Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Governors push U.S. to reschedule marijuana as medicine

The governors of Washington and Rhode Island have written to the Obama Administration and submitted a 99-page petition pursuant to the Controlled Substances Act requesting that DEA reschedule marijuana to Schedule II, a classification that would allow it to be prescribed by doctors under strict controls, according to The New York Times. Under Schedule II, marijuana could only be grown, processed and distributed by persons who have obtained "registrations" from DEA, like drug companies and pharmacists. This is slightly different from the approach in H.R. 1983, a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, that would direct the Administration to reschedule marijuana to a schedule other than Schedules I or II.

This petition by the governors puts significant pressure on DEA and the Obama Administration to begin moving away from its head-in-the-sand approach to medical marijuana. The petition, in calling for Schedule II status, urges the result recommended in September 1988 by the DEA's Administrative Law Judge, Francis Young, as the result of the long litigation and fact-finding initiated by NORML, and assisted by the old Drug Policy Foundation.

The governor's petition will also help undercut the crusade initiated by the four U.S. Attorneys in California to attack all medical marijuana dispensaries. However, if DEA does reschedule marijuana to Schedule II, all the dispensaries in California and other states would continue to be in violation of federal law because they do not have registrations. It is hard to imagine that DEA would modify their regulations to permit the current dispensaries to be registrants.

All registrants have strict inventory control requirements and must keep careful records on where their controlled substances come from and how they are distributed.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Study: Medical marijuana laws reduce traffic deaths

Two American researchers have concluded that medical marijuana laws are reducing traffic fatalities in this paper. Check out this very interesting, brand new paper by Dr. D. Mark Anderson, Montana State University and Dr. Daniel I. Rees, University of Colorado, Denver.

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How to write like a good lawyer

The American Bar Association on-line Journal has a great article on how good lawyers should write. Everyone should take 5 minutes to read this straight forward advice.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Obama's Pardons

The White House "live" internet feed at 10:30 am EST, Nov. 23, 2011 will feature President Obama pardoning turkeys. (The image is from last year.) To defuse the criticism that he is misusing his power under Article II, section 2 of the U.S. Constitution to pardon turkeys and not any of the 200,000 human beings in federal prison, he pardoned five (that's right, five) persons of old crimes this week, and shortened the sentence of a mother serving 22 years in prison for selling 13 grams of crack cocaine about ten years ago.

Pardon me, but I won't defuse my criticism! Article II, section 1 of the Constitution says that there shall be a President and how the President is elected. Section 2 spells out the powers. The first sentence has the three powers that the framers of the Constitution recognized were most important of the new executive: Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy and military forces; directing the executive departments; and "Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States."

The framers of the Constitution saw a critical role for the President in the justice system. Congress writes the laws (Article I). The executive takes care that the laws be faithfully executed, that is crimes are investigated and prosecuted (Article II, section 3). The "trial of all Crimes" shall be conducted by the judicial branch (Article III, section 2). And the President shall correct injustices through the Reprieve and Pardon power.

Sadly, while Obama freely uses his Article II, section 2 power as Commander in Chief (for example, to bomb Pakistan, Libya, or Yemen without explicit authority from Congress), he uses his Article II, section 2 power to correct injustice with a stinginess that is either uncaring or cowardly.

In August 2010, Congress sent Obama the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 to tweak the mandatory minimum sentences for crack cocaine enacted in the frenzy after Len Bias died from cocaine in the summer of 1986. Congress recognized that the sentences that had been imposed for the previous 25 years were unjustly long. Obama signed the bill. Tens of thousands of people are serving these unjustly long sentences for crack and other drugs.

There are now 200,000 people serving sentences in federal prison, the largest prison system in the free world. Half of them are serving drug sentences. Most of them are serving mandatory minimum sentences that most judges believe are "manifestly unjust." Many of them have already served decades in prison -- very long sentences -- and yet are facing decades, or even a life time, for being small-scale dealers but sentenced to king-pin sentences because of Congress's hasty, numerical blunders in 1986. (I was the counsel to the House Judiciary Committee who processed that legislation. I was at the table and on the floor of the House when these laws were written and passed. I know exactly how badly they were written and how wrong they are!)

In three years in office, Obama has been able to find one person, only one person, in that 100,000 who he thought deserved a shorter sentence. Obama knows about the injustices. He is a former law professor. He cosponsored legislation as a Senator to fix these mandatory minimums. Either he now simply doesn't care to do anything about it, or he is afraid of the potential that someone he might free might commit another crime and it will be turned into a "Willie Horton" moment. To protect his political butt, Obama seems to be perfectly prepared to tolerate injustice on a massive scale. For shame!

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What are parents afraid could happen to their kids?

A University of Michigan survey, released in August 2011, showed a remarkable difference among parents of different racial or ethnic backgrounds about what they think threatens the health of their children.

Top 10 health concerns for children in 2011 by race/ethnicity:

1. Drug abuse, 44%
2. Childhood obesity, 44%
3. Smoking and tobacco use, 36%
4. Gun related injuries, 36%
5. School violence, 35%
6. Unsafe neighborhoods, 34%
7. Alcohol abuse, 33%
8. Teen pregnancy, 33%
9. Sexually transmitted infections, 31%
10. Sexting, 31%

1. Drug abuse, 49%
2. Teen pregnancy, 44%
3. Childhood obesity, 44%
4. Child abuse and neglect, 38%
5. Stress, 38%
6. Driving accidents, 37%
7. Bullying, 37%
8. Smoking and tobacco use, 35%
9. Internet safety, 34%
10. Sexually transmitted infections, 33%

1. Childhood obesity, 30%
2. Drug abuse, 28%
3. Smoking and tobacco use, 22%
4. Internet safety, 21%
5. Bullying, 21%
6. Teen pregnancy, 19%
7. Stress, 18%
8. Alcohol abuse, 17%
9. Sexting, 16%
10. Driving accidents, 16%

First, Black and Hispanic parents have much greater fear for their kids than white parents. The percentage of Black and Hispanic parents who fear the 10th ranked danger for their kids is greater than the percentage of white parents who fear the Number One danger threatens their kids. The 4th ranked danger of white parents, Internet safety, is not on the list for Black parents. Similarly, the highly ranked dangers feared by Black parents -- 4. Gun related injuries, 36%, 5. School violence, 35%, 6. Unsafe neighborhoods, 34% -- are not on the top 10 list for white parents.

Drug abuse however tops the list -- 49% for Hispanic parents, 44% for Black parents, and 28% for White parents. How should we interpret these fears when drug use data shows that white kids use drugs at higher rates than black kids? Matthew Davis, M.D., the director of the poll, begins his analysis by talking about increased use of marijuana. Drug policy reformers should consider the implications of this claim for their work. Drug policy reform in the early 1970s, which seemed a shoo-in after the Shafer Commission reports in 1972 and 1973, and the endorsement of marijuana decriminalization by President Jimmy Carter in 1977, vanished in the 1980 election.

The White House Drug Czar reports the data this way:
According to a recent survey, African American parents now consider youth drug use as the top concern for young people, ranking higher than gun related crimes, school violence, or bullying. We look forward continuing leading the Federal government’s collaborations with the African American community to reducing disparities and ensure that we can prevent drug use before it starts and work together to break the cycle of drug use and crime.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Colombia's President Santos: "I would talk about legalising marijuana and more than just marijuana."

Colombia's wildly popular new president, Juan Manuel Santos, told The Observer in the United Kingdom, that regarding global drug policy, "The world needs to discuss new approaches... we are basically still thinking within the same framework as we have done for the last 40 years."

Santos took office in the summer of 2010, winning a very strong mandate to succeed former president Alvaro Uribe.

The comments in this interview, by a sitting president whose national popularity and global prestige is steadily growing, are enormously important to the advance the cause of drug policy reform.

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Reefer Madness: In the Obama Administration?

Ethan Nadelmann writes in The New York Times Nov. 7, 2011 about the numerous serious attacks on state medical marijuana programs by agencies of the Obama Administration, contrary to Obama's 2008 campaign finances.

Ethan's well-written op-ed is an indictment of Obama which can be dismissed if Obama soon takes the stand he said he would take in 2008.

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