Montanans Plead the 10th

Last August, a group of medical practitioners and pharmaceutical manufacturers filed suit against the federal government in U.S. District Court. They claimed the feds violated their rights by sending armed agents into their businesses and, according to a report in the Santa Fe New Mexican “‘seized and destroyed thousands of live plants,’ and ‘took away hundreds of pounds of dried marijuana’ during a March 2011 raid on licensed producers, and stripped certain providers of lights and other equipment used to grow and distribute the herb, which caused [...] significant financial damage.”

But the district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims, saying the issue had “already been decided.”

However, as Daniel Abrahamson notes, medical marijuana hasn’t really been decided by the courts, as most of the relevant cases haven’t actually been argued in court. In nearly all cases, the parties have settled or withdrawn their appeals. So it would appear to be an open question, ripe for such a challenge.

The group hopes they’ll have their chance to advance their case later this year in the 9th Circuit Court. One of the chief complaints raised by attorney Paul Livingston, who represents this Montana group, is that “It is truly astonishing that so much weight is given, so many actions taken, and so much reliance placed on a demonstrably false notion; that marijuana has no known medical uses.”

But the main thrust of their case doesn’t rest solely on the medical science regarding cannabis, the 10th Amendment will also be key to their argument. Livingston will attempt to show that both the power to police and provide safety to the public lie not with the Feds, but with the several states. Such a two-pronged approach ought to be the most effective, insomuch as petitioning the government courts to limit their own powers is concerned.

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Even When You Win You Lose

The degree to which someone will tolerate federal tyranny depends on if it is directed at them or someone else.

Both the left and the right use the power of government to push through their political agendas but nowhere is that more evident than at the federal level. With each new election no matter which side wins, the balance of power always tilts in the direction of more restrictions on individuals and diminution of the states.

In recent years, both parties have effectively used the federal government to cajole, bribe or force the states into submission with unconstitutional laws. But one issue has eluded the left, the elimination of the laws concerning marijuana and medical marijuana in particular. With repeated assurances from candidate Obama, that he would respect state laws legalizing medical marijuana the left felt that the War on Marijuana was over. Then with the election of President Obama and Democrat majorities in both houses of the Legislature, they knew that they had won.

Or had they?

The best-case scenario was the elimination of all federal marijuana laws or at the least non-enforcement. But what has transpired in the last year is the just the opposite, enforcement on all fronts. The more states implement new more lenient possession laws and legalize use for medical conditions the harder President Obama’s DOJ comes down on providers.

The left could not depend on conservatives or those that professed belief in limited government and expanded individual freedom. They knew that those professed beliefs were only for public consumption especially when Election Day was fast approaching; otherwise, it was Big Government Nanny State as usual. But how could the President not only abandon them but also become their biggest foe?

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NH Medical Marijuana Bill Faces Veto

The New Hampshire Senate passed legislation 13-to-11 Wednesday, March 28, 2012 to allow a patient with a “debilitating medical condition” or that patient’s designated caretaker to cultivate and possess up to six ounces of marijuana, four mature plants and 12 seedlings at a registered “cultivation location.” It would allow the patient or caregiver to possess two ounces elsewhere. 

Despite vocal support from several traditional opponents including Senate Republican Leader Jeb Bradley, it failed to gather the two-thirds majority needed for a veto override.

Governor John Lynch has opposed several medical marijuana bills in recent years. He vetoed a dispensary approach in 2009, citing concerns over proliferation and cultivation beyond the dispensaries, and another medical marijuana bill died last year in the Senate after he had promised a veto. 

Following the Senate vote, Lynch spokesman Colin Manning said the bill was even less restrictive than the dispensary approach, and the governor plans to veto it (Boston Globe).

With seven Republicans supporting the bill, allowing the legislation to cross party lines, and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee voting 5-0 to approve the bill, Senator Jim Forsythe (R) is leading the charge to build a veto proof majority for the legislation.

If they are successful, the New Hampshire program would resemble those in Maine and Vermont and would end in three years if lawmakers do not renew it, providing an outlet for review and reform.

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Number of States Resisting Federal Drug Policy Could Increase Significantly

The push to resist Federal Drug policy is advancing once again this legislative session with a number of bills and a number of different approaches being taken at the state level.  There are currently 17 states with cannabis legislation this session, despite a new Federal crackdown on cannabis operations in California that were within State and local law.

Pennsylvania lawmakers are now considering a new attempt to address the issue of marijuana, knowing full well that their Governor is not likely to sign anything along those lines.  As Governor Corbett has stated before, he believes that the Supreme Court is the ultimate authority of law and that states cannot freely exercise their power under the constitution until the SCOTUS gives them permission. he’s joined in that view by state Rep. John Lawrence, R-13th of Franklin who said, “I’m not a supporter of the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes. This is an issue that should be dealt with at the federal level.”

In Massachusetts, a group of lawmakers led by Representative Ellen Story of Amherst are seeking to establish state level cannabis laws.  The driving force behind “The Cannabis Regulation and Taxation Act” was a Public Policy Question in the 2010 elections, which clearly instructed Story and others to take this issue on.  This bill will go before the Judiciary Committee March 6th at 1:00, in a Legalization hearing at the statehouse, room A-2.  Anyone is free to attend and address the committee- a prime chance for even those who don’t support marijuana use to explain why in order to be in line with the constitution, cannabis must be addressed at the state rather than Federal level.

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Compassionate Use Act for Medical Cannabis Introduced in West Virginia

Delegate Mike Manypenny (D) has introduced a bill to allow the legalization of small amounts of marijuana by adults for medical purposes.

House Bill 4498 would amend the “Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated … all relating to creating the Compassionate Use Act for Medical Cannabis; providing for protections for the medical use of cannabis; limitations of article; prohibiting discrimination; authorizing addition of debilitating medical conditions; registration of qualifying patients and designated care givers; issuance of registry identification cards; affirmative defense and dismissal for medical marihuana; providing misdemeanor offense and  criminal penalties for disclosing certain information; and otherwise provides for the enforcement of this article

Language in the bill points out that “Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, Washington state and the District of Columbia, have removed state-level criminal penalties from the medical use and cultivation of marihuana.”

If passed this bill it would put West Virginia in conflict with federal laws asserting it is still illegal to use, buy and sell marijuana.

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Will Mississippi Defy Feds, Legalize Medical Marijuana?

Senator Deborah Jeanne Dawkins (D) has introduced a bill to allow medical use of marijuana by seriously ill patients under doctor’s supervision.

Senate Bill 2252 “an act to authorize the medical use of marihuana by seriously ill patients under a physician’s supervision; to define certain terms; to provide an exemption from criminal and civil penalties for the medical use of marihuana; to provide limitations on the medical use of marihuana; to provide a legal defense for patients and primary caregivers; to amend sections … of Mississippi code to transfer marihuana from schedule I to schedule II under the controlled substances law; to amend section … Mississippi code of 1972, to exempt the medical use of marihuana from criminal penalties under the controlled substances law; and for related purposes.”

The bill also states: “Although federal law expressly prohibits the use of marihuana, the laws of Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington permit the medical use and cultivation of marihuana. The Legislature intends to join in this effort for the health and welfare of the citizens of Mississippi.  However, the Legislature does not intend to make marijuana legally available for other than medical purposes.”

If passed, this bill it would put the state in conflict with federal law declaring itl illegal to use, buy and sell marijuana. As the bill authors point out, 99 out of 100 arrests for marijuana are by the states, but this bill still will not protect the states citizens from federal prosecution. The state is legally within its rights to decide this issue based on the 10th Amendment which declares; “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution is the federal government given the authority to regulate what plants we grow or consume. This remains purely a state power.

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Maryland’s Glenn Cites Tenth in New Drug Legislation

“WHEREAS, The General Assembly enacts this Act in accordance with its police power to enact legislation for the protection of the health of its citizens, as reserved to the State in the Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution; now, therefore,”

…And then the bill goes on, letting the world know what will be permitted under Maryland law…in accordance with the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution.  Powerful little amendment, I’d say.

It has also been a popular approach to the problem that every American currently faces, that being their central government’s insistence that DC is the ONLY place to approach and solve We the People’s problems.

Maryland House Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore) had found herself fed up with the bureaucratic process she was seeing- a process that had begun in the previous legislative session.  ‘Workgroups’ were assigned to study the problem of medical cannabis 12 months ago and then deliver a proposal to the state house.  Both had flaws that Glenn was not prepared to tolerate.  It’s understandable really, if you consider the number of complaints about drug policy she must hear as a representative of the people of Baltimore.

“As a legislator dedicated to addressing the needs of medical marijuana patients in Maryland, I am very disappointed in both legislative proposals being offered by the commissioned workgroup,” said Del. Glenn. “I am offering a different bill — what I believe is a common-sense approach to this issue, taking into account not only the needs of medical marijuana patients, but also the needs of the larger communities in which they live.”

The radical legislation that this maverick legislator is pushing?  In the big picture it is only a step in the process of addressing cannabis, with the establishment of lawful recognized medical applications.  Compassionate distribution systems are also created in this bill.

Readers of HB 15, the Maryland Medical Marijuana Act, will find a marked similarity in language and concept to a bill recently introduced in Idaho by conservative Republican Tom Trail.

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Washington State: Marijuana Regulation Measure Certified For 2012 Ballot

Washington State legislators have approved a statewide initiative for possible November ballot that would allow the legalization of small amounts of marijuana by adults.

New Approach Washington raised over 350,000 signatures to qualify the initiative for this year’s ballot in November. Backers include two former US Attorneys from the Bush and Clinton administrations and Seattle FBI agent-in-charge. This initiative must go to the Legislature where they must either pass the measure as written, allow it to go on the ballot after either ignoring it or rejecting it, or finally put it on the ballot with a legislative alternative.

The main goals as stated in Initiative 502 would require the state to license and regulate marijuana the same as hard liquor and:
… stop treating adult marijuana use as a crime and try a new approach that:
(1) Allows law enforcement resources to be focused on violent and property crimes;
(2) Generates new state and local tax revenue for education, health care, research, and substance abuse prevention; and
(3) Takes marijuana out of the hands of illegal drug organizations and brings it under a tightly regulated, state-licensed system similar to that for controlling hard alcohol.

This measure authorizes the state liquor control board to regulate and tax marijuana for persons twenty-one years of age and older, and add a new threshold for driving under the influence of marijuana.

This is a step in the right direction taken by the citizens of Washington State to decide for themselves what should or should not be a legal activity in their state. If passed this November it would put Washington State in conflict with federal laws where it is still illegal to use, buy and sell marijuana.

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Will Kansans Stand Up for Their Right to Choose? Will YOU?

One of the most active fronts in the fight to push back Federal overreach has been resistance to the Controlled Substances Act- a measure passed long ago that would have been soundly rejected by those who created our American system of governance.

The founders knew that something as important as what we put into our bodies should never be left to a far off group of bureaucrats in the central government.  Constitutional design was intended to prevent Federal lawmakers from deciding such important matters- since those lawmakers could never effectively make decisions for people with whom they have almost no contact.

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