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North Dakota Farmers File Lawsuit Against DEA Over Hemp Ban

This afternoon, I particpated in a tele-news conference held in Bismarck, North Dakota, to announce the filing of a federal lawsuit by two North Dakota farmers (including a Republican state representative!) against the DEA for its refusal to issue permits allowing them to grow hemp. North Dakota has passed state legislation permitting hemp growing under strict regulations, and its hemp-friendly Agriculture Commissioner, Roger Johnson, has promulgated the necessary guidelines. Johnson issued state permits to the two farmers months ago and sought DEA approval, but DEA did nothing. Now, the farmers are suing. This case could be a big one, once and for all getting the DEA out of the way of commercial hemp farming. I'll be writing about this in a feature article this week, but in the meantime, you can check out VoteHemp's North Dakota information page here for more detailed info on the case. Too bad somebody has to sue the DEA to get it to uphold the Controlled Substance Act, which specifically exempts hemp from the marijuana prohibition.
Location: 
United States

Good Supreme Court Ruling on Traffic Stops

The Supreme Court actually issued a good ruling on traffic stops today, and it was unanimous. In BRENDLIN v. CALIFORNIA, Bruce Brendlin, who was convicted of drug possession after a car in which he was a passenger was pulled over by a sheriff's deputy in Yuba County, California, appealed his conviction based on the fact that the traffic stop was later conceded by the state to be illegal. The state argued that because Brendlin was not the driver of the car, he was not the subject of the illegal stop, and so did not have the right to have the evidence suppressed because of the stop's illegality. In the unanimous opinion written by David Souter, the Court found:
Brendlin was seized because no reasonable person in his position when the car was stopped would have believed himself free to "terminate the encounter" between the police and himself. Bostick, supra, at 436. Any reasonable passenger would have understood the officers to be exercising control to the point that no one in the car was free to depart without police permission.
Sad that the California Supreme Court bought the argument, though. Read more about the case here.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

Doctor or Drug Pusher?

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
New York Times Magazine
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/17/magazine/17pain-t.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&oref=slogin&ref=magazine&adxnnlx=1182016857-gcS2JRBs7yjV8je/2IeroQ

Sentencing: Supreme Court to Decide Crack Sentencing Case

The US Supreme Court Monday agreed to hear the case of a Virginia man sentenced under the harsh federal crack cocaine laws. Coming after the high court has already agreed to hear two other cases related to federal sentencing, the decision will broaden its review of federal sentencing law by adding the notorious crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity to it.

http://stopthedrugwar.com/files/supremecourt2.jpg
US Supreme Court
Under federal law, it takes five grams of crack or 500 grams of powder cocaine to trigger a mandatory minimum five-year prison sentence. Similarly, 10 grams of crack or 1,000 grams of powder cocaine merit a 10-year mandatory minimum. The 100:1 disparity in the amounts of the drug needed to trigger the mandatory minimum sentences has been the subject of numerous critics, including federal judges.

The case selected Monday was that of a Virginia man, Derrick Kimbrough, who pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing and distributing more than 50 grams of crack. Federal sentencing guidelines called for a sentencing range of 19 to 22 years, but Federal District Court Judge Raymond Jackson in Richmond pronounced such a sentence "ridiculous" and "clearly inappropriate," and sentenced Kimbrough to the lowest sentence he could, the mandatory minimum of 15 years.

But the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Jackson's reasoning and ordered resentencing. "A sentence that is outside the guidelines range is per se unreasonable when it is based on a disagreement with the sentencing disparity for crack and powder cocaine offenses," the three-judge appeals court panel said.

Other federal appeals courts disagree. Both the Third Circuit in Philadelphia and the District Colombia Circuit Court of Appeals have held that, as the Philadelphia appeals court put it, "a sentencing court errs when it believes that it has no discretion to consider the crack/powder cocaine differential incorporated in the guidelines." Both courts noted that the Supreme Court itself had made the federal sentencing guidelines advisory rather than mandatory in its 2005 ruling in Booker v. United States.

The other two federal sentencing cases the court has agreed to hear are also related to the confusion in the courts in the wake of Booker. One case, Rita v. United States, raises the question of whether a sentence within the guidelines range should be presumed reasonable. The second case, Gall v. United States, involved an Iowa college student given a sentence beneath the guidelines in an ecstasy case. The trial judge sentenced Gall to three years probation rather than three years in prison, but the US 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ordered resentencing, finding that such an "extraordinary" departure from the guidelines required "extraordinary" justification.

The Supreme Court will likely decide Rita in a few weeks, and will hear arguments in Gall in October. Kimbrough will carry over into the next term. But in the next few months, the Supreme Court will make decisions that will potentially affect the freedom of thousands of federal drug defendants each year.

Alito Free Speech Comments -- a Hint on "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" Case?

Drug WarRant spotted the following comments by Justice Alito, printed by the Washington Post, comments that suggest he might go the right way in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" free speech case:
"I'm a very strong believer in the First Amendment and the right of people to speak and to write," [...] "I would be reluctant to support restrictions on what people could say." [...] "it's very dangerous for the government to restrict speech."
View pictures from the March demonstration outside the Court here.
Location: 
Washingotn, DC
United States

Bush Seeks to Re-Impose Mandatory Minimums

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
CBS News
URL: 
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/06/13/politics/main2924206.shtml

New ONDCP Video Demonstrates Exactly Why Their Ads Don't Work

"Stoners in the Mist" is a fake documentary from AboveTheInfluence.com in which "Dr. Barnard Puck," clad in safari clothes, observes stoners and performs various experiments on them.

This is worth discussing only because it perfectly illustrates the lack of seriousness that still dominates the marijuana debate. I don’t know how anyone could watch this and conclude that the people who made it are a credible source of information about the effects of marijuana.

Among the highlights:


* A practically comatose stoner fails to notice when a tracking collar is placed around his neck

* Unable to move, two stoners sit on the same couch for 72 hours

* A stoned girl forgets her friend's name and has brownies in her hair

* Despite repeated attempts, a stoner is unable to grasp objects tossed to him at close range

* Categorical statements such as "we have learned through our intensive research that both male and female stoners tend to lack the motivation to maintain proper hygiene" are made.
 

At the risk of increasing their traffic, you have to watch it to appreciate how far-fetched and derogatory this video really is. It reminded me immediately of D.W. Griffith's racist classic The Birth of a Nation, which glorifies the Ku Klux Klan and depicts African Americans as incoherent slobbering rapists.

So yesterday, when an ONDCP staffer called SSDP and basically threatened to increase the childishness of his office's activities, we just laughed because there's really no lower level of discourse available to them. Two weeks ago, I witnessed ONDCP's David Murray indignantly challenge the seriousness of his critics, yet it is Murray himself who lobbies for more funding to produce utterly banal and sophomoric nonsense like "Stoners in the Mist."

So if the Responsible and Serious Youth Advocates at ONDCP can't figure out why they've alienated everyone, let me spell it out: it's because you're having your own made-up conversation about marijuana that no one else can participate in because it is completely fictitious and insane.

No, this is not a video about the effects of marijuana. It is a parting shot from an entrenched clan of spiteful, sniveling spin-doctors who continue to sling mud in desperation even as their puddle dries up.
 

Location: 
United States

ONDCP Staffer Makes Threatening Phone Call to SSDP Office

Mere hours after SSDP's Tom Angell posted this amusing letter from ONDCP noting that the agency will respond to his FOIA request in 200 years, ONDCP's Assistant General Counsel Daniel R. Peterson called SSDP's office to voice his objections.

Peterson, the author of this ironic typo, accused Tom of being childish and threatened to respond with similar tactics. Incredulous, Tom replied "so does that mean you guys are going to start mentioning us in your blog?" Peterson declined.

Now I've got to admit to some sympathy for the other side here. This was a simple mistake, the severity of which pales in comparison to numerous things ONDCP does deliberately. Tom has previously humiliated the federal government with FOIA requests, so the idea of scrupulously drafting responses to perceived harassment from him must surely frustrate and distract these busy bureaucrats from their book-cooking.

Unfortunately for ONDCP, the unintentional irony of the error makes for good fun in the blogosphere. Stalling, you see, has become a trademark of the federal drug war; a necessary tactic whenever facts come in conflict with the status quo. We've seen this with regards to ASA's Data Quality Act lawsuit, MAPS's marijuana research lawsuit, sentencing reform, needle exchange and marijuana rescheduling. Heck the entire federal drug war is really just a few agencies constantly stalling in the hopes that we'll eventually stop asking so many questions and learn to live with false promises and fake progress.

So when Daniel Peterson tells SSDP that he'll respond to their FOIA appeal in 200 years, it's a perfect Freudian slip. Once again, ONDCP's most truthful and candid remarks occur entirely by accident.
Location: 
United States

Just a typo, presumably...

... or could ONDCP really intend to take two centuries to respond to SSDP's Freedom of Information Act request? You decide.
Location: 
United States

Court to Weigh Disparities in Cocaine Laws

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/12/washington/12scotus.html

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