Month: December 2014
- Absolute Asinine Laws
- Asset Forfeiture
- Baby Snatching
- Cannabis Culture
- Cannabis Media
- CBD/Hemp Oil
- CHER FORD MCCULLOUGH
- CIVIL RIGHTS
- Coal Mining
- Corporate Cannabis
- Cris Ericson
- Drug War
- Elections 2014-2015
- Elections 2016
- Farming and GMO
- HUMAN INTEREST
- Human Slavery/Trafficking
- International Cannabis
- Latest News
- Marijuana and Employment
- Marijuana and the Law
- Mary Thomas-Spears
- Medical Cannabis
- New Legislation
- NJ Weedman, Ed Forchion
- NSA, DHS, FBI, Cyber War
- Patriot Act
- POW, MIA, US Army
- Prison Industrial Complex
- Rand Paul
- Read the Bills
- Religion and Law
- Rev. Mary Thomas-Spears
- Shapelle Corby
- Supreme Court
- Taxing Cannabis
- The Law
- United Nations
- World News
Dr. Bronner’s Year-End Report from the Front Lines of the Fight for Cannabis Reform and GMO Labeling
Both cannabis policy reform and the movement to label genetically engineered foods in the United States made huge strides in 2014. Major battles were won, some narrowly lost, but ultimately victory is inevitable. Our company Dr. Bronner’s has devoted significant financial, staff and other organizational resources to both movements, and it is instructive to analyze them side by side.
First on the cannabis front, 2014 saw victories in DC (Measure 71: 70 to 30), Oregon (Measure 91: 56 to 44) and Alaska (Measure 2: 53 to 47), continuing the incredible momentum from victories in Washington (Initiative 502: 55 to 45) and Colorado (Amendment 64: 55 to 45) in 2012, themselves set up by the narrow loss in California in 2010 (Prop 19: 47 to 53) that triggered the first serious national and international debate on ending cannabis prohibition. Only Florida “lost” with 58% of votes in favor of medical marijuana, 2% short of the needed 60% (Measure 2). As most Huffington Post readers understand, by any rational measure of analysis marijuana use is much less problematic than alcohol, while its prohibition has caused untold harm to otherwise productive nonviolent citizens and their families, wasting taxpayer dollars and law enforcement resources.
Dr. Bronner’s Director of Social Action, Adam Eidinger, was campaign manager for the successful Yes on 71 campaign in DC. Adam and Dr. Malik Burnett of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) alongside other stellar staff, ran an incredible campaign educating local voters as well as the country’s political elites nationally that prohibition is an unjust racist policy that disproportionately impacts communities of color. Despite blacks and whites using cannabis at similar rates, DC arrests over 8 times more black people than white people for cannabis possession. Saddling a young man with jail time and a record obviously compromises one’s future as well as tears families apart. Dr. Bronner’s contributed $100,000 directly to the campaign and $100,000 to Drug Policy Alliance, earmarked to help power Dr. Burnett’s crucial work there.
Dr. Bronner’s also contributed $100,000 each to Oregon’s effort led by the New Approach team, as well as the Marijuana Policy Project’s (MPP) effort in Alaska. The contribution to MPP for Alaska was arguably much more crucial given the relatively small overall budget and closeness of the race in a traditionally red state. However, we also gave $2 million to the Oregon Yes on 92 GMO labeling campaign, that coordinated closely with the marijuana campaign in registering and driving the youth vote, that benefitted both campaigns tremendously.
The Nation published a great article the week prior to the election that nails competing dynamics in play in the cannabis legalization movement. DC was the first legalization campaign to run primarily on a racial justice platform, and absolutely crushed it. Alaska’s campaign was based on the MPP “safer than alcohol” playbook that won in Colorado, while Oregon was run on the similar “New Approach” strategy that won in Washington state. Clearly there’s more than one way to win the fight for legalization. Looking forward to California and the four to five other states in play in 2016 we can draw from the best of all these efforts. California in particular will be important to write the model regulations that we want reflected at the national level, which will happen soon after the wins in 2016.
While the Oregon and Alaska victories are sweet indeed, victory in DC for us was the sweetest. In the recent Congressional “cromnibus” spending bill debate, the crushing DC victory helped open room for riders to pass into law that prohibit the DEA from interfering with state medical marijuana programs as well as state industrial hemp programs. These are huge long-sought victories for the movement, and Americans for Safe Access (ASA) deserves most of the credit for successfully passing the medical marijuana rider via majority vote in the Republican house over the summer. Dr. Bronner’s has been a longtime supporter of ASA, having given close to $700,000 over the past ten years. Dr. Bronner’s has also been closely involved in efforts to re-commercialize industrial hemp farming, being a longtime supporter of Vote Hemp as well as recently being a crucial partner to the amazing efforts in Kentucky that have inspired the entire Kentucky federal delegation, including Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senator Rand Paul, to publicly support and help make hemp farming a reality in the United States again.
Unfortunately though, DC legalization itself seemed to be the sacrificial lamb in the spending bill debate, with Congress attempting to block implementation of DC’s legalization initiative. However, DC has been so galvanized by the overwhelming mandate and outraged by Congressional meddling, that they are challenging Congress to a showdown that Congress is highly unlikely to win, and legalization will be the law of the land in DC come January. The Guardian provided a great overview of this latest struggle in their “Capital v Capitol” story. The high profile national and international political theatre of DC standing up to Congress for its right to determine its own cannabis policy is incredible.
What also makes the victory in DC extra special for Dr. Bronner’s, is that Washington Post Magazine ran a frustrating cover story on our own Adam Eidinger in January, and editorialized against Yes on 71 with weak, out of touch drug war hysteria in September. Back in January, I wrote an unpublished letter to the editor standing up for Adam and our advocacy work, which the 2014 election has now vindicated.
My January 2014 Washington Post Magazine letter to the editor:
Your cover story on local DC activist Adam Eidinger chose to inaccurately portray him as an ineffective Don Quixote figure, belittling the causes he fights for as well as our company. As explained to the reporter, we cap executive compensation at five times that of the lowest paid warehouse worker, and no profits are distributed to owners for personal use. Profits not needed for business development are dedicated to the causes we support.
Adam is closely involved in how we strategically deploy resources to reform draconian drug laws that disproportionately target people of color; notably Washington, D.C. has the highest arrest rate for low level marijuana violations. Adam has also effectively helped build the national movement to label genetically engineered food crops. We are fighting the chemical industry machine that has enthralled much of our country’s elites, to expose their agenda to engineer resistance to the toxic chemical herbicides they sell (Google “Agent Orange Corn” to see what’s coming next).
There were moments when Adam’s true stature was portrayed, but ultimately was undermined by a shallow and frivolous anti-activist caricature.
As a sign of the political and cultural turning of the tide, it’s also worth noting that the New York Times called for ending cannabis prohibition nationally in a series of well-written editorials over the summer.
Pivoting to the fight for GMO labeling, the movement in its modern resurgent form is only a few years old, driven largely by widespread and growing alarm at ever-increasing amounts of toxic pesticides applied to genetically engineered crops. See for example Tom Philpott’s article “How GMOs Unleashed a Pesticide Gusher” in Mother Jones. Over 99% of GMO crops in US soil are engineered to produce insecticide and/or tolerate heavy herbicide use, which like overdosing antibiotics in factory farms has rapidly created resistance in target weed and insect populations. GMO crops are being saturated with ever more toxic pesticides, including neonicotinoid insecticides banned in the EU due to suspected link to massive bee die-offs and Colony Collapse Disorder. While this is great for the chemical industry that both sells the GMOs and the pesticides used on them, our environment and collective health are paying the price. 64 other countries have the right to know if their food is genetically engineered, but the chemical and junk food industry have spent tens of millions of dollars to make sure Americans are kept in the dark.
In the face of record spending by pesticide and junk food companies, the GMO labeling movement gained huge momentum and strength from narrow losses to enact mandatory GMO labeling in California in 2012 (Prop 37: 49 to 51) and Washington in 2013 (Initiative 522: 49 to 51), and set up major victories in 2014. In May, Vermont became the first state to enact mandatory labeling, and Jackson county in Oregon banned planting of GMO crops due to GMO sugarbeet pollen contaminating and ruining neighboring fields (Measure 15-119: 66 to 34). Maui also banned genetically engineered crops because of massive pesticide spraying (See Maui County Genetically Modified Organism Moratorium Initiative: 51 to 49). And statewide in Oregon, the Yes on 92 campaign came within five hundredths of one percent of winning (Measure 92: 49.97 to 50.03), showing friend and foe alike how easily we can win in a bigger 2016 presidential electorate. An underfunded effort in Colorado did not fare well, unfortunately, but it serves as an important movement lesson for 2016.
Dr. Bronner’s was a leading financial contributor to all these efforts, and also devoted significant staff time and other organizational resources, especially to the Oregon effort. Two great articles to review in particular are Katie Ayers’ “Oregon Poised to Mandate GMO Labeling” in Reader Supported News that really dives into the heart of the matter; and also this thorough piece in the Register Guard “Even If Defeated GMO Issue Is Not Going Away.”
Vermont, Jackson county and Maui are all currently being sued by the pesticide and junk food industries, and these industries are frantically lobbying Congress to pre-empt states’ rights to enact mandatory labeling of GMOs. They know that the nationwide movement to label GMOs continues to surge and grow in strength even as their major GMO traits continue to fail and pesticide use goes through the roof. The USDA audits chemical inputs every five years for major crops, and in spring of 2015 will publish updated data on herbicide and insecticide use on GMO corn that will force even the most biased journalists and scientists to confront the truth that GMOs amount to a massive pesticide industry boondoggle that is not boosting yields.
I published a popular Huffington Post blog article about major mainstream media publications running interference and covering for the pesticide industry even as EPA and USDA rubber-stamped approval for their next generation 2,4 D herbicide tolerant crops. We expect, as with the movement arc of ending cannabis prohibition, that more and more major media will wake up and get a clue; but those that don’t are just another obstacle on the way to inevitable victory.
The bottom line is, the GMO labeling movement is on fire and surging. We will likely prevail in one to two New England states legislatively in 2015, and as necessary in a major state in 2016 via the initiative process, as we keep bringing a bigger, better and more strategic fight. Like the narrow loss on the cannabis front with Prop 19 in 2010 in California, which educated and moved the debate forward setting up subsequent victories in 2012, the GMO labeling movement is poised to rack up major wins in 2016. But we are as likely to achieve victory through the market by 2016, as we are unleashing and fueling major cultural and market drivers and expect more and more food companies to flip and accept mandatory labeling just as they did in Europe. Chipotle is already disclosing and moving away from GMOs, as is Cheerios, Grape Nuts and other high profile brands. Whole Foods is mandating GMO labeling of all products by 2018 in its stores and many major mainstream retailers have refused to carry GMO salmon if or when approved.
Our experience with the movement to end cannabis prohibition over the past 15 years shows how much faster and stronger the modern movement to label GMOs is growing in a much shorter time. People are waking up that we have to transform our agricultural policies and dietary choices and eat more sustainably if we want to feed future generations, which requires as a first step that citizens are properly informed and empowered to make wise choices.
Support it or not, there’s no denying that this was a watershed year for marijuana.
Within hours of the new year, the nation saw the first legally sanctioned sales of marijuana for recreational use in modern history. Throughout, states considered and often passed expanding access to the drug and, as recently as last weekend, Congress was interfering in D.C.’s pot policies and promising to stay out of the states.
Based on exchanges with pot advocates, we rounded up 22 of the most significant moments for marijuana in 2014, most of them advancing the cause though the list includes a few notable setbacks. Click the links below to jump to each moment or keep scrolling to read them from start to finish.
1. Legal sales begin in Colorado
2. Obama: ‘I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol’
3. Congress allows hemp cultivation
4. CNN chief medical correspondent backs medical marijuana
5. Poll finds more Americans identify tobacco, alcohol and sugar as “most harmful”
6. Utah passes limited medical marijuana law
7. D.C. decriminalizes
8. Maryland approves medical marijuana and decriminalizes possession
9. Minnesota approves medical marijuana
10. New York approves medical marijuana
11. Legal pot sales begin in Washington
12. New York Times editorial board calls for an end to prohibition
13. Study: Medical marijuana laws associated with 25 percent fewer prescription overdose deaths
14. Philadelphia becomes largest U.S. city to decriminalize marijuana possession
15. Federal court considers whether marijuana should be classified as a Schedule I controlled substance
16. Two more states and D.C. vote to legalize
17. Florida medical marijuana loses, with 58 percent of the vote
18. Native Americans reservations allowed to legalize marijuana
19. Congress blocks D.C. legalization
20. Congress ends the ban on medical marijuana
21. Colorado approves $8 million for marijuana research
22. Oklahoma and Nebraska are suing Colorado over marijuana legalization
A Justice Department memo sets the stage for Indian tribes to grow and sell marijuana, but do they even want to?
There may be no better friend to Native Americans than President Barack Obama, who has gone out of his way to foster economic development by extending gaming and energy development rights, among many other benefits, to the impoverished community. But in an odd twist, his administration’s latest entreaty—to allow marijuana crops and sales on reservations—is being viewed by some tribes as not very friendly at all.
“We actually have no idea what’s going on here,” said Troy Eid, a Denver attorney and chairman of the Indian Law and Order Commission, which advises Obama and Congress on tribal criminal justice issues. “What we do know is that, for unknown reasons, there has been no consultation between the administration and tribes as to what they want to do. It’s a very unusual gap in how this president has approached things.”
The Justice Department said last week that it will treat tribal lands—and there are 300 in 30 states—as it does the four states that have legalized marijuana. In its memo, the department said it was responding to the request of “some tribes” that had asked for guidance.
“We actually have no idea what’s going on here.”
Troy Eid, presidential adviser on Indian criminal justice issues
“No idea,” responded Jacqueline Pata, executive director of the National Congress of American Indians, when asked which tribes made the request.
Eid, whose firm represents more than 70 tribes, said that while some of his clients might be interested in exploring their marijuana options, many more are upset and worried that this DOJ memo gives the federal government, which handles prosecution of crimes that occur on reservations, an excuse to not enforce drug laws. Lots of tribes want robust prosecution, he said. Indians have struggled with addiction, so many are sensitive to making it easier to obtain drugs of any kind.
Wyn Hornbuckle, a DOJ spokesman, said the agency will deal with tribes as individual governments. The policy statement recognizes that “some tribes are very concerned with public safety implications, such as the impact on youth, and the use of tribal lands for the cultivation or transport of marijuana, while others have explored decriminalization and other approaches,” he said, noting that marijuana remains illegal under federal law.
So far the Mohegan Indian Tribe of Connecticut is one of the few to publicly express interest in marijuana as a cash crop. They also were trailblazers in the gaming industry, though their receipts have been flagging in recent years. As Eid points out, the Justice memo makes no mention that it took this step as a way to bolster tribal finances. “Maybe it looks like they’re doing something good, but I don’t think that’s clear,” he said.
That being said, Obama has had far better relations with Indian country than previous presidents, Eid and Pata said.
“He has been the best president for Indian country,” Pata said. Obama set the stage for this on the campaign trial in 2008, visiting reservations and making promises to respect tribes as the independent nations that are. He also made it personal a year after his historic election. “Over the last few years, I’ve had a chance to speak with Native American leaders across the country about the challenges you face, and those conversations have been deeply important to me,” Obama said in an address to Indian leaders in November 2009. “I get it. I’m on your side. I understand what it means to be an outsider.”
In a three-part series last year, Bloomberg News explored the friendly relationship between Obama and Indian country through the lens of gambling. He has tried to usher more tribes into this $28 billion industry, to the delight of many Native Americans and the irritation of Senator Dianne Feinstein, a fierce opponent of gambling. Under President George W. Bush, new licenses for tribal casinos on off-reservation lands had all but stalled. Obama’s Bureau of Indian Affairs not only began approving long-dormant projects, but redefined what counts as highly regulated, taxed slot machines, opening up new cash flows for tribes. And when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling questioned the sovereignty of at least 50 tribes, some of which want to open casinos, the Obama administration found a work-around.
The economic benefits of vice are hotly debated. Legalized pot in the states is too new for assessment. Economists who have studied the Indian gaming industry have found mixed results. Casinos help some individual tribes, but not the demographic as a whole. One in four American Indians was living in poverty in 2012. It’s far higher at some reservations. At one that Obama visited this year, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, nearly half of the inhabitants live in poverty.
The DOJ’s marijuana decision has the potential to be lucrative, especially because crops would likely not face the high taxes imposed by the states. And maybe some tribes will go for it, Eid said. “But we’re far from that,” he said. “At this point the administration needs to start over, and start with some serious tribal consultation.”
Posted: 12/22/2014 11:25 am EST
Senior Advisor, Collective Impact Forum; Innovator in Residence, Beeck Center for Social Innovation and Impact, Georgetown University; author Everyone Leads: Building Leadership from the Community Up
This weekend I spent 24 hours in jail for protesting the death of Dontre Hamilton, the unarmed man shot 14 times by a Milwaukee police officer in a downtown park. I am compelled to write about my experience to share why I chose to join this protest and to correct the narrative law enforcement leaders in Milwaukee have used to inaccurately paint a picture of the protests and arrests.
While my conscience continues to be deeply moved by Dontre’s case and his loved ones’ grief, I came to protest because of my concerns with the larger system — that the American justice system produces different outcomes for people at every level from profiling and arrests through sentencing, parole, and killing based purely on race and class. I am not anti-police. I’ve been mugged at gunpoint twice in my life, and I don’t want to be a victim of crime again. Despite the many good officers who have helped me and my empathy for their very difficult work, I believe the system is set up to differentially enforce laws, and protect those who abuse their power to enforce the law.
Dontre’s case is one where I believe the officer should face criminal charges. At a downtown Starbucks in Milwaukee’s Red Arrow Park, a worker called police to complain about a man sleeping in the park (another worker criticized the call publicly and disputed that he was a problem). Police officers came twice to check on Dontre, saw nothing wrong, and left. Officer Christopher Manney, unaware other officers had stopped, confronted Dontre Hamilton and tried to pat him down. Hamilton, who had a history of mental illness, resisted and a confrontation ensued. Officer Manney tried to subdue him with a baton and Hamilton got the baton and swung at him, hitting the side of his neck. Officer Manney shot Hamilton 14 times including in the back to kill him. Police Chief Edward Flynn fired Officer Manney not for excessive force but for not following protocols in dealing with an emotionally disturbed person. He was not dangerous, did not deserve to be confronted, and certainly should not have been killed. We are waiting to find out if Milwaukee’s District Attorney will press charges.
As we all know, other District Attorneys and grand juries have not pursued criminal charges against police officers who have killed clearly innocent or unarmed African American men. One cannot look at the cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Dontre Hamilton, John Crawford (the man shot at Wal-Mart in Dayton), Tamir Rice (the 12 year old shot on a Cleveland playground), and many other recent cases and think that there is not a larger problem with police assuming African American men and boys are inherently dangerous. None of these men should be dead, and none of their families should be grieving.
These deaths point at the deeper, more profound problems in our criminal justice system. Fifteen years ago I read Randall Kennedy’s Race, Crime and the Law and David Cole’s No Equal Justice. They argued with vast evidence that at every level of the criminal justice system from profiling and arrests through sentencing and parole, there were substantial racial disparities. If an African American and a white person do or are alleged to do the same thing, they have extremely different consequences.
More recently, Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy indict our present system of justice as inherently biased, and point to the terrible personal and community consequences of that injustice. Forty years ago, around 350,000 people were in prisons. Today, 2.3 million are, mostly for non-violent offenses. Crime did not rise seven-fold in forty years, and is in fact at record lows. More than 500,000 prisoners are serving time for drug crimes, and over 75% of them are African American despite the fact that they make up only 13% of drug users. A 1999 New York Times Magazine article interviewed police about why they were doing pretext drug stops in South Central Los Angeles instead of UCLA. The police agreed they would arrest people for more drug offenses at UCLA. If drug laws were enforced equally in white communities as communities of color, the laws would change.
Once someone has a record, it becomes a vicious cycle that prevents them from securing jobs, blocks them from receiving public benefits, and locks them up for long periods for minor offenses. And we keep reading about individuals released from death row who were innocent and ended up there only because of the system’s bias against people of color and the poor. We waste billions of tax dollars on prisons that produce desperation and crime, rather than saving money by spending smarter on alternatives that actually produce safety. The system is expensive, ineffective, and unjust.
I personally understand how my white privilege has kept me out of jail. I remember when I was 16 years old and smoking marijuana on a suburban Milwaukee beach with some friends when a police officer discovered us. We obviously reeked of marijuana, looked like stoners, and were stoned, but he listened to our excuses and let us walk away. Another time I talked my way out of a traffic stop while carrying drugs. I was always given the benefit of the doubt. Not long after that, I went to inpatient drug treatment filled with judgment about dealers and addicts from the “inner city.” Through my treatment and subsequent addiction recovery, I learned they were like me in many ways and how lucky I was to be white, middle class, and living in the suburbs. If I lived in the inner city, I’d have a criminal record and not be where I am today.
I have heard too many stories from friends and colleagues of color who have been stopped, harassed, and even innocently arrested by police. I do not hear these stories from my wealthy, white, professional friends who use drugs or have violated other laws. And when it comes to property crimes and violent crimes, while I certainly hate those crimes, I believe every person should have effective legal counsel and that people of color should receive the same punishment or clemency a white person receives. Such fairness is truly the American way.
My convictions about the need to reform our criminal justice system, not a hatred of police or support for crime, led me to join the protest. Here is what actually happened:
I saw a Facebook post that there would be a rally in support of Dontre Hamilton on Friday at 4 PM. I decided to attend to show my support. I did not know we would march, and when we began walking down State Street and 6th Street, I was pleasantly surprised to find that police had blocked the streets along our route for our safety.
We then walked up Fond du Lac Avenue, and our group was split in two heading toward the Northbound and Southbound ramps. They were supposed to split us up into those who knew they may be arrested and those who did not want to be arrested. They did not tell us that, and just split our group in two. I walked with a group that saw the Northbound ramp to I-43 was barricaded by sheriff’s vehicles. We did not block the ramp, it was already blocked.
We walked up to the police barricade in two rows with arms linked (there are photos of us on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel website), and chanted: “How many shots? 14 shots,” “Don’t arrest me, arrest the police,” and “What’s his name? Dontre Hamilton.” There were two police officers in between the barricade and us and numerous police cars pulling up behind us. After a series of chants, the officer approached us and called for us to disperse. I was grateful when our leader – the man with the megaphone – told us to disperse. We moved to the grass shoulder of the ramp and began walking back to Fond du Lac Avenue. I then saw a police officer on his radio call out to the police behind us, “We got an order to arrest everyone,” and the police jumped into action. I submitted immediately and peacefully to arrest.
After we received our arm restraints we were seated on the side of the ramp. Police officers and sheriff’s deputies were quite professional, courteous, and even funny. One said, “I understand what you are doing. You just can’t go on the freeway.” One said to us, “You should go protest at the Sheriff’s house. I’ll give you their address.” Another shared: “If I wasn’t doing this (policing), I’d be doing what you are doing.” There was little tension. It was heartening that while we were protesting excessive force by a police officer, good officers respected us as we were – peaceful protesters who want fair and good policing.
We were arrested shortly before 5 PM, and 16 men and 10 women were taken together in a gender separated wagon to the County Jail. There, we removed our coats, shoes, and all items in our pockets and were told we would be booked and released in a few hours. We did not know how many others were arrested at this point from the other group that split off from us (or from the freeway blockers which I did not know about yet). Upon arrival, we had medical exams and my blood pressure was elevated but I felt calm. We continued to receive information that made us believe things were being processed, and I kept thinking we’d be out that night.
Around 10 or 11 PM, I was placed in a 60 square foot holding cell with seven other men that contained a toilet (I made everyone laugh when I told my fellow inmates this was a “no-shitting cell”). We were still waiting to be booked. The young men in my cell were diverse by age, race, and profession – three of us were older professionals. I actually treasure some of the deep conversations we had about politics, economics, social movements, the criminal justice system, and even feminism. I was inspired by some of their ideas about how the community could work with police to improve safety.
At around 2 A.M., tired and realizing no one was being processed, we sang “We Shall Overcome,” as loud as we could and began chanting “Dontre Hamilton” to lift spirits among the other 60-70 people locked up in our wing. An officer came after about 15-20 minutes and asked us politely to stop, again expressing empathy for our cause. My fellow prisoners were polite with many of the officers as they often were with us.
Finally in the morning – 16 hours after my arrest – I was booked, fingerprinted, and had my mug shot taken. I finally was able to call home for 30 seconds, and figured I’d be out soon. By 11 AM, the first group of women protesters were released. I found the baloney sandwiches we were offered (the only food) unappetizing and started to crash from lack of sleep and food. Spending all night in a brightly lit cell sitting up against a cement wall I did not get much sleep, and it took its toll but I kept thinking I would be out soon. Shortly after 5 PM, more than 24 hours after my arrest, I was finally released to an appreciative crowd of supporters outside.
The Mayor, Police Chief, and Sheriff have provided accounts of this action that are not accurate. First, they claim that people were arrested for shutting down the freeways. The people who shut down I-43 were not part of our protest or march from Red Arrow Park, and they were NOT arrested. They got back in their cars and drove off. The people arrested were our group, which approached the barricade, and another group that marched up a ramp toward the stopped traffic (many of whom planned to be arrested for civil disobedience on the freeway but not everyone there knew that).
I think it is fair for people to be angry and upset with the individuals who blocked I-43. But civil disobedience is never convenient. People were angry when Martin Luther King marched and when students occupied lunch counters. In fact, many of the civil rights marches closed down streets and highways. This is nothing new, and as I understand it those who chose that tactic accepted responsibility and knew they may be arrested. It also did draw the attention that a simple march would not have. I hope those who criticize us go see the movie Selma next weekend, so they may be reminded that this is actually what democracy looks like.
Then there were folks like me who were practicing civil obedience. We followed a path blocked off for us by police and when the police officer asked us to disperse, we dispersed. They arrested us anyway. The warning was hollow. If they had let us walk off the ramp and go back to Red Arrow Park, the police could have removed their cars and re-opened the ramp immediately. Someone called in an order to punish us and the result was we sat handcuffed on the ramp for at least an hour, which slowed down many commuters. Police Chief Flynn was upset they had to “babysit a bunch of self-indulgent protesters” who inconvenienced hundreds of thousands. They didn’t have to do that, and at most a few thousand were slowed down and rush hours have been slowed down or stopped for much less.
Sheriff David Clarke told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the protest was steered by outside trouble makers. “Several anarchist groups led by outside persons are gathering in the Milwaukee area to plan disruptive activities…” Well, I am a tax-paying citizen of Milwaukee, a father, and a professional who has relationships with many city leaders. Everyone I met lived in Milwaukee and the young men and women who were leading us were all local people. Yes, I met some with radical views about issues and disruptive tactics, but most were thoughtful, passionate people, who want our community to be safer and fairer for all. I write often about civil rights movement history, and find it ironic that Sheriff Clarke is using the same argument the Montgomery police used when they could not believe that people like Rosa Parks, E.D. Nixon, and Martin Luther King were actually leading the bus boycott. “There must be outside agitators,” they thought.
I am proud that I was arrested. I am proud of those arrested with me. I am glad that we lifted the name of Dontre Hamilton and our call for criminal charges against an officer who shot an unarmed man 14 times. Black lives matter, and our justice system must become more fair and just. I hope many others concerned about these injustices will stand up to support policies and reforms that will create a fairer, safer, and more just America.
Update: The District Attorney did not file charges against Officer Manney. I understand the rightful rage many feel, but the struggle for justice is a marathon, not a sprint. I hope that those who engage in civil disobedience do so in a disciplined way and that we bend, not break public opinion by lifting the collective outrage of many in our community. I also hope that city leaders, law enforcement officials, and the media properly represent those who protest the decision instead of the misinformation they spread this weekend. We must lift up Dontre and the bigger issues and continue fighting for change.
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shereekrider Drug War, Latest News Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, counter-narcotics, death penalty, Harm Reduction International, Human Rights, Human Rights Watch, illicit drug trafficking, Iran, Iran Human Rights, Reprieve, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, U.N., United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 0
Source: Human Rights Watch
Surge in Executions for Drug Trafficking
(London) – The United Nations agency charged with combating illicit drug trafficking should withdraw its support for counter-narcotics police operations in Iran until the death penalty for drug offenses is abolished, six rights groups said in a letter published today. The groups made the plea after Iran’s judiciary hanged 18 alleged drug traffickers within 24 hours on December 3, 2014, bringing the number of drug offenders executed in the country during 2014 to at least 318.
Reprieve, Human Rights Watch, Iran Human Rights, the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, Harm Reduction International and the Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation said the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) should follow its own human rights guidance and impose “a temporary freeze or withdrawal of support” if “following requests for guarantees and high-level political intervention, executions for drug related offenses continue.” The six organizations warned the UNODC of “the widening gulf between Iran’s rhetoric and the realities of its justice system,” and described the agency’s decision to continue funding supply-side counter-narcotics efforts in the country as “ineffective if not counterproductive.”
“As Iran executes alleged drug offenders in ever-greater numbers, it beggars belief that the UN sees fit to continue funding Iranian anti-drug operations,” said Reprieve director Maya Foa. “How many more hangings will it take for the UN to open its eyes to the lethal consequences of its current approach, and make its counter-narcotics support conditional on an end to the death penalty for drug offenses?”
The UN agency’s records show it has given more than $15 million to “supply control” operations by Iran’s Anti-Narcotics Police, funding specialist training, intelligence, trucks, body scanners, night vision goggles, drug detection dogs, bases, and border patrol offices, the groups said. UNODC projects in Iran have come with performance indicators including “an increase in drug seizures and an improved capability of intercepting smugglers,” and an “increase of drug-related sentences.”
The United Kingdom, Ireland, and Denmark have all chosen to withdraw their support from Iranian counter-narcotics operations administered by the UNODC because of concerns that this funding was enabling the execution of alleged drug traffickers. When announcing its decision to do so, Denmark publically acknowledgedthat the donations are leading to executions.
The groups had previously written a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in May 2014 on the issue of UNODC counter-narcotics funding in Iran and Vietnam. In their letter, the groups expressed concern that UNODC continuing support of Iran’s counter-narcotics operations was “lending legitimacy” to executions of drug offenders. In an August 2014 response, UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov responded that his agency sought progress through “engagement and dialogue,” and that he was “gratified” by “potentially favourable developments regarding the application of the death penalty in relation to drug offenders in Iran.”
Iran’s anti-narcotics law imposes a mandatory death sentence for manufacturing, trafficking, possession, or trade of five or more kilograms of opium and other specified drugs, and 30 or more grams of heroin, morphine, or specified synthetic and non-medical psychotropic drugs, such as methamphetamines. International law requires countries like Iran that retain the death penalty to impose it for only the “most serious crimes,” which does not include drug crimes.
Although international law says that all death sentences should be subject to appeal, Iran has apparently limited appeals in drug-related cases. Figures suggest Iran is executing those charged with drug offenses in increasing numbers, despite recent calls for reform by the chair of the country’s Human Rights Council, Mohammad Javad Larijani, who said there were legislative efforts under way to end the death penalty for drug-related offenses.
The rights groups are not aware of any pending legislation in parliament that would end, or even reduce, the number of executions related to drug offenses. On December 16, the Iranian Students’ News Agency reportedthat a high ranking official with the country’s counter-narcotics agency opposed the elimination of the death penalty for drug traffickers, noting that any changes in the law would have to be made by the Expediency Council, an advisory body to the supreme leader, and not Iran’s parliament.
Harm Reduction International and Human Rights Watch previously urged UNODC to freeze funding of drug enforcement programs to Iran, and said Iranian authorities should move quickly to end the death penalty for drug-related offenses. The two groups first met UNODC officials in Vienna in 2007 to discuss concerns regarding the execution of drug offenders in Iran.
… Payvand News – 12/18/14 … —
By: Hrafnkell Haraldsson more from Hrafnkell Haraldsson
Saturday, December, 20th, 2014, 8:32 am
It is interesting how Republicans are all state’s rights and big government keep your hands off – until a state does something they don’t like. Like Colorado’s marijuana law, which is one of four states to allow regulated production and sale of marijuana to adults.
Nebraska and Oklahoma – both red states – don’t like that. And they want the Supreme Court to do something about it. Whatever happened to the Tenth Amendment? What ever happened to that oppressive federal government meddling where it doesn’t belong?
Throw all that out the window and drive the bus over it.
Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt say pot is crossing the state line (their state lines) and that their states are suffering “irreparable injury.” They are suing Colorado.
In other words, they have to spend time arresting people for something that’s legal in another state. They say Sections 16(4) and (5) of Article XVIII of the Colorado Constitution (the supremacy clause of the Constitution) don’t stand up before federal law –
Wait! They said that? Hold on now…Gosh, I wonder how they’d feel if we were talking about guns instead of marijuana, or the First Amendment?
Colorado Attorney General John Suthers said,
[I]t appears the plantiffs’ primary grievance stems from non-enforcement of federal laws regarding marijuana, as opposed to choices made by the voters of Colorado. We believe this suit is without merit and we will vigorously defend against it in the U.S. Supreme Court.”
Keep in mind that what pot proponents have been saying all along happened – the state made some $60 million of sales of cannabis, and that what opponents said would happen didn’t happen – in other words, everyone woke up to the same world they had known the day before. Nary a catastrophe to be seen then and none on the horizon now.
It is incredible that the party that talks endlessly about majorities rule suddenly cease to care about majorities at times like this. Some 55 percent of Colorado voters approved Amendment 64’s legalization of the sale of marijuana. Shouldn’t that be good enough?
Not to mention the extremely lax ideology of the GOP. Everything is black and white on the surface, but the second anything happens they don’t like, their morals go topsy-turvy. As Bloomberg points out in this case:
The lawsuit, readable here, is a little shot of cognitive dissonance for anyone who listens to conservative Republicans on other matters. First, most jarringly, it cites America’s agreements with foreign nations as a reason that Colorado’s law can’t stand.
“Through its exclusive Constitutional power to conduct foreign policy,” argue the plaintiffs, “the United States is a party to international treaties and conventions under which it has agreed to control trafficking in drugs and psychotropic substances, such as marijuana.”
Hold on a second! This is the party constantly telling us that we are being enslaved by globalization, that International law is a threat to our sacred constitutional freedoms. And now you’re saying foreign laws trump the rights of American citizens?
The Republican Party might do well to decide what exactly it is for and against. Do states rights triumph? Does federal law triumph? Do foreign laws matter when it comes to U.S. law?
They can’t apply it on a case by case basis, appealing to whichever is more convenient at the moment. This is the party opposed to relativism, and right now, it seems to have a much bigger problem with relativism than Democrats.
Image from The Joint Blog
Congressmen, senators work to greenlight hemp growing
Published Dec 20, 2014 at 12:01AM / Updated Dec 20, 2014 at 07:52AM
SALEM — The Oregon Department of Agriculture is nearing a deadline to create rules for hemp growers that will give the state regulatory power over
Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Portland liberal Democrat who has spent four decades working to change federal drug policy, paired with Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, among others, to create a major shift in the federal government’s view of hemp early this year.
The two helped put a provision into the 2014 Farm Bill that separated marijuana and hemp for research purposes, effectively creating an outlet states could use to create hemp programs.
Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Beaverton, also put forward a similar provision.
“It’s not every day you see Earl Blumenauer working with Thomas Massie,” said Eric Steenstra, president of the hemp advocacy group Vote Hemp. “It was a collaborative effort and they supported each other. It was good. We need more of that.”
But the unlikely congressional pairing didn’t stop there.
Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky put a provision in last week’s $1.1 trillion spending bill to strip from federal agencies the power to prosecute hemp.
“I think you’ve got a situation here where, it might surprise some people, but there have been efforts to deal with cultivation of hemp,” Blumenauer said in a phone interview Friday. “Allowing it to happen has taken hold in both” Kentucky and Oregon.
The Drug Enforcement Administration engaged in a battle that irked Kentucky officials when the agency seized 250 pounds of seeds that were being imported through Kentucky’s Department of Agriculture to launch its hemp program in May.
Blumenauer, who was directly involved in fighting for the Oregon ballot measure that legalized recreational marijuana, pointed out he looks for bipartisan support for all of his bills.
“I guess McConnell picked it up and ran with it because it’s popular at home. I wish more people would pick it up and run with it because it is popular,” Blumenauer added.
Oregon is close to finishing a drawn-out process of creating rules for hemp growers to follow as the state looks to regulate a plant that has been illegal federally for four decades.
— Reporter: 406-589-4347,
By Nick Barrickman
18 December 2014
In a blow to the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday that a police officer detaining someone under a mistaken reading of the law could cite having made a “reasonable mistake,” and thus avoid having the court disregard all evidence obtained under such circumstances, provided that a law was “‘so doubtful in construction’ that a reasonable judge could agree with the officer’s view.”
The ruling was made regarding Heien v. North Carolina, a case in which an officer pulled over a driver while under the mistaken belief that the latter’s driving with a single inoperable brake light constituted a violation of state law. After consenting to a vehicle search which revealed narcotics, the defendant, Nicholas Heien, sought to have the evidence suppressed by invoking the Exclusionary Rule, a component of the Fourth Amendment.
In an act which demonstrates a high level of political calculation, the Supreme Court seized upon a lower court’s ruling which found the police officer’s search to be illegal in order to overturn the decision. “The Fourth Amendment requires government officials to act reasonably, not perfectly, and gives those officials ‘fair leeway for enforcing the law,’” Chief Justice John G. Roberts stated in remarks supporting the majority’s opinion.
Expanding on the view of the majority, Justice Elena Kagan, an appointee of the Obama administration, stated “If the statute is genuinely ambiguous, such that overturning the officer’s judgment requires hard interpretive work, then the officer has made a reasonable mistake.” Kagan stressed that such circumstances would be “exceedingly rare.”
Rather than being confined to traffic stops, the Court’s decision can be reasonably interpreted to give police the right to detain and search individuals under practically any circumstances.
In the lone dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor raised fears that this sort of conclusion would be drawn from the decision. “[The decision] means further eroding the Fourth Amendment’s protection of civil liberties in a context where that protection has already been worn down,” she said, adding that the concept of the law being “definite and knowable sits at the foundation of our legal system…” and that if officers are given leeway in such cases it may work to undermine the legitimacy of the court.
Reflecting this position, an amicus brief filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) noted that “The rule creates new and unjustified burdens on private citizens by sanctioning an expansive new category of traffic stops, together with the ‘physical and psychological intrusion’ such stops necessarily entail.” It added that the ruling ran the risk of “diminishing the public perception of law enforcement officials’ knowledge and authority.”
The court’s attack on the Fourth Amendment has been a continuous one. Other Supreme Court rulings of note have allowed for police to enter private residences without search warrants, citing “exigent circumstances” after the fact, as well as the proliferation and institutionalizing of “no-knock” raids, which involve militarily-armed SWAT team members forcing down doors on suspicions of illegal doing.
The decision occurs as mass protests have swept the country in recent weeks in opposition to police killings and the militarization of law enforcement and erosion of basic democratic rights.
In the aftermath of the August police killing of unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown in Missouri, protesters were confronted by police officers toting military-grade weapons and equipment and subjecting demonstrators to mass arrests for failing to obey arbitrary orders.
The decision to award police departments the power to detain drivers based upon what amounts to uninformed guesswork demonstrates the contempt that the US ruling class holds for the working population. Rather than reversing the process of police militarization and the undermining of fundamental democratic rights, the Democratic and Republican parties, the Obama Administration, and the Supreme Court all support the process in the name of “law and order.”
The Obama Administration, which sided with the Supreme Court’s decision, has been deeply involved in the process of militarization of police. In a review of the federal government’s programs which have been used to facilitate police militarization that was released early this month, the administration asserted that not only would such programs continue, but that they “have been valuable and have provided state and local law enforcement with needed assistance as they carry out their critical missions in helping to keep the American people safe.”
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Obama’s paramilitary police: The “war on terror” comes home [03 December 2014]
The federal government is stockpiling hundreds of “suspicious activity reports” that could provide federal agents with sufficient evidence to shut down any state-legalized marijuana business.
While it may appear that federal authorities have taken a wait-and-see approach to marijuana legalization in the 23 states that now allow medical or recreational use, these reports are poised like a blade over the budding industry should federal laws be enforced.
This risk of federal prosecution has led some cannabis companies to literally launder their money.
“You used to be able to just smell it,” said Jennifer Waller, vice president of the Colorado Bankers Association, speaking of the cash from marijuana shops. “But now they are using Febreze a lot, putting the money in dryers, a lot of different things to try to disguise the scent because marijuana has such a distinct odor.”
That distinct odor is considered a red flag by federal authorities who require banks to file a suspicious activity report for every transaction that might be associated with illegal activity, including selling marijuana, even for state licensed businesses.
“It’s because of the illegal nature of it,” Waller said. “In banking, if you are accepting the funds from a marijuana company and you are aware of it … you can be charged with money laundering yourself.”
Banks fear the repercussions of holding deposits related to marijuana, still a Schedule I illegal drug under federal law. That could mean prison time for tellers, fines for the bank, and even the bank losing its federal deposit insurance.
If a marijuana store is charged with money laundering, it could lose everything.
“Even before a conviction, the feds could freeze your assets,” said Chris Myklebust, commissioner of the Colorado Division of Financial Services. “And if there is a money laundering conviction, the feds can seize the assets, too.”
The federal government has already collected more than 1,100 reports that implicate different cannabis companies in financial crimes nationwide.
“Just in a moment’s notice, the U.S. Justice Department could literally take down every single dispensary in Colorado, probably within about a day.” said Rob Corry, a Denver attorney and marijuana advocate. Corry has worked on several cases where federal agents have seized assets — cars, cash, bank accounts — though many of the records are sealed and it’s hard to gauge just how often this occurs.
More often, banks simply shut down marijuana-related accounts. Between February and August 2014, banks filed more than 475 “Marijuana Termination” suspicious activity reports — indicating they closed hundreds of accounts because of possible criminal activity.
“I’ve lost my personal bank account, my brothers have lost their personal bank accounts,” said Sally Vander Veer, operator of Medicine Man dispensary in Denver. The dispensary also lost its account in August. She says that without a bank account, all Medicine Man employees are paid in cash.
“I can’t protect them. They walk out of here with a pocket full of cash and, in essence, they become another target and a potential victim of not having banking in the marijuana industry,” Vander Veer said.
The dilemma has resulted in marijuana dispensaries hiring private businesses like Blue Line Protection Group that employ former military or law-enforcement officers equipped with handguns, bulletproof vests, tactical training and armored trucks to transport cash and product to undisclosed locations for safekeeping.
“When we started, the clients we were picking up had a manager taking (cash) in a Honda Civic or some kind of Subaru, unarmed, no vests, no tactics, no skills,” said Dominic Powelson, who works for Blue Line Protection Group.
State regulators in Colorado and Washington have also tried to ease access to banking. Mycklebust, the Colorado financial services commissioner, issued a charter to the first ever marijuana-focused credit union in November. The new credit union will not immediately have federal credit insurance, although it has applied.
Mycklebust said the new credit union must also file suspicious activity reports.
The so called “SARs” stem from guidelines set forth by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department. The guidelines were meant to ease access to banks.
“Banks are required by law to report when they think that a business is making money from something illegal, and marijuana is still federally illegal,” said Steve Hudak, spokesman for FinCEN. “We attempted to provide guidance that would help to get cash off the streets and some of the public danger that is associated with that, so we went about as far as we could.”
But the guidelines didn’t actually legalize banking for marijuana businesses — only Congress can do that. So far, Congressional leaders have been opposed.
“(FinCEN’s) guidance is dangerously misleading,” wrote U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in a letter of reprimand to the agency. “Indeed, following the guidance may expose financial institutions to civil or criminal liability.”
Still, some U.S. representatives from Colorado and other states have introduced legislation to federally legalize state-approved marijuana, or at least legalize the industry’s access to banking. But those bills have not advanced, and state-approved marijuana businesses operate solely as a matter of federal discretion.
That could change at any time.
The Coloradoan brings you this report in partnership with Rocky Mountain PBS I-News. Learn more at rmpbs.org/news. Contact Katie Kuntz at [email protected]
Justice Department on Thursday will tell U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands
U.S. won’t stop Native Americans from growing, selling pot on their lands
Opening the door for what could be a lucrative and controversial new industry on some Native American reservations, the Justice Department on Thursday will tell U.S. attorneys to not prevent tribes from growing or selling marijuana on the sovereign lands, even in states that ban the practice.
The new guidance, released in a memorandum, will be implemented on a case-by-case basis and tribes must still follow federal guidelines, said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota and the chairman of the Attorney General’s Subcommittee on Native American Issues.
It once again sends a message that we really don’t care about federal drug laws. – Kevin A. Sabet, an opponent of marijuana legalization and former advisor on drug issues to President Obama
It remains to be seen how many reservations will take advantage of the policy. Many tribes are opposed to legalizing pot on their lands, and federal officials will continue to enforce the law in those areas, if requested.
Southern California is home to nearly 30 federal- and state-recognized Indian tribes, with a total population of nearly 200,000, according to state estimates. The largest tribes operate profitable casinos and outlet malls, including those by the Morongo, Cabazon, San Manuel and Pechanga tribes.
- Representatives of several of the largest tribes could not be reached for comment.
The policy comes on the heels of the 2013 Justice Department decision to stop most federal marijuana prosecutions in states that have legalized the possession or sale of pot. Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have all moved to legalize the drug, though the D.C. law may be scaled back by Congress.
Some tribes see marijuana sales as a potential source of revenue, similar to cigarette sales and casino gambling, which have brought a financial boon to reservations across the country. Others, including the Yakama Reservation in Washington state, remain strongly opposed to the sale or use of marijuana on their lands.
Purdon said in an interview that the majority of Native American tribes, mindful of the painful legacy of alcohol abuse in their communities, appear to be against allowing marijuana use on their territory.
The federal government will continue to legally support those tribes that wish to ban marijuana, even in states that now permit its sale, Purdon said.
But the Justice Department will generally not attempt to enforce federal marijuana laws on federally recognized tribes that choose to allow it, as long as they meet eight federal guidelines, including that marijuana not be sold to minors and not be transported to areas that prohibit it.
“The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations,” Purdon said.
John Walsh, the U.S. attorney for Colorado, said a primary purpose of the memorandum to be released Thursday is to assure U.S. attorney offices and tribes that despite the changes in Justice Department policy announced last year, federal prosecutors still have the authority to prosecute marijuana felonies on tribal lands.
In many cases, federal prosecutors are the only ones permitted by law to prosecute marijuana felonies on tribal lands.
Walsh said that the new memorandum, like the one issued for states last year, emphasizes that states or reservations must have “robust and effective regulatory systems in place” and that federal prosecutors reserve the right to take broader enforcement actions.
The policy is likely to be criticized in states opposed to marijuana sales, particularly those with Native American reservations.
Kevin A. Sabet, an opponent of marijuana legalization and former advisor on drug issues to President Obama, called the policy an “extremely troubling development.”
“It once again sends a message that we really don’t care about federal drug laws,” he said.
Sabet, director of the Drug Policy Institute at the University of Florida, said, “Native Americans and their families suffer disproportionately from addiction compared to other groups. The last thing they want is another commercialized industry that targets them for greater use.”
Times staff writer Hugo Martin in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
With all the upheaval in Washington, it isn’t likely that federal proposals to tax marijuana will pass anytime soon. Yet as Professor Paul Caron catalogs, economists are looking anew at the proposed Marijuana Tax Equity Act (H.R. 501). It would end the federal prohibition on marijuana and allow it to be taxed. Growers, sellers and users would not to fear violating federal law. But dealing with taxes would be another story.
The bill would impose an excise tax of 50% on cannabis sales and an annual occupational tax on workers in the growing field of legal marijuana. Is that a good trade-off? Federal Proposals to Tax Marijuana: An Economic Analysis by Jane G. Gravelle & Sean Lowry focuses on potential federal marijuana taxes. The authors present justifications for taxes and they estimate levels of tax. They consider possible marijuana tax designs, as well as tax administration and enforcement issues such as labeling and tracking.
Of course, statistics can be deceptive. When Colorado legalized recreational use, it trumpeted the tax revenue it knew would be piling in. There’s a 2.9% sales tax and a 10% marijuana sales tax. Plus, there is a 15% excise tax on the average market rate of retail marijuana. If you add them up, it’s 27.9%.
But it turned out that the $33.5 million Colorado projected to collect in the first six months of 2014 was a little too optimistic. When the smoke cleared, Colorado was missing $21.5 million in pot taxes! One explanation is that all those taxes meant many smokers still buy on the black market. Getting numbers on that can be tough.
The Marijuana Policy Group has suggested that perhaps only 60% of purchases in Colorado are made through legal channels. One reason is price, since legal marijuana is more expensive. And the taxes are still being contested. So far, the Colorado tax on marijuana has been upheld despite claims that paying it amounts to self-incrimination violating the Fifth Amendment.
Plaintiffs wanted the taxes on recreational pot outlawed, reasoning that they require businesses and consumers to implicate themselves in federal crimes. The plaintiffs lost on getting an injunction, but challenges to the taxes continue. The 2.9% medical marijuana tax compared with 27% on the recreational variety is a big spread.
Some patients could be reselling their 2.9% medical stock to the public. A medical marijuana card costs $15. About 23% of the estimated marijuana users in Colorado have medical cards, according to the Marijuana Policy Group.
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The proposed congressional budget released Tuesday night prevents the Department of Justice from using funds to undermine state laws regarding medical marijuana.
posted on Dec. 9, 2014, at 9:20 p.m.
Michelle Broder Van Dyke BuzzFeed News Reporter
The House budget passed Tuesday night prevents the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration from using funds to interfere with state laws that legalize medical marijuana.
The amendment was introduced by California Reps. Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican, and Sam Farr, a Democrat, and was approved by the House of Representatives in May. It implies that DEA raids on medical marijuana patients in states where it is legal will stop.
The budget Senate proposal — which must still go back to the House for a full vote before it lands on President Obama’s desk — would keep all but the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) operating normally through the end of the fiscal year in 2015.
The compromise bill was approved with Republicans agreeing to put off a fight with Obama over his immigration policies until February, when funding for the DHS is slated to run out, the Associated Press reported.
The bill’s Section 538, which addresses medical marijuana, reads:
None of the funds made available in this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin, to prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.
The bill also includes a section that protects industrial hemp cultivation.
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used in contravention of section 7606 (”Legitimacy of Industrial Hemp Research”) of the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Public Law 113–79) by the Department of Justice or the Drug Enforcement Administration.
AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty
Marijuana advocates were pleased with the bill.
Tom Angell, founder of Marijuana Majority, said in statement to BuzzFeed News: “Congressional leaders seem to have finally gotten the message that a supermajority of Americans wants states to be able to implement sensible marijuana reforms without federal interference.”
Angell also urged the Obama administration to use this opportunity to “reschedule marijuana immediately.” Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning it’s a dangerous narcotic with no accepted medical use. Heroin and LSD are also classified Schedule I, while cocaine and methamphetamine are Schedule II, a lower ranking.
Advocates say reclassifying the drug would allow for state and federal laws to be in sync, and conserve law enforcement resources. It would also ease access to research of the drug and tension between banks and marijuana retailers.
Erik Altieri, communication director for the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, also released a statement that said: “By restricting these agencies in this manner, the nearly two dozen states that implemented medical marijuana programs can hopefully breathe easier knowing federal money won’t be spent to interfere with their progress. We hope this leads to further reforms at the federal level further enshrining this sentiment into law.”
The bill also effectively blocks the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Washington, D.C., but preserves its decriminalization law.
Voters in Washington, D.C., overwhelmingly passed a recreational marijuana referendum on the November ballot, which is now effectively blocked. The District passed a decriminalization bill in April that will remain intact.
The proposed bill’s appropriations section, which allocates millions in funds to the district, states:
“None of the Federal funds contained in this Act may be used to enact or carry out any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties associated with the possession, use, or distribution of any schedule I substance under the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) or any tetrahydrocannabinols derivative.”
Unlike most states, Washington, D.C., doesn’t take in any local revenue that it can spend and receives all of its funding from the federal government, so the ban on using funds for legalization effectively blocks the referendum voters recently passed.
Earlier on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said of the rider: “I’m opposed to what the House is trying to do.”
“If they put it in there, it’s going to be hard to take it out over here,” he added.
Marijuana advocates in Washington D.C. and those who advocate for the district’s autonomy were not pleased. D.C. Cannabis Campaign, which sponsored the ballot measure to legalize weed, tweeted the following:
By Samuel T. Wilkinson December 5 at 8:09 PM
Last month, people voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Oregon, Alaska and the District. As the movement toward marijuana legalization continues, lawmakers and policy experts are looking to the experiments in Colorado and Washington for guidance. We should not overlook, however, valuable lessons from our experience with another legal drug: tobacco.
In the late 19th century, the landscape of tobacco consumption was very different than it is today. Tobacco use was much less prevalent, and cigarettes accounted for a tiny portion of consumption. Yet by the mid-20th century almost half of U.S. adults smoked, with major consequences for public health. Despite important health policy achievements since, cigarette smoking remains a major contributor to the top causes of death in the United States, including cardiovascular and lung diseases, as well as cancer.
This drastic rise in the prevalence of smoking can be attributed to a number of successful business strategies. Hand-rolling of cigarettes, a technique that limited production potential, was supplanted by machine manufacturing. Changes in the chemical composition and curing process of cigarettes made them more flavorful as well as more addictive. Aggressive marketing techniques sought to build a larger consumer base. Advertisements often featured doctors in an effort to quell public fear over smoking-related health concerns; other campaigns targeted children or adolescents, who represented potential lifetime customers. Finally, the industry created powerful lobbying groups to protect their profits from regulations aimed at curbing consumption.
Alarmingly, marijuana businesses are now mimicking many of Big Tobacco’s successful strategies. New methods of consuming marijuana (such as vaporization) are said to represent a healthier way to get high — though little research supports this claim — encouraging individuals to consume more marijuana in one sitting. The percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol (the euphoria-inducing compound associated with many adverse health effects) in marijuana is much higher than it was a few decades ago. Just as tobacco companies featured doctors in advertisement campaigns, marijuana advocates have appealed to medical authority by successfully lobbying in many places for the approval of “medical marijuana” for a plethora of conditions, even when little or no scientific evidence supports its use. While it is laudable that Colorado has placed restrictions on marijuana advertising, it is also disturbing that the marijuana industry quickly mounted powerful legal efforts to challenge these restrictions in court.
The formula for success in profiting from a legal drug is simple and has been clearly outlined by Big Tobacco: Identify a product with addictive potential, aggressively market it to as large an audience as possible, develop technical innovations to allow for and promote increased consumption, and deny or minimize potential costs to human health. The marijuana industry is poised to copy this formula, with dire consequences.
Important lessons can also be drawn from the Netherlands , where marijuana has been decriminalized since 1976. Following decriminalization, the Dutch government strictly enforced guidelines prohibiting advertising and transactions above a certain quantity (to discourage mass production and distribution). For about a decade, marijuana consumption rates remained stable. However, in the mid-1980s, waning enforcement of these guidelines coincided with a drastic increase in both the commercialization of marijuana and rates of consumption. The overriding lesson from the Netherlands is that it was commercialization, not decriminalization itself, that led to sharp increases in use.
If we are intent on legalizing marijuana for recreational use, lessons from the tobacco industry and the Dutch marijuana experiment suggest that we do so in a way that does not pit corporate incentives against the interests of public health. Similar to efforts in Uruguay, production and distribution should be done solely by the government so as to ensure that there is no corporate incentive to entice more people to consume marijuana in larger quantities. Advertisements in all media venues should be banned, or as stringently regulated as allowed by law.
While the health effects of marijuana are generally not as severe as those of cigarette smoking, the consequences — including addiction, psychosis and impaired cognitive abilities — are nonetheless real. Notably, these effects are most pronounced in children and adolescents. Claims that marijuana legalization will make it easier to prevent use by minors are not backed by scientific or historical evidence. The most prevalent drugs consumed by teenagers are those that are legal: alcohol and tobacco. This should give us pause to consider the optimal way to legalize marijuana — and indeed whether other states should consider legalization at all.
Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the US, and its prevalence among adolescents and young adults has been increasing in recent years. But in a new study published in the journal Cell Reports, researchers say they may have uncovered a potential way to help some individuals stop using marijuana.
In the brain, endocannabinoids usually activate cannabinoid receptors, which are involved in regulating appetite, pain, memory and mood, among other physiological processes.
However, past studies have indicated that individuals with mood and anxiety disorders have reduced levels of endocannabinoids. Since the active ingredient in marijuana – tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) – can also activate the cannabinoid receptors, many people may use the drug to relieve symptoms of such disorders.
But the research team – led by Dr. Sachin Patel, professor of psychiatry and molecular physiology and biophysics at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN – says they have found a way to replenish levels of an endocannabinoid called 2-Arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG) in the brain, which may reduce the reliance on marijuana to treat mood and anxiety disorders.
Replenishing 2-AG levels reduced anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors in mice
To reach their findings, Dr. Patel and his team deleted an enzyme in adult male and female mice – called diacylglycerol lipase α (DAGLα) – that usually breaks down 2-AG, creating 2-AG-deficient mouse models.
The researchers say all mice displayed anxiety-like behaviors, while female mice displayed behaviors related to depression. “We were expecting that endocannabinoid deficiency would produce anxiety and depressive-like behaviors, but the female-specific depressive behavior took us by surprise,” Dr. Patel told Medical News Today.
However, the team found that replenishing 2-AG levels in the brains of the mice appeared to reverse anxiety- and depressive-like behaviors. The researchers say their findings indicate that “normalizing 2-AG deficiency could represent a viable […] therapeutic strategy for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders.”
What is more, Dr. Patel told MNT that, although the technique has not yet been tested in humans, it has the potential to wean some heavy marijuana users off the drug:
“It is very possible that a subset of heavy marijuana users are actually self-medicating symptoms of anxiety or mood disorders.
We think that manipulating the naturally produced cannabinoids, like 2-AG, is likely to have the same anxiety-reducing, mood-elevating capacity without producing as many side effects as synthetic cannabinoids, like marijuana. This approach, then, would eliminate the drive to self-medicate with marijuana.”
Next, Dr. Patel said the team wants to find out exactly how 2-AG deficiency impacts the brain’s ability to regulate mood and anxiety. This, he says, would improve efficiency when the endocannabinoid-replenishing technique reaches clinical testing.
Last month, MNT reported on a study by researchers from the University of California-San Francisco, which suggested that exposure to secondhand marijuana smoke could be just as harmful to health as exposure to secondhand cigarette smoke.
Written by Honor Whiteman
Today is the 81st anniversary of the repeal of federal alcohol prohibition.
The 21st Amendment ended the failed experiment of Prohibition and delegated the issue of alcohol legalization and regulation solely to the states.
The 21st Amendment was neither “for” nor “against” alcohol. It was simply an acknowledgment that federal prohibition was an obvious failure and a nod towards state’s and individual rights. No state was required to legalize alcohol. It was their choice.
The repeal of prohibition has been a tremendous success. This country has the best regulated beverage alcohol industry in the world while still being the world’s most dynamic. Just ask any beer drinker!
Fast forward to the present. Republicans made huge gains in last month’s elections, decisively winning control of the Senate, increasing their dominance in the House to a level not seen since the 40’s, controlling 33 governorships and more state legislators than any time since the 1920s. They now have the opportunity to cement and expand these gains and to create a permanent majority.
How? By leading the charge to end the federal prohibition of marijuana. You don’t have to be “pro-cannabis” to be against prohibition.
Like it or not, illicit marijuana is available in every corner of this country. Any teenager can get it with little effort. Most say it’s far easier to get than beer.
Criminal gangs across the country rake in tens of billions of dollars each year selling marijuana. Milton Friedman once said, “See, if you look at the drug war from a purely economic point of view, the role of the government is to protect the drug cartel. That’s literally true.”
In 2012, 750,000 people were arrested for mere possession. That’s about one arrest every 48 seconds! And a disproportionate number of the people arrested on marijuana-related charges are minorities.
The federal prohibition of marijuana has been as profound a failure as the attempted federal prohibition against alcohol. The solution is the same. Let the states decide and regulate as they see fit.
Here in Colorado, the legalization of marijuana has been a resounding success. Teen use is down. Auto fatalities are at near historic lows. Crime is down across the board. Tax revenue is flowing in.
If Republicans want to expand their base, they need to show they truly believe in a liberty-based agenda. Reach out to groups that historically have not been favorable to the Republican brand and prove through action that they have much more in common than they might think. Individual freedom is a winning message for people of all colors and all walks of life.
Republicans in Congress should pass legislation within their first 60 days in office repealing federal prohibition and placing the issue with the individual states and their citizens.
A statement such as, “I’m personally against it but believe in the wisdom of the people” can be a get-out-of-jail-free card for all who fear being branded pro-marijuana. The issue isn’t for or against marijuana but rather whether a legal, state regulated market is preferable to a prohibition market. Alcohol or marijuana, the answer to this is clear.
The alternative is Republicans turning off another generation of voters who think of them as the party that speaks of individual freedom but whose actions suggest they want to control other people’s lives. These folks have seen the failure of big government and most big institutions. Their loyalty can be obtained, but the party has to walk the walk.