Thursday, October 22, 2009

The right kind of drug prosecution

It is heartening to see the Department of Justice making the right kinds of drug busts: major international traffickers. It won't end the drug supply, but these are genuine criminal organizations that use violence and bribery, etc. When our government gets smarter, it will use a smarter and more efficient strategy to put such organizations out of business -- regulation, licensing, taxation, and control.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kerlikowske on the DoJ Medical marijuana prosecution policy

ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske issued this press release regarding the DoJ medical Cannabis prosecution memorandum.

What strikes me is the profound distrust that underlies this statement. ONDCP can't seem to wrap their collective heads around the idea that anyone is using marijuana medically in good faith. They don't trust anyone who may want to make sure that patients who need it, pursuant to state law, have convenient and safe access to Cannabis for medical purposes.

Sphere: Related Content

Baltimore Sun observes that Maryland's medical marijuana sentencing law needs fixing

The Baltimore Sun recognizes that Maryland's 6-year old medical marijuana law, that allows a $100 fine if you establish in court a medical necessity for marijuana, needs to be fixed.
Up in smoke --

Sphere: Related Content

Pay off from new DoJ policy: WI Gov. Doyle says medical marijuana restrictions senseless

The news from Wisconsin, below, is a powerful demonstration of the political value of the new DoJ medical Cannabis prosecution memorandum. This news illustrates a mistake that drug policy reformers, such as myself, can easily make.

As soon as I heard about the DoJ memorandum, my reaction was, "What kind of b.s. is it going to be? What is the real story?"

As soon as I read the memorandum, my lawyerly reaction was, "Aha! Look at this stinking Swiss cheese of loopholes. How is this going to help the folks in California who fear raids or who are already on trial or in prison?"

My initial reading was wrong. I failed to see the memorandum in the proper historical, political and symbolic context. We are habituated to expect lies and persecution from the federal government regarding the medical use of Cannabis. And in its technicalities, the federal government did not disappoint.

But the much more important fact is that in symbolic, political and historical terms, this memorandum is a formal renunciation of the "medical Cannabis is a fraud" posture of the federal government, and political actors, such as Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, get it!

Doyle: Medical marijuana restrictions senseless --

The new political environment creates:
(1) Enormous opportunities for state law reforms.

(2) Enormous pressure on HHS and FDA to move ahead on the science of Cannabis medicine to support rescheduling. To accomplish this objective, however, requires continuing effort from our movement.

(3) Support for our allies in Congress for legislation like the Truth in Trials Act, the Hinchey-Rohrabacher Amendment, and medicalization legislation that reschedules Cannabis.

But don't take your eye off the compass and the charts. The wind is now at our back, not in our faces. But we are not yet in port. There is still a lot of water out there there that we have to sail over, before we are tied up safely at dock and ready to disembark.

I fear that there are still a lot of patients who are going to suffer without safe access to medicine, a lot of physicians who will be afraid to write a recommendation, and a lot of potential care givers who will prudently stand aside until the laws are clarified.

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, October 19, 2009

U.S. Department of Justice Medical Marijuana Policy

Here is the three-page October 19, 2009 memorandum from the Deputy Attorney General entitled, "Investigations and Prosecutions in States Authorizing the Medical Use of Marijuana."

This action is many steps in the right direction.

Most importantly, this is a formal acknowledgment by the Federal government of the reality of medical use of Cannabis on a mass scale. This is in many respects more significant than the 30-year old compassionate use program that was closed to new patients in 1992. Whether this is grudging recognition of the extensive scientific support for using Cannabis medically, simply honoring a campaign pledge, or bowing to public opinion, it is very important politically and symbolically. At a minimum, this memorandum should encourage state legislators to change their minds if they have been reluctant to vote for a state medical marijuana law on the ground that such a state law might conflict with federal law. In addition, this change encourages scientific researchers to redouble their search for potential medical benefits from Cannabis. They can see that their research is likely to be rewarded with application in the patient community. And, the announcement of this memorandum must give hope to those who are now in prison, or who have been sentenced to prison, who were operating or planning bona fide medical marijuana dispensaries, and their loved ones, that their sentences might be commuted.

The memorandum reflects the political and organizational conflict within the Department of Justice. The Department reiterates that "marijuana is a dangerous drug" and that "the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime."

Unfortunately this memorandum offers less formal protection that any legitimate dispensary operator or care giver wants and really needs.

The memorandum says investigators and prosecutors "should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana."

The unfortunate reality is that "clear and unambiguous compliance" is an extraordinarily high standard to achieve in general. When the conduct is entirely prohibited by federal law, the state laws were often deliberately written with ambiguity to avoid "positive conflict" with the Controlled Substances Act (sec. 708 of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. 903). Until DEA reschedules Cannabis and Congress revises federal law, this will be an area of law that is inherently and inescapably filled with ambiguity.

The memorandum suggests seven circumstances that suggest an absence of "clear and unambiguous:"
* unlawful possession or unlawful use of firearms;
* violence;
* sales to minors;
* financial and marketing activities inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of state law, including evidence of money laundering and/or financial gains or excessive amounts of cash;
* amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance;
* illegal possession or sale of other controlled substances; or
* ties to other criminal enterprises.

But the memorandum itself is ambiguous. For example, every medical marijuana user, grower or care giver who possesses a firearm -- even if owned legally under every other circumstance -- arguably is per se an unlawful firearms possessor under federal law which prohibits possession of firearms by a person who is an unlawful user of a controlled substance (18 U.S.C. 922(g)). How does that prohibition square with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that possession of firearms is constitutionally protected as an aspect of the right to self defense in last year's case of District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___ (2008) -- especially considering the high value of Cannabis and the risk of armed robbery or burglary of the premises where it is grown, kept or dispensed?

And speaking of "ambiguity," the Department of Justice is certainly ambiguous when using terms such as "amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance" or "financial gains or excessive amounts of cash." That's clear, isn't it?

Well, perhaps the retrograde elements in the Department of Justice need to see how this operates and that "the world as we know it" does not collapse, before moving to the next logical step.

But all that aside, this is enormously important progress for the nation. Whole Cannabis has enormous potential as a medicine. This memorandum allows progress in making that potential real across a wide front of society, science and law.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, October 16, 2009

Does Los Angeles D.A.'s threat to dispensaries make sense?

The Los Angles Daily News published a thoughtful op-ed by MPP's Bruce Mirken questioning the wisdom of the Los Angeles prosecutor's threat to close medical marijuana dispensaries.

Too many prosecutors are mentally stuck. With their hammer in hand, all problems are nails to be pounded. A brand new medical marijuana industry is sprouting up in Los Angeles. It arises in legal ambiguity founded on a citizen's initiative enacted after California governors repeatedly vetoed the legislature's Acts to create a controlled medical marijuana regime, the near implacable refusal by the law enforcement establishment to obey a law they opposed, and a guerrilla war against medical marijuana carried out by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the United States Attorneys offices, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy at the White House. Since March, the U.S. Attorney General and the White House have indicated that they are backing off, but DEA has continued to raid. There remains no articulated federal policy. So ambiguity prevails.

So the Los Angeles District Attorney, instead of approaching this problem with a goal of cooperating with patients and their providers, has declared he's going to prosecute. Brilliant, not.

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Domestic marijuana vs Mexican cartels

There's a clever letter by SSDP's new Campaigns Director, Tyler Smith, in The Washington Post.

What Will Stop the Drug Wars
Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thanks for publishing an account of the economic impact of domestic marijuana production on Mexican cartels' profits Cartels Face an Economic Battle, front page, Oct. 7].

It's disingenuous for Ralph Reyes, the Drug Enforcement Administration's chief of operations for Mexico and Central America, to blame casual marijuana smokers in the United States for the violence in Mexico. Given the opportunity, marijuana smokers would gladly buy American pot. As The Post's story pointed out, that's increasingly what they are doing.

Obviously, our approach to marijuana control doesn't work. The responsibility for violence in Mexico that stems from drug prohibition lies with our lawmakers, who have utterly failed to embrace a more sensible marijuana policy.

If we regulated and taxed marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol, maybe the next headline on this subject would read "Legal U.S. Marijuana Growers Cripple Mexican Cartels; Violence Diminishes."

Campaign Director
Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, October 07, 2009


He admitted that, older than 40 years, he drugged and raped a thirteen year old girl. He pleaded guilty to a lesser offense. He fled the country. He was ordered arrested.

Protests and outrage at his arrest are preposterous.

He should be brought back to the United States and be sentenced.

Sphere: Related Content