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This is What a Drug Legalization Activist Looks Like

You've likely already seen the explosive mainstream media coverage of Tuesday's superb press event by our friends at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, but I wanted to share this image that didn't make it into the papers:

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/LEAPvsONDCP.png
Photo by Irina Alexander

As we marched from the National Press Club over to the Office of National Drug Control Policy to deliver LEAP's report to the drug czar, many people on the street paused to stare. Who were these well-dressed men and women walking past the White House with a camera crew trailing behind? If they watched the evening news or read the paper the next morning, they now know the answer.

They are police, prosecutors, and prison wardens working to end the War on Drugs and they couldn't possibly have expected their message this week to reverberate any louder than it has. They are the definition of credibility in the drug war debate, and it is literally impossible to possess an informed opinion on these issues until you've carefully considered the concerns of these professionals and contemplated the solutions they propose.

That's why it's just such a shame – and really quite revealing – that the Drug Czar didn't invite them in when they arrived at his office to present the findings of LEAP's report. I know why I wasn't let in (I've written like 900 things condemning various drug czars for an exhausting array of outrages emerging from that office and wouldn't have stepped inside even if they let me, lest I might never be seen or heard from again). But I was just there to observe.

With us on Tuesday was Norm Stamper, who served as Police Chief of Seattle immediately prior to Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske. Their professional credentials are so remarkably similar, yet one relies on his vast experience to work towards fixing fundamental flaws in our drug policy, while the other cowers in his ivory tower in Washington, D.C. as he endeavors desperately to defend decades of unmitigated waste and destruction.

We'll see who history remembers as a champion of justice.

Our image posting system doesn't seem to allow a long enough caption to identify all of the LEAP marchers pictured above. Here is the rest of the caption, courtesy Eric Sterling: From Left, Howard Wooldridge, Executive Director, Citizens Opposing Prohibition (retired detective, Bath Township, Michigan); Eric E. Sterling, President, Criminal Justice Policy Foundation (former assistant counsel, Subcommittee on Crime, U.S. House of Representatives); Norman Stamper, LEAP (former Chief of Police, Seattle, WA, author of Breaking Rank); Leigh Maddox, Special Assistant State's Attorney, Baltimore City, MD, Adjunct Professor, University of Maryland School of Law, (former Captain, Maryland State Police); Neill Franklin, Executive Director, LEAP (former Major, Maryland State Police and Baltimore City Police); Matthew Fogg, LEAP, (former Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal); Richard Van Wickler, Superintendent of Corrections, Cheshire County, Stoddard, New Hampshire; (not shown, Terry Nelson, former supervisor, U.S. Department of Homeland Security).

Maine House Rejects Marijuana Legalization Bill

The Maine House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to reject a bill that would have brought the state closer to legalizing marijuana for recreational use. The bill failed on a vote of 107-39.

The Maine state capitol. There is no joy for pot fans in Augusta this week. (Image via Wikimedia.org)
Introduced by Sen. Diane Russell (D-Portland), the bill, LD 1453, would have legalized the possession and cultivation of marijuana for personal use and placed a 7% tax on pot sales. But the bill was amended in committee to propose a statewide voter referendum on the issue and to add a caveat that it would not take effect until marijuana was legal under federal law.

Even that watered down version of the bill was too much for opponents.

"I don’t believe the time has come yet for this," said Rep. Michael Celli (R-Brewer) during debate. "We have to let the federal government make the first move."

Supporters of the measure argued in vain that Maine was wasting $26 million a year enforcing the pot laws and that citizens should at least be given the chance to decide the issue. They also disputed statements by opponents that pot is a "gateway drug."

"It is time to stop turning law-abiding people into criminals," Russell said.

Not all Republicans opposed the bill. Libertarian-leaning Rep. Aaron Libby (R-Waterloo) said the federal government is trampling on states' rights and the constitution.

"We should follow the constitution and stop trying to police moralities," Libby said.

That's not going to happen this year, though. The same day the House rejected the bill, it went to the Senate, which concurred with the House vote. The bill is now dead for the session.

Augusta, ME
United States

Cops Say Forty Years of War on Drugs is Enough [FEATURE]

This week marks the 40th anniversary of America's contemporary war on drugs, and the country's largest anti-prohibitionist law enforcement organization is commemorating -- not celebrating -- the occasion with the release of report detailing the damage done. Members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) hand-delivered a copy of the report, Ending the Drug War: A Dream Deferred, to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (the drug czar's office) Tuesday after holding a press conference in Washington, DC.

LEAP members pass by the White House as they deliver their report to the drug czar's office.
[Editor's Note: This is merely the first commemoration of 40 years of drug war. The Drug Policy Alliance is sponsoring dozens of rallies and memorials in cities across the country on Friday, June 17. Look for our reporting on those events as they happen.]

On June 17, 1971, President Richard Nixon (R) declared "war on drugs," and thousands of deaths, millions of arrests, and billions of tax dollars later, drug prohibition remains in place -- the Obama administration's declaration two years ago that it had ended the drug war in favor of a public health-centered approach notwithstanding. Ending the Drug War details how the war on drugs continues unabated, despite the recent administrations' less warlike rhetoric, and the ways it has hurt rather than helped drug users and society at large.

"When President Nixon declared the 'drug war' in 1971, we arrested fewer than half a million people for drug offenses that year. Today, the number has skyrocketed to almost two million drug arrests a year," said former Baltimore narcotics officer and LEAP executive director Neill Franklin. "We jail more of our own citizens than any other country in the world does, including those run by the worst dictators and totalitarian regimes. Is this how President Obama thinks we can 'win the future'?"

The report shows that despite the drug czar's nice talk about ending the drug war, Obama administration spending priorities remain highly skewed toward law enforcement and interdiction -- and it's getting worse, not better. In 2004, the federal drug budget was 55% for supply reduction (policing) and 45% for demand reduction (treatment, prevention). In the 2012 Obama budget, supply reduction has increased to 60%, while demand reduction has shrunk to 40%.

The report also demonstrates through arrest figures that on the street level, the drug war continues to be vigorously waged. In 2001, there were almost 1.6 million drug arrests; a decade later, there were slightly more than 1.6 million. Granted, there is a slight decline from the all-time high of nearly 1.9 million in 2006, but the drug war juggernaut continues chugging away.

"I was a police officer for 34 years, the last six as chief of police in Seattle," retired law enforcement veteran Norm Stamper told the press conference. "At one point in my career, I had an epiphany. I came to the appreciation that police officers could be doing better things with their time and that we were causing more harm than good with this drug war. My position is that we need to end prohibition, which is the organizing mechanism behind the drug war. We need to replace that system guaranteed to invite violence and corruption and replace it with a regulatory model," he said.

Nixon made Elvis an honorary narc in 1970. Nixon and Elvis are both dead, but Nixon's drug war lives on.
LEAP slams the Obama administration for its forked-tongue approach to medical marijuana as well in the report. The administration has talked a good game on medical marijuana, but its actions speak louder than its words. While Attorney General Holder's famous 2009 memo advised federal prosecutors not to pick on medical marijuana providers in compliance with state laws, federal medical marijuana raids have not only continued, but they are happening at a faster rate than during the Bush administration. There were some 200 federal medical marijuana raids during eight years of Bush, while there have been about 100 under 2 1/2 years of Obama, LEAP noted.

And LEAP points to the horrendous prohibition-related violence in Mexico as yet another example of the damage the drug war has done. The harder Mexico and the US fight the Mexican drug war, the higher the death toll, with no apparent impact on the flow of drugs north or the flow of guns and cash south, the report points out.

Sean Dunagan, a recently retired, 13-year DEA veteran with postings in Guatemala City and Monterrey, Mexico, told the press conference his experiences south of the border had brought him around to LEAP's view.

"It became increasingly apparent that the prohibitionist model just made things worse by turning a multi-billion dollar industry over to criminal organizations," he said. "There is such a profit motive with the trade in illegal drugs that it is funding a de facto civil war in Mexico. Prohibition has demonstrably failed and it is time to look at policy alternatives that address the problem of addiction without destroying our societies the way the drug war has done."

Ending drug prohibition would not make Mexico's feared cartels magically vanish, LEAP members conceded under questioning, but it would certainly help reduce their power.

"Those of us who advocate ending prohibition are not proposing some sort of nirvana with no police and no crime, but a strategy based in reality that recognizes what police can accomplish in cooperation with the rest of society," said former House Judiciary Crime subcommittee counsel Eric Sterling. "The post-prohibition environment will require enforcement as in every legal industry. The enormous power that the criminal organizations have will diminish, but those groups are not going to simply walk away. The difference between us and the prohibitionists is that we are not making empty promises like a drug-free America or proposing thoughtless approaches like zero tolerance," he told the press conference.

Drug prohibition has also generated crime and gang problems in the US, the report charged, along with unnecessary confrontations between police and citizens leading to the deaths of drug users, police, and innocent bystanders alike. The report notes that while Mexico can provide a count of its drug war deaths, the US cannot -- except this year, with the Drug War Chronicle's running tally of 2011 deaths due to US domestic drug law enforcement operations, which the report cited. As of this week, the toll stands at four law enforcement officers and 26 civilians killed.

It was the needless deaths of police officers that inspired retired Maryland State Police captain and University of Maryland law professor Leigh Maddox to switch sides in the drug war debate, she said.

LEAP's Leigh Maddox addresses the Washington, DC, press conference Tuesday.
"My journey to my current position came over many years and after seeing many friends killed in the line of duty because of our failed drug policies," she told the Washington press conference. "This is an abomination and needs to change."

While the report was largely critical of the Obama administration's approach to drug policy, it also saluted the administration for heading in the right direction on a number of fronts. It cited the reduction in the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine offenses and the lifting of the federal ban on needle exchange funding as areas where the administration deserves kudos.

Forty years of drug prohibition is more than enough. Police are getting this. When will politicians figure it out?

Washington, DC
United States

Big Name Panel Calls Global Drug War a "Failure" [FEATURE]

The global war on drugs is a failure and governments worldwide should shift from repressive, law-enforcement centered policies to new ways of legalizing and regulating drugs, especially marijuana, as a means of reducing harm to individuals and society, a high-profile group of world leaders said in a report issued last Thursday.

Richard Branson blogs about being invited onto the global commission, on virgin.com.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy, whose members include former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former presidents of Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, said the global prohibitionist approach to drug policy, in place since the UN adopted the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs a half-century ago, has failed to reduce either the drug supply or consumption.

Citing UN figures, the report said global marijuana consumption rose more than 8% and cocaine use 27% in the decade between 1998 and 2008. Again citing UN figures, the group estimated that there are some 250 million illegal drug consumers worldwide. "We simply cannot treat them all as criminals," the report concluded.

The report also argued that arresting "tens of millions" of low-level dealers, drug couriers, and drug-producing farmers not only failed to reduce production and consumption, but also failed to address the economic needs that pushed people into the trade in the first place.

Prohibitionist approaches also foster violence, most notably in the case of Mexico, the group argued, and impede efforts to stop the spread of diseases like HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis. Governments should instead turn to science- and evidence-based public health and harm reduction approaches, the group said. It cited studies of nations like Portugal and Australia, where the decriminalization of at least some drugs has not led to significantly greater use.

"Overwhelming evidence from Europe, Canada and Australia now demonstrates the human and social benefits both of treating drug addiction as a health rather than criminal justice problem and of reducing reliance on prohibitionist policies," said former Swiss president Ruth Dreifuss. "These policies need to be adopted worldwide, with requisite changes to the international drug control conventions."

The report offered a number of recommendations for global drug policy reform, including:

  • End the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others.
  • Encourage experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs (especially cannabis) to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.
  • Ensure that a variety of treatment modalities are available -- including not just methadone and buprenorphine treatment but also the heroin-assisted treatment programs that have proven successful in many European countries and Canada.
  • Apply human rights and harm reduction principles and policies both to people who use drugs as well as those involved in the lower ends of illegal drug markets such as farmers, couriers and petty sellers.

"Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government's global war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed," said former president of Brazil Fernando Henrique Cardoso. "Let's start by treating drug addiction as a health issue, reducing drug demand through proven educational initiatives, and legally regulating rather than criminalizing cannabis."

"The war on drugs has failed to cut drug usage, but has filled our jails, cost millions in tax payer dollars, fuelled organized crime and caused thousands of deaths. We need a new approach, one that takes the power out of the hands of organized crime and treats people with addiction problems like patients, not criminals," said Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group and cofounder of The Elders, United Kingdom. "The good news is new approaches focused on regulation and decriminalization have worked. We need our leaders, including business people, looking at alternative, fact based approaches. We need more humane and effective ways to reduce the harm caused by drugs. The one thing we cannot afford to do is to go on pretending the war on drugs is working."

The Obama administration is having none of it. "Making drugs more available -- as this report suggests -- will make it harder to keep our communities healthy and safe," Rafael Lemaitre, spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy told the Wall Street Journal the same day the report was released.

That sentiment is in line with earlier pronouncements from the administration that while it will emphasize a public health approach to drug policy, it stands firm against legalization. "Legalizing dangerous drugs would be a profound mistake, leading to more use, and more harmful consequences," drug czar Gil Kerlikowske said earlier this year.

But if the White House isn't listening, US drug reformers are -- and they're liking what they're hearing.

"It's no longer a question of whether legalizing drugs is a serious topic of debate for serious people," said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and a 34-year veteran police officer from Baltimore, Maryland. "These former presidents and other international leaders have placed drug legalization squarely on the table as an important solution that policymakers need to consider. As a narcotics cop on the streets, I saw how the prohibition approach not only doesn't reduce drug abuse but how it causes violence and crime that affect all citizens and taxpayers, whether they use drugs or not."

"These prominent world leaders recognize an undeniable reality. The use of marijuana, which is objectively less harmful than alcohol, is widespread and will never be eliminated," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "They acknowledge that there are only two choices moving forward. We can maintain marijuana's status as a wholly illegal substance and steer billions of dollars toward drug cartels and other criminal actors. Or, we can encourage nations to make the adult use of marijuana legal and have it sold in regulated stores by legitimate, taxpaying business people. At long last, we have world leaders embracing the more rational choice and advocating for legal, regulated markets for marijuana. We praise these world leaders for their willingness to advocate for this sensible approach to marijuana policy."

"The long-term impact of the Global Commission's efforts will be defining," predicted David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org (publisher of this newsletter). "Most people don't realize that there are leaders of this stature who believe prohibition causes much of the harm commonly seen as due to drugs. As more and more people hear these arguments, coming from some of the most credible people on the planet, legalization will come to be viewed as a credible and realistic option."

Other commission members include Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Canada; Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil (chair); Marion Caspers-Merk, former State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry of Health; Maria Cattaui former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce, Switzerland; Carlos Fuentes, writer and public intellectual, Mexico; Asma Jahangir, human rights activist, former UN Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary, Extrajudicial and Summary Executions, Pakistan; Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria , France; Mario Vargas Llosa, writer and public intellectual, Peru; George Papandreou, Prime Minister of Greece; George P. Shultz, former Secretary of State, United States (honorary chair); Javier Solana, former European Union High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy , Spain; Thorvald Stoltenberg, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Norway; Paul Volcker, former Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve and of the Economic Recovery Board; John Whitehead, banker and civil servant, chair of the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, United States; and Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico.

While the Obama administration may be loathe to listen, the weight of world opinion, as reflected in the composition of the global commission that issued this report, is starting to create stress fractures in the wall of prohibition. A half-century of global drug prohibition has showed us what it can deliver, and the world is increasingly finding it wanting.

85% of Grandparent Respondents Favor Marijuana Legalization, According to GRAND Magazine Reader Poll (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 26, 2011

CONTACT: Rosa Mangiardi at (415) 728-2113

85% of Grandparent Respondents Favor Marijuana Legalization, According to GRAND Magazine Reader Poll

Online Magazine for Grandparents Releases Response Results to Op-Ed Question Posed in its March/April Issue


St. Petersburg, FL. (PRWEB) Attitudes about the criminalization of marijuana may be changing among the elders of our society, as the more than 70 million of the baby boomer generation, one to widely experiment with recreational drug use, have and will become grandparents.

GRAND Magazine, the online magazine for today's grandparents, released today results from their poll question which appeared in the March/April issue. It asked readers if it was time to legalize marijuana. 85% responded that they agreed it was.

The reader respondents who are pot proponents argued in their responses that it is hypocritical to outlaw pot when cigarettes, alcohol and fat-laden foods are legal but account for so many health issues among our population. They point out that marijuana is used to treat medical symptoms such as pain and nausea, and that in some states it is legal for shops to dispense medical marijuana. The billions that are spent in the U.S. on policing and courts related to this issue could be spent on better schools or infrastructure.

Grandparents who are part of the baby boomer generation (those born from 1946 to 1964)(1) have a unique perspective on marijuana, having come of age during a time when pot use became mainstream. 21st century grandparents are a group with a significant influence on the country’s youth as they are the primary caregivers for more than 6 million children(2). In fact, approximately 75 percent of all non-parental care of children is provided by a grandparent(3), representing a large shift in family dynamics. Now it seems that as they guide and influence new generations, they view marijuana use increasingly as a harmless indulgence rather than a gateway to a lifetime of drug abuse.

Among the reader response comments were:

“I am a grandparent strongly in favor of decriminalization. I would much rather my grandkids smoke pot than use cigarettes or alcohol. I expect I will need cannabis for my health soon and don’t want (it) to be illegal. The whole charade needs to stop; we are blowing far too much money on the drug war and have no positive results to show for it. The whole approach is counterproductive,” said D.W., Guysville, OH.

“I am a grandparent of a 17 year-old granddaughter who has been struggling with drug addiction since she was 14 years old. I believe that marijuana is a gateway drug and it has always been her reluctance to give up pot that has brought her back again and again to more dangerous drugs. I understand that the same arguments that have been used for years with the responsible adult consumption of alcohol apply to responsible adult use of pot. … I would vote against legal sale of marijuana…,” said A.C.

To read additional reader responses, click here

The link to the page in the GRAND magazine March/April online edition op-ed reader poll that asks, ‘Is it time to legalize marijuana?’ is: http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/grand/20110304_v3/index.php#/51/OnePage

GRAND Magazine
GRAND magazine is an online bi-monthly magazine that serves the more than 70 million U.S. grandparent market. It is delivered exclusively in digital format. It is published by GRAND Media, LLC, which was established in 2004. For more information about GRAND magazine visit: http://www.GRANDmagazine.com.

1. U.S. Census Bureau
2. American Community Survey, 2007, U.S. Census Bureau
3. State Fact Sheet for Grandparents and Other Relatives Raising Children, 2007, AARP Foundation, Brookdale Foundation Group, Casey Family Programs, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Defense Fund, and Generations United

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Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Filed in Colorado [FEATURE]

A coalition of Colorado and national drug reform groups Friday filed eight initiatives designed to amend the state constitution to legalize marijuana. It was the opening move in an effort to put the question to Colorado voters on the November 2012 ballot.

The first steps have been taken toward letting any Colorado adult grow six of these legally. (Image courtesy the author)
The groups lining up behind the initiatives are SAFER, Sensible Colorado, the Drug Policy Alliance, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the Marijuana Policy Project, NORML, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy, as well as prominent Colorado marijuana attorneys and members of the state's thriving medical marijuana industry.

While the initiatives vary slightly from one another -- part of a bid by organizers to ensure they come up with the best language and pass the scrutiny of state election officials -- they all have as their core the legalization of the possession of up to an ounce by adults over 21, the legalization of the growing of up to six plants and possession of their yield, and the creation of a system of regulated commercial marijuana production and sales. (See the draft language for the base initiative here.)

The initiatives do not allow for public consumption. Nor do they protect "stoned driving" or protect workers from being fired by employers who object to their marijuana use.

"This is basically eight variations on a single initiative," said SAFER's Mason Tvert. "One version has industrial hemp, one doesn't. One version has specific language dealing with Colorado tax law, one doesn't. But otherwise, there is virtually no difference."

The initiatives now head to the state's Title Setting Review Board, which will determine whether they meet the state constitution's single-subject requirement and come up with titles for the initiatives. The initiatives could be revised based on issues and concerns that might arise during review with board staff, Tvert said.

"We want the best possible ballot title," he said. "They will create a draft title, and then we will be able to submit what we think, then there is a hearing to determine what the title should be. This is the very beginning of a long process. If one or two get shot down, we still have other possibilities. If one gets a ballot title we don't like, we still have the ability to re-file something else."

"We starting drafting this back in January," said Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente. "We've seen a historic and unprecedented coalition of every major drug policy reform group involved in the drafting. I'm not aware of anything like that before. And SAFER and Sensible Colorado have been active in reforming marijuana laws full-time since 2004 and 2005, respectively. We have a giant network of collaborators on the ground."

But not everybody is happy. In an ominous harkening back to last November's election, a "Stoners against Prop. 19"-style opposition has already emerged. The Boulder-based Cannabis Therapy Institute (CTI), which is working on its own Relegalize 2012 initiative, came out swinging in a press release last Friday. Calling the coalition behind the initiatives "a conservative faction of national and local drug policy reform groups," the institute's Lauro Kriho said their initiatives would "attempt to undermine" advances by the marijuana movement in the state.

She criticized the initiatives on a variety of grounds, saying they did not provide protection to workers, tenants, or marijuana users who drive. She said the initiatives "appeal to law enforcement" and criticized versions that included a 15% excise tax. She also complained that the initiatives had been filed without broader feedback.

"I'm not sure why they did this without telling anybody," said Kriho. "Even the legislature gave us more notice to comment on their proposed legislation than they did. It really shows their bad faith."

But both Tvert and Vicente said that Kriho had been sent a draft of the base initiative a week before they filed it. A copy of the draft is available on the CTI web site.

"This opposition from within the movement is certainly frustrating, and we don't want to see the movement fractured," said Tvert. "We hope that anyone who supports ending marijuana prohibition will be comfortable with this initiative and be part of this broad coalition moving forward. We've reached out extensively to various groups in the community, including marijuana business leaders and organizations, and including CTI."

It's difficult to tell how much support Kriho and her critique have in Colorado's marijuana community, but Vicente seemed more bemused than concerned about it.

"I think the Colorado marijuana community is generally quite united," he said. "Most people are very supportive of this effort. We made an incredible outreach to different communities and solicited comments from grassroots activists, lawyers, and elected officials, and did our best to incorporate their concerns in the draft language. We're still requesting suggestions and we could still change the language," he said.

In the meantime, organizers are preparing for a signature gathering drive to begin toward the end of June. They will have six months to gather 85,000 valid voter signatures, and they say their goal is to hand in 130,000 or more.

And they are beginning to look for money. "We're certainly hoping to raise money, but we haven't pursued significant funding until we have an initiative in place," said Tvert. "We haven't received any significant money, but we haven't been soliciting it yet, either."

Still, the SAFER/Sensible Colorado initiative effort appears to have enough support to make it onto the ballot in 2012. Other initiative efforts, such as CTI's, can also try to make the ballot. It looks like it's going to be an interesting next 18 months in Colorado pot politics.

Denver, CO
United States

Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol in 2012

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Sensible Colorado - working for an effective drug policy

 

This alert sent from Sensible Colorado Action c(4)

 

 

2012:  An Update on Legalization

As you might have read or heard, a broad coalition of organizations that includes Sensible Colorado has submitted language for a 2012 statewide legalization initiative in Colorado. 

 

The yet to be finalized measure would remove penalties for private marijuana possession and limited home growing, and establish a legal and regulated marijuana market for adults 21 and older.

 

We went through an exceptionally exhaustive five-plus-month process to produce the filed initiative language, which we believe is incredibly strong and presents the best route to ending marijuana prohibition here in Colorado.  We coordinated with dozens of organizations, attorneys, activists, patients, marijuana business owners, and other stakeholders, both in Colorado and around the country.  We also solicited comments from the public via our organizations' lists of thousands of Colorado reform supporters, magazine ads, and events around the state. 

 

We are still engaged in the process of fine-tuning the initiative, so please do not hesitate to reply to this e-mail if you have any specific concerns or questions, which we will take into strong consideration and address as quickly as possible. 

 

As you can imagine, it is incredibly difficult if not impossible to produce initiative language on which everyone will agree entirely.  But it remains our sincere hope that supporters of reform across Colorado will feel comfortable with the final product, become part of this growing coalition, and work together toward our shared goal of ending marijuana prohibition.

 

Please reply to this e-mail or give us a call to participate in this process.  720 890 4247

 

Sensible Colorado | PO Box 18768 | Denver CO 80218

Location: 
CO
United States

Willie Waffles on Johnson Endorsement

It was nice while it lasted, but it didn't last long. On May 17, in a pair of press releases (here and here), Willie Nelson's Teapot Party and the campaign of Republican presidential contender Gary Johnson announced the Teapot Party's endorsement of Johnson. The next day, Willie changed his mind.

"The more I get into politics, the more I realize I'm a guitar player." (Image via Wikimedia.org)
In a Teapot Party blog post, Steve Bloom of Celebstoner.com, who had played a key role in setting up a meeting between Nelson and Johnson ten days ago and who played a similar role in getting the campaign and the party to announce the endorsement, explained what happened. After the Texas meeting, Willie sent an email to Bloom saying, "I think we ought to endorse him."

That email was the basis for the twin announcements Tuesday. But when Bloom sent the press release and media coverage links to Nelson, he got a surprise.

"My position is it too early for me to endorse anyone," Willie responded. "And I think everyone should vote their own conscience."

Bloom replied, reminding Willie that he had okayed the endorsement.

"I know I said that," Nelson responded. "But I think I will wait and see where he stands on other things. My bad. Sorry. I still think he is a good guy, but so is Dennis [Kucinich] and if he decided to run I would personally vote for him. If it came down to either him or Gary I'm already committed to Dennis. They both have said they support legal pot."

When Bloom replied, reminding Nelson that the Johnson endorsement was only for the Republican nomination, Willie again demurred.

"The Teapot Party is millions of people," he replied. "It's not me. I jokingly said after I got out of jail in Texas that there is a Tea Party and there should be a Teapot Party. The difference between us is we follow our own drummer. No one can tell us how to think. If we back someone, that's us telling them how to vote. I'm not qualified. You can say or do anything you like and I will do the same but let's don't back a political candidate. Let's give our opinions and say what we know about everyone but let's let everyone decide for themselves."

What's next, then? Bloom asked Nelson.

"I still say that the people have the power to change things and they will if they vote," Nelson replied. "The Teapot Party started as a joke but it could still be a way for people to speak out about important things. I am not a criminal. The millions of pot smokers in this country are not criminals. We don't like being treated as such and I for one will stand up for what I believe in and will vote for anyone I choose. You should do the same. We are not ever going to agree on everything and everybody. The best advice I ever got was from my ex father-in-law. He said take my advice and do what you want to. End of story."

Bloom reported one more email from Nelson: "This will blow over and the world moves on. No harm done. We sound like a bunch of pot smokers, that's all... The more I get into politics the more I realize that I am a guitar player."

(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.)

TX
United States

Willie Nelson Endorses Gary Johnson for President

Legendary country music singer and avowed marijuana user Willie Nelson and his Teapot Party have endorsed the pro-legalization presidential bid of Republican candidate Gary Johnson, the Johnson campaign announced in a press release Tuesday. The endorsement came after Nelson and Johnson met last week and marks the Teapot Party's first foray into presidential politics.

They should have quit messin' with Willie! Now, he's mobilizing the weed-lovin' masses. (Image via Wikimedia.org)
"I am truly gratified to have the endorsement of such a legendary entertainer and champion for individual rights as Willie Nelson," said Johnson. "Not only is Willie a superstar talent but, he is a strong advocate for social change, as seen through his tireless work on behalf of family owned farms and hard working Americans. People across this country are demanding the freedom and opportunity to pursue their dreams without interference from a heavy-handed government, and Willie and I stand together to lend our voices to those demands."

Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, could use the help of some non-traditional GOP primary voters that Nelson could help deliver. The conventional wisdom gives him only an outside shot at the nomination, with the nomination poll aggregator Real Clear Politics not even including him on its lists of candidates declared and undeclared.

Johnson made his effort official last month, declaring his candidacy at the New Hampshire State House. Johnson has made a critique of drug prohibition a central tenet of his platform and is straightforwardly calling for marijuana legalization. As he put it during last week's Fox News Republican presidential candidate debate: "I advocate legalizing marijuana -- control it, regulate it, tax it."

That works for Willie and the Teapot Party, a phenomenon that began last fall after the Red Headed Stranger's most recent encounter with the pot police and now boasts 66,000 Facebook members. Marijuana legalization is its goal.

"The purpose of the Teapot Party is to vote in people who believe in what we do and vote out the ones who don't," said Nelson.

And Gary Johnson wins his first celebrity endorsement.

(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.)

They Marched for Marijuana, Against the Drug War [FEATURE]

From Amsterdam to Arequipa to Auckland, from Anchorage to Albuquerque to Austin to Amherst, from one end of the country and the planet to the other, the worldwide cannabis nation took to the streets Saturday for the 2011 Global Marijuana March. At the same time, in Mexico, marchers trekked from Cuernavaca to Mexico City, and gathered in other Mexican cities as well, to plead for an end to the drug war violence that has killed more than 37,000 people in the past four years.

Jodie Emery addresses the crowd in Toronto (Image courtesy Jeremiah Vandemeer, Cannabis Culture)
Events were scheduled in some 262 cities around the world. They ranged from handfuls or dozens of people in small American and Canadian towns and remote global outposts, to hundreds or thousands in larger cities around the planet. A few places saw even more.

In Toronto, tens of thousands of people came out for the Freedom Fest. A haze of pot smoke hung over Queens Park as revelers were treated to an afternoon of bands and speakers, including Jodie Emery, wife of imprisoned Prince of Pot Marc Emery. The Toronto march may have been this year's largest.

An estimated 25,000 people marched in cities across Argentina, including at least 1,000 in Rosario and 15,000 in the capital, Buenos Aires. Marchers there demanded that the government move further down the path of decriminalization and harm reduction.

"The march in Rosario was great," said Silvia Inchaurraga of the Argentine Harm Reduction Association (ARDA). "In the first march we organized here in 2002, there were only a handful of people, and now we have more than 1,000," she told the Chronicle. "We don't need more speeches from politicians, even progressive speeches, we need a new drug law and a new drug policy. Despite the Supreme Court rulings of 2009 [decriminalizing marijuana possession], the old drug law is still in effect and drug users are still arrested and punished, and harm reduction is not the official policy of the National Secretary on Drugs."

In Jakarta, Indonesia, the number of marchers may have been small, but their audacity was great, and their action sparked preemptive warnings from police and Reefer Madness-style denunciations from people who should know better.

Police first warned that the march was illegal, but then announced they would only arrest people breaking the drug laws. The day before the march National Narcotics Agency spokesman Gen. Indradi Thanos said the group behind the march should "stop their campaign to legalize marijuana because the substance was defined as an illegal addictive drug in the narcotics law." Indradi added somewhat ominously that the agency would hold talks with the network activists to determine if there were "vested interests" backing them," according to the Jakarta Post.

But on Saturday, the Nusantara Marijuana Network (LGN) led some 50 or so people on a march to the Tugu Tani monument in central Jakarta. Unlike Western marchers, most were dressed uniformly in white t-shirts with green ribbons. But like Western marches, posters of Bob Marley bedecked a pick-up truck leading the parade.

"As a first step, we call on the government to provide objective information about marijuana," LGN chair Dhira Narayana said. "People need to be informed that marijuana can be used to cure cancer. Marijuana is also no more addictive than coffee or tea," he added.

In Tijuana, protestors call for drug legalization and US agents out of Mexico (Image courtesy Rocky Neptun via indybay.org)
One self-described non-smoker, Soraya Cassandra of the network's education team, hit the hemp angle. "There is a lot of biased information about marijuana and this is the reason why much of the public does not understand the substance," she said. "The cannabis plant can be used to produce paper. This will save a lot of trees because the cannabis plant can be harvested three times a year," she added.

The Jakarta march certainly sparked a reaction. The Indonesian Child Protection Commission announced it rejected pot legalization because it could have negative effects on children. "Children's brains will be damaged, as will their future, commission head Arist Merdeka Sirait told Tempo.

The National Narcotics Agency and University of Indonesia psychiatrist Dadang Hawari also rejected legalization. Dadang told Tempo that marijuana leaves don't kill, but have ill effects on the brain, including long-term mental and behavioral disorders. Marijuana was appropriately categorized as a narcotic, Dadang claimed.

And also reacting was former Vice President Jusuf Kalla. "We cannot legalize marijuana because at certain doses it is unbelievably dangerous to health," he told the Jakarta Post.

The work of cannabis education has clearly only just begun in Indonesia, but at least it has begun.

In Mexico City, where the work of cannabis education has been underway for some time, thanks to groups like the Mexican Association for Cannabis Studies, hundreds gathered Saturday downtown to demand decriminalization. They chanted and cheered for musical actors and speakers, including the association's Leopoldo Rivera.

"We consider it prudent to be informed on this topic. People who consume are not necessarily criminals or ill, it could be any regular person who is a productive, contributing member of society," Rivera said.

But in Mexico, it wasn't just about freeing the weed -- even at the Global Marijuana March. "We are lobbying for the decriminalization of marijuana as a way to reach peace. Currently, the number of dead in Mexico is 40,000, and it is due in big part to drug trafficking," said environmentalist Arnold Ricarde.

Rosario, Argentina (via Silvia Inchaurraga)
That the horrid violence of the Mexican drug war is overshadowing other drug reform issues there was made clear the next day, as more than 100,000 turned out in Mexico City to greet the hundreds of marchers who had set out from Cuernavaca, 60 miles to the south, on Thursday to demand "no more deaths, no more hate, no more blood."

Led by poet and essayist Javier Sicilia, whose son and six others were found murdered in Cuernavaca in late March, presumably at the hands of the Pacifico Sur cartel, by the time the march arrived at the Zocalo, Mexico's City's gigantic central plaza, it had morphed into a mass of humanity crying out for an end to endless cycle of violence.

"We don't want any more death because of this growing mess," said Sicilia, from a platform in Zocalo... "No more deaths, no more hate. We've come out to walk these streets with dignity and peace... violence will only bring us more violence," he added.

A manifesto for the march called for the government to solve the killings and disappearances, address social ills, fight corruption, impunity, and money-laundering, and drop its "war strategy" in favor of a focus on citizen safety.

Sicilia's crusade has brought a sharp focus to the growing disenchantment with President Felipe Calderon's decision to take the battle to the cartels in December 2006. Despite the deployment of some 45,000 federal troops, the violence has not diminished, but intensified. The government has to change its strategy, the protestors said.

"We've had it with this terrible government that goes unpunished. We want peace," said Araceli Vazquez, 60, as he held up an improvised placard with his demands.

On Monday, President Calderon offered to meet with protest leaders, a clear sign that their voice is being heard. But he was not backing away from his insistence on a military solution to the cartel problem. "We can agree to disagree," he said.

The somber multitudes of Mexico City are a world away from the happy tokers of Toronto, but whether it is marijuana legalization or ending the drug war paradigm that has produced the murderous Mexican madness, drug prohibition is the underlying cause that unites them.

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