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  1. Attorney General Jeff Sessions January 4th memo regarding marijuana enforcement is historic... and it should promptly be consigned to the dustbin of history. Mr. Session’s very name is a history lesson. Like his father and grandfather, he was named after Jefferson Davis, the first and only president of the Confederacy and P.G.T. Beauregard, the first prominent general of the Confederate Army. These were the men who lead the people of Alabama in their desire and purpose to join the “slave-holding states” to secede from the U.S. and form a government where “in no case shall citizenship extend to any person who is not a free white person.” See Alabama Ordinance of Secession. Mr. Sessions memo overturning Obama era guidelines for federal marijuana prosecutions is entirely consistent his historic roots. Here’s why. When the South failed in its quest to preserve the “peculiar institution” of slavery, Jim Crow and segregation followed. “Separate but equal” became the rallying cry to keep whiteness supreme. With Brown v. Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this became impossible. American society convulsed. In 1968, Richard Nixon took the White House by appealing to the “silent (white) majority” and exploiting Southern fears of the recently empowered African-Americans. The South has been Republican ever since. Here’s how Nixon did it. He declared a War on Drugs. John Ehrlichman a Nixon staffer revealed the real roots of the criminal prohibition of marijuana and other substances: “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” By 1980 with the ascension of Ronald Reagan (and Nancy Reagan’s vacuous “Just Say No”), the drug war was hitting its stride. George H.W. Bush amended the Posse Comitatus Act to allow the military to be used as a domestic police force in the drug war, effectively para-militarizing police forces across the nation. In 1994, Bill Clinton passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. In the 22 years since the bill was passed, the federal prison population more than doubled. War is a bi-partisan vice, and scare-mongering reliably delivers votes. It is to this era that Mr. Sessions seeks to return us with his memo. That is because the war on drugs has been extraordinarily successful in its primary purpose: to vilify Blacks and the Anti-war left, arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and put them in jail. By 2000, incarceration numbers began to become available in parts of the South demonstrating that the drug war increasingly was a war on African Americans, particularly Black males of prime breeding age. One in three black men in the United States between the ages of 20 and 29 years old was under correctional supervision or control. Among the nearly 1.9 million offenders incarcerated on June 30, 1999, more than 560,000 were black males between the ages of 20 and 39. At those levels of incarceration, newborn Black males in this country had a greater than 1 in 4 chance of going to prison during their lifetimes, while Latin-American males have a 1 in 6 chance, and white males have a 1 in 23 chance of serving time. The United States was incarcerating African-American men at a rate that was approximately four times the rate of incarceration of Black men in South Africa. The rate of imprisonment for black women was more than eight times the rate of imprisonment of white women; the rate of imprisonment of Hispanic women was nearly four times the rate of imprisonment of white women. We can trace those disparities directly to discriminatory and selective enforcement of the drug laws. Most illicit drug users were white. There were an estimated 9.9 million whites (72 percent of all users), 2.0 million blacks (15 percent), and 1.4 million Hispanics (10 percent) who were illicit drug users. Yet, blacks constituted 36.8% of those arrested for drug violations, over 42% of those in federal prisons for drug violations and almost 60% of those in state prisons for drug felonies; Hispanics accounted for 22.5%. Drug laws had become the new Jim Crow. Texas was particularly bad. By 2000, there were more Texans under criminal justice control, 706,600 -- than the entire populations of Vermont, Wyoming or Alaska. Texas’s incarceration rate of 1,035 per 100,000 population tops every state but Louisiana. If Texas were a separate nation, it would have the world’s highest incarceration rate, well above the United States at 682 per 100,000 or Russia's 685. The state's prison population had tripled since 1990, rising more than 60 percent in the past five years -- from 92,669 to 149,684. Black Texans were incarcerated at a rate seven times that of whites -- and at a rate 63 percent higher than the national rate for blacks. Blacks supplied 44 percent of the inmates in Texas although they constituted only 12 percent of the state's population. More than half of all Blacks were in jail in Texas for nonviolent offenses. They ended up picking cotton, herding cattle or, contracted out as labor to assemble computers. Then came 9/11. Criminal justice reform took a backseat to terror wars until those wars too lost all legitimacy. It was not until the election of Barack Obama and the appointment of Eric Holder that the real roots of this massive, fraudulent, unjust war on drugs began to be addressed. Over the course of that presidency, states were allowed to advance their experiments with medicinal and later adult use marijuana. Civil asset forfeiture at the federal level was reigned in and the use of private, for-profit prisons was curtailed. A key part of this reform was a statement of guiding principles for federal prosecutors regarding marijuana. These guidelines allowed states to proceed with some predictability in their local marijuana programs. Mr. Sessions has undone all of this. Why is this important? Because the numbers have only grown worse. An African-American in Michigan is three times more likely to be arrested for violating marijuana laws compared to a white person, although surveys and research indicate little difference between usage rates between the two groups. In all, African-Americans comprise about 14 percent of Michigan's population, but 35 percent of marijuana arrests. Overall, African-Americans in Michigan are incarcerated at roughly five times the rate of whites. The numbers in the white flight counties of the Eastern District of Michigan are even more unconscionable. In St. Clair County, African-Americans make up 2.5% of the total population yet account for 43% of arrests for drug law violations. In Oakland County, African-Americans make up 14.4% of the population yet account for 48% of arrests for drug law violations. In Lapeer County African-Americans make up 1.2% of the population yet account for 10.4% of arrests for drug law violations. In Genesee County African-Americans make up 20% of the population yet account for 76% of drug arrests. This according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. Medical marijuana patients and programs are squarely in the cross-fire of a war with deeply racial roots. We say that the only citizen more vulnerable to police misconduct than a young black male in Texas is a medical marijuana patient in Michigan. Mr. Sessions knows all of this. It is in his blood. In his name. This is not accidental. Mr. Sessions and his ilk want to return us to an age when names like Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard are names to be proud of and ditzy slogans like “just say no” and “good people don’t smoke marijuana” substitute for real science. Mr. Sessions war is arbitrary, capricious, and racist. His dismissive memo merely enshrines the worst of policies and promotes selective and discriminatory enforcement of the law. Can a community that has been abused for years by a corrupt, federal, militarized police force that is selectively enforcing the law on the basis of race organize to end its oppression? Yes. See e.g. the American Revolution. In 1776, the British Redcoats had become a federal military police force with wide ranging powers to enforce the contraband laws Then, as now, most contraband consisted of drugs, primarily tea and tobacco. Then, as now, the police were allowed to issue “writs of assistance” (roving search warrants devoid of probable cause) allowing them to seize and keep the property of those persons believed to be illicitly trafficking. Then, as now, such power and temptation corrupted the police authorities, resulted in selective enforcement of the law and produced wide scale violations of God-granted liberties. Then, the community organized to resist. The Boston Tea Party, the American Revolution and the Bill of Rights ensued. Among the rights enshrined is the right to organize and to oppose abuses by a federal, corrupt, militarized police force. 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “I thought those guys (the KKK) were alright until I learned they smoke pot.” -- Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III
  2. Washington, D.C. -- If you're going to wage war on drugs, you need to be outfitted like a warrior. That seems to be the rationale behind hundreds of police department requests for armored trucks submitted to the Pentagon between 2012 and 2014. The requests, unearthed in a FOIA request by Mother Jones magazine, shed light on how the war on drugs has directly contributed to the militarization of local police forces in recent years. Read More...
  3. Many of you may remember the story of Jesse Snodgrass, a student who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome and was arrested by an undercover cop in his high school. The drug war has claimed many victims and has labeled not only medical marijuana patients suffering from debilitating pain and illness in Michigan as enemy combatants, but has now added our kids to that list. In a society that has become numb to mass shootings and ultra-violent acts committed each day, we must question whether we want to continue our outdated policies that allow for police to prey on perhaps our most vulnerable population: our kids. Watch the heart breaking 20 minute documentary here: http://komornlaw.com/komornlawblog/cops-are-waging-a-war-on-our-children/
  4. US Gov: Marijuana Arrests for Federal Funding? The United States government has been dangling the proverbial carrot in the faces of law enforcement agencies all across America in a ploy to exchange minor marijuana-related arrests for federal funding under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant. Instead of awarding additional funds to law enforcement agencies that make devastating busts that affect the bottom line of the drug cartels, this program pays police agencies a significant bonus for making minor marijuana arrests -- a discrepancy in the system that has become just as much a problem for rural communities as it is in big cities. “Although the government claims [byrne grant money] goes toward apprehending high-level traffickers, it’s often very low level people who get arrested. It targets low-income people and people of color much more than anyone understands,” Harry Levine, a drug policy expert and sociologist at Queens College, told AlterNet. Funds from the Byrne grant program are distributed each fiscal year to law enforcement agencies based on drug arrest and seizure criteria from the previous year. Those standards, which are consistent state-to-state, include: number of offenders arrested, number of offenders prosecuted, number of drug seizures, quantity by weight and drug type, and total value of funds and assets forfeited. The Marijuana Arrest Research Project recently set out to dissect the Byrne Reports of 20 states, in which they uncovered a ghastly agenda against the stoner nation. It seems that law enforcement’s bullying tactics against the average marijuana user is the most productive group to shakedown, seizing 232,006 ounces of marijuana in the state of Tennessee in 2011. To make things worse, the report cosigns what most marijuana advocates have been privy to for some time -- marijuana possession is the most profitable “drug” offense across the country. In Arizona, police agencies nailed more people for marijuana possession (42 percent) than for any other drug – methamphetamine (26 percent), cocaine (nine percent). It does not take a genius to see that if police stopped arresting citizens for marijuana, their funding would be severed almost in half. The report finds that police agencies have been using Byrne funds to pay their force and assist them in fulfilling their equipment wish list, rather than using the money as it is intended -- to finance special narcotics departments. “With Byrne grant money, the police can buy all kinds of stuff -- police cars, bullet proof vests, computers, bullets -- buy whatever they want,” said Levine. Essentially, local police departments are being rewarded with bonus money to finance salaries and new toys for officers based on the number of non-violent marijuana possession arrests they make each year. Of course, pressure to maintain this funding has given law enforcement and local municipalities the will to aggressively pursue, arrest and prosecute the average marijuana user. Ultimately, the Byrne grant program is funding foot soldiers fighting the War on Drugs and in doing so, intensifying the battle rather working towards a unified surrender.
  5. One of many maddeningly absurdities of the War in Drugs is how we treat the people who were once “criminals” when their past activities are no longer “crimes.” Consider the marijuana prisoners in Washington and Colorado. There will be men and women serving time -- not just federal, but state time -- for cultivating marijuana plants, processing, transporting and selling them as part of a commercial marijuana operation. Meanwhile, already in Colorado and soon in Washington, men and women will be licensed to legally cultivate marijuana plants, process, transport and sell them as part of a commercial marijuana operation. Eddy Lepp currently sits in a federal prison in Colorado for doing what is going on in countless Denver warehouse grows. Some might make the argument that those activities were illegal in the past and those men and women need to serve their time. Why? What is the purpose of their continued incarceration, to send a message to never grow and sell marijuana again? What is the net societal gain in taxpayer funding of the continued incarceration of successful illegal marijuana cultivators and sellers who could be contributing members of society, paying taxes by legally cultivating and selling marijuana? The further you dig into this rabbit hole the more absurd it becomes. Did you know almost all the 21 medical marijuana states ban someone who has been busted for growing marijuana from becoming medical caregivers and working in or owning a dispensary? In many cases, the person was busted for a personal grow and many of those were for medical purposes before any medical marijuana laws existed. Where is the logic in banning some of the best medical growers in a state from helping sick people because they were helping sick people before it was legal? Don’t we want to encourage good growers to follow the law rather than forcing them to make their living illegally? Apparently not, if this latest press release from my friend Lynnette Shaw is any indication. I met Lynnette many summers ago at some cannabis event. She was fierce and brash and ebullient as she joined me for a podcast interview, explaining about her work with the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM), one of the first dispensaries to help those who were now called “medical marijuana patients” in 1997 just after California passed the Compassionate Use Act. I remember Lynnette’s zeal to fight Uncle Sam on the medical marijuana issue. She had such hope and determination and just knew that with the right legal strategy, an eye on the Constitution, and proper education of elected officials, she and the rest of the Bay Area medical marijuana community could change the world… and they did! But not without great personal cost. The feds attacked Lynnette and MAMM with every alphabet soup agency in their drug war arsenal. The feds went after MAMM’s building’s landlord and had it seized through asset forfeiture. The IRS, treating her like Al Capone, used tax law to bankrupt her, even seizing her Social Security. The courts, to heap insult upon injury, then declared she was banned for life from working in, consulting for, or selling to any legal cannabis business. Understand that for over a decade, Lynnette was working with city and county officials, trying to stay well within California’s state laws and guidelines, paying taxes and getting business licenses, and was generally considered by patients, officials and neighbors to be operating a top-notch facility, a standard-bearer for what legal, regulated medical marijuana in California could be. The Lynnette I saw at the most recent event was humbled and contrite, cautious and weary. But even after all her work helping patients has been rewarded with personal devastation, she still keeps fighting to get back into her passion -- helping sick and disabled people. Help support Lynnette Shaw in her fight to remove the lifetime injunction that is unjust and cruel, unnecessarily burdens patients, and essentially leaves her without a career. FOUNDER OF FIRST LICENSED DISPENSARY IN NATION TO FILE FOR RELIEF FROM FEDERAL CIVIL INJUNCTION LYNNETTE SHAW, ONE OF THE FOUNDERS OF THE MEDICAL CANNABIS DISPENSARY SYSTEM, HAS LIFE SENTENCE BARRING HER FROM PARTICIPATION. Lynnette Shaw created the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Fairfax California in 1997. It was the first legal/licensed/registered/taxpaying medical cannabis dispensary in the country. It operated trouble-free, working closely with local police and Town/County/State officials, until the Federal Government closed it down in Dec. 2011. "My top notch legal team advises me that the time is right to seek dissolution of my Federal permanent civil injunction that is cruel, unusual and unique." stated Lynnette Shaw. "I fought like a wildcat from the Delta to preserve our patients' rights for over 15 years. The Feds finally crushed MAMM by instituting a forfeiture action against our landlord. They set every enforcement agency against me including the IRS. The IRS retroactively removed my tax deductions after 15 years then zeroed out my Social Security. I am bankrupt. "However, the Town of Fairfax is willing to stand up for all the work I did for over 15 years. They want me back! More importantly, our members need the return of MAMM. I have no husband or children, no relatives close by. The patients were my family. All I am asking is to be able to return to work for the many patients here in Marin that have nowhere to turn for medical cannabis. I deserve to be allowed to serve the community again, after protecting everyone except myself from the Feds and going down with the ship, in the name of love and compassion. “I am informed that since MAMM closed, County health facilities are inundated with seriously ill patients who no longer have access to medical cannabis which they had used successfully to treat their symptoms. As well, I am informed that there has been a proliferation of street-drug dealers in Marin since MAMM was closed. Of course, these drug dealers are unregulated, as are their wares. “There are currently thousands of licensed dispensaries in 21 states operating successfully. My time to be freed has come. “We intend to ask Judge Breyer to dissolve the injunction in the name of public interest and my Constitutional rights. There is a good future in legal medical marijuana. I am interviewing potential business partners/investors/donors who wish to see the recovery of the Marin Alliance and its time-tested and successful dispensary system." http://www.hightimes.com/read/pioneering-dispensary-owner-barred-life
  6. A Mexican Drug Lord’s Home Was Raided. It’s Even More Incredible And Horrifying Than I Ever Could Have Imagined There was a matched pair of these found. .357 Magnum semi-automatics with solid gold grips. This guy had a better gun collection than most legitimate museums do. Just a quaint little villa in the hills – Drug money bought it all! Man-made cave and hot tub inside the home. A collection of exotic animals – which were cared for in the grandest fashion, by the way. 8 Lions were on the property. A very rare Tiger. The back yard pool. Exotic art collection – some of which was illegal to own – some stolen. More guns than you could ever imagine! This pile of cash before it was counted was estimated to be approximately 18 Billion Dollars! After it was counted it turned out to be a little more than 22 Billion Dollars! From another angle. Guns were hidden all over the house, along with ample ammo, just in case of trouble. Stacks of cash were found in every nook and cranny… This case is filled with 100 dollar Bills estimated to be 1/2 a million dollars and no doubt headed out to make another drug deal with perhaps the Colombians. 18 plastic bins filled with 100 dollar bills were found… Another cabinet stacked tight with cash – all 100′s. More 100′s. Each of these stacks of 100′s holds USD 250,000 (a quarter of a million US dollars)! They also had millions in Colombian money and Mexican Pesos, although they preferred American dollars for the most part. There were even stacks of Chinese Yuan found in one closet. More Gold machine guns and pistols – most were never fired, just held for collection value. The money and valuables found in this one house alone, would be enough to pay for health insurance for every man woman and child in the USA for 12 years! There is estimated to be approximately 27 more of these houses in Mexico alone. Not to mention the ones in other countries who are enriching themselves in the drug trade. These people have so much money, they make the Arab oil sheiks look like welfare recipients. Their money can buy politicians, cops, judges, etc. Whatever they need they just throw down stacks of cash and it is theirs! This is why the drug problem is so difficult to fight.
  7. Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to speak to the American bar Association this afternoon about reducing sentences for minor drug offenders. He will also outline some encourage reducing prison populations by finding alternatives for elderly and non-violent criminals and encouraging and creating ways for federal prosecutors to sidestep minimum sentencing guidelines. Read more here
  8. The great divide between politicians and the people is showing itself in California where polls show the voters support Proposition 19 and where the mainstream politicians mostly oppose it. To many Americans, there are few policies more bankrupt than the prohibition on marijuana use, a recognition that a blue-ribbon panel reached four decades ago, urging an emphasis on drug education rather than incarceration. In 1970, the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse recommended ending the illegality of marijuana in the United States. The Dutch also had a national commission that reached the same conclusion. The difference was the Dutch listened to their experts and President Nixon and other American politicians ignored the U.S. experts. Well, the results are in – the experts were right and the politicians were wrong, even on the issue of how many people use marijuana. It turns out prohibition was less successful than decriminalization. According to surveys conducted by both governments: in the United States 41 percent of Americans have used marijuana, compared to 22.6 percent in Holland. In 2001, based on recommendations from a national commission, Portugal went further than Holland and abolished all criminal penalties for possession of marijuana and other drugs. The result – reduced use, reduced costs and reduced damage from marijuana to people’s lives. Following decriminalization, Portugal had the lowest rate of lifetime marijuana use in people over 15 in the European Union, a mere 10 percent. Further, Portugal reports that use dropped among teens: rates of lifetime use of any illegal drug among seventh through ninth graders fell from 14.1 percent to 10.6 percent; drug use in older teens also declined. Yet, rather than listen to the experts four decades ago, President Nixon doubled down on the already failed and mistaken policy. The result was 100,000 additional arrests the year after the experts said people should no longer be treated as criminals for marijuana use. And, since the experts said it should not be a crime nearly 15 million Americans have been arrested. Only four states have populations larger than the number of people arrested for marijuana since the experts said people should not be arrested for marijuana offenses. Still, the status quo politicians in California – people like Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Gov .Arnold Schwarzenegger – continue to want to ignore the experts and, more important, they want to ignore the people. Polls have consistently shown Proposition 19 to be 7 to 11 points ahead of those who oppose the initiative. Nationally polls show large pluralities and even a majority of Americans oppose keeping marijuana illegal. How can police continue to enforce laws that half the people oppose? What kind of legitimacy does enforcement of such laws have? Won’t enforcing illegitimate laws undermine police relations with communities? That is why smart, experienced police officers like Neil Franklin, a 33-year law enforcement veteran at both the state and city levels supports Proposition 19. Officer Franklin sees Prop. 19 as a step toward healing the division between the people and the police. He recognizes that marijuana prohibition undermines the relationship between police and the people they serve because when they come into their neighborhoods it is to search homes, cars and people. It creates distrust and undermines effective community policing. So, this Nov. 2, the people of California have an opportunity to tell the professional politicians that most voters want to end policies that do not work and undermine law enforcement. It is obvious to most people that the war on marijuana has been a destructive failure, but the politicians still don’t get it. Of course, if I were a politician who supported marijuana being illegal throughout my career, I would not want to admit I was wrong. Hard to say “sorry we arrested you and ruined your life for something that should not have been illegal.” It is hard to admit an error so large and so destructive to millions of lives. Time magazine reports that the instincts of Officer Neil Franklin are right. Joao Castel-Branco Goulao, Portugual's "drug czar" and president of the Institute on Drugs and Drug Addiction, told Time that police are now able to re-focus on more serious crimes. In fact, the experience in the United States is the same. In 1982, the National Academy of Sciences issues a report entitled “An Analysis of Marijuana Policy.” It recommended going beyond decriminalization and beginning to regulate the sale of marijuana. In making this recommendation, the report looked at states that had decriminalized marijuana possession and found the reform had “not led to appreciably higher levels of marijuana use than would have existed if use were also prohibited.” The NAS also reported savings in tax dollars by ending criminal enforcement against marijuana possession, noting “substantial savings in states that have repealed laws that prohibit use.” And, as Officer Franklin noted, the NAS found “alienation from the rule of law in democratic society may be the most serious cost of current marijuana laws.” Such savings are also predicted if California passes Prop. 19. The California Legislative Analyst says it would enable California to put police priorities where they belong saying it "could result in savings to the state and local governments by reducing the number of marijuana offenders incarcerated in state prisons and county jails, as well as the number placed under county probation or state parole supervision. “These savings could reach several tens of millions of dollars annually. The county jail savings would be offset to the extent that jail beds no longer needed for marijuana offenders were used for other criminals who are now being released early because of a lack of jail space." The findings of the experts are consistent: criminal laws are not an effective way to control marijuana; removing criminal penalties does not lead to increased use; decriminalization creates savings in law enforcement and better relations between community and police. In the year of supposed voter outrage against politics as usual, California voters may send one of the clearest messages to the politicians, that it is time to end the decades-old criminal prohibition on marijuana use by adults. Kevin Zeese is President of Common Sense for Drug Policy (www.csdp.org). © 2010 CounterPunch All rights reserved. View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/148533/
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