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Video: Former Mexican President Says Time to Legalize Drugs

Video from October 18 Cato Institute forum featuring former President of Mexico Vicente Fox (Cato's Ian Vasquez moderating):

Hint to politicians and the media: When people with that kind of stature bring up an issue over and over, that means it's important.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Colombia President Calls for Global Marijuana Legalization

In a Sunday interview, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos called for the global legalization of marijuana, but said his country could not be the one to lead the way. Santos also called for a tougher, smarter approach to international drug trafficking and hard drug use.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/juan-manuel-santos-3.jpg
Juan Manuel Santos
"The world needs to discuss new approaches," Santos said. "We are basically still thinking within the same framework as we have done for the last 40 years."

Colombia has made progress in its fight against cocaine trafficking in the past 20 years, managing to destroy first the Medellin and then the Cali cartels and subsequently seeing a reduction in the violence that had plagued the country. But a legion of mini-cartels have emerged to take up the trafficking mantle, and Colombia remains a world leader in cocaine production.

When asked by his interviewer whether marijuana legalization could be a means of further reducing the violence, Santos said he would support legalization, but only if it were a global move. "Yes, that could be an answer, provided everyone does it at the same time," he said.

Colombia would not undertake such a move itself because of national security reasons, Santos said. "For Colombia, this is a matter of national security," he explained. "Drug trafficking is what finances the violence and the irregular groups in our country. I would be crucified if I took the first step. We need to insist on more multinational actions on drug trafficking and innovate the ways we are dealing with it," he said.

"In other countries [Europe and the US] this is mainly a health and crime issue," Santos continued. "We need to look at all components, one of them being targeting the assets in this business. But we need to do so on a global level. We must discuss a new approach, looking at all the components: The profit and the crime that follows drug trafficking, the fight against money laundering, trade with arms and so on. These are all effects of drugs."

Or, more precisely, global drug prohibition. And so, the consensus continues to crumble.

Bogota
Colombia

California Doctors' Group Says Legalize Marijuana

California's largest doctors' group is calling for marijuana legalization. The trustees of the California Medical Association (CMA) adopted the position at their annual meeting in Anaheim Friday. The call came after the group last year decided to study the issue and make recommendations.

The group, which represents more than 35,000 physicians statewide, called for legalization even as it acknowledged health risks and questioned the medical value of pot.

The CMA's policy recommendations on marijuana included rescheduling marijuana in order to encourage further research, regulating recreational marijuana "in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco," taxing marijuana, and facilitating information about the risks and benefits of marijuana use.

Dr. Donald Lyman, a Sacramento physician who authored the new policy, wrote that the new policy was inspired by frustration with California's medical marijuana law. The law permits marijuana use with a physician's recommendations, even though marijuana remains illegal under federal law. That puts doctors in an untenable position, Lyman argued.

"It's an uncomfortable position for doctors," he told the Los Angeles Times. "It is an open question whether cannabis is useful or not. That question can only be answered once it is legalized and more research is done. Then, and only then, can we know what it is useful for."

But despite questioning marijuana's medical efficacy, the CMA made it clear that it sees pot prohibition as a failure. "The California Medical Association (CMA) has recognized that the criminalization of cannabis is a failed public health policy," Lyman wrote in the white paper. "Based on the growing momentum of medical cannabis decriminalization nationally (16 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized medical cannabis), there may also be growing public support in several states for decriminalization of the cultivation, transport and use of cannabis."

The CMA said it was the first state medical association to call for marijuana legalization.

Anaheim, CA
United States

Activist Dana Beal Sentenced, Suffers Heart Attack

Iconic activist Dana Beal suffered a heart attack while in a Wisconsin jail awaiting transfer to a state prison to begin serving a 2 ½ prison sentence for marijuana trafficking. According to Celebstoner.com and the Free Dana Beal and Free Ourselves Facebook page, Beal was stricken Tuesday morning, and at last report, he was hospitalized in stable condition under sedation at the Intensive Care Unit at St. Mary's Hospital in Madison.

Beal leading Global Marijuana March in NYC, 1994 (wikimedia.org)
Last week, Beal was sentenced to prison in Wisconsin after pleading guilty to trafficking 180 pounds of pot in a bust that unraveled when his 1997 Chevy van got pulled over for expired tags and no tail light. He also got 2 ½ years of probation to be served after his jail time. He got credit for 267 days already served.

Despite courtroom testimonials from Beal supporters, including "Guru of Ganja" Ed Rosenthal and Wisconsin medical marijuana patient Jacki Rickert, Beal got prison time. But it was less than the four years the prosecution asked for and well below the 15 year maximum allowable under Wisconsin law.

Beal was already on probation after being busted with another 100-pound-plus load in Nebraska in 2009. The previous year, the New York City-based activist saw more than $100,000 in cash seized in Illinois, although he avoided any convictions in that case. He also has previous drug convictions in 1971, 1987, 1993 and 2006.

When not fighting his own cases, Beal has built a career as an activist, first with the Yippies in the early 1970s, then as a founding organizer of the Global Marijuana Marches, and in recent years, as a crusader for the addiction-treating powers of ibogaine with his group Cures Not Wars.

Madison, WI
United States

Mexico and the War on Drugs: Time to Legalize

Mexico and the War on Drugs: Time to Legalize
Tuesday, October 18, 12:00 p.m.

Mount Vernon Place • Undercroft Auditorium
900 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.


Featuring Vicente Fox, Former President, Mexico; moderated by Ian Vásquez, Director, Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, Cato Institute

About the event - The drug war has led to a rise in corruption and gruesome criminality that is weakening democratic institutions, the press, law enforcement, and other elements of a free society. Former Mexican president Vicente Fox will explain that prohibition is not working and that the legalization of the sale, use, and production of drugs offers a superior way of dealing with the problem of drug abuse.

Date: 
Tue, 10/18/2011 - 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Location: 
900 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

WA State Dems Endorse Marijuana Legalization

The Washington state Democratic Central Committee Saturday endorsed a marijuana legalization initiative, throwing the party's weight behind the effort to put the measure on the ballot for the November 2012 election.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/downtown_seattle.jpg
downtown Seattle
The Central Committee voted 75-43 for a resolution supporting Initiative 502, which would legalize the possession of marijuana by adults and allow for its sale through pot-only stores regulated by the state liquor control authority. Initiative sponsors New Approach Washington estimate that marijuana legalization under its model would generate more than $200 a million a year in tax revenues, with more than half of that earmarked for public health programs.

The Democrats cited, among other things, law enforcement costs of marijuana prohibition and the revenues that could be gained with legalization. They noted that marijuana possession arrests, with mandatory 24-hour jail stays, accounted for half of all Washington drug arrests. 

I-502 is controversial among some segments of the marijuana legalization and medical marijuana communities because it also includes a per se driving under the influence provision. The initiative sets a blood THC level of 5 nanograms per millileter above which drivers are presumed to be impaired, but some activists argue that such a provision will result in the arrest and conviction of pot-accustomed drivers who are not actually impaired.

That didn't seem to bother the Democratic Central Committee too much, though. The committee included that provision in its long list of "whereases" in support of the initiative, noting that "this per se limit will not apply to the non-psychoactive marijuana metabolite carboxy-THC that can appear in blood or urine tests for days or even weeks after last use."

I-502 is supported by the ACLU of Washington, whose Alison Holcomb has taken a leave of absence to spearhead the campaign, and has been endorsed by prominent Washington figures, including former US Attorney John McKay (the man who prosecuted Marc Emery, ironically), Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, and travel writer and TV show host Rick Steves.

Organizers have until next July to gather 241,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. But I-502 is an initiative to the legislature, meaning that if it passes the signature-gathering hurdle, it would then go before the state legislature in the upcoming session. If the legislature refuses to act, the initiative would then go before the voters in November 2012.

Bellingham, WA
United States

Three Marijuana Legalization Initiatives in Oregon [FEATURE]

Activists in Oregon are serious about legalizing marijuana. There are currently three different marijuana legalization initiative campaigns aimed at the November 2012 ballot underway there and, this year, there are signs the state's fractious marijuana community is going to try to overcome sectarian differences and unify so that the overarching goal -- freeing the weed -- can be attained.

The three initiatives are in varying stages of advancement, with one already engaged in signature-gathering, one just approved for a ballot title, and the third trying to obtain the 1,000 signatures necessary to be granted a ballot title and be approved for signature-gathering.

The initiative currently furthest down the path toward the ballot box, is the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act of 2012 (Initiative Petition #9), sponsored by veteran activist and medical marijuana entrepreneur Paul Stanford. It would allow adult Oregonians to possess and grow their own marijuana. It would allow Oregon farmers to grow hemp. And it would license Oregon farmers to grow marijuana to be sold at state-licensed pot stores. An earlier version of OCTA failed to make the ballot last year.

OCTA has been approved for signature-gathering, and OCTA spokespersons said it had so far collected more than 30,000 signatures. It needs some 87,000 valid voter signatures to make the ballot, so OCTA's goal is to gather about 130,000 to have a comfortable cushion to account for invalid signatures.

The initiative next in line is a proposed constitutional amendment (Initiative Petition #24) to repeal the state's marijuana laws sponsored by the Oregon Marijuana Policy Initiative, which is supported by numerous in-state groups. "Except for actions that endanger minors or public safety, neither the criminal offenses and sanctions nor the laws of civil seizure and forfeiture of this state shall apply to the private personal use, possession or production of marijuana by adults 21 years of age and older," the amendment says. "The State may enact laws and regulations consistent with this amendment to reasonably define, limit and regulate the use, possession, production, sale or taxation of marijuana under state law."

Because it is a constitutional amendment and not an initiative, the OMPI must climb a higher hurdle to qualify for the ballot. Instead of 87,000 valid signatures, it needs 114,000.

The initiative still in the initial phase of qualifying for a ballot title is from Sensible Oregon, a coalition formed this year that includes Oregon NORML and a variety of other groups. The Sensible Oregon initiative "would remove existing civil and criminal penalties for adults twenty one years of age, who cultivate, possess, transport, exchange or use marijuana" and require the legislature to come up with a regulatory scheme.

The Sensible Oregon initiative has gathered about 400 of the initial 1,000 needed to win a ballot title. Activists are gathering them on a volunteer basis.

"We don’t have any paid petitioners; we're working strictly as volunteers," said Oregon NORML board member and Sensible Oregon spokesperson Anna Diaz, who added that it is difficult to obtain funding at this early stage. "When we talk to various funding sources, we need to wait for the ballot title before anyone will take us very seriously. Once we do that, our hope is that we can go after some big funding."

Funding is also an issue for the OCTA campaign, said campaign spokesperson Jennifer Alexander. "We had to stop our signature gathering effort because we need to do some major fundraising," she said. "We have some volunteers, but we're trying to raise about $150,000 to fund the rest of the signature drive. If we can raise the money, we can do it in eight or ten weeks."

OCTA will be the initiative "most accepted by the public," Alexander said. "It also addresses hemp, which would be a huge economic and environmental boon to the Oregon economy, and it provides the regulatory structure that Oregonians are most familiar with, similar to how we handle alcohol. You can grow your own or you can buy it from the store, and the money goes back to the state, which generates revenue and a regulated environment."

Last year, Oregon NORML supported OCTA, but it is going down a different path this year. "Paul Stanford has been trying to pass some form of OCTA for about 20 years, and we didn't want to do the same thing and get the same results," said Diaz. "At the same time, the Sensible Washington people had come forward with the idea of removing all criminal penalties, and we decided that would be more appealing to voters and a better model to attempt," Diaz said. "While we are not disparaging Paul or his efforts, OCTA has just failed one too many times for us."

Doug McVay, a long-time activist now (again) working for Voter Power, the group behind Oregon's successful 1998 medical marijuana initiative, said Voter Power supports any and all of the initiatives, but is concentrating its limited resources on the OMPI constitutional amendment and a second initiative that would create a state-regulated medical marijuana dispensary system.

"In Oregon, we have three chances to make history, and that's exciting," he said. "All of them or any of them could create a ripple, hell, a tidal wave across the country. I will be working to help them make the ballot and working to make their passage a reality."

Factionalism and in-fighting has been the bane of the marijuana movement in Oregon, as in so many other places, but this time around, there is a lot of talk about unity and supporting whatever will work.

"We will get behind other initiatives if ours doesn't work out," said Diaz. "There is also talk about all three initiatives doing polling to see which would really fly, and all of us jumping on that. Surprisingly, this is one time where I'm hearing proponents of every proposed initiative suggesting we should all support each other. It's not a matter of competing against each other."

"We're all trying to end prohibition and these are just different models to do so," said OCTA's Alexander. "I love that we have so many going to the ballot. We have all pretty much agreed that whichever one makes the ballot, we will support it. There have been a lot of people picking apart the different initiatives, but we have to get behind each other and work for the common goal."

That would be a very good thing. A marijuana movement unified around a legalization initiative would be able to concentrate on real opposing forces instead of having to defend itself from sniping from within. We don't want to see a repeat of last year's experience in California, where "Stoners against Prop 19" types had initiative organizers looking over their shoulders to fend off attacks from within the ranks even as they tried to confront the organized opposition.

OR
United States

WA Man Refuses Marijuana Fines, Chooses Jail

Enough already! That was the message Olympia, Washington, resident Dana Walker sent to the Thurston County Superior Court last Friday when, in an act of civil disobedience, he refused to pay fines for past marijuana offenses and demanded to be sent to jail instead. He got his wish and is currently behind bars awaiting sentencing, but the local criminal justice system is going to be out several thousand dollars, and Walker is going to be able to look himself in the eye and know he didn't back down before the pot prohibition laws.

Could this man be the Rosa Parks of the marijuana legalization movement? (Image: Dana Walker)
Walker has been arrested on marijuana charges on numerous occasions and has served time in the federal prison system for pot. After finally being freed from the feds' leash, he told supporters on a Dana Goes to Jail! Facebook page he set up for the event that he had had enough.

"Have you ever wanted to go into a courtroom and honestly tell the judge and prosecutor what you think of their marijuana laws?" Walker wrote. "I have a golden opportunity to do just that and I plan to take full advantage. Those of you who personally know me know I am fully capable of turning righteous indignation into an entertaining show, and I plan to pull out all stops on this one," he explained.

"I owe Thurston County over $3,000 for a marijuana charge from back in 1997," he said. "I am currently unemployed, I am not a fan of hot weather, and I wouldn't mind at all spending a few weeks in jail just for the opportunity to tell a court where they can stick their laws."

Walker said that if enough other people followed his example, they could clog the gears of the drug war punishment apparatus.

"If everyone throws a few shovels full of dirt into the cogs of the Machine then the Machine can't function," he explained. "If even a relatively insignificant number of criminal defendants demanded full jury trials and court-appointed attorneys and then refused to pay any fines then the entire prison-industrial complex would implode.

His action was also for his own good, he said.

Dana Walker outside the Thurston County Jail wearing a "Stop Snitchin'" shirt. (Image: Dana Walker)
"I am also fulfilling a psychological need to take back control of my life," Walker said. "I highly resent the fact that I have been forced by circumstance to kiss their evil asses for over a decade and I will now have my say. I am a keen patron of irony and I LOVE the fact that I am going to reclaim my freedom by going to jail."

Last Friday morning, Walker did have his say. Here is his statement, which was read into the record, in its entirety:

"I am an active and contributing member of my community and I have earned the respect and admiration of large numbers of the people in my community and I hate to admit it as it goes against my 'outlaw' image, but I even obey the traffic laws.

"In spite of all this I now have four felony convictions and three misdemeanor convictions, all for marijuana; I have spent over six years of my life incarcerated in a federal prison and four years on federal probation over marijuana, and Thurston County now wants me to pay a fine of $2,010 for marijuana plus $1,754 in interest on that fine that was accrued as I sat in a federal prison all those years.

"Since I have been smoking marijuana on a regular basis for over 40 years now and suffered no ill effects of any kind whatsoever that I am aware of, since I consider this state's marijuana laws to be an unacceptable, unconstitutional, and outrageous infringement upon my personal liberty, since I love smoking marijuana and I intend to continue smoking marijuana at any time that I darned well please, and since making someone like me into a criminal over marijuana is insane and stupid; then today I am placing the State of Washington on notice that from this point forward I will not only never again pay the state to prosecute me for marijuana but that I intend to make it as expensive to prosecute me for marijuana as I possibly can -- and since I have been in the system for a long time I know how to do that.

"I would also like to point out that the feds had me under their thumb for over 10 years and they did not break me -- and as of a few days ago I am no longer under that thumb. And so today I am celebrating and reclaiming my freedom by informing the state that since I will no longer pay your fines and since I no longer fear your jails then -- as far as marijuana goes -- you no longer have any power over me and that in fact the stick is now in my hand."

Thurston County Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor was not amused. "If I had known what you were going to say, I wouldn't have let you make the statement," he said. "Once you got started I didn't want to be rude and interrupt you."

He then ordered Walker handcuffed and sent to jail pending sentencing. That was supposed to happen this week, but there is no word yet.

Thanks to Toke of the Town for the heads up.

Olympia, WA
United States

Prince of Pot Marc Emery Catches "Superbug" in US Prison

Canadian marijuana legalization activist Marc Emery has contracted a "superbug" while serving a US federal prison sentence for selling marijuana seeds, his wife, Jodie, told local media Sunday. Emery has been diagnosed with MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aurea), a painful infection that appears on the skin.

MRSA is widespread among US jail and prison populations with hundreds of reports of outbreaks being reported in the past decade. Some cases develop into necrotizing fasciitis, also known as "the flesh-eating disease." The US Bureau of Prisons has released guidelines for the management and control of the disease, which does not respond to many common antibiotics. For more information on the disease in the American gulag, visit the MRSA Infections News and Information web page on MRSA in jails and prisons.

Ironically, Technology Review reported last fall that chemicals found in marijuana plants "could soon outshine conventional antibiotics in the escalating battle against drug-resistant bacteria. The compounds, called cannabinoids, appear to be unaffected by the mechanism that superbugs like MRSA use to evade existing antibiotics," the Review noted, citing recently published scientific research.

Jodie Emery said Emery's MRSA problem began when he was bitten by a brown recluse spider while serving time at a Georgia prison, and the bite took months to heal. He was treated with antibiotics, but developed a painful boil while being transferred by bus to another prison in Mississippi. When prison doctors tested the boil, they discovered the MRSA infection.

"I was worried sick to hear it," she said, adding that he was forced to fight the bug without medication. The infection has stabilized, but Emery is still infected, she said. "I'm still very concerned. He has to be extra vigilant with any cuts or scrapes."

Emery, who made a small fortune selling pot seeds but gave most of it away to legalization activists in Canada and around the world, was sentenced to five years in prison in September 2010 after being extradited from Canada. A recent bid to serve the remainder of his sentence in his home country was rejected by prison authorities. He can try again in a little under two years.

In a Monday interview with the magazine he founded, Cannabis Culture, Emery said that while his infection was "definitely a concern," he was currently healthy and feeling fine.

New Washington State Marijuana Legalization Initiative Filed

A high-powered coalition of state and local elected officials, public figures, and attorneys filed a marijuana legalization initiative with Washington state officials June 22. Known as New Approach Washington, the group is aiming to put the measure before voters in the November 2012 elections.

The initiative is distinct from the Sensible Washington initiative campaign, which had hoped to put its measure before voters in November 2011. The Sensible Washington initiative now appears unlikely to make the ballot because with little more than a week left until it must turn in signatures, it has less than half the required amount and little money to pay signature-gatherers.

Key features of the New Approach Washington initiative include:

  • Distribution to adults 21 and over through state-licensed, marijuana-only stores; production and distribution licensed and regulated by Liquor Control Board (LCB).
  • Severable provision (e.g. provision would stand if courts invalidated other provisions) decriminalizing adult possession of marijuana; possession by persons under 21 remains a misdemeanor.
  • Stringent advertising, location, and license eligibility restrictions enforced by LCB.
  • Home growing remains prohibited; except, initiative does not affect Washington's medical marijuana law.
  • Estimated $215 million in new state revenue each year, with roughly $40 million going to state general fund (B&O and retail sales tax) and $175 million (new marijuana excise tax) earmarked for youth and health programs and marijuana education programs.
  • THC blood concentration  of 5 ng/mL or higher is per se Driving Under the Influence.

Among the backers of the initiative are Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes, former US Attorney for the Western District of Washington (and prosecutor of Marc Emery, ironically) John McKay, travel program celebrity Rick Steves, state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (D-Seattle), and ACLU of Washington drug policy honcho Allison Holcomb, who is stepping down temporarily to run the campaign.

The group will have until December 30 to gather 241,153 valid voter signatures to put the issue before the legislature. The legislature could then approve the measure or send it to voters in the November 2012 election.

It's starting to look like marijuana legalization will be on the ballot in at least three, and possibly four, states next year. Efforts are already underway in California, Colorado, and Oregon.

WA
United States

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