Twenty one year old Chavis Carter died Saturday from a gunshot to the temple. He died while in handcuffs, and he died while in handcuffs AND sitting in the back of a police cruiser. The police have launched their own investigation into his death that officers at the scene reported as a suicide. Carter was just a passenger in a pickup truck that was stopped Saturday night in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Carter is black, and the driver and other passenger were white. The officers found marijuana at some point during the encounter. According to the police reports, the officers estimated the amount of marijuana found to be $10 worth, Officers then ran Carter’s information into their database.
Police found out that he was wanted on a warrant from Mississippi, so the officers frisked Carter, not once but twice before locking both of his hands behind his back and seating him in the back of a patrol car. Police reports say that minutes later they heard a thumping noise, and turned to find that Carter was shot in the head. Jonesboro Police Sergeant Lyle Waterworth says that the officers followed protocol of double searching him and double locking his wrists before loading him into the back of the police car. Waterworth said they think that Carter pulled a gun out that they had missed during the search, and shot himself, explaining that any given officer might miss something on a search, drugs, or knives, or razor blades, but saying this time, they missed a small caliber hand gun.
The two officers that were involved in the traffic stop and reported the suicide are on administrative leave pending the investigation. More information that came out today, a girlfriend of Carter’s said that he placed a cell phone call to her as the police were pulling them over, telling her that if he went to jail, he would call her when he got there. Also, Carter’s mother says that the gunshot was in the right temple, and Chavis Carter was left-handed.
Medical marijuana advocates will soon get their day in federal court. The United States Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit have agreed to hear the oral argument in the lawsuit, “Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration”. Since the group formed in 2002, Americans for Safe Access have been fighting for medical marijuana patients rights, to help the public learn the therapeutic value of marijuana, and to change public policy surrounding it.
The present lawsuit challenges the federal government’s schedule one classification of marijuana, which defines it as something dangerous with no medicinal value. This historic court case will allow the plaintiffs to present to the courts for review scientific evidence regarding the therapeutic values of cannabis. Those oral arguments will begin on Tuesday, October 16th at 9:30am. Joe Elford, the chief counsel for the ASA applauded the decision to hear the case, saying what is at stake is nothing less than our country’s scientific integrity and the imminent needs of millions of patients.
The case will be heard ten years after the Coalition to Reschedule Cannabis filed a similar petition in 2002. Many agencies are involved in the process to reclassify controlled substances, but the DEA is the final arbiter on petitions to reclassify controlled substances. They hadn’t gotten around to dismissing that 2002 case until January of 2011. That gave the ASA a chance to file their lawsuit to force the DEA on the issue. The ASA’s case has gained even more ground since they filed it over a year ago. Just weeks ago a group of researchers published a study in the Open Neurology Journal that found marijuana’s schedule one classification was “not tenable” and concluded that it was not accurate that cannabis had no medical value, or that information on safety was lacking. They found that the classification of marijuana and the political controversy surrounding it were obstacles to medical progress. Not that they needed any more ammunition. The ASA appeal brief charges the federal government has acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its efforts to deny marijuana to millions of patients throughout the U.S. For the last year the Justice Department has been escalating raids of medical marijuana dispensaries clearly within state law. There are dozens of brand new indictments and prosecutions from US Attorneys.
A positive outcome in this suit would give federal medical marijuana patients a right to a medical necessity defense. The lawsuit claims that the DEA has no “license to apply different criteria to marijuana than to other drugs, ignore critical scientific data, misrepresent social science research, or rely upon unsubstantiated assumptions “as the DEA has done in this case. They are urging the appellate court to “require the DEA to analyze the scientific data evenhandedly, and order a hearing and findings based on the scientific record.”
If you were lucky enough to be in Jamaica this weekend, you might have noticed the smell of burning marijuana in the air. More than usual. Nearly 15,000 pounds of marijuana that had been seized this year, was destroyed by authorities in a large bonfire that burned through the weekend. The marijuana seized was from ramped up marijuana raids that Jamaican authorities have been conducting since the end of 2010. Police on the Caribbean island say along with the 15,000 pounds of weed, they also burned over 75 pounds of hash oil.
The burning was done mostly on Saturday at an undisclosed police site in Kingston, but the smell was unmistakable. Jamaica is the Caribbean region’s largest producer and exporter of cannabis, and cannabis plants in Jamaica are typically grown outdoors on the country’s gentle mountain hillsides, or hidden in food crops.
Oregon is now the third state in the U.S. where voters will vote on whether to legalize marijuana in the November 2012 elections. The Oregon Secretary of State has certified the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, or OCTA, has enough signatures to make the ballot. It will appear as Measure 80 to the voters of Oregon. The Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, if passed, would regulate the sales of marijuana for those over 21 years old. It would set up a distribution system where adults could buy cannabis for personal and private use only, through state-licensed stores. A whopping ninety percent of the tax revenue generated from the legal sales of Cannabis would go directly into the state’s general fund. That tax is estimated at more than $140 million annually.
The measure, if passed, would also open the door for the Oregon hemp farmer, with one percent of taxes going into a kick start program to promote Oregon-grown hemp as a food and fiber product and one percent that would be used to promote hemp as a biofuel. Much of that money would go into creating two separate state commissions that would oversee each. One percent would be devoted to drug education in public schools, and the remaining seven percent of the taxes collected from the sales of legal marijuana would go into drug treatment programs.
OCTA calls for the creation of a Cannabis Commission that would oversee retail sales and marijuana cultivation and have the power to limit the amount of marijuana a person could purchase. The Cannabis Commission would do work similar to the alcohol commission that oversees alcohol sales and regulations. Under the proposal, marijuana possession would be decriminalized although public pot consumption would be prohibited and subject to a fine of $250. There is an exception written into measure 80, “..except where prominent signs permit and minors are neither admitted nor employed”, opening the possibility that Oregon may move cannabis lounges from being medical patients-only to bar-type of establishments, regulated by the new state Cannabis Commission.
Paul Stanford, the founder of The Hemp and Cannabis Foundation, and the THCF clinics that are in several medical marijuana states was the measure’s chief petitioner. This was Stanford’s latest of several attempts to get a legalization effort on the ballot. It is the second time he has made it this far. Stanford says that he has been working toward this goal for the last 24 years. He turned in over 165,000 signatures to get the 87,213 that they needed. Stanford came up with 88,887 valid signatures, narrowly making the ballot with just 1600 extras.
Public polls in the U.S. show marijuana legalization has been gaining popularity nationwide. Oregonians have a mail-in ballot system, so every voter is mailed a ballot. A larger turnout may bode well for those hoping to legalize cannabis. We’ll find out if Oregon citizens, along with Washington and Colorado citizens have enough supporters to change cannabis laws forever come November 6th. If Oregon voters pass measure 80, it will take effect on January 1st, 2013.
UPDATE: This article has been updated 7-15-12 to address public consumption of cannabis and correct information about cannabis bar-type establishments that would be permitted if Measure 80 passes. An earlier version stated they would not be allowed.
There has been another Michigan court ruling that affects patients in the state. The Michigan Court of Appeals has declared that medical marijuana patients are not immune from arrest for possession of marijuana, if they do not have their state-issued paperwork or registry card with them. That was just part of the ruling in a case involving an Ottawa County man who was using a medical marijuana defense when he was arrested on May 1st of last year in Granville. The three-judge panel said that although the police were perfectly in their right to arrest James Nicholson, he would be immune from prosecution if he presented his medical marijuana paperwork in court. The ruling handed down today says that state-issued medical marijuana registry cards and applications must be “reasonably accessible at the location” of an arrest for an individual to be immune from arrest. Nicholson had verbally informed the officers of his right to possess marijuana for medical reasons. In circuit court, Nicholson produced his state-issued medical marijuana registry card that was dated from March, a few months before his arrest, as evidence that he could possess up to two-and-a-half ounces of marijuana, so the appellate court found he could use it as a defense and sent it back to the lower court. But one judge pointed out that the lower court still has the right to decide whether Nichols was engaged in marijuana usage permitted under the 2008 law.
The appeals judges wrote in the decision that the “Defendant still has one more hurdle to overcome to be entitled to immunity from prosecution; he must also establish that at the time of his arrest he was engaged in the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the (Michigan Medical Marihuana Act).”
Other recent Michigan court rulings include a May Supreme Court decision upholding the right to mount an affirmative defense even without a state issued card, an April Appeals Court ruling that medical marijuana can’t be used as a legal defense for driving while intoxicated, and last August’s Appeals Court decision that medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal under the existing law.
A 36 year old owner of a bicycle shop in Grant Pass, Oregon is the first registered medical marijuana grower to be convicted on federal charges since the US attorney’s office started cracking down on abusers of the medical marijuana laws. Jason Michael Scott Nelson is one of four medical marijuana growers who were accused of pooling their harvests and making monthly shipments of marijuana from Portland, Oregon to Boston, Massachusetts. The marijuana was shipped, hidden in storage PODS that were also loaded with furniture from Good Will.
The charges were prompted by the arrest of 45 year old Elizabeth Saul from Grant Pass, who admitted to police that she was the one that shipped the marijuana from Oregon to Boston. Police visited her home on a tip she was growing more medical marijuana than was allowed. Saul had 38 mature plants and 117 immature plants, a couple of pounds of marijuana, and $15,000 in cash. She showed them her notebook, which was devastating to the defense of the four. It documented for police that she made $125,000 a year selling the marijuana, making a profit of $300 from each pound. Three other raids we conducted the next day on the other defendants. She told investigators that the marijuana sold for $2400 to $2700 a pound in Boston.
A bankruptcy court case has been thrown out of court in Colorado, not helping the complicated and rocky relationship between medical marijuana and banking. Well-run businesses need banking services, but many banks have been hesitant to offer services to the operators of medical marijuana businesses, claiming marijuana’s federal legal status would put them in the position of racketeering, money laundering, or some other drug crime activities.
A Denver medical marijuana farm, CGP Enterprises LLC, has filed chapter 11. They had put their complicated financial problems along with their assets, about $130,000 of unharvested marijuana plants, at the mercy of the Bankruptcy Courts in Denver. Any company that is seeking Chapter 11 protection from its creditors is required to submit a reorganization plan to a federal bankruptcy judge.
A grieving mother who lost her 19 year old son when he was shot and killed by a Border Patrol Agent is now suing the agency, saying that the shooting was “an appalling use of excessive force”. Guadallupe Guerrero’s son, Carlos La Madrid was shot in the back twice and once in the leg as he climbed a ladder on the US side of a Mexico border fence. Guerrero said that the Border Patrol did not have the right to take her son’s life, even if what they say was true, that Carlos LaMadrid had some marijuana in his truck, an allegation she contends.