mercoledì 31 luglio 2013

Congress takes passive stance as D.C. fires up medicinal pot program

By Tom Howell Jr.
The Washington Times Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Congress, which for years has needled the District of Columbia from atop Capitol Hill, watched from the sidelines this week as the city launched its medicinal pot program.
Its passivity to this point is significant, since the federal government still considers the production and use of marijuana illegal and Congress is vested with legislative oversight of the nation’s capital.
“It’s highly symbolic that medical marijuana is being sold to patients at the doorstep of the same federal legislature that has refused to change a very outdated policy,” said Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access, an organization that promotes patients’ legal access to cannabis.
Despite efforts to implement D.C. home rule in the 1970s through a city mayor and council, Congress at times has banned left-leaning initiatives that Republican lawmakers object to, such as public funding for abortions. Some of the prohibitions, such as one that thwarted the city’s needle exchange program to fight HIV infections, were lifted in later years.
City health officials said the District’s nascent program hasn’t raised the ire of federal lawmakers or Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s Justice Department so far, although only nine D.C. patients have registered to obtain the drug and two dispensaries, Capital City Care and Takoma Wellness Center, have been cleared by city inspectors to sell it.
Rep. Darrell E. Issa, the California Republican with oversight of the District, has not raised any public objections to the program to date. A spokesman for the congressman could not be reached Tuesday.
And Justice Department spokeswoman Allison Price said the department has advised U.S. attorneys that prosecution of significant drug traffickers, including marijuana, remains a core priority, but that focusing enforcement efforts on those with cancer and other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen likely is not an efficient use of federal resources.
She noted that the department is continuing to review ballot initiatives in Colorado and Washington, both of which have legalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.
But the legalization of marijuana in various forms remains a lightning rod from coast to coast, as states introduce a patchwork of medical-cannabis programs and grapple with the Obama administration’s unpredictable enforcement of federal laws that prohibit the drug’s cultivation and use in all cases.
D.C. voters supported a medical marijuana program in 1998, only to see it held up by a congressional rider known as the Barr Amendment until 2009.
After four more years of rule-making, a 51-year-old D.C. resident who is HIV positive kicked off the city’s program Monday by purchasing a half-ounce of three strains of marijuana from Capital City Care on North Capitol Street, according to The Washington Post.
Nineteen states have medicinal marijuana programs, yet only Colorado and Washington adopted recreational use laws.
Both states legalized the use of marijuana by adults through ballot initiatives in November, yet Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers still doesn’t know how the federal government will treat the state’s efforts to legalize and regulate the drug’s market.
“We are still waiting for the imminent guidance promised in February,” spokeswoman Carolyn A. Tyler said Tuesday, referring to a prior pledge by Mr. Holder at the National Association of Attorneys General in the District.
The U.S. government’s approach to marijuana laws, or enforcing the federal ban, has wavered in recent years.
A 2009 memo, issued by U.S. Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden, reminded federal prosecutors that “no state can authorize violations of federal law” while also advising U.S. attorneys not to target individuals acting in compliance “with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”
Federal prosecutors basically looked the other way in states that legalized medical marijuana, but a letter sent from the Justice Department to U.S. attorneys across the country in mid-2011 signaled that law enforcement — despite what the Ogden memo said — would not acquiesce to those who cultivate or sell marijuana.
All the while, the District was taking pains to roll out its medical marijuana program in a tightly regulated fashion. Its been more than two years since the city began to collect notices of intent from entrepreneurs looking to enter the D.C. pot business.
But before they could, applicants had to a sign waiver. The document released the city from liability if the federal government prosecutes the program’s participants.

Congress takes passive stance as D.C. fires up medicinal pot program

domenica 14 luglio 2013

American Mayors: Let Them Smoke Pot

Published: June 28, 2013

It has been more than seven months since voters in Colorado and Washington State chose to legalize marijuana for recreational use, in contravention of federal drug laws. It has been more than three months since Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would announce his department’s response to the new statutes “relatively soon.”

So far: nothing. Mr. Holder has yet to indicate whether he will side with all nine former heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration, who published an open letter urging federal pre-emption.

On Monday, the United States Conference of Mayors passed a resolution suggesting the opposite: that the Obama administration should let the states decide this issue for themselves. “Despite the prohibition of marijuana,” the resolution reads, “and the 22 million marijuana arrests that have occurred in the United States since 1965,” some “42 percent of Americans” have used the drug.

Organized crime, the mayors continue, dominates the illegal marketplace; enforcement is not only costly, but also racially biased, with African-Americans far more likely than Caucasians to be arrested for possession despite similar rates of use across ethnic groups. In light of these facts, they say, states should be able to “set whatever marijuana policies work best to improve the public safety and health of their communities.”

A guy named Barack Obama might have agreed with that when he was running for president. Asked about medical marijuana in 2008, he said, “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue.” But the Barack Obama who actually became president seems to have no problem with interference. In the past four years, the D.E.A. has conducted at least 270 SWAT-style raids on medical marijuana providers at a cost of roughly $8 million.

What the Conference of Mayors resolved seems appropriate — and sensitive to the reality that public attitudes toward marijuana are liberalizing rapidly. In 1969, Gallup found that only 12 percent of Americans favored legalizing the drug. By 2010, the Pew Research Center put the figure at 41 percent. In 2013, again according to Pew, it was 52 percent, a majority.

At any rate, Mr. Holder’s dithering helps no one. The status quo is chaotic and untenable. If you live in Denver or Seattle and you are thinking of applying for a license to sell marijuana, you have a right to know whether federal prosecutors will move to seize your property and jail you.

Meet The New York Times’s Editorial Board »

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:Correction: July 1, 2013
An earlier version of this editorial misstated the source of the 1969 survey of Americans favoring legalizing marijuana. It was conducted by Gallup, not the Pew Research Center. 

American Mayors: Let Them Smoke Pot

Washington State Marijuana Regulators Want Clarity From Feds

OLYMPIA, WA – Two Washington state regulators who are drafting rules for the state’s newly legal recreational marijuana industry said they would benefit from clearer directives by the federal government on how to build a system that would avoid being shut down.

Chris Marr, one of three appointed members of the state Liquor Control Board charged with drafting state pot rules, said the U.S. Department of Justice had so far provided scant guidance on how to develop an industry that federal authorities, who view pot as an illegal drug, won’t feel compelled to shutter.

“Policy is being established that will be a precursor for a large number of states,” Marr said. “It’s irresponsible. They should at least engage even if just for the purposes of information gathering.”

Washington and Colorado last November became the first U.S. states to legalize recreational pot use, even as the drug remains illegal under federal law, and both expect to have recreational-use marijuana stores open starting next year.

Despite the federal prohibition of cannabis, the states are proceeding with efforts to create rules for their nascent markets with provisions including advertising restrictions and security requirements for growing operations.

Engagement in those efforts could give federal authorities a voice in a process that could also serve as a model for other states that may pursue legalization in the future, Marr said.

But apart from a handful of opaque or piecemeal statements, the Obama administration has been tight-lipped in how it plans to respond to state legalization of the recreational marijuana.

In December, President Barack Obama told ABC news that he “has bigger fish to fry” than going after recreational marijuana users. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder later told a U.S. House subcommittee he was committed to upholding federal drug laws.

“People on the outside may think that ‘Surely they’re monitoring it, getting information quietly,’” Marr said. “My understanding is as far as the federal government is concerned they’ve been totally unengaged.”

Ruthann Kurose, Marr’s colleague on the Liquor Control Board, agreed that more feedback from the Obama administration would be helpful, but was reluctant to level criticism.

“They have to think not only about one or two states but about the national implications,” Kurose said. “I do think it would be easier if we had some clarity.”

Board Chairwoman Sharon Foster was not immediately available for comment. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment.

But a spokesman for Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, a Democrat, said Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson had met with Holder in January to discuss the state’s plans.

In that meeting, Holder posed questions on issues from labeling requirements to keeping pot from leaving the state, and Inslee responded in a letter the following month, the spokesman said. Inslee has not been in direct contact with Holder since.

“But our Washington D.C. staff stays in touch with the Department of Justice, and we made sure they saw the draft rules and the final rules when they came out. They’re aware of what’s happening,” Inslee spokesman David Postman said.

Postman said that “it would be nice to have an affirmative statement from the federal government that they would allow things to happen.” He said the Justice Department had offered no timeline for clarifying its position.

One clue to how the federal government will handle recreational pot may lie in its approach to the medical marijuana industry, which now legally operates in 18 states and the District of Columbia.

The Justice Department has given individual U.S. Attorneys some discretion in taking state laws into account in addressing medical pot, marijuana business lawyer Hilary Bricken said.

In Washington state, Bricken said, there is “a vast difference” in approach between the Seattle-based Western District and the more rural Eastern District, with the latter taking a harder line in shutting dispensaries and growing operations.

In Marr’s view, such decentralization raises the prospect of a recreational-use system that “is allowed to flourish” in one part of the state but “not allowed to function” in another.

Emily Langlie, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Washington, referred questions to the Justice Department. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the state’s Eastern District did not return a call for comment.

Washington State Marijuana Regulators Want Clarity From Feds

mercoledì 10 luglio 2013

Sicurezza e 5 stelle

Egregio Direttore, sembrano lontani i tempi della giunta Vignali. O forse no? 
La passata giunta, che della "sicurezza" aveva fatto il suo più importante cavallo di battaglia, si è trovata impelagata in problemi giudiziari.
L' attuale giunta, che della sicurezza non ha volutamente mai parlato, dovrebbe iniziare ad affrontare questo tema.
Tema ampio, la cui delega all' assessore Casa è stato più uno sgravarsi di un peso per il primo cittadino, che la scelta di affrontare con coraggio problematiche trasversali, quali il consumo di stupefacenti tra i giovani, lo spaccio di sostanze stupefacenti, l'impatto che le attuali politiche sociali stanno o non stanno dando in termini di risultati sotto l' aspetto della riduzione di questi fenomeni.
Di fronte a questi temi, la giunta spesso si è nascosta dietro al fatto che, la "competenza" di queste problematiche, non è loro. E' davvero così? Secondo il regolamento del consiglio comunale è compito delle commissioni consigliari: "formulare pareri  circa le forme e i modi in cui si realizza il potere-dovere del Comune di partecipazione alla programmazione regionale e statale".
Ma come giungono alle commissioni consigliari le idee da utilizzare per "formulare pareri" che contribuiscano alla crescita della collettività? Questo, nella giunta della trasparenza, non è dato saperlo.
Così come non sono mai state date risposte, sempre alla luce della trasparenza e della tanto sbandierata "democrazia diretta", alle domande poste durante il dibattito pubblico sul bilancio comunale.
Tornando al tema della "sicurezza", questa giunta non sta attuando nè formulando alcun "parere" al fine di migliorare la città in tema di sicurezza. 
Parma non sembra in grado di affrontare i temi trattati da diverse inchieste e articoli che nelle ultime settimane hanno coperto le pagine della Gazzetta. 
Parlo, per esempio, dell' inchiesta sugli adolescenti che si avvicinano al mondo delle sostanze illegali, che ne fanno uso abituale e per i quali non c' è alcuna difficoltà nel reperirle.
Parlo del recente articolo sull' ennesimo morto nel parco Falcone-Borsellino; a questo proposito, trovo un' ironia della sorte, macabra e alquanto lugubre sulle vicende che seguono questa zona verde della città. Secondo un recente rapporto dell' Europol, infatti, la maggior fonte di finanziamento della criminalità organizzata in Europa deriva dal traffico di sostanze stupefacenti, proprio quelle organizzazioni criminali che i due Magistrati cercarono di combattere e per i quali diedero la vita. Trovo profondamente triste come la vita di queste persone eccezionali sia stata sacrificata oltre vent' anni fa senza che nulla sia cambiato e che anzi, un luogo che oggi porta il loro nome, sia piazza contesa del mercato cittadino di sostanze illegali. 
Di fronte a queste problematiche, a possibili soluzioni, quali sono le risposte del Comune? Se l' assessore Rossi, di fronte alla possibilità di affrontare il problema da un punto di vista sociale, attraverso la distribuzione di cannabis sotto prescrizione medica, come previsto dalla normativa nazionale, ha affermato che ci sono problemi "più importanti" e che non è suo interesse affrontare questo discorso, verrebbe da domandarsi, cosa questa giunta sia in grado di fare per la nostra città, se non ha nè le informazioni, nè il coraggio di affrontare temi sociali difficili e "formulare opinioni" per "partecipare alla programmazione regionale e statale". 
Mentre il ministro della Giustizia Cancellieri, umilmente dichiara di non avere ancora iniziato una riflessione sulla attuale decreto Fini-Giovanardi, prima causa del sovraffollamento delle carceri italiane, il sindaco, oltre che andare a mendicare denaro per la città, potrebbe farsi vero portavoce di cittadini stanchi delle infelici politiche sulla sicurezza in Italia. Su tutte la cancellazione del decreto Fini-Giovanardi e aprire un dibattito sulla distribuzione della cannabis sotto prescrizione medica.

Sicurezza a 5 stelle

sabato 6 luglio 2013

California pot shop billed as world's largest may stay open for now -judge

SAN FRANCISCO | Wed Jul 3, 2013 7:00pm EDT

(Reuters) - A medical marijuana dispensary billed as the world's largest cannabis store may stay open while the city of Oakland fights a U.S. government effort to shut it down or seize the property, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday.

There has been a tug-of-war in California between federal and local authorities over cannabis sold for purported health reasons.

In February, Magistrate Maria-Elena James, the same judge who ruled on Wednesday, said the city had no right to intervene in a federal prosecutor's civil-forfeiture action against the Harborside Health Center, which was featured on the Discovery Channel reality TV show "Weed Wars."

The city appealed the ruling, and James's latest order allows the dispensary to continue to sell marijuana to individuals carrying a doctor's recommendation while the appeal is under review. James called the question of Oakland's legal standing in the case "a matter of significant public interest."

Attorney Cedric Chao, who is representing the city in the case, called the ruling "very significant."

"The court has recognized that Oakland has legitimate interests in protecting its residents' health, in promoting public safety, and in protecting the integrity of its legislative framework for the regulation of medical cannabis," Chao said.

"Today's order, coming right before the July Fourth holiday, reminds us all that one of the strengths of our country is its independent judiciary."

Harborside's landlords have moved to evict the store under pressure from federal prosecutors, who have threatened to seize the property as part of a U.S. government crackdown on what it deems to be illegal pot shops in California.

The city of Oakland in October sued the federal government in an effort to allow Harborside to continue selling marijuana to its 100,000 patients. Oakland officials warned that a shutdown would lead to a "health crisis."

The city expects to collect $1.4 million in medical-pot sales tax revenue this year.

A representative for the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco was not immediately available for comment.

Federal authorities in recent years have launched a crackdown in California and other states against what prosecutors consider an illegal network of cannabis suppliers established under state medical marijuana laws.

California was the first to legalize pot for medical purposes, and nearly 20 other states and the District of Columbia have enacted similar statutes, though marijuana is classified as an illegal narcotic under federal law.

(Editing by Steve Gorman, Toni Reinhold)

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