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Missoula OKs initiative relaxing enforcement of marijuana laws (Helena Independent Record, MT)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.helenair.com/articles/2006/11/09/montana/a06110906_02.txt

Sentencing: US Supreme Court to Try to Clean Up Post-Booker Ruling Issues

Early last year, the Supreme Court sent shockwaves through the federal criminal justice system when, in its decision in the Booker and Fan Fan cases, it threw out mandatory federal sentencing guidelines, instead making them merely advisory. Since then, federal district and appeals courts have struggled to interpret just what that means. Last Friday, the high court agreed to hear two cases, Claiborne v. US and Rita v. US, from a pile of pending appeals in an effort to provide greater clarity for jurists, prosecutors, and defendants.

Mario Claiborne is a 21-year-old first offender who was convicted of possessing a small amount of crack cocaine. Although the now advisory sentencing guidelines called for a sentence of 37 to 46 months, a federal district court judge in St. Louis was persuaded to sentence him to only 15 months. Federal prosecutors appealed, and the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis overturned the lenient sentence. Noting that it was an "extraordinary" departure from the guidelines, the appeals court held that "an extraordinary reduction must be supported by extraordinary circumstances."

As the Supreme Court noted when it accepted the case, it must answer two questions: "1) Was the district court's choice of below-Guidelines sentence reasonable? 2) In making that determination, is it consistent with United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), to require that a sentence which constitutes a substantial variance from the Guidelines be justified by extraordinary circumstances?"

The second case, that of Victor Rita, raises sentencing issues that are the flip-side of the Claiborne case. Rita, a retired Marine and former federal worker, was convicted of making false statements in a federal investigation of the sale of machine gun kits. His sentence, 33 months, was within the range recommended by the sentencing guidelines, but he appealed, saying it was unreasonably long given his poor health and unblemished record. But the US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, denied his appeal, holding that sentences within the guidelines must be presumed to be reasonable.

In the Rita case, the Supreme Court noted it will consider three questions: "1) Was the district court's choice of within-Guidelines sentence reasonable? 2) In making that determination, is it consistent with United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005), to accord a presumption of reasonableness to within-Guidelines sentences? 3) If so, can that presumption justify a sentence imposed without an explicit analysis by the district court of the 18 U.S.C. §3553(a) factors and any other factors that might justify a lesser sentence?"

The Booker and Fan Fan cases were decided by a divided Supreme Court that did not include Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, and it is unclear how they will attempt to interpret it. But the two cases taken together have the potential to further open the door to more just and reasonable sentencing in the federal courts.

Artist, Activist Tony Papa to Highlight Cruel Drug War with Art Installation in Oakland Nov. 9-11

For Immediate Release: November 4, 2006 Contact: Tony Newman (646) 335-5384 or Tommy McDonald (646) 335-2242 Artist, Activist Tony Papa to Highlight Cruel Drug War with Art Installation in Oakland Nov. 9-11 Show Visually Depicts Major Tragedies of Drug War: “Two Years for One Joint”; “HIV Due to Dirty Syringes”; “Racial Disparity of Drug War”; all on Display at Harm Reduction Conference in Oakland Papa Discovered Art in Prison and Painted His Way to Freedom after 12 Years Behind Bars Under Draconian Drug Laws Noted artist, activist and author Anthony Papa will highlight the casualties of the war on drugs at an art installation during the Harm Reduction Coalition conference in Oakland November 9-12 The Harm Reduction Coalition conference brings together hundreds of drug policy reform advocates from across the country to discuss effective public health approaches to dealing with drug use and misuse. The conference will take place November 9-12 at the Marriot hotel, Oakland City Center, 1001 Broadway, CA “The Drug War” is an art installation by artist/activist Anthony Papa. The installation is a multi-media presentation that visually portrays some of the most compelling drug war issues in the news. The visual narratives in the installation are powerful reminders of the raging war on drugs that ravages many of our communities. “The use of art as a political weapon is not new,” says Papa who discovered his political awareness through his art and has used his art as a vehicle to fight the drug war. “Through history, the role of the artist as a social commentator has been invaluable. Art is a great vehicle for expressing views to others in a way that is unmatched in any other media outlet for its truthfulness”. “Like Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ and Goya’s ‘Third of May,’ which both powerfully portrayed the atrocities of war, my installation follows their lead in revealing the impact of America’s drug war.” Papa spent 12 years in prison for a first time non-violent drug offense. While imprisoned, he discovered his artistic talent. In 1995, after a showing of his art at the Whitney Museum, his case attracted national attention. Two years later, New York Governor George Pataki granted Papa executive clemency. Papa currently works for the Drug Policy Alliance. The installation highlights issues that affect all Americans, whether they use drugs or not. It is steeped in a continuous motif of an upside down American flag, which signifies the universal concept the state of distress in war. · “Justice in Black and White” shows the racial imbalance of the effects of the New York’s Rockefeller Drug Laws. Ninety-four percent of those incarcerated under the laws are black and Latino. Ten crying babies dress in prison garb dangle in front of their incarcerated mothers and ask “where are our mothers?” · “Two Years in Jail for One Joint” shows the madness of the drug war. Mitchell Lawrence, an 18-year-old was sentenced to two years in jail for one joint by an over zealous prosecutor in Massachusetts. A single golden joint sits in a silver jewelry box surrounded by dozens of candles · “Give Them All Dirty Needles and Let Them Die” - taken from the cruel quote of TV’s “Judge Judy” - boldly illustrates how New Jersey is the only U.S. state that lacks a needle exchange program. Dozens of bloodied syringes penetrate a coffin draped with the New Jersey flag. · Part of the installation a marijuana plant asks the question who should decide what medicine we should put in our bodies – cops or doctors. · “Got a Cold? Prove it and Sign the Log” portrays the hoops Americans must now jump through to buy cold medicine due to the federal government’s desire to monitor our everyday actions in the name of the curbing the methamphetamine “epidemic.” Papa hopes the installation raises awareness for mainstream society who rarely think about the drug war. “I use my art as a means of visually translating the deep emotional responses of the human condition. My life choices forced me to discover my hidden artistic talent. In the same way I try to make that intuitive connection with the viewer by living through my work, breaking down barriers that separate us from truth.”
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Sentencing: Public Hearings on Illinois SMART Act Pack 'Em In

Supporters of an Illinois bill that would allow judges to divert low-level drug offenders into county "drug schools" instead of jail or prison are holding a series of public hearings across the state to drum up renewed support for the stalled measure. If the turnout in Chicago is any indication, public interest is high.

Illinois House Bill 4885, the Substance Abuse Management Addressing Recidivism Through Treatment (SMART) Act", would appropriate $3.5 million to allow state's attorneys' offices to open drug schools where low-level drug offenders could have their cases dismissed and arrest records expunged after completing an eight-hour course and -- depending on a mental health and addiction assessment -- possibly undergoing drug treatment.

The bill would allow counties to opt to follow the example set in Cook County (Chicago), where District Attorney Dick Devine pioneered the drug school idea. In the Cook County Drug School program, first-time drug possession offenders are offered mental health screenings, addiction assessment, and an eight-hour drug education program, and some -- depending on their assessment -- may be ordered into drug treatment. The county spends roughly $350 per person per year on the program, compared to the more than $21,000 it costs to incarcerate someone for a year.

After being introduced in January, the bill stalled in the legislature this fall, but supporters were able to pass a resolution calling on legislators to participate in a series of public hearings on alternatives to imprisonment and issue a report on those hearings. Hearings have already been held in Champaign, East St. Louis, and Chicago, with more set later this month for Decatur, Rockford, Rock Island, and Waukegan.

At the October 25 meeting in the Ashburn Lutheran Church in Chicago, the Southwest News Herald reported that "hundreds of people crowded into the church for the hearing, with some coming on buses from as far away as Rockford." Convened by the Developing Justice Coalition, a statewide alliance of community-based social service and religious organizations working on issues such as sentencing reform, prisoner re-entry, and public, the hearing featured several dozen speakers, including many ex-prisoners who said their drug arrest records had dogged them ever since. The coalition was organized by the Safer Foundation, which works to help ex-prisoners re-enter society.

Turnout for the hearing was "phenomenal," said Ashburn Lutheran pastor the Rev. Pam Challis. "It has been a long time since we had to put chairs in the aisles," said Challis, looking around at the standing-room only crowd after the meeting. "It is indicative of the fact that this is needed."

"I am a product of incarceration. I was in jail twice, and while I was incarcerated I learned absolutely nothing," said drug educator Armando Fox. After the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council gave him "a second chance" he was able to turn his life around. "Sometimes the choices we make aren't always the best, but we really shouldn't just throw people in prison. They don't learn anything."

But with its current drug laws, the state of Illinois throws quite a few people in prison. It spends nearly $250 million a year on its prison budget.

Attending the hearing were state Representatives Mary Flowers (D-31st) and Esther Golar (D-6th). Flowers, a 23-year veteran of the legislature, accused the body of passing "bad legislation" with its zero tolerance drug laws that set strict sentencing guidelines for drug offenses. "Some of those crimes should have been probational. The only thing we did was dig ourselves a bigger hole at your expense," she said.

The legislature is out of session now, but the SMART Act will probably come to a vote in January. Advocates are doing all they can do to show lawmakers there is broad public support, and packing hundreds of people into a hearing on a relatively obscure piece of legislation is a good start.

More Take the Rehab Way Out; [Enron's] Fastow is the Latest Corporate Convict to Seek Counseling to Cut Time Off Sentence

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Houston Chronicle
URL: 
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/special/enron/4309968.html

Supreme Court to Revisit Federal Sentencing Issues (New York Times)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/04/washington/04scotus.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

The Tale of Two MA Teenagers: Probation for Coach Belichick’s Son for Small Amount of Marijuana, Two Years in Jail for Mitchell Lawrence

For Immediate Release: October 31, 2006 For More Info: Tony Newman (646) 335-5384 The Tale of Two MA Teenagers: Probation for Coach Belichick’s son for Small Amount of Marijuana, Two Years in Jail for Mitchell Lawrence Probation is Appropriate Response to Teen with Small Amount of Marijuana, Not Cruel Two Year Sentence 18-Year-Old Mitchell Lawrence is in Jail Because of Bad Law, Cruel Prosecutor The son of New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick was placed on probation for six months after being arrested on Saturday on one account of marijuana possession. Charges against Stephen Belichick will be dropped after six months if he stays out of trouble. The Drug Policy Alliance, a national organization working end the war on drugs, applauded the appropriate sentence given to Stephen Belichick, while highlighting an injustice that has befallen another teenager from Massachusetts: Mitchell Lawrence, an 18-year-old now spending two years in jail for selling one joint’s worth of marijuana to an undercover police officer in Great Barrington, MA. Mitchell Lawrence received the two-year jail sentence because he was within 1,000 feet of a school and because the fanatical district attorney of Berkshire County, David Capeless, decided to press school zone charges, which trigger a mandatory minimum sentence of two years in prison. “Sending an 18-year-old to jail for two years for a small amount of marijuana is inhumane,” said Tony Papa, communications specialist at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Fortunately, the district attorney working on the Belichick case used common sense and compassion when pushing for probation instead of a jail cell.” Lawrence’s case was depicted in a recent flash movie. The two-minute movie introduces people to Lawrence and the details of his case. The flash asks and then explains how an 18-year-old (he was 17 when arrested) who has never been in trouble before could be sentenced to two years in jail for selling such a minuscule amount of marijuana. (View the flash movie at: http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/050506greatbarringtonflash.cfm
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Feature: Alabama Drug Reformer Loretta Nall Accidentally Becomes the "Cleavage" Candidate

Libertarian Party Alabama gubernatorial candidate Loretta Nall couldn't get enough signatures gathered to win a spot on next Tuesday's ballot, but in a bizarre twist, her breasts have garnered her enough attention to make her a water-cooler topic of conversation not only in the Heart of Dixie, but from coast to coast. The 30-something Alabama housewife has taken what could be viewed as a demeaning local newspaper column about her breasts and cleavage and, in an act equal parts political jiu-jitsu and political theater, used it to gain a nationwide soapbox for her platform of drug and sentencing reform, immigrant legalization, and opposition to the war in Iraq and the Patriot and Real ID Acts.

It all began with a photo of Nall alongside a brief, dismissive mention of her campaign in a column by the Montgomery Independent's Bob Ingram back in March. The photo -- obtained by the paper through a Google search and used in lieu of the more conservative image she had provided -- showed the amply-endowed Nall in a low-cut blouse with plunging cleavage. Ingram revisited the topic a few days later, telling readers the Nall photo marked the first time a woman's cleavage was featured in his column.

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Nall took it from there. In a letter to Ingram and Independent publisher Bob Martin, she challenged the apparently breast-obsessed pair to discuss her campaign instead of her physical attributes. "Now that you and the rest of Alabama have been introduced to 'the twins' perhaps you'd like to meet the rest of me," she wrote. "I'll don my burka, so y'all won't be distracted, and perhaps we can discuss the other planks in my platform, since Mr. Ingram saw fit to only discuss one."

By the end of March, Nall was reporting wildly increased traffic at her campaign web site and increasing attention across the blogosphere, and by the beginning of May she had taken advantage of the attention to unveil a new "Flash for Cash" appeal for donations, where an animated Nall figure would reveal what's behind the blouse for a $50 campaign contribution.

She took it to the next level when she unveiled a new line of t-shirts and posters featuring the famous cleavage shot above and photos of incumbent Republican Gov. Bob Riley and his Democratic opponent, Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley below, with the text reading "More of These Boobs and Less of These Boobs."

Since then, it has been a media frenzy for Nall, with appearances on the national cable news networks Fox and MSNBC and NBC's The Today Show, as well as countless radio interviews -- both national and local -- and unceasing attention in the blogosphere. And in the ouroboros world of the media, the attention Nall received from some media outlets meant she was all the more newsworthy on other media outlets.

The national interest meant that the homeboy media needed to pay attention, and it did. An Alabama-based Associated Press story ran in papers across the country, local TV stations began devoting increasing air time to her breasts (and her campaign), and on Wednesday evening she was slated for a 20-minute appearance on Alabama's only statewide newscast, "On the Record."

"The Alabama press has really had a good time with this," Nall told Drug War Chronicle. "The campaign is full of nasty attack ads, and I'm doing something different and they're eating it up. Yes, there is lots of stuff about me being 'the breast candidate for the job' and 'racking up points,' but then they go on to actually talk about my campaign and my platform. The boobs thing has been fun for me and the media, and I've garnered some good editorials as a result."

But despite the humor of her campaign, Nall is a serious candidate. "Everybody was all excited about the boob stuff," she told the Chronicle, "but I just use that as a way of getting a platform to get at my real issues, especially the Patriot and Real ID Acts, No Child Left Behind, and drug policy and prison reform," the Alabama housewife explained. "Hammering away at the number of people in our overcrowded prisons has been one of my main planks."

And she wasn't afraid to go behind enemy lines, making an appearance on Fox News' Fox & Friends program, where she simply steamrollered a seemingly stunned pair of Fox anchors. "It's hard to outfox Fox, but I didn't really pay any attention to their questions, I didn't let them hem me in," Nall explained. "I figured if I pulled a Marc Emery and talked non-stop, they wouldn't have a chance, and they didn't."

Nall is not being included in polling on the governor's race, but said she believed she would poll well above the 1% needed to win a ballot line for the Libertarian Party in 2008. "If the feedback I've been getting is any indication, I could go as high as 5% or 6%," she predicted. "I am hearing from a lot of Republicans who say I am a true conservative, but I'm also getting support from a lot of lefty Democrats. There is a large segment of the population that feels like it doesn't have a political voice when the major party candidates here are trying to out-Jesus each other."

Drug Reform and Drug Reformers in the 2006 Elections -- The List

In a national political season dominated by the war in Iraq and concerns about the direction in which the country is headed, drug policy issues have largely been ignored this year. Drug policy issues are on the ballot in several states and localities and drug reformers are running for statewide office in a handful of states. Here are the campaigns and races we will be watching and reporting on next week.

NATIONAL

United States Congress: We are not singling out any races in this crucial, possible sea change, election year, and no single race has been distinguished for its drug policy implications. Should Democrats take control of one or both chambers of Congress, that could potentially have significant ramifications for the issue -- imagine Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) as head of the House Judiciary Committee instead of Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), for starters. Historically drug reformers have tended to find both major parties disappointing, however.

If you are interested in how your representative represents your views on drug policy issues, the Drug Policy Alliance has prepared a 2006 Drug Policy Reform Congressional Voter Guide, as have Marc Emery and Cannabis Culture.

STATE INITIATIVES

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Election Day approaching
Arizona: Proposition 301 would roll back a decade-only sentencing reform law as it applies to methamphetamine offenders. Under the sentencing reform, first- or second-time drug possession offenders cannot be sentenced to jail or prison -- only to probation. This legislature-sponsored initiative would allow meth offenders -- and only meth offenders -- to be jailed on a first or second offense. It is opposed by Meth-Free Arizona -- No on 301, a citizens' and activist organization, as well as leading Arizona jurists.

Colorado: Amendment 44 would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults. Building on successful non-binding resolutions at several Colorado universities and last year's surprise Denver vote to legalize possession under city ordinance, initiative organizers SAFER Colorado have been hammering away at what has proven to be a particularly resonant theme: Marijuana is safer than alcohol. While the most recent polls show the initiative trailing, organizers say those polls under-sample youthful voters who are more likely to vote yes.

Nevada: Question 7 would replace marijuana prohibition with a system of regulated, taxed, and controlled marijuana sales and would allow for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by adults. Sponsored by the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, an affiliate of the Marijuana Policy Project, the initiative, if successful, would result in Nevada being the first state to sanction marijuana sales. The effort builds on four years of work in Nevada by MPP and its affiliates. A similar initiative won 39% of the vote in 2002 and a 2004 signature drive failed to make the ballot, but this year the measure not only made the ballot but was polling above 40% in recent weeks and leading in the only poll that used the actual ballot language.

South Dakota: Initiated Measure 4 would allow for the use of medical marijuana by qualified patients with a doctor's recommendation. The measure allows qualified patients or caregivers to grow up to six plants and possess up to one ounce of marijuana. South Dakotans for Medical Marijuana, the group behind the campaign, has just unleashed its latest round of TV and radio commercials featuring two medical marijuana patients and a former police officer. There is no known polling on how the measure will fare in the socially conservative Upper Midwest state.

LOCAL INITIATIVES

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Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, and Santa Monica, California: All three cities will vote on initiatives calling for adult marijuana offenses to be the lowest law enforcement priority. Part of the California Cities Campaign, an outgrowth of the successful Oakland Proposition Z lowest priority initiative in 2004, organizers hope victories this year will help lay the groundwork for a statewide effort to further reform California's marijuana laws. Initiative language is available at Sensible Santa Barbara (Measure P), Santa Cruz Citizens for Sensible Marijuana Policies (Measure K), and Santa Monicans for Sensible Marijuana Policy (Measure Y). According to state and local organizers, the most difficult fight will be in Santa Monica.

Missoula County, Montana: Initiative #2 would make adult marijuana offenses the lowest law enforcement priority. Sponsored by Citizens for Responsible Crime Policy, the initiative is facing strong law enforcement opposition, but has the benefit of being held in what is arguably the most liberal county in the state.

Eureka Springs, Arkansas: Sponsored by University of Arkansas/Fayetteville NORML, the municipal ballot measure would make adult marijuana possession the lowest law enforcement priority. It took only 115 signatures to get a lowest priority initiative on the ballot in this small, countercultural town in Northwest Arkansas.

Plymouth, Massachusetts: In the 1st and 12th Plymouth Representative Districts, voters will be voting to tell their representatives to support decriminalization: “Shall the state legislator from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would make the possession of less than one ounce of marijuana a civil violation, subject to a fine of no more than $100.00 and not subject to any criminal penalties?”

Middlesex and Norfolk, Massachusetts: Voters in the 7th Norfolk Representative District and the 3rd Middlesex Senate District will be voting on whether to tell their representatives to support medical marijuana: “Shall the state legislator from this district be instructed to vote in favor of legislation that would allow seriously ill patients, with their doctor’s written recommendation, to possess and grow small amounts of marijuana for their personal medical use?”

STATEWIDE ELECTIVE OFFICE

Alabama: Loretta Nall is running for governor on the Libertarian Party ticket. Denied a line on the ballot by Alabama's tight election laws, Nall is running a write-in campaign in hopes of gaining sufficient votes to win the party a spot on the ballot next time around. While Nall is calling for marijuana legalization and substantive sentencing reform, among other issues, her breasts have garnered the most press coverage. (See related story this issue.)

Connecticut: Long-time drug reform leader Cliff Thornton is running as the Green Party nominee for governor. While Thornton has been excluded from most polls and televised debates, the commanding lead held by incumbent Gov. Jodi Rell over her Democratic opponent may leave political space for a protest vote for Thornton.

Maryland: Long-time drug reform leader Kevin Zeese is running for US Senate as a unity candidate on a combined Green-Populist-Libertarian ticket. With a tighter-than-expected race between Democrat Ben Cardin and Republican Michael Steele, a strong Zeese showing could potentially throw the election to one candidate or the other. With some data suggesting he is drawing support from both candidates, however, and with Cardin so far polling ahead consistently if not comfortably, that is unclear.

New Jersey: The one-time Ed Forchion, who has legally changed his name to NJ Weedman, is on the ballot in the US Senate race. Long a media favorite in the Garden State for his pro-marijuana antics, NJ Weedman campaigns on a platform of legalization.

Texas: Musician, novelist, and humorist Kinky Friedman has called for the legalization of marijuana. He is currently polling in the teens in a four-way race where incumbent Republican Gov. Rick Perry is leading with about 35% of the vote.

(Disclaimer: DRCNet endorses the positive drug reform ballot measures being promoted by our colleagues around the country -- the only ballot measure mentioned here that we oppose is 301 in Arizona. However, Drug War Chronicle is restricted by virtue of DRCNet Foundation's nonprofit status from taking positions for or against any parties or candidates for elected office, and DRCNet's supporters in fact span a wide range of the political spectrum. This article is intended only to provide objective information to foster understanding of the impact of the electoral process on the issue, and to support the democratic principle of an informed electorate.)

Marijuana: Massachusetts Gubernatorial Candidate Favors Legalization, Just Not During His Term

Democratic Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Deval Patrick has, according to recent polling, a huge lead on his opponent, Republican Lt. Gov. Kerry Kealey. It isn't because of the clarity of his position on marijuana policy.

At the fourth and final gubernatorial debate October 26, both major party candidates and two minor party candidates were asked the following question by the debate moderator: "Since the 1970s at least a dozen states have decriminalized the possession by adults of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Massachusetts is not one of them. In a 2003 Boston University study estimated that the thousands of arrests for pot possession each year cost more than $24 million in law enforcement resources. There's a bill before the legislature that would reduce the penalty for possession of less than an ounce to a $100 civil fine. Would you sign it if it reached your desk?"

After saying that he hoped the bill never reached his desk because that was not his priority, Patrick added that law enforcement should emphasize large drug traffickers and that the same person who provided marijuana to his drug addict uncle also provided him with heroin. He concluded his initial response by saying, "I'm very comfortable with the idea of legalizing marijuana. I just don't think it ought to be our priority."

The moderator was reduced to asking Patrick directly if he would veto the bill. "I would veto that," he responded.

Republican candidate Healey didn't dance around in her response. "I would veto that proposal," she said, citing the cost of drug addiction and the "tragedy" of kids in the social service system because of drug-addicted parents. "Anything that leads to drug addiction should be absolutely off the table and I would never legalize drugs."

Independent gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos joined the consensus, saying that he supported medical marijuana, but would veto a decrim bill. Only Green-Rainbow candidate Grace Ross gave any positive indication about the decrim bill, but that was vague too. "I'm not big for throwing people in prison for small amounts of marijuana but what the real issue is -- drug addiction, and every other industrialized nation doesn't have as many people in prison and there's a reason because when someone's addicted to something they can get treatment on demand, they can get treatment immediately because universal health care means when you know you need treatment you go in and you get it. So I think if we're going to talk about drugs lets catch the big folks who have the big amounts of money who bring them into communities, not the small fish."

Still, Ross refused to say whether she would sign or veto a decrim bill, saying she would want to see the context of other "much more important" policy changes. She did, however, obliquely attack Healey's comments about drug-addicted parents. "I think we have got to be real here because it's not about what's legal and what's not legal completely because a lot of those kids in DSS their parents are addicted to alcohol, not to illegal substances and I think that the one piece about this kind of question that's legitimate is that addiction is not connected with which substances are legal or not. And so we need to be honest here. I think the question of where marijuana sits in comparison to alcohol is a legitimate question and we need to deal with addiction as addiction and not about criminalizing people who are addicted. We need to deal with it as addiction."

In local ballot questions in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 general elections, more than 410,000 Massachusetts residents have voted for marijuana law reform.

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