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
According to the U.S. government, marijuana has a “high potential for abuse” and “no currently accepted medical abuse.” This is the definition of the category (Schedule I) it’s been placed in under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act (CSA) — along with heroin, LSD and ecstasy. According to the category’s definition, marijuana is one of the “most dangerous drugs” with “potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”
While marijuana surely can be abused (what can’t?), this is highly debatable, to say the least, that marijuana meets any of those criteria. Its potential for abuse seems lower than that of many pharmaceuticals, not to mention alcohol and tobacco, which the CSA specifically excludes from its schedules.
In an interview that aired last week, President Obama was asked if he was open to reconsidering marijuana’s status as a Schedule I drug, in light of his recent observation that marijuana is safer than alcohol. Obama incorrectly claimed that moving marijuana to a less restrictive legal category would require an act of Congress.
In terms of abuse potential, marijuana could be placed in a lower schedule. “When you look at the Schedule IV drugs, you’ve got the opiate Tramadol, the stimulant Modafinil, lethal sedatives like phenobarbital and chloral hydrate, and the ‘date rape’ drug rohypnol. Surely cannabis is safer than these,” argues SUNY at Albany psychologist Mitch Earleywine, author of Understanding Marijuana.
But Harvard psychiatrist and cannabis expert Lester Grinspoon believes “none of the schedules is truly appropriate for marijuana.” But if he had to choose, he’d place marijuana in Schedule V, a category that includes codeine and opium preparations and is for prescription drugs with the lowest abuse potential.
In 1988, Administrative Law Judge Francis Young urged the DEA to reschedule marijuana, calling it “one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man.”
Though the advantages of reclassifying marijuana wouldn’t be as substantial as one might think, given the complicated nature of this issue, it would facilitate a more honest discussion of marijuana’s hazards and benefits.
Prohibitionists typically deny the very possibility of responsible or voluntary use of currently illegal substances. They argue that drugs such as coke, heroin, ecstasy, methamphetamine and even marijuana are verboten precisely because they simply can’t be used casually. Any use either already constitutes abuse or quickly leads to it. “Drugs are not dangerous because they are illegal,” former drug czar William Bennett and former Health, Education and Welfare Secretary Joseph Califano wrote in a 2011 Wall Street Journal op-ed, “they are illegal because they are dangerous.”
Nearly 50% of people have tried an illegal drug at least once, yet most don’t repeat the experience. With cocaine, most who have tried it not only don’t go on to became addicts under even the most expansive possible definition of the term, they don’t even go on to become regular users.
[…] It’s also true that regular drug users can often function quite well. Sigmund Freud used cocaine habitually for years, and his first major scientific publication was about the wonders of the drug (he eventually forsook it). Another pioneering late 19th and early 20th century man of medicine, William Halsted, was dependent on cocaine and morphine during an illustrious career that revolutionized and modernized surgical techniques.
[…] In an age in which we are expected to use legal drugs (like beer) and prescription medications (Adderall) responsibly, it’s time to extend that same notion to currently illegal substances whose effects and properties are widely misunderstood. Indeed, the effects of coke, heroin and the rest are a mystery partly because their outlaw status makes it difficult both to research them and have honest discussions about them.
Obama Reduces Sentences of Eight Crack Cocaine Offenders
President Barack Obama reduced the sentences of eight people convicted of crack cocaine offenses on Thursday, using his power of clemency to make a statement about what the administration believes is an overly punitive criminal justice system.
The eight men and women to whom he offered clemency had each already served more than 15 years in prison for drug offenses that did not involve violence. Most will now be released in April, and one, Ezell Gilbert of Florida, who was convicted in 1997 for possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana, will be released immediately.
“If they had been sentenced under the current law, many of them would have already served their time and paid their debt to society,” Obama said in a statement, in reference to the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, a law which significantly narrowed the enormous disparity in sentences for crack and powder cocaine offenses but did not apply retroactively. “Instead, because of a disparity in the law that is now recognized as unjust, they remain in prison, separated from their families and their communities, at a cost of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.”
To date, Obama has used his clemency powers far less than other presidents. Thursday’s announcement marks the first time a president has commuted sentences of a group of inmates who would have received much shorter sentences had they received their punishments under current laws and sentencing policies.
Thanks to The Guardian
"I can’t imagine that [marijuana legalization is] going to happen, no. The deeper issue is, what does it mean to live in a free country? In the US, something like 80 percent of people in prison are there for ‘consensual crimes.’
I tend to not like politicians, because it’s a subtle form of prostitution. Or maybe not so subtle. It’s all synchronized swimming to me. They all kneel and kiss the ring. Who’s going to take on the oil industry or the medical industry?
People compare Obama to Lyndon Johnson, but I think a better comparison is between Obama and Nixon. Because Nixon came into office saying he was going to pull out of Vietnam, and then he escalated the war. A lot of us were led to believe that Obama was the peace president, but there are still, I think, 70,000 troops in Afghanistan.
I’m an anarchist, I guess you could say. I think people could be just fine looking after themselves.”
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.”
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday that President Obama and former President George W. Bush “got lucky” by not being arrested for smoking marijuana as young adults:
“Look what would have happened. It would have ruined their lives. They got lucky. But a lot of poor kids, particularly in the inner city, don’t get lucky. They don’t have good attorneys. They go to jail for these things. And I think it’s a big mistake.”
Earlier this week Paul introduced a bill with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would relax the mandatory minimum sentences handed out to marijuana offenders who do not pose a violent threat to the public. The bill has gained the support of some influential conservatives, including anti-tax activist Grover Norquist.
Jon Stewart Slams Obama Executive Privilege, Fast and Furious, and Eric Holder
The family of slain U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, who was killed with guns tied to the Fast and Furious program, issued a statement Wednesday afternoon accusing President Obama of compounding their family tragedy by invoking executive privilege.
"Attorney General Eric Holder’s refusal to fully disclose the documents associated with Operation Fast and Furious and President Obama’s assertion of executive privilege serves to compound this tragedy. It denies the Terry family and the American people the truth. Our son, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, was killed by members of a Mexican drug cartel armed with weapons from this failed Justice Department gun trafficking investigation. For more than 18 months we have been asking our federal government for justice and accountability. The documents sought by the House Oversight Committee and associated with Operation Fast and Furious should be produced and turned over to the committee. Our son lost his life protecting this nation, and it is very disappointing that we are now faced with an administration that seems more concerned with protecting themselves rather than revealing the truth behind Operation Fast and Furious."
President Obama invoked executive privilege to shield the Justice Department from having to release documents sought by House Republican investigating the secret law enforcement program, wherein weapons smugglers were permitted to buy guns so law enforcement could trace them to drug cartels. Law enforcement lost track of hundreds of the guns, which began showing up at crime scenes, most tragically in December 2010, where Terry was killed.
Washington Post editor David Maraniss‘ forthcoming book Barack Obama: The Story at points describes the president’s marijuana hijinks during his high-school and Occidental College days. Book excerpts posted online reveal that young Barack Obama frequently smoked marijuana, and he and his “choom gang” developed clever strategies for how to better maximize the impact of the “sticky-green.”
On its own, stories like these about a young adult are actually kind of funny, even humanizing — like something straight out of a stoner comedy. But when you realize it’s about President Obama, it becomes a little less humorous.
Less humorous because President Obama has repeatedly laughed off and dismissed serious discussion about drug policy, like in that 2009 virtual town hall where the president mocked online voters for picking a question about marijuana legalization.
Less humorous because the president shuts down medical marijuana dispensaries with a frequency that would have made Richard Nixon stand up and cheer. He presides over a DOJ, IRS, and DEA that have threatened, audited, and shut down legal pot sellers in California, Colorado, Montana, and Washington. All this despite once promising to respect state laws regarding medical marijuana.
Penn Jillette uncorked one hell of a righteous rant about our pot-smoking president and his life-destroying Drug War hypocrisy
Despite growing resistance to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, CISPA has cleared its first legislative hurdle. But the battle over the widely-criticized information-sharing bill is just heating up.
In an earlier-than-expected vote Thursday evening, the House of Representatives voted 248 to 168 in favor of the bill, which was originally designed to allow more sharing of cybersecurity threat information with government agencies.
The legislation has drawn the ire of legislators, civil liberties groups, security practitioners and professors, and hundreds of thousands of petitioners, who say the bill tramples over users’ privacy rights as it allows Web firms like Google and Facebook to give private users’ information to government agencies irrespective of other laws that protect users’ privacy. “It’s basically a privacy nightmare,” says Trevor Timm, a lawyer and activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “CISPA would allow companies to hand over private data to the government without a warrant, without anonymity, with no judicial review.”
But even before it passed, the House voted to amend the bill to actually allow even more types of private sector information to be shared with government agencies, not merely in matters of cybersecurity or national security, but in the investigation of vaguely defined cybersecurity “crimes,” “protection of individuals from the danger of death or serious bodily harm,” and cases that involve the protection of minors from exploitation.
That statute, which in effect widened the most controversial portion of the bill just hours before it came to a vote, is sure to draw even more heat as the bill works its way through the legislative branch and reaches President Obama’s desk. The president currently backs a bill in the Senate put forward by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins, designed to increase the cybersecurity regulatory powers of the Department of Homeland security, which has been opposed by the GOP and stalled in the legislature.
The White House came out Wednesday with a strongly-worded statement slamming CISPA and pushing its regulatory approach in a threat to veto CISPA, writing that “cybersecurity and privacy are not mutually exclusive” and calling CISPA an intelligence bill rather than a security bill that treats civilians as subjects of surveillance. (White House watchers have observed, however, that the president’s advisors similarly recommended that he veto the National Defense Authorization Act, which he instead signed into law.)
Regardless, reconciling the House bill in its new, even more controversial form with a Senate version, even as the White House opposes the central thrust of the legislation, will only rekindle the controversy that has grown around CISPA in the last week.
The EFF’s Timm says he sees the House’s early vote on CISPA as an attempt by its author, representative Mike Rogers, to squeeze the bill through before its opposition grew any stronger. “We’ve seen an explosion of a variety of groups and congressmen coming out against the bill,” he says. “As the Senate debates this, it’s good that privacy and civil liberties will be front and center.”
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