Did you know that African Americans in Baltimore are five times more likely to be arrested for drug possession than people of other races, and marijuana is the most common drug possessed? To learn more and help be part of the solution, don’t miss this upcoming special event entitled Legalizing Marijuana: The Impact on Racial Justice in Baltimore City, organized by the Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition.
6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
101 N. Gay Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
It’s free and open to the public, but RSVPs are appreciated.
The keynote speaker will be Neill Franklin, who is the Executive Director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a former Baltimore City Police officer. Major Franklin now works to help end marijuana prohibition, and he will discuss how this would impact racial justice generally and Baltimore specifically.
We hope that you can join us for this informative event! Please pass this message along to any friends or family members who might be interested in attending and share our event on Facebook.
On Tuesday, the Vermont Coalition to Regulate Marijuana held a press conference to announce the launch of an ad campaign featuring former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney highlighting the benefits of regulating marijuana.
Cheney served as Vermont attorney general from 1973 to 1975. Previously, he served as an assistant attorney general and was elected Washington County states attorney. He has held a variety of other civic positions and is a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).
Last week, Gov. Peter Shumlin said Vermont “[has] the capacity to take this next step and get marijuana legalization done right” in 2016, and he promised state lawmakers he will work with them to “craft the right bill that thoughtfully and carefully eliminates the era of prohibition that is currently failing us so miserably.”
In an interview last week, Madison, Wisconsin Police Chief Mike Koval called marijuana prohibition a failure and advocated regulating and taxing the substance in order to pay for treatment programs that focus on more dangerous drugs.
The comments came during an interview with the State Journal Wednesday about data showing African Americans in Madison were arrested or cited for marijuana offenses at about 12 times the rate of whites in the city.
Koval called efforts to enforce laws against marijuana an “abject failure” and said the same about the broader war on drugs. “We’ve done such an abysmal job using marijuana as a centerpiece of drug enforcement, that it’s time to reorder and triage the necessities of what’s more important now,” Koval said.
Referring to the states of Washington and Colorado, which have legalized the drug for recreational use and sale at state-regulated stores, he said it was time for Wisconsin to consider doing the same.
Under current Wisconsin law, possession of any amount of marijuana can earn you six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A subsequent offense is a felony punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and three and a half years in prison.
Chief Koval is just one example of a growing movement of law enforcement professionals who are breaking rank with many of their colleagues and calling for an end to the war on marijuana users.
The president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) expressed on Tuesday that he believes marijuana laws are total failures, reports mlive.com. John Dixon III is a police chief from Petersburg, VA and spoke at the annual NOBLE conference, saying that law enforcement is too concerned with arresting people for minor marijuana offenses that can irreparably harm those who are charged. He said, “We, as law-enforcement professionals, we need to really take a look at how we can decriminalize marijuana, especially user amounts. We are locking people up for a dime bag, for a joint. They’re put in the criminal-justice system which pretty much ruins the rest of their lives.” Dixon went on to discuss how he believes that medical professionals should be in charge of dealing with drug use and addiction, commenting, “Why do I have to lock you up for that? What benefit am I giving you, then? We have to get out of the business. That should be the focus of the medical field.”
The ACLU and others have noted that marijuana laws are disproportionately enforced against minorities across the country, despite similar use rates across racial demographics.
Dixon is far from the only law enforcement officer expressing his displeasure with prohibition. Major Neil Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), attended the seminar on Tuesday and insisted that law enforcement officers push to decriminalize marijuana by giving voice to the problems marijuana laws pose as seen by those who deal with them in the field every day.
Six National Drug Policy Organizations Call on President Obama to End Unnecessary Assault on Medical Marijuana Providers
In the wake of recent attacks on medical marijuana providers and patients by multiple branches of the federal government, including Monday's raids on Oaksterdam University in Oakland, CA, a coalition of six national drug policy reform organizations is appealing to President Obama and his administration to follow its own previously stated policies respecting state medical marijuana laws. In the letter, posted in full below, the organizations call on the Obama administration to bring an end to the federal government’s ongoing campaign to undermine state efforts to regulate safe and legal access to medical marijuana for those patients who rely on it.
The Obama Administration’s National Drug Control Strategy Report 2012, reportedly being released in the coming days, is expected to cling to failed and outdated marijuana policies which further cement the control of the marijuana trade in the hands of drug cartels and illegal operators, endangering both patients in medical marijuana states and citizens everywhere. The members of this coalition stand together with members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, current and former Latin American leaders whose countries are being ravaged by drug cartels, state officials from five medical marijuana states, and tens of millions of Americans in their call for a more rational approach to marijuana policy.
THE LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA:
April 4, 2012
President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington D.C. 20500
Via Fax: 2024562461
Dear Mr. President:
Our coalition represents the views of tens of millions of Americans who believe the war on medical marijuana patients and providers you are fighting is misguided and counterproductive. As your administration prepares to release its annual National Drug Control Strategy, we want to speak with one voice and convey our deep sense of anger and disappointment in your lack of leadership on this issue.
Voters and elected officials in sixteen states and the District of Columbia have determined that the medical use of marijuana should be legal. In many of these states, the laws also include means for providing medical marijuana patients safe access to this medicine. These laws allowing for the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana actually shift control of marijuana sales from the criminal underground to state-licensed, taxed, and regulated producers and distributors.
Instead of celebrating – or even tolerating – this state experimentation, which has benefited patients and taken profits away from drug cartels, you have turned your back as career law enforcement officials have run roughshod over some of the most professional and well-regulated medical marijuana providers. We simply cannot understand why you have reneged on your administration’s earlier policy of respecting state medical marijuana laws.
Our frustration and confusion over your administration’s uncalled-for attacks on state-authorized medical marijuana providers was best summed up by John McCowen, the chair of the Mendocino County (CA) board of supervisors, who said, “It's almost as if there was a conscious effort to drive [medical marijuana cultivation and distribution] back underground. My opinion is that's going to further endanger public safety and the environment – the federal government doesn't seem to care about that.”
The National Drug Control Strategy you are about to release will no doubt call for a continuation of policies that have as a primary goal the ongoing and permanent control of the marijuana trade by drug cartels and organized crime. We cannot and do not endorse the continued embrace of this utterly failed policy. We stand instead with Latin American leaders, members of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, and the vast majority of people who voted you into office in recognizing that it is time for a new approach on marijuana policy.
With approximately 50,000 people dead in Mexico over the past five years as the result of drug war-related violence, we hope that you will immediately reconsider your drug control strategy and will work with, not against, states and organizations that are attempting to shift control of marijuana cultivation and sales, at least as it applies to medical marijuana, to a controlled and regulated market.
Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP)
Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)
National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA)
National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)
cc: Eric Holder, Attorney General, Department of Justice
James Cole, Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice
Gil Kerlikowske, Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy
This should come as no surprise by now, but President Obama has once again failed to address questions about the need for marijuana policy reform in a public forum. Once again, this issue was among the most popular, but it seems that after laughter, disagreement, and capitulation, the president’s responses are wearing thin, and the question will no longer be asked or answered.
Last week, the White House asked for people to submit questions to be asked during a Google+ Hangout with the president. As usual, marijuana questions dominated the site. Unfortunately for the majority of Americans who support making marijuana legal, the popularity of this issue no longer matters.
Then MPP’s question suffered the same fate.
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition spokesperson Stephen Downing submitted a video question that quickly became the second most popular on the site. During the forum, however, the folks at Google decided that the president had already answered their question in previous forums and opted to ignore the people and ask inane questions about midnight snacks and tennis instead.
The White House, of course, had nothing to do with the exclusion of a marijuana reform question (or so they say).
The time has come to demand real answers to these pressing questions, not jokes or simple platitudes. Marijuana prohibition is a failed policy that causes far more harm than good, and alternatives must be seriously discussed in open forums before this juggernaut can do any more damage.
It is time for the president to take this issue seriously.
President Obama held another public forum yesterday on Youtube, and once again the questions were dominated by concerns about our nation's drug policies. Many in the reform movement were worried that we would be ignored or laughed off again. Well, the President did respond:
We at MPP are pleased that President Obama is at least taking the issue of drug policy reform seriously. But his response is not much better than what President Bush might have said. Yes, we need to improve access to drug treatment and we need to focus on other options in the criminal justice system for first-time, non-violent offenders. But we need to have a far more serious discussion about the potential benefits of creating a legal, regulated market for marijuana.
It is time to end marijuana prohibition and it is inappropriate for the president to group that subject into an across-the-board opposition to "legalizing drugs."
Check out this great video from LEAP, in which executive director Neill Franklin explains how prohibition has destroyed the relationship between law enforcement officers and the communities they police. "When I talk to young people, they say the only reason you come into our neighborhood is to search us for drugs," says Franklin, a 33-year law enforcement veteran. "I want us -- cops -- to be the ones that kids can come up to in the streets when they have an issue or a problem. Not run in the other direction."
The National Black Police Association yesterday became the latest group to endorse California’s Proposition 19, the November ballot measure that would make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older. From the Los Angeles Times:
The National Black Police Assn., which has about 15,000 members, is the second African American organization to back the measure. The California NAACP has also endorsed it, citing the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of African Americans caught with marijuana.
Ron Hampton, the police association’s executive director, said he decided the group should get behind the measure because it would eliminate laws that have a negative impact on the black community.
“It means that we will be locking up less African American men and women and children who are using drugs,” said Hampton, a retired Washington, D.C., police officer with 25 years experience. “We’ve got more people in prison. We’ve got more young people in prison. Blacks go to jail more than whites for doing the same thing.”
Hampton said that the money being spent on the war on drugs could be better spent on education, housing and creating jobs. “It just seemed like to me that we have been distracted in this whole thing,” he said. “We can take that money, and focus and concentrate on things that really make a difference in our community.”
For more, watch LEAP executive director Neill Franklin discuss the endorsement on MSNBC:
Today, a coalition of organizations supportive of medical marijuana patients and providers -- including MPP, Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), NORML, California NORML, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), and Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) -- is calling on President Obama to withdraw his nomination of Michele Leonhart to serve as administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The following is a from press release just sent out on behalf of the coalition:
Ms. Leonhart, who is currently the DEA’s acting-administrator, has not demonstrated that she is capable of leading the agency in a thoughtful manner at a time when 14 states have enacted medical marijuana laws and science is increasingly confirming the therapeutic benefits of the substance.
Under Leonhart's leadership, the DEA has staged medical marijuana raids in apparent disregard of Attorney General Eric Holder's directive to respect state medical marijuana laws. Most recently, DEA agents flouted a pioneering Mendocino County (CA) ordinance to regulate medical marijuana cultivation by raiding the very first grower to register with the sheriff. Joy Greenfield, 69, had paid more than $1,000 for a permit to cultivate 99 plants in a collective garden that had been inspected and approved by the local sheriff.
Informed that Ms. Greenfield had the support of the sheriff, the DEA agent in charge responded by saying, “I don’t care what the sheriff says.” The DEA's conduct is inconsistent with an October 2009 Department of Justice memo directing officials not to arrest individuals “whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”
Ms. Leonhart has also demonstrated that she is unable to be objective in carrying out the duties of the administrator as it relates to medical marijuana research. In January 2009, she refused to issue a license to the University of Massachusetts to cultivate marijuana for FDA-approved research, despite a DEA administrative law judge’s ruling that it would be “in the public interest” to issue the license. This single act has blocked privately funded medical marijuana research in this country. The next DEA administrator will likely influence the outcome of a marijuana-rescheduling petition currently before the agency. It is critical that an administrator with an open mind toward science and research is at the helm.
“With Leonhart’s nomination pending, one would expect her to be more — not less — respectful of the Department of Justice and the rights of individuals in medical marijuana states,” said Steve Fox, director of government relations at the Marijuana Policy Project. “Such behavior is an ominous sign for the future of the DEA under her leadership. Moreover, she has continually demonstrated her desire to block privately funded medical marijuana research in this country. The Obama administration has reversed many Bush administration policies over the past 18 months. It is time to transform the culture at the DEA by either withdrawing Leonhart’s nomination or directing her to change her attitude toward medical marijuana.”