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State Medical Cannabis Laws are Final! Return of Legal Cannabis Not Pre-empted by Federal Law

Dear ASA Supporter,

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a landmark decision yesterday in which California state courts found that its medical cannabis law is not preempted by federal law. The Supreme Court’s decision in Garden Grove v. Superior Court means that federal law does not prevent state and local governments from implementing medical cannabis laws adopted by voters or state legislatures. In short: federal law does not override state law on medical cannabis!

Yesterday’s decision follows three years of strategic legal work by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) in a California case involving the return of wrongfully confiscated medicine. ASA needs your help to keep doing important work like this. Please take a moment to make a special contribution to ASA today.

The Court’s decision has broad implications for medical cannabis patients in the 13 states where medical cannabis is legal, and signals a sea change in the impasse between state and federal laws. Better adherence to state medical cannabis laws by local police will result in fewer needless arrests and other problems for patients, allowing for better implementation of medical cannabis laws in all states that have adopted them.

Medical cannabis advocates should be encouraged by opportunities for change in federal policy with a new Presidential Administration and shift in Congress. But until now, federal pre-emption has haunted patients whose state laws allow for medical cannabis use. This decision further clears the way for state implementation and adds new urgency to ASA’s work in the nation’s capitol, where we have been working full-time to change federal policy since 2006.

ASA is working in the courts and in the halls of Congress to protect and expand patients’ rights – and we are making a difference. We have won important victories in court, made significant inroads in Congress, and helped reframe the national debate about medical cannabis. But we need your help to carry on. Please make a contribution to support ASA today.

Thank you,


Steph Sherer
Executive Director
Americans for Safe Access

 

P.S. Read more about the Supreme Court decision at www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/USSCKha.

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Watch MPP debate ONDCP in D.C. Wednesday evening

Dear friends:

The Georgetown chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy is hosting a debate between MPP assistant director of communications Dan Bernath and White House Office of National Drug Control Policy chief counsel Ed Jurith at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, December 3. The debate will take place at The Georgetown University Law Center in McDonough Hall. The topic of the debate will be medical marijuana.

Attendance is free and open to the public. Attendees must bring a valid photo ID. After the debate, there will be a question and answer session with the audience.

WHAT: Medical marijuana debate between MPP assistant director of communications Dan Bernath and ONDCP chief counsel Ed Jurith
WHEN: 6:30 pm on December 3, 2008
WHERE: The Georgetown University Law Center in McDonough Hall (600 New Jersey Ave NW), room 203

In 1998, 69% of Washington, D.C., voters supported an initiative to allow sick and dying patients to use medical marijuana. However, Congress has prevented the law from being implemented, so seriously ill District residents are still subject to arrest and prosecution for using medical marijuana. If you live in the District, please take a moment now to urge your councilmembers to pass a resolution calling on Congress to respect the will of D.C. voters and allow the medical marijuana law to take effect.

Thank you for supporting MPP. I hope you will be able to attend the debate on Wednesday evening.

Sincerely,

Zane Hurst
Legislative Analyst
Marijuana Policy Project

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Press Release: U.S. Supreme Court -- State Medical Marijuana Laws Not Preempted by Federal Law

PRESS RELEASE Americans for Safe Access For Immediate Release: December 1, 2008 U.S. Supreme Court: State Medical Marijuana Laws Not Preempted by Federal Law / Medical marijuana case appealed by the City of Garden Grove was denied review today Washington, DC -- The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a landmark decision today in which California state courts found that its medical marijuana law was not preempted by federal law. The state appellate court decision from November 28, 2007, ruled that "it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws." The case, involving Felix Kha, a medical marijuana patient from Garden Grove, was the result of a wrongful seizure of medical marijuana by local police in June 2005. Medical marijuana advocates hailed today's decision as a huge victory in clarifying law enforcement's obligation to uphold state law. Advocates assert that better adherence to state medical marijuana laws by local police will result in fewer needless arrests and seizures. In turn, this will allow for better implementation of medical marijuana laws not only in California, but in all states that have adopted such laws. "It's now settled that state law enforcement officers cannot arrest medical marijuana patients or seize their medicine simply because they prefer the contrary federal law," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical marijuana advocacy organization that represented the defendant Felix Kha in a case that the City of Garden Grove appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. "Perhaps, in the future local government will think twice about expending significant time and resources to defy a law that is overwhelmingly supported by the people of our state." California medical marijuana patient Felix Kha was pulled over by the Garden Grove Police Department and cited for possession of marijuana, despite Kha showing the officers proper documentation. The charge against Kha was subsequently dismissed, with the Superior Court of Orange County issuing an order to return Kha's wrongfully seized 8 grams of medical marijuana. The police, backed by the City of Garden Grove, refused to return Kha's medicine and the city appealed. Before the 41-page decision was issued a year ago by California's Fourth District Court of Appeal, the California Attorney General filed a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of Kha's right to possess his medicine. The California Supreme Court then denied review in March. "The source of local law enforcement's resistance to upholding state law is an outdated, harmful federal policy with regard to medical marijuana," said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes. "This should send a message to the federal government that it's time to establish a compassionate policy more consistent with the 13 states that have adopted medical marijuana laws." Further information: Today's U.S. Supreme Court Order denying review: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Kha_USSC.pdf Decision by the California Fourth Appellate District Court: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/GardenGroveDecision.pdf Felix Kha's return of property case: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/article.php?id=4412 # # # With over 30,000 active members in more than 40 states, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. ASA works to overcome political and legal barriers by creating policies that improve access to medical cannabis for patients and researchers through legislation, education, litigation, grassroots actions, advocacy and services for patients and the caregivers.
Location: 
CA
United States

Swiss Voters Approve Heroin Prescriptions, But Reject Marijuana Decriminalization

I don’t know quite what to make of this news from Switzerland:

GENEVA (AP) — The world’s most comprehensive legalized heroin program became permanent on Sunday with overwhelming approval from Swiss voters, who separately rejected the legalization of marijuana.

The heroin program, started in 1994, is offered in 23 centers across Switzerland. It has helped eliminate scenes of large groups of drug users shooting up openly in parks and is credited with reducing crime and improving the health and daily lives of addicts.

Of the 2.26 million Swiss who voted in the national referendum, 68 percent approved making the heroin program permanent. But 63 percent voted against the marijuana proposal, which was based on a separate citizens’ initiative to decriminalize consuming marijuana and growing the plant for personal use. [NY Times]

Pete Guither has some good analysis explaining how concerns about Amsterdam-type drug tourism helped to torpedo the proposal. It’s a harsh reality that any nation that considers tolerating recreational marijuana sales must inevitably come to terms with a potential influx of pot smoking tourists. They’re easy enough to deal with, but the idea just makes some people uncomfortable.

A policy that prohibits sales to foreigners might mitigate these concerns, but I can’t get over the absurdity of restricting marijuana sales while permitting tourists to get drunk off their asses anywhere they please. The problem in Amsterdam isn’t that marijuana laws are too loose, it’s the fact that marijuana laws everywhere else are completely unreasonable. So-called "marijuana tourism" is just another symptom of marijuana prohibition in the U.S. and beyond. Can you even imagine what Amsterdam would be like if it were the only place you could legally purchase alcohol?

Medical Marijuana: California Supreme Court Tightens Definition of "Caregiver," Ruling Will Push Patients Toward Co-ops and Dispensaries

In a narrow interpretation of the state's Compassionate Use Act, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday that people who supply medical marijuana to an approved patient can be prosecuted as drug traffickers if they don't meet the court's standards for caregivers. That standard must involve more than merely supplying medical marijuana to a qualifying patient, the court held.

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California medical marijuana bags (courtesy Daniel Argo via Wikimedia)
Prior to Monday's ruling, marijuana growers who had been designated as caregivers by multiple patients had been able to win protection from prosecution under the Compassionate Use Act. Now, patients who relied on such growers to provide their medicine will have to turn to dispensaries that are organized as co-ops or collectives in accordance with California law.

The ruling came in the case of California v. Mentch. Roger Mentch was arrested in 2003 after a bank teller smelled marijuana on repeated cash deposits he made and police subsequently searched his home, where they found nearly 200 pot plants growing. Mentch told investigators he was the "primary caregiver" for five qualified patients, but at trial, the judge refused to let the jury consider whether he was a caregiver, and Mentch was convicted and sentenced to probation. An appeals court in San Jose overturned his conviction, saying jurors should have been allowed to decide whether he was indeed the patients' caregiver, but now the state's high court has disagreed.

"We hold that a defendant whose caregiving consisted principally of supplying marijuana and instructing on its use, and who otherwise only sporadically took some patients to medical appointments, cannot qualify as a primary caregiver under the Act and was not entitled to an instruction on the primary caregiver affirmative defense," wrote Justice Werdegar for the court. "We further conclude that nothing in the Legislature's subsequent 2003 Medical Marijuana Program (Health & Saf. Code, §11362.7 et seq.) alters this conclusion or offers any additional defense on this record."

The language of Proposition 215 defines a primary caregiver as "the individual designated by the [patient]... who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person." With this ruling, the state Supreme Court has defined that definition to "imply a caretaking relationship directed at the core survival needs of a seriously ill patient, not just one single pharmaceutical need."

Thus, for someone to be able to assert a caregiver defense to a marijuana cultivation or distribution charge, he "must prove at a minimum that he or she (1) consistently provided caregiving, (2) independent of any assistance in taking medical marijuana, (3) at or before the time he or she assumed responsibility for assisting with medical marijuana."

"Ideally, it won't have a tremendous effect," Joseph Elford, attorney for the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access told the San Francisco Chronicle. "Patients will now increasingly get their medication through collectives and cooperatives."

The 2003 law establishing the dispensary system "provides an alternative outlet for patients," agreed Deputy Attorney General Michele Swanson, the state's lawyer.

But Mentch attorney Lawrence Gibbs told the Chronicle the court's decision "made it much, much more difficult" for qualified patients to get their medical marijuana. While the ruling may not have a significant impact on access to medical marijuana in areas where dispensaries are plentiful, large swathes of the state have no dispensaries. In those areas, patients will have to grow for themselves, have a spouse, domestic partner, or family member who can meet the court's definition grow it for them, travel long distances to areas where there are dispensaries, or resort to the black market.

Europe: At Cannabis Summit, Dutch Mayors Try to Address "Backdoor Problem" of Coffee Shop Supply, Broader Status of Pot

Under existing Dutch policy, licensed marijuana coffee shops can sell their wares to consumers, but have no legal means of obtaining those wares. That snag in the cannabis supply system is known as the "backdoor problem:" Marijuana can legally exit the coffee houses via the front door, but must enter illegally through the backdoor. The backdoor problem has existed for years, but now things seem to be coming to a head.

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downstairs of a coffee shop, Maastricht (courtesy Wikimedia)
Dutch mayors meeting at a weekend "Cannabis Summit" are seeking to solve the backdoor problem, as well as address the conservative governing coalition's efforts to restrict or even shut down the famous coffee houses. The number of coffee shops has dwindled slowly but steadily under the conservative government, with more slated to be forced to close in the next two years. On Saturday, the leader of the governing Christian Democratic Party, Pieter van Geel, said all the coffee shops should be closed.

The summit was called by Maastricht Lord Mayor Gerd Leers last week after the city councils of Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom decided to shut down all the coffee shops because of problems associated with masses of pot-buying visitors from neighboring Belgium, France, and Germany, which lack regulated marijuana sales.

More than three-quarters of the 40 mayors in attendance agreed that marijuana should be grown under license for wholesale purchase by the coffee houses and, ultimately, retail sale to consumers. But while there is broad agreement on licensing grows, just how they would come about remains a matter of contention.

According to Dutch News, Eindhoven Mayor Rob van Gijzel and his city council are prepared to operate their own grow as a "monitored pilot scheme" to see if licensed growing reduces drug-related crime. The Tilburg city council said it wanted to start a "cannabis market garden" to supply local shops.

But Amsterdam Lord Mayor Job Cohen told London's Telegraph newspaper that while he was in "full support" of the coffee shop system, Eindhoven's plan to involve the city council in marijuana growing was going "a little too far." Instead, he said he would prefer to see licensed private growers closely monitored by the police.

"While I don't agree with the idea of councilors actually growing cannabis in plots near their town halls, a positive development has been that our government has now said it will take a close look at the issue of where the cannabis should come from. We could see the problem of the two doors -- legal front door for customers, illegal back door for supplies -- being resolved soon."

In fact, said Cohen, the entire trade should just be legalized. "Look what happened during prohibition years in America and how criminals took over and look at Belgium, France and Britain where soft drugs are not legal but are available and are a part of the criminal world," he said. "We can't avoid them, so it is better to legalize them to keep them under control."

On Sunday, Health Minister Ab Klink somewhat surprisingly said that while the licensed grow plan in Eindhoven would conflict with the policy of the conservative ruling coalition, he was prepared to look closely at the plan and discuss it with the rest of the cabinet. While the Christian Democrats and Christian Unity parties are opposed to legal production for the coffee shops, the coalition's Labor Party has called for parliamentary debate on the issue.

The forces of drug reform are mobilizing, too. The Netherlands Drug Policy Foundation, the European umbrella reform group ENCOD, and Amsterdam's Cannabis College have organized the first Netherlands Cannabis Tribunal in the Hague on Monday and Tuesday. A centerpiece event should be the planned debate between Christian Democratic Party spokesperson Cisca Joldersma, and Hans van Duijn, LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition} member and former president of the Dutch Police Association.

Clemency: President Bush Commutes Cocaine Sentences for Two, Grants 12 Pardons

The US Justice Department announced Tuesday that President Bush Monday had commuted the sentences of two people imprisoned for cocaine trafficking, including rapper and former Fugees producer John Forte, and pardoned 12 others, including three more people who had been convicted of drug-related offenses.

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many more pardons are needed
Pardons are typically granted to persons convicted of a crime who have served their sentences -- the Justice Department recommends waiting five years after that to apply for a pardon -- while commutations typically cut the sentences of those still imprisoned, usually to time served, or in this case December 22.

Presidents typically issue pardons at year's end and especially at term's end, but President Bush has been comparatively stingy. So far, he has granted a total of 171 pardons and eight commutations. That's less than half as many as either President Clinton or President Reagan during their two terms. Perhaps it's a case of like father, like son: President George Herbert Walker Bush pardoned only 74 people during his four years in office.

Those pardoned for drug-related offenses were:

  • Andrew Foster Harley, Falls Church, Virginia.
    Offense: Wrongful use and distribution of marijuana and cocaine, Article 112a, Uniform Code of Military Justice.
    Sentence: April 17, 1985, as approved June 13, 1985; US Air Force general court martial convened at the US Air Force Academy, Colorado Springs, Colorado; 90 days' confinement, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and dismissal from the Air Force.
  • Robert Earl Mohon Jr., Grant, Alabama.
    Offense: Conspiracy to distribute marijuana; 21 U.S.C. §§ 841 and 846.
    Sentence: Oct. 22, 1987; Northern District of Alabama; three years in prison.
  • Ronald Alan Mohrhoff, Los Angeles
    Offense: Unlawful use of a telephone in furtherance of a narcotics felony, 21 U.S.C. § 843(b); possession of cocaine, 21 U.S.C. § 844(a).
    Sentence: Oct. 9, 1984; Central District of California; one year of in prison followed by five years' probation with the special condition of 2,500 hours of community service.

Those whose sentences were commuted:

  • John Edward Forte, North Brunswick, New Jersey
    Offense: Aiding and abetting possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine; 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(A)(ii), 18 U.S.C. § 2.
    Sentence: Nov. 20, 2001; Southern District of Texas; 168 months in prison, five years' supervised release and a $5,000 fine.
    Terms of commutation: Sentence of imprisonment to expire on Dec. 22, 2008, leaving intact and in effect the five year term of supervised release with all its conditions.
  • James Russell Harris, Detroit, Michigan.
    Offense: Conspiracy to aid and abet the distribution of cocaine, 21 U.S.C. § 846; attempted money laundering, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1956(a)(3) and 2; aiding and abetting the attempted distribution of cocaine, 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); conspiracy to affect interstate commerce by obtaining property under color of official right, 18 U.S.C. § 1951; attempt to affect interstate commerce by obtaining property under color of official right, 18 U.S.C. § 1951.
    Sentence: May 10, 1993; Eastern District of Michigan; 360 months in prison, five years' supervised release and a $50,000 fine.
    Terms of clemency grant: Unpaid balance of fine remitted; sentence of imprisonment commuted to expire on Dec. 22, 2008, leaving intact and in effect the five year term of supervised release with all its conditions save the obligation to satisfy the unpaid balance of the fine.

Forte is the only one with a public profile. He co-wrote and produced two songs on the Fugees 1996 Grammy Award winner "The Score," and released two rap albums himself, including one with a track featuring a duet with Carly Simon. Forte got busted flying into Newark International Airport with 31 pounds of liquid cocaine in 2000.

Julie Stewart, president and founder of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, told the Associated Press she applauded Bush's decision to commute the sentences. She told the AP sentences for many "low-level, first-time, nonviolent drug offenders" don't fit the crime.

According to the latest statistics from the federal Bureau of Prisons, there are currently more than 98,000 people doing time for drug offenses in the federal system.

Feature: The Kids Are Alright -- The SSDP 10th International Conference

Buoyed by this month's election results and jazzed by the prospects for change with a new administration in Washington, some 450 student activists converged on the University of Maryland campus in College Park last weekend to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) at the group's annual international conference.

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first evening gathering (photo courtesy DrugWarRant.com)
Hosted by University of Maryland SSDP, traditionally one of the national group's staunchest chapters, the conference saw students come from across the nation and at least two foreign countries for three days of education, training in effective activism, and hands-on lobbying on Capitol Hill. Among the attendees were representatives of Canadian SSDP, buoyed by their own national conference, the organization's second, attended by 250 people earlier this month.

For both SSDP veterans and newcomers alike, the conference provided opportunities for networking, inspiration, and education. For some of the younger attendees, it was an eye-opener.

"I didn't realize how many people were involved in this," said SSDP national office intern Ericha Richards, a freshman at American University. "It's exciting!"

Jimmy Devine of Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire has been attending for several years, but still found plenty to get excited about. "It's always good to come to national, to see what the other chapters have been up to, and to meet old friends," he said. "And we're always looking for new ideas to take back with us."

On Friday, led by Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) lobbyist Aaron Houston, the students spent the morning polishing up on lobbying basics, then visited with representatives or their staffers to push for reductions in the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity. Students reported mixed results, but that's no surprise, and even with representatives on the wrong side of the issues, lobbying is part of changing minds -- and votes.

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Rep. Danny Davis (photo courtesy DrugWarRant.com)
On Saturday and Sunday, students gathered at the University of Maryland student union for two days of panels and training in activism. Saturday morning, they heard from movement leaders, who described the chances of drug reform at the federal level in coming years with varying degrees of optimism. With the Democratic sweep of the presidency and the Congress, the prospects have improved, but big obstacles remain, the students heard.

"This election was about change," said MPP's Houston. "It's a very exciting time, so why aren't we doing back flips?" he asked. Drug reform may get short shrift in an Obama administration faced with a free-falling economy and foreign crises, Houston answered himself. "We're walking into favorable conditions, but there are a lot of issues facing Obama and the Congress."

But the economic crisis could lead to opportunity, he said. "We have huge economic problems, and this could be the time to start talking about taxing and regulating marijuana. That could generate $10 to $14 billion a year for the federal treasury," he said.

"Change is going to happen," said Adam Wolf of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. Wolf ticked off an ACLU reform wish list of rescheduling marijuana, ending the government monopoly on growing marijuana for research purposes, ending the selective prosecution of medical marijuana patients and providers, abolishing the crack/powder sentencing disparity, and banning racial profiling.

"I'm hugely optimistic about the prospects for change in Congress," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), citing support for ending the federal funding ban on syringe exchange and reducing or eliminating the crack/powder sentencing disparity among highly placed Democrats. "We are over the hump," the Capitol Hill veteran said. "People are not afraid any more to talk about drug policy, and we have key committee chairs on our side. We will repeal the syringe ban and reduce sentencing disparities," he predicted.

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police militarization panel, featuring Reason's Radley Balko, StoptheDrugWar.org executive director David Borden, SWAT raid victim Mayor Cheye Calvo of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, moderated by Alison Grimmer of Roosevelt University SSDP
But Piper was also looking just a bit further down the road then next year's Congress. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) comes up for reauthorization in 2010, he noted. Rather than try futilely to eliminate the office, "we can try to shift ONDCP's goals" to a more public health-oriented approach, he suggested.

"Marijuana is more popular than the past three presidents," MPP executive director Rob Kampia told a cheering audience as he recounted this year's victories for medical marijuana in Michigan and decriminalization in Massachusetts.

Student activists took no back seat to the professionals, though, and the breadth of reform efforts by SSDP chapters, and number of campuses leading or helping with them was impressive. Conference-goers got to hear about campus campaigns ranging from establishing safe ride programs (reducing intoxicated driving without exposing students to threat of penalty); good Samaritan overdose policies (neither the student needing medical help nor the student reporting it facing threat of arrest); getting schools to stop calling police into dorms for drug infractions; reforming dorm eviction policies for substance violations; working with ballot initiative campaigns such as those in Michigan and Berkeley; public education efforts; and state lobbying campaign; among others.

One chapter, Kalamazoo College in Michigan, seemed to have done almost everything, and all during its first year. At the annual Awards Banquet, where representatives received the Outstanding Chapter Award, a raft of impressive achievements were listed off in the introduction. Not only did Kalamazoo SSDP get a safe ride program established, and Good Samaritan and not calling police into dorms for minor drug violation policies established. They also went outside the campus to bring together a coalition of community groups, government agencies and law enforcement to get approval for a needle exchange program in the city for the first time.

One highlight of the conference was the Saturday lunch debate between SSDP executive director Kris Krane and Kevin Sabet of Students Taking Action Not Drugs. The back and forth between the two, moderated by Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy, kept the audience rapt -- and scoring the debate like a boxing match.

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Krane/Sabet debate, Washington Post's Courtland Milloy moderating
Sabet, in what must have felt like hostile territory, did his best to try to establish "common ground" with drug reformers, citing his support for addressing the crack/powder disparity and qualifying some of drug czar John Walters' policies as "stupid politics." He also cited as models programs like North Carolina's Project HOPE, where probationers and parolees confronted by positive drug tests are not sent back to prison, but are hit with quick, short jail stays. "That's a huge motivation," Sabet argued.

If Sabet was looking for agreement from Krane or the audience, he didn't find much of it. "Our metrics in the war on drugs are wrong," said Krane. "We should be measuring abuse, problem use, infection rates -- not drug use rates," he argued. "You have to get arrested to get treatment, and that's backwards," he said.

Instead of being based on the Holy Grail of reducing drug use, drug policy should have different guiding principles, Krane argued. "First, no one should be punished for using drugs absent harm to others. Second, we should adopt a harm reduction framework, and third, we should adopt a human rights framework."

"Drug use doesn't occur in a vacuum," Sabet retorted. "A lot of drug use is problematic, and some of that can be addressed by dealing with poverty, health care, and homelessness. There is common ground," he tried again.

Not so quick, Krane replied, arguing that drug use should be treated as a public health problem, not the purview of law enforcement.

"Drug trafficking is not a public health problem, it's a law enforcement problem," Sabet countered.

"Drug trafficking is a prohibition problem, not a law enforcement problem," Krane retorted to cheers from the crowd.

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David Guard and Pete Guither prepare for ''Elevator Arguments'' panel
After the spirited back and forth between Sabet and Krane, attendees were treated to an address by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), who zeroed in on racial disparities in drug law enforcement. "One of the most egregious aspects of our drug policy is the racial inequity," he said, reeling off the now familiar statistics about African-Americans sucked into the drug war incarceration machine and urging support for re-entry and rehabilitation efforts for prisoners. "If we can reduce crime and recidivism, if we can help these prisoners, if we can train and educate them, we are helping all of America," Davis said.

Davis, too, pronounced himself optimistic. "There is a sense of hope that we can develop a sane policy in the way we treat drugs," he told the students, "but you have to stay engaged and involved. You have to believe change is not only possible, it's inevitable."

If Saturday was a day of panelists and speechifying, Sunday was for getting down to nuts and bolts as the young activists attended a plethora of sessions hosted by more experienced veterans. Students heard presentations on best practices for chapter organizing, fundraising, making quick reform arguments, networking, working the media, and working with youth communities, and looking beyond campus reform, among others. And the lunch session was a working one, with activists dividing up geographically and deciding on locations for regional conferences to be held in the spring.

From its beginning with a handful of students in the Northeast in 1998 outraged by the Higher Education Act's drug provision, SSDP has grown to an international organization with 140 campus chapters in the US, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Nigeria. With all they learned at this year's conference, the newest generation of drug reform activists is now headed back home to spread the message and the movement to the next generation.

Visit the Drug WarRant blog for Pete Guither's seven-part series of live-written reports from the conference.


UMD SSDP window, Stamp Student Center

Police Steal Xbox From Innocent Marijuana Suspect

This is exactly the sort of daily injustice that comes to mind when drug war proponents insist that no one goes to jail for marijuana. It’s false, but also completely beside the point. You don’t even have to have any marijuana to get screwed over in the war on drugs:

Wendy Chapkis and "Dying to Get High: Marijuana as Medicine" on World AIDS Day

Author Wendy Chapkis will be reading from her new book "Dying to Get High: marijuana as medicine" at Bluestockings Bookstore in the East Village. The New York Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will be officiating at the free event. "Dying to Get High" is an account of seriously-ill patients -- many of them people living with AIDS -- fighting the federal government for the right to use physician-recommended marijuana. This moving account of what is at stake in the ongoing debates over medical marijuana draws not only on abstract argument but also on the much messier terrain of how people actually live, suffer and die. “This is a most important book about the medical marijuana movement; lively and engaging, it will have broad appeal, not only to folks interested in the medical potential of cannabis, but also to those interested in an end to the drug war and those interested in grass roots activism.” - Paul Krassner Editor of Pot Stories for the Soul (High Times) "Dying to Get High provides a human element to the history, pharmacology, psychology, and politics of medical marijuana in a way that no other work has. The book is as riveting as a detective novel, as informative as a textbook, and as moving as a romance." - Mitch Earleywine Author of Understanding Marijuana (Oxford University Press) About the author: Wendy Chapkis is professor of Sociology and Women & Gender Studies at the University of Southern Maine in Portland, ME. She is the author of the award-winning book Live Sex Acts: Women Performing Erotic Labor and Beauty Secrets: Women and the Politics of Appearance. For more information about the book (including book reviews): http://dyingtogethigh.net
Date: 
Mon, 12/01/2008 - 7:00pm
Location: 
172 Allen Street between Stanton and Rivington
New York, NY
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School