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It's time to legalize marijuana in Illinois (Chicago Sun-Times)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.suntimes.com/news/anderson/132863,CST-EDT-monroe12.article

Election 2006: Drug Reformers in Third Party Statewide Bids Poll Single Digits, But One Wins a State House Seat in Washington

Third party candidacies for statewide office by prominent drug reformers garnered significant attention for drug reform issues during the campaign season, but failed to make a dent in the two-party monopoly on competitive races for elected offices. On the other hand, one prominent drug reformer running as a Democrat will take a seat in his state's House of Representatives.

In Washington state, Roger Goodman, the guiding force behind the emergence of the King County Bar Association's Drug Policy Project, has won the District 45 Position 1 state representative race with 55% of the vote. While Goodman is known as an articulate advocate of substantive drug policy reform, he did not emphasize those positions during the campaign and was attacked in opposition mailings (quoting extensively from Drug War Chronicle) for speaking out on those positions.

In Alabama, Loretta Nall, running a write-in campaign for governor on the Libertarian Party ticket, reports that her write-in votes will not even be counted until a week from Monday. She also reports receiving numerous e-mails from angry voters wondering why their votes aren't being counted.

In Connecticut, Cliff Thornton, the founder of the Hartford-based drug reform organization Efficacy, ran for governor on the Green Party ticket. Despite a vigorous campaign and a full-fledged drug policy blitz, he could do no better than 1%.

In Maryland, long-time drug reformer Kevin Zeese ran a three-party third-party campaign for US Senate under the banner of the Green, Populist, and Libertarian parties, with a broad range of issues ranging from the war in Iraq to corporate control of US politics to drug policy reform, Zeese hoped to break through the bipartisan stranglehold on electoral office. Democratic nominee Ben Cardin ended up defeating his Republican challenger Michael Steele by 55% to 44%. Zeese got the difference, 1% of the vote.

Election 2006: Massachusetts Voters in Four More Districts Continue the Clamor for Marijuana Law Reform

Since 2000, marijuana reform activists associated with MassCann, the Bay State NORML affiliate, and the Drug Policy Forum of Massachusetts have sponsored advisory marijuana reform questions in state representative and senate districts and have won every one. The trend continued this year, with reform questions in four more districts being approved by voters.

According to DPFMA board member John Leonard, a question asking whether representatives in the 1st and 12th Plymouth Representative Districts should be instructed to support marijuana decriminalization passed in both, with margins of 61% and 60% respectively. In the 3rd Middlesex Senate District and the 7th Norfolk Representative District, voters were asked to vote on questions asking whether to instruct their representatives to support medical marijuana legislation. Those questions won with 67% in Middlesex and 64% in Norfolk.

According to MassCann, more than 420,000 Massachusetts residents in 110 communities had voted to urge their legislators to embrace either decriminalization or medical marijuana before Election Day. We can now add another 63,000 pro-reform votes and four more communities to the tally.

In a debate last month, newly elected Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick said he's "very comfortable" with the idea of marijuana legalization but would veto a decriminalization bill if it came to his desk because "I just don't think it ought to be our priority." Hopefully the legislature will give him the opportunity to change his mind.

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.

Harm Reduction: New Jersey Needle Exchange, Needle Access Bills Advance

A bill that would allow up to six New Jersey municipalities to set up needle exchange programs and a companion bill that would permit the sale without prescription of up to 10 syringes at pharmacies passed the Assembly Health and Senior Citzens Committee Thursday. After more than a decade of efforts to win legislation that would allow drug users easier access to clean needles, it now appears the bills have momentum.

New Jersey politicians have begun lining up behind the bills. Before testimony at the committee Thursday, Chairman Herb Conaway (D-Burlington) said bluntly, "This bill is going to pass." Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts and Gov. Jon Corzine have stated publicly they intended to legalize syringe exchange as soon as possible.

During testimony, state epidemiologist Eddy Bresnitz told lawmakers they needed to act now. "We should not be delaying another minute in putting life-saving tools such as syringe exchange programs in the hands of communities desperate to stop the transmission of blood-borne diseases, such as HIV and AIDS," he said. "Syringe exchange programs not only prevent the transmission of blood-borne diseases but also help drug addicts get into treatment.''

The Drug Policy Alliance New Jersey office has been lobbying for the bills for several years now. "We're incredibly grateful for such a resounding vote of support on the part of the committee members," DPA's Roseanne Scotti told the Associated Press after the vote.

New Jersey: Key state Senate panel backs needle exchange (Press of Atlantic City)

Location: 
United States
URL: 
http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/newjersey/nj_politics/story/6837804p-6703884c.html

Vote Hemp Action Alert: Comment On Framing Rules Until October 30

Dear XXXXX,

Considering the bad news I gave you last week about Governor Schwarzenegger's veto, I am especially happy to report good news from North Dakota. The second-largest wheat exporting state, North Dakota is ranked ninth overall in agriculture exports and is just across the border from the thriving hemp farming provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan Canada. This important farming state will be the first to implement an industrial hemp farming law when it publishes rules on state licensing.

You can help make this happen by sending a letter in support of North Dakota's proposed rules. The deadline for comments has recently been extended to October 30, 2006.

While Vote Hemp has been organizing comments in support of the rules, Drug Watch International has mobilized anti-hemp activists to send letters in opposition. Despite their efforts, letters in support of the rules are outweighing those in opposition by a 4-to-1 margin. Help us keep a winning score by sending a letter now.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), also trying to derail North Dakota's hemp farming plans, sent comments quoting the 1999 report of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) which expressed concern that Switzerland's industrial hemp program was being "used for the cultivation of more potent cannabis destined for the illicit market."

They failed to mention that by 2001, the INCB no longer cited concerns about Switzerland, and in its review of European Commission industrial hemp regulations it found them to be "effective" and "strict" and concluded that "the misuse of those regulations or the diversion of cannabis licitly cultivated in member states of the European Union is unlikely." Industrial hemp hasn't been mentioned in an INCB report since.

Help us counter the misinformation campaign being waged by Drug Watch International and the DEA. Give North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Roger Johnson the support he needs to bring industrial hemp farming back to North Dakota. Please take action now.

Sincerely,

Eric Steenstra
President

Angry Response to Schwarzenegger's Veto

· Opinion: The Mighty Pen

· Editorial: Governor's Late Vetoes

· Editorial: He Cleared His Desk, Clouded His Ideology

· Don't Hold Your Breath for Sense about Hemp


Opinion: The Mighty Pen

Long Beach Press-Telegram
October 4, 2006

[Ed. Note: The parts relevant to industrial hemp are excerpted below.]

Some of the bills that didn't deserve the ax:

Industrial hemp: The governor vetoed a bill that would have allowed farmers to grow industrial hemp. Since this grade of the plant doesn't cause intoxication, those who want to grow it to make paper, clothing and other products should have the right to also grow an industry.


Editorial: Governor's Late Vetoes

San Francisco Chronicle
October 3, 2006

[Ed. Note: The parts relevant to industrial hemp are excerpted below.]

He vetoed an industrial hemp bill (AB 1147 by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco) that would have been good for state farmers and good for the economy by reducing the importation of a popular product — and would not in any way have promoted marijuana cultivation or use.


Editorial: He Cleared His Desk, Clouded His Ideology

The Orange County Register
October 6, 2006

[Ed. Note: The parts relevant to industrial hemp are excerpted below.]

The governor also vetoed, wrongly, we believe, the California Industrial Hemp Farming Act, a bipartisan bill that would have allowed farmers to grow hemp products provided they do not contain any significant level of THC, the chemical that produces the high from marijuana. Critics were right that the veto showed an "irrational fear" of looking soft on drugs. Industrial hemp can be used to make clothing and a variety of consumer and food products, and has nothing to do with drug use.


Don't Hold Your Breath for Sense about Hemp

The Times-Standard
Eureka, CA
October 6, 2006

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's veto of a bill to legalize the growing of industrial hemp as a valuable — and non- intoxicating — cash crop is a perfect example of federal control run amok ... as if we didn't have plenty of examples of that in California already.

Read more ...

 

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Drug Abusing Mothers Targeted

Location: 
Cincinnati, OH
United States
Publication/Source: 
Cincinnati Post
URL: 
http://news.cincypost.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061006/NEWS01/610060345

Hemp: California Governor Vetoes Industrial Hemp Bill

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) last Friday vetoed a bill that would have allowed California farmers to grow industrial hemp. Sponsored by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), Assembly Bill 1147 would have defined industrial hemp as an agricultural crop, limited its THC content to less than 0.3%, and mandated annual testing of fields to ensure content limits are met.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/hempia.gif
(courtesy Independent Media Center)
In his veto message, Schwarzenegger said the measure conflicted with federal law and would have made it more difficult for law enforcement to monitor illicit marijuana crops. While he acknowledged recent successful court battles waged by the hemp industry, Schwarzenegger said "no court has specifically ruled that a live cannabis plant is a non-controlled substance or that farming these plants is not a regulated activity. As a result, it would be improper to approve a measure that directly conflicts with current federal statutes and court decisions. This only serves to cause confusion and reduce public confidence in our government system."

Schwarzenegger fell for the standard US police excuse that allowing hemp production would make it more difficult to stop outdoor marijuana grows: "Finally," he said, "California law enforcement has expressed concerns that implementation of this measure could place a drain on their resources and cause significant problems with drug enforcement activities. This is troubling given the needs in this state for the eradication and prevention of drug production."

Oddly enough, police in countries where hemp farming is a legal and productive part of the economy don't seem to have any problem distinguishing between industrial hemp and marijuana.

The hemp industry was not pleased. "Gov. Schwarzenegger's veto is a letdown for thousands of farmers, business people, and consumers that want to bring back industrial hemp to California to create jobs, new tax income and to benefit the environment," said Eric Steenstra, founder and President of Vote Hemp, the nation's leading industrial hemp farming advocacy group, in a Monday press release denouncing the veto. "The veto was not based on facts but instead an irrational fear he would look soft on drugs in an election year. His veto message shows he knew industrial hemp is an economic development and agriculture issue, but he instead allowed himself to be cowed by confused drug war lobbyists. AB 1147 would have reigned in the overreach by federal authorities that has prevented non-drug industrial hemp varieties of cannabis from be being grown on US soil for fiber and seed. It is disingenuous to cite federal restrictions when drug war lobbyists refuse to sit down with the large coalition of farmers, business people and environmentalists who crafted the industrial hemp legislation. Industrial hemp will continue to be the only crop that is legal to import, sell and consume, but illegal to grow, in California."

"It's unfortunate that Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed AB 1147. We had looked forward to the hemp oil and seed in our products being grown and produced right here in California," said David Bronner, chair of the Hemp Industries Association Food and Oil Committee and president of Alpsnack/Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps. "Farmers in California, like farmers all across the United States, are always looking for profitable crops like hemp to add to their rotation. This veto clearly points out why HR 3037, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act of 2005, needs to be passed on the federal level."

Seven states (Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia) have now changed their laws to give farmers an affirmative right to grow industrial hemp commercially or for research purposes. But the bill Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed differs from those laws. In those seven states, the laws require a DEA license to grow the crop, one the agency is historically reluctant to provide. The California bill would have explicitly provided that the federal government has no basis or right to interfere with industrial hemp in California.

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.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/safford.jpg
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."

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