Obama on pot smoking in newly-legal CO and WA: "Bigger fish to fry"

Photo: Shutterstock. "Young man eating leaves of hemp. Shoot in the field of marijuana."

“We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Obama told ABC News' Barbara Walters, speaking about marijuana smokers in Colorado and Washington.

In those two states, recreational use is now legal, but the DEA still has a hard-on for weed prohibition, as demonstrated by the agency's ongoing and aggressive dispensary raids in CA. According to the president, going after potsmokers in states where it's legal is no longer a high (heh) priority.

“It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal,” he said. 

“This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law,” Obama told Walters of the legalization in Colorado and Washington. “I head up the executive branch; we’re supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about, how do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal?”

More in the Washington Post.

Medical Marijuana comes to New Jersey

"They skulked in and out like criminals, shoulders hunched, heads down, declining to comment." —a NYT profile on the Garden State's first pot dispensary. Hey, in the patrons' defense, it may be because they spooted Snookie or The Situation inside or something.

As states legalize pot, will Obama continue the federal War on Weed?

Tom Dickinson in Rolling Stone about the growing conflict between what voters in more and more states want (legalizing pot) and what the federal government wants (shutting down dispensaries with guns and SWAT teams of DEA agents). "While the administration has yet to issue a definitive response to the two new laws, the Justice Department was quick to signal that it has no plans to heed the will of voters. 'Enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act,' the department announced in November, 'remains unchanged."

Marijuana now legal in Washington

CBS: "An impromptu celebration was held, appropriately enough, at the Space Needle, a Seattle high point. The air was filled with the scent of victory."

Marijuana dispenser machine company's stock gets really, really high, man

Medbox (MDBX), a firm that makes medical marijuana dispensing machines, says its stock "is getting way too high." Shares spiked 3,000% this week (from about $4 Monday to $215 Thursday), "prompting executives to try and dampen investor enthusiasm." The surge was caused by a MarketWatch story about how to invest in legalized marijuana.

Medical marijuana in Israel

"I've been a Holocaust child all my life. I'm now 80 and I'm still a Holocaust child, but I'm finally able to better cope." A Buchenwald survivor who uses cannabis for PTSD in a nursing home in Israel, in USA Today.

Feds to debate medical use of marijuana

Marijuana is currently classified in the US as a Schedule I controlled substance: no medically accepted use, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

Ira Flatow's syndicated public radio program Science Friday has a segment out about next week's planned arguments to a federal appeals court by pro-pot advocacy org Americans for Safe Access, in hopes of relaxing federal restrictions.

The radio segment includes UCSF oncologist Donald Abrams, who speaks about the evidence on the medical benefits of pot.

Disclosure: I'm a cancer patient, I use pot for medical purposes, and I'm strongly in favor of legalization and easier access for seriously ill people (and honestly, who cares, everyone else too).

HT: @milesobrien

City of Oakland sues to prevent closure of embattled medical marijuana dispensary

The NYT reports on a lawsuit filed by the City of Oakland in federal court to prevent the Department of Justice from seizing property leased to Harborside Health Center. Previous posts on Boing Boing about the facility here and here.

US crackdown on medical marijuana threatens a dad's search to halt son's epilepsy

In the Los Angeles Times, a really great feature about how the Obama administration's assault on medical marijuana dispensaries threatens one father's search for cannabidiol, which has helped reduce the severity and frequency of his 6-year-old son's seizures from Dravet syndrome.

Gentleman steals pot from police station because "that bud smelled so good"

David Allan Thompson, 27, was arrested for ripping off a bag of marijuana seized as evidence from the Charleroi Regional police department, in Pennsylvania. Mr. Thompson had gone to the police station on his own volition, according to reports, to "help out" cops. "Police said that back at the station, Thompson apologized repeatedly, telling police, 'I just couldn’t help myself. That bud smelled so good.' He also reportedly told police he couldn’t believe he was in trouble for 'taking a little bit of weed,' especially since he had stopped by to give them information." (MSNBC)

Down in Smoke: through comics, Susie Cagle chronicles the DEA raids on medical marijuana facilities in California

At Cartoon Movement, "graphic journalist" Susie Cagle (Twitter) surveys the impact of recent DEA raids of medical marijuana centers, and legal attacks against Harborside and the like, in 'Down In Smoke'. The work includes sound clips, which is brilliant.

Oakland, California. Ground zero for a medical marijuana fight between states and the federal government that has only been heating up. Incorporating real audio from activists, Cagle portrays what "feels like class war" as local growers, patients and city officials fight against losing their jobs, medicine, and tax revenue.

The whole thing is here, and it's fantastic. Susie has done some of the best reporting I've seen of the Occupy movement and related protests in America—she's been jailed and injured for it. The fact that her reporting is focused through the medium of comics is just so innovative and cool. She takes true risks for her reporting, and what comes out of it is insightful, informative, and funny. I just love her work.

Pot legalization is on the ballot in three US states. What happens when one state says yes to weed?

This November, voters in three US states—Colorado, Washington, and Oregon—will be able to vote on ballot measures that would legalize marijuana, period.

Not just for medicinal purposes, but for recreational purposes, too.

At Rolling Stone, a smart blog post by Julian Brookes on what happens when the first state says "yes" to weed.

When that happens, expect one of two things – either: the federal government, in deference to democratic principles, will decline to enforce its ban on marijuana, creating space for the state to be a "laboratory of democracy," working out its new policy by trial and error, learning as it goes, creating a trove of hard-earned lessons to guide the states that (inevitably) will follow; or: the federal government will bide its time and then come down hard, busting growers and retailers, seizing land and property (or, just as effective, threatening to), going after banks that serve pot business, and doing whatever else it takes to shut down the state's legalization push.

True, the feds would be within their rights to crack down. A state can legalize all it wants, but – incredibly – happy-go-lucky marijuana will still be a Schedule I drug, right up there on the federal shit list with brain melters and organ fryers like Heroin, Cocaine, and PCP. And, no, this isn't some quaint, disregarded artifact from olden times: A personal stash can get you a year in federal prison, a single plant up to five.

Read the rest.

A rant on marijuana dispensaries, and the quest for a living wage in LA

Over at Dangerous Minds, Richard Metzger has an epic rant in response to a recent Los Angeles City Council vote to close medical cannabis dispensaries in the city (there are many). I use pot to help with the side effects of cancer treatment. I didn't use pot before I was diagnosed with cancer. The City Council's suggestion that "seriously ill" people like me should just "grow their own" is very let-them-eat-cake-y. Cancer patients weak and nauseous from chemo can barely make a ham sandwich, let alone cultivate medicinal herb in the quantity and quality required to be useful. They might as well ask us to synthesize our own chemotherapy drugs. Metzger isn't a cancer patient, but he has great arguments here. Snip:

I live in an area of the city near the so dubbed “Green Mile,” a stretch known for its numerous, highly visible cannabis dispensaries. Within walking distance, there are approximately twelve dispensaries. Take a slightly longer walk and that number rises at least threefold.

By contrast, there are but two Starbucks, one McDonald’s, One Burger King, one KFC, one Jack in a Box, two Subways, two 7-Eleven stores and no Carl Jrs. It goes without saying that these are minimum wage jobs, whereas the average wage at a pot dispensary is $20 per hour.

In five years of living in this part of Los Angeles, I’ve seen every single one of these places pop up and what changes the neighborhood has gone through in that same period of time. Not only that, I have PERSONALLY visited almost all of them.

Here’s what I’ve noticed:

Since the recession, there have been very, very few new retail businesses that have opened along the “Green Mile” other than pot dispensaries. A few things, but not many. In every case, they are inhabiting real estate that was not being used, and that had not been used in some time. A lot of these previously empty buildings got much needed paint jobs, let’s just say, and many long empty buildings were rehabilitated by the dispensary owners.

I have seen no appreciable rise or fall in the neighborhood crime rate and I am sure the local police would probably agree. There is no discernible difference. No change. None.

More: Dangerous Minds | The Green Mile: A perspective from deep in LA’s busiest pot district on the weed ban vote

New York Governor asks to decriminalize possession of pot in public view

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo is asking legislators to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view. New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg is fighting back because he believes that destroying the job prospects of 50,000 people a year (mainly young black and Latino men) benefits society, and wants continue to use a sneaky police tactic to arrest them.

NewImageIn New York, the Legislature in 1977 reduced the penalty for possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana to a violation, which carries a maximum fine of $100 for first-time offenders.

But it remains a misdemeanor if the marijuana is in public view or is being smoked in public, and lawmakers and drug-reform advocates have argued that the misdemeanor charge is often unfairly applied to suspects who did not have marijuana in public view until the police stopped them and told them to empty their pockets.

“Now it’s in public view,” Professor Levine said. “If you go by the police reports, all around New York City, there are people standing around with their palms outstretched with a bit of marijuana in them.”

From 2002 to 2011, New York City recorded 400,000 low-level marijuana arrests, according to his analysis. That represented more arrests than under Mr. Bloomberg’s three predecessors put together — a period of 24 years. Most of those arrested have been young black and Hispanic men, and most had no prior criminal convictions.

Cuomo Seeks Cut in Frisk Arrests

Lego marijuana art show


The infamous art collective / brand, LA-GO has a show at Known Gallery in LA opening on May 26. It's called Legolize it, and features marijuana plants made from plastic hobby construction bricks.