Archive for the ‘prohibition’ category

Arkansas Governor Pardons High-Profile Marijuana Offender

November 20th, 2014

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe recently announced he intends to pardon a young man convicted of a marijuana-related felony. The governor emphasized the importance of having a chance to get one’s life back on track following such a conviction, especially for young people. Local press covering the pardon emphasized another aspect to this story: The young man is the governor’s son, Kyle Beebe. Kyle was convicted of “possession with intent to deliver marijuana” in 2003.

In 2012, over 5,700 people were either arrested or cited for marijuana possession. Another 555 people just like Kyle were charged with felonies related to marijuana. Only a fraction will have an opportunity like the one Kyle has. Instead, most will face a lifetime of discrimination: A criminal record that can hurt job prospects, housing, and educational opportunities – long after the court sentence is over.

Arkansas needs a better approach. Like 19 other states, it can remove possible jail time for simple possession, bringing relief to thousands. If you are an Arkansas resident, click here to ask your legislators to support imposing a civil fine — not a criminal conviction — for simple possession.

Even better, Arkansas should implement a system to tax and regulate marijuana for adults who choose a substance that is safer than alcohol — just like Alaska, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. Why continue the reefer madness when there is now a better way?

Iowa Board of Pharmacy to Consider the Reclassification of Medical Marijuana

November 18th, 2014

The Iowa Board of Pharmacy is considering renewing its recommendation that the state reclassify marijuana in a way that would make it easier to use the substance legally for medical purposes, following a hearing in the state’s capital yesterday where patients, medical professionals, and drug-abuse prevention specialists testified about whether Iowa should relax its strict ban on the use of medical marijuana.

“We’re in a bit of a predicament,” board Chairman Edward Maier told several dozen people who gathered for the Des Moines hearing, noting that Iowa law currently classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

A similar proposal failed to gain traction in 2009 when the board recommended that state legislators reclassify marijuana as a Schedule II drug, which would make the substance legal with a physician’s recommendation.

Edward Hertko, a retired Des Moines physician and longtime proponent for making marijuana legal, said opponents have falsely characterized marijuana as addictive and as a gateway to harder drugs.

“Its hazards pale when compared with alcohol and tobacco,” he told the pharmacy board. “In fact, marijuana is less deadly than sugar, which causes thousands of deaths each year from obesity and diabetes,” he said.

In addition, Lori Tassin, a cancer patient also from Des Moines, said she believes the substance can shrink tumors and provide other medical benefits.

“It should be my choice,” she told the board. “It should be between my doctor and me.”

The entire Iowa Board of Pharmacy will further discuss the issue Wednesday. Moreover, Maier, a Mapleton pharmacist, noted that the board does not have the authority to make medical marijuana legal. However, he did state that the board could advise Iowa state legislators on the issue.

Vermont Legislators Will Begin 2015 Session with Report on Marijuana Legalization

November 18th, 2014

In January, Vermont’s lawmakers will receive a detailed report analyzing many of the issues surrounding the possibility of making marijuana legal in the state.

The report will not make any recommendations either for or against making marijuana legal in Vermont. It will, however, provide data that will help policymakers understand the issue, and it will prepare legislators for the vigorous debate over marijuana regulation that is expected during the 2015 session.

Beau Kilmer
Beau Kilmer (Photo courtesy of the RAND Corporation)

The co-director of the Drug Policy Research Center at the Rand Corporation, Beau Kilmer, is working with Vermont’s Secretary of Administration to prepare the report. In a recent presentation, Kilmer said the first section of the report would be an examination of what he called “Vermont’s marijuana landscape.” In other words, how many people currently use marijuana in Vermont?

“And so we’re able to kind of cobble together information from surveys what we know about misreporting, information we have about total amount consumed, we’re able to put that together to come up with a range,” said Kilmer. “So I’m optimistic about the future of marijuana market studies.”

In addition to determining how many people use marijuana in Vermont, Kilmer said the report will analyze health and safety issues, various potential regulatory models, and projections of the expected impacts of reform, including tax revenue.

The Secretary of Administration is expected to present the finished report to the legislature by January 15.

It is Unlikely That Congress Will Block Making Marijuana Legal in Washington, D.C.

November 14th, 2014
Eleanor Holmes Norton

At a press conference yesterday, the District of Columbia’s congressional delegate, Eleanor Holmes Norton, urged her colleagues to respect the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved making marijuana legal in the nation’s capital last week.

Norton was joined by three other congressmen, including Dana Rohrabacher (R-California), who said that attempting to block legal marijuana in D.C., as well as Alaska and Oregon, where voters also approved making marijuana legal last week, would disregard the “fundamental principles” that “Republicans have always talked about,” including “individual liberties,” “limited government,” and “states’ rights and the 10th Amendment.”

In theory, there are some ways that Congress could try to block the process of making marijuana legal in the nation’s capital from happening. It could pass a joint resolution disapproving the initiative. It could also bar the District from spending money to implement the measure. In actuality, however, neither of the two approaches to block Initiative 71 deem promising.

The initiative cannot take effect until after the D.C. Council Chairman, Phil Mendelson, submits it to Congress for review, which he is expected to do when the new Republican Congress is seated in January. Once the D.C. Council chairman submits the initiative, Congress has 30 legislative days to pass a resolution overriding the measure. If a resolution is not enacted by the end of the 30-day period, Initiative 71 automatically becomes law.

“I think a resolution of disapproval is unlikely,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance. “Overturning a ballot measure passed by 70 percent of the voters doesn’t really look good for the incoming Republican Congress. If the council transmits [the initiative] in January, I think that pretty much reduces or eliminates the chance that Congress will overturn it outright. It just doesn’t fit with what they’re talking about doing, which is rebranding themselves as not being obstructionists.”

Nikolas Schiller, the communications director at the D.C. Cannabis Campaign, which supported Initiative 71, also agrees that the new Republican Congress will not be eager to nix it.

“We believe that a new Republican Congress will not interfere with something that deals solely with personal liberties,” he says.

Speaker of the New York City Council Supports Making Marijuana Legal

November 14th, 2014
Melissa Mark-Viverito

Just days ago, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio overhauled the city’s marijuana policy by instructing law enforcement officers to issue tickets for marijuana possession instead of arresting offenders. Now, the City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito is going a step further and calling for making the substance legal.

“It’s not something we can just do randomly, but with a thought process, and looking how it’s being implemented in other areas. But I do support the legalization of marijuana,” she said at City Hall.

Mark-Viverito’s stance makes her the highest-ranking city official to support adopting such a policy, although it puts her at odds with Mayor de Blasio who does not support making marijuana legal in New York.

“States are speaking,” Mark-Viverito said. “Based on the conversations that we see happening nationally, and how people feel about it, I think that it’s just something that is appropriate at this time.”

The Drug Policy Alliance, a leading advocacy group based in New York City, praised the city council speaker’s stance:

“Speaker Melissa Mark Viverito’s announcement further proves that marijuana legalization is a mainstream issue,” said Kassandra Frederique, the group’s New York policy manager. “It is especially important that elected officials of color lead and frame this conversation as the harms of marijuana prohibition and criminalization overwhelmingly affect their communities,” she added.

UN Official Criticizes U.S. for Breaking the Marijuana Laws That it’s Forced the World to Live By

November 13th, 2014

Marijuana is now legal for adult use in Colorado and Washington and will be joined by Alaska and Oregon, in addition to Washington, D.C. — but it turns out that the four states and nation’s capital are all breaking international law.

Yury Fedotov

According to the executive director of the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, Yury Fedotov:

“I don’t see how (the new laws) can be compatible with existing convention.”

Apparently, he has a point; by allowing legal marijuana sales within its borders, the U.S. is technically in violation of the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. The major UN convention, which was signed by the U.S., prohibits countries from creating regulated markets for the cultivation, sale, purchase, distribution, and possession of marijuana.

Historically, the U.S. has pressured other countries in the convention to adopt measures that enforced American-style prohibition, which has led some to criticize the federal government for being hypocritical by allowing implementation of state marijuana regulations to proceed.

According to Mason Tvert, spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“The United States has largely dictated international drug laws for decades, and now that it’s becoming clear that Americans will no longer stand with these failed drug policies, we see other countries moving ahead as well.”

“Fedotov’s statements may make it awkward for the federal government, but they won’t stop the momentum toward ending marijuana prohibition.”

New York City Mayor and Police Chief Announce New Marijuana Policy; Reform Advocates Say It Is Not Enough

November 12th, 2014
Photo of Bill Bratton and Bill de Blasio by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The New York Police Department will stop arresting people for the possession of small amounts of marijuana and instead issue civil citations, city officials stated Monday, citing both a severe racial disparity in the law’s implementation and the burden of arrests on the criminal justice system as reasons for the change.

With the implementation of this new policy, citizens who are stopped by the police with small amounts of marijuana will receive civil summonses, similar to parking tickets, instead of permanent arrest records that limit opportunities later in life.

“Now there will be fewer unnecessary, low-level marijuana arrests,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio, who ran on a campaign last year emphasizing police reform. “That energy goes into fighting more serious crime.”

Bill Bratton, the NYPD Police Commissioner, said he hopes narcotics officers will start going after big transactions or more dangerous drugs – not small amounts of marijuana.

“I want those narcotics buy-and-busts focusing on significant sales of marijuana, or the emerging problem drug we’re having, heroin,” Bratton told reporters on Monday.

Marijuana policy reform advocates regard the new policy move as a good step in the right direction, though they believe much more needs to be done before New York City’s marijuana laws can be considered fair.

“These laws have been used as a means of targeting and harassing people of color,” said Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst at the Marijuana Policy Project.

Moreover, Yeung said that despite the reforms, New Yorkers who purchase marijuana still have to face the dangers associated with an illegal transaction, unlike in states where the substance is legal and regulated.

“In places like Washington state and Colorado, and soon in Oregon and Alaska, people are buying it [marijuana] from safe businesses,” Yeung stated. “But in New York City, people are still going to criminal markets where some people might have weapons or are trying to sell harder and more dangerous drugs. All over the United States, people are using marijuana. That is just a fact.”

FBI Reports Approximately 693,000 Arrests for Marijuana Offenses in 2013

November 12th, 2014

An estimated 693,481 arrests were made nationwide for marijuana-related offenses in 2013, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report. More than 87% of those arrests were for simple possession, meaning, on average, one person was arrested for marijuana possession approximately every 51 seconds across the U.S.

However, the 2013 marijuana-related arrest numbers are down from 2012. The Uniform Crime Report from last year showed that 749,842 marijuana arrests were made in 2012.

Marijuana policy reform groups are glad to see that the arrest rates associated with marijuana offenses have fallen since 2012, but continuing to arrest people for the simple possession of marijuana should be seen as unacceptable and a call for further reforms.

According to Mason Tvert, director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project:

“We’re pleased to see the drop, but arresting even one adult for using a substance that is objectively less harmful than alcohol is inexcusable.”

“Law enforcement officials should be spending their time and resources addressing serious crimes, not arresting and prosecuting adults for using marijuana. Every year, these statistics show hundreds of thousands of marijuana-related arrests are taking place and countless violent crimes are going unsolved. We have to wonder how many of those crimes could be solved – or prevented – if police weren’t wasting their time enforcing failed marijuana prohibition laws.”

The Number of Marijuana Arrests in New York City Remain Racially Disparate Under de Blasio

November 7th, 2014

More than 80 percent of the people arrested for the possession of marijuana during the first eight months of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration were people of color, according to the Drug Policy Alliance.

Credit: Photo Posted By Occupy Wall Street’s Twitter Account

During de Blasio’s run for mayor last year, he vowed to direct the NYPD to reduce the number of marijuana arrests citywide.

However, between the months of January and August 2013, there were 20,080 marijuana possession arrests; during the same period this year, there were 19,684 arrests, which accounts for a drop of about two percent, according to the data and a report provided by DPA.

The current mayor also took a firm stance concerning the treatment of first time offenders, saying that:

“First time offenses for possession of small amounts of marijuana are supposed to be punishable by fine only, unless publicly displayed.”

However, statistics show that under de Blasio, the NYPD still continues to arrest first time offenders rather than fining them. According to the Drug Policy Alliance, almost 75 percent of the people arrested for marijuana possession under de Blasio have been first time offenders.

Moreover, since de Blasio has been the mayor of New York City, 85 percent of the individuals arrested for marijuana possession were either black or Latino, and the number of black people arrested was more than four times higher than the number of white people arrested for the same charge.

Most shockingly, in all but two precincts this year (not including Central Park), the percentage of black people and Latinos arrested for marijuana possession is more than their percentage of the population, according to census data obtained from the New York Civil Liberties Union.

In the end, there is a blatant and obvious pattern that the percentage of arrests of black and Latino individuals is disproportionate. Furthermore, the reality is not that these populations use or possess marijuana more than their white counterparts. Use rates are similar across racial demographics. The reality is that these arrests are racially oriented and destroying countless lives.

The Marijuana Policy Project is Already Gearing Up for 2016

November 6th, 2014

Marijuana advocates made history with three huge Election Day victories in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington D.C. and are optimistic for what the future holds.

“The stage is now set for 2016, when measures to regulate marijuana like alcohol are expected to appear on ballots in at least five states,” said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, which was instrumental in passing legalization in Colorado and bankrolled the successful campaign in Alaska.

The five states where MPP has already established committees to push ballot measures in 2016 are Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts, and Nevada. The measures will likely be similar to the Colorado model, just as the measures in Oregon and Alaska were.

MPP also plans to work to help make marijuana legal through state legislatures, rather than ballot measures. The states that we are focusing on include Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Hawaii, and Maryland.

Most importantly, the upcoming push to make marijuana legal in those states will undoubtedly draw on the lessons learned from the successful marijuana policy reform campaigns so far — which, according to Tvert, fall into two categories. The advocates in Alaska and Colorado focused more on diminishing the fears concerned with the potential harms of marijuana by comparing the substance to alcohol, while advocates in Oregon and Washington argued that making marijuana legal is the safer alternative to marijuana prohibition.

“Our goal from the beginning was to get this message across that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol so that when that last month comes around, and the opponents are trying to scare people away from marijuana by saying it’s so dangerous, their reaction will be to say ‘yeah, but it’s less harmful than alcohol,’” Tvert stated.

Ultimately, by the looks of Tuesday’s election results, marijuana prohibition is on its way out. Moreover, momentum for sensible marijuana policy reform is growing across the country.