The Speakeasy Blog

Is the D.A.R.E. Program Good for America's Kids? (K-12), from ProCon.org

Drug War Chronicle is running a series of "Did You Know?" items highlighting items from ProCon.org. This is the second installment. Chronicle story here.

Nancy Pelosi Condemns Federal Attacks on Medical Marijuana

Yesterday we reported that advocates had presented House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi with a petition asking her to help end the federal crackdown on medical marijuana. (Click here and scroll down to the last paragraph of the California section of our Medical Marijuana Update.)

Pelosi responded, issuing a statement on "Recent Federal Actions Threatening Safe Access to Medical Marijuana":

"I have strong concerns about the recent actions by the federal government that threaten the safe access of medicinal marijuana to alleviate the suffering of patients in California, and undermine a policy that has been in place under which the federal government did not pursue individuals whose actions complied with state laws providing for medicinal marijuana."

 

Click here for the full statement on Pelosi's web site.

Drug Czar Denies that Marijuana Users Are Arrested and Forced into Treatment

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On Tuesday, I had a chance to question the drug czar about his enthusiasm for drug treatment at an event in D.C. Mike Riggs at Reason has good coverage of the exchange.

The other good question came from Scott Morgan, of StopTheDrugWar.org, who asked if Kerlikowske supported compulsory treatment of casual drug users, and if arresting marijuana users and forcing them into treatment was an effective policy. This time, Kerlikowske played dumb:

"Again, that’s a bit of a myth. If someone’s arrested for a small amount of marijuana, and the determination is made they have to go into treatment, treatment beds and space are a valuable commodity. I think professionals can clearly assess when someone is in need of treatment. Compulsory treatment is not something I’m as familiar with in great detail at the local level."

It's an incredible thing to say, so utterly divorced from reality and plainly absurd to anyone remotely aware of how our marijuana policies and criminal justice system operate. It's hardly a secret that when the cops catch you with pot, they bust you and haul your ass into court where you're ordered to attend classes about how you shouldn’t smoke pot.

Our courts are open to the public and you can just walk in and watch this happen to a dozen people in one afternoon. It's worth doing if you haven't before.

The drug czar says that addiction is a medical condition, but it's certainly the only medical condition with which you get diagnosed not by a doctor but by a judge in criminal court based solely on the fact that a cop found marijuana in your pocket one single time. 

This is Maria. She Will end the War on Drugs.

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I saw this at DrugWarRant and had to pass it along. Very powerful. Watch the whole thing. 

Jimmy Kimmel Gets the Entire American Press to Admit Smoking Pot

I don't think we've posted this anywhere yet, and I don't want our negligence to be the reason anyone misses what might be the coolest thing I've seen this year, so better a little late than never:

 

I can't help but gush, because I don't know how Kimmel could have executed this any better. Other than the (unfortunately) obligatory munchie joke, this was perfect. Pointing out that marijuana policy is something "real people care about" and vote for is the message the President needs to hear. Bonus points for making almost everyone in the room admit to having done it. Bravo.

The Drug Czar's False Statement About Marijuana and Hemp Should be a Bigger Scandal

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My latest Huffington Post rant calls out the drug czar's preposterous excuses for the ban on industrial hemp cultivation. Check it out

The Ugly Truth About Obama's War on Medical Marijuana

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As the media turns up the heat on Obama's medical marijuana crackdown, one of the excuses he's giving is that they're just going after businesses that are violating state laws. In the President's own words:

The only tension that's come up – and this gets hyped up a lot – is a murky area where you have large-scale, commercial operations that may supply medical marijuana users, but in some cases may also be supplying recreational users. [Rolling Stone]

And again from someone at the Dept. of Justice

After Kimmel's speech, a Holder deputy told HuffPost that there was no coordinated war on medical marijuana, but that some individual clinics were breaking both state and federal laws. [Huffington Post]

Andrew Sullivan also gives a nod to this notion:

To be fair to Obama, he specifically said the policy was against those abusing the medical marijuana law to sell illegally. And some blame can be attached to the disorderly way in which medical marijuana laws have been enforced.

This excuse fails on about five different levels. The escalating assault on medical marijuana that's been ramped up over the past year is far from focused on forcing out bad businesses. If it were that simple, there wouldn’t be much to argue about. States could simply clarify their policies where necessary, medical marijuana providers could maintain scrupulous compliance, and only the crooks and bums in the industry would have anything to worry about, right? Wrong.

The truth is that the feds are doing the exact opposite of respecting state laws; they're trying to destroy them. Federal prosecutors have repeatedly threatened to arrest state employees for merely administering their own medical marijuana programs. They did so in a cynical effort to prevent lawmakers in multiple states from creating the sort of tight regulations that would prevent abuse and legitimize the industry.

Obviously, you can't claim to be merely upholding local laws while simultaneously threatening the very people who make and enforce them. This has been widely reported, and it even resulted in a push-back from the governors of medical marijuana states who've become frustrated with the mixed signals they've gotten from the Obama Administration. Think about how crazy it is that these states were following Obama's lead by clarifying their laws, and then the DOJ just comes along and threatens to arrest their staffers. It's an incredible mess, and it happened because Obama and Holder completely confused absolutely everyone about how this issue would be handled.

Making matters worse, multiple federal agencies have carried out a dizzying array of attacks against medical marijuana from every other conceivable angle:

  • U.S. Attorneys in California recently revived the Bush era tactic of threatening to seize property from landlords who rent to medical marijuana facilities.
  • After 9 years of failing to respond, the DEA recently denied a petition to reschedule marijuana, ignoring a vast body of scientific evidence proving the drug's medical efficacy.
  • Federal threats have caused numerous banks to close the accounts of businesses that provide medical marijuana to qualified patients.
  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms issued a surprising statement that medical marijuana patients may not purchase firearms.
  • The IRS is shaking down medical marijuana providers for millions of dollars based on an obscure tax provision aimed at drug traffickers.
  • A federal prosecutor even threatened to target newspapers that run ads for medical marijuana services.
  • And, of course, the DEA continues to raid tax-paying businesses that are legal under state law.

For Obama to now claim that all they're doing is targeting illegally operated dispensaries is flagrantly and transparently untrue. There really is a far-reaching federal assault on medical marijuana being carried out at the national level. Obama's refusal to acknowledge or explain it is unacceptable.

Follow Scott Morgan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drugblogger

Attorney General Admits Obama Was Wrong About Medical Marijuana Laws

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Obama's recent claim that he can't do anything about the illegality of medical marijuana has drawn plenty of criticism, but this ought to take the cake.

Attorney General Eric Holder was a guest of The Huffington Post at the correspondents' dinner. Before it began, a HuffPost reporter noted to Holder that Obama's reference to "congressional law" was misleading because the executive branch could simply remove marijuana from its "schedule one" designation, thereby recognizing its medical use.

"That's right," Holder said. [Huffington Post]

Okay, can we please stop making excuses for the President? Legally, he does not have to wage war on medical marijuana. Politically, he doesn't have to do this either. Yet the war rages on and the people responsible are still denying what they're doing right before our eyes.

To those who say we shouldn't blame Obama for this outrage, I say of course we should. He has the biggest microphone in the nation and if he can't use it to tell the truth and stand up for a human rights issue as basic as this one, then he needs to hear from us. To remain silent is to reward intransigence and invite injustice.

Follow Scott Morgan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drugblogger

New Poll: Almost Everyone Thinks It's Wrong to Jail People for Pot

Via NORML, check out this new data from an Angus Reid Public Opinion poll.

Majorities of respondents in the three countries (Britain 56%, Canada 68%, United States 74%) welcome the concept of using alternative penalties—such as fines, probation or community service—rather than prison for non-violent offenders. At least seven-in-ten Britons (70%), Americans (74%) and Canadians (78%) believe personal marijuana use should be dealt with through alternative penalties.

…And yet I keep hearing people justifying Obama's medical marijuana crackdown on the grounds that voters will be impressed by his toughness. How much more evidence do we need that huge majorities support less punitive marijuana policies? It's time to bury the antiquated, idiotic myth that the public supports tough drug laws. It's false and it's been false for a very long time.

Follow Scott Morgan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drugblogger

Did You Know? 16 States' and DC's Medical Marijuana Laws, from ProCon.org

ProCon.org is a series of in-depth web sites presenting information and views from on current issues, several with relevance to drug policy. The Chronicle is running a series of info items from ProCon.org over the next several weeks -- this first one from medicalmarijuana.procon.org -- and we encourage you to check it out. Chronicle blurb here.

Obama Defends War on Medical Marijuana With Lame Excuses

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Finally, finally, finally, someone in the press has managed to corner the President on the question of why the war on medical marijuana is getting worse under his watch. Here you go folks, the answer we've been waiting for…

Let me ask you about the War on Drugs. You vowed in 2008, when you were running for election, that you would not "use Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws about medical marijuana." Yet we just ran a story that shows your administration is launching more raids on medical pot than the Bush administration did. What's up with that?

Here's what's up: What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana – and the reason is, because it's against federal law. I can't nullify congressional law. I can't ask the Justice Department to say, "Ignore completely a federal law that's on the books." What I can say is, "Use your prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your resources to go after things that are really doing folks damage." As a consequence, there haven't been prosecutions of users of marijuana for medical purposes. [Rolling Stone]

I don't know how one could fairly characterize this as anything other than complete nonsense. Obama wants credit for stopping the arrests of medical marijuana users, which is just ridiculous on its face. It's not like the federal government was bringing misdemeanor possession cases against sick grandmas until Obama came along. That was never the issue and he knows it.

This is a debate about whether the federal government should be stomping on state-regulated medical marijuana programs, thwarting the will of voters, prosecuting responsible providers, and depriving patients of access to their medicine. The President said, "I will not be using justice department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue," and that statement was made in response to repeated questions about whether the Obama Administration would continue the deeply unpopular dispensary raids that began under Bush. Nobody thought he talking about something else.

Obama deliberately led everyone to believe that his DOJ would stop targeting facilities that operated legally under state law. That's why everyone is pissed off that the raids haven't stopped. If I misinterpreted his words, then so did most of the marijuana reform movement, the entire American press, and several state legislatures. When the Obama Administration's pledge to respect state laws was making front-page headlines, they sure as hell didn't speak up to clarify that they'd meant no such thing.

Adding insult to injury, Obama then digs in deeper by randomly suggesting that the businesses they're raiding might actually be violating state laws after all:

The only tension that's come up – and this gets hyped up a lot – is a murky area where you have large-scale, commercial operations that may supply medical marijuana users, but in some cases may also be supplying recreational users. In that situation, we put the Justice Department in a very difficult place if we're telling them, "This is supposed to be against the law, but we want you to turn the other way." That's not something we're going to do.

For the millionth time, if they're breaking state laws, then they can be prosecuted by the state. None of this amounts to any remote justification for federal intervention, but moreover, we know this is garbage anyway because they've targeted numerous businesses that were considered models of effective local regulation. The President is implying that these people deserved what they got, which is outrageous.

Think about this: federal prosecutors have even threatened to charge state employees simply for working to ensure legal compliance by licensed medical marijuana businesses. Obama claims to be concerned about illegal recreational sales, while his agents have been actively threatening to arrest the very people whose job it is to prevent that sort of thing. It's nuts. Everything he's saying is horribly disingenuous at best, and anyone who's followed the issue at all ought to see right through it.

Obama's comments today are a fresh story and I don’t know yet how others will react, but as far as I'm concerned, this matter is very far from resolved. The President's answers should give rise to more questions, not less. As long as the war on medical marijuana in America continues, those responsible should be able and willing to defend their actions. If Obama can't give us a straight answer, or even acknowledge the promises he broke before our eyes, then it's our job to keep making noise until he does.

Follow Scott Morgan on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drugblogger

Russell Brand Talks Drug Policy in Parliament

Actor and comedian Russell Brand called for "love and compassion" for drug addicts at an appearance before a parliamentary committee in London Tuesday and suggested that decriminalization could be a good approach. Chronicle story here.

Connecticut Senate Votes to Put Teeth in Racial Profiling Law

"Driving while black" continues to be an issue in Connecticut, and now, the state Senate has voted to beef up the state's 12-year-old racial profiling law, which police departments have been ignoring. Chronicle story here.

Fight Against Dutch Cannabis Café Restrictions Heats Up

The Dutch government plans to implement its Dutch-only "weed pass" system for cannabis coffee houses on the border on May 1, but it faces growing legal and political challenges. Not to mention, it just lost a vote of confidence. Chronicle story here.

Leonard Pitts Jr. on Obama, Drug Legalization, and Racial Disparities

Pulitzer-winning author Leonard Pitts, Jr., has a piece in the Miami Herald, "If Not Drug Legalization, What, Mr. President?"

If President Obama had a son, he would look like Trayvon Martin. So the president famously said.

And the president’s son would thereby find himself at significantly greater risk of running afoul of the so-called “War on Drugs” than, say, a son of George W. Bush. Depending on what state he lived in, a Trayvon Obama might be 57 times more likely than a Trayvon Bush to be imprisoned on drug charges.

And not because blacks are committing most of the drug crime, which they're not, as Pitts demonstrates.

Nice way to start the weekend.

4/20: Party or Protest?

The chancellor of Colorado University in Boulder is totally not down with the school's famous annual 4/20 celebration, this year going so far as to shut down the campus to outsiders and even hiring Wyclef Jean to draw students away from the quad with an afternoon performance.

Legal threat ensued, and in response to free speech claims, the chancellor had this to say:

Then later, in a letter written to The Denver Post, DiStefano goes further stating that the marijuana celebration is far from a protest or demonstration and should not be treated as such. "If it is a protest, then every party on every college campus in America is a protest," DiStefano writes. [Huffington Post]

Good point, dude. Maybe you're right. For all the fraudulent nonsense that's been said about the supposed harms of marijuana, the very act of consuming it in public is quite arguably a form of political speech. How better to disprove decades of lies about the drug's alleged dangers than gathering with 100 or even 10,000 friends to demonstrate marijuana's rather remarkable inability to hurt anybody? 

 

4/20 Protest at Obama Oaksterdam-area Headquarters

There is a Bay Area 4/20 demonstration against the Obama administration's war on medical marijuana. It's starting a short time from now at the federal building in Oakland, followed by a march at noon Pacific time to Oaksterdam and Obama campaign headquarters, which is around the corner from Oaksterdam University. There is a film festival and benefit party for California NORML and OU starting at 3:00pm, and another event in the area tomorrow.

Phil is attending and will be posting a Chronicle report this afternoon -- check back. Visit http://www.canorml.org for sign up for their updates. Following is the CANORML announcement:

Fri 4/20 - OAKSTERDAM PROTEST (11:30 - 1:30)
and FILM FESTIVAL (3PM - 8PM)

JOIN US at 11 AM, at the Federal Building in Oakland (1301 Clay St.) to protest the federal attack on Oaksterdam and medical cannabis. At 12 PM we will be marching up to Oaksterdam to make our views known to the President's campaign. Participants are invited to drop by the Oaksterdam Student Union 1915 Broadway for refreshments after 1 PM.

FILM FESTIVAL & 4/20 CELEBRATION - 3 PM - 8 PM at Oaksterdam (1600 Broadway) $10 for benefit of Cal NORML & Oaksterdam U. Featuring: "A NORML Life" (3PM); "California 90420" (4:30 PM) and special premier presentation: "The Green Goddess" (6PM) with in-person Q& A by producer Chris Iverson. Facebook event page

Sat 4/21 DEEP GREEN FESTIVAL at Craneway Conference Center, Richmond - noon -midnite
Festive Earth Day celebration of the 7 dimensions of cannabis. Look for the CalNORML table!

Happy 4/20

It has been one hell of a year since we last celebrated the increasingly official holiday of the cannabis community. It's been a bumpy ride for marijuana reform, but no one said this struggle was supposed to be easy. The challenges of 2012 are also an opportunity to build a bigger and better movement, and that's exactly what we'll do.

Anyway, look at me getting all serious when a lot of people just wanna have fun today. Go for it. You deserve it. Enjoy yourself. But be safe and come back on Monday ready to fight.

Video: 5 Ways to Avoid Getting Arrested for Pot

I put together a YouTube version of last week's AlterNet piece. Enjoy.

We're Winning Any Time the President is Forced to Say the Word "Legalization"

This MSNBC footage is pretty exciting to see.

Obama got dragged kicking and screaming into this debate, and it's a significant moment even if he didn’t give up any new ground. Just look at what happened here. Obama had to travel all the way to Colombia to argue against legalizing drugs, and he didn’t do a particularly good job. The drug war debate looked nothing like this just a few short years ago, i.e. I do not recall Bill Clinton or George W. Bush being forced into any situations like this one.

The impact of a symbolic moment like this is something we can't exactly measure, but my take on the situation is that the lights are being turned on. People are talking about the drug war more than ever before, which creates a kind of pressure that hasn’t existed in the past.

When both sides of the debate are talking about policy change, that says a lot, even if one side isn't serious about it. Opponents of legalization are now in the awkward position of pretending that there's some kind of 3rd way to handle this, and they're going to look sillier from one day to the next as the problem gets worse under their watch. What happens after the "reforms" offered by the Obama Administration and people like Kevin Sabet fail to save a single life south of our border? We're going to find out.

Can Obama Win Votes by Waging War on Medical Marijuana? I Don't Think So.

I have a piece at Huffington Post today reminding everyone that Obama isn't making any friends with his escalating war on medical marijuana. It amazes me that it's still necessary to point out that republicans don't support this madness either. Anyone who wants to excuse the Obama Administration's horrible handling of this issue will have to do better than claiming that voters want to see stuff like this. The hell they do. Anyway, check it out

Obama Addresses Drug Legalization at Cartagena Summit [FEATURE]

The Cartagena summit saw an historic discussion of drug legalization this weekend, with President Obama conceding that the topic is a legitimate one even as he reiterated US opposition to legalization. Chronicle feature story here.

5 Ways to Avoid Getting Busted for Pot

The activist-media badasses at AlterNet let me do a big front page story today on how to avoid a pot bust. You might have seen it already, cause this thing got a good amount of traffic, but if you missed it and you aren't yet sick of my know-your-rights lectures, then check it the heck out. And while you're at it, send the link to that friend of yours who's always pushing their luck.

If homophobes are secretly gay, do anti-pot fanatics secretly wanna get high?

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A widely-publicized (and totally awesome) new study suggests that hating gay people is a sign that you might just be a bit gay yourself.

ScienceDaily (Apr. 6, 2012) — Homophobia is more pronounced in individuals with an unacknowledged attraction to the same sex and who grew up with authoritarian parents who forbade such desires, a series of psychology studies demonstrates.

This, of course, goes a long way towards explaining why the leaders of the anti-gay movement are constantly caught in delightfully gay situations, but I wonder if it tells us anything about the anti-drug demagogues who've been insisting so strenuously that everyone sober up for the good of society. Maybe deep down inside they really just wanna party.

Heck, it might even explain why Obama's been so cold to us. After all, this guy used to get down pretty hard, but now he's got a wife and kids and a really busy job being the President, so he can't exactly just twist one up whenever he feels like getting funky.

If you think I'm just being silly here, well yeah you're half right, but honestly I've yet to hear a much better explanation for Obama's vicious betrayal of the campaign promises he made regarding marijuana policy. Maybe we'll get one eventually. In the meantime, I won't be holding my breath hoping our anti-pot President gets caught in a closet somewhere sucking on a bong.

Will Strip-Searches Stop Terrorism and Save America?

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I've got a post up at Flex Your Rights talking smack about the Supreme Court's icky new ruling on strip-searches. Check it out.

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