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California Law Change Leads to Dramatic Decline in Misdemeanor Marijuana Arrests

August 2nd

By | The Daily Chronic

SACRAMENTO, CA – The annual number of misdemeanor drug arrests has fallen by nearly 50 percent in California in five years, largely due to the imposition of a 2010 law reducing minor marijuana possession offenses to a civil infraction. According to figures released this week in the 2012 California Crime Report, statewide misdemeanor drug arrests fell from an estimated 133,000 in […]

California Law Change Leads to Dramatic Decline in Misdemeanor Marijuana Arrests was written by and appears in full on The Daily Chronic. Want to stay up to date on cannabis news worldwide? Visit The Daily Chronic - The Voice of the Reform Generation

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Report: US Currently Imprisons 330,000 for Drug Crimes

July 26th

By | The Daily Chronic - The Voice of the Reform Generation

WASHINGTON, DC — For the third year in a row, the number of people in state and federal prisons in the US has declined, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reported Thursday.

At the end of 2012, there were 1,571,013 prisoners in America, down 1.7% (or 27,770 inmates) from the previous year. Breaking down the numbers (see below), that means that somewhere north of 330,000 people were imprisoned for drug crimes in the US at the end of last year.

The three-year decline in prison populations marks a shift in incarceration policies in the states in recent years. For three decades, prison populations had been increasingly steadily. In 1978, there were 307,276 prisoners; by 2009, that number had climbed to 1,615,487 at the end of 2009.

Nine states (in numerical order: California, Texas, North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, New York, Florida, Virginia, and Maryland) saw decreases of more than a thousand inmates. But California alone accounted for more than half the national decline; its prison population decreased by 15,035 as its prison crisis-driven Public Safety Realignment policy diverted “nonserious, nonsex, nonviolent offenders” to local jails instea. . . . . READ MORE

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US Supreme Court: Juries Must Find Facts on Mandatory Minimum Sentences

June 20th

WASHINGTON, DC — The US Supreme Court Monday dealt a blow to mandatory minimum sentencing, ruling that any facts used to trigger a mandatory minimum sentence are “elements” of the crime and must be proven by a jury, not left to a judge. The 5-4 ruling came in Alleyne v. United States.

Until Monday’s ruling, judges had been able to find certain facts that would trigger mandatory minimum sentences, such as quantities of drugs involved in an offense, based on a “preponderance of evidence” in post-conviction sentencing hearings. Now, those facts will have to established by juries in the course of the trial using the higher standard of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The case is the latest in a line of cases that began with the groundbreaking 2000 Supreme Court decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey, which held that any fact that increases the range of punishments is an “element” of the crime and must be presented to a jury and proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Sentencing reform advocates were pleased by the ruling.

“Mandatory minimums for drug offenders will lessen, but it’s difficult to say to what . . . . . READ MORE

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Report: Obama Justice Department Has Spent Nearly $300 Million on Aggressive Medical Marijuana Enforcement

June 13th

WASHINGTON, DC — Medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) issued a report today, detailing the costs associated with the federal government’s years-long enforcement effort in states that have adopted medical marijuana laws.

Notably, the report, which is entitled “What’s the Cost?” states that since 1996 nearly half a billion dollars ($500 million) has been spent by the Justice Department — over three presidential administrations — to investigate, raid, arrest, prosecute, and imprison hundreds of medical marijuana patients and their providers. The report is intended for Congressional legislators in an effort to lobby for federal policy reforms, and is part of the Peace for Patients campaign recently launched by ASA.

The feds have conducted more than 200 SWAT-style raids on state-compliant medical marijuana businesses since 2011. Here, law enforcement commandos descend on a Santa Rosa neighborhood in search of medical marijuana growers in September, 2012.READ MORE

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Black Arrest Rate for Marijuana Offenses Four Times That of Whites

June 9th

NEW YORK, NY — African Americans are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession offenses than are whites, according to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report released this week that analyzes arrest data from 945 counties nationwide.

The report found that blacks were approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, even though both ethnicities consumed the substance at similar rates. Authors reported that the racial disparity in arrest rates had grown significantly over the past decade and that in some states – including Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin – African Americans were nearly eight times as likely as Caucasians to be arrested for cannabis possession.

Overall, blacks were more likely than whites to be arrested for cannabis violations in 908 of the 945 counties reviewed by the ACLU.

“We found that in virtually every county in the country, police have wasted taxpayer money enforcing marijuana laws in a racially biased manner,” said Ezekiel Edwards, the director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project and the lead author of the report.

Authors also estimated that states in 2010 spent an estimated $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws, a 30 percent increase from ten years earlier. This total included $1,747,157,206 . . . . . READ MORE

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Black Arrest Rate for Marijuana Offenses Four Times That of Whites

June 9th

NEW YORK, NY — African Americans are far more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession offenses than are whites, according to an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report released this week that analyzes arrest data from 945 counties nationwide.

The report found that blacks were approximately four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, even though both ethnicities consumed the substance at similar rates. Authors reported that the racial disparity in arrest rates had grown significantly over the past decade and that in some states – including Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin – African Americans were nearly eight times as likely as Caucasians to be arrested for cannabis possession.

Overall, blacks were more likely than whites to be arrested for cannabis violations in 908 of the 945 counties reviewed by the ACLU.

“We found that in virtually every county in the country, police have wasted taxpayer money enforcing marijuana laws in a racially biased manner,” said Ezekiel Edwards, the director of the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project and the lead author of the report.

Authors also estimated that states in 2010 spent an estimated $3.6 billion enforcing marijuana possession laws, a 30 percent increase from ten years earlier. This total included $1,747,157,206 . . . . . READ MORE

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Blacks Targeted in Wasteful War on Marijuana, ACLU Finds

June 8th

NEW YORK, NY — Black Americans are nearly four times more likely to get busted for marijuana possession than white ones, even though both groups smoke pot at roughly comparable rates, the ACLU said in a report released Tuesday.

The report, The War on Marijuana in Black and White: Billions of Dollars Wasted on Racially Biased Arrests,” is based on the annual FBI Uniform Crime Report and US Census Bureau Data.

The disparity in arrest rates is startlingly consistent, the report found. In more than 96% of the counties covered in the report, blacks were arrested at higher rates than whites. Racial disparities in pot busts came in large counties and small, urban and rural, wealthy and poor, with large black populations and with small ones.

In some counties, the disparity rose to 15 times more likely, and in the Upper Midwest states of Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota, blacks were eight times more likely to be arrested for pot possession than whites. Nationwide, blacks were 3.73 times more likely to get arrested for marijuana than whites.

And it’s getting worse, not better. The report found that even though the racial disparities in marijuana arrests existed 10 years ago, they have increased in 38 states and the District of Columbia.

“The war on marijuana has disproportionately been a war on people of color,” said Ezekiel Edward. . . . . READ MORE

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America’s Corrupt Justice System: Federal Private Prison Populations Grew by 784% in 10 Year Span

May 24th

private prison

From 1999-2010, the total U.S. prison population rose 18 percent, an increase largely reflected by the “drug war” and stringent sentencing guidelines, such as three strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentences.

However, total private prison populations exploded fivefold during this same time period, with federal private prison populations rising by 784 percent (as seen in the chart below complied by The Sentencing Project):

prison1

This stark rise in private prison populations is partially due to increased contracts granted at the state and federal levels to behemoth prison companies such as Correction Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group. These companies claim – against available data – that they can run corrections facilities at lower costs.

However, whether . . . . . READ MORE

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Colorado Legislature Passes Sentencing Reform Bill

May 10th

Colorado State Prison

DENVER, CO — In the final week of Colorado’s legislative sessions, while all the attention was focused on passing marijuana commerce regulations, the state legislature quietly passed a measure designed to reduce the number of drug offenders sent to prison and save the state money.

Senate Bill 250 had passed the Senate in April, the House passed it with amendments last Friday, and the Senate concurred with the House version Monday.

The bill creates a separate sentencing system for drug offenders and allows people convicted of some felony drug charges to be sentenced to probation and community-based sentencing and see that felony charge changed to a misdemeanor conviction upon completion of probation.

It also creates an “exhaustion of remedies” requirement for some drug offenders. That means they must have already participated in several other forms of treatment and sentencing before being sentenced to prison.

Those and other reform provisions in the bill wil. . . . . READ MORE

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Congress Looks to Reduce “Over-Criminalization” with Task Force

May 8th

Prison overcrowding in the California (US Supreme Court)

Prison overcrowding in the California (US Supreme Court)

WASHINGTON, DC — Ten members of the House Judiciary Committee have agreed to form an Over-Criminalization Task Force to review the expansion of the federal criminal code and make recommendations for paring it down. There are roughly 4,500 federal crimes on the law books, with new ones being added at a rate of about 50 a year.

This proposed review of federal criminal laws is the first since the 1980s, when the number of federal crimes on the books was about half what it is now. The task force will conduct hearings and investigate issues around over-criminalization and will have the opportunity to issue reports to the Justice Committee on its findings and policy recommendations.

Task force members include Reps. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Karen Bass (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), George Holding (R-NC), Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Raul Labrador (R-ID), Jerold Nadler (D-NY), Bobby Scott (D-VA), and James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). The group contains both prominent drug law reformers, such as Cohen and Scott, and prominent drug warriors, such as Gohmert and Sensenb. . . . . READ MORE

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