Currently viewing the tag: "MARIJUANA"

potLast Tuesday, during a hearing on legislation that would permit the use of recreational marijuana in Maryland, Annapolis police chief Michael Pristoop testified against the bill, in the process claiming that 37 people had overdosed on marijuana the day that pot became legal in Colorado. Pristoop was apparently getting his information from the Daily Currant, a notoriously shitty, unfunny “satire” website that put up a joke piece that “reported” that those people had died back in January.

State senator Jamie Raskin, the Democrat who sponsored the bill, immediately corrected Pristoop and told him that the Daily Currant is a comedy site. Pristoop said he would check on the error, but he was “holding on to information I was provided.” The next day Pristoop acknowledged he was wrong but said the general objection to legalization still stands. In other words, his opinion was based on lies, but he wasn’t changing it.

Now, Pristoop’s job requires that he enforce the drug laws, which in theory means that he should be more educated than the general public about what individual drugs can and can’t do. What’s disturbing is that he believed such a baseless story on faith—believed it enough to bring it up in a fancy hearing!—even though YOU CAN’T OVERDOSE ON MARIJUANA.

The rest of the Bad Cop Blotter over here

lucy-steigerwald-previewClearly cool human and excellent radio host Guillermo Jimenez had me on his podcast last weekend. In his words:

On this edition of Traces of Reality Radio: Guillermo is joined by VICE columnist, Lucy Steigerwald. We discuss Lucy’s latest articles, including “LEGALIZE HEROIN!” and “Politicians Finally Realize They Can Stop Pretending to Hate Weed.

Mormons, Ted Cruz fanboys, and “conservatives” who are anti gun prohibition but pro drug prohibition: you’re all on notice. Listener discretion, yadda, yadda, yadda.

The listener discretion is for profanity! He started it! But I indulged as well. I haven’t listened yet, but I remember it being a ranty, pleasant conversation. Check it out. 

I have done Jimenez’s radio show twice before. The first, from May, has us discussing the MOVE bombing, among other topics. The second, from August, is an all round libertarian issues chat, including a good tangent into anti-authoritarian songs that mentions Joe’s excellent list. 

potThe drug war rhetoric is improving in 2014. Let’s see if actual policy ever catches up.

In a New Yorker profile published this month, President Obama admitted that marijuana was not that bad and the enforcement of anti-weed laws was skewed against minorities. Similarly, on Thursday Texas Governor Rick Perry voiced his support for decriminalizing marijuana and letting states craft drug laws free of federal intervention. On January 16, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he had changed his mind and that medical marijuana was a fine thing after all. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who was trying to drown his state’s medical marijuana program in the bathtub not three months ago, spent part of his inaugural address delivered on January 21promising to end the war on drugs. New York Senator Chuck Schumer just said on MSNBC that states should be allowed to “experiment” with legalization. What the hell is happening? How did the war on drugs go from a fringe issue five or six years ago to this current race to out-chill your political competitors when it comes to weed policy? It’s hard to know for sure, but it seems like Americans as a whole have decided that marijuana should be legal (or at least partially legal), while our leaders’ views have lagged behind. Now we’ve reached a tipping point where it’s safe for elected officials to embrace an end to prohibition—politicians’ minds aren’t changing, but poll numbers are.

The rest of the crankiness, along with bad cops of the week, over here

Rollerblade_444692_1510740According to a January 9 Wall Street Journal article, the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado may mean that cops have less money to play with. When weed was illegal, police departments could cash in via civil asset forfeiture—they’d raid grow operations and dealers and seize cash and other kinds of property. Those seizures provided both a financial incentive to prioritize drug crimes and a financial perk for departments. Now, presumably, there will be fewer marijuana raids, thus less money for the cops. Washington state hasn’t earmarked any of the tax revenue soon to be coming in from the legal weed market to go to law enforcement, and Colorado may send some of their new dollars towards the cops, but not necessarily—in both states, millions of dollars normally spent on law enforcement may disappear as a consequence of the end of prohibition.

The specifics of forfeiture laws vary from state to state, but generally speaking police can take large amounts of cash (often anything over $10,000) from defendants based only on the suspicion that a big chunk of currency found during, say, a traffic stop, might be drug profits. It can also bechillingly easy for cops to take your property through asset forfeiture if a family member you live with is dealing drugs. The Department of Justice is generally very generous about sharing funds—as long as there’s tangential federal involvement in a case, the Feds take 20 percent of the assets forfeited and the rest goes to the local cops—so police departments are strongly encouraged to go after drug dealers; not only do they get photo ops with “dope on the table,” they can keep the majority of the profits from the sale of seized homes, vehicles, and property. (Not to mention that cash.) Often the onus is on the owner of the property to prove that it wasn’t involved in a crime, which can be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor.

The rest here

potI could have written a serious response to Miller, but she didn’t deserve one. All that needs to be said is, if you write a column like Miller did, you either know nothing about the criminal justice system — literally nothing — or you just don’t give a shit how many people suffer as long as your desires for society are prioritized,  I am not sure which is worse. All I know is, Miller should never be taken seriously as an advocate for small government ever again.

Obama.

Obama’s America.

Can you believe what’s happening in Obama’s America? He thinks Americans aren’t adults, can’t even pick their own light bulbs in fact. And DC is no better, it’s dangerous and it takes months and months for a good, upstanding citizen to get a legal firearm to protect herself against crime.

Obama and the rest of the Democrats think you and I are children. It’s disgusting.

It’s almost as disgusting as the fact that recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over went on sale last week in Colorado. Adults will be able to consume pot. Marijuana. Mary Jane. “Weed.”

Marijuana is a child, not a choice. Wait, no. Marijuana is something adults can now use to “to get stoned for kicks” in Colorado. And Washington state soon. My God.

And 21 other states allow “supposedly ‘medical'” pot, with DC to follow. DC that is already so crime-ridden will now let sick people make a healthcare choice for themselves. A wicked, wicked healthcare choice.

Pot, you see, is like heroin or cocaine. Not like alcohol. Which is why less than zero people have ever overdosed on weed. I know that 25,000 people die from alcohol overdoses in a given year, but that’s different. The difference is that I like alcohol. And guns. And light bulbs. And that’s what’s important. Things I like.

What isn’t important is that 750,000 people are arrested in a given year for marijuana — 87 percent for simple possession. Nor is it important that black people are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession. I’m totally against a dependent society, but prison doesn’t count. I mean, prison beats welfare! Prison is a great motivational tool. And I am worried about violent crime and people’s ability to protect themselves, but not enough to suggest that police stop going after nonviolent drug users. That would be raising the white flag and embracing the far left and Hollywood (and 38 percent of the US) and their propaganda that to use marijuana is not to doom society. Marijuana ruins lives. It’s that simple.

And fiscal conservatism is nice, but not when we’re talking about fighting a plant.

Sure, life in prison for selling marijuana is a lot (especially for a white guy) but that’s the price I am willing to pay for a free society. I am also willing to sacrifice the Fourth Amendment, because that’s for terrorists.

The point is, it doesn’t matter if prohibition works, the important thing is not to learn anything or try anything new from decades of bad policy. Just keep on arresting people so they stop consuming and selling a substance. Giving up is for liberals and dependent societies!

Obamaaaaaaa!

policeOn December 19, eight members of Texas’s Burleson County Sheriff’s Department banged open the door of the double-wide trailer rented by 28-year-old Henry Magee and his girlfriend. It was between five and six AM and the deputies, who were there to search for marijuana and stolen weapons, set off at least two flashbang grenades in an attempt to surprise and disorient Magee, their suspect. The leader of the team, Sergeant Adam Sowders, a seven-year veteran of the department, had requested the warrant be “no-knock,” meaning the police could enter the residence without announcing themselves. But it was possibly do to the confusion caused by the sudden entrance of the cops that led to Magee opening fire with a semi-automatic weapon and hitting Sowders. The cop later died, and Magee has been charged with capital murder, which can bring the death penalty in Texas.

The majority of SWAT-style raids on homes in the US—there are more than 100 a day—are over narcotics. It’s unclear how many are no-knock, but the line between and no-knock and announce warrants can be blurry, especially for sleeping residents who may not hear shouts of “police!”According to Dick DeGuerin, the high-profile defense lawyer representing Magee, no-knock warrants are uncommon in Texas because they are dangerous for officers who serve them.

DeGuerin told me that Magee’s girlfriend, who was five months pregnant and “hysterical, screaming, and crying” after the shooting, was forced to lie on her stomach until a female deputy let her turn over. DeGuerin is certain that Magee, whose parents asked him to take their son’s case, “had no idea” who was outside of his door that morning, and Magee thought he was being robbed. According to DeGuerin, Magee yelled “Who is it?” but go no response, then as “the door burst open,” he fired. After the shooting, Magee came out and quickly surrendered.

On Friday, DeGuerin said he hadn’t yet spoken to county District Attorney Julie Renken who filed the charges against his client. (My calls to the Burleson County Sheriff’s Department, the DA, and the county courthouse went unreturned.) He didn’t want to speak to the prospect of Magee’s chances of pleading out or having the charges dropped, but he said that the raid was initiated by a former coworker of Magee’s who had gotten himself into “some deep trouble” with the law and was trying to lessen it by informing.

The rest here.

potMarijuana possession of up to 28g for personal use was decriminalized in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts when the Massachusetts Sensible Marijuana Policy Initiative passed on November 4th, 2008.  I watched the returns sitting in a postpartum room at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston—my first child had been born earlier that day. We had hired a courier to deliver my wife’s ballot to City Hall while she was in labor. Minor pot possession in Massachusetts is now punished by a $100 civil fine, arguably the one of the most libertarian state marijuana laws on the books prior to the 2012 legalization measures in Colorado and Washington.

In 2008, I also voted for the Libertarian ticket for President. In fact, I’ve voted for the Libertarian Party Presidential ticket in almost every election since I could legally vote, starting with Harry Browne in 1996. I’ve attended, as a Massachusetts voting delegate, every Libertarian Party National Convention since 2004. I’ve also backed many Libertarian and liberty-minded candidates for smaller offices locally and across the country. Needless to say, I became used to backing candidates that lost; I even came to accept this as part of the reality of taking radical, principled, libertarian political positions. The unfortunate reality is that Libertarians often get crushed on Election Day. After all, we’re not in anybody’s pocket, no special interests have anything to gain from electing us, and a litany of pork recipients have every reason to vote for other candidates (who will continue government’s culture of largess).

Marijuana policy has always been a key libertarian issue for me. In 2008, I made a substantial financial contribution to the Massachusetts marijuana decriminalization campaign. I donated this money under the same mentality I had for years backing Libertarian candidates: we’re probably going to lose, but we have to try. But, as Election Day got closer, the polling indicated that we were still in the lead, and I began to believe the campaign actually had a shot. Supporting a winning campaign was still a foreign experience for me, and I expected a long grind of returns on election night, with a narrow chance of winning. Instead, The Boston Globe called it for the pro-decriminalization side with only a few percent of precincts reporting. When the final results were in, we had won with a much larger percentage than most had expected (almost 63 percent of the vote). I was stunned and elated, but with a newborn baby, had no time to celebrate.

By 2012, I’d smelled the blood of marijuana prohibition in the water for four years, and I was hungry for another ballot initiative win. The main 2012 campaign that I was involved with—the Amendment 64 legalization campaign in Colorado—was the biggest prize to date. However, every prior marijuana legalization ballot initiative had gone down in defeat, and (private) doubts persisted about Amendment 64’s chances of success, even within the legalization movement. Some suggested the campaign didn’t have enough money for ads. Others argued the initiative was too generously written, for example allowing limited non-medical home growing (a freedom notably absent from the similar legalization initiative in Washington State, I-502, which I also supported and for which I have the utmost respect). And some even said (my personal favorite caveat) that Amendment 64 lacked enough endorsements from law enforcement!

However, despite the hand-wringing, the campaign’s polling data—which I obsessively analyzed on a daily basis over the weeks prior to Election Day—indicated that we were mostly likely going to win. In fact, the returns on Election Day 2012 in Colorado were very similar to the returns from 2008 in Massachusetts: major news networks called victory for our side early in the evening. We ended up winning with over 55 percent of the vote—a total that exceeded the predictions of myself and others closely involved with the campaign. I was gobsmacked to the point of tears. Years of work and tons of money had come to fruition. (I am extremely grateful to everyone who voted for, worked on, and supported the Amendment 64 campaign, especially the late Ashawna Hailey.)

It didn’t used to be this way. The history of marijuana reform is littered with philanthropists putting huge amounts of cash into losing campaigns. By 2012, numerous important marijuana reform donors (many of whom are not libertarians), disenchanted by past failures, were experiencing donor fatigue. But following major wins in Colorado and Washington, they should approach similar initiatives going forward with greater confidence, as it now appears that public sentiment has genuinely changed. Polling now heavily favors legalization in many states (even Texas!). The next major ballot initiative campaign I expect to participate in is the 2014 campaign to regulate marijuana in Alaska.

Barring a major shift in public opinion over a short time period, we are likely to see a steady drumbeat of states legalizing marijuana until the federal government is forced to abandon cannabis prohibition.

R. Antonio Ruiz is  is a major donor and volunteer with the Marijuana Policy Project.  The views expressed here are his own and do not represent MPP. Follow him on twitter: @annoyingcats

In spring 2012, Robert and Adlynn Harte of Leawood Kansas were subjected to a SWAT-style drug raid after they bought materials for their hydroponic vegetable garden, and eight months later a police search through their trash lead to the discovery of what a field test revealed to be marijuana. Except that it wasn’t. It was probably tea. A lab test done after the raid showed that the substance was definitely not weed. Cops: fighting the drug war, unable to identity drugs.

A timeline from The Kansas City Star has more details, including the obligatory scaring children bit:

•  The Harte house was searched April 20, 2012, a date that has been known as a long-celebrated marijuana holiday. Area law enforcement officers were conducting several searches as part of a sting in a response to pot smokers’ blatant flaunting of the law.

Ten search warrants were served that day, and the Hartes’ home was one.

When the tactical-dressed deputies arrived at the home in the 10300 block of Wenonga Lane, Robert Harte was forced to lie shirtless on the foyer while a deputy with an assault rifle stood over him, according to the Harte’s lawsuit. The children, a 7-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy, reportedly came out of their bedrooms terrified, the teenager with his hands in the air.

•  But a lab test done 10 days after the raid and again four months later in August found that the leafy material was not marijuana.

“It does not look anything like marijuana leaves or stems,” a lab report said. [Incredulous emphases added

Some more takeaways:

1) Holy shit, look what good local news reporting can do! Props, 41 Action News. Compare and contrast with these lapdog reporters who think SWAT is just nifty as long as they get to tag along.

2) Props to the father for saying “some goon standing over me with an assault rifle” and for the family for suing.

3) Officials can’t even enforce their awful laws “properly.” The restriction on a pretty damn harmless substance is evil enough — this kind of incompetence takes it to a whole ‘nother level. Who do you trust, you folks who trust government and law enforcement? Which imaginary individuals are you picturing, who will take this much power — the power to kick down your door, point guns at your kids, and trash your house — and use it for good? Where’s the good in frightening a family and trashing their home? And if it had been weed, and the parents had been hauled off to jail, that would have been more harmful still.

At this point, I fee like i’m just addressing David Frum and Eric Holder when I speak to imaginary drug warriors. And, I suppose, Ann Coulter. A lot of people are wising up, but in the mean time this shit keeps happening. And even when it stops, people will still be rotting away in jail — casualties of the dark age when people thought this kind of criminal behavior was okay, as long as the perpetrators had the right uniforms and the right piece of paper.

[H/T: Anthony Gregory]