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Democrats Responsible for Drug War on Black and Latino Men, Ruining Countless Lives (Opinion)

It’s a bit shocking to grasp the role that the Democratic Party, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, have played in undermining the lives of hundreds of thousands of young minority men. In a very hard-hitting op-ed on October 24th, “Smoke and Horrors” New York Times Saturday columnist Charles Blow, citing the work of City University Professor Harry Levine, makes four truly mind-jolting points.
Publication/Source: 
Alternet (CA)
URL: 
http://blogs.alternet.org/speakeasy/2010/10/24/democrats-responsible-for-drug-war-on-black-and-latino-men-ruining-countless-lives/

California Blacks Disproportionately Busted for Marijuana, Report Finds [FEATURE]

In a new report released Friday, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the California NAACP charged that African-Americans have been disproportionately targeted in low-level marijuana possession arrests. The report, Arresting Blacks for Marijuana Possession in California: Possession Arrests in 25 Cities, 2006-2008, found that despite lower use rates, African-Americans were three, four, six, or even 13 times more likely to be arrested for pot possession than whites.

The report's release is timed to give Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization initiative, a boost in the few remaining days until election day. It was released at a press conference where California NAACP and DPA representatives were joined by Prop 19 campaign head Richard Lee, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) executive director Neill Franklin, Hollywood actor Danny Glover, and former US Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders. 

The report found that in Los Angeles, with 10% of the state's black population, blacks were seven times more likely to get busted than whites. In San Diego, the state's second largest city, blacks were six times more likely to get busted. Ditto for Sacramento. In Torrance, blacks were 13 times more likely to be busted than whites.

"This report documents enormous, widespread race-based disparities in the arrests of nonviolent, low-level marijuana possession offenders," said Stephen Gutwillig, California state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "The context is an enormous increase in the number of arrests for low-level possession in the past 20 years. Arrest rates for all other crimes have plummeted, from rape and murder to all other drug possession crimes, but marijuana possession arrests have tripled since 1990, from around 20,000 then to 61,000 last year. This was made possible by the targeting of communities of color, specifically African-Americans and Latinos, and more specifically, young African-Americans and Latinos."

It's not just that blacks are arrested disproportionately to whites. They are also arrested at rates far exceeding their percentage of the population. In Los Angeles, blacks make up 10% of the population, but 35% of all marijuana possession arrests. In Sacramento, it's 14% and 50%.

"These disparities were built from routine, pervasive, system-wide police practices," said Gutwillig. "This is not the result of a few racist cops; this is the way the system works."

"I don't think there is any question this is a civil rights issue," said California NAACP executive director Alice Huffman. "If you don't believe that, you don't believe in justice in America."

"We're spending billions of dollars each year on the war on drugs," said Dr. Elders. "It's been a war on young black males. Wars are supposed to end sometime. It's time to end this war. Proposition 19 is an opportunity to take drugs out of the hands of the drug cartels and put them where they can be controlled and taxed."

"This is not about a right to get high, it's an issue of a policy that does not work and is damaging to our society and most importantly, specifically damaging to people of color," said LEAP's Neill Franklin. "Marijuana prohibition is the most dysfunctional public policy in this country since slavery. The violence generated in our communities is unbelievable and it's because of the criminal market this policy creates. The lives of young African-Americans are being lost every day, and whether they lose their lives to violence or to a prison sentence, both are devastating," he said.

"This is an opportunity for law enforcement to get it right," said the former Maryland narcotics officer. "We spend a majority of our time dealing with low-level drug offenders, mainly marijuana," Franklin said. "In the 1960s, we solved nine out of 10 murders; now it's six out of 10. When you apprehend a murderer, murders go down. But when you take someone off the streets for selling marijuana, sales don't go down, and the violence increases because people are fighting for market share."

"I want to say publicly that I support Proposition 19," said film star Danny Glover. "The current laws do not work; they have failed us," he said. "We know we are arrested disproportionately. This is a civil rights issue," he maintained.

"I'm not a marijuana smoker, although I have tried it in the past, but I don't want to stand in the way of people who want to use marijuana recreationally," Glover continued. "This is a long battle, and we're on the right side."

"I've always seen cannabis prohibition as causing a war between police and citizens," said Lee. "Police are supposed to serve and protect, not wage war on the populace. We need police back protecting us from real criminals, not ourselves."

The Prop 19 campaign and DPA did it again this week, this time with Latino marijuana possession arrest rates. But it's already clear that racial disparities in the enforcement of California's pot laws exist, and simply decriminalizing marijuana possession, as Gov. Schwarzenegger did last month, will not change anything in that regard, at least not directly. Minority youths can still be hassled, harassed, and searched for an infraction, just as they were for a misdemeanor. It will take legalization to end such practices.

Oakland, CA
United States

Attorney General Holder Says He Will Enforce Marijuana Laws Even If California Votes to Decriminalize, ACLU Says Continued Criminalization of Marijuana Has Disproportionate Impact on Communities of Color (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 16, 2010

CONTACT: Will Matthews, ACLU national, (646) 233-9572 or (212) 549-2582; media@aclu.org; Rebecca Farmer, ACLU of Northern California, (415) 269-6275; rfarmer@aclunc.org

SAN FRANCISCO – In a letter made public late Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder said the Department of Justice will “vigorously enforce” federal laws against marijuana in California, even if the state’s voters next month approve Proposition 19, a ballot initiative that would decriminalize marijuana in the state. The proposed initiative would allow adults 21 and older to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for their personal use and allow cities and counties to regulate and tax commercial sales. Holder’s letter was sent to nine former chiefs of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The criminalization of low-level marijuana possession has disproportionately impacted communities of color, has no impact on public safety and serves to divert criminal justice resources from the prosecution of more serious crimes.

In a letter sent to Holder several weeks ago, the former DEA chiefs urged him to take legal action challenging Proposition 19 in court if it passes and to make clear that it would be void even if passed because federal law would preempt it under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S Constitution. Holder’s letter this week was notably silent on both issues.

The following can be attributed to Allen Hopper, Police Practices Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California:

“Attorney General Holder’s silence speaks volumes. He does not say that the Department of Justice will seek an injunction against Proposition 19 being enacted because there is no constitutional basis for doing so. A bedrock constitutional principle underlying our federalist system of government prohibits the federal government from telling the state of California what laws it can and cannot pass or forcing the state to expend its resources prosecuting low-level marijuana offenses. It is deeply disappointing that the Obama administration would seek to impede a law that would go great lengths toward dismantling one of the defining injustices of our nation’s failed “war on drugs”: the fact that people of color, and especially youth of color, are disproportionately arrested for low-level marijuana possession. Such arrests do not increase public safety, and merely serve to divert already scarce criminal justice resources from the investigation of more serious crimes.”

Location: 
CA
United States

LULAC of California Endorses Prop 19 Marijuana Inititiative

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) of California has endorsed Proposition 19, California's tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative. LULAC is one of the most prominent organizations representing Latino voters. The group announced Friday it is supporting the initiative.

"The current prohibition laws are not working for Latinos, nor for society as a whole," said Argentina Dávila-Luévano, California LULAC State Director. "Far too many of our brothers and sisters are getting caught in the cross-fire of gang wars here in California and the cartel wars south of our border.  It's time to end prohibition, put violent, organized criminals out of business and bring marijuana under the control of the law."

Proposition 19 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults over 21 and allow them to grow their own in a space of up to 25 square feet and possess the harvest. It would also allow counties and municipalities to permit, regulate, and tax commercial marijuana sales and cultivation.

In a June report, the Drug Policy Alliance found that while blacks and Latinos made up 44% of the state's population, they accounted for 56% of pot possession arrests. The report concentrated on African-Americans because the FBI's Uniform Crime Report data on which it was based does not recognize Latino as a racial category, instead lumping Latinos in with whites. Still the language of the report applies to Latinos as well.

Calling racially disproportionate marijuana arrests "a system-wide phenomenon," the report explained why: "Police departments deploy most patrol and narcotics police to certain neighborhoods, usually designated 'high crime,'" the authors wrote. "These are disproportionately low-income, and disproportionately African-American and Latino neighborhoods. It is in these neighborhoods where the police make most patrols, and where they stop and search the most vehicles and individuals, looking for 'contraband' of any type in order to make an arrest. The item that young people in any neighborhood are most likely to possess, which can get them arrested, is a small amount of marijuana. In short, the arrests are racially-biased mainly because the police are systematically 'fishing' for arrests in only some neighborhoods, and methodically searching only some 'fish.' This produces what has been termed "racism without racists.'"

It's not just the arrests, said LULAC board member Angel Luévano. "In these tough economic times we must find ways to provide new jobs for our people and prosperity in our communities. Supporting Prop 19 will put more Latinos to work and generate cash for our state's budget," she said. "It's our neighborhoods and our families that suffer the most from widespread and ever-increasing unemployment and budget cutbacks for schools and public safety programs."

LULAC of California is just the latest in an ever-growing list of Prop 19 endorsers, including the National Black Police Association, the NAACP of California, and the Latino Voters League. To see them all, click here.

CA
United States

Which Way on Election Day? Pollsters Analyze Prop 19 and Its Chances [FEATURE]

http://www.stopthedrugwar.com/files/yeson19button.jpg
four weeks to go!
California's Proposition 19, the tax and regulate marijuana legalization initiative, is certainly the most talked about ballot measure in the land this year. It is just as certainly the most polled of any initiative this year.

No fewer than a baker's dozen polls have surveyed Golden State voters since May of this year, and at least one more will appear the weekend before election day. The average for all the polls so far has Prop 19 winning 47.4%, with 43.2% opposed and 9.4% undecided.

The numbers would have been better for Prop 19 except for Monday's Reuter/Ipsos poll, which bucked the trend to show Prop 19 losing by 10 points. It is one of only three polls that show the measure losing; one was a Field Poll in July and the other was another Reuters/Ipsos poll in June.

Here are the results of the 13 polls, beginning with the most recent:
 

DatePollSupportOppose
10/04/10Reuters/Ipsos43.0%53.0%
10/03/10Public Policy Institute of California52.0%41.0%
09/21/10SurveyUSA47.0%42.0%
09/21/10Field Poll49.0%42.0%
09/16/10PPP (D)47.0%38.0%
09/01/10SurveyUSA47.0%43.0%
08/11/10SurveyUSA50.0%40.0%
07/25/10PPP (D)52.0%36.0%
07/11/10SurveyUSA50.0%40.0%
07/05/10Field Poll44.0%48.0%
06/27/10Reuters/Ipsos48.0%50.0%
05/26/10Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D)49.0%41.0%
05/16/10Public Policy Institute of California49.0%48.0%

While support for Prop 19 has been nearly unchanged in the last six months, as this Talking Points Memo graph demonstrates, opposition has been declining and the gap between yes and no votes is growing--except in Monday's Reuters/Ipsis poll.

"What is remarkable is that the polls agree so closely," said Jay Leve, CEO of SurveyUSA. "Initiatives are among the most difficult things for pollsters to poll, because many of them are about arcane things that nobody knows about, like 30-year bond issues, so the polls can be all over the place. But in this one, the issue is pretty clear, and that's reflected in the agreement among the polls."

"Our surveys get more accurate the closer we get to election Day," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll, which had Prop 19 trailing by four points in July, but leading by seven in September. "In our second survey, we were able to read voters the actual ballot question," he noted.

Field will be taking one more poll before the election, DiCamillo said. "We will release our final poll the weekend before the election," he announced. "It will be much more insightful."

But with less than a month to go, things are looking pretty good for Prop 19. Liberals, Democrats, and young voters consistently showed strong support for Prop 19 across all the polls, suggesting, somewhat paradoxically, that voters motivated by support for Prop 19 could help the campaigns of Democrats gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and Sen. Barbara Boxer, both of whom have come out in opposition to legalization. Likewise, if surging Brown and Boxer campaigns bring out Democratic and liberal voters, they are going to be likely to vote for Prop 19 despite the positions of their gubernatorial and senatorial candidates.

But Republicans, who oppose Prop 19 by margins of 2-1, are also counting on a massive turnout. If the primary is a reliable indicator, they could see just that. In 2008, Democrats made up 42% of the electorate and Republicans just 30%, but Republican enthusiasm this year could close that gap. In the primaries, where only 33% of the electorate voted, 44% of Republicans did, while only 32% of Democrats did. A strong GOP turnout combined with weak turnout among Democrats could spell doom for the measure.

If polling for some groups has been consistent, that hasn't been the case for others, especially black voters. For example, at one point, the Field Poll had Prop 19 losing by 12 points among black voters, while just weeks later Public Policy Polling had it up by 36 points. Black voters only account for 6% of the state's electorate, so the results may suffer from too small a sample size.

Pollster Nate Silver of Fivethirtyeight.com had another possible explanation, one he called the "Broadus Effect," after one Calvin Broadus -- better known as the rapper and major pot aficionado, Snoop Dog. It's a variation on the "Bradley Effect," named for former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who lost a mayoral race despite leading in the polls before election time.

The "Bradley Effect" posits that polls can be skewed by respondents who reply with what they think are the politically correct answers, rather than what they really think. Silver noted that automated robo-phone polls were showing higher support among blacks than polls done with human poll-takers.

"This might also explain why the split is larger among black and Hispanic voters," Silver wrote. "Marijuana usage is almost certainly more stigmatized when associated with minorities, and drug possession arrests occur much more frequently in minority communities. This is in spite of the fact that rates of marijuana consumption are only a smidgen higher among blacks than among whites, and are somewhat lower among Hispanics."

Pollsters are congenitally cautious about making predictions on actual election results, but both DiCamillo and Leve made heavily hedged predictions. "Usually, the burden of proof is on the proposition," said DiCamillo. "It's always on the yes side to make its case. In this case, there is a lead, but it's not quite at 50% plus one. Most initiatives do get a few percentage points out of the undecideds, so you'd expect this one to be favored for passage, but it's not a slam dunk."

Undecideds would have to break dramatically toward a no vote for the initiative to lose if the poll average today holds until Election Day. With Prop 19 at nearly 48% and undecideds at just under 10%, it would need to pick up just better than one out of five of those voters to get over the top.

And DiCamillo says Prop 19's prospects are good, barring some sort of October surprise. "If somebody came in and started advertising heavily against it, that could change things," he warned. So far, there's been no sign of that, but there is still time for a late TV ad campaign.

SurveyUSA's Leve was only a bit more definitive. "That it's maintaining a 10-point lead is good for the initiative, but that it's having trouble getting that 50% plus one is not," said Leve. "It's sort of a glass half full thing. If I was in Las Vegas and I was a betting man, I'd bet on it to win," said Leve. "But I'd only bet money I could afford to lose."

With less than a month out Prop 19 is leading by an average of more than four points. A historic victory for marijuana legalization may be coming into view, but Election Day will be a nailbiter, and its going to depend on turnout and those undecideds.

CA
United States

How the Drug War Has Subjugated Poor People of Color and Nullified the Fourth Amendment (Opinion)

Michelle Alexander, a longtime civil rights advocate, litigator, and author of 'The New Jim Crow', goes where mainstream journalists fear to tread. She explains how mass incarceration in the United States has emerged as a comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control -- and how those who turn a blind eye to the problem share in the blame.
Publication/Source: 
Nieman Watchdog (MA)
URL: 
http://niemanwatchdog.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=background.view&backgroundid=00486

Race & Justice News: Segregation Behind Prison Bars

 

Race & Justice News

 

Race & Justice News

 

In This Issue:

  • Feature Story » GO
  • Putting Faces on Justice » GO
  • Segregation Behind Prison Bars  » GO
  • Upcoming Events » GO



    Search our Clearinghouse of over 450 books, articles, and reports on racial disparity in the criminal justice system.

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Upcoming Events


Facing Race
"Define Justice and Make Change"
Chicago, IL, September 23-25, 2010

The Facing Race conference will include discussions of hot-button race issues while offering models for change.  It will serve as a focal point for organizations and individuals committed to crafting innovative strategies for changing policy and shaping culture to advance real racial justice. 

Symposium on Crime and Justice
"The Past and Future of Empirical Sentencing Research"
Albany, NY, September 23-24, 2010


The symposium is based on the premise that new advances in sentencing research will come in part from engaging with other disciplines that focus on sentencing issues, and engaging with ongoing public policy issues like prison overcrowding and risk assessment. The main topics will be the role of race in sentencing outcomes, discretion and decision making, managing the criminal justice population, and risk assessment in the sentencing process.

Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Justice Research and Statistics Association 2010 National Conference
"Using Statistics and "Research to Improve Justice Policies and Practices"
Portland, Maine, October 28-29, 2010

The program includes more than 20 panel sessions on topics, including, corrections, domestic violence, human trafficking, racial disparity, reentry, research using national incident based reporting system (NIBRS) data, sentencing, substance abuse, tribal crime data, and victimization, as well as plenary discussions on current justice issues. There will also be skill building seminars (October 26th, 27th, and 30th) on cost-benefit analysis, evaluation methods, and evidence-based programs and practices. 

Contact Us

Do you have a contribution or idea for Race & Justice News? Send an email to The Sentencing Project's research analyst, Valerie Wright.

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September 1, 2010

Race & Justice News

"The biggest crime in the U.S. criminal justice system is that it is a race-based institution where African-Americans are directly targeted and punished in a much more aggressive way than white people.  Saying the U.S. criminal justice system is racist may be politically controversial in some circles. But the facts are overwhelming. No real debate about that."
-
- Dr. Nancy Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary Critical Studies of Race/Ethnicity Program at Saint Catherine University

FEATURED STORY

RACIAL PROFILING PART OF EVERYDAY LIFE IN BROOKLYN

Allegations of racial profiling have become common in many predominantly black neighborhoods across the country. The New York Times recently reviewed police data provided by the New York Police Department, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the New York Civil Liberties Union on police stops and found that the police made nearly 52,000 stops in an eight-block radius of Brownsville, Brooklyn between January 2006 and March 2010. Overall, 88% of individuals stopped were black or Hispanic. Despite the large number of stops only 1% yielded an arrest over a four-year period. Typically, squad cars with flashing lights cruise along the main avenues and officers use their controversial "Stop, Question, and Frisk" tactic on residents.  The encounters are so frequent that they amount to nearly one stop per year for the 14,000 residents over the four-year period.

The Times reports that if police think someone is carrying a weapon or entering a building without a key it is common for them to ask for identification and check to see if the individual has any warrants. In many encounters with police, residents were told that they fit the description of a suspect. However, the data show that less than 9% of stops were made based on "fit description." More often than not, the police listed "furtive movement," a vague category that equates to "other" as the grounds for the stop. This stop-and-frisk strategy has come under intense scrutiny and the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights have filed lawsuits challenging the NYPD's current practices.  Click here to read more.

PUTTING FACES ON JUSTICE

VOICES FROM BROOKLYN

Watch and listen to the residents from a public housing community in Brownsville, Brooklyn speak for themselves about how they believe they have been unfairly targeted by police stop-and-frisk tactics. One young man states "If you see cops, they automatically search you." Several other residents say they feel "belittled," "violated" and "degraded" as a result of their contact with police.

SEGREGATION BEHIND PRISON BARS

INMATES STILL HOUSED BY RACE AFTER SUPREME COURT RULING

In a 5-3 decision reached in 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court decided that prison officials in California could not rely solely on racial classification when assigning inmate housing.  Historically, prison officials in the state have relied on race to separate male inmates. Five years after the ruling, approximately 165,000 inmates in California are still housed by race and critics argue that the state is not responding quickly enough to the ruling. Part of the problem is that the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation does not keep a record of integrated cells and therefore does not know how much change has occurred. In addition, only four of California's 30 prisons have implemented guidelines that consider additional factors such as gang affiliation and offense committed in determining housing location. 

One prison spokesman, Lt. Anthony Gentile, asserted that "These boundaries are determined by the inmate population." Another spokeswoman, Terry Thornton, emphasizes that there is no deadline for ending segregation by race in prisons and such changes should be implemented slowly. In addition, she points out that,  "The deficit-ridden state also has no money for additional training needed for prison staffers to learn the new ways to assign cellmates." Click here to read more.   

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The Sentencing Project is a national, nonprofit organization engaged in research and advocacy for criminal justice reform.

  

DEA Seeks Ebonics Translators to Decipher Black Peoples' Phone Conversations

Ever since NAACP endorsed marijuana legalization in California, there's been a raging debate over whether the drug war targets black communities. Looks like the DEA just settled it.

ATLANTA  — Federal agents are seeking to hire Ebonics translators to help interpret wiretapped conversations involving targets of undercover drug investigations.

The Drug Enforcement Administration recently sent memos asking companies that provide translation services to help it find nine translators in the Southeast who are fluent in Ebonics, Special Agent Michael Sanders said Monday. [AP]

But don't get the wrong idea. This has nothing to do with the drug war being racist. They just need expert testimony to help win drug cases:

"You can maybe get a general idea of what they're saying, but you have to understand that this has to hold up in court," he said. "You need someone to say, 'I know what they mean when they say 'ballin' or 'pinching pennies.'"

Wait, is that drug slang? As dumb as all of this sounds, I'm beginning to envision a very real risk of the DEA bringing some jackass into court to randomly redefine words and incriminate people who could've been talking about anything. If they start asking for search warrants on the grounds that 'pinching pennies' means laundering money, that's a total nightmare and it's exactly the kind of crap we should probably expect from this.

Texas Now Prosecuting TWO Medical Marijuana Patients [FEATURE]

Asthmatic medical marijuana patient Chris Diaz sits in jail in Brownwood, Texas, facing up to life in prison for a half ounce of marijuana and three grams of hash. Quadraplegic medical marijuana patient Chris Cain may be joining Diaz behind bars in Beaumont, Texas, after he goes to trial next week. When it comes to medical marijuana, Texas isn't California (or even Rhode Island), and don't you forget it, boy!

seat of injustice
Chris Diaz is learning that the hard way. He was supposedly pulled over for an expired license tag (his defenders say the tag was not expired) while en route from Amarillo to Austin, and according to the DPS trooper's report, would not produce a drivers' license or proof of insurance. He was then arrested for failure to identify, and during a subsequent search, police found a small amount of hashish on his person. A search of the vehicle then turned up additional hash and marijuana in a pill bottle from a California medical marijuana provider. Now, Diaz is facing up to life in prison after being indicted by a Brown County grand jury. He is charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, a first-degree felony in the Lone Star State.

Under Texas law, possession of less than two ounces of marijuana is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail, while possession of hashish is either a state jail felony punishable by up to two years for less than a gram, or a second-class felony punishable by up to 20 years if less than four grams, although probation is also possible.

But because police allegedly read a text message on Diaz's seized cell phone advising a friend that he had some great hash and asking if he wanted any, he was instead indicted on the trafficking charge, punishable by up to life in prison. He remains behind bars -- without his medicine -- on a $40,000 cash bond.

Diaz was diagnosed with asthma just before he turned three, his mother, Rhonda Martin said. "He was on medications ever since. He used a nebulizer, all kinds of inhalers, Albuteral, Advair. He stopped taking them when he was 14 because he didn't like the effects," she recalled. "He said the steroids made him feel agitated and wouldn't take those chemical medications anymore."

While the family was aware of medical marijuana, it was only when Diaz fell ill during a family vacation in California and was hospitalized in intensive care that they first learned about medical marijuana for the treatment of asthma. "We were put in touch with a doctor there, and he recommended it. It was his recommendation Chris was carrying," said Martin.

Neither Brown County prosecutors nor Diaz's court-appointed public defender had responded to Chronicle requests for comment by press time.

Diaz and some of his strongest supporters, including his mother, consider themselves "sovereign citizens," and have a web site, I Am Sovereign, in which they argue their case and attempt to win support for Diaz. But that set of beliefs, which precludes carrying government-issued identification, is also complicating things for Diaz. "Failure to identify" was the first charge he faced, and he was searched and the cannabis was found subsequent to being charged with that. Similarly, the authorities' lack of any records or ID for Diaz played a role in the setting of the high bail.

He's not having an easy time of it in jail, said Martin. "He is not receiving any medical attention. He eats only organic food, but he's not getting that. He was assaulted last Sunday by a jailer when he asked for medication. The jailer got in his face and started screaming and pushing him. Chris didn't react. He is a peaceful man."

"The reality is that this kid is in jail for having medical marijuana and is looking at life in prison," said Stephen Betzen, director of the Texas Coalition for Compassionate Care, which is lobbying for a medical marijuana bill next year in the state legislature. "You've got to be kidding me. You don't give drug addicts life in prison, so why would you do that to a patient with a legitimate recommendation from another state?"

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/chris-cain.jpg
Chris Cain
Betzen also had real issues with Diaz being stopped in the first place. "The fact of the matter is that Chris was driving home to Austin with legal plates," he said. "The cops lied and said they were expired. Not only did they lie to pull him over, they took a kid with no record and charged him with a life sentence offense for three grams of hash. The people who are perpetrating this need to be brought to justice and their victims need to be released from jail," said Betzen. "You can't just pull people over because they're brown or from California and begin to search them. There's a whole amendment about that."

"I'm surprised somebody is facing a life sentence for basically half an ounce," said Kris Hermes, spokesman for the medical marijuana support group Americans for Safe Access. "But in states that don't have medical marijuana laws, authorities are free to arrest and prosecute regardless of whether it is being used medicinally."

Meanwhile, over in Hardin County in East Texas, Chris Cain, 39, will be rolling his wheelchair to court next week, where the quadriplegic faces a jail sentence for possessing less than two ounces of medical marijuana. Cain, who was paralyzed in a diving accident as a teenager, has been an outspoken medical marijuana advocate for a decade.

He was arrested in 2005 when the Hardin County Sheriff's Office raided his home with the assistance of two helicopters, seized three joints, and threw him in jail. He wound up on probation, but could not use his medicine.

"Within six weeks, the spasticity was so bad he was developing bed sores," said Betzen, so he started using again. "The cops would come by every two weeks to see if he was healthy enough to go to jail."

Now, he faces trial again for possession. "They actually want to put him in jail," exclaimed Betzen. "The sheriff there really has a vendetta against him."

While Texas certainly needs to enter the 21st Century when it comes to medical marijuana, the problem is larger than the Lone Star State, said Hermes. "It's critical that we develop a federal medical marijuana law so that people are not treated differently in Texas than in California, and patients who need this medicine in Texas should be allowed to use it with fear of arrest and prosecution. Americans for Safe Access is committed not only to encouraging states to pass medical marijuana laws irrespective of federal policy, but also to push the federal government to develop a policy that will treat patients equitably no matter where in the US they live."

TX
United States

Obama Signs Crack Cocaine Sentencing Reform Bill

President Obama Tuesday signed into law a bill, S. 1789, which significantly reduces, but does not eliminate, the infamous disparity in sentencing of federal crack and powder cocaine offenders. The signing was open to news photographers, but not other media. Obama took no questions and made no remarks.

Under quarter-century old federal laws drafted in the midst of the crack hysteria of the mid-1980s, people convicted of possessing as little as five grams of crack cocaine faced a mandatory minimum five-year federal prison sentence, while it took 500 grams of powder cocaine to trigger the same penalties. The law subjected tens of thousands of African-Americans to long prison sentences for crack offenses, while whites busted for crack mainly got sent to state court for comparatively lenient sentences.

Under the new law, that 100:1 disparity is reduced to 18:1. That means instead of five grams of crack garnering the same sentence as 500 grams of powder cocaine, it will now take 28 grams of crack to earn the five-year mandatory minimum. That goes up to 10 years if the amount in question is more than 280 grams of crack.

While the new law removes the mandatory minimum sentence for simply possessing five grams of crack and while it will likely reduce sentences by about two years for federal crack offenders, it is not retroactive. That means thousands of people doing harsh sentences under the old law will continue to serve them, at least for now. However, the US Sentencing Commission could take up the retroactivity question for those people, now that Congress has change the threshold for mandatory minimums.

Drug War Chronicle did a feature article on the bill last week. For more detail and analysis, read it here.

Washington, DC
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, 2017 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