Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Philadelphia police stop and frisk Blacks disproportionately

A report, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, analyzes Philadelphia Police Department data for two months in the fall of 2012 that finds that more than 40 percent of the police stops and frisks lack a lawful basis of "reasonable suspicion."

The report, prepared by the law firm of Kairys Rudovsky Messing & Feinberg, LLP and the ACLU of Pennsylvania, found a dramatic racial disparity with African Americans being stopped and frisked at rates that far exceeded their presence in the city's population. Whites were stopped and frisked at rates far below their presence in the city population.

Here is the ACLU of PA press release that summarizes the report. The suit against the Philadelphia police is called Bailey v. City of Philadelphia, C.A. No.10-5952.

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Colorado medical marijuana industry confronts federal challenges and prospect of new state law

The Washington Post, in a well illustrated story on its front page, Mar. 26, 2013, reports about the Colorado medical marijuana industry that is very heavily regulated under state law but unable to use the banking system (among other things) because it remains outside federal law. Now it faces the challenge of responding to Amendment 64 that legalizes the production and distribution of marijuana to adults for non-medical purposes.

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Nat'l Comm'n on Marihuana and Drug Abuse FINAL Report released 40 years ago -- 40 years ahead of its time

The National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse released its second and final report, Drug Use in America: Problem in Perspective, 40 years ago (March 22, 1973). I discuss some of its wise observations and its prediction of the failures and problems of a "war on drugs" approach in my post  on Huffington Post, last Friday. Check it out!

This important report, that looked at the drug problem quite broadly, was overshadowed by the Commission's first, interim report, Marihuana: A Signal of Misunderstanding, that was issued on March 22, 1972, which recommended marijuana decriminalization. Unfortunately, many people erroneously think that there was only one Shafer Commission report, the first one.

Shafer was former Pennsylvania Governor Raymond Philip Shafer (R), who was appointed by President Richard Nixon, along with eight other distinguished citizens. Four members of the Commission were two U.S. Senators and two U.S. Representatives selected by the congressional leadership.

Nixon famously ignored the report, and refused to be photographed receiving the report from the commissioners. He had tried to pressure Shafer to change the recommendations, but Shafer refused.

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Attorney General on Washington and Colorado Marijuana Legalization

UPDATE> The hearing went ahead, but Holder told Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) that the Justice Department has not decided its policy, but it will be coming soon. (March 6, 11:30 am)

On Wednesday, March 6, unless it is postponed by a forecast snow storm (a fairly unlikely outcome), U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee at the annual hearing on the activities of the U.S. Department of Justice. Under the committee rules, he should have sent to the committee in advance of the hearing a written statement for Senators to prepare appropriate questions for the hearing.

As of mid-afternoon Tuesday, the content of the statement has not been leaked to the press. Perhaps with common Justice Department arrogance they are holding the statement until the last minute.

I think it is very likely that his statement reveals the Department of Justice approach to the marijuana legalization laws of Washington and Colorado. It would be amazing if the Justice Department chose not to put this important matter in writing in advance of the hearing. Everyone knows that it will be a subject of senatorial questions and comment.

If I were the ranking Republican, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), I would certainly leak Holder's statement and my reaction to it, in order to try to shape the commentary about it. As the brother of an alcoholic, Senator Grassley is vehemently hostile to addiction and drug use, and any legislation that might liberalize drug use.

If Holder announces that the Justice Department is going to do anything that could be considered as an accommodation of the Washington and Colorado laws, Grassley could condemn the Attorney General and the Obama Administration for being soft on marijuana, etc.

If Holder announces that the Justice Department will oppose Washington and Colorado, Grassley could condemn them for waiting to so long to decide and for any incompleteness in the opposition he could find.

I think the odds are three to one that Justice will oppose Washington and Colorado and say that it is preparing a lawsuit to enjoin the state laws as violations of the Constitution's Supremacy Clause for being in "positive conflict" with the Controlled Substances Act and in violation of U.S. treaty obligations.

I think there is a 1 in 8 chance that the Justice Department will announce that it is going to formally cooperate with Washington and Colorado law enforcement agencies in carrying out their laws and to assure that marijuana from those states does not leak across their state lines to their neighbors or the other 48 states. This would be a terrific outcome in letting the states carry out their laws. It would, of course, be a signal to the other states that they could move ahead with marijuana legalization on their own terms.

Another option is that Justice does not sue to stop Washington and Colorado but simply attempts to pressure them to back off, and engages in the kind of ad hoc prosecutorial harassment of the marijuana industry such as we have seen in California.

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