Don't listen to people who tell you that Cannabis is more dangerous than Alcohol......
Thursday, February 28, 2008
NEW YORK (CBS/AP) ― Don't ask the U.S. prison system if this is indeed "the land of the free."
For the first time in history, more than one in every 100 American adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report tracking the surge in inmate population.
The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.
Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults were held in U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008 -- one out of every 99.1 adults, and more than any other country in the world.
By contrast, in mid 2002 the ratio was 1 in 142, with the prison population surpassing 2 million for the first time.
The steadily growing inmate population "is saddling cash-strapped states with soaring costs they can ill afford and failing to have a clear impact either on recidivism or overall crime," said the report.
Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States, said budget woes are prompting officials in many states to consider new, cost-saving corrections policies that might have been shunned in the recent past for fear of appearing soft in crime.
"We're seeing more and more states being creative because of tight budgets," she said in an interview. "They want to be tough on crime, they want to be a law-and-order state -- but they also want to save money, and they want to be effective."
The report cited Kansas and Texas as states which have acted decisively to slow the growth of their inmate population. Their actions include greater use of community supervision for low-risk offenders and employing sanctions other than reimprisonment for ex-offenders who commit technical violations of parole and probation rules.
"The new approach, born of bipartisan leadership, is allowing the two states to ensure they have enough prison beds for violent offenders while helping less dangerous lawbreakers become productive, taxpaying citizens," the report said.
While many state governments have shown bipartisan interest in curbing prison growth, there also are persistent calls to proceed cautiously.
"We need to be smarter," said David Muhlhausen, a criminal justice expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation. "We're not incarcerating all the people who commit serious crimes -- but we're also probably incarcerating people who don't need to be."
According to the report, the inmate population increased last year in 36 states and the federal prison system.
The largest percentage increase -- 12 percent -- was in Kentucky, where Gov. Steve Beshear highlighted the cost of corrections in his budget speech last month. He noted that the state's crime rate had increased only about 3 percent in the past 30 years, while the state's inmate population has increased by 600 percent.
The Pew report was compiled by the Center on the State's Public Safety Performance Project, which is working directly with 13 states on developing programs to divert offenders from prison without jeopardizing public safety.
"For all the money spent on corrections today, there hasn't been a clear and convincing return for public safety," said the project's director, Adam Gelb. "More and more states are beginning to rethink their reliance on prisons for lower-level offenders and finding strategies that are tough on crime without being so tough on taxpayers."
The report said prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect a parallel increase in crime or in the nation's overall population. Instead, it said, more people are behind bars mainly because of tough sentencing measures, such as "three-strikes" laws, that result in longer prison stays.
"For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling," the report said. "While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine."
The nationwide figures, as of Jan. 1, include 1,596,127 people in state and federal prisons and 723,131 in local jails -- a total 2,319,258 out of almost 230 million American adults.
The report said the United States is the world's incarceration leader, far ahead of more populous China with 1.5 million people behind bars. It said the U.S. also is the leader in inmates per capita (750 per 100,000 people), ahead of Russia (628 per 100,000) and other former Soviet bloc nations which make up the rest of the Top 10.
(© 2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors today passed a resolution condemning federal authorities for sending letters to landlords of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, notifying them of the possibility of imprisonment and seizure of their property. The resolution was approved this afternoon by a 7 to 2 vote.....The resolution calls the letters - issued in December by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to about 50 Northern California landlords, some in San Francisco --"misguided and sensationally threatening harassment.". The resolution was authored by Supervisor Chris Daly and co-sponsored by supervisors Jake McGoldrick and Ross Mirkarimi.mAccording to the DEA, the letters were sent out "basically as a courtesy," informing landlords the cannabis clubs were operating on their property, constituting a violation of federal law, the penalty for which includes seizure of assets, including property, and up to 20 years in prison. The resolution, which reaffirms San Francisco as "a sanctuary for medical cannabis," states that the DEA "has repeatedly subverted and undermined California's, and many other states', laws governing medical cannabis." It also accuses the DEA of "increasingly acting on its irrational policy and hysteria regarding medical cannabis specifically, and the so-called War on Drugs in general.". According to the resolution, medical marijuana dispensaries are a health and safety issue that should be governed by the state of California. The resolution pledges to support "lawfully operating" cannabis dispensaries and property owners who lease to them. Those facing federal prosecution would receive the support of the city attorney, according to the resolution. The resolution also calls on the U.S. Congress to investigate the conduct of the DEA and to revise federal law to authorize states to legalize medical marijuana.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Sacramento, CA -- Assemblymember Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and several co-authors introduced a bill yesterday that would protect the rights of hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients in California from employment discrimination. The bill leaves intact existing state law prohibiting medical marijuana consumption at the workplace and protects employers from liability by carving out an exception for safety-sensitive positions. The employment rights bill, which is being co-authored by Assemblymembers Patty Berg (D-Eureka), Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) and Lori Saldaña (D-San Diego), is in response to a January decision by the California Supreme Court in Ross v. RagingWire. National medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) argued the case before the court and is now a sponsor of the bill.
"The California Supreme Court decision said that an employer may fire someone solely because they use medical marijuana outside the workplace," said Assemblymember Leno. "Long ago, the legislature prohibited patient use of medical cannabis in the workplace or during working hours," continued Leno. "AB 2279 is merely an affirmation of the intent of the voters and the legislature that medical marijuana patents need not be unemployed to benefit from their medicine."
On January 24, in a 5-2 decision, the California Supreme Court upheld the lower court's ruling that denied qualified patients a remedy from employment discrimination, based either on their status as a patient or a positive test for marijuana. The plaintiff in the case, Gary Ross, is a 46-year old disabled veteran who was a systems engineer living Carmichael, California, when he was fired from his job in 2001 at RagingWire Telecommunications for testing positive for marijuana. "It's important that we not allow wholesale employment discrimination in California," said former plaintiff Gary Ross. "If the court is going to ignore the need for protection, then it's up to the legislature to ensure that productive workers like me are free from discrimination."
The decision in Ross v. RagingWire closed the door on redress through the courts, shifting the debate to the state legislature. California is not alone in its attempt to affirm employment protections for medical marijuana patients. Both Oregon and Hawaii have introduced similar legislation aimed at clarifying the intent of the state legislatures. This recent multi-state effort builds on existing legislation adopted in ten out of twelve medical marijuana states, including California, which already sought to protect patients from employment discrimination. "We welcome and strongly endorse this clarification from the legislature," said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes. "Despite the ill-conceived ruling by the California Supreme Court, the intent of state legislatures has been to recognize the civil rights of patients and to offer them reasonable protections."
Before the court made its final decision, Ross enjoyed the support of ten state and national medical organizations, all of the original co-authors of the Medical Marijuana Program Act (SB 420), and disability rights groups. Since it began recording instances of employment discrimination in 2005, ASA has received hundreds of such reports from all across California. Employers that have either fired patients from their job, threatened them with termination, or denied them employment because of patient status or because of a positive test for marijuana, include Costco Wholesale, UPS, Foster Farms Dairy, DirecTV, the San Joaquin Courier, Power Auto Group, as well as several construction companies, hospitals, and various trade union employers.
conspiracy" may be debatable, but the conspiracy
of drug warriors, politicians, treatment
providers and cops to keep idiotic pot laws on
the books long after the lies were exposed is no
The way the DEA, the FDA, NIDA et al play
Catch-22 games with marijuana is not accidental-
ie. marijuana is NOT a medicine because it has
not been tested, but testing is not allowed
because it is too dangerous! ie. marijuana must
be tested for safety before its schedule can be
changed- no testing for safety allowed!
That's an overt conspiracy. Only hard line drug war liars dare say otherwise.
Every imaginable obstacle is put in the way of
changing the legal status of marijuana. No legal
drug, regardless of real danger (like Tylenol
which causes 45% of all fatal liver failure) is
put through the impossible gauntlet facing
marijuana which has never killed anyone.
Every marijuana policy is as contrived and as
deliberately wrong as Harry Anslinger could make
it. Harry used the device of licensing marijuana
and then refused to issue any licenses. (that's
what got the Marijuana Tax Act declared
unConstitutional.) And yes, Harry's dirty hands
are all over the Single Convention Treaty that
Anslinger considered his crowning achievement.
Whether this is a conspiracy of liars or a
conspiracy of self-interest is irrelevant, these
wicked people deny justice, hinder the economy
and throw up a continuous barrage of fiction
concerning marijuana. There is no logical reason
other than self-interest for this behavior.
Drug prohibition proves how morally bankrupt
cops, politicians and drug warriors really are.
They have no compunction about trying to justify
harsh punishments without any true reason.
Prohibitionists are reprehensible racists and
deserve much abuse. Anyone who endorses the drug
war should be run through the mill for their
If the drug crusaders get smeared with a mistake,
that's just desserts for their non-stop lying as
far as I am concerned. These drug crusaders
deserve a life prison sentence, not an apology.
Scratch a pothead and ask them why marijuana is
outlawed, and there's a good chance you'll get some
version of the "hemp conspiracy" theory. Federal pot
prohibition, the story goes, resulted from a plot by
the Hearst and DuPont business empires to squelch hemp
as a possible competitor to wood-pulp paper and nylon.
These allegations can be found anywhere from Wikipedia
entries on William Randolph Hearst and the DuPont
Company to comments on pot-related articles published
here on AlterNet. And these allegations are virtually
unchallenged; many people fervently believe in the
hemp conspiracy, even though the evidence to back it
up vaporizes under even minimal scrutiny.
You could make a stronger case for Lee Harvey Oswald
as the lone assassin of John F. Kennedy; Oswald at
least left a not-quite-smoking gun at the scene.
Pot activist Jack Herer's book The Emperor Wears No
Clothes is the prime source for the hemp-conspiracy
theory. It alleges that in the mid-1930s, "when the
new mechanical hemp fiber stripping machines to
conserve hemp's high-cellulose pulp finally became
state of the art, available and affordable," Hearst,
with enormous holdings in timber acreage and
investments in paper manufacturing, "stood to lose
billions of dollars and perhaps go bankrupt."
Meanwhile, DuPont in 1937 had just patented nylon and
"a new sulfate/sulfite process for making paper from
wood pulp" -- so "if hemp had not been made illegal,
80 percent of DuPont's business would never have
Herer, a somewhat cantankerous former marijuana-pipe
salesman, deserves a lot of credit for his cannabis
activism. He was a dedicated grass-roots agitator for
pot legalization during the late 1980s, perhaps the
most herb-hostile time in recent history. Despite a
substantial stroke in 2001, he soldiers on; he's
currently campaigning to get a cannabis-legalization
initiative on the ballot in Santa Barbara, California.
The Emperor -- an omnivorous conglomeration of
newspaper clippings and historical documents about
hemp and marijuana, held together by Herer's cannabis
evangelism and fiery screeds against prohibition --
has been a bible for many pot activists. Unearthing a
1916 Department of Agriculture bulletin about hemp
paper and a World War II short film that exhorted
American farmers to grow "Hemp for Victory," Herer
more than anyone else revived the idea that the
cannabis plant was useful for purposes besides getting
high. Unfortunately, he's completely wrong on this
particular issue. The evidence for a "hemp conspiracy"
just doesn't stand up. It is far more likely that
marijuana was outlawed because of racism and cultural
How marijuana was prohibited
Twentieth-century cannabis prohibition first reared
its head in countries where white minorities ruled
black majorities: South Africa, where it's known as
dagga, banned it in 1911, and Jamaica, then a British
colony, outlawed ganja in 1913. They were followed by
Canada, Britain and New Zealand, which added cannabis
to their lists of illegal narcotics in the 1920s.
Canada's pot law was enacted in 1923, several years
before there were any reports of people actually
smoking it there. It was largely the brainchild of
Emily F. Murphy, a feminist but racist judge who wrote
anti-Asian, anti-marijuana rants under the pseudonym
In the United States, marijuana prohibition began
partly as a throw-in on laws restricting opiates and
cocaine to prescription-only use, and partly in
Southern and Western states and cities where blacks
and Mexican immigrants were smoking it. Missouri
outlawed opium and hashish dens in 1889, but did not
actually prohibit cannabis until 1935. Massachusetts
began restricting cannabis in its 1911 pharmacy law,
and three other New England states followed in the
next seven years.
California's 1913 narcotics law banned possession of
cannabis preparations -- which California NORML head
Dale Gieringer believes was a legal error, that the
provision was intended to parallel those affecting
opium, morphine and cocaine. The law was amended in
1915 to ban the sale of cannabis without a
prescription. "Thus hemp pharmaceuticals remained
technically legal to sell, but not possess, on
prescription!" Gieringer wrote in The Origins of
Cannabis Prohibition in California. "There are no
grounds to believe that this prohibition was ever
enforced, as hemp drugs continued to be prescribed in
California for years to come." In 1928, the state
began requiring hemp farmers to notify law enforcement
about their crops.
New York City made cannabis prescription-only in 1914,
part to pre-empt users of over-the-counter opium,
morphine and cocaine medicines from switching to
cannabis preparations, but with allusions to hashish
use by Middle Eastern immigrants. In the West and
Southwest, anti-Mexican sentiment quickly came into
play. California's first marijuana arrests came in a
Mexican neighborhood in Los Angeles in 1914, according
to Gieringer, and the Los Angeles Times said "sinister
legends of murder, suicide and disaster" surrounded
the drug. The city of El Paso, Texas, outlawed reefer
in 1915, two years after a Mexican thug, "allegedly
crazed by habitual marijuana use," killed a cop. By
the time Prohibition was repealed in 1933, 30 states
had some form of pot law.
The campaign against cannabis heated up after Repeal.
"I wish I could show you what a small marihuana
cigaret can do to one of our degenerate
Spanish-speaking residents," a Colorado newspaper
editor wrote in 1936. "The fatal marihuana cigarette
must be recognized as a DEADLY DRUG, and American
children must be PROTECTED AGAINST IT," the Hearst
Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Bureau of
Narcotics, headed the charge. "If the hideous monster
Frankenstein came face to face with the monster
marihuana, he would drop dead of fright," he thundered
An ambitious racist (a 1934 memo described an
informant as a "ginger-colored nigger") who had
previously been federal assistant Prohibition
commissioner, Anslinger railed against reefer in
magazine articles like 1937's "Marihuana: Assassin of
Youth." It featured gory stories like that of Victor
Licata, a once "sane, rather quiet young man" from
Tampa, Fla., who'd killed his family with an axe in
1933, after becoming "pitifully crazed" from smoking
"muggles." (Actually, the Tampa police had tried to
have Licata committed to a mental hospital before he
started smoking pot.)
Anslinger's other theme was that white girls would be
ruined once they'd experienced the lurid pleasures of
having a black man's joint in their mouth. "Colored
students at the Univ. of Minn. partying with female
students (white) smoking and getting their sympathy
with stories of racial persecution," he noted.
In 1937, after a very cursory debate, Congress enacted
the Marihuana Tax Act, levying a prohibitive
$100-an-ounce tax on cannabis. "I believe in some
cases one cigarette might develop a homicidal mania,"
Anslinger testified in a hearing on the bill.
The case against the "hemp conspiracy"
The hemp-conspiracy theory blames that law on Hearst
and DuPont's plot to suppress hemp paper and cloth.
The theory is that the invention of a hemp processor
known as the "decorticator" made it easier, faster and
much more cost-effective to extract hemp fiber from
the stalks. In February 1938, Popular Mechanics hailed
hemp as the "New Billion Dollar Crop." In response,
Hearst and DuPont, scared by the prospect of hemp's
resurrection as a competitor for their products,
schemed to eliminate the plant.
However, The Emperor makes only three specific claims
to support that theory. One is the anti-marijuana
propagandizing of the Hearst newspapers. Second, it
claims that Anslinger's anti-pot crusade was on behalf
of Pittsburgh banker Andrew Mellon, who supposedly was
DuPont's "chief financial backer," lending the company
the funds it needed to purchase General Motors in the
1920s. And finally, The Emperor argues that DuPont
anticipated the Marihuana Tax Act in its 1937 annual
report, which worried that the company's future was
"clouded with uncertainties" -- specifically about
"the extent to which the revenue-raising power of
government may be converted into an instrument for
forcing acceptance of sudden new ideas of industrial
and social reorganization."
None of these claims stand up.
Claim 1: Hearst the propagandist
According to W.A. Swanberg's extensive biography
Citizen Hearst, the Hearst chain was actually the
nation's largest purchaser of newsprint -- and when
the price rose from $40 a ton to over $50 in the late
1930s, he fell so deep in debt to Canadian paper
producers and banks that he had to sell his prized art
collection to avert foreclosure. "It therefore seems
that it would have been in Hearst's interest to
promote cheap hemp paper substitutes, had that been a
viable alternative," Dale Gieringer wrote in his
article, calling the hemp-conspiracy theory "fanciful"
and a "myth."
In any case, the Hearst papers never needed hidden
self-interest to trumpet fiendish menaces. The
expression "yellow journalism" comes from Hearst's
campaign for a war against Spain in 1898. And from the
1930s on, his papers were finding RED SUBVERSIVES and
PINKO FELLOW-TRAVELERS under every bed. In 1935, a
University of Chicago professor accused of being a
Communist by the Hearst-owned Herald-Examiner told the
Nation that the reporter covering him had admitted,
"We do just what the Old Man orders. One week he
orders a campaign against rats. The next week he
orders a campaign against dope peddlers. Pretty soon
he's going to campaign against college professors.
It's all the bunk, but orders are orders."
Claim 2: The Anslinger-DuPont Connection
There was an Anslinger-Mellon connection. Anslinger
was appointed to head the Bureau of Narcotics by
Andrew Mellon, his wife's uncle, who was treasury
secretary in the Herbert Hoover administration.
However, it's unlikely that DuPont needed to borrow
money to buy GM in the 1920s, as the company had done
very well as the leading manufacturer of explosives
for the Allied forces during World War I.
Historians find no evidence of a DuPont-Mellon
connection either. "General Motors was historically
associated with the Morgan group during that period,"
Mark Mizruchi, a professor of sociology and business
administration at the University of Michigan, told me
in an email interview in 2003. Sociologist G. William
Domhoff of the University of California at Santa Cruz,
author of Who Rules America?, concurred, saying it was
safe to state there was no connection. And in the
440-page tome considered the definitive account of
American banking and corporate finance during the
Depression era, Mizruchi added, Japanese historian
Tian Kang Go does not mention "even the smallest
financial connection between DuPont and Mellon."
Claim 3: Dubious DuPont claims
The argument that DuPont's 1937 complaint about
federal taxes had anything to do with hemp is an
extremely dubious stretch. If the company had been
talking about the government eliminating a competitor
by levying a prohibitive tax, it wouldn't have been
worrying about the uncertainty of foreseeing new
federal imposts. It would have been celebrating its
newly cleared path. Given the context of the times,
it's almost certain that this statement was merely
typical 1930s corporate-class whining about the New
Deal's social programs and business regulations --
akin to current corporate-class complaints about
government "social engineering."
Prohibition's racist history
The belief that marijuana prohibition came about
because of the secret machinations of an economic
cabal ignores the pattern of every drug-law crusade in
American history. From the 19th-century campaigns
against opium and alcohol to the crack panic of the
1980s, they have all been fueled by racism and
cultural war, conflated with fear of crime and
occasionally abetted by well-intentioned reform
impulses. (The financial self-interest of the
prison-industrial complex has been a more recent
development.) The first drug-prohibition laws in the
United States were opium bans aimed at Chinese
immigrants. San Francisco outlawed opium in 1875, and
the state of California followed six years later. In
1886, an Oregon judge ruled that the state's opium
prohibition was constitutional even if it proceeded
"more from a desire to vex and annoy the 'Heathen
Chinee'… than to protect the people from the evil
habit," notes Doris Marie Provine in Unequal Under
Law: Race in the War on Drugs. In How the Other Half
Lives, journalist Jacob Riis wrote of opium-addicted
white prostitutes seduced by the "cruel cunning" of
The path to the 1914 federal narcotics law that
limited cocaine and opioids to medical use -- and was
almost immediately interpreted as prescribing
narcotics to addicts -- was more complex. The main
rationale was ending the over-the-counter sale of
patent medicines such as heroin cough syrup, but there
was a definite racist streak among advocates for
controlling cocaine. "Cocaine is often the direct
incentive to the crime of rape by the Negroes,"
Hamilton Wright, the hard-drinking
doctor-turned-diplomat who spearheaded the first major
multinational drug-control agreements, told Congress.
In 1914, Dr. Edward Huntington Williams opined in the
New York Times Magazine that "once the negro has
formed the habit, he is irreclaimable. The only method
to keep him from taking the drug is by imprisoning
The movement to prohibit alcohol was part puritanical,
part racist. In the big cities, it was anti-immigrant.
Bishop James Cannon of the Anti-Saloon League in 1928
denounced Italians, Poles and Russian Jews as "the
kind of dirty people that you find today on the
sidewalks of New York," while in 1923, Imogen Oakley
of the General Federation of Women's Clubs described
the Irish, Germans, and others as "insoluble lumps of
unassimilated and unassimilable peoples … 'wet' by
heredity and habit." In the South, it was anti-black.
"The disenfranchisement of Negroes is the heart of the
movement in Georgia and throughout the South for the
Prohibition of the liquor traffic," Georgia
prohibitionist A.J. McKelway wrote in 1907. "Liquor
will actually make a brute out of a negro, causing him
to commit unnatural crimes," Alabama Rep. Richmond P.
Hobson told Congress in 1914, a year after he'd
sponsored the first federal Prohibition bill. (He said
it had the same effect on white men, but took longer
because they were "further evolved.")
Prohibitionism was an early example of fundamentalist
Christians' political strength. The midpoint of
William Jennings Bryan's odyssey from the prairie
populist of 1896 to the evolution foe of 1925 was his
endorsement of Prohibition in 1910. The rural puritans
were abetted by middle-class do-gooders who, when they
saw a slum-dwelling factory hand come home drunk and
beat his wife, would blame the saloon instead of the
pressures of capitalist exploitation or the license of
misogyny. And many industrial employers, including
DuPont's gunpowder division, demanded abstinent
workers. World War I's austerity was the final piece
of the puzzle.
Prohibitionists played key roles in the campaign to
outlaw cannabis. Harry Anslinger had been so hardline
that he advocated prosecuting individual users for
possession of alcohol. (Federal Prohibition, unlike
the current marijuana laws, only banned sales, allowed
personal possession and limited home brewing, and had
an exemption for medical use.) Richmond P. Hobson, who
crusaded against drugs in the 1920s as head of the
World Narcotic Defense Association, was an early
advocate of marijuana prohibition. In 1931, he told
the federal Wickersham Commission that marijuana used
in excess "motivates the most atrocious acts." And in
early 1936, the General Federation of Women's Clubs
joined Anslinger's campaign to make reefers verboten.
In a country that was puritanical and racist enough in
1919 to outlaw alcohol in 1919, forbidding cannabis
was politically very easy. Alcohol had been the most
pervasive recreational drug in the Western world for
millennia. Marijuana was virtually unknown. And though
Prohibitionists -- like the immigration laws of the
1920s, the resurgent Ku Klux Klan, and the 1928
presidential campaign against Irish Catholic Democrat
Al Smith -- demonized whiskey-sodden Micks,
wine-soaked wops, traitorous beer-swilling Krauts and
liquor-selling Jew shopkeepers, at least those people
were sort of white. Marijuana was used mainly by
Mexican immigrants and African-Americans.
The Nixon-era escalation of the war on drugs was one
of the few times in U.S. history when white users were
a prime target, as marijuana and LSD provided legal
pretexts to attack the '60s counterculture. Richard
Nixon's White House tapes captured him in 1971
growling that "every one of the bastards that are out
for legalizing marijuana is Jewish." But Nixon and
other law-and-order politicians were most successful
when they lumped youthful cultural-political rebellion
and black militance with ghetto heroin addiction and
the rising crime of the 1970s. New York's draconian
Rockefeller drug laws, passed in 1973 as Gov. Nelson
Rockefeller was trying to look "tough on crime," were
a harbinger of the federal mandatory minimums of the
1980s. The result was that more than 90 percent of the
state's drug prisoners are black or Latino.
The crack hysteria of the late 1980s was another
example of the fear of dark-skinned demons breeding
racially repressive law enforcement. Both federal and
many state crack laws were designed to snare street
dealers and bottom-level distributors, giving them the
same penalties as powder-cocaine wholesalers. The
racial results were obvious almost immediately. In
overwhelmingly white Minnesota, more than 90 percent
of the people convicted of possession of crack in
1988-89 were black. In the early 1990s, the U.S.
Attorney's office in Southern California went more
than five years without prosecuting a white person for
That pattern still holds: In 2003, 81 percent of the
defendants sentenced on crack charges nationwide were
black. And law enforcement didn't spare the
African-American innocent. In an August 1988 drug raid
on an apartment block on Dalton Avenue in South
Central Los Angeles, 88 city cops smashed walls and
furniture with sledgehammers and axes, beat people
with flashlights, and poured bleach on residents'
clothes -- and arrested two teenagers who didn't live
there on minor drug charges.
Why do people believe it?
Why, then, do so many people believe in the "hemp
conspiracy"? First, it's the influence of The Emperor
Wears No Clothes; many people inspired to cannabis
activism by Jack Herer's hemp-can-save-the-world
vision and passionate denunciations of pot prohibition
buy into the whole "conspiracy against marijuana"
package. Another is that many stoners love a good
conspiracy theory; secret cabals are simpler and
sexier villains than sociopolitical forces. The
conspiracist worldview, a hybrid of the
who-really-killed-the-Kennedys suspicions of the '60s
left and the Bilderbergs-and-Illuminati demonology of
the far right, is especially common in rural areas and
among pothead Ron Paul supporters. Most people don't
have the historical or political knowledge to dispute
a conspiracist flood of detailed half-truths.
Counterculture people who see the evil done by
corporations and politicians are often quick to
believe that they are thus guilty of anything and
everything -- that because the CIA tried to kill Fidel
Castro with an exploding cigar, it's therefore
indisputable that it killed Bob Marley by giving him
boots booby-trapped with a carcinogen-tipped wire.
Witness the multitudes who zealously argue that
because George W. Bush gained a political advantage
from the 9/11 attacks and told a thousand lies to
justify the war in Iraq, it's proof that his
operatives planted explosives in the World Trade
Center and set them off an hour or so after the planes
The Bush administration's attempt to link buying herb
to "supporting terrorism" proved more laughable than
lasting. Yet the racism-culture war combination is
still very potent. Among the 360,000 arrests for
marijuana possession in New York City between 1997 and
2006, the decade when mayors Rudolph Giuliani and
Michael Bloomberg turned the city into the nation's
pot-bust capital, 84 percent of the people popped were
black or Latino, mostly young men. And the oft-cited
statistic that there are more black men in prison than
in college should be the equivalent of a doctor's
warning that the nation has a cholesterol level
approaching Jerry Garcia's after years on a diet of
ice cream, cigarettes and heroin.
Steven Wishnia is the author of "Exit 25 Utopia," "The
Cannabis Companion" and "Invincible Coney Island." He
lives in New York.
© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights
Posted on February 21, 2008, Printed on February 21,
from Drug War Chronicle, Issue #524, 2/21/08
California's prison system is in crisis. With some 172,000 inmates,
the state's prison system is second only to the federal system in
size, and its budget has ballooned by 79% in the last five years to
nearly $8 billion annually. Still, the system is vastly overcrowded
and faces two federal class-action suits seeking to cap inmate
populations because overcrowding is resulting in the state not
delivering constitutionally adequate medical and mental health care.
overcrowding at Mule Creek State Prison (from cdcr.ca.gov)
In December, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he was considering
a plan to release some 22,000 nonviolent inmates early in response to
the festering crisis. But that one-shot approach would not deal with
the systemic problems and policies that created the prison crisis in
the first place.
Now, after years of inaction in Sacramento in the face of the crisis,
a well-funded initiative campaign that would result in a seismic
shift in California sentencing and prison policies, especially when
it comes to drug offenders and those whose offenses are related to
their problematic drug use, has gotten underway. Dubbed the
Non-Violent Offender Rehabilitation Act (NORA), the initiative would
dramatically expand the treatment and diversion options made
available under a previous reform initiative, Proposition 36, as well
as reform parole and probation programs, and make simple marijuana
possession an infraction instead of a misdemeanor.
About 35,000 California inmates, or about 20% of the prison
population, are doing time for drug offenses. An unknown number,
certainly in the thousands and possibly in the tens of thousands, are
doing time for offenses related to their drug use. It is these
offenders and their future brethren at whom the NORA initiative is
Sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance Network, the lobbying arm of
the Drug Policy Alliance and the Santa Monica-based Campaign for New
Drug Policies, the people who engineered the successful Prop. 36
campaign, the NORA initiative would:
* Create a multi-track diversion program for adult
offenders. Track I provides for treatment for nonviolent drug
possession offenders with a plea held in abeyance during treatment.
For those who wash out of Track I, Track II provides Prop 36-style
treatment after conviction, with graduated sanctions for probation
violations, including eventual jail time. Track III is an expansion
of existing drug court programs, with stronger sanctions than the
other tracks. Judges would have the discretion to use Track III not
only for drug offenders, but for any non-violent offenders whose
crimes are linked to their drug use. Track III would be mandatory for
those identified as "high-cost offenders" (five arrests in the past
30 months). The initiative would fund the diversion and treatment
program at $385 million per year.
* Create drug treatment programs for youth. NORA would
invest about $65 million a year to build a prevention and treatment
program for young people where none currently exists.
* Require California prisons to provide rehabilitation
programs to all exiting inmates at least 90 days before release and
for up to a year after release at state expense.
* Allow nonviolent prisoners to earn sentence
reductions with good behavior and by participating in rehabilitation
* Cut parole periods for qualifying nonviolent
offenders to between six and 12 months, instead of the current up to
three years. Early discharge from parole could be gained with
completion of a rehabilitation program.
* Make simple marijuana possession an infraction
(ticketing offense) instead of a misdemeanor.
Not only would NORA mean freedom for thousands of nonviolent drug and
drug-related offenders, it would also save California billions of
dollars. Prop. 36 is estimated to have saved at least $1.3 billion in
five years by diverting offenders to treatment, and the California
Legislative Analyst's Office projects that NORA could generate a
billion dollars a year in savings for the prison system, as well as
obviating the need for a one-time prison-building outlay of $2.5
Paid canvassers for NORA are already hitting the streets in
California. They have until April 21 to gather some 435,000 valid
signatures to put the measure on the November ballot. NORA will make
that goal, organizers vowed.
"We've just announced this to our members and started gathering
signatures," said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli of the Southern California
office of the Drug Policy Alliance Network. "We're very excited. It
looks like the largest sentencing and prison reform in American
history will be on the November ballot."
"This is Prop 36 on steroids," said Dale Gieringer, executive
director of California NORML. "If it passes, this will lead to a
comprehensive rewrite of all of California's laws regarding
sentencing, probation, and parole for nonviolent, drug-related
offenses. And this is a professional campaign. The measure will be on
the ballot in November," he flatly predicted.
"Prop. 36 has been such a success, it has been extensively studied
and proven, but the biggest problem is that it isn't big enough,"
said Dooley-Sammuli. "Combined with the difficulty of getting any
prison reform through and of even obtaining adequate funding for
existing reforms because of the impasse in Sacramento -- we've seen
so many prison reforms die there -- we thought we really needed to
put this on the ballot for stable funding, more treatment, and more
diversion," she said.
"But NORA is not just about expanding Prop. 36," Dooley-Sammuli was
quick to point out. "This is primarily a prison and sentencing reform
effort. It brings common sense solutions to the problem of
over-incarceration in California, especially the over-incarceration
of nonviolent offenders in this state."
"The state has been incredibly reluctant and negligent in addressing
the whole problem of nonviolent prisoners," said Gieringer. "Every
effort to extricate drug offenders from the prison system has been
seen as a political hot potato and has gone nowhere. Sentencing
reform is political poison in Sacramento, yet we have this simmering
prison crisis here in California."
If the politicians refuse to act, said Gieringer, it is time to take
the issue directly to the voters. "This initiative is very justified
because of the negligence of California's political class in not
dealing with these issues," he said. "In fact, it is overdue, and now
we the people have to try to come to grips with the failure of our
political leaders to act. And I think we have the public on our side.
The polling on this has been very favorable. Most people think
nonviolent drug offenses should be handled with treatment, not
"We have federal judges considering whether to take over the entire
state prison system," said Dooley-Sammuli. "We don't have solutions
coming out of Sacramento. We have very real budget problems that mean
we can't afford to keep spending what we are on incarceration. NORA
reallocates state spending from incarceration to treatment and
rehabilitation, so we will end up with substantial savings over
time," she predicted.
Gov. Schwarzenegger's move to release some prisoners early is
necessary, but not sufficient, said Dooley-Sammuli. What is needed is
not one-shot fixes, but systemic reforms, she said. "NORA is not a
one-time opening of the jailhouse gates," said Dooley-Sammuli, "This
is about systemic change in our sentencing and parole practices. This
is not radical; it's common sense. This is not soft on crime; this is
smart on crime. NORA will allow us to get past the politicking and
get some solutions."
At this point early in the campaign season, there is no organized
opposition, but that is almost certain to change. Too many powerful
groups, from prosecutors to prison guards, benefit from the status
quo, and fear-mongering on crime issues is a perennial favorite among
"The question is whether there will be any well-funded political
opposition," said Gieringer. "Then there might be a real fight. But
we haven't seen an opposition committee form yet. That's the real
NORA organizers have done their best to blunt opposition at the early
stages by bringing potential opponents into the process, said
Dooley-Sammuli. "We made many, many efforts to make this a
collaborative process by reaching out to a wide variety of
stakeholders. This has been a broad effort to bring in as many
perspectives and sets of expertise as possible, and we've tried to
make friends instead of foes," she said.
Coerced drug treatment is not the best of all possible worlds. But
it's difficult to argue that drug law violators are better off in
prison than in treatment. The NORA initiative will give California
voters a chance to take a giant step in sentencing and prison reform
and a small step toward true justice for drug users.
Drug War Issues Drug Prevention - Addiction Treatment -
Budgets/Economics - Alternatives to Incarceration
Politics & Advocacy Treatment Not Jail - State & Local Legislatures -
State & Local Executive Branches - Ballot Measures
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Prior to 2004, Nevadans wishing to qualify an initiative petition for a statewide ballot were required by state law to gather signatures in at least 13 of Nevada's 17 counties.
At that point, however, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals -- which has jurisdiction over Nevada -- threw out similar rules in Idaho, ruling in a case there that the system violated the principle of "one man, one vote."
In essence, the appeals court ruled that residents of thinly populated counties had been given an improper veto power over the will of the vast majority of a state's residents who might live in urban areas. It wouldn't matter if virtually every resident of Clark and Washoe counties wanted a question put to a vote ( for instance ); a few ranchers in a cow county could veto the will of the majority simply by refusing to sign.
Those seeking to qualify initiatives for the Nevada ballot welcomed the change, since dispatching petition-gatherers to the lonely crossroads of Mina, Ruth and Austin could be both expensive and time-consuming.
But state Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, and others expressed concerns that the change bypassed the rural counties, making hem irrelevant. So last year Sen. Rhoads convinced his fellow legislators to enact a new law, requiring ballot qualifying signatures to be gathered not merely in 13, but in every Nevada county.
Under a complex formula, any petition would now require 40,364 Clark County signatures to qualify for the statewide ballot -- but also 123 signatures in sparsely settled Lincoln County.
"They've just put a different shade of lipstick on the same old pig," objects Neal Levine, director of state campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project, which has placed questions on the Nevada ballot in the past and plans to do so again. "It's an antidemocratic move designed to take a voice away from the people."
Nevada attorney Kermitt Waters, who helped finance the successful petition drive to limit government abuses of eminent domain and who plans additional future initiatives to raise the gaming tax and eliminate the property tax on private homes, agrees that the main thrust of the law is to make it more expensive and difficult to qualify questions for the ballot.
"The power brokers who run the state don't want initiatives from the people," Mr. Waters says.
So Thursday, Mr. Waters, the Marijuana Policy Project, and the ACLU joined in a federal lawsuit seeking to toss out this latest version of the "must petition in the cow counties" rule.
Since essentially the same question was already settled in the Idaho case. ACLU general counsel Allen Lichtenstein says he expects the court to "resolve the matter quite quickly."
As it should.
State Sen. Rhoads may be sincere in his desire to see residents of the rural counties consulted in such decisions, but that doesn't change the fact that the courts have already ruled on this question, and ruled correctly.
No, our system of government was never meant to be a pure democracy. There are questions that should never be decided by majority vote -- proposals to infringe basic constitutional rights come to mind.
The courts can and do toss out such unwise proposals before they ever come to a vote.
Nor should our government ever be primarily by direct ballot question. Erecting some modest hurdles to keep scores of frivolous questions from casual placement on the ballot makes sense.
But the direct citizen initiative is a wise safety valve for a populace that finds its will being stymied by barnacle-encrusted lawmakers too long beholden to the well-padded special interests. That a measure desired by a vast majority of Nevadans should fail for lack of time and funds to locate a few dozen signatories among the miners of Silverpeak or out on the blustery range of McGill or Duckwater is just plain goofy.
Newshawk: news as printed - the no spin zone www.mapinc.org
Rate this article Votes: 0
Pubdate: Sun, 17 Feb 2008
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV)
Copyright: 2008 Las Vegas Review-Journal
Monday, February 18, 2008
Patients and Families United, based in Helena, blasted the bust and said it would not stand up in court thanks to Montana's Medical Marijuana Law passed three years ago. And they criticized law officers for making a terminally ill man's last days miserable because of the worry that he would end up in prison.
"It amounts to persecution of somebody who's already so overburdened with a medical condition that no one should have," said Tom Daubert, founder and director of PFU. "That's the purpose of our law, to have some relief for somebody who wants to be left alone."
Daubert said his group will step up to help with the legal defense for the man, whose name has not been released by officials.
Law officers from Beaverhead County and the Southwest Montana Drug Task Force this week were trumpeting the seizure of 96 marijuana plants from a mobile home north of Dillon. They said the sophisticated growing operation was meant to keep a steady supply of marijuana coming, with plants at all stages of development.
They said the marijuana's street value could be up to $153,000.
Blair Martenson, regional director for the task force, refused to comment specifically on PFU's comments, saying only that officials were push ahead with prosecution.
"What we have to say will come out in court," he said.
But Daubert said the man targeted in the investigation, who, along with a woman, has yet to be arrested and charged, is suffering from a horrific disease. He would not specify what it was to protect the man, but said it is a rare degenerative disease that is always fatal.
Daubert said if taken into custody, Beaverhead County taxpayers will be on the hook for medical care that costs a staggering $136,000 a month for injections to keep the man alive.
"Beaverhead County can have some fun with this: pay to keep a guy alive for a trial that probably won't happen quickly," he said.
And Daubert lambasted law officers for conducting a three-month investigation without knowledge of Montana's medical marijuana law. He said assertions that the operation was too large to be for one patient's use are bogus, because each individual patient in need of medical marijuana requires different quantities.
For some patients, ingesting the marijuana rather than smoking it is the most effective way to ease pain, maintain appetite or gain the other benefits people garner from pot.
"It is not possible on the basis of the number of plants involved to categorically claim that the growing was for anything other than personal use," he said.
Daubert promised a "vigorous" legal defense of the man. He said although the quantity of marijuana seized far exceeds the one ounce allowed under state law, they will use an affirmative defense to prove that he needed the quantity for his medical needs.
The man is not a registered medical marijuana user, Daubert said. But his medical records will provide more than enough evidence that he has a qualifying condition and needs the drug to help ease his suffering in his final months of life.
"We will bring in experts on dosage, horticulture and quantity issues," Daubert said. "This will be potentially a major precedent-setting case in Montana."
Rate this article Votes: 0
Pubdate: Sun, 17 Feb 2008
Source: Helena Independent Record (MT)
Copyright: 2008 Helena Independent Record
Author: Nick Gevock, Montana Standard
Cited: Patients and Families United http://www.mtmjpatients.org
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Cannabis - Medicinal)
problem could be several things.
Some patients will learn how to grow, said Claude Miller, a Nevada
medical marijuana consultant, while some won't.
"There's patients who can't grow a flower," he said, "much less
That's part of the reason he started his business. Many of the 900
patients in Nevada's program know little about the plant when they register.
But those patients, despite a provision in state law, must grow their
marijuana themselves or find a state-approved "caregiver" who will
grow it for them.
"(Marijuana) is a godsend, and it really helps people," said Miller,
who supports medical marijuana only under a tightly regulated system.
Patients, however, will not be able to get the drug like other
prescriptions the state recognizes unless the federal government
changes its stance.
After a 2000 ballot initiative, the Nevada Legislature wrote the
constitutional amendment into law, including a section that ordered
the University of Nevada School of Medicine to research marijuana and
develop a program to distribute it to patients.
The 2001 law says the Legislature understands the state's
"obligation" to research a distribution program but also says it must
do it with permission from the federal government.
The ballot initiative, approved by 65 percent of voters, called for
"appropriate methods for supply of the plant to patients authorized
to use it." These patients include residents diagnosed with illnesses
such as cancer, glaucoma and AIDS. The federal government, however,
rejects the opinion of the 12 states with medical marijuana programs.
"Smoked marijuana has not withstood the rigors of science," according
to the Web site of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. "(It) is
not medicine, and it is not safe."
Federal policy, supported by the past three presidents, has stalled
research and development of a state distribution program.
Dr. Dave Lupan, an associate dean at the state school of medicine,
said the university has made "no progress whatsoever" on the
Legislature's mandate. It will stay that way at least until there is
a new president, he said.
It is unlikely the policy will change under the next administration,
though. Republican presidential candidate John McCain does not
support legalizing medical marijuana. Democratic presidential
candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are undecided.
But the university would have more problems than policy if it tried
to start a program. Not only does the federal government have no
interest in the school's research, Lupan said, but the state has
given no money for it.
"It's not only a matter of bucking federal government authority," he
said, but of finding doctors to work for free.
The federal government itself has had medical marijuana evaluated
several times. A 1999 federally commissioned study by the Institute
of Medicine reported "the accumulated data indicates a potential
therapeutic value for cannabinoid drugs, particularly for symptoms
such as pain relief, control of nausea and vomiting and appetite stimulation."
The Federal Drug Administration, however, said in 2006 that the
medical use of the drug is not supported by science.
Green and black thumbs A change in federal policy that led to state
distribution could, according to supporters, help many patients.
Jennifer Bartlett, who manages the current state program through the
Nevada Department of Agriculture, said "there are some who can't grow
it, and it's a struggle."
She has not endorsed state distribution, however, and said many
patients have no problems growing their own marijuana or finding a caregiver.
A state program would help all patients, though, not just those who
have difficulty growing it, said Dan Hart, who managed the group that
led the medical marijuana ballot initiative.
The state could make sure the medicine was good-quality, he said, and
this also would particularly help patients with a debilitating disease.
But some medical marijuana advocates, such as Chandler Laughlin, said
the state should not be involved with marijuana and that a state-run
program is a bad idea.
The Silver City resident and radio host did say many patients like
him can't grow high-quality marijuana.
"I have a black thumb," he said.
Bruce Mirken, who supports marijuana legalization, said a state-run
program could make it easier for the state to guarantee effective use
for patients and track illegal use by others.
It can't be difficult for patients to get the medicine they need
under the current program, he said.
"You could grow your own tomatoes, but if all your plants die, you
don't have a salad that day," said Mirken, a representative for the
Marijuana Policy Project, which has unsuccessfully pushed ballot
initiatives in Nevada to partially legalize marijuana.
A model program If Nevada eventually does set up a distribution
program, it probably won't be the first state to do it.
New Mexico, which legalized medical marijuana in April, is working on
the rules its department of health would need to run a distribution program.
This will allow patients to get the drug the way other patients get
their medicine, said Reena Szczepanski, director of the anti-drug
prohibition New Mexico Drug Policy Alliance. It would help prevent
patients from going to the black market, she said.
But New Mexico's system might not work for Nevada, because of the
state's sparsely populated areas. Szczepanski said a state-run system
where the drug is distributed through pharmacies might be better for Nevada.
The federal government itself has the only active government-run
distribution program in the country.
The Compassionate Investigational New Drug program was started in
1978 and closed to new patients by President George H.W. Bush in
1991. A few people still are in the program, though, and they get
monthly supplies of marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi.
Claude Miller, head of Nevada Medical Marijuana Consultants, said a
state-run distribution program could be good for Nevada, but the
state should be careful not to legalize it or regulate it the way
California does, with marijuana available at licensed clubs.
"We don't want a bunch of drug-dealing thugs in this," he said.
But Miller, who became a patient after a spine surgery, said the drug
is more safe and effective for many people who would otherwise be
prescribed painkillers. Those people, he said, deserve to have their medicine.
Opponents, he said, don't understand the research or the state's program.
"We're not just a bunch of yahoos smoking reefer," he said.
Pubdate: Mon, 18 Feb 2008
Source: Tahoe Daily Tribune (South Lake Tahoe, CA)
Copyright: 2008 Tahoe Daily Tribune
Author: Dave Frank, Nevada Appeal
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/mmj.htm (Marijuana - Medicinal)
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Many States Aid Enforcement With Levy on Illicit Drugs
By Keith B. Richburg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 17, 2008; A05
NEW YORK -- If you can't beat it, tax it.
That seems to be the axiom in New York these days,
where Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer (D), struggling to close a
$4.4 billion budget gap, has proposed making drug
dealers pay tax on their stashes of illegal drugs. The
new tax would apply to cocaine, heroin and marijuana,
and could be paid with pre-bought "tax stamps" affixed
to the bags of dope.
Some critics in the legislature are asking what the
governor has been smoking.
"I guess if it moves, he'll tax it," said Republican
state Sen. Martin J. Golden, who dubbed the proposal
"the crack tax." Some opponents said that because
cocaine and weed would be subject to the new levies,
it should more aptly be called "the crack-pot tax."
"How do I explain to my 16-year-old son that we're
giving a certain legitimacy to marijuana, cocaine and
heroin?" asked Golden, a former New York City police
officer who represents a Brooklyn district. "We are
taxing an illegal substance." He added, "Is
On the other side of the aisle, some Democrats, too,
were stunned by the plan. "My initial instinct is: I
don't understand it," said Bill Perkins, a state
senator from Harlem. "Most of the dealers I'm familiar
with are petty crack dealers -- most of them are
crackheads. They are broke, to say the least. I just
don't understand how you impose a tax" on broke
crackheads, he said.
Taxing illegal drugs is more widespread than is
generally known. At least 21 states have some form of
tax for illicit drugs, although some of those laws
have been challenged in courts, and others have fallen
into disuse. Almost all the remaining drug-tax laws
are used mainly by local law enforcement agencies as a
way to seize drug money and fund counter-narcotics
The controversial idea grew out of the efforts to
fight bootleggers such as Al Capone during Prohibition
-- going after the bootleggers for unpaid taxes often
required a lighter burden of proof than a criminal
prosecution. Taxing illicit drugs gained popularity
during the 1980s and early 1990s, when prosecutors and
law enforcement authorities were pushing for mandatory
sentences and other measures to signal a crackdown on
drugs and drug use.
"It was a way of getting tougher on criminals," said
Joseph D. Henchman, tax counsel for the Tax
Foundation, a Washington-based educational group. "It
kind of boggles my mind. If you want to get tougher on
drug dealers, increase the penalties."
"It's just weird to put an excise tax on an illegal
substance," Henchman said. "When you tax something,
it's a way for the government to say you can have it,
but we want a piece of it. . . . It's sending a mixed
Last September, a state appeals court ruled a drug law
in Tennessee unconstitutional, saying that an illegal
substance could not be taxed. In Massachusetts, that
state's supreme court in 1998 ruled a drug tax was an
unconstitutional form of "double jeopardy," so it is
not used, although it remains on the books, according
to the revenue department in Boston.
Allen St. Pierre, executive director of NORML, the
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana
Laws, called the drug tax "a wacky idea. It's a
quintessential example of the absurdity of the war on
St. Pierre called it "bizarre, to say the least."
Taxing drug dealers, and especially users, he said,
"is like squeezing blood from a rock."
The Federation of Tax Administrators represents the
tax collectors for the 50 states and the District, and
Verenda Smith, the group's government affairs
associate, called the drug tax an effective law
enforcement tool. "The whole thing is about law
enforcement," Smith said.
Most states with the law sell stamps that drug dealers
can buy in advance, like what Spitzer is proposing.
Because no drug dealers are known to buy the stamps
and pay their tax in advance, the tax is usually
levied after they are caught.
Some states have designed distinctive drug stamps,
often depicting a marijuana leaf. Nebraska's drug
stamp depicts a rolled joint crossed with a syringe in
front of a skull and what appears to be a headstone,
with the label "R.I.P."
"People do walk in and buy the stamps. We assume they
are all stamp collectors," Smith said. "I believe only
one person out of 50,000 has ever been a drug dealer."
To avoid a court challenge, she said, the law has to
allow anyone to buy the stamps without showing
identification or alerting authorities that he or she
is a drug dealer.
In many Southern states, such as North Carolina, the
illicit substances tax is also applied to moonshine.
In New York, Spitzer proposed the drug tax in his
2008-09 budget as a way to deal with a projected
shortfall, and in a memo said taxing drug dealers
would raise $13 million in the coming fiscal year. The
governor's office said the bill would contain strict
secrecy requirements, so drug dealers who paid their
taxes would not be incriminating themselves.
A tax stamp for a gram of marijuana would cost $3.50,
and $200 for a gram of cocaine, "whether pure or
diluted," according to the governor's proposal.
When Robert Megna, the New York tax commissioner, went
to push the tax before a hearing at the state
assembly, he was grilled by assembly member Jeffrion
L. Aubry of Queens.
Aubry said he is concerned about figures compiled by a
Queens College sociology professor, showing that
between 1997 and 2006, about 360,000 New Yorkers were
arrested for marijuana possession -- usually small
amounts in a single joint, or nickel or dime bags --
and 85 percent of those arrested were black or
Hispanic. Most of those received probation.
But Aubrey, in an interview, said he is concerned that
adding a new tax would create more costs to the city
by forcing police to impose a new charge: tax evasion.
"Our prison population has been declining," Aubry
said. "This runs counter to that. . . . The poor, and
minorities, are the ones who end up arrested,
convicted and sentenced." Aubry vowed to fight what he
called a "boneheaded" proposal.
Megna replied, "It's not our intent to burden certain
portions of the population."
In the current anti-tax environment, politicians in
states such as New York are reluctant to raise taxes
more on average taxpayers, and prefer to cover budget
shortfalls through what experts call "sin taxes," on
products such as cigarettes and alcohol, or on
activities such as visiting strip clubs. Texas, for
example, recently introduced a levy on strip clubs
known as "the pole tax."
New York, for its part, already taxes lap dances at
strip clubs, but only if they are performed in the
club's V.I.P. room, not on the couches in the main
area of the club.
Strippers, like drug dealers, normally are not known
to complain about more taxes. "I guess they didn't
expect the drug dealers of New York to rise up and
join the anti-tax movement," Aubry said.
Saturday, February 16, 2008
124,000-Member American College of Physicians Urges Review of Marijuana's Legal Status, End to Federal Prosecutions.
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The American College of Physicians, the largest medical specialty organization and the second largest physician group in the United States, today issued a strong statement urging a fundamental rethinking of U.S. government policy on medical marijuana, stating, "ACP strongly urges protection from criminal or civil penalties for patients who use medical marijuana as permitted by state laws."
ACP's position paper specifically criticized the federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug, deemed by the government as not having accepted medical uses or safety for use under medical supervision.
"ACP urges review of marijuana's status as a Schedule I controlled substance and reclassification into a more appropriate schedule, given the scientific evidence regarding marijuana's safety and efficacy in some clinical conditions," the statement declared.
Founded in 1915, ACP publishes "Annals of Internal Medicine", the most widely cited medical speciality journal in the world.
"This is a historic statement by one of the world's most respected physician groups, and shows the growing scientific consensus that marijuana is a safe, effective medicine for some patients, including many battling life-threatening illnesses like cancer and AIDS," said former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders. "Large medical associations move cautiously, and for the American College of Physicians to note 'a clear discord' between scientific opinion and government policy on medical marijuana is a stinging rebuke to our government. It's time for politicians and bureaucrats to get out of the way of good medicine and solid research."
"This statement by the American College of Physicians recognizes what clinicians and researchers have been seeing for years, that for some patients medical marijuana works when conventional drugs fail," said Dr. Michael Saag, director of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Alabama Birmingham. "One of the challenges in HIV/AIDS treatment is helping patients to adhere to drug regimens that may cause nausea and other noxious side effects. The relief of these side effects that marijuana provides can help patients stay on life-extending therapies."
"This statement by America's second largest doctors' group demolishes the myth that the medical community doesn't support medical marijuana," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. "The ACP's statement smashes a number of other myths, including the claims that adequate substitutes are available or that marijuana is unsafe for medical use. 124,000 doctors have just said what our government refuses to hear, that it makes no medical or moral sense to arrest the sick and suffering for using medical marijuana."
The full ACP statement on medical marijuana, titled, "Supporting Research into the Therapeutic Role of Marijuana," is available at www.acponline.org/acp_news/medmarinews.htm
Currently, 12 states -- Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington -- permit seriously ill patients to use medical marijuana without fear of arrest. Signatures have been filed for a medical marijuana ballot initiative for the November ballot in Michigan, and medical marijuana legislation is either under consideration or expected to be introduced shortly in numerous states, including Minnesota and Illinois.
With more than 23,000 members and 180,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org .
With a very heavy heart, I most regrettably inform everyone on these
of the passing this afternoon of Dr. John Paul Morgan, MD.
John was a wonderful man, scholar, brilliant educator, author,
lecturer and good friend to anyone who extended their hand to him.
John was a walking encyclopedia re pharmacology and American culture
(notably re jazz and the role music plays in our lives). John also
for 10 years on NORML's board directors.
As late as Tuesady John seemed to be in fine health and was working
affadavit in Keith Stroup's and Rick Cusick's legal case in Boston
Lester Grinspoon, which seeks to challenge the constitutionality of
prohibition in MA.
On Wednesday, John indicated some distress with his breathing or
an immediate trip to the hospital initially indicated a case of
Many of us were glad to think John had a treatable health ailment.
Yesterday the news re John's health greatly worsened with a preliminary
diagnosis of leukemia. This was very troubling news indeed!
This morning John's condition worsened and by mid-morning he was on a
respirator, and passed on soon after.
Every single man and woman in this country (and around the world) who
about replacing prohibition-oriented policies with science/public
health-based policies, owe a man like John Morgan immense thanks and
I believe numerous awards and scholarships will be created to honor
life and professional career, and in loving memory.
RIP John Paul Morgan, MD
-Allen St. Pierre
Thursday, February 14, 2008
*Editorial: Marijuana quandary*
A recent court decision in California highlights the ongoing dilemma faced
by medical users of marijuana. Former Air Force mechanic Gary Ross sued
after the telecommunications company he was working for fired him over use
of the drug, even though he possessed a doctor's recommendation. Mr. Ross
had been using marijuana under the state's 12-year-old Compassionate Use Act
to ease chronic pain from a back injury. He did not seek to use the drug on
the job but rather on his own time.
Nevertheless, in a 5-to-2 ruling, the California Supreme Court found that
his employer had the right to fire him, which it did after he tested
positive for marijuana use. (The drug can remain in a user's system for a
This is unfair. As the dissenting justices pointed out, voters who approved
the nation's first medical-marijuana law, in 1996, probably did not envision
anyone's being forced to choose between a job and pain relief. But the
California law does not (unlike Rhode Island's) spell out protections
against employment discrimination. As a result of last month's ruling,
California state legislator Mark Leno promised to introduce a bill that
would protect employees from being fired for off-the-job marijuana use.
This only makes sense. American workers use quite an array of prescription
drugs in their daily lives and enjoy workplace protections for doing so, as
long as they perform their jobs adequately. Marijuana has proved effective
in easing the suffering that can go along with multiple sclerosis, AIDS,
cancer and numerous other maladies. The problem is that federal law
continues to classify it as illegal. Until the federal stance is brought
into harmony with state medical-use laws, sufferers will continue to face
In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court held that state laws regarding marijuana
cannot protect users from prosecution. In California, federal agencies have
lately been shutting down medical-marijuana dispensaries and charging those
involved with felonies. The high court's position clearly informed the
California ruling. Still, the state court at least left the door open to
employment protections under an amended law.
Unfortunately, strengthening job protections will not overcome the main
problem: How are medical users, even employed ones, to legally acquire
Someone in Congress should muster the fortitude to sponsor national
legislation. It need not go so far as to endorse a nationwide pot party. But
it should defer to state efforts to permit compassionate use. Some who find
relief from marijuana are among the most desperately ill. Often, they are
terminal cases. In the face of changing views about the drug, the federal
response has been needlessly heavy-handed. In any event, the law should be
Jesse Stout, Executive Director
RI Patient Advocacy Coalition
145 Wayland Avenue
Providence, RI 02906
email@example.com | www.RIpatients.org
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
SEATTLE -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Washington state is launching a new campaign to get people talking about changing marijuana laws, and it's enlisted travel writer Rick Steves in the effort.
Steves filmed a 30-minute video for the ACLU, in which he says he has traveled all over Europe, and he's learned that it makes more sense to treat marijuana use as a public health issue than it does to arrest people for using it.
The ACLU says it is trying to start a national conversation about whether American drug laws are working with regard to marijuana. The organization says nearly 830,000 people are arrested on marijuana charges every year - 90 percent of them for possession - and that the U.S. spends far more money arresting, prosecuting and jailing people than it's worth.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
San Francisco postpones resolution supporting pot club landlords
Bay City News Service
Article Launched: 02/12/2008 07:55:15 PM PST
A San Francisco Board of Supervisors today postponed a resolution condemning
federal authorities for sending pot club landlords letters threatening them
with imprisonment and seizure of their property.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued the letters in December to
about 50 landlords in Northern California, including San Francisco. The
resolution calls the letters "misguided and sensationally threatening
Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who represents neighborhoods in southwest San
Francisco, said he wanted the opportunity to go on record against the
resolution and asked that a vote on it be deferred. The resolution was part
of a group of resolutions that would have passed or failed as a group by
unanimous vote and without specific mention.
According to Elsbernd, a few medical marijuana clubs in his district, along
Ocean Avenue, "have caused an inordinate amount of neighborhood concern and
I don't want to be on record as supporting complete amnesty."
Supervisors will now vote on the resolution individually at their Feb. 26
meeting when Elsbernd will register his "no" vote. Elsbernd acknowledged the
resolution would likely pass.
The resolution was authored by Supervisor Chris Daly and co-sponsored by
supervisors Jake McGoldrick and Ross Mirkarimi.
According to DEA spokeswoman Casey McEnry, "the letters were sent out
basically as a courtesy." McEnry said the letters informed landlords that
the cannabis clubs operating on their property, violated federal law. The
penalty for such a violation is seizure of assets and up to 20 years in
prison, she said.
In the past, said McEnry, the DEA would notify landlords after raids on
"This is a different approach," she said. "We're hoping that people comply
with federal law," she added.
The resolution, which reaffirms San Francisco as "a sanctuary for medical
cannabis," states that the DEA "has repeatedly subverted and undermined
California's and many other states' laws governing medical cannabis."
It also accuses the DEA of "increasingly acting on its irrational policy and
hysteria regarding medical cannabis specifically, and the so-called War on
Drugs in general."
According to the resolution, medical marijuana dispensaries are a health and
safety issue that should be governed by the state of California.
The resolution pledges to support "lawfully operating" cannabis dispensaries
and property owners who lease to them. Those facing federal prosecution
would receive the support of the city attorney, according to the resolution.
The resolution also calls on the U.S. Congress to investigate the DEA
conduct and to revise federal law to authorize states to legalize medical
Copyright (c) 2008 by Bay City News, Inc. - republication, re-transmission or
reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is
Saturday, February 9, 2008
Latest Anti-Pot Quack Science: 'Marijuana Makes Your
Teeth Fall Out'
By Bruce Mirken, AlterNet
Posted on February 9, 2008, Printed on February 9,
Recent weeks have seen a rash of new studies of
marijuana hitting the mass media, generating scary
headlines like "Smoking Pot Rots Your Gums," "Cannabis
Bigger Cancer Risk Than Cigarettes," and "Pot
Withdrawal Similar to Quitting Cigarettes. Most of
this coverage can be boiled down to a fairly simple
Flawed science + uncritical reporting =
Mercifully, the U.S. mass media were so distracted by
Super Tuesday, Heath Ledger's autopsy and the latest
Britney Spears trauma that reports of these studies
didn't get as much play as they might have. That's
good, because the research had significant gaps, and
the reporting ranged from slapdash to flat wretched.
LUNG CANCER: A JOINT = 20 CIGARETTES?
The lung cancer study was the scariest. Since
cigarettes are a known lung cancer risk, it seems
plausible that marijuana might carry similar risks. In
fact, most of the scientific evidence tends in the
opposite direction -- though one would never know it
from reading either the study or the Reuters wire
story that got the heaviest circulation.
Conducted in New Zealand, this was what is called a
"case-control" study, in which researchers looked at a
group of patients who had lung cancer and compared
them to a group without cancer -- the controls --
matched for age and other demographics. All were asked
about various factors that might increase their lung
cancer risk, including smoking cigarettes or
marijuana. After running the data on 79 cancer cases
and 324 controls through myriad equations and
mathematical analyses, the researchers proclaimed that
one joint packed a cancer risk roughly equal to 20
cigarettes -- an assertion that became Reuters' lead.
What was downplayed in the study, published in the
European Respiratory Journal, and missing entirely
from most media reports was context -- context that
strongly suggests that its alarming conclusion is
For one thing, the new conflicts with other, much
larger studies. In a study published in 1997,
Kaiser-Permanente researchers followed 65,000 patients
for 10 years and saw no sign of marijuana use
increasing the risk of lung cancer or other
smoking-related cancers. And a UCLA study similar in
design to this one, published in 2006, found a trend
toward lower lung cancer rates among marijuana
smokers. Instead of 79 cancer cases, the UCLA team
looked at 1,212. The result was so striking that they
speculated that it "may reflect a protective effect of
That's right: Marijuana might protect from cancer.
Piles of published studies going back to the mid-1970s
document the cancer-fighting properties of marijuana's
active components, THC and other chemicals called
cannabinoids. Anticancer activity has been shown in
many types of malignant cells, including lung cancer
cells. So even though marijuana smoke contains tars
and other potentially carcinogenic compounds, it is
entirely plausible that cannabinoids counter any
But even without such context, a closer look at the
New Zealand data raises questions that should have
been asked by reporters. For example, most marijuana
smokers in the study actually didn't show an increased
risk of cancer. The only group that did was those
whose marijuana use equaled at least 10.5
"joint-years" (one joint-year equals smoking a joint
every day for one year). That group constituted a
whopping 14 people. All those complicated mathematical
models leading to the "20 times the risk" assertion,
and contradicting reams of published research, rest on
exactly 14 people.
DOES MARIJUANA ROT YOUR GUMS?
The gum disease study was even more tenuous, but again
you would never know it from most of the coverage.
Researchers -- also in New Zealand -- followed 903
participants from birth through age 32. At ages 18,
21, 26, and 32, they were asked whether they had used
marijuana in the past year, and how often. The
heaviest marijuana users had a 60 percent increased
risk for gum disease after controlling for several
factors that might affect their risk, including
cigarette use and professional dental care.
The researchers were careful to say they hadn't proved
cause-and-effect, but simply what scientists called an
"association." But that didn't stop one U.S. reporter
from writing that marijuana "could ... destroy gum
tissue," and an Australian headline writer from
declaring that marijuana "makes teeth fall out."
Reading the actual study -- something one suspects
most reporters never did -- raises questions the media
never asked. Why is there no indication that
participants were questioned about use of alcohol or
other illicit drugs, both of which are known risk
factors for dental and gum problems? Why were they not
asked about brushing and flossing habits?
Given the relatively small effect -- the statistical
margin of error meant that the increased risk could be
as low as 16 percent -- confounding by alcohol/drug
use or poor dental hygiene could easily explain the
whole difference. In other words, there is a very good
chance this study found nothing real at all.
I raised this issue with an editor at one news
organization, whose story had been particularly
hysterical and lacking in context, asking why they
hadn't noted these potential doubts. The rather snippy
reply: "As for the rest of your concerns, we are
dealing with a peer-reviewed journal study, and I
don't feel at all comfortable going beyond what they
are publishing. That is not our role."
Memo to editors: Journal peer-reviewers are human.
They sometimes miss stuff. When did it stop being a
reporter's job to ask questions?
MARIJUANA AS ADDICTIVE AS TOBACCO?
If you haven't lost your teeth or died of lung cancer
yet, another set of grim headlines warned that
marijuana is as addictive as tobacco -- again, a
conclusion that went beyond the study's findings and
which was almost certainly wrong.
In this U.S. study, researchers took 12 people who
regularly smoked both marijuana and cigarettes and had
them stop using one, the other, and both, in varying
orders. Physiological tests and responses to
questionnaires were used to assess withdrawal symptoms
such as irritability and difficulty sleeping. The
withdrawal symptoms reported were roughly comparable.
But the limitations of this research are obvious. In
fairness, most were acknowledged in the study,
published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Dependence.
For one, the study looked only at regular users of
both substances, so it tells nothing about marijuana
users who do not use tobacco -- a considerable number,
by most accounts. Second, the researchers did not
publish the results for individual participants. In a
sample of 12, one or two extreme responses can skew
the averages enough to make them meaningless.
The researchers also did not note any changes in
participants' use of caffeine or alcohol, which could
easily have affected their findings. Volunteers were
asked not to change their use of these substances, but
we have no clue whether they followed these
And though the overall withdrawal symptom ratings were
similar, ratings of anger and craving were higher for
tobacco than for marijuana. And even in areas where
the two substances were statistically comparable,
there was often a trend toward the tobacco withdrawals
being stronger. Had this been a larger study, those
trends might have reached statistical significance.
Also, the 5-day abstinence period may not have been
enough to fully gauge withdrawal effects. For longtime
cigarette smokers, tobacco cravings can continue for
Finally, a reality check: It is an established fact
that about 32 percent of those who ever touch a
cigarette become dependent on tobacco. For marijuana,
the figure is nine percent. In the real world, it's
clear that marijuana is nowhere near as addictive as
tobacco -- but again, you'd never know it from the
coverage of this study.
In fact, you wouldn't learn much from the coverage of
any of these studies.
Bruce Mirken is communications director for the
Marijuana Policy Project.
© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/76496/