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Harm Reduction: New Mexico Governor Signs Overdose Death Reduction Measure

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) Wednesday signed innovative legislation that would protect friends or family members who seek medical attention for drug overdose victims. The law is the first of its kind in the country.

Too often, the companions of drug overdose victims fail to seek medical attention for them for fear of being arrested and prosecuted themselves. The 911 Good Samaritan Act (SB 200) seeks to encourage people to get help by providing limited immunity from drug possession charges when an overdose victim or friend seeks emergency medical services.

With nearly an overdose death a day, New Mexico has the highest drug overdose death rate in the nation. Six years ago, the state passed legislation removing criminal liability from people who prescribe the opiate reversal agent naloxone. That move is credited with saving hundreds of lives. This new law should save even more.

The measure was pushed by the Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico affiliate. "By signing this legislation, the Governor is sending a clear message to New Mexicans: don't be afraid to seek medical help. This is definitely the next step in reducing the overwhelming number of preventable overdose deaths in New Mexico," said Reena Szczepanski, the group's New Mexico director in a Wednesday statement.

NM: Pot now legal for serious illness

Location: 
Santa Fe, NM
United States
Publication/Source: 
Las Cruces Sun-News
URL: 
http://www.lcsun-news.com/news/ci_5580394

[New Mexico] Governor Signs Medical Marijuana Bill

Location: 
Santa Fe, NM
United States
Publication/Source: 
KOB TV 4
URL: 
http://www.kobtv.com/index.cfm?viewer=storyviewer&id=31397&cat=NMTOPSTORIES

The Sentencing Project: Disenfranchisement News & Updates -- March 29, 2007

Maryland: State Awaits Governor's Signature on Disenfranchisement Bill Formerly incarcerated individuals are expected to be able to vote again as a disenfranchisement reform bill awaits Governor Martin O’Malley’s approval, according to the Washington Post. The bill would repeal the three-year waiting period and lifetime voting ban on certain people with felony convictions under current Maryland law. The bill was approved by both the House and Senate after advocates and organizations rallied behind the legislation, according to the Baltimore Times. For additional coverage, see the Baltimore Sun and WJZ-AM. Florida: Governor Crist Hears First-hand Plea for Restoration of Rights Governor Charlie Crist recently heard five-minute pleas from various citizens to discuss their concerns and ideas – one of which was the request from a wife and mother who spent 30 days in jail and wanted her civil rights restored in order to attain a nursing license and make a living. “Everybody deserves a second chance,” said Crist, who told her the Cabinet is likely to take action that could help her within a few weeks. See the Palm Beach Post. North Carolina: Disenfranchisement Bill Introduced in House HB 1020, Voting Rights for Ex-Offenders, was introduced this week in the House. The measure, backed by the Black Caucus, would require that the Board of Elections and Department of Correction develop educational programs as well as notify individuals of their eligibility and provide a voter registration form. Colorado: Senate Expected to Move on Parolee Vote Restoration This Week In Colorado the parolee amendment to SB 83 should be voted on its second reading this week. During the bill’s public hearing, several persons testified, including a pastor with a prison ministry, the Colorado ACLU, and individuals currently on parole hoping to regain voting rights.
Location: 
United States

Marijuana: Cincinnati City Council Votes to Extend Tough Ordinance

The Cincinnati City Council voted Tuesday to renew a tough municipal marijuana ordinance it approved last year despite charges that it had not done what supporters said it would do: reduce violent crime. Thanks to strong local opposition to the ordinance when originally passed, it included a sunset provision and would have expired Friday if the council had not acted.

Under Ohio law, possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana is no more than a ticketable offense with a maximum $100 fine. That was too lenient for the city fathers in Cincinnati, who last year passed a municipal ordinance allowing police to arrest and jail people for up to 30 days for simple pot possession. The measure would reduce crime by removing guns from the streets, allowing police to target dealers, and scaring residents of nearby Kentucky and Indiana away from coming to the city to buy drugs, supporters said at the time.

Cincinnati police testified that marijuana arrests had removed 62 guns from city streets, but opponents, led by a coalition of groups organized as Citizens for a Safer Cincinnati, argued that crime rates had increased since the ordinance was passed. They have the numbers on their side.

As Safer Cincinnati member and Hamilton County Libertarian Party head Paul Green noted in an analysis of crime figures since the ordinance was passed, the ordinance has not succeeded in any of its three goals. There were fewer arrests of out-of-staters, but their total number was small in both years, and the reduction is a measly 0.7%. And while police bragged that they had seized 62 weapons, the number of guns reported to have been used in crimes was up 27%. The number of handguns -- the weapon most commonly carried by drug dealers -- reported to have been used in crimes was up 17%.

Violent crime has also increased since the ordinance has been in place. Murders were up 16% in 2006 compared to 2005, and armed robbery was up a whopping 44%. Overall, the serious crime index showed a 4.4% increase in 2006.

But despite the ordinance's failure to achieve its stated goals, the council reapproved it. That will make the ordinance a campaign issue, Safer Cincinnati warned.

Sentencing: Tyrone Brown is a Free Man!

Tyrone Brown, the Dallas man sentenced to life in prison in 1990 for smoking a joint while on probation for an armed robbery in which no one was injured, walked out of prison in Huntsville Thursday after receiving a conditional pardon from Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R). The pardon came after ABC News' 20-20 featured his story twice, helping to create a nationwide grass roots effort to win his freedom, Save Mr. Brown.

Brown was met by relatives and journalists, according to an Associated Press report filed from Huntsville. He broke into a broad smile as he embraced his mother, Nora Brown. "I didn't believe this day was going to come," he said.

Under the terms of the pardon, Brown will have to live with his mother, find a job, go to a therapist, and report to a parole officer. If he violates any of those conditions, the pardon could be revoked.

Brown was 17 when he was convicted of armed robbery. After he tested positive for marijuana once, Judge Keith Dean re-sentenced him to life in prison. The harshness of Judge Dean's sentence for Brown, which he has never explained, stands in sharp contrast to his treatment of well-connected, white John Alexander Wood. Wood was convicted of murder, but Dean sentenced him to probation, where he repeatedly tested positive for cocaine. But instead of sending him to prison, Dean gave him permission to quit reporting to his probation officer and quit taking drug tests.

With the glare of the national spotlight on the case, Judge Dean (by now ex-Judge Dean) joined a long list of local law enforcement officials calling on the governor to free Brown. Thanks to their efforts, as well as the efforts of muckraking media outlets and an aroused populace, one drug war prisoner has gone home. That leaves about 499,999 to go.

Harm Reduction: Los Angeles County Okays Needle Exchange Program

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $500,000 needle exchange program Tuesday. The board approved the harm reduction measure, which is designed to save lives and dollars by reducing the rate of spread of blood-borne diseases such as AIDS and Hepatitis B and C, on a 3-2 vote.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/needle-exchange-logo.gif
widely-used syringe exchange logo
The city of Los Angeles and seven California counties already have approved needle exchange programs. Los Angeles County has an estimated 120,000 to 190,000 drug injectors, nearly half of whom are estimated to share needles.

The new needle exchanges targeting heroin users will be at the Asian American Drug Abuse Program, Bienestar Human Services, Common Ground-The Westside HIV Community Center, Public Health Foundation Enterprises (and through them, Clean Needles Now) and Tarzana Treatment Centers.

Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Don Knabe voted against the program. "The problem that we have here is you're having the government be in a position of sponsoring a known drug that could lead to death and leads to dependence," Antonovich said. "I would rather put our money into rehabilitation and education encouraging a drug-free society instead of being politically correct and helping addicts remain addicts," he said.

But Supervisor Gloria Molina defended the program, saying its aim is to prevent AIDS. "This is a very simple program that's had unbelievable success, and it's unfortunate (that) it is not supposed to address, and it does not address, the rehabilitation of drug users. All it does is, hopefully, address the issue of prevention of HIV," Molina said.

Medical marijuana: Governor's wrangling revives measure

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Santa Fe New Mexican
URL: 
http://www.freenewmexican.com/news/58378.html

Gov. Perry Pardons Man's Life Sentence For Pot [Tyrone Brown]

Location: 
Austin, TX
United States
Publication/Source: 
Dallas Morning News
URL: 
http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/latestnews/stories/031007dnmetpardon.35307679.html

Maryland: Drug Reform Efforts Picking Up in the Terrapin State

The Terrapin State is this year seeing increasing efforts to reform drug policy. As discussed in another article this issue, the Maryland Compassionate Use Act (HB 1040) would expand on a state medical marijuana law passed in 2003. Late last month -- perhaps preluding some larger effort -- the respected Justice Policy Institute issued a report, Maryland's Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentencing Laws: Their Impact on Incarceration, State Resources and Communities of Color.

Also last month, the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Delegates heard HB 283, a bill sponsored this year and last by Delegate Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-Bethesda) that would require the state's education agency to provide state scholarships to students who qualify under the state's own standards but are ineligible for federal aid because of federal laws (like the Higher Education Act's drug provision). Currently such students may lose state as well as federal aid, but the decisions are delegated to individual school financial aid offices. HB 283 again did not make it through committee this year, though other avenues such as a Senate bill could be possible.

Things are looking better for a University of Maryland effort to reduce the penalties for students caught possessing marijuana in campus dorms. Currently, pot possession in the dorms is considered a Class A infraction of university rules, along with arson, assault, and similar violent crimes, and results in automatic expulsion from campus residence halls.

But after a year-long campaign by UMD SSDP and NORML chapters that saw a successful student voter initiative calling for the equalization of penalties for pot possession and underage possession of alcohol (a Class B infraction) and a subsequent Residence Hall Association Senate resolution calling on the Department of Residence Life to reclassify first-time pot possession to Class B, activists are now eagerly awaiting a decision by department director Deb Grandner on whether to accept the resolution's recommendation.

"I'm really optimistic about this," said UMD SSDP chapter head Anastasia Cosner. "I'll be meeting with Grander on Friday, and I'm going to tell her this has been approved by the students and by the residence halls, so she should probably just go ahead and approve it now."

Grandner is under some pressure to accede to the demand, said SSDP national executive director Kris Krane. "The student newspaper has done three stories on this in the past couple of weeks," he noted, "the Residence Halls Senate has called for the change, the president of the student government supports it, and now even a member of the House of Delegates has weighed in with a letter to Grandner."

"Failure to enact the recommendations of the RHA Senate by your office could have more serious implications than would result from a change in residential policy," warned Ana Sol Gutierrez, the same Delegate who sponsored HB 283. "Students who are forced to leave the residence halls during the semester often are not able to complete coursework, and may leave school altogether. Students who consequently abandon their goals for completing a college education are more likely to engage in less productive behaviors including abusing drugs in the future."

There is no firm deadline for Grandner to act, but activists say they are prepared to go to the next level if she demurs or delays. Hopefully they won't have to and a battle on the University of Maryland campus will be won sooner rather than later.

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