Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Press Release: House Votes to Allow Banks to Do Business with State-Legal Marijuana Businesses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 16, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496

HOUSE VOTES TO ALLOW BANKS TO WORK WITH MARIJUANA BUSINESSES

Bill Amendment Would Remove Treasury Funding for Penalties of State-Legal Businesses

WASHINGTON DC—Today the US House of Representatives voted 231-192 to pass a bipartisan bill amendment introduced by Representatives Denny Heck (D-WA), Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) that would prevent the Treasury Department from using federal funds to penalize banks and other financial institutions providing services to state-legal marijuana businesses.

Banking has been a major sticking point for marijuana businesses trying to operate legally, since though the Treasury Department issued banks guidelines on how to properly report transactions with marijuana businesses in February, many financial institutions feared they might be charged with money laundering if they worked with businesses dealing with a substance still illegal under federal law. As a result, many marijuana businesses were forced to conduct transactions in cash, creating huge logistical and public safety issues.    

“Though this isn’t as flashy a win as some other drug policy reforms of recent years, banking regulations have been one of the most significant obstacles to creating a well-run legal marketplace,” said Law Enforcement Against Prohibition’s executive director Major Neill Franklin (Ret.). “This is a huge victory for those who care about the smart regulation and control of marijuana.”

For supporters, the vote was an echo of a similar bill amendment that passed the House in May eliminating funding for DEA raids on state-licensed medical marijuana businesses and patients. That amendment passed 219-189 in another bipartisan vote.

“What we’re seeing is not just that one of the most gridlocked Congresses in history is able to pass marijuana reforms, we’re seeing that both Democrats and Republicans think of these reforms as smart, politically viable options to a failed drug war,” added Franklin.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a group of law enforcement officials who, after fighting in the front lines of the war on drugs, now advocate for its end.

For interviews, please contact Darby Beck at darby.beck@leap.cc (415.823.5496).


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Monday, July 7, 2014

Press Release: Washington State To Begin Sales of Marijuana Tuesday

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 7, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496

WASHINGTON BEGINS LEGAL SALES OF MARIJUANA TUESDAY

In the wake of glowing reports coming out of Colorado six months after the state began retail sales of marijuana, Washington state’s Liquor Control Board plans to issue up to 20 licenses to retail businesses today, and stores can open as early as Tuesday in theory, though few stores seem likely to be ready by that time, and since growers only received their licenses in March, supply will be limited at first.

“I’m sure the first day will be a disappointment to some consumers,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), 34-year police veteran and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs. “But this isn’t meant to be a party. Any delays are reflective of the fact that Washington state is taking the responsibility to regulate and control this new industry seriously.”

“Washingtonians know that, as in Colorado, governments both foreign and domestic will be watching to see how legalization progresses in the state,” said Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper (Ret.), a LEAP speaker and advisory board member. “And I imagine that, as in Colorado, lower crime rates, increased tax revenue, thousands of new jobs and continuing public support will indicate legalizing and regulating marijuana is one of the simplest ways to improve not just our criminal justice system, but our state governments generally.”

Nearly 7,000 businesses applied for the 334 licenses authorized by I-502, the voter initiative which legalized marijuana in the state. Those licenses are strictly controlled and come with a host of regulations, including prohibitions on retailers being within 1,000 feet of schools, parks and other locations likely to be frequented by children. So far, no manufacturer has passed the stringent requirements surrounding marijuana-infused edibles.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a group of law enforcement officials who, after fighting on the front lines of the war on drugs, now advocate for its end.

For interviews, please contact Darby Beck at darby.beck@leap.cc (415.823.5496).

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Monday, June 9, 2014

Press Release: DEA Targeting Physicians Working with Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Massachusetts

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
June 9, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496

DEA TARGETING PHYSICIANS IN MASSACHUSETTS
Doctors Working with Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Told to Give Up Their Position Or Give Up Their License
Less than two weeks after the House of Representatives passed a measure that would defund Drug Enforcement Administration raids on medical marijuana dispensaries, reports have begun to surface of the DEA intimidating physicians trying to work with state-legal dispensaries in Massachusetts. MassLive and the Boston Globe report that several physicians have been told that if they continue to serve in an advisory capacity for medical marijuana dispensaries, they will lose their DEA license to prescribe certain controlled substances. Already, some doctors have been forced to resign their advisory positions with the dispensaries, which Massachusetts voters agreed to allow in November 2012, possibly delaying the opening of some dispensaries.
“I cannot think of a worse use of law enforcement resources than to undermine a democratically enacted law by intimidating professionals trying to ensure a program designed to help the sick operates as well as it possibly can. This is a gross example of the confused, immoral logic of prohibition gone awry, and frankly, it disgusts me,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the war on drugs.
“Medical marijuana dispensaries are not required to have medical advisors and these actions are likely to have a chilling effect,” Major Franklin added. “They’re not preventing the dispensaries from opening. They’re merely preventing those who run them from doing all they can to ensure they’re as safe and effective for patients as possible.”
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the right of physicians to recommend medical marijuana to their patients but that decision carries precedential value only in the states under its jurisdiction. Advocates fear this tactic may spread to other places trying to comply with state laws.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a group of law enforcement officials who, after fighting in the front lines of the war on drugs, now advocate for its end.
For interviews, please contact Darby Beck at darby.beck@leap.cc (415.823.5496).

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Press Release: DEA Implicated in NSA Program to Record Every Cell Phone Conversation in Bahamas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 19, 2013
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496

DEA IMPLICATED IN NSA PROGRAM TO RECORD EVERY CELL PHONE CONVERSATION IN BAHAMAS
Investigation Suggests DEA Using Drug Kingpins as Excuse to Broadly Monitor All Private Cell Communications in At Least Five Countries
The newest revelations emerging from an investigation spurred by documents released by Edward Snowden suggest that the NSA is using DEA access to wiretaps to record personal information in several foreign countries, including recording every cell phone conversation to, from, and within the Bahamas, a democratic ally that appears not to have knowledge of or have consented to the plan and that has national laws specifically forbidding such interference. And that the NSA lied to Congress about the extent of the program.
In an amazing story by The Intercept, authors Ryan Devereaux, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras explore SOMALGET, a subset of MYSTIC, an NSA program to monitor telecommunications around the globe, including Mexico, the Philippines, Kenya, and another nation left unnamed for fear of instigating violence, a group of countries representing more than 250 million people. The story is reminiscent of an investigation by Reuters last year showing agencies sharing information in a tactic called "parallel construction" to obscure the origins of information in criminal trials, tying the hands of defense attorneys.
The authors fear that if the NSA is using lawful intercepts made by the DEA under the auspices of intercepting the communications of specific drug kingpins to record the conversations of every private citizen in that country, it could seriously imperil foreign cooperation in international law enforcement efforts that may be needed in the fight against international terrorism and other concerns.
“DEA is actually one of the biggest spy operations there is,” said Finn Selander, a retired DEA special agent and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition speaker is quoted as saying in the article. “Our mandate is not just drugs. We collect intelligence.”
Adding insult to injury, in a story not unsurprising to those familiar with the way drug prosecutions are run, the information obtained does not even seem to be being used against the dangerous drug kingpins and those who enable them one would hope would provide some justification for such efforts. Instead, according to the authors, “an internal NSA presentation from 2013 recounts with pride how analysts used SOMALGET to locate an individual who ‘arranged Mexico-to-United States marijuana shipments’ through the U.S. Postal Service.”
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a group of law enforcement officials who, after fighting in the front lines of the war on drugs, now advocate for its end.
For interviews, please contact Darby Beck at darby.beck@leap.cc (415.823.5496).

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Ecuador A Drug Policy Leader

By James E. Gierach, Palos Park, IL, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)

Dear Editor:

In 1994, the Swiss started a heroin maintenance program for addicted drug users (only) that was so successful in improving the health of addicts and stopping crime that the program was sent to the World Health Organization for study and, in 2008 Swiss voters agreed by referendum to continue the successful heroin maintenance program.

In 2000, the Portuguese decriminalized the possession of small quantities of all drugs for personal consumption, recognizing the limits of power and government’s inability to stop people from consuming drugs by outlawing them. The result – rather than crime and drug use increasing, it decreased.

In the 1970s, Hollanders decided to make marijuana, the world’s most popular illegal drug with over a hundred million users worldwide annually (http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/news/20120105/worldwide-illegal-drug-use-estimated-200-million-people-year), de facto legal through tolerance of its now world-famous “coffee shops.” The result – as intended, the plan successfully separated “hard” and “soft” drug markets with significantly lower rates of drug use than in the U.S. On the other hand in the U.S., zero-tolerant prohibition of all drug use (hard and soft) turned out to be the “gateway” to dreaded polydrug use and higher rates of drug use.

In 2009, Bolivians exercising democratic prerogatives adopted a new constitution that afforded constitutional protection of its hallowed cultural, medicinal and historic use of the coca leaf for millenniums (coca leaf is also the prime ingredient of cocaine, powder and crack) in the high Andean country, despite being a signatory to the United Nations 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. That convention outlaws the coca plant, heroin and marijuana and farcically includes all three in Schedule I of outlawed drugs with high potential for abuse and supposedly no medicinal value. However, as of 2014 marijuana is legal in Colorado and the state of Washington, the country of Uruguay, and 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia say marijuana is medicine.

And now in 2014, Ecuadorians have disavowed the popular U.S. practice of “policing for profit,” where seized drug property and profits are plowed back into the drug-war machine, feeding law-enforcement in terms of police hiring, salaries, overtime, equipment, vehicles and buildings. Instead, Ecuador is impounding drug dealer assets and land and using the plunder to support poor and vulnerable communities with jobs for residents through development of sustainable economic projects as an alternative to illicit drug cultivation, processing and transit.

Meeting with the drug czar of Ecuador Rodrigo VĂ©lez and ten members of the international press from Colombia, Guatemala, Uruguay, Cuba, Ecuador and Canada and seeing those Ecuadorean projects personally last month confirms the vitality of its efforts. One shrimp farm is providing jobs and generating $80,000 every four months while a high-tech program tracks 1,805 private companies that purchase, ship, use and account for precursor drug products in real time. The press and I also inspected an operating community, corn-farm alternative.

My four-day adventure to beautiful Ecuador gave me hope for drug policy reform, a sober society, viable community crop-substitution programs, control of precursor chemicals and the possibility of approval of a UN drug prohibition treaty amendment that would end the failed war on drugs and restore peace, health and freedom while reducing the harm of drugs and the war on drugs.

(originally published by The Regional News May 7, 2014)

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
 SPEAKERS:
·         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.”
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