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Feature: Justice Department Issues Medical Marijuana Policy Memo -- No Prosecutions If Complying With State Law

In a new federal medical marijuana policy memo issued Monday to the DEA, FBI, and US Attorneys around the country, the Justice Department told prosecutors that medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal should not be targeted for federal prosecution unless they are violating state law. The memo formalizes statements made by Attorney General Eric Holder in February and March that going after pot-smoking patients and their suppliers would not be a high Justice Department priority .

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/wisconsin-medmj-demo-2009.jpg
Madison, WI medical marijuana march, this month, by 'Is My Medicine Legal Yet?'
The memo marks a sharp break with federal policy under the Clinton and Bush administrations, both of which aggressively targeted medical marijuana operations, especially in California, the state that has the broadest law and the highest number of medical marijuana patients.

The announcement of the policy shift won kudos from the marijuana and broader drug reform movement. But some reformers questioned what the shift would actually mean on the ground, pointing to DEA raids and federal prosecutions that have occurred since Holder's signal this spring that the feds were to back off, as well as continuing controversies, especially in California, over what exactly is legal under state law. Others noted that for real protection to be in place, federal law -- not just prosecutorial policy -- needs to change.

Not everyone was pleased with the move. Comments critical of the move have come down from some conservative politicians and a handful of newspaper editorial boards. But they appear to be a distinct minority.

In the memo, federal prosecutors were told that going after people who use or provide medical marijuana in accordance with state law was not the best use of their time or resources. According to the memo, while the Justice Department continues to make enforcing federal drug laws a key mission:

"As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources."

But the memo also said that federal prosecutors should continue to target marijuana production or sales operations that are illicit but hiding behind state medical marijuana laws. It explicitly singled out cases which involve violence, the illegal use of firearms, selling pot to minors, money laundering or involvement in other crimes.

"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal," said Attorney General Holder.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/dojmemo.jpg
DOJ memo
Head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske was quick to point out that the memo didn't legalize marijuana or medical marijuana, and that prosecutions could continue. "It is important to recognize that these guidelines provide clarity for federal prosecutors regarding the appropriate use of federal resources," he said in a statement Monday. "They do not declare marijuana, whether 'medical' or not, as legal under federal law; nor do they preclude the appropriate prosecution, under federal law, of marijuana dispensaries in those states that allow them. The Department of Justice's guidelines strike a balance between efficient use of limited law enforcement resources, and a tough stance against those whose violations of state law jeopardize public health and safety. Enforcing the law against those who unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit will continue to be an enforcement priority for the US government," the drug czar warned.

The DEA was also quick to point out that while it "welcomes" the new guidelines, it will continue to go after "criminals." "These guidelines do not legalize marijuana," the agency said in a Thursday statement. "It is not the practice or policy of DEA to target individuals with serious medical conditions who comply with state laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Consistent with the DOJ guidelines, we will continue to identify and investigate any criminal organization or individual who unlawfully grows, markets or distributes marijuana or other dangerous drugs. Those who unlawfully possess firearms, commit acts of violence, provide drugs to minors, or have ties to other criminal organizations may also be subject to arrest."

Despite the disclaimers and demurrals, patient advocates hailed the move. "This is a huge victory for medical marijuana patients," said Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access, the nationwide medical marijuana advocacy organization, which had been in negotiations with the Justice Department to get written guidelines issued. "This indicates that President Obama intends to keep his promise not to undermine state medical marijuana laws and represents a significant departure from the policies of the Bush Administration," continued Sherer. "We will continue to work with President Obama, the Justice Department, and the US Congress to establish a comprehensive national policy, but it's good to know that in the meantime states can implement medical marijuana laws without interference from the federal government."

"This is the most significant, positive policy development on the federal level for medical marijuana since 1978," said the Marijuana Policy Project in a message to its list members Monday.

"It's great to see the Obama administration making good on the promises that candidate Obama made last year. These new guidelines effectively open the door to sensible collaboration between state governments and medical marijuana providers in ensuring that patients have safe and reliable access to their medicine," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "What remains unclear is how the Justice Department will respond to rogue state attorneys, such as San Diego's Bonnie Dumanis, who persist in undermining state medical marijuana laws in their local jurisdictions. Now is the right time for the Obama administration to move forward with federal legislation to end the irrational prohibition of medical marijuana under federal law."

While the policy memo was "encouraging," the "proof will be in the pudding," said California NORML head Dale Gieringer, who also cited the recent raids in San Diego, as well as the August federal indictment of two Lake County medical marijuana providers. "Note that the new Obama policy has a glaring loophole, emphasizing that 'prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing which cases to pursue, and... it is not a good use of federal manpower to prosecute those who are without a doubt in compliance with state law,'" Gieringer said. "The salient question is, who decides what is 'without a doubt' in compliance with state law? As shown by the recent statements of LA's DA and City Attorney, there exist significant doubts about the legality of most dispensaries in California. It remains to be seen how far the administration's new policy guidelines will go to prevent further abuses, when what is really needed is fundamental reform of federal laws and regulations."

Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley was not concerned about the subtleties of the policy shift as much as he was about turning a blind eye to a violation of federal law. "I think that marijuana is a gateway to harder drug use," Grassley said in a Wednesday statement. "Medical marijuana brings a certain amount of legitimacy to an illegal drug, even though it attempts to do it in a legal way. We have a federal law that is intended to outlaw its use. That federal law ought to be enforced. It was enforced in the previous administration and I think having a national program against drug use is very, very important."

Demonstrating a lack of information about who is supplying California medical marijuana dispensaries, Grassley attempted to link them to Mexican drug cartels. While some medical marijuana providers may be acting legally under state law, he said, "most of the marijuana that flows into the United States comes from the drug lords."

But Grassley appeared to be fighting a lonely rear-guard action. In what may be a sign that even politicians in Washington understand the popularity of medical marijuana, the Obama administration move has generated little other critical comment from the right or from the mainstream media. While numerous newspaper editorial boards have come out in favor of the move, the Christian Science Monitor was nearly alone among major newspapers in condemning it.

And so opens the next chapter in America's long, twisted path to the acceptance of medical marijuana.

Poll: L.A. Voters Oppose Plan to Close Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                               
OCTOBER 22, 2009

 

Poll: L.A. Voters Oppose Plan to Close Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Mason-Dixon Finds Only 14% Back District Attorney; 77% Want Dispensaries Regulated

CONTACT: Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications …………… 415-585-6404 or 202-215-4205

LOS ANGELES — A new poll of Los Angeles County voters reports massive opposition to Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley’s announced plan for a wholesale shutdown of medical marijuana dispensaries, with only 14 percent backing Cooley’s effort. After Cooley made his statement, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich proposed an ordinance that would effectively shut down all dispensaries in the city.

         The survey of 625 randomly chosen L.A. County voters was conducted Oct. 19 and 20 by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.

            Asked whether they support or oppose California’s medical marijuana law, including patients’ ability to buy their medical marijuana, 74 percent said they favor it, with 16 percent opposed and 10 percent undecided. Following that question, voters were asked about Cooley’s assertion that all medical marijuana dispensaries in the county are illegal and should be closed. Asked, “Which of one these two alternatives come closest to your view: Prosecute or close all medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles County, or create and enforce uniform licensing requirements and regulations for the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries within Los Angeles County,” 77 percent supported regulation, with only 14 percent backing a large-scale shutdown.

            Support for regulating the dispensaries crossed all demographic groups, including a 62 to 30 percent margin among Republicans.

            In a third question, 54 percent of county voters supported “making marijuana legal for adults who are 21 or older, and regulating and taxing marijuana similarly to alcohol,” with 33 percent opposed. Full results of the poll are available at http://www.mpp.org/assets/pdfs/general/MPP-LA-County-10-09-Poll.pdf 

            “It’s clear that voters utterly reject calls for a wholesale shutdown of medical marijuana collectives and overwhelmingly support sensible regulation,” said Aaron Smith, California policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Angelenos support patients’ right to obtain medical marijuana, and want them to do it through safe, regulated businesses and not force them to turn to street dealers, as Cooley and Trutanich would do.”

         With more than 29,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.

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Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States

John Stossel & Bill O'Reilly Debate Drug Legalization

Stossel just took a job over at FOX News and if that means we'll be seeing more of this, I'm all for it (the good stuff starts at 2:25):


All it takes is a few words from Stossel to send O'Reilly (who's been known to vaguely support medical marijuana) into a rambling tailspin about how legalizing medical marijuana causes heroin addicts to sell it to children. Yeah, that's pretty much what we've learned to expect from him, but as much as O'Reilly makes me sick, I think he epitomizes the sort of pure drug war lunacy that's done so much to alienate the public.

Apparently, the producers at FOX see it too, which would help to explain why they've brought Stossel in on the conversation.

Drug Truth Update 10/19/09

Cultural Baggage * Century of Lies * 4:20 Drug War NEWS Cultural Baggage for 10/18/09, 29:00 Atty Richard Evans of Mass NORML + LIVE: Sanho Tree of Institute for Policy Studies in Wash DC & US Drug Czar clip + Paul Armentano of national NORML LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/2619 TRANSCRIPT: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/2619#comments Century of Lies for 10/18/09, 29:00 Sanho Tree of Institute for Policy Studies in Wash DC takes DTN listener calls + Phil Smith with Corrupt Cop Story & a "Discouraging Word" LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/2620 TRANSCRIPT: Tuesday 4:20 Drug War NEWS, 10/19 to 10/25/09 Link at www.drugtruth.net on the right margin - Sun - NEWSWEEK: "Marijuana Mecca" 2/2 Sat - NEWSWEEK: "Marijuana Mecca" 1/2 Fri - DTN Editorial: "A Discouraging Word" Thu - US Drug Czar Gil Kerlikoske & NORML's Paul Armentano re medicinal properties of marijuana Wed - Phil Smith with Corrupt Cop Story + Abolitionist Moment Tue - Sanho Tree 2/2 Mon - Sanho Tree of Institute for Policy Studies regarding his recent trip to Colombia 1/2 Programs produced at Pacifica Radio Station KPFT in Houston, 90.1 FM. You can Listen Live Online at www.kpft.org - 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?": Tony Newman of the Drug Policy Alliance Hundreds of our programs are available online at www.drugtruth.net, www.audioport.org 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 http://www.kpft.org 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 http://www.drugtruth.net . We currently have 69 affiliated, yet independent broadcast stations. With a simple email request to dean@drugtruth.net , your station can join the Drug Truth Network, free of charge. Check out our latest videos via www.youtube.com/fdbecker Please become part of the solution, visit our website: www.endprohibition.org for links to the best of reform. "Prohibition is evil." - Reverend Dean Becker, DTN Producer, 713-462-7981, www.drugtruth.net

Public Opinion: In Gallup Poll, Support for Legalizing Marijuana Reaches All-Time High; A Majority in the West Say Free the Weed

Public Opinion: In Gallup Poll, Support for Legalizing Reaches All-Time High; Over 50% in the West Are in Favor According to the most recent Gallup poll, 44% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, while 54% oppose it. The 44% figure is the highest since Gallup began polling on the issue nearly 40 years ago. In 1970, only 12% of respondents favored legalization. That figure climbed to 28% in 1977, then declined slightly and reached a plateau with support holding at around 25% for the next two decades. But in the past decade, public opinion has begun to shift, with support hitting 34% in 2002, 36% in 2006, and now, 44%. Conversely, opposition to legalization is now at an all-time low. It was 84% in 1970, 66% in 1977, and around 73% for most of the Reagan, Bush I, and Clinton eras. But beginning in about 1996, opposition began to decline, dropping to 62% in 2002, 60% in 2006, and now, 54%. A related question—whether marijuana should be legalized and taxed to raise revenues for state governments—won similar support levels in the Gallup poll. Some 42% of respondents said they would favor such a move in their state, while 56% were opposed. In the West, however, support for tax and legalize has gone over the top; 53% favor such an approach. Looking at various demographic groups, support for marijuana legalization is highest among self-described liberals, at 78%. Only 26% of conservatives and 46% of moderates supported legalization. Similarly, 54% of Democrats, 49% of independents, and 28% of Republicans supported legalization. There is also a clear generational divide. Half of those under age 50 support legalization, compared to 45% aged 50 to 64, and only 28% of seniors. Support for legalization has swollen among certain demographic groups since the last Gallup poll on the issue in 2005. The number in favor of legalization jumped more than 10 points among women (+12), young people (+11), Democrats (+13), liberals (+15), moderates (+11), and residents of the West (+13). If these rates of increase in support for legalization continue over the medium term, the world as we know may indeed end in 2012.

Latin America: Mexico Ex-President Fox Lashes Out at President Calderon Over Drug War

Latin America: Mexico Ex-President Fox Lashes Out at President Calderon Over Drug War For years, former Mexican President Vicente Fox has suggested that drug legalization needs to be on the agenda when discussing how to resolve prohibition-related problems like the wave of violence plaguing Mexico. Now, he's getting personal and political, as he attacks sitting President Felipe Calderon for what Fox is describing as a "failed" effort to send the military after the so-called drug cartels. Fox and Calderon are both members of the conservate National Action Party (PAN), and Calderon replaced Fox in the Mexican presidency in December 2006. With Mexico already stricken by violent conflict among the cartels and between the cartels and Mexican law enforcement, Calderon called out the military to join the fray, but matters have only gotten worse. An estimated 14,000 people have been killed in the conflicts since Calderon sent in the soldiers, with 2,000 being killed in one city—Ciudad Juarez—this year alone. Addressing reporters at the annual conference of the conservative European Popular Party in Vienna last weekend, Fox said Calderon's efforts against the cartels had gone astray and the military should return to the barracks. "The use of army in the fight against drug mafia and organized crime, the use of force against force gave no positive results. On the contrary, the number of crimes only grows," Fox told journalists on Saturday. "It's time to think of alternative ways to fight the crime," Fox said, adding that police and governments of Mexican states should be charged with anti-drug efforts on their territory, instead of federal forces. Not that Fox himself had much better luck against the cartels, nor was he averse to using the military. While Fox was president between 2000 and 2006, he deployed troops to Sonora, Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, and other states, especially after 2003, when violence began escalating. By 2005, nearly 1,400 were reported killed in the drug wars, and 2,000 more in 2006. But those levels of violence, which once seemed extraordinary, would now be a welcome relief after nearly three years of Calderon's campaign and the harsh response from the cartels. This year's toll in Ciudad Juarez alone matches the toll nationwide for the last year of the Fox era. Fox was also critical of the United States, saying it needed to do more to control arms trafficking, money laundering, and drug use. But he again questioned whether drug prohibition is the best way to attain those ends. "Drug consumption is a personal responsibility, not one of government, Fox said."Perhaps it is impossible to ask government to halt the supply of drugs to our children."
Location: 
Vienna
Austria

Australia: Western Australia Premier Vows to Roll Back Marijuana Reforms, Reenergize Drug War

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Demagogue Rising: Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett
Leading a Liberal-National Party coalition government, Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett is introducing legislation this week to roll back reforms to the state's marijuana laws. Passed by an earlier Labor government in 2003, the changes decriminalized the possession of up to 30 grams of pot and allowed for the growing of up to two plants without fear of arrest and prosecution.

In a media statement Sunday and another one Monday, the "tough on crime" premier gave clear notice he was cracking down on pot and other drug offenders, and was willing to extend police powers to do so. He said he would introduce legislation to repeal the state's Cannabis Control Act of 2003 and to amend the 1981 Misuse of Drugs and Youthful Offender Act.

"The Liberal-National Government is committed to tackling both the demand and supply sides of the illicit drug problem through strong law enforcement policies, education and rehabilitation," Barnett said. "Cannabis is not a harmless or soft drug. Research continues to show that cannabis can lead to a host of health and mental health problems including schizophrenia, and can be a gateway to harder drugs," he maintained, treating highly controversial and discredited claims as if they were fact.

According to Premier Barnett, his legislation will:

  • Prosecute those in possession of more than 10g of cannabis.
  • See subsequent offenses for possession being prosecuted as criminal offences.
  • Prosecute people for cultivating even one or two cannabis plants.
  • Extend the ban on the sale of pot-smoking implements to minors to include everyone.
  • Increase the fine for selling smoking implements to $5,000 for sale to adults and $10,000 for sale to minors. Corporate entities could be fined up to five times those amounts.

Barnett also wants to "reform" the Cannabis Infringement Notice Scheme (CIN), or ticketing and fines for decriminalized amounts, by replacing it with a Cannabis Intervention Requirement Scheme (CIRS) that would require anyone ticketed to attend "drug education" classes. It would also mandate that anyone who failed to pay his fine would be prosecuted, something that has not been the case under the current law.

Barnett's scheme would also allow for the criminal prosecution for marijuana possession of juveniles after two decrim tickets and adults after one. The current law has no such measures.

There's more to come, Barnett promised. "The next steps will be to amend legislation to enable courts to impose a harsher sentence on dealers who sell or supply illicit drugs to children, irrespective of the location of the sale or supply," he said. "Further amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 will provide offenses for exposing children to harm or to the danger of serious harm from the manufacture of illegal drugs, such as amphetamines, or the unlawful cultivation of illegal hydroponically-grown plants. The government will also move to ban the sale of drug paraphernalia, including cocaine kits."

But, he said Monday, he's going to start by soon introducing legislation to allow police to stop and search anyone without probable cause. The police commissioner would designate certain "stop and search" zones with advance public notice, especially in entertainment areas.

"Police will have the right to go up to anyone they wish to and introduce a stop and search power," Barnett said. "It will not be an invasive search; it will be comparable to the sort of search and screening that takes place for any citizen getting on an aeroplane."

Australia: West Australia Premier Vows to Roll Back Marijuana Reforms, Reenergize Drug War

Leading a Liberal-National Party coalition government, West Australia Premier Colin Barnett is introducing legislation this week to roll back reforms to the state's marijuana laws. Passed by an earlier Labor government in 2003, the changes decriminalized the possession of up to 30 grams of pot and allowed for the growing of up to two plants without fear of arrest and prosecution. In a media statement Sunday and another one Monday, the "tough on crime" premier gave clear notice he was cracking down on pot and other drug offenders, and was willing to extend police powers to do so. He said he would introduce legislation to repeal the state's Cannabis Control Act of 2003 and to amend the 1981 Misuse of Drugs and Youthful Offender Act. "The Liberal-National Government is committed to tackling both the demand and supply sides of the illicit drug problem through strong law enforcement policies, education and rehabilitation," Barnett said. "Cannabis is not a harmless or soft drug. Research continues to show that cannabis can lead to a host of health and mental health problems including schizophrenia, and can be a gateway to harder drugs," he maintained, treating highly controversial and discredited claims as if they were fact. According to Premier Barnett, his legislation will: • Prosecute those in possession of more than 10g of cannabis • See subsequent offences for possession being prosecuted as criminal offences. • Prosecute people for cultivating even one or two cannabis plants. • Extend the ban the sale of pot-smoking implements to minors to include everyone. • Increase the fine for selling smoking implements to $5,000 for sale to adults and $10,000 for sale to minors. Corporate entities could be fined up to five times those amounts. Barnett also wants to "reform" the Cannabis Infringement Notice Scheme (CIN), or ticketing and fines for decriminalized amounts by replacing it with a Cannabis Intervention Requirement Scheme (CIRS) that would require anyone ticketed to attend "drug education" classes. It would also mandate that anyone who failed to pay his fine would be prosecuted, something that has not been the case under the current law. Barnett's scheme would also allow for the criminal prosecution for marijuana possession of juveniles after two decrim tickets and adults after one. The current law has no such measures. There's more to come, Barnett promised. "The next steps will be to amend legislation to enable courts to impose a harsher sentence on dealers who sell or supply illicit drugs to children, irrespective of the location of the sale or supply," he said. "Further amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 will provide offences for exposing children to harm or to the danger of serious harm from the manufacture of illegal drugs, such as amphetamines, or the unlawful cultivation of illegal hydroponically-grown plants. The Government will also move to ban the sale of drug paraphernalia, including cocaine kits." But, he said Monday, he's going to start by soon introducing legislation to allow police to stop and search anyone without probable cause. The police commissioner would designate certain "stop and search" zones with advance public notice, especially in entertainment areas. "Police will have the right to go up to anyone they wish to and introduce a stop and search power," Barnett said. "It will not be an invasive search; it will be comparable to the sort of search and screening that takes place for any citizen getting on an aeroplane."
Location: 
Perth, WA
Australia

Pacific Islands: Head of Fiji NGO Calls for Debate on Marijuana Legalization

What to do about marijuana cultivation and consumption is an issue that continues to fester in the South Pacific island republic of Fiji. Pot farmers have battled police to protect their crops and complained to their representatives about being harassed.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/kuata_fiji.jpg
Kuata island, Fiji (CIA World Fact Book)
Consumption is high, and good citizens worry about things like pot-smoking by elite athletes. And the Fijan police do what prohibitionist police do: destroy crops and make marijuana busts. Just a few weeks ago, police bragged about seizing $50 million worth of weed from one popular growing region over the past five years.

Now, in the latest marijuana policy flare-up, the head of the Fiji Council of Social Services, a non-governmental organization, has called for the government to discuss legalizing marijuana. In a statement last week thanking the government for taking a dispassionate stance on whether to allow casinos on the islands, council head Hassan Khan suggested the government apply that same dispassionate stance -- without injecting religious fervor -- toward discussing marijuana legalization. Marijuana sales could provide revenue for Fiji, he said.

It already provides an income for many families on the islands. A school principal bemoaning pot-smoking by students said that marijuana farming supported most of his students' families. "It's their livelihood, so the children will see it from there," he said.

Khan's comments, as mild as they were, excited an outraged reaction from at least one Fijian blogger. "Bloggers, well now you have Hassan Khan, the Director for Human Services openly advocating for the lawful sale of marijuana to provide extra revenue for Fiji!" warned a blogger known as "Free Fiji." "He should be ashamed of himself and resign! I ask Khan, apart from his short sighted revenue making, what will it cost the tax payers of Fiji in terms of social and cultural denigration? Khan would not even dare saying the same thing in India or Pakistan. I cannot help but suspect some sinister motive to decimate the Fijian race and this kind of open advocating of legalizing an illegal substance, which is illegal in most part of the world is truly shocking. I like to challenge you 'silent ones' do you continue to pretend all is okay in the heartland, where people in positions of responsibilities openly advocating the potential sale of marijuana or are you too stoned out of your head to think clearly?"

And so go the cannabis culture wars in the South Pacific.

Sentencing: New York's Rockefeller Drug Law Reforms Now in Effect

As many as 1,500 low-level, nonviolent drug offenders will be able to apply for release or shorter sentences under reforms to New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws that went into effect Wednesday. The partial reforms also mean increased judicial discretion in sentencing, allowing judges to send some offenders to treatment instead of prison.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/fairness4.jpg
June 2003 ''Countdown to Fairness'' rally, NYC (15yearstolife.com)
The reforms were signed into law in April by Gov. David Paterson (D) after he and the state legislature came to agreement on the issue. They build on earlier partial reforms passed in 2004 that addressed the lengthy sentences assigned to more serious drug offenders.

"Under the Rockefeller Drug Laws, we did not treat the people who were addicted. We locked them up," Paterson said Wednesday at the Brooklyn Court House. "Families were broken, money was wasted, and we continued to wrestle with a statewide drug problem. The reforms that take effect today address those problems. By returning judicial discretion to the courtroom, we are reuniting families and fighting criminal activity and addiction in our communities," he said.

Because the reforms eliminate some mandatory minimum sentences and allow judges to order eligible defendants to treatment or diversion over prosecutorial objections, the State District Attorneys Association opposed the reforms. But they were championed by a formidable Drop the Rock coalition of drug policy, criminal justice, social justice, and other groups calling for repeal of the Rockefeller laws, as well as by the now Democrat-controlled legislature and statehouse.

"As someone who spent 12 years behind bars on Rockefeller charges and another 12 fighting the inhumane laws, I am thrilled that the law has been changed," said Anthony Papa, author of 15 Years to Life. "But, Rockefeller will only be real when those who are behind bars are allowed to come home and those who need help get treatment instead of a jail cell."

"New Yorkers fought for decades to reform the draconian Rockefeller drug laws, and we finally succeeded this year," said Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Now we need to make Rockefeller reform work. Today marks another step towards our state moving in new direction on drug policy, one based on public health and safety. Thankfully, legal and human service agencies are stepping up to implement reform."

"Rockefeller Drug Law reform symbolizes a critical time in our history, where we acknowledge the individual stories and personal struggles of those who have been most affected by such a harsh and racist sentencing scheme," said Shreya Mandal, mitigation specialist for the Legal Aid Society. "These reforms will allow people to reclaim their dignity as we shift from a punitive criminal justice model to a much needed holistic public health model. Now it is time to see this reform through by empowering formerly incarcerated individuals with comprehensive re-entry planning." The Legal Aid Society is already working on 270 cases that should qualify for early release, according to the Associated Press.

But there is still work to be done getting drug offenders out of prison. While as many as 1,500 could get out early, they will leave behind another 12,000 or so, according to the most recent figures from the state Department of Corrections. That's more than 20% of all New York state prisoners.

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