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
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) tore into deputy drug czar Michael Botticelli on Tuesday, highlighting federal drug policy’s failure to address the substances “ravaging our country” while still considering marijuana to be as dangerous as heroin.
Speaking during a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform focused on the Obama administration’s marijuana policy, Cohen urged drug policy officials to rethink marijuana’s classification as a Schedule 1 substance, which the Drug Enforcement Administration considers “the most dangerous class of drugs.” Other Schedule 1 substances include heroin, LSD and ecstasy, while methamphetamine and cocaine fall under the Schedule II definition.
"It is ludicrous, absurd, crazy to have marijuana in the same level as heroin," Cohen said. "Ask the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, if you could. Nobody dies from marijuana. People die from heroin."
Hoffman, the Academy Award-winning actor, died Sunday after an apparent heroin overdose. Police officials said he was found with a syringe still in his arm.
"Every second that we spend in this country trying to enforce marijuana laws is a second that we’re not enforcing heroin laws. And heroin and meth are the two drugs that are ravaging our country," Cohen continued. "And every death, including Mr. Hoffman’s, is partly the responsibility of the federal government’s drug priorities for not putting total emphasis on the drugs that kill, that cause people to be addicted and have to steal to support their habit."
Cohen warned that by not acknowledging that marijuana is less dangerous than heroin and other substances, as DEA Chief Michele Leonhart has refused to do, the administration is undermining its own efforts to prevent drug abuse.
Colombian soldiers disembark during an operation to eradicate coca fields and cocaine processing labs run by FARC rebels in southwestern Colombia [AFP/Mauricio Dueñas]
Colombia’s largest left-wing rebel group, FARC, has presented a plan to regulate drug production amid peace talks with the government. Along with Peru and Bolivia, Colombia has become one of the world’s top producers of coca, the raw material for making cocaine. FARC, which finances itself in part through drug trafficking, proposed a program to “regulate the production of coca, poppies, and marijuana,” adding that the “medicinal, therapeutic and cultural" uses of the substances should be considered.
The Colombian government has spent millions of dollars trying to eradicate crops, but FARC believes prohibition and eradication are not the way forward. “Instead of fighting the production [of illicit substances] it’s about regulating it and finding alternatives,” said FARC negotiator Pablo Catatumbo.
"The fundamental basis of this plan lies in its voluntary and collaborative nature, and in the political will on the part of the growers to take alternative paths to achieve humane living and working conditions."
FARC is Latin America’s oldest, largest and best-equipped guerrilla movement in the world. Over 9,000 strong, the Marxist group is organized by a military structure and finances itself through kidnapping, extortion, and drug trafficking. In the past year, FARC has agreed to give up the use of violence to reach their political ends in exchange for full participation in democratic politics after 50 years of conflict with the government.
Thanks to BBC
Uruguay Is Likely to Legalize Cannabis and Set the Tone for Latin American Drug Policy
This week, Uruguay’s senate is expected to pass the world’s most far-reaching drug legalization. The marijuana regulation bill, which has been passed by the lower house of the Uruguayan parliament, will allow registered users to buy up to 40 grams a month from a chemist, registered growers to keep up to six plants, and cannabis clubs to have up to 45 members and cultivate as many as 99 plants.
The government is designing a new set of legal, commercial, and bureaucratic tools to supplant a violent illegal market in narcotics, improve public health, protect individual rights, raise tax revenues, and research the medical potential of the world’s most widely used contraband drug.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that there are 162 million cannabis users — 4% of the world’s adult population. An estimated 10% of adult Uruguayans — 115,000 people — smoke cannabis. Existing law permits consumption of “reasonable” amounts of marijuana, but forbids sales.
Uruguay is trying to bring the cannabis market under state control by undercutting and outlawing traffickers. If the bill is passed, the government will arrange for a high-quality, legal product to be sold in a safe environment at competitive prices. “If one gram costs $1 in the black market, then we’ll sell the legal product for $1. If they drop the price to 75 cents, then we’ll put it at that level,” says Julio Calzada, a presidential adviser and the head of the National Committee on Drugs.
The market in Uruguay is estimated to be worth $30 million a year, according to Martin Fernández, a lawyer with the Association of Cannabis Studies. The pharmaceutical industry will have more freedom to develop and test marijuana painkillers and other treatments than any other country. The hemp, biotech, and marijuana farming industries are other examples of marijuana-related business opportunities that Uruguay can anticipate to yield big money if marijuana is legalized, as is expected.
President José Mujica, a reluctant advocate of marijuana regulation, says that legalization in Uruguay is “not about being free and open,” but is rather “a logical step” in taking users away from the black market. “We don’t defend marijuana or any other addiction. But worse than any drug is trafficking.”
Thanks to The Guardian
Drug Conviction Can Lead to Lifetime Ban From Food Stamps and Welfare
Thanks to mid-90s drug paranoia, a felony drug charge could earn you a lifetime ban from federal assistance programs like food stamps and welfare. Back in 1996, President Clinton signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, but few people were aware of an obscure provision that permanently bars anyone with a felony drug charge from receiving aid from Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) and the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). While most states that chose to enforce the bans allow exemptions to people with minor drug charges or those who undertake a drug treatment program, 12 states still enforce a permanent zero-tolerance ban that has had a disproportionate effect on single moms and minorities.
Some might say the bans are fair because they apply only to the individual with the drug charge, and not the entire household. But the truth is that even if just one person in a household is banned, the rest of a family relying on federal assistance must share the burden of making up for this loss. And thanks to realities like single moms making up the majority of single-parent households and minorities disproportionately being arrested for drug crimes, they’re the groups taking the brunt of assistance bans as well.
August 30, 2013—Despite 75 years of federal marijuana prohibition, the Justice Department said Thursday that states can let people use the drug, license people to grow it and even allow adults to stroll into stores and buy it — as long as the weed is kept away from kids, the black market and federal property.
In a sweeping new policy statement prompted by pot legalization votes in Washington and Colorado last fall, the department gave the green light to states to adopt tight regulatory schemes to oversee the medical and recreational marijuana industries burgeoning across the country.
The action, welcomed by supporters of legalization, could set the stage for more states to legalize marijuana. Alaska could vote on the question next year, and a few other states plan similar votes in 2016.
[…] “If state enforcement efforts are not sufficiently robust … the federal government may seek to challenge the regulatory structure itself,” the memo stated. States must ensure “that they do not undermine federal enforcement priorities,” it added.
For at least six years, law enforcement officials working on a counternarcotics program have had routine access, using subpoenas, to an enormous AT&T database that contains the records of decades of Americans’ phone calls — parallel to but covering a far longer time than the National Security Agency’s hotly disputed collection of phone call logs.
The Hemisphere Project, a partnership between federal and local drug officials and AT&T that has not previously been reported, involves an extremely close association between the government and the telecommunications giant.
The government pays AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the country. Those employees sit alongside Drug Enforcement Administration agents and local detectives and supply them with the phone data from as far back as 1987.
[…] The scale and longevity of the data storage appears to be unmatched by other government programs, including the N.S.A.’s gathering of phone call logs under the Patriot Act. The N.S.A. stores the data for nearly all calls in the United States, including phone numbers and time and duration of calls, for five years.
[…] Brian Fallon, a Justice Department spokesman, said in a statement that “subpoenaing drug dealers’ phone records is a bread-and-butter tactic in the course of criminal investigations.”
[…] Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the 27-slide PowerPoint presentation, evidently updated this year to train AT&T employees for the program, “certainly raises profound privacy concerns.”
“I’d speculate that one reason for the secrecy of the program is that it would be very hard to justify it to the public or the courts,” he said.
Mr. Jaffer said that while the database remained in AT&T’s possession, “the integration of government agents into the process means there are serious Fourth Amendment concerns.”
[…] The PowerPoint slides outline several “success stories” highlighting the program’s achievements and showing that it is used in investigating a range of crimes, not just drug violations. The slides emphasize the program’s value in tracing suspects who use replacement phones, sometimes called “burner” phones, who switch phone numbers or who are otherwise difficult to locate or identify.
The United States government took a historic step back from its long-running drug war on Thursday, when Attorney General Eric Holder informed the governors of Washington and Colorado that the Department of Justice would allow the states to create a regime that would regulate and implement the ballot initiatives that legalized the use of marijuana for adults.
However, the Department made clear that marijuana is still federally illegal under the Controlled Substances Act and reserved its right to reverse course and file a preemption lawsuit in the future.
Greek yogurt maker Chobani announced yesterday that it will remove hemp seeds from its Blueberry Power Flip after the Air Force banned its consumption over the weekend because of the hemp seeds’ “potential to skew drug testing.”
[…] According to Air Force code, hemp products contain “varying levels” of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC—the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana—that are “detectable under the Air Force Drug Testing Program.” It continues: “In order to ensure military readiness, the ingestion of products containing or products derived from hemp seed or hemp seed oil is prohibited.”
with marijuana now legal in washington and colorado, will the federal government respect the voters’ decision to live with legal weed? this issue will be addressed in a senate hearing next month.
The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing next month to examine clashing state and federal marijuana laws, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced yesterday.
"It is important, especially at a time of budget constraints, to determine whether it is the best use of federal resources to prosecute the personal or medicinal use of marijuana in states that have made such consumption legal." Leahy wrote in a press release.
The Vermont Democrat, who has been seeking clarification on this issue since December, supports the states’ right to proceed with their new policies. "I believe that these state laws should be respected. At a minimum, there should be guidance about enforcement from the federal government,” he continued in his statement.
Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize recreational marijuana last November.
These state marijuana laws conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act, which places marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance—in the same category as heroin and LSD—defined as having no medical use and high potential for abuse. Federal authorities have continued to raid medical marijuana dispensaries in states where they are legal, but have remained silent on Washington and Colorado.
"There is such a gray area in the law," NORML director Allen St. Pierre told U.S. News. “It’s time somebody had a hearing. The Obama Administration has failed to address this issue at all.”
Leahy called on Attorney General Eric Holder and Deputy Attorney General James Cole to testify at the hearing.
Last December, Leahy wrote to the Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, asking how the administration would proceed in light of differences between federal and state laws. “Legislative options exist to resolve the differences between federal and state law in this area and end the uncertainty that residents of Colorado and Washington now face,” he wrote. “In order to give these options full consideration, the committee needs to understand how the administration intends to respond to the decision of the voters in Colorado and Washington.”
The hearing is scheduled for September 10.
Uruguay is poised to become the first nation to legalize and regulate the production, sale and consumption of weed. This would place Uruguay at the vanguard of liberal drug policies, surpassing even The Netherlands, where recreational drugs are illegal but a policy of tolerance is in place.
The bill, which was passed by Uruguay’s Chamber of Deputies and will be taken up by the Senate, attempts to answer the questions that inevitably arise when debating drug policy: How will marijuana be regulated? Who will grow it? How can the country avoid cannabis tourism?
[…] The same debates about marijuana that exist in the United States — about medicinal properties, recreational use, the impact on the justice system — have been happening in Uruguay for a long time, according to Julio Calzada, secretary-general of the country’s National Committee on Drugs. The decision to push legislation to overhaul its drug policies did not come overnight.
"We have reflected on our problems," Calzada said, and the government felt that Uruguay’s tradition of tolerance and equality merited action on the marijuana issue.
Interestingly, it’s the government that’s pushing to legalize marijuana, not the people. Only 26% approve of the bill, while 63% oppose it, according to a recent poll of more than 1,000 Uruguayans. Calzada says the government “does not overlook public opinion” but believes it’s in the country’s best interest to go forward with the bill.
3. DEA’s Shady Business Revealed
The Internet and Capitol Hill have been abuzz about the recent revelation earlier this month about the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s special intelligence project that has riled privacy advocates. According to a series of Reuters investigative reports, the DEA has been sending information gathered via “intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records” to local law enforcement authorities across the US to help launch criminal investigations of Americans.
The unit responsible for this practice is the DEA’s Special Operations Division, (SOD). Documents reviewed by Reuters detail the SOD’s practices, much of which is classified. Based on their intelligence, the SOD sends a tip to local law enforcement to, for example, look for a certain vehicle at a certain time and location, and to find an excuse to stop the vehicle. After an arrest is made, authorities are instructed to pretend that their investigation began with the traffic stop, not the SOD tip. This process is referred to as “parallel construction,” according to the DEA documents. These law enforcement agents are directed to conceal the SOD’s involvement from investigative reports, affidavits, discussions with prosecutors and courtroom testimony—withholding this information from not just defense lawyers, but prosecutors and judges as well.
These cases rarely involve national security issues, but rather common criminals, primarily drug dealers. Critics say this tactic violates a defendant’s constitutional right to a fair trial and that the SOD has gone too far. “It is one thing to create special rules for national security,” Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011, told Reuters. “It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.” Former federal prosecutor Henry Hockeimer Jr. told Reuters, “These are drug crimes, not national security cases. If you don’t draw the line here, where do you draw it?”
1. US Attorney General Eric Holder Gets “Smart On Crime”
US Attorney General Eric Holder gave a speech at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting last Monday in which he announced a major shift in criminal justice policy aimed at addressing unfairness in the justice system. Although the US has only 5 percent of the world’s population, it has 25 percent of its prisoners. Almost half of federal inmates are serving time on drug charges. “The war on drugs is now 30, 40 years old,” Holder told NPR earlier this month. “There has been a lot of unintended consequences. There’s been a decimation of certain communities, in particular communities of color.”
The Justice Department sent a policy memorandum to all US attorney offices on Monday instructing federal prosecutors to exclude mention of specific quantities of illegal substances in their indictments for low-level, nonviolent drug offenders with no significant criminal history or ties to large-scale gangs or cartels. Additional new policies include increasing use of drug treatment programs as alternatives to incarceration and expanding a “compassionate release” program for inmates facing ”extraordinary circumstances” like old age or poor health who have served a significant part of their sentences and pose no threat to society. “We must face the reality that our system is, in too many ways, broken,” he said in his speech. “And with an outsized, unnecessarily large prison population, we need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, to deter and to rehabilitate—not merely to warehouse and to forget.”
These new approaches, which Holder calls the “Smart On Crime” initiative, aim to ease overcrowding in federal prisons and alleviate the cost to taxpayers. The attorney general cited the success of 17 states that have experimented with programs aimed at reducing recidivism—such as diverting drug offenders into treatment programs and expanding job training—instead of toward prison construction. States like Texas, Arkansas and Kentucky have experimented with ways to incarcerate fewer low-level drug offenders, saving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. “While the federal prison system has continued to slowly expand, significant state-level reductions have led to three consecutive years of decline in America’s overall prison population—including, in 2012, the largest drop ever experienced in a single year,” Holder said. “Clearly, these strategies can work.” (This bold reversal of the government’s tough-on-crime rhetoric was featured on the front pages of the New York Times and Washington Post on the day of Holder’s speech.)
cnn’s dr. sanjay gupta comes around on medical marijuana
We have been terribly and systematically misled for nearly 70 years in the United States, and I apologize for my own role in that.
I was too dismissive of the loud chorus of legitimate patients whose symptoms improved on cannabis. Instead, I lumped them with the high-visibility malingerers, just looking to get high. I mistakenly believed the Drug Enforcement Agency listed marijuana as a schedule 1 substance because of sound scientific proof. Surely, they must have quality reasoning as to why marijuana is in the category of the most dangerous drugs that have “no accepted medicinal use and a high potential for abuse.”
They didn’t have the science to support that claim, and I now know that when it comes to marijuana neither of those things are true. It doesn’t have a high potential for abuse, and there are very legitimate medical applications.
"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.”
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