Big Week for East Coast Cannabis

Marijuana reform is on the move

5/14/2011 – As states on the East Coast move through the spring legislative season there has been significant progress on marijuana reform bills. This week saw major news that governors in Maryland and Delaware signed their medical cannabis bills into law after strong, bi-partisan votes of passage.

Delaware becomes the 16th state with a regulated medical cannabis program, one that has county-level dispensaries.  Maryland does not allow any legal method to obtain marijuana, but patients with serious conditions who get arrested can now offer a positive defense in court. Vermont’s bill is also expecting a signature soon.

Here are some important developments from the last 7 days:

Legislation Would Stop New York City Marijuana Arrests

Medical marijuana in New Jersey gets more complicated
Second Committee Passes Marijuana Decrim in Connecticut
New Hampshire Tables Medical Marijuana Bill
Rhode Island Gov Caves to Fed, Stops Medical Marijuana Centers
Maine Marijuana Legalization Bill Could Go To Voters
Vermont Marijuana Dispensaries Almost Law, More States To Follow

Additional articles from category editors:

How To Talk to an Undercover Cop at a Marijuana Rally by Chris Goldstein

New Science Supports Cannabis for Pain Treatment by Jahan Marcu

A Mother’s Day Message from a Cannabis Legalizing Mom – by Diane Fornbacher

What I Learned at the 2011 National NORML Conference – by Beth Mann

CONTACT: Chris Goldstein chris[ at] or 267 702 3731

Follow marijuana reform bills around the country in NORML’s Take Action Center –

Big Apple Goes Green with Most Expensive Pot in America

Empire State NORML logo

Marijuana consumers in New York City already know that pot prices are sky high. But how about dropping a cool grand on a few grams? Professor Harry Levine and the Drug Policy Alliance released a landmark report this week showing that NYC sinks $75 million dollars annually into arrests for small amounts of marijuana. Read the full report

“We are spending all of this money to basically to get nickel bags, dime bags … a joint,” Levine said at a press conference last Thursday.

That would equate to $1,500 per nick’ or joint, assuring that New York City taxpayers own the most expensive pot in the country. Too bad no one will get to enjoy it.

Douglas Greene at Empire State NORML organized the press conference and it was a privilege for me to speak alongside some powerhouses of reform. Our job was to take an important message to the streets: Smoking marijuana is much safer than drinking alcohol for St Patrick’s Day.

Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist and popular author made a compelling case: “Alcohol withdrawal comes with a 30% chance of death. This is much more deadly than even heroin withdrawal.” She went on to emphasize the overwhelming safety of marijuana, a substance that never caused a single human death.

Doug Greene and Rev. Jay Goldstein (friend but not related) spoke on behalf of the local effort to change cannabis laws including a medical marijuana bill active in Albany.

Daniel Jabbour of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) emphasized that most pot arrests are young people of color who may loose their financial aid over a joint.

Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance closed out the talks with the appeal that all substance prohibitions should end.

The public gave us us a tremendously positive response. Scores of passersby gathered on both sides of Broadway listening to the passionate and informed speeches.

NYC saw gorgeous spring weather on Thursday for the celebration of everything Irish. The warm and welcome sun brought out a lot of green. There were emerald ties with every suit, prolific shamrock buttons, giant Leprechaun hats, more than few lime colored wigs and even bagpipes (ok those were plaid).

My own quote: “I say we wear green every single day until we get legalization because marijuana is safer every day not just on St. Patrick’s Day.”

Doug Greene, Chris Goldstein, Professor Harry Levine, Dr. Julie Holland, Rev. Jay Goldstein – photo by Jim Bissell

The second annual St. Patrick’s Day press conference was inspired by the book Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? by Steve Fox, Paul Armentano and Mason Tvert.

Behind the Scenes: The Dr. Oz Medical Marijuana Show

Here I am at the MSNBC Digital Cafe just before a taping of The Dr. Oz Show

3/28/2011 – On March 29, The Dr. Oz Show airs the new program “Medical Marijuana: Is it Time to Make it Legal?” and I had the chance to participate. But being on the set of a major network television show at 30 Rockefeller Center is a lot different than watching it at home. The audience you see clapping and cheering or booing and hissing has been carefully selected. This was no puff-piece either because in the studio with us were some of the oldest and meanest anti-marijuana prohibitionists left in the country.

The production staff used different channels to reach out to New Jersey’s medical cannabis groups; that’s when I got the call. Many of us were rather excited at the prospect of telling our stories about the struggle that patients and advocates face here in the Garden State. A few of us were even promised we would have direct interaction with Dr. Oz.

The associate producer asked us to start a chain of calls and emails to help her find the perfect audience filled with people who are pro-medical marijuana. She also mentioned that she wanted to feature a patient that fit this description:
“We are looking for a woman in the age range of 35-50 (or around those ages) who currently uses medical marijuana. She should have one of the conditions that it is known to help and will speak openly about the cause, how frustrating it is to not have it available and how important it is to her condition to have this.”

They decided to go with Sandy Faiola, a Multiple Sclerosis patient and medical marijuana advocate from Asbury Park, NJ. Sandy has shown up to press conferences, protests and to testify before the Legislature in Trenton demanding her right to have the medicine works best for her illness.

When we arrived they took us up to MSNBC .com Digital Café to register with the audience coordinator. As we lined up to take our seats we could see that the entrances were strategically coordinated; we were waiting only with audience members who held the same opinion. Peeking into the studio decorated with fake green houseplants and monitors reading “Medical Marijuana” we were all becoming quite enthusiastic for this novel experience. It probably helped that the stage manager was loudly blasting party hits from the 80’s and 90’s to drum up the enthusiasm.

I was seated next to my good friend and fellow activist Charles Kwiatkowski; we both volunteer with The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey. Carina Cialini, a friend and a colleague with the NORML Women’s Alliance, was seated in the row behind us. By the time the cameras were ready to roll people in the audience were singing along loudly and some were even dancing in the aisles.

A comedian named “Steve” came out and started to tell jokes, hyping up the audience and going over the rules of the show. He encouraged us to boo anything we didn’t like then cheer for what we loved and do it loudly too. But we were told not interrupt the host if we could help it, especially during the guest interview process.

Diane with Cheryl and Jim Miller in 2001

Steve counted down, the audience revved up the applause on cue and Dr. Oz made his big entrance. He introduced the topic and a video montage was displayed. I was quite pleased to see that Cheryl Miller, our medical marijuana hero here in New Jersey was shown in her reclined wheelchair. It was quite difficult for me not to weep seeing her image, I very much wish she were alive so she could see how far we have come for patients.

After the introductory segment, I noticed that a much bigger portion of the audience was on the opposing side than we originally expected. However, we were very quickly distracted because after Dr. Oz sat down once the surprise guest came out on stage. It was none other than Montel Williams! Immediately patients, advocates, and general admission audience members got excited.

Montel is a former talk show host and, like our friend Sandy, he is battling Multiple Sclerosis. He was recently arrested for possession of a pipe at the General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee. He has also been very active within the medical marijuana community, testifying and holding media events in states trying to pass laws for patient access.

Dr. Oz and Montel Williams image from

Montel shared his very emotional story, and at times had to pause to collect himself. He stressed the importance of patients being allowed to choose to use what works best.  However, at his most candid moments Montel was rudely interrupted by  prohibitionist David Evans of Flemington, NJ and two of his cohorts. They were placed in the audience just to heckle the pro-medical marijuana guests. Dr. Oz himself was cut off several times along with anyone in favor of medical marijuana.

I was angered and appalled at the lack of manners by these prohibitionists. Those of us who came to advocate and educate waited our turns to speak and were very respectful. But being polite and logical was a disadvantage for getting time on the air during this show.

Dr. Oz and guests like Dr. Donald Abrams went on to discuss the difference between the medical marijuana laws in the west specifically California and Colorado versus the east and especially in my home state of New Jersey. Allen St. Pierre, the Executive Director of NORML elaborated on how the laws aren’t perfect in California but before he could continue Allen was interrupted by rude outbursts coming from incredibly arrogant individuals on the prohibitionist side.

Overall, there seemed to be a negative approach toward the California medical marijuana industry. Dr. Oz showed a video clip of a show correspondent in a warehouse grow facility somewhere in CA, when the camera panned back Oz reflected that he was “repulsed” by it.

Also featured as an “expert” on the show was Dr. Andrea Barthwell, who worked in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George W. Bush. Unsurprisingly she keep in line with her former employers, parroting the mantra that medical marijuana “sends the wrong message to our young people” and “there are plenty of other ways to help those who suffer from these (ailments) than using marijuana.”

Carina Cialini of the NORML Women’s Alliance had this to say about her experience as a member of the audience and the overall feelings about the medical marijuana show:

“I would like to thank Dr. Oz for doing the show. The program will spark an increased mainstream discussion about medical marijuana…this is always a good thing. At the same time I have to admit some disappointment with the taping. I found that the opposition was completely out of line not to mention some of the rudest people I have ever encountered in my life. Their behavior wasn’t even close to abiding by audience guidelines that the studio manager provided us.  All of it made me question if the producers really cared about the sick and terminal medical marijuana patients given that David Evans and his crew were never asked to stop their outbursts.”

Carina added, “It is critical now more than ever that our nation is educated properly and correctly regarding the use of medical cannabis.”

A NJ medical marijuana patient demonstrates in Trenton – photo by Libertae Photography/Diane Fornbacher

Watch video of the show online

[Editor’s Note – We got an email over the weekend informing us that Sandy Faiola’s feature was cut from the final program .]

Diane Fornbacher has been a cannabis law reform activist for 15 years. She has worked with some of the top reform organizations (NORML, Drug Policy Alliance, ASA, The November Coalition). Fornbacher is the current Vice Chair of the NORML Women’s Alliance and serves on the board of The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ). When she isn’t working to change the cannabis laws, she enjoys photography and writing/performing poetry.  Contact grassroots {at}

Attorney: Just Say No to Police

Bill Buckman at the PhillyNORML Freedom Forum 2009

William Buckman is a criminal defense attorney in New Jersey who recently published an excellent blog about how to handle police encounters:  Always Remain Silent… What To Do When Questioned By Police.  Bill is a prominent member of the national NORML Legal Committee and serves on the Board of Directors at NORML-NJ. The wisdom he shares is important reading for all cannabis consumers.

From In Bill’s Words March 2011 – I have practiced criminal law for over 30 years. I am still mystified as to why people under investigation speak to police. To try to help my clients I have placed on the back of my card the following:

My lawyer has told me not to talk to anyone about my case, not to answer questions, and not to reply to accusations. Call my lawyer if you want to ask me questions, search me or my property, do any tests, do any lineups, or any other identification procedures. I do not agree to any of these things without my lawyer present and I do not want to waive any of my constitutional rights. If I am being charged with DUI, I agree to a breath test.

Unfortunately too many people reach my office after they have spoken.

Let me be succinct: Of those of my clients convicted of an offense, 90% or more are convicted, at least partially, by something that came from their own mouths. The reasons clients give me for speaking are legion: “I just wanted to be cooperative; the police threatened me; I had nothing to hide;” etc.

Yet all excuses beg the question: Can you severely prejudice your case – guilty or innocent– if you speak to police. The answer is an emphatic “YES.”

I would note that a common misunderstanding among Americans is the fear that refusal to answer implies guilt. Whether this is true or not or what people may think of your decision to exercise your Fifth Amendment right (i.e. silence), should be dramatically overshadowed by the fact that what you consider a simple answer could land you in prison.

Read the full piece here, but the closing statement is worth emphasizing:

So if ever you are approached by police for “simple questioning”- please – JUST SAY NO or insist that your lawyer be present no matter how intimidating, threatening or even violent the encounter may be. It is far better to take abuse up front than to make a statement that can be used to hurt you for a much longer period of time.

Now that is some sound advice from one of America’s top lawyers for civil rights/criminal defense. Thank you Mr. Buckman!

Buckman Law Firm:

NORML Legal Committee:

Don’t wait to get busted to help NORML legalize pot – make a donation today!

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. He volunteers with local groups to change prohibition laws including PhillyNORML and The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey. He enjoys old-school hip-hop, vintage airplanes and changing the world. Contact chris { at }

Another Study Confirms Anti-Cancer Effects of THC and CBD

Jahan Marcu slide: Torres fig1

Another Study Confirms Anti-Cancer Effects of THC and CBDby – Jahan Marcu, Science EditorExcerpt below- read in full at Jahan’s blog: The Philadelphia Medical Marijuana Examiner

Last year, the journal of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics published research demonstrating that combination’s of THC and CBD, the two most abundant cannabinoids on the plant, can lead to a greater-than-additive or synergistic inhibition of cancer growth. Now, nearly a year to the date, the journal has published another article studying the anti-cancer effects of THC and CBD. The new article takes the next steps towards getting this therapy in to the clinic by testing THC and CBD in animals along side a common brain tumor drug TMZ (temozolomide).The study was conducted in Spain, and the experiments analyzing the effects of cannabinoids were conducted with tumors or brain cancer cells from human samples and a tumor xenograft mouse model. A tumor xenograft model is basically a cancer that is induced into an animal that has a compromised immune system. This allows researchers to give a mouse a tumor consisting of human cells, thus a promising anti-cancer treatment can be tested on a human tumor in a more natural environment, than a petri dish.The plant cannabinoids used for this study were “kindly provided by GW pharmaceuticals.” THC and CBD were also provided as plant extracts or “botanical drug substances,” meaning they contained small amounts of other cannabinoids. Allowing these researchers to construct a custom anti-cancer, Sativex-like substance. Other synthetic cannabinoids such as SR141716A and SR144528 were donated by Sonafi-Aventis.In the figure provided it shows that THC and TMZ can drastically inhibit the size of tumor. The pictures on the graph are of tumors after 15 days of treatment.

Read in full at Jahan’s blog: The Philadelphia Medical Marijuana Examiner

Amy Winehouse – Friend of Cannabis and a Lot of Other Substances – Dead at 27

“I didn’t go out looking to be famous. I’m just a musician.”

Amy Winehouse, who reportedly has used weed in the past as a way to suppress her urge for harder drugs, is found dead in her London flat. The singer/songwriter has had well-known battles with addiction over the years.

LONDON — Amy Winehouse, the beehived soul-jazz diva whose self-destructive habits overshadowed a distinctive musical talent, was found dead Saturday in her London home, police said. She was 27.

Winehouse shot to fame with the album “Back to Black,” whose blend of jazz, soul, rock and classic pop was a global hit. It won five Grammys and made Winehouse — with her black beehive hairdo and old-fashioned sailor tattoos — one of music’s most recognizable stars.

Police confirmed that a 27-year-old female was pronounced dead at the home in Camden Square northern London; the cause of death was not immediately known. London Ambulance Services said Winehouse had died before the two ambulance crews it sent arrived at the scene.

An ambulance could be seen parked beneath the trees outside her London home, and the whole street was cordoned off by police tape. Officers kept onlookers away from the scene.

Last month, Winehouse canceled her European comeback tour after she swayed and slurred her way through barely recognizable songs in her first show in the Serbian capital of Belgrade. Booed and jeered off stage, she flew home and her management said she would take time off to recover.

Read more.

Amy Winehouse, the artist:

Alt weekly takes on racial disparity of Philly pot arrests

Philadelphia Weekly cover art 3/2/2011

The Philadelphia Weekly has published a groundbreaking feature article looking at the racial disparity of the city’s marijuana arrests. Blunt Assessment: The Need for Legal Weed in Philadelphia explores the issue from the streets to the courts.

Journalist Nina Hoffmann interviewed hip-hop artists, retired law enforcement, marijuana policy experts (including this author) and most revealing; black Philly residents as they go though Small Amount of Marijuana (SAM) program.

Each year PhillyNORML compiles the arrests statistics for the state of Pennsylvania using the annual Uniform Crime report. PA’s crime datatbase is actually easily accessible by the public, unlike other states like New Jersey.

Read the numbers in the following articles:

2008 city stats – Philly: White women rarely arrested for pot

2009 city stats – Philadelphia: Marijuana arrests remain high

2009 PA statewide – Pennsylvania saw 25,635 marijuana arrests last year

In 2009 and 2010 PhillyNORML urged city officials to change local marijuana procedures.

Last year Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams and the State Supreme Court created a diversion process called the Small Amount of Marijuana (SAM) Program. The tangibly eases the penalties for the over 4,700 adults caught with small amounts of pot each year. The successful and publicly popular shift will save the city about $3 million annually.

Unfortunately, Philly still requires the custodial arrest of citizens caught with any amount of marijuana before they go into the SAM program. Most counties in Pennsylvania issue a summary violation: A ticket with no arrest.

Take a moment to read Blunt Assessment: The Need for Legal Weed in Philadelphia

Advocates Battle Clock for New York Marijuana Bill

6/23/2011 – Guest blog by Rob Robinson and Jen Rog – New York has had a good week when it comes to drug policy reform. A 911 Good Samaritan Law passed easily in the Assembly, where we have gotten some results. Working directly with NY state senators, the Drug Policy Alliance and New York Cannabis Alliance influenced the Senate version of the bill, which passed this Monday June 20th. Governor Cuomo is expected to sign it into law. The phone calls, emails and communications that came through to the Senate when we asked for them really moved this bill forward. The public support also insured we got a strong law and not a watered-down version.

Let’s keep up the momentum before the legislative session ends, which will be anyday now. By calling the Speaker of the Assembly and asking him to schedule bill A. 7620 to a floor vote, we will be asking them to add this important job to their workload before they break for the summer. If passed, this bill will accomplish what legislators originally intended when they decriminalized marijuana in 1977: keeping people out of the criminal justice system for posessing small amounts of marijuana. It will also ingnite our support to bring the fight to the NY Senate and pass the bill there next session.

Please call Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s office at 518-455-3791 and ask him to schedule bill A. 7620 for a floor vote before the session ends. Getting it passed this session will make it more likely it will gain movement in the Senate next session. New York residents:  Please contact your Assembly member and ask them to support this bill and for them to pressure leadership (Speaker Silver) to put it up for a vote.

The NYPD has made Cannabis arrests their top enforcement priority. In 2010 alone, 50,383 people were arrested for low-level marijuana offenses—more than the total number marijuana possession arrests between 1978–1997 combined! More than 80% of those arrested are black and Latino, even though studies consistently show that blacks and Latinos are no more likely to use or sell drugs than whites. This new bi-partisan law will close the “public display” loophole and protect New Yorkers from marijuana arrest while saving the state roughly $75 million a year.

It has been a good week in NY for drug law reform. It could get even better – Join us in the struggle!

Guest blog by Rob Robinson and Jen Rog at the NY Cannabis Alliance

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Sponsors enjoy strong presence on a content-driven site that is not overcrowded with ads.

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Growing the East Coast cannabis community

3/2/2011 – Chris Goldstein, a nationally recognized journalist and pro-marijuana advocate, is launching a new website to cover the East Coast: .

“ Millions of cannabis consumers from Maine to Florida are searching out local information about legalization. is here to cover the news, activism and lifestyle of American marijuana,” he said today.

Known for popular blogs and newspaper columns in the Philadelphia area covering marijuana politics, Goldstein is regularly featured on FOX, CBS, NBC, Comcast, ABC and the Associated Press.

A limited number of initial sponsorships are available that feature prominent placement for advertising. Three levels of sponsorship are available too accommodate various budgets.

“Many businesses can benefit from sponsorship: Clothing companies, record labels, print publications and consumer products just to name a few. Cannabis lifestyles in America touch upon more businesses than we think, “ Goldstein said.

There are dozens of print magazines and websites catering to cannabis consumers on the West Coast. Now, fills an important niche for the marijuana-friendly community in the eastern US while offering a powerful venue for businesses to connect with the region.

Chris has assembled a unique team of writers to produce exclusive content in the following categories: Freedom Buzz, Sensible Science, Green Justice, Mary Jane’s Corner, Canna-business and Grass Roots. The site has an open-call for submissions of writing, photos and video from voices in the local cannabis community.

For more information please call  267 702 3731  or send us an email

Activist Brings Marijuana Policy to NJ Libertarian Convention


CONTACT: chris {at}

Activist brings marijuana policy to NJ Libertarian Convention

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana activist working locally with The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey and NORML-NJ. On Saturday March 12th he will deliver a speech to the New Jersey Libertarian Party Convention.

The 1PM talk takes place at the Brookdale Community College campus in Lincroft, NJ.

Goldstein has been helping to organize New Jersey patients and advocates in the fight with governor Chris Christie over reasonable regulations for the state’s new medical cannabis program.

The 30-minute talk will include a PowerPoint presentation on the history of marijuana prohibition in America. Goldstein will also speak about current events in the Garden State. There is also a question-and-answer portion for attendees and the media.

“The ongoing impasse over these regulations has been a disaster for the seriously ill residents who need this law to work. It has also created a rare Constitutional conflict. The Legislature is trying to uphold the law and protect the integrity of the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act.”

Goldstein recently launched a new website to cover marijuana reform on the East Coast:

CONTACT: chris {at}