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Sentencing: Arizona Legislative Initiative Would Roll Back Reforms When It Comes to Methamphetamine Offenders

A decade ago, voters in Arizona approved a groundbreaking initiative, Proposition 200, "The Drug Medicalization, Prevention, and Control Act of 1996", which barred judges from sending first- or second-time drug possession offenders to prison. Instead, drug possessors are placed on probation and sometimes sent to drug court. But now, the Arizona legislature, concerned with the demon drug du jour, wants to treat those convicted of methamphetamine possession differently -- to be sent to jail or prison instead of getting probation and drug court.

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Arizona State Prison Complex - Safford
On the November ballot is Proposition 301, an initiative sponsored not by the voters but by the state legislature. If Arizona legislators wanted to go on the record as partially undoing Prop. 200, they could have voted to amend it. Instead, they crafted this proposition and dropped it in the laps of the voters.

"Meth is highly addictive and destructive," wrote Maricopa County (Phoenix) Attorney Andrew Thomas in a ballot argument for the measure. "There is a strong connection between meth abuse and identity theft. Phoenix has the second highest rate of methamphetamine abuse of all the nation's cities, as evidenced by drug tests done on arrestees... This proposition will change the law so that people arrested for possession of meth can be sentenced to jail or prison after their first conviction for drug possession. Currently, meth users can be incarcerated only after their second or third conviction for drug possession, or if they refuse to participate in treatment. Time in jail is often the only thing that offers meth addicts a secure, drug-free environment and an opportunity to reflect on their situation."

Proposition 301 singles out meth offenders for special treatment, and it does so on the basis of inaccurate ballot language -- language that survived a court challenge not on the merits, but because the challenge came too late. In the Arizona Legislative Council's analysis of the initiative, which is part of the ballot, the council informs voters that: "This change in the law will allow judges to use a jail term as a condition of probation to force methamphetamine users to comply with court mandated drug treatment and rehabilitation."

That language is misleading at best. While under current law, judges may not sentence people to jail or prison for first- or second-time drug possession offenses, they can put them on probation and send them to jail for violating it, as in, for instance, not complying with court-ordered drug treatment programs.

"Their spin is that this thing is simply a tool to force people to stay in treatment," said Caroline Isaacs of Meth Free Arizona -- "No" on 303. "That is completely contradictory to the bill's actual language," she told the Tucson Weekly last week. "Everybody is rightfully concerned about the extent of meth use in our community. But Proposition 301 would take us in exactly the wrong direction, in terms of dealing with our meth problem. To say the solution is to not provide treatment to people is absolutely backwards."

It is not just activists like Isaacs who oppose the measure. Pima County Superior Court Judge Barbara Sattler, who presides over the county's drug court program, told the Weekly "there is a lot of misconception concerning Proposition 301... It is true that first- and second-time offenders who possess small amounts of drugs (be it meth, cocaine, heroin, etc.) cannot be initially sent to prison or jail. However, if they violate treatment orders or get arrested for other felonies or drug offenses, they can be sent to jail or prison. Second-time offenders can get jail time up front as a condition of probation (although again they can not go to prison up front). Violating a treatment order means failing to drug test, testing positive for drugs or failing to attend treatment, whether that is going to counseling or failing to live in a halfway house catering to drug offenders," Judge Sattler wrote. "You can also go to jail or prison if you reject probation or refuse drug treatment."

A win for Proposition 301 would be a disaster, wrote Judge Sattler. "Incarcerating people keeps them off the streets, but when they come out, if they have not had treatment, they will begin using again. If this prop is passed, it will cost the taxpayers lots of money and clog prison with nonviolent addicts. While there is some drug treatment, in jail or prison, it is minimal and available only to a small percentage of prisoners.

"I think the bill is very short-sighted in targeting meth only," she continued. "While meth is certainly a horrible, highly addictive drug, addicts can be treated. Drug courts and other programs have had success. In the past, other drugs such as heroin and crack cocaine were the 'meth' of their time. The solution is not to target one drug. In a few years, there will be a new drug that takes the place of meth."

Just Say No to Meth Registries

What sort of criminal offender merits the special distinction of being placed on a public registry? Only the most dangerous, or is it the most demonized? Registries of sex offenders began appearing a few years ago as part of the hysterical response to not an increase in sex crimes, but an increase in publicity about them, driven in part by information technologies that allow the whole country to almost instantaneously watch the latest local outrage with fascinated horror. Who besides baby-rapers is so heinous as to merit inclusion on a registry? Why, that would be tweakers, because we know that meth is nothing but poison and its users dangerous drug fiends deserving no less than the 21st Century version of public shaming that registries are. Beginning with Tennessee, states confronting methamphetamine use and production have begun treating meth cooks like sex offenders. Minnesota, Illinois, and Montana now have registries, too, and bills are pending in six other states, but it doesn’t look like the idea is going to fly in California. The Tri-Valley Herald was on the beat with its "Officials Decry Meth Registry, and staff writer Roman Gokhman deserves some kudos for teasing out the implications of meth registries and talking to officials who recognize them for the feel-good measures they are. The following quotes are taken from the article: "There's more effective ways to combat methamphetamine than public registries," said state Sen. Liz Figeroa, D-Fremont. "You need to go out and educate people. You have to encourage treatments." Figeroa said that taxpayers' money should be used to fight the supply and demand of meth and increase jail sentences, not tell people about former meth manufacturers. "You can't win a war on drugs without getting rid of the demand," she said. Livermore Police Chief Steve Krull said he has not done any research about the registries in other states, but that anything that could result in fewer meth crimes and labs should be looked at. But if the point behind the registry is simply to inform people about their neighbors, "I'm not sure what benefit that would be," Krull said. Critics said the registries serve no real purpose and violate civil rights by punishing a person twice for the same crime. "They served their time and are presumably not a danger to society," said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance, a national advocate against the country's "war on drugs." "The big drawback is that it makes it difficult for former meth offenders to get their lives back in order," Piper said. He said that money should be spent on treatment and that California is a national example of dealing with meth because of Proposition 36, which offers non-violent offenders a chance at treatment instead of jail time. San Ramon Police Chief Scott Holder agreed. "Why a meth registry?" he asked. "Why not a heroin registry? Why not an alcohol registry?" "That's taking government too far," he said.
Location: 
CA
United States

County Judge Delays Drug Treatment Law Change

Location: 
Oakland, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Oakland Tribune
URL: 
http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_4342271

Editorial: Call It What You Want

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David Borden
One group of Louisianans who had mostly been forgotten since long before the hurricane hit are a group of prisoners, mostly low-level offenders, convicted of selling heroin or of possession with intent to sell. The "Heroin Lifers," as they are known to the small number of people paying attention, were sentenced under a draconian law passed in 1973 that mandates a life-without-parole sentence for any such offense. Neither the quantity of heroin involved nor any details of the actual circumstances are allowed to be considered under this particularly harsh mandatory minimum statute.

Our editor stumbled across the Lifers last week while talking to experts about the post-Katrina New Orleans jail scandal, and is currently researching the issue. We don't yet know how many of them there are, though author Sasha Abramsky wrote in Legal Times 2 ½ years ago that the legislature was considering granting parole to Heroin Lifers who had served at least 40 years of their sentences and there were about 250 such people. If sources can be reached this week we'll have a full story in the Chronicle next issue.

It's good -- a little -- that Louisiana's powers-that-be were willing to help out those 250 people. Even if the motivation was the money they could save by not having to provide prison-based geriatric care for no reason (I speculate, perhaps there were other reasons too), it's better -- slightly -- than nothing.

But what about the merely 30-year prisoners? Or the 20-years? Five?

The idea of a lifetime behind bars, with no possibility of redemption, has an air of unreality to it -- most of us cannot really conceive of what such a life would be like, or what it would be like to have the knowledge that that was to be one's life. Sentencing like that for any but the worst of the worst of all criminals must be the work of people who have lost perspective on what incarceration truly means. Imagine that you are to spend a single year in jail. Doesn't it seem like a long time? Just one year of incarceration is intrinsically a pretty harsh punishment, if the measure of harshness is the actual effect a punishment has on the individual punished. Even if one stop short of advocating outright legalization of drugs (I advocate legalization, for many reasons), the Louisiana law, and many similar ones passed by other states and by Congress, still defy reason.

So what should we call such the act of dealing a lengthy, mandatory minimum prison term to a minor drug offender, let alone a life-without-parole term? Should we call it injustice? Cruelty? Tyranny? Violative of human rights? Evil? Take your pick of those or other descriptors -- at a minimum let us all agree it is senseless and must cease as soon as possible.

Each day that passes is another day the Heroin Lifers languish behind bars, denied the most essential, natural right to which they are entitled: the right to freedom.

An Open Letter to the New Jersey Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee

September 6, 2006 Re: "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" (S88 & A933) Restrictions Opposed New Jersey lawmakers will soon consider whether to pass into law the "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" (S88 and A933). This act would remove the statewide criminal penalties for the use, possession and cultivation of a small amount of marijuana for qualified patients under a program administered by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJDHSS). The Coalition for Medical Marijuana—New Jersey (CMM-NJ) urges lawmakers to support this bill as it is written. We oppose any attempt to restrict the diseases or conditions that would qualify a New Jersey patient for medical marijuana. This is a question that is properly left only to the treating physician. There are, moreover, a number of rare conditions that respond well to medical marijuana. The federal government, in its only existing Investigational New Drug (IND) trial of medical marijuana, recognizes Nail-Patella Syndrome as well as Multiple Congenital Cartilaginous Exostosis as qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. These two conditions respond well to marijuana therapy, as do the more common conditions included in the IND study, Glaucoma and Multiple Sclerosis. The federal government has been treating patients in this study for up to 27 years by giving them marijuana. Each month the patients in this IND study receive from the federal government a cannister that holds about nine ounces of marijuana. The cannisters hold 300 pre-rolled cigarettes, that may be consumed at the rate of 10 or more per day, or about two ounces per week. All of the patients in this study are doing well—their conditions are controlled, side effects are minimal, and marijuana is the only medicine they are using for their conditions. Here in New Jersey, a mother contacted CMM-NJ to beg that her son be allowed medical marijuana for a condition called Friedreich's Ataxia. She said, "There are about 6,000 people in the country who have this disease. There is no cure and marijuana is the only thing that works for the pain. It's not easy watching your child suffer from pain when a simple solution like marijuana can ease the muscle spasms, bone and joint pain, muscle pain and involuntary eye movements that this disease (causes)." Nothing relieves her son's symptoms as safely and as effectively as marijuana. Who could face this mother and say, "We will only allow medical marijuana for cancer and multiple sclerosis, but not for your son's condition?" And what about Roberta—a kindly, New Jersey grandmother who suffers from a very painful condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy? Her condition is progressive (getting worse) and incurable. Roberta plans to commit suicide when the pains get too great and the medical intervention too oppressive. She wants to try medical marijuana as a last ditch measure before suicide. Who could say to Roberta, "No, it is better that you commit suicide than have a trial of medical marijuana?" No one can foresee all of the conditions that might respond to medical marijuana. Qualifying conditions for medical marijuana must only be decided by the patient's own physician, not by a politician, no matter how well intentioned. Restricting conditions for medical marijuana can only be described as arbitrary and capricious. CMM-NJ urges lawmakers to adopt the "New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act" (S88 & A933) as written. Ken Wolski, RN, MPA Executive Director Coalition for Medical Marijuana--New Jersey 844 Spruce St. Trenton, NJ 08648 (609) 394-2137 www.cmmnj.org [email protected]
Location: 
NJ
United States

Bay Minette Man Gets 30 Years for $20 Marijuana Sale (Alabama)

Location: 
Bay Minette, AL
United States
Publication/Source: 
Mobile Press-Register
URL: 
http://www.al.com/news/mobileregister/index.ssf?/base/news/115710268099030.xml&coll=3

Web Scan: Mark Fiore, Tony Papa, Dean Kuipers

Mark Fiore animation: The United States of Incarceration

former prisoner turned activist Anthony Papa knocks narcotics prosecutor for Rockefeller reform distortion in NYT letter to the editor

"Burning Rainbow Farm" author Dean Kuipers on "The Spirit of Tommy Chong," posted on Alternet's Drug Reporter

Feature: Living on Katrina Time -- Lost in Louisiana's Gumbo Gulag

New Orleans resident Pearl Bland was arrested and jailed on drug paraphernalia charges in August 2005, just weeks before Hurricane Katrina devastated the city. She pleaded guilty on August 11, and her judge ordered her released the next day for placement in a drug rehabilitation program. Recognizing Bland was indigent, he waived the fines and fees. But Bland was not released the next day. The Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) instead held her because she owed $398 in fines and fees from an earlier arrest. She had one more court hearing in August and a September 20 status hearing was set where in all probability the fines and fees would have been waived.

Pearl Bland never got her September hearing. Instead, once Katrina hit, she joined thousands of prisoners stuck in purgatory. After suffering beatings from her fellow inmates in the OPP as deputies shrugged their shoulders, Bland was evacuated, first to the maximum security state prison at Angola and eventually to a jail in Avoyelles Parish. In June, she desperately contacted the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which in turn contacted attorneys with the Tulane University Criminal Law Clinic, who managed to win her release on June 28. Bland wasn’t there for her release hearing, just as she hadn’t been present at four previous hearings in the preceding weeks, because her jailers couldn’t be bothered to deliver her to court.

"Pearl Bland spent 10 months in prisons around the state because of $398 in fines and fees that her judge would most likely have waived if she had ever gotten to court," said Tom Javits, an attorney with the ACLU's National Prison Project. "But because of the storm and the the response to it, she didn’t get her day in court for months, and then only because she sought out help," he told the Drug War Chronicle.

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ACLU report
It would be bad enough if Pearl Bland were a fluke, but sadly, her case is typical of what happened to people unfortunate enough to be behind bars when Katrina hit or to be arrested in the storm's aftermath. As the ACLU National Prison Project and the ACLU of Louisiana documented in their early August report, "Abandoned and Abused: Orleans Parish Prisoners in the Wake of Katrina," thousands of New Orleanians in custody when the storm hit were left on their own as guards fled the rising waters. Since then, those prisoners have been scattered to the winds, left without counsel, abused by guards, and left to rot by a justice system that is seemingly content to forget all about them. And with post-Katrina reconstruction bearing a very heavy law enforcement imprint, they have been joined by thousands more, many of them imprisoned for trivial crimes like spitting on the sidewalk, public drunkenness and simple drug possession.

A year after Katrina, thousands of prisoners have never seen an attorney, never been arraigned, never appeared before a judge. Scandalously, no one has a firm count -- or if they do, they're not telling. "Nobody knows the numbers," said law professor Pamela Metzger, who heads the Tulane Law School Criminal Law Clinic and whose students have been going into Louisiana jails and prisons in search of the Katrina prisoners. "When we ask the district attorney's office to assist us with this, just so people can get lawyers, they say it's not their job. Just since June, my students have been able to track down and get released about 95 people," said Metzger. "But we just have no one of knowing how many are in jail."

When the Chronicle asked ACLU of Louisiana executive director Joe Cook the same question, he had a similar answer. "I don't know what the number is. Ask the district attorney," he said.

The New Orleans district attorney's office did not return repeated calls seeking information on the number of people arrested before or after Katrina who have yet to see a lawyer or have a court hearing. Similarly, and perhaps indicative of the state of affairs at the public defenders office, no one there even answered the phone despite repeated calls. (That's not quite true. On one occasion, a woman answered, but she said she was an accountant and no one else was in the office.)

Published estimates of the number of New Orleans prisoners denied their basic rights to counsel and speedy trial have ranged between 3,000 and 6,000.

Part of the problem is the nearly total collapse of the indigent defender system in the city. It was in terrible shape before the storm hit, and collapsed along with the rest of the criminal justice system in the storm's wake. But while authorities were quick to get law enforcement up and running, it took until June for the criminal courts to begin to operate, and the public defenders' office, which depends on revenue from fines to finance its operations, was running on fumes. Now, nearly three-quarters of the public defenders have simply left even though they are needed to represent about 85% of all criminal defendants in the city.

The situation aroused the attention of the US Department of Justice, which in a report released in April concluded that: "People wait in jail with no charges, and trials cannot take place; even defendants who wish to plead guilty must have counsel for a judge to accept the plea. Without indigent defense lawyers, New Orleans today lacks a true adversarial process, the process to ensure that even the poorest arrested person will get a fair deal, that the government cannot simply lock suspects [up] and forget about them... For the vast majority of arrested individuals," the study found, "justice is simply unavailable."

The situation is also beginning to grate on the nerves of New Orleans judges. In May, Chief Judge of the Criminal District Court Calvin Johnson issued an order requiring everyone charged with traffic or municipal offenses to be cited instead of jailed. The city has "a limited number of jail spaces, and we can’t fill them with people charged with minor offenses such as disturbing the peace, trespassing or spitting on the sidewalk... I’m not exaggerating: There were people in jail for spitting on the sidewalk," he complained.

Last week, another New Orleans criminal court judge, Arthur Hunter, made the news when he threatened to begin holding hearings this week to release some of the prisoners held for months without attorneys or court hearings. That was supposed to happen Tuesday, but it didn't. Instead, Judge Hunter postponed the hearing after prosecutors raised concerns.

While disruptions in the system were inevitable in the wake of Katrina, Tulane's Metzger laid part of the blame on the district attorney's office. "They have made some poor resourcing choices and they are hampered by a sort of knee-jerk response that everything has to be prosecuted to the fullest extent. They are not really looking to clear cases; instead they let people sit without lawyers until they're willing to plead guilty," she said. "It's a form of prosecutorial extortion."

It is not just people who were in jail when Katrina hit, but many of those arrested since who have vanished into the gumbo gulag, said Metzger. "Last week we found a man who had been jailed at the Angola maximum security prison since January. He was picked up for drug possession, his only prior was for marijuana, and he's been sitting in one of the meanest prisons in the country without even seeing a lawyer for eight months," she exclaimed. "We won an order for his release. He was supposed to get out Tuesday, but he's still in jail. We just don’t know how many more there are like him."

The district attorney's office is not only uncooperative, it is downright obstinate, Metzger complained. "We filed a right to speedy trial claim on behalf of a man named Gregory Lewis who had already served 10 months on a drug misdemeanor with a six-month maximum. The district attorney's office fought that, and their motion actually said, and I quote, 'It's not unreasonable to hold alleged drug addicts in jail longer than other people; it allows the deadly drugs to leave their system,'" she said.

The district attorney's office motion referred obliquely to detoxification, which is ironic given that there is now no such facility in New Orleans. "There is not a single detox bed in the whole city," said Samantha Hope of the Hope Network, a group that is seeking private funding to open a treatment and recovery center in the heart of the city. "Most folks in OPP right now are people who couldn’t get access to treatment for an alcohol or drug problem. That's the way it's been since day one," she told the Chronicle. "Rather than criminalize people with an alcohol or drug problem, we need to find a way to give them support. Confronting our money-eating corrections system, our good ol' boy network, and racism, that is hard to do."

The Tulane students have filed some speedy trial cases, but not everyone is fortunate enough to have a Tulane law student working his case so he can file a speedy trial claim. "In order to file a motion for a speedy trial, you have to have a lawyer, and thousands still do not have counsel,' explained ACLU of Louisiana's Cook. "The indigent defense system was broken long before Katrina hit, and now it is just a disaster," he told the Chronicle.

Drug war prisoners make up a significant but unknown number of those doing "Katrina time," said Cook. "It is definitely a significant proportion of them," he said, "but many of them have not even been formally charged. In New Orleans, as in most large urban areas, it's probably safe to say that a plurality of felony arrests are drug-related."

There are solutions, but they won't come easily. "We have to have a public defender's office that is funded with secure, predictable funding," Metzger recommended. "We have to get beyond relying on fines to fund that office. If we had had public defenders, there would have been someone watching to catch the abuses," she said.

"Second, we need to have prosecutors who understand their obligations to the community," Metzger continued. "Their job is not simply to get convictions but to do justice, and what that means will vary according to the individual facts and circumstances. What post-Katrina justice requires is not what justice required before Katrina. If you were living in New Orleans in the fall of 2005 and you weren’t drunk or high, there was probably something wrong with you. Everyone was medicated or self-medicating."

Cook had his own set of recommendations for a fix. "First, we turn up the heat. I just visited the DA this morning and asked him to speed up processing," he revealed. "We want to ensure there is a coordinated emergency evacuation plan for all the prisons and jails and we've asked the Justice Department's civil rights division to look at what happened at OPP and since. Part of that will be looking at why these people didn’t get defense counsel or have their day in court."

Turning up the heat is precisely what one recently formed community group is trying to do. And it's not just the prosecutors and public defender system it is targeting. "The police department has taken a new view of who belongs in the city now, and that view doesn’t include poor black people," said Ursula Price of Safe Streets, Strong Communities, a group organizing people who were in the jail or otherwise brutalized by police. Safe Streets, Strong Communities is running two campaigns, one to strengthen the indigent defender system and one about improving conditions at the jail itself. "They tell our members 'you shouldn’t have come back, we don't want your kind here,'" she told the Chronicle. "Race is an issue, economics is an issue, and our teenage boys are bearing the brunt of it. They are harassed all the time by the police."

It is a matter of choices, said Price. "We have as many cops as before the storm, and half as many people, and we just gave the cops a raise. The city finance department deliberately spends the vast majority of its money on public safety, and then there is nothing left for social services, which are deliberately being sacrificed," she said. "But I'm encouraged because the community is starting to take note. When people found out we were spending half a million dollars a week on the National Guard without it having any impact, they started to get mobilized."

Cook had a full list of needed reforms, ranging from downsizing the jail population by stopping the practice of using it to hold state and federal prisoners, to creating adequate programming for health care and treatment within the jail, to decreasing the number of people held as pretrial detainees. "We need pretrial diversion, bail reform, and cite and release policies to hold down the jail population," he argued. "There needs to be the political will to do this. It's a crime to jail a kid when there is a choice, and there are many other choices. And we ought to be treating drug abuse as a public health issue, not a law enforcement issue."

The prospects look gloomy. "It is going to take enlightened leadership, and I see only a glimmer of hope for that," said Cook. "But we are not giving up. The state juvenile justice system is finally undergoing reforms because of pressure from families and activists, and I think it will take the same sort of effort to fix things at the adult level and here in New Orleans, at the parish level. That is already happening here with the OPP Reform Coalition, the Safe Streets people, and all that."

But there is a long, long way to go in New Orleans.

Industrial Hemp: California Assembly Passes Hemp Bill, Will Schwarzenegger Sign It?

The California Assembly Monday passed a bill that would allow farmers there to produce hemp oil, seed, and fiber for nutritional and industrial purposes. The bill, AB 1147, was sponsored by Assemblymen Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Chuck DeVore (R-Irvine), and passed by a margin of 43-28. It has already passed the state Senate and now awaits the signature of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R).

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hemp plants
Hemp is a $270 million industry, but American farmers are at a disadvantage because federal law bans its production -- but not its importation. California law currently mirrors federal law in failing to differentiate between industrial hemp and marijuana. If signed into law, the California bill would not mean farmers there could begin growing hemp, but it would add pressure on the federal government to revisit the issue.

Both hemp and marijuana are members of the cannabis family, but are different cultivars within that family. Hemp contains only trace levels of THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in recreational marijuana, but its fibers are used in paper, clothing, car parts, and building materials, and its seeds and oils are used as food products.

"Hundreds of hemp products are made right here in California, but manufacturers are forced to import hemp seed, oil and fiber from other countries," said Leno during debate on the bill. "When this bill becomes law, it will be an economic bonanza for California."

The bill passed on partisan lines, with only one Republican joining Democrats to vote for it. GOP lawmakers resorted to Reefer Madness-style posturing to explain their opposition. "As a conservative Republican, I can't have my name attached to hemp," said Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy (R-Monrovia). According to Mountjoy, the bill would make the fight against marijuana cultivation more difficult because hemp "sends off the exact same heat signal that is used to spot marijuana crops." Assemblyman John Benoit (R-Palm Desert) sang the same tune, claiming marijuana and pot plants are "indistinguishable."

But law enforcement officers in the 30 countries where hemp is grown legally seem to be able to tell the difference, a point that Assemblyman Leno made. The differences between marijuana and hemp are such that "a five-year-old could tell the difference... Law enforcement who have the gift of sight would have no trouble."

"We thank legislators from both parties that listened to the facts about industrial hemp and made an historic decision to bring back the crop," said Eric Steenstra, president of Vote Hemp, an advocacy group that supported the bill. "Passage in the California Legislature is a major accomplishment for the authors and sponsors of the bill, as well as for thousands of environmentally-conscious voters, farmers and businesses who wrote California legislators," says Steenstra.

No word yet on whether Schwarzenegger will sign or veto the bill.

Harm Reduction: Needle Access Bills to Become Law in Delaware, Massachusetts

Governors in two states Monday signed into law bills that would ease injection drug users' access to clean needles. In one case, legislators overrode a gubernatorial veto to enact the law; in the other, the governor fended off Republican opposition to sign the bill.

In Delaware, Gov. Ruth Ann Minner signed into law a bill that will create a pilot needle exchange program in Wilmington. In her signing statement, Minner said she hopes the program will lower the state's HIV/AIDS infection rate and long-term health care costs associated with the disease.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Senate voted Monday night to join the House in overriding a Gov. Mitt Romney (R) veto of a bill that decriminalizes the possession of needles without a prescription and deregulates their sale.

Now, New Jersey is the only state with neither a needle exchange law nor a law providing access to needles without a prescription.

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