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Drug Legalization: Senator Pushes Amendment to Censor Any Talk of That

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), an inveterate drug warrior, doesn't want to hear the L-word in Washington. This week, the corn-belt conservative offered an amendment to Senator Jim Webb's (D-VA) pending bill, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act, that would explicitly forbid any recommendations that even mention drug legalization or decriminalization.
the face of ignorance and prejudice -- US Sen. Charles Grassley
Webb, a congressional champion of criminal justice and drug law reform, introduced the bill in a bid to fix what he considers a failing, costly, and inhumane criminal justice system, including the war on drugs. Webb's bill contemplates the creation of "a commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom." That would presumably include taking a close look at the impact of drug laws.

Grassley's amendment says its purpose is "to restrict the authority of the Commission to examine policies that favor decriminalization of violations of the Controlled Substances Act or the legalization of any controlled substances." The amendment in its entirety reads as follows:

The Commission shall have no authority to make findings related to current Federal, State, and local criminal justice policies and practices or reform recommendations that involve, support, or otherwise discuss the decriminalization of any offense under the Controlled Substances Act or the legalization of any controlled substance listed under the Controlled Substances Act.

Grassley's politically bowdlerizing ploy quickly drew the ire of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "Senator Grassley's censorship amendment would block what Senator Webb is trying to achieve with this bill," said Jack Cole, a retired undercover narcotics detective who now heads the LEAP. "All along, Senator Webb has said that in the effort to fix our broken criminal justice system 'nothing should be off the table.' That should include the obvious solution of ending the 'drug war' as a way to solve the unintended problems caused by that failed policy."

As Grassley's amendment started to draw critical scrutiny, he attempted to defend himself. In a conference call with media this week, Grassley responded to a question about the amendment: "Well, my intent on that amendment isn't any different than any other amendments that are coming up. The Congress is setting up a commission to study certain things. And the commission is a -- is an arm of Congress, because Congress doesn't have time to review some of these laws. And -- and -- and the point is, for them to do what we tell them to do. And one of the things that I was anticipating telling them not to do is to -- to recommend or study the legalization of drugs."

When asked if his amendment would include limiting the discussion of medical marijuana, Grassley responded: "Yes, the extent to which it would be decriminalization, the answer is yes."

Grassley added that he had floated several amendments and that he would not necessarily introduce all of them. As of Thursday, he had not yet formally introduced his censorship amendment.

Another Legalization Discussion From FOX News

Check out LEAP's Jack Cole on Andrew Napolitano's Freedom Watch program:

When you've got a cop and a judge on FOX News talking about ending the drug war, you know we're headed in the right direction.

Drug Truth Network 11/03/09

Baggage * Century of Lies * 4:20 Drug War NEWS Cultural Baggage for 11/01/09, 29:00 Howard Wooldridge, founder of Citizens Opposing Prohibition + Phil Smith of Drug War Chronicle on the level of violence in Mexico LINK: TRANSCRIPT: Tuesday Century of Lies for 11/01/09, 29:00 Bradley Jardis, a working policeman is under fire for his involvement with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition + Cliff Thornton of Efficacy & extract from PBS program: "Botany of Desire" LINK: TRANSCRIPT: Tuesday 4:20 Drug War NEWS, 11/01 to 11/08/09 Link at on the right margin - Sun - Phil Smith re medical marijuana hearing in California Sat - PBS "Botany of Desire" 2/2 Fri - Cliff Thornton of re future progress of drug reform Thu - PBS "Botany of Desire" 1/2 Wed - Phil Smith report on Mexican violence 2/2 Tue - Phil Smith report on Mexican violence 1/2 Mon - AP report on Mexican efforts to smuggle drugs Programs produced at Pacifica Radio Station KPFT in Houston, 90.1 FM. You can Listen Live Online at - Cultural Baggage Sun, 7:30 PM ET, 6:30 PM CT, 5:30 PM MT, 4:30 PM PT (Followed Immediately By Century of Lies) - Century of Lies, SUN, 8 PM ET, 7 PM CT, 6 PM MT & 5 PM PT Who's Next to "Face The Inquisition?": Cliff Thornton of Hundreds of our programs are available online at, We have potcasts, searchability, CMS, XML, sorts by guest name and by organization. We provide the "unvarnished truth about the drug war" to scores of broadcast affiliates i You can tune into both our 1/2 hour programs, live, at 6:30 central time on Pacifica's KPFT at and call in your questions and concerns toll free at 1-877-9-420 420. The two, 29:00 shows appear along with the seven, daily, 3:00 "4:20 Drug War NEWS" reports each Monday morning at . We currently have 69 affiliated, yet independent broadcast stations. With a simple email request to , your station can join the Drug Truth Network, free of charge. Check out our latest videos via Please become part of the solution, visit our website: for links to the best of reform. "Prohibition is evil." - Reverend Dean Becker, DTN Producer, 713-462-7981,

Outrage: Drug Warrior Congressman Tries to Prohibit Discussion of Legalization

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) has introduced legislation calling for a thorough evaluation of the U.S. criminal justice system, namely for the purpose of exploring ways to reduce our world-record prison population. As you might guess, simply discussing whether we should keep millions of American behind bars is enough to terrify the drug war's most committed champions.

They can’t handle the tough questions, so they're trying to make it illegal to even ask. Drug war hall-of-famer Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) today introduced an amendment to Webb's bill that would literally prohibit the commission from talking about legalization or even decriminalization:

AMENDMENT intended to be proposed by Mr. GRASSLEY
The Commission shall have no authority to make findings related to current Federal, State, and local criminal justice policies and practices or reform recommendations that involve, support, or otherwise discuss the decriminalization of any offense under the Controlled Substances Act or the legalization of any controlled substance listed under the Controlled Substances Act.

These words are a legal blueprint for silencing all criticism of the war on drugs before the experts even get a chance to discuss it. The whole thing flagrantly violates the spirit of the entire inquiry and renders meaningless everything Webb is trying to do. And yes, that's exactly the point.

No one has done more than Charles Grassley to make the drug war into the horrible mess that it's become, so you can bet he'll do anything to protect his shameful legacy. If he succeeds, the bill will almost certainly end up protecting bad policies instead of exposing them. We can’t let that happen. Click here to tell your Senators to oppose this misguided amendment and let the experts do their job without political interference.

A serious evaluation of criminal justice and drug policies is long overdue and that effort means nothing unless all options are debated openly.

British Science vs. Politics Battle Explodes As Top Drug Advisor Fired for Heresy

The British Labor government has created a firestorm of controversy with its firing of Professor David Nutt, head of the Advisory Committee on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) last Friday. Nutt was canned by Home Secretary Alan Johnson after the psychopharmacologist again went public with his criticism of the government for refusing to follow a science- and evidence-based drug policy. As of today, after a weekend of furious back and forth in dozens of newspaper articles, two more members of the ACMD have resigned in protest over the firing, and a mass resignation of the 31-member body may come after a meeting next Monday. Johnson told parliament Monday that he had agreed to a request from the ACMD for an urgent meeting, but he also told parliament he had ordered a review of the ACMD to satisfy ministers that the panel is "discharging its functions" and that it still represents a value to the public. The ACMD's charge is to "make recommendations to government on the control of dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs, including classification and scheduling under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and its regulations," its web page explains. "It considers any substance which is being or appears to be misused and of which is having or appears to be capable of having harmful effects sufficient to cause a social problem. It also carries out in-depth inquiries into aspects of drug use that are causing particular concern in the UK, with the aim of producing considered reports that will be helpful to policy makers and practitioners." Tensions between the ACMD and the Labor government began rising after the government up-scheduled marijuana from a Class C drug (least harmful) back to Class B, where it had been prior to being down-scheduled in 2004. The Labor government ignored the ACMD's recommendation that marijuana remain Class C. Things only got worse when the ACMD recommended that Ecstasy be down-scheduled from Class A (most harmful) to Class B, and the government promptly ignored that advice. At that point, Nutt went public with his criticisms of then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith. He also famously compared the dangers of Ecstasy to those of horse-riding, deeply offending both the horsey set and the Labor government. Smith told Nutt to shut up, and he managed to do so until last week. Last week, in a lecture and briefing paper at the Center for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London, Nutt accused Smith of "distorting and devaluing" scientific evidence when she decided to reclassify marijuana. He also said that Ecstasy and LSD are less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco. "We have to accept young people like to experiment – with drugs and other potentially harmful activities – and what we should be doing in all of this is to protect them from harm at this stage of their lives," he said. "We therefore have to provide more accurate and credible information. If you think that scaring kids will stop them using, you are probably wrong.” Nutt's briefing paper included a ranking of various licit and illicit drugs by comparative harm. Heroin and cocaine were ranked the most harmful in Nutt's scheme, with alcohol fifth, marijuana ninth, LSD fourteenth, and Ecstasy eighteenth. "We need a full and open discussion of the evidence and a mature debate about what the drug laws are for — and whether they are doing their job," Nutt said. That was too much for Home Minister Alan Johnson. He told parliament Monday that Smith had warned Nutt not to publicly disagree with ministry decisions again. "Well, it has happened again," said Johnson. "On Thursday October 29 Professor Nutt chose, without prior notification to my department, to initiate a debate on drug policy in the national media, returning to the February decisions, and accusing my predecessor or distorting and devaluing scientific research. As a result, I have lost confidence in Professor Nutt's ability to be my principal adviser on drugs." Prime Minister Gordon Brown is standing behind Johnson. An official spokesman said the firing was based on the "important principle" that advisers should present advice to ministers but not speak out against their policy decisions. "It would be regrettable if there were other resignations, but this is an important point of principle," the spokesman added. "The government is absolutely committed to the importance of having independent advice and evidence presented by advisory bodies." Nutt defended himself and attacked the government in a London Sunday times opinion piece. "My sacking has cast a huge shadow over the relationship of science to policy," he wrote. "Several of the science experts from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) have resigned in protest and it seems likely that many others will follow suit. This means the Home Office no longer has a functioning advisory group, which is very unfortunate given the ever-increasing problems of drugs and the emergence of new ones. Also it seems unlikely that any 'true' scientist — one who can only speak the truth — will be able to work for this, or future, Home Secretaries. One of the ACMD members who resigned, chemist Les King, said ministers were putting inappropriate pressure on scientists to make drug policy decisions based on political—not scientific—reasons. "It's being asked to rubber stamp a predetermined position," he said, warning that others could leave the council over the brouhaha. "If sufficient members do resign, the committee will no longer be able to operate," King said. Scientist and Labor MP Robert Winston said Nutt had a "very reasonable" point about the relative dangers of legal and illegal drugs, and that he was disappointed by the firing. "I think that if governments appoint expert advice they shouldn't dismiss it so lightly," he said. "I think it shows a rather poor understanding of the value of science." Reuters reported Saturday that the firing is causing consternation in scientific circles. Scientists told the news agency the decision could undermine the integrity of science in policy-making, including critical areas like health, the environment, education, and defense. "Scientific data and their independent interpretation underpin evidence-based policy making -- and nobody rational could possibly want a government based on any other type of policy making," said Chris Higgins, chair of an advisory committee on spongiform encephalopathy, or "mad cow" disease. Maurice Elphick, a professor of animal physiology and neuroscience at Queen Mary, University of London, said politicians should look elsewhere if they wanted data to back social policies and allow science to maintain objectivity. "If, however, politicians really do want to have an objective assessment of the relative risks to health of different recreational drugs, then they should listen to what the medical scientist has to say, not sack him." he said. The Labor government has picked a fight with science. It's unclear how this will all play out, but Labor doesn't seem to be doing itself any favors so far.

Southeast Asia: UN's Top Health Rights Officials Calls for Decriminalizing Drug Use, Ending Forced "Rehab Camps"

The UN's top official on health rights called Tuesday for the decriminalization of drug use and an end to forced drug rehabilitation camps in Asia. The camps amount to "keeping sick people jailed," said Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health at a conference on international health rights in Hanoi.
Anand Grover (
"The criminalization of these practices actually hinders the right to health of all persons," Grover said.

Grover denounced the practice of many Asian nations, including China, India, Malaysia, and Vietnam, of forcing drug users to detoxify in massive drug treatment camps. The Open Society Institute reports that more than 50,000 people are being held in such camps in Vietnam and as many as 350,000 in China.

Grover elaborated on his decriminalization remarks in a Tuesday interview with Radio Australia. Remarking on the battle to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, Grover said: "Well, you know the success in Asia has been by being able to protect and empower the communities of sex workers, drug users and men having sex with men. But ultimately their rights are not being protected because their right to health is being compromised by, for example, large numbers of drug users who because possession and consumption is illegal in most countries find themselves in either compulsory treatment centers or voluntary treatment centers where it's not the evidence-based treatment which is actually resorted to, but old detoxification, which has a huge relapse rate, and they're subjected to a large number of abuses throughout the region, including in India for instance where NGOs run the centers and they're totally unregulated. And people will end up dying later on."

Grover clarified that he was not talking about legalizing the drug trade. "It's not the drug trade that we want to decriminalize," he said. "I think that large numbers of people who are just simple drug users they find themselves being treated as criminals and their rights abused."

Feature: Historic Hearing on Marijuana Legalization in the California Legislature

In an historic hearing Wednesday, the California legislature examined the pros and cons of marijuana legalization. The hearing marked the first time legalization has been discussed in the legislature since California banned marijuana in 1913.
Ammiano press conference for hearing
Onlookers and media packed the hearing room for the three-hour session. Capitol employees had to hook up remote monitors in the hallway for the overflowing crowd of supporters and opponents of marijuana legalization.

The hearing before the legislature's Public Safety Committee was called for and chaired by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF), who earlier this year introduced AB 390, a bill that would legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana in the state. While Ammiano has made clear that he supports legalization, the witness list for the hearing was well-balanced, with legislative analysts and representatives of law enforcement as well as reform advocates in the mix.

The hearing began with testimony from legislative analysts, who estimated that the state could realize tax revenues ranging from hundreds of millions to nearly $1.4 billion a year from legalization. The latter figure was from the state Board of Equalization, while the lower estimates came from the Legislative Analyst's Office.

But tax revenues wouldn't be the only fiscal impact of legalization. "If California were to legalize, we would no longer have offenders in state prison or on parole for marijuana offenses," noted Golaszewski. "We estimate the savings there at several tens of millions of dollars a year. There would also be a substantial reduction in the number of arrests and criminal cases law enforcement makes. To the extent they no longer have to arrest people for marijuana, they could shift resources elsewhere."

Golaszewski said there are roughly 1,500 people imprisoned on marijuana charges in California, 850 of them for possession offenses.

The analysts were followed by a panel of attorneys who debated the legality of state legalization. "If California decides to legalize, nothing in the Constitution stands in its way," said Tamar Todd, a staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance Network.

But while Marty Mayer, attorney for the California Peace Officers Association (CPOA), generally agreed with that assessment, he also argued that the state could not unilaterally legalize. "The state of California cannot unequivocally legalize marijuana," he said, noting that marijuana is prohibited under federal law.

Next up were the cops, and there were no surprises there. "Marijuana radically diminishes our society," said CPOA president John Standish. "Marijuana is a mind-altering addictive drug that robs you of memory, motivation, and concentration," he said before Ammiano cut him short, noting that the purpose of the hearing was to discuss public safety and economic impacts of legalization, not to debate marijuana's effects on health.

"Alcohol and cigarettes are taxed to the hilt, but the taxes don't cover the cost of medical treatment, let alone DUIs," Standish continued. "This would lead to an increase in crime rates, social costs, medical costs, and environmental concerns. There is also a very real concern that Mexican drug cartels are behind most of the imported marijuana coming into the US," he added, without explaining what that had to do with legalizing marijuana production in California.

And, pulling out yet another woolly chestnut, Standish resorted to the old and discredited "gateway theory" that marijuana use is a stepping stone to hard drug use. "Marijuana is a gateway drug," he said. "Every incident in 30 years of law enforcement I have been in where marijuana has been involved has not been good. Both marijuana and methamphetamine are equally critical problems," he said.
overflow room
After reciting a short list of violent incidents around large-scale illegal grows allegedly operated by Mexican drug cartels, Sara Simpson, acting assisting chief of the Attorney General's Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, warned that the cartels were likely to try to maintain their market share. "That could lead to more violence," she warned.

"Legalizing marijuana is bad public policy," said Simpson. "A significant number of marijuana users are incapacitated," she claimed. "When a recreational drug user backs over your four-year-old, you consider yourself a victim of violent crime. Legalization would increase death and injury totals."

"Why would we want to legalize a substance known to cause cancer?" asked Scott Kirkland, chief of police in El Cerrito and chairman of the California Police Chiefs' Medical Marijuana Task Force. "Legalization will only result in increased use of marijuana with a corresponding increase in drugged driving," he warned.

But later witnesses said that California was simply wasting resources by arresting marijuana offenders. Dan Macallair, executive director of the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, said that arrest statistics from the past 20 years show that California law enforcement is more focused on prosecuting simple possession cases than cultivation and sales.

"California's drug war, particularly on marijuana, is focused on drug users," he said. "Virtually every category of crime has declined since 1990, except for a dramatic increase in arrests for marijuana possession. In 1990, there were 20,834 arrests for possession. Last year, there were 61,388 arrests. "

This was going on while arrests for all other drug offenses declined, Macallair said. For all other drugs, arrests were down 29%. Even marijuana manufacture and sales arrests had declined by 21%. More people went to prison in California in 2008 for marijuana possession than for manufacture or sales, he added.

"Our courtrooms are full every day with marijuana cases," said Terence Hallinan, the former San Francisco City and County District Attorney. "It's still against the law to sell even a gram. There are a lot of people in court and jail for marijuana offenses."

The Rev. Canon Mary Moreno Richardson of St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in San Diego told the committee marijuana law enforcement has especially pernicious effects on the young. "When they find a group of kids with a joint, they take them all in to juvie. When they're incarcerated, they join gangs for safety. Jails have become the boot camps for the gangs," she said. "We need to think about and protect our youth."

"I speak on behalf of California's millions of marijuana users who are tired of being criminals and would like to be taxpaying, law-abiding citizens," said Dale Gieringer, executive director of California NORML. "We think it makes no sense for taxpayers to pay for criminalizing marijuana users and their suppliers when we could be raising revenues in a legal market."

"Today, our marijuana laws are putting our children in harm's way," said retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James P. Gray. "We want to reduce the exposure of a lifestyle of marijuana use and selling to our children, but prohibition's illegal dealers don't ask for ID," he said.

At the end of the hearing, Ammiano opened the floor to public comment. While most speakers supported legalization, a contingent of conservative African-American religious leaders vigorously denounced it. "I know from personal experience the devastation that occurs in one's life and community as a result of drug abuse that began with marijuana," said Bishop Ron Allen, founder and president of the International Faith Based Coalition.

Also in opposition was Californians for Drug Free Youth. John Redman, the group's director, said legalizing marijuana to raise revenues was reprehensible. "This is blood money, pure and simple," Redman said.

The battle lines are shaping up. On one side are law enforcement, conservative clerics, and anti-drug zealots. On the other are researchers, activists, and, evidently, the majority of Californians. Ammiano gave as a handout at the hearing a sheet listing at least six recent polls showing majority support for marijuana legalization in the state.

The bill isn't going anywhere for awhile. Ammiano said he will hold more hearings later and may revise it based on the hearings. But marijuana legalization is now before the legislature in California.

Latin America: Marijuana Legalization Fares Poorly in Chile Poll

Only 14.6% of Chileans support marijuana legalization, down from 19% five months ago, according to a newly released Ipsos poll. Some 56% of Chileans reject legalizing marijuana for any reason, the poll found.
Marco Enríquez-Ominami
The news is slightly better on the medical marijuana front. There, support has risen to 28.5%, up from 21.7% in June.

Chile is one of the most socially conservative countries in Latin America. Abortion is illegal there, and divorce became legal only five years ago. Homosexuality became legal a decade ago, but the country does not have an anti-discrimination law that includes sexual orientation.

Marijuana has become something of an issue in the country's presidential elections. Former Socialist Party leader Marco Enriquez-Ominami, who is running as an independent has said that he "is a supporter of looking into the matter of legalizing marijuana."

But Eduardo Frei, candidate of the ruling left-leaning Concordance of Parties for Democracy (CPD) responded in a recent debate that he opposes pot legalization. "All drugs are addictive and they lead to harder drugs," he said.

The first round of the Chilean presidential election is set for December 11.

Marijuana Debate! Former Judge vs. Several Complete Idiots

The debate over legalization is heating up in California, and from the looks of things, the two sides aren’t even speaking the same language. Here's Judge James Gray speaking from experience about the advantages of regulating marijuana:

And here's the best response the opposition could put together:

Stay tuned, folks. There will be plenty more stupid crap where that came from, I assure you. But if those tired old clichés were worth anything anymore, legalization wouldn’t be on the tip of every tongue in California and beyond.

This conversation is an inherent victory for us, while our opposition's response is just another embarrassment for them.

A Historic Hearing on Marijuana Legalization in Sacramento Today

Wednesday was a historic day at the California state capitol. For the first time since the state banned marijuana in 1913, marijuana legalization was the topic of a hearing in the state legislature. The hearing was organized by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), head of the Assembly's Public Safety Committee, to discuss his marijuana legalization bill, AB 390. For three hours, proponents and opponents of reform clashed before an overflowing hearing room--the hearing was so popular capitol employees had to add a monitor in the hallway for those who couldn't get into the session. Both supporters and foes of legalization were well represented, and they mostly followed their predictable scripts. To this observer, law enforcement's dire warnings and objections sounded increasingly threadbare and shopworn and the arguments of legalizers especially compelling, but then, I agree with the legalizers. I think what is important about Wednesday's hearing is not so much what was said--we've heard it all before, on both sides--as where it was said and in what context. Just a few days ago, they were talking legalization at the statehouse in Boston; now, they're doing it at the statehouse in Sacramento. Nobody expects the California bill to pass this year, but the fact that legalization is finally getting a serious hearing is a sign of progress. I'll be reporting on the hearing and the preceding press conference in more detail later this week for the Drug War Chronicle. Check out the article on Friday.
Sacramento, CA
United States

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