Thursday, September 30, 2010

Drug War Basic Disrespect for Law

Albert Einstein said, "The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced."

I can't prove the basic disrespect for law today is caused by our current drug policies, but I do know a lot more cops are getting in trouble today.

I think when young people live where many of the people around them are violating the law, committing drug felonies every day, the young people grow up with a basic disrespect for the law.

When these young people go into law enforcement, they seem to retain that same disrespect for law.

In Arizona the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board is responsible for the certification of police officers, and they can revoke that certification. It happens all too often today.

If you read the Drug War Chronicles Corrupt Cops section, you may like the Arizona POST Integrity Bulletin.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Arms in Mexico

It is easy to be critical at President Calderón’s misguided, heavy-handed and ill-planned war that he has launched against the deeply entrenched cartels, but there have been results (aside from the slaughter of over 29,000 people since Dec 2006). The Mexican government released figures on the number of weapons seized in the last 10 years, over 79,000, with nearly 71,000 of those being seized since Calderón came to power 4 years ago. Of the 79,000 weapons, 23,000 are assault rifles and other large caliber weapons while almost 48,000 are handguns (the astute reader will notice that these two numbers do not add up to 79,000, this is due to the fact that there are other weapons seized such as anti-personnel mines, hand-grenades and rocket launchers). The weapons of choice is the ubiquitous AK-47 (known in Mexico as cuernos de chivo or “goat horns”) and its American cousin the AR-15 although the nacros have a fondness for the .50 Barret and RPGs as well as the FN57 or matapolicías (police killers) which, when used with Teflon bullets can pierce body armor. The bosses are so fond of their weapons that they have them coated in gold plating.
So we can see that there is some good of this effort, that some weapons are being removed (90% of which are determined to be from the United States).
For a map of the killings: click: Narco-killings
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Open Thread

  • Jeffrey Miron and Katherine Waldock have a new white paper, "The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition." They estimate the savings for the United States in enforcement costs would amount to $41.3 billion per year. The tax revenues from legalization would generate $46.7 billion annually.

  • The Ontario Superior Court has ruled that three of Canada's prostitution laws are unconstitutional. It seems the courts increasingly appreciate the dangers created by prohibition.

  • Wally Oppal has been appointed to head a public inquiry in British Columbia. Oppal will examine the Robert Pickton investigation. This case involved a serial killer who targeted women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada). Many of these women were prostitutes and drug users. It will be interesting to see if the public inquiry will consider prohibition as a factor here.

  • This article from The Guardian explains how social networks are telling the real story about Mexico's drug war. (LEAP speaker Walter McKay lives in Mexico and he has a great blog about what is happening in Mexico.)

  • Australia has formally approved a "heroin injecting room." The site has been around since 2001 on a trial basis. It has gone through eleven evaluations from five different organizations (the most recent evaluation was actually done by KPMG).
Update: This Globe and Mail article is the most comprehensive article I've been able to find so far regarding the prostitution decision out of Ontario.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Looks like Border Violence is just more drug war hype according to the Arizona Republic.

Violence is not up on Arizona border despite Mexican drug war
Mexico crime flares, but here, only flickers
by Dennis Wagner - May. 2, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

NOGALES, Ariz. - Assistant Police Chief Roy Bermudez shakes his head and smiles when he hears politicians and pundits declaring that Mexican cartel violence is overrunning his Arizona border town.
"We have not, thank God, witnessed any spillover violence from Mexico," Bermudez says emphatically. "You can look at the crime stats. I think Nogales, Arizona, is one of the safest places to live in all of America."
FBI Uniform Crime Reports and statistics provided by police agencies, in fact, show that the crime rates in Nogales, Douglas, Yuma and other Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat for the past decade, even as drug-related violence has spiraled out of control on the other side of the international line. Statewide, rates of violent crime also are down.

Read more:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Interview from CSSDP conference

Here's a nine minute interview I did with Kevin Letourneau at the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy conference in Vancouver. The interview took place last year but he only recently put it online. I am very pleased with this video - Kevin did an great job with the editing:

CSSDP organizes a drug policy conference in Canada each year. Their next conference will be held in Toronto from November 5th to 7th, 2010. Retired Ontario provincial court judge and LEAP speaker Marvin Morten will be part of one of the panels.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

After reviewing these links there'll be no doubt in yer mind that prohibition brings gold and plunder for pirates and other criminals:

- Time4Hemp is an hour long radio program hosted by Casper Leitch and broadcast on American Freedom Radio. Every Wednesday is LEAP night. Peter Christ joins the show as a co-host and interviews various LEAP speakers. Check out their archives for interviews with Matthew Fogg, Russell Jones, Neill Franklin, Ruth Silver, Matthew McCally and other members of LEAP.

- Tony Newman and Stephen Gutwillig have a great op-ed in the The Sacramento Bee in which they mention Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

- For ye landlubbers, today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Thar she blows, matey. :-)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Media Goes Nuts for Cops Supporting Marijuana Legalization

Yesterday's pro-legalization law enforcement press conferences and sign-on letter rolled out by LEAP is garnering extensive media coverage.

Take a look at just a few examples:

Fox News Channel:



KTTV Fox-11:

Los Angeles Times:
On-the-job experience demonstrated the futility of trying to enforce laws prohibiting the possession and use of small amounts of cannabis, Gray said at a news conference held by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a nonprofit organization supporting Proposition 19.

"I was a drug warrior until I saw what was happening in my own courtroom,'' said Gray, a former federal prosecutor.

Associated Press (picked up by over 200 news websites):
Supporters said keeping pot illegal props up drug cartels and overburdens the state's court system. Stephen Downing, former deputy chief for the Los Angeles Police Department, said the nation's drug policy has failed, likening it to cutting off the leg of a spider to cripple it.

"The drug organizations are more like starfish," Downing said during a press conference at a West Hollywood park where children were playing with their parents behind him. "You cut a leg off, it regenerates. We are dealing with a sea of starfish. The only way you kill a starfish is to remove its nutrient. And that nutrient is money."

New York Times Caucus blog:
“This November, Californians finally have a chance to flip the equation and put drug cartels out of business, while restoring public respect for the criminal laws and their enforcement,” said William John Cox, a former sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department and a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney.

KQED radio:


Ventura County Star:
A former police chief of California’s third-largest city said Monday that state voters will have the opportunity “to strike more of a blow than law enforcement ever could against drug cartels” by approving Proposition 19, the measure that would legalize the possession and regulated sales of marijuana.

Joseph McNamara, who headed the San Jose Police Department for 15 years, called the ballot measure a potential “game-changer” that would allow police agencies to devote more resources to fighting other crimes and undercut criminal syndicates that are largely funded by illegal marijuana sales.

“Opponents say we should do more of the same of what has not worked for more than a century,” McNamara said in a phone call with reporters. “I think we should return some common sense to law enforcement by protecting people from crimes they are concerned about. People are not terrified by pot smokers.”

The letter, addressed to California voters and signed mostly by retired law enforcement officials, called the country's current drug policy on marijuana an “abysmal failure.”

”As criminal justice professionals, we have seen with our own eyes that keeping cannabis illegal damages public safety -- for cannabis consumers and non-consumers alike. We've also seen that prohibition sometimes has tragic consequences for the law enforcers charged with putting their lives on the line to enforce it,” the letter said. “The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market.” 

Drug War Chronicle:
It was a law enforcement trifecta in support of California's Proposition 19 Monday, with a phalanx of police, prosecutors, and judges coming out in support of the marijuana legalization initiative in a pair of early morning press conferences in Oakland and Los Angeles and a teleconference later in the day for those unable to attend the live events. The endorsements come with Prop 19 in a very tight race and Election Day just seven weeks away.

While, unsurprisingly, a large number of California law enforcement officials have come out in opposition to Prop 19, Monday's events were designed to show that law enforcement opposition to marijuana legalization is by no means monolithic. Organizers of the events also released a letter endorsing Prop 19 signed by dozens of current and former law enforcement officials.

TIME Magazine blog:
Pot proponents usually highlight medical reasons to argue for the removal of the illegal tag. Several ex-officials in California turned to a different lens in their support for Proposition 19.

The AP reports that a group of former law enforcement professionals pushed their support for state's marijuana ballot measure on Monday. Largely comprised of former/retired police officers, judges and prosecutors, their endorsement for Prop 19 centers on its ability to aid congestion in the state's courts. Less backlog from petty marijuana cases could lead to more efficient processing for larger-scale crimes.

Again, this is only a small sampling of the extensive print, TV, radio and online coverage we got yesterday.  Please sign the petition to Stand with LEAP and our law enforcers in supporting sensible changes to our marijuana laws.

Attack of the LSD Gummy Bears

The RCMP issued a public warning on Saturday about LSD gummy bears. The story has been picked up by national media in Canada.An interesting angle to this is that one could allegedly buy LSD in Cranbrook, a small city in the interior of British Columbia (population 20,000, home of the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel).

LSD is supposed to be relatively scarce these days. Ryan Grim wrote a 2004 piece for Slate titled Who's Got the Acid?

Here's an excerpt:
Evidence of acid's decline can be found practically everywhere you look: in the number of emergency room mentions of the drug; in an ongoing federal survey of drug use; in a huge drop in federal arrests; and in anecdotal reports from the field that the once ubiquitous psychedelic is exceedingly difficult to score. In major cities and college towns where LSD was once plentiful, it can't be had at all.
Apparently that's not the case in Cranbrook.

Monday, September 13, 2010

California Law Enforcers Endorse Marijuana Legalization

Today at press conferences in Oakland and Los Angeles, a group of police officers, judges and prosecutors released the following letter of endorsement for legalizing marijuana in California signed by dozens of law enforcers from across the state.

Law Enforcers Say Control and Tax Cannabis to Protect Public Safety

To the Voters of California:

As police officers, judges, prosecutors, corrections officials and others who have labored to enforce the laws that seek to prohibit cannabis (marijuana) use, and who have witnessed the abysmal failure of this current criminalization approach, we stand together in calling for new laws that will effectively control and tax cannabis.

As criminal justice professionals, we have seen with our own eyes that keeping cannabis illegal damages public safety -- for cannabis consumers and non-consumers alike. We’ve also seen that prohibition sometimes has tragic consequences for the law enforcers charged with putting their lives on the line to enforce it. The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market.

If California's voters make the sensible decision to effectively control and tax cannabis this November, it will eliminate illegal marijuana distribution networks, just as ending alcohol prohibition put a stop to violent and corrupting gangsters' control of beer, wine and liquor sales.

As law enforcement professionals, we especially want voters to understand that legalization will allow us to do our jobs more effectively and safely. In 2008, there were over 60,000 arrests for simple misdemeanor cannabis possession in California, yet nearly 60,000 violent crimes went unsolved in our state that same year. When we change our cannabis laws, police officers will no longer have to waste time on low-level cannabis arrests; we'll be able to focus on protecting the public from murderers, rapists, drunk drivers and burglars. Cannabis cases will no longer clog up court dockets. And room in our costly, overflowing prisons will be freed up when we stop locking people up just because they tested positive for cannabis while on probation.

Because of all the overhead and administrative savings that legalization will generate, our criminal justice apparatus will have more resources to keep more good law enforcers employed serving the public in this time of fiscal turmoil. Ending prohibition will also put a stop to other crimes and problems caused by the illegal marijuana market, such as robberies, gang warfare, gun-running and house fires caused by underground grow operations.

Controlling marijuana through a regulated system will also reduce its availability to kids. Right now, illegal dealers have no incentive to check IDs or avoid selling to juveniles, given that the market is illegal for everyone. But under adult legalization, licensed cannabis businesses will face penalties and consequences that will effectively deter underage sales. Indeed, a recent study from Columbia University shows that teens currently find it easier to purchase illegal marijuana than age-regulated alcohol.

And, because marijuana is illegal and unregulated, its producers aren’t required to do any quality control or safety evaluation, and sometimes it is adulterated with other drugs or harmful chemicals. While law enforcers understand that every drug has the potential for abuse, making cannabis illegal has made it much more dangerous than it otherwise would be under effective regulation.

Please join us in supporting the sensible solution to California’s failed cannabis policies. Let’s vote to control and tax cannabis this November – for safety’s sake.


MacKenzie Allen
Former Deputy Sheriff, Los Angeles Sheriff's Dept.
Deputy Sheriff, King County Sheriff's Dept. (Ret.)

James Anthony
Former Community Prosecutor, Oakland City Attorney's Office

L. Lawrence Baird
Former Senior Reserve Park Ranger, Orange County

William Baldwin
Correctional Officer, California Department of Corrections (Ret.)

Nate Bradley
Former Officer, Wheatland Police Department
Former Deputy, Sutter County Sheriff's Office

Walter Clark
Deputy District Attorney, County of Riverside District Attorney's Office (Ret.)

Stephen Cobine
Captain, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (Ret.)

William John Cox
Former Officer, El Cajon Police Department
Former Sergeant, Los Angeles Police Department
Former Deputy, Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office
Retired Supervising Trial Counsel, State Bar of California

Bill Dake
Former Officer, San Francisco Police Department

David Doddridge
Narcotics Officer, Los Angeles Police Department (Ret.)

Stephen Downing
Deputy Chief, Los Angeles Police Department (Ret.)

Rick Erickson
Officer, Lakeport Police Department (Ret.)

Paul Gallegos
District Attorney, County of Humboldt

Dr. Nina Graves
Former Military Police, Santa Barbara

James Gray
Judge, Superior Court of Orange County (Ret.)

Terence Hallinan
Former San Francisco District Attorney

Russ Jones
Former Narcotics Detective, San Jose Police Department, DEA Task Force

Kyle Kazan
Former Officer, Torrance Police Department

Leo E. Laurence
Former Biker Enforcement Task Force Member, San Diego District Attorney's Office
Former Deputy Sheriff, Missouri

Madeline Martinez
Correctional Peace Officer (Ret.), State of California Department of Corrections

Danny Maynard
Former Yolo County Sheriff’s Office
Former Sacramento Port Police Department

Walter McKay
Former Senior Police Specialist, Police Assessment Resources Center, Los Angeles, CA
Former Detective, Vancouver Police Department

Joseph McNamara
Chief of Police, San Jose Police Department (Ret.)

Joe Miller
Deputy Probation Officer, Mohave County Probation Department
Police Officer, Needles Police Department (Ret.)

John O'Brien
Sheriff, Genesee County, MI (Ret.)
University of Phoenix, Southern California campus

John A. Russo
Oakland City Attorney

David Sinclair
Former Deputy Sheriff, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff

Mike Schmier
Former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles
Former Administrative Law Judge California State
Former Federal Labor Prosecutor San Francisco

Jeffrey Schwartz
Senior Deputy District Attorney, Humboldt County (Ret.)

Lyle Smith
Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (Ret.)

Norm Stamper
Executive Assistant Chief of Police, San Diego Police Department (Ret.)
Chief of Police, Seattle Police Department (Ret.)

Jeff Studdard
Former Reserve Deputy Sheriff, Los Angeles County

All agency affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cops & Judges Hold Press Conferences to Support Prop. 19 & Marijuana Legalization (press release)

NEWS ADVISORY: September 10, 2010

CONTACT: Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or media//at//leap//dot//cc

Cops and Judges to Endorse Prop 19 at Simultaneous Northern and Southern California Press Conferences Monday, Sept 13 at 10:00 AM PDT

Campaign Also Holding Telephone Press Conference Monday Afternoon at 12:30 PM PDT

(OAKLAND, CA) -- A group of police officers, judges, and prosecutors who support Proposition 19, the California ballot measure to control and tax cannabis (marijuana), will hold simultaneous press conferences Monday, September 13 in front of Oakland City Hall and in West Hollywood Park near Los Angeles at 10 AM PDT to release a letter of endorsement signed by dozens of law enforcers across the state.

"At each step of my law enforcement career - from beat officer up to chief of police in two major American cities - I saw the futility of our marijuana prohibition laws," said Joseph McNamara, former police chief in San Jose and Kansas City, MO, now a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "But our marijuana laws are much worse than ineffective: they waste valuable police resources and also create a lucrative black market that funds cartels and criminal gangs with billions of tax-free dollars."

Former LAPD sergeant and Los Angeles County deputy district attorney William John Cox, added, "This November, Californians finally have a chance to flip the equation and put drug cartels out of business, while restoring public respect for the criminal laws and their enforcement by passing Proposition 19 to control and regulate marijuana."

Also speaking at the press conferences will be current Oakland city attorney John Russo, former LAPD deputy police chief Stephen Downing, former Oakland drug nuisance prosecutor James Anthony, retired Orange County Superior Court judge Jim Gray, former Torrance Police Department beat officer and drug identification expert Kyle Kazan, former Wheatland, CA police officer Nate Bradley, and others.

In the sign-on letter being released at the press conferences, dozens of law enforcers outline their reasons for supporting Proposition 19, detailing how it will:

* Put our police priorities where they belong, by ending the arrests of non-violent cannabis consumers, and enabling police to focus instead on preventing violent crime
* Cut off funding to violent gangs and drug cartels, who generate the majority of their revenue from illegal marijuana sales
* Protect the lives of police officers now at risk in the "drug war" line of fire
* Reduce marijuana access to children by instituting strict age-limits and public safety controls
* Restore mutual respect and good relations between law enforcement and communities bearing the brunt of the current marijuana laws

For journalists who can’t physically attend the press conferences, the Yes on 19 campaign will be holding a conference call featuring several anti-prohibition law enforcers on Monday at 12:30 PM PDT. For dial-in info, please contact Tom Angell at 202-557-4979 or media at leap dot cc.

These law enforcement leaders join the National Black Police Association, the California NAACP, doctors, Latino community leaders, faith leaders, labor, business leaders, elected officials, political parties, and more, in endorsing Proposition 19. For a full list of endorsements, please visit:

Similar to current alcohol and tobacco laws, Proposition 19 will give state and local governments the ability to control and tax the sale of small amounts of cannabis to adults age 21 and older. As the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), which provides non-partisan fiscal and policy advice, confirms, Prop 19 includes significant safeguards and controls: It maintains strict criminal penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana, increases the penalty for providing marijuana to a minor, expressly prohibits the consumption of marijuana in public, forbids smoking marijuana while minors are present, and bans possession on school grounds., (Page 3)

California’s tax collector, the Board of Equalization (BOE), which currently collects alcohol and tobacco taxes, estimates that marijuana taxes could generate $1.4 billion in revenue each year, available to fund law enforcement, healthcare, and other critical needs.

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) also says Prop 19 would enable California to put our police priorities where they belong, in that it “could result in savings to the state and local governments by reducing the number of marijuana offenders incarcerated in state prisons and county jails, as well as the number placed under county probation or state parole supervision. These savings could reach several tens of millions of dollars annually. The county jail savings would be offset to the extent that jail beds no longer needed for marijuana offenders were used for other criminals who are now being released early because of a lack of jail space." (Page 6)

Multiple polls show that a majority of California voters support Proposition 19.


Friday, September 3, 2010

Gov. Gary Johnson Says Legalize Marijuana to Hurt Cartels

Check out this great op-ed from LEAP advisory board member Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico.

Legalize Marijuana to Stop the Drug Cartels
by Governor Gary Johnson

           There were 72 bodies found on a ranch ninety miles south of the Texas border -- obvious victims of a drug cartel massacre.  Bullets have been hitting public buildings in El Paso and the Washington Post is reporting that at least $20 billion a year in cash is being smuggled across the U. S. border each year.  What is it going to take to convince the Federal Government  that current drug policies are not working? The fact is that the current drug laws are contributing to an all-out war on our southern border -- all in the name of a modern-day prohibition that is no more logical or realistic than the one we abandoned 75 years ago?

           Mexican drug cartels make at least 60 percent of their revenue from selling marijuana in the United States, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. The FBI estimates that the cartels now control distribution in more than 230 American cities, from the Southwest to New England.

           How are they able to do this? Because America’s policy for almost 70 years has been to keep marijuana—arguably no more harmful than alcohol and used by 15 million Americans every month—confined to the illicit market, meaning we’ve given criminals a virtual monopoly on something that U.S. researcher Jon Gettman estimates is a $36 billion a year industry, greater than corn and wheat combined. We have implemented laws that are not enforceable, which has thereby created a thriving black market. By denying reality and not regulating and taxing marijuana, we are fueling not only this massive illicit economy, but a war that we are clearly losing.

           In 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced a new military offensive against his country’s drug cartels. Since then, more than 28,000 people have been killed in prohibition-fueled violence, and the cartels are more powerful than ever, financed primarily by marijuana sales. Realizing that his hard-line approach has not worked, earlier this month Calderon said the time has come for Mexico to have an open debate about regulating drugs as a way to combat the cartels. Ignoring this problem, Mr. Calderon said, “is an unacceptable option.”

           Calderon’s predecessor, Vicente Fox, went even further, writing on his blog that “we should consider legalizing the production, sale and distribution of drugs” as a way to “weaken and break the economic system that allows cartels to earn huge profits … Radical prohibition strategies have never worked.”

           Fox is not alone. His predecessor, as well as former presidents of Brazil and Colombia, has also spoken out for the need to end prohibition.
           And they’re right. Crime was rampant during alcohol prohibition as well. Back then it was lead by gangsters like Al Capone. Now it’s lead by cartels.

           The violence in Mexico is out of control and is destroying the country. Journalists fear reporting the daily shootouts because of threats from the cartels. Some schools are even teaching their students to duck and cover in order to avoid the crossfire. Politicians are being targeted for assassination.

           The havoc has spread into the United States. In March, hit men executed three people linked to the U.S. Consulate in Juarez, an act that President Obama condemned. And the same cartels that are selling marijuana in the United States are destroying treasured environmental resources by growing marijuana illegally in protected park lands. By regulating marijuana   such illegal grows would cease to exist. The problem has been out of hand for quite some time, and a new approach is desperately needed.
           Sadly, U.S. officials refuse to even acknowledge that such a debate is taking place. Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske has said repeatedly that the Obama administration is not open to a debate on ending marijuana prohibition. Even worse, we’ve continued to fund Mexico’s horribly failed drug war (to the tune of $1.4 billion through the Merida Initiative), while refusing to be honest with our neighbors who are urgently seeking a new direction.

           This November, Californians will decide whether to legalize marijuana for adults 21 and older. U.S. officials need to welcome the debate on marijuana regulation. It’s probably the only practical way to weaken the drug cartels—something both the U.S. and Mexico would benefit from immeasurably. We need a new solution to stop this violence.

Some specific acts of violence provided by Reuters:
* Aug 18, 2010 - The body of the mayor of Santiago, a colonial tourist town near Monterrey, was dumped on a rural road, two days after he was taken from his home. Calderon condemned the killing of Edelmiro Cavazos, the latest attack on public officials in an escalating drug war.
* July 18, 2010 - Gunmen burst into a birthday party in the northern city of Torreon, using automatic weapons to kill 17 party-goers and wound 18 others. Mexican authorities later said those responsible were incarcerated cartel hitmen who were let out of jail by corrupt officials. The killers allegedly borrowed weapons and vehicles from prison guards and later returned to their cells.
June 28, 2010 - Suspected cartel hitmen shot and killed a popular gubernatorial candidate in the northern state of Tamaulipas in the worst cartel attack on a politician to date. Rodolfo Torre, 46, and four aides from the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, were ambushed on their way to a campaign event for the July 4 state election.

GARY JOHNSON is the honorary chairman of the OUR America Initiative (, a 501(c)(4) advocacy committee. He is also the former Republican Governor of New (1994-2002), and has been a consistent and outspoken advocate for efficient government and lowering taxes.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Arizona Needs Guidelines for Medical Marijuana Recommendations

Soon Arizona voters will have the chance to fix our broken medical marijuana law by approving the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act, and like the legislature; the Arizona Medical Board needs to get ahead of a few potential problems.

Everyone knows that California’s medical marijuana law is laughable at best. One of the problems is the Pot Doc’s who write recommendations for almost anything. But it’s not their fault, it’s the law.

In California doctors can write a medical marijuana recommendation for patients who suffer from specific list of conditions, but the California law also adds a catchall provision that lets doctors approve marijuana use for "any other illness for which marijuana provides relief."

Like the California law, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act lists specific conditions and treatments for which doctors can recommend medical marijuana, but there's an important difference.

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Act lists debilitating medical condition as one or more of the following,
(a) cancer, glaucoma, positive for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis c, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, crohn’s disease, agitation of alzheimer’s disease, or the treatment of these conditions.
(b) A chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition or it’s treatment that produces one or more of the following: cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy, or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis.

This is the important difference..
(c) Any other medical condition or it’s treatment added by the department pursuant to section 36-2801.01

This is a good start; it puts the responsibility to add other medical conditions on the Arizona Department of Health Services, but Arizona need to go farther.

Doctors need to know what the state expects from them when writing medical marijuana recommendations. We need guidelines like those the Arizona Medical Board enacted in 1997 for the treatment of chronic pain.

I don’t know anyone who suffers one of the debilitating medical conditions listed in the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act who doesn’t see a doctor on a regular basis, or at least have a diagnosis from a doctor and medical history.

If Arizona voters approve medical marijuana in November, we need to take it seriously and treat it like medicine, because it is very serious for patients who rely on medical marijuana for relief from chronic pain, nausea, and seizures.
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