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August 2014
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Open Thread

bullet image Request from a reader who is working on a dissertation regarding incarceration as a result of the war on drugs:


* Adult daughters (at least 18 years old)
* Identify as Black or African American
* Father incarcerated as a result of a drug offense
* Lived with your father prior to his incarceration
* The incarceration initially occurred when you were a child

If so please inbox me or email me at I know the criteria is strict, but this is only the beginning of my work with families and incarceration

COMPENSATION: $20 Visa gift card or cash after 60-90 min interview completed. Location of interview flexible. Thanks!

bullet image There’s a petition to get the New York Times organization to stop drug testing, now that their editorial department has called for marijuana legalization. Petition: stop drug testing employees for marijuana

bullet image In addition to the New York Times, the Washington Post also ridiculed the White House response to the New York Times editorial: The federal government’s incredibly poor, misleading argument for marijuana prohibition

That case, as it turns out, it surprisingly weak. It’s built on half-truths and radically decontextualized facts

Oh, and it turns out there is some evidence the New York Times was specifically aware of my page on the ONDCP being required to oppose legalization.

bullet image I hear from a source that Michele Leonhart was seen this morning in Mexico City with her full protection detail. I doubt she was vacationing. Look for some photo op on a major bust, or else she’s negotiating a deal with someone.

bullet image There was a Congressional hearing this morning led by prohibitionist Representative Mica entitled Planes, Trains and Automobiles (full video available). No it wasn’t about John Candy movies, but rather a hearing about “Operating while stoned.” Bunch of bureaucrats only, although I understand the staffers were given real scientific information from NORML (which was probably ignored).

I watched the first eight minutes of Mica’s ridiculous and lying performance and had no more patience. Someone else want to watch and report?

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The New York Times continues its rampage of sanity

The Federal Marijuana Ban is Rooted in Myth and Xenophobia

The federal law that makes possession of marijuana a crime has its origins in legislation that was passed in an atmosphere of hysteria during the 1930s and that was firmly rooted in prejudices against Mexican immigrants and African-Americans, who were associated with marijuana use at the time. This racially freighted history lives on in current federal policy, which is so driven by myth and propaganda that is it almost impervious to reason. [...]

The federal government has taken a small step back from irrational enforcement. But it clings to a policy that has its origins in racism and xenophobia and whose principal effect has been to ruin the lives of generations of people.

Why now?

Timing the Call the Repeal Marijuana

In the practice of editorial writing, timing matters a great deal. The series that The New York Times editorial board began on Sunday, calling for an end to the federal ban on marijuana, is receiving a great deal of attention not because it is a wildly radical move, far ahead of its time. It’s because it comes at a moment when the country is engaged on this topic, and is moving with surprising speed toward a different appraisal of marijuana [...]

“These are not new arguments,” said the Los Angeles Times, citing statistics about the cost to society of widespread marijuana arrests. “But this time they come from the New York Times, not High Times. Support for marijuana legalization has grown so rapidly within the last decade, and especially within the last two years, that some advocates and pollsters have compared it with the sudden collapse of opposition to same-sex marriage as a culture-redefining event.”

What about the White House?

The Required White House Response on Marijuana

When the White House issued a statement last night saying that marijuana should remain illegal — responding to our pro-legalization editorial series — officials there weren’t just expressing an opinion. They were following the law. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is required by statute to oppose all efforts to legalize any banned drug.

It’s one of the most anti-scientific, know-nothing provisions in any federal law, but it remains an active imposition on every White House. The “drug czar,” as the director of the drug control policy office is informally known, must “take such actions as necessary to oppose any attempt to legalize the use of a substance” that’s listed on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act and has no “approved” medical use.

I like to believe I had a hand in helping create awareness of this particular point.

The New York Times continues to nail it

Another great editorial: The Injustice of Marijuana Arrests

An extensive editorial about the destruction caused to our society by decades of arresting people for marijuana, including the exponential increase in enforcement and racial disparities.

And, while mentioning individuals who have ended up with horrific prison sentences for low-level crimes of marijuana, they also clearly help people understand just how offensive is that standard pathetic “nobody goes to prison for marijuana” argument that we hear from the Kevin Sabets of this world.”

Outrageously long sentences are only part of the story. The hundreds of thousands of people who are arrested each year but do not go to jail also suffer; their arrests stay on their records for years, crippling their prospects for jobs, loans, housing and benefits. [...]

Even so, every arrest ends up on a person’s record, whether or not it leads to prosecution and conviction. Particularly in poorer minority neighborhoods, where young men are more likely to be outside and repeatedly targeted by law enforcement, these arrests accumulate. Before long a person can have an extensive “criminal history” that consists only of marijuana misdemeanors and dismissed cases. That criminal history can then influence the severity of punishment for a future offense, however insignificant. [...]

For those on probation or parole for any offense, a failed drug test on its own can lead to prison time — which means, again, that people can be put behind bars for smoking marijuana.

Even if a person never goes to prison, the conviction itself is the tip of the iceberg. In a majority of states, marijuana convictions — including those resulting from guilty pleas — can have lifelong consequences for employment, education, immigration status and family life.

A misdemeanor conviction can lead to, among many other things, the revocation of a professional license; the suspension of a driver’s license; the inability to get insurance, a mortgage or other bank loans; the denial of access to public housing; and the loss of student financial aid.

In some states, a felony conviction can result in a lifetime ban on voting, jury service, or eligibility for public benefits like food stamps. People can be fired from their jobs because of a marijuana arrest. Even if a judge eventually throws the case out, the arrest record is often available online for a year, free for any employer to look up.

Yes, the “nobody goes to prison for marijuana” crap is not only false, but it’s a distraction from the real issue.

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The New York Times says it

Editorial: Repeal Prohibition, Again

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.

Yeah. This is pretty big.

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Social experiment?

This was a bit of a nothing article: Legalization of Marijuana: Pros and Cons – the usual stuff, attempting to create “balanced” arguments on both sides whether they were valid or not.

This was the part that got me.

The Jury’s Still Out

The legalization of marijuana will likely go down as one of the largest social experiments of the 21st century, and that’s just it – it’s an experiment.

As commenters there have already noted, legalization is not the experiment. Marijuana has been legal for most of human history. It’s prohibition that was the experiment and it failed miserably.

We’re not legalizing drugs, so much as repealing prohibition.

In a sane world, that would be the dialog, and it would be up to those who wish to continue prohibition to justify it, and prove its value.

But criminalization has been the status quo for so long, that the national discussion has failed to remember that prohibition is the social experiment — a radical, dangerous, destructive, and temporary one.

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So lonely

This article is hilarious.

The lonely lot of the anti-pot crusader in the Washington Post.

McCormick says he knew of no group fighting the initiative, heard no opposition to it in his church and got no traction for his anti-weed views on his vibrant Twitter account, @blackmanhelping, where he opines on local affairs. McCormick, a construction project manager, considered challenging the ballot initiative himself, but he ultimately realized the futility of fighting an army of marijuana advocates.

Such is the lonely lot of today’s pot opponent. Parents like McCormick, once heroes of the just-say-no 1980s, find themselves outgunned: The anti-marijuana movement has little funding or staff, little momentum and, it appears, little audience. [...]

“These guys are in a full-court press coming at you from every angle,” says DuPont, 78, who runs the small, Rockville-based Institute for Behavior and Health. He sounds exasperated. “They have a bench 1,000 people deep. . . . We’ve got Kevin Sabet.”

Hilarious. Also ridiculous in the sense that they still have the entire federal government and its agencies (though that, hopefully, will change), plus all sorts of groups who profit from the drug war (like law enforcement, etc.).

But still, it’s fun to read in a tables-turning sort of way.

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Open thread

bullet image John Oliver has a good extended piece on the prison system in America.

bullet image Also in comedy-news video, the Daily Show has a segment on asset forfeiture. Good to see that issue being tackled on the Daily Show, although personally I found the segment to be unbearably puerile in its attempts at humor.

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Living Canvas Rx

Shameless plug for the new show this year from The Living Canvas (I am the founder/artistic director).

This year’s show is Living Canvas Rx, and it focuses on drugs. Note, while the show is very definitely about drugs, it’s not about drug policy, so don’t expect it to be an extension of the legalization policy advocacy of this blog – still, the ensemble wrote an amazing show, and I think it’s going to be quite fascinating and entertaining to experience. I am producing and also designing the projections for the show, which opens August 1st at the Den Theatre in Chicago (through August 17). If you’re in the area, check it out! (Full release and details below the fold.)

Living Canvas Rx

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I’m scared of the cops, and I’m white.

Several have mentioned this in comments – it’s definitely worth watching. Bill Maher on the militarization of police.

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Manufacturing crime

You just can’t make this stuff up — the absurdities with which our criminal justice system operate.

The story is about an undercover ATF agent (Brancato) trying to arrest a man named Halgat.

Judge Says U.S. Gov. Generated ‘New Crime’ to Arrest Man With No Criminal Record

Brancato repeatedly tried to coerce Halgat into drug dealing and buying illegal guns, which Halgat refused to do.

At one point, Brancato begged Halgat for five weeks to buy cocaine because they were “familia,” but Halgat turned him down numerous times. Halgat once told Brancato, “I can’t f—— help. I can’t help.” [...]

Brancato pleaded with Halgat to be his armed security during a drug transaction set up by the U.S. government, which even included using a “drug cartel” plane that was rented by the ATF.

Halgat did protect Brancato, and got paid $1,000 for being his security guard, which finally led to the arrest of Halgat and charges that could mean a 20-year prison sentence.

Judge Ferenbach said this week that the “ATF had investigated Halgat for three years, found no contraband after executing two search warrants and indicted him for a crime designed and initiated by the ATF.”

“The function of law enforcement is the prevention of crime and the apprehension of criminals. Manifestly, that function does not include the manufacturing of crime,” Judge Ferenbach said.

Good for the judge.

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