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California Democrats Bet on Bong War

Location: 
CA
United States
Seizing on new independent polling data, proponents of Proposition 19 — the Golden State ballot measure that would make possessing and growing marijuana legal — argue the measure is going to drive younger-voter turnout in such a way that it will benefit the Democrats statewide, from gubernatorial retread Jerry Brown to Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Publication/Source: 
Politico (VA)
URL: 
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1010/43353.html

Democrats Look to Cultivate Marijuana Vote in 2012

Democratic strategists are studying California's marijuana legalization initiative to see if similar ballot measures could energize young, liberal voters in swing states for the 2012 presidential election. Some pollsters and party officials say Democratic candidates in California are benefiting from a surge in enthusiasm among young voters eager to back Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana in certain quantities and permit local governments to regulate and tax it. Party strategists and marijuana legalization advocates are discussing whether to push for similar ballot questions in 2012 in Colorado and Nevada — both expected to be crucial to President Barack Obama's re-election — and Washington state, which will have races for governor and seats in both houses of Congress.
Publication/Source: 
The Wall Street Journal (NY)
URL: 
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703298504575534321493828944.html?mod=WSJ_hps_MIDDLETopStories

Two Democratic Governor Candidates Say Decriminalize Marijuana

Two Democratic Party gubernatorial candidates in the Northeast are calling for marijuana decriminalization.  They are Vermont candidate Peter Shumlin and Connecticut candidate Dan Malloy.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/peter_shumlin.jpg
Peter Shumlin
While neither candidate is playing up the issue -- decriminalization doesn't appear on either candidates' issues page -- both have staked out clear positions in favor of decriminalization, and Shumlin has talked repeatedly about it during the campaign.

"We simply are penny wise and pound foolish to be using law enforcement dollars to be locking up criminals when they're dealing with small amounts of marijuana," Shumlin said during a televised candidates' forum before the primary election.

He kept on message this month, telling the Barre-Montepelier Times Argus: "I believe we should join California and Massachusetts in decriminalizing small amounts. It is important we have law enforcement focus on meth dealers, cocaine dealers, heroin and the really tough drug challenges we face as a state."

Shumlin, the current president pro tem of the Vermont House, has garnered support from the Marijuana Policy Project, which has so far contributed $14,000 to his campaign. MPP believes that with Shumlin as governor, a decriminalization bill can pass in Vermont next year.

In Connecticut, Democratic nominee Dan Malloy hasn't been as outspoken as Shumlin, but he has come out in favor of decriminalization. In response to a question at a September 6 meeting at the University of Connecticut, Malloy said he "absolutely supports" decriminalization.

According to the running average of polls compiled by Real Clear Politics, Malloy is leading Republican candidate Tom Foley by 6.5 percentage points. The Vermont race is much tighter, with Real Clear Politics calling it a "toss up," and Shumlin leading Republican candidate Brian Dubie by three points in the latest poll.

Times are indeed changing when gubernatorial candidates representing a mainstream political party are calling for decriminalization. Will it help them win in November? Could it hurt? Stay tuned.

(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.)

California Marijuana Initiative Could Help Propel Barbara Boxer to Re-election

Location: 
CA
United States
A ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in California could help propel endangered incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) to re-election in November, according to a respected polling expert.
Publication/Source: 
The Raw Story (DC)
URL: 
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/09/california-pot-initiative-propel-barbara-boxer-reelection/

Drug Policy Emerges as Issue: Challenger, Incumbent Differ on Legalization

Nicholas W. Payne, the Green Party candidate vying to unseat five-term incumbent Rep. Clark J. Chapin, R-New Milford, believes the state would save both dollars and lives by legalizing drugs. "This election's all about money, jobs and taxes," Payne said. "In New Milford you don't see violence on the streets ... It's the expense of (fighting illegal drugs) I'm going after."
Publication/Source: 
American-Republican (CT)
URL: 
http://www.rep-am.com/articles/2010/09/20/news/elections/508464.txt

Rockefeller Repeal Leader Wins NY Democratic AG Nomination

New York state Sen. Eric Schneiderman, author of last year's Rockefeller drug law reform legislation, won the Democratic Party nomination for state attorney general in last week's primary election. Scheiderman won 34% of the vote in a five-person race, besting Nassau County prosecutor Kathleen Rice, who came in second with 32%.

Eric Schneiderman
He will face Republican nominee Staten Island prosecutor Dan Donovan in the November 2 general election. In his victory speech, Scheiderman vowed to follow "the same aggressive, progressive approach" as current Democratic Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, who is favored to win the governor's race.

While all five Democratic attorney general candidates vowed to take a hard line on public corruption, help prevent another Wall Street crisis, and protect New Yorkers from terrorism, Schneiderman also played up his drug reform credentials.

On his issues page, Schneiderman touts his authorship of Rockefeller reform legislation, adding that the laws "were not only unfair and unsustainable, but an economic and moral threat to every New Yorker," and advertisements running during the campaign cited it as well. The New York Times also cited Schneiderman's championing of Rockefeller reform among its key reasons for endorsing him in the primary.

Scheiderman goes into greater detail in his Agenda for the Office of New York Attorney General. In addition to touting his role in Rockefeller law reform and in cosponsoring the law that forbids law enforcement agencies from keeping files on innocent people who have been stopped and frisked, Schneiderman vows to monitor and report on stop and frisk searches and to examine the criminal justice system for system-wide biases. He also promises to ease rehabilitation and reentry for ex-convicts and to promote a color-blind criminal justice system.

(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.)

NY
United States

Washington Prosecutor Candidate Makes Drug Reform a Key Issue [FEATURE]

Snohomish County, Washington, stretches from the Seattle suburbs in the south to the city of Everett in the north. It encompasses the Pacific Coast and the Cascade Range, and come November, its 700,000 citizens will be electing a new prosecutor. One of the candidates is staking out a very progressive position on drug policy.

Jim Kenny with firefighters (jimkenny.org)
The campaign pits incumbent prosecutor Mark Roe against challenger Jim Kenny. Both are long-time prosecutors, Roe in Snohomish County and Kenny in Seattle, and both are Democrats. But only one supported I-1068, this year's failed marijuana legalization initiative, and only one is trying to make drug policy reform a winning issue. That would be Jim Kenny.

Under Washington election law, the top two vote-getters in the primary go to the general election ballot, regardless of party affiliation. Roe won the primary with 67% of the vote, while Kenny came in second with 31%.

"You could say I'm the underdog," Kenny told the Chronicle this week. "But we do have a plan to turn those numbers around and win in the general election. We think we can double the turnout over the primary election," he said.

With both candidates running as Democrats and experienced prosecutors, the challenger is looking for issues to differentiate himself from the incumbent, and for Kenny, drug policy is one of those issues. Reformist stances are drug policy positions are prominently displayed on his campaign web site's issues page. Roe does not even have an issues page.

Kenny supported I-1068 because "it was the right thing to do," he said. "I supported 1068 for a variety of reasons," said the veteran prosecutor. "I think it was the right thing to do to end 40 years of the war on drugs and marijuana prohibition. It could have had financial benefits for the state through a redirection of law enforcement resources or potentially even a reduction in the need for those resources."

Kenny pointed out that there were 12,000 marijuana prosecutions in Washington in 2008. "Those prosecutions cost the state more than $18 million," he said. "If you legalize marijuana, you would reduce the need for all those arrests, prosecutions, and incarcerations. You can save those resources, or redirect them to fight real crime."

"You could also tax marijuana, and those tax dollars would be a real financial benefit to the state," he said.

"Another reason 1068 made a lot of sense," Kenny continued, "is that it started allowing our community in the state of Washington to look at drugs within a public health model instead of a criminal justice model. We spent 40 years prosecuting people for drugs, but now the Obama administration has come out with a new drug control strategy that walks away from war on drugs rhetoric and talks about dealing with drugs as a public health issue. It didn't involve any changing of programs or funding, but I think it's significant for the federal government to disavow the term 'war on drugs.' That provides the opportunity for people at the local level, for prosecutors, to run with it. I'm afraid the federal government may not take more significant steps in that direction, but it is something local governments can run with."

Kenny also sought to draw a sharp line between himself and Roe on medical marijuana. "My opponent is prosecuting some sick and injured people as felons for marijuana distribution, and I think that's the wrong thing to do," Kenny said. "People with medical marijuana authorizations should be treated as patients, not criminals."

Talking drug policy reform could be a winning issue, or at least not a losing one in Western Washington, said Seattle attorney Rachel Kurtz. "I feel like we're pretty advanced here," she said. "[Drug reformer and state representative] Roger Goodman runs for office, and in his last election he was attacked for not doing enough on drug reform. In this financial climate, drug policy reform is seen as a way to save money and taxes. I don't think Kenny is going to lose because of his drug policy stances. The electorate is becoming smarter and you can use those old tactics anymore," she said.

Kenny isn't just talking about pot. He is also advocating innovative criminal justice measures to reduce incarceration levels and promising to bring transparency to police-involved shootings. It's all part of what he calls "smart on crime" policies, as opposed to "tough on crime."

"We need to continue to incarcerate serious and violent offenders, but for low- and mid-level offenders we can do more," Kenny said. "In other cities across the country, they are using some innovative ideas to help people help themselves by addressing root causes, such as mental health and drug and alcohol problems," he said, pointing to problem-solving courts, such as drug court, mental health court, and veterans' court.

Snohomish County, with a large naval base and veteran population, should have a veterans' court, Kenny argued. "It's a specialized court with a redirection of resources where you might take in all the vets' cases," he said. "It's really about asking these defendants what's going on with them, why are they doing this, looking at their criminal histories and asking how we can change this. Ideally, it involves additional resources, particularly getting people into alcohol and drug treatment. It's about slowing down the process and asking why, and that makes a real difference."

The county does have a drug court, Kenny noted, but needs more problem-solving courts. "Those programs have been expanded in places in the country and the state, and we need to bring them to Snohomish County."

He also favors alternative sentencing arrangements. "Work crews, electronic monitoring, community service -- all of those keep people out of jail and allow us to not have to build a second jail any time in the near future. If we can use these tools to reduce recidivism, especially without putting people in jail, that would be a good thing," he said. "My conservative opponents don't like to focus on the fact that jail can be a school for criminals."

Kenny is also taking a strong stand on accountability for police-involved killings. In the past 18 months, Snohomish police have shot six people to death and Tasered one to death. Those killings need a light shone on them, he said.

"That's a real concern. I want to establish mandatory inquests," he said. "Inquests are not a criminal case, but a fact-finding investigation to find out what happened and whether it was justified. We need some transparency for these incidents where police use lethal force in the name of the community. There is currently no inquest, so unless the decedent files a lawsuit, we may never hear what happened in that particular case. And even then, civil cases are settled out of court all the time. Bad things could be happening and we never learn the details of why."

Mandatory inquests would be "good for the community and good for the police," Kenny said. "It gives police the opportunity to take the stand and explain why they used lethal force. They should explain to the community why. It costs some money, but it will provide transparency, and the community can rely on the fact that the police are doing the right thing."

When, running on a drug reform platform, New York prosecutor David Soares defeated the incumbent in the Albany County district attorney race in 2004, it was a shock. It is a measure of how far we have come that if Kenny manages to pull off a long-shot victory in November, it will be no shock at all, just a pleasant surprise.

(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.)

Everett, WA
United States

Kentucky Republican Governor Candidate Supports Legal Hemp

Kentucky Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Moffett has come out in support of legalizing industrial hemp production. That makes him the second gubernatorial candidate in the state to embrace the idea. Perennial independent candidate Gatewood Galbraith has called for its legalization for years.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/philmoffett.jpg
Phil Moffett
Moffett is one of at least three Republicans contending for the party's nod to challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. Steven Beshear. The gubernatorial election is set for 2011.

Moffett, who along with US Senate candidate Rand Paul is part of the tea party insurgency within the Bluegrass State's Republican Party, came out on the issue in response to a question during a meeting with libertarian voters last Thursday and reaffirmed his support in an interview with the Associated Press last Friday.

He is ready to "go to the carpet" to legalize hemp production, he told the AP. "We're going to have to challenge the federal authority to keep us from growing a legitimate crop," he said. "Industrial hemp is not a drug, so it shouldn't be regulated by the DEA or any other federal authority."

Moffett said he supported hemp production both for economic reasons and as a means of reducing the power of the federal government. "It's a farm product that can be used in a number of different ways to create jobs, but it's also a way to get the federal government farther off our back," Moffett said Friday. "Right now, the Drug Enforcement Agency does not allow hemp to be grown, and it would be a great test case for us to fight against the federal government to be able grow a completely legitimate crop that the federal government has decided they don't believe is worthy of planting."

Moffett doesn't favor marijuana legalization and he opposes medical marijuana "on an official level," he said. "But on a personal level, if someone were dying of cancer and marijuana was the only way they could find comfort, I'm not going to get in the way," he said. "There's a humanitarian aspect to this."

While industrial hemp may be imported for use in this country, American farmers are barred from growing it by the federal government. Nine states -- Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia -- have passed legislation removing barriers to its production or research, according to the industry group Vote Hemp.

(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.)

KY
United States

Weird Drug Politics in the Kentucky Senate Campaign [FEATURE]

Drug policy has become a hot-button issue in the Kentucky US Senate race, albeit in a weird and tangential way. The race pits insurgent tea party/libertarian Republican Rand Paul, the son of anti-prohibitionist US Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), against Democrat Jack Conway, the Kentucky attorney general.

Rand Paul campaigning in Frankfort, KY (courtesy Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia)
Neither candidate even mentions drug policy on their campaign web sites, but remarks by Paul earlier this month that he opposed federal earmarks such as those that fund the anti-drug task force Operation UNITE and drug treatment programs, and that drug policy was not a "pressing issue" for Kentucky voters have reverberated across the Bluegrass State.

"I don't think it's a pressing issue," Paul said in response to a query from the Associated Press about his opposition to federal earmarks for drug law enforcement. He suggested that eastern Kentucky voters are more concerned with fiscal and cultural issues. "They're socially conservative out there," Rand said. "Jack's not. They're fiscally conservative. I am. Jack's not. I think we'll swamp him."

Paul's comments left an opening for Conway, who is trailing by about eight points in the most recent polls, to go on the attack. And the back and forth between the two campaigns has kept the drug issue in the spotlight since mid-August.

"Rand will handcuff local sheriffs trying to combat the drug epidemic, and I will make sure Kentucky's law enforcement has the tools they need to protect our families," Conway said. "That's my record as attorney general, and that's what I'll do in Washington."

Conway said that Kentucky, which is suffering from budget cuts, can't take on drug traffickers without federal help. Paul countered that that federal involvement is justified only when drugs are crossing state or federal borders.

Conway and his supporters have frequently resorted to describing drug use in Appalachian Kentucky, known as a marijuana growing hotbed and the home of numerous pill-poppers and meth cooks, as an "epidemic," and the conventional wisdom in Kentucky is that the area is rife with drug abuse.

But the conventional wisdom doesn't match up with the numbers. According to a recent report from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, drug use levels in eastern Kentucky are in line with those in the rest of the state and the rest of the country. The "epidemic," in other words, is a politically convenient figment of the collective imagination.

But that doesn't stop either campaign from bemoaning it. After an initial round of attacks from Conway and his supporters on the drug issue, Paul made a point of showing up at a privately-funded drug treatment center to insist that he does care about "the drug problem."

"It's been recently insinuated that somehow I don't care about the drug problem in Kentucky, and that's absolutely wrong," Paul said last week. He accused Conway of "pandering" on the drug issue.

The back and forth continued this week, with the Paul campaign accusing Conway of not doing enough to combat methamphetamine production as attorney general and the Conway campaign bringing out sheriffs to attack Rand for undercutting their drug war.

But for all the blows thrown around the drug issue, Paul's attack on federal funding for drug task forces and drug treatment does not appear to be part of an anti-prohibitionist assault on drug war orthodoxy -- Paul does not call for ending marijuana prohibition or drug prohibition in general. Instead, it is part and parcel of his anti-federal spending campaign message.

And while Paul supported medical marijuana in the primary campaign, he has gone a bit squishy on the issue since then. In August, the AP ran a story saying that "he said he opposed the legalization of marijuana, even for medicinal purposes." The campaign didn't deny or confirm that report for more than a week, until asked directly about it by Mike Meno of the Marijuana Policy Project. Campaign staffers then told Meno Paul was standing by his states' rights position on the issue, but refused to say whether Paul personally supported medical marijuana.

"His big campaign message is to cut back on the size of the federal government, get the deficit under control, and he's been heavy-handed in going after earmarks like Operation UNITE, and those are very important in this state," said University of Louisville political scientist Laurie Rhodebeck. "So some of the sheriffs and mid-level political people, particularly in Eastern Kentucky, are not happy with what Paul's been saying about that. I don't know that these folks were likely to support him in the first place, but I've seen even some Republican county executives who seem appalled he's taking this position," she said.

"Part of Paul's strategy is to try to make Conway look like just another robot for Pelosi and Obama," said Rhodebeck. "Conway has to latch onto some issues, and the drug issue presented itself as something he can run with. I think it's a reasonable strategy for him to pursue this."

"Those federal task forces are just another way to waste money on an utterly failed strategy," said Ted Galen Carpenter, an analyst with the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, who agreed with Paul's attack on Operation UNITE. "If we want to spend money studying a way out of prohibition, that's one thing, but I wouldn't favor spending another dollar to enforce our idiotic drug laws."

Still, Carpenter took Paul to task for saying drug policy was not "a pressing issue" for Kentucky voters. "This most certainly is a pressing issue," he said. "Aside from the continuous civil liberties issues, people in Kentucky should be just as concerned as most of the rest of the country about that conflagration we have going on across our southern border. As long as the US maintains its prohibitionist policies, we are giving billions of dollars to the Mexican cartels, and that's dangerously unwise. One wonders whether Rand Paul has taken a look at what's happening in Mexico."

The emergence of the drug issue in Kentucky and especially the critique from a Republican candidate suggests that it is an issue that can prove useful to either party, said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. But if Republicans want to make drug reform an issue, they have to be more coherent than Paul, he said.

"That Rand Paul is stepping out on drug policy reform and his opponent attacking him for it shows that reformers shouldn't take for granted that the Democrats are the party of reform," said Piper. "There was also a Republican drug reformer in the primary against Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and a Republican running against Barney Frank has said some things, so you have a legalizer Republican versus a legalizer Barney Frank."

But while Republicans are increasingly challenging the drug policy status quo, they don't know how to reach voters on the issue, Piper said. "Rand Paul doesn't know how to talk about this," he said. "He's talking about this in the context of taxes and spending, but as much as voters dislike taxes and spending, they've always made an exception for the drug war. He needs to be talking about how drug reform reduces the harms of drugs and keeps families safer."

Paul could take a lesson from another libertarian-leaning Republican, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, Piper said. "Gary Johnson got beaten up savagely before he learned how to frame it," he recalled. "Johnson still talks about freedom, but now he does a lot to reassure the listener that he cares about the problems associated with drug use."

"If Paul took this on head-on like Gary Johnson does and began saying it better, he would sound more rational than the Democrats," Piper said. "But by limiting the discussion to what the federal government should be doing, he's almost conceding his opponent's points. I suspect Rand Paul gets it about drug prohibition and he wants to wrap it in a safe way, but drugs is not an issue you can do that with. You have to say the war on drugs is making your teens less safe."

For Rand Paul, the real issue is not drug reform, but reining in federal spending. Whether his foray into the morass of drug politics will derail his campaign remains to be seen.

(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.)

KY
United States

Veteran Drug Reformer Wins Florida House Primary

Long-time drug reform advocate Jodi James has won the Democratic primary for Florida House District 31, in Brevard County on the Central Florida Atlantic Coast. She will now face Republican incumbent John Tobia (R-Melbourne) in the November general election.

Jodi James at work
James also won the nomination in 2002, only to be defeated in the general election.

According to official figures from the Florida Secretary of State's office, James pulled down 44% of the vote in a three-way race. Her two opponents split the remainder, coming in with 28% each.

As the South Florida Gay News noted in bemoaning the loss of openly gay, fiscally conservative candidate Joe Pishgar in the race,"But Pishgar was not the only unique candidate in that race. Jodi James handily took the Primary as the NRA-endorsed daughter of a Deacon who wishes to relax marijuana laws and do away with FCAT testing in schools."

James has been active in drug reform politics since moving to the Sunshine State in 1995. She is a member of the Drug Policy Forum of Florida and served as executive director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network. She has also been active in Democratic Party politics at the state level.

On her campaign web site, James staked out a progressive position on criminal justice issues, saying: "Jodi James believes in a criminal justice system that focuses on restoration for the victim first. She supports everyone having equal access to the courts. Justice can only be served if everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. Jodi supports restoration of civil rights upon the completion of sentences and alternatives to incarceration when public safety can reasonably be assured."

In addition, in her "issues at a glance" section, she lists herself as supporting "smart on crime practices that bring justice to the victim" and "sensible drug policies that reduce crime." A link next to that item opens up the web site of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

With her primary victory, Jodi James has taken another step on drug reform's long march through the institutions of power. Let's hope there are many more reformers following in her footsteps.

(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.)

Melbourne, FL
United States

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