Skokie, IL) — April 21, 2011. Illinois House Deputy Majority Leader Lou Lang (D-Skokie) today said that strengthened provisions in his proposed medical marijuana legislation and enhanced cooperation from Republican House leadership have created “excellent” chances for the bill’s passage in the next few weeks.
“The best prospects for passing this bill now now comes from the cooperation that we have from the other side of the aisle,” said Lang.
By Alex Hirsch
Just as Illinois residents, politicians and law enforcement officials begin to prepare for the implementation of medical marijuana; new reports have surfaced regarding the possibility of decriminalized recreational use of cannabis in the near future.
John Fritchey, Commissioner of Cook County – America’s second most populous county – has requested that his state take a deeper look into the realistic possibility of legalizing or at the least decriminalizing cannabis.
“The Illinois Legislature should follow the successful lead of other states and start taking meaningful steps toward a workable framework to allow the responsible sale and use of cannabis,” Fritchey said in a statement.
Commissioner Fritchey was joined by other Illinois lawmakers who see the current system as broken, archaic and racially biased. It’s a known fact that despite cannabis usage as fairly equal amongst different races, minorities have historically been the primary target of drug arrests and prosecution.
According to a 2011 story by the Chicago Reader, blacks were arrested 15 times more often than whites for possession of marijuana. Moreover, by the time those cases go through the justice system the rate of conviction is 40 times higher for blacks than whites.
But the apparent racial disparity may not be the true reason why Illinois is mulling legalization. According to a January 2014 report by the nonprofit organization group State Budget Solutions, Illinois had a state debt of over $321 billion. On top of that, the ACLU reports that Illinois spent nearly $221 million fighting cannabis in 2011 alone.
This spending doesn’t necessarily take into account the costs of corruption as well. Just last month five police officers from Chicago and the north suburban community of Glenview were accused of lying on the witness stand during the trial of a 23-year-old suspected of trafficking marijuana. His case has since been thrown out along with dozens of other pending cases by the officers.
Although full legalization may still be a few years away, three bills aimed at decriminalizing cannabis are currently in the Illinois House of Representatives waiting to move forward.
A second bill, sponsored by Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) is similar to Cassidy’s bill, but it also lowers the penalties for possessing marijuana plants. HB 4299 would make it a possession a petty offense with a fine of up to $100.
A third and final bill, HB 4091, proposed by Rep. Michael Zalewski (D-Chicago) would result in a ticket for marijuana possession. Possession of marijuana would still be considered a criminal offense under his bill. Additionally, possessing a large amount of marijuana near a school would become a class X felony and would be punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of $200,000.
It’s extremely unlikely any vote on legalization would come in 2014 so most progressive lawmakers and citizens can set their hopes on 2016 as the year marijuana prohibition will end in Illinois.
Is your state proposing decriminalization or legalization? Tell us in the comments below.
The answer came back loud and clear, it is time.
That was the message from a cohort of elected officials at a press conference Monday in downtown Chicago that called for the legalization of recreational Marijuana in Illinois.
“The main difference between the War on Drugs and Prohibition is that, after 40 yrs, this country still has not acknowledged that the War on Drugs is a failure,” said Cook County Commissioner John Fritchey.
In what’s perhaps the strongest show of support yet for legalizing recreational Marijuana in Illinois, Mr. Fritchey was joined by State Representatives Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago), Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) and Mike Zalewski (D-Riverside) in calling for a task force to address all aspects of legalizing recreational Marijuana.
“We can find a way to do this and look at what other states have done, and cherry pick the good ideas, dismiss the bad ideas and find a workable policy that recognizes what we’re doing now simply is not right,” Mr. Fritchey said.
Facing an empty state treasury, and a losing War on Drugs, some elected officials are seeing Marijuana as a lucrative option to boost tax revenue. In Colorado, where recreational Marijuana was recently legalized, the state netted roughly $2-M in tax revenue from licensed dispensaries during the 1st month of sales alone.
Illinois is still in the midst of crafting rules for its medical Marijuana pilot program, set to become the strictest in the nation.
Mr. Fritchey and others acknowledged the statewide legalization of Marijuana for recreational use is a ways off, but believe decriminalization is the 1st step.
Beyond tax revenue, Mr. Fritchey said decriminalization could soothe other issues, like the racial disparity in drug enforcement efforts and arrests.
“You see people getting swept off the streets on a daily basis on the South Side and the West Side,” Mr. Fritchey said, referencing predominantly Black and Latino areas of Chicago. “You do not see kids getting arrested in Lincoln Park.”
The pro-legalization lawmakers are not without their opponents, including the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police. At the conference, the group said legalizing recreational weed could be particularly dangerous for teens and motorists who may drive under the influence.
“The sky will not fall when Marijuana is decriminalized, and public opinion moves faster than legislators’. Look for Illinois to move immediately to decriminalize Marijuana as its 1st step toward legalizing recreational use of Marijuana.
By Steve Elliott
Michelle DiGiacomo of Chicago won’t be allowed to use medical marijuana under the new law in Illinois — because she used medical marijuana before the law passed.
When police stormed DiGiacomo’s North Side Chicago apartment last year, she had known the day could come, since marijuana was still illegal in Illinois even for medical reasons. But she was still unprepared.
“I was about to experience the worst 28 hours of my life,” said DiGiacomo, 53, who runs Direct Effect Charities, which serves needy Chicago Public Schools kids, reports Maudlyne Ihejirika at the Chicago Sun-Times. “We had discussed this possibility in the past; one I had hoped would never come to be.”
The widowed mother had used marijuana for the past five years to control the pain of fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal stenosis and rotator cuff disease. Pharmaceuticals had resulted in adverse reactions, or had failed to provide relief.
After he September 13, 2012 arrest, she pleaded guilty on March 5 to Class 4 felony possession of marijuana, just five months before Gov. Pat Quinn signed the state’s medical marijuana bill into law.
Now she’s not allowed to take part in the program, because under the Illinois Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Program Act, a felony conviction disqualifies her from accessing medical marijuana. Advocates say the story highlights the new law’s shortcomings.
DiGiacomo has “several chronically painful conditions,” according to Dr. Andrew Ruthberg, a Rush University Medical Center rheumatologist who has treated her for years. These include “rhematoid arthritis, a cervical spine disorder — which has required surgical repair — rotator cuff disease involving both shoulders, and a more recent lower back pain disorder.”
Dr. Ruthberg added that DiGiacomo has “had difficulty tolerating many traditional medications, and I fully believe that [her] use of marijuana has been solely for the purpose of trying to moderate chronic pain.”
“Pain is a daily issue living with these conditions,” said Dr. Howard An, Rush University Medical Center’s director of spine surgery, who has treated DiGiacomo since September 2010 and performed her spinal fusion surgery. “I know that [she has] tried numerous traditional medications without any relief. I fully believe that … use of marijuana has been for the use of controlling … chronic pain.”
“I made the difficult choice to use medical marijuana even though it was illegal, and I always felt like a criminal,” she said. “I did not want to get my medication in the street, so I made the hard decision to purchase it from a medical dispensary in California and receive it in the mail. It was terrifying. It was a horrible way to live.”
Minutes after she received 670 grams of marijuana from California in the mail, on September 13, 2012, police were at the door.
“I opened up to multiple guns pointed at me,” she said. “A police officer screamed, ‘Who’s in here?’ I told him, ‘Myself and my 14-year-old daughter.’ He asked where the guns were. I told him I had no guns. He asked where the drugs were. I told him where the small amount of medical marijuana I had in the house was, as well as what had just arrived.”
“Michelle DiGiacomo is not a criminal,” said Spencer Tweedy, whose father, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, and mother, Susan Miller Tweedy, are longtime supporters of her charity work for school children. Spencer Tweedy helped raise $3,000 toward DiGiacomo’s legal fees.
This is a woman who despite her numerous and severe ailments has dedicated her life to charity work,” Tweedy said. “When [the poilice] impounded her car, it was filled with school supplies headed for impoverished students. The cost of defending herself against the law has crippled her more than her diseases ever have.”
Spending the night in Cook County Jail was “the most degrading experience of my life,” DiGiacomo said.
For six months, she fought to avoid a felony conviction that could severely impact her work as the CEO of a nonprofit. But the Cook County Attorney’s Office wouldn’t negotiate, refusing to lower the charges from a felony to a misdemeanor, or to grant DiGiacomo 410 probation, which allows for expungement of first-time drug offenders.
“I was really surprised,” said her attorney, Michael Rediger. “The state’s attorney refused to even look at the fact that her doctors verified she was taking this as part of a medical treatment for pain, and that she did in fact have a California medical marijuana license; or to consider her longtime charitable work and the fact that she’d never been convicted of any other crime, not even a misdemeanor, nothing.”
Unable to afford trial, DiGiacomo pleaded guilty to Class 4 felony possession of marijuana. She got a year of probation, and went public, adding her story to the cacophony of stories used to exemplify the need for the law.
“Ms. DiGiacomo’s story … highlighted how not having a medical cannabis law hurts good, honest, hardworking people like her,” said Dan Linn, executive director of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
“There’s a perception that we don’t need to pass medical marijuana legislation because police wouldn’t be cruel enough to arrest a sick person just trying to ease their suffering,” said Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), based in Washington, D.C.
“Yet here’s a mother running a charity that helps thousands of kids, who was arrested at gunpoint … and will live the rest of her life as a felon, all because she is sick and marijuana helps her, as her doctors have attested,” Riffle said. “Stories like hers and other patients who were either arrested or lived in fear of arrest gave legislators reason to finally take action.”
But now that medical marijuana is legal in Illinois, it’s still illegal for DiGiacomo, because of her felony conviction — for using medical marijuana. This is despite the fact that she personally has no fewer than four of the 33 “debilitating medical conditions” specifically listed in the Illinois law.
“It Illinois, individuals with criminal histories are banned from the program, and it really makes no sense,” said Chris Lindsey, legislative analyst for MPP. “I have already been in discussions with the bill sponsor … about fixing some of the troubling areas of the law.
August 1 was bittersweet, DiGiacomo said, as she sat with other patients who stories helped the lobbying effort, watching Gov. Pat Quinn sign the bill into law.
“It was surreal to be with other patients who had worked for a very long time to make it happen,” she said. “While relief has finally arrived for them, it still has not for me, as my conviction will prevent me from getting the medicine that helps me the most.”
(Photo of Michelle DiGiacomo with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn: Direct Effect Charities)
Richard James Rawlings with Gatewood Galbraith in Glasgow, Kentucky 2011
The U.S. Marijuana Party, did, on February 24, 2013, loose one of its first and most influential Presidents,
Second only to Loretta Nall, who preceded him as the first President of the USMJParty in 2002.
Richard James Rawlings took the head of the table in 2005 after Ms. Nall’s resignation.
He actively ran for Congress in Peoria Illinois several times. He promoted many legalization activities in the Peoria area of Illinois and attended many more events in various states until he began to become ill in 2009-10.
It was not until July of 2012 that he was diagnosed with Stage 4 Throat, Lung and Adrenal Cancer.
At the age of 51, he died peacefully at his mother’s home where we had resided since shortly after his hospitalization in Glasgow Kentucky for two weeks in July 2012 where he received the diagnosis and the surgery for the trach which he would continue to wear until the night of his death when I removed it.
All of his family were with him almost constantly during the last two weeks. And I am forever grateful to them for all their support to me during this most difficult time.
His death broke my Heart. We were not only coworkers, friends and companions – we were lovers and partners.
He will never be forgotten by me and I know the same sentiment holds true with all of his family, friends and followers.
May what he stood for never be forgotten: Repeal of Hemp/Marijuana/Cannabis Laws at best or Legalization at least.
May He Rest In Peace
ri, 09/05/2014 – 1:14pm
More than 2,000 people registered for Illinois medical marijuana identification cards in the first three days of applications, dwarfing the number the program’s administrators had envisioned, the state announced Friday.
Authorities began taking electronic applications Tuesday from patients whose last names start with letters A through L, with those people able to register through Oct. 31. Officials had expected just a few hundred applications in the opening days, the Illinois Department of Public Health said without specifying the number of applicants.
“This is a promising sign that the program is on track to fulfill its key purpose — alleviating the pain and suffering for thousands of Illinoisans,” said Bob Morgan, the chief of the state’s medical cannabis pilot program.
Others can apply in November and December, and any patients and caregivers can apply starting next year. Patients must have a written certification from a doctor and get a background check, then pay $100 a year to apply for a medical marijuana card. Disabled people and veterans will pay $50 annually.
Melaney Arnold, a spokeswoman for the state health department, said that while the registrations in the application period’s infancy are “obviously higher” than forecast, “it’s not something we can’t handle.”
“The system is working well,” she said, noting that demand for the program should become clearer in about a month. “It’s always difficult to speculate and estimate how many are going to apply. Hundreds of thousands (of Illinoisans) are eligible for medical cannabis cards with debilitating conditions.”
A state law enacted last year authorized a four-year pilot project that will expire in 2017, but so far, not a single marijuana seed has been planted. State officials have said the first products may be sold next year. The state will begin to accept applications on Monday from aspiring cultivation centers and dispensaries vying for one of a limited number of permits.
When the harvest begins, patients will be able to buy up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana in a two-week period from a state-authorized dispensary. They must be diagnosed with one of the qualifying medical conditions listed in the Illinois law. Those conditions include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis C and dozens of other health problems.
— Associated Press
Posted: 08.04.2014 at 9:44 AM
MACOMB, ILL. – No action was taken during Macomb’s City Council meeting discussing the guidelines to cultivate and dispense medical marijuana.
The discussion will continue at next week’s committee of the whole meeting. After that, the discussion will head back to city council where it will then be voted on for approval.
Illinois law says it’s illegal to cultivate marijuana within 2,500 feet of schools, churches or residential areas.
Dispensaries on the other hand can be within one thousand feet from those locations.
Macomb Mayor Mike Inman told KHQA if someone wanted to open a cultivation center or a dispensary in Macomb, they would probably have a hard time finding a location that abides by the guidelines.
He also said that these meetings are open to the public, and that anyone with an idea or suggestion should attend.
“At each one of these there’s opportunity for public comment, we encourage folks whether you’re on the right side or the wrong side, whatever that side is that you come and make your feelings known,” Mayor Inman said.
The next Committee of the Whole meeting will take place Monday, August 11.
“[I]f the individual is no longer to be sovereign, if the police can pick him up whenever they do not like the cut of his jib, if they can ‘seize’ and ‘search’ him in their discretion, we enter a new regime. The decision to enter it should be made only after a full debate by the people of this country.”--U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
The U.S. Supreme Court was intended to be an institution established to intervene and protect the people against the government and its agents when they overstep their bounds. Yet as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, Americans can no longer rely on the courts to mete out justice. In the police state being erected around us, the police and other government agents can probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts.
Whether it’s police officers breaking through people’s front doors and shooting them dead in their homes or strip searching innocent motorists on the side of the road, these instances of abuse are continually validated by a judicial system that kowtows to virtually every police demand, no matter how unjust, no matter how in opposition to the Constitution.
These are the hallmarks of the emerging American police state: where police officers, no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace, are part of an elite ruling class dependent on keeping the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens.
A review of the Supreme Court’s rulings over the past 10 years, including some critical ones this term, reveals a startling and steady trend towards pro-police state rulings by an institution concerned more with establishing order and protecting government agents than with upholding the rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Police officers can use lethal force in car chases without fear of lawsuits. In Plumhoff v. Rickard (2014), the Court declared that police officers who used deadly force to terminate a car chase were immune from a lawsuit. The officers were accused of needlessly resorting to deadly force by shooting multiple times at a man and his passenger in a stopped car, killing both individuals.
Police officers can stop cars based only on “anonymous” tips. In a 5-4 ruling inNavarette v. California (2014), the Court declared that police officers can, under the guise of “reasonable suspicion,” stop cars and question drivers based solely on anonymous tips, no matter how dubious, and whether or not they themselves witnessed any troubling behavior. This ruling came on the heels of a ruling by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Westhoven that driving too carefully, with a rigid posture, taking a scenic route, and having acne are sufficient reasons for a police officer to suspect you of doing something illegal, detain you, search your car, and arrest you–even if you’ve done nothing illegal to warrant the stop in the first place.
Secret Service agents are not accountable for their actions, as long as they’re done in the name of security. In Wood v. Moss (2014), the Court granted “qualified immunity” to Secret Service officials who relocated anti-Bush protesters, despite concerns raised that the protesters’ First Amendment right to freely speak, assemble, and petition their government leaders had been violated. These decisions, part of a recent trend toward granting government officials “qualified immunity”–they are not accountable for their actions–in lawsuits over alleged constitutional violations, merely incentivize government officials to violate constitutional rights without fear of repercussion.
Citizens only have a right to remain silent if they assert it. The Supreme Court ruled inSalinas v. Texas (2013) that persons who are not under arrest must specifically invoke their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in order to avoid having their refusal to answer police questions used against them in a subsequent criminal trial. What this ruling says, essentially, is that citizens had better know what their rights are and understand when those rights are being violated, because the government is no longer going to be held responsible for informing you of those rights before violating them.
Police have free reign to use drug-sniffing dogs as “search warrants on leashes,” justifying any and all police searches of vehicles stopped on the roadside. In Florida v. Harris (2013), a unanimous Court determined that police officers may use highly unreliable drug-sniffing dogs to conduct warrantless searches of cars during routine traffic stops. In doing so, the justices sided with police by claiming that all that the police need to do to prove probable cause for a search is simply assert that a drug detection dog has received proper training. The ruling turns man’s best friend into an extension of the police state.
Police can forcibly take your DNA, whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime. InMaryland v. King (2013), a divided Court determined that a person arrested for a crime who is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty must submit to forcible extraction of their DNA. Once again the Court sided with the guardians of the police state over the defenders of individual liberty in determining that DNA samples may be extracted from people arrested for “serious offenses.” While the Court claims to have made its decision based upon concerns of properly identifying criminal suspects upon arrest, what they actually did is open the door for a nationwide dragnet of suspects targeted via DNA sampling.
Police can stop, search, question and profile citizens and non-citizens alike. The Supreme Court declared in Arizona v. United States (2012) that Arizona police officers have broad authority to stop, search and question individuals–citizen and non-citizen alike. While the law prohibits officers from considering race, color, or national origin, it amounts to little more than a perfunctory nod to discrimination laws on the books, while paving the way for outright racial profiling and destroying the Fourth Amendment.
Police can subject Americans to virtual strip searches, no matter the “offense.” A divided Supreme Court actually prioritized making life easier for overworked jail officials over the basic right of Americans to be free from debasing strip searches. In its 5-4 ruling in Florence v. Burlington (2012), the Court declared that any person who is arrested and processed at a jail house, regardless of the severity of his or her offense (i.e., they can be guilty of nothing more than a minor traffic offense), can be subjected to a virtual strip search by police or jail officials, which involves exposing the genitals and the buttocks. This “license to probe” is now being extended to roadside stops, as police officers throughout the country have begun performing roadside strip searches–some involving anal and vaginal probes–without any evidence of wrongdoing and without a warrant.
Immunity protections for Secret Service agents trump the free speech rights of Americans. The court issued a unanimous decision in Reichle v. Howards (2012), siding with two Secret Service agents who arrested a Colorado man simply for daring to voice critical remarks to Vice President Cheney. However, contrast the Court’s affirmation of the “free speech” rights of corporations and wealthy donors in McCutcheon v. FEC (2014), which does away with established limits on the number of candidates an entity can support with campaign contributions, and Citizens United v. FEC (2010) with its tendency to deny those same rights to average Americans when government interests abound, and you’ll find a noticeable disparity.
Police can break into homes without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home. In an 8-1 ruling in Kentucky v. King (2011), the Supreme Court placed their trust in the discretion of police officers, rather than in the dictates of the Constitution, when they gave police greater leeway to break into homes or apartments without a warrant. Despite the fact that the police in question ended up pursuing the wrong suspect, invaded the wrong apartment and violated just about every tenet that stands between us and a police state, the Court sanctioned the warrantless raid, leaving Americans with little real protection in the face of all manner of abuses by police.
Police can interrogate minors without their parents present. In a devastating ruling that could very well do away with what little Fourth Amendment protections remain to public school students and their families–the Court threw out a lower court ruling in Camreta v. Greene (2011), which required government authorities to secure a warrant, a court order or parental consent before interrogating students at school. The ramifications are far-reaching, rendering public school students as wards of the state. Once again, the courts sided with law enforcement against the rights of the people.
It’s a crime to not identify yourself when a policeman asks your name. In Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada (2004), a majority of the high court agreed that refusing to answer when a policeman asks “What’s your name?” can rightfully be considered a crime under Nevada’s “stop and identify” statute. No longer will Americans, even those not suspected of or charged with any crime, have the right to remain silent when stopped and questioned by a police officer.
The cases the Supreme Court refuses to hear, allowing lower court judgments to stand, are almost as critical as the ones they rule on. Some of these cases, turned away in recent years alone, have delivered devastating blows to the rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Legally owning a firearm is enough to justify a no-knock raid by police. Justices refused to hear Quinn v. Texas (2014) the case of a Texas man who was shot by police through his closed bedroom door and whose home was subject to a no-knock, SWAT-team style forceful entry and raid based solely on the suspicion that there were legally-owned firearms in his household.
The military can arrest and detain American citizens. In refusing to hear Hedges v. Obama (2014), a legal challenge to the indefinite detention provision of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA), the Supreme Court affirmed that the President and the U.S. military can arrest and indefinitely detain individuals, including American citizens. In so doing, the high court also passed up an opportunity to overturn its 1944 Korematsu v. United States ruling allowing for the internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps.
Students can be subjected to random lockdowns and mass searches at school. The Court refused to hear Burlison v. Springfield Public Schools (2013), a case involving students at a Missouri public school who were subjected to random lockdowns, mass searches and drug-sniffing dogs by police. In so doing, the Court let stand an appeals court ruling that the searches and lockdowns were reasonable in order to maintain the safety and security of students at the school.
Police officers who don’t know their actions violate the law aren’t guilty of breaking the law. The Supreme Court let stand a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Brooks v. City of Seattle (2012) in which police officers who clearly used excessive force when they repeatedly tasered a pregnant woman during a routine traffic stop were granted immunity from prosecution. The Ninth Circuit actually rationalized its ruling by claiming that the officers couldn’t have known beyond a reasonable doubt that their actions–tasering a pregnant woman who was not a threat in any way until she was unconscious–violated the Fourth Amendment.
When all is said and done, what these assorted court rulings add up to is a disconcerting government mindset that interprets the Constitution one way for the elite–government entities, the police, corporations and the wealthy–and uses a second measure altogether for the underclasses–that is, you and me.
Keep in mind that in former regimes such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the complicity of the courts was the final piece to fall into place before the totalitarian beast stepped out of the shadows and into the light. If history is a guide, then the future that awaits us is truly frightening.
Time, as they say, grows short.
John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead’s aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and accomplishments, including the Hungarian Medal of Freedom. His concern for the persecuted and oppressed led him, in 1982, to establish The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization in Charlottesville, Va. Whitehead serves as the Institute’s president and spokesperson.
Writer/editor, Illinois Policy Institute
Posted: 06/20/2014 5:52 pm EDT
Illinois became the 20th state in the U.S. to legalize medical marijuana in July 2013. But the Illinois law, which allows for a four-year medical marijuana pilot program, could be the next big windfall for cronyism in the state.
Political favoritism may already be cropping up in Illinois’ newly established medical marijuana industry, and barriers to entry could be steep as the state may impose hefty application and permit fees.
Competition to become established in Illinois’ medical marijuana business is stiff. Under the pilot program created by the new state law, Illinois will allow only 60 marijuana dispensaries and 22 growing centers.
This industry is expected to mean big money for those who land much-coveted business rights — last year, California’s medical marijuana sales were $1 billion. And in Illinois, a state notorious for corrupt insider dealings, the politically connected often get first dibs.
Those wanting a shot at one of the precious few dispensary and growing center slots are already jockeying for position. Anyone wanting to open one of these businesses must submit the name of the business, proposed location, relevant agricultural experience and much more information.
One person seeking medical marijuana registration from the state is Sam Borek, a former college roommate of Lou Lang, the state representative who sponsored Illinois’ medical marijuana law. According to CBS St. Louis, Borek has reserved at least three-dozen marijuana-related business names.
A friend of the governor is trying to get in on the action as well.
Chicagoan David Rosen, who was Gov. Pat Quinn’s chief fundraiser in 2010, plans to open a medical marijuana business in Nevada called “Waveseer” — and interestingly enough, he has also registered the same business name in Illinois.
Ultimately, the state will have the sole authority to decide the businesses it feels are best suited to operate under the new state law, and that will leave open the possibility for lawmakers to grant special favors to those applicants who are politically connected.
And any applicants who do receive registration through the state will have to comply with numerous regulations.
Under proposed regulations for the pilot program, the state would require dispensaries to pay a $5,000 nonrefundable application fee, a $30,000 permit fee and a $25,000 in annual permit renewal fee. Anyone wanting a dispensary permit will also have to show proof of $50,000 in escrow or bonds.
The application fee for growing centers is even steeper, at $25,000. Growing centers also have to pay a $200,000 fee after its permit is approved, plus a $100,000 renewal fee. Applicants would also have to prove that they have $2 million in escrow or bonds.
And if owners want to make changes to their business, there could be a fee for that, too.
Under the proposed regulations, the state could charge growing centers $1,000 to change their business name, to alter stock ownership or change principal officers.
These hefty fees certainly limit the number of people who can afford to open a business in a booming industry.
Given the level of state involvement in Illinois’ medical marijuana industry, it’s not hard to imagine opportunities for corruption. So as marijuana-related business licenses begin to roll out of Springfield, Illinoisans would be wise to pay attention to who’s reaping the benefits.
Follow Hilary Gowins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hilarygowins
Thirty members of Congress, led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Tuesday demanding an end to the federal monopoly on marijuana research so that more studies can be done by scientists around the nation.
“We write to express our support for increasing scientific research on the therapeutic risks and benefits of marijuana,” the letter reads. “We ask that you take measures to ensure that any non-National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded researcher who has acquired necessary Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Institutional Review Board (IRB), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and appropriate state and local authority approval be able to access marijuana for research at-cost without further review.” (Read the full text of the letter below.)
The letter comes about two weeks after the House voted to block the Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to go after medical marijuana operations that are legal under state laws, a measure that Rohrabacher sponsored.
And just last week, a scathing joint report from the Drug Policy Alliance and and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies blasted the DEA, arguing that the agency has repeatedly failed to act in a timely fashion when faced with petitions to reschedule marijuana.
The drug is currently illegal under federal law, and remains classified as a Schedule I substance, a designation the DEA reserves for the “most dangerous” drugs with “no currently accepted medical use.” Schedule I drugs, which include substances like heroin and LSD, cannot receive federal funding for research. On three separate occasions — in 1973, 1995 and 2002 — the DEA took years to make a final decision about a rescheduling petition, and in two of those cases the DEA was sued multiple times to force a decision.
Last week’s report criticized the DEA for overruling its own officials charged with determining how illicit substances should be scheduled. It also accused the agency of creating a “regulatory Catch-22″ by arguing there is not enough scientific evidence to support rescheduling marijuana — while simultaneously impeding the research that would produce such evidence.
“Two weeks ago, we took a very important vote in the House to stop the DEA from interfering in states’ medical marijuana programs,” Blumenauer said in a statement Tuesday. “Now we need the Administration to stop targeting marijuana above and beyond other drugs when it comes to research. By increasing access for scientists who are conducting studies, we end the Catch-22 of opponents claiming they can’t support medical marijuana because there’s not enough research, but blocking research because they don’t support medical marijuana.”
The U.S. government grows marijuana for research purposes at the University of Mississippi in the only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) oversees the cultivation, production and distribution of these crops — a process through which the only federally-sanctioned marijuana studies are approved.
Federal authorities have long been accused of only funding marijuana research that focuses on the potential negative effects of the drug. Since 2003, more than 500 grants for marijuana-related studies have received federal approval, with a marked upswing in recent years, according to McClatchy. Only 22 grants were approved in 2003 for cannabis research, totaling $6 million, but in 2012, 69 grants were approved for a total of over $30 million.
Despite these numbers, NIDA has reportedly conducted only about 30 studies to date on the potential benefits of marijuana, according to The Hill.
Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Eight other states — Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin — have legalized CBD oil, a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that is frequently used to treat epilepsy, for limited medical use or for research purposes.
A number of studies in recent years have shown the medical potential of cannabis. Purified forms may attack some forms of aggressive cancer. Marijuana use has also been tied to better blood sugar control and may help slow the spread of HIV. One study found that legalization of the plant for medical purposes may even lead to lower suicide rates.
Subject: Drug War Chronicle, Issue #837 (short version)
June 3, 2014
Documents buried deep in tobacco company archives reveal a hope and a plan to sell marijuana as soon as legally possible
Tobacco executives anticipated the legalization of marijuana as early as the 1970′s — and they wanted a piece of the action, according to newly discovered documents from tobacco company archives.
Public health researchers scanned 80 million pages of digitized company documents for keywords such as, “marijuana,” “cannabis,” “reefer,” “weed,” “spliffs,” and “blunts.” The results, published Tuesday in the Milbank Quarterly, reveal a long history of maneuvers toward marijuana-laced products.
“The starting point must be to learn how to produce in quantity cigarettes loaded uniformly with a known amount of either ground cannabis or dried and cut cannabis rag,” read one memorandum from British American Tobacco’s adviser on technical research, Charles Ellis.
A hand-written letter from Philip Morris president George Weissman read, “While I am opposed to its use, I recognize that it may be legalized in the near future…Thus, with these great auspices, we should be in a position to examine: 1. A potential competition, 2. A possible product, 3. At this time, cooperate with the government.”
Philip Morris even went so far as to request a marijuana sample from the Department of Justice for research purposes, promising to share its findings with the government so long as the company’s involvement remained strictly confidential. “We request that there be no publicity whatsoever,” wrote a Philip Morris executive. The Justice Department drug science’s chief Milton Joffee obliged with a promise to deliver “good quality” marijuana.
While tobacco executives missed the mark on legalization by several decades, they did lay out a persuasive case for vigilance. In early 1970, an unsigned memorandum distributed to Philip Morris’ top management read, “We are in the business of relaxing people who are tense and providing a pick up for people who are bored or depressed. The human needs that our product fills will not go away. Thus, the only real threat to our business is that society will find other means of satisfying these needs.”
The study authors said the documents provide proof of tobacco companies’ intent to enter the marijuana trade, despite their claims to the contrary. They urged policymakers to prevent tobacco makers from entering the nascent market for legal marijuana “in a way that would replicate the smoking epidemic, which kills 480,000 Americans each year.”
Last week’s House vote against federal interference with state laws allowing medical use of marijuana was a big deal politically, reflecting growing Republican support for federalism in this area. But it’s not clear that the amendment, assuming it is included in the appropriations bill approved by the Senate and signed by the president, will accomplish what its backers hope. Here is the text of the amendment, which was introduced by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.):
None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.
Prior to the vote on the amendment, Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), chief co-sponsor, summed up its purpose this way:
This is essentially saying, look, if you are following state law, you are a legal resident doing your business under state law, the feds just can’t come in and bust you and bust the doctors and bust the patient. It is more than half the states. So you don’t have to have any opinion about the value of marijuana. This doesn’t change any laws. This doesn’t affect one law, just lists the states that have already legalized it only for medical purposes, only medical purposes, and says, “Federal government, in those states, in those places, you can’t bust people.”
Yet if the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrests a patient in Colorado for growing marijuana and the U.S. attorney prosecutes him, that does not, strictly speaking, “prevent” that state from “implementing” its law decriminalizing cultivation of cannabis for medical use. The DEA and the U.S. attorney are enforcing the federal ban on marijuana; they are not compelling Colorado to punish behavior its voters have decided to no longer treat as a crime. Arguably the same could be said for raids on state-licensed dispensaries, although enough of those would shut down commercial distribution of marijuana to patients, effectively preventing the state from implementing its law aimed at giving patients an alternative to home cultivation.
There is even more room for interpretation in states, such as California and Washington, where the legal status of businesses distributing medical marijuana is unclear. In those cases federal officials maintain that dispensaries are not authorized by state law, while state and local officials disagree among themselves about what the law allows. Which reading of the law does the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment require the feds to follow?
During a telebriefing on Friday, Farr seemed to acknowledge that it leaves some wiggle room for the Justice Department. “This isn’t a finely written policy yet,” Farr said. “This is a statement of congressional intent that [the] DEA [should] back off on these issues. We will have to continue to reconcile federal policy with state policy.” Still, he said, “this had strong, bipartisan support,” and “the language, I think, is very simple and very clear, and that makes it a lot easier to implement. We’ll always have oversight as to implementation.” Bill Piper of the Drug Policy Alliance added that “legislative intent matters,” and “I think intent was very clear from the excellent floor speeches.”
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We live in the only country in the world where a child can be sentenced to be in prison until they die
We live in the only country in the world where a child can be sentenced to be in prison until they die.
What’s worse is that it’s not even rare — more than 2,500 people who were sentenced as kids will spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Juwan is one of them. He was a skinny 16-year-old kid when he was arrested after he saw a companion kill a pizza deliveryman. The shooter was never convicted, but because Juwan was present and had a gun, he was sentenced to spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Without the possibility of parole, Juwan will never have a second chance for rehabilitation.
Just one year before Juwan was sentenced, the Supreme Court decided that mandatory juvenile life without parole was unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.
The problem is — the decision left gaping loopholes and didn’t ban the sentence outright, meaning that Juwan and other children became victims of poor timing and inadequate policy implementation. While six states have moved to ban the practice, this barbaric punishment is still perfectly legal in 44 states.
But the Department of Justice has the power to close some of these loopholes and set the standard on the federal level. By providing policy guidelines for U.S. attorneys, the DOJ can ensure that judges are empowered to use discretion and give appropriate sentences based on unique circumstances.
Attorney General Eric Holder has already endorsed proposals that limit life without parole sentences for non-violent drug offenders. If he hears from thousands of us who support criminal justice reform, he can provide the tools needed to limit juvenile life without parole sentences.
It’s time that we give kids like Juwan a second chance at life.
Ronnie’s sister here. He sent me a message today and I spoke with him a bit ago. It seems that the Dr’s. are giving him 2 weeks to live. He said he will be going home with hospice in a couple days. He is still hoping that the oil will help but is sad also. I have created a gofundme page to help me and his son get from KY to CO to be with him. If anyone can help us out it would be much appreciated.
HERE IS THE LINK TO DONATE!
HIS FACEBOOK PAGE IS HERE. PLEASE SEND LOVE AND PRAYERS!
Brian McCullough For the love of God…, please share this far and wide.On group pages and such…
I have to get off line and wont be back till Monday. I want his friends and ours to send healing energy to my buddy.
I can only hope you all will get this message before it’s too late.
Peace out, Brian
This petition will be delivered to: Missouri, Gov. Jeremiah Nixon
Petition by Chris Mizanskey Sedalia, MO
My father Jeff Mizanskey has been in prison for 20 years and has no possibility of parole. For non-violent, marijuana-only offenses, my father has been sentenced to die in prison because of a “three strikes” mandatory sentencing policy in the State of Missouri.
Dad’s first offense was in 1984 when he sold an ounce to an undercover informant, and then was found to possess a half pound of marijuana when police raided his house the next day. His next offense occurred in 1991, when he was caught in possession of a couple of ounces. But for my father’s final strike in 1993, he became an easy fall guy in a conspiracy to distribute marijuana. My dad was driving a friend to a deal that turned out to be a sting operation. All of the other convicted men involved were set free years ago, but my dad was given a virtual death sentence.
My dad is, and always has been, a good man. He taught my brother and I all about construction and a good work ethic. He has never been violent and he is a model prisoner. And over the 20 years he has been in that little cell, he has watched as violent criminals, rapists, and murderers have “paid their debts” and left – sometimes just to return a few months later.
My father is 61 years old, and has been in prison since he was 41. His parents – my grandparents – have since passed. While my dad has been trapped behind bars, generations of kids and grandkids have been born into our family who have never even met the man. The State of Missouri spends roughly $22,000/year to keep him locked up. Meanwhile all my dad wants to do is be a productive part of society, work and pay taxes, be with his family. And I want my dad back.
Governor Jay Nixon is the only person who has the power to bring my dad home by granting clemency to Jeff and calling 20 years punishment enough. Please help us reach a just and reasonable end to his prison sentence by signing and sharing this petition.
Gov. Jeremiah Nixon, Missouri
Jeff Mizanskey is a non-violent, marijuana-only offender who has spent the last 20 years in a Missouri prison. He has been sentenced to be there for the rest of his life, and he has no opportunity for parole. The only hope he has to ever to become a working member of society or to hold his grandchildren in his hands is for you to grant him clemency.
His sentence was imposed because of the Prior and Persistent Drug Offender sentencing structure which requires life in prison without parole for his three felony marijuana-only offenses.
Jeff Mizanskey has never committed violence and is most certainly a model prisoner. For 20 years he has sat behind bars, only to watch as rapists and murders come and go and sometimes come back again. Meanwhile the State of Missouri spends roughly $22,000 annually to house him – over $400,000 has been spent so far.
On February 3, 2011, Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice William Ray Price, Jr., delivered his final State of the Judiciary address to the Missouri General Assembly. In that speech, Chief Justice Price lambasted Missouri’s “three strikes” drug-sentencing laws as enormously costly and ineffective. “Punishment,” Price said, “is a necessary part of our criminal justice system. But our real goal for nonviolent offenders is to teach them their lesson so they can become productive law-abiding members of our society. The goal is not to lock them into a life of crime, to make them permanent wards of the state.”
Jeff Mizanskey has been punished for 20 years. He has learned his lesson and wants to become a productive, law-abiding member of our society. The goal Price mentions has been more than reached, and it is time to give Jeff back his life.
On July 6, 2012, you signed the Justice Reinvestment Act, which was intended to reduce our prison population, save the state money, and ensure that punishments are proportional to violations for non-violent offenders. While this has done a great deal of good for so many Missourians, Jeff’s status has remained unchanged.
In October 2013, Gallup released a poll showing 58% of Americans support marijuana legalization. 58% of Americans recognize the principle that imprisoning Jeff Mizanskey for the rest of his life has no net positive social benefit.
In the spirit of the Justice Reinvestment Act and in the spirit of justice itself, please grant clemency to Jeff Mizanskey today. Please pardon Jeff Mizanskey so that he does not die in prison just for marijuana.
Medical marijuana regulations recently proposed in Illinois could be a major buzzkill for the state’s entrepreneurs and other small business owners.
Under the proposal from the Illinois Department of Agriculture, legal pot businesses would need approximately half a million dollars in startup costs. The program would require pot dispensaries to pay a $5,000 nonrefundable application fee, show proof of $400,000 in assets, pay a $30,000 permit fee and fork over a $25,000 yearly permit renewal fee.
Cultivation centers would be required to pony up a $25,000 nonrefundable application fee, prove they have $250,000 in liquid assets, pay a $200,000 fee once the permit is approved and pay a $100,000 renewal fee.
Additionally, local governments would be able to charge their own dispensary and cultivation center fees.
“Probably 50 percent of the wannabes are now out,” Joseph Friedman, a suburban Chicago pharmacist hoping to opening a dispensary, told the Chicago Tribune. “This is going to bring out just the serious players who are well-capitalized and well-credentialed.”
Regulators have been slowly hammering out the various rules for potential users, growers and dispensary vendors since the state’s medical weed law — the strictest in the nation — went into effect earlier this year. Medical marijuana advocates worry the new proposals for dispensaries and cultivation centers could price out suffering patients and ultimately threaten the success of the nascent pilot program.
“This program was designed, proposed and passed to help sick people,” Dan Linn, the executive director of the Illinois chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML), told The Huffington Post. “But now it seems the state has wrapped itself up in the bureaucracy and this is all going to be on the backs of sick people.”
Linn said the some of the high regulation fees will help keep the pilot program cost-neutral for the state and also weed out “the perceived trouble makers” hoping to get rich quick in the medical marijuana gold rush.
The downside, Linn said, is what he calls the “trickle-down” cost to medical marijuana patients. “A lot them are sick and on disability and can’t afford the [high price of] legal medical marijuana. You’ll see patients who sign up for a card and never use it.”
Linn notes that if the fees are passed on to customers and medical weed becomes significantly more expensive than that on the street, dispensaries and clinics won’t have enough business. “Ultimately,” he said, “that could make or break this program.”
Real estate is shaping up to be another challenge for potential medical marijuana businesses, with local governments in the Chicagoland area tinkering with zoning laws that could restrict pot businesses’ already limited options.
Other proposed regulations would require medical marijuana patients to be fingerprinted, undergo a background check and pay $150 yearly fee for a special photo ID card, the Associated Press reports.
Regulators will take public input on the proposals until Feb. 27.
Jan. 1, 2014, medical marijuana was legalized in Illinois for patients who qualify for the substance. This will be an evolution in end-of-life care and symptom management. Every patient deserves to live comfortably with the most dignity as possible.
“We always want to strive to provide the highest quality of care,” said Passages Hospice Founder Seth Gillman. “We have to keep an open mind to any medications or opportunities available to our patients.”
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) signed a medical marijuana law into place for Illinois Aug. 1, 2013. The law is going to be one of the strictest medical marijuana laws signed in the United States. There will be a four-year pilot program for 60 state-run dispensaries that will be under 24-hour surveillance.
The U.S. is lagging compared to other countries when it comes to the use of medical marijuana. Israel has used the drug for medicinal purposes since 2005 for terminally ill patients.
Passages Hospice strives to maintain its role as an innovative leader in hospice care and pain management. Medical marijuana can alleviate symptoms associated with terminal illnesses, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis and many others.
The drug will be used as treatment for a variety of symptoms, such as loss of appetite, nausea, pain, anxiety and sadness. The substance will also eliminate some of the negative side effects associated with drugs like morphine.
Medicinal use of marijuana has been around for many centuries. The Cannabis sativa plant has elements with pain relieving properties. Cannabinoids are the active ingredients in cannabis associated with the relief of pain and vomiting along with appetite stimulation.
The most common cannabinoid in the plant is Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive chemical component that causes a high. This component is the reason medical marijuana has been so controversial. Fortunately, researchers have been able to develop strains of marijuana that contain little traces of THC, but just enough to have beneficial effects for medical purposes. This will allow patients to still maintain a clear head and carry out day-to-day activities.
“As part of our dedication to unique and innovative programs, we are anxiously awaiting approval for a medical marijuana licensure,” said Gillman. “Passages has always supported a patient’s right to live comfortably and on their terms.”
For more about Passages Hospice, visit www.passageshospice.com or call 888-741-8985.
Posted Jan. 29, 2014