Category Archives: criminal justice

The Votes are In. Many Sensible Marijuana Policy Reforms Pass

I votedSensible Marijuana Policy Reforms Prevail – From Alaska to Washington D.C.. . and Guam?

On November 4th, 2014, Voters across many states took a strong stance AGAINST marijuana prohibition and FOR sensible drug laws.  The people have spoken. File:Thomas H Ince - Megaphone 1922.jpg

Here’s what they decided:

Marijuana will be LEGAL for recreational use in the states of Alaska and Oregon and in Washington D.C.

Now marijuana will be regulated like alcohol.

Alaska’s, Question 2 passed with a 53% YES vote.  In Oregon, measure 91 passed with a 54% YES vote.

Washington D.C. (Initiative 71) passed with a 69% vote. While this is a huge victory, it is only a first step. The law only allows (right now) for people to grow their own, there is no structure to tax and regulate adult use marijuana, and as we saw in their recent decriminalization law, it will be exposed to possible congressional interference.

P medical-marijuanaFortunately, in GUAM – voters said YES to Medical marijuana.

Unfortunately, despite 57% of votes being in favor of medical marijuana, the measure failed in Florida. (a 60% vote was required.)

 

Jail w flag outsideFortunately, there was good news about decriminalization efforts in other states:

Californians passed Prop 47—which will reduce penalties for some crimes and reclassify MOST non-serious, non-violent crimes. Penalties will be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. They also voted NO to drug testing of certain doctors.

In Michigan voters in THREE counties passed decriminalization ordinances, TWO counties in New Mexico did too.

In New Jersey the public was questioned about bail reform and they agreed that the number of pretrial incarceration (for low-level drug violations) should be reduced.

Portland, Maine voters passed to remove ALL legal penalties for possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana by an adult.Jail door opened

We should applaud the people who worked to make these efforts into a reality.

And, we should keep in mind the words of Margaret Mead:Margaret Mead

 

 

Medical Cannabis may get out of CSA Schedule I prison (because it got a bad rap)

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What started as federal criminal trials against seven men growing marijuana on national forest land in California has turned into a monumental, HISTORIC evidentiary hearing. The hearing lasted four days and started on Friday, October 24, 2014. It was complete with three expert medical witnesses and a NORML attorney whose testimonies were described as “lively”, “fiery” and at times “humorous”.

The judge will determine if the current Controlled Substance Act classification of marijuana (as a Schedule I drug) is appropriate and constitutional.

The defense attorneys contend that it is NOT constitutional because the scheduling is not appropriate.

The Judge’s decision could mean the END of marijuana prohibition–at least in California.

U.S. District Court Judge, Kimberly J. Mueller said she felt compelled to examine up-to-date evidence that marijuana has medical usefulness because of a Supreme Court decision which changed another law. The decision to delete a FOOTNOTE in another case (Footnote #37 from the Gonzales v. Raich case) led to this twist in the trial.  Read more about the Footnote here]

The testimony Judge Mueller heard this week will allow her to determine if marijuana meets the criteria of a Schedule I drug, a category that includes heroin and LSD.

As you may know, Schedule I drugs are defined as those that:

  • have a high potential for abuse
  • lack any accepted medical use in treatment (in the United States)
  • cannot be used safely, even under medical supervision.

The three eminent medical experts who testified are Carl Hart PhD, Gregory Carter, MD and Philip Denny, MD. The doctors argued that cannabis is one of mankind’s oldest, safest therapeutic substances and does not fit ANY of the Schedule I criteria. All three addressed marijuana’s current and potential medical usefulness, the “better than most drugs on the market” safety profile and what the “potential for abuse” means if you’re using marijuana as medicine.

If Judge Mueller determines that cannabis is inappropriately classified, and determines it to be “unconstitutional”, her decision could lead to the rescheduling or DESCHEDULING of marijuana.

This will be a landmark decision with statewide, national and international impacts. Many appeals are likely to follow and the case could head back to the Supreme Court. Judge Mueller is supposed to make her decision by November 19, 2014.

 

TESTIMONY GIVEN BY THE DOCTORS

Carl Hart 1

Dr. Carl Hart is a drug addiction expert. He is a psychoneuropharmacologist who has conducted addiction research on human subjects. He educates physicians at Columbia medical school. He sits on an advisory board of the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and advocates for drug policy reform. His performance was described as a “masterful testimony”

Dr. Hart dissected the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (which defines addiction) and stated:

“After two decades of intense scientific inquiry in this area, it has become apparent the current scheduling of cannabis has no footing in the realities of science and neurobiology.”  (from Norml.org/news)

Dr Gregory Carter

Dr. Gregory Carter also specializes in educating physicians about cannabis. He is the medical director at St. Luke Rehabilitation Institute in Spokane, Washington. He holds many board certifications and fellowships including the American Academy of Cannabinoid Medicine. He cited and discussed a meta-analysis of 18 placebo-controlled studies, the majority of them showing cannabis was effective at treating neuropathic pain and had minimal side effects.

It was noted that the United States government (DHHS) holds a patent on marijuana as a neuroprotective agent and that 23 states and Washington D.C. have medical marijuana laws.

Dr. Phillip Denny is a retired physician with vast experience treating medical cannabis patients.

Dr. Denny spoke about the U.S. government’s Investigative New Drug program (IND), the program that has supplied US patients with tins of government-grown cannabis since the 1970’s. He presented the results of a 2002 study showing the long-term successes in treating the severely ill IND patients. He fielded questions about a study showing the cannabis-based prescription medication, Marinol had the same effectiveness as smoked cannabis—helping substantiate the medical value of both.

Day 4 was also lively. Bertha Madras PhD, the only government expert witness asserted that cannabis cannot properly be called “medicine” because it does not meet the strict standards set by the Food and Drug Administration. NORML attorney Zenia Gilg countered by providing the results of randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studies which showed significant and beneficial medicinal effects.

Gilg also dimished Madras’s credibility as an expert witness, citing her lack of training and experience with working with medical marijuana. This stood in stark contrast to the vast education and experience of Dr. Hart, Dr. Carter and Dr. Denny.

To read more about day 4 click here:

Arrest records in New York City show racial bias persists

Racism persists in New York City. You can tell by looking at marijuana arrest records. This is not new, but arrest rates of young black and Latino males (for small amounts of marijuana) are higher than in any other city in the world.

Missouri Sentencing Reform Measure Reduces Marijuana Possession Penalties
Image courtesy of the daily chronic

What’s going on?

An article entitled “No Progress on Marijuana Arrests” appeared last week in the New York Times.

It explains that low-level marijuana arrest records for public possession started going down in the 1970s and then climbed back up, up, UP again. There were fewer than 1,000 arrests for possession of trivial amounts of marijuana in 1990, yet this number grew to 50,000 in 2011.

It did drop to 28,600 arrests in 2013, but that number of arrests for trivial amounts of marijuana still remains greater than ANY city in the world.

Why? What happened?

In the 1970’s police were better at following the law which dictated that arrests were not supposed to be made unless marijuana was being smoked or displayed in public. So, by the year 2011 police found a way around that and were (illegally) tricking people (primarily young black and Latino men) into emptying their pockets –and then charging them with “public possession”.

Over 86% of the people arrested were black and Latino men and 75% of them had no prior criminal convictions.

The article offers up an explanation based on a Marijuana Arrest Research Project and Drug Policy Alliance report. The reason given: “police officers patrolling white neighborhoods typically do not search the vehicles and pockets of white citizens”.

Institutionalized racism persists despite our efforts. Perhaps this article will help people who think racism is a thing of the past to understand how this situation can persist.

You can read the entire article HERE

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New resource: Changes and Clarifications to Hawaiiʻs Medical Cannabis Program

Our sister organization, the Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii, has just published an FAQ on 2013ʻs legislative modifications to the Hawaii medical marijuana program. The FAQ also includes analysis of the Hawaii Supreme Courtʻs ruling in the “Woodhall” case – involving patient travel with medicinal cannabis within the state of Hawaii.

Read more here: http://mcchi.org/resource-changes-clarifications-to-hawaiis-medical-marijuana-program/ 

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Celebrating 20 years of reason, science and compassion

Congratulations to Fresh Approach Hawaii cofounder, the Drug Policy forum of Hawaii!

“Celebrating 20 Years of Science, Reason and Compassion ”

The Drug Policy Forum of Hawai`i’s 20th Anniversary Event
Friday, November 1, 2013
5:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Kapi`olani Community College
4303 Diamond Head Road
Ohelo Building ~ Ka`ikena Laua`e Room

HONOLULU – Thursday, October 17, 2013 – In the last twenty years, Hawai`i has enacted drug policy reforms on issues ranging from medical marijuana to treatment-instead-of-incarceration for nonviolent drug law violations with the support of the voters and the legislature. Join us to celebrate the work of those individuals and organizations that have tirelessly worked towards drug policy based on concern for human dignity, effective outcomes, public health considerations, and the well-being of individuals and communities.

Speaking will be Ethan Nadelmann Ph.D., JD., Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance – The Nation’s Premiere Drug Policy Organization . Mr. Nadelmann’s talk will be on “Ending the War on Drugs: Are We Really at the Tipping Point? ”

For more than two decades, Nadelmann helped build a broad-based movement for reform on the strength of a strategic insight that’s both simple and profound: The fight against repressive drug laws isn’t about championing the rights of drug users – even of a substance as popular as marijuana. It’s about fighting against federal overreach and the needless human toll of drug prohibition. Read more about Ethan at:http://dpfhi.org/2013/06/14/the-most-influential-man-in-the-battle-for-legalization-is-a-wonky-intellectual-in-dad-jeans/.

The dinner will also honor Professor of Law Emeritus and former Dean, University of Hawaiʻi William S. Richardson School of Law, Richard “Dick” Miller. Miller has never shied away from the new or the controversial. He arrived in Hawai`i to help establish the new law school at UH in 1973 and in 1993, 20 years later, he was one of the first Board members of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai`i. His guidance and sharp legal mind is still a beacon for the Drug Policy Forum of Hawai’i in the roiling seas known as the war on drugs.

Tickets are $50 at the door and include a full dinner buffet and desserts. Limited seating is still available for the November 1 event. For further information, or to reserve a seat, please RSVP to info@dpfhi.org or call (808) 988-4386 .

The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii was founded in 1993 and remains Hawai`i’s voice
for pragmatic drug policies that minimize economic, social, and human costs.
http://www.dpfhi.org

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Field Organizer sought for local drug policy reform NPO

DPAGlogo

JOB OPENING: The Drug Policy Action Group is seeking a Field Organizer.

Fresh Approach Hawaii founder The Drug Policy Action Group (www.dpfhi.org) is hiring!

The Field Organizer will work with DPAGʻs Executive Director and/or Board President, and will be responsible for DPAG’s public education campaign for statewide reform of marijuana laws including lobbying, growth and day to day operations of two coalitions formed during the 2013 Legislative Session: The Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii (MCCHI.org) and Fresh Approach Hawaii (Freshapproachhawaii.org). For the full job description, see: DPAG_organizer.

Please send a letter of interest, resume, a recent writing sample and three references (all in PDF format) to info@dpfhi.org by September 20, 2013.

DPAG is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer.

USCouncilMayors

Hundreds Of U.S. Mayors: Let States Police Pot

We are still trying to obtain a voting list on this…more to follow!

“Hundreds of mayors from around the nation voted Monday to urge the federal government to give states leeway in establishing marijuana policies. The resolution was among dozens of symbolic measures city leaders unanimously passed on the last day of the 81st annual U.S. Conference of Mayors conference in Las Vegas.”

http://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/us-mayors-want-states-police-pot.php?ref=fpb

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Vermont removes criminal penalties for marijuana

“VT Gov. Peter Shumlin signed a measure into law Thursday.

The law replaces criminal penalties with civil fines similar to a traffic ticket for possession of up to an ounce of marijuana or five grams of hashish.

The law also treats possession of such amounts of marijuana by people under age 21 the same as underage possession of alcohol, including referral to court diversion for a first offense, potential civil penalties and/or license suspension, and criminal penalties for a third violation.”

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/vt-gov-signs-marijuana-decriminalization-bill-19346145#.UbJbVPYnqzA

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New report documents nationwide racial, economic disparities in incarceration

“The reasoning is clear: the combination of excessive incarceration and harsh punishment is a blunt instrument for social control that perpetuates the country’s painful, historical legacy of injustice and inequality, and deprives masses of black and brown
people unfairly of freedom and opportunity. It is the site of today’s civil rights struggle.”

http://www.aclu.org/criminal-law-reform/ending-mass-incarceration-charting-new-justice-reinvestment

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“The House I Live In” premieres on PBS

Monday, April 8, 10:00 p.m. HST on PBS Hawaii, Independent Lens:

“The House I Live In”

The war on drugs is the longest conflict in U.S. history — and the least winnable. It has had a particularly destructive, devastating impact on black America. And still, drugs are cheaper, stronger, and more plentiful than ever. This Oscar-nominated documentary takes a penetrating look at the profound human rights implications of America’s longest war: the War on Drugs.

See an interview with filmmaker Eugene Jarecki: http://www.aclu.org/criminal-law-reform/filmmaker-discusses-award-winning-documentary-about-war-drugs