ABC NEWS: Unlike Bill Clinton, Barack Obama never tried to say he didn’t inhale. In his 1995 memoir “Dreams from My Father,” Obama writes about smoking pot almost like Dr. Seuss wrote about eating green eggs and ham. As a high school kid, Obama wrote, he would smoke “in a white classmate’s sparkling new van,” he would smoke “in the dorm room of some brother” and he would smoke “on the beach with a couple of Hawaiian kids.” He would smoke it here and there. He would smoke it anywhere. Now a soon-to-be published biography by David Maraniss entitled “Barack Obama: The Story” gives more detail on Obama’s pot-smoking days, complete with testimonials from young Barry Obama’s high school buddies, a group that went by the name “the Choom Gang.” Choom was slang for smoking marijuana. Maraniss portrays the teenage Obama as not just a pot smoker, but a pot-smoking innovator. “As a member of the Choom Gang,” Maraniss writes, “Barry Obama was known for starting a few pot-smoking trends.” The first Obama-inspired trend: “Total Absorption” or “TA”. “TA was the opposite of Bill Clinton’s claim that as a Rhodes scholar at Oxford he smoked dope but never inhaled,” explains Maraniss. Here’s how it worked: If you exhaled prematurely when you were with the Choom Gang, “you were assessed a penalty and your turn was skipped the next time the joint came around.” As one of Obama’s old high school buddies tells Maraniss: “Wasting good bud smoke was not tolerated.” Another Obama innovation: “Roof Hits.” “When they were chooming in a car all the windows had to be rolled up so no smoke blew out and went to waste; when the pot was gone, they tilted their heads back and sucked in the last bit of smoke from the ceiling.” Maraniss also says Obama was known for his “Interceptions”: “When a joint was making the rounds, he often elbowed his way in, out of turn, shouted ‘Intercepted!,’ and took an extra hit.” MORE
LOS ANGELES TIMES: A day after federal prosecutors moved to shutter the country’s largest medical marijuana dispensary, city leaders and other officials came to the defense of Harborside Health Center, warning of dire economic and social consequences if Oakland’s carefully regulated industry is quashed. “We cannot afford the money, we cannot afford the waste of law enforcement resources, and we cannot afford the loss of jobs that this would entail,” City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan said Thursday at a news conference as dozens of Harborside Health Center patients stood by. Co-founded in 2006 by Executive Director Steve DeAngelo, Harborside has in many ways set standards for the medical marijuana industry. The sleek operation — which has a smaller sister dispensary in San Jose — lab tests its cannabis to assess quality and measure key chemical components; offers acupuncture, pain management and other free wellness services to its thousands of members; and employs more than 125 people. DeAngelo worked closely with Oakland officials as they crafted one of the nation’s strictest regulatory schemes to monitor and tax the industry, and officials say he complies with all local and state laws. But Melinda Haag, the U.S. attorney for California’s Northern District, is now seeking to seize the properties where Harborside operates, alleging its marijuana sales violate federal law and that its size as a “superstore” increases the likelihood that it is in violation of state law. A civil forfeiture action was served Wednesday against Harborside’s two landlords. If the move drives Harborside out of business, a chunk of its $30 million in annual sales would no doubt return to the streets, benefiting dealers who don’t lab test their products or work with patients to customize medications, DeAngelo and other advocates said Thursday. MORE
LOS ANGELES TIMES: In the latest attempt to regulate what many say is an out-of-control proliferation of medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles, the City Counted voted 14-0 Tuesday to ban pot shops. Under the ban, each of the 762 dispensaries that have registered with the city will be sent a letter ordering them to shut down immediately. Those that don’t comply may face legal action from the city. Medical marijuana activists who had packed the council chambers jeered when the vote came down. More than a dozen Los Angeles Police Department officers were called in to quell them. Under the ban, medical patients and their caregivers will be able to grow and share the drug in small groups of three people or less. But the activists say most patients don’t have the time or skills to cultivate marijuana. One dispensary owner told the council that it would cost patients a minimum of $5,000 to grow marijuana at home. In a seemingly contradictory move, the council also voted to instruct city staff to draw up an ordinance that would allow a group of about 170 dispensaries that registered with the city several years ago to remain open. MORE
HUFFINGTON POST: Penn Jillette, who has never done drugs or drank alcohol in his life, expressed particular concern over the policies’ broad-sweeping, all-inclusive nature. Namely, that people are going to prison because of marijuana use. “Now, he has not left this to states’ rights,” Jillette posited. “As you know, medical marijuana… you can get in California, and the feds are coming in to try to stop this. States’ rights don’t mean jack sh*t to the Obama administration on anything except gay marriage.” Another point of contention for Jillette was the fact that President Obama mentioned that he had smoked “weed” and done “maybe a little blow” in his 1995 book “Dreams from my Father.” Jillette cited it as a prime example of the fact that not all drug users turn out to be menaces to society. MORE
PENN JILLETTE: What troubles me about this… I think it’s beyond hypocrisy. I think it’s something to do with class. A lot of people have accused Obama of class warfare, but in the wrong direction. I believe this is Obama chortling with Jimmy Fallon about lower class people. Do we believe, even for a second, that if Obama had been busted for marijuana — under the laws that he condones — would his life have been better? If Obama had been caught with the marijuana that he says he uses, and ‘maybe a little blow’… if he had been busted under his laws, he would have done hard f*cking time. And if he had done time in prison, time in federal prison, time for his ‘weed’ and ‘a little blow,’ he would not be President of the United States of America. He would not have gone to his fancy-a** college, he would not have sold books that sold millions and millions of copies and made millions and millions of dollars, he would not have a beautiful, smart wife, he would not have a great job. He would have been in f*cking prison, and it’s not a god damn joke. People who smoke marijuana must be set free. It is insane to lock people up. MORE
RELATED: A record number of Americans support the legalizing and taxing marijuana, according to Rasmussen Reports.Their nationwide survey found that 47 percent of Americans agree that marijuana should be legalized, while 42 percent disagree. Ten percent are undecided. The survey was conducted on March 24-25. In October 2011, Gallup also found that Americans favor marijuana legalization now more than ever. A record-high 50 percent of Americans said the use of marijuana should be made legal, up 4 percent from last year and 14 percent from 2006. “If this current trend on legalizing marijuana continues, pressure may build to bring the nation’s laws into compliance with the people’s wishes,” Gallup noted. Perhaps a sign that marijuana legalization is becoming mainstream, conservative televangelist Pat Robertson surprised the nation earlier this month when he said the drug should be legal and regulated like alcohol.MORE
PHAWKER: Notice how restricting a woman’s constitutional right to access to safe and legal abortion is a states issue. Restricting black people’s constitutional right to vote is a states issue. Restricting poor people’s God-given right to wellness is a states issue. But when the citizens of 15 states exercise their fundamental, incontrovertible vote to legalize medical marijuana? Holy fucking shit! Send in the Feds!
Now, to people like you and me, the greatest threat that legalization of marijuana presents to society is that someone might enjoy listening to Pet Sounds at twilight a little too much, or laugh at a Will Ferrell movie a little harder than it deserves. But to the police/prison-industrial complex the legalization of marijuana in states like New Jersey could mean the loss of billions of dollars in drug war interdiction and incarceration funds. In 2007, 872,721 Americans were arrested for marijuana, accounting for 47.5 percent of all drug arrests that year. Of those charged with marijuana violations, approximately 89 percent or 775,138 Americans were charged with possession only.
As such, the legalization of medical marijuana represents a grave threat to the status quo of law enforcement and penal system budgets, and as a result their supporters and proxies are the loudest voices protesting any change in the legal status of marijuana. And when the facts do not support your cause, your only option is to disguise them in a fog of fear and disinformation. One of the most common myths parroted by opponents of medical marijuana is that dispensaries that dole out weed to patients are “crime magnets.” This non-fact appears often in news stories about the issue, usually with little or no corroborating evidence. A couple years back a story in the Philadelphia Inquirer concluded with this quote from a medical marijuana opponent:
“The California experience shows clearly that there will be an increase in crime and an increase particularly in the areas in which there are the dispensaries, and more and more municipalities in California are passing local laws prohibiting dispensing facilities in their community.” – John Tomicki, executive director of the League of American Families
The second half of this quote is in fact true. In the past year, nearly a half dozen California municipalities have voted to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, and more are considering following suit, for fear they would become crime magnets. We looked into this and it turns out that the primary source driving this fear of medical marijuana dispensaries is a White Paper published by the California Police Chief’s Association. Now, expecting a fair and balanced report on the social impact of medical marijuana from a Police Chief’s Association is a little like expecting a fair and balanced report on global warming from Exxon, but be that as it may, we read through this White Paper to see for ourselves what all the hub-bub was about.
In a section marked ANCILLARY CRIME: MURDERS AND ROBBERIES, the report details 11 armed robberies and five murders at California medical marijuana dispensaries — usually botched robberies wherein the victims attempted to resist or pulled guns on their robbers. These stark accounts would give anyone pause, at least until they consider the following: In the 13 years that medical marijuana has been legal in California there have been 37, 364 murders and 929,623 robberies statewide that were NOT associated with medical marijuana facilities.
Or consider this interactive map created by the Sacramento Bee detailing criminal activity surrounding a single liquor store for a period of six months in 2005.
Or consider that 1995 Honda Civics were the most-stolen vehicle in 2007 according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau, but we have yet to see any news stories calling them “crime magnets.”
Seems to us that this oft-repeated notion that marijuana dispensaries are crime magnets is, if you will pardon the pun, a case of the the kettle calling the pot black.
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