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Facebook is the best human research lab ever. There’s no need to get experiment participants to sign pesky consent forms as they’ve already agreed to the site’s data use policy. A team of Facebook data scientists are constantly coming up with new ways to study human behavior through the social network. When the team releases papers about what it’s learned from us, we often learn surprising things about Facebook — such as the fact that it can keep track of the status updates we never actually post. Facebook has played around with manipulating people before — getting 60,000 to rock the vote in 2012 that theoretically wouldn’t have otherwise — but a recent study shows Facebook playing a whole new level of mind gamery with its
guinea pigs users. As first noted by Animal New York, Facebook’s data scientists manipulated the News Feeds of 689,003 users, removing either all of the positive posts or all of the negative posts to see how it affected their moods. If there was a week in January 2012 where you were only seeing photos of dead dogs or incredibly cute babies, you may have been part of the study. Now that the experiment is public, people’s mood about the study itself would best be described as “disturbed.”
The researchers, led by data scientist Adam Kramer, found that emotions were contagious. “When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred,” according to the paper published by the Facebook research team in the PNAS. “These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.”
The experiment ran for a week — January 11–18, 2012 — during which the hundreds of thousands of Facebook users unknowingly participating may have felt either happier or more depressed than usual, as they saw either more of their friends posting ’15 Photos That Restore Our Faith In Humanity’ articles or despondent status updates about losing jobs, getting screwed over by X airline, and already failing to live up to New Year’s resolutions. “*Probably* nobody was driven to suicide,” tweeted one professor linking to the study, adding a “#jokingnotjoking” hashtag.
The researchers — who may not have been thinking about the optics of a “Facebook emotionally manipulates users” study — jauntily note that the study undermines people who claim that looking at our friends’ good lives on Facebook makes us feel depressed. “The fact that people were more emotionally positive in response to positive emotion updates from their friends stands in contrast to theories that suggest viewing positive posts by friends on Facebook may somehow affect us negatively,” they write.
They also note that when they took all of the emotional posts out of a person’s News Feed, that person became “less expressive,” i.e. wrote less status updates. So prepare to have Facebook curate your feed with the most emotional of your friends’ posts if they feel you’re not posting often enough.
So is it okay for Facebook to play mind games with us for science? It’s a cool finding but manipulating unknowing users’ emotional states to get there puts Facebook’s big toe on that creepy line. Facebook’s data use policy — that I’m sure you’ve all read — says Facebookers’ information will be used “for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement,” making all users potential experiment subjects. And users know that Facebook’s mysterious algorithms control what they see in their News Feed. But it may come as a surprise to users to see those two things combined like this. When universities conduct studies on people, they have to run them by an ethics board first to get approval — ethics boards that were created because scientists were getting too creepy in their experiments, getting subjects to think they were shocking someone to death in order to study obedience and letting men live with syphilis for study purposes. A 2012 profile of the Facebook data team noted, “ Unlike academic social scientists, Facebook’s employees have a short path from an idea to an experiment on hundreds of millions of people.” This study was partially funded by a government body — the Army Research Office — and via @ZLeeily, the PNAS editor on the article says this study did pass muster with an Institutional Review Board, but we’ll see if it passes muster with users.
In it’s initial response to the controversy around the study — a statement sent to me late Saturday night — Facebook doesn’t seem to really get what people are upset about, focusing on privacy and data use rather than the ethics of emotional manipulation and whether Facebook’s TOS lives up to the definition of “informed consent” usually required for academic studies like this. “This research was conducted for a single week in 2012 and none of the data used was associated with a specific person’s Facebook account,” says a Facebook spokesperson. “We do research to improve our services and to make the content people see on Facebook as relevant and engaging as possible. A big part of this is understanding how people respond to different types of content, whether it’s positive or negative in tone, news from friends, or information from pages they follow. We carefully consider what research we do and have a strong internal review process. There is no unnecessary collection of people’s data in connection with these research initiatives and all data is stored securely.”
Ideally, Facebook would have a consent process for willing study participants: a box to check somewhere saying you’re okay with being subjected to the occasional random psychological experiment that Facebook’s data team cooks up in the name of science. As opposed to the commonplace psychological manipulation cooked up advertisers trying to sell you stuff.
Subject: Drug War Chronicle, Issue #840 (short version)
How did the United States, land of the free, become the world’s top jailer? It’s a question asked by visitors from other democracies, and the American citizen who wakes from a stupor to find that our prisons are stuffed with people serving interminable sentences for nonviolent crimes.
For the answer, you need look no further than the real America, the sparsely settled, ruggedly beautiful, financially struggling eastern third of Washington State. There, 70-year-old Larry Harvey, his wife, two family members and a friend are facing mandatory 10-year prison terms for growing medical marijuana — openly and, they thought, legally — on their farm near the little town of Kettle Falls.
To get a sense of the tragic absurdity of this federal prosecution, reaching all the way to the desk of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., consider what will happen next month. Pot stores will open in Washington, selling legal marijuana for the recreational user — per a vote of the people. A few weeks later, the Feds will try to put away the so-called Kettle Falls Five for growing weed on their land to ease their medical maladies. Federal sentencing guidelines, which trump state law, call for mandatory prison terms.
Harvey is a former long-haul truck driver with a bad knee, spasms of gout and high blood pressure. He says he has no criminal record, and spends much of his time in a wheelchair. His wife, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, is a retired hairdresser with arthritis and osteoporosis. Mr. Harvey says he takes his wife’s home-baked marijuana confections when the pain in his knee starts to flare. The Harveys thought they were in the clear, growing 68 marijuana plants on their acreage in northeast Washington, one of 22 states allowing legal medical marijuana. (Federal authorities say they are several plants over the limit.)
Their pot garden was a co-op among the four family members and one friend; the marijuana was not for sale or distribution, Mr. Harvey says. “I think these patients were legitimate,” Dr. Greg Carter, who reviewed medical records after the arrest, told The Spokesman-Review of Spokane. “They are pretty normal people. We’re not talking about thugs.”
But the authorities, using all the military tools at their disposal in the exhausted drug war, treated them as big-time narco threats. First, a helicopter spotted the garden from the air. Brilliant, except Harvey himself had painted a huge medical marijuana sign on a plywood board so that his garden, in fact, could be identified as a medical pot plot from the air.
This was followed by two raids. One from eight agents in Kevlar vests. The other from Drug Enforcement Agency officers. They searched the house, confiscating guns, and a little cash in a drawer. The guns are no surprise: Finding someone who does not own a firearm in the Selkirk Mountain country is like finding a Seattleite who doesn’t recycle. Still, the guns were enough to add additional federal charges to an indictment that the family was growing more than the legal limit of plants.
Now, let’s step back. The Harveys live in the congressional district of Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who is part of the House Republican leadership. She loves freedom. You know she loves freedom because she always says so, most recently in a press release touting her efforts to take away people’s health care coverage. “Americans must be protected from out of control government,” she stated.
Well, maybe. Unless that government is trying to take away the freedom of a retired couple growing pot to ease their bodily pains. That freedom is not so good. Astonishingly, in our current toxic political atmosphere, Republicans and Democrats joined together last month to vote, by 219 to 189, to block spending for federal prosecution of medical marijuana in states that allow it.
Yaayyy, for freedom. There was one dissent from Washington State’s delegation. Yes, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, standing firm for an out of control government instead of defending one of her freedom-loving constituents.
Let’s go further up the government ranks. As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to “immediately review these sentences” — mandatory minimums — “to see how we can be smarter on crime and reduce the ineffective warehousing of nonviolent drug offenders.”
He kept that promise, in ordering a review. And his Justice Department also issued new guidelines saying the Feds would try to avoid prosecution of medical marijuana operations so long as they don’t do things like funnel money to interstate drug operations or sell to children. The Harveys say they meet the guidelines.
Why the federal prosecution, then? Attorney General Holder was in Spokane last week, meeting with his subordinates. But he said nothing about the case. Trial is set for July 28, and the Harveys can’t use legal medical marijuana as a defense, a judge has ruled. All the government has to prove is that the Harvey family was growing marijuana — a federal crime.
If they go to prison for a decade, as the mindless statutes that grew out of the crack-cocaine scare stipulate, they would become part of a federal system where fully half of all inmates are behind bars for drug offenses. And one in four of those crimes involves marijuana.
So remember the Kettle Falls Five when all the legal pot stores and their already legal growing facilities open for business in Washington State next month. There will be silly features about cookies and candy bars laced with pot, and discussions about etiquette, dos and don’ts. The press will cite polls showing that a majority of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, and more than 80 percent feel that way about medical cannabis. But in the eyes of the federal government, these state laws are meaningless.
If Larry Harvey, at the age of 70, with his gout and high blood pressure and bum knee, gets the mandatory 10-year term, he’s likely to die in prison, certainly not the last casualty of the assault on our citizens known as the War on Drugs. For him, freedom is just another word his congresswoman likes to throw around on the Fourth of July.
June 17, 2014. Bolivia. The American and European media are doing everything they can to black this news out. But it’s not going to stay a secret for long. As of this weekend, there’s a new New World Order on Earth and its enemy is the United States, the EU, the UN Security Council and the world’s shadow government led by the IMF and WTO. This new alliance of poor countries wouldn’t be much of a threat, except it includes two-thirds of the world’s nations including China and India.
UN Sec. Gen. Ban Ki-moon (center) with host country Bolivia’s President Evo Morales and 133 other world leaders this weekend. Image courtesy of the UN.
It’s a sad day for the American people when their government and state-sponsored news industry blacks out such an important news story. Americans actually have to rely on outlets like the Havana Times in Cuba, The Times of India, and United Nations press releases. There’s a reason this news is being censored across the West. And it’s only the latest global news story over the past two weeks on this subject blacked out from the American people. Read on to find out why.
End of the New World Order
When the richest and most powerful nations on Earth formed the G7, G8, G20 and the like, they united to combine their dominance over the remaining 175 countries that make up humanity. And for decades, the wealthiest 20 countries led by the US have gotten exponentially more wealthy at the expense of the poorest 175 nations, who in turn have gotten even poorer. That’s been the result of the West’s ‘New World Order’, led mainly by self-appointed global governments like the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.
133 of those 175 countries have had enough of the New World Order’s rigged global financial system based in New York and London. They’ve seen their economies destroyed by corrupt corporations and global governments that create a cycle of never-ending dependence and poverty. They’ve seen their nations’ vast resources stolen by multinational corporations. Their agriculture landscape has been poisoned. Their citizens bankrupted by the IMF and Wall Street. And their democratically elected leaders overthrown by foreign agents from countries like the US.
They’ve had enough of the New World Order. And an alliance of 133 countries, two-thirds of the nations on Earth, signed an agreement this weekend to end the West’s New World Order and replace it with a fair, honest and legitimate World Order – one that lets everyone participate and benefit, not just the super rich.
The Next World Order
The organization is officially called the ‘Group of 77 and China’, but the alliance actually includes 133 nations. Showing just how much influence they have, their meeting this weekend in Bolivia was opened with a keynote speech by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In the audience were over 30 heads of state from around the world and official representatives from over 100 more governments. Also illustrating the organization’s growing influence, China isn’t even a member of the G77, but insisted on participating anyway in a show of unity with the globe’s Next World Order.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro participated, telling the gathered nations they had to unite to, “fight for fair and sustainable economic growth and for a new world economic order.” Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa went one step further, telling the gathered national leaders and representatives, “Only when we are united across Latin America and united around the world will we be able to make our voice heard and change an international order that is not just unfair, it is immoral.”
A report from AFP on Yahoo News, about the only report found in Western media, describes how Cuban President Raul Castro also participated, but reserved his comments for a call to help their top ally Venezuela. Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia and a number of South American countries have insisted they are currently under attack by the United States and the CIA, who they insist are desperately trying to orchestrate coups to overthrow their democratically elected, pro-socialist governments the same way they are accused of doing in the Ukraine recently.
Iran and the UN
An announcement published by the United Nations this weekend touts UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s enthusiastic participation in the G77 meeting. It discusses how important this massive alliance is to the goals of the UN, particularly with regard to reversing the world’s growing economic inequality among nations. Moon and the UN are also sponsoring a separate but related meeting of nations in September to draft new climate resolutions to be enacted in 2015.
The announcement describes a private meeting between the UN Secretary General and Iran’s Vice President, ‘On the margins of today’s summit, Mr. Ban met with the First Vice President of Iran, Eshaq Jahangiri, to discuss development issues, as well as the potential role that Iran could play in restoring stability in Iraq and Syria. The Secretary-General added that he looked forward to Iran’s positive involvement on climate change and said he very much hoped that President Hassan Rouhani would attend the climate summit this September.’ The report also says the two leaders discussed Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the coming July deadline for compliance with past mandates.
Threats of America’s “second Vietnam”
Many of the government leaders in attendance took the opportunity to strike a blow against what they consider to be the biggest enemy of world peace, democracy and economic freedom – the United States. One leader even went as far as calling out President Obama by name and threatening the United States with a second Vietnam.
As reported by the Times of India, the G77 conference’s host this weekend – Bolivian President Evo Morales – threatened the United States and the American President telling the gathered heads of state, “If Mr. Obama keeps assailing the people of Venezuela, I am convinced that, faced with provocation and aggression, Venezuela and Latin America will be a second Vietnam for the United States. Let us defend democracy, natural resources, our sovereignty and our dignity.”
Cuba’s President Raul Castro was possibly the most pointed and focused in his remarks regarding the agenda of the participating countries. As reported by the Havana Times, Castro told the alliance of 133 nations, “It is necessary to demand a new international financial and monetary order and fair commercial conditions for producers and importers from the guardians of capital, centered in the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and from the defenders of neoliberalism grouped in the World Trade Organization, which are attempting to divide us. Only unity will allow us to make our ample majority prevail.”
UN Civil War – dissolving the UN Security Council
One of the more ambitious goals of the G77 and its 133 participating countries is the elimination of the United Nations Security Council. World leaders insist it is little more than a five-nation tyranny over the full UN body. With five permanent members of the UN Security Council having veto power over the rest, UN policies and actions have been dictated by those five countries – US, UK, Russia, France and China. Members of the G77 want the Security Council eliminated so the UN can go back to being a purely democratic body.
The Cuban leader went on to describe a global economic system run by American hypocrisy and financial corruption, “The principles of International Law and the postulates of the New International Economic Order are brazenly violated, concepts that attempt to legalize meddling are imposed, force is used and threats of force are made with impunity, the media are used to promote division.”
Dominoes beginning to fall
This is just the latest organized attack on a global financial system rigged by corrupt governments and the multinational corporations that control them. Just last month, Russia and China signed a long term trade alliance that represents the first major crack in the US Dollar bubble. The two countries agreed to stop using US Dollars in their transactions and instead use their own two currencies. The two largest banks from both countries immediately announced they would be dumping the US Dollar as well.
On top of that, the world’s ‘BRIC’ countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – have publicly declared their goal of replacing the corrupted US Dollar with some other global default currency. Now that Russia and China have finally taken actual steps to do that, the remaining two-thirds of the world will most likely begin making preparations to stop using the US Dollar as well. It was only this weekend that 133 of them pledged to do just that.
The scary part for Americans is that both Washington and Wall Street have promised this would never happen, because if it did, it would destroy the US economic system and possibly the US itself. Read the Whiteout Press article, ‘Russia-China Deals move US Dollar closer to Collapse’ for more information.
To view a full list of the 133 nations that make up the G77, visit the Group of 77 website.
Posted Jun 24, 2014 8:40 AM CDT
By Erwin Chemerinsky
In a series of cases this term, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it much more difficult for plaintiffs to recover for civil rights violations. These decisions continue a pattern in recent years of the Supreme Court significantly expanding the immunity accorded to government officials sued for violating the Constitution.
Suing individual government officers is often the only way that an injured person can recover for constitutional violations. Yet suits against government entities are often difficult, if not impossible, to win. Both the federal and state governments are protected by sovereign immunity, which greatly limits suits against them for damages. Local governments may be held liable for civil rights violations only if there is a municipal policy or custom that led to the injury.
State and local government officials may be sued for constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S. Code Sec. 1983, and federal officers may be sued pursuant to the Supreme Court’s 1971 decision, Bivens v. Six Unknown Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. The Supreme Court, however, has said that all government officials sued for money damages may raise immunity as a defense. Some government officers have absolute immunity to suits for money damages: among them are judges performing judicial tasks, prosecutors performing prosecutorial tasks, legislators performing legislative tasks, police officers testifying as witness, and the president for acts taken in office.
All other government officers have qualified immunity. In Harlow v. Fitzgerald, the Supreme Court held in 1982 that “government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.”
In the 30 years since Harlow, courts have struggled with how to determine if there is a clearly established law that the “reasonable person would have known.” Must there be a case on point to say that there is such clearly established law?
In Hope v. Pelzer, the court in 2002 seemingly resolved this and held that there need not be a prior decision on point for the plaintiff to show the existence of clearly established law. Rather, officers may be held liable so long as they had fair warning that their conduct was impermissible.
The case involved a prisoner who was tied to a hitching post and left in the hot sun. The federal court of appeals found that this was cruel and unusual punishment, but that the officers were protected by qualified immunity because there was no case on point holding that such use of the hitching post violated the Constitution. The Supreme Court reversed and said that a case on point is sufficient to show clearly established law, but it is not necessary.
In the decade since Hope v. Pelzer, including three cases this term, the Supreme Court repeatedly has found qualified immunity based on the absence of a case on point. The court has not overruled Hope v. Pelzer or even distinguished it; the court has simply ignored it. In the process, the court has made it much harder for plaintiffs to overcome qualified immunity and hold government officers liable for constitutional violations.
In Lane v. Franks, issued June 19, the court unanimously held that a government employee’s First Amendment rights were violated when he was fired for truthful testimony he gave pursuant to a subpoena. This result seems so obvious: of course it is wrong to fire a person for testifying honestly in a criminal trial, especially when the individual had no choice but to testify because of a subpoena.
Nonetheless, the court found that the defendant responsible for the firing was protected from liability by qualified immunity. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, writing for the court, said that “[t]he relevant question for qualified immunity purposes is this: Could Franks reasonably have believed, at the time he fired Lane, that a government employer could fire an employee on account of testimony the employee gave, under oath and outside the scope of his ordinary job responsibilities?” The court reviewed precedents, especially from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which earlier ruled on the case, and found that none had clearly held that this violates the First Amendment. But Hope v. Pelzer said that a case on point is not necessary: Shouldn’t every government officer know that it is wrong to fire a person for truthfully testifying in court?
In Plumhoff v. Rickard, decided on May 27, the court again found that government officials were protected by qualified immunity. Police officers pulled over a white Honda Accord because the car had only one operating headlight. Donald Rickard was the driver of the Accord, and Kelly Allen was in the passenger seat. The officer asked Rickard if he had been drinking, and Rickard responded that he had not. Because Rickard failed to produce his driver’s license upon request and appeared nervous, the officer asked Rickard to step out of the car. Rather than comply with the officer’s request, Rickard sped away.
A high-speed chase then occurred that lasted five minutes and reached speeds greater than 100 mph. At one point, the officers appeared to have Rickard’s car pinned. But when the car pulled away, officers fired three shots into the car. As the car attempted to speed away, another 12 shots were fired by the police. Both the driver and the passenger were killed. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the police used excess force and violated the Fourth Amendment.
The Supreme Court unanimously reversed, ruling in favor of the police. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote for the court and held that there was no violation of the Fourth Amendment. The court said that the driver’s conduct posed a “grave public safety risk” and that the police were justified in shooting at the car to stop it. The court said “it stands to reason that, if police officers are justified in firing at a suspect in order to end a severe threat to public safety, the officers need not stop shooting until the threat has ended.” Moreover, the court said that even if there were a Fourth Amendment violation, the officers were protected by qualified immunity, in that the law had not clearly established that the conduct violated the Fourth Amendment.
This is a disturbing holding. The Supreme Court now has said that whenever there is a high-speed chase that the officers perceive could injure others–and that would seem to be true of virtually all high speed chases–the police can shoot at the vehicle and keep shooting until it stops. The car was stopped for having only one working headlight. If the driver refused to stop, why not just let the car go and then track the driver down later? Why should death be the punishment for making the extremely poor choice to begin a high-speed chase?
Finally, in Wood v. Moss, also decided on May 27, the court found that Secret Service agents were protected by qualified immunity when they engaged in viewpoint discrimination with regard to speakers. President George W. Bush was in Oregon and the Secret Service agents allowed supporters of President Bush to be closer and pushed the opponents further away. The law is clear that the government cannot discriminate among speakers based on their views unless strict scrutiny is met.
Nonetheless, the court, in a unanimous decision with the majority opinion written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, found that the Secret Service agents were protected by qualified immunity because there were no cases on point concerning when Secret Service agents may violate the First Amendment. But why do there need to be specific cases since the law is clearly established that viewpoint discrimination violates the First Amendment?
All of these cases were unanimous. All found qualified immunity because of the absence of a case on point. Together they show a court that is very protective of government officials who are sued and that has made it very difficult for victims of constitutional violations to recover.
Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, and Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, is one of the nation’s top experts in constitutional law, federal practice, civil rights and civil liberties, and appellate litigation. He is the author of seven books, the latest being The Conservative Assault on the Constitution (Simon & Schuster, 2010). His casebook, Constitutional Law, is one of the most widely read law textbooks in the country. Chemerinsky has also written nearly 200 law review articles in journals such as the Harvard Law Review, Michigan Law Review, Northwestern Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Stanford Law Review and Yale Law Journal. He frequently argues appellate cases, including matters before the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Court of Appeal, and regularly serves as a commentator on legal issues for national and local media. He holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a B.S. from Northwestern University.
“[I]f the individual is no longer to be sovereign, if the police can pick him up whenever they do not like the cut of his jib, if they can ‘seize’ and ‘search’ him in their discretion, we enter a new regime. The decision to enter it should be made only after a full debate by the people of this country.”-–U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
The U.S. Supreme Court was intended to be an institution established to intervene and protect the people against the government and its agents when they overstep their bounds. Yet as I point out in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, Americans can no longer rely on the courts to mete out justice. In the police state being erected around us, the police and other government agents can probe, poke, pinch, taser, search, seize, strip and generally manhandle anyone they see fit in almost any circumstance, all with the general blessing of the courts.
Whether it’s police officers breaking through people’s front doors and shooting them dead in their homes or strip searching innocent motorists on the side of the road, these instances of abuse are continually validated by a judicial system that kowtows to virtually every police demand, no matter how unjust, no matter how in opposition to the Constitution.
These are the hallmarks of the emerging American police state: where police officers, no longer mere servants of the people entrusted with keeping the peace, are part of an elite ruling class dependent on keeping the masses corralled, under control, and treated like suspects and enemies rather than citizens.
A review of the Supreme Court’s rulings over the past 10 years, including some critical ones this term, reveals a startling and steady trend towards pro-police state rulings by an institution concerned more with establishing order and protecting government agents than with upholding the rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Police officers can use lethal force in car chases without fear of lawsuits. In Plumhoff v. Rickard (2014), the Court declared that police officers who used deadly force to terminate a car chase were immune from a lawsuit. The officers were accused of needlessly resorting to deadly force by shooting multiple times at a man and his passenger in a stopped car, killing both individuals.
Police officers can stop cars based only on “anonymous” tips. In a 5-4 ruling inNavarette v. California (2014), the Court declared that police officers can, under the guise of “reasonable suspicion,” stop cars and question drivers based solely on anonymous tips, no matter how dubious, and whether or not they themselves witnessed any troubling behavior. This ruling came on the heels of a ruling by the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in U.S. v. Westhoven that driving too carefully, with a rigid posture, taking a scenic route, and having acne are sufficient reasons for a police officer to suspect you of doing something illegal, detain you, search your car, and arrest you–even if you’ve done nothing illegal to warrant the stop in the first place.
Secret Service agents are not accountable for their actions, as long as they’re done in the name of security. In Wood v. Moss (2014), the Court granted “qualified immunity” to Secret Service officials who relocated anti-Bush protesters, despite concerns raised that the protesters’ First Amendment right to freely speak, assemble, and petition their government leaders had been violated. These decisions, part of a recent trend toward granting government officials “qualified immunity”–they are not accountable for their actions–in lawsuits over alleged constitutional violations, merely incentivize government officials to violate constitutional rights without fear of repercussion.
Citizens only have a right to remain silent if they assert it. The Supreme Court ruled inSalinas v. Texas (2013) that persons who are not under arrest must specifically invoke their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in order to avoid having their refusal to answer police questions used against them in a subsequent criminal trial. What this ruling says, essentially, is that citizens had better know what their rights are and understand when those rights are being violated, because the government is no longer going to be held responsible for informing you of those rights before violating them.
Police have free reign to use drug-sniffing dogs as “search warrants on leashes,” justifying any and all police searches of vehicles stopped on the roadside. In Florida v. Harris (2013), a unanimous Court determined that police officers may use highly unreliable drug-sniffing dogs to conduct warrantless searches of cars during routine traffic stops. In doing so, the justices sided with police by claiming that all that the police need to do to prove probable cause for a search is simply assert that a drug detection dog has received proper training. The ruling turns man’s best friend into an extension of the police state.
Police can forcibly take your DNA, whether or not you’ve been convicted of a crime. InMaryland v. King (2013), a divided Court determined that a person arrested for a crime who is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty must submit to forcible extraction of their DNA. Once again the Court sided with the guardians of the police state over the defenders of individual liberty in determining that DNA samples may be extracted from people arrested for “serious offenses.” While the Court claims to have made its decision based upon concerns of properly identifying criminal suspects upon arrest, what they actually did is open the door for a nationwide dragnet of suspects targeted via DNA sampling.
Police can stop, search, question and profile citizens and non-citizens alike. The Supreme Court declared in Arizona v. United States (2012) that Arizona police officers have broad authority to stop, search and question individuals–citizen and non-citizen alike. While the law prohibits officers from considering race, color, or national origin, it amounts to little more than a perfunctory nod to discrimination laws on the books, while paving the way for outright racial profiling and destroying the Fourth Amendment.
Police can subject Americans to virtual strip searches, no matter the “offense.” A divided Supreme Court actually prioritized making life easier for overworked jail officials over the basic right of Americans to be free from debasing strip searches. In its 5-4 ruling in Florence v. Burlington (2012), the Court declared that any person who is arrested and processed at a jail house, regardless of the severity of his or her offense (i.e., they can be guilty of nothing more than a minor traffic offense), can be subjected to a virtual strip search by police or jail officials, which involves exposing the genitals and the buttocks. This “license to probe” is now being extended to roadside stops, as police officers throughout the country have begun performing roadside strip searches–some involving anal and vaginal probes–without any evidence of wrongdoing and without a warrant.
Immunity protections for Secret Service agents trump the free speech rights of Americans. The court issued a unanimous decision in Reichle v. Howards (2012), siding with two Secret Service agents who arrested a Colorado man simply for daring to voice critical remarks to Vice President Cheney. However, contrast the Court’s affirmation of the “free speech” rights of corporations and wealthy donors in McCutcheon v. FEC (2014), which does away with established limits on the number of candidates an entity can support with campaign contributions, and Citizens United v. FEC (2010) with its tendency to deny those same rights to average Americans when government interests abound, and you’ll find a noticeable disparity.
Police can break into homes without a warrant, even if it’s the wrong home. In an 8-1 ruling in Kentucky v. King (2011), the Supreme Court placed their trust in the discretion of police officers, rather than in the dictates of the Constitution, when they gave police greater leeway to break into homes or apartments without a warrant. Despite the fact that the police in question ended up pursuing the wrong suspect, invaded the wrong apartment and violated just about every tenet that stands between us and a police state, the Court sanctioned the warrantless raid, leaving Americans with little real protection in the face of all manner of abuses by police.
Police can interrogate minors without their parents present. In a devastating ruling that could very well do away with what little Fourth Amendment protections remain to public school students and their families–the Court threw out a lower court ruling in Camreta v. Greene (2011), which required government authorities to secure a warrant, a court order or parental consent before interrogating students at school. The ramifications are far-reaching, rendering public school students as wards of the state. Once again, the courts sided with law enforcement against the rights of the people.
It’s a crime to not identify yourself when a policeman asks your name. In Hiibel v. Sixth Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada (2004), a majority of the high court agreed that refusing to answer when a policeman asks “What’s your name?” can rightfully be considered a crime under Nevada’s “stop and identify” statute. No longer will Americans, even those not suspected of or charged with any crime, have the right to remain silent when stopped and questioned by a police officer.
The cases the Supreme Court refuses to hear, allowing lower court judgments to stand, are almost as critical as the ones they rule on. Some of these cases, turned away in recent years alone, have delivered devastating blows to the rights enshrined in the Constitution.
Legally owning a firearm is enough to justify a no-knock raid by police. Justices refused to hear Quinn v. Texas (2014) the case of a Texas man who was shot by police through his closed bedroom door and whose home was subject to a no-knock, SWAT-team style forceful entry and raid based solely on the suspicion that there were legally-owned firearms in his household.
The military can arrest and detain American citizens. In refusing to hear Hedges v. Obama (2014), a legal challenge to the indefinite detention provision of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (NDAA), the Supreme Court affirmed that the President and the U.S. military can arrest and indefinitely detain individuals, including American citizens. In so doing, the high court also passed up an opportunity to overturn its 1944 Korematsu v. United States ruling allowing for the internment of Japanese-Americans in concentration camps.
Students can be subjected to random lockdowns and mass searches at school. The Court refused to hear Burlison v. Springfield Public Schools (2013), a case involving students at a Missouri public school who were subjected to random lockdowns, mass searches and drug-sniffing dogs by police. In so doing, the Court let stand an appeals court ruling that the searches and lockdowns were reasonable in order to maintain the safety and security of students at the school.
Police officers who don’t know their actions violate the law aren’t guilty of breaking the law. The Supreme Court let stand a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Brooks v. City of Seattle (2012) in which police officers who clearly used excessive force when they repeatedly tasered a pregnant woman during a routine traffic stop were granted immunity from prosecution. The Ninth Circuit actually rationalized its ruling by claiming that the officers couldn’t have known beyond a reasonable doubt that their actions–tasering a pregnant woman who was not a threat in any way until she was unconscious–violated the Fourth Amendment.
When all is said and done, what these assorted court rulings add up to is a disconcerting government mindset that interprets the Constitution one way for the elite–government entities, the police, corporations and the wealthy–and uses a second measure altogether for the underclasses–that is, you and me.
Keep in mind that in former regimes such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the complicity of the courts was the final piece to fall into place before the totalitarian beast stepped out of the shadows and into the light. If history is a guide, then the future that awaits us is truly frightening.
Time, as they say, grows short.
John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead’s aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and accomplishments, including the Hungarian Medal of Freedom. His concern for the persecuted and oppressed led him, in 1982, to establish The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization in Charlottesville, Va. Whitehead serves as the Institute’s president and spokesperson.
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Writer/editor, Illinois Policy Institute
Posted: 06/20/2014 5:52 pm EDT
Illinois became the 20th state in the U.S. to legalize medical marijuana in July 2013. But the Illinois law, which allows for a four-year medical marijuana pilot program, could be the next big windfall for cronyism in the state.
Political favoritism may already be cropping up in Illinois’ newly established medical marijuana industry, and barriers to entry could be steep as the state may impose hefty application and permit fees.
Competition to become established in Illinois’ medical marijuana business is stiff. Under the pilot program created by the new state law, Illinois will allow only 60 marijuana dispensaries and 22 growing centers.
This industry is expected to mean big money for those who land much-coveted business rights — last year, California’s medical marijuana sales were $1 billion. And in Illinois, a state notorious for corrupt insider dealings, the politically connected often get first dibs.
Those wanting a shot at one of the precious few dispensary and growing center slots are already jockeying for position. Anyone wanting to open one of these businesses must submit the name of the business, proposed location, relevant agricultural experience and much more information.
One person seeking medical marijuana registration from the state is Sam Borek, a former college roommate of Lou Lang, the state representative who sponsored Illinois’ medical marijuana law. According to CBS St. Louis, Borek has reserved at least three-dozen marijuana-related business names.
A friend of the governor is trying to get in on the action as well.
Chicagoan David Rosen, who was Gov. Pat Quinn’s chief fundraiser in 2010, plans to open a medical marijuana business in Nevada called "Waveseer" — and interestingly enough, he has also registered the same business name in Illinois.
Ultimately, the state will have the sole authority to decide the businesses it feels are best suited to operate under the new state law, and that will leave open the possibility for lawmakers to grant special favors to those applicants who are politically connected.
And any applicants who do receive registration through the state will have to comply with numerous regulations.
Under proposed regulations for the pilot program, the state would require dispensaries to pay a $5,000 nonrefundable application fee, a $30,000 permit fee and a $25,000 in annual permit renewal fee. Anyone wanting a dispensary permit will also have to show proof of $50,000 in escrow or bonds.
The application fee for growing centers is even steeper, at $25,000. Growing centers also have to pay a $200,000 fee after its permit is approved, plus a $100,000 renewal fee. Applicants would also have to prove that they have $2 million in escrow or bonds.
And if owners want to make changes to their business, there could be a fee for that, too.
Under the proposed regulations, the state could charge growing centers $1,000 to change their business name, to alter stock ownership or change principal officers.
These hefty fees certainly limit the number of people who can afford to open a business in a booming industry.
Given the level of state involvement in Illinois’ medical marijuana industry, it’s not hard to imagine opportunities for corruption. So as marijuana-related business licenses begin to roll out of Springfield, Illinoisans would be wise to pay attention to who’s reaping the benefits.
Follow Hilary Gowins on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hilarygowins
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – A West Michigan man facing federal marijuana charges has filed a constitutional challenge based, in part, on disparate federal prosecution in different states.
Shawn Taylor, the alleged leader of a marijuana grow operation, also argues that marijuana has medicinal value and should not be classified as a Schedule 1 drug – the designation for the most dangerous drugs.
Taylor is seeking an evidentiary hearing on the issues before U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in Grand Rapids.
“We’re raising arguments that have really never been raised before in a federal marijuana case,” former Kalamazoo attorney John Targowski, now practicing in Santa Monica, Calif., said on Thursday, June 19, after he filed an 86-page brief on behalf of his client.
“We’re arguing that cannabis is wrongly scheduled – it has medicinal value,” Targowski said.
Taylor is one of 37 people arrested for alleged roles in grow operations in Kent, Muskegon, Oceana and Ottawa counties and Traverse City.
Targowski said that a U.S. Supreme Court decision invalidating the Defense of Marriage Act should have bearing on marijuana cases.
“Recognizing the historical support for defining marriage as between one man and one woman, the court determined that it was the duty of the judiciary to rectify past misperceptions which result in constitutionally unsound legislation,” Targowski wrote in court documents.
“Like the long held beliefs regarding the marital relationship, the long held beliefs about the effects of marijuana have evolved. While the former evolution has been the result of societal ideologies, the latter is predicated on scientific evidence, and therefore, can be more readily established through an evidentiary hearing.”
Targowski has asked that Jonker consider declarations of three experts, including a former FBI supervisor and a physician, to establish there is no rational basis to treat marijuana as a controlled substance. Medical science has documented that “marijuana has a notably low potential for abuse,” Targowski wrote.
He said the Supreme Court has acknowledged its medical value.
“Compared to other over-the-counter substances, cannabis has the lowest potential for abuse, as it is impossible to die from an overdose: further, no studies have proven that the use of cannabis causes harms similar to those caused by the use of common over-the-counter medications, even at recommended dosages,” he wrote.
“In effect, the facts upon which marijuana was scheduled as one of the most dangerous narcotics in 1970 have been disproven.”
He also said that the government’s policy of not prosecuting those who comply with their state’s medical marijuana laws amounts to unequal prosecution based on where people live.
“The policy statement presented in the memorandum to U.S. Attorneys from Deputy Attorney General James Cole, issued on Aug. 29, 2013, by Attorney General Eric Holder has resulted in a discriminatory application of federal law, in that it protects similarly situated individuals from criminal sanctions for actions identical to that alleged to have been conducted by the defendant, and therefore violates the Equal Protection Clause,” Targowski wrote.
The government contends Taylor ran a large-scale drug operation that sold marijuana in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. He worked with a doctor for “certification clinics” for alleged patients, police said.
The government said Taylor used the state’s medical marijuana law as a ruse.
The government said that the state’s medical marijuana law is not a defense in federal court, and Taylor’s operation was not in compliance with state law, records showed.
DENVER — The marijuana in those pot brownies isn’t the only thing that can potentially make consumers sick. The industry and regulators are taking a closer look at how marijuana-infused edibles are made.
The thriving edible marijuana industry in Colorado is preparing for new testing requirements — due to take in effect in October — to make sure the products are safe to eat and drink.
While consuming too much of an edible has been connected to at least one death and a handful of hospital visits since retail recreational sales of marijuana began in January, officials say there have been no reports of anyone getting a food-borne illness from edibles.
Still, activists, producers, and officials agree that safety testing is long overdue for a sector of the new marijuana market that, according to one industry estimate, has seen the sale of at least 8 million pieces this year.
Food safety testing is necessary ‘‘to building any sort of credibility for the industry . . . to create that public confidence that we’re not just a bunch of stupid kids throwing marijuana into cookies and putting them on the market,’’ said Jazzmine Hall-Oldham, general manager of Bakked, which makes cannabis concentrates and marijuana-infused chocolate bars.
With federal help in regulating production nonexistent because the drug is illegal under federal law, state and local governments have had to assemble a patchwork of health and safety regulations for foods with cannabis.
The agency that regulates Colorado’s marijuana industry, the state Department of Revenue, requires marijuana manufacturing facilities to meet the same sanitation requirements as retail food establishments, including adequate hand-washing and refrigeration.
But the question of whether the state’s 51 licensed recreational edible-marijuana makers meet those standards is left to local health departments, said agency spokeswoman Natriece Bryant. State regulations requiring them also to pass tests for common food contaminants — such as E. coli and salmonella — don’t take effect until the fall.
In Washington state, where retail sales are expected to begin the week of July 7, regulations call for samples of all marijuana sold for consumption to clear a ‘‘microbiological screening,’’ whether it’s in edible, smokeable, or concentrate form.
Posted by Gabe Friedman
This isn’t a great time for small Canadian mining businesses. For the past couple of years, people have worried that China’s economic problems will keep it from buying metals and minerals in big quantities, as it once did, which has lowered prices for some of those commodities. Plus, mine workers are aging and retiring, and there may not be enough younger people to replace them. The combined value of the hundred largest “junior” mining companies—the small ones focussed on exploring deposits, in contrast to “major” companies, which extract the deposits that juniors have analyzed—fell by forty-four per cent last year. As Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change.” So a couple dozen mining companies are now trying out a sexier business: weed.
Canada started granting its first commercial permits to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes late last year. Since then, at least thirty junior mining enterprises have started diversifying into medical marijuana—“M.M.J.,” for short—or have announced plans to do so.
“As a publicly traded company, we always need a story that’s good enough to raise money on,” Jennifer Boyle, the C.E.O. of Satori Resources Inc., told me. Satori is—or has been, in any case—a gold-mining company. Now Boyle wants to get into pot. “If you can latch on to something you can probably raise money on, i.e., medical marijuana, then why not?” she said. “Because otherwise, your assets are in danger of being bought for next to nothing.”
The fact that exploratory mining and growing marijuana have little in common is, it seems, hardly important. The Papuan Precious Metals Corp.’s stock price rose from two cents to fourteen cents after it announced plans to consider agricultural projects and then hired a marijuana consultant. This month, Papuan agreed to acquire the assets of a pot dispensary in Colorado, where marijuana is now legal for anyone who is twenty-one or older. Other junior companies are experimenting with growing mediums and fertilizers, or looking to provide equipment to growers. “The reason you’re seeing the junior mining companies going to medical marijuana is because there is no money in mining,” Greg Downey, the C.F.O. of Papuan, said. “We look to where the money is going.”
The junior mining companies experimenting with marijuana are not high up in the hierarchy of mining. At the bottom level, there are prospectors, who walk hillsides and fields, kicking rocks in search of minerals and metals. One step up are the juniors: they follow up on prospectors’ finds by conducting more serious studies and sometimes even developing mining sites, with the goal of one day selling their assets to a major mining corporation. Most of the juniors that are turning to pot have market capitalizations of five million dollars or less; they represent only about one per cent of Canada’s estimated three thousand two hundred mining firms.
Major mining companies have had trouble raising capital because of falling commodities prices and a tendency toward cost overruns, which has made it even more difficult for juniors to raise money for their projects, since chances of a buyout are remote. It hasn’t helped that junior mining projects keep failing. There is also an impending labor crisis: in the next ten years, the mining industry will need to replace more than half of its workforce, as current employees retire or depart for more attractive industries. This is problematic both because companies will have to cover those former workers’ retirement benefits and because not many young people choose mining as their profession these days, according to a report by the Canadian government’s Mining Industry Human Resources Council.
The marijuana business isn’t necessarily a panacea. Marijuana remains illegal in Canada, although, since 2001, the federal regulatory agency Health Canada has let residents with a doctor’s authorization possess the plant for personal use. It also granted tens of thousands of permits to grow the drug for personal use or to grow it for someone else’s personal use. Last year, Health Canada became convinced that marijuana was being abused for recreational purposes, announced a repeal of the old growing permits, and started accepting applications for commercial-growing permits instead. (A court injunction put the repeal on hold for the moment, but Health Canada has issued thirteen of the commercial permits. It hasn’t put a cap on how many commercial permits it will grant, but it has said that it has received more than nine hundred applications.) Wagner, the consultant, said that only forty thousand Canadians or so have medical-marijuana prescriptions, a level of demand that a couple hundred growers could easily meet; even if the number of people with prescriptions grows to more than four hundred thousand by 2024, as Health Canada is forecasting, he predicts that this would create only enough customers for an additional several hundred growers. So far, none of the mining companies have been granted a commercial-growing license, although one former mining company is close to merging with a company that owns a license. Many are applying for a license or conducting medical-marijuana due diligence.
Executives at the junior mining companies gave various reasons for why they are well suited to enter the marijuana industry: Downey said that juniors are already publicly listed and therefore have immediate access to capital. Another said that his skill set is in assembling teams, whether it is geologists or pot growers. Boyle, the C.E.O. of Satori Resources Inc., pointed out that her company already has the ticker BUD, which gives it a natural leg up; even now, investors assume that the company is in the marijuana business.
Michael Dehn, the C.E.O. of Jourdan Resources Co., said that he wound up in the marijuana business by happenstance. His company owns several properties in Quebec that it wants to mine for phosphates, a component of fertilizer. It also leases office space in a strip mall in a Toronto suburb, next to a pot grower called ChroniCare Canada Corp. “One day, I was out in the parking lot talking to the guy next door, and I said to him, ‘What do you do?’ ” Dehn recalled. “He said, ‘We grow marijuana,’ and I said, ‘We make fertilizer. We should work together.’ ”
Jourdan and Satori Resources have joined together to excavate and pulverize a small amount of phosphate rock, and they’re partnering with ChroniCare to test whether it could be used to fertilize pot. If it works, the companies would together start selling fertilizer to pot growers.
“We were always going to do fertilizer, and our plan was to target corn or wheat, but we’re still five years away from that, so in the meantime we’ll receive a cash flow,” Dehn explained.
The Canadian market, however, is small. With only thirty-five million people in the country, Dehn and others said that they are thinking about export opportunities. “You kind of look at this as the prohibition period, like when Canada was smuggling alcohol to the U.S.,” he said. Dehn has never smoked pot, but he has heard good things about Canadian-grown marijuana. “For most of my life, this is where you heard the good weed was,” he said. “It’s like France—that’s where you go for champagne.”
Gabe Friedman writes about legal affairs, the environment, and business. He was a Knight-Bagehot Fellow at Columbia University and lives in New York.
Illustration by Dadu Shin.
By Kira Bindrim
After a several-week absence from the media spotlight, Pope Francis emerged on Friday as a speaker at the International Drug Enforcement Conference in Rome, where he said he was opposed to the legalization of drugs—including marijuana—for recreational use.
"The scourge of drug use continues to spread inexorably, fed by a deplorable commerce which transcends national and continental borders," Francis told conference participants. "Attempts, however limited, to legalize so-called ‘recreational drugs,’ are not only highly questionable from a legislative standpoint, but they fail to produce desired effects."
While Francis has sometimes surprised constituents with his progressive views—on homosexuality, atheism and capitalism, for example—his stance on marijuana legalization, at least, is at odds with a growing push for it. In December, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the drug (Francis is from nearby Buenos Aires, Argentina). That law included regulation of the cultivation, production, storage, sale and distribution of marijuana, as well as an official registry of users’ consumption.
"We will be able to get more information about the consequences of different alternatives," Beau Kilmer, co-director of the RAND Drug Policy Research Group, told Newsweek at the time.
Earlier this month, Jamaica said it would legalize medical marijuana, and allow possession of up to two ounces of the drug for recreational use. In the United States, two states—Colorado and Washington—have legalized marijuana. Alaska could vote on legalization in November, and Oregon may vote on a similar measure later this year. Twenty-two states have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes—New York is poised to become the 23rd—and 16 have decriminalized it, according to the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). In October 2013, a Gallup poll found that for the first time, a majority of Americans believe the drug should be legalized: 58 percent, compared with just 12 percent in 1969, the first time the question was asked.
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but in May the House voted to restrict the DEA from using funds to go after state-legal medical marijuana outfits. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) introduced a similar amendment in the Senate this week.
Pope Francis has spoken out against drug legalization in the past, and has visited with addicts both as Pope and when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires. "A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use," he said during a speech at a hospital in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil last year. "Rather, it is necessary to confront the problems underlying the use of these drugs, by promoting greater justice, educating young people in the values that build up life in society, accompanying those in difficulty and giving them hope for the future."
By Ellen Komp, Cannabis Culture – Monday, February 11 2013
CANNABIS CULTURE – In Hillary Clinton’s farewell speech as Secretary of State last week, she said, "We need a new architecture for this new world, more Frank Gehry than formal Greek."
Clinton was referring to dealing with the complexities of working with NATO, the United Nations, and world powers, and used for her example the Venice, California-based architect Frank Gehry. Gehry molded a unique style of laid-back architecture that used materials like chain-link fence in the context of the urban sprawl of LA, and is now the world-class architect of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles and the forthcoming Dwight D. Eisenhower memorial.
Someone who worked with Gehry in the 1980s reported him "coming out of rooms with clouds of [marijuana] smoke behind him." It wouldn’t be too surprising. Even Meghan McCain says pot smoking is everywhere in LA.
The well-entrenched drug testing industry is touting their services as the means of achieving a safe and productive workforce, even in the wake of marijuana smokers winning their rights back in Colorado and Washington.
I beg to differ.
First of all, drug testing has never been scientifically shown to be safe or effective at improving workplace safety or productivity, and studies indicate that the great majority of drug-positive workers are just as reliable as others. Medically, the consensus of expert opinion is that drug tests are an inherently unreliable indicator of drug impairment. Dr. George Lundberg of the American Medical Association has called them "Chemical McCarthyism."
Second, by pre-screening away marijuana smokers, we’re weeding out (so to speak) some of our most creative and, I would argue, productive employees. If you doubt that marijuana smokers have contributed to our society, see VeryImportantPotheads.com. In the case of someone using marijuana for medical purposes, it’s downright discrimination to deny them employment for using what a doctor has legally recommended under state law.
Silicon Valley, the brainchild of entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (who both admittedly smoked pot in their youth), notoriously does not drug test its employees, knowing they’d lose much of their talent that way. Yet the region is responsible for much of California’s economic productivity, in one of the few non-military industries the US has. Pot-friendly Hollywood is another shining example of an industry that exports instead of imports to the US, like most of our consumables.
It’s not surprising that Clinton would mention a possible pot smoker, since quite likely she was one herself and the president she worked for certainly was. Would either have benefited from a world that imprisoned or discriminated against them for their youthful or weekend indulgences? I think not.
Henry Ford’s method of sending investigators into his workers’ homes to observe their drinking habits seems outrageous today, yet employers are basically doing the same thing by demanding its workers pee in a cup on Monday to find out what they did on Friday night. Is it really their business?
There is an alternative called impairment testing that has been shown to be more effective than drug testing at assuring workers’ safety. But chemical tests are entrenched, in our political process, and with businesses and insurance companies. The more forward-thinking ideas are, so far, crushed under the Greek architecture of the old days.
Of Gehry, Clinton said, "Some of his work at first might appear haphazard, but in fact, it’s highly intentional and sophisticated. Where once a few strong columns could hold up the weight of the world, today we need a dynamic mix of materials and structures." We also need a dynamic and varied work force, one that might even look haphazard from the outside, to meet the challenges of today’s world.
Carl Sagan, one of the many productive members of society who enjoyed marijuana, said, "The illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world."
It won’t do us much good to end the injustice of marijuana prohibition if only the unemployed can exercise their right to use it. And those companies who exercise drug testing have only a piss-poor workforce.
Emery said he holds a “moral objection” against individuals who once helped imprison people for petty drug offences now profiting off the sale of marijuana.
Marc Emery’s top picks for Canadian politicians go to the Greens and NDP. But he doesn’t want you to vote for either of those parties in next year’s federal election.
“Elizabeth May and Libby Davies are two of my favourite MPs,” Emery told the Straight. “But there is a time when you have to make decisions about what’s really important, and stopping Stephen Harper and replacing his government is the ultimate priority.”
Emery was speaking from Yazoo City Prison in Mississippi, where he’s serving the final month of a five-year sentence for selling cannabis seeds. In a wide-ranging telephone interview, the so-called Prince of Pot said a voter drive will be at the centre of a cross-country tour he’s planned for the fall of 2015.
“We’ll be trying to get young people out,” Emery continued. “It’s really important to motivate them to go out and vote for the Liberal party, because they could also split the vote between the Greens and the NDP, and I really don’t want to see that happen.”
Emery’s relatively-newfound support for the Liberals is firmly rooted in his life’s work aimed at ending the prohibition of marijuana. In November 2012, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau revealed that he was a “huge supporter of decriminalization”, and that he wanted Canada to take a serious look at legalizing and regulating the drug.
Emery described Trudeau’s position as “courageous and unprecedented”.
“Normally, they all wait until they’ve retired out of politics before they advocate the legalization route,” he explained. “Justin Trudeau is the only leader of a Canadian political party with any chance of forming the government who’s ever done this. I thought it was pretty brave of him.”
Criticizing a system of prohibition
Emery didn’t have such kind words for every politician who’s made an about-face on marijuana.
In May 2014, two former high-profile B.C. politicians announced they were going to work in Canada’s booming medicinal marijuana industry. First, the province’s former top cop, Kash Heed, signed on as a security consultant for medical growers. A couple of weeks later, ex-premier Mike Harcourt took a position as chairperson of True Leaf Medicine Inc.
Emery said he holds a “moral objection” against individuals who once helped imprison people for petty drug offences now profiting off the sale of marijuana.
“While they were in charge of administrations, they busted hundreds, if not thousands of people,” he said. “They’ve never apologized for what they did….And now here our oppressors are actually taking financial advantage.”
According to Emery, the larger issue is the legitimization of the Conservative government’s Marihuana Medical Access Regulations (MMAR), and how those rules are being used to maintain a system of prohibition.
As of April 1, 2014, medicinal marijuana licence holders previously allowed to grow their own medicine were only permitted to purchase dried cannabis via mail order from large-scale producers. (The implementation of certain MMAR provisions has since been delayed by a court challenge and interim injunction.)
Emery argued this new system extends “extraordinary privilege” to a small group of corporations while “disenfranchising and marginalizing” people who grow small amounts of marijuana for private consumption.
“This whole medicinal marijuana business just reeks of hypocrisy,” Emery concluded. “Either we’re free and autonomous individuals who can put in our bodies what we want, or we’re not. This idea that there are somehow citizens with superior rights to others is ridiculous and unacceptable.”
Emery also described the MMAR as a form of cooptation. He predicted that companies with licences to grow medicinal marijuana could soon act as a “bulwark against legalization”.
“They’re not going to want to give up their special privilege,” Emery explained. “I fear that’s what the Conservatives have deliberately created.”
A cross-country tour in 2015
Emery is scheduled for release on July 10.
On that day, prison officials will turn him over to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ahead of his pending return to Canada. It’s unknown how long he’ll be in the custody of ICE. Emery said it could take days, weeks, or more than a month, depending on the pace at which a bureaucracy processes his case.
His return to Canada will therefore likely happen in the late summer, at the border crossing at Windsor, Ontario. From there, he’ll travel to London for a few days with family. Next up are public parties planned for Toronto and then Vancouver. Emery said he’ll then be leaving Canada for an international speaking tour and vacation with his wife, Jodie.
The couple’s itinerary includes Spain, France, Ireland, and Austria, after which they will return to Vancouver. A second trip abroad planned for 2015 is expected to take them to Jamaica, Uruguay, Argentina, and South Africa.
By that time, Canada will be preparing for the 2015 federal election, which Emery said will see him and Jodie make a 30-stop cross-country tour beginning in early September.
Asked if he was at all concerned the marijuana issue could backfire and become a liability for the federal Liberals, Emery argued that Trudeau has taken a position that has growing support from the public.
“For the first time in 40 years, the majority of Canadians are highly sympathetic to my point of view,” he said.
Emery claimed he has no plans to run for office, but stated he expects politics to still consume the majority of his time once he’s free.
“Getting rid of Stephen Harper and making sure Justin Trudeau is elected along with the Liberal party is a pretty major job,” Emery said. “Really, the only job that I’m going to have in the next year.”
Thirty members of Congress, led by Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), H. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell on Tuesday demanding an end to the federal monopoly on marijuana research so that more studies can be done by scientists around the nation.
“We write to express our support for increasing scientific research on the therapeutic risks and benefits of marijuana,” the letter reads. “We ask that you take measures to ensure that any non-National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded researcher who has acquired necessary Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Institutional Review Board (IRB), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and appropriate state and local authority approval be able to access marijuana for research at-cost without further review.” (Read the full text of the letter below.)
The letter comes about two weeks after the House voted to block the Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to go after medical marijuana operations that are legal under state laws, a measure that Rohrabacher sponsored.
And just last week, a scathing joint report from the Drug Policy Alliance and and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies blasted the DEA, arguing that the agency has repeatedly failed to act in a timely fashion when faced with petitions to reschedule marijuana.
The drug is currently illegal under federal law, and remains classified as a Schedule I substance, a designation the DEA reserves for the “most dangerous” drugs with “no currently accepted medical use.” Schedule I drugs, which include substances like heroin and LSD, cannot receive federal funding for research. On three separate occasions — in 1973, 1995 and 2002 — the DEA took years to make a final decision about a rescheduling petition, and in two of those cases the DEA was sued multiple times to force a decision.
Last week’s report criticized the DEA for overruling its own officials charged with determining how illicit substances should be scheduled. It also accused the agency of creating a “regulatory Catch-22” by arguing there is not enough scientific evidence to support rescheduling marijuana — while simultaneously impeding the research that would produce such evidence.
“Two weeks ago, we took a very important vote in the House to stop the DEA from interfering in states’ medical marijuana programs,” Blumenauer said in a statement Tuesday. “Now we need the Administration to stop targeting marijuana above and beyond other drugs when it comes to research. By increasing access for scientists who are conducting studies, we end the Catch-22 of opponents claiming they can’t support medical marijuana because there’s not enough research, but blocking research because they don’t support medical marijuana.”
The U.S. government grows marijuana for research purposes at the University of Mississippi in the only federally legal marijuana garden in the U.S. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) oversees the cultivation, production and distribution of these crops — a process through which the only federally-sanctioned marijuana studies are approved.
Federal authorities have long been accused of only funding marijuana research that focuses on the potential negative effects of the drug. Since 2003, more than 500 grants for marijuana-related studies have received federal approval, with a marked upswing in recent years, according to McClatchy. Only 22 grants were approved in 2003 for cannabis research, totaling $6 million, but in 2012, 69 grants were approved for a total of over $30 million.
Despite these numbers, NIDA has reportedly conducted only about 30 studies to date on the potential benefits of marijuana, according to The Hill.
Currently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for medical use. Eight other states — Alabama, Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin — have legalized CBD oil, a non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that is frequently used to treat epilepsy, for limited medical use or for research purposes.
A number of studies in recent years have shown the medical potential of cannabis. Purified forms may attack some forms of aggressive cancer. Marijuana use has also been tied to better blood sugar control and may help slow the spread of HIV. One study found that legalization of the plant for medical purposes may even lead to lower suicide rates.
By Hannah Sentenac Thu., May 29 2014 at 7:00 AM
With medical marijuana on everyone’s lips (in more ways than one), people are buzzing about weed, hemp, cannabis, THC, CBD, and all kinds of other related terms that you might or might not understand. It’s OK — this is confusing stuff.
Leave it to Cultist to offer a little clarity about one such topic you’re probably hearing a lot about: hemp oil. From "cannamoms" to Whole Foods salespeople, lots of folks are touting the benefits of this product. But what is it, exactly, and what does it do?
So what is this stuff?
Let’s start with what hemp oil is not. It is not marijuana. It does not get people high. Both originate from the same plant, but marijuana is cultivated for the buds (which have to be carefully raised for that specific purpose). They’re also grown differently.
The oil has only trace amounts of THC, the psychotropic component in weed. Instead, it has higher concentrations of cannabidiol, or CBD, which is the medicinal boon people are all atwitter over.
"You’ll see two kinds — hemp oil drawn from the plant and hemp oil drawn from the seeds. Ours is drawn from the mature stalks of the hemp plant," says Andrew Hard, director of public relations for HempMeds, a California company whose hemp oil products are sold all over the world. The stalk and seeds don’t fall under the definition of what the U.S. government dubs marijuana, he says; that’s why the products are legal in all 50 states.
Aw, man. So it won’t get me stoned?
Sorry, man. Let’s put it this way: The medical marijuana bill that recently passed the Florida House would allow patients with cancer and conditions that result in chronic seizures or severe muscle spasms to use marijuana pills, oils, or vapors that contain 0.8 percent THC or lower and 10 percent CBD or higher. Right now, those things are illegal.
HempMeds’ Real Scientific Hemp Oil (RSHO), as a comparison, has 15.5 to 25 percent CBD by volume but only trace amounts of THC.
Subject: Drug War Chronicle, Issue #838 (short version)