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Legalization: Vermont States Attorney Calls for Decriminalization of All Drugs

Windsor County, Vermont, States Attorney Robert Sand has spoken out against the drug war. In a Thursday interview with the Rutland Herald, Sand said he favors decriminalizing all drugs and a public health approach to drug use.

"It's hard for me to see the vast resources expended on drug cases," Sand said. The 15-year prosecutor added that he wished more resources would go into prosecuting the physical and sexual abuse of children. "Don't get me wrong. Drugs are bad for you, they impair your judgment, they affect your memory, they reduce your inhibitions in a dangerous way. They're not good for you."

But the state of Vermont needs to rethink whether it is the role of government to forcibly stop people from using intoxicating substances, Sand said. The idea should not be considered radical, he protested. "I actually reject the premise that it's radical. I'm not condoning people breaking the law. My duty is to enforce the law but it's not my role to just passively accept a situation that exacerbates public danger. Prohibition doesn't work; we should have learned that with alcohol," he said.

It is drug prohibition, not drugs themselves, that causes the most serious crime, Sand argued. "Drug transactions cause the most serious crimes," he said, noting that the disputes deal with money owed, drugs stolen and turf wars between dealers. "That's the violence of drugs," he said, not drug-induced crime. "We don't see crazed crack heads or someone on crystal," he said.

Sand told the Herald he had taken his message to major police departments, and after an initially rocky response, could get police to see his point of view. He asks them to think "about the worst drug house in their community, the worst drug dealer, the worst addict" and then asks them to envision the house painted and repaired and people obtaining drugs legally. That's when they come around he said. "It means less violence. It means less addicts."

Sand has only recently begun speaking out, he told the Herald. It sounds like he is ready to be heard.

Europe: Italian Government Loosens Marijuana Possession Limits

Acting on one of its springtime campaign pledges, the Italian government last week acted administratively to double the amount of marijuana one can possess without penalty. The change in the official interpretation of the law is expected to come into effect in a matter of weeks, and when it does, Italians will be able to possess roughly an ounce of marijuana for personal use.

The law actually specifies quantities of THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Until now, one could possess only one-half gram of THC, or about a half-ounce of mediocre potency marijuana. Now, Italian tokers will be able to possess up to one gram of THC. (How this will work in practice is something of a mystery. Will people be able to possess more schwag than kind bud because the schwag contains less THC? What about hash, which is widely used in Italy? Will police officers carry portable chemical assay kits to assess potency?)

"I intervened so thousands of young people will not have to go to jail or suffer a criminal proceeding for smoking a joint," said Health Minister Livia Turco in remarks reported by Reuters. "This will not liberalize drugs but prevent and deal with those who use drugs. You can only fight drugs effectively by taking on the dealers and the traffickers and making an example of them."

Turco is a member of the largest party in the government, the Left Democrats. The previous, right-leaning government of Silvio Berlusconi had moved late in its tenure to stiffen Italy's drug laws, and the new government's move to loosen the marijuana law is part of what it has announced will be a major overhaul of the drug laws.

Support for reduced penalties for marijuana offenses, poll shows (Arkansas News Bureau)

Localização: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.arkansasnews.com/archive/2006/11/21/News/338587.html

Italy signals major overhaul of drugs laws (EuroNews, France)

Localização: 
United States
URL: 
http://euronews.net/create_html.php?page=detail_info&article=390711&lng=1

Eureka Springs : Victory energizes ‘pot’ law backers (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

Localização: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.nwanews.com/adg/News/172626/

Election 2006: Massachusetts Voters in Four More Districts Continue the Clamor for Marijuana Law Reform

Since 2000, marijuana reform activists associated with MassCann, the Bay State NORML affiliate, and the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts have sponsored advisory marijuana reform questions in state representative and senate districts and have won every one. The trend continued this year, with reform questions in four more districts being approved by voters.

According to DPFMA board member John Leonard, a question asking whether representatives in the 1st and 12th Plymouth Representative Districts should be instructed to support marijuana decriminalization passed in both, with margins of 61% and 60% respectively. In the 3rd Middlesex Senate District and the 7th Norfolk Representative District, voters were asked to vote on questions asking whether to instruct their representatives to support medical marijuana legislation. Those questions won with 67% in Middlesex and 64% in Norfolk.

According to MassCann, more than 420,000 Massachusetts residents in 110 communities had voted to urge their legislators to embrace either decriminalization or medical marijuana before Election Day. We can now add another 63,000 pro-reform votes and four more communities to the tally.

In a debate last month, newly elected Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick said he's "very comfortable" with the idea of marijuana legalization but would veto a decriminalization bill if it came to his desk because "I just don't think it ought to be our priority." Hopefully the legislature will give him the opportunity to change his mind.

Let's Not Forget Massachusetts

In our list of drug policy-related ballot issues last Friday, we neglected to mention Massachusetts. Voters in one district there will be voting on whether to instruct their representative to favor marijuana decriminalization, while voters in two other districts will be voting on whether to instruct their representatives to support medical marijuana. These local questions continue a process that began with the 2000 elections and have so far resulted in more than 420,000 Bay State residents voting to support marijuana law reform. Here is the info on the Massachusetts races: Plymouth, Massachusetts: In the 1st and 12th Plymouth Representative Districts, voters will be voting to tell their representatives to support decriminalization: “Shall the state legislator from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would make the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a civil violation, subject to a fine of no more than $100.00 and not subject to any criminal penalties?” Middlesex and Norfolk, Massachusetts: Voters in the 7th Norfolk Representative District and the 3rd Middlesex Senate District will be voting on whether to tell their representatives to support medical marijuana: “Shall the state legislator from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow seriously ill patients, with their doctor’s written recommendation, to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for their personal medical use?”
Localização: 
MA
United States

Is Willie Nelson mature enough to smoke marijuana?

(Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, joins us as a regular blogger in the Speakeasy.) “It's a good thing I had a bag of marijuana instead of a bag of spinach or I'd be dead by now,” Willie Nelson said recently. I almost fell out of my rocking chair, laughing. No sooner did the government report that the fastest growing population of drug users are aged 50 to 59 years, but 73-year old Willie Nelson was criminally charged with possessing marijuana, as well as four other men, aged 50 to 75 years old. Those are pretty mature ages. In January 2004 and again August 2005, Art Garfunkel, now 63 years old, was charged with marijuana possession in New York. Good grief. Look, we all agree that we have to keep drugs away from kids. That’s why drugs are illegal, of course, to keep kids from getting their hands on drugs. Seriously. Kids are just too immature to let have drugs, we all agree on that. But as I got my rocking rhythm back again, I wondered, “Can you ever be mature enough to use marijuana?” What kinds of things have minimum maturity requirements? A teenager can enlist in the United States military at age 17, with a parent’s consent (10 U.S.C. sec. 510). The Twenty-Sixth Amendment to the Constitution recognizes that you have sufficient maturity to vote for federal offices at age 18 (ratified in 1971). We know that Congress has told the states to make it a law that a person has to be at least 21 years old to purchase alcohol. And in family values loving America – where building strong families is one of our highest values, and being responsible for the care and nurture of little children – you can get married in most states if you are 16 years old if you have your parents consent. http://www.law.cornell.edu/topics/Table_Marriage.htm In freedom loving Mississippi, a girl can be 15 years old and get married without her parents consent. A girl age 12 can get married in Kansas or Massachusetts with parental consent. It seems that as a society, we recognize a high degree of maturity by the time you turn 21. But we recognize circumstances that require super-maturity – which highly risky circumstances apply. Our “Founding Fathers,” the framers of the Constitution, gave some thought to the maturity they believed was necessary in those to whom we would entrust the governing of America. What might require the highest degree of maturity? Deciding to declare war – that’s pretty darn dangerous. Or serving as Commander in Chief. A person cannot serve in the House of Representatives until he or she is 25 years old, and must be at least 30 years old to serve in the U.S. Senate (Article I of the Constitution, sections 2 and 3). So to vote to declare war (Article I, section 8, clause 11), you must be at least 25 years old. To be President of the United States (which includes being Commander in Chief of the Army, Navy and Militia), with all the power that risks everyone’s health and safety, you must be at least 35 years old, a natural born citizen, and have resided in the U.S. for 14 years (Article II, section 1, clause 5). Those are the only qualifications in the Constitution. Think about it. The framers of the Constitution recognized that once you have turned 35, you can be entrusted with the most serious and responsible job in the nation. You are mature enough! So now let’s think of folks fifteen years older than that. They aren’t impressionable youth. They know what mortality is. Many of them have raised families. They have seen and struggled with the immaturity of their children. Most of them have close friends and family who have died recently. They now attend funerals about as frequently as weddings. Heck, many of them now regularly read the obituary pages. Certainly most people who are 50 years old can be considered mature enough to smoke marijuana and do it responsibly. We can still punish the handful of oddballs who drive while impaired or use marijuana it in the surgical suite or airplane cockpit. Of course many prohibitionists will argue that if we legalize marijuana for 50 year olds youngsters – probably in their 40's – will get it illegally. Well that would be pretty serious, wouldn’t it? But surely, would any one over 50 in their right mind would share pot with immature “kids” under 35? No way. For gosh sakes, isn’t 73-year old Willie Nelson mature enough to smoke pot and to not have to worry about the police? When do you finally get to be recognized as a grown up in America?
Localização: 
United States

Report from the National New Democratic Party Convention in Quebec

Report from DANA LARSEN President, eNDProhibition The unofficial anti-prohibition wing of Canada's NDP. http://www.endprohibition.ca MY EXPERIENCES AT THE NDP CONVENTION I came to the federal NDP Convention in Quebec, to promote our organization, eNDProhibition, NDP against the drug war. We had a group of 8 delegates who came to the convention specifically to support eNDProhibition, work our two tables and promote our marijuana and drug policy resolutions. Preparing for the convention had been frustrating. I had intended on buying a full-page ad in the convention guide, but no-one ever responded to the ad purchase form I Xpressposted to their office, nor the many phone messages and emails I left over a six-week period. However, they did get back to me about the two tables for us to promote our group, and when we got to the convention we did indeed have the promised space reserved for us. The display tables were in a smaller room away from the main convention hall, and when it turned out that we needed more electrical outlets the fellow came promptly and installed them very quickly and professionally. RESOLUTIONS AND DEBATES A key to any convention is the priority given to the resolutions. Every convention receives hundreds of resolutions, and there will only be time to actually debate and confirm the party's official support for a very small fraction of the total. So if you have a resolution you want passed, you want it to be within the top 5 in its category. This was the first federal convention to use a new method for dealing with resolutions, the "Saskatchewan Method" as it originated in that province. I think that previous conventions used the same method currently employed by the NDP in BC and some other provinces. That method is to have a committee sort through all the resolutions and then put them into a priority list. The list can be appealed but the committee has the final say in priorities. The new method at this convention was for a central committee to sort all resolutions into one of six categories, and then prioritize them within each category. Near the start of the convention, delegates can pick one of six simulatenous meetings, where they can vote on reorganizing the order of resolutions, and also amending them. There were two resolutions which our group was promoting, one calling for the NDP to introduce legislation calling for non-punitive marijuana policies, the other calling for expansion of the safe injection site program into any communities that wanted one. Our marijuana resolution had been passed by four riding associations, and three other different marijuana resolutions were passed by other groups. One of those was written by Libby Davies, and was a good resolution but not quite as strident as the others. All of the marijuana resolutions were clustered near the bottom of their category, except for the one written by Davies, which was placed at a reasonable 13. Not high enough to likely get debated, but good for a list of 95 resolutions. The safe injection site resolution had been placed in a different category, and given a priority in the 30s. I was surprised as it is a current issue and seems to have broad public support. We decided to focus our efforts on Libby Davies' pot resolution, hoping to amend it to make it a little stronger, and bump it up the list. But despite our best efforts we didn't succeed. Our motion to bump it up to number 5 was spoken against by MP Charlie Angus, who just said it shouldn't be a priority at this time. The motion to prioritize it to #5 was defeated by roughly 65%. We tried some other maneouvers to get something on harm reduction into an omnibus justice bill already at #5, but time for debate on that item ended just as I was about to speak. Although I wanted to get our resolution a higher priority, and I was annoyed by Charlie Angus' comment about it not being an important issue, something else happened during the meeting that was much worse, and which seemed like an organized subversion of the process. BLOCK VOTING Our policy section included other justice and human rights issues, including some resolutions on LGBT equality, and some opposing the changes to the age of consent law which have been proposed by the Conservatives. I figured that opposing change to the age of consent laws was a no-brainer and would pass easily. But when this item came up for debate and amendment, I looked behind me and saw a big crowd of people standing in the back of the room. A motion was made to "table" the resolution, which means sending it back to another committe for further analysis. This is one way of killing a resolution and also avoiding public debate on it. The motion to table carried, and then the big voting block left the room. Many people in the room were verbally and visibily pissed about this. These folks had apparently organized themselves and had entered a few debate rooms at key momments, to vote as a block on key issues. Delegates were supposed to pick one of the six rooms and stick to that section, but apparently these folks liked to bend the rules. An LGBT equality resolution came up next, and I tried to get them to slip in the conclusion of another resolution opposing change to the age of consent laws, but my amendment was ruled out of order. Svend Robinson spoke and got at least an amendment calling for the age of consent to be the same for both hetero and homosexual acts. So anyways, these sorts of shenanigans didn't impress me, although I did learn from them what it takes to get a resolution through, and how to block any you don't like. However, much of this maneouvering was academic anyways, as when it came time for the entire convention to debate the various policy sections which had been prioritized the day before, not much time was allowed and only the top 3-4 resolutions in each section got debated. So even if we had gotten our marijuana resolution bumped to #5 it still wouldn't have made the floor for debate. SAFE INJECTION SITE RESOLUTION PASSES We did get one resolution passed. Libby Davies pushed for a resolution supporting the safe injection site to get into the "emergency resolutions" section which get debated on the last day of convention. This resolution was listed as #6 of six resolutions, but we managed to speed through the other five and we got our resolution passed. So now the federal NDP has an official policy calling for Vancouver's safe injection site program to be continued, and for other safe injection sites to be created in any other communities that want one. RUNNING FOR PREZ John Shavluk, delegate for Delta North, is a passionate member of our group and he was disappointed that our resolution didn't get to the floor. He decided to run for a pair of positions in the party so he could take the opportunity to draw attention to the importance of our issue. Shavluk ran for BC Provincial Council rep, and also President of the NDP. In both cases he was running against a single opponent who had broad support. I only caught one of his two speeches, but he did a good job and used his three minutes to explain that marijuana and prohibition were important issues which the NDP should support. He didn't win either post of course, but he did a nice job and I think delegates respected his position. MEETING AND GREETING In terms of meeting people, handing out our information, networking and building grassroots support, the convention was a success. We gave out about 800 buttons, hundreds of copies of our newsletter, a big stack of LEAP DVDs, dozens of copies of Drug War Facts, and a batch of BC Civil Liberties Association flyers. We also met some enthusiastic people who agreed to start eNDProhibition chapters in their provinces. In the next issue of the End Prohibition News we'll be listing contact info for our Directors in seven provinces: BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. I spoke briefly with both Stephen Lewis and Jack Layton. Lewis agreed to let me interview him for a future issue of End Prohibition News, and Layton told our group that he had supported our cause since 1973, and to keep up the good work. We missed the big party on Saturday night, jetlag and early mornings caught up with most of our crew. But on Friday night we had a great time smoking up everyone in the outdoor backroom of the NDP party bar. We blazed three massive bombers and endless bowls of BC hash, until a waiter finally asked if we could move the toking outside. So all in all I'm glad that we were at the convention, and although our marijuana resolution joined the other 98% of resolutions which didn't get debated, we did garner a great deal of support for our cause. We met many like-minded people across Canada who share our goals, and we learned a great deal about how the convention process works, and what tactics would work best in the future. Over the next few months, I will be attending more NDP conventions across Canada on behalf of eNDProhibition. I will be at the Ontario Young New Democrat convention in October, the Saskatchewan NDP convention in November, the Ontario NDP convention in January, and I think the Manitoba NDP has a convention scheduled for March. At all these events I will be working with others to educate NDP delegates on the importance of these issues, and to pass resolutions against the drug war. -- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - DANA LARSEN President, eNDProhibition The unofficial anti-prohibition wing of Canada's NDP. http://www.endprohibition.ca
Localização: 
Quebec, QC
Canada

Europe: Scottish Police Move Toward Warnings for Simple Marijuana Possession

Police in two Scottish police districts have begun a pilot program where people caught in possession of small amounts of marijuana are given warnings instead of being arrested and prosecuted. Police reported already issuing 23 warnings in the West Lothian area. The other district where the program is underway is Fife, where some 40 warnings had already been issued.

The newspaper The Scotsman quoted a spokesman for the Lothian and Borders police as saying, "West Lothian is the only division where they use adult warnings. There is a pilot project agreed with procurators fiscal."

After Scottish police were criticized by some anti-drug campaigners for "sending the wrong message," the Association of Chief Police Officers, the grouping of Britain's top cops, moved to assure the nervous that police weren't going soft. "The police service in Scotland continues to take a robust stance on anybody caught in possession of drugs. The projects in place in Fife and Lothian and Borders are in agreement with local procurators fiscal and in the spirit of the criminal justice reform process," the group said.

The pilot program comes on the heels of a decision by all Scottish police forces to move to warnings instead of arrests for a variety of minor offenses -- such as public urination or low-level disturbing the peace -- for first-time offenders. The moves are part of an effort to reduce the burden of a heavy caseload on courts and prosecutors.

But Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell is grumbling. While telling reporters he would not dictate to police or prosecutors, he added that he was "very keen" that people with pot be prosecuted. "Cannabis is illegal and nobody in Scotland should ever get the impression otherwise," he said.

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