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[OP-ED] Focused On Often Ignored Issues Involved In Legalized Marijuana

By Linn Washington Jr.

During an interesting public forum last week a county prosecutor, a prison warden, and two pastors took positions on pot that were in pronounced opposition to the traditional postures of persons holding those positions.

Law enforcers and clergy normally back pot prohibition regardless of its long documented racist and damaging impacts.

The prosecutor and warden, for example, both backed the full legalization of marijuana while each opposed decriminalization of that substance.

Decriminalization is a measure taken by the City of Philadelphia and other jurisdictions to mitigate damages from present pot prohibition like criminal records from arrests.

Gloucester County New Jersey Prosecutor Charles A. Fiore and Richard T. Smith, warden of the Cumberland County New Jersey jail, both noted a danger in decriminalization: failure to pay fines from citations issued for marijuana violations could lead to imprisonment –thus undermining decriminalization intent to remove marijuana from criminal system punishments.

Fiore and Smith, who is also the president of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, were panelists at that forum held in an unusual place: a church in Woodbury, NJ, a town 12-miles south of Philadelphia.

Historically churches, particularly black churches, have been silent about or complicit in the Drug War that has ravished communities of color through racist enforcement practices.

In 2010 many black ministers in California railed against pot legalization efforts in that state, even bashing California’s NAACP head who supported legalization as a civil rights issue due to decades of racist enforcement that condemned blacks and Latinos to lifetimes of deprivations from criminal records.

Rev. Charles Boyer, a forum panelist and pastor of the Bethel AME Church that hosted that forum, said while he is not a proponent of pot smoking he is an opponent of mass incarceration arising from America’s Drug War. Boyer said his position on the Drug War arises in part from the work of the AME religion founder, Richard Allen, a Philadelphia black leader during the late 1700s and early 1800s.

“Richard Allen was an abolitionist against slavery. Modern-day slavery is mass incarceration and the Drug War,” Boyer said.

Boyer, Smith and other panelists, that included a representative of the Drug Policy Alliance, stated legalization of marijuana in New Jersey must provisions not normally included in such laws.

Those provisions include erasure of records for possession arrests, measures for the equitable inclusion of minorities in business opportunities arising from legalization, restrictions against monopolization by big Pharma, tobacco, and alcohol plus reparations for communities adversely impacted by the Drug War.

Lawmakers in NJ and Pennsylvania should adopt the provisions outlined at that Woodbury forum.

New Jersey has legal medical marijuana. Pennsylvania also has medical. NJ could soon have legalized marijuana since new NJ Governor Phil Murphy supports legalization.

That forum, entitled “Marijuana Legalization: Faith, Facts & Fiction,” was organized by the Gloucester County NAACP.

Marijuana is a new and emerging industry, said Loretta Winters, president of the Gloucester NAACP and forum facilitator. “Since the train is coming we should all have a seat on that train.”

Read the full article HERE

PA medical cannabis shops low on product; state OKs more licenses

Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana dispensary owners are experiencing a common occurrence among new markets: a supply shortage.

Only two weeks after the state launched sales, some dispensaries have run out of product because of limited supply and unexpected demand, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

That news coincides with an announcement that the state has approved two more dispensaries to open their doors.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Because of supply issues, TerraVida Holistic Center is operating on modified hours and the Keystone Shop was forced to close. Both are in the Philadelphia area.
  • Roughly 21,000 people have begun the process to receive their medical marijuana cards, and more than 2,000 have purchased medical marijuana from a dispensary.
  • Only one producer, Cresco Yeltrah, is currently providing MMJ products to six open dispensaries.
  • Other states, including Maryland and Hawaii, have gone through similar supply problems in the early days of sales.
  • In addition to the two dispensaries, Pennsylvania regulators have approved a grower-processor to start operations, bringing the total of approved growers to 12, according to


Read the full article HERE

Mom Spurs Marijuana-Autism Study In Philadelphia

By Mark Abrams

Erica Daniels was nearly at wit’s end in trying to find ways to ease her son Leo’s autism symptoms. And then, she came upon marijuana – or rather a substance in the plant called Cannabidiol.

Daniels says the use of the “medication” to help her son find relief and has the permission of state health authorities to use it while Pennsylvania launches its medical marijuana industry.

“I’ve noticed differences in his language, in his mood, in our ability to just be a family,” she says. “The quality of life for him and our whole family has dramatically changed.”

Read the full article HERE.

Can Kids With Cancer Use Medical Marijuana? Here’s Why Some Experts Think It’s Possible


Adults with cancer often turn to using medical marijuana to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy, but can kids with cancer use medical marijuana, too? A new study published in Pediatrics found that many pediatric oncologists would feel comfortable recommending it for children for the very same reasons they would offer it to adults, since it eases the pain, nausea, and lack of appetite that comes along with cancer treatment.

However, those pediatricians who were already licensed to write prescriptions for medical marijuana were way less likely to say they would offer it to children — but not for the reasons you might think. The study found that because of discrepancy between federal and state laws, most doctors fear that giving marijuana to sick kids could get them in trouble with federal authorities, even though it’s legal in their state.

So many of the docs who would refrain from recommending marijuana to kids aren’t doing so because they don’t believe in its efficacy, but because it would go against their hospital procedures or their own fears of getting in trouble.

Study co-author Kelly Michelson, MD, Critical Care physician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, said in a press release via Eureka Alert accompanying the study:

It is not surprising that providers who are eligible to certify for medical marijuana were more cautious about recommending it, given that their licensure could be jeopardized due to federal prohibition. Institutional policies also may have influenced their attitudes. Lurie Children’s, for example, prohibits pediatric providers from facilitating medical marijuana access in accordance with the federal law, even though it is legal in Illinois.

The survey included talking to 288 pediatricians in Illinois, Massachusetts and Washington, all states that have made medical marijuana legal. According to the research, nearly a third of them had received one or more requests for medical marijuana and 92 percent of those doctors were willing to help kids with cancer access it. The laws and the lack of industry standards about dosing and potency were the biggest barriers to recommending it, the study found. Only 2 percent of doctors said that they would never consider marijuana for pediatric patients.

Michelson added in the same press release:


Read the full article HERE

Can medical marijuana users have firearms? Police say no

As Pennsylvania prepares to issue medical marijuana cards by year’s end, patients will find firearms out of their reach, state and federal law enforcement authorities say.

At issue is the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug— one with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse,” the same as heroin and LSD and other hallucinogens, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“There are no exceptions in federal law for marijuana used for medicinal or recreational purposes,” said Special Agent Joshua E. Jackson, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in Washington, D.C.

Pennsylvania attorneys specializing in medical marijuana law told they were surprised firearms ownership is an issue at all with patients. Steve Schain, whose Hoban Law Group is “100 percent devoted to cannabis and hemp law,” said the program was created by state law, and there is no mention of firearms.

“I don’t think anybody’s going to bring it up,” said Andrew Sacks, managing partner at Sacks Weston Diamond LLC in Philadelphia.

The trouble is, it’s an automatic “no” when a legitimate medical marijuana user applies for a background check to purchase or transfer a firearm or ammunition, or to obtain a license to carry a concealed firearm, according to the ATF and Pennsylvania State Police.

The federal background check form was amended in the past year to explicitly point out the no-exceptions federal prohibition, said Major Scott C. Price, state police director of the Bureau of Records and Identification.

“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug or any other controlled substance?” questions 11e reads on the ATF Form 4473. “Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.”

The ATF sent a letter saying as much to firearms sellers in 2011, Price noted. Answer “yes” on the form, and the retailer won’t even run the background check, which will look at the database of medical marijuana cardholders, he said.

“So, in fact, an individual who is issued a medical marijuana card in Pennsylvania who is a user of medical marijuana, that individual would be prohibited from purchasing or technically possession of a firearm under federal law,” Price said Tuesday.

This firearms prohibition is gaining recognition in Pennsylvania as the state prepares to issue prescription cards. As of Nov. 16, more than 6,000 patients registered to receive cannabis for the treatment of symptoms of any of 17 approved conditions, according to the state Department of Health.

Holders of the $50 state medical marijuana ID card are expected to be able to purchase cannabis products from approved dispensaries beginning in 2018. The prohibition on purchasing firearms does not apply to medical marijuana caregivers, who can obtain cannabis products for up to five patients.