In a bellwether case, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that cities and counties cannot pass ordinances that conflict with the state's five-year-old Medical Marihuana Act. The ruling came in Ter Beek v. the City of Wyoming.
[image:1 align:left]In that case, registered patient James Ter Beek sued the city of Wyoming after it passed a 2010 ordinance designed to block the use of medical marijuana in the city by prohibiting any use, cultivation, or manufacture of the plant.
"The fact is medical marijuana helps people; it's helped me," said Ter Beek, a retired attorney who suffers from diabetes and a neurological disorder that causes neuropathy and severe pain. "I've tried narcotic-based drugs like Vicodin and OxyContin and nothing worked like medical marijuana. I have more freedom than ever before and I couldn't just sit by as our elected officials try to take that away from me and thousands of others."
Ter Beek, represented by the ACLU of Michigan, argued that the ordinance made him fear arrest and prosecution for activities explicitly protected by the medical marijuana law, and that the state law should preempt the local ordinance. The city, on the other hand, argued that its ordinance sought to uphold federal as well as state law, and that the federal Controlled Substances Act preempted the state law.
Ter Beek lost in district court, but won on appeal. Now, the state's highest court has upheld that decision.
Wyoming's ordinance "directly conflicts" with the state's medical marijuana because it allows what the law "expressly prohibits: the imposition of any penalty, including a civil one, on a registered qualifying patient whose medical use of marijuana falls with... the immunity" granted under state law, Justice Bridget McCormack wrote for a unanimous court.
Federal laws prohibiting marijuana do not preempt the state Medical Marihuana Act because it "doesn't interfere with or undermine federal enforcement of that prohibition," McCormack wrote. That doesn't mean people protected under the state law are immune from federal arrest or prosecution, the court was quick to note.
The Supreme Court decision also invalidates similar ordinances in other Michigan cities that attempted to use them to block medical marijuana activities, including Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, and Livonia. The ACLU of Michigan had challenged ordinances in all three of those cities as well.
A slight majority in Rhode Island say legalize it, CBD medical marijuana bills are popping up in several states, Uruguay's marijuana-legalizing president gets a Nobel Peace Prize nomination, and more. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Marijuana Policy
Oregon Bill to Study Legalization Advances. A bill that would direct the state Department of Justice to examine laws to see what changes would need to be made in the event of marijuana legalization passed the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. That bill is House Bill 4099, which now moves to the Budget Committee. This is not the bill that would have the legislature put an initiative on the November ballot. That bill is Senate Bill 1556.
Slight Majority Supports Legalization in Rhode Island Poll. A Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project has support for legalization at 53%. The poll also found that 38% thought marijuana was safer than alcohol, compared to 21% vice versa. Another 21% thought the two were equally dangerous, while 20% said they didn't know. Click on the title link for the poll results.
Alabama CBD Bill Wins Committee Approval. The Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday approved a bill that would allow for the use of cannabidiol (CBD) for certain medical conditions, including seizures, severe or chronic pain, or "any other condition that is severe and resistant to conventional medicine." The bill is Senate Bill 174, which now goes to the full Senate.
Public Hearing Next Tuesday on Oregon Local Control Dispensary Bill. There will be a public hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee next Tuesday on Senate Bill 1531, which would allow local government to regulate or ban dispensaries. The bill is supported by associations of state city and county governments, but opposed by medical marijuana supporters. The legislature voted last year to approve a system of statewide dispensary regulations, which will begin to take effect March 1.
Americans for Safe Access Seeks Petition Signatures to Boost Effort on Organ Transplants for California Medical Marijuana Patients. Americans for Safe Access is seeking to show support for possible legislation protecting California medical marijuana patients who may need organ transplants. Hospitals and doctors have been reluctant to okay transplants for medical marijuana patients, whom they deem drug abusers. Click on the title link to get to the petition.
Rhode Island Attorney General Chides Dispensary on Advertising. In a Wednesday press release, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin chided the Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center for recent email advertising campaigns offering discounts and special holiday packages. "Can you imagine the public outcry if the local pharmacy started offering [half] off Oxycontin or medicinal drugs?'' Kilmartin said. "Compassion centers should be held to the same standard and should be prohibited from offering discounts or sales on medicinal marijuana.'' The dispensary said it would stop advertising its products.
Uruguay's Marijuana-Legalizing President Mujica Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize. Uruguayan President Jose "Pepe" Mujica has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. He was nominated by members of his own Frente Amplio political party, as well as a Dutch NGO, the Drugs Peace Institute. His supporters cited his pioneering policy of legalizing and regulating marijuana commerce.
Peru Says Still Committed to Eradicating 75,000 Acres of Coca in the VRAEM. Carmen Masias, head of the Peruvian anti-drug agency DEVIDA, said Tuesday the Peruvian government remains committed to eradicating 75,000 acres of coca crops in the Valleys of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM). The area accounts for more than half of all Peruvian coca production. [Ed: Historically coca eradication has merely shifted growing from one area to another -- causing deforestation in the process. A recent report highlighted the impact drug trafficking (not growing, but a similar idea) has on forests, and the author suggested reforming drug policies.]
Australia's Victoria Plans Construction Site Drug Testing; Union Strongly Objects. Victoria Premier Dennis Napthine said Thursday he would require construction companies to implement strict alcohol and drug testing policies to qualify for government contracts. The main construction union, the Victorian Construction, Forestry, Mining, and Energy Union (CSMEU) condemned the move as a "slur" on construction workers, saying there was no evidence that people in the industry had any more drug problems than anybody else.
Iranian Meth Offender Survives Execution, Gets Sentence Reduced to Life. An Iranian man who was revived in the morgue after being hung for possessing a kilo of meth has been granted a reprieve by the Iranian amnesty commission. The man, identified only as Alireza M., 37, instead will now be sentenced only to life in prison. The man's revival after execution raised thorny questions for Iranian jurists and clerics about whether he should be re-executed or not.
Project CBD takes on the skeptics on cannabidiol, medical marijuana bills move in Guam, but not in Michigan, and California counties continue to slug it out over dispensaries and grows. Let's get to it:
On Monday, Project CBD struck back against criticism from Project SAM. Project CBD's Martin Lee penned a lengthy rebuttal of charges made in a recent Project SAM "fact sheet" seeking to justify continuing marijuana prohibition by misinforming the public about cannabidiol and THC. It's worth reading in its entirety.
On Tuesday, Lake County supervisors voted to put their cultivation ordinance to the voters. The grow ordinance, passed in December, bans outdoor cultivation in community growth boundaries; limits plant numbers on parcels larger than one acre outside of community growth boundaries to six mature or 12 immature plants; prevents grows on vacant parcels; limits indoor grows to 100 square feet or less; keeps outdoor cultivation 1,000 feet from schools, parks or other facilities serving children, and 100 feet from water bodies; offers quicker abatement; and makes the Lake County Sheriff's Office responsible for enforcement. But last month, the Community Alliance to Ban Illegal Cannabis Cultivation submitted substantially more than enough signatures to force a vote. This will be the third referendum the county has faced on medical marijuana rules.
Also on Tuesday, Fresno County supervisors voted to close a loophole in their county-wide cultivation ban. The most recent ban ordinance had neglected to cover cultivation in areas zoned for manufacturing, but the board eliminated that oversight Tuesday. Medical marijuana advocates say they're not giving up their fight. They already are gathering signatures for a referendum to overturn the bans. Fresno Cannabis has a petition on its website and needs 20,130 signatures by Thursday to halt the ban until county supervisors reverse their vote or a countywide election is held.
Last Thursday and Friday, San Bernardino County police raided dispensaries in Needles as part of a bistate enforcement operation with Arizona authorities. They seized 445 pounds of medical marijuana. The cops said people were using fake California patient IDs to purchase marijuana when they weren't California residents, and that some dispensary operators actually resided in Arizona.
Also on Tuesday, Tuolumne County supervisors scrapped an ordinance that would have banned dispensaries and outdoor grows. The unanimous decision came after the planning commission voted 6-1 to table its plan after dozens of citizens showed up to speak against the ordinance -- and none spoke for it.
On Tuesday, state officials finalized regulations for a single dispensary. The Marijuana Policy Project has complained that it is limited to growing 150 plants, "too few to meet patients' needs," the group says. But the governor and the Department of Health and Human Services are refusing to remove the cap.
Last Saturday, the Guam Senate voted to put medical marijuana before the voters. The bill must still be signed (or at least not vetoed) by the governor before it heads to the ballot. Bill sponsor Sen. Tina Muna Barnes amended an earlier version of the measure to allow for a popular vote after hearing demands for it during debate in recent weeks.
Last Friday, a key legislator said he was blocking medical marijuana bills. One bill would allow for dispensaries, while the other would allow for edibles. But Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe) said he would block any movement. "I'm going to sit on them for awhile," he said. "We don't want this ballot initiative to take over. I believe a vast majority of people who voted for it believed we were talking about prescription type of marijuana. Unless it's a real strict distribution system, we're not going to take a chance. At this point, I'm not in favor of dispensaries."
Last Friday, a Santa Fe man filed suit against the Department of Health claiming it has refused to issue him a cultivation license. Mark Springer, owner of Medical Marijuana, Inc., is seeking to force the department to reopen the application period for eligible marijuana growers and permit them to grow more of the plant.
On Monday, a bill that would allow the use of CBD cannabis oil for epileptic kids was filed at the state house in Salt Lake City. Introduced by Rep. Gage Froerer (R-Ogden), House Bill 100 amends Utah law to allow people to possess the hemp oil extract and give it to minors without being charged with violating the state's controlled substances laws. The bill also requires the Utah Department of Health to issue parents a 'hemp extract registration card' to bring the cannabis oil across state lines into Utah.
[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]
Alaska will vote on marijuana legalization this summer, the DC council gives preliminary approval to a decriminalization bill, the farm bill with the hemp amendment intact passes Congress, advocates urge India's parliament to act on access to pain medications, and more. Let's get to it:
[image:1 align:right caption:true]Alaska Legalization Initiative Qualifies for Ballot. State election officials said Tuesday that a marijuana legalization initiative has enough signatures to qualify for the August ballot. The measure isn't officially certified yet, but it's all but a done deal.
DC Council Gives Preliminary Approval to Decriminalization. The District of Columbia city council Tuesday approved a marijuana decriminalization bill, Council Bill 20-409, but only after first accepting amendments that would criminalize the public use of marijuana and allow police to search vehicles if they encounter the odor of marijuana. A second and final vote will most probably happen next month, and efforts are underway to strip out the bad amendments. Meanwhile, a legalization bill and a legalization initiative are pending.
Deputy Drug Czar Forced to Admit Marijuana Safer Than Alcohol. Deputy ONDCP head Michael Botticelli had a rough hearing Tuesday at the House Government Oversight Committee. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) got him to admit that marijuana is safer than alcohol, but it was a painful process. Click on the link for the dialog.
Delaware Finalizes Regulations for a Single Medical Marijuana Compassion Center. The Marijuana Policy Project complains that its limit of 150 plants will be too few to meet patients' needs, but says its efforts to get the cap lifted have been blocked. Maybe the regs can be changed later, the group said.
Project CBD Responds to Attacks from Project SAM. Project CBD's Martin Lee has penned a lengthy rebuttal of a recent Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana) "fact sheet" that seeks to justify continued marijuana prohibition "by misinforming the public about cannabidiol and THC." Check it out at the title link.
Farm Bill With Hemp Amendment Passes Congress. The Senate Tuesday passed the omnibus farm bill with the hemp amendment intact. The amendment will allow universities and agriculture departments that have approved hemp production to undertake research. The president is expected to sign the bill any day now.
Farm Bill Passes Congress Without Drug Testing Amendment. The same Farm Bill package that passed the Senate did not include language passed in a version of the bill last summer that would have encouraged states to drug test recipients of Supplemental Nutritional Assistance, also known as food stamps.
South Dakota Public Benefits Drug Testing Bill Dies. A bill that would have required drug screening and testing for public benefits recipients died Tuesday in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on a 5-2 vote. The bill had been fiercely opposed by the administration of Republican Gov. Dennis Daugard.
Silk Road Mastermind Indicted By Feds. Ross Ulbricht, the suspected mastermind behind the dark web's Silk Road web site, has been indicted by federal prosecutors for allegedly trafficking drugs through the site. The indictment supersedes the original complaint from October 2013. Meanwhile, another version of Silk Road is back online, and so are competitors.
Florida Prescription Drug Database Overhaul With Privacy Protections Passes Senate Committee. A bill that amends the state's Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to require investigators to get court orders to access the database passed the Senate Health Policy Committee Tuesday. The move came over the objection of law enforcement, which said it would hamper its ability to curb the abuse of controlled substances. The bill is Senate Bill 7106.
South Dakota Bill to Reduce Collateral Student Drug Punishments Advances. The Senate Education Committee Tuesday approved a bill that would reduce the collateral penalties for high school students convicted of drug offenses. Under current state law, students convicted of drug offenses are suspended from school activities for a year, but can get that reduced to 60 days if they attend treatment or counseling. The bill approved by the committee would reduce that to 30 days if the student undergoes treatment.
British PM Rejects Junior Partner's Call to End "Unwinnable" Drug War. British Prime Minister David Cameron flatly rejected Deputy PM Nick Clegg's call to end the war on drugs and explore alternative approaches. Clegg made his comments in over the weekend on a trip to Colombia, but Cameron was having none of it, according to a spokesman: "No. The PM's views are well-known and unchanged," when asked if Cameron agreed. "He thinks that we have the right approach. The government has a good record in this area, with drug usage at the lowest level since records began." [Ed: Actually, the prime minister's views are changed, or at least the public version of them. Prior to becoming prime minister, Cameron favored legalization.]
Indian Doctors, Advocates Call for Parliament to Quit Dithering, Pass Opioid Medication Law. Indian doctors and pain patient advocates are calling on parliament to pass an amendment to the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Bill that would increase the availability of opioid pain medications. They say millions of Indians are suffering from untreated pain because of lack of access to such substances. Among the groups calling for action on the bill are Pallium India, the Indian Association of Palliative Care, and CanSupport, which provides home care and palliative care for patients with cancer.
Alaska election officials have certified that a marijuana legalization initiative there has qualified for the ballot. Alaskans will go to the polls in August.
The District of Columbia city council moved another step closer to decriminalizing marijuana possession in the nation's capital Tuesday, approving a bill to do just that on an 11-1 vote. But it only acted after approving last-minute amendments that would make public pot-smoking a criminal offense and give police the right to conduct vehicle searches if they smell marijuana.
[image:1 align:left]A final vote on the bill will come next month. It is expected to pass and already has the support of Mayor Vincent Gray.
While advocates greeted the council vote with praise, the accolades were tempered by concerns about the council's adoption of the late amendments. And looming over it all is the prospect of outright legalization in the District, either through a bill introduced by Councilmember David Grasso that is now before the council or through an initiative that is now awaiting language approval from District officials.
"This is a major victory for advancing the cause of racial justice in DC," said Grant Smith, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance. "The war on marijuana is largely a war on people of color and the DC council is saying enough is enough."
"As a former prosecuting attorney, I call this a step forward for the cause of promoting public safety," said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Arresting and prosecuting adults for possessing a less harmful substance than alcohol is a waste of law enforcement and court resources. Police and prosecutors should focus their time and attention on addressing actual threats to public safety."
The "Marijuana Possession Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2014 (Council Bill 20-409)" would eliminate the threat of arrest for possessing marijuana impose a $25 civil fine for possession as well as forfeiture of the marijuana and any paraphernalia used to consume or carry it. But the amendments approved Tuesday criminalize public possession and allows those vehicle searches.
The bill was introduced after the publication of an ACLU report and a Washington Lawyers' Committee on Civil Rights and Urban Affairs report highlighting the disparate rate of arrests of blacks over whites for marijuana possession in the District. The reports found that blacks are arrested eight times as often as whites for the offense, even though rates of use among both races are thought to be relatively similar.
[image:2 align:right]But advocates complained that the amendments adopted Tuesday would only serve to perpetuate racially biased marijuana law arrests, not end them. Some called for a solution to the problem by having the council pass the legalization bill.
"These last-minute amendments will simply expand stop-and-frisk policies in the District and will do nothing to fight the horrible racial disparities in marijuana enforcement," said MPP's Riffle. "We need to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol, and take it out of the hands of criminals and drug cartels. Marijuana should be sold by legitimate businesses in licensed, regulated stores, not by criminals on our street corners. The sooner the council takes up Councilmember Grosso's bill, the better."
The Drug Policy Alliance will be working to undo the amendments when the council takes a final vote on the bill next month, Smith told the Chronicle Tuesday night.
"There is one more opportunity to change the criminalization of public smoking when the council considers and votes one more time on the bill," he said. "We hope to work with Councilmember Tommy Wells and our community partners here in DC to pressure the council to reverse its decision to criminalize public consumption and treat public smoking as a civil offense instead."
Looming just behind the decriminalization fight is outright legalization. Public opinion in the District appears ready to make the leap. A Washington Post poll last year had support for legalization at a healthy 63%.
While some groups, like the Marijuana Policy Project, are working the council in an effort to move a bill, others favor the initiative process, especially if the council fails to act.
"As a DC resident, I'm proud the Council took an important step today to stop the expensive, time-consuming and racially discriminatory practice of putting people into handcuffs just for possessing marijuana," said Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority."But while this is clearly movement in the right direction, this legislation would unfortunately leave marijuana production and profits illegal and largely in the hands of street gangs and criminals. A clear majority of District voters supports legalizing marijuana, and that's why we're likely to approve a ballot initiative this November that would completely remove penalties for possession and allow residents to grow up to six plants. Hopefully such widespread voter support will spur the council to adopt more comprehensive legislation taxing and regulating the marijuana trade at some point soon."
Adam Eidinger of the DC Cannabis Campaign is the public face of the DC marijuana legalization initiative. The veteran District political gadfly had kind words for the decriminalization effort, but signaled it wouldn't make any difference to the initiative campaign.
"The compromise on the decrim bill wasn't that bad. The big deal is that it passed, and it passed with a veto-proof majority, and the mayor will sign it. We should be celebrating," he said, "But I'm on the war path. Decriminalization is a stepping stone toward ending the raging stream of marijuana arrests; it's a nice place to stand, but you don't want to live there, because you're going to fall in the water eventually. And I mean get arrested," he clarified.
"Look, decriminalization will get rid of a lot of arrests, but there will still be marijuana arrests and people engaging in illegal activity when they want to buy it," Eidinger continued. "And they're exposed to heroin and other hard drugs. You need to separate cannabis from all the hard drugs and create a legal cultivation and distribution system. That hurts the bulk hard drug dealers. If you care about reducing drug use and addiction, you create a massive harm reduction with marijuana legalization first. I don't have sympathy for the illicit market for heroin, but for the illicit cannabis market, it's not deadly."
The legalization initiative campaign continues to aim at the November ballot, Eidinger said, but still needs to secure funding if it's going to be successful. A key date for the initiative will be February 25, when the DC Board of Elections decides whether to approve the initiative language for signature-gathering.
"If the language is good, that's a big deal," Eidinger said. "I think some of the big money has been holding off until that happens. We're doing this on a shoe string and have raised $30,000 in six months, but we do have the money for signature-gathering locked in, thanks to Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. We will do paid and volunteer signature-gathering."
Marijuana law reform is coming to the District of Columbia. And the decriminalization bill is only the beginning.
[image:1 align:right caption:true]The Senate has passed the version of the Farm Bill sent to it last week by the House of Representatives, meaning that the legislation, which includes a section aut