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Michael Douglas Tribute to Mike Gray

Actor Michael Douglas gave a tribute to our friend Mike Gray at the memorial service in Los Angeles this week. He talked about first working with Mike on the movie The China Syndrome, and about MIke's work on drug policy reform and how the drug war has affected him and his family. You can listen to it on the Drug Truth Network here.

It was recorded by Doug McVay, who attended the memorial with Common Sense for Drug Policy. Mike was the board chair of CSDP, and Doug and I are both board members.

Documentary: How to Make Money Selling Drugs

A new documentary from Tribeca Films has hit the wires. How to Make Money Selling Drugs was produced by Adrian Grenier ("Entourage") and Bert Marcus, and directed by Matthew Cooke. It features interviews with celebrities Russell Simmons, Susan Sarandon, David Simon (creator of "The Wire"), and Arianna Huffington. Some of my colleagues also figure in the movie, including Neill Franklin, Eric Sterling and Howard Wooldridge, among others.

It is opening in select theaters in some cities (see the web site for info), and is available through iTunes and OnDemand. There's also an iPhone app, Tug of War on Drugs.

Cameron Douglas Writes from Behind Bars

Actor Cameron Douglas was serving five years prison time for a drug law violation, when he was tested positive for drug use. The judge added 4.5 more years to his sentence, the heaviest penalty ever dealt out in that situation. He wrote an editorial, "Words Behind Walls," submitted by his girlfriend on his behalf to the Huffington Post.

"Words Behind Walls" is not mainly about his own story -- although he goes into being kept in solitary confinement for 11 months -- but mostly about the tragedy and injustice of half a million nonviolent drug offenders in the prisons and jails, many simply in a cycle of addiction and relapse like he is.

His piece, linked above, is worth reading -- but not before I remark on the incomprehensible cruelty shown by the judge in this case. That judge must be some kind of lost soul himself. At least that is how it looks from here.

Celebrities Urge Obama Forward on Drug, Sentencing Reform [FEATURE]

A coalition of more than 175 artists, actors, athletes, elected officials, and civil rights and civil liberties advocates Tuesday sent an open letter to President Obama urging him to redouble his efforts to shift from a punitive, repressive federal criminal justice policy to one emphasizing prevention and rehabilitation.

Russell Simmons, 2012 Tribeca Film Festival (courtesy David Shankbone via Wikimedia)
The US is the world's leading incarcerator, with more than 2.3 million people behind bars. The US leads the world both in absolute numbers of prisoners and in prisoners per capita, with 715 per capita, comfortably leading the nearest per capita contenders, Russia (584) and Belarus (554).

Of those 2.3 million people behind bars, more than 500,000 are charged with drug offenses. While the number of prisoners being held by the states and the number of drug offenders held by the states have begun to decline slightly in recent years as state-level policy makers grapple with economic problems, the federal prison population continues to grow, driven in part by drug offenders. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were some 95,000 federal drug war prisoners at the end of 2011, nearly half the federal prison population. That's up from only 70,000 a decade ago.

"It is critical that we change both the way we think about drug laws in this country and how we generate positive solutions that leave a lasting impact on rebuilding our communities," said hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, who helped organize the star-studded effort. "We need to break the school to prison pipeline, support and educate our younger generations and provide them with a path that doesn’t leave them disenfranchised with limited options."

In the letter, the coalition praised Obama for criminal justice reforms he had undertaken, such as the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced (but did not eliminate) the crack-powder cocaine sentencing disparity, but urged him to do more. "Mr. President, it is evident that you have demonstrated a commitment to pursue alternatives to the enforcement-only "War on Drugs" approach and address the increased incarceration rates for non-violent crimes," the letter said. "We believe the time is right to further the work you have done around revising our national policies on the criminal justice system and continue moving from a suppression-based model to one that focuses on intervention and rehabilitation."

The coalition called for specific reforms.

"Some of the initial policies we recommend is, under the Fair Sentencing Act, extend to all inmates who were subject to 100-to-1 crack-to-powder disparity a chance to have their sentences reduced to those that are more consistent with the magnitude of the offense," the letter said. "We ask your support for the principles of the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 (Senate Bill 619), which allows judges to set aside mandatory minimum sentences when they deem appropriate."

The letter also implicitly chided the Obama administration for its failure to make much use of his power to pardon and commute sentences. In fact, Obama has pardoned prisoners or commuted sentences at a much lower rate than any of his recent predecessors. He has granted only 39 pardons and one commutation (of a terminally ill cancer patient) in five years in office, while failing to act on such deserving and well-publicized cases as that of Clarence Aaron, who is now 20 years into a triple life sentence for a cocaine deal in which he was neither the buyer, seller, or supplier of the drugs.

"We ask that you form a panel to review requests for clemency that come to the Office of the Pardon Attorney," the letter said. "Well-publicized errors and omissions by this office have caused untold misery to thousands of people."

The letter also applauded Obama's "staunch commitment" to reentry programs for prisoners who have finished their sentences and urged him to expand those transition programs, and it urged him to support the Youth Prison Reduction through Opportunities, Mentoring, Intervention, Support, and Education (Youth PROMISE) Act (House Bill 1318), "a bill that brings much needed focus on violence and gang intervention and prevention work."

The coalition also asked for a meeting with the president.

"We request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these ideas further and empower our coalition to help you achieve your goals of reducing crime, lowering drug use, preventing juvenile incarceration and lowering recidivism rates," the letter said.

From the Hollywood community, signatories to the letter included: Roseanne Barr, Russell Brand, Jim Carrey, Cedric The Entertainer, Margaret Cho, Cameron Diaz, Mike Epps, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm, Woody Harrelson, Ron Howard, Eugene Jarecki, Scarlett Johannson, the Kardashians, LL Cool J, Eva Longoria, Demi Moore, Michael Moore, Tim Robbins, Chris Rock, Susan Sarandon, Sarah Silverman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith, and Mark Wahlberg.

From the music community, signatories included: Big Boi of Outkast, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Chuck D, DJ Envy, DJ Pauly D, Ani Difranco, Missy Elliot, Ghostface Killah, Ginuwine, Jennifer Hudson, Ice-T, Talib Kweli, John Legend, Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Natalie Maines, Nicky Minaj, Busta Rhymes, Rick Ross, RZA, and Angela Yee.

From the civil rights and civil liberties community, signatories included: Harry Belafonte, Julian Bond, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition leader Neill Franklin, Rev. Jesse Jackson, NAACP head Benjamin Todd Jealous, National Urban League leader Marc Morial, Drug Policy Alliance head Ethan Nadelmann, Rev. Al Sharpton, ACLU head Anthony Romero, Families Against Mandatory Minimums head Julie Stewart, and Dr. Boyce Watkins.

From the faith community, signatories included:  Bishop James Clark, Bishop Noel Jones, Bishop Clarence Laney, Bishop Edgar Vann, Dr. Iva Carruthers, Deepak Chopra, Father Michael Pfleger, Rabbi Robyn Fryer Bodzin, Rabbi Menachem Creditor, Rabbi Nina Mandel, Rev. Jamal Bryant, Rev. Delman Coates, Rev. Leah D. Daughtry, Rev. Dr. Fredrick Haynes, Rev. Michael McBride, Rev. Dr. W Franklyn Richardson, and Rev. Barbara Skinner Williams.

Media and academic figures who signed on include: CNN's TJ Holmes, Radio One's Cathy Hughes and Alfred Liggins, former MSNBC host (and now hydroponic farmer!) Dylan Ratigan, "The New Jim Crow" author Michelle Alexander, Michael Eric Dyson, Naomi Klein, Julianne Malveaux, and Spelman College's Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum.

Also signing were businessmen Virgin Airlines magnate Sir Richard Branson, US Black Chamber of Commerce head Ron Busby, and St. Louis Rams owner Chip Rosenbloom, elected officials Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN), Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), Congressman Bobby Rush (D-IL), and Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), and professional athletes Brendon Ayanbadejo, Lamar Odom, Isaiah Thomas, and MikeTyson, among others.

"The letter is intended to be a respectful appeal to the Obama administration asking that we develop productive pathways to supporting families that have been harmed by the War on Drugs," said Dr. Boyce Watkins, author, entrepreneur, and current scholar in residence in entrepreneurship and innovation at Syracuse University. "Countless numbers of children have been waiting decades for their parents to come home, and America is made safer if we break the cycle of mass incarceration. Time is of the essence, for with each passing year that we allow injustice to prevail, our nation loses another piece of its soul. We must carefully examine the impact of the War on Drugs and the millions of living, breathing Americans who've been affected.  It is, quite simply, the right thing to do."

"So called 'tough on crime' policies have failed our nation and its families, while 'smart on crime' policies work," said NAACP head Benjamin Todd Jealous. "When we know that drug treatment is seven times more effective than incarceration for drug addicts, basic human decency demands our nation makes the switch. The fate of hundreds of people and the children who need them home and sober hang in the balance. Great progress is being made in states from New York to Georgia with strong bipartisan support. The time has come for all of us to do all that we can. The future of our families, states, and nation demand it."

Will President Obama respond to this clarion call for action? Stay tuned.

Bill Maher Talks 'Offshore' Pot Smoking and the War on Drugs

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, the insanely smart and funny Real Time host talks Palin, marijuana, and politics, among other topics. Here -- in honor of 4/20 -- is the marijuana part.
Publication/Source: 
Rolling Stone (NY)
URL: 
http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/bill-maher-talks-offshore-pot-smoking-and-the-war-on-drugs-20110420

Marijuana Is Serious Business, But Leno and Conan are Hooked on Bad Pot Jokes

Although cannabis has been known to give people the giggles, there isn't exactly an abundance of amusement to be found in U.S. marijuana policy. Even as the nation moves towards a more sensible approach to the drug, our top comedians are still looking for laughs and coming up short.

Last week's news that the medical marijuana market is valued at $1.7 billion and will soon outsell Viagra was destined to become the butt of a late-night groaner or two, but Leno and Conan managed to mangle this one even worse than anyone could have anticipated. Here's Jay Leno's attempt (at 4:20, which I hope is a coincidence):


And here's Conan (at 4:40):




Of course, these guys are just doing their jobs, and I'm sure the combined marijuana/Viagra hook on this one was just too much to pass up. But is marijuana so funny that you don't even need a serviceable punchline to joke about it? Leno's was insulting to sick people, and Conan's didn't even make sense (at least not to me or Andy Richter).

So, at the risk of sounding like a humorless, oversensitive social justice advocate, I'm calling out the purveyors of pathetic attempts at pot comedy. I care too much about both humor and cannabis to let either be degraded any further by the false assumption that jokes about pot are automatically funny. The opposite has been made clear to a cringe-inducing extent too many times now, and I think we could all use a break and perhaps a period of reflection in which to carefully consider what is and is not amusing about marijuana. For example, we all know that it can give you the munchies, but the whole pot-makes-you-eat-twinkies punchline deserves to die. Jokes about glaucoma are lower still.

None of this is to say that comedians can't or shouldn’t ever joke about marijuana, but rather that what passes for a pot joke really ought to be re-examined. In particular, if professionals like Leno and Conan are having a hard time pulling this stuff off, then there's absolutely no excuse for public officials to look for laughs when responding to serious concerns about the harms of our marijuana laws (see here or here for gratuitous examples).

As a culture, marijuana users have survived far worse than a few dumb jokes, but it's gotten old nonetheless, and meanwhile those who've advocated our continued persecution have often escaped the mockery they so thoroughly deserve. I'd love to see Conan take a jab at the Drug Czar one of these days. In the meantime, please share your favorite (or least favorite) pot jokes in the comment section.

U.K. Reggae Star Smiley Culture Dies During Drug Raid

Location: 
United Kingdom
British reggae musician Smiley Culture has died after a drug raid on his home. The incident at Culture’s home is currently being investigated by the U.K. Independent Police Complaints Commission, after having been reported by Scotland Yard.
Publication/Source: 
National Post (Canada)
URL: 
http://arts.nationalpost.com/2011/03/15/u-k-reggae-star-smiley-culture-dies-during-drug-raid/

Tommy Chong Lights Up Canadian New Democratic Party Campaign

Location: 
BC
Canada
Other contenders for B.C.'s NDP leadership race might be making campaign promises and rolling out platforms, but candidate and pot activist Dana Larsen is bringing out actor and comedian Tommy Chong. The celebrity marijuana user — one half of the former movie duo Cheech and Chong — has publicly endorsed Larsen for the leadership.
Publication/Source: 
CBC Radio-Canda (Canada)
URL: 
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/03/07/bc-larsen-ndp-tommy-chong.html

The Promise of Psychedelic Healing: Entheogens, Psychotherapy and Spiritual Development

An evening with Neal Goldsmith and special guests John Perry Barlow, Julie Holland, Daniel Pinchbeck, Rick Doblin, and Ethan Nadelmann. And a dance party.

Join Evolver.net and Mangusta Productions for a mind expanding night of psychedelic exploration. Banned after promising research in the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, the use of psychedelics as therapeutic catalysts is now being rediscovered -- a topic covered by Neal Goldsmith's new book, Psychedelic Healing: The Promise of Entheogens for Psychotherapy and Spiritual Development (Inner Traditions, 2011). Come celebrate its publication with a kaleidoscopic conversation featuring five of the leading figures in this field, speaking on the latest theories, research, and legal developments.

How can psychedelic experiences shape personality and healing? Can psychedelic psychotherapy truly can be transformative, either individually or collectively? Can humanity change course from an impending human dieback and blossom to create a truly integral planet?

Come for a reading and discussion with:

Neal Goldsmith, Ph.D, Psychotherapist specializing in psychospiritual development. A frequent speaker on spiritual on spiritual emergence, drug policy reform, and post-modern society. Author of Psychedelic Healing: The Promise of Entheogens for Psychotherapy and Spiritual Development

Rick Doblin, Ph.D., President and Founder of Multidisciplinary Association of Psychedelic Science (MAPS). His dissertation was on “The Regulation of the Medical Use of Psychedelics and Marijuana and his master’s thesis (Harvard) focused on the attitudes and experiences of oncologists concerning the medical use of marijuana.

John Perry Barlow, Visionary, former Grateful Dead lyricist, and a founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization which promotes freedom of expression in digital media.

Julie Holland, M.D., Psychiatrist specializing in psychopharmacology. Author of Ecstasy: The Complete Guide and bestselling Weekends at Bellevue and editor of The Pot Book: A Complete Guide to Cannabis and Ecstacy: The Complete Guide.

Daniel Pinchbeck, Bestselling author of 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl, Notes from the Edge of Time, and Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey into the Heart of Contemporary Shaminism; Co-editor of Toward 2012: Perspectives on the Next Age. Daniel is the editorial director of RealitySandwich.com, and co-founder of Evolver.net.

Ethan Nadelmann, Ph.D., founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the leading organization in the United States promoting alternatives to the war on drugs. Author of Cops Across Borders, the first scholarly study of the internationalization of U.S. criminal law enforcement, and co-author of Policing the Globe: Criminalization and Crime Control in International Relations.

Dance Celebration follows discussion with live music performance by JahFurry & Kochie Banton with the I & I Drum Link. DJ sets by Krister Linder and Winslow Porter.

Cash bar – organic beer, wine and drinks.
Astoria's own Beyond Kombucha presents a special blend for the event.
Snacks by Xango.

Doors at 7:30, panel at 8:00, dance celebration 11pm – 2am

Price - $25, $20 for Evolver Social Network Members (e-mail psychedelichealing@gmail.com for info); $15 after midnight.

To purchase tickets please go to http://psychedelichealing.eventbrite.com/. Tickets will sell out so to guarantee your entrance, get yours ahead of time.

Date: 
Fri, 02/04/2011 - 7:30pm - Sat, 02/05/2011 - 2:00am
Location: 
446 Broadway 3rd floor Safe Harbor
New York, NY 10013
United States

Senator Margaret Rose Henry Introduces Medical Marijuana Bill in Delaware (Press Release)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JANUARY 25, 2011

Senator Margaret Rose Henry Introduces Medical Marijuana

Bill in Delaware

Delaware Patients Join Montel Williams, Multiple Sclerosis Patient & Former Talk Show Host, in Dover to Urge Passage of Medical Marijuana Bill

CONTACT: Morgan Fox, MPP communications manager ……………….… 202-905-2031 or mfox@mpp.org

DOVER, DELAWARE — State Senator Margaret Rose Henry and three Senate co-sponsors today introduced SB 17 in the Delaware State Senate, calling for a common sense approach to providing compassionate care for seriously ill patients seeking relief with medical marijuana. Rep. Helene Keeley is the prime sponsor in the House, with eight co-sponsoring House members on the bill.

            Montel Williams, a popular former talk show host and multiple sclerosis patient, will attend today’s legislative session to meet with lawmakers and the Governor to urge them to support SB 17. Passage of the bill would allow Delaware patients suffering from several devastating illnesses to receive medical marijuana upon the recommendations of their doctors. Neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis is one of the ailments for which marijuana has been shown to provide relief.

            Sen. Henry and Mr. Williams were joined at a press conference today by Joe Scarborough, an HIV/AIDS patient and longtime advocate, as well as Don Brill, a cancer survivor who created the patient advocacy website Delawareans for Medical Marijuana to keep patients informed and provide them with a forum for discussing their experiences.

            “Delaware legislators have been listening to patients and families in community meetings and the stories they’ve heard changed minds and hearts,” Sen. Henry said. “Legislators have begun to understand the very real need for legislative action to allow this treatment option without in any way undermining law enforcement or the prosecution of those engaged in the recreational use of marijuana. This bill carries forward common sense restrictions that are now part of state law and it provides an appropriately strong component that is right for our communities.”

            Williams has been using medical marijuana for a decade to treat the pain and spasms associated with his degenerative disease. “The Delaware legislature should act without delay to make marijuana legally available for medical use,” Williams said. “Every day that legislators delay is another day of needless suffering for patients like me all across the state.”

            Williams noted that 15 states and Washington, D.C. already have passed laws that allow the medical use of marijuana to treat patients suffering from cancer, HIV/AIDS, and similarly devastating diseases. “Delaware lawmakers now have an opportunity to ensure that patients suffering in Delaware will be treated with the same compassion as patients fortunate enough to live in one of those 15 other states,” said Williams, who retired from the U.S. Navy as Lieutenant Commander after more than two decades of service prior to beginning his television career.

            Under SB 17, qualified patients could obtain medical marijuana from state-licensed medical cannabis organizations regulated by the State Department of Health and Social Services, which would also issue medical marijuana ID cards to patients who receive recommendations from their doctors. Public use of marijuana and driving under the influence would be prohibited.

            Nationally, the American Nurses Association, American Public Health Association, American Academy of HIV Medicine, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, and many other respected health organizations have endorsed the efficacy of medical marijuana.

            With more than 124,000 members and supporters nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. For more information, please visit www.mpp.org.

####

Location: 
DE
United States

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