Thursday, April 26, 2012
In 1969, the vaunted Gallup Polling organization asked Americans about their attitudes towards legalizing marijuana. At that time, a mere 12% of Americans favored it, while 84% were opposed.
Today, support for legalizing marijuana has surpassed the 50% mark, with more Americans in favor than opposed. When asked about marijuana for medical use, support jumps to over 70%.
The advocacy group National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws claims that marijuana is the third-most-popular recreational drug in America, behind only alcohol and tobacco. Some states have decriminalized marijuana's use, and some have made it legal for medicinal use. A growing crowd of Law Enforcement officials, as well as former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders, have called for legalization.
So why are Democrats like Governor John Lynch (NH) and President Barack Obama digging their heels in on an issue that has become a no-brainer for most Americans?
Yesterday, the Republican-dominated legislature of New Hampshire passed a sweeping measure legalizing medical marijuana. . It would allow patients with debilitating medical conditions or the patient's designated caretaker to cultivate and possess up to six ounces of marijuana, four mature plants and 12 seedlings at a registered location.
But as he did in 2009, Gov. John Lynch declared he will veto the bill once again.
The NH House clearly has the votes to override his veto: the measure passed by a lopsided 236-96. However, the margin in the Senate was only 13-11 last month, short of the 15 votes needed for override in that chamber. The prime Senate sponsor, Sen. Jim Forsythe, (R-Strafford), said he was not giving up.
“We’ve gone from having one Senate Republican in support of this issue a few years ago to now having at least eight Senate Republicans ... I believe three additional Senate votes are very possible, and it’s a goal we’ll be working very hard to achieve in the coming weeks,” Forsythe said in a statement.
If Lynch’s position is frustrating, President Obama’s can only be described as an infuriating betrayal.
When he was running in 2008, Obama said he supported the “basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs” and that he was “not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws.” In fact, a Justice Department memo in March 2009 from Attorney General Eric Holder announced that federal government raids on medical marijuana distributors who were in compliance with state and local law would end.
And yet, precisely the opposite has occurred.
During 2011, federal forces from several agencies raided 26 dispensaries across 13 Montana cities where medical marijuana is legal under state law. Other dispensaries were raided in California, Washington, Michigan, and Colorado. All told, the federal government has raided more than 100 dispensaries. All of the old Bush administration anti-medical marijuana appointees in key administration positions have been retained.
“I’m very disappointed,” Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), recently said. “They look more like the Bush administration than the Clinton administration...Obama now lags Pat Robertson in a sensible approach to marijuana.”
President Obama attempted to clarify his position on medical marijuana in an interview with Rolling Stone, telling publisher Jann Wenner that he can't "nullify congressional law."
"What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it's against federal law. I can't nullify congressional law," Obama said. "I can't ask the Justice Department to say, 'Ignore completely a federal law that's on the books.'
Of course, he can, and he has, quite recently:
The Executive Branch of government is a co-equal branch of government; in order to maintain the checks and balances that our system envisions, the Executive must exercise its own judgment. When Obama declared that the Executive branch would not defend legal actions against DOMA, (the Defense of Marriage Act passed by Congress) that is precisely what he did. He chose not to permit the Attorney General to act. When Harry Truman ordered the integration of the military in defiance of Congressional policy, that is exactly what he did as well.
His actions are in direct contradiction to his original campaign promises, and make no sense in the larger legal, moral or political environment.
If Obama loses progressive support on his left flank in his re-election bid, it is his own fault.
Blogger's Note: Before my father died of esophagal cancer, he expressed to me how he thought that Marijuana ought to be legalized - a strong turn of events for a man who was otherwise viewed as a conservative Republican. In his last days, medical cannabis was not available to him, so his pain was relieved by morphine, which put him into a state of near-sleep and confusion almost 24 hours a day. It was that experience that made Medical Marijuana an important issue for me.]
Monday, March 19, 2012
[Update to this post found HERE
[Blogger's Note: Before my father died of esophagal cancer, he expressed to me how he thought that Marijuana ought to be legalized - a strong turn of events for a man who was otherwise viewed as a conservative Republican. In his last days, medical cannabis was not available to him, so his pain was relieved by morphine, which put him into a state of near-sleep and confusion almost 24 hours a day. It was that experience that made Medical Marijuana an important issue for me. What follows is a guest blog article written by Matt Simon, a personal acquaintance, who is a resident of Goffstown, NH and a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project of Washington, D.C. It is reprinted here by his express permission]
Nearly three years have passed since House and Senate lawmakers first approved a medical marijuana bill to protect patients with debilitating illnesses in New Hampshire.
That bill fell just short of becoming law in 2009, when an effort to override Gov. John Lynch’s veto passed the House but failed by only two votes in the Senate.
When the 2010 election resulted in Republican supermajorities in both chambers of the General Court, many felt this issue would be placed on hold for two years. On the contrary, last year the GOP-dominated House showed it wasn’t at all afraid to pass medical marijuana, voting to approve the measure in a 221-96 landslide.
Last year’s bill reached a stalemate in the Senate, when senators voted to table the bill rather than casting an up-or-down vote, but this year patients and their advocates are feeling more optimistic than ever about their chances. Their new bill features three Republican senators as sponsors.
So what objections remain?
First, the attorney general’s office points out that marijuana remains illegal under federal law and says the program could lead to interventions in New Hampshire by federal agents. Second, it observes that, in a few states, badly implemented medical marijuana laws have led to undesirable outcomes.
When considering the merits of these objections, New Hampshire legislators should focus on two very useful counterexamples: Vermont and Maine.
Vermont and Maine have been protecting medical marijuana patients from arrest since 2004 and 1999, respectively. There have been no federal raids on patients or caregivers in either state, and the laws continue to enjoy strong public support.
After years of allowing patients and their caregivers to grow their own marijuana, both states recently approved the addition of state-regulated dispensaries to improve patients’ access.
Have these reforms led to increased rates of recreational marijuana use and teen use in Maine and Vermont? According to government surveys, they have not. In fact, the federal government’s own data shows that teens and adults use marijuana at a nearly identical rate in all three states.
Unfortunately, the U.S. attorney for New Hampshire has indicated that dispensaries here would not necessarily be safe from federal prosecution. Thus, Granite State lawmakers appear to be left with two policy options: they can continue leaving desperate patients to fend for themselves on the black market, or they can acknowledge their plight and permit them to simply take care of themselves.
SB 409 would protect patients from arrest and give them a way to access marijuana safely, legally and unobtrusively. A 2008 Mason-Dixon poll showed 71 percent of New Hampshire voters agree, with only 21 percent opposed.
Will 2012 be the year that public opinion finally translates into public policy?
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Of the 33 Senate races taking place across the country this year, there are few whose outcome is as unpredictable right now as New Hampshire's. There are currently 4 major Republicans and 1 Democrat (Congressman Paul Hodes) running for an open Senate seat in this, a state that has voted both 'red' and 'blue' in recent elections. The danger is that in freedom-loving New Hampshire, this combination of candidates - and the support of the national GOP establishment in Washington, DC - could propel former NH Attorney General Kelly Ayotte, perhaps the most dangerous, pro-police-state politician the state has seen in decades, to front-runner status.
Anyone who has watched television in New Hampshire over the last few weeks has seen the barrage of Ayotte ads, each with the same theme: Ayotte put criminals behind bars. All but one of her ads features a uniformed police officer, and her latest shamelessly lauds her prosecution of the man guilty of killing Manchester Police Officer Michael Briggs.
But it is her other activities as the Granite State's Attorney General that should bring one to pause, if not shudder, for what she would bring to the legislative table. On a consistent basis, AG Ayotte testified before the state legislature to curtail civil liberties and protect the power of the police state. Four important examples:
1) The most egregious must be her abject lies about Medical Marijuana, delivered at last year's legislative debate.
"In fact, marijuana is an addictive drug that poses significant health consequences to its users, including those who may be using it for medical purposes...The use of smoked marijuana is opposed by all credible medical groups nationwide."
In fact, several major national medical groups have taken positive views of medical cannabis, including the American Academy of Physicians, the American Nurses Association and the American Public Health Association. In a 2001 report, even the American Medical Association noted that marijuana helped those suffering from certain ailments including HIV wasting syndrome and chemotherapy-induced nausea.
It is too bad she didn't consider the testimony of Fremont, NH resident Dennis Acton:
"...I am a cancer survivor and successfully used marijuana to treat severe nausea when my $1600 prescription didn't work. I testified along with many others at the Senate HHS Subcommittee hearing back in April. After the senate passed it, we were able to set up a meeting with the Governor. He was "unavailable" so he sent two policy advisors. About 20 of use showed up for this meeting and told our stories. … I really wish the Gov. could have been there to hear these moving stories. I wish other people like AG Kelly Ayotte... and others who dismiss the medicinal properties of marijuana (based on ignorance rather than science) could have heard this as well.
The bottom line is that terminally or severely ill people want to use marijuana to ease symptoms and to avoid becoming addicted to expensive and harmful opiate based drugs. It is just inconceivable that drugs like Oxycontin are readily available and are being abused terribly while marijuana is outlawed..."
Both the House and Senate adopted a medical marijuana bill, but the Senate lacked the votes to override the Governor's veto...a veto that relied, in part, on Ayotte's disgraceful testimony.
2) A second area is her continued opposition to permitting videotaping of police actions.
In 2009, House Bill 312 was submitted, simply permitting the recording (on a cell phone or other device) police activity. For years, police indiscretions have been brought to light through citizen vigilence (Even parking garages have video cameras these days!) The Bill was bipartisan, sponsored by 3 Democrats (Joel Winters, Susi Nord, and Maureen Mann) and 2 Republicans (Neal Kurk and Jenn Coffey), and passed the Democratically-controlled House.
Ayotte opposed the bill, likening the procedure to illegal wiretapping, and it died in the Senate.
3) In New Hampshire, "...Jury nullification is the undisputed power of the jury to acquit, even if its verdict is contrary to the law as given by the judge and contrary to the evidence." (State v. Hokanson, 140 N.H. at 721B906, cited in State of NH v Sanchez). This undisputed power is a check on a rule-oriented legal system that could result in terrible miscarriages of justice. And yet, when HB 906 was filed in 2007, simply requiring that jurors be informed of their existing, "undisputed" rights, Ayotte testified against the bill.
4)On two seperate occasions, Ayotte urged Governor Lynch to veto bills (2006 SB318 and 2009 HB160) that would establish the "Castle Doctrine" in New Hampshire. The Castle Doctrine gives a crime victim the right to use force when attacked when that victim is legally in a place where they have a right to be. Instead, Ayotte has supported the notion that a potential victim has a duty to retreat, rather than defend themselves...cold comfort to a woman walking home late at night and confronted in a dark street, or someone in a wheelchair, or a nightclub patron being surrounded by a group of thugs out to bash someone for fun.
Of course, this is also the Attorney General who advocated for the requirement that picture IDs be produced simply to purchase cough medicine...
Kelly Ayotte has spent her life enhancing and enlarging the power of the State and its Police and enforcement mechanisms as against its citizens. Having garnered the support of the GOP establishmentm, it is now no surprise that as the GOP primary nears, she is tripping over herself to embrace anti-immigration extremism, 14th-Amendment repeal nonsense, Sarah Palin, and the far-right elements that she needs to capture the nod.
But for anyone - Republican, Independent, or Democrat - who values New Hampshire's libertarian way of life, this candidate MUST be defeated. She does not, and must not, represent the people of New Hampshire.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Timothy Robertson, a Democratic State Representative from Keene, announced tonight that he intends to challenge incumbant John Lynch in the Democratic Primary for Governor of New Hampshire.
Speaking to an overflow crowd of the Cheshire County Democrats meeting at the E F Lane Hotel in Keene, Robertson cited Lynch's "reluctant" support of marriage equality, opposition to medical marijuana, and support for both 'the war on drugs' and "The Pledge," the New Hampshire tradition of pledging to oppose broad-based taxes.
"I was afraid that when Lynch debated the Republican candidate, he would sound just like the Republican," said Robertson.
In addition to his legislative functions, Robertson has most recently been known for the permission he has granted homeless consruction workers to erect temporary shelter on land he and his sister own in Keene, which has since grown into a small community known locally as "Intensity."
Lynch's opposition to rational drug law reform, and the unnecessary drama he created in his effort to avoid dealing with a Marriage Equality bill on his desk last year have been frequent subjects of this blog.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
(a guest post from Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a valiant liberty-minded Representative from Manchester, as posted on http://www.redhampshire.com)
Despite all the words being uttered to change the minds of two senators, it just didn’t happen. After the House voted 240-115 to override John Lynch’s veto of medical marijuana today, two senators need to change their positions to go from 14-10 to the 16-8 necessary for two thirds.
Not a single vote changed.
Republican Bob O’Dell said no (not to pass the bill) early in the roll call and things went as expected until it came to Ted Gatsas, the Republican who is running for Mayor of Manchester. Pro medical marijuana forces knew they needed Gatsas to switch. He said no and it was all over. Then Senator Betsi DeVries, the only Democrat to vote against the bill and very much beholden to firefighters who fought the bill, also said no.
Thus, no change. 14-10.
The House vote was closer than expected even though seven more Republicans voted for the bill this time than last time, from 50 up to 57. Had four yes votes gone no, it would not have made it in the House. Why so close? Because of absenses. More than twice as many Democrats (the yeses ) than Republicans were absent, 29-13.
Final party vote in the House was Democrats 183 yes and only 11 nos. Republicans 57 yes and 104 no including Deputy Republican leader David Hess who, stressing that he was speaking for himself and not the party, lied about the bill during his final speech. Some people don’t think I should use the word lie, but he said the bill allowed for someone to raise six plants with this bill, totally untrue. To me, that’s deliberate misrepresentation which kis tantamount to “lie”. That six plant section was removed from the bill prior to going to the Governor’s desk. If it wasn’t a lie, it was certainly the type iof blatant misstatement that no responsible long term rep like Hess should ever make.
Yes, I’m not happy. It was a sad day for the people of New Hampshire and for the Republican Party.
The two Republican candidates most likely to challenge Betsi Devries for Senate next year should both get tons of Democratic support based on this issue. They both voted for the bill. That would be Will Infantine of Ward 6 ,and oh yes, I would be the other one. Think Libertarians can raise $100,000 to beat Betsi? They did it for Ron Paul, maybe someone else.
Friday, July 10, 2009
I'm sorry, but it's a sad day when a life-long Republican such as myself continues to be more Progressive than the Democratic Governor.
That we should be discussing decriminalization or legalization of ALL marajuana use is a given: the cost of incarceration to taxpayers; the repurcussions to kids smoking a substance that has clearly been established to be less dangerous than either alchohol or tobacco; the irrefutable evidence of the failure of Prohibition and the hardened crime it causes; and the personal experience of the majority of citizens and voters born after 1950, all suggest this is a no-brainer.
But to veto a compassionate bill (and yes, my father experienced the pain of esophagal cancer as he died, and the only relief was morphine, which took his lucidity away far more than marajuana would have), that the Governor himself helped craft (pulling the same psycho-drama as he did during the Marriage Equality process) is absolutely intolerable, inexplicable, and inexcusable.
Shame on you, Lynch!