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Marijuana Initiative Challenges Costly, Bloody Drug War (Opinion)

Location: 
CA
United States
Former California state senator Tom Hayden opines that he supports the November ballot initiative to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana because our country's long drug war is a disaster and there is an alternative that is better for our health, safety and democratic process.
Publication/Source: 
The Huffington Post (CA)
URL: 
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tom-hayden/marijuana-initiative-chal_b_699503.html

Drug Truth 08/30/10

Cultural Baggage * Century of Lies * 4:20 Drug War NEWS  *  Time 4 Hemp

Cultural Baggage for  08/29/10 29:00 Jaime Felner of Human Rights Watch, Paul Armentano of NORML, Howard Woodridge of COPS, Sandy Moriarty with Cannabis-fruit salad recipe, Dallas Cop Nick Novello for Med Can Univ + Abolitionists Moment

LINK:   http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/3040

TRANSCRIPT:  http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/3040#comments

Century of Lies for  08/29/10  29:00  Russ Jones, 30 years in law enforcement now a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition + MJ Borden with Drug War Facts, Philip High with MedCan Univ, Dan Newman for Prop 19

LINK:   http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/3051

TRANSCRIPT: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/3051#comments

4:20 Drug War NEWS, 08/30 to 09/05/10  Link at www.drugtruth.net on the right margin -

Sun - Dan Newman for Tax Cannabis

Sat - Philip High, chemist for MedCan Univ.

Fri - Russ Jones, 30 years in law enforcement now a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Thu - Jaime Felner of Human Rights Watch re racial disparity in drug war Wed - Howard Wooldridge to ride horse Misty across Calif from N. to S. in support of cannabis legalization Tue - M J Borden of Drug War Facts: "What makes drugs illegal?"

Mon - Sandy Moriarty, cannabis chef at Oaksterdam Univ has recipe for great cannabis/fruit salad

Programs produced at Pacifica Radio Station KPFT in Houston, 90.1 FM.  You can Listen Live Online at www.kpft.org

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Who's Next?":  Aaron Houston, Dir Students for Sensible Drug Policy

Hundreds of our programs are available online at www.drugtruth.net, www.audioport.org and now at James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.  http://www.bakerinstitute.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.  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 74 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

Vegas Voters Reject Hash Bars, Hookers, Poll Says

An 8 News Now/Las Vegas Review-Journal poll has found little support for legalizing Amsterdam-style cannabis cafes or prostitution. Only 30% of respondents supported retail marijuana sales and only 19% supported legalizing prostitution.

only gambling allowed (image courtesy commons.wikimedia.org)
The poll asked: "As a possible way to improve tourism, would you support or oppose legalizing Dutch-style hashish and marijuana bars in Las Vegas?" Nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents said no, while 6% were undecided.

The poll was conducted last week by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research. The group surveyed 405 registered Clark County voters and had a margin of error of +/- 5%.

Setting up cannabis cafes would work against efforts to craft a more mainstream, family-friendly image for the long-time gambling destination, Mason-Dixon pollster Brad Coker told the Review-Journal. And hookers and hash bars may be too much even for the famously live-and-let-live city, he added. "Things are maybe a little desperate in Clark County these days, but I don't think they're quite that desperate yet," Coker said. "These kinds of issues push the limits of even a libertarian community. You could go to some very liberal communities, and the idea of legalizing prostitution would probably raise a few eyebrows."

The Marijuana Policy Project had spent nearly a decade attempting to convince Nevada voters to legalize marijuana before pulling out earlier this month because of funding problems. Also contributing to that decision was another poll earlier this month that had support for legalization at only 42%.

Las Vegas, NV
United States

Reddit and Wired Rebel Against Owner's Anti-drug Policy

Social news website Reddit has defied its owner Condé Nast about running advertisements for a marijuana legalization campaign in California.
Publication/Source: 
The Inquirer (UK)
URL: 
http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/1730207/reddit-wired-rebel-owners-anti-drug-policy

Michigan Court Keeps Detroit Marijuana Initiative Off Ballot

In an August 26 ruling, the Wayne County Circuit Court refused to order the Detroit city clerk to put a municipal marijuana legalization initiative on the November ballot. Initiative organizers, the Coalition for a Safer Detroit had gathered sufficient valid voter signatures to qualify for the ballot, but in a surprise move earlier this month, the city's Election Commission removed the measure from the ballot, saying it was preempted by state law.

Comerica Park, Detroit (wikimedia.org)
The Coalition for a Safer Detroit is now considering an appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals. But with election day little more than two months away, there are questions about whether a decision would come quickly enough to get the measure back on the ballot in time.

The Wayne County Circuit Court took and decided the case on an expedited basis. It is not clear whether the appeals court could or would also do so.

The initiative would have legalized the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana on private property for people 21 or older. It would have done so by simply removing all references to simple marijuana possession by adults from the city code.

The coalition handed in more than 6,000 voter signatures earlier this year, and the initiative was approved by the same Detroit Election Commission that killed it August 9. After it was approved, in accordance with city law, the initiative went before the Detroit City Council, which could have voted to make the initiative law. By failing to vote on the initiative, the Council cleared the way for the voters to make their preferences known in November -- or so everyone thought.

But the Election Commission voted 3-0 to remove the measure from the ballot. The surprise move came after Detroit Corporation Counsel and commission member Krystal Crittenden told the commission that in the opinion of the city's law department, which she oversees, state law forbidding marijuana possession preempted the measure.

Detroit, MI
United States

New Colombian President Joins Call for Drug Legalization Debate

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said in a Mexico City radio interview Wednesday that he supported Mexican President Felipe Calderon's call for a debate on drug legalization. He also said that he will seek to build a united front with Peru and Mexico on legalization if voters in California approve marijuana legalization in November.

President Santos as candidate, June 2010
meeting with Secretary Clinton
Colombia and Peru are the world's top cocaine producers. Mexico is the leading hemispheric producer of marijuana and opium, as well as being the home to some of the world's wealthiest and deadliest drug trafficking organizations.

"We are entering the era of the drug trafficking business where one must have these types of reflections," Santos said. "President Calderon is right to call for this to be discussed, without meaning that one is in agreement or not with the position of legalization."

Santos eyed California's Proposition 19 marijuana legalization initiative with mixed feelings. "How would we explain to an indigenous person on a Colombian mountain that producing marijuana is illegal and take him to jail or destroy the marijuana when in the US it is legal to consume it?" he asked.

Santos said he was perturbed by the distinction made by some in the US between "soft" drugs like marijuana and "hard" drugs like cocaine or heroin. "Where do we draw the line?" he asked.

"We are all affected by this scourge of drug trafficking," Santos said, referring to Colombia, Mexico, and Peru. "We must sit down and work out how we are going to react and what is going to happen after this referendum," he said. "All strategies that are combined are more effective."

Colombia cannot legalize the drug trade by itself, Santos said. "Unilaterally, we cannot legalize drugs because they are a problem not only for national security, but there are also international implications."

That President Santos should make such remarks is not much of a surprise. In 1998, as head of the Good Government Foundation, he co-signed an open letter to then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan calling for a "frank and honest evaluation of global drug control efforts" because "we believe the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself."

And two years ago, he told a London conference on cocaine that legalization should be part of the debate. He said then that there was no political will to do that. Time will tell if anything has really changed in that regard.

Colombia

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Backs Mexico's Calderon on Drug Legalization

Location: 
Colombia
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos declared his support for Mexican President Felipe Calderon's call for a discussion on drug legalization. "We are entering an era of the narco-trafficking business where one must have these type of reflections," he said. Santos announced that he will seek to form a united stance with Mexico and Peru on the legalization issue if California votes to legalize marijuana at the ballot in November.
Publication/Source: 
Colombia Reports (Colombia)
URL: 
http://colombiareports.com/colombia-news/news/11522-santos-seeks-united-stance-on-drug-legalization.html

Toronto City Council Votes to Endorse Decriminalization of Drug Use

Location: 
Toronto, ON
Canada
Toronto has become the first city in the world – and the first government in North America – to formally endorse a declaration that advocates harm reduction in the war on drugs.
Publication/Source: 
National Post (Canada)
URL: 
http://news.nationalpost.com/2010/08/26/council-votes-to-endorses-decriminalization-of-drug-use/

Drug Czars Past and Present Oppose Prop 19 Marijuana Init

In an absolutely unsurprising turn of events, current head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske and five former drug czars have come out against Proposition 19, California's marijuana legalization initiative. The six bureaucratic drug warriors all signed on to an op-ed, Why California Should Just Say No to Prop 19, published in the Los Angeles Times Wednesday.

Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske with President Obama
Joining Kerlikowske in the broadside against legalization were former drug czars John Walters, Barry McCaffrey, Lee Brown, Bob Martinez, and William Bennett.

The drug czars claim that Prop 19 supporters will "rely on two main arguments: that legalizing and taxing marijuana would generate much-needed revenue, and that legalization would allow law enforcement to focus on other crimes." Then they attempt to refute those claims.

Noting that marijuana is easy and cheap to cultivate, the drug czars predict that, unlike the case with alcohol and tobacco, many would grow their own and avoid taxes. "Why would people volunteer to pay high taxes on marijuana if it were legalized?" they asked. "The answer is that many would not, and the underground market, adapting to undercut any new taxes, would barely diminish at all."

Ignoring the more than 800,000 people arrested for simple marijuana possession each year, including the 70,000 Californians forced to go to court for marijuana possession misdemeanors (maximum fine $100), the drug czars claim that "law enforcement officers do not currently focus much effort on arresting adults whose only crime is possessing small amounts of marijuana."

They then complain that Prop 19 would impose new burdens on police by making them enforce laws against smoking marijuana where minors are present. Those laws already exist; Prop 19 does not create them.

The drug czars warn that if Prop 19 passes, "marijuana use would increase" and "increased use brings increased social costs." But they don't bother to spell out just what those increased costs would be or why.

The drug czars' screed has picked up a number of instant critiques, including those of Douglas Berman at the Sentencing Law and Policy blog, Jacob Sullum at Reason Online, and Jon Walker at Firedoglake.

We're waiting for a drug czar to come out for pot legalization, not oppose it. Now, that would be real news.

Los Angeles, CA
United States

Mexico Talking But Not Moving on Drug Legalization [FEATURE]

When, earlier this summer, the Mexican government admitted that some 28,000 people had been killed in prohibition-related violence since President Felipe Calderon rolled out the army in December 2006, it seemed to mark a turning point in Mexico's ongoing debate over how to end the madness. Calderon began an ongoing series of meetings with civil society organizations, government functionaries, and the political parties, and even suggested that drug legalization was open for debate.

Feb. '09 drug policy forum held by
Mexico's Grupo Parlamentario Alternativa
But he quickly stepped back from the abyss, clarifying that no, he did not support legalization and, yes, he was going to continue to rely on the Mexican military to fight the drug war for the rest of his term.  Still, while the short-term prognosis for serious drug reform is poor, the president's stutter-step around the issue has opened the door for debate.

That doesn't mean any of the four legalization bills, mostly aimed at marijuana, in the Mexican Congress's lower chamber or the one in the Senate are likely to pass. After all, it was only last year that Mexico approved the decriminalization of the possession of small amounts of drugs (and even that was wrapped inside a broader bill aimed at widening the drug war). Analysts who spoke to the Chronicle this week agreed that while the increasingly open debate over legalization is a step in the right direction, reform is going to be an uphill battle, at least until Calderon's successor is chosen in 2012.

The series of meetings Calderon has been holding are a good thing, if long overdue, said Maureen Meyer, a Mexico analyst at the Washington Office on Latin America. "With these encounters, he's getting more buy-in from all sectors -- civil society, the government, the political parties -- but it's late," said Meyer. "The critique of current strategy should have begun long ago. At least in the past few weeks, there has been more frankness in his discourse on the magnitude of the problem and more willingness to engage in discussion, but what that means in terms of policy remains to be seen."

What it does not mean, Meyer said, was real measurable progress toward legalization. "There are several bills that are looking at legalization, mostly of marijuana, and yes, this broader debate is happening, but it will be a long time before we see some legislative changes in the county," she said.

"The debate over legalization has already been going on for many years," said Jorge Hernandez Tinajero, a Mexico City political scientist and member of CUPIHD (in English, the Collective for an Integrated Drug Policy). "It is the political class that has been slowest to enter into it, and especially the president, who was the last to concede that a discussion was necessary," he said.

"In reality, Calderon brought this up not because he thought he could win the debate, but because his strategy has been just a tremendous failure, and this disaster is reaching intolerable levels, including among his closest allies," Hernandez continued. "For example, the theme of legalization leapt up in an encounter with civil society organizations dedicated to security, and almost all of them are on the right."

But while the years of carnage under Calderon has opened the door for legalization, it is still a minority position even if it is gaining more high-powered adherents, such as Calderon's predecessor Vicente Fox. None of the three main political parties are keen on it even if some political figures are keen to use the bloodshed as a club against Calderon. And from the north, the US is glowering down.

"I don't think drug legalization will go any further than a discussion among specific sectors of society," said Victor Clark Alfaro, head of the Bi-national Center for Human Rights in Tijuana. "It's mainly supported by intellectuals and academia, but it doesn't have the sympathy of the population as a whole, nor does it have the support of the US government," he argued.

Even if there is no political will to advance legalization in Mexico right now, the issue will continue to fester until it is addressed, said Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington, DC. "The issue of legalization and decriminalization is not going to go away, it will hunker down in the suburbs of this debate, and at a certain point, will explode," he predicted.

"We don't know how or when this is going to end, but it won't end with this president," Clark said. "There are sectors of the population telling him to change his strategy, but Calderon has told society he is going to continue with the strategy until the end of his term. That means two more years of the same or worse. Probably worse," he predicted.

While political progress toward legalization and a reduction in violence appears blocked for now, Calderon's deployment of the Mexican Army and the bloody results of that deployment have damaged both the president and the military. It is also contributing to the likelihood that Calderon's conservative PAN (in English, National Action Party) could lose the presidency in 2012. The PAN fared poorly in off-year elections this summer.

"If you ask me how I will remember Calderon, it is the violence," said Clark. "The huge number of people getting killed with the war against drugs, the increasing activity of the drug cartels -- this war has obviously damaged Calderon's image instead of bolstering it, at least in our country," he said.

"Calderon's approval ratings are down from the beginning of his government, but they haven't decreased much lately," said Myer. "But if you ask a citizen in Ciudad Juarez, they tell you there's more violence than two years ago and they want the military and the federal police out. There is some hesitancy in continuing to support the PAN," she added. "It's not just the violence, it's also the economy."

The Mexican military, too, is seeing its image tarnished as it wages war against the drug traffickers and, seemingly, a substantial portion of the various local, state, and federal police forces, who are actually working for the so-called cartels. The number of human rights complaints against the military has climbed to more than 2,000 since it left the barracks at the end of 2006.

"Calderon played the military card, the ultimate card he had, but the military hasn't succeeded," said Birns. "It has instead generated negatives: increased violence, increased human rights violations, increased repugnance toward the military from the population. The army's commitment to the war has rendered it unpopular."

"When President Zedillo deployed the military in the 1990s, it was an institution with a good image in society, but when Calderon deployed them in large numbers the military is paying a price in terms of its image because of the increasing number of human rights violations," said Clark. "The soldiers lack training to deal with the drug war, but they are on its front lines."

But while it is the military waging the war, it is doing so on behalf of the governing elite. It is the president and the Congress who make the decisions, and when it comes to embracing drug legalization as a solution to the violence, they are just not there yet.

"The political class still doesn't understand the terms of the debate," said Hernandez. "Nor does it really know the drug problem. Our task as reformers now is to try to steer the discussion so they understand that drug legalization by itself is not going to end the problems of security, but it would help the drug problem."

While it is ultimately up to Mexico to resolve the problem of violence and insecurity related to the traffic in illicit drugs, there is something Americans can do to help, said Hernandez, and he wasn't referring to sending more guns and helicopters and DEA agents. What would help in Mexico would be watching California vote to legalize marijuana, he said.

"The debate in Mexico has also been pushed by the marijuana reforms in the United States," said Hernandez. "The perception is that while you are legalizing, we are killing ourselves. And the political class understands this, so the referendum in California is very important for us."

Mexico

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