Photo: Britney McIntosh, The Commercial Appeal
Congressman Steve Cohen: “This is an issue that’s important. It’s a freedom issue. It’s an intelligence issue.”

​Let’s face it: Not many members of Congress will ever be caught sharing the stage with Cheech and Chong.

Then again, Tennessee Rep. Steve Cohen isn’t very typical. The two-term Democratic Congressman from Memphis headlined the Marijuana Policy Project‘s 15th annual gala Wednesday night, where the famed stoner comedy duo of Cheech & Chong won a lifetime “Trailblazer” award for helping move marijuana into the mainstream.
“Most of my colleagues didn’t want to be here and aren’t here. Maybe that says something about my political judgment,” joked Cohen to a few hundred people at the $250-per-plate dinner, reports Ben Evans of The Associated Press.
Cohen, a longtime advocate for legalizing medical marijuana, also argues that the government is wasting billions of dollars and wrecking lives and families with its draconian punishments for minor drug offenses.

Photo: U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Scenes like this — a 1,700-pound bust in Sumas, Washington in 2009 — may become things of the past in the state if a move to legalize marijuana comes to fruition.

​Washington State lawmakers on Wednesday heard, for the first time ever, testimony in support of legalizing, taxing and regulating marijuana for adults.

Members of the House Committee on Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness, in a heavily attended, two-hour hearing, heard arguments in favor of House Bill 2401.
HB 2401 would “remove all existing criminal and civil penalties for adults 21 years of age or older who cultivate, possess, transport, sell, or use marijuana.”
The hearing marked the first time in history that Washington lawmakers had ever debated the merits of legalizing and regulating the sale and use of cannabis.

Photo: Hendrike
New Jersey medical marijuana patients won’t be seeing this anytime soon — at least, not without risking jail.

​Almost lost in the euphoria surrounding yesterday’s triumph in the passage of a law legalizing medical marijuana in New Jersey was one bummer of a detail:

You can’t grow your own pot garden in the Garden State.
It doesn’t matter if you are a qualified patient with a doctor’s recommendation: Under the New Jersey medical marijuana law, residents cannot grow their own, reports Jeremy Olshan of the New York Post.
That could be a serious flaw in a law which aims to help seriously ill, and often financially insolvent, people. Sometimes, for some patients, growing a modest few plants is the only way they can afford to use marijuana at all.

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Photo: Daily Mail
Professor Les Iversen (left), who has said cannabis is safer than most other drugs, is taking over as interim chairman of the U.K. Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs after Professor David Nutt was sacked for saying — you guessed it! — that cannabis is safer than most other drugs.

​A retired Oxford professor who said marijuana was one of the “safer” drugs has become the United Kingdom’s chief drugs adviser — replacing a professor who was sacked for saying that marijuana is one of the safer drugs.

Pharmacology specialist Les Iversen has replaced David Nutt, who was sacked last October after saying cannabis was less harmful than alcohol and nicotine, and arguing that penalties against the herb had been upgraded to Class B for political reasons, reports James Slack at the Daily Mail.
Professor Iversen, who has served on the committee for five years, seems to share predecessor Nutt’s view that marijuana is just not that dangerous.
And after all, should it be that shocking that the world’s foremost experts on psychoactive drugs would have similar opinions regarding the relative safety of marijuana?

Photo: Robyn Twomey
California patients wait for assistance at a marijuana dispensary. Los Angeles currently has more pot stores than either Starbucks or McDonald’s.

​After nearly a month, the Los Angeles City Council returns Wednesday to the contentious issue of how to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries. City leaders hope they will finally be able to vote on the long-delayed ordinance, in the planning stages for nearly two years.

The council stalled in December over possible zoning restrictions on where dispensaries can be located. Debate was postponed until planners completed an analysis of several proposals.
Maps drawn by city planners show that placing strict limits on the dispensaries’ proximity to residences would eliminate almost all locations, reports John Hoeffel of the Los Angeles Times.

Graphic: Alabamians for Compassionate Care

​A bill which would legalize marijuana for medical purposes in Alabama is coming back before the Legislature in 2010.

State Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) in mid-February is introducing an as-yet unnumbered 13-page bill that outlines ways cannabis could be used for medical purposes in the state, according to spokesperson Loretta Nall of Alabamians for Compassionate Care.
The bill distinguishes between medical and non-medical uses of marijuana, according to Todd.
It lists debilitating medical conditions under which marijuana could be used. These include cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, chronic arthritis, cachexia, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, migraine, AIDS, anorexia, seizures, severe nausea and other symptoms that substantially limit the ability of a person to conduct major life activities.

Graphic: www.thefreshscent.com

​It’s one of the favorite arguments of the prohibitionists: Smoking pot leads to “the hard stuff,” and that’s why pot should remain just as illegal as, say, heroin.

Trouble is, there’s almost no empirical evidence backing the so-called “gateway theory,” and a new study pokes another hole in the hoary old argument.
The study, based at the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, evaluated the gateway theory using cross-national data regarding “consistency and associations of the order of initiation of drug use.”


​A Washington state marijuana activist group has publicly called out Attorney General Rob McKenna for his pot-hating ways.

Cannabis Defense Coalition (CDC), a nonprofit member cooperative focused on marijuana education and activism in Washington State, released a new poster which calls the “law and order” AG to task for trampling the rights of medical marijuana patients and recreational users.
“Attorney General Rob McKenna is one of the most vocal anti-marijuana zealots elected to public office in Washington State,” said Ben Livingston, CDC spokesman.
“His office is largely responsible for the 
ridiculous Department of Corrections policy on medical marijuana use by parolees,” Livingston said. “And he frequently takes time to spew federal anti-drug propaganda about marijuana’s increased potency being of such concern that we should ‘stay the course’ on the government’s war on marijuana.”

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Photo: Westword
Rob Corry: “The overall impact is going to be to harm people and cause human suffering”

​On Monday, the Denver City Council passed rules intended to regulate the city’s blossoming medical marijuana industry — and most members of the overflowing crowd weren’t happy with the results, reports Michael Roberts at Westword.

You should definitely count activist/attorney Rob Corry among those unhappy. Corry, who’d already threatened to file a lawsuit against Denver if the ordinance passed without significant change. Flash forward to Tuesday morning, when the council did exactly that — and Corry was quick to reemphasize his statement.
“If we can assemble an appropriate coalition of patients, caregivers, property owners and business owners, we will evaluate our legal options,” Corry said. “We’re obviously very disappointed by this unanimous smackdown of patients and our constitutional rights.”

Graphic: S.F. Weekly
California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano: Leading the charge for legalization

​California’s landmark marijuana legalization bill, AB 390, was approved 4-3 by a committee of the State Assembly on Tuesday. This is the first time in United States history that a state legislature has ever passed — or even considered — a proposal to make marijuana legal, taxed, and regulated.

Authored by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano (D-S.F.), the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act was approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee, which Ammiano chairs.
“This historic vote marks the formal beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition in the United States,” said Stephen Gutwillig, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Making marijuana legal has now entered the public dialogue in a credible way.”
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