Posts Tagged ‘washington dc medical marijuana’

Washington DC Medical Marijuana Program Finally Making Progress

The District Of Columbia will begin accepting formal applications to grow or dispense medical marijuana Aug. 5, a significant step toward establishing the long-awaited program to aid the sick and dying, reports Tom Howell Jr. of The Washington Times.

Earlier this year, the D.C. Department of Health received 170 letters of intent — 64 for dispensaries and 106 for cultivation centers — from more than 80 separate entities, said agency Director Dr. Mohammad Akhter. City agencies vetted the letters of intent Tuesday, disqualifying 14 dispensary letters and 18 cultivation letters, Dr. Akhter said. That leaves 50 dispensary and 88 cultivation candidates to vying for five and 10 permits, respectively. Qualifying candidates have until Sept. 9 to submit their applications.

In February, Akhter promised the system would be up and running in 60 to 90 days. But concerns about federal or congressional intervention have slowed down the process.

“We’ve received information from the USDOJ, USAO expressing their concerns about this and we want to frankly be sure we acknowledge all the concerns that exist so that when we have a program to move forward it is sound as we can possible make it,” Mayor Vincent Gray said.

“The bottom line is we will be issuing licenses in the middle of December,” Akhter says.

Advocates counter that the process has stretched on too long and the regulations are too restrictive.

“The patients who are going to benefit from this program are fed up and are sick and tired of waiting. They’re sick of it. They want their medicine now,” says Adam Eidinger of the Medical Marijunana Service.

It’s been 13 years since D.C. voters approved medical marijuana, but legal blocks have slowed progress.

Missouri Group Works To Legalize Marijuana

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Graphic: Show-Me Cannabis

​Petitions have been filed with the Missouri secretary of state’s office, and it could be the first step toward the legalization of marijuana — if it attracts enough support.

Show-Me Cannabis, an initiative organized by Missourians and businesses that believe marijuana prohibition is a failed policy, filed two petitions with the secretary of state this month, reports Kim Norvell at the St. Joseph News-Press. One of the petitions would amend Missouri’s constitution, while the other would involve a change in statutes.
If approved, organizers can begin gathering signatures. They’ll need 147,000 sigs for a constitutional amendment, or 92,000 for a statutory amendment, before it can appear on the November 2012 ballot.
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Photo: Show-Me Cannabis
Amber Langston, Show-Me Cannabis: “I think most politicians are still living in that ‘Reefer Madness’ mindset”
​ Show-Me Cannabis expects to find more support from voters than from politicians who would be asked to sponsor a bill, according to campaign director Amber Langston.
“I think most politicians are still living in that ‘Reefer Madness’ mindset, which most of us are coming to the conclusion that was simply propaganda,” she said. “As a society we’re still trying to sort out the facts, but those who have stepped out in favor of it have found pretty good support.”
Langston already has a successful track record when it comes to cannabis initiatives. She served as the campaign manager for Columbia, Missouri’s two successful municipal marijuana initiatives in 2004. She’s also worked with Students for Sensible Drug Policy in Washington, D.C., and with Americans for Safe Access in Oakland, California.
Show-Me Cannabis is asking voters to approve regulations for marijuana that are similar to those for alcohol.
Users would have to be 21 or older, marijuana merchants would need a license, and pot gardens for personal use would be limited to a 10-foot by 10-foot plot.
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Show-Me Cannabis
There is also wording in the measure which allows doctors to authorize medical marijuana, and farmers to cultivate industrial hemp.
The initiative also suggests releasing all inmates previously convicted of marijuana possession or distribution.
To read both proposed legalization amendments, both the constitutional one and the statutory one, click here.
To learn more about Show-Me Cannabis, or to contribute to the effort to legalize marijuana in Missouri, visit show-mecannabis.com.

No One is Outside of Federal Marijuana Laws, U.S. Says

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette / 2010 photo by WILLIAM ARCHIE/Detroit Free Press

Large-scale pot operators must be stopped, and even smaller-scale users and distributors are not shielded from prosecution, the U.S. says.

Large-scale pot operators must be stopped, and even smaller-scale users and distributors are not shielded from prosecution, the U.S. says. / 2010 photo by WILLIAM ARCHIE/Detroit Free Press

A memo from the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington says state laws allowing medical marijuana opened the door to abuses and calls for legally targeting “large-scale, privately operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers” as well as distribution operations known as dispensaries.

The memo — which arrived June 29 in the e-mail inboxes of U.S. attorneys nationwide, including the Detroit office — says that no patient or other user is shielded from federal prosecution by state laws. The memo comes after Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette unleashed a salvo last week, saying there was widespread lawbreaking linked to medical marijuana in Michigan.

The federal memo has medical marijuana advocates feeling betrayed by the Obama administration, which had been linked with hopes for leniency in the war on drugs.

“The $64,000 question is, are the U.S. district attorneys in offices across the country really going to go after these dispensaries and grow operations? We’ll have to see,” said Art Cotter, chairman of the medical marijuana committee for the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.

On Thursday, about two dozen operators of compassion centers — where patients use the drug — met near Flint to discuss the new threats to access.

“We now we have a double threat because of this (federal memo) and our own attorney general,” Rick Thompson, editor of Oak Park-based Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, said from the meeting.

U.S. pushes for strict pot law enforcement

Just when medical marijuana users are protesting plans for tighter restrictions on the drug in Michigan, a memo from federal authorities in Washington is asking for tougher enforcement.

The memo, sent from the U.S. Department of Justice to U.S. attorneys and being circulated this week among Michigan’s county prosecutors and sheriffs, is exactly what many in Michigan law enforcement said they were waiting for — a green light to stamp out what they say is proliferating drug abuse and lawbreaking under the cover of medical marijuana.

According to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, the memo shows that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act — passed by 63% of voters in 2008 — is entirely pre-empted by federal drug law.

“We are making that case as we defend Livonia’s commonsense zoning ordinance in court,” Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout said.

The Livonia ordinance amounts to a total ban on medical marijuana cultivation and use in the city, lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union have said in the case.

Defense attorneys, operators of medical marijuana facilities, such as compassion clubs, and medical marijuana users decried the memo as a step backward.

“This is an attack on the patient community,” said Kristen Ford, field director for the nonprofit Americans for Safe Access, based in Washington, D.C.

Rick Thompson, editor of the Oak Park-based Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, said Thursday: “All of us are more concerned now with federal intrusion.”

State law no shield

The Justice Department memo says, without naming specific states, that “planned facilities have revenue projections of millions of dollars, based on the cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.”

Such large-scale operators must be stopped, and even smaller-scale users and distributors are not shielded from federal prosecution, “even where those activities purport to comply with state law,” says the memo signed by U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Some say the memo makes clear that the Obama administration, contrary to the sense of a 2009 memo, opposes giving leniency to medical marijuana users.

“There was this feeling that the local police and prosecutors were on their own” for enforcing drug laws against people claiming a medical need for pot, Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith said Thursday.

“Now, I think we’re all going to see that the abuses have to stop at all levels. When this law passed in Michigan, every person who voted for it had good intentions. But what we’ve seen is that for every one person who uses medical marijuana responsibly, someone else is abusing it and profiting from it,” Smith said.

Federal authorities are not changing their policy but instead are trying to correct a misreading of their stance, Berrien County Prosecutor Art Cotter said. Law enforcers and marijuana users alike misinterpreted an October 2009 memo from the Justice Department that “seemed to suggest, ‘Don’t go after medical marijuana patients,’ ” Cotter said. He chairs the medical marijuana committee for the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan.

“People read into that the idea that, as long as something complied with state law, the feds would not get involved. Now, this new memo is saying, no, dispensaries and large grow operations are not immune from our prosecution,” he said.

Federal prosecutors sued the Michigan Department of Community Health last year to obtain records of seven patients who are part of a criminal drug investigation. The government won its demand in early June, in spite of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act’s promise of confidentiality to anyone who receives state approval. Last week, a Traverse City attorney representing the Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs asked for a stay in the case until an appeal can be heard.

Focus not on patients

Although precise statistics were unavailable this week, it appears that federal authorities have continued to prosecute alleged violations of federal marijuana laws on a regular basis since passage of the state’s medical marijuana law.

Some of the cases have been brought against growers who initially claimed to be operating in accordance with the state statute. But federal law enforcement officials said such a defense is irrelevant in a federal prosecution.

“We’re going to enforce federal law,” Rich Isaacson, a special agent in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Detroit office, said Thursday. Nevertheless, the focus of federal law enforcement is on “large-scale growers,” not on medicinal users and caregivers operating within state law, Isaacson said.

In one federal prosecution begun in December, a pair of Ingham County men were each charged with the manufacture of more than 100 marijuana plants, a federal felony punishable by a minimum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $2 million. Both pleaded guilty in May in an agreement with prosecutors expected to minimize potential prison time.

The agreement makes no mention of medical marijuana.

Contact Bill Laitner: 586-826-7264 or blaitner@freepress.com

Administration Medical Marijuana Memo Causes Dismay, Anger

The medical marijuana movement is reeling after the Obama Justice Department released a memo last week declaring that it might prosecute large-scale medical marijuana cultivation operations and dispensaries even in states where they are operating in compliance with state laws. Advocates reacted with dismay and disappointment, even as they plotted strategies about what to do next.

President Obama is losing friends in the medical marijuana community. (image from whitehouse.gov)
The memo, written by US Deputy Attorney General James Cole, “clarifies” the October 2009 memo from then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden that told federal prosecutors not to focus their resources on patients and providers in compliance with state laws. The earlier memo gave some substance to President Obama’s campaign promise not to persecute medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal.

But after the 2009 memo, federal officials watched aghast as a veritable medical marijuana cultivation and dispensary boom took off in places such as Colorado and Montana, where dispensaries went from near zero to hundreds of operations, and as localities in California began considering huge commercial grows. The Justice Department responded with increased federal raids — now at twice the rate of the Bush administration, according to Americans for Safe Access, the nation’s largest medical marijuana advocacy organization — and earlier this year, sent threatening letters from US Attorneys to governors and legislators in states considering or implementing medical marijuana distribution programs.

Those letters “are entirely consistent with the October 2009 memorandum,” Cole argued in last week’s memo. “The Department of Justice is committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all states. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source of revenue to large scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels,” Cole continued.

Noting that “some of these jurisdictions have considered approving the cultivation of large quantities of marijuana, or broadening the regulation and taxation of the substance,” Cole reiterated the Ogden memo’s message that “it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or their caregivers.”

He then took care to narrowly define the term “caregiver,” which is commonly applied to people growing medical marijuana for authorized patients. “The term ‘caregiver’ as used in the memorandum meant just that: individuals providing care to individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses, not commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana.”

Cole then went on to write that it is not the Obama administration’s position that has changed, but facts on the ground. “There has, however, been an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes. For example, within the past 12 months, several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple large-scale, privately-operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers. Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants,” he wrote.

The 2009 memo “was never intended to shield such activities from federal enforcement action and prosecution, even where those activities purport to comply with state law,” Cole continued. “Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law… Those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financial laws.”

It didn’t take long for the medical marijuana and drug reform movements to fire back. While some took small solace in the fact that patients are still protected from federal persecution, the dominant reaction was dismay and disgust.

Dispensaries operators might want to get rid of the neon signage and get on the down low. (image via wikimedia.org)

“It is disingenuous of the Obama Administration to say it is not attacking patients while obstructing the implementation of local and state medical marijuana laws,” said ASA executive director Steph Sherer. “The president is using intimidation tactics to stop elected officials from serving their constituents, thereby pushing patients into the illicit market.”

“Well, this is disappointing,” said Dale Gieringer, long-time head of California NORML. “It certainly conflicts with Obama’s original implication that he would let the states take care of medical marijuana. Now, it’s the same as Bush’s policy. Even before this memo came out, people have been saying for a long time that with a raid here and a raid there, it seemed like no real change in federal policy, and now — bingo — it’s confirmed.”

The Cole memo “raises more questions than it answers,” said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The department’s 2009 Ogden memorandum established guidance that federal resources should not be employed to target medical marijuana patients and providers who are in ‘clear and unambiguous compliance’ with state-based medical marijuana laws. Last week’s so-called clarification is in fact open to many interpretations and falls far short of the explanation of policy that state lawmakers, members of Congress and advocates sought.”

While the Cole memo clearly states that large-scale commercial grows are now targeted, even if they are in compliance with state laws, Piper noted, it “does not provide guidance on what the federal government considers to be the line between small and large-scale production.”

Piper pointed out that regardless of federal policy, states can still legalize marijuana for medicinal use. He also called out politicians who hide behind fears of the feds to stall or thwart medical marijuana programs and scoffed at the notion that state employees could be prosecuted for setting up registries or collecting medical marijuana taxes.

“State officials who await blanket federal endorsement of medical marijuana or blame the federal government for their own failure to act are compromising the health and well being of their citizens while failing to implement in good faith the laws of their state,” he said. “With regard to concerns about prosecution of state employees, which some state policymakers have expressed, the federal government has never sought to prosecute any state employee for licensing or otherwise regulating medical marijuana providers. In fact, we know of no instance in recent times in which state officials were personally prosecuted for implementing any state law. It is something that is just not done.”

For Gieringer and other medical marijuana advocates, the Obama administration’s behavior on the issue has dried up any reservoirs of good will generated by his campaign promise and the Ogden memo. Now, the administration is in the movement’s cross hairs.

“They want to put a stop to any large scale distribution of medical marijuana, but all they’re doing is prolonging the conflict between federal law and reality,” Gieringer said. “We have to put pressure on Obama. He’s up for reelection; he owes us an explanation of his waffling on this issue, and certainly his failure to address rescheduling. The reform movement needs to press him on this and inject it into the campaign. Why has he ignored all the studies, why has he ignored the rescheduling petition, why does he persist in sending people to prison for medical marijuana crimes? If we can put him on the defensive during the campaign, we might get a concession.”

“The Obama Administration missed a huge opportunity to ease the state/federal conflict over medical marijuana and pave the way for responsible regulation in 16 states and the District of Columbia, home to 90 million Americans,” agreed Piper. “By issuing vague guidance, the Obama Administration is sowing confusion and doing voters, state policymakers, and medical marijuana patients a disservice. The administration needs to be clear in its support of responsible state and local regulations designed to make marijuana legally available to patients while enhancing public safety and health. If the federal government is unable to provide leadership in this area, then the very least it can do is get out of the way and allow citizens to determine the policies that best serve local interests.”

But the administration has given no indication it is likely to do that. Relations between the medical marijuana movement and the Obama administration are starting to feel like the Cold War.

Washington, DC

United States
- stopthedrugwar.org

Medical Marijuana Program Goes Forward In D.C.; Feds Watching

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Photo: Medicinal DC

​The District of Columbia passed its first milestone in selecting who gets the much-coveted licenses for the city’s medical marijuana program, even as the federal government is taking a second look at its hands-off approach to those who legally grow and sell cannabis under laws allowing its medicinal use.

More than 80 individuals or businesses applied to cultivate or sell medical marijuana through letters of intent submitted to the Department of Health, reports Tom Howell Jr. at The Washington Times. The applicants range from entrepreneurial lawyers and gardeners in D.C., to medical marijuana professionals based in states like Colorado and Montana.

The city is expected to soon kick off its long-awaited program — put on hold by Congress 11 years ago — in earnest, joining 16 states in legalizing the medicinal use of marijuana for qualified patients.
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Photo: The Georgetowner
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has approved final regulations for medical marijuana in the District of Columbia.
Democratic Mayor Vincent S. Gray and other D.C. officials were particularly worried about federal interference in their medical marijuana plans, because the District’s laws are subject to Congressional approval and marijuana is still illegal for any purpose under federal law.
A 2009 memo, issued by U.S. Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden, reminded federal prosecutors that “no state can authorize violations of federal law” while at the same time advising U.S. Attorneys not to target patients and caregivers acting in compliance “with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”
Federal prosecutors for the first two years of the Obama Administration mostly looked the other way in states that had legalized medical marijuana, but a letter from the Department of Justice to U.S. Attorneys across the country last week seemed to signal that law enforcement still plans to go after those who cultivate or sell cannabis, according to a D.C. government source.
The U.S. Attorney for D.C. has not issued any such threatening letters so far, and is “studying the issue to see what input we can provide on the subject,” said Bill Miller, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Ron Machen.
A Congressional rider known as the Barr Amendment had banned D.C. from implementing a medical marijuana program since 1998, when an overwhelming 69 percent of District voters approved legalizing medicinal cannabis there.
The Barr Amendment was finally lifted in 2009, clearing the way for medical marijuana in D.C.
The mayor issued rules in April requiring persons who want to cultivate or sell medical marijuana in the District to send notification by June 17 to the Health Regulation and Licensing Administration, a branch of the city’s health department, ahead of a more formal application.
A host of applicants is vying for the permits for 10 cultivation centers and five dispensaries.
A Freedom Of Information Act request response showed 82 separate applicants for the program, many of them asking for permits to both grow and sell marijuana.
A majority of them — 47 — listed mailing addresses in D.C. in their letters to the health department. Other applicants were from Maryland (18), Virginia (7), New York (3), New Jersey (2), and one each from California, Colorado and Montana.
A few of the out-of-state applicants boasted experience in medical marijuana in states where it is already legal. The health department could not be reached for comment on whether experienced growers and sellers from medical marijuana states would gain preference over applicants originating in D.C.
A panel of five members — one each from the Department of Health, Metropolitan Police Department, Office of the Attorney General, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and a consumer or patient advocate — will score each of the eventual applications based on a 250-point scale examining criteria such as security and staffing at facilities, overall business plans and the opinions of local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.
Beyond community approval, marijuana cultivation centers will be tightly regulated on size, a strict 95-plant limit, staffing, lighting and buffer zones between growing centers and schools.
Applicants must be at least 21 years old and may not have been convicted of any felonies or misdemeanor drug crimes.

How To: Get A Medical Marijuana Card In Washington D.C.

marijuana

Amendment Act B18-622 was approved in a unanimous vote by the Council of the District of Columbia on May 4,2010; the act, which went into effect on July 27, 2010, removed state-level criminal penalties on the use and possession of medical marijuana by qualifying patients. Eligible patients are required to register with the medical marijuana program to obtain a medical marijuana card. The DC law prohibits home cultivation of cannabis and patients are required to obtain their supplies from DC-monitored dispensaries.

However, there has to date been little progress in the establishment of a medical marijuana program in the District of Columbia and it is unlikely that medical marijuana will be available to eligible patients before 2012. We will, of course, keep you updated.

In the meantime, we summarise the important points below.

Washington DC Medical Marijuana – Eligible medical conditions

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Glaucoma
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Cancer
  • Chronic renal failure

Any other condition, as determined by rulemaking, that is:

  • Chronic or long-lasting
  • Debilitating
  • Interferes with basic functions of life
  • Is a serious medical condition for which the use of medical marijuana is beneficial
  • Cannot be effectively treated by any ordinary medical or surgical measure
  • For which there is scientific evidence that the use of medical marijuana is likely to be significantly less addictive than the ordinary medical treatment for that condition

You may also qualify as a medical marijuana patient if you undergo any of the following treatments:

  • Chemotherapy
  • The use of azidothymidine or protease inhibitors
  • Radiotherapy
  • Any other treatment, as determined by rulemaking, whose side effects require treatment through the administration of medical marijuana in the same manner as a qualifying medical condition

Washington DC Medical Marijuana – How to Become a Medical Marijuana Patient (Eventually)

  • To qualify as a medical marijuana patient in Washington DC, you must:
  • Be a resident of Washington DC
  • Have been diagnosed with a qualifying medical condition, or
  • Be currently undergoing a qualifying medical treatment
  • Obtain legitimate medical records or documentation from your primary care physician describing their diagnosis
  • Obtain an authenticated written documentation from a Washington DC licensed physician stating that you might benefit from the use of medical marijuana
  • Must have a bona fide relationship with the physician
  • Register with the Washington DC medical marijuana program
  • Obtain a Medical Marijuana card

Washington DC Medical Marijuana – Access to Marijuana and Allowed Amounts

When the program is finally up and running and you have obtained your card you will be required to purchase your cannabis from a District of Columbia registered dispensary. You will be allowed to possess up to two ounces of dried medical grade marijuana.

Obama Still Targeting Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

In 2009, the Obama Administration announced a new federal policy regarding marijuana in states in which medical marijuana has been legalized. The policy statement instructed federal prosecutors not to devote federal resources to prosecuting those who use or supply medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law. At the time, Ilya and I praised the new policy, though Ilya was quite skeptical it would make much difference.

Since the policy it was announced, it appears the policy has been difficult to maintain, and prosecutions of medical marijuana distributors has continued, largely because the federal government fears that some marijuana distributors are serving more than the medicinal marijuana market. As the NYT reports, federal prosecutors appear to be escalating efforts to go after marijuana distributors in medical marijuana states.

As some states seek to increase regulation but also further protect and institutionalize medical marijuana, federal prosecutors are suddenly asserting themselves, authorizing raids and sending strongly worded letters that have cast new uncertainty on an issue that has long brimmed with tension between federal and state law. . . .

Letters so far have gone out to governors in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, prompting some states — including Rhode Island and Montana, in addition to Washington — to revise or back away from plans to make the medical marijuana industry more mainstream.

In Washington, Ms. Gregoire asked for guidance from the state’s two United States attorneys, Mike Ormsby and Jenny Durkan. In a reply to the governor last month, they said the federal government would prosecute “vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.”

The changes have angered supporters of medical marijuana, who say the federal government is sending mixed signals, even as they argue that it has not technically changed its position.

The Justice Department claims there has been no change in policy. Marijuana has remained illegal under federal law, and prosecutors have continued to pursue larger and more conspicuous dispensaries without much regard for state law, prompting increasing conflict with state officials. In the meantime, state level efforts to decriminalize medical marijuana continue apace. There’s now talk of a ballot initiative here in Ohio. So the federal state tension will continue.

Is there a better way? Yes, but it would be difficult to implement without legislation. Here’s what I suggested in 2009:

The Justice Department has to set prosecutorial priorities, as there are more federal crimes on the books than federal prosecutors can ever hope to prosecute. The aim should be to focus federal resources in those areas where there is a distinct federal interest, or where the federal government has a comparative advantage of state and local law enforcement. Where federal law conflicts with state law, prohibiting activities state laws allowed, federal efforts should still focus on those instances of alleged lawbreaking where there is a distinct federal interest, including spillover effects on neighboring jurisdictions.

The federal government has a legitimate interest in controlling interstate drug trafficking, but no particular interest in prosecuting those who seek to provide medical marijuana to local residents pursuant to state law. So it only makes sense for the Justice Department to tell federal prosecutors to focus their efforts on those who are not in compliance with state law, such as those who use medical marijuana distribution as a cover for other illegal activities, interstate drug trafficking in particular. California should be free to set its own marijuana policy, but the federal government retains an interest in preventing California’s choice from adversely affecting neighboring states.

Ideally, the federal government would treat marijuana like alcohol, retaining a federal role in controlling illegal interstate trafficking but leaving each state entirely free to set its own marijuana policy, whether it be prohibition, decriminalization, or somewhere in between.

http://www.opposingviews.com/i/obama-still-targeting-medical-marijuana-dispensaries

Feds Throw Weight Around On Washington’s Medical Marijuana Bill

The feds are throwing their weight around again when it comes to Washington state’s medical marijuana law. A proposal to rewrite the state’s medicinal cannabis rules attracted federal attention after Governor Christine Gregoire asked for “clear guidance” about the U.S. Department of Justice’s position on state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries, which would be legalized under the new rules.

Gov. Gregoire, who sent the letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Wednesday, claims she “became concerned” about a “potential federal crackdown” after speaking with the U.S. attorneys for Eastern and Western Washington, Michael Ormsby and Jenny Durkan, reports Jonathan Martin at the Seattle Times.
The prosecutors claim they are concerned that the proposed legislation “would legalize commercial sales of marijuana,” according to state Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, the bill’s prime sponsor.
Mike Ormsby.jpeg
Photo: Seattle Weekly
U.S. Attorney Michael C. Ormsby likes to run his mouth and throw his weight around.
U.S. attorneys Ormsby, who already started threatening Spokane dispensaries last week, and Durkan noted that the U.S. attorney for Northern California was threatening to prosecute operators of a proposed commercial grow farm in Oakland, even though the farm was licensed by that city and legal under state law, Gov. Gregoire said in her letter to the Attorney General.
The bill in question, SB 5073, would create new state licenses for dispensaries, grow farms and cannabis food processors. State licensing of dispensaries is already in place or is currently being implemented in states like Colorado, Maine, New Jersey and New Mexico, as well as in the District of Columbia.
Gregoire’s letter seeks federal input before considering whether to sign the bill. Some political observers of a cynical bent believe the governor may simply be seeking political cover for a spineless veto of all or portions of the bill.
“The governor wants to make sure that if a law goes forward, it’s done in a way that won’t set up Washington state for an endless battle of court cases,” claimed her spokesman, Scott Whiteaker.
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Photo: News Junkie Post
Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles: “Why should our state be treated any differently than other states?”
​ But Sen. Kohl-Welles said she was mystified why the Department of Justice would treat legalized dispensaries in Washington any differently from six other states and D.C., which all currently license and regulate dispensaries.
“Why should our state be treated any differently than other states?” Kohl-Welles rightly asked.
Ormsby, the headline-seeking hot dog of a U.S. attorney in Spokane, last week threatened in a news release to seize property where dispensaries were operating. An estimated 40 dispensaries do business in Spokane.
Ormsby warned that “marijuana stores” are illegal, and threatened property owners who rent to them with forfeiture of their buildings if they refused to evict the dispensaries.
“We are preparing for quick and direct action against the operators of the stores,” Rambo, I mean Ormsby, wrote.
At least 120 dispensaries are operating statewide in Washington, with marked differences in enforcement from county to county. The shops are using a gray area of the voter-approved 1998 medical marijuana law, which neither expressly allows nor prohibits the dispensaries.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law as a Schedule I substance, but the U.S. Department of Justice has taken a mostly hands-off approach to patients and providers in states where medicinal cannabis is legal since an October 2009 memo issued shortly after Attorney General Holder took over.
That memo famously said that patients and providers in “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state laws were not a priority of federal law enforcement, but a trickle of federal raids has continued to take place, including multiple raids in the past month in Montana and California.
However, the DEA has to our knowledge, so far at least, never raided any state-licensed medical marijuana growers or dispensaries in states like New Mexico and Maine, which explicitly allow and license the facilities through their state health departments.

http://www.tokeofthetown.com/2011/04/feds_throw_weight_around_on_washingtons_med_mariju.php

Marijuana Regulations Finalized in Washington D.C. & Arizona!

Regulations have been finalized to allow for the sanctioned-use and dispensing of medical cannabis in two more regions of the country: Arizona and in the nation’s capitol, Washington, DC.

In Arizona, representatives from the Arizona Department of Health Services have approved rules governing the state’s soon-to-be-implemented Arizona Medical Marijuana Program. Voters directed the state to approve regulations regarding the use and distribution of medicinal marijuana in November when they decided in favor of Proposition 203 — making Arizona the fifteenth state since 1996 to legalize the physician-authorized use of cannabis. Program rules, physician certification forms, and answers to frequently asked questions are all available online from the Arizona Department of Health Services here.

Arizona patients may begin qualifying for the program next week, and dispensary applications will be accepted beginning June 1. All patients initially approved by the state will have the option to cultivate their own marijuana. However, patients who reside within 25 miles of a state-licensed dispensary will lose this option once such facilities are up and running later this fall.

In the District of Columbia, city leaders have finally signed off on long-awaited rules regulating patients’ use and access to cannabis. Those rules are expected to take effect April 15. The just-finalized regulations will permit D.C. officials to allow as many as ten cultivation centers and five dispensaries in the District. Permit applications are anticipated to be available by April 17.

The forthcoming rules implement facets of I-59, the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative, a 1998 municipal ballot measure which garnered 69 percent of the vote yet was never implemented. Under the new regulations, qualifying D.C. patients will be able to obtain medical cannabis at licensed dispensaries, but will not be permitted under the law to grow their own medicine.

Washington DC’s forthcoming program is limited to residents of the District of Columbia and is not reflective of any broader change in federal policy.

Additional information on these and other state medical marijuana programs is available from the NORML website here.

Washington D.C. Mayor Approves Final Medical Marijuana Regulations

Today Vincent Gray – mayor of Washington D.C. – announced that he has approved the final regulations that will govern medical marijuana production and distribution in the city. The rules will be published and go into effect on April 15th, and the City Council will have thirty days to review them. From an email alert from our friends at The Marijuana Policy Project:

Once the final regulations are published, the Department of Health will begin taking applications from individuals or organizations hoping to open one of five medical marijuana dispensaries and 10 cultivation centers. These applications will be evaluated using an objective, scored system based on how well they meet the criteria set forth in the regulations, and will be reviewed by a panel that includes members of the Department of Health, Metro Police, and other agencies tasked with oversight. Seriously ill D.C. residents will also be able to begin filing their applications for medical marijuana licenses.

420times 000011937413XSmall 200x300 Washington D.C. Mayor Approves Final Medical Marijuana Regulations“It’s been a long wait, but I’m glad that the thousands of District residents who might benefit from this program can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Dan Riffle, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy Project. “Now the work begins in selecting the most qualified individuals to grow and dispense marijuana, and ensuring our nation’s capital sets another example of how carefully crafted medical marijuana programs can protect seriously ill patients in a safe, responsible, and effective manner.”

Patients that would qualify for the program are looking forward to starting the application process, but are wary that the regulations do not go far enough to protect patients. Theresa Skipper, an HIV patient from the District who has used marijuana to treat her condition, said, “I’m glad the mayor is finally getting around to signing this into law. Patients like me have waited long enough for legal access to our medicine, and knowing that we won’t have to wait much longer is a huge relief to all of us. I just want to follow the rules and try to live a normal life, and this is an important step, but we need to continue working to protect the rights of patients under this system.”

In fact, patients have had to wait 12 years since voters in the city passed a medical marijuana ballot initiative. That’s an incredibly long time to make sick people suffer, especially since many states have set up working medical cannabis systems that can be cherry-picked from , or copied outright.

Things continue to move forward on multiple fronts in the realm of medical marijuana, and we must continue to push politicians all over the country to do what is right; and what is right is providing relief to sick people.

- Joe Klare

http://the420times.com/2011/04/washington-d-c-mayor-approves-final-medical-marijuana-regulations/

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