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Sentencing: California Governor Signs Bill Amending Proposition 36, Is Immediately Sued

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) Wednesday signed into law a bill that substantially alters the state's voter-approved Prop 36, the state's "treatment not jail" law. One of the authors of the measure, which mandates treatment not jail for first- and second-time drug offenders, immediately filed suit to block the law from going into effect.

The bill, which was tacked onto a budget bill and passed last month, allows "flash incarceration" of up to five days for people who have failed to participate in treatment programs. Championed by law enforcement and drug court professionals, the new law stands in stark contrast with the initiative approved by the voters, who approved Prop 36's "no jail" provisions by a wide margin. Under California laws, substantive changes in voter-approved initiatives must be done by the voters, not the legislature.

Prop 36 coauthor Cliff Gardner filed his lawsuit Wednesday afternoon in Alameda County Superior Court. He is being represented by Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) attorney Daniel Abrahamson. "Rather than veto SB 1137, the Governor opted to engage in a legal battle over what he knows is an unconstitutional law," said Abrahamson in a statement. "We have filed a complaint in Alameda County Superior Court, and are confident that Prop 36 and the will of the people will be upheld."

But Lisa Fisher, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, told the Associated Press the state would enforce the law unless a judge orders it not to. "We think that the reforms are furthering the purposes of Proposition 36," she said. "The one thing we have learned over the years is that jail sanctions need to be part of a whole package of sanctions that an individual can expect."

Feature: Methamphetamine as Child Abuse Laws Gain Ground, But Do They Help or Hurt?

When Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) signed a package of anti-methamphetamine measures into law last Thursday, Michigan became at least the sixth state to define either the use or the production of meth where children are present as child abuse. The trend is part of an all-out offensive against methamphetamine use and manufacture by law enforcement and child welfare agencies, but child protection critics and maternal rights advocates say it is a destructive and unnecessary response.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, at least 21 states and the District of Columbia define some drug use, distribution, or sales as child abuse or neglect. Among the various laws:

  • Manufacture of a controlled substance in the presence of child or on the premises occupied by a child (Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Virginia).
  • Allowing a child to be present where the chemicals or equipment for the manufacture of controlled substances are used or stored (Arizona and New Mexico).
  • Selling, distributing, or giving drugs or alcohol to a child (Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, and Texas).
  • Use of a controlled substance by a caregiver that impairs the caregiver's ability to adequately care for the child (Kentucky, New York, Rhode Island, and Texas).
  • Exposure of the child to drug paraphernalia, the criminal sale or distribution of drugs, or drug-related activity (North Dakota, Montana and Virginia, and the District of Columbia, respectively).

When it comes to methamphetamine in particular, Michigan joins Iowa and South Dakota as singling out that drug and its users for special opprobrium in their child abuse statutes. Meanwhile, in Georgia, Idaho, and Ohio, the manufacture or possession of methamphetamine in the presence of a child is a felony, and Washington state provides for enhanced penalties for any conviction for the manufacture of methamphetamine when a child was present.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/methcooking.jpg
controversial school meth cooking demo, Grays Harbor County, Washington, May 2005
Gov. Granholm sang a familiar tune as she announced the signing of the anti-meth package last week. "For the first time, we can now charge those who expose children to the dangers of methamphetamine production with child abuse – because that's what it is," Granholm said. "I'm proud to sign legislation that will help our law enforcement officers better protect children and give our communities additional tools to deal with the environmental damage caused by the production of this illegal drug."

But how big is the problem of meth-exposed children in Michigan? "I can't give you a specific answer as to numbers," said Michigan Department of Human Services Child Protection Services media relations specialist Maureen Sorbet. "We don't track that. We track child abuse cases by the type of abuse and the perpetrators," she told DRCNet.

The Michigan State Police were a bit more informed on the topic. Last year, 116 children were found in meth-related incidents, said Inspector Karen Halliday, who chaired a state meth task force subcommittee charged with dealing with children in homes with drugs present that drafted the meth child abuse law. "If you find one child in an environment like a meth home," that's a problem, she told DRCNet.

But even if every one of those 116 children were the subject of substantiated child abuse complaints, they would constitute less than one-tenth of one percent of substantiated child abuse complaints in the state. According to Child Protection Services, last year more than 128,000 child abuse or neglect complaints were filed last year in Michigan, more than 72,000 were investigated, and more than 18,000 substantiated.

Nationwide, similar results obtain. According to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, child protective services agencies removed 1.19 million children from their parents between 2000 and 2003. During that same period, some 10,580 children were found to be "affected" by meth manufacture, with 2,881 placed in foster care. As the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform notes, "In other words, of all the entries into foster care from 2000 to 2003, at least 99.1% of them had nothing to do with meth labs."

"If the idea is to help children, these kinds of laws are extremely ineffective," said Richard Wexler, head of the coalition and a harsh critic of the nation's child protection services. "If the idea is to drive women underground and leave the children far worse off, it's extremely effective. These laws hurt the children they are allegedly intended to help. Listen, you can't be a meth addict and be a good parent, but further criminalizing them doesn't help anything. The key is to offer treatment. If you simply confiscate the kids, then they wind up in America's dreadful foster care system, bounced from home to home, unable to form lasting bonds with anyone," he told DRCNet.

National Advocates for Pregnant Women generally concentrates on the distinct -- but closely related -- issue of the plight of drug using expectant mothers (12 states and DC charge drug using mothers as child abusers, and 12 more have specific reporting procedures for infants who test positive at birth), but the group is also concerned about the meth as child abuse laws. "This completely misses the boat if we're talking about the public health angle," said Wyndi Anderson, national educator for the group. "We try really hard to get a lot of women access to a whole range of public health services. They need addiction treatment. Automatically labeling them child abusers doesn't help them at all, it only helps get them into prison and their children into foster care," she told DRCNet.

"These laws are an exercise in showboating," said Wexler. "The legislators want to look like they're cracking down on drugs and child abuse, but since it is already child abuse to commit an act that actually harms a child, these laws are redundant. All they do is frighten people away and take away one way to reach out to addicted parents and get the help that will help -- not hurt -- their children."

"When you equate meth use with child abuse, you create the possibility of a witch hunt," Anderson warned. "We want to keep communities healthy and families intact, and these kinds of laws will just bust up both. If you believe in family values, I don't see how you could be for something like this. Is this what conservatives mean when they're talking about compassion, forgiveness, and helping the downtrodden?"

Anderson did not minimize the problem of methamphetamine abuse, but argued that the answer is not more laws but more treatment. "What we should be doing is figuring out what treatment works, what family interventions work, what prevention efforts work. We are willing to spend big money on the criminal justice side, and if we really care about people's and families' health, we should be willing to spend on the public health side. But instead we've been spending on guns and prisons."

But it's more than just a "drug problem," said Anderson. "This is all much more complicated than just drugs or treatment," she said. "We need a comprehensive approach. People need jobs to go to when they get out. It is the community's responsibility to meet these people halfway."

Feature: Judge Throws Out Part of Alaska Marijuana Recriminalization Law, Up to An Ounce is Now Legal At Home

Gov. Frank Murkowski's two-year effort to recriminalize marijuana in Alaska hit a roadblock Monday when a Superior Court judge struck down the part of the law he pushed through the legislature earlier this year. Judge Patricia Collins threw out the section of the law that criminalizes the possession of marijuana for personal use in the privacy of one's home, but reduced the exempt amount from four ounces to one ounce. Collins also left intact portions of the law increasing penalties for marijuana offenses.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/murkowskiwalters.jpg
propaganda show by Gov. Murkowski and drug czar Walters
In a 1975 decision, Ravin v. State, the Alaska Supreme Court held that the state constitution's privacy provisions barred the state from criminalizing the possession of personal amounts of marijuana in one's home. A 1991 initiative recriminalized marijuana possession, but when that law was eventually challenged in 2004, the Alaska court's upheld Ravin, saying the popular vote could not trump the state constitution.

Ever since, Gov. Murkowski has worked to undo those decisions. Last year, a determined lobbying effort financed by the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) managed to fend off action at the statehouse, but Murkowski managed to push the bill through earlier this year. Included in the law is a series of "findings" designed to demonstrate that marijuana is so much more dangerous now than in 1975 that the state Supreme Court will have to decide differently when it weighs the issue again.

"Unless and until the Supreme Court directs otherwise, Ravin is the law in this state and this court is duty bound to follow that law," Collins wrote in her decision as she granted summary judgment to the American Civil Liberties Union. The group had filed suit to block the law as soon as it became law in June.

"The drug war has wreaked havoc on the Bill of Rights and the US Constitution, but fortunately many state constitutions still shield individuals from drug war excess," said Allen Hopper, an attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "This ruling is incredibly significant from a national perspective, because there are a number of states with similar privacy rights in their constitutions that may afford protections to adult marijuana users."

"The state of Alaska has charted a different course from that of the federal government's failed policy on marijuana," said Michael MacLeod-Ball, executive director of the ACLU of Alaska. "This ruling affirms Alaska's commitment to fundamental privacy rights over reefer madness."

"We're certainly pleased we at least got a partial victory," said Bruce Mirken, communications director for MPP, which also chipped in on litigation costs. "And we're hopeful the Supreme Court will recognize the nonsensical nature of the findings the state wrote into the law in an effort to override the state constitution. But the court decision still left in place draconian new penalties for larger amounts and reduced the amount one can keep at home. The battle has begun, but it has a ways to go," he told DRCNet.

Alaska Department of Law spokesman Mark Morones told DRCNet the state would be quick to appeal the decision. "We are pleased the judge made an expeditious ruling," he said. "It's always been our position that the issue of the legality marijuana and the privacy debate really do have to go back to the Supreme Court for a final determination of the right to privacy and the state's safety interest in being able to prosecute marijuana cases. We plan to appeal expeditiously," Morones said.

In her decision, Collins explained that she limited it to the possession of less than one ounce because the ACLU argued that the only issue at stake in the case was the government's ability to regulate the possession of small amounts of marijuana. "No specific argument has been advanced in this case that possession of more than one ounce of marijuana, even within the privacy of the home, is constitutionally protected conduct under Ravin or that any plaintiff or ACLU of Alaska member actually possesses more than one ounce of marijuana in their homes," Collins wrote.

Department of Law spokesman Morones took heart in that portion of the ruling. "Our initial interpretation of this case at this point is that Judge Collins' decision makes it clear that the state has the ability to regulate marijuana use in amounts greater that one ounce," he said.

As things now stand in Alaska, possession of an ounce at home is okay, possession of up to four ounces is a misdemeanor, and possession of more than four ounces is a felony. Soon it will be time for the Alaska Supreme Court to definitively resolve the issue -- one more time. Both sides are already gearing up for the appeal, which will go directly to the Supreme Court. According to Morones, the process could take months or perhaps a year. In the meantime, Alaska once again stands as the only state in the nation where people can legally possess small amounts of marijuana.

Appeal/Book Offer: Race to Incarcerate, by Marc Mauer

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/racetoincarcerate.jpg
In "Race to Incarcerate," Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project, explores the political, financial, and human toll of the "get tough" movement against crime and assesses why this policy has failed, making a compelling argument against the unprecedented rise in the use of imprisonment in the United States over the last 25 years. Race to Incarcerate also brings to light the devastating reality of disenfranchisement -- for example, 13 percent of African American men are ineligible to vote because of criminal convictions -- in ten states more than one in five black men are barred from voting because of their criminal records.

One of the main driving forces behind the US incarceration binge has been the "war on drugs." Please support DRCNet's efforts to "stop the drug war" by making a generous donation -- visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ to do so online -- donate $30 or more and you will be eligible receive a copy of Race to Incarcerate as our thanks. (Click here to read our review of Race to Incarcerate published in Drug War Chronicle last month.)

We also continue to offer the DVD video Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and the 5th edition of Drug War Facts -- add $5 to the minimum donation to add either of these to your request, or $10 to add both. Again, visit http://stopthedrugwar.org/donate/ to make your donation and place your order, or send a check or money order to: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036. (Note that contributions to Drug Reform Coordination Network, which support our lobbying work, are not tax-deductible. Deductible contributions can be made to DRCNet Foundation, same address.) Lastly, please contact us for instructions if you wish to make a donation of stock.

Thank you for your support of these efforts.

Sincerely,

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

Editorial: Not Playing by the Rules, Not Making Sense

David Borden, Executive Director, 7/14/06

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David Borden
Call me old fashioned, but I like it when rule-makers play by the rules. I like it when the law corresponds to reality, both in wording and interpretation. I like it when laws make sense.

I don't like it when legislators thumb their noses at their constitutions to enact laws they know don't pass muster. Unpopular Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski's marijuana re-criminalization bill, partially struck down by a Superior Court judge this week based on the state Supreme Court's standing word, is a good example. The bill signed by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to change California's initiative-enshrined treatment-not-jail law in ways that contradict the voters' choice is another.

As worrisome as methamphetamine recipes floating around the Internet may be for some, the bill signed by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm aiming at those almost certainly flouts the First Amendment. Are they going to sue publishers of online, academic chemistry texts that happen to include information on this legally-prescribable schedule II substance?

I don't like "legal fictions" -- definitions in the law that have to then be dealt with as if they were real when in fact they're not. The much criticized asset forfeiture laws, in many of which a mere object is the entity that gets accused of the crime (allowing the government to take property from innocent owners) rely on that fiction for their justification. Another such fiction is laws in 21 states, including another from Michigan, that categorically equate certain drug activity with child abuse -- whether a child was actually abused or not.

It's important to remember that child abuse laws are already on the books -- if a child is getting abused, some form of intervention by the law to address the situation is appropriate. But if a parent, for example, takes some methamphetamine while at home in order to stay up late to meet a critical work deadline, but without acting aggressively or neglecting the family's needs, how is that child abuse? Many people take meth or similar drugs on prescription from their doctors for very similar purposes. Doing so without a prescription is illegal, and can certainly be disconcerting. Some meth users do become unstable or violent. But are the two situations really so very different -- inherently, by definition -- for the latter to qualify as child abuse, even if no actual abusive acts ever take place?

Even when meth is being manufactured, it's fictional to equate it with abuse categorically, the legitimate dangers of meth manufacturing notwithstanding. If chemicals are being handled in a way that subjects children to harm qualifying as abuse, and if it's done intentionally or with clear, willful recklessness, then it doesn't matter whether it's meth or another drug or the stuff in those bottles underneath your kitchen sink, it's still abuse (or perhaps endangerment). But the fact that it's a drug being manufactured is purely incidental.

It's not legal hair-splitting to say that, because applying the label of "child abuse" creates an appearance that the accused is a monster who probably belongs in jail and almost certainly shouldn't be entrusted with children. But that may not at all be the case; the user may be a responsible user who takes perfectly good care of the kids. The user may be addicted and need help, but never raise a hand against a son or daughter or place them in danger. Even the dealer or manufacturer may only be trying to get by in difficult economic circumstances -- the illegal activity may be what one is doing in order to provide better for the children. That's a sad circumstance, but it's a circumstance faced by many. Disconcerting, yes, but child abuse?

The most offensive thing about the California development is that it was a coalition of law enforcement groups and drug court judges who pressed for the bill. They don't like the restrictions Prop 36 put on them. But so what? They have the right to field their own counter-initiative (with private money, of course), if they think they could win it. They lost pretty badly the first time. But the voters spoke, and the state constitution says that counts.

I don't think our law enforcers -- judges, of all people -- should disrespect the constitutions whose tenets are intended to stand over and bind them. Though they claim to hold law in reverence, in this they have trampled it. Call me old fashioned, but I don't think that's good for our country.

book talk: Race to Incarcerate, by Marc Mauer

Washington, DC, "Race to Incarcerate," book talk with The Sentencing Project's Marc Mauer. At Politics & Prose bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW, visit http://www.politics-prose.com for further information.
Date: 
Fri, 07/21/2006 - 8:00pm - 8:30pm
Location: 
5015 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
United States

Press Release: Religious Leaders Endorse Petition to Protect Landmark Drug Treatment Law

For Immediate Release: Friday, July 7, 2006 Contact: Anthony Marsh (213) 989-1630 Religious Leaders Endorse Petition to Protect Landmark Drug Treatment Law Elected Officials Ignore Prison Crisis, Scrap Country’s Most Effective Prison Diversion Program. Clergy Announce An Immediate Backlash. Los Angeles, CA – Over 50 religious leaders throughout Southern California joined Progressive Christians Uniting in urging Governor Schwarnzenegger to protect the landmark drug treatment law known as Proposition 36. Clergy representing Los Angeles County, Orange County, San Bernardino and surrounding regions have endorsed a petition asking the Governor to veto a bill which would unconstitutionally alter the program designed to provide drug treatment rather incarceration to nonviolent substance abuse offenders. Six years ago, over 60% of California voters overwhelmingly passed the drug treatment initiative Proposition 36. Now it is in jeopardy of being changed. “Changing a voter approved ballot initiative is not only unconstitutional,” says Progressive Christians Uniting Executive Director Rev. Peter Laarman, “but it is morally unconscionable. The law is successfully saving lives and repairing families.” Since the treatment-instead-of-incarceration initiative (Prop. 36) passed, 60,000 people have graduated from Prop. 36 program drug treatment. Far fewer people are in jail or prison for drug use as a result. A recent study by UCLA researchers showed that taxpayers have also saved over $1.3 billion dollars through prison diversion. In a recent poll, over 70 percent of voters say they would vote for Prop. 36 if it were on the ballot today. Even the legislatures’ own lawyers and the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO) have declared that certain provisions of the bill are unconstitutional because they violate the true intent and purpose of Prop. 36. The bill (SB-1137) proposed by Senator Denise Ducheny of San Diego sits on the desk of the Governor to decide. If he fails to veto the bill, he is likely to see a long and costly legal battle over the constitutionality of the bill. He will certainly see a backlash from religious leaders seeking to help rather punish people for their addictions.
Location: 
United States

SF Commission Denies Permit for Fisherman's Wharf Pot Club

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2006/07/13/state/n230614D08.DTL&type=politics

Judge Blocks Law that Changes Treatment Initiative (California)

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
Associated Press
URL: 
http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/breaking_news/15033430.htm

New Jersey Medical Marijuana Legislation

Location: 
NJ
United States
Publication/Source: 
Atlantic City Weekly
URL: 
http://www.atlanticcityweekly.com/view.php?id=4714&issue_id=135_

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