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UC-Boulder Moves to Quash 4/20 Marijuana Rally

The University of Colorado Boulder campus will be a virtual police state Friday as university administrators attempt to thwart the school's unofficial annual 4/20 rally. Administrators last Friday announced plans to heighten security, including barring the public from entering the grounds of the public university.

Clouds of smoke hover over the crowd estimated at 10,000 at last year's rally. (NORML)
The annual campus event, featuring speakers and marijuana, has drawn thousands of attendees in recent years, including around 10,000 last year. Over the years, university administrators have tried various means to suppress the event, but this year, they are really clamping down. That has the ACLU crying foul.

The university's security plan for Friday includes barring everyone except students, faculty, and staff from campus and threatening to issue trespassing citations to violators. Those tickets carry a penalty of up to six months in jail and a $750 fine. All students, faculty, and staff must carry and present university-issued identification as they pass through police check-points set up at all major campus entrances.

Officially sanctioned campus visitors -- those who have tickets for university events or who are participating in academic meetings, symposia, and other events—must apply for a special registration to be able to get onto the campus. No visitors, even the officially sanctioned ones, will be allowed to park on campus, and police will be patrolling parking lots.

The on-campus site of the 4/20 rally, the grassy area of the Norlin Quad, will be closed to everyone, and anyone entering it, even students, will be cited for trespassing. The university will also go the extra mile by dumping fish fertilizer on the Quad the day of the rally.

The university is also threatening to once again ticket people for marijuana possession and is promising "a larger presence of officers" this year. It said campus police, as well as police from other regional agencies, will be on hand, and the Colorado State Patrol will be conducting "enhanced patrols" on local highways.

And the university is calling in the Colorado Department of Revenue's Medical Marijuana Enforcement Division, which will have a team of officers deployed on campus across Boulder "to monitor medical marijuana centers and ensure compliance with licensing regulations." School officials warned that anyone caught smoking pot could lose his or her medical marijuana registration, in addition to fines and university sanctions.

The university has also scheduled a Wyclef Jean concert for Friday afternoon in a bid to draw students away from the 4/20 rally. Ironically for a campus where students have embraced the "marijuana is safer than alcohol" message, the concert will be held at the Coors Performing Arts Center.

UC-Boulder is one of the Colorado campuses where Mason Tvert and SAFER (Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreations) honed their "marijuana is safer" message, winning non-binding initiatives among students, before moving on to win a legalization vote in Denver and, this year, successfully waging a campaign with allies to put the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol legalization initiative on the November ballot.

"The gathering disrupts teaching and research right in the heart of the campus," said CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip DiStefano, as he announced the measures. "The size of the crowd has become unmanageable, and limits our faculty, staff and students from getting to class, entering buildings and doing their basic work. It needs to end."

But Mark Silverstein, director of the ACLU of Colorado, said the university's clamp down was a bid to thwart free speech.

"By closing the campus to visitors, establishing checkpoints, assigning uniformed officers to check papers and threatening arrests of visitors without proper credentials, the university does a disservice to the values that underlie the First Amendment and the constitutionally protected right to dissent," he told the school newspaper the Daily Camera Monday.

While the Constitution doesn't include the right to smoke marijuana in public, he said, it does protect the rights of students to assemble with others to express their views, including non-students. Silverstein declined to say whether the ACLU would take legal action.

As for Wyclef Jean, the former Fugees singer and Haitian presidential candidate told the Daily Camera he was down with 4/20.

"I look up to people like Bob Marley and Bob Dylan, you know what I'm saying? I would say for me it's more -- those kinds of holidays are natural. For me that's an everyday holiday," he said before saying marijuana should be legalized because it's mostly harmless, prohibition has never worked, and it could be a boost for the economy.

"It's not about the marijuana smoking," Jean said. "At the end of the day, the teens are out there and they're going to do ecstasy, they're gonna do coke, they're gonna do molly, and they're going to OD. Something that's from the ground, an herb, used an in a responsible form, I can't see what's wrong."

Maybe Jean could take time after his performance to clue in the chancellor.

Boulder, CO
United States

Colorado Democrats Endorse Marijuana Legalization Initiative

Delegates at the Colorado Democratic Party state convention in Pueblo Saturday formally endorsed Amendment 64, the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act. Because support for the initiative was so strong at the convention, the endorsement becomes part of the party's "essential" platform.

The initiative had already won the support of Democrats in 15 counties, including eight of the 10 most populous. Those counties are Boulder, Delta, Denver, Douglas, Eagle, Elbert, El Paso, Garfield, Jefferson, La Plata, Larimer, Pitkin, Pueblo, Routt, and Weld.

"This is a mainstream issue," said Cindy Lowery-Graber, chair of the Denver Democratic Party. "Polls show that more than 60% of Democrats and a solid majority of independents believe marijuana should be treated like alcohol. A broad coalition is forming in support of Amendment 64 and I am proud to say that it now includes the Colorado Democratic Party."

It's not just Democrats and independents who are supporting the notion of marijuana regulation. Last month, the Denver County Republican Assembly approved a resolution calling for just that, although they did not explicitly endorse Amendment 64. That resolution got 56% of the vote.

"While there may be more support among Democrats and independents, this is quickly becoming a popular position," the campaign's Mason Tvert told Westword over the weekend. "Supporting an end to marijuana prohibition and regulating marijuana like alcohol is a position that spans the political and ideological spectrum."

Colorado is not the only state where marijuana legalization will be on the ballot in November. A similar measure has qualified in Washington state. Signature-gathering campaigns are ongoing in a number of other states, with Montana and Oregon appearing to have the best shot of making the ballot.

Denver, CO
United States

Billboard Goes Up for Colorado Marijuana Initiative

In the opening move of its election season effort to pass Amendment 64, a marijuana legalization and regulation initiative, the Colorado Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol has put up a billboard in the heart of Denver featuring a nice, middle aged woman who says, "For many reasons, I prefer marijuana over alcohol" and asks "Does that make me a bad person?"

the first billboard in the Colorado campaign (CRMLA)
The billboard near Mile High Stadium sits above a liquor store. It went up last Thursday.

The initiative, which takes the form of a constitutional amendment, legalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and over. Adults would also be able to possess up to six plants -- three mature -- and the fruits of their harvest.

It also calls for the licensing of marijuana cultivation facilities, product manufacturing facilities, testing facilities, and retail stores. It would require the legislature to pass an excise tax on the wholesale sale of marijuana and that the first $40 million in tax revenues each year be dedicated to the state's public school capital construction assistance fund. It would give local governments the ability to regulate such facilities or prohibit them.

In the most recent polling on the issue, a December Public Policy Polling survey found that 49% supported the general notion of legalizing marijuana -- the poll did not ask specifically about Amendment 64 -- while 40% opposed it and 10% were undecided.

That shows that victory is within reach, but by no means assured. One of the key demographic groups needed to win is mothers and middle-aged women, like that nice lady on the billboard.

Colorado isn't the only state where marijuana legalization will be on the ballot. A similar effort in Washington has qualified for the ballot, while signature-gathering for initiatives continues in a number of states. Of those, efforts in Oregon and Montana now appear to have the best shot of actually qualifying for the ballot.

Rasmussen Poll Finds 47% Say Legalize, Tax Marijuana

Support for legalizing and taxing marijuana out-muscled opposition to it in the latest Rasmussen poll to ask respondents about the issue. Support was at 47%, while opposition was at 42%, with 10% undecided in the poll released last Thursday.

Respondents were asked the following question: "To help solve America's fiscal problems, should the country legalize and tax marijuana?"

Rasmussen conducted a telephone survey of 1,000 adults nationwide this week. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3%.

Support is up four points since Rasmussen last asked that question in July 2010. That's in line with most recent national polls, which show a continuing upward trend for legalization, which is now hovering on the cusp of majority support. Angus Reid polled support for legalization at 55% in August, while Gallup had at it 50% in October, continuing long-term upward trends in support. A November CBS News poll had support at only 40%, a decline from its previous number, but it is the downside outlier.

Colorado and Washington will vote on marijuana legalization initiatives in November, but the Rasmussen poll doesn't provide cross-tabs and geographic breakdowns to anyone except paying subscribers, so regional data is unavailable. Most other polls show higher levels of support for marijuana legalization in the West than in the country as a whole.

Seattle Mayor Says It's Time to Legalize Marijuana

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn (D) used his state of the city address last Tuesday night to make a heartfelt plea for marijuana legalization. The mayor's remarks came as a new poll showed that an initiative that would legalize marijuana is favored by voters.

Mike McGinn
"It is time we were honest about the problems we face with the drug trade. Drugs are a source of criminal profit, and that has led to shootings and even murders. Just like we learned in the 1920s with the prohibition of alcohol, prohibition of marijuana is fueling violent activity," McGinn said in his prepared remarks.

"Seattle is the kind of place that isn't afraid to try a different approach," he continued. "We support safe access to medical marijuana and made enforcement of possession of marijuana for personal purposes our lowest enforcement priority. But we've learned in the past year that with the federal war on drugs still intact, and with our kids still getting gunned down on the streets, we need to do more.

"I know every one of the city council members sitting to my left and right believe as I do: It's time for this state to legalize marijuana, and stop the violence, stop the incarceration, stop the erosion of civil liberties, and urge the federal government to stop the failed war on drugs."

Mayor McGinn's remarks came as Washingtonians prepare to decide the issue for themselves in the November elections. A marijuana legalization initiative, I-502, has already been approved for the ballot. Sponsored by New Approach Washington, the initiative would create a system of state-licensed and -regulated marijuana commerce and allow adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce.

A Public Policy Polling survey released this week shows the initiative leading, although not with a majority. In the poll, 47% of voters said they're currently inclined to vote yes on the measure, with 39% saying they are opposed.

A similar initiative is poised to make the ballot in Colorado, having handed in four times the number of signatures it needed for its final push, while legalization initiative signature-gathering campaigns are underway in California, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, and Oregon.

Seattle, WA
United States

Guatemalan President Will Propose Drug Legalization

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina is again speaking out on drug legalization. He said in a Saturday radio interview that he would propose legalizing drugs in a forthcoming meeting with regional leaders, and he specified that that included decriminalizing the transport of drugs through the Central American isthmus.

President Otto Perez Molina and his "mano duro"
"I want to bring this discussion to the table," he said. "It wouldn't be a crime to transport, to move drugs. It would all have to be regulated."

Saturday's comments reinforce remarks the retired general made last month, shortly after taking office. Then, he said the drug trade should be decriminalized "from the south, where it is produced, through all the countries, like Guatemala, through which it passes, to Mexico and the United States."

Perez Molina didn't provide any more specifics of his proposal, nor did he say when the regional meeting would take place. But he did say he would discuss the subject with Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes when Funes visits Monday.

Perez Molina said that the war on drugs and all the US cash and technical assistance had failed to reduce drug trafficking in the region, which serves as a springboard for South American cocaine headed into Mexico and, ultimately, the United States.

"There was talk of the success of Plan Colombia but all it did was neutralize big cartels," Perez Molina, referring to the US' decade-long, $6 billion anti-drug effort in Colombia.

The first time around, Perez Molina's remarks on decriminalization come as something of a surprise, but now he has twice called for a discussion of what is in effect full legalization. He said nothing like that during his election campaign, in which he vowed to use "an iron fist" against encroaching Mexican cartels. In one of his first acts in office, he emulated Calderon by calling out the armed forces to fight the cartels.

Both the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel are reported to be operating in Guatemala, which borders Mexico to the north. The drug gangs are blamed for an increasing number of killings in the Central American country, the bloodiest being the May 2011 massacre of 27 farm workers whose boss had been targeted by the Zetas.

Guatemala City
Guatemala

Ron Paul's Least Controversial Idea: Legalizing Drugs

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/RonPaul.jpg
I've been so busy marveling at the disturbingly idiotic drug policy positions of various republican presidential candidates that I've largely failed to comment on the candidate who is actually fighting for drug policy reform. Iowa doesn't even have medical marijuana yet, but a guy who wants to end the drug war entirely went in there and shook things up so hard that many were relieved when he only pulled 21.4% of the vote.

A lot of people have a lot of problems with Ron Paul, but when the poo starts flying in his direction, it's never because he wants to legalize marijuana, or even meth. That's not the debate his critics want to have with him. If anyone really believes that Ron Paul's ideas about drug policy are a non-starter with voters, they sure are reluctant to point it out.

Face it, Ron Paul's belief in changing our drug laws is easily the least controversial position for which he is known. It's the one thing no one ever challenges him on, a fact which, by itself, ought to completely bury forever the notion that politicians who support things like the legalization of marijuana are engaging in a act of overt political suicide.

No one will ever make an attack ad saying that Ron Paul wants to legalize drugs, because saying that about Ron Paul would just make him more popular. You can't burn someone by reinforcing what their supporters love most. It's a principle Obama seems to have forgotten and would do well to remember before November.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Gary Johnson to Seek Libertarian Presidential Nomination

The Washington, DC, political news web site Politico.com reported Tuesday that Gary Johnson will end his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination and instead seek the Libertarian Party nomination. Citing Johnson campaign sources, Politico.com said that Johnson will make the announcement at a December 28 press conference in Santa Fe.

Gary Johnson (wikimedia.org)
Calling news of the switch "the worst kept secret," Libertarian Party Chairman Mark Hinkle told Politico.com that Johnson had been in talks with Libertarian officials for months. "It looks like it's definitely going to come to fruition here," he said.

The former New Mexico governor's bid for the Republican nomination never got any traction and he never got above single digits in any polls. The low polling numbers keep him out of most debates -- unfairly, his campaign claimed -- further reducing his chances in a crowded field.

Johnson has a strong drug reform platform, which calls outright for legalization of marijuana and a harm reduction approach to other drugs.

"Abuse of hard drugs is a health problem that should be dealt with by health experts, not a problem that should be clogging up our courts, jails, and prisons with addicts," the platform says. "Instead of continuing to arrest and incarcerate drug users, we should seriously consider the examples of countries such as Portugal and the Netherlands, and we should ultimately choose to adopt policies which aim to reduce death, disease, violence, and crime associated with dangerous drugs."

Although it's no shoo-in, Johnson could well win the Libertarian nomination. While there are a handful of other contenders, none of them has Johnson's national stature. And while party stalwarts daydream of a Ron Paul or Jesse Ventura candidacy, Paul is busy fighting for the Republican nomination and says he has no plans to seek a third party nomination, and Ventura is incommunicado in Mexico.

If he wins the nomination, not only could Johnson use the campaign as a bully pulpit for his drug policy ideas, his candidacy could have an impact on the two-party presidential race, especially in his home state of New Mexico, which went big for Obama in 2008. According to a Public Policy Polling survey conducted earlier this month, Johnson would pull 23% in a contest with Obama (44%) and Romney (27%) and he would pull 20% in a contest with Obama (45%) and Gingrich (28%). Obama is currently polling well against all the Republican candidates and can probably carry the state, but a third party Johnson candidacy would almost ensure an Obama victory in a state he can ill afford to lose next year.

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

Washington, DC
United States

Drug Reform Ally Barney Frank Retiring from Congress

Advocates of drug policy reform are losing a key ally on Capitol Hill. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) announced Monday that he will not seek reelection and will retire at the end of this term in January 2013.

Barney Frank at press conference calling for repeal of a law that denies financial aid to students because of drug convictions
Frank, 71, has served in Congress for 30 years and is now the ranking minority member of the House Financial Services Committee. The openly gay congressman has been a liberal stalwart throughout his tenure on the Hill and among the strongest congressional advocates of drug policy reform.

Beginning in 2001, Frank repeatedly introduced bills that would block the government from intervening in states with medical marijuana laws, and since 2008, he has introduced bills that would decriminalize marijuana possession. This year, he teamed up with libertarian Republican Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) to introduce the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act. That bill currently has 19 cosponsors.

Frank was also the lead sponsor of the "Removing Impediments to Students' Education" act to repeal a provision added to the Higher Education Act in 1998 that delays or denies federal financial aid to students because of drug convictions. The law was scaled back in 2006 to apply just to offenses committed while one is in college and receiving aid, and in 2009 the House of Representatives passed language as part of a student aid funding bill that would have limited it further to just sales convictions. (The section of the 2009 bill containing that language was stripped as part of Democrats' strategy to pass health care reform, in which the health care reform and education bills were combined.)

In 1994 Frank was one of four members of Congress, a Democrat and Republican from both the House and Senate, who advanced "safety valve" legislation to allow judges to exempt first-time drug offenders from five- and ten-year mandatory minimum sentences under specified circumstances.

None of his marijuana law reform bills have come close to passage, but Frank gets big kudos from the reform community for his tireless efforts. His sponsorship of marijuana reform legislation has helped change the conversation in Congress, a process he admitted in a 2009 interview with Esquire is still far from complete.

"Announcing that the government should mind its own business on marijuana is really not that hard," he said. "There's not a lot of complexity here. We should stop treating people as criminals because they smoke marijuana. The problem is the political will. This is a case where there's cultural lag on the part of my colleagues. If you ask them privately, they don't think it's a terrible thing. But they're afraid of being portrayed as soft on drugs."

Frank's bold and straightforward stance has helped begin to change that, but with his impending retirement, marijuana and larger drug policy reform will lose a champion in Congress. His seat may remain Democratic, but there are few Democrats who have been as good as Barney Frank when it comes to trying to end the drug war.

Washington, DC
United States

Vancouver Mayors Say Legalize Marijuana

Four of Vancouver's last five former mayors called last week for end of marijuana prohibition, saying anti-pot policies have failed to reduce marijuana's availability and that prohibition has fueled violence in British Columbia communities. Thursday evening, current Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson joined his predecessors, adding his voice to the call.

Free the weed, say Vancouver mayors (image courtesy the author).
In an open letter released November 23, former mayors Mike Harcourt (1980-1986), Philip Owen (1993-2002), Larry Campbell (2002-2005), and Sam Sullivan (2005-2008) called on the province's politicians to legalize and regulate pot in BC. The letter was released by Stop the Violence BC, which just last month published a report outlining the links between marijuana prohibition and organized crime and violence and calling for a regulated, public health approach to marijuana.

"Marijuana prohibition is -- without question -- a failed policy," the former mayors wrote. "It is creating violent, gang-related crime in our communities and fear among our citizens, and adding financial costs for all levels of government at a time when we can least afford them. Politicians cannot ignore the status quo any longer; they must develop and deliver alternative marijuana policies that avoid the social and criminal harms that stem directly from cannabis prohibition."

The ex-mayors' intervention comes as the Canadian federal government of Conservative Prime Minister Steven Harper is attempting to push through a crime bill that would, among other things, impose mandatory minimum prison sentences for growing as few as five plants. But that's not a popular position in British Columbia, where a recent Angus Reid poll had support for taxing and regulating marijuana at 69%. It is past time for elected officials to get on board the marijuana reform bandwagon, the ex-mayor's said.

"Clearly, elected officials are out of step with their public on marijuana prohibition," they wrote. "It is time that elected officials enter the debate and deliver specific proposals to address the easy availability of cannabis to youth and the organized crime concerns stemming directly from cannabis prohibition."

One elected official who has heeded that call is current Vancouver Mayor Robertson. In a tweet sent out the following evening, Robertson said, "Good to see 4 Vancouver ex-mayors calling for end of cannabis prohibition. I agree, we need to be smart and tax/regulate."

In British Columbia, at least, the wall of silence by elected officials around legalizing marijuana has been breached. Whether that will lead to BC retaking its spot in the vanguard of pot law reform worldwide remains to be seen, but it's a good start.

(Drug War Chronicle's 2003 interview with Mayor Campbell is online here.)

Vancouver, BC
Canada

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