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
If Brooklyn’s new district attorney has his way, marijuana will effectively be decriminalized in the borough. In his inaugural address on Sunday, Ken Thompson vowed to end the prosecution of low-level marijuana arrests.
“I not only want to keep Brooklyn safe, I want to protect the future of our youth,” Thompson, who is the borough’s first black district attorney, said. “That means we must change the policy regarding those who are arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana.”
“In 2012, over 12,000 people in Brooklyn were arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana, mostly young, black men,” he said, referring to a 2013 report that found that in Brooklyn, black people are nine times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Possession of small amounts of marijuana in New York is only a crime if it’s in public view. New York City averaged fewer than 2,000 marijuana arrests a year up until 1993. But under Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg, police would stop and frisk people on the street, bringing marijuana into “public view” and arresting them. By 2011, there were over 50,000 such arrests citywide, more than all the marijuana arrests from 1978 to 1996 combined.
“Every year, thousands of these cases are clogging our criminal justice system and require that we devote substantial resources in time and in money that we could use to put toward other initiatives to keep us safe,” Thompson said. “And so if these defendants are given criminal records instead of violations, it would make it harder for them in the future to live productive lives. We in Brooklyn can, and must, do better.”
During his run for district attorney, Thompson pledged not to prosecute people arrested for under 15 grams of pot, issuing a $100 fine instead. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is on board with Thompson’s plan.
“He can’t pass legislation to legalize marijuana but he can decide who will be prosecuted for it, and I think it’s an excellent way to use his office,” Adams said.
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Bob Carr, Australia’s foreign minister, whose brother died after a heroin overdose, has urged the decriminalisation of low-level drug use, after a report concluded the war on the scourge was lost.
"A bit of modest decriminalisation, de facto decriminalisation at the edges, simply freeing up police to be doing the things they ought to be doing, would be a sensible way of going about it," Mr Carr told the Seven Network.
He added to fellow broadcaster ABC that by doing so “we wouldn’t have armies of police patrolling outside nightclubs and pubs hoping to snatch someone who’s got an ecstasy tablet in his or her pocket or purse”.
"And we wouldn’t be having police chasing individual users of marijuana."
During his time as premier of New South Wales, Mr Carr effectively eliminated criminal penalties for individual marijuana use in the state and opened Australia’s first legal heroin injecting room.
His stance followed the report by think tank Australia21 released on Tuesday that said the war on drugs had failed and Australia should consider legalising some substances such as cannabis.
The report was compiled by a high-profile group of Australians, including former state premiers, health ministers, a former police commissioner and a director of public prosecutions.
It called for a fundamental rethink of current policies to tackle the drug trade that it said had driven the scourge underground and allowed organised crime to flourish.
from the report titled “the prohibition of illicit drugs is killing and criminalising our children and we are all letting it happen”:
International drug prohibition has, until now, been maintained through international treaties and conventions, spear-headed by a US “War on drugs”. The recognition that this war has been comprehensively lost is leading to an international rethink about prohibition and about these treaties and conventions.
Peter Hitchens is a Mail on Sunday columnist and author, and Julian Assange is the founder of Wikileaks.
Peter Hitchens: Taking drugs is itself wrong, and that is why they are illegal. One of the reasons we don’t address this is because of the extreme selfishness of our society in which so many people imagine that their own pleasure trumps everything else. Julian Assange said that he was sovereign over his own body. Well, maybe he doesn’t have anybody who cares about him. But if your family has to put up with you after you have destroyed your mental health or in some other way deeply damaged yourself by taking drugs, then you and they will discover that you are not an island and that you have responsibilities to other people. If there is no other force apart from the law which will deter you from taking that semi-suicidal step, then the law needs to be there.
Moderator: Julian Assange, what do you make of Peter Hitchens’ statement?
Julian Assange: Well, I was just about to say, I couldn’t believe that you gave that twat the last word.
There’s a certain form of Calvinism about the different types of drugs that we see. For example, nicotine [and coffee], which make one work harder and work faster and burn out faster, are perfectly legal. But those drugs which make one relax or make one more imaginative, those drugs are made illegal. And that’s Western European Calvinism. Of course, we can all see the problems with severe heroin addiction, [and that] the solutions so far have not worked. So we need a time of sensible, scientific, regulatory experimentation to see what works and what doesn’t work.
Watch the debate here
Moderator: You heard from Sandeep Chawla (Deputy Director, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) that drug use would go up as a result of an end to the war on drugs. Can you [respond]?
Russell Brand: I suppose it’s kind of obvious that if something is more freely available, more people would do it. If we all lived in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, perhaps we would eat more chocolate. But what I’m saying is, the situation they’re describing is the one that currently exists. There is already prohibition against drugs, and it candidly, palpably, obviously isn’t working. And also, there’s no problem with people taking drugs if they’re not drug addicts. If people don’t have a drug problem, let them take drugs. The problem is some people have defective personalities, like me, that if they take drugs, it’s problematic…If we fundamentally categorize those people as criminals, that’s the wrong way of addressing it…We need to approach people altruistically and lovingly, not treat them as criminals. Because the inevitable social and criminal problems that come from drug use are a result of their criminalization. That’s the problem.
Watch the debate here
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On a cable-news show seen by millions, a white-haired host declared that although the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, it detains a quarter of the world’s prisoners. “I just think it’s shocking to see how many of these young people wind up in prison,” he said. “And then they get turned into hard-core criminals because they have possession of a small amount of a controlled substance. The whole thing is crazy.”
It’s a sensible position. Strikingly, it came from the host of the Christian Broadcasting Network’s “700 Club” — right-wing icon Pat Robertson. He went on to say that mere possession of pot should be decriminalized.
“If people can go into a liquor store and buy a bottle of alcohol and drink at home legally, then why do we say that the use of this other substance is somehow criminal?” Robertson asked a New York Times reporter recently. He went on to say that imprisoning people made it more it more difficult to reach their hearts with a Christian message.
Robertson’s previous drug warrior mentality is drastically different from his current position on marijuana policy. From Christianity Today:
While this is not the first time Robertson has taken this stance, he ran for president as a hard-liner on drug enforcement. After losing his bid to be the Republican presidential candidate in 1988, Robertson said at the Republican National Convention that the U.S. should be “a city set on a hill … where the plague of drugs is no more and those who would destroy and debase our children with illegal drugs are given life sentences in prison with no chance for parole.”
March 3, 2012—Vice President Joe Biden heads to Latin America Sunday amid unprecedented pressure from political and business leaders to talk about something U.S. officials have no interest in debating: decriminalizing drugs.
[…] Dan Restrepo, the top Latin America official in the White House, said the vice president does expect a “robust conversation” about the security problems Latin American countries face as drug traffickers battle to control the lucrative U.S. sales. But he said Latin American leaders shouldn’t expect a shift in policy.
"The Obama administration has been quite clear in our opposition to decriminalization or legalization of illicit drugs," said Restrepo.
Meanwhile, the legalization debate is gaining ground in Latin America:
Two weeks ago, Guatemala’s president Otto Perez Molina, a right wing conservative and former army general, stunned observers when he declared the U.S. inability to cut illegal drug consumption leaves his country with no option but to consider legalizing the use and transport of drugs. He vowed to galvanize regional support.
Since then, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and El Salvador’s President Mauricio Funes have said they’re open to the discussion, while Panama’s leaders say they do not agree with decriminalizing drugs.
For decades Latin Americans leaders and the U.S. have cooperated on a war on drugs, with more than a trillion dollars spent by the U.S. to support enforcement and eradication in Latin America, as well as promises to reduce cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine use in the U.S. that generates an estimated $25 billion in profits each year.
But during that time, demand for drugs has increased, fueling violent competition between dealers.
In 2009, former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia blasted the war on drugs and said it was time to consider the decriminalization of marijuana. Last summer they were joined by more than a dozen high level international leaders including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former U.S. officials George P. Shultz and Paul Volcker, again slamming the war on drugs as a failure and calling on governments to undertake experiments to decriminalize the use of drugs, especially marijuana, to undermine the power of organized crime. +
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EVENTS @ University of New Hampshire
A growing number of American prisons are now contracted out as for-profit businesses to for-profit companies. The companies are paid by the state, and their profit depends on spending as little as possible on the prisoners and the prisons. It’s hard to imagine any greater disconnect between public good and private profit: the interest of private prisons lies not in the obvious social good of having the minimum necessary number of inmates but in having as many as possible, housed as cheaply as possible. No more chilling document exists in recent American life than the 2005 annual report of the biggest of these firms, the Corrections Corporation of America. Here the company (which spends millions lobbying legislators) is obliged to caution its investors about the risk that somehow, somewhere, someone might turn off the spigot of convicted men:
Our growth is generally dependent upon our ability to obtain new contracts to develop and manage new correctional and detention facilities… . The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by our criminal laws. For instance, any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration could affect the number of persons arrested, convicted, and sentenced, thereby potentially reducing demand for correctional facilities to house them.
— Adam Gopnik - The Caging of America | The New Yorker
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The Conservative MP Priti Patel told the Daily Mail: “These people are not just dealing drugs – they are destroying people’s lives.” Patel should have a word with some of her colleagues. Louise Mensch admits that it is “highly probable” she took drugs in the 1990s, and she’s done all right. Or perhaps it is the tragic case of Barack Obama that Patel has in mind? As a teenager, he made the fatal error of experimenting with marijuana, which led on to cocaine and then – with sad inevitability – to a legal career, and the presidency of his nation.
To be fair to Patel, if you don’t take this “destroying lives” line, you’ll be forever labelled “soft on drugs” (as even the sentencing council are in the Mail). “Drugs are illegal because they are harmful – they destroy lives and cause untold misery,” said a Home Office statement in response to demands for decriminalisation from a group including three chief constables and a former drugs minister last year.
Poor Ed Miliband could only agree, using another favourite formulation. “I worry about the effects on young people,” he said, “the message that we would be sending out.” When a politician says their policy is based on “sending out a message” you can be sure that what they really mean is that it’s wrong, but politically necessary.
Which, of course, has always been the problem with drugs. There are risks associated with their use; but there are very serious risks associated with alcohol, serving in the army or eating badly that we accept. And when the former government adviser Professor David Nutt, pointed out – accurately, in a scientific paper – that alcohol and tobacco were in many ways more harmful than LSD or ecstasy, he was sacked by Alan Johnson because his comments might “damage efforts to give the public clear messages about the dangers of drugs”.
As a country, we look back in horror now at the delusions of other eras – when it was illegal to be gay, for instance, or when women could not vote. Yet we do not stop and see that we are living through another one. Decriminalisation would end the violent illegal drug trade; drug treatment and prescription for addicts would prevent them from committing crime. Both measures would make gigantic savings on the cost of policing and imprisoning offenders, and on clearing up the consequences of their actions. They would also end the outrage of people being locked up for the crime of seeking mostly harmless fun. It’s our laws that are destroying lives. +
Drug arrests in San Francisco have declined dramatically over the past two years without causing a spike in violent crime, calling into question the link traditionally made by law enforcement between drug law enforcement and reducing violent crime.
[…] "This has been somewhat of a de facto decriminalization of drugs — in other words, they’re not being prosecuted," San Francisco Sheriff Michael Hennessey told the Examiner. "And it does not appear that violent crime in San Francisco has risen, so it may say something about the necessity for the war on drugs." +
Proposed changes to Ecuador’s penal code would decriminalise possession of drugs for personal use, including up to 10 grams of marijuana and hashish, four grams of opium, five grams of cocaine, and 100 milligrams of heroin.
Ecuador’s National Assembly is scheduled to begin debate on the reforms within 90 days, reports La Hora newspaper. The proposed legislation distinguishes between types of drug trafficking offenses and defines penalties accordingly. Individuals who participate in large-scale drug trafficking and production, which is defined as 1000 times the quantity permitted for personal use, will be more harshly penalised than those participating in domestic production and distribution. +