Tag Archives: Marijuana

Congress Still Doesn’t Want DC To Regulate Marijuana Sales

By Josh Fatzick

In a draft congressional spending bill released Wednesday, the House Committee on Appropriations is again blocking the District of Columbia from regulating marijuana sales in the city.

The legislation maintains provisions from last year that forbid D.C. from using any federal or local funds to further its marijuana legalization efforts.

In February, the city legalized the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana and gave residents over the age of 21 the ability to grow as many as six plants, though only three can be mature at any one time.

It is legal to give one ounce or less of marijuana to another person, so long as there is no exchange of money or any kind of trade. But since Congress forbade the city from setting up regulatory framework, sale of marijuana is still illegal.

Republicans in Congress have been duking it out with the city ever since the legalization took effect, promising to find ways to defund other city programs.

Rep. Andy Harris said he and other Republicans would “find some areas where we perhaps have been very generous with citizens of the District.”

Prior to the law taking effect, two Republican congressmen threatened to throw D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser in jail if she went through with the legalization, though she called their bluff and they eventually backed down.

If the language in the bill isn’t changed, D.C. will not be able to enact any type of legislation pertaining to legalization or regulation of marijuana until September, 2017.

The bill also prohibited D.C. from funding abortions or setting up a needle exchange program.

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EXCLUSIVE: Cannabis Oil Activist Shona Banda, Now Facing Felony Charges, Speaks Out

In April, Truth in Media published an exclusive interview with Shona Banda, a cannabis oil activist and Crohn’s disease survivor whose home was raided by Garden City, KS police and 11-year-old son was seized by the Kansas Department for Children and Families after her son spoke out about medical marijuana during an anti-drug presentation in school.

Banda’s ordeal became a national issue after her interview with Truth in Media was picked up by Radley Balko at The Washington Post and discussed on a wide range of mainstream media outlets and television talk shows including ABC’s The View. Truth in Media has been covering Banda’s activism since 2014, when she went public in an interview with Ben Swann about how she uses cannabis oil to treat her Crohn’s disease.

[RELATED: The Cannabis Oil Invention Shona Banda Wouldn’t Hold Secret]

Meanwhile, The Garden City Telegram is reporting that Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier announced on Friday that five criminal charges are being filed against Shona Banda pursuant to the April raid by Garden City police. The charges, three of which are felonies, include distribution or possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of school property, endangering a child, unlawful manufacture of a controlled substance, and two drug paraphernalia infractions. The Garden City Telegram notes that Banda could be facing anywhere between 138 to 204 months behind bars.

On Monday, Truth in Media spoke exclusively with Shona Banda about the charges that have been filed against her and her views on the cannabis oil movement that is exploding across the nation.

I do believe that they’re trying to make an example out of me,” said Banda about the criminal charges she now faces.

She said of the state’s decision to press charges against her despite an overwhelming public show of support for her plight, “Well, they had a choice. People have made petitions [in support of Banda], over 130,000 signatures on one petition alone. I want to say that there are four or five different petitions out there. Phone calls have been made to the DA Susan Richmeier in Garden City. Letters have been written, and they still chose to charge me with felony 1 charges. They’re charging me with child endangerment, and they’re calling my machine a lab, and anyone can go on YouTube and look up what that lab consists of, because it’s ridiculous what they’re trying to charge me with.

Garden City police claim that the raid on Banda’s home produced, according to The Garden City Telegram, “1.25 pounds of marijuana in plant, oil, joint, gel and capsule form and drug paraphernalia” along with what was characterized as a “lab used for manufacturing cannabis oil.

Banda took particular offense to the fact that she was charged with child endangerment and said, “I think it’s absolutely ridiculous. There was no endangerment of a child, for one. For two, this plant is the most non-toxic substance on the planet, so, it’s safer to have around my house than aspirin. So the child endangerment charges I can not believe.

Regarding the charge related to allegedly possessing or selling cannabis in close proximity to a school, she said, “They’re trying to say that it’s 1000 feet from a school. I’m several blocks away from a school. I sure would like to challenge that.

Banda also pointed out the fact that Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier took almost two months to come up with criminal charges after the April raid on her home. “How serious of a criminal am I really if it took them this long to charge me? How much of a danger to society am I really? How can you charge someone with a level 1 felony and have those charges be out for so long. If I’m such a danger to society, why did it take this long to charge me?

In March of 2014, Truth in Media’s Evan Mulch reported on Banda’s innovative process for inexpensively extracting cannabis oil. “My oil was the first CBD oil tested in Colorado. I literally am one of the first patients to come out publicly with this oil… I really did help start an online social media revolution of paying it forward with healing yourself and telling others about it. I helped start all this, and I couldn’t make it in Colorado, so I just moved back home [to Kansas] so I could survive,” said Banda. “I wrote my book [Live Free or Die: Reclaim your Life… Reclaim your Country!] and went to Colorado to get it published. I helped start the medical movement in Colorado.

[RELATED: Shona Banda Explains Her Remarkable Story On How Cannabis Oil Saved Her Life]

Meanwhile, a frenzy of non-psychoactive cannabis oil legalization bills have been passing in even the most conservative of state legislatures of late, with Tennessee and Texas recently joining the list of states that have legalized low-THC cannabis oil to treat intractable seizures. Said Banda of the low-THC movement, “I’m still for these people who are trying to pass CBD-only laws because hemp is completely legal here, you can use hemp, and use can use the materials from hemp.

However, she said that the bills did not go far enough and that bans on psychoactive forms of cannabis oil put some sufferers at risk who need it to treat their illnesses, “I fully believe that you need the full spectrum of cannabanoids in the cannabis plant, not the hemp plant, to create homeostasis and healing within the body… Why would you continue to pervert this process by taking out one constituent from an entire plant that is helpful and only allowing that one constituent? Because it doesn’t get you ‘high’? Our endocannabinoid system is made to accept it and work with it, and it works best when it is in its whole form.

I started this whole process because I wanted to live and grow and be with my children. I just want to live and survive with my kids and raise my children and live long enough to see grandchildren. It’s an inalienable right to live and I shouldn’t be punished for pursuing that… I shouldn’t be prosecuted for that,” said Banda. She continued, “The people of Kansas want [medical marijuana] available to them. It makes no sense to me that people’s lives in Colorado are more important than people’s lives in Kansas. How is this the United States of America when your life means more if you’re in California, Washington, Colorado, than when you’re in Kansas or Oklahoma or Texas?

Banda, whose supporters have launched a GoFundMe page that has raised $43,000 so far for legal expenses, said that her legal quagmire has escalated to what is likely a “150 to 200 thousand dollar process.” She called on her supporters to “get this out there as absolutely to the masses as possible, because the mainstream media is not paying attention.” She continued, “There are still too many people who do not know what is going on. This is the most heinous of crimes. Why would you take a child away from his mother because his mother is trying to live. How is that protecting anyone in my family?

Banda’s next custody hearing where she will learn more about her chances to reunite with her son is set for July 10. She has not yet been arrested on the aforementioned five criminal counts, which have been filed but not yet processed.

She believes that her fate “depends on whether Garden City is willing to accept science.

She continued, “Wasn’t Kansas the state that said they weren’t going to teach evolution at one point? I mean, the state of Kansas is pretty scary. I’m just hoping that they’ll accept this science with a much more open mind.

To find out more about Banda’s story, click here.

In September of last year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media episode tackling the federal government’s mixed messages on medical cannabis. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.


Could “Pot for Potholes” Fill State Budget Gaps?

Marijuana sales have been favorable for Colorado.

Scoff at this idea if you’d like, but Colorado has collected at least $68 million in marijuana tax revenue during the fiscal 2014-2015 year.

Now other states are considering legalizing recreational marijuana, taxing it and using the profits to improve and repair roads.

There is a heated battle to stop a gas tax hike in South Carolina led by liberty-minded state senator Tom Davis, who also sponsored a bill to legalize cannabis for medical purposes.

In many states, voters have struck down penny tax increases to repair roads. Could legalizing and taxing pot be the answer?

Michigan State Rep. Brandon Dillon (D) told local affiliate Fox17 that taxing marijuana might not be the answer to every spending issue, but it’s definitely part of the solution.

Dillon said that the potential for tax revenue from legalized recreational marijuana could reach a half billion dollars.

“That would go a long way in easing the burn on middle class families and others who have to pay the entire fright for roads, police and fire protection and public schools,” he explained.

Many of Michigan’s urban areas have decriminalized marijuana, which has saved money within the criminal justice system.

Lansing, Michigan Mayor Virg Bernero said that Pot for Potholes is a grassroots movement in support of what its name implies.

Cities in other states are also considering the same idea, especially as roads continue to age and revenue from gas taxes continues to decrease as cars become more fuel efficient.

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said that legal weed could bring in money the city needs to make repairs.

“It could bring a lot of money back to cities,” said Cranley.

One proposal to legalize marijuana in Ohio would place a 15 percent tax on the drug’s sale. Out of those tax dollars, 55 percent would go to cities and townships.

MO Governor Jay Nixon Commutes Grandfather’s Life Sentence for Pot

In September of last year, Truth in Media highlighted the plight of Jeff Mizanskey, a Missouri grandfather who had been sentenced to life in prison without parole for three non-violent marijuana convictions under Missouri’s since-repealed, three-strikes style Prior and Persistent Drug Offender statute. The 62-year-old low-level pot dealer had been caught in a tough-on-crime loophole as Missouri’s only inmate serving a life sentence for non-violent pot convictions.

Jeff Mizanskey told KTVI that, during his almost 22 years in prison, he has “seen guys who committed murder go, and come back, and go again.” Now, St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has unexpectedly commuted Mizanskey’s sentence, rendering him eligible for parole immediately.

According to Riverfront Times, Governor Nixon said, “The executive power to grant clemency is one I take with a great deal of consideration and seriousness. In the case of the commutation, my action provides Jeff Mizanskey with the opportunity to demonstrate that he deserves parole.”

Aaron Malin, a local activist for the group Show Me Cannabis who is in contact with Mizanskey, described Mizanskey’s parole chances and said, “In almost 22 years he had two write-ups, one for putting mail in the wrong slot and one for a messy floor. Tell me that’s not a model prisoner. No fights, no nothing. Tell me that’s not a model prisoner.”

Republican Representative Shamed Dogan, who authored a letter signed by approximately 130 other Missouri legislators asking Governor Nixon to grant clemency for Mizanskey, said, “I am just glad the governor did the right things. Drug addicts, drug users need rehabilitation before they need incarceration.” A Change.org petition begging for Mizanskey’s release has been signed by almost 400,000 people.

Missouri Department of Corrections spokesman David Owen told Riverfront Times that Mizanskey will have a parole hearing this summer and should find out whether parole will be granted within three to six weeks of the hearing.

In September of last year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media episode on the federal government’s mixed messages on cannabis. Watch it in the below-embedded video player.


Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders Supports Decriminalizing Marijuana

In a question-and-answer session on Reddit Tuesday, Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders stated that he supports the decriminalization of marijuana and hinted at the possibility of full legalization.

Last year when speaking to Time Magazine in an interview, Sanders said that while he approves of increased access to medical marijuana, at least in his mind, legalization is not “one of the major issues facing our country.” He did not explicitly mention decriminalization.

Now that Sanders’ name is in the running for the 2016 presidential election, one of the first questions voters appear interested in is the status of marijuana in the U.S.

“Let me just say this — the state of Vermont voted to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana and I support that,” Sanders said on the Reddit AMA in response to a question about drug policy. “I have supported the use of medical marijuana. And when I was mayor of Burlington, in a city with a large population, I can tell you very few people were arrested for smoking marijuana. Our police had more important things to do.”

Sanders said he’s paying very close attention to the results of marijuana legalization in Colorado, both the benefits and the costs. As the campaign unfolds, Sanders promised to have more to say about legalization in the next few months.

“It’s really exciting to have Sen. Sanders express unequivocal support for decriminalization and medical marijuana,” Tom Angell, chairman of the Marijuana Majority, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “And reading between the lines, it seems to me like he’s getting ready to endorse full legalization soon. Having his voice in the presidential race is going to force all the other candidates to also address the issue and will make it much more likely they’ll take favorable positions as well.”

Sanders has previously signed his name on legislation that would reschedule marijuana from Schedule 1 to a Schedule II drug.

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Texas House Committee Approves Full Marijuana Legalization Bill

On Wednesday, a bill that would allow possession and delivery of marijuana as early as September 2015, in the state of Texas, was passed by the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee 5-2.

House Bill 2165 is sponsored by state Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview). He promoted the bill on religious grounds, arguing that marijuana comes from God and should not be banned by the government.

In March, Simpson wrote an op-ed in the Texas Tribune called the “Christian case for drug law reform,” in which he said that he does not believe that God made marijuana as a “mistake that government needs to fix,” and he suggested that marijuana should be “regulated like tomatoes, jalapenos or coffee.”

[pull_quote_center]“You would think our country’s history with alcohol prohibition – an era marked with bootlegging, organized crime, government corruption and a rise in crime in general – would have prevented us from making the same mistake again,” wrote Simpson. “But our current ‘war on drugs’ policies, though well intended, have accomplished the exact opposite, spurring a proliferation of ever-changing exotic designer drugs and a disregard for constitutional protections in the name of eliminated drugs at any cost. Just think of no-knock warrants, stop-and-frisk, civil asset forfeiture and billionaire drug lords.“[/pull_quote_center]

KSAT, the ABC affiliate in San Antonio, noted that although it is unlikely that the bill will reach the House floor before the legislative session ends on June 1, in a state where using marijuana for medicinal purposes is still illegal, advocates called the committee vote “unprecedented progress.

The Texas Tribune reported that three committee Democrats and two Republicans voted in favor of the bill, while two Republicans, state Rep. Jeff Leach (R-Plano) and state Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) voted against it.

Heather Fazio, the Texas Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, told KSAT that she believes “Marijuana prohibition’s days are numbered in the Lone Star State.”

Texas voters recognize that punishing adults for consuming a substance that is safer than alcohol is a waste of law enforcement resources and an affront to individual liberty. It appears most of the committee members agree,” Fazio said. “State officials are increasingly becoming fed up with the failed federal government policy of marijuana prohibition, and they’re taking action.

In Sept. 2014, Ben Swann released an episode of Truth in Media that documented the federal government’s involvement with marijuana. He revealed that although the government claimed cannabis cannot be used as medicine, it holds the patent on cannabis as medicine.

Watch the full video:


NM Ex-Gov. Gary Johnson Feigns Heart Attack to Mock Anti-Pot Crusader at CPAC

At the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference’s marijuana legalization debate, former Republican Governor of New Mexico and 2012 Libertarian Party nominee for president Gary Johnson, a supporter of legalization, faced off against ex-Congesswoman Ann Marie Buerkle, a former nurse who opposes legal pot. In the above-embedded video, Buerkle said, “Let’s talk about marijuana. You have a 1 in 5 higher chance of having a heart attack within the first hour after you smoke marijuana. There are legitimate side effects to this drug.”

Before she could continue, Gary Johnson began clutching his chest and dropped to the floor, pantomiming a heart attack in an obvious mockery of Buerkle’s Reefer Madness-esque claim. The largely college-aged conservative crowd burst into laughter in response to Johnson’s joke.

Said Buerkle in response, “You know, I think the Governor has had great fun with his humor, but it isn’t funny that we’re putting our kids and the future of this country at risk.”

However, Buerkle’s argument that marijuana is putting college students at CPAC at a 1 in 5 increased risk of having a heart attack one hour after marijuana use is a significant mischaracterization of the findings of a Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School survey, published by Circulation, of 3882 acute myocardial infarction patients who were asked about their marijuana use around four days after suffering a heart attack. The study’s findings did not suggest that perfectly healthy college students have a “1 in 5 higher chance” of suffering a heart attack within an hour of smoking marijuana. A more realistic characterization of the study would be that its findings suggest that there may be a possibility that someone already at risk of heart attack could face an increased risk, similar to that associated with sexual intercourse or strenuous exercise, of that heart attack occurring within one hour of smoking.

Another study by Harvard Medical School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, published in the American Heart Journal after the one mentioned by Buerkle, tested this theory further and found no statistically significant increase in mortality for acute myocardial infarction patients who habitually used marijuana.

MO Republican Introduces Bill to Free Nonviolent Grandfather Serving Life for Pot

In September of last year, BenSwann.com reported on the plight of 61-year-old Jeff Mizanskey, a small-time, nonviolent pot dealer who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for three marijuana offenses under Missouri’s since-repealed Prior and Persistent Drug Offender statute. Though he remains behind bars, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting that one freshman Republican state-level lawmaker is taking aggressive steps to free Mizanskey, who has already spent over two decades behind bars. Since Missouri Governor Jay Nixon has yet to take action and grant clemency for the incarcerated grandfather, Representative Shamed Dogan (R-Ballwin) has introduced HB 978, a bill that “requires the Board of Probation and Parole to authorize the release of any offender who is incarcerated on August 28, 2015 and who is serving a life sentence without parole for marijuana offenses.”

As it happens, only Jeff Mizanskey fits that description, and, considering the fact that the Prior and Persistent Drug Offender law that led to his incarceration officially expires on January 1, 2017, he will likely be the last to suffer such a fate in the state. In a February 18 press release cited by Riverfront Times, Rep. Dogan said, “It is unconscionable to me that this man, who is no danger to society, will spend the rest of his life in prison at taxpayer expense… Many of my legislative colleagues have come together to implore the governor to commute Mr. Mizanskey’s life sentence, but to date the governor has done nothing more than promise to review Jeff’s case before he leaves office.”

The bill, which Rep. Dogan feels is unlikely to pass, has been introduced in an effort to launch hearings that he hopes will put pressure on Governor Nixon to grant clemency for Mizanskey. Though Nixon ignored Mizanskey’s pleas for clemency for quite some time, he has recently changed his tune and said that he is going to closely review the case. Governor Nixon spoke with KMBC-TV earlier this month about the perpetually-imprisoned grandfather and said, “It’s a very serious amount of time… If the laws change after someone is sentenced, then you want to give those things a close look.”

Rep. Dogan described his views on criminal justice in his press release on HB 978, “I fully support long sentences for repeat violent offenders, because I believe the punishment should fit the crime… In Mr. Mizanskey’s case, I am outraged by the fact that someone who violated our marijuana laws is being treated as harshly as a murderer and incarcerated for life.” Missourinet notes that Rep. Dogan said, “I think when the criminals in the prisons realize the injustice of something, something’s wrong… The idea that these people who have committed robberies, who’ve committed rapes, who’ve committed all kinds of violent crimes, and are a threat to our society can get out after five or ten years, and he’s still sitting there after twenty.”

Koch Brothers Launch Fight for Justice for Man Sentenced to 55 Years for Pot

“I sometimes drive near the prison where he’s held, and I think, ‘Gosh he shouldn’t be there. Certainly not as long as I had to send him there. … That wasn’t the right thing to do. The system forced me to do it,'” said former federal Judge Paul Cassell in comments to ABC News about the plight of Weldon Angelos, a father and rap record label founder whom Cassell was forced to sentence to 55 years for three low-level marijuana sales due to mandatory minimum sentencing laws. In 2002, then 24-year-old Angelos, whose record label had recently attracted a collaboration with rap superstar Snoop Dogg, had also been moonlighting as a pot dealer. Federal authorities caught wind of his side gig and launched a sting operation against Angelos, purchasing small amounts of marijuana from him on three separate occasions through an informant. Angelos, who happened to be carrying a gun for protection which he did not brandish or use for any violent purpose, was subsequently tried and convicted on three counts of selling narcotics while in possession of a firearm. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws forced Judge Cassell to sentence Angelos to 55 years with no chance of parole, a near-life sentence for the Salt Lake City father of two.

“If he had been an aircraft hijacker, he would have gotten 24 years in prison. If he’s been a terrorist, he would have gotten 20 years in prison. If he was a child rapist, he would have gotten 11 years in prison. And now I’m supposed to give him a 55-year sentence? I mean, that’s just not right,” said Cassell of Angelos’ case.

According to The Daily Beast, Angelos’ plight caught the attention of the billionaire Koch brothers, whose millennial outreach group Generation Opportunity used some of the duo’s oft-demonized out-sized wealth to produce a documentary, which debuted last week at the Newseum in Washington DC, highlighting Angelos’ unjust sentence. The documentary release coincides with a broader Koch brothers initiative to promote criminal justice reform throughout 2015. A trailer for the film can be seen in the above-embedded video player.

“[This year] offers a unique moment in history in which people of different backgrounds and political leanings are coming together to facilitate a substantive dialogue on how to fix [the criminal justice system]. We can work towards a more just system that reflects the rule of law without overcriminalizing non-violent offenses,” said Generation Opportunity president Evan Feinberg in comments to The Daily Beast.

Weldon Angelos’ family requested two years ago that President Obama grant clemency for the father of two, who has already spent 11 years behind bars, but the administration has yet to respond. Lisa Angelos, Weldon’s sister, described the impact his incarceration has had on his children, “Being around them you can feel their heart ache, even though their laughter, and watching them play and do the fun stuff, you can still feel it. Seeing what they have gone through by losing their father, it just emotionally destroys me.”

The Koch brothers, who are often accused by left-leaning politicos of using their disproportionate wealth to buy elections in an effort to bend policies in favor of the rich and at the expense of the poor, have in the past used their hard-earned dollars to help poor people facing unjust prosecutions obtain legal representation.

Ben Swann took on the federal government’s mixed messages on marijuana prohibition in a September 2014 Truth in Media episode, seen in the player below.

TN Legislators Introduce Bills to Decriminalize Cannabis Oil, Legalize Marijuana

Following news that TN NORML has launched a petition drive to place a referendum on Nashville’s upcoming August mayoral ballot that would allow voters to decide whether to defund enforcement of low-level marijuana arrests for possession of less than two ounces, state-level lawmakers have also introduced two new bills that, if they were to become law, would weaken Tennessee’s ban on pot. According to WATE-TV, State Representative Harold Love (D-Nashville) introduced HB0873, which would legalize possession and the casual exchange of a half ounce of marijuana or less. The bill would also modify Tennessee criminal code by adjusting the penalty for the possession, distribution, or casual exchange of over an ounce of pot to a misdemeanor punished by a $100 fine. A companion version of the bill, SB 1211, has been introduced in the Tennessee Senate by Senator Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville). If it were to pass, the bill would go into effect on July 1 of this year.

From the other side of the aisle, Republican State Representative Jeremy Faison from Cosby, TN introduced a bill last month that would decriminalize the possession and use of cannabis oil for medical purposes. BenSwann.com previously reported on two Tennessee parents who were forced to move to Colorado to obtain cannabis oil treatment for their two-year-old daughter Piper who suffers from Aicardi Syndrome, a seizure disorder. According to WBIR-TV, Faison’s bill would allow individuals suffering from intense seizures to use cannabis oil. State Senator Becky Duncan-Massey (R-Knoxville) has introduced a companion bill in the Tennessee Senate.

Said Faison of the bill, “Cannabis oil has shown evidence to help children who suffer with seizures, and I strongly believe that if the legislature joins me in passing this bill, it will be one of those times that government does get it right.” Faison pointed out the fact that his bill would stop short of legalizing medical marijuana, as it would only allow oils with less than .9% THC content.

Back in September of 2014, Ben Swann released an expose on the federal government’s mixed messages on medical marijuana and cannabis oil. Despite the fact that the federal government claims that marijuana is one of the most dangerous drugs with no medical use, it also holds a patent on medical marijuana. Watch Ben Swann’s Truth in Media episode on medical marijuana in the player below.

Federal Judge May Declare Pot’s Classification As Schedule 1 Narcotic Unconstitutional

Judge Kimberly J. Mueller of the Sacramento Division of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California just made some comments in court that signal that she might be preparing to declare marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 narcotic unconstitutional. According to Reuters, defense attorneys representing nine California men who are accused of illegally growing medical marijuana on federal land argued before Judge Mueller that the charges should be thrown out under the rationale that federal medical marijuana prohibition is unconstitutional.

In a hearing on Wednesday, Judge Mueller indicated that she is seriously considering the merits of the defense’s position and said to prosecutors, “If I were persuaded by the defense’s argument, if I bought their argument, what would you lose here?” At stake is whether or not the federal government has overstepped its bounds in declaring marijuana a Schedule 1 narcotic, which categorizes it as one of the deadliest drugs and as having no medical use.

The defendants in the criminal case are facing a $10 million fine, property seizure, and up to life in prison for what their lawyers characterized as an effort to cultivate medical marijuana for people in need of treatment. During the defense team’s closing arguments on a motion to throw out the charges, defense attorney Zenia Gilg said, “It’s impossible to say that there is no accepted medical use.” The defense team also pointed out the facts that 23 US states have already legalized marijuana for medical use and that Congress recently voted to block the Department of Justice from interfering in state-level efforts to legalize medical pot.

Assistant US Attorney Gregory Broderick, a prosecutor in the case, argued that Congress, rather than a judge, should determine whether marijuana belongs on Schedule 1. However, he stopped short of arguing that it does, saying, “We’re not saying that this is the most dangerous drug in the world. All we’re saying is that the evidence is such that reasonable people could disagree.” Meanwhile, he says the defendants should face punishment for growing medical pot on federal land as federal law still bans such activity. Despite the facts that the Constitution protects an individual’s right to keep and bear arms and that many business owners rely on firearms to protect valuable merchandise, Broderick cited the men’s status as firearms owners as evidence that their marijuana grow operation was not for medical use. He said, “They had weapons. These guys were not producing medicine.”

The hearing included testimony by doctors as to whether marijuana is useful for medical purposes, which prompted Broderick to admit in comments cited by The Leaf Online, “If Congress heard all the testimony you have heard in this hearing, they may very well decide not to put marijuana in Schedule I.” However, he stood firm in his argument that Judge Mueller lacked the authority to rule on the issue, which he said should fall in the hands of Congress instead.

The Leaf Online‘s Jeremy Daw wrote, “Judge Mueller, who has already scheduled nearly a week of court time to the hearing, did not give any indication of sympathy to [Broderick’s] position,” noting that she did appear to give some pause to the notion that “Broderick’s argument that even if she could properly hear the case, the ultimate outcome is irrelevant” had “more credence.”

Judge Mueller said that she would consider the motion to drop the charges and issue a written ruling within 30 days.

In September of last year, Ben Swann released an expose on the federal government’s mixed messages on medical marijuana, as it holds the patent on medical cannabis while also declaring that it has no medical use. Watch it in the embedded video player, seen below.

Is the Capital of Tennessee About to Decriminalize Marijuana?

A tipping point may have just been reached on the issue of marijuana decriminalization in Nashville, Tennessee. At a Tuesday candidate forum for Nashville’s 2015 mayoral race, five out of seven candidates for mayor signaled their support of or openness to the idea of decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana, a fact which Tennessean writer Joey Garrison called “a sign of changing attitudes toward the drug that could boost ongoing efforts to change the law in Davidson County.” The ongoing efforts he mentioned include the pro-pot group TN-NORML‘s drive to collect signatures for a petition to place a referendum on August’s city-wide general election ballot that would allow voters to choose whether to de facto decriminalize the possession of under two ounces of marijuana by defunding prosecutions at the city level.

At the mayoral candidate forum, which was hosted by Nashville’s public radio affiliate WPLN along with local attorneys’ groups, candidates Megan Berry and Jeremy Kane openly espoused their support for decriminalization, while Howard Gentry, David Fox, and Charles Robert Bone signaled their willingness to consider it. Bill Freeman positioned himself against decriminalization, and The Tennessean characterized Linda Eskind Rebrovick’s position as seeming to oppose changing the law.

Charles Robert Bone told those in attendance, “I’ve thought for a long time that the criminalization of small amounts of marijuana was totally unfair… So, I, too, would be receptive to that.” Megan Berry pointed out how pot criminalization has disproportionately affected Nashville’s minority communities, and Howard Gentry noted the fact that sentencing laws exacerbate prohibition’s unfairness.

TN-NORML’s effort to change the law through a city-wide referendum requires that the group collect at least 6,877 valid signatures of registered voters by May 18. If the group is successful, a charter amendment proposal would be placed on August’s general election ballot that would allow Nashvillians to vote up-or-down on whether the city’s law enforcement resources should go towards enforcing criminal laws against possession of less than two ounces of pot. Though state laws would still ban pot possession if the charter amendment were to pass, citizens arrested by Nashville police in violation of the amendment would be able to sue the city for damages. TN-NORML’s attorney Daniel Horwitz said of the initiative, “This is a novel attempt at de-funding prosecution of low-level marijuana offenses. This initiative certainly isn’t a panacea, but once enacted, it would ensure that no more Metro dollars are wasted prosecuting adults for the simple possession of small amounts of marijuana going forward.”

Doak Patton, president of TN-NORML, told The Tennessean, “We would like to see resources devoted toward violent criminals, thieves and people who are needing to be locked away instead of nonviolent offenders.”

Though Tennessee is a hard-red, socially-conservative state, its Republican government recently legalized hemp. Nashville, Tennessee’s capital, is widely known as an open-minded, culturally-diverse center of music and the arts for the deep south, and its voters typically elect liberal-leaning Democrats. Nashvillians also elected former criminal defense attorney Glenn Funk to the position of District Attorney last year after he ran a campaign promising to focus the city’s prosecutions on violent criminals rather than low-level drug users.

Ben Swann recently tackled the federal government’s mixed messages on marijuana prohibition in a September 2014 Truth in Media episode. Watch it in the embedded video player below.

Rapper schools Nancy Grace on pot legalization

Rapper 2 Chainz made Nancy Grace look like a huge idiot, regarding the legalization of marijuana.

Grace showed a video of a mother giving her child a blunt. After, she asks the rapper how he can support legalization when he sees a video like this.

“They also were irresponsible people,” 2 Chainz said to Grace. He said that you can’t use these particular stories to pigeonhole the whole movement.

In typical Nancy Grace fashion, she explained the problem with legalized marijuana is that “everyone” will have access.

“If this is legalized, then everyone is going to have unlimited access to pot,” she said.

Watch what 2 Chainz told Grace on her own show:

Anchorage, AK Municipal Assembly Rejects City-Wide Ban on Pot Sales, Cultivation

During this year’s November 4 election, voters in Alaska approved a referendum, Ballot Measure 2, which legalized marijuana for recreational use in the state. However, the fine print in the measure allows municipalities to opt out of legalization, which pitted pro-pot activists against prohibitionists in a city-level showdown in Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska in terms of population. According to KTVA CBS-11 News, the Anchorage, AK Municipal Assembly considered an ordinance on December 16 that would have banned commercial marijuana transactions and grow operations within the city.

The proposed ordinance had been introduced by Assembly member Amy Demboski, who is running for mayor. She argued that a recreational pot industry could put Alaskan taxpayers into a complicated state of legal limbo with the feds. Said Demboski, “The fact of the matter is marijuana is still a [Schedule 1 drug] — it’s still federally illegal, so if we as a city decide to opt into a commercialized industry that’s based on an illegal federal substance, what impacts does that have to the taxpayers?” As U-T San Diego points out, the Department of Justice has signaled multiple times over the past few years that it does not intend to aggressively pursue pot convictions in states that have legalized marijuana, though it has asserted that it has the right to do so.

Kim Kole, an Anchorage-area teacher and pro-pot activist who has been called the “new face of marijuana legalization” by KTUU-TV 2, said of the initiative to ban pot sales, “There is no legitimate reason to squash new opportunities for small businesses and the economic stimulus that they can create — given our current financial state, one would think that the city would jump on the opportunity for small business economic growth.”

Around 50 people engaged in a heated debate over the issue before the ordinance to ban marijuana sales and production was called to a vote. In the end, the measure failed, with nine members voting against and two, mayoral hopeful Amy Demboski and Assembly member Paul Honeman, supporting the ban.

Now that commercial marijuana production and transactions have survived a ban attempt, the Assembly has switched gears and is working to create taxes and regulations for Anchorage’s newly-legalized recreational pot industry. KTUU-TV 2 is reporting that, on December 23, the Assembly’s committee on commercial pot regulations had its first meeting.

Back in September of this year, Ben Swann released a Truth in Media episode that challenges the federal government’s mixed messages on medical marijuana. Watch it in the video player, found below.

Exclusive Interview: Group Focuses on Marijuana To Reduce Feds’ Power

The 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

Those powerful words are exactly what drives the organization, the Tenth Amendment Center, in its fight to return federal authority to its rightful, Constitutionally stated, owners. And, they are hoping that the end of marijuana prohibition is the first stepping stone.

“You have four states, after the last election, openly defying Washington, D.C. by fully legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes even though the feds say you can’t do this,” said Michael Boldin, founder and executive director of the Tenth Amendment Center, who recently spoke with BenSwann.com’s Joshua Cook.

Despite the federal government’s positions, the states who are actively trying to legalize marijuana are telling the government that they can have their own position and take their own approach.

“Now we have 2 dozen states taking action on marijuana in one form or another. And it’s expanding year by year to the point where the feds don’t simply have the manpower or the resources to deal with it,” said Boldin.

And budget-wise, it would be impossible for DEA to interfere.

“If the DEA tried to stop the city of Denver’s recreational marijuana market, it would take their DEA’s entire yearly budget to do so,” explained Boldin.

“The fact of the matter is that they’re going to have to simply withdraw,” he added.

According to Boldin, the federal government doesn’t have the Constitutional right to prohibit states from the growing and production of plants.

Boldin said that our Founding Fathers had the foresight to not give the federal government control over things like agriculture.

“But for years, people have allowed the federal government to do what it wants to do,” he said.

“That’s the way government works. They’re always going to find a reason to give themselves more power. And that only stops when the people say, enough is enough.”

“And I think on marijuana, it’s a good example of people saying enough is enough.”

Boldin said that when sweeping decisions are made for a land mass the size of American is when “liberty is lost.”

“The number one step in advancing liberty is to bring the decisions closer to the individual, closer to home, and step one on that is to put it in the hands of the states,” he said.

“The number one goal is the get the federal government out of all of these areas they’re involved in that they shouldn’t be.”

Boldin’s group believes that the federal government is involved in 90 to 95% of things it shouldn’t be.

“They can keep doing the Post Office, and run that into the ground. Virtually everything else, they should be pushed back on,” he said. “It takes active, persistent resistance and disobedience on a state-level to make that happen. And that’s exactly what’s happening with marijuana.”

The group also creates model legislation on a variety of topics, including 2nd Amendment preservation and NSA surveillance.

To listen to Joshua Cook’s full interview with the Tenth Amendment Center’s Michael Boldin, visit here.

Colorado Becomes the First State to Fund Medical Marijuana Research

On Wednesday, the Colorado Board of Health awarded more than $8 million in research grants to its health officials for studies on the effects of medical marijuana in treating ailments such as brain tumors, epilepsy, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the Associated Press, this line of research is a “new frontier,” due to the fact that “government-funded marijuana research traditionally focuses on the drug’s negative health effects.”

Colorado was one of the first two states to legalize cannabis for recreational use, and one of the 23 states and Washington D.C. to legalize it for medicinal use.

Dr. Suzanne Sisley, a Psychiatrist in Arizona, who will help conduct a study on how treatment with marijuana affects veterans with PTSD, pointed out that this step is a first for the U.S. Government.

This is the first time we’ve had government money to look at the efficacy of marijuana, not the harms of marijuana,” Sisley said.

Federally funded studies on the effects of medical marijuana have not been done previously, due to the fact that marijuana is still illegal under federal law. Reuters reported that the funding for Colorado’s research was “derived from taxes imposed on the state-regulated sale of medical marijuana.”

Colorado’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Larry Wolk, noted that the lack of research on medical marijuana has hindered both current and prospective users.

There’s nowhere else in medicine where we give a patient some seeds and say, ‘Go grow this and process it and then figure out how much you need,'” said Wolk. “We need research dollars so we can answer more questions.”

Colorado is funding a total of eight research studies – three that will require federal clearance and access to the plant, and five that are observational studies in which the subjects provide their own cannabis.

According to the Associate Press, the studies in need of federal approval will look at using marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans, to treat irritable bowel syndrome in adolescents and young adults, to relieve pain in children with brain tumors, and to treat pediatric patients with epilepsy.

The Denver Post reported, “University researchers will conduct all of the studies,” in the hopes that they will provide the best, and most respected “evidence on whether marijuana is a useful medicine.

No Charges For California Officer Caught With 5 Pounds Of Marijuana

No charges are planned on being filed against a California police officer who was in possession of between four and five pounds of marijuana at his home in Oakley, California.

Officer Joe Avila, a 17-year-veteran of the Richmond Police Force (RPF), has been under investigation by the RPF since January, according to the Richmond Confidential.  It was around this time the RPF began to notice Avila was not filing any follow-up reports for about 37 calls of service he had gone on.

One of these calls was to a UPS Store in November, 2013, where it is suspected Avila had collected the marijuana and then failed to turn the drugs over to the department’s evidence department.

Robin Lipetzky, the county’s chief public defender, told the Raw Story, “They are cutting him some slack because he’s a police officer… Anybody else found with 5 pounds of marijuana in their possession, I don’t care who that is, that person is going to be charged with a crime.”

While he was under investigation, Avila said he had used two of the five pounds of marijuana to help train his police dog.  The other drugs though, he did not comment on.

When the investigation was under way, Avila was the key witness in a case where he had helped to secure a conviction.  However, Deputy Public Defender Elise McNamara who represented the defendant in this case, is saying this is an ethics violation.

They have a constitutional mandate to disclose exculpatory evidence to us prior to a trial,” said McNamara.  “If there’s an officer on the case who’s been discredited, then we have the right to know that.”

The DA’s office is taking the position that this officer did nothing wrong. And because they think he did nothing wrong, they are not turning over any information,” said Lipetzky.  “They have a vested interest in not having an officer’s credibility called into question, because then it impacts all the cases they’re trying to prosecute.”

As of now, Avila is on paid administrative leave.

DEA Claims Drug Cartels are Now Smuggling Marijuana from The U.S. into Mexico

On Monday, a report was released from the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which claimed that following the legalization of marijuana in certain states, it is now being smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico, instead of the other way around.

U.S. News reported that according to the DEA, the alleged smuggling is being conducted by Mexican cartels, and it “involves top-notch marijuana grown by American entrepreneurs.”

According to NPR, while at one time “virtually all the weed smoked in the States” came from south of the border, times have changed, due to the fact that marijuana plants from the U.S. are much more potent than the plants grown in Mexico.

RT reported that “instead of making $60-$90 per kilogram,” marijuana growers in Mexico are now making “between $30 and $40 per kilogram,” which could eventually make the growers “abandon the drug altogether.”

The Communication Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, Mason Tvert, is uncertain about the accuracy of the DEA’s claim.

It’s certainly interesting if it is actually the case, but we should probably wait until there is confirmation that it’s even happening before we jump to conclusions,” said Tvert. “Unfortunately, the DEA doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to providing objective information about marijuana.”

Lawrence Payne, a spokesman for the DEA, told U.S. News that the majority of the trafficked marijuana is “being grown and obtained in states that have relaxed their marijuana laws, such as Colorado.

Payne said that although they believed the trafficked marijuana is “much higher quality and more expensive for the purpose of smuggling back into Mexico for sale and distribution,” they have not been able to gauge the level of the trafficking.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any specific information or numbers to quantify other than to say we know that it’s happening,” said Payne. “It’s too early to really know the level or scale of the trafficking southward.

Epileptic child has been seizure free thanks to cannabis oil

A child in Oregon who has suffered from seizures brought on by epilepsy has been seizure free for close to nine-weeks now thanks to cannabis oil.

A week after Forrest Smelser turned eight, he was diagnosed with epilepsy, which would cause him to go into seizures, sometimes lasting upwards of 15 minutes.  According to the Epilepsy Foundation, any seizure lasting longer then five minutes requires immediate medical attention and may result in permanent brain damage.

His mother Tanesha took Forrest to the emergency room many times until finally the doctors prescribed Forrest with an anti-seizure drug called Trileptal.  However, the medication only seemed to make things worse for Forrest.  “He would scream, he would fight, he would punch himself,” said Tanesha according to KATU.  

The FDA  has said these side effects are not common, but they do occur in about one in every 500 people.  

At this point, Tanesha said Forrest became suicidal, which she and her family blame on the medications.  Then, Tanesha and her family began to look into other medical options for Forrest.

Forrest’s family began to read into the uses of medical marijuana and its benefits, and made the conscious choice to begin Forrest on a medical marijuana treatment.

After nine weeks of giving Forrest cannabidiol (CBD), the second most active component of medical marijuana, the family reports Forrest has been seizure free.

The strain of medical marijuana Forrest is taking contains mostly CBDs, according to Medical Daily.  Normally, THC, the component which provides the high behind smoking marijuana, is the main component in medical marijuana, but because this strain is mostly CBD, there is virtually no high.  Instead, the CBDs provide anti-seizure, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic effects on the patient.

This link provides further studies by Project CBD on the effects of CBD in a medical setting.

However, Forrest is not smoking the medical marijuana, rather he is taking it through pill form like any other medication.

“Now that I’m on this medication, I feel like a normal boy,” Forrest said.

“I feel like it’s saved his life,” said Tanesha.  “I know it sounds scary, and I know it sounds unconventional, but it’s working. It’s working!”

From Marijuana to GMOs to Fracking – Results of the Midterm Elections

The 2014 Midterm Elections led to the approval of measures such as marijuana legalization in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C., a ban on hydraulic fracturing in Denton, Texas, and a shift in the way California defines offenses, such as drug possession.

Oregon became the third state to legalize the “possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over,” according to the Huffington Post.

The Alaska Dispatch reported that voters in Alaska approved legalizing recreational use of marijuana “by about 52 percent in favor to 48 percent opposed, with 100 percent of the state’s precincts reporting.”

According to USA Today, the measure to legalize marijuana in Washington D.C. was “overwhelmingly approved” by voters, and will apply to sections of the district that are not considered “federal land.”

Although the measure to legalize medical marijuana in Florida received 57% approval, it did not receive the necessary 60%, in order to pass.

Florida Today reported that voters “narrowly rejected” the legalization of medical marijuana, “after a surge of ads saying the ballot initiative was riddled with holes,” which cost $6.2 million, and had the backing of a Las Vegas casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson.

Following the elections, Denton became the first city in the state of Texas to ban hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported that 58.6 percent of voters approved an ordinance that “will drastically restrict drillers’ attempts to tap the rich natural gas reserves within the city limits.”

A measure to label foods containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), appeared on the ballots in Colorado and Oregon. It was rejected in Colorado, and is still “too close to call” in Oregon. The Oregonian reported that the measure to label GMOs  “trailed 49 percent to 51 percent,” with nearly 80 percent of votes counted.

According to Reuters, this outcome came after corporate food and agriculture interests, such as Monsanto and DuPont, “poured more than $36 million into anti-labeling campaigns in the two states.

Voters in California approved a measure that redefines certain offenses that were considered felonies, such as shoplifting, fraud, and possession of small amounts of drugs, including heroin and cocaine, as misdemeanor.

The Huffington Post reported that as a result of the measure, as many as 10,000 people “could be eligible for early release from state prisons,” and the expectation is that courts “will annually dispense around 40,000 fewer felony convictions.”

Ben Swann joins correspondents Erin Ade, Edward Harrison, Abby Martin, and Tyrel Ventura, from RT News, to discuss the ballot measures: