The DEA is withdrawing a proposal to ban another plant after the Internet got really mad


By Christopher Ingraham October 12 at 10:42 AM

The Drug Enforcement Administration is reversing a widely criticized decision that would have banned the use of kratom, a plant that researchers say could help mitigate the effects of the opioid epidemic.

Citing the public outcry and a need to obtain more research, the DEA is withdrawing its notice of intent to ban the drug, according to a preliminary document that will be posted to the Federal Register Thursday.

The move is “shocking,” according to John Hudak, who studies drug policy at the Brookings Institution. “The DEA is not one to second-guess itself, no matter what the facts are.”

The DEA had announced in August that it planned to place kratom in schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, the most restrictive regulatory category, as soon as Sept. 30. But since announcing their intent to ban kratom, the “DEA has received numerous comments from members of the public challenging the scheduling action,” acting administrator Chuck Rosenberg wrote in the notice, “and requesting that the agency consider those comments and accompanying information before taking further action.”

A spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

[What it’s like to be high on kratom, according to the people who use it]

Kratom is a plant from southeast Asia that’s related to coffee. It contains a number of chemical compounds that produce effects similar to opiates when ingested.

People who take it have have said kratom helped them overcome addiction to opiates or alcohol and treat otherwise intractable pain. Researchers say that their work with kratom could eventually lead to the development of nonaddictive alternatives to powerful opiate painkillers. Placing kratom in schedule 1 would cripple researchers ability to study the drug, they say.

U.S. lawmakers were among the groups expressing their displeasure with the DEA’s intent to ban kratom. A group of 51 U.S. representatives wrote to the DEA saying that the DEA’s move “threatens the transparency of the scheduling process and its responsiveness to the input of both citizens and the scientific community.”

Another group of nine senators said the DEA’s “use of this emergency authority for a natural substance is unprecedented,” and urged the administration to reconsider.

The DEA will now open up a period for public comment until Dec. 1 of this year. It is also asking the FDA to expedite a “scientific and medical evaluation and scheduling recommendation” for the active chemical compounds in kratom.

At the close of the comment period, a number of things could happen. The DEA could decide to permanently place the plant in a schedule of the Controlled Substances Act, which would require an additional period for lawmakers and the public to weigh in. It could also decide to temporarily schedule kratom, which would not require any additional comment.

It could also decide to leave kratom unregulated.

[Police arrest more people for marijuana use than for all violent crimes — combined]

Advocates for kratom use, who say the plant has helped them treat pain and stop taking more powerful and deadly opiate painkillers said they are elated.

“I am in tears,” Susan Ash of the American Kratom Association said in an email. “Our voices are being heard, but we still have a long road ahead of us.

Lawmakers who criticized the initial announcement to ban kratom are also pleased. “Concerned citizens across the country have made it clear, they want the DEA to listen to the science when it comes to the potentially life-saving properties of kratom,” said Mark Pocan (D.-Wis.) in an email.

Researchers are welcoming the move, but they point out that the future of their work with the plant is an uncertain one.

“It’s certainly a positive development,” said Andrew Kruegel of Columbia University in an email. Kruegel is one of the researchers working to develop next-generation painkillers based on compounds contained in kratom.

Kruegel says that the FDA’s evaluation of the drug will carry a lot of weight in the DEA’s decision. But the kind of rigorous, controlled trials that the FDA typically refers to in situations like this simply don’t exist for kratom.

“Unfortunately, in the United States I don’t think we have a good regulatory framework for handling this situation or taking perhaps more reasonable middle paths” between banning the drug outright or keeping it unregulated, Kruegel says.

Still, he says, “the FDA is a scientific agency rather than a law enforcement agency, so I am encouraged that they will now be having more serious input on this important policy decision.”

Marc Swogger, a clinical psychologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center who has published research on kratom use and earlier called the decision to ban the plant “insane,” said in an email that “I’m happy to see this. It is a step in the right direction and a credit to people who have spoken out against scheduling this plant.”

CONTINUE READING…

Kratom Advocates Sip Tea and Seethe at White House Rally Against DEA Ban


One user plans to move to Canada. Another plans to quit. Many more don’t know what to do.

By Steven Nelson | Staff Writer Sept. 13, 2016, at 6:20 p.m.

Several protest attendees brought their own bottle of kratom tea Tuesday to the White House. Those who did not were offered a Solo cup.

Several protest attendees brought their own bottle of kratom tea Tuesday to the White House. Those who did not were offered a Solo cup. Steven Nelson for USN&WR

Hundreds of passionate protesters gathered Tuesday near the White House to demand that the popular plant product kratom remain legal. It was jointly a business industry conference, a tea party and a desperate consumer lobbying effort — but the clear-eyed crowd appears to have little chance of near-term victory.

A comprehensive U.S. ban likely will take effect on Sept. 30, just a month after the Drug Enforcement Administration surprised users by saying it would invoke emergency powers to make leaves from the tree grown in Southeast Asia illegal by labeling two main constituents Schedule I substances.

In the face of long odds and silence from Capitol Hill, the event called by the American Kratom Association sought to pressure officials to reconsider while laying the groundwork for what may become a protracted re-legalization campaign.

A large jug of brewed kratom sat in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, with red Solo cups offered to anyone who wanted some. At least one reporter sipped the brew, which tasted like astringent green tea. Another journalist took a pill offered as a free sample by a businessman.

Kratom users who attended the rally said it’s wrong for them to lose legal access to what they say is an effective treatment for pain, addiction, depression and other conditions.

Though many said they were angry, chant-leaders asked the crowd of a couple hundred to stay on message and favored reason over rage, which often is a leading emotion at White House protests staged by marijuana reform advocates who say decades in Schedule I has stalled medical cannabis research amid millions of arrests.

“I’m usually very quiet but felt the need to come out and speak,” says Veronika Bamford-Conners, a kratom-selling store owner from Sullivan, Maine, where, she says, most of her customers are older than 55.

“If they don’t have insurance and can’t afford medications, they find a cheaper alternative in kratom,” she says, though some seem to prefer relief from the leaf to painkillers, such as a 73-year-old man who she says called her weeping “because pharmaceuticals were killing him” before.

Chants at the rally advertised the death toll from accidental overdoses of opioids – more than 28,000 in 2014 alone, including legal painkillers and illegal drugs like heroin – with the low or nonexistent U.S. toll from kratom.

The DEA says it believes 15 deaths were caused by kratom, though American Kratom Association founder Susan Ash says the group hired a toxicologist who concluded each case could be attributed to other drugs.

Many kratom users say the plant has helped them abstain from substances they formerly were addicted to, often heroin or prescription painkillers.

“Kratom saved me, I was a bad heroin addict,” says David Allen, who traveled from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “It keeps cravings away and helped me not drink. I came because I don’t want to lose my medicine.”

Allen says that although the DEA – and even some former kratom users – say the drug can lead to dependence, it’s nothing like the grasp of opioids. He says he believe it’s about as abusable as coffee, which comes from a related plant, and that like coffee withdrawal, ending kratom can cause minor headaches.

Brad Miller, a physics teacher at Spotsylvania High School in Virginia, says he drinks small amounts of kratom tea between three and five times a day to treat arthritis in his knees. He says the effects are “very mild” and “just enough to take the edge off so I can get through my day standing.”

Miller says prescribed painkillers from his rheumatologist were too strong and that unlike opioids he hasn’t developed an addiction to kratom. He says he went on a weeklong camping trip and – unlike the experiences of some users – felt no withdrawal symptoms.

“I didn’t have withdrawal symptoms, but I did have arthritis pain,” he says. “I’d be surprised if anyone has experienced strong withdrawal symptoms.”

Though Miller and others at the event said they aren’t sure what they will do at the end of the month, Heather Hawkins says she’s made up her mind to move to Canada, where kratom remains legal.

Hawkins, a journalist with northern Florida’s Pensacola News-Journal and owner of the Kratom Literacy Project, says she has an incurable bladder disease and is eyeing Vancouver after already moved to the Sunshine State from Alabama in reaction to a local kratom ban.

Talk about moving abroad often is spouted unseriously by political partisans around election time, but Hawkins says she’s completely serious after living in a painkiller-induced haze that left her depressed and unable to get out of bed.

“I’m not going to stay here [if the ban takes effect] because I’m not going back to that life,” she says.

Hawkins says she’s in addiction recovery from cocaine, which she says she used as self-medication to give her the energy to power through her pain and despair, and that if she regarded kratom as a drug she would not take it.

Though kratom is widely known for claims that it can help keep opioid addicts clean, it’s also credited with sapping desire for other substances.

Jeremy Haley, owner of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Kratom, says he began using kratom in 2012 after a drunk driving arrest, and that it has helped veer him away from his alcoholism, which runs in the family.

Although the ban hasn’t yet taken effect, Haley says local officials have shut down his shop for what he views as dubious reasons, making him unable to sell the remaining inventory – the latest in what he says has been a constant regulatory headache that featured him asking Yelp reviewers to delete positive reviews to placate federal officials who wanted proof he was not marketing kratom for human consumption.

Haley plans to open a totally legal apothecary shop if the ban takes effect.

CONTINUE READING…


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After Fighting for Freedom, 76-yo Vet Sentenced to Die In Prison for Treating His Illness With Pot


 

 

Claire Bernish April 21, 2016

As public frustration helps sound the death knell for the drug war, its arbitrary laws and policies appear even more absurd. In the latest inexcusable enforcement of an antiquated law, 76-year-old disabled veteran Lee Carroll Brooker will live out what should be his golden years behind bars — for simple possession of cannabis.

Brooker had been treating multiple chronic conditions with cannabis he grew in his son’s backyard; but when officials in Alabama officials discovered the three dozen plants, they threw him in prison for life — without the possibility of parole.

Thanks to a pointless mandatory minimum sentencing catchall — and the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his case this week — Brooker has been left little recourse but to ultimately die in jail for treating his ailments with a plant.

“Alabama, like three other states, mandates a life without parole sentence for simple possession of small amounts of marijuana by people with certain prior felony convictions — and Mr. Brooker had been convicted of a string of robberies twenty years earlier in Florida, crimes for which he served ten years in prison,” The New York Times explained. “In such a case, the law doesn’t require prosecutors to prove any intent to sell the drug.”

Essentially, Brooker has been imprisoned twice for the same crime — because he sought relief from nature instead of arguably dangerous, legal and often lethal pharmaceuticals, courtesy of Big Pharma. Worse, Alabama’s already irrational law sets the cutoff in a case like this at 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram), and Brooker’s plants weighed just 2.8 pounds — but that included unusable parts, like stalks and leaves.

Make no mistake — this is an unjust law, an unjust conviction, and a ridiculous capitulation by the Supreme Court to Alabama’s archaic notion a nonviolent offense should somehow land a vet behind bars for life and separate him from his medicine — as if law were an inflexible monster to be beholden to, no matter its worth.

In fact, as the Times pointed out, “[W]hile the sentence was mandatory, the prosecutor was not required to bring the precise charges that triggered it. Prosecutorial discretion here, as in most cases, is a central factor in determining what punishment defendants face.”

In other words, the prosecutor railroaded Brooker over his personal, medicinal plants — by choice. Brooker, who joined the U.S. Army at age 17 and came under fire in both Lebanon and the Dominican Republic, eventually rose to the rank of sergeant in the 82nd Airborne — where he was decorated for infantry service. 

Vox reported that even “notoriously conservative” Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore characterized Brooker’s sentence as “excessive and unjustified.” And according to the Times, the judge deciding the vet’s fate would have preferred to hand down a lighter sentence, but once the charges had been brought as they were, he was obligated to enforce the letter of the law.

Yes, this disabled man technically broke the law; but proffering such a rebuttal rings hollow, if not cold, considering the majority of Americans support cannabis legalization. Legality does not dictate morality.

A growing segment of officials and public figures do, as well, as The Free Thought Project reported recently, more than 1,000 police, world leaders, celebrities, and others signed a letter calling to summarily end the disastrous war on drugs.

In fact, though little comfort to Brooker now, the Drug Enforcement Agency will likely downgrade cannabis from its inexplicable Schedule 1 classification to Schedule 2 — as early as July of this year. Note that while a plethora of viable arguments can be asserted for rescheduling, considering states with laws like Alabama’s — and cases like Brooker’s — the slight concession by federal law would make a comparative, whopping difference.

Brooker attempted to bring his case before the highest court in the land as an inarguable violation of the Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment — to no avail. The court’s stonewall, in itself, could be considered as much — in an increasing number of states, Brooker’s so-called crime would have been perfectly legal.

For now, though, it appears the 76-year-old will suffer the consequences of bad policy, unjustifiable law, and the cruelty of ostensible authority figures who were all just doing their jobs.

Read more at http://thefreethoughtproject.com/life-sentence-75-year-old-vet-slightly-plant-allowed-law/#s8Vo4JapilISzggR.99

As Marijuana Goes Mainstream, California Pioneers Rot in Federal Prison


Luke Scarmazzo and Ricardo Montes opened a dispensary in Modesto. Now they’re doing 20 years in federal prison. Their families want them home.

By Angela Bacca / AlterNet

April 13, 2016

Behind the headlines about President Obama’s historic visit to federal prisons and highly publicized releases of non-violent drug offenders, the numbers tell a different story. Despite encouraging and receiving more clemency petitions than any president in U.S. history—more than the last two administrations combined, nearly 20,000very few federal prisoners are actually being granted clemency.

Nowhere is this irony more glaring than in the world of legal cannabis. Cannabis is now considered the fastest-growing industry in the nation, yet remains federally illegal. The sea change from the Department of Justice since 2009 has allowed state-legal cannabis industries to thrive. Federal solutions seem to be around the corner and for the first time cannabis businesses are being publicly traded and receiving legal Wall Street investment.

Ricardo Montes and Luke Scarmazzo are two of the 20,000 federal prisoners appealing to President Obama for clemency. They have exhausted their appeals and are serving 20-year mandatory minimum sentences for openly running a dispensary in the early days of California’s pioneering medical cannabis law. The irony isn’t lost on them that their crimes are now legal and profitable, but their appeals for clemency aren’t based on justice anymore—they just want to be home with their kids. Their daughters, Jasmine Scarmazzo, 13, and Nina Montes, 10, are appealing directly to President Obama to release their fathers via a Change.org petition.  

Nina and Jasmine

Nina Montes is in fifth grade. She is a straight A student who loves math and wants to be a doctor when she grows up. She was just four years old when her dad went to prison. “All I remember is the cops coming and taking him away from me on my birthday,” Nina says. She has always dreamed that her father would be released on her birthday, May 15.  

“It is really sad and it makes me cry [when I visit my dad in prison],” Nina says. “I cry when the time is over and we have to go because we only get three hours, maybe two.”

Nina gets to visit her father once every two months at FCI Lompoc, a five-hour drive from her home in Modesto, Calif.

“All I know is he made a mistake and I don’t think he should be owing that [much time],” Nina says.

Federal prisoners must purchase minutes in order to use phones. They are allowed up to 300 a month and calls are limited to 15 minutes each. Ricardo Montes says he tries to call every other day, sometimes every day, but he has to share his limited phone time between his three children.

“I try to speak to all of them, Nina is the oldest so I have more of a conversation with her. She is at the age now where I can actually explain why I am here,” Montes says. “She didn’t know for a long time. She really doesn’t understand when I explain to her what I did. She’s like, there are still other dispensaries open, why aren’t they going to jail? I told her I have no answer for that.”

Jasmine Scarmazzo is in the eighth grade and loves to debate. Inspired by her father’s case, she says she wants to be a criminal attorney when she grows up. She is increasingly confused as to why her dad is still in prison.

“There were so many tears,” Jasmine says, remembering the day Scarmazzo and Montes were sentenced. “My mom said, your dad got 20 years in prison; I didn’t really comprehend how long that was, I just knew I wasn’t going to see him for a long time. I knew why [he was going to prison]—because of the dispensary—but I was so confused, why is he going to prison if he is helping people?”

Jasmine remained confused until about the age of 8, when she started learning more about federal and state government in school and how it applied to her father’s case.

Over the years legal dispensaries have popped up, not just in Modesto, but across the country. Today marijuana companies are publicly traded and driving legal and profitable Wall Street investment in a handful of states.

“It makes me feel confused, once again, as to why our system is only holding certain people who are doing the same thing in 2016 and are free, and my dad’s in prison,” Jasmine says.  

“Being in prison makes us miss the small normal things that a father and daughter share,” Luke Scarmazzo says. “I don’t get to be there to encourage her successes or console her when she fails or has a bad day. I don’t experience the little things like what she doesn’t like for breakfast or who her friends are. These are attributes that a dad should know and often take for granted, but because of our limited communication, I have to rush to talk to her about the larger mile-markers in life.”

Crime and Punishment

Scarmazzo and Montes opened the California Healthcare Collective in 2004, when they were both 23 years old. Although California became the first medical cannabis state by voter initiative in 1996, dispensaries didn’t begin to appear until the early 2000s, primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area. The state legislature passed S.B. 420 in 2003 to provide basic guidelines for state-legal medical cannabis cultivation and distribution. After the law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2004, more dispensaries began to open, but mainly in San Francisco and Los Angeles. CHC was the first in the Central Valley and served a patient base accustomed to driving an hour or more west to San Francisco and Oakland to obtain safe access under the law.

Montes says there was a clear need for a dispensary in the Central Valley. One local doctor writing cannabis recommendations had said up to 70 percent of his patients, many with cancer, were making regular trips to the Bay Area to access cannabis.

“We were the only ones open and we helped a lot of patients who were sick and couldn’t travel,” Montes says. “It was actually a good thing for the Central Valley… but [local law enforcement and then-mayor Jim Ridenour] didn’t see us as helping people out, they saw us as young kids making money and selling a narcotic drug. We tried to help people. We paid a lot of sales tax [over $1 million], but in that town it doesn’t matter.”

Modesto is largely an agricultural city located about an hour south of Sacramento, the state capital, and about an hour east of the San Francisco Bay. At 9.6 percent in 2015, the city has nearly twice the national average unemployment. Modesto, and the rest of the Central Valley, has consistently ranked high among the highest unemployment averages in the nation.

At the height of its operation, the collective employed up to 14 people.

“The people of the Central Valley are a hard-working, mostly blue-collar community and they don’t earn very high incomes compared to the rest of California,” Luke Scarmazzo says. “Many didn’t have the extra money to regularly make the 100-plus mile commute [to a legal storefront]. The patients that couldn’t afford to travel to the Bay Area before CHC opened were forced to break the law and purchase their recommended medication from the illicit market. It was a terrible hardship on so many levels.”

The dispensary was legal under state law, but as is it still is today, federally illegal. Although many have interpreted the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to leave the regulation of medicine to the states, the federal government affirmed its dominance over state medical cannabis programs in the controversial 2005 Supreme Court decision Gonzalez v. Raich. The federal government argued that because cannabis grown for personal consumption could wind up on the interstate market, the federal government had the authority to enforce federal commerce laws to control state-legal medical marijuana despite voter-approved or supported state legislation.

On Sept. 27, 2006—Jasmine’s fourth birthday—CHC was raided and Scarmazzo and Montes were taken into custody. In 2006, U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott referred to the pair as the “poster children” for the problems with medical marijuana.

“These were drug dealers selling marijuana. This case is that simple,” Scott told the press. He cited $9.2 million in gross sales over two years of operation as evidence the collective was operating for-profit, in opposition to S.B. 420, which required medical cannabis collectives operate not-for-profit.

Gross sales paint an inaccurate picture of actual income and are irrelevant to defining a not-for-profit enterprise. Further, they aren’t completely accurate under state law. Gross sales reflect the total revenues generated before expenses such as labor, security, overhead, legal fees, and perhaps most relevant, cost of goods sold. Under California law, collectives can be reimbursed for their expenses and donations are made to continue the service of cultivating and distributing cannabis to patients. Technically, the numbers reflect gross donations made to the collective before expenses.

Despite what federal prosecutors decried as over-the-top executive compensation, it is not illegal or unheard of that a director at a non-profit could make over $100,000 annually in personal compensation while the business remains a non-profit. Top directors at United Way make just as much and are unquestionably considered not-for-profit.

Scarmazzo and Montes were found guilty of conspiracy, distribution and cultivation of marijuana. 

As Luke Scarmazzo wrote for Kindland.com, “we were also charged with conducting a continuing criminal enterprise (CCE), a Nixon-era drug kingpin offense that carries a 20-year mandatory minimum sentence. No medical marijuana dispensary operator has ever been convicted under this fearsome statute. It has historically been reserved for cartel leaders and international drug kingpins. In fact, the charge is so rarely used that only 0.02 percent of inmates in the U.S., that’s 427 of them, are serving sentences for CCE.”

The FBI defines CCE in terms of membership and leadership, organizations with six or more people, one of which is a primary organizer, involved in organized crime or significant racketeering activity. Scarmazzo and Montes are the only state-legal dispensary owners to be convicted of CCE.

On May 15, 2008—Nina’s third birthday—Scarmazzo and Montes were sentenced and taken into custody. Scarmazzo was sentenced to 21 years and 10 months, Montes to the 20-year mandatory minimum.

Six months later Barack Obama was elected president. Shortly after he took office, in 2009, then-Attorney General Eric Holder released what is now known as the Ogden Memo, outlining the administration’s position in regards to state-legal medical cannabis; the feds said they were backing off compliant cannabis businesses and non-profits in legal states. The new position seemed to be a complete shift from the George W. Bush administration’s strong position against state legal medical cannabis. Cannabis businesses began to pop up all over California and Colorado.

Since Obama took office, four states and Washington D.C. have legalized adult use cannabis and 24 states have legal whole plant medical cannabis programs. In 2013, shortly after Colorado and Washington voters approved legalization initiatives, the Department of Justice issued the Cole Memo, which stated that, for the most part, the DOJ would not use its resources to enforce federal laws in states that had voted to legalize medical or adult use marijuana. Large-scale grow operations are now legal and profitable in many states. These states have not just legalized and regulated, they have taken in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues.

Today, Harborside Health Center in Oakland boasts over $25 million in gross annual sales. Blum, also in Oakland, recently became the first publicly traded dispensary with an initial valuation of $21 million based on $14 million in gross annual sales when it was acquired by Terratech Corporation. Privateer Holdings, owners of a portfolio of brands including Leafly.com, received the largest infusion of Wall Street capital of any marijuana business to date, $75 million. According to Weedmaps.com, there are four dispensary storefronts operating in the city of Modesto today and over 30 more mobile delivery services in the area.

Scarmazzo and Montes have watched all the legislative change around them from behind bars.

“I have mixed emotions when I read the headlines regarding legal marijuana,” Scarmazzo says. “On one hand, I’m happy to see the progress that is being made, research being conducted and the injustices being addressed. Marijuana in the context of criminal justice reform is something we desperately need in this country. On the other hand it’s extremely frustrating. With almost a decade served in prison, we’ve seen our freedom taken, our properties forfeited and our families lost, for business activities that are essentially legal now and taking place everyday throughout the country. Yet, we continue to struggle through this lengthy mandatory sentence. It’s hard to wrap my mind around sometimes.”

“It’s upsetting because when I got arrested I was young, I was only 26 years old, I thought I was doing something right by following state law,” Montes says. “So by exercising my rights and going to trial to fight for my innocence, they punished us severely. I have no action, so to me when I see that it’s a kick in the face. What did I do wrong?”

Selective Prosecution

Search the name “Luke Scarmazzo” online and the first thing that pops up is a Youtube video called “Kraz-Business Man.” The video depicts scenes of Scarmazzo in a courtroom arguing that his medical cannabis business is legitimate and in alternate scenes smoking blunts and counting cash. Midway through the video he turns his middle finger to the camera and raps, “Fuck the Feds.” The video was an undeniably dumb move for a man running a state-legal medical cannabis dispensary in unchartered territory in the earliest days of Prop. 215, though hardly a crime. The video was introduced as evidence against Scarmazzo and Montes in court.

Twelve years later, Montes and Scarmazzo are in their mid-30s and their daughters are growing up without them. 

“My daughter, Jasmine, was four years old when I was arrested. Ricardo’s daughter, Nina, was two. Today they are entering high school and junior high school, respectively,” Luke Scarmazzo wrote for Kindland.com. “They have spent much of their young lives growing up without their fathers. The impact is visible and saddening. According to a 2014 Rutgers University study, one in 28 children in the USA currently have an incarcerated parent. These children have a greater chance of living in poverty and an increased risk of experiencing serious mental-health issues.”

With all appeals exhausted, their only hope of early release is for President Obama to grant them clemency. Their applications are one of over 20,000 the administration has received. Jasmine and Nina hope that by appealing to supporters around the country via the petition they can ultimately reach President Obama.

“My dad is a good man. He made a mistake, but he is very sorry for it,” Nina says. “President Obama has two daughters. I don’t think they would like it if he went to prison for 20 years. His daughters would be miserable and want him home—he would want to come home too. That’s the exact same way I feel.”

“As we do time we realize our mistakes. Ignorance of the law is no excuse; at the time I didn’t understand federal law and how it trumps state law,” Montes says. “Now I understand it’s illegal federally. When I was young I didn’t understand that. We all make mistakes. Hopefully he could forgive our mistakes.”

“I’ve made some big mistakes in the past, ones that have greatly affected those closest to me, and I’m fully responsible for those poor decisions. But I ask for a second opportunity to prove I can make a positive impact, and most importantly, return to being a responsible father to a little girl that means the world to me,” Luke Scarmazzo says.

Sign the Change.org petition, “President Obama, Free Our Dads.”

Angela Bacca is a Portland, Oregon-based writer, photographer and medical cannabis patient. She has been published in Cannabis Now, SFCritic Music Blog, Skunk Magazine, and West Coast Cannabis, among others. 

CONTINUE READING…

 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION:

 

Ninth Circuit Affirms Convictions of Two Modesto Men for Growing and Selling Marijuana

Modesto Marijuana Collective Owners Convicted

I Am Serving 20 Years For Opening a Medical Cannabis Dispensary

Historic Federal Summit on Medicine Marijuana Is Slanted By Drug War Agenda


Legalization Nation

 

By David Downs

 

A seemingly historic medical marijuana summit by several US government health agencies will largely exclude evidence coming from the states that have legalized medical cannabis — another example of entrenched Washington, DC bureaucrats placing politics over science in the marijuana debate.

nih_logo.png

    The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and four other NIH institutes and centers is holding the “Marijuana and Cannabinoids: A Neuroscience Research Summit” today and tomorrow in Bethesda, Maryland.

    “The overarching goal is to present current basic research and evidence-based information to identify research gaps to ultimately inform science, practice, and policy,” an NCCIH release states.
    But the presence of at least one co-sponsor, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, ensures that the summit will be less about healing and more about Reefer Madness. NIDA’s official mission is to fund studies to find harms in cannabis — not any benefit. The summit will not include leading doctors who treat patients with medical marijuana, or patients themselves.
    Instead, NIDA’s director, Dr. Nora Volkow is opening and closing the summit, which will showcase NIDA’s most recent research efforts to show marijuana harms the brain, brain development, and function. The White House Drug Czar will weigh in after lunch, followed by talks on pot and psychosis, pot addiction, and combining pot with alcohol.

     

    [You can watch the NIH Marijuana Summit online here.]


    Only at the end of the day will speakers address the ability of cannabis to treat epilepsy and multiple sclerosis. A marijuana-derived drug reduced seizures by 40 percent in kids with untreatable epilepsy, clinical trials revealed last week.

    Tomorrow, NIDA will relay its latest on pot and driving in the morning. Talks on cannabis’ potential for use on pain and anxiety precede discussions about potential negative health effects of legalization.
    States with medical marijuana laws have 25 percent less opioid overdoses than states without cannabis access, a study published in JAMA showed.
    In February, US Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachussetts, asked the CDC to consider legalizing pot to stem the opioid overdose epidemic.
    The summit is a missed opportunity, said Dr. Sunil Aggarwal, affiliated faculty of the MultiCare Institute of Research and Innovation. Aggarwal just spent a year as a clinical fellow at the NIH intramural campus, and wrote us that “there is a strong bureaucratic taboo in discussing any of the reemerging science or art of cannabis medicine.”
    “This conference does break down some of that taboo, but performs a great disservice to the American people by excluding in the core agenda medical and scientific speakers who can describe health lessons learned from the two dozen medical cannabis state level programs in the United States,” he wrote.

    Millions of patients have been treated by botanical cannabis, Aggarwal notes. One in twenty California adults have reported using medical cannabis for a serious condition and 92 percent of them believe pot worked, researchers report.

    “This belies the strong phamaceuticalized cannabis slant of this conference, despite its co-sponsorship by the National Center on Complementary and Integrative Health, which ought to be studying cannabis and cannabinoid integrative health and medicine, not ignoring it,” Aggarwal wrote.
    The doctor who wrote the textbook on cannabis in Integrative Oncology, Donald Abrams of San Francisco, is also not part of the summit. Neither is leading researcher on using marijuana to treat PTSD — Dr. Sue Sisley.

    According to the National Cancer Institute, cannabis users have a 45 percent decrease in the likelihood of bladder cancer compared to non-users.
    The journal Epidemiology reported cannabis users had 30 percent less likelihood of diabetes compared to non-users in studies.

    The American Epilepsy Society reported a 47 percent drop in pediatric epileptic seizures during clinical trials of cannabis extract Epidiolex, and 9 percent of kids in the study became seizure-free.
    Cannabis is ranked number one on the US government list of the most dangerous drugs. Researchers report facing more hurdles to studying botanical cannabis than any other drug.
    Prescription opioids are far less controlled. The number of overdose deaths from cannabis in recorded history is zero, while the number of overdose deaths from opioids in 2014 in the United States totaled 28,647. Doctors wrote 259 million opioid pain medication prescriptions in 2012. About 100 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses.

    CONTINUE READING…

    Old, White Drug Warriors Are Suing to Protect Pot Prohibition — and Their Profits


    By David Downs

     

    A cabal of heavily connected, Washington, DC drug warriors are backing lawsuits to block legalization across the United States, the Denver Post reports. The in-depth report highlights how America’s one-hundred-year-old war on marijuana isn’t going to end without a fight.
    Three of the four lawsuits filed against Colorado’s legal cannabis regime have received funding from a major Washington, DC law firm employed by drug testing groups. (Drug testing companies stand to lose billions of dollars if mandatory marijuana screenings decrease under legalization.)

     Robert Horn's firm Jackson Lewis is suing Colorado, and stands to profit from extending pot prohibition. - JACKSON LEWIS

    • Jackson Lewis
    • Robert Horn’s firm Jackson Lewis is suing Colorado, and stands to profit from extending pot prohibition.

    Mark de Bernardo, a partner in the top 100 law firm Jackson Lewis who has written nineteen books on drug testing, was hired to find local Colorado citizens who would have standing to challenge Colorado legalization, the Denver Post found. De Bernardo and Jackson Lewis are putting up all the money and time to sue Colorado on behalf of a group of Colorado sheriffs.
    Other donors to the lawsuits are former heads of the DEA and the White House ONDCP — individuals who usually leave public office for private positions in the drug war.
    Another lawsuit sponsor is the Florida-based Drug Free America Foundation, whose board includes Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush. DFAF is linked to Straight Inc. — a “chain of Drug War-era rehabilitation clinics that were shut down after allegations of sexual, physical and psychological abuse of teenage clients.”

     Florida Drug warrior Calvina Fay is funding an anti-legalization lawsuit in Colorado. - YOUTUBE

    • YouTube
    • Florida Drug warrior Calvina Fay is funding an anti-legalization lawsuit in Colorado.

    DFAF director Calvina Fay told the Post, “our colleagues in Colorado, since all of this came to task, have begged for some kind of relief — ‘What can the group do to help us?’ — because they’re very concerned about their communities.”
    Fay intends to file more lawsuits in legal states.
    Another major backer is the shadowy group, the Safe Streets Alliance, headed by Reagan-era drug warrior James Wootton. These lawsuits are the last stand for the drug war, legal experts argue.

     James Wootton - LINKEDIN

    • LinkedIn
    • James Wootton

    “We are fully aware that this is a national proxy fight,” Colorado official Sal Pace, a defendant in the ranchers’ lawsuit, told the Post. “The result of these lawsuits will have implications for the entire state and nation. If they’re successful in this lawsuit, they can shut down the entire industry in the entire state.”
    The Post story builds on 2014’s expose in The Nation — “The Real Reason Pot Is Still Illegal“.

    “The opponents of marijuana-law reform argue that such measures pose significant dangers, from increased crime and juvenile delinquency to addiction and death. But legalization’s biggest threat is to the bottom line of these same special interests, which reap significant monetary advantages from pot prohibition that are rarely acknowledged in the public debate.”

    CONTINUE READING…

    From Organizing America to Operation Chronic Problem, How Cannabis Prohibition Ruins Lives


     

     

    My Bust

     

    Katree Darriel Saunders is a 30 year old mother, cannabis activist, and an active member of her community. Katree was living in Las Vegas, NV when she was arrested during a DEA sting called Operation Chronic Problem on the charges of: Conspiracy to distribute marijuana and hashish. For 10 grams of hashish and 3.5 grams of marijuana Katree has had her life as she knew it ended. This dedicated mother lost her family and job for trying to help. Trying to help what turned out to be a lying, conniving, scheming, weasel of a DEA Agent posing as a medical cannabis patient desperate for relief. This is Katree Darriel Saunders story. Her loss, her pain, and what many consider a major injustice as well as a violation of her constitutional rights.

    Katree has been addicted off and on to prescription pain pills since the age of 15. In 2007, seeking pain relief from multiple car accidents, Katree Saunders became a medical cannabis patient. Knowing the harmful side effects of pharmaceuticals, plus their lack of effectiveness, Saunders chose medical cannabis. Not only did cannabis end Saunders pain, she was able to stop using prescription drugs all together. As a hardworking mother, Saunders put herself through college and became a positive and active member of her community.

    Nevada’s laws prohibited the sale of cannabis in 2007, which forced Saunders to seek it through the black market, known for unsavory individuals who traffic anything from people to weapons to stolen merchandise. Once when Saunders sought cannabis from the black market she was sexually assaulted. This devastating incident convinced Saunders she had to do something. There had to be a way for her to legally and safely obtain her medication.

    She contacted the state of Nevada and spoke with Jennifer Barlett, who referred her to Michael McAuliffe of Nevada’s Compassionate Care (NCC). It was there Saunders found her place. She began working with NCC and was helping others away from the black market.

    Things were going well for Saunders in February of 2010. She volunteered for a political event called Organizing America where President Barack Obama spoke about healthcare reform. Saunders was chosen to be on stage. She sat in the front row behind the president as he gave his speech. Upon the close, Katree was able to shake hands with the President. While doing so, Saunders said ‘We needed to talk about medical patient’s rights.’ Then, according to Saunders, Obama looked at her and said ‘I’m not prosecuting.’

    image (4)

     

    Feeling confident and empowered after this Saunders then became active in helping patients obtain their medical cannabis cards from the Nevada state program. Unfortunately, while Saunders was working for NCC, she was set up by undercover DEA agents. They were conducting what was known as Operation Chronic Problem. A federal DEA agent posed as a sick patient asking for help obtaining medical cannabis.

    Saunders, being a compassionate person, facilitated this lying individual’s request. Later she was indicted on distribution of a controlled substance. Saunders served four months in prison as well as a lengthy probation since she did not offer up the names of her medical patients.

    While on pretrial Saunders was in another motor vehicle accident. This accident totaled her husband’s vehicle and left Saunders with a fractured foot as well as a back injury. She was placed on morphine, Xanax, and MARINOL®. The morphine began to make her heart hurt, so she opted to stop taking it in exchange for MARINOL®. MARINOL® is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring compound known as delta-9-THC. However, since Saunders was on probation, the state of Nevada told her that she could not take MARINOL® since they would not be able to determine if she was consuming cannabis or simply taking the medication.

    The State of Nevada Probation Department obtained a court order preventing Saunder’s doctor from prescribing MARINOL® to her. Now, not only was Saunders in trouble for selling 3.5 grams of cannabis and 10 grams of hash, she also lost her job, family and right to medicate.

    During her incarceration, her husband divorced her, took the kids and moved away. While in custody at the prison, Saunders says she was ‘sexually assaulted and harassed by US Marshals’.

    During Saunders’ trial, her attorneys advised her not to mention anything about her encounter with President Obama. For the 4 months Katree Saunders was incarcerated, the state split her time between a private prison corporation (Corrections Corporation of America – CCA) and a state prison, and earned a minimum of $5,000 for hosting her. The state of Nevada spent an estimated $20,656 per inmate in 2012, and reported 267.9 million in costs. They also claimed to have 15 million dollars in prison related costs outside of the state budget. This is where states and private prison corporations make big dollars housing criminals. In the case of cannabis consumers, these corporations make out like bandits.

     

    Imagine charging $21,000 a year to house someone who was busted selling or possessing cannabis. In Saunders case, that 13.5 grams of cannabis, with a street value of $150, cost taxpayers over $20,000 to put her through the system. That doesn’t include the cost of the actual arrest, which stands at $1,500 to $3,500 with booking, paperwork, police officers fees, donuts, etc.

    Saunders fought hard to break away from prescription drugs, but in the end they were her only option. Purdue Pharma, the makers of OxyContin, has been making billions off victims. Purdue Pharma is involved in countless lawsuits and their officials have admitted to deceitful and immoral medical practices, yet they are still making money. These are the ones that presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks out about when he refers to the top one-tenth of 1%.

    In 1993 the DEA allowed pharmaceutical companies to produce 3520 kilos of a drug known as oxycodone. Twenty-two years later they are manufacturing 137.5 thousand kilos of the same drug. That is an increase of 39 times in the manufacturing of this controlled substance. Since President Nixon founded the DEA in 1973, they have done nothing but prosecute those who attempt to possess, grow, or in any way affiliate themselves with cannabis.

    Medical cannabis helps millions of people across the United States and world to find relief from pain and suffering. Cannabis helped Saunders break her addiction and take back control of her life. Cannabis is a safe treatment alternative for many illnesses, as well as the management of symptoms associated with a broad array of medical complications. Prescription drug addiction, of course, is a problem that is not only plaguing the United States, but the whole world.

    Saunders’ battle with a prescription drug addiction from a young age illustrates the carelessness of the medical industry in allowing doctors to over-prescribe dangerous medications. It has also enabled them to receive substantial kickbacks from pharmaceutical companies in the process.

    According to ABC News, America consumes over 90% of the world’s hydrocodone and 80 percent of the planet’s opioids. The United States of America makes up only 4.6 percent of the planet’s population. This opioid problem has destroyed mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters. Children and soldiers suffer horrendously because of our country’s support for the pharmaceutical industry. Children suffer by being denied medication that could in fact actually help them, and at times even cure them. Children also suffer by losing parents who are consumed by prescription drug addiction. Soldiers who protect our freedom, often with their own lives, suffer from illnesses such as PTSD. They are sometimes denied a natural treatment, such as cannabis, to help with their symptoms.

    The Doctors Enforcement Agency

    The DEA licenses more than 600,000 surgeons, doctors, and podiatrists to administer prescriptions for narcotic pain relievers. According to NORML (National Reform of Marijuana Laws), in 2011 there were an estimated 1.5 million registered medical cannabis patients living in the United States of America. The sad side of this is that the laws pertaining to medical cannabis forced so many to seek their medication on the black market.

    The public seems to believe that we think cannabis is the new cure-all, and other medications should be eliminated. This is not true. Common sense will tell you that there are many medical advancements today which have led us to the most sophisticated and advanced techniques and cures. During this evolution we have managed to de-evolve at the same time, through the abuse of prescription drugs, as much the fault of patients as it is the doctors doing the prescribing. Some individuals get prescription pain pills in large quantities because the doctors will prescribe them. Some individuals do not even take their medication. Instead they sell them on the street. When doctors prescribe as much as 100 to 300 pills at a time, with an average price of $10 a pill, some people can make an extra $3,000 a month.

    Prohibition Has Failed and it’s Hurting America

    The prohibition of cannabis that began in the late 1930s has devastated countless numbers of American lives and destroyed families across the country. The FDA will approve OxyContin for 6-year-olds but will not support cannabis oil. This is an absurd violation of human rights. The United States of America has held the patent for medical cannabis since 2003. This means that they knowingly have information that solidifies and validates medical cannabis as an effective treatment. This also means that the DEA and FDA know, and have evidence, that cannabis is medicine.

    For the past 12 years the DEA has left cannabis as a schedule 1 narcotic. This puts it in the same class as heroin and cocaine, that it has no medicinal value. They have lied to the American people kept the public sick, and now some laugh at us while the cannabis community is trying to change laws to better the world around us.

    The Dogs of the Feds

    The DEA regularly raids medicinal cannabis facilities and Indian tribal lands. They arrest, abuse, neglect and destroy the lives of countless cannabis consumers. Medical patients and recreational consumers alike suffer the wrath of the DEA everyday. There are no public benefits from cannabis prohibition! The medicinal aspects combined with potential taxes are unquestionably positive. The simple implementation of taxation on cannabis will help to eliminate the black market. This puts a lot of politicians, local sheriffs, and other individuals out of extra income they have enjoyed for years.

    Katree Saunders felt the wrath of the DEA during Operation Chronic Pain and now you know her story. From being hooked on prescription drugs at 15, to meeting the President of the United States, to prison, to an avid cannabis activist, Saunders’ struggle is all too familiar to many Americans, except for meeting Mr. Barack Obama.

    Help support America by being a seed. One seed can tip the scales of injustice. Are you that seed?

    When Woody Harrelson Planted Four Hemp Seeds Thu Apr 03, 2014


    On June 1st, 1996, the sun rose lazily over Kentucky’s heartland. Thankfully, it wasn’t mid-summer yet in the Bluegrass State, when the land itself seems to be a source of heat, in addition to a blistering sun. I was in a car with Woody Harrelson, Kentucky hemp activist Joe Hickey and Woody’s attorney, another hemp activist named Tom Ballanco. We were speeding toward Beattyville, a tiny farming community of about 1,100 Kentuckians, where Woody had purchased a quarter-acre of land. That morning, he was orchestrating his own arrest.

    Throughout our early history, the state of Kentucky was America’s primary hemp producer, harvesting crops as recently as World War II. But in 1996, hemp – an agricultural crop with deep roots in our history – was, and still is, classified as a Schedule One drug. All forms of cannabis are on this list of forbidden substances, along with heroin and LSD. Woody, who had become the most outspoken, high-profile celebrity to speak out against anti-cannabis laws, wanted to draw attention to this lunacy. That morning, he broke a small patch of ground with a hoe – wearing an all-hemp outfit, of course – and planted four non-THC industrial hemp seeds. Then, Joe Hickey called the county sheriff.

    In 10 minutes, a police cruiser meandered up the road. Out stepped a kindly sheriff, obviously tipped off about the event, who asked Woody what he was up to.

    ‘Well, I just planted four seeds of hemp right here,” he said.

    “Well, could you get them outta there please?” the sheriff asked.

    Woody knelt down and dug around in the six-foot strip of Kentucky soil that he’d hoed earlier. But he was coming up empty. He rose, clapped the dirt off his hands and politely said: “Sir, I don’t want to disobey your orders and I don’t want to tell you your job, but I don’t think I’m gonna find ‘em.”

    So Woody was busted and taken in – and made international news in the process. Over the next four years, he appeared in Kentucky courts several times, always with Hickey and Ballanco, and had a lot of fun in the media, exposing the shame of America’s War on Drugs and how it had outlawed a legitimate agricultural commodity.

    But Woody never lost sight of the seriousness of his legal battle, even enlisting former Kentucky Governor Louie Nunn (now deceased) as part of his legal team. The charges were minor – a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession – but Woody wanted to point out that Kentucky’s anti-cannabis laws made no distinction between industrial hemp and smokeable cannabis. Nunn’s contribution to his defense was a dramatic moment he provided by eating a hemp energy bar in the courtroom. “Now I’ve got hemp on me and in me. I guess you’re gonna have to arrest me, too!”

    On August 24, 2000, a six-member jury deliberated about 25 minutes before returning with a verdict of “Not Guilty.” Woody and his legal team celebrated on the steps of the courthouse. But there was also a lot of anger on that day.

    On that very morning, heavily armed DEA and FBI agents launched a raid on the hemp crop of Alex White Plume on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. It was a legal crop, sanctioned by the Oglala Lakota Tribal Council. There was no coincidence. The Feds chose to make a statement, eager to demonstrate their ultimate power on a day when they were powerless to stop a Kentucky jury from acquitting Woody Harrelson for planting four hemp seeds.

    Four of these hemp seeds led to a four-year legal battle.

    Above:  Woody celebrates on the Lee County courthouse steps with Tom Ballanco, Gov. Louie Nunn, Joe Hickey and lead attorney Charles Beal

    Continue Reading…

    Related Articles:

    Woody Harrelson wants to open a marijuana dispensary. Harrelson, 54, applied for a license in Honolulu County under his company, Simple Organic Living.

    Due to civil action by the Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. District Attorney, White Plume is now barred for life by the federal government from cultivating and processing hemp

    First Medical Marijuana Patient & Caregiver to be Convicted for Marijuana Possession and Cultivation Could Face Several Years in Prison After August 6 Sentencing

    Woody Harrelson, Defense Lawyers to Call for Reduced Sentence for Patient & Caregiver B.E. Smith at 10:00A.M., July 29 Telephone Press Briefing

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 28, 1999

    Lakota hemp growers headed for legal showdown

    Thomas Ballanco Replies to the DEA

    U.S.: Congressman Blumenauer Writes Open Letter To President About Marijuana


    Tue, 01/12/2016 – 22:24 – steveelliott

    EarlBlumenauer(Congressman-D-OR)[LadyBud]

    By Steve Elliott
    Hemp News

    Congressman Earl Blumenauer on Tuesday wrote an open letter advocating marijuana legalization to President Obama in advance of the President’s State of the Union speech.

    "As you begin your last year in office, I hope there is one more step you take to bring about fundamental change — ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and removing marijuana from the list of Controlled Substances," Rep. Blumenauer wrote to the President.

    The language chosen by Rep. Blumenauer is very significant, politically speaking. "Removing marijuana from the list of Controlled Substances" is, of course, the only way forward that avoids cannabis being immediately co-opted and controlled by Big Pharma, which is assuredly what will happen if it is moved from Schedule I to Schedule II or III on the Uniformed Controlled Substances Act.

    Following is Rep. Blumenauer’s letter in its entirety.

    An Open Letter to the President

    Dear Mr. President:

    A State of the Union speech is a unique opportunity to address Congress and the nation about priorities and accomplishments, as well as to highlight critical issues.

    I remember another speech in May 2008 when you spoke to over 70,000 Portlanders. The overwhelming feeling of hope coming from the crowd was palpable.

    Tonight, you will undoubtedly reflect on the last seven years. During this time, you fulfilled your promise of systematic change while dealing with the largest economic disaster the United States has seen since the Great Depression and almost unanimous Republican obstruction in Congress. Your actions jumpstarting the economy, reforming health care and Wall Street, and providing critical leadership on climate change will be felt for generations to come.

    As you begin your last year in office, I hope there is one more step you take to bring about fundamental change — ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and removing marijuana from the list of Controlled Substances.

    We both know the prohibition of marijuana has not and will not work. Recent surveys find that 18 million adults used marijuana in the past month — and well over a million use it legally under state laws for medicinal purposes. Despite dire hyperbolic warnings and the threat of citation, arrest, or even prison, all evidence indicates Americans will continue to use marijuana, especially since younger Americans feel even stronger that it ought to be legal. They understand that, while not without risk, marijuana is certainly less dangerous than tobacco — which is legal in every state despite its highly addictive nature and proven deadly consequences. Indeed, if we were scheduling drugs today, tobacco would probably be classified as Schedule I and marijuana would be left off.

    I suspect that both your heart and your head tell you ending prohibition is the right thing to do, especially from a civil rights and criminal justice perspective. We’ve undercut respect for the law, wasted law enforcement resources, and more important, wasted lives.

    A shocking 620,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession in 2014. No area is more stark and unfair than the treatment of African Americans — particularly young men. Research shows they are no more likely to use marijuana, yet the heavy hand of the law descends upon them with a vengeance. Depending on where they live, African Americans are two to eight times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana, according to a study by the ACLU. Unlike white middle class Americans, for young men of color — especially if poor — even a minor infraction can have devastating consequences. They can be forced from their family home if they are living in public housing, or have difficulty obtaining federal student loans to make it nearly impossible to attend college.

    This is wrong.

    Current federal policy declares marijuana has no medicinal value and implies it is more dangerous than methamphetamine or cocaine. I don’t believe that any member of your Administration believes this is true. Yet inaction creates another serious consequence — an inability to focus on real threats to public health. Cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and opioids are all far more dangerous than marijuana. In 2013 alone, over 20,000 people died of prescription drug overdoses — while there have never been any reported marijuana overdose fatalities.

    This is also wrong. By telling Americans something demonstrably false, the case and credibility of drug enforcement authorities at all levels is weakened.

    Not only that, federal policy has placed a stranglehold on effective marijuana research — even as evidence continues to mount about its medicinal benefits. Medical marijuana patients receive relief of pain, suppression of nausea, and the control of symptoms of neurological disorders. Recognizing this, 23 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have legalized medical marijuana, and 17 other states have authorized some form of medical marijuana. Removing federal barriers to research will help eliminate the guess work about both its benefits and potential problems.

    For all the talk about gateway drugs, having millions of Americans relying on the black market for marijuana only opens the way for thugs to directly market to young people and those desperate to deal with depression and pain. No drug dealer checks for ID on the street corner or schoolyard. They have no license to lose and every incentive to sell other more dangerous, addictive and profitable drugs.

    The vast underground network supplying millions of Americans can and should be transformed into a legal industry that is regulated and taxed. We continue to enrich Mexican drug cartels that use marijuana as one of the pillars of their financial model. We should instead be taxing and regulating marijuana to help balance the budget and fund important services. If we approach marijuana the same way as alcohol, we could take the billions of dollars we save in enforcement and additional billions that will be generated in tax revenue to deal with education, the protection of our children, and the treatment for people with addiction problems.

    Mr. President, you’ve already had the most profound effect on marijuana law reform than any President in history. You’ve declined to interfere with states that have legalized adult use of marijuana and others states that allow medical marijuana, and you’ve provided breathing room for state-legal marijuana businesses.

    It is time, Mr. President, for you to take the next logical step, cementing your legacy in history on drug reform and a fairer criminal justice system. Call for an end to marijuana prohibition and de-schedule marijuana. The House and Senate are reluctant to take bold action to legalize marijuana at the federal level, but you don’t have to wait. Under your leadership by de-scheduling marijuana, you will trigger monumental reform, allowing states to continue their pioneering efforts and putting pressure on Congress to take additional actions to tax and regulate. We can start by ending the lunacy of forcing legal marijuana companies to operate as cash-only. Seldom has such a small step, supported by a majority of Americans, had such potential transformational power.

    Please seize the moment. We can’t wait.

    The time is now. The country is ready.

    In 2008, I joined with tens of thousands of Oregonians who cheered you on chanting, “Yes, we can!”

    Today, I speak on behalf of millions of Americans across the country and ask you to support ending the prohibition of marijuana.

    We hope you will respond, “Yes, I will.”

    Earl Blumenauer
    Member of Congress

    – See more at: http://crrh.org/news/node/6521#sthash.TEB7vmh3.dpuf

    My reply to the "Opinion" From December 30, 2015 or "pot Should Stay Illegal In Kentucky"…


     

    Above:  Mary Thomas-Spears talks with Sen. Perry Clark at the “Comfy Tree Symposium” in Louisville in 2014

     

    To:  Bowling Green Daily News,

             813 College Street
    P.O. Box 90012
    Bowling Green, KY 42102

    Website Link

    Opinions:  “Pot should stay illegal in Kentucky”

    From:  Rev. Mary L. Thomas-Spears, Bowling Green, Kentucky  42101

    Dear “Pot should stay illegal in Kentucky”,

    That was all like a bad scene straight out of Reefer Madness, or the equivalent of BS propaganda.  Yet all very well said for a pot dealer???!

    I couldn’t help but notice you did not bother to take the time to sign your name or to take any credit for that medieval excrement – Your opinion which you felt so valuable.  It would cut into your profit margin if you had to suddenly become legitimate, wouldn’t it?

    If Marijuana/Pot/Cannabis Prohibition was repealed in Kentucky and/or the U.S. it would put the pot dealer in the Black Market out of business and you wouldn’t be working for the FDA’s DEA anymore.

    After all, Congress was only given authority over Currency, Foreign War and the market place, which is why they created “Prohibition”, to control and divide the market place, in order to maximize their profit margins, through supply and demand, and the Black Market they claim to be fighting against while in essence owning it.  So you work for them, right?

    Opinions like yours are in fact, proof, that “opinions are like a$$holes…   They are undeniable evidence of the disgusting amount of (or level of) illiteracy and mis-education, or as Dr. Gupta put it, “brainwashing”, on the highest levels, within and outside of the Commonwealth, in my opinion.

    We can thank William Randolf Hearst and his desire to print the news on wooden paper, as he owned millions of acres of trees for creating the propaganda and printing it on to begin with, and all these years later, despite all the published facts, research, science and truth to the contrary of this Marijuana Madness propaganda, we can thank you for attempting to continue the BS.

    After all, up until then all of our news was printed on Hemp (= Cannabis Sativa L = Marijuana).

    I am sure if my friend, colleague, mentor and Attorney, Gatewood Galbraith were here today in the flesh he would agree with me on everything I have said or will say.  While adding a few colorful comments or opinions of his own, of course,  like,

    “I wish all you would stop getting high long enough to read my book!”  “I’d even give you a free copy so that you might educate yourselves on the fact that Marijuana is already legal, as I explained to Greg Stumbo!”

    It all comes down to understanding the words and their legal meanings, the Constitution and your Rights and Freedoms along with precedence of Rulings handed down by the Supreme Court like Leary vs. The United States,  as I explained in “Last Free Man in America meets the synthetic subversions”.

    In his book he also explains that ending Marijuana Prohibition in Kentucky would save the Commonwealth approximately $500 Million Dollars and year, just in healthcare and related costs alone.

    The actual figures coming in from other States who have already passed similar laws are in fact very favorable as well as being in support of Gatewood’s estimate or prediction.

    Gatewood Galbraith also explains in his book that Marijuana, like Ibogaine (which is also prohibited in the U.S.), is known to, in fact, break addiction.  Evidence that Y(our) Government is not against addiction or are not fighting addiction as them claim they are.

    After all, the market place functions on supply and demand and addiction fuels or increases the demand, therefore increasing the profits.  This is why they have prohibited both of these plants in the U.S.  As former President Bush said without a flinch “We are a Nation addicted to gasoline”.  So why haven’t they prohibited possession of gasoline?  After all, how many have died throughout the last year alone huffing it or consuming it?  Or as a result of crashes?

    Yet, it is a controlled substance like Marijuana, controlled through taxation, which recognizes the substance as legal and through the Tax with which it is controlled under (= 1937 Marijuana Tax Act), did just that (legalize), despite it having been repealed by Leary v. United States, in the Supreme Court, on the Federal level, in a ruling that agreed that He (= We, have a divine, inalienable, sovereign, natural right and freedom to utilize Marijuana), (Marijuana = Cannabis Sativa L “untaxed”).

    The Commonwealth of Kentucky has passed its own Marijuana Tax Stamp Laws – Legalizing thru taxation.

    WHY??? Why would people of any State pass a law, or vote in a law to pay the State or a Commonwealth to tax them for a right or freedom that has already been granted to them by not only Divine authority but by the highest Court in the land on the highest level?  While basically declaring themselves as Federal informants to a Government who has already abused it’s power and authority by passing not one, but two illegal and unconstitutional Acts of Congress (= the CSA or Controlled Substance Act).

    All of this is a part of the “Synthetic Subversion” or war on plants and nature (not just Marijuana), as Corporations like Monsanto and Dupont scramble to own ALL OF THE SEED through Patents and GMO’s (genetically modified organism).

    For all of those who still believe that Marijuana (= Cannabis Sativa L) was only prohibited because they couldn’t Patent the plant – Your wrong!  You have forgotten about the Corn, Soy Beans, and Wheat as well as all the farm’s and Farmer’s who have been lost to Lawsuits and suicides connected to “who is growing who’s seed in who’s fields throughout the U.S. and Canada.

    The main reason for prohibition is all the legal lies (= Legalization)which openly mandates and sanctions their authority to prohibit in the first place, allowing them to Patent and own all the rights, while controlling the market place, which they now own, or rule, therefore controlling all of the profits while also allowing them to control the nature of the plant.

    Keep in mind, THC is the active part of the plant that causes a plant to be labeled as Marijuana, which is also the natural sunscreen of any Cannabis Sativa L plant.

    HEMP, which starts out as Cannabis Sativa L in the wild, has now been legally defined by the amount of THC it contains (or doesn’t contain).  This seed can now be controlled with a THC stopper gene, via GMO and we can promise that an entire crop growing in any field, no matter how much sunlight it receives, will, for that season, remain HEMP in the field, no matter where the field is, thus, controlling the harvest.   (In nature, the amount of Sunlight a plant receives determines the amount of THC in any given Cannabis Sativa L plant).

    Keep in mind, Cannabis Sativa L., blows in the wind like corn when it pollinates.

    By moving all of the Marijuana grows indoors, these same chemical Companies and Corporations that have prohibited Cannabis/Marijuana in the first place through the lobby of Congress, are the same ones that supply big Pharma, are the same ones that make chemical weapons for war, are the same ones controlling our crops and food supply, and can NOW not only control all the seed, they can sell you chemical fertilizers and growing equipment for medical Cannabis, for just long enough to gain all the information they need to take over the medical use of Cannabis.

    Look at Canada.  Where medical patients have lost all their growing rights, while waiting in lines and waiting for “approval” for medicine that they cannot afford to buy from the Corporate growers!

    First:  Cannabis is already legal, as I have pointed out,

    Second:  Prohibition is the problem,

    Thirdly:  REPEAL is the only legal answer to end prohibition of Cannabis that is morally correct.

    Fourth:  the gateway drug theory is a lie and has been disproven and  has been dispelled by the National Academy of Science over a decade ago in the 1999 report published by the National Academy Press, “Marijuana: Assessing the Science Base“, which stated plainly when examining this question or theory that, if there are any gateway drugs leading to addiction they would be sugar, nicotine and alcohol.  Notice that Marijuana is not at the top of their list of gateway drugs for addiction, and that sugar is not on the Controlled Substance list despite all the disease, illness, and death it causes, not including the addiction.

    There has never been a death caused by Marijuana consumption or overdose unless it was a result of it being prohibited (= being shot by a Cop)…  Please find me ONE, I challenge you!

    Cannabis Sativa L. (= Marijuana Cannabis/Hemp) is a FOOD first.  It has been proven that we are all Endocannabinoid based life forms, and that Endocannabinoids are passed from Mother to Child in the Breast Milk.

    However, this food has been prohibited from our gardens since basically 1937, while disease and illness caused by malnutrition grows out of control.  Yet, the FDA wants YOU to believe that this food is a DRUG.

    Well, so is bottled water, so do you want to see a Doctor for a prescription to buy bottled water?

    I hear that my friend, Senator Perry Clark, has introduced a new bill that will repeal prohibition of Marijuana in Kentucky.  I have not read the Kentucky “Cannabis Freedom ActBill thoroughly yet.  If Sen. Perry Clark has asked to repeal Cannabis prohibition in Kentucky then he deserves our full support!  Our State Representatives need to step up and do what we have paid them to do and additionally introduce KCHHI (Kentucky Cannabis Hemp Health Initiative) as a companion Bill alongside Sen. Perry Clark’s Bill and PROTECT the People of this State!

    Both would REPEAL Cannabis prohibition in Kentucky.

    Wake up!  Educate yourselves on the entire truth of how it all does affect you, no matter who you are or what you think you know or believe.  This is the twenty-first Century, the “Information Age”!

    Sincerely,

    Rev. Mary Thomas-Spears

    Please be advised that Rev. Mary Thomas-Spears hand delivered a written copy of this letter to the office of the Bowling Green Daily News on 1/5/2016.  To date, it has NOT been published on their website.

    SOURCE LINKS:

    http://www.bgdailynews.com/opinion/our_opinion/pot-should-stay-illegal-in-ky/article_fededd94-f296-548c-a9cf-f836e7a78bc9.html

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1jB7RBGVGk

    http://www.canorml.org/cbd.html

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Randolph_Hearst

    http://www.hemphasis.net/Paper/paper.htm

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gatewood_Galbraith

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/last-free-man-in-america-gatewood-galbraith/1121786171

    http://ibogaine.mindvox.com/

    http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/01/31/sotu.energy/

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marihuana_Tax_Act_of_1937

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leary_v._United_States

    http://www.somerset-kentucky.com/opinion/editorials/every-day-is-tax-day-kentucky-s-dope-tax/article_4a216cb6-d3a2-5cd7-8dde-4625f1d70f85.html

    http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/why-does-monsanto-sue-farmers-who-save-seeds.aspx

    https://www.rt.com/news/206787-monsanto-india-farmers-suicides/

    http://www.popsci.com/scitech/article/2009-09/scientists-find-thc-gene-hemp

    http://gmo-awareness.com/all-about-gmos/gmo-defined/

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/THC

    http://sensiseeds.com/en/blog/canada-despite-new-rules-cannabis-patients-can-still-grow-home/

    http://www.democratsagainstunagenda21.com/who-funds-un-agenda-21.html

    http://dailycaller.com/2014/12/05/prohibition-repeal-is-a-good-model-for-marijuana-legalization/

    http://medicalmarijuana.procon.org/sourcefiles/IOM_Report.pdf

    http://www.ratical.org/renewables/hempseed1.html

    http://www.beyondthc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/eCBSystemLee.pdf

    http://search.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/texis/search/?dropXSL=&pr=Prod-static-walk&prox=page&rorder=500&rprox=500&rdfreq=500&rwfreq=500&rlead=500&sufs=2&order=r&rdepth=0&query=marijuana&submit=Search

    http://www.lrc.ky.gov/legislator/s037.htm

    https://kentuckymarijuanaparty.com/2016/01/12/update-16-rs-br-161-has-become-sb-13-kentucky-cannabis-freedom-act/

    http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/16RS/SB13/bill.pdf

    http://www.constitutionalcannabis.com/kchhi.html

    https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009087183261