As lawmakers struggle with the question of whether to make medical marijuana legal in their states, families from Kansas and Missouri are packing up and moving to Colorado. Those families have a new name. They are called “marijuana refugees,” and they are moving to Colorado, usually, because they have a child who suffers from severe epilepsy or some other disorder that causes devastating seizures, like Dravet syndrome.
Marijuana is legal in Colorado for recreational use. But more importantly for these so-called refugees, medical marijuana is also legal.
Kathy and Ryan Reed have a 2-year-old son, Otis, who suffers from debilitating seizures. He can’t walk or talk and he broke a leg early in the year because constant medication for his seizures weakened his bones. The Reeds are convinced that an oil, known as Charlotte’s Web, can help their son and reduce the number of seizures he has.
Charlotte’s Web is an oil that is extracted from the cannabis plant. It can be administered to a child by putting a drop under the tongue. It does not create a euphoric high but if the Reeds brought it to their home state of Kansas they could be arrested. The national Epilepsy Foundation says the treatment should be available nationwide.
In May the Reeds will move to Colorado so they can treat their son with Charlotte’s Web.
“Anybody in our shoes would do the same thing,” Ryan Reed recently told The Kansas City Star.
They aren’t alone. Margaret Gedde, a pathologist in Colorado Springs says more and more people are making the decision to flee the 29 states where they are unable to access the marijuana-derived treatments to help their children.
“As success stories get out and word spreads, they are coming here from everywhere,” Gedde said. “We see them everyday.”
Charlotte’s Web was named for Charlotte Figi, a 7-year-old girl from Colorado Springs. She has Dravet syndrome. According to CNN, when she began taking the treatment that now bears her name the seizures from which she was suffering were reduced from 300 per week to just two or three a month.
Even with anecdotes of such promising results the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to claim that marijuana “has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision” and that “no sound scientific studies support(s) medical use of marijuana.”
Yet 20 states have voted to ease restrictions on medical marijuana. Lawmakers in Kansas and Missouri are currently considering legislation but many believe it could be two years before a referendum appears on a ballot in Missouri.
The Reeds won’t be waiting for state lawmakers in Kansas to make a decision. They are leaving.
“You’ll do anything for your kids,” said David Reed, Otis’ grandfather, as he helped the family plan the move. “That’s just how it is.”
A national advocacy group in favor of drug law reform asked the Louisiana Supreme Court on Wednesday to review the 13-year prison sentence of a man convicted of possessing the equivalent of two marijuana cigarettes.
The Drug Policy Alliance filed an amicus brief with the court on behalf of 48-year-old Bernard Noble. According to the group’s own press release, Noble was originally sentenced to five years of hard labor for the minor drug charge, but the Orleans Parish District Attorney appealed the sentence.
Noble’s case eventually wound up before the Louisiana Supreme Court. He was sentenced, last year, to 13 years for possession of 2.8 grams of marijuana.
“Thirteen years in prison for two joints is obscene,” said Daniel Abrahamson, the lead author of the brief for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The punishment is so far out of proportion to the conduct that we really can’t call it ‘punishment’ — it is more like torture.”
Noble had never been convicted of a violent crime. His only only prior convictions were from two similar cases for possession of drugs for personal use. One conviction was 20 years ago.
A story from Al-Jazeera earlier this year indicates that Louisiana is home to some of the nation’s toughest drug laws. A first arrest in the state for minor drug possession can carry a six-month jail sentence. A third arrest can carry a 20-year sentence or possibly life in prison.
Derwyn Bunton, the chief public defender in New Orleans, said Noble’s case was just another example of an unequal criminal justice system.
“We in the South are part of the Bible belt, [a] very Christian part of the country, that has produced some very conservative values that play themselves out in our criminal justice system,” he told Al-Jazeera. “There is also the history of slavery and racism in the south. It becomes easy to sort of make a political name prosecuting very vigorously drug offenses.”
But those prosecutions come at a high cost for the state, and Abrahamson questioned whether it is worth it. He pointed out that a high percentage of the state’s prisoners have not committed a violent crime.
“Finally, Mr. Noble’s prison sentence for possessing two joints will cost Louisiana taxpayers nearly one-quarter of a million dollars and will add to the majority of nonviolent offenders who currently fill Louisiana’s prisons,” Abrahamson said. “In fact, only 17 percent of the state’s prison inmates have committed violent crimes, whereas fully one quarter of the state’s prison population is there for drug crimes.”
Noble’s current sentence carries no chance for parole.
Five Chicago police officers’ testimonies concerning the discovery of nearly a pound of marijuana in a civilian’s car were proven false after police car footage was introduced to the case last month.
Last year, the Chicago narcotics officers who had Joseph Sperling under surveillance asked Glenview police to pull the 23-year-old over in a marked car. From this point forward, however, accounts differ.
As the officers’ version of the story went, Sperling was pulled over after he failed to use his turn signal. An officer testified that as he waited for Sperling to produce his license and registration, he smelled marijuana.
Four Chicago and Glenview officers’ testimonies supported the officer who stated that he then ordered Sperling to exit the vehicle and stand by the trunk as his car was searched, which led to the discovery of large quantities of marijuana in a backpack on the back seat of the car.
The Glenview police footage, however, proves that events did not unravel in this neat of a manner.
Instead, the video shows that while officers did in fact search the car, they did so after removing Sperling from his car, frisking him and handcuffing him. It was only after Sperling was already sitting in the police car that officers searched his car.
Sperling has testified that, contrary to officers’ claims, he had used his turn signal, and that he was never asked to produce his license or registration. Furthermore, while officers claimed the backpack containing the marijuana was on the back seat of the car, Sperling said that it was under the seat.
At the March 31 hearing, Cook County Circuit Judge Catherine Haberkorn granted a defense motion to suppress the search, thereby eliminating the basis for Sperling’s arrest. Prosecutors dismissed the felony drug charges against Sperling.
“All the officers lied on the stand today,” Haberkorn said. “So there is strong evidence it was conspiracy to lie in this case, for everyone to come up with the same lie.”
Steven Goldman, Sperling’s lawyer, managed to attain the video by issuing a subpoena to the Glenview police department.
If the video had not been produced in rebuttal at the suppression hearing, Goldman said that Sperling would likely have been convicted, and would have gone to jail.
All five officers were stripped of their police powers and were put on desk duty as their conduct was investigated. Three of the officers are from Chicago; two are from Glenview.
Sperling has filed a federal civil rights suit over his arrest.
A video taken by two teenagers in New South Wales, Australia depicts the girls hitting a dog, picking it up by its ears and allegedly blowing marijuana in the animal’s face. Footage includes a self-captured video as well as a Snapchat of the encounter with the dog, which includes the caption “Dog stoned.”
The video initially caused outrage across social media platforms, with individuals from around the world speaking out against what appeared to be several acts of animal cruelty.
According to 9News MSN, law enforcement officials in New South Wales have been investigating the incident.
“Police are aware of a video circulating on social media which depicts an act of alleged animal cruelty. Officers from the mid-north coast area command have identified the girls involved in the video and are attempting to speak with them,” said a police spokeswoman.
New South Wales passed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in 1979, which encourages indivduals to report any instances of animal abuse.
The graphic video of the girls' attack on the dog can be viewed below.
According to doctors at Arizona animal shelters, the state’s new medical marijuana laws have had some unintended consequences.
Speaking with KCTV, Emergency Animal Clinic’s Dr. Billy Griswold claimed that the number of animals showing up at veterinary clinics after ingesting marijuana has more than doubled since the new laws went into effect. At Emergency Animal Clinic alone, which operates out of five locations in the greater Phoenix area, veterinarians are reporting over 24 cases of pets that have ingested marijuana each month.
Although pets can have an upset stomach or act more sedate after ingesting marijuana, the drug is neither toxic to animals nor a serious threat to any animal’s long-term health.
While many of these cases occur accidentally after a pet finds its way into an owner's stash, some individuals are purposefully feeding animals the drug. The Huffington Post reported on the case of Laura Bugni-Daniel, a Los Angeles woman who began feeding her sick 12-year-old bulldog medical marijuana in order to ease his pain.
Whether or not marijuana can be beneficial to a pet’s health is still undetermined, largely because there has not been much research into the field. With the increased adoption of medical marijuana laws, as well as the legalization of the drug in states like Colorado and Washington, further studies are likely to continue into marijuana’s medicinal potential for all species.
Catalina Clouser, the Phoenix, Arizona mom who smoked weed and left her baby on the roof of her car while she drove off from a friend’s house, pleaded guilty to charges of child abuse and DUI earlier this year. Now, the 21-year-old has been sentenced, but she won’t be serving any jail time.
Clouser was sentenced on Wednesday to 16 years of supervised probation following the 2012 incident. According to reports, Clouser, then 19 years old, was at a friend’s house smoking marijuana and when she went to leave, she placed her then 2-month-old baby on the roof of her car.
Clouser drove 12 miles home before realizing that her baby wasn’t in the car, but by that point, it was too late. A passerby discovered the baby, still strapped in a car seat, in the middle of a highway, miraculously unharmed.
"I just want to say, I do know that what I did was horrible," said Clouser to Maricopa County Superior Judge Cynthia Bailey prior to sentencing.
The baby was placed in state custody following the incident. It is not clear if Clouser has regained custody of the child.
The U.S. Justice Department has agreed to give Washington state access to an FBI database so it can run background checks on people who apply to open legal marijuana businesses.
Colorado has the same access to the database to run its own checks.
Washington state put in a request to use the database last April, but without explanation the DOJ did not respond until now.
The White House has said it wants to ensure revenue from the legalization of marijuana doesn't fall into the hand of organized crime. Simultaneously the government doesn’t want to help states violate the federal law.
“It’s an issue of consistency,” said Alison Holcomb, a Seattle lawyer who drafted Washington’s marijuana law. “The DOJ set forth a specific set of goals it expected Washington to meet, and the refusal to perform nationwide background checks appeared to be an obstacle to allowing the state to meet those goals.”
Washington access to the database, the DOJ says, was approved “to ensure a consistent national approach,” the agency told The Associate Press in a statement.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Jay Inslee (D), Jaime Smith, called said the decision was “certainly helpful in our efforts to move forward and establish a strong regulatory framework.”
A disturbing video has recently surfaced on Reddit showing a young child, who doesn’t appear to be older than 3 years old, being handed a joint by the person filming and taking a puff.
The video was posted on Reddit yesterday and, so far, over 500 people have commented on it.
“After watching this I immediately downloaded the video, took screenshots and reported it to CPS in California as it is where the user is from,” wrote user skidoorider21. “This is no environment for a child to be in. He needs a good parent not someone to hurt him or bring him down.”
Many users were quick to point out that the poster on Vine was not the original source of the video but expressed hope that the original poster would be tracked down.
“I looked at the guys Twitter and he had said he did not film it, only reposted it,” wrote user DudeInUSA. “Still, it needs to get out there so the person who did film it can be tracked down.”
A fight caught on video between a teacher and high school student has become a media sensation and caused an uproar in the community.
The video allegedly shows Santa Monica High School wrestling coach and science teacher Mark Black physically restraining a student who supposedly was caught selling marijuana in his classroom.
Students who witnessed the incident said that it began when Black tried to confiscate a bag of cannabis from the teenager who reportedly then stabbed Black with a pencil, reports the Daily News.
Neither Black nor the student threw punches, and the video shows Black eventually with his arms locked around the student’s legs, on the floor.
The student was arrested; Black has been placed on leave pending an investigation.
A letter sent home to parents by Black’s boss has caused an uproar.
Sandra Lyon, superintendent of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, wrote in the letter that “a number of videos capturing at least a portion of the incident are circulating, and I can tell you that what I witnessed on one of those videos is utterly alarming.”
She also wrote that the “physical restraint” used by the teacher was “unacceptable.”
Many people disagree.
“In matters of self-defense, or matters involving harm to other students, I think it’s reasonable for teachers to use physical force to restrain students,” Oscar De La Torre, an SMMUSD school board member told KTLA. He said that if Black had wanted to, “he could’ve hurt that student. I call it really restrained intervention on his part.”
A Facebook page supporting Coach Black was created; it had over 2,500 “likes” in a half a day and has now surpassed 6,500. Many commenters on the page have shown their support for the teacher.
“Terrible job by the superintendent making statements without full knowledge of the situation ... poor leadership and not very supportive of her teachers,” wrote John S. Dahlem, a teacher in Orange County who grew up in Santa Monica. “The superintendent needs to read the Education Code on reasonable restraint and the rights of teachers to defend themselves when being attacked, stabbed with a pencil, etc.”
In response to the uproar caused by her first letter, Lyon sent another addressed to the community.
“There is concern that my statement reflected a pre-judgement of the the teacher’s conduct prior to completion of an investigation,” Superintendent Lyon wrote. “There is also concern about my failure to address the conduct of one or more students who were involved in the incident. In retrospect, I understand how my statement created those concerns. I apologize that my comments focuses solely on the message that teachers should not physically engage when disciplining students or intervening without underscoring that we need to obtain all the details leading up to this situation before we reach conclusions.”
A petition has been created by alumni Timothy Conley to reinstate Coach Black. It currently has 1,136 supporters.
A Washington man has filed a federal complaint against an Idaho state trooper who he claims pulled him over because of his Colorado license plate, a state where marijuana is legal.
Darien Roseen, 70, lives in Washington state but owns a second home in Colorado, said he was stopped on Jan. 25, as he was driving across the Idaho-Oregon border along I-84, Courthouse News reported.
“He was stopped in Idaho and deprived of his constitutional rights because he was driving a car with a license plate from a state that ISP associated with marijuana,” said his attorney, Mark Coonts.
Washington and Colorado passed ballot initiatives in November 2012 to legalize marijuana and began allowing private consumption the following month.
The suit claims state Trooper Justin Kiltch followed Roseen to the parking lot of a rest stop, which made him uncomfortable.
Klitch reportedly did not immediately explain why he pulled Roseen over, but later said he did so because the older man failed to use his signal while exiting the interstate, and for bumping the curb.
Klitch argued against Roseen’s reason for pulling into the rest area, saying, “You didn't have to go to the bathroom before you saw me. ... I'm telling you, you pulled in here to avoid me. That's exactly what you did.”
The suit states that Klitch asked Roseen why his eyes appeared glassy and failed to ask for the driver’s license and proofs of registration and insurance, which he never returned. He then accused Roseen of “having something in his vehicle that he should not have.”
“After Mr. Roseen identified his possession of valid prescription medications, Trooper Klitch asked him, ‘When is the last time you used any marijuana?’ thereby assuming that Mr. Roseen had, in fact, used marijuana and inferring that he had used it recently,” according to the complaint.
Klitch repeatedly asked to search the vehicle, saying Roseen’s actions were “consistent with a person who was hiding something illegal,” but the driver declined permission.
That’s when Klitch threatened to call for a drug-sniffing dog, the suit claims.
Roseen finally consented to a search of “parts” of the vehicle, and began unpacking presents he was bringing to his daughter’s baby shower.
“When Mr. Roseen opened the trunk compartment, and despite the strong gusts of wind and precipitation that day, Trooper Klitch claimed he could smell the odor of marijuana,” the complaint states. “Mr. Roseen stated that he could not smell the odor of marijuana that Trooper Klitch claimed to be coming from the trunk compartment.”
The trooper said the aroma gave him probable cause to search the car and detain Roseen in the back of Klitch’s police cruiser, but he was not under arrest despite having his Miranda rights read to him.
Roseen’s vehicle was driven to the Payette County sheriff’s department by a Fruitland city police officer for an additional search, which found nothing, and was issued a citation for “inattentive/careless” driving.
Roseen filed a federal lawsuit against Klitch, the Fruitland police officer, a Payette County sheriff’s deputy, and the Idaho state police, claiming they violated his Fourth, Fifth and 14th Amendment Rights.
“At no point did Trooper Klitch’s line of questioning relate to Mr. Roseen’s alleged improper driving pattern,” the complaint says. “Instead, Trooper Klitch immediately accused Mr. Roseen of transporting something illegal.”