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RainDog

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Journal Archives

Rep. Jared Polis: Would be very happy if Holder resigned

http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2013/08/15/democratic-rep-polis-would-be-very-happy-if-eric-holder-resigns

"I would be very happy to see him leave," Polis told The Coloradoan in an interview published Wednesday.

Polis offered four major reasons he has lost confidence in Holder, including: the Justice Department's pursuit of reporters during leak investigations; Holder's non-committal to respecting state marijuana legalization laws; his apparent approval of NSA surveillance; and the "abuse of prosecutorial discretion" by federal prosecutors.

Regarding Colorado's marijuana legalization law, which will usher in state-licensed recreational weed shops next year, Polis complained that "very time we've talked to about it — and I've talked to him many times about it — it's just kind of the typical attorney thing: no answer, just nothing, talk around it, not yes, not no."


Polis also requested that recreational cannabis stores in states that have made cannabis legal should be dealt with under terms of the Ogden Memo.

http://www.usnews.com/news/blogs/washington-whispers/2013/08/16/rep-jared-polis-apply-ogden-memo-to-recreational-marijuana-stores

Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., wants Attorney General Eric Holder to confirm that the federal approach to state-licensed recreational marijuana stores, set to open next year in Colorado and Washington state, will be similar to the Justice Department's approach to medical marijuana dispensaries.

"Stores are opening next year," Polis told U.S News. "We would like to have the clarification from the attorney general to make it clear that the Ogden memo also applies" to recreational marijuana stores.

The Ogden memo is a 2009 document written by then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden that says it wouldn't be an "efficient use" of federal resources to go after medical marijuana patients. It also said the Justice Department would primarily target dispensaries that commit other infractions, such as selling hard drugs, using guns or breaking state marijuana regulations.

Polis says the Justice Department has misled the states into believing a policy announcement was imminent for the past eight months.

NIDA denies marijuana is less toxic than alcohol

The National Institute on Drug Abuse released an eyebrow-raising statement to PolitiFact on Monday, denying that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol.

"Claiming that marijuana is less toxic than alcohol cannot be substantiated since each possess their own unique set of risks and consequences for a given individual," wrote the institute. NIDA, part of the National Institutes of Health, funds government-backed scientific research and has a stated mission "to lead the nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction."

The statement was in response to a declaration by the pro-pot policy group Marijuana Policy Project that marijuana is less harmful than alcohol –- a claim that was the centerpiece of a controversial pro-marijuana commercial aired during a NASCAR race last month.

PolitiFact took the claim to task, comparing marijuana-related deaths to alcohol-related deaths and toxicity levels of the two substances.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/19/marijuana-less-toxic-alcohol_n_3782100.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

PolitiFact had this to say:

http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2013/aug/19/marijuana-policy-project/pro-pot-group-claims-marijuana-less-toxic-alcohol/

An ad from the Marijuana Policy Project claims marijuana is "less toxic" than alcohol.

Our job as fact-checkers in this case is not to decide whether marijuana is good or harmful. We're focused on whether the drug in its natural form is "less toxic" than alcohol.

In that regard, science and statistics present a strong case:

Deaths or even trips to the hospital are much more likely due to alcohol;
Scientists could not find any documented deaths from smoking marijuana;
A study found the safety ratio for marijuana (the number of doses to cause death) is much greater than compared to alcohol. Put another way, marijuana is 100 times less toxic than alcohol.

Overall, we rate this claim Mostly True.


So, once again, the NIDA lies to the American people about cannabis. This isn't the first time.

If your agency had to lie to support policy, maybe your agency shouldn't get funding for that policy.

By continuing current policy and supporting it by lies, it would also be true that the NIDA is more toxic than marijuana.

Gallup: Cannabis Usage Little Changed Over Three Decades

http://www.gallup.com/poll/163835/tried-marijuana-little-changed-80s.aspx

Even as Americans' support for legalizing marijuana has doubled, and more than 20 states have loosened marijuana restrictions in various ways, Gallup finds relatively little increase throughout the past three decades in the percentage of U.S. adults who say they have tried marijuana. Thirty-eight percent of Americans admit to having tried marijuana, compared with 34% in 1999 and 33% in 1985.

Before Americans' self-reported experimentation with marijuana leveled off in the 1980s, it surged in the 1970s, rising from 4% in 1969 to 12% in 1973 and 24% in 1977.

Gallup's trend by age reveals that widespread experimentation with marijuana first occurred among adults aged 18 to 29 between 1969 and 1973, rising from 8% to 35%. It then continued to mount, reaching 56% by 1977, and remained at that level in 1985. Since then, however, marijuana use among young adults has progressively declined. At the same time, as the bulge of young adults who tried marijuana in the 1970s ages and replaces older Americans who never tried it, the rate of all Americans who have ever tried the drug has increased slightly.

There are relatively minor differences in marijuana use by race -- between whites and nonwhites -- and by education. There are no income-related differences among those who say they have tried marijuana, but lower-income Americans are the most likely to say they currently use it. This is consistent with the higher percentage of young adults who say they smoke it, given young adults report relatively lower household income figures.

Leahy blocks 95 million dollar appropriation for Drug War group

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/18080-leahy-freeze-on-mexico-drug-war-funds-will-save-lives-and-money

Senator Patrick Leahy, chair of the Appropriations Committee, blocked release of $95 million dollars in funding for the Merida Initiative, citing the lack of a clear strategy on the part of the U.S. State Department and the Mexican government.

The decision is a long-overdue recognition that the drug war in Mexico has been a bloody fiasco. The Merida Initiative, a Bush-era plan to attack cartels in Mexico and reduce trafficking of prohibited drugs to the U.S. market, began in 2008. Congress has appropriated $1.9 billion dollars from the federal budget for the program over the past five years, most aimed at bolstering Mexican security forces. Since the drug war was launched and armed forces deployed to fight the cartels, the homicide rate in Mexico soared 150%, between 2006 and 2012.

Last August the State Department asked the committee to obligate some $229 million assigned to the Merida Initiative in the 2012 budget. At first, Leahy decided to hold up the entire amount, after receiving a two-and-a-half page explanation from the State Department that he felt failed toadequately describe spending and objectives.

In April, the committee released $134 million,but held up the rest pending more information from State and the Mexican government on how the money would be spent, what the goals were and how the programs and resources would help achieve those goals.

Democrats and Republicans agree: Reform Our Drug Laws

http://www.policymic.com/articles/58547/democrats-and-republicans-agree-reform-our-racist-wasteful-drug-laws

It's been over 40 years since President Nixon declared war on drugs and more than a quarter-century since Congress first enacted mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, leading to a ballooning U.S. prison population. We, the land of the free and the home of the brave, have become the world's biggest jailer. In the light of Uruguay and New Zealand's recent efforts toward relaxing their drug laws, the time seems right for the United States to do some reform of its own. Specifically, the United States should reform its mandatory minimum sentencing policies for non-violent drug offenders.

The policy arguments are well known and indisputable: these laws disproportionately impact minorities, overcrowd our prison system, hamstring our judges, don't deter crime, and are a waste of money. These arguments have been around for decades. What makes this time different — because in Washington, policy is often trumped by politics — is the surprising amount of bipartisan consensus around this issue. Republican and Democrats both agree: now is the time to reform our drug sentencing laws.

Right now there are two bills in the Congress that would go a long way toward reforming our drug sentencing laws. Last week, Senators Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the Smarter Sentencing Act, which would allow judges more of the leeway that they have asked for to sentence criminals below the mandatory minimum sentence. The bill would also lower the mandatory minimum sentences for various drug crimes. The Justice Safety Valve Act, sponsored by Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and by Congressmen Robert Scott (D-Va.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), would go even further, eliminating mandatory sentences for some non-drug crimes. Either bill would be a positive step towards creating more-just sentencing laws by returning discretion to judges.

Support for reform has been building for some time. One precedent to look at is the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, which reduced the disparity in minimum sentences between powder cocaine and crack cocaine from 100-1 down to 18-1. That bill was supported by several influential House Republicans such as James Sensenbrenner (Wisc.), Paul Ryan (Wisc.), former Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), and even Todd Akin (formerly R-Mo.). That act proved that not only can drug reform be bipartisan, it can also attract strong conservative support.


Holder is on board with reforms, as Recursion posted here: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023431740

Attorney General Eric Holder is rumored to be proposing major reforms to drug sentencing in the coming weeks, and if a Wednesday interview with NPR is any indication, the changes could signal a pivot from the aggressive policies embraced by the Justice Department.

"I think there are too many people in jail for too long, and for not necessarily good reasons," Holder said in the interview, turning from the department's highly criticized crackdown on drug law enforcement. As NPR noted, almost half of the people in federal prison are serving time for drug charges.

"The war on drugs is now 30, 40 years old," he continued. "There have been a lot of unintended consequences. There's been a decimation of certain communities, in particular communities of color."

Holder hinted in the interview that the changes could include better prioritization of federal law enforcement and shortened sentences for minor drug offenses. According to NPR, Holder could announce his proposal as early as next week in a speech to the American Bar Association in San Francisco.


Even with federal-level sentencing changes, states may also set penalties. No doubt the federal sentencing changes will help, but if you're in Louisiana, for instance, you can still be sent to prison for 20 years for a third conviction for simple possession of marijuana. And that was after they modified existing law to make it more lenient.

CNN's Sanjay Gupta: We've been misled about cannabis

Gupta apologized on CNN for his former opposition to ending the prohibition of marijuana, stating the DEA has "no scientific basis" for the claim that marijuana has no medical value.

Thank you, Mr. Gupta, for using your position to bring sanity to this issue in the U.S.

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/08/07/cnns-sanjay-gupta-americans-terribly-and-systematically-misled-about-marijuana/

Harborside and University of the City of London conduct groundbreaking research

Harborside, located in Oakland, has a client base of approx. 100,000 cannabis users (this is why they were targeted and the owner, Steve DeAngelo, faces trial.) The City of Oakland has sued the Justice Dept.'s Eric Holder to block the closure of Harborside. They have teamed with the University of the City of London to conduct the largest and most comprehensive patient survey of cannabinoid profiles.

http://www.alternet.org/drugs/how-break-governments-cruel-blockade-cannabis-research?page=0%2C2

The survey project is part of an HHC effort in alliance with the University of the City of London and the drug policy research group the Beckley Foundation, to compile a database based on the survey results that will let medical cannabis users look up which strains of cannabis are most commonly preferred to treat particular ailments.

HHC and its partners plan to key the questionnaire answers to the results of the extensive tests HHC has already done to categorize the various types of cannabis that come through their facility. The cannabis study project is still in its early data collection phase, but the hope is that the eventual result will be an easily accessible categorization of each strain of cannabis, and its customer preference status in treating each particular health problem.

...HHC’s survey takes into account not only the strain of cannabis each patient is using and evaluating, but also the particular batch of cannabis and the unique cannabinoid profile.

In theory, he says, over the course of two, three, four years of implementing questionnaire responses, the resulting database will allow the user to ask things like: “What did the largest number of multiple sclerosis patients prefer? Which strain did they prefer least? What’s the chemical difference—what’s the difference in cannabinoid profile between those two different strains of cannabis? So that we can start developing an actual, objective way of at least identifying cannabinoid profile with symptoms.”


This is great research.

It's also an example of activists and educators working together to create a knowledge base, in spite of some who would choose to censor such information.

1st medical marijuana dispensary in DC opened

http://www.tokeofthetown.com/2013/07/first_washington_dc_medical_marijuana_dispensary_finally_opens_capital_city_care.php

The shop, located on N. Capitol Street, NW just north of New York Avenue, is only 2.5 miles from the White House and the rest of the city center. Patients with certain qualifying conditions including cancer, glaucoma, muscle spasms and HIV/AIDS will be able to purchase cannabis at the shop.

The shop represents a battle that has been long and drawn out in our nation's capitol. Voters approved medical cannabis in 1998, but the U.S. Congress (which has to approve changes to D.C. law) prevented that from happening for nearly 11 years. In 2009 the city began the process of registering and licensing patients but it's been a lengthy four years to get dispensaries off the ground as many lawmakers feared federal intervention (and federal jail time) for implementing the will of the voters.

Unfortunately, Washington D.C. does not allow for reciprocity with other state medical marijuana programs. So medical cannabis patients from any of the 50 state surrounding the city are still sadly considered criminals.

The opening is sure to get more publicity over the next few weeks, which might actually get politicians to pay attention to the fact that medical cannabis is almost literally at their doorsteps.


So, Congress - tell me how you can (finally) fund the District of Columbia's medical marijuana law yet refuse to address the error in national law and policy that continues to claim marijuana has no medical value and is, thus, a Schedule I substance.

It seems the Controlled Substances Act has been altered by Congress by this legislative action. At this point, Congress simply needs to remove cannabis from the CSA entirely and remove it from control of the DEA and put it under the control of the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Marijuana (the last bit is part of Democrat Jared Polis' legislation.)

Since 72% of American voters do not want to waste money on enforcing marijuana prohibition - across political divisions - I have to ask - who is Congress serving by its refusal to address this issue?

They certainly aren't serving their constituents.

Let's track some numbers

as far as spending, etc. over time. Here are a few links -

the largest db of marijuana arrests released to the public (from 2008) - http://www.drugscience.org/States/US/US_home.htm

http://www.alternet.org/story/64465/the_war_on_pot%3A_america's_$42_billion_annual_boondoggle

From 2007 - "...according to a new study by researcher Jon Gettman, Ph.D. -- $10.7 billion in direct law enforcement costs, and $31.1 billion in lost tax revenues. And that may be an underestimate, at least on the law enforcement side, since Gettman made his calculations before the FBI released its latest arrest statistics in late September. The new FBI stats show an all-time record 829,627 marijuana arrests in 2006, 43,000 more than in 2005."

Specific findings include the following:

http://www.drugscience.org/bcr/

--Nationally, there is little apparent relationship between increasing marijuana arrests and rates of use.

Marijuana arrests have nearly doubled from 1991 to 2009, increasing by 150% during the 1990s and increasing steadily in recent years, producing an annualized change of 6.56% per year during this period.

Overall, levels of marijuana use in the United States have remained fundamentally unchanged during this period. Population estimates of annual marijuana use, for example, have remained relatively constant over the last five years at approximately 25 million individuals.

From 2003 to 2007, the number of annual marijuana arrests increased by 2.93% per year, while the number of annual marijuana users decreased by 0.21% per year.

The overall marijuana arrest rate of between 3% and 6% of users is not enough to represent a meaningful deterrent.

--Young people and African-Americans are disproportionately affected by marijuana arrests.

Males aged 15 to 24 account for 52% of all marijuana arrests. While the national rate of marijuana possession arrests is 248 per 100,000, the arrest rate for males aged 15 to 19 is 1,911 per 100,000.

While the marijuana-use rate for African-Americans is only about 25% greater than for whites, the marijuana possession arrest rate for blacks is three times greater. This is not a regional disparity, but is seen in every state and most counties.

---The costs of arresting marijuana users are substantial, and raise serious questions about the cost effectiveness of marijuana prohibition.

Using the same method of calculation used by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, marijuana arrests cost state and local governments $10.3 billion in 2006.

Marijuana arrests represent 6% of all arrests. In many states, they represent the fifth, sixth, or seventh largest category of arrests.

The clearance rate (i.e. the percentage of crimes solved by arrest) for murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft was 26% in 2007, meaning that no one is arrested for three quarters of these serious crimes. In this environment, time and resources spent on roughly 850,000 marijuana arrests per year represent a significant opportunity cost.

In California, decriminalization of marijuana possession saved taxpayers $857 million in 2006 (details in the California state report (PDF)) -- this pdf is linked at the link.



What Uruguay's Legal Marijuana Policy Means for the World

http://ideas.time.com/2013/08/02/what-legalizing-pot-in-uruguay-means-for-the-world/?iid=op-main-lead?xid=rss-topstories

by Ethan Nadelmann, the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

(The Drug Policy Alliance is a group started/combined by academics and others to provide accurate information about drugs, in response to U.S. attempts to use intelligence agencies and other political pressure on academics and others who were intimidated by our govt. when the science didn't agree with the drug propaganda.)

(Uruguay) provides, significantly, a model for how to engage in debate over marijuana policy in a mature and responsible way. When President Mujica first issued his proposal last June, he made clear that he welcomed vigorous debate over both its merits and the particulars. International experts were invited from abroad for intensive discussions with people from all walks of civil society and government. A range of specific proposals were considered, all with an eye toward transforming an illegal industry into a legal one to better protect public safety and health. Political rhetoric and grandstanding permeated the debate, as would be expected in any vibrant democratic process, but substantive issues dominated.

What I as an American find most striking about Uruguay’s historic move is the demonstration of political leadership by President Mujica. In the United States, marijuana policy reform is an issue on which the people lead and the politicians follow. Colorado and Washington changed their laws through the ballot initiative process, with roughly 55% of voters supporting the reform, while most elected officials sat on the sidelines. Even today, with a majority of Americans in favor of legalizing marijuana, not one U.S. governor or U.S. senator is prepared to publicly support the legalization of marijuana (apart from the governors of Washington and Colorado who now are obliged to implement the new laws in their states). By contrast, when President Mujica made his proposal, he reportedly did it without consulting any polls or political consultants; he simply listened to respected experts about what the optimal marijuana policy would be – and then said, let’s do it.

President Mujica is not the only Latin American leader to demonstrate courage in calling for alternatives to the drug war. Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala have boldly demanded that legalization, decriminalization and other alternatives to ineffective, costly and destructive prohibitionist drug policies be considered. More recently, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza has catapulted regional discussion of drug policy to an intellectual level unprecedented among multilateral organizations. But President Mujica’s proposal is unique in changing not just public debate but also actual laws and policies.

All this serves as a wake-up call for Europe, which was at the forefront of global drug policy reform in the latter part of the 20th century but has now been leapfrogged by developments in the Americas. Serious proposals for legal regulation of marijuana are proliferating in countries like Switzerland, Spain, the Czech Republic, Denmark and the Netherlands. And in Morocco, long one of the world’s leading producers of marijuana, legalization proposals are now being taken seriously by the national government.


The OAS Drug Policy Report - http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2013/05/oas-secretary-general-presents-historic-drug-policy-report-president-santos-colombia
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