Marijuana decriminalization is just a pair of floor votes away from passage in the Rhode Island General Assembly after companion bills were approved by respective judiciary committees Tuesday. Chronicle story here.
After seven years in an Indonesian prison over nine pounds of marijuana, there are signs that Schapelle Corby could be free by this fall. Chronicle story here.
If you want welfare benefits in Tennessee, you will have to submit to drug screening that could include a drug test under a bill just signed into law. Chronicle story here.
One of the most common questions we get at Flex Your Rights is how to handle a situation in which police claim to smell marijuana. This can happen whether or not you actually have marijuana and police actually smell it, so it's a situation everyone should be prepared for.
My latest YouTube video takes a look at this tricky question.
The police can -- and do -- track your cell phone without a warrant, and they are increasingly resorting to it in the wake of the January Supreme Court decision barring warrantless GPS tracking. Chronicle feature story by Clarence Walker online here.
It's a story so moving you would have to be insane not to feel compassion for Justice Reichbach and patients like him. Unfortunately, long-time drug war defender David G. Evans is insane. In a calmly-worded, yet viciously dismissive letter to the editor, Evans suggests that the judge might be lying about his cancer treatment.
Anecdotal reports may…be inaccurate because of the emotional expectations of the person using marijuana and the placebo effect. In some cases, there may be deliberate exaggeration for ideological reasons.
To even suggest such a thing is offensive beyond words. We're talking about a man who is fighting for his life, a man who dedicated that life to upholding the law, and who turned to marijuana only after being handed a death sentence. From what twisted perspective would one even arrive at the idea that such a person was speaking dishonestly?
Even leaving aside what we already know about marijuana's medical benefits, what kind of monster would question a dying man's account of how he finds comfort? Evans's sickening insinuations are an exhibit in the inhumanity required to judge those who only seek relief from their suffering. Worse, he even attempts to disguise his coldness and cynicism as a form of genuine concern:
It is true compassion to make sure that medicines are safe and effective and that the claims about them are true.
It's an incredible thing to say, premised entirely on the absurd notion that David Evans is entitled to an opinion about another man's cancer treatment. As often as we've seen critics of marijuana's medical use endeavor to embarrass themselves, I can scarcely recall an episode so disgraceful, so pure and vile in its arrogance.
It's awful to think that Justice Reichbach and other patients like him might read the cruel words of people like David Evans. But let's not miss the true meaning behind Evans's senseless message. If you look back at what he wrote, it reveals a great deal about the desperation of anti-drug ideologues like Evans as they angle for attention in a debate that's increasingly been decided already in the hearts and minds of most Americans.
Faced with a powerful story from a credible and sympathetic voice, Evans saw no option other than to call him a liar. He can't even accept the basic fact that sick people find relief from medical marijuana, because even that simple and obvious truth would, by itself, overwhelm every idiotic thing he's ever said on the subject. As hurtful as his words may be, Evans's horrendous example is exactly the reason we're winning this debate.
As calls for legalizing marijuana and ending the drug war become increasingly commonplace in the press, so too do the inevitable shocked responses from frightened individuals who aren't always up to speed on the subject.
At their best, these people sound like they just found out about drugs yesterday.
Perhaps we should consider educating our children about the harms of all drugs to discourage their use.
Maybe the answer lies in discouraging consumption as a means of putting the narco-trafficking organizations out of business thereby reducing the mayhem in Mexico, Central and South America, the U.S. and Canada.
Maybe instead of whining like babies for candy, drug users, and those sympathetic to them, should consider healthier forms of recreation. [Canada.com]
Okaaay…and if that doesn't work, maybe we should ask police officers to look in people's bags and take their drugs away from them. People who refuse to cooperate could perhaps be sent to special buildings and put on "timeout" to think about what they've done.
Seriously though, what kind of numbskull just walks up and starts suggesting the same stupid crap we've been doing for decades? A few too many I'm afraid, and this idiotic obsession with silver-bullet prevention strategies never quite dies despite the incalculable sums we've pissed away on counterproductive anti-drug propaganda.
It may sound supremely stupid to someone like me, but there remain many among us who still can't bring themselves to envision a post-prohibition world because they insist it's easier to just ask everyone to stop getting stoned. If anyone would like to demonstrate this to me, for example by standing outside a head-shop and convincing customers not to go inside, I'd be willing to tag along and make sure nobody punches you in the face.
A new Rasmussen poll has national support for marijuana legalization and regulation at 56%, up significantly from a poll just two months ago. It's in line with most other recent national polls. Chronicle story here.
Here's one hell of an indignant rant against the drug war. No disagreement here.
Everywhere you look, the public is turning further against the war on marijuana and towards reform. The latest Rasmussen poll is another big indication of where we're headed:
A solid majority of voters nationwide favor legalizing and regulating marijuana similar to the way alcohol and tobacco cigarettes are currently regulated. Most also don’t believe it should be a crime for people to smoke marijuana in the privacy of their own homes.
A new national telephone survey of Likely Voters shows that 56% favor legalizing and regulating marijuana in a similar manner to the way alcohol and tobacco cigarettes are regulated.
A slim majority like this was enough to convince the President that he could safely support gay marriage, but I don't recommend holding your breath waiting for Obama's pot position to "evolve" before November, or after.
Nevertheless, it's a sign of the times, and only a fool would dismiss its significance. Individual legalization measures inevitably suffer from quibbling over the specifics, but we're on a trajectory towards a point at which we'll win consistently. Wait for it.
A New Jersey marijuana decriminalization bill has passed its first hurdle, advancing out of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Chronicle story here.
After Cameron Douglas got caught with heroin and Suboxone in federal prison, he got hammered with an additional 4 1/2 years. That harsh sentence has sparked an effort not only to overturn that sentence, but also to highlight the lack of drug treatment for addicted prisoners. Chronicle story here.
ProCon.org is a set of in-depth web sites presenting information and views from on current issues, several with relevance to drug policy. The Chronicle is currently running a series of info items from ProCon.org -- this one from medicalmarijuana.procon.org -- and we encourage you to check it out. In Drug War Chronicle, here.
Is the Office of the Pardon Attorney, which recommends to the president who should win pardons or commutations, doing its job? The case of Clarence Aaron suggests it is not, and advocates are crying foul. Chronicle story here.
ProCon.org is a set of in-depth web sites presenting information and views from on current issues, several with relevance to drug policy. The Chronicle is currently running a series of info items from ProCon.org -- this one from sportsanddrugs.procon.org -- and we encourage you to check it out.
Hollande's choice as Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls, is a declared opponent to any reform on cannabis. During the election campaign, Hollande already opposed the proposal to convert the criminal offence of cannabis use into misdemeanour, put forward by his security adviser and mayor of Dijon, François Rebsamen. Hollande did not want to "give any signal foregoing a deterrent against the use of cannabis."
Hollande's comment begs the question, "what deterrent?" The president has presumably heard of something called "data." What do available data suggest about France's current marijuana policy?
The data suggest it is a failure. According to the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), France's adults (age 15-64) in their most recent national survey had a 4.8% past-month cannabis use prevalence, compared with 3.3% under the Dutch "coffee shop" tolerance system and 2.4% under Portugal's far reaching decriminalization. Young adults in France (15-34) reported 9.8% past-month prevalence, compared with 5.6% and 4.5% in the Netherlands and Portugal. Among youth aged 15-24, France boasts a 12.7% past-month cannabis use rate, vs. 5.3% and 4.1% in the Netherlands and Portugal. These numbers go back to 2005 and 2007, but things are similar enough today to make the point. As the World Health Organization concluded in a 2008 global study, harsh drug laws do not correlate simply with drug use rates.
Hollande's opposition to drug policy reform comes at a time of deep economic crisis, with Hollande personally under significant pressure to scale back his opposition to the unpopular austerity measures he campaigned against, in order to be able to work with countries like Germany to save the Eurozone. But marijuana enforcement, while providing some jobs for French police officers, mostly forces more austerity on the rest of the country. According to Blickman, the unsuccessful candidate for Hollande's interior minister pick, François Rebsamen, pointed out, "There are 142,000 cannabis procedures per year, corresponding to hundreds of thousands of hours of work for the police producing only 24,000 prosecutions." Paris University economist Pierre Kopp has found that "The state could save about €300 million on spending arising out of [marijuana] arrests, or perhaps even more if you include the cost of custody, the running of courts and the enforcement of sentences. The state would also receive duty worth about €1 billion."
Hollande's sorry start on the issue provides a useful reminder that reformers need to exert pressure on politicians of all stripes to hold them to account. It's generally believed that left-leaning politicos are better on issues like drug policy than their opponents, and that's true more often than not. Factions within Hollande's Socialist Party have even done some work advocating liberalized approaches to marijuana and other drugs. Nevertheless, drugs and crime are often the "throwaway" issues of choice for leftist politicians looking for ways to woo some right-leaning voters their way, especially prominent politicians. It's important to note that Hollande has not just rejected a Netherlands-style coffee shop system, nor even just decriminalization for users. Hollande has even opposed changing marijuana possession to a misdemeanor. That is a fairly extremely position, in principle, current policies notwithstanding.
So instead of siding with science and data and common sense, nor even with needed budget relief for his countrymen, France's new president has instead picked the meanest and stupidest marijuana policy he realistically could have. He should be called out for it.
I don't. The man doesn't even drink coffee. His impulse when seeing a man with muscular dystrophy in desperate need of medical marijuana was to listen, ignore and then walk away. Obama deserves criticism on medical marijuana - but the notion that there would be no difference between his DEA and Romney's strikes me as ... well I can't help remembering how, in 2000, I thought Gore would be no different than Bush.
I do agree that Obama is almost certainly a lot less hostile to the issue than Romney is on a personal level. I could have been clearer that my point wasn't so much to suggest that they would definitely be equally bad on the issue, but rather that it's incoherent to defend Obama's actions based on the premise that Romney would obviously be worse. I've been told more than once that I should mute my criticism of Obama and instead encourage the medical marijuana community to support him for fear of Romney, and I think that's rather ridiculous.
What worries me is that Obama seems to be getting a pass on some things that I suspect would invite more vigorous outrage if carried out by Romney. When the President claimed that the raids were focused on groups that violated their own state laws, even Andrew Sullivan, an outspoken critic of the raids, agreed it was a fair point. He later went on to say, "I also wish some states had exercized more discretion and care in allowing for medical marijuana."
I understand Andrew's concern, but let's not forget what happened when states did exercise discretion and care in attempting to regulate medical marijuana activity. Obama's DOJ threatened to arrest not only the providers, but also the state officials monitoring them to ensure compliance with state law. Federal posturing stalled efforts to regulate dispensaries in Washington and Rhode Island, and resulted in the elimination of a strict plant-tagging program in California that was becoming a model for effective regulation.
What we've got now is the functional equivalent of chasing off the code inspectors and then claiming that our restaurants are dirty. Sure, there's been some excessive profiteering and other abuses in the medical marijuana industry, but to a large extent, those problems are a result of federal interference and not an excuse for it.
Any discussion of Obama's approach to medical marijuana is incomplete if it doesn't address the far-reaching implications of these efforts to thwart regulation at the state level. This is true not only because these events show how this administration has posed an existential threat to medical marijuana in states that are trying to launch programs, but also because they vividly illustrate the inaccuracy of Obama's recent suggestion that his DOJ is merely upholding local laws.
The fact that he's comfortable misrepresenting events that have unfolded before our eyes means that not enough pressure is being applied from Obama's pro-medical marijuana base, and I'm worried that fear of Romney is part of the reason why.
Update: To be clear, none of this is to suggest that Andrew Sullivan hasn't done enough to criticize Obama on this issue. He's done an awesome job of that.
Follow Scott Morgan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drugblogger
(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)