Congress

RSS Feed for this category

The Staggering Incoherence of Drug Warrior Charles Grassley

Earlier this month, notorious drug war cheerleader Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) provoked outrage by attempting to censor debate about drug policy reform in Congress. He proposed an amendment that would literally ban a congressionally appointed expert panel from discussing legalization or decriminalization as part of a broad evaluation of criminal justice policies.

It's just a transparently pathetic strategy of defending the drug war status quo by outlawing meaningful debate and keeping alternatives off the table. Fortunately, just about everyone saw right through it. Pete Guither points out that Grassley is so cornered, he's now begging his constituents in Iowa to back him up on this. And the harder he tries to defend it, the weaker it sounds:

First and foremost, Congress ought to tackle issues whenever possible before bucking them to commissions. Increasingly, Congress is using commissions to avoid doing what Americans elect members to do: ask tough questions, identify possible answers, debate policy solutions and take a stand. [Des Moines Register]

Yeah, who needs experts when we've got politicians to make all our decisions for us?

This commission also would cost $14 million. It's hard to justify that expenditure in the current fiscal situation, especially when it's work that Congress should be doing itself.

Wait, so you can justify spending $50 billion a year on the war on drugs, but we can't justify $14 million to evaluate whether it makes any sense?

Finally, I put forward an amendment to address the issue of decriminalization and legalization of any controlled substance. I filed this amendment in an effort to start a debate on this important issue.


Really, Chuck? Really? How exactly does banning discussion of something promote debate? Everything, from the language of Grassley's amendment to his rich history of ignorant pro-drug-war posturing, proves what a total lie that is. The very essence of this controversy is that he blatantly attempted to prevent experts from looking into the issues he doesn’t want to talk about. Clearly, Grassley greatly underestimated the growing public demand for a new dialogue about our drug policies and got burned by his own arrogance, to such an extent that he is now hilariously masquerading as the champion of that critical discussion.  

The obvious bottom line here is that Grassley is consumed by his fear about what the experts will say. That is just implicit in all of this. If he wasn't deeply afraid of their conclusions, he wouldn’t be introducing amendments telling them what conclusions not to reach.  

The commission hasn’t even been appointed yet, so the very notion that it will become a referendum on the urgent need for sweeping reforms to our drug policy is purely a product of his paranoid imagination (combined perhaps with a subconscious recognition that the drug war is a gaping suckhole and smart people aren't exactly in love with it anymore). If Congress had named an expert panel consisting of Ethan Nadelmann, Rob Kampia, Jacob Sullum, Paul Armentano, Micah Daigle, Norm Stamper, Pete Guither and Willie Nelson, then maybe Charles Grassley could be forgiven for tearing from D.C. to Des Moines on horseback, flailing a dinner bell over his head and screaming that the legalizers are coming.  

Until that happens, the drug war pep squad would be well advised to just pipe down for the time being, lest their suggestions that we not discuss certain things should lead to yet more discussion of the things they don’t want discussed.

Update: Turns out Grassley's piece was a response to this Op-ed by Marni Steadham of University of Iowa SSDP. More coverage here.

Feature: Fired Up in Albuquerque -- The 2009 International Drug Policy Reform Conference

Jazzed by the sense that the tide is finally turning their way, more than a thousand people interested in changing drug policies flooded into Albuquerque, New Mexico, last weekend for the 2009 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance. Police officers in suits mingled with aging hippies, politicians met with harm reductionists, research scientists chatted with attorneys, former prisoners huddled with state legislators, and marijuana legalizers mingled with drug treatment professionals -- all united by the belief that drug prohibition is a failed policy.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/vigildpa09.jpg
candlelight vigil outside the Albuquerque Convention Center (courtesy Drug Policy Alliance)
As DPA's Ethan Nadelmann said before and repeated at the conference's opening session: "We are the people who love drugs, we are the people who hate drugs, we are the people that don't care about drugs," but who do care about the Constitution and social justice. "The wind is at our backs," Nadelmann chortled, echoing and amplifying the sense of progress and optimism that pervaded the conference like never before.

For three days, conference-goers attended a veritable plethora of panels and breakout sessions, with topics ranging from the drug war in Mexico and South America to research on psychedelics, from implementing harm reduction policies in rural areas to legalizing marijuana, from how to organize for drug reform to what sort of treatment works, and from medical marijuana to prescription heroin.

It was almost too much. At any given moment, several fascinating panels were going on, ensuring that at least some of them would be missed even by the most interested. The Thursday afternoon time bloc, for example, had six panels: "Medical Marijuana Production and Distribution Systems," "After Vienna: Prospects for UN and International Reform," "Innovative Approaches to Sentencing Reform," "Examining Gender in Drug Policy Reform," "Artistic Interventions for Gang Involved Youth," and "The Message is the Medium: Communications and Outreach Without Borders."

The choices weren't any easier at the Friday morning breakout session, with panels including "Marijuana Messaging that Works," "Fundraising in a Tough Economy," "Congress, President Obama, and the Drug Czar," "Zoned Out" (about "drug-free zones"), "Psychedelic Research: Neuroscience and Ethnobotanical Roots," "Opioid Overdose Prevention Workshop," and "Border Perspectives: Alternatives to the 40-Year-Old War on Drugs."

People came from all over the United States -- predominantly from the East Coast -- as well as South Africa, Australia, Canada, Europe (Denmark, England, France, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, and Switzerland), Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico), and Asia (Cambodia and Thailand).

Medical marijuana was one of the hot topics, and New Mexico, which has just authorized four dispensaries, was held up as a model by some panelists. "If we had a system as clear as New Mexico's, we'd be in great shape," said Alex Kreit, chair of a San Diego task force charged with developing regulations for dispensaries there.

"Our process has been deliberate, which you can also read as 'slow,'" responded Steve Jenison, medical director of the state Department of Health's Infectious Disease Bureau. "But our process will be a very sustainable one. We build a lot of consensus before we do anything."

Jenison added that the New Mexico, which relies on state-regulated dispensaries, was less likely to result in diversion than more open models, such as California's. "A not-for-profit being regulated by the state would be less likely to be a source of diversion to the illicit market," Jenison said.

For ACLU Drug Policy Law Project attorney Allen Hopper, such tight regulation has an added benefit: it is less likely to excite the ire of the feds. "The greater the degree of state involvement, the more the federal government is going to leave the state alone," Hopper said.

At Friday's plenary session, "Global Drug Prohibition: Costs, Consequences and Alternatives," Australia's Dr. Alex Wodak amused the audience by likening the drug war to "political Viagra" in that it "increases potency in elections." But he also made the more serious point that the US has exported its failed drug policy around the world, with deleterious consequences, especially for producer or transit states like Afghanistan, Bolivia, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.

At that same session, former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaneda warned that Latin American countries feel constrained from making drug policy reforms because of the glowering presence of the US. Drug reform is a "radioactive" political issue, he said, in explaining why it is either elder statesmen, such as former Brazilian President Cardoso or people like himself, "with no political future," who raise the issue. At a panel the following day, Castaneda made news by bluntly accusing the Mexican army of executing drug traffickers without trial. (See related story here).

It wasn't all listening to panels. In the basement of the Albuquerque Convention Center, dozens of vendors showed off their wares, made their sales, and distributed their materials as attendees wandered through between sessions. And for many attendees, it was as much a reunion as a conference, with many informal small group huddles taking place at the center and in local bars and restaurants and nearby hotels so activists could swap experiences and strategies and just say hello again.

The conference also saw at least two premieres. On the first day of the conference, reporters and other interested parties repaired to a Convention Center conference room to see the US unveiling of the British Transform Drug Policy Foundation publication, After the War on Drugs: A Blueprint for Legalization, a how-to manual on how to get to drug reform's promised land. Transform executive director Danny Kushlick was joined by Jack Cole of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, Sanho Tree of the Institute for Policy Studies, Deborah Small of Break the Chains, and DPA's Nadelmann as he laid out the case for moving beyond "what would it look like."

"There's never been a clear vision of a post-prohibition world," said Kushlick. "With this, we've tried to reclaim drug policy from the drug warriors. We want to make drug policy boring," he said. "We want not only harm reduction, but drama reduction," he added, envisioning debates about restrictions on sales hours, zoning, and other dreary topics instead of bloody drug wars and mass incarceration.

"As a movement, we have failed to articulate the alternative," said Tree. "And that leaves us vulnerable to the fear of the unknown. This report restores order to the anarchy. Prohibition means we have given up on regulating drugs; this report outlines some of the options for regulation."

That wasn't the only unveiling Thursday. Later in the evening, Flex Your Rights held the first public showing of a near-final version of its new video, 10 Rules for Dealing with Police. The screening of the self-explanatory successor to Flex Your Right's 2003 "Busted" -- which enjoyed a larger budget and consequently higher production level -- played to a packed and enthusiastic house. This highly useful examination of how not to get yourself busted is bound to equal if not exceed the break-out success of "Busted." "10 Rules" was one of a range of productions screened during a two-night conference film festival.

The conference ended Saturday evening with a plenary address by former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who came out as a legalizer back in 2001, and was welcomed with waves of applause before he ever opened his mouth. "It makes no sense to spend the kind of money we spend as a society locking up people for using drugs and using the criminal justice system to solve the problem," he said, throwing red meat to the crowd.

We'll do it all again two years from now in Los Angeles. See you there!

Latin America: Former Mexican Foreigner Minister Accuses Army of Extra-Judicial Executions in Drug War

Jorge Castañeda, Mexico's foreign minister under President Vicente Fox, said Saturday that the Mexican military is engaging in the extrajudicial execution of members of drug trafficking organizations. The frank and surprising comments came as Castañeda spoke on a panel at the 2009 International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/jorgecastaneda.jpg
Jorge Castañeda
"We are having more and more 'false positives,'" Castañeda said, referring to a term used in Colombia to describe people executed by the military and then described as guerrillas killed in combat. "Here in Mexico, apparent gang war killings are in fact being carried out by the military. Every time the cartels catch the police and military infiltrators and slice them up, the army says 'We're taking out ten of yours.' The statistics say that 90% of the killings are within the cartels, but the army is engaging in these killings."

President Felipe Calderon deployed the military against the so-called cartels in December 2006. Since then, more than 15,000 people have been killed in prohibition-related violence in Mexico, including more than 6,000 so far this year. Hundreds of police and soldiers are among the dead.

In response to a question asking for documentation of his assertions, Castañeda said: "The only known incident was a town in Chihuahua where the bodies of 29 sicarios (assassins) were found, with witnesses who said this was after they were detained. The press has not wanted to investigate this."

But the military can't keep its mouth shut, Castañeda said. "They go to bars and restaurants and get drunk and talk and they are going around saying how many people they have knocked off," he reported. "The 12 military officers killed by the cartels in Michoacan -- that's why the army went out and killed a bunch of other people."

Castañeda's comments come as the US State Department is preparing the process of certifying Mexican compliance with human rights conditions as part of the $1.4 billion Plan Merida anti-drug assistance package. The bill authorizing the aid requires that portions of it be withheld if the State Department determines Mexico is not in compliance.

Castañeda also criticized President Obama for turning a blind eye to human rights violations by the Mexican military. "Obama regrettably said that the human rights violations he was most concerned with was with the victims of the drug war," the former diplomat noted.

Sentencing: US Sentencing Commission to Review Mandatory Minimums

The US Sentencing Commission has been ordered by Congress to review mandatory minimum sentencing. The order came via the National Defense Authorization Act signed last month by President Obama. The act contains quietly added language calling on the commission to conduct several tasks, including examining the impact of mandatory minimum sentencing laws and exploring alternatives.

Congress began passing mandatory minimum laws in the 1980s, especially for drug and weapons offenses. In part as a direct result, the federal prison population has ballooned from 24,000 prisoners in 1980 to more than 209,000 last week. More than half of all federal prisoners are doing time for drug offenses.

Now, the Sentencing Commission is charged with issuing recommendations on mandatory minimums. But don't hold your breath -- this could take awhile.

"It's going to be a massive undertaking," the new chairman of the Sentencing Commission, William Sessions III, told the Wall Street Journal. Sessions said the review would range from weighing the impact of mandatory minimum sentencing on prison population figures and spending to assessing the social impact of those policies. "In my view," he said, "it's a very open-ended request."

Even if the Sentencing Commission were to eventually recommend changing or eliminating mandatory minimums, the final decision is up to Congress. In that regard, recent history is not very encouraging. The commission has for years formally recommended that Congress to undo the sentencing disparity between federal crack and powder cocaine offenses, but Congress has, rejected its advice, except for minor relief when it allowed changes in sentencing guidelines that reduced some crack sentences,although that may finally change this year or next.

When the commission last undertook a full-scale review of sentencing laws in 1991, there were 60 mandatory minimum offenses on the books. Now, there are 170.

Feature: The State of Play -- Federal Drug Reform Legislation in the Congress

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/capitolsenateside.jpg
US Capitol, Senate side
Ten months into the Obama administration, drug policy reform in the US Congress is moving along on a number of tracks. Here's an update on some of the more significant legislation moving (or not) on the Hill. With a few exceptions, this report does not deal with funding issues that are tied up in the tangled congressional appropriations process.

Next week Drug War Chronicle will publish a parallel report on the state of play for drug policy in the nation's statehouses.

The Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity

After years of inertia, efforts to undo the 100:1 sentencing disparity in federal crack and powder cocaine cases have picked up traction this year. In July, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and 83 cosponsors introduced the Fairness in Cocaine Sentencing Act, which would eliminate the disparity by treating all cocaine offenses as if they were powder cocaine offenses for sentencing purposes. That bill has passed the House Judiciary Committee and is now before the Energy and Commerce Committee. On the Senate side, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) introduced companion legislation, the Fair Sentencing Act of 2009, last month. It is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Federal Needle Exchange Funding Ban

The longstanding ban on the use of federal AIDS grant funds to pay for needle exchange programs may soon be history. Although the Obama administration left the ban in its budget request, Obama pledged to eliminate it during his campaign, and his administration has signaled it wouldn't mind seeing it go. The House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies stripped out the ban language in a July 10 vote. A week later, the full Appropriations Committee approved the bill after voting down an amendment proposed by US Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX) that would have reinstated the funding ban, but accepted a poison pill amendment that would ban federally-funded needle exchange from operating "within 1,000 feet of a public or private day care center, elementary school, vocational school, secondary school, college, junior college, or university, or any public swimming pool, park, playground, video arcade, or youth center, or an event sponsored by any such entity." The House later passed the appropriations bill with the 1000-foot ban intact, but defeated a floor amendment by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) to reinstate the funding ban.

On the Senate side, the appropriations bill has yet to be passed, but the Senate committee working on the issue did not include language ending the funding ban. Reform advocates are hoping that the Senate will come on board for ending the ban in conference committee, and that committee members also strip out the 1000-foot provision.

The National Criminal Justice Commission

Introduced in March by Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), the National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 would create a commission that would have 18 months to do a top-to-bottom review of the criminal justice system and come back with concrete, wide-ranging reforms to address the nation's sky-high incarceration rate, respond to international and domestic gang violence, and restructure the county's approach to drug policy. The bill is currently before the Senate Judiciary Committee, where this week it was set to hear a raft of hostile amendments from Republican members. It currently has 34 cosponsors, including Republicans Olympia Snowe of Maine and Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Restoring College Aid to Students with Drug Convictions

The infamous Higher Education Act (HEA) anti-drug provision, or "Aid Elimination Penalty," which bars students committing drug offenses from receiving financial aid for specified periods of time, is under fresh assault. In September, the US House of Representatives approved H.R. 3221, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), one of the provisions of which restricts the penalty to those convicted of drug sales, not mere drug possession. The bill will next go to a conference committee, whose job will be to produce a reconciled version of H.R. 3221 and a yet-to-be-passed Senate bill. The final version must then be reapproved by both the House and the Senate. If that final version contains the same or very similar language, it will mark the second significant reduction of the penalty, the decade-old handiwork of arch-drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN). In 2006, the provision was scaled back to include only drug convictions that occurred while students were enrolled in college and receiving financial aid (a change supported by Souder himself). Souder opposed this year's possible change.

Medical Marijuana

Late last month, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) reintroduced H.R. 3939, the Truth in Trials Act, which would allow defendants in federal medical marijuana prosecutions to use medical evidence in their defense -- a right they do not have under current federal law. The bill currently has 28 cosponsors and has been endorsed by more than three dozen advocacy, health, and civil liberties organizations. It is before the House Judiciary Committee.

That isn't the only medical marijuana bill pending. In June, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the Medical Marijuana Protection Act, which would reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug and eliminate federal authority to prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers in states where it is legal. The measure has 29 cosponsors and has been sitting in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce ever since. Frank introduced similar legislation in the last two Congresses, but the bills never got a committee vote or even a hearing. Advocates hoped that with a Democratically-controlled Congress and a president who has at least given lip service to medical marijuana, Congress this year would prove to be friendlier ground, but that hasn't proven to be the case so far.

In July, the House passed the District of Columbia appropriations bill and in so doing removed an 11-year-old amendment barring the District from implementing the medical marijuana law approved by voters in 1998. Known as the Barr amendment after then Rep. Bob Barr (R-GA), the amendment has been attacked by both medical marijuana and DC home rule advocates for years as an unconscionable intrusion into District affairs. The Senate has yet to act. Among the proponents for removing the Barr amendment: Bob Barr.

Marijuana Decriminalization

In June, Reps. Ron Paul (R-TX) and Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the Personal Use of Marijuana By Responsible Adults Act, which would remove federal criminal penalties for the possession of less than 100 grams (about 3.5 ounces) and for the not-for-profit transfer of up to one ounce. The bill would not change marijuana's status as a Schedule I controlled substance, would not change federal laws banning the growing, sale, and import and export of marijuana, and would not undo state laws prohibiting marijuana. It currently has nine cosponsors and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

And just so you don't get the mistaken idea that the era of drug war zealotry on the Hill is completely in the past, there is Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL). In June, Kirk introduced the High Potency Marijuana Sentencing Enhancement Act, which would increase penalties for marijuana offenses if the THC level is above 15%. Taking a page from the British tabloids, Kirk complained that high-potency "Kush" was turning his suburban Chicago constituents into "zombies." Nearly six months later, Kirk's bill has exactly zero cosponsors and has been sent to die in the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security.

Industrial Hemp

Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) again introduced an industrial hemp bill this year. HR 1866, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2009would remove restrictions on the cultivation of non-psychoactive industrial hemp. They were joined by a bipartisan group of nine cosponsors, a number which has since grown to 18. The bill was referred to the House Energy and Commerce and House Judiciary committees upon introduction. Six weeks later, Judiciary referred it to its Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, where it has languished ever since.

Safe and Drug-Free Schools Funding

In May, the Obama administration compiled a budgetary hit list of 121 programs it recommended by cut or completely eliminated, including $295 million for the Safe and Drug-Free Schools community grants program. (It left intact funding for the Safe and Drug-Free Schools National Program). Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees agreed with the White House and zeroed out the program. The House education appropriations bill has already passed, but the Senate bill is still in process. Proponents of the program may still try to reinstate it in the Senate or during the conference committee to reconcile the House and Senate appropriations bills.

Next week, look for a report on drug policy-related doings in the various state legislatures.

Drug Legalization: Senator Pushes Amendment to Censor Any Talk of That

Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), an inveterate drug warrior, doesn't want to hear the L-word in Washington. This week, the corn-belt conservative offered an amendment to Senator Jim Webb's (D-VA) pending bill, the National Criminal Justice Commission Act, that would explicitly forbid any recommendations that even mention drug legalization or decriminalization.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/grassley.jpg
the face of ignorance and prejudice -- US Sen. Charles Grassley
Webb, a congressional champion of criminal justice and drug law reform, introduced the bill in a bid to fix what he considers a failing, costly, and inhumane criminal justice system, including the war on drugs. Webb's bill contemplates the creation of "a commission to look at every aspect of our criminal justice system with an eye toward reshaping the process from top to bottom." That would presumably include taking a close look at the impact of drug laws.

Grassley's amendment says its purpose is "to restrict the authority of the Commission to examine policies that favor decriminalization of violations of the Controlled Substances Act or the legalization of any controlled substances." The amendment in its entirety reads as follows:

The Commission shall have no authority to make findings related to current Federal, State, and local criminal justice policies and practices or reform recommendations that involve, support, or otherwise discuss the decriminalization of any offense under the Controlled Substances Act or the legalization of any controlled substance listed under the Controlled Substances Act.

Grassley's politically bowdlerizing ploy quickly drew the ire of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "Senator Grassley's censorship amendment would block what Senator Webb is trying to achieve with this bill," said Jack Cole, a retired undercover narcotics detective who now heads the LEAP. "All along, Senator Webb has said that in the effort to fix our broken criminal justice system 'nothing should be off the table.' That should include the obvious solution of ending the 'drug war' as a way to solve the unintended problems caused by that failed policy."

As Grassley's amendment started to draw critical scrutiny, he attempted to defend himself. In a conference call with media this week, Grassley responded to a question about the amendment: "Well, my intent on that amendment isn't any different than any other amendments that are coming up. The Congress is setting up a commission to study certain things. And the commission is a -- is an arm of Congress, because Congress doesn't have time to review some of these laws. And -- and -- and the point is, for them to do what we tell them to do. And one of the things that I was anticipating telling them not to do is to -- to recommend or study the legalization of drugs."

When asked if his amendment would include limiting the discussion of medical marijuana, Grassley responded: "Yes, the extent to which it would be decriminalization, the answer is yes."

Grassley added that he had floated several amendments and that he would not necessarily introduce all of them. As of Thursday, he had not yet formally introduced his censorship amendment.

Outrage: Drug Warrior Congressman Tries to Prohibit Discussion of Legalization

Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA) has introduced legislation calling for a thorough evaluation of the U.S. criminal justice system, namely for the purpose of exploring ways to reduce our world-record prison population. As you might guess, simply discussing whether we should keep millions of American behind bars is enough to terrify the drug war's most committed champions.

They can’t handle the tough questions, so they're trying to make it illegal to even ask. Drug war hall-of-famer Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) today introduced an amendment to Webb's bill that would literally prohibit the commission from talking about legalization or even decriminalization:

AMENDMENT intended to be proposed by Mr. GRASSLEY
….
SEC. ll. RESTRICTIONS ON AUTHORITY.
The Commission shall have no authority to make findings related to current Federal, State, and local criminal justice policies and practices or reform recommendations that involve, support, or otherwise discuss the decriminalization of any offense under the Controlled Substances Act or the legalization of any controlled substance listed under the Controlled Substances Act.


These words are a legal blueprint for silencing all criticism of the war on drugs before the experts even get a chance to discuss it. The whole thing flagrantly violates the spirit of the entire inquiry and renders meaningless everything Webb is trying to do. And yes, that's exactly the point.

No one has done more than Charles Grassley to make the drug war into the horrible mess that it's become, so you can bet he'll do anything to protect his shameful legacy. If he succeeds, the bill will almost certainly end up protecting bad policies instead of exposing them. We can’t let that happen. Click here to tell your Senators to oppose this misguided amendment and let the experts do their job without political interference.

A serious evaluation of criminal justice and drug policies is long overdue and that effort means nothing unless all options are debated openly.

Medical Marijuana: "Truth in Trials" Bill Reintroduced, Would Allow Medical Testimony in Federal Prosecutions

US Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) and more than 20 congressional cosponsors Tuesday introduced a bill that would allow defendants in federal medical marijuana prosecutions to use medical evidence in their defense -- a right they do not have under current federal law. The Truth in Trials Act, H.R. 3939, would create a level playing field for such defendants.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/samfarr.jpg
Sam Farr
"This is a common sense bill that will help stop the waste of law enforcement and judicial resources that have been spent prosecuting individuals who are following state law," Rep. Farr said on Tuesday. "We need strict drug laws, but we also need to apply a little common sense to how they're enforced. This legislation is about treating defendants in cases involving medical marijuana fairly, plain and simple."

More than a hundred medical marijuana providers have been prosecuted for violating federal marijuana laws, and more cases are coming down the pike. More than two dozen cases are currently pending. While the Justice Department last week issued guidelines to federal prosecutors discouraging them from prosecuting providers who comply with state medical marijuana laws, that guidance does not require that courts or prosecutors allow testimony about medical marijuana, nor does it suggest that prosecutors drop those cases.

"The Truth in Trials Act will restore the balance of justice and bring fundamental fairness to federal medical marijuana trials," said Caren Woodson, government affairs director with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the nation's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "This legislation complements the recent Justice Department guidelines for federal prosecutors and is now more necessary than ever."

While Farr has introduced the Truth in Trials bill in earlier sessions, supporters hope this time the bill will gain some traction. It has already been endorsed by more than three dozen advocacy, health, and legal groups, including ASA, the ACLU, the National Association of People With AIDS, the National Minority AIDS Council, and the AIDS Action Council.

Medical Marijuana: A New Bill in Congress!

 

Dear friends:

We are excited to announce new legislation in Congress that would protect many medical marijuana patients and providers from federal prosecution.

One in four Americans now lives in a state with laws governing medical marijuana.  Unfortunately, law-abiding citizens can still be prosecuted on federal marijuana-related charges.

Today, Congressman Sam Farr introduced the "Truth in Trials" Act, H.R. 3939.  This bill would enable law-abiding citizens facing federal marijuana related charges to introduce evidence at trial showing that they were in compliance with state law.

"Truth in Trials" needs a lot of support in the U.S. House of Representatives if it is to succeed.

Please e-mail your member of Congress right now.  Ask him or her to cosponsor this important legislation.

Click here:  http://www.americansforsafeaccess.org/house

Thanks!

Sanjeev Bery
National Field Director
Americans for Safe Access

Americans for Safe Access

Please support ASA!

On The Web:

ASA's Mission

ASA Forums

ASA Blog

Take Action

ASA's Online Store

"Gear up" for medical cannabis activism with ASA's new T-shirts, hats, stickers, bags and more! All proceeds go to ASA advocacy

On the heels of victory...

Dear friends:

Following the enormous victory for medical marijuana patients and their caregivers on Monday, a strong MPP champion on Capitol Hill, Congressman Sam Farr (D-Calif.), plans to introduce an important bill in Congress next week.

While the new Department of Justice policy creates a de facto protection for patients and caregivers who are "in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana," the Farr bill — which MPP staff helped write years ago — will codify this protection in law.

It will also address another injustice:  Currently, medical marijuana patients in the 13 states where medical marijuana is legal are barred from telling federal jurors that their use of marijuana was for medical purposes, even when state laws explicitly permit medical use. Congressman Farr's Truth in Trials Act would guarantee defendants in federal medical marijuana cases the right to explain that their marijuana was for medical use. And more importantly, defendants could be found not guilty if the jury finds that they followed state medical marijuana laws.
 
Will you please urge your member of Congress to co-sponsor this legislation? MPP's online action system makes it easy: Just enter your contact information and we'll do the rest.

This is such an exciting time for our issue. Thank you for standing with us in the fight.

Sincerely,

 

Rob Signature

Rob Kampia
Executive Director
Marijuana Policy Project
Washington, D.C.

P.S. As I've mentioned in previous alerts, a major philanthropist has committed to match the first $2.35 million that MPP can raise from the rest of the planet in 2009. This means that your donation today will be doubled.

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, 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, 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