Montel Williams Lobbies for Medical Marijuana in Md.

Montel Willams

A week before Maryland state legislators were set to consider whether medical marijuana should be legal in Maryland, television personality Montel Williams came to Annapolis to voice his support. 

“[Marijuana] is the only thing that has kept me a contributing member of this society for the last 10 years,” he told reporters at a press conference Jan. 24.

Williams, a Baltimore native, suffers from multiple sclerosis. He says marijuana is the only drug that eases his daily neuropathic pain, noting that traditional painkillers have stopped working. Others suffering from chronic illnesses shouldn’t be labeled as criminals for attempting to manage their pain, he added.

The 54-year-old said he is willing to return to Maryland to help administer regulations if lawmakers legalize the drug for patient use.

“I will help you put together the regulations that you are going to need to put together to stop making the mistakes that other states have made, and help you form a system that patients can get off the battlefield and start living a life like everybody else,” Williams said, holding back tears. 

“This is about relieving suffering and doing it in a responsible way,” Del. Dan Morhaim of Baltimore County, a supporter of the bill, told the AFRO.

Morhaim, the General Assembly’s only physician, said Williams’ situation is common. “There are conditions that for some patients, responsible, careful doses [of the drug] work.”

He and several other lawmakers will introduce legislation legalizing medical marijuana next week. The proposal, which has bipartisan support, allows doctors to prescribe the drug to patients suffering from a narrow list of conditions only if the effectiveness of other medicines have been exhausted. The patient may then register with the state and obtain the drug from an authorized grower. A similar measure passed the state Senate last year but stalled in the House of Delegates.

Under current state law, residents found using marijuana for medicinal purposes are still charged with a criminal offense, but may receive a reduced penalty.

“In the war on drugs, let’s at least get the sick and dying off the battlefield,” Morhaim said.

After leaving Maryland, Williams reportedly stopped in Delaware to urge that state’s lawmakers to also legalize the drug, according to media outlets. Medical marijuana is legal in fifteen states and the District of Columbia. 

The talk show host and Navy veteran lives in New York and is a “card-carrying member” in two states that allow medical marijuana, according to the Associated Press.

by Shernay Williams
AFRO Staff Writer

Medical marijuana to be taxed in Arizona

MMJ Arizona

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona soon will be taxing a new product — medical marijuana.

The tax on medical marijuana will be the same as taxing any other product in the state, whether it be candy or furniture. That’s a 6.6 percent state tax and between 2 percent and 3 percent for cities, said Anthony Forschino, assistant director of the state Department of Revenue.

Arizona voters approved medical marijuana in November, making the state the 15th in the nation to pass such a law.

The measure will allow patients with cancer, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and other chronic or debilitating diseases to buy 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks or grow a limited number of plants themselves if they live 25 miles from a dispensary.

Patients could begin buying pot with a doctor’s recommendation in the state this summer.

Pot shops will have to get a sales tax license just like any other business, and the department will monitor whether they are paying taxes, as it does with all other stores, Forschino said.

Attorney General Tom Horne, who opposed the medical marijuana measure, said now that it has been approved, it should not be exempt from taxes even though it may benefit patients with chronic, debilitating diseases.

“You go to the store, you buy things that are hopefully 100 percent beneficial, and it gets taxed because it’s a revenue source,” he said. “This is no different than anything else.”

Horne estimates that the state stands to receive $40 million annually in revenues from taxing medical marijuana.

Those hoping to open dispensaries this summer will have to compete for just 124 spots, and the state Department of Health Services expects up to thousands of applications.

Dispensary hopefuls will have to pay up to $5,000 to apply for a license and meet many other requirements. Finalized rules that dispensaries must follow will come out at the end of March after a public comment period.

By AMANDA LEE MYERS

Soda pot set to launch in U.S. Canna Cola, Doc Weed, Sour Diesel, Grape Ape and Orange Kush are slated to become available at U.S. medical-marijuana dispensaries beginning in February.

Soda Pot

A California man is hoping to have a line of soft drinks laced with the psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis available on the U.S. market by February.

Soquel, Calif., commercial artist and designer Clay Butler has told local media he doesn’t do drugs, drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes but feels adults should be able to ingest what they choose.

“Even though, personally, I’m not interested and I don’t think it’s right for me,” Butler told the Santa Cruz Sentinel, “I’m a firm believer that adults have an inalienable right to think, eat, smoke, drink, ingest,

decorate, dress any way they choose to do so. It’s your life; it’s your body.”

Though other marijuana sodas exist, Butler feels his design background will ensure the marketing of his product will be different.

Other sodas are “so mom-and-pop, hippie-dippy and rinky-dink,” he said.

The “Just Say Yes” slogan and logo featuring a cannabis leaf made out of soda pop bubbles are aimed at trying to get the product to appeal to a wider audience. But U.S. laws means the soda will only be legally available to patients with a medical marijuana prescription.

Canna Cola will be the flagship product but the line will include other flavours, such as Doc Weed, Sour Diesel, Grape Ape and Orange Kush. Each soda will contain 35 to 65 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is substantially less than what is found in similar drinks, giving Clay’s products a milder marijuana taste. The bottles are expected to sell for between $10 to $15.

The marijuana soda is slated to go on sale at medical-marijuana dispensaries in some of the western states beginning in February.

By QMI AGENCY

Montel Williams pushes medical marijuana bill Drug has ‘given me my life back,’ former talk show host says

Former talk show host Montel Williams was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1990

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Former talk show host Montel Williams has urged state lawmakers to legalize medical marijuana in Maryland, saying it has a role helping those with painful ailments such as his own.

The Baltimore native spoke Monday at a news conference with Maryland lawmakers who support legalized medical marijuana.

Williams, 54, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1990. He said he had been living with pain in his lower extremities, face and side for years and added that marijuana provided the only relief he could find.

“Marijuana may not work for everyone, but what it has done for me is given me my life back,” Williams told the Frederick News-Post.

When questioned by The Associated Press, he declined to comment on how he obtains the drug.

The Maryland Senate passed a bill last year to allow physician-approved use of marijuana.

The House didn’t pass the measure but lawmakers say they’ll try again this year.

The Associated Press and msnbc.com staff contributed to this report.

Medical Marijuana in the Workplace

Montana Medical Marijuana

The House Human Services Committee today hears a bill tackling medical marijuana in the workplace.

This the third bill to come from an interim committee that spent six months working on medical marijuana legislation, Republican Representative Gary MacLaren’s (House District 89,) House Bill 43 gives guidelines and restrictions to employers on how to handle employees who may be impaired due to medical marijuana.

Medical cannabis supporters say they interpret the bill to mean that an employer could terminate an employee simply for having a medical marijuana card, at the same time subjecting them to drug testing that violates privacy.

Supporters of the bill claim that the clarifications address public safety, acting as a safety net from litigation and wrongful termination lawsuits.

“Right away that employee claims, well you fired me because of my medical marijuana card. Now that would be fine, except, the employer won the day but now you’re looking at a lot of attorney’s fees for no reason,” says one proponent.

“This bill does nothing to address job performance or impairment on the job, it simply targets medical cannabis patients. It reminds me strongly of legislation proposed in the early 80’s targeting the homosexual community denying them access to jobs and public education, etc.” says Doug Chyatte with Montanans for Responsible Legislation.

“If the guy that’s running that machine, is not fully cognoscente of everything going on around him or her, there could be some tragic consequences,” says Cary Hegreberg, Montana Contractors’ Association.

“You’re basically legalizing a kind of bigotry,” says Tom Daubert with Patients and Families Unitied who opposed the bill for going too far.

The bill does not include prescription medication and medical cannabis advocates say the bill opens up currently exempt employees in the state of Montana to drug testing.

By Kacey Drescher

Will the IRS Extinguish Medical Marijuana?

Harborside Founder Steve DeAngelo

In February, 2009, the US Department of Justice announced that it would no longer raid medical marijuana dispensaries that abided by state laws, sparking a boom in quasi-legal cannabis investments that I detail today in “Joint Ventures [1]” (my feature from the January/February print magazine that’s now online). Even so, the fast-growing grey-market in ganja could be about to get pruned. The Internal Revenue Service is reportedly auditing some of California’s largest and most reputable medical pot dispensaries, examining their compliance with an obscure section of tax law aimed at drug dealers. Dispensary owners say that the provision, if strictly applied, could effectively snuff out the nation’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry.
Enacted in 1982, the year that President Ronald Reagan declared a “War on Drugs,” section 280E of the federal tax [2] code explicitly bans any tax deductions related to “trafficking in controlled substances.” Though 280E predated the legalization of medical marijuana in California and other states, it has remained “like a dagger held at the throat of every medical cannabis organization,” says Steve D’Angelo, the founder of Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, which recently underwent an audit by the IRS that targeted its compliance with the provision. “If 280E is applied literally and strictly, it has the potential to close down Harborside and every other medical cannabis dispensary.”
According to Americans for Safe Access, a nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of medical marijuana users and growers, the IRS has recently launched audits of several other large dispensaries in California based on 280E. (The IRS did not return a phone call last week). “I think it’s a new front [in the War on Drugs],” says Caren Woodson, the ASA’s director of government affairs. “We’re nervous that this is going to have a big effect.”

In recent years, dispensary owners had assumed that problems with 280E were behind them. In 2005, the IRS audited the San Francisco dispensary Californians Helping to Alleviate Medical Problems (CHAMP), which successfully argued in court that 280E should apply only to a small fraction of its business that dealt directly with the sale of marijuana. CHAMP primarily served terminally ill AIDS patients and argued that most of its resources went towards counseling and other “caregiving services.”

Of course, as marijuana in California has become “medicine” for just about anyone who be [3] illin [4], the IRS may be aiming to narrow the CHAMP loophole. Whether the tax men don’t like pot shops or just want a bigger chunk of their revenues—an estimated $1.3 billion last year in California alone—is anyone’s guess. D’Angelo hopes that the IRS is getting involved “because in good faith they want to treat us like legitimate members of the community who should pay our fair share of taxes.”

But just to be safe, he’s ramping up an anti-280E lobbying effort through the new, DC-based National Cannabis Industries Association [5] (“The national voice for the cannabis industry”). California Congressman Pete Stark, a Bay Area Democrat who helped pass the original 280E, may sponsor a bill that would exempt medical pot dispensaries from the law. Ultimately, today’s medical pot retailers may be too big, pervasive, and powerful to stand for being taxed out of business.

Yet the same isn’t true for other parts of the “cannabusiness.” Medical marijuana growers might have a harder time plausibly deducting expenses for yoga classes, acupuncture sessions, and naturopath consultations (all services at Harborside). Specifically, 280E could be a huge pain in the ass of pot growers who are coming out of the shadows to bid on one of the four industrial-scale permits being offered (or maybe not being offered [6]) by the City of Oakland. Which is why Oakland businessmen Dhar Mann and Derek Peterson, the “ganjapreneurs” who I profile in “Joint Ventures [1],” are so interesting. Despite the obvious risks, these guys aim to be their generation’s “Warren Puff-its.” Whether they suceed or fail, it will certainly be fun to watch.

Image above: Harborside founder Steve DeAngelo

By Josh Harkinson | Mon Jan. 24, 2011 4:20 AM PST

Montel Williams in LA to discuss Medical Cannabis Ordinance (MCO)

Montel Williams in LA

Talk show host and medical cannabis patient Montel Williams told the Los Angeles City Council on Friday that an amendment to the city’s Medical Cannabis Ordinance (MCO) establishing a lottery to select one hundred patients’ collectives will do little to identify the best qualified applicants. The Los Angeles Times reports that Mr. Williams met privately with City Council Members on Thursday.

At Friday’s meeting, Special Assistant to the City Attorney Jane Usher told City Council Members that they must adopt the amendments – including the lottery – in response to a Preliminary Injunction blocking enforcement of portions of the MCO. Ms. Usher said the judge has “put our feet to the fire,” and she urged the City Council to adopt the unpopular provision. Mr. Williams, who uses medical cannabis to treat the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, responded:

“Holding feet to the fire? Let me explain something to you. For the last 10 years, from morning til night, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, I have absolute neuropathic pain through my feet, my shins, my side and my face,” he said, his voice quavering. “You walk in and out of here every day and don’t think about your feet. Mine I have to think about every second of the day.”
(quoted from the LA Times)

Mr. Williams is to be commended for reminding City Council Members that patients need and deserve the best possible collectives. It is unfortunate that Council Members deferred again the City Attorney, and adopted a selection process that ignores longevity, performance, and goodwill. Time will tell if patients get lucky in the lottery.

There is some good news for patients. Friday’s amendments removed the two-year sunset clause, which might have forced every collective to close in 2012. The changes also provide more protection for patients’ medical records. These are hard-won victories in the multi-year struggle to regulate safe access in the state’s largest city.

Most importantly, the latest amendments should make a motion by City Council Members Bernard Parks and Jan Perry to ban collectives outright unnecessary. Like his predecessor, Rocky Delgadillo, City Attorney Carmen Trutanich has steadfastly supported a ban on collectives. But the Parks/Perry motion, seconded by Council Member Greig Smith, is the first sign that banning collectives has any traction on the City Council. The latest amendments should reassure City Council Members that they can successfully regulate access to medical cannabis – without banning collectives.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has worked with officials in Los Angeles to promote sensible regulations since 2005. The adoption of an ordinance, despite its flaws, is a victory for patients. Our research and experience show that regulations reduce crime and complaints around collectives, while preserving access for legal patients. We know that this work is not finished. New lawsuits by disenfranchised collectives are inevitable, and there are still improvements to make in the state’s toughest ordinance. ASA is committed to standing up for patients in Los Angeles at City Hall and in the courtroom until this work is finished.

Source: Americans for Safe Access
Author: Don Duncan

Impaired Driving Bill Draws Opposition From Medical Marijuana Users

MMJ Impaired Driver

The House Judiciary Committee also heard testimony today on Representative Ken Peterson’s bill which aims to make it illegal to drive while on any dangerous drugs “per se.” House Bill 33 also includes metabolite, or any molecule left in the body, yet excludes prescription medication if taken under doctors orders.

“Right now they’re legal, they drink, they drive, they’re on our highways, “ says a supporter of the bill, referring to the large amount of medical marijuana cardholders.

“So my choice is medicate and feel human but not be able to go anywhere if this bill passes, or give up the medication and my life would be over because of my medical problems,” says medical marijuana patient Barbara Trego.

Supporters of House Bill 33 point out that under the bill’s proposed language, those using medical marijuana could have marijuana in their system months after initially smoking it, therefore, they would be subject to criminal offenses.

“This bill makes sure you can’t drive while impaired under the influence of drugs and I don’t think this bill requires any showing of impairment, it deems somebody to be on the wrong side of the law merely for having a few molecules of certain substances in their blood.”

The bill faces strong opposition from those in the medical marijuana community, while supporters say it is one step in making our roads safer.

Idaho lawmaker introduces medical marijuana bill

Idaho Medical Marijuana

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A northern Idaho lawmaker has introduced a bill to legalize medical marijuana in the state.

Republican Rep. Tom Trail of Moscow earlier this week sponsored the Idaho Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act to establish a system for patients to legally obtain and use marijuana.

Trail says it’s time for lawmakers to help reduce the suffering of seriously ill citizens.

If passed, patients would need a certificate from a doctor to get medical marijuana. Patients or their caregivers would also have to register with the state before they could obtain marijuana.

Only treatment centers licensed by the state would be allowed to sell medical marijuana, and patients would be limited to 2 ounces in a 28-day period.

Idaho Medical Marijuana

SENIOR COMMUNITY TO HOST FIRST MEDICAL CANNABIS CONFERENCE LAGUNA WOODS AUDITORIUM, ORANGE COUNTY

Senior Medical Marijuana Conference Laguna Woods CA

LAGUNA WOODS–Medical Cannabis has become a popular subject in the gated senior community Laguna Woods as seniors look for alternatives to taking a growing list of prescription medications. With 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching 65 years of age everyday for the next 19 years, according to USA Today, the Medical Cannabis Conference is being held to educate seniors, health professionals and the community. The goal of this conference is to encourage seniors to take a proactive approach to their own health care that includes the possibility of Cannabis as a medicine. The conference is being held on Saturday, January 22, 2011 and is presented by OC NORML, Apothecary Genetics, GGECO University, Kush Magazine and Daily Buds from 9 AM to 8 PM at the Laguna Woods Auditorium 23822 Avenida Sevilla. Information and tickets are available at www.CBDConference.com. The Conference will also be available live anywhere thru an Internet broadcast.