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Thursday, June 2, 2011

FREE THE WEED 03 By Jon Sinclair

Cinco de Mayo, the 5th of May, is Liberation Day in Holland. It marks the end of the brutal German occupation of The Netherlands during World War II, and the Dutch people celebrate their deliverance from the evil Nazi regime with festivals and gatherings throughout the country.

Liberation Day is a jubilant affirmation of the inalienable human right to freedom and  liberty and self-determination. And it keeps alive in the national consciousness the triumph of humanism and democracy over the insanely cruel system of oppression and exploitation imposed and enforced by Adolph Hitler and his psychotic Nazi regime. Liberation Day has big meaning for the Dutch people because they know what it was to be occupied and ruled by the Nazis. They know what freedom means because they were not free and then they were liberated. In turn, the Netherlands has helped pioneer the emergent European Union—now 27 member states including former bitter enemies in both World Wars and the Cold War as well—to try to prevent any further wars among themselves and secure enduring continental peace.

The tiny nation’s experience with occupation and liberation seems also to have engendered an extraordinary spirit of tolerance and personal freedom amongst the populace. Dutch people tend to enjoy their freedom as individual citizens to live and comport themselves as they may wish as long as they are not harming others.

Professional sex activity is tolerated and even licensed and allowed to thrive in its own
district. Recreational drug users of every sort are not regarded as criminals, and possession of small amounts of one’s drug of choice is not regarded as a crime.

Most spectacularly, the Dutch allow free use of cannabis and provide for its retail sale over the counters of hundreds of licensed coffee shops around the country. There are nearly 250 operative coffeeshops in Amsterdam itself, warmly and efficiently serving the cannabis-smoking community with top-quality Dutch-grown marijuana and imported hashish which may be smoked and enjoyed on the premises.

For an American, the situation in the Netherlands is as close to a condition of social freedom as one can imagine. In the United States, cannabis users are legally defined as criminals and hounded and persecuted by the police all their lives as smokers. Citizens are subject to drug testing as a condition of steady employment or for the successful completion of a probationary sentence, and they live in constant fear of police raids on their homes and businesses and the incessant stops, searches and seizures of their personal stashes—even prescribed medical marijuana—when arrested in their cars or public places.

The burgeoning American police state has been built on the framework of the government’s 40-year War on Drugs, in which the preponderance of victims of the drug warriors are marijuana smokers. Hundreds of thousands of American pot smokers are incarcerated in federal and state prisons as we speak, but they represent only a mere fraction of the citizenry victimized by the police and courts simply for smoking marijuana.

A vast industry of punishment and social pain has been erected on the backs of American marijuana smokers. Legions of special narcotics police stalk the streets of our communities seeking to harass and arrest every marijuana user or supplier they can find. The arrestees are dragged before special drug courts and tried by special drug prosecutors in front of special drug judges armed with the most draconian set of drug laws imaginable.

Once convicted, usually following a guilty plea arranged by one of the thousands of lawyers who specialize in representinging drug law offenders, the smoker is fined, sentenced to a probationary term and ordered into a drug treatment. Their urine is assessed in drug testing labs and their conduct scrutinized by drug treatment professionals, drug probation officers and the ever-present drug police.

That’s a whole lot of people and facilities lined up against marijuana smokers and dedicated to our capture and punishment. Thousands and thousands and thousands of Americans are employed at taxpayers’ expense by the insane mechanism created by the War on Drugs, and this vast force of drug law enforcers prospers by delivering severe punishment to an entire national community of recreational—and even medicinal— marijuana smokers.

Since my release from prison as a marijuana law offender 40 years ago—and now as a licensed Medical Marijuana Patient in the State of Michigan—I’ve managed to avoid arrest while smoking quietly each day, but the shadow of the drug Gestapo is always hovering overhead no matter where you are. Carrying a small smoking stash in public or even toking in your home can bring serious grief if you’re apprehended, and the pothead lives in a continuous state of terror even if the police remain at bay.

Liberation for the marijuana smoker in America, sad to say, is not on the near horizon. The mammoth drug law enforcement industry built up around the War on Drugs channels billions of dollars each year to the worst segments of our society, and I’m afraid they’re so deeply entrenched that their overthrow will be particularly problematic.

But liberation for the weedhead is real when one arrives in Amsterdam. Purchasing and smoking cannabis is perfectly okay, and the police have no interest whatsoever in the individual smoker. All of a sudden one is no longer a criminal, and the veil of fear and trembling rises and floats away in the breeze. Life begins a new in liberated territory, and we are free to live our lives as marijuana smokers without fear at last.

Liberation from the Nazi oppressors, liberation from drug police terror—these are good things, and we will continue to celebrate them as long as we may live.

Jon Sinclair

Macc The Knife By JC Trout!

The Isabella County Case is epic. It is a perfect storm that will resolve some of the most controversial issues created by the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (2008); patient-to-patient transfers, for-profit medical marijuana clubs (dispensaries), as well as a the right to assemble. This new “friend of the court” (amicus curiae) brief submitted by Attorney Matthew Newburg to the Michigan State Court of Appeals, will silencethe A.G. Bill Schuette’s discrimination and lay his legal arguments to rest.

We, as in the “Royal WE,” have been waiting for what seems an eternity for some closure to the legal controversy that surrounds the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act since its passing. Adding insult to injury, Bill Schuette, the anti-medical marijuana leader who had been defeated with the passing of our bill, now darkens the Attorney General’s desk, and has been eager to use that power not to uphold the laws of the state of Michigan, but to destroy a program directly passed by its citizens. Well folks, that time is now! The final battle between light and dark side shall collide in the State of Michigan v. McQueen. On December 16, 2010, Larry Burdick, Isabella’s Prosecutor was unable to convince the court that the actions of the Apothecary Compassion owners Brandon McQueen and Matthew Taylor were in anyway unlawful; the nuisance charges dropped, and the case closed. One would think the Compassion Apothecary would be allowed to return to their lives unabated.

Instead Burdick, with the support of AG Schuette, took the case to the Michigan Court of Appeals to seek a retrial. Schuette, then submitted an amicus curiae to carry his personal vendetta against the program in the higher courts. In his brief, Schuette cleverly rehashed Burdick's original contention citing that the MMMA did not allow for-profit clubs, but only payment for caregiver expenses. Then through a skewed reading of the act’s caregiver system, patients are not to transfer between one another, and that the club owners “exceeded established limits for qualified patients and caregivers.” With this brief, Schuette hopes to reverse the lower courts previous ruling. Then the “journey towards the dark side [would] be complete.”

In plain language, a patient-topatient transfer could be anything from one patient passing a doob to another patient, to an actual transfer of medication for compensation. The amount the club was allowed to have on the premises largely depended on the interpretation of the MMMA’s caregiver system. And lastly, the club owners, in an attempt to run a viable business, charged caregivers 20% commission for vending space; akin to a farmers’ market scenario.

Fortunately, on May 11, Matthew Newburg, Amicus Attorney representing the Michigan Association Compassion Centers (MACC), filed amicus curiae on behalf of the club owners. In the brief, Newburg squarely put Schuette and Burdick against the ropes with logical haymakers and legal jabs citing statutory ignorance and misuse of power. However, Newburg’s elegance is not found in the assertions of Schuette’s clouded actions, but in the bulldog style used to convey the rights of the medical marijuana patients and caregivers. His address focused, among a myriad of other issues, on patient-to-patient transfers, as well as the “sale” of marijuana in the state.

Unlike the actual rules set forth by the MMMA (2008) or the administrative rules of 2009, Newburg addresses Patients and caregivers separately, and using the act itself coupled with current law regarding agent-principle relationships, creates a legal scaffolding to address incongruencies. In the brief he argues that patient-to-patient transfers are legal because the control of “usable marijuana,” is actually the property of the patient. The caregiver is contractually charged with obtaining medication for their patient either through cultivation or using the caregiver system to relieve patient suffering. And the liberal language of the MMMA, gives credit to his claims. Ultimately, the relief of suffering is the main goal of the act and the primary caregiver of the patient. Patient’s that are bed-ridden or shutins are dependent on their caregiver to provide a service they cannot provide themselves. He argues that caregivers ought to be allowed to do their job within the confines of current MMMA regulations.

The most ingenious and advantageous of Newburg’s argument considers the “sale” of marijuana legal! Yes, you can check it out yourself. This does not mean we can all jump up and down quite yet. However, technically, while the “trafficking, manufacture, delivery, or possession” is still considered illegal, because the “sale” of marijuana had never been specifically addressed, there is no prosecution for those who are legally allowed to possess or transfer it. In other words, any patient or caregiver has the legal right to sell, not transfer their marijuana.

As Third Coast owner Jamie Lowell stated, “At stake is the ability for the patients to consistently get their medication as needed; at stake the ability for people to carry out this law and to fully realize its intent!” It is up to the Court of Appeals Judge to choose between the light or dark side of the legal force. Hopefully, the Michigan Court of Appeals Judge will choose wisely and stay the powerful hand of the people.

JC Trout