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January 2017
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President Obama’s pardons and commutations

Obama grants final 330 commutations to nonviolent drug offenders

Obama didn’t seriously focus on pardons and commutations until 2014, two years into his second term. But, on Thursday, his last full day in office, Obama announced 330 more commutations, bringing his total number of clemencies to 1,715. He has granted commutations to more people than the last 12 presidents combined, more than 500 of them to inmates with life sentences.

“By restoring proportionality to unnecessarily long drug sentences, this administration has made a lasting impact on our criminal justice system,” said Deputy Attorney General Sally Q. Yates. “With 1,715 commutations in total, this undertaking was as enormous as it was unprecedented.”

I’m one of those who criticized President Obama for his lack of pardons and commutations in his first term, so I must say I’m pleased to be able to report this.

This is an overdue recognition of the injustices that have been served by the drug war.

It’s also only a drop in the bucket.

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More bad ideas

DEA Experts Call for Better Link Between Drug and Terrorism Policy

Executive Editor Tom Julia interviewed Mike Chapman, Richard Fiano, Derek Maltz and Steve Murphy for 90 minutes about federal drug policy and how the Trump Administration can better combat the dual — and increasingly linked — threats of illicit drug trafficking and the funding of international terrorism. […]

Asked what advice they would give president-elect Trump to use DEA’s strengths more effectively, Maltz and others urged a better understanding of how profits from the illicit drug trade are being used to fund terrorist groups.

“If you understand the link and how too break it, you can target your resources more effectively to fight both terrorism and drug trafficking,” said Maltz.

[Thanks, darkcycle]

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If you have to go to the inauguration, you might as well…

Marijuana legalization supporters to hand out 4,200 joints at Trump inauguration

Marijuana legalization activists in the nation’s capital plan to hand out thousands of joints during President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration as a way to raise awareness of about the fragility of legal pot under his administration.

The advocacy group behind the ballot initiative that legalized pot in Washington, D.C., in 2014 will take to the streets Jan. 20 to give away 4,200 joints — or somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 ounces of marijuana.

“We are forced to do this type of publicity stunt because the Trump administration hasn’t mentioned marijuana once since he was elected,” said DCMJ founder Adam Eidinger. “It reminds people that the public wants change, and the politicians aren’t doing it.”

The giveaway raises awareness on two distinct fronts — first the fact that despite D.C. voters legalizing marijuana in 2014, it remains illegal to buy or sell the drug in the nation’s capital because of action taken by Congress that bans local lawmakers from passing new marijuana laws. Secondly, activists hope to align with Trump supporters who also support marijuana legalization in their home states so they can work together to push the Republican administration to expand legalization and address outstanding regulations that hinder pot-related businesses.

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Highs and lows of 2016

Interactive Map: International Drug Policy Developments of 2016

drug-policy-developments-2016-jpeg

Nice global perspective on developments. A lot is still going on.

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Open Holiday Thread

Hope everyone on the couch is having an enjoyable holiday season. Best wishes to all from DrugWarRant.

If you’re fortunate enough to have family, cherish that time.

Off to spend Christmas Day with my grand-nephews.

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Nora Volkow is stumped

Regulated markets for adults have not made it easier for younger people to get marijuana. U.S. News

The latest Monitoring the Future survey is out.

Actual use of the drug dropped among 8th grade students and stagnated among 12th graders. Reported annual use continued a five-year slide among 10th grade students, though the year-to-year change was not statistically significant.

“I don’t have an explanation. This is somewhat surprising,” says Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which commissions the annual survey.

“We had predicted based on the changes in legalization, culture in the U.S. as well as decreasing perceptions among teenagers that marijuana was harmful that [accessibility and use] would go up. But it hasn’t gone up,” she says.

“We’re seeing that more people in the U.S. except for teenagers are taking it,” Volkow says. “The rates of increases are highest among young adults 18-24, so one would expect that would translate to the adolescents, but apparently it has not.”

As Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority notes:

“We’ve always argued that taking marijuana out of the unregulated criminal market and putting sales into the hands of responsible retailers would actually make it harder for young people to get. The new data bear this out, and it’s just common sense. Under legalization, businesses have every incentive to follow the rules and make sure their customers are of legal age lest they lose their lucrative licenses. Conversely, black market dealers don’t care about the IDs in their customers wallets; they only care about the money in there.”

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And the war continues

Mexico quietly marks 10 years of drug war

Ten years after Mexican troops were unleashed against drug cartels, the country will mark the anniversary without fanfare on Sunday, with murders rising again and the military eager to return to barracks.

President Enrique Pena Nieto, who inherited the drug war when he took office in December 2012, has promised his countrymen and women a “Mexico in peace.”

So, after 10 years, how is that progressing?

“The war has become much more complex. The level of death has escalated,” Raul Benitez Manaut, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, told AFP.

Ah.

Even Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos agrees that troops do not belong in a law enforcement role.

“We didn’t ask to be here. We don’t like it. We didn’t study how to chase criminals,” Cienfuegos said on Thursday.

He said he would be the first to raise “not one, but two hands” in favor of returning troops to barracks.

“Our function is something else and it’s been made into something unnatural. We are doing things that don’t correspond to our training because there’s no one else to do them,” the minister said.

The only way to win the drug war is to end it.

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Hard to talk about anything else

Maybe it’s just the inundation of crap I have in my Facebook feed right now that’s making me want to retreat from the news, but I’m having a hard time focusing on drug policy (that, and the fact that I’m focused on a show I’m producing that’s running right now in Chicago that closes at the end of this week).

I guess there’s such a feeling of uncertainty as to what the upcoming Presidency will mean to… anything. It seems to me that those who are absolutely certain are probably the most likely to be completely wrong.

So, while this has already been shared in comments, it seems that perhaps I just need to play this for you.

Seems like a good pick to me.

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Open Thread

A couple of interesting ones from Tom Angell at Marijuana.com

Congressional Republicans Vow To Block Marijuana Amendments

Don’t count on there being any marijuana votes in the U.S. House next year.

That’s the message that Republican leadership in Congress is sending after blocking a number of cannabis amendments from reaching the House floor earlier this year.

“The chairman has taken a stand against all amendments that are deemed poison pills and that would imperil passage of the final bill,” Caroline Boothe, spokeswoman for House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX), told Marijuana.com in an email on Monday.

White House Hints At Possible Marijuana Moves


How Idaho’s Drug Warriors Stole Hope from Epileptic Kids – a good investigative story from Reason’s Eric Bohm about the behind-the-scenes efforts to stop a good bill that would allow CBD to be used for medical purposes, because of the interests of drug warriors.


Obama says marijuana should be treated like ‘cigarettes or alcohol’ Christopher Ingraham did a pretty good job of covering this story, touching on the huge disappointment that we continually have with political leaders deciding to realize the truth about legalization once they’re leaving office.

The only slight quibble I have with Ingraham on this is the amount of “other side” time he gives to SAM, and the idea that they even have a coherent “approach.”


Expect to see more of this kind of thing now…

Return White House Drug Czar to Cabinet by Robert Charles at Townhall

Opiate addiction has skyrocketed, leading to a breathtaking loss of 47,055 lives last year. Deaths by synthetic drugs quintupled in some categories. Marijuana use, the number one basis for drug treatment, has jumped by 27 percent (during Obama’s years). Drugged driving has risen by roughly 20 percent, and 80 percent of men arrested for property and personal crime in major cities test positive for drugs. This is a genuine crisis enveloping the country.

Sigh.

A nicer, somewhat related bit? The latest proclamation of National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, 2016. While, in the past, many of these were opportunities to spread misinformation about drugged driving (John Walters, anyone?) this one is actually reasonable.

Recently, the number of traffic crash fatalities caused by impaired driving has unfortunately increased — last year, preventable alcohol-related driving fatalities accounted for nearly one-third of all traffic fatalities. Consumption of alcohol by drivers, even those who are of legal drinking age, is highly dangerous, and drug use, including prescription drug use, can also harm judgment, perception, and the motor skills used when driving. Distracted driving — including eating, tending to passengers, and using a cell phone — can also be dangerous and is equally preventable. […]

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim December 2016 as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. I urge all Americans to make responsible decisions and take appropriate measures to prevent impaired driving.

I can go along with that sentiment.

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New head of the DEA?

TRUMP PICKS EL CHAPO TO RUN D.E.A.

It’s satire, of course, but I couldn’t resist.

In an official statement, Trump said that El Chapo’s “tremendous success in the private sector” showed that he has what it takes to “shake things up” at the D.E.A.

Trump’s appointment of the former drug lord surprised many in Washington, in no small part because acrimony between the two allegedly prompted El Chapo, in 2015, to put a hundred-million-dollar bounty on Trump’s head.

But, appearing on CNN, the Trump surrogate Kellyanne Conway said that the selection of El Chapo should surprise no one. “Mr. Trump always said that he would surround himself with the best people,” she said.

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