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Holder Expands Changes in Drug-Case Policy

September 22nd

The Justice Department is expanding a major change in federal drug sentencing policy to cover pending drug cases, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday.

Last month, Holder said certain low-level, nonviolent drug offenders — those without ties to large-scale organizations, gangs or cartels — no longer will be charged with offenses that impose severe mandatory minimum sentences.

Holder said he now has broadened the new policy to cover defendants who have not yet been convicted in drug cases that could involve lengthy mandatory prison sentences. The policy also may be applied, at the discretion of prosecutors, to a defendant who has entered a guilty plea, but has not yet been sentenced.

Mandatory minimum prison sentences, a legacy of the government’s war on drugs, limit the discretion of judges to impose shorter prison terms.

Holder says the government should reserve the most severe prison terms for serious, high-level or violent drug traffickers.

“Some federal drug statutes that mandate inflexible sentences — regardless of the individual conduct at issue in a . . . . . READ MORE

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Obama Administration Won’t Fight State MJ Laws

August 31st

In a historic pivot in the War on Drugs, the Obama Justice Department announced this week that the federal government will allow Washington and Colorado to implement their state laws for the taxation and regulation of legal marijuana.

The carefully worded Justice Department memo does nothing to alter federal law. Instead, it makes explicit the federal objectives of continued enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act preventing activities including the distribution of marijuana to minors, the diversion of marijuana profits to criminals and cartels, the growing of pot on federal land and the export of marijuana from states where it is legal to states that uphold prohibition.

To the extent that states themselves support those federal priorities by implementing “strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, distribution, sale, and possession of marijuana,” the memo suggests, they should be left alone for now. In a radical twist, the memo even suggests that “robust” state regulation of legal pot “may affirmatively address [federal] priorities by . . . replacin. . . . . READ MORE

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Justice Dept Seeks To Curtail Stiff Drug Sentences

August 12th

In a major shift in criminal justice policy, the Obama administration will move on Monday to ease overcrowding in federal prisons by ordering prosecutors to omit listing quantities of illegal substances in indictments for low-level drug cases, sidestepping federal laws that impose strict mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related offenses.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., in a speech at the American Bar Association’s annual meeting in San Francisco on Monday, is expected to announce the new policy as one of several steps intended to curb soaring taxpayer spending on prisons and help correct what he regards as unfairness in the justice system, according to his prepared remarks.

Saying that “too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long and for no good law enforcement reason,” Mr. Holder is planning to justify his policy push in both moral and economic terms.

“Although incarceration has a role to play in our justice system, widespread incarceration at the federal, state and local levels is both ineffective and unsustainable,” Mr. Holder’s speech says. “It imposes a significant eco. . . . . READ MORE

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Take Marijuana Out of Drug War

July 22nd

Americans like wars: the war on poverty — we lost that one when a bigger war came along. In 1971, while losing the war in Vietnam, President Nixon declared a war on drugs. The two wars got mixed together in some unpleasant ways. American soldiers began using drugs in Vietnam as a way of deadening the fear and loathing in fighting a war where civilians were indistinguishable from enemy soldiers.

Back home, a youthful revolution developed: a rejection not just of the war and the draft that was taking so many young men to death or injury but of the humbug that had preceded it. The revolution rejected apple pie, stars-and-stripes morality with its undertones of bigotry and overtones of hypocrisy and embraced the emerging marijuana plant as a principal source of recreational pleasure.

The increased solidarity among young blacks and whites, many of whom had been part of the racial rebelliousness that brought about the civil rights acts of the sixties did not sit comfortably with the older ruling class still, particularly in the South, resisting the civil rights movement.

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Former Mexican President Fox Urges Legalization

July 10th

Former Mexican President Vicente Fox took his crusade to legalize marijuana to San Francisco on Monday, joining pot advocates to urge the United States and his own country to decriminalize the sale and recreational use of cannabis.

Fox met for three hours with the advocates, including Steve DeAngelo, the Oakland-based executive director of California’s largest marijuana dispensary, and former Microsoft executive Jamen Shively, who hopes to create a Seattle-based pot brand now that Washington state has legalized recreational use.

Legalization, Fox told reporters after the meeting, is the only way to end the violence of Mexican drug cartels, which he blamed on America’s war on drugs.

“The cost of the war is becoming unbearable – too high for Mexico, for Latin America and for the rest of the world,” Fox said in English.

Every day, he said, 40 young people are killed in drug-related violence.

Fox’s position on legalizing drugs has evolved over time since the days when he cooperated with U.S. efforts to tamp down production in Mexico during his 2000-2006 presidential term. He has been increa. . . . . READ MORE

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Obama Helps Nip Pot Legalization In Latin America

June 13th

President Obama helped prevent a move toward pot legalization by some Latin American leaders.  But will he be as bold against Colorado, Washington state?

Peter Bensinger, a former Drug Enforcement Administration chief, was one of eight former DEA chiefs who recently spoke out in favor of the federal government needing to nullify Colorado and Washington’s laws legalizing recreational marijuana use.  They said the Obama administration has reacted too slowly and should immediately sue to force the states to rescind the legislation.

For all the political flak that President Obama is receiving for digital surveillance of Americans, he deserves some praise for protecting Americans on another front.  His administration has helped dampen moves by some Latin American leaders to legalize marijuana in the Western Hemisphere.

The Christian Science Monitor

A meeting of the Organization of the American States ended Thursday in Guatemala without the expected “serious” discussion among the 34 nations to legalize pot.  Just last month, an OAS report recommended. . . . . READ MORE

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The Many Different Faces Of Marijuana In America

June 12th

On Tuesday, Vermont moved to decriminalize the possession of marijuana for quantities up to an ounce, replacing potential prison time for arrests with fines.

Peter Shumlin, the state’s governor, made a telling distinction between weed and “harder” drugs when he announced the move. “This legislation allows our courts and law enforcement to focus their limited resources more effectively to fight highly addictive opiates such as heroin and prescription drugs that are tearing apart families and communities,” he said.

The idea that weed isn’t that big a deal and that governments need to readjust their priorities is pretty common. There’s little vocal anti-pot government outcry, no temperance movement analog for cannabis. Recent polls have found that a majority of Americans think marijuana should be legalized.

Even our mainstream faces of stoner culture are generally silly, harmless and amiable (Jeff Spicoli, Cheech & Chong, Harold & Kumar, and whatever Snoop is calling himself these days) except when they’re revered and saintly (read: Bob Marley). On TV, there was Weeds, a dramedy about an upper-middle-class widow who st. . . . . READ MORE

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It’s Time To End Failed War On Marijuana

June 7th

Marijuana has become the drug of choice for police departments nationwide — a trend that is playing out with serious consequences here in Brown County.

According to a new report released Tuesday by the American Civil Liberties Union, police have turned much of their zeal for fighting the failed War on Drugs toward the enforcement of marijuana laws in communities across Wisconsin and the country.

In 2010, cops in Wisconsin busted someone for having marijuana once every 28 minutes. The majority of these arrests are happening in communities of color. Despite roughly comparable usage rates, blacks in Wisconsin are nearly six times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession.

These racial disparities are particularly bad in Brown County. Compared to other Wisconsin counties with more than 300,000 residents, in 2010 Brown had the third-highest rate of racial disparity for marijuana possession arrests.

Black people in Brown County are more than seven times more likely than whites to be arrested for the same offense — even though blacks constitute only 2.2 percent of Brown County’s population.READ MORE

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DECRIMINALIZE MORE THAN JUST POT, EXPERTS URGE

May 25th

The personal use of illegal drugs, including heroin and crack cocaine, should be decriminalized as part of a federal-provincial strategy to tackle drug abuse, a B.C.-based national coalition of drug policy experts argue.

In a report to be released Thursday, the coalition denounces the Harper government’s aggressive war on drugs, which puts the emphasis on law enforcement while steering money away from harm-reduction initiatives like Vancouver’s supervised injection site.

“While countries all around the world are adopting forward-thinking, evidence-based drug policies, Canada is taking a step backwards and strengthening punitive policies that have been proven to fail,” states a summary of the 112-page report from the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, which is based at Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addiction.

The “stunning display of unimaginative thinking” has failed to decrease the flow of drugs into Canada while hampering efforts to deal with drug-related health problems.

“Despite Canada’s significant investment in drug control efforts, drugs are cheaper and more available than ever,” the report notes.

Among th. . . . . READ MORE

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Make Money With Pot, Not War

May 8th

Are we about to see the end of the war on drugs?

Following ballot measures last November, producing and selling marijuana are now legal in both Colorado and Washington state.  Several other U.S.  states have decriminalized simple possession of marijuana, or allowed its medical usage.  The latter is also the case in Canada.

The financial consequences of a complete and general legalization across the continent would certainly be huge.

Over the past couple of decades, billions of dollars have been spent fighting this unwinnable war, which has fuelled corruption, organized crime, and violence.  Thousands of people are killed in drug fights every year in Mexico.  In Canada and the U.S., it has justified growing government intrusion in commercial and private life, from the money-laundering bureaucracies to civil forfeiture laws.

Despite this, recreational use of drugs is as popular as ever.

The simple economic fact is that when there is a demand, a supply will be forthcoming — legally or illegally.  We should therefore reconcile ourselves with what economists call “consumer sovereignty,” that is, let people consume what they want, and let’s prosecute only real crimes. . . . . READ MORE

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