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Pardons: The Power Nobody Wants  


Pardons: The Power Nobody Wants

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

6 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.


The New School

John L. Tishman Auditorium

66 West 12 Street

New York City


The Hon. Dennis Jacobs, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and a distinguished panel of experts explore the history and real-world application of the power of pardon at the state and federal level. Following opening remarks by New School president David E. Van Zandt, Judge Jacobs explains the history of the power, its role in correcting injustice in the application of criminal law, and the way the decline in its use reflects a missed opportunity, lack of imagination, and failure of courage. 

Our panel then examines the critical historical, legal, economic, and ethical issues surrounding the pardon power and the implications of its greater or lesser use. Panelists include:  


  • Moderator: Senator Bob Kerrey, President Emeritus, The New School. 
  • Hon. Dennis Jacobs, Chief Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. 
  • Hon. Robert L. Ehrlich, Senior Counsel, King & Spalding; former Governor of Maryland; former Congressman (R-MD), U.S. House of Representatives. 

·       JulieStewart, Attorney; President and Founder, Families Against Mandatory Minimums. 

  • Margaret Colgate Love, Attorney; former Pardon Attorney, Office of the Pardon Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice. 
  • Anthony Papa, Manager, Media Relations, Drug Policy Alliance; clemency recipient following imprisonment for first-time, nonviolent drug offense under New York’s draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws.
Wed, 10/26/2011 - 6:00pm - 7:30pm
66 W. 12th St.
New York, NY
United States

RAND Pulls LA Marijuana Dispensary Crime Study, Pending Review

In the face of withering criticism from local law enforcement officials, the RAND Corporation has removed from its web site, at least temporarily pending review, a September study that found that crime increased when medical marijuana dispensaries closed down. That study concluded that there is "no evidence that medical marijuana dispensaries in general cause crime to rise."

The study was subject to immediate attack from local officials, particularly from avowed medical marijuana foe LA County District Attorney Carmen Trutanich and from the LA city attorney's office. Trutanich called the study's results "highly suspect and unreliable" and claimed they were based on "faulty assumptions, conjecture, conjecture, irrelevant data, untested measurements and incomplete results."

Special Assistant City Attorney Jane Usher and Assistant City Attorney Asha Greenberg, whose office argued in court that dispensaries bred crime when successfully seeking to limit their numbers, added to the pressure on RAND. "Until you publicly retract your work, we expect the RAND publication to be referenced nationwide, at incalculable avoidable harm to public health and safety," they hyperbolically wrote.

The RAND study examined crime reports for 10 days before and 10 days after the city ordered more than 70% of the city's 638 dispensaries to close in June 2010. The researchers analyzed crime reports in neighborhoods where dispensaries had closed and compared them to neighborhoods where dispensaries stayed open.

RAND bent to the pressure this week. "We took a fresh look at the study based in part upon questions raised by some folks following publication, RAND spokesman Warren Robak told Toke of the Town. "The LA City Attorney's Office has been the organization most vocal in its criticism of the study."

The study has been taken down for review, but not retracted, Robak clarified. "I don't have an estimate of when the review will be complete and the study will reappear," he said.

Americans for Safe Access, the nation's largest medical marijuana advocacy group, decried the intrusion of politics into the realm of science and urged RAND to stand its ground. "When will objective science on medical marijuana be honestly and thoroughly considered without the intrusion and constraints of politics?" the group asked. "As a decades-old institution, RAND should stand by its research and not buckle to political pressure."

Los Angeles, CA
United States

California Gov. Brown Signs Needle Access Bills

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has signed into law a pair of bills that will expand access to clean needles and help prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C infections in the state. The move is winning him kudos from drug reformers and public health advocates.

Badly needed needle exchanges could be coming to more CA counties under a bill just signed by Gov Brown. (
The first bill, Senate Bill 41, sponsored by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), makes legal the sale of syringes at pharmacies without a prescription. An earlier pilot program allowing such sales had been in effect in some counties and has proven effective at reducing needle-sharing, but most counties did not participate. Now, once the bill goes into effect on January 1, people will be able to buy syringes without a prescription at pharmacies statewide.

The second bill, AB 604, sponsored by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), allows the California Department of Public Health to authorize new needle exchange programs after consultation with local public health and law enforcement. Currently, needle exchange programs are only authorized after county officials declare a public health emergency, and the political will to do that has been lacking in some counties. This bill allows public health officials to take the initiative instead of waiting for elected officials. It, too, will go into effect on January 1.

"I am directing the department to administer AB 604 in a constrained way, working closely not only with local health officers and police chiefs, but with neighborhood associations as well," said Gov. Brown in his signing statement. "I believe that AB 604 can reduce the spread of communicable diseases and the suffering they cause and, at the same time, respect public safety and local preference."

"This is a huge victory for public health and common sense," said Laura Thomas, Deputy Director of California for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Now all Californians will have the same access to proven, effective HIV and hepatitis C prevention. This gives drug users the tools that they need to protect their health and that of their partners, children, and communities, as well as protecting the California taxpayer from the cost of HIV and hepatitis C infections."

Sacramento, CA
United States

Brown Vetoes California Hemp Bill, Criticizes Federal Ban

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has vetoed a bill that would have allowed farmers in select counties to grow hemp, saying it would subject them to federal prosecution, but in doing so, he lashed out at the federal ban on hemp farming in the US, calling it "absurd."

hemp field at sunrise (
Sponsored by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the bill, Senate Bill 676, would have allowed farmers in four Central California counties to grow industrial hemp for the legal sale of hemp seed, oil, and fiber to manufacturers. The bill specified that hemp must contain less than 0.3% THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, and farmers would have to submit their crops to testing before they go to market.

The bill had mandated an eight-year pilot program that would end in 2020, but not before the California attorney general would issue a report on law enforcement impact and the Hemp Industries Association would issue a report on its economic impact.

But although, like three other hemp bills that have been vetoed in California in the past decade, the bill passed the legislature and had the broadest support of any hemp measure considered in the state, Gov. Brown killed it, citing the federal proscription on hemp farming.

"Federal law clearly establishes that all cannabis plants, including industrial hemp, are marijuana, which is a federally regulated controlled substance," Brown said in his veto message. "Failure to obtain a permit from the US Drug Enforcement Administration prior to growing such plants will subject a California farmer to prosecution," he noted.

"Although I am not signing this measure, I do support a change in federal law," Brown continued. "Products made from hemp -- clothes, food, and bath products -- are legally sold in California every day. It is absurd that hemp is being imported into the state, but our farmers cannot grow it."

Industry groups were not assuaged by Brown's language criticizing the federal hemp ban. In a press release Monday, Vote Hemp and the Hemp Industries Association blasted the veto.

"Vote Hemp and The Hemp Industries Association are extremely disappointed by Gov. Brown's veto. This is a big setback for not only the hemp industry -- but for farmers, businesses, consumers and the California economy as a whole. Hemp is a versatile cash and rotation crop with steadily rising sales as a natural, renewable food and body care ingredient. It's a shame that Gov. Brown agreed that the ban on hemp farming was absurd and yet chose to block a broadly supported effort to add California to the growing list of states that are demanding the return of US hemp farming. There truly was overwhelming bipartisan support for this bill," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp and executive director of the HIA.

"After four vetoes in ten years in California, it is clear we lack a governor willing to lead on this important ecological, agricultural and economic issue. We will regroup, strategize and use this veto to our advantage at the federal level," added Vote Hemp Director and co-counsel Patrick Goggin.

The US hemp market is now estimated to be about $420 million in annual retail sales, but manufacturers must turn to foreign suppliers because the DEA, which refuses to differentiate between industrial hemp and recreational and medical marijuana, bars its cultivation here.

Sacramento, CA
United States

Montana to Feds: Let Our Medical Marijuana Patients Have Guns

Montana's attorney general has become the latest high-ranking political figure in Big Sky Country to blast the Obama administration and its Department of Justice over a September 21 memo from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) instructing federal licensed firearms dealers that medical marijuana patients are "addicts" or "Illegal drug users" who cannot be sold firearms or ammunition. [Editor's Note: See our September 28 feature article on the issue here.] Attorney General Steve Bullock (D) now joins the entire state congressional delegation in blasting the administration's position.

Montana, which legalized medical marijuana through a popular vote in 2004, has more than 24,000 registered medical marijuana patients. It also has more than 200,000 hunters and issued more than 580,000 hunting licenses last year.

In a letter sent Monday to US Attorney General Eric Holder, Bullock strongly objected to the ATF's "unilateral" approach to the issue and said he was willing to explore "reasonable solutions" to the problems created by the AFT letter. The goal would be to find an approach that works for the 16 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized medical marijuana, he said.

"This would be much better than the type of unilateral proclamation represented by the ATF letter, which was issued without any advance notice or discussion with the elected officials who represent more than one-fourth of this nation's population and one-third of its states," Bullock wrote. "In the meantime, I respectfully request that the Department of Justice not pursue any criminal prosecutions against law-abiding citizens in Montana who exercise their constitutional rights to possess guns and enjoy hunting, or the licensees who are implicitly threatened by ATF's letter."

The ATF memo warns dealers they cannot sell guns or ammo to medical marijuana users "even if the person uses it in full compliance with state law that authorizes its use for medical purposes," Bullock complained. "The letter even takes it a step further by emphasizing that ATF is placing the responsibility on licensees to determine if there is reasonable cause to believe that the purchaser did not accurately fill out the ATF forms," he said.

While recognizing the supremacy clause in the US Constitution, Bullock added that the AFT memo raised constitutional issues around the right to bear arms, equal protection, and due process. "In our federal system of dual sovereignty, I respectfully suggest that the federal government should act in a careful manner when its laws and policies involve conflicts with those of the state," he said.

Bullock is just the latest high-ranking Montana elected official to come out swinging against the ATF memo. Last week, Sens. Max Baucus (D) and Jon Tester (D) joined US Rep. Denny Rehberg (R) in criticizing the federal move.

In a letter last Wednesday to Holder and memo author Arthur Herbert, ATF assistant director for enforcement, Tester urged them to "immediately reconsider this misguided effort."

"These regulatory changes infringe upon the privacy and Second Amendment rights of Montanans while placing an unreasonable burden upon the small-business owners who sell firearms and ammunition," Tester said. "It is unacceptable that law-abiding citizens would be stripped of their Second Amendment rights simply because they hold a state-issued card authorizing the possession and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Tester's colleague Max Baucus also chimed in. "Our Second Amendment rights are a part of who we are as Montanans, and I’ve always fought hard to protect our right to bear arms," Baucus said. "I’m concerned to hear ATF may be impeding the rights of law-abiding folks. Individual gun rights must be protected and I’ll never stop fighting to make sure they stay intact."

A spokesman for Rep. Rehberg told the Billings Gazette that he, too, opposed the policy. "Between the ATF clamping down on gun rights and two new anti-gun Supreme Court justices, Montanans’ Second Amendment rights are once again under fire from Washington," spokesman Jed Link said Thursday. "Denny’s going to keep fighting to protect this critical right from Washington overreach, whether it is legislative, executive or judicial."

The criticisms from high-ranking elected officials come on the heels of angry reactions last week from medical marijuana advocates and gun rights advocates in Montana. In a fiercely divided state, the ATF memo has managed to unite Republicans and Democrats, at least on one issue.

United States

Rhode Island Governor Nixes Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Bowing to pressure from Washington, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I) announced last Thursday that he will not allow the state to move forward with a plan to open three long-delayed medical marijuana dispensaries. That leaves thousands of Rhode Island patients to their own devices when it comes to procuring their medicine.
Lincoln Chafee
"After much internal and external discussion and research, I have decided that the State of Rhode Island cannot proceed with the licensing and regulation of medical marijuana compassion centers under current law,'' Chafee said in a statement.

The announcement came two days after the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition announced its plans to sue the governor and force him to lift his hold on the compassion centers.

Rhode Island became a medical marijuana state in 2006, when the legislature overrode a gubernatorial veto to pass the Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act. But that law did not allow for dispensaries, and in 2009, the legislature passed a law authorizing the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana through three state-registered and -regulated dispensaries.

Despite growing pressure from patients and doctors, movement toward actually implementing the dispensary system was achingly slow. After two years of reviews and public hearings, the state announced in March that it had selected three dispensaries to serve Rhode Island's nearly 4,000 registered patients. But the next month, US Attorney Peter Neronha sent Chafee a letter warning that people involved in large-scale drug production operations could face civil and criminal prosecution, prompting Chafee to block the issuing of licenses pending clarification from Neronha and the US Department of Justice.

Now, Chafee has decided that the federal threats are valid.

"Unfortunately, Rhode Island's compassion center law is illegal under paramount federal law," he said in the statement. "And, while the United States Attorney in each district is given some discretion in the local enforcement of federal laws, I have received communications from both the United States Department of Justice and from the United States Attorney for the District of Rhode Island that large scale commercial operations such as Rhode Island's compassion centers will be potential targets of 'vigorous' criminal and civil enforcement efforts by the federal government. I cannot implement a state marijuana cultivation and distribution system which is illegal under federal law and which will become a target of federal law enforcement efforts. Federal injunctions, seizures, forfeitures, arrests and prosecutions will only hurt the patients and caregivers that our law was designed to protect."

Chafee added that he remains "committed to improving the existing medical marijuana cultivation and distribution system in Rhode Island" and that he hoped the legislature would address flaws in the system in the upcoming session. "I pledge to work with advocates, patients and members of the General Assembly towards that end."

No state or national groups had officially reacted to Chafee's move by the time this story went to press, but in an email announcing the bad news, the Marijuana Policy Project urged supporters to tell Chafee to "reverse course" and let the program go ahead. Federal threats hadn't stopped other states, the group noted.

"It's been over two years since the General Assembly passed legislation creating compassion centers in Rhode Island," MPP wrote. "In that time, Maine, Vermont, Delaware, Arizona, and New Jersey have all enacted laws allowing for regulated dispensing of medical marijuana. All of these states, with the exception of Arizona, are moving forward with giving patients the humane option of safe access, despite the fact that the laws irk officials in DC."

Providence, RI
United States

ATF Says No Guns for Medical Marijuana Patients [FEATURE]

In a memo released last week, the US Department of Justice has notified federal firearms dealers that medical marijuana patients are "addicts" or "unlawful drug users" who cannot legally own weapons or ammunition. A medical marijuana registration card is proof enough to deny a weapons sale, the memo said. That has medical marijuana advocates crying foul, but national gun rights groups -- not so much. [Update: One national group now has responded; see the statement from Gun Owners of America in the text below.]

No "Sweetness" for Medical Marijuana Patients, ATF Says
The memo was authored by Arthur Herbert, Assistant Director for Enforcement Programs and Services for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF). Herbert said he wrote the memo after receiving "a number of inquiries about the use of marijuana for medical purposes, and its applicability to federal firearms laws."

Herbert cited the section of the federal criminal code that prohibits anyone who is "an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance" from possessing firearms. He reminded firearms dealers that they cannot legally sell guns to people they have reasonable cause to believe are illegal drug users or addicts and wrote that anyone presenting a medical marijuana registration card is providing reasonable cause for the dealer to believe they are illegal drug users or addicts.

Despite the Obama administration's 2009 Justice Department memo famously vowing not to go after patients and providers in compliance with state laws, the federal government has never wavered from its stance that, despite state medical marijuana laws, marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance.

"Any person who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether or not his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or is addicted to a controlled substance and is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition," Herbert wrote.

While the federal gun law is not new, its restatement with specific reference to medical marijuana patients is, and that has advocates concerned.

"This is more evidence of the Obama administration's malfeasance with regard to medical marijuana," said Dale Gieringer, long-time director of California NORML. "They have a real penchant for over-regulation. We've seen it with the Treasury rules and warnings to banks, we've seen it with the continued arrests by other federal agencies. What's particularly disturbing is that this memo comes from a Justice Department that three years ago said it was going to respect state laws regarding medical marijuana."

"I don't think the feds are going to go after gun dealers selling to medical marijuana patients, but the important this is that if you use this medicine your constitutional rights are forfeit," said Morgan Fox, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project. "This is just a travesty. Trying to treat medical marijuana patients like second-class citizens and stripping them of their rights as they are dealing with illness is just despicable."

"The possession of a firearm could make a medical marijuana patient vulnerable to additional charges and sentencing if convicted of a federal marijuana crime, and patients should be aware of that," said Kris Hermes, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access. "However, it is not the federal government's place to prevent medical marijuana patients from owning firearms. Following in the footsteps of the Justice Department, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development, the ATF memo illustrates how yet another arm of the Obama Administration has demonized medical marijuana and the patient community. The ATF memo underscores the need for a comprehensive policy from the Obama administration that treats medical marijuana as the public health issue that it is," Hermes concluded.

While medical marijuana supporters have expressed outrage, groups that can usually be counted on to stand up for Second Amendment rights have been largely silent. Although the National Shooting Sports Foundation was the first place outside ATF to post the open letter, it has not responded to repeated Chronicle requests to comment on the Second Amendment rights of medical marijuana users. Neither has the National Rifle Association.

After this article went to publication, Gun Owners of America executive director Larry Pratt belatedly replied to our requests for comment.

"ATF seems to be dazed now that their Fast & Furious accessory-to-murder scheme has come to light," Pratt said. "Their first blind punch was the demand letter regarding multiple rifle sales in the four southwest border states. Not only is it a stupid attempt to try to blame gun stores for what ATF was telling them to do (or doing it directly themselves), but it is illegal. Now they want FFLs to profile gun buyers to guess who looks like a marijuana user.  Again, they have no legal authority to ask for such an impossibility. What's not to like?"

In Montana, where both medical marijuana and gun rights are perennial hot topics, patients and firearms enthusiasts seem to have started on the same page.

"It is egregious that people may be sentenced to years in a federal prison only because they possessed a firearm while using a state- approved medicine," said Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association.

"This is making people pretty crazy here in Montana," said Kate Chowela of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association. "This is a gun owning state, hunting is a big part of our tradition, we have that whole independent frontier thing going on. The government is rescinding the Second Amendment rights of people who use marijuana for their medical conditions. We have had the feeling that this was the policy, but now that we see it in writing for the first time, that really cements it," she added.

The policy may be cemented, but that doesn't mean the law on Second Amendment rights for medical marijuana patients is set in stone.

"It's all well and good for a federal agency to tell us what they think the law is, and that's what ATF has done," said Keith Stroup, founder and current counsel for NORML. But there is no federal or state court decision that has held a medical marijuana patient is disqualified from owning a gun."

"This breaks down like Justice Department opinion in general. They say they have a legal right to deny gun ownership, but they can't force the states to comply with that; they'll just have to enforce the law themselves," Fox said. "This is just a restatement of policy; there have been no court battles over it yet."

There could be one coming. In a case decided in May, Willis v. Winters, the Oregon Supreme Court upheld circuit and appeals court rulings that the Jackson and Washington county sheriffs could not deny concealed weapons permits to medical marijuana patients. The Oregon Sheriff's Association has now petitioned the US Supreme Court, which will consider whether to take up the appeal in an October 7 conference.

"In the Oregon concealed handgun cases, we argued that medical marijuana patients are not 'illegal drug users or addict' as that term is used in federal law, based on the legislative history of the law," explained attorney Leland Berger, who argued the case."The Oregon sheriffs have petitioned the US Supreme Court for certiori," Berger said. "I wrote the court saying that the cases were not certiori worthy and that we waived a response to the petition unless they asked us to file one."

In the meantime, CANORML's Gieringer had some common sense advice for patients and dispensary operators. "If you're a medical marijuana patient, don't mention it when you go buy a gun," recommended Gieringer. But he had a word of warning for dispensary operators. "I assume the feds will be ready to use this if they are prosecuting a dispensary and there were any guns on board," he said.

Washington, DC
United States

Montana Medical Marijuana Initiative Poised for Ballot [FEATURE]

Even with the last voter signatures due to be turned in Friday afternoon, it now appears that an initiative referendum campaign to undo regressive changes in Montana's medical marijuana law will be on the November 2012 ballot. Organizers for IR-124 told the Chronicle Wednesday they had already turned in 40,000 signatures, well in excess of the 24,337 valid voter signatures needed to make the ballot and that they expected to turn in thousands more by Friday's 5:00 pm deadline.

Gov. Schweitzer vetoed one anti-medical marijuana bill, but gave in the second time.
As of Wednesday, the Montana Secretary of State's office reported that 19,973 valid signatures had been received, but that is a lagging indicator. In Montana, signatures are handed in first to county officials, who validate the signatures, and then send them on to Helena. As many as 10,000 gathered signatures are being examined by county officials now, with more still coming in the next couple of days.

"We probably have about 10,000 yet to be processed, and we'll give them another few thousand between now and then," said Rose Habib of Patients for Reform -- Not Repeal, which is spearheading the effort. "Signature gathering has gone really well, and we're confident we will make the ballot. We're just waiting for the counties to finish counting what we're giving them.

Montana law also requires initiatives to get signatures from 5% of the voters in at least 34 of the state's 100 legislative districts. So far, the initiative has done that in 31 districts, and the campaign is confident it will pass that hurdle as well.

The almost all-volunteer effort -- there were a handful of paid signature gatherers in the last two weeks -- was a success because people were strongly motivated, Habib said. "People feel very strongly they were not represented by their legislature, and what they do and how they earn a living and how they medicate themselves is something that is completely defensible and needs to be dealt with responsibly by the legislature," she said.

"Things look really good. It's pretty amazing what a volunteer effort has been able to do," said Matt Leow of M+R Strategic Services, a political consultancy firm brought in to help manage the campaign. "We've worked on many, many of these campaigns, and we've never seen anything like the volunteer effort here."

"By all accounts, this has been an impressive volunteer effort," said Kate Chowela of the Montana Cannabis Industry Association, which had begun working toward an initiative earlier this year. "No one wants to say much before all the numbers are in, but we are confident this will make the ballot."

The initiative campaign is in response to the Republican-controlled state legislature, which first passed a bill to completely repeal the state's voter-approved medical marijuana law, and then, after it was vetoed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), passed another bill, Senate Bill 423, essentially gutting the state's medical marijuana distribution system. That bill was challenged in court, and parts of it were enjoined, but other onerous portions of it remain in effect.

That will be the case until and unless Montanans vote for the initiative next November. Organizers could have attempted to repeal the law outright through the initiative process, but that would have required three times the number of signatures needed to get this measure on the ballot, and that was beyond the reach of the ill-funded, nearly all-volunteer effort.

"This new program does not work. Seriously ill patients are having trouble getting access to their medicine in the wake of SB 423," said Sarah Baugh, a patient and spokesperson for Patients for Reform -- Not Repeal. "Montanans agree that patients with serious conditions should have access to medical marijuana and that government has no business interfering in medical decisions between those patients and their doctors. SB 423 goes too far and harms patients’ rights."

The legislative attack on medical marijuana this year came after the state's program mushroomed in the wake of the Obama administration's October 2009 Depart of Justice memo suggesting that the federal government would not interfere with people following state law in states where medical marijuana is legal.

Along with a rapid growth in the number of registered card holders, the state saw an explosion of storefront dispensaries, as well as some operators willing to push the envelope in ways that deeply affronted some conservative Montanans. Medical marijuana caravans crisscrossing the state, doctors' recommendations issued remotely online, and defiant public pot-smoking displays didn't play well in parts of the state.

That led to intense debates about how to deal with medical marijuana in Montana, and after a strong Republican showing in the November 2010 elections sent a large Tea Party contingent to Helena, the legislature acted more like a wrecking ball than a renovation service when it came to the medical marijuana program.

"When those folks got to the statehouse, they were all about their ideological and moral imperatives," said Habib. "They wanted to impose their world-view on everyone, and there was some real railroading going on. We don’t think that what they did was representative of what Montana voters believe, but the legislature still stands by its position."

The shenanigans of some Montana medical marijuana industry players may have helped swing the pendulum toward the forces of reaction in 2010 and so far this year, but the heavy-handedness and overreaching of the Republican legislature is succeeding in swinging it back in a more progressive direction. The impressive volunteer campaign to make the ballot is one indication of that, but the real proof that the climate has changed will have to wait for November 2012.

United States

NYPD Ordered to Stop Marijuana Possession Arrests

New York City may soon shed its infamous reputation as the pot bust capital of the world. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly issued an internal order on September 19 to the NYPD telling officers they can no longer arrest people for marijuana possession in public view if the marijuana was not in public view before officers either searched the person and produced it or the person produced it after an officer's demand that he empty his pockets.

NYC City Hall
Although New York state has decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, the NYPD has made a practice of stopping people -- mainly young people of color -- on the streets, searching them or demanding they empty their pockets, then charging them with possession in public view. Unlike simple pot possession, which is only a ticketable offense, possession in public view is an arrestable offense that typically results in a day-long stay in jail before the defendant can appear before a judge.

New York City and the NYPD have come under increasingly heat over the practice, which has resulted in tens of thousands of marijuana in public view arrests each year in recent years. The policy began under the administration of then Mayor Rudy Giuliani, but has continued under the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who famously admitted having smoked pot and enjoying it.

Both city council members and state representatives have recently taken up the call to end the practice. A bipartisan bill to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in public view was recently introduced in Albany.

"Questions have been raised about the processing of certain marihuana arrests," Kelly wrote in the internal order delivered to commanders this week. "At issue is whether the circumstances under which uniformed members of the service recover small amounts of marihuana ... from subjects in a public place support the charge of Criminal Possession of Marihuana in the Fifth Degree.

"The specific circumstances in question include occasions when the officers recover marihuana pursuant to a search of subject's person or upon direction to the subject to surrender the contents of his/her pockets or other closed container. A crime will not be charged to an individual who is compelled to engage in the behavior that results in the public display of marijuana. Such circumstances may constitute a violation of [the decriminalization statute], not [the possession in public view statute], a Class B misdemeanor.

"To support a charge [under the possession in public view statute], the public display of marijuana must be an activity taken under the suspect's own volition. Thus, uniformed members of the service may not charge the individual with [violation of the possession in public view statute], if the marihuana recovered was displayed to the public view at the officer's discretion."

So will New York City marijuana arrest numbers now plummet?

New York City, NY
United States

Massachusetts Marks 1,000th Narcan Overdose Reversal

State officials in Massachusetts announced Tuesday that the state's pilot Narcon (naloxone) pilot program has marked the 1,000th overdose reversal since the program was introduced in 2007. The program is part of a broader effort undertaken by the Department of Public Health, its Bureau of Substance Abuse Services and its Bureau of Infectious Disease Control to reduce fatal and non-fatal opiate overdoses.

Narcan is saving lives in Massachusetts. (image courtesy Cambridge OPEN)
Narcan is an opioid antagonist that blocks the effects of opioids, such as heroin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, fentanyl, codeine and methadone. The pilot programs teach people how to use Narcan, including opioid users and trusted people in their lives, such as family, friends and staff of human services programs. The Narcan pilot sites also provide education on overdose prevention and referrals to treatment. The Department of Public Health reported that more than 10,000 people are now enrolled in the pilot program, including drug users, friends, and family members.

"Too many families have been impacted by the rise in opiate abuse and overdoses in Massachusetts," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray, Chair of the Interagency Council on Substance Abuse and Prevention. "As we continue to combat opiate abuse and provide resources for prevention and treatment services, Narcan has proven to be a powerful tool in saving lives, so that opiate abusers can receive treatment and begin to recover from their addiction."

"Massachusetts is a national leader in opioid overdose prevention," said Secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby, MD. "By using community-based programs to enroll participants and distribute Intra-nasal Narcan, this pilot has allowed us to reach opioid users and bystanders in communities across the state."

Intra-nasal Narcan is available at pilot sites located in 12 Massachusetts cities, including Boston, Brockton, Cambridge, Fall River, Gloucester, Hyannis, Lynn, New Bedford, Northampton, Provincetown, Quincy and Springfield. The pilot sites provide education on overdose prevention, recognition and response to opiate users and family and friends of opiate users, along with referrals to treatment. Click here to learn more.

Boston, MA
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School