Welcome to joe the stoner's blog ~ An American Pothead from Boulder, CO


....as an American Pothead it is my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - My life as a stoner, the liberty to enjoy my life in this fashion, and the pursuit of happiness to enjoy smoking without having the fear of Federal Agents busting the door down just for smoking a bud or having a few plants for personal, recreational, medicinal or pleasurable use.....
~ Joe the Stoner

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Boulder approves temporary medical pot rules

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

Not guilty pleas for three men in Boulder medical-pot robbery case

Trials for the co-defendants scheduled to begin in February
John Aguilar, Camera Staff Writer

Separate trials were scheduled Friday for three co-defendants in the case of a Boulder medical marijuana dispensary that was robbed in June.

David Henderson, 40; Justin St. John, 29; and Lamare McGee, 22 pleaded not guilty to charges of robbery and kidnapping.

A fourth defendant in the June 16 robbery of New Options Wellness Center -- 21-year-old Walter Carter -- isn't scheduled to be arraigned in the case until Sept. 25.

The quartet is accused of sending St. John into the medical marijuana facility at 2885 E. Aurora Ave. to make a phony pot purchase and case out the place.

Minutes later, McGee and Carter entered New Options, restrained the female employee working there, and stole 26 pint jars with marijuana, 72 sample packs of the drug, canisters of hashish, cannibis pills, pipes, security system components and $1,128 in cash, according to police.

Henderson is accused by prosecutors of masterminding the entire plan and driving the getaway vehicle.

The men were stopped by police driving eastbound on U.S. 36 shortly after the incident and arrested. St. John's trial, scheduled for Feb. 16, is up first.

It will be followed a week later by Henderson's trial. McGee is set to go on trial March 1.

The Boulder County District Attorney's Office has not yet filed a motion to consolidate the cases into one trial.St. John and McGee are free on bond, while Henderson and Carter remain behind bars.

Cannabis Therapy Institute holds health fair at CU

(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."

Rasmussen Poll: Majority Of Americans Say Marijuana Is Safer Than Booze

(reprinted from NORML News of the Week 9/3/09)

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: paul@norml.org.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Darine Chely - Felony Charges 2009


To view the Arrest Warrant - CLICK HERE

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


Case Events
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


Case Events
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


(The information posted above is a matter of Public Record and was obtained from the Boulder County District Attorney website)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Justice Department Urges Equalizing Drug Sentences

Washington Post Staff Writer
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

New push in Arizona for medical marijuana

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."

Conflict continues

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."

(Source: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2009/04/18/20090418med-marijuana0418.html)

Friday, April 17, 2009

FOX News Says Marijuana Activists are "Internet Trolls"

Recent months have brought an unprecedented level of positive mainstream discussion about reforming our marijuana laws. To those who've been working for decades to create a national dialogue surrounding marijuana policy, it's a sign of hope and progress. To the folks at FOX News, it's a f#$king internet prank:

President Obama's pledge to open the White House up to the public through online forums faces an irksome challenge: a plague of Internet "trolls" -- troublemakers who work to derail cyber-conversations through harassing and inflammatory posts.

The problem became immediately apparent last month when Obama held an online "town hall" forum on the economy and invited the public to post questions on the White House Web site.

Those questions, in turn, were voted on by users to determine which ones the president would answer.

Three and a half million people participated in the event, but the "trolls" had their way: Following a coordinated campaign by marijuana advocates to vote their topic to the top of the list, questions on the future of the U.S. dollar and the rising unemployment rate were superseded by questions about legalizing pot as an economic remedy.

Really, FOX News? You are so incapable of understanding our argument that you would dismiss us as saboteurs? If the mere mention of reforming marijuana laws is such a grand affront to civil discourse, let me introduce you to a few more "trolls" out there on the internet spreading crazy ideas about not arresting people for marijuana:

There's Joe Klein at Time, David Sirota at The Nation, Kathleen Parker at the Washington Post, Paul Jacob at TownHall.com, Hendrik Hertzberg at The New Yorker, Andrew Sullivan at The Atlantic, Glenn Greenwald at Salon, Debra Saunders at the San Francisco Chronicle, Leonard Pitts at Miami Herald, John Richardson at Esquire, Margery Eagan at Boston Herald and many more. If these names sound familiar to you, it's becaue they aren't trolls at all, rather they are respected journalists who are joining the national conversation about the harms of our vicious marijuana laws.

In one of Obama's recent online forums, I saw this question: "How many donuts can I fit on my dong?" That was a troll, and it got deleted. This is a movement, and it isn't going away. Our issue is bigger than the organizations backing it. It didn't win Obama's forum because marijuana reformers know something about online organizing that other interest groups don't. It won because it is this defining question that quickly separates petty hypocrites from bold leaders, that distinguishes self-evident truths from antiquated propaganda, and that pits common sense against the mindless drug war hysteria that maintains a frigid stranglehold on our political culture, rendering impotent the promise of change that inspired so many hopeful Americans to lay their hopes and dreams at the steps of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

It won because millions among us have been arrested and abused at the expense of our own precious tax dollars, with no credible explanation and no honorable conclusion on the horizon. And it won because President Obama himself once spoke of the "utter failure" of these laws, only to then embrace the endless drug war death march that destroys everything it was meant to preserve.

So no, FOX News, we are not "troublemakers" at all. We are here to solve a problem and anyone who thinks there are more important things to worry about would be well advised to stop making this take longer than it has to.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Loveland, CO - Shop To Offer Medical Pot

Loveland’s first medicinal marijuana dispensary will open this week - more than eight years after Colorado voters legalized the drug for such use.

Rich Present, 37, and Drew McNeil, 33, plan to open Nature’s Medicine today at 843 Cleveland Ave.

Along with selling marijuana, Nature’s Medicine will provide a variety of alternative health-related services, such as low-cost acupuncture and massage, meditation, and a variety of herbs and supplements.

The business will also contract out for more intensive home care; and in August, a certified nursing assistant will join the staff.

“This will be a totally on-site thing,” Present said, adding that the business will have professionals on hand for walk-in services aimed at patient care.

The store will sell smoking accessories and some clothing as well.

McNeil would like to see the business as a place people can visit for a variety of things, even for tea or fresh-squeezed juice, he said.

Still, the business likely will be best known as a marijuana dispensary, featuring a locked room where state-registered patients may purchase marijuana in a variety of forms, including budding plants, baked goods and in liquid form.

Present would like to create a cooperative of legal marijuana growers through Nature’s Medicine to drive down the drug’s price for medicinal users, he said.

“If we are not beating the street ( value ) for $300 ( an ounce ), then why should they come to us,” Present said.

One ounce of marijuana at Nature’s Medicine will cost between $250 and $300 and one-eighth of an ounce will cost $50, plus standard sales tax, Present said.

Colorado medical marijuana laws state that anyone registered to use the drug can grow six plants for personal use.

However, they also can designate someone as a caregiver to grow those plants for them.

As of February, about 6,800 Colorado residents have registered as medical marijuana users; 569 of them are from Larimer County, according to information from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Larimer County comes in as the region with the fourth-largest number of people on the registry, behind Denver, Jefferson and El Paso counties.

Present and McNeil are registered users and caregivers for 20 patients.

Loveland police Sgt. Benjamin Hurr said police were consulted and this type of operation is a legal business as long as the business owners follow state and municipal laws.

Nature’s Medicine is at least the second dispensary to open in Larimer County.

One year ago, Enerchi Healing Center opened in Fort Collins providing similar services.

“We’ve seen phenomenal success with our community,” Enerchi owner Pam Fleming said, adding she has not had any problems with the Fort Collins police.


Excerpted from "Energy Farming in America," by Lynn Osburn

BIOMASS CONVERSION to fuel has proven economically feasible, first in laboratory tests and by continuous operation of pilot plants in field tests since 1973. When the energy crop is growing it takes in C02 from the air, so when it is burned the C02 is released, creating a balanced system.

Biomass is the term used to describe all biologically produced matter. World production of biomass is estimated at 146 billion metric tons a year, mostly wild plant growth. Some farm crops and trees can produce up to 20 metric tons per acre of biomass a year.

Types of algae and grasses may produce 50 metric tons per year. This biomass has a heating value of 5000-8000 BTU/lb, with virtually no ash or sulfur produced during combustion. About 6% of contiguous United States land area put into cultivation for biomass could supply all current demands for oil and gas.

The foundation upon which this will be achieved is the emerging concept of "energy farming," wherein farmers grow and harvest crops for biomass conversion to fuels.

PYROLYSIS IS THE TECHNIQUE of applying high heat to organic matter (ligno-cellulosic materials) in the absence of air or in reduced air. The process can produce charcoal, condensable organic liquids (pyrolytic fuel oil), non-condensable gasses, acetic acid, acetone, and methanol. The process can be adjusted to favor charcoal, pyrolytic oil, gas, or methanol production with a 95.5% fuel-to-feed efficiency.

Pyrolysis has been used since the dawn of civilization. Ancient Egyptians practiced wood distillation by collecting the tars and pyroligneous acid for use in their embalming industry.

Methanol-powered automobiles and reduced emissions from coal-fired power plants can be accomplished by biomass conversion to fuel utilizing pyrolysis technology, and at the same time save the American family farm while turning the American heartland into a prosperous source of clean energy production.

Pyrolysis has the advantage of using the same technology now used to process crude fossil fuel oil and coal. Coal and oil conversion is more efficient in terms of fuel-to-feed ratio, but biomass conversion by pyrolysis has many environmental and economic advantages over coal and oil.

Pyrolysis facilities will run three shifts a day. Some 68% of the energy of the raw biomass will be contained in the charcoal and fuel oils made at the facility. This charcoal has nearly the same heating value in BTU as coal, with virtually no sulfur.

Pyrolytic fuel oil has similar properties to no. 2 and no. 6 fuel oil. The charcoal can be transported economically by rail to all urban area power plants generating electricity. The fuel oil can be transported economically by trucking creating more jobs for Americans. When these plants use charcoal instead of coal, the problems of acid rain will begin to disappear.

When this energy system is on line producing a steady supply of fuel for electrical power plants, it will be more feasible to build the complex gasifying systems to produce methanol from the cubed biomass, or make synthetic gasoline from the methanol by the addition of the Mobil Co. process equipment to the gasifier.

FARMERS MUST BE ALLOWED TO GROW an energy crop capable of producing 10 tons per acre in 90-120 days. This crop must be woody in nature and high in lignocellulose. It must be able to grow in all climactic zones in America.

And it should not compete with food crops for the most productive land, but be grown in rotation with food crops or on marginal land where food crop production isn't profitable.

When farmers can make a profit growing energy, it will not take long to get 6% of continental American land mass into cultivation of biomass fuel--enough to replace our economy's dependence on fossil fuels. We will no longer be increasing the C02 burden in the atmosphere. The threat of global greenhouse warming and adverse climactic change will diminish. To keep costs down, pyrolysis reactors need to be located within a 50 mile radius of the energy farms. This necessity will bring life back to our small towns by providing jobs locally.

HEMP IS THE NUMBER ONE biomass producer on planet earth: 10 tons per acre in approximately four months. It is a woody plant containing 77% cellulose. Wood produces 60% cellulose. This energy crop can be harvested with equipment readily available. It can be "cubed" by modifying hay cubing equipment. This method condenses the bulk, reducing trucking costs from the field to the pyrolysis reactor. And the biomass cubes are ready for conversion with no further treatment.

Hemp is drought resistant, making it an ideal crop in the dry western regions of the country. Hemp is the only biomass resource capable of making America energy independent. And our government outlawed it in 1938.

Remember, in 10 years, by the year 2000, America will have exhausted 80% of her petroleum reserves. Will we then go to war with the Arabs for the privilege of driving our cars; will we stripmine our land for coal, and poison our air so we can drive our autos an extra 100 years; will we raze our forests for our energy needs?

During World War II, our supply of hemp was cut off by the Japanese. The federal government responded to the emergency by suspending marijuana prohibition. Patriotic American farmers were encouraged to apply for a license to cultivate hemp and responded enthusiastically. Hundreds of thousands of acres of hemp were grown.

The argument against hemp production does not hold up to scrutiny: hemp grown for biomass makes very poor grade marijuana. The 20 to 40 million Americans who smoke marijuana would loath to smoke hemp grown for biomass, so a farmer's hemp biomass crop is worthless as marijuana.

It is time the government once again respond to our economic emergency as they did in WWII to permit our farmers to grow American hemp so this mighty nation can once again become energy independent and smog free.

For more information on the many uses of hemp, contact BACH, the Business Alliance for Commerce in Hemp, Box 71093, LA, CA 90071-0093, 213/288-4152.

--excerpt from Herer, "Emperor Wears No Clothes," 1991 edition, p. 136

For an updated version of "Energy Farming In America," "Books In Print" lists "Ecohemp: Economy and Ecolgy with Hemp," Access Unlimited, Frazier Park, CA, 805/632-2644.

[3] The device invented was named the decorticator and in the mid 1930s it was poised to do for hemp what the cotton gin had done for cotton: create a fast and economically feasible way of "removing the fiber- bearing cortex from the rest of the stalk, making hemp fiber available for use without a prohibitive amount of human labor." ("Popular Mechanics," February, 1938)

BREAKING NEWS: Sides will debate marijuana issue - CU's 420 Event

By Joey Bunch
The Denver Post

Organizers of the University of Colorado's 420 pot-smokers' holiday hope attendees don't just get high, but also get smart.

Student organizers have lined up local and national speakers from both sides of the issue, including liberals and conservatives, legalization advocates and law enforcement leaders for forums Saturday through Monday.

"There never has been an intellectual public discourse on marijuana" in the event's 16 years at CU, said Alex Douglas, a junior sociology major and director of the school's chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.

"Putting both sides of the issue on the table, the forum offers the opportunity for students and the community to be engaged and educated in all aspects of the marijuana issue."

Besides Douglas, the lineup of speakers includes:

  • Steve Bloom, founding editor of High Times magazine.
  • Kevin Booth, producer and director of the documentary "American Drug War."
  • Jessica Peck Corry, a conservative pundit and executive director of the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative.
  • Retired Lafayette judge Lenny Frieling.
  • Food and Drug Administration official Devin Koontz.
  • Allen St. Pierre, national executive director of NORML.
  • Cmdr. Tom Sloan of the Boulder County Drug Task Force.

    The forum culminates with hundreds of students and other pot users toking up at 4:20 p.m. on April 20 on CU's Norlin Quad in Boulder. A similar event will be held at the same time in Denver's Civic Center Park.

    The national event is named after "420," the statute number in the California legal code that bans marijuana possession.

    In past years CU has tried to thwart the event, writing tickets, taking photographs and posting them online, even turning on sprinklers. Denver police also have written citations, but mostly monitor the crowd for safety issues, police said last year.

    For a schedule of speakers visit www.normlcu.com/.

  • Sunday, April 12, 2009

    Mexican Ambassador: US should take Marijuana Legalization seriously

    David Edwards and Joe Byrne
    Published: Sunday April 12, 2009

    Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan joined CBS' Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation today to talk about the violence on Mexico's border resulting from the drug trade. Among other things, the senior diplomat told Schieffer that the U.S. should take the debate over marijuana legalization seriously.

    "Those that suggest that some of these measures need to be looked at understand the dynamics of the drug trade; you have to bring demand down and one way to do it is to move in that direction [towards legalization]...There are many others who believe that doing this will just fan the flames," Sarukhan told Schieffer.

    Some authorities close to the border violence are beginning to advocate for a legalization scenario. At the end of February, Terry Goddard, Arizona's Attorney General, said that while he's not in favor of legalizing marijuana, he thinks it should be debated as a way of curbing violence in the increasingly deadly clashes between Mexico's gangs. In addition, three former presidents of Latin America - Former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo - have all urged the United States and Latin American governments to move away from jailing drug users, to debate the legalization of marijuana, and to place more emphasis on the treatment of addicts.

    "This is a debate that needs to be taken seriously, that we have to engage in on both sides of the border: both in producing, in trafficking, and in consumption countries," he said of the marijuana legalization debate.

    Guns coming across the border into Mexico are also a matter of concern. The ambassador believes that "90% of the guns we are seizing in Mexico...are coming from the United States."

    This video is from CBS' Face the Nation, broadcast Apr. 12, 2009.

    Download video via RawReplay.com

    LETTER TO WASHINGTON from Joe the Stoner

    Dear Mr. President, Vice President and Congress:

    This letter is addressed to ALL of YOU, whether you are Republican, Democrat, Independent, Conservative, Liberal, Socialist, Communist, Fascist or whatever your ideology may be. Your "Party" doesn't make the slightest difference here.

    Forgive me for being blunt, but do any of you have the courage to end America's dependence on ALL OIL, both foreign and domestic, and convert all our automobiles to run on hemp fuel?

    Do any of you have the foresight to create millions of American jobs in the Hemp Industry, a clean, green and renewable source of energy?

    Do any of you have the bravery to legalize something that has already been banned for way too long at the cost of millions of American lives in the ever-losing Drug War?

    How much money is the government spending to fight marijuana and how many Americans will you jail for something that you cannot possibly ever control unless you legalize it?

    Do you even realize that Cannabis IS the "Green Energy" of the FUTURE?

    Did you know that this could be accomplished in less than a year!


    Did you even know that Cannabis Hemp amd Marijuana have so many other uses? Clothing, Plastics, Rope, Paper, Health benefits, in some people even CURES CANCER, it is a natural alternative medicine to so many damaging prescription drugs, etc..... and oh yeah, lets not forget that the marijuana plant's "bud" can get you high.

    Millions of Americans smoke marijuana. You CANNOT and MORALLY SHOULD NOT jail such a huge portion of the population of our own country in such a foolish manner. It is a waste of valuable resources. These millions of Americans that we currently jail are taken away from being productive to society, their families and communities, all because they chose to get high, whether for recreational, medicinal or emotional purposes.

    Please do not let history repeat itself. During the Great Depression, America went into an even deeper slump because of Prohibition. Prohibition in the early 20th Century nearly destroyed America. Do not let America's Prohibition of Marijuana destroy our nation.

    It's a fact of life: America Smokes Pot and LOTS OF IT!!!

    Keep an open mind and envision the inevitable fact that marijuana, cannabis, and hemp are what is destined to save humankind and our planet.

    America needs to lead in developing this renewable energy source before we fall behind the rest of the world as slowly all nations will open their eyes to the things they can do with this miracle plant, cannabis.

    The potential to once again become the "World's Leading Economy" is in your hands. America needs to push aside the old myths about marijuana that got a nation so paranoid about it, we outlawed hemp - We made it illegal and banned an industry that today has the potential to create millions of jobs, billions in exports, and trillions in taxes and related revenues.




    Joe the Stoner

    (NOTE: In the original letter, the word "balls" was replaced with courage, foresight and bravery - funny how a male appendage can be associated with words that describe our founding fathers - courage, foresight and bravery = balls)

    Hemp Is Not Pot: It's the Economic Stimulus and Green Jobs Solution We Need

    By Dara Colwell, AlterNet. Posted March 26, 2009.

    We can make over 25,000 things with it. Farmers love it. Environmentalists love it. You can't get high from it. So why is it still illegal?

    While Uncle Sam's scramble for new revenue sources has recently kicked up the marijuana debate -- to legalize and tax, or not? -- hemp's feasibility as a stimulus plan has received less airtime.

    But with a North American market that exceeds $300 million in annual retail sales and continued rising demand, industrial hemp could generate thousands of sustainable new jobs, helping America to get back on track.

    "We're in the midst of a dark economic transition, but I believe hemp is an important facet and has tremendous economic potential," says Patrick Goggin, a board member on the California Council for Vote Hemp, the nation's leading industrial hemp-farming advocacy group. "Economically and environmentally, industrial hemp is an important part of the sustainability pie."

    With 25,000 known applications from paper, clothing and food products -- which, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal this January, is the fastest growing new food category in North America -- to construction and automotive materials, hemp could be just the crop to jump-start America's green economy.

    But growing hemp remains illegal in the U.S. The Drug Enforcement Administration has lumped the low-THC plant together with its psychoactive cousin, marijuana, making America the planet's only industrialized nation to ban hemp production. We can import it from Canada, which legalized it in 1997. But we can't grow it.

    "It's a missed opportunity," says Goggin, who campaigned for California farmers to grow industrial hemp two years ago, although the bill was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, citing the measure conflicted with federal law.

    Considering California's position as an agricultural giant -- agriculture nets $36.6 billion dollars a year, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture -- Goggin's assessment is an understatement. Especially if extended nationwide.

    "Jobs require capital investment, which isn't easy to come by at the moment, and we need hemp-processing facilities, because the infrastructure here went to seed. But this is a profitable crop, and the California farming community supports it."

    Just how profitable? According to Chris Conrad, a respected authority on cannabis and industrial hemp and who authored Hemp for Health and Hemp, Lifeline to the Future, the industry would be regionally sustainable, reviving the local economy wherever it was grown.

    "Hemp will create jobs in some of the hardest-hit sectors of the country -- rural agriculture, equipment manufacturing, transportable processing equipment and crews -- and the products could serve and develop the same community where the hemp is farmed: building ecological new homes, producing value-added and finished products, marketing and so forth," he writes in an e-mail from Amsterdam, where he is doing research. "Add to that all the secondary jobs -- restaurants, health care, food products, community-support networks, schools, etc., that will serve the workers. The Midwestern U.S. and the more remote parts of California and other states would see a surge of income, growth, jobs and consumer goods."

    In America, industrial hemp has long been associated with marijuana, although the plants are different breeds of Cannabis sativa, just as poodles and Irish setters are different breeds of dog.

    While hemp contains minute levels of THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana (compare 0.3 percent or less in Canadian industrial hemp versus 3-20 percent for medical marijuana), to get high you'd have to smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole.

    Still, the historical hysteria caused by federal anti-marijuana campaigns of the 1930s, which warned that marijuana caused insanity, lust, addiction, violence and crime, have had a long-term impact on its distant relative.

    Doomed by the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which in effect criminalized cannabis and levied high taxes on medical marijuana and industrial hemp, hemp cultivation wasn't technically disallowed.

    However, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, the DEA's predecessor, said its agents couldn't differentiate between industrial hemp and marijuana, a stance the DEA maintains today, so fewer farmers were willing to grow it. The exception came during World War II, when the armed forces experienced a severe fiber shortage and the government launched an aggressive campaign to grow hemp.

    But after the war, hemp production faded away, and the last legal crop was harvested in 1957. Marijuana's propaganda-fuelled history, one filled with lurid stories, one-sided information, slander and corporate profiteerism, is too lengthy to address here, but hemp has never managed to remain unscathed.

    Considering today's economic crisis and the combined threats of peak oil and global warming, there is increasing pressure to move toward sustainable resources before everything goes up in smoke. If there was any time to revisit hemp, it's now.

    "Industrial hemp is the best gift a farmer could have. It's the ideal alternative crop," says Gale Glenn, on the board of the North American Industrial Hemp Council. Glenn, now retired, owned and managed a 300-acre Kentucky farm producing burley tobacco, and she immediately launches into hemp's benefits: It's environmentally friendly, requiring no pesticides or herbicides, it's the perfect rotation crop because it detoxifies and regenerates the soil, and it's low labor.

    "You just plant the seed, close the farm gate and four months later, cut it and bale it," she says.

    And there's more. As a food, hemp is rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids; the plant's cellulose level, roughly three times that of wood, creates paper that yields four times as much pulp as trees; hemp is an ideal raw material for plant-based plastics, used to make everything from diapers to dashboards.

    In fact, Germany's DaimlerChrysler Corp. has equipped its Mercedes-Benz C-class vehicles with natural-fiber-reinforced materials, including hemp, for years. Even Henry Ford himself manufactured a car from hemp-based plastic in 1941, archival footage of which can be found on YouTube, and the car ran on clean-burning hemp-based ethanol fuel.

    This leads to the most compelling argument for hemp: fuel. Hemp seeds are ideal for making ethanol, the cleanest-burning liquid bio-alternative to gasoline, and when grown as an energy crop, hemp actually offsets carbon emissions because it absorbs more carbon dioxide than any other plant.

    As the world rapidly depletes its reserves of petroleum, America needs to create a renewable, homegrown energy source to become energy independent. Luckily, unlike petrol, hemp is renewable, unless we run out of soil.

    "As a farmer, it's frustrating not being able to grow this incredible crop," says Glenn. But if Glenn did try to grow it, the American government would consider her a felon guilty of trafficking, and she would face a fine of up to $4 million and a prison sentence of 5 to 40 years. Because no matter how low its THC content, hemp is still considered a Schedule I substance, grouped alongside heroin.

    It's exactly this war-on-drugs logic that has kept serious discussion of hemp off the table.

    "I've met with senators over the last 13 years, and I've been to the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) four times, and I'm always amazed by what they tell us -- that industrial hemp is by far one of the most superior fibers known to man, but since it's a green plant with a five-point leaf, you'll never grow it in America," says Bud Sholts chairman of the the North American Industrial Hemp Council and former economist for Wisconsin's State Department of Agriculture.

    Sholts' research into sustainable agriculture convinced him of industrial hemp's value, and he has been lobbying for it ever since. "We're overlooking something huge."

    Luckily, farmers are practical folk whose pragmatism ensures their survival, and they have championed industrial hemp, which they see as a potential economic boon, by pushing for it through their state legislatures, where it has become a bipartisan issue.

    To date, 28 states have introduced hemp legislation, including Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Minnesota, Maryland, North Dakota, New Mexico, Virgina, Vermont and West Virginia. Fifteen have passed it, and seven have legalized hemp production, according to Vote Hemp.

    Yet in cases like North Dakota, the DEA still insists that federal law trumps the state's and farmers need a DEA-granted license before growing. This is exactly what happened to David Monson and Wayne Hauge, two North Dakota farmers given state permission to grow but who have been waiting a while for their federal licenses -- in Monson's case, since 1997.

    "Here we are in 2009, and it seems like we're still taking baby steps. We're a little closer, but I'm not making any predictions," says Monson, who also happens to be a Republican state representative.

    Monson lives only 20 miles from the Canadian border, where fields of profitable industrial hemp have been growing since 1997, and he believes it's a simple case of "if they can grow it, why can't we?"

    "The profit potential is there. Practically and economically, it makes sense to raise it," says Monson. "I truly believe as a farmer that hemp is good for farmers, it's good for the environment and it's good for state of North Dakota. And for that matter the whole nation."

    As the law currently stands, to legalize hemp production, all the DEA has to do is remove hemp from its Schedule I drug list, a process that does not require a congressional vote.

    Now that the Obama administration has announced an end to medical marijuana raids, hemp advocates are hopeful the move could open the door for hemp, because the president voted for a hemp bill while he was in the Illinois legislature.

    The DEA follows the government's lead, and the government, which does not want to be seen as being soft on drugs, has been notoriously skittish tackling drug policy reform. If Obama told the DEA to move forward aggressively and issue all pending research, commercial and agronomic licenses, farmers like Monson could grow hemp tomorrow.

    "Politically, I liken the situation to pulling bricks out of a dam," says Vote Hemp's Goggin. "There are now so many leaks, the dam's getting ready to burst. We're working hard for a shift in policy, but at the moment, Washington doesn't consider this a top issue."

    While industrial-hemp advocates are becoming hopeful that policy change is in the winds, they caution that the industry still requires a massive, coordinated effort to develop.

    "I'm hesitant overselling hemp and touting it like the magic beans that will save the economy or the planet," says Tom Murphy, national outreach coordinator for Vote Hemp. "Industrial hemp is an answer but not the answer. It has a great deal of potential -- but it doesn't have any potential if you can't grow it."

    Conrad, who believes in American ingenuity to find creative solutions using hemp, says, "Only the scourge of prohibitionism can see to it that our economy and environment rot into sewage. It is up to the good, hard-working and honest people to end cannabis prohibition and start the process of rebuilding the planet and our global and regional economies."

    (Source: http://tinyurl.com/dl3bpd)

    An End to the War on Weed?

    Marijuana advocates believe legalization is on the horizon.

    A federal law enforcement agent looks at a pile of marijuana plants in San Francisco, Calif. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that federal authorities may prosecute medical marijuana patients because state laws don't protect users from a federal ban on the drug.

    As a medley of border violence, recessionary pressure, international criticism and popular acceptance steadily undermines America’s decades-long effort to eliminate drugs and drug use, the U.S. movement to legalize marijuana is gaining unprecedented momentum.

    Once derided and dismissed by lawmakers, law enforcers and the law-abiding alike, marijuana reform is sweeping the nation, although the federal government appears committed—at least for the time being—to largely maintaining the status quo.

    A week after Attorney General Eric Holder announced in March that raids on state law-abiding medical marijuana dispensaries would end, the Drug Enforcement Agency effectively shut down a San Francisco dispensary, claiming it violated both state and federal laws.

    But to paraphrase Victor Hugo, not even the strongest government in the world can stop an idea whose time has apparently come.

    Indeed, support for legalization is at an all-time high, and continues to grow. In 1969, just 12 percent of Americans favored legalizing marijuana, the Holy Grail of cannabis advocates; this number had tripled by 2005, according to a Gallup poll. Barely three years later, another poll showed 44 percent of Americans support legalization.

    “If we continue on this curve—and there is no reason to think we won’t—we’ll hit 58 or 60 percent by 2020,” says Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “We’re seeing also that the government is finally playing catch up with the people.”

    In February, a California state lawmaker introduced a bill to legalize and tax pot, and marijuana reform bills are being debated in at least 37 other states. (Last November, Massachusetts became the thirteenth state to decriminalize adult possession, while Michigan became the thirteenth state to legalize marijuana for medical use.) All told, more than one-third of Americans now live in a state or city that has legalized medical marijuana or decriminalized its recreational use.

    “It’s the busiest period for marijuana law reform ever,” says St. Pierre. “Legalization is definitely on the political horizon.”

    Growing calls for reform

    Arguments for ending the war on weed—that marijuana is safer than alcohol and that its prohibition leads to violence, exorbitant enforcement costs, billions in lost tax revenue and infringements on civil liberties—haven’t changed much since the 1970s.

    But the arguments have taken on unusual gravity over the last year, as drug-fueled violence along the Mexican side of border has excited fears that the carnage and mayhem will spill over into American cities. Testifying before a House panel in March, a top Homeland Security official warned (PDF link) that the cartels now represent America’s largest organized-crime threat, having infiltrated at least 230 American cities. Already, police in Tucson and Phoenix have reported a surge in drug-related kidnappings and murders.

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently acknowledged that America’s “insatiable” appetite for drugs has helped fuel the cartel-related violence. In fact, the Mexican cartels reap as much as 62 percent of their profits—and derive much of their power—from American marijuana sales, which total $9 billion annually, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

    But Mexican weed represents only a sliver of America’s annual cannabis consumption. Each year, Americans spend a whopping $39 billion on domestically grown marijuana, and another $7-10 billion on weed smuggled in from Canada. In short, untaxed and unregulated marijuana is America’s—if not the continent’s—largest cash crop, more valuable than corn and wheat combined, according to DrugScience.org.

    The growing sense that America’s marijuana policy is more harmful than the plant itself is leading some cash-strapped states to rethink the efficacy of locking up non-violent offenders and consider taxing medical marijuana, despite the federal prohibition on doing so. Several California cities are already taxing medical marijuana sales. Oregon’s legislature is debating whether to regulate and tax it as well. (Last year a bill that would have allowed Oregon liquor stores to sell marijuana failed.)

    And in the first such step by a state government, New Mexico’s Department of Public Health is now overseeing the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana, brushing aside legal concerns that state employees could face federal drug conspiracy charges.

    Although marijuana reform has gained little traction in Congress, last year Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) cosponsored a bill to protect medical marijuana patients and decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. “It’s no longer just potheads who want this,” says Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “We’re at the tipping point, in that we’re seeing the most sustained discussion ever by media and policymakers.”

    Although President Obama jokingly brushed aside economic arguments for ending marijuana prohibition during his March 26th online town-hall discussion, a mounting body of research underscores their validity.

    In 2005, Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron published a report showing that legalization would save $7.7 billion each year on enforcement, while generating as much as $6.2 billion in taxes. In response, more than 500 leading economists wrote an open letter to federal and state officials supporting a regime of legalization and taxation.

    With increasing frequency, mainstream media outlets are also advocating major changes to U.S. drug laws. In March, the Economist’s editorial board called for the legalization of drugs, and CNN, Time magazine and other publications have published op-eds supporting an end to marijuana prohibition or calling for an “honest” discussion about legalizing drugs. Also earlier this year, the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, which includes three former heads of state, issued a report condemning drug prohibition and calling for cannabis’ legalization.

    “[Cannabis] consumption has an adverse impact on the user’s health, including mental health,” the 17 commission members wrote. “But the available empirical evidence shows that the harm caused by this drug is similar to the harm caused by alcohol or tobacco.”

    Given President Obama’s penchant for pragmatism, Piper chalks up Obama’s dismissive response regarding legalization as a first-term answer to a second-term question. “There is debate as to whether he was even joking,” Piper says, “because in many ways he’s signaled that this administration will take a different approach to drug policy.”

    The ‘vanguard’ of legalization?

    American attitudes toward cannabis have softened considerably over the last decade, yet they remain largely ambivalent about reform. “Most people agree the laws are too harsh, but many of these don’t want to see it legalized, either,” says Mason Tvert, who in 2005 co-founded SAFER Colorado, which promotes marijuana as a safer alternative to alcohol.

    Economic arguments like those supported by Miron’s Harvard study, says Tvert, are ineffective because the same could be said of hard drugs like cocaine and heroin. Legalization, he says, will happen only when people realize that marijuana is safer than alcohol.

    “The problem is that people still have a perception of harm that’s been built up over many years,” he says. “If marijuana were legalized tomorrow, in 10 years these perceptions would be very, very different.”

    Tvert agrees that perceptions about marijuana are rapidly evolving for the better. Earlier this year, when a picture surfaced showing Olympic gold-medalist Michael Phelps smoking from a bong, many expected the 23-year-old to lose many of his endorsements. But only Kellogg’s dropped him. Even more surprising, the move seemed to hurt Kellogg’s more than Phelps, as surveys showed the move injured its brand reputation.

    For those seeking higher office, past pot use is no longer the political death knell it once was. When asked if he ever smoked pot in 1992, Bill Clinton claimed he didn’t inhale, and in 2005, tapes surfaced of George W. Bush acknowledging past marijuana use after years spent dodging the question. Remarkably, voters seemed largely unconcerned by Barack Obama’s candid admission that he once used both marijuana and cocaine. “This is a huge turning point in people admitting to past use and not suffering any consequences,” says Piper.

    With public acceptance growing and states increasingly at odds with federal marijuana laws, how much longer can Washington remain impervious to calls for reform? NORML’s St. Pierre, who says there are major chinks in the armor of blanket prohibition, believes federal reforms are imminent.

    “At some point, we’ll have run the gauntlet of states that have passed reform bills by popular vote,” he says. “It’s getting harder for people to say we’re going to hell-in-a-basket when the state next door has had these laws for years without problems. This generation is on the vanguard of legalization.”

    (Source: http://digg.com/d1oXoR by Nathan Comp)

    Thursday, April 9, 2009

    Santana: Obama Should Legalize Pot


    President Barack Obama brushed off a question about legalizing marijuana in his online town hall last month, but guitar god Carlos Santana says he wishes he would seriously consider it.

    "Legalize marijuana and take all that money and invest it in teachers and in education," Santana said in an interview this week. "You will see a transformation in America." (Read "Why Legalizing Marijuana Makes Sense".)

    During his online town hall on March 26, Obama fielded a question about whether legalization of the illicit drug would help pull the nation out of recession. Obama said he didn't think it was good economic policy, and also joked: "I don't know what this says about the online audience."

    But Santana said making pot legal is "really way overdue, like the prohibition with the alcohol and stuff like that. "I really believe that as soon as we legalize and decriminalize marijuana we can actually afford a really good governor who won't keep taking money away from education and from teachers and send him back to Hollywood where he can do 'D' movies and we can get an 'A' governor," referring to former movie action hero and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. (A Brief History of New York's Rockefeller Drug Laws.)

    Santana made the comments as he was promoting his upcoming rock residency in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The show debuts May 27 and runs through 2010.

    "It's a milestone for me because I always said I would never do certain things," Santana said, adding that the list included staying in one place for too long.

    "Yet what is very different is this is the year I decided to do all the things that I said I would never do. It's a way of coming into a room that I thought was dark and I would be afraid and I actually bring my light to it."

    Santana, whose hits vary from "Evil Ways" to "Maria Maria," said he is also working on two upcoming albums.

    While the 61-year-old has previously talked about a possible retirement, he's decided to be more careful about predicting the future. "Every time I tell God my plans he cracks up, he starts laughing. So I just decided to be quiet for a while and not say that I am going to retire and go to Maui and become a minister," he said. "God was cracking up. He thought it was a good joke. So I said, 'OK.' Every time I want to make him laugh I tell him my plans. So we'll see."

    Wednesday, April 8, 2009

    Is Pot Good For You?

    By John Cloud / San Francisco Monday, Nov. 04, 2002

    I never smoked pot in junior high because I was convinced it would shrivel my incipient manhood. This was the 1980s, and those stark this-is-your-brain-on-drugs ads already had me vaguely worried about memory loss and psychosis. But when other boys said pot might affect our southern regions, I was truly terrified. I didn't smoke a joint for the first time until I was 21.

    By 12th grade, about half of young Americans have tried marijuana, which put me in the geeky other half. I used to think this was a good thing, since I never developed a taste for pot and avoided becoming dependent. But as the medical-marijuana movement flowered and weed's p.r. improved, I often wondered if I shouldn't have relished it as a kid, before I had a personal trainer to tsk-tsk my every vice. Shrinking testicles? Mushy brains? I came to see these as grotesqueries invented by antidrug propagandists.

    It turns out that the study of marijuana's health effects is at once more complex and less advanced than you might imagine. "Interpretations [of marijuana research] may tell more about [one's] own biases than the data," writes Mitch Earleywine in Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence, published in August by Oxford. For example: "Prohibitionists might mention that THC [delta-9 tetra-hydrocannabinol, the smile-producing chemical in pot] often appears in the blood of people in auto accidents. Yet they might omit the fact that most of these people also drank alcohol. Antiprohibitionists might cite a large study that showed no sign of memory problems in chronic marijuana smokers. Yet they might not mention that the tests were so easy that even a demented person could perform them."

    The science of marijuana--especially its potential medical uses--is malleable because it's so young and so contradictory. Although preliminary data are promising, scientists haven't definitively shown that the drug can safely treat nausea or pain or anything, really. Some experts claim the U.S. government has sabotaged medical-marijuana research, and there is evidence to support them. Even so, in the past few years scientists have made rapid advances in their basic understanding of how Cannabis sativa works. By 1993, researchers had found the body's two known receptors for cannabinoids, the psychoactive chemicals in the plant (THC is the main one, but there are at least 65 others). Since then, there has been important new work in several fields that users, potential users and former users should know about--and that voters should take into account before deciding whether to legalize pot.

    So much new research has appeared that in November the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and the National Institute on Drug Abuse will publish a 100-page supplement devoted entirely to marijuana. The Journal gave Time an advance look; it's a comprehensive review that will annoy both sides in the drug war. You won't find clear evidence that pot is good or evil, but the research sheds light on some of the most important questions surrounding the drug:

    Can it kill you?
    No one has ever died of THC poisoning, mostly because a 160-lb. person would have to smoke roughly 900 joints in a sitting to reach a lethal dose. (No doubt some have tried.) But that doesn't mean pot can't contribute to serious health problems and even DEAth--both indirectly (driving while stoned, for instance) and directly (by affecting circulation, for example). A paper published last year in the journal Angiology found 10 odd cases in France of heavy herb smokers who developed ischemia (an insufficient blood supply) in their limbs, leading in four cases to amputations. It's not clear that marijuana caused the decreased blood flow, but the vascular problems did worsen during periods of heavy use. Another 2001 paper, in Circulation, found a nearly fivefold increase in the risk for heart attack in the first hour after smoking marijuana--though statistically that means smoking pot is about as dangerous for a fit person as exercise.

    Does it make you sick?
    Marijuana may directly affect the immune system, since one of the body's two known receptors for cannabinoids is located in immune cells. But the nature of the effect is unclear. A recent study showed that THC inhibits production of immune-stimulating substances. But cigarette smokers may do greater harm to their immunity than pot users, who tend to smoke less. A study published earlier this year found that tobacco smokers but not marijuana smokers had high levels of a type of enzyme believed to inflame the lungs. Dr. Donald Abrams, professor of clinical medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, found that short-term cannabis use doesn't substantially raise viral loads of HIV patients. (People with HIV sometimes smoke marijuana to stimulate appetite.) In fact, his study participants who smoked pot enjoyed significantly higher increases in their lymphocytes (cells that help fight disease) than those who took a placebo.

    Can it give you cancer?
    Data on cancer also generate mixed conclusions. A 1999 study of 173 patients with head and neck cancers found that pot smoking elevated the risk of such cancers. (Smokers of anything should also worry about lung cancer.) But it's not clear that THC is carcinogenic. The latest research suggests that THC may have a dual effect, promoting tumors by increasing free radicals and simultaneously protecting against tumors by playing a beneficial role in a process known as programmed cell DEAth.

    Is it addictive?
    Those who believe you can't become physically or psychologically dependent on marijuana are wrong. At least three recent studies have demonstrated that heavy pot smokers who quit can experience such withdrawal symptoms as anxiety, difficulty sleeping and stomach pain. On the other hand, the risk of becoming dependent on marijuana is comparatively low. Just 9% of those who have used the drug develop dependence. By comparison, 15% of drinkers become dependent on alcohol, 23% of heroin users get hooked, and a third of tobacco smokers become slaves to cigarettes.

    Does it make you stupid?
    Potheads are dumber than nonusers, but only a little. Earlier this year, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study of 102 near-daily marijuana users who wanted to quit. The authors found that the longer subjects had toked up, the worse their memories and attention spans. But they were hardly like Gobi, the Saturday Night Live wastoid who is so ruined he can barely talk. Participants who had used cannabis regularly for an average of 10 years fared significantly worse on only two of 40 indices of cognitive functioning (they had particular trouble estimating how much time had passed during a test). Those stout folks who had been smoking pot for an average of 24 years did significantly worse on 14 of the tests. But scientists can't say that marijuana causes such problems. "These long-term users may have been worse off in the first place, before they ever smoked marijuana," says Dr. Harrison Pope, a Harvard psychiatrist who wrote an editorial accompanying the study arguing that "we must live with uncertainty" on whether pot causes long-term cognitive impairments.

    What about sex?
    The latest studies suggest I needn't have fretted so much about pot's gonadal consequences. "Marijuana might interfere with [kids'] ability to go through puberty," says Dr. Adrian Dobs, co-author of a paper on the endocrine effects of the drug in the upcoming Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. "But the abnormalities seen are not really clinically significant." Despite tales of male potheads growing breasts, the long-term effects on adult glands are uncertain.

    Do the sick really benefit?

    So if marijuana can be harmful to healthy people--but usually isn't--could it actually be good for the sick? This is where the science gets scraggier--and in the absence of data, politics takes over. What we know is that healers have accumulated copious anecdotes on weed's powers over the past 4,700 years. Understanding Marijuana author Earleywine credits a (possibly mythical) Chinese emperor with introducing the plant as a treatment for gout around 2700 B.C. But the emperor also thought his pot potion would help memory, making him the first of many fans to aggrandize the drug's medical potential. The ancient Greek doc Galen even used the drug to treat flatulence.

    The A.M.A. issued a report last year summarizing the body of knowledge about medical marijuana. It's shockingly slim. Dr. Abrams in San Francisco has produced some of the clearest evidence to date of pot's therapeutic value. Even though his clinical trial was designed merely to investigate whether marijuana is safe for hiv patients, he also turned up data that anyone who ever had the munchies already knew: pot makes you hungry. Test subjects who smoked marijuana gained an average of 6.6 lbs. during the trial, compared with 2.4 lbs. for the group taking the placebo. Some other findings from the A.M.A. report:

    Patients who are HIV-positive or undergoing chemotherapy can have trouble keeping food down, so anything that helps them eat is significant--though not necessarily for the reasons marijuana boosters think. Pot's ability to enhance appetite may have more to do with its high and less to do with any direct effects on nausea. Only 20% to 25% of patients in two 1980s trials could completely control vomiting with marijuana; other drugs work better for emesis. Still, the A.M.A. recommended more studies on marijuana for those who don't respond to the other drugs, and it notes that for those feeling sick, inhaling a substance may be more palatable than swallowing a pill.


    Marijuana does reduce pressure on the eyeball, about 25%, but the drug isn't always practical as a glaucoma treatment. Many who have the disease are elderly and can't tolerate pot's tendency to raise heart rates.

    Marijuana can help people with spasticity (extreme muscle tension) and tremor due to multiple sclerosis and trauma. But the drug hasn't been rigorously compared with the standard antispastic treatments.

    In patients with postoperative pain, THC is more effective than a placebo, and some reports suggest smoking pot may reduce the need for highly addictive opioids. But the A.M.A. says better-designed studies are needed to properly evaluate pot as a painkiller. Several are under way. In California, five teams of researchers are conducting studies of marijuana as an analgesic, particularly for cancer and nerve pain.

    The A.M.A. concludes that the lack of "high-quality clinical research ...continues to hamper development of rational public policy" on medical marijuana. Which raises the question, Why, after five millenniums, doesn't such research exist? Two possible answers: First, the government may have rejected cannabis studies to avoid any challenge to its view that pot is dangerous and medically useless. Second, pot may just be dangerous and medically useless (highly unlikely).

    The drug wasn't always so controversial in the scientific establishment. The U.S. Pharmacopeia, a doctors' listing of remedies begun in 1820, first included cannabis in 1870. The Pharmacopeia didn't drop pot until its 1942 edition, the first published after cannabis was outlawed in 1937. Eventually most physicians began to view the drug as little more than a crude intoxicant. They tended to favor new-fashioned drugs that were refined by pharmaceutical firms into pure chemicals. Raw marijuana contains some 400 compounds.

    It wasn't until the '70s that modern methods were applied to test the medicinal effects of cannabis. As Earleywine recounts, a UCLA study designed to confirm police reports that pot dilates pupils found instead a slight constriction. That's how doctors discovered the drug could help glaucoma sufferers by reducing intraocular pressure. In the years after that discovery, 26 states opened therapeutic research programs.

    But the Federal Government, which by then controlled the only legal supply of marijuana, had just passed the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. That law placed marijuana in Schedule I, the designation for drugs without valid medical use. State health officials found it difficult to persuade their federal counterparts to give them cannabis for research, as doing so would undermine the law, at least in spirit, by suggesting there were medical uses. (Only seven states got pot. One was Tennessee, which is why Al Gore's sister was able to try the drug before losing her battle with lung cancer in 1984.)

    Then, in 1985, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved dronabinol, an oral form of synthetic THC, to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea. Many doctors believed dronabinol, marketed as Marinol, could provide the benefits of the plant without the impurities. By the mid-'80s, the availability of Marinol and the escalating drug war had killed the state research programs. But Marinol turned out to have shortcomings. Because it enters the blood through the stomach, it doesn't work as fast as smoked marijuana. Because it is essentially pure THC, its users can get too high. "Marinol does tend to knock people out," says Abrams, the San Francisco doctor who has conducted trials with both Marinol and pot. "Our patients [taking Marinol] spent a lot of time in bed, and that wasn't the case with those smoking marijuana."

    Such problems appeared in only "a small portion of the patients in our clinical trials," says Dr. Hjalmar Lagast, a vice president for Solvay Pharmaceuticals, which makes Marinol. He notes that the drug comes in three strengths, allowing doctors to pick the right dose. By the early '90s, at the height of the U.S. aids epidemic, many patients so preferred marijuana to Marinol that they would use the street drug regardless of legality or safety. Abrams and a few others began pushing the government to permit new studies of marijuana to find out what these patients were doing to themselves.

    Officials again resisted, and some researchers became convinced the government would never allow evidence of pot's possible benefits to emerge. In 1999, Paul Consroe, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Arizona, failed to win FDA approval for a clinical trial of marijuana for aids and cancer wasting. He believes the FDA turned him down because of political pressure. "If you want to study its harmful effects, you can get all the money you want," says Consroe. "But for this one, I would have spun my wheels forever." (An FDA spokeswoman declined to comment.)

    It took Abrams five years, but he finally pushed his study through. A stubborn and irreverent oncologist who had watched hundreds of aids patients suffer brutal nausea, he won government approval in 1997 for the first clinical trial of marijuana in more than a decade. Marijuana proposals at the time required the approval of three agencies--the FDA, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the National Institute on Drug Abuse--and the DEA and NIDA had resisted. A DEA official worried in a letter about the political fallout if Abrams found positive results. "The government is saying there are no studies proving the medical benefits," Abrams fumed in 1996. "But they're also not letting studies be conducted."

    Not true, says Steven Gust, special assistant to the director of NIDA, who has worked at the agency 15 years. "Ever since I've been here, there's been no prejudice against studying the medical applications of marijuana. Frankly, good proposals weren't coming in. The people you've talked to had a bad experience getting approval, and that's going to color their perception."

    Whatever the case, Abrams and Gust agree that the government and medical-marijuana researchers are now working together. Abrams has two approved studies under way, and the State of California has founded a new, grander version of its old therapeutic research program. The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research, which opened at the University of California two years ago with a yearly budget of $3 million, currently supports 11 studies that have received federal approval.

    To be sure, many scientists--especially in the government--still squirm at the very idea of medical-marijuana research. Despite encouraging anecdotal reports, the National Institutes of Health hasn't initiated a study of cannabis therapeutics in two decades, leaving California's young center as the only U.S. research institution doing the basic science. Marijuana remains the only drug that researchers must acquire directly from the feds. If the FDA and DEA approve, scientists can get even ecstasy from outside labs, but NIDA is the sole source for cannabis, requiring a third bureaucratic layer. "In an era of privatization, it's shocking that the government insists on a monopoly so that it can choose not to provide marijuana to projects it doesn't like," says Rick Doblin, founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, a nonprofit pharmaceutical firm. (For 18 months, Doblin's association and the University of Massachusetts Amherst have unsuccessfully sought a license to grow research-grade cannabis at the university.)

    Not every country is as pot-phobic as the U.S. Scientists in Britain, which has effectively decriminalized personal use of small amounts of pot, have moved well beyond the preliminary work being done in the U.S. Britain's GW Pharmaceuticals plans to publish results of a large study of its new marijuana product, a whole-cannabis extract rendered into a mouth spray. That way, patients avoid the lung damage of smoking. The British government is likely to make the spray available for prescription if published results are as good as the company promises.

    In this country, new drug products like GW's spray rarely appear without cordial cooperation among pharmaceutical companies, research institutions and government officials. Such partnership could take years to develop. But the politics has leaped well ahead of the science, meaning voters will decide long before physicians whether medical marijuana is an oxymoron.