Prisoners of Prohibition
Schedule II aka “Shit That’s Safer Than Weed”Read More
by DJ Reetz
Last month, I compiled a list of Schedule I controlled substances that probably have no business being in the section of the Controlled Substances Act designated for the most destructive intoxicants known to man. Like cannabis, these substances are deemed by Drug Enforcement officials to be so harmful that, even under the strictest of medical supervision, there exists no potential for benefit. And much like the DEA does with cannabis, they are lying about all of this too.
By contrast, Schedule II is where the substances that, while prone to abuse and dependency, still possess the potential for medical applications. These are substances that have shown to be addictive and even potentially life threatening, but nonetheless are still prescribed by doctors and studied as part of medical science. Schedule II is where you will find drugs that are dangerous, but not so dangerous that we must stifle all attempts at knowledge of their effects.
Some people will argue that cannabis should be in this category rather than Schedule I, as this would allow for greater ease of study and could potentially allow physicians to prescribe it and health insurance to cover it. But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at the company that cannabis would keep in Schedule II; or the substances that the DEA thinks have more medicinal value than cannabis.
From presidents of the United States, to Yale cheerleaders, to presidents of the United States who were Yale cheerleaders, everybody seems to love cocaine.
The drug is derived from coca leaves, which themselves fall into the Schedule II category, a plant that grows in the Andes and has been used by the native peoples there for centuries. This widespread use of a mildly intoxicating plant by indigenous populations would seem to lend itself to a Schedule I categorization given how the previous one of these lists looked, but medicinal applications of cocaine have earned it a slightly less severe scheduling.
Cocaine was once an integral part of patent medicine, and you could find it in healthful tonics such as Coca Cola. Although Coke has removed the coke from their formula, the company still uses a coca extract — because who doesn’t crave that great cocaine taste without the pesky stimulant effect?
While the idea of medicinal cocaine may seem straight out of Grand Theft Auto, the substance can be used as a topical anesthetic in the form of cocaine hydrochloride. When applied to the lining of the mouth, nose and throat, cocaine numbs the tissue by blocking nerve impulses, and can be used for minor surgeries. When applied to the nasal cavities, cocaine can also be used to really get this fuckin’ party started.
However, due to the high potential for abuse, other, less fun anesthetics are usually used instead of cocaine. According to researchers at the University of Cambridge, cocaine use has been shown to cause a loss in gray matter, an effect that is directly tied to the length of use. A study from the National Institute for Drug Abuse has shown that cocaine can potentially alter gene expression in users, essentially rewiring their brains to make them crave cocaine.
I know, NIDA, fuck those guys, right? But the point remains that cocaine can fundamentally alter a person’s very being, changing them into someone who’s only concept of reward and pleasure revolves around cocaine; you sure don’t need a medical study to witness that. Still, even with the well-documented understanding of the incredibly addictive properties of the drug and the minimal medical applications, it seems the DEA would still rather doctors had access to cocaine than cannabis.
I probably don’t need to explain the medical applications for this one. Morphine is a widely used painkiller derived from opium poppies, and it is commercially available in a range of products that can be prescribed by doctors.
Statex, Roxanol, MS Contin, Kadian, Infumorph, Duramorph, Avinza, or whatever else the pharmaceutical industry brands it as, it’s all morphine of one type or another. Opium-based medicine has been around for possibly millennia, and morphine has been a part of the pharmacopeia for at least 200 years.
Considered to be dangerously addictive by the medical and psychological communities, morphine is usually either directly administered by medical professionals or given as time-release capsules in certain situations. These controls are necessary, as morphine is the precursor of heroin; the drug most people seem to think is just the worst.
On top of its highly addictive nature, the real danger in morphine comes from just how easily it can kill you. A lethal dose can be as little as 60 mg for those with a sensitivity to the drug, while the minimum lethal dose for the average person is just 200 mg. Morphine, along with its sister alkaloids codeine and thebaine make up a category of substances known as opiates, responsible for thousands of overdose deaths every year.
Clearly the medical establishment has no problem with the potential for abuse and death from these drugs, and clearly the DEA still feels that they are a preferable alternative to cannabis when it comes to treating pain. Well, the morphine the better, I guess.
When most people talk about the dangers of drug addiction, methamphetamine usually makes an appearance in the conversation. It’s no secret that meth is an addictive, destructive drug. But what is a little less widely known is that according to the Controlled Substances Act, meth has more medicinal value than cannabis. That’s right, the old hillbilly tooth remover can be prescribed by doctors under the brand name Desoxyn for treatment of childhood ADHD. So if your kid is having trouble staying calm and focused in school, try forcing some methamphetamines down his or her throat. Desoxyn is also prescribed for the treatment of obesity and is sometimes prescribed off-label to treat narcolepsy.
That’s really just a taste of what cannabis would be lumped in with if it where de-scheduled just one notch. There are certainly other drugs in Schedule II that I could point to — PCP comes to mind — but as always I’m really just hitting the low-hanging fruit. While I wouldn’t argue that the medicinal value of these substances is bunk, I would argue that they are eclipsed by the medicinal value of cannabis. In fact, some of these dangerous and addictive drugs could be replaced with cannabis in certain situations. I therefore wouldn’t argue that these drugs should be elevated into Schedule I, as having access to them allows medical professionals to prescribe them in the controlled situations in which they may actually be helpful to patients. However, when you examine the drugs that fall into Schedule II it becomes pretty apparent that cannabis doesn’t really belong there either. Cannabis probably belongs in the same categorization as deadly and addictive substances like alcohol and tobacco, which is to say, not in the schedule at all.
Welcome to the Land of the FreeRead More
by DJ Reetz
Independence Day. What a great time to reflect on the freedoms won through the great patriotic act of killing other human beings. Eleven score and 19 years ago, when our founding fathers decided to loose themselves from the yoke of oppression at the hand of other wealthy white men, they also loosed some grand articulations on the ideas of freedom. Ignoring for a second the shockingly high number of these freedom-loving patriots that actually owned other human beings, one must wonder if in the modern era of mass incarceration we are truly living up to these ideals.
Today, the United States has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. According to prisonpolicy.org, in 2014 the U.S. incarcerated its citizens at a rate of 716 per 100,000 people. Now, having nearly one percent of your total population in prison might just seem like justice functioning as it should, keeping the criminally inclined off the streets, but then again, perhaps not. By comparison, liberal hippie countries like China and Iran failed to keep pace with the U.S., incarcerating people at a rate of 121 and 284 per 100,000 respectively according to this same data.
But hey, that’s probably because those places are backwards right? They aren’t the shining beacons of freedom and democracy that the U.S. and her allies are right. Well, to round out this perspective we can look at the same data to see where our NATO allies stand, and no surprise here, America just kicks their ass at locking people up. The United Kingdom is our next closest competitor with an incarceration rate of just 147 per 100,000 and bringing up the rear of the NATO pack is Slovenia with a rate of just 66 per 100,000.
So the U.S. is out incarcerating both the third world and our first world allies. It really makes you wonder as to why American exceptionalism is so manifest in this one particularly ugly facet of life. The answer should shock no one: It’s drugs.
Yup, we love to incarcerate the shit out of drug offenders. For evidence of this we turn to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. According to the most recent federal data, 48.7 percent of all federal prisoners are inside for drug related offenses. That’s more than the number of inmates locked up for the next six types of crimes combined. By contrast, the next largest group of federal inmates is made up of people incarcerated for weapons, explosives and arson charges, whom make up just 16.2 percent of federal prisoners.
It wouldn’t be too far fetched to infer from this data that the federal government thinks drugs are more dangerous than guns and explosives, as they seem to be doing a more rigorous job of incarcerating people for using and selling drugs than for manufacturing and possessing shit that is literally intended to kill people.
Now, you can point out that most serious, or actual, criminals are generally incarcerated in state rather than federal facilities, as crimes like murder don’t usually violate federal law. But that doesn’t change the fact that the feds are out of their goddamn minds when it comes to drug incarcerations. On the state level things aren’t much better. According to The Sentencing Project, the escalation of the war on drugs has led the number of drug offenders held in state facilities to increase by a factor 13 since the 1980s.
So while drug offenses are clearly the most prominent target of federal law enforcers, we can’t discount the effort of state law enforcers to follow suit. It all really begs the question as to just what the hell went wrong in this country. The founding fathers proclaimed that freedom was worth dying for, and 200 years later were shitting all over that to keep people away from inanimate substances and in many case just a fucking plant. Well, there’s an answer for that too: money; dirty, blood-soaked money bathed in human misery.
The freakish upswing in incarnations that was a result of President Reagan’s anti-drug policies just so happened to coincide with the rise of the private prison industry. How nice it is of these generous, profit-driven, publicly traded corporations to step in and pick up the slack from our overburdened public prisons. It’s even nicer of them to step in when legislators are having trouble figuring out just how severe punishments should be for minor drug offenses and repeat offenders.
Come to think of it, that’s not that nice, it actually sounds undeniably like corruption. And that’s the kind of shit these greedy bastards do. Thanks to private lobbying efforts and organizations such as the American Legislative Exchange Council, prison industrialists like Corrections Corporation of America have a direct line to politicians. If that isn’t troubling enough, ALEC has in the past created “model legislation” in conjunction with sitting legislators that is nearly verbatim enacted into law. These laws include mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenders and the “truth in sentencing” laws that ensure the length of a sentence is the actual length of time served so an inmate can’t get out early for good behavior or any other reason.
So prison profiteers sit down with elected lawmakers behind closed door (after all, ALEC meetings aren’t a government function, and aren’t open to the public) and get to craft “model” legislation. One can only assume that what comes out of these closed sessions is something that is crafted in the interest of the public good and not specifically designed to fill prison beds in private facilities,
Well, call me cynical, but it seems that the rising incarceration rates that accompany the emergence of these private prisons on the political scene seems to stink of something slightly more immoral than getting high. Now, private prisons may just be one blatant piece of shit in this shitty puzzle. The rest could possibly be attributed to ignorance on the part of voters who support these bought-and-paid-for politicians who let these snakes stick their forked tongue so deep into their ear it starts to fuck with their brain, and a generally idiotic thought process that views drug abuse as a criminal rather than health issue. Hell, there’s probably even more to it than that, but while we all celebrate the great American freedom, we would be remiss if we didn’t reflect on just what the fuck we’re celebrating.
Can POTUS Rise Again?Read More
by DJ Reetz
On the afternoon of April 18 the city of Denver was alive with the excitement of Cannabis. It was 4/20 weekend, the legal celebration of cannabis was in full effect, and all over the city cannabis enthusiasts congregated to bask in the revelry. The city pulsed with excitement, having earned the status as a marijuana Mecca after being the first place in the nation to allow recreational sales the year before.
But not everyone was celebrating. As the clock approached 4:20, a coalition made up of the Denver Police Department’s Marijuana 90s task force, vice unit, gang task force, excise and license and the Special Crime Attack Team were waiting near a rather innocuous building on west Alameda in Denver. Their target: POTUS, or People of the United States, a marijuana club that had been open for less than two months.
Inside the club over a hundred people were enjoying the festivities. Within POTUS the open consumption of marijuana was allowed, unlike nearly everywhere else in the city. A selection of glassware was available for use by all in attendance, members who had filled out extensive membership application forms and verified that they were over the age of 21. The interior of the club was laid out similarly to establishments that serve alcohol. Tables set up around the room offered patrons a place to sit as they passed their bongs, dab rigs, blunts, bowls and joints. There was even a bar where those who came unprepared could acquire cannabis through a reimbursement model similar to that used by clubs in Colorado Springs and other, less restrictive areas. The building, formerly a swingers club, even had more private areas upstairs for smaller groups. This particular Saturday, the club was at its busiest, packed with cannabis enthusiasts glad to have a private venue in which they could celebrate their safe, legal intoxication.
But there were two party goers in attendance who were not enjoying the scene. Jason Rivera and Chad Kendall, two undercover police officers there to conduct a sting. Rivera, already a member of the club at the time, and Kendall, who filled out the extensive membership process the day before in order to gain access, approached the bar and each separately asked for $60 worth of reimbursed marijuana. In his report, Rivera would later detail asking for several different varieties such as Bruce Banner and Girl Scout cookies before settling on Maui Apple. Behind the bar, Chris Jetter, one of the club’s operators, was happy to oblige. The men, audio surveillance equipment discreetly hidden by their clothes, gave the signal, they had completed the purchase.
At roughly 3:45, less than an hour before 4:20, there was a powerful knock at the door. The young doorman opened to find a gaggle of uniformed police officers waiting to storm the premises, in possession of a search warrant they were reluctant to show to those inside.
By the end of the ordeal, six people were taken in handcuffs to DPD headquarters for questioning. Only three of them were charged. Jetter and another budtender with misdemeanor distribution of less than four ounces, and Jetter’s partner Ed Couse, who was charged with operating an unlicensed marijuana business. The doorman was also cited for acting as a business guard without a license.
The scene was all too familiar. Slightly over a month prior on March 11 a similar bust had occurred when two undercovers infiltrated the club and purchased marijuana from Jetter. That day had also ended with a misdemeanor distribution charge for Jetter, while Couse was cited for violating Colorado’s Clean Indoor Air Act, though that charge was later changed to one of operating an unlicensed marijuana business. Rivera was one of the undercovers in the March sting, and had seemingly gained access the second time using the same membership he had signed up for during
the first operation.
The March 11 sting had come just weeks after the club had opened its doors for the first time in late February, and the promptness of police interest in the club may have been tied to the efforts of Couse for transparency. Couse had previously founded MJ Proper, a marijuana growers collective that had operated a delivery service that functioned under the same reimbursement model used at POTUS by which marijuana is given to adults of age with the expectation that the cost of production will be reimbursed to the person providing it. Couse had been charged with misdemeanor distribution as a result, and when prosecutors dropped the case due to the fact that Couse’s actions were technically legal under Amendment 64, he was warned that he would have to find a brick and mortar location if he was to continue to serve 21 plus adults in such a manner.
He took the warning to heart, and he and Jetter began looking for a suitable location, eventually settling on an old swingers club that was already zoned for the mixed commercial/residential and assembly requirements they would need. Couse was to handle the memberships and maintain the establishment, while Jetter’s non-profit Blue Mountains would provide cannabis for reimbursement.
Just to be sure he wouldn’t attract any unwelcome heat, Couse sent out several certified letters notifying city officials of his intent, one to the City Attorney, one to the Assistant City Attorney, one to the prosecutor who had handled his previous case, and one to the judge on his previous case. It was an attempt by Couse to ensure that the legal intention be known by authorities, and potentially give them an opportunity to object before things really got started.
“Criminals don’t send out certified registered letters,” says Jetter. “If you have criminal intent you’re not looking to notify public officials as far as what you’re doing, when you’re doing it and how you’re doing it.”
“The model was really scrutinized for legal reasons before we ever entered into it, in fact we had been looking at this model for the better part of two years to make sure that we could maneuver properly,” he says. “We did everything legally. We did everything according to code, we did everything according to Amendment 64, we did everything within the scope of the law, and we even put the officials on notice. It’s definitely disheartening when you do all of those things and for your efforts you get undercover cops [shutting down your business] and ultimately charged [with a crime].”
After the first raid yielded only misdemeanors and the seizure of the cannabis on hand, Jetter and Couse felt they had a case they could beat given Couse’s earlier success defending the MJ Proper charges. But while the charges stemming from the raid on 4/20 were identical to the earlier raid on POTUS, the intent of law enforcers this time was much more clearly an attempt to drive a stake through the heart of the club.
This time in addition to seizing the larger amount of cannabis and cannabis products that was on hand for 4/20, the police ransacked the property, taking the $160 out of the cash register, slightly over $600 from two cash boxes behind the bar, over $7,000 from a safe, and a dozen computers that were used to register new members. But the damage wasn’t just in taken money and property, the damage to the piece of mind of members was something that might be harder to recover.
“People are afraid of the police, people don’t want to be in the position that I’m in, people don’t want to be prosecuted, they don’t want to have to get up and go to court dates and face judges and lawyers,” says Jetter. “I don’t like doing it either.”
In addition to the criminal charges and confiscations, the city also filed a nuisance abatement claim, effectively banning any of the club’s operators from returning to the premises. It was the final blow, and POTUS was finally shut for what may be the last time.
But the raid at POTUS wasn’t the only enforcement action that seemed to target celebrations on 4/20 weekend. On April 19, police also shut down the Break Room at the Grassroots store in LoDo. Here operators had been offering a private members-only area for the consumption of cannabis by adults over the age of 21, unlike POTUS however, there was no reimbursement model, making it a strictly BYO bud venue. That didn’t mean much to law enforcement, who charged the business owners with operating a marijuana business without a license and violating the clean indoor air act. The Grassroots store now faces eviction from the building.
If the situation in Denver seems bleak, a new proposal aimed specifically at allowing consumption of marijuana in something resembling a public manner may offer some hope. Marijuana activists Mason Tvert, in conjunction with the cannabis lawyer Brian Vicente, is in the process of introducing a measure for approval by Denver voters — dubbed for the time being the Limited Social Marijuana Consumption Initiative — that would allow for clubs such as POTUS and the Grassroots Break Room to exist, and even expand consumption of marijuana to designated areas at adults-only establishments such as bars, provided they are shielded from public view.
Tvert, who many consider the face of Amendment 64 and serves as communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, says he sees the measure as a codification of the promises made in Colorado’s historic amendment. While 64 includes language barring open and public consumption of marijuana, the intent of the amendment was always to allow business owners to make the decision as to whether or not to allow marijuana consumption on their property.
“The goal is to really clarify the law,” says Tvert. “It shouldn’t take a business owner being treated like a criminal.”
The attitudes reflected by these overreaching enforcement actions are not in line with Denver voters, says Tvert, and so the initiative aims to take the discretion that city officials have thus far been misusing away from them and definitively allow a place for marijuana users to consume, be they locals, or tourists who currently find themselves without a place to do so.
“Denver city officials did not take action and really dropped the ball,” says Tvert. While other parts of the state have either directly addressed the issue of marijuana consumption, such as Pueblo, or tacitly allowed it the way Colorado Springs has, Denver refuses such action that would undoubtedly benefit its tourism industry.
“It’s really irrational and just part of this antiquated point of view that we think the voters in Denver don’t support,” says Tvert.
The proposed ordinance is still currently in the developmental stages though, with potential for changes during the review and comment hearings that the city clerk mandates before an initiative can begin collecting signatures. But if all goes well, the collection of the 4,700 signatures required for the ordinance to be brought in front of voters this November could begin soon.
Hopefully, the precarious situation cannabis users in Denver find themselves in will soon be resolved in their favor, and cannabis will take one step closer to actually being treated like alcohol as was promised when voters passed Amendment 64 in 2012. In the mean time, Jetter and others like him face a treacherous legal battle that has no guarantee of victory, despite all assurances.
“If and when Mitch Morrissey and the District Attorney’s office drops this case and/or we get an acquittal through a jury, well, we’re planning on going right back into the model,” says Jetter. “And anybody else that needs assistance in propping up a cannabis bar in the city of Denver or anywhere else in Colorado for that matter, give us a call and we’ll provide a legal avenue for you to do that within the constitution.”
June 2015 - Cannabis News Across the GlobeRead More
Colorado Cracking Down on Medical Marijuana
The recent signing of Senate Bill 15-014 by Governor John Hickenlooper may signal serious changes to Colorado’s medical marijuana landscape. The law attempts to push caregivers into a state registry and limits plant counts for those caregivers in addition to requiring the Colorado medical board to adopt rules relating to physicians who write marijuana referrals for severe pain. The law also requires primary caregivers to advise the patients they serve as to the potential for contaminants and unverified THC levels in their marijuana, and allows for the exchange of information between the caregiver licensing authority and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment to ensure patients aren’t registered with both a caregiver and a dispensary, among other things.
Some see the law as an attempt to drive recreational marijuana users out of the medical marijuana marketplace and into the more highly taxed adult-use marketplace, while others see it as a way to crack down on black market grows hidden in the caregiver system.
Medical Marijuana Now Allowed in Colorado Schools
Perhaps the best news out of the recent signing of SB 15-014 is an amendment that means children in Colorado can now use medicinal marijuana while at school. Nicknamed “Jack’s Amendment” for 14-year-old Jack Splitt, who suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy and distonia and whose personal nurse was reprimanded for administering him a cannabis patch, the amendment allows for the parents and designated caregivers of children with a medical marijuana referral to apply cannabinoid patches to the child while at school.
The amendment was sponsored by consistent cannabis supporter Rep. Jonathan Singer (D- Longmont). “Jack’s Amendment will assure that children don’t have to choose between going to school and taking their medicine,” said Singer, according to Fox News.
Questionably Limited Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Texas Legislature
Both the Texas Senate and House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would allow doctors in the state to prescribe low-THC cannabis to patients suffering from certain conditions such as intractable epilepsy. With wide support in both the Texas House of Representatives and Senate, the bill awaits a signature from Governor Greg Abbott as of this writing.
The bill mandates that dispensing entities licensed to produce the low-THC cannabis operate on a non-profit model and allow access only to patients with a valid prescription from a physician. Troublesome to some marijuana advocates is the use of the word “prescribe” in the text of the bill, as doctors are generally barred from prescribing cannabis due to its federally illegal status, which most state medical marijuana programs get around by allowing doctor “referrals”.
Nevada Approves Restricted Hemp Growing
A bill that would allow colleges and the state agriculture department in Nevada to grow hemp has cleared the state legislature. The bill does not allow for private growth of hemp but would allow government and academic bodies to grow the plant for research and agricultural purposes. Explicitly barred in the bill is the use of hemp as a drug, which would seemingly indicate that hemp could never be grown for high-CBD flowers. As of this writing the bill was awaiting signature from Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.
Missouri Governor Commutes Life Sentence of Man Convicted on Pot Charge
Last month, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon commuted the sentence of a man serving life without parole for marijuana crimes. Jeff Mizanskey, a 61-year old grandfather, had been sentenced to life in prison following his third non-violent marijuana conviction under the state’s Prior and Persistent Drug Offender statute, which was repealed last year. Under the statute a third drug-related arrest was punishable by life in prison, and Mizanskey had had two relatively minor arrests for non-violent marijuana crimes prior to his 1993 arrest for involvement in the sale of six to seven pounds of the plant according to the River Front Times, who originally reported on the tragic situation in 2013. Mizanskey is now eligible for parole and will likely have a hearing this summer, according to RFT.
Users of Medical Marijuana and Opioids Not More Likely to Abuse Drugs, Study Finds
A study published in the May issue of Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs concluded that patients using medical marijuana in conjunction with prescription painkillers were not at a greater risk of abusing alcohol or other drugs than those who used medical marijuana alone. The study focused on a group of 273 patients at a Michigan marijuana clinic and found that opioid use did not correlate to a higher likelihood of abusing alcohol or drugs.
“In states where medical marijuana is legal, physicians should be aware that medical marijuana is a potentially safer and more effective treatment approach than opioids,” said lead study author Brian Perron, according to Forbes.
Adult-Use Stores in Washington Caught Selling to Underage Shoppers
Four adult-use marijuana stores in Washington State were caught selling to customers under the age of 21 during a recent sting operation carried out by the state liquor control board. The four shops that sold product to the 18 to 20-year-olds used in the sting represent 18 percent of the 22 shops targeted. Shops caught selling to minors in Washington face up to a $2,500 fine and potential license suspension, while shops caught selling to underage clientele three times in as many years may have their licensed revoked. A similar operation carried out in Colorado last year showed a 100 percent compliance rate among the 20 adult-use shops tested.
Arrests Made at Hempcon in Las Vegas
Ten people were arrested at Hempcon in Las Vegas last month. The three day convention centering on medical cannabis was marred by the arrests after undercover police officers were allegedly able to purchase marijuana from five different vendors at the convention. Undercover officers were also able to obtain psychedelic mushrooms from vendors at the convention, according to police. The busts, an apparent joint action of metro police and the DEA, was seen as persecution by Hempcon organizers and attendees who reported seeing police officers and agents on the event’s roof trying to spot public consumers, according to thenug.com.
Nevada is slated to open its first medical marijuana dispensaries soon, but the state has allowed medical marijuana use since the approval of Ballot Question 9 in 2000. Nevada is also one of the few states that recognizes marijuana referrals made in other states.
Israel’s Top Cop Wants Cannabis Reform
Israeli Police Inspector General Yohanan Danino said in a speech to a group of high school students in Beit Shemesh that Israel should reexamine policies surrounding the continued prohibition of cannabis and study the policies being undertaken in other parts of the world. “I think the time has come for the Israel Police, together with the state, to reexamine their stance on cannabis. I think we must sit and study what’s happening around the world,” said Danino, according to The Jerusalem Post.
Israel has long been at the forefront of cannabis research for medical purposes, and according to a 2003 directive from the country’s attorney general, first time offenders caught with small amounts for personal use are not to be prosecuted, with subsequent offenses being left to the discretion of arresting officers.
Coloradans on Probation Get the Right to Medicinal Marijuana
A bill signed into law last month by Governor Hickenlooper gave Coloradans on probation the right to use medicinal marijuana. The bill was surprisingly unopposed in both the Senate and House, receiving a vote of 34-1 and 61-3 in favor in the chambers respectively. Prior to the passage of the law those on probation faced potential incarceration if they were to fail a drug test, though figures on the number of people likely to be affected by the measure were unavailable.
Kansas House of Representatives Passes Cannabis Bill
A bill to reduce penalties for the possession of marijuana has cleared the Kansas House of Representatives. If the bill were to pass, a first time offender would face a class B misdemeanor, a second offense would be a class A misdemeanor and any subsequent offenses would be considered a level 5 felony that carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 months in jail. Previously, first time possession offenders were hit with a class A misdemeanor with second time offenders facing a felony charge.
The bill also includes the legalization of low-THC oil derived from cannabis plants for the treatment of seizures, provided it remains below 3 percent THC. Another hopeful inclusion in the bill is the legalization of hemp cultivation for research purposes by either the state department of agriculture or a registered state educational institution, so long as registered seed is used. The bill is currently stalled in the Senate, where it likely won’t see a vote until next year’s legislative session begins.
Large-Scale Colorado Hemp Processing Begins
The first large-scale hemp processing facility in Colorado commenced operations last month in Ft. Lupton. PureVision Technologies has previously been a refiner of plant matter resulting from other, more traditionally legal crops, but are now turning their attention Colorado’s domestic hemp crop. The company’s Ft. Lupton facility is now refining hemp into pulp for myriad applications; hopefully marking the long-awaited emergence of domestic hemp processing that has so far lagged behind the limited domestic production. Be sure to check future issues of THC for a more in-depth examination of the process.
Hawaii to Get Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
A measure approving the creation of medical marijuana dispensaries has passed the Hawaii legislature and has likely been signed into law by the governor. The measure allows for the creation of up to 16 dispensaries, though some islands are left out and inter island transport is prohibited. Hawaii, the originating location of the term “kine bud,” has allowed medical marijuana since 2000, but patients have lacked access to dispensaries. Also included in the measure was the expansion of qualifying conditions to include PTSD.
VA Doctors May Soon be Able to Discuss Marijuana
A Senate panel has given preliminary approval to the idea of doctors in the Department of Veterans Affairs openly discussing the pros and cons of medicinal marijuana. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the amendment as part of the $77.6 billion spending bill. Previously, VA doctors were banned from discussing the potential benefits of marijuana as a treatment option.
While the development is good news for advocates, a similar amendment failed to make it past the U.S. House of Representatives, and as of this writing the spending bill had yet to see a full Senate vote.
Asset Forfeiture Coming to an End?Read More
by Rick Macey
Civil asset forfeiture is a perversion of the U.S. Constitution ushered in by President Richard Nixon in 1971, at the same time that cannabis was included as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act.
It means that property associated with drug activity is guilty until proven innocent. Owners of the property do not have to be convicted or even charged with a crime to lose it.
Administered by the Department of Justice in cooperation with state and local law enforcement, asset forfeiture was expanded in the 1980s. President Ronald Reagan was hostile to cannabis civil rights, and his wife’s "Just Say No" campaign set the stage for further corruption.
By the mid-1990s, with incentives for law enforcement to grab as much as they could get away with, civil asset forfeiture evolved into what we know it as today:
A license for cops to steal.
In January, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder withdrew federal support for seizures of cash, cars, and other property unless there is evidence of a crime.
For many years, the feds rubber-stamped state arrests, providing nominal support for 20 percent of the proceeds. Called the "Equitable Sharing" program, Holder has now taken a decisive step in effectively dismantling it.
Make no mistake: This check on police power is a direct result of state-legal marijuana. Having cash and cannabis in your car will no longer mean you lose both.
This reform is long overdue. In the last six years, local and state police have seized cash and property worth $3 billion.
"With this new policy, effective immediately, the Justice Department is taking an important step to prohibit federal agency adoptions of state and local seizures, except for safety reasons," Holder said in a statement.
States often have stricter standards for asset forfeiture than the Department of Justice. Holder’s action forces local and state police to weigh the costs and benefits of seizures without federal support.
Joint task forces are exempt from the new policy, which could be a loophole exploited in the future. Task forces are multi-jurisdictional, so a future federal intervention in legal marijuana states could re-energize the practice. It’s not likely, merely possible.
Holder’s action has left certain local police departments looking for guidance, especially those addicted to easy marijuana money.
In Nebraska, the concerns of the State Patrol and the Lancaster County Attorney’s Office have filtered down to Seward County, where Sheriff Joe Yocum told the Journal Star, "We want some clear guidelines about how to proceed."
How about: Don’t proceed.
Advice From The American Civil Liberties Union ...Read More
by Glen Greuling
At a recent seminar in Grand Junction, the American Civil Liberties Union offered a brief outline of how to deal with contact with the police.
Rule No. 1: Always remain calm, cool and collected; never talk back, raise your voice, or use profanity; always control your words, tone of voice, and body language.
Rule No. 2: Tell the police, "I’m going to exercise my right to remain silent," then shut up. You must verbalize this right; simply remaining silent could be perceived as obstinacy. If you’re being interrogated or arrested, ask for a lawyer then remain silent.
Rule No. 3: You have the right to refuse a search by saying, "I don’t consent to being searched." Refusing a search is not evidence of guilt, but never aggressively assert, "I know my rights."
Rule No. 4: Do not allow the police to trick you; judges have ruled that the police do not have to tell you the truth, they can legally lie to you; never let false threats or promises trick you into waiving your rights.
Rule No. 5: Determine if you’re free to go. The law says you can terminate the encounter at any time unless you have been formally arrested or detained. Ask the officer, "Are you detaining me or am I free to go?"
Rule No. 6: Don’t give an officer probable cause to search you or your car by being in flagrant or obvious violation of some law; this is called probable cause and cops need probable cause to search or arrest you.
Rule No. 7: Don’t run or resist. If police have a reasonable suspicion that you’re involved in a crime, they are legally allowed to detain you for a short period of time. Reasonable suspicion requires less evidence than probable cause.
Rule No. 8: Never touch a police officer; only refuse searches verbally; do not fight or resist an officer.
Rule No. 9: Report any police misconduct after the encounter; never tell an officer that you plan to file a complaint against him or her; argue your case in front of the judge, not in front of the officer. Memorize the officer’s name and badge number, but don’t ask for them. If an officer injures you, seek medical attention and obtain photos of the injured part of your body as soon as possible. Identify any witnesses.
Rule No. 10: You do not have to let police into your home without a search warrant. The Fourth Amendment requires them to get a signed search warrant from a judge that identifies what they expect to find. If there is a serious emergency such as a fire or gunshots, police may enter your home without a search warrant. However, if you invite the police into your home, then they do not need a search warrant.
Stay calm and follow these rules, it could mean the difference between going free, arrest, or worse.
The High Price of CannabisRead More
by DJ Reetz
In October, the death of a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police added another tragic point to the debate over the use of marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder. Ron Francis had served as a mountie in New Brunswick for 21 years when he was relieved of his duties following an appearance on Canadian television in which he was seen smoking marijuana while in uniform to treat the PTSD he developed during his law enforcement tenure. According to reports, Francis’ symptoms were so sever that the act of cleaning his boots on a black mat was enough to trigger flashbacks of wiping brain matter off of his boots.
In November 2013, shortly after being prescribed medical marijuana to help with these symptoms, Francis appeared in an interview with CBC News intended to draw attention to the issue of PTSD in the RCMP and its treatment through the use of medicinal marijuana. In the interview he could be seen smoking marijuana while wearing the distinctive red uniform of a Canadian mountie. His appearance drew the ire of higher-ups, who claimed it sent the wrong message about marijuana and stripped Francis of his uniform. "I bled for that uniform. I cried for that uniform for 21 years... They ordered me to give the only thing that I’ve lived and identified with for 21 years," Francis said in a follow-up interview with CBC.
The ordeal also began a series of legal troubles for Francis, eventually resulting in a violent confrontation between himself and fellow officers attempting to place him into a treatment program. The incident resulted in six criminal charges for Francis, three of which he eventual pleaded guilty to in September, shortly before he was set to stand trial. Then, on October 6, less than a month before his sentencing, Francis took his own life.
The incident made international headlines and shed some light on the predicament faced by law enforcement officers who choose to medicate using medicinal marijuana, and a little over a month later the point was once again driven home when a Michigan sheriff’s sergeant took his own life.
On November 16, Sgt. Tim Bernhardt of the Kent County Sheriff Department was found dead of an apparent suicide. Bernhardt, a 22-year veteran of the sheriff department, was caught up in an operation carried out by the Kent Area Narcotics Enforcement Team, which targeted a local medical marijuana caregiver. As part of the sweep Bernhardt, a medical marijuana patient served by the targeted caregivers, was found to be in possession of marijuana infused butter, which is not defined as "usable marihuana" under Michigan’s medical marijuana law as per a decision by the state Court of Appeals in 2013.
Bernhardt was charged along with three other members of the sheriff department, all of them having 20 plus year service records. The charges alleged various drug crimes, from manufacturing and distributing drugs, to possession and maintaining a drug house. After the initial reports were made, it was revealed that all four of the men were in possession of a medical marijuana referral, but that wasn’t enough to mitigate the charges due to the dubious definition of "usable marihuana."
Bernhardt eventually pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of maintaining a drug house, a crime that potentially carried up to two years in prison and a $25,000 fine. As part of the agreement, he was forced to resign from the sheriff department and testify against the patients involved who were not compliant with prosecutors.
For Bernhardt, the incident came to an abrupt end when rather than face the realties of a life destroyed by a drug arrest he took his own life, leaving behind a wife and four children.
For law enforcement officers the consequences of using medical marijuana can be well beyond those in other fields. While civilians can no doubt face termination, for those in law enforcement it can end lives. The loss of identity as a law enforcement officer, that is so crucial to some who serve and protect, comes along with a permanent blemish that is likely to keep them out of law enforcement forever. Add to that the elevated stress that accompanies the profession and it creates a serious problem for these public servants.
It’s something that retired Detective Lieutenant Jack Cole witnessed first-hand during his 27-year career with the New Jersey State Police, 14 of which was spent doing undercover work. His experience pushed him to become one of the founding members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a nonprofit group that advocates against the continued war on drugs, but it also left him with a clear understanding of the pressures and pitfalls that face law enforcement officials.
"I think being police is a really, really hard job if you try and do it right. It’s a really stressful job if you try and do it right," he says. The stress can lead many officers to self medicate, and for most, he says, that means alcohol.
Although Cole never used marijuana, he recalls a fellow officer’s unceremonious departure following a failed drug test.
"Everybody loved him, and it was just like, he’s gone," recalls Cole. "I keep thinking back about that and I think, ‘ what would they have done if he would have come to work drunk?’"
It’s a rhetorical question, obviously, as he recounts the story of a former lieutenant who had an alcohol problem that reached a crescendo when he crashed his cruiser while drunk, only to be sent to rehab and later reinstated.
"But this guy, this wonderful, wonderful guy, failed one drug test and he’s gone."
"We have a great support system for alcohol," says Cole. "All we want is for users of other drugs to be treated the same."
But for officers using marijuana, medicinally or otherwise, recourse is basically nonexistent. "You’re not given a chance to say it’s a false positive," he says. "It’s like the hammer of Zeus, you’re just gone."
For law enforcement officers the consequences of using medical marijuana can be well beyond those in other fields.
There is another part of this equation, a job that is high stress and more likely to lead to traumatic events that result in PTSD. Cole says the dangers of police work are often intentionally exaggerated to drum up public support, but that doesn’t mean the risk isn’t there. Traumas take a toll on all who experience them and police are no different, but the avenues available to deal with these traumas are limited.
"It’s hard to say too much about that because when they’re suffering they tend to suffer alone," says Cole. "There was no help for us. If you went for help and it was found out … when that gets back to the bosses it’s very problematic for the officer."
With the added stigma, it seems only natural that police would seek out a more private course of treatment, and in the case of PTSD, marijuana can be a viable option.
"I never thought of it as PTSD, but I know that people that worked as I worked had deep problems," says Cole of his time as an undercover. "Every one of us was really traumatized by it."
"Every deep-cover officer that I’ve ever talked to has had this same kind of situation; we just felt lost."
But that just brings about the earlier problem; the one demonstrated by the recent suicides, self-medicating in the safest possible manner has its own destructive consequences for law enforcement officers.
"In this culture losing your job because you’re labeled a drug user is the worst thing that can happen to you. There is no support whatsoever for the drug using cop, unless that drug is alcohol," says Cole. "The only thing that might be worse is if you’re found out to be a pedophile. You’d have to do something that horrible in order to be treated like someone who smokes a little bit of pot."
With a ruined reputation and a permanent disbarment from the fraternity of law enforcement, officers who find themselves on the other side of a drug arrest can face a bleak future. Although Cole says he personally never wrapped his sense of identity around being a cop, many still do, and that’s why suicide rates among retired officers are so high. "They live for police work and once that’s over, the camaraderie, this us versus them mentality, once you retire it’s very hard for them."
The same can be true of officers who are forced out due to their use of marijuana. For these men and women, there is no going back, there is only the shameful future of living the rest of their days as victims in the war on drugs, a war they themselves once helped wage. It means good cops whose only sin is using a harmless plant to help alleviate their stress will be forced into this situation, while the ones who deal with these stresses through more destructive avenues — such as alcohol and lashing out at others — will be welcomed back into the fold.
The end result is bad for everyone, police and civilians alike.
Poking the BearRead More
by DJ Reetz
The legalization of marijuana in Colorado brings with it an interesting conundrum. With the surrounding states all still clinging to prohibition in some form, drivers from the Centennial State may face added scrutiny from die-hard prohibitionists seeking to squelch our progress. This seems to be case of a traffic stop that occurred in Idaho in early 2013, where a 69-year-old Colorado man had his vehicle illegally searched. The stop didn’t yield the marijuana the state trooper was looking for, but it did yield a lawsuit naming the trooper as the primary defendant. Earlier this year, Denver’s 7News ran a story examining some of the citations occurring in neighboring states, a story that did seem to indicate targeting of Colorado drivers in a Nebraska county bordering the state along the I-76 corridor.
I’ve heard reports of profiling, whether first-hand from friends claiming they were tailed or even pulled over and searched while driving out of state, or through nebulous Internet channels. Spurred on by these reports, I decided to see just what I could find out through first-hand experience. After reading several stories of sheriffs bemoaning the ceaseless flood of Colorado marijuana into their counties, and an account from a friend who had recently been tailed while driving through the state, I decided Nebraska would be as good a border state as any to conduct my experiment.
Time to play poke the bear. The first step was the obvious total cleanout of my car’s interior, a full vacuuming and inventory of all items inside. The usual suspects were obvious: my emergency bowl shoved in the central storage compartment years prior, the rolling papers that were used that one time we were on the road and needed something to smoke with, and the charger for my vape pen; even a vape pen attachment that came as a total surprise.
With my interior immaculate, it was only a matter of making the outside of my vehicle appeal to a rabid drug warrior. This took decidedly less effort. With the minorly significant body damage on all sides of the car screaming out: "I would rather spend money on weed than body work" already in place strategically around the car, the job was mostly accomplished through natural effect. But just to make sure that there was no ambiguity, I added a few stickers to beckon the eye. A campaign sticker for gubernatorial candidate Mike Dunafon proudly stating "Yes we Cannabis " spelled with a bright Colorado "C", "I [pot leaf] CO", "support local growers" spelled out around a green marijuana leaf, an Operation Grow 4 Vets sticker, an "I [bud] You", a bright green sticker stating plainly: "Fix the Economy, Legalize Marijuana", and, of course, a sticker for the fine publication you are now reading.
I also did a full check of all my car’s lights; I wouldn’t be getting pulled over for a burned-out taillight, brake light, license plate display, or any other minor infraction – at least not legitimately.
In this state of affairs I took to the lonely road, not having the heart to ask any of my friends to undertake such an endeavor – least of all without smoking any weed throughout the duration – and too much sense to ask my ever-supportive girlfriend to accompany me. So I drove, unaided by the soothing touch of lady marijuana, through Colorado’s eastern planes, toward my date with destiny – or I guessed, possibly a jail cell.
I wouldn’t make this easy for them. I know my rights and I’ve done my due diligence. I know what probable cause is (as defined by Cornell University Law School: The requirement, found in the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, that must usually be met before police make an arrest, conduct a search or receive a warrant) and I’m ready to be a legally astute, belligerent dick if need be. There’s no way anybody’s searching my car, and if they should (illegally) they won’t find anything.
A few hours later, I’ve made it to Julesberg, the final pit stop before crossing the state line. I get out to stretch my legs one last time and give myself one final opportunity to puss out. A quick reassurance of my own impunity and I’m back on the interstate with my cruise control set exactly to the speed limit of 75 mph.
I’m not a mile into Nebraska when a see my first set of police lights. The blue and red flashes are ahead, just before I-76 merges into I-80, and he’s got a driver with Colorado plates pulled to the side. I slow down out of courtesy and curiosity, but the deputy doesn’t seem to be searching the vehicle.
It’s an ominous beginning to my journey into Nebraska. I think to myself that he must surely have seen me, that he must’ve seen the bumper stickers, and that he must be radioing down the line to the next officer on I-80.
But it never comes. I make it ninety some miles into the state, clear of the panhandle and to my pre-determined stopping point at the town of North Platte, all without so much as a menacing tail from a state trooper. With my emotions vacillating between a sick sense of disappointment and a relieved satisfaction, my goals shift slightly.
I take to the single-lane state highway, now aware that if I am stopped I will likely be dealing with a county sheriff rather than a highway or state patrolman.
Here, along the roads that disappear into vaporous mirages amid the rolling hills of the Nebraska plain, I hope to find my secondary goal: wild hemp plants. I’ve been told by a friend these plants can be found here, growing in wild patches along the road, already well within the threshold for THC required for legal growth in Colorado. Long ago, hemp was grown here, prior to the wave of insanity that was reefer madness, and again when the U.S. had to abandon this impractical affair out of sheer necessity during World War II. Despite the efforts of the DEA and other misguided law enforcers, it’s rumored to be still growing here, and I have been told where a stand of hemp used to be – used to be.
Farms flank the roads here, largely growing the signature corn Nebraskans hold with such high regard, and as I begin to drive down this rural highway I am unsure if I will find what I am hoping for. As I drive, I keep a keen eye open, scanning the tall grass that lines the fences edging plots of farmland.
It doesn’t take long until something catches my eye. A taller stalk swaying slightly in the afternoon breeze, covered in what looks like clusters of plant matter with longer leaves sticking out from several branches.
I slam on my brakes, pulling my car quickly to the shoulder, across the strips of grated pavement intended to alert tired drivers. Growing in the grass along the side of this road, not five miles from the interstate is not just one, but an entire patch of hemp. It grows on either side of the barbed-wire fence that guards a farmer’s land, too many plants for me to count.
In these last days of summer they are nearing maturity too, the stalks heavy with seedy buds, probably weeks or even days away from being ready for harvest. Although I’ve seen immature hemp plants before, I’m shocked by how fragrant and crystallized these are. Each bud is dusted in trichomes that seem to indicate their rich cannabinoid content, and I can begin to see how to an untrained eye these plants might be mistaken for poorly grown marijuana. Hell, a younger me might have just tried smoking some of it, though it wouldn’t have accomplished my desired effect.
I continue my journey, headed back into Colorado along the back roads, sure to keep my cruise control set to the more modest speed limits. I continue to hop out at every hemp plot I can find to gawk in amazement at the fields stretching dozens of yards along the edges of the maintained farmland. At some point I decide that I cannot stop at every patch, but I have counted over a dozen, of varying sizes.
It soon becomes clear to me that the areas where wild hemp is not growing must be the product of intentional design, as they become less prevalent as I approach the area where I have previously been told they were growing.
My only other glimpse of law enforcement in this journey comes when I enter the small town of Imperial, where two sheriff’s vehicles are parked window to window in the manner that police so often use to converse; I can only consume the topic of discussion between the two is somehow related to corn. The deputy in the vehicle facing the road appears to look in my direction, but he doesn’t follow.
With the sun hanging low in the western sky I cross through the rural plains back into Colorado, the flat, open landscape allowing the light to creep mercilessly under my car’s sun visor.
So what was the point of all this? I set out to test the waters, to see if I could coax out a lawman and thrust their ignorant prejudice into the visible realm. But that didn’t happen. Does this mean it doesn’t? No. My experience could have been one of sheer luck, the profiling may have decreased, or perhaps it was largely exaggerated in the first place. There are five other states that border Colorado, and surely law enforcement in these states is aware of the state of marijuana in Colorado and may be making the same assumptions about drivers. After my journey I can only state one thing with any certainty: if you need hemp seeds, check out the back roads of Nebraska.
Raid Leads to SuicideRead More
Last Tuesday in Asheville, Ohio, a cannabis raid ended in tragedy with the suicide of 42 year old Timothy Sturgis. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Marijuana Eradication and Clandestine Lab Unit receives around $500,000 in federal grants every year for its marijuana program. Last year the state spent $373,000 of that budget on helicopters and fuel. On Tuesday marijuana plants in a field were spotted from within one of these helicopters. Detectives followed a trail into the woods of Sturgis’ backyard where they found Sturgis with an Ak-47 held to his head. Detectives tried to end the situation peacefully for two hours before Sturgis’ decided to shoot himself. Authorities seized 10 guns from Sturgis’ property which was also protected by a German Shepard, a Doberman, and a trigger based alarm system. The next day, authorities returned to find what Sturgis was trying to protect. They uncovered a total of 25 marijuana plants and a couple of bags of processed cannabis. Not enough to justify Sturgis’ ending his life. Also, arguably, not enough to warrant the expensive use of helicopters, law enforcement, and other resources. Read the original article at http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2014/09/03/Man_guarding_marijuna_field_shoots_self_in_front_of_deputies.html.