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September 2017
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Open Thread

I’m off in San Francisco and Seattle on vacation.


— Congrats to Shaleen Title for being named to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. Cannabis Control Commission ‘does not reflect the Massachusetts electorate,’ pro-marijuana group says

As Tom Angell says “As far as I know, this is the first time an advocate who helped draft a measure to end prohibition has been put in charge of implementing it.”


Political cartoon:

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Pardon

Remember how we gave President Obama such a hard time about delaying on giving pardons to so many people who had received such harsh sentences for non-violent drug crimes? And how it wasn’t until the end of his second term that he really stepped up the pardons?

Well, President Trump isn’t waiting. According to CNN, President Trump has pardoned… Joe Arpaio???

Sheesh.

President Donald Trump has pardoned controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio of his conviction for criminal contempt, the White House said Friday night.

Martin Redish, writing in the New York Times, isn’t so sure… Why Trump Can’t Pardon Arpaio

This is uncharted territory. Yes, on its face the Constitution’s pardon power would seem unlimited. And past presidents have used it with varying degrees of wisdom, at times in ways that would seem to clash with the courts’ ability to render justice. But the Arpaio case is different: The sheriff was convicted of violating constitutional rights, in defiance of a court order involving racial profiling. Should the president indicate that he does not think Mr. Arpaio should be punished for that, he would signal that governmental agents who violate judicial injunctions are likely to be pardoned, even though their behavior violated constitutional rights, when their illegal actions are consistent with presidential policies.

Many legal scholars argue that the only possible redress is impeachment — itself a politicized, drawn-out process. But there may be another route. If the pardon is challenged in court, we may discover that there are, in fact, limits to the president’s pardon power after all.

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Open Thread

Updates on some recent activities:

  1. The Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival. I was a judge for the sixth year for this fantastic film fest, this year at the Music Box Theater in Chicago. Got to see some amazing films, not the least of which was the amazing film Monkey, which took seven awards, including Best of the Festival.
  2. “Hair” is running at the Mercury Theater in Chicago. If you’re anywhere in the area, please go see this musical (running through September 24). It’s the best production I’ve seen, with a really outstanding cast, and there’s something about seeing it in these troubled times that is extraordinarily cathartic. My small contribution even got some press:

    “But one of the most powerful moments can be attributed to the highly controversial nudity scene done here with taste, innovation and strength, avoiding the usual discomfort and vulnerability exhibited by most other productions and ensembles. This is largely due to the genius of The Living Canvas’ Pete Guither’s projection design and an explosive harmonious “freedom” sung at the end of “Where Do I Go.”” – PerformInk Review

  3. There’s a reason I never moved in the last 26 years. This packing thing is really kicking my ass. Once I finish moving next week, I think I’ll wait at least another 26 years.

Marijuana politics emerge as 2020 flash point in Politico

Marijuana legalization just moved from the fringes of the last presidential campaign to center stage in 2020.

Between a sweeping new package of legislation introduced last week by one of the top Democratic presidential prospects and, on the other end of the spectrum, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vigorous opposition to recreational use of marijuana, the debate over legalization of cannabis is about to receive a full airing on the presidential campaign trail.

We’ll see, but that would be nice.


Why no one is stopping Détente’s drug war

Interesting analysis.

From the start of his presidency, Duterte offered his subordinates and the public absolution for the drug war. All responsibility, he vowed, would be his, personally. He has said time and again that anyone convicted in a court of law will receive a presidential pardon. That declaration offers the key for his success at gaining public consent for his war on drugs. He has placed himself above, and thus beyond, ordinary law, making himself the supreme law.

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Site maintenance

It’s been pointed out that Drug WarRant just celebrated its 14th Blogiversary yesterday. It would be nice to just sit back and enjoy that.

So… naturally, there were several updates today to the software that keeps this blog running, and also naturally, a number of things immediately stopped running. I’ve made a rough attempt at imperfectly restoring a some of the features to which we’ve grown accustomed, but it’s still a bit of a mess.

I promise to take a look at this more thoroughly in the near future, but it may take a few days. It turns out that retirement is much busier than I thought it would be.

Just finished contributing video projections to an amazing production of “Hair” at the Mercury Theater in Chicago that is now in previews. Next week, I’m going to be one of the Festival judges at the Blue Whiskey Independent Film Festival at the Music Box Theater in Chicago. The following week, I’m moving after 26 years in the same place (which means I’ve accumulated way too much stuff!). And then a couple weeks later, I’m off on a cross-country Amtrak trip with my bicycle (Chicago to San Francisco to Seattle and back).

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Because there just isn’t enough police brutality out there right now

Sigh.

Donald Trump Endorses Police Brutality In Speech To Cops

WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump received applause on Friday when he endorsed police brutality while delivering a speech to law enforcement officers on Long Island, New York.

The president suggested that officers should hit suspects’ heads on the doors of their police cars.

“When you see these towns and when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon, you just see them thrown in, rough, and I said, ‘Please don’t be too nice,’” Trump said.

“Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over, like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody, don’t hit their head, I said, ‘You can take the hand away, OK?’” he added.

His remarks received significant applause.

Trump also made the dubious claim that laws were “horrendously stacked” against police officers and said he wants to change those laws.

“For years and years, [laws have] been made to protect the criminal,” Trump said. “Totally protect the criminal, not the officers. You do something wrong, you’re in more jeopardy than they are. These laws are stacked against you. We’re changing those laws.”

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Get ready for a fight

Trump’s DOJ gears up for crackdown on marijuana

The Trump administration is readying for a crackdown on marijuana users under Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

President Trump’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, led by Sessions, is expected to release a report next week that criminal justice reform advocates fear will link marijuana to violent crime and recommend tougher sentences for those caught growing, selling and smoking the plant. […]

“The task force revolves around reducing violent crime and Sessions and other DOJ officials have been out there over the last month and explicitly the last couple of weeks talking about how immigration and marijuana increases violent crime,” said Inimai Chettiar, director of the Brennan Center’s Justice Program. […]

On Wednesday, Sessions reportedly re-established a controversial criminal asset seizure program ahead of the committee’s recommendations.

Local law enforcement leaders say a crackdown appears to be next, though they argue there’s no need for it. […]

Though Sessions appears to be an obstacle for lawmakers and advocates who want sentencing reform, Booker said he’s not “insurmountable.”

“If we can overcome Strom Thurmond’s filibuster against the civil rights bill, we can overcome a U.S. Attorney General who is out of step with history and out of step with his party,” he said.

But Sessions isn’t alone in his views on pot. Though he said he believes in the need for sentencing reform, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seemed to agree this week that there needs to be stricter enforcement.

“I believe marijuana probably needs to be cracked down on, but we’ll see when he sends it over,” Graham said of the task force report.

I don’t doubt, particularly since the task force is an internal structure, that the report will be crafted to appeal to what Sessions wants to do, regardless of the facts. So we could see a return to the federal pigheadedness of the John Walters tenure as Drug Czar, or worse, as Sessions has more actual power.

However, this isn’t 2007, and the political realities have shifted pretty dramatically in the past 10 years. Sessions won’t find it as easy to return to the war on marijuana that once existed. Legalization is becoming acceptable, profitable, and politically advantageous.

Government propaganda just doesn’t fly like it used to, so any findings of the task force are likely to undergo a lot more scrutiny. And there are plenty of allies on all sides of the political landscape who won’t put up with a return to pot wars.

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Open Thread

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A see-through wall

Yep. We apparently need a transparent wall on the border with Mexico.

So we can see the bags of drugs flying over the wall…

…and don’t get hit on the head with them.

That’s apparently how drug trafficking works.

Trump explains why he wants to be able to ‘see through’ his border wall

Question: You were joking about solar, right?

Trump: No, not joking, no. There is a chance that we can do a solar wall. We have major companies looking at that. Look, there’s no better place for solar than the Mexico border — the southern border. And there is a very good chance we can do a solar wall, which would actually look good. But there is a very good chance we could do a solar wall.

One of the things with the wall is you need transparency. You have to be able to see through it. In other words, if you can’t see through that wall — so it could be a steel wall with openings, but you have to have openings because you have to see what’s on the other side of the wall.

And I’ll give you an example. As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over. As cray as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall. But we have some incredible designs.

It is unconfirmed whether the wall will also play “Dark Side of the Moon” in surround-sound.

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Odds and Ends

Interesting legal analysis: Has the DEA painted itself into a corner on hemp based CBD? A legal analysis of the DEA’s current position.

Industrial hemp, lawfully grown in accordance with a State’s pilot research program that is itself compliant with the Farm Act, is excluded from the definition of marijuana. There is no question that cannabinoids can be sourced from the flowers and leaves of the lawfully cultivated industrial hemp plant (which I’m going to call “hemp” for brevity). And there’s no question that hemp is legal. And, the DEA admitted in both its clarification and brief that cannabinoids from an excluded part of the plant are lawful. Thus, the only logical conclusion that can be drawn is that cannabinoids (other than THC) sourced from hemp are lawful. Crucially, this doesn’t fit into the DEA’s circular argument. And the DEA knows it.


Some welcome news in my otherwise completely dysfunctional home state: Illinois Legislature Passes Asset Forfeiture Reform

The bill, approved unanimously in the state senate and with only one dissenting vote in the house, would raise the standard of evidence for forfeitures from probable cause to a preponderance of evidence and bar seizures under $500 in many drug cases.

It would also abolish a requirement of residents challenging seizures that they pay a 10 percent bond on the estimated value of their property to file a petition, and expedite hearings for owners claiming innocence.


Philippines President Détente’s Drug War One Year On: At Least 7,000 Are Dead, But It’s Been ‘Successful’

Duterte has said: “My campaign on drugs will not end, until the end of my term six years from now when every drug pusher is [killed],” Duterte told a crowd in December 2016, making a throat-slitting gesture, The Guardian reported.


Nevada legalizes marijuana, and it’s a rather unique arrangement. Nevada Goes Green With Recreational Marijuana, and Alcohol Industry Wants a Piece of the Pot

When the recreational marijuana statue was approved by voters, it gave alcohol wholesalers exclusive rights to the distribution licenses for the first 18 months it was enacted. […] During the next 30 days, alcohol wholesalers and state legislators will be working to determine how much of a cut will go to the alcohol industry, Thompson said.

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American Drug War History

America’s War on Drugs – a four-part documentary on the History Channel that began on Sunday evening.

I watched the first episode (“Acid Spies, and Secret Experiments”) – a fascinating look at the 1960s and 1970s, focusing on the CIA’s involvement in Cuba and how that shifted mafia drug trafficking to the US, the introduction of LSD into the US by the CIA (the MKULTRA program), and the CIA’s involvement in the secret war in Laos (the golden triangle) and their connection to trafficking heroin (with Air America), and the military’s experiments with drugging soldiers. Great story of how the CIA brought LSD into the country to attempt to control people’s minds, but it turned out that LSD actually did the opposite and ended up controlled by people who were against the kind of government that the CIA represented. Also in this episode, the impact of Ken Kesey, Timothy Leary, G. Gordon Liddy, Billy Hitchcock, Richard Nixon, John Mitchell, Elvis Presley, John Ehrlichman, Frank Serpico, and more. Also the interesting story of one of the largest thefts in history (the French Connection heroin seizure stolen from lockup) – and it was perpetrated by New York cops.

Very good historical information. Note: The History Channel is providing a number of re-broadcasts of the first episode on their channel (check listings) and may also be adding it online later.

Monday: the Contras.

As NBC describes it:

[Executive Producer Anthony] Lappé, alongside Julian P. Hobbs, Elli Hakami, spent a year conducting dozens and dozens of interviews with former CIA officers, Drug Enforcement Agency officers, historians and more. The crew takes viewers through an eight hour journey crisscrossing the world and deconstructing how the U.S. “war on drugs” truly began through interviews, old footage, and reenactments.

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