Whitney Houston, Dead at 48

When I decided to be a singer, my mother warned me I’d be alone a lot. Basically we all are. Loneliness comes with life. ~ Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston died today.

It’s interesting how some celebrity deaths impact you. Or at least me, they do. Perhaps the hardest are the ones who helped me get through a difficult time or moved me deeply enough to make a real difference in my life. Whitney would easily fall into that category. She was a true blue diva, fully blossomed and confident in her talent. She possessed that grand sort of assuredness that so many women strive to possess, myself included. And secretly, I admired her “whacked” side. She made choices for herself and did so unapologetically. Unstable, sure. But always proud.

And that voice. Say what you will about her sad personal trajectory, but her voice was like no other. It was a national treasure.

The New York Times wrote that Houston “possesses one of her generation’s most powerful gospel-trained voices, but she eschews many of the churchier mannerisms of her forerunners. She uses ornamental gospel phrasing only sparingly, and instead of projecting an earthy, tearful vulnerability, communicates cool self-assurance and strength, building pop ballads to majestic, sustained peaks of intensity.”

As of present, no one is sure how she died. Undoubtedly it will be a combination of a grueling life, years of tolerating an abusive relationship, the drugs, the booze, the fame…all coalesced and took their inevitable toll.


To the women:


May we never shy away from our deepest and most soulful expression.
May we steer decidedly away from toxic relationships that erode our very existence.
May we know how to manage the demons within that lead us to lethal self-medication.
This is one of my favorite recorded performances, showcasing her mastery and confidence.



Beth Mann is a popular blogger and writer for Open Salon and Salon. She is a popular writer as well as the president of Hot Buttered Media, a full service media company. She currently resides at the Jersey shore where she can often be seen surfing or singing, thanks to women like Whitney, who gave her the confidence to give it a try.

Contact: maryjane {at } freedomisgreen.com

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: [email protected] PhillyNORML [email protected]

Women Behind Bars for Marijuana: Letter Writing Update

image for PhillyNORML by Casey Goldsmith

7/18/2011 – As many of you know, last month Freedomisgreen started a letter writing campaign for women behind bars for marijuana-related charges. We got a good response (though more letters are welcome. The guidelines are here.)

It’s an easy and accessible way to make a difference immediately.

Just drop us the email and we’ll relay it the prisoner. The NORML Women’s Alliance is participating in this effort by helping to print and mail to the appropriate facilities.

Here is a sampling of the letters we received for prisoner Patricia Spottedcrow.

I decided to write to you because your charges are ridiculous. I was shocked by what I read…

Heather

###

I have read your story in a few different places on the internet and it breaks my heart.  I can only imagine how you must be feeling.  The NORML website recently posted an article detailing the therapeutic benefits to inmates of receiving mail while in prison and I decided to write to you.  My mother was incarcerated (repeatedly though and for theft/failure to appear etc.) when I was younger and I know that our letters to each other throughout those difficult times are what have allowed me to remember her love and keep my heart open to building a trusting relationship with her again.

Caitlin

###

I was deeply touched by your plight and wanted to reach out and let you know that there are people out here who are outraged at the injustice that has been heaped upon you. I just signed a petition that someone started asking the Gov of OK to commute your sentence.  I then posted it to my Facebook page and asked all my friends to sign it too. I wish I could do more…so here I am reaching out across the miles in hopes of making your day a little bit brighter.

My mom raised me and my brother as a single mom in a public housing development. I wasn’t crazy about living there, but at least we had a roof over our heads. JP, as it is known, is a beautiful place with lots of opens spaces and parks. When I was a kid the Children’s Museum was also there and I spent many days dividing my hours of playtime between the museum, Jamaica Pond, and the Arnold Arboretum. The great thing about having the museum in a neighborhood was it’s accessibility to all the kids who were ‘latch-key’ kids and needed some place to keep us out of trouble after school let out for the day.

Patricia

###

My name is Katie, I’m twenty-two and live in New York. I found a link to a page they have set up for you on NORML through my facebook, I read a little about your story and watched a clip on it. It honestly brought me to tears, you are a beautiful woman with beautiful children and do not deserve this at all. So I figured I’d write you to hopefully bring some cheer to your day.

###

I am a CNA and a Med Tech and I too work in the nursing home environment. I feel for you because I could easily be in your position one day, and the laws need to be changed. There is a man here in Louisiana who got his 3rd possession charge for marijuana and just received life in prison because of the 3 strikes law and that marijuana possession here is treated the same as if you had heroin or meth. Unfortunately honey, our country, as much as it says you are free, really tries to restrict everything that could possibly take money from their pockets. I am so sorry that you are going through this, but keep your head up. And, appeal, appeal, appeal!

TJ

###

I’m just writing to let you know that I’m aware of your situation and the injustice of it.  I hope the day will come when my grandkids won’t believe that people were once thrown in jail for using a beneficial herb.

Dan

###

Words can’t articulate how I feel about the injustice of your situation.  I have nothing but empathy and solidarity.


Gwen

###

It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this too, shall pass.”

Heather

###

People everywhere are hearing your story and will push to prevent such an event from transpiring ever again. I sincerely hope that new opportunities will come, regardless of the obstacles in your life. You are a phoenix. Many in this world stand with you, may you be blessed, and may the happiness find it’s way to you.

Ismeal

###

I have never done anything like this before, I have never contacted someone who I have never met for no reason at all other than to comfort them and know that there are people, even people she’s never met and may never meet, who have been affected by hearing their story and who are sympathetic to their plight. However, upon hearing what happened to you I was so shocked that I felt obliged to contact you and tell you this, you are a strong woman who does not deserve what has happened to you and who has my respect.

I come from England, near Brighton, which is a town on the south coast, right on the beach. I have told many of my friends and acquaintances your story and we all want to let you know that our sympathies, thoughts and prayers are with you.

From the UK

Send a letter –  The guidelines are here.

Beth Mann is a popular blogger and writer for Open Salon and Salon. She is also an accomplished actor and director with over 15 years of experience, as well as the president of Hot Buttered Media. She currently resides at the Jersey shore where she can often be seen surfing or singing karaoke at the local dive bar. Contact: maryjane {at } freedomisgreen.com

Top Marijuana Officials Resign in New Jersey

State House dome in Trenton – photo by C. David Freitag

The two officials at the NJ Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) who were in charge of the new medical marijuana program have resigned. Dr. Poonam Alaigh and Dr. Susan Walsh made the surprise announcements last week just after they helped issue permits to first six Alternative Treatment Centers for supplying cannabis.

The New Jersey Senate and Assembly have declared that regulations proposed by DHSS for the medical marijuana program do not follow the intent of the law. Doctors Alaigh and Walsh oversaw the creation of the contentious rules.

Filling the recent vacancies at the moment are Mary O’Dowd (Commissioner) and Dr. Christina Tan (Deputy Commissioner). O’Dowd’s husband currently works on the staff of Governor Christie’s Chief Counsel. A physician must hold one of the two positions at NJ DHSS.

The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey (CMMNJ) issued a statement today about the resignations:

It is our hope the new DHSS officials in charge of the Medicinal Marijuana Program will uphold the intent of the law, unlike their predecessors. CMMNJ suggests the following:

– The DHSS Commissioner and Deputies must commit themselves to understanding and openly stating that marijuana is medicine, since that is what the law declares.

– DHSS should be responsive to the concerns of marijuana experts and patients. Previous public hearings have elicited hundreds of impassioned pleas from patients, advocates and potential ATC operators that have been uniformly ignored by DHSS.
READ FULL RELEASE

Women Behind Bars Update – Patricia Spottedcrow Responds!

What a wonderful and weird morning. I’m sitting in a garage at the Jersey shore, getting my brake pads fixed (stay with me. The story gets better, I swear.) I bring my old laptop and check my email. And I see an email from Jil Staszewski of the NORML Women’s Alliance telling me that Patricia Spottedcrow responded to our letters. Wow. I opened the PDF of her letter and what an overwhelming feeling. It felt as if I knew her that much better just by seeing her sweet handwriting. It was like a virtual handshake or hug. Click on it below.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, check out our Write to Women Behind Bars for Marijuana campaign. All you need to do is send an email and we’ll forward it to one of many women behind bars, serving needlessly long terms for marijuana possession.

Please take a moment to sign the Change.org petition for a pardon –  https://www.change.org/petitions/ask-oklahomas-governor-to-commute-10-year-sentence-for-3100-marijuana-sale

[Please take a moment to sign the Change.org petition for a pardon –  https://www.change.org/petitions/ask-oklahomas-governor-to-commute-10-year-sentence-for-3100-marijuana-sale ]

Town in Maine Cuts Public Housing for Medical Marijuana Patients

from maine.gov's medical cannabis section

7/29/2011 – The Brewer Public Housing Authority passed a ban on medical marijuana this week. Maine residents with qualifying medical conditions have accessed cannabis though home cultivation or caregivers since 2000. Voters approved an expansion of the law in 2009 that allows eight dispensaries. The first four opened this year. But it will be impossible for seriously ill Brewer Public Housing tenants to participate in the state’s compassionate use program.

The Bangor Daily News reported:

“No resident can use medical marijuana in our projects [and] if they do they will be evicted,” Executive Director Gordon Stitham said.

The ban covers both public housing units and privately owned properties that fall under the federally funded Section 8 housing program, he said.

“Any landlord or any tenant receiving public assistance under the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program will not be able to use medical marijuana in their units,” Stitham said. read full

This could mean that those patients already in the program who wish to keep their housing must use the therapy and store their supply away from home.

But wait, there’s more. Here’s the most chilling part of the BHPA decision:

“You can have it, but you’re not going to bring it into our projects,” Stitham said, adding that applications for housing from medical marijuana patients will automatically be rejected.

“We’re not going to be able to serve you because of the medical marijuana,” he said. read full

Unfortunately, Brewer is not alone. Housing authorities around the country have made the same move to create a hard policy of denying any applications from registered medical marijuana patients. Vancouver, Washington and Portland, Oregon have issued similar bans.

Kris Hermes is the spokesperson at Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a national lobbying group for medical marijuana. They also have an impressive record of successful lawsuits protecting people’s civil rights. He said they frequently hear from patients who are affected by these policies.

“This is definitely a common complaint,” said Hermes. “People report to ASA that they are being discriminated against by landlords and housing authorities.”

These new policies seem like clear cases of discrimination against low-income individuals dealing with a major illness, such as cancer or HIV. But because of the close tie-ins with federal funding, especially Section 8, the local managers tend to defer to the fed.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) did issue a memo in January 2011 to address this issue. HUD pointed out that marijuana remains illegal under federal law, therefore no accommodations are required for patients in state programs.

But Keith Stroup Esq. at the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) pointed out that HUD left the policy decision up to housing managers. “The impression we had is that the local authorities have the discretion,” said Stroup today.

Memos from the US Department of Justice have also made clear that federal authorities should not interfere with individual medical marijuana patients. Local housing boards may need to take the DOJ position into consideration as well as HUD’s comments when deciding on a policy.

Some states, like Rhode Island, have stronger language in their compassionate use laws that may serve to protect patient housing. But the only way to really gain those protections is to get a court ruling to strike down a local ban.

In Brewer, Maine, the blanket opposition to medical marijuana seems to be standard operating procedure. A moratorium was passed in 2010 to make sure none of the state-regulated dispensaries could locate in the town. Regardless, enforcing the new housing policy may be extremely difficult. New provisions were enacted by Maine’s Legislature this year that expand privacy protections for those in the medical cannabis program. Patients are no longer required to be part of the state registry.

Kris Hermes at Americans for Safe Access said, “It is unconscionable in this age to be preventing poor medical marijuana patients from participating in public housing.”

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?  [email protected]


World Leaders Call For Marijuana Regulation

Sir Richard Branson, Ruth Dreifuss former President of Switzerland and Fernanado Henrique Cardoso former president of Brazil on June 2, 2011 – photo by Beth Mann

6/3/2011 – Regulating cannabis for adults could help the world take a public health approach to addiction. That was the message from several members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy who gathered in New York City on June 2, 2011.

The former Presidents of Switzerland, Colombia and Brazil joined Sir Richard Branson at a crowded news conference to discuss their new report calling for an end to the war on drugs.

Cannabis was a central theme, in two languages. Freedomisgreen.com covered the landmark event.

“For cannabis…Countries should be able to experiment with regulation,” said Fernanado Henrique Cardoso, the former President of Brazil.

Cesar Gaviria, the former President of Colombia, discussed treating cannabis like alcohol and tobacco, “When it comes to someone smoking some marijuana, people should not be sent to a jail,“ Gaviria said.

He repeated his calls for “marijuana” regulation in Spanish for the international press.

Ruth Dreifuss, the former President of Switzerland, discussed public health approaches to heroin and other addictions that have seen success in Europe. Her country attempted to regulate the cannabis market last year.

“I don’t believe in ideology,” said Dreifuss discussing the uphill battle for the issue,”I believe in results.”

Showing courageous solidarity in the formal report and the live news conference, the Commission calls the current US policy of prohibition a “failure” by any measure. The group of respected dignitaries seemed to be addressing one person: US President Barack Obama.

Cesar Gaviria former President of Colombia- photo by Beth Mann

The speakers, especially Cardoso and Gaviria, hinted that the United States will need to move first to regulate marijuana so that other countries have the chance to consider the option. The UN Single Convention Treaty on Narcotic Drugs was amended in concert with the creation of the US Controlled Substances Act in 1971; this is essentially why American-style marijuana prohibition is enforced around the world.

International businessman Sir Richard Branson addressed the big picture, “It is time to re-write the rules,” Branson said at the news conference, adding, “It is time we move towards policies that end prohibition.”

The Commission is also getting a tremendous boost of public support. Ricken Patel, director of the organizing website Avaaz.org spoke about how impressed, if not downright shocked, he was by the public response to an online petition. Patel reported that almost 600,000 signatures had already been gathered to support the Commission’s efforts.

Although they were looking to break taboo about drug policy there was one word that the panel seemed somewhat shy of using: legalization. The term ‘decriminalization’ was more comfortable for the group of practiced diplomats.

Cardoso said towards the end, “It’s not that we don’t have the courage to say ‘legalize’ it is just that we need the right moment.”

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy quickly condemned the report. But Gaviria pointed out that President Obama on the ONDCP have already started to eliminate ‘war on drugs’ as part of the common policy rhetoric. Gaviria suggested they go a step further than language.

Sir Richard Branson – photo by Beth Mann

Branson said that the world needed to press for top-level leadership, saying, “We just need brave politicians to get on and do what’s right for their people.”

The Global Commission on Drug Policy will present their 24-page report and the Avaaz.org petition to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Friday June 3, 2011.

Ethan Nadelmann, the executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New York advises the Global Commission and closed the news conference by saying, “The great hope here is that we start a debate nationally and internationally.”

Hundreds of news outlets are covering the report so the Commission has successfully given some momentum to the issue. What remains to be seen is whether the most powerful voice, the United States, will discuss these concepts at all.

There has never been such concentrated pressure from international leaders on a US President and Congress to begin a serious policy debate about regulating domestic marijuana sales to adults.

Legalizing marijuana in America is clearly an issue of global importance.

News conference at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel June 2, 2011 – by Beth Mann

More photos from the news conference – http://tinyurl.com/4y9mmvl

Video news report:

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?  [email protected]



Update on Patricia Spottedcrow’s “Reduced” Sentence

Most of our readers here at Freedom is Green have heard about Patricia Spottedcrow’s story of the heavy-handed sentence delivered to this first-time offender for marijuana possession. Here at Freedom is Green, we contribute to a letter-writing campaign so you can reach out to Patricia directly. Here’s the most recent news on her “reduced” sentence:

A Kingfisher County judge did the right thing last week when he suspended the final four years of the 12-year sentence of Patricia M. Spottedcrow, a first offender convicted of selling $31 worth of marijuana to a police informant.

That’s damning Associate District Judge Robert Davis with faint praise. What he should have done is cut this ridiculous sentence down to size. The punishment clearly does not fit the crime. Spottedcrow is only a year into her sentence and is not eligible for parole until maybe 2014, meaning that she will serve several years for her two-bit offenses.

In fairness to Davis, he did not hand down the original sentence assessed a year ago by now-retired Associate District Judge Susie Pritchett. But judging from his order, Davis did not find much fault with Pritchett’s reasoning. Davis also describes Spottedcrow’s crimes as “serious,” said that she had engaged in a “pattern of behavior, and that there was no reason to believe that she would not have continued this criminal behavior.”

In an apparent reference to the widespread support Spottedcrow has received, Davis’ order said that Spottedcrow “minimized the seriousness of the actions of selling drugs in the presence of her children and minimized the overall criminal behavior that she exhibited much the same as her numerous followers.”

Read more at Tulsa World

US Attorneys: Medical Marijuana Grown At Home, State Employees Safe

5/29/2011 – The Department of Justice is making one thing clear: individual medical marijuana patients are not a priority, at least for the moment.  So how are they supposed to acquire cannabis? What is now emerging seems to be an expectation from DOJ that seriously ill Americans will engage in home cultivation or find a caregiver to grow for them.

This is a proven technique but it will be an uncomfortable point for much of the existing multi-billion dollar medical marijuana industry. There are also major implications for New Jersey, Delaware and the District of Columbia because their compassionate use laws force patients into centralized cannabis dispensary systems.

A set of interviews last week with US Attorneys Michel Ormsby in Washington and Dennis Burke in Arizona have added significant depth to a debate that has national importance.  They were among eight federal prosecutors who sent letters to state officials about their medical marijuana policies.

After a lead-up in a National Public Radio interview, Ormsby went a step further with the reporter:

” In 2009, the Department of Justice indicated that it would be a low priority to prosecute anyone who was complying with state medical marijuana laws,” Jay Rorty of the American Civil Liberties Union explains. He says the 2009 memo from then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden made advocates think the federal government wouldn’t interfere with state medical marijuana stores.

U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby from Washington state disagrees with that interpretation. “I think the ACLU takes that statement out of context,” he says. According to him, the memo means the federal government won’t go after patients who are growing their own marijuana — but retail stores were never part of that exception. read full

Still, the letter moved Governor Chris Gregoire to veto a marijuana dispensary bill that was passed by the Washington Legislature. That letter implied that state employees could risk of federal prosecution; a unique point among all of the recent communications.

Three thousand miles away the WA letter caused Governor Chris Christie in New Jersey to suspend full implementation of his state’s compassionate use law.

New Jersey’s Attorney General Paula Dow sent her own letter to the Department of Justice in April. It seeks clarification about Garden State employees. But there has been no reply from the DOJ or the local US Attorney. Governor Christie is waiting for a response until the six cannabis facilities (approved by the state in March) will be allowed to proceed.

But why were the employees mentioned at all? An article published at a local Arizona news source, Awatukee.com, sheds some light:

“The Washington law had state employees involved in a number of different inspections and grading functions,’’ Ormsby said, with workers actually handling the drug. And Ormsby pointed out that the letter sent by Gov. Christine Gregoire to him and Jenny Durkan, the other U.S. attorney in that state, specifically asked how those provisions of the law would put state workers at risk. read full

Governor Jan Brewer in Arizona has also been speaking loudly to the media about her perceived threat to state employees based on the same Washington state letter. However, the federal prosecutor in AZ was left baffled:

But Burke, in an interview with Capitol Media Services, said his letter simply spelled out the priorities his office has in going after those who sell, transport or use marijuana. More to the point, he said that letter never mentioned state workers.

“It’s fair to read into my letter what I included and what I didn’t,’’ he said. “And if I didn’t include state employees, I think that’s telling in itself.’’

And Burke said there was a simple way of dealing with the question.

“You would think that a letter back from [AZ] Attorney General Horne, as opposed to ‘I’m going to file a lawsuit and have a press conference,’ might have been a better course of action,’’ he said. read full

As a guide to all of their communications about medical marijuana the US Attorneys turn to a now infamous memo from Deputy Attorney General David Ogden.  The Department of Justice published it the same day it was released back in October 2009, right on their very own blog.  (Yes, DOJ has a blog and even a Twitter feed.)  Here is the section of interest:

For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources. On the other hand, prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority of the Department. (read the Ogden memo in full)

Again, all of the eight letters from US Attorneys seem to reiterate the point that individual patients are the lowest priority.  And the Ogden memo does seem to lean towards home cultivation.

Burke is also comfortable allowing medical marijuana patients in Arizona to continue registering with the state:

More significant, [AZ US Attorney] Burke said that Humble [AZ Health Director], after reading that May 2 letter, was not alarmed about it or even worried about how it would affect his staffers who are processing the permits for those who want to use marijuana as well as those who want to operate dispensaries or even cultivate the drug.

“Humble blogged about it and seemed to read through the lines in my letter and say, ‘We’re going to keep proceeding,’ ’’ Burke said.

In fact, Humble told Capitol Media Services at the time his agency intends to continue issuing I.D. cards allowing those with a doctor’s recommendation to possess and smoke marijuana. As of this week, about 4,000 applications had been processed. read full

All of the Arizona patients will presumably start home gardens, find a caregiver or access the underground market.

Delaware, New Jersey and Washington DC may need to re-evaluate their compassionate use laws based on the current federal stance. They included no provisions for private cultivation.

The New Jersey law seems to allow legal protections only if registered patients acquire cannabis from an approved facility. Six medical marijuana Alternative Treatment Centers are meant to serve NJ’s dense population of about 9 million residents. These are just the kind of big-money operations that the Fed does not like.

Federal prosecutors and some governors are now walking a razor’s edge between Constitutions in the battle over medical marijuana. Parties on both sides are attempting to spin the conflict between state laws and federal law to their advantage.

There has been much more than a rattling of paper sabers. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has conducted hundreds of raids on state medical marijuana businesses.  Recent DEA raids also seem to have been timed for political current events. In Washington and Montana fully armed federal agents stormed dispensaries just as legislation was being considered by elected officials.

But not every state with a compassionate use law has seen federal activity. One thing that has become painfully obvious in the recent flap is that these laws are enforced through the discretion of a just few powerful individuals based on their personal political views. Seriously ill Americans who need cannabis therapy remain caught in the crossfire. This fact will add to the already heavy pressure on Congress and President Obama to address the medical marijuana issue.

Until a truly consistent policy is crafted state officials can immediately employ two methods to protect their residents from federal interference: 1) Allow patients or caregivers to grow medical cannabis in private homes and 2) Stop arresting and/or prosecuting any patient who is possession of a state authorized amount of cannabis.

Commentary by Editor Chris Goldstein

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?  [email protected]

Vermont Marijuana Dispensaries Almost Law, More States To Follow

5/9/2011 – Medical cannabis dispensaries are just a signature away from becoming a reality in Vermont. The House voted last week with a strong margin and Governor Peter Shumlin (D) has been a vocal supporter of the issue, so he will likely sign it into law.

Although some Republican opponents brought up the recent federal pressure on such facilities, it was not seen as paramount to the needs of local patients. Seriously ill or terminal residents in Vermont must grow their own cannabis under the current state law. This hard-fought effort to bring four dispensaries into operation is seen as filling a specific need that will directly benefit individuals who do not have the physical ability to cultivate medical-quality cannabis at home.

US Attorneys in Arizona, Washington, Rhode Island, Colorado and even Vermont have recently sent paper threats against state medical marijuana programs, especially store-front facilities.

The fed actions caused WA Gov. Chris Gregoire and RI Gov. Lincoln Chaffe to suspend their Legislatures’ plans for medical marijuana dispensaries. But not everyone is backing down in the most refined state vs federal conflict of the 21st century. Gregoire also leads the National Governors Association and she has called for the 15 medical cannabis governors to unite in asking Congress to remove marijuana from Schedule I in the Controlled Substances Act

Amidst the escaltion in national politics for the issue, Vermont is not alone in moving forward with plans to regulate dispensaries. A medical marijuana bill in Delaware has passed both houses and awaits a confirmation vote in the Senate. [UPDATE – Gov Jack Markell signed the bill into law 5/13]

New Jersey is set to finalize regulations later in May that would bring the six approved Alternative Treatment Centers into operation.

Maryland passed a law to offer a positive medical necessity defense in court if seriously ill residents are arrested.

Connecticut is also close to fully passing a bill to legalize marijuana for seriously ill adults. Gov Daniel Malloy’s staff are taking on a position fitting for the current climate:

“States have a right to decide this for themselves,” Michael P. Lawlor, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s senior criminal justice adviser told The Connecticut Mirror this week. read more
The first regulated medical cannabis dispensaries in Maine just opened last month. So far the US Attorney in that region has not threatened the ME program. The Pine Tree State is also looking beyond medical marijuana with hearings on full taxation and regulation for all uses by adults taking place on May 10th, 2011.
Here’s more on Vermont from StopTheDrugWar.org, we’ll have an update at freedomisgreen.com as the story develops.
The bill, Senate Bill 17, would expand Vermont’s medical marijuana law and improve patient access by allowing the sale of marijuana at dispensaries. The four dispensaries would be licensed and regulated by the state Department of Public Safety.

The vote to approve dispensaries came in spite of a letter from the state’s US attorney warning that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. That letter was part of a stepped-up campaign by US attorneys in various states to intimidate and rein-in large-scale medical marijuana cultivation and sales.

Supporters argued that the state’s existing medical marijuana law is lacking because it forces sick people to grow their own medicine. Requiring sick people to do so “is expensive and difficult and unlike anything else we require anybody else to go through to relieve their pain,” said Rep. Eldred French (D-Shrewsbury) in remarks reported by the Vermont Digger.

“We did not provide them with a way to obtain the marijuana that they need to ease their suffering,” French said. “And if we can’t provide them with a way to do that without insulting their dignity and them involve themselves in what is a criminal activity in the state of Vermont, by going out and trying to buy it elsewhere, if we can’t provide that, I think we’ve failed our duty.” READ FULL ARTICLE

Questions?  [email protected]

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.