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


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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

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Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia Next to Decide Marijuana Ballot Measures


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According to a New York Times editorial, this November, voters in Alaska, Oregon, and the District of Columbia will decide whether to make recreational marijuana legal and regulated — effectively disregarding the misguided federal ban on a substance that is far less dangerous than alcohol.

Alaska’s Ballot Measure 2 would make the use and purchase of marijuana legal for those 21 and older, create a marijuana control board and tax the drug at $50 per ounce wholesale. It is already legal for Alaskans to possess small amounts of marijuana in their homes, and surveys indicate that 18 percent of Alaskans smoke marijuana. Ballot Measure 2 would mean that Alaskans could buy it from a store instead of resorting to the black market.

This is not the first time the newspaper of record has supported sensible marijuana policy reform, and it is indicative of increasing national support for ending marijuana prohibition.

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Marijuana Policy Project Launches ‘Consume Responsibly’ Campaign


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As reported by The Washington Post, the Marijuana Policy Project, in partnership with marijuana industry leader Medbox, Inc., is now launching a $75,000 public education campaign to counter what communications director, Mason Tvert, describes as decades of “exaggeration, fear mongering, and condescension.” The campaign will launch at noon in Denver, Colorado in front of a billboard aimed at tourists.

The outdoor ad reads, “Don’t let a candy bar ruin your vacation. With edibles, start low and go slow.”

Consume Responsibly Ad
Consume Responsibly Ad

The ad is an allusion to the case of Maureen Dowd, a New York Times columnist who got sick from eating a marijuana edible on a visit to Denver to cover the topic of marijuana.

Ensuring the safe use of edible marijuana products has proven troublesome in Colorado since legal sales began in January. Many people have more experience smoking marijuana than consuming it in edible form, and because the effects have a slower onset with edibles, it is harder for inexperienced users to self-regulate. The headlines ridiculing legal pot advocates, as well as Dowd’s experience, have been enough for the industry to promote moderation with edible pot forms.

“So far, every campaign designed to educate the public about marijuana has relied on fear mongering and insulting marijuana users. Like most Americans, Ms. Dowd has probably seen countless silly anti-marijuana ads on TV, but she has never seen one that highlights the need to ‘start low and go slow’ when choosing to consume marijuana edibles,” Tvert stated.

The campaign will begin in Colorado, featuring print ads, online ads, and literature to be distributed at retail locations urging responsible consumption and directing people to ConsumeResponsibly.org, which is patterned after the alcohol industry’s “Drink Responsibly” campaign. It will present information about products, laws, and the effects of marijuana. The campaign will eventually expand to Washington, where marijuana is also legally taxed and regulated.

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NFL Players Association Approves Terms of New Drug Policy, Although Still Oppressive


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According to The Denver Post, late Friday, the NFLPA unanimously approved the terms of a new drug policy that includes the implementation of testing for Human Growth Hormone — a performance enhancing drug — as well as an increase in the threshold for testing positive for marijuana.

The agreement with the NFL and NFLPA opens up the possibility for players suspended on drug policy violations to return to the field. Cleveland.com reported that Josh Gordon, Cleveland Browns receiver, will have his suspension reduced from a season-long ban to 10 games once the new drug policy is finalized and formally approved.

“This is a historic moment for our players and our league,” NFLPA president Eric Winston said in a statement. “We have collectively bargained drug policies that will keep the game clean and safe, but also provide players with an unprecedented level of fairness and transparency. Players should be proud of their union for standing up for what was best for the game.”

Although the threshold for a positive test for marijuana will increase to 35 ng/ml from the previous 15 ng/ml, the new marijuana threshold is a standard much lower than those used in most other sports. The threshold for a positive test for marijuana should have increased to the 150 ng/ml limit — used by the World Anti-Doping Agency, which conducts Olympic athlete testing — that was originally suggested.

Moreover, the new terms of the drug policy still prove draconian given the chronic pain endured by most NFL players and the fact that, by most measures, the use of medical marijuana to relieve pain is far less harmful than the prescription painkillers that players currently rely on.

As former player Nate Jackson recently stated in a New York Times op-ed, “Virtually every single player in the NFL has a certifiable need for medical marijuana.”

In this case, the fact that players are still not permitted to use medical marijuana is inexplicable — even when 15 teams are based in states where medical marijuana can be recommended legally and most, if not all, players have a very legitimate need for it.

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NFL May Finally Change its Outdated Drug Policy


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It appears as though the NFL is finally progressing towards changing its controversial drug policy. According to a NBC Sports story, the NFLPA plans to vote tonight on proposed changes to the NFL’s existing drug policy. The changes, if ratified, may include an increased threshold for which players are allowed to test positive for marijuana. However, the NFLPA first needs to get a proposal from the league itself. According to the NBC Sports posting, that has not happened yet.

“The players are prepared to vote on a proposal from NFL tonight but they will need something to review well in advance of that vote,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah told PFT by phone. “As of right now, there’s nothing yet. Players have been informed of the status of the league’s proposal on an ongoing basis. [On Monday], [NFLPA president] Eric Winston and [NFLPA executive committee member] Brian Waters reiterated the importance of a fair due process for hGH testing, a line in the sand with respect to player discipline before a fair due process on DUIs, and also other issues that were important to them.”

Josh Gordon

The “other issues” include the manner in which players are processed through the substance abuse policy, amid much criticism and media attention regarding the use of marijuana and the Cleveland Browns wide receiver, Josh Gordon’s, suspension.

According to Nate Jackson, a New York Times op-ed contributor and former tight end that medicated with marijuana for most of his career, “Gordon has marijuana in his system. He broke the rules. I understand that. But this is a rule that absurdly equates marijuana with opiates, opioids, and PCP. The NFL’s threshold for disciplinary action for marijuana is 10 times higher than the one used by the International Olympic Committee.”

The NFL rethinking their approach to marijuana is long overdue. Their current policy reflects outdated stances onmarijuana and pain management, penalizes players who seek an alternative to painkillers, keeps them in a perpetual state of injury and injury management, and risks creating new addicts.

In the end, as stated by MPP’s Morgan Fox, “The NFL’s harsh marijuana penalties do nothing to promote the health and safety of the players.” [MPP emphasis added]

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The Legal Use of Marijuana Versus Drug-Free Workplace Policies


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According to a New York Times story, even as 23 states (and the District of Columbia) allow the use of medical or recreational marijuana, many businesses continue to strictly enforce their drug-free policies, creating a cultural schism between a society that increasingly accepts marijuana and companies that will fire employees who use it.

Brandon Coats

Brandon Coats, for example, was fired for violating Dish Network’s drug-free workplace rules, despite having a medical marijuana card. Coats was paralyzed in a car accident when he was 16 and has been using medical marijuana since 2009 to relieve painful spasms that jolt his body. However, he medicated mostly at night and said marijuana had never affected his performance at work. In spite of this, Mr. Coats andother patients are discovering that marijuana’s recent strides toward the legal and cultural mainstream are clashing with office policies and, ultimately, derailing careers.

Employers and business groups say drug screenings identify drug-abusing workers, create a safer working environment, lower their insurance costs, and, in some cases, are required by the law. Marijuana advocates, on the other hand, counter that such policies amount to discrimination, either against those using marijuana to treat a medical condition or against those who use it because they have the legal right to do so, off the clock and outside of the workplace.

There are a lot of people out there who need jobs, can do a good job, but in order for them to live their lives, they have to have this,” said Mr. Coats, who is 35. “A person can drink all night long, be totally hung over the next day and go to work and there’s no problem with it.”

Generally speaking, most companies do not fire employees for drinking a couple of beers or having a glass of wine — which is objectively more harmful than marijuana — after working hours. It simply does not make sense for law-abiding citizens to lose their jobs over a substance that is far safer than alcohol.

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New York Times Calls For End of Marijuana Prohibition


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The New York Times — the “national newspaper of record” — published a historic editorial this weekend calling for an end to marijuana prohibition! Read it here and share it with your friends.

NYT editorial

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New York Times Editorial Backs MPP’s NFL Petition


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On Thursday, the editorial board of The New York TimesNew-York-Times-Logo tackled the  issue of NFL players being punished for marijuana use, as highlighted by MPP’s billboards around MetLife Stadium this week:

In the lead-up to the Super Bowl, in which it so happens both teams hail from states that recently legalized marijuana for recreational purposes, pressure is mounting on the league to reconsider its ban. A group called the Marijuana Policy Project has even bought space on five billboards in New Jersey, where the game will take place on Sunday, asking why the league disallows a substance that, the group says, is less harmful than alcohol.

It’s a fair question. Marijuana isn’t a performance-enhancing drug, for starters, and more than 20 states have legalized it for medical purposes. The league would merely be catching up to contemporary practice by creating a medical exception.

As public opinion and state laws move away from strict prohibition, it’s reasonable for the NFL to do the same and let its players deal with their injuries as they — and their private doctors — see fit.

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Obama Hints Support for Ray Kelly’s Candidacy as Next Secretary of Homeland Security


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Ray Kelly, who has spent the last 12 years as New York City’s police commissioner, has been a topic of discussion recently for the upcoming vacancy for the Secretary of Homeland Security. In a recent interview, Obama said of Mr. Kelly, “[He might be very happy where he is, but if he’s not I’d want to know about it.” He went on to add that Kelly would be “very well qualified” for the job.

Ray Kelly pic
Ray Kelly

Kelly spent 12 years instituting unreasonable and racially insensitive systems of arrest and harassment via his unpopular “Stop and Frisk” measures. The program searched more black men in 2011 than actually lived in New York City, as reported by the New York Civil Liberties Union. Despite NYC marijuana decriminalization, Ray Kelly instituted policies that were used to deceive citizens into accidentally “violating” more serious statutes than a civil matter like private marijuana possession.

The New York Times opinion page discusses the pros and cons of Kelly’s potential nomination, taking note of his tenure being marked by much controversy. The Drug Policy Alliance found that under Kelly’s leadership, 1,000,000 hours of police work were dedicated to making 440,000 marijuana possession arrests in 11 years in New York City.

If you agree with us that Ray Kelly’s job performance would be as damaging at the federal level as it clearly has been at the municipal level, then please sign this petition to stop his nomination before if can be considered further.

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Older Americans Changing Views on Marijuana


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The elderly represent the largest medical marijuana consumer group. However, more and more senior citizens are turning to marijuana for recreational purposes — and it’s not just the aging baby boomers that left the substance behind in college.Elderly-man-smoking-medical-marijuana-via-Shutterstock Some retirees are trying marijuana for the first time.

In 2011, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 6.3% of adults between the ages of 50 and 59 used marijuana, more than double the percentage that reported it 10 years ago.

HuffPost Live streamed “Grandparents & Ganja,” a discussion about marijuana’s unexpected clientele. Speakers included: MPP’s communications director, Mason Tvert; Mason’s grandmother, Helen Shuller; Keith Stroup, the founder of NORML; and former Washington State Senator George Rohrbacher.  Read the rest of this entry »

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