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Harm Reduction: Los Angeles County Okays Needle Exchange Program

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $500,000 needle exchange program Tuesday. The board approved the harm reduction measure, which is designed to save lives and dollars by reducing the rate of spread of blood-borne diseases such as AIDS and Hepatitis B and C, on a 3-2 vote.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/needle-exchange-logo.gif
widely-used syringe exchange logo
The city of Los Angeles and seven California counties already have approved needle exchange programs. Los Angeles County has an estimated 120,000 to 190,000 drug injectors, nearly half of whom are estimated to share needles.

The new needle exchanges targeting heroin users will be at the Asian American Drug Abuse Program, Bienestar Human Services, Common Ground-The Westside HIV Community Center, Public Health Foundation Enterprises (and through them, Clean Needles Now) and Tarzana Treatment Centers.

Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe voted against the program. "The problem that we have here is you're having the government be in a position of sponsoring a known drug that could lead to death and leads to dependence," Antonovich said. "I would rather put our money into rehabilitation and education encouraging a drug-free society instead of being politically correct and helping addicts remain addicts," he said.

But Supervisor Gloria Molina defended the program, saying its aim is to prevent AIDS. "This is a very simple program that's had unbelievable success, and it's unfortunate (that) it is not supposed to address, and it does not address, the rehabilitation of drug users. All it does is, hopefully, address the issue of prevention of HIV," Molina said.

Class action sought in pot suit

Location: 
San Diego, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
San Diego Union-Tribune
URL: 
http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20070315-9999-7m15pot.html

Editorial: More discretion needed in sentencing rules for illegal drug sellers who are at lower levels

Location: 
PA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Patriot-News (PA)
URL: 
http://www.pennlive.com/editorials/patriotnews/index.ssf?/base/opinion/1173903931290950.xml&coll=1

Under bill, medical-marijuana users could be fired

Location: 
OR
United States
Publication/Source: 
Statesman Journal (OR)
URL: 
http://159.54.226.83/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070315/LEGISLATURE/703150336/1042

New Mexico Set To Become 12th Medical Marijuana State

First it passed the Senate and died in the House. Then, at the urging of Gov. Bill Richardson, New Mexico's Senate folded medical marijuana into a related bill to permit topical use. Yesterday evening the bill passed the House 36-31. It must return to the Senate for consideration of a minor change that occured in the House, but given strong support there and the assurance of the Governor's signature, I believe it's safe to say we're looking at our 12th medical marijuana state.

Congratulations to our friends at the Drug Policy Alliance who've worked extremely hard to make this possible. Also worthy of recognition is New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson himself, who pulled out the stops to protect patients in his state.

Of course, every step towards protecting medical marijuana patients is an important victory, but it is particularly notable that Richardson championed this bill while exploring a bid for the presidency. Richardson is a calculating politician who's not known for taking risky positions. Suffice to say, he ain't exactly Dennis Kucinich.

Richardson's willingness to stand up for patients at this time speaks volumes to the growing political viability of medical marijuana policy reform.

Update: Boston Globe looks at the political implications of Richardson's stance on medical marijuana and concludes that it's not a big deal.

"I don't see it as being a big issue," he said. "This is for medicinal purpose, for ... people that are suffering. My God, let's be reasonable," he said.

It shouldn't be a big deal, but it is. With so many problems here and abroad, our government still finds resources to generate controversy over this. It's obscene.

Location: 
United States

Marijuana: Grassroots Protest in Small Town Wisconsin After Drug Bust

When police in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, wrapped up a 16-month investigation into the drug trade there, they patted themselves on the back for rolling up 62 people, mostly in their twenties, mostly for small-time sales of marijuana and prescription pills. But while police got some expressions of community support, not everyone was happy.

On Monday, for the second time in as many weeks, a handful of teenaged protestors gathered near the courthouse downtown to protest the busts and call for the legalization of marijuana. According to the Stevens Point Journal, the young demonstrators held up signs reading "Be Wise, Legalize," and "Hemp Can Save the World" as passing motorists honked in support.

"People should be able to choose what goes in their body," said Ben Eisner, 18. "Caffeine has more deaths per year than marijuana," he told the newspaper. Legalization would promote healthier user habits, he said. "With legalization comes responsibility," Eisner said.

"I think it should be used the same way alcohol is used," said Eryn Edelbeck, 17, adding that abuse of alcohol is more damaging to long-term health than marijuana.

And support is broad -- one of the demonstrators, Eleni Schuler, 16, said she has never even used marijuana herself. "I just support the idea," she said.

With their friends and colleagues facing possible long years in prison, the group is vowing to return every week to draw local support, "possibly with the goal of starting a chapter of NORML…" Add another handful to the ranks of the reformers. And with every small town bust, another handful.

Search and Seizure: Utah Supreme Court Holds Mere Odor of Marijuana Not Enough for a Warrantless Home Search

In a ruling last Friday, the Utah Supreme Court held that the odor of burning marijuana is not sufficient to allow police to enter a residence without a warrant. The ruling in Utah v. Duran means that in Utah, police will no longer be able to use the old "I think I smell marijuana" routine as a pretext for conducting warrantless searches of homes.

The case began in Price, Utah, in 2003, when police were called to a residence by relatives who claimed people were smoking marijuana inside. When police arrived, they reported that "marijuana smoke was leaking out the cracks of the trailer," thus giving them probable cause to seek a search warrant. But police feared the suspects were "in the process of smokin' up all the evidence," so they entered without taking the time to get a warrant.

Inside, they found three people, as well as marijuana. The three were arrested, and one of them, Bernadette Duran, sought to have the evidence against thrown out as the result of an unlawful search. Duran lost at the trial court level, but won in the state appeals court, and now that victory has been ratified by the state Supreme Court.

In its 4-1 decision, the high court said that while there are exceptions to the search warrant requirement, such as preventing the imminent destruction of evidence, smelling pot smoke is not one of them. "We decline to grant the aroma of burning marijuana a place on an exclusive, limited roster of exceptions to the requirement that a warrant be secured before a lawful search can occur," Justice Ronald Nehring wrote for the majority. "The aroma of marijuana must be accompanied by some evidence that the suspects are disposing of the evidence, as opposed to casually consuming it."

That was a step too far for the lone dissenter in the case, Associate Chief Justice Michael Willkins, who argued that the odor of pot smoke could at times justify a warrantless search. "In a case where illegal drugs are being burned out of sight but not out of smell, and where the quantity of drugs is unknown to the officers, a presumption that the drugs are being destroyed rather than merely consumed is not unreasonable," Wilkins wrote.

But thankfully, his was the dissenting opinion.

Medical Marijuana: Minnesota Bill Approved by House Committee

The Minnesota medical marijuana bill, HF 655 is on the move. In the bill's first House committee test, the Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday passed the bill on an 8-6 vote. It now heads for the House Public Safety and Civil Justice Committee.

A companion bill is the Senate is also moving. That legislation passed the Senate Health, Housing and Family Security Committee on February 19 and is now before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Thomas Huntley (DFL-Duluth), lead sponsor of the House bill, hailed the vote as a victory for humane, common-sense legislation. "Politicians in St. Paul should trust physicians to know what's best for their patients," he said.

Among those who testified in support of the bill was Shannon Pakonen, whose son was pulled out of class and interrogated about his medical marijuana use by schoolteachers earlier this week. Pakonen went public with his medical marijuana use by testifying about it before a Senate committee about how he uses it to treat involuntary tics related to his Tourette's Syndrome.

"My son should not have to be treated like a criminal on the basis that he is my son," Pakonen testified, adding that this incident is precisely why Minnesota needs a medical marijuana law to protect patients and their families from harassment.

With both the House and Senate versions of the medical marijuana bill moving, and a new bill in New Mexico on the way to the desk of a governor who pushed to get it there, Minnesota could be on the way to becoming the 13th state to recognize medical marijuana. It's already the law in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.

Second Time Around, House Okays Medical Marijuana

Location: 
Santa Fe, NM
United States
Publication/Source: 
The New Mexican
URL: 
http://www.freenewmexican.com/news/58547.html

NM: House approves medical marijuana bill

Location: 
Santa Fe, NM
United States
Publication/Source: 
KOBTV
URL: 
http://www.kobtv.com/index.cfm?viewer=storyviewer&id=31024&cat=NMTOPSTORIES

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