Archive for the ‘prohibition’ category

Police Chief and Marijuana Advocate Debate South Portland Marijuana Ordinance

October 23rd, 2014

According to the Portland Press Herald, the issue of whether to implement a regulated and legal adult marijuana control system in South Portland, Maine took center stage Wednesday at a debate over the upcoming vote. Among the points of contention were whether marijuana is safer than alcohol and whether making marijuana legal will increase teen use.

South Portland Police Chief Edward Googins, a vehement opponent, and Maine political director of the Marijuana Policy Project, David Boyer, debated over the proposal.

Googins continued to perpetuate the misinformation that marijuana is not safer than alcohol.

Boyer, on the other hand, argued that marijuana use is safer than alcohol use, which according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is attributed to 37,000 deaths across the country annually. Conversely, he noted that no deaths have been attributed to marijuana overdoses.

“Despite this potential harm of alcohol, most would agree adults should be able to responsibly use alcohol. Why should an adult of age to consume alcohol be prohibited from using or from possessing marijuana?” Boyer stated. “It’s time to move beyond ‘Reefer Madness’ and pass laws that make sense.”

In regards to the second point of contention, both Googins and Boyer agreed on ensuring marijuana stay out of the hands of children and teens. However, Googins argued that making marijuana legal would normalize the substance’s use and make it easier for youth to obtain. Boyer countered that marijuana is already prevalent and circulating throughout the community. A better approach would be to focus on preventing marijuana use among teens by allowing adults to purchase marijuana through licensed and regulated businesses.

“I don’t think kids should use marijuana,” Boyer said. “We need to be honest with our kids. Being dishonest with our kids and telling them alcohol is safer than marijuana is dangerous.”

Eric Holder “Cautiously Optimistic” in Regards to Legal Marijuana

October 22nd, 2014

According to CNN, outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he is “cautiously optimistic” when it comes to Colorado and Washington’s implementation of regulated and legal adult marijuana control systems.

Eric Holder

“We don’t want to put into the federal system, low level people who are simply there for possessory offenses,” Holder stated Monday in an interview with CNN’s Evan Perez.

Last year, the DOJ chose eight enforcement areas that the department would concentrate on in a move aimed at calming nerves in Colorado and Washington. The eight “priority areas” have focused on the Justice Department’s attempts to prevent marijuana distribution to minors, as well as inter-state trafficking and violence associated with the illegal trade.

However, Holder noted in his interview Monday that the Justice Department could reverse its non-interventionist stance if Colorado and Washington’s regulatory frameworks are not up to par.

“What I’ve told the governors of those states is that if we’re not satisfied with their regulatory scheme that we reserve the right to come in and sue them. So we’ll see,” Holder said.

It remains to be seen how the new attorney general will treat states that decide to end marijuana prohibition going forward, but supportive lawmakers continue to push legislation that will finally protect states from federal interference and allow them to determine their own marijuana policies.

MPP to Introduce Three New Marijuana Reform Bills in Texas

October 22nd, 2014

As part of the Marijuana Policy Project’s multi-year legislative campaign in Texas, we are developing bill proposals to address decriminalization, as well as allowing marijuana to be used for medical reasons and eventually regulating it similarly to alcohol for adults.

Heather Fazio

According to Heather Fazio, Texas Political Director for the Marijuana Policy Project, the group will be pre-filing the three bills this November, in anticipation of the 84th Texas Legislative Session, starting in January.

“We are working with a diverse coalition to introduce a civil penalty bill which [would] make small possession punishable by a simple fine, rather than a criminal charge,” said Fazio.

“This means no opportunity for jail time, and none of the collateral sanctions which come along with a criminal drug arrest. These collateral sanctions include limited access to resources for education, housing, employment, etc. It will also help to break down the stigma which goes along with being arrested and jailed for the possession of this plant.”

“We will [also] be introducing a bill to create a legal market for marijuana, similar to alcohol, for responsible adults who are 21 and over,” says Fazio.

The three bills cite Texans’ support for reduced marijuana penalties, the passage of medical marijuana laws, and taxing and regulating marijuana similarly to alcohol.

Moreover, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and RAND Corporation data, 1,267,200 Texans already use marijuana each month, with the average user consuming 100 grams per year. Should Texas regulate and tax marijuana, with a tax of $50 per ounce implemented, the Lone Star State would stand to make between $150,971,063 and $264,199,294 in tax revenue annually.

Read the full Houston Press article for more information on the proposed marijuana policy changes in Texas, as well as an overview of the three bills.

Low-Level Marijuana Arrests Targeting Large Numbers of Minorities Still on the Rise in New York

October 21st, 2014
Bill de Blasio

As reported by The Huffington Post, Bill de Blasio, a candidate for New York City mayor last year, promised to end marijuana arrests, noting that they have “disastrous consequences for individuals and their families.” As mayor, however, de Blasio is not living up to his promise.

According to a report released yesterday by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Marijuana Arrest Research Project, between March and August of this year, NYPD made hundreds more low-level marijuana arrests than they did during the same six-month period under New York City’s previous mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

The report, which draws on data from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice, depicts the blatant racial disparity in low-level marijuana arrests: the NYPD continues to arrest Latinos at nearly four times the rate as white people and black people at seven times the rate of white people. This is in spite of numerous studies that demonstrate that young black people and Latinos in New York and elsewhere are no more likely than their white counterparts to use marijuana.

Moreover, the report analyzes the number of arrests by neighborhood, showing that the majority of arrests are centered in predominantly black and Latino areas.

“The NYPD is clearly never going to do on the Upper West Side, where there are two dozen arrests each year, what they’re doing in the 77th Precinct in Crown Heights, where there are more than 300,” said Gabriel Sayegh, managing director for policy and campaigns for the Drug Policy Alliance. “It just wouldn’t be allowed.”

Ultimately, the report portrays a typical arrest victim as a young person of color who generally abides by the law. In fact, as relayed in the report, three-quarters of those arrested for marijuana this year have never even been convicted of a misdemeanor.

“As a whole, we in the communities of color voted for him,” said Anastasia Sanders—a 21 year old woman from Prospect Heights in Brooklyn who voted for de Blasio hoping he would reform the police department’s practices. “So for us to continue to be arrested, to be honest, it’s not fair, and we just wish we had his support a little bit more.”

Overwhelming Majority of Delaware Voters Support Making Marijuana Legal

October 17th, 2014

A new poll conducted by the University of Delaware finds 56% support for legalizing marijuana, with just 39% opposed. Earlier this year, Rep. Helene Keeley, Sen. Bryan Townsend, and Sen. Margaret Rose Henry sponsored legislation to reduce the penalty for simple possession of marijuana from a criminal charge to a civil fine. This is a strong step in the right direction.

Under current Delaware law, possessing even a small amount of marijuana is a criminal offense, carrying up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,150. And the effects of a conviction don’t stop there. A criminal record can make it difficult to find a job, obtain educational opportunities, or even find adequate housing.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have replaced the threat of jail for possession of marijuana with a fine. If you are a Delaware resident, ask your state representative and senator to make the same modest reform, and then ask your fellow Delawareans to call for this long overdue reform, too.

Iowa Medical Cannabidiol Law Makes the Substance Legal to Possess but Impossible to Obtain

October 17th, 2014

As reported by Iowa Watchdog, in May, Governor Terry Branstad signed into law the Medical Cannabidiol Act. The law allows for residents of Iowa to possess small amounts of cannabidiol if a neurologist certifies that the non-psychoactive oil derived from marijuana plants is necessary for the treatment of a child with intractable epilepsy.

On Tuesday, the Administrative Rules Review Committee of the Iowa State Legislature gave final approval to the procedures by which the Iowa Department of Public Health will address the new law.

Beginning on January 30, 2015, after filing the appropriate paperwork and being approved by IDPH, a parent or primary caregiver of a child diagnosed with epilepsy will be able to receive a specific form of identification that will allow them to possess up to 32 ounces of cannabidiol.

They will not, however, be able to obtain the actual oil. In fact, cannabidiol will remain illegal to produce or sell in the state of Iowa. Moreover, in Colorado and Oregon, the states where the oil is legal, it is illegal to sell to nonresidents. Therefore, even if an approved resident from Iowa were able to buy the oil in one of the states where it is legal, transporting the substance across state lines remains a federal crime.

“That’s the reality of the situation,” Deborah Thompson, policy advisor for IDPH, told Iowa Watchdog. “There are still some very fundamental barriers to parents getting the oil.”

According to state Rep. Rob Taylor, R-West Des Moines:

Rob Taylor

“It was a very limited bill. All it did was give citizens of Iowa who possess and are registered with the state safe harbor under Iowa state law. Meaning we wouldn’t prosecute them if they have cannabidiol,” Taylor said.

When asked what purpose it served to create an approval process of a substance that Iowans will not be allowed to legally obtain, Taylor stated, “It’s one more tool in their toolbox for families dealing with a very, very disturbing disorder.”

State Department’s Top Drug Warrior, William Brownfield, Says Federal Government Must Tolerate Making Marijuana Legal

October 16th, 2014

According to Reason, William Brownfield, the assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, called for flexibility in interpreting anti-drug treaties.

“How could I, a representative of the government of the United States of America, be intolerant of a government that permits any experimentation with legalization of marijuana if two of the 50 states of the United States of America have chosen to walk down that road?”

When asked about the federal government’s position on the regulation and taxation of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, Brownfield described a clearly prescribed policy:

William Brownfield

“The deputy attorney general’s words were that the federal government will not intervene in the application of the laws of Washington and Colorado on marijuana legalization, but will monitor and hold them responsible for performance in eight specifically designated areas…. We have a national interest to ensure that this does not cause undue harm….”

“The United States of America reserves the right and can at any time it chooses enforce the law against marijuana and cannabis cultivation, production, sale, purchase, and consumption in Washington state and Colorado. The deputy attorney general in a public document has asserted that for now we will not do that unless it crosses the line in eight specifically identified categories in those two states.”

Although there is a long way for the federal government to go in terms of completely eliminating its prohibitionist attitude, those associated have been compelled by the political circumstances in the U.S. to accept that there is value to alternative policies. This is a good sign for countries that have been pressured by the U.S. to mimic and help enforce American prohibition.

Marijuana Ordinance Debate Scheduled in South Portland, Maine

October 16th, 2014

The Current reported that a debate on the ordinance to make marijuana legal in South Portland will be held next week on Wednesday, October 22, from 7:00-8:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the South Portland High School, 637 Highland Avenue.

The South Portland School Department and Social Studies Department have arranged the event to give concerned residents the opportunity to educate themselves on the issues surrounding the referendum in South Portland prior to Election Day on November 4. If the referendum passes, it will allow residents to use and possess up to one ounce of marijuana, as well as allow the possession of paraphernalia.

Those participating in the debate include David Boyer, the Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, who will be arguing in favor of the passing of the ordinance, South Portland Police Chief, Edward Googins, who will be arguing against the passing of the ordinance, and Susan Sharon, of Maine Public Radio, who will be moderating the debate.

Please support the South Portland referendum by attending the debate and encourage friends, relatives, and neighbors to do the same!

Obama’s Nominee to Lead the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division Supports the Decriminalization of Marijuana

October 15th, 2014
Vanita Gupta

According to the Washington Post, President Obama plans to nominate top lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union, Vanita Gupta, to head to the civil rights division of the Department of Justice.

Gupta is a longtime civil rights lawyer and deputy legal director of the ACLU, as well as the director of the Union’s Center for Justice.

She stated in a New York Times op-ed about ending mass incarceration:

“Those who seek a fairer criminal justice system, unclouded by racial bias, must at a minimum demand that the government eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, which tie judges’ hands; rescind three-strikes laws, which often make no distinction between, say, armed assault and auto theft; amend “truth in sentencing” statutes, which prohibit early release for good behavior; and recalibrate drug policies, starting with decriminalization of marijuana possession and investment in substance-abuse prevention and treatment.”

According to administration officials, Gupta will be appointed acting head of the civil rights division Wednesday by Attorney General Eric Holder.

H/T Tom Angell

South Portland and Lewiston Referenda Highlight Conflicting Views on the Dangers of Alcohol Versus Marijuana

October 15th, 2014

Bangor Daily News reported that South Portland and Lewiston, Maine voters, on November 4, will decide whether to make marijuana legal for the use and possession of up to an ounce for citizens 21 years of age and older.

David Boyer, Maine political director for the Marijuana Policy Project, said he believes South Portland will pass the ordinance.

“Prohibition has been a failure,” he said. “It’s done nothing to stop the flow of marijuana into the communities.” He added that “58 percent of Americans are ready to move forward with a more sensible marijuana policy,” citing a 2013 Gallup poll. “It’s illogical to punish adults for a substance that’s less harmful than alcohol,” Boyer also stated.

Edward Googins

South Portland Police Chief, Edward Googins, on the other hand, vehemently opposes the ordinance.

“This issue for me as a police chief is that the initiative is not a good thing for our community or anywhere else,” Googins said. According to the chief, marijuana is more dangerous because it “continues to create and perpetuate other problems in society.” “Claims that marijuana is safer than alcohol are so bogus it’s not even funny,” he also stated.

The fact that Chief Googins believes that alcohol is safer than marijuana demonstrates just how misguided the opposition really is. In reality, studies show alcohol to be more toxic, more addictive, and more harmful to the body. The use of alcohol is also more likely to result in violence and injures than marijuana. Overall, the negative impact on the consumer, as well as on the community at large, is more significant when it comes to alcohol consumption; all the more reason to give responsible adults the option to legally use the safer substance.