Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rev. Alexander Sharp on decriminalizing marijuana

Rev. Alexander Sharp blogs about decriminalizing marijuana in Chicago.

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Federal agents point gun at head of 11-year old girl: Obama Justice Department says, Okay has a report on the ruling of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on the suit for intentional infliction of emotional distress brought by the Avila family against the U.S.

In 2007, DEA agents mistakenly raided their southern California home. Agents burst into the bedrooms of two girls -- one 11-years old and the other 14-years old -- yelled in their typical fashion "get down on the fucking ground," held a police weapon to the head of the 11-year old and dragged her from her bed because she was paralyzed with fear, and then handcuffed them, and forced them to lie face down on the floor for half an hour, while they ransacked the house.

The Obama Administration defended the agents, and in its brief to the court minimized and trivialized the agents' conduct. Dragging a girl out of her bed is described as "assisting her to the floor." The conduct was called "entirely reasonable under the circumstances."

The brief was signed in June 2011 by Laura Duffy, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California appointed by Obama at the urging of Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.), and by Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division (appointed in April 2009). On Feb. 27, 2012, West was appointed Acting Associate Attorney General, filling the number three job in the Department of Justice.

Does the Obama Administration have any sense that accountability for the conduct of law enforcement officers is necessary for the law to have legitimacy?

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

June 2012: The new direction of marijuana politics?

Jill Harris, managing director of strategic initiatives at Drug Policy Action (the political arm of the non-profit Drug Policy Alliance), has an op-ed in USATODAY on June 20, 2012 that concludes that key Democratic office holders and a couple of key primaries are the "weather vane" pointing to the political logic of marijuana decriminalization specifically and reform more generally.

The policy case for marijuana decriminalization is over 40 years old now. The concept was advanced by the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse in its 1972, and about a dozen states enacted such laws in the early 1970s. Ms. Harris is making an excellent political case that this reform is once again politically safe; indeed politically astute.

I am thrilled that she was able to have this op-ed published in one of the most important newspapers. But I would be much more confident if this op-ed column had been authored by a professional political commentator. If so, political advisers to the President and Democratic candidates would probably pay closer attention.

Consider some history of marijuana and politics. A key prize in President Bill Clinton's successful campaign for re-election in 1996 was California, which he won with 51%. (President Georg H.W. Bush won California in 1988 with 51%, but Clinton won California in 1992, with only 46%). That year, the medical marijuana initiative, Proposition 215, received one million more votes than Bill Clinton! In 2004, George Bush won re-election in Montana as voters there passed a medical marijuana initiative. And in 2008, as Obama carried Michigan, voters passed a medical marijuana initiative. Blue state, red state -- it doesn't matter.

In May 2011, the legislatures of three states sent medical marijuana legislation to their governors, who signed the laws. In recent weeks, Connecticut became the 17th medical marijuana state, the New Hampshire legislature sent a medical marijuana act to their governor (who has threatened a veto), and Rhode Island's legislature enacted a marijuana decriminalization law. (And as I noted earlier, the candidates more sympathetic to marijuana reform won primary elections in Oregon and Texas!)

In 2007 and 2008, the Obama political team outmaneuvered the premier national political machine of the past 20 years, the Clinton organization, to snatch the Democratic nomination. As incumbent, he has been unchallenged for renomination in his party. But it is clear that he has failed to re-energize the young people who rallied and volunteered for him. When it comes to marijuana, the administration of Barack Obama seems to think the zeitgeist is locked on 1995! Perhaps this is because Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder turned marijuana policy over to a DEA Administrator who spent her career in California and Washington with photographs of the two George Bush's on her wall.

Perhaps Obama and his team believe the Attorney General's misrepresentations to the House Judiciary Committee and the public that the Justice Department crusade against medical marijuana is merely designed to help states enforce conformity to their laws. If so, they appear to be sitting in a 1995 medical marijuana time capsule. On this issue, sadly out of touch and deaf to their savvy colleagues like Andrew Cuomo and Rahm Emanuel, the Obama team's self-delusion points to a Mitt Romney inauguration next January.

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Sinaloa drug organization profiled

The New York Times Magazine has a great article on the Sinaloa drug trafficking organization by Patrick Radden Keefe. This DTO is the one run by "Chapo" Guzman, one of the world's billionaires according to Forbes. The author does a brilliant job of outlining why it is so profitable, so violent and so enduring. He says that Mexico's Attorney General said in 2010 that over one billion dollars are paid in bribes to the municipal police in Mexico in a year!

This organization may be making about as much money in a year as Netflix or Facebook (but it doesn't pay taxes as such, but lots of bribes). A trusted lieutenant gets paid only annually -- a suitcase of $1 million in cash. It is using 2500 year old technology to defeat the state-of-the-art fence being built along the U.S.-Mexico border.

After you read this article, you are almost certain to want to share it with friends!

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Feds trying to shut down Robert Platshorn!

Senior citizens vote! Former star salesman-turned-marijuana-importer-turned-long-serving-federal-prisoner Robert Platshorn set up The Silver Tour to spread the word about the medical value to senior citizens, according to a front page story in The Wall Street Journal. But a federal parole officer is telling Platshorn he cannot associate with federal medical marijuana patient Irvin Rosenfeld, and showed up at his home demanding a urine test in a move to send Platshorn back to prison. Read the excellent account at Toke of the Town.

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Thursday, June 14, 2012 10 Reasons to Legalize Marijuana

Maia Szalavitz at spells out 10 reasons to "revisit" marijuana policy now.

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Calderon to U.S.: Legalize marijuana!

The Wall Street Journal reported on June 14, 2012 on an interview with its editorial board by Mexico's President Felipe Calderon:

A conservative, Mr. Calderón has also added his voice to a growing group of Latin American leaders who are calling for the U.S. to seriously consider legalizing some drugs like marijuana. Both the presidents of Guatemala and Colombia have made a similar plea.

"The U.S., and not just President [Barack] Obama, but its congress, its society, needs to look at alternatives that reduce the cash flow to these criminal groups," he said, adding that alternatives could include "market solutions" like legalization.

"Until that debate or analysis of alternatives happens, the path for many of our countries will continue to be one of sadness," he said.

Strikingly, his last statement -- that until the debate or analysis happens, "many of our countries will continue to be [in] sadness" -- supposes that the outcome of the debate is inevitable -- the adoption of a "market solutions," i.e., legalization. He seems to be conflating the debate or analysis with the result.

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Rhode Island decriminalizes marijuana!

On June 13, 2012, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee signed an act to decriminalize marijuana. The possession of an ounce of marijuana is no longer a crime, but is subject to a civil fine of $150 and the forfeiture of the marijuana. This is penalty for a first offense, and a second offense within 18 months. A third offense within 18 months can result in a 30 day jail sentence.
Minors in possession of an ounce of less will be required to attend a drug education class and to perform community service.

The Marijuana Policy Project reports that they were the lead national organization in organizing the campaign for this change, and enlisted support from Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the ACLU and volunteers at Brown University. The Rhode Island Office of the Public Defender, the Rhode Island State Nurses Association, and the Rhode Island Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers also provided influential support at the legislative committee hearings.

Congratulations Rhode Island and Marijuana Policy Project.

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Sunday, June 10, 2012

What is the cost in blood to catch a "drug lord?"

This week Christopher ("Dudus") Coke was sentenced to 23 years in Federal prison. Coke was the "don" of a criminal gang and neighborhood in Kingston, Jamaica, who was captured in May 2010 in a bloody operation in which 70 persons were reported killed or executed by Jamaican authorities, reported The New Yorker last December.

The New Yorker story is worth reading.

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Friday, June 08, 2012

Was the Attorney General's medical marijuana testimony perjury?

The Washington Times quotes the June 7, 2012 testimony of Attorney General Eric Holder before a House Judiciary Committee hearing regarding medical marijuana:

"We limit our enforcement efforts to those individuals, organizations that are acting out of conformity with state law," Mr. Holder told a House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing.
This is not true. U.S. Attorneys have threatened state governors that the Justice Department would prosecute state employees who are carrying out state law.

In June 2011, the threats were so real they worried New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R), a former U.S. Attorney himself.

In Delaware, this spring U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly, III, threatened to prosecute state employees while state officials were developing the regulations to fine tune the state law. In that case the Justice Department was trying to prevent any possibility that anyone could be in "conformity" with state law! Governor Jack Markell actually stopped state employees from going forward in the regulation writing process.

In the adjacent state of Maryland, Gov. Martin O'Malley was so alarmed by Oberly's threat, he announced, before the General Assembly could even mark-up a bill in committee, that he would veto any bill that was sent to him!

Last September, the BATF, a unit of the Justice Department, advised all federally licensed firearms dealers that it would be a crime if they sold a firearm to anyone they knew was a state-licensed medical marijuana patient. Patients who are conforming to state law could either be denied their right under the Second Amendment from owning or acquiring a firearm (as the Supreme Court ruled in the 2008 Heller case) or be prosecuted under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(3) for exercising that right and risk imprisonment for up to ten years! (18 U.S.C. 924 (a)(2)). Certainly lots of officials in Montana, including the state Attorney General, thought this was outrageous.

How could Attorney General Holder think his answer was a truthful explanation of how "limited" the Justice Department has been in relation to state medical marijuana laws?

Since the Attorney General was not placed under oath by the committee at the start of his testimony, these falsehoods are not perjury. Typically in the Judiciary Committee, Administration witnesses are not placed under oath when they testify at regular oversight hearings on the activities of government agencies.

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Thursday, June 07, 2012

Following the (drug) money to the banks

A new study by Colombian economists, Alejandro Gaviria and Daniel Mejía, reported in The Guardian (UK), points out that most cocaine proceeds never get to Colombia, but the price in violence is high.

On co-author, Daniel Mejía told the Observer [a UK paper]:

"The way I try to put it is this: prohibition is a transfer of the cost of the drug problem from the consuming to the producing countries."

"If countries like Colombia benefitted economically from the drug trade, there would be a certain sense in it all," said Gaviria. "Instead, we have paid the highest price for someone else's profits – Colombia until recently, and now Mexico.

"I put it to Americans like this – suppose all cocaine consumption in the US disappeared and went to Canada. Would Americans be happy to see the homicide rates in Seattle skyrocket in order to prevent the cocaine and the money going to Canada? That way they start to understand for a moment the cost to Colombia and Mexico."

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Saturday, June 02, 2012

With economy failing, what "hope" is there for Obama if his slogans "Change" and "Forward" are contradicted by his policies, e.g. medical marijuana?

Page one, June 2, 2012, pick your newspaper: "Weak jobs report." "U.S. unemployment edges up to 8.2%." "Grim Jobs Report Sinks Markets" "JOB GROWTH WEAK FOR THIRD MONTH, AS RECOVERY LAGS"

The economy is NOT recovering; not good for re-electing the incumbent, Obama.
The most recent Gallup Poll shows Obama and Romney are tied. The conventional wisdom is that Obama must double down on the economy as his defining message to win.

However, it may be even more critical for Obama to capture voters for whom issues other than the economy are primary.

For the critical group of voters, age 65 and older, Romney is ahead 14 points. As we all know, they vote.

For the retired, unemployment numbers may not be as important as the number of pills they take for their aches and pains. (In my next post, I will discuss Robert Platshorn and The Silver Tour!, subtitled, "Teaching Seniors The Benefits of Medical Marijuana," featured on page one of the Wall Street Journal!)

Recently I said to a Capitol Hill analyst, "Given his political vulnerability, why doesn't Obama support medical marijuana when it is so politically popular in all demographics?"
Reply, "Obama really isn't that flexible about change!" She's right, I realized.

To the extent that Obama becomes seen as conservative and reluctant to change, Obama looks like a deeply "cynical cat" for having run in 2008 on the slogans "Change we can believe in" and "Hope and Change."

Could advocates for medical marijuana make Obama's stance on medical marijuana emblematic of core personal resistance to change? If so, does this expose Obama's campaign persona as a fraud? If so, Obama's re-election becomes much more problematic!

One of the questions regularly asked in a poll for the Associated Press is "Does President Obama care about people like you?" The possible answers are "very well," "somewhat well," "slightly well," "not at all," and "unsure."

When Obama was sworn in, 53 % said very well, 26% said somewhat well, 7% said slightly well, 12% said not at all, and 2% were unsure. The percentage answering very well fell by January 2010 to 41%. 24% said somewhat well, 7% said slightly well, and not at all more than doubled to 27%, with 2% unsure. In December 2011, the percentage saying Obama cares about people like you fell to its lowest, 32% very well, 22% somewhat well, 11% slightly well, and 36% not at all, and none unsure. By February 2012, there was slight improvement: 36% very well, 21% somewhat well, 7% slightly well, 34% not at all, and 1% unsure.

Can medical marijuana advocates convert the overwhelming public support for medical marijuana into a criterion for a person to consider whether the President cares about people like you? Could they mobilize social media, influence popular mass entertainment from Saturday Night Live to David Letterman, Conan, and Bill Maher, and create or inspire YouTube videos to carry the message that being a supporter of medical marijuana means caring for the sick, the elderly and the dying? If so, they could drive down the President's numbers.

Thus to the extent that Obama is portrayed and come to be perceived to be a hypocrite on "Change" or personally indifferent to the suffering of "people like me," those who are trying to push Obama's resistance to medical marijuana into the national discourse may succeed in making it a policy issue he continues ignore at his political peril.

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