhillyNORML has a long history of peaceful events calling for marijuana legalization, and there will be more in the future.”

Video of the May 18, 2013 protest http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=ace_1368971649

Video of the April 20, 2013 protest http://youtu.be/kc3wP_gnBus

 

Freedomisgreen photo galleries on Facebook

Happier times: The fourth "Smoke Down Prohibition" protest 4/20/13: there were no arrests or citations (photo Rae Bronze

Read more at freedomisgreen.com

Gallery: Liberty Bell gathering calls for federal marijuana legalization

Q&A with New Jersey Medicinal Marijuana Program Director

NJ Gov Christie denies stalling but admits rewriting medical marijuana law

IMPORTANT - Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions? chris(at)freedomisgreen.com

 

Marijuana activists arrested at Liberty Bell protest

National Park Service Police move in on the marijuana legalization protest "Smoke Down Prohibition" May 18, 2013

5/19/13 - Federal Park Rangers and Philadelphia City Police disrupted the monthly “Smoke Down Prohibition” protest at the Liberty Bell calling for marijuana legalization and made several dramatic arrests.

On Saturday May 18, 2013 a crowd about 150 gathered in front of Independence Hall.

At 4:20PM, the moment when much of the crowd participates in civil disobedience by openly smoking cannabis, dozens of law enforcement moved into the crowd.

Those on stage speaking to the crowd were targeted for detainment, including one of the organizers.

Video: http://youtu.be/NTHBC6JOc4M

There were at least five arrests, including NA Poe of the comedy crew The Panic Hour.

Also arrested were Adam Kokesh host of AdamVsTheMan and Don DeZarn a New Jersey Libertarian candidate for US Senate.

Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion was briefly detained but released. One unidentified woman was roughly carried away but also quickly released.

The protests take place in front of Independence Hall permanently reserved by the National Park Service for First Amendment activity. Despite the targeted arrests and a heavy police presence, dozens in the crowd continued the action by openly smoking marijuana from 4:20PM-4:45PM.

At four previous “Smoke Down Prohibition” events there were no arrests or citations.

NA Poe and Adam Kokesh are still being held in the Federal Detention Facility at 7th and Arch Streets. A solidarity demonstration will take place in front of the jail today starting at 2:00PM.

“What was originally a rally to highlight issues regarding cannabis prohibition has shown that our First Amendment rights are not protected by the park rangers and police,” said PhillyNORML Executive Director Kevin Clough.

The Panic Hour issued this statement: “These arrests are the beginning of a long fight we have ahead of us to end cannabis prohibition and maintain our right to free speech.”

FB Solidarity Eventhttps://www.facebook.com/events/194482224036867/

The N.A. Poe Defense Fundhttp://fundly.com/the-n-a-poe-defense-fund

 

 

 

Philadelphia Marijuana Activism in High Gear

Philadelphia; Liberty Bell 4:20PM on 4/20/13

5/9/13 by Chris Goldstein - Advocates working to legalize marijuana are keeping a busy schedule in the Philly area with a series of public events.

On May 7th the NORML Women’s Alliance held a vigil at the historic Betsy Ross House in a memorial tribute to Rachel Hoffman and victims of Prohibition.

After an arrest in Florida for marijuana Hoffman was recruited as a police informant, a role that led to her murder.

NORML Women's Alliance - Rachel Hoffman Memorial (via Ken Wolski)

The group of about two dozen activists, almost all women, solemnly read the names of those who have suffered tragically under prohibition policy including prisoners currently behind bars in America’s war on marijuana consumers.

Vanessa Waltz helped to organize the event; “The mood was very reflective and somber;  these were people who were killed in botched police raids or because they felt they had to be police informants,” Waltz added; “I hope everyone realizes that there are people in prison, for life, because of non-violent marijuana offenses.”

On Saturday May 11th PhillyNORML will hold the annual Global Cannabis March on South Street. The long-running event (over a decade) attracts hundreds of participants for a 4:20PM walk from Broad Street to the Front Street pedestrian bridge.

“Cannabis prohibition costs the Commonwealth more than three-hundred million tax-payer dollars every year for about twenty-four thousand arrests,” said Philly NORML Executive Director Kevin Clough.

“This march shows how sick and tired people are of closing schools, building prisons and wasting money on marijuana prohibition.”

 

Then the following week, on Saturday May 18th, PhillyNORML and comedy/activism crew The Panic Hour will be back on Independence Mall for their monthly “Smoke Down Prohibition” protest. During the last outing, hundreds lit joints in open civil disobedience to call for cannabis legalization on a sunny 4/20/13.

 

Pennsylvania has two pieces of marijuana reform legislation currently active in Harrisburg. The Governor Shafer Compassionate Use Act HB1181/SB770 would allow for seriously ill patients to access a state medical marijuana system. The bill is different than New Jersey’s ineffective law because it also allows for patients and caregivers to cultivate at home.

Informational hearings were held for the medical access bill in the PA House during the 2010 and 2011 sessions but the Public Health Committee never held a vote. It is currently assigned to the same committee chaired by Republican Rep. Matthew Baker, who is an opponent of the measure.

Several polls by Franklin&Marshall put public support for a local cannabis program above 80% (impressive for any issue ) making it one of the most popular policy issues in PA politics.

 

A separate bill has been introduced to create a taxed and regulated system to sell recreational marijuana to adults. SB 528 is currently assigned to the Senate Law and Justice Committee chaired by Senator Charles McIlhinney, a Republican who has not offered a position on the bill. The same committee is currently (and not without irony) embroiled in the issue of privatizing PA’s state-run liquor stores.

The primary sponsors of both cannabis bills are Mark Cohen in the House and Daylin Leach in the Senate.

Yet the legislation is Harrisburg seems stalled. The respective committees (namely their chairperson) will need to offer the bills for hearings to move them forward. The Republican majority caucus of the PA General Assembly seems unwilling to take a break from their heavy investment into alcohol and consider the benefits of something far safer.

Still, the overwhelming super-majority of Pennsylvanians (in both parties) support some level of change … so the spring of 2013 seems to be the right time for this surge of public participation to have some measurable impact on politicians.

FB Event – Philly March 5/11:    https://www.facebook.com/events/136148226571083/

FB Event – Smoke Down Prohibition protest 5/18   https://www.facebook.com/events/455712674507072

 

 

Read more at freedomisgreen.com

Gallery: Liberty Bell gathering calls for federal marijuana legalization

Q&A with New Jersey Medicinal Marijuana Program Director

NJ Gov Christie denies stalling but admits rewriting medical marijuana law

IMPORTANT - Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions? chris(at)freedomisgreen.com

Prince Harry gets royal marijuana treatment for NJ visit

3/28/13 by Chris Goldstein – Scores of people from around the globe have been denied legal entry into the United States because they admitted to smoking marijuana – but not Britain’s Prince Harry.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie guaranteed that Harry will remain fully clothed during an upcoming Frankenstorm Tour visit. But before he was topless (and bottomless) in Vegas the red-haired Prince was famous for being the only known stoner in such direct succession to the throne. [Read more...]

Gallery: Liberty Bell gathering calls for federal marijuana legalization

12/20/2012 – Over one hundred and fifty supporters gathered in Philadelphia on Saturday December 15th to call for the federal legalization of cannabis. “Smoke Down Prohibition” was organized by a local comedy activism crew The Panic Hour and supported by PhillyNORML. The event took place in front of Independence Mall and the Liberty Bell.

Speakers included: N.A. Poe and Steve Miller-Miller from The Panic Hour; Adam Kokesh from AdamvsTheMan; Ken Wolski from The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ);  Vanessa Waltz medical marijuana patient; and yours truly from Freedomisgreen.com and PhillyNORML.

At 4:20PM most of the crowd participated in civil disobedience by smoking cannabis until 4:30PM. [Read more...]

Today in Philadelphia: “Smoke Down” Marijuana Prohibition

I am your neighbor and I smoke pot

"I am your neighbor and I smoke pot" sign at PhillyNORML march 2010

Press release – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 12/15/2012
UPDATE: Over 600 have signed up on Facebook

“Smoke Down Prohibition” at Independence Hall

Philadelphia - Landmark victories in Colorado and Washington State have legalized marijuana for adults but prohibition continues for the rest of America. Cannabis and hemp legalization supporters will gather at Independence Hall this Saturday to call for an end to the federal war on marijuana.

Organized by local comedy activism crew The Panic Hour “Smoke Down Prohibition” will feature speeches from political reform groups, including PhillyNORML.

The Panic Hour issued this statement from their production bunker today: “We love marijuana, smoke it daily, and so do millions of other Americans. We are hardworking, taxpaying, cannabis-using Americans not criminals, and we’ll be out in full force at the Liberty Bell this Saturday.”

Participants and supporters are gathering at 5th & Market at 3:30PM with a moment of cannabis reflection promptly at 4:20PM.

The protest site is among The Liberty Bell, The First Presidential Mansion, Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center. The location is designated as “The People’s Plaza,” an area reserved for 1st Amendment demonstrations. Participants will be engaging in clear acts of protest and/or civil disobedience to highlight the failed policy of federal cannabis prohibition.

“Our Constitution; federalism;  the concept of American Liberty were crafted right here,” said PhillyNORML Board member Chris Goldstein, “so this is a good place to ask President Obama and Congress to end this failed policy and legalize cannabis.”

Speakers:

N.A. Poe and Steve Miller-Miller from The Panic Hour; Adam Kokesh from AdamvsTheMan; Chris Goldstein from PhillyNORML; Ken Wolski from The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ); Colleen Begley NJ marijuana defendant; Vanessa Waltz medical marijuana patient; more speakers may be added.

Those who may be participating in civil disobedience are aware of the following: The National Park Service can issue a citation for marijuana possession. This is usually not a custodial arrest – it is a summons to federal court that can be settled by paying a $175 fine. This only applies to those in possession of a SMALL amount (i.e. a joint) and their legal ID.

EVENT INFORMATION

Event on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/551730664843314/

Time: Saturday December 15, 2012 from 3:30PM to 4:35PM

4:20PM – Moment of Cannabis Reflection

Location: 5thSt and Market St Philadelphia

CONTACT: The Panic Hour: thepanichour@gmail.com PhillyNORML media@phillynorml.org

Quick Report: 26K Marijuana arrests in PA and Philadelphia

Marcher holding a volunteer-crafted sign at PhillyNORML

11/26/12 by Chris Goldstein – Pennsylvania maintains a crime reporting database that is almost unique in the United States for the excellent level of “sunshine.”  At PhillyNORML we’ve been analyzing the marijuana arrest data for many years.  Unlike other states – we can access detailed information about the marijuana arrests in every county or even down to individual precincts in a city. [Read more...]

New Jersey medical marijuana supply safe after Superstorm Sandy

Medical cannabis growing at Oaksterdam via Chris Goldstein

11/2/2012 - John O’Brien, the director New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP), reported today that the state’s only cannabis provider was unaffected by Hurricane Sandy.  Greenleaf Compassion Center is the single, fully permitted Alternative Treatment Center. They operate a dispensary in Montclair, NJ and a growing facility at an undisclosed Northern New Jersey location.

O’Brien said via email this morning: “The Greenleaf cultivation facility didn’t miss a beat, no loss of power.  Their harvested product is good and the new cultivation is doing well.  Mr. Stevens [Greenleaf CEO] and company have assembled a secure and sustainable facility.  He deserves a lot of credit for his planning and forethought.”

Concern has turned to relief among registered and potentially qualifying NJ patients who wondered if the historic storm could have an impact on the nascent program.

Patients have started to receive their identification cards from the NJ Department of Health (DOH). Still, prior to the storm Greenleaf ATC had not started serving patients just yet.

O’Brien did not give a time-frame but said, “We continue to work with Joe towards an opening date.”

Advocates at The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ) point out that severe weather is just one of the reasons why more medical cannabis ATCs must be opened in different regions of the state. NJ is the first state to pass a compassionate use law that does not include provisions for home cultivation by patients or caregivers. Governor Chris Christie and NJDOH regulators have also refused to allow the ATCs to deliver cannabis to homes; a common practice with pharmaceutical medication.

At the moment, any registered NJ medical marijuana patient or their registered caregiver must travel to Greenleaf ATC to purchase cannabis that is legal under the law. Montclair is in northern New Jersey, just outside New York City. Although the area is easily accessible via roads and public transit, MMP participants in southern NJ (such as Cape May County) face a 10-hour round-trip journey, under the best conditions.

NJ MMP website: http://www.state.nj.us/health/medicalmarijuana/index.shtml

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com

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Q&A with New Jersey Medicinal Marijuana Program Director

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Q&A with New Jersey Medicinal Marijuana Program Director

NJ medical marijuana patient ID card FiG exclusive

NJ medical marijuana patient ID card freedomisgreen exclusive via John Lassiter

 

10/23/2012 by Chris Goldstein –  NJ Medicinal Marijuana Program (MMP) Director John O’Brien responded to questions from freedomisgreen.com and clarified some details about access. Last week the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) announced that Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair is now the only Alternative Treatment Center fully permitted to dispense cannabis in the Garden State. Registered patients also started to receive ID cards (see photo).

Medicinal Marijuana Program Questions

1-[FiG] – How do registered patients and caregivers obtain their ID cards? [re:physical cards]

  • [O'Brien] – DOH originally engaged the Alternative Treatment Centers with the prospect of being the centralized distribution point for ID card delivery.  At that time, the ATCs showed interest in being distributors.  However during a recent progress meeting, Greenleaf representatives expressed concerns regarding security at their Montclair dispensary related to ID card distribution.  The department developed an alternative approach using the mail.  The identification cards are being mailed to the patient and caregiver residences through the mail.  All caregivers and patients who had previously registered will have their cards dated effective Oct. 15—the date Greenleaf was issued its permit. The identification cards are good for two years.

2- [FiG] -How many patients and caregivers have completed the registration process to receive an ID card?

  • [O'Brien] -As of close of business on Friday 10/19/12, there are 223 approved patients, 49 patients under review (the review process involves the validation of a patients submitted documents, proof of residency, photo ID, picture and government assistance if applicable) and 82 patients with physician authorization but have not initiated their registration.  The number of potential patients is 354.  There are 16 approved caregivers and 23 caregivers under review for a total of 39 potential caregivers.  Our customer service unit has contacted and is working with each applicant to ensure a timely and successful registration process.

3- [FiG] - Has DOH check[ed] through the list of registered physicians to confirm their participation in the MMP?

  • [O'Brien] – DOH conducts a routine confirmation of registered physician status with the BME for license in good standing and a valid CDS registration.  To date there are 176 physicians registered with the program.  37 have requested to be inactivated.  72 physicians are actively authoring Attending Physician Statement for their patients.

4- [FiG] -Has DOH, MMP or the NJ Board of Medical Examiners sent instructions, information or offered presentations on how to utilize cannabis therapy and/or participate in the MMP? [specifically to physicians]

  • [O'Brien] -The MMP has been in contact with registered physicians and patients via email and phone providing guidance on MMP procedures.  The MMP also provides information on our web site.  The MMP has engaged the Drug Policy Alliance in the development of a resource library of scholarly articles geared toward providing physicians and patient’s information on the use of medical marijuana.  The MMP has also partnered with the Medical Society of New Jersey in preparing and hosting a webinar to educate the states physician population on issues related to the MMP.  Both of these initiatives are in process.

The Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act of New Jersey was signed into law in January 2010. The Medicinal Marijuana Program was created under DOH in 2011 and John H. O’Brien was hired as Director. Some have been put off by his previous job; 26 years with the NJ State Police. But O’Brien has shown earnest commitment to getting the very limited NJ program running for patients.

The fact that O’Brien responded directly to questions via email, rather than NJDOH communication staff, does indicate a more open dialogue between the MMP and the public.

NJ MMP website: http://www.state.nj.us/health/medicalmarijuana/index.shtml

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com

Read more at freedomisgreen.com

NJ Gov Christie denies stalling but admits rewriting medical marijuana law

IMPORTANT - Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

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