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Double Standard? Marijuana or Hemp? DEA Indian Tribe Raid Raises Questions [FEATURE]

This article was produced in collaboration with AlterNet and will appear at http://www.alternet.org/drugs/.

Taking advantage of a 2014 Justice Department memo giving Indian tribes a green light to participate in marijuana commerce, as well as a 2014 congressional vote allowing for industrial hemp pilot programs, Wisconsin's Menominee Tribe earlier this year planted some 30,000 cannabis plants as part of a pilot project with the College of the Menominee Nation.

Last Friday, the DEA came and cut them all down.

The DEA says the plants were marijuana plants; the tribe says they were hemp plants. In either case, tribal officials and marijuana reform advocates don't understand why the grow was raided. Even if it were marijuana, it appears to be an operation well within Justice Department guidelines. And that's leading to some pointed questions about whether the feds have one standard for pot-legal states and another for the tribe-legal jurisdictions.

The memo that allows for marijuana commerce on the reservation includes eight potential enforcement triggers first formulated in a 2013 Justice Department memo (the Cole memo) advising federal prosecutors to lay off of recreational and medical marijuana operations in states where they are legal. Those triggers include diversion to other localities, money going to organized crime, and violence associated with the trade, among others.

The raid came after the tribe allowed a Bureau of Indian Affairs employee and local police to inspect the operation and take plant samples. And that visit came after a meeting between the BIA agent, the local cops, and an assistant US attorney.

According to the DEA affidavit for a search warrant, the samples tested positive for "marijuana," although there was no measurement of THC levels in the plants.

Industrial hemp is high in fiber, but low in THC, with levels at 0.3% or less. Pot produced for the recreational market, by contrast, typically has THC levels of 15% to 20% and beyond. There is a possibility some of the plants could exceed the 0.3% limit, but not by much.

The DEA affidavit also attempted to make a case that the hemp grow was violating those Justice Department triggers. The tribe had hired Colorado cannabis consultant Brian Goldstein to consult on its grow, and Goldstein, along with Tribal Chairwoman Ruth Wapoose, had in fact guided the feds and the local cops on their tour of the operation.

But Goldstein was "white," the affidavit noted, and several other people present appeared "non-native," and some vehicles had Colorado plates. This, the affidavit somewhat tortuously argued, violated the memo's provision about diversion from states where marijuana is legal to those where it is not. It seems to claim that hiring a cannabis consultant from a legal state is equivalent to importing pot from that state.

A field of hemp at sunrise. (votehemp.org)
The affidavit also stretched to assert the operation was setting off other enforcement triggers. The lack of ventilation in a drying room "is a health and safety concern for the community and the individuals associated with the operation, which is a violation of the enumerated priorities listed in the Cole memorandum regarding adverse public health concerns of marijuana cultivation," it argued.

But drying hemp stalks in closed barns is standard practice and is used by farmers around the country, including those who produced legal hemp crops this year in Colorado and Kentucky.

And security personnel guarding the property had guns, leading the BIA agent to question "the ability for the security team to have weapons for protection because it would violate the Cole memorandum."

Now, the grow has been destroyed, any decision on criminal prosecution is in the hands of federal prosecutors, and the tribe and other observers are wondering just what is going on. After all, the Menominee aren't the only tribe to take the Justice Department at its word, only to be raided down the road.

This past summer, the DEA hit two California tribes, the Pit River Tribe and the Alturas Indian Rancheria, seizing 12,000 plants. The feds alleged Cole memorandum violations including financing from a foreign entrepreneur and fears the marijuana would be distributed outside the reservations in ways that violated the state's medical marijuana law. And the US attorney in South Dakota a month earlier refused to agree to lift an injunction barring Oglala Sioux tribal member Alex White Plume from growing hemp, which the Oglala Sioux Nation has legalized.

Are the tribes being held to a different standard than states where it is legal? Has there been a policy shift at Justice? Are individual federal prosecutors going off the reservation?

Menominee Tribal Chairman Gary Besaw doesn't know, but he isn't happy about it.

"I am deeply disappointed that the Obama administration has made the decision to utilize the full force of the DEA to raid our Tribe," he said in a statement after the raid. "We offered to take any differences in the interpretation of the farm bill to federal court. Instead, the Obama administration sent agents to destroy our crop while allowing recreational marijuana in Colorado. I just wish the President would explain to tribes why we can't grow industrial hemp like the states, and even more importantly, why we don't deserve an opportunity to make our argument to a federal judge rather than having our community raided by the DEA?"

Neither was Eric Steenstra, head of the hemp industry advocacy organization Vote Hemp.

"The DEA action in this case is egregious, excessive and presents an unjust prejudice against Indian Country and the rights of sovereign tribal nations," he said. "The Menominee Indian Tribe cultivated their industrial hemp in accordance with Federal Law, per the legislation put forth in the Farm Bill. This is a step backward, at a time when great progress has otherwise been made toward legalizing and regulating industrial hemp cultivation."

In an interview with US News and World Report, tribal law expert Lance Morgan, a member of Nebraska's Winnebago tribe who has worked with tribal governments pondering marijuana operations, said the Cole memorandum guidelines are not being applied consistently and warned the Menominee raid would be remembered as a historic betrayal.

"How can you allow people to buy marijuana in a retail environment in some states and then raid an industrial hemp operation of a tribe? The only difference is that there is a tribe involved," he said. "This odd federal policy of encouraging investment and then raiding the new business sets us back a few decades in federal tribal trust and economic policy."

The raids against tribal pot operations will kill investment in such ventures, Morgan said.

"The new federal policy of 'sort of' allowing tribes to get into the marijuana business is especially cruel and unusual because it encourages investment, but after the investment is made the federal government comes and shuts it down and the investors lose all their money."

Tribal law expert and former head of New York's Seneca Nation Robert Odawi Porter agreed that there is at least the appearance of a double standard.

"This certainly suggests a real divergence in policy approach for Indian country," compared to the pot-legal states, which have been allowed to develop enormous marijuana industries, he said. "It increasingly looks like the Justice Department guidelines are not being interpreted in the same way as they were intended."

It seems like the Justice Department has some explaining and clarifying to do. Can the tribes participate in the new marijuana economy like that states, or not? And does the DEA accept the legal definition and status of hemp? If not, why?

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

A Houston cop's foot fetish gets him in trouble, a Georgia deputy's meth habit proves problematic, and a New Mexico police chief's greed costs him his job. Let's get to it:

In Lawrenceville, Georgia, a Gwinnett County sheriff's deputy was arrested last Wednesday after police found drugs inside his home. Deputy Trenell Bullock was being served with administrative paperwork when police saw meth and drug paraphernalia in plain view. He has been charged with unspecified drug offenses.

In Santa Fe, New Mexico, the former Springer police chief pleaded guilty last Thursday to helping a deputy steal $7,500 from men they thought were drug dealers, but who turned out to be undercover state and federal agents. Former Chief Leon Herrera admitted to posing as a DEA agent to help his deputy persuade the supposed drug couriers to hand over the cash. He pleaded guilty to impersonating a federal officer, and is now looking at up to three years in prison. His deputy, Vidal Sandoval, has pleaded not guilty to attempting to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute and theft of government money.

In Houston, a former Cypress-Fairbanks school district police officer was sentenced last Wednesday to a year in jail for offering to not charge a woman he caught with marijuana if she let him lick her feet or gave him her underwear. Patrick Quinn, 27, told the victim he had a foot fetish, but he later relented and let her go without any kinky favors. He copped to one count of official oppression.

Chronicle AM: VA Pot Arrests Up, Especially for Blacks; VT Organized Opposition Emerges, More (10/28/15)

Initiative proponents in Arkansas and North Dakota have to go back to the drawing board, Vermont legalization opponents get organized, Virginia pot arrests increase, especially for blacks, and more.

Marijuana Policy

Arkansas Legalization Initiative Language Rejected. State Attorney General Leslie Rutledge has rejected a marijuana legalization initiative, citing spelling errors and "ambiguities in the text." The proposal, from Marry Berry of Summit, must now be resubmitted with fixed language.

New York Legislators Call for Marijuana Legalization. At a forum in Buffalo today, two state legislators, Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo) and Senator Liz Krueger (D-Manhattan), called for marijuana legalization. They are supporting the Marijuana Regulation and Tax Act, Senate Bill 1747.

Vermont Anti-Legalization Group Organizes. There is now organized opposition to marijuana legalization in the Green Mountain State. Opponents have formed a state affiliate of the national anti-legalization group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana. The group is hoping to block legislative efforts to legalize it, warning that it could result in a "public health crisis." Click on the link for more details.

Virginia Marijuana Arrests Increasing, Especially in Black Communities. A new report from the Drug Policy Alliance finds that marijuana arrests have increased by 57% over the past decade, but have more than doubled for black Virginians. Click on the link for much more.

Medical Marijuana

California Collective Operator Sues Over New State Medical Marijuana Law. Collective operator David Armstrong has filed a lawsuit claiming the state's new medical marijuana law violates the state constitution because it amends a voter initiative, the 1996 Compassionate Use Act (Prop 215). Armstrong's attorney, Nicholas Emmanuel, said that although the full effect of the law signed this month is not clear, his client wanted to "get a jump on things."

North Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Language Rejected. Secretary of State Al Jaeger (R) Tuesday rejected an initiative from the North Dakota Committee for Medical Marijuana, saying it had errors. Jaeger directed committee members to a petition drafting tool on state government web pages so they can get it right next time.

Asset Forfeiture

Virginia Legislature Again Ponders Asset Forfeiture Reform. The legislature's Virginia Crime Commission met Tuesday to take a second look at passing asset forfeiture reform. A bill that would have ended civil asset forfeiture failed in the state Senate earlier this year. Any decisions on introducing bills on this issue have been held off until at least the next meeting in December.

Chronicle AM: One Week to OH Vote, DEA Raids Menominee Hemp Grow, Iranians for Legalization???, More (10/27/15)

Menominee tribal officials are scratching their heads after the DEA cut down their hemp crop, Ohio votes on legalization in one week, some new federal sentencing statistics are out, the Iranians may be thinking about legalizing marijuana and/or opium, and more.

Marijuana Policy

A hemp field. Someone needs to sit down and have a talk with the DEA. (votehemp.org)
DEA Raids Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin, Cuts Down Hemp Plants. DEA agents swarmed the reservation last Friday and cut down 30,000 cannabis plants. The tribe says they were hemp plants; the DEA claims they were marijuana plants. Hemp has very low levels of THC, but it is not clear that the DEA actually tested THC levels. In any case, under a Justice Department policy announced last fall, tribes are supposed to be able to grow marijuana on tribal lands, provided they don't fall afoul of Justice Department concerns about out-of-jurisdiction trafficking, dealing to children, organized crime activities and the like.

Both Michigan Legalization Campaigns Have Money in the Bank. According to quarterly financial reports filed Monday, the state's two different marijuana legalization efforts are both pulling in cash, but still have a long way to go on signature gathering. MI Legalize has raised $308,000 and spent $249,000 so far as it seeks to gather some 252,523 valid voter signatures by December. The Michigan Cannabis Coalition has raised $351,000 and spent $284,000. The coalition has temporarily halted signature-gathering, even though it says it is roughly 50,000 signatures short, saying the move is a "strategic decision" and petitioning will soon resume. The coalition effort has until January to turn in signatures. MI Legalize would allow taxed and regulated marijuana sales with a 10% retail sales tax; the coalition effort also legalize, but would rely on the state legislature to set taxes and set licensing requirements.

Ohio Votes on Marijuana Legalization in One Week. The ResponsibleOhio legalization initiative is too close to call a week out from election day. The initiative would legalize marijuana, but only allow 10 commercial marijuana grows allotted to campaign backers. Polls in the past week have shown the race in a dead heat. Stay tuned.

Medical Marijuana

Change.org Petition for the Kettle Falls Five. Prosecuted as marijuana traffickers for growing medical marijuana for their own use in a state where marijuana is legal, three of the Kettle Falls Five were sentenced earlier this month to federal prison. The petition here seeks "immediate orders of commutation and remission of jail time and fines for Rolland Gregg, his wife Michelle Gregg, and his mother Rhonda Firestack-Harvey. We seek complete pardons of their convictions so that they are no longer considered felons. Allow them to return to being the productive members of society they were, before this ordeal began." Click on the link to add your signature.

Sentencing

More Than Half of Federal Drug Prisoners Are Doing Time for Cocaine. A new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics reveals that, as of 2012, 54% of federal drug war prisoners were sentenced for cocaine offenses. Then came meth at 24%, marijuana at 12%, and heroin at 6%. The vast majority (88%) of crack offenders were black, while more than half (54%) of powder cocaine offenders were Hispanic. More than half (59%) of marijuana offenders were Hispanic. Among meth offenders, it was 48% white and 45% Hispanic. One-quarter (24%) of all drug offenders were not US citizens. Click on the link to read the report.

International

Could Iran Be the Next Country to Legalize Marijuana or Opium? A prominent Iranian official has suggested as much. Saeed Sefatian, who made the remarks, is head of the working group for drug demand reduction in the country's Expediency Council, which is largely influential in the country's drug policies. Click on the link for more.

Medical Marijuana Update

A California federal judge has told the Justice Department to butt out of state-legal marijuana businesses in a case involving the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, the Brookings Institution has a new report on the feds stifling research, ASA has a new report on the beneficial impacts of dispensaries, and more.

National

Last Thursday, ASA released a report on the impact of dispensaries on communities. Americans for Safe Access released a report, Where Will Patients Obtain Their Medicine?, that shows dispensaries do not bring elevated crime rates or other social ills, but do bring economic opportunity and provide access to medicine for patients. "The research shows that well-regulated dispensaries are responsible neighbors and valued members of the community," said Steph Sherer, ASA's executive director. "They bring jobs and increased economic activity while providing patients suffering from serious illnesses with an essential physician-recommended medicine. Creating equitable rules for medical cannabis access is a win-win scenario for everyone in a community."

On Tuesday, a Brookings Institution report accused the federal government of stifling medical marijuana research. Researchers at the liberal think-tank called on the federal government to eliminate obstacles to medical marijuana research in a strongly-worded report today. "The federal government is stifling medical research in a rapidly transforming area of public policy that has consequences for public health and public safety," the report, authored by John Hudak and Grace Wallack, says. "Statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area." For a start, marijuana should be moved to Schedule II, they said.

California

On Monday, a federal judge ruled that the feds can't shut down state-legal marijuana businesses. US District Court Judge Charles Breyer ruled that the Justice Department is barred from prosecuting with marijuana operations that are in compliance with state laws. Breyer cited recent votes in Congress to prohibit such actions. The move came in the case of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which had been ordered closed by a permanent injunction in 2012. Attorneys for the alliance successfully argued that the congressional moves invalidated the injunction, and Breyer agreed. "The plain reading of [Congress's amendment] forbids the Department of Justice from enforcing this injunction against MAMM to the extent that MAMM operates in compliance with California law," Breyer wrote. "To the Court's recollection," Breyer added, "the Government has yet to allege or even suggest that MAMM was at any time operating in violation of state law."

Kansas

Over the weekend, the Silver Haired Legislature renewed its push for medical marijuana. The Silver Haired Legislature, which advocates for senior citizens, is again calling on the legislature to pass medical marijuana. At a meeting earlier this month in Topeka, the group adopted three proposed bills it will push to see passed in the next term. Click on the link for more details.

New Jersey

Last Wednesday, the state got its fifth dispensary. The state Health Department said then it had issued its final permit for Breakwater Treatment and Wellness, a dispensary in Cranston.

New York

Last Thursday, the Seneca Nation was moving toward allowing medical marijuana. The Seneca Nation of Indians is preparing to vote early next month on whether to authorize the National Council to start drafting laws and regulations to govern medical marijuana. The vote would be only a first step toward the tribe getting in the medical marijuana business. The Justice Department opened the door for tribes to get involved in pot operations with a memo last fall.

[For extensive information about the medical marijuana debate, presented in a neutral format, visit MedicalMarijuana.ProCon.org.]

Chronicle AM: Federal Sentencing Reform Advances, OH Legalization Init in Dead Heat, More (10/22/15)

It's nail-biting time for marijuana legalizers in Ohio -- and for different reasons in California -- the Obama administration rolls out new measures to deal with heroin and prescription opiates, a federal sentencing reform bill advances, and more.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a sentencing reform bill. (nadcp.org)
Marijuana Policy

Billionaire Philanthropist Sean Parker Circulating California Legalization Initiative Draft. Napster cofounder and early Facebook president Sean Parker has a team of lobbyists and political consultants circulating a draft legalization initiative this week. The move comes as the state's legalization effort is in turmoil, with state activists organized as ReformCA having drafted their own initiative, only to see national reform groups, such as the Drug Policy Alliance and Marijuana Policy Project, drift away. Click on the link for all the juicy details.

Another Ohio Poll Has Legalization Initiative in Dead Heat. A second poll this week has found the ResponsibleOhio legalization initiative race "too close to call." A new Bowling Green State University poll has the initiative supported by 44.4% of "likely voters," with 42.9% opposed. Among "definite voters," the measure does a bit better, getting 46% support, with 45% opposed and 9% undecided. Earlier this week, a University of Akron Buckeye poll had voters evenly split at 46%.

Heroin and Prescription Opiates

Obama Announces New Steps to Combat Heroin and Prescription Drug Abuse. The administration announced Wednesday that it is moving to increase access to drug treatment and to expand the training of doctors who prescribe opiates in a bid to fight high levels of heroin and prescription opiate use. The plan includes doubling the number of doctors who can prescribe the maintenance drug buprenorphine. The administration has a "sense of urgency that we at the federal level can do more to address this issue," said ONDCP head Michael Botticelli. Click on the link for much more.

Sentencing

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. The committee today voted 15-5 to advance the bill, S. 2123, which would reduce mandatory minimum drug sentences, expand the federal "safety valve," expand early release and reentry programming, and make other sentencing reforms retroactive.

International

Capture of Gulf Cartel Leader Sparks Weekend of Violence in Matamoros. The mayor of the Mexican border city just across the Rio Grande River from Brownsville, Texas, has warned residents to exercise caution and stay indoors after the arrest last Friday of a Gulf Cartel leader sparked a weekend of clashes between security forces and cartel gunmen. Prado "El Ciclon 7" Rodriguez, the cartel's Matamoros boss, was captured Friday morning, with traffic blockades and gunfights breaking out that same day and continuing through the weekend.

This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories

It's a twofer of tarnished badges in Baltimore, and an LAX TSA agent was a bit too helpful for his own good. Let's get to it:

In Baltimore, a Baltimore County police officer was arrested last Thursday for growing marijuana. Sarah Campbell, 32, went down after a lengthy investigation by a DEA task force and is charged with manufacture of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana and paraphernalia, and possession of a firearm accessible by minors. She has been released on $15,000 bail. [Ed: Is this corruption? Hypocrisy? Or just a foolish chance for a police officer to take? I'd want to know whether Officer Campbell was in the habit of busting people for drug offenses, and whether there's any evidence that she was doing more than just growing. - DB]

In Los Angeles, a former TSA officer was indicted last Friday for allegedly taking $500 bribes to allow bags full of marijuana to be cleared through screening checkpoints and loaded onto airliners at LAX. Deondre Smith, 33, is accused of doing so on at least nine occasions, with the weed headed to Charlotte, North Carolina. He is charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana and bribery of a public official, and is looking at up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

In Baltimore, a Baltimore police officer pleaded guilty last Thursday to stealing thousands of dollars during a sting operation in a local hotel room. Officer Maurice Jeffers, who had been accused of theft on four previous occasions, went down after internal affairs investigators set up a sting and then watched as Jeffers pocketed $3,000. He pleaded guilty to one count of theft and is looking at up to 10 years in prison when sentenced in February.

Chronicle AM: Gallup Poll: 58% for Marijuana Legalization, MI Forfeiture Reforms Signed, More (10/21/15)

The trend toward supporting marijuana legalization is becoming ever more apparent, asset forfeiture reforms become law in Michigan, but get attacked by law enforcement in Tennessee, harm reductionists call on the UN to officially release a drug decriminalization document, and more.

Truckers and other labor groups are urging the House to reject hair drug testing. (wikimedia/Veronica538)
Marijuana Policy

New Gallup Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at 58%. A new Gallup poll released today has 58% saying marijuana should be legal in the US. That ties the 58% reported by Gallup two years ago after support declined to 51% last year.The 58% figure is the highest ever recorded in a Gallup poll, and is consistent with majority support for marijuana legalization reported in other state and national polls in recent months. Gallup says that figure is likely to continue to increase, thanks both to younger residents being more likely to support legalization and the dying off of older Americans, who are more likely to oppose legalization. Click on the title link for our Chronicle news brief on the poll.

Asset Forfeiture

Michigan Governor Signs Asset Forfeiture Reform Package. Gov. Rick Snyder (R) Tuesday signed into law a seven-bill package aimed at beginning to rein in asset forfeiture abuses in the state. The bills don't end civil asset forfeiture, but increase the burden of proof required to seize and keep confiscated property and require law enforcement agencies to file annual reports documenting their seizure activities.

Tennessee Cops Lobby Against Asset Forfeiture Reform. Law enforcement officials Monday lobbied lawmakers to not adopt asset forfeiture reforms in the Volunteer State. Shelby County Prosecutor Steve Jones, said seizing assets to fund policing activities was "government at its best" and warned that changing the law would result in more crime. He wasn't the only one. Click on the link for more.

Drug Testing

Unions Fight Truck Driver Hair Drug Testing. The AFL-CIO's Transportation Trades Department is trying to stop a proposal that would allow hair drug testing for truck drivers. The proposal is included in a highway bill that passed the Senate in July. The union has no problem with urine testing, which has been in place since 1991, but says that hair testing is untested. "[Health and Human Services] has not approved hair specimen for use in drug tests, and no HHS-issued technical standards for hair testing exist -- and for good reason. Hair testing is not ready for primetime," the union said. The union argues that hair testing could cause positive test results from environmental exposure -- not just personal drug use.

West Virginia Lawmakers Continue to Ponder Welfare Drug Testing. Even though efforts to push through welfare drug testing have failed in the past, legislators Monday were back at it. At a hearing, state health officials told lawmakers fewer than 220 of 2,700 adults enrolled in the food stamp program were likely to use illegal drugs. The committee will continue to study the issue through the year, members said.

International

International Harm Reduction Conference Delegates Call on UN to Officially Release Leaked Drug Decriminalization Paper. More than 500 delegates at the International Harm Reduction Conference in Kuala Lumpur called on the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) today to officially release a document proposing drug decriminalization. The paper had been leaked by Sir Richard Branson, prompting UNODC to say the paper was "not a final document." "The overwhelming support from our delegates today for the UNODC's drug decriminalization recommendations should embolden them to show brave leadership on this issue, and publish the document in its current form," said Rick Lines, head of the International Harm Reduction Association, which organized the conference.

New Gallup Poll Has Support for Marijuana Legalization at 58%

A new Gallup poll released today has 58% saying marijuana should be legal in the US. That ties the 58% reported by Gallup two years ago after support declined to 51% last year.

The 58% figure is the highest ever recorded in a Gallup poll, and is consistent with majority support for marijuana legalization reported in other state and national polls in recent months. And Gallup says that figure is likely to continue to increase, thanks to both younger residents more likely to support legalization and the dying off of older Americans, who are more likely to oppose legalization.

"Americans' support for legalizing marijuana is the highest Gallup has measured to date, at 58%," the polling firm noted. "Given the patterns of support by age, that percentage should continue to grow in the future. Younger generations of Americans have been increasingly likely to favor legal use of marijuana as they entered adulthood compared with older generations of Americans when they were the same age decades ago. Now, more than seven in 10 of today's young adults support legalization. But Americans today -- particularly those between 35 and 64 -- are more supportive of legal marijuana than members of their same birth cohort were in the past. Now senior citizens are alone among age groups in opposing pot legalization."

The poll had majority support for legalization among every age group except those 65 and older. Support was at 71% among the 18-to-34 group, 64% for the 35-49 group, 58% among the 50-to-64 group, and only 35% among those 65 and older.

Despite public support for legalization and despite legalization already being the law in four states and the nation's capital, marijuana arrests remain near all-time highs. In 2014 there were 700,993 arrests for marijuana in the United States, nearly nine out of ten of them for simple possession. Black and brown people continue to be arrested for pot offenses at a disproportionate rate.

Drug reform activists like what Gallup was selling.

"The latest poll results point to the absurdity and even venality of persisting with harsh prohibitionist policies," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "No other law is enforced so harshly and pervasively yet deemed unnecessary by so many Americans. Spending billions of dollars and arresting 700,000 people annually for violating marijuana laws now represents not just foolish public policy but also an inappropriate and indecent use of police powers. More elected officials need to realize that legalizing marijuana is not just the right thing to do -- it's the politically smart thing to do too."

"It's pretty clear which direction our nation is heading on this issue. The status quo has shifted," said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Marijuana prohibition has been a public policy disaster, and most Americans are ready to put it behind us and move on. The effects of 80-plus years of anti-marijuana propaganda are slowly wearing off. Once people realize that marijuana is actually safer than alcohol, they tend to agree that adults should not be punished just for consuming it. People can see that legalizing and regulating marijuana is going quite well in states like Colorado and Washington. They see the sky hasn't fallen and that regulation works, and they want to take similar steps forward in their states. We will likely see at least a handful of states pass these laws over the next year or so."

"These days it's not especially exciting to see yet another poll showing majority support for legalizing marijuana, but 58 percent is very strong share of the American people calling for change, and elected officials should listen," said Tom Angell, chairman of the increasingly aptly named Marijuana Majority. "The constant stream of surveys showing public support for ending prohibition is why we're seeing an increasing number of national politicians saying that it's time to at least let states implement their own laws without federal interference. And we're also seeing a growing number candidates endorsing legalization outright, which shows how mainstream this issue is now. As more states implement marijuana reforms and those laws continue to work as advertised, we're likely to see even more public support, which should soon spur Congress to formally end the criminalization of cannabis under federal law."

Ohio votes on marijuana in less than two weeks, and legalization initiatives are likely to be on the ballot next year in Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. These kinds of polling numbers could encourage people in other states to climb on the bandwagon as well.

Chronicle AM: Canada Election Should Bring MJ Legalization, Ohio Init in Dead Heat, More (10/20/15)

Canada's Liberals have vowed to legalize marijuana, and now they've just won the election; the Ohio pot legalization initiative looks like it will be a squeaker, a federal judge rules in favor of marijuana businesses in legal states, and more.

Marijuana Policy

New Poll Has Ohio Legalization Initiative in Dead Heat. A University of Akron Buckeye poll released today has the ResponsibleOhio legalization initiative at 46%, with 46% opposed and 8% undecided. But the poll also had 53% of respondents saying the initiative is a "bad idea" because it would grant an oligopoly on commercial marijuana growing (to the investors who funded the initiative). On Issue 2, an initiative aimed at invalidating initiatives that grant private inurement including by monopoly or oligopoly, 40% said they were in favor, 27% were opposed, and 32% were undecided. The election is two weeks from today. A Kent State University poll last week had the legalization initiative at 56%. Click on the link for more demographic and methodological information on today's poll.

Medical Marijuana

Brookings Institution Report Says Federal Government Stifles Medical Marijuana Research. Researchers at the think tank called on the federal government to eliminate obstacles to medical marijuana research in a strongly-worded report today. "The federal government is stifling medical research in a rapidly transforming area of public policy that has consequences for public health and public safety," the report, authored by John Hudak and Grace Wallack, says. "Statutory, regulatory, bureaucratic, and cultural barriers have paralyzed science and threatened the integrity of research freedom in this area." For a start, marijuana should be moved to Schedule II, they said.

California Federal Judge Rules Feds Can't Shut Down Legal Marijuana Businesses. US District Court Judge Charles Breyer ruled Monday that the Justice Department is barred from prosecuting marijuana operations that are in compliance with state laws. Breyer cited recent votes in Congress to prohibit such actions. The move came in the case of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which had been ordered closed by a permanent injunction in 2012. Attorneys for the alliance successfully argued that the congressional moves invalidated the injunction, and Breyer agreed. "The plain reading of [Congress's amendment] forbids the Department of Justice from enforcing this injunction against MAMM to the extend that MAMM operates in compliance with California law," Breyer wrote. "To the Court's recollection," Breyer added, "the Government has yet to allege or even suggest that MAMM was at any time operating in violation of state law."

Asset Forfeiture

Former Dallas DA Accused of Misusing Asset Forfeiture Funds. Former Dallas County DA Craig Watkins is accused of spending asset forfeiture money for personal use, according to an audit expected to be released today. The audit shows that Watkins spent the money on everything from cell phone bills to travel expenses to the sponsorship of a football league. Seized funds paid for more than $50,000 worth of cell phone bills, and Watkins spent another $71,000 on public service announcements, other promotional activities, legal fees, and travel.

Drug Testing

West Virginia Senator Expresses Support for Drug-Testing Public Housing Residents. Sen. Joe Manchin (D) told the West Virginia Council of Churches Monday that he supported drug testing public housing residents. He said he got the idea from schoolchildren with addicted parents. Drug testing public housing residents is "something that we have to consider," he said. Courts have previously struck down similar testing programs, viewing them as illegal, warrantless searches.

International

Canada's Liberals Sweep to Victory -- With Marijuana Legalization in Platform. Led by Justin Trudeau, Canada's Liberal Party swept to a strong victory in Monday's elections. The Liberals won 184 seats. They only needed 170 seats to form a majority in the 338-seat lower chamber. The Liberal platform included, among other things, marijuana legalization: "We will legalize, regulate, and restrict access to marijuana," the platform states. Marijuana prohibition doesn't prevent youth use, causes socially disruptive and expensive arrests, and supports organized crime, the statement adds. "We will remove marijuana consumption and incidental possession from the Criminal Code, and create new, stronger laws to punish more severely those who provide it to minors, those who operate a motor vehicle while under its influence, and those who sell it outside of the new regulatory framework."

Drug War Issues

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