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Marc Emery in Solitary Confinement in American Federal Gulag; Podcast of Prison Phone Call Broke BOP Rules

Canadian "Prince of Pot" Marc Emery hasn't even been formally sentenced yet, but he's already being punished for what he does best: opening his mouth for the cause of marijuana legalization. Emery's wife, Jodie, told Canada's CNews Saturday that Emery is now in solitary confinement for violating prison rules. According to Jodie Emery, she recorded his calls from prison and played them as a podcast on the couple's Cannabis Culture magazine web site. That violated a prison rule that phone calls can only be made between a prisoner and the intended recipient and cannot be directed to a third party. Jodie Emery said Marc had read the prison rules and did not think the podcast would be a violation. Now he will spend at least a week in solitary pending a hearing to determine the full extent of his punishment. Emery, Canada's most famous legalization activist, pleaded guilty May 24 to one count of conspiracy to manufacture marijuana, the culmination of a five-year battle between Emery and Canadian and US authorities to extradite and prosecute him for selling pot seeds over the Internet. Two of Emery's employees arrested along with him, Greg Williams and Michelle Rainey, earlier copped pleas and received probationary sentences to be served in Canada. Emery plowed the profits from his business back into the legalization movement, earning the wrath of drug prohibition establishment in both countries. When Emery was busted in 2005, then DEA administrator Karen Tandy gloated in a press release that it was "a significant blow not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the US and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement." Under federal prison rules, Emery is allowed 300 minutes of phone calls a month and he can communicate via email through a closed computer system called CorrLinks, under which he can log onto a computer and compose a message that is read by prison officials before they send it over the Internet. Emery had used CorrLinks to post numerous dispatches from the gulag, but now, he is denied those privileges and could lose them for up to two months. Emery will remain in the Seattle-area federal detention facility until his formal sentencing September 10. Then he will be transferred to the federal prison at El Reno, Oklahoma, where prison officials will decide where he will be sent to serve his time. Emery's campaign to avoid extradition has now shifted to a campaign to persuade Canadian authorities to allow him to serve his sentence there, as has typically been the case with Canadians convicted of offenses in the US. But the Conservative government has in recent years begun to refuse to accept Canadians imprisoned on drug charges in the US.
Location: 
Seattle, WA
United States
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Marijuana Legalization: California Tax and Regulate Has Eight-Point Lead in Latest Poll, But Still Under 50%

According to a Los Angeles Times/USC poll released Tuesday, the California Tax and Regulate Cannabis initiative has the support of 49% of voters, while 41% are opposed, and 10% are undecided. The figures are in line with other recent polls. Two weeks ago, an internal campaign poll had support at 51% and another public opinion poll had it at 49%. The bad news for initiative supporters in the latest poll is that it needs 50% plus one vote to win, and it isn't there yet. The good news, however, is that the initiative only needs to pick up one out of five of those undecided voters to go over the top. Or, as Dan Schnur, director of USC's Jesse M. Unruh institute of politics put it: "The good news for proponents is that they are starting off with a decent lead. The good news for the opposition is that initiatives that start off at less than 50% in the polls usually have a hard time." The poll also questioned voters about their marijuana use histories, finding that 37% had tried pot and 11% had smoked it within the last year. Not surprisingly, those who had smoked within the last year favored the initiative by more than four-to-one (82%). This latest poll, like previous ones, points to women, especially married women, as a key demographic. While men favor the initiative, women are split, and among married women, 49% oppose the initiative while 40% are in favor. Pollsters also asked about some of the key arguments made by supporters and opponents of the initiative. When asked whether they thought legalization marijuana could raise a billion dollars in revenue, 42% said yes, while 38% said that figure was wildly exaggerated. Voters in Los Angeles, where dispensaries spread like wildfire in the last half of the last decade, were most likely to believe that such revenues could be generated. When asked whether legalizing marijuana would worsen social problems, voters were similarly split, although such concerns especially resonated with those who oppose the initiative. Of that group, 83% think freeing the weed would increase crime and teen marijuana. Fifty-five percent of married women also think that. Attitudes toward legalization diverge sharply by age, with support much higher among younger voters. A 52% majority of voters 65 and older oppose legalization. Among voters between 45 and 64, 49% support it. But among those 30 to 44, 53% are in favor, and that rises to 61% among those 18 to 29. The next five months is going to be very interesting. But if the tax and regulate initiative is to emerge victorious at the polls come November, it has its work cut out for it. And it looks very much like the path to victory is going to have to go through mom.
Location: 
CA
United States
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Marc Emery Will Be Extradited; Headed for Five Years in America's Gulag

As the Canada Press reports:
Marc Emery's lawyer says the self-described “Prince of Pot” has been ordered extradited to the United States. Kirk Tousaw says he received word from the federal justice department shortly after the long time marijuana advocate turned himself into custody today that the minister has decided to sign off on his extradition. Mr. Emery has been out on bail since last fall, when he was released from custody as the minister made the final decision in his case. He made a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors last year, agreeing to plead guilty in connection to his Vancouver-based seed-selling business in return for a sentence of five years in prison. It's not clear when Mr. Emery will be sent to the U.S., but Mr. Tousaw says he expects it will happen within the week.
Emery turned himself in this morning. This was the day Justice Minister Rob Nicholson had to decide whether to okay the extradition, deny it, or postpone a decision. Emery spoke briefly before vanishing into the gulag:
“I think of myself as a great Canadian – I've worked my whole life for individual freedom in this country, I've never asked for anything in return,” Mr. Emery told reporters outside B.C. Supreme Court in downtown Vancouver, with his wife by his side and a throng of supporters carrying “Free Marc” signs. “And now I will be possibly handed over to the United States for a five-year sentence for the so-called crime of selling seeds from my desk. I'm proud of what I've done, and I have no regrets.”
Well, I, for one, can rest easier tonight knowing this dangerous criminal is behind bars.
Location: 
Vancouver, BC
Canada
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DC City Council Approves Medical Marijuana Bill, Advocates Criticize Restrictions

The District of Columbia City Council Tuesday voted unanimously to give final approval to a bill that would legalize the use of medical marijuana in the nation's capital. But while medical marijuana advocates welcomed the move, they complained that the bill is unduly restrictive. It is not quite a done deal. The bill now goes to Mayor Adrian Fenty for his signature. After that happens, it must then undergo a mandatory 30-day review by Congress, but since Congress last year lifted the rider that had barred DC from implementing medical marijuana ever since voters approved it in 1998, it is not expected to turn around and kill it in the District now. The measure allows for five distribution centers to provide marijuana to seriously ill patients suffering from chronic or debilitating medical conditions. That number could rise to eight under rule-making authority held by the mayor. Distribution centers can be for-profit or non-profit and must be at least 300 feet from schools. Marijuana for patients will be grown in registered cultivation centers. Each center will be allowed to grow no more than 95 plants. Patients may legally obtain marijuana only from distribution centers. They may not legally grow their own supply or procure it outside the DC medical marijuana system. Patients may possess no more than two ounces of marijuana per month, although the mayor is authorized to raise that cap to four ounces under his rule-making authority. Patients can only use their medicine at home. The final bill is largely unchanged from the bill approved two weeks ago, much to the chagrin of medical marijuana advocates. They had sought a number of changes, including: • Removing the language prohibiting patients from using marijuana or paraphernalia not obtained from a licensed dispensary. • Removing the limitation to home consumption in favor of a simple public smoking ban. • Including severe, chronic pain as a qualifying condition for patients. • Removing the cap of 95 plants on cultivation centers. • Increased possession/purchasing limits. • Including home cultivation. Advocates did not get the changes they wanted, leaving DC with a medical marijuana law that is one of the most restrictive in the land. All they got was the future possibility of raising the possession and purchasing cap for patients. Still, a medical marijuana law is a medical marijuana law. "Today marks a long overdue victory for D.C. voters and potentially thousands of chronically ill residents who will benefit from legal access to medical marijuana," said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. "It has taken nearly 12 years, but the District will at last have a law that recognizes the mounting scientific consensus that, for many conditions, marijuana can be safe and effective medicine." The DC medical marijuana program would allow members of Congress to get a first-hand look at how such programs work and ease the passage of medical marijuana legislation at the federal level, O'Keefe suggested. "A well-working medical marijuana program in the nation’s capital will also provide members of Congress who have never seen such programs up close with a unique opportunity to do so, she said. Once they see for themselves that these laws do nothing but provide compassionate care for seriously ill patients, hopefully they will understand the need to create a federal policy that no longer criminalizes patients in any state who could benefit from this legitimate treatment option." The Drug Policy Alliance also welcomed passage of the bill, but was more critical of its faults. "The DC Council should be congratulated for exempting AIDS, cancer and other patients from the punitive war on marijuana," said national affairs director Bill Piper. "No one should face jail for using marijuana, especially patients following their doctor’s recommendation. This has been a long fight, but the voice of DC voters is finally starting to be heard." Piper noted that DC voters passed medical marijuana with 69% of the vote in 1998 and accused the council of ignoring what voters wanted. "While the Council is heeding the will of voters in important areas, such as allowing the regulated sale of marijuana for medical use, it is ignoring the will of voters in other important areas – most notably by prohibiting patients from growing their own medicine; a key component of the 1998 initiative, and a key component of medical marijuana laws in 13 states," he said. "The legislation also only protects patients from arrest if they use marijuana obtained from a dispensary. Yet experience in other states show that dispensaries routinely face shortages of marijuana. And the federal government could shut down DC’s dispensaries. If either happens, patients will be forced to buy their marijuana from non-dispensary sources. They shouldn’t face arrest for doing so. No patient should face arrest for following their doctor’s recommendation. This is a glaring problem with the legislation; the Council needs to fix it or the health of patients could be undermined." The reaction from Americans for Safe Access (ASA) was similar. "We are certainly excited to implement a bill that has taken 11 years to see the light of day," said Steph Sherer, ASA executive director. "However, the District Council's failure to listen to patients' needs will have serious unintended effects that may force us to work for years to correct." Once the legislation takes effect, DC will join 14 states that recognize medical marijuana.
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
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Public Opinion: California Support for Pot Legalization At 56% in New Poll

A SurveyUSA poll conducted this week for a consortium of California television stations showed majority support for marijuana legalization. An initiative that would do just that, Control and Tax Cannabis California 2019, will be on the ballot in November. The poll found that 56% of those surveyed responded affirmatively to the question, "Should the state of California legalize marijuana?" That's the same number as supported legalization in a Field poll a year ago this month. In this week's poll, only 42% answered negatively, with 3% undecided. People under 35 supported legalization by a margin of three-to-one (74%-25%), with support declining to 46% among the 35-to-49 age group, rising to 49% among the 50-64 group, then declining again to 39% among those 65 and older. Among all voters under age 50, support was at 61%, while among those over 50, it dropped to 46% The poll revealed a significant gender gap, with 65% of men supporting legalization, while a dramatically lower 46% of women supported it. That means legalization supporters will have to work to win over a key demographic. There was majority support for legalization among all ethnic groups except Hispanics, of whom only 45% wanted to free the weed. Support was highest among blacks (67%), followed by whites (59%), and Asians (58%). Somewhat surprisingly, there was majority support for legalization in all regions of the state, although only barely, except for the San Francisco Bay area, where support was at 65%. In Central California and the Inland Empire, support was at 54%, and in the Greater Los Angeles area, support was at 52%. The poll was conducted Tuesday and involved interviews with 500 adults across the state. It has a margin of sampling error of plus/minus 4.4%.
Location: 
CA
United States
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Jack Herer Has Died

Jack Herer, author of "The Emperor Wears No Clothes," died this morning in Eugene, Oregon. He had been in ill health since suffering a heart attack at the Portland Hempstock Festival last Fall. Here's the report from the Salem News:
The Hemperor, Jack Herer has Died (SALEM, Ore.) - The sad news has been confirmed. Jack Herer, author of Emperor Wears No Clothes and renowned around the world for hemp activism, has died at 11:17 a.m. today, in Eugene, Oregon. Jack Herer suffered a heart attack last September just after speaking on stage at the Portland HempStalk festival. The last seven months have proven to be a huge challenge to the man, with several health issues making his recovery complicated. Jack Herer's health has been poor lately, this last week there have been reports of the severity, and an outpouring of prayers on his behalf. "It's shocking news, even after these last seven, trying months," said Paul Stanford, THCF Executive Director. "Jack Herer has been a good friend and associate of mine for over 30 years. I was there when he had the heart attack at our Hempstalk festival and I know he wouldn’t appreciate the quality of life he's endured these last months. Still he will be greatly missed. I honor his memory." "No other single person has done more to educate people all across the world about industrial hemp and marijuana as Jack Herer. His book is translated into a dozen different languages, it's a bestseller in Germany," added Stanford. "The Hempstalk stage will forever be the Jack Herer Memorial stage. And, a Memorial is planned to be built where he fell that day," Stanford said. "His legacy will continue to inspire and encourage for generations to come."
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UPDATE: Philadelphia DA on Philly's "Decrim"

Earlier today, I blogged about Philadelphia embracing a sort of decriminalization of minor marijuana possession based on an article that appeared today in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It appears that article not only caught my attention, but also that of a lot of Philadelphians, who have been calling up the DA's office all day. This afternoon, District Attorney Seth Williams issued the following statement of clarification:
Based upon inquiries to this office it appears that some confusion exists regarding potential changes in charging policy when it comes to minimal amounts of marijuana. "We are not decriminalizing marijuana--any effort like that would be one for the legislature to undertake. The penalty available for these minimal amount offenses remains exactly the same. What we are doing is properly dealing with cases involving minimal amounts of marijuana in the most efficient and cost effective process possible. Those arrested for these offenses will still be restrained, identified and processed by police in police custody. They will still have to answer to the charges, but they will be doing so in a speedier and more efficient process. We want to use valuable court resources in the best way possible and we believe that means giving minor drug offenders the option of getting into diversionary programs, get drug education or enter drug treatment centers. Again we are NOT decriminalizing marijuana, and the penalty for these offenses remains the same."
It looks like DA Williams is trying to have it both ways. The Inquirer story--which Williams doesn't contradict in his statement--says that small-time pot offenders will be sent to a special "quality of life" court and fined. While Williams is correct that it would be that state legislature that woud decriminalize marijuana possession, It is a sort of de facto partial decriminalization, with people arrested, but not processed in the criminal courts or jailed upon conviction. I'll try to have this cleared up by the time we publish the Chronicle story about it on Friday.
Location: 
Philadelphia, PA
United States
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Marijuana: Philadelphia to Decriminalize Possession of Up to 30 Grams, But Arrests to Continue Anyway

People caught with 30 grams (a bit more than an ounce) or less of marijuana in Philadelphia will no longer be charged with criminal misdemeanors, but with civil summary offenses under a new policy that will go into effect later this month. Fines are expected to be in the $200 to $300 range. But while pot smokers won't face criminal charges, they will still be arrested, handcuffed, searched, detained, and fingerprinted. Then, their cases will be heard by a special "quality of life" court that is already in use for things like dealing with unruly Eagles fans and public drinking. "We're not going stop locking people up," Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, told the Philadelphia Inquirer, . Marijuana possession remained illegal, he said. "We're going to stop people for it. . . . Our officers are trained to do that. Whether or not they make it through the charging process, that's up to the D We can't control that. Until they legalize it, we're not going to stop." According to the Inquirer, the policy shift is the result of a collaboration between new District Attorney Seth Williams and a pair of Pennsylvania Supreme Court judges. It is part of an effort to unclog the city's overwhelmed court dockets. Under Williams' predecessor, former DA Lynn Abraham, police arrested an average of 3,000 people a year for small-time pot possession, about 75% of them black. That figure represents roughly 5% of the city's criminal caseload. About another 2,000 are arrested for marijuana distribution and 2,500 more are arrested for possession of more than 30 grams. Overall, enforcing drug prohibition has resulted in about 18,000 arrests a year in Philadelphia, or nearly one-third of the entire criminal caseload. "We have to be smart on crime," Williams told the Inquirer. "We can't declare a war on drugs by going after the kid who's smoking a joint on 55th Street. We have to go after the large traffickers." Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald Castille, one of the two justices who worked with Williams on the policy shift, said decrim was "appropriate" for such a small-time offense. "It's a minor crime when you're faced with major drug crimes." Removing such cases from the criminal courts, he said, "unclogs the system." Philadelphia NORML has been quietly lobbying city officials for the change. "The marijuana consumers of Philadelphia welcome this," said chapter head Chris Goldstein. "This is a very progressive thing to do on the part of the city," Goldstein said of the new policy. "I couldn't be happier about this." Goldstein was much less enthused by the continued arrests policy. "It is completely absurd," he said. "It's harsh. For minor marijuana possession, it's very harsh treatment." In most states and localities with decriminalization laws or policies, people are merely issued a ticket after police seize their stash. Still, this is a quarter-step forward for Philadelphia.
Location: 
Philadelphia, PA
United States
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It's Official! California Marijuana Legalization Initiative Qualifies for the November Ballot

Californians will be voting on whether to legalize marijuana in November. The California Secretary of State's office Wednesday certified the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 initiative as having handed in enough valid voters' signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The initiative is sponsored by Oaksterdam medical marijuana entrepreneur Richard Lee and would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults and allow for personal grows of up to 25 square feet. It also provides for the taxed and regulated sale of marijuana by local option, meaning counties and municipalities could opt out of legalized marijuana sales. Some 433,000 valid signatures were required to make the ballot; the initiative campaign had gathered some 690,000. On Tuesday, state officials had certified 415,000 signatures as valid, but that didn't include signatures from Los Angeles County. Initiative supporters there Wednesday handed in more than 140,000 signatures. With an overall signature validity rate of around 80%, that as much as ensured that the measure would make the ballot. Late Wednesday afternoon, California Secretary of State's office made it official. Its web page listing Qualified Ballot Measures now includes the marijuana legalization under initiative approved for the November ballot. The 104,000 valid signatures from Los Angeles County put it well over the top. "This is a watershed moment in the decades-long struggle to end marijuana prohibition in this country," said Stephen Gutwillig, California director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Banning marijuana outright has been a disaster, fueling a massive, increasingly brutal underground economy, wasting billions in scarce law enforcement resources, and making criminals of countless law-abiding citizens. Elected officials haven’t stopped these punitive, profligate policies. Now voters can bring the reality check of sensible marijuana regulation to California." "If passed, this initiative would offer a welcome change to California’s miserable status quo marijuana policy," said Aaron Smith, California policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which recently endorsed the initiative. "Our current marijuana laws are failing California. Year after year, prohibition forces police to spend time chasing down non-violent marijuana offenders while tens of thousands of violent crimes go unsolved – all while marijuana use and availability remain unchanged." Proponents of the measure will emphasize the fiscal impact of taxing marijuana—the state Board of Equalization has estimated that it legalization could generate $1.3 billion in tax revenues a year—as well as the impact of regulation could have on reducing teen access to the weed. They can also point out that by now, California has lived with a form of regulated marijuana distribution—the medical marijuana dispensary system—for years and the sky hasn't fallen. Opponents, which will largely consist of law enforcement lobbying groups, community anti-drug organizations, and elements of the African-American religious community, will argue that marijuana is a dangerous drug, and that crime and drugged driving will increase. But if opponents want to play the cop card, initiative organizers have some cards of their own. In a press release Wednesday evening, they had several former law enforcement figures lined up in support of taxation and regulation. "As a retired Orange County Judge, I've been on the front lines of the drug war for three decades, and I know from experience that the current approach is simply not working," said Retired Superior Court Judge James Gray. "Controlling marijuana with regulations similar to those currently in place for alcohol will put street drug dealers and organized crime out of business." "The Control and Tax Initiative is a welcome change for law enforcement in California," said Kyle Kazan, a retired Torrance Police officer. "It will allow police to get back to work fighting violent crime." Jeffrey Studdard, a former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff, emphasized the significant controls created by the Control and Tax Initiative to safely and responsibly regulate cannabis. "The initiative will toughen penalties for providing marijuana to minors, ban possession at schools, and prohibit public consumption," Studdard said. The campaign should be a nail-biter. Legalization polled 56% in an April Field poll, and initiative organizers say their own private research is showing similar results. But the conventional wisdom among initiative watchers is that polling needs to be above 60% at the beginning of the campaign, before attacks on specific aspects of any given initiative begin to erode support. But despite the misgivings of some movement allies, who cringe at the thought of defeat in California, this year's legalization vote is now a reality. "California led the way on medical marijuana with Prop 215 in 1996,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Now it’s time again for California to lead the way in ending the follies of marijuana prohibition in favor of a responsible policy of tax and regulation."
Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States
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New Jersey MS Patient Sent to Prison for Five Years for Growing His Medicine

New Jersey Multiple Sclerosis patient John Ray Wilson was sentenced last Friday to five years in prison for growing marijuana plants to ease his symptoms. Wilson, whose case we profiled in December, originally faced up to 20 years in prison, but a jury failed to convict him of the most serious, maintaining a habitation where marijuana is manufactured. He was convicted of manufacturing marijuana (17 plants) and possession of psychedelic mushrooms. Wilson was convicted in December, before New Jersey recognized medical marijuana. Ironically, it became the 14th state to do so between the time Wilson was convicted and his sentencing. But the new New Jersey law would not have protected Wilson's marijuana growing because it only allows for patients to obtain it at state-monitored dispensaries. State Superior Court Judge Robert Reed banned any references to Wilson's medical condition during his trial, finding that personal use was not a defense and that New Jersey had no law protecting medical marijuana use. Wilson was ultimately able to make a brief, one-sentence mention of his medical reasons for growing marijuana, but that wasn't enough to sway the jury. Wilson's attorney, James Wronko, told the Associated Press that the outcome might have been different had the jury been allowed to hear more about his illness. "We're disappointed that he's in state prison for smoking marijuana to treat his multiple sclerosis," Wronko . "I think anytime someone using marijuana for their own medical use goes to state prison, it's clearly a harsh sentence." Wilson's case became a cause célèbre for regional medical marijuana advocates, and also drew attention from the state legislature. Two state senators, Nicholas Scutari, sponsor of the medical marijuana bill, and Ray Lesniak, called in October for Gov. Jon Corzine (D) to pardon Wilson. But Corzine punted, saying he preferred to wait until after Wilson's trial had finished. Now, Wilson has been sentenced to prison, Corzine's term has ended, and new Republican Gov. Chris Christie is not nearly as medical marijuana-friendly. Wronko said an appeal of the sentence was in the works.
Location: 
NJ
United States
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Were You Strip-Searched After a Minor Bust in New York City Between 1999 and 2007? There Could Be $$$$ Waiting for You

As the Chronicle story below reports, New York City is about to pay yet again for unlawfully strip-searching minor offenders, including people busted for public pot possession. If this includes you, it just might behoove you to contact the law firm handling the lawsuit in question, Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff, and Abady. Here's the story: Law Enforcement: New York City to Pay Out $33 Million for Unlawful Strip Searches For the third time in the past ten years, New York City has been forced to pay big bucks for subjecting non-violent prisoners—including minor marijuana offenders—to illegal strip searches. In a settlement announced Monday, the city announced it had agreed to pay $33 million to settle the most recent lawsuit stemming from the illegal strip searches. The settlement applies to roughly 100,000 people who were strip-searched after being charged with misdemeanors and taken to Rikers Island or other city jails. These were people who were arrested and strip-searched between 1999 and 2007. In 2001, under the Giulani administration, the city settled a similar lawsuit on behalf of 40,000 people strip-searched prior to arraignment for $40 million. In 2005, the city agreed to pay millions of dollars more to settle a lawsuit on behalf of thousands of people illegally strip-searched at Rikers and other city jails between 1999 and 2002. The most recent settlement came from a lawsuit filed in 2005 by a local law firm. In 2007, the city acknowledged wrongdoing and agreed to hire monitors to ensure that the practice was stopped. But the settlement includes at least 19 people who had been illegally strip-searched after 2007. Richard Emery, law lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the New York Times it had been settled law since 1986 that it was unconstitutional to require people accused of minor crimes to submit to strip searches. "The city knew this was illegal in 1986, they said it was illegal and they stopped in 2002, and they continued to pursue this illegal practice without justification," he said. "We hope the settlement constitutes some semblance of justice." It is expected that about 15% of those illegally strip searched, or 15,000 people, will file claims seeking damages. If that's the case, each plaintiff who files would collect about $2,000, although at least two women subjected to involuntary gynecological exams will receive $20,000. The law firm will get $3 million for its efforts. Emery said many of those strip-searched had been charged with misdemeanors like shoplifting, trespassing, jumping subway turnstiles, or failure to pay child support. Others were small-time marijuana offenders. Under New York law, pot possession is decriminalized, but the NYPD has a common practice of ordering people to empty their pockets—which you are not required to do—and then charging them with public possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor. David Sanchez, 39, of the Bronx, was one of the people strip-searched after a minor pot bust. He said he was searched twice by officers after being arrested in a stop and frisk outside a friend's apartment, but after he was arraigned and taken to Rikers Island, jail guards demanded he submit to a strip-search. "I was put into a cage and told to take off my clothes," he said Monday, describing how he had to squat and spread his buttocks. "It was horrifying, being a grown man. I was humiliated." "I don’t know why it was done," Emery said, "but it seems like it was a punishment, a way of showing the inmates who is in charge." And now the good burghers of New York City will pay yet again for the misdeeds of their public servants. Will the third time be the charm? Check back in a few years.
Location: 
New York City, NY
United States
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Were You Strip-Searched After a Minor Bust in New York City Between 1999 and 2007? There Could Be $$$$ Waiting for You

As the Chronicle story below reports, New York City is about to pay yet again for unlawfully strip-searching minor offenders, including people busted for public pot possession. If this includes you, it just might behoove you to contact the law firm handling the lawsuit in question, Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff, and Abady. Here's the story: Law Enforcement: New York City to Pay Out $33 Million for Unlawful Strip Searches For the third time in the past ten years, New York City has been forced to pay big bucks for subjecting non-violent prisoners—including minor marijuana offenders—to illegal strip searches. In a settlement announced Monday, the city announced it had agreed to pay $33 million to settle the most recent lawsuit stemming from the illegal strip searches. The settlement applies to roughly 100,000 people who were strip-searched after being charged with misdemeanors and taken to Rikers Island or other city jails. These were people who were arrested and strip-searched between 1999 and 2007. In 2001, under the Giulani administration, the city settled a similar lawsuit on behalf of 40,000 people strip-searched prior to arraignment for $40 million. In 2005, the city agreed to pay millions of dollars more to settle a lawsuit on behalf of thousands of people illegally strip-searched at Rikers and other city jails between 1999 and 2002. The most recent settlement came from a lawsuit filed in 2005 by a local law firm. In 2007, the city acknowledged wrongdoing and agreed to hire monitors to ensure that the practice was stopped. But the settlement includes at least 19 people who had been illegally strip-searched after 2007. Richard Emery, law lawyer for the plaintiffs, told the New York Times it had been settled law since 1986 that it was unconstitutional to require people accused of minor crimes to submit to strip searches. "The city knew this was illegal in 1986, they said it was illegal and they stopped in 2002, and they continued to pursue this illegal practice without justification," he said. "We hope the settlement constitutes some semblance of justice." It is expected that about 15% of those illegally strip searched, or 15,000 people, will file claims seeking damages. If that's the case, each plaintiff who files would collect about $2,000, although at least two women subjected to involuntary gynecological exams will receive $20,000. The law firm will get $3 million for its efforts. Emery said many of those strip-searched had been charged with misdemeanors like shoplifting, trespassing, jumping subway turnstiles, or failure to pay child support. Others were small-time marijuana offenders. Under New York law, pot possession is decriminalized, but the NYPD has a common practice of ordering people to empty their pockets—which you are not required to do—and then charging them with public possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor. David Sanchez, 39, of the Bronx, was one of the people strip-searched after a minor pot bust. He said he was searched twice by officers after being arrested in a stop and frisk outside a friend's apartment, but after he was arraigned and taken to Rikers Island, jail guards demanded he submit to a strip-search. "I was put into a cage and told to take off my clothes," he said Monday, describing how he had to squat and spread his buttocks. "It was horrifying, being a grown man. I was humiliated." "I don’t know why it was done," Emery said, "but it seems like it was a punishment, a way of showing the inmates who is in charge." And now the good burghers of New York City will pay yet again for the misdeeds of their public servants. Will the third time be the charm? Check back in a few years.
Location: 
New York City, NY
United States
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Drug War Chronicle Video Review: "10 Rules for Dealing With Police," from Flex Your Rights

In 2008, the latest year tallied in the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, more than 14,000,000 people were arrested in the United States, and uncounted millions more were subject to "stop and frisk" searches either on the streets or after being stopped for an alleged traffic violations. Of all those arrests in 2008, more than 1.7 million were for drug offenses, and about half of those were for marijuana offenses. For both pot busts in particular and drug arrests in general, nearly 90% of those arrested were for simple possession. 10 Rules is available with a donation to StoptheDrugWar.org now! "10 Rules" will help the both the entirely innocent and those guilty of nothing more of possessing drugs in violation of our contemptible drug laws reduce the harm of their run-ins with police. Not that it encourages the violation of any laws -- it doesn't -- but it does clearly, concisely, and effectively explain what people can do to exercise their constitutional rights while keeping their cool, in the process protecting themselves from police who may not have their best interests in mind. Those stops and those arrests mentioned above, of course, were not random or evenly distributed among the population. If you're young, or non-white, or an identifiable member of some sub-culture fairly or unfairly associated with drug use, you are much more likely to be stopped, hassled, and perhaps arrested. The writers of "10 Rules," Scott Morgan and Steve Silverman of Flex Your Rights understand that. Building on the foundation of their 2003 video, "Busted: A Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters," which featured mainly young, white people involved in police encounters, Morgan and Silverman have expanded their target audience. In three of the four scenarios used in the video -- a traffic stop and search, a street stop-and-frisk search, and a knock-and-talk home search -- the protagonists are a young black man, a young Latino man, and a black grandmother, respectively. In only one scene, two young men apparently doing a dope deal on the street, are the citizen protagonists white. That's not to say that "10 Rules" is intended only for the communities most targeted by police, just that the writers understand just who is being targeted by police. The lessons and wisdom of "10 Rules" are universally relevant in the United States, and all of us can benefit from knowing what our rights are and how to exercise them effectively. "10 Rules" does precisely that, and it does so in a street-smart way that understands cops sometimes don't want to play by the rules. "10 Rules" build upon the earlier "Busted" in more than one sense. While "10 Rules" is expanding the terrain covered by "Busted," it has taken the cinematic quality to the next level, too. While "Busted" was made using a beta cam, this flick is shot in High Definition video, and that makes for some great production values, which are evident from the opening scene. "10 Rules" was shot on a bigger budget that "Busted," it has more actors (including some drug reform faces you might recognize), and more professional actors, and it has more of the feel of a movie than most video documentaries. And it has legendary defense attorney William "Billy" Murphy, who plays the role of socratic interlocuter in the video. (You may remember him from appearances on HBO's "The Wire.") Appearing in a courtroom-like setting before a multi-ethnic group of very interested questioners, the pony-tailed lawyer begins with a basic discussion of the rights granted us by the US Constitution, especially the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth amendments dealing with the right to be free of unwarranted searches, the right to stay silent, and the right to legal counsel. His performance, folksy, yet forceful; scholarly, yet, street-savvy, sparkles throughout; his natural charisma shines through. From there, we alternate between Williams and his audience and the scenarios mentioned above. We see the young black man, Darren, get pulled over in traffic, produce a bit of bad attitude, and suffer mightily for his efforts. He gets handcuffed, manhandled, and consents to a search of his vehicle, after which the cop leaves his belongings strewn in the wet road and gives him a traffic ticket. Then it's back to the courtroom, where Darren, angry and feeling disrespected, tells his tale. Murphy is sympathetic, but explains that Darren broke rule #1. "Rule #1, always be calm and collected," the veteran attorney intones. "A police encounter is absolutely the worst time and place to vent your frustrations about getting stopped by the police. As soon as you opened your mouth, you failed the attitude test. Don't ever talk back, don't raise your voice, don't use profanity. Being hostile to police is stupid and dangerous." Such advice may be frustrating, but it's smart, and it's street-smart. Murphy noted that things could have turned out even worse, as the video showed in an alternate take on the scene with Darren twitching on the ground after getting tasered for his efforts. He also threw in some good advice about pulling over immediately, turning off the car, keeping your hands on the wheel, and turning on an interior light just to reduce police officers' nervousness level. Murphy uses the same scenario with Darren to get through rule #2 ("You always have the right to remain silent"), rule #3 ("You have the right to refuse searches), rule #4 ("Don't get fooled" -- the police can and will lie to you or tell you you'll get off easier if you do what they ask), and rule #5 ("Ask if you are free to go"). This time, the cop still has a bad attitude and Darren still gets a ticket, but he doesn't counterproductively antagonize the cop, he doesn't get rousted and handcuffed, he doesn't allow the cop to search his vehicle, he doesn't get intimated by the officers' threat to bring in a drug dog that will tear up his car, and he does ask if he's free to go. He is. Which brings us to a discussion of probable cause and and rule #6: "Don't expose yourself" and give police probable cause to search you. The video shows a car with bumper stickers saying "Got Weed?" "Bad Cop, No Donut," and "My other gun is a Tech-9" -- probably not a smart idea unless you really enjoy getting pulled over and hassled. More generally, "don't expose yourself" means that if you are carrying items you really don't want the police to see (and arrest you for), don't leave them lying around in plain sight. That's instant probable cause. I'm not going to tell you the rest of the rules because I want you to see the video for yourself. But I will tell you about the heart-rending scene where the black grandmother lets police search her home in the name of public safety -- there have been some gang gun crimes, they explain pleasantly -- and ends up getting busted for her granddaughter's pot stash, arrested, and is now facing eviction from her public housing. Under Murphy's guidance, we rewind and replay the scene, with grandma politely but firmly exercising her rights, keeping the cops out of her home, and not going to jail or threatened with losing her home. In a time when police are more aggressive than ever, "10 Rules" is an absolutely necessary corrective, full of folksy -- but accurate -- information. "10 Rules" is the kind of basic primer on your rights that every citizen needs to know, it's well-thought out and well-written, and it not only is it full of critically important information, it's entertaining. Go watch it and learn how to flex your rights. Better yet, watch it together with your friends, your family, or your classmates, then practice putting the rules into effect. Sometimes it's as simple as saying a simple phrase -- "Officer, am I free to go?" Do some role-playing, practice saying the magic words, and "10 Rules" can help you survive any police encounter in better shape than otherwise. When you're done, watch it and practice again -- familiarity is the best help when facing an intimidating police officer staring down at you. We all owe a debt of gratitude to people who feel strongly enough about the rule of law in this country to help others learn how the law protects them and how to protect themselves within the law. A big thank you to the guys at Flex Your Rights is in order. And they would be the first to tell you the best way to thank them is to learn and apply the "10 Rules."
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It's Official: South Dakota Medical Marijuana Initiative Makes November Ballot

The South Dakota Secretary of State's office Monday certified an initiative legalizing medical marijuana for the November ballot. The initiative, the South Dakota Safe Access Act, is sponsored by the South Dakota Coalition for Compassion, a statewide group of doctors, patients, law enforcement officials, and concerned citizens. It is being backed by the Marijuana Policy Project. South Dakota has the dubious distinction of being the only state where voters rejected an initiative to allow the use of medical marijuana. Amidst concerted opposition from South Dakota law enforcement and the Bush administration Office of National Drug Control Policy, which sent officials to the state to campaign against the measure, voters defeated a 2006 initiative by a margin of 52% to 48%. This year's initiative would allow qualified patients to possess up to an ounce of usable marijuana and would allow patients or their caregiver to grow up to six plants. Patients would register with the state and obtain a state registry ID card upon getting a physician's approval to use marijuana for conditions including some cancers, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, and seizures, as well as specific disabilities, including wasting syndrome, chronic pain, severe nausea, and seizures. "The coalition could not be more proud of this truly grassroots accomplishment," said Emmit Reistroffer, coalition communications director, in a statement. The group collected 32,000 signatures, nearly double the number of valid signatures needed. "Our members are united behind protecting the sick and the dying, and we now aim to educate the public about the various medical applications for cannabis before the election this November." “We are excited that South Dakota voters will have another opportunity to make the medical use of marijuana legal for patients in the state,” said Steve Fox, director of state campaigns for the Marijuana Policy Project. “Given the increasing level of support for medical marijuana across the country over the past few years, we are fully confident that a solid majority of voters in the state will support patients’ rights this November.”
Location: 
Pierre, SD
United States
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Senate Passes Bill to Reduce, But Not Eliminate, Crack/Powder Sentencing Disparity

The US Senate approved on a voice vote Wednesday a bill that would reduce, but not eliminate, the disparity in sentences handed down to people convicted of crack versus powder cocaine charges. The bill championed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), SB 1789 would reduce the current, much maligned, 100:1 ratio to 18:1. Under current law, it takes only five grams of crack cocaine to earn a mandatory minimum five-year federal prison sentence, but 500 grams of powder cocaine to garner the same sentence. The law has been especially devastating in black communities, which make up about 30% of all crack consumers, but account for more than 80% of all federal crack prosecutions. Under the bill passes by the Senate, it would now take an ounce of crack for the mandatory minimums to kick in. Durbin's bill originally called for completely eliminating the sentencing disparity, but was stalled until a Senate gym meeting between Durbin and opposition Judiciary Committee heavy-hitters Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL). After that informal confab, the bill was amended to 18:1 and passed unanimously last week by the committee. A bill in the House by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) that would completely eliminate the disparity by the simple act of eliminating all references to crack in the federal statute, HR 3245, passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last July, but has not come to a floor vote. Now that the Senate has approved its bill, pressure will be on the House to just approve the Senate version. Sen. Durbin told the Associated Press that while he had originally sought to completely eliminate the disparity, the final bill was a good compromise. "If this bill is enacted into law, it will immediately ensure that every year, thousands of people are treated more fairly in our criminal justice system," he said. Durbin added that the harsher treatment of crack offenders combined with federal prosecutors' predilection for disproportionately going after black crack offenders had eroded respect for the law. "Law enforcement experts say that the crack-powder disparity undermines trust in the criminal justice system, especially in the African-American community." But drug reformers and civil rights groups that had pushed for complete elimination of the sentencing disparity had a definitely mixed reaction to the Senate vote. It was progress, but not enough, they said. "We strongly supported Sen. Durbin's bill, which would have completely eliminated the disparity," said Wade Henderson, head of the Leadership Council for Civil and Human Rights in a statement Wednesday. Adding that the group was "disappointed" that disparities remain, Henderson said that "this legislation represents progress, but not the end of the fight." "Today is a bittersweet day," said Jasmine Tyler of the Drug Policy Alliance in a Wednesday statement. "On one hand, we’ve moved the issue of disparate sentencing for two forms of the same drug forward, restoring some integrity to our criminal justice system. But, on the other hand, the Senate, by reducing the 100:1 disparity to 18:1, instead of eliminating it, has proven how difficult it is to ensure racial justice, even in 2010."
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
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Law Enforcement: Drug Cops Kill Two in Two Days in Drug Raids in Florida and Tennessee

At least two US citizens were killed in their own homes by American police enforcing the war on drugs in a 48-hour period late last week. One was a 52-year-old white grandmother; the other was a 43-year-old black man. Both allegedly confronted home-invading officers with weapons; both were shot to death. No police officers were injured. Brenda Van Zwieten The combination of widespread gun ownership in the US with aggressive drug war policing is a recipe for tragedy, one that is repeated on a regular basis. Gun owners commonly cite protecting themselves from home-invading robbers as a reason for arming themselves, while police cite widespread gun ownership as a reason they need to use SWAT-style tactics, breaking down doors and using overwhelming force against potential shooters. That homeowners would pick up a weapon upon hearing their doors broken down is not surprising, nor is it surprising that police are quick to shoot to kill "suspects" who may pose a threat to them. The first killing came Thursday morning in North Memphis, when a Bartlett, Tennessee, police narcotics squad serving a search warrant for drug possession -- not sales, manufacture, or possession with intent to sell -- shot and killed Malcolm Shaw, 43, after breaking into his home. Police said they knocked on Shaw's door several times and identified themselves as police before entering the home. Police said Shaw emerged from a room and pointed a gun at plainclothes officer Patrick Cicci. Cicci fired once, killing Shaw. Cicci is on administrative leave pending an internal investigation. While the Bartlett Police investigation is ongoing, that didn't stop the Shelby County District Attorney's Office from announcing Monday that Cicci will not be prosecuted. Cicci's killing of the homeowner was "apparent justifiable use of deadly force in self defense," a spokesman said. Bartlett police said that while the Bartlett narcs conducting the raid were not in uniform, their gear clearly identified them as law enforcement. They wore "high-visibility vests" marked "POLICE" in several spots, police said. The killing of the well-known neighborhood handyman led to the formation of a crowd hostile to police outside his home. Bartlett police on the scene had to call Memphis police to do crowd control. Memphis police complained that the Bartlett narcs had not followed law enforcement protocols requiring them to notify the local agency when they were operating in its jurisdiction. They said they were notified only as the raid commenced, and that moments later, they got a request for an ambulance at the address, and moments after that, they got a request that they send a couple of police cruisers for crowd control. Timothy Miers, who said he was Shaw's brother accused police of being trigger-happy. "How you gonna go in serving a warrant and shoot somebody?" Miers asked. "They already had their finger on the trigger." The sense of disbelief over the killing was shared by members of the crowd gathered outside Shaw's home. Many complained about the officers' actions. "My heart fell to the ground," one neighbor said. "We can't believe it," said another. "Malcolm out of all people." Family members expressed confusion about the shooting, saying Shaw was not a person they would have expected to threaten officers. "They say he had a gun," said Miers. "My brother doesn't have no gun." Friends of Shaw said the same thing. "I ain't never seen him with no gun," said Arvette Thomas, a friend of Shaw. Shaw never bothered anyone, neighbors said. "I think it's wrong to just kill him like they did," said a neighbor, "because he wouldn't hurt a fly." Less than 48 hours later, members of a Broward County Sheriff's Office SWAT team and its Selective Enforcement Team in Pompano Beach, Florida, shot and killed Brenda Van Zweiten, 52, during a drug raid on her home. Police had developed evidence that drugs were being sold from the residence, and obtained a search warrant. After allegedly identifying themselves as police, they broke through a sliding glass door to a bedroom and arrested Van Zweiten's boyfriend, Gary Nunnemacher, 47, on charges of possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana. Van Zweiten was in a different bedroom, and was shot and killed by deputies when she emerged holding a handgun. According to police, she refused to put down her weapon, so they shot her. Police reported finding one gram of heroin, four grams of crack cocaine, marijuana, marijuana plants, 40 generic Xanax tablets, $550 cash, two shotguns, and a rifle. Family members said Van Zweiten had a prescription for Xanax, but was not a drug dealer. But police had earlier in the day arrested three people leaving the home who they say had bought drugs there -- although police did not say from whom. After Van Zweiten's killing, police were unrepentant. "When you approach a police officer with a loaded weapon and don't put the weapon down, there's going to be consequences," sheriff's spokesman Mike Jachles said. "It's unfortunate, but I'd rather be talking about a dead suspect than a dead cop." Van Zweiten's brother, Bill George, said his sister had recently received threats and was afraid of break-ins. "It was an unlawful shooting," he said. "She's 98 pounds. She was just trying to protect herself. I would come out of my room with a gun too." As news of Van Zweiten's death spread, friends, neighbors, and family members expressed dismay and disbelief. They called the incident a "set up" and said the blonde grandmother was affectionately called "Mom" by many who knew her for using her home as a neighborhood hangout to keep kids off the streets. Dozens of people gathered in her yard near a flower-bedecked cross put up as a memorial. "Look at these people," said George. "She helped so many of these young people." "She was like a second mom to me," said Michael Miller, 18. "She would take in anybody." "There was no reason for this," said son Rob Singleton, 32. Van Zwieten had no criminal history involving drugs or violence, state records show. George said that Van Zweiten had reason to fear intruders because she had been threatened recently by a man accused of stealing watches and rings that were part of a shrine to two of her four sons, who had died within the past three years, one in a traffic accident, one of a drug overdose. She had just installed an alarm system last week, George said. "She was scared." Singleton showed reporters inside the house, including the small bedroom where she was shot. A large puddle of blood remained on the floor, and the walls and ceiling were splattered with blood -- from his mother's head, he said. "She was probably running into the closet and trying to hide," he said. As is all too typical in such raid, police also totally trashed the house. As the Sun-Sentinel reported: "Much of the interior of the three-bedroom house looked as if it had been hit by a tornado... Drawers were pulled from dressers, clothes were scattered, a bed was overturned, food and crockery had been knocked from kitchen cabinets." The shrine to her dead sons was also destroyed, Singleton said. Two Broward County Sheriff's Office detectives are on administrative leave pending an internal investigation. They have not been named.
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Assemblyman Ammiano at the Students for Sensible Drug Policy Conference

Tom Ammiano addressing the conference California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-SF), the author of California's marijuana legalization bill, is not just a serious guy, he's a seriously funny guy, and Ammiano's comedic talent was on full display Saturday afternoon as he closed out the first full day of the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) conference at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco. After a long day of grueling panels on medical marijuana, psychedelics, state and local drug reform, the Mexican drug war, marijuana legalization, and harm reduction, among others, a taste of Ammiano was just the thing to revive flagging student activists. Mixing earthy language and humor, the openly gay Ammiano sketched the intertwined history of gay activism, the AIDS crisis, and medical marijuana in the Bay Area, and he didn't let party loyalty get in the way of telling it like it was. "Bill Clinton was shit on this issue," he said. "He put out that edict that doctors couldn't prescribe it," referring to the Clinton administration's effort to try to intimidate doctors by threatening to jerk their DEA licenses to prescribe drugs if they recommended medical marijuana to patients. "That's not an adult way to deal with an issue, and it's certainly not a statesman-like way." The administration lost that one in the Supreme Court. Ammiano was a bit kinder to the current White House occupant. "In terms of Obama," he said, "the messaging is good, but it's sometimes contradictory. Still, history isn't always linear. But I'm here to tell you this movement has never been stronger; we've never been on the cusp in such a pronounced way." Mentioning the Tax and Regulate Cannabis 2010 initiative that will in all likelihood be on the California ballot in November, Ammiano said he was working closely with initiative organizers and that their efforts were not competitive, but complementary. He also unleashed a bit of pot humor, noting that 57 people had signed initiative petitions twice. "You can imagine what they were doing just before that," he said before switching into a stoner voice. "Dude, let me sign this again to make sure it passes," he role-played to gales of laughter. students and others attending Ammiano talk Regarding his bill's prospects in Sacramento, the dapper and diminutive Ammiano reported that there is a lot of sympathy, even among conservatives, but many are still afraid to say so out loud or to vote yes for the record. "If we voted in the capitol hallways, we'd be home free," he said, before engaging in a replay of dialogues he's had with other lawmakers. "They come up to me and say, 'Man, I used to smoke that shit in college, let's tax the hell out of it.' And I'd say, 'Are you with me then?' and they'd say, 'Oh, no, man, I can't do that.'" Ammiano also mentioned Barney Frank's federal decriminalization bill. "I guess it's a queer thing," he said, mincing mightily and pretending to swoon over Frank. "You guys ought to get married," someone yelled from the audience to more laughter. Ammiano predicted victory -- if not this year, soon. "We have a strategy," he said. "We have our shit together, boys and girls, and that's something they're not ready for." And then he was gone, leaving an appreciative audience reinvigorated, still laughing, and clapping wildly. There is much more to report about on the SSDP conference. Look for a feature article on it sometime this week. in the exhibitor space
Location: 
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United States
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Boycott Idaho Over Thuggish Marijuana Law Enforcement? Well, We Have to Start Somewhere

Idaho has some great scenery and some great skiing, it has the Snake River Canyon, and it has a huge knot of mountains in the middle of the state that are very appealing to those who like rugged, isolated beauty. I had intended to explore them this summer, but I've changed my mind. And this story is the reason why:
Medical Marijuana Defense Falls Flat REXBURG — The Fremont County prosecutor says a drug bust in Island Park illustrates that claiming a medical use of marijuana with a certificate from another state won't help you in Idaho. Aurora M. Hathor-Rainmenti, 35 , of Garberville, Calif., was arrested Friday after she was stopped for speeding near Mack's Inn. Fremont County deputies found a baggy containing marijuana in her car with the help of a drug dog. Hathor-Rainmenti was charged with one count of possession of marijuana and two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, all misdemeanors. Fremont County Prosecutor Joette Lookabaugh said Hathor-Rainmenti said she had a certificate from the state of California allowing for medical use of marijuana. "We want the public to know that medical marijuana certificates, even if they're from surrounding states, are not honored in Idaho," Lookabaugh said.
Okay, I understand this. Idaho is under no obligation to honor a medical marijuana card from a different state. Medical marijuana users be forewarned: If you're headed for benighted redneck country, don't expect your card to protect you. There is, however, no suggestion that Hathor-Rainmenti is anything other than a legitimate medical marijuana patient. Still, the local prosecutor takes the opportunity to pile on the charges: Not only does she get a pot possession charge, she also gets two paraphernalia charges (did she have two rolling papers, or what?). Absolutely typical, of course, and absolutely disgusting. Just another way for prosecutors to stack the deck. And not limited to Idaho. Similarly, a judge in Idaho, if he had an ounce of compassion in his body, could take her medical marijuana patient status into account during sentencing. There is no sign he did that:
On Monday Hathor-Rainmenti pleaded guilty to the possession charge and one of the possession of paraphernalia charges. The other paraphernalia charge was dropped. She was sentenced to five days in jail, with 115 days at the discretion of the court along with an $800 fine.
Nice. Throwing a patient in jail for a victimless crime—and rip her off for $800. Remember, she was not charged with drugged driving—and you better believe she would have been had there been the least suggestion she was impaired. Okay, the sentence was ugly and reprehensible, but still nothing unusual in the fascistoid heartland. But here's the kicker; here's what's got me thinking boycott:
In addition, there is a civil forfeiture under way on the borrowed car Hathor-Rainmenti was driving, as well as on the $514 in cash that was confiscated during the arrest.
Say what?!?! Asset forfeiture laws are supposed to be directed at people getting rich from selling drugs. They're problematic enough in that regard, since they create an incentive for cops to trawl for cash, distorting law enforcement priorities in the constant search for the next big score—with the loot typically used to pay for more cops and more drug dogs to find more cash to seize to pay for more cops and more drug dogs and…In short, they are little more than a form of institutionalized, legalized corruption. But Hathor-Rainmenti only had a bag of weed. She was not charged with drug distribution. And the state of Idaho is going to steal her car and every penny she had on her? This is nothing but robbery under color of law. This is the criminal justice system as organized thuggery. The thieving state of Idaho can go to hell. I am sick to death of this sort of crap. It happens all the time, and not just in Idaho. But we have to start somewhere, and that's why I'm suggesting that perhaps a boycott is in order. Idaho is a relatively small state in terms of population, and it is highly dependent on tourism. In other words, it's vulnerable. I am aware that boycotts are a blunt instrument that may not directly harm the people they are aimed at—the cops who make the busts, the prosecutors who try to hammer good people down, the judges who routinely impose such obscene sentences, the politicians who write the laws. But if the ski resorts in Sun Valley or the river guides and hotel owners along the Snake River Valley start seeing cancellations, perhaps they will be motivated to start putting some money into campaigns to end this evil. To be honest, I'm getting frustrated with playing games with state legislatures and I'm thinking it's time for some creative direct actions. We can spend years at the statehouse only to win a piddling decriminalization bill. Whoopee! Now you can only steal my stash and a few hundred of my hard-earned dollars instead of stealing my stash and my money and giving me a criminal record and some jail time. That is progress of a sort, but not nearly enough. Ditto with medical marijuana. Why is it that it seems like every new medical marijuana law is more restrictive than the last? Pretty soon we're going to end up with a medical marijuana law somewhere where you have to be dead already to qualify. So…what about an organized boycott of Idaho, for starters? Would medical marijuana defense groups like Americans for Safe Access get on board with that? Why or why not? What about NORML and the Marijuana Policy Project? Or the Drug Policy Alliance? Just the announcement of a boycott ought to start a real ruckus among the good burghers of Boise. There are 20 million or so pot smokers in the US, and they have friends and families. We are talking about tens of millions of people who could potentially participate. It could even have a real economic impact, and if that's what it takes to beat some sense into these yahoos, so be it. Individuals could do their part by writing letters to the state and local chambers of commerce, to the state tourism bureau, and to state newspapers explaining why they are going elsewhere this year. Reservations could be made and then canceled. Let 'em feel the pain. As I've said, I'm getting really tired of progress by the millimeter. I'm open to some creative tactics. A directed boycott is one of them. Here's another one: The drug defense bar grows rich defending pot people. How about after charging us $5,000 to show up in court and cop a guilty plea and $15,000 to pursue an appeal on constitutional grounds a few hundred times, you give back to the community you grow rich off of? How about a group of you picking a particular egregious locality and pro bono defending every drug case like you meant it? I mean filing motions, going to trial, no plea bargains, demanding jury trials, the works. You could probably freeze the system in a few weeks. Yeah, I know there are issues, but we could work them out. Sure, things like boycotts and forcing the criminal justice system are messy and difficult. But in the meantime, the wheels of injustice keep grinding away, chewing up our people in the process. Anybody got any better ideas? Do we begin with boycotting Idaho? Count me in.
Location: 
ID
United States
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Marijuana: New Hampshire House Passes Decriminalization Bill, But Without Veto-Proof Majority

The New Hampshire House Wednesday voted 214-137 to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana, but the measure faces an uncertain future after Gov. John Lynch (D) immediately threatened to veto it. The House tally leaves supporters about 20 votes short of a veto-proof majority. Under the bill, HB 1653, adults caught possessing or transporting up to a quarter-ounce of pot would be subject to a $400 fine. Minors caught with a quarter-ounce or less would be subject to a $200 fine and their parents would be notified. Youthful offenders would also have to complete a drug awareness program and community service within a year or face an additional $1000 fine. Under current New Hampshire law, small-time pot possession is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. The House passed a similar measure in 2008, but it died in the Senate after Gov. Lynch threatened to veto it. Last year, the House dropped decrim and instead concentrated on passing a medical marijuana dispensary bill. Lynch vetoed that. The House overrode his veto, but the Senate came up two votes short. Lynch was back in form on Wednesday. "Marijuana is a controlled drug that remains illegal under federal law. I share the law enforcement community's concerns about proliferation of this drug," Lynch said. "In addition, New Hampshire parents are struggling to keep their kids away from marijuana and other drugs. We should not make the jobs of parents — or law enforcement — harder by sending a false message that some marijuana use is acceptable." “This makes three years in a row that the House has passed a bill attempting to reform New Hampshire’s archaic marijuana policies,” said Matt Simon, executive director for the New Hampshire Coalition for Common Sense Marijuana Policy, which led the lobbying fight for the bill. “Unfortunately, Gov. Lynch has continued to show little interest in learning what the House has learned about these issues. The bill now goes to the Senate. But unless advocates can pass it overwhelmingly there and come up without another 20 or so votes in the House, it is likely to meet the same fate as the 2009 decrim bill and last year's medical marijuana bill.
Location: 
Nashua, NH
United States
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Prohibition: Kansas Becomes First State to Ban Synthetic Cannabinoid Blends Such As K2, Spice

Kansas Gov. Mark Parkinson signed into law Tuesday HB 2411, which adds certain synthetic cannabinoids to the state's list of controlled substances. The bill is aimed directly at products containing a mixture of herbs and a powdered synthetic cannabinoid, JWH-018, which was isolated by a Clemson University researcher more than a decade ago. The products are sold under a variety of names, including Spice and K2. Kansas thus becomes the first state to ban K2, although a handful of localities in the region have already done so. A similar bill is working its way through the legislature in neighboring Missouri, and one is about to be introduced in Georgia. And, as law enforcement across the country jumps on the bandwagon, expect similar prohibitionist efforts to pop up in other states. Users report a marijuana-like high from using the blends. Although some adverse reactions have been reported, the number is small compared to the reported massive sales of the products. Under the new law, which goes into effect upon publication in the state register, possession of K2 becomes a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $2500 fine. That's the same potential punishment as awaits someone busted for small-time marijuana possession in the Jayhawk State. “This legislation has received overwhelming support by Kansas law enforcement and the legislature,” said Parkinson in a signing statement. “It will help improve our communities by bettering equipping law enforcement officers in addressing this issue and deterring Kansans from drug use.” The governor is certainly correct about who supported the bill. Testifying for it were representatives of the Kansas County and District Attorneys Association, the Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, the Kansas Sheriffs Association, the Kansas Peace Officers Association, and the Kansas Board of Pharmacy.
Location: 
Wichita, KS
United States
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