Prop 19 to legalise marijuana defeated in California However, activists cling to high hopes that political process has educated voters for next battle
The movement to legalise marijuana suffered a blow as a ballot proposition that would have allowed the growth, use and taxation of the drug in California was rejected by voters.
The loss of Proposition 19, though not unexpected, was still a disappointment to many of those who had fought and campaigned hard for a measure that had won a lot of support for a subject once considered politically taboo.
The movement was based in the Bay Area city of Oakland and spearheaded by Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University, a cannabis business school that is flourishing around the already legal medical marijuana trade.
At a party that had been intended as a victory celebration but turned into a wake, Lee promised that the movement to legalise the drug would fight on. Clutching a bag of marijuana buds Lee, who uses a wheelchair, said Prop 19 was just part of a long-term struggle that would be back. "We need to do a better job of building a state-wide organisation to educate voters that prohibition is hurting them," he said.
In California, at least, that might not be too hard. The medical marijuana industry has already made the drug commonplace over large stretches of the state, where it is widely available with a doctor's prescription and dispensed in cafes. Though nominally for medical use only, there are few controls on who gets prescriptions and what for. It is even dispensed in the form of marijuana-infused ice-cream.
In downtown Oakland, several city blocks have undergone urban renewal because of Oaksterdam and the numerous marijuana-themed gift shops and cafes that surround it. The businesses also bring hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to the city's cash-strapped coffers in the form of local taxes.
But full legalisation has for now been defeated. Not least among the reasons was the fact that the federal government – in the shape of attorney general Eric Holder – had vowed to crack down on any legalisation process, using federal authority.
Lee said that position had made the campaign in support of Prop 19 very difficult. "It is tough when you have to go against your own federal government and the attorney general," he said. "That is a tough thing to battle."
He added that the high level of support for Prop 19 should at least help the cause of stopping being jailed for using, growing or selling the drug. "45% of people voting for it makes it hard to lock people up for it," he said.
The mood among activists was not all doom and gloom. They have said all along that the process was about starting a debate. "We've already won in terms of education. We are making the case that prohibition of marijuana is wrong and people will eventually come around to it," said pro-Prop 19 volunteer Rosalinda Montez Palacios.
Pictured: Britain's biggest cannabis farm... with £2m worth of weed
Police have uncovered one of Britain's biggest ever cannabis farms hidden in an Essex warehouse.
They found eight thousand plants with a potential street value of £2million.
They described the find as 'one of the biggest and most sophisticated cannabis factories in the country'.
Busted: One of Britain's biggest ever cannabis farms has been discovered by police in a warehouse in Essex. The eight thousand plants found had a potential street value of £2million
Ten rooms had been specially adapted to house the plants, which were at varying stages of development. They would have produced 280kg of drugs.
Police believe it cost between £250,000 and £500,000 to kit out the building, in Heybridge, Essex.
They claim the drug bosses stole £10,000 of electricity a month to power the lights - by digging into a main cable.
Officers also found evidence of a previous harvest and believe the factory had been in operation since July. They say they acted on 'local information' but had no idea they'd find drug production on an industrial scale.
It rivals in size a cannabis factory in Macclesfield, Cheshire, also with 8,000 plants, which caught fire in October 2008 after the electricity meter was bypassed.
Insp Nigel Cockrell, of Maldon police, said: 'It's the biggest ever factory in Essex and one of the biggest and most sophisticated in the country.
Field of dreams: The cannabis plants, which were at varying stages of development, would have produced 280kg of drugs. Police believe drug bosses stole £10,000 of electricity a month to power the hundreds of lights needed to grow the crop
'They had all the materials they needed to grow this stuff, all the chemicals. They had dug straight into the main electricity cable, which is very dangerous, and there is a massive bill they are now liable for. These are professional gangs.'
He said there were 1,000 ultraviolet lights in use, each costing at least £180.
Officers believe the find was part of a national network.
Insp Cockrell said: 'The expectation was we might find some cannabis. We had no idea of the scale of it. It's a warehouse on an industrial estate and deliveries would have been in boxes, which wouldn't look unusual or be suspicious.'
Four illegal immigrants, all Vietnamese nationals, have been charged with drug cultivation offences.
Vue Ho, 22, Hung Tran, 43, Tuan Le, 40, and Ngnyen Doan, 18, appeared at Chelmsford Magistrates' Court yesterday.
Unassuming: The plants were kept in a warehouse on an industrial estate and deliveries would have been in boxes, which wouldn't look unusual
Tran admitted cultivating drugs and will appear for sentencing at Chelmsford Crown Court, on January 6.
Ho, Le and Doan denied the offences and will appear at Witham Magistrates' Court via video link on December 8. No bail applications were made. Deportation notices were served.
A 41-year-old man and a 48-year-old man, both from Romford, have been bailed until March.
Medical marijuana approved in Arizona by a paper-thin margin
Arizona voters have approved a measure that will legalise medical marijuana use in the state for people with chronic or debilitating diseases.
Final vote tallies showed yesterday that Proposition 203 won by a tiny margin of just 4,341 votes out of more than 1.67 million votes counted.
The measure had started out losing on Election Day by about 7,200 votes, but the gap gradually narrowed in the following 10 days.
Andrew Myers, campaign manager for the Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project, said: 'Now begins the very hard work of implementing this programme in the way it was envisioned, with very high standards.'
'We really believe that we have an opportunity to set an example to the rest of the country on what a good medical marijuana program looks like.'
Arizona is the 15th state to approve a medical marijuana law. California was the first in 1996, and 13 other states and Washington, D.C., have since followed suit.
The Arizona measure will allow patients with diseases including cancer, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and any other 'chronic or debilitating' disease that meets guidelines to buy two-and-a-half ounces of marijuana every two weeks or grow plants.
The patients must get a recommendation from their doctor and register with the Arizona Department of Health Services.
The law allows for no more than 124 marijuana dispensaries in the state.
Backers of Proposition 203 have argued that thousands of patients faced 'a terrible choice' of suffering with a serious or even terminal illness, or going to the criminal market for marijuana.
They collected more than 252,000 signatures to put the measure on the ballot - nearly 100,000 more than required.
All Arizona's sheriff's and county prosecutors, the governor, attorney general and many other politicians came out against the proposed law.
Carolyn Short - chairwoman of Keep AZ Drug Free, the group that organised opposition to the initiative - said her group believed the proposed law would increase crime around dispensary locations, lead to more people driving while impaired and eventually lead to legalised marijuana for everyone.
She noted that the major financial backer of the new measure, the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project, made no bones about its ultimate goal: national legalisation of marijuana for everyone.
She said: 'All of the political leaders came out and warned Arizonans that this was going to have very dire effects on a number of levels. I don't think that all Arizonans have heard those dire predictions.'
Arizona voters overwhelmingly approved a medical marijuana law in 1996 and 1998, but it never went into effect because of problems with its wording.
In 2002, voters rejected a sweeping initiative that would have decriminalised possession of up to two ounces of the drug for any user and required state police to hand out the drug to seriously ill people.
The county finished counting all the remaining provisional and early ballots by late in the afternoon. The final, unofficial count was 841,346 in favor of the measure and 837,005 opposed.
Cannabis clubs plug a gap in Spanish drugs laws Member-only clubs spring up as smokers exploit law allowing consumption of cannabis in private
Giles Tremlett in Paracuellos de Jarama
28 December 2010
The sign on the door says it all, but the acrid smell and smoke wafting across the Private Cannabis Club in the Madrid dormitory town of Paraceullos de Jarama are proof that it lives up to its name. "This is the one place we can smoke in peace," said a punter at the bar, mixing tobacco and dried, shredded cannabis leaf in a long rolling paper. The Private Cannabis Club, with its palmate green leaves stencilled on the walls and the club's name etched on to smoked windowpanes, is at the vanguard of a new movement of pro-cannabis campaigners in Spain. The members spotted a gap in Spain's drugs laws which, they say, makes the activities of private clubs like these entirely legal.
The spacious Paracuellos de Jarama club, in a former restaurant in a town overlooking Madrid's Barajas airport, is equipped with a bar, kitchen, billiard tables and TV screens. It is the most sophisticated of up to 40 cannabis clubs that have sprung up in garages and back rooms around Spain since campaigners worked out that laws making it illegal to consume in public did not apply to private, member-only, clubs.
"We've been open for two months and we already have 125 members," said the association's president, Pedro Álvaro Zamora. Those members pay €120 a year to belong and Zamora and his companions follow rules that seem similar to those of exclusive Mayfair clubs. A sign by the doorbell warns that only members are admitted and a committee vets new applicants, blackballing some. Alicia Méndez, a club official, said: "Potential members are interviewed and we do not accept everyone. Our members have to be responsible people, have the right profile." Zamora said: "This is not Amsterdam, this is not a coffee shop. This is our association's club house and it is a private place. It is not open for everyone."
Spain does not have a law banning consumption in private and members claim it is safer to use the club than go out to parks and smoke in public. Zamora said: "The club recognises that cannabis is not good for everyone. We propose a responsible form of consumption. Not everyone should smoke. We know there are risks." Club members can bring their own cannabis or share in the club's own stock. They can even take some away as long as they sign for it and the cannabis is for personal consumption.
Although the club house, which is registered with the local authorities, is left alone by police, members can get into trouble if caught carrying cannabis. "It is illegal to buy, sell or transport, so you can be fined if caught with it on you." The club offers legal help to fined members.
Supplying the club is another problem, as dealing in cannabis is illegal. "We are fighting for the legal right to grow it," said Zamora. The club applied for a medical licence to cultivate cannabis but was turned down. Then police raided its secret plantation and destroyed the plants. Zamora said they would challenge in court the right to destroy a plantation devoted to supplying a private club: "We are people who work and pay taxes. We are not delinquents."
Some judges have ordered police to give confiscated cannabis back to clubs. "They have told them to return it on the basis that there is no threat to public health." Zamora stressed that the club's suppliers did not belong to the drugs underworld: "We don't go to the black market to buy. We know farmers who cultivate cannabis and can provide us."
The club also campaigns on laws. "Prohibition does not work. Cannabis has been consumed for centuries and will continue to be … for centuries. Prohibition creates an illegal market and all that brings with it. It's better to educate people than spend money on prohibition that fails."
Founder of Christian Coalition & 700 Club, Pat Robertson Favors Marijuana Legalization
Count this among the 10 things nobody ever expected to see in their lifetimes: 700 Club founder Pat Robertson, one of the cornerstone figures of America's Christian right movement, has come out in favor of legalizing marijuana.
Calling it getting "smart" on crime, Robertson aired a clip on a recent episode of his 700 Club television show that advocated the viewpoint of drug law reformers who run prison outreach ministries.
A narrator even claimed that religious prison outreach has "saved" millions in public funds by helping to reduce the number of prisoners who return shortly after being released.
The segment, while significant for illustrating a key conservative stalwart's shifting opinion on the drug war, was mainly a plug for a new conservative group called "Right on Crime," which parlays the arguments of groups like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) into conservative-leaning messages.
"Our marijuana prohibition laws, which send people to prison for merely possessing a plant, are clearly immoral," Says LEAP executive director Neill Franklin, a former Baltimore narcotics officer.
"As a Christian, and as a former law enforcer who is now working to undo the damage these laws have done to our families and our communities, I'm glad to see Pat Robertson joining the chorus of faith leaders calling for reform."
Some faith-based groups, like the Council of Churches and Church IMPACT, also helped promote California's failed Prop. 19 ballot initiative, which would have legalized marijuana cultivation, sales and consumption by adults over 21-years-old. It failed to gain a majority in the state's 2010 elections.
President Obama has maintained his opposition to the legalization of marijuana, although his Department of Justice has largely taken a hands-off approach to states where voters have approved the drug's use if prescribed by a doctor.
Pat Robertson was a Republican candidate for the presidency in 1980, but saw his political ambitions dashed in the primaries by Ronald Reagan. Though he later earned Robertson's endorsement, President Reagan went on to significantly escalate the war on America's drug users.
THIS week’s Economist-YouGov poll contains some exciting news for devotees of the weed. A huge majority of Americans, more than two to one once don’t knows have been excluded, support the legalisation and taxation of marijuana. Even without excluding the don’t knows, a clear majority favours treating the drug equivalently to tobacco and alcohol.
The data (see chart) reveal some interesting patterns. In every age group, more people favour than oppose legalisation. Predictably enough, the young are very strongly in favour, but babyboomers are almost as strongly so; and even those over 65 are narrowly in favour as well. Breaking the poll down by party, one finds that Republicans as well as Democrats are in favour, though the former much more narrowly so.
If our poll is right, then it can only be a matter of time before laws start to change, at least in the more liberal states. A ballot initiative that would have legalised the sale of marijuana was only narrowly defeated in California last November, possibly losing some potential supporters because the drug is already very widely available and possession is no longer treated as a crime. The full poll, which also shows Barack Obama’s ratings continuing to improve, is available online.
Marijuana Gold Rush
"The doc makes a few detours - from the Emerald Cup in Mendocino County (look for CelebStoner's Steve Bloom presenting the top award); to the Marijuana Conference in New York, where movers and shakers in the burgeoning pot industry convene; to GW Pharmaceuticals, maker of the Sativex medical cannabis spray, in England - but ultimately returns to Oakland, where the city's plan to open four industrial cultivation sites is derailed by the local U.S. Attorney."
Uruguay to become first government to SELL cannabis to its citizens
21 June 2012
Uruguay could become the first country in the world to sell marijuana to its citizens as it attempts to fight a growing crime problem. Under the plan, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana to adults who have registered on a government database - letting officials keep track of their purchases over time. Minister of Defense Eleuterio Fernandez Huidobro said the measure aims to weaken crime in the country by removing profits from drug dealers and diverting users from harder drugs.
He said the bill would be sent to Congress soon, but an exact date had not been set. 'We're shifting toward a stricter state control of the distribution and production of this drug,' Mr Fernandez Huidobro said. 'It's a fight on both fronts: against consumption and drug trafficking. We think the prohibition of some drugs is creating more problems to society than the drug itself.'
Uruguayan newspapers have reported that the money from taxes on marijuana sold by the government would go towards rehabilitating drug addicts. There are no laws against marijuana use in Uruguay. Possession of the drug for personal use has never been criminalized. Media reports have said that people who use more than a limited number of marijuana cigarettes would have to undergo drug rehabilitation.
But some Uruguayans have questioned how successful such a measure could be. 'People who consume are not going to buy it from the state,' said Natalia Pereira, 28, who smokes marijuana occasionally. 'They're going to be mistrust buying it from a place where you have to register and they can typecast you.'
A debate over the move lit up social media networks in the country, with some people worried about free sales of marijuana and others joking about it. 'Legalizing marijuana is not a security measure,' one man in the capital of Uruguay wrote on his Twitter account. 'Ha, ha, ha!' joked another. 'I can now imagine you going down to the kiosk to buy bread, milk and a little box of marijuana.'
Juan Carlos Redin, a psychologist who works with drug addicts in the capital Montevideo, said: 'The main argument for this is to keep addicts from dealing and reaching (crack-like) substances. Some studies conclude that a large number of base paste consumers first looked for milder drugs like marijuana and ended with freebase.' Mr Redin said Uruguayans should be allowed to grow their own marijuana because the government would run into trouble if it tries to sell it. The big question he said will be, 'Who will provide the government (with marijuana)?'
Allen St. Pierre, executive director of U.S.-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, said the move would make Uruguay the only national government in the world selling marijuana. 'If they actually sell it themselves, and you have to go to the Uruguay government store to buy marijuana, then that would be a precedent for sure, but not so different than from the dispensaries in half the United States,' he said. Numerous dispensaries on the local level in the U.S. are allowed to sell marijuana for medical use.
Possession of marijuana for personal use has never been criminalized in the South American country and a 1974 law gives judges discretion to determine if the amount of marijuana found on a suspect is for legal personal use or for illegal dealing. 'This measure should be accompanied by efforts to get young people off drugs,' ruling party Senator Monica Xavier told channel 12 local TV.
But other drug rehabilitation experts disagree with the planned bill altogether. Guillermo Castro, head of psychiatry at the Hospital Britanico in Montevideo says marijuana is a gateway to stronger drugs. 'In the long-run, marijuana is still poison,' Castro said adding that marijuana contains 17 times more carcinogens than those in tobacco and that its use is linked to higher rates of depression and suicide. If it's going to be openly legalized, something that is now in the hands of politics, it's important that they explain to people what it is and what it produces," he said. 'I think it would much more effective to educate people about drugs instead of legalizing them.'
Uruguay is among the safest countries in Latin America but recent gang shootings and rising cocaine seizures have raised security concerns and taken a toll on the already dipping popularity of leftist President Jose Mujica. Overburdened by clogged prisons, some Latin American countries have relaxed penalties for drug possession and personal use and distanced themselves from the tough stance pushed by the United States four decades ago when the Richard Nixon administration declared the war on drugs.
'Out of all the drugs that are used for psychoactive effect, this is the least toxic, and the least potential for harm," said Lester Grinspoon, associate professor emeritus at Harvard Medical School. 'It may take some time to find a regulatory system that everyone can be comfortable with,' Grinspoon added of Uruguay's proposed sale of the drug. There's a growing recognition in the region that marijuana needs to be treated differently than other drugs, because it's a clear case that the drug laws have a greater negative impact than the use of the drug itself,' said Coletta Youngers, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America think tank. If Uruguay moved in this direction they would be challenging the international drug control system.'
At first this seems a good idea, until you realise that it's not illegal there in the first place - typical government, sticking their nebs in where they're not needed.
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