Tuesday, January 12, 2010
DENVER - In front of a packed audience of medical marijuana supporters and opponents Monday evening, the Denver City Council voted unanimously to enact new restrictions on where pot dispensaries can operate, and who can own them.
In a 13-0 vote, council members voted to restrict dispensaries from operating with 1000 feet of each other, schools and child care centers. The new ordinance also denies people convicted of felonies within five years from obtaining a license to operate a dispensary, and also bars on-site consumption of marijuana.
Dispensary owners will have to pass a criminal background check, pay a $2,000 application fee, and pay $3,000 a year to renew licenses. The new rules will likely result in the closure of several dozen medical marijuana dispensaries which are already open for business.
Prior to the vote, the council heard public comments from both sides of the issue. Some 92 people signed up to speak.
"The whole country and many parts of the world are intensely watching Colorado. What we do here will effectively change the course of American history," said one man who opposes the new restrictions.
Many argued that Denver voters have repeatedly spoken on this issue, and have approved medical marijuana sales and possession in several elections.
"The council's haste and its arrogant disregard for the will of its constituents is completely unacceptable," one opponent told council members. "This is still a civil rights issue, a human rights issues, and it's a health issue, not a criminal issue," another shouted.
While the crowd may have been overwhelmingly opposed to the new restrictions, there were a handful of supporters.
"I want you to close all dispensaries which are already located 1000 feet from schools," one woman said. "I believe that (the dispensaries) just a target for crime," said another.
Rob Corry, a pro-medical marijuana criminal defense attorney, says he plans to sue Denver over the legality of the new restrictions.
City officials estimate there are 390 medical marijuana licensing applications pending approval.
Despite a procedural glitch, backers hailed the committee's action as historic because it represented the first legislative approval of the proposal.
"This vote marks the formal beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in the United States," predicted Stephen Gutwillig, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a pot legalization group.
The legislation would allow those who are at least 21 years old to possess up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), author of the measure, said it would provide needed revenue for the state as well as regulation of the drug.
Existing law "is harming our youth," Ammiano said. "Drug dealers do not ask for ID."
It is estimated that the proposed $50 tax on each ounce of marijuana sold, along with license fees charged to cultivators, would generate $1.3 billion a year to be used to pay for drug education and treatment.
Ammiano said his bill is not expected to get a required hearing by a second committee in time to meet a Friday deadline. He said he plans to reintroduce the legislation if a similar initiative proposed for the November ballot is not approved by voters.
The anticipated revenue would not be worth the grief the bill would cause, said Assemblyman Danny Gilmore (R-Hanford), a former assistant chief with the California Highway Patrol.
"We're going to legalize marijuana, we're going to tax it and then we're going to educate our kids about the harm of drugs. You've got to be kidding me," Gilmore said. "What's next? Are we going to legalize methamphetamines, cocaine?"
The Assembly Public Safety Committee approved Ammiano's bill, AB 390, on a 4-3 vote.
Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times
“Today’s vote marks the first time in nearly a century that California lawmakers have reassessed this failed criminal policy,” said NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano. “Any risks presented by the use of marijuana by adults falls within the ambit of choice we should permit individuals in a free society. It’s time replace the failings of marijuana prohibition with a policy of legalization, regulation and education. Today’s vote is a significant, albeit first step in this direction.”
Further Committee votes on AB 390 are unlikely to take place this session because of legislative calendar restraints. However, the bill’s sponsor, San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, said that he would likely reintroduce a similar version of the bill later this month.
Registered supporters for the measure included: the AFL-CIO, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and the California Public Defenders Association, among others.
Registered opponents of the bill included: the California Fraternal Order of Police, the California Narcotics Officers Association, the California Police Chiefs Association, the California State Sheriffs’ Association, the California Peace Officers’ Association, and the California District Attorneys Association.
Voting ‘yes’ on the bill were Ammiano, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. Voting no were Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena (Los Angeles County), Assemblyman Danny Gilmore, R-Hanford (Kings County) and Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills (San Bernardino County).
Thursday, November 12, 2009
A "green" issue much different than the Boulder City Council is used to discussing brought out more than 100 area residents Tuesday night amid concerns that the city might ban medical-marijuana dispensaries. While the council didn't go that far, it did approve a set of temporary regulations for an industry that was otherwise unregulated.
Just after midnight this morning, the council voted 4-2 to pass an emergency ordinance aimed at keeping medical marijuana dispensaries away from schools, clustering together or operating in neighborhoods. Councilmembers Lisa Morzel and Macon Cowles voted against the regulations, while Councilmembers Crystal Gray, Ken Wilson, Angelique Espinoza and Susan Osborne voted in favor of interim rules.
The ordinance means that through March 31, 2010, any dispensaries that want to open in Boulder may only do so if they are at least 500 feet away from schools or licensed daycare centers, are not within 500 feet of three or more other dispensaries, and are not located in residential areas.
The rules do not apply to the 42 businesses that have already pulled sales-tax licenses with the city, or the 21 or so dispensaries that applied for permits prior to Nov. 6.
The council stopped short of ordering a moratorium on new dispensaries. Most of the leaders agreed that the city needs more time to study how marijuana dispensaries should be regulated in the long-term, and that short-term regulations are appropriate now.
Osborne said the temporary rules give the city "some breathing room" to consider more comprehensive regulations.
Cowles said he would support a "green" ribbon commission to study the issue through the spring.
"I think this is potentially an important industry," he said, adding that he wouldn't mind seeing commercial marijuana growing operations flourish in Boulder.
Cowles even suggested that Boulder could eventually offer a "city marijuana facility" in which growers could bring excess products for redistribution to patients -- a sort of pot clearinghouse.
The vote didn't satisfy many of the 100 or so medical marijuana advocates who attended the late-night meeting, but most said it was a better decision than a wholesale moratorium on the industry.
The public debate began just before 9 p.m., with a flood of impassioned public comment.
Cheryl Crosby, 70, a nurse, came to the meeting from her home in Lafayette. Crosby said she has a prescription for medicinal marijuana to treat the inflammation and pain in her eyes caused by glaucoma.
"Even I, myself, didn't understand how effective it is for pain," she said.
Crosby uses a Boulder dispensary to obtain her medication, and she fears that the city is rushing to regulate the one thing that treats her symptoms effectively without the use of strong pharmaceuticals.
"To say you can only have 42 of a certain kind of business in a city seems strange," she said, referring to a proposal to limit the number of dispensaries allowed to do business within city limits.
Crosby said the city is unfairly targeting users of legal marijuana by not also taking a hard look at other drug providers -- such as pharmacies.
Amendment 20, approved by state voters in 2000, allows patients and caregivers to have marijuana for medical use in Colorado. There are now 42 medical-marijuana dispensaries licensed to do business in Boulder, although the number of storefronts is thought to be smaller. At least 21 other businesses have applied for licenses but are not yet approved.
Kim Cohen, a Boulder nurse practitioner, also said she uses marijuana to treat her glaucoma. Wearing a vintage 1965 button reading "All Power to the People," Cohen said that individuals, not the city, should decide where and how they receive medication or medical treatment.
"We are not 23-year-old frat boys looking to get high," she said.
But Peter Rogers, a Boulder resident and lawyer, is opposed to medical marijuana being sold or grown in the city.
"I would urge council to enact a moratorium now," he said. "I think we've got to be extremely careful -- marijuana is still against the law."
City Attorney Jerry Gordon told the council up front that the state laws regulating medical marijuana are "enormously confusing," but the city is well within its rights to regulate land uses and business zoning.
The Boulder Planning Board last week recommended not imposing a moratorium on dispensaries and instead using some interim regulations to prevent problems until permanent regulations can be adopted. The City Council softened those recommendations with their vote.
Adrian Sopher, chairman of the Boulder Planning Board, told the City Council on Tuesday that the density of dispensaries is especially a concern in the downtown and University Hill areas. Such businesses, he said, should be spaced out "just in the same way we don't want to have bank after bank" lining any given street.
Andrew Shoemaker, a Boulder attorney and member of the Planning Board, told the council that Boulder should do anything to help legalize the drug and bring about "the beginning of the end of prohibition" on marijuana.
Pot, he said, could help pay for city services through taxation.
"It will pay for itself," he said. "Get Boulder ready for the inevitable."
Sunday, September 13, 2009
John Aguilar, Camera Staff Writer
(reprinted from the "Daily Camera" - Boulder, CO - September 12, 2009)
Patients, doctors provide education on medical marijuana
By Scott Franz
The Cannabis Therapy Institute hosted a health fair at the University of Colorado on Saturday to educate the public about marijuana as a medicine and the process involved in becoming a part of Colorado's medical marijuana registry.
"We're not just a bunch of hippy stoners anymore," said medical marijuana patient advocate and Nederland resident Timothy Tipton, who talked to attendees about cannabis as an alternative medicine. "We're baby boomers with a chance to step up and show the public that holistic and healthy alternatives are available."
In his speech, Tipton also commended what he called a "phenomenal turnout and the great medical marijuana community that continues to evolve in the Rocky Mountain state."
More than 100 people filled the Eaton Humanities lecture hall to hear first-hand from other doctors, marijuana law experts and cannabis therapists. Upstairs, more students and visitors from across Colorado talked to representatives from cannabis dispensaries and other related businesses.
"We assembled the best experts from Colorado on the issue," said Laura Kriho, Cannabis Therapy Institute's outreach director. "One of the reasons we're doing this is to educate everyone on how to protect medical marijuana patients."
The Cannabis Therapy Institute is an advocacy group that recently worked with medical marijuana patient Jason Lauve, a Louisville resident acquitted last month on charges of possessing too much medical marijuana. After the acquittal, the institute worked to put together Saturday's fair to promote cannabis education, research and advocacy.
Speaking from a podium adorned with fake marijuana leaf necklaces in the humanities building lecture hall, cannabis therapist Erin Marcove told fair attendees about the positive health effects of marijuana.
Marcove is a medical marijuana patient herself, using marijuana to treat pain that resulted from damage to her nervous system during a surgery when she was 13 years old.
"We're still finding out ways cannabis can be used as a medicine that we never thought we could," Marcove said after sharing results of a study that suggests cannabis can slow down the effects of Alzheimer's disease. "... It's eased my pain as well."
Justin Longley of Boulder attended the fair to listen to the lectures and learn more about what experts are telling potential medical marijuana patients. Longley uses marijuana to treat pain degenerative disc disease.
"Marijuana helps me take as few narcotics as possible," said Longley.
He also expressed concern that too many people are being put on the medical marijuana registry and that some may not need it.
"It makes everybody look bad when doctors are lenient in getting people in the registry, and that hurts the people who really need it," said Longley.
According to Jade E. Dillon, a doctor who has been recommending selected patients to the registry for two years, there are three diagnosis that can qualify her patients for medical marijuana. She will only approve medical marijuana for those with active cancer, glaucoma and HIV/AIDS.
"I have to abide by the registry," said Dillon, a speaker at the event. "There is no other check box or medical condition that can be recognized."
Ashbury Park, NJ: Slightly more than half of American adults believe that alcohol is "more dangerous" than marijuana, according to a national telephone poll of 1,000 likely voters by the polling firm Rasmussen Reports.
Fifty-one percent of respondents, including a majority of women, rated the use of marijuana to be less dangerous than alcohol. Only 19 percent of those polled said that cannabis is the more dangerous of the two substances.
Twenty-five percent of respondents said that both substances are equally dangerous.
Commenting on the poll results NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano, co-author of the book Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink, said: "By almost any objectively measurable standard, cannabis is safer than booze – both to the individual consumer and to society as a whole. However, given our government's longstanding demonization of the cannabis plant and its users it is remarkable that anyone – much less over half of America – recognizes this fact. Ideally, these survey results will spark a long-overdue dialogue in this country asking why our laws target and prosecute those who choose to possess and consume the less dangerous of these two popular substances."
A previous survey conducted by Zogby in 2002 reported that most Americans believe that cannabis is less dangerous than either alcohol or tobacco.For more information, please contact Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
THIS POST WILL BE UPDATED AS NEW INFORMATION BECOMES AVAILABLE. PLEASE CHECK BACK REGULARLY
If you have any information or evidence regarding any crimes committed by this career criminal, please contact the Boulder Police Department at (303) 441-3333 and ask for Detective Carey Lutz.
Court Docket Number: 09CR293 Division: 6
Law Agency: BOULDER POLICE DEPT Agency Number: 07-17233
Case Status: Open Felony
Prosecuting Attorney MICHAEL FOOTE
Defense Attorney MARK E. BIDDISON
1 F5 FORGERY
2 F6 CRIMINAL ATTEMPT TO COMMIT FORGERY
3 M2 FIRST DEGREE OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT
1/14/2009 2:00 PM BOND HEARING Held Okubo
1/22/2009 2:00 PM FILING OF CHARGES Continued
1/23/2009 2:00 PM FILING OF CHARGES Continued
1/27/2009 2:00 PM FILING OF CHARGES Held
3/16/2009 9:00 AM STATUS CONFERENCE Held Bakke withdraws
5/29/2009 1:00 PM ARRAIGNMENT Continued
7/10/2009 1:00 PM ARRAIGNMENT Continued
8/4/2009 8:15 AM ARRAIGNMENT Posted
Court Docket Number: 09CR595 Division: 9
Law Agency: BOULDER POLICE DEPT Agency Number: 09-3022
Case Status: Open Felony Violent Crime
Prosecuting Attorney MICHAEL FOOTE
Defense Attorney MARK E. BIDDISON
1 F6 POSSESSION OF A WEAPON BY PREVIOUS OFFENDER
2 F6 VIOLATION OF BAIL BOND CONDITIONS
3 M3 RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT
4 M3 RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT
5 M3 RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT
3/20/2009 2:00 PM FILING OF CHARGES Held Welsh
4/9/2009 1:30 PM PRELIMINARY HEARING Waived
5/29/2009 1:00 PM ARRAIGNMENT Continued
7/10/2009 1:00 PM ARRAIGNMENT Continued
8/4/2009 8:15 AM ARRAIGNMENT Posted
ON 4/10/2009 A BAIL BOND REVOCATION HEARING WAS HELD AND DARINE CHELY WAS ONCE AGAIN SENT TO JAIL. THIS TIME HER BAIL WAS RAISED TO $30,000.00 AND SHE IS BACK OUT ON THE STREETS OF BOULDER WITHIN HOURS.
(The information posted above is a matter of Public Record and was obtained from the Boulder County District Attorney website)
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009; 10:00 AM
Justice Department officials this morning endorsed for the first time proposed legislation that would eliminate vast sentencing disparities for possession of powdered versus rock cocaine, an inequality that civil rights groups say disproportionately has impacted poor and minority defendants.
Newly appointed Criminal Division chief Lanny A. Breuer told a Senate panel this morning that the Obama administration would support bills to equalize punishment for offenders accused of possessing the drug in either form, fulfilling one of the president's campaign pledges.
The issue has received attention from both political parties, but never before have top law enforcement officials backed legislative reforms, according to drug control analysts.
"Now is the time for us to reexamine federal cocaine sentencing policy, from the perspective of both fundamental fairness and safety," Breuer said in remarks prepared for delivery to the committee. He told lawmakers that the sentencing issues would be among those considered by a department panel that is examining a broad array of topics related to criminal justice charging, sentencing and prisoner treatment.
The announcement represents part of a broader strategy by the White House to move away from failed strategies to combat the war on drugs and to shift more money into treatment, counseling and job training. That outlook has been endorsed by Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and former Seattle police chief R. Gil Kerlikowske, who awaits Senate confirmation as Obama's new drug czar.
Conflict over the cocaine possession laws, which date to 1986, has simmered for years. Even the U.S. Sentencing Commission has pushed Congress for more than a decade to address sentencing disparities.
At the heart of the debate are vastly unequal penalties for carrying cocaine in powder form as opposed to rock form, commonly known as crack. The inequality has come to be known as the "100 to 1" ratio, in which possession of five grams of crack, the weight of two small sugar cubes, triggers a mandatory five-year prison term while a person carrying 500 grams of powder cocaine would receive the same sentence.
The penalties have had far-reaching consequences, according to police chiefs, federal judges and drug control operatives.
Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) noted in his prepared comments this morning that more than half of federal inmates are locked up for drug-related crimes, including high ratios of African American offenders. In 2007, Durbin said, 82 percent of people convicted on crack possession charges were black, and only 9 percent were white.
"These racial disparities profoundly undermine trust in our criminal justice system and have a deeply corrosive effect on the relationship between law enforcement and minority communities," Durbin said.
In practice, according to the advocacy group Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the sentencing disparity has a discriminatory impact on African Americans who serve sentences on average nearly two years longer than people sentenced under powder cocaine laws.
One client of FAMM is Eugenia Jennings, the mother of three children, who was convicted of trading small amounts of crack cocaine for designer clothes on two different occasions. She was charged as a career offender and sentenced to more than 20 years in prison in 2001.
Cedric Parker, Jennings's brother, was to tell the Senate panel this morning that had his sister been caught with powder cocaine, she would be preparing to return home because that offense carried far less prison time. Jennings is not scheduled for release until 2019.
"This hearing gives new hope to thousands . . . who have loved ones serving harsh sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses," said Mary Price, vice president and general counsel at FAMM.
The origins of the tough sentences reside in the hothouse environment of the mid-1980s, when many urban communities suffered outbreaks of violence and drug use stemming from the introduction of high-quality cocaine into local drug markets. At the time, authorities believed that crack cocaine possessed unusually addictive powers, an idea that has since been dispelled, said Asa Hutchinson, former administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
"When significant numbers of African Americans on the street question the fairness of our criminal justice system, then it becomes more difficult for the officer on the street to do his or her duty under the law," Hutchinson said in his prepared remarks for the committee today.
John F. Timoney, the police chief in Miami, this morning called the current state of the drug law an "unmitigated disaster" and said he was "pleading with the Congress to right a wrong."
Saturday, April 18, 2009
by Matthew Benson - Apr. 18, 2009 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic
An initiative planned for the 2010 ballot would ask Arizona voters to legalize medical marijuana, setting up a California-style network of cannabis clubs and even allow some patients to grow their own drug supply.
It's the fourth time since 1996 that state voters have been asked to decriminalize marijuana as a medical treatment. Local supporters, backed by the national Marijuana Policy Project, have their sights set on the 2010 general election and plan to submit ballot language to the Secretary of State's Office as early as next week.
The initiative would allow individuals with illnesses ranging from cancer to HIV/AIDS or glaucoma to seek a doctor's recommendation for medical marijuana, according to draft ballot language obtained by The Arizona Republic.
Eligible individuals would be able to purchase up to 2 1/2 ounces of the drug every 14 days from a series of non-profit outlets, known as dispensaries. Patients in rural areas of the state could cultivate a limited number of their own marijuana plants.
Marijuana remains a Schedule 1 drug under federal guidelines, like heroin or LSD. But the initiative would shield from state prosecution the doctors who recommend marijuana for medical treatment, the dispensary workers who provide it and the patients who use it. Thirteen states already have legalized medical marijuana in some fashion, though only California has established a widespread network of dispensaries to distribute it.
Proponents of medical marijuana say it can relieve pain and suffering.
Supporters of the Arizona initiative say it would provide another treatment alternative to the desperately ill, sparing them and their family from having to brave the underground drug market and risk criminal prosecution.
"These people are facing a terrible choice," said Andrew Myers, campaign manager for the Arizona initiative. "It's either continue to suffer with debilitating effects or risk arrest and jail time."
Skeptics voice worry
Skeptics aren't so sure. They question the drug's medicinal benefits and wonder whether efforts to legalize it for the sick and dying are a prelude to decriminalization for everyone else in the future.
"Don't get blinded by the smokescreen," warned Rick Romley, a former Maricopa County attorney. "It's still a step toward legalization of marijuana. That's what it has been since Day 1."
Romley was in office in 1996 during the state's initial medical marijuana vote.
By a nearly 2-1 ratio, voters approved a ballot proposal that OK'd use of the drug for medical purposes, but lawmakers subsequently stripped the provision from the law.
In 1998, federal authorities threatened to revoke the license of physicians who prescribed the drug.
That same year, voters rejected a ballot attempt to require that the federal government or Congress OK the use of medical marijuana before it could be prescribed by a doctor.
In 2002, Arizona voters rejected an effort to decriminalize possession of small quantities of marijuana and make the drug available free of charge to patients suffering from cancer and other diseases.
Medical-marijuana supporters think the timing is right to try once more. They believe they've solved the past licensing issue with their latest initiative, which requires that patients obtain a physician's "recommendation," rather than a prescription, to obtain the drug.
Additionally, new U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently indicated that federal authorities will not pursue cases involving medical marijuana in states that allow the practice, a reversal of Bush administration policy.
Backers of the initiative need to gather at least 153,000 valid signatures to qualify for the 2010 ballot. Myers is confident his group can do that and is girding for a multimillion-dollar campaign.
A degree of mercy
The issue of medical marijuana is personal for Ellen Terry Friedman.
In early 1988, the Tempe woman's father, Harold, was diagnosed with prostate cancer at the age of 70. The disease had spread to his bones.
His condition deteriorated over the next 18 months. Toward the end, Harold was no longer undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. He was under hospice care and on morphine. But he still suffered.
So, in her father's last month or so of life, Friedman said, the oncologist suggested the family obtain marijuana to dull Harold's pain and help with his nausea. She won't say how the family got the drug, but it did.
"It was a shocking position to be put in, let's put it that way," she said. "Nobody should be put in that position."
The marijuana seemed to help, Friedman said. Her father regained a bit of appetite. He found a degree of mercy.
"It was a horrible, painful death, but it was eased somewhat," she said. "We wanted him to die with the least pain, and the medical marijuana was an integral part of that."
Romley sympathizes with those who suffer. But he worries that some patients or doctors would misuse the law, especially given a provision in the initiative that would allow patients to obtain the drug if they displayed symptoms such as severe pain or seizures. What constitutes severe pain would be a matter for a doctor's judgment.
State Sen. Jonathan Paton, R-Tucson, has similar concerns. But he's conflicted on the issue of medical marijuana. Although he worries "this is just the gateway to legalizing marijuana," Paton also has seen the drug used with medical benefits.
Before dying of cancer a couple of years ago, a friend of Paton's used marijuana to ease the suffering.
"He smoked pot because he was too sick," said Paton, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "He couldn't keep the (pain) pills down."
If marijuana is a legitimate medical treatment, Romley said, backers should seek its legalization through the health community and federal government, not at the ballot box.
"I just don't believe we decide what's good medicine at the ballot box," he said. "The vast bulk of the medical community has never pushed it to be a drug legalized for medicinal purposes."
Myers countered that federal drug laws continue to make medical research involving marijuana difficult.
And while he conceded that the national Marijuana Policy Project has broader aims with regard to the drug's legalization, he said the Arizona initiative is narrowly written with its intent solely on helping people fighting severe illness.
"There are 13 other states with medical-marijuana laws," Myers said. "None of those 13 has moved to total legalization."