US ballot bungles
Confusion, frustration and lawsuits are spreading across the US in the wake of the 2004 election, which saw allegations of numerous dirty tricks to sabotage the people’s growing will to legalize marijuana for medical use.
In Berkeley, California, the issue is electronic voting machines, which civil rights advocates say can be manipulated to produce any desired result. When Berkeley’s med-pot ballot initiative, Measure R, failed to collect enough votes to pass, and then failed to pass again in a recount, the ballot’s supporters ? Americans for Safe Access ? were incensed to discover that the results produced by electronic voting machines couldn’t even be convincingly verified. Diebold, the company that makes the machines, is owned by Walden O’Dell, a committed Republican who helped President Bush raise funds for his re-election.
In Nevada, the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) is appealing State Attorney General Brian Sandoval’s decision to prevent their pot petition from going to a vote at all. According to Nevada law, to get their question on the state ballot the MPP had to collect a number of signatures equal to 10% of the turnout from the preceding election. Sandoval instead arbitrarily set the bar at 10% of the turnout from the 2004 election, which saw a 62% increase in the polls. The MPP lost an earlier appeal on this issue to Secretary of State Dean Heller on December 20, 2004, but has since appealed Heller’s ruling to a District Judge.
In states and cities where med-pot ballots passed, there still seems to be some reluctance on the part of authorities. In Illinois, for example, the state’s Licensure Bureau has imposed a $200 fee ? higher than that required for a driver’s license ? on med-pot patients seeking an ID card to protect them from arrest. The fee was not envisioned by the med-pot ballot’s original proponents.
In California, where a state ballot made med-pot legal in 1997, Grover Beach rang in the New Year by becoming the latest city to ban med-pot dispensaries. City officials claim the ban is temporary, but admit that they passed the measure out of fear that med-pot providers banned by a similar measure in nearby Arroyo Grande might move to their community.
Med-pot political struggles reach all the way to the federal level, where politicians refuse to pass or sometimes even to vote on laws that would end the persecution of med-pot users. Last July, an attempt by the MPP to push through a law that would end federal prosecutions in states that have legalized med-pot failed by a vote of 268 to 148. This means the DEA will continue to kick in the doors of Californian med-pot users, even if the local police refuse.
The case of med-pot user Angel Raich, currently before the US Supreme Court, could end some of the struggles between states and feds. Raich is arguing that the federal government has no jurisdiction over non-commercial med-pot growers and users, because the Commerce Clause of the Constitution limits the feds’ policing powers to commercial exchange of goods between states. If the med-pot is grown for free distribution within a state where med-pot is allowed, then the federal government should not be able to interfere.
As of this writing, Raich awaits a decision on her case, and she has powerful, unlikely allies. Alabama Attorney General Troy King, for one, opposes California’s med-pot law, but supports states’ rights, and submitted legal statements backing Raich. Louisiana and Mississippi submitted similar opinions.
The med-pot struggle is also spawning lawsuits. The City of Oakland last January decided to settle out of court and pay a couple $15,000 in damages for marijuana and equipment they lost when police investigated a burglar alarm in their home.
Meanwhile, polls show that America’s most conservative citizens, its seniors, increasingly want to free the healing herb. A poll conducted by the American Association of Retired Persons found that 75% of seniors throughout the US backed legalizing medical pot, with the highest support pegged at 82% in the west, and the lowest support at 65% in the southwest. The struggle for legal med-pot thus stands revealed as a revolutionary struggle for democracy, waged against hypocritical rulers who claim to uphold freedom’s flag throughout the world even while they oppose it at home.
Canadian schwag snafu
Unlike the US, Canada has an active federal med-pot program. Regardless, many are still persecuted heartlessly, and some believe Canada’s program is nothing more than an empty sham to placate the public. Getting an exemption is notoriously difficult, as Canada’s medical colleges currently warn doctors against recommending pot to patients. The result has been at least one complaint, last August, filed by Dennis Lillico to BC’s Human Rights Tribunal.
Canada’s compassion clubs are also in the fray. In January, Victoria Cannabis Buyers’ Club founder Ted Smith was discharged from charges of trafficking in connection with a police raid on his club almost three years ago. The judge ruled that Smith’s charges should be stayed since, at the time of Smith’s arrest, the government wasn’t growing and supplying the much needed pot. Yet sadly Smith was then convicted on another charge of trafficking from a later raid.
The Canadian government has begun supplying their mine-grown med-pot to registered patients who pay for it. Yet last year, Vancouver Island Compassion Society founder Phillippe Lucas commissioned tests at the country’s most reputable laboratories, and found the government’s weed was contaminated with heavy metals, low in THC (under 5%) and Gamma irradiated to kill rampant health-endangering molds and bacteria. At a gathering of activists in Vancouver, Lucas displayed the official government pot, which was nothing more than a bag of loose shake rife with stalk and leaf.
Regardless, last December, Health Canada announced that it will use this very schwag to test the safety of smoked cannabis. Could it be that they want to use this inferior product so studies will show that pot is ineffective?