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March 23, 2005

Gary Storck: Ordinance 23.20 turns 28 April 5 -- The next step: Tax & Regulate?

Posted by Gary Storck
March 23, 2005

As Madison voters go to the polls this April 5th, many may not be aware that the date is the 28th anniversary of the day Madison made history by voting to legalize the medical use of marijuana with a doctor's recommendation as well as to decriminalize the personal possession of a specified amount of marijuana on private property.

It was on April 5, 1977, when Madison voters passed Question 6, which became Madison General Ordinance 23.20 click here, by a 60/40 margin. Signatures to put Question 6 on the ballot had actually been gathered and filed in 1976, but the November 1976 ballot was crowded with other initiatives, including two advisory referendums about marijuana, and it was placed on the spring ballot. The November 1976 advisory referendums regarding decriminalization and legalization both passed, with voters narrowly supporting legalization by a less than 300 vote margin and giving the nod to decriminalization by a 63/37% margin with a 20,000+-vote edge.

A Nov. 4, 1976 Wisconsin State Journal news article about the results notes that at the time marijuana decriminalization had the support of groups from "the State Council on Drug Abuse to the League of Women Voters to the State Council on Criminal Justice," as well as the Wisconsin Association on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse (WAAODA).

The Purpose section at the beginning of Ordinance 23.20 eloquently lays out why it was so popular with voters; "The people of Madison specifically determine that the regulations herein contained concerning marijuana and cannabis are necessary to serve the ethical purpose of providing just and equitable legal treatment of the citizens of this community and to preserve the respect of such citizens for law, its process, and its administration."

These words ring as true today as they did 28 years ago. And as Madison was in the forefront of cannabis law reform three decades ago when 23.20 was enacted, it's time to discuss the next logical step: Removing marijuana from the criminal market and taxing and regulating it.

This is not a new idea. The Netherlands has been tolerating regulated sales of cannabis in coffeeshops since 1976.

It is not a new idea for North America either. While serving in the Massachusetts legislature in 1981, White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, Jr. introduced, by request, House Bill 1737, the Massachusetts Cannabis Revenue and Education Bill, to create a Cannabis Control Authority to regulate the commercial production and distribution of marijuana.

Last November voters in Oakland California passed Measure Z click here, which deprioritizes private, adult marijuana offenses including possession, sales, and cultivation, by a 2 to 1 margin. The measure also asks the city to establish a system to tax and regulate sales to adults to sell through licensed businesses as soon as possible under state law.

Like 23.20, Measure Z is open to interpretation and the will of the city officials to implement it. But it still offers a road map to more rational drug policies at the local level.

While mostly peaceful, Madison's currently unregulated cannabis market has seen robberies, murders and other violence. In an illegal market, a pot dealer could also be a meth dealer. Regulation would bring order to this market in the same way the end of alcohol prohibition in 1933 brought an end to years of violence. If we are serious about wanting to keep marijuana out of the hands of children, it needs to be regulated like tobacco and alcohol. In a city where alcohol related mayhem is a daily occurrence, regulated access to cannabis would offer a safer alternative for those who react badly to alcohol.

Madison's many responsible adult cannabis consumers, including medicinal users, are not criminals. Regulating sales of cannabis would make Madison a safer and healthier place to live.

Posted by Gary at 10:12 AM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2005

Recap of First Medical Cannabis Lobby Day on February 16

Posted by Gary Storck
March 9, 2005

On February 16, 2005 Madison NORML members helped organize the “First Medical Cannabis Lobby Day” staged at the Capitol by the Wisconsin Coalition for Safe Access.


The Wisconsin Coalition for Safe Access is a project of Is My Medicine Legal YET?, Madison NORML, and Wisconsin NORML.

We had a successful day delivering constituent mail to a number of Wisconsin's 132 lawmakers along with an informational table in the Capitol rotunda.

Lobbyday Table 2Large-2

The event also received great media coverage from the Wisconsin Radio Network, local corporate and community access radio (WORT), and the local NBC television affiliate, Channel 15. Both WisPolitics.Com and the Wheeler Report, the two political information websites in WI, posted our press release. You can read more about lobby day and listen to audio of the Wisconsin Radio Network report on the lobby page: Lobby Day Page.

Posted by Gary at 12:34 PM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2005

Pot Shots: The Cannabinoid Messenger

Source: Counter Punch click here
Author: Fred Gardner
Published: Monday, March 7, 2005
Website: click here

In recent years it's been learned that cannabinoids are released from the cell to which signals are being sent, travel back to the cell doing the sending, and convey "tone it down." There's something satisfying about the likeness between how cannabinoids work on the neuronal level -toning down signals depending on the need downstream- and their overall modulating effect on the mind and body.

A Scientific American article reprinted in the Spring 2005 O'Shaughnessy's explains this "retrograde messenger" process in detail. Even before the biochemists reached their current level of understanding, Tod Mikuriya, MD, inferred from the effects cannabis has on people that its mode of action was unique and that it modulated multiple systems within the body. Mikuriya presented a poster at the 2001 ICRS meeting explaining why "sedative," and "hallucinogen" were inadequate descriptions, and proposing that cannabis be categorized as an "easement" and listed on a schedule of its own.

He also urged that cannabis be grandfathered into the U.S. formulary on the grounds that its safety and efficacy had been established prior to its being banned in 1937. "Back to the future," is a slogan he often employs. A retrograde messenger indeed.

The research that needs to be done, obviously, is figuring out which components of the plant cause which effects, so that plants can be bred with desired cannabinoid ratios. There are California growers capable of doing this -keen to do it- all they need is access to an analytical test lab.

Cannabis therapeutics will come into its own as a specialty and research in the field will flourish when growers are allowed to develop strains featuring cannabinoids other than THC. It seems ironic -given that THC is the psychoactive component in cannabis, responsible for the unacceptable side effect, "euophoria"- that Prohibition is preventing patients in California from developing alternative strains.

What Will the Raich Ruling change?

O'Shaughnessy's is a journal I produce for a small but growing group of doctors, who share it with their patients. The Spring '05 issue appears at a time when the medical marijuana movement/industry has been expanding rapidly -more patients getting approvals from more doctors, more dispensaries opening up and down the state, more people growing their own medicine and feeling relatively safe thanks to a series of court rulings -including a federal-court ruling that protects the right of doctors and patients to discuss cannabis on First Amendment grounds.

Yet the Supreme Court ruling in the Raich casts an ominous shadow. In a commonly discussed worst-case scenario, the Court rules for the government and the DEA begins raiding California dispensaries and growers. Everyone's terror level, including patients' and doctors, goes to code red. The movement/industry stops expanding as millions of Californians who could use cannabis beneficially and economically but have yet to request a doctor's approval are dis-couraged and decide not to try.

For patients who grow their own medicine, however, or do so through a co-op, a negative Raich decision changes nothing but the political atmosphere, according to most lawyers willing to venture a prediction,.

An attorney who has respectful relations with the U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco advises, "The feds don't have the resources to go after individual patients. Their attitude is, 'If they're big or if they get in our face, we're going to go after them. 'So don't be big and don't go public. Don't have a huge grow. Don't have a website. Don't do things the feds might interpret as taunting. Respect the federal sentencing guidelines. Grow fewer than 100 plants and you should have nothing to fear but fear itself."

This jibes with the view of organizer Pebbles Trippet and attorney Omar Figueroa, whose article on landmark California cases argues that patients' and caregivers' protections under state law are very solid. "collective, cooperative cultivation" can be conducted on a scale very unlikely to incur the wrath of the feds, according to Trippet.

Anticipating an interest in co-ops, we asked a business specialist how they work. A bona fide cooperative abides by certain key principles, starting with one person, one vote. The members pay to belong to the co-op because they want certain things to happen (for example, a Ventura orange grower joins Sunkist to reach the New York market). Members vote for a board, the board has a manager, the manager gets paid.

The original food co-ops in Northern California wanted to have organic food and had to be in control of their business to assure it. Today the food co-op in Davis is a big supermarket, but it's still a co-op. At the end of the year, after all the expenses of the co-op have been paid out, members get a patronage refund -a precise fraction of the grocery store's surplus, based on how much they spent there.

In a cannabis cultivation co-op, caregivers are allowed to get reimbursed for their expenses (water, fertilizer, electricity, lights and, arguably, money set aside in anticipation of legal costs); and to be reasonably compensated. No court has yet to address the definition of "reasonable compensation." Our adviser thinks it might be in the $50,000-$70,000 range, which makes psychological sense in that it's not more than a DEA agent makes.

"Some people don't want to go co-op because they think they'll lose control," says our business specialist. "But it's the most protection, including protection from the feds. No one's going to go after patients."

The state law created in 2003 by SB 420 explicitly promotes "collective cooperative cultivation" projects. Some activists now entertain the hope that the DEA, by picking off a few big operators, will impose a "mom-and-pop" character on the medical marijuana industry. "You may say that I'm a dreamer"

State of the Movement Spring 2005

The contents of the historic Spring 2005 O'Shaughnessy's follow. The paper is distributed through doctors' offices and cannabis dispensaries. To order by mail, send $5 to CCRMG, po box 9143, Berkeley, CA 94709. Having us send one to your doctor is a finite, practical organizing step.

o Vioxx and Cannabis -One Kills, The Other Doesn't

o Cannabis Use in Adolescence: Self-Medication for Anxiety (O'Connell)

o Activists' Cases Riding on the Outcome of Raich (Harrison)

o Cities and Counties Impose Restrictions But Cannabis Clubs Keep Opening (Gieringer)

o Landmark Rulings in the Implementation of Prop 215 (Figueroa and Trippet) Why "collective, cooperative cultivation" will be possible in the wake of the Raich decision thanks to precedents established in ITAL People vs. Mower, Baez, Bianco, Fisher, Galambos, Fishbain/White, Jones, Tilehkooh, Konow, Spark, Chavez, Arbacauskas, Conant v. Walters, Bearman v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, END ITAL and Senate Bill 420

o Letter to a Chief Probation Officer (Denney)

o On The Persecution of Pain-Treating Physicians (Fisher)

o Note to a Soldier re Cannabis and PTSD (Mikuriya)

o Reduced Use of Pharmaceuticals -A Recurring Theme (Hergenrather) o Medical Board Watch (Lucido) Report on 4 Meetings

o Dr. Wolman Comes Out

o How Cannabinoids Work (from Scientific American)

o Practitioners Perspective and A Cautionary Tale (Lucido)

o Cannabis Trimmer Attributes Illness to Pestidide

o Can a Trade Group Set Standards for Production and Distribution?

o Petitions 'R' Us -UMass Seeks License to Grow; Update on Rescheduling Efforts

o Medical Marijuana and Biochemical Balance (Melamede)

o Approval as a Botanical Drug (by an FDA Insider) o Another Indication for Sativex -But is GW Getting the Runaround?

o Marijuana and AIDS: a Four-Year Study (Brown, Smulin, Corral)

o ASA Asks Return of Property, Sues CHP for Disrespecting Prop 215

o Cannabis Trimmer Attributes Her Illness to Pesticide o California to Issue ID Cards (Komp)

o The Allowable Quantity Expert (Conrad)

o "Orgies of the Hemp Eaters" reviewed by Michael Aldrich

o Ricky Williams Does 60 Minutes

o Correspondence and Commentary

Fred Gardner can be reached at

Posted by Gary at 12:48 PM | Comments (1)

March 03, 2005

Marijuana Decision Expected Any Day

Source: California Aggie, The (UC Davis, CA Edu)
Author: Jeff Katz, Aggie Staff Writer
Published: Thursday March 3, 2005
Copyright: 2005 The California Aggie

Can California have its marijuana and smoke it too? Since voters passed the Medical Marijuana Act in 1996, the state law has been seemingly in contradiction with federal laws that say marijuana is an illegal drug under any circumstances.

The U.S. Supreme Court is now reviewing Ashcroft vs. Raich, in which a decision is expected any day regarding the federal government's authority over the matter.

And according to Americans for Safe Access, a group working for medical marijuana rights, now may be as good a time as any for a ruling to be made.

"Right now, the Supreme Court is definitely oriented towards state rights," said campaign director Hilary McQuie. "I don't want to make a bet, but that more than any other factor could be in favor of the Reich decision."

California resident Angel Raich, a prescribed medical marijuana user, sued the federal government in 2002 to challenge federal laws that banned her from using the substance under the Medical Marijuana Act.

After the act passed, federal agents began periodic raids in California to break up marijuana cooperatives, saying that the federal Controlled Substance Act (CSA) does not recognize medical marijuana.

While the US Constitution grants policing power to states, it stipulates that the federal government may intervene when the situation involves commerce between states.

According to court documents, the federal government believes it can override the state law using the CSA because there are sales taking place.

But a Dec 16, 2003 ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that using "the CSA is an unconstitutional exercise of Congress' Commerce Clause authority." The government's appeal of that decision landed the case in the Supreme Court in April of 2004.

Patrick Murphy, a California drug policy expert, says that the case could easily go either way at this point; regardless, Californians who support medical marijuana shouldn't panic if the court rules in favor the government.

"The notion of an individual in possession is now a question that a state can make a judgment on and this decision won't overturn that," Murphy said. "More likely, this could settle the question of whether state law is trumped by federal."

The Drug Free America Foundation, an umbrella group that filed a brief in favor of the government's position, did not return calls from The California Aggie for comment.

Despite the assurance that medical marijuana users would still be protected under state law, some wonder whether the federal government could use a win to conduct more frequent raids.

Murphy said the likelihood of such action is low, although the government may still decide to target doctors in an effort to make an example of them.

"But you have to have someone out there willing to make the arrest, and then you also have to have someone willing to prosecute it, and it's just not a very good use of resources," he continued. "Frankly, drugs just aren't a priority for the federal government anymore."

Even a ruling in favor of Raich, although viewed as a big boost for medical marijuana advocates, is something McQuie said is only a minor protection in the larger picture.

"It doesn't end the fight for medical marijuana if it wins because we need to have it rescheduled at the federal level," McQuie said. "But it is a move in the right direction."

Posted by Gary at 03:02 PM | Comments (1)

Madison NORML Benefit Thursday March 24, 2005 at Cafe Montmarte

The Madison chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is holding a benefit at Café Montmarte Thursday March 24, 2005, from 7pm-midnight. Please join us for a night of great music to help Madison NORML work to end marijuana prohibition.

Madison NORML Benefit March 24 @ Cafe Montnarte

What: Benefit for Madison NORML
When: Thursday March 24, 2005 7pm, Music starts at 8
Where: Café Montmarte 127 East Mifflin Street in Madison, Wisconsin, 53703.
Phone: 608.255.5900
Featuring music by Minglewood and little marsh overflow
Tickets $5 advance/$7 door
Contact: Gary Storck 608.241.8922

Posted by Gary at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2005

Madison NORML March Meeting


The next Madison NORML meeting will be Wednesday, March 2, 7pm at Mother Fool's Coffeehouse.

The agenda will include planning a Madison NORML benefit scheduled for March 24 at Cafe Montmarte in Madison, with bands including Minglewood, a side project of Groovulous Glove and little marsh overflow.

We'll also be planning the Million Marijuana March on Saturday May 7, and other projects, including future medical cannabis lobby days and lobbying efforts. And we'll be looking at incorporating Madison NORML to make it a stand alone organization rather than a chapter of Wisconsin NORML.

Volunteer activists are needed to help make these and other activities a success.

Mother Fool's Coffeehouse is located at 1101 Williamson St. This is right on the corner of Ingersoll and Williamson.

See you there!

Madison NORML

Posted by Jude at 03:48 PM | Comments (0)