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Following Positive Recommendation From DEA Judge, Fate of Medical Marijuana Research in U.S. is Now in the Hands of Top DEA Officials

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As Meth Trade Goes Global, South Africa Becomes a Hub

Cape Town
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The Wall Street Journal

Pot club struggles for financial survival

Santa Cruz, CA
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Santa Cruz Sentinel (CA)

FedCURE Message: Federal Inmate Judith Giglo Writes Rep. Louie Gohmert -- "Calls Him Out on The Second Chance Act."

FedCURE pleads with all you, in the most strongest terms, to get behind Judith's heartfelt message and contact your Congressperson NOW! Urging him or her to support The Second Chance Act, especially the Republican leadership – Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) expressing disappointment with the delay and urging them to strongly support the Second Chance Act. Link to Contact Congress and Tips on Writing Congress: http://www.fedcure.org/ContactCongressREP-SEN.shtml and http://www.fedcure.org/documents/TipsonWritingtoCongress.pdf. Hon. Louie Gohmert Ashley H. Callen Legislative Director/Counsel Office of Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01) 510 Cannon HOB Washington, DC 20515 202.225.3035 ph 202.226.1230 fax ashley.callen@mail.house.gov Dear Congressman Gohmert: I am one of the incarcerated Federal prisoners that you seem to feel are not entitled to any "Perks" upon release from prison. I feel put upon to reply to the letter from Ashley H. Callen, Legislative Director/Counsel in your office. I am one of many thousand federal prisoners. I am also one of many thousand federal prisoners who is truly innocent of the charges levied against me. I was tried and convicted on a charge of "Conspiracy to Money Launder". The conspiracy part is what caused me to receive a very heavy sentence. I was one of about 15 people indicted in a "front money scam".. The fact that I did not do what I was accused and convicted of is irrelevant at this time. I am almost 6 years into a 9 year sentence. I am 62+ years old. I spent the majority of my life as a businesswoman with a reputation for fairness and integrity. I am now a number in the federal prison system. As someone with business savvy, I have tried to help those in here who have not had the opportunities that I have had. I was instrumental in setting up a unit based education class program. This program allows women in the camp to take classes taught by other inmates. These classes range from the basics of tutoring for G.E.D. exams, to construction trades and CPR and Paralegal classes and everything in between. We have about 29 classes of all sorts available. The classes are 10 weeks long and in some cases longer. Women receive a certificate of completion at the end of the sessions. They are required to take a pre-class exam to help the teacher identify the basic knowledge of the students. There is also a post exam prior to receiving a certificate. Women here at camp Coleman are not idle. Many of these women will require assistance when the are ready to leave prison. Many of these women are first time non-violent offenders. Many were caught up in the minimum mandatory drug laws and are here for 10, 20 & 30 years. A number of these women gave birth to their children in prison and have had to rely on others to raise their children. So many of these women are anxious to begin a new life and a better life for themselves and their children. You and others like you, are trying to stop what could be a wonderful program in re-entry and family stabilization. Career education and training, drug counseling if required. From what I have read of the Second Chance Act, there are no provisions for cell phones or I-pods or Blackberry's. Nor is there any pork in the bill for people to go out and not work and not support themselves. All of this would require a great deal of effort on the part of the person re-entering society. Sir, are you aware of the cost of incarceration? At my age (62+), having been hospitalized three times in six years, the cost for maintaining out elderly in prison is in the range of $70,000, per person per year. For younger people the cost is approximately $29,000. multiply that cost by the an average of 200,000 federal prisoners. Astronomical isn't it? On the other hand the cost of 1 year of community college is $1,500. Which would make more sense. Teaching our inmates to become better people or keeping them in prisons? The cost of keeping an elderly person in home confinement would be somewhere around $2,000 yearly vs $70,000. Which would make more sense? The cost of incarceration is not only the dollars, but the family ties and community ties that are in some cases irreparable. I lost my husband of 28 years shortly after I was indicted. The stress that we were put under with the advent of my upcoming trail and monetary concerns caused him to have a massive heart attack. He died in my arms. My life was shattered. Not only was I facing a trial, but I was facing financial ruin in my golden years. I have lost everything that I worked for my entire life. I lost my husband as a direct result of this unjust charge, I lost my Mom shortly after I was incarcerated and my son no longer speaks to me. I have nothing to fall back on. I have no savings and no health care and no home to go back to. Yet you want me to leave prison with no financial or educational resources. Why? Do you think that it will be easy at this age to face a new beginning? Do you think that somewhere I have hidden resources to regain a life, any kind of life? My family, what there is left of them, is unable to care for me financially. They can help me with a place to live but then I am on my own. I will not be able to go back into the business that I know. I have to start from scratch. Can you tell me how to do that if I cannot access any government aid. As a convicted felon, I have no chance of renting an apartment, getting food stamps, or even getting any federal aid for education. As a convicted felon, I will be unable to get any sort of a job except maybe entry level. I have a number of things against me. My age, and worst of all a felony conviction. With the help of the Second Chance Act, I had a Second Chance available. You seem to feel that it is okay to throw me away. What you fail to realize is that I am you and you sir are me. You and most people do not realize that they are but a pen stroke away from a federal indictment. The proverbial ham sandwich being indicted. Isn't it less expensive and easier to retrain people and offer them a means to support themselves than to force them to return to illegal means as a way of life? Isn't it less expensive to allow these former felons to develop self esteem and to hold their heads up and become a productive member of society? Wouldn't there be more money available for Veteran's programs if there were fewer incarcerated? Why are you and some of your respected colleagues trying to hold us down? I have never been involved in drugs, but drugs can be self perpetuating and cause a ripple effect for years to come. The felons in prison for drug offenses, need to be able to leave here and feel gain self worth and feel that they made a mistake and paid their debt and that it will not be held against them the rest of their lives. If you do not feel that this is an issue to be reckoned with, I and many like me will disagree as strongly as possible. I firmly believe that these programs outlined in the Second Chance should be administered by people who are best able to utilize the funds to the max. If the answer lies in Faith based programs, let it be so. I have no problem with that. I truly believe that these programs will help people for many years to come. This is not a stop gap measure. This is a long range plan to help people help themselves stay out of prison. Recidivism is highest among the unemployed and the unemployable. You can put an end to this. The recidivism rate among the over 50 group is about 2%. So why are the elderly being forced to stay in prison settings where the medical care is virtually non-existent. There are no provisions for the elderly in prison. We are given very little, if any preventive care. Heart attacks, strokes and in my case bleeding ulcers are rampant. 15 months ago, I was hospitalized with bleeding ulcers. I almost died here at the camp because of the incompetent care that I received. I was told that there was nothing wrong with me except for high blood sugar. This is not now and never has been a problem in my life. I was bleeding internally, but no one here recognized the symptoms. There is no managed care. There is no real food. The allotted cost for feeding inmates is somewhere around $1.62 per day per person, below the poverty level. Poor food, poor housing conditions, unclean housing units and little medical care add up to a very expensive cost of incarceration. Hospital stays for people like me are expensive. I have been hospitalized three times, the last time just this past week. I have undergone surgery that could have been prevented. I respectfully ask that you reconsider your opposition to this bill. Allow me to go home and become a productive member of the senior society. I have much to offer and would like to see my family again outside of the confines of prison. I do not want to die in here, and that is a very real fear. I am not alone in that fear. We have many women here who are older than I and in worse physical health. We are Social Security eligible and Medicare eligible, some of us are even able to work outside of the home. Allow the prison system to save the thousands of dollars a year that they spend on me and the other elderly. Take that money and put it to programs for the Vets. We are not asking for I-pods or Blackberry's or cell phones. We are asking for a chance. Certainly if you or someone that you care about were in this position, you would be pushing for this bill to pass. Our families feel the same way. I may not be able to vote now, but at some point I will again be able to vote and I would like to think that the candidate of choice is a person who is fair minded and caring. I believe that with your support and the support of other Republicans this bill, which is advocated by the Justice Department and the Bureau of Prisons and American Bar Association, the Public Defenders Association to name a few, would be passed. Sincerely, Judie Giglio Reg.No. 11197-017 Federal Correction Complex Camp P.O. Box 1027 Coleman, Fl. 33521-1027 P.S. This letter is being forwarded to your office by my daughter, as copy is being forwarded to Gene Guerro Open Society Institute and FedCure.
United States

The Colombia experiment

The Ottawa Citizen (Canada)

U.S. Targets Mexican Companies In Drug War

Mexico City
CBS News

Feature: US Sentencing Commission Again Calls on Congress to Fix Crack-Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity

the late Lillie Blevins, served life sentence for a crack cocaine ''conspiracy'' after being convicted on the word of a snitch who received probation in return (courtesy november.org)
In its annual report to Congress, the US Sentencing Commission has once again called on legislators to reduce the tough penalties for federal crack cocaine offenses. The commission's previous calls to fix the 100:1 disparity between the amount of crack and the amount of powder cocaine necessary to trigger mandatory minimum sentences have either been ignored or slapped down by previous Congresses. Whether the new Democratic majority in Congress will allow reform to be accomplished this year remains to be seen.

Under federal law in effect since 1987, someone charged with possessing five grams of crack faces a mandatory minimum five-year sentence. By contrast, it takes 500 grams of powder cocaine -- one hundred times as much -- to trigger the same sentence.

While the Sentencing Commission cannot itself enact changes in the crack cocaine law -- that's up to Congress -- it has already signaled its impatience with congressional inaction. A little more than two weeks ago, the commission adjusted federal sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine offenses so that crack offenders will serve on average about a year less than under the old guidelines. That move alone will provide small relief to thousands of federal crack prisoners.

But the real problem is the harsh mandatory minimums for federal crack offenses. The Sentencing Commission found that:

  1. The current quantity-based penalties overstate the relative harmfulness of crack cocaine compared to powder cocaine.
  2. The current quantity-based penalties sweep too broadly and apply most often to lower level offenders.
  3. The current quantity-based penalties overstate the seriousness of most crack cocaine offenses and fail to provide adequate proportionality.
  4. The current severity of crack cocaine penalties mostly impacts minorities.

"Based on these findings," the report read, "the Commission maintains its consistently held position that the 100-to-1 drug quantity ratio significantly undermines the various congressional objectives set forth in the Sentencing Reform Act." While noting that setting appropriate thresholds is "a difficult and imprecise undertaking that ultimately is a policy decision," the Commission nevertheless "strongly and unanimously" urged Congress to adopt the following recommendations:

  1. Increase the five-year and ten-year statutory mandatory minimum threshold quantities for crack cocaine offenses to focus the penalties more closely on serious and major traffickers as described generally in the legislative history of the 1986 Act.
  2. Repeal the mandatory minimum penalty provision for simple possession of crack cocaine under 21 U.S.C. § 844.
  3. Reject addressing the 100-to-1 drug quantity ratio by decreasing the five-year and ten-year statutory mandatory minimum threshold quantities for powder cocaine offenses, as there is no evidence to justify such an increase in quantity-based penalties for powder cocaine offenses (e.g., don't increase powder cocaine sentences).

graph from report, crack cocaine amounts nearly invisible next to the powder amounts
Groups that have long advocated for reform of the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity and the removal of mandatory minimum sentences reacted with pleasure mixed with a hint of impatience. They have been waiting a long time for action on this front.

"The prisoners, children and families torn apart by these unjustifiably harsh penalties are watching closely and will welcome crack sentencing reforms that restore some justice to crack penalties," said Mary Price, vice president and general counsel of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM). "Only Congress can change our harsh mandatory minimum crack laws. Lawmakers should not squander the important opportunity presented by the most recent set of findings and recommendations by the Sentencing Commission. The time is ripe for reform, especially given the bipartisan support for crack sentencing reform that has emerged in recent years."

"The current sentencing structure has had a disproportionate and unfair impact on African-American and low income communities," said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office, "and we're encouraged that the US Sentencing Commission has once again acknowledged this fact. But 2007 marks the fourth time in 20 years that the commission has issued such a report, and Congress has yet to address the problem. Years of medical and legal research have shown no appreciable difference between crack and powder cocaine, and no justification for allowing the vast sentencing gap between them to stand. We urge Congress to put aside politics and act now to fix this discriminatory federal drug sentencing policy."

But it is not reform advocates but members of Congress who will or will not enact most reforms. While in the past, Congress has rejected such recommendations from the Commission, there are some indications support for reforms is growing.

"It's past time to reduce the disparity between crack and powder cocaine sentences actually," Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions told National Public Radio, "because the penalties on crack cocaine are extraordinarily heavy -- too heavy to be justified as public policy." His colleagues should listen to the Commission, Sessions added. Sessions has already introduced a bill that would reduce the disparity to 20:1.

Another key player, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told the legal publication the Daily Journal the report's findings were "an important first step" in correcting the sentencing disparity. "For far too long, the federal crack/powder sentencing laws have created an injustice in our nation," he said. Leahy said he hopes that federal prosecutors will focus more on drug kingpins.

Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware), who has announced his candidacy for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, has also weighed in. "This 100:1 disparity is unjust, unfair, and the time has long past for it to be undone," Biden said in a Tuesday press release. "The current sentencing disparity between the two forms of cocaine is based on false notions and old logic," said Sen. Biden. "Congress has ignored this issue for too long. I intend to introduce legislation to remedy the disparity and refocus the federal cocaine sentencing laws and federal resources on major drug kingpins, as was the intent of the 1986 law. I look forward to working with my colleagues -- Republicans and Democrats -- and urge them to support righting this wrong."

DEA crack cocaine photo
"There is indeed growing support for reducing the disparities," said Bill Piper, head of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Biden, Sessions, and Sen. Hatch [R-Utah] are all working on bills, and so is Charley Rangel [D-New York] in the House," he told Drug War Chronicle. "There is growing support in the judiciary committees for doing something."

But, Piper warned, the devil is in the details. "They agree that something needs to be done, but I'm not sure they will reach agreement on what needs to be done. Then it would have to pass floor votes, and then we have to wonder if Bush would veto it," he said. "But when you have the Sentencing Commission and leading Republicans signing off on something, the Democrats should be emboldened. That shows this is a bipartisan effort."

Even the Justice Department is wavering. While Piper noted that the department has long taken the position that there was no problem, department spokesman Bryan Sierra told the Daily Journal this week that the agency is "willing to discuss the disparity in the ratio for sentencing between crack and powder cocaine," but he added that the department believes that "it should be done in the broader context of sentencing reform."

For the fourth time since 1995, the Sentencing Commission has urged Congress to act to reduce the disparity and bring greater fairness to sentencing. Now it is in Congress' hands.

DPA Press Release: US Sentencing Commission urges Congress to Reduce Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity

For Immediate Release: May 17, 2007 Contact: Jasmine L. Tyler at 202-294-8292 US Sentencing Commission urges Congress to Reduce Crack/Powder Cocaine Sentencing Disparity Experts to Brief Congress on Current Cocaine Policy and the Need for Reform Washington, DC—Criminal justice experts will hold briefings on the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity for Congressional staffers on Monday, May 21. They will discuss the United States Sentencing Commission’s (USSC) May 2007 Guideline Amendment and Report to Congress. Joining the panel will be Hilary Shelton from the NAACP, Pat Nolan from Prison Fellowship, and Lisa Rich from the USSC. These briefings will be moderated by Jessalyn McCurdy of the ACLU and Marc Mauer of The Sentencing Project. The briefing is co-sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance. ********************************************************************* WHAT: Reforming Crack and Powder Cocaine Sentencing Briefing for Congressional staffers WHO: Members of Congress and staff, media, policy advocates, stakeholders, treatment providers, faith leaders When: Monday, May 21 House Briefing: 9 a.m. - B340 Rayburn House Office Building Senate Briefing: 2 p.m. - 485 Russell Senate Office Building ********************************************************************* Twenty years ago when the crack cocaine sentencing laws were first passed by Congress, the United States faced a panic about the alleged “crack epidemic” and operated under the impression that crack had inherent properties that made it infinitely more dangerous than powder cocaine. These reports, which served as the basis for the huge disparity, have since been found to be fundamentally flawed, rendering the 100-to-1 disparity arbitrary and capricious. Further, these laws have proven ineffective in reducing drug use or distribution and have instead exacerbated racial disparity and injustices in our criminal justice system. The USSC has taken the lead on eliminating the crack/powder sentencing disparity by amending the federal sentencing guidelines to lessen the punishment range for crack cocaine cases by approximately one to two years. The Commission also urged Congress to reform federal mandatory minimum sentences to reduce the statutory disparity. Currently, there is growing bipartisan support for reforming the crack/powder disparity. There are two house bills pending and a similar one before the Senate. # # #
Washington, DC
United States

Press Release: Home of the Free???

For Immediate Release: May 16, 2007 Contact: E.C. Danuel D. Quaintance, Church of Cognizance at (928) 485-2952 I ask for nothing more than open minds to examine the possible consequences of putting scriptural interpretations of a recognized religion to a test, in order to decide if that religion qualifies for First Amendment protections. It is not uncommon amongst followers of various faiths to interpret their common faith in different ways. The Supreme Court stated, in Thomas v. Review Board, “Intrafaith differences of that kind are not uncommon among followers of a particular creed, and the judicial process is singularly ill equipped to resolve such differences in relation to the Religion Clauses,” then went on to instruct that “Courts are not arbiters of scriptural interpretations.” This human freedom to interpret the scriptures as we see them was something most Americans take for granted. This freedom is not something small churches can take for granted any longer. The attack against a small church, and religious interpretations in general, has begun in a U.S. District court in New Mexico. New Mexico follows prior decisions of the 10th Cir. Courts. The 10th Circuit upheld the use of a test in the District of New Mexico, which originated in deciding if the beliefs of a newly established, one-man, religion qualified to receive First Amendment protection. The test has become known as the Meyers Matrix. The use of the Meyers Matrix test was never challenged in the Supreme Court of the United States. Now the Meyers test has been inappropriately used to test if a religious group of a recognized religion deserves protections under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, RFRA. Testimony of cultural anthropologist Dr. Deborah Pruitt, PhD, who specializes in many non-mainstream religions, revealed the Meyers test is highly skewed against a great number of recognized religions. Government, in an attempt to avoid the requirement of showing “a compelling government interest” for burdening the free “Exercise of Religion”, has chosen a new and innovative path of getting around that requirement. First government attorneys declared the religion was “a Bastardized form” of the religion. Then went on to declare, what synonymously amounts to claiming because the leader of a Christian church was no Christ, the church did not deserve the constitutional protection a religion enjoys. This wasn’t enough insult to freedom of religion, government turned to a Priest of another sect of the religion, as an expert witness, in an attempt to prove another religious group incorrectly interprets the teachings, practices, and modes of worship of their common faith. This move showed a total disrespect for prior decisions of the Supreme Court, like the one quoted above. In the end it didn’t matter that government attempted to test one sect against another. Government’s hoped results from such an attempt backfired. The testimony of government’s expert witness from the common faith ended up showing the small group might actually more correctly interpret many elements of their common faith. With the prior method failing it was up to the, recently appointed, Federal Judge to put the hammer down. U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera had her own methods of depriving religious freedoms. She decided to count the elements that were not met in the Meyers test, and then call that which was met “dicta,” which allowed her to not count that part of the test when arriving at a deciding average of whether or not the beliefs qualify for religious protections. By that move, and a determination that the “mantra” considered the “moral and ethical compass,” of this recognized religion, provided no moral or ethical guidance, the judge ruled that not enough factors of the Meyer Matrix were met to qualify for religious protections under RFRA or the First Amendment. End of story, the beginning of the end of a once highly honored protection amongst Americans. The only hope now is through contacting your representatives and asking them to investigate and put a halt to this disregard for cherished human rights. For more information visit http://danmary.org
United States


Alex Coolman has a nice summary of the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment and its history over at Drug Law Blog. I haven't heard yet about this year, but will let you all know when I do... Read our '06 Hinchey-Rohrabacher coverage here and here.
Washington, DC
United States

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