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Petititon for Redress of Grievances - Ending the Drug War Today...

Hey - I was wondering about this - would it be possible to file for a redress of grievances caused by the Controlled Substances Act?

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Asserting Your Rights Doesn't Mean You're Getting Away With Something

Last week I posted Don't Consent to Police Searches or Answer Incriminating Questions in response to this story in which three men were arrested for marijuana after mindlessly consenting to a police search. A commenter responded with this (emphasis in original):While I respect that you disagree with me, it's my personal opinion that headlines that encourage the skirting of laws are not going to be useful in influencing the citizens and legislators we need to help us change the laws.I agree that teaching people their rights isn’t necessarily a direct path to drug policy reform, but I want to address the idea that my headline "encourages[s] the skirting of laws," which I think misses the point. In my work with Flex Your Rights, I’ve frequently encountered a false distinction in which asserting constitutional rights is considered honorable when one has nothing to hide, but is somehow perceived as disingenuous when the assertion of those rights prevents the discovery of criminal evidence. At worst, this argument takes the form of claiming that it’s an abuse of the constitution to refuse a search when one possesses marijuana, for example (that’s not what the commenter above is saying, but it’s where that line of thinking often leads).All of this is premised on the assumption that police are legally entitled to discover contraband and that you’re "getting away" with a crime if police procedures don’t result in your arrest. Technically, however, there is no crime until police obtain probable cause for an arrest, thus any citizen who effectively asserts 4th and 5th Amendment rights is not getting away with anything. They are legally innocent, because evidence of guilt never emerged. Thus, the whole point of understanding and asserting basic constitutional rights when confronted by police is that you are always innocent until proven guilty under the law. Asserting your rights can never be equated to "skirting the law," because these rights are the law.As for the larger question of whether encouraging citizens to assert their rights is a bad message for reformers, I would insist that we have nothing to gain by remaining silent on this issue as our prisons are filled with naïve drug offenders who waived their rights on the side of the road. Flex Your Rights was formed to end that silence and we’ve drawn remarkably little public criticism for these efforts, probably because our opposition recognizes that criticizing know-your-rights education comes perilously close to criticizing the constitution itself.

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Top Question on Obama website: When will marijuana be legalized?

President Elect Obama is known for reaching out beyond the beltway to take the pulse of the nation.

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You Can Help Encourage Obama to Answer Questions About Our Marijuana Policy

President-elect Obama has created a web page to accept policy questions from the public. Users can vote for their favorites and his transition team has pledged to answer the most popular questions. At this moment, I’m seeing these two in the top ten:"Will you consider legalizing marijuana so that the government can regulate it, tax it, put age limits on it, and create millions of new jobs and create a billion dollar industry right here in the U.S.?""13 states have compassionate use programs for medial Marijuana, yet the federal gov't continues to prosecute sick and dying people. Isn't it time for the federal gov't to step out of the way and let doctors and families decide what is appropriate?"Showing that we care about these issues is vitally important, so please head over to change.gov and vote for these questions. Registration is easy and the questions should be right there on the front page (where they’ll stay if we make sure to vote for them).This is a very cool opportunity to show the strength of our movement by making marijuana reform the #1 issue on Obama’s website.  Please help, and forward the link to your friends and family. Votes close at noon tomorrow, so please don’t delay. Thanks!Update: As noted in comments, I failed utterly to comprehend the fact that 12:00 am is midnight (duh!), so this post actually went up 9 minutes before the deadline (our time stamp is an hour ahead for some reason). So I'm an idiot, but the good news is that marijuana legalization ended up being the #1 question. I doubt I'm going to like the answer we get, but at least we've sent a message that marijuana reform is far from a fringe issue in 2008.

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DEA Says it Has a Policy of Not Arresting Medical Marijuana Patients

Months ago, Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) sent a pointed inquiry to the DEA demanding an accounting of the costs and methodology behind the federal raids against medical marijuana dispensaries in California. DEA’s response (pdf) recently became available and contains some interesting information, including this:DEA does not investigate or target individual "patients" who use cannabis, but instead the Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) involved in marijuana trafficking.…Again, the agency does not target individual users who are engaged in "simple possession" of the drug - even though they too are violating federal law and entitled to no immunity.It’s not really news that DEA avoids arresting patients, but it’s remarkable to see it in writing. This serves to remind us that DEA in fact bears no legal obligation whatsoever to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that have approved medical use. The organization’s enforcement priorities with regards to medical marijuana are shaped by politics, not a sense of legal obligation, thus patients have been quietly left off the battlefield in recognition of the obscene PR fiasco that would result if they were visibly targeted. Keep this in mind if Obama’s pledge to end medical marijuana raids is met with resistance from anyone who claims that "federal law must be enforced." DEA’s concession also helps to illuminate the complete incoherence of any argument that state-level marijuana reforms are rendered impotent in the face of incongruous federal drug laws. Such reforms have enormous practical value by dramatically reducing the threat of arrest and conviction under state laws, which have always been the only real threat facing individual users.This acknowledgment should end debate over the importance of state-level marijuana reform.

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The Sins of the Father

I have posted three other blogs so far, but I have attempted to write several more.

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Southeast Asia Plans to be Drug-Free by 2015

The plan is to get all the kids to stop smoking and drinking, which will result in the elimination of all drug use within 6 years:KUCHING, Dec 10 (Bernama) -- The International Federation of Non-governmental Organisations for the Prevention of Drug and Substance Abuse (IFNGO) has targeted a drug-free Asean by 2015 to counter the widespread abuse of "gateway drugs" among the region's younger generation, who are susceptible to the lure of alcohol and tobacco.Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud said today children and the youth who were addicted to such "gateway drugs" provided the recruitment base for addiction to illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine."Fighting the war against drugs is a formidable and difficult task. I am certain that with concerted effort from all members of the Asean IFNGO network, we can bear down on the problem of gateway drugs and achieve our goal of a drug-free Asean by 2015," he said. [Bernama.com]And I am certain that by 2015 I will have, through deep concentration, mastered the art of levitation and learned to shoot laser beams from my eyes. If I fail, it will be everyone’s fault but my own.

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Don’t Consent to Police Searches or Answer Incriminating Questions

Here’s the perfect illustration of how not to handle an encounter with police:WHEELING -- The Ohio County Sheriff's Department initiated a traffic stop early this morning at the Mount de Chantal Kroger.After getting permission to search the vehicle, deputies found nearly a half a pound of marijuana, a digital scale, baggies and blunt wraps, along with some cash.25-year-old Andre Smith of Wheeling, 20-year-old Jeff McGhee of Wheeling and 18-year-old George Oliver were arrested and taken to the Northern Regional Jail.One of the suspects later admitted to deputies that the marijuana was purchased out-of-state, and he planned to sell it. [WTRF]Of course, there’s no guarantee that refusing the search will prevent it from happening, but it often will, and if police search you anyway, you’ll at least have a shot at getting the evidence thrown out in court. I’ve discussed this exact issue with dozens of defense attorneys and the answer is always the same: if the suspect refused consent, the charges are frequently dropped. I recently met a defense attorney from Kansas who called Flex Your Rights to order a copy of our video. Doing criminal defense in Kansas, this guy deals with traffic stop arrests all day every day. The drug war in Kansas is initiated on the highways and then fought out in court, and this lawyer is the guy you want to know if you get jammed up in a traffic stop. He said he gets very few clients who refused consent, and as a result a lot of his work involves negotiating plea bargains for drug cases. On the rare occasion that he gets someone who actually had the presence of mind to refuse the search, they walk. He’s a badass and he knows how to annihilate improperly seized evidence.Every case is different and police misconduct is a virus, but the bottom line is that giving consent will always destroy you if there’s anything in the car. It’s just that simple. Don’t play their game.

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America’s Meanest Prosecutor Refuses to Resign

When a new president takes office, it is typical for all U.S. attorneys to submit their resignations. Yet, one of our nation’s top prosecutors says she’s just not going to do that, and it happens to be Mary Beth Buchanan, whose career is defined by outrageous drug war grandstanding, flagrant assaults on free speech, and countless other acts of vindictive and unethical conduct. Radley Balko chronicles Buchanan’s disgusting legacy and notes the likelihood that this is all a big ridiculous stunt to leverage herself into future positions of political power. Fine, I say. Obama should still give her the axe. If she subsequently plays the victim card in a run for governor or senate, so be it. Such a campaign would finally provide a long-overdue referendum on all the despicable crap she’s done.

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Elderly People Who Grow Pot in Albania

Apparently, Albania is Europe’s 2nd ranked marijuana producer, due in small part to the desperation of elderly Albanians who grow pot because they can’t work and their children have moved away and they can’t afford their prescriptions. So, as you might guess, the Albanian government is waging total war on the elderly, which is ridiculously easy under Albania’s crazy marijuana laws. The result is a bunch of impoverished old ladies going into hiding, while the real drug traffickers remain the only people in Albania who make any money.Meanwhile, with Amsterdam bowing to international pressure and closing some of its coffeeshops, perhaps the Albanian government should consider turning this mindless marijuana policy on its head and raking in those mischievous "drug tourism" dollars nobody seems to want. Seriously, you live in Albania. You can’t afford a U.S.-style drug war, so don’t try.

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Can Both Sides of the Drug War Debate be Completely Wrong?

Drug policy academic Mark Kleiman is back with another simultaneous assault on both the drug czar and drug policy reform. I enjoyed Pete Guither’s response.

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More than just a swerve over the line.

This really happened to me, and it just goes to show yet another invasion of rights, and harrassment the police and government can throw at

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The Discovery of 2,700-Year-Old Marijuana is Pretty Cool

I haven’t yet discussed last week’s news that a major head stash of marijuana was found in the tomb of an ancient Chinese shaman. It’s significant because the stuff was clearly well grown, with an apparently decent THC content. My analysis: awesome.Unfortunately, researchers couldn’t get the seeds to germinate, which sucks for breeders because the ‘Tomb Raider’ strain would’ve taken Amsterdam by storm. Of course, it would’ve been even cooler if it had been seedless to begin with, proving that even cavemen could grow better pot than the nauseating schwaggy sawdust being sold on the streets of D.C. and New York as we speak. Regardless, this is another reminder that the cannabis plant has been with us from the beginning. The logical assumption is that its properties are intended to be useful to mankind, especially after those properties are revealed to be unique and widely regarded as beneficial by the population. Trying to eradicate it is as stupid as it is impossible. It was here 3,000 years ago, and it will still be here 3,000 years in the future. Unless, of course, the drug war has completely destroyed the earth by then.

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Are Cocaine Users Killing the Rainforest?

The argument that cocaine users are destroying the environment is rapidly leading its proponents into a spiraling abyss of irony and incoherence: If you're into charlie, snow, or a few lines of snort, Colombia's Vice President Francisco Santos Calderón has a message for you: your cocaine use is a "predator of the rain forest" and a serious threat to human life.…"Cocaine use requires a disposable income and during the week many users drive hybrid cars and recycle. Then, on the weekend, he or she destroys everything they believe in," Calderón said. [Huffington Post]Wait, what!? Did he just say that cocaine users are successful and well-educated? Shall police start profiling Prius drivers for drug searches? I remember the good old days when cocaine was supposed to make you steal things and kill people. I can’t even begin to imagine why you’d argue that cocaine is part of a healthy lifestyle if your goal is to make people stop doing it. If all this is true, then we can conclude rather easily that the problem with cocaine is how it’s produced and sold (which can be changed) rather than what happens when people use it (which cannot). The two options are 1) illicit cocaine cultivation in the rainforest, or 2) regulated cultivation somewhere else. There is no third option in which everyone agrees not to do coke. If you wait for that to happen while the rainforests burn, you’re a bigger part of the problem than the party people who drive Priuses.

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Federal 9th Circuit Appeal - Legal help required! Challenge of Constitutionality based on property right infringements/Oppressive Class war-fare

Briefly - I was arrested in Feb. 2007 for MDMA distribution along with 4 co-defendants (including my supplier, my investor, and 2 kids I hadn't ever met.)

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Drug Reform Does Not Only Mean Controlled Substances

I want to provide some extra detail and explanation about my last blog entry now. The previous one consisted almost entirely of a letter I wrote to our future president, Mr.

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D.C. Pays Dearly After Letting a Medical Marijuana Patient Die in Jail

As a toddler, Jonathan Magbie was struck by a drunk driver. He survived for 23 years, paralyzed from the neck down, until one day he was arrested for using medical marijuana to treat his pain. Magbie died in jail four days later.This week, Magbie’s family settled a wrongful death suit, bringing this unfathomable tragedy back into the spotlight:Attorneys for his mother, Mary R. Scott, declined to provide details of the financial settlement, which she reached with the city, private contractors and the insurance company that covered doctors at the hospital. The American Civil Liberties Union, which represented Scott, called the settlement "substantial" in a news release.…Magbie's mother was furious that the judge did not give her son probation, the typical punishment for first-time offenders. Magbie, paralyzed since being hit by a drunk driver at age 4, had no criminal record. Retchin told a judicial commission that she sentenced Magbie to jail because he said he would continue to smoke marijuana to alleviate his pain. [Washington Post]He was literally singled out for using medical marijuana and being honest about the fact that his condition required continued use. Anyone still struggling to understand the persecution of patients in the war on medical marijuana need look no further than this. And, as Dan Bernath at MPP points out, voters in Washington, D.C. overwhelmingly passed a law back in 1998 to protect patients like Jonathan from arrest. If Congressional drug warriors hadn’t continually blocked the implementation of D.C.’s medical marijuana law, Magbie would probably never have been arrested, never died in jail, and D.C. taxpayers wouldn’t have to foot the bill for the mindblowing callousness and incompetence that took his life.

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Not Arresting Marijuana Users is Too Confusing For Police

Voters in Massachusetts have overwhelmingly voted to stop small-time marijuana arrests, but the law-enforcement community doesn’t understand what that means:BOSTON - Amid confusion among police and prosecutors, a voter-approved law to decriminalize the possession of marijuana goes into effect on Jan. 2, according to a spokeswoman for the state attorney general.…Agawam Police Chief Robert D. Campbell said there is a tremendous amount of confusion about the law.…"Somebody has to come up with a mechanism," the chief said.Geline W. Williams, executive director of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association, said there are some "very, very significant" problems with putting the law into effect. [The Republican]Fortunately, an apparent super-genius named Terence J. Franklin has come up with a theory:Amherst Town Meeting member Terence J. Franklin, who supports Question 2, said the new law should be easy to put in place."Why not just leave people alone?" Franklin added. "What's the big deal? That will solve all the worries."Now that’s what I’m talking about. Maybe we should let this guy write the ballot language from now on. Seriously though, it’s understandable that police are entering into some new territory here. Still, there’s no question what the voters have in mind. Most people don’t think possessing marijuana should get you arrested and charged with a crime. There may be some details to iron out, but it’s really pretty silly to act like this is gonna turn the criminal justice system upside down. To even argue that is basically to admit that marijuana enforcement rules your world. Opponents of Question 2 campaigned tirelessly to convince voters that marijuana enforcement was a low priority and that penalties were lenient. If there was even a shred of truth to any of that, then implementing decrim should be simple.

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Medical Marijuana Debate: MPP vs. ONDCP

This evening, Georgetown Law School’s chapter of SSDP hosted a debate on medical marijuana between MPP’s Assistant Communications Director Dan Bernath and ONDCP’s Chief Counsel Ed Jurith. Since the drug czar’s minions seldom subject themselves to public scrutiny, and only do so in D.C., it was my duty to document the dialogue.    Bernath began with a reference to the recent discovery of a 2,700-year-old marijuana stash in the tomb of a Chinese shaman, establishing the extensive history of the medical use of marijuana. He described the dimensions of the current medical marijuana debate, including the support of the medical community, the benefits for a growing population of users, and the evolution of public opinion in support of protecting patients through ballot initiatives and state legislatures.Jurith framed his argument from a legal perspective, providing a chronology of caselaw upholding federal authority to enforce marijuana and other drug laws. He emphasized the FDA approval process, insisting that reformers seek to bypass the traditional pathways through which medicines are deemed safe and effective. He focused heavily on dismissing the notion of a "fundamental right" to use medical marijuana, although Bernath hadn’t presented his position in those terms.As the discussion proceeded, I was struck by Jurith’s continued preference for defending the legality rather than the efficacy of the federal war on marijuana. He just wouldn’t go there. In Q&A, I pointed out that the Raich ruling certainly doesn’t mandate a campaign against medical marijuana providers and that DEA demonstrates their discretion every day by declining to prosecute the majority of dispensary operators. Will he defend the raids in a practical sense? What determines who gets raided and who doesn’t? He responded with the notorious Scott Imler quote about medical marijuana profiteers, but never really answered the question. So basically, the head lawyer at the drug czar’s office came forward to assure us that what they’re doing is technically legal, while failing in large part to actually help us understand why they do it. In turn, Bernath easily and convincingly depicted how ONDCP’s role in the medical marijuana debate consists entirely of opposing/interfering with state level reforms and blocking the exact research they claim is necessary. I’d like to think that Jurith’s one dimensional presentation is indicative of the shrinking box from which his office draws its talking points on medical marijuana. Is the growing body of medical research and the solidification of popular support beginning to suck wind from the pipeholes of the proud protagonists in the war on pot? Jurith never compared marijuana to hard drugs, never employed the formerly obligatory "Trojan-horse-to-legalization" line, and generally declined to completely lie his face off when cornered. Maybe he’s just nicer than, say, this guy. But it’s also true that ONDCP as we know it is about to be dismantled and it may be that nobody over there currently gives a crap if the mild-mannered Ed Jurith is kind enough to put himself on the spot for the educational benefit of some law students.Either way, by ONDCP standards, this was a fairly defanged defense of the war on medical marijuana. Jurith is absolutely correct that the federal government maintains considerable authority over the enforcement of our drug laws and it will be fascinating to see what happens when that power changes hands.

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LEAP Celebrates the Repeal of Alcohol Prohibition

Our friends at Law Enforcement Against Prohibition have launched a campaign commemorating the 75th anniversary of the repeal of alcohol prohibition:December, 2008 marks the 75th anniversary of the end of alcohol prohibition. You can help teach a lesson from history by asking your representatives to repeal today’s failed prohibition of drugs.When America’s leaders repealed alcohol prohibition, it wasn't because they suddenly decided that liquor was safe and that everyone should drink. Rather, it was because they were tired of gangsters raking in rich illegal profits and terrorizing neighborhoods. And we simply could not afford to keep enforcing the failed prohibition during the Great Depression, our nation's worst economic crisis.Today, America is in the grip of a new economic crisis, but we keep paying for an even more devastating prohibition, the "war on drugs." Please click here to share LEAP’s message with your representatives. The effort has already generated terrific coverage from Reuters and LEAP’s press conference even made the local news on FOX. Very Cool.

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