Safe Streets Alliance et al. v. John Hickenlooper, et al. – Good News, Bad News

C1_8734_r_xA ruling issued on June 7th by the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in response to a series of legal challenges to Colorado’s adult cannabis use regulations, includes both good news and bad news.

The Good News

Most importantly for the legalization movement nationwide, the appeals court rejected the argument raised by the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma that Amendment 64 in Colorado, the voter initiative that legalized and regulated the adult use of marijuana, was preempted by the federal Controlled Substances Act. That argument, made by these neighboring states, if accepted by the court, would have voided Amendment 64.

It should be noted that this was not a definitive ruling on the federal preemption argument. Rather, it was a procedural ruling, finding that only the US Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear disputes between the states. (The Supreme Court declined to consider a similar challenge in 2016.)

In fact, it was only after the Supreme Court had rejected their motion that the two states elected to raise these same issues with the 10th Circuit, by filing a motion to intervene in the Safe Streets case.

Also a big win, the Circuit Court rejected a similar attempt by a group of sheriffs and prosecutors from Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska to use the US Controlled Substances Act and the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution to enjoin the enforcement of Amendment 64. The court found that the Supremacy Clause “does not give rise to a private right of action.”

Hopefully this will give pause to other anti-marijuana zealots out there who might wish to use the federal preemption argument to undermine the various state legalization laws.

The Bad News

The bad news is that the 10th Circuit did reinstate a civil RICO complaint filed by private landowners in Colorado against a state-licensed indoor cultivation center, alleging it had caused a noxious odor that damaged their property value. The appellate court remanded the case back to the US District Court for further proceedings to allow the plaintiffs to attempt to prove their RICO claims.

While this is necessarily concerning to those in the state-legal cultivation industry, since the problems presented by the odors emanating from large grow operations is a theme which has been raised in several Colorado communities, it likely does not open the floodgates for every neighbor to bring a RICO suit against any cultivation center. Rather it likely will accelerate the adoption of the most effective technology by cultivation centers to minimize the odor of marijuana.

In the court’s own words, “We are not suggesting that every private citizen purportedly aggrieved by another person, a group, or an enterprise that is manufacturing, distributing, selling, or using marijuana may pursue a claim under RICO. Nor are we implying that every person tangentially injured in his business or property by such activities has a viable RICO claim. Rather, we hold only that the Reillys alleged sufficient facts to plausibly establish the requisite elements of their claims against the Marijuana Growers here.”

Weekly Legislative Roundup 3/17/2017

revolutionbumperWelcome to this week’s edition of the NORML legislative roundup!

First and foremost, Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Fun fact, marijuana is still safer than alcohol. You can read more about it in Marijuana is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink? co-authored by NORML’s own Paul Armentano.

This week we saw “legislative crossover” days dash the hopes of advancement in both Kentucky and Iowa. Additionally, the New Hampshire Senate defeated a legalization effort there, yet we are confident that this is the year when the Granite State finally decriminalizes marijuana.

If you missed it, our monthly national chapter call had updates from Colorado, Delaware, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Washington state on their recent lobbying efforts. You can read more in calls report by clicking here.

The Washington City Paper published a great piece entitled Pot: A Political History which does a wonderful job of giving context to the struggles that we face today after 80 years of marijuana prohibition.

Below are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.

Thanks for all you do and keep fighting,
Justin

Priority Alerts

Federal
End Prohibition: Representatives Tom Garrett (R-VA) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) have introduced bipartisan legislation, HR 1227, to exclude marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus leaving states the authority to regulate the plant how best they see fit.

The “Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” eliminates federal criminal penalties for possessing and growing the plant. This legislation gives states the power and flexibility to establish their own marijuana policies free from federal interference.

Click here to email your Congressional Representative to urge them to support this crucial legislation.

Join The Caucus: With public support for reforming marijuana laws at an all time high, Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Don Young (R-AK) have formed the first-ever Congressional Cannabis Caucus to develop and promote sensible cannabis policy reform and work to ease the tension between federal and state cannabis laws.

Click here to email your Member of Congress to urge them to join the newly formed Cannabis Caucus

Colorado
Colorado State Senator Bob Gardner and Representative Dan Pabon have introduced legislation, SB 184, The Marijuana Membership Clubs and Public Use Bill, will provide Colorado municipalities with the regulatory framework needed to allow responsible adults the option to socially consume marijuana in a membership club away from the general public.

Update: SB 184 passed the full Senate on Thursday, March 9, by a vote of 25-10 and will now be sent to the House. Gov. Hickenlooper has threatened a veto, saying he opposes any expansion of indoor smoking.

CO Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Connecticut
Multiple pieces of legislation to legalize the adult use of marijuana and to regulate its commercial distribution is pending in both the state House and Senate.

Update: Lawmakers have scheduled a pair of hearings in March to debate these various legalization proposals. Members of the Public Health Committee heard testimony on Tuesday, March 7. Members of the Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on Wednesday, March 22.

CT Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

New Mexico
Legislation is pending, Senate Bill 258, to reduce penalties for minor marijuana possession offenses.

The measure eliminates criminal criminal penalties for the possession of up to one-half of one ounce of cannabis, reducing the offense to a $50 fine. Under present law, this offense is classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to 15 days in jail and criminal record.

Update: Members of the House Consumer and Public Affairs Committee passed SB 258 on March 14. It must still pass through one additional committee prior to receiving a House floor vote.

NM Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Tennessee
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, and Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, are sponsoring the legislature’s most concerted effort to legalize medical use of marijuana.

Under present law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $250 fine.

Update: SB 860 was placed on the calendar of the Criminal Justice Subcommittee for March 14 and HB 673 was deferred in Senate Judiciary Committee to March 28.

TN Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Additional Actions To Take

Kansas
Legislation is pending, House Bill 2152, to permit qualified patients access to marijuana or extracts containing CBD and low levels of THC.

The measure would permit patients with Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis, post-traumatic stress disorder or a condition causing seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy, to possess marijuana or extracts containing no more than three percent THC. The measure also seeks to establish rules governing the state-licensed cultivation of low-THC marijuana strains and the preparation of products derived from such strains.

Update: Members of the House Health and Human Services Committee heard the bill on Wednesday, Match 15 at 1:30pm, Room 546-S.

KS Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Maine
Legislation is pending, LD 1064, to require health insurance policies to cover expenses related to the physician authorized use of medical cannabis.

The measure states, “A carrier offering a health plan in this State shall provide coverage for marijuana for  medical use for an enrollee who has received certification for the medical use of marijuana from a medical provider.”

ME Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Maryland
House and Senate legislation is pending to allow those with past criminal marijuana convictions to have those records expunged.

House Bill 379 / Senate Bill 949 permit those who received a criminal marijuana possession conviction prior to October 1, 2014, to seek expungement of their records.

Update: Members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee passed SB 949 on March 9.

MD Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Massachusetts
Legislation is pending before the House, H 113, to prohibit employers from discriminating against patients who legally consume marijuana during non-work hours. Additional legislation, H 2385, would expand protections for medical marijuana patients so that they may not be discriminated against with regard to housing, higher education, and child custody issues.  

Changes in the legal status of marijuana has not been associated with any adverse changes in workplace safety. In fact, a pair of studies from 2016 find that legalization is associated with greater workforce participation and with fewer workplace absences. Most recently, the National Academies of Sciences just-released marijuana and health report found “insufficient evidence” to support an association between cannabis use and occupational accidents or injuries.

It is time to end this discriminatory policy.

MA Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Montana
House Bill 529 imposes a special six percent statewide tax upon medical marijuana sales. This tax would be in addition to the imposition of existing state and local taxes.

While NORML generally does not oppose the imposition of fair and reasonable sales taxes on the commercial sales of cannabis for recreational purposes, we do not support such excessive taxation on medical sales. Most other states that regulate medical cannabis sales do not impose such taxes and Montana patients should not be forced to pay these excessive costs.

Update: Members of the House Taxation Committee heard testimony on the bill on March 15. Most witnesses testified against the bill.

MT Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to oppose this effort.

New Mexico
Governor Susana Martinez has vetoed House Bill 144, which sought to establish a hemp research program in compliance with provisions in the federal Farm Bill explicitly authorizing states to engage in licensed activity involving hemp absent federal reclassification of the plant. The Governor provided no public explanation for the veto.

The bill has previously passed the House and Senate by votes of 42 to 26 and 30 to 12 respectively.

Update: Lawmakers have introduced a third hemp research bill, House Bill 530. This bill was passed by the House on March 14 by a vote of 65 to 1, and now awaits senate action.

NM Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Oklahoma
Legislation has been introduced, Senate Bill 704, to provide for hemp cultivation and manufacturing.

The measure excludes industrial hemp from the state’s definition of marijuana and provides for its commercial cultivation and export.

The measure also expands the list of qualifying conditions eligible for CBD treatment under state law. Under this change, patients with chronic pain, post-traumatic stress, and anxiety would be eligible for medicinal cannabis products as long as those formulations are in liquid form and do not exceed 12 percent THC.

OK Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Tennessee
SB 1116 seeks to decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.

Under present law, the possession of any amount of marijuana is punishable by up to one year in jail and a $250 fine.

Update: SB 1116 has a hearing scheduled for March 28.

TN Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

West Virginia
Legislation by Delegate Hornbuckle of Cabell, House Bill 3035, to legalize and regulate the adult use, production, and sale of marijuana is before members of the House Health and human Resources Committee.

House Bill 3035, allows adults to possess up to one ounce of cannabis and to cultivate up to six cannabis plants for their own personal use. It also regulates the commercial marijuana market and allows for the production of industrial hemp.

WV Resident? Click here to urge your elected officials to support this effort.

Weekly Legislative Roundup, 2/10/2017

revolutionbumperWelcome to this week’s edition of the legislative roundup!

One thing is clear so far this year, elected officials see the writing on the wall when it comes to marijuana in America. This week, the number of bills filed throughout the country pertaining to various marijuana related policies broke 1,000.

Most importantly, Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), has reintroduced bipartisan legislation, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ to prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.

With the recent confirmation of militant marijuana prohibitionist Jeff Sessions to the position of US Attorney General, passage of this Act is necessary to ensure that medical marijuana patients and others are protected from undue federal interference.

In just the last day, we have had over 1,500 people email their Congressional Representative to support this crucial piece of legislation.

Additionally, much to the dismay of marijuana advocates (and a number of our allies including the ACLU and NAACP), Jeff Sessions has been confirmed and sworn in as the nation’s Attorney General.

What happens next in regards to marijuana policy is uncertain but for now, NORML and marijuana advocates from around the country will continue to pursue further progress, be it at the state or federal level.

Below are the bills from around the country that we’ve tracked this week and as always, check http://norml.org/act for legislation pending in your state.

Don’t forget to sign up for our email list and we will keep you posted as these bills and more move through your home state legislature and at the federal level.

Thanks for all you do and keep fighting,
Justin

PRIORITY ALERTS

Federal
Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), along with six other Republicans and six Democrats, has reintroduced bipartisan legislation, ‘The Respect State Marijuana Laws Act,’ to prevent the federal government from criminally prosecuting individuals and/or businesses who are engaging in state-sanctioned activities specific to the possession, use, production, and distribution of marijuana.

HR 975 states, ‘‘Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the provisions of this subchapter related to marihuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with State laws relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, or delivery of marihuana.’’

Click here to email your Congressional Representative to urge them to support this crucial legislation.

Connecticut
Multiple pieces of legislation to legalize the adult use of marijuana and to regulate its commercial distribution is pending in both the state House and Senate.

Reps. Melissa Ziobron (R), and Juan Candelaria (D) also have similar measures, HB 5314 and HB 5539. HB 5314 has been reserved for public hearings and HB 5539 is still being debated in committee.

The House Speaker has previously acknowledged that he expects these bills to receive full hearings this session, so it is vital that your lawmakers hear consistent support for these measures from voters like you.

CT Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

New Hampshire
Update: HB640 has passed the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee on a vote of 14-2.

HB640, sponsored by 6 Republicans and 6 Democrats, will amend criminal penalties for marijuana possession is pending in the House, where lawmakers have overwhelmingly supported such efforts for eight years in a row. However, legislators this year are hopeful that, for the first time, they also have sufficient votes to also clear the Senate.

NH Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

New York
Legislation has been filed for the 2017 legislative session to eliminate the ‘public view’ loophole exception in New York state’s marijuana law. Abuse of this provision has led to hundreds of thousands of needless marijuana arrests in recent years, primarily in New York City, despite the possession of the plant being decriminalized in the state since 1977.

NY Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Rhode Island
New Polling: A coalition of Rhode Island lawmakers has reintroduced a marijuana legalization this legislative session.

A majority of Rhode Island residents, about 60 percent, support legalization and Jared Moffat, Director of Regulate Rhode Island, believes: “It’s time for Rhode Island to look very seriously at this issue and pass a bill. Otherwise, we risk falling behind those other states.”

RI Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Texas
Legislation has been introduced for the 2017 legislative session to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

House Bill 81, filed by Representative Joe Moody and cosponsored by Representative Jason Isaac, seeks to amend state law so that possessing up to one ounce of marijuana is a civil violation, punishable by a fine – no arrest, no jail, and no criminal record. Under current state law, first-time marijuana possession offenses are classified as a criminal misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000.

According to the ACLU, Texas arrests over 70,000 individuals annually for simple marijuana possession offenses — the second highest total in the nation, at the cost of over 250 million dollars per year.

TX Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Tennessee
Several pieces of legislation are pending to amend marijuana possession penalties.

HB 831 and SB 1116 seek to decriminalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.

Separate legislation is pending in the House and Senate — SB 265 and HB 297 — to reduce penalties associated with the possession of one-eighth of marijuana (3.544 grams) to a $50 fine-only offense. However, under these bills, simple possession would still remain classified as a misdemeanor.

TN Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

OTHER ACTIONS TO TAKE

Florida
HB 237 seeks to prohibit individuals from operating a motor vehicle if they have 5 or more nanograms of THC per milliliter in their blood.

NORML opposes this proposal.

The presence of low levels of THC in blood is an inappropriate and inconsistent indicator of psychomotor impairment. No less than the United States Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) agrees, stating, “It is difficult to establish a relationship between a person’s THC blood or plasma concentration and performance impairing effects. … It is inadvisable to try and predict effects based on blood THC concentrations alone.”

It should not be presumed that the detection of THC is predictive of psychomotor impairment and such a presumption should not be codified in Florida’s traffic safety statutes. The imposition and enforcement of this measure risks inappropriately convicting unimpaired subjects of traffic safety violations.

FL Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Georgia
Legislation is pending in the Senate, SB 105, to reduce felony marijuana possession offenses to a fine-only misdemeanor.

Under state law, the possession of over one ounce of marijuana is classified as a felony offense — punishable by a minimum of one year in jail and up to ten years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Senate Bill 105 would reduce this penalty to a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $300.

GA Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Iowa
Legislation is pending in the House, HF 199, to establish a statewide medical marijuana program. Under HF 199, qualified patients with intractable pain and other conditions would be able to obtain cannabis from state-licensed facilities. Similar legislation is also pending in the Senate, SF 205.

A more narrow version of this program is proposed by separate legislation, HF 198.

IA Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Kansas
Legislation is pending before lawmakers, SB 155, to establish regulations governing a comprehensive medical marijuana program.

SB 155 would permit qualified patients to grow their own medical marijuana or to obtain it from a licensed dispensary, while also educating physicians who seek to recommend cannabis therapy.

Kansas is one of fewer than a dozen US states that has taken no action to reform its medical marijuana laws. Please urge your House and Senate lawmakers to support these comprehensive legislation.

KS Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Minnesota
Legislation to permit the adult use, cultivation, production, and retail sale of marijuana is forthcoming in the Minnesota legislature.

Deputy Minority Leader, State Rep. Jon Applebaum has announced his intent to sponsor the measure in a press release. The bill would allow those age 21 or older to legally possess and cultivate marijuana for personal use and establish regulations governing its commercial production and retail sale.

MN Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

New Mexico
Update: HB 89 has cleared the first committee as it makes it’s way to the floor of the House.

State Representatives Bill McCamley and Javier Martinez introduced HB 89 to regulate the cultivation and retail sale of marijuana in the state.

”It is either going to happen sooner or it is going to happen later and if it happens sooner we can realize the economic benefits now.” McCamley said.

NM Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Oklahoma
Legislation is pending in the House, HB 1877, The Medical Marijuana Act of 2017.

Passage of the Act would regulate state-licensed dispensaries to provide up to two and one-half ounces of marijuana to qualifying patients.

Separate provisions protect the rights of patients from civil sanctions, stating: “An employer shall not discriminate against an individual in hiring, termination or any term or condition of employment, or otherwise penalize an individual, based upon the past or present status of the individual as a qualifying patient or designated caregiver; A person otherwise entitled to custody of, or visitation or parenting time with, a minor shall not be denied custody, visitation or parenting time solely for conduct allowed under this act.”

OK Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Vermont
UPDATE: H. 170 was first heard on Thursday, Feb. 9th

Legislation is pending in the House, H.170, to eliminate civil and criminal penalties specific to the possession and cultivation of personal use quantities of marijuana by adults.

If passed, the measure would legalize the possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana, up to ten grams of hashish, and/or the cultivation of two marijuana plants in a private residence.

VT Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

Wisconsin
Senator Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) and Representative Chris Taylor (D-Madison) introduced a pair of bills seeking to provide qualified patients with legal access to medical cannabis. The first bill establishes a statewide medical marijuana program, while the second bill would poll voters’ attitudes on the issue in the form of a nonbinding statewide referendum.

Speaking at a news conference, Sen. Erpenbach said that the passage of his legislation will put patients “in a situation where they don’t have to break the law anymore.”
WI Resident? Click here to email your elected officials to support this effort.

NORML’s Legislative Round Up September 2nd, 2016

thumbs_upIn this week’s Round Up we’ll update you regarding the status of a number of state and local ballot measures, and we’ll also highlight new legislation signed into law this week in Delaware. Plus we’ll give you the details on the latest Governor to endorse marijuana decriminalization. Keep reading below to get this week’s news in marijuana law reform!

State:

Arizona: The Supreme Court this week rejected a lawsuit that sought to prohibit Proposition 205, the Arizona Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, from going before voters this November. The Act allows adults twenty-one years of age and older to possess and grow specified amounts of marijuana (up to one ounce of marijuana flower, up to five grams of marijuana concentrate, and/or the harvest from up to six plants). It creates a system for licensed businesses to produce and sell marijuana and establishes a Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control to regulate the cultivation, manufacturing, testing, transportation, and sale of marijuana.

Voters in four additional states, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada, will also be deciding on similar adult use initiatives on Election Day.

Arkansas: The Secretary of State’s office this week certified that a competing medical marijuana initiative, the Arkansas Medical Marijuana Amendment, will also appear on the electoral ballot in November. Unlike Issue 7, The Arkansas Medical Cannabis Act, this second initiative does not include provisions allowing eligible patients to cultivate their own cannabis at home.

Statewide polling reports greater public support for the Medical Cannabis Act. Under state law, if voters approve both measures the one that receives the greatest number of votes will become law.

Voters in three additional states, Florida, North Dakota, and Montana, will decide on similar medical use measures in November. In Missouri, campaigners are litigating to ask the courts to review signature totals in the state’s second Congressional district.

Colorado: A municipal initiative effort that sought to permit for the adult use of marijuana in licensed establishments failed to qualify for the November ballot. The Responsible Use Denver initiative, backed by Denver NORML, needed 4,726 signatures to qualify for inclusion on November ballot. The campaign submitted more than 7,500 signatures, but just 2,987 were verified as eligible by the Denver Elections Division. The Campaign posted: “We are sad to report that our language did not make the November ballot. We plan to continue pushing the conversation with the city of Denver. Our opinion remains the same, that we have what we feel is the best solution for the city of Denver. Thank you to everyone that has supported us on this journey.” City officials did confirm that a separate municipal initiative seeking to establish a ‘Neighborhood-Supported Cannabis Consumption Pilot Program’ will appear on November’s ballot.

pills_v_potDelaware: Governor Jack Markell signed legislation into law this week permitting terminally ill patients to access medical cannabis. House Bill 400 (aka ‘Bob’s bill’) permits physicians to recommend cannabis therapy to terminally ill adults. It also permits those under 18 to access CBD products if they are suffering from “pain, anxiety, or depression” related to a terminal illness.

The new law takes effect at the end of November.

Oklahoma: State Question 788, a statewide initiative to establish a state-licensing system to permit eligible patients to possess and cultivate personal use quantities of cannabis for therapeutic purposes, is unlikely to appear on the 2016 electoral ballot. Although the Secretary of State has certified that initiative proponents collected sufficient signatures, proponents are now challenging the attorney general’s rewording of the ballot title. The legal challenge could force the issue to be decided in a special election. Updated information regarding this initiative campaign may be found on NORML’s 2016 initiatives page.

Pennsylvania: Governor Tom Wolf expressed support for marijuana decriminalization this week stating, “too many people are going to prison because of the use of very modest amounts or carrying modest amounts of marijuana, and that is clogging up our prisons, it’s destroying families, and it’s hurting our economy.”

Marijuana decriminalization legislation, House Bill 2076, is currently pending before members of the House Judiciary committee. The legislation would amend the state’s controlled substances act so that minor marijuana possession offenses are considered a non-criminal offense. Contact your state House members and urge them to support this common sense legislation. #TakeAction

Tennessee: Members of the Nashville Metro Council voted 32 to 4 to approve legislation to lessen local marijuana possession penalties. The proposal amends penalties for the possession of or exchanging of up to one-half ounce of marijuana to a $50 civil penalty or 10 hours of community service. The vote was the first of three the bill will receive; it is the first time a marijuana decriminalization measure was considered by the legislative body.

Under current state law, individuals convicted of possession of less than one ounce of marijuana face a misdemeanor charge that is punishable of up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. If you live in Nashville, consider contacting your Council member and urging them to support this common sense measure.

Spottedcrow Flies Free


Patricia Spottedcrow, an Oklahoma woman who was sentenced to 12 years for selling $31 worth of pot, with no prior convictions, was released from prison yesterday (Thursday, November 29th), after serving almost two years of her twelve-year sentence.

Her case received significant coverage after the story was featured in 2011 Tulsa World series on why Oklahoma ranks number one for sending more women to prison per capita, than any other state. Grassroots organizers then rallied together to bring attention to this egregious example of our overzealous sentencing for marijuana-related crimes. It worked, outrage spread far and wide.

After several targeted campaigns to local law enforcement and elected officials, as well as an especially strong grassroots effort spearheaded by outraged mothers and reformers, the lobbying paid off.  Officials decided to reconsider her twelve-year sentence.

In July of this year, upon the unanimous recommendation of the Pardon and Parole Board, Gov. Fallin agreed to approve her parole, contingent upon her completion of the community service part of her sentence. Today, Spottedcrow is a free woman that has since been reunited with her family and her three small children.

After spending over two years in prison, Patricia Spottedcrow greets her children when they get home from school. from Tulsa World on Vimeo. (Try this too: http://vimeo.com/54579830#at=0)

The NORML Women’s Alliance was deeply involved with this effort, as well as providing personal support to Patricia Spottedcrow through a formal letter writing campaign. She received an outpouring of support and sent the Alliance a personal thank you letter.

“This is an inspirational reminder that justice still exists.  It proves that with cooperation and determination, grassroots efforts truly can make a significant difference in people’s lives,” said Sabrina Fendrick, Founder and Director of the NORML Women’s Alliance.

Oklahoma Mom Sentenced to 12 Years In Prison For $30 Worth Of Weed May Get Parole!

“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history” -Gandhi 

Patricia Spottedcrow, a mother and first time offender from Oklahoma, was originally sentenced to 12 years behind bars for selling $30 worth of marijuana. For months, the NORML Women’s Alliance, and other organizations have been bringing attention to one of the most egregious cases of the war on drugs in recent history.  After several outreach campaigns to local law enforcement and elected officials, and especially a strong grassroots effort spearheading my outraged mothers and reformers alike, the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board have recommended early parole for Spottedcrow. While this is a small victory in the battle against marijuana prohibition, it is significant in showing that grassroots efforts trult can make a significant difference in the lives of those adversely impacted by the government’s war on drugs.

OKLAHOMA CITY – Grassroots support may evolve into early parole for a Kingfisher mother who was handed a strict prison sentence for a first-time offense of selling $31 worth of marijuana.

After her story was published in the Tulsa World’s series on Women in Prison in 2011, a groundswell of support emerged. In October, a Kingfisher County judge reduced her sentence by four years.

Spottedcrow’s advocates expressed concern for possible racial bias, disparate sentences for drug crimes, Oklahoma’s No. 1 female incarceration rate per capita and the effects on children growing up with incarcerated parents.

Because children were in Spottedcrow’s home when she was arrested, a charge of possession of a dangerous substance in the presence of a minor was added. Her mother, Delita Starr, was also charged with the crime but was given a 30-year suspended sentence so she could care for Spottedcrow’s four children while their mother was incarcerated.

Board member Marc Dreyer, senior pastor at Tulsa’s Memorial Baptist Church, was instrumental in getting Spottedcrow’s case early consideration.

He said he requested to meet Spottedcrow while visiting Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft a few months ago, after reading about her case in the Tulsa World.

“Based on quantity of drugs involved and the desperation of her situation at the time, it was my view that she ought to have consideration by the board for parole, as there were some extenuating circumstances,” Dreyer said. He requested that her case be moved to the board’s April hearing.

Click here for more information.

The NORML Women’s Alliance would like to thank everyone who took the time to make their voice heard against this injustice.  Together, we will prevail. Support the NORML Women’s Alliance with a donation by clicking the link below:

Donate with WePay

Montana landlord facing more prison time for leasing to medical marijuana providers than serial raping arsonist

Click here for more coverage of Montana

Remember those letters from US Attorneys to landlords who rent to medical marijuana operations?  In Montana, prosecutors have charged a landlord and he now faces more prison time than the medical marijuana providers he rented to.

Jonathan Janetski, charged along with Kassner and Roe, is looking at up to three years in prison, according to his lawyer, Todd Glazier of Kalispell. But, he says:

Janetski didn’t grow marijuana.

He didn’t sell it.

He was the landlord.

“He has no criminal history,” Glazier said. “He just rented to some people.”

To the best of Glazier’s knowledge, Janetski is the only landlord charged as the result of two rounds of federal search warrants executed on medical marijuana operations in Montana last year.

Janetski is scheduled to be sentenced April 19 on a charge of maintaining drug-involved premises. Although that carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, along with three years’ supervised release, Glazier said the sentencing guidelines mean his client is likely looking at a recommendation of 30 to 36 months in federal prison.

“He would end up … serving more time than the actual people who manufactured the marijuana,” Glazier said.

Read more: http://missoulian.com/news/local/flathead-valley-landlord-faces-prison-for-tenants-medical-marijuana-operation/article_388244f8-7636-11e1-8797-0019bb2963f4.html#ixzz1q9M5vIgM

Click here for more coverage of OklahomaWell, there’s one less vote for Barack Obama next election.  But even if Janetski wasn’t sitting in a prison cell, I wonder if he’d vote for the president who promised that federal authorities would have higher priorities than medical marijuana and his Attorney General whose Department of Justice confirmed they wouldn’t harass medical marijuana businesses operating in compliance with state law.

Kyle Eugene Avery. Served 1 year for arson in Oklahoma. Case dismissed on sexual battery. Lewd act with 14 year-old (case pending). Two rape charges dropped. Sexual assault charge pending. But at least he didn't rent space to medical marijuana providers!

I guess there are some interesting priorities going on in Montana.  While Janetski may be sitting in prison for three years for providing a business space for medical marijuana providers to help sick people get their medicine, guess who’ll be out walking the streets sooner?  Kyle Eugene Avery…

MISSOULA (KAJ18) – A Missoula man who is accused of raping his ex-girlfriend and her roommate may not spend any more time in jail after prosecutors dismissed two sex charges against him in a plea agreement.

Prosecutors say Kyle Eugene Avery also sexually assaulted another woman while she slept, but they dropped the two rape charges and Avery is now facing a sexual assault and a tampering with evidence charge, because after [he] got caught, investigators say he licked his fingers to get rid of the evidence.

Despite the Missoula County Attorney’s objection the judge released Avery from jail while he awaits his sentencing. The plea agreement calls for a suspended sentence.

Suspended sentence for this guy?!?  Have you seen his rap sheet?  It begins in Oklahoma with a conviction for First Degree Arson in 2008, for which he served just one year in prison (two years suspended).  In 2009, he racked up a charge for sexual battery, but the case was dismissed.

(McAlester News-Capital) In June of 2011, Kyle Eugene Avery, 21, allegedly engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with a 14-year-old girl, according to court records, and was charged Sept. 23 with one count of lewd or indecent proposals or acts to a child under 16 years of age.

And then we get the cases for which the prosecution traded away two rape charges to get a plea deal on a sexual assault and evidence tampering charge?

The 21-year-old man is charged with two counts of sexual intercourse without consent, both felonies punishable by up to 100 years in prison, and an additional count of misdemeanor sexual assault.

Avery is alleged to have raped his then-girlfriend in early August, and then raped her roommate about a month later.

A third alleged victim reported to police that Avery exposed himself in her home after trying to touch her on the groin with his foot on two occasions on the morning of Sept. 4.

All three women went to the Missoula Police Department on the evening of Sept. 5.

Charging documents state that Avery at first denied even knowing the alleged victims or any details about the allegations. He then later admitted having sex with his girlfriend in early August and confessed to “kissing and stuff” the second woman, who had taken the defendant on a drive to confront him about his alleged acts against her roommate. On that drive, Avery allegedly fondled and kissed the woman while she drove, and then raped her.

Kicked out of both homes, Avery stayed the night on Sept. 3-4 at the home of the alleged third victim. There, documents state, he told the woman’s son that he thought about “doing your mom.”

Read more: http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/article_5f9e0f32-d8e2-11e0-ac83-001cc4c03286.html#ixzz1q9SzshQ8

So, instead of the possible 100 years (or 200, if served consecutively, not concurrently) that Kyle Eugene Avery could be serving for two rapes (and, let’s figure in the karma for previous lewd conduct with kids, sexual battery, and freakin’ felony arson!), he faces a misdemeanor.  What’s the punishment for that?

(KXLH) The Montana House of Representatives passed a bill that would increase the penalty for sexual assault crimes.

Currently a person convicted of sexual assault is fined up to $500 and can be imprisoned for up to 6 months.

Under Sen. Taylor Brown’s bill the penalties double for a second time offender then increase to $10,000 and five years in prison for a third offense.

A suspended (read: no time in jail) six months for a serial raping arsonist.  Three years for a medical marijuana landlord.  Welcome to American Justice!

Yukon Family Pushes to Legalize Medical Marijuana in Oklahoma For Autistic Son

Supporters of medical marijuana say it can be used for a wide variety of treatments including glaucoma, cancer and AIDS. But now support is growing, including here locally, to give it to children who suffer from autism.

When legislators return to the statehouse next week, medical marijuana will be back on the table. And one local family says they will be pushing for it to pass for the sake of their autistic son.

Life with 7-year-old Deacon is a constant challenge.

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Oklahoma Mom of 4 Reflects on First Year in Prison for $31 Pot Sale

Wearing prison-issue yellow clothes, Patricia Spottedcrow reflects on her first year in prison through the lens of tears and determination.

One year ago, on the week of Christmas, the first-time offender was checked into the Eddie Warrior women’s prison – the first holiday away from her four young children.

“I cried and cried just thinking of my kids opening presents on Christmas and I wasn’t there,” she said. “This year, it’s going to be any other day. I try not to keep up with days in here.”

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The Top Ten People in Marijuana in 2011

Before we get started, let me make clear that this list is not “The Best People” or “The Worst People” or “The Most Important People”.  It is also not NORML’s official endorsement or condemnation of anyone listed.  This is merely my review of some of the personal stories in cannabis law reform, some whom you’ll recognize, others who appear briefly in a news report and are forgotten, that I felt needed recognition.  In fact, if you count them up, it’s more than ten people.

The Top Ten People in Marijuana in 2011 (audio mp3)

10. William Breathes – Journalism defeating unscientific and inaccurate DUID laws in Colorado

William Breathes, Denver WestWord's pot critic

When you say “medical marijuana” to most Americans, they will think “California”.  But Colorado has actually the most regulated and state-developed medical marijuana program in the country.  Per capita, Denver has far more medical marijuana dispensaries than Los Angeles or San Francisco/Oakland.  So I had no doubt that someone from Colorado would have to be included on this list.

Unfortunately, most of activism headlines out of Colorado in 2011 detailed the kind of immaturity and shenanigans that reflect poorly on marijuana activism.  2011 saw Miguel Lopez hectoring a legislator into dropping a patient privacy amendment, lecturing legislative committees, and accused of stealing and destroying legalization petitions.  Corey Donahue was jailed for disrupting a meeting organizing supporters of a legalization initiative, had his “Crazy for Justice” propose making April 20th a state holiday, and is accused of stealing documents from the state’s medical marijuana enforcement division (awaiting re-trial following mis-trial because Miguel Lopez was filming the jury selection).  Kathleen Chippi, Robert Chase, and Laura Kriho boasted openly about their active opposition to legalization efforts.

Thankfully, the “pot critic” of Denver’s alt-weekly, WestWord, comes to the rescue with an inspiring tale of one journalist’s use of the scientific method to help defeat bad anti-cannabis legislation.  Colorado had proposed a “5ng/mL per se DUID” standard, sort of the idea represented by a 0.08 blood-alcohol level to supposedly net drunk drivers.  The problem is that cannabis isn’t alcohol.  The science shows no reliable “impairment standard” for THC for every person.  Marijuana smokers can test above 5ng without displaying any impairment, and frequent consumers, like medical marijuana patients, can be way above 5ng with no recent consumption at all.

Breathes, a patient, took it upon himself to abstain from marijuana use for fifteen hours.  He was then tested and found to be at 13.5ng/mL, even as he was completely sober after a night of restful sleep.  This front-page news and subsequent support from new studies and a deadlocked task force of experts forced the Colorado legislators to kill the proposal.  Which, sadly, was then embraced by…

9. Alison Holcomb – New Approach Washington’s legalization adopts Colorado’s defeated DUID provision

Alison Holcomb

Alison Holcomb of ACLU-WA

Washington State is poised in 2012 to have a marijuana legalization proposal on the ballot that stands a serious chance of winning.  Alison Holcomb, the Drug Policy Director at ACLU of Washington, has done a remarkable job lining up high-profile supporters, including travel guru Rick Steves, Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, former US Attorney John McKay, and former FBI Special Agent in Charge of Seattle Division, Charles Mandigo; as well as securing the big-dollar funding an initiative needs to be successful.

However, controversy within the Washington marijuana movement erupted as activists got wind of the details within I-502, the Holcomb-sponsored marijuana legalization initiative.  ACLU’s polling showed the two biggest obstacles to legalization support among the public are “What About the Children?!?” and “Beware the Stoned Drivers!!!”.  To assuage the public’s fear of stoned teenagers, I-502 sets a 21 age limit and zero tolerance for any use by drivers in that age group.  More controversially, to mitigate the stoned driver fear, I-502 adopts the same 5ng/mL per se DUID standard that had just been defeated in Colorado.

That DUID standard has caused longtime legalization advocates, including NORML attorney Douglas Hiatt, NORML Board Member Jeff Steinborn, and Seattle Hempfest Director Vivian McPeak, to publicly condemn I-502.  (To their credit, none of them have been arrested for stealing from and disrupting their opposition, a la Colorado above.)  It will be up to the voters in the Evergreen State to decide whether a few innocent tokers jailed on DUID is worth the potential of all tokers being innocent of possession.

8. Willie Nelson – the case of the living legend and the evaporating marijuana

How do you turn six ounces into three ounces into just a pot pipe? Ask Willie!

Bless Willie Nelson, he’s been a lifetime supporter of NORML and voices many pro-legalization ads on our radio show.  He’s always been synonymous with pot smoking.  But this year, he was one of the 850,000+ arrests for marijuana possession.  The case of Willie Nelson in Sierra Blanca, Texas, shone a spotlight on the idiocy of marijuana prohibition.  In its prosecution, it highlighted the disparity of the “justice” system when it comes to drugs and the rich and famous vs. the poor and anonymous.  The fallout has been a nascent political movement and another successful year of touring for the 78-year-old.

In late 2010, Willie was busted by Border Patrol when his tour bus passed through Sierra Blanca, Texas.  Cops seized six ounces of marijuana according to the reports.  In response, Willie notified Steve Bloom of CelebStoner that he was calling for a “Teapot Party” to promote the cause of legalization, which in 2011 gained mainstream political coverage for endorsing Republican Gary Johnson for president, before backpedaling to account for the singer’s support of Democrat Dennis Kucinich.

As Winter 2011 gave way to Spring, the six ounces of marijuana somehow became just three ounces of marijuana.  The county attorney joked, “Between me and the sheriff, we threw out enough of it or smoked enough so that there’s only three ounces, which is within my jurisdiction.”  But the traditional media didn’t get the joke when they reported Willie would be able to get out of jail time if he sang “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain” in court and pay a fine.  The judge confirmed the hoax and said Willie could just plead guilty by mail and pay a fine.

Also in the Spring of 2011, eleven hours’ drive across the state in Tyler, Texas, a jury sentenced Henry Walter Wooten to 35 years in prison (that’s 420 months; dig the irony) for the possession of four-and-a-half ounces of marijuana.  He did have two felony convictions from around two dozen years ago, one for having a gun without a permit and another for selling cocaine.  Most of all, he can’t sing “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain” worth a damn.

This summer, prosecutors agreed to let Willie plead guilty not to three ounces of marijuana but just possession of paraphernalia, which put him out $780 in fines and court costs.  In that deal, there was no punishment or acknowledgement of possession of any marijuana.  But so far the judge isn’t accepting that, saying the singer doesn’t deserve “special treatment”.

7. Patricia Spottedcrow – Single mother of four imprisoned a decade over $31 worth of pot

Patricia Spottedcrow got ten years for selling $31 worth of marijuana.

Every year there are busts of marijuana consumers that tug at the heart strings.  This year, the tale of Patricia Spottedcrow in Oklahoma garnered national attention:

(AOL News) Patricia Marilyn Spottedcrow, a 25-year-old mother of four, and her mother, Delita Starr, 50, sold an $11 dime bag to a police informant in Oklahoma on Dec. 31, 2009. The informant returned two weeks later to buy $20 of marijuana. Spottedcrow, who worked in nursing homes before her arrest, told The Oklahoman she did it to get some extra money.

The women were charged with drug distribution and possession of a dangerous substance in the presence of a minor, because Spottedcrow’s children were in the house during the transaction. They were offered plea deals of two years in prison but decided to enter a guilty plea instead, a gamble they took because neither had prior convictions and because the amount of drugs sold was so small.

The gamble did not pay off. Spottedcrow was given sentences of 10 years in prison for distribution and two years for possession, to run concurrently. When she was picked up to be taken to prison, she had marijuana in her jacket pocket, which led to another two-year concurrent sentence and a fine of nearly $1,300.

The judge in this story feels like she was compassionate in not sentencing the grandmother of Spottedcrow’s children, ages 9, 4, 3, and 1, to any jail time so she can raise the grandkids while mom is in prison.  Gee, thanks judge!  The family is so struggling to make ends meet they sell dime bags, so lets give grandma four mouths to feed all by herself.

But at least this high-level criminal mastermind is behind bars.  Oklahoma is safe now that $31 worth of weed was taken off the streets and an underpaid nursing home attendant is locked up.

6. Mackenzie Allen – Former cop’s legalization question tops Presidential survey

Continuing a theme he established even as a candidate, President Obama solicited the American people on their concerns on the most pressing issues facing America today.  In January, he utilized YouTube to have citizens ask video questions, to be voted on for response.  Mackenzie Allen, a retired law enforcement officer who represents LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) asked the top rated question, which garnered 13,842 votes – over 1% of all votes cast (people could vote for more than one question).  Of the 193,060 people who voted more than 7% voted for the LEAP question.  That’s about one in fourteen people who took the time to Ask Obama.

Click here to view the embedded video.

As a police officer, I saw how waging the war on drugs has cost a trillion dollars and thousands of lives but does nothing to reduce drug use. Should we discuss legalizing marijuana and other drugs, which would eliminate the violent criminal market?

As an honorable mention, our own Erik Altieri in September penned NORML’s legalization question which garnered the most votes in the “We the People” survey.  This latest incarnation of “Change.gov” / “Open for Questions” / “Citizen’s Briefing Book” / “Ideas for Change” / “Ask Obama” marked the ninth time the president has asked and the ninth time the American people have screamed, overwhelmingly, “legalize it!”

Click here to view the embedded video.

5. U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy – One of four engaged in “crack down” on California medical marijuana

Laura E. Duffy, US Attorney for Southern District of California

The four US Attorneys in California, apparently acting without direction from President Obama or Attorney General Holder, moved to crack down on what they consider to be “abuses” of medical marijuana laws of California.  Referring to Proposition 215, the 1996 initiative that excepted medical use of marijuana from criminal prosecution, Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. attorney for California’s central district, said “What we’ve seen, unfortunately, is the Compassionate Use Act has really turned into the Commercial Use Act.”  (It remains unclear to me why federal US Attorneys think they have standing to evaluate what is and isn’t an abuse of state law, but I’m one of those weirdos who’s read the 9th and 10th Amendments to the Constitution.)

But I’ve singled out Laura E. Duffy of the four because she went above and beyond her colleagues in not only ignoring her boss’s previous policy statements and the 9th & 10th Amendments, but in also threatening the 1st Amendment over medical marijuana:

(California Watch) Federal prosecutors are preparing to target newspapers, radio stations and other media outlets that advertise medical marijuana dispensaries in California, another escalation in the Obama administration’s newly invigorated war against the state’s pot industry.

U.S. Attorney Laura E. Duffy, whose district includes Imperial and San Diego counties, said marijuana advertising is the next area she’s “going to be moving onto as part of the enforcement efforts in Southern California.” Duffy said she could not speak for the three other U.S. attorneys covering the state but noted their efforts have been coordinated so far.

“I’m not just seeing print advertising,” Duffy said in an interview with California Watch and KQED. “I’m actually hearing radio and seeing TV advertising. It’s gone mainstream. Not only is it inappropriate – one has to wonder what kind of message we’re sending to our children – it’s against the law.”

4. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer – loves fed marijuana policy, hates fed immigration policy

To be fair, this ability is not uncommon among politicians.

There was no shortage of state governors I could have chosen for this spot.  New Jersey’s reprehensible Chris Christie has stonewalled every step of the way in implementing The (No) Garden State’s medical marijuana law, even trying to turn the mandated six dispensaries into only four, limited to growing but three strains statewide that measure less than 10% THC.  Montana’s quirky Brian Schweitzer won praise for vetoing an attempt to repeal medical marijuana, only to earn scorn for allowing “Repeal Lite” to pass without his signature.  Washington’s spineless Chris Gregoire line-item vetoed a legislative measure to establish regulated medical marijuana dispensaries on the pretense of protecting state workers, as did Rhode Island’s invertebrate Lincoln Chafee, when the feds sent a threatening letter.  But then Gregoire and Chafee petitioned the feds to reschedule cannabis so they could operate their dispensaries.  Maryland’s sensible Martin O’Malley signed an expansion of affirmative defense and Delaware’s compassionate Jack Markell signed his state into becoming the 16th medical marijuana state.  Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s vile Mary Fallin signed a law that could mean a life sentence for making pot brownies, but Connecticut’s reasonable Dan Malloy made his state the 14th to decriminalize personal possession by adults.

However, for sheer boldfaced unadulterated political hypocrisy, I have to recognize Arizona’s two-faced Governor Jan Brewer.  First she campaigned against Prop 203 but later said she “believed in the will of the people” who passed that medical marijuana initiative.  Then she was lecturing police that they didn’t do enough to campaign against Prop 203 while admitting that she was “too busy” to do more herself.  Then she was stonewalling on the issuance of dispensary permits that the “will of the people” approved, because she was suing to see that the “will of the people” be denied by a federal court.

In other words, if the people of Arizona pass a law to get illegal marijuana to Arizonans, because Washington DC is out of touch, then the “will of the people” be damned.  Gov. Brewer will sue in federal court to uphold federal law.  But if the people of Arizona pass a law to get illegal Mexicans out of Arizona, because Washington DC is out of touch, then the “will of the people” is sacred.  Gov. Brewer will sue in federal court to uphold state law.  (I have no word on the governor’s position on illegal Mexican immigrants who need medical marijuana, but I’ll bet it is confusing.)

3. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson – former Republican, now Libertarian presidential candidate

Former NM Gov. Gary Johnson with me (in low light)

On the other end of the governor spectrum we find former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.  The two-term Republican governor had been touting his “Our America Initiative” in 2010 and appearing at NORML Conference and other pro-marijuana festivals in full-throated support of legalization of marijuana for adult use.  His vocal support only grew in April 2011 as he announced his run as a Republican for the presidential nomination of the party, and not only continued to appear at pro-legalization rallies, and even had Willie Nelson’s Teapot Party (briefly) endorse his presidential run.

Alas, the Republican party and traditional media didn’t agree and denied Johnson all but a couple of chances on the national debate stage to state his case.  The marijuana issue was ignored despite strong public inquiry about it, even among Republicans.  Johnson continued to speak out on the issue to those who would listen.  But this week, he has abandoned his bid for the Republican nomination and taken up a presidential campaign for the Libertarian ticket.

To his credit, Rep. Ron Paul remains in the race for the Republican nomination and even comes in 2nd in the current polling in advance of next Tuesday’s Iowa caucus.  Paul, a longtime supporter of NORML’s mission, has also introduced The Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2011 and been a co-sponsor of other pro-marijuana federal legislation.  But the last time Rep. Paul spoke directly to an audience of marijuana activists was 1988.

2. Rep. Barney Frank – the lion of legalization retires from Congress

After sixteen terms in the US House of Representatives, liberal Congressman Barney Frank of Massachusetts is set to retire.  He’s sponsored or co-sponsored just about every pro-marijuana bill that has ever died in Congress.  He’s spoken directly to pro-marijuana audiences.  For me, though, my favorite Barney Frank moments are when he is chiding conservatives on their decidedly big-government, wasteful-spending, anti-states-rights support of marijuana prohibition:

Click here to view the embedded video.

1. Steven DeAngelo – Harborside’s CEO rebukes recreational legalization on Weed Wars

Harborside CEO Steven DeAngelo and me

Last year I was very encouraged by one Bay Area medical marijuana entrepreneur.  In 2010, Richard Lee put 1.5 million dollars of his own money to legalize marijuana for adult use, regardless of the reason why someone might choose to use it.  For months, I had predicted that the longer medical marijuana was an “industry”, the more that industry would fight to protect itself, even from legalization.

In 2011, I have been discouraged to have been proven right by another Bay Area medical marijuana entrepreneur, Steven DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center, the world’s largest marijuana dispensary.  In January, the IRS was auditing the books of Harborside, building a case that the dispensary was in violation of IRS Section 280E, which explicitly bans any tax deductions related to “trafficking in controlled substances.”  The pressure on DeAngelo wasn’t surprising.  ”If 280E is applied literally and strictly,” DeAngelo said, “it has the potential to close down Harborside and every other medical cannabis dispensary.”

In an effort apparently calculated to steer the IRS away from any claim that Harborside’s business might not be serving strictly medical needs, DeAngelo began casting aspersions on Richard Lee’s legalization effort, which he had publicly supported the year prior.  ”I warned people who were pushing Prop. 19 that losing elections would have consequences,” DeAngelo said, “In large part what we’re seeing is the consequences of an overreach by our community.”  DeAngelo published a manifesto entitled “At the Crossroads, or Wellness, Not Intoxication”, where he chides the legalization supporters fighting for a right to recreational cannabis use, saying, “very little cannabis use is actually for recreational purposes, or intoxication. This truth is not negated by the fact that many users of cannabis buy into the misconception that their own use is recreational.”

Steven and his brother Andrew DeAngelo then became the subjects of a Discovery Channel reality show called Weed Wars.  In the press tours promoting the show, both brothers clearly said “I don’t believe that any psychoactive substance should be used for recreation“ and “we do not support the legalization of cannabis for recreational purposes.”  Activists were outraged and what followed from Steven DeAngelo were semantic explanations and rhetorical absurdities.

This all culminated in the fourth installment of Weed Wars closing with Steven DeAngelo saying “I don’t believe in legalizing cannabis for recreational purposes; I think cannabis should be used for purposes of wellness.”  Again, activists were outraged, pointing out DeAngelo was a lifelong legalization activist.  DeAngelo responded again with more rhetoric about believing nobody should be subject to criminal penalties for marijuana and justifications about promoting “wellness” and dissing “recreation” being just a strategy for achieving legalization (which he’s told the public he’s against).  He even tries to shift the blame to editing at the Discovery Channel, when his appearances on live TV show that he meant exactly what he said after editing on Weed Wars.

Mom Who Sold $31 in Pot Gets 4 Years Cut From 12-Year Prison Term

In an order issued Friday, Associate District Judge Robert Davis decided to suspend the final four years of the sentence for Patricia M. Spottedcrow, stating she has “done better in the structure of the Department of Corrections than she had during her adult years in the community.”

Spottedcrow, 26, received the sentence last October after selling the marijuana to a police informant in December 2009 and January 2010. Her mother, Delita Starr, 51, was also charged.

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