NEW YORK TIMES:  “I’m so totally paranoid I can’t stand myself,” said the distributor, who runs a nonprofit group here that grows and sells marijuana for medicinal purposes and who insisted on meeting in the privacy of a hotel room. It was not meant to be this way. New Mexico’s new medical marijuana law was intended to provide safe, aboveboard access to the drug for hundreds of residents with chronic pain and other debilitating conditions. By licensing nonprofit distributors, New Mexico hoped to improve upon the free-for-all distribution systems in some states like California and Colorado, where hundreds of for-profit dispensaries have sprung up with virtually no state oversight.

But even in New Mexico, the process — from procuring the starter seed (in Amsterdam, via a middleman) to medicalmarijuanathugfreeamerica.jpghome delivery (by a former Marine) — is not for the faint of heart. Those engaged in the experiment here never know if they will be arrested, because growing, selling and using marijuana remain illegal under federal law. And robbery is always a fear.

In a reversal of Bush administration policy, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in March that the government would not prosecute medical marijuana distributors who comply with state laws. That announcement has emboldened Rhode Island to adopt legislation similar to New Mexico’s: it will license three nonprofit “compassion centers” to grow and dispense the drug by 2012. At least six other states are now considering the model. But in recent weeks, law enforcement officers, some of them federal, have raided dispensaries in California and Washington State, and in the absence of any actual change in the federal law, many still fear prosecution. MORE

red-cross101.pngRELATED: The largest study of its kind has unexpectedly concluded that smoking marijuana, even regularly and heavily, does not lead to lung cancer. The new findings “were against our expectations,” said Donald Tashkin of the University of California at Los Angeles, a pulmonologist who has studied marijuana for 30 years. “We hypothesized that there would be a positive association between marijuana use and lung cancer, and that the association would be more positive with heavier use,” he said. “What we found instead was no association at all, and even a suggestion of some protective effect.” MORE


NEW JERSEY STAR LEDGER: Some of the most contentious social issues in this gubernatorial race — including medical marijuana and gay marriage — are also the subject of bills that could become law before the next governor shows up for the job. Gubernatorial candidates Chris Christie, Jon Corzine and Chris Daggett have not always made their positions clear on those topics or how strenuously they would push for such legislation, even in their first debate. Here are the candidates’ responses to our questions on the current state and potential future of medical marijuana, gay marriage, abortion and violent crime in New Jersey.

Q: Where do you stand on the current New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act, under which licensed “alternative-treatment centers” would produce the drug for residents with specific diseases?

Corzine: “I’d sign that legislation. I want to make sure, as it goes through the Assembly, that it has the right red-cross101.pngconstraints on it but I think we’re in the zone. I need to actually run through it with my counsel, all of the alternatives, but I think we’re close. I think we ought to move to this quickly. I think the people who would benefit from it, we would want to get to that sooner rather than later. I don’t think this, in any way, should be allowed to be a back-door access to recreational marijuana and we’ll make sure any bill that comes to my desk that gets my signature, we’re secure in that.”

Christie: “I do think that we can do a little bit better on the restrictions. I do favor allowing folks who have \serious illnesses — in a restricted number of illnesses — to have medical marijuana to alleviate suffering. I do want to make sure that we don’t have what’s gone on in California, where you have marijuana shops all red-cross101.pngover the place and people who are not really using it for serious illnesses. The current legislation, I think, is still a little bit weak on restrictions. I’d want to see it tightened up a little bit, but assuming that we could do that I would support it. I would take an active part in trying to make it the best bill we could so that I’d be able to sign it. It’s something that I would like to have be available to people who have significant pain and suffering issues connected with tragic illness.”

Daggett: “I don’t know all the details of the bill. I generally support the use of marijuana for medical red-cross101.pngpurposes as long as it can be done in a way that targets its use by the intended patient and has adequate safeguards against misuse or illegal use. I would be willing to consider being actively involved but I tend to also agree in the separation of various parts of the government. The Legislature will likely want to put its stamp on it in its own way and we need to let that process have its own course.” MORE

INQUIRER: Jarvier Sandoval was, by all appearances, a dedicated horticulturist who kept watch over his tender shoots at all hours. Just two problems. One, his garden was in Wharton State Forest in Waterford Township. Two, he was growing cannabis. Sandoval, 27, appeared yesterday in Superior Court in Camden, where he was sentenced to five years in prison for possession of 325 marijuana plants with intent to distribute. MORE

mexico_clo_1.jpgWASHINGTON POST: Stiff competition from thousands of mom-and-pop marijuana farmers in the United States threatens the bottom line for powerful Mexican drug organizations in a way that decades of arrests and seizures have not, according to law enforcement officials and pot growers in the United States and Mexico. Illicit pot production in the United States has been increasing steadily for decades. But recent changes in state laws that allow the use and cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes are giving U.S. growers a competitive advantage, challenging the traditional dominance of the Mexican traffickers, who once made brands such as Acapulco Gold the standard for quality. (Special Report: Marijuana Nation) Almost all of the marijuana consumed in the multibillion-dollar U.S. market once came from Mexico or Colombia. Now as much as half is produced domestically, often by small-scale operators who painstakingly tend greenhouses and indoor gardens to produce the more potent, and expensive, product that consumers now demand, according to authorities and marijuana dealers on both sides of the border.  The shifting economics of the marijuana trade have broad implications for Mexico’s war against the drug cartels, suggesting that market forces, as much as law enforcement, can extract a heavy price from criminal organizations that have used the spectacular profits generated by pot sales to fuel the violence and corruption that plague the Mexican state. MORE

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