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Breaking: California Legislator Files "Tax and Regulate" Marijuana Legalization Bill in Wake of Poll Showing Majority West Coast Support

A bill to tax and regulate the production and sale of marijuana will go before the California legislature. At a press conference at his San Francisco offices -- going on right now -- California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano announced he was introducing legislation to do just that. The bill comes as the state is in the grip of a strong economic downturn and a severe fiscal crisis. Estimates of tax revenues that could be generating by regularizing the status of California's leading cash crop range from $1.5 billion to $4 billion a year. A poll by Zogby International, released last week, found majority support on the west coast for the proposed reform. I am currently at the press conference, and will post a more detailed report later today. Phil's report, including pictures from the press conference, is online here. Check back Friday morning at the same URL for a full-length Drug War Chronicle feature story.
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36,539 Days of Drug War NEWS!

Today Marks 36,539 Days of DRUG WAR! 4:20 Drug War NEWS from 90.1 FM in Houston and dozens of radio affiliates in the US, Canada and Australia & on the web at www.kpft.org. 4:20 Drug War NEWS 02/23/09 to 03/01/09 now online (3:00 ea:) Select online at www.drugtruth.net Sun - Mike Gray, author of Drug Crazy and Chairman of Common Sense for Drug Policy Sat - Police Chief of Houston Texas, Harold Hurtt Fri - Australia Weed Wacking III Thu - Australian Weed Wacking II Wed - Martin Jansen reports from Nimbin Australia on marijuana raids I Tue - Terry Nelson reports a more personal story of the drug war for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition Mon - Richard Lee, founder of Oaksterdam University Next - Century of Lies on Tues, Cutural Baggage on Wed (Now With Transcripts): - Cultural Baggage 12:30 PM ET, 11:30 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT & 9:30 AM PT: Coverage from Oaksterdam University - Century of Lies 12:30 PM ET, 11:30 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT, 9:30 AM PT: Coverage from Oaksterdam University Hundreds of our programs are available online at www.drugtruth.net, and www.audioport.org 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, Drug Truth Network Producer Dean Becker 713-849-6869 www.drugtruth.net

Federal Budget: Economic Stimulus Bill Stimulates Drug War, Too

Law enforcement was among the winners in the massive economic stimulus bill passed last week by Congress and signed this week by President Obama. The package includes nearly $3.8 billion for state and local law enforcement, much of it destined for enforcing the country's draconian drug laws.

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may be coming to a police force near you soon
The biggest single chunk of police money in the bill, $2 billion, goes to fund the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program. While Byrne JAG grant funds may be used for a variety of state and local criminal justice programs, including drug courts and drug treatment programs, the bulk of Byrne JAG spending has gone to fund multi-jurisdictional anti-drug task forces.

The Byrne JAG program has been criticized by fiscal conservatives and progressive reformers alike as ineffective and a waste of money. The Bush administration tried repeatedly to zero out funding for the program, but it was always reinstated -- albeit sometimes at lower levels -- by the Congress.

The second largest chunk of police spending in the bill, $1 billion, is for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. It will pay to put thousands more police officers on the street.

The bill also includes $225 million in state and local law enforcement grants "to improve the functioning of the criminal justice system" and another $225 million for law enforcement assistance to Indian tribes. There is another $40 million in grants "to provide assistance and equipment" to police agencies along the Mexican border, with $10 million of that allocated for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for its Project Gunrunner aimed at reducing gun smuggling into Mexico. Another $125 million is destined for rural states and rural areas to prevent and combat crime, "especially drug-related crime."

Cops and elected officials are already salivating and have created huge wish lists. The public safety wish list from the US Conference of Mayors totaled $5.5 billion and includes items such as $1.6 million for SWAT equipment, $56,000 for military grade rifles, $625,000 for unmanned aerial surveillance drones, and $130,000 for "covert operations" in Arlington, Texas; $600,000 for a "live fire" SWAT team practice house and $420,000 for a SWAT armored vehicle in Sparks, Nevada; $3.5 million for "Air Tactical Unit Support and Equipment" (read: cool new helicopter) for Hampton, Virginia; and $60,000 for five "tactical entry rifles" and other equipment in Ottawa, Iowa. (See more wish list examples at Radley Balko's The Agitator.)

Marijuana: Washington State Decriminalization Bill Wins Committee Vote

A bill that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana in Washington state was approved by the state Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. The measure now heads for the Senate Rules Committee, which must also approve it before it can head for a floor vote.

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Washington State House, Olympia
The bill, SB 5615, reclassifies adult possession of no more than 40 grams of marijuana from a misdemeanor crime carrying mandatory jail time to a civil infraction imposing a $100 penalty that can be paid by mail.

A companion bill, HB 1177, has been referred to the House Committee on Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness, where it has yet to be scheduled for a public hearing. If a hearing isn't held by next Wednesday, the effort will be effectively dead because that's the day by which bills must be passed out of committee.

Twelve states have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, the most recent being Massachusetts last November. A decriminalization bill is also being considered this year in New Hampshire.

Feature: INCB Calls for More of the Same on Global Drug Policy -- Critics Call for No More INCB

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) today released its latest annual report (available on February 20th here) on the global drug situation. The report strongly suggests that the INCB remains stuck in the last century when it comes to drug policy.

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INCB brochure
The INCB is the independent, quasi-judicial United Nations agency that monitors compliance with the UN anti-drug conventions, the legal backbone of global drug prohibition. As such, it has generally been very conservative, and despite the rising global clamor for a new approach, this year is no exception.

One of the targets of the INCB's ire this year is marijuana, which the agency says the international community is underestimating. "The international community may wish to review the issue of cannabis," the report said. "Over the years, cannabis has become more potent and is associated with an increasing number of emergency room admissions," the report stated, adding that marijuana is frequently called a "gateway drug."

"In spite of all these facts, the use of cannabis is often trivialized and, in some countries, controls over the cultivation, possession and use of cannabis are less strict than for other drugs," the INCB complained. While some countries are lax on personal use and others allow medical use, public perceptions of the herb "are overlapping and confusing," the agency said.

It was also critical of opiate maintenance therapy and harm reduction programs. Heroin maintenance programs violate the UN conventions, while some harm reduction practices facilitate drug use, the INCB charges.

Another key concern for the INCB was the rise of the Internet in the trafficking of both licit and illicit drugs. "Drug traffickers are among the main users of encryption for Internet messaging and by this means evade law enforcement, coordinate shipments of drugs and launder money," the report warned. "A coordinated, global response is needed to meet this challenge."

The agency also reported that purveyors of chemicals used in the manufacture of illicit drugs are also using the Internet. Sometimes criminals will create fictitious companies or bogus authorizations to import such chemicals, the INCB charged.

But the INCB was also "alarmed" by the development of "rogue" Internet pharmacies. While it granted "that purchasing pharmaceuticals online can be beneficial, especially in areas where hospitals and pharmaceutical services are widely dispersed, [the INCB] is alarmed that 'rogue' pharmacies are encouraging drug abuse among vulnerable groups."

The report called for international action "to address the illegal sale of drugs on Internet pharmacies and web sites." "The Internet is a major problem," said professor Hamid Ghodse, the board's president. "That is why we started three years ago to have contact with Interpol on the issue. There are illicit Internet pharmacies and they do not have natural boundaries."

On the positive side, the INCB, which is charged with monitoring the use of opiate-based pain relievers, said "millions of patients" were suffering unnecessarily and urged governments to "stimulate" the use of such pain relievers." Although the access to controlled medicines, including morphine and codeine, is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be a human right, it is virtually non-existent in over 150 countries," the report said. "The WHO estimates that at least 30 million patients and possibly as many as 86 million annually suffer from untreated moderate to severe pain."

But overall, the report was full of doom and gloom, warning that the global drug trade was expanding and becoming more violent. When assessing blame for this state of affairs, the INCB should look in the mirror, critics said.

"With the release of its annual report today, the International Narcotics Control Board boldly reaffirmed its shameful commitment to politics over science as well as its shocking indifference to the failures and harmful consequences of the global drug prohibition regime," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

"The INCB is the last of the UN drug agencies to still prioritize abstinence-only ideology over evidence-based policies that have proven effective in reducing drug-related harms. Its recommendations regarding substitution treatment, cannabis policy, and harm reduction measures to reduce death, disease, crime and suffering are all at odds with both scientific evidence and evolving policies in many parts of the world," Nadelmann continued. "Perhaps most stunning is the board's failure to consider the crime, violence and corruption as well as over-incarceration and violations of human rights associated with the global drug prohibition regime."

"The tragic irony is that it is the board's inhumane, unjust and irrational policing of the UN drug control system that has created or exacerbated most of the problems outlined in its report," agreed Danny Kushlick of Transform, the British drug policy foundation. "The board is complicit in gifting the illegal drug market to terror groups, paramilitaries and organized criminals, contributing to the political and economic destabilization of producer and transit countries and putting millions at risk of contracting blood-borne viruses. The INCB and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime pose a greater threat to global well-being than drugs themselves."

Nadelmann pointed out that there are alternatives. "Coming on the heels of the report released last week by the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, which came to very different conclusions with its call for a paradigm shift in global drug control policy, the INCB report seems sadly irrelevant to the most important issues in drug control today," he said. "Now that the Obama administration shows signs of joining with other nations in emphasizing health and science over anti-drug rhetoric and ideology, the INCB may soon be faced with the choice of evolving or going out of business. It will soon be one hundred years since the International Opium Congress convened in Shanghai in 1909, thereby initiating the global drug control system. An appropriate memorial would be the abolition of the INCB."

Marijuana: Zogby Poll Shows Majority Support for Taxing and Regulating Marijuana on the West Coast, Support Climbing Nationwide

Support for taxing and regulating marijuana has climbed above 50% on the West Coast, according to a national poll of 1,053 registered voters. The poll was conducted by Zogby International and was commissioned by California NORML and Oakland's Oaksterdam University.

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marijuana plants (photo from US Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikimedia)
The poll found that 58% of West Coast respondents agreed that marijuana should be "taxed and regulated like alcohol and cigarettes." Only 36% of West Coast respondents disagreed.

On the East Coast, 48% supported legalizing marijuana. In the south and central US, support fell to 37%. Overall, 44% of respondents nationwide agreed that pot should be taxed and regulated.

That's roughly in line with a CBS/New York Times poll earlier this month that found 41% of Americans favored legalizing marijuana, up from just 27% in 1979. That, said national NORML executive director Allen St. Pierre, is a good thing.

"Public support for replacing the illicit marijuana market with a legally regulated, controlled market similar to alcohol, complete with age restrictions and quality controls, continues to grow, and appears to have achieved majority support on the West Coast -- where many voters are already familiar with the state-licensed use and, in some cases, sale of medical cannabis," he said.

"As voters and legislators continue to look for alternative ways to raise tax revenue for public services and reduce law enforcement costs in this troubled economy, we expect the public's support for taxing and regulating cannabis to continue to grow -- not just on the West Coast, but nationwide."

Drug Truth 02/19/09

The Unvarnished Truth About the Drug War From the Drug Truth Network NOTE: Our "Player" Interface Now Pauses, Moves Forward and Back :) (To downlad these 29:00 files, click on links below. To simply listen, go to www.drugtruth.net and select the arrow below the shows description.) Cultural Baggage for 02/18/09 Police Chief of Houston Texas, Harold Hurtt + Irma Rios the director of the Houston crime labMP3 LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/?q=audio/download/2302/FDBCB_021809.mp3 TRANSCRIPT: TBD Century of Lies for 02/17/09 Mike Gray, author of Drug Crazy & Chairman of Common Sense for Drug Policy + RN Ken Wolski reports on progress of marijuana law in New Jersey MP3 LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/?q=audio/download/2301/COL_021709.mp3 TRANSCRIPT: TBD PLEASE NOTE: We now have transcripts, potcasts, searchability, CMS, XML, sorts by guest name and by organization. Next - Century of Lies on Tues, Cutural Baggage on Wed, listen online at www.kpft.org: - Cultural Baggage 12:30 PM ET, 11:30 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT & 9:30 AM PT: Oaksterdam Report II - Century of Lies 12:30 PM ET, 11:30 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT & 9:30 AM PT: Oaksterdam Report I Hundreds of our programs are available online at www.drugtruth.net, www.audioport.org We provide the "unvarnished truth about the drug war" to scores of broadcast affiliates in the US, Canada and Now Australia!!! Programs produced at Pacifica Radio Station KPFT in Houston. www.kpft.org Check out our latest videos via www.youtube.com/fdbecker: More than 55 Drug Policy Videos online) 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, Drug Truth Network Producer Dean Becker 713-849-6869 www.drugtruth.net

LEAP on the Hill: Stories from the week of February 13, 2009

When preparation meets opportunity: Due to crazy scheduling, on Thursday morning Karen (my better half) dropped me off at the Metro at 06:45. Thus I was talking to the Capitol Police Officers at 08:00, when a tall gentleman walked around the metal detector which only Congressmen can do. I had been chatting with the officers about my issue and the Congressman made a comment on what I had just said. The next words out of my mouth were: "Ellsworth. Indiana. Former sheriff." Though my words were stilted and awkward, the Congressman did not mind and we had a 4 minute LEAP conversation. At the end he asked me to contact his office to set up a longer chat. Note: I have made an extra effort to know all the former police, prosecutors and judges in the Congress. FAMM produces a Congress Directory which has a foto of each Member. It is my Bible that I consult daily. It sure paid off this week. At the donut shop: The last of 8 meetings on Thursday was more important than the previous 7 combined. The aide represented one of the most powerful members of Congress. As I introduced myself, he said he had been a county deputy sheriff for several years. Two minutes later it was like we were colleagues back at the donut shop, swapping stories. Forty-five minutes later, he said he would ask his boss about the feasibility of ending Modern Prohibition. I have shared this information in more detail with my colleagues in DC. Striking Gold: Each week I send out 7-8 one minute emails to reporters and columnists whose article did touch or could touch Modern Prohibition. The response rate is about 25%, usually just saying thanks for the note. Last week I sent such a note to Kathleen Parker, after she wrote One Toke Over the Line about Michael Phelps and 'The Bong.' She wrote back thanking me and asking for a conversation. A few minutes after my chance encounter with the Congressman, she and I chatted for 45 minutes. The next day this chat resulted in the column she wrote that was read by XX millions of Americans, as she appears in 350 major newspapers across the country. To put this in perspective, about 12 million people heard or read or saw Misty and I go across America to help bring an end to prohibition. This took 7 months. I accomplished roughly the same # of contacts with one 45 minute interview! BONUS: A few hours later Ms. Parker was on Air Force One with three liberal columnists, flying with President Obama to Chicago. I have good information that Mr. Obama read her column. It was a double crown and double Swiss chocolate celebration at our house.

Drug Truth 02/12/09

The Unvarnished Truth About the Drug War From the Drug Truth Network: (To downlad these 29:00 files, click on links below. To simply listen, go to www.drugtruth.net and select the arrow below the shows description.) Cultural Baggage for 02/11/09 Dana Larsen of British Colombia re Canadian court rulings and marijuana dispensaries & Doug McVay with Drug War Facts + report on school administrators new hit: "Smell the Jacket" MP3 LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/?q=audio/download/2293/FDBCB_021109.mp3 TRANSCRIPT: TBD Century of Lies for 02/10/09 John Delaney, a working Texas judge decries the drug war + Ethan Nadelmann of Drug Policy Alliance says "Just Say No To Kelloggs'" & retired USAF Lt. Col Russ Shaw calls for common sense in the drug war MP3 LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/?q=audio/download/2292/COL_021009.mp3 TRANSCRIPT: TBD PLEASE NOTE: We now have transcripts, potcasts, searchability, CMS, XML, sorts by guest name and by organization. Next - Century of Lies on Tues, Cutural Baggage on Wed, listen online at www.kpft.org: - Cultural Baggage 12:30 PM ET, 11:30 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT & 9:30 AM PT: TBD - Century of Lies 12:30 PM ET, 11:30 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT & 9:30 AM PT: TBD Hundreds of our programs are available online at www.drugtruth.net, www.audioport.org We provide the "unvarnished truth about the drug war" to scores of broadcast affiliates in the US, Canada and Now Australia!!! Programs produced at Pacifica Radio Station KPFT in Houston. www.kpft.org Check out our latest videos via www.youtube.com/fdbecker: More than 55 Drug Policy Videos online) 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, Drug Truth Network Producer Dean Becker 713-849-6869 www.drugtruth.net

Europe: British Drug Advisory Panel Recommends Downgrading Ecstasy, Government Says No

A pattern is beginning to emerge. For the second time in as many years, Britain's Labor government has rejected the evidence-based recommendations of the panel charged with crafting British drug policy to soften penalties for specific drugs. Last year, it was cannabis; this year, it is Ecstasy.

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British Parliament
The British Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) Wednesday released its review of Ecstasy and, as expected, called for the popular club drug to be downgraded from Class A to Class B. The Labor government rejected the recommendation the same day.

The ACMD is an advisory body established by the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971 and charged with reviewing the appropriateness of each drug's classification and advising ministers on whether a drug should be reclassified, as well as offering broader advice on measures relating to drug use. The government is not bound to take its advice, as was the case last year with cannabis, and now with Ecstasy.

ACMD head Professor David Nutt responded to the government's rejection of the recommendation by accusing ministers of being influenced by politics and not scientific evidence. Ecstasy, said Nutt, was "harmful," but not harmful enough to be scheduled in Class A along with heroin and cocaine.

"Our job is not to give messages to the public," Nutt said in remarks reported by the Press Association. "Our job is to tell the Home Secretary and drugs minister about the relative harms of drugs. I think they have accepted our evidence but I think they have made a political decision. There is no doubt ecstasy is harmful but it isn't as harmful as heroin or cocaine."

The government accepted 11 of 13 ACMD recommendations tied mainly to confronting Ecstasy through a harm reduction approach. In addition to rescheduling, the government rejected a recommendation that drug users be provided with drug testing kits to ensure tablets are not adulterated or contaminated.

"Our job is to do science and to present the best science to government," Nutt continued. "Government is about politics and I guess, in an ideal world, the two would be harmonious and synchronized but in a way that's a question you should be asking the politicians."

Home Office minister Alan Campbell said he did not dispute the scientific findings in the ACMD's report. But he said Ecstasy was "unpredictable" and could cause death even in first-time users.

According to the ACMD, about 17 people die each year from Ecstasy-related causes. That prompted Nutt, in an article in a scientific publication, to write that the risks of taking Ecstasy were equivalent to those in riding a horse. That in turn prompted a stern rebuke from Home Minister Jacqui Smith, who successfully insisted that Nutt apologize for the comparison.

Although Labor and the Tories rejected rescheduling Ecstasy, the Liberal Democrats defended the panel. Dr. Evan Harris, party spokesman for science, said it was "deplorable" that ministers rejected the proposal. "Scientists must now seriously question whether it is worth them giving up their time to help a government that not only rejects the message but attacks the messenger."

Although the repeated rejection of ACMD recommendations is causing questions about the agency's future role, it is not shying away from controversy. Next on its agenda: downgrading LSD from Class A to Class B.

The Home Office has already made clear it will oppose that, too. "The government has no intention of reclassifying LSD, which has very random, and sometimes very frightening, effects," said a Home Office spokesman. "It can have serious, longer term implications for somebody who had a history of mental problems and may also be responsible for triggering a mental health problem that had previously gone undetected."

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