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The Drug Enforcement Administration is continuing its losing streak. Last week, 12 House members led by Democrat Ted Lieu of California wrote to House leadership asking for a provision in an upcoming spending bill that would strip half the funds from the DEA’s Cannabis Eradication Program and instead spend that money on programs that “play a far more useful role in promoting the safety and economic prosperity of the American people”: domestic violence prevention and overall spending reduction.
The DEA pisses away about $18 million a year in coordination with state and local authorities to pull up marijuana plants being grown both indoors and outdoors. The ineffectual program has been plagued with scandal, controversy, and ridicule. In the mid-2000s, it was revealed that most of the “marijuana” plants pulled up in the program were actually ditchweed, feral hemp plants that contain almost no THC, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.
Overzealous marijuana eradicators have recently launched heavily armed SWAT raids on okra plants, and warned the Utah Legislature about the threat posed by stoned rabbits who had “cultivated a taste for the marijuana.” Last year, the DEA spent an average of about $4.20 (seriously) for each marijuana plant it uprooted. In some states, taxpayers paid nearly $60 per uprooted plant for “eradication” efforts.
The ineffectiveness of the program is illustrated by the fact that after 36 years of federal marijuana eradication efforts, the share of Americans who have tried cannabis has nearly doubled, to 44 percent.
The push to legalize marijuana in Massachusetts got a little less complicated this week. Voters had faced the possibility of two separate pro-legalization questions on next year’s ballot, but now only one group’s initiative is still standing.
The Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) on Tuesday said it had submitted enough signatures — more than 64,750 — to the secretary of state to move forward in getting a proposed law in front of voters, reports Adam Vaccaro at Boston.com. If the signatures are deemed valid, the question will go to the Massachusetts Legislature; if the Legislature fails to act by May, CRMLA wilal need about 11,000 more signatures to make the ballot for November.
The leader at Bay State Repeal, a competing ballot question, on Wednesday night conceded his group hadn’t gathered enough signatures to qualify. “We didn’t make it, Steve Epstein said.
The two groups have pitched different approaches to legalization. The CRMLA, backed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), is of the “tax and regulate” philosophy with pages and pages of tight rules, including a new state commission and an excise tax on cannabis sales.
Katie Darovitz, 25, of Russell County, suffers from epilepsy severe enough to keep her from driving or holding a job, reports Amy Yurkanin at Al.com. When she learned she was pregnant, she stopped taking her anti-epilepsy drugs — which have been linked to birth defects — and instead began using marijuana to prevent seizures.
For making the safest decision for her unborn child, she was arrested a couple of weeks after the December 2014 birth of her son after they both tested positive for marijuana. Alabama is one of a handful of backwards states where mothers can be prosecuted for “exposing a child to illicit drugs” under the state’s “chemical endangerment of a child” law, simply for using a harmless, non-toxic, even healthful herb.
Marijuana is the substance most often cited in indictments and arrest reports for women arrested for drug use during pregnancy in Alabama, according to analysis of almost 500 criminal cases by Al.com and ProPublica. Darovitz faces up to a decade in prison if convicted.
Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger on Wednesday announced that intractable pain, as defined in Minnesota law, will be added to the list of qualifying conditions for which patients can legally access medical marijuana.
The commissioner must notify the chairs and ranking minority members of the legislative health and public safety policy committees. Intractable pain will become a qualifying condition for medical marijuana effective August 1, 2016, unless the legislature passes a law stating otherwise.
The vast majority of the 23 states with workable medical marijuana programs allow the use of medical marijuana to treat intractable pain.
“This is a sensible and compassionate decision that will help a lot of Minnesotans who suffer every day from intractable pain,” said Robert Capecchi of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “The commissioner heard from countless medical professionals, patients, and families from across the state about the benefits of medical marijuana for people suffering from this debilitating condition.
“We need jobs,” said Daniel Webster, who lives on the reservation, which extends across the state line into Iowa, reports KETV.
Issues such as poverty and unemployment have reached critical levels, according to Omaha Tribe of Nebraska Chairman Vernon Miller. “Right now, my community has a 69 percent unemployment rate,” Miller said.
According to Miller, the dire economy is leading to desperate solutions. “We’re not seeing anybody else looking to assist us and we acknowledge that, so we’re trying to pursue whatever we can,” he said.
During labor, Sindy Melany Ortiz told hospital officials that she had used cannabis to relieve pain in one of her arms that had been broken, report Eva Vergara and Luis Andres Henao of the Associated Press.
Six hours after her daughter Luciana was born on November 19, a social worker and a psychologist told her that the hospital had “activated a security protocol” and that her baby was being transferred to the neonatology unit. She said that since then, she’s only been allowed to see Luciana for 2.5 hours a day, and is not allowed to breast-feed her.
“The pain (in my arm) was too strong,” Ortiz said. “We researched several methods to ease it and we took a decision as a family because we didn’t think it would affect the baby. It wasn’t recreational, it was strictly medicinal.”
California Representatives, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA13) and Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA48) and Sam Farr (D-CA20) on Tuesday urged Attorney General Loretta Lynch to reconsider enforcement actions against California’s medical cannabis dispensaries following comprehensive, stringent and enforceable industry regulations recently signed into law.
“We are concerned that the Department of Justice (DOJ) continues to threaten individuals and businesses acting within the scope of states law on the medicinal use of marijuana despite formal guidance on exercising prosecutorial discretion and recent changes to federal law. It is counterproductive and economically prohibitive to continue a path of hostility toward dispensaries,” wrote the Members of Congress.
In closing, the Members wrote, “the will of the both voters at the ballot box and in state legislatures across the country should be respected.”
Toke Signals Must Read of the Week
When Craig Cesal heard the judge condemn him to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole, he felt relief. Despite the ludicrous prosecution he had just endured, Cesal thought there was no possible way a judge on appeal could ever let a first time offender, who did nothing more than repair trucks that had been used to transport marijuana, serve a life sentence. Craig Cesal was wrong.
Cesal co-owned a company that towed and repaired semi trucks. The company was usually hired by leasing companies to retrieve abandoned and damaged trucks. Some of the trucks he was called on to retrieve had been used to smuggle drugs.
It is for this behavior, and this behavior alone, that Craig Cesal earned his life sentence.