Category Archives: marijuana

Paul Zuckerberg’s DC city council race

Paul Zuckerberg, a marijuana use defense attorney in DC who is running for the city council at large seat in April, held a meet and greet last night at his Adams Morgan office on Lanier Place, which a couple of local libertarians attended.  There were only around 16 people there, and after people associated with the Petworth charter school Zuckerberg’s kids attend (his campaign treasurer is also a charter school parent at the same school), people from the local libertarian meetup may have had the second best showing.  (I didn’t inquire as to how many were former clients.)

According to Zuckerberg he had 2100 signatures on the 11th.  Every candidate needs 3000; its a special election and even the Democrats and Republicans have to petition to get on the ballot.  News reports so far are that one Republican, Patrick Mara, and 14 Democrats – including incumbent Anita Bonds, Zuckerberg, and Michael Brown, who recently lost a re-election bid – are running.  Zuckerberg thinks he has met some Green Party people petitioning as well.

Zuckerberg hopes to get the 3000 before anyone else, so he can file them and get a news story out of it. You can’t file any signatures until you have the minimum number required, but can then file extras up until January 23rd.  To ward off challenges most candidates aim for 4500 to 6000 signatures.  Both Bonds and Brown (the son of Bill Clinton’s  Secretary of Commerce) have staffs of paid petitioners.

Many DC libertarians are supporting Patrick Mara, who supports charter schools, gay marriage, and fiscal restraint, and is viewed by many as libertarian-leaning.  So we went to Zuckerberg’s event to see if there we some equally good Democrats.  What we found was disappointing, though Zuckerberg is running in such a corrupt city and among such a boring and cretinous crop of Democrats that he still shines a little by contrast.

We began by asking Zuckerberg what his top 5 issues were above and beyond marijuana decriminalization.  He stalled at answering.  He finally got out that he is interested in education, and according to his website he does support charter schools, and sends his children to them.  The only other issue he ever got to was some plan for a bicycle trail from Maine to Key West that would tie together local routes like the C&O canal, allowing one to bike down the eastern seaboard.  No other issues came up.

Back to marijuana, the law and regulation of which is his vocation,  Zuckerberg had a lot more to say.  Much of it simultaneously horrifying and also better than what we have now.  Zuckerberg wants to maintain large civil fines for marijuana use but not have it be a crime with criminal charges.  According to him this is best because it means DC law would not contradict federal law.  In his mind if DC does not make something illegal that federal law does make illegal, that would be a state law contradicting the federal law.  Contradicting it by not existing, apparently.   I suppose large civil penalties mean people would still need marijuana defense lawyers too?

Additionally Zuckerberg favors having ABC style government owned stores to sell medical marijuana, because allowing private vendors to do it, as in California, makes it seem like the industry is a sham attempt to get around The Law and disobey the government.

Zuckerberg did have many anecdotes to tell about his work defending people arrested in DC, many of whom face federal charges since they are often smoking on the Mall, the GW parkway scenic rest stops, Rock Creek Park, and other federal government owned properties.  His heart seems to have some libertarian impulses but they are almost completely strangled by his conventional statist DC hive political faith.

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Ellie Mae Norton wants to throw your kids in jail

Norton, City Leaders Condemn Synthetic Marijuana

  • Written by  James Wright
  • Wednesday, 12 December 2012 
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D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton addressed a crowd at a hearing on synthetic marijuana on Nov. 27 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Northwest.D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton addressed a crowd at a hearing on synthetic marijuana on Nov. 27 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Northwest. Photo by Khalid Naji-Allah

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) has joined forces with the D.C. Council to stop the sale of a legal, yet lethal synthetic drug that’s gaining popularity among District youth.
K2 also known as “Spice” is a psychoactive designer drug. It’s a mixture of herbs, spices and shredded plant material sprayed with synthetic chemicals that, when used, allegedly mimics the effects of marijuana. It is illegal in 39 states, including Virginia – it’s legal in the District, but not for long, if Norton has anything to say about it.
“With effects that have been compared to LSD, our city must not let synthetic marijuana use increase,” said Norton, 75.
She received a boost from the D.C. Council on Dec. 4 when it passed a bill, authored by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson that would ban the sale of the substance in the city.
The movement toward banning K2 gathered steam when Norton convened a hearing of her Commission on Black Men and Boys entitled, “Synthetic Marijuana: Real Drug, Real Consequences” on Nov. 27 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Northwest with 60 people in attendance.
Charles Dark, the director of the D.C. Prevention Center for Ward 5 and 6 in Northeast, said that K2 usage is getting worse and it’s easy to get.
“I have purchased synthetic marijuana from an Exxon gas station,” said Dark, 41. “It’s a pretty easy transaction. D.C. Prevention knows that a lot of these vendors are selling this stuff to underage youth.”
Dark said that he has been to a few gas stations in the District and noticed that the establishments that sell the drug tend to be closer to lower-income black neighborhoods.
“I’ve spoken to men of all ages who have tried this drug,” he said. “They are mixing it with their marijuana to stretch the marijuana they do have or if they don’t have money to buy marijuana [illegally]. The youth seem to know which stores have it and those that don’t have it.”
Dark said that his organization has been tracking K2 usage since 2008 and saw its usage increase in 2010 and 2011. He said that youth involved in the juvenile justice system have told him that many children use K2 as a way to avoid failing mandatory court-ordered drug tests.
“If you look at how this stuff is packaged, it’s clearly packaged to entice a young person to want to buy it,” Dark said.
In her remarks, Norton said that the average age of a K2 user was 13.5 years-old.
Alphonso Coles, a men’s health activist in Ward 7, said that police officers don’t deal with K2 users.
“The police don’t even bother speaking with or stopping anyone from smoking K2,” said Coles, 55. “K2 poses major health risks to people who smoke it and the community needs to rally together to demand that the sale of K2 in their neighborhood stop.”
Norton, Coles and 38 activists protested the sale of K2 at an Exxon station in Northeast on Dec. 4. Coles said that Norton went in to speak with the manager of the station and demanded that he stop selling the drug.
Coles said that the manager complied and that letters will be sent to the franchise owner of the station, Joe Mamo, and the Ethiopian business community, on the dangers of the drug and why they shouldn’t sell it.
Norton agrees with Coles and said that there needs to be a community conversation about K2.
“It needs discussion not only among kids but it needs discussion in schools and with families,” the delegate said. “Kids need to educate their parents. And above all, it needs public discussion.”
WI Staff Writer Elton Hayes contributed to this story.

Last modified on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 17:13

NORML Down with Droid, Finally!

NORML 06/23/2012
From NORML.org:

Recent Action Alerts:


NORML Down with Droid, Finally!

Dear NORML supporters,
NORML Android Mobile AppAfter the successful launch two years ago of a NORML app on Apple’s iTunes, NORML’s large online information and social activism network to reform cannabis laws is finally linked up in the smart phone universe with Droid fans.
The new mobile app for NORML on Droid, designed by former NORML legal intern Matthew Donigian, is found here.
With nearly 400,000 Facebook supporters, 115,000 opt-in listserv subscribers, 60,000 Twitter followers and NORML-powered Apple and Droid mobile apps, cannabis consumers and activists today can remain dialed in 24/7 to all of the relevant cannabis-related news and information important for us all to know and be aware of on the march to replace failed Cannabis Prohibition laws, with sensible alternatives public policies.
For someone who has worked at NORML pre-Internet, the reality that a cannabis consumer and/or law reform activist can now possess so much verifiable, credible and timely information at the touch of a button (an entire university library’s worth of information!), remotely delivered to a hand-held device, has always helped in my mind to recognize that the writing is on the wall for Cannabis Prohibition in America because we all know that information is power—and now that citizens have more than enough access to information and networking tools, the federal government and other supporters (and beneficiaries) of the seventy-five year old Cannabis Prohibition laws can no longer in unfettered and unchallenged ways continue to mislead and deceive the public about cannabis, cannabis consumers or the ill-effects of prohibition.
Again, information is power. Cannabis Prohibition is a worthy victim of both information and citizen action.
Get the NORML Droid Mobile App!
Cannabem liberemus,
Allen St. Pierre
Executive Director
NORML
Washington, D.C.

D.C. approves 4 to be medical marijuana dispensaries

June 12, 2012 — 8:35 PM @WashingtonExaminer


Four potential medical marijuana dispensaries have cleared the last major hurdle in route to opening their doors in Washington as early as August.
After reviewing applications, the District Department of Health notified the businesses Tuesday that they are eligible to open dispensaries around the city, from downtown to Upper Northwest to Southeast. Now they must acquire permits and begin the normal process of opening a business within the District.
“[Applicants are] tired, a lot of them,” said Mike Liszewski, a policy director for medical cannabis advocacy group Americans for Safe Access. “They’re enthusiastic for getting it going, and they’re looking forward to providing D.C.’s population with medicine. … The progress has been slow and steady over the past several months, so I think D.C. patients have every reason to expect it to come through by the end of the year.”
But people shouldn’t expect legally purchasing marijuana in the District to be easy.
Only residents who suffer from HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, cancer or conditions characterized by severe muscle spasms will be able to obtain a permit to purchase marijuana from the Health Department.
Their usual doctor must write a recommendation for marijuana before a patient can apply for a permit card from DOH. Even with a card, however, residents will only be able to purchase the drug at one specified dispensary.
“D.C. is one of the most restrictive in the country,” Liszewski said, adding, “Clearly we favor fewer restrictions, but we understand political realities and we’re willing to work with them when necessary.”
As for the dispensaries, D.C. rules say no marijuana or paraphernalia can be visible from the street. They must have security measures and can’t be located within a residential district or 300 feet of a school or recreation center.
“I think it remains to be seen exactly what form they are going to take on,” Liszewski said. “I think these places are going to — more or less — blend into the communities they’re entering.”
A neighbor of one of the approved locations, Metropolitan Wellness Center Corporation at 409 Eighth St. SE, thinks a marijuana dispensary on the same block would be good for his business.
“That’s excellent actually,” said Aslam Hayat, manager of Pizza Boli’s on Eighth Street. “We deal with people all day … a lot of the people you can smell marijuana on them. So it seems like a lot of the people are using marijuana. So I really like it.

D.C. Council myopia on Ward 5 warehouses

D.C. Council myopia on Ward 5 warehouses

By Mark Lee @Washington Blade

What is it with Northeast Washington’s Ward 5 and the ferocious opposition by some neighborhood leaders and residents to development plans for usage of even the tiniest number of the long underutilized area’s vast array of abandoned former light industrial commercial buildings that causes D.C. politicians to roll over like puppies wanting their stomachs rubbed?
Why doesn’t the area embrace realistic economic development opportunities and functional applications for a very few of the plentiful unused warehouses that blight the ward at both visible and tucked away locations?
Why have issues related to zoning-specific and usage-appropriate business revitalization relevant to the LGBT community in recent years not been effectively or successfully addressed – if at all – by local advocates and organizations?
Perhaps most important, what causes the city’s elected officials to buckle so quickly to such anti-business protestations, abandoning common sense along the way?
The D.C. Council previously limited both the number and permissible locations in the area for gay strip clubs displaced by the Nationals stadium hoping to re-open, at the insistence of disgraced former Ward 5 Council member Harry Thomas Jr.
The result? No venue relocated to Ward 5 due to insurmountable prohibitions, with only Ziegfeld’s/Secrets surviving at a grandfathered new location near the previous cluster of businesses and the stadium site.
The latest dust-up is over D.C.’s medical marijuana program that hit another snag two weeks ago when the D.C. Council approved emergency legislation to limit the number of cultivation centers allowed in Ward 5.
Introduced by At-Large Council member Vincent Orange, who previously represented Ward 5 prior to an unsuccessful mayoral campaign, and co-sponsored by Council Chair Kwame Brown, it primarily affects a ward encompassing the upper northeast corner of the city from the nexus of New Jersey Avenue at 3rd Street, N.E., and surrounding the New York Avenue commercial corridor within a southern boundary continuing along Florida Avenue and extending outward via Benning Road.
The approved legislation limits the number of marijuana cultivation locations in any ward to six, passed with lightning speed within a week of introduction.
Gay At-Large Council member and Committee on Health Chair David Catania was credited with striking a deal reflecting the best possible compromise. With neither side certain of the vote alignment, and Mayor Vincent Gray’s statement that the bill would “further delay implementation of this important program, which is necessary to assist individuals who suffer with chronic debilitating pain” not making much of an impact, Catania negotiated the lessened limitation.
The original regulations, approved by the Council more than a year ago, dictated the city’s business proposal solicitation and qualification process to date. The Council’s action has upended and complicated progress and will likely cause further delays and difficulties in determining locations for the small necessary number of production sites. This may result in insufficient product becoming available and eventually being more difficult to obtain at the separate dispensaries at only five locations scattered across the city for patient access convenience.
Nearly all of the 28 business applications to operate each of only 10 cultivation centers permitted citywide – including a signed property lease – selected available and appropriate sites in Ward 5. Eight qualifying proposals have been forwarded to a respective Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC), which have a near-veto opportunity under scoring rules that portend more obstacles to come. Six of the eight sent for ANC review are for locations in Ward 5, resulting in the probability that remaining applications under review won’t fulfill the new geographic restriction.
Because these businesses are production facilities only with no distribution component, strict security protocols are required, only 95 plants are allowed at each location in order to avoid heightened criminal penalties should the Obama administration continue with threats and prosecution interfering with programs nationwide and require only a modest and discreet size with a nondescript and non-commercial exterior, the reaction is both dumbfounding and disappointing.
Cultivation businesses – essential to implementation of the District’s pending medical marijuana program – do not constitute behemoth “Walmart of Weed” footprints or activity. Their presence will actually be difficult to detect.
The D.C. Council’s kowtowing to opponents of these businesses is cowardly and will further delay and potentially limit or ultimately deny patients the benefit of physician-prescribed medical relief.
Mark Lee is a local small business manager and long-time community business advocate. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

Virginia Bill Aims to Study Marijuana Legalization in Virginia!

Bill Aims to Study Marijuana
Legalization in Virginia!

Yes, you read that right — a Virginia politician wants
to study full-scale legalization through the existing ABC stores!
House Joint Resolution 140, introduced by 
Delegate David Englin of Alexandria, would establish a
 joint study committee that “shall examine the feasibility
 and practicality of selling marijuana under the restrictions
 and conditions as allowed by law, the impact of these sales
 in Virginia’s ABC stores and on its patrons, as well as the
 potential revenue impact upon the Commonwealth.”
Write to Delegate Englin and thank him for his bill!
Then contact your delegate now with NORML’s Action
 Alert form and tell them to support HJR 140!
The bill has been assigned to the House Rules Committee,
 and will likely face a hearing in subcommittee on a Thursday
 in the next few weeks. We will let you know when that hearing
 is so you can come, pack the hearing room, and show our
 politicians that we mean to change the law!
The following is a list of the members of the Rules Committee. 
Write them and tell them to vote for HJR 140!
William Howell (R), Chairman — DelWHowell@house.virginia.gov — 
(804) 698-1028
Lacey Putney (I) — DelLPutney@house.virginia.gov — 
(804) 698-1019
R. Steven Landes (R) — DelSLandes@house.virginia.gov —

 (804) 698-1025
M. Kirkland Cox (R) — DelKCox@house.virginia.gov — 

(804) 698-1066
Terry Kilgore (R) — DelTKilgore@house.virginia.gov — 

(804) 698-1001
Lee Ware (R) — DelLWare@house.virginia.gov —

 (804) 698-1065
Beverly Sherwood (R) — DelBSherwood@house.virginia.gov — 

(804) 698-1029
Chris Jones (R) — DelCJones@house.virginia.gov —

 (804) 698-1076
Robert Orrock (R) — DelBOrrock@house.virginia.gov — 

(804) 698-1054
Todd Gilbert (R) — DelTGilbert@house.virginia.gov —

 (804) 698-1015
Barry Knight (R) — DelBKnight@house.virginia.gov — 

(804) 698-1081
Johnny Joannou (D) — (804) 698-1079
Joseph Johnson (D) — DelJJohnson@house.virginia.gov —

 (804) 698-1004
Kenneth Plum (D) — DelKPlum@house.virginia.gov — 

(804) 698-1036
Kenneth Alexander (D) — DelKAlexander@house.virginia.gov —

 (804) 698-1089

Keep up-to-date on this important bill with 
Virginia NORML!

Stay connected on our website as we push this 
legislation forward. Like us on Facebook and spread our message!

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DC’s non-objective pot laws: guilty if you do, guilty if you don’t

Weeded Out: Medical Marijuana in D.C. Requires Federal WaiverOpening a pot shop in D.C. means signing a paper that says you’re a criminal

Illustration by Brooke Hatfield
Montgomery Blair Sibley has been waiting for this chance for a while. Not only does the longtime local lawyer have a location for his pot-cultivation center scoped out along New York Avenue NE, but he’s also been shopping himself out as something of a consultant and legal counselor for anybody else looking to get into the District’s nascent medical marijuana program.
But now he’s having second thoughts.
When the District formally opened the application process in early August for the 10 planned cultivation centers that will supply marijuana to five dispensaries, the D.C. Department of Health required that all applicants sign an “acknowledgement and attestation form.” The four-page document asks all applicants to verify that they’ve never been convicted of a felony or a drug-related misdemeanor, don’t owe the city any back taxes, and understand the lengthy rules governing the program.
It also requires that all hopefuls sign off on three provisions that would limit any liability faced by the District should the program be shut down, indemnify the city against any losses, and admit they recognize that growing, distributing, and possessing marijuana is a violation of federal law—no matter what the District’s medical marijuana program says.
The final provision engages in some legal acrobatics to distance the city from the program it’s charged with implementing: “The District of Columbia’s law authorizing the District’s medical marijuana program will not excuse any registrant from any violation of the federal laws governing marijuana or authorize any registrant to violate federal laws.”
In short, even though applicants will submit lengthy applications in hopes of gaining a license from the District to grow or dispense marijuana—a federal offense—the city claims it isn’t actually authorizing or excusing what will invariably be a violation of federal law. (The city will be taking its money, though— $5,000 for each application filed and $5,000 a year simply to operate a cultivation center. A dispensary will cost $10,000 a year.)
As tortured as it might be, the legal fine print has a purpose.
Despite the fact that 16 states and the District have approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, no amount of talk of compassion and effective pain relief changes the fundamental truth that marijuana is still a Schedule I drug. According to the feds, there’s a high chance that it’ll be abused, and it has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.” In October 2009, though, the Department of Justice issued a memo saying that the federal government wouldn’t be using its finite resources against marijuana in states where its use for medicinal purposes was legal.
That suddenly changed in June of this year, when Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote a follow-up memo saying pretty much the opposite: “Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law.”
The memo landed just as city officials were deciding how the District’s long-awaited medical marijuana program would actually work. What most irked city officials was the part of the memo saying those who “knowingly facilitate” the growing and distribution of marijuana would be as much in violation of federal law as those actually doing it: You give someone else a license to do it, and you may as well be doing it yourself.
Hence the legal waiver. Now applicants have to sign a form admitting not only that they know they’re breaking federal law, but that if they get caught, it’s all on them—and not on the D.C. government.
Colette Chichester, a special assistant to Department of Health Director Mohammad Akhter, notes that the program’s rules always included a requirement that applicants assume “any and all risk or liability” from their participation in the medical marijuana program. The waiver, she says, is simply “more beefed up” to limit any exposure the city could suffer if the feds start busting down the doors of local cultivation centers and dispensaries.
According to Allen St. Pierre of the pro-marijuana advocacy group NORML, this waiver may well be the first of its type for states with medical marijuana programs. Admitting that he was “hardly surprised” to see it, St. Pierre notes that it reflects the difficult balance faced by city officials who want to reap tax benefits from cultivation centers and dispensaries while staying on the right side of federal law.
But what it means is not only that all the danger of the operation is shifted onto the distributors, but that they may be even more vulnerable to prosecution with the waiver than without it. For Sibley, who guesses he could spend $100,000 just to get his cultivation center up and running, this isn’t just an unacceptable business risk. (“Investors are melting away like ice,” he says.) It’s also a violation of his rights. In a lawsuit filed Aug. 16, Sibley asked a federal judge to forbid the District from forcing applicants to sign the form because it would violate their Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. He also argued that the waiver constitutes entrapment: The city is enticing applicants into breaking the law by granting them licenses, then denying them any semblance of a defense should they get caught.
Not everyone in the medical marijuana movement is so put off by the waiver, though. Kris Hermes, who works with Americans for Safe Access, says such language is “marginal when compared to the benefits” of actually getting a medical marijuana program off the ground, especially in a climate of renewed federal threats. St. Pierre largely agrees. “It’s a tortured process to get from point A to point B,” he said. “But we want to get to point B.”
In the minds of many anxious to see medical marijuana get to patients in the District, a tightly regulated program is better than no program at all. And the District may be doing a better job of balancing local prerogatives against federal concerns than any other jurisdiction in the country. Local cultivation centers will each be limited to 95 plants, just shy of the 100 plants that usually provoke a five-year mandatory federal sentence. Moreover, the recent Department of Justice memo seems to focus on “large-scale, privately-operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers”—much more a California phenomenon than what D.C. has in mind.
Still, the risks are too high for one group. The D.C. Patients’ Cooperative, a nonprofit run by Adam Eidinger, who owns Capitol Hemp in Adams Morgan and Chinatown, decided to jump out of the game, despite having been actively involved in writing the rules that will eventually govern it. He says the organization decided it wants nothing to do with a program “that treats us like criminals.”
Eidinger is also frustrated that the District opted not to allow home cultivation—14 states with medical marijuana programs do—a step that could have likely saved the District from the threat of federal intervention. The June DOJ memo focused on “commercial” operations, giving advocates renewed assurances that small-time home-growers with qualifying medical conditions will remain safe.
In late August, Sibley met with nine other groups that are planning to submit applications for cultivation centers, which are due Sept. 16. (The application process for dispensaries will open that same day.) Many shared his concerns, and some even said they’d be willing to join his lawsuit. Regardless, all agreed that they’d move forward and submit their applications, which will be judged by a five-person committee.
As for Sibley, he remains torn. “It’s a difficult choice,” he says, not wanting to swear off the one chance he might have to apply for a cultivation-center license. But if things don’t change, he may pull the plug: “I wouldn’t sign the form as is,” he says.

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