Mar 28 2010

NORML reaches out and slaps medical marijuana patients


NORML plants a money tree in Times Square

Dennis Peron on Prop. 19 & Richard Lee
Prop. 19 is not legalization, will set us back at least 4 years

Not even a 520-square-foot billboard in Times Square could induce Santa Cruz to allow a 3rd medical marijuana dispensary on Tuesday.

Instead, as expected, the council voted unanimously to limit the dispensaries in this town of about 54,000 to the two currently existing.

Nor has anyone been able to name a single city or county in California that has reversed itself on a ban or moratorium since Oakland passed the first sin tax on marijuana in July of 2009, which taxed medical marijuana the same as alcohol.

Nevertheless, the media is all gaga over the announcement Wednesday that Tax & Regulate, a la Richard Lee & Jeff Jones, has officially qualified for the California ballot in November.

Many believe, at best, this won’t legalize much of anything, or change much of anything.  They believe it will make a few people very rich while giving the authorities even more reason to invade our lives.

One of these is Dennis Peron, author of Proposition 215, who recorded the video on the left in support of a competing initiative, the California Cannabis Initiative, which officially failed to qualify on 3 Mar 10.

This endorsement was recorded before The Jack Herer Initiative was filed, at a time when nobody expected an attempt would be made to put it before the voters.

The Jack Herer Initiative, which would really legalize marijuana at the state level, has until 4/20 to turn in the signatures required to qualify in November.

Actually, they have until the day before, 19 Apr 10.

The good news is they haven’t officially withdrawn their petition.  The bad news is no one believes they have a snowball’s chance in Hell of gathering the required signatures.

Most believe they simply don’t have the money to finance a successfull signature gathering drive.  Some believe darker forces are at work.

One of the problems with NORML’s (The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law) cash-cow campaign is that neither they nor the mainstream media seem to think there is anything wrong with taxing medicine, nor have they pointed out that Tom Ammiano’s SB 390 exempted California medical marijuana patients from its proposed $50/ounce tax.

Indeed, upon the passage of Oakland’s sin tax on medicine, Director of NORML Allen St. Pierre had this to say:

“The passage of this first-in-the-nation tax further legitimizes cannabis-based enterprises in Oakland and elsewhere. These outlets are contributing to the health and welfare of their local communities, both socially and now economically. At a time when many municipalities are strapped for tax revenues and cutting public services it is likely that public officials in other cities will begin considering similar proposals.”

Nobody has yet been able to explain how taxing medicine legitimizes it, dispensaries, patients, or anything else.

Nor can anybody name a single city or county in California that has reversed itself on a medical marijuana dispensary ban or moratorium since Oakland passed a sin tax on medical marijauna last July, taxing it at the same rate as alcohol.  Not even to gouge the sick and dying on their medicine.

On the other hand, since Oakland levied a sin tax on medical marijuana patients, both the city and county of Los Angeles have declared sales of medical marijuana illegal and intend to use their awesome resources to defend this position in court.

It’s about right and wrong

In addition to the ethical dissonance of advocating tax on medicine there is the fact that such a tax is regressive.  It falls most heavily on the sick and poor.

Medical marijuana patients require significantly more than an ounce per month.  A ballpark average is two ounces per month.  The four federal Compassionate Investigational New Drug patients still living receive at least 8 ounces per month from the federal government.  Irv Rosenfeld recieves 11 ounces per month.

Irv is a successful stockbroker who lives in a swanky enclave on the Florida coast, and he couldn’t afford to buy 11 ounces of marijuana per month, much less pay tax on it.

For those of you that don’t know, medical marijuana currently runs about $400/ounce.  It cost about $20/ounce to produce.  As things are now, patients who subsist on a disability pension go without medicine the last week of every month, if they can afford that much.

NORML should know this, and NORML should care.

Instead, it appears the people in charge of the organizations entrusted with crafting medical marijuana law and advocating for medical marijuana patients have crafted these laws with the needs of recreational users in mind.

While NORML’s cash-cow political advertisement flashes in Times Square, Allen St. Pierre’s dream is coming true in Hawaii and Arizona.

On 18 Mar 10 the Maui News announced that Hawaii is considering taxing medical marijuana at $30/ounce.  Meanwhile, with the blessing of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Arizona is ‘considering’ not just charging medical marijuana patients sales tax, but a $20/ounce luxury tax on top of that.  And never mind that Tom Ammiano’s SB 390, which started all this cash-cow madness, exempted medical patients from the proposed $50/ounce tax.

MPP is the organization that takes responsibility for crafting the country’s progressively useless medical marijuana laws.  The director, Rob Kampia, was recently in the news when 7 staffers quit upon predatory (sadistic?) sexual behavior by Kampia with another staffer in public.

Kampia is now in some swanky hide-a-way receiving sensitivity training and we are assured by MPP he will be back in the saddle again in time for the election season.  And if you don’t like it, you can pay them some money and become a member and they will “consider” your opinion.

It appears the talking points and tone of the $20 million campaign Lee hopes to wage between now and November was published by Russ Belville, NORML’s Outreach Coordinator, in the Huffington Post on 3 Mar 10 in an article titled “Medical marijuana’s not getting any better”.

Deconstructing Belville

In a nutshell, Belville mixes fact with fantasy to conclude that if one doesn’t support the initiatives in California and Arizona they are opposed to marijuana legalization and a traitor to the movement.

One of his more glaring factual errors is the following:

A comparison of plant and possession limits also shows the decline from the original starting point in California, where 12 plants and 8 ounces are allowed … To be fair, all the West Coast states started with lower limits or more vague limits that were modified by the legislature…

It seems NORML’s Outreach Coordinator and Host of The NORML Show Live isn’t aware that The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 specified no limits.  It was 7 years later, in 2003, that the California legislature enacted SB 420 which set “guidelines” of 12 mature plants, 6 immature plants, and 8 ounces of bud for patients.  And these were not “limits”.  They were intended to be a floor, not a ceiling.

On 22 May 2008 the California Court of Appeals in Los Angeles ruled that the state limits on medical marijuana possession and cultivation that were established by SB 420 were unconstitutional.  The basis for this ruling was that the legislature cannot amend an initiative passed by the people and that the “guidelines” enacted by the state legislature were an unlawful amendment of Proposition 215.

Obviously, NORML’s Outreach Coordinator and Host of The NORML Show Live hasn’t been reading his own press releases and doesn’t have a clue.  Or, perhaps, darker forces are at work.

Certainly, Belville has been demanding that marijuana advocates demand to be taxed for years now.

Belville’s conclusions are based on so many fallacies and blantant fabrications that it’s beyond the scope of any article to list them all, but consider this one:

Medical marijuana was a great 20th century strategy to get the sick and dying off the battlefield in the war on drugs.

Actually, it has put medical marijuana patients and their providers on the front lines.  The news is a parade of one casualty and travesty after another.

Evidently, medical marijuana patients can’t do enough for “social users”.

He follows this confession by stating:

…in the 21st century the idea that marijuana is only a medicine is beginning to take hold and governments and voters are crafting ever-more-restrictive medical marijuana laws.

We are left to our own to determine how the success of medical marijuana is responsible for “ever-more-restrictive medical marijuana laws”.

Could it be that it is not medical marijuana that has failed, but leadership such as NORML and MPP?  Consider this quote from Roseanne Scotti, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey, upon the passage of that travesty of a medical marijuana bill in that state:

“We are absolutely thrilled,” she said. “This really was a triumph of compassion.”

New Jerseys law excludes pain patients from those who may use medical marijuana in that state.  In California, pain patients comprise about 60% of patients.  The fact is, about 97% of medical marijuana patients in New Jersey got screwed.

Why would the Drug Policy Alliance be “thrilled” that 60% of medical marijuana patients in New Jersey will have to take Oxycontin or Methadone for pain rather than smoke a joint?  And then there’s the fact that New Jersey’s law prohibits medical marijuana patients from growing their own.  How is that a “triumph of compassion”?

Keeping cops on the streets?

Regarding the proposed $20 luxury tax on medical marijuana in Arizona, Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project campaign manager Andrew Myers said his group does not oppose it.

It just shows that not only is medical marijuana good for patients, but it’s also going to be good for society more broadly by keeping cops on the streets,

Isn’t this supposed to be about eliminating the number one preoccupation of law enforcement?  Isn’t this supposed to be about getting the police out of our lives?  Isn’t the idea of taxing medicine, of taxing medical marijuana patients to pay the salary of the police that have mercilessly persecuted them, arrested them, tried them, jailed them, and destroyed them – isn’t that just a bit too sick and twisted for words?

1.5 Million Maniacs Waiting To Explode
Douglas Kennedy, Fox News

Evidently, not for Kampia and friends.

In California, more patients use cannabis for psychiatric conditions that all of the conditions specified in either New Jersey’s law and  (except for pain) in Belville’s broadside.  Dr. Tod Mikurya stated that of his 3,000 medical marijuana patients 847 used it as a psychotherapeutic.  That works out to 27%.

Of those: 10% used for depression, 9% for PTSD, 5% for anxiety, 2% for bi-polar, and 2% for other psychiatric conditions.

10% of America is on some kind of SSRI or SNRI.  5% of those will develop manic-psychosis as a result.  That works out to 1.5 million maniacs waiting to explode.

These drugs are addictive and many report “The Zaps” make quitting or even reducing their dose impossible.  In 1998 the Journal of The American Medical Association reported that pharmaceuticals as prescribed are the fourth leading cause of death in this country.  Recent studies indicate this may be only the tip of the iceberg and that the actual rate may be much higher.

So why are these organizations pulling their punches and drawing analogies to alcohol, and thereby diluting the medical necessity of marijuana?

And speaking of alcohol, when has it ever been illegal to drink in front of children or in public?

California’s upcoming Tax & Regulate initiative makes it illegal to smoke marijuana in the presence of anyone under 21 or in public.  And it makes it a crime to furnish marijuana to anyone under 21.

Would NORML rather their kids be alcoholics, pill junkies, or meth heads by the time they’re 21 than smoke a joint?

A discussion of the problems with Oaksterdamn U’s New Improved Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 is beyond the scope of this article.  For more on that see the links in the inset above, and particularly Oakland’s marijuana legalization initiative is still a Trojan Horse.

Social use is a want, not a need

Nowhere in Belville’s philosophy can be found the concept of want vs. need.  “Social use” is, by definition, a want, not a need.  In response to a comment to his blog that pointed this out, Belville had this to say:

…there are 22.5 million Americans who consume cannabis every year, but probably less than a million legit medical marijuana patients in the 14 medical states.

Here’s where I disagree: The 22.5 million face losing their jobs, homes, children, and liberty if they push too visibly or vocally for full legalization. The 1 million patients are protected from arrest in most cases.

Furthermore, the 22.5 million are spending money – up to $450 or more per ounce – to use cannabis, while some who serve the 1 million are charging that $450 or more per ounce. Who has more funding and opportunity to support legalization?

And the only reason those 1 million and their few dispensary suppliers are able to be free from arrest and legally make money selling cannabis is because the long-oppressed 22.5 million, given a secret ballot opportunity to revolt, voted for Prop-215 and other medical marijuana laws. Yes, the sick and dying fought hard, but alone they never would have passed these measures.

My post was intended to tell those people that just because “they gots theirs”, the battle for legalization is still not over and needs their support more than ever, that’s all.

Just because “they gots theirs”?  Consider this quote from the article:

Until we do have legalization for all, every medical marijuana law is going to fail to adequately serve all medical users and subject them to increasing restriction and scrutiny. Additionally, medical marijuana laws make patients an attractive target for criminals because prohibition maintains huge profits for stolen medical cannabis, as well as becoming targets for overzealous anti-marijuana cops and prosecutors.

It seems the only conclusion to draw is that there is nothing Belville won’t say to bully medical marijuana patients into supporting a law that many of them believe will make things worse.

Whatever happened to Free da Weed?

The fact is medical marijuana patients, those with a need for marijuana, are being fired from their jobs, evicted from their homes, and their children are being taken from them.  The only thing that is going to change that is rescheduling marijuana on the Controlled Substances Act as Barney Frank’s HR 2835 will do.  This, more than anything, will “legalize” marijuana.

Rescheduling will mean that marijuana will meet the legal definition of medicine.  It will mean that marijuana will no longer be cause for violation of “zero tolerance” clauses in government contracts.  It will mean that patients – those with a NEED for marijuana – will not lose their jobs and be thrown out in the street because they are medical marijuana patients.

Barney Frank’s HR 2835 might have passed this year, but it was shelved, along with Tom Ammiano’s SB 390 (which exempted medical marijuana from the $50/ounce tax on marijuana) because of the Tax &  Regulate initiative in California.

The fact is that Tax & Regulate has removed any incentive for politicians to support the establishment of marijuana as (non-taxable) medicine.

The fact is that if “social users” had worked just one tenth as hard as medical marijuana patients, who are fighting for their lives, marijuana would have been legal a decade ago.

The fact is that the initiative that will be on the ballot in California is a minefield, a lawyer’s dream, and will most likely keep NORML re-forming marijuana laws for at least the next hundred years.  And the one in Arizona isn’t any better.

The fact is that Tax and Regulate made it through fourteen drafts before it occured to them to exempt medical marijuana patients from its taxes and other restrictions.  Then, when they amended it they only exempted medical marijuana patients in “cities”, not those who’s local jurisdiction is the “county”.

The fact is that if these people gave a damn about legalizing marijuana they would be doing everything they could to get The Jack Herer Initiative on the ballot rather than bullying the sick and dying into supporting a Trojan Horse.

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