Stop the "Medical Reefer Madness." An open letter from J. David Nick

All I can say is wow. If you were on the fence about Prop. 19 then J. David Nick’s breakdown below should wake you up and put you on the right track. READ IN ITS ENTIRETY. You will not be disappointed. Thanks to Lanny Swerdlow for passing this on. This is the nail in the coffin of the No on 19 posse. May you rest in peace and find a real cause to focus your energies…

For my support of Prop. 19, I have been subject to the scorn, approbation and the most demoralizing denunciations imaginable by a group of medical marijuana patients exhibiting what can only be termed “medical reefer madness.”

With the best of intentions based on a poorly researched legal analysis, these anti-19 folks have joined forces with the people whose indifference and outright hostility have resulted in, and continue to result in, the arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of thousands of medical marijuana patients.

Their never-ending harangues that Prop. 215 will go into the trash can of history if Prop. 19 is passed is causing medical marijuana patients extreme anxiety and leading them to question their support of this historic and critical piece of reform legislation. Graphically describing the horrors that will descend like a plague of locusts on unsuspecting medical marijuana patients if Prop. 19 passes, the anti-19 cabal insinuates that we are being duped by unscrupulous and untrustworthy people like Chris Conrad, Judge Jim Gray, Dale Gerringer, Dr. Frank Lucido, State Senator Mark Leno, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, Jeff Jones, Mark Emery and hundreds of others. To see a list of all their claimed enemies of medical marijuana patients, go to:

To reveal the fallacy of their arguments and to stop stressing patients, I asked my friend, and frankly the friend of every medical marijuana patient in the state of California, J. David Nick, to weigh in on the controversy.

For 18 years, David Nick has successfully litigated a cornucopia of issues regarding cannabis and the applicable laws in both trial and appellate courts. He has not confined his practice to marijuana law, but also litigates cases involving constitutional rights and criminal procedure.

David Nick has never lost a jury trial in a state marijuana case including many precedent setting trials involving some of the most revered figures in the medical marijuana movement such as Brownie Mary, Dennis Peron (Nick has been Peron’s sole attorney since 1994) and Steve Kubby.

One of Nick’s early defenses of Peron’s medical marijuana activism resulted in the first appellate court decision affirming that marijuana can be sold. Kubby’s case was the first large quantity (200 plants) case to be won on the argument that Kubby’s serious ailments necessitated his use of cannabis to keep him alive.

A recent case of interest to patients is the Strauss case, involving a farm in Mendocino County that cultivated marijuana exclusively for a collective in Los Angeles. Nick succeeded in getting a hung jury followed by outright dismissal of all charges involving 250 pounds of processed marijuana, 200 large marijuana plants and $1.5 million in several bank accounts – not exactly consistent with the idea of small collectives with everybody planting, harvesting, trimming and singing Kumbaya.

He is currently representing collectives in Palm Springs, Riverside and Los Angeles in preemptive lawsuits asserting the rights of collectives to provide medicine to their members without undue interference from local government officials.

Nick does not confine his practice to marijuana law, but is involved in significant federal criminal litigation.

His litigation has established the right not to be searched by sniffing dogs without probable cause. This is in contract to car searches where police can search you car for no reason at all.

His litigation has lead to policies requiring police to not draw weapons in a marijuana search unless they have information that the person being apprehended is dangerous.

He has successfully litigated jury trials utilizing a necessity for life defense in order to uphold the operation of needle exchange programs.

As far as I am concerned, these experiences qualify him to provide an opinion about Prop. 19 superior to those I have read from the “sky-is-falling” alarmists

Here is Mr. Nick’s analysis of the effects of Prop. 19 on medical marijuana patients. I will have a few more choice words for you to peruse at the conclusion of Mr. Nick’s thoughtful, rational, reasoned, and accurate analysis.


Anyone who claims that Proposition 19 will restrict or eliminate rights under the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) or the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) is simply wrong. If anything, Proposition 19 will permit individuals to grow and possess much more than ever before with patients, coops and collectives still receiving the same protections they are entitled to under the CUA and MMP.

Here is why.

The legal arguments claiming the “sky will fall” if Prop. 19 passes are based on the fallacious conclusion that the Initiative invalidates the CUA and MMP. This baseless fear stems from a flawed legal analysis which focuses on just about every portion of Prop. 19 EXCEPT the relevant portions. This flawed legal analysis is driven by an incorrect understanding of the rules of statutory construction.

Although extrinsic materials (such as legislative committee memos or voter pamphlet arguments) may not be resorted to when the legislative language is clear, courts may never ignore the purpose of the legislation. Every interpretation a court gives a statute must be consistent with the purpose of the legislation. This is why statutes have long “preambles” which explicitly state the purposes of the legislation.

This rule is so controlling that a court is required to ignore the literal language of a legislative statute if it conflicts with the purpose of the legislation. By example I call attention to the appellate court case of Bell v. DMV. In this precedent setting case, the court ruled that a statute must be interpreted to apply to civil proceedings even though the statute they were interpreting stated it applied only to “criminal” proceedings. The court’s interpretation of the statute was consistent with the purposes of the legislation and the limitation to criminal cases in the statute itself was not.


Section 2B presents the controlling and relevant purposes for understanding what Prop. 19 can and cannot do. This section EXPRESSLY excludes the reach of Prop. 19 from the CUA and MMP. Sections 2B (7 &  8) specifically state that the purpose of this initiative is to give municipalities total and complete control over the commercial sales of marijuana “EXCEPT as permitted under Health and Safety Sections 11362.5 and 11362.7 through 11362.9.”

Prop. 19 makes it perfectly clear that the Initiative does NOT give municipalities any control over how medical marijuana patients obtain their medicine or how much they can possess and cultivate as the purpose of the legislation was to exempt the CUA and the MMP from local government reach. Whatever control municipalities have over patients and collectives is limited by the CUA and the MMP, not by Prop. 19.

To further reduce everyone’s understandable anxiety over allowing municipalities to unduly control collectives, I direct everyone’s attention to the last statute of the MMP, 11362.83, which reads. “Nothing in this article shall prevent a city or other local governing body from adopting and enforcing laws CONSISTENT with this article.”

Since collectives are expressly allowed, local ordinances banning them are not consistent with the MMP. Health and Safety Code Section 11362.83, which limits municipalities ability to ban coops or overly restrict them, is unaffected by Prop. 19 as it expressly states in Sections 2B (7 & 8) that the laws created by Prop. 19 must be followed “EXCEPT as permitted under Health and Safety Sections 11362.5 and 11362.7 through 11362.9.”


Further protecting patients from local law enforcement actions, Section 11303 states that “no state or local law enforcement agency or official shall attempt to, threaten to, or in fact SEIZE or destroy any cannabis plant, cannabis seeds or cannabis that is LAWFULLY CULTIVATED.” If you are a patient, you may “lawfully cultivate” as much marijuana as medically necessary and Prop. 19 protects that right. If you are cultivating for a collective, you may “lawfully cultivate” as much marijuana as your collective allows you to and Prop. 19 protects that right. Unfortunately, many law enforcement officials refuse to recognize the rights provided under the MMP for collectives to “lawfully cultivate” and sell marijuana. Prop. 19 reinforces those rights and makes it even more difficult for law enforcement to bust a collective or collective grower.


As you can see from the above paragraph, the statutory scheme Prop. 19 creates expressly forbids law enforcement from seizing lawfully cultivated cannabis.

Prop. 19 will create an insurmountable barrier for local law enforcement which is still bent on depriving you of your rights through the despicable device of using federal law enforcement officers.

Here’s why.

Federal drug enforcement is nearly 100 percent dependent on the ability to use local law enforcement. They do not have the manpower to operate without it. Prop. 19 in no uncertain terms tells local law enforcement that they cannot even “attempt to” seize cannabis. If Prop. 19 passes, California will actually have a law on the books that expressly forbids local police from cooperating with the feds in the seizure of any “lawfully cultivated” California cannabis.


The nail in the coffin for those arguing against Prop. 19 is found in Section 2C (1). This is the only section which discusses which other laws the acts is “intended to limit” and nowhere in this section is the CUA or the MMP listed. If the purpose of Prop. 19 was “to limit” the application and enforcement of the CUA and MMP, those laws would have been listed along with all the other laws that are listed in Section 2C (1). Since the CUA and MMP were not listed, then Prop. 19 does not “limit” the CUA and MMP.

It’s that simple.


Section 2B (6) states that one of the purposes of Prop. 19 is to “Provide easier, safer access for patients who need cannabis for medical purposes.” This section is one of the many reasons Prop. 19 is very good for patients. If Prop. 19 passes, the days of having to go through the hassle of getting a doctor’s recommendation to treat simple medical conditions will be coming to an end in those communities which allow Prop. 19 “stores” to exist. When you need an aspirin you do not have to go to a doctor and then to the health department and then to Walgreens – YOU JUST GO TO WALGREENS (the founder of which, Mr. Walgreen, became rich during prohibition by selling “medical” alcohol to patients who had obtained a prescription for alcohol from their doctor).

In those communities which are stubborn and will not allow Prop 19 “stores,” patients will still have the protections of the CUA and MMP and the statutory right to form coops and collectives. Prop. 19 specifically recognizes that these rights are not invalidated and does nothing to limit the ability of patients to cultivate or form collectives or coops.


> As an attorney called upon to defend patients and non-patients in marijuana cases, I cannot tell you how beneficial and how much freedom Section 11300 subdivision A (3) of Prop.19 will be to cannabis users. Read it!

Section 11300: Personal Regulation and Controls

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, it is lawful and shall not be a public offense under California law for any person 21 years of age or older to:
(i) Personally possess, process, share, or transport not more than one ounce of cannabis, solely for that individual’s personal consumption, and not for sale.
(iii) Possess on the premises where grown the living and harvested plants and results of ANY harvest and processing of plants lawfully cultivated pursuant to section 11300(a)(ii), for personal consumption.

Section (i) limits possession to one ounce OUT OF YOUR HOUSE. Section (iii) permits people 21 and over to have within their residence or single parcel ALL the cannabis which one grew in their 25 sq. foot parcel, including what you grew this year, what you grew last year and EVERY SINGLE 25 SQ. FT. HARVEST YOU EVER HAD ON THAT SINGLE PARCEL. This covers as many cycles of indoor and/or outdoor grown cannabis as a person can produce as long as each grow was no more than 25 square feet and done in succession.

Clearly section 11300(a) (i) limits personal possession and consumption to one ounce OUT OF YOUR HOME while section11300(a) (iii) is what you are allowed to have AT YOUR RESIDENCE if that is where your 25 sq. ft. garden is located. That this is the case is established by another rule of statutory construction, i.e. the specific controls the general. Here (iii) is the specific statute with respect to what you can have AT YOUR RESIDENCE ONLY or in the words of subdivision (iii) “on the premises where grown”.

The one ounce limitation only applies when you leave your house, not wherever it is you grow your 25 foot plot. I can picture being able to easily defend a person with 200 pounds who is not even medical.

Under Prop. 19 you can only travel with one ounce, but if you are a patient you can still enjoy the protections of the CUA and MMP and can safely travel with eight ounces, or whatever your doctor permits you to have or the needs of your collective, as allowed by the CUA and the MMP. YOUR SUPPLY PROBLEMS CAUSED BY PARANOID CULTIVATION LAWS AND POLICIES THAT AT TIMES LIMIT YOUR PERSONAL CULTIVATION PROJECTS ARE SOLVED BY PROP. 19.

Prop. 19 creates a marijuana sanctuary IN YOUR HOME ONLY. Prop. 19 allows you to have AT YOUR HOME ONLY ALL OF THE PROCEEDS of every successive 25 sq. foot plot. However, Prop 19 only allows you TO REMOVE IT FROM YOUR HOME one ounce at a time if you are a recreational user.

For patients this is not the case because Prop. 19 exempts them from the one ounce out of home restriction. As stated above, if you are a patient then you can take out of your house up to eight ounces, or whatever your doctor permits you to have or the needs of your collective.

Both medical patients and recreational users should note that Section 11300(a) (i) allows you to “share” up to an ounce which tells me that you can furnish as many one ounces to as many friends as you wish, thus if you have a party with 50 people you could give away 50 ounces.


As for the argument that the various “Notwithstanding” clauses invalidate the CUA and MMP, I reiterate, that in section 2C (1) where Prop. 19 expressly states which statues are being altered, the CUA and MMP are not listed. Therefore, when you use the word “notwithstanding,” you cannot be referring to statues that have been expressly excluded.

Claiming there is some doubt as to what “notwithstanding” means or refers to requires at most that we reach back to the purpose of the legislation in order to give it proper meaning. Whatever interpretation you give it, “notwithstanding” cannot be in conflict with Sections 2 B (7 & 8) which exempt patients covered under the CUA and MMP from any actions taken by municipalities to regulate the non-medical use of cannabis.

The word “notwithstanding” is used when reversing prior legislation and has traditionally been interpreted by prior case law to be a word employed for the purpose of allowing conduct that had previously been forbidden by other statutes. If the word “notwithstanding” was not used in Prop. 19, municipalities would be able to claim that there is still a prohibition on their participation in the licensing and regulating of this activity.

For example, a law making skipping in front of a school illegal would be overturned by a law which says “notwithstanding other laws, skipping is legal.” If the word “notwithstanding” was not there, then skipping in front of a school would still be illegal even though skipping itself would be legal at any other location.

The rationale behind this rule emanates or comes from another rule of statutory construction which is that existing laws cannot be repealed by inference and instead must be EXPRESSLY repealed. A court cannot find that a law, such as the CUA or MMP, was changed by “implication.” In other words, it cannot repeal a law by ruling that another law implied that it should.

Although Sections 2B (7 & 8) gives cities control over the non-medical distribution of cannabis, that in no way allows a court to repeal or even change the CUA and MMP by ruling that it was “implicit” in Prop. 19 that they do so. It is contrary to any rational understanding of statutory construction to infer that since Prop. 19 gives cities control over the distribution of non-medical marijuana, that it also gives cities the right to control the medical distribution of cannabis beyond what the CUA and MMP allows.

The word “notwithstanding” is simply a legal necessity to repeal the various statutes that prohibit the conduct that prop. 19 now permits.

So can everyone please VOTE YES ON 19.


J. David Nick

There you have it in plain simple English – patients have everything to gain and nothing to lose with the passage of Prop. 19 You can believe who you want, but ask yourself, who would you want defending you in court? J. David Nick or your choice of any or all of the authors of the anti-19 screeds?

Get real people. Do you really think the Marijuana Policy Project, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition would stand idly by, let alone support, an initiative that will undo the millions of dollars and the thousands of hours of staff time they have invested in establishing, protecting and defending the medical marijuana laws that many of themt helped put on the books in the first place?

Americans for Safe Access has chosen to stay neutral on the issue because they see themselves as strictly a medical marijuana organization and Prop. 19 is about the recreational use of marijuana, not medical. Do you think ASA would take a neutral position on Prop. 19 if they thought it would undermine Prop. 215?

The only people who will profit from the undermining of Prop. 19 are narco-cops, bail bondsmen, prison guards, Mexican drug cartels, greedy growers, profit-making collectives and old dogs that can’t learn a new trick.

Those medical marijuana advocates who have chosen to dedicate their existence to defeating Prop. 19, could actually do something of benefit for the medical marijuana community if they would expend their negative energy defeating Steve Cooley, the Republican candidate for California Attorney General.

Unlike Prop. 19, this man is a real threat to medical marijuana patients. As the District Attorney for Los Angeles, he has claimed collectives have no right to sell marijuana and that collectives must be small groups where everybody gets their hands in the soil. He has spent literally millions of taxpayer dollars pursuing medical marijuana patients and providers and if elected Attorney General will probably rescind AG Jerry Brown’s guidelines thereby making every collective in California that operates a storefront or delivery service illegal.

Unfortunately, the money is on him to win the AG race and if he is elected, you better hope Prop. 19 passes so he will be so busy trying to undo 19 that he won’t have time to screw patients.

Don’t just vote YES on 19, work with us to pass this historic initiative that will help, not hurt patients, bring compassion and common sense to marijuana law and deliver a decisive, maybe fatal blow to the war on drugs.

Lanny Swerdlow, RN, LNC

P.S. For those of you who recognize the extreme importance to patients for getting Prop. 19 passed, I encourage you to come to the Prop. 19 meeting this Wednesday, Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m. where will begin putting into motion our college outreach program. College students are a key constituency for passage of Prop. 19 and we need your help for this critical outreach. The meeting will take place at the THCF Medical Clinic, 647 Main St., Riverside 92501. You do not need to be a college student or of college age to be involved in this program.

Ethan Nadelmann Interview


Prohibition has failed — again. Drug prohibition has proven remarkably ineffective, costly and counter-productive. 500,000 people are behind bars today for violating a drug law – and hundreds of thousands more are incarcerated for other prohibition-related violations. There is a smarter approach usually called harm reduction. Reducing the number of people who use drugs is not nearly as important as reducing the death, disease, crime, and suffering associated with both drug misuse and failed policies of prohibition.

Ethan Nadelmann is the founder and executive director of the DRUG POLICY ALLIANCE, the leading organizations in the United States promoting alternatives to the war on drugs, grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. He received his BA, JD, and PhD from Harvard, and a Master’s degree in international relations from the London School of Economics. He authored COPS ACROSS BORDERS and co-authored POLICING THE GLOBE: Criminalization and Crime Control in International Relations.

McNally: How did drug policy reform become your life’s work?

Nadelmann: It had something to do with my growing up in a fairly traditional Jewish family, going off to college, smoking marijuana, enjoying it, and wondering why people were getting arrested for it. I was reading John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty at the time, and I wondered why we were criminalizing something so much less dangerous than alcohol. In graduate school, I ended up writing a dissertation on the internationalization of crime and law enforcement. Then at the peak of drug war hysteria In the late 80’s, I wrote a piece in Foreign Policy magazine, saying that most of what we identified as part and parcel of the drug problem were the results of a failed prohibitionist policy. Shortly thereafter the Mayor of Baltimore, Kurt Schmoke, said much the same thing, and we got a lot of media play. One thing led to another, and finally to my running the Drug Policy Alliance, and becoming deeply involved in efforts to change drug laws both in the US and around the world.

McNally: You’ve said that this is a multi-generational campaign. Why do you say that?

Nadelmann: I was one of those weird kids who if you asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say a history professor. I became a professor of politics, but very interested in the history of social movements. Although sometimes things happen far more rapidly than one could ever believe — the repeal of alcohol prohibition or the fall of the Soviet Union — a lot of the biggest changes take multiple generations.

My role models are the movements for gay rights, civil rights, women’s rights, even the abolition of slavery in the early 19th century. Every one of these has been multi-generational. Every one of them started with people asserting what sounded like quixotic principles — about the fundamental equality of people no matter the color of their skin, the fundamental equality of men and women, the fundamental equality of people regardless of their sexual identification. Our core principle is that people should not be discriminated against or punished solely for what they put into their bodies, absent harm to others. And I believe this principle will ultimately prevail just as other once radical principles of freedom and equality ultimately triumphed.

I’ve been involved for close to a generation now, and I increasingly see myself mentoring and handing off the baton to a new generations of activists. I see this movement morphing and having the same sorts of internal struggles that other movements have had; it’s an inevitable part of the process. But I feel a sense of momentum right now. Those other movements ultimately succeeded far more than they failed. To the extent that I have an optimistic view of historical evolution, I think the same thing is going to be true with the drug policy reform movement.

McNally: The Drug Policy Alliance has recently co-hosted a series of conferences around the country. The one in Los Angeles was entitled New Directions: A Public Health and Safety Approach to Drug Policy. What are they about?

Nadelmann: We’ve done three of these New Directions conferences. They’re about shifting the paradigm of drug control from one in which criminal justice approaches are dominant to one in which health approaches are dominant. So much of drug policy takes place on the ground, and so much involves both governmental and non-governmental agencies and workers — cops, prosecutors, housing, public welfare, health, you name it. We’re just trying to come up with pragmatic solutions.

We did a conference in New York in early 2009 together with the New York Academy of Medicine. In June we did one in Washington DC with the National Association of Social Workers. Last month we did one in Los Angeles with the California Society of Addiction Medicine. Those were our key partners, and we have a whole host of others from health, civil liberties and sometimes law enforcement co-hosting with us.

These events push in a new direction: To reduce our reliance on a criminal justice and punitive approach in dealing with drugs, and to elevate the role of health in dealing with people who are addicted; To focus criminal justice resources on the harms that people do to one another, rather than simply arresting people for drugs; To move toward decriminalization of drug possession, both for those who are addicted and want help and for those who don’t have a drug problem and should essentially be left alone.

McNally: What are you hoping to achieve?

Nadelmann: First, we want to empower people who deal with drug addiction to become more independent and to be sensitive to all of the risks and dangers of doing drug treatment within the criminal justice system. More and more of the drug treatment industry has become “co-dependent” on the criminal justice system, relying on the courts to send them patients and keep them there, even if the assigned treatment is inappropriate or ineffective. The result is less emphasis on helping people get their lives together and an obsession with abstinence-only approaches in which the key criteria of success or failure in drug treatment is the purity of one’s urine.

Second, we want people of color — African Americans, Latinos — to become more deeply engaged. From the traditional Baptist and Evangelical churches within those communities, you sometimes see a kind of heavy moralism that is very resistant to a pragmatic approach to dealing with drugs. Conversations are now beginning to take place within those communities that are leading things in a new direction.

Third, people who deal with the problems of drug addiction in the cities oftentimes feel very removed from the whole debate around marijuana. We want discussions around how you deal with methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin addiction and how to deal with marijuana — which can be addictive, but for a much smaller number of people and with less serious consequences… to happen in the same rooms.

Finally, when you bring people together like this, law enforcement still holds back. One of our major challenges is to attract law enforcement in greater numbers.

McNally: I was especially interested in officials from Vancouver explaining how things are working since they shifted to more of a public health approach.

Nadelmann: One of my principle objectives when I started this organization, as it is now, is to inform Americans about approaches outside the US that are proving effective with less incarceration and less taxpayer dollars down the drain — and with better results in terms of helping people lead safe and healthy lives. Vancouver is an outpost of European sensibility on drug policy in North America, and leapfrogged San Francisco about a decade ago. Vancouverites and other people in British Columbia moved on things like needle exchange programs more quickly and effectively than in most places in the US. Then they went a step further.

In the 1990s, Europeans had initiated projects where heroin addicts who had tried methadone, tried drug-free, been to jail, tried everything, and they couldn’t quit, could go to a clinic and get pharmaceutical grade heroin up to three times a day. Programs in Europe proved remarkably successful — reducing crime, reducing addiction, helping people get their lives together and saving taxpayers money. Montreal and Vancouver did their own very successful projects, and earlier this year the New England Journal of Medicine published a highly positive review of these things.

Vancouver also provides “safe injection sites”, where people who come to get a clean needle are allowed to bring their illegal drugs with them and use them in a place with a nurse present. These too have proven remarkably successful in enabling people to stabilize their lives by reducing overdose fatalities, injection-related risks, and public nuisance. There continues to be reluctance and resistance to such things in the U.S., especially from the federal government.

McNally: Somehow our oceans isolate us from other folks who are trying new things and succeeding…

Nadelmann: Can’t blame it on the oceans, because places like Australia are being innovative. We’re such a big nation that when we look for alternative approaches, we tend to look only within. People might say, “I heard there’s a really innovative approach to probation in Kansas, let’s look at that” or “Let’s see what Texas did or New York did…” But the notion of looking at what Switzerland or Portugal or Australia or even Canada is doing, that’s less the American mindset.

McNally: You’ve said you’re looking for the next generation on this issue. Do you see one emerging?

Nadelmann: Students for Sensible Drug Policy – SSDP – was created about ten years ago. It organizes college students to advocate as DPA does for alternatives to the war on drugs. They mobilized initially because of the ridiculous Congressional statute that prohibited student loans from being given to anybody who’d ever had a conviction of a drug offense, including marijuana possession. If you’d been convicted of rape or murder or grand larceny, you were still eligible, but not for possession of a joint. They’ve also gotten very involved in trying to change campus policy, for example, to get marijuana and alcohol treated the same. It’s an innovative, dynamic organization that works very closely with us, and is really growing.

I’m beginning to see and hear about more youth organizations elsewhere around the country, some focused on young people of color. In the black community you see more and more mobilization around prison reform and reducing incarceration, and folks putting their toes in the water on broader drug policy reform. The drug issue stands out as one where young people are more mobilized than on most others.

McNally: I’m glad to hear that, because, when you point to other reforms — civil rights, gay rights, even ending the Vietnam War — young people played a big role in those movements, and it seems to me that’s going to be needed here.

Nadelmann: I’ve met with faculty on a few campuses who say they haven’t seen any activism in a very long time to compare with what SSDP is doing.

McNally: If people get involved and experience some success, there’s hope that they transfer that energy to other issues. Talk about Firedog Lake and SSDP uniting on Just Say Now…

Nadelmann: A little take off on Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No”. Huffington Post put it at the top of the front page, and it got tens of thousands of hits. They’re initiating their campaign with support for Prop 19, the ballot initiative in California to allow counties and cities to choose to end the penalties for possession of marijuana, basically a legalization initiative, one of the most exciting things taking place right now. It was prompted by a leading medical marijuana entrepreneur, Richard Lee, the unofficial “mayor of Oaksterdam.” He plowed back the money he was making into getting this initiative on the ballot. Drug Policy Alliance helped a bit on the drafting, and I’m doing everything I can to help raise funds and other support.

McNally: The polls seem to be all over the map, but one released July 28 by Public Policy Polling, has support for Prop 19 at 52%, 36% opposed, 12% undecided.

Nadelmann: You can see another with almost the opposite result some months before, and a Field poll showing 48 for, 44 against. My best guess is that it’s roughly 50/50, and normally it’s hard to win a ballot initiative when the public’s split 50/50 a few months before the election. When you get down to the wire, people get nervous, they may like an idea in principle but they’re worried about the details…

McNally: If they’re soft, they’ll peel off to “No.”

Nadelmann: Exactly. I think it’s going to be tough to win, but it has a shot. If we can raise the funds to take the campaign to the next level, who knows? And maybe young people will surprise everyone by voting in much greater numbers than they usually do, especially in a non-presidential election year.

I’ll tell you this, if it doesn’t win this year, we’re going to win this sometime in the coming years. Right now the momentum is on our side, and I’m inspired. Every time I start to despair, something new happens to give me hope: a new poll; or a new labor union comes out in favor — whoever heard of labor unions endorsing marijuana legalization? Or members of Congress like Barbara Lee in Oakland or George Miller in northern California or Pete Stark saying “I’ll vote for it.”

More people know about this initiative in California than about any other initiative on the ballot. Already by mid-summer something like 70% of all likely voters said they had heard about Prop 19 and knew it’s about legalizing marijuana. It’s generating the types of media conversations and debates which are an essential part of the broader dynamic that’s needed to ultimately end marijuana prohibition in America.

McNally: Can you say a bit about Prop 5 in 2008? It was leading in the polls but fell apart in the last few weeks.

Nadelmann: Prop 5 was a very different kettle of fish. It proposed a major reform of the criminal justice system, the prison system and of drug policy. If it had passed, it would have resulted in a reduction in incarceration in California’s overcrowded prisons of 25 to 30,000 non-violent drug offenders over the next few years. It would have resulted in the transfer of a billion dollars a year from prison and parole to treatment and rehabilitation, and would have reorganized the entire corrections system to hold them accountable to a new set of standards. It would have been the biggest reform of drug policy and sentencing in the US since the repeal of alcohol Prohibition, and the polling initially was in favor by a two to one margin. Even with the additional monies allocated, it would have saved taxpayers money.

The prison industrial complex mobilized against this like I’ve never seen, with Jerry Brown and Dianne Feinstein becoming the face of their ads. At the last moment, the prison guards union put in two million bucks of their own money, and raised another two million to run dishonest ads scaring people. People were freaked out about the economy, and we were not successful in getting out the fact that this was going to save money — in part because Attorney General Jerry Brown mandated that the ballot language obscure the savings to taxpayers.

McNally: He placed the direct costs up front in the ballot language, but the net savings, which were much greater, at the bottom.

Nadelmann: Ten years ago, Prop 36, which mandated treatment instead of incarceration for non-violent drug possession offenders with drug problems, won with 61% of the vote even though virtually the entire political, media and criminal justice establishment came out against it. The last lines of that initiative said that it would allocate $120 million a year for 5 1/2 years, and would produce a net savings of roughly a billion and a half dollars over that time. With Prop 5, Jerry Brown ruled that the direct costs had to placed in the top line of the initiative, and that any net savings would have to go in the bottom line. Our initiative was the only one on the ballot that actually had a net savings, but people don’t tend to read to the bottom line.

McNally: Brown, an Attorney General with aspirations for Governor, put the support of those unions over fully informing the public.

Nadelmann: Meg Whitman spent a quarter million dollars of her own money against Prop 5, so I want to be clear I’m not taking any partisan position for or against either candidate in the current election in California.

McNally: As of mid-August, Prop 19 has out-fundraised the organized opposition. Do we assume that’s going to change as it did in Prop 5?

Nadelmann: If the opposition had not put money in to run those ads against Prop 5, odds are it would have won. But, with the polling at 50/50 on Prop 19, they’re probably figuring it doesn’t have much of a shot. I’m basically saying to major donors — all of whom get no personal benefit from this — if Prop 19 wins, it’s going to be an historical breakthrough; it’s an uphill battle but it does have a shot. When I raised the money back in 1996 for Prop 215, California’s medical marijuana initiative, and then in subsequent years for other medical marijuana initiatives around the country, and for Prop 36 and other treatment initiatives, and for the asset forfeiture reform initiatives in Oregon and Utah, I was always able to say to major donors: we have 60-plus percent of the public in favor right now; if we have the money on our side and there’s no major money on the other side, we win; if the other side comes in, it’s going to be touch and go; and, if they come in big, we’ll probably lose. With Prop 19, I’m encouraging major donors to take a chance on this, but they tend to think if it doesn’t have a better than 50/50 chance of winning, they don’t want to get in. I’m doing everything I can to persuade them. We’ll see.

CW: You gotta love “big donors” that only vote on a sure thing…..Seems cowardice to me.

McNally: I thought it was quite groundbreaking when the NAACP of California came out in favor of Prop 19…

Nadelmann: That was fantastic. Although it was a cutting edge civil rights organization in decades past and they have a dynamic new leader in Ben Jealous from San Francisco, the NAACP had become a more socially conservative organization in recent decades and was often wary of getting involved in criminal justice and especially drug policy reform. But they do have a new direction, and their California director, Alice Huffman, has stepped out boldly on this.

The Drug Policy Alliance released a report authored by a professor in New York, Harry Levine, which says that in every county in California blacks are disproportionately arrested for marijuana — even though they’re no more likely to use or sell marijuana than are white people. People can find that report at the Drug Policy Alliance website. Alice Huffman properly identifies this as a civil rights issue.

McNally: Depending on the county, Blacks are arrested for marijuana possession at typically double, triple or even quadruple the rates of Whites.

Nadelmann: Yes, that’s right. In her book, The New Jim Crow, Michele Alexander writes that, as an African American, ten years ago when she would hear people like me or Ira Glasser, the former head of ACLU, talk about the war on drugs as “the new Jim Crow,” she’d roll her eyes. But the more she’s looked at it, the more she’s come to believe that’s exactly what it is.

By looking at the enormous extension of our criminal justice system; at the fact that in many parts of America 50% of young black men have at least one mark of a criminal record, and that marijuana and other drugs are oftentimes responsible for that; at the ways in which law enforcement resources are disproportionately targeted at young black and brown men in both minority and non-minority communities, and at the consequences in terms of higher levels of arrest and incarceration — this book makes an enormously powerful case that the war on drugs, including the war on marijuana, is the new Jim Crow.

Marijuana accounts for 40% of all drug arrests in the US, and about 50% in the west. Only 10-15% of Americans support legalizing heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine, but over 40% of Americans already think we should take marijuana out of the criminal justice system. If we do so, we could significantly reduce arrests and incarceration especially of young men of color.

McNally: I’m going to read a couple of lines from Alice Huffman and the California NAACP’s endorsement of Prop 19: “Instead of wasting money on marijuana law enforcement Prop 19 will generate tax revenues we can use to improve the education and employment outcomes of our youth, our youth want and deserve a future. Let’s invest in people not prisons, it is time to end the failed war on drugs by decriminalizing and regulating marijuana to save our communities.”

Wire service reports estimate that Mexico’s drug lords employ over 100,000 “soldiers,” and that the cartels’ wealth, intimidation and influence extend to the highest echelons of law enforcement and government. The US office of National Drug Control Policy says that more than 60% of the profits reaped by Mexican drug lords are derived from the exportation and sale of cannabis to the American market, only about 28% from the distribution of cocaine, less than 1% from methamphetamine. Your thoughts?

Nadelmann: What’s happening in significant parts of Mexico right now seems like Chicago during the days of alcohol Prohibition and Al Capone times 50 or 100. They estimate almost 30,000 people have been murdered for reasons involving drug trafficking and the drug war since President Felipe Calderon came to power about three years ago. Most of those killed are in the business, but significant numbers are also passers-by, innocents, people who wouldn’t take a bribe, you name it.

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox has been saying we need to put legalization on the agenda, that in the long term it’s the only pragmatic answer. I was very pleasantly surprised to see President Calderon recently acknowledge that it’s time for a serious debate on legalization. And that seemed to prompt President Fox to speak out even more forcefully than before for legalization. But In Mexico support for ending prohibition, even marijuana prohibition, is lower than in the US.

There’s no simple easy way to jump from where we are today to a world in which marijuana is legally regulated and taxed in the US and Mexico and much of the rest of the world. It’s going to be a messy political process, with inconsistencies in laws and enforcement and different forms of decriminalization and people exploiting that, but it’s ultimately the only solution that can really reduce the violence and murder and mayhem. We really have no choice but to head down this road, negotiating the twists and bumps along the way, until both the US and Mexico, and other countries as well, are ready to embrace a more rational and orderly system of marijuana regulation.

McNally: On July 27 the House unanimously passed HR5143, which, if enacted, creates a bipartisan commission to conduct a top to bottom review of the entire criminal justice system, and offer concrete recommendations for reform within 18 months. This is the companion bill to Senator Jim Webb’s S714, already approved by the Senate Judiciary committee. According to Senator Webb, legalization should be on the table for discussion.

Nadelmann: Senator Webb’s bill is now back in the Senate and, apart from the somewhat irrational opposition of Senator Coburn from Oklahoma, a clear majority supports it. It’s just a matter now of getting it to a vote.

Also exciting was the recent reform of the federal crack/powder law that had punished the sale of five grams of crack cocaine with the same harsh penalty as sale of 500 grams of powder cocaine. The vast majority of people arrested and prosecuted for crack offenses are blacks even though they only make up a minority of users and sellers. Obama came in to office saying he wanted to end this disparity, and a lot of Democratic leadership said the same thing along with us, the ACLU, the Sentencing Project, the folks at OSI, the NAACP, Families Against Mandatory Minimums and a whole range of others. We all fought tooth and nail to eliminate the disparity, and I’ve got to give credit to Obama’s Justice Department, who pushed hard with us.

In the end, when Republicans and some conservative Democrats opposed fully eliminating the disparity, a compromise cut the disparity to 18 to one. People held their noses at the compromise, because there’s something offensive about retaining a legal discrimination that has such racially disproportionate consequences. But thousands of people are going to spend less time behind bars and it’s going to save taxpayers lots of money. And it’s quite likely that a better bill would not have gotten through for many years to come.

With the exception of Lamar Smith of Texas, you had more Republicans vocally supporting this than opposing. Prominent conservatives from Grover Norquist in DC to Ward Connerly in California supported the major reform. In an era when almost nothing in Washington happens on a bipartisan basis, this bill — where people were potentially vulnerable to being accused of being soft on crime — went through with a voice vote and a very strong majority.

McNally: And there’s the Vienna Declaration, the official conference statement authored by experts in the International AIDS Society, the National Center for Science and Drug Policy, and the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. You were at that conference, what does that declaration mean?

Nadelmann: It’s probably the most significant global communications effort to mobilize opposition to the war on drugs since 1998, when I and others orchestrated a public letter to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on the occasion of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in New York. The International AIDS Conference happens every two years. The recent gathering in Vienna focused to a much greater extent than ever before on the ways in which the global war on drugs undermines efforts to reduce HIV/AIDS in much of the world.

Heavy reliance on criminalization and resistance to public health approaches means that HIV continues to spread among people who use and inject drugs as well as their lovers, their children and others. Outside southern Africa, injection drug use is often the number one or two cause of the spread of HIV/AIDS. It’s not injection drug use per se because that doesn’t cause AIDS – it’s injection drug use in an environment where you don’t have needle exchange and other pragmatic harm reduction policies, etc. This started as an effort among scientists and physicians, and they lined up a lot of other signatories including former presidents. The list of signatories is going to continue to grow. Google “Vienna Declaration” and you can sign your own name to it.

McNally: Let me read a quote from Dr. Evan Wood, the founder of the International Center for Science and Drug Policy, about the Vienna Declaration: “There is no positive spin you can put on the war on drugs. You have a $320 billion illegal market, the enrichment of organized crime, violence, the spread of infectious disease. This declaration coming from the scientific community is long overdue; the community has not been meeting its ethical obligations in terms of speaking up about the harms of the war on drugs.”

The International Center for Science and Drug Policy did a review of 300 international studies and found that in 87% of the cases dating back 20 years, intensifying drug law enforcement resulted in increased rates of drug market violence. When it was pointed out to Obama’s drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, that Mexican drug lords make 60% of their profits from marijuana, and he was asked if maybe marijuana legalization would be a good idea, he said, “I don’t know of any reason that legalizing something that essentially is bad for you would make it better from a fiscal standpoint or a public health standpoint or a public safety standpoint.” A quick comment on the Obama administration’s efforts.

Nadelmann: Obama made a number of commitments: that they would stop medical marijuana raids and acknowledge marijuana has a legitimate medical use; that they would allow federal funding of needle exchanges; and that they would do what they could to repeal the crack powder penalties. In all three of those areas the Obama administration more or less made good on its commitments. They announced last fall that they would no longer go after medical marijuana in the states that had made it legal, and they’ve mostly kept to that; although they didn’t push for federal funding of needle exchange, they allowed it to happen; and, as we already discussed, the crack/powder disparities were decreased. They’re also pushing for more of a public health emphasis. Unfortunately, if you look at the allocation of the money, it’s still two to one in favor of law enforcement.

Kerlikowske was the police chief of Seattle, the city that hosts Hempfest, the largest -marijuana-focused gathering in the world where almost nobody gets arrested. He’s a smart, thoughtful, reasonable guy, and he’s moved things in a good new direction. But for some reason he seems to feel compelled to keep talking nonsense about marijuana and marijuana policy; he won’t use the phrase “harm reduction” even as US government representatives increasingly embrace it in international health forums; there’s no willingness to move forward on heroin maintenance, supervised injection facilities and other harm reduction innovations that have proven so successful abroad; and he seems to have not the slightest idea how to respond to the growing calls from Mexico and South America to “break the taboo” on considering all drug policy options, including legalization. It all adds up to incremental reforms in the right direction with no real vision or intellectual coherence regarding the future of drug control policy.-

McNally: — “No fiscal good…” That’s clearly wrong.

Nadelmann: Why don’t they just stick to saying things that are true and accurate? Obama made another commitment when he was running for office – that he would no longer allow science to be trumped by politics. But in the drug area, they continue to let it happen.

McNally: Finally, why do you think the US with its claims to individual liberties has been and continues to be against substances that alter or expand consciousness? What’s going on in American culture that fears altering consciousness in ways that indigenous cultures, for example, have practiced for millennia?

Nadelmann: It’s a funny thing, we look at alcohol prohibition in America now and think that was some historical fluke from 1919 to 1933 when the country went sort of crazy. But, in fact, that was the outcome of a multi-generational effort that began with reasonable calls for temperance in the consumption of alcohol and ultimately evolved into radical calls for prohibition and total abstinence. There’s a deep seated belief in America — I think it’s wrapped up with different strands of Protestant Christianity — that my body is not just my body, it’s God’s vessel, and that I have an obligation to my Lord and Maker to keep this body free of polluting or mind altering substances. So there’s something almost fearful in our consciousness. We’re not totally unique in this regard, but we do seem to take it further than most others.

Source: Alternet

Interviewer Terrence McNally hosts Free Forum on KPFK 90.7FM, Los Angeles and WBA I99.5FM, New York (streaming at and He also advises non-profits and foundations on communications. Visit for podcasts of all interviews and more. Ethan Nadelmann is founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

FREE MARC EMERY: Sentencing set for Fri. September 10

To put it simply, our Government sucks for putting a person like Marc in prison for selling the seeds of a plant. it is a shameful situation when most of the world understands what a joke cannabis prohibition is, yet prosecutors and law enforcement continue to masquerade as if they are saving the world with this bullshit. Get a grip. These thugs who are imprisoning Marc, and those that continue to waste our country’s precious resources putting cannabis users and providers in jail, have a special place in hell. In the words of the great Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Marc and all of the other cannabis political prisoners deserve our undying love for their sacrifice to fight these terrible injustices….

“Prince of Pot” Marc Emery To Be Sentenced Friday, September 10

CANNABIS CULTURE – Marc Scott Emery, the leader of the BC Marijuana Party and well-known marijuana activist and businessman, will be sentenced in a US Federal Courtroom in Seattle, Washington on Friday, September 10.

Marc Emery is expected to be formally sentenced to the 5-year term he agreed to in his plea deal. If the judge sentences him to more or less time, the deal will be null and void, and a trial will ensue with the possibility of 30 years to life in prison.

Jodie Emery, wife of Marc Emery, will be at the US Federal Court (700 Stewart Street, downtown Seattle) at noon on Friday to meet with supporters and media.

“It’s nerve-wracking to go through this process,” Jodie said, “but Marc and I are both doing our best to stay strong. We know he is a political prisoner and, no matter the outcome on Friday, we just want him to be brought home to serve his sentence in Canada.”

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is responsible for Marc’s repatriation to Canada. He has received hundreds of letters and phone calls asking him to approve Marc’s transfer treaty request to come home, as required by law and the Charter.

The Drug Enforcement Administration, on the day of Marc’s arrest in 2005, said that he was targeted as “the founder of a legalization group” and it was “a significant blow to the marijuana legalization movement” because “hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery’s illicit profits were channeled to drug legalization groups active in the United States and Canada”.

(The press release can be found online at under “Who Is Marc Emery” or by downloading the original file at

Though the DEA and the media have reported that Marc “made millions of dollars”, Jodie Emery insists the money was all given away to activism groups and events.

“Marc started selling seeds with the explicit goal of funding the marijuana legalization movement, which he did tremendously well, to the tune of $4 million dollars over the decade he was in business,” she said. “He paid his income tax on seed sales, and operated openly and transparently. Marc and I have no savings, bonds, stocks, property, cars, homes, or anything of value. On the day of his arrest, he had $11 in his bank account. Marc Emery sold seeds not for personal profit, but for drug policy reform and progress that has, since he started in 1994, been very successful.”

On Saturday, September 18, rallies are being held in over 57 cities in North America and abroad. This is the fourth Worldwide Rally to Free Marc Emery since 2005. Thousands of people support Marc Emery and have participated in activism to raise awareness of his history and current incarceration.

Marc is currently imprisoned at the maximum-security SeaTac Federal Detention Centre. He was subjected to three weeks in solitary confinement for a “prison podcast” recording, but has been in general population since.


Time for Solutions, Not Rhetoric. Amend SB420 NOW.

Below is another hyperbolic story about another law enforcement officer that is out of step with reality. All over the state we are seeing wild claims that the only way a patient can get medicine is through being part of a “community garden” (San Diego, Jovan Jackson case this week) or growing their own. This ill-informed “press release” from the LA County Sheriff, the rhetoric of Attorney General Candidate Steve Cooley, and the narrowest interpretations from District Attorneys and Law Enforcers from around the state seem to forget the principle goals of the medical cannabis laws in our state- to get people medicine. Currently hundreds of thousands of patients have access to a safe and clean place to get their cannabis medicine. This is a GREAT THING. Rolling this back seems incredibly short-sighted and not in-step with what the citizenry wants. What they want is a well-regulated system that levels the playing field and ensures that patients have access under certain terms and that standards for quality and service are being met. Forcing ill-people to become socially networked with a “community garden” in some form just seems like a horrible way to go about accessing medicine.

If a person is diagnosed with cancer, they do not have weeks or months to wait for the harvest to come in. They need medicine now. By having a closed loop circuit such as a dispensing collective that enables patients to choose from varieties produced by collective members promotes well-being and the big deal- IT GIVES PATIENTS MEDICINE WHEN THEY NEED MEDICINE. This is the goal of the Medical Cannabis Community, and thus far we have been successful. There have been some bad behaviors by a select few that make it hard for the rest, but overall there is a very professiona;l network of distribution points for patients to choose from in many areas of the State. That is a good thing.

Prop 215 calls for the legislature to:

“implement a plan for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.” And we have the word of at least one of the principal co-authors that distribution was integral to the intent of the Medical Marijuana Program Act of 2003 (SB420).

In his amicus brief in the Anaheim case, Sen. Mark Leno states that “[t]he intent … was to prevent government entities from seeking to target medical marijuana collectives for sanctions of any kind based on nuisance law, since this would interfere with the practical implementation of the distribution system envisioned by the MMPA.”

Mark Leno

Source: William Dolphin

So the real problem lies in the unclarity of the law, SB420, which allowed for the collective cultivation of cannabis in a not-for-profit manner for patients to access their medicine, and according to AG Jerry Brown, a storefront collective can be facilitated under this circumstance if structured and operated correctly. What we need is for our lawmakers to revisit and amend SB420 to set forth guidelines and standards for the distribution of cannabis through private member not-for-profit dispensing collective organizations and also to set forth guidelines for the production of cannabis medicines. Failure to do so will only result in added chaos and confusion, of which this community has had plenty….

Be sure to get the vote out to DEFEAT COOLEY AND WHITTMAN IN NOVEMBER or we may be mired in chaos and experience a backlash like never before.

LA sheriff says almost all pot clinics criminal

LA Sheriff Leroy Baca


LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles County sheriff has escalated his war of words against California medical marijuana dispensaries, saying as many as 97 percent operate as criminal enterprises.

Some of the pot shops get marijuana from Mexican drug cartels, and most dole out pot to people with no medical need for it, Sheriff Lee Baca said.

“Millions of dollars are being made for profit, and it’s all illegal,” the sheriff said this week.

Baca presented no evidence to support his claim. His comments coincided with a recent announcement that he would lead efforts against a November ballot measure to legalize marijuana for personal use in California.

Critics said his claims about the dispensaries were politically motivated and untrue.

“When they run out of scare tactics, they come out with stuff like this,” said Michael Backes, a board member of the Cornerstone Research Collective, which provides marijuana to patients in the Eagle Rock area of Los Angeles.

Backes stressed there was no need to buy pot from Mexican cartels because more than enough quality marijuana is legally grown in California to supply the dispensaries.

Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Casey McEnry, who works in the San Francisco office, said it was difficult to substantiate or refute Baca’s claims because of challenges in determining where pot found in dispensaries was produced.

Baca, however, said chemical analyses of pot confiscated during drug raids against street dealers showed similar pesticide content and other characteristics as marijuana sold in dispensaries.

Allegations of criminal activity involving pot shops increased after a string of deaths, including the Aug. 26 slaying of three men in West Hollywood who police suspect had been buying up bulk quantities of high-grade marijuana from dispensaries and reselling it on the street.

A suspect in that case confessed to killing the men when he didn’t have enough cash to complete a transaction, police said.

In addition, two workers at different dispensaries have been killed during robberies in recent weeks.

“It is no surprise that people are going to get killed … drugs and violence go together,” Baca said.

The ballot measure that would legalize marijuana is Proposition 19. Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck said his department had not taken a position on the measure, but he was personally opposed to it.

“We already have enough … substances that cause issues with people’s lives,” Beck said. “We already have enough misery.”

Despite his concerns about the way dispensaries operate, Baca has been a longtime advocate of medical marijuana use by AIDS patients and people with other chronic conditions.

The 1996 law approved by California voters allows collectives to grow medicinal marijuana, though they are not supposed to make profits and can only charge enough to cover operating expenses.

Baca said the intent of the law was good but had been corrupted almost beyond recognition with most “patients” producing spurious notes from doctors describing vague ailments that don’t need to be treated with marijuana.

“People (are) going into these dispensaries with silly notes from the doctors saying they have a headache or a sore toe,” Baca said.

Thirteen other states have legalized medical marijuana, and many jurisdictions around the country have decriminalized marijuana to the point that low-level possession offenses aren’t prosecuted.

Craig Reinarman, professor of sociology and legal studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said law enforcement officials usually oppose drug legalization efforts because they are interested in maintaining the status quo and holding onto federal drug-fighting money associated with it.

“They have to use rhetorical strategies of invoking the frightening specter of Mexican drug cartels,” Reinarman said. “I don’t see any reason to see this as anything other than a completely self-interested claim that can’t be substantiated.”


HWJV?: Major Church Groups Endorse Prop. 19.

How would Jesus vote? Apparently these groups agree that he would VOTE YES ON PROP. 19. It is great to see organizations like this joining the fight to make cannabis freedom a reality. We can no longer continue to imprison our community and make criminals out of our neighbors. Hopefully this courageous endorsement will encourage other groups to come forward and also call for an end to the madness. Thank you California Council of Churches and California Church Impact group. It is great that there are still well rounded and realistic organizations that understand the many issues that arise from criminalizing what should be a public health issue. My hats off for to your courage and vision.

California Council of Churches IMPACT Endorses Proposition 19

Representing 21 denominations and 1.5 million members, Council of Churches calls initiative to control and tax cannabis “the moral choice”

(Sacramento, California) — Today, the California Council of Churches IMPACT, which represents 21 different denominations and over 1.5 million members within the mainstream and progressive Protestant communities of faith, endorsed Proposition 19, the initiative to control and tax cannabis in California.

“Proposition 19 is the moral choice for California,” said Rev. Dr. Rick Schlosser, Executive Director of the California Council of Churches IMPACT. “The prohibition of marijuana has failed. It’s created a culture of criminality around a substance that is less harmful than both alcohol and tobacco, which are both legal, controlled, and taxed. Let’s control marijuana like alcohol by passing Proposition 19 in November.”

You can join the California Council of Churches IMPACT and a host of other interfaith leaders by pledging to vote YES on Proposition 19.

The initiative has also gained support from law enforcement, doctors, Latino community leaders, labor, business leaders, elected officials, political parties, and more. Click here for a full list of endorsements.

Since 1913 the California Council of Churches (CCC) and California Church IMPACT (CCI) have labored to create a world that cares for all of its citizens regardless of economic class, ages, gender, race and ethnicity, religious belief, or sexual orientation. Together CCC and CCI operate a Sacramento-based public policy office representing 21 different denominations and over 1.5 million members within the mainstream and progressive Protestant communities of faith.

Similar to current alcohol and tobacco laws, Proposition 19 will give state and local governments the ability to control and tax the sale of small amounts of cannabis to adults age 21 and older. As the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), which provides non-partisan fiscal and policy advice, confirms, Prop 19 includes significant safeguards and controls: It maintains strict criminal penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana, increases the penalty for providing marijuana to a minor, expressly prohibits the consumption of marijuana in public, forbids smoking marijuana while minors are present, and bans possession on school grounds. [1][2]

California’s tax collector, the Board of Equalization (BOE), which currently collects alcohol and tobacco taxes, estimates that marijuana taxes could generate $1.4 billion in revenue each year, available to fund law enforcement, healthcare, and other critical needs.

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) also says Prop 19 would enable California to put our police priorities where they belong, in that it “could result in savings to the state and local governments by reducing the number of marijuana offenders incarcerated in state prisons and county jails, as well as the number placed under county probation or state parole supervision. These savings could reach several tens of millions of dollars annually. The county jail savings would be offset to the extent that jail beds no longer needed for marijuana offenders were used for other criminals who are now being released early because of a lack of jail space.”

Multiple polls show that a majority of California voters support Proposition 19.

NORM STAMPER: Every American has a stake in the passage of Prop. 19

I cannot express clearly enough the gratitude I have for Norm Stamper and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) for their dedication to the cause of cannabis freedom. I tip my hat to you, Norm. You are a strong voice and we are all indebted to you.

We Are All Californians

BY: Norm Stamper

Imagine it. Grownup Californians making a choice that should never have been denied them in the first place.

Proposition 19, the Regulate, Control, and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 would allow adults in that state to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for personal consumption; to use marijuana in a non-public place; and to grow the weed at a private residence in an area not to exceed 25 square feet.

Whether you live in New Jersey or Tennessee, Texas or Oregon, there are compelling reasons for you and residents of all the other states to actively support this campaign in California.

Who should favor, and therefore work for the passage of Proposition 19? An abbreviated list, including both overlapping and contradictory stakeholders:

Law enforcement whose members face on the one hand the prospect of sudden, violent death at the hands of drug cartels and street gangs, and on the other the hostility they encounter when enforcing draconian, everybody-loses prohibition laws;

Members of the medical community who understand that marijuana is far less harmful to individuals and to society than alcohol and tobacco;

The scientific community whose research findings on both medical and recreational uses of marijuana have been widely ignored or distorted by drug war fanatics;

Politicians who could and should have moved years ago to legalize, tax, and control cannabis, and who now have an opportunity to show some real civic leadership;

Teachers, preachers, coaches, and counselors who, under a controlled and regulated system, would theoretically be able to make a more reasoned and persuasive anti-drug use appeal to children;

Parents who would finally be able to look their kids in the eye and tell them, “Yes, I use it. And, no, you cannot. Not until you’re 21”;

Conservatives who believe in states’ rights;

Libertarians who believe in limited government;

Liberals and progressives who believe in nondiscriminatory policing, freedom of choice, and social justice;

Editorialists in both old and new media who, as opinion shapers, can make up for years of blind acceptance of the “This is your brain on drugs” lies and distortions of drug war propagandists;

Civil libertarians who are rightly offended by the erosion of Americans’ civil liberties, particularly those embodied in the Fourth Amendment;

Ethnic minorities who for decades have been targeted, arrested, jailed, convicted, and sentenced to much longer prison terms in stunningly disproportionate numbers;

Students, workers, residents of public housing who have lost loans, jobs and career prospects, and/or the roofs over their heads because of a drug bust;

Families of the busted who’ve seen their loved ones — breadwinners, fathers, mothers — incarcerated for nonviolent offenses;

Law-abiding consumers of alcohol who, despite personal struggles with “adult beverages,” have rejected use of the safer but forbidden cannabis;

Terminally ill or chronically pain-tormented patients who stand to benefit from freer access to a drug that, for many, has proven advantages over opioids in managing pain, enhancing appetite, and improving quality of life;

Abusers of marijuana who because of the risk and stigma attached to possession, have not had the courage or the wherewithal to get professional help;

Taxpayers who have been losing billions in tax revenues because of the myopic, moralistic attitudes implicit in prohibition;

Current, responsible consumers who would no longer be considered “criminals.”

I was born and raised in California, spending the first 48 years of my life in San Diego. For the past 16 years I’ve called Washington State home. I love the Pacific Northwest, but for the next two months I’m a Californian again. My head and heart belong to a massive social movement that aims to restore human dignity, civil liberties, and common sense in the Golden State.

It’s been said before but bears repeating: For better or worse, what germinates and blossoms in California often finds itself being lifted by prevailing winds of change and deposited in the other 49 states.

Californians have an opportunity to do what no other state has done, indeed, what no other country has accomplished. (No, pot is not legal in Amsterdam or anywhere else; it has been allowed, controlled, and regulated, not legalized).

Every American has a stake in the passage of Proposition 19.

Get your protest on if you are in LA on Tuesday…..

You GOTS to get up, get out, and get something…DON”T LET THE DAYS OF YOUR LIFE PASS BY……

They’re At It Again!

Stand Up for Safe Access To Medical Marijuana in LA

Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is trying to push virtually every medical cannabis patients’ collective out of operation! Only 25% of collectives meet his harsh and arbitrary standards. That is not enough to serve legal patients in LA!

Join Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and friends to “Stand Up for Safe Access” when the LA city Council returns from summer recess on September 7. Let the City Attorney know he can not roll back access for to medicine, and ask the City Council to Stand Up with patients!

What: Stand Up for Safe Access!

When: 9:00 AM * Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Where: 200 North Main Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Info: or toll free (888) 929-4367

What can you do to help? Bring signs, banners, friends, and loved ones to this peaceful protest and press conference before the City Council meeting. Forward a link to this page to your lists. Come prepared – bring drinking water, wear a hat for shade, wear sunscreen.


8:30 – Gather for the event and enjoy doughnuts provided by the Greater Los Angeles Collective Alliance (GLACA)

9:00 – Press conference and rally

10:00 – Supporters will speak during the Public Comments portion of the City Council meeting. You must complete a Public Speakers card before the meeting. ASA will have Talking Points to help you frame you comments.

After Public Comments – Join the rally outside

Read LA City Attorney Turns Up the Heat for more information.

See you Tuesday!

Help ASA stop medical cannabis bans in YOUR city…

Stop Bans in California!

ASA is telling all California cities and counties to lift bans on medical cannabis dispensing collectives.  In a letter sent to all 143 California localities that have bans in place, ASA Chief Council Joe Elford, demands that bans be replaced with reasonable regulations that protect patient access.

For the first time, a California Court of Appeal has ruled that state-compliant distribution ofmedical marijuana is not preempted by federal law.  This means that local officials can no longer hide behind federal law when prohibiting dispensaries in their communities.  It also affirms the validity of existing state law and cites the Attorney General’s guidelines in bolstering the legality of dispensing collectives.

Take action now! If you city or county has a ban, tell your elected officials that:
1. Continuing the ban is a legally risky policy
2. Establishing effective regulation of medical cannabis dispensing collectives is the right thing to do for patients and for the community

The court did not rule on whether localities could lawfully ban such activity and sent the case back to the trial court for further factual development. Still, this decision clearly undermines the justification for local bans.

We need your support to continue the fight for the right of patients to access medical cannabis through local dispensing collectives. Please become an ASA member, or renew your membership now.


Steph Sherer                        Don Duncan
ASA Executive Director        ASA California Director

Handout to government officials: ASA Report on Dispensing Collectives

ASA Press Release

Medical Marijuana Advocates Demand Local Officials Comply with State Distribution Laws

Recent California appellate court decision rejected distribution bans based on federal preemption

Oakland, CA — Americans for Safe Access, the country’s leading medical marijuana patient advocacy group, issued letters today to more than 140 localities across California with bans on distribution, demanding that they come into compliance with state law. The letters were sent two weeks after California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal issued a long-awaited decision rejecting the argument that local or state dispensary laws are preempted by federal law. The case of Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheimwas sent back to Superior Court for further factual development and eventual trial.

However, despite the pre-trial status of the Anaheim case, ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford argued in the letter that the appellate court “makes clear that regulation of dispensaries, rather than an outright ban, is consistent with State law and is not preempted by federal law.” The ASA letter, which was sent to 134 cities and 9 counties with outright bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, asked local officials “to reconsider [their] ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in light of the recently published decision.”

Authored by Judge Richard Aronson, the unanimous appellate court decision stated that, “Just as the federal government may not commandeer state officials for federal purposes, a city may not stand in for the federal government and rely on purported federal preemption to implement federal legislative policy that differs from corresponding, express state legislation concerning medical marijuana.”

“It’s long past time for local officials to implement California law and embrace the need for safe access to medical marijuana,” said ASA Associate Director Don Morgan. “Patients should not have to be held hostage by hostile jurisdictions.” While ASA will continue to challenge bans in court, volunteer patient advocates across the state are working with their local governments to help them adopt dispensary regulations. “We will continue to work with local officials to develop sensible and effective regulatory ordinances that take into account the needs of not just patients, but all members of the community,” continued Morgan.

The Anaheim case, on which the ASA letter is largely based, was the result of a lawsuit filed shortly after the City of Anaheim voted to ban dispensaries in July of 2007. Qualified Patients Association was a local medical marijuana dispensary that had been in operation for 5 months prior to the ban. An appeal was filed in March of 2008 after the Orange County Superior Court ruled that Anaheim could prohibit dispensaries from operating within its city limits.

Although more than 140 cities and counties have established outright bans against the local distribution of medical marijuana — a tactic that advocates call a violation of state law — nearly four-dozen California localities, including some of the most populous cities like Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and San Francisco, have successfully implemented dispensary regulations. In fact, not only do such regulations facilitate the safe distribution of medical marijuana to thousands of patients, but studies conducted earlier this year also indicate that regulations decrease crime in areas around dispensaries, contrary to most law enforcement propaganda.

Further Information:
ASA compliance letter sent to more than 140 localities:
Appellate court ruling in Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim:
Status of California city ordinances regulating and banning dispensaries:

29% THC…C'mon now. I call bullshit….Some labs are WAY off

So I was scanning Weedtracker yesterday to see what was going on in the marketplace and I came across a thread that said “Our Green Ribbon just tested at 29% THC! For those of you who have tried it, what do you think?”

What do I think? I think your testing machine or your standards are off. There is no way that a flower is testing that high. It is virtually impossible unless you have some spaceship growing process that has somehow magically transformed the cannabis plant. I could see 22% but I have never heard of any strain coming up at 29-30% EVER. No where in the history of mankind has this been true, so I beg top wonder….who did this test and how reputable are their findings? There are a lot of labs popping up these days and a lot of inflated numbers running around it would seem. When all of your strains are coming in at high rates of 18% plus, it begs to question…How is this possible?

How it is possible is that it is extremely difficult to develop a sound process for testing cannabis. Most organizations will go through some growing pains and work for months to adjust their process to accurately reflect the true number. For labs that are just beginning the process it is less than truthful to publish numbers before you get a good baseline and are sure your numbers are reflective of the true quantities of active ingredients. It takes hundreds to thousands of tests to get it right, so I am skeptical that many of these new organizations have perfected the process in just a few short weeks or months on a handful of samples. How could this be?

I took the same issue when Harborside began prematurely publishing their results in early 2009. Their lab process was in the development phases and it seemed that its really needed more time to develop before attempting to give patients less than accurate information. Over the past couple of years Steep Hill lab has worked tirelessly with Science professionals to perfect their process, do peer review, and test thousands of samples to make their process right. While there will always be questions of scientific validity until cannabis labs can operate open and freely without Government interference and participate in a wider set of verification with other labs, Steep Hill has done a lot of work to make sure their process is sound. I cannot vouch that their numbers are 100% accurate, as I am no scientist, but I do know the work has been done to ensure accuracy at every level and I have more faith in their process because of the time, energy and expertise that has been afforded to the project.

Other labs that are just beginning to go through this trial and error phase have no business putting out numbers that are foggy at best. And when you come at me with a 29% THC flower I have a tendancy to think that there may be a problem in the testing process and that by all means the numbers that are being given out to patients are just BULLSHIT. You may as well throw a dart at a dartboard full of numbers and select it that way because it is just as accurate. I am not saying that this “Green Ribbon” is not a quality flower with high levels of THC, but 29% is a bit much to swallow. It is disingenuous at best and at worst a blatant deception in order to create hype for a house strain.

As patients, we must decipher what the truth is and when a lab is pumping out strains that are at inflated levels consistently it may be time to go back to the drawing board and get it right before publishing your findings as facts. At best THC levels are a window into the actual levels that your particualr bud or bag of buds may be, and that is great. But when your window is 10 points higher than everyone else’s window, it may be bullshit.

I think it testing cannabis for potency and safety is a great idea, but if your readings are not even remotely accurate then all it becomes is false advertising and deceiving of patients. I understand that there is a bottom line that needs to be met for organizations to be successful, but if meeting that bottom line comes at the expense of morals and validity, then there is a real issue. For those collectives that are using some of the hot new and cheap lab services on the market, you may want to ask yourself…am I getting what I am paying for or would I be better off throwing darts at the board? Or better yet…finding a more reputable service. The choice is yours. But believe if you keep telling me your herb is at 20-30% THC consistently then I am going to put you on front street. When your averages are 16.41%, a cool 4-8% over average, then there may be a real issue….

30% THC would mean 1/8th would have 1 full gram (or 1000mg) of THC in it. Where does the plant matter come in? Chlorophyl? Waxes? Other cannabinoids? To put it in perspective Marinol (synthetic THC) comes in 2.5, 5, and 10 milligram doses…….Just saying.

CA Assembly rejects resolution because "patients don't look sick"

Assembly bill SJR14, that would have called for an end to Federal interference into the California medical marijuana industry, was rejected by the California legislative body yesterday- losing by just 4 votes. While this is disappointing, what it shows is WE MUST PASS PROP. 19 to further protect patients. As lawmakers refuse to put their best foot forward on a simple piece of legislation that would declare Californian’s right to use cannabis, we have to evaluate if the current “every use is medical” actions are working in the bigger picture scheme of things. To put it simply- THEY ARE NOT.

Don Duncan form Americans for Safe Access wrote:

SJR 14 should have been a winner in a Democratic legislature – it costs nothing, does not change state law, and calls for action only in the federal arena. Unfortunately, ambivalence about medical cannabis is at a high water mark in Sacramento. Even legislators with a track record of support are worried about increasingly unpopular collectives, lenient doctors, or patients that “don’t look sick.” That is why some of the twelve silent Assemblymembers withheld their support for SJR 14.

We must not continue to allow lawmakers, cops, and District Attorneys to continue to play doctor and decide who is and who is not sick enough to use cannabis. By passing Proposition 19, we can separate the pretenders from the patients and the medical cannabis community can remove some of these stigmas that are apparent, not just in legislative circles, but also in the press, local blogs, and City Council meetings- where there is always a dialogue about “the ruse” of medical marijuana and how “anyone can get a Doctor’s note.”  Like it or not, these complications make it difficult to justify the actions of the community at times and the term medicine gets thrown around pretty loosely in some circles. I do not mind myself, but I AM A CANNABIS ACTIVIST. The real issue is that we continue to lose credibility for real medical uses of cannabis because the system now forces would-be healthy users of cannabis to stretch their medical need to accommodate their desire to use cannabis legally.

I am not a doctor, nor will I ever be a doctor, and i do not try to judge a person’s medical need for cannabis. That is between them and their physician. But i am aware of some of the unethical practices happening with doctors that seem to believe that since the law was written vaguely and cannabis is extremely safe, that it is okay to recommend cannabis to anyone for any reason at any time. This was evident at the HempCon event where Doctor mills were pumping out patients with no medical history or ongoing relationship for rates of $40-$50. I appreciate a person’s right to use cannabis and believe if I did not have these 7 screws and steel plate in my heel and did not suffer from ADHD as a Ritalin child of the 80’s, I would also abuse the system and tell a doctor whatever he wanted to hear to get to use cannabis legally because JAIL SUCKS.

Which is why we need to PASS PROP. 19, so that this legality can be afforded to people without the charades of some people’s questionable medical usage. I think the medical cannabis movement has done a lot to advance the cause of cannabis freedom, but there is also a price to be paid; and the price we have seen is less confidence that there are real medical benefits to cannabis and that it is not being greatly abused. We have seen this in other States who mock California’s system.

Do not get me wrong. I am proud of Californians ability to provide safe access to patients. Everyday hundreds of thousands of patients have safe and convenient access to cannabis. That is a great thing. MOST of those patients are legitimate. But there are some who push the envelope in order to make themselves legal. There are others who simply choose to be criminals because they do not believe in lying to get a recommendation. Proposition 19 will begin to defuse this controversial aspect of our movement and hopefully in the future the Legislature will be more confident in passing resolutions like SJR14 that defends real patients rights.