Archive for the 'hemp in general' Category

Measure Opens The Door To More Problems

October 7, 2008

Boston, MA — For the first time in years there is good news on drugs: Marijuana use among Massachusetts teens has declined significantly since 2001.

It’s good news because kids who smoke marijuana are more likely to do poorly in school and engage in violence. It’s good news because drivers who’ve smoked pot are 10 times more likely to be injured, or to injure others, in car crashes. It’s good news because marijuana is more carcinogenic than tobacco, and young people who smoke pot are more likely to use other illegal drugs.

Unfortunately, there is a radical effort underway to undo this progress. Question 2 on November’s ballot will decriminalize marijuana use and turn possession of an ounce or less of marijuana into a fine similar to a traffic violation. For kids under 21, the penalties will be reduced well below penalties for alcohol possession.

A vote for Question 2 will begin a slippery slope resulting in several negative consequences. It will increase addiction to marijuana and other drugs, as we know that pot is a powerful gateway drug. It will result in increased related crimes, and additional taxpayer costs to combat them, as we know that drugs are the root of much of the violence that erodes communities. And it will result in increased instances of impaired driving.

This measure also will result in other unaddressed problems. For instance, there are no regulatory reviews in place to assure that these newly decriminalized drugs are safe, and we know that marijuana is now exponentially more potent than a decade ago. More disturbingly, the measure does not address the fact that if young people want to buy pot, they will still need to buy it from illegal drug dealers. We can not think of many more dangerous, combustible situations than that.

Proponents of Question 2 have two central arguments. First, that existing laws unfairly punish those caught with an ounce or less of marijuana. That is simply untrue. Current law mandates that first-time marijuana offenders receive no more than probation and have their record wiped clean if there are no further violations. In Suffolk and Middlesex counties last year, no defendants were sentenced to jail for a first-time marijuana offense alone.

Their second claim is that enforcement of marijuana laws leads to expansive police costs. That is also false. A survey of our busiest courts revealed that marijuana prosecutions account for only a tiny fraction of cases, and many of those also involved other violent crimes that so frequently accompany drug abuse. To claim that officers are out trolling the streets for marijuana users, at great cost to taxpayers, is not reality.

And despite their best efforts to paint an ounce of marijuana as innocuous, the fact is that one ounce of marijuana is worth about $600 and represents about 60 individual sales.

In communities throughout the state, law enforcement and neighborhood and faith-based organizations work together to improve public safety. Question 2 is a misguided approach that threatens to derail much of that important work.

We cannot afford to take a step back in our efforts to combat drug addiction and reduce violence in our communities. And we absolutely can not afford to send mixed messages to our kids about the seriousness and dangers of drug abuse.

Gerry Leone is the Middlesex district attorney. The Rev. Jeffrey Brown is co-founder of Boston Ten Point Coalition.

Source: Boston Globe


Doc Says Pot Pill No Good

October 6, 2008

Michigan — There’s a key reason why some groups want to make it legal for some seriously ill patients to smoke marijuana to ease vomiting and nausea.

Although there is a pharmaceutical version of marijuana called Marinol that comes in pill form, it doesn’t work, according to Dr. Elaine Chottiner. She serves as section head of hematology and oncology at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, which runs the Saint Joseph Mercy Woodland Center in Genoa Township.

“If Marinol worked, nobody would care about legalizing marijuana,” Chottiner said.

On Nov. 4, Michigan voters will decide the fate of the medical use of marijuana ballot question. Under Proposal 1, there would be specific guidelines to using marijuana.

A physician would need to approve marijuana use for a patient with a debilitating medical condition, and patients would receive an identification card. Patients would only have protected use in their home and could not smoke it in public places.

Chottiner said Marinol was approved because it was shown in clinical trials to alleviate vomiting and nausea caused by certain kinds of chemotherapy. It contains a synthetic form of THC, the major active substance in marijuana, which helps relieve nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy and stimulates appetite for AIDS patients.

However, Chottiner said few patients have found the pill to be effective and usually don’t seek refills. She said absorption is probably one reason the drug doesn’t work as well, since it takes longer to digest something than smoke it. Also, Marinol contains only one of marijuana’s 66 compounds.

Chottiner said a few people have asked her about smoking marijuana to ease their symptoms, and a few patients have told her they’re smoking marijuana to ease their nausea and vomiting. In general, Chottiner said only a very small percentage of patients have chronic nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. She said most chemotherapy does not cause those symptoms. She also said there are excellent medications available — and that work — to prevent those symptoms.

Chottiner, who indicated she was neutral on the ballot question, said there are pros and cons with the proposal.

She said the most important issue is helping patients.

“We want to do everything we can for our patients and alleviate their suffering,” she said. “If this is something that can be used for this purpose, it would be helpful to find a way to provide it.”

However, Chottiner said she feels much more comfortable prescribing drugs that have gone through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval process. She said the FDA conducts rigorous clinical trials so doctors know what’s in a drug, a proper schedule and dosage for a particular drug. She said it would be difficult to prescribe marijuana because there are no standards.

Chottiner said she doesn’t prescribe herbs because “you never know what you’re getting.”

Source: Livingston Daily Press

Important! Vote Yes on Proposal 1 for Medical Marijuana

October 6, 2008

Michigan — Marijuana has proven benefits in limiting pain and reducing the side effects of other medicines used to treat certain illnesses. Proposal 1 would allow the use of marijuana for these limited medical purposes. Voters should say yes to Proposal 1.

Proposal 1 would legalize doctor-prescribed marijuana. The Detroit News has reported that upwards of 500,000 Michiganians with “debilitating medical conditions” — HIV/AIDS, cancer, Hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimers, multiple sclerosis and the like — will qualify. It can be useful, for example, in controlling nausea during chemotherapy in cancer treatments.

Anyone found to be lying about their medical condition or distributing marijuana to friends would be barred from future participation.

The proposal contains other safeguards. If voters accept Proposal 1, the Michigan Department of Community Health would create a state medical marijuana registry, and each user will be given an identification card. Anyone without such a card, debilitating illness or not, is still subject to state law. And Michigan law is harsh on marijuana. The penalty for possession is up to one year of imprisonment and up to $2,000 in fines. Dealers risk $10 million in fines and imprisonment for up to 15 years — and these are for first offenses. None of that would change with Proposal 1.

Proposal 1 would also protect the over-21 primary caregivers who handle marijuana for and administer marijuana to sick family or friends. Users are protected from the threat of prosecution and the possibility of losing custody of their children due to smoking medical herbs.

The law would no longer view primary caregivers administering marijuana as drug dealers. And compassionate doctors will no longer have to risk their medical licenses and livelihoods every time they prescribe marijuana to ailing patients.

There are also standards for registered users. All the normal laws apply to smoking in public. No one will be permitted to smoke in public places or near schools or prisons, and “drugged driving” will still be illegal.

Employers won’t be forced to allow use of medical marijuana in the workplace. Insurance providers can decide for themselves whether to cover it.

Twelve states allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The record is that it can be properly administered as one more part of the mix of medicines available to physicians.

Proposal 1 seems to have been written to anticipate and address concerns that it is a backdoor route to full-blown legalization. The standard for obtaining a registry card is high and the penalty for misuse is steep.

Proposal 1 won’t make pot any more publicly visible or available than it already is; all it will do is allow doctors, primary caregivers, and most importantly patients another option in managing serious and painful illnesses. Vote yes on Proposal 1.

Source: Detroit Free Press

State Rule Clarifies 60-Day Supply of Marijuana

October 6, 2008

Seattle, WA — A new rule determining how much pot constitutes a 60-day supply for medical-marijuana users was finalized on Thursday, a decade after Washington voters passed an initiative legalizing marijuana for people suffering from terminal and debilitating illnesses.

The new state rule, which goes into effect Nov. 2, sets the supply limit at 24 ounces of usable marijuana plus 15 plants. Those who need more marijuana to manage their pain will have to prove they need it — though how they would do that remains unclear.

While the new, 60-day-supply rule is meant to clarify the law and help police officers determine legitimate amounts, medical-marijuana advocates say the amounts are unreasonable — especially the 15-plant limit — and put patients at risk of criminal prosecution.

In King County, though, that’s not going to happen, said Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg, who has met with local law-enforcement officials and created an office policy that looks upon medical-marijuana cases “with a very lenient eye.”

“Having this rule, having some amount … is helpful, but it’s not the end of the analysis,” Satterberg said. “If you’re in King County and you’re dying of cancer, we’re not going to prosecute you if you have 15 plants or 30. If somebody is legitimately ill, we’re not going to prosecute that case, period.”

In 1998, Initiative 692 legalized marijuana for medical purposes. Passed by 59 percent of Washington voters, the initiative said patients with valid certification from their doctors could possess a 60-day supply — but never said how much pot that was. The confusion and uncertainty led to conflict between police and patients.

Last year, the Legislature ordered the state Department of Health to spell out an acceptable amount. An early recommendation put the limit at 35 ounces of usable pot plus 100 square feet of growing space. That proposal was changed after Gov. Christine Gregoire’s policy analysts urged the health department to get more input from law-enforcement agencies and medical experts because the amounts appeared to be on the high side.

Earlier this year, the draft rule was changed to 24 ounces of usable pot, six mature plants and 18 immature ones. The new rule finalized Thursday, however, doesn’t differentiate between mature and immature plants.

The rule also drops a requirement included in the earlier draft that patients get a doctor’s note if they need more marijuana than the determined 60-day supply. The department opted “for more general wording” to better reflect what is written in state law, said Health Department spokesman Tim Church.

During a public hearing in August, many patients argued that their doctors were unlikely to write them a note because of the controversy surrounding supply limits, he said.

The department didn’t come up with an alternative to a doctor’s note because that wasn’t their task from the Legislature. While Church acknowledged that the new language muddies the waters some, he said it will now “be up to patients and the courts to determine what medical necessity is” and how to prove it.

Gregoire’s spokeswoman, Laura Lockard, said Thursday the governor “wanted the department to have a solid sense of wide-ranging opinions and information to develop the best possible rule. She feels they have done that.”

But doctors and patient advocates say the new 60-day limit is woefully inadequate and could have a chilling effect on physicians if they have to go to court to defend their medical opinions.

“I’m disappointed. I think it’s more politically driven — they used politics rather than science” in determining amounts, said Dr. Greg Carter, a clinical professor of rehabilitation medicine at the University of Washington. Carter was one of the first researchers to report marijuana’s effectiveness in treating the symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“The state is really not operating in the best interest of sick people who require this medicine,” Carter said.

Steve Sarich, the executive director of CannaCare, an advocacy group that provides patients with starter plants, said the health department “has set up a law you can’t possibly follow.” He said the rule doesn’t take into account marijuana’s growing cycle, which exceeds 60 days, or the fact that someone would need to plant 60 plants in the hope that 15 or 20 of them might reach maturity.

Alison Holcomb, the drug-policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, said the new rule “is a step in the right direction,” even though it doesn’t begin to address the practical matter of accessing medical marijuana.

“Twenty-four ounces and 15 plants is a heck of a lot clearer than ’60-day supply,’ ” she said. “It gives an average law-enforcement officer a very quick and easy way to determine if they’re in compliance, move on and leave that patient in peace.”

But Douglas Hiatt, an attorney who represents medical-marijuana patients, disagrees. He said he plans to file a lawsuit to have the limits thrown out.

“No one I know is in compliance with the number of plants. No one,” he said. “We will drown in cases if we can’t get this rule stopped and keep it out of the hands of law enforcement.”

Satterberg said that, at least in King County, he’s advised law-enforcement officers not to confiscate patients’ pot supplies on the spot, even if they seem questionable.

Essentially, Satterberg’s policy says, growers — including cooperatives — won’t be prosecuted unless prosecutors believe the operation is a front for distributing marijuana to those who are not ill. He said Thursday that his office hasn’t yet encountered any such illegal operation.

Satterberg said he’s told local police agencies and the sheriff’s office that “If there are any questions [about a patient’s legitimacy], officers should take a small sample and some photos and give us a call.”

Source: Seattle Times

How Much Pot Is Too Much?

October 6, 2008

Seattle, WA — The state Health Department on Thursday defined a two-month supply of medical marijuana as 24 ounces of usable pot and up to 15 plants, a limit designed to end a decade of confusion over how much patients are allowed to have.

But patient advocates criticized the limit as arbitrary and insufficient, saying it could leave sick people in danger of going to jail, and they threatened to sue to prevent the rule from taking effect.

“We looked at what appears to make sense for most of the patients in the state,” said department spokesman Donn Moyer. “There will be some who don’t need as much, and there may be some who need more.”

Washington was among the first states to approve the medical use of marijuana to treat AIDS, cancer and other debilitating illnesses. The law, passed in 1998, allowed patients a 60-day supply of marijuana, but didn’t say how much that was. Over the years, several patients with a doctor’s authorization to use marijuana have been arrested by police who deemed them to have more pot than necessary.

Patients who need more marijuana than allowed by the new rule can make that argument to a judge if they’re arrested.

The limit adopted Thursday takes effect Nov. 2, and nearly matches the rule used by Oregon, which allows 24 ounces plus six mature plants and 18 immature ones. Some California counties allow more marijuana, but many of the dozen states with medical marijuana laws allow much less than Washington’s new rule – just an ounce or two, in some cases.

The Health Department decided against using a mature immature plant distinction largely because it didn’t want police to have to determine what constituted a mature plant.

Instead, officials went with a limit of 15 plants at any stage of growth.

Law enforcement officers “really just want a line in the sand,” Moyer said, and the 15-plant limit allows patients flexibility to decide how to grow them.

Patient advocates scoffed at that. Douglas Hiatt, a Seattle attorney who represents patients, noted that only female marijuana plants are usable as medicine, and about half of all plants growing from seed grow to become male. So to get to 15 usable plants, a patient or provider might have to plant 30 – in violation of the law.

“No patient I know of anywhere in the state is in compliance with that number,” Hiatt said.

And, he said, the 24-ounce limit for dried bud might work for patients who smoke marijuana, but not for those who eat it. He called the limits “completely nonscientific.”

“We all know this is a political decision that doesn’t have anything to do with the reality of patients’ lives.”

The Health Department initially considered setting the limit at 35 ounces plus 100 square feet of plant canopy. But Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire found those numbers too high and urged officials to get more input from law enforcement and doctors.

The Health Department did so, and cut the numbers accordingly. Law enforcement had worried that drug dealers could use a higher limit to conceal illicit marijuana growing operations.

The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs’ policy director, Joanna Arlow, did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday. But she previously called the 24-ounce limit “reasonable.”

Steve Sarich, a patient and advocate from Kirkland, said he would go to court to seek an injunction to prevent the rule from taking effect. He argued that it was arbitrary, and he took no comfort in knowing that patients could try to prove in court they need more than the limit – something that would likely require a doctor’s testimony.

“How is the doctor going to prove you need more plants? Is the doctor going to prove you’re not very good at growing,” he said. “Where is the clarity this rule was supposed to provide?”

Source: Associated Press

Yes on Prop 1: Allow Relief Marijuana May Offer

October 4, 2008

Michigan — If people who are seriously or chronically ill can convince their doctors that using marijuana will make them feel better, the State of Michigan should not stand in the way.

Proposal 1 on the statewide ballot Nov. 4 would allow Michigan residents to cultivate and possess small amounts of marijuana for medical reasons with a doctor’s approval. Voters should say yes to this proposal, which was placed on the ballot by a petition campaign that collected almost 378,000 signatures.

This is not about drug use. It’s about compassion. The initiative would amend Michigan law to allow seriously ill people to seek authorization from a doctor to grow up to a dozen marijuana plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of the weed, strictly for personal use. The continuing, regulated sale of alcoholic beverages poses more of a problem for society than will passage of this law.Voters in five Michigan cities — Detroit, Ann Arbor, Flint, Ferndale and Traverse City — and a dozen other states have already approved similar statutes without the dire consequences forecast by federal drug-control authorities who fear the start of a slippery slope toward broad drug legalization.

While there are other prescription drugs available to control the pain or anxiety that afflicts the seriously or terminally ill, some such patients find more relief with less loss of control and fewer side effects from marijuana. These are not people who will start peddling the products of their little pot gardens to neighborhood kids. They won’t have that much and will need all of it for their own use. And such sales would still be illegal under the proposed law.

Last month, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a national survey showing Americans rank marijuana well behind other illicit drugs, prescription drugs and alcohol among substances that pose a threat to society.

The national Marijuana Policy Project, which provided nearly all of the $1.1 million spent to put this question on the Michigan ballot, acknowledges a larger goal of replacing “marijuana prohibition with a sensible system of regulation.” But that may be a long way off, if, indeed, it happens at all. Meantime, Proposal 1 is about helping sick people feel better.

Sidebar: Proposal 08-1

A legislative initiative to permit the use and cultivation of marijuana for specified medical conditions. The proposed law would:

• Permit physician approved use of marijuana by registered patients with debilitating medical conditions including cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, MS and other conditions as may be approved by the Department of Community Health.

• Permit registered individuals to grow limited amounts of marijuana for qualifying patients in an enclosed, locked facility.

• Require Department of Community Health to establish an identification card system for patients qualified to use marijuana and individuals qualified to grow marijuana.

• Permit registered and unregistered patients and primary caregivers to assert medical reasons for using marijuana as a defense to any prosecution involving marijuana.


Source: Detroit Free Press 

Governor Vetoes Job Security for MMJ Users

October 4, 2008

Sacramento, CA — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed a bill sponsored by medical marijuana advocates that would have protected most employees from being fired for testing positive for pot that they used outside the workplace with their doctor’s approval.

The measure, AB 2279 by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would have overturned a state Supreme Court ruling in January that allowed employers to punish workers for using medical marijuana that was legalized by a state ballot measure in 1996.

Under Leno’s measure, the only workers who could have been fired for using medical marijuana would have been those in safety-related or law enforcement jobs.In its 5-2 ruling, the Supreme Court said the initiative, Proposition 215, exempted medical marijuana patients and their caregivers from state prosecution, but wasn’t intended to limit an employer’s authority to fire workers for violating federal drug laws.

Schwarzenegger used the same rationale in his veto message Tuesday.

“I am concerned with interference in employment decisions as they relate to marijuana use,” the governor wrote. “Employment protection was not a goal of the initiative as passed by voters in 1996.”

Medical marijuana supporters disagreed.


Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Group That Opposes MMJ Will Kick Off ‘No’ Campaign

October 3, 2008

Lansing, MI — A proposal to legalize the cultivation and use of marijuana for medical purposes, which will be on the Nov. 4 ballot and has gone virtually unchallenged for more than a year, will have some organized opposition after all.

A coalition of medical, law enforcement and anti-drug organizations calling itself Citizens Protecting Michigan Kids has scheduled news conferences across lower Michigan for Thursday to kick off the campaign to encourage a “No” vote on Proposal 1.

A spokesman for the coalition said it will be led by Appeals Court Judge Bill Schuette and former Michigan Chamber of Commerce President James Barrett, and will include the Michigan State Medical Society, the Prosecuting Attorneys Association and the Michigan Sheriff’s Association.Proposal 1 was placed on the ballot after supporters, including a nucleus from a national organization that has run similar campaigns all over the country, collected nearly a half million petition signatures. Until today’s announcement of the anti-Proposal 1 coalition, it had been subjected to some criticism from law enforcement officials but appeared likely to slide through until Election Day virtually unnoticed.

A Free Press poll released earlier this week indicated voters approve of the idea of legalizing pot for some medical conditions by a more than 2-1 margin.

Complete Title: Group That Opposes Medical Marijuana Will Kick Off ‘No’ Campaign Thursday


Source: Detroit Free Press 

Enforcement vs. Regulation

October 3, 2008

Oregon — By the 1930s, using marijuana was illegal in Oregon and it has remained that way — except for medicinal use — ever since. A group of local residents is aiming to reverse history.

The Legalize Ashland organization hopes to make adult marijuana use the lowest law enforcement priority and legalize the production of industrial hemp by May 2009.

Eventually the activists want to make legal recreational use of pot, giving it a similar status as alcohol, according to their Web site and MySpace page.”It is time for Ashland’s laws to reflect the priorities of its citizens. The majority of the citizens of Ashland believe that spending money on the enforcement of misdemeanor possession of marijuana is a waste of budget resources, and that public policy should reflect this,” the group’s Web site states.

Group members did not respond to e-mail messages sent to the address listed on the Web site.

The site states that the group held a meeting Sept. 13 at the Ashland Public Library to discuss putting an initiative on the city ballot next year.

A handful of cities across the country, including Seattle and Oakland, have passed similar laws.

Dan Rubenson, an economics professor at Southern Oregon University, said he would like to see a serious discussion about the implications of legalizing pot.

“I see us spending huge amounts of money for prosecuting and especially for incarcerating people for what I see as victimless crimes and so, from that perspective, I say, ‘Let’s talk about this,'” he said.

Rubenson, who is not affiliated with Legalize Ashland, endorsed a 2005 economic study urging public officials to engage in an “open and honest debate about marijuana prohibition.”

“We believe such a debate will favor a regime in which marijuana is legal but taxed and regulated like other goods,” the endorsement states.

According to the “Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition in the United States” study by Jeffery A. Miron, a visiting professor at Harvard University, legalizing marijuana would save approximately $7.7 billion annually in law enforcement fees. Taxing pot, like other goods, would yield about $2.4 billion per year and approximately $6.2 billion annually if marijuana was taxed like alcohol or tobacco, the study states.

“I tend to look at things in terms of notions of efficiency and also there’s a little bit of a Libertarian flavor there. Why should we intervene in people’s lives unless there’s a significant reason to?” Rubenson said.

He said the benefits of legalizing marijuana could outweigh the costs.

“I think it’s something that’s worth talking about. I’m not trying to prejudge the outcome of the conversation, but anytime we’re spending so much money on something that doesn’t seem to be working, it’s time to talk about why we need to keep dong that.”

“When we look at it, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence that making marijuana illegal is having a huge effect on keeping people from using it.”

Rubenson said legalizing marijuana could “put criminals out of business” by eliminating some drug trafficking and regulating distribution.

Vicki Brown, division manager for the Jackson County Public Health Department, said she doubts public health officials would support decriminalization of marijuana use.

“I think it would probably drive down the price, which would mean it would be more accessible and I think anything with widespread acceptance will become more popular. It remaining illegal and there being consequences (for using pot) definitely deters use,” she said.

Brown said the Public Health Department feels that the costs of using marijuana outweigh any benefits, unless it is being used for medicinal purposes and is recommended by a doctor.

“From our perspective, we don’t view it as harmless. It definitely has health consequences and it affects basic respiratory health if the person’s smoking it. It definitely impairs judgment and it’s definitely used abusively,” she said.

Deputy Police Chief Rich Walsh said the Ashland Police Department doesn’t focus on enforcing marijuana laws as it is.

“We don’t have the manpower or the personnel to put a huge effort into it. It’s not one of our priorities. Most of what we enforce (regarding marijuana) is just kind of because we run into it.”

It’s possible that if using marijuana was decriminalized for adults, illegal use among teens could increase, he added.

“Generally speaking, I think the more that you see adults doing whatever it is that it may be, (teens) are going to see that and think it’s OK. And then they may not have the education to know that it’s not OK. The question is, are they educated enough to make a good sound decision?

“It’s kind of like medical marijuana. You can basically go out and stub your toe and get a medical marijuana card, and say your toe hurts. And that’s just not right,” Chief Walsh said.


Source: Ashland Daily Tidings 

Pro-Pot Backers Aim High

October 2, 2008

Boston, MA — Activists who want joints sold over the counter like cigarettes are bankrolling a Bay State pot referendum backers claim will simply clear the air of piddling marijuana cases choking the court system.

The Committee for Sensible Marijuana Policy, which placed Question 2 on the November ballot, collected from the Marijuana Policy Project $200,000, about 30 percent of its total. Indeed, about 90 percent of the $635,000 the committee has raised comes from people who live out of state.

On its Web site, the marijuana project’s mission statement states clearly: “Adults who use marijuana should be able to obtain it from legally regulated establishments and not from illegal drug dealers.”

Woody Kaplan, a Hub real estate developer and self-styled “provocateur” who donated $10,000 to the state ballot initiative, also backs the call for legal pot sales.

“I believe taxing and regulating is a much better way than what the ballot question proposes,” said Kaplan, who held a $250-a-head fundraiser for the Marijuana Policy Prject earlier this month.

“This is government making a choice that something that is clearly destructive – alcohol – is OK, but somebody smoking marijuana isn’t,” Kaplan told the Herald.

Daniel R. Lewis, 62, of Coral Gables, Fla. – the scion of the Progressive Insurance fortune and a self-confessed former toker – also would like to see grass legalized and regulated.

“I think it’s a relatively harmless drug, as compared to alcohol,” said Lewis, who gave $5,000 to the pot project.

The group also counts among its backers actor Jack Black, talk show host Bill Maher and former wrestler and Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, and uses Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion for its lavish fund-raisers.

If passed, the ballot initiative would make having an ounce or less of marijuana a civil offense punishable by a $100 fine. Minors’ parents would be notified, and the kids would have to complete a drug awareness program.

Middlesex County District Attorney Gerard Leone slammed the pot activists as out of touch and predicted the measure would be a gateway to weaker drug laws.

“Question 2 will allow a foot in the door to people with a misguided, radical agenda,” Leone said.

Whitney Taylor, campaign manager, pointed to a Suffolk University poll that showed 72 percent of voters support the ballot question.

“They are not out of the mainstream,” Taylor said. “They are the mainstream.”

Kaplan, a 66-year-old board member of the Godless America PAC, which “mobilizes nonbelievers for political activism,” said he’s heard it all before.

“Same-sex opponents said if you allow same-sex marriage, people would marry dogs,” Kaplan said. “Yeh, right. It’s just fear tactics, and it’s absurd.”