Friday, December 28, 2007



City Files Amicus Brief for Medical ID Cards


In the legal tug of war between the county and state over medical 

marijuana, the city of San Diego has sided with Sacramento and voters.


Lawyers from the City Attorney's Office have filed an amicus brief in 

the lawsuit between San Diego County and the state Department of Justice.


County supervisors hope a panel of appellate judges will relieve them 

of their obligation under state law to issue identification cards to 

qualified patients.


The case asks the 4th District Court of Appeal to reverse a ruling 

last year from Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt Jr., who said 

the county must follow state law and issue the ID cards.


"The city has a compelling interest in ensuring its citizens have the 

benefit of the medical marijuana program," states the amicus brief, 

which was filed last week.


Identification programs assist police and offer comfort and security 

to those who are entitled to use medical marijuana, the nine-page brief says.


To date, 35 of the state's 58 counties have agreed to issue the 

identification cards to medical marijuana patients. The idea is to 

provide a way for police and other law enforcement officers to 

distinguish legitimate patients from recreational drug users.


San Diego County sued the state rather than issue the cards. 

Supervisors said they could not endorse a program that violates 

federal law, even though Nevitt said the state law requires no such thing.


San Bernardino County is a co-plaintiff in the case. Merced County 

had joined the suit, but supervisors there opted out and agreed to 

issue the ID cards.


Marijuana is illegal to use and possess under federal laws, even 

though California and 10 other states have adopted legislation 

permitting medicinal use of the drug.


Patients and their advocates have said for years that marijuana 

relieves chronic symptoms of cancer, AIDS and other diseases.


California voters adopted a legal allowance for the medicinal use of 

marijuana in 1996, with 56 percent in favor. In San Diego County, the 

initiative received 52 percent support.


But implementation of the law has been slow because of the federal 

ban. The initiative did not specify how much cannabis a person could 

grow or possess, or outline how the drug would be acquired or transported.


Follow-up legislation passed in 2003 said qualified patients can 

possess up to 8 ounces of dried marijuana and cultivate up to 12 plants.


Amicus briefs have no official bearing, other than to alert judges of 

third-party interest in a case.


Attorneys defending the state medical marijuana laws welcomed support 

from San Diego, one of the largest cities in the nation to pass 

guidelines spelling out how much marijuana a patient can cultivate.


"San Diego's brief very strongly makes some points that I don't think 

any of the other parties can adequately make, which is how very 

important it is to have these ID cards and the burden it's placing on 

police to not be able to easily distinguish medical marijuana 

patients from recreational users," said Joe Elford of Americans for 

Safe Access, an advocacy group co-defending the case against the state.


"Legally speaking, I can't say (the amicus brief) will help a 

tremendous amount. However, it does demonstrate to the court that 

it's not the entire county of San Diego that's opposed to the medical 

marijuana law."


A spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sanders, who was the city's police chief 

from 1993 to 1999, said Sanders supports medical marijuana for 

legitimate patients and has told San Diego police to respect the state law.


But Aaron Klein, a medical marijuana patient from North Park, said at 

least half of the officers he and other patients encounter do not 

tolerate marijuana possession or use.


"The majority of police officers are not educated about Proposition 

215," Klein said. "They tell people medical marijuana doesn't work, 

that it's a farce."


More than 20,000 patients in San Diego County have no regular access 

to medical marijuana since last year, when law enforcement officials 

cracked down on shops that sold the drug over the counter, Klein said.


"A significant number of those people will be dead before somebody 

does something," Klein said.


Oral arguments in the legal fight between state and county attorneys 

will not likely be heard by appellate judges until summer. A ruling 

is expected later next year. 

 Newshawk: Volunteers Needed - Please

Pubdate: Fri, 28 Dec 2007

Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)


Copyright: 2007 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.




Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.

Author: Jeff McDonald, Staff Writer

Cited: San Diego County Board of Supervisors

Cited: Americans for Safe Access





Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cannabinoids can inhibit tumor cell growth in highly invasive cancers

Cannabinoids can inhibit tumor cell growth in highly invasive cancers

Wednesday December 26, 02:25 PM

Washington, Dec 26 (ANI): A new study has found that Cannabinoids, the
active components in marijuana, may aid in inhibiting tumor cell
growth in highly invasive cancers.

Although, Cannabinoids are used in reducing the side effects of cancer
treatment, such as pain, weight loss, and vomiting, evidences indicate
that they might even help in suppressing tumor invasion.

The cellular mechanisms behind this process are still not known.

Robert Ramer, Ph.D., and Burkhard Hinz, Ph.D., of the University of
Rostock in Germany investigated whether and by what mechanism
cannabinoids hold back tumor cell invasion.

It was found that Cannabinoids did suppress tumor cell invasion and
stimulated TIMP-1 expression.

TIMP-1 is an inhibitor of a group of enzymes involved in tumor cell invasion.

"To our knowledge, this is the first report of TIMP-1-dependent
anti-invasive effects of cannabinoids," the authors said.

They added: "This signaling pathway may play an important role in the
antimetastatic action of cannabinoids, whose potential therapeutic
benefit in the treatment of highly invasive cancers should be
addressed in clinical trials."

The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (ANI)

Monday, December 24, 2007

True Spiritual Liberty : By William Penn

True Spiritual Liberty

By William Penn.

Condensed by Lewis Benson

(Condensed from "A Brief Examination and State of Liberty Spiritual Both with respect to Persons in their private capacity and in their Church Society and Communion." 1681)

Dear Friends and Brethren,

True spiritual Liberty is one of the most glorious things in the World, but it is little understood and frequently abused by many. I beseech Almighty God to preserve you, His people, in the right knowledge and use of the liberty, which Jesus Christ is redeeming us into.

Christ's liberty is obtained through Christ's cross. They that would be his freemen must be his bondsmen and wear his yoke. His liberty is from sin, not to sin; to do his will and not our own. This is the freedom that comes by Jesus Christ, to as many as receive him in the way which God hath given him, to wit, to save us from our corruptions, and guide us in the narrow way of his holy cross, and through the straight gate of self denial. As many as have entered at this door are come to have unity with God and with one another. "The church that dwells in God, if she dwells in God, then in love." Consequently her members are of one mind in church matters since she has but one head to rule her.

True spiritual liberty is deliverance from sin. "If the truth makes you free then are you free indeed," saith Christ. The liberty of God's people stands in the Truth, and their communion in it, in the perfect spiritual law of Jesus Christ, which delivers and preserves them from every evil thing.

False spiritual liberty is departing from this blessed spirit of truth, and rebelling against the perfect law of liberty in the heart, and being at liberty to do our own wills.

Question: Since God hath given me a manifestation of his spirit and since I have the gift of God in myself, should I not be left to act according as I am free and persuaded in my own mind, in the things that relate to God, lest looking upon myself as obligated by what is revealed to another, though it be not revealed unto me, I should be led out of my own measure, and act upon another's motion and so offer a blind sacrifice to God?

Answer: That is true in a sense; that is, if thou art such an one that canst do nothing against Truth, but for the Truth, then may thou be safely left to thy freedom in the things of God. And the reason is plain; because thy freedom stands in the perfect law of liberty, and in the Truth, which is Christ Jesus, which makes free indeed: free from all that is bad and free to all that is holy.

But if thou pleadest thy freedom against good and requisite things, thy freedom is out of the truth and against the perfect law of liberty.

Question: Must I Conform to things whether I can receive them or no?

Answer: No. But now consider the reason thou canst not receive them. Is the fault in the things themselves? Are they inconsistent with Truth or will not the Truth assent unto them? Or is the fault in thee? Is it thy weakness or carelessness? If thy weakness, it is to be borne with, and informed; if thy carelessness, thou oughtest to be admonished. For it is the root of Ranterism to assert that nothing is a duty incumbent upon thee,but what thou art persuaded is thy duty. The seared conscience pleads liberty against all duty, the unenlightened conscience is unconcerned, and the dead conscience is uncondemned unless this distinction be allowed. There may be ignorance from inability or incapacity and ignorance from disobedience and prejudice. So though thou art not to conform to a thing ignorantly, yet thou art seriously to consider why thou art ignorant and what the cause of such ignorance may be. It can't be God; it must be thyself, who hast not yet received a sense for or against the matter about which thou art in doubt.

Question: Ought I not be left to the grace of God in my own heart?

Answer: That is of all things most desirable, since they are well left that are there left. Where all are left with the one spirit of Truth, they must be of one mind; they can't be otherwise. So that to plead this against unity is to abuse the very plea. Therefore if thou pleadest against the counsel and spirit of the Lord in other faithful persons under the pretense of being left to this spirit in thyself, thou opposest the spirit to the spirit and pleadest for disunity under the name of liberty.

Question: But are there not various measures, diversities of gifts and offices in the body?

Answer: True. But are not the members of one mind, one will, and one judgment in matters relating to the family and church of God? There can't be a falser reasoning than to Conclude discord from diversity, contrariety from variety. So though it be granted that there is a diversity of gifts and a variety of offices yet there is no disagreement and no contrariety of judgment Concerning them.

"There is but one Lord, one faith, one baptism.'' His light, life and spirit is at Unity with itself in all. What comes from the light, life or spirit is one, it is the same in truth and unity with the rest. This is seen in our assemblies every day and will be throughout all generations in the church of God, among those that live in the lowly truth.

"God is not a God of Confusion, but order." Everyone in his order hath unity and true fellowship with whatever comes from the life of God in another, for this precious life reacheth throughout the heritage of God. The saints' way is in the light, yes, they are Children of light and "Lights of the world," and can it be that such should Contradict each other in the order and practice in the church before the world?

Oh, the blessed seamless garment of Jesus! Where that is known these things can never arise. "They that walk in the light have fellowship one with another." What shall we say of those who plead being left to the light in order to justify their not having fellowship one with another? And, which is worse, who suppose people may conscientiously and justifiably dissent within themselves by reason of the variety of the degrees of the spirit and grace that are given of God unto them, as if the lesser degree may dissent from the greater, because of its not being able to Comprehend it. And such tell us, "This is the ancient principle of Truth," and "How will you else be able to maintain the Quakers' principles?"

The fallacy of this lieth in not rightly distinguishing between diversity and disagreement, variety and contrariety. For this diversity hath concord and this variety hath unity.

It is a blindness that hath caused some, by going from the one life and spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, first to fall into disagreements and then plead for it under the notion of diversity of measures. I would ask all such persons, who arrogate to themselves such a peculiar knowledge of the Quakers' first principles, first, Whether they believe there be a Christian body? second, Whether this body hath a head? third, Whether Christ be not this head? fourth, Whether this head seeth, heareth, smelleth, tasteth differingly and contrarily to itself? And whether this body hath a contrary feeling at the same time about the same thing? And if the church of Christ sees with the same eye, hears with the same ear, speaks with the same mouth, and is led by the same spirit, then where is this disagreement or dissent about the things of the church?

Question: But members of Christ's church had different apprehensions as in the case of Paul and Peter.

Answer: The difference between Peter and Paul testifies the weakness of Peter and justifies Paul's reproof of his too great compliance with the Jews in some of their rites. Paul exercized his Godly authority and we find those that opposed it are branded with contention. But Christ's people were of one heart and of one mind; for Christ is not divided. They that have Christ for their head have one prophet, and one bishop, and disagree not in their judgments relating to him and the good of his church. They have one and the same guide, for the one spirit into which all have drunk and by it baptized into one body leads them all. To every member is given a measure of the same spirit and though every member is not an eye, ear, nor mouth, the eye sees for the mouth, the mouth speaks for the eye, and the ear hears for both. Each member is aware of the other and moves and acts in the same life which is proportionable to every member in his distinct office. All cannot be the eye neither can all be the hand for then they would act disagreeably to the great Orderer of his church. And if I will not comply with him that God hath made an eye I resist the Lord, though under pretense of resisting man for the Lord's sake. Truly, this is the rock that some have split upon. They have not been contented with their station in the body; they have not kept to their own gift, nor to their own place in the church. Walking loose from the holy cross there can be no such thing as concord and fellowship in the church of Christ.

Furthermore, the same lowly frame of mind that receives and answers the mind of the spirit of the Lord in a man's self will receive and have unity with the mind of the same spirit through another, and the reason is plain, because the same self evidencing power that ariseth from the spirit of Truth in one's self and that convinceth a man in his own heart, doth also attend the discovery of the mind of the same spirit when delivered by another. He whose soul is left with the spirit of Truth in himself differs not from his brethren that are of the same spirit.

Question: But what if I do not presently see that service in a thing that the rest of my brethren agree in? In this case what is my duty, and theirs?

Answer: It is thy duty to wait upon God in silence and patience, and as thou abide in the simplicity of Truth thou wilt receive an understanding with the rest of thy brethren about the thing doubted. And it is their duty, whilst thou behavest thyself in meekness, to bear with thee, and carry themselves tenderly and lovingly towards thee.

The enemy is at work to scatter the minds of Friends, by that loose plea, "What hast thou to do with me? Leave me to my freedom and to the grace of God in myself," and the like; but this is a deviation from, and a perversion of the ancient principle of Truth. For this is the plain consequence of this plea, that anyone, especially if they are but lately convinced, shall say, "I see no evil in declining a public testimony in suffering times or hiding in times of persecution, and no man hath power to reprove me, but I may be as good a Friend as any of you according to my measure." Here is measure set up against measure—which is confusion itself.

The enemy is working to rend and divide the heritage of God who, under the pretense of crying down man, forms, and prescriptions, is crying down the heavenly Man, Christ Jesus and his blessed order and government.

Let us keep low, and remember the rock from whence we were hewn. I do not doubt that God will preserve His people from this spirit that is not in covenant with God nor under the yoke of His law of true spiritual liberty.

Dear Friends, keep in the simplicity of the Truth and cross of Jesus lest God, who hath richly visited us, should remove His blessing from amongst us and place his candlestick amidst another people. Be watchful, keep to your first love and works that so you may endure to the end.

Friday, December 21, 2007

EDITORIAL: Tax dollars up in (marijuana) smoke

Is irony mocking ignorance? To quote from the premier issue of the Lompoc
Valley magazine, "Lompoc was founded in 1874 as a temperance colony, but all
the dynamite in the valley and mobs of ax-wielding women couldn't keep
liquor out of town. ... As the years passed, the 'wets' grew in number and
eventually the courts nullified the no-booze restrictions."

In that same issue of the Lompoc Valley Magazine, simply turn the page and
read "Santa Rita Hills Wine Country," a fine article touting the successes
of our growing wine industry. What would Mrs. J. B. Pierce, the apparently
self-appointed 19th century Lompoc Temperance Czarina, say to Mr. DeWayne
Holmdahl, city councilman and vocal supporter of our local imbibing
industry? However, alcohol is not the irony at hand.

The Lompoc Record reported, "Marijuana eradication sets county record ...
92,000 plants were destroyed with a street value of $288.4 million." In the
same article a previous raid netted "62,000 plants valued at about $195

What could be done with $483.4 million worth of marijuana, which we
taxpayers actually paid our police officers tens of thousands of dollars in
salary and equipment to destroy? Didn't we Californians vote in 1996 to make
medical marijuana available to the sick and dying?

In Lompoc we are in the midst of building a hospital, which administrator
Jim Raggio tells us will cost $74.5 million and for which we voted in 2005
to tax ourselves. We are also building a new wastewater plant, which plant
manager Susan Halpin informs us has grown in cost to $80 million but it will
be state-of-the-art when finished. However, that $80 million will be "repaid
through increases in the city wastewater tax rate," according to Halpin.

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors just voted in favor of a new
parcel tax, $32 annually to cover the estimated $8 million that county
hospitals lose each year due the uninsured and underinsured. The city of
Lompoc has yet to settle its negotiations with the police union, the Lompoc
Federation of Teachers begins new contract negotiations this fall and a
ballot measure early next year will be asking for a public safety sales tax
increase here in Lompoc.

So much money needed, so many taxes, new and old and yet our professional
police officers destroy nearly a half-billion dollars of marijuana. The cost
of building a hospitals, a sewage plant, hiring peace officers, none of this
adds up to the reported dollar value of what has been destroyed in the last
90 days. But perhaps spending tens of thousands of dollars destroying
hundreds of millions of dollars worth of this weed, this illicit drug,
actually saved us from an even greater destruction this marijuana would have
ultimately rained down upon us. I have never seen any such monetary
cost/benefit calculation.

William F. Buckley Jr., in the National Review, wrote that the book
"Marijuana Myths/Marijuana Facts" (published by the Lindesmith Center - was " remarkable ... a miracle of intelligent concision Š
Legislators who write marijuana laws and judges who sentence marijuana users
should Š consult this little book."

The Journal of the American Medical Association called the same book "an
important contribution to the marijuana and drug policy literature," while
Dr. Michael Farrell, in the British Medical Journal, described it as an
"impressive attack on much of the mythology around marijuana."

One has a duty to be an informed citizen in a democracy so as to avoid
misfortune and wickedness which are rooted in ignorance, as discovered so
long ago by the ancient Greeks.

Here is a list of some of the scientifically debunked myths regarding
marijuana as reported in Marijuana Myths/Marijuana Facts:

Myth 1 - Marijuana is highly addictive. Myth 2 - Marijuana is a Gateway
Drug. Myth 3 - Marijuana kills brain cells. Myth 4 - Marijuana causes
Amotivational Syndrome. Myth 5 - Marijuana impairs cognition and memory.
Myth 6 - Marijuana causes crime. Myth 7 - Marijuana is more damaging to the
lungs than tobacco. Myth 8 - Marijuana has no medical value.

This little book actually debunks 20 myths surrounding marijuana but I've
only listed eight. While simply negating most of these myths would move you
closer to the truth, it is actually a bit more complicated than that,
according to the book.

The longest declared war in U.S. history is the War on Drugs. How could this
constant war with so many billions upon billions of dollars spent result in
93,000 marijuana plants just south of little, quiet Lompoc with no one
arrested, no suspects? How could the Reagan administration's "Just say No! -
Zero Tolerance," policies result in one of the great explosions in marijuana
cultivation both in terms of new plant varieties and plant potency? (see M.
Pollan, "The Botany of Desire").

The enemy in this war on drugs seems a myth, a cartoon super villain. Police
officers, like men and women in uniform, are expected to follow the orders
of superiors and these superiors, in a democracy are expected to follow the
commands of their final authority, the people. That is why open debates
among informed citizens about wars do not reflect disloyalty or a lack of
patriotism. We, the people, who are not omniscient, must openly, candidly,
respectfully sort out truth and justice.

It just seems ironic to pay so much to have some non-toxic, medicinal plant
destroyed whose value in the market would apparently eliminate the need for
most of our local taxes.

Joseph White is a professor at Santa Barbara City College. He lives in

December 21, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Homeowner Vang Khang and two cops could have left a North Minneapolis home in body bags early Sunday morning instead of by their own power.

But they didn't. Praise the Lord, I say. But, hey, stuff happens during apparent "no-knock" police raids of private residences.

No harm, no foul. Right?


What occurred inside a two-story home in the 1300 block of Logan Avenue North should concern us all, whether we live in crime-plagued areas or low-crime and idyllic-sounding places like Golden Nirvana or Apple Pie Way.

Vang Khang escaped serious injury after he grabbed his hunting shotgun and reportedly fired through his bedroom door at a swarm of heavily armed strangers who burst through the back door of his home while he, his wife and his six kids - ages 3 to 15 - were sleeping.

Two still-unidentified cops - part of a SWAT-style team that raided the wrong home - returned fire but were struck by shotgun blasts. Thankfully, the pellets struck their bulletproof vests. Vang Khang's sons had to get involved, yelling at their father, who speaks little English, his brother said, that the intruders were actually police.

To their credit, Minneapolis police officials 'fessed up rather quickly to raiding the wrong house in an apparent search for a violent felon. But they stepped in mud when they tried to couch the mistake as a rare or isolated incident, one in which officers were fed "bum" information from a confidential informant.

"It was some bad information that was received on the front end, and it's unfortunate, because we have officers that were hit by gunfire, and this truly, truly could have been a much worse situation," police spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia said.

Geez, Jesse, what about Vang Khang and his family?

"Police justify these 'no-knock' tactics as to make it safer for everyone," says Radley Balko, a former senior policy analyst for the Washington-based Cato Institute and author of "Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America."

"I think that's absurd," said Balko, who singled out the botched Minneapolis police raid for criticism Monday in his online blog, "Whenever you enter someone's home, you are creating confrontation as well as the potential for violence."

Balko believes such paramilitary tactics should be reserved for cases where hostages need to be rescued or violent fugitives apprehended.

He said many more incidents like the Minneapolis case might go unreported because they "disproportionately affect low-income people who are either terrified or do not want to complain about" such police intrusions.

A frequently cited study by Eastern Kentucky University criminologist Peter Kraska estimates "no-knock" warrants soared from 3,000 in 1981 to more than 50,000 last year, the overwhelming majority triggered by anti-drug-trafficking crackdowns.

Balko, a senior editor with Reason magazine, wrote in 2006 that at least 40 people have died following such botched raids "since SWAT teams began proliferating in the late 1980s."

Perhaps the most publicized in recent months involves Kathryn Johnson, a 92-year-old woman shot and killed when cops mistakenly raided her Atlanta home looking for drugs. The shooting led to the dismantling of that city's narcotics team.

The most notorious case in local memory took place Jan. 25, 1989, when cops threw flash grenades inside a Minneapolis home during a drug raid.

Again, as this past weekend, cops were led to the residence by false information from a police informant. An elderly couple, Lloyd Smalley and Lillian Weiss, died of smoke inhalation after the grenades set the home ablaze. Cops, thinking no one was in the home, discovered the bodies later.

On Monday, in the department's defense, Minneapolis police Lt. Amelia Huffman, who runs the homicide division, said the botched raid was the fruit of an informant who led police to earlier raids, successfully uncovering weapons and other criminality.

But is that enough? Balko believes judges rubber-stamp such no-knock warrants. Higher court decisions also have empowered cops in ways civil liberties advocates believe have significantly watered down the so-called "Castle Doctrine" of home privacy that dates to English common law in the Middle Ages.

Essentially, a man's home may not be his castle if cops get information, real or bogus, that drugs, weapons or a violent fugitive felon is on the premises.

Brad and Nicole Thompson, who ran a video-production business from their Spring Lake Park home, had long given cops the benefit of the doubt. They figured cops only targeted bad guys.

Then trouble came calling in March. Cops with bogus information entered their apartment with guns drawn and issued profane-filled orders, some caught on tape, to lie down or surrender.

Oops. Wrong place. A year later, the Thompsons, who have no criminal history, say they are still shaken by the incident and have yet to receive even an apology.

"They won't return phone calls, and I have called the governor's office and they basically have blown us off," says Nicole Thompson, who had not heard of the Minneapolis incident when reached by phone Monday.

"We've heard story after story, not just in Minnesota but across the country," Thompson said. "People keep saying that it is a one-time incident, that it can't be that serious.

"Yes, it's not a problem until it happens to you."

Vang Khang's brother, Dao Khang, said the family has moved temporarily from the home where Sunday's raid took place.

"They are consulting with a lawyer," said Dao Khang.

Good luck. Unless the cops knew they had the wrong place but still conducted the raid, most legal experts say such government action is covered by "qualified immunity" and is relatively protected from litigation.

"That's very tough to prove," Balko said.

While seven officers are on paid administrative leave amid a formal investigation, perhaps the Khangs should settle for an apology and a bouquet of roses. Those were the peace offerings a Minneapolis police official sent an elderly Minneapolis woman and her middle-age daughter whose apartment was similarly mistaken for a drug den nearly 20 years ago.

Send me no flowers. Just be more careful out there.

Pubdate: Wed, 19 Dec 2007
Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)
Copyright: 2007 St. Paul Pioneer Press
Author: Ruben Rosario
Cited: Cato Institute
Bookmark: (Drug Raids)
Bookmark: (Policing - United States)

It's Time to Legalize Drugs

It's Time to Legalize Drugs
By Ethan Nadelmann, Foreign Policy
Posted on December 20, 2007, Printed on December 20,

Prohibition has failed -- again. Instead of treating
the demand for illegal drugs as a market, and addicts
as patients, policymakers the world over have boosted
the profits of drug lords and fostered narcostates
that would frighten Al Capone. Finally, a smarter drug
control regime that values reality over rhetoric is
rising to replace the "war" on drugs.

"The Global War on Drugs can Be Won"

No, it can't. A "drug-free world," which the United
Nations describes as a realistic goal, is no more
attainable than an "alcohol-free world" -- and no one
has talked about that with a straight face since the
repeal of Prohibition in the United States in 1933.
Yet futile rhetoric about winning a "war on drugs"
persists, despite mountains of evidence documenting
its moral and ideological bankruptcy. When the U.N.
General Assembly Special Session on drugs convened in
1998, it committed to "eliminating or significantly
reducing the illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the
cannabis plant and the opium poppy by the year 2008"
and to "achieving significant and measurable results
in the field of demand reduction." But today, global
production and consumption of those drugs are roughly
the same as they were a decade ago; meanwhile, many
producers have become more efficient, and cocaine and
heroin have become purer and cheaper.

It's always dangerous when rhetoric drives policy --
and especially so when "war on drugs" rhetoric leads
the public to accept collateral casualties that would
never be permissible in civilian law enforcement, much
less public health. Politicians still talk of
eliminating drugs from the Earth as though their use
is a plague on humanity. But drug control is not like
disease control, for the simple reason that there's no
popular demand for smallpox or polio. Cannabis and
opium have been grown throughout much of the world for
millennia. The same is true for coca in Latin America.
Methamphetamine and other synthetic drugs can be
produced anywhere. Demand for particular illicit drugs
waxes and wanes, depending not just on availability
but also fads, fashion, culture, and competition from
alternative means of stimulation and distraction. The
relative harshness of drug laws and the intensity of
enforcement matter surprisingly little, except in
totalitarian states. After all, rates of illegal drug
use in the United States are the same as, or higher
than, Europe, despite America's much more punitive

"We Can Reduce the Demand for Drugs"

Good luck. Reducing the demand for illegal drugs seems
to make sense. But the desire to alter one's state of
consciousness, and to use psychoactive drugs to do so,
is nearly universal -- and mostly not a problem.
There's virtually never been a drug-free society, and
more drugs are discovered and devised every year.
Demand-reduction efforts that rely on honest education
and positive alternatives to drug use are helpful, but
not when they devolve into unrealistic, "zero
tolerance" policies.

As with sex, abstinence from drugs is the best way to
avoid trouble, but one always needs a fallback
strategy for those who can't or won't refrain. "Zero
tolerance" policies deter some people, but they also
dramatically increase the harms and costs for those
who don't resist. Drugs become more potent, drug use
becomes more hazardous, and people who use drugs are
marginalized in ways that serve no one.

The better approach is not demand reduction but "harm
reduction." Reducing drug use is fine, but it's not
nearly as important as reducing the death, disease,
crime, and suffering associated with both drug misuse
and failed prohibitionist policies. With respect to
legal drugs, such as alcohol and cigarettes, harm
reduction means promoting responsible drinking and
designated drivers, or persuading people to switch to
nicotine patches, chewing gums, and smokeless tobacco.
With respect to illegal drugs, it means reducing the
transmission of infectious disease through
syringe-exchange programs, reducing overdose
fatalities by making antidotes readily available, and
allowing people addicted to heroin and other illegal
opiates to obtain methadone from doctors and even
pharmaceutical heroin from clinics.

Britain, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and
Switzerland have already embraced this last option.
There's no longer any question that these strategies
decrease drug-related harms without increasing drug
use. What blocks expansion of such programs is not
cost; they typically save taxpayers' money that would
otherwise go to criminal justice and healthcare. No,
the roadblocks are abstinence-only ideologues and a
cruel indifference to the lives and well-being of
people who use drugs.

"Reducing the Supply of Drugs Is the Answer"

Not if history is any guide. Reducing supply makes as
much sense as reducing demand; after all, if no one
were planting cannabis, coca, and opium, there
wouldn't be any heroin, cocaine, or marijuana to sell
or consume. But the carrot and stick of crop
eradication and substitution have been tried and
failed, with rare exceptions, for half a century.
These methods may succeed in targeted locales, but
they usually simply shift production from one region
to another: Opium production moves from Pakistan to
Afghanistan; coca from Peru to Colombia; and cannabis
from Mexico to the United States, while overall global
production remains relatively constant or even

The carrot, in the form of economic development and
assistance in switching to legal crops, is typically
both late and inadequate. The stick, often in the form
of forced eradication, including aerial spraying,
wipes out illegal and legal crops alike and can be
hazardous to both people and local environments. The
best thing to be said for emphasizing supply reduction
is that it provides a rationale for wealthier nations
to spend a little money on economic development in
poorer countries. But, for the most part, crop
eradication and substitution wreak havoc among
impoverished farmers without diminishing overall
global supply.

The global markets in cannabis, coca, and opium
products operate essentially the same way that other
global commodity markets do: If one source is
compromised due to bad weather, rising production
costs, or political difficulties, another emerges. If
international drug control circles wanted to think
strategically, the key question would no longer be how
to reduce global supply, but rather: Where does
illicit production cause the fewest problems (and the
greatest benefits)? Think of it as a global vice
control challenge. No one expects to eradicate vice,
but it must be effectively zoned and regulated -- even
if it's illegal.

"U.S. Drug Policy Is the World's Drug Policy"

Sad, but true. Looking to the United States as a role
model for drug control is like looking to
apartheid-era South Africa for how to deal with race.
The United States ranks first in the world in per
capita incarceration -- with less than 5 percent of
the world's population, but almost 25 percent of the
world's prisoners. The number of people locked up for
U.S. drug-law violations has increased from roughly
50,000 in 1980 to almost 500,000 today; that's more
than the number of people Western Europe locks up for
everything. Even more deadly is U.S. resistance to
syringe-exchange programs to reduce HIV/AIDS both at
home and abroad. Who knows how many people might not
have contracted HIV if the United States had
implemented at home, and supported abroad, the sorts
of syringe-exchange and other harm-reduction programs
that have kept HIV/AIDS rates so low in Australia,
Britain, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. Perhaps

And yet, despite this dismal record, the United States
has succeeded in constructing an international drug
prohibition regime modeled after its own highly
punitive and moralistic approach. It has dominated the
drug control agencies of the United Nations and other
international organizations, and its federal drug
enforcement agency was the first national police
organization to go global. Rarely has one nation so
successfully promoted its own failed policies to the
rest of the world.

But now, for the first time, U.S. hegemony in drug
control is being challenged. The European Union is
demanding rigorous assessment of drug control
strategies. Exhausted by decades of service to the
U.S.-led war on drugs, Latin Americans are far less
inclined to collaborate closely with U.S. drug
enforcement efforts. Finally waking up to the deadly
threat of hiv/aids, China, Indonesia, Vietnam, and
even Malaysia and Iran are increasingly accepting of
syringe-exchange and other harm-reduction programs. In
2005, the ayatollah in charge of Iran's Ministry of
Justice issued a fatwa declaring methadone maintenance
and syringe-exchange programs compatible with sharia
(Islamic) law. One only wishes his American
counterpart were comparably enlightened.

"Afghan Opium Production Must Be Curbed"

Be careful what you wish for. It's easy to believe
that eliminating record-high opium production in
Afghanistan -- which today accounts for roughly 90
percent of global supply, up from 50 percent 10 years
ago -- would solve everything from heroin abuse in
Europe and Asia to the resurgence of the Taliban.

But assume for a moment that the United States, NATO,
and Hamid Karzai's government were somehow able to cut
opium production in Afghanistan. Who would benefit?
Only the Taliban, warlords, and other black-market
entrepreneurs whose stockpiles of opium would
skyrocket in value. Hundreds of thousands of Afghan
peasants would flock to cities, ill-prepared to find
work. And many Afghans would return to their farms the
following year to plant another illegal harvest,
utilizing guerrilla farming methods to escape
intensified eradication efforts. Except now, they'd
soon be competing with poor farmers elsewhere in
Central Asia, Latin America, or even Africa. This is,
after all, a global commodities market. And outside
Afghanistan? Higher heroin prices typically translate
into higher crime rates by addicts. They also invite
cheaper but more dangerous means of consumption, such
as switching from smoking to injecting heroin, which
results in higher HIV and hepatitis c rates. All
things considered, wiping out opium in Afghanistan
would yield far fewer benefits than is commonly

So what's the solution? Some recommend buying up all
the opium in Afghanistan, which would cost a lot less
than is now being spent trying to eradicate it. But,
given that farmers somewhere will produce opium so
long as the demand for heroin persists, maybe the
world is better off, all things considered, with 90
percent of it coming from just one country. And if
that heresy becomes the new gospel, it opens up all
sorts of possibilities for pursuing a new policy in
Afghanistan that reconciles the interests of the
United States, NATO, and millions of Afghan citizens.

"Legalization Is the Best Approach"

It might be. Global drug prohibition is clearly a
costly disaster. The United Nations has estimated the
value of the global market in illicit drugs at $400
billion, or 6 percent of global trade. The
extraordinary profits available to those willing to
assume the risks enrich criminals, terrorists, violent
political insurgents, and corrupt politicians and
governments. Many cities, states, and even countries
in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia are
reminiscent of Chicago under Al Capone -- times 50. By
bringing the market for drugs out into the open,
legalization would radically change all that for the

More importantly, legalization would strip addiction
down to what it really is: a health issue. Most people
who use drugs are like the responsible alcohol
consumer, causing no harm to themselves or anyone
else. They would no longer be the state's business.
But legalization would also benefit those who struggle
with drugs by reducing the risks of overdose and
disease associated with unregulated products,
eliminating the need to obtain drugs from dangerous
criminal markets, and allowing addiction problems to
be treated as medical rather than criminal problems.

No one knows how much governments spend collectively
on failing drug war policies, but it's probably at
least $100 billion a year, with federal, state, and
local governments in the United States accounting for
almost half the total. Add to that the tens of
billions of dollars to be gained annually in tax
revenues from the sale of legalized drugs. Now imagine
if just a third of that total were committed to
reducing drug-related disease and addiction. Virtually
everyone, except those who profit or gain politically
from the current system, would benefit.

Some say legalization is immoral. That's nonsense,
unless one believes there is some principled basis for
discriminating against people based solely on what
they put into their bodies, absent harm to others.
Others say legalization would open the floodgates to
huge increases in drug abuse. They forget that we
already live in a world in which psychoactive drugs of
all sorts are readily available -- and in which people
too poor to buy drugs resort to sniffing gasoline,
glue, and other industrial products, which can be more
harmful than any drug. No, the greatest downside to
legalization may well be the fact that the legal
markets would fall into the hands of the powerful
alcohol, tobacco, and pharmaceutical companies. Still,
legalization is a far more pragmatic option than
living with the corruption, violence, and organized
crime of the current system.

"Legalization Will Never Happen"

Never say never. Wholesale legalization may be a long
way off -- but partial legalization is not. If any
drug stands a chance of being legalized, it's
cannabis. Hundreds of millions of people have used it,
the vast majority without suffering any harm or going
on to use "harder" drugs. In Switzerland, for example,
cannabis legalization was twice approved by one
chamber of its parliament, but narrowly rejected by
the other.

Elsewhere in Europe, support for the criminalization
of cannabis is waning. In the United States, where
roughly 40 percent of the country's 1.8 million annual
drug arrests are for cannabis possession, typically of
tiny amounts, 40 percent of Americans say that the
drug should be taxed, controlled, and regulated like
alcohol. Encouraged by Bolivian President Evo Morales,
support is also growing in Latin America and Europe
for removing coca from international antidrug
conventions, given the absence of any credible health
reason for keeping it there. Traditional growers would
benefit economically, and there's some possibility
that such products might compete favorably with more
problematic substances, including alcohol.

The global war on drugs persists in part because so
many people fail to distinguish between the harms of
drug abuse and the harms of prohibition. Legalization
forces that distinction to the forefront. The opium
problem in Afghanistan is primarily a prohibition
problem, not a drug problem. The same is true of the
narcoviolence and corruption that has afflicted Latin
America and the Caribbean for almost three decades --
and that now threatens Africa. Governments can arrest
and kill drug lord after drug lord, but the ultimate
solution is a structural one, not a prosecutorial one.
Few people doubt any longer that the war on drugs is
lost, but courage and vision are needed to transcend
the ignorance, fear, and vested interests that sustain

Want To Know More?, the Web site of the Drug Policy
Alliance, offers statistics, arguments, and
information about drug policies worldwide. Ethan
Nadelmann and Peter Andreas examine the politics of
global crime control in Policing the Globe:
Criminalization and Crime Control in International
Relations (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

Reproduced with permission from Foreign Policy #162
(September/October 2007) ©
2007, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Ethan Nadelmann is founder and executive director of
the Drug Policy Alliance.

© 2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights

Marijuana grower: ‘I wanted to help’

published December 20, 2007 12:15 am

HENDERSONVILLE – A man accused of running Henderson County’s largest and most sophisticated marijuana growing operation says he did it out of compassion.

Tod Aiken, of Columbus, said Wednesday the marijuana that led to his arrest was being sold for medicinal purposes.

“There’s a lot of people out there that need medical marijuana,” Aiken said. “I’m a man of compassion. I wanted to help these people.”

Aiken said he began growing marijuana in 2000 to help counteract the effects of hepatitis C treatments.

Henderson County Sheriff Rick Davis said Tuesday that deputies on Dec. 10 found 220 marijuana plants and equipment worth up to $20,000 inside a mobile home Aiken owned in the Jeter Mountain community.

Aiken and his wife, Sharon, were arrested Dec. 11 at their Columbus home.

Growing marijuana is still against the law, whatever Aiken’s reasons, Davis said.

“The ultimate answer here is to look to the law and the law clearly says that to manufacture it is a violation,” Davis said. “The charges are very appropriate.”

Aiken, 50, is charged with maintaining a drug house and manufacturing marijuana. His wife is charged with two counts of trafficking in marijuana and one count of conspiracy to sell and deliver the drug.

Aiken is scheduled to be in court Jan. 4. He said the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access has come to his defense and is providing him support.

Aiken said he wants to be a medical marijuana advocate.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Republican businessman funds pro-marijuana film

Wealthy LA businessman and Republican bigwig David Fleming financed a docudrama that promotes medical marijuana. His wife Jean, who uses marijuana daily to ease symptoms manuscript post-poloio syndrome, co-wrote the script and produced the film, called "Smoke Screen."
 200712171408"The War on Drugs has cost the American taxpayer $1 trillion since 1972," [Fleming] said. "We're paying $69 billion a year to make a health problem into a criminal one."

That's the libertarian side of him talking - he's also a board member of the Reason Foundation. But while Fleming can go on at length about drug stats from a policy standpoint, he's also got a personal stake.

His wife, a former Miss Illinois turned actress, suffers debilitating pain from post-polio syndrome. Several months ago, she obtained a prescription for medical marijuana. At night, she takes a few drops of liquid THC or snacks on a pot brownie to ease the pain.

"Here's Jeannie, well-to-do and a pillar of society, using marijuana," Fleming said.

"And I could be thrown in prison by Bush," she interjected.

That's Bush as in President George W. - the one who named her husband as a trustee for the James Madison Foundation, a group of politicians, jurists and two private citizens that hands out scholarships for teachers. Fleming has a photo of him and the president in his office.

The couple have an unusual marriage. He hangs with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. She wears a Barack Obama T-shirt. The two disagree on many political issues, but they vehemently agree about the need for drug-policy reform.

"Look, I'm an old lady, so I can say what I want to," she said. "In the '60s, I used to go to parties where cocaine was passed around and snorted. Nothing ever went up my nose, but I smoked marijuana." 

Sunday, December 16, 2007


The rhetoric surrounding marijuana, or cannabis sativa, as medicine ranges from calling it everything from "the killer weed" to "the miracle drug." Each side in the debate pulls snippets from scientific studies to confirm or rebut their point of view.  One need only review information provided by groups like the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws or the White House policy room to see this effect. 

The most comprehensive look at the issue to date is Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base, conducted by the U.S.  Institute of Medicine and published in 1999.  With minimal research being conducted in the U.S.  on marijuana as medicine, in 2000, the California Legislature created the University of California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research in San Diego.  The center was tasked to assess the use of cannabis as an alternative for treating specific medical conditions. 

Research is now being conducted in institutions around the world, trying to unlock the potential medical benefits of compounds called cannabinoids found in cannabis sativa.  A summary of research published in 2007 is at the end of the article. 

One of the spurs to this increased interest was the discovery in the 1990s of special receptors in different areas of the brain, which respond to cannabinoids.  This led to the identification of a substances created naturally by the body that resemble THC the main active ingredient in marijuana. 

Most people smoke marijuana to get "high." This high provides a "sense of well-being or euphoria and increased talkativeness and laughter alternating with periods of introspective dreaminess followed by lethargy and sleepiness.  A characteristic feature of a marijuana 'high' is a distortion in the sense of time associated with deficits in short-term memory and learning.  A marijuana smoker typically has a sense of enhanced physical and emotional sensitivity, including a feeling of greater interpersonal closeness.  The most obvious behavioral abnormality displayed by someone under the influence of marijuana is difficulty in carrying on an intelligible conversation, perhaps because of an inability to remember what was just said even a few words earlier," according to the 1999 IOM study. 

"Although marijuana smoke delivers THC and other cannabinoids to the body, it also delivers harmful substances, including most of those found in tobacco smoke.  In addition, plants contain a variable mixture of biologically active compounds and cannot be expected to provide a precisely defined drug effect.  For those reasons, there is little future in smoked marijuana as a medically approved medication," concluded the IOM study. 

The study further concluded that for some patients, such as the terminally ill, if marijuana would possibly benefit the patient, the long-term risk was "not of great concern." 

For other patients, the study advised that physicians could consider marijuana for a narrow range of short term health issues such as AIDs wasting diseases, severe nausea and vomiting associated with cancer and its treatment and relief of neuropathic pain.  While the study concluded marijuana had the potential in some patients to relieve the symptoms, the study also suggested stringent guidelines for physicians recommending marijuana to their patients. 

The prescription guidelines were established to relieve symptoms considered debilitating such as intractable pain or vomiting.  The key points were for marijuana to be tried after all approved medications had failed to provide relief; the prescription be for less than six months; a follow up program be implemented to assess effectiveness; and the recommendation be supported by an oversight review board within the hospital or clinic. 

For chronic debilitating conditions such as pain or AIDS wasting, the IOM study recognized that the issues of long-term medical use of marijuana was more complex.  Patients who had exhausted the other available medical options could not be reasonably expected to wait until some time in the unknown future for someone to isolate and synthesize the precise cannabinoid drug cocktail that provided the best benefit or to develop a "nonsmoked rapid-onset cannabinoid drug delivery system." 

Since the IOM study, a number of vaporizers, which claim to provide the user with the benefit of marijuana without the hazard of the smoke, have been developed.  A recent pilot study tested one such device on 18 healthy volunteers and concluded it had the potential to provide the benefit of marijuana without the toxic smoke. 

The psychoactive effects of marijuana make it difficult for users to function in society while on a marijuana high.  Those desiring to operate a vehicle or machinery, conduct a conversation, get to work on time, stay awake or learn new things may find it difficult to conduct routine business while high on marijuana.  These side effects were found particularly hard for patients not already familiar with marijuana use. 

Other physiological effects from marijuana use such as increased heart rate and its effects on blood pressure make it a concern for older patients already suffering from heart disease, potentially leading to heart attacks or other cardiovascular event. 

Medical Treatments 

A review of the literature shows that very few rigorous studies have been conducted on the use of marijuana to treat disease.  While cannabinoid receptor locations in the brain offer some insight into which diseases may be helped by drugs developed from marijuana, most studies have involved few participants and were not conducted following traditionally recognized methods for evaluating treatments.  Despite this, some synthetic derivatives from marijuana are now available and are being prescribed to patients for specific ailments. 

A large part of the medical research community has recommended increased research into how marijuana compounds can be harnessed to reduce suffering while minimizing any negative effects. 

Despite recognizing the substantial potential for future benefit, the IOM study believed that only a small group of patients would actually benefit from using marijuana.  The study observed that for most symptoms marijuana was being considered to treat there were other more effective treatment options, which most patients responded to. 

For cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, the study found the public was not aware of the major strides made in medicine to treat nausea and side effects.  While cannabinoid substances were only effective in 24 percent of the cases, a combination of currently available drugs is considered nearly 100 percent effective if started before chemotherapy begins.  Because pills are less effective once a patient starts vomiting, an inhaled fast acting drug, such as the THC from marijuana could provide some benefit. 

For HIV patients, while marijuana may provide some relief from wasting diseases it has also been linked to suppressing the immune system.  For unknown reasons the relative 12-year risk of death from marijuana smokers with HIV is nearly twice that of those not using it.  Many HIV patients are effectively taking synthetic derivatives of marijuana for wasting diseases. 

In a 2003, 23 percent of HIV patients in a public health study in San Mateo used marijuana.  Of those users, only 17 percent met the strict definition of medical marijuana use for the relief of nausea, anorexia or pain.  Some used a synthetic to treat AIDS wasting and smoked marijuana recreationally. 

Marijuana is no longer believed by most to be an effective treatment for glaucoma.  While it does temporarily reduce the pressure within the eye, it acts for a short period of time and reduces the blood flow to the optic nerve, potentially damaging it.  Other treatments are now considered significantly more effective in managing glaucoma. 

For multiple sclerosis, the studies have not shown marijuana to be particularly effective in managing the pain, spasticity or the disease.  Studies have had mixed results, although the cannabinoid receptors are particularly abundant in areas of the brain controlling movement so further study is being conducted. 

2007 Research Developments 

Some new studies show the importance of being able to deliver predictable and repeatable dosages of THC to patients and clearly established that more is not always better. 

A study of 15 healthy volunteers found that medium doses of marijuana relieved some neuropathic pain in healthy volunteers while higher doses actually made the pain worse.  Neuropathic pain is associated with cancer, AIDS, diabetes, etc.  Low doses had no effect.  Report published in October 2007 

While low doses of THC seem to alleviate depression, higher doses makes the depression worse, concluded McGill University researchers in a report published in October 2007. 

These studies show the value of being able to control and adjust the amount of THC delivered to a patient to get the desirable outcome. 

Other Developments 

Foot pain associated with HIV ( neuropathic ) shows some relief from smoking marijuana over a placebo according to a study in February 2007. 

Smoking one joint causes the same lung damage as three to five tobacco cigarettes according to an August 2007 Danish study. 

A cannabinoid called CDB in marijuana has shown early promise in laboratory tests for treating metastatic forms of breast cancer.  Very small quantities of CDB are present naturally in marijuana.  Published in November 2007. 

THC may help the virus causing Kaposi's sarcoma both infect healthy cells and then multiply according to a study conducted by Harvard Medical School researchers and published in August 2007.  Kaposi's sarcoma is a cancer affecting those with depressed immune systems such as HIV and transplant patients. 

A team of Swedish researchers has identified how the brains of unborn babies are damaged by mothers smoking marijuana, published in May 2007. 

Harvard researchers have shown in lab and mice studies that certain THC treated lung cancer cells grew at half the rate of untreated cells, published in April 2007. 

Research done in Cardiff University in Wales, suggests that marijuana use could increase the risk of developing psychotic illness later in life by 40 percent, published in August 2007. 

THC may help reduce the symptoms of allergic skin disease according to study on mice by an international group of researchers published in August 2007. 

GW Pharmaceuticals in Britain has been conducting tests for eight years on Sativex, a prescription drug derived from cannabis to relieve symptoms of neuropathic dysfunction and pain.  The drug is being reviewed in Canada for market approval. 


EDITOR'S NOTE - Information on the medical effects of marijuana was gleaned from research published in a variety of scientific journals.  The basis of much of the article came from the Institute of Medicine Marijuana and Medicine study published in 1999, which was requested by White House Office of National Drug Control Policy in 1997.  While the study is much referenced by medical marijuana support groups, it is less quoted in White House drug policy.  The IOM is one of four US National Academies and is a not-for-profit and non-governmental agency established as an independent think tank to advise the nation on matters concerning health and medicine.  It remains the most comprehensive treatise available on the issue.  The Canadian Senate authored a similar study in 2002 that mirrored much of the IOM findings.  Many of these findings were also supported by several sponsored reports from the UC Center for Medical Cannabis Research and the Medical Board of California marijuana policy.  An effort was made to focus this article on the science associated with marijuana's medical value and not explore other medical marijuana issues.  

Author: Linda Williams, TWN Staff Writer
Photo: A residential pot grow in the Ukiah area. [Mendocino County 
Sheriff's Department photo]
Referenced: The Institute of Medicine report
Referenced: The Canadian Senate report
Cited: University of California's Center for Medicinal Cannabis 
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Medicinal)

Friday, December 14, 2007

John Edwards: Net Neutrality

John Edwards: Medical Marijuana

The argument to reassign pot's drug classification

San Francisco Chronicle
The argument to reassign pot's drug classification

Wesley J. Smith

Sunday, December 2, 2007
Printable Version

The United States is a nation governed by law at the federal, state and local levels. Sometimes these laws differ with each other. That's where the great principle of federalism comes in. Federalism permits state laws to be in conflict with each other, and even with the federal government. But that's OK. The sometimes messy business of federalism permits different locales to try different solutions to vexing problems, allowing the states to act as the "test tubes of democracy."

We see federalism in action most vividly today surrounding the controversy over medical marijuana. Ten states have either legalized cannabis for medicinal use or permit a medical purpose defense against prosecution. Their actions do not force other states to go along.

But federalism also means that the federal government can't be compelled to accede to the state's laws, either, and indeed, when federal and state laws conflict - as currently it does in states that have legalized medical marijuana - both federal and state laws may operate at the same time. Thus, the Supreme Court of the United States has twice ruled that the federal government is entitled to enforce its total ban against all marijuana possession and consumption where such use is statutorily authorized.

And that's exactly what the Drug Enforcement Administration and Department of Justice have done under Presidents Bill Clinton and Bush. People using and distributing marijuana for medicinal use have been prosecuted and convicted - even in states like California, where it is legal. The upset caused by federal law enforcement actions has made medical marijuana an issue in the current presidential campaign, with candidates increasingly being asked by reporters and medical marijuana activists whether they will promise to call off the DEA raids.

According to Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana (, most of the Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, have promised to call off the dogs. The leading Republican candidates, including Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, have refused to so pledge, worrying, as John McCain put it in also rejecting the request, that marijuana is a "gateway drug." (Fred Thompson did not answer the question.)

But this is both the wrong question and the wrong solution to the controversy. The problem isn't the DEA raids. They are a symptom. The real illness, if you will, is the Federal Controlled Substances Act, passed in 1970, which explicitly lists marijuana as a "Schedule I" drug. This means that under federal law, marijuana has a "high potential for abuse" and "no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." Because marijuana is listed under Schedule I, doctors may not legally prescribe it, and the federal government can ignore state medical marijuana laws.

People can debate marijuana's potential for abuse, but it is increasingly clear that cannabis has definite medicinal benefits. Studies and abundant anecdotal evidence demonstrate that marijuana can stimulate the appetites of people with AIDS and cancer, reduce nausea in chemotherapy patients, and help people with such debilitating conditions as multiple sclerosis, diabetes and glaucoma. And the American people know it: Polls show support in the 70 percent range for medical marijuana.

The good news is that just because marijuana is currently on Schedule I, doesn't mean that it has to stay on Schedule I. The classification can be changed in two ways: Either by the DEA - a highly unlikely course - or by legislation. Indeed, Congress could pass a law tomorrow listing marijuana under Schedule II of the controlled substances law. This means that marijuana would still be considered a drug with "a high potential for abuse" but one that also "has a currently accepted medical use."

This would hardly be a radical move. It would merely allow doctors to prescribe cannabis according to the same rules currently permitted for far stronger and addicting drugs such as morphine, opium and cocaine. Moreover, and here's a bitter irony, Marinol - the synthetic version of marijuana (which many patients contend does not work as well as the real McCoy), is listed as a Schedule III drug, meaning it has less of a "potential for abuse" than drugs on Schedule I or II.

Given these facts and the high public support for marijuana as medicine, one would think that the Democratic Congress would be galloping to reclassify marijuana into either Schedule II or III. But you can hear the crickets chirping: Even though most of the Democratic presidential candidates are currently in the U.S. Senate or House, there is no bill pending to reschedule marijuana. Moreover, while there is discussion among medical marijuana supporters about introducing a bill of some sort, past proposals have not attacked the heart of the problem, which is the Schedule I classification.

To be sure, reclassifying marijuana would be resisted. But this isn't because opponents are heartless. They worry that marijuana promoters are cynically using the medicinal issue as a subterfuge for outright legalization. This is undoubtedly true in some quarters, but so what? If morphine and cocaine can be prescribed without being legalized as an intoxicant, why can't marijuana?

Opponents are also concerned that legitimizing medical marijuana would increase abuse. But it is the Schedule I listing that actually forces medical marijuana to be distributed through a semi-anarchic system in which doctors write notes, instead of properly regulated prescriptions, and patients pick up their drug from pot "clubs" instead of pharmacies.

This is a prescription for chaos. "None of us would have advocated for the current model of distribution," Allen St. Pierre, the executive director of the marijuana legalization advocacy group the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, told me. "The government's actions have led to the law of unintended consequences: People are literally getting cannabis for writer's block." The best way to prevent such shadow legalization is to change the law and thereby cut medical marijuana off from the broader advocacy movement.

This much is sure: Marijuana's Schedule I status breeds disrespect for government, forces the DEA to waste resources raiding the homes of sick people, leads to chaotic distribution schemes, and prevents reasonable medical testing to see which maladies benefit - and which do not - from marijuana use. Worse, the stigma of federal illegality deters some sick people from seeking a drug that could help them feel better.

So the time has come to put the presidential candidates on the hot seat. Merely asking whether they will halt the DEA raids allows them to expediently wiggle past the real issue, and indeed, seeks a promise from a future president to violate his or her oath of office by pledging not to enforce valid federal law.

What we really need to know is whether the next president will remove marijuana from Schedule I classification. That would help sick people, remove the issue of medicinal use from the broader debate over legalization, and bring the federal law in alignment with empirical realities.

Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, an attorney for the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and a consultant to the Center for Bioethics and Culture. These are his views and not necessarily those of any group with which he is affiliated. Contact us at

Thursday, December 13, 2007

DEA Robs California of Millions in Tax Revenues

Contact: Dale Gieringer, California NORML



DEA Robs California of Millions in Tax Revenues

Seizes Tax Payments from State Board of Equalization


DEA raids on California's medical marijuana dispensaries are 

costing the state's taxpayers millions of dollars in lost revenues, 

according to records collected by California NORML.

The DEA has not only closed facilities that were paying 

millions of dollars yearly in sales taxes, but also seized as much as 

$450,000 in sales tax payments that were in transit to the state 

Board of Equalization. Among them was a $350,000 electronic payment 

to the BOE from the Compassion Center of Alameda County, which the 

DEA seized from the bank on October 30th.

"In effect, the DEA is robbing the state of tax revenues to 

fight their war on medical marijuana," said California NORML director 

Dale Gieringer.

Although the DEA has tried to portray dispensaries as illegal 

drug dealers, records show they have operated as legal businesses, 

paying income, payroll, business, and sales taxes, and offering 

workmen's compensation, unemployment, and health insurance benefits 

to their employees. Several dispensaries closed by the DEA had 

licenses to operate from local governments, including facilities in 

Alameda County, Morro Bay, and Kern County.

Recent DEA raids have cost the state millions of dollars in 

sales tax revenues plus scores of paying jobs, as shown by the 

following examples.


*  The Compassion Center for Alameda County paid $3 million 

in sales taxes before it was closed by the DEA on October 30th. In 

the process of seizing CCAC's bank account, the DEA stopped a 

$348,078.49 bank transfer to the Board of Equalization, which the 

CCAC had transmitted just before the raid. CCAC had been legally 

licensed by Alameda county and had employed some 50 workers, paying 

them health and unemployment insurance benefits.


*  Nature's Medicinal in Bakersfield paid almost $1 million 

in taxes from 2005 until its closure in 2007, including $203,000 in 

state and federal income taxes, $365,000 in payroll taxes and 

$427,000 in sales taxes. Included was a $51,935 check to the state 

Board of Equalization issued on April 27, which bounced when the DEA 

seized Nature's Medicinal's bank account on May 1. Nature's Medicinal 

reopened and tried to repay their taxes in monthly installments of 

$9,000. They made two payments before the DEA raided them again and 

seized all of their money. Nature's Medicinal had been licensed by 

Kern county and had 25 employees, 8 of whom were indicted and the 

rest left unemployed and without health insurance due to the raid.


*  The California Healthcare Collective, Inc. in Modesto paid 

some $500,000 in sales taxes from its opening in December 2004 until 

its closure by a DEA raid on September 27th, 2006. Just before the 

raid, the CHC sent a check to the Board of Equalization which was 

voided by the DEA's seizure of their bank account, leaving the Board 

holding the bag for unpaid taxes totaling $39,416.70. CHC had 22 

employees who were left unemployed by the raid.


*  The DEA seized another two more BOE checks totaling some 

$15,000 from the Oakdale Natural Choice Collective, according to 

owner Addison DeMoura. The checks had been lying on DeMoura's desk 

when the collective was raided on July 31st, 2007.  DeMoura was 

arrested and forced to close his facility after two months of 



The DEA has tried to portray dispensaries as profiteers by 

citing gross sales revenues in the millions of dollars. However, 

their net income is modest when their costs are taken into account. 

For example, US Attorney McGregor Scott charged that Nature's 

Medicinal in Bakersfield made $16 millions in marijuana sales. 

However, he failed to mention that their indictment shows they spent 

$13 million on the purchase of product - not to mention payroll, 

rent, overhead, and nearly $1 million in taxes. Likewise, the DEA 

accused the CHC in Modesto of making $4.5 million in sales, but CHC's 

records show that 70% of this was spent on the purchase of marijuana 

and another 25% on operating expenses, leaving just a 5% profit 

margin on sales - modest by the standards of the pharmaceutical 


Altogether, DEA enforcement actions have deprived the state's 

economy of tens of millions in tax revenues plus hundreds of paying 

jobs. The retail value of California's medical marijuana market is 

estimated at $870 million - $2 billion per year 

This is enough to generate some $100 million in sales taxes alone 

plus thousands of paying jobs. However, recent DEA enforcement 

actions have forced scores of dispensaries to close or move 


Most recently, the DEA has taken to sending letters to 

dispensary landlords warning them that their property is subject to 

federal forfeiture. Although no landlords have actually been hit with 

forfeiture suits, many have felt obliged to notify their tenants to 

cease operations. Last week, the Chairman of the House Judiciary 

Committee, Rep. John Conyers, criticized the DEA's forfeiture threats 

and said he would investigate them in oversight hearings 


Meanwhile, the DEA's raids have cost U.S. taxpayers millions 

more in enforcement costs. This year has seen 53 DEA raids, up from 

20 last year and 19 the year before, according to a summary by 

Americans for Safe Access. Each raid requires dozens of agents. 

Witnesses say that they saw 20 - 30 DEA agents at each of five sites 

during the raid on CCAC. Over 100 defendants have faced federal 

charges for medical marijuana in California, according to a 

compilation by Cal NORML 

( Prosecution, court 

and imprisonment costs for these cases run into the tens of thousands 

of dollars each.

"At this time of budget deficits, we can ill afford the DEA's 

war on medical marijuana,"  said Gieringer. "Californians are better 

off having medical marijuana distributed by tax-paying businesses, 

than being taxed in order to to arrest, prosecute, and imprison 

medical marijuana providers."