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Opinion: St. Louis Should Legalize Marijuana

November 1, 2017 Board of Aldermen, Crime, Drug Policy, Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Opinion: St. Louis Should Legalize Marijuana

Marijuana never should have been classified as am illegal drug to begin with. So why was it? A top bureaucrat didn’t want to be out of a job!

In 1929, a man called Harry Anslinger was put in charge of the Department of Prohibition in Washington, D.C. But alcohol prohibition had been a disaster. Gangsters had taken over whole neighborhoods. Alcohol — controlled by criminals — had become even more poisonous.

So alcohol prohibition finally ended — and Harry Anslinger was afraid. He found himself in charge of a huge government department, with nothing for it to do. Up until then, he had said that cannabis was not a problem. It doesn’t harm people, he explained, and “there is no more absurd fallacy” than the idea it makes people violent.

But then — suddenly, when his department needed a new purpose — he announced he had changed his mind. (Huffington Post)

He sold the public on the idea smoking weed caused “reefer madness.”

See the full propaganda film here. The madness has been decades of prohibition on a plant with remarkable medicinal qualities.

Poster for the 1930s propaganda film ‘Reefer Madness’

From Board Bill 180 introduced last week:

WHEREAS, in 2013, Board of Aldermen addressed marijuana possession in the City of St. Louis by passing Ordinance 69429, as codified in Part IV, Chapter 11.60, Title 11 of the Revised Code of the City of St. Louis;

WHEREAS, at least five cities, including Breckenridge, Colorado; Denver, Colorado; Portland, Maine; South Portland, Maine; Washington, D.C., and eight states, including Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, California, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada have legalized and regulated marijuana under state and local laws;

WHEREAS, cities and states have not seen significant increases in crime since legalization and regulation of marijuana, and many have seen slight decreases in crime;

WHEREAS, the Drug Enforcement Agency found that, overall, research does not support a direct causal relationship between regular marijuana use and other illicit drug use;

WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Police Department has contended that it is understaffed by over 110 officers;

WHEREAS, federal law prohibition makes enforcement of state laws on marijuana by the City of St. Louis, including by the Metropolitan Police Department, redundant and wasteful of city resources;

WHEREAS, arresting, citing, and prosecuting marijuana offenders diverts police time away from crimes with victims. Nationally, 87% of all motor vehicle thefts and over 70% of robberies go unsolved, while law enforcement pursues over half a million arrests for marijuana possession. Regulating marijuana would free up law enforcement time and resources to focus on real crime;

WHEREAS, it is in the best interests of the City of Saint Louis that City resources only be devoted to issues of priority in ensuring public safety and protecting the quality of life for its residents;

WHEREAS, eliminating marijuana enforcement by local police may separate the market for marijuana from the market for more harmful substances, reducing the likelihood that marijuana consumers will be exposed to opiates or other dangerous drugs when they purchase marijuana;

WHEREAS, studies have found that a 48% reduction in patients’ opioid use after three months of medical marijuana treatment, 39% reduction in their opioid dosage, and 39% stopped using opioids altogether;

WHEREAS, researchers at Columbia University’s School of Public Health found that, in states that passed medical marijuana laws, fewer drivers killed in car crashes tested positive for opioids after the laws went into effect

Yes, this should be addressed at state & federal levels, but it’s not. We can’t afford to just sit around waiting for the pushes of old myths to admit they were wrong.

This bill is sponsored by Megan E. Green (15) and co-spomsored by the following:

I urge you to thank each of these six aldermen and for you to contact the other 22 to get BB180 passed.

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll I used the word “pot” because it’s an old term generally used only by those who oppose legalization.

Q: Agree or disagree: Pot is a dangerous drug, St. Louis Police should continue enforcing state & federal pot laws!

  • Strongly agree 8 [17.02%]
  • Agree 4 [8.51%]
  • Somewhat agree 1 [2.13%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [2.13%]
  • Somewhat disagree 1 [2.13%]
  • Disagree 7 [14.89%]
  • Strongly disagree 23 [48.94%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 2 [4.26%]

Clearly, many of those who responded still believe the propaganda.

— Steve Patterson


Sunday Poll: Should the City of St. Louis Legalize Marijuana?

October 29, 2017 Crime, Drug Policy, Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should the City of St. Louis Legalize Marijuana?
Please vote below

One of four new board bills introduced on Friday

The bill, sponsored by Alderman Megan Green, 15th Ward, would stop enforcement of any laws that permit “the civil or criminal punishment for the use or possession of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia against any individual or entity,” except under certain circumstances.

Civil or criminal penalties could be enforced on anyone using marijuana under the age of 21, selling to someone under 21, or possessing more than 2 ounces of marijuana or more than 10 marijuana plants for cultivation. Under the measure, consumption of marijuana anywhere but on private residential property would be limited.

The plan would allow the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to focus on violent, more serious crime at a time when police resources are limited, Green said. (Post-Dispatch)

This is the subject of today’s poll.

This poll will close at 8pm.

— Steve Pattreson


Readers Overwhelmingly Support Medical Marijuana for Missouri

The Sunday Poll on medical marijuana got lots of responses — but the results stayed consistent throughout the 12 hours the poll was open.

Q: Medical cannabis/marijuana may be on Missouri’s ballot in August or November, support or oppose such a proposition?

  • Strongly support 115 [76.67%]
  • Support 17 [11.33%]
  • Somewhat support 7 [4.67%]
  • Neither support or oppose 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat oppose 0 [0%]
  • Oppose 2 [1.33%]
  • Strongly oppose 9 [6%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 0 [0%]

Less than 10% oppose, but this non-scientific poll isn’t representative of Missouri voters.  Still, supporters gathering signatures for a ballot measure believe there is sufficient statewide support for passage in 2016.

The initiative is described as:

  • Pro-patient: Instead of creating a short and restrictive list of qualifying conditions, this initiative puts power in the hands of a state-licensed physicians, not politicians or bureaucrats, to determine who will benefit from medical cannabis.
  • Robust System for Access: The initiative creates a statewide system for production and sale of medical cannabis and medical cannabis products. It also provides for limited and regulated patient cultivation.
  • Small Tax to Benefit Missouri Veterans: The initiative levies a four percent retail tax, and all revenue in excess of the cost of regulating the medical cannabis program will go to help Missouri’s veterans.
  • Public Safety: The initiative maintains the current prohibition on public use and driving under the influence. It also allows the Department of Health and Senior Services to institute a seed-to-sale tracking system to ensure that the product and money do not reach the illicit market.
  • Regulatory Framework: Puts Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services in charge of licensing and implementation, but also allows the department to contract with other state agencies when necessary for effective and efficient regulation.
  • Quick Implementation: The amendment creates deadlines to make the department move quickly to promulgate rules, issue applications, and swiftly implement and award patient cards and industry licenses.

If passed, it could be far more effective than Illinois’ current effort.

Are you one of the few who oppose this? If so, you’re like CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta — before he researched the facts.  After looking into the issue, he did a 180.

Below is a short segment from his CNN special called Weed.

The fact is cannabis/marijuana has real medical benefits. Decades of a racist ban has stifled research, but that’s slowly changing. Below is the full Weed documentary.

When the 1937 law prohibiting cannabis was ruled unconstitutional, the Nixon administration included it as a Schedule 1 drug — again, for racist reasons.

We’ve been sold lie for decades — I fell for it too for a long time. It’s time to wake up to the medical benefits of this plant!

— Steve Patterson


Medical Marijuana Dispensary Opens In Former Insurance Building

Earlier this week the first of two Illinois medical marijuana dispensaries opened in the metro East. Finally.

Relief has arrived in the Metro East for patients with cancer and other chronic illnesses. The area’s first medical marijuana dispensary, HCI Alternatives, opened in Collinsville Monday. (KSDK)

Illinois’ experiment in medical marijuana is off to a painfully slow start. Can it survive?

The clock is ticking for the Illinois medical marijuana program. A low number of approved patients could force some marijuana businesses to close just as the program is getting underway.

The issue is that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has only approved a small amount of illnesses that would meet the requirements for taking medical marijuana. The Medical Cannabis Advisory Board for the program had recommended that 11 conditions and diseases be added to the list. However, in September the IDPH said it wouldn’t expand the list.

The group came back in October with a list of 8 conditions and if approved, would lead to a much larger patient population and would ensure the success of the programs and the viability of the businesses. Several chronic pain conditions, osteoarthritis, autism, irritable bowel syndrome and post-traumatic stress syndrome are on the list the board recommended. The IDPH said it would accept petitions from patients during the month of January 2016. Mind you these petitions aren’t just signing a sheet of paper. (Forbes)

Given the exorbitant fees these businesses paid to Illinois I don’t think they’ll let them go under — the powerful don’t treat the wealthy that way.

HCI Alternatives is located in a former insurance building facing I-70. Click image for map, November 2015 photo
HCI Alternatives is located in a former insurance building facing I-70. Click image for map, November 2015 photo
This area is served by bus from bus service from both St, Clair & Madison Counties, but in November it lacked an ADAD-compliant accessible route from the public sidewalk to building entrance.
This area is served by bus from bus service from both St, Clair & Madison Counties, but in November it lacked an ADAD-compliant accessible route from the public sidewalk to building entrance.

When we stopped by in November 2015 we noticed the numerous security cameras all around the building. Hopefully Illinois will approve more conditions and patients will get their cards. HCI Alternatives also has a location in Springfield IL. Missouri approved CBD oil in 2014 but I don’t think it is available to patients yet.

This week a woman in Georgia testified before legislators in her state about buying marijuana on the black market to create her own CBD oil to help treat her child. This November Missouri voters should have the opportunity to approve medical marijuana.

— Steve Patterson




It Is Time For Marijuana Legalization

Poster for the 1930s propaganda film 'Reefer Madness'
Poster for the 1936 propaganda film ‘Reefer Madness’

Growing up when & wear I did, 70s/80s Oklahoma, I bought into the government’s War on Drugs:

First Lady Nancy Reagan became the public face of “Just Say No” after she made a trip to a New York ad agency in October 1983. She watched a demonstration of an anti-drug campaign from the Ad Council, the major charity of the advertising industry. Parents were told to “(g)et involved with drugs before your children do.” And school children were told that drug use and academic success don’t mix. As one print ad, with the title “School Daze,” put it: “School is tough enough without having to try to learn through a mind softened by drugs. So get the education you deserve. And learn how to say no to drugs.” According to The New York Times, Nancy Reagan approved: “Both of these themes are exactly right.” (The Atlantic)

Months before Nancy Reagan began the “Just Say No” campaign I turned 16. My mom didn’t want me to drink & drive — she’d let me drink at home, but I wasn’t interested. She told me about her trying a joint with co-workers years earlier — without any stigma. Again, I wasn’t interested. I think she knew to not to give me any reason to rebel.  I was never offered marijuana in high school, though I’ve since learned it was readily available. In college I was offered a few times, my friends gave me a hard time for refusing to partake. I didn’t care.

This coming November marks 10 years since I tried marijuana the first time, I was 38 (see There Is A First Time For Everything). That day remains the only time I’ve “smoked” marijuana.  It was nearly seven years later before I tried it a second time — by vaping — not smoking. Since then I’ve vaped a few more times, and ate way too much of a brownie in Colorado on our honeymoon last fall. What I have done is lots of reading on our national drug policy for the last 75+ years.

Here’s a timeline on the origins of our ban on marijuana, from PBS’ Frontline:

1900 – 20s Mexican immigrants introduce recreational use of marijuana leaf

After the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Mexican immigrants flooded into the U.S., introducing to American culture the recreational use of marijuana. The drug became associated with the immigrants, and the fear and prejudice about the Spanish-speaking newcomers became associated with marijuana. Anti-drug campaigners warned against the encroaching “Marijuana Menace,” and terrible crimes were attributed to marijuana and the Mexicans who used it.

1930s Fear of marijuana

During the Great Depression, massive unemployment increased public resentment and fear of Mexican immigrants, escalating public and governmental concern about the problem of marijuana. This instigated a flurry of research which linked the use of marijuana with violence, crime and other socially deviant behaviors, primarily committed by “racially inferior” or underclass communities. By 1931, 29 states had outlawed marijuana. 
1930 Creation of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN)

Harry J. Anslinger was the first Commissioner of the FBN and remained in that post until 1962.
1932 Uniform State Narcotic Act

Concern about the rising use of marijuana and research linking its use with crime and other social problems created pressure on the federal government to take action. Rather than promoting federal legislation, the Federal Bureau of Narcotics strongly encouraged state governments to accept responsibility for control of the problem by adopting the Uniform State Narcotic Act.

1936 “Reefer Madness”

Propaganda film “Reefer Madness” was produced by the French director, Louis Gasnier.

The Motion Pictures Association of America, composed of the major Hollywood studios, banned the showing of any narcotics in films.

1937 Marijuana Tax Act

After a lurid national propaganda campaign against the “evil weed,” Congress passed the Marijuana Tax Act. The statute effectively criminalized marijuana, restricting possession of the drug to individuals who paid an excise tax for certain authorized medical and industrial uses.

Remember that national prohibition on alcohol took place from 1920-1933. With the 1933 repeal of the 18th Amendment the morality crusaders turned to marijuana. Here’s the trailer for the 1936 propaganda film “Reefer Madness”

The full film (1:08) is on YouTube, click here to watch.

Less than three decades later the ban began to fall apart:

In 1966 the New York County Medical Society officially classified marijuana as a mild hallucinogen, insisting that there was no credible evidence proving its use to be associated with crimes of violence in the United States. In 1967 President Johnson’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of justice questioned the entire impact of the Marijuana Tax Act: 

The Act raises an insignificant amount of revenue and exposes an insignificant number of marijuana transactions to public view, since only a handful of people are registered under the Act. It has become, in effect, solely- a criminal law, imposing sanctions upon persons who sell, acquire, or possess marijuana. . . . Marijuana is equated in law with the opiates, but the abuse characteristics of the two have almost nothing in common. The opiate produces physical dependence. Marijuana does not. A withdrawal sickness appears when use of the opiates is discontinued. No such symptoms are associated with marijuana. The desired dose of opiates tends to increase over time, but this is not true of marijuana. Both can lead to psychic dependence, but so can almost any substance that alters the state of consciousness. (Source)

In 1969 the US Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 unconstitutional, see Leary v United States. Congress and the new Nixon Administration acted quickly:

The Controlled Substances Act (CSA) was passed by the 91st United States Congress as Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 and signed into law by President Richard Nixon. The CSA is the federal U.S. drug policy under which the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain substances is regulated. The Act also served as the national implementing legislation for the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

The legislation created five Schedules (classifications), with varying qualifications for a substance to be included in each. Two federal agencies, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration, determine which substances are added to or removed from the various schedules, though the statute passed by Congress created the initial listing, and Congress has sometimes scheduled other substances through legislation such as the Hillory J. Farias and Samantha Reid Date-Rape Prevention Act of 2000, which placed gamma hydroxybutyrate in Schedule I. Classification decisions are required to be made on criteria including potential for abuse (an undefined term), currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and international treaties. (Wikipedia)

From the DEA:

Schedule I drugs, substances, or chemicals are defined as drugs with no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Schedule I drugs are the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence. Some examples of Schedule I drugs are: 

heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), marijuana (cannabis), 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy), methaqualone, and peyote

Marijuana is viewed by the federal government to be the same as heroin, LSD, & ecstasy.  Not everyone agrees. In 2009 CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta opposed medical marijuana. Four years later he famously changed his view after working on a special report called Weed:

I apologize because I didn’t look hard enough, until now. I didn’t look far enough. I didn’t review papers from smaller labs in other countries doing some remarkable research, and I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis. 

Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high. I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have “no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.” 

They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true. It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications. In fact, sometimes marijuana is the only thing that works. Take the case of Charlotte Figi, who I met in Colorado. She started having seizures soon after birth. By age 3, she was having 300 a week, despite being on seven different medications. Medical marijuana has calmed her brain, limiting her seizures to 2 or 3 per month.

You can see Weed below — HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:

I also recommend the follow-up report Weed 2. Both look at the use of marijuana oil for treatment of epilepsy in young children. Many parents moved their families to Colorado to get low-THC/high-CBD strains like Charlotte’s Web for their children. Last year Missouri passed a bill to allow medical marijuana for these patients. In February we moved closer to making it available here:

This week, the Missouri Department of Agriculture issued two licenses for hemp cultivation and production. These are the first such licenses issued since lawmakers passed a bill last year, permitting patients suffering from seizures to use hemp oil for treatment.

The two recipients are non-profit organizations based in the St. Louis area: Noah’s Arc Foundation, listed with a Chesterfield address, and BeLEAF Corporation, to be located on a piece of land in St. Peters.

Hemp oil is extracted from cannabis, and the kind used for treating seizures will not have enough of the psychoactive chemical -THC – to cause a high. (KSDK)

The bill unanimously passed the Missouri Senate in May last year after a colleague made a personal plea:

Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale, told a hushed chamber that his son had his first infantile spasm at 11 months old and a four-hour seizure when he was 2 years old. (Post-Dispatch)

I don’t doubt that without a member of the Missouri legislature being personally affected we wouldn’t be at this point. But what about people seeking medical marijuana for:

We might have to wait until more legislators are affected by any of the above, or we may take action at the ballot box:

Americans of all political stripes say the federal government should not interfere with state-level legalization efforts: 58 percent of Democrats, 54 percent of Republicans, and 64 percent of Independents agree on this. Even 38 percent of people who oppose legalization still say that the federal government should not enforce federal pot laws in states that have legalized.

The Obama administration has generally followed this hands-off approach and given states the space to carry out their legalization experiments. But just yesterday, New Jersey Governor and potential 2016 candidate Chris Christie said that he would discontinue this practice and “crack down and not permit” legalization at the state level if he become president. (Washington Post: How marijuana legalizers are winning the battle for hearts and minds)

I think medical & recreational marijuana will be issues in the 2016 elections, at both state and national levels.

In Missouri, organizations like Show-Me Cannabis are working hard to legalize medical marijuana. They’ve put up billboards, bought radio spots, and recently brought one hundred supporters to Jefferson City to lobby legislators, many whom expressed optimism about the prospects for industrial hemp and medical cannabis this session.

One vocal cannabis advocate in St. Louis is Steve Patterson, a man the Riverfront Times calls “one of the city’s influential voices on urban planning and public policy” for his award winning blog Urban Review STL. A child of Nancy Regan’s “Just Say No” campaign, Patterson was opposed to drugs until he first tried pot at age 38. Since then he’s enjoyed vaping it, and has pondered the history of cannabis prohibition and the failed War on Drugs.

“The reasons why cannabis was made illegal in the thirties and listed as a Schedule I drug in 1970 have no basis in fact. Schedule I drugs are considered highly addictive with no medicinal value. Cannabis has always had medicinal uses” Patterson says, before pointing out that alcohol and tobacco are far more addictive and deadly. “There are 2.5 million alcohol related deaths annually, but nobody has ever overdosed on cannabis.” (The Vital Voice: The Politics of Pot)

The Post-Dispatch has already endorsed legalization:

Legalizing marijuana is not some panacea. It comes with all sorts of other problems, such as potential for increased abuse, conflict with federal law and border states that have different laws, and many of the same issues that are dealt with regularly with abuse of alcohol.

But the nation is quickly changing its views on legalized marijuana, and Missouri should thrust itself to the forefront of the debate, primarily because of its location in the center of the country and its reliance on agriculture and life sciences as major economic drivers.

See Show-Me Cannabis for more information. Naturally, makers of legal drugs (pharmaceutical, tobacco, alcohol) are generally opposed to legalization of marijuana — but all three have a poor record with addiction and death.

Besides state level legalization, marijuana needs to be removed as a Schedule 1 drug — it’s past time to move beyond 1930s hysteria! It’s time to move beyond mandatory sentencing & mass incarceration.

— Steve Patterson