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NYPD's Mindless Response to Accusations of Overzealous Marijuana Enforcement

Let's revisit once again this week's excellent NYCLU study of marijuana arrests in New York City. It illuminates several embarrassing facts, which the architects of this disgusting policy would prefer to keep concealed. Among them:

*A shocking increase in arrests from 45,300 between 1988 and 1997 up to 374,000 between 1998 and 2007
*A sustained violation of the spirit of New York's marijuana laws, which hold that citizens should not be arrested for small amounts of concealed marijuana
*Stark and unexplainable racial disparities. 83% of arrestees were black or Latino even though whites are more likely to use marijuana
*Similarly disturbing gender disparities. 90% of arrestees were male, even though women and men use marijuana at similar rates
*The appalling hypocrisy of NY mayor Michael Bloomberg who presides over these arrests despite his admission that he's enjoyed marijuana in the past
*A profit motive behind the arrests wherein police deliberately make marijuana collars at the end of their shift so that they can collect overtime pay while processing the offender

Now that these ugly revelations have been exposed, what does NYPD have to say in its defense? Exactly what one might expect:
In an official comment on the study, the Police Department was critical of the role played by the New York Civil Liberties Union in publicizing the report and noted that the research had been backed, in part, by the Marijuana Policy Project, which supports legalization. [NY Times]
Um, pardon me, but what the hell does that have to do with anything? The report is accurate. Complaining that it was publicized by its authors and that it was funded by supporters of marijuana policy reform is irrelevant. Of course police are angry that this went public. It's embarrassing. And of course it was funded by critics of marijuana laws. Who else would fund it? The Heritage Foundation? I don’t think so.

So the Marijuana Policy Project is biased, they say, but NYPD sees no conflict of interest when defending the same laws that its officers are paid overtime to enforce? The arrogance of this couldn’t possibly be overstated, but I guess there wasn't much else to say. If everything in the report is true, all you can really do is call the author a jerk.

So in order to avoid ridiculously dumb drug policy debate tactics in the future, let's just get one thing straight once and for all: if people who oppose marijuana laws aren't allowed to criticize marijuana enforcement, then people who support marijuana laws shouldn't be allowed to defend it. Does that sound fair?
United States

Don't Give Your Marijuana to the Police

This remarkable New York Times piece exposes New York City's out of control marijuana policy, which has produced 374,900 misdemeanor marijuana arrests since 1998, despite a decrim law that's been in effect for 30 years. This is a rare example of professional-quality drug war coverage from the mainstream media and should be read in its entirety, as it raises several interesting issues.

I found this passage, which describes one particular arrest, quite revealing:

"I came out of the building, and this unmarked car, no light, no indication it was police, was right on me," said the man, a Latino who asked that his name not be used because he was concerned about his job. "Right on my tail. An officer got out, he said, 'I saw you walking from that building, I know you bought weed, give me the weed.' He made it an option: 'Give me the weed now and I will give you a summons, or we can search your vehicle and can take you in.' "

He opened the console and handed them his marijuana — making it "open to public view."

"I was duped," he said. But the deception was legal, and his pot wasn’t.

The officers escorted him in handcuffs to the unmarked car.

Amazingly, police must actually trick citizens into displaying their marijuana in order to make an arrest, since the decrim law requires plain view discovery. NYPD officers have become quite adept at initiating this through the typical threats and coercion that have long been the hallmark of petty drug war police practices.

Fortunately, the most obvious and effective antidote to New York's overzealous marijuana policing is really pretty simple: don't give them your marijuana. Don't admit having marijuana. Don't give them consent to search you or your vehicle. Ask if you're free to go.

Ending this obscene spectacle, which violates the spirit of New York's marijuana laws and wastes precious law-enforcement resources, is vitally important. But until that happens, citizens can protect themselves by not idiotically turning over their illegal drugs to the police. Seriously, stop giving them your drugs.

United States

Press Release: Medical Marijuana Bill Lead Sponsor Announces Law Enforcement Requested Changes to Bill

[Courtesy of Illinois Compassion Access Network] 


Medical Marijuana Bill Lead Sponsor Announces Law Enforcement Requested Changes to Bill

CONTACT: John Walker, Illinois Compassion Access Network, (847) 769-1772

SPRINGFIELD, IL. – In a press conference today, Sen. John Cullerton (D-Chicago), lead sponsor of a bill to protect from arrest seriously ill Illinoisans who use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, announced significant changes to the legislation based on input from law enforcement.

    Although members of the law enforcement community have been among the most vocal opponents of the bill, Cullerton said the recent amendments reflected specific objections law enforcement officers raised in good faith in a meeting with bill proponents last month.

    "I'm grateful to the members of the law enforcement community who sat down with us to help us craft this improved medical marijuana bill," he said. "Thanks to their help, I'm confident we have legislation here that protects our most suffering patients while ensuring law officers are able to do their jobs and keep our streets safe."

    A comprehensive list of the amendments made at the request of law enforcement representatives can be viewed online here:

    Also at the press conference, medical marijuana activist and Chicago multiple sclerosis patient Julie Falco announced a new campaign to reach out to representatives by sending personal video appeals by seriously ill patients asking for support on the medical marijuana bill.

    Many of the videos are available online here:

    "I think it's important for people like me – who are counting on compassion to prevail – to let legislators know who we are and why we need this law, especially those whose conditions prevent them from appearing in person," Falco said. "It's very easy for hysteria and fear to take over the debate, but this medical cannabis bill is about only one thing: easing the suffering of seriously ill people with a medicine that is proven safe and effective."

    Despite opposition from some elements of the law enforcement community, medical marijuana enjoys great support among the medical community and among Illinois voters. In February, the American College of Physicians – the second largest physician organization in the country with 124,000 members – became the latest major medical association to endorse laws protecting patients and doctors from arrest for using medical marijuana.

    Also in February, a Mason-Dixon telephone poll of 625 randomly selected Illinois voters – commissioned by the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C. – found that 68 percent of respondents agreed that "seriously and terminally ill patients should be allowed to use and grow medical marijuana for personal use if their doctors recommended it." Full poll results are available here:

    SB 2865 – the medical marijuana bill – is expected to reach the Senate floor within weeks.

Springfield, IL
United States

Send A Fax: Don't Deny Transplants To Medical Marijuana Patients!

Send A Fax: Don't Deny Transplants To Medical Marijuana Patients!

I can't stop thinking about Tim Garon, who was removed from the list to receive a liver transplant due to his legal, physician-recommended use of medical marijuana.

Four days ago, Tim, a talented musician (you can get his music on <>) and by all accounts a great guy, was told he wouldn't be receiving a liver due to his "illicit drug use."

This is unconscionable and inhumane. Beyond that, it's simply barbaric.

I've listened toTim's song, "Goodbye Baby," <> dozens of times over the past two days and I don't mind telling you that there have been a few tears.

It's hard to believe this kind of thing is still happening, even in states where voters have legalized medical marijuana when recommended by a physician.

The back story, for those not already familiar with Tim Garon's plight:


This amounts to a death sentence for using legal medical marijuana.

This isn't the first time this has happened -- but we need to do all we can to make sure that it's the last.

I just spoke with a very nice and helpful person at the UW Medical Center who has given me a fax number:

Liver Selection Committee
Fax 206-598-0628

If we could all send reasonable, respectful and short messages to this fax number explaining that we disagree with legal, physician recommended medical marijuana use being used as a basis for disqualifying patients from the list to receive livers, we very well might make some positive impact on the way they think about and handle this.

I'm going to send a message like this:

"I realize that the types of decisions you have to make regarding transplants are very difficult. But at the same time, I’d like to register my sincere opinion that denying a patient a liver transplant on the basis of his or her use of legal medical marijuana as recommended by a physician is not a good decision, nor a humane one."

I strongly encourage all of you who have access to a fax machine to send a message of your own.

For those without reasonable fax access, here are some phone numbers, but be aware that last time I tried, voicemail boxes tended to be full, preventing messages from being left. If you do get through, please be respectful but firm:

UW Medical Center Transplant Services
Jorge​ D. Reyes​,​ direc​tor,​ 206-​543-​9738

Liver Transplant
Mary Kester, clinical coordinator, 206-598-4838
Theresa Hernandez, program coordinator, 206-598-4902
JoAnn Williams, patient care coordinator, 206-598-0017

Thanks for caring and blessed be...


Seattle, WA
United States

Denying Organ Transplants to Medical Marijuana Patients is Evil

Remember when John McCain said we never arrest dying patients for medical marijuana? He asked for documentation and here it is. This man wasn't just arrested, he is now also being denied a liver transplant, without which he will die:
SEATTLE (AP) — Timothy Garon's face and arms are hauntingly skeletal, but the fluid building up in his abdomen makes the 56-year-old musician look eight months pregnant.

His liver, ravaged by hepatitis C, is failing. Without a new one, his doctors tell him, he will be dead in days.

But Garon's been refused a spot on the transplant list, largely because he has used marijuana, even though it was legally approved for medical reasons.
This is the legacy of the government's political war on medical marijuana. Patients are dying simply because some of our political leaders are afraid that showing compassion for the sick will lead to marijuana legalization. Healthcare and employment discrimination are the inevitable symptoms of our flawed federal policy, yet those who defend the war on patients couldn't be more oblivious to the brutal consequences of their intransigence.

Meanwhile, U.S. News & World Report covers new research aimed at developing cannabinoid-based medicines that won't produce intoxication. The very existence of this research demonstrates once again that marijuana has long been understood to have remarkable medical potential. Now that even the drug warriors have conceded that point, and the scientific community has stopped debating and initiated product development, what justification exists for continuing to persecute patients who are already using this plant to treat their own illnesses?

This controversy should be over now. Instead, patients are still dying in the war over medical marijuana and politicians are still pretending not to notice.
United States

Press Release: Law Enforcement Objections to Medical Marijuana Bill at Odds With Reality, Advocates Say

APRIL 29, 2008

Law Enforcement Objections to Medical Marijuana Bill at Odds With Reality, Advocates Say Bill Supporters Refute Demonstrably False Statements, Unveil New Ad 

CONTACT: Neal Levine, MPP director of state campaigns, (612) 424-7001

    MINNEAPOLIS — In a press conference held today at the statehouse, advocates offered a point-by-point refutation of misleading-to-outright false statements made by some law enforcement officials during testimony before the legislature and in the media regarding the medical marijuana bill pending on the House floor.

    Proponents of S.F. 345, the bill to protect from arrest seriously ill Minnesotans who use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation, said certain aspects of the law enforcement community were relying on misstatements and untruths to derail the bill.

    "Some legislators, as well as the governor, have indicated they may not be willing to support this sensible and compassionate legislation, based on the words of certain aspects of the law enforcement community," said Neal Levine, director of state campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project. "Therefore, we feel it’s important to look at those words."

    For example, Dakota County Attorney James C. Backstrom stated in legislative testimony that "there is no proven medicinal value in using marijuana to treat illnesses or disease.” In fact, the 124,000-member American College of Physicians has noted "marijuana's proven efficacy at treating certain symptoms and its relatively low toxicity."

    For a detailed list of false and misleading statements made by Minnesota law enforcement officials, along with sourced refutations of each one, visit:

    Also during the press conference, Levine announced the latest in a series of TV ads airing statewide, featuring Minnesota medical marijuana patients urging Gov. Tim Pawlenty not to veto the medical marijuana bill as he has threatened to do if the House passes it.

    The new ad features K.K. Forss of Ely, who suffers constant debilitating pain caused by a ruptured disk in his neck and nerve damage from subsequent surgeries. The ad is available online here:

    "This doesn't have anything to do with culture wars," Forss says in the ad, noting that he is a registered Republican and a born-again Christian. "We have people suffering in horrible pain, and we talk politics – it doesn't have to be that way."

    With more than 23,000 members and 180,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit

Minneapolis, MN
United States

Media Advisory: Medical Marijuana Advocates to Announce Significant Changes to Bill

[Courtesy of Illinois Compassion Access Network] 

APRIL 29, 2008

Law Enforcement Input Means Significant Changes to Medical Marijuana Bill, Advocates to Announce Press Conference Scheduled to Explain Bill Amendments

CONTACT: John Walker, Illinois Compassion Access Network, (847) 769-1772

SPRINGFIELD, IL. – After a meeting with law enforcement officials to address their specific objections to Illinois' medical marijuana bill, advocates will announce significant changes to the legislation in a Wednesday press conference at the statehouse.

    The amendments, adopted earlier this month, reflect what bill proponents said they hope is a shared goal: to allow safe, legal access to medical marijuana for suffering Illinoisans who have a doctor's recommendation while ensuring police and prosecutors aren't hindered in enforcing laws involving illicit marijuana use.

    At the press conference, patients will also unveil their latest effort to convince legislators to support the medical marijuana bill under consideration in both chambers of the General Assembly: personal online video testimonies. For the past month, seriously ill Illinoisans – many of whom cannot travel to Springfield – have been sending the videos to their elected representatives so that they can explain the urgency of passing a sensible medical marijuana law in their own words.

    Examples of these videos – which average about 2 minutes each – are available online here:

                    -    WHAT: Press conference explaining changes to the medical marijuana bill requested by law enforcement officials

                    -    WHO: The following people are scheduled to appear at the press conference:
                                o    Zale Glauberman, veteran Springfield lobbyist
                                o    Julie Falco of Chicago, a multiple sclerosis patient who uses medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation

                    -    WHEN: Wednesday, April 30 at 9:15 a.m.

                    -    WHERE: State Capitol Press Blue Room

    The Senate medical marijuana bill is expected to reach the Senate floor within weeks.

    Copies of some of the patient video testimonies will be available on CD for members of the press.

Springfield, IL
United States

PRESS CONFERENCE RESCHEDULED: Medical Marijuana Advocates Refute Law Enforcement

APRIL 28, 2008

Medical Marijuana Advocates Offer Point-by-Point Refutations of Law Enforcement
Press Conference at 1 p.m. Tues. Will Also Feature Latest TV Ad Urging Governor to Allow Passage of the Medical Marijuana Bill 

CONTACT: Neal Levine, MPP director of state campaigns, (612) 424-7001

MINNEAPOLIS -- A press conference Tuesday will highlight false and misleading statements made by certain aspects of the law enforcement community during testimony before the legislature, as well as to the press, in an attempt to derail a bill that would protect seriously ill Minnesotans from arrest who use medical marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.

    Advocates will also unveil their latest TV ad urging the governor not to veto the bill as he has threatened to if it passes in the House.

    WHAT: Press conference refuting misleading-to-outright false statements made by certain aspects of the law enforcement community who oppose Minnesota's medical marijuana bill.

    WHO: Scheduled press conference participants include:

        * Neal Levine, Marijuana Policy Project director of state campaigns

        * KK Forss, an Ely photographer who suffers constant debilitating pain caused by a ruptured disk in his neck and nerve damage from subsequent surgeries and who is featured in the TV ad.

    WHEN: Tuesday, April 29, 1 p.m. Note: This is a change from the prior advisory.

    WHERE: State Office Building, Room 181

    With more than 23,000 members and 180,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit

Minneapolis, MN
United States

If Marijuana is Dangerous, How Come No One Gets Hurt at These Huge 4/20 Parties?

This year's 4/20 holiday was bigger and bolder than ever before, generating big headlines, big web traffic, and really really big pot parties. Even the Drug Czar participated by suggesting the holiday is dangerous and warning parents to keep a close eye on their children. But for all the fanfare, no one got hurt on 4/20.

I don't think one could possibly overstate how revealing that simple fact really is. Scanning the 4/20 news coverage, one fails utterly to find examples of the sort of negative outcomes we've been told to expect when people use this drug. Last week, more people got more stoned more publicly than any other day of the year. If pot is dangerous, this would be the time to learn that lesson in stark terms. So where are the hospitalizations? The fights? The car accidents?

In Boulder, CO a turnout of 10,000 produced no arrests or mishaps. This means not only that police were ignoring open marijuana use, but that the users were remarkably well behaved under the influence of the drug. They didn't fight, steal, damage property, or do anything else that would have forced the police to take action. Out of 10,000 people at a completely disorganized marijuana-themed event, nothing went wrong at all.

Similarly, at UC Santa Cruz a crowd of 6,000 led police to express embarrassment at their failure to suppress marijuana culture. And again, there were no arrests made for any offenses of any kind. Arrests and injuries are typical at sporting events, but not these giant impromptu 4/20 pot parties.

This quote from the Santa Cruz Sentinel illustrates that point nicely:
Monday, some readers and callers to the Sentinel expressed shock that police knew what was going on and yet nobody was arrested as they drove away from the gathering, apparently under the influence of marijuana.

Grant Boles, a spokesman for the California Highway Patrol in Aptos, said the CHP made no arrests Sunday…
Amazingly, the California Highway Patrol had an uneventful afternoon on the biggest pot-smoking day of the year. I guess no hippies crashed their cars that day. No one swerved over the yellow line and got pinched for DUI. You can bet we'd know about it if they had. I'm not saying people should get stoned and drive. I'm asking where to find the carnage we've been told to expect from stoned drivers.

So often, we're told that if we change our marijuana laws, everyone will get stoned and it will be horrible. Yet, when marijuana is used gratuitously by massive crowds at unsanctioned events, negative outcomes are extraordinarily rare. The drug is simply not effective at hurting people.

The whole "marijuana is harmless" argument for reforming marijuana laws certainly has its limitations, but damn, look how amazingly safe marijuana is! Wow!
United States

Europe: Head of Dutch Police Union Says Legalize Marijuana, a Dutch Mayor is on the Same Wave-Length

Hans van Duijn, head of the Dutch police union, told Radio Netherlands Wednesday that the struggle to arrest marijuana growers and providers was pointless and that marijuana should just be legalized. Under Dutch practice, the sale and consumption of small amounts of marijuana are illegal but tolerated, while police continue to seek to arrest the people who supply the coffee shops where the weed is sold, as well as people who are growing or selling outside the coffee house system.

But attempting to arrest growers and suppliers detracts from police ability to deal with other, more serious, crime issues, van Duijn said. Unfortunately, the retiring union head added, Dutch politicians are reluctant to consider that possibility because of international pressure. They are "sticking their heads in the sand," he said.

Van Duijn also called for letting hard-core drug addicts use drugs under supervision. He said that is the only effective way to fight crime.

Meanwhile, the substitute lord mayor of Terneuzen, a city of 60,000 close to the Belgian border, has called for a pilot program for legal marijuana cultivation. Access to a legal supply of marijuana would solve the "backdoor problem" for the Dutch, wherein coffee shops can sell the weed, but no one can legally provide it for them. Substitute Lord Mayor Co Van Schaik told the Dutch news source PZC it was time for such a program.

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