Then there's medical marijuana, which is being sold in a haze of legality (the state's cool with it, the feds aren't) at numerous shops around Santa Barbara. Grow rooms (such as the one pictured above) are taking root in many neighborhoods, and the city is finally starting to put regulations down on the books about this curative cannabis. Will everything remain groovy in 2008? That's up to the feds.
Paul Wellman

A group has formed in Santa Barbara to put an initiative on the November ballot that would legalize cannabis for industrial and nutritional products, medicinal preparations, and for recreational and euphoric use. The group announced the California Cannabis Hemp and Health Initiative Campaign on Friday at a press conference on the steps of Santa Barbara City Hall. The initiative would also include clearing all criminal records for people involved in non-violent cannabis, hemp and marijuana offenses.

The group, headed by Jack Herer – called by Dr. David Bearman the man responsible for the rejuvenation of the U.S. hemp industry – argues that not only does cannabis serve as a medicine to many sick, but that cannabis is the only way to reverse the greenhouse effect and can be used as paper, fiber, and food as well. The U.S. government, they say, is hiding these facts.

“I can know about cotton, flax and nylon,” said Herer at the press conference, “but there’s not a word of hemp in the schools.” Herer, who ran for president of the United States twice as a member of the Grassroots party, said that for 5,000 to 6,000 years 60 to 80 percent of the world’s production of fuel and clothing was made from hemp. The group is hoping that the dialogue will begin to introduce the idea that a hemp cultivation program can eliminate greenhouse gasses while replenishing the atmosphere and replacing fossil fuels with hemp bio-fuels.

The press conference unknowingly coincided with an announcement on Friday by the American College of Physicians that endorsed cannabis as medicine. The college, which is the second largest physician group in the United States and includes 124,000 members, also advised the government to stop hindering research on the drug and to repeal its prohibition.

For the Santa Barbara-based efforts to get the legalization initiative on the California ballot, valid signatures from roughly 434,000 people are needed. The group is also looking to bring the discussion to Congress this summer via the Government Oversight Domestic Policy Subcommittee, which is chaired by former presidential candidate Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-OH, a supporter of marijuana decriminalization.

Hemp cultivation is illegal in the United States, but because of California’s Proposition 215, state law allows marijuana use for medicinal purposes. However, federal law supersedes state law, which has caused problems for many dispensaries in California. No dispensaries have been busted by federal agents in Santa Barbara, but many owners received threatening letters from the federal government, and some closed their shops. Still, the number of shops in Santa Barbara and Goleta hovers around one dozen.

“We have a failed drug policy,” said Bearman on Friday. “We need to change the policy for the sake of the economy, for the sake of health, for the sake of people, and for the sake of peace.” Bearman, who is a candidate for the open 3rd District Board of Supervisor seat in Santa Barbara County, said it is “obscene” that laws prevent people from getting medication that can help them, and that the present day drug laws “eviscerate the Constitution.”

A discussion and debate on the ballot initiative will take place on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Public Library’s Faulkner Gallery.


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