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January 29, 2009

Marijuana activist's case against UW police officers ends in hung jury

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, January 28, 2009

The Capital Times filed this report on the Masel v. Mansavage case.


Marijuana activist's case against UW police officers ends in hung jury

Kevin Murphy
The Capital Times click here
January 28, 2009

An excessive force lawsuit brought against two University of Wisconsin-Madison police officers by marijuana activist Ben Masel, 55, of Madison, ended Tuesday night in a hung jury.

After a two-day trial, the seven-person jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on whether Officers Mike Mansavage and John McCaughtry used more force than necessary when arresting Masel for trespassing at the Memorial Union in June 2006.

Masel had been soliciting signatures to get on the ballot for the U.S. Senate while on a sidewalk near the Memorial Terrace, an area not designated for such activity by UW policy. Masel refused to leave the area when requested by Memorial Union event managers who then called UW police to enforce the policy.

Masel alleged he was pepper sprayed and "brutally handcuffed," when arrested. He sued the officers alleging use of excessive force. He also sued the Memorial Union employees and the UW Board of Regents claiming their policy, which limits political activity of uninvited guests to the sidewalk in front of the union, infringed on his free speech rights and was unconstitutional.

District Judge John Shabaz dismissed Masel's constitutional claim, citing case law that allows public universities to restrict activities of uninvited guests on their property as long as the policy is applied equally to all individuals. Shabaz allowed the excessive force claim to go to trial.

District Judge Rudolph Randa, from the Eastern District of Wisconsin, tried the case replacing Shabaz, who retired to part-time status in December after being on medical leave since February.

Jurors deliberated about four hours Tuesday night before telling Randa they were unable to reach a verdict. Randa dismissed them. The case hasn't be rescheduled for trial.

Masel's attorney, Jeff Scott Olson, said he looks forward to retrying the excessive force claim and is considering an appeal of the dismissal of the free speech claim.

McCaughtry is still employed by UW Police, while Mansavage left last year and is presently employed as a police officer by the town of Madison, according to William Cosh, spokesman for Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

Posted by Gary at 09:24 PM | Comments (0)

Green Bay area cannabis prohibition related robbery and shooting?

Posted by Gary Storck
Thursday, January 29, 2009

It appears the lack of a regulated market caused by the prohibition of cannabis has led to violence in the Green Bay area.

January 28, 2009

Suspect's mother 'stunned' by Allouez shooting

By Andy Nelesen
Gannett Wisconsin Media click here

The mother of an 18-year-old man accused in a weekend drug-related shooting says she can't believe her son is involved in an attempted murder.

"This does not sound like my son," said Vera Foster of Green Bay. "This is not the child I raised. I'm still stunned. I don't know what's going on."

Foster's son, Marcus Johnson, was arrested early Tuesday in connection to the shooting of a 32-year-old Milwaukee man inside an Allouez townhouse. The victim was shot in the right rear hip in what authorities believe was a drug deal gone bad.

(smip)

Continues: click here

Posted by Gary at 04:14 PM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2009

Minnesota Daily Editorial: Pass medical pot bill

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A medical cannabis Midwest inches closer and this editorial can only help spread the word!

Published on mndaily.com - Serving the University of Minnesota Since 1900 (http://www.mndaily.com) click here

Pass medical pot bill

The medical marijuana bill has two Republican co-authors and support for it looks promising.

EDITORIAL BOARD
PUBLISHED: 01/27/2009

State Sen. Steve Murphy, DFL-Red Wing, authored a bill (SF 97) that would legalize the medical use of marijuana and the Health, Housing and Family Security Committee is slated to debate it Feb. 11, said the committee’s administrator, Laura Blubaugh. Only imprudent lawmakers would refuse to support this smart legislation.

If enacted into law, the bill allows patients in incapacitating pain respite from the often dangerously addictive and ineffective market painkillers like OxyContin and Vicodin. For inane cultural and political reasons, it’s much more acceptable to peddle these veritable drugs than the less lethal pot. Indeed, according to the Drug Abuse Warning Network , a health surveillance network which monitors causes of death, in 2004 — the last year in which data were available — at least 58 deaths in St. Paul or Minneapolis were related to opioids while there were no marijuana-related deaths.

The bill presciently contains stringent language regulating the drug. It severely penalizes state-regulated non-profit organizations — which would be charged with administering the pot — if they let the substance get into the wrong hands. Patients who have registered with the state as a medical marijuana user would be able to obtain 2.5 ounces if that person suffers from a “debilitating medical condition” such as cancer, glaucoma and other explicit conditions.

Murphy proposed similar legislation last year and it passed the Senate but Gov. Tim Pawlenty indicated he would veto. Such a move would disappoint thousands of Minnesotans in pain and can only be viewed as greedy and illogical political maneuvering.


Posted by Gary at 11:04 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2009

Ben Masel: "hung jury" in civil pepperspray trial

Posted by Gary Storck
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

7:31 pm:

From Ben's Facebook status: "Hung jury. unanimous on 1 officer, but the verdict's bundled. We don't know if the unanimity was to acquit, or convict."

8:00 pm: Further details from Ben: The hung jury resulted in a mistrial. The case can be re-litigated, or the officers can offer to settle.

From Paul Soglin's Waxing America blog, written by Barry Orton:

Ugly Details Emerge at Masel Civil Rights Trial

click here

(snip)

Previously unreported details that came out at the trial included the fact that officer Michael Mansavage first missed Masel and instead peppersprayed his partner John McCaughtry, who was holding Masel by the arm at the time. Apparently, once McCaughtry and Mansavage had wrestled Masel into a face-down position on the ground, with McCaughtry's knee on Masel's back, Mansavage then peppersprayed Masel in the face. Mansavage also threatened to use a Taser on Masel for not putting his arm behind his back to be handcuffed fast enough, when the arm was, in fact, trapped under Masel's body.

The officers' descriptions of their actions made them look totally unprofessional, and strengthened Masel's claims. The multiple times both officers had to be taken through deposition statements that disagreed with their trial testimony didn't help either.

(snip)


Posted by Gary at 07:11 PM | Comments (0)

Michigan Medical Marijuana Association helps implement the new medical cannabis law

Posted by Gary Storck
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

While Wisconsin patients dream of passing a medical cannabis bill, in Michigan, where a law is already a reality, the implementation continues.

Monday, January 26,2009

Marijuana Journal click here

What the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association does

by Greg Francisco

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Association (M3A) was organized as an umbrella group to serve the entire state of Michigan. We are incorporated as a non-profit and aspire to be Michigan’s leading advocate for medical marijuana patients and the community. We provide education, advocacy and open communication to our members, uniting ourselves into one community and one state. But we are not a substitute for local action.

To serve those local communities M3A Compassion Clubs have began meeting in libraries and back rooms around the state. The first meeting of the Lansing Compassion Club met recently at Hydrobiz along Barnes Avenue with plans to continue meeting bi-weekly. A second group expects to begin meeting soon at Gone Wired Caf. And activists from surrounding counties attended the kick-off to learn how to launch Compassion Clubs in their own communities. It only takes a spark.

M3A Compassion Clubs are patient support groups. A place for medical marijuana patients, their caregivers and those who care about them to safely meet and offer mutual support — no different than any other condition-based patient support group. Compassion Clubs are sources of information, emotional support and referrals. Things people do as a community.

M3A Compassion Clubs are neither medical marijuana hook-up sessions nor are they a place to swap seeds or clones. It wouldn’t be appropriate for patients at an HIV/AIDS support group to break out their medications and start swapping around. It’s not appropriate at our meetings either. Transfers of medical marijuana and genetic material are private matters best done in private. By the same token, what members talk about or do in private away from the meeting is none of our business either.

Any recreational marijuana user attending an M3A Compassion Clubs looking to score will be sorely disappointed. Our meetings are open to the public and are often held in public places. The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act prohibits smoking medical marijuana in public and smoking anything — just like tobacco products — is illegal inside public buildings anywhere in Michigan. These are not smoke sessions; they are a place where people who have lived in the shadows for too long can finally come together and openly support each other.

To find out the time, date and location of M3A Compassion Clubs, visit our website at: www.MichiganMedicalMarijuana.org or contact us at: info@MichiganMedicalMarijuana.org

Posted by Gary at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2009

Ben Masel federal peppperspray civil trial begins Monday in Madison

Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, January 25, 2009

After a series of delays over recusals and other issues, Ben Masel's now federal civil rights trial against UW-Madison police officer Michael Mansavage "MASEL, BEN v. MANSAVAGE, MIKE", is scheduled to commence tomorrow, Monday, Jan. 26, 2009, at 9:00 AM in Courtroom 260 for Jury Selection and Trial. Location is Madison's federal building, "the Blue Box" at 120 N. Henry Street in downtown Madison. Per Ben, testimony from the officers involved is expected not long after 10 am, with all testimony expected to wrap up Tuesday. He is represented by Jeff Scott Olson, his longtime counsel.

Background:

The original WSJ story:
Saturday, July 1, 2006: Police Arrest Masel At UW
The Activist Was Collecting Signatures At The Terrace, Which An Official Says Is Against Policy.
Wisconsin State Journal :: LOCAL :: B1 click here

Madison NORML blog posts:

June 29, 2007:Ben Masel sues over June 2006 Union Terrace pepper spraying and arrest: click here

July 1, 2006: Weedstock organizer peppersprayed, arrested: click here

Posted by Gary at 08:34 PM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2009

NORML.ORG: New Mexico: Guidelines For State Medical Marijuana Program Finalized

Posted by Gary Storck
Saturday, January 24, 2009

New Mexico has completed their medical cannabis program rulemaking, and apparently kept an open mind to the medical potential by creating more flexibility in the law.

New Mexico: Guidelines For State Medical Marijuana Program Finalized

Source: NORML http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=7792

January 22, 2009 - Albuquerque, NM, USA

Albuquerque, NM: The New Mexico Department of Health has finalized rules governing the production, distribution, and use of medicinal cannabis under state law.

The new guidelines specify that state qualified patients may possess up to six ounces of medical cannabis (or more if authorized by their physician) and/or 16 plants (four mature, 12 immature) in accordance with state law.

To qualify under the law, patients must be registered with the state Department of Health and be must diagnosed by a physician to be suffering from one of the following medical conditions: cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, spinal cord damage, or HIV/AIDS. Any patient in hospice care may also qualify to use medicinal marijuana under state law.

Additional qualifying conditions, including nerve pain, Hepatitis C, and post-traumatic stress syndrome, are awaiting final approval by Department of Health.

State regulations also authorize non-profit facilities to apply with the state to produce and dispense medical cannabis. State licensed producers may grow up to 95 mature plants at one time. The guidelines stipulate, "The non-profit will sell medical cannabis at a consistent unit price and without volume discounts."

To date, no organizations have applied with the state government to cultivate marijuana.

New Mexico lawmakers approved the use of marijuana under a physician’s supervision in 2007. More than 200 patients have since registered with the state Health Department to possess cannabis under state law.

Application information for patients and nonprofit providers is available from the New Mexico Department of Health at:
http://www.health.state.nm.us/marijuana.html

DL: http://norml.org/index.cfm?Group_ID=7792

Posted by Gary at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2009

Medical marijuana bill introduced in the Minnesota Senate

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, January 21, 2008

The Midwest march towards medical cannabis continues with the introduction again, of legislation in Minnesota.

Medical marijuana bill introduced in the Senate
Source: click here
By Andy Birkey 1/20/09 9:00 AM

A bill to allow incurably ill patients to legally purchase marijuana is up for consideration in the Minnesota Senate. The Medical Use of Marijuana bill (SF 97) is nearly identical to a bill that passed the Senate last year and almost passed the House. It enjoys partisan support this year, although last year Gov. Tim Pawlenty indicated he would veto such a bill so long as law enforcement opposed it.

The Medical Use of Marijuana bill would make it legal for patients to procure up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana from a state-regulated nonprofit, only with a physician’s approval and only to those patients who have registered with the state as medical marijuana users. The bill lays down harsh penalties for patients and nonprofits that dispense marijuana to individuals that aren’t qualified by state registration.

Two Republicans are co-authors on this year’s bill. Sens. Geoff Michel of Edina and Debbie Johnson of Ham Lake have signed on to support the bill, as have Sens. Steve Murphy of Red Wing, Linda Higgins of Minneapolis and John Marty of Roseville. A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the House this month and will likely have similar bipartisan support.

Fourteen states allow the medical use of marijuana, from libertarian Alaska and Montana to liberal Vermont and California. If Minnesota passes legislation this year, it would become the second state in the Midwest to do so. Michigan passed a medical marijuana law in 2008.

Public polling in Minnesota shows that legalizing medical marijuana is a popular public policy goal. Last year, a KSTP/SurveyUSA poll showed support from 64 percent of Minnesotans, including 58 percent of Republicans. Minnesotans have favored the legalization of marijuana by more than 60 percent in most public opinion polls over the last 10 years.

Posted by Gary at 07:37 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2009

MI Marijuana Journal: The rules: first draft

Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, January 19,2009

Here's a great update on the rule-making for Michigan's new medical cannabis program.

. . . . . .
Source: City Pulse click here
Monday, January 19,2009
Marijuana Journal
The rules: first draft
by Greg Francisco

Marijuana Journal is a column tracking the implementation of the state medical marijuana law. The column will be written by Greg Francisco, the executive director of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, and will run weekly in City Pulse and every Monday before publication online.

I wasn't sure what to expect on Jan. 5 when the state Department of Community Health held a public hearing on a set of proposed administrative rules for the state’s new medical marijuana system. I knew that many of the rules either directly conflicted with the law approved by voters, threatened patient privacy, or gave the Department expanded powers beyond those spelled out in the law. But I was neither sure if any of that was going to matter to the powers that be, nor how many others would attend the hearing to make their own concerns known.

I shouldn't have feared. As the executive director of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, it was my job to rally the troops, and rally they did.

At the meeting, 150 chairs were provided and it was almost standing room only. Patients from as far away as Marquette turned out to voice their concerns with the proposed rules.

In addition to the public hearing, the department was taking written comments through 5 p.m., Jan. 10. Late on the afternoon of Jan. 10, I spoke with a department administrator overseeing the rule-making process. She told me that the department had received scores of written comments. The next step would be go through those comments, organize them and then begin to look at revising the rules. Given the strict time lines involved, the department expects to make those revised rules available to the public on or about Jan. 30.

There is no way to know absolutely what the final rules will look like until we actually see them. But based on my conversations with department officials and the comments made at the public hearing, I believe the medical marijuana community has every reason to be optimistic that the revised rules will be much more workable.

I encourage everyone to visit the Web site of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, www.MichiganMedicalMarijuana.org, to learn more about this new law.

Posted by Gary at 09:42 AM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2009

New Mexico Panel considers cannabis for more uses

Posted by Gary Storck
Sunday, January 18, 2009

Medical cannabis continues to move into the mainstream in New Mexico, where a panel considered and added some new conditions to the state's law and is studying adding others.

Panel considers cannabis for more uses

Last Edited: Thursday, 15 Jan 2009, 12:17 PM MST
Source: KRQE: click here

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Post traumatic stress disorder, nerve pain and Hepatitis C could soon be added to the list of ailments treated by medical marijuana in New Mexico.

On Thursday, petitioners asked a medical group to recommend the use of medical marijuana for several other ailments.

Medical marijuana became legal in New Mexico in July 2007.

There are currently seven qualifying conditions for acceptance to smoke marijuana in the state.

The petitions were heard by an out of state medical group.

So far four of the 17 ailments petitioned Thursday will be placed on a recommendation list that will go to the secretary of health for approval.

Many of the petitioners said that the recommendations are step in the right direction.

"It helps her cope and it gives her relief from pain. And how could we deny that for anyone with something as safe as medical marijuana," medical marijuana supporter Stephen Hunt said.

The panel has tabled some ailments including chronic pain. They said some of the tabled ailments need to be further researched.

The use of medical marijuana to treat depression was denied by the panel.

206 people in New Mexico have been granted medical marijuana licenses since the law took effect in 2007.


Posted by Gary at 05:06 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2009

WI State appeals court upholds search protection

Posted by Gary Storck
Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Far too often, state and federal courts have granted drug war exemptions that have shredded constitutional protections against illegal searches. Here's that rare case that actualy holds the line and protects these rights.

Source: Chicago Tribune click here

Wisconsin judge errs in drug case

Associated Press
9:59 AM CST, January 13, 2009

WAUSAU, Wis. - A state appeals court has overturned a man's drug conviction because police improperly obtained the evidence.

The Third District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday the strong odor of air freshener and cologne in Richard Lord's car during a routine traffic stop in Washburn County was not reason enough to summon a drug-sniffing dog.

The panel overturned Lord's conviction for possession of marijuana, ruling his constitutional right against illegal searches had been violated.

Court records say Lord was 17 when he was stopped in June 2006 by a state trooper because his vehicle's muffler was too loud. Circuit Judge Eugene Harrington ruled that the strong odors from the scents provided the trooper with reasonable suspicion of drug activity. Court records say the police dog found some marijuana and a drug pipe in the car.

Posted by Gary at 04:15 PM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2009

Michigan Medical marijuana clinic founder defends its legality

Posted by Gary Storck
Monday, January 12, 2009

It is said that cannabis causes paranoia in some, and that is apparently what is happening in the state of Michigan in regard to the state's new medical cannabis program and a clinic that has opened to screen patients.

The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation's clinic is providing a valuable service for patients who can benefit from medical cannabis. Doctors are a notoriously conservative lot, and it is a common experience in states with recently enacted medical cannabis laws that many physicians are initially reticent to recommend cannabis. Clinics like THCF provide a means for suffering patients to gain legal access when their own physicians are not comfortable doing so. Frequently, after their regular physicians observe the benefits of cannabis, they then become open to writing recommendations themselves.

Medical marijuana clinic founder defends its legality

Source: CandGNews.com click here
By Jennie Miller
C & G Staff Writer

SOUTHFIELD — The state’s first medical marijuana clinic is defending its legality as residents, government officials and law enforcement agencies learn more about the controversial proposal voters approved in November.

“I am in the exploratory stages, trying to figure out what is what,” said Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence, who had a meeting scheduled for Jan. 12 with the president, founder and CEO of The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, Paul Stanford. The clinic recently opened up shop in the Southfield Town Center.

“This is so new — the legislation passed and they just sprung right up. (I am learning) what are the rules, what are the guidelines — things that I don’t know, and that’s one of the reasons I called the meeting with him,” the mayor said.

Representatives from the Michigan Department of Community Health are also scurrying to learn exactly what the THC Foundation is doing, and whether or not it falls within the limits of the new law.

“We worked so hard to establish the program, and we don’t want any misinformation out there,” said James McCurtis, spokesperson for the department. “We understand that this is going to take a little bit of time. This law is so brand-new, and there has to be an educational window period. It is going to take some time for people to understand.”

Stanford, however, maintains that everything his foundation is doing is lawful. The Southfield clinic joins 17 others in the country run by Stanford: four in Oregon, four in Washington state, three in Colorado, three in Hawaii, one in Nevada, one in California and one in Montana. Thirteen states in the U.S. have legalized marijuana for medical purposes.

“We have carefully investigated — along with our attorneys — the law, and we are operating completely within the law,” Stanford said.

While the law permitting the use of marijuana for medical purposes is now in effect, the Michigan Department of Community Health has not issued any identification cards signifying an individual is approved for the program. The department is due to begin doing so by April 4.

In order for a person to be approved, the MDCH will review a patient’s application, which must include a physician’s statement and an authorization letter indicating that, due to the individual’s debilitating condition, that person is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the use of medical marijuana.

At the THC Foundation, doctors are on staff to review a patient’s medical history and ascertain whether or not this statement can be made. No marijuana is provided by the organization.

“What they’re doing is absolutely legitimate — I think they are perfectly legal,” said attorney Greg Schmid, of Saginaw, who has been advising the organization. “They’re merely providing honest information based on their professional opinion … of whether the patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit for their serious condition.”

If it’s determined the patient would receive such a benefit, the doctors would then submit a statement and authorization letter to the MDCH, which would then review the patient’s application and determine whether the patient qualifies for the program. The MDCH will not provide a qualified patient with marijuana or information about how to acquire marijuana.

Since identification cards are not being issued just yet, the THC Foundation is operating to assist those under Section 8 of the law, which allows for an “affirmative defense,” Schmid said.

“It’s an entirely separate arm of the medical marijuana act,” Schmid said. “The law states the medical use of marijuana is legitimate and legal under Michigan law — all the registry ID does (is) provide advanced immunity. But a person who is arrested and prosecuted for any crime involving marijuana can assert an affirmative defense. To assert that defense, all a person has to do is establish three things: one, that a doctor has made a statement to them that in the doctor’s professional opinion, after a full review of their medical history and their current medical condition, the doctor feels they would benefit from the medical use of marijuana for the treatment of their serious medical condition symptoms. The second thing is to prove that the amount in their possession was not an unreasonable amount … necessary to ensure an uninterrupted supply of medicine. The third thing is that their actual use or possession of marijuana was for medical purposes. It’s a very robust defense, and it’s feasible to prove. And all you need is that statement. (The THC Foundation’s doctors) are merely making that statement.”

The MDCH held a public hearing in Lansing on Jan. 5 regarding the rules and regulations of the medical marijuana program. More than 200 people attended, many of whom voiced concerns and made recommendations.

“We are reviewing that as we speak,” McCurtis said, adding that the department plans to contact Stanford this week to learn more about his operations. “Our staff has been incredibly busy. We have not been able to call them. (But) we’re going to find out exactly what they’re doing.”

For more information about the THC Foundation, visit www.thc-foundation.com/michigan or call (248) 351-1746. For more information about the medical marijuana program, visit www.michigan.gov/mmp or call (517) 373-6873.

You can reach Staff Writer Jennie Miller at jmiller@candgnews.com or at (586) 279-1108.

Posted by Gary at 06:34 PM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2009

NM finalizes rules for medical marijuana

Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, January 9, 2009

The state of New Mexico is finalizing rules for the medical cannabis program that came to be because Gov. Bill Richardson got state lawmakers to finish the job. Like New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine, Richardson has followed his duty to help state patients struggling with serious illness.

Souce: NEWSWEST9: click here

NM finalizes rules for medical marijuana

Associated Press - January 9, 2009 4:15 PM ET

SANTA FE (AP) - The state Department of Health is accepting applications from nonprofit businesses that want to produce and distribute medical marijuana to patients in New Mexico.

Qualified patients also can apply to produce medical marijuana for themselves.

The department announced Friday it has finalized its regulations for identification cards and for a production and distribution system.

Health Secretary Dr. Alfredo Vigil says patients now can get medical marijuana for chronic conditions in a way that's safe and legal under state law.

A 2007 law allows certified people to use marijuana for pain or other symptoms of debilitating illnesses such as cancer, glaucoma, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, HIV-AIDS and certain spinal cord injuries.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press.

Posted by Gary at 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

January 08, 2009

Michigan Messenger: Medical marijuana rules go too far, critics say

Posted by Gary storck
Thursday, January 8, 2008

Just when you think you have won, the battle goes on. That seems to be the situation in Michigan as patients express their opposition to the proposed rules for the new program.

Medical marijuana rules go too far, critics say

By Todd A. Heywood 1/7/09 6:01 PM

Source: Michigan Messenger: click here

MDCH Departmental Analyst Desmond Mitchell and MDCH employee Laurie VanBeelen, listening to public testimony about medical marijuana rules (photo: Todd A. Heywood)

MDCH Departmental Analyst Desmond Mitchell and MDCH employee Laurie VanBeelen, listening to public testimony about medical marijuana rules (photo: Todd A. Heywood)

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) is one step closer to finalizing rules for a state medical marijuana registry.

Officials held a hearing Monday on proposed rules for administering the new list. But critics say the rules violate the spirit and letter of the voter-approved medical marijuana law and raise civil rights concerns.

“The [voter-approved] act gives the [Community Health] department a very limited role to perform very limited functions: simply to take applications, process them and issue or deny the cards,” said Greg Francisco, executive director of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association.

“Instead [the proposed] rules seem to have taken on this role of investigatory or law-enforcement duty for the department, which is inappropriate and not consistent with the law itself.”

The registry is part of a law passed by voters in November making the use of marijuana legal in Michigan for certain medical conditions, like HIV infection, AIDS, glaucoma and others. The law mandates that MDCH create identification cards for qualified users and growers, to be implemented by April 4.

Among the rules contested at the Monday meeting were a mandate that medical marijuana be kept locked up and accessible only to qualified patients. Advocates say this rule would interfere with the seriously disabled and the dying, and keep them from having access to the marijuana, because their caregivers would not legally be allowed to access the drug. The law passed in November only mandates that plants being grown be kept under lock and key, advocates point out.

Also disputed was a rule that would make it improper to smoke marijuana in “any place visible to the public.” Critics say this wording could be taken to mean that a person who fires up a joint in front of a living room window, for example, would be liable for charges and have his or her ID card revoked.

In addition, patients and advocates expressed concern about patients’ privacy. Rules mandate that patients identify the other patients of a caregiver licensed under the act, thus forcing caregivers to violate the confidentiality of their clients. Under the current proposal, advocates believe patients would be required to ask for patient lists from their caregivers. It would also mandate the identification of doctors who are prescribing the marijuana.

The rules also include a verification process that would allow the Medical Marijuana Program to contact the Social Security Administration to verify if a low-income patient was on Medicaid or receiving Social Security benefits.

The Michigan State Police (MSP) appeared at the hearing Monday to register its own concerns about another rule that would require unused marijuana left over after a patient was cured or passed away to be turned over to law enforcement.

“Our department doesn’t want anything to do with taking medical marijuana from anyone,” MSP Inspector Greg Zarotney told the hearing. “It is burdensome on law enforcement.”

Zarotney also asked that information from the registry be accessible through the Law Enforcement Information Network, which would allow officers to identify the name, address and date of birth of those who were legally in possession of a valid ID card. Advocates said that goes too far, arguing that the law only allows law enforcement to verify the validity of the card, which has a unique number assigned to it.

Advocates expressed frustration with the proposed rules Monday.

Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the nonprofit Marijuana Policy Project, submitted a lengthy written testimony with 22 proposed changes to the rules. O’Keefe was also the principal drafter of the law, which appeared on the November ballot as Proposition 1. In her written testimony, she said:

“Voters enacted Proposal 1 as written. They were satisfied with its safeguards, which were carefully considered and are working well in other states, like Rhode Island. The department’s role now is to implement the law, not to rewrite it.”

Francisco said the MDCH proposals suggest an apprehension and uncertainty on the state’s part as to how to implement the new law.

“I believe it is fear. The department is afraid of the unknown,” said Francisco. “I don’t believe they are acting out of malice. I don’t believe they are trying to stifle the program, but I believe that they just don’t know and they are trying to cover the worst-case scenario.”

James McCurtis, spokesperson for the MDCH, said the department would carefully consider all the testimony and plans to issue final rules by April 4.


Posted by Gary at 03:54 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2009

Letter to the Editor: Wisconsin State Journal: Time to legalize medical marijuana

Posted by Gary Storck
January 5, 2009

Just back from a visit to the WI State Capitol where the Assembly's new Democratic majority was being sworn in. Now, for the first time in nearly 25 years, the Governor's office, State Assembly and State Senate are all under Democratic control. This means that medical cannabis legislation now has the best chance of moving in the legislature it has possibly ever, if given strong support from state residents.

Today, the State Journal published a letter I sent along those lines:

First, here is the letter as published, below it is the original letter as I submitted it:

What was published:
Source: Wisconsin State Journal: click here
Monday, January 5, 2009

Time to legalize medical marijuana

With overwhelming support, Wisconsinites would be thrilled to read this headline: "Governor signs medical marijuana bill, Wisconsin becomes 15th state to protect patients using medicinal cannabis."

Michigan became the 13th such state when voters passed Proposition 1 on Nov. 4. On Dec. 15, the New Jersey State Senate Health Committee passed medical marijuana legislation by a 6-1 margin, sending it to the full Senate for a vote. New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine urged quick passage.

With the change of leadership in the state Assembly, Wisconsin has the potential to be next. Gov. Jim Doyle, who has stated he would sign a bill if it reached his desk, should follow the lead of fellow governors who urged legislators to act.

The Michigan state agency tasked with regulating their medical marijuana program expects to begin certifying patients and caregivers in April, meaning a Michigan resident with a qualifying medical condition will be eligible to legally use medical cannabis with a doctor's approval. A Wisconsinite with the same condition would still be eligible only for arrest and jail.

One in four Americans now live in a state where medical marijuana is legal. For the sake of state patients and families struggling with serious illness, Wisconsin needs to join the club in 2009.

-- Gary Storck, Madison, Is My Medicine Legal YET?

My original, unedited submission with additional content:

Dear Editor,

With overwhelming support statewide, Wisconsinites would be thrilled to read this headline, “Governor signs medical marijuana bill, Wisconsin becomes 15th US state to protect patients using medicinal cannabis”, “Headlines we would like to see in 2009” (Dec. 31).

While Michigan became the 13th such state when voters passed Prop 1 on Nov. 4, the next state likely to pass a medical marijuana law right now is New Jersey. On Dec. 15, the New Jersey State Senate Health Committee passed medical marijuana legislation by a 6-1 margin, sending it to the full Senate for a vote. The following day, New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine urged quick passage, telling reporters "I don't think that we ought to be having fights on issues that don't go to the heart of the needs of a broad majority of folks, I think that this is one that if it can be moved expeditiously because there's a consensus, I think that's great. I have studied the issue and I think that if properly structured, it's an initiative that's sensible."

With the change of leadership in the State Assembly, Wisconsin has the potential to be the 15th state. Gov. Jim Doyle, who has stated he would sign a bill if it reached his desk, should follow the lead of fellow governors who urged legislators to act as Gov. Corzine did in New Jersey or Bill Richardson did in New Mexico in 2007. New Mexico would not have become the 12th state without the personal efforts of then Gov. now Commerce-Secretary-designate Richardson who worked with legislative leaders to assure passage.

The Michigan state agency tasked with regulating their new medical marijuana program expects to begin certifying patients and caregivers in April. This will mean that a Michigan resident with a qualifying medical condition will be eligible to legally use medical cannabis with a doctor’s approval, while an identical Wisconsinite would still only be eligible for arrest and jail.

One in Four Americans now live in a state where medical marijuana is legal. For the sake of state patients and families struggling with serious illness, Wisconsin needs to join the club in 2009.

-- Gary Storck, Madison, Is My Medicine Legal YET?

Posted by Gary at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2009

Detroit Metro Times lampoons opponents of MI medical cannabis initiative

Posted by Gary Storck
Saturday, January 3, 2009

Here is a piece by Detroit's Metro Times chronicling some of the pathetic lies opponents used in Michigan. Voters, of course, were not fooled and passed Prop 1 easily, by a 10% higher margin than Barack Obama received in winning Michigan.

Source Detroit Metro Times click here
Dec. 31, 2008

2008's Most Dubious

(snip)

Call them the straight dope twisters

A close runner-up to MiCAUSE in the race to the bottom of the campaign trough was the coalition that came together in opposition to the proposed constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana in Michigan. As activist Bruce Mirken noted in a blog, one TV spot sponsored by the so-called Citizens Protecting Michigan's Kids was "so egregiously dishonest that even my very jaded jaw dropped when I saw it. It may set an all-time record for the most lies ever packed into a 30-second commercial." Joining in the condemnation of deceitful tactics employed by opponents of the proposal was former state Rep. Dianne Byrum, who headed up the Michigan Coalition for Compassionate Care. Particularly galling was a stunt pulled by John Walters, the Michigan native appointed our nation's drug czar by that well-known expert on illicit drugs, President George Bush. At taxpayer expense, Walters journeyed to his home state towing a marijuana vending machine seized in California. The only problem with Walters' prop was that the proposed Michigan law, as one columnist pointed out, "does not permit dispensaries, much less vending machines." Byrum called the whole effort a "desperate campaign of lies and outrageous distortions." Fortunately voters saw through the toxic smokescreen and approved the use of weed for medical purposes.

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

January 02, 2009

$48,000 drug dog stars in Menasha small-time pot arrests

Posted by Gary Storck
Friday, January 2, 2009

My first post of 2009 finds that, according to the Appleton Post Crescent, the Fox Valley city of Menasha Wisconsin is apparently using its new K-9 dog, Gommez, financed by $48,000 in community donations, primarily to find small quantities of pot or paraphernalia. While, the majority of Wisconsin municipalities and counties now handle small-time cannabis possession as a civil citation, Menasha is one of a dwindling number of state locales where small amounts of pot or paraphernalia still merit state criminal charges.

In Dane County, for example, any case involving paraphernalia or less than 25 grams of cannabis receives a citation. In Menasha, small-time pot possession means big trouble for offenders and big costs to taxpayers, without making the city safer. Menasha residents should be asking their civic leaders if they really think that in a time of financial crisis, with budgets strained, tax bases shrinking and growing unemployment, that major resources should be used to detect and target citizens using small quantities of cannabis.

Source: Appleton Post Crescent click here
January 2, 2009

MENASHA POLICE K-9 NETS QUICK DRUG ARRESTS

Donations start to pay off in unit's first days

By Michael King Post-Crescent staff writer

MENASHA — Paul Scheppf had an interesting job in the U.S. Air Force: refueling fighter jets or bombers flying 400 mph at 35,000 feet in the air.

But he thinks his latest job is pretty cool, too, and not just because he lives and works in sometimes-frigid Wisconsin.

The Menasha police officer now has a new partner joining him on his night shift patrol, thanks to the generosity of the community. Scheppf is the department's first K-9 handler in more than a decade and is now accompanied by a specially trained 2-year-old German shepherd named Gommez.

In the unit's first three nights on the job in mid-December, Gommez was responsible for four drug arrests.

It's the kind of impact that officials and residents had hoped to see.

His first assist came on his second night when he alerted the officer about a vehicle and a subsequent search found a marijuana pipe inside.

On his third night on duty, a Monday night, Gommez had a large role in three arrests.

The first occurred when another officer made a traffic stop and Scheppf drove to the scene for backup and a walk-around.

"He alerted on the ash tray and (officers) found some partially smoked marijuana joints in the ash tray. And he alerted on the back seat and found a partially smoked joint under the seat. The driver was arrested for possession of marijuana," Scheppf said.

Later that night, Appleton police asked for assistance in looking for a suspect at a Third Street apartment complex. The suspect was not located but the tenant granted permission for a search of his apartment and Gommez "found a relatively significant amount of marijuana in a dresser drawer in a bedroom and he found another bag of marijuana in the closet."

The 40-year-old man was arrested for felony possession of marijuana.

The third incident occurred when a lieutenant observed an 18-year-old Menasha man he knew was wanted on warrants and attempted a traffic stop. The man quickly pulled into a driveway and took off on foot.

"We didn't really do a track because of the (frigid) temperature and weather conditions," Scheppf said. "We knew who the driver was so it wasn't an issue of trying to identify (him)."

Gommez, however, did a search and "found in the vehicle partially smoked marijuana joints." The suspect, who is still at large on felony drug and weapons charges, will be referred on additional drug and bail-jumping charges.

Scheppf praised the narcotics detection training that took place since October at FoxTal training center in Black Creek. "He's trained marijuana, meth(amphetamine), cocaine, crack, Ecstasy and heroin," Scheppf said.

"In my opinion, you're going to see an instant change," Scheppf said. "In time it will certainly decrease the amount of drugs in Menasha."

Gommez also participated in tracking training, which will be completed with a two-week session in spring. Scheppf sees big benefits as well in tracking suspects who flee from burglaries or thefts in progress and elude officers by hiding.

Schools will benefit from Gommez, who will start making school visits next semester. Scheppf said schools are drug-free zones and, "I think the kids seeing the dog in school will keep it free from drugs."

Undoubtedly, Scheppf said the word will spread in the community about the successful drug searches.

"There's no doubt in my mind that they're telling their buddies that the dog walked around my vehicle and found dope," he said. "It's certainly going to be a deterrent."

A collaboration of residents and businesses raised $47,592 to fund the purchase, equipping and training of the unit.

"Just to know that the community stepped up and donated all that money to make a difference it's really gratifying," said Scheppf, who drives a new Ford Expedition, specially designed to accommodate his sidekick. Part of the backseat was removed and replaced with a kennel.

(snip)

Continues: click here


Posted by Gary at 09:33 AM | Comments (1)