Author Topic: If you don't like my fire, don't come around, cuz I am gonna burn one down  (Read 43260 times)

Offline MÇA

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Opinion: Pressing Pause on Pot Convictions
« Reply #63 on: 07-30-2018, 10:32am »
In today's NYT:

Opinion: Pressing Pause on Pot Convictions
By Steven M. Fulop and Jacob V. Hudnut
Mr. Fulop is the mayor of Jersey City, where Mr. Hudnut is the chief prosecutor.
July 29, 2018

JERSEY CITY — Every city in America knows that it’s a bad idea to prosecute low-level, nonviolent marijuana offenses. It wastes scarce municipal resources and does nothing to enhance public safety. What’s more, even though whites and blacks use marijuana at similar rates, blacks are more harshly punished for it.

That’s why, on July 19, marijuana offenses were effectively decriminalized in Jersey City, New Jersey’s second most populous city.

Prosecutors treated every marijuana case that day as a violation instead of a misdemeanor, unless driving under the influence was involved. We told our prosecutors to ask for no more than a $50 fine, or just five hours of community service if the defendant couldn’t pay that fee. Instances like the absence of any public nuisance or a low likelihood of re-offense would warrant outright dismissal. We also stressed the importance of diverting people with an obvious drug addiction toward social services.

The goal of the policy was to avoid the collateral consequences of a conviction. Our assistant prosecutors approved. It meant less time subpoenaing police officers for marijuana prosecutions that had zero impact on public safety, and more time preparing for more consequential prosecutions of assault, theft and domestic violence.

Police officers also gave us positive feedback. They felt free to set aside enforcement of low-level, nonviolent marijuana offenses in favor of spending more time keeping our city safe by pursuing violent offenders. Brave young people don’t enlist in police academies to pursue pot smokers; they enlist to make a difference by keeping secure the streets where their family, friends and neighbors live.

We were excited to propose a solution to a problem that affected the entire state, not just our city. Each year, there are more than 25,000 arrests for simple marijuana possession in New Jersey. It is estimated they cost the state more than $1 billion each decade in policing, court operations, probation and jailing. Much of these costs fall on municipalities, like Jersey City, that are already short on cash. Most alarming is that people of color are three times more likely to be arrested than white people despite similar rates of marijuana use.

The collateral consequences of marijuana possession are considerable. Someone arrested for it could get a criminal record, have her driver’s license suspended, lose student financial aid, be banned from public housing, have a harder time securing a job or potentially get deported.

Unfortunately, our policy had a very short life. A little over 24 hours after we put it in place, Gurbir Grewal, the attorney general of New Jersey, voided it as an overreach of municipal prosecutorial authority, though we believe that the policy was supported by laws and legal precedent affording municipal prosecutors the discretion to downgrade or dismiss complaints for good cause.

If the realities of expensive and racially disparate marijuana prosecution aren’t “good cause,” then what is?

We asked to meet with Mr. Grewal and persuaded him to convene a working group that would advise him on a statewide directive to clarify municipal prosecutors’ discretion in marijuana cases. He also agreed to adjourn all marijuana-related prosecutions in municipal courts statewide for six weeks.

Meanwhile, the State Legislature is expected to vote on legalizing marijuana by September. If the various measures related to the issue pass, they could effectively end prosecution of marijuana possession in New Jersey.

Now, the question is: What are the rest of the country’s attorneys general waiting for?

Prosecutors in New York City and Philadelphia effectively decriminalized marijuana quite some time ago, and the sky didn’t fall. In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently embraced a state health department report calling for legalization. In Pennsylvania, the mayors of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have all but conceded that legalization is inevitable.

Those states’ attorneys general should also impose statewide moratoriums on marijuana prosecution.

Who can name a good reason to continue burdening people of color with life-altering criminal convictions for something whites do without the consequence of conviction? Who with a straight face can argue that towns should continue spending their overstretched local resources on enforcement that does nothing to keep our streets safe?

In 1935 the Supreme Court declared that a prosecutor’s job is more than merely winning every case by racking up convictions; it also includes seeing that justice is done. We in Jersey City followed that principle on marijuana. The state attorney general did recently, too. Every state on the verge of marijuana legalization should follow us and do the same.

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New Jersey Attorney General and Jersey City to Collaborate on Statewide Directive Mitigating Marijuana Convictions

30-Day Postponement of all Marijuana Cases Statewide to be implemented immediately; Jersey City and Attorney General to jointly draft statewide directive on marijuana charges

 

JERSEY CITY – After a Monday meeting between Jersey City officials and The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office an agreement was reached on the path forward addressing Jersey City’s marijuana decriminalization policy and the Attorney General Office’s concerns.

 

Effective Tuesday morning, a memo was released to all 21 county prosecutors regarding a 30-day statewide adjournment of all marijuana charges and soon-to-be developed statewide guidelines with regard to downgrades and dismissal of simple marijuana offenses.

 

“This is a huge win for Jersey City, the state of NJ, and most importantly the people who would have been impacted by the creation of a criminal record due to a simple marijuana arrest,” said Mayor Fulop. “We are excited that Attorney General Grewal and Jersey City found common ground, avoiding the collateral consequences of convictions for marijuana possession while our great state is on the cusp of legalization,” Fulop Continued.

 

On Wednesday, July 18th, Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop and Chief Prosecutor Jake Hudnut announced that the City would dismiss simple marijuana possession cases that come before the municipal courts or amend these charges to local ordinance violations, effectively decriminalizing marijuana in Jersey City. In addition to the racial inequalities and potentially life-altering consequences that stem from marijuana prosecution and conviction, there is a significant cost burden on local municipalities who oversee these charges. But on July 20, 2018, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal voided the policy. While Jersey City disagrees with the Attorney General’s interpretation of applicable law, the City respects the Attorney General’s action and his authority.

 

However, on Monday, in light of public support for the policy, Jersey City officials from the Municipal Prosecutor’s office, the Department of Public Safety, and the Law Department met with Attorney General Grewal to discuss how the objectives of decriminalization can effectively be implemented both in Jersey City and across New Jersey. As a result of this positive and productive meeting, Attorney General Grewal will convene a working group of criminal justice stakeholders this summer – including Chief Prosecutor Hudnut – to study this issue and advise the Attorney General on statewide solutions that achieve the same aims of decriminalization in accordance with existing state law and court rules.

 

“I took the job as Chief Prosecutor in Jersey City to help build a progressive, proactive, and thoughtful prosecutors office. We want to make sure that Jersey City is at the forefront of these conversations and I’m proud to have pushed this issue from the onset,” said Jersey City Chief Prosecutor Jake Hudnut

 

The directive will provide guidance on the appropriate circumstances warranting downgrade to local ordinance or outright dismissal of marijuana cases statewide. The aim of this directive will be to mitigate or eliminate the likelihood of disorderly person misdemeanor convictions for simple possession of marijuana while New Jersey is on the verge of legalization of marijuana, as well as the collateral consequences that come with those convictions. Collateral consequences include driver’s license suspension, criminal records, loss of student financial aid, bans from public housing, adverse effects on employment opportunities, and loss of immigration status.

 

In today’s memo, the Attorney General has further directed all municipal prosecutors throughout the state to seek adjournments of their pending marijuana cases until after September 4, 2018. This means that all open marijuana cases in the state’s municipal courts will be postponed until the Attorney General’s directive is issued and could effectively amount to a moratorium of – or a substantial reduction in – marijuana convictions in New Jersey between now and future legalization.

 

Said Chief Prosecutor Hudnut, “In adjourning all marijuana cases across New Jersey while a directive is prepared, Attorney General Grewal has put himself at the national forefront of progressive prosecutors. I am looking forward to working closely with him in the coming weeks on this directive, as well as on other issues affecting all of our state’s municipal courts. I believe that all of New Jersey’s municipal courts should exercise integrity and thoughtfully administer justice every day. In Attorney General Grewal, I have found a strong, progressive partner in that pursuit.”

 

 

 

 

 

 



Steven Fulop

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New Jersey A.G. to Jersey City: no, you can't decriminalize pot
Updated 2:13 PM; Posted 1:39 PM

By Terrence T. McDonald tmcdonald@jjournal.com
The Jersey Journal

JERSEY CITY — Jersey City spent one day riding high on its new policy decriminalizing marijuana before state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal told the city's new chief prosecutor on Friday that the policy is void because it violates state criminal laws.

The move represents a sharp rebuke from Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy's administration of Mayor Steve Fulop, a Democrat who nearly competed with Murphy for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2017. Fulop said Friday that the city believes it is in the right and will continue with the new policy.

"As a municipal prosecutor, you do not have the legal authority to decriminalize marijuana or otherwise refuse to criminally prosecute all marijuana­-related offenses in the municipal courts of Jersey City," Grewal told Jake Hudnut, the new prosecutor, in a July 20 letter. "The criminal laws of this state are enacted by the senate and general assembly, not determined by municipal prosecutors based on "(r)ecent public opinion polling."

Fulop and Hudnut announced this week that on Thursday the city would essentially stop prosecuting low-level marijuana offenders by instructing local prosecutors to downgrade those charges to misdemeanor-level offenses. They argued that doing so would further the cause of criminal justice reform, saying people of color are more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for marijuana possession than white people.

Offline MÇA

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Jersey City is decriminalizing pot: Here's what it means
« Reply #60 on: 07-20-2018, 10:32am »
This N.J. city is decriminalizing pot: Here's what it means
Updated Jul 18; Posted Jul 18
By Terrence T. McDonald
The Jersey Journal

Jersey City is implementing a marijuana decriminalization policy that its mayor and new chief municipal prosecutor believe will increase racial justice while protecting public safety.

The policy, which is expected to begin officially tomorrow, will downgrade some marijuana charges to non-criminal offenses; encourage prosecutors to seek dismissal of low-level marijuana charges; and recommend diverting defendants with a criminal past and signs of addiction to the city's community court.

Jersey City's move indicates that Jake Hudnut, who became chief municipal prosecutor on July 2, is taking an aggressive stance in his new role. Hudnut, 35, is a former criminal defense attorney who ran unsuccessfully for the Ward E council seat in November. During his council campaign, he often referred to the toll the criminal justice system takes on the city's communities of color, an argument he made again on Wednesday during an interview at City Hall.

"What gives me pause is that despite similar cross-racial usage of marijuana, New Jerseyans of color are three times more likely to be arrested and prosecuted for marijuana than white New Jerseyans," Hudnut said. "I think prosecutors have an obligation to acknowledge this and fix this problem."

The change, outlined in a July 19 memo Hudnut sent to his assistant prosecutors, instructs them to amend five marijuana-related offenses — possession; possession while in a motor vehicle; being under the influence; use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia; and loitering to obtain or distribute a controlled dangerous substance — to non-criminal dispositions. The change will not apply to someone charged with driving while intoxicated.

Hudnut is recommending a fine of no more than $50 or five hours of community service if marijuana charges are not dismissed. Marijuana possession as normally charged as a disorderly person offense carries up to six months in jail.

The change doesn't mean you can spark up anywhere in Jersey City and avoid arrest. Mayor Steve Fulop said on Wednesday police will "use their discretion" if they spot someone, say, smoking pot on their front stoop, but in the end Hudnut and the assistant prosecutors will decide whether to recommend dismissal of the charges. Read more

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2 N.J. towns just announced they want weed sales
« Reply #59 on: 01-11-2018, 10:19am »
2 N.J. towns just announced they want weed sales
Updated 7:34 AM; Posted Jan 10, 3:57 PM
By Payton Guion
NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

With the marijuana legalization debate set to heat up this year in New Jersey, leaders in two of the state's highest-profile towns say they have no problem with weed businesses in their cities.

Should state lawmakers legalize pot, count Jersey City and Asbury Park among those likely to be a part of what could eventually be a billion-dollar industry.

A bill to legalize recreational marijuana lets municipalities to decide if they want to allow pot sales and production, or miss out on millions in tax revenue.

On Wednesday, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop tweeted that he and city officials would be working with the public to "clean up" zoning laws to clarify where dispensaries and grow facilities would be allowed to operate.

Two top officials in Asbury Park also said they're open to marijuana businesses in their town. Mayor John Moor and Deputy Mayor Amy Quinn both said as long as it's regulated by the state they have no problem with weed shops in Asbury Park.

"As long as it's a state law, I would have no problem with it," Moor said, adding that the city passed a resolution two years ago encouraging state lawmakers to legalize marijuana.

[...]

Incoming Gov. Phil Murphy said he would sign a bill legalizing marijuana within his first 100 days in office.

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Linden, introduced a bill last year that would allow people to buy and possess marijuana, as well as establish a taxed and regulated commercial pot market.

That bill allows towns to decide if they want to allow pot sales within their borders, but the decision comes at a cost. Under Scutari's bill, towns that allow weed businesses are able to claim a percentage of tax revenue, while towns that ban pot wouldn't get any tax money.

One estimate found that New Jersey could generate up to $300 million in tax revenue from marijuana.

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Can't resist posting this PSA from Mr. Bill Hicks.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZqYV9KKOZQ


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Coalition pushes to legalize marijuana in N.J.
« Reply #56 on: 02-19-2015, 09:15am »
Coalition pushes to legalize marijuana in N.J.
By The Associated Press
on February 19, 2015 at 7:53 AM, updated February 19, 2015 at 7:56 AM

NEWARK -- Marijuana should be legalized in New Jersey because existing laws waste police resources, unfairly target minorities and leave millions of dollars in potential tax revenue unrealized by relegating it to the black market, a coalition said Wednesday in announcing a public education initiative.

New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform wants to legalize marijuana for people over 21, tax it and regulate its distribution. Among the groups represented at Wednesday's news conference were the American Civil Liberties Union New Jersey, the NAACP State Conference of New Jersey and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

NJUMR is focusing its efforts on educating the public about the issue first, before seeking a solution through the ballot box or the Legislature, said William Caruso, former executive director of the state Assembly. Gov. Chris Christie has been an advocate of changing drug laws to allow for more opportunities for treatment instead of incarceration, but he has consistently opposed marijuana legalization and has said he would veto any such bill that arrived on his desk.

"People change their minds," Caruso said. "I'm not saying that's where the governor is or will be, but we can't just stop because somebody has said, 'This is where I am.' It's our job to create a responsible debate. Our goal right now is not the statehouse. Our first job is articulate a message to the voting public, the taxpayers of this state, about what we're trying to accomplish and why."

Police in New Jersey make more than 21,000 arrests for marijuana possession annually, the group said. Those offenses cost about $127 million to prosecute, according to Richard Smith, president of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference.

Marijuana prosecutions affect blacks disproportionately, Smith said: Black New Jerseyans are three times more likely than whites to be arrested, with potential far-ranging consequences including loss of jobs and benefits, loss of student loans and difficulty obtaining future employment. Pot arrests also clog courts and distract law enforcement officials from more serious crimes, coalition members said.

ACLU New Jersey Director Udi Ofer said that based on comparisons to Colorado, which he said reaped between $60 million and $70 million in revenue from legal pot sales in that state's first full year of legalization, New Jersey could expect $100 million or more. Read more

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N.J. Weedman Joined by Democrats Seeking Marijuana Taxes
« Reply #55 on: 04-16-2014, 11:54am »
N.J. Weedman Joined by Democrats Seeking Marijuana Taxes
By Terrence Dopp Apr 15, 2014 8:47 PM ET

Ed Forchion, the marijuana activist known as the New Jersey Weedman, became a fixture at the Statehouse in Trenton by setting up camp in his Weed Mobile and indulging in his favorite cause. Once, he lit up on the Assembly floor.

The dreadlocked Weedman is emerging as less of a maverick with a poll this week showing more than two-thirds of New Jerseyans favor lessening penalties and Democratic lawmakers floating a measure to let citizens sell and use pot. While Chris Christie has promised to veto any bill that makes the drug legal, as Colorado and Washington have, Democrats see an opportunity to rally support -- perhaps moreso because of the Republican governor’s opposition.

“It’s good politics as well as good policy,” said Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, a Trenton Democrat pressing for easing pot laws. “It would certainly motivate people to get involved in the political process.”

Senator Nicholas Scutari, a Linden Democrat sponsoring a legalization bill, says pot should be treated like beer. Scutari and colleagues say that would raise tax receipts while cutting the costs of enforcement and imprisonment in a state that’s missed revenue targets three years in a row.

When Colorado began allowing sales in January, the state estimated it would make $67 million in revenue this year. That climbed to $107 million as sales soared. New Jersey could take in twice as much, Scutari said.

“You’re seeing a growing realization that this is the reality, this is a fact of life,” said Scutari, 45, who said he doesn’t use pot. “Marijuana is the cash cow of the illegal drug trade. It’s so widely utilized by people that there’s an understanding prohibition is a joke.”

No Harvest
Christie, a 51-year-old former federal prosecutor, has called the U.S. war on drugs a failure because of the expense of “warehousing” nonviolent offenders in prisons. Yet he’s said there’s no way he’ll make pot legal.

“If people want legalized marijuana in this state let them elect a new governor because it’s not going to happen under this one,” Christie said during an April 3 town-hall meeting in Sayreville. “I’m not going to turn our state into a place people fly into, to get high, just for the tax revenue.”

Pot Mascot
An October Gallup Poll showed 58 percent of Americans favoring legalization, up 10 percentage points from a year earlier. In New Jersey, while support is less, 49 percent, it’s stronger than ever: up 14 percentage points from 2011, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll released April 15. Two-thirds of residents support lower penalties for pot use.

Gallup has tracked opinions on marijuana since 1969, when just 12 percent of the nation supported legalization. Approval grew throughout the 1970s and plateaued in the 1990s, finally reaching the 50 percent mark in 2011.

“People are really coming around to the idea,” said Erik Altieri, a spokesman for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. ’

The Weedman was in New Jersey’s vanguard.

A Pemberton resident, Forchion has been speaking out about drug laws since the 1990s. His stunts to draw attention to the issue include smoking pot in front of the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, trying to change his name to NJWeedman.com, and runs for governor and Congress. He’s preparing for an April 20 rally at the Statehouse, a “protest/puff session.”

Vagabond Activist
Forchion splits his time between California and New Jersey, recently traveling cross-country in the Weed Mobile, a multicolored 1986 Chevrolet van. Outside his lawyers’ office in Clifton last month, Forchion kneeled under a tree and lit a joint. Christie, he said, is “absolutely on the wrong side of history.”

Other states are going the way of the Weedman. Washington and Colorado voters made recreational use legal in 2012. Alaska will ask voters in August. Eighteen other states and Washington D.C. have considered or are considering bills to decriminalize pot or make it legal, according to the Marijuana Policy Project, an advocacy group in the nation’s capital.

With the fiscal rationale resonating with younger voters, the scandal over lane closings at the George Washington Bridge is emboldening Christie’s opponents, said Brigid Harrison, a professor of law and government at Montclair State University.

“Democrats see momentum on their side,” Harrison said. “It’s sort of a no-holds-barred attitude in terms of being antagonistic toward the Christie administration.”

Scutari Abides
A bill sponsored by Gusciora would make possession of less than 15 grams akin to a traffic summons and subject to fines of $150. The measure has 18 co-sponsors, a quarter of the Assembly, including three Republicans.

Scutari’s legislation, introduced March 27, would legalize pot and allow the state to tax it. Possession would be only for those over 21, with penalties for driving under the influence.

Scutari said he can outlast Christie.

“He’s not going to be the governor forever,” Scutari said. “When you look at the sheer economic numbers involved, he’s going to be hard-pressed to say why we shouldn’t be involved.”

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Ian Neale interviewed on Sky News after meeting Snoop Dogg

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<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/jY6TILz-seY?fs=1&amp;amp;hl=en_US" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/jY6TILz-seY?fs=1&amp;amp;hl=en_US</a>
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Rutgers just says no to pot growing

New Jersey university declines request from Gov. Chris Christie to become state's only grower of medical marijuana
By Associated Press

Rutgers University will not be getting into the marijuana-growing business.

New Jersey's largest university has declined a request from Gov. Chris Christie to become the only grower of the state's medical marijuana crop.

The school's dean of environmental and biological sciences department tells The Star-Ledger of Newark that marijuana's status as an illegal drug would jeopardize federal funding to the school.

The state's legislature approved a plan to allow patients with certain chronic illnesses to access marijuana. Christie suggested the marijuana be grown by Rutgers and distributed by the state's teaching hospitals.

Implementation of the law has been delayed until January to give state health officials time to work out details.
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Who would've though Christie would be such a big supporter of socialized medicine! I hope the unions are taking notes...



TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie’s administration said Rutgers University’s agricultural center should grow the pot and hospitals should dispense it under the state’s medical marijuana program, according to three people briefed on the proposal.

If legislators agree with the administration and amend a law that passed in January, New Jersey would be the first among the 14 medical marijuana states to run a centralized production and distribution system. The proposed changes represent an even more restrictive program — beyond one that was already the most conservative in the country — and eliminate the option of entrepreneurial growers and dispensaries getting some of the state’s marijuana business.

...

Roseanne Scotti, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey, said she had heard "rumors" about the state wanting to involve Rutgers and hospitals. She said she wished the administration would stick to the bill that took years to pass.

"Why go back to drawing board, especially when seriously ill people are waiting?’’ she asked. Scotti also said the changes would limit economic growth from the medical marijuana industry.

"A lot of very responsible and respectable people have begun to step forward,’’ she said. "I thought the Christie administration is supposedly business-friendly.’’


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Applicants For Pot Farm Jobs Overwhelm Rutgers Work Study Office
**************************************************

Gov. Chris Christie wants all N.J. medical marijuana grown at Rutgers
Published: Friday, June 18, 2010, 5:11 AM     Updated: Friday, June 18, 2010, 7:44 AM
Susan K. Livio/Statehouse Bureau Susan K. Livio/Statehouse Bureau



TRENTON — Gov. Chris Christie’s administration said Rutgers University’s agricultural center should grow the pot and hospitals should dispense it under the state’s medical marijuana program, according to three people briefed on the proposal.

If legislators agree with the administration and amend a law that passed in January, New Jersey would be the first among the 14 medical marijuana states to run a centralized production and distribution system. The proposed changes represent an even more restrictive program — beyond one that was already the most conservative in the country — and eliminate the option of entrepreneurial growers and dispensaries getting some of the state’s marijuana business.

Letting the program operate through one grower and hospitals would minimize some of Christie’s concern about the program posing a security and safety threat, according to the sources, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the details.

Critics have said the governor is needlessly dragging his feet in a state that has at least 5,000 citizens who need the drug to alleviate pain and suffering.

Roseanne Scotti, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance of New Jersey, said she had heard "rumors" about the state wanting to involve Rutgers and hospitals. She said she wished the administration would stick to the bill that took years to pass.

"Why go back to drawing board, especially when seriously ill people are waiting?’’ she asked. Scotti also said the changes would limit economic growth from the medical marijuana industry.

"A lot of very responsible and respectable people have begun to step forward,’’ she said. "I thought the Christie administration is supposedly business-friendly.’’



Scutari said he understands Christie "wants to make sure this is strictly controlled — once the cat is out of the bag, it’s hard to stuff it back in. But I don’t want to see this become too restrictive ... We are not giving out poison."

He also plans to introduce a bill Monday granting the Health Department an additional 90 days — from October to January — to write the rules and roll out the program. The administration had sought up to a year’s delay.

Health Department spokeswoman Donna Leusner declined to confirm details about the proposed program.

"The department is still looking at many complex issues that will allow for design of the safest and most effective program for those patients who qualify," Leusner said.

Assemblyman Reed Gusciora (D-Mercer), the other key sponsor, said he was "supportive, if this is where they want to go.’’

He said he especially liked how Rutgers would be given "a great opportunity academic-wise ... to be the cutting edge of developing new strains of marijuana that deal with illness.’’

Bob Goodman, executive director of the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers, declined to comment. In March, Goodman confirmed the state had contacted the station to explore forming a partnership over the medical marijuana program.

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Form of medical marijuana won't get you high, but it's creating a buzz

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/31/AR2010053103231.html?hpid=artslot

By Karl Vick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
WILLITS, CALIF. -- The one-armed man loitered in the waiting room for much of the morning, flipping through magazines with impressive dexterity, quietly waiting for word that the doctor would see him. Now.

William Courtney, MD, offered the chair to the right of the desk, the one occupied during regular office hours by a steady stream of patients seeking a doctor's recommendation for marijuana. In California, such a recommendation means an adult may grow, buy and smoke marijuana, all while remaining safely within the confines of state law.

The singular peculiarity of Courtney's "pot doc" practice here in Northern California is what he recommends: Don't smoke the stuff, he tells patients. Eat it.

Marijuana, he avers to every person who appears before him, turns out to be brimming with healing compounds. It won't get you high eaten raw, but juiced with a handful of carrots to cut the bitter taste, its leaves and buds may well have restored the health of his girlfriend, who had been given a diagnosis of lupus and a butcher's bill of other disorders that lab tests show have subsided. A local sufferer of Crohn's disease credits the plant with helping reverse the debilitating intestinal disorder. And published research from accredited laboratories suggests promise in preventing diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer's, cancers and assorted maladies arising from chronic inflammation.

Yet almost no one knows any of this beyond a handful of scientists, including two at the National Institutes of Health who were sufficiently impressed that they joined a Nobel laureate in patenting a cannabis molecule. Courtney hands a copy of their U.S. Patent 6630507 to occupants of the chair, typically midway through a jargon-rich spiel that sometimes hits the patient right in the wheelhouse and sometimes goes whizzing overhead.

"I have no idea what he's talking about," said the auto mechanic who was in the chair a few minutes earlier, seeking relief for a broken vertebra and a bum knee. "Every once in a while he says something comprehensible."

But now, with no appointment and no right arm, someone was way ahead of him. "The last time we talked you said you had a source for the high-CBD material down by San Diego," the one-armed man began. He was dressed like a workingman but used the chemists' shorthand for cannabidiol, the most promising healing molecule, yet in most of the marijuana bought and sold these days, also the most elusive. CBD tends to show up least in plant strains that are richest in THC, the molecule that produces marijuana's high.



Courtney listened to the man, attentive yet guarded, the standard posture of a licensed medical practitioner operating on the far edge of the frontier where law, medicine and cannabis meet. It is a place in which he is used to being pretty much alone, and after a few minutes, Courtney sat upright and looked his patient in the eye.

"Are you wearing a wire?" the doctor asked.

'The basis of health'

Five years ago, while still a regular physician, Courtney was as spooked as most doctors about pot. Then he came across an article in the December 2004 issue of Scientific American. It changed his life. The article highlighted a molecule in cannabis that could do something he had never seen before: send signals not only into a nerve cell, but also back out again.

The finding reversed 20 years of his understanding of how neurotransmitters work. One-way traffic was the basis for inflammation: Immune cells receive endless messages to get cracking, none to calm down. Continuous attacking can inflame otherwise healthy tissue. Two-way communication makes possible a feedback loop, encouraging a modulation, the promise of which swept over the Michigan-born microbiology major with the force of religion. "My God," he said. "It's the basis of health."

Courtney keeps a framed graphic from the article on his desk. It stands beside copies of "Non-psychotropic plant cannabinoids: new therapeutic opportunities from an ancient herb," from Trends in Pharmacological Sciences -- and of course U.S. patent 6630507.

Among the three NIH scientists awarded the 2003 patent was the late Julius Axelrod, who won a share of the Nobel for nerve research that laid the groundwork for Prozac. "It took us a while to appreciate what was going on here," said Aidan Hampson, another of the patent holders, now a scientific review officer at NIH. "And it turns out cannabinoids had not been appreciated before, but they were strong antioxidants. The idea of a panacea," he added, however, "is just crazy."

Courtney feels differently, of course, but assessing the merits behind his enthusiasm is a difficult task. He has bona fide medical credentials and an evident passion to heal. But his approach is grounded in the counterculture ethos of Mendocino County, a coastal forestland populated since the 1960s by "new settlers" who rejected the establishment of two generations ago, and have since been in front on some things -- organic farming, for instance.

So when Courtney, excited by the ancient pedigree of cannabis, says "there are 34 million years of research in that plant," he might sound like one of your stoner friends. On the other hand, his Web site, http://leavesofgrass.info, links to an assortment of establishment scientists, including the International Cannabinoid Research Society, which brings together hundreds of mainstream researchers in its annual meeting. One year, his domestic partner, Kristen Peskuski, summarized her return to near-full health -- from debilitating lupus, interstitial cystitis, rheumatoid arthritis and 40 medications a day -- after juicing fresh pot leaves over a 30-month period. Clinical tests documented the remission.

"Look at the people I'm rubbing elbows with -- Abbott, Smith, Merck," Courtney said, flipping through an ICRS program, thick as a phone book. "They know this is the future of medicine, without side effects."

Attention in scientific circles is, in fact, way up. "The amount of research published is growing algorithmically," said Allyn Howlett, a professor of physiology and pharmacology at Wake Forest University and ICRS president. Howlett has concerns about Courtney's approach. While he promotes marijuana as a good-for-you vegetable, like spinach, she regards "folk medicine" as backward and believes promising a spectrum of benefits is akin to peddling snake oil. Howlett pointed out that the pharmaceutical industry was created to standardize dosages, and the FDA to protect the consumer.

Quietly, one pharmaceutical firm has proceeded to FDA trials with a cannabinoid product. GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company, years ago bought the marijuana seed stock from a pair of Northern California botany enthusiasts who had decamped to Amsterdam, where it was safer to grow such things. After reading a GW report on a plant extremely high in CBD, Courtney for a while considered it the Grail, and looked high and low in Northern California. But in vain.



"What has happened is, almost all strains available in America through the black market are THC concentrates," said Ethan Russo, a Seattle area physician who is senior medical adviser to GW. "The CBD in almost all cases has been bred out. The reason is cannabis in this country has been cultivated for its intoxicating effect."

The company has produced an oral spray, called Sativex, approved in Canada for treatment of pain associated with multiple sclerosis and is pending in the U.K. and Spain for spasticity in MS. It has completed Phase II clinical trials in the FDA approval process as a treatment for cancer pain. The final trial awaits.

"It's going to be a few years yet," said Russo, who in the mid-'90s left his neurology practice in Montana, concerned by the toxic side effects of medicines he was prescribing. He returned from a sabbatical to Peru convinced that marijuana holds the greatest potential among medicinal plants.

"There's a tendency to discount claims when something appears to be good for everything, but there's a reason this is the case," he said. "CBD works on receptors, and as it turns out, we have cannabinoids in our bodies, endogenous cannabinoids, that turn out to be very effective at regulating immune functions, nerve functions, bone functions."

Hampson, of the NIH, likened the discovery of cannabinoids inside the body to "the opiate-endorphin story from 25 to 30 years ago. Before that, no one knew how heroin and morphine worked until they found these compounds in the brain, endorphins, and they used the same system. What were they for? To repress pain during exercise, et cetera."

Russo: "The endogenous cannabinoid system acts as a modulator in fine-tuning a lot of these systems, and if something is deranged biochemically in a person's body, it may well be that a cannabinoid system can bring things back into balance."

Stigma and red tape

Whatever potential may lurk in pot -- and most medicines start with a plant -- all agree that what Howlett called "the stigma associated with marijuana" presents powerful discouragement to scientists and firms. States may normalize access to marijuana, but the supremacy clause gives primacy to federal law that lists marijuana on Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act, the tier reserved for drugs with "no currently accepted medical use."

"As far as the pharmaceutical industry goes, anything that has a controlled substance, they won't touch with a ten-foot pole," Hampson said.

Simply acquiring laboratory marijuana requires permission from an alphabet soup of agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, which is famously hardheaded on the matter. It was, in fact, a sidelong mention of the DEA that cued Courtney to ask his patient about a wire. The agency must grant permission to import the device the one-armed man proposed to bring from Holland, a cannabis analyzer that might tell CBD enthusiasts exactly what they have in a particular plant.

This is a point of immense frustration in the gargantuan, perhaps $15 billion underground economy that flows from marijuana in California: No one knows for certain what they're buying. "I can't breed analytically," said Jim Hill, a pot farmer in Mendocino's Potter Valley. "I can only go by patient anecdote: 'Yeah, that really worked for me.' I can't go by graph paper."

After the DEA raided Hill's operation last October, he immediately replanted, emphatic that it was his right to supply dispensaries legally organized under state law as a "collective." Favorable court rulings have both emboldened and, in spots, professionalized California's marijuana industry. At Oakland's Harborside Health Center, pot is sold not by dealers but from a clean, white building where doors open by fingerprint scans, cameras monitor every corner, and pot brownies come in "childproof" wrappers.

"We're trying to medicalize down to the finest detail," chief operating officer Andrew DeAngelo said.

A few blocks away, the Steep Hill Medical Collective invested in a gas chromatograph-mass spectrometer in hopes of learning precisely what's in each pound of Grand Daddy and Purple Kush. In one room recently, a lab tech in a white coat bent over a console, while in another, two entrepreneurs mulled the lay of the land.

"You've got a movement that's turning into an industry," said Addison DeMoura, a Steep Hill owner.



A man in a Panama hat nodded agreement. Sixties activist Fred Gardner edits O'Shaughnessy's, a quarterly devoted to medical marijuana and named for the physician who brought cannabis to the attention of European medicos. "I think people owe it to the industry, owe it to the people, to do something honestly medical," Gardner said. "And CBD is honestly medical."

DeMoura could see it. "Twenty years ago it was just cannabis," he said. "The bridge to legalization is medical marijuana. I believe the bridge from medical marijuana to real science will be CBDs."

Meanwhile, two hours up Highway 101, William Courtney toiled in the laboratory that is Mendocino County. Maybe nowhere else in the country could a pot doc advise growing 40 plants -- enough for one juicing each day on the 45-day cycle required of the auto-flowering strain. Not only is it possible here, but a striking number of patients truly do not want to get high.

"I'm a mediator, so I don't want any psycho-activity," said a yoga enthusiast.

"I have two tokes and I pass out. It's unbearable," said the one-armed man.

Office hours over, Courtney climbed into his pickup, flicked on the radar detector intended to minimize encounters with the police, and steered over the switchbacks of the coast range toward home. His father was in from Michigan, watching the surf pound the rocks below the picture window and playing with his granddaughter, born 14 months earlier to Kristen, whose insides at one point were so bad off a doctor warned she would never bear children.

"Irv?" she called from the kitchen counter cluttered with carrots, pears, apples and Pineapple Thai. "You want a glass of juice?"

The old man looked up from the sea. "Sure," he said.

[04:53 PM] Soshin: I don't think I've ever had fig spread Darna but I like figs and they make my sphincter sing power ballads

[12:48 PM] Bobblehead: Yo, you know I'm really happy for you and Ima let you finish, but soshin had one of the best meercat shouts of all time

[10:23 PM] skwirrlking: you submitting darna for beards eating cupcakes - mca?

[03:24 PM] Darna: [03:22 PM] jeht'aimeu: skw, you are climbing up my pole as well... 

[02:28 PM] propscene: I DPON"T MEAN I LOVE YOU DEEP INSIDE AS MUCH AS I LOVE HIM DEEP INSIDE OH GOD

[12:58 PM] nikki: i feel like i should like the opposite of whatever jehu says

Online shahaggy

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President Obama’s Marijuana Problem

April 22, 2010 – NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Now that an initiative to legalize marijuana is officially on the California ballot this November, President Obama should brace for a strong jolt from the west.

If the measure passes (the latest poll puts support at 56 percent), no longer will it be a crime under state law for an adult to cultivate, possess or transport a personal supply of pot. Moreover, cities and counties will be authorized to regulate and tax commercial production, distribution and sale of marijuana, subject to restrictions and protections for minors and public safety. Revenue raised by marijuana sales would go to local governments, not Sacramento. Initiatives are also in the works in Washington and Oregon.

The president’s dilemma, in confronting state repeal of prohibition, lies in that marijuana will remain prohibited under federal law. It’s not the first time something like this has happened.

In 1923, during the prohibition whose era now
gets a capital P, New York repealed its alcohol-prohibition laws, shifting the burden and expense of enforcement onto federal authorities. Not only did the state gain significant savings in law- enforcement costs, but perhaps as a consequence, for the remaining 10 years of Prohibition New York City escaped the level of crime and violence that plagued some other large cities, such as Chicago and Detroit. It also explains why, in movies of the era, police are often called the “Feds.”

If California voters see marijuana prohibition as unsustainable and vote accordingly, howls will arise, most audibly from politicized public employees who see their jobs at risk. There will be the usual bleating about “sending the wrong message” to children, as if criminal-justice policy should be based on how it might be misconstrued by the immature. Moralists will sputter. Congress will bluster. It will be a splendid kerfuffle.

Faced with no local marijuana enforcement, the president’s choices are limited. He could send in armies of federal agents to patrol the streets and surveil backyards and basements. In no time, surely, the corridors of federal courthouses would fill with sad-eyed teenagers and small-time pot dealers, and already overburdened judges will roar.

Another option may be to retreat, as with medical marijuana, ordering federal police to ignore conduct that is in compliance with state law, including licensed and regulated farms, plants and shops. However, this restraint conflicts with the president’s constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” notwithstanding the stated reason for not interfering with medical marijuana was that the Feds simply do not have the resources.

The president’s best option is the last resort of scoundrels and statesmen alike: to tell the truth. He can remind the nation that marijuana was outlawed early in the last century to oppress minorities, and, shamefully, its prohibition continues to serve that function. He can deplore how the government uses the marijuana laws to insinuate itself into the personal lives of Americans, leaving millions with stained records that rule out good jobs and even an education. He can lament how it is really marijuana prohibition that “sends the wrong message” to children, by conflating the concepts of use and abuse, undermining honest drug education.

He could condemn the utter hypocrisy of outlawing marijuana, which has never killed anyone, while we regulate and tax alcohol and tobacco, both deadly, and celebrate drink as an integral part of many social rituals.

He could admit the obvious fact that marijuana has become an inextricable part of our culture, despite decades of anti-drug propaganda. He could challenge the defenders of prohibition to tell us how many more people will have to be arrested, prosecuted and punished before marijuana is extirpated from our land, and how much that will cost, and where the money will come from to pay for it.

On June 12, 1987, Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and exhorted Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.” November may well deliver an exhortation from the voters of California to tear down the wall of marijuana prohibition.

Might this be Obama’s Gorbachevian moment?  By RICHARD M. EVANS

http://hempnews.tv/2010/04/22/president-obamas-marijuana-problem/
[04:53 PM] Soshin: I don't think I've ever had fig spread Darna but I like figs and they make my sphincter sing power ballads

[12:48 PM] Bobblehead: Yo, you know I'm really happy for you and Ima let you finish, but soshin had one of the best meercat shouts of all time

[10:23 PM] skwirrlking: you submitting darna for beards eating cupcakes - mca?

[03:24 PM] Darna: [03:22 PM] jeht'aimeu: skw, you are climbing up my pole as well... 

[02:28 PM] propscene: I DPON"T MEAN I LOVE YOU DEEP INSIDE AS MUCH AS I LOVE HIM DEEP INSIDE OH GOD

[12:58 PM] nikki: i feel like i should like the opposite of whatever jehu says

Offline CeeDub

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From the good folks at Esquire Magazine

Offline bdlaw

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It's the day after yesterday, of course!

Oh and also my birthday. ;D

:dronabinol:
Bobblehead: Wow, BMWs, cameras, and anal probes. Are we in Berlin?

[10:33 AM] del ban Woodsy: You do that and I will wash your mouth out with summer's eve after I kick your ass jehu.

Darna: it's because my people spend much of their lives barefoot, so when they discover shoes, it's a party!

RB: i rubbed mine last night to be ready for tonight

Burroughs: Thank you for a country in which no one is free to mind his own business

Offline Frank M

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Maaaaaaan, I can't even spell the asshole's name right.  What day is today again?

Offline Frank M

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY ADOLPH!! May your carcass rot in perpetuity.

(RooR and The Volcano weren't part of your plans, were they?)

Offline jcpeace

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HAPPY POT SMOKING DAY, EVERYONE !!

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/22H1ciSvVm8&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/22H1ciSvVm8&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1&amp;</a>
"If your children ever find out how lame you really are, they'll murder you in your sleep." Frank Zappa (1965)

TheFang: Did you know they were made in chicken eggs! Oh no! Not chickens.

Online TheFang

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<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/b6t1EM4Onao&amp;color1=0xb1b1b1&amp;color2=0xcfcfcf&amp;hl=en_US&amp;feature=player_embedded&amp;fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://www.youtube.com/v/b6t1EM4Onao&amp;color1=0xb1b1b1&amp;color2=0xcfcfcf&amp;hl=en_US&amp;feature=player_embedded&amp;fs=1</a>
"I can't help it, I'm a greedy slob. It's my hobby." -- D.D.

Online shahaggy

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I heard it was 2 oz a month also which would work out just fine, 1/2 oz a week sounds good to me! ;D
[04:53 PM] Soshin: I don't think I've ever had fig spread Darna but I like figs and they make my sphincter sing power ballads

[12:48 PM] Bobblehead: Yo, you know I'm really happy for you and Ima let you finish, but soshin had one of the best meercat shouts of all time

[10:23 PM] skwirrlking: you submitting darna for beards eating cupcakes - mca?

[03:24 PM] Darna: [03:22 PM] jeht'aimeu: skw, you are climbing up my pole as well... 

[02:28 PM] propscene: I DPON"T MEAN I LOVE YOU DEEP INSIDE AS MUCH AS I LOVE HIM DEEP INSIDE OH GOD

[12:58 PM] nikki: i feel like i should like the opposite of whatever jehu says

Online Binky

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2 grams a month? How much is that? Like two skinny joints? That's only enough for one weekend if you don't share! How are you supposed get high the rest of the month? Buy it on the street like some common criminal?

The news this morning said two ounces.  I haven't investigated further.  It was Fox News (it was on at the gym), so maybe they were wrong about that or exaggerating.
nikki: i can't keep up with rab and his George Clooney lifestyle of drinking wine, playing music and philanthropy

Offline elgoodo

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[06:11 PM]  fasteddie: jesus, this SB is deader than JC Vibe

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