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Mexico: Obama To Visit Latin America As Drug Prohibition-Related Violence Wracks Region

(Photo: Spatial Orientation)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

As President Barack Obama departs for a three-day trip to Mexico and Central America to meet with several regional counterparts, advocates are urging him to put drug policy reform at the top of the agenda.

The failed Drug War has wreaked havoc throughout Latin America. In Mexico, the War On Drugs has caused an estimated 70,000 deaths, 25,000 disappearances and more than 250,000 internally displaced people since 2006.

Meanwhile, drug trafficking organizations have increasingly moved or expanded their operations to Central America, which has become one of the most dangerous regions in the world, according to the United Nations. And rather than reducing the supply of or demand for drugs, prohibitionist drug policies have only enriched criminal organizations while increasing rates of incarceration and drug-related harms.

Obama is scheduled to meet Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on Thursday and then travel to Costa Rica on Friday to meet with President Laura Chinchilla, as well as heads of state of the other Central American countries and the Dominican Republic. Many of these leaders have voiced support for alternatives to drug prohibition -– including exploring options for legally regulating marijuana and other drugs -– in order to reduce the power and profits of violent drug traffickers.

Idaho: Marijuana Activists Fight Back After Police Take Their Children

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Two medical marijuana activists continue to rally support for cannabis legalization after the search of their home and the seizure of their children last Tuesday.

Lindsey and Josh Rinehart, of Boise spoke in support of medical marijuana, carried signs, and talked to the media at Monday's rally on the Idaho Statehouse steps, reports KTVB.

About a dozen others, many of them Compassionate Idaho members, joined the Rineharts at the rally.

The event came six days after police searched the Rineharts' home, saying they found marijuana and "drug paraphernalia." The couple's two children were turned over to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

Rinehart said she had the cannabis for medicinal reasons, and said taking her children away was wrong.

"I have multiple sclerosis," she told KTVB. "I am not a criminal because my kids were taken away."

Lindsey said that she should be able to use medical marijuana to treat her MS, and that she is fighting to get her boys back.

Washington: Cops Claim New Legal Marijuana Law Jeopardizes All Pot Prosecutions

(Graphic: Night Thoughts At Noon)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Funny how everyone in Washington suddenly seems to be a marijuana expert, now that the herb is legal in the Evergreen State. In one of the latest examples of how an advanced cluelessness can make its way into the press, prosecutors and crime lab scientists are claiming that the differentiation between marijuana and hemp in the state's legal marijuana law could make it impossible to go after any pot "crimes" at all.

The problem supposedly stems from a part of I-502 meant to distinguish marijuana from industrial hemp, which is grown for its fiber and seed oil. Washington law now defines marijuana as having more than 0.3 percent of the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, delta-9 THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).

Scientists (who really should know better) with the state crime lab clain that "often," even potent marijuana can have less than 0.3 percent, claiming that it's only when heated or burned that "another compound" turns into delta-9 THC.

"That means if people get caught with more than an ounce of marijuana, or if police bust illicit grow operations, prosecutors might not be able to prove the plants or material seized meets the definition of marijuana, The Associated Press inaccurately reported on Wednesday.

U.S.: Drug Czar's Marijuana Rhetoric Still Rings of Reefer Madness

(Photo of Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske: Patients for Medical Cannabis)2013 National Drug Strategy Released – Health Rhetoric Doesn’t Match “Lock ‘Em Up” Reality

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (more commonly known as the Drug Czar’s office; ONDCP) on Wednesday released its 2013 National Drug Control Strategy. The strategy has shifted a little from previous national drug strategies, and is being called a “21st Century Approach.”

The Drug Czar’s rhetoric has evolved over the last couple of years – reflecting the fact that three-quarters of Americans consider the drug war a failure – emphasizing the need to treat drug misuse as a health issue and stop relying on the criminal justice system to deal with the problem.

The strategy, however, calls for the expansion of drug courts, which continue to treat drug users in the criminal justice system, where punishment is often the response to addiction-related behaviors such as positive urine screens or missed appointments.

U.S.: Study Says States Can Legalize Marijuana Despite Federal Ban

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

With the tide of public opinion seemingly ready to sweep marijuana prohibition into the dustbin of history, the bipartisan Congressional Research Service, which works exclusively for Congress, has released a legal analysis aimed at helping legislators understand the ramifications of legalization.

The analysis found that there may be some wiggle room when it comes to interpreting the Controlled Substances Act, which makes marijuana illegal for any purpose under federal law, reports Bob Berwyn at the Summit County Voice.

One section of the CSA seems to indicate that "Congress did not intend to entirely occupy the regulatory field concerning controlled substances or wholly supplant traditional state authority in the area … States remain free to pass laws relating to marijuana, or other controlled substances, so long as they do not create a “positive conflict” with federal law, such that the two laws “cannot consistently stand together,” the analysis found.

The analysis gives Congress some solid legal footing to act, according to U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colorado). The report finds that the federal government cannot force states to prohibit cannabis use, according to a statement on Polis's website.

Alabama: Former Police Officer Admits He Sold Marijuana

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A former police officer in Alabama on Thursday pleaded guilty to a federal drug charge, admitting he conspired with an Irvington dealer to sell marijuana.

Lynvanh Rasavong, 43, said nothing except to answer "Yes" and "No" to questions from U.S. District Judge Kristi DuBose, reports Brendan Kirby at

Judge DuBose accepted the guilty plea and scheduled sentencing for July. Rasavong faces up to five years in prison, but defense attorney Richard Holmes said he expects his client to be eligible for probation under advisory sentencing guidelines.

"We're hoping for straight probation, but he understands that's at the discretion of the judge," Holmes said.

Rasavong resigned from the Montgomery Department of Public Safety in December during the marijuana investigation. He had worked for the Montgomery Police Department since 1998, and was working at a desk at police headquarters when he resigned.

Law enforcement had learned that codefendant Somphith "Mike" Khemmanivanh was selling marijuana from his home in Irvington, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Gina Vann. The Mobile County Sheriff's Office got a warrant to search Khemmanivanh's home, according to Vann, and when deputies arrived, they found Khemmanivanh and Rasavong inside with four pounds of weed.

"Both of them confessed, and here we are," Vann said.

Colorado: Police Bust Art Gallery That Gave Free Marijuana For Donations

(Photo of Adam Zimmerli and Devon Hawk Hazard: CBS4)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Police have arrested the owners of a marijuana club operating out of a Denver art gallery. Two men reportedly offered free cannabis in exchange for donations to the gallery.

Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, legalizing marijuana for adults, back in November, but there's no legal system for buying and selling it, so places like the 530 Gallery on Santa Fe Boulevard have come with with ways to get around that, reports Rick Sallinger at CBS4.

Adam Zimmerli and Devon Hawk Hazard are now facing felony charges for distribution of marijuana.

Investigative reporter Sallinger visited the 530 Gallery, on Santa Fe Avenue in Denver's Art District, back in February. The gallery had been running a Craigslist ad which offered "high grade marijuana, free with a donation to the gallery." Sallinger said he was offered marijuana if he joined the club.

"As a member of the Cannabis Club of Denver, you follow Amendment 64," the man at the gallery told Sallinger.

Sallinger said he also found many other places also offering free pot in exchange for donations.

D.C.: Three Out of Four Voters Want To Remove Criminal Penalties For Marijuana Possession

(Graphic: two-thirds would support a ballot measure to make marijuana legal for adults and establish a system in which it is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Three out of four Washington, D.C. voters would support changing District law to replace criminal penalties for possession of limited amounts of marijuana with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket, according to a survey conducted last week by Public Policy Polling. Two-thirds (67 percent) said they believe law enforcement resources currently being used by District police to arrest individuals for marijuana possession should be directed toward other crimes.

The poll also found that nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of District voters would support a ballot measure similar to those approved by voters in Colorado and Washington in November, which made marijuana legal for adults and directed state officials to regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. A solid majority (54 percent) said drug use should be treated as a public health issue and people should no longer be arrested and locked up for possession of a small amount of any drug for personal use.

The survey of 1,621 randomly selected District voters was conducted April 10-11. The full results and crosstabs are available at

U.S.: Conservatives Lead New Congressional Push To End War On Marijuana

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A new push in Congress to end the federal War On Marijuana is being led by some of the most conservative members of the Republican conference.

The "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act," introduced in the House last week, would protect anyone acting legally under state marijuana laws from federal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act, reports Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone. The legislation would cover both medical marijuana laws and overall legalization in states like Colorado and Washington, where voters last fall decided to make cannabis legal for adults 21 and older.

Poll data released last week from Pew Research found that 60 percent of Americans believe the federal government should allow states to decide for themselves when it comes to the marijuana laws. The same poll found that 57 percent of Republicans also favor the same approach, "which may explain why this bill is attracting arch-conservative backers in the House," according to Rolling Stone.

The three conservative GOP cosponsors of the "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act" are:

Washington: Inaugural Cannabis Awareness Event Set For State Capitol

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The first-ever Hempseed Festival, a cannabis awareness event at Heritage Park in Washington's state capitol city of Olympia, will be held August 3.

"Now that cannabis has been legalized for adults 21 and older, SONshine Organics has decided to do their part in helping to entertain and educate people on the benefits of this plant becoming legal," said Sarena Haskins of SONshine Organics.

To do so, Haskins and the rest of the SONshine crew have put together Hempseed, a cannabis music, education and awareness event.

Featured will be speakers from the Cash Hyde Foundation, Sarena Haskins, Lacey City Councilman Ron Lawson, Hemp News and Toke Signals Editor Steve Elliott, Cat Jeter, and Grandma Hemp.

"There will be local bands, vendor booths, tons of great speakers, and lots more!" Haskins said. "This is the first event of its kind and something that SONshine Organics is working to make a yearly fun/walk fundraising event."

Missouri: Marijuana Penalties Reduced In St. Louis

(Graphic: The Weed Blog)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Board of Aldermen on Monday voted 22-3 to reduce the penalty for possession of small amounts of marijuana in the city of St. Louis, to that of a traffic ticket.

The bill, introduced earlier this year by Alderman Shane Cohn, also enables police to give a break to patients who have "valid legal prescriptions for medical marijuana," reports Nicholas Pistor at St. Louis Today. Missouri state law does not recognize medical marijuana.

Police will have the ability to send some marijuana cases to municipal court, in effect making a criminal infraction a municipal offense. Violators will typically be given a summons for municipal court instead of being arrested, handcuffed and put in the back of a police cruiser.

St. Louis Police had until now charged marijuana offenders under more harsh state laws, because no local law was on the books.

First offenders who are caught with one gram to 35 grams of marijuana are charged with a misdemeanor in Missouri, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Second offense possession of more than 35 pounds is considered a felony.

The penalty for violating the new city ordinance on marijuana possession is a fine of between $100 and $500, and up to 90 days in jail.

Oregon: DEA Seizes Medical Marijuana Patient Records For Federal Investigation

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The fears of some medical marijuana patients that state patient registries could be used against them appear, unfortunately, to have been well-founded. A federal search warrant forced the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) to hand over patient records, according to recently discovered court papers.

The warrant was executed last November against OMMP, the state agency administering the Oregon Medical Marijuana Act, voted into law in 1998, reports Jake Ellison at Seattle PI.

A special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) obtained the warrant to "aid in his investigation" of growers in Oregon suspected of black market pot dealing.

"I know that in order to effectively pursue this investigation I need to investigate each of the patients, growers and caregivers associated with" names which turned up in the investigation, wrote DEA special agent Michael Gutensohn.

"I have probable cause to believe that records from the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program will contain evidence and intstrumentalities of marijuana manufacturing and trafficking and conspiracy to commit marijuana manufacturing and trafficking offenses," Gutensohn claimed. (It seems odd that Gutensohn would claim to believe that evidence of black market diversion would be contained in official state records of the medical marijuana program.)

Michigan: New Charges Follow Raids On 3 Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

(Photo: Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Michigan's crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries continues. An investigation following last month's raids on three West Michigan medical marijuana dispensaries led to additional charges on Wednesday.

Another arrest was made on Wednesday, and the Kent County prosecutor's office issued warrants for two more suspects, reports Aaron Aupperlee at

One person affiliated with Purple Med, a medical marijuana dispensary at 1365 Plainfield Ave. NE, was arrested on April 10, according to Let. Richard Nawrocki, head of the Grand Rapids Police Department's vice unit.

Two additional warrants were issued by the Kent County Prosecutor's Office for people affiliated with Grand Rapids dispensaries. One warrant was issued for a second person associated with Purple Med. Another was issued for a person associated with Natural Wellness Associates, 1240 N. Taylor Ave., according to Nawrocki.

The additional arrest and warrants came after David Overholt, owner of Mid-Michigan Compassion Club, turned himself in to police on April 5. Overholt, 55, is facing two counts of drug possession and "maintaining a drug house." (It seems particularly sad and ironic that a law originally passed to combat the crack cocaine scourge is now being used against facilities that provide medical help to seriously ill people.)

U.S.: Marijuana Eradication By Law Enforcement Down By 60 Percent

(Photo: Randall Benton/The Sacramento Bee)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Law enforcement's eradication of marijuana plants has plunged by more than 60 percent in the last few years, from a record high of more than 20 million plants in 2009 and 2010 to fewer than 4 million plants in 2012, according to newly released federal statistics.

The number of cannabis plants eradicated dropped to 6,735,511 in 2011 and 3,933,950 in 2012, far less than goal of 9 million plants that the Drug Enforcement Administration had hoped to destroy, report Ryan J. Reilly and Matt Sledge at The Huffington Post.

Red-faced DEA officials blamed the steep decline in part on California, claiming in the agency's 2014 budget proposal that the Golden State's financial troubles resulted in "the decreased availability of local law enforcement personnel to assist in eradication efforts."

(Illustration: The Huffington Post)The DEA also claimed that "drug trafficking organizations" are shifting their cultivation efforts from public lands to private grow areas, and that those who do still grow in parks and on other public land tend to locate in "vast mountainous regions, which are more difficult for law enforcement to detect and reach."

New Jersey: Police Can Arrest People Who Answer Door Smoking Marijuana, Court Rules

(Photo: AP/Marco Ugarte)By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Police can force their way in and make an arrest when they are greeted at the door by someone smoking marijuana, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

The began when four Newark officers, working on a confidential tip in 2008, were trying to go undercover to arrest a drug dealer at Riverview Court housing projects. Their "undercover" status didn't last long when the dealer, Rashad Walker, answered the door with a burning joint, according to court records, reports Salvador Rizzo at the Star-Ledger.

"Defendant appeared at the door smoking a marijuana cigarette," the court ruled. "Thus, a disorderly persons offense was being committed in the presence of police officers in the hallway of a public housing building, where the officers have a right to be."

The cops forced their way inside, arrested Walker and confiscated marijuana, cocaine, and "27 envelopes of heroin stamped 'Horsepower' " from his living room, according to court records.

Walker served half of his six-year sentence before being paroled last year. He had argued that the Newark police violated his rights under the New Jersey Constitution and the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, protecting people from "unreasonable search and seizure" of their homes.

U.S.: Obama Continues To Fund Punishment Over Treatment In Drug Budget

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Despite the rhetoric from the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) about a "21st Century Drug Policy" and their use of the hashtag #DrugPolicyReform on Twitter, President Barack Obama's budget continues to emphasize punishment and interdiction (supply reduction) programs over treatment and prevention (demand reduction) programs, to the tune of 58 percent to 42 percent.

It's a classic case of throwing good money after bad, of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. Forty-two years after President Richard Nixon declared a "War On Drugs," the chief casualties are civil liberties and individual privacy rights, with drugs being more easily available than when the "War" (which is really on people, not on drugs) was declared.

The portion of federal drug control spending going to domestic law enforcement in the fiscal year 2014 budget increases slightly from 2012's 38.5 percent ($9.4 billion) and 2013's 38.1 percent ($9.3 billion) to 2014's 37.7 percent ($9.5 billion), an overall increase of 1.3 percent in two years.

Florida: Longest Serving Marijuana Prisoner Gets Permission To Travel; Needs Funds

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Robert Platshorn became the longest serving marijuana prisoner in United States history, doing almost 30 years in federal prison for importing Colombian pot in the 1970s. When he got out five years ago, Platshorn -- a weed warrior through and through -- didn't take the easy way out and opt for a quiet retirement. Instead, he took up the cause of medical marijuana, launching The Silver Tour to bring the good news about cannabis to senior citizens.

Platshorn did his time, and when he got out, he started trying to make the world a better place and to help sick and aging people. But last May, even though he'd been officially released from the jurisdiction of the U.S. Parole Commission, the federal government moved to silence him, ordering travel restrictions -- effectively, if temporarily, ending The Silver Tour.

That's where things have stood for almost a year now, but finally, Platshorn, a Florida resident also known as The Tuna (from his '70s smuggling group, The Black Tuna Gang), got some good news this week: permission to travel to state capitol Tallahassee to help push for medical marijuana in the Sunshine State.

Oklahoma: 'Ganja Granny' Case Dismissed at Preliminary Hearing

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Darlene Mayes, a 74-year-old grandmother in Oklahoma, was accused of being the ringleader of a multi-state marijuana operation. On Friday, at the request of her defense attorneys Josh Lee and Clint ward, a judge dismissed all charges against Mayes, who in the press had been dubbed the "Ganja Granny" after her case got heavy media attention.

Last year, the arrest of Mayes made TV and print headlines around the world when, according to court documents, authorities accused her of having several pounds of marijuana and nearly $300,000 in cash.

Special Judge Rebecca Gore threw out a charge of possession of a controlled dangerous substance with intent to distribute; also dismissed were two counts of possession of a firearm while in commission of a felony, according to court records.

Attorney Josh Lee had maintained that Mayes is innocent of the charges. Law enforcement officials, however, claimed that she was overseeing a large drug operation that was possibly responsible for 40 percent of the marijuana trade in the Grand Lakes, Oklahoma area.

Idaho: Court of Appeals Overturns Marijuana DUI Conviction

There is a truth that must be heard!By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Idaho Court of Appeals has overturned the conviction of a Boise man for driving under the influence of marijuana, reversing a lower court's decision which upheld his conviction.

The court made the ruling late last week in the case of Geirrod Stark, who had been found guilty in 2010 of driving while impaired by cannabis, reports Hannah Furfaro of The Associated Press.

The conviction was reversed on the grounds that blood tests taken after Stark's arrest only proved he had used marijuana recently, and did not prove that he had used pot on the specific day he was pulled over by police.

Judge Pro Tem Jesse Walters wrote that there is "no question" Stark was impaired that day, there was no proof that marijuana -- and not something else -- caused his erratic driving.

"Although the evidence was sufficient to proved that Stark's ability to drive was impaired, it was not sufficient, by itself, to prove that Stark was under the influence of drugs or intoxicating substances," Walters wrote.

The case began when Stark was arrested on July 8, 2010, and submitted to a blood screening that showed traces of THC, the chief psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.

Massachusetts: Court Says Marijuana Smell Not Sufficient Cause For Search

Massachusetts: Cannabis Trade Group Advises Prospective Dispensary OwnersBy Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, in a series of three rulings issued on Friday, reined in police who have been using the smell of marijuana as a pretext to search automobiles.

Two years ago, the justices handed down the Cruz decision, which made it clear that car searches can't be conducted on the basis of finding marijuana, but police have continued the practice, according to

The ruling stems from Massachusetts v. Pacheco, a case in which Antonio L. Pacheco was sitting in a gray sedan parked in a handicapped spot with four friends. A state trooper walked up, noticing the fogged windows of the vehicle, and knocked on the window. He smelled marijuana as soon as the window was rolled down.

The trooper then searched the car, finding a small baggie with less than an ounce of marijuana on the floor mat behind the passenger seat. Nothing else untoward was found in the car interior, so the trooper opened the trunk and started rifling through its contents.

At that point, he found a backpack containing a semiautomatic handgun. Pacheco admitted he had the gun for self-protection, but he had no "firearm identification card" as is required in Massachusetts.

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