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A Cop's Advice on Dealing with Cops

Neill Franklin from LEAP has an awesome piece in The Huffington Post today on the importance of knowing your constitutional rights during police encounters. It includes a cool slideshow of all the rules from 10 Rules for Dealing with Police. Check it out.

Mother Tests Positive for Poppy Seeds, Cops Take Her Newborn Baby

With all the recent discussion of marijuana legalization, it's easy to forget how many other ways the drug war is ruining innocent lives. This disturbing story from Pennsylvania is another example of how inaccurate and irresponsible drug testing practices are creating nightmares for innocent families.

this is not a drug (photo courtesy AJU_photography via flickr.com and change.org)
The birth of a couple’s first child is supposed to be a joyous occasion -- and for the first three days, it was for Elizabeth Mort and her partner Alex Rodriguez. But then the commonwealth of Pennsylvania took their young daughter away after the hospital where she was born reported the mother for testing positive on a drug test. Her drug of choice? An "everything" bagel from Dunkin’ Donuts.

"The best thing in my life had been taken from me and there was nothing I could do to get her back," Mort says. For five excruciating days, officials with Lawrence County Children and Youth Services (LCCYS) kept mother away from child, all based on a positive drug test they didn’t even bother to investigate -- and which the hospital never even informed the mother about. Now, aided by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the parents are fighting back with a lawsuit against both LCCYS and Jameson Hospital. [Change.org]

This isn't the first time something like this has happened, but hopefully the lawsuit will send a message to the drug war idiots who keep allowing these sorts of outrages to take place. Breaking up new families, even temporarily, is profoundly traumatic and it's intolerable that drug test results – notoriously unreliable as they are -- could ever be considered a reasonable justification for taking an action like this. That scores of innocent people would be grievously harmed by such policies is not a coincidence, it's inevitable.

The blame for this continuing fiasco rests first with hospital and law enforcement officials around the country, who continue to preside over an error-prone policy of treating mothers as drug suspects. But it doesn't stop there. The entire drug testing industry is culpable for marketing their products as a reliable indicator of drug use, such that numerous agencies see fit to administer harsh punishments based solely on drug test results. Ultimately, the drug war mentality itself, and all who promote and defend it, are responsible for the consequences of the hysteria they've fought so hard to perpetuate in our society.

Prop 19: What Went Right, What Went Wrong [FEATURE]

In the week since Proposition 19, the California marijuana legalization initiative, was defeated 46% to 54%, the post-mortem analyses have been coming down fast and furious. Even in defeat, Prop 19 continues to generate mountains of verbiage, and advocates will tell you that's just one of the positive outcomes generated by the initiative.

As the polls closed, Oaksterdam waited.
Indeed, the post-election output on Prop 19 has been stunning. Russ Belville of NORML has 10 Lessons Learned from Marijuana Election Defeats, while the Christian Science Monitor has Three Reasons Prop 19 Got the Thumbs Down (federal government opposition, midterm voter demographics, and fear of regulatory gridlock), and Pete Guither at the Drug War Rant has his own Prop 19 Wrap-Up.

Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron, a libertarian and academic advocate for legalization, asks Why Did California Vote Down Pot? Miron answers that Prop 19 overreached with its arguments (on tax revenues and ending the Mexican drug war) and its provisions (limiting employers' rights). In Post-Prop 19, the Los Angeles Times, in a piece whose tone hints at support for legalization in principle, blames initiative organizers for presenting the public with "a badly drafted mess."

Steve DeAngelo of the Harborside Health Center in Oakland warns that Voters Won't Approve Legal Pot Until Advocates Earn Their Trust, and argues the movement should be concentrating on developing a well-regulated and demonstrably safe medical marijuana cultivation and distribution system to allay the fears of parents and others concerned about the Wild West aspects of California's dispensary system. Interestingly, the 11 counties surrounding San Francisco Bay, where local authorities have most promptly moved to put regulations in place, are the only counties where a majority of voters did vote yes on 19.

Pollwatcher Nate Silver wonders Are Parents Just Saying No to Marijuana Legalization?, pointing to national survey data suggesting that being a parent drops support for legalization by 10 to 15 percentage points. Atlantic magazine business and economics editor Megan McArdle reprises ongoing arguments in Will Pot Be Legal? and sides with Silver on the role of parents.

And that's just a representative sample of the debate over why Prop 19 lost. For Prop 19 supporters, that ongoing argument is just more evidence that the measure has caused a seismic shift in the political discourse on pot.

"We started putting out the message two months ago that Prop 19 is a winner," said Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann. "It transformed the debate. Compare where we are now to where we were two years ago. There is a consensus that between the messaging that came out, the positive impact on the public dialogue, the mainstream players coming out with endorsements, and getting more votes than Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina, Prop 19 was a major step forward," he said.

"What was significant was George Soros coming in with that contribution and his op-ed," Nadelmann continued. "Soros has been a major supporter of marijuana decriminalization, but he was always ambivalent about legalization, in part because of concerns about the impact on young people. Prop 19 being on the ballot and his being asked by so many people what he was going to do encouraged him to think more deeply about it. That he decided to write that piece and make that contribution, even in late October, when he knew the odds of winning were not great, is important for the future."

Even though Soros didn't come through until the final week of the campaign, and the campaign struggled financially (even while outdistancing the opposition), Nadelmann didn't see that a reason the measure lost. "I'm skeptical that substantially more money earlier on would have clinched this," he Nadelmann. "What was really problematic was the turnout. Young people did not show up en masse."

He wasn't the only one looking at turnout. "In a midterm election year like this with a Republican sweep nationally, we didn’t see the types of voters who favor marijuana legalization coming to the polls," said Mike Meno, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

"The only way to respond to a loss is to learn from it," said NORML founder Keith Stroup. "There were two or three specific areas where our opponents were effective, specifically on the employer-employee issue. You had the Chamber of Commerce saying employers couldn’t fire someone coming to work stoned, and some of the law enforcement folks got traction with the idea that roads would be filled with stoned drivers. We have to be clear that if someone is stopped for driving while impaired and they pass the alcohol test, that police have the right to take them in for a drug test," he said.

That position isn't likely to sit well with the veteran stoner demographic, who will argue that marijuana really doesn't impair driving ability that much among experienced tokers. Better to test for actual impairment than the presence of metabolites, especially if impairment is assumed under a "zero tolerance" DUID law, but that's going to be a hard sell for the general public.

"I am among those people who felt that even though we lost, Richard ended up doing a good thing for the movement," said Stroup. "I don't think legalization was ever taken seriously by politicians and the press until Prop 19 came along. It was probably worth the three or four million dollars spent to force marijuana legalization into the mainstream."

"One of the things that really caught on with the opposition and helped spread seeds of doubt in voters' minds was the local control aspect, allowing different counties to decide whether to regulate," said Meno. Ironically, that provision was a concession designed to blunt potential opposition by allowing more conservative areas to opt out.

"The polling shows that workplace concerns and fears of driving under the influence helped motivate the no vote," Meno added. "Those same concerns apply to alcohol, but they're not arguments for making alcohol illegal. With sensible public education, these issues can be addressed. We need to deal aggressively and proactively with the issues around driving while impaired so there isn't the really poor media coverage we saw this time. That gave people the ability to leap from legalization to impaired driving. We need to address these fear-based arguments," he said.

Even the Prop 19 campaign now says maybe the workplace language wasn't a good idea. "I remember having an uneasy feeling about the employment part, but one of our more conservative consultations was for it," said Richard Lee, the man behind Prop 19. "I should have listened to my gut, but it's hard not to want employees to be free from uncalled for drug testing."

"This result was predictable from the early polls," said Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML, which endorsed Prop 19 but was skeptical about its prospects from the beginning. "One of the problems was that legalization scores in the low fifties in the polls, and you need it in the sixties to pass. In any initiative, there are particulars that people object to, and support begins to erode, and this was criticized from all sides."

The California public is ready to go along with legalization if presented with a plan that makes sense and will actually do what it promises, but Prop 19 wasn't that plan, Gieringer said. "The closer you looked at Prop 19, the less it offered in immediate benefits to the state," he argued.

"As soon as any city or county tried to implement 19, they would get hit with a federal injunction, which the feds would certainly win," Gieringer said. "So, no tax and regulate, no tax revenues, and you get a bunch of lawsuits with the feds. It wasn't going to solve the drug war in Mexico, it wasn't going to save all that much in arrests, especially since Schwarzenegger signed that decriminalization bill, and a lot of marijuana offenses have to do with exporting out of state, and that would remain. Prop 19 would have been the first step in a much larger battle going on for years before you really get those benefits, and voters didn't trust that those benefits would actually come."

"We've lost a lot of battles at NORML," Stroup laughed wryly. "But what is important when you lose is what you learn. We came away from California knowing we can do it better, and we will do it better. I think in 2012, the whole West Coast will be proposing that we legalize marijuana."

Richard Lee and his crew are already making plans to put together a new initiative in 2012, but if California's recent history is any indicator, they are unlikely to be the only ones. If one or more of them make it to the ballot in 2012, they better have learned the lessons of 2010.

CA
United States

Fired for Taking Legal Drugs? Why Drug Tests Don't Always Work

Should people who take legally prescribed painkillers on the job be fired for failing a drug test? What companies consider an effort to maintain a safe work environment is drawing complaints from employees who cite privacy concerns and contend that they should not be fired for taking legal medications, sometimes for injuries sustained on the job.
Publication/Source: 
TIME (US)
URL: 
http://healthland.time.com/2010/10/25/fired-for-taking-legal-drugs-why-drug-tests-dont-always-work/

California Chamber of Commerce in Anti-Prop 19 Radio Attack Ad Campaign

The California Chamber of Commerce has begun a $250,000 radio ad campaign against Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative. The first ads hit the airwaves last Friday, the business group announced in a statement.

Here is the Prop 19 language that has the Chamber so bestirred: "No person shall be punished, fined, discriminated against, or be denied any right or privilege for lawfully engaging in any conduct permitted by this Act or authorized pursuant to Section 11301 of this Act. Provided however, that the existing right of an employer to address consumption that actually impairs job performance by an employee shall not be affected."

The Chamber wants employers to continue to be able to fire workers for failing a drug test for marijuana, even though such test do not measure actual impairment, but only the presence of metabolites in the body. Those metabolites can remain for days or even weeks after the psychoactive effects of marijuana have worn off.

"Imagine coming out of surgery and the nurse caring for you was high or having to work harder on your job because a co-worker shows up high on pot," intones a woman's voice in the ad. "It could happen in California if Proposition 19 passes. Prop 19 would do more than simply legalize marijuana.  Prop 19 is worded so broadly is would hurt California's economy, raise business costs and make it harder to create jobs."

The Chamber has prepared a legal analysis that argues that Prop 19 would create a "protected class" of pot-smoking workers, and "expose workers to increased risk of injury, jeopardize federally funded projects and jobs, and add more liabilities and costs to already overburdened employers." 

"The employer impacts and workplace safety concerns highlighted in CalChamber’s legal analysis have been prominently featured in the many statewide editorials opposing Proposition 19," said Allan Zaremberg, president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce. "We want to be sure we reinforce the facts with voters so they understand that this measure will undermine the ability of employers to ensure a safe work environment and create higher costs for those who provide and create jobs."

In addition to the Reefer Madness-style fear-mongering already cited, the Chamber ad falsely claims that "employees would be able to come to work high, and employers wouldn’t be able to punish an employee for being high until after a workplace accident," when the initiative clearly states they can sanction actual impairment.

It's the final stretch in the campaign, and big business has begun the mud-slinging.

CA
United States

Doctor Calls Ontario's Methadone Program Oppressive and Discriminatory

Location: 
ON
Canada
A Toronto doctor says Ontario's methadone program for addicts is "oppressive" in the way it discriminates against patients and forces them to give up their privacy. Patients who are prescribed methadone for addiction to drugs such as heroin or morphine are shackled to the health-care system and must sign away their privacy rights in exchange for treatment, Dr. Philip Berger told a legislative committee.
Publication/Source: 
Winnipeg Free Press (Canada)
URL: 
http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/life/health/doctor-calls-ontarios-methadone-program-oppressive-and-discriminatory-105215519.html

Eating Poppy Seed Bagel Leads to Drug-Related Baby Seizure

Location: 
PA
United States
The American Civil Liberties Union is representing a western Pennsylvania woman who says her newborn baby was seized by county welfare workers after she failed a drug test because she ate a poppy seed bagel.
Publication/Source: 
The Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hnmXylMUhxzpYh7j6z-yfLVF7GSQD9IRGCT00?docId=D9IRGCT00

English Soccer and Cricket Unions Want to Stop Recreational Drug Testing

Location: 
United Kingdom
The player unions representing soccer players and cricketers in England have called for recreational drugs to be removed from the World Anti-Doping Agency's prohibited list. "For the number of players who have tested positive for cocaine, the consequences are far from performance-enhancing and the outcomes in the majority of cases have been very negative," said John Bramhall, deputy chief executive of the Professional Footballers' Association. Ian Smith, the Professional Cricketers' Association's legal director, agreed that recreational drug use isn't usually about gaining an unfair advantage, saying "Marijuana is not a big issue with cheating in sport -- let's get it off the (WADA) list."
Publication/Source: 
ESPN (CT)

Portland Wants Random Drug Testing of Officers

Location: 
Portland, OR
United States
The union representing Portland police officers is pushing back against a proposal that would require random drug testing of police officers. Portland Police Association attorney Will Aitchison said the random testing proposal would violate the officers’ right to privacy.
Publication/Source: 
The World (OR)
URL: 
http://www.theworldlink.com/news/local/article_66055dd2-cfd6-11df-b9b5-001cc4c03286.html

Big Brother to Watch Over Medical Marijuana in Colorado?

Colorado is proposing to enact a medical marijuana tracking system in which everything from marijuana grows to patient purchases to the manufacture of pot brownies would be under constant remote video surveillance where agents could monitor it all. The proposal is giving medical marijuana advocates the creeps.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/big-brother-poster.jpg
The proposal comes in the form of draft regulations promulgated by the Department of Revenue's new Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division. The division was created by legislation passed this year and signed by Gov. Bill Ritter (D) on June 7. Its purpose is to strengthen oversight over Colorado's growing medical marijuana industry.

The system would be the first in the country to track medical marijuana "from seed to sell," Julie Postlethwait, a spokeswoman for the division told the Denver Channel. The goal would be to prevent people using forged medical marijuana cards and to quickly track down pot contaminated with mold or marijuana food protects that are tainted. "We want to protect the patient. This is medicine," Postlethwait said.

"This in the long run legitimizes and helps the industry," she added. "They're caregivers. They want to provide the best quality medicine out there."

But medical marijuana advocates criticized the proposal as costly and overly intrusive.

"There is no conceivable justification for this system," said Robert Chase, a leader of the Colorado Coalition for Patients and Caregivers. "It goes beyond the systems that we use to control opiate narcotic drugs, which are demonstrably much, much more dangerous. There are valid concerns about the Big Brother issue," Chase said.

Chase pointed to other provisions in the draft proposal requiring medical marijuana to be transported in tamper-proof containers and to make growers and dispensary employees provide fingerprints at each step in the supply chain.

"It's a highly intrusive process of having to give fingerprints and being under constant video surveillance. It invokes George Orwell's '1984,'" Chase said. "The whole thing is preposterous," he said.

The draft regulations are not a done deal; indeed, they are very much a work in progress. The division has formed a working group of medical marijuana growers, providers, caregivers, patients, doctors, and law enforcement to continue to work on the draft rules.

The Medical Marijuana Work Group will hold hearings on October 4 and 21 in Lakewood. The public can attend, but not address, those hearings.

CO
United States

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