America’s four-decade war on drugs is responsible for many casualties, but the criminalization of marijuana has been perhaps the most destructive part of that war. The toll can be measured in dollars — billions of which are thrown away each year in the aggressive enforcement of pointless laws. It can be measured in years — whether wasted behind bars or stolen from a child who grows up fatherless. And it can be measured in lives — those damaged if not destroyed by the shockingly harsh consequences that can follow even the most minor offenses.
In October 2010, Bernard Noble, a 45-year-old trucker and father of seven with two previous nonviolent offenses, was stopped on a New Orleans street with a small amount of marijuana in his pocket. His sentence: more than 13 years.
Outrageously long sentences are only part of the story. The hundreds of thousands of people who are arrested each year but do not go to jail also suffer; their arrests stay on their records for years, crippling their prospects for jobs, loans, housing and benefits. These are disproportionately people of color, with marijuana criminalization hitting black communities the hardest.
Meanwhile, police departments that presumably have far more important things to do waste an enormous amount of time and taxpayer money chasing a drug that two states have already legalized and that a majority of Americans believe should be legal everywhere.
A Costly, Futile Strategy
The absurdity starts on the street, with a cop and a pair of handcuffs. As the war on drugs escalated through the 1980s and 1990s, so did the focus on common, low-level offenses — what became known as “broken windows” policing. In New York City, where the strategy was introduced and remains popular today, the police made fewer than 800 marijuana arrests in 1991. In 2010, they made more than 59,000.
Nationwide, the numbers are hardly better. From 2001 to 2010, the police made more than 8.2 million marijuana arrests; almost nine in 10 were for possession alone. In 2011, there were more arrests for marijuana possession than for all violent crimes put together.
The costs of this national obsession, in both money and time, are astonishing. Each year, enforcing laws on possession costs more than $3.6 billion, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. It can take a police officer many hours to arrest and book a suspect. That person will often spend a night or more in the local jail, and be in court multiple times to resolve the case. The public-safety payoff for all this effort is meager at best: According to a 2012 Human Rights Watch report that tracked 30,000 New Yorkers with no prior convictions when they were arrested for marijuana possession, 90 percent had no subsequent felony convictions. Only 3.1 percent committed a violent offense.
The strategy is also largely futile. After three decades, criminalization has not affected general usage; about 30 million Americans use marijuana every year. Meanwhile, police forces across the country are strapped for cash, and the more resources they devote to enforcing marijuana laws, the less they have to go after serious, violent crime. According to F.B.I. data, more than half of all violent crimes nationwide, and four in five property crimes, went unsolved in 2012.
The Racial Disparity
The sheer volume of law enforcement resources devoted to marijuana is bad enough. What makes the situation far worse is racial disparity. Whites and blacks use marijuana at roughly the same rates; on average, however, blacks are 3.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession, according to a comprehensive 2013 report by the A.C.L.U.
In Iowa, blacks are 8.3 times more likely to be arrested, and in the worst-offending counties in the country, they are up to 30 times more likely to be arrested. The war on drugs aims its firepower overwhelmingly at African-Americans on the street, while white users smoke safely behind closed doors.
Only about 6 percent of marijuana cases lead to a felony conviction; the rest are often treated as misdemeanors resulting in fines or probation, if the charges aren’t dismissed completely. Even so, every arrest ends up on a person’s record, whether or not it leads to prosecution and conviction. Particularly in poorer minority neighborhoods, where young men are more likely to be outside and repeatedly targeted by law enforcement, these arrests accumulate. Before long a person can have an extensive “criminal history” that consists only of marijuana misdemeanors and dismissed cases. That criminal history can then influence the severity of punishment for a future offense, however insignificant.
While the number of people behind bars solely for possessing or selling marijuana seems relatively small — 20,000 to 30,000 by the most recent estimates, or roughly 1 percent of America’s 2.4 million inmates — that means nothing to people, like Jeff Mizanskey, who are serving breathtakingly long terms because their records contained minor previous offenses. Nor does it mean anything to the vast majority of these inmates who have no history of violence (about nine in 10, according to a 2006 study). And as with arrests, the racial disparity is vast: Blacks are more than 10 times as likely as whites to go to prison for drug offenses. For those on probation or parole for any offense, a failed drug test on its own can lead to prison time — which means, again, that people can be put behind bars for smoking marijuana.
Even if a person never goes to prison, the conviction itself is the tip of the iceberg. In a majority of states, marijuana convictions — including those resulting from guilty pleas — can have lifelong consequences for employment, education, immigration status and family life.
A misdemeanor conviction can lead to, among many other things, the revocation of a professional license; the suspension of a driver’s license; the inability to get insurance, a mortgage or other bank loans; the denial of access to public housing; and the loss of student financial aid.
In some states, a felony conviction can result in a lifetime ban on voting, jury service, or eligibility for public benefits like food stamps. People can be fired from their jobs because of a marijuana arrest. Even if a judge eventually throws the case out, the arrest record is often available online for a year, free for any employer to look up.
Correcting an Old Inequity
As recently as the mid-1970s, politicians and the public generally agreed that marijuana abuse was handled better by treatment than by prosecution and incarceration. Jimmy Carter ran for president and won while supporting decriminalization. But that view lost out as the war on drugs broadened and intensified, sweeping marijuana along with it.
In recent years, public acceptance of marijuana has grown significantly. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia now permit some form of medical marijuana, and Colorado and Washington fully legalized it for recreational use in 2012. And yet even as “ganjapreneurs” scramble to take economic advantage, thousands of people remain behind bars, or burdened by countless collateral punishments that prevent them from full and active membership in society.
In a March interview, Michelle Alexander, a law professor whose book, “The New Jim Crow,” articulated the drug war’s deeper costs to black men in particular, noted the cruel paradox at play in Colorado and Washington. She pointed to “40 years of impoverished black kids getting prison time for selling weed, and their families and futures destroyed,” and said, “Now, white men are planning to get rich doing precisely the same thing?”
As pioneers in legalization, those two states should set a further example by providing relief to people convicted of crimes that are no longer crimes, including overturning convictions. A recent ruling by a Colorado appeals court overturned two 2011 convictions because of the changed law, and the state’s Legislature has enacted laws in the last two years to give courts more power to seal records of drug convictions and to make it easier for defendants to get jobs and housing after a conviction. These are both important steps into an uncharted future.
Via NY Times
Photo via NORML
It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.
The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.
We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.
There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.
We considered whether it would be best for Washington to hold back while the states continued experimenting with legalizing medicinal uses of marijuana, reducing penalties, or even simply legalizing all use. Nearly three-quarters of the states have done one of these.
But that would leave their citizens vulnerable to the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.
The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.
There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the “Reefer Madness” images of murder, rape and suicide.
There are legitimate concerns about marijuana on the development of adolescent brains. For that reason, we advocate the prohibition of sales to people under 21.
Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime.
In coming days, we will publish articles by members of the Editorial Board and supplementary material that will examine these questions. We invite readers to offer their ideas, and we will report back on their responses, pro and con.
We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.
by Jason Grant
Pick up that cell phone, and make a call.
Tell how being arrested for a small bit of marijuana in Philadelphia has changed your life.
That's the latest request from City Councilman James Kenney, as he continues to pound on Mayor Nutter to sign into law a measure that would make possessing a small amount of pot punishable by only a $25 fine - with no arrest.
Since Tuesday, Kenney's staff have been handing out fliers promoting the at-large councilman's new marijuana arrest hotline, which encourages callers to leave a detailed message and "if possible, please include information about the loss of job opportunities or schooling opportunities."
Kenney's staffers said they've been showing up at a muncipal courtroom and legal clinics to advertise the hotline.
So far, between Tuesday, when the line opened, and Thursday afternoon, 10 people have left messages, they said. Each would get a call back by Thursday's end, said Chris Goy, Kenney's policy director. He said all told of being arrested after Kenney's bill was approved, on June 19.
The bill, which Council approved 13-to-3, calls for people caught with 30 grams or less of pot - about an ounce - to be issued a citation and fined. But the measure can't become law before September unless the mayor signs. Nutter has said he's weighing the criminal-justice implications of it.
Kenney, a Democrat who is considering a 2015 mayoral bid, has been pressing Nutter to sign the bill. In a letter made public Tuesday, he noted that 264 citizens had reportedly been arrested since Council approved the bill, and argued that "every day Mayor Nutter fails to act, more young people will be ... jailed for a minimal offense."
On Thursday, during an interview, Kenney said of his new hotline, "I want people... to talk about their situations. [And] I want the mayor, who seems to be a bit detached from the regular people on the street, to see what he's allowing to happen."
Mark McDonald, the mayor's spokesman, responded briskly Thursday to the councilman's increasing rhetoric:
"The first thing I would recommend is maybe he [Kenney] should urge people to not walk the streets carrying pot."
He called Kenney's bill "legislation a particular council member, who does not have a very extensive history of legislative victories, is attempting to promote as he tries to figure out if he has the resources and vision to run for mayor."
The hotline number: 267-570-3726.
Via Philly News
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- A Pima County Superior Court judge may have paved the way for the state's more than 52,000 medical marijuana users to get into business of selling the drug, at least to each other.
In a ruling earlier this month, Judge Richard Fields threw out charges filed by prosecutors against Jeremy Matlock, ruling that the wording of the 2010 voter-approved law does not make what he did illegal.
Fields conceded the statute is poorly worded and subject to interpretation.
But the judge said the language of the statute is so vague that it could be read that medical marijuana users can sell to other users without fear of breaking the law. And that, Fields wrote, means Matlock could not be prosecuted for what he did.
At this point, the ruling affects only Matlock.
But Kellie Johnson, the chief criminal deputy for the Pima County Attorney's Office, said her agency plans to appeal. And if higher courts say Fields got it right, that would set precedent for the entire state.
That possibility has alarmed state Health Director Will Humble.
He said it is not his job to enforce criminal laws. But Humble said the ruling undermines his ability to take away medical marijuana cards from patients who he believes are illegally selling the drug.
And Johnson said that, if nothing else, prosecutors statewide need some guidance on what the law actually allows.
Matlock was indicted last year on charges of illegally selling marijuana. That followed his posting an ad on Craigslist offering to give medical marijuana to other cardholders but seeking a donation of $25 per plant.
In court filings, his attorney, Sarah Bullard, a deputy Pima County public defender, pointed out that Matlock has a card from the state that allows him to possess the drug.
More to the point, Bullard argued that her client did nothing illegal. She said the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act specifically permits him to transfer marijuana to any other medical marijuana patient.
Johnson said prosecutors read the law to only allow patient-to-patient transfers if no money changes hands.
That left it up to Fields to interpret a 59-word sentence -- one without a single comma or other punctuation -- to determine what is and is not legal.
With that language unclear, Fields looked to another provision in the same law which makes it a crime for any medical marijuana cardholder to sell the drug "to a person who is not allowed to possess marijuana for medical purposes.' By extension, he said, the law "necessarily implies that a qualifying patient can sell marijuana' to someone who is entitled to use it.
Beyond that, Fields noted that 59-word clause implies that to violate the law someone needs to do two things: transfer marijuana for something of value and also know that the buyer will be getting more than the 2 1/2 ounces of the drug to which Arizona law entitles users every two weeks.
"In this case, the defendant did not transfer more than the allowable amount,' Fields wrote, with Bullard saying the undercover police officer left with only three immature plants. "There is no way to meet the 'knowing' element.'
Fields said his conclusion was necessary because of the way the initiative was written by the groups supporting medical marijuana.
"The fact of the matter is that the statute is very poorly drafted and needs a lot of work,' he wrote. "This court finds that the statute is ambiguous, does not give a person of ordinary intelligence notice as to how it can be violated, and therefore the indictment is insufficient as a matter of law.'
Humble said the ruling could undermine a key point in what voters approved in 2010 that allows those with a doctor's recommendation and a state-issued ID card to obtain up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks. The health director said he believes voters narrowly approved the law at least in part because patients would have to obtain the drug from one of several dozen state-regulated dispensaries.
He said Fields' ruling, unless overturned, creates all sorts of enforcement problems. Humble said it sets the stage for someone who obtains marijuana from elsewhere, perhaps from another state or even Mexico, to set up shop without fear of prosecution or the loss of his or her own medical marijuana card.
Via Verde News
Cannabis oil cured my terminal cancer
CANCER patient Mike Cutler yesterday hailed cannabis as a miracle cure for the disease after his symptoms vanished when he began taking the drug.
By: Tom Morgan express.co.uk
Published: Tue, July 22, 2014
In desperation he began researching online and found a YouTube video advocating the use of cannabis oil for cancer.
He decided to try it – and claims that three days after taking the banned Class B drug his excruciating pain disappeared. Two weeks later he began coughing up blood, which he believes contained the dead cancer cells.
The grandfather-of-nine went for a biopsy at the Royal Free Hospital in London in May and doctors told him the cancer cells had gone.
Retired builder Mike, of Hastings, East Sussex, recalled: “Finding I could die was terrible, so I began searching for something that could help me.
“I couldn’t accept that I was going to die. And when I found I was cured I was completely shocked.
“I’m a normal family man, not a druggie. But I had a serious illness and this helped. I can’t believe cannabis oil isn’t being used regularly as a treatment. It is a miracle cure. The NHS should use it.”
Mike resorted to illegally buying the substance from a dealer and used it to make his own tablets, taking one a day.
He is now campaigning for law changes to allow medicinal use of cannabis.
He spoke at a debate on the subject with Professor David Nutt and Green MP Caroline Lucas in Brighton.
Mike’s claim came as research published last week by the University of East Anglia revealed the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, can help fight cancerous cells.
Dr Peter McCormick, from the university’s School of Pharmacy, said: “THC has anti-cancer properties. This compound is known to act through a specific family of cell receptors.
“We have provided an important step towards the future development of therapeutics to reduce tumour growth.”
A number of organisations, including Cancer Research UK, are investigating the medical use of cannabis. Cannabinoids are known to affect brain and nerve activity, energy metabolism, heart function and the immune system.
The Royal Free Hospital confirmed that Mike has received no further cancer treatment since his transplant.
Germany allows seriously ill patients to grow their own cannabis
Why should any patients be denied access to cannabis for preventative care? -UA
Five people suffering from chronic pain brought the complaint to a court in Cologne after Germany's Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) refused them permission to grow the plant at home.
The court said the BfArM had to reconsider three of the requests that it had rejected.
While the plaintiffs all had permits to buy and consume cannabis for therapeutic purposes, they wanted to cultivate their own because they could not afford to purchase the drug and their health insurance did not cover it.
The court said three of the plaintiffs met the requirements to produce the drug because it was "sufficiently certain" that third parties would not be able to access the plants and products.
"Until now it has not been legal for anyone to grow cannabis at home but these seriously ill people will now be allowed to," court spokeswoman Stefanie Seifert said, adding that it nonetheless remained illegal for others to grow it.
"This is not a carte blanche for everyone to start growing cannabis at home - they have to be seriously ill people for whom nothing else works other than cannabis."
The complaints brought by the other two plaintiffs were rejected - the first because the court was not satisfied that unauthorized persons could be prevented from accessing the plants and the second because the court did not think the plaintiff had exhausted all other treatment options.
The court stressed that it was necessary to assess whether individuals met the requirements to grow their own cannabis on an case-by-case basis.
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration believes marijuana policy is a states' rights issue, the White House said Monday in opposing Republican-led legislation that would prevent Washington, D.C., from using local funds to decriminalize marijuana possession.
The GOP-sponsored House amendment would prevent D.C. "from using its own local funds to carry out locally-passed marijuana policies, which again undermines the principles of States' rights and of District home rule," the White House said in a statement. The White House said the bill "poses legal challenges to the Metropolitan Police Department's enforcement of all marijuana laws currently in force in the District."
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) called Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) a "tyrant" for meddling in the District's governing process with the amendment, pointing out that Maryland just voted to decriminalize marijuana possession. The amendment is aimed at blocking a recent D.C. law that lowers the penalty for possessing small amounts of marijuana to a fine.
It's been less than a year since the Justice Department decided not to sue Washington state and Colorado for legalizing and regulating recreational marijuana. Attorney General Eric Holder told The Huffington Post earlier this year that he was "cautiously optimistic" about legalization in Colorado, which began recreational sales Jan. 1. Washington state sales began this month.
Holder didn't weigh in on decriminalization in his own city of D.C., but said it was not a good use of law enforcement resources to give young people a criminal record for drug possession.
“It is great to see the White House accepting that a majority of Americans want marijuana law reform and defending the right of D.C. and states to set their own marijuana policy,” Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, said about the White House statement on Monday. “The tide has clearly shifted against the failed war on drugs and it’s only a matter of time before federal law is changed."
Via Huffington Post
Music inspires us, in many ways. It helps us create, and when used properly the music can make you feel no pain. People from all ages and walks of life can agree, cannabis and music are some of the best mediums for unifying people of various cultures and lifestyles. In this interview we take a glimpse into the hip hop careers of three hard working, passionate and tough puffing musicians from across the U.S.; Dj Slim, Burnt M.D., and Ponyboy Los Marijuanos. As the Hemp Hop movement grows we talked with these three MCs because of their roles as activists in the cannabis movement. They have dedicated time and have risked their freedom for the underground cannabis culture. As MC’s they have tirelessly strived to build a mastery of albums and have influenced the cannabis movement each in their own way, politically and lyrically. From hosting and founding countless events, to flawlessly rocking stages from coast to coast, these guys know what what it takes to be successful, all the while staying completely medicated with the best dank grown today. We are thankful to call all three of these artists our friends.
BN You created a song called “Utilize Your High” what is your opinion on the stigma of a “lazy stoner?”
DJ Slim Well the stigma of a lazy stoner is that they are unproductive, day dreamers with no ambition or drive to get ahead in life. I can't lie I do know several weed smokers that fit that stigma.On the other hand I have friends that I smoke weed with, and they are some of the most intelligent weed smokers you would every want to meet. I'm referring to doctors, lawyers, first responders, financial brokers, all the branches of the military, as well as leaders of major organizations and corporations. I met many of them during my music travels and they smoked almost as much weed as I do. For them utilizing your high is an understatement. Marijuana is what has helped them to focus on what they needed to do to achieve the success they have today, especially because some of those people also had an illness or physical disability which made what they were trying to do even more difficult.
BN How many music awards have you won, been nominated for and what were they?
DJ Slim Since the release of Hemp Hits in 2009, I’ve been nominated for a High Times Doobie Award twice. I have also won two Global Marijuana Music Awards (Best Music Video: I Wanna Be High, Album of The Year: Hemp Hits), an American Marijuana Music Award (Best Music Video: Best Music Video: I Wanna Be High) and the Masscann /Norml 2009 music video of the year for “I Wanna Be High”. I received album of the year award in 2010 from Marco, the owner of Treating Yourself magazine. Most recently in April of 2012 I was blessed to win a Hightimes Doobie Award from Hightimes magazine in Austin Texas for my Activism in the Marijuana community. Now i need to work hard to get another High time Doobie Award for my music.
BN What does freedom mean to you?
BurntMD Freedom is a prism of perception. We have free will as human beings, however do we have freedom as individuals, and if we do, is that freedom pure? Why is it that in a 'free country' the most heavily populated entity is the prison industrial complex? Freedom is not free and you have to be dumb to mistake it. Freedom comes with a cost; you must spend time respecting yourself & your surroundings in order to allow everyone the same rights of freedom.
BN Do you think other states are going to follow Colorado and Washington’s full on legalization of cannabis, and how do you see this affecting the cannabis industry in the future?
BurntMD Great question. I think many states are afraid to address the question of whether or not marijuana is not only a gateway drug but also itself simply a big bad criminal enterprise. This may be a 'free' country, though it is run by many Christian principles, and how could you be a god-fearing, church going, war hawk, if you allow your citizens to use drugs? Want my real answer? I think that the government is laxing its view on marijuana simply to allow the citizens of our country to pull the blinds over our eyes. Keep us high while they are blatantly defiling our great constitution, keep us on prescription drugs so we continue to fund their wars while we are too stoned to do anything about it. Continue to teach our children methods of falling into society rather than harvesting independant thinkers. Poor states will utilize the cannabis industry to help fund there failing systems, I am not sure if the actual facts will ever be the reasoning behind the legalization of marijuana. Alcohol & cigarettes are legal though they have no benefits. Though we may be rebels with a cause, we must govern the chaos that binds us together, we must be founded on ethics, morals, and people care; not a money laundering profiteering scam. If you havent heard it yet today, I love you, and you are not alone. Growth Till Death; Kill The Disease...Spread the cure. One Love. – MD
BN When did you begin working with Jack Herer and how did he influence you personally, and your career?
Ponyboy I first met Eddy Lepp in Amsterdam while performing at the Cannabis Cup for the first time, he introduced me to Jack Herer. They schooled me on the power of the plant and all its great properties. They showed me how the war on drugs is really a war on people and not for the good of society as they claim. They helped me realize that I had the power to reach people thru my music and that I should use that influence in a more positive way and stop rapping about gang banging and all the negativity. They taught me so much and I dedicate my new tracks to the patients, the growers, the families, the victims of the drug war as well as the smokers and tokers.
BN What is your definition of “Hemp Hop” and where did it originate?
Ponyboy Hemp Hop is conscious marijuana music that promotes the many uses of the plant and not just talking about getting high. It stems from the teachings of Jack Herer’s Book, “the Emperor wears no clothes” which everyone needs to read! Buy a copy or read it for free at www.jackherer.com .
BN What advice can you offer future freedom fighters who want to help end prohibition completely?
Ponyboy Help out whenever and however you can! Stick to your guns and don't be phony. If you are planning on becoming an activist get ready for a fight. Join a local organization that is fighting the same fight; groups like NORML, ASA, THCFC, SAFER, LEAP, need more supporters! All of them are a lil different so make sure you find one that you identify with, some groups are more active in some regions more than others so it’s important to do you research. Volunteer to help out at events and get to know the community. Freedom Events like the Boston Freedom Rally and Seattle Hempfest depend heavily on volunteers so get in there and do your part! It's not an easy battle and we desperately need more soldiers fighting the good fight, if we ever plan on changing these absurd laws.