Religious Claim for Cannabidiol Moves Forward

1970

I began to realize that cannabis is the sacrament in the late 1960s.  I began looking for others who were having the same experience.  I soon became associated with a group known as Rastafari who interpret the King James Version of the Bible, the Sankey hymnal, the writings of John Bunyan, and the writings of Marcus Garvey, in a way that makes sense to me.  I came to realize that Christ is just us (the members of the church – Romans 12:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Ephesians 4:25; Ephesians 5:30; Colossians 4:11 “And Jesus, which is called Justus, who are …”) and that cannabis is the blood of Christ.  My church was incorporated by that group in Jamaica as the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church (EZCC) in 1976.

I was arrested in 1978 and 1980 for distribution of a Schedule 1 controlled substance (cannabis), and I was incarcerated in state and federal prisons between 1984 and 1986.

I incorporated the church in Iowa and petitioned the DEA for a federal religious exemption before going to prison in 1984.  See Olsen v. DEA, 878 F.2d 1458 (D.C. Cir. 1989).

I argued that the state of Iowa and the federal government both have religious exemptions for the sacramental use of a Schedule 1 controlled substance (peyote) and that equal protection should give the members of my church that same right.  See, Iowa Code § 124.204(8) and 21 C.F.R. § 1307.31.

1984

Consistent with the Florida Supreme Court finding in Town v. State, 377 So.2d 648 (Fla. 1979) that “the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church represents a religion within the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States,” that the “use of cannabis is an essential portion of the religious practice,” and that “the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church is not a new church or religion but the record reflects it is centuries old and has regularly used cannabis as its sacrament”, in 1984 the Iowa Supreme Court found that the EZCC is a bona fide religion and that cannabis is it’s sacrament.

However, the Supreme Court of Iowa decided there was a difference between the EZCC’s use of cannabis and the sacramental use of peyote by the Native American Church (NAC) making them not equal.  The court said the EZCC’s use of cannabis was unrestricted and the NAC’s use of peyote was restricted.

Both the state of Iowa and the federal government require manufacturers and distributors of sacramental peyote to register with the state of Iowa and the DEA.  There were no manufacturers of sacramental cannabis registered with the state of Iowa or the DEA at the time.  So, there was a restriction on the NAC’s supply of peyote that did not exist for the EZCC’s supply of cannabis at the time.  See, Iowa Code § 124.204(8) and 21 C.F.R. § 1307.31.

1990

Having lost the appeals from my 1978 and 1980 arrests and convictions, my federal petition for religious exemption came before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1990.  At that same time, the U.S. Supreme Court was considering a case involving the sacramental use of peyote in Oregon.  Oregon did not have a sacramental exemption for peyote in it’s state law, so the question was whether the U.S. Constitution required one.  To everyone’s shock and dismay, the court said no.  As long as Oregon was “neutral toward religion” and the law was “generally applicable” (“did not allow ‘any’ use of peyote”), it could constitutionally deny a religious exemption.  This meant there was no longer any federal equal protection argument to be made in Oregon, because Oregon did not allow the use of peyote for any pupose.  And, of course, my appeal then became moot.  My argument was equal protection.  I said I had a federal right to use cannabis based on a federal right to use peyote, and the court said there is no federal right to use peyote if the state prohibits all use of peyote.  See, Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990).

One would have to wonder.  If there is a federal regulation creating an exemption for the sacramental use of peyote, is there a federal right to use peyote as a religious sacrament?  The answer is, it depends.  It depends on state law.  First, does the state law allow a religious exemption for the sacramental use of peyote?  If the answer is yes, then there is a corresponding federal right to use peyote as a religious sacrament.  If the asnwer is no, then a second question is whether the state allows the use of peyote for any other reason.  If the answer to the second question is yes, then there may be a federal right to use peyote as a religious sacrament under the same terms and conditions as the currently allowed use.  If the answer to both questions is no, then there is no federal right to use peyote as a religious sacrament.

1993

The shock and dismay at the Employment Division v. Smith ruling was so uninanimous that Congress tried to overrule the U.S. Supreme Court decision.  Congress said a religious claim alone should be sufficient to force a state to show a “compelling interest” in denying the claim and the “least restrictive means” of doing so.  See, Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Pub. L. No. 103-141, 107 Stat. 1488 (November 16, 1993).

1997

The Supreme Court of the United States had the last word, ruling that Congress exceeded it’s constitutional separation of powers by imposing a federal judicial standard on the states.  See, City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997).

2018

Moving ahead, Iowa has enacted a law authorizing the manufacture, distribution, and use of a Schedule 1 controlled substance (cannabis extract).  Cannabis plants were planted in 2018 and cannabis extract will soon be available for distribution on December 1, 2018.  See, Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Act, 2017 Iowa Acts Chapter 162.

State Exemption

Take notice how the Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Act is written.

Notice how the act does not nullify the status of cannabis extract as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.  It simply provides an exemption from Schedule 1.  Similarly, the exemption of peyote for religious use does not nullify the status of peyote as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

International Exemption

Take notice how the international treaties are written.

Notice how the treaties do not nullify the status of cannabis extract as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.  The treaties simply provide an exemption from Schedule 1.

Federal Exemption

Take notice how this federal regulation is written.  See, 14 C.F.R. § 91.19 (2018)  Carriage of narcotic drugs, marihuana, and depressant or stimulant drugs or substances.

  • (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, no person may operate a civil aircraft within the United States with knowledge that narcotic drugs, marihuana, and depressant or stimulant drugs or substances as defined in Federal or State statutes are carried in the aircraft.
  • (b) Paragraph (a) of this section does not apply to any carriage of narcotic drugs, marihuana, and depressant or stimulant drugs or substances authorized by or under any Federal or State statute or by any Federal or State agency.

Notice how pargraph b does not nullify the status of cannabis as a Schedule 1 controlled substance.  The regulation simply provides an exemption from Schedule 1.  Click on this link for the original regulation from 1973.

Equal Protection

We now have manufacturers and distributors of cannabis extract who are registered with the state.

End users have only two restrictions: (1) the end user must have a condition certified to be on the list of approved conditions; and (2) the end user must obtain cannabis extract from an Iowa dispensary if available, from a neighboring state if available, or from an out-of-state source.

Conclusion

Supply is no longer an issue because cannabis extract is being manufactured and distributed in Iowa.

Users certified as being exempt for religious purposes will obtain cannabis extract from an Iowa dispensary if available, from a neighboring state if available, or from an out-of-state source.

A court may certify a religious user by ruling on a religious equal protection claim.

The state should set up an application process for religious use, rather than relying on indivual court rulings.

Appeal from pharmacy board’s refusal to consider religious exemption

On August 15, 2018, my attorney filed an appeal from the pharmacy board’s refusal to consider a religious exemption to the schedules of controlled substances for the sacramental use of cannabis by members of the Rastafari faith.  Olsen v. Board of Pharmacy, Iowa District Court, Polk County, No. CVCV056841.

The Iowa Code
The Iowa Code

The executive director unilaterally denied the petition on July 16, 2018, arguing that the board has no authority to consider religious exemptions.  The director’s unilateral decision runs contrary to the fact the Iowa schedules include a religious exemption (Iowa Code §§ 124.204(4)(p) and 124.204(8))) for the sacramental use of peyote by the Native American Church and the board has been given the duty to recommend changes to the schedules.  See Iowa Code § 124.201 (“Duty to recommend changes in schedules”).  The board’s federal counter-part, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), has guidelines on how to apply for religious exemptions to the federal controlled substances act (21 U.S.C. §§ 801 et seq.), so it would violate both the state and federal constitutions if the state scheduling did not have a similar process (due process) for doing the same thing.  And, the DEA has a religious exemption (21 C.F.R. § 1307.31) for the sacramental use of peyote by the Native American Church.

But the DEA has not always accepted applications for religious exemptions.  In 1988, The DEA said it had no authority to consider religious exemptions when I applied for one.  See Olsen v. DEA, 878 F.2d 1458, 1460 (D.C. Cir. 1989) (“According to the DEA, Congress intended no religious-use exemption from Controlled Substances Act proscriptions other than the peyote-use permission granted the Native American Church”).

The U.S. Court of Appeals responded to the DEA by saying:

The DEA’s contention that Congress directed the Administrator automatically to turn away all churches save one opens a grave constitutional question.  A statutory exemption authorized for one church alone, and for which no other church may qualify, presents a “denominational preference” not easily reconciled with the establishment clause.  See Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 245, 72 L. Ed. 2d 33, 102 S. Ct. 1673 (1982); cf. infra pp. 12-13.  We resist an interpretation dissonant with the “cardinal principle” that legislation should be construed, if “fairly possible,” to avoid a constitutional confrontation.  See Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U.S. 288, 348, 80 L. Ed. 688, 56 S. Ct. 466 (1936) (Brandeis, J., concurring).

Furthermore, we recognize that even if the DEA were not empowered or obliged to act, Olsen would be entitled to a judicial audience.  Ultimately, the courts cannot escape the obligation to address his plea that the exemption he seeks is mandated by the first amendment’s religion clauses.  See Peyote Way Church of God v. Smith, 742 F.2d 193 (5th Cir. 1984) (upholding church’s standing to seek a declaratory judgment that denying church access to peyote is unconstitutional).

Id. at 1461.

I don’t want to predict how the Iowa courts will rule on this, but I can certainly say how the Iowa courts should rule on it.  The Iowa courts should agree with the federal courts.  The pharmacy board’s executive director was not authorized by the Iowa legislature to turn away all churches other than the Native American Church.

My attorney is representing me pro bono, but I am paying for the filing fees.  If you’d like to help me with expenses, you can donate by going to my donation page at https://www.gofundme.com/rastafari-cannabis-sacrament.

Legal Analysis of Response from Board of Pharmacy

Analysis of the July 16, 2018, Response from the Iowa Board of Pharmacy

POINT #1:

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy (board) responds that Iowa Code chapter 17A does not establish a right or a procedure for an individual to petition for agency action of this nature.

Quoting from McMahon v. Iowa Board of Pharmacy, Case No. CV7415 (Polk County, April 21, 2009):

Petitioners were entitled to a written explanation of the reasons for the Board’s decision regardless of whether the agency action at issue was taken in response to a request for the adoption of agency rules, taken in response to a request for a declaratory order, or taken in a contested case proceeding.  See Iowa Code §§ 17A.7(1), 17A(4)(d), 17A.16; Ward v. Iowa Dept. of Transp., 304 N.W.2d 236, 238 (Iowa 1981).

Slip opinion, at 4.

My petition did not ask for the adoption of a rule, a declaratory order, or a contested case, but the petition I filed in 2008 was accepted and ruled on by the board.  The court accepted the petition for judicial review in 2009 and made the 2009 ruling in response to my scheduling petition.

The Iowa Supreme Court also made a ruling on it in 2010.  Quoting from McMahon v. Iowa Board of Pharmacy, No. 09-1789 (Iowa Supreme Court, May 14, 2010):

The petitioners and the intervenor are appealing from the district court’s ruling denying them additional judicial review of the pharmacy board’s denial of their requests to recommend marijuana’s reclassification as a controlled substance under Iowa Code chapter 124.  On February 17, 2010, while this appeal was pending, the pharmacy board recommended that the legislature reclassify the scheduling of marijuana as a controlled substance under Iowa Code chapter 124 (2009).  The board ultimately made the reclassification recommendation sought by the petitioners and the intervenor.

Slip opinion, at 1-2.

Because the only existing religious exemption is included in the list of schedules and because the legislature has determined that the board should make recommendations for changes to the schedules, the board is the proper authority to petition for another religious exemption.

Quoting from State v. Bonjour, 694 N.W.2d 511 (Iowa 2005):

That procedure is to defer to the Board of Pharmacy Examiners, which is far better equipped than this court — and the legislature, for that matter — to make critical decisions regarding the medical effectiveness of marijuana use and the conditions, if any, it may be used to treat.

Id. at 514.

Because the legislature placed a religious exemption in the schedules and because the legislature gave the board the duty of reviewing the schedules and making recommendations for changes, a petition for a second religious exemption must begin with the board.

Iowa Code § 17A.19(3) (2018):

In cases involving a petition for judicial review of agency action other than the decision in a contested case, the petition may be filed at any time petitioner is aggrieved or adversely affected by that action.

POINT #2:

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy (board) responds that Iowa Code chapter 124 requires the board to make recommendations based on scientific and medical evidence.

Failure to cite any scientific or medical reason, such as abuse potential, as justification to deny the request for a religious exemption could (and should) be interpreted to mean the state has no compelling interest in denying the religious exemption.

POINT #3:

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy (board) responds that it cannot evaluate religious practices.

The petition clearly says the petitioner is not asking the board to evaluate a religious practice.  The petitioner is asking for the same exemption that already exists for medical use under the same terms as that medical use.  The petitioner would either buy the cannabis extract from an authorized dispensary in Iowa or obtain it from an out-of-state source.

The question in Bonjour was whether marijuana had medical use, and, if so, “defining the parameters to place on it.” Id. at 513.

But, the parameters are no longer undefined.

Iowa, 2014 Acts, Chapter 1125, S.F. 2360, Sec. 3(1) defined what form of cannabis was allowed in 2014:

a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid found in the plant Cannabis sativa L. or Cannabis indica or any other preparation thereof that is essentially free from plant material, and has a tetrahydrocannabinol level of no more than three percent.

Iowa, 2014 Acts, Chapter 1125, S.F. 2360, Sec. 7(1)(b) defined how cannabis could be obtained and used in 2014:

shall be obtained from an out-of-state source and shall only be recommended for oral or transdermal administration

Iowa, 2017 Acts, Chapter 162, H.F. 524, Sec. 5(6) defines what form of cannabis is currently allowed:

any pharmaceutical grade cannabinoid found in the plant Cannabis sativa L. or Cannabis indica or any other preparation thereof that has a tetrahydrocannabinol level of no more than three percent and that is delivered in a form recommended by the medical cannabidiol board, approved by the board of medicine, and adopted by the department pursuant to rule

Iowa, 2017 Acts, Chapter 162, H.F. 524, Sec. 16 defines how cannabis may be currently obtained:

if not legally available in this state or from any other bordering state, shall be obtained from an out-of-state source

The petitioner is asking for equal or greater protection, so the board knows exactly what is being requested.  The petition is asking for a religious exemption to use cannabis extracts under the same or greater terms as an authorized medical user has.

Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872, 884 (1990):

our decisions in the unemployment cases stand for the proposition that where the State has in place a system of individual exemptions, it may not refuse to extend that system to cases of “religious hardship” without compelling reason

POINT #4:

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy (board) responds that the petitioner does not have a federal exemption for the religious use of cannabis.

Medical users in Iowa do not have a federal exemption for medical use of cannabis extract.  See, United States v. Schostag, No. 17-2530, slip op. 4 (8th Cir. July 13, 2018) (“Although some medical marijuana is legal . . . as a matter of state law, the state’s law conflicts with federal law”).  The board is placing an undue burden on religion by requiring federal authorization.  Unlike medical use which is forbidden under federal law, the federal government has guidelines for requesting religious exemptions.  See, Guidance Regarding Petitions for Religious Exemptions (last updated: February 26, 2018).  The petitioner will get a federal exemption, but without state authorization a federal exemption would be of no use.  The petitioner has to reside somewhere in the United States.

In the Smith case, the U.S. Supreme Court said a state can deny a religious exemption for a controlled substance as long as the state does not allow any other use of that controlled substance.  Since the Smith case was decide in 1990, a total of 46 states, including Iowa, have now accept varying degrees of cannabis use.  Only Iowa is directly relevant, but the other 45 states do provide some context as far as any claimed compelling interest in denying a religious exemption is concerned.

Conclusion

The petitioner is not asking the board to evaluate a religious practice.  The religious practice is the same as the medical use, so the board already knows what the religious practice is.

The board does have expertise that it must use in determining whether any compelling state interest exists in denying the religious exemption, which is on equal terms with the accepted medical use.

Finally, the petitioner notes that the accepted medical use is broad.  Obtaining a product from an out-of-state source, without federal authorization, consisting of any cannabinoid, as long as the THC content is 3% or less, is an extremely broad exemption indicating the compelling interest in denying a religious exemption is somewhere between extremely low and non-existant.

Board of Pharmacy responds to Petition for Religious Exemption

Iowa Board of Pharmacy Logo
Iowa Board of Pharmacy
ANDREW FUNK, PHARM.D.
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

July 16, 2018

Carl Olsen
PO Box 41381
Des Moines, IA 50311

Sent via email only to: Carl Olsen and Colin Murphy

RE: Petition for Scheduling Recommendation

Mr. Olsen,

On July 5, 2018, you submitted a Petition for Scheduling Recommendation to the Board, which asked the Board to make a recommendation to the Iowa general assembly to exempt bona fide religious use of cannabis by Rastafari from Iowa Code chapter 124.  On July 6, 2018, you indicated that attorney Colin Murphy was representing you regarding this Petition.  The Board has not received any documentation from Mr. Murphy.  The Iowa Administrative Procedure Act (Iowa Code chapter 17A) does not establish a right or a procedure for an individual to petition for agency action of this nature.

Specifically, your Petition asks the Board to recommend the following new section be added after Iowa Code section 124.204(8): “Nothing in this chapter shall apply to the bona fide religious use of cannabis by Rastafari; however, persons supplying the product to the church shall register, maintain appropriate records of receipts and disbursements of cannabis, and otherwise comply with all applicable requirements of this chapter and rules adopted pursuant thereto.”

Iowa Code section 124.204(8) states: “Peyote.  Nothing in this chapter shall apply to peyote when used in bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church; however, persons supplying the product to the church shall register, maintain appropriate records of receipts and disbursements of peyote, and otherwise comply with all applicable requirements of this chapter and rules adopted pursuant thereto.”  This language is nearly identical to the language in DEA regulations that also contain this exemption.  See 21 C.F.R. § 1307.31.

Iowa Code section 124.201(1) states:

The board shall administer the regulatory provisions of this chapter.  Annually, within thirty days after the convening of each regular session of the general assembly, the board shall recommend to the general assembly any deletions from, or revisions in the schedules of substances, enumerated in section 124.204, 124.206, 124.208, 124.210, or 124.212, which it deems necessary or advisable.  In making a recommendation to the general assembly regarding a substance, the board shall consider the following:

  1. The actual or relative potential for abuse;
  2. The scientific evidence of its pharmacological effect, if known;
  3. State of current scientific knowledge regarding the substance;
  4. The history and current pattern of abuse;
  5. The scope, duration, and significance of abuse;
  6. The risk to the public health;
  7. The potential of the substance to produce psychic or physiological dependence liability; and
  8. Whether the substance is an immediate precursor of a substance already controlled under this subchapter.

As the factors demonstrate, any recommendations made by the Board would be based on scientific and medical evidence, and not based on religious practices.  The Board does not have any expertise in analyzing the use of controlled substances for religious purposes.  Therefore, it would be inappropriate for the Board to make any scheduling recommendations that are specific to any religion.  In addition, there is no exemption in DEA regulations for religious use of cannabis by Rastafari.  Ultimately, any change to Iowa Code section 124.204 must be made by the legislature.  The Iowa legislature is the appropriate body to lobby for the change to Iowa Code section 124.204 that you are seeking.  The board declines to take any action in response to your Petition.

Sincerely,

Andrew Funk, Pharm.D.
Executive Director
Iowa Board of Pharmacy

400 S.W. EIGHTH STREET, SUITE E • DES MOINES, IA 50309-4688 • PHONE: 515-281-5944
https://pharmacy.iowa.gov • FAX: 515-281-4609

Sacramental use of cannabis

I’m a member of a Jamaican Rastafarian church incorporated in Jamaica as the Ethiopian Zion Coptic Church (EZCC) in 1976, Act No. 11.  The sacrament of the EZCC is cannabis.

I was arrested in 1978 with 100 pounds of cannabis in Muscatine County in Iowa, and my appeal was heard by the Iowa Supreme Court in 1984.  The Iowa Supreme Court found that the EZCC is a bona fide religion under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, but found that the sacramental use of cannabis is not equally protected with the sacramental use of peyote by the Native American Church (NAC).  The court found there were restrictions on the sacramental use of peyote by the NAC that did not exist for the sacramental use of cannabis by the EZCC.

Immediately after the Iowa Supreme Court ruling in 1984, I incorporated the church in Iowa, Iowa Business No. 111308.  I later obtained a federal trademark on the name in 2016, U.S.P.T.O. Reg. No. 5,039,494 (First Use, March 30, 1984).

To understand what the Iowa Supreme Court was talking about, both the Iowa and the federal law contain exemptions for the sacramental use of peyote by the NAC.  A carefully reading of these two exemptions reveals what the court was talking about.

Iowa Code § 124.204 (2018)

8. Peyote. Nothing in this chapter shall apply to peyote when used in bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church; however, persons supplying the product to the church shall register, maintain appropriate records of receipts and disbursements of peyote, and otherwise comply with all applicable requirements of this chapter and rules adopted pursuant thereto.

21 C.F.R. § 1307.31 (2018)

Native American Church.  The listing of peyote as a controlled substance in Schedule I does not apply to the nondrug use of peyote in bona fide religious ceremonies of the Native American Church, and members of the Native American Church so using peyote are exempt from registration. Any person who manufactures peyote for or distributes peyote to the Native American Church, however, is required to obtain registration annually and to comply with all other requirements of law.

What is immediately apparent is that the sacramental “use” of peyote is exempt, but not its cultivation or distribution.  I was arrested for distribution, which is not an exempt activity under the peyote exemption.  The sacramental exemption for peyote did not provide me with an equal protection argument in the court’s view.

In 1984, I also applied for a federal exemption like the one in 21 C.F.R. § 1307.31 (2018), which was finally denied by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990, in a case called Employment Division v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990).  The Smith case did not mention the difference between the peyote and cannabis sacraments.  Instead, the court said the First Amendment did not protect the religious use of peyote as long as Oregon did not allow any other use of peyote.  In other words, the court said only First Amendment claims based on a violation of equal protection will be considered.  The court said that if the law is neutral toward religion and generally applicable in Oregon, then there is no First Amendment right to use peyote for religious purposes in Oregon.

Obviously, in 1990, the state of Iowa did not allow any other use of cannabis and that is why the Smith case was instructional for me.

In 2017, Iowa authorized the cultivation, distribution and use of cannabis for medical purposes in Iowa.  In 2018, cultivation of cannabis began in Iowa and cannabis products will soon be available for distribution this coming December.  We now have the authorized use of cannabis in Iowa, and we have a manufacturer licensed to cultivate and distribute that cannabis.

Even if Iowa law does not allow the manufacturer to distribute cannabis to the EZCC, there are states where anyone can buy cannabis legally and church members would be protected under both state laws (see 14 C.F.R. § 91.19 (2018)) and federal law for traveling in states (check each state first to make sure it’s legal in that state) and purchasing cannabis for sacramental use if there were exemptions, one in the Iowa Code and the other in the federal regulations, for the sacramental use of cannabis by the EZCC. 

The nation of Jamaica legalized the sacramental “use” of cannabis by Rastafarians for religious purposes in 2015, and also created a process for licensing cultivators and distributors to supply Rastafarians with our sacrament.

See DEA publication: Religious Exemption from the Controlled Substances Act

Facebook Commandos

Facebook
Facebook
For those of you who use Facebook, I have pity on you.  It’s not a friendly place.  Today, people calling themselves advocates for full legalization of marijuana in Iowa are complaining about two groups we have here in Iowa and the complaints are similar toward both groups.

  1. You have a group called Iowans 4 Medical Cannabis advocating for medical use, saying that it won’t lead to legalization of non-medical use.
     
  2. You have a group called Iowa Hemp Association advocating for industrial use, saying it won’t lead to legalization for non-industrial use.

This makes these so-called advocates angry, because they see medical use and industrial use as subsets of a greater whole (full legalization).  Full legalization would give the patients their medicine and save the trees at the same time.  I won’t go into what full legalization looks like, because I don’t really know what it looks like.  Alcohol is not fully legalized.  Tobacco is not fully legalized.  Alcohol and tobacco are both toxic and marijuana is not, so I can’t see them as being the same.  Even cocaine and morphine are legal under certain restrictions.  Even methamphetamine is legal under certain restrictions.  So, I think we need to come up with something unique for marijuana, since marijuana is safer than all of these things we already accept under certain restrictions.

What drives medical advocates is that they are being tortured by the pharmaceutical industry.  Medical users are being forced to use toxic chemicals instead of a safe plant.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t take what a person being tortured says as seriously as I take what a person says who has time and the ability to think clearly.  These patients are being tortured, plain and simple.  I’m not going to attack them for trying to save their lives and the lives of their loved ones.  Things are not okay in this country, and this is a manifestation of it.  Give the patients a break.  They need our help, not a bunch of cheap talk.

What drives industrial advocates is entrepreneurship.  This is a fundamental value in our society, making money.  We can’t expect capitalism to go away.  And, besides, hemp is a good product.  You can make lots of good stuff from it.  I could complain about capitalism, but it’s not going away.  The market drives capitalism, so if you’re offended, then don’t buy what’s being sold, plain and simple.

So, what I see missing is that the people complaining on Facebook and claiming they have the higher (pardon the pun) ground are showing up at events they did not organize and complaining about the people who did organize them.  What a colossal waste of time.  Talk is cheap.  Instead of doing something productive, they talk trash about others.  It’s pathetic.  This proves they are not representing any higher issue at all.  They represent smallness, plain and simple.  I like to call them Facebook Commandos, or armchair quarterbacks if you want to go with an older colloquialism.

I don’t know how anyone can say that medical use or industrial use will not lead to full legalization, since we are seeing full legalization now as a direct result of the many useful things marijuana can do.  But, if people want to say the many uses of this plant will not lead to further legalization, let’s not waste our time attacking them for it.

If these whiners on Facebook would go find something productive to do, instead of complaining about people doing good things, we’d all be a lot better off for it.

I don’t know about you, but when someone starts promoting the benefits of marijuana, I want to thank them for it.  Attacking them on Facebook is not something I can thank anyone for.

Alcohol promoting drug czar strikes again

just say yes to saying no
Steve Lukan apprehended by the Muscatine Journal

Iowa Drug Czar Steve Lukan (one joint of marijuana is equal to drinking a keg of beer – Legal drug industry wants you dead) is at it again, this time with the help of Muscatine County Attorney Allen Ostergren.

Ostergren
Ostergren

Ostergren told the Muscatine Journal, “I may go home tonight and have a glass of bourbon,” Ostergren said. “I’m not going to get drunk. Plenty of people use alcohol responsibly. The whole point of marijuana and other drugs is to get impaired.”

Komendowski
Komendowski

Rep. Mark Lofgren, R-Muscatine, invited Steve Lukan, director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, and Peter Komendowski, president of the group Partnership@DrugFreeIowa.org, as well as local law enforcement officials and Muscatine County Attorney Alan Ostergren to a community discussion on the direction of drug policy in Iowa.

According to the Muscatine Journal, “The speakers may have outnumbered the audience  of three, but the group still stayed on task and promoted their message.”

Kudos to the citizens of Muscatine for having the wisdom to stay away from these proponents of misinformation.

Legal drug industry wants you dead – after you pay them for it


The Iowa Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy is at it again, this time comparing a marijuana cigarette to a keg of beer.

What’s even more annoying is the spokesperson for the legal drug industry, Peter Komendowski, president of Partnership for a Drug-Free Iowa.

In an article in Today’s Des Moines Register, Mr. Komendowski is quoted as saying, “What we’re doing,” said Komendowski, “is sending a mixed message to our kids that some drugs are OK and some aren’t OK. If you know kids, it’s extremely confusing to them if you’re not on message.”

And what is that mixed message, pray tell, Mr. Komendowski? Steven Lukan, the director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, quickly supplies the answer, “A good analogy I was given is that back in the ’60s, smoking a joint was like drinking three beers. You achieved a quick high that didn’t stick around as long,” Lukan said. “Today smoking a joint can be like drinking a keg.”


So, the message we’re currently sending, according to these two, is that alcohol is okay and marijuana is not. Prescription drugs are okay and marijuana is not. That message is exactly the opposite of what it should be. These intellectually bankrupt representatives of the legal drug industry haven’t made a step toward making alchohol and tobacco illegal in Iowa, or denying access to prescription drugs. Alcohol and tobacco, along with prescription drugs, are the biggest killers out there. Marijuana has never killed anyone.

So, the message, kids, is that you should drink lots of alcohol and smoke lots of cigarettes so you can get sick and use lots of prescription drugs. Got it? Good, now shut up and do what you’re told.

I don’t know about you, but I’d vote for Representative Bruce Hunter or Senator Joe Bolkcom for governor in the next election if I had the opportunity. Both of them promised to fight vigorously for the rights of Iowans to choose a safe and effective medicinal herb over toxic chemicals chosen for us by the legal drug industry.

Long Silence and Unpublished Article

Pardon the long silence.  I’ve been busy working on my state and federal appeals.  The state case is finished and I’m waiting for the Iowa Supreme Court ruling. My final brief in the federal appeal is due next week and I’m working on it now.  Back in February, the Polk County Democratic Party asked me to write an article for their blog.  Apparently, they didn’t like it, so I’m publishing it here.  Enjoy!

As an advocate for marijuana law reform, the past couple of years have been very exciting for me as an Iowa Democrat.  In 2009, the American Medical Association recommended that marijuana be federally reclassified as a medicine.  The following year, in 2010, Senator Joe Bolkcom (D. Iowa City) and Senator Jack Hatch (D. Des Moines) held a public hearing on their proposal to make marijuana legal for medical use here in Iowa.  Shortly after that Iowa Senate hearing, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy (which is authorized by law to evaluate marijuana’s medical efficacy in Iowa) voted unanimously that marijuana has medical efficacy and should be legalized for medical use.  Not long after, the Iowa Medical Society joined in their support.  Also, during that same period of time, the Des Moines Register Poll showed that 64% of Iowans support the legalization of marijuana for medicine.

Our Iowa Democratic Party State Platform has called for the legalization of marijuana for medical use consistently for the past 14 years, as does the report of the Polk County platform committee that was approved on Feb. 11, 2012, for submission to the Polk County Convention delegates on March 10, 2012.  This year, another Iowa Democrat, Rep. Bruce Hunter (D. Des Moines), introduced a bill to legalize medical use of marijuana.

Rep. Abdul-Samad and Rep. Gaines
Iowa Representatives Ako Abdul-Samad and Ruth Ann Gaines

This has not gone unnoticed by the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy (ODCP) which introduced a bill to maintain marijuana’s status as a controlled substance with no accepted medical use in the United States.  Marijuana has accepted medical use in 16 states and the District of Columbia (with Congressional approval).   The ODCP bill does nothing, because marijuana is currently not accepted for medical use in Iowa.  The Republican bill is nothing but symbolism of their hatred for sick and injured Iowans.  On Feb. 6, House Republicans held a vote on their bill in the House Committee on Public Safety which was opposed by 5 Iowa Democrats, Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad (D. Des Moines), Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines (D. Des Moines), Rep. Deborah L. Berry (D. Waterloo), Rep. Mary Wolfe (D. Clinton), and Rep. Rick Olson (D. Des Moines).

What is a committee on law enforcement doing telling us what we should or should not accept as medicine in Iowa?  There are Republicans on the Iowa Board of Pharmacy as well as members of the Iowa Medical Society.  ODCP is led by a former radio announcer with a degree in journalism, and that office doles out grant money to law enforcement and substance abuse treatment programs.  We need to let medical professionals decide medical use and let law enforcement professionals and substance abuse treatment professionals deal with unauthorized use.  It seems simple, but apparently not for Republicans.