State & Local Government

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Marijuana activist found guilty

Location: 
Skowhegan, ME
United States
Publication/Source: 
Portland Press Herald (ME)
URL: 
http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/news/state/070424christen.html

Panel dislikes pot shop plan for Templeton

Location: 
CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Tribune (CA)
URL: 
http://www.sanluisobispo.com/183/story/21679.html

Today's editorial: Make patients the priority

Location: 
CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Orange County Register (CA)
URL: 
http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/opinion/homepage/article_1663965.php

Court won't reconsider ruling in drug case

Location: 
WV
United States
Publication/Source: 
Charleston Daily Mail (WV)
URL: 
http://www.dailymail.com/story/News/2007042047/Court-wont-reconsider-ruling-in-drug-case/

Some clergy support medical marijuana bill

Location: 
Decatur, IL
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Herald & Review (IL)
URL: 
http://www.herald-review.com/articles/2007/04/20/news/local_news/1022859.txt

Sentencing: New York Assembly Passes New Rockefeller Law Reforms

The continuing effort to undo New York's draconian Rockefeller drug laws took another step forward Wednesday as the state Assembly passed a bill that would expand the availability of drug treatment and give judges greater discretion in sentencing. The push comes three years after the legislature enacted modest initial reforms, but since then only 177 of the state's 15,000 drug prisoners have won sentence reductions.

The new bill would:

  • Increase judges' discretion and allow some people convicted of first- and second-time drug offenses to receive treatment and probation instead of prison terms.
  • Set up drug courts in every county, to make efforts to get drug offenders into treatment programs.
  • Raise the weight thresholds for certain drug offenses so that the possible sentence times are reduced.
  • Create or expand "second chance" programs for low-level drug defendants, such as the Court Approved Drug Abuse Treatment program, in which offenders' cases can be dismissed or reduced to misdemeanors upon successful completion of treatment.
  • Create enhanced penalties for violent drug dealers and people who sell drugs to children.

"The modest reform to the Rockefeller Drug Laws enacted in 2004 and the extension in 2005 to provide for the re-sentencing of some class A-II offenders was a beginning, but unfortunately, despite pledges made by then Gov. George Pataki and the Senate to make additional changes, no further action was taken. The Assembly's repeated passage of significant drug law reform legislation for years went unnoticed by the former executive and the other house," said Speaker Sheldon Silver as the vote neared.

"This bill provides reforms that are long overdue," he continued. "It would expand the availability of drug treatment programs, allow judges to order non-violent, lower-level offenders into mandatory treatment for addiction and substance abuse and assure that prisons are most often used for serious drug offenders, offenders with violent histories and those who cannot or will not succeed in drug abuse treatment. We are confident that with the help of Gov. Eliot Spitzer, the Assembly's long-standing commitment to make the state's drug laws smarter, fairer and more effective will become a reality," added Silver.

"The opposition will say we are soft on crime," said Jeffrion Aubrey (D-Queens) who chairs the Assembly Committee on Correction and who authored the bill. "But we understand the revolving door of criminal justice and we want to shut that door."

War burns over car seizure plan

Location: 
Jersey City, NJ
United States
Publication/Source: 
The New Jersey Journal
URL: 
http://www.nj.com/news/jjournal/index.ssf?/base/news-4/117696404576780.xml&coll=3

Sentencing: Maryland Passes Reform Measure for Drug Offenders

Some Maryland drug offenders will be serving less time under a bill that passed the state legislature before the session ended earlier this week. The measure, HB 992, would allow second-time nonviolent drug offenders sentenced under mandatory minimum sentences to seek parole. With just under 5,000 drug offenders in prison in Maryland, the result will be an unanticipated opportunity for early release for some.

Under current state law, second-time drug sales offenders face a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison. HB 992 will allow all but those also convicted of crimes of violence to seek parole.

According to a Justice Policy Institute (JPI) report on Maryland's mandatory minimums released in February as part of an effort to prod legislators to pass such a measure, more than 1,200 people have entered the Maryland prison system sentenced under mandatory minimum drug laws in the past 11 years. That same report found that in the last five years, 89% of the 500 sentenced under those laws were black.

The bill was backed by the Partnership for Treatment Not Incarceration, an alliance of organizations headed by JPI and the Drug Policy Alliance. DRCNet is a member, as are the Maryland Office of the Public Defender, Americans for Safe Access, Sensible Drug Policy Maryland, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Power Inside, Students for Sensible Drug Policy University of Maryland Chapter, Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, and the Marijuana Policy Project.

Salvia Divinorum: Vermont Town Gets Fight Over Sales Ban

Last week, Drug War Chronicle reported on an escalating campaign to criminalize salvia divinorum, the fast- and short-acting hallucinogenic Mexican member of the mint family whose use has seeped into the popular consciousness among North American psychonauts in the past decade. The story opened with the town of Middlebury, Vermont, declaring a public health emergency to stop a local tobacconist from selling the potent herb.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/salvialeaves.jpg
salvia leaves (photo courtesy Erowid)
Now, the store owner is fighting back. The day our story ran, James Stone, proprietor of the Emporium Tobacco and Gift Shop, announced he will appeal the order and has hired an attorney to fight it. "If they had come to me first, I would have worked with them," Stone said.

But that's not what happened. The town council acted on the matter without notifying Stone, who only learned of the ban when a reporter called him the next day. The council acted after Police Chief Tom Hanley reported that the town school resource officer had become aware that teenagers were using salvia. While Hanley could not name any cases where anyone had suffered any adverse effects from ingesting the drug, he urged the council not to take that chance. "It's a tragedy waiting to happen," he said.

Hanley also made the odd claim that the hallucinogenic effects of salvia, which last for less than 20 minutes, can be extended for several hours if the user is drinking alcohol. "You can't have kids with developing brains putting this stuff in their bodies," Hanley warned. "The effects are different for different individuals and you just don't know what's going to happen."

But the Middlebury ban is not just against sales to minors. It is a total ban.

Salvia has been a "substance of concern" for the DEA for several years, but remains legal under federal law. Five states and a handful of municipalities have criminalized it, and similar efforts are afoot in seven other states this year. But Middlebury is unique in having chosen the public health emergency route.

That's raising eyebrows among civil libertarians. "It sounds very arbitrary and very broad and very subjective," said Allen Gilbert, executive director of Vermont's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. "How does one person make the determination that something is a danger?" Gilbert said.

Norwalk: 'Just say no' to school drug testing

Location: 
Norwalk, OH
United States
Publication/Source: 
Sandusky Register (OH)
URL: 
http://www.sanduskyregister.com/articles/2007/04/18/front/248105.txt

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