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Patient Advocates Back Three Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced in Congress (Press Release)

For Immediate Release: May 25, 2011

Patient Advocates Back Three Medical Marijuana Bills Introduced Today in Congress 

Advocacy Group Unveils New Program to Build More Skilled, Responsive Grassroots Force

Washington, DC -- Three medical marijuana bills were introduced today in Congress with support from patient advocates. The most significant of the three bills is one introduced by Congressman Frank (D-MA), which reclassifies marijuana from its current status as a dangerous drug with no medical value. Another bill, introduced by Congressman Polis (D-CO), will allow banks and other financial institutions to provide services to medical marijuana businesses without being subject to "suspicious activity" reporting requirements. The third bill, introduced by Congressman Stark (D-CA), changes the federal tax code "to allow a deduction for expenses in connection with the trade or business of selling marijuana intended for patients for medical purposes pursuant to State law."

"All of these bills will have a positive effect on hundreds of thousands of Americans and only a negligible impact to the rest of the country," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "This kind of policy shift is a no-brainer and should garner the bipartisan support of Congress."

To shore up support for these and other local and state medical marijuana bills, ASA is launching a new advocacy program.

The introduction of Congressional legislation today comes as ASA is equipping patient advocates with new tools to lobby local, state and federal governments. ASA unveiled a new program today that establishes a "Medical Cannabis Think Tank "to provide activists the support they need to analyze pending or proposed legislation and to lobby for the best laws possible. To support the lobbying effort, ASA also unveiled its new "Online  Training Center," with more than 4 hours of educational streaming video and over 400 pages of instruction manuals and worksheets. ASA's program also includes an improved "Raid  Response Center" to better prepare for aggressive federal interference.

As part of its "Sick and Tired" campaign, ASA and others filed a writ Monday in the DC Circuit to compel the federal government to answer a 9-year-old petition to reclassify cannabis. The Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) argued in the writ that the government has unreasonably delayed an answer to the petition in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act. "The Drug Enforcement Administration has the opportunity right now to address the needs of patients across the country by reclassifying cannabis," continued Sherer. "However, since Congress can also reclassify cannabis, we are urging passage of the Frank bill in order to take advantage of all points of leverage."

If passed, the Frank bill would not only recognize marijuana's medical value, but also provide a medical necessity defense in federal court, a right not currently afforded to patients and caregivers who are in compliance with their local and state laws. The Frank bill would also usher forth greater research into the therapeutic properties of cannabis and create incentives for the development of new cannabis-based medication.

Advocates hope the Polis bill, if passed, will end the current ban on services for medical marijuana businesses by institutions like Wells Fargo, CitiCorp and Bank of America. The Stark bill has the potential to end dozens of audits by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) currently taking place, and settle once and for all whether the IRS can demand tax on gross or just net proceeds.

Further information:

Rescheduling bill (Frank):

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Frank_bill_2011.pdf

Banking bill (Polis):

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Polis_bill_2011.pdf

IRS bill (Stark):

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Stark_bill_2011.pdf

ASA Think Tank: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/section.php?id=384

ASA Online Training Center:

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/article.php?list=type&type=385

ASA Raid Response Center:

http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/article.php?list=type&type=168

# # #

Feds on New Medical Marijuana Offensive [FEATURE]

While DEA raids on medical marijuana providers never came to a complete halt after the Obama administration declared in 2009 that it would not interfere with people operating in compliance with state medical marijuana laws, the pace did slacken. But now, the raids are on the increase -- there have been at least 90 DEA SWAT-style raids since Obama took office -- and the federal government has unveiled an ominous new weapon in its war on the weed: US attorneys in a number of medical marijuana states sending letters to politicians threatening dire consequences, even the potential arrest of state employees, if states okay schemes to tolerate and regulate medical marijuana distribution.

Rally in Sacramento Monday for Dr. Mollie Fry and Dale Schafer. (Image courtesy ASA)
Threatening letters from US attorneys have been sent to officials in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island, and Washington. The first was in February in California; the latest came this week in Arizona.

What is worse is that the interventions by the US attorneys appear deliberately timed to intimidate elected officials as they consider regulating medical marijuana dispensaries -- and it seems to be working. Last week, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed a bill that would have created a regulated dispensary system after requesting and receiving a threatening letter from her state's two US attorneys. This week, Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee "placed a hold" on dispensaries about to open there after receiving an unsolicited threatening letter from the US attorney.

Earlier, as Montana legislators debated whether to regulate and allow dispensaries there, the feds hit them with a one-two punch of DEA raids and a US attorney letter. While Gov. Brian Schweitzer vetoed a bill that would have repealed the state's medical marijuana law, all indications are that he will not veto a bill that will effectively kill dispensaries in Big Sky Country. And in Hawaii, legislators backed away from a dispensary bill after receiving similar threats.

The medical marijuana community has responded with protests -- there were actions in cities across the country on Monday -- but appears uncertain about what to do next. There are calls to reschedule marijuana, including one by Washington Gov. Gregoire, there are calls for the Obama administration or Congress to do something, and there are calls on state elected and appointed officials to stand firm in the face of federal bullying.

A group of Washington state legislators has also responded by sending a letter asking the state's Attorney General for his legal opinion on the law. The 15 legislators, all Democrats, led by Rep. Roger Goodman (Kirkland), asked Attorney General Rob McKenna if state employees had anything to fear from federal law enforcement if the vetoed state licensing provisions of the bill were revived, according to the Kitsap Sun.

A cannabis rescheduling petition to change marijuana's status under the Controlled Substances Act has been pending since 2002. Perhaps if Gregoire can rally other governors behind her, they can light a fire under the feds.

Rally in Washington, DC Monday to demand an end to federal interfence. (Image courtesy ASA)
 In the meantime, the raids continue. The DEA hit a San Diego dispensary Tuesday.

"This turn of events with the US attorneys is troublesome and reactionary," said Dale Gieringer, the long-time head of California NORML, who had just returned from a Sacramento rally in support of Dr. Mollie Fry and her companion, Dale Schafer, who had that day begun serving five-year federal prison sentences for medical marijuana cultivation. "It makes your head spin about that Obama policy of low enforcement, but Obama never said he supports states having access, and the US attorneys have taken matters into their own hands. This is certainly disappointing."

"It's very disconcerting and alarming that the federal government is deciding to deal with the medical marijuana issue this way," said Kris Hermes, a spokesman for Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation's largest medical marijuana defense organization. "We had been seeing progress, with states passing distribution laws, others amending their laws to include distribution, and others passing new laws to incorporate distribution into the laws they passed. It's very unsettling that the federal government is choosing to interfere in the implementation of those laws and restrict the access that patients could benefit from or are benefiting from."

ASA recently gave the Obama administration a failing grade on its approach to medical marijuana. That report card cited continuing law enforcement actions against medical marijuana providers. It is unclear whether the recent US attorney letters represent a policy shift at the Justice Department or whether individual prosecutors are taking the initiative. The Justice Department did not respond to a Chronicle call for clarification. Still, it is clear that the federal prosecutors are on a mission.

"When the Rhode Island US attorney made the threat he did, without being asked, that signified that this is more than just a defensive policy, it is an aggressive policy on the part of the US attorneys to keep medical marijuana illegal," said Gieringer.

"We'd like to know what's going on," said Hermes. "The federal government is showing its cards now. This is drawing attention to the fact that it didn't necessarily mean what it said when it said it wouldn't use Department of Justice resources to circumvent state laws. It certainly seems like there is a concerted effort in the background, but no one has come out from Justice and said that. Justice has refused to meet with patient advocates since this increased interference in the past few months, and they need to address this community and this issue. They can't say one thing in a policy statement and do the exact opposite. The spotlight is on the president at this point."

"The federal government has totally ignored us on all fronts," said Geiringer, "but we're just going to have to keep insisting that we be heard. I would like to see somebody in Congress question this on the record. It never gets mentioned in congressional hearings when DEA officials are up there; it's just totally ignored."

"The timing of these memos really smacks of intimidation and interference," said Morgan Fox, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Our advice for lawmakers is to stand their ground and do what's best for their states, particularly when it comes to the feds prosecuting state employees involved in registries. There has never been a prosecution; it doesn’t rise to the level of aiding and abetting."

"They've never moved against any public official for this stuff anywhere, so I think this is an empty threat," agreed Gieringer, "but public officials being what they are, they are easily cowed."

Elected and appointed officials at the state level need to stand firm against the federal threats, said Fox. "The US attorney memos are frightening and starting to get more severe in tone, but all we need to do is have the states considering dispensary regulation to continue moving ahead with that. I don't think the feds are going to push this too much. They don't have the resources, and it would be a policy disaster for the administration."

If the threats to go after state officials are over-hyped, the dangers to dispensary operators are not. One was convicted in Spokane as legislators deliberated, and more than a dozen were raided in Montana as the legislature took up medical marijuana bills. They are all looking at lengthy federal prison sentences if prosecuted and convicted.

Patients rally across the country for medical marijuana. (Image courtesy ASA)
"It's not lawmakers who will be looking at five-year federal prison sentences, but dispensary operators. They have to make personal decisions about whether they want to take that risk. Opening dispensaries is not just a way to provide safe access for patients, but also an act of civil disobedience, and you could face consequences," warned MPP's Fox.

ASA is holding training sessions for dispensary operators, said Hermes. But operators also need to continue to organize and pressure their elected representatives, he said.

But if the feds are standing firm, so is the medical marijuana movement. ASA, MPP, and California NORML all pledged to continue the fight.

"This is the federal government's last shot to try to prevent something that is working well in the US and will continue to work as long as the federal government stays out of the business of implementing state laws," said Hermes. "More than that, the federal government should be working with states to design a comprehensive federal policy that includes disengagement from enforcement and investment in research and rescheduling marijuana so that patients are protected wherever they live."

"We will continue to try to shine a light on this absurd and obscene misuse of law enforcement," said Gieringer, again pointing to the case of Dr. Fry and Dale Schafer. "Dale is on anti-hemophilia drugs with one treatment costing $10,000. He's also on morphine. And they're sending him to prison for five years? That's just crazy, but the machine just keeps going."

"We are just on the cusp of being legitimate and are now being beat back," said Fox. "We have to hold our ground."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denver, CO
United States

Pot Politics on Capitol Hill: Proponents Aim to Shift Industry's Image

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Supporters of decriminalizing marijuana are hoping to build momentum on Capitol Hill after a historic election that saw the politics of pot take center stage in four states. The marijuana industry's public relations campaign has so far been limited to states, especially California, where a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana almost passed in November. But today, the National Cannabis Industry Association, launched in December to represent the interests of legal marijuana growers and distributors, will hold the first congressional lobbying day in the nation's capital, hoping to shore up support for an industry they say could bring billions of dollars in revenue to the government.
Publication/Source: 
ABC News (US)
URL: 
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/pot-politics-capitol-hill-proponents-aim-shift-marijuana/story?id=13251446

Ron Paul: Hemp for Victory

Ron Paul supports the legalization of industrial hemp, a non-psychoactive variety of cannabis that provides an eco-friendly source of fiber and protein. Paul is a perennial author of hemp legalization bills, the latest of which is being promoted in May during the second-annual Hemp History Week. In this interview Josh Harkinson partially spoke with Paul about the benefits of hemp.
Publication/Source: 
Mother Jones (CA)
URL: 
http://motherjones.com/mojo/2011/03/ron-paul-hemp-victory

Keep the Pressure On (Action Alert)

We Are the Drug Policy Alliance.

Tell your Senators to approve spending cuts to the drug war!

Take Action!

Email the Senate

Dear Friends,

Thanks to the overwhelming response Congress received from supporters like you, huge drug war spending cuts have been approved by the House! Hundreds of millions of dollars used by state and local law enforcement agencies for ineffective drug war policies will be cut, and the ridiculous and ineffective national anti-marijuana ad campaign has been cut completely. Now we need to do the same for the Senate!

Tell your Senators to approve the House's spending cuts to failed drug war programs!

The new budget is still not set. The Senate has generally been unsupportive of scaling back the drug war in years past, so they need to hear from you! Now is the time to let your Senators know we cannot afford to wait any longer to end the drug war!

Please take a minute to write your Senators and tell them to approve these necessary spending cuts immediately!

Sincerely,

Bill Piper
Director, Office of National Affairs
Drug Policy Alliance

Congressman: Eliminate the War on Drugs

Colorado congressman Jared Polis wants to drastically reduce the federal government's funding of the war on drugs. He has introduced amendments to the Full Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011 that, if passed, would virtually eliminate money spent to fight drug crimes. The first amendment, No. 501, proposes to eradicate funding of the drug czar. The second amendment, No. 427, would prohibit the investigation and criminal prosecution for the possession, manufacture or distribution of marijuana. Polis believes that the drug czar's office is not only unnecessary, but has proven to be more harmful than helpful in the case of marijuana.
Publication/Source: 
Gather (MA)
URL: 
http://politics.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474979065488

The 2012 Federal Drug Budget: More of the Same [FEATURE]

The Obama administration released its a href="http://www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/policy/12budget/fy12Highlight.pdf">proposed 2012 National Drug Control Budget Monday and, despite President Obama's statement just over two weeks ago that the federal government needed to "shift resources" to have a smarter, more effective federal drug policy emphasizing public health approaches, there is little sign of any resource shifting.

Drug War Autopilot and Co-Autopilot: ONDCP Director Gil Kerlikowske with President Obama
Although budget documents said the administration seeks "a balanced approach" of prevention, treatment, and domestic and international law enforcement, law enforcement continues to get the lion's share of federal drug dollars. Of the more than $26 billion allocated for federal drug control efforts, nearly 60% would go to "supply reduction" (read: domestic and international drug law enforcement and military interdiction) and only 40% would go to treatment and prevention.

And in a time when the clamor for deficit reductions and budget cuts grows louder by the day, the Obama administration drug budget actually increases by 1.3% over 2010. That means it could be in for a rough ride when congressional appropriations committees get their hands on it, although no Republican leaders have yet commented on it.

[Editor's Note: All year-to-year comparisons are to Fiscal Year 2010 because Congress still hasn't passed a FY 2011 budget.]

On the other hand, at least the administration is being honest. Since 2004, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), which produces the drug budget, under drug czar John Walters had used accounting legerdemain to substantially understate the real costs of federal drug control by not including the drug component in the work of a number of different federal agencies. Using the understated figures, this year's drug budget would have appeared to have been only $15.3 billion instead of the more accurate $26.2 billion, with a false appearance of equality between supply-side and demand-side funding.

[Editor's Note: Bush-era drug czar John Walters stated directly, in response to a question I asked at an event, that they omitted budget items that included drug control but were not 100% about drug control -- claiming that made the numbers "more accurate," but not explaining how that made sense in any way. -DB]

"At least they finally got around to fixing the accounting problem," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance."It took them five years after Congress told them to fix it, but at least they are showing the true cost of things, like incarceration."

But neither Piper nor representatives of other drug reform groups had much else nice to say about the budget. "It's very much like last year's budget, with most money going to ineffective supply side programs and not enough going to treatment," Piper said. "You have the president and the drug czar talking about treating drug abuse as a public health issue just weeks ago, but their budget continues to treat it as a law enforcement and military issue."

"I don't understand how the president can tell us with a straight face that he wants to treat drugs as a health issue but then turn around just a few weeks later and put out a budget that continues to emphasize punishment and interdiction," said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a former narcotics officer in Baltimore. "The president needs to put his money where his mouth is. Right now it looks like he's simply all talk and no game."

"I see this similarly to Obama's approach on needle exchange and crack sentencing -- the president supported those reforms verbally, but did nothing else to help them at first, even when he had the opportunity," said David Borden, executive director of StoptheDrugWar.org, publisher of this newsletter. "But when Congress was ready to take them on, the administration provided enough support to get them through. Obama has also supported the idea of shifting the drug budget's priorities, but again has done nothing whatsoever to make it happen. Maybe what he wants is for Congress to do the heavy lifting on this as well. If so, our movement's task is to propose a politically viable new version of the budget that does change the priorities, to build support for it in Congress, and then look for the administration to get on board."

"We're definitely going to be focused on cutting funding to the drug war during the congressional appropriations process," said Piper. "We're already meeting with both Republicans and Democrats to increase support for cutting funding to the Byrne grants, the media campaign, and other ineffective drug war programs. I don't think there are any sacred cows now, and our goal is to get the drug war on the chopping block along with everything else."

While there are individual programs that saw cuts in both the treatment and prevention side and the law enforcement side, only in the realm of international anti-drug assistance was there an overall decrease in spending. Although the budget funds foreign assistance at $2.1 billion, that is $457 million less than the 2010 budget, a decrease of 17%. The decrease results from the winding down of Plan Colombia funding, a shift from expensive technologies for Mexico to more programmatic aid, and the re-jiggering of some of the Afghanistan anti-drug spending to be counted as "rule of law" spending.

Proposed spending on interdiction is set at $3.9 billion, an increase of $243 million over 2010 levels. The departments of Defense and Homeland Security account for the bulk of that spending, which includes an increase of $210 million for border security and port of entry facilitation on the US-Mexico border.

But international anti-drug aid and interdiction spending are dwarfed by domestic drug law enforcement, which would gobble up $9.5 billion under the Obama drug budget, an increase of $315 million over 2010 levels, or 3.4%. Unsurprisingly, the single largest domestic law enforcement expenditure is $3.46 billion to incarcerate federal drug war prisoners.

[Editor's Note: In the budget, the authors refer to high federal corrections costs because of the high number of drug war prisoners -- they make up well over half the more than 200,000 federal prisoners -- as "a consequence of drug abuse," when those costs are more than anything a consequence of public policy decisions made over decades.]

The Office of Justice Grants program, which includes the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants used to fund anti-drug multi-jurisdiction law enforcement task forces, would be slashed substantially, from $3.52 billion in 2010 to $2.96 billion in 2012, but on the other hand, the Justice Department 2012 budget contains $600 million to hire and retain 4,500 new police officers.

"It's encouraging that they cut funding for the Byrne grants," said Piper, "but they're increasing funding for the COPS program. The money is still going to law enforcement, but cutting those grants is a step in the right direction."

There are a few law enforcement side losers in addition to the Byrne grants. The DEA budget is down slightly, from $2.05 billion in 2010 to $2.01 billion in 2012, but that reflects supplemental spending for the southwest border that was included in 2010. The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program, which has evolved into a prime example of pork, saw its funding slashed to $200 million, down from $239 million.

And while overall treatment and prevention funding was up slightly, by 1% and 8% respectively, those increases are relatively slight, and there are some losers there, too. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Prevention grant program would decline from $565 million in 2010 to $550 million in 2012, Drug Free Communities funding would decline from $95 million to $89 million, and substance abuse treatment Medicaid grants to the states would decline from $3.78 billion to $3.57 billion.

On the plus side, spending for the Successful, Safe, and Healthy Students grant program would increase from $177 million to $267 million, Medicare treatment spending would increase by about 10% to $1.463 billion, Substance Abuse Treatment Block Grant funding would increase fractionally, and reentry funding under the Second Chance Act would increase from $30 million to $50 million.

The much criticized ONDCP youth media campaign would remain at $45 million, and the mostly praised drug court program would also remain unchanged, at $57 million.

All in all, despite slight changes in emphasis, the 2012 federal drug control budget is much of a muchness with previous drug budgets, despite the Obama administration's lip service about changing priorities and embracing the public health paradigm.

"Everyone wants to cut federal spending somehow," said Piper. "It seems that cutting the drug war would be an easy way to do that without cutting funds to the poor, to education, and other desirable social programs. Obama has said how sad he was to have to cut programs he likes, but he probably could have saved those programs by cutting funding for the drug war."

Washington, DC
United States

Former Congressional Staffer Admits Mistakes in the War on Drugs

Kevin Ring has an appalling piece in The Daily Caller spelling out the careless and politically-motivated process through which new drug laws are created. This is some really jaw-dropping stuff.

I know it happens because I did it. I had the high honor of working as a counsel for then-Senator Ashcroft on the Senate Judiciary Committee in the late 1990s. After deciding to forgo a presidential run in 2000 and instead focus on keeping his Senate seat in Missouri, Ashcroft needed to show he was focused on the threats facing the Show Me State — and none was scarier at that time than the growing menace of methamphetamine abuse and production. Meth was becoming known as the crack of rural America. We drafted a bill to impose the same mandatory minimum sentences on meth trafficking that applied to crack.

People can debate whether the effects of this law have been good or bad, but I can tell you that when we put the bill together, I did not know half of what I should have known. I did not know what the average sentence imposed on meth traffickers was at the time, whether those sentences were sufficient at deterring use, whether alternatives to prison might have been more effective at reducing recidivism, or how much these new, longer sentences would cost the federal government. These are things policymakers — or, at least, the staff they entrust to craft their legislation — should know before making national policy.

If I did not know these critical facts as the lead staffer on the bill, how little did other Hill staffers (and their bosses) know when they agreed to let this bill pass? I know this for certain: If someone had objected, I would have recommended that we accuse the objector of not being serious about saving Americans from this deadly threat.

This is just incredible. Rarely, if ever, have we seen the twisted agendas and rank idiocy of drug war politics displayed with such precision. Indeed, only a true insider could issue such a devastating indictment and I have no doubt that the countless other guilty parties will be quick to single out Ring as a hack seeking to tarnish the broader anti-drug effort by exposing his own incompetence.

Unfortunately for them, this story couldn't more perfectly diagnose the origins of the ill-conceived fiasco that festers before us. The credibility of Ring's account is upheld by the tragically obvious fact that nothing else could possibly explain the magnitude of the errors that have long characterized Washington's mindless anti-drug crusade. These people were never looking for solutions to anything except their own immediate political interests and they've left a legacy of incalculable waste and destruction as a result.

US Rep. Jared Polis Says Members of Congress Privately Want Drug Reform

Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO) says that a lot of members of Congress privately agree that we need to change our drug policy, but that they’re just too timid or scared to go public with their beliefs. He says very few that are 'hard core' drug warriors.
Publication/Source: 
Opposing Views (CA)
URL: 
http://www.opposingviews.com/i/rep-jared-polis-congress-members-privately-want-drug-reform

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