Safed, Israel — Moshe Rute survived the Holocaust by hiding in a barn full of chickens. He nearly lost the use of his hands after a stroke two years ago. He became debilitated by recurring nightmares of his childhood following his wife's death last year.
"But after I found this, everything has been better," said the 80-year-old, as he gingerly packed a pipe with marijuana.
Rute, who lives at the Hadarim nursing home outside of Tel Aviv, is one of more than 10,000 patients who have official government permission to consume marijuana in Israel, a number that has swelled dramatically, up from serving just a few hundred patients in 2005.
The medical cannabis industry is expanding as well, fueled by Israel's strong research sector in medicine and technology — and notably, by government encouragement. Unlike in the United States and much of Europe, the issue inspires almost no controversy among the government and the country's leadership. Even influential senior rabbis do not voice any opposition to its spread, and secular Israelis have a liberal attitude on marijuana.
Now, Israel's Health Ministry is considering the distribution of medical marijuana through pharmacies beginning next year, a step taken by only a few countries, including Holland, which has traditionally led the way in Europe in legalizing medical uses of the drug.
Marijuana is illegal in Israel, but medical use has been permitted since the early 1990s for cancer patients and those with pain-related illnesses such as Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, and even post-traumatic stress disorder. Patients can smoke the drug, ingest it in liquid form, or apply it to the skin as a balm.
In stark contrast, medical use is still hotly contested in the United States, with only 17 states and Washington, D.C., permitting medical marijuana for various approved conditions. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says smoked marijuana is not medicine, and "has not withstood the rigors of science." In Europe, Spain, Germany and Austria have allowed or decriminalized some degrees of medical marijuana use.
The numbers of patients authorized to use marijuana in Israel is still far lower than those in the U.S. states, where it is legal. Colorado, for example, has 82,000 registered users in a population of 5 million, compared the 10,000 in Israel, a country of 8 million people.
But Israelis seem enthusiastic about advancing the industry.
"When push comes to shove, and people see how suffering people are benefiting, I'm sure everyone will get behind it," said Yuli Edelstein, Israeli Minister of Public Diplomacy, as he toured Israel's largest marijuana growing farm, Tikun Olam, on Thursday and lauded the facility as an example of Israel's technological and medical advancements.
The Hadarim nursing home, which encourages medical marijuana use, gives its patients cannabis produced at Tikun Olam farm, tucked away on nearly 3 acres in the picturesque Galilee region.
The company, one of around eight government-sanctioned grow-operations in Israel, distributes cannabis for medical purposes to almost 2,000 Israeli patients who have a recommendation from a doctor. The cannabis can be picked up at the company's store in Tel Aviv, or administered in a medical center.
This year, the company also developed a marijuana strain used by a quarter of its customers, said to carry all the reported medical benefits of cannabis, but without THC, the psychoactive chemical component that causes a high. The cannabis is instead made with high quantities of CBD, a substance that is believed to be an anti-inflammatory ingredient, which helps alleviate pain.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg. It's the future," says Zach Klein, head of research and development at Tikun Olam, whose logo reads "This is God's doing, and it's marvelous in our eyes."
Itay Goor Aryeh, director of the Pain Management Center at the Sheba Medical Center near Tel Aviv, noted that THC was first isolated in marijuana by Israeli scientists in 1964. "So we are really on the cutting edge of not just the growing and distribution, but also on the basic science of cannabis," he said.
He said legalizing medical cannabis allows authorities to conduct more research and learn more about how to regulate its use.
"It has to be researched more, it has to be regulated more, so we know what exactly we're giving the patient, which strains are better," Aryeh said. "If you don't allow it, you will never know."
Aryeh and other proponents say medicinal marijuana is cost-effective and dramatically reduces patients' needs for other pain medications, like morphine, that can produce unwanted side effects.
Ruth Gallily, a professor of immunology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has been studying the supposed anti-inflammatory effects of CBD for the past few decades. "We're finally reaching the stage where it's becoming accepted, and not thought of as 'bad,' but we still have a ways to go," she said. "Now the next challenge may be the major drug companies accepting the plant."
Inbal Sikorin, the head nurse at Hadarim Nursing Home, said the benefits of cannabis for her patients are undeniable.
"We know how to extend life, but sometimes it's not pleasant and can cause a great deal of suffering, so we're looking to alleviate this, to add quality to longevity," she said, while administering cannabis to a patient using a vaporizer. "Cannabis meets this need. Almost all our patients are eating again, and their moods have improved tremendously."
Rute, the nursing home resident, said the cannabis may not change his reality, but makes it easier to accept.
His small room at the residence is adorned with pictures of his deceased wife and figurines of chickens, which he collects because he sees them as a symbol of pain and hope from his years in hiding during the Holocaust.
"I've been a Holocaust child all my life," says Rute, recalling how his father died at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in Germany, and how nights were cold in the barn where his neighbor kept him and his several siblings safely hidden.
"I'm now 80 and I'm still a Holocaust child, but I'm finally able to better cope."
On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, and our failed experiment with alcohol prohibition was put to rest. Americans grew tired of the ever-worsening violence associated with the rise of the criminal alcohol market that developed in the absence of a legally recognized and properly regulated industry. As a society, we came to realize that the dangerous and unavoidable collateral markets created by prohibition were in fact more detrimental to society than alcohol itself. On November 6, 2012, some 79 years later, many Americans will have the opportunity to strike the very important first blows against another failed prohibition: marijuana’s.
The upcoming General Election will allow millions of Americans to bypass the legislative process and decide for themselves whether prohibitive marijuana policies should stand. Three states – Colorado, Washington, and Oregon – will be voting on measures to end the state prohibition on adult marijuana possession and use. Two states – Arkansas and Massachusetts – will be voting on whether exemptions should be carved out of their state criminal codes to allow possession and use for the seriously ill. One state – Montana – will vote on a referendum to repeal a law that gutted their previously enacted medical marijuana law. Finally, a host of cities and towns across the country will be voting on measures that either reform city codes or send symbolic messages that greater reform is needed.
State measures to end marijuana prohibition
Three states will be voting on measures to tax and regulate marijuana, and odds are at least one will pass. There has been steady majority or plurality support for both Colorado’s and Washington’s initiatives, and Oregon’s question has seen a recent uptick in the polls as well. If any of the three do pass, it would represent a sea change in American marijuana policy.
While the minutia of all three measures differ – and I highly encourage voters in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon to read their measures – they are born of common goals. The idea is to devise a system where marijuana sales are brought out of the criminal market and instead subjected to careful regulation and taxation. With tight controls, marijuana would be legally grown and sold by law-abiding, tax-paying businesses, as opposed to the criminal enterprises that currently hold a monopoly over the lucrative marijuana market. Creating a legal and regulated market ensures safety and transparency with regard to potency by allowing cultivators to legally test their product. Strict age limits on sales will create barriers to underage consumption by imposing penalties on businesses that sell to minors (when was the last time a drug dealer asked for ID?). A taxed and regulated market also means that states will see added revenue that can help with funding education projects, medical research, etc. The current system ensures that states capture no revue on marijuana sales.
So what will the effect of passage be and what will the feds do? The first question is pretty easy: if one, two, or all three of these pass, millions of Americans 21 and older will no longer be subject to arrest for the possession or private use of a plant proven safer than alcohol. It is clear that states can, and do, create their own criminal laws. In addition, 99% of all marijuana arrests are made under state law. So if states remove their criminal penalties against marijuana possession and private use, we can expect to see a significant drop in marijuana-related arrests.
The second question – how the feds will react – is difficult to predict. The feds can choose to allow the states to proceed with implementation of the regulatory structure without interference. This would be what I like to call the ‘laboratory of democracy’ approach. We already know the results of the marijuana prohibition experiment: control in the hands of criminals, laced product, exposure to all kinds of other illicit drugs, violence, and no decrease in use or abuse. It’s high time a state tests a different approach. Although taxation and regulation may not lead to a decrease in use or abuse, it will certainly eliminate or greatly reduce the negative collateral consequences that are inherent in marijuana prohibition.
The feds could also sue to enjoin the implementation of the new regulatory schemes. At first blush, this may seem scary, but as Dominic Holden recently stated, this too represents a major opportunity for change. A suit against Colorado, Washington, or Oregon would force us to have a national dialogue about our current marijuana policies. With 50% of the population – not to mention an ever-growing list of opinion makers – arguing for the end of marijuana prohibition, it’s a conversation that needs to happen. Look at the increase in support for gay marriage after the first lawsuit was filed challenging California’s Prop 8. If we can have an open and honest conversation, we can expedite policy reform.
Either way, we’re not going to know until a state votes to change their marijuana policies. If you live in Colorado, please vote “yes” on Amendment 64. If you’re in Washington, you’re voting “yes” on I-502. For those of you in Oregon, please vote “yes” on Measure 80. To all of you, I’m envious of your ballot.
State medical marijuana questions
In addition to the three states voting on measures to regulate and tax the adult sales of marijuana, two states have initiatives on the ballot that will create medical marijuana programs. Arkansas and Massachusetts, if passed, will become the 18th and 19th medical marijuana states. They will join the District of Columbia and 17 other states that currently recognize the legitimate medical use of marijuana.
The number of medical marijuana states continues to grow despite obstruction and interference from the federal level, and for the most part, the previously enacted laws continue to thrive. Passage of one or two more laws come November 6 will not only protect citizens of Arkansas and Massachusetts from arrest and prosecution for using a medicine recommended by their physicians, but it will further the momentum and send a loud message to federal policy makers: reform your punitive and unscientific marijuana laws.
Unfortunately, the federal government’s attempt to undermine state medical marijuana laws worked in at least one state, Montana. This past legislative session, Montana lawmakers debated a series of bills that proposed severe restrictions and even outright repeal of the voter-approved medical marijuana law. The amendments the legislature settled on are onerous enough that many took to calling it “repeal in disguise.” After passage, enough signatures were gathered to put the new restrictive law to the voters as an up or down referendum. By rejecting the ‘repeal in disguise’ law, voters in Montana can once again affirm their desire to see sensible marijuana policies.
Reform on the local ballots
Reform comes not just from the state level, but from the local level as well. Municipalities across the country will have marijuana policy related questions – some binding, others not – on their ballots.
Five municipalities in Michigan will be voting on marijuana policy measures. Kalamazoo will be voting on whether to allow three medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within city limits. Residents of Detroit and Flint will decide if their city codes should be amended to remove criminal penalties for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana on private property. Grand Rapids will ask its residents if the code should be amended to replace the possibility of arrest for marijuana possession with a nominal civil fine. Finally, Ypsilanti voters will decide on a measure to make the use and/or consumption of one ounce or less of marijuana by adults 21 years or older the lowest priority for law enforcement personnel.
In addition to voting on medical marijuana, voters in certain districts in Massachusetts will also vote on non-binding public policy questions that direct elected officials to support taxing and regulating marijuana. While they do not have the effect of law, passage of the questions would send a strong message to the representatives of those districts that their constituents support taxing and regulating marijuana. Further north, voters in Burlington, Vermont will be asked if the city should “support the legalization, regulation, and taxation of all cannabis and hemp products?”
Finally, many cities and localities across California will be voting on measures to allow or ban medical marijuana dispensaries from operating in their municipality. Unlike most laws with regulated distribution, California’s medical marijuana law allows localities to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries as opposed to the state.
High-level political support for marijuana policy reform
It is worth pointing out that marijuana policy reform is not just relegated to a ballot issue. There are many top-level politicians who are starting to either speak up, or speak louder, on the need to reform our marijuana policies. For instance, Gov. Pete Shumlin in Vermont has long supported decriminalizing the possession of marijuana. The Democratic Attorney General and candidate for Governor in Montana, Steve Bullock, opposes the recent assault on patients rights’ and will vote against IR-124. More impressive is the fact that the entire political delegation representing Seattle, Washington, including Mayor Mike McGinn, supports taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.
The beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition
We very well may remember Wednesday, November 7 as the morning we woke up to discover marijuana’s been legalized. If not, then we most certainly will have seen the most support for a regulation and taxation measure to date. Regardless of the outcomes of the various questions, we will have advanced the conversation in a major way. Marijuana policy reform is not about letting a bunch of people get high. It’s about adequately addressing the harms that are associated with marijuana use while stamping out the atrocities that were born from marijuana prohibition. The ballot measures in Colorado, Washington, and Oregon would do just that, while the medical questions being asked of the citizens in Montana, Massachusetts, and Arkansas and the various municipal questions would impact the marijuana policy conversation as well. As a nation, we are moving ever closer to acceptance of a taxed and regulated marijuana marketplace; it’s now just a matter of time.
SAN FRANCISCO, CA --(ENEWSPF)--October 22, 2012. Just over two weeks before voters in three U.S. states decide on ballot measures to legalize marijuana, a new website launches on Monday that tracks prominent people and organizations speaking out in favor of changing marijuana laws. MarijuanaMajority.com allows visitors to see just how mainstream this debate has become by viewing and sharing visually appealing lists of elected officials, actors, medical organizations and business leaders who support solutions like decriminalizing marijuana possession, allowing medical marijuana or legalizing and regulating marijuana sales for adult use.
In addition to tracking prominent people who have already spoken out, MarijuanaMajority.com has a social component that lets individual supporters play a role in convincing even more opinion leaders to publicly say they favor reform. Visitors to the site will be able to easily send targeted tweets to celebrities and politicians with just a few clicks, encouraging them to speak out and join the Marijuana Majority. Among the initial "Get Out the Quote" targets are Ben Affleck, Mark Cuban, John Cusack, Van Jones, Bill Nye ("The Science Guy"), Shaquille O'Neal, Rihanna and Kanye West.
"At a time when polls show that a majority of Americans support legalizing marijuana and that mega-majorities support allowing medical marijuana or at least decriminalizing possession, it makes no sense whatsoever that so many national politicians look at this issue as some kind of dangerous third rail of politics," said Tom Angell, founder and chairman of Marijuana Majority. "By allowing people to see in one place the prominent, respectable and numerous supporters of changing these laws, we hope to convince more elected officials that there's political opportunity, and not political peril, in jumping on board the marijuana policy reform bandwagon."
The site launches as national polls show -- for the first time ever -- that a majority of U.S. voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana like alcohol. Polling also indicates that voters in Colorado and Washington are poised to make history by voting to legalize marijuana on Election Day.
Aaron Houston, executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and a Marijuana Majority board member, said, "Anyone who looks at the polls can plainly see that trends heavily favor the marijuana legalization movement. For a long time, young people have overwhelmingly supported replacing failed marijuana laws with a new approach. Savvy politicians who are looking to earn support should realize that a growing demographic wants them to speak out for marijuana reform, and that doing so can only help them at the ballot box."
Marijuana Majority advisory board member Sean Dunagan, who served as a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) intelligence analyst for 13 years, added, "Ending marijuana prohibition enjoys support from religious leaders like Pat Robertson, business leaders like David Koch, entertainers like Morgan Freeman, world leaders like Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and -- by the way -- the majority of U.S. voters. No one who realizes that our failed marijuana laws cause tremendous violence and waste should be afraid to say so. The time to speak out and join the Marijuana Majority is now."
ABOUT MARIJUANA MAJORITY:
Marijuana Majority exists to help people understand that replacing marijuana prohibition with solutions like legalization, decriminalization and medical marijuana are mainstream, majority-support positions, and that no one who supports reform should be afraid to say so. More info at http://www.MarijuanaMajority.com.
Proponents of a measure to legalize limited possession of marijuana say they have filed a lawsuit to delay the printing of this year's ballot- information booklet. The booklet, known as the blue book, is sent to every voter in Colorado and provides details on the initiatives on the ballot.
Proponents of the marijuana-legalization measure, Amendment 64, argue that a legislative committee underhandedly struck from the blue book's final draft key language in the section describing arguments in favor of the initiative. Several lawmakers didn't realize they were voting to excise the language, the amendment's proponents said.
It takes a super-majority of lawmakers on the committee to make changes to the blue book.
"It's really just incredibly unfair," said Mason Tvert, one of the leaders of the pro-marijuana campaign. "It's beyond unfair."
Tvert said the blue book was to be sent to the printer this week. Instead, Tvert said, initiative proponents will have a court hearing as early as Monday to ask a judge to delay the printing and restore the contested language.
The contentious editing took place Wednesday at a meeting of the Legislative Council Committee, which gives the final sign-off on the blue book's contents. After testimony from initiative opponents, Sen. Mark Scheffel, R-Parker, expressed reservations about language in two parts of Argument No. 1 in favor of the initiative.
Scheffel said he objected to language in the first half of the argument that said marijuana legalization is a "more logical" approach. He also objected to language in the second half of the argument that stated marijuana is safer than alcohol and that penalties for marijuana crimes are too severe.
His initial attempt to strike both sections of Argument No. 1 failed. Trying again later in the meeting, Scheffel said lawmakers should split up the debate about the contested language in the two halves of Argument 1.
"You're trying to make two different arguments?" asked Rep. Lois Court, D-Denver.
"Correct," Scheffel said. "I'm just trying to divide this so we can tackle this paragraph in two parts."
Scheffel's subsequent motion, though, deleted both sections of Argument No. 1. That motion passed unanimously. Some lawmakers said they expected Scheffel to make a second motion to restore modified language about marijuana being safer than alcohol.
"I thought we were then going to go ahead and fix the next couple of sentences," Court said during the meeting.
Scheffel said that wasn't his intention.
Scheffel could not be reached for comment.
Rep. Mark Ferrandino, who did not want to delete the language, said he does not believe Scheffel was trying to pull a fast one. Still, Ferrandino was disappointed with the outcome.
"I don't think he was trying to cause confusion," said Ferrandino, D-Denver. "But it did cause confusion."
Original article: http://www.denverpost.com/recommended/ci_21504952
A Los Angeles Superior Court ruling may have far reaching consequences for Long Beach's ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.
According to a press release issued today by the law offices of Matthew J. Pappas, L.A. Superior Court Judge James R. Dunn struck down the city's ban of marijuana dispensaries, arguing that such a ban conflicted with state law, which allows medical marijuana patients to collectively cultivate and consume cannabis.
The two-page ruling, which the Weekly obtained from Pappas, is dated Aug. 17, and specifically overrules the city's prohibition of pot clubs, a civic ordinance known as 5.89. In it, Dunn wrote that the ban is "virtually identical" to an L.A. county ban that had already been struck down and "is therefore preempted by state law." The ruling gave the city 15 days to respond, and it is unclear if the city bothered to do so and if so, how the court responded to that effort.
Pappas had filed the case in Dunn's court back in May, alleging that his daughter, plaintiff Victoria Pappas, had been severely injured in an assault the previous year, and unlike patients who can easily obtain oxycontin and other addictive painkillers at the local pharmacy, had to risk being subjected to Long Beach's policy of raiding pot clubs just to obtain medication she was entitled to use via California's Compassionate Use Act.
After allowing cannabis clubs to apply for an expensive lottery system that was later ruled illegal in a case filed by Pappas himself, the city banned pot clubs on Feb. 14 of this year, allowing a select group of lottery-winners to remain open for six months, a deadline that expired in August, by which time most of those clubs had shuttered as well.
In an email, Pappas said that his secretary hadn't opened the ruling and had placed it in a large stack of mail, which is why he didn't discover it until yesterday. "Now, we'll go in to get an injunctive relief order, but the finding by the judge is substantive and it is a finding that 5.89 is preempted and invalid," Pappas stated.
In other words, Pappas, who represents numerous cannabis clubs in Long Beach, including many that were either shut down by the city or closed voluntarily after being raided, hopes to use Dunn's ruling that the city's ban violates state law to obtain a court order that would prevent the city from raiding any of his clients.
Stay tuned, since we'll be updating this story as more information--most importantly whether the city has responded to the ruling--becomes available. For now, however, it appears that Long Beach's ill-fated foray into medical marijuana policy has just become even more expensive for city hall.
DENVER (AP) Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan says the federal government shouldn't interfere with states that have legalized medical marijuana.
The Wisconsin congressman tells KRDO-TV in Colorado Springs that he personally doesn't approve of medical marijuana laws. But he says that states should have the right to choose whether to legalize the drug for medical purposes. In response to a reporter's question, Ryan said: "It's up to Coloradans to decide."
The interview was taped while Ryan campaigned this week in Colorado Springs and aired Friday.
Colorado is one of 17 states, plus the District of Columbia, that allow medical marijuana.
The Obama administration at first signaled that it wouldn't interfere with state-sanctioned marijuana distribution. But the Justice Department has since angered marijuana activists by shutting down dispensaries in California and Colorado