Wednesday, June 20, 2018

White Slacks Day

October 2009

I woke up at three o clock this morning. I figured no point in going back to sleep. I was going to be spending the morning in court.
On Facebook a friend sent me a link to The Largest Street Gang in America. I couldn’t watch all of it.
And then I couldn’t get the right outfit, not without waking my housemate for the ironing board, and I eventually settled on a third tier compromise which involved white slacks. And I forgot to take postcards with me, even though I had about three hours to pack. And my hair was sticking up.
The phone rang at eight and I jumped into Bill’s car. The traffic was light, and we arrived fifteen minutes before anything could possibly happen. And then we did a sort of double mission to Starbucks.
I chatted with the lovely Pamela, while Bill’s lawyer, Stephen, interviewed Caren with respect to her testifying on Bill’s behalf. At ten fifteen we assembled in the courtroom.
Stephen asked us if we could accept a request to reconvene at 11:30, and we four ASA representatives left in search of second breakfast.
The atmosphere was far from tense, though I think Bill was considering the possibility of an adverse outcome. For myself I had seen enough of the proceedings to be confident in both the fairness of Judge B. and the quality of the case for medical marijuana use, as a mitigating factor in the sentence for marijuana possession. The freshness of the prosecuting attorney was another factor in our favor, as it happened, but I didn’t think of that while I was sticking a plastic fork into my scrambled eggs.
Tony showed up with a couple of huge yellow buttons that said “FIX MARYLAND’S MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAW”, and I stuck one on the front of my blue shirt, before the four of us sat down, on the front row, for the proceedings.
Caren was first up to testify as to her knowledge of Bill, and she slipped in some good stuff about Bill being an activist and everything. And then, the prosecuting attorney gets to cross examine, and Caren had her for lunch. For real. The best the attorney could do was, “Are you a doctor?”, which was pretty lame. Score like five for the good guys.
And then Stephen challenged a whole bunch of the stuff the state was using for evidence and, as a result the Judge agreed that a whole bunch of stuff be redacted. (The jury said the cops were “testilying”).. And then a bunch of Bill’s property was returned to him.
And then Bill made a statement and took questions from both attorneys. Oh gosh, she made a half a hit with “Do you smoke cigarettes?” which Bill parried with, “I have, on occasion, yes”. Leaving her nowhere to go.
The judge was eloquent in his summation. Before delivering the all but inevitable finding for “medical necessity”, and thus a $100 fine, no probation, the Judge opined that the use of smoked marijuana, in preference to pills, when treating nausea, amounted to common sense.
With this case, Maryland struggles one tiny step closer to justice, sanity and basic human decency. That people with chronic medical conditions are subjected to being beaten up by the police, having that reported as “resisting arrest”, and then have to deal with the expense, and potentially adverse consequences of a jury trial, merely for treating themselves with a God-given healing herb, in the privacy of their own homes is an offense against everything a free person stands for.
We had a late lunch in a very nice Thai restaurant, and everybody was really happy and charged up for whatever.
I noticed, as we left the restaurant, that my white slacks had a sort of yellow coating down one side – looked like pollen, maybe. Something like that. Could have been there all day. (Thank heavens the Washington Post doesn’t have pictures).
There remains the possibility of an appeal. During the case the judge ruled medical marijuana defense inadmissible, except as a mitigating factor at sentencing. This ruling may be vulnerable on appeal, opening the door for patients in Maryland to present the case for medical marijuana to a jury. Having seen some of the relevant documents I dare say this particular ruling is very vulnerable. There are also other precedents that could be established.
Anybody got five thousand bucks?

The Hearing

February 2010
The last week has been a blizzard of activity, culminating in today’s hearing in front of two committees comprising more than a quarter of the entire Maryland House of Delegates. There were more than two dozen witnesses, and many more written testimonies.

It was a huge gathering of energy, marshaled by Dr. Dan Morhaim, Delegate from Baltimore’s 11th district. And the forces behind Medical Marijuana were so rampant, so overwhelming, that the only harms our side suffered were self-inflicted. But let us not dwell on small things – today went very well for us.

Dr. Morhaim introduced his legislation to the world, and to us, about a month after we sent the legislature our first batch of 600 postcards in support of medical marijuana. The bill, described by Dr. Morhaim as the most restrictive medical marijuana law in the country, was not to our liking for a few reasons, but its absolute prohibition of patient cultivation was simply unacceptable. We did, for a time, consider shelving this objection, but the MMJ patients and activists in Maryland were almost monolithic in their support for the right to grow, and thus we determined to offer only conditional support for Dr. Morhaim’s bill.

When the bill was introduced, with 47 cosponsors in the House, and 10 in the Senate, it is reasonable to assume that part of the reason for the huge number of cosponsors were the 2166 of our postcards (at least one from every single district in the state) which had, by then, been received by the Delegates.

We never met with Delegate Morhaim until yesterday, although our friends at MPP did inform him, and the lead sponsors in the Senate (Sen. Brinkley & Sen. Raskin) that the right to grow was a deal breaker for us. So it cannot have been a surprise to Del. Morhaim that we chose to announce our provisional support, conditional on such an amendment, when we contacted the entire Delegation on Wednesday morning.

Very shortly after receiving this letter, Del. Glenn invited us to a meeting with Del. Morhaim in her office.

Damien called Neill Franklin of LEAP and asked him to come with us. Something about Major Franklin, (Ret). adds a certain gravitas to the crew. Maybe his thirty three years as a police officer in Maryland. Whatever, we introduced ourselves to Dr. Morhaim – he already knew Neill.

The meeting was efficient. Dr. Morhaim told us how he was going to deal with our objection. It was in no way a negotiation – Damien and I barely spoke – and Dr. Morhaim asked us no questions, nor did he even solicit a response – he was perfectly clear - this is what you can have – take it or leave it.

He also said, that removing the prohibition on the right to grow might cost us the bill this year, and if we don’t get a favorable report out of the Judiciary committee, then we will be back in the same position next year. That Judiciary chair Vallario will strangle the bill in committee is a cast-iron certainty, so all we really discovered was that when Morhaim re-introduces the bill next session, the right to grow will be excluded again.

Without the right to grow there is no legal supply of marijuana. Our other objections to this legislation can be dealt with in subsequent years - if we don't start with the right to grow we might never get medical marijuana at all. Such things as protection from arrest, or the inclusion of particular medical conditions can be dealt with in subsequent years, if necessary.

For the rest of the day we made phone calls, collected testimony, and generally prepared for our trip to Annapolis.

We had to deliver 70 copies of the written testimonies by noon. Some of them needed a bit of tidying up when they arrived, but we were in Annapolis at 11:30AM with seven times seventy testimonials, ASA also had a bunch, and there were umpteen witnesses who registered to speak. As the hearing came together in the huge committee room in the Legislative Services building, we were feeling nervously confident.

The TV people interviewed Barry Considine just inside the committee room, and I think there were at least two TV teams, as well as someone from the Gazette newspaper. Lots of the seats were full when Chairman Vallerio asked the bill sponsors -- Delegates Glenn and Morhaim, and Senator Brinkley -- to take their seats at the witness table.

For three hours witness after witness, generally in groups of four, took their allotted three minutes to share their expertise, their suffering, their pleas to the Delegates to please pass this legislation, (frequently saying also with an amendment to allow patients to cultivate). Only two witnesses raised an objection to the bill itself. And both of these based their objection on controversial research suggesting cannabis as a causative agent in schizophrenia. The only cops who spoke, spoke in support.

There were a few Delegates who identified themselves as opponents by their questions – two were openly hostile - they will be getting a few more postcards I expect. Also, I think we might send a newsletter to the rest of the Delegation with respect to the questions that perhaps remain open – and I might look into that schizophrenia thing a bit more. If is true, then Doctors should be made aware of the need to check for a family history of psychosis before recommending cannabis to patients, and if it is junk, then we should point to the research that proves its junk.

In what was one of the most dramatic moments, one of the speakers from LEAP made public a bit of police practice from his past experience. Matthew Fogg explained that his strong objection to the clause excluding felons from jobs in, or ownership of, medical marijuana dispensaries, was due to the fact that narcotics police routinely, and intentionally, made more busts in poorer parts of town, because it was harder for the victims to lawyer up and beat the rap. And because poorer areas are very frequently places with a high concentration of minority groups, this policy was racist then, and to perpetuate it with this exclusion, is racist now. I found this argument persuasive. Delegates who may have benefited more from this revelation seemed otherwise occupied when the point was raised. Perhaps this matter could be further explored in a newsletter to the Delegates.

The committee members will now retire to consider their votes, and to make such amendments to the bill as seem appropriate.

We are aiming to be the victors in the last battle, what has happened so far is just foreplay.

And we keep getting stronger.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Snowden operation appears to be just that, an Op.

Drake, Binney and Tice have already told us everything Snowden “revealed”.  In Snowden’s case, however, the data is spiced with salacious details (Merkel’s cell phone, agent’s using NSA resources to pursue sexual misconduct). Wow.  It’s just like a Hollywood movie.

Nobody in their right mind would accept the way these events are framed by the corporate media.

The argument is constructed in such a way as to persuade ordinary people concerned with privacy or the constitution, to align themselves with Snowden, and thereby Greenwald and his billionaire sponsor.

This Op also distracts attention from the real whistle-blowers cited above.  In that regard, it is a gift that keeps on giving, much in the way of the color coded terror alerts, or new videos from bin Laden, in the past, have been timed to achieve political aims.

And thus a whole new constellation of stars arise, for not only do we have Snowden, the hero, we have Greenwald who has gained the reputation of a fearless truth-teller, because nobody bothered to undertake a proper examination of his record.  And Omidyar, the billionaire gets to launch his new network with a stable of superstar reporters (Greenwald, Skahill, etc.) and a treasure trove of saucy “revelations” to keep the punters pumping.

Everybody wins – the billionaires, the NSA, the fake journalists and their fake “alternative” news, the smug liberals and libertarians, everybody except the reality based community, and the victims, whose charred remains litter the middle east; and the many other places where the cameras do not go.