Legalization

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Congressman: Eliminate the War on Drugs

Colorado congressman Jared Polis wants to drastically reduce the federal government's funding of the war on drugs. He has introduced amendments to the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 that, if passed, would virtually eliminate money spent to fight drug crimes. The first amendment, No. 501, proposes to eradicate funding of the drug czar. The second amendment, No. 427, would prohibit the investigation and criminal prosecution for the possession, manufacture or distribution of marijuana. Polis believes that the drug czar's office is not only unnecessary, but has proven to be more harmful than helpful in the case of marijuana.
Publication/Source: 
Gather (MA)
URL: 
http://politics.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474979065488

Marijuana Reform in 2012? It's Your Call...

 

Legalization in 2012: What do YOU think?

Supporters of marijuana policy reform are coming together to produce a statewide ballot initiative that would end cannabis prohibition in Colorado in 2012.  No single organization or individual is heading the effort; rather, there is a wide variety of activists, organizations, businesses, professionals, and other stakeholders working together to create and pass the best law possible. 

Sensible Colorado, along with SAFER and other allies and organizations, are working to engage everyone possible in the process.  We are soliciting input and feedback from the community, which we will bring to the table as an initiative is drafted by some of the most qualified attorneys and advocates from across Colorado and around the nation.

 

If you would like to take part in the process of putting together the best possible legalization initiative for 2012, please send an e-mail to HERE.   Let us know what you do or do not want to see in the initiative, or just let us know if you have any ideas or thoughts on the process.  As you can imagine, we probably won’t be able to respond to every e-mail, but we assure you they will all be read and taken into consideration.  Submissions must be received on or before February 25, 2011.

Location: 
CO
United States

Washington State Drug Reformer Roger Goodman to Run for US Congress

Washington state Rep. Roger Goodman (D) has announced that he is seeking the Democratic Party nomination to challenge US Rep. Dave Reichert (R), a two-term congressman who represents Washington's 8th congressional district. Although he doesn't emphasize it heavily on his campaign web pages, Goodman is a champion of drug policy reform.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/rogergoodman.jpg
Roger Goodman
His reform record is long and impressive. An attorney, Goodman served as the executive director of the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission in the late 1990s and was elected to the National Association of Sentencing Commissions. While with the state commission, he published major reports on prison capacity and sentencing policy, helped to increase availability of drug treatment in prisons, and shepherded 14 other sentencing-related bills through the legislature.

Goodman followed up the sentencing stint by leading the King County Bar Association's Drug Policy Project, which coordinated a groundbreaking initiative to take a critical look at drug laws and promote cheaper, more effective, and more humane drug policies. In doing so, he helped create an impressive coalition of over 20 professional and civic organizations that has spurred the legislature to reduce imprisonment of drug offenders and shift funding into drug treatment.

A state representative since 2006, Goodman is cosponsor of a marijuana legalization bill currently before the legislature, and is supporting a pending medical marijuana dispensary bill. Last session, he helped push through a 911 Good Samaritan drug overdose prevention bill, and is seeking similar legislation to help prevent alcohol overdoses. He continues to work for sentencing reform in the legislature as well.

While Goodman is aiming at the 8th congressional district, that could change because of redistricting. He told the Chronicle he could end up in one of three different districts, but said he was confident he could win in any of them.

(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.)

Kirkland, WA
United States

Legalize Dagga and Other Drugs: South African Medical Journal

Location: 
South Africa
South Africans are still mulling over comments by the editor of the South African Medical Journal, who has called for government to look at legalizing certain drugs, such as dagga (marijuana) and cocaine. Editor JP van Niekerk says the high number of drug offenses that the country sees is proof that the country's prohibitionist war on drugs is ineffective, and authorities therefore should look at legalizing and regulating certain drugs.
Publication/Source: 
East Coast Radio (South Africa)
URL: 
http://www.ecr.co.za/kagiso/content/en/east-coast-radio/east-coast-radio-mobile-news?oid=1077703&sn=Mobile+news+detail&pid=171901

The Prospects for Drug Reform: California [FEATURE]

[Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of reports on the prospects for drug reform in a handful of states where the chances of legalizing marijuana are the strongest. But these reports will also look at medical marijuana, harm reduction, and sentencing reform prospects. They are a work in progress and will be revised. Look for reports on Colorado, Oregon, and Washington in coming weeks.]

California, viewed from space
The West Coast is a different world when it comes to progress on drug policy reform. Three of the four states most likely to see strong pushes for marijuana legalization in the next couple of years are on the West Coast (the other being Colorado). And medical marijuana is a fact of life from San Diego to Seattle, even if many bruising battles remain, and is certain to be an area of contention in coming years.

But it's not just pot politics that makes the West Coast different. The region has also been a pioneer in sentencing reform and harm reduction practices, even if countervailing forces remain strong and both policy areas remain contested terrain.

And the fact that all three states are initiative and referendum states adds another dimension to the politics of drug reform. In all three states, the initiative process has been an important vehicle for drug reform, although it has also been used for anti-reform efforts, most notably with Oregon sentencing initiatives.

Will the West Coast continue to be the drug reform vanguard? Here, we look at the prospects for reform in four broad areas -- medical marijuana, marijuana legalization or decriminalization, drug sentencing reform, and the enactment of harm reduction practices -- and assess where the reform movement can most productively apply its energies. We also attempt to identify areas and issues around which larger coalitions can be formed to advance drug policy and criminal justice reform objectives.

We begin with California, the first state to legalize medical marijuana and that state where advocates last year came within a handful of percentage points of winning voter approval for pot legalization. California is the nation's most populous state and has long been at the cutting edge of social change, but now it is also faced with a monstrous $25 billion budget deficit. How social change and fiscal crisis interact in the realm of drug reform policy-making will be a key issue for advocates as they attempt to deepen existing drug reforms and introduce new ones.

Marijuana Legalization

Last year saw efforts to legalize pot both in Sacramento and at the ballot box in November. Rep. Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) made history when his legalization bill was approved by the Assembly Public Safety Committee, but that bill later died. Ammiano is back at it again this year, but getting a legalization bill through the legislature will be a tough fight.

The tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative led by Oaksterdam's Richard Lee managed to put together an impressive coalition of labor, civil rights, and other groups in the run-up to the November election, but that wasn't enough to get the measure over the top. Proposition 19 scored 46.5% of the vote. Legalization advocates are already laying the groundwork for another initiative; several hundred people gathered at a sold-out California NORML (CANORML) conference in Berkeley late last month in a bid to take the first steps toward consensus among the state's complex, variegated, and often fractious marijuana community.

While Prop 19 failed to win a majority, reformers see the coalition-building that took place around it as a basic building block toward eventual victory. For the first time, pot legalization enjoyed organized support from outside the marijuana community.

"Prop 19 has opened up everything and moved marijuana legalization into the mainstream of American politics, particularly in the Western states," said Steve Gutwillig, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Its defeat was at most a speed bump, and the Prop 19 campaign process itself accelerated the marijuana reform movement. It created unprecedented mainstream media coverage, educated millions of voters, and forged a new coalition that is poised to be recreated and expanded on in California and other states in 2012," he said.

Winning a legalization vote in California means continuing to mobilize labor and civil rights groups, he said. And the stars are aligning.

"Organized labor has to be at the table of what is clearly a burgeoning industry with thousands of viable jobs from agriculture to retail. For mainstream civil rights organizations, the racial profiling that is at the center of marijuana enforcement is an issue that intersects with groups with whom they are naturally allied on other issues. We're seeing a confluence of economic and racial justice issues at a time when mainstream voters are expressing a fatigue with the drug war in general and a contempt for marijuana prohibition in particular," Gutwillig argued.

"The SEIU's endorsement of Prop 19 in California opened the door to a serious conversation with the service employee unions all across the country, said Gutwillig. "The SEIU also took a long look at the Washington initiative, but didn't think the numbers were there. But even that examination was significant. The SEIU thought the timing wasn't right last year, but all of this will be in play again and all of this represents real progress in coalition building. This conversation is taking place in a way that was unimaginable five years ago."

Gutwillig identified one more constituency reformers will be working to draw closer: the Democratic Party and its voters.

"The California Democratic Party took a neutral position, but a majority of county Democratic committees endorsed Prop 19," he noted. "That signals that there will be real conversations about what role marijuana legalization will play in terms of turnout among traditional Democratic voters."

Long-time CANORML head and veteran scene-watcher Dale Gieringer doesn't think winning outright marijuana legalization is going to be easy despite the coalition-building. Instead, he is talking about getting to the Promised Land through small steps and by broadening the existing medical marijuana system with its population of legally sanctioned adult users and providers.

Gieringer wants to down-grade minor marijuana distribution and cultivation offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, legalize private adult use, and establish a legally-regulated production system that includes manufacturing, processing, delivery, and legal sales to legally authorized users, namely anyone who has a medical marijuana recommendation.

"That would leave room for local governments to expand the universe of authorized users" without explicitly legalizing non-medicinal sale to adults, Gieringer said. "Taking on adult sales at this moment is premature, but we can write a law that opens the door to adult sales without explicitly doing it immediately."

Medical Marijuana

Using California's existing medical marijuana program as a segue to adult legalization, however, requires something the state still lacks: clarity about what is and is not allowed by Proposition 215 and the legislature's attempt to clarify it, SB 420. Some state prosecutors insist that no medical marijuana sales are legal, and the courts have yet to provide rigorous guidance. Cases have been and are being prosecuted in those counties, meaning that access to medical marijuana depends to a great extent on where one lives within California.

"Fixing the medical marijuana system has to be integral and a number one priority," said Gieringer. "We have to make changes to the medical marijuana system. The public is not happy with the current situation and would like something that is better regulated. A lot of operators feel the same way, but have differing opinions about what would be nice."

While a fix could come through the legislature, Gieringer was leery. "I can't see the legislature passing anything we would like," he said. "Given the level of support we have in Sacramento, we could probably get a bill to clearly allow medical marijuana sales, but it would also likely be loaded down with things we would find unacceptable, like 1000-foot provisions, no on-site smoking, no sale of edibles and the like," he predicted.

"They dickered around with it last year, but it was mainly about extracting money from everybody," Gieringer continued. "What's really needed is to clarify what's legal and what isn't."

Gieringer suggested that the people working on marijuana legalization initiatives include clarifying medical marijuana sales. "I think we could get something better through a vote of the people," he said. "I am hoping that medical marijuana reform will be part of the next legalization effort if there is one."

Such a strategy also has the potential of blunting opposition to a legalization initiative within the medical marijuana community. Some dispensary operators and medical marijuana patients were among the harshest critics of Prop 19.

Job protection for medical marijuana users is another area with the potential for coalition-building. State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has introduced a bill to prevent most employers from firing medical marijuana users who test positive for the drug. Perhaps unions, who, after all, represent workers, would be amenable to working on the issue.

Sentencing Reform

California's bloated prison system, with its insatiable, dollar-gobbling budgetary demands has seen some sentencing reform, most notably the passage by initiative of the "treatment not jail" Proposition 36. But the prisons remain full, and with no state money for the treatment end of Prop 36, it's only the law enforcement side of the equation that is fully functioning.

In announcing his budget proposal last month, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) including diverting people convicted "nonviolent, non-serious, non-sex offenses, and without any previous convictions for such offenses" to county jails instead of the state prison system. That includes first-time drug offenders. 

"Governor Brown set an important tone and made it clear that our expensive state prisons should be reserved for people convicted of serious offenses, not for everyone who's ever made a mistake,"  said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, DPA deputy state director for Southern California. "California is expected to save $500 million a year by handling more petty offenses, including low-level drug possession, at the county level. We think the savings would be even greater if drug treatment were made more available in the community. Under the plan, counties would have that option."

An opportunity to save big bucks and reduce the yawning budget gap could appeal to fiscal conservatives, but in California, conservatives have a long tradition of using tough on crime politics to fill the prisons. Whether they could swallow a measure that to some degree empties them remains to be seen.

"The challenge is finding fiscally conservative Republicans who are willing to publicly challenge the drug war orthodoxy that has long been a mainstay of the Republican Party," said Gutwillig. "There are plenty of Republicans who are willing to say privately they know the mass arrests and incarceration of low-level drug offenders is not a good use of scarce resources, but they have a hard time breaking ranks with a GOP leadership that still needs inflexible tough on crime rhetoric to beat up on the substantial Democratic majorities in both houses of the legislature. It's one of their main tools to undermine the Democratic reform instinct.

Still, the continuing budget crisis may allow reformers to peel off a conservative or two, Gutwillig said. "The economics of the state are in such open-ended crisis that no one can deny the reality that we can no longer afford the blank check we perpetually give to law enforcement and the corrections system."

A 2008 sentencing reform initiative, the Nonviolent Offender Rehabilitation Act (NORA) would have deepened and vastly broadened the Prop 36 reforms, but was defeated thanks to last minute attacks by prison guards and politicians. The time could be approaching for another effort on that front, either in the legislature or via the initiative process. 

Harm Reduction

Access to clean needles, preventing not only heroin, but, increasingly, prescription opioid overdose deaths, and opening a safe injection site in San Francisco are some of the issues facing California's harm reduction community. As in other reform areas, the perpetual budget crisis means if anything is going to happen, it better be inexpensive.

"We can't do anything this year that costs money, so we have to be about erasing some of the rules and barriers that exist," said Hilary McQuie, Western director of the Harm Reduction Coalition. "Jerry Brown is pretty good on these issues, and we have a solidly Democratic government, so we should be able to get some of these things through as long as there is no fiscal impact."

Brown's predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), wasn't so good on harm reduction issues. Last year, he failed to sign two bills that would have eased access to syringes. One expanded a pilot pharmacy syringe sales program statewide; the other expanded access to needle exchanges statewide.

"It looks like those bills will be reintroduced this year," said McQuie.

Overdose prevention continues to be a key harm reduction issue. Last year, a bill extending liability protection for the opioid antagonist naloxone to peer providers passed, but it only applies in a limited number of counties.

"We would like to see Naloxone made more easily available to people," said McQuie. "Maybe pharmacists could prescribe it along with opiates."

McQuie mentioned prescription opiates because that's where the action is now. And that means harm reductionists have to adapt their tactics to new clienteles. With prescription drug overdoses rising dramatically, programs aimed mainly at injection heroin users must now broaden their focus.

"Most of our overdose education happens through needle exchanges and other sites that reach injection drug users, but the trend in overdoses is toward prescription drugs," said McQuie. "We hope we can build coalitions with pharmacists, drug treatment people, and medical associations around peer intervention for overdose prevention among prescription drug users."

But coalition-building with drug and alcohol treatment providers means harm reductionists come up against abstinence-based advocates. "It is a long-term project for us to get them to recognize that they are serving people who are currently using rather than just addressing needs of people in treatment," McQuie sighed. "That will be really important for us. We need a bigger coalition in place."

And then there's the San Francisco safe injection site. At this point, it's little more than a gleam in the eye of harm reductionists, although the creation of such a site has been recommended first by the San Francisco HIV planning council and just last month by the mayor's Hepatitis C Task Force.

But given budgetary constraints, as well as morality-based opposition certain to emerge, if a safe injection site is going to happen, it's most likely to happen from the ground up. Vancouver, where drug users organized themselves and started their own safe injection site, could be a possible model, said McQuie.

"It's out on the horizon, and we're going to try," she said. "But nobody has the staff, resources, and willingness to risk their program sites and funding for this project. The way this could happen is if one of the agencies or drug user groups just starts doing it. It seems unlikely they would get prior permission."

Given the strain that existing harm reduction programs are under, maybe a new, expensive safe injection site program isn't the highest priority right now, McQuie. "But what this proposal does is open up a bigger conversation about harm reduction. Still, we need to set the stage for when the economy rebounds, and also to be prepared to step up and support whoever starts doing it."

California is fertile terrain for drug policy reform. It is also fiercely contested terrain. The coming years will tell whether the forces of reform can forge the alliances they need to emerge victorious on any number of fronts.

CA
United States

Bill Aims to Legalize Marijuana, Make Washington Pioneer State

Location: 
WA
United States
Sponsors of a marijuana legalization bill predict Washington will lead the nation in getting rid of the prohibition on marijuana. If bill sponsors get their way, Washington residents will be able to go to the state liquor store and legally buy marijuana. The same laws against selling to minors and driving while impaired would apply.
Publication/Source: 
KOMO (WA)
URL: 
http://www.komonews.com/news/local/115604624.html

Arizona Probation Officer Fired for Supporting Marijuana Legalization

Location: 
AZ
United States
Less than two months after signing a letter calling for the legalization, taxation, and regulation of marijuana, Joe Miller was terminated from his job as a deputy probation officer in Arizona. Miller is just one of a series of law enforcement officials to be fired for their views on drug policy.
Publication/Source: 
The Huffington Post (CA)
URL: 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/08/arizona-officer-fired-legalizing-marijuana_n_819929.html

Ex-South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel Says Legalize Drugs; Prohibition Is a Destructive, Costly and Futile Strategy

Location: 
SC
United States
Former South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel is breaking his silence and taking on America's drug prohibition war, saying he advocates a repeal of the prohibition on drugs and calling the government's response a failure. "Drug abuse is a medical, health care and spiritual problem, not a problem to be solved within a criminal justice model," he said. Prohibition is "our government's most destructive policy since slavery," he added.
Publication/Source: 
The State (SC)
URL: 
http://www.thestate.com/2011/02/08/1684798/thomas-ravenel-legalize-drugs.html

Hillary Clinton Says Drugs Are Too Expensive for Legalization

In an interview on Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave a very precise demonstration in how to dramatically misconstrue the fundamentals of drug prohibition. It's one of those perfectly incoherent explanations that would be almost comedic if it weren't for the tens of thousands who get murdered in the streets thanks to logic like this.

QUESTION: In Mexico, there are those who propose not keeping going with this battle and legalize drug trafficking and consumption. What is your opinion?

SECRETARY CLINTON: I don't think that will work. I mean, I hear the same debate. I hear it in my country. It is not likely to work. There is just too much money in it, and I don't think that – you can legalize small amounts for possession, but those who are making so much money selling, they have to be stopped. They can’t be given an even easier road to take, because they will then find it in their interest to addict even more young people. Mexico didn’t have much of a drug problem before the last 10 years, and you want to keep it that way. So you don’t want to give any excuse to the drug traffickers to be able legally to addict young people.

That's interesting, because I don't see the drug cartels taking over the coffee trade, even though it's more addictive than space-meth and grows vigorously on the hillsides of Colombia. I can't help but wonder what everyone on the left would say if this preposterous analysis came from Sarah Palin, rather than Hillary Clinton. It's the sort of profound nonsense that ought to get you skewered by Jon Stewart, yet our Secretary of State will almost certainly get a free pass on misunderstanding literally everything about the escalating violence below our border.

More here if you can handle it.
 

Washington, Oregon Marijuana Legalization Initiatives Filed

Marijuana law reform activists in the Pacific Northwest are moving ahead with renewed efforts to win legalization at the ballot box. In the last few days, legalization initiatives have been filed with state authorities in Oregon and Washington.

In both states, similar legalization initiatives failed to make the ballot last year. This time around, organizers in both states say they are better prepared for the arduous and expensive process of signature-gathering to make the ballot.

In Washington, Sensible Washington, the folks behind last year's failed effort, have filed an initiative that removes all criminal penalties for adults who use, possess, produce, transport, or distribute marijuana. Unlike last year's initiative, which lost critical support for its failure to address regulation of the marijuana market, this year's version explicitly directs the state legislature to enact a regulatory scheme.

Sensible Washington is aiming for this year's November election ballot, despite pleas from some national and state reform figures to hold off until the presidential election year in 2012.

"We're pleased to again put the important question of marijuana legalization before the public," said Seattle attorney Douglas Hiatt, Sensible Washington’s chair and initiative coauthor. "We’re better funded and better organized this year and we look forward to giving the public an opportunity to vote on this issue in November. We've changed last year’s initiative to reflect concerns about civil regulations of marijuana, and our new initiative has language that clearly directs the state legislature to regulate the responsible adult use of marijuana."

The group expects to start signature-gathering this month. They need 241,153 valid voter signatures to make the November ballot.

In Oregon, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act (OCTA 2012) initiative is back. Organizers turned in 2,200 signatures on January 4 to start the ballot title creation process. The initiative has until July 2012 to turn in nearly 86,000 valid voter signatures to make the November 2012 ballot. In an email to supporters, D. Paul Stanford of the Campaign for the Restoration and Regulation of Hemp vowed to gather at least 130,000 signatures to ensure a comfortable cushion. The initiative is also supported by Oregon NORML.

OCTA 2012 would allow Oregonians 21 or over to possess and grow marijuana. It would also create an Oregon Cannabis Commission to oversee the regulation of commercial cultivation and distribution. The commission would sell marijuana through its own outlets, similar to state liquor stores.

And so the next round begins.

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