Thursday, February 24, 2011
Monday, February 21, 2011
Saturday, February 19, 2011
by Scott Morgan, February 14, 2011, 10:03pm
Kevin Ring has an appalling piece in The Daily Caller spelling out the careless and politically-motivated process through which new drug laws are created. This is some really jaw-dropping stuff.
I know it happens because I did it. I had the high honor of working as a counsel for then-Senator Ashcroft on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the late 1990s. After deciding to forgo a presidential run in 2000 and instead focus on keeping his Senate seat in Missouri, Ashcroft needed to show he was focused on the threats facing the Show Me State — and none was scarier at that time than the growing menace of methamphetamine abuse and production. Meth was becoming known as the crack of rural America. We drafted a bill to impose the same mandatory minimum sentences on meth trafficking that applied to crack.
People can debate whether the effects of this law have been good or bad, but I can tell you that when we put the bill together, I did not know half of what I should have known. I did not know what the average sentence imposed on meth traffickers was at the time, whether those sentences were sufficient at deterring use, whether alternatives to prison might have been more effective at reducing recidivism, or how much these new, longer sentences would cost the federal government. These are things policymakers — or, at least, the staff they entrust to craft their legislation — should know before making national policy.
If I did not know these critical facts as the lead staffer on the bill, how little did other Hill staffers (and their bosses) know when they agreed to let this bill pass? I know this for certain: If someone had objected, I would have recommended that we accuse the objector of not being serious about saving Americans from this deadly threat.
This is just incredible. Rarely, if ever, have we seen the twisted agendas and rank idiocy of drug war politics displayed with such precision. Indeed, only a true insider could issue such a devastating indictment and I have no doubt that the countless other guilty parties will be quick to single out Ring as a hack seeking to tarnish the broader anti-drug effort by exposing his own incompetence.
Unfortunately for them, this story couldn't more perfectly diagnose the origins of the ill-conceived fiasco that festers before us. The credibility of Ring's account is upheld by the tragically obvious fact that nothing else could possibly explain the magnitude of the errors that have long characterized Washington's mindless anti-drug crusade. These people were never looking for solutions to anything except their own immediate political interests and they've left a legacy of incalculable waste and destruction as a result.
Next time someone says "there's no reliable research," call BS. The results are in. Medical marijuana works.
The evidence is in. In a landmark report to the Legislature, the University of California Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research announced that its studies have shown marijuana to have therapeutic value.
CMCR researchers, in a decade-long project, found "reasonable evidence that cannabis is a promising treatment" for some specific, pain-related medical conditions.
These long-awaited findings are the first results in 20 years from clinical trials of smoked cannabis in the United States.
"We focused on illnesses where current medical treatment does not provide adequate relief or coverage of symptoms," said CMCR Director Igor Grant, M.D., executive vice-chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the UCSD School of Medicine.
Dr. Igor Grant: "These findings provide a strong, science-based context in which policy makers and the public can begin discussing the place of cannabis in medical care"
"These findings provide a strong, science-based context in which policy makers and the public can begin discussing the place of cannabis in medical care," Grant said.
The CMCR, established by the Legislature in 2000 at the University of California to conduct controlled scientific studies of medical marijuana, reported positive results in six different human clinical trials regarding chronic pain, spasticity and vaporization.
Four studies showed marijuana to be safe and effective in relieving the chronic pain of neuralgia, a type of pain caused by damaged nerves that is particularly resistant to other therapies. Some 10 percent of the population are said to be affected by this condition.
"The findings are very consistent," said Grant. "There is good evidence now that cannabinoids may be a good adjunct or even first line treatment."
A fifth CMCR study found marijuana effective in reducing muscle spasticity in multiple sclerosis patients.
A sixth study demonstrated the effectiveness of smokeless vaporizers as an alternative delivery system to smoked marijuana. California NORML, which has promoted research on vaporizers, advised CMCR researcher Dr. Donald Abrams on the study.
"Today we have good, solid scientific research that will benefit patients in California and across the globe," said California State Senator Mark Leno at a press conference announcing the CMCR report.
Former State Senator John Vasconcellos, who authored the state legislation establishing the CMCR, called the studies "state-of-the-art" evidence of marijuana's value for medical use.
"These scientists created an unparalleled program of systematic research, focused on science-based answers rather than political or social beliefs," Vasconcellos said.
The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has claimed that scientific evidence of marijuana's effectiveness is needed before it can be made available for medical use.
"The evidence is in," said California NORML Director Dale Gieringer, a member of CMCR's advisory council. "The time has come for the government to change its policy and recognize the medical value of marijuana."
Study results have been published in high-impact medical journals, garnering national and international attention. Leading experts are calling for a scientific dialogue on the possible uses of marijuana as medicine.
More study will be necessary to figure out the mechanisms of action and the full therapeutic potential of cannabinoid compounds, according to the UC researchers.
A petition to reschedule marijuana for medical use has been pending before the DEA since 2002. California NORML is calling on the Obama Administration to give the petition prompt and favorable attention in light of CMCR's findings.
The findings are available on CMCR's website.
February 18, 2011 01:25 AM EST
The continuing trend towards mainstream Americans advocating the legalization of marijuana is gaining speed, even in Washington.
Colorado congressman Jared Polis wants to drastically reduce the federal government's funding of the war on drugs. He has introduced amendments to the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 that, if passed, would virtually eliminate money spent to fight drug crimes.
What do his amendments propose? The first amendment, No. 501, proposes to eradicate funding of the drug czar. The second amendment, No. 427, would prohibit the investigation and criminal prosecution for the possession, manufacture or distribution of marijuana.
Polis believes that the drug czar's office is not only unnecessary, but has proven to be more harmful than helpful in the case of marijuana.
He said, "Levels of drug use do not change because we have a person of power in Washington going around the country saying, 'Drugs are bad.' Moreover, a case can be made that the Drug Czar's office has done a disservice to our youth by emphasizing the harms associated with marijuana at the expense of educating them about the relative harms of all drugs."
He also said that support for legalizing marijuana and ending the war on drugs is gaining support in Congress. Most members, however, are too fearful to assert their opinions.
WASHINGTON -- The national, single-issue, non-profit advocacy group Vote Hemp applauds the new policy supporting industrial hemp adopted by delegates of the National Farmers Union (NFU) at its 108th annual convention in Rapid City, South Dakota last week. The policy urges the Obama administration and Congress to direct the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to differentiate between non-drug industrial hemp and marijuana and allow states to regulate hemp farming without requiring DEA permits.
At the conclusion of the convention, the NFU issued the following statement on its new policy: "We urge the President, Attorney General, and Congress to direct the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency [sic] (DEA) to differentiate between industrial hemp and marijuana and adopt policy to allow American farmers to grow industrial hemp under state law without requiring DEA licenses." The 2010 NFU Policy may be found at:http://nfu.org/about/policy.
For the last four growing seasons, farmers in North Dakota have received licenses from the North Dakota Department of Agriculture to grow industrial hemp. Despite the state's authorization to grow hemp, these farmers risk raids by federal agents, jail time and possible forfeiture of their farms and assets if they try to grow the crop, due to the failure of the DEA to distinguish non-drug industrial hemp from drug varieties ofCannabis. Vote Hemp applauds the new policy adopted by the NFU and strongly encourages the Obama administration to heed their request. "American farmers, as well as the American economy, will benefit greatly from the right to grow industrial hemp as a rotational crop," says Vote Hemp President Eric Steenstra.
There is widespread support among national farming organizations for a change in the federal government's position on hemp. The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) "supports revisions to the federal rules and regulations authorizing commercial production of industrial hemp." The National Grange voted to support hemp in 2009, stating that it "supports research, production, processing and marketing of industrial hemp as a viable agricultural activity." The North Dakota Farmers Union 2010 Program of Policy & Action and the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union 2010 Policy both also ask that the Obama administration direct the DEA to "differentiate between industrial hemp and marijuana." These organizations passed the resolutions in 2009, leading up to the NFU 2010 convention.
Grown commercially in Canada since 1998, hemp has become one of the most profitable crops for farmers north of the U.S. border. While American farmers often net less than $50 per acre for soy and corn, Canadian hemp farmers just across the border net an average of $250 per acre.
Currently, Vote Hemp and the Hemp Industries Association (HIA) are organizing Hemp History Week, a national campaign sponsoring local educational and retailer events in all 50 states from May 17-23, 2010. The effort is an unprecedented industry-wide project involving hundreds of hemp manufacturers, retailers and volunteers. While 16 states have passed pro-hemp farming legislation to date, Hemp History Weekorganizers want to influence significant policy changes on the federal level as well, and they expect to deliver 50,000 hand-signed postcards to the Department of Justice in support of hemp farming. For more information, visit: http://www.HempHistoryWeek.com
Time for the Washington state Legislature to legalize marijuana, writes The Seattle Times editorial board. The push to repeal the federal prohibition should come from the states, starting with Washington.
MARIJUANA should be legalized, regulated and taxed. The push to repeal federal prohibition should come from the states, and it should begin with the state of Washington.
In 1998, Washington was one of the earliest to vote for medical marijuana. It was a leap of faith, and the right decision. In 2003, Seattle was one of the first places in America to vote to make simple marijuana possession the lowest police priority. That, too, was a leap of faith, and the right decision. A year ago, City Attorney Pete Holmes stopped all prosecutions for simple possession: the right decision.
It is time for the next step. It is a leap, yes — but not such a big one, now.
Still, it is not an easy decision. We have known children who changed from brilliant students to slackers by smoking marijuana at a young age. We have also known of many users who have gone on to have responsible and successful lives. One of them is president of the United States.
Like alcohol, most people can handle marijuana. Some can't.
There is a deep urge among parents to say: "No. Don't allow it. We don't want it." We understand the feeling. We have felt it ourselves. Certainly the life of a parent would be easier if everyone had no choice but to be straight and sober all the time. But an intoxicant-free world is not the one we have, nor is it the one most adults want.
Marijuana is available now. If your child doesn't smoke it, maybe it is because your parenting works. But prohibition has not worked.
It might work in North Korea. But in America, prohibition is the pursuit of the impossible. It does impose huge costs. There has been:
• A cost to the people arrested and stigmatized as criminals, particularly to students who lose university scholarships because of a single conviction;
• A cost in wasted police time, wasted court time and wasted public resources in the building of jails and prisons;
• A cost in disrespect for the law and, in some U.S. cities, the corruption of police departments;
• A cost in lost civil liberties and lost privacy by such measures as the tapping of private telephones and invasion of private homes;
• A cost in the encouragement of criminal lifestyle among youth, and the consequent rise in theft, assault, intimidation, injury and murder, including multinational criminal gangs; and
• A cost in tax revenues lost by federal, state and local governments — revenues that for this state might be on the order of $300 million a year.
Some drugs have such horrible effects on the human body that the costs of prohibition may be worth it. Not marijuana. This state's experience with medical marijuana and Seattle's tolerance policy suggest that with cannabis, legalization will work — and surprisingly well.
Not only will it work, but it is coming. You can feel it.
One sign: On Feb. 8, a committee of the state House of Representatives in Olympia held a public hearing on House Bill 1550. The bill would legalize marijuana and sell it through the state liquor stores to customers over 21 who consume it in private.
The big issue at the hearing was the bill's conflict with federal law: the prospect of Washington legalizing marijuana in defiance of federal authority. What would that mean?
There would be a legal and political fight. In our view, such a fight is bound to happen. Some state is going to start it. It might have been California, but the Golden State turned down a marijuana-legalization initiative Nov. 2, voting only 46 percent for it.
Sometimes Washington is ahead of California. This state's voters were the first to approve gay civil unions, in 2009. California's voters didn't. Ours did.
Pass HB 1550. Legalize cannabis, regulate it, tax it. It is radical, yet commonsensical.
"It has taken me a long time to get to this position," said HB 1550's sponsor, Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, D-Seattle.
It took us a long time also. The people of Washington may already be there, and if not, they are close.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Last Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit sided with the Drug Policy Alliance and handed a resounding First Amendment victory to a Juneau, Alaska, high school student, Joseph Frederick, who had been disciplined by his school principal in 2002 for publicly expressing pro-marijuana sentiments. Specifically, Frederick was suspended from school for five days for violating the school’s anti-drug / zero-tolerance policy and promoting marijuana use when he displayed a banner on a public street that read “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.”
When the principal informed Frederick of his suspension, he responded by quoting Thomas Jefferson and stating that he was simply exercising his constitutional right to free speech. The principal, in turn, doubled Frederick’s suspension to 10 days. Frederick sued the school for unlawful censorship, and was represented by ACLU of Alaska. He lost in federal district court and appealed his case to the Ninth Circuit, where he sought DPA’s assistance as a friend-of-the-court.
DPA filed an amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit in support of Frederick. The DPA brief asserted that Frederick’s speech was protected under the constitution, highlighted the quarter century debate in Alaska over the legal status of marijuana, and pointed out to the court that siding with Frederick would neither render school anti-drug policies unworkable nor give a green light to adolescent drug use. To this end, DPA noted that research shows that punitive, “zero-tolerance” school drug policies, like that enforced against Frederick, are ineffective, and cautioned that suppressing drug-related student speech could be counterproductive to the drug prevention strategy of encouraging open communication between students and teachers. As DPA argued in its brief, “Punishing Mr. Frederick . . . not only infringed upon his First Amendment freedoms, but also squandered an opportunity for educators and administrators to cultivate mutual trust and respect with students and to foster rational discussion to address . . . drug abuse.”
A unanimous panel of the Ninth Circuit sided with Frederick, found that the high school violated his clearly established constitutional rights, and adopted much of the reasoning advanced by DPA. Specifically, the court found that Mr. Frederick’s speech “expressed a positive sentiment about marijuana use, however vague and nonsensical” but that this pro-marijuana sentiment, unlike “vulgar, lewd [or] obscene” speech, was protected speech. The court stated that pro-marijuana speech did not lose its constitutional protections simply because the speech “advocated a position contrary to [school] policy” and “unacceptable to school administrators.”
The official holding of the court can be stated as follows: A school may not punish and censure non-disruptive, off-campus speech by students just because the speech promotes a social message contrary to the one favored by the school.
The Ninth Circuit further held that the high school principal’s conduct in suspending Frederick for the content of his speech was so clearly unlawful that the principal was not entitled to qualified immunity, thereby opening the door for Frederick to sue the principal and the school for money damages.
Posted by Mickey Martin on February 18th, 2011
This story first ran in West Coast Cannabis magazine in 2009, but is a good resource for ANY DAY….
10 Things YOU Can Do To Be a Better Activist
by Mickey Martin
Activism is alive and well here in America. With the recent election of Barack Obama we saw firsthand the power that grassroots organizing and activism can have on our world. The following are ten easy things you can do to get fired up and ready to go. Now let’s go change the world.
1. Get Educated: Nothing is more disturbing than an activist who has no idea what they are talking about. I am reminded of the P.U.M.A. uprising that happened after Hillary lost the Democratic primary. All over the news were these ill informed “activists” who were torn to shreds, as they could not provide any reasonable answers to obvious questions. Although funny to watch, it was disturbing to know that these poor folks marched blindly into battle armed with untruth and misinformation. They simply had not done their homework.
Cannabis activism is no different than normal politics. We must be armed with the truth and be knowledgeable about the facts to make our message clear. We need to know the history of our cause to know how to approach the future. We should all educate ourselves on the cannabis plant, current affairs, and the legal and social issues that surround cannabis. There are many good books written on the subject and innumerable sites dedicated to cannabis studies and activism. Do some reading. The Governor of California has just publicly stated that we should be open to a public debate about cannabis. Are you ready for the debate?
2. Talk to People. They Want to Listen: The time has never been better for cannabis discussions. The media is ripe with coverage on the subject, community leaders are more vocal than ever on the topic, and there is a certain buzz to the discussion. Whether it is a friend, a co-worker, or a mother on your child’s baseball team there is always an opportunity to win over the hearts and minds of others. The only way to combat decades of misinformation is to dispel the myths about cannabis one conversation at a time. Never fear having an educated discussion about something you are passionate about. Activism begins with those you are closest too. If we all discussed openly our beliefs and values surrounding cannabis use with those we interact with regularly, there would be a much greater understanding in society.
3. Join A Group Already: There is no shortage of organizations dedicated to cannabis activism. Being a part of a group of like-minded individuals is empowering and we grow as individuals by these experiences. Groups such as ASA, NORML, MPP, SSDP, and the multitudes of community based activist and policy groups provide a forum to be a part of a larger vision for change. No matter what your passion is, whether social, political, environmental, or economic, there is most likely a group working towards that. If there is not an established group working on your personal vision, then start one. Seek out people to share your experiences and values with. A group of committed people will always be more powerful than the most committed individual, so get involved.
4. Organize Your Peeps: Taking the time to organize the people in your life to best help your activist goals is imperative. People have individual skills and assets that they can bring to your experience. Organizing these folks to be ready when a need arises helps to create a more fluid activist response. Identifying who may be able and willing to help with art, planning, or public speaking can make even the most harried demonstrations into professional and effective actions. Our human resources are the most valuable tools in the activist toolbox, so learn to use them wisely.
5. Understand Both Sides of the Argument: The only way an activist can make an effective statement with their actions is to understand completely the view of the opposition. When we can see the world through the eyes of our enemies we are able to undermine their fears and aggressions with a message that makes sense. Understanding more clearly where adversity is coming from allows us to make calculated steps in how to create opportunities for change. Learn to think like those who oppose you and you can begin to find methods of changing that way of thinking.
6. Learn From Past Successes and Failures: Winston Churchill said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” When planning activist actions it is helpful to look back at what worked in the past, and what did not, to strategize effectively. Throughout history there have been many activist movements that produced desired results. Using these lessons to our advantage can help us to make the progress we seek in our movement.
7. Put Your Money (or Time) Where Your Mouth Is: Quit talking about activism like it is someone else’s responsibility. It is easy for people to complain about what is not being done, but committing time and resources is the only way to really get things done. If we all gave a small percentage to this cause we would be miles a head of the game. Buy an eighth that is five bucks cheaper and put the change in the ASA jar. Buy some stamps and spend an afternoon writing letters to community leaders. Donate a day of your life to helping spread the word about cannabis freedom. It doesn’t really matter what you do to help, as long as you are doing something.
8. Networking, Networking, And Networking: In this digital age it has never been easier to network with people. Whether you Twitter, Facebook, or belong to email lists, it is important to get the message out to all of our various networks. Action planning begins with an idea that is spread from network to network and eventually there is a large contingency of support for the cause. Post a link. Text message your entire contacts list. Call people that can help us realize our ultimate goal. We are the ones we have been waiting for and it is up to us to network our message effectively.
9. Get Off Your Couch: With wireless Internet and cell phones that can do amazing things there is a great deal of activist work that can be done from the couch. But sometimes nothing beats feet on the ground and looking people in the eye to ask for their support. Get out to a rally or protest. Hand out flyers at a farmers market. Organize a local bike ride to raise awareness. Attend a city council meeting. Getting out into the community to directly spread our activist message is necessary and effective. Plus, people like to see your smiling face, so get going.
10. Teach Others: One activist creates another. Taking the time to make sure those around you understand the importance of their actions and the importance of the movement creates a community of educated and responsible citizens that are capable of changing the world. Take a person under your wing and share your knowledge and experiences with them. In this way we nurture the future of community activism and ensure that the people will always have a voice in the process. Our movement is growing rapidly and we must ensure that all members are given the right tools to help in the effort. The apprentice shall one day become the master.
Activism takes courage and dedication. These are some things that we can all do to become better activists and continue our journey towards justice, morality, and freedom. Our individual actions have the ability to make the world a better place. No matter to what degree activism is a part of your life, taking the necessary steps can be essential to your actions being effective. Please do your part to help us fix the world and help us to restore order to the universe. You are an activist the moment you begin to be active. Is this your moment?
Thursday, February 17, 2011
A high school in Colorado Springs has informed a student that he cannot return to class after taking his medication because of a zero tolerance medical marijuana policy the district has in place. The teenager suffers from a neurological condition that can cause seizures lasting 24 hours or longer; he missed the majority of the last school year because of the condition.
The student has been prescribed various narcotics, including morphine, but doctors eventually “discovered that THC works better than any other medication” for his symptoms.
Great info in this interview with Willie Nelson about hemp, cannabis and their relationship with each other, the planet, and the laws with their consequences.
Although I think there should be a distinction between industrial hemp which can also be used for many of these purposes including medical to some extent. However, cannabis (marijuana) is its cousin plant and has more medicinal value as far as we know today but can be used for the same products that industrial hemp can.
10:19 am February 15, 2011, by jgalloway
Update at 3:50 p.m.: This announcement just came in for a 1:45 p.m. event on Wednesday:
Gov. Nathan Deal will join Speaker David Ralston, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Carol Hunstein, state Rep. Jay Neal and others for a news conference to discuss new legislation on criminal justice reform.
Chief Justice Carol Hunstein of the state Supreme Court appears ready to endorse Gov. Nathan Deal’s efforts to reduce the number of non-violent offenders that Georgia locks up.
Chief Justice Carol Hunstein of the Georgia Supreme Court will give her “State of the Judiciary” address on Wednesday. Kent D. Johnson, email@example.com
Hunstein will offer her “State of the Judiciary” address to a joint session of the General Assembly on Wednesday. Her office released a few highlights today:
“Georgia’s leaders in all three branches of government recognize that we can no longer afford the more than $1 billion it costs us annually to maintain the fourth-highest incarceration rate in the nation,” she will say in the annual address…
Hunstein will report to lawmakers that the state of Georgia’s judiciary remains strong, but it continues to struggle in the face of budget cuts in recent years. Delays in criminal cases threaten the public safety. Delays in civil cases add to the cost of doing business in Georgia. “Businesses that are already in Georgia and those considering moving here want to know their court system works efficiently and can provide speedy resolution to their legal disputes,” she will say.
Even in difficult times, however, the judiciary has made progress. Chief Justice Hunstein will highlight the success of Georgia’s drug courts, mental health courts and other specialty courts in reducing recidivism while saving millions. She will recognize one of the graduates of a DeKalb County drug court, as well as a number of judges who lead specialty courts around the state.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider
Re-post of blog, from here:
The U.S. House of Representatives just voted to eliminate $34 million in funding for the National Drug Intelligence Center for fiscal year 2011 (on a 262-169 vote). While this news could seem mundane on its face, it's a huge development. This demonstrates that conservatives in Congress will finally put their money where their rhetoric has been for a long time. Drug policy reformers should be encouraged that there are indeed hidden supporters in Congress. Now we need to educate them, spreading the message that the drug war represents the most dramatic expansion of the size and scope of the federal government in the history of this country.
Monday, February 14, 2011
If this is not a documentary or part of one, it should be! If anything at all can help change the pro-drug war people’s attitude this is it!
See more videos like this here…..
More than 350,000 people have been arrested for marijuana possession in New York City under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an admitted pot-smoker.
Marijuana possession offenses were the number one reason for arrests in New York City in 2010, according to recently released figures from the New York Division of Criminal Justice Services. Cannabis offenses comprised 15 percent of all arrests in NYC last year. The majority of those arrested for pot were African-American and Latino youth.
More people were arrested last year in New York City on marijuana charges than during the entire 19-year period from 1978 to 1996, according to the figures.
The New York City Police Department arrested 50,383 people for low-level marijuana offenses last year. On an average day in New York City, nearly 140 people are arrested for pot possession, making the Big Apple the "Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World," according to the Drug Policy Alliance.
The dramatic rise in marijuana arrests is not the result of increase pot use, which peaked nationally around 1980 according to data collected by the U.S. government. Over the past 20 years, NYPD has quietly made arrests for marijuana their top enforcement priority, without public acknowledgement or debate, according to DPA.
This is the sixth year in a row with an increase in marijuana possession arrests. In 2005, there were 29,752 pot arrests; 2010's total of 50,383 represents a 69 percent increase.
Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg came into office in 2002, 350,000 people have been arrested for low-level cannabis offenses in New York City. This is despite the fact that Bloomberg, when asked if he'd ever tried marijuana in his youth, responded, "You bet I did. And I enjoyed it."
Photo: Queens College
Dr. Harry Levine, Queens College: "New York has made more marijuana arrests under Bloomberg than any mayor in New York history"
"New York has made more marijuana arrests under Bloomberg than any mayor in New York history," said Dr. Harry Levine, a sociology professor at Queens College and the nation's leading expert on marijuana arrests. "Bloomberg's police have arrested more people for marijuana than Mayors Koch, Dinkins, and Giuliani combined.
"These arrests cost tens of millions of dollars every year, and introduce tens of thousands of young people into our broken criminal justice system," Dr. Levine said.
Most people arrested for marijuana possession offenses are handcuffed, placed in a police car, taken to a police station, fingerprinted and photographed, held in jail for 24 hours or more and then arraigned before a judge, according to DPA.
Almost 70 percent of those arrested are younger than 30 years old. Eighty-six percent of those arrested are black or Latino, even though research consistently shows young whites use marijuana at higher rates.
"The NYPD and Mayor Bloomberg are waging a war against young blacks and Latinos in New York," said Kyung Ji Rhee, director of the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reforms and Alternatives. "These 50,000 arrests for small amounts of marijuana can have devastating consequences for New Yorkers and their families, including permanent criminal records, loss of financial aid, possible loss of child custody, loss of public housing and a host of other collateral damage.
"It's not a coincidence that neighborhoods with high marijuana arrests are the same neighborhoods with high stop-and-frisks and high juvenile arrests," Rhee said.
Many New Yorkers have no idea that marijuana possession was decriminalized in New York more than 30 years ago, when a Republican State Senator and a Democratic State Assemblyman sponsored the Marijuana Reform Act of 1977. The Legislature found that "arrests, criminal prosecutions and criminal penalties are inappropriate for people who possess small quantities of marihuana for personal use."
Possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana was decriminalized -- that is, it was made a violation, with the first offense carrying a maximum penalty of a $100 fine, with no arrest and no jail. Smoking marijuana "in public view" was made a criminal offense, a misdemeanor.
Most people arrested for marijuana possession were not smoking in public; most simply had a small amount of cannabis in their pocket, purse or bag. Having a small amount of marijuana in one's pocket or bag is a legal violation, not a criminal offense.
But quite often, when police stop and question a person, they say "Empty your pockets" or "Open your bag," or just "Hand over your pot and I'll give you a ticket." If a person then pulls marijuana from their pocket or bag, it makes the marijuana "open to public view," technically a crime, and they are arrested.
In 2009, the NYPD stopped and questioned more than 575,000 people, 84 percent of them people of color. More than 325,000 of those stops resulted in frisks. Fewer than 12 percent of those encounters resulted in a summons or arrest.
This month, the Institute for Juvenile Justice Reforms and Alternatives and the Drug Policy Alliance launched a training program called "Know Your Rights, Build Your Future." The training sessions are being held in every borough in New York City every month to educate New Yorkers about their rights and the law. They are part of a citywide campaign to end the marijuana arrest crusade and promote more effective policies.
"The NYPD's marijuana enforcement practices are racially biased, unjust, and costly, said Gabriel Sayegh, New York State Director for DPA. "The mayor can end these arrests immediately by simply ordering Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and the NYPD to follow the legislative intent of the 1977 decriminalization law.
"What the Legislature found in 1977 holds true today," Sayegh said. "Arrests for small amounts of marijuana are inappropriate and wasteful."
She told Anderson Cooper that she doesn't say no when it comes to drugs, though now she mainly smokes weed.
“I smoke a lot of pot when I write music,” she said. “I’m not going to sugar-coat it for 60 Minutes that, you know, I’m like some sober kind of human being because I’m not. I drink a lot of whisky and I smoke when I write. I don’t do it a lot because it’s not good for my voice. I don’t want to encourage kids to do drugs... I have built up goodwill with my fans and they know all I am.”
On November 5, 2003, police raided Stratford High School in Goose Creek, South Carolina, in an effort to purge the school of drugs. The school principal ordered the raid after being tipped off by an informant that drugs were being sold openly by students on school grounds.
School and police cameras captured officers bursting into the school hallway and waving their guns at 130 students, pointing guns at students' heads, handcuffing them, and making them lie on the floor or kneel with their faces to the wall while an officer with a drug-sniffing dog searched backpacks and other belongings.
No drugs were found and no arrests were made.
"I assumed that they were trying to protect us, that it was like Columbine, that somebody got in the school that was crazy or dangerous," one student told The New York Times. "But then a police officer pointed a gun at me. It was really scary."
The American Civil Liberties Union later filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging Fourth Amendment search-and-seizure violations and concerns that the raid may have been racially motivated: 70% of the raided students were black, though less than 25% of the school's student population is black.
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“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope.”
BY KEN BURGER
The Post and Courier
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
After alcohol, marijuana is America's drug of choice. Studies show half of today's population has tried smoking pot and the other half might if they knew how to get it.
Despite the government's endless war on drugs, recreational marijuana is the biggest illegal cash crop in the world. And there's a reason for that.
If you're north of age 60, you might see pot as the gateway drug that lures our unsuspecting youth into a lifetime of heavy drug addiction. If you're south of that line, not so much.
Today's middle-age grandparents grew up around marijuana in high school and college, and some used it with the same discretion as they did a six-pack of beer. Some continued to smoke, others did not.
Many, however, didn't consider it a crime. That attitude is apparent in the gradual decriminalization of the weed to the point where it's an inconvenient misdemeanor and a waste of good police manpower. We know it's against the law, but we don't want anybody to go to jail for it.
Thus we have a problem in America.
What to do about pot?
No harm, no foul
Just recently, photos of Olympic swimming champ Michael Phelps hitting a bong at a party on the University of South Carolina campus in Columbia were released to the world.
Phelps, who won eight gold medals in Beijing, promptly apologized and has been suspended for three months. A slap on the wrist.
Closer to home, three College of Charleston basketball players and a team manager recently were ticketed after campus police found them in a vehicle that contained marijuana. The manager took the rap, the simple possession charges against the players were dropped and everybody went back to playing basketball.
No harm, no foul.
Meanwhile, one of the biggest indoor marijuana farms in history was discovered a few miles up the road in Orangeburg. These guys could do some serious time.
Truth is, we pretend the users of the product are innocent and punish the entrepreneurs who found a way to make a buck. It's kind of the way we treat prostitution. Seems a little un-American, but that's the law.
Potheads and other proponents have been trying to legalize marijuana for years without much success. They seem to lose focus. Don't know why.
Realistically, all those hippies from the '60s probably won't live to see legislative reform.
When we weren't looking, an ethical and legal line was subjectively drawn somewhere between the double scotch on the rocks after work and a joint before dinner.
But for the millions who smoke pot, it's apparently not that hard to find. Everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody.
Unless you have an active drug-testing policy at your work place, a lot of your co-workers could be casual users.
Not that there's anything wrong with that. Except the illegal part.
Pot smokers are nothing like the wild and crazy people the government depicted in the 1936 propaganda film "Reefer Madness." Mostly, they laugh and eat.
Police won't admit it, but if everybody smoked pot instead of drinking alcohol, society would be a much safer place to live. Less crime. More naps.
So as our population transitions from the post-World War II era to the post-Vietnam/Gulf War demographic, public figures are usually able to survive the occasional brush with marijuana use.
Is that good?
Is it bad?
It just is, man.
BY STEVEN KOTLER
Growing Pot Arrests
Do you get high? If so, you have a lot of company. Although no country has yet legalized marijuana, almost half of the world’s 147 nations have, to some extent, decriminalized it. In the United States, according to an April 2009 Zogby poll, 52 percent of the population now favors legalization—the largest percentage ever.
Despite marijuana’s growing acceptance, most of our elected officials are still reluctant to advocate for the cause. As Rick Doblin, President of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS)—a nonprofit that has advocated on behalf of medical marijuana since the 80s—points out: “Most politicians still won’t come out in favor of medical marijuana because they don’t want to appear pro-legalization. And they’re afraid of appearing pro-legalization, because they’re scared of being accused of wanting to give drugs to children.”
And it’s unlikely things will change anytime soon. Pot’s continued criminalization has been championed, sometimes overtly, often covertly, by powerful groups—among them law enforcement agencies, the alcohol and tobacco industries, pharmaceutical companies and the prison-industrial complex—who have repeatedly shaped laws and public opinion to reflect their views.
So weed remains a crime, albeit a very popular one.
Pot Arrest Statistics
Pot arrests are at a near-record high. According to FBI statistics, in 2009 more than 1.7 million people were brought in on marijuana-related charges—almost half of them (758,593 to be exact) for simply smoking pot (as opposed to growing or dealing it). According to “Lost Revenues and Other Costs of Marijuana Laws,” a report written by Drug Science public policy analyst Jon Gettman, enforcing America’s pot laws costs taxpayers an annual $10.7 billion. Not to mention the overburdening of our criminal justice system and disruption of the lives of those who find themselves with a criminal record for smoking an occasional joint.
“If an arrest leads to a conviction, as it often does,” says American Civil Liberties Union policy advocate Mark Cooke, “it can lead to a lifetime of collateral consequences. These include loss of employment, loss of housing, loss of voting rights, loss of federal financial aid for college, seizure and forfeiture of property, termination of child visitation rights and deportation for legal immigrants. If an arrest results in incarceration, the offender will face lower job prospects and have diminished earning capacity. Even if someone is merely arrested for using marijuana and doesn’t actually get charged, they will still bear the stigma of being labeled a criminal.”
Medical Marijuana as Miracle Drug
Meanwhile, medical marijuana has come to be seen as something of a wonder drug. Researchers have declared it one of the most successful palliatives in the medicine chest—beneficial in the treatment of pain, nausea, vomiting, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), lack of appetite, migraines, fibromyalgia, cancer, depression, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Lyme disease, obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), Tourette’s syndrome and many more. “There’s nothing in our current pharmacopoeia that comes close,” says Michael Backes, owner of the Cornerstone Research Collective, a Los Angeles-based medical marijuana dispensary and research organization.
All this pro-pot sentiment is not new. One of the earliest laws passed in the New World—a 1619 Jamestown colony law—required all settlers to grow cannabis (some of this was for domestic use, but much was at the “request” of our colonial masters who used the plant for everything from rope to medicines). Two hundred years later there were more than 8,000 hemp plantations in the colonies—with nothing less than 2,000 acres counting as a plantation.
So how did we get from hemp being as American as apple pie to U.S. prisons overflowing with marijuana offenders?