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January 29, 2006

Letter: It's Modern Reefer Madness

Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, January 29, 2006

Last Sunday, January 22, the La Crosse Tribune published an article, Drug Arrests Up 22% As Trafficking, Enforcement Increase In Region. You can read the full article in the Media Awareness Project's archive of drug news articles click here.

"Each day investigators throughout the Coulee Region put themselves in harm's way in a war many people insist cannot be won."

The article discussed the various drugs law enforcement runs across in the region, including crack and powder cocaine, meth, ecstasy and of course cannabis.

[snip]

Marijuana

"It's just marijuana" is what most people say to Leinfelder when he talks about marijuana enforcement.

But marijuana, a problem for police for decades, is more potent today than. It's more costly and poses new challenges for police, Bjerke said.

For years, marijuana producers have worked to increase the THC level, or the active drug component, in marijuana - to the point that even the lowest-grade pot is more potent than the highest-quality weed sold in the 1960s and 1970s, Bjerke said.

"Marijuana sold in the '60s would be like our beer today. The lower-level stuff on the street today is at least double the potency it was," Bjerke said.

The more potent the drug, the more expensive - which makes marijuana much more profitable than it once was. And, Bjerke added, more dangerous.

Periodically police uncover a marijuana dealer bringing pot into the area several pounds at a time. The best indication of how much marijuana comes through the community came in 2003: Police discovered more than 650 pounds of marijuana in a Holmen storage unit.

While police were sure the marijuana was going to be shipped out of the area, Bjerke said, the bust showed how much pot is out there. While there are some large suppliers, Bjerke said La Crosse doesn't have a bottomless demand for pot.

"It can be hard to get rid of marijuana in La Crosse. Most only buy it by the quarter ounce or eighth ounce or smaller sizes, so it can take a long time to get rid of larger amounts of pot," Bjerke said.

The bigger busts of recent years involved suppliers bringing in high-grade pot to sell to other dealers.

[snip]

Here is my letter in response as published...

IT'S MODERN REEFER MADNESS

By GARY F. STORCK | Madison

La Crosse County Assistant District Attorney Todd Bjerke's claims that marijuana today is more potent than in the 1960s and '70s is plain, old reefer madness, "Drug arrests up 22 percent as trafficking, enforcement increase in region," (Jan. 22).

The truth is that these claims have been repeatedly debunked. A report click here by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws found "the notion that pot has increased dramatically in potency is a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration myth based on biased government data." NORML found that "a careful examination of the government's data show that average marijuana potency increased modestly by a factor of two or so during the '70s, and has been more or less constant ever since."

NORML also notes that, "contrary to popular myth, greater potency is not necessarily more dangerous, due to the fact that users tend to adjust their dose according to potency."

Furthermore, Bjerke's claim that "marijuana sold in the '60s would be like our beer today," minimizes the very real dangers posed by alcohol abuse. The fact is beer - today and yesterday - unlike marijuana ever, has a lethal dose, and like all alcoholic beverages, can trigger health problems, violent behavior, addiction and myriad other harms.

Marijuana, on the other hand, does not trigger violence and has been shown to be much safer than alcohol.

The counterproductive war on marijuana only wastes scarce tax dollars and police resources by pursuing ordinary, otherwise law-abiding citizens for victimless consensual activities.

Gary Storck is founder of the Wisconsin chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws.

[snip]

Note: I am actually one of a number of co-founders of the latest incarnations of Wisconsin and Madison NORML, as I signed my submitted LTE.

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

January 22, 2006

Article: Medical marijuana advocate won't seek re-election

Posted by Gary Storck
January 22, 2006

Madison's Core Weekly click here continues its stellar coverage of the cannabis issue with this article by editor Nathan J. Comp about the recent decision by AB-740 sponsor Rep. Gregg Underheim not to seek reelection.

Source: Core Weekly
Pubdate: January 19, 2006
Author: Nathan J. Comp

[January 27, 2006: Note: The Core Weekly, published by Madison Newspapers, Inc., which also publishes the Wisconsin State Journal and the Capital Times, has ceased publication as of this week. Madison NORML extends our thanks for all the cannabis-friendly coverage from core weekly and itseditor, Nathan Comp and great staff writers. We'll miss ya, CW!]

MEDICAL MARIJUANA ADVOCATE WON'T SEEK RE-ELECTION

Supporters of a medical marijuana bill currently working its way through the Legislature were shocked to learn that the bill's sponsor, Rep. Gregg Underheim (R-Oshkosh), will not seek re-election in November. Underheim, who made the announcement last week, has served in Assembly for 19 years.

Last October, Underheim bucked his party's leadership to introduce AB-740, which follows the lead of 11 other states in legalizing marijuana for medicinal use. It is the first time since 1979 that the Legislature has considered a medical marijuana bill.

"It's disappointing," said Gary Storck, a local advocate who uses marijuana to ease the symptoms of glaucoma and other ailments. "Now it's back to square one."

Though the Assembly health committee might vote on the bill, it's unlikely to get a floor vote in the Assembly and even more unlikely that the Senate would take up the issue. Come March, in other words, the bill is dead.

Storck, who co-founded the group Is My Medicine Legal YET?, said he never expected AB-740 to pass the Legislature, but hoped it would've gone further.

Underheim introduced the bill in October and, because he chaired the health committee, the bill got prompt attention. He realized the medical benefits of marijuana after being diagnosed with cancer. coreweekly's calls to Underheim inquiring whether he will pursue medical marijuana causes in his retirement were unreturned.

"He showed that politicians can learn," said Storck, referring to Underheim's 180-degree turn from prior opposition on the issue. "We're hoping another door might open."

A door might open in November. If Democrats, several of whom are AB-740 co-sponsors, take 11 Assembly seats and three Senate seats, they will regain control of the Legislature.

"The good people of Wisconsin will continue pushing for this," said Storck.

Posted by Gary at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2006

COLUMN: Tragedy didn't wake up troubled store owner

Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, January 20, 2006

Today, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist Jim Stingl weighed in on the Hopkins One Stop, the Milwaukee store that was selling small amounts of cannabis over the counter that I blogged about Jan. 18 click here.

While the unrelated shooting at the store Stingl refers to is very tragic, is it a good use of law enforcement resources in a city beset by so much violence to target over the counter cannabis sales? Should hard-working Milwaukeeans who want to relax after work or medical patients have to buy their pot from gangsters on the street?

From the sound of it, the availability of small amounts of cannabis at the One Stop did not lead to the complete collapse of society in Milwaukee. If these allegations are true, they were actually doing the public a service by providing safe access to cannabis in standardized packaging. The former patrons of the One Stop are now back to scoring pot of uncertain quality and weight from street drug dealers who may also selling crack cocaine and other drugs. Is this a good outcome? It's not too late to learn from the lesson of alcohol prohibition.

Men's Fitness magazine click here recently dubbed Milwaukee "The City That Drinks the Most," noting, "The highest number of bars per capita of any city in our survey, combined with statewide alcohol consumption of almost three gallons per person per year, earn ol' Milwaukee bragging rights as the nation's watering hole."

In a city known for excessive alcohol consumption and beset with violent crime, adult cannabis use should be seen for what it is, harm reduction. In a more sensible world, the One Stop would still be dispensing OTC cannabis.

TRAGEDY DIDN'T WAKE UP TROUBLED STORE OWNER

Published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Jan. 20, 2006.
Author: Jim Stingl

The shop that neighbors call "the blue store" has seen more than its share of heartbreak and trouble. A shrine to a dead 15-year-old boy right inside the front door is evidence of that.

Its real name, Hopkins One Stop, bears a darkly humorous irony now. You get your bread, your milk, your marijuana, all at one convenient location.

Vice squad police raided the store at 4703 N. Hopkins St. this week and arrested owner Aubrey Hubanks and a clerk. And the city now is in a full-court press to declare the place a nuisance.

People have been complaining to the cops about the store. "They said there was drug-dealing over the meat counter," Lt. Robert Stelter said. An undercover officer bought pot at the store and it was indeed over the meat counter, he said.

Other marijuana, packaged in small plastic bags for quick sale, was seized from the store and an apartment upstairs.

Trouble has returned.

This is the same store where last March, Hubanks' two sons got hold of a .45-caliber handgun kept behind the counter. While trying to unload the gun, the 13-year-old son shot his 15-year-old brother, Aubrey Jr., in the neck. The boy died.

"We miss you now, our hearts are sore," says a poem that hangs on a piece of cardboard here alongside photos of the smiling boy.

The gun wasn't supposed to be there because the boys' father is a convicted felon in a 1983 armed burglary case. Neither were the 56 bags of marijuana priced at $10 to $20 each, all tucked into a cigar box behind the counter, according to a criminal complaint.

In the midst of his grief over the loss of a son, Aubrey Hubanks was charged with two felonies. That case is still winding through the courts.

You'd think this would have been a huge wake-up call for him. This week's drug raid suggests otherwise. Even the city garbage can on the sidewalk outside seems to mock him with its stenciled message that "Drugs are trash."

I tried without success to interview Hubanks or his wife. I can tell you that when he was busted the first time, he told police he sells pot to pay medical bills. He wasn't peddling cocaine and so he did not consider himself a drug dealer, the criminal complaint says.

That's something, I suppose, but it's a felony either way. And selling out of your business - man, that's risky.

As I said, this time the city and the police have teamed up to hammer the blue store as a nuisance. Five television news photographers crowded in as a city inspector slapped a notice on the building this week, calling it "unfit for human habitation." Photos purporting to show rotten food, bad wiring and other code violations were handed out to reporters.

A criminal complaint is expected to be signed today charging Hubanks with felony bail jumping and drug possession. The clerk faces a drug-dealing charge; he's accused of selling the pot to the officer.

Hubanks' lawyer, Bridget Boyle, said the boy's death was "the saddest thing ever," but she cautioned me about blaming it on drug activity at the store. Many shop owners and tavern-keepers in the city keep a gun for protection, she said.

The younger brother was charged as a juvenile, but the case was dropped, to be handled informally by the probation department. The real punishment for his act is the agony that began the instant the gun went off.

"I hope the father learns a lesson from this," Children's Court Judge Mary Triggiano said as she dismissed charges against the boy in May.

Hubanks was in the courtroom when she said it. Right now, he's sitting in jail, probably wishing the lesson had sunk in a little better.

Posted by Gary at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2006

Letter to the Editor: Constitution eroded by Roberts, now Alito

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, January 19, 2006

Today, the Wisconsin State Journal published a selection of letters on the Alito nomination to the Supreme Court and included a letter I submitted commenting on the Supreme Court decision in the Oregon assisted suicide case, which I blogged about January 17th click here. The letter, as published, is below.

CONSTITUTION ERODED BY ROBERTS, NOW ALITO

The same Supreme Court justices who decided in June 2005 that terminally and seriously ill Americans cannot use cannabis to help them stay alive have now ruled that it's OK for Oregon physicians to prescribe drugs to help terminally ill people die. Ironically, if all the reefer madness lies were true and marijuana could be used to hasten death rather than manage suffering, it would, apparently, have the blessings of the Supreme Court justices.

The ruling by justices that the federal government overstepped its bounds in attempting to overturn Oregon's assisted suicide law is appropriate. But the dissenting rulings show that, rather than consistently upholding the Constitution and traditional American values like compassion, the Supreme Court seems content to take a piecemeal approach that is neither constitutional nor compassionate.

Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the minority in the Oregon case and Bush's other choice, nominee Samuel Alito, would likely have done the same. With Alito apparently on the way to confirmation, Americans should get used to seeing what's left of our Constitution dwindle.

-- Gary Storck, Madison

Posted by Gary at 03:41 PM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2006

Milwaukee Men Accused Of Selling Pot Over Meat Counter

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Amsterdam has its cannabis coffee shops and San Francisco has its medical cannabis dispensaries. Now, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is reporting that Milwaukee had a meat counter that also offered small amounts of marijuana to go along with the city’s traditional bratwurst.

Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Pubdate: Jan. 18, 2006

MEN ACCUSED OF SELLING POT OVER MEAT COUNTER

Two employees of a north side corner store have been arrested after police say they sold marijuana over the counter to an undercover officer.

The Milwaukee Police Department Vice Control Division had information that the men were selling "a lot" of marijuana in small quantities over the counter at Hopkins One Stop, 4703 N. Hopkins St., said Lt. Ray Gibbs.

An undercover officer made a successful buy at the store Monday afternoon and the men were arrested, Gibbs said.

"They actually were just selling marijuana over the meat counter," Gibbs said.

The case has been referred to the Milwaukee County district attorney's office, which could charge the suspects with delivery of marijuana and keeping a drug house, Gibbs said.

[snip]

The truth is, Milwaukee would be a more peaceful place if regulated cannabis outlets, be they meat counters or coffee shops, legally dispensed to adults the herb that made Milwaukee and quite a few other places famous. Regulated sales are certainly an improvement over the current unregulated market, where disputes are settled by violence and pot consumers regularly get ripped off.

The Chicago Sun Times reported on January 3, 2006:

[snip]

The number of homicides in Wisconsin's largest city increased nearly 40 percent during the past year after dropping to a 16-year low in 2004.

Milwaukee police reported 122 homicides in 2005, compared with 88 in 2004.

An increase in the number of homicides in which an argument led to a killing helped fuel the overall rise. That type of homicide jumped from 17 in 2004 to 45 in 2005, police said.

[snip]

Alcohol fuels arguments. Cannabis calms people. It seems that the real crime here is that cannabis prohibition is responsible for some of these murders. The Sun-Times noted police said “people killed each other over dish soap, a dress, a pair of shoes, pork neck bones, whose rap is better and other petty issues”. If these individuals had the legal option of using cannabis as a substitute for alcohol, perhaps some of these arguments may have never happened.

Posted by Gary at 01:08 AM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2006

Supreme Court rules in Gonzalez v. Oregon assisted suicide case

Posted by Gary Storck
Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Supreme Court today ruled it's okay to alleviate your suffering by killing yourself, while ruling last June it was not okay to do so by smoking a joint.

That seems to be the reaction of many on drug policy listserves as people digest the Supreme Court’s ruling in case No. 04–623 Alberto R. Gonzales, Attorney General, Et Al., Petitioners V. Oregon Et Al.

Another explanation was the ruling was similar to the Raich ruling but that while federal law specifically prohibits marijuana use for any reason, there is no current federal law against assisted suicide.

The Raich case was mentioned several times, most notably by Clarence Thomas in his dissent, in which he stated that this ruling was inconsistent with the ruling in the Raich case. Thomas protests the failure to maintain consistency with the Raich decision at length, although conceding it is now “water over the dam”. Given the current drift of the court it seems unlikely Thomas’ colleagues will embrace medical cannabis anytime soon, but one never knows. There are other constitutional issues still being litigated by Angel Raich and likely to bring the issue back to the Supremes, with her next hearing in the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals on March 27 in Pasadena CA.

I’ve posted Judge Thomas’ dissent below.

THOMAS, J., dissenting

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
No. 04–623
ALBERTO R. GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL, ET AL., PETITIONERS v. OREGON ET AL.

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

[January 17, 2006]

JUSTICE THOMAS, dissenting.
When Angel Raich and Diane Monson challenged the application of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), 21 U. S. C. §801 et seq., to their purely intrastate possession of marijuana for medical use as authorized under California law, a majority of this Court (a mere seven months ago) determined that the CSA effectively invalidated California’s law because “the CSA is a comprehensiveregulatory regime specifically designed to regulate which controlled substances can be utilized for medicinal purposes, and in what manner.” Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U. S. ___, ___ (2005) (slip op., at 24) (emphasis added). The majority employed unambiguous language, concluding that the “manner” in which controlled substances can be utilized “for medicinal purposes” is one of the “core activities regulated by the CSA.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 25). And, it described the CSA as “creating a comprehensive framework for regulating the production, distribution, and possession of . . . ‘controlled substances,’ ” including those substances that “‘have a useful and legitimate medical purpose,’ ” in order to “foster the beneficial use of those medications” and “to prevent their misuse.” Id., at ___ (slip op., at 21).
Today the majority beats a hasty retreat from these conclusions. Confronted with a regulation that broadly requires all prescriptions to be issued for a “legitimate medical purpose,” 21 CFR §1306.04(a) (2005), a regulationrecognized in Raich as part of the Federal Government’s“closed . . . system” for regulating the “manner” in “which controlled substances can be utilized for medicinal purposes,” 545 U. S., at ___, ___ (slip op., at 10, 24), the majority rejects the Attorney General’s admittedly “at least reasonable,” ante, at 26, determination that administering controlled substances to facilitate a patient’s death is not a “ ‘legitimate medical purpose.’ ” The majority does sobased on its conclusion that the CSA is only concerned with the regulation of “medical practice insofar as it bars doctors from using their prescription-writing powers as a means to engage in illicit drug dealing and trafficking as conventionally understood.” Ante, at 23. In other words, in stark contrast to Raich’s broad conclusions about the scope of the CSA as it pertains to the medicinal use of controlled substances, today this Court concludes that the CSA is merely concerned with fighting “ ‘drug abuse’ ” and only insofar as that abuse leads to “addiction or abnormal effects on the nervous system.”1 Ante, at 26.
The majority’s newfound understanding of the CSA as astatute of limited reach is all the more puzzling because it rests upon constitutional principles that the majority ofthe Court rejected in Raich. Notwithstanding the States’ “ ‘traditional police powers to define the criminal law and to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens,’ ” 545 U. S., at ___, n. 38 (slip op., at 27, n. 38), the Raich majority concluded that the CSA applied to the intrastate possession of marijuana for medicinal purposes authorized by California law because “Congress could have rationally”concluded that such an application was necessary to the regulation of the “larger interstate marijuana market.” Id., at ___, ___ (slip op., at 28, 30). Here, by contrast, themajority’s restrictive interpretation of the CSA is based in no small part on “the structure and limitations of federalism, which allow the States ‘ “great latitude under their police powers to legislate as to the protection of the lives, limbs, health, comfort, and quiet of all persons.” ’ ” Ante, at 23 (quoting Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr, 518 U. S. 470, 475 (1996), in turn quoting Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Massachusetts, 471 U. S. 724, 756 (1985)). According to themajority, these “background principles of our federal system . . . belie the notion that Congress would use . . . an obscure grant of authority to regulate areas traditionally supervised by the States’ police power.” Ante, at 28.
Of course there is nothing “obscure” about the CSA’s grant of authority to the Attorney General. Ante, p. ___ (SCALIA, J., dissenting). And, the Attorney General’s conclusion that the CSA prohibits the States from authorizing physician assisted suicide is admittedly “at least reasonable,” ante, at 26 (opinion of the Court), and is therefore entitled to deference. Ante, at 6–7 (SCALIA, J., dissenting). While the scope of the CSA and the Attorney General’s power thereunder are sweeping, and perhaps troubling, such expansive federal legislation and broad grants of authority to administrative agencies are merelythe inevitable and inexorable consequence of this Court’s Commerce Clause and separation-of-powers jurisprudence. See, e.g., Raich, supra; Whitman v. American Trucking Assns., Inc., 531 U. S. 457 (2001).
I agree with limiting the applications of the CSA in a manner consistent with the principles of federalism and our constitutional structure. Raich, supra, at ___ (THOMAS, J., dissenting); cf. Whitman, supra, at 486–487 (THOMAS, J., concurring) (noting constitutional concerns with broad delegations of authority to administrative agencies). But that is now water over the dam. The relevance of such considerations was at its zenith in Raich, when we considered whether the CSA could be applied to the intrastate possession of a controlled substance consistent with the limited federal powers enumerated by the Constitution. Such considerations have little, if any, relevance where, as here, we are merely presented with a question of statutory interpretation, and not the extent of constitutionally permissible federal power. This is particularly true where, as here, we are interpreting broad, straightforward language within a statutory framework that a majority of this Court has concluded is so comprehensive that it necessarily nullifies the States’ “ ‘traditional . . . powers . . . to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens.’ ”2 Raich, supra, at ___, n. 38 (slip op., at 27, n. 38). The Court’s reliance upon the constitutional principles that it rejected in Raich—albeit under the guise of statutory interpretation—is perplexing to say the least. Accordingly, I respectfully dissent.

1 The majority does not expressly address whether the ingestion of a quantity of drugs that is sufficient to cause death has an “abnormal effec[t] on the nervous system,” ante, at 25, though it implicitly rejects such a conclusion. 2 Notably, respondents have not seriously pressed a constitutional claim here, conceding at oral argument that their “point is not necessarily that [the CSA] would be unconstitutional.” Tr. of Oral Arg. 44. In any event, to the extent respondents do present a constitutional claim, they do so solely within the framework of Raich. Framed in this manner, the claim must fail. The respondents in Raich were “local growers and users of state-authorized, medical marijuana,” who stood “outside the interstate drug market” and possessed “ ‘medicinal marijuana . . . not intended for . . . the stream of commerce.’ ” 545 U. S., at ___, ___, (slip op., at 5, 16) (THOMAS, J., dissenting). Here, by contrast, the respondent-physicians are active participants in the interstate controlled substances market, and the drugs they prescribe for assisting suicide have likely traveled in interstate commerce. If the respondents in Raich could not sustain a constitutional claim, then a fortiori respondents here cannot sustain one. Respondents’ acceptance of Raich forecloses their constitutional challenge.

Posted by Gary at 07:21 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2006

Report: After 19 years, AB-740 sponsor Underheim will not seek re-election

Posted by Gary Storck
Saturday, January 14, 2006

A bit of shocking news for Wisconsin medical cannabis supporters came today with reports that Rep. Gregg Underheim, the Republican who bucked his party's leadership and sponsored medical marijuana legislation in the Wisconsin Assembly the last two sessions, would not seek reelection this November.

Underheim, once a strong opponent of legalizing medical cannabis in Wisconsin, made a 180-degree turnaround after being treated for prostate cancer several years ago.

In October 2003, shortly after a visit to his office by Jim Miller and myself, he announced plans to sponsor a bill. And while last session's bill was introduced too late to proceed very far, Underheim managed to hold a hearing on AB-740 this session, the first such hearing in over 25 years in Wisconsin. Not only did Rep. Underheim embrace the issue, he even traveled to the Patients Out of Time click here Third National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics in 2004 in Charlottesville VA, to learn more from leading experts in the field like Al Byrne and Mary Lynn Mathre, Raphael Mechoulam, Geoffrey Guy, Dr. Donald Abrams, Dr. David Bearman and many others.

At the Third National Clinical Conference on Cannabis Therapeutics in 2004 in Charlottesville VA with Jim Miller and Gregg Underheim: View image

With a vote on AB-740 still pending in the Assembly Health Committee Underheim chairs, the chances of it getting a floor vote are sinking as the session winds down. For AB-740 to pass this year, it must first pass the Health Committee and the full Assembly, and a Republican state senator would need to introduce a companion bill in the Senate, which would need to pass the full Senate. A Senate committee hearing would also most likely be needed. As all this was looking increasingly unlikely this session, supporters were already looking toward next session.

If the Assembly remains in Republican hands next session, it seems unlikely there will be a Republican sonsor who is also the chair of the Health Committee to shepherd a bill along as Underheim has. But one can never be sure.

With its wide popular support across the political spectrum, it is surprising that more Republican lawmakers do not follow in Underheim's footseteps. Barring the emergence of a new Republican champion, the best hope for supporters might be Democrats reclaiming the Assembly this November. For that to happen, Dems would need to pick up 11 seats just to get to a 50-49 majority in the Assembly. The silver lining, if there is any, is that a Democrat is likely to replace Underheim in a moderate district heavily populated with students.

The Appleton Press Crescent discusses that and other aspects in the article below.

After 19 years, Underheim will not seek re-election

By Jim Collar

Gannett Wisconsin Newspapers

January 14, 2006

OSHKOSH — Oshkosh will see its first new representative to the State Assembly since 1987.

Rep. Gregg Underheim, R-Oshkosh, confirmed Friday that he will not seek re-election to his 54th Assembly District seat this fall.

Underheim most recently won election to the Assembly in 2004. He lost in a bid to become state Superintendent of Public Instruction last spring.

Underheim on Friday said he's thankful he's had the opportunity to serve, but he's ready for new challenges.

"There are times when you decide it's the right thing to do, and you want to do something different," Underheim said.

Others believe there's more at play.

Jim Simmons, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and a close observer of local politics, said Underheim would have faced a difficult election in 2006.

In his last campaign, in 2004, he tallied 46 percent of the vote in a four-way race.

Incumbents who receive any less than 60 percent are more likely to attract interest groups in the race. They've largely left him alone in the past, Simmons said.

Underheim also stood to face primary challenges from Republicans with more conservative stances.

In the end, Simmons said Underheim would have been the strongest candidate in the field due to his past record of service and viewpoints that line up with the Oshkosh mainstream.

"I just have a feeling he didn't think it was worth doing any more," he said.

In addition, there were rumblings from Republican candidates about seeking the seat last month, but they stopped short of an official announcement.

Simmons said a race without Underheim creates a stronger chance that a Democrat could win the Assembly seat, although it may depend on whether third party or independent candidates splinter the liberal-leaning voter pool.

Underheim was first elected in a 1987 special election and has been re-elected since 1988.

He has been chairman of the Assembly Health Committee since 1995.

[snip]

Continues at: click here

More:

WisPolitics.com: Underheim Campaign: Underheim Won't Seek Re-election click here

Posted by Gary at 02:04 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2006

NORML 2006 Conference in San Francisco April 20-22, 2006

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, January 12, 2006

There is nothing quite like a national NORML Confeence and I have been fortunate enough to attend the last five.

Two, 2001 and 2004, were in Washington D.C., with the remaining three in San Francisco, the most cannabis-friendly city in the United States. As a former full-time resident of San Francisco and Berkeley, news that the 2006 conference is once again in San Francisco means I have good reason to visit my home away from home again soon.

Not only does the conference allow one to hear from and meet some of the world's top expert on cannabis, but all the delights of San Francisco are just a short walk, cab, bus or BART ride away. You can easily check out the Haight Ashbury, North Beach, Chinatown, the Golden Gate Bridge, and at night, hear live music at venues like the Fillmore. Your sightseeing might even take you past one of the City's 35 or so medical cannabis dispensaries, serving California patients.

If you have never been to San Francisco before, or a NORML Conference before, why not have your 420 celebration in the City by the Bay this year?

Below is info from NORML about this year's conference:

From NORML.ORG:

NORML 2006 Conference Announcement

Dear NORML Supporters:

Please mark your calendar for April 20-22, 2006!

Why?

These are the dates for NORML's 2006 annual conference in the great city of San Francisco, California at the Holiday Inn Golden Gateway.

This is the only pro-marijuana law reform conference in America so our discounted hotel rooms sell out early. Last year more than 550 like-minded NORML supporters came together for the organization's 34th national conference. This is your opportunity to join the oldest and most important of all drug policy reform conferences.

To secure your place at this year's sure-to-be sellout national NORML conference in San Francisco, the epicenter of cannabis culture in America, please reserve your hotel room as soon as possible at: click here

Conference and NORML social activity registrations will begin soon but discounted hotel room space is limited so please reserve your hotel room now.

Next, please let us know who would you like to hear speak or perform at the 2006 NORML conference? What topics or panel discussions relating to marijuana or marijuana law reform interest you? Your input is important! You can email your input to media@norml.org

2006 is going to be a very exciting year in which we will see some terrific gains for marijuana law reform. To this end, please plan to join us in San Francisco, April 20-22.

With warm regards and, as always, thanks for all your support,

-Allen St. Pierre
Executive Director
Member, Board of Directors
NORML/NORML Foundation
Washington, DC
director@norml.org

NORML and the NORML Foundation: 1600 K Street NW, Suite 501, Washington DC, 20006-2832
Tel: (202) 483-5500 . Fax: (202) 483-0057 . Email: norml@norml.org

Posted by Gary at 03:05 PM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2006

Letter to the Editor: Marijuana Clearly Has Medicinal Value And Those Who Need It Ought To Get It

Posted by Gary Storck
Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Capital Times published a letter in the Monday, January 9 edition from Dr. David Bearman of Goleta, Calif. Dr. Bearman, who I've gotten to know from NORML and Patients Out of Time Conferences, will be helping to host POT's 2006 Conference click here in Santa Barbara California April 6-8, 2006.

I have been fortunate enough to attend 2 of 3 of their conferences including the most recent in Charlottesville VA in May 2004. Also in attendance at that conference were Dr. Bearman and Gregg Underheim.

Dear Editor: As the son of a pharmacist from Rice Lake, a 1963 graduate of the University of Wisconsin who started his medical career in the medical school in Madison, and someone with almost 40 years' experience in the field of drug abuse treatment and prevention and the last five years evaluating patients for medicinal cannabis, I want to compliment Rep. Gregg Underheim and the Wisconsin Assembly Health Committee for their recognition of the contemporary medicinal value of cannabis.
The committee is approaching this seriously and getting valuable input. It recognizes the 5,000 years of experience of medicinal use of cannabis. It is aware that just over the border in Canada, tincture of cannabis (Sativex) is being marketed by Bayer AG and in England the Home Office has given physicians the OK to prescribe tincture of cannabis.

I have taught courses on drugs at California universities and am very familiar with the history of medicinal cannabis use in the United States from 1839 to the present, and aware of the American Medical Association's testimony at the 1937 marijuana tax hearings that "the AMA knows of no danger in the use of cannabis and takes histories from countless patients with severe medical illness who benefited from their medicinal use of cannabis."

Consequently, I am baffled by the opposition of the Wisconsin Medical Society. This does not represent the compassion shown by the doctors in Rice Lake and Rochester who provided my father's care, nor does it reflect the quality of basic science I was taught by the UW School of Medicine in Madison.

I have seen patients who come in in wheelchairs, with canes, stooped in pain, who tell of the relief they receive from cannabis. These are people from all walks of life -- rich and poor, mostly over 40. Several have broken down in tears after receiving their approval making it legal to grow and possess cannabis. They say they are not lawbreakers or criminals and now can use this to medicate without fear of breaking the law.

We have far too many problems in the country to waste government resources arresting the ill and dying for using a medicine that provides relief and is legal in Canada, less than 100 miles from the Wisconsin border.

Dr. David Bearman
Goleta, Calif.

Posted by Gary at 03:39 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2006

Wisconsin paraphernalia decrim bill signed by governor

Posted by Gary Storck
January 6, 2005

On January 4, Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle signed legislation that allows all Wisconsin counties to enact local ordinances for paraphernalia offenses.

The governor's office explained the bill like this way in a January 4 press release, "Governor Doyle Signs 15 Bills into Law":

[snip]

Senate Bill 21 ends the provisions of 2003 Wisconsin Act 193 for all Wisconsin counties regardless of population, bringing all counties in line with Milwaukee County with regard to ordinances relating to drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana.

[snip]

Here is the Analysis of SB 21 by the Legislative Reference Bureau

County ordinances regarding drug paraphernalia

Current law prohibits the possession, manufacture, and delivery of drug paraphernalia. If a person 17 years of age or older violates one of the prohibitions relating to drug paraphernalia, he or she is subject to criminal penalties (a fine or imprisonment or both). If a person under the age of 17 violates the prohibitions relating to drug paraphernalia, he or she is generally subject to suspension or revocation of his or her privilege to operate a motor vehicle for not less than six months nor more than five years and either or both of the following: a forfeiture (civil monetary penalty) of up to $500, with the amount depending on how many drug paraphernalia offenses the person committed in the preceding 12 months, and a requirement that he or she participate in community service work. More severe penalties may be imposed on both adults and juveniles for the possession or use of drug paraphernalia used to produce or store methamphetamine.

Current law also allows a county with a population of 500,000 or more (currently only Milwaukee County) to enact and enforce an ordinance prohibiting the possession, manufacture, or delivery of drug paraphernalia. The ordinance must prohibit the same conduct that is prohibited under the state statutes relating to the possession, manufacture, and delivery of drug paraphernalia generally (as opposed 1 2 3 - 2 - 2005 - 2006 Legislature LRB-0645/2 MGD:lmk&jld:rs SENATE BILL 21 to the state statutes governing the possession or use of methamphetamine-related drug paraphernalia). Under this bill, any county - not just a county with a population of 500,000 or more - may enact and enforce an ordinance prohibiting the possession, manufacture, or delivery of drug paraphernalia.

[snip]

Finally, Ben Masel offered this analysis on the Drug Policy Forum of Wisconsin listserve click here when it was first introduced:

"It's a rather small positive step, with a catch. In enabling local units to enact paraphernlia ordinances to be available as alternatives to criminal prosecutions, there's no upper limit on the size of the fine. Since the local govt keeps the money from fines under ordinances, but not criminal cases, cops are further incentivised toward dubious searches."

Perhaps the most interesting thing about SB 21 are the people who sponsored and cosponsored it; Senator Neil Kedzie and Representatives Nass, Gundrum, Musser, Kestell, Nischke, Townsend, Hines, Staskunas, Davis, Ott, Hundertmark, Hahn and Albers. While a mixture of conservatives and moderates, it includes several not known to favor softening penalties for cannabis users. But if fining people instead of jailing them for minor possession cases is acceptable, because it brings in more revenue to cash-starved counties, why not just tax and regulate marijuana like we do alcohol and tobacco?

Posted by Gary at 08:08 PM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2006

Rhode Island becomes 11th state to legalize medical marijuana

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, January 4, 2005

Rhode Island patients had a lot to celebrate on January 3rd when the state's House of Representatives, the equivalent of Wisconsin's Assembly, voted to overturn a veto by the state's governor.

As the Providence Journal reported today:

PROVIDENCE -- Rhode Island became the 11th state yesterday to allow the use of marijuana to ease the pain of people suffering from serious and chronic illnesses such as AIDS and cancer.

Patients whose doctors or caregivers recommend marijuana will soon be able to possess up to 12 plants, or 2.5 ounces of marijuana. The new law protects them from arrest under state law, but does nothing to stop federal prosecution, leaving some critics to call the measure nothing more than a symbolic act.

Continues... click here

While Rhode Island's new law has the same limit for processed cannabis as Wisconsin's AB-740, unlike the amended version, it allows cultivation of a dozen plants. AB-740 is silent on how medicine would be acquired.

As Wisconsin patients wait for Assembly Health committee members to vote, hopes are that the overwhelming support demonstrated by Rhode Island lawmakers will inspire some compassion by committee members.

Other states are vying with Wisconsin to be 12th, and despite progress here, each day the bill does not proceed means one less day remaining this session. Only time will tell if state lawmakers are ready to put aside politics and pass this critical health care bill.

Posted by Gary at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)