Friday, June 04, 2010

California State Legislature Decides on Marijuana Policy

Yesterday the California State Legislature made a few mixed decisions regarding marijuana policy. 

Here is the rundown from MPP
Senate supports downgrading marijuana posession
In a 21-13 vote, the Senate approved S.B. 1449, which would reclassify possession of under an ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction. The penalty would remain a $100 fine. Although this bill is a step in the right direction, there are some downsides to making possession an infraction. It would eliminate the right to a public defender and a jury by trial. However, if S.B. 1449 is enacted, it would save tax dollars by ensuring that people accused of simple possession would not have to appear before a judge. It would also save low-level marijuana offenders from having to bear a criminal record. The bill's sponsor - Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), a longtime champion of sensible marijuana policies - is now in the Assembly, and will soon be assigned to a committee. Please call your Assembly member in support of this bill.

Assembly votes to undermine safe access to medical marijuana
In a 54-15 vote, the Assembly approved A.B. 2650, which would prohibit medical marijuana dispensing collectives from operating within 600 feet of a school. It will now move to the Senate. This bill, which is sponsored by Asm. Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), seizes the authority of local cities and counties to set their own standards for medical marijuana. In addition, any restrictions on collectives should be accompanied by clearer recognition for dispensaries. The Marijuana Policy Project and its allies have fought to make the bill less damaging. Originally, the buffer was 1,000 feet and several other locations were included. A.B. 2650 also now grandfathers in dispensaries that are in localities with pre-existing ordinances that are less strict.

Bill to allow medical marijuana paraphernalia dies in Assembly
A.B. 1811, sponsored by Asm. Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), was defeated 33-36 in the Assembly (12 members didn't vote). The bill would have allowed marijuana paraphernalia to be knowingly sold for the medical use of marijuana. Many items used for medical marijuana, such as vaporizers, have to be sold as tobacco products. Retailers are not permitted to supply information about how these products work with marijuana. Medical marijuana patients deserve to understand how to properly ingest their medicine.

Medical marijuana will be on the ballot in Arizona this November!

The Arizona Medical Marijuana Policy Project has collected more than 250,000 signatures in support of placing a medical marijuana law in the hands of Arizona voters and this week the initiative qualified for the November ballot.

 Arizona has an interesting history with medical marijuana laws.
65% of Arizona voters support removing criminal penalties for the medical use of marijuana, according to a February 2009 poll. And voters have already passed medical marijuana initiatives twice in the state, in 1996 and 1998. Unfortunately, due to a technical error in the wording of these laws, they have failed to effectively protect medical marijuana patients from arrest.
The November initiative would fix these problems. 
  • Allow terminally and seriously ill patients who find relief from marijuana to use it with their doctors’ approval.
  • Protect these seriously ill patients from arrest and prosecution for the simple act of taking their doctor-recommended medicine.
  • Permit qualifying patients or their caregivers to legally purchase their medicine from tightly regulated clinics, as they would any other medicine -- so they need not purchase it from the criminal market.
  • Permit qualifying patients or their caregivers to cultivate their own marijuana for medical use if a regulated medical marijuana clinic is not located within 25 miles of the qualifying patient.
  • Create registry identification cards, so that law enforcement officials could easily tell who was a registered patient, and establish penalties for false statements and fraudulent ID cards.
  • Allow patients and their caregivers who are arrested to discuss their medical use in court.
  • Keep commonsense restrictions on the medical use of marijuana, including prohibitions on public use of marijuana and driving under the influence of marijuana.

Working on this campaign is an amazing opportunity for students throughout the state. Currently there are SSDP chapters at Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University but if you are a student at another Arizona school please consider starting a chapter of SSDP and help bring effective medical marijuana legislation to Arizona. If you know any students at Arizona schools, please tell them about SSDP.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

High School Newspaper Canceled for Marijuana Legalization Editorial

The Big Spring Independent School District in Texas decided to censor Big Spring High School's semester closing issue of the school's paper, The Corral, because it contained a pro-marijuana legalization editorial written by a student. District Superintendent Steven Saldivar took the action because he said the editorial ran contrary to the district's long-stated position on drug usage.
"We were embarrassed by it," Saldivar said. "At the same time we're trying to get kids to see the dangers of using drugs, (The Corral) ran that editorial. In no way do we advocate legalizing drugs, so we didn't feel this was something that was in our best interests to support."
Recently graduated Editor-in-Chief Marisa Nieto doesn't see why the editorial is considered inappropriate.
"I just couldn't believe that someone was making such a big deal out of such a little thing in my eyes," she said. "It was just an editorial on legalizing marijuana and giving facts on it. That's it."
It would seem that students have a right to freedom of speech. However, in the 1980's, the Supreme Court ruled public schools have the final say when it comes to student publication content. In protest, Big Spring High School journalism teacher Bill Riggs resigned. Some Big Spring residents were also unhappy with the decision.
"Why are we going to only provide them with a minimum of what the ideas and concepts of what journalism are?" Big Spring resident, Lisa Trejo, said. "So they can be prepared for what; half-way (knowledge) of how to do their job when they get into the real world, because their ISD wanted to protect them? That's not fair."
A zero-tolerance policy on the open discussion of drug use and prohibition is really a step backwards. It is this kind of close mindedness that prevents us from collectively progressing towards a more just and compassionate future. 

While the Supreme Court  has ruled that school districts can censor school publications, the Court has also ruled, thanks in large part to SSDP, that free speech about drug policy reform is protected in schools and students can not be punished for discussing drug policy. 

We hope to see a SSDP chapter start at Big Spring High School.