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October 2017
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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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Sessions makes Franken and Paul come together

In the Daily Caller: Rand Paul And Al Franken Come Together For Weed

Republicans and Democrats in Congress are introducing medical marijuana legislation Thursday protecting states from federal interference in the wake of a request to roll back protections from Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Members of the House of Representatives and Senate are backing a comprehensive marijuana package in an effort to protect state medical legalization laws from a potential federal crackdown. The bill gives the Department of Veteran Affairs the freedom to recommend medical marijuana to patients and removes cannabidiol (CBD), used to treat chronic pain and severe epilepsy, from the Controlled Substances Act.

Republican Sens. Mike Lee, Rand Paul and Lisa Murkowski join Democratic Sens. Al Franken, Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand as initial sponsors of the legislation, which they will announce in a press conference Thursday. A version of the legislation in the House is also attracting bipartisan support.

Here are some of the provisions of that bill:

Amends the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to provide that control and enforcement provisions of such Act relating to marijuana shall not apply to any person acting in compliance with state law relating to the production, possession, distribution, dispensation, administration, laboratory testing, or delivery of medical marijuana.

Transfers marijuana from schedule I to schedule II of the CSA.

Excludes “cannabidiol” from the definition of “marijuana” and defines it separately as the substance cannabidiol, as derived from marijuana or the synthetic formulation, that contains not greater than 0.3% delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol on a dry weight basis. Deems marijuana that is grown or processed for purposes of making cannabidiol, in accordance with state law, to meet such concentration limitation unless the Attorney General determines that the state law is not reasonably calculated to comply with such definition.

Prohibits a federal banking regulator from: (1) terminating or limiting the deposit insurance of a depository institution solely because it provides or has provided financial services to a marijuana-related legitimate business; or (2) prohibiting, penalizing, or otherwise discouraging a depository institution from providing financial services to a marijuana-related legitimate business. […]

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Do you want some booty juice with your burritos verdes?

Just for fun…

Phillip Smith over at AlterNet has The DEA’s Top 10 Most Insanely Ridiculous Slang Terms for Weed

Quite a fun list, including:

  • Bambalachacha
  • Booty Juice
  • Burritos Verdes
  • Fine Stu
  • Good Giggles
  • Joy Smoke
  • Love Nuggets
  • Pocket Rocket
  • Righteous Bush
  • Smoochy Woochy Poochy

Some of these terms would be a really bad idea to use when describing marijuana. I for one, would be really careful about offering anyone some of my pocket rocket, or asking for a taste of their righteous bush!

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Sessions continues to attempt his hard line on marijuana

Jeff Sessions personally asked Congress to let him prosecute medical marijuana providers

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is asking congressional leaders to undo federal medical marijuana protections that have been in place since 2014, according to a May letter that became public Monday.

The protections, known as the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, prohibit the Justice Department from using federal funds to prevent certain states “from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

In his letter, first obtained by Tom Angell of Massroots.com and verified independently by The Washington Post, Sessions argued that the amendment would “inhibit [the Justice Department’s] authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act.”

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Steve Rolles on the drug war

Steve Rolles has been one of the best voices in drug policy reform internationally. This fantastic article — Recreational drugs market should be managed by ‘governments not gangsters’, says expert — talks about his book, Legalizing Drugs: The Key to Ending the War. This interview in the Independent is loaded with quotes from Steve that provide a great primer into the futility of the drug war.

In an interview with The Independent, Rolles, who has previously served as an adviser to the Global Commission on Drugs, argues that the “most striking thing about the war on drugs is its spectacular failings on its own terms”.

He says the idea behind the policy was to eradicate drugs from the globe in order to create a drug-free world by 2008, with the official slogan of the 1998 UN conference on the world drug problem being: “A Drug-Free World: We Can Do It.”

“Not only did that not happen but actually things continued to get worse so drug markets were founded, prevalence increased and all the problems related to drug use and illegal drug markets increased as well,” Rolles says. “For a policy that is specifically trying to eradicate drugs from the world, it has overseen the most rapid expansion of drug use in human history.”

The policy has instead backfired, he points out, leading to the creation of an “enormous illegal market where hundreds of billions every year are controlled by violent gangsters. So we have all of this crime and violence, both on UK city streets and around the world, which is fuelled by the illegal drug trade. We don’t have those issues with legal drugs. We don’t have tobacconists gunning each other down in the streets. All the problems associated with the vast illegal drug trade are essentially a result of prohibition.”

Instead of protecting the health of the public, the war on drugs has made drugs more dangerous, Rolles maintains. “It’s not deterring youth. It’s not preventing availability of access to drugs. It’s actually making drugs more dangerous.

“All drugs are fundamentally risky but when they’re produced and supplied through an illegal market they become more risky. People don’t know how strong they are, people don’t know what’s in them, their potency can vary wildly. All of the things that that the war on drugs is supposedly achieving in terms of protecting our health or protecting us from crime, it’s actually doing the opposite.”

Good stuff. And there’s lots more in the article.

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Trump and Duterte

Jeremy Scahill at The Intercept has the story about President Trump’s phone call to Philippine President Duterte. TRUMP CALLED RODRIGO DUTERTE TO CONGRATULATE HIM ON HIS MURDEROUS DRUG WAR: “YOU ARE DOING AN AMAZING JOB”

“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” Trump told Duterte at the beginning of their call, according to the document. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

“Thank you Mr. President,” replied Duterte. “This is the scourge of my nation now and I have to do something to preserve the Filipino nation.”

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Debate

For your enjoyment…

@ISSUE: Should we make marijuana legal?

The arguments for and against legalization are debated… by advocate Paul Armentano, deputy director of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, and by opponent Kevin A. Sabet, president and CEO of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

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AG Sessions’ move, while despicable, isn’t the real problem

In the last post, Sessions’ Justice Department goes all-in on sentencing, we learned that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has mandated a revival of the discredited “tough-on-crime” charging and sentencing approaches.

And, as comforting as it is to blame Sessions, there’s a more important point.

Sessions is only able to do this because horrendous laws exist.

For us, there’s no doubt that it’s easier to complain about the actions of an administration that goes all-out in the enforcement of unjust laws, or a Supreme Court that refuses to override unjust laws. But the reality is that the best way to prevent them is to eliminate (or prevent the passing of) the laws themselves. And that, unfortunately, involves the messy self-serving chaos that is Congress.

Fortunately, we’re making progress. It used to be that any Congressperson could bolster their reelection efforts by proposing the expansion of criminal laws or adding new sentencing enhancements. We’re finally getting to the point where that’s not automatic. We need to get to the point where a representative will actually lose support by considering such a thing, and get ridiculed on the floor of Congress.

While Congress has not yet succeeded in passing significant sentencing reform (it’s always harder to remove bad laws than to pass them), the reaction to Sessions’ proclamation is heartening.

If you have not yet subscribed to Tom Angell’s excellent Marijuana Moment newsletter, you really should do so. In today’s issue, he includes a powerhouse of reactions.

A number of members of Congress criticized the new U.S. Department of Justice drug prosecution policy:
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY): “Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated too many minorities for too long. Attorney General Sessions’ new policy will accentuate that injustice.”
https://www.paul.senate.gov/news/press/dr-rand-paul-releases-statement-on-attorney-generals-action-on-mandatory-minimums

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT): “The Attorney General’s new sentencing policy is an ideologically motivated attempt to resurrect the failed policies of the War on Drugs. Make no mistake, low-level offenders will spend years and even decades more in prison. This will not make us safer — quite the opposite, it will strip critical public safety resources away from targeting truly violent criminals in order to house nonviolent drug offenders.”
https://www.leahy.senate.gov/press/comment-of-senator-patrick-leahy-d-vt-judiciary-committee-member-and-appropriations-committee-vice-chairman-on-attorney-general-sessions-new-sentencing-policy

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL): “This policy shift flies in the face of the growing bipartisan consensus that we need to reduce—not increase—the length of prison sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. It will send already skyrocketing prison costs even higher, undermining other important public safety priorities and separating nonviolent drug offenders from their families for years, which has a destructive effect on communities and erodes faith in our criminal justice system.”
https://www.durbin.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/durbin-statement-on-ag-sessions-move-to-force-needlessly-harsh-prison-sentences-for-nonviolent-drug-offenses

U.S. Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT): “To be tough on crime we have to be smart on crime. That is why criminal justice reform is a conservative issue.”

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA): “Jeff Sessions wants to turn back the clock on the progress we’ve made on sentencing reform—and we must speak out against it.”

Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX): “Trump/Sessions: Let’s double down on failed strategy, add to highest incarceration rate in the world. America: Let’s end the war on drugs.”
https://twitter.com/BetoORourke/status/863040937894838272 https://twitter.com/BetoORourke/status/863041181609074688

Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI): “Let’s pass criminal justice reform to put an end to this unjust, ineffective, and costly policy.”

Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN): “Sessions’ memorandum is a return to the failed policies of the War on Drugs. It is bad for our communities, and utterly destructive for low-level, non-violent drug offenders. The only people who benefit from these laws are those who have a financial stake in imprisonment: the private prison industry and vendors to the public system.”
https://ellison.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/rep-ellison-statement-on-harmful-department-of-justice-sentencing

Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN): ” Harsher sentences for non-violent drug crimes cost taxpayers more money and waste limited resources that are needed to go after more dangerous, violent offenders who put the public at risk. The beneficiaries of these policies are often private prisons who profit from locking up more inmates, disproportionately affecting people of color.”
https://cohen.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/cohen-s-statement-doj-s-new-guidelines-charging-and-sentencing-criminal

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC): “Will fight AG Sessions’ effort to revive failed War on Drugs. Mass incarceration has destroyed lives & devastated our minority communities.”

Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA): “As President Trump distracts with outlandish threats, AG Sessions quietly brings back the harshest sentences of the failed War on Drugs.”

There may be some hope in that domed building in Washington, DC. We need to keep applying the pressure to our representatives that sentencing reform, not sentencing enhancement is what is needed to fix our broken criminal justice system.

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