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June 28, 2007

DA settles Lankford case with County pot ticket

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, June 28, 2007

The felony case against Chris Lankford died with a whimper yesterday as the Dane County District Attorney’s office finally dropped its reefer madness posturing and settled it as a Dane County ordinance violation and a $249 fine.

The settlement ends a long roller coaster ride of a case that began on Sunday, October 8, 2006, as hundreds of attendees of the 36th annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival prepared to march up State St. to the Capitol for the fest’s annual parade ("Dane County -- Felony for one joint?," click here). As Chris allegedly handed a friend a white cylindrical object, they were pounced upon by UW police officer Michael Mansavage, and arrested. While in police custody, Lankford requested writing materials to write a note for his eventual attorney. Officer Mansavage then illegally made copies of the notes and put them in Lankford’s file. Lankford had to spend the night in jail for 5 and a half alleged joints, but the nightmare was only beginning.

Lankford’s attorney, Peter Steinberg, refused to settle the case when the DA offered a misdemeanor plea, because a number of issues had not been considered, like the note and bad search. The Dane County DA then charged Lankford with felony distribution (of one joint) while practically simultaneously announcing that (all other) marijuana cases under 25 grams would now be charged as a civil offense, and that Dane County “did not have a marijuana problem” ("Capital Times: Judge opens door to felony in pot case" click here), and ("WMTV Channel 15: Dane Co. District Attorney Won't Prosecute Some Marijuana Cases," click here, ("Watchdog Column: A dangerous criminal, take two," click here).

In late April, on the eve of a preliminary hearing that would have put both the facts of the case and Officer Mansavage on the stand, an offer was suddenly made to settle with an ordinance violation for successful completion of a drug/alcohol assessment. With that completed, the case was deemed settled and Chris Lankford’s bizarre prosecution came to a close, ("Letter: DA Wastes Resources On Vindictive Pot Case," click here), ("Lankford Hearing canceled!," click here).

That this situation even happened in Dane County in 2007 still leaves me shaking my head in amazement. While the DA’s office was crying broke, they wasted thousands of tax dollars and staff time trying to tar an ordinary citizen out exercising his free speech rights with a felony for allegedly passing a joint. And most of our elected officials did not even publicly weigh in about the waste ("State Journal: Board members rip marijuana prosecution," click here). When I brought the case to the attention of Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, who had said he supported legalizing pot when he ran for his first term ("Mayoral Hopefuls Defend Civil Liberties," click here), he simply rehashed the official facts of the case back to me via email. Part of the reason marijuana prohibition seems so intractable is because people we elect to represent our views instead decide its easier to just stipulate to marijuana prohibition and all its attendant evils, rather than being true leaders by taking a stand based on common sense, principle and conscience.

Harvest Fest number 37 is Saturday and Sunday, October 6 & 7, 2007, with the parade to Capitol scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Be there and be safe!

Posted by Gary at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2007

MANITOWOC: Tickets for marijuana possession OK'd

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, June 20, 2007

In February, we passed along a report that the Manitowoc, Wisconsin city council was considering making first-time cannabis possession cases under 8 grams a city ordinance violation click here. On June 19, Manitowoc's Herald Times Reporter reported the city has now passed the ordinance.

But while the new ordinance means that first-time offenders will not face misdemeanor criminal charges, they will still have a record of a ticket for cannabis, per the article, because a city ordinance offense cannot be expunged. Yes, "this is not a decriminalization of marijuana," as Manitowoc alder Paul Tittl is quoted as saying in the article. Nope, just a way to skim a little cash off of an activity that poses no threat to the peace or public welfare while maintaining the facade of keepng society safe from cannabis and those citizens who choose to use it.

Source: Herald Times Reporter click here
Pubdate: June 19, 2007
Author: Helen Clarke


Common Council passes ordinance

MANITOWOC - Possession of marijuana is now an ordinance violation, and first-timers who get caught with the drug face a city citation rather than a misdemeanor charge.

The Common Council decided Monday to make the change from the current system, which charges all offenders in circuit court, leaving them with the possibility of $1,000 in fines, six months in jail and a six-month driver's license suspension.

"This is not a decriminalization of marijuana," Alderman Paul Tittl said. "Some people are misunderstanding this."

Under the new rules, anyone caught with more than 8 grams of marijuana will automatically be charged with the misdemeanor, and second and subsequent offenses will be handled in circuit court, District Attorney Mark Rohrer said in February. First offenders with less than 8 grams will get the city ticket.

Making the change to an ordinance prevents a county circuit court judge from expunging the offender's record after the sentence is served. A city citation can't be expunged, so the conviction will appear if there are any future offenses - possibly increasing penalties.


Posted by Gary at 06:12 PM | Comments (0)

June 15, 2007

Letter in Waukesha Freeman: Gore changed stance in attempt to secure votes

Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, June 15, 2007

I was a big supporter of Clinton-Gore in 1992. I was living in Berkeley CA back then, and like many Americans, expected the two baby boomers would act to relax this nation’s draconian, science fiction-like cannabis laws. As a glaucoma patient, I hoped that medical cannabis would be allowed. Unbeknownst to me, my future colleagues Jacki Rickert and Jim & Cheryl Miller had the same hopes. Jacki had even gone so far as to meet Clinton and Gore at a campaign appearance in Osseo, WI, at which Clinton promised Jacki she would get the medical cannabis supplies the federal government had approved for her in the Compassionate IND program click here.

Once the duo took office, any talk of easing pot laws was quickly snuffed out. Clinton, by my standards a moderate Republican who was about as far right as this country ever should go, quickly ratcheted up marijuana possession arrests to a higher level than his predecessors. When California and Arizona passed medical cannabis initiatives in 1996, Clinton trotted out all the ex-presidents, even Jimmy Carter who had supported decriminalization as president, to denounce and belittle the will of the people of those states.

The Clinton-Gore Administration threatened doctors who even discussed medical cannabis with patients until the US Supreme Court shot down that crazy idea in Conant v. McCaffrey, later Conant v. Walters click here.

Thus it was a surprise when Gore first appeared to support medical cannabis in the early stages of the 2000 campaign, but it did not last. Jacki and I traveled to New Jersey in October 2000 for a protest at Al Gore’s New Brunswick office over his stance on medical cannabis organized by Jim and Cheryl click here. Among those attending was the late great Eddie Smith, an AIDS and cancer patient who lit up his medicine in Gore’s Austin TX office a little earlier that year.

In the last few years, Gore has glommed onto the issue of global warming like he did with claiming to invent the internet, etc. years back, to raise his public profile and make him appear to be a person worthy of admiration.

But to me, he’s just a hypocrite and a liar, and I’m glad the Waukesha Freeman published my expose of Gore’s hypocrisy on medical cannabis:

Source: Waukesha Freeman
Pubdate: June 14, 2007
Author: Gary Storck


I'm not surprised to see a letter criticizing Al Gore for excessive electricity use in light of his stance toward global warming, "Gore should answer for excessive energy use" (May 28). While there is no disputing the reality of global warming, Gore's record on another "inconvenient truth," the likewise indisputable science of medical marijuana, like his overuse of energy, also raises questions about his overall credibility and trustworthiness.

While campaigning for president in 1999, Gore, an admitted pot smoker before entering politics, briefly appeared to support medical marijuana, citing his late sister's participation in a Tennessee state program in 1984 that provided marijuana to cancer patients.

But in May 2000, Gore strongly backed away from his earlier support, saying, "Right now, the science does not show me, or the experts whose judgment I trust, that it is the proper medication for pain and that there are not better alternatives available in every situation."

Back in 2000, Gore refused to acknowledge the inconvenient truth that marijuana was medicine because of politics, just as many politicians today deny global warming. Gore refused to stick up for patients like his sister because he thought it would cost him votes, when the opposite was true.

It begs the question what Gore's position on global warming would be today, were he now inhabiting the White House, rather than on the outside looking in.

Gary Storck, Madison

Posted by Gary at 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2007

Tommy Thompson: medical cannabis patients in state programs "should not be arrested"

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, June 14, 2007

A few weeks back, I posted an item from the Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana weekly newsletter about former Wisconsin Gov./US HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson promising to end raids on medical cannabis patients in state programs click here. I mused whether he had understood the question. According to this week’s newsletter, he did understand it and reiterated that three times when asked again:

Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2007 14:33:41 -0700
Subject: Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana Weekly Newsletter

1. Gov. Tommy Thompson promises to end the raids

Several weeks ago, we told you about our encounter with former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) at Brown's Lobster Pound, where he promised to end the raids on medical marijuana patients.

Just to confirm his stance, Don Murphy, executive director of Republicans for Compassionate Access and a former Maryland statehouse delegate, asked him again if he would end the federal raids on state medical marijuana programs. Thompson responded by jabbing Murphy in the chest with his two fingers and loudly saying, "NO THEY SHOULD NOT BE ARRESTED. They should not be arrested. They should not be arrested. I would do away with the DEA raids!" This is not a typo; he said it three times.

Gov. Thompson also served as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from 2001-2005.

So there you have it. When Tommy starts a pokin’ people in the chest for emphasis, he means it! The best Republican on the issue still remains Rep. Ron Paul, a reliable supporter of the freedom to use medical cannabis for many years.

Posted by Gary at 11:23 PM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2007

Letter in USA Today: Medical marijuana is a key alternative

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, June 13, 2007

My friend Jim Miller gets an assist for a letter I had published in today's USA Today, with a print edition circulation of 2.5 million or so.

Jim, currently a libertarian candidate for New Jersey State Senate, read the original article and found the "least painful poison" comments very relevant to medical cannabis.

I wrote up the letter and emailed it last week, and was pleasantly surprised to find out Monday it was being considered for publication. I hope Rudy picks up a copy wherever he might be on the campaign trail...Maybe he might learn from New York Gov. Spitzer and "evolve" his position, as Spitzer has since his election last year to now being willing to sign a bill should it reach his desk.

Medical marijuana is a key alternative

Gary Storck, co-founder - Is My Medicine Legal YET?, Madison, Wis.

Mayo Clinic endocrinologist Victor Montori's comments that his patients must choose medications on the basis of "the least painful poison," rather than by the benefit, exposes a plight affecting all patients ("Diabetics face risk on drug choices," News, June 5).

Many patients often begin exploring the medical uses of cannabis to treat the side effects of conventional medications. That's why it's so maddening to hear politicians say things such as, "There are other options," as Rudy Giuliani said recently when asked about medical cannabis for cancer patients.

Dr. Steve Nissen's comments at the Avandia hearing ("This is about patients; it's not about politics.") appropriately sum up what medical cannabis opponents refuse to concede: It's about money. The "poison" is not only painful but profitable, and a portion goes toward funding the sort of candidates, generally Republicans, who spout, "There are other options," while generations of patients are denied a safer, often more effective drug alternative.