Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Huff Post Blog: Five Errors the Washington Post Should Have Caught About Marijuana by Dr. Kevin Sabet

Dr. Kevin Sabet 

Posted: 06/10/2013 3:49 pm

In recent years, the Washington Post has managed to strike a balance between pro- and anti-legalization opinion pieces (e.g. Rauch's "Let's Go Down the Aisle Toward LegalizedPot" and Wehner's "Republicans should just say no."). Importantly, even when the Post has published pieces that I disagree with, the basic facts presented have been correct. Their history of  consistent balance is why I nearly fell off my chair when I read Doug Fine's SundayPost piece, "Five Myths About Legalized Marijuana." It's not just that I disagree with Fine about marijuana policy (indeed, we debatedonce on CNBC). What I find disturbing is that the Post published a piece containing numerous major factual errors without, it seems, much thought. These were not close calls. The numbers in Fine's article are easily challenged with a simple google search.

Here are the top five errors the Post should've caught:

(1) Error: "...16 states hav[e] decriminalized or legalized cannabis for non-medical use and eight more heading toward some kind of legalization..."

Let's be clear on which states are doing what:

Two states --Colorado and Washington -- voted to legalize marijuana in November. They are currently writing the rules to govern that legalization. The Federal government has to make a pronouncement on legalization in these states, and today, one still cannot buy marijuana on the open market in Colorado and Washington (but in Colorado you can grow your own).
Seventeen states have "decriminalized" marijuana. This means that the possession of small amounts of marijuana is not treated as a criminal offense. In reality, many jurisdictions, whether they have that law or not, treat marijuana this way. In many places, an arrest simply means you get a ticket; in others, it can be more punitive (this is not to downplay the consequences of an arrest record -- something I discuss here).

Eighteen states(and DC) have legalized the use of marijuana as medicine. These laws vary widely -- in some states, that means you can say you have back pain and go to a "dispensary" to legally buy marijuana. In others, it means you'll have an affirmative defense in court.

Eight states are not heading to "some kind of legalization." In fact, in every single state legislature where legalization was introduced this year, legalization proposals failed. Even if you add up every state legalization advocates have hopes for in 2016, it's only five.

(2) Error: "When the United States' 40-year-long war on marijuana ends, the country is...going to see the transfer of as much as 50 percent of cartel profits to the taxable economy."

The Bush White House estimated that marijuana profits could represent 60 percent of revenues, but the Obama Administration disavowed that figure. And the independent RAND think tank analyzed it in 2010. RAND reported that marijuana exports are an important but not dominant source of revenue for Mexican drug cartels, estimating that "15-26 percent is a more credible range of the share of drug export revenues attributable to marijuana" at that time. That works out to around $1.5 billion in cartel revenues coming from marijuana, versus a combined total of $5 billion from cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. And that is to say nothing about their other major sources of income -- from kidnapping to extortion, to counterfeits, to other crimes. Consistent with this finding, the Mexican Institute of Competitiveness (IMCO), found that Mexicandrug cartels could see their revenues drop between 20 and 33 percent as a result of marijuana legalization. The lead author wrote later that he thought, "...marijuanalegalization would transform the Mexican drug trafficking organizations (ininteresting and, as of yet, unpredictable ways), but it would certainly noteliminate them (not by itself, in any case)."

(3) Error: "[In] Portugal...youth drug use rates fell after all drugs were legalized there in 2001..."

OK. A few things: first, Portugal never legalized any drugs. In 2001, they made law what was basically already in practice (there and in most other European countries) by not criminalizing personal drug use. Now, they refer all drug users to panels of social workers who determine the next course of action (dismissal, treatment referral, etc.). Also in 2001, Portugal increased its provision of treatment and prevention.

The result of these laws? It's difficult to say, since a number of other relevant changes took place in addition to this (relatively minor) change in the law. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), long considered the authority on drug statistics in Europe, compiledstatistics showing an increase in lifetime prevalence rates for the use of cannabis, cocaine, amphetamines, ecstasy and LSD between 2001 and 2011. Those figures apply to the general population of Portugal, ages 15 to 64 years of age. The European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ESPAD) survey of 15- and 16-year-olds shows an overall increase in the prevalence of marijuana use between 1999 and 2011, although there was an initial dip in use rates. Past-month prevalence for marijuana in that age group went from 5% in 1999, to 3% in 2003, to 6% in 2007, and finally up 9% in 2011. EMCDDAconcluded that "the most recent ESPAD study corroborates the findings ofthe [UN World Health Organization] study, showing increasing consumption ofillicit substances [in Portugal] since 2006." Besides the unjustified attribution of a causal effect to the change in policy, Fine largely based his assertion on "lifetime prevalence" statistics, which do not tell us anything about recent use. His analysis also stopped at 2007, when we have more recent data from ESPAD and EMCDDA that shows increased use from 2001 to 2011.

(4) Error: America's "100 million cannabis aficionados."
The Oxford English Dictionary defines "aficionado" as "a person who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about an activity, subject, or pastime." While it may be true that 100 million people have tried marijuana at least once, few of them have gone on to become regular users of the drug. In fact, there are only about 7% of Americans who regularly use marijuana(that's about 20 million people). 20 million aficionados? Maybe. 100 million? Definitely not.

(5) Error: "[It's a myth that] [l]aw enforcement officials oppose legalization."

Yes, there is one pro-legalization organization founded by those who have had careers in the law -- it's a mix of defense lawyers, ex-cops, ex-prosecutors, and others who have had careers related to law enforcement (I recently met a member of this group who told me that he used to "train law enforcement on public relations issues"). But it's hard to say with a straight face that law enforcement opposition to legalization is a "myth" when almost every single major law enforcement group -- from the Fraternal Order of Police, to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives -- has official positions against legalization. In California, the California Police Chiefs' Association, the California Narcotic Officers' Association, the California District Attorneys Association, the California District Attorney Investigators' Association, the California Peace Officers Association, the California State Sheriffs' Association, the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association, and the Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County, as well as 40 County sheriffs, 32 police chiefs, and 31 district attorneys oppose efforts to legalize in the state.

The rest of Fine's piece makes further claims that are not supported by the best available evidence.  From an informal survey in a high school classroom, Fine suggests that marijuana is easier to get today than alcohol. The independent Politifact just rated this claim as "false,"concluding that, "all the most recent, credible, national studies we found showed that teenagers report it's easier to get alcohol than marijuana." AColumbia University study looking at the time it takes youth aged 12-17 toobtain drugs found that 50% of youth reported that it would take a day or lessto get alcohol. That is compared to 44% for tobacco, 34% for prescriptiondrugs, and 31% for marijuana. Furthermore, 45% of kids saidthey would be completely unable to get marijuana, the highest percentage of any of the four substances. Another survey, Monitoring the Future, one ofthe most often cited survey of kids and drugs, found that nearly 58 percent of8th graders said it was fairly easy or very easy to get alcohol compared with37 percent saying the same of marijuana (10th and 12th graders also found itharder to get marijuana, albeit by smaller margins).

Although four times as many people smoke cigarettes than marijuana, and about eight times as many people drink alcohol than smoke marijuana today, Fine denies that if pot is legal, more people will use it. The nonpartisan RAND think tank estimated that if California legalized marijuana, its pre-tax price could fall by 80%, resulting in a significant increase in use (the magnitude of the increase in use depends on multiple factors).

Fine also denies that we will have another Big Tobacco on our hands, even though earlier this week, an ex-Microsoft executive announced that he will build "theStarbucks of marijuana" and help "mint more millionaires thanMicrosoft." Lest we forget that in the early 1970s, the last time this country was going down the road toward marijuana legalization, a consultant's report to one of the biggest tobacco companies, Brown andWilliamson, stated, "we have the land to grow it, the machines to roll itand package it, the distribution to market it. Estimates indicate that themarket in legalized marijuana might be as high as $10 billion annually."

Undoubtedly, drug policy is about weighing pros and cons (which usually means weighing bad options against worse ones). Clearly, I believe that the costs of legalization outweigh the possible benefits (as I argue here and here), and I have a hard time believing that American-style legalization will amount to anything less than the glamorization of alcohol and tobacco that we see today. Yes, it is possible to have an alternative view -- a $30 billion black market is worth trying to eliminate, and folks studying how to do legalization best have come up with some laudable proposals (like bans on advertising).

But to present incorrect statements of fact in pieces meant to inform lawmakers and the public is unhelpful, if not harmful, to everyone. And the Post should know that.

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Manson Family Drug Cult: A Moment Frozen in History

By Ronald L. Kirkish

On June 5, 2013, Manson Family Member Leslie Van Houten went before the parole board for the 20th time.  She is now 63 years old, spending the majority of her life (since 1969) behind prison bars for the murder of Leno and Rosemary La Bianca.  Now, She is begging the parole board to set her free, claiming she is no longer the same person who committed those horrible atrocities, and deserves a chance to prove herself and make amends.  Mr. and Mrs. La Bianca were tortured by multiple stab wounds as they lay dying, suffering until their last breaths.

One has to wonder what Leslie Van Houten's life would have been like had she not succumbed to the lure of the drug culture like so many other kids of that day and whose lives were completely wasted.  Before hooking up with the Manson Family she was a former honor student, high school cheerleader, and home coming princess.  She was prepared for a wonderful, successful life but instead she chose to travel down the road of drug abuse leading to the tragedy of addiction, murder, and a wasted life in prison.
This horrible tragedy had occurred only a day after the same Manson Family members brutally tortured and killed the pregnant Actress Sharon Tate,  Coffee Heiress Abigail Folger and her lover Vojciech Fryowski,  Jay Sebring a hair dresser and former lover of Sharon Tate, and Steven Parent a friend of the Tate estate’s caretaker.

Going back to that horrible 1969 moment frozen in time, Leslie Van Houten and the other members of the Manson Drug Cult spent their time at the Spahn Ranch where Manson was plying his disciples with marijuana and other drugs in the effort to control their minds while preaching his crazy philosophy of “Helter Skelter” (after a Beatles song) in his insane hope that he could create a race war after which he would be proclaimed the leader of America. He relied heavily on marijuana and other illegal drugs to breakdown the inborn barriers and inhibitions of his followers to cheerfully kill innocent human beings on his behalf to fulfill his insane goal. 

Years later (1976) while in prison, marijuana addiction still had a strong grip on Van Houten and she was caught with marijuana.  Since then, she has gone through rehab, group therapy, and has helped lead drug and alcohol programs for other women, including a relapse prevention program.  "She lives her life by the 12 steps because she knows how important that is", reported by her attorney.

This terrible episode happened over 44 years ago and today we have learned that once again, Ms. Van Houten has lost another appeal for freedom.

The Manson Family Murders (and other shocking and murderous events due to drug abuse; including marijuana) brutally shocked the consciousness of America and shortly after came the precipitous drop in marijuana abuse that the country had been experiencing.  This was my generation, the generation of the 1960’s.

Today the memory of the Manson Family Drug Cult  and their crimes has faded with time and new generations of young men and women have no memory of those long ago atrocities brought about by the 1960’s love affair with marijuana along with cocaine, heroin, and LSD.

However, with the current increase of marijuana abuse we are now seeing the resurrection of these atrocities replaced with names like John Patrick Bedell of the Pentagon shooting and the Arizona killer Jared Lee Loughner reminding us of the saying, "Déjà vu all over again.

To the elected leaders of our communities and country, "This is not the state of existence that the Citizens of America or the World  deserve or want for themselves or their children."

Daniel Jones death: Shameless father admits killing 23-month-old son with HEROIN overdose

Dear Readers,
This terrible tragedy has to be circulated far and wide.  We often see stories where children are abused or murdered by those who abuse drugs.  This is one of the most shocking that I have ever seen; and I have seen plenty.  When reading this, keep in mind that recent stories in the news suggest that the goal of those like LEAP and others in the pro-drug lobby is to eventually breakdown the public’s fears about all dangerous drugs and legalize them. 

The Mirror UK reports June 11, 2013 

He passed away after swallowing a wrap of the Class A drug - making him one the UK’s youngest ever heroin victims

A shameless father has admitted killing his 23-month old son who died from a HEROIN overdose.  Tragic tot Daniel Jones passed away after swallowing a wrap of the Class A drug in May last year - making him one the UK’s youngest ever heroin victims.

Parents Emma Bradburn, 34, and Simon Jones, 30, were arrested in December after extensive tests on Daniel’s body revealed there was enough heroin in his system to kill an adult.  Further examination of hair samples from Daniel - who was known to social services - revealed he had also been exposed to a horrifying cocktail of drugs.

The court heard he suffered ‘chronic’ exposure to cannabis and opiates and ‘occasional’ exposure to amphetamines and cocaine.
  Jones today pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of the youngster when he appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court.  His partner had previously admitted causing or allowing the death of her child, but had denied manslaughter.  Prosecutors revealed today they would accept Bradburn’s guilty plea to the lesser charge.

Daniel was pronounced dead when paramedics were called to the £200,000 home the pair shared in Wolverhampton, West Mids., at 6.15am on May 29.  Roger Blezzard, prosecuting, told the court previously: “Both of the defendants were living together with a small child.  “Their behavior resulted in the child taking an overdose of heroin which has caused his death.  “Substantial evidence of exposure to other controlled drugs was also found from toxicology reports from the child’s hair.  “There is the suspicion the child had been exposed for some time to drug consumption.”  The pair were remanded in custody for reports to be prepared and will be sentenced on July 3.

A spokeswoman for Wolverhampton City Council confirmed the authority’s Safeguarding Children’s Board has launched a serious case review into Daniel’s death.  The pair will be sentenced at Wolverhampton Crown Court in July.

Letters to the Editor: Drugs and Drug Addiction have no Religious Preference

The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018

 To the Editor:

 As an African-American who works to rehabilitate drug addicts, I am dismayed to see the plight of black Americans used to push a pro-legalization agenda. Most black men in prison for drugs are in for crimes committed because they were under the influence. By increasing availability, legalization would increase drug abuse and the number of men and women behind bars—black, white and Hispanic. Simple possession represents a tiny minority of prison inmates. Drug abuse is the greatest destroyer of individuals and families, and marijuana is not innocent. Tens of thousands do worse in school and later in life because of this drug. Teenagers who smoke marijuana regularly drop out at twice the rate of non-users. Those who care about racial injustice will note that black men are disproportionately imprisoned for all types of crimes, not just drugs. Legalizing marijuana will worsen, not improve, the lives of black men, women and children.

 Bishop, Dr. Ron Allen

International Faith Based Coalition
P.O.Box 5062 Sacramento Ca. 95818

Friday, June 7, 2013

California Narcotics Officers Association Report - Mr. John Lovell, Lobbyist - CNOA and California Police Chiefs Association

Mr. John Lovell - CNOA Lobbyist

 June 02, 2013, 11:11:37 PM PDT

This past week saw CNOA pull off what is being regarded as one of the biggest legislative upsets of the year.

Assembly Bill 473, by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, would give legal legitimacy to California’s marijuana dispensaries and put them under the “oversight” of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).

The bill had been moving through committees on party line votes, with all Democrats in committees (except for one in Assembly Appropriations) voting for the bill and all Republicans voting against the bill.

Since Democrats control the Assembly by a fifty-three to twenty-six majority, the conventional wisdom was that the bill would move off the floor and over to the Senate by a comfortable margin.

A funny thing happened on the Assembly floor last week.

Not enough Democrats voted for the bill.

In fact, only 35 of the 53 Assembly Democrats voted for the bill.

Not a single Republican voted for AB 473.

This united phalanx of Republicans was joined by the following 18 Democrats includingAssembly Members:

Luis Alego,
Robert Blumenfield,
Cheryl Brown,
Joan Buchanan,
Ian Calderon,
Tom Daly,
Nora  Campos,
Steve Fox,
Jim Frazier,
Mike Gatto,
Adam Gray,
Chris Holden,
Jose Medina,
Al Muratsuchi,
Henry Perea,
V. Manuel Perez,
Sharon Quirk-Silva
and Rudy Salas

The magnitude of the upset is better understood against the backdrop of the reality that some of the most prestigious lobbying firms in the Capitol were button-holing members to vote for this bill.  There is a lot of money to be made in “medical” marijuana, and some major interests have moved into the legalizer camp.

Victories like this don’t come alone, and CNOA was joined in opposition to AB 473 by the California Police Chiefs Association, the California District Attorneys Association, as well as every sworn rank and file organization except for PORAC and the California Highway Patrol Association. 

Special credit must also be accorded to CNOA’s last two citizens of the year, Carla Lowe, President of Californians Against Marijuana, who organized a robust grass roots movement against the bill, and Bishop Ron Allen, Chair of the International Faith Based Coalition, who personally lobbied Legislators against the bill.

There is still much to do – Ammiano has vowed to resurrect his bill, there a number of bad bills that we need to stop that are moving through the process, and we need to build momentum to resurrect CNOA’s drugged driving bill, but this was a victory that was noticed at the Capitol and may portend a shift in Legislative opinion on controlled substance issues.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Associated Press/San Bernardino Sun Publish Letter to the Editor by Ronald L. Kirkish on Alarming Situation with Santa Cruz Marijuana Laws and Related Crime

Lax marijuana laws do more harm than good


In his May 12 column, John Weeks decided to take issue with fact that the city of San Bernardino has started to close up all the marijuana dispensaries since the recent California Supreme Court decision that allows cities to ban dispensaries.

I would like Mr. Weeks and readers to see and read the truth about the damage that marijuana does to a community.

Just over a month ago now, two Santa Cruz police detectives were murdered by a mentally deranged individual with a history of a long criminal record. Since these deaths, the Santa Cruz Sentinel has published several articles and an editorial exposing the truth that the city's liberal and progressive policies created a "beacon" drawing drug addicts, criminals, murders, robberies, homeless, and so much more. The statistics show that since Santa Cruz's liberalization of drug policy, its children's abuse of marijuana and other drugs far exceeds that of all other cities all across America.

The citizens of Santa Cruz have had enough and have formed a group named "Take Back Santa Cruz" to fight for their right for a safe and drug-free environment.

Santa Cruz was one of the first cities in America to allow the marijuana dispensaries to openly sell their product. It is also one of the first cities to create an ordinance making marijuana "the lowest of the low" crimes. It would do well for Mr. Weeks to do a little fact-checking into the suffering the city of Santa Cruz is now going through because of its elected officials' liberal policies on drugs. Let Santa Cruz be the model for why one should never to listen to those who would say otherwise.

-- Ronald L. Kirkish, Coalition for a Drug Free California advisory board member

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


This is scandalous. A former U.S. Attorney, now involved in the "medical" marijuana industry, hints that the current U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona is not upholding his oath of office to defend the U.S. Constitution because of his influence? And that the U.S. Secret Service has indicated a "medical" marijuana facility is "secure?" Secure from what? And why? 

- Ronald L. Kirkish

Carolyn Short, a lawyer and chairman of Keep AZ Drug Free, wrote the following letter to the Prescott Daily Courier about their recent article:

Dear Ms. Nellans,

I read your article, "Chino medical marijuana facility gets help from top attorney; former U.S. Attorney for Arizona's stepson is motivation."

I am deeply concerned about numerous factual inaccuracies in your article that could cause your readers to be misled in several respects. Although most of the article is attributed to statements by Mr. McDonald, the lack of follow up questions or input from anyone on the other side of this issue has inadvertently produced a one-sided, factually inaccurate opinion piece. In offering this information, I certainly don't think your intention is to mislead.
Inaccurate statements:

1. "I think it's going to be a win-win for the valley," he [Mel McDonald] said. "And the tax revenues will be outstanding."

Mr. McDonald apparently hasn't read Prop 203 and he apparently isn't aware that our Legislature specifically considered and rejected the idea of taxing marijuana sales. There are two potential taxes that could apply, (a) State income tax and (b) State sales tax. Mr. McDonald's statement is false as to both.

There are no tax revenues.

(a) With respect to State income tax, Prop 203 specifically and intentionally exempts marijuana dispensaries from paying any state income tax and that likely will be the case forever. Because Prop 203 is voted protected, the Legislature could only change it with a ¾ vote of both the House and Senate, and signature by the Governor. Even then, the only changes they could make would be those that further the purpose of the Proposition. Changing a tax exemption to a taxable transaction would not further the purpose. Therefore, the Legislature could not change the law to require marijuana dispensaries to pay state income tax.

(b) With respect to State sales taxes, Arizona state law currently exempts drugs prescribed by a doctor from sales tax. A.R.S. Sec 42-5061(A)(8). This is clear to anyone who visits a pharmacy. Those purchases are not subject to sales tax. Marijuana recommended by a doctor under Prop 203 is considered "medical," so that transaction would not be subject to a sales tax. This result is made crystal clear by the fact that the Legislature specifically considered and rejected taxing "medical" marijuana sales. In March 2010, the State Senate considered a bill to tax marijuana sales if marijuana were to become legal for "medical" purposes. That bill failed in the State House. The creation of a “medical” marijuana sales tax in the future would require a 2/3 majority vote of  the Legislature (20 of 30 in the Senate and 40 of 60 in the House). A significant portion of the Legislature has signed and lives by a “no new tax” pledge. To assume that the Legislature would pass a new sales tax requires a gargantuan leap and frankly is a folly. And you can bet the pro pot folks would be out fighting that effort; otherwise, they would have included such a tax in Prop 203.

Even if the State were able to tax dispensaries or marijuana sales, any tax revenues collected would be illusory because they could be seized by the federal government as the proceeds of illegal drug trafficking. And, as the recent Rand study concluded, tax revenues would be a drop in the bucket compared to the increased social costs caused by marijuana consumption.

This is not a "win-win" situation for our State. In fact, it is very costly for our State in terms of increased health care, increased substance abuse treatment costs, increased costs to cities for law enforcement and litigation, increased costs for legitimate businesses whose "medical" marijuana card-holding employees cause accidents, property damage and lawsuits, etc. Therefore, with no tax revenues being raised, yet costs being increased, this is a lose-lose situation for our State.

2. "'I'm of the belief that the feds aren't going to do anything to an operation that's legitimate, that follows the rules,'" McDonald said. He knows current U.S. Attorney for Arizona John Leonardo well, since Leonardo used to work for him. The California dispensaries that were raided by the feds were fronting for illegal marijuana sales, McDonald said."

These three sentences raise three different areas of concern. First of all, no marijuana business is "legitimate." Secondly, the raids on dispensaries in California demonstrate that compliance with state and local law do nothing to shield marijuana businesses from federal enforcement action. Thirdly, the hint that U.S. Attorney John Leonardo has communicated something to Mr. McDonald (or that Mr. Leonardo is subject to Mr. McDonald's influence) that will cause a different result than the policy expressed by the Department of Justice ("DOJ"), as well as the U.S. Attorneys for the District of Arizona in warning letters to our state officials, is disconcerting.

(a) No marijuana operation is "legitimate." Every sale of marijuana is illegal under federal law, therefore, no operation is "legitimate" or "follows the rules." Mr. McDonald's statement thus makes no sense. Mr. McDonald should know that the DOJ enforces federal, not state law. State law, in fact, is irrelevant.

(b) If Mr. McDonald is suggesting that compliance with state or local law will prevent federal enforcement action he still is wrong. The best, most recent example of federal enforcement action despite compliance with state and local law is the DEA civil forfeiture action against Harborside Health Center, a "medical" marijuana dispensary in Oakland, California. After receiving notice of civil forfeiture proceedings, the city of Oakland filed a lawsuit against the DEA, claiming Harborside was in strict compliance with state and local law. The court ruled recently, in City of Oakland v. Holder, in favor of the federal government and dismissed Oakland's lawsuit. The civil forfeiture action by the DEA against Harborside is proceeding.  The Harborside proceedings are not the only indication that the federal government is continuing to prosecute those violating federal drug laws. Take a look at this recent article concerning the ongoing criminal prosecution of a San Clemente, California dispensaryowner:

You also might want to take a look at the very recent action in Oregon concerning a search warrant of "medical" marijuana records signed by a Federal Magistrate Judge stating that "probable cause exists to believe that records from the Oregon Medical Marijuana Program will contain evidence and instrumentalities of marijuana manufacturing and trafficking and conspiracy to commit marijuana manufacturing and trafficking offenses, (all violations of federal law)." This, frankly, should be sending chills up the spines not only of dispensary owners and landlords, but Arizona state officials.

The policy of the DOJ, as expressed in the Cole memorandum and numerous warning letters from the U.S. Attorneys in various states, including Arizona, is that those violating, and facilitating violations of, the Controlled Substances Act ("CSA") have no immunity from federal enforcement action. Dispensary owners, as well as landlords and state officials who facilitate the operation of dispensaries, are violating the CSA and can be prosecuted under federal law, despite compliance with state and local law. U.S. Attorney John Leonardo is obligated by his oath of office to enforce federal law, so it should be just a matter of time until Arizona dispensaries experience federal enforcement action. See (c) below.

Following the election, Will Humble, Director of Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) was warned by then-U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke that those who "knowingly facilitate the actions of traffickers should know that compliance with AMMA [Arizona Medical Marijuana Act] will not protect them from federal criminal prosecution . . . . " Mr. Burke's May 2, 2011 letter is attached. At that time, Arizona was the very first state in the country to authorize dispensaries to cultivate and sell unlimited quantities of marijuana (a clear violation of federal drug laws). Also at that time, the U.S. Attorneys in other states, including Delaware, Rhode Island and Washington state were warning state officials that dispensaries selling marijuana should not be licensed. (In response to those warnings, the Governors in Delaware, Rhode Island and Washington all quashed legislative attempts to authorize dispensaries.) 

When ADHS continued to move forward despite the warning from Mr. Burke, Governor Brewer was warned by acting U.S. Attorney Ann Scheel that state employees would have no immunity from federal prosecution for facilitating violations of federal drug laws. Ms. Scheel's February 16, 2012 letter is attached. 

Attorney General Tom Horne, on August 6, 2012, issued an opinion stating that state authorization for growing or selling marijuana is prohibited under federal law and thus AMMA is unconstitutional in that respect. He further acknowledged that state employees "could be subject to prosecution for actions required by AMMA." Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery already had issued (on May 26, 2011) his opinion to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, advising that the AMMA conflicts with federal law and places county employees in a position of potentially facilitating violations of the CSA. His opinion is attached.

Following the issuance of his own opinion, Attorney General Tom Horne then joined the pending lawsuit against Maricopa County by White Mountain Health Center, which was denied necessary documents to open a dispensary by Maricopa County on the basis of Mr. Montgomery's opinion.

Mr. McDonald is entitled to his beliefs, regardless how unfounded, but conveying his misinformation to Arizonans is irresponsible and you should not help him do that. Dispensary owners and landlords should be made aware that the U.S. Attorneys in fact are enforcing federal law. And, they should be reminded regularly that state officials have been warned twice by our own U.S. Attorneys not to move forward with dispensaries in this State. Rather than lulling Arizona dispensary owners, landlords and state officials into a false sense of security with articles like this one, Arizona media outlets should be warning of the potential civil and criminal penalties for operating federally illegal marijuana businesses.

(c) Any indication by U.S. Attorney John Leonardo that he will not enforce the CSA against state-compliant facilities would be a violation of his oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution and contrary to the stated policy of the Department of Justice, as stated in the Cole memorandum, as well as all subsequent warning letters from the various U.S. Attorneys (including Arizona's). 

Is Mr. McDonald suggesting that he knows something from U.S. Attorney John Leonardo that the rest of Arizonans do not know? Given all of the facts outlined in the previous paragraphs, if Mr. McDonald knows something from U.S. Attorney John Leonardo that is different from the stated policy of the Department of Justice, made clear to Arizona in two separate warning letters to our State (first to the Department of Health Services and the second to Governor Brewer, specifically warning that state employees have no immunity for violating the Controlled Substances Act), then that knowledge should be shared with Arizonans officially so appropriate action can be considered. 

Many of us are counting on Mr. Leonardo to do his job. If he doesn't intend to do it, we'd like to know, but we'd like to hear it directly from Mr. Leonardo rather than through hints of inside information from Mr. McDonald.

3. "He [McDonald] said he's even consulted with the Secret Service to make sure the Chino facility is secure."

What is Mr. McDonald trying to tell Arizonans? The Secret Service is "mandated by Congress to carry out dual missions: protection of national and visiting foreign leaders, and criminal investigations." Their mission is "to safeguard the nation's financial infrastructure and payment systems to preserve the integrity of the economy, and to protect national leaders, visiting heads of state and government, designated sites and National Special Security Events."

What exactly is it that Mr. McDonald is suggesting the Secret Service will be making sure is "secure?" This is a very strange statement indeed that you should have followed up on in detail. I, for one, certainly would love to know how or why our U.S. Secret Service will be ensuring the "security" of a federally illegal "medical" marijuana facility. I suspect that the Department of Homeland Security would like to know that, as well. 

4.  "He [McDonald] criticized the federal government for continuing to classify marijuana as a Class 1 drug with no medicinal value, making it harder to conduct scientific tests on it. 'It is insane the government treats this as Class 1,' he said. 'It's absolutely hypocritical. It's almost like a Dark Age mentality: 'Let's not test it because we may not like the answer.'"

First of all, the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug does not prevent research. In fact, there currently are more than 200 researchers registered with the DEA who are authorized to conduct bona fide research studies on marijuana, marijuana extracts and marijuana derivatives. In addition, there are almost 300 NIH-supported projects on cannabinoids, more than a dozen of which are looking at the therapeutic value of cannabis-based compounds. Sativex is very close to FDA approval. There already are various components and related synthetic compounds, such as Marinol and Dronabinol, that are FDA-approved. How would Mr. McDonald explain that these derivatives have been approved by the FDA?

The whole attempt to legalize marijuana as a "medicine" is political. The FDA (considered the gold standard of the world), which is responsible for approving all foods and drugs for consumption in this country, has not approved marijuana as a medicine. Marijuana has been found by the DEA to have no accepted medical use, is addictive, and can't be used safely even under the supervision of a physician. These findings recently were confirmed by the DEA in denying a petition to reclassify marijuana into a lower schedule. The DEA's decision was confirmed on January 22, 2013, by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The classification of marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug can hardly be referred to as "hypocritical."

In addition to the classification by the federal government, every major medical association, including the American Medical Association, National Cancer Institute, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, American Glaucoma Society, and the American Academy of Ophthalmology is opposed to the use of crude marijuana as medicine. In fact, the American Glaucoma Society warns against using marijuana, as it can cause a spike in intraocular pressure, leading to damage to the optic nerve. These medical societies advocate for patients with the very conditions specified in our "medical" marijuana law, yet they do not recommend marijuana for those conditions. 

For whatever reason, Mr. McDonald (a lawyer, not a doctor) might not like that marijuana is placed in Schedule 1, but his judgment is not a substitute for the careful and thoughtful findings of the scientific and medical experts in our country. Accusing the medical and scientific community of hypocrisy is irresponsible and inaccurate. The true hypocrisy comes from Prop 203 and its defenders. Prop 203 was written, financed and promoted by the national pot lobby, a special interest group representing drug users and sellers.

One last observation is that, although the text of your article is about Mr. McDonald's legal representation of a "medical" marijuana facility, the title of your article indicates that Mr. McDonald's motivation is his stepson. Your article actually makes it clear that Mr. McDonald's motivation is financial.

Perhaps if you had talked to someone on the other side of this issue, these numerous factual inaccuracies could have been sorted out for the benefit of your readers. 

Thank you for your consideration of these concerns. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Carolyn Short, Chairman

Keep AZ Drug Free

Carolyn Short is a lawyer and Chairman of Keep AZ Drug Free, an organization that opposes legalization of marijuana for "medical" or recreational use. She was a partner in two large Phoenix law firms, Lewis and Roca and Ryley, Carlock & Applewhite, where her practice was concentrated in the areas of corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, and securities law. Since leaving private practice, she has volunteered her time to various causes affecting children, the elderly and infirm.