TX NORML open meeting notes, October 5th, 2011
During last month’s meeting we covered these stories:
– The Drug Czar’s office officially responded to an editorial written by National NORML’s Deputy Director, Paul Armentano
– DEA issued final order rejecting application from Univ. of Massachusetts which sought to grow cannabis for federally regulated research
– Pres. Obama was unable to coherently answer a “town hall” question about medical marijuana access for patients
– Angus-Reid poll found 55% of adults questioned support legalizing marijuana
– Arkansas lawmakers reduced penalties for minor marijuana offenses
– NASCAR suspended a driver because he is a medical marijuana patient
– Govt. survey found northeastern states the most likely to have widespread marijuana consumption; same survey found that legal medical marijuana does not increase use in teens
– Student drug testing found to be ineffective at reducing teen use
– Israeli govt. officially recognizes therapeutic value of cannabis
– Synthetic THC found to significantly help irritable bowel patients
– Study finds that cannabinoids can protect brain against alcohol induced damage
– Frequency of marijuana use associated with lower prevalence of obesity
Now for news from the past month:
NORML’s Marijuana Legalization Question Tops ‘Most Popular’ List On White House’s ‘We The People’ Website
The White House’s recently launched online petition website, ‘We the People’ is described as a ‘new way to petition the Obama administration to take action on a range of important issues facing our country.’
According to the website, any petition that receives more than 5,000 votes will receive a public response from a representative of the Obama administration. NORML’s submission surpassed the 5,000-vote threshold within hours of the website’s launch.
NORML’s submission, which asks: “Isn’t it time to legalize and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol? If not, please explain why you feel that the continued criminalization of cannabis will achieve the results in the future that it has never achieved in the past?” is presently the most popular petition, garnering over 43,000 individual votes from the public.
The popularity of NORML’s White House petition has received widespread mainstream media coverage, including mentions by MSNBC, The New York Times, Forbes, and the International Business Times.
2 other petitions about marijuana are also among the top petitions.
Cannabis Coffee-Shops Appear To Minimally Impact Dutch Use Patterns
University of California at Berkeley researcher Robert MacCoun compared some 40 years of Dutch data on cannabis “prevalence, … patterns of use, treatment, sanctioning, process, and purity” with comparable data from Europe and the United States.
MacCoun concluded: “Dutch citizens use cannabis at more modest rates than some of their [European] neighbors, and they do not appear to be particularly likely to escalate their use relative to their counterparts in Europe and in the United States. Moreover, there are indications that rather than increasing ‘the gateway’ to hard drugs use, separating soft and hard drug markets possibly reduced the gateway.”
Among those ages 15 to 16, only 6.5 percent of Dutch teens acknowledge having used an illicit drug other than cannabis versus 19 percent of American teens. In addition, American adolescents are far more likely than their Dutch peers (72 percent to 46 percent) to say that cannabis is “fairly or very easy to obtain.”
Crohn’s Patients Who Use Cannabis Report Fewer Surgeries, Are Less Likely To Use Prescription Drugs
This was found in a study published in the August issue of the Journal of the Israeli Medical Association.
Investigators at the Meir Medical Center, Institute of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, looked at 30 patients with Chrohn’s Disease and found that all of them had positive effects on their disease by using cannabis, and documented significant improvement in 21 of those patients.
Former Labor Secretary Voices Support For Marijuana Legalization
Former United States Labor Secretary Robert Reich voiced his strong support for ending the criminal prohibition of cannabis during an online forum.
Reich served as Secretary of Labor under former President Bill Clinton. He is presently a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley.
Reich was asked by an audience member, “If you could eliminate a single federal regulation and replace it with some other regulation (or nothing at all), what would it be and why?” He responded, “I’d start by legalizing marijuana.”
Reich made this comment on the popular website reddit.com.
Kalamazoo, Michigan, Voters To Decide On Marijuana ‘Deprioritization’ Measure
Kalamazoo voters will decide this November on a municipal initiative that seeks to make marijuana law enforcement the city’s “lowest priority.”
The proposed amendment to Kalamazoo’s city charter seeks to make the possession of an ounce or less of marijuana by adults age 21 the city’s lowest law enforcement priority.
Michigan’s Governor and Attorney General have both spoken out against the initiative.
The initiative is modeled after a similar measure that was enacted by Seattle voters in 2003. A review of that measure in 2008 reported that implementation of the ordinance was associated with a reduction in local law enforcement costs and “no evident increase in marijuana use among youth and young adults.”
Voters in Tacoma, Washington will also vote on a similar proposal this fall.
Separate ‘deprioritization’ measures have previously been approved by voters nationwide, including voters in Oakland, California and Denver, Colorado.
Tennessee Congressman’s Letter To Drug Czar: “Marijuana Does Not Belong On Schedule I Of The Controlled Substances Act”
Rep. Steven Cohen (D-TN) sent a letter to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) demanding that they reclassify cannabis under federal law and to acknowledge its therapeutic value.
In the letter, Rep. Cohen in says: “Marijuana does not belong on schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) alongside hard drugs as … heroin. There is no evidence that marijuana has the same addictive qualities or damaging consequences as these harder drugs and it should not be treated as such. Similarly, the so-called ‘gateway drug’ theory has been thoroughly discredited with respect to marijuana. Marijuana ought to be placed at the lowest end of the CSA in accordance with its true risks.”
Representative Cohen is an outspoken critic of marijuana prohibition. He is a co-sponsor of HR 2306, The Ending Federal Prohibition of Marijuana Act of 2011.
Under federal law, all substances classified as Schedule I drugs under the CSA must possess a ‘high potential for abuse’ and have ‘no accepted medical use in treatment.’
Colorado: Workgroup Rejects Call For THC Per Se Legislation
Members of an 8-member workgroup deadlocked on the question of whether to recommend statewide legislation that would define a driver as criminally impaired if they operated a vehicle with levels of THC in their blood above 5ng/ml. Members of the state’s Drug Policy Task Force and the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice will likely revisit the issue this fall.
Workgroup members who opposed the establishment of a per se statute, including co-chair Sean McAllister of the NORML Legal Committee, argued that additional legislation was unnecessary, unsupported by science, and unlikely to significantly improve public safety.
Earlier this year, lawmakers rejected legislation that sought to expand the state’s drugged driving laws by enacting per se standards for THC, the primary psychoactive substance in marijuana.
According to the U.S. National Highway Safety Traffic Administration, driving fatality rates in Colorado fell over 20 percent despite the enactment of medical marijuana legalization in 2001. Members also cited data indicating that some chronic cannabis consumers may continue to test positive for the presence of low levels of THC in their blood long after the impairing effects of the substance have subsided.
A 1993 study commissioned by the US Department of Transportation previously rejected the notion of equating blood THC levels with driver impairment, concluding, “One of the program’s objectives was to determine whether it is possible to predict driving impairment by plasma concentrations of THC and/or its metabolite, THC-COOH, in single samples. The answer is very clear: it is not. Plasma of drivers showing substantial impairment in these studies contained both high and low THC concentrations; and drivers with high plasma concentrations showed substantial, but also no impairment, and even some improvement.”
To date, 15 states have enacted so-called zero tolerance per se DUI drug laws which make it a criminal offense to operate a vehicle with any level of drug or in some cases, inert drug metabolites, present in one’s system. Three additional states — Nevada, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — have enacted per se DUI drug laws prohibiting motorists from operating a vehicle if they have detectable levels of illicit drugs or drug metabolites over an arbitrary state-mandated threshold. In all other states, prosecutors must demonstrate actual drug impairment to gain a DUI criminal conviction.
Colorado Springs State Bank, the last bank in Colorado that was working with medical marijuana dispensaries, closed all remaining accounts in that industry, leaving dispensaries unable to use any banks in the state
Owners of some dispensaries have said that their bankers told them that they were closing the accounts due to direct threats from Federal Officials who said they could possibly hold the banks criminally liable under Federal Laws.
This very bad news means that right now dispensaries in Colorado must accept cash only as a payment, putting the businesses, their employees, and the patients who patronize them at potential risk from criminals seeking to find large amounts of cash.
The Denver Post has already published an editorial bashing the Federal Government over their threats, and calling for the Feds to legalize, or at least decriminalize, so that legitimate businesses in the industry can do their commerce like all other legal enterprises.
In Oakland California, Harborside Health Center receives bill from IRS totaling $2.4 Million
The $2.4 million tax bill followed an IRS audit of Harborside Health Center’s income tax returns from 2007 and 2008.
The back taxes, penalties and interest resulted from an IRS determination that a tax code prohibiting cost deductions for businesses that traffic in illegal drugs applies to the Oakland-based medical cannabis business.
Harborside CEO, Steve DeAngelo, says the deductions the IRS disallowed includes standard operating costs such as rent, payroll, employee health insurance and licensing fees.
Government auditors did not dispute that Harborside had properly deducted its biggest expense – the millions it spent buying marijuana to sell.
This is just another avenue the Feds are using to attack medical marijuana in states that have legalized it’s use, and another contradiction to how Pres. Obama portrayed his stance on the issue of medical marijuana.
Forced Closure Of Medical Cannabis Dispensaries Associated With Localized Increases In Crime
The closing of medical marijuana dispensaries is associated with an increase in the incidents of criminal activity in those locations, according to an assessment published by the RAND Corporation.
Researchers analyzed Los Angeles crime data for the ten days prior to and the ten days following June 7, 2010, when the city ordered the closure of more than 70 percent of the city’s 638 medical marijuana dispensaries. Authors limited their analysis to ten days because court challenges prompted some closed dispensaries to reopen.
“Studying crime both before and after a large number of dispensaries were shut down in Los Angeles, researchers found that incidents such as break-ins rose in the neighborhoods of closed dispensaries relative to dispensaries allowed to remain open, at least in the short term,” the RAND Corporation summarized in a press release. “In the blocks with the closed dispensaries, the study observed crime up to 60 percent greater than comparable blocks with open dispensaries, but the effects were not apparent across a wider area.”
The study’s lead author said: “If medical marijuana dispensaries are causing crime, then there should be a drop in crime when they close. Individual dispensaries may attract crime or create a neighborhood nuisance, but we found no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise.”
Previous analyses of crime statistics in Denver, Los Angeles, and Colorado Springs also found no data supportive of the notion that the locations of dispensaries are associated with elevated incidences of criminal activity.
New York City: Police Commissioner Calls On Officers To Curb Marijuana Arrests
Although simple marijuana possession is a noncriminal violation in New York, police can charge a suspect with a criminal misdemeanor if the marijuana is ‘open to public view.’
In 2010, city police made 50,383 lowest level marijuana possession arrests [NY State Penal Law 221.10] involving cases where marijuana was either used or possessed in public. The total was the second highest in the city’s history and was an increase of over 5,000 percent from 1990, when police reported fewer than 1,000 low-level pot arrests. Over 85 percent of those charged are typically either African American or Latino.
However, an investigation in April by New York City public radio station WNYC questioned the legality of many of those arrested. It concluded that police routinely conduct warrantless ‘stop-and-frisk’ searches of civilians, find marijuana hidden on their persons, and then falsely charge them with possessing pot ‘open to public view.’
Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an internal order to the NYC Police telling them to cease making misdemeanor marijuana arrests in cases where the contraband was not displayed in public view.
DOJ/ATF Memo says State Authorized Medi-Pot Patients May Not Legally Possess Firearms
The ATF’s September 21 memo, titled ‘OPEN LETTER TO ALL FEDERAL FIREARMS LICENSEES,’ states: “Federal law … prohibits any person who is an ‘unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance … from shipping, transporting, receiving, or possessing firearms or ammunition. Marijuana is listed in the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I controlled substance, and there are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana purportedly used for medicinal purposes, even if such use is sanctioned by state law.”
So, we have the same agency, the ATF, which is responsible for the trafficking of assault weapons to Mexican drug cartels, through the recently exposed “Operation Fast & Furious”, which has been documented as resulting in dozens of violent crimes in the US, now telling medical marijuana patients in states where it’s legal that their 2nd Amendment rights are null and void.
Texas NORML recently hosted the first ever Statewide NORML Conference, here in Austin
A couple weeks ago, Texas NORML hosted a Convention of NORML Chapter Leaders from across the state, to meet in Austin for the purpose of discussing strategy and cooperation in the run up to the 2013 Legislative Session.
Yes, I said the 2013 Session.
If we hope to get anything accomplished in the Texas Legislature, it is going to take hard work by activists throughout the state on a pretty much full time basis.
The Convention we held was very well attended, with Board Members from every active NORML Chapter in Texas, and even some of the leaders from soon-to-be chapters; this includes, DFW NORML, Houston NORML, San Antonio NORML, Waco NORML, UNT NORML, and SHSU NORML, as well as leaders from the soon-to-be-formed Weatherford NORML.
The strategy is multifaceted, but centers on meticulously contacting and giving information to State Reps and Senators, as well as putting together a Voters Guide and encouraging supporters of NORML to run for office.
We also discussed the fact that NORML in Texas needs to focus more on working with patients, as well as reaching out to women through the NORML Women’s Alliance.
The task is daunting, especially for a group of unpaid volunteers, but we hope that with cooperation between the NORML Chapters in Texas, as well as the help of our members and supporters (that means you!), that we can get some legislation passed in the 2013 Session.
There are 31 State Senators and 150 State Reps in Texas, and the target list we provided to the other Chapters included a vast majority of those officials. Many of the more “liberal” officials in Texas represent districts on or near the Mexican border, which is of the utmost importance to our strategy. Of course, most of the elected officials in Texas are conservative to the core, but our strategy calls for targeting those conservatives with messages of saving and making money for the state, as well as reducing the cost of law enforcement and incarceration, and helping Texas farmers by allowing them to grow industrial hemp.
With the help of Patient groups and organizations, we hope to be able to get some traction on a medical marijuana bill in the next session and at least get a hearing for the bill in Committee.
Please, stay in tune to all of our action alerts and requests, and be prepared to make a push on your respective elected officials to help us make this a reality.
Upcoming Events & Announcements
This Friday, right here at Flamingo Cantina will be a CD release party for the Subkulture Patriots, who are Texas NORML supporters and played for our Earthday Members’ Mixer this spring.
Subkulture Patriots are an Austin based Hip-Hop group, and they’ll also have many other performers at this event.
Our 6th Annual 6th Street Smokeout will be on Saturday, October 15th, 7pm, at Momo’s Club on West 6th St.
Texas NORML members will get half off admission, $5, and the lineup for the show is:
Dan Cioper, The Rafiki Project, Fox & Crow, and Whiskey Shivers.
Whiskey Shivers is a late addition to the lineup, but we are very excited to have them on board considering the exposure they’ve had due to a unique video they made, which you can see on YouTube.
Saturday, October 22nd, The Austin 420 will be holding fundraising Reggae Birthday party for their founder and creative force, Vincent, who is also the Patient Liaison for Texas NORML.
The event will be at The Red Eyed Fly, starting at 9pm, and include performances by:
El Sancho, Zig Zag Illusion, The Contrabandits, and Ashes of Babylon.
A really great lineup!
Wednesday, November 2nd, is our next scheduled monthly meeting, right here.
Our “Fall Harvest” Members’ Mixer is scheduled for Friday, November 4th, at a central Austin location, and will be perhaps one of our best Members Mixer’s yet! We’ll have live music provided by Ghosts Along The Brazos & RPD’s Cage Free Acoustic, and comedy from our bud Kat Ramzinski. Delicious food for the mixer will be provided by Ararat!
Cost for this Members Mixer is; for members $20, guests of members $30, and for a membership/ticket combo $35
And that price is all inclusive; food, music, and Texas NORML gift bags, and great company with your fellow activists!
You can get your entry to the Members Mixer tonight, if you so wish, or you can get them online on our website, TexasNORML.org.