Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Press Release: AZ State Senator Blocks Funding for Long-Sought Medical Marijuana Research

Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP), National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), Americans for Safe Access (ASA), Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, and Arizona Medical Cannabis Nurses Association:
For Immediate Release:                                                                                                      
Darby Beck 415.823.5496

March 31, 2014                                                                                                                                
Arizona State Senator Blocks Funding for Long-Sought Medical Marijuana Research
Clinical Trial for Veterans with PTSD Has Already Obtained Approval from U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U. Arizona Institutional Review Board, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Wednesday, April 2: Veterans, Military Family Members and Supporters to Rally at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza
After 22 years of hard-fought efforts, the non-profit pharmaceutical company MAPS has finally obtained approval from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for a FDA clinical trial to examine the medical safety and efficacy of marijuana. The trial would study military veterans suffering from treatment-resistant post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Yet the study’s ability to receive Arizona state funding is in jeopardy due to State Senator Kimberly Yee.
Arizona has collected millions of dollars from its medical marijuana program. Under Arizona’s medical marijuana law, that money is reserved for furthering the provisions of the law and should include research and education – but none of it has been spent. A bill being considered by lawmakers would give the Arizona Department of Health Services discretion to use some of this surplus funding to study the medical benefits of marijuana. On March 10th, the bill HB 2333, sponsored by State Representative Ethan Orr of Tucson, passed the Arizona House 52-5, with strong bipartisan support. But State Senator Kimberly Yee (Phoenix), who chairs the Senate Education Committee, refused to put the bill on her committee’s agenda before the March 20th deadline – saying only that she wanted the funds to be directed for drug abuse prevention.
“This bill will help a lot of people. Not just combat veterans, but people with chronic illness and pain who can’t find relief anywhere else. Whether you are for recreational use or against it, we should at least know what marijuana does. It’s research – that’s all we are trying to do,” said the bill’s sponsor, State Representative Ethan Orr.
HB 2333 would allow for protected funds, which currently total more than $6M and are collected through the sales of medical marijuana cards to qualified patients in Arizona, to be allocated for study in a university setting “with the intent to conduct thorough, objective clinical research on the safety, efficacy and adverse events with marijuana.” The study would support the Arizona economy, as it requires all studies to be conducted in state. The bill fixes a problem facing administrators of the Medical Marijuana Act who are restricted to using funds specifically in furtherance of the Act. HB2333 does not cost tax payers any money – rather, it would put existing money to work for the betterment of Arizona.
"Our study paves the way for research that could make marijuana into a federally approved prescription medicine for PTSD," says MAPS executive director Rick Doblin, Ph.D. "We worked for 22 years to get permission to purchase marijuana from NIDA's monopoly supply.  By refusing to consider HB 2333, Senator Yee is making it clear that she would prefer the research never to happen at all."
Veterans like Ricardo Pereyda of Tucson, who fought in combat in Operation Iraqi Freedom 2, are angry that Senator Yee wouldn’t allow the bill to be heard in her committee. “Being able to treat multiple symptoms from post-traumatic stress with cannabis has been instrumental in my ability to lead a full and productive life,” said Pereyda, “Senator Yee is placing politics before science, and doing so at the expense of our combat veterans.” Pereyda served in the U.S. Army and Military Police Corps, and is the Veterans Liaison for Arizona NORML.
In response to this anti-democratic action by Sen. Yee, Pereyda is leading a coalition effort to bring veterans, military family members and other Arizonans who support medical marijuana research together at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza on April 2nd from 5pm to 7pm. Advocates are asking for Arizona State Senate President Andy Biggs to bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote, thereby bypassing the need for a hearing in committee.
WHAT:    A Rally in Support of Medical Marijuana Research for PTSD Treatment
WHEN:   Wednesday, April 2nd, from 5pm-7pm.
WHERE: Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, Phoenix, Arizona
·         Emcee: Ricardo Pereyda, Iraq War Combat Veteran, Veterans Liaison for AZ NORML         
·         Former State Representative, Ruben Gallego, USMC Veteran
·         Scott Cecil, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Arizona State University
·         Heather Manus, RN, Arizona Medical Cannabis Nurses Association
·         Retired Lieutenant Police Officer Tony Ryan, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition
·         Dr. Sue Sisley, University of Arizona, Principal Investigator of PTSD Study
Dr. Sue Sisley of the University of Arizona, who is the principal investigator of the proposed study, is also frustrated with the inaction of Senator Yee. "Twenty-two veterans a day are killing themselves," said Dr. Sue Sisley, "They're not benefiting from conventional medicine. And while many are using marijuana to help them with this debilitating disorder, they want it to be legitimized. They want data. They want to know what doses to take. They want to be able to discuss this with their doctors. The Obama administration is hearing this, because allowing us to do this study does represent a major shift in policy."
"Cannabis medicine is natural, gentle, non-toxic, and should be available to PTSD sufferers in Arizona,” said Heather Manus, president of the Arizona Cannabis Nurses Association.  “Many PTSD patients in neighboring states are successfully finding relief of symptoms through the use of cannabis.” The AZCNA has filed a petition with the Arizona Department of Health Services on behalf of veterans and other PTSD sufferers to add PTSD as a debilitating condition under the state’s medical marijuana law.
“It is unthinkable that someone would stand in the way of medical research, particularly research could benefit military veterans, first responders, and victims of violent crime, yet that is precisely what Senator Yee has done by blocking HB 2333," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access.
"Our veterans put their lives on the line for this country, and now Senator Yee says that rather than pursuing every option to address the problems many of them face, we should instead force these proud soldiers into an illicit marketplace, and turn them into criminals for trying to make themselves whole. It's a shameful way to treat our veterans, and worse, will force many not to pursue treatment at all," said 36-year police veteran Lt. Tony Ryan (Ret), a board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. 
“Senator Yee’s refusal to allow this medical research for veterans harms not just veterans and their families, but all Arizonans who have loved ones who suffer with post-traumatic stress,” said Jon Gettel of NORML.  “It’s an outrage to prevent this important research.”

Another supporter of this event is the Drug Policy Alliance’s Freedom to Choose campaign, which advocates for veterans’ access to medical marijuana. “Veterans deserve the freedom to choose the safest treatment for their debilitating conditions. When our veterans come home they deserve access to the medicine that works for them,” said Jessica Gelay, who is the policy coordinator for DPA’s New Mexico office and the coordinator of the Freedom to Choose campaign. “It is unconscionable that research that could help prevent the needless deaths of men and women who have already sacrificed so much would be blocked by one lawmaker.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Press Release: Research Confirms Legalizing Medical Marijuana Does Not Increase Crime


Yet More Proof Fears of Legalization Remain Unfounded in Science

Researchers at the University of Texas Dallas published an article in PLOS ONE today that indicates that despite opponents’ fears, legalizing medical marijuana does not increase crime and may actually lower some types of violent crime. The study examined FBI Uniform Crime Report statistics on murder, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, larceny and auto theft from all 50 states, including 11 states that legalized medical marijuana during the course of the study, over a 17 year period from 1990-2006. Controlling for confounding factors, they found no increases in any category of offense and even saw a slight decrease in homicides and assaults.

The study is reminiscent of a University of Chicago study that came out last year showing that, despite opponents’ warnings about increases in unsafe driving behaviors, legalizing medical marijuana was associated with a drop in traffic fatalities. In addition, preliminary figures in Colorado and Washington, the two states to have legalized marijuana for recreational use, show traffic fatalities in those states have slightly decreased the first year of full legalization.

“It must be difficult to be an opponent of marijuana reform. They can’t make arguments against legalization based on logic and facts so they must constantly resort to fear-based hypotheticals and anecdotes that keep getting proved wrong by systematic study. I feel for them. I really do,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), a police officer for 34 years who now heads Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs.


Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Press Release: Maryland Senator Corrects Police Chief in Marijuana Legalization Hearing

February 25, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496


Anti-Legalize-and-Regulate Cops Accidentally Highlight Own Ignorance of Drug War Issues

Pro-Legalize-and-Regulate Cops Guardedly Optimistic About Future of Law Enforcement

ANNAPOLIS, MD–The oppositional side of the hearing on legalization and regulation of marijuana in the Maryland Senate today turned into a comedy of errors courtesy of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and Maryland Sheriffs’ Association. Amongst other items, the gallery erupted in laughter and outrage after Annapolis Chief of Police Michael Pristoop cited a hoax story about deaths attributed to marijuana overdose in Colorado. He was publicly corrected by one of the presiding senators, who pulled up the hoax on his phone and explained the story was a joke.

Other questionable statements included Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis’s point that marijuana shouldn’t be legalized because police would have to retrain expensive drug-sniffing police dogs, an officer making light of the dangers of alcohol use, a DA asserting “no one goes to jail for marijuana,” and comments on how absent (constitutionally required) probable cause other than the supposed smell of marijuana, police would be less able to conduct pretextual stops such as stop-and-frisk.

At one point, Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-MD 20) questioned this power, repeatedly cited by criminal justice policy experts as a primary cause for racial inequities in arrest rates, asking Sheriff Lewis about his own ability to distinguish good guys from bad. He then cited a 1999 New York Times article that said of the sheriff, “Black, black, black, black. It is what Mike Lewis sees.”

“The official testimony of the Chiefs’ Association saddens me as a police commander. My motto has always been ‘Respect the police. Demand reform,’” commented Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) board member Captain Leigh Maddox (Ret.). “Today many police gave testimony that was so clearly flawed it no doubt caused a lot of people to lose respect for a profession of which I am proud to have been a part. I continue to remain hopeful they will come around.”

“I’m not going to get into the safety or danger of marijuana–the destructive policy of prohibition is what we’re discussing here today. But any college student can tell you no person has ever died of a marijuana overdose. If police don’t bother to educate themselves before testifying before the state senate in the issue, how is anyone supposed to take seriously their commitment to establishing the best marijuana policy–not for the funding it brings their departments in asset forfeiture and federal grant revenue–but for the people of Maryland?” asked LEAP executive director Major Neill Franklin (Ret.).


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Press Release: Eighteen Members of Congress Call on Obama to Reschedule Marijuana

February 12, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496


Current Scheduling Limits Medical Research, Creates Hurdles to Legitimate Business

Bill to “Unmuzzle Drug Czar” Also Introduced

WASHINGTON, DC–Citing high numbers of arrests, billions of dollars wasted, disproportionate effects on black Americans and the relative safety of marijuana, a group of eighteen Congress members today called on President Obama to “delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II.” The move comes in light of Obama’s recent comments to The New Yorker that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol and that it was important to allow legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington to proceed.

Currently, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug, a classification for drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Because of this classification, most medical research on marijuana is prohibited, it cannot be prescribed in accordance with federal law and it creates a host of tax and business regulation problems for state-legal marijuana businesses trying to comply in good faith with all relevant laws.

“No drug should be listed as Schedule I, which limits potentially life-saving research into both benefits and dangers of a substance and guarantees a violent, illegal market for the product,” said Law Enforcement Against Prohibition executive director Major Neill Franklin (Ret.) “This is even more true of marijuana right now, when after four decades of failure, states are doing their best to find something that works and federal regulations keep interfering with their doing so.”


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Press Release: House Oversight Committee Holds Hearings on Marijuana

February 4, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496


ONDCP Head Claims Obama Administration Trying to Treat Marijuana Use As Public Health Issue

Rep. Blumenauer Calls ONDCP’s Failure to be Honest About Drug Harms “Part of the Problem”

WASHINGTON, DC–Office of National Drug Control Policy Deputy Director Michael Botticelli testified about the Obama administration’s marijuana policy to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform today in a hearing that at times got quite heated. Botticelli defended Obama administration policies Chairman John Mica (R-FL) called “fractured” and “schizophrenic,” saying the administration is dedicated to treating marijuana use as a public health issue rather than a law enforcement matter. That statement was questioned by other Congressmembers who cited the 750,000 arrests and billions of dollars spent by states every year on law enforcement intervention.

The most heated exchange, however, came after Botticelli refused to answer questions about marijuana’s relative safety as compared with cocaine, methamphetamine and tobacco, all of which are less stringently regulated under the Controlled Substances Act than marijuana (nicotine, a legal drug, does not appear on the schedule). Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) commented that despite Botticelli’s talk of educational programs, until he was able to speak about the real harms of drugs rather than spouting inaccurate propaganda, children would not hear the message. He then opined whether a friend who had died of a heroin overdose would still be alive if he had received real education on the dangers of the drug. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) went even further, calling ONDCP’s refusal to realistically discuss drug use “part of the problem.”   

“I don’t think people should smoke marijuana. Every drug–including those you get from your doctor–has real harms. But if you educate people about those harms and how to minimize them, you diminish their impact and ensure that your warnings will be heeded,” commented Law Enforcement Against Prohibition executive director Major Neill Franklin (Ret.). “Part of the ridiculous logic of the war on drugs is that even when asked a direct question by members of Congress, the head of the agency tasked with administering our drug policy cannot answer truthfully questions that could save lives.”

The hearing focused largely on the racial disparities engendered by the unequal enforcement of marijuana laws, the lifelong impact of marijuana convictions (which, unlike murder and other violent crimes can disqualify a person from receiving some federal student loans as well as other legal entitlements), the failure of the drug war to reduce use, the money wasted on prohibition, misplaced law enforcement priorities, and the right of states to govern themselves.

“It’s time criminal justice professionals stop being motivated by politics and start being motivated to do what is best for the American people,” added Lieutenant Commander Diane Goldstein (Ret.), a LEAP board member.  


Friday, January 24, 2014

Press Release: Top Republican Presidential Hopefuls Declare Commitment to Drug Policy Reform

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                  
January 24, 2014                                                 
CONTACT: Darby Beck – darby.beck@leap.cc or (415) 823-5496


Rick Perry, Chris Christie Join Barack Obama, Kofi Annan and Juan Manuel Santos in Denouncing Current Drug Policy This Week
Politicians from Both Sides of Aisle Support Change
DAVOS, SWITZERLAND–Rick Perry, Republican governor of Texas who ran for the presidency in 2012 and is widely expected to consider a run in 2016, repeatedly recognized state governments’ right to legalize marijuana and touted his implementation of “policies that start us toward a decriminalization” in a drug policy reform panel at the World Economic Forum Thursday.  

Perry joins New Jersey governor Chris Christie, another expected candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential primary, who also noted his commitment to drug policy reform this week, saying “We will end the failed war on drugs that believes that incarceration is the cure of every ill caused by drug abuse” in his second inaugural address Tuesday.

“I’ve always said that ending the drug war is neither a liberal nor a conservative issue. It’s an issue of compassion, practicality and justice.” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. “Having two of the top contenders for the Republican presidential nod in 2016 touting their commitment to drug policy reform the same week Obama praised legalization in Washington and Colorado shows the discussion has shifted from bipartisanship and ‘Can national politicians support reform?’ to ‘Can national politicians afford not to?’”

The panel on which Perry appeared also featured Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who both support ending the war on drugs. This marks the first time drug policy discussions have taken prominence in the forum’s more than 40-year history.
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