by the Prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the
government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be
enforced. - Albert Einstein
beliebers, welcome to the good fight
April 9, 2013 — Today, a coalition of over 175 artists, actors, athletes, elected officials and advocates, [including Russell Simmons, Sir Richard Branson, Will Smith, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Scarlett Johansson, Ron Howard, Jennifer Hudson, Demi Moore, Eva Longoria, Michael Moore, Mark Wahlberg, Harry Belafonte, Jada Pinkett Smith, Cameron Diaz, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Chris Rock, Russell Brand, John Legend, DJ Pauly D, Mike Tyson, Rick Ross, Jon Hamm, Natalie Maines, Ludacris to name a few] brought together by hip-hop pioneer Russell Simmons and Dr. Boyce Watkins, presented an open letter to President Obama, urging him to double down on his efforts to change the United States’ criminal justice policy from that of a punitive, suppression-based model to one that favors evidence-based prevention and rehabilitation. According to Department of Justice data, the U.S. leads the world in the incarceration of its own citizens, both on a per capita basis and in terms of total prison population. More than 500,000 of the 2.3 million people behind bars in the U.S. are incarcerated for nothing more than a nonviolent drug offense.
“It is critical that we change both the way we think about drug laws in this country and how we generate positive solutions that leave a lasting impact on rebuilding our communities,” said Russell Simmons. “We need to break the school to prison pipeline, support and educate our younger generations and provide them with a path that doesn’t leave them disenfranchised with limited options.”
The coalition [of concerned activists, humanitarians and celebrities] suggests that the President continue to take a number of reformative actions, including extending the Fair Sentencing Act to all inmates who were sentenced under the 100-to-1 crack/powder disparity, supporting the principles of the Justice Safety Valve Act of 2013 (which allows judges to set aside mandatory minimum sentences when they deem appropriate), and supporting the Youth PROMISE Act.
Dr. Boyce Watkins added: “The letter is intended to be a respectful appeal to the Obama Administration asking that we develop productive pathways to supporting families that have been harmed by the War on Drugs. Countless numbers of children have been waiting decades for their parents to come home, and America is made safer if we break the cycle of mass incarceration. Time is of the essence, for with each passing year that we allow injustice to prevail, our nation loses another piece of its soul. We must carefully examine the impact of the War on Drugs and the millions of living, breathing Americans who’ve been affected. It is, quite simply, the right thing to do.”
SAN FRANCISCO, CA / JUNE 17, 2011 - the 40th anniversary of President Richard Nixon’s declaration of the “War on Drugs”
Several hundred people gathered at City Hall for a press conference and to demand that Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and the state legislature prioritize vital social services over spending on prisons. Then, accompanied by drummers from the Brass Liberation Orchestra, they marched through the city center to state office buildings before returning to City Hall. (via Rallies, Vigils Mark 40 Years of Failed Drug War)
Assembly member Hakeem Jeffries, and City Council members including Melissa Mark-Viverito, Robert Jackson, Letitia James, Brad Lander, Ydanis Rodriguez, and Jumanne Williams all appeared at City Hall today to speak on behalf of the resolution; they argue that the city wastes $75 million annually on these marijuana arrests, while essential social services are being cut or eliminated. They allege that the racial disparities in the arrests have unfairly led to the arrests of tens of thousands of Black and Latino young men.
Most of all, the group wants police to simply follow the intent of the existing NY Marijuana Decriminalization Law of 1977, which states that possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana is decriminalized; unless it’s burning or in public view, it’s a violation worth a $100 fine, not an arrestable offense. However, they charge that the NYPD has routinely illegally searched or tricked people into showing them marijuana in their pockets so they can arrest them for public possession.
[…] The NYPD arrested 50,383 people for low-level marijuana offenses last year, and according to a Drug Policy Alliance report, “86 percent of those arrested are Black or Latino, even though research consistently shows that young whites use marijuana at higher rates.” +
This is an interesting excerpt from the Salon interview with DPA executive director, Ethan Nadelmann, comparing U.S. drug policy under Bush and Obama:
Salon: Stepping back from medical marijuana, has there been much of a shift from the Bush to Obama administrations with “drug war” policy more broadly?
Ethan Nadelmann: I was pleasantly surprised by the first 18 months of the administration. Obama made three explicit promises during the campaign. He said the feds would not go after medical marijuana facilities operating legally under state law, and he appeared to make good on that. He said the crack-powder laws needed to be rolled back, and they got a major reform of that law last year. Third, he said he would support federal funding for needle exchange, and they did support the efforts in Congress on that. Since that time, it looks more and more like the drug czar’s office has been captured by the drug warriors and the anti-drug fanatics who dominated policy-making in the Clinton and Bush administrations. The rhetoric coming out of the drug czar’s office is almost indistinguishable from the rhetoric of past administrations. The personnel they’ve been hiring, and the people they talk to, are overwhelmingly those who have been associated with the failed drug war policies of the past. And meanwhile the Justice Department seems to be getting more and more engaged in enforcement of marijuana laws in ways that really make no sense as a matter of [the] responsible [use] of resources.
Salon interview with DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann
Read the entire interview to learn more about medical marijuana’s current status in the U.S.
Today, the U.S. Sentencing Commission voted to provide retroactive application of the Fair Sentencing Act, which Congress passed last year and narrowed a decades-old disparity in federal sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine. The Commission’s decision to apply the sentencing guideline changes retroactively could benefit as many as 12,000 people in federal prison who could be released early, saving taxpayers as much as $240 million over the next 30 years. The Commission’s commitment to reforming this egregious practice is consistent with its history. +
Drug Policy Alliance’s Ethan Nadelmann on Freedom Watch
“We’ve put millions of people behind bars; we’ve given tens of millions of people criminal records; we’ve generated levels of crime, violence, and corruption in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, around the world that make alcohol prohibition look like child’s play in comparison.”
The Drug Policy Alliance delivered this one trillion dollar bill to every member of congress on June 17, the 40th anniversary of the war on drugs.
Thanks for the tip, Amanda!
The Future of Legalization
“I’m more optimistic now than I’ve ever been.”
Video: CNN Debate - Is the Drug War a Failure?
Ethan Nadelmann: Ethan Nadelmann is the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, the leading organization in the United States promoting alternatives to the war on drugs. #ImportantPeople