When Barak Obama became president in 2008, there was hope among marijuana activists that federal authorities would not concern themselves with medical marijuana facilities and individuals in states that legalized the plant for medical use.
After all, this was a president who had admitted to smoking pot and inhaling (the last three presidents have smoked marijuana, although Bill Clinton claimed he didn’t inhale). Then there was the so-called Ogden memo that declared medical marijuana a “low priority” in states that had legalized it. Activists thought they felt a breath of fresh air out of Washington regarding the War On Drugs.
That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Actually, the feds later overruled the Ogden memo, so it should be no surprise that the feds have been hitting large dispensaries and facilities. In fact, most marijuana activist organizations report that Obama’s administration has been more aggressive than George W. Bush’s against facilities that, by all accounts, are in compliance with state law.
That kind of stuff has been happening in California and Montana, but it came home to Michigan recently when several individuals were sentenced in federal court for their involvement in marijuana growing operations.
The members of a group known as the Lansing 7 all pleaded guilty to federal charges for their involvement in a medical marijuana growing operation and recently were sentenced to prison terms ranging from one day to four years. The Lansing 7 had a plan they believed was compliant with state law involving growing some hundreds of plants at several different properties. They met with law enforcement and lawyers to make sure it was legal. Unfortunately marijuana of any kind is illegal under federal law.
Another case involves Monroe farmer Jerry Duval and his son. Duval, 53, is a medical marijuana patient whose juvenile diabetes led to kidney and pancreas transplants. He also suffers from glaucoma and neuropathy. He grew marijuana on his farm, partly to supply his own needs. But in his federal trial he was convicted of distributing marijuana after being barred from mentioning his medical use.
Duval was scheduled to report to a medical prison facility in Massachusetts on June 11, to begin serving a 10-year sentence that will ultimately cost taxpayers an estimated $1.2 million, due to his special needs. The Michigan Chapter of Americans for Safe Access held a press conference outside Detroit’s federal building to publicize his case.
“Jerry Duval and his 10-year sentence are emblematic of how the Obama administration has been undermining state medical marijuana laws,” said Brandy Zink, chair of the Michigan chapter of Americans for Safe Access, a national medical marijuana advocacy group.
Duval’s son and daughter are both registered medical marijuana caregivers. His son received a five-year sentence and his daughter was not charged in the case.
As I have previously observed, it seems like the feds will tolerate individual use but once someone gets enterprising and there is significant money changing hands you had better watch out. It will be intriguing to see what happens in Washington State and Colorado as state-licensed businesses start to distribute recreational marijuana. The feds have been publicly mum on their reaction, although I’m sure things are humming behind the scenes. In the meantime, a word to the wise is to keep things on the down low. Even people who are certain that they are legal under state law can never be sure of how safe they are.
From Microsoft to Marijuana
IT’S KIND OF STRANGE to see the feds taking down people who, on the surface, seem to be lawfully going about their business in medical marijuana states and, at the same time, someone is actively promoting a nationally-branded chain of marijuana stores.
That’s what former Microsoft executive Jamen Shively proposes. Shively recently held a press conference announcing his intention to create his Diego Pellicer marijuana brand across the country. Shively claims that his great, great grandfather, Pellicer, was a governor of Cebu in the Philippines in the late 1800s and the largest hemp grower in the world. Former Mexican President Vicente Fox attended the news conference in support of Shively, whose plan calls for marijuana supplies to come from regulated commerce with Mexico.
“This historic step today is to be observed and evaluated closely by all of us, because it is a game changer,” Fox said. “I applaud this group that has the courage to move ahead. They have the vision, they are clear where they’re going, and I’m sure they’re going to get there.”
One news source reported that the Mexican marijuana would be coming from a Fox-owned farm. That would explain why Fox, who has come out against the War On Drugs, would bother showing up in Seattle to support Shively. However, Fox, a former Coca-Cola executive, claimed that he had no involvement in the venture that would be bigger than anything the feds have gone after.
“Yes, we are Big Marijuana,” Shively said.
It may be more that he hopes to be Big Marijuana. In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing in March, the company reported having raised $125,000, although Shively claims the figure is outdated. He says that he will invest $100 million in the business over three years and create 1,000 jobs in Seattle. That seems big enough to warrant some federal attention if my analysis of federal motivation is correct. We’ll have to wait and see on this one.
Marijuana News Roundup
ANOTHER DECRIMINALIZED STATE: Last week Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a bill decriminalizing marijuana in that state. As is getting to be pretty standard in decriminalization — Vermont is the 17th state to do so — possession of less than 1 oz. will be a civil offense similar to a traffic ticket.
MORE MARIJUANA SCIENCE: Israel has shown itself to be further along in taking a scientific look at medical marijuana than the United States. Most of the information on CBD, a substance in marijuana with therapeutic potential that does not get you high, seems to be coming from there. Chalk up two more additions to marijuana science from there. A professor from Tel Aviv University claims that low doses of THC, the buzz inducer in marijuana, have neuroprotective qualities. THC “protects the brain from long-term cognitive damage in the wake of injury from hypoxia (lack of oxygen), seizures, or toxic drugs.” We’re talking way less than the amount you would get in one joint. In February researchers at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University reported that THC protects heart muscle cells during oxygen deprivation in the blood.
Also, the June issue of the journal Biochemical Pharmacology, reports that administering THC “is a safe and effective treatment that reduces myocardial ischemic (heart attack) damage.” The May issue of the journal Environmental Toxicology and Pharmacology reports findings in a preclinical trial that CBD protects against cardiotoxicity in rats. Let’s see here, marijuana good for the heart, tobacco bad for the heart ... hmm.
SAGE SAGAN: Scientist Carl Sagan died in 1996 so I’m not sure why this is making the rounds now, but it’s interesting. Folks in the blogosphere are discussing an essay on marijuana that he penned long ago. Sagan revealed an insight he had while high and taking a shower with his wife. That insight led to 11 “… short essays on a wide range of social, political, philosophical, and human biological topics.” Sagan went on to write that “from all external signs, such as public reactions and expert commentary, they seem to contain valid insights. I have used them in university commencement addresses, public lectures, and in my books.” Sagan was a pretty heavy guy so I’ll not add any commentary. Fare thee well.
Larry Gabriel is a writer, musician and former editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]