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Willie Nelson Endorses Gary Johnson for President

Legendary country music singer and avowed marijuana user Willie Nelson and his Teapot Party have endorsed the pro-legalization presidential bid of Republican candidate Gary Johnson, the Johnson campaign announced in a press release Tuesday. The endorsement came after Nelson and Johnson met last week and marks the Teapot Party's first foray into presidential politics.

They should have quit messin' with Willie! Now, he's mobilizing the weed-lovin' masses. (Image via Wikimedia.org)
"I am truly gratified to have the endorsement of such a legendary entertainer and champion for individual rights as Willie Nelson," said Johnson. "Not only is Willie a superstar talent but, he is a strong advocate for social change, as seen through his tireless work on behalf of family owned farms and hard working Americans. People across this country are demanding the freedom and opportunity to pursue their dreams without interference from a heavy-handed government, and Willie and I stand together to lend our voices to those demands."

Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, could use the help of some non-traditional GOP primary voters that Nelson could help deliver. The conventional wisdom gives him only an outside shot at the nomination, with the nomination poll aggregator Real Clear Politics not even including him on its lists of candidates declared and undeclared.

Johnson made his effort official last month, declaring his candidacy at the New Hampshire State House. Johnson has made a critique of drug prohibition a central tenet of his platform and is straightforwardly calling for marijuana legalization. As he put it during last week's Fox News Republican presidential candidate debate: "I advocate legalizing marijuana -- control it, regulate it, tax it."

That works for Willie and the Teapot Party, a phenomenon that began last fall after the Red Headed Stranger's most recent encounter with the pot police and now boasts 66,000 Facebook members. Marijuana legalization is its goal.

"The purpose of the Teapot Party is to vote in people who believe in what we do and vote out the ones who don't," said Nelson.

And Gary Johnson wins his first celebrity endorsement.

(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.)

They Marched for Marijuana, Against the Drug War [FEATURE]

From Amsterdam to Arequipa to Auckland, from Anchorage to Albuquerque to Austin to Amherst, from one end of the country and the planet to the other, the worldwide cannabis nation took to the streets Saturday for the 2011 Global Marijuana March. At the same time, in Mexico, marchers trekked from Cuernavaca to Mexico City, and gathered in other Mexican cities as well, to plead for an end to the drug war violence that has killed more than 37,000 people in the past four years.

Jodie Emery addresses the crowd in Toronto (Image courtesy Jeremiah Vandemeer, Cannabis Culture)
Events were scheduled in some 262 cities around the world. They ranged from handfuls or dozens of people in small American and Canadian towns and remote global outposts, to hundreds or thousands in larger cities around the planet. A few places saw even more.

In Toronto, tens of thousands of people came out for the Freedom Fest. A haze of pot smoke hung over Queens Park as revelers were treated to an afternoon of bands and speakers, including Jodie Emery, wife of imprisoned Prince of Pot Marc Emery. The Toronto march may have been this year's largest.

An estimated 25,000 people marched in cities across Argentina, including at least 1,000 in Rosario and 15,000 in the capital, Buenos Aires. Marchers there demanded that the government move further down the path of decriminalization and harm reduction.

"The march in Rosario was great," said Silvia Inchaurraga of the Argentine Harm Reduction Association (ARDA). "In the first march we organized here in 2002, there were only a handful of people, and now we have more than 1,000," she told the Chronicle. "We don't need more speeches from politicians, even progressive speeches, we need a new drug law and a new drug policy. Despite the Supreme Court rulings of 2009 [decriminalizing marijuana possession], the old drug law is still in effect and drug users are still arrested and punished, and harm reduction is not the official policy of the National Secretary on Drugs."

In Jakarta, Indonesia, the number of marchers may have been small, but their audacity was great, and their action sparked preemptive warnings from police and Reefer Madness-style denunciations from people who should know better.

Police first warned that the march was illegal, but then announced they would only arrest people breaking the drug laws. The day before the march National Narcotics Agency spokesman Gen. Indradi Thanos said the group behind the march should "stop their campaign to legalize marijuana because the substance was defined as an illegal addictive drug in the narcotics law." Indradi added somewhat ominously that the agency would hold talks with the network activists to determine if there were "vested interests" backing them," according to the Jakarta Post.

But on Saturday, the Nusantara Marijuana Network (LGN) led some 50 or so people on a march to the Tugu Tani monument in central Jakarta. Unlike Western marchers, most were dressed uniformly in white t-shirts with green ribbons. But like Western marches, posters of Bob Marley bedecked a pick-up truck leading the parade.

"As a first step, we call on the government to provide objective information about marijuana," LGN chair Dhira Narayana said. "People need to be informed that marijuana can be used to cure cancer. Marijuana is also no more addictive than coffee or tea," he added.

In Tijuana, protestors call for drug legalization and US agents out of Mexico (Image courtesy Rocky Neptun via indybay.org)
One self-described non-smoker, Soraya Cassandra of the network's education team, hit the hemp angle. "There is a lot of biased information about marijuana and this is the reason why much of the public does not understand the substance," she said. "The cannabis plant can be used to produce paper. This will save a lot of trees because the cannabis plant can be harvested three times a year," she added.

The Jakarta march certainly sparked a reaction. The Indonesian Child Protection Commission announced it rejected pot legalization because it could have negative effects on children. "Children's brains will be damaged, as will their future, commission head Arist Merdeka Sirait told Tempo.

The National Narcotics Agency and University of Indonesia psychiatrist Dadang Hawari also rejected legalization. Dadang told Tempo that marijuana leaves don't kill, but have ill effects on the brain, including long-term mental and behavioral disorders. Marijuana was appropriately categorized as a narcotic, Dadang claimed.

And also reacting was former Vice President Jusuf Kalla. "We cannot legalize marijuana because at certain doses it is unbelievably dangerous to health," he told the Jakarta Post.

The work of cannabis education has clearly only just begun in Indonesia, but at least it has begun.

In Mexico City, where the work of cannabis education has been underway for some time, thanks to groups like the Mexican Association for Cannabis Studies, hundreds gathered Saturday downtown to demand decriminalization. They chanted and cheered for musical actors and speakers, including the association's Leopoldo Rivera.

"We consider it prudent to be informed on this topic. People who consume are not necessarily criminals or ill, it could be any regular person who is a productive, contributing member of society," Rivera said.

But in Mexico, it wasn't just about freeing the weed -- even at the Global Marijuana March. "We are lobbying for the decriminalization of marijuana as a way to reach peace. Currently, the number of dead in Mexico is 40,000, and it is due in big part to drug trafficking," said environmentalist Arnold Ricarde.

Rosario, Argentina (via Silvia Inchaurraga)
That the horrid violence of the Mexican drug war is overshadowing other drug reform issues there was made clear the next day, as more than 100,000 turned out in Mexico City to greet the hundreds of marchers who had set out from Cuernavaca, 60 miles to the south, on Thursday to demand "no more deaths, no more hate, no more blood."

Led by poet and essayist Javier Sicilia, whose son and six others were found murdered in Cuernavaca in late March, presumably at the hands of the Pacifico Sur cartel, by the time the march arrived at the Zocalo, Mexico's City's gigantic central plaza, it had morphed into a mass of humanity crying out for an end to endless cycle of violence.

"We don't want any more death because of this growing mess," said Sicilia, from a platform in Zocalo... "No more deaths, no more hate. We've come out to walk these streets with dignity and peace... violence will only bring us more violence," he added.

A manifesto for the march called for the government to solve the killings and disappearances, address social ills, fight corruption, impunity, and money-laundering, and drop its "war strategy" in favor of a focus on citizen safety.

Sicilia's crusade has brought a sharp focus to the growing disenchantment with President Felipe Calderon's decision to take the battle to the cartels in December 2006. Despite the deployment of some 45,000 federal troops, the violence has not diminished, but intensified. The government has to change its strategy, the protestors said.

"We've had it with this terrible government that goes unpunished. We want peace," said Araceli Vazquez, 60, as he held up an improvised placard with his demands.

On Monday, President Calderon offered to meet with protest leaders, a clear sign that their voice is being heard. But he was not backing away from his insistence on a military solution to the cartel problem. "We can agree to disagree," he said.

The somber multitudes of Mexico City are a world away from the happy tokers of Toronto, but whether it is marijuana legalization or ending the drug war paradigm that has produced the murderous Mexican madness, drug prohibition is the underlying cause that unites them.

Mexico Drug War Update

by Bernd Debusmann, Jr.

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 36,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Drug prohibition funds the mayhem in Mexico. (Image via Wikimedia.org)
Tuesday, April 26

In Tamaulipas, two gunmen were killed after shooting at an army convoy that was patrolling the highway between Nueva Ciudad Guerrero and Ciudad Mier.

Thursday, April 28

In Tamaulipas, six gunmen were killed during a fierce clash between suspected members of the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel in the towns of Aldabas and Arcabuz. According to some accounts over 40 SUVs full of gunmen participated in the clashes, in which the army eventually intervened.

In Sinaloa, seven people were killed in a series of fire fights which began after an attack on a police station in the town of Guamuchil. Nobody was killed or wounded in the initial attack, which was carried out by a convoy of five vehicles. The convoy later left the bodies of four men who had been abducted earlier on the road, but was then ambushed by a group of rival gunmen. Three members of the convoy were killed and several vehicles were later found abandoned.

Friday, April 29

In Toluca, Mexican authorities handed over former Tijuana-cartel kingpin Benjamin Arellano-Felix to US Marshals to be extradited to the United States. Arellano-Felix has been in prison in Mexico since 2002. His three brothers have all been captured or killed. The cartel is no under the leadership of his nephew Fernando, but is thought to pay the Sinaloa Cartel for the right to the points of entry into California.

In Ciudad Juarez, a massive arsenal was found hidden in a home gym in an upscale neighborhood. The stockpile included three anti-aircraft weapons, dozens of assault rifles and grenades, 50 military uniforms, bulletproof vests and 26,000 rounds of ammunition.

Monday, May 3

In San Antonio, Texas, former Mexican president Vicente Fox said that the only way to end the violence in Mexico is for the United States to legalize drugs. "As a country, we are going through problems due to the fact that the United States consumes too many drugs," he said.

In the Ciudad Juarez area, four people were murdered. Eight people have been murdered in the area in the first three days of May, and 808 have so far been murdered in 2011, according to statistics kept by researcher Molly Molloy.

Tuesday, May 4

In the city of Cuautitlan Izcalli, near Mexico City, five headless bodies were discovered on the backseat and in the trunk of an abandoned BMW.

In Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon, six men were gunned down by heavily armed gunmen. Among the victims were 56-year old Moises Chavez, his two sons, and an unidentified neighbor.

[Editor's Note: We believe our body count is seriously understating the actual number of people killed. Mexican officials this week put the number of dead in April alone at 1,402. We will continue to try to find an accurate way of compiling these numbers.]

Total Body Count for the Week: *34

Total Body Count for the Year: *2,308

Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273

Total Body Count for 2009: (approx.) 9,600

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx): 4,300

Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war through 2010: 34,883

Mexico

Ohio Billionaire Seeks Medical Marijuana Vote

Cleveland-based billionaire Peter Lewis, the chairman of Progressive Insurance, wants Ohioans to vote on becoming a medical marijuana state. Through his attorney, he has put out a request for proposals for an Ohio medical marijuana initiative that will "create a model for future campaigns in other states."

Could Ohio be next? Peter Lewis would like to make it happen. (Image via Wikimedia.org)
Lewis has given millions of dollars to drug reform campaigns across the country, including $900,000 last year to the Marijuana Policy Project and another $200,000 for Proposition 19 in California. Now, his drug reform funding is channeled through his attorney, Graham Boyd of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project.

Ohio "stands out as having particularly high levels of voter support," the request said. It seeks proposals that include drafting ballot language, qualifying for the ballot, building a campaign organization, communicating with voters, and raising money -- although it is probably safe to assume Lewis would kick in a substantial sum himself.

But it's not a done deal yet. "You shouldn't take it as a given that there will be a ballot initiative this campaign," said Boyd told Forbes on Tuesday. "But we want to see proposals."

Lewis's interest in marijuana reform is personal. He was arrested for pot and hash possession in New Zealand in 2000, but got the charges dropped by making a generous donation to a local drug treatment center.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes, but only one of them, Michigan, is in the Midwest. In Michigan, it won through a voter initiative; if someone is on the ball in the Buckeye State, Ohio could be next.

Cleveland, OH
United States

Progressive Chairman Peter B. Lewis Aims to Put Medical Marijuana on Ohio's 2012 Ballot

Location: 
OH
United States
Peter B. Lewis -- the billionaire chairman of Progressive Corp. and well-known medical marijuana advocate -- is seeking proposals to run a campaign to legalize medical marijuana in Ohio. The issue would go on the ballot in 2012. While Democratic lawmakers have tried and failed in recent years to pass medical a marijuana law in Ohio, Lewis' latest inquiry represents a different tack. By going directly to voters through a ballot initiative, Lewis and his supporters could circumvent a GOP-controlled legislature and a Republican governor who likely would oppose such a law.
Publication/Source: 
The Plain Dealer (OH)
URL: 
http://www.cleveland.com/open/index.ssf/2011/05/progressive_chairman_peter_b_l.html

Wisconsin Marijuana and Free Speech Activist Ben Masel Has Died

Wisconsin free speech and pot legalization activist Ben Masel died in a Madison hospice Saturday of complications from a months-long struggle with lung cancer. He was 56 years old.

Born in the Bronx and raised in New Jersey, Masel moved to Madison in 1971 and became a fixture of the counter-culture scene in the decades since then. Masel was the director of the Wisconsin state NORML chapter in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and served as state NORML vice-president for the past decade.

He had hoped to attend the national NORML conference in Denver last month for one last hurrah, but complications from his cancer treatments left him too ill to attend. Instead, NORML honored him with a marijuana legalization lifetime achievement award that was accepted by Wisconsin NORML members in attendance.



A hard-core civil libertarian, Masel repeatedly challenged state and local officials who sought to shut him up -- and won repeated free speech cases, with resulting cash settlements, in state and federal courts. He frequently joked that that was a great way to make a living -- as long as you could wait indefinitely to get paid.


Masel also made repeated forays into electoral politics, running in 1990 as a Republican primary challenger to Gov. Tommy Thompson on a hemp legalization platform, and two years later gaining 7,000 votes as the Democratic candidate for Dane County sheriff. In that campaign, he said he would "fight real crime: end the drug war." In 2006, he challenged Sen. Herb Kohl in the Democratic primary and picked up 15% of the vote against the popular incumbent.

Although he was diagnosed with cancer in January and was in the midst of treatments, Masel was energized by the mass protests in Madison in March and managed to get to the capitol to participate. One of the last activist images of Masel is him holding up a sign in a capitol corridor announcing an "Emergency Test of the Free Speech Network."

Ben was always a fixture at national marijuana policy conferences. We spent many a smoke-break outside together, comparing notes and plotting strategies. I will miss him as a friend and colleague, but the movement is now missing one of its champions.

- Phillip Smith

Madison, WI
United States

Hearing Set for Bill Legalizing Marijuana in Maine

Location: 
ME
United States
At 1 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, supporters of legalized marijuana in Maine will crowd into a hearing room in Augusta to support a Portland legislator's bill to decriminalize pot. Rep. Diane Russell, D-Portland, sponsor of LD 1453, "An Act To Legalize and Tax Marijuana," said she was thrilled to learn about the hearing that has been scheduled before the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.
Publication/Source: 
The Portland Daily Sun (ME)
URL: 
http://portlanddailysun.me/news/story/hearing-set-bill-legalizing-marijuana

US Congressman to File Marijuana Legalization Bill This Year [FEATURE]

America is on the cusp of majority support for marijuana legalization, but legalization is not inevitable and it's up to activists and the multi-billion-dollar marijuana industry to start throwing their weight around to make it happen, US Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) told an overflow crowd during the keynote address at NORML's 40th annual conference at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in downtown Denver Saturday afternoon.

legalization legislation coming to the Capitol soon
"I am optimistic that we will reach a day when America has the smart, sensible marijuana policy that we deserve," Polis told an attentive audience. "But it could go either way. We could return to the dark ages of repression, or we could be on the eve of a new era of marijuana legalization. Your efforts will help determine which route this country takes and the legacy of this generation of activists on what marijuana policy looks like. Together we can accomplish this," he told the crowd.

Polis said that he would file a marijuana legalization bill this session in Congress. The language was still being developed, he added. He is also working on a bill that would address problems the medical marijuana industry is having with banks, he said.

"Marijuana policy is really coming of age," the businessman turned politician said. "Our Colorado model is very exciting," he added, touting the vibrant local medical marijuana industry on display for conference attendees from across the country. "In my last two elections, even my Republican opponents were for legalization. It's become a very mainstream value here."

That assertion is likely to be put to the test next year. Colorado and national drug reform groups have already announced they plan to put a legalization initiative on the ballot for 2012. A similar initiative in 2006 got 44% of the vote, but that was before the state's medical marijuana boom and its resulting economic impact. While the medical marijuana boom may have created a backlash, its economic benefits could counter that, Polis suggested.

"The marijuana industry here generated $1.7 billion last year and thousands of jobs," he pointed out. "It has created jobs, and jobs in ancillary businesses, it has filled storefronts and filled our alternative newspapers with ads, it has created work for lawyers and accountants, it has created tax revenues. There is a direct nexus to jobs and the economy and deficit reduction," he said.

"We are at a tipping point, on the unprecedented cusp of legalization," Polis told the audience. "The progress at the state level has led the way, but it won't come nationally until it happens in a critical mass of states. Then there comes much more pressure on Congress to legalize and regulate at the national level. Our streets will be safer and our economy stronger."

While no state with the partial exception of Alaska has legalized marijuana, that critical mass could come sooner rather than later. In the best case scenario, the entire West Coast and Colorado could legalize through the initiative process by the end of next year. Meanwhile, legislative efforts at legalization are advancing in New England and the Northeast.

Polis has emerged as one of a handful of US representatives who have publicly supported marijuana legalization or decriminalization. Others include Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA), Peter Stark (D-CA), and Ron Paul (R-TX). While the Obama administration has been arguably sympathetic to medical marijuana -- although recent raids and some US attorneys' statements have raised activists' hackles -- Polis wants a legalization bill to protect patients in medical marijuana states in the event of a less friendly future administration, but to go further as well.

Jared Polis
Polis has demonstrated before that he is not afraid to go public with his anti-prohibitionist views. At the end of last month, he appeared at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, standing alongside representatives of the newly-formed medical marijuana industry lobbying group, the National Cannabis Industry Association.

"Ending the failed policy of prohibition with regard to marijuana will strike a major blow against the criminal cartels that are terrorizing Americans and Mexicans on both sides of the border," he said at that time.

Polis wrote a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder last February asking him to ensure the feds complied with its October 19th memo on respecting state law. "Treating drug policy as primarily an issue of public health, as opposed to an issue of criminal justice, is both practical and compassionate and it has been and will continue to be supported by the voters of Colorado," he said then.

Polis is a Democratic progressive, and marijuana legalization fits squarely into a progressive agenda he has created with his Fearless Campaign, which also emphasizes education reform, immigration reform, food security, net neutrality, and gay, lesbian, and transgender issues.

"Close to half of Americans support legalization, yet progress is Congress is still far away," Polis said Saturday. "That's why I launched the Fearless Campaign. It's really about informing you about what's happening on Capitol Hill and empowering you to speak truth to power. We want the advocacy community tied in. These are transforming issues that are too hot to handle, but too important to ignore. Politicians need to know they're not alone, that you have their backs," he said.

"I think Americans are ready for a serious discussion about tough issues," Polis continued. "Reforming our failed drug policies is a prime example of that. Our policy of marijuana prohibition is a failed policy that doesn’t make our communities safer, while driving legitimate economic activity underground."

Efforts at legalization are growing close to fruition on both coasts, and with representatives like Jared Polis now holding forth in Congress, even that august institution is being infected with the legalization virus. The times, they are a-changing.

Denver, CO
United States

Portland Legislator Pushes Bill to Legalize, Tax Marijuana in Maine

Location: 
ME
United States
Imagine walking into a neighborhood store to buy beer, wine, liquor and cigarettes. But on your way home you make one more stop – to buy marijuana, legally. That's the vision Rep. Diane Russell will outline at a press conference on Wednesday at Portland City Hall, when she introduces LD 1453: An Act to Legalize and Tax Marijuana.
Publication/Source: 
The Forecaster (ME)
URL: 
http://www.theforecaster.net/content/p-maine-rep-introduces-bill-legalize-tax-marijuana-042011

Marc Emery Denied Transfer to Canadian Prison

Canadian marijuana legalization activist Marc Emery, currently serving a five-year federal prison sentence in the US, has been denied in his request to finish serving his time in a Canadian prison. His Canadian attorney, Kirk Tousaw, said Friday that Emery received notice that US authorities had denied the request on the grounds of "the seriousness of the offense" and "law enforcement concerns."

Marc Emery leading a rally in Calgary during happier times (image via wikimedia.org)
Emery, the self-proclaimed "Prince of Pot," is serving time for selling marijuana seeds. Emery used the profits from those seed sales to fund legalization campaigns in Canada, the US, and elsewhere. His supporters have long charged that his prosecution was politically motivated.

Emery is currently at the federal holding facility in El Reno, Oklahoma, while awaiting transfer to a medium-security prison in Mississippi. He had previously been held in a minimum-security prison in Georgia. It is unclear why he is being transferred to a higher security prison.

Under a bilateral treaty, Canadian prisoners serving time in the US can apply to serve their sentence in their home country, and vice versa. The guidelines for evaluating prisoner transfer applications are available here.

"This refusal is a terrible affront to the sovereignty of Canada," said Tousaw. "Marc is a target of political persecution that appears to have transcended his conviction and now infects the treaty transfer process. He qualifies under every relevant factor and should have been allowed to serve out his jail term in Canada, close to his wife Jodie and in the country in which all of his activity took place. We call upon Prime Minister Harper and the leaders of the Liberal Party and NDP to stand up for this Canadian hero and demand his immediate repatriation."

Emery's wife, Jodie Emery, said she was "shocked and sickened" by the denial. "He has been punished for speaking out for the rights of tens of millions of cannabis consumers here and in the US and it's truly frightening," she said in a statement. "Canadians who feel Marc has been treated unfairly with an unjust five-year US prison sentence for seeds should punish the Conservatives in the federal election on May 2nd for extraditing Marc in the first place."

Tousaw said the notification of the denial came through unusual channels. Neither he nor Emery's US attorney were notified of the decision, as would usually be the case. Instead, someone in the US government notified the Canadian government, and Emery was notified via a letter from the Canadian consulate.

"This is very unusual and should not have happened," Tousaw said. "It makes me wonder whether the US and Canada are engaged in ongoing dialogue about Marc and lends support to the belief that politics are still influencing the process."

Emery can reapply for a transfer to his homeland in two years. If that doesn't occur, he will remain imprisoned in the US until he does 85% of his sentence.

El Reno, OK
United States

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