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Republican Lawmakers Shifting Tough-On-Crime Stance As State Budget Problems Multiply

In no state is the philosophical U-turn more abrupt than in Oklahoma, where last year the Legislature was barreling in the opposite direction. New Republican Speaker of the House Kris Steele is expected to unveil a package of proposals that would divert thousands of nonviolent lawbreakers from the prison system and ramp up paroles. Similar crash prison reductions are going on from coast to coast. Michigan has shuttered 20 correctional facilities and slashed spending by nearly 7 percent. South Carolina expects to reduce its inmate numbers by 8 percent by putting drug dealers, burglars and hot check writers into community programs instead of behind bars.
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times (CA)
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sns-ap-us-broken-budgets-prison-problems,0,2779184.story

Former President Alejandro Toledo: Peru Must Consider Decriminalizing Drug Use

Location: 
Peru
Former president Alejandro Toledo, the frontrunner in Peru's presidential race, said he would consider decriminalizing drug use if elected. Peru currently allows people to possess small amounts of recreational drugs, including cocaine. Toledo said he might loosen them further. A growing number of Latin American countries already have relaxed laws targeting drug consumers in order to focus police resources on traffickers.
Publication/Source: 
Reuters
URL: 
http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN2717646120110127

Cut Drug War Spending (Action Alert)

We Are the Drug Policy Alliance.

Tell President Obama to stop wasting money on the failed war on drugs.

Take Action!

Email the President

Dear Friends,

In his State of the Union address a few days ago, President Obama said it is time for the federal government to tighten its belt and stop wasting so much money. One of the biggest – and most destructive – wastes of money is the war on drugs. President Obama is working on a new federal budget – urge him to stop wasting money on the failed war on drugs.

In these times of deficits and budget cuts, let’s send a clear message: no more money for marijuana arrests. No more money for laughably stupid anti-marijuana ads. No more money for random drug testing. No more money for SWAT raids on people's homes for suspected drug law violations. No more money for long prison sentences for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses. No more money for the drug war. Period.

Tell the President that our tax dollars should be spent more wisely.

With your help we can eliminate or cut drug war waste and dismantle the war on drugs. Please take a minute to write the White House and tell President Obama to stop wasting your tax dollars on failed drug policies.

Sincerely,

Bill Piper
Director, Office of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance

Ex-World Leaders Form Global Drug Policy Commission

A group of world political leaders, intellectuals, and businessman Richard Branson have formed a Global Commission on Drug Policies in a bid to boost the effort to achieve more humane and rational drug laws. The commission is headed by former Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso and builds on the work Cardoso and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria did with the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/latinamericacommission.jpg
Latin America Commission panel, 2009, President Gaviria on left (courtesy comunidadsegura.org)
The commission's goals include reviewing the basic assumptions, effectiveness and consequences of the 'war on drugs' approach; evaluating the risks and benefits of different national responses to the drug problem; and developing actionable, evidence-based recommendations for constructive legal and drug policy reform. The commission will issue a report in six months.

The commission will examine the current international drug control regime, conduct a global overview of drug policies and laws, examine the drug production and supply chain, address criminal justice challenges, study the lessons learned from harm reduction, treatment, and prevention campaigns, and examine the economic and political ramifications of the massive illicit global drug trade.

In addition to the three Latin American ex-presidents, commission members include former US Secretary of State George Schulz, writers Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa, former European Union official Javier Solana, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, and former UN High Commissioner for Refugees Thorvald Stoltenberg.

"There is a growing perception that the "war on drugs" approach has failed," the commission said in a statement as it announced its existence in Geneva this week. "Eradication of production and criminalization of consumption did not reduce drug traffic and drug use," the commission said.

The harm from corruption and violence resulting from prohibition "largely exceeds the harm caused by drugs," the statement says.

We will be looking forward to seeing the commission's report this summer. The report from the Latin American Commission helped stir debate and advance the cause of reform, and this should, too.

Geneva
Switzerland

Know Your Drug Prohibition War: $15 Billion Will Be Spent by the Feds Alone in 2011

Here's a look at some highlights of how your dollars are being spent, from the Office of National Drug Control Policy's Drug Control Strategy 2011. Remember, they also hide several billion from the total by not including the cost of incarceration. Total drug prohibition war spending by the federal and various state governments will be approximately $69 billion.
Publication/Source: 
East Bay Express (CA)
URL: 
http://www.eastbayexpress.com/LegalizationNation/archives/2011/01/24/know-your-drug-war-15-billion-in-2011

Medical Marijuana Ads Help Sagging Media Profits

Location: 
CA
United States
Medical marijuana advertising is taking off, propping up the fortunes of ailing media companies that have seen income from other business sectors plummet in the recession. Advertisements offering free edibles for new patients and products such as "super silver haze" are helping to keep the San Francisco Bay Guardian, SF Weekly and East Bay Express in business. Similar ads have even started cropping up — tentatively — in more staid publications, such as the San Francisco Chronicle.
Publication/Source: 
The Bay Citizen (CA)
URL: 
http://www.baycitizen.org/marijuana/story/medical-marijuana-ads-help-sagging-media/

Poor Economy Forces Georgia to Rethink Drug Criminalization

Location: 
GA
United States
The high price of enforcing criminal penalties on non-violent offenders has Georgia's new Republican governor rethinking a major linchpin in US domestic policy: the drug war. Roughly 19 percent of Georgia's prison population was incarcerated on drug offenses in 2009, according to a report by the Office on National Drug Control Policy. Nationally, nearly half of all arrests are due to laws criminalizing the cultivation, sales and use of cannabis, which has been shown to be less damaging to human health than alcohol or tobacco.
Publication/Source: 
The Raw Story (DC)
URL: 
http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/01/economic-crunch-forcing-georgias-conservative-governor-rethink-drug-criminalization/

Treating Mexico's Drug Prohibition War Patients Costs El Paso's County-Run Hospital $4.7 Million

Location: 
El Paso, TX
United States
Since the start of Mexico's drug prohibition war, 200 people wounded in Mexico have been treated at El Paso's county-run hospital at a cost of $4.7 million, according to the latest figures from the University Medical Center of El Paso. "Local taxpayers are footing the bill for the consequences of a conflict that is occurring on foreign soil," said Jim Valenti, UMC's chief executive officer, and Dr. Jose Manuel de la Rosa, founding dean of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso Paul L. Foster School of Medicine.
Publication/Source: 
Las Cruces Sun-News (NM)
URL: 
http://www.lcsun-news.com/las_cruces-news/ci_16971568

Inquirer Editorial: Sell Drugs Or Go Jobless (Opinion)

Location: 
Philadelphia, PA
United States
The Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial board opines that many government officials are finally admitting the prohibitionist war on drugs is a costly failure, and that the United States has spent at least $1 trillion on the war on drugs, but the streets of Kensington prove it hasn't worked.
Publication/Source: 
The Philadephia Inquirer (PA)
URL: 
http://www.philly.com/inquirer/opinion/20101214_Inquirer_Editorial__Sell_drugs_or_go_jobless.html

New Data: Pursuit of Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession Costs Vermont Over $700K Annually, Rep. Lorber Calls for Decriminalization (Press Release)

CONTACT: Rep. Jason Lorber, 802-863-9429 or jasonplorber@gmail.com

New Data: Pursuit of Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession

Costs Vermont Over $700K Annually

Rep. Lorber Calls for Decriminalization

Burlington, VT – Dec. 9, 2010 – New data unveiled today shows that Vermont state government spends over $700,000 annually to pursue Vermonters for possession of small amounts of marijuana. 

Based on the new findings, Rep. Jason Lorber (D-Burlington) today announced plans to introduce a bill that would decriminalize the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana.

“We should stop wasting $700,000 a year on a failed policy,” said Rep. Lorber. “It’s time for a smarter approach.  That means decriminalization for an ounce or less of marijuana.”

“In a time of great fiscal strain, it is critical that we focus law enforcement resources on offenses that pose the greatest threats to public safety,” said Windsor County State’s Attorney, Robert Sand. “Possession of small amounts of marijuana does not fall into this category. Converting misdemeanor marijuana crimes into civil violations is an appropriate and laudatory legislative endeavor.”

Today’s announcement follows the release of a memo written for Rep. Lorber by the non-partisan Vermont Legislative Joint Fiscal Office (JFO).  The report detailed costs totaling $716,021, broken into categories of Police ($45,257), State’s Attorneys ($10,429), Defender General ($19,768), Court Diversion ($169,500), Judiciary ($105,344), and Corrections ($365,725).  It involves 801 arrests, 76 Vermonters serving time behind bars, and 270 on field supervision.  JFO estimates that the true costs could be 20% more or less than the $716,021 figure.  The study focused on cases in which possession of up to 2 ounces of marijuana was a stand-alone charge.

Strong Support for Decriminalization in Vermont and Nationally

Marijuana has been decriminalized in 13 states, including New York, Maine, and Massachusetts. A 2009 Mason-Dixon poll of registered voters in Vermont showed over 2-to-1 support for marijuana decriminalization, with 63% in support, 27% opposed, and 10% undecided

“Decriminalization is different from legalization,” Lorber was quick to point out. “I am crafting a bill that would keep it illegal to sell or use marijuana, and not change the penalty for driving under the influence. This would simply change the penalty for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana to a civil, rather than criminal offense. It would be a ticket, not jail time.”

This news follows an August 2010 panel discussion in which Rep. Lorber and then-gubernatorial candidate Peter Shumlin called for decriminalization of possession of under an ounce of marijuana.

Rep. Lorber has served in the Vermont House of Representatives since 2005.  He co-authored sweeping legislation called “Justice Reinvestment,” which reduces prison costs while improving safety by finding less costly and more effective alternatives to prison.  In 2005, he authored a 42-page report “53 Voices on Corrections in Vermont” chronicling the stresses placed on the Department of Corrections by overcrowding. 

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Location: 
VT
United States

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