Friday, December 14, 2012

Fast moving developments: Feds responding to Washington and Colorado: Obama, Leahy, Holder. Where's Biden?

The stasis in Washington on marijuana policy is breaking because of the Washington and Colorado votes to legalize marijuana.
President Obama will be on Barbara Walters on ABC TV on Dec. 14 answering questions. Ethan Nadelmann very astutely interprets the President's words on Huffington Post.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) has said he will hold hearings early next year on the federal response and on Dec. 6, 2012 wrote  this letter to Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy to inquire about federal policy. Leahy notes that there are legislative options for Congress to resolve the apparent conflict between Washington and Colorado law and current federal law, such as legalizing possession of one ounce.
Attorney General Eric Holder said on Dec. 11 that a policy pronouncement will be announced "relatively soon" in answer to a question.

Ethan Nadelmann notes that Obama is at last taking the issue seriously after previously joking about it, when asked.
Second, Obama's comment that users are not a "top priority" for federal enforcement is not news and says nothing.
Third, and significantly, Obama said that he does not support widespread marijuana legalization "at this point." That's the language he used responding to questions about same-sex marriage, until he supported it.
Fourth, and most importantly, Obama said we "need to have a conversation," about marijuana legalization to "reconcile" federal and state law. This is not a statement that conveys an insistence on an inflexible application of federal supremacy to obstruct state law.
Of course, as Nadelmann asked, who is going to be part of this conversation? Is it simply an internal Department of Justice conversation? Will Members of Congress such as Chairman Leahy or U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO), who introduced H.R. 6606? Will officials from Colorado and Washington and the public be included in this conversation?

Is the policy that Eric Holder may be announcing going to pre-empt the conversation, or will it be stalled until there is a conversation?

And what is the role of Vice President Joe Biden? He has had oversight of the crime and drugs portfolio inside the White House. Former ONDCP staffer Kevin Sabet told Rolling Stone,

"The vice president has a special interest in this issue...As long as he is vice president, we're very far off from legalization being a reality."
Taking Dr. Sabet seriously, a petition campaign on the White House petition site targeting Vice President Biden has been launched. As of this writing it had over 8,600 signatures -- 25,000 are needed to trigger a reply.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New York Times: Life Sentences for federal drug offenses

The New York Times has a front page story on 12/12/12 about the tragedy of life sentences in federal prison for minor drug offenders. The stories of four other minor drug offenders are also capsulized.
You can call the White House at 202-456-1111 and ask President Obama to commute these sentences this holiday season.

The U.S. has 41,000 prisoners serving life sentences; the United Kingdom has 41.

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Monday, December 10, 2012

Marijuana is legal in two states; Regulation writing commences

On Dec. 10, 2012, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper signed Amendment 64 which was passed by 55.34 percent of Colorado voters on November 6, 2012. This act puts Amendment 64 into effect. It is legal to possess and use marijuana in Colorado privately, and to grow three mature marijuana plants and keep the harvest. One may also give away for no consideration up to one ounce of marijuana. Today the Governor appointed a task force to develop regulations to carry out the Amendment's provisions creating a legal industry to cultivate, process and sell marijuana under state law.

Previously, on Dec. 6, 2012, Washington Initiative 502 took effect, pursuant to its terms, having been passed by 55.7 percent of Washington voters. It is legal to possess and use up to one ounce of marijuana (and larger quantities of marijuana infused products), but not to grow it, buy it or sell it. According to the Secretary of State's website, in contested statewide races, marijuana got more votes than every other candidate, other than U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell. Every statewide office holder who won in a contest, from the Governor-elect, Jay Inslee on down, got fewer votes than legal marijuana and Initiative 502. Marijuana even got more votes than President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Marijuana legalization in Washington is under the jurisdiction of the Liquor Control Board.
On Dec. 5, 2012, the Liquor Control Board published a notice that it is seeking public comment to begin to develop rules to license producers of marijuana. They want written suggestions and comments by Feb. 10, 2013, by email, fax or mail.

By the way, outgoing Governor Christine Gregoire, in 2011, filed a petition with the Drug Enforcement Administration to reschedule marijuana for medical purposes.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The House I Live In

"The House I Live In," the documentary by Eugene Jarecki, was screened at Georgetown University Law Center on Dec. 4, where I saw it and met the director.

It is the best documentary on the "war on drugs" that I have seen. It is a feature length motion picture that has been shown in theaters around the country. It is available on Netflix.  It is on the short list for an Oscar nomination.

Substantively, it has remarkable breadth and coherence and the cinematography is excellent. It won the Grand Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival this summer.

I strongly encourage you to see it!

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Scores of NGOs appeal to Obama for clemency for crack offenders

On Nov. 19, 2012, scores of non-governmental organizations and academics appealed to President Obama to establish a commission to review the sentences of crack cocaine cases to carry out the just purposes of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010. Thousands of persons who are serving long federal prison sentences for violating the Controlled Substances Act received no benefit from the 2010 legislation. Presidents Kennedy and Ford established similar commissions to review large numbers of federal convictions after a major change in law or policy.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Rural judge forced to sentence over 1000 to federal mandatory sentences

U.S. District Judge Mark W. Bennett (Northern District of Iowa) laments in The Nation to unjustly sentencing over 1000 low-level drug offenders to long sentences in federal prison because of mandatory sentencing laws. Judges are discouraged from speaking out about policy, but this is a courageous statement by a courageous judge.

He writes about the devastation that this causes to families, and its inherent injustice.

He could also have written about the extraordinarily wasteful expense. In 2010, the operating cost to house the average federal prisoner for a year was $25,500. To house the 1000 prisoners that he sentenced to a mandatory sentence costs $25.5 million per year. (He has sentenced thousands more prisoners to non-mandatory drug sentences). If the average of the sentences for those thousands -- some got the 5 year minimum, some got the 10 year minimum, and many got many years more than the minimum under the sentencing guidelines -- was ten years, then we would be talking about a quarter billions dollars to house just the prisoners that this single judge has sentenced. This cost is many multiples more than the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 1986 that the Narcotics Penalties and Enforcement Act of 1986 would cost. The CBO estimate, for the fifth year after this law was enacted, would amount to $27.7 million. This terribly mistaken law has now been in force for 26 years, with no prospect that it might be revised soon.

(Long-time readers of this blog know that 26 years ago the House-version of this law, a key feature of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, came out of my word processor when I was assistant counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. I have been working to repeal the law since 1989.)

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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Washington and Colorado voters approve marijuana legalization

On Nov. 6, 2012, roughly 55 percent of voters in both Washington State and Colorado passed initiatives to legalize marijuana for social use. Washington's Initiative 502 is described here and Colorado's Amendment 64 here.

UPDATE (Nov 13, 2012): The Washington Post published my LTE urging the Justice Department to take a "wait and see" approach to the new laws.

UPDATE (Nov. 28, 2012): Washington’s measure (I-502) received 55.7 percent to 44.3 percent. Colorado’s measure (Amendment 64) passed 55.32% to 44.68%. These are overwhelming margins, and politicians know it! The combined votes in those two states resulted in more votes for marijuana than for Barack Obama! Oregon’s Measure 80 lost, but by a much smaller margin (46.89% to 53.11%) than pollsters predicted.

It will cease to be an offense in Washington to possess an ounce of marijuana or less after Dec. 6, 2012. Authorities in Washington will have a year to develop regulations for the production and sale of marijuana in licensed premises. The initiative does not provide for individual home cultivation, although the medical marijuana law does provide for patients to cultivate.
Here is a useful FAQ.

The Colorado law takes effect on the day that the vote is "proclaimed" by the Governor pursuant to the Colorado Constitution. Persons over 21 years of age may possess and use marijuana, and they may grow no more than 3 mature plants (6 plants total) and retain the harvest, but may not distribute it other than to give no more than one ounce to a person over 21 for no remuneration. By July 21, 2013, the state shall adopt regulations to govern the large scale cultivation, production and distribution of marijuana for remuneration. Local governments are authorized to write time, place, manner related regulations for marijuana distribution facilities.

Obviously there are a lot of local details to work out in each state.

On Nov. 7, 2012 the U.S. Department of Justice issued a statement that marijuana possession, cultivation and distribution still violated federal law and that law will be enforced. Clearly this is not the last word on the federal government's response.

Indeed, no one can predict exactly how the federal government will respond. While the legal route is probably clear, the politics are not. Legally, the state laws violate the Single Convention on Narcotics to which the U.S. is a signatory. Thus the U.S. has a treaty obligation to enjoin the states from carrying out their laws. However, there is no authority in the United Nations to force the U.S. to do this. While Article VI of the Constitution provides that treaties (like federal laws) are "supreme Law of the Land," we know that the Supreme Court has held Acts of Congress to be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court may be asked to weigh the powers reserved to the States under the 10th Amendment to the Constitution against the treaty obligations at some point. Of course, counsel in the Justice Department could conclude that the restrictions of the treaties intrude to far into our domestic law, and not defend the treaty against state claims, but that would be an unlikely outcome, both legally and politically.

I think it is probable that the federal government will bring suit to enjoin Washington and Colorado from carrying out the licensing provisions of their new laws, and I think it is likely that the lower federal courts will rule for the federal government. If legal cultivation and sales get underway in CO and WA, they will supply distributors throughout the nation because their costs are likely to undercut illegal growers elsewhere, and the price of marijuana across the nation will go down, perhaps quite dramatically. This is the prediction of Jonathan Caulkin, Mark Kleiman and Beu Kilmer, three of the co-authors of the excellent book, Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know, (Oxford Univ. Press, 2012).

Is there likely to be an increase in illegal marijuana cultivation in these states for distribution elsewhere in the U.S. by those hoping to escape state prosecution and anticipating that federal prosecution can't meet the extent of the law breaking?

Will either of these states start collecting sales tax, excise tax and other revenues? Not if the feds can block their programs, which gives the state authorities a powerful incentive to resist the federal suits.

A very important question is how the rest of the world will react. Mexico in particular may quickly conclude that they could reduce if not eliminate the bloody conflict among their criminal organizations and against the society if they were no longer being fueled to a significant degree by illegal marijuana sales, according to a Christian Science Monitor report. Alesandro Madrazo, a Mexico City law professor, predicted at a conference at The Brookings Institution on Oct. 3, 2012, that Mexico would fairly quickly legalize  marijuana in response to U.S. marijuana legalization.


The Washington Post reports that  Luis Videgaray, the head of transition for the incoming President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, said “These important modifications change somewhat the rules of the game in the relationship with the United States.”  “I think that we have to carry out a review of our joint policies in regards to drug trafficking and security in general.

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Friday, November 02, 2012

SUBURBAN teenager heroin epidemic

NBC News reported on on June 19, 2012 on suburban teenagers buying heroin and dying -- the kind of kids one would see in a "suburban shopping mall," in contrast with the heroin "addict" stereotype we "associate with mean streets of city life." At no point does the white reporter or the white police sergeant -- who says the drug buyer could be "anybody's daughter" -- describe the race of the drug buyers ("not what you picture," he said). But the implication is clear.

Sadly, aside from the inevitable hyping of the story by television news because that is the convention of the both the medium and the message, heroin is more available and being used more. Deaths among teenagers from heroin have increased from 198 in 1999 to 510 in 2009.

Unaddressed are the "why" and the "what do we do about it," because the answers are complex.

"What we do about it:"
* Dramatically increase the number and improve the quality of inpatient treatment for substance use disorders. The Heroin Action Coalition of Montgomery County, MD found that there were 100 beds for teenagers to get opiate addiction treatment in all of the state of Maryland.
* Recognize that a lot of teen heroin use starts with use or misuse of prescription pain relief medication which is leading to dependency and addiction.
* Educate patients and parents about the risks and proper use of pain medication.
* Educate doctors about the ease of patient misuse of pain medication. Demand that doctors be better trained, and that they follow-up with patients to whom they prescribe pain medication.
*Educate drug users about techniques to reduce the risk of overdose:

  • Don't mix drugs
  • Don't use drugs alone
  • Don't use drugs from an unfamiliar source
  • If you haven't used drugs in a while, don't use at the same levels as before you stopped.

*Assure that Naloxone (also called Narcan), the antagonist medicine that chemically interrupts opiate overdoses, is widely available.  Be sure it is in every police car, on every fire truck and ambulance, at every nurse's station and first aid station, at recreation centers, amusement parks, libraries and other public facilities, hotel desk clerks, barber shops, beauty parlors and nail salons, so that when their is an overdose taking place, friends, family, acquaintances -- even total strangers -- can readily get Naloxone for someone experiencing an opiate overdose. Change laws to make it available to people who want it in the first aid kits in their vehicles, workplace, schools and homes.

* Adopt Good Samaritan 911 laws to encourage illegal drug users to call 911 for an ambulance without worrying about arrest and investigation.

The "whys" of growing teen heroin are complex as well.
A major factor is the explosion in the marketing and use of prescription pain medication, especially opiod medication. Highly addictive drugs are being prescribed by physicians who have poor understanding of their uses and their risks. Told to use all of an anti-biotic medication for an ear infection, bronchitis, etc., they believe they should use ALL of a narcotic prescription. Often that is enough to get addicted. When the pain pills are gone and hard to get, heroin prevents the pain of withdrawal, i.e. "dope sickness." This increase in addiction increases the demand for heroin.

Drug epidemics are not random. A leading anthropologist of drug epidemics, Michael Agar, explained that dramatic changes in drug use patterns reflect a confluence of change in drug production, distribution and consumption. The chemical similarity between heroin and opiate medication means that changes in American pain medication patterns will also lead to changes in American heroin consumption and markets.

Most American heroin comes from Mexico. The six-year old assault on Mexican drug trafficking organizations, begun by President Felipe Calderon in December 2006, has produced a bloody war that is familiar to anyone who reads the newspapers. The war is expensive. Income comes from drug sales. The pressure to get the income to buy guns, ammunition, pay "soldiers," pay bribes, etc. demands more sales. This leads to a demand in Mexico to increase production.

There is now a feedback-loop in Mexico of the "war on drugs" leading to more production and sales of heroin to support the criminal organizations. They have a greater incentive to get heroin to the American streets.

The "long-term what do we do about it" requires ending the stigma on being addicted or dependent to drugs. The only way to end the stigma is to legalize drugs. As long as it is "illegal" to be a drug addict, there will be a stigma about it that will prevent people from getting into treatment. And this stigma also deters legislators from putting "tax payer money" into treatment for "criminals."

Legalizing opiates does not mean selling them like tobacco or alcohol. Alcohol sales offer a useful lesson in that various forms of alcohol are often sold under very different regulations. The system of distribution is often complex. In California, anything can be sold in a grocery store or supermarket. In other states, nothing can be sold in a supermarket. In Virginia, beer and wine can be sold in a supermarket, but not in Maryland.

Legal opiates should be available to people who are addicted in a system of "addiction management." Professionals will work with people who are addicted to help them manage their lives to avoid getting sick, hustling, committing other crimes, and being in conflict with friends and family. An "addict in management" won't be stealing from family, lying to them, or obsessed with getting dope and getting high. They will be restricted from their sharing drugs. They will be expected to meet their obligations, such as going to school if they are students, or going to work if employed. They will need to attend counseling if necessary.

At the same time, proper education of doctors and patients about the risks of addiction is fundamental. Instead of advertising drugs to create demand, advertising about harm reduction as a means for drug users to control use and help users balance the pleasure and medical use is required.

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Obama uses pardon power less than any President

Dafna Linzer, the award winning journalist, reports at ProPublica on how rarely President Obama uses his Constitutional power to pardon rehabilitated ex-offenders. These are fascinating stories and very troubling data. This is shocking nonfeasance.

The proper use of Constitutional power is a duty of the President. This account suggests an inexplicable indifference to both justice and mercy

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Monday, October 15, 2012

FOP Throws Party for Police Lieutenant that Punches Woman

Several weeks ago, Philadelphia Police Lieutenant Jonathan D. Josey II was fired by the city’s Police Commissioner for punching a woman in, in an incident that was captured on video, and soon went viral. The video shows the woman walking and the officer punching her from behind, falling to the ground, being handcuffed and bleeding from her face as she is walked away. The Fraternal Order of Police lodge in Philadelphia is hosting a fundraising party in Josey's honor to help him pay his expenses, reports the Philadelphia Daily News, not The Onion.

I tried to think of a parallel situation. If a lawyer were fired for being caught on video deliberately engaging in unethical conduct and betraying a client’s trust, could you imagine a bar association hosting a fundraiser in his honor? If a doctor were fired for deliberately injuring a patient in an incident captured on video, could you imagine a medical society hosting a benefit to help her? Of course not.

The FOP party for Josey is powerful illustration of the culture of impunity from on-the-job misconduct that pervades much of American policing. This kind of party is only a flagrant illustration of how police unions have fought police management and local governments to take away much of their ability to enforce accountability. This kind of celebration of violent misconduct is more reminiscent of the behavior of an outlaw motorcycle club, a criminal gang, or a mafia family than a professional association of public servants. It suggests that the union has a sense of entitlement to make and live by its own rules independent of the community that would be considered intolerable by any other institution in our society. The FOP is saying, “We are shameless. Get over it.”

To view some of the benefits in police union contracts, check out

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Origins of Red Ribbon Week - Oct, 23-31 in 2012

Historian Nancy Campbell traces the origin of Red Ribbon Week to its crusading religious roots in the 1950s. With such an ancient pedigree, it is no surprise that its messages are extreme, wildly popular among well-intentioned adults and beleaguered school administrators, a profitable product line of the manufacturers and distributors of campaign materials, and . . .of no demonstrated effectiveness.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

American Bar Association: Health Law looks at drugs

The American Bar Association's 20-year old Standing Committee on Drug Abuse was merged into the Health Law Section in August after the Annual Meeting with the start of the association's new year.  Here is a very thoughtful column by the Section Immediate Past Chair, David H. Johnson of New Mexico, on the breadth of the issue from the perspective a lawyer not looking from the criminal justice/enforcement perspective.

Amidst its other work and continuing legal education (CLE) programs, the Standing Committee was a leading voice (adopting policy in 2004) decrying the terrible collateral consequences of drug convictions and the stigma for persons who once had a substance abuse problem.  And it organized three well-attended annual meeting programs on legal issues related to medical use of marijuana (including the Raich case -- before it went to the Supreme Court).

As a task force of the Health Law Section, this group can become a more important voice.

If you are a lawyer or law student reading this blog, join the ABA -- it is a welcoming, progressive and influential institution -- and join the Health Law Section and the Substance Abuse Task Force. Think about how your informed voice might further help develop wiser policies on substance use and misuse.

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Thursday, September 06, 2012

Kumar's Plan to kick it in Charlotte

Thinking about your call the other night. Yes, we've got to get this right.
If you really have the fire for America that Clinton says you have, then show everybody else that fire. Let's fire one up and get down and party with young America and show off you and the future everybody is talking about.

The Bank of America Stadium is free. Let's have a free concert Saturday night. (Definitely not exclusive to delegates and credentialed guests, but for them drinks are on the house!)

Invite the dopest young Americans -- everybody from software wranglers, game champions, skateboard gymnasts, athletes of every kind, writers, singers, poets, guitarists, keyboardists, drummers, lot of drummers, scientists, Burners, actors and actresses, models, deal makers, great students of all kinds! (writers -- give me some better lines) Play up the wonderfulness of youth and the future we want to give them!

Stage a big free alternative rally rockin' rave for Obama in the the Bank of America Stadium on Saturday.


Issue an Executive Order guaranteeing that no one will be arrested bringing pot, shrooms, XTC or Acid into the stadium, but if anyone is deliberately passing out bad stuff they will go to jail!!

No ticket required! Then give a triumphant speech to the most wildly cheering young people!

Have them all posting photos of you and them on Facebook partyyyying on!

Dude, isn't this savage!
Just get the details right like enough porta-potties, water, and shade. Yes allows tents and canopies on the field.

Encourage make up. Big Prizes to the best Obama tattoos.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

President Obama calls "Harold and Kumar"

The Democratic National Committee thought it would be great sport and smart politics to run a lighthearted ad in which the President calls movie characters "Harold" and "Kumar," who are lamely stereotyped "stoners," to ask them to help him get the Democratic Convention "right."

Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP)
alumni Shaleen Title, Chris Wallis and Andrew Livingston (I am proud to call all of them friends and colleagues) have produced a wonderful video of how the call might have gone if Pres. Obama had called a real marijuana user, not the drug czar's stereotypical vision of one.

The Obama call to Harold and Kumar ad is perhaps one of the dumbest moves by a campaign that has clearly lost its touch with the young because it draws renewed attention by young voters to Obama's cumulative insults and disregard of marijuana users and their political concerns. When Obama's early efforts to communicate with the public in direct online question format produced enormous support for marijuana legalization questions he joked that this support was a quirky and trivial artifact of the online world. In every other later social media communications efforts, when such questions were submitted and drew the largest number of "likes" or other approval, the questions were pointedly ignored or simply removed from the websites in a classic "1984," Orwellian consignment to the "memory hole" of invisibility.

Aside from the insults, the mockery, and the contemptuous disregard of marijuana users' concerns, the substance of the policy has been shocking, especially regarding medical use of marijuana. Obama pledged in his campaign to honor state medical marijuana laws. But he abdicated control of the Justice Department which has raided and shut down more dispensaries in 3 1/2 years than Pres. G.W. Bush's Justice Department (remember Ashcroft and Gonzales?) shut down in 8 years.

Federal marijuana prosecutions have increased to almost 7000 prosecutions a year in FY 2011, eclipsing all other drugs. And over two thirds of federal marijuana prosecutions are directed at Hispanics. White federal marijuana defendants are only 22.6 percent of the total, a rather blatant racial disparity.

Over seventy percent of House Democrats have voted to abandon the Administration's anti-medical marijuana policy, and it has been pointedly criticized by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, the party's most successful fund raiser.

Others will write about the wrongheadedness of this crusade from a medical policy or constitutional law perspective, but the political myopia is heartbreaking for Democrats and supporters of Obama. The voters have passed medical marijuana initiatives every time they have had the chance with the exception of a quixotic unfunded initiative in South Dakota. Numerous state legislatures have passed and governors have signed such laws in Hawaii, New Mexico, New Jersey, Delaware, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut and the District of Columbia. (Maryland's legislature passed a watered down medical marijuana law.)

The timing could not be worse -- this is going to spill over the convention coverage in a bad way for Obama -- and he and his cynical campaign deserve it!

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Eric E. Sterling- Guest Blogger for The Agitator

CJPF President Eric E. Sterling is one of the guest bloggers for The Agitator, (Huffington Post's Radley Balko's blog), this week. Eric wrote about the sad news regarding the overdose death of DeAndre McCullough, as well as the millions of dollars that Texas is spending to keep prostitutes locked away in prisons. 

Join the discussion on these interesting topics, and check out more posts this week!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Examining the 2012 Campaigns to Legalize Cannabis: Washington

The following blog post was written by Patrick Wood, a student at SUNY-Geneseo in New York. Patrick was an intern for the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation during the summer of 2012, and we thank him for his excellent work on this and other projects throughout the summer. This is the final of a three part series written by Patrick. Check out an analysis of the Colorado Initiative here, and an analysis of Oregon's here. 

The official campaigns of the initiatives to legalize cannabis in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington all make big claims about what the initiatives will do for their states if they are passed. How do these claims stand up to the facts?

This post examines Washington’s Initiative 502 as the final of a three part series regarding these cannabis 
legalization initiatives.

Washington’s I-502 campaign website says:

  • [The initiative will] Create a tightly regulated system that takes money away from criminal organizations and generates tax revenue for our state and local governments.
  • We are united in the belief that Washington should stop wasting law enforcement resources on adults who use marijuana

Supporting I-502 would save law enforcement resources:

“The savings in state and local government expenditure that would result from marijuana legalization consists of three main components: the reduction in police resources from elimination of marijuana arrests; the reduction in prosecutorial and judicial resources from elimination of marijuana prosecutions; and the reduction in correctional resources from elimination of marijuana incarcerations.” - Daniel Egan and Jeffrey A. Miron in The Budgetary Implications of Marijuana Prohibition in Mitch Earleywine’s Pot Politics

Washington expenditures attributable to marijuana prohibition total about $98,944,000. Of this approximately $41,169,000 is police expenditures - Miron & Waldock in The budgetary impact of drug prohibition


Supporting that legalizing marijuana would generate tax revenue:

An article in the Seattle Times by Jonathan Martin predicts huge Washington tax revenue from I-502, $560 million a year. Martin notes that is more than twice what the Initiative 502 campaign itself had originally predicted:

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Examining the 2012 Campaigns to Legalize Cannabis: Oregon. By Patrick Wood

The following blog post was written by Patrick Wood, a student at SUNY-Geneseo in New York. Patrick was an intern for the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation during the summer of 2012, and we thank him for his excellent work on this and other projects throughout the summer. This is the second of a three part series written by Patrick. Click here to view an analysis of Colorado's Initiative.

The official campaigns of the initiatives to legalize cannabis in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington all make big claims about what the initiatives will do for their states if they are passed. How do these claims stand up to the facts?

Oregon Measure 80’s campaign website says the initiative will do five things:
  • Protect Oregon’s children by ensuring that, like liquor, cannabis is only sold to adults.
  • Regulate the growth and sale of cannabis, dramatically shrinking the black market.
  • Restore the agricultural hemp industry.  Hemp offers an alternative green fuel source, and its fibers can be used for clothing, food, and more.
  • Generate tax revenue for the state. Eliminate millions of dollars spent on corrections costs.
  • Create jobs both through the cannabis and hemp industries.
Supporting that cannabis will, like liquor, only be sold to adults:

474.125 of Measure 80 reads “Sale or provision to minors, penalties, exception. The sale of cannabis to minors shall be a Class B felony, and gratuitous provision of cannabis to minors shall be a Class A misdemeanor, except when to a minor over 18 years of age under the same conditions provided by ORS 471.030(1) for alcohol.”

Supporting that legalization and regulation will shrink the black market:
“Regulating and taxing marijuana instead of prohibiting it--by undercutting the black market--can be expected to reduce crime and corruption, as occurred following the repeal of Prohibition.” - Jefferson  Leave Marijuana Regulation to the States” in Looking in the Cultural Mirror, featured in Psychology Today

Supporting the usefulness of hemp:  

“Because of their strength and durability, hemp fibers have been used for production of cordage and coarse textiles for centuries. In addition, hemp can provide raw material for pulp and paper manufacture, composite wood products such as particleboard and insulation board, and industrial products including geotextiles and nonwoven industrial fabrics.” Daryl T. Ehrensing Department of Crop and Soil Science, Oregon State University in Feasibility of Industrial Hemp Production in the United States Pacific Northwest

“Most people know that industrial hemp has been a source of rope, cloth and paper since ancient times, but few recognize its incredible potential today. It represents an ecologically stable, renewable source of raw materials to make such diverse products as automobile fuel, plastics, building materials and food for animals and people.” - Jim Bauder and Linzy Carlson MSU Land Resources and Environmental Sciences in Hemp: Many possibilities as an alternative crop

Supporting that legalization would generate tax revenue and eliminate millions of dollars spent on corrections costs:

“Approximately $8.7 billion of [savings] would result from legalization of marijuana” nationwide (annually). - Miron & Waldock in The budgetary impact of drug prohibition

“…assuming legal drugs were taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco. Approximately $8.7 billion of this revenue would result from legalization of marijuana” - Miron & Waldock 

^ That’s 8.7 billion in savings AND another 8.7 billion in revenue = 17.4 billion dollars. 

State marijuana tax revenue according to Miron + Waldock according to a population method and in 2008 dollars- 
Colorado: 47.29 million
Oregon: 36.28 million
Washington: 62.70 million

Oregon total police expenditures related to marijuana: $29,706,000
Oregon state-level expenditures related to marijuana prohibition: $61,318,000

For Oregon, this would mean 36.28 million in tax revenue AND another 61.318 million in savings =$97,598,000 every year.

Link to The Budgetary Impact of Drug Prohibition:

From 2003-2005, Oregon produced an average value of $473,972,000 worth of marijuana, making it the state’s largest cash crop. The other major cash crops did not come close to surpassing marijuana (Hay-  $346,751,000, Wheat - $195,018,000).  -Jon Gettman, Ph.D. page 14 of Marijuana Production in the United States


Supporting that Measure 80 will create jobs:

“…taxing and regulating cannabis and hemp will create thousands of local jobs, from agricultural jobs in 
Oregon’s hardest-hit rural counties to manufacturing, engineering and professional services jobs around the 

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Eric E. Sterling Featured on Al Jazeera

Eric E. Sterling was featured on Al Jazeera International English last night to discuss how racism has played into the failed "war on drugs." Watch his interview here, and let us know what you think!

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Examining the 2012 Campaigns to Legalize Cannabis: Colorado. By Patrick Wood

The following blog post was written by Patrick Wood, a student at SUNY- Geneseo in New York. Patrick was an intern for the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation during the summer of 2012, and we thank him for his excellent work on this and other projects throughout the summer. This is the first of a three part series written by Patrick. 

The official campaigns of the initiatives to legalize cannabis in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington all make big claims about what the initiatives will do for their states if they are passed. How do these claims stand up to the facts?

This post examines Colorado’s Amendment 64 as the first of a three part series regarding these cannabis legalization initiatives.

Colorado’s Campaign for Amendment 64 says on its website that the initiative will do four things:

·                     Reduce teen marijuana use
·                     Minimize teen access to marijuana
·                     Reduce exposure to more dangerous drugs
·                     Take Sales Out of the Hands of Criminals

Evidence supporting that legalization would both reduce teen marijuana use and minimize teen access to marijuana:
”If the existing enforcement machinery were [left in place for minors], this smaller market (with older users drained off by the licit supply) might find it hard to function; marijuana from illicit sources might be less  available to kids than it is today”. - Mark A. R. Kleiman in Marijuana; Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control page 164

“Although legalization would make drugs cheaper and more readily available, sales to minors could be discouraged by harsh punishments and by restricting legal sales to designated shops. The present system has not been effective in discouraging drug experimentation by the young in part because suppliers are subject to punishments whether they sell to adults or children. “ Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker in It’s Time to Give Up the War on Drugs

Evidence supporting that legalization would reduce exposure to more dangerous drugs:

“There is no control on the quality of the cannabis sold on the black market. Cannabis may be cut with other, more harmful substances, and its THC content may vary in unpredictable ways. Minors are also able to purchase cannabis in the absence of any age restrictions, and the retail cannabis black market is not separated from that for cocaine and heroin. Individuals seeking to buy cannabis may therefore be introduced to other illicit substances they otherwise would not know how to obtain.” – Wayne Hall “A Cautious Case for Cannabis Depenalization” in Mitch Earleywhine’s Pot Politics  

Evidence supporting that legalization would take sales out of the hands of criminals:

“If, as we have argued, federal marijuana enforcement influences the extent of marijuana consumption only negligibly, while worsening the effects on users of the remaining consumption and increasing the wealth and power of criminal organizations and their use of violence and corruption, then federal marijuana enforcement ought to be cut back.” - Mark A. R. Kleiman in Marijuana; Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control page 163                            

“One is that legalization would save the law-enforcement and social costs of arresting hundreds of thousands of adults each year. (Most proposals would keep marijuana illegal for those under 21.) Another is that pot's underground economy—estimated at $15 billion to $30 billion annually—would be largely wiped out if marijuana were legalized throughout the country.” - Beau Kilmer in “The Marijuana Exception” published in The Wall Street Journal

“A rational [black market marijuana] trafficker ought to fear legalization above all things…” Mark A. R. Kleiman in Marijuana; Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control page 177 


“The high prices due to the [drug] war have provided huge profits for cartels and others who evade detection and punishment. Estimates place the world market value of illegal drugs at several hundred billions of dollars--in the same league as the markets for cigarettes and alcohol.” - Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker

Further information supporting that the Colorado initiative would have numerous benefits is available at:

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Martin Lee: Medical marijuana raids to appease "Fast and Furious" critics

According to the excerpt from acclaimed drug historian Martin Lee's latest book, Smoke Signals, published in TruthOut, he argues that the 2011-2012 campaign against California medical marijuana dispensaries was designed to deflect partisan political criticism of Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice for the blunders of the "Fast and Furious" BATF undercover operation. "Fast and Furious" was intended to discover how the Mexican drug cartels were acquiring high-powered American firearms. But the guns "walked" (BATF lost track of a couple thousand of them), the weapons ended up in the hands of the criminals and a several were used to shoot or kill U.S. law enforcement agents.

The GOP-controlled House Government Reform Committee, having an opportunity to be outraged at BATF, a unit of the Justice Department, demanded to know what Holder knew about the raids. He stonewalled. Some Members of Congress have sought his resignation, and the House of Representatives has voted him to be in contempt of Congress for failing to comply with the Committee's subpoena. It is a big political embarrassment for the Administration.

But Lee's “explanation” does not hold water. It is an interesting hypothesis unsupported by any facts or analysis of the context and history.

Aside from the complete lack of evidence in Lee's explanation, the ostensible political rationale does not make any sense. There is no evidence that the Representatives “gunning” for Holder and Obama regarding Fast and Furious were especially outspoken critics of medical marijuana to the degree that their ire with law enforcement incompetence in the Fast and Furious case might be mollified by a concerted enforcement effort against medical marijuana.

The premise is flawed. Anyone who has followed the 40-year history of the hatred of the NRA, and its congressional allies, for the BATF knows that nothing is going to substitute for an attack on BATF. I was in the middle of this hatred starting in March 1981 when President Reagan was shot, until I left Capitol Hill in 1989. I set up at least a dozen hearings on some aspect of gun control in that time. I handled the House consideration of the NRA's "wet dream" (the Firearms Owners Protection of Act of 1986), the "cop killer bullet" legislation, the undetectable plastic handgun imbroglio, and development of the "Brady Bill" that we got out of the Judiciary Committee in 1988. (Speaker Tom Foley kept the bill from going to the House floor). For comparison, the loathing for BATF on the part of scores of Members of Congress is probably greater than the loathing of the Pentagon felt by many liberals during the depths of the Vietnam War.

Simply consider how a political/enforcement shell game, such as the one Lee suggests motivated the medical marijuana policy change from the 2009 Ogden memorandum, would be executed. There is no evidence, for example, that Administration critics were given private briefings immediately in advance or after medical marijuana raids or enforcement initiatives, such as sending forfeiture-threatening letters to landlords or notices to banks. In the kind of campaign Lee imagines, this would be a prototypical step to give the critics politically useful opportunity to make a timely or newsworthy condemnation of the “evil” of medical marijuana. That is the kind of special political consideration that would be used to curry favor on Capitol Hill that Lee imagines. In addition, there is no evidence that the raids were targeted in the districts of Holder’s critics to especially appease them.

In fact, given that the critics were pro-gun, the BATF letter to all Federal firearms licensees stating, if licensed gun sellers have knowledge that a prospective gun buyer is a legal state medical marijuana patient they are in violation of the Gun Control Act prohibition on sales of guns to known illegal drug users, made no sense. It created political outrage in the Mountain West where almost everyone owns a firearm. That letter could not have been part of an effort to use medical marijuana enforcement to mollify Administration critics of BATF as Lee asserts.

Fundamentally, the medical marijuana raids themselves were not as Lee says, “an all-out vendetta.” They were, to a shocking degree, so ad hoc, unfocused, uncoordinated and poorly announced to the press and public that it is inconceivable that anyone in the Administration believed these raids could be held up as an exemplar of DoJ law enforcement competence and vigor. If anything, the discombobulated character of the DoJ attack on medical marijuana operations invited further attack upon the Obama administration by its enemies as further evidence of law enforcement incompetence.

While the attacks have shuttered hundreds of dispensaries, including numerous first class operations, and have devastated many friends of drug policy reform, objectively, as a concerted law enforcement initiative – especially one designed for a political purpose -- it has been a shockingly incoherent mess. A better analogy of how DoJ has gone after medical marijuana is that of unconnected guerrilla operations, with units striking here and there with the hope of disheartening a much stronger enemy, but not substantially changing the political reality or the balance of power.

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Friday, August 03, 2012

Absolut Tampax

Here is a splendid blog post by Michael Durfee from Points: The Blog of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society about moral panics.

Durfee analyzes the reporting of a Phoenix TV station about the "shocking" "new" and "dangerous" phenomenon of teenage girls soaking tampons in alcohol and inserting them in their vaginas in order to get drunk. Durfee looks into the phenomenon -- in a way that so-called journalists do not -- to reveal the kind of media behavior that was behind the crack frenzy, the designer drug frenzy, the Salvia frenzy, and more recently, the synthetic marijuana frenzy and the bath salts frenzy.

On my home turf, we had a mini-panic in Spring 2012 when a police commander repeatedly hyped as the latest rage the phenomenon of "pharm parties" at a local anti-drug program about the crisis of overdoses due to heroin and prescription opiates. A member of the county council in the audience was completely distracted by this, and said at a hearing a few days later that he had told 200 persons about pharm parties. No one questioned why a drug user would put a $50 Oxycontin pill in a bowl along with Excedrin(R) or aspirin and hope that plucking a pill from the bowl would produce a nice high. The premise is absurd.

I asked the police captain who was liaison to the advisory committee on alcohol and drug abuse if this phenomenon was at all recent. He told me he believed it happened back during the ecstasy epidemic. He was not aware of any cases in the past two years, he told me. At his next presentation at a county-wide drugs and alcohol prevention program at the Board of Education meeting room in May, he mocked me by name for telling him I thought the phenomenon was an "urban myth" and that I had cited -- smirk, smirk -- Wikipedia's articles about pharming parties which link to Jack Shafer's excellent reporting in 2006 and 2008 which labeled them a "media invention." When it comes to anti-drug hysteria, even the best police hate to give up a good scare.

A tip of the hat to Michael Durfee, a Ph.D. candidate in the history department at SUNY Buffalo. Michael Durfee works under the advisement of Points Contributor Dr. David Herzberg. His prior education includes an M.A. in history from SUNY Buffalo and an M.A. in education from Lewis and Clark College. He is currently at work researching his dissertation which analyzes the dynamics of Crack Era reform from 1986 to 1992, loosely constructed.

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Thursday, August 02, 2012

July 2012 Newsletter

The July 2012 CJPF newsletter is out! It's been a busy two months, check out our recent activities!

To subscribe to the CJPF bi-monthly newsletter, click here.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Obama White House looking at Clarence Aaron commutation petition (updated Jul 19, 10:51 am EDST)

Dafna Linzer writes in The Washington Post (online July 18 and on p.A3 in July 19 print edition), and ProPublica, that the Obama White House is reviewing Clarence Aaron's petition for a commutation of sentence.

Clarence Aaron was a college football player whose childhood friends recruited to arrange to buy cocaine for their Mobile, Alabama crack ring. Aaron played a minor role, did not plead guilty, and at trial the jury hung. The government tried him a second time and he was convicted. The quantity that the government witnesses said was involved triggered, under the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, three concurrent life sentences! Parole was abolished in federal criminal cases after Nov. 1, 1987.

In 1999, film-maker Ofra Bikel, working with PBS FRONTLINE, told the story of how mandatory minimum sentences encourage defendants to inform on their friends or family to avoid long prison terms. The program, "Snitch," aired in January 1999. Bikel was able to get into federal prison to interview Clarence Aaron. Her documentary included the moving anguish of his parents and how one of Clarence's cousins testified against him. The brilliant climax of the documentary was the interview of Willie Jordan, one of the jurors at Aaron's trial.

Did they get the sentence they deserved?

Well, you know, I meant to look in the paper later to see what kind of sentence they served and somehow or other I missed it. And I never did know what kind of sentence they got.

What did you think they should get?

... Well, I wouldn't have thought of a large number of years, no. Just probably a short sentence. Now what a short sentence is I don't know, three to five years, maybe something like that ... .

Clarence Aaron got life.


Three life concurrent sentences.

Three concurrent life sentences. There's no hope of parole?


Well, that's more than I thought it would be. Well, see, I had no idea. ... I'm surprised at that, I really am, that [he got] that harsh a sentence.

Does it sadden you?

Yeah, it does, somewhat, it sure does. It sure does. We weren't told anything about [sentencing] guidelines. And, of course, the judge, I guess, did the sentencing.

Jurors are not supposed to know about sentences; they are just supposed to determine guilt or innocence.

That's right. ...

Do you think the verdict might have come out different if you had known the sentences the defendants were facing?

It might have been a little tougher, but the evidence was such that I don't think we could have had any other conclusion other than guilty. ...

How do you feel about the sentence?

I wish I didn't know now that they'd got life.

Clarence's photograph, sitting in prison, became the visual shorthand for the entire movie.

On May 13, Dafna Linzer reported that the Pardon Attorney in the Department of Justice did not fully disclose to President George W. Bush the position of the prosecutor and the trial judge in Clarence Aaron's case regarding commutation of sentence, in a blockbuster front page story in The Washington Post. Later that month, U.S. Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) wrote to President Obama asking him to commute Aaron's life sentence.

Bikel's documentary also featured the case of Dorothy Gaines, a mother of three whose boyfriend was a crack addict. A raid of Gaines' home yielded nothing. The State of Alabama dropped charges against her. But the federal government used the informants against her, she went to trial, and was sentenced to over 20 years. In December 2000, President Clinton commuted her sentence and reunited her with her family.

"Snitch" included interviews with U.S. Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), former U.S. Attorney in Alabama. Sessions, perhaps as a consequence of his depiction in "Snitch," became the key Senator in getting partial reform of the crack cocaine mandatory minimum quantity triggers through the Congress. The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was signed by President Obama in August 2010. (I played a major role both in writing the original 1986 crack law (secs. 1002 and 1302 of P.L. 99-570), and in achieving the 2010 reform. In 2005, I wrote the model for section 4 of the Fair Sentencing Act, which increased the monetary penalties for major drug trafficking violations, in order to encourage law and order Members of Congress to support the bill.)

Please write to President Obama and simply ask him to grant Clarence Aaron's petition for commutation of sentence, and tweet #FreeClarenceAaron.

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