Paraphernalia

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Tim Pawlenty is a Drug War Idiot

But don't take my word for it, just look what he did:

Despite near-unanimous support, Gov. Tim Pawlenty has vetoed a bill preventing prosecutors from using bong water to calculate the weight of controlled substances in drug prosecutions — and a lawmaker who helped pass the legislation accused the governor of doing so for political reasons.

The bill was the result of a 4-3 Minnesota Supreme Court decision last year that allowed Rice County prosecutors to charge Sara Ruth Peck, 47, of Faribault, with first-degree drug possession — a charge often reserved for drug dealers — after the water in a glass pipe tested positive for traces of methamphetamine.

If Pawlenty is condoning this nonsense for political reasons, he needs to go on the internet or something. This guy is a rumored republican presidential candidate for 2012, but he apparently missed the memo that mind-blowing acts of reefer madness aren't exactly selling out stadiums these days.

Perhaps this bong controversy is too nuanced to screw him, but his veto of a medical marijuana bill that would only have protected dying patients is another story. Note to Gary Johnson: if you find yourself in a debate with Tim Pawlenty, ask him why he wants to arrest terminal AIDS patients for using pot brownies to stimulate their appetite.

And while you're at it, ask him if he thinks Michael Phelps should have been charged as a drug trafficker for the weight of the water in that bong he smoked.

Paraphernalia: Florida Legislature Passes Bill Banning Bong Sales

In a move aimed directly at marijuana smokers and the vendors who supply them with their pipes and bongs, the Florida legislature has passed a bill that will make it illegal to sell drug paraphernalia in most head shops. The bong bill, HB 187, passed the Senate earlier and was approved unanimously in a House floor vote on Wednesday. It now awaits signature by Gov. Charlie Christ.

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Under the bill, only shops where the sale of tobacco products and accessories constitute 75% of income or shops where the sale of pipes and bongs constitutes less than 25% of income will be allowed to sell a long list of smoking devices. These include pipes of any material, water pipes, carburetion tubes and devices, chamber pipes, carburetor pipes, electric pipes, air-driven pipes, chillums, bongs, and ice pipes or chillers.

Violation of the law would be a misdemeanor. Offenders could face up to a year in jail. If signed by the governor, the law would go into effect on July 1.

Head shop owners tried to organize to fight back, even creating a web site, Kill Bill 187, in a vain bid to block the bill. Jay Work, the owner of Grateful J's Grateful Deadhead Shop in Margate and a second shop in Boca Raton, led the fight.

"Shop owners, small-business owners are being thrown under the bus here," he told the Broward Palm Beach New Times. "They're saying that if I sell a $4,000 piece of art at my store, that I have to sell $12,000 worth of cigarettes. I'm not sure who that helps," Work says. "They're saying basically you can sell this stuff -- we're just going to make it really hard."

While drug paraphernalia is already illegal in Florida, pipes that could be used to smoke tobacco are legal to make, own, buy, and sell. They only become paraphernalia if they are used to do something illegal. But this bill attempts to circumvent the law with its restrictions on sales, Work said.

"The pipe itself is just a pipe," Work says. "The pipes I sell are harmless unless you take the pipe outside and beat someone over the head with it."

"I've been fighting the pipe industry for the longest, because it is all a part of the drug trade and the criminal enterprise that we know exists and destroys neighborhoods, families and order in our society," said sponsor Rep. Darryl Rouson (D-Tampa Bay) earlier this month. "When was the last time you stopped at a red light and saw someone smoking a hit of tobacco out of one of these one-shooters or water pipes?" he told NBC Miami.

Rouson, a self-described former crackhead, has gone after paraphernalia in the past, too. Last year, he proposed a bill that would have imposed an extra sales tax on smoking paraphernalia to pay for DARE programs that were facing cuts.

"Florida has a conscience and an awareness that marijuana and the smoking and ingesting of it is not healthy for an individual, nor is it healthy for public safety and the order in society," Rouson added.

Banning Pot Didn't Work, So Let's Try Banning Bongs

Even as record numbers of Americans begin recognizing the profound stupidity of our marijuana laws, Florida legislators are still thrashing around in panicked desperation:

A bill passed Wednesday will make it illegal in Florida to sell the drug paraphernalia in most head shops.

The so-called "Bong Bill" passed by the Senate and then overwhelmingly passed 115-0 in the House now heads to Gov. Crist for final approval.

The bill prohibits the sale of the items by businesses that don't make at least 75 percent of their money from tobacco sales or make over 25 percent from sale of the prohibited items. [NBC]

So the Florida legislature's idea of fighting the drug war is to tell retailers they have to sell more tobacco. And the vote was unanimous, of course.

Prosecution: No More Crack Pipe Felonies for Houston

Beginning January 1, prosecutors in Harris County, Texas, will no longer file felony drug charges against people found with less than one one-hundredth of a gram of illegal drugs. Currently in Houston, people caught with trace amounts of drug or holding crack pipes with drug traces are routinely charged with felonies.

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crack pipe
But under a new policy promulgated by Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos, police are instructed to instead issue Class C misdemeanor tickets to people caught in possession of crack pipes or trace amounts of drugs. That means arrestees will face only a $500 fine, not the up to two years in state jail mandated by the felony charge.

The cops are not happy. "It ties the hands of the officers who are making crack pipe cases against burglars and thieves," said Gary Blankinship, president of the Houston Police Officers' Union. "A crack pipe is not used for anything but smoking crack by a crack head. Crack heads, by and large, are also thieves and burglars. They're out there committing crimes," he told the Houston Chronicle.

But Lykos told the Chronicle there were good reasons to change the policy. Less than one-hundredth of a gram of a drug is not enough for more than one drug test, and defense attorneys often want to run their own tests, she said.

The policy change also "gives us more of an ability to focus on the violent offenses and the complex offenses," she added. "When you have finite resources, you have to make decisions, and this decision is a plus all around."

Last year, Harris County prosecutors filed 46,000 felony cases, with 13,713, or nearly 30%, for possession of less than a gram of controlled substances. It is difficult to say how many of those would not have been charged as felonies under the new policy because most were charged only as possession of less than a gram.

While police are grumbling, defense attorneys are beaming. "It's a smart move and it's an efficient move and it lets us get down to the business of handling criminal cases of a more serious magnitude," Nicole Deborde, president-elect of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, told the Chronicle.

Prosecution: No More Crack Pipe Felonies for Houston

Prosecution: No More Crack Pipe Felonies for Houston Beginning January 1, prosecutors in Harris County, Texas, will no longer file felony drug charges against people found with less than one one-hundreth of a gram of illegal drugs. Currently in Houston, people caught with trace amounts of drug or holding crack pipes with drug traces are routinely charged with felonies. But under a new policy promulgated by Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos, police are instructed to instead issue Class C misdemeanor tickets to people caught in possession of crack pipes or trace amounts of drugs. That means arrestees will face only a $500 fine, not the up to two years in state jail mandated by the felony charge. The cops are not happy. “It ties the hands of the officers who are making crack pipe cases against burglars and thieves,” said Gary Blankinship, president of the Houston Police Officers' Union. “A crack pipe is not used for anything but smoking crack by a crack head. Crack heads, by and large, are also thieves and burglars. They're out there committing crimes,” he told the Houston Chronicle. But Lykos told the Chronicle there were good reasons to change the policy. Less than one-hundreth of a gram of a drug is not enough for more than one drug test, and defense attorneys often want to run their own tests, she said. The policy change also “gives us more of an ability to focus on the violent offenses and the complex offenses,” she added. “When you have finite resources, you have to make decisions, and this decision is a plus all around.” Last year, Harris County prosecutors filed 46,000 felony cases, with 13,713, or nearly 30%, for possession of less than a gram of controlled substances. It is difficult to say how many of those would not have been charged as felonies under the new policy because most were charged only as possession of less than a gram. While police are grumbling, defense attorneys are beaming. “It's a smart move and it's an efficient move and it lets us get down to the business of handling criminal cases of a more serious magnitude,” Nicole Deborde, president-elect of the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, told the Chronicle.
Localização: 
Houston, TX
United States

Tommy Chong's Prosecutor Says He Should Have Gotten More Jail Time

Mary Beth Buchanan, easily the nastiest federal prosecutor in the nation, has finally resigned her post. Yet, even as lovers of justice across the country celebrate her long-overdue departure (and pray she won't run for elected office), Buchanan has managed to turn our stomachs for what will hopefully be the last time:

On her last day in office, Buchanan says her only regret during her tenure was accepting a plea from Tommy Chong. [KDKA.com]

Such pure arrogance is really something to behold. Every legal textbook in the country should display her picture beside the term "malicious prosecution," as the railroading of Tommy Chong is a mere footnote within a career defined by gratuitous excesses.

Of course, Tommy was amused to hear that Buchanan still holds a grudge against him. The feeling is mutual:

"I'm honored to be Mary Beth's only regret. Now does she regret going after me? Or does she regret that I never got enough time? I tend to think she wishes she'd never heard my name. I have become her legacy. Mary Beth Loose Cannon is now looking for a job. She blew her last job busting me. Karma is so sweet! She's looking for a work while Cheech and I start our second multi-million dollar tour thanks to the publicity she created for us! Thank you Mary Beth - may you find peace and happiness in your search for your soul." [CelebStoner

I dunno, Tommy. You might wanna keep the floodlights on at night, just in case. If we know one thing about Mary Beth Buchanan, it’s that she never ever stops. She could be lurking in your bushes at this very moment, drunk with fury and looking to finish what she started.

Marijuana: Colorado Ski Town Votes to Legalize It, Measure Passes With 73%

Residents of the Colorado ski town of Breckenridge overwhelmingly voted to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana Tuesday. The measure passed with 73% of the vote.

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Breckenridge, Colorado
That means as of January 1, people in Breckenridge can legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana under local ordinance. The measure also legalizes the possession of marijuana paraphernalia.

"This votes demonstrates that Breckenridge citizens overwhelmingly believe that adults should not be punished for making the safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol," said Sean McAllister, Breckenridge attorney and chair of Sensible Breckenridge, a local project of the statewide marijuana law reform group Sensible Colorado.

"As state and national focus grows on this important issue, the popular ski town of Breckenridge has taken center stage on marijuana reform -- and not just for medical purposes," said Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado. "With this historic vote, Breckenridge has emerged as a national leader in sensible drug policy."

The campaign, which had no formal opposition, received a chorus of local support including endorsements from Breckenridge Town Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron, former Colorado State Representative and Breckenridge resident, Gary Lindstrom, and the Summit Daily News.

Measure 2F was placed on the ballot when over 1,400 local supporters signed a petition supporting the reform measure.

Under Colorado state law, possession of up to an ounce is decriminalized and punishable by a $100 fine. But Breckenridge police will "still have the ability to exercise discretion," said Chief Rick Holman. "It's never been something that we've spent a lot of time on, so I don't expect this to be a big change in how we really do business," he told the Summit Daily News.

Breckenridge residents had voted for Amendment 44, a statewide legalization initiative, by the same percentage in 2006. That initiative won only 41% of the vote statewide.

Denver became the first city to vote to legalize marijuana possession under municipal ordinance in 2005.

Colorado Ski Town of Breckenridge Votes to Legalize It; Measure Passes With 72%

Residents of the Colorado ski town of Breckenridge overwhelmingly voted to legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana Tuesday. Early returns had the local measure passing with 72% of the vote. That means as of January 1, people in Breckenridge can legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana under local ordinance. The measure also legalizes the possession of marijuana paraphernalia. "This votes demonstrates that Breckenridge citizens overwhelmingly believe that adults should not be punished for making the safer choice to use marijuana instead of alcohol," said Sean McAllister, Breckenridge attorney and chair of Sensible Breckenridge, a local project of the statewide marijuana law reform group Sensible Colorado. "As state and national focus grows on this important issue, the popular ski town of Breckenridge has taken center stage on marijuana reform-- and not just for medical purposes," said Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado. "With this historic vote, Breckenridge has emerged as a national leader in sensible drug policy" The campaign, which had no formal opposition, received a chorus of local support including endorsements from Breckenridge Town Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron, former. Colorado State Representative and Breckenridge resident, Gary Lindstrom, and the Summit Daily News. Measure 2F was placed on the ballot when over 1400 local supporters signed a petition supporting the reform measure. Under Colorado state law, possession of up to an ounce is decriminalized and punishable by a $100 fine. But Breckenridge police will "still have the ability to exercise discretion," said Chief Rick Holman. “It's never been something that we've spent a lot of time on, so I don't expect this to be a big change in how we really do business,” he told the Summit Daily News. Breckenridge residents had voted for Amendment 44, a statewide legalization initiative, by the same percentage in 2006. That initiative won only 41% of the vote statewide. Denver became the first city to vote to legalize marijuana possession under municipal ordinance in 2005.
Localização: 
Breckenridge, CO
United States

Feature: Busted for Handing Out Clean Needles -- The Mono Park 2 Fight Back in California's Central Valley

Hit hard by a double whammy of drought and economic slowdown, California's Central Valley has become a hotbed of methamphetamine and other injection drug use. Now, the dusty town of Modesto, in Stanislaus County, has become a focal point in the statewide and nationwide battle over how to help injection drug users. Last week, two volunteers at an unsanctioned needle exchange were in court in Modesto hoping to reach a plea bargain after they were arrested in April for handing out syringes. Now known as the Mono Park 2, they're looking at serious jail time for trying to save lives.

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mobile needle exchange/clinic site in nearby Fresno
The deal was supposed to be that Stanislaus County District Attorney Birgit Fladager would drop drug paraphernalia possession charges against exchange volunteers Kristy Tribuzio and Brian Robinson if they agreed to quit handing out needles until there was a legal program in place. But that didn't happen. Instead, at the last minute, the DA rejected the plea deal. Another hearing is set for November 9. If the DA and defense attorneys cannot reach agreement then, the case will go to trial.

The case has its genesis in longstanding efforts to win official approval for a needle exchange in Modesto. California law allows for needle exchanges, but only as a local option. The county board of supervisors must declare a health emergency in order for needle exchanges to operate legally.

In a 2008 report, Containing the Emerging Threat of Hepatitis through a Syringe Exchange Program (begins on page 22), the Stanislaus County Civil Grand Jury recommended the county authorize syringe exchanges and implement them either directly or through a community based contractor. The effort also had the support of county public health officials, including Public Health Department, the Advisory Board for Substance Abuse Programs, the Local AIDS Advisory Implementation Group, and the Hepatitis C Task Force, who cited a high incidence of Hepatitis C. They cited research indicating that needle exchanges reduced the spread of blood-borne diseases, brought injection drug users into contact with public health workers, and did not result in increases in drug use.

But despite the input from the public health community and the grand jury report, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors a year ago voted unanimously against allowing needle exchanges. In so doing, they heeded their own prejudices and those of law enforcement over science-based policies and the advice of the public health community.

County Sheriff Adam Christianson and DA Fladager both spoke out against needle exchanges, saying they would enable drug users to continue their addiction. Fladager said needle exchanges sent the wrong message to young people and encouraged them to think the county would take care of them if they become addicted.

"All of the challenges we are faced with in Stanislaus County, the gangs, methamphetamine, crimes, all have elements of drug addiction," Christianson said. "A syringe exchange program enables people to continue with their drug addiction."

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used syringes collected by exchange -- they might otherwise have been discarded in public places
Noting that Hep C was not a big issue for the county because most patients are covered by insurance, Supervisor Bill O'Brien also objected on bizarre moral grounds. "Then there's the human issue. Giving a drug user a clean needle is not the best thing for him. Illegal drug use has a risk, and making it safer promotes it," he said.

Supervisor Jim DeMartini thanked the grand jury for the report, but then dismissively added, "Like many well-intentioned programs that don't work out, this will never work out and deliver the benefits promised."

Too bad the sheriff, the DA, and the county board don't agree with the nation's drug czar. "Needle exchange programs have been proven to reduce the transmission of blood-borne diseases," Gil Kerlikowske told Congress during confirmation hearings earlier this year. "A number of studies conducted in the US have shown needle exchange programs do not increase drug use. I understand that research has shown these programs, when implemented in the context of a comprehensive program that offers other services such as referral to counseling, healthcare, drug treatment, HIV/AIDS prevention, counseling and testing, are effective at connecting addicted users to drug treatment."

Given the knowledge base about the effectiveness of exchanges and the evident human need for them in Modesto, needle exchange advocates were not content to simply roll over and die. Instead, they created an unauthorized needle exchange in the city's Mono Park, also known as needle park by residents because of the used needles littering the ground there. The program was publicized and went along on a low-level basis without a hitch until April, when, after an elaborate undercover sting, police swooped down and arrested the exchange volunteers.

Kristi Tribuzio just happened to be volunteering with the needle exchange the day the bust went down. Now, she's one of the defendants. "There was a direct need for this, and when I found out there was an existing exchange -- I saw a flyer on a telephone pole -- I asked how is this happening?" she said. "I got involved; I was just going out there for the people. An undercover cop came up and did an exchange, and then, a little later eight to 10 undercover officers drove up with a drug dog and arrested us. It was pretty harsh and crazy," she recalled.

"Looking back, Brian and I think it was maybe naive of us to just go out there and do something that was helping people in line with other syringe exchange programs," said Tribuzio. "We didn't understand what the consequences could be."

Now, she and Robinson face up to a year in jail for violating the paraphernalia law. For Tribuzio, there were other consequences, including the loss of her contract position with the Stanislaus County drug and alcohol education and prevention program. "I was laid off two days after I was arrested. Because I was a contract worker, they didn't need a reason to fire me, and no official reason was given. Ironically, my employer supports needle exchange," she said. "Maybe that's why they laid me off instead of firing me for cause. Now, at least, I can get unemployment."

Tribuzio had previously worked as a substitute teacher, but she can't do that now, either. "I'm getting an MA in education, and I have a teaching credential, but my credential is now suspended," she said. "Imagine, a teacher in San Francisco could be doing just what I did, and there would be no problem."

That's because needle exchanges have been authorized by the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors, just as they have in most large California cities. But in more conservative locales, like the Central Valley, the fight is more difficult, and therein lies the problem -- and the solution -- said one prominent harm reductionist.

"What we need is to get legislation authorizing syringe exchanges on a statewide level rather than our current system, which requires that they be authorized by local authorities," said Hilary McQuie, Oakland-based Western director of the Harm Reduction Coalition. "Requiring local authorization means we have to deal with 54 jurisdictions instead of just one, and the politics makes it really difficult in conservative places like Fresno or Modesto. It will be really difficult to get syringe exchange approved in Modesto without a statewide mandate," she said.

Short of that, needle exchange advocates need to carefully lay the groundwork beforehand, she said. In that respect, the Modesto needle exchange perhaps suffered from political naivete. "The effort with the grand jury in Modesto was done in good faith, but the grand jury finding required a response from the Board of Supervisors within three months," she noted. "They hadn't really lined up their support with the Board, and the Board ended up voting against it. That was problematic."

While personally difficult for Tribuzio and Robinson, the battle over needle exchanges in Modesto has moved the issue forward locally and stirred support from around the country and the world. A Mono Park 2 Defense Committee has formed to back them. At last week's hearing, more than a dozen supporters were present in court, and the pair had letters of support from some 35 public health and harm reduction organizations here and abroad.

"We've gotten a ton of support from the harm reduction community," said Tribuzio. "This whole thing has been stressful and overwhelming for us, but they've given us a wealth of training, knowledge, and support, more than we ever expected. We've gotten support from people in other exchanges, and letters of support from around the world. We've also been building alliances with people in the community. Things in the Central Valley are crazy, and we can't turn our heads away in the face of disease. Now, at least, people are paying attention."

While Robinson and Tribuzio wait for their legal problems to be resolved, they continue to work with at-risk communities. "After the bust, we started Off The Streets, and that does everything except for needle exchange," said Tribuzio. "We're doing needs assessments, trying to get our fingers on the pulse of the community, trying to help where we can."

For McQuie, the trials and tribulations of the Mono Park 2 are, sadly, par for the course. "This is how most of the programs got started, doing them illegally, so they're in good company," she said.

Australia: Western Australia Premier Vows to Roll Back Marijuana Reforms, Reenergize Drug War

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Demagogue Rising: Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett
Leading a Liberal-National Party coalition government, Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett is introducing legislation this week to roll back reforms to the state's marijuana laws. Passed by an earlier Labor government in 2003, the changes decriminalized the possession of up to 30 grams of pot and allowed for the growing of up to two plants without fear of arrest and prosecution.

In a media statement Sunday and another one Monday, the "tough on crime" premier gave clear notice he was cracking down on pot and other drug offenders, and was willing to extend police powers to do so. He said he would introduce legislation to repeal the state's Cannabis Control Act of 2003 and to amend the 1981 Misuse of Drugs and Youthful Offender Act.

"The Liberal-National Government is committed to tackling both the demand and supply sides of the illicit drug problem through strong law enforcement policies, education and rehabilitation," Barnett said. "Cannabis is not a harmless or soft drug. Research continues to show that cannabis can lead to a host of health and mental health problems including schizophrenia, and can be a gateway to harder drugs," he maintained, treating highly controversial and discredited claims as if they were fact.

According to Premier Barnett, his legislation will:

  • Prosecute those in possession of more than 10g of cannabis.
  • See subsequent offenses for possession being prosecuted as criminal offences.
  • Prosecute people for cultivating even one or two cannabis plants.
  • Extend the ban on the sale of pot-smoking implements to minors to include everyone.
  • Increase the fine for selling smoking implements to $5,000 for sale to adults and $10,000 for sale to minors. Corporate entities could be fined up to five times those amounts.

Barnett also wants to "reform" the Cannabis Infringement Notice Scheme (CIN), or ticketing and fines for decriminalized amounts, by replacing it with a Cannabis Intervention Requirement Scheme (CIRS) that would require anyone ticketed to attend "drug education" classes. It would also mandate that anyone who failed to pay his fine would be prosecuted, something that has not been the case under the current law.

Barnett's scheme would also allow for the criminal prosecution for marijuana possession of juveniles after two decrim tickets and adults after one. The current law has no such measures.

There's more to come, Barnett promised. "The next steps will be to amend legislation to enable courts to impose a harsher sentence on dealers who sell or supply illicit drugs to children, irrespective of the location of the sale or supply," he said. "Further amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1981 will provide offenses for exposing children to harm or to the danger of serious harm from the manufacture of illegal drugs, such as amphetamines, or the unlawful cultivation of illegal hydroponically-grown plants. The government will also move to ban the sale of drug paraphernalia, including cocaine kits."

But, he said Monday, he's going to start by soon introducing legislation to allow police to stop and search anyone without probable cause. The police commissioner would designate certain "stop and search" zones with advance public notice, especially in entertainment areas.

"Police will have the right to go up to anyone they wish to and introduce a stop and search power," Barnett said. "It will not be an invasive search; it will be comparable to the sort of search and screening that takes place for any citizen getting on an aeroplane."

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