November News Nuggets

By David Burton

The State

Obama and L.A. judge hand wins to L.A. cannabis clubs

Within hours of each other, the Obama administration issued guidelines curtailing prosecution of medical-cannabis users and dispensaries, and an L.A. Superior Court judge declared invalid L.A.’s moratorium on dispensaries.

The announcement by U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder on Oct. 19 represented a reverse course of the prior White House administration’s marijuana policies. Numerous cannabis dispensaries were raided by federal officers under Bush. Obama had pledged to end those raids during his presidential run.

The same day, L.A. Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant issued an injunction preventing the City of L.A. from enforcing its dispensary moratorium against the Playa Vista collective Green Oasis, which challenged the ban in a lawsuit. The injunction effectively blocked the city’s efforts to rid of itself of hundreds of cannabis clubs that have cropped up in L.A. since the ban was put in place four months ago.

Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley immediately vowed to continue cracking down on dispensaries, despite the injunction.

OAK or SFO? Fly 420 Airlines

Oakland and San Francisco’s tolerance for medical marijuana apparently extends to their airports, as recent news articles revealed both facilities share a policy allowing cannabis patients to carry their medicine on flights.

According to articles in the Oakland Tribune and San Jose Mercury News, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department quietly enacted the policy last year. It allows passengers proven to be qualified medical-marijuana patients or their primary caregivers to keep up to 8 ounces of cannabis on them when they board flights at Oakland and San Francisco International airports.

Transportation Security Administration screeners notify Sheriff’s deputies when they find cannabis or other federal contraband. Under the policy, deputies warn flyers with medical cannabis that may be committing a felony charges if they enter a jurisdiction that doesn’t recognize medical marijuana. But, the news articles read, Alameda County deputies won’t notify outside jurisdictions ahead of the travelers.

L.A. D.A. announces crackdown on dispensaries

Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley has declared “about 100 percent” of all medical-marijuana dispensaries in the county are operating illegally, and that “the time is now” to crack down on them.

Cooley on Oct. 19 said the state’s Medical Marijuana Program allows cannabis to be distributed to qualified patients only on a nonprofit basis. As such, he said, he will prosecute anyone engaging in over-the-counter sales. CULTURE has received reports of recent raids on several cannabis clubs in the county since Cooley made his announcement, though as of press time the reports were unconfirmed.

Numerous pro-cannabis legalization and medical-marijuana advocate groups, including Americans for Safe Access, denounced Cooley’s remarks, saying he had misinterpreted the law. Americans for Safe Access points to guidelines issued by the state Attorney General’s office that allow for the collection of sales taxes from dispensaries—implying an acknowledgement that cannabis would be sold at such operations.

The Nation

Pot plus head equals arrest for Pennsylvania man

Police arrested a man in Lebanon, Penn., after an officer reportedly spotted him with a bag of marijuana stuck to his forehead.

Cesar Lopez, 29, was inside a convenience store Oct. 10 when an officer saw him examining the inside of his baseball cap, news reports stated. Authorities suspect he was looking for a small plastic bag he had stashed in the cap’s sweatband, and was unaware it was stuck to his forehead. When Lopez neared the officer, the cop peeled the bag—filled with what appeared to be pot—from his forehead and said, “Is this what you’re looking for?”

Lopez was charged with possessing a small amount of marijuana and paraphernalia.

Gallop poll shows record support for legalizing cannabis

Public support for legalizing and taxing cannabis in the U.S. is at its highest level since marijuana was criminalized more than 70 years ago, a new Gallop poll reveals.

Nearly half of Americans surveyed support legalizing and taxing pot, according to poll results released in October. Some 50 percent of Americans younger than 50 support legalization, compared to 28 percent of seniors.

The poll also showed a clear political divide on the question of cannabis legalization. About 78 percent of those identifying themselves as liberals approved of repealing cannabis prohibition, while 72 percent of those who consider themselves conservative opposed the move.

A record number—51 percent—of independents registered support for cannabis legalization, the poll showed.

Jack Herer’s condition improves after heart attack

Cannabis legalization pioneer Jack Herer, who suffered a heart attack Sept. 12, has been released from a Portland, Ore., hospital and moved to a nursing facility, according to news reports.

The 70-year-old author of The Emperor Wears No Clothes collapsed after delivering a speech at Portland’s Hempstalk festival. He would remain in critical condition for the next three weeks. Herer had previously suffered a debilitating stroke in 2000.

According to news accounts, Herer’s condition improved enough in October to allow him to be moved to Eugene, Ore., nursing facility.

Medical cannabis bill advances in New Jersey

New Jersey may soon become the 14th U.S. state to legalize medical marijuana following a recent vote, as a bill that would set up a compassionate-use program in the Garden State continues to advance in the legislature.

The New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act passed the state Senate in September by a vote of 22-16, with two abstentions. A modified version of the bill cleared a New Jersey Assembly committee earlier in the year. Gov. Jon Corzine has promised to sign the bill into law if it passes muster with the full legislature.

Should that happen, New Jersey would host one of the most restrictive medical-cannabis programs in the country. Cannabis would be legalized only for people suffering from such serious medical illnesses as AIDS, cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma and multiple sclerosis, and only upon recommendation from physicians with established relationships with the patients. Only licensed and tightly regulated nonprofit organizations would be allowed to distribute cannabis to the patients.

The World

West Australia moves to repeal pot reform law

West Australian Premier Colin Barnett has introduced legislation greatly expanding police “stop-and-frisk” powers and repealing a law allowing possession of up to 30 grams of cannabis.

If approved, the legislation would compel anyone caught with even small amounts of pot to undergo counseling. Offenders would also have to go three years without being arrested again for the same offense in order to have their criminal records cleared. Anyone convicted of selling cannabis paraphernalia to minors would be fined $10,000 Australian dollars.

The move by Barnett, who heads West Australia’s center-right Liberal Party and was elected premier in September 2008, reverses a general trend by the former Labor Party government toward relaxing marijuana prohibition. In 2005 while serving as opposition leader, Barnett raised eyebrows by leading a campaign—ultimately unsuccessful—to recriminalize homosexuality for anyone under the age of 18.

Malaysian courts sentence 4 to hang for cannabis

Four men have been sentenced over the past three months to death by hanging for violating Malaysian’s draconian cannabis laws, according to news reports.

The men—Nasir Ibrahim, Khairul Idzham, Khalil Anuar Sukirman and Lim Kok Yong—were sentenced in separate cases for trafficking in marijuana. Sukirman, 25, was convicted of trafficking more than 1 kilos of cannabis three years ago.

Malaysia has one of the strictest drug policies in the world. Under the nation’s 1952 Dangerous Drug Act, possession of 200 grams of cannabis is punishable by a 20-year-to-life sentence. Conviction on trafficking charges for any amount is punishable by hanging.

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