Prohibition

Drug Czar upset with hometown paper’s pro-legalization editorial

February 25th, 2011 42 Comments Kate Zawidzki

On Friday, February 18, The Seattle Times ran an editorial endorsing HB 1550, a bill introduced by Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson that would tax and regulate marijuana in the state of Washington. The editorial was thoughtful, reasoned, and logical. Apparently, the Office of National Drug Control Policy doesn’t appreciate this kind of rabble-rousing.

As reported today in The Stranger, The Seattle Times received a call immediately after they ran their editorial from Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske, who wanted to fly out to the Emerald City and personally meet with the entire editorial board. This meeting will take place on Friday. Please join us in requesting The Seattle Times live-stream their important and unprecedented meeting with the Drug Czar.

Beyond the obvious chilling of First Amendment rights implicated by an executive official making such a request, one can only assume that Czar Kerlikowske is making the cross-country flight on the American taxpayer dime. At the very least, Czar Kerlikowske will be ‘bullying’ the editorial board on the clock, meaning the taxpayer is paying for him to do this. Considering we’re paying for his flight and his meeting, we should at least be able to sit in via the Internet! In the interest of a transparent government, please join us in requesting that this meeting be streamed live via the World Wide Web.

Oh, and you’ll be pleased to know that The Seattle Times is not backing down in their support of HB 1550 in light of Czar Kerlikowske’s request.

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Prohibition

Corrupt Cops Busted Selling Improperly Seized Assets

February 24th, 2011 24 Comments Morgan Fox

A Michigan man came forward this week with his story of police abuse, and unfortunately, it sounds all too familiar.

According to Rudy Simpson, police raided his home for marijuana based on an anonymous tip and a marijuana stem supposedly found in his garbage. The police found a quarter ounce of marijuana, 12 alleged marijuana seeds, and half of a pill for which Simpson produced a prescription.

Apparently, this was all the justification the police needed to confiscate three pages worth of Simpson’s personal property under Michigan’s asset forfeiture laws, including musical equipment, televisions, DVDs, computers, and other electronics. State law allows authorities to confiscate any materials paid for with profits from drug sales, based only on probable cause. No evidence was ever produced to link Simpson to any marijuana sales, yet his property was seized anyway. According to Simpson, the officers acted like “thugs,” eating food out of his refrigerator and trashing his home during the raid.

Unfortunately for the cops, they raided the home during a band rehearsal, and were unaware that the entire incident was being recorded. This included the police testing their vocal skills on the mic, then openly talking about which of Simpson’s belongings they and their team leader wanted to take! (Follow the first link of this post to listen.)

It turns out this particular unit made quite a bit of money by confiscating big-ticket items during routine, low-level drug busts, either keeping the items or reselling them illegally. The head of the unit, Luke Davis, is currently under indictment for corruption.

This is just another sad example of one of the more insane aspects of the war on marijuana users. Thousands of people have had their homes and belongings stolen by law enforcement, without due process, never to be returned. Some of these people were never even officially charged with a crime or were found not guilty of the charges, but in most cases, the police still sold the property and kept the proceeds!

We live in a great nation. We also live in a nation where the people who are supposed to protect you can kick your door down, terrorize your family, shoot your dog, and take your land and property — all because they think you have some plant matter that is safer to use than alcohol. And there isn’t much you can do about it.

This is why all Americans need to support ending marijuana prohibition: It is simply un-American.

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Prohibition, Research

Running, Research, and Reform

February 22nd, 2011 10 Comments Kate Zawidzki

I remember reaching mile 26 of The Western Hemisphere Marathon and thinking blissfully “this feels great!” For some runners, it might have even felt familiar. Sure enough, researchers throughout the world are illuminating the important role of the cannabinoid system in our experience of altered states like joy and the “runner’s high.” As a recent NY Times article mentions, a strenuous run on a treadmill increases the body’s own natural cannabinoids. Rodents with an impaired cannabinoid system don’t seem to hike around the cage as much as those with a normal system. Other work in the past decade has received less press, but shows that cannabinoids can protect brain cells against certain forms of injury, play an important role in sleep, and alter inflammation and pain. This is all good news. I can’t help wonder, however, if we wouldn’t be much further along in this research under other circumstances.

How much has prohibition against cannabis stymied research? The world may never know. International treaties have made the plant illegal everywhere, but attitudes vary across nations. The U.S. has been at the forefront of scientific research in many areas, but not always with cannabis. In fact, federal obstruction of research has made the U.S. lag far behind many countries in the field of cannabinoid medicine. The THC molecule and the cannabinoid receptor were first identified in Israel. Links between cannabinoids and Alzheimer’s were established in Spain. Work on THC’s inhibition of atherosclerosis appeared in Switzerland. We certainly do interesting work on this topic in the U.S., too, but I think we’ve fallen down dreadfully in the study of medical marijuana in real live people. What’s the best strain for headache? Nausea? Insomnia? We don’t know.  Despite American ingenuity and a huge underground market with thousands of strains, anyone who wants to give cannabis to people in a U.S. laboratory is essentially stuck with the one type available through the National Institute of Drug Abuse. We’re only now learning the import of cannabidiol and the host of cannabinoids other than THC, in part because of the quick jump to the study of a synthetic version that developed out of fear of stems and leaves.

International research has revealed that cannabinoids are key to an astounding number of bodily functions. They show promise for battling cancer and preserving our hearts and minds. An end to prohibition could free up so much work. The potential for discoveries is truly staggering. But time waits for none of us. The sickest of the sick need this work done as quickly as possible. We can’t let old laws developed in another era impair the research of today.

No one should go to jail for owning a green weed. No one should suffer from illness because a government fears a plant.

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Medical Marijuana, Prohibition

Montana Repeal Effort Targets Patients, Forgets Jobs

February 17th, 2011 31 Comments Morgan Fox

Last week, the Montana House passed H.B. 161, a bill that would repeal the medical marijuana initiative passed by voters in 2004, in a preliminary vote that fell along party lines. This week, in preparation for the final House vote, the prohibitionists have switched their arguments from baseless fear mongering to “fiscal responsibility.”

Yesterday, the main supporter of the bill argued that repeal of the medical marijuana law would cost the state money at first, but that it would save money in the long run. From the Billings Gazette:

House Speaker Mike Milburn, R-Cascade, told the House Appropriations Committee that a cost estimate from the governor’s budget office shows if his bill repealing the law passes, it would cost the state nearly $263,000 in fiscal 2012 but save the state about $317,000 in 2013, $479,000 in 2014 and $496,500 in 2015 …

… As estimated by the budget office, the additional costs the first year are because of the cost of estimated increases in incarcerations of people using what would then be an illegal drug. The net savings in the three future years would be from reducing state employees and the cost of running the registration for medical pot.

If Milburn’s stated intention of targeting and prosecuting 20,000 Montana citizens, who are not currently criminals but who will be if H.B. 161 passes, isn’t sickening enough, his economic narrow-mindedness and disrespect for the voters of Montana certainly is.

The estimate of money saved in the future by the state government is based on eliminating bureaucratic costs for running the medical marijuana program. Unfortunately, this doesn’t take into account the roughly 1400 jobs that will be lost if medical marijuana is repealed. It doesn’t consider the continued cost of prosecuting medical marijuana patients. And it doesn’t mention the revenue created by the medical marijuana industry that goes right back into the local economy. Apparently Milburn is more concerned with the amount of money in the government coffers than with the livelihood of the average Montana resident.

So let’s get this straight: Mike Milburn is willing to use his political buddies in the state legislature to overrule the will of the people of Montana, who overwhelmingly approved the use of medical marijuana by 62% of the vote. He is willing to spend taxpayer money to hunt down sick people and put them in jail. He is willing to put 1400 Montanans out of work, and take millions of dollars out of the local economy.

He is willing to do all this because he thinks too many people are using marijuana.

Are you willing to let him succeed?

If not, you can help here.

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Prohibition

Decriminalization Bill Advances in Hawaii

February 8th, 2011 23 Comments Morgan Fox

In addition to two medical marijuana regulation bills being considered in Hawaii, a separate bill that would remove criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana is moving through the state Senate. Last week, it passed through two Senate committees and is now headed to the full Senate for a vote before advancing further. Considering that 20 of 25 members of the Senate are co-sponsors, it should be a breeze.

The bill would make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction. This would carry a $100 fine, but would not come with a criminal record or jail time. It also removes the mandate for drug treatment for someone possessing the same amount. Teachers and school administrators would no longer be required to notify the police of student possession if they preferred to deal with an incident in-house, which would surely free up many law enforcement resources.

As usual, law enforcement and others opposed to this commonsense measure are complaining that such laws send a mixed message to children. And as usual, they are ignoring the message that is sent when adults tell youth to stay away from alcohol, while openly distributing, using, and advertising it ubiquitously. Yet, no one is calling for a return to alcohol prohibition. Maybe they think kids are stupid. Or maybe they are just afraid to admit they are wrong, and that there is no justification for making criminals out of adults who choose to relax with a substance that is safer than alcohol.

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Prohibition

The Drug War’s Latest Collateral Damage: Ladies’ Golf

February 4th, 2011 10 Comments Kate Zawidzki

The drug war claimed another victim this week, this time in the form of organized professional sports. On Wednesday, February 2, the LPGA Tour announced that it would postpone the Tres Marias Championship, which was to be held in Morelia, Mexico. Tour officials stated that their security firm determined that safety issues surrounding the event are “too severe” to have the event this year, and in order to hold the event in future years, things would have to “improve dramatically.”

I’ll be the first to admit that losing one golf tournament is nothing to lose sleep over and it should be put into context (we all know the true tragedy of the War on Drugs). However, the fact that a security firm decided that the current state of affairs in Morelia, Mexico renders a LPGA tournament unplayable due to safety concerns should give everyone pause. Today Morelia loses a major golf tournament, tomorrow could see other industry follow suit. Once industry leaves, the only employers are the cartels that create the violence that drives away the business and the police who do battle with them. The cycle of violence continues. Rinse and repeat.

If American officials, who invest heavily in Mexico’s war against cartels, were to simply lift the prohibition on marijuana, we could see real change for our neighbors to the south. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates that Mexican drug cartels derive 60% of their profits from marijuana sales to the U.S. market. With one policy decision, we could cripple the cartels’ bank accounts and their power structure, bringing an end to the violence that has devastated vast areas of Mexico. When that day comes, it will certainly be a fine day for golf.

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Prohibition

Rob Kampia: Public Reaction to Obama’s YouTube Comment on Drug Legalization Shows Progress

February 1st, 2011 38 Comments Morgan Fox

From the Huffington Post:

In watching the evolving hubbub around President Obama’s statement about drug legalization on Youtube on January 27, when he said, “I think this is an entirely legitimate topic for debate, [but] I am not in favor of legalization,” I’m reminded of December 7, 1993.

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