Gun Policy

RSS Feed for this category

US/Mexico Drug War "Caravan of Peace" Gearing Up [FEATURE]

Aghast and appalled at the bloody results of Mexican President Felipe Calderon's war on drugs, which has resulted in at least 50,000 deaths since he deployed the military against the so-called drug cartels in December 2006 and possibly as many as 70,000, dozens of organizations in Mexico and the US announced Monday that they will take part in a "Caravan for Peace" that will journey across the US late this summer in a bid to change failed drug war policies on both sides of the border.

caravan launch at Museo Memoria y Tolerancia, Plaza Juárez, Mexico City (@CaravanaUSA @MxLaPazMx)
Led by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, who was spurred to action by the murder of his son by cartel members in Cuernavaca in 2010, and the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) he heads, the caravan will depart from San Diego on August 12 and arrive in Washington on September 10 after traveling some 6,000 miles to bring to the American people and their elected officials the bi-national message that failed, murderous drug war policies must end.

The caravan will be underway in between presidential elections in the two countries. Mexico will choose a successor to Calderon on July 1, and whoever that successor is, will be re-tooling its fight against the drug cartels. By late summer, the US presidential campaign will be in full swing, and advocates hope to have at least some impact on that as well.

The caravan builds on similar efforts last year in Mexico. Led by Sicilia and other relatives of drug war victims, one caravan of more than 500 people left Cuernavaca and traveled north through 15 cities to Ciudad Juarez, one of the epicenters of prohibition-related violence in Mexico. A second caravan left Mexico City with 700 people traveling south through 21 cities. Those caravans helped turn what was an amorphous fear and dismay among Mexicans at the violence into a political movement that has put the issue of the drug wars and their victims squarely on the Mexican political agenda.

"The war on drugs has had painful consequences for our country, such as corruption and impunity," said Sicilia at a Mexico City press conference. "The proof of this is that Mexico has seen over 70,000 deaths and 10,000 disappearances, and this is closely linked to US regional security policies, which have sparked widespread areas of violence, human rights violations, and the loss of the rule of law. The drug war has failed," he said bluntly.

"On August 12, Mexicans will come to the US and cover a route of 25 cities in one month," Sicilia continued. "Our message is one of peace, and our journey will be peaceful with an open heart and the hope of speaking with each other. We believe the harm we live is linked to the failed policies we want to change."

"Regarding policies on the war on drugs, we propose the need to find a solution with a multidimensional and international approach that places the dignity of the individual at the center of drug policy," Sicilia said. "We call on both Mexican and US civil society to open and maintain a dialogue on evidence-based alternatives to prohibition and to consider various options for regulating drugs."

Javier Sicilia on CNNMéxico
For Sicilia and the caravan, drug policy is inextricably tied to other policies and issues that affect both sides of the border. The caravan is also calling for a ban on the importation of assault weapons to the US (because they then end up being exported to Mexican criminals), a higher priority for concentrating on money laundering, an end to US immigration policies that have resulted in the militarization of the border and the criminalization of immigrants, and a refocusing of US foreign policy to emphasize human rights while suspending US military aid to Mexico.

The broad range of interrelated issues is helping build a broad coalition around the caravan. Groups concerned with the border, immigrant rights, human rights, racial justice, and labor are all coming on board.

"Forty years ago, then President Nixon inaugurated the war on drugs, and we've not won the war on drugs -- the only thing we've achieved is being the world's leader in incarceration," said Dr. Niaz Kasravi, with the NAACP criminal justice program. "Through these policies, we've also promoted violence and death for those caught up in the drug war in the US and Mexico. In the US, those who have borne the brunt of it have been people of color. The war on drugs hasn't made our communities safer, healthier, or more stable, but has resulted in the mass incarceration of people of color, a de facto Jim Crow. We are in a violent state of emergency that must end, and we stand committed to ending the war on drugs."

"We emphasize the dignity and humanity of immigrants in the US," said Oscar Chacon of the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC), "and when we were invited to consider joining the caravan, we identified with it as a cause of our own. We see our issues reflected throughout the caravan. Policies that emphasize militarization and authoritarianism and enforcement and punishment have human rights violations as their natural results. We see in the caravan an opportunity to write a new chapter in our initiatives to highlight the value of respect for all human life and we will use our participation to further educate Latino and immigrant communities about the relationship between policy decisions made in Washington and the sad effects they can have -- in this case, particularly for our Mexican brothers and sisters."

"Prior to coming here, I did not know the extent of the pain, sorrow, and suffering of the families here in Mexico," said Neill Franklin, head of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "There are so many orphans, so many families being attacked. Families and future generations are also under attack in my country, with drive-by shootings and running gun battles in the streets of our big cities. Most of those targeted by the drug war here are blacks and Latinos; we have many broken families and communities because of these policies. This caravan will unite our people, our pain, and our solutions in an effort to save our sons and daughters."

"This is a historic moment and one of great necessity," said Ted Lewis of Global Exchange. "The caravan arrives between two presidential elections, and that's intentional, not because we have electoral ends, but because we want the message to be heard on both sides of the border. This is a truly binational effort, and it is very important that leaders on both sides of the border take this message deeply into account as they organize in Mexico a new administration and as they campaign here in the US. This issue must be dealt with now."

Also on board is Border Angels, a San Diego-based group best known for leaving caches of water in the desert to help save the lives of undocumented immigrants heading north. The group has long been critical of increased border enforcement efforts such as Operation Gatekeeper, which have pushed those immigrants away from urban areas and into harsh and unforgiving environments as they seek to make their way to a better life.

"Operation Gatekeeper has led to more than 10,000 deaths since 1994," said the group's Enrique Morones. "Two people die crossing the border every day, but they are also dying south of the border. Now, we see a new wave of migration to escape the terrible violence in Mexico, the country of my parents, and that's why we are joining this movement for peace in this historic caravan. We have told both Obama and Calderon that human rights, love, and peace have no borders. We demand peace, justice, and dignity."

"I think this will really have a significant impact," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "It's going to be a pivotal moment, just a month after the Mexican elections and just a few months before the US elections. I don't think drugs will be a major issue, but it will be bubbling up from time to time."

The caravan will seek to raise awareness on both sides of the border, Nadelmann said.

"Americans need to be aware of the devastation in Mexico from the combination of US demand and our failed prohibitionist policies," he said. "It's also important that Mexicans understand the devastating consequences of the war on drugs in the US -- the arrests and incarceration, the evisceration of civil rights. This mutual understanding is a pivotal part of what we're trying to accomplish."

"I hope the message will come through that change is needed on both sides of the border," Nadelmann continued. "We've seen the failures of prohibition on both sides, but the biggest impetus has to come from the US through legal regulation of marijuana and more innovative policies to reduce demand -- not from locking up more people, but by providing effective drug treatment and allowing people addicted to drugs to get them from legal sources. We need a fundmentally different approach, and this caravan will be a leap forward in understanding the consequences of failed prohibition."

Mexico City
Mexico

Medical Marijuana Update

The feds strike again in California, Connecticut becomes the 17th medical marijuana state and New Hampshire could be 18th, and localities in various medical marijuana states continue to try to keep a lid on the green medicine. Let's get to it:

California

Last Wednesday, a new dispensary opened up in Eagle Rock just a day after an LA City Council committee voted to advance a new ban on dispensaries in the city. The Together For Change dispensary is at the same location as the American Eagle Collective, which was raided and closed by LAPD narcotics officers on May 2. It is supposedly under new ownership, but has the same décor and even the same security guard as American Eagle.

On Tuesday, researchers reported that dispensary neighborhoods have no higher crime rates than neighborhoods without dispensaries. The research, which will appear in the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, examined 95 neighborhoods in Sacramento in 2009. The researchers found no evidence that neighborhoods with a higher density of medical marijuana dispensaries had higher rates of violent crime or property crime than other neighborhoods. But the authors added that further research is needed because they looked at neighborhoods at only one point in time. A neighborhood's crime patterns could change over time as more medical marijuana dispensaries open.

Also on Tuesday, CANORML reported that California elections brought mixed results. In Butte County, a measure that would have restricted patients' rights to cultivate on their own property lost 55% to 45%, but in Kern County an ordinance sharply limiting the location of dispensaries passed with 69% of the vote and in Lake County, a grower-led measure to regulate marijuana like agricultural crops was defeated by a margin of 66% to 33%.

In Los Angeles, LA City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, a staunch nemesis of medical marijuana, failed in his bid to run for District Attorney. That means the contest will be between Jackie Lacey, who believes medical marijuana sales are illegal, and Deputy DA Alan Jackson, who has been more friendly to the cause.

In San Diego, stridently anti-medical marijuana DA Bonnie Dumanis was crushed in the mayoral primary, getting only 13% of the vote. The November election will feature a choice between medical marijuana foe Carl Demaio (32%) and medical marijuana supporter Rep. Bob Filner (30%).

In the 33rd Congressional District, LA NORML Director Bruce Margolin came in fourth in the race with 4.5%, followed closely by Libertarian Steve Collett with 4.3%. Both had made marijuana reform a centerpiece of their campaigns against long-time incumbent Henry Waxman, who was leading with 45%.

In the race for US Senate, where veteran drug warrior Sen. Dianne Feinstein faced a field of 32 unknown opponents, David Levitt, who had campaigned on drug reform and other progressive issues, got 1.6% of the vote;  while Libertarian Gail Lightfoot got 2%. Feinstein's opponent in November will be Republican Elizabeth Emken.

On Wednesday, federal authorities announced a crackdown on LA County dispensaries, with the DEA raiding two dispensaries and federal prosecutors sending warning letters to 34 more. While the feds didn't target the city of Los Angeles, the crackdown seeks to wipe out dispensaries in the cities of Santa Fe Springs, Whittier, South El Monte, La Mirada, Diamond Bar, Artesia, Paramount, South Gate, City of Commerce, Agoura Hills and Malibu. The two dispensaries that were raided Wednesday were the Tri-City Patient's Association and the Canna-America Collective (a.k.a. Organic Way Collective) in Santa Fe Springs. The two dispensaries were also hit with federal civil asset forfeiture lawsuits. The warning letters give the operators and landlords 14 days to come into compliance with federal law or risk potential civil or criminal actions.

Colorado

On Tuesday, Garfield County commissioners set a June 18 deadline to approve land use regulations for medical marijuana growers in the county. A two-year moratorium on grows expires July 1. One commissioner proposed that the commission require a 1,000-foot buffer zone between grow facilities and schools, parks or churches, in accordance with state law. He also proposed that growers be restricted to commercial zone districts and banned from rural zones, because of concerns about ease of enforcement. He also proposed that Garfield County growers be allowed to sell their products only within the county. But the proposed ban on rural grows and on selling products outside the county drew opposition.

Connecticut

Last Friday, Connecticut became the 17th medical marijuana state after Gov. Dan Malloy signed into law the bill passed by the legislature. Patients will obtain their medicine from dispensaries run by licensed pharmacists.

Michigan

Last Thursday, the state Supreme Court ruled that state law allows an affirmative defense for patients even if they haven't registered with the state. The ACLU of Michigan called the decision a victory for medical marijuana patients throughout the state. In one case ruled on by the court, Owosso resident Larry King, who suffers from severe and chronic back pain, was issued a medical marijuana card in 2009 by the state after being examined and approved by a doctor. He grew 12 marijuana plants for his own medical use. The Shiawassee County prosecutor charged him with manufacturing marijuana, a felony, because some of his plants were being grown outside. Drug charges against King initially were thrown out because he was a medical marijuana patient. But the Court of Appeals reinstated felony drug charges against him because it held that King would not be permitted to raise a medical defense at his trial. The higher court's decision reverses the appeals court.

Also last Thursday, the New Baltimore City Council extended a moratorium on medical marijuana businesses that has been in place since 2009. While in the past, the council had extended the moratorium for six months at a time, this time it was only for two months. The council is hoping some clarity will emerge this summer after the legislature finishes dealing with a package of medical marijuana bills.

Last Sunday, the Flushing Police announced they were reporting to the federal government medical marijuana users who were seeking to buy firearms. Police Chief Mark Hoornstra said his department began doing so about six months ago after an FBI training seminar. And it's not just gun buyers. Hoornstra said his officers report any interactions with individuals identified as medical marijuana patients to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, even if they are not committing a crime or violating the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. He said his department has reported about ten patients so far.

On Tuesday, patient and dispensary advocates threatened to sue the city of Jackson if the city council approves an ordinance saying patients and primary caregivers can only use and grow their medicine in their homes. A council committee voted later that evening in favor of the ordinance. There are already at least two dispensaries in Jackson, and they would be forced to close if the ordinance passes. The Jackson City Council likely will consider the ordinance next Tuesday.

Montana

Last Wednesday, the state Supreme Court heard arguments in a case challenging a new medical marijuana law passed by the legislature last year. That law bans the commercial sale of medical marijuana. The Montana Cannabis Industry Association challenged it. Chief Justice Mike McGrath said the issue is not whether marijuana has medicinal value, but whether there is a right to sell a drug that federal law labels a Schedule I narcotic. A key component of the 2011 law was to make it illegal for marijuana providers to be compensated for their services and to limit them to three patients each. Supporters said that provision was necessary to end the business of marijuana and to ensure the drug was used as voters intended --to treat the neediest patients. An appeals court judge ordered an injunction that prevented the sales ban from taking effect, saying it would harm people's right to seek health care.

New Hampshire

On Wednesday, the state legislature gave final approval to a medical marijuana bill, which now heads to the desk of Gov. John Lynch (D), who earlier said he would veto it. Supporters are scrambling to either persuade Lynch to change his mind or come up with a veto-proof majority. They're not quite there yet.

Washington

On Monday, the Pasco City Council voted to ban collective medical marijuana grows. Five council members decided to end their year-long moratorium and amend Pasco's zoning code to say the city won't allow anything that violates local, state and federal law. That includes the issuing of a building permit or business license for a collective garden, where authorized patients would grow cannabis plants together. The legislature in 2011 passed a law allowing collective gardens, but Gov. Chris Gregoire (D) vetoed parts of it. The city had enacted successive moratoria on grows while waiting for the legislature to act this year, but got tired of waiting.

On Tuesday, the Kent City Council voted to ban dispensaries and collective gardens. The 4-3 vote came after more than 150 people at the meeting pleaded with the council not to enact the ban. Now, the Cannabis Action Coalition says it plans to sue the city.

Medical Marijuana Update

Here's the latest medical marijuana news from around the country. There's a whole lot going on.

California

On December 30, a Marin County judge ruled that a Novato dispensary cannot be evicted. The landlord for the Green Door Wellness Education Center had sought to evict it, saying it had violated its lease in various ways, including allowing marijuana smoking on the premises. The judge ruled that the smoke complaints were the most serious violations but "were mitigated and can be further mitigated." But Green Door and the neighboring Green Tiger Collective still face problems with the city, which sent both of them cease-and-desist orders months ago and has a moratorium on dispensaries.

On January 4, the Arcata city council voted for a temporary ban on new dispensaries. The measure does not affect existing dispensaries, but it puts a temporary hold on processing applications for new medical marijuana cooperatives and collectives. Staff will return to the council with a draft moratorium. Also in Arcata, the Humboldt Medical Supply dispensary closed its doors after its landlord received a threat letter from federal prosecutors. Another dispensary, the Sai Center, also received a letter, according to owner Stephen Gasparas, who spoke before the council.

On January 4, outgoing Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder opposing the federal intervention in California's medical marijuana program.

Last Thursday, a Humboldt County supervisor met with US Attorney Melinda Haag to discuss the federal crackdown on dispensaries. Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace said he expressed his disappointment with the crackdown and urged Haag to respect local governments, who decide what is appropriate safe access to medical marijuana.

On Monday, dozens of people protested in San Francisco over the closing of the Market Street Cooperative, which has been operating since 1997. The dispensary shut down after its landlord received a letter from federal prosecutors threatening seizure of the property.

On Tuesday, Marin County supervisors sent a smoking ban back for a rewrite to make clear it does not include marijuana. The ordinance would largely ban smoking in apartments in unincorporated areas of the county.

On Tuesday, the Anaheim city council extended the city's moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries for another year. The unanimous vote came after council members said they needed more time to study the "legal complexities" around the issue. The city has had a ban in place since 2007. Anaheim's law was challenged in court by medical-marijuana patients who said it unfairly limited their rights guaranteed by state law. He lost in Orange County Superior Court, but the case is on appeal. Dozens of dispensaries that opened before 2007, when the city began its moratorium, are still open.
 

On Wednesday, in late breaking news, the DEA raided three San Diego-area dispensaries. No reports yet on arrests.



Colorado

On January 3, the Boulder city council voted to enact an emergency moratorium on new applications for medical marijuana business licenses. The move came after a surprise request by City Attorney Tom Carr, who wants to review unintended consequences of rules the city adopted and who wants to see how a recent court case against the city by a dispensary operator shakes out. The moratorium will be in place pending a public hearing on February 7 in which the council will discuss a longer-term moratorium.

This week, two state legislators said they would propose a bill that would allow the medical marijuana industry to form a "financial cooperative" to provide banking services to medical marijuana businesses. The cooperative would work like a credit union, with membership limited to industry members. But it would be free of the kinds of federal insurance requirements that exist with banks and credit unions and that have made those institutions reluctant to work with medical-marijuana businesses. The bill is in response to federal pressure on banks that have led them to drop medical marijuana businesses. The two solons, Sen. Pat Steadman (D-Denver) and Rep. Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs), said they would introduce the bill next week.

Florida

This week, medical marijuana bills were filed in the Florida House and Senate. This marks the second year in a row a bill has been filed in the House and the first time a bill has been filed in both chambers. (See our newsbrief on it here.)

Maryland

On Tuesday, a medical marijuana bill was introduced in the state House of Delegates. Introduced by Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore),  HB 15, the Maryland Medical Marijuana Act, would create clear rules for qualified patients and law enforcement, and put in place a strictly regulated production and distribution system. HB 15 would also protect patients from housing and workplace discrimination, something that the workgroup failed to address.

Michigan

On Wednesday, a Lansing medical marijuana dispensary owner was acquitted of charges he violated Michigan's election laws. Shekina Pena, 34, the owner of Your Healthy Choice Clinic, was charged by Attorney General Bill Schuette's office with trying to influence voters after he offered free marijuana to patients who registered to vote. A jury found him not guilty.

This week, an initiative campaign to repeal marijuana prohibition in Michigan, largely inspired by Schuette's antics and obstructionism, is gearing up for its signature-gathering phase. Read our feature article about it this week here.

Montana

Last week, two members of a family of medical marijuana providers were negotiating a plea deal with prosecutors, making it unlikely that a Montana court will ever have the chance to determine if federal drug laws preempt the state's medical marijuana law. Richard and Justin Flor face pot possession, distribution, and conspiracy charges after Montana Cannabis was raided last spring along with dozens of other providers. They had said they would challenge the charges, but now it looks like that won't happen.

New Jersey

On December 28, the town of Plumsted temporarily banned medical marijuana cultivation farms. The township wants time to plan where such a facility might be appropriately located. Plumsted is the third local government to ban medical marijuana cultivation, following Upper Freehold and Howell Township.

On January 4, the Westampton Land Development Board denied a permit for a medical marijuana grow and dispensary. The Compassionate Care Foundation, which had sought to locate the facility there, said it would appeal to state Superior Court. Only one of six care centers allowed under the New Jersey medical marijuana program has so far found a location.

Oregon

On Monday, several dozen people protested in Grants Pass to protest what they called corruption in law enforcement when it comes to medical marijuana. They accused by name a Grants Pass detective and an assistant district attorney, saying they violated people's rights, falsified documents, and wrongfully submitted evidence. Police denied any wrongdoing.

This week, the US Supreme Court declined to hear appeals from two Oregon sheriffs of a state Supreme Court ruling that found they could not deny concealed hand gun permits to registered medical marijuana patients. The sheriffs had attempted to argue that to provide permits to patients would force them to violate federal gun laws, which bar controlled substance users from obtaining weapons. They lost in every court that heard the cases.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, 2016 Drug War Killings, 2017 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, Vaping, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Pill Testing, Safer Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Kratom, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psilocybin / Magic Mushrooms, Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School