Marijuana: Weed War Breaks Out Among Philly Politicos

We recently reported on the move by new Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams to treat marijuana possession cases more leniently. That didn't sit well with his predecessor, hard-line prosecutor Lynne Abraham, who used a US Senate committee hearing Monday to attack Williams for the move, which was also supported by two Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices. The Williams camp has responded in kind.
Independence Hall, Philadelphia
"Local gangs and marijuana growers everywhere are positively overjoyed" at the new policy, Abraham claimed. "'Welcome to Philadelphia, Light Up a Joint' may just be our new slogan."

The new policy, under which people caught with small amounts of marijuana would be charged with summary offenses instead of misdemeanors, would give a break to serious criminals, she argued. "They are the same criminals who ruin the city's neighborhoods by aggressive, destructive conduct, engage in shoot-outs, commit violent crimes to support their habits, and they intimidate or kill witnesses," Abraham said.

"These people arrested for 20 to 30 grams of pot are not first-time offenders for the most part," she said. "They frequently are the repeat offenders who have committed untold numbers of crimes and have been arrested dozens of times."

But Abraham wasn't done yet. "The marijuana market is into the billions. Now we are going to encourage its growth," she continued. "Just think of all those Customs officers on the US-Mexico border trying to stem the tide of marijuana mules, who now will be welcomed to bring their product into Philadelphia. The drug cartels who import pot from Mexico are thrilled," she asserted.

"Hyperbole," is how Williams' top aide, First Deputy District Attorney Joseph McGettigan described Abraham's assault. Abraham misrepresented the policy shift and provided a distorted description of those arrested in minor pot busts, he said. "I would see no evidence that the de minimus users of marijuana are significant contributors to this supposed Wild West violence," he said.

Chris Goldstein, a leader of Philadelphia NORML who lobbied city officials for the change, said he was "stunned" by Abraham's remarks. "This is a joke," he said. "It's like a fusillade of falsehoods here." Most pot is domestically grown, he said, and most smokers posed no threat to anyone. "This is a false characterization of the marijuana users of Philadelphia," Goldstein said. "The vast majority of the marijuana smokers are law-abiding citizens who are working every day to contribute to this city."

Feuding between the current and former district attorneys has gone on since 2005, when Williams highlighted a low conviction rate under Abraham when he sought to unseat her in the Democratic primary. Abraham beat back that challenge, but decided not to run for reelection last year. Since taking office, Williams has shaken up the department and taken other steps that implicitly criticize Abraham's tenure.

While Abraham is squawking about Williams' minor reform, Philadelphia lags behind dozens of cities that have passed "lowest law enforcement priority" initiatives and the 13 states that have already decriminalized possession of small amounts of pot.

Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

Lynne is senile in lives in Reefer Madness land

I believe it was Timothy O'leary that said the worst side effect of LSD was the paranoid delusions it creates on the non-users.

Lynne is out of her f'ing mind if she believes the crap she spewed. The American Taliban can't leave soon enough.

We have two bills that were introduced 1 year ago. Marijuana for Responsible Adults and a law to protect Medical Patients.
They have sat inactive for the past year.

Patrick Leahy introduced a bill to provide more funding for drug busts 3 months ago and the bill is already farther along.
Some of the language in the bill includes Marijuana. The topic of Marijuana legalization is a hot topic right now that continues to gain support in the face of the death toll down in Mexico. The politicians know the support for Medical Use is around 80% and the Support for Recreational is around 50%.

My question is this. If more than half the public doesn't even think it should be illegal and the other half thinks it should be legal, why does it look like we are moving to turn up the volume on the drug war? It goes directly against what more than half the public wants. Who do the politicians work for? We watched them waive financial regulations that helped contribute to the second worst financial crisis, we watched them waive regulations for the Petro industry as they got their pockets line. From what I understand most countries that run offshore oil rigs have remote shutoff valves, which we didn't have thanks to lax regulations. Look at the falling bridges, busted levies and unsafe roads that they continue to neglect. They have enough money to occupy half the world with our armed forces and they can't even fix a bridge thats labeled "structurally deficient" for the past 8 years.

The Military Industrial Sector is out of control. This bill seems like its just gonna Militarize the police even further. Where are the priorties?

Have they not been listening? It seems like Leahy might have a few friends in the DEA. It also seems like a shadow company that owns drug stores is getting involved.

Does anyone know anything about this bill?

S. 3031: Drug Free Communities Enhancement Act of 2010

Further reading:

Drug War Police Tactics Endanger Innocent Citizens

For the last year, I've been researching a study on SWAT teams, "no-knock" raids, and the rise of paramilitary tactics in domestic policing (the study was released this week). The trends I've found are troubling, and some of the individual stories are absolutely heartbreaking.
Each day in America, police SWAT teams raid more than 100 private homes, many times very late at night, or very early in the morning. Many times, these teams don't even bother to knock. Because these raids are violent, confrontational, and often conducted on questionable intelligence (I'll get to that in a moment), they've left a long trail of "wrong address" raids on frightened innocents, needless injury, and even death.

Since the early 1980s, the U.S. has seen a 1,300 percent rise in the number of SWAT team deployments, from 3,000 per year in 1981, to more than 40,000 per year in 2001 (the number is likely even higher today). It's of no coincidence that this dramatic increase has taken place over the period the U.S. has reinvigorated its war on drugs.

According to Eastern Kentucky University criminologist Peter Kraska, who has tracked the trend, the vast majority of these raids are to serve routine drug warrants, many times for crimes no more serious than possession of marijuana.

If you've seen an episode of Cops or Dallas SWAT, you know the routine. These raids are commonly conducted late at night, or just before dawn, to catch suspects by surprise. Police sometimes deploy "flash grenades," then batter down or blow up doors with explosives. They then storm the home, subduing occupants, handcuffing them at gunpoint, sometimes pushing them to the ground.

They then search the home, typically with little regard for personal belongings. If the family dog gets in the way, he'll be executed....

The problem is, these violent, highly-confrontational SWAT raids are conducted based on information first gleaned from informants. Which means the information isn't always accurate. Which means an untold number of innocent Americans have been subjected to the horrifying predicament of having armed men invade their homes in the middle of the night, and needing to decide immediately upon waking if the intruders are cops or criminals, and if they should submit or resist........

But even the documented cases should be cause for concern. They include the cases of Salvatore Culosi and Cory Maye, both of whom I've written about previously in this column. They include 40 cases in which a completely innocent person was killed. There are dozens more in which nonviolent offenders (recreational pot smokers, for example, or small-time gamblers like Culosi) or police officers were needlessly killed.

There are nearly 150 cases in which innocent families, sometimes with children, were roused form their beds at gunpoint, and subjected to the fright of being apprehended and thoroughly searched at gunpoint. There are other cases in which a SWAT team seems wholly inappropriate, such as the apprehension of medical marijuana patients, many of whom are bedridden.,2933,205040,00.html

Here's a disturbing map of drug raids went wrong

and another site the details police victimes.

And this drug raid happened

And this drug raid happened this week, exactly like the 2006 said happens all the time. It looks like they are right.

If someone's trying to kick my door down in the middle of the night and I own a gun, I would most likely grab it.
These raids are recipes for disaster. Giving that the intelligence is often wrong and they sometimes get the wrong address,
Whats really protecting us?

This could happen to anyone in this country. Why did we give the police this much power when they can't even do the thorough
background work to make sure they got the right people and the right address.

That's exactly why it should be legalized

""They are the same criminals who ruin the city's neighborhoods by aggressive, destructive conduct, engage in shoot-outs, commit violent crimes to support their habits, and they intimidate or kill witnesses," Abraham said."

Right. Which is why it needs to be legalized and regulated like alcohol and tobacco. Because you never see shoot-outs over cigarettes or booze.

Of course what Abraham said

Of course what Abraham said is totally ridiculous, but the Williams response was not very digestible.

"Hyperbole, .....I would see no evidence that the de minimus users of marijuana are significant contributors to this supposed Wild West violence," McGettigan said.

Statement making 101:
"Hyperbole" - The general public does not remember exactly what the word means from 8th grade grammar. The people we are trying to convince, on average, certainly don't. Why not call it what it is, A LIE! Say that it is a lie that is told again and again but there is no truth to it at all. Rule of sound bytes is speak to a 3rd grade level.

"I would see no evidence that....." - this makes it look like it is your opinion. Where Abraham presented conjecture, hyperbole, propaganda and opinion as categorical fact, McGettigan states fact as though it's his opinion. when you start a sentence with something like "I would see no evidence" it is very easy for the lay-man opposition to say "well I do".

""de minimus" does ANYONE know what this means? I like to think I'm pretty smart, and I took 3 years of Latin, but don't think I have ever heard this phrase used once in public discourse.

"supposed Wild West violence" this trivializes the actual violence that drug prohibition causes. Gang violence is REAL, it is not some fairy tale from the OK Coral. He should have pointed out that the violence is caused by the blackmarket for drugs, including marijuana. If he didn't want to say all this, because the issue isn't legalization, he should have just said that the casual users of marijuana do not contribute to violent crime, and police should be going after actual violent criminals instead of focusing their time with petty marijuana busts.

I know I am over analyzing, the guy was a lawyer and not really trained at giving public statements, but if the average person who is on the fence but leans toward prohibition reads both statements, there is no way McGettigan's statement would sway their opinion the other way.

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