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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UPDATE May 26, 2011: Freedomisgreen now appears in the Google News Feed. Site traffic May 1st to May 25th = 25,306 visitors for 35,106 page views

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}

ACLU Calls on US Attorney General For Cannabis Clarification

Medical marijuana growing in CA

5/10/2011 – The national office of The American Civil Liberties Union has issued a letter to the US Department of Justice about medical marijuana. It asks for Attorney General Eric Holder to fully clarify the federal position regarding the seriously ill and often terminal patients who grow or possess cannabis legally in their state.

From the ACLU press release today:

In a letter sent late yesterday, the ACLU expresses deep concern about recent letters from several U.S. attorneys from across the country that threaten people who comply with state medical marijuana laws, including state employees and state licensed providers of medical marijuana, with federal prosecution.“Patients, providers and legislatures need clear guidance from DOJ so they can proceed in confidence that state law will be respected,” said Jay Rorty, Director of the ACLU Criminal Law Reform Project and one of the authors of the ACLU’s letter. “Patients who suffer from serious medical conditions need safe and reliable access to their medicine without the fear of federal prosecution.”

The ACLU’s letter was also signed by Laura W. Murphy, Director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office and Jesselyn McCurdy, ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel.  READ FULL RELEASE

Medical marijuana advocates and industry professionals had viewed a 2009 memo from the Department of Justice and subsequent statements by Attorney General Eric Holder as a position of non-interference.  Even as DEA raids happened this year in Washington and Montana many thought that federal agents were targeting those facilities less compliant with local medical marijuana laws. But recent letters from US Attorneys to states like Rhode Island have taken a more aggressive stance.

Make no mistake: We are experiencing a nationally coordinated, federal attack on state laws authorizing medical cannabis. ACLU has been always been right in the thick of this fight and the letter yesterday acknowledges the major shift for the issue this spring.

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.


Marijuana News, Science, Activism and Culture

Growing the East Coast cannabis community

3/2/2011 Chris Goldstein, a nationally recognized journalist and pro-marijuana advocate, is launching a new online resource for the East Coast.

“ is here to cover the news, activism and lifestyle of American marijuana,” he said today.

Editorial staff

Chris Goldstein – Founder/Site Editor (267) 702 3731    chris { at }

Beth Mann – Mary Jane Editor maryjane{ at }

Jahan Marcu – Science Editor science {at}

Diane Fornbacher – grassroots{ at }

Main Categories

Freedom Buzz
News and culture for the cannabis community

Sensible Science
Cannabinoid research, cannabis studies and medical breakthroughs

Green Justice
Prohibition impact, court cases, civil rights and legal perspectives

Mary Jane’s Corner
Women’s views about marijuana

Information related to the domestic cannabis industry

Grass Roots
Activism meetings, concerts, rallies, conferences and events

A Profound Moment for American Marijuana

Photo by David Sygall

The spring of 2011 has brought tension to the air for everyone involved with cannabis in the United States. Federal authorities have unleashed a coordinated attack on political efforts to tax marijuana and they have made war on medical marijuana programs. This has been matched by additional states changing local laws, putting more skin into the game than ever.

The bets are now in for the biggest cannabis policy showdown in our generation – right in Washington DC. The Schedule I status of marijuana in the federal Controlled Substances Act will either be re-affirmed or changed, likely over the next 24 months.

Marijuana prohibition has become the most refined and serious states’ rights issue of the 21st Century.  Millions of Americans are now participating in a multi-billion dollar medical cannabis economy.

States are taking greater pains to regulate this fast-moving industry. Why? To recognize the will of their residents but also to gain badly needed tax dollars. In some cases, they are getting that money.

At the same time, Michele Leonhart has led the Drug Enforcement Administration to conduct a major escalation of raids that bring automatic weapons into peaceful marijuana centers.

If marijuana were moved to Schedule II, III, or IV or even removed from the schedule (that is an option), it would end the conflict of state vs. federal law on all related matters.  That means whatever marijuana industry that states decide to authorize (medical, recreational or hemp) could be protected, regulated and taxed.

When the Controlled Substances Act was created in 1970 a blue-ribbon commission was chartered by President Nixon to study marijuana’s proper placement. The recommendation in 1972 was that personal cannabis use should be decriminalized and it should not appear in the scheduling. Obviously Nixon ignored those suggestions.

Forty years later we live in the ‘Just Say Drug War’ era. Still, the status of marijuana has always been overseen by Congress and the President. They have been the quiet players at the poker game thus far. But the increase in aggression by the DEA and US Attorneys has produced an interesting result.

When the Washington state Legislature recently passed a bill to regulate a dispensary system for patients the fed came down like a ton of bricks on the political process. Governor Chris Gregoire (a former US Attorney in her own right) vetoed the bill. But then she turned around to announce plans to bring together the now 16 medical marijuana Governors in a unified lobby for re-scheduling to category II.

Gregoire currently leads the National Governors Association. Having the elected leaders of these states actively seek an end to federal cannabis prohibition could be a significant pressure point on Senators and Representatives in Washington DC.

We are also just beginning to see federal lawsuits filed in Montana by the victims of these DEA raids over illegal search and seizure. Cannabis and money are stolen, bank accounts cleared out; but no one is arrested. Not exactly by-the-books due-process.

The IRS has now appeared at the table as a major player, staked by the Fed against individual entrepreneurs. Financial investigations of successful cannabis business like Harborside Health Services in Oakland are underway.

At the same time the city of San Jose California began raking in $290,000 in monthly taxes from local medical cannabis sales!

The effect of these simultaneous actions has just forced everyone in the game to go all-in. Congress and President Obama are being positioned to make their bets and address the issue…during an election season. And that may be the plan.

However, supporting the move to Schedule II in the CSA is a safe position, politically. Ever growing majorities of American voters, of all parties, support their local medical cannabis laws. So, re-scheduling is backed by tremendous public support, but groups such as the American Medial Association (AMA) have also recommended the change.

Moving to Schedule II is a good quick-fix for the current medical cannabis industry as well as programs like Rhode Island and New Jersey that remain on hold. Even the Internal Revenue Service would be mollified.

Still, there should be a modern congressional commission designated to study full cannabis legalization if re-scheduling is adopted.

A more disturbing outcome is possible. The current Schedule I status could ultimately be upheld by Congress and President Obama.  That would likely signal another significant increase in federal aggression towards the existing medical cannabis industry. This sends everyone down a terrible path. Battles will rage in the courts and in the faces of seriously ill patients just trying to follow their state laws.

Would some Governors then mobilize their Attorneys General, their police or even the National Guard to protect their state employees, medical cannabis centers and patients?

We are experiencing the Cuban Missile Crisis in the cold war between the States and the US Federal Government on medical marijuana laws. Moving to Schedule II would pull authorities on both sides back from the brink of violence.

The move would allow everyone to split the pot. Of paramount importance, it would directly help the millions of seriously ill residents who access this proven therapy every day.

Marijuana prohibition has seen windows for reform in the past; none have been open this wide.

Public support must be channeled because taking the game to Congress is also where the marijuana reform movement has traditionally been the weakest.

Just a handful of federal legislators are there to champion this cause: Ron Paul (R-TX), Barney Frank (D-MA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) to name the most vocal.

However there is one place that the marijuana legalization movement is stronger than everyone else, including the Fed: Online. Within the modern Matrix cannabis reform is Neo.

This could be the end-game. Everyone online is at the table too, so don’t sit this one out.

Marijuana prohibition deserves a peaceful solution, for all Americans.

Commentary from Editor Chris Goldstein

Get involved:


Students for Sensible Drug Policy –

The Drug Policy Alliance –

The Marijuana Policy Project –

NORML Women’s Alliance –

Willie Nelson’s Teapot Party –

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.

A Mother’s Day Message from a Cannabis Legalizing Mom

Diane Fornbacher with her family. Photo by Kevin Monko

On Mother’s Day, we celebrate and honor those who gave us life. However as a mother, every day I am reminded of a terrible war that is destroying the fabric of our families and putting our children at risk. The so-called War on Drugs happens all around us, but it is mostly a war on cannabis consumers. Today I hope that mothers will join me and pay attention to some peaceful solutions for marijuana.

As a compassionate and reasonable society, it is time to legalize cannabis for responsible adult use. Drug dealers do not card children. Prohibition has only kept our youth in constant contact with pot instead of putting it safely behind the counter. Cannabis belongs in a controlled environment where taxpaying and responsible adults can purchase it.

Let me be clear – I do not want my kids to use or abuse cannabis. But I certainly don’t want them going to jail or losing their chances at a college education if they end up getting caught with a joint. Prisons do not protect children, parents do. By legalizing marijuana we can begin to have more truthful conversations with our kids and teens about using it.

Anne Davis, mother of two young girls, agrees, “Mothers who are actively involved with their children have open, honest relationships with non-judgmental communication. They strive to be positive role models. These qualities will serve the best interests of our youth, not the failed policy of prohibition.”

Further legalizing marijuana will keep families together. Mothers do not deserve to be persecuted in the courts or in the delivery room for having small amounts of marijuana. Children should not be separated
from their parents over pot. Hardworking Americans should not lose good paying jobs because they medicate or recreate with cannabis.

Mothers ended alcohol prohibition almost a century ago. I hope mothers
will join the growing effort to end marijuana prohibition today, for the sake of us all but mostly for the children.

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, Americans for Safe Access, The November Coalition, Vote Hemp). 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, writing poetry being a mother and performing spoken word with local bands. Contact: grassroots { at }

NORML Women’s Alliance on Facebook

A Moment for Betty Ford

“I am indebted to no man and only one woman, my dear wife, Betty, as I begin this very difficult job.” – Gerald Ford, 1976

Betty Ford is considered one of the most outspoken First Ladies in our history. Her candor and boldness may not seem as controversial now, but during her time in the White House, her views on women’s rights, gay rights, abortion, addiction and cancer were considered radical.

Her views on marijuana were considerably open for the time as well. According to Mrs. Ford, her young adult children probably had smoked marijuana — and if she were their age, she’d try it, too.

Here are a few quotes from an incredibly strong woman who has made an indelible imprint on our history:

I was an ordinary woman who was called onstage at an extraordinary time. I was no different once I became first lady than I had been before. But, through an accident of history, I had become interesting to people.

• I’ve learned a lot about myself. Most of it is all right. When I add up the pluses and subtract the minuses, I still come out pretty well.

• We were in a position where my husband had been sworn into office during a very, very difficult time. There had been so much cover-up during Watergate that we wanted to be sure there would be no cover-up in the Ford Administration. So rather than continue this traditional silence about breast cancer, we felt we had to be public.

• My makeup wasn’t smeared, I wasn’t disheveled, I behaved politely, and I never finished off a bottle, so how could I be alcoholic?

• [Martha Graham] shaped my whole life. She gave me the ability to stand up to all the things I had to go through, with much more courage than I would have had without her.

• [About becoming First Lady at Nixon’s resignation] I figured, okay, I’ll move to the White House, do the best I can, and if they don’t like it, they can kick me out. But they can’t make me be somebody I’m not.

• [About her husband’s appointment as Vice President in 1973] If I had known what was coming, I think I would have sat right down and cried.

When I say we've had an ideal marriage, I'm not just talking about physical attraction, which I can imagine can wear pretty thin if it's all a couple has built on. We've had that and a whole lot more.” – Betty Ford

Gerald Ford on the definition of a successful marriage:

“A successful marriage cannot thrive on simply a mutuality of interests, important as that ingredient is over the years for compatibility. There must be understanding, compassion and emotion which fits under the umbrella of love. A marriage that has these attributes can weather the storm clouds that are inevitable in an intimate relationship … There must be a belief on the part of both that there is nothing of a higher priority than the sanctity and continuation of the relationship.”

Betty on the secret of their successful marriage:

“You go into it, both of you, as a seventy-thirty proposition. In other words, here I’m giving seventy, he can give thirty, he’s giving seventy, I give thirty. When you’re going overboard trying to please each other, you can’t help but be happy.”

The search for human freedom can never be complete without freedom for women."

A Brief History of Cannabinoid Research

Depiction of Cannabis use in Japan Photo:

As early as 5,000 years ago Cannabis was noted for its effects on the central nervous system[1]. This often manifested in the form of pain relief, appetite stimulation, and sedation (Iverson 2000). Medicinal Cannabis preparations were widely used in western medicine during the 19th century. At the time it was no secret that pharmaceutical preparations of Cannabis were variable. As the active ingredient was not known, quality control was virtually impossible, and this is in part why the plant fell out of use.

During the Victorian era, many plants were extracted for their unique properties, namely alkaloids. These plant chemists were successful because the alkaloids they were targeting are water soluble organic bases that form crystalline solids when combined with acids. Among the medicinal compounds isolated in the 19th century were quinine, morphine, and cocaine. These were major advances in plant chemistry. The molecules on the cannabis plant, however, are almost completely insoluble in water. The chemical nature of cannabinoids prevented early Victorian scientists from making efficient extracts of these non-polar compounds. The active ingredient, THC, wasn’t isolated and identified until 1964.

Read more at the Philadelphia Medical Marijuana Examiner

[1] Evidence for the medicinal use of Cannabis goes back to the emperor Chen Nung (the father of Chinese agriculture), a discoverer of medicinal plants, and also taught his people how to cultivate grains. Chen Nung is believed to be the author of the oldest known Chinese pharmacopoeia, in which, he writes about the medical use of Cannabis for rheumatism, menstrual fatigue, malaria, constipation, and absentmindedness.

More articles here at in Sensible Science Category.