Feb. 7, 2013 10:57

News Nuggets


Smart Approaches to Marijuana . . . not so smart?

A Denver-based group—called Smart Approaches to Marijuana—is going about reforming cannabis policy in all the wrong ways, critics say, according to The Boston Globe. The Marijuana Policy Project event called the group—which includes former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy—“extremist.”

“The nonprofit supports making the medicinal properties of marijuana available to patients and is in favor of decriminalizing recreational use and keeping users out of jail,” the Globe reports. “But it asserts marijuana should remain a controlled substance and plans to launch a public education campaign focused on the need to screen users to ensure they are not addicted and at risk of causing long-term harm to their mental health.”

Grower and dispensary owner demands her medicine back

Alvida Hillery, an MMJ grower and founder of Rocky Mountain Miracles, recently filed a motion demanding local officials to return 36 pounds of cannabis and 304 plants, according to The Daily Chronic. The cannabis was seized in a March 2012 raid by the Colorado Springs Police Department and the state Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. If the cannabis has been damaged or not returned, her Denver attorney, Sean McAllister, will demand $3,327,460 in damages.

“I think there is a possibility of a lawsuit against both the Colorado Springs Police Department and the Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division,” McAllister says. Hillery was acquitted of drug charges in December.

High Times U.S. Cannabis Cup coming to Denver

Organizers just announced the first-ever High Times U.S. Cannabis Cup, scheduled for April 20-21 in Denver. The two-day event will feature sessions for activists, seminars for growers, talks by High Times editors and discussions from leading activists and advocates. The musical entertainment will include performances by Cypress Hill, Slightly Stoopid and others at Red Rocks. If you are a Colorado MMJ patient, an outdoor medicating area will be provided. A separate outdoor area for adults 21 and older (in the wake of Amendment 64) will also be available.

A High Times Medical Cannabis Cup has been held in Colorado for the past three years. “We’ve done pretty well in Denver the past several years,” High Times editor Bobby Black told The DC Social Reader. “But we’re expecting it to be a lot bigger. The ability for people now to come from out of state and enjoy a smoke without needing a (medical marijuana) card opens the floodgates for more attendees. We hope it will really blow up and be the start of something really big.”


U.S. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske still doesn’t get it

Despite the fact that voters passed a medical cannabis law in California nearly 20 years ago, Office of National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske is not a fan of the plant as medicine, according to The San Francisco Examiner.

While speaking to a group of law enforcement officials at the University of San Francisco last month, the drug warrior emphasized that medical cannabis “sends a terrible message” to American teens. He also stated that high school students are more likely to smoke cannabis than tobacco due to the growing “perception” that it is less harmful.

In related news, teen usage of cannabis has decreased in both Colorado and Arizona, according to respective reports from The Huffington Post and The Phoenix New Times. Coincidentally or not, these are states in which MMJ legalization measures were passed.

Contra Costa County cities seeking to ban dispensaries

The eastern Contra Costa County cities of  Pittsburg and Antioch each enacted bans to outlaw dispensaries last month, according to the San Jose Mercury News. The bans prohibit storefront dispensaries, mobile delivery service and cultivation. Qualified patients, however, are allowed to grow cannabis at their homes for personal use.

Oakley and Brentwood have also banned dispensaries.

At press time, Antioch’s ban was set to take effect later this month. The Pittsburg ban will be finalized at the City Council’s Feb. 19 meeting and, if passed, kick in a month later.

Stockton caregiver indicted by feds, refuses a plea deal

Matthew R. Davies—indicted last year by the federal government on cannabis cultivation charges—said he “refuses to be a martyr,” according to The New York Times. Two of Davies dispensaries and a warehouse with nearly 2,000 plants were raided.

Davies opened a dispensary in Stockton with the intent of creating a standard aboveground business model, complete with lawyers, accountants, managers and a payroll firm. Despite paying state taxes and filing for state and local business permits, the U.S. Justice Department nevertheless indicted Davies last year. He’s being pressured, according to the Times, to agree to a plea deal that involves serving a five-year prison term. His lawyers have appealed. Davies has opted to fight the chargs, set up a website devoted to his case and hired some heavy-hitter help, such as Chris Lehane, a former senior aid to Bill Clinton’s White House.

“This is not a case of an illicit drug ring under the guise of medical marijuana,” according to Davies lawyer Elliot R. Peters wrote. “Here, marijuana was provided to qualified adult patients with a medical recommendation from a licensed physician. Records were kept, proceeds were tracked, payroll and sales taxes were duly paid.”


Lansing the next pro-cannabis city? Michigan legal in 2014?

Detroit. Grand Rapids. Flint. Ypsilanti. Activists say they expect more cities and townships in Michigan will approve cannabis-related measures in the near future—with statewide legalization possibly gearing up as early as 2014? Maybe.

“We can look at polling numbers from as far back as the ’70s and see how support for legalizing cannabis and medical cannabis has done nothing but gain momentum in public support,” Brad Forrester, the Cheboygan director for Michigan NORML, told MLive.com.

“Certainly by 2016, we would hope to get something on the ballot,” he says. “If things break our way, we’re open to looking at 2014. Right now, I am surveying pollsters and trying to get more information.”

Among the 20 communities that could be targeted are Lansing, Jackson, Traverse City and Mt. Clemens. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is a supporter of Michigan’s MMJ law.

Temporary restraining order halts Grand Rapids decriminalization

Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth has questioned the legality of the Grand Rapids voter initiative that decriminalizes cannabis possession. A judge has granted a temporary restraining order in order to sort out any issues, Mlive.com and Ganja News reported.

Grand Rapids and the attorney for Decriminalize GR, the campaign behind the initiative, both say the measure was legal and should stand.

“The city and City Commission have no power to change the charter, only the voters can change the charter,” Grand Rapids City Attorney Catherine Mish says.

The case could ultimately end up at the state Court of Appeals.

Last year, Grand Rapids voters passed Proposal 2 with 58 percent of the vote. The measure amended the city’s charter to make cannabis possession a civil infraction punishable by a $25 fine for the first offense instead of a misdemeanor. The amendment was one of a total of five similar cannabis-related measures that passed last November, including one that allows three dispensaries in Kalamazoo.

Dispensary chain reaching out to St. Clair County communities

A dispensary chain already operating in Detroit has contacted local officials in St. Clair County as part of a potential effort to expand, The Times Herald reports. The company, Greenworld Investments, LLC, had scheduled a public meeting last month with the Emmett Township board after having sent a formal letter to the Planning Commission.

“In all my years of being at the township, I don’t think we have ever had a company contact us like this,” City Clerk Beverly Brown told The Times Herald. “. . . Because of that, the planning commission thought we should hear them out.”

Greenworld has reached out to other communities as well, according to the newspaper.

Regarding any new dispensaries, St. Clair County Prosecutor Michael Wendling said, “If they’re going to do business here, they need to do business legally. If they do not, we would have to act and respond appropriately. We would cross that bridge when we come to it.”


Santa Ana dispensary initiative drive submits signatures

Signatures gathered in an effort to legalize dispensaries in Santa Ana were forwarded last month to the Orange County Registrar of Voters, the Orange County Register reports. The Registrar has until March 11 to determine if there are enough valid signatures to place an initiative on the city ballot. The City Council banned dispensaries in 2007.

The Medical Cannabis Restriction and Limitation Initiative would allow dispensaries to register with the city and operate in certain zones—in return for a 2-percent tax. A ballot committee submitted nearly 17,000 signatures. If there are enough valid signatures, the measure could end up on the 2014 ballot or a special election.

MMJ defense and storefront dispensaries are legal, court says

A recent state Supreme Court ruling suggest storefront dispensaries can legally operate in California and those facing cannabis-related crimes can use their status as MMJ-compliant as a legal defense, according to media reports and activists. The case, People v. Jackson, essentially overturned a prior decision by a trial court that convicted a San Diego dispensary operator on cannabis charges, and questioned the legitimacy of the collective. The court also denied efforts by several agencies (including the San Diego District Attorney’s Office) to de-publish the ruling. When a decision is published, it can be cited as legal precedent.

“This decision establishes that storefront dispensaries are unquestionably legal under California law and that localities cannot continue to rely on their now-discredited view that all sales of medical marijuana are illegal in order to support their ongoing attacks on medical marijuana dispensaries,” Joe Elford, chief counsel for Americans For Safe Access, said on the group’s website. The court also said that a collective or co-opt is legal even if not all members of the group are actively involved cultivating and providing medical cannabis. A member’s involvement in a collective “may be limited to financial support by way of marijuana purchases from the organization,” the court ruled.

Former Inland Empire dispensary figure Aaron Sandusky sentenced to 10 years

Despite operating under California’s medical cannabis laws, Aaron Sandusky, owner of the G3 Holistic chain of Inland Empire dispensaries, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison on Jan. 7. Last October, he was found guilty of conspiracy to manufacture cannabis plants as well as the intent to distribute 1,000 plants. The judge did not allow Sandusky to use California’s Compassionate Use Act as a defense.


Filmmakers behind I-502 documentary asking for your support

Filmmakers behind a documentary showcasing the passage of Washington’s Initiative 502 say they are nearly done, and are currently raising funds to cover the costs of post-production. The deadline for the 45-day fundraising campaign, through Indiegogo, is Feb. 17. The goal is to raise $36,000. At press time, the campaign had raised nearly $2,000.

The documentary, Evergreen: The Road to Legalization in Washington, examines the controversial ballot initiative that made Washington the first state in the country to legalize small amounts of cannabis for adults 21 and over, among other provisions. Colorado approved a similar measure last year, too. The film includes interviews with experts, government officials and cannabis patients, as well as Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes and U.S. Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson.

Mercer Island apartment complexes cracks down on smoking

While Washington’s legalization honeymoon is still ongoing, tenants of a Mercer Island apartment complex are being told that cannabis use is forbidden on the premises, according to King 5 News. Apartment management officials last month issued a three-page notice that stipulated that neither cannabis nor cigarette smoking was allowed inside the 77 Central apartment complex—even with doors and windows closed. Furthermore, apartment residents are required to notify management if a neighbor is violating the agreement. If residents fail to sign the agreement then they will be considered eligible for eviction.

Some tenants have come out and criticized the move. “It’s like the Gestapo,” tenant and MMJ patient Alexander Aversano told King 5 News in reference to the ban.

Liquor Control Board seeking feedback regarding I-502 implementation

Washington’s Liquor Control Board has been charged with putting Initiative 502 into action—and it wants input from the public.

The board recently announced a series of public forums where people can give their thoughts and opinions on how the legalized cannabis market will take shape and the specifics of how it will be regulated and taxed. I-502 legalized possession of one ounce or less for adults 21 and over and was passed last November with 56 percent of the vote. The measure also legalized state-regulated, privately-run retail stores to sell cannabis. The forums will take place across the state, including ones scheduled for Feb. 7 in Vancouver, Feb. 12 in Spokane, Feb. 19 in Mount Vernon and Feb. 21 in Yakima. For more info, go to liq.wa.gov.


Arizona lawmaker trying to repeal state’s MMJ program in 2014

State Rep. John Kavanagh is proposing a ballot measure for 2014 that could end Arizona’s medical cannabis program, radio station KTAR-FM reports. The lawmaker alleges there is evidence that suggests provisions of Proposition 203 are being subverted by recreational users.

But patients and activists slammed Kavanagh’s proposal.

“We see a lot of patients, people who really use it as a medicine, people who are tired of taking painkillers and other pills that just do more damage to the body,” weGrow owner Sunny Singh told KTAR-FM.

Kavanagh says the state Department of Health Services’ breakdown of MMJ applicants shows 90 percent of patients cited using cannabis for severe and chronic pain as opposed to terminal illnesses or cancer, for instance.

Arizona’s Medical Marijuana Act passed in 2010.

Cannabis Unity Conference scheduled for the nation’s capital

In an effort to continue pushing the cannabis cause and fighting for patients’ rights, Americans for Safe Access, (ASA), has announced a “Unity Conference” aimed at bringing together activists and experts. The “Bridging the Gap Between Public & Policy – Americans for Safe Access National Medical Cannabis Unity Conference is scheduled for Feb. 22-25 in Washington, D.C. The event is also geared as a networking opportunity that will include exhibitors, scholarships and other events.

Some of the discussions and presentations include “The Science of Medical Cannabis” and “Lobby Day,” in which ASA supporters will get an opportunity to advocate to members of Congress via face-to-face meetings.


More Mexican leaders leaning on the side of legalization

From a country long decried as the source of black-market cannabis, Mexico’s own political leaders—prompted by developments in Colorado and Washington—appear to be leaning towards a more commonsense approach to regulating the controversial plant. The country’s new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, recently told CNN that legalization measures in the United States might prompt his administration into “rethinking the strategy.” The governor of the Mexican state of Colima has proposed a legalization referendum. A left-wing lawmaker, Fernando Belaunzaran, has introduced a national legalization bill. Mexico City Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera called for a national legalization forum right before voters in Washington and Colorado approved measures allowing minor cannabis possession for adults 21 and over.

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