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Drugs, Poverty and Ethnicity: Enhancing Treatment, Eliminating Disparities, and Promoting Justice

The day after Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday a new group, the Illinois Drug Policy Coalition in partnership with the National African American Drug Policy Coalition will officially launch a new broad-based advocacy group whose key objectives include: advocating for drug policies and laws that embrace the public heath nature of drug abuse; and to minimize the use of expensive criminal sanctions. Participants at the kick-off event include: the Honorable Danny K. Davis, the Honorable Senator Mattie Hunter, the Honorable Constance A. Howard, and the Honorable Judge Arthur Burnett, Sr. Continental breakfast will be served. Hope to see you at this event, John A. Fairman, Esq. Co-Chair: Drug Policy Coalition 10220 S. 76th Avenue, Room 223 Bridgeview, Illinois 60455 D 773-263-0582 O 708-974-6250 F 708-974-6223 E JohnFairman@sbcglobal.net
Date: 
Tue, 01/16/2007 - 9:00am - 11:00am
Location: 
430 S. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL
United States

Hemp: DEA Has Spent $175 Million Eradicating "Ditch Weed" Plants That Don't Get You High

In the past two decades, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has spent at least $175 million in direct spending and grants to the states to eradicate feral hemp plants, popularly known as "ditch weed." The plants, the hardy descendants of hemp plants grown by farmers at the federal government's request during World War II, do not contain enough THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, to get people high.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ditchweedchart1.jpg
chart by Jon Gettman for Vote Hemp
According to figures from the DEA's Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, it has seized or destroyed 4.7 billion feral hemp plants since 1984. That's in contrast to the 4.2 million marijuana plants it has seized or destroyed during the same period. In other words, 98.1% of all plants eradicated under the program were ditch weed, of which it is popularly remarked that "you could smoke a joint the size of a telephone pole and all you would get is a headache and a sore throat."

While the DEA is spending millions of tax payer dollars, including $11 million in 2005, to wipe out hemp plants, farmers in Canada and European countries are making millions growing hemp for use in a wide variety of food, clothing, and other products. Manufacturers of hemp products in the United States must import their hemp from countries with more enlightened policies.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/ditchweedchart2.jpg
chart by Jon Gettman for Vote Hemp
"It's Orwellian that the biggest target of the DEA's Eradication Program is actually not a drug but instead a useful plant for everything from food, clothing and even auto parts and currently must be imported to supply a $270 million industry," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, a group lobbying for increased acceptance of the versatile plant. "While Vote Hemp has urged the DEA to recognize the difference between hemp and marijuana so farmers could grow it here, the federal agency is spending millions of dollars to destroy hundreds of millions of harmless hemp plants."

DEA officials regularly argue that there is no difference between hemp and marijuana, but their own statistics belie that claim. In its reports on the domestic eradication program, the agency clearly differentiates between ditch weed and "cultivated marijuana."

Not only is the ditch weed eradication program a waste of money, it may even be counterproductive, said Vote Hemp national outreach coordinator Tom Murphy. "Much of the ditch weed eradicated is believed to be burned, turning a carbon consuming plant into a contributor of Greenhouse gasses," said Murphy in a post-Christmas press release. "For all the effort to find and destroy these harmless wild hemp plants they are coming back year after year. It is likely that the eradication programs help re-seed the locations were ditch weed is found. The late summer timing and removal method causes countless ripe seeds to fall to the ground where they will sprout again the following year."

Your tax dollars at work.

OP-ED: This Is Your Brain on Drugs, Dad

Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/03/opinion/03males.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1

Put Drug Laws on the Day One Docket

Location: 
Albany, NY
United States
Publication/Source: 
Albany Times-Union
URL: 
http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=549238

San Francisco Board of Supervisors Vote Overwhelmingly to Deprioritize Adult Marijuana Offenses; Now Officially Lowest Law Enforcement Priority

For Immediate Release: November 15, 2006 For More Info: Camilla Norman Field, tel: (415) 713-2388 San Francisco Board of Supervisors Vote Overwhelmingly to Deprioritize Adult Marijuana Offenses; Now Officially Lowest Law Enforcement Priority Measure Supported by SF Police and Drug Policy Reform Advocates SF Joins Seattle, Denver, Oakland, West Hollywood and More in Passing Measures that Free Police From Wasting Scarce Resources On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3, to approve an ordinance deprioritizing low-level marijuana offenses by adults. The decision is pending the formality of a second reading next Tuesday. With Tuesday’s approval, San Francisco has sent a clear message that our country’s marijuana laws are ripe for real reform. The county is not the first to pass such a measure. Berkeley, Seattle, Denver, Oakland, West Hollywood, and—as of last week—Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Santa Barbara, Eureka Spring, Arkansas, and Missoula, Montana, have all passed measures making marijuana the lowest priority of local law enforcement. The San Francisco legislation was sponsored by Supervisor Tom Ammiano, co-sponsored by supervisors Mirkarimi, Daly, and McGoldrick, and was supported by the San Francisco Police Department, the Public Defender’s office, and other drug policy reform organizations, including the Drug Policy Alliance, Marijuana Policy Project, California NORML, Californians for Civil Liberties, Axis of Love SF, the Harvey Milk LBGT Democratic Club, and Hempevolution.org. “There are many better ways that we can be using our tax dollars and empowering our law enforcement than wasting money and resources on marijuana offenses,” said Supervisor Ammiano in the San Francisco Chronicle. Camilla Norman Field, Deputy Director of Drug Policy Alliance San Francisco, who was deeply involved in the effort, said in response to the vote, “By urging our law enforcement community to ignore adult marijuana offenses, our police officers can focus on battling the increase in serious and violent crime, much of which is ironically directly related to our failed prohibitionist approach to drugs. This vote represents one small, but significant, step toward making our communities safer.” Similar to Oakland, West Hollywood, and Santa Cruz, this ordinance deprioritizes the investigation, citations, arrests, and property seizures for marijuana offenses by adults (including possession, distribution, and sale), with a few exceptions: driving under the influence, involving minors, on or within view of public property, and when public safety is jeopardized. The measure also creates an oversight committee that can review cases in which individuals feel they were wrongly targeted. The ordinance also directs the Board of Supervisors’ Clerk to annually notify state and federal governments that, “the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of San Francisco has passed an ordinance to deprioritize marijuana offenses by adults, and requests that the federal and California state governments take immediate steps to tax and regulate marijuana use, cultivation, and distribution and to authorize state and local communities to do the same.” According to the FBI's annual Uniform Crime Report close to 800,000 Americans were arrested for marijuana offenses in 2005 — 88% for possession only. This number exceeds the total number of arrests in the U.S. for all violent crimes combined, including murder, manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. In California, over 1,400 people are in state prison serving sentences for marijuana felonies, over ten times as many as in 1980. While many feel this measure is largely symbolic and doesn’t change existing policy, Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s comments at Monday’s committee hearing that 5-10% of his caseload currently involves adults prosecuted with marijuana-related charges, demonstrates the very real need for this ordinance. “There are a range of counterproductive policies for people who are convicted of a marijuana offense,” continued Ms. Field, “Students lose federal financial aid, and families get kicked out of public housing. It is time to be ‘smart on crime,’ not ‘tough on crime’.”
Location: 
United States

Italy signals major overhaul of drugs laws (EuroNews, France)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://euronews.net/create_html.php?page=detail_info&article=390711&lng=1

It's time to legalize marijuana in Illinois (Chicago Sun-Times)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.suntimes.com/news/anderson/132863,CST-EDT-monroe12.article

Voters take on pot, sick pay, minimum wage and healthcare (Los Angeles Times)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/politics/cal/la-me-state8nov08,0,6561989.story?coll=la-center-politics-cal

Sentencing: Public Hearings on Illinois SMART Act Pack 'Em In

Supporters of an Illinois bill that would allow judges to divert low-level drug offenders into county "drug schools" instead of jail or prison are holding a series of public hearings across the state to drum up renewed support for the stalled measure. If the turnout in Chicago is any indication, public interest is high.

Illinois House Bill 4885, the Substance Abuse Management Addressing Recidivism Through Treatment (SMART) Act", would appropriate $3.5 million to allow state's attorneys' offices to open drug schools where low-level drug offenders could have their cases dismissed and arrest records expunged after completing an eight-hour course and -- depending on a mental health and addiction assessment -- possibly undergoing drug treatment.

The bill would allow counties to opt to follow the example set in Cook County (Chicago), where District Attorney Dick Devine pioneered the drug school idea. In the Cook County Drug School program, first-time drug possession offenders are offered mental health screenings, addiction assessment, and an eight-hour drug education program, and some -- depending on their assessment -- may be ordered into drug treatment. The county spends roughly $350 per person per year on the program, compared to the more than $21,000 it costs to incarcerate someone for a year.

After being introduced in January, the bill stalled in the legislature this fall, but supporters were able to pass a resolution calling on legislators to participate in a series of public hearings on alternatives to imprisonment and issue a report on those hearings. Hearings have already been held in Champaign, East St. Louis, and Chicago, with more set later this month for Decatur, Rockford, Rock Island, and Waukegan.

At the October 25 meeting in the Ashburn Lutheran Church in Chicago, the Southwest News Herald reported that "hundreds of people crowded into the church for the hearing, with some coming on buses from as far away as Rockford." Convened by the Developing Justice Coalition, a statewide alliance of community-based social service and religious organizations working on issues such as sentencing reform, prisoner re-entry, and public, the hearing featured several dozen speakers, including many ex-prisoners who said their drug arrest records had dogged them ever since. The coalition was organized by the Safer Foundation, which works to help ex-prisoners re-enter society.

Turnout for the hearing was "phenomenal," said Ashburn Lutheran pastor the Rev. Pam Challis. "It has been a long time since we had to put chairs in the aisles," said Challis, looking around at the standing-room only crowd after the meeting. "It is indicative of the fact that this is needed."

"I am a product of incarceration. I was in jail twice, and while I was incarcerated I learned absolutely nothing," said drug educator Armando Fox. After the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council gave him "a second chance" he was able to turn his life around. "Sometimes the choices we make aren't always the best, but we really shouldn't just throw people in prison. They don't learn anything."

But with its current drug laws, the state of Illinois throws quite a few people in prison. It spends nearly $250 million a year on its prison budget.

Attending the hearing were state Representatives Mary Flowers (D-31st) and Esther Golar (D-6th). Flowers, a 23-year veteran of the legislature, accused the body of passing "bad legislation" with its zero tolerance drug laws that set strict sentencing guidelines for drug offenses. "Some of those crimes should have been probational. The only thing we did was dig ourselves a bigger hole at your expense," she said.

The legislature is out of session now, but the SMART Act will probably come to a vote in January. Advocates are doing all they can do to show lawmakers there is broad public support, and packing hundreds of people into a hearing on a relatively obscure piece of legislation is a good start.

Paul Armentano: A Billion Dollars a Year for Pot?

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Washington Examiner
URL: 
http://www.examiner.com/a-349381~Paul_Armentano__A_billion_dollars_a_year_for_pot_.html

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