#420 Please Help Reform Marijuana Laws

Date: Mon, 23 Nov 2009
Subject: #420 Please Help Reform Marijuana Laws



DrugSense FOCUS Alert #420 – Monday, 23 November 2009

Today the Washington Post printed a short summary of the current
status of marijuana law reform efforts in the United States.

The article is not perfect as the statement “Anti-drug advocates
counter with surveys showing high school students nationwide already
are more likely to smoke marijuana than tobacco — and that the five
states with the highest rate of adolescent pot use permit medical
marijuana.” is less than accurate. The government’s own studies show
that adolescent marijuana use actually decreased after the passage of
many of the state medicinal marijuana initiatives. See

The International Drug Reform Conference received a prominent
mention. Many hundreds of supporters of DrugSense and it’s Media
Awareness Project were there. Mary Jane Borden, the Business Manager
for DrugSense and MAP, participated in a very well attended training
session ‘Making the News: How to Get the Media to Cover Your Issue.’

As a service organization for the drug policy reform community
DrugSense is keenly interested in the reform of marijuana laws. We
host 136 websites for reform organizations, supply over 200 email
lists and discussion forums, and provide news feeds to over 200 reform
websites. Our volunteers make the Media Awareness Project possible.

But in these hard economic times we, like all reform organizations,
are in need of financial support to keep all of our activities going.
Please consider donating. Please visit our Why Donate to DrugSense
webpage http://drugsense.org/why_donate.htm

And please do what you can to support the efforts of all the
organizations working to reform our marijuana laws. Remember, it’s not
what others do, it’s what YOU do.

Please forward this alert to others who may be interested.


Copyright: 2009 The Washington Post Company

Contact: letters@washpost.com

Author: Karl Vick, Washington Post Staff Writer


Approval for Medical Use Expands Alongside Criticism of

The same day they rejected a gay marriage ballot measure, residents of
Maine voted overwhelmingly to allow the sale of medical marijuana over
the counter at state-licensed dispensaries.

Later in the month, the American Medical Association reversed a
longtime position and urged the federal government to remove marijuana
from Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act, which equates it
with heroin and cocaine.

A few days later, advocates for easing marijuana laws left their
biannual strategy conference with plans to press ahead on all fronts
— state law, ballot measures, and court — in a movement that for the
first time in decades appeared to be gaining ground.

“This issue is breaking out in a remarkably rapid way now,” said Ethan
Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Public
opinion is changing very, very rapidly.”

The shift is widely described as generational. A Gallup poll in
October found 44 percent of Americans favor full legalization of
marijuana — a rise of 13 points since 2000. Gallup said that if
public support continues growing at a rate of 1 to 2 percent per year,
“the majority of Americans could favor legalization of the drug in as
little as four years.”

A 53 percent majority already does so in the West, according to the
survey. The finding heartens advocates collecting signatures to put
the question of legalization before California voters in a 2010 initiative.

At last week’s International Drug Reform Conference, activists gamed
specific proposals for taxing and regulating pot along the lines of
cigarettes and alcohol, as a bill pending in the California
Legislature would do. The measure is not expected to pass, but in
urging its serious debate, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) gave
credence to a potential revenue source that the state’s tax chief said
could raise $1.3 billion in the recession, which advocates describe as
a boon.

There were also tips on lobbying state legislatures, where measures
decriminalizing possession of small amounts have passed in 14 states.
Activists predict half of states will have laws allowing possession
for medical purposes in the near future.

Interest in medical marijuana and easing other marijuana laws picked
up markedly about 18 months ago, but advocates say the biggest surge
came with the election of Barack Obama, the third straight president
to acknowledge having smoked marijuana, and the first to regard it
with anything like nonchalance.

“As a kid, I inhaled,” Barack Obama famously said on the campaign.
“That was the whole point.”

In office, Obama made good on a promise to halt federal prosecutions
of medical marijuana use where permitted by state law. That has
recalibrated the federal attitude, which had been consistently hostile
to marijuana since the early 1970s, when President Richard Nixon cast
aside the recommendations of a presidential commission arguing against
lumping pot with hard drugs.

Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the National Organization
for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said he was astonished recently to
be invited to contribute thoughts to the Office of National Drug
Control Policy. Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, was police chief
in Seattle, where voters officially made enforcement of marijuana laws
the lowest priority.

“I’ve been thrown out of the ONDCP many times,” St. Pierre said.
“Never invited to actually participate.”

Anti-drug advocates counter with surveys showing high school students
nationwide already are more likely to smoke marijuana than tobacco —
and that the five states with the highest rate of adolescent pot use
permit medical marijuana.

“We are in the prevention business,” said Arthur Dean, chairman of the
Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America. “Kids are getting the
message tobacco’s harmful, and they’re not getting the message
marijuana is.”

In Los Angeles, city officials are dealing with elements of public
backlash after more than 1,000 medical marijuana dispensaries opened,
some employing in-house physicians to dispense legal permission to
virtually all comers. The boom town atmosphere brought complaints from
some neighbors, but little of the crime associated with underground

Advocates cite the latter as evidence that, as with alcohol, violence
associated with the marijuana trade flows from its

“Seriously,” said Bruce Merkin, communications director for the
Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group based in the District,
“there is a reason you don’t have Mexican beer cartels planting fields
of hops in the California forests.”

But the controversy over the dispensaries also has put pressure on
advocates who specifically champion access for ailing patients, not
just those who champion easing marijuana laws.

“I don’t want to say we keep arm’s length from the other groups. You
end up with all of us in the same room,” said Joe Elford, counsel for
Americans for Safe Access, which has led the court battle for medical
marijuana and is squaring off with the Los Angeles City Council. “It’s
a very broad-based movement.”


Prepared by: Richard Lake, Senior Editor www.mapinc.org