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Argentine Supreme Court to Decriminalize Drug Possession Today

The Argentine Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling decriminalizing drug possession for personal use today. The ruling will come in the case of five juveniles arrested with marijuana in the city of Rosario. The case has been under consideration by the high court for almost a year. The Argentine federal government has been reviewing its drug laws with an eye toward abandoning repressive policies toward users and is waiting for this case to be decided to move forward with new legislative proposals. Supreme Court Justice Carlos Fayt told the Buenos Aires Herald that the court had reached a unanimous position on decriminalization, but declined to provide further details. A positive Supreme Court decision on decriminalization would ratify a number of lower court decisions in recent years that have found that the use and possession of drugs without causing harm to others should not be a criminal offense.
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Will Foster Extradited to Oklahoma

Medical marijuana patient Will Foster is en route to prison in Oklahoma after being picked up Friday by Oklahoma law enforcement officials. He had been held at the Sonoma County Jail in Santa Rosa, California, for the past 15 months as he fought bogus marijuana cultivation charges there--he was a registered patient with a legal grow--and, after the California charges were dropped, on a parole violation warrant from the Sooner State. Foster had been arrested and convicted of growing marijuana in Oklahoma and sentenced to 93 years in prison in the 1990s. After that draconian sentence focused national attention on his case, he was eventually resentenced to 20 years in prison. He later won parole and moved to California, where he served three years on parole and was discharged from parole by California authorities. That wasn't good enough for vindictive Oklahoma authorities, who wanted to squeeze more years out of Foster. He refused to sign Oklahoma paperwork requiring him to return there to serve out the remainder of his sentence. He also refused to sign paperback that extended his original service. Oklahoma authorities issued a parole violation warrant, and the governors of both states signed it. Foster had sought to block extradition by filing a writ of habeas corpus--he had won a similar writ against Oklahoma earlier--but that effort failed on Friday, and Oklahoma authorities were there to whisk him away. Foster is scheduled to be held at the Tulsa County Jail before being assigned to a prison in the Oklahoma gulag. Efforts by Foster supporters to secure his release continue and are now focusing on Oklahoma parole authorities and the state governor. For more information about the Foster case, see our Chronicle story here and at Ed Rosenthal's blog here. Drug War Chronicle will continue to follow the Foster case. Look for a feature article next week.
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"Marijuana Is Safer" Book Bomb Set for Tomorrow

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"Marijuana is Safer," the brand spanking new book by NORML's Paul Armentano, MPP's Steve Fox, and SAFER's Mason Tvert (who came up with the whole "marijuana is safer than alcohol" trope) is set for book bomb tomorrow. The idea behind a book bomb is to get large numbers of people to buy a book on a designated day, thereby driving it up the best-seller lists on Amazon. If enough people buy "Marijuana is Safer" tomorrow, we could drive it to #1 on Amazon and generate even more publicity for the book--and the message it sends. While we will no doubt offer the book as a premium at some point in the near future, I want to encourage people to participate in tomorrow's book bomb to help get the word out. You can find out more at marijuana book bomb. I'll be reviewing "Marijuana is Safer" for the Chronicle this week, but don't wait for the review. If you've been thinking about buying the book, tomorrow is the day to do it.
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"Marijuana Is Safer" authors Tvert and Armentano appear at Oaksterdam University

The student union at Oaksterdam University in downtown Oakland was buzzing yesterday afternoon as several dozen people gathered together with Marijuana is Safer authors Paul Armentano of NORML and Mason Tvert of SAFER to celebrate the brand new book's release. (Co-author Steve Fox of MPP was on the East Coast. The book also boasts a foreword by Norm Stamper, the former police chief of Seattle.) After an hour or so of schmoozing, book selling, and signing, Armentano and Tvert were joined by Oaksterdam's Greg Grimala for an informal discussion about the book, whose thesis--that marijuana is safer than alcohol--is an outgrowth of work originally done by Tvert as he organized college campuses around the issue of inequality in punishments for students got smoking pot as opposing to underage drinking. Armentano, who has been keeping a keen eye on marijuana research for years, supplies much of the hard science. "The fact that we're even having this discussion is a measure of marijuana's relative harmlessness," Tvert pointed out, adding that he thought the alcohol vs. marijuana comparison was an excellent tactic. "Parents can understand alcohol, and we can make the comparison between it and marijuana. Within that framework, you get them to start thinking about marijuana the same way they think of alcohol. The discussion of alcohol provides a reference point, and that will only further the debate." Tvert will be hitting the road to promote the book in coming weeks. Armentano said yesterday the book was shipping to bookstores in the East now and would be showing up on the West Coast soon. He also said he had directed that a review copy be sent to StoptheDrugWar.org, so look for a book review here next week. (The Chronicle is on vacation this week.) Tvert, Armentano, Grimala
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Oakland Activists File 2010 California Marijuana Legalization Initiative

Oakland marijuana activists are moving forward on a possible 2010 marijuana legalization initiative. Led by Oaksterdam University's Richard Lee and former Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Co-op head Jeff Jones, proponents today filed a proposed ballot measure with the California attorney general's office that would allow people aged 21 and over to legally possess up to an ounce of pot and grow their own on garden plots no larger than 25 square feet. marijuana "California's laws criminalizing cannabis have failed and need to be reformed," said Lee. "Cannabis is safer than alcohol," says Lee. "Cannabis doesn't cause overdose deaths or make people violent like alcohol. It makes sense to regulate cannabis like alcohol, instead of prohibiting it completely." The initiative would also let cities and counties decide whether or not to tax and regulate cannabis sales and commercial cultivation. If a city or county decides not to, sales and cultivation within area limits would remain illegal, but possession and consumption of small amounts would be allowed. To make the November 2010 ballot, organizers must gather 434,000 valid voter signatures by December. That will be the first major test of the initiative's viability. Another indicator of the measure's support will be if major funders step up to back it. When the Chronicle wrote last month about initial planning for the initiative, drug reform organizations were apprehensive that the proposed initiative was too soon, that the polling numbers weren't high enough, and that a loss could take the steam out of the legalization push for years to come. This week, the Chronicle will be revisiting those groups to see where they now stand. The Drug Policy Alliance said Tuesday it would have preferred to wait until 2012, but hopes it wins. "The momentum to end decades of failed marijuana prohibition just keeps building," said Stephen Gutwillig. "While the Drug Policy Alliance would prefer such an initiative to appear on the ballot in 2012, when public support will likely be even greater than it is now, we'd of course like to see it win. There's simply no denying the intense groundswell for change."
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Cook County Marijuana Decriminalization Ordinance a Done Deal

On Friday, Drug War Chronicle reported that the Cook County (greater Chicago) Board had passed a marijuana decriminalization ordinance Tuesday, but that there were mixed signals from Board President Todd Stroger about whether he would sign it or veto it. After equivocating for a couple of days, however, Stroger has told the Chicago Tribune that he will not veto decriminalization. The measure will go into effect in unincorporated areas of Cook County in 60 days. It will not automatically go into effect in towns and cities in the county, but it will give those municipalities the option of adopting it. Under the ordinance, police officers will have the option of issuing $200 tickets for people caught in possession of 10 grams or less instead of arresting and booking them. The move has caused some controversy in Illinois, with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who once supported decriminalization, ridiculing it, and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) offering tepid semi-support. Five years ago, Daley supported decrim as a revenue enhancement measure and because "it's decriminalized now... they throw all the cases out." But Daley was Chicago Public Radio. "Crimes that are not grievous crimes against persons need to be looked at," he added.
Location: 
IL
United States
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Breckenridge to Vote on Legalizing Marijuana Possession

A measure that would remove all local penalties for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana in the Colorado ski resort town of Breckenridge will be on the ballot this November. The organizers of the effort, Sensible Breckenridge, a project of Sensible Colorado, announced Friday afternoon that the Breckenridge town clerk had certified that their initiative petition as having enough valid signatures to go on the ballot. Breckenridge, Colorado The Organizers needed 500 valid signatures to make the ballot. But in little more than five weeks of signature-gathering, they managed to collect 1,400 signatures. "While collecting signatures we encountered overwhelming support for sensible marijuana reform," said Breckenridge attorney Sean McAllister, chairman of Sensible Breckenridge. "Now it is up to the Breckenridge voters to decide if responsible adults should be criminalized for using a substance less harmful than alcohol." The measure would remove local penalties for the private possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults 21 or older, effectively legalizing small amounts of marijuana for adults under the town code. The Breckenridge Town Council will have the opportunity to enact the law at their meeting on August 11. If they do not, it will automatically be placed on the November 3rd ballot. Possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is already decriminalized under Colorado law. Denver voted to legalize the possession of up to an ounce in 2005, but that expression of citizen sentiment has been effectively undercut by local law enforcement and prosecutors, who continue to charge people under the state decrim law. A statewide legalization initiative in 2006 lost with 40% of the popular vote, but in that election, 72% of voters in Breckenridge supported it.
Location: 
Breckenridge, CO
United States
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Tax Us: Oakland Voters Approve Medical Marijuana Dispensary Tax -- Dispensaries Supported It

Drug War Chronicle Voters in Oakland, California, approved by a wide margin a measure to tax medical marijuana sold at the city's four dispensaries. The measure is the first in the country to impose a special tax on medical marijuana. The special tax was supported by the city's medical marijuana community, led by Oaksterdam University head and Coffeeshop Blue Sky owner Richard Lee. Lee and other supporters, including city council members, said the dispensaries wanted to do their part to help the city during economic hard times. The all mail-in vote took place during the one-month period beginning June 22, and the votes were being counted Tuesday night. According to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, as of 8:00pm Tuesday, the ballot measure, known as Measure F, was winning with 79.9% of the vote. The measure creates a special business tax rate on dispensaries of $18 for every $1,000 in gross sales and is expected to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for the city. Currently, the dispensaries are paying the same business tax rate as any other retail business in the city, $1.20 per $1,000. The measure will take effect on January 1. The measure was part of a package of revenue measures before Oakland voters. All passed, but none by as large a margin as Measure F. That's just the latest sign of acceptance of marijuana in a very pot-friendly city. In 2004, voters there approved a measure requiring police to make arresting adults for small-time pot offenses their lowest priority.
Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States
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Patients Defeat Effort to Restrict Medical Marijuana in Colorado

special to Drug War Chronicle Colorado medical marijuana application Monday night, Colorado's rapidly increasing number of medical marijuana patients and burgeoning medical marijuana industry won a major victory against state regulators trying to cramp their style -- and fiddle with a medical marijuana law written into the state constitution by voter initiative nine years ago. After a marathon public hearing packed with nearly 400 medical marijuana supporters, the Colorado Board of Health rejected a controversial proposal from the state Department of Public Health and Environment that would have tightened up the definition of a caregiver and would have limited caregivers to providing for no more than five patients. The vote comes on the heels of Rhode Island legislation establishing a dispensary system, the third state in the nation to legislatively approve dispensaries, and the first on the east coast. Rhode Island's legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Donald Carcieri (R) to pass the law, which they did 35-3 in the Senate and 67-0 in the House. "It's a great win for Colorado," said a tired but elated Brian Vicente Tuesday morning. "We took on the machine and won." Vicente is head of Sensible Colorado, which worked with Colorado NORML, SAFER, the Marijuana Policy Project, and Americans for Safe Access to spearhead the campaign to keep the Colorado program intact. The Board of Health was originally scheduled to vote on the proposal in February, but was forced to postpone the vote until it could find a venue large enough to accommodate the hundreds of people who wanted to have their voices heard during a public hearing. A 2004 effort by the Board of Health to impose similar restrictions was thrown out by the courts because it held no public hearing then. "The health department seems to be a glutton for punishment," said Vicente. "This is the second time we've beaten them on this issue. I'm fairly confident this will keep them quiet for awhile." Between February and now, the state's medical marijuana program has gone into overdrive. The number of patients is increasingly dramatically, with some 2,000 patients added in June, bringing the state's total to more than 9,000. And with the change of administrations in Washington, dispensaries have begun proliferating. There are now nearly 40, most of them in the Denver metro area. Nearly 600 different physicians have issued recommendations for medical marijuana. Two provisions of the health department proposal earned the most denunciations from patients and providers: One would tighten the definition of who qualifies as a licensed caregiver; the other would limit the number of patients a caregiver can provide for to five. There is currently no limit on the number of patients a caregiver can grow or otherwise provide for. Colorado medical marijuana certificate
(courtesy Cannabis Culture Magazine)
Supporters of the proposal -- basically limited to police, prosecutors, and the state's chief medical officer -- told the Board of Health Monday that the current situation, which sets no limits on the number of people for whom caregivers can provide, was susceptible to fraud and caused confusion over who could legally grow. Dr. Ned Calonge, the chief medical officer, warned that the medical marijuana program will "continue to grow out of control" unless the restrictive rules were adopted. The 2000 initiative defines caregivers as people who have a "significant responsibility for managing the well-being of a patient," he said, adding that he did not think that allowed for the creation of dispensaries. Capping the number of patients a caregiver could provide for at five was reasonable, Calonge said. "We define a primary caregiver as significantly participating in a patient's everyday care," he said. "If those caregivers are making home visits to each patient, considering travel time, they could visit five patients a day. We believe we have ample precedent and supportive evidence for this number," he said. Denver Assistant District Attorney Helen Morgan told the board some counties aren't prosecuting marijuana grows because of confusion over who is allowed to grow medical marijuana. She also said that authorities in Denver have found large marijuana grows whose operators claim to be providing medical marijuana. That claim was echoed by Holly Dodge, deputy district attorney for El Paso County, who spoke on behalf of the Colorado District Attorney's Council. "There is no way of appropriately protecting a patient when they have a caregiver with 300 other patients," she said. "That's not caregiving, that's marijuana growing." But Calonge, Dodge, and Morgan were definitely in the minority, with the sometimes raucous crowd hissing and booing their comments. For most of the day, the board heard from patient after patient, as well as caregivers, dispensary operators, and doctors, that the system was working just fine as it is. The board was also clearly warned that it would be slapped with an already prepared lawsuit today if it voted to adopt the restrictive proposal. Colorado "Marijuana Boot Camp" for activists,
organized by SAFER, November 2008 One physician opposing the restrictive proposal was Dr. Paul Bregman, who warned it would drive patients to the streets in search of their medicine. "More regulation drives people to the black market, and that means patient care suffers," said Bregman. Damien LaGoy told the board he smokes marijuana to counter the side effects, including nausea, of his daily doses of HIV medication. He gets his medicine from a caregiver who serves nine people, he said, adding that if couldn't use that caregiver he would be forced to trawl Colfax Avenue in search of street dealers. "I might as well not have a license and just go buy it on the street like everyone else," he said. Dispensary operator Jim Bent told the board the proposal threatened patient health and treated marijuana dispensaries unfairly. "If this law passes, patients will lose their access to safe medicine and some will die," he said. "Please be compassionate." Bent also rejected any limits on the number of patients a dispensary can handle. "I'd like to be under the same standards as Walgreens or a Wal-Mart pharmacy," he said. Former Denver senior deputy district attorney Lauren Davis told the board the proposal would not address law enforcement concerns raised earlier in the day and could even be counterproductive. "Limiting caregivers will increase the number of small-grower operations," she said. At the end of the day, the Board of Health agreed with opponents of the rule change. It voted 6-3 to reject the proposal. "They received more emails and written comments on this than they had on any issue in history," said Vicente. "They had hundreds of people show up to testify against this. They heard from an impressive array of experts, doctors, lawyers, writers of the law, sick patients, and caregivers. The board listened."
Location: 
Denver, CO
United States
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Colorado Hearing on Proposed Medical Marijuana Caregiver Restrictions Going on Now--You Can Listen In

Last Friday, the Chronicle did a feature article on proposed rule changes in Colorado's medical marijuana program. State bureacrats want to tighten the definition of caregiver and they want to reduce the number of patients a caregiver can provide for to five. That would wreak havoc with the state's burgeoning dispensary industry. That hearing is going on right now. I just listened in for a few minutes, and it sounds like a full house. This is a room that seats 500. The largest attendance at any previous Board of Health meeting has been about a dozen, so it seems like Colorado's medical marijuana constituency is out in force. The Board is expected to announce whether it will accept the restrictive rule changes at the end of the day. You can listen in, too, if you so desire. Dial 1-866-899-5399, then punch in the conference room number: *3529725* and you're listening. Don't forget to punch in the * before and after the conference room number.
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I Visited Imprisoned Medical Marijuana Patient Will Foster in Jail Last Night

I finally made into the Sonoma County Jail yesterday to visit medical marijuana patient Will Foster, who has been sitting there for the past 16 months first fighting off a bogus marijuana cultivation charge--since dropped by prosecutors--and now fighting off the zealous efforts of Oklahoma parole authorities to return him to the state where he was originally sentenced to a cruel and insane 93 years in prison. I don't want to recount the entire sorry tale--you can read my recent article about his case here--but in a nutshell: Thanks in part to a publicity campaign started by DRCNet, Foster was able to get that horrid original sentence reduced to 20 years, he eventually won release and was paroled to California, which released him from parole after three years of good behavior. That wasn't good enough for Oklahoma, which still wants a few more pounds of flesh. Oklahoma issued a parole violation extradition warrant a few years back, which foster successfully--and unusually--beat with a habeas corpus writ, a California judge throwing out the warrant. So Oklahoma parole officials issued another extradition warrant, this time trying to add new charges after the fact to increase Foster's potential exposure. That warrant is keeping him in jail right now. Foster and his allies are conducting a two-track effort to win his release: First, a political track attempting to get either the California governor or the Oklahoma governor to rescind the extradition warrant. You can help with this. Ed Rosenthal has a Free Will Foster blog post that will show you what actions to take. Second, Foster has prepared another habeas writ. It will have a hearing August 4, and I will attend. He could walk free that day, but he might want to walk fast--Oklahoma is vowing to immediately issue a new extradition warrant. To me, that's a sign of what vengeful, vindictive, authoritarian pricks inhabit the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. But that's just me. There may be a protest at his hearing. Details are sketchy at this point, but if you're in the neighborhood and interested, just email me for now: [email protected] After 16 months in the slammer, Foster isn't looking so good. He's got big dark circles under his eyes and his skin has that jailhouse pallor. He has long suffered from arthritis, which is what he used marijuana for, and he also suffers from injuries in a car accident a couple of months before he was arrested and jailed. The nice folks at the Sonoma jail have plied him with all sorts of pharmaceuticals, but no pot, of course. Still, Foster remains strong in spirit and firm in his resolve. This guy is a determined fighter, not just for his freedom, but for what is right. Will Foster never hurt a soul. Why years of his life have been taken away from him and his loved ones for growing a plant is beyond me. If you believe in justice, take the time to help him out. Will Foster isn't the only drug war POW, but he is fortunate in the sense that at least some one is paying attention to his plight. Today is Bastille Day. In lieu of mob action to free the prisoners, will you pay some attention to a drug war prisoner you know? Send a letter? Make a visit? Send a check to commisary? Agitate with your elected officials? Something? Let's not forget our imprisoned brothers and sisters!
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New Hampshire Governor Vetoes Medical Marijuana Bill; A Handful of Additional Votes Needed to Override

The House passed the bill 234-138 and the Senate passed it 14-10. If my calculations are correct, that means a successful override needs 14 more votes in the House and 2 more in the Senate. If an override effort is made, it will happen when the legislature returns in September. Until then, it's time to let those legislators know what they need to do. Here is Gov. Lynch's veto message press release in its entirety:
Gov. Lynch’s Veto Message Regarding HB 648 By the authority vested in me, pursuant to part II, article 44 of the New Hampshire Constitution, on July 10, 2009, I vetoed HB 648-FN, an act relative to the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes. I have tremendous compassion for people who believe medical marijuana will help alleviate the symptoms of serious illnesses and the side effects of medical treatment. Although opinion of the medical community on the efficacy of medical marijuana remains mixed, I have been open, and remain open, to allowing tightly controlled usage of marijuana for appropriate medical purposes. But in making laws it is not enough to have an idea worthy of consideration, the details of the legislation must also be right. I recognize that the sponsors of this legislation, and the members of the conference committee, worked hard to attempt to address the concerns raised about this legislation. However, after consulting with representatives of the appropriate state agencies and law enforcement officials, I believe this legislation still has too many defects to move forward. Law enforcement officials have raised legitimate public safety concerns regarding the cultivation and distribution of marijuana. These concerns have not been adequately addressed in this bill. Marijuana is an addictive drug that has the potential to pose significant health dangers to its users, and it remains the most widely abused illegal drug in this State. I am concerned about the quantities of the drug made available to patients and caregivers under this bill, particularly because there are different types of marijuana and the potency of marijuana can vary greatly depending on how it is cultivated. I am troubled by the potential for unauthorized redistribution of marijuana from compassion centers. In addition to patients and designated caregivers, an unlimited number of “volunteers” can receive registry cards and receive the full protections afforded under this legislation to authorized cardholders. The provisions made for law enforcement to check on the status of an individual who asserts protection under the proposed law are too narrow. There are also many inconsistencies and structural problems in the legislation that would greatly complicate its administration and would pose barriers to controls aimed at preventing the unauthorized use of marijuana. The bill does not clearly restrict the use of marijuana to those persons who are suffering severe pain, seizures or nausea as a result of a qualifying medical condition. The bill requires compassion centers to hold a license to cultivate and distribute marijuana for medicinal purposes, but the bill does not contain clear provisions regarding a licensing process or standards. Compassion centers can be penalized for distributing amounts of marijuana that exceed permissible limitations, without the compassion centers having the means to know how much marijuana the patient already possesses. Caregivers in some instances are required to control the dosage of marijuana without any real means to accomplish this task. The bill leaves unclear the authority of a landlord to control the use of marijuana on rented property and in common areas of property. While the bill contemplates self-funding, there have been inadequate fiscal studies. The Department of Health and Human Services’ administrative responsibilities are of such a magnitude under this legislation that the fees potentially would be so great as to deny access to anyone but the wealthiest of our citizens, resulting in potential inequities. I understand and empathize with the advocates for allowing medical marijuana use in New Hampshire. However, the fact remains that marijuana use for any purpose remains illegal under federal law. Therefore, if we are to allow its use in New Hampshire for medical purposes, we must ensure that we are implementing the right policy. We cannot set a lower bar for medical marijuana than we do for other controlled substances, and we cannot implement a law that still has serious flaws. Therefore, I am regretfully vetoing HB 648-FN.
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I Was Turned Away Again Trying to Visit Medical Marijuana POW Will Foster in Jail Last Night

You remember Will Foster: The Oklahoma arthritis sufferer who was sentenced to 93 years in prison for growing a closetful of pot plants, eventually got his sentence reduced to 20 years, got paroled to California, and finished parole there, but whom neanderthal Oklahoma parole officials want to drag back to that benighted state to extract yet another pound of flesh. Will has been sitting in the Sonoma County Jail for 16 months now after a bogus bust of his legitimate medical marijuana garden. The local charges were eventually dropped, but Foster remains behind bars and deprived of his liberty because of Oklahoma's pending parole violation extradition warrant. The extradition warrant has been signed by the governors of both California and Oklahoma, but either could end this tragedy by rescinding his signature. Those are the two obvious political pressure points. Will has fended off extradition by filing a writ of habeas corpus (he won an earlier one), but that means he stays in jail in California for as long as it takes to resolve that--unless one of those governors acts. I wrote about his plight here. Ed Rosenthal has organized a campaign to Free Will Foster. Go there and do what he asks. So, anyway, I went to see Will last night. It was my second attempt to visit him. I was turned away a few nights ago because I was wearing steel-tipped shoes. Who knew? Well, I didn't see him last night, either. After his girlfriend, Susie Mueller, and I arrived at 7:15 to get in line for the 7:30 sign-in for the visits set for 8:15, then waited before getting in line for the actual 8:15 visit, the whole place went into lockdown. We waited awhile to see if the lockdown would be quickly lifted, but it wasn't, so we left. I'll try again next week. Sheesh, it's starting to feel like it's as hard to break into one of these joints as it is to break out.
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South Dakota Judge Sentences Marijuana Reform Activist to Shut Up

South Dakota's most well-known marijuana legalization advocate, Bob Newland, was sentenced yesterday to a year in the Pennington County Jail with all but 45 days suspended for felony marijuana possession--a little less than four ounces. Once he does his time, he'll be on probation for a year. Newland can, I suppose, consider himself fortunate. According to the South Dakota Department of Corrections, there are currently six people imprisoned for possession of less than half a pound and seven for more than half but less than one pound, as well as 14 doing time for distribution of less than an ounce and another 25 doing time for distribution of less than a pound. But in another respect, Newland is not so lucky. He has basically been stripped of his First Amendment right to advocate for marijuana legalization while he is on probation. As the Associated Press reported:
A longtime South Dakota supporter of legalized marijuana has been sentenced to serve 45 days in jail for possessing the illegal drug. Authorities say Bob Newland of Hermosa was found with four bags of marijuana, a scale and $385 in cash when he was stopped for speeding in March. He pleaded guilty in May to a possession charge under a plea agreement in which prosecutors agreed to drop a more serious charge of possession with intent to distribute. Newland will be on probation for the rest of the year following his jail term. During his probation, he is barred from publicly advocating the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Newland, understandably, is not inclined to challenge the probation condition. There's something about staring at the walls of a jail cell that does that to a guy. But that doesn't mean others shouldn't raise a stink about this arguably unconstititional sentence. I'll be looking into this and will have a Chronicle story about it on Friday.
Location: 
Rapid City, SD
United States
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I went to visit Will Foster in Jail A Couple of Nights Ago

I wrote about the Will Foster case in the Chronicle last week. Here's a brief summary: Foster had a small medical marijuana garden in Tulsa that was raided in 2005. Two years later, he was sentenced to an insane 93 YEARS in prison. Only after a publicity campaign in which DRCNet played a vital role was he resentenced to merely 20 years, and after being twice denied parole, he was paroled to California. Although Oklahoma thought Foster should be on parole until 2011, California decided he didn't need any more state supervision and released him from parole after three years. That wasn't punitive enough for Oklahoma. Although Foster had left the Bible Belt state behind with no intention of ever returning, Oklahoma parole officials issued a parole violation warrant for his extradition to serve out the remainder of his sentence. When Foster had to show ID in a police encounter, the warrant popped up, and he was jailed. Desperate, Foster filed a writ of habeas corpus and won! A California judge ruled the warrant invalid, and Foster was a free man again. But not for long. It's thirst for vengeance still unslaked, the state of Oklahoma issued yet another parole violation warrant for Foster's extradition because he refused to agree to an extension of his parole to 2015--four years past the original Oklahoma parole date. Then he got raided in California, thanks to bad information from an informant with an axe to grind. Foster had a legal medical marijuana grow, but it took a hard-headed Sonoma County prosecutor more than a year to drop charges, and Foster has been jailed the whole time. Now that the charges have been dropped, Foster still isn't free because Oklahoma still wants him back. Extradition warrants have been signed by the governors of both states, and he was days away from being extradited in shackles when he filed a new habeas writ this week. Filing the writ will stop him from being sent back to Oklahoma, but it also means he's stuck in jail for the foreseeable future. The writ is a legal strategy; his real best hope is to get one of those governors to rescind the extradition order. You can help. Click on this link to find out how to write the governors. I think a campaign of letters to the editor of Oklahoma papers might help, too. Those letters might ask why Oklahoma wants to continue to spend valuable tax dollars to persecute a harmless man whose only crime was to try to get some relief for his ailments--and who has no intention of ever returning there. ...So, anyway, I went to see Will at the Sonoma County Jail Saturday night. But I didn't get in. The steel-toes in my footwear set off the metal detector, and I quickly found out such apparel was a security risk. Who knew? I'll go back later this week. I guess I'll wear sandals. In the meantime, there are letters waiting to be written. Keyboard commandos, saddle up!
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Canadian House Passes Anti-Crime Bill With Mandatory Minimums for Pot, Other Drug Offenses

The Canadian House of Commons today passed the Conservative government of Prime Minister Steven Harper' C-15 crime bill, which will institute mandatory minimum sentencing for some marijuana and other drug offenses. The vote, in which after dilly-dallying for days, the opposition Liberals joined in, came despite hearings in which no witnesses favored such a tough on crime approach north of the border. It's not a done deal yet. The bill must still be approved by the Canadian Senate, which issued a report several years ago calling for the government to head in the opposite directoin. But the Senate, which is appointed, is not known for bucking the government and the House of Commons. That the Liberals buckled for fear of being "soft on crime" and supported the Conservatives in this giant step backward is disappointing but not surprising. Oh, Canada! Once we looked to you for a progressive example on drug policy. I will be writing about all this for the Chronicle later this week, as well as focusing on our other border with a feature article on the Obama administration's new initiative to thwart the Mexican so-called drug cartels.
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Hello? Mexico on the Verge on Decriminalizing Drug Possession...

...and nobody north of the Rio Grande seems to have noticed. Last week, I wrote that the Mexican decrim bill had passed the Senate, but on the afternoon before we published that report, the bill also passed the Chamber of Deputies. Now it awaits only the signature of President Calderon. While a Dallas Morning News blogger wrote that it is unclear whether Calderon will sign the bill, it seems likely to me that he will. The bill, after all, was pushed by his ruling PAN party, and unlike 2006, when a similar bill passed only to be vetoed by then President Fox in the face of US threats and bluster, there have been no threats and bluster from Washington this time. And, of course, the situation in Mexico is much worse than in 2006, thanks largely to Calderon's war on the cartels. The bill is not great: The personal use quantities are tiny, and it allows for the states to prosecute low-level trafficking offenses (currently, that is the province of the feds, with the result being that being low-level traffickers are never tried because the federal prosecutors and courts are overwhelmed with serious trafficking cases). But it is decriminalization, and right on our border, not an ocean away, like Portugal. I'll be talking to people on both sides of the border this week about this bill and what it means and I'll have a feature article on it Friday. In the meantime, here's the lone Reuters article on these momentous events:
Mexico passes bill on small-scale drugs possession Fri May 1, 2009 8:39pm EDT MEXICO CITY, May 1 (Reuters) - Mexico's Congress has passed a bill decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs, from marijuana to methamphetamine, as President Felipe Calderon tries to focus on catching traffickers. The bill, proposed by Calderon after an attempt by the previous government at a similar bill came under fire in the United States, would make it legal to carry up to 5 grams (0.18 ounces) of marijuana, 500 milligrams (0.018 ounces) of cocaine and tiny quantities heroin and methamphetamines. The lower house of deputies passed the bill late on Thursday. It already has been approved by the Senate and is expected to be signed into law by Calderon in the days ahead. Mexico's Congress passed a similar proposal in 2006 but the bill was vetoed by Calderon's predecessor, Vicente Fox, after Washington said it would increase drug abuse. The United States recently pledged stronger backing for Calderon's army-led war on drug cartels, whose turf wars have killed some 2,000 people so far this year in Mexico, as the drug violence is starting to seep over the border. The new bill also allows Mexican states to convict small-time drug dealers, no longer making it a federal crime to peddle narcotics, a move that should speed up those cases. U.S. President Barack Obama praised Calderon's drug war efforts in a visit to Mexico last month and promised more agents and southbound border controls to curb the flow of guns and cash to the cartels. (Reporting Miguel Angel Gutierrez; Editing by Bill Trott)
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Q: How Dangerous is Drug Law Enforcement for Police? A: Apparently Not Very

Law enforcement likes to argue that it needs to resort to heavy-handed tactics such as SWAT-style raids and no-knock warrants because drug law enforcement is just so darned dangerous. You know the spiel: "We're outgunned and up against crazed drug dealers, so we need to come on like gangbusters for our own safety." But I'm in the process of reviewing police deaths in the drug war since the beginning of 2008 for a Chronicle article that will appear Friday, and so far, I've only found two officers who were killed in drug raids during this time. I'm using the Officer Down Memorial Page and the National Law Enforcement Memorial data bases and I still have to dig a little deeper into the numbers and the discrepancies between the two, but so far, it doesn't appear that enforcing the nation's drug laws is that dangerous for police. For civilians, it is perhaps a different story. Nobody's keeping a data base of citizens killed by the police, let alone those killed by police enforcing the drug laws, although I have a few ideas on where to come up with some figures, or at least some especially horrendous cases. I'll be looking into that, as well. I'll be talking to as many cops, criminologists, and other interested parties as I can, but at this point, it seems that it is going to be hard to justify the overwhelming use of force typical of police drug raids. As much as they would like to think they are, cops are not US military Special Forces units, and drug law violators are not terrorist fugitives. Look for the story on Friday.
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BREAKING: New Jersey Senate Approves Medical Marijuana Bill

The New Jersey State Senate this afternoon approved the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act (S 119) by a vote of 22-16. The measure now goes to the state Assembly, where it faces a committee vote and then a floor vote. If it passes the Assembly, Gov. Jon Corzine (D) has indicated he would sign it. The bill would remove state penatlies for marijuana possession, use, or cultivation for patients suffering a qualifying medical condition who have a physician's approval. Qualifying conditions include chronic pain, cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and Crohn's Disease. Patients could grow up to six plants and possess up to one ounce. They would register with the state Department of Health, as would any designated caregivers. “The bill is very conservative," siad Ken Wolski, RN, head of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey, which is leading the campaign. "No medical marijuana state has a smaller plant limit or possession amount. Still, it will help a tremendous number of patients here. We applaud the senators who supported this bill.”
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Breaking: California Legislator Files "Tax and Regulate" Marijuana Legalization Bill in Wake of Poll Showing Majority West Coast Support

A bill to tax and regulate the production and sale of marijuana will go before the California legislature. At a press conference at his San Francisco offices -- going on right now -- California Assemblyman Tom Ammiano announced he was introducing legislation to do just that. The bill comes as the state is in the grip of a strong economic downturn and a severe fiscal crisis. Estimates of tax revenues that could be generating by regularizing the status of California's leading cash crop range from $1.5 billion to $4 billion a year. A poll by Zogby International, released last week, found majority support on the west coast for the proposed reform. I am currently at the press conference, and will post a more detailed report later today. Phil's report, including pictures from the press conference, is online here. Check back Friday morning at the same URL for a full-length Drug War Chronicle feature story.
Location: 
San Francisco, CA
United States
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