Posts Tagged ‘drug war’
by Scott Morgan, Stopthedrugwar.
The recent multi-agency federal raid of Oaksterdam University, a respected medical marijuana trade school in Oakland, has many people struggling to understand the Obama Administration’s escalating campaign against medical cannabis. Most pernicious among these theories is an idea I’ve heard repeatedly from medical marijuana supporters in recent weeks: that Obama needs to take a tough stance as he gears up for the general election.
It’s an easy enough thing to say, but it’s wrong, and people who want to change our marijuana laws would be wise to stop talking this way. The truth is that the American people don’t want a war on medical marijuana at all, and we’re steering our leaders in the wrong direction — both morally and politically — when we suggest that voters support the reckless drug war posturing of the past.
Sure, there was a time when politicians fanned the flames of anti-drug hysteria to powerful political effect. Knowing this history is important, but equally critical is the recognition that history, by definition, lies behind us. The “crack epidemic” of the ’80s, the death of Len Bias, the “soft on crime”attack ads that ravaged democratic nominee Mike Dukakis’ 1988 presidential campaign; these were events of political significance, but they’re a terrible measure by which to assess the implications of an issue like medical marijuana in an election nearly a quarter century later.
In fact, the question of whether Obama can safely stand up for medical marijuana is incredibly easy to answer. He already did. The president was elected on a platform that included pulling the plug on federal interference with state medical marijuana laws. Everyone knew that was his position, many supported it vigorously and perhaps more significantly, no one criticized him for it.
To even suggest that Obama has to appear “tough on drugs” in order to deflect political attacks is preposterous. What political attacks? When have we ever heard him criticized for any such thing? There is literally no constituency in the American electorate that is pressuring Obama to wage war against medical marijuana. The president could, in all likelihood, speak passionately in favor of medical marijuana from now until November without losing a single vote (and picking up more than a few for his trouble). To explain this, one need only look to the polls showing that eight out of 10 Americans support medical marijuana.
If anyone in the Obama Administration actually believes they’re scoring political points by waging war on voter-approved medical marijuana laws, they’ve got another thing coming. In 2012, the smart political approach to marijuana policy is to look at today’s polling, not yesterday’s posturing.
by Ariel Edwards-Levy, The Huffington Post
Television evangelist Pat Robertson took to the airwaves of “The 700 Club” last week to condemn arrests for marijuana possession, as reported earlier on the blog for the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
“I became sort of a hero of the hippie culture, I guess, when I said I think we ought to decriminalize the possession of marijuana,” Robertson said, according to Reason magazine. “I just think it’s shocking how many of these young people wind up in prison and they get turned into hardcore criminals because they had a possession of a very small amount of controlled substance. The whole thing is crazy. We’ve said, ‘we’re conservative, we’re tough on crime.’ That’s baloney. It’s costing us billions and billions of dollars.”
Robertson blamed left-wing lawmakers for the harsh sanctions.
“What is it we’re doing that is different?” he said. “What we’re doing is turning a bunch of liberals loose writing laws — there’s this punitive spirit, the always want to punish people. It’s time for change! More and more prisons, more and more crime. It’s just shocking, especially this business about drug offenses. It’s time we stop locking up people for possession of marijuana. We just can’t do it anymore…You don’t lock ‘em up for booze unless they kill somebody on the highway.”
Robertson also recently said on “The 700 Club” that victims of tornadoes shouldn’t have built houses in tornado-prone areas, and were at fault for not praying harder.
“If enough people were praying [God] would’ve intervened, you could pray, Jesus stilled the storm, you can still storms,” Robertson said on the show.
Marc Emery’s prison blog is updated by Cannabis Culture staff in Vancouver, B.C. Marc is currently serving a 5-year sentence in Federal Prison in the United States, Yazoo, Mississippi. Please support Marc financially or by writing him a letter. Find out more at FreeMarc.ca
My 54th birthday on Monday, February 13th was spent being sick, my first real malaise since last June or July (I’ve been in great health otherwise). I was dizzy and unable to stand without being queasy. I believe it was from the vitamin fortified oatmeal I had before bed; vitamin supplements don’t seem to sit well with me.
In 2000, I was just starting a daily regimen of vitamin, mineral, glucosamine and other supplements, 20 gel-caps of the stuff, and I got a terrible and sudden dizziness one morning 30 minutes after taking it all. It was like the whole world fell off its axis and I went to the floor, soaked my clothes immediately in a perspiration I had never before experienced. I was immediately nauseous and dizzy. Over the next 36 hours I remained very dizzy and nauseous when standing; it’s called ataxia. Within 48 hours I had recovered.
Three weeks later, about 30 minutes after taking the supplements, I had an identical attack of dizziness, imbalance, nausea. I recovered over 36 hours. There were no other symptoms. I put the connecting dots together and never took supplements again and it never recurred… until I went to North Fraser Pre-Trial in 2010 awaiting extradition to the US. The food was inadequate so I ordered a single multi-vitamin out of the vending machine and the exact same thing happened again as had happened 10 years earlier, but not nearly as threatening or extreme. It still took 36 hours to recover.
Then after eating three packages of fortified oatmeal the night of February 12th this year, the next day, after a disturbed sleep, I feel the same dizziness, ataxia, and nausea, but wisely stayed on my bunk horizontal and slept the whole day, getting up only to rehearse in the studio on my birthday, which went well, remarkably. I went right to bed upon my return. Then nine days later a milder but identical attack occurred, still taking 36 hours to throw off the lightheadedness and sluggishness. There are no other symptoms, so it wasn’t a cold, flu or other identifiable. I can’t identify what I would have eaten that would have caused that last attack. In all five cases from 2000 to present, I am very tired until it subsides, and standing up I become light-headed, nauseous, and dizzy, improving over 36 hours until I am normal. I suspect drinking water would speed getting it out of my system.
So while it was lousy to be sick on my birthday, I did yesterday receive in the mail yesterday from Britney in Vancouver 40 Facebook pages from my birthday with hundreds of people wishing me well. It was great to see some familiar names there and new names. I love getting Facebook pages from my two accounts, so thank you Britney!
My health, other than those two bouts of ataxia, has been exemplary since July. The weather here is always great, it’s warm and sunny almost every day, the air is very clean. I walk the track 90 minutes each day, read books (currently reading ‘Just My Type, a History of Fonts’, and ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’), my 30 magazine subscriptions that come, the NY Times (and the crossword each day), I write a letter every day but fall behind and I’m embarrassed to say some people who deserve replies don’t sometime get one, plus I do three hours of email daily. My favorite magazines are MacLean’s, which is Canada’s ‘national magazine’, as it totally connects me to home, Mental Floss, a great magazine about anything that is so interesting I read every page, WIRED, DISCOVER, Bloomberg Business Week, and Backwoods Home Magazine. I enjoy reading Time and Newsweek. I get five guitar magazines, Rolling Stone, Architectural Digest, Harpers, and a bunch of others and read them all thoroughly. I’m hooked on a ten-part graphic novel series called ‘Y: The Last Man’, when all the men on earth except one perish from a plague.
As of today, Wednesday, February 29th, I have 861 days to go to my release on July 9, 2014, and 964 days of my sentence behind me. If I serve every day here, I still will not be released directly or immediately, on July 9th, 2014, US immigration will pick me up and take me to an immigration detention center, get my passport in order, and after about two weeks they will put me on a direct flight to Vancouver. So I’m hoping to be home with Jodie in time for our 8th wedding anniversary on July 23, 2014.
My fourth concert here at Yazoo medium was Saturday, February 18th, on a cool evening between Jodie’s visits on the Saturday and Sunday. Our band, Yazoo, was a 6-piece that night, up until now we’ve been going through personnel changes.
First Victor decided to leave to form his own band, that left us as a four piece, which I really liked: SAPP on drums, TC on vocals, me on bass, Terry on lead. Then we added Don, an excellent guitarist, and Chap, also an excellent guitarist, bassist and vocalist, who were from the other rock band ‘Out of Bounds’, whose drummer got transferred to El Reno federal prison.
Well, there’s a lot of talent in that 6-piece, so giving everyone enough to gratify them is a challenge, but it was working out okay. Then SAPP, our drummer, got in a brawl one day; his Florida homies got in a fight with some New York guys and when two guys get into a fight it can expand until there’s a dozen or more within minutes, and so SAPP, not normally a person prone to violence, got put in solitary. We thought he’d be ‘in the SHU’ (Special Housing Unit) for 3-6 months minimum, and likely get a disciplinary transfer to another prison. So there goes our drummer, we thought.
At the same time, a new fellow came to the prison who is a very good drummer; though he lacks the subtle nuance that SAPP brought, he became our drummer for Yazoo. His name is James, or “JG” as he’s called, and he was our our drummer since January to the concert, with no more than 6 practices together. Most of the black guys seem to have nicknames, like TC (our lead singer), or our old drummer ‘SAPP’ (whose name is Jermaine). So for the President’s Day concert we were a 6-piece and it was a little less than perfect.
We played, in order of performance:
I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash)
Red House (Jimi Hendrix)
A Change is Gonna Come (Sam Cooke)
Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay (Otis Redding)
Stormy Monday (Bobby Blue Bland)
Black Magic Woman (Santana)
Wind Cries Mary (Hendrix)
Hey Joe (Jimi Hendrix)
Purple Haze (Hendrix)
Voodoo Child (Hendrix)
I thought I would have the most challenge with Black Magic Woman as my left pointer finger is extremely busy in that entire song and it kind of cramps up, but it turned out fine, even on a cold damp night. Our performance is loud and amplified through an excellent sound board and our audience was about 50-100 inmates, as it was dark, moist and cold that weekend, but you perform when you can. I flubbed a few lines on I Can See Clearly Now (which was the theme song for my Pot TV “Prince of Pot” show for years), but was fine for the rest of the songs.
Since that concert, TC, who will be released soon, left the band, and SAPP returned! Yay! JG was a good drummer but his beats were too fast and aggressive, so SAPP being back is a huge boost to the band. Chap will be doing all the vocals now, so we are a 5-piece, which, with SAPP back, will be a great rock ‘n roll band again.
In my 9 months as a musician (I can’t believe I’m even able to call myself a ‘musician’ credibly), I have been part of a Jamaican reggae band playing Bob Marley songs, played four country songs, five R&B songs, nine Hendrix songs and a dozen classic rock songs.
My band’s practice time in the studio is Monday evening from 5:30pm to 8pm. We worked on the Beatles ‘Come Together’ and ‘Crazy Train’ by Ozzy Osbourne. It’s a blast doing ‘Come Together’, it sounds terrific, there is a great bass line to it, and the song has a strange portentous quality to it. The words and vocals in the original by John Lennon say ‘shoot me’ over 20 times throughout, and the song seems to be about various jokers and strange people who ‘come together’ ‘over me’ like creative friends meeting over a funeral for the singer (John Lennon).
The song apparently was written in 1969 for the aborted run for governor campaign by Timothy Leary for the 1970 election in California. ‘Come together and join the party’ was the original theme; the song took an ominous turn after Leary fled the USA, first to Mexico, then Algeria, to avoid a lengthy jail sentence for marijuana. Leary had already had the US Supreme Court declare US federal marijuana prohibition unconstitutional in 1968, but he was charged again and given serious prison time. So ‘Come Together’ has a fascinating history and the bass parts are great! The Beatles were my first great love in music, as our Aunty Gladys sent me the (45 rpm) singles ‘Love Me Do/Please Please Me’ and ‘She Loves You/PS I Love You’ for Christmas 1963, when I was 5 years old.
In the summer of 1969, when I was 11 years old, five and a half years after Aunt Gladys sent me those two Beatles singles (which in 1964 we played on my parents “hi-fi”), I got one of those portable kids turn-table ‘record players’ in a portable box with a carrying handle. My first purchases were two 45 rpm records at 49 cents each from K-Mart: ‘Sugar, Sugar’ by the Archies, and ‘Daydream Believer’ by the Monkees. I still love both those songs 43 years later, and can sing them now as I could when I first elatedly bought them and played them 25 times a day for the first week in that summer of ’69.
My older brother Stephen, eighteen years old, was so disturbed by my repetitious playing of ‘bubblegum songs’, he went and bought me five 45 rpm singles of what he called ‘real music’. He gifted me with copies of ‘Light My Fire’ by the Doors, ‘Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay’ by Otis Redding, ‘Suite Judy Blue Eyes’ by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, ‘Laughing/Undun’ by the Guess Who and ‘Hey Jude/Revolution’ by the Beatles. I have forever loved those songs too, and feel so privileged that my band Yazoo played, at our recent concert, Otis Redding’s final song before his untimely death in 1967 by airplane crash.
Davy Jones, lead singer of the Monkees, died today, at age 66 from a heart attack. I remember my first girlfriend Lorrie had pin-ups of Bobby Sherman, David Soul and Davy Jones on her wall that summer of 1969. I was supposedly not cool, according to my brother, to love the Monkees, but I did – and still do. Think of me singing this song, mimicking a boyish English accent. (Thanks, Davy Jones.)
Oh I could hide ‘neath the wings of the bluebird as she sings
The six o’clock alarm would never ring
But it rings and I rise, wipe the sleep out of my eyes
My shaving razor’s cold and it stings
Cheer up, sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean
To a daydream believer and a homecoming queen?
You once thought of me as a white knight on his steed
Now you know how happy I can be
Oh, and our good time starts and ends
With a dollar one to spend
But how much baby do we really need?
Cheer up, sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean
To a daydream believer and a homecoming queen?
Cheer up, sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean
To a daydream believer and a homecoming queen?
Cheer up, sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean
To a daydream believer and a homecoming queen?
Cheer up, sleepy Jean, oh what can it mean
To a daydream believer and a homecoming queen?
Along with Come Together and Crazy Train, I am learning the bass lines to ‘Stranglehold’ by Ted Nugent and I already know the bass lines to ‘Money’ by Pink Floyd, so we will be incorporating those four songs in our Easter concert (April 7th) set, replacing ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, ‘Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay’, ‘A Change is Gonna Come’ and ‘Stormy Monday’. Out go the blues, in comes the rock!
In the next month, so we are told, we can buy an MP3 player for $70 that holds up to 1,500 songs, and the terminals to download songs are being installed in our units in the next few weeks. Songs will cost $1.20 and $1.55 each. Alas, my monthly budget is now $850, and it will go up to $920 a month once I buy 40 songs a month.
The biggest expense for me here is email, at $3 an hour, and I do about three hours a day, so that’s about $300 a month there, plus $320 on food, clothing and toiletries, $125 on phone calls to Jodie, $50 on postage, photocopies, stationary, and soon I’ll add on songs to buy plus the initial purchase of an MP3 player. Plus I need some new running shoes. Usually I would get a guy who cleans shoes to clean them, but last time I did that, he swapped my running shoes and gave me back a pair that was not mine, and that were not in as good condition (and as I looked days later after realizing they felt different, noticed they were not the same size either), but by the time I noticed that they felt different (at first I thought they just shrank or changed shape from the washing), the guy was let out of prison and wearing my better condition running shoes. He ‘swapped ‘em out’ as they saying goes. So that’s another $55.
I want to thank Mr. Rochte of Grosse Point, Michigan for putting $50 in my account twice, as has Kevin H. in Winnipeg, who put $40 in my account twice over the last month, and a Mr. Sernocky who also put in $50 twice in the last month! Yay! It really helps me, and I feel like less of a burden on Jodie. In the last 16 months alone, Jodie has spent $38,000 to visit me, and I have required $13,000 to live on in that time, a total of $51,000. Jodie and I have received donations totalling nearly $31,000 in that time, plus I sold my ZZ Top signed guitar for $2,500 to Tony Glickney (thank you Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard, who donated the guitar, Francouver who arranged it, and Tony for buying it), so without the help of friends all over, my life would be way more difficult, challenging, and lonely! Jodie also depends on the store to help cover travel costs, so her customers and supporters are definitely appreciated and necessary. A super-special thank you to Dana Larsen for sending me over 100 books over the last year and arranging for my friends Catharine Leach, Jeremiah & Carina of CC, my ex’s (and still friends) Cheryl and Marcy to visit me, and being always beyond generous and helpful. Dana is my best friend and without him my ability to cope would be greatly lessened.
The Province newspaper is coming to visit/interview me on April 21st and 22nd, right after 4/20, for an article on how I’m doing here at Yazoo. I would love it if the reporter could see my band playing in the studio on Monday night so I have a witness from home who can testify our band sounds like the real thing, especially on our Hendrix songs, or ‘Crazy Train’, ‘Come Together’, or ‘Black Magic Woman’. It would be good propaganda for the prison too, as I have already said in interviews that regarding its core job of keeping inmates safe, and having guards who don’t harbor animosity towards inmates, this place is well run. I arrived here on 4/20 last year. CBC National TV news is also seeking permission to film an interview with me here to put on their national news telecast. I would love to have our band play Black Magic Woman for CBC TV news! But it’s not likely to happen, as the prison doesn’t seem eager to have reporters come visit. So we’ll see how that goes.
My next visits from Jodie are March 10/11 and 24/25, then April 15/16 and 29/30, then May 19/20, then June 9/10. I just received back today ten photos of Jodie and I taken in the visitation room from our last visit on the Presidents Day weekend (February 18/19), so you’ll see those in a week or so!
This Saturday I’m hoping Ron Paul wins his first primary/caucus with the Washington State caucus. I’m hoping he wins first in Washington, Alaska (March 6th caucus), and comes in second and gets delegates out of Idaho, Virginia, North Dakota, Vermont on Super Tuesday (March 6th). Go Ron Paul! My good friend and busy SuperMom activist (and CC blogger) Catharine Leach of Rhode Island is campaigning until April 24th, the day of the Rhode Island Primary, to be a Ron Paul delegate to the Republican Presidential Convention in Tampa from August 27-30. Catharine has qualified for the delegate nomination process, and now must campaign to have Republican primary voters back her to be a delegate. Rhode Island gets 16 delegates to the Republican convention, 8 from the two districts in RI. If Ron Paul gets 15% or more, he gets at least one delegate from each district; if he comes in first, he gets 4 delegates from each district, second is two delegates, third or fourth (but over 15%) is one delegate each.
Catharine and I (as well as Jodie, and many others!) believe that if Ron Paul is not the Republican nominee, America is in serious trouble. Our great faith in Ron Paul’s strong views against prohibition were beautifully summarized with a speech he gave on Thursday, February 16 in Vancouver, Washington, where he said (quoted verbatim from Seattle CBS local evening news of February 17th, and Associated Press):
“‘If we are allowed to deal with our eternity with all that we believe in spiritually, and if we’re allowed to read any book that we want under freedom of speech, why is it we can’t put into our body whatever we want?’ Paul told more than 1,000 people at a rally in Vancouver, a suburb of Portland, Oregon. Voters in Washington are likely to decide this year whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.”
(Also see videos and articles of Ron Paul defending and fighting for the cannabis culture here)
I hope the legion of cannabis activists in Washington State will go vote for Ron Paul at the Washington state caucus this Saturday, March 3rd. The Oregon Primary is May 15th, and Ron Paul has a good chance of winning first or second in Oregon also. Good luck to you, Catharine, and please, my US supporters and readers, please get out to vote for the wonderful, decent, anti-prohibitionist Ron Paul in your states primary or caucus!
by Tim Padgett, TIME Magazine
It started last summer, when it seemed that Mexican President Felipe Calderón had understandably reached the end of his rope. After 52 innocent people were massacred in August by drug gangsters who set fire to a Monterrey casino – 52 added to the almost 50,000 drug-related murders in Mexico since 2006 – an angry Calderón said that if Americans were so “determined and resigned to consume drugs, then they should seek market alternatives in order to cancel the stratospheric profits” fueling the ghastly narco-bloodshed. Everyone agreed that by “market alternatives,” Calderón meant some sort of drug legalization.
Everyone, of course, except the White House, where legalizing drugs is a political third rail, especially during an election season. Still, it put the Obama Administration on the spot to hear one of its staunchest drug war allies even hint at legalization – and it got even worse a couple months later when another major partner, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, said that he himself was not “not against” legalization. In recent weeks that call was taken up by Guatemalan President Otto Pérez and other presidents in Central America, an isthmus that drug gangs have turned into a killing field almost as horrific as it was during the civil wars of the 1980s. The Pentagon calls the Central American triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras “the world’s deadliest zone” outside Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Organization of American States (OAS) warns that drug gangs now pose a threat to Latin America’s fledgling democracies.
Today, March 6, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will visit with Pérez and other Central American leaders – and, fittingly, they’ll meet in Honduras, now home to the world’s highest homicide rate: 86 murders per 100,000 residents last year, 17 times that of the U.S. and five times more than even Mexico’s. There are a number of reasons for this Mesoamerican nightmare, including Central America’s hopelessly corrupt and medieval police and judicial systems, which the region’s oligarchies (who are content to simply line their mansions with razor wire and security guards) refuse to modernize. But as far as presidents like Pérez are concerned, the root cause is the U.S.’s insatiable demand for pot, coke, meth and heroin – we spend more on illegal drugs in America than we do on higher education – and increasingly they’re coming to the conclusion that a good way to keep los narcos from earning their “stratospheric profits,” which they use to buy the guns that wreak the mayhem, is to legalize some of the drugs.
The U.S. has responded by reiterating its “opposition to decriminalization or legalization of illicit drugs,” as one White House official said last week. But there is a broadening global consensus that the conventional, 40-year-old “war on drugs” has failed, which means Biden would do well to listen to Pérez and company today in Tegucigalpa and not be a gringo scold when they bring up the legalization issue. Because the fact is, to a certain if not large extent they’re right: as countless drug-war observers like myself have argued in recent years, it makes sense to legalize at least more benign narcotics like marijuana, a drug that accounts for as much as half of the $30 billion the Mexican narco-cartels rake in each year.
What’s more, marijuana legalization is suddenly gaining acceptance in the U.S. Whereas just five years ago surveys showed Americans opposed it by an almost 2-to-1 margin, a recent Gallup poll showed 50% of them in favor of it and only 46% against it. Colorado and Washington will have the issue on their ballots in the fall, and other states may as well. That’s largely because fewer and fewer of us buy the U.S. drug-war leadership’s argument that pot is somehow as personally addictive and socially destructive as harder drugs like cocaine – or that it’s inevitably a “gateway” to those more dangerous narcotics. Meanwhile, more and more of us are tired of seeing U.S. law enforcement squander as much as $8 billion a year chasing down a drug widely considered no more harmful than alcohol if consumed in moderation.
And Latin American leaders like Calderón, Santos and Pérez know that, which is why their own ears are increasingly deaf now to Washington’s worn out insistence on letting drug cartels instead of tax collectors profit from marijuana sales. Ditto for the former Latin American heads of state who lead the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which calls for legalization. For now, Latin American presidents, including El Salvador’s Mauricio Funes and Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchill, are only calling for the issue to be discussed – but they want both the U.S. and the U.N. to take that conversation more seriously. Santos realizes that if he were to unilaterally legalize even marijuana in Colombia, “I will be crucified” in Washington and at U.N. headquarters in New York. But he emphasizes that he wants this debate because, as he told The Guardian recently, Colombia is “still suffering most [from] the high [drug] consumption” in the U.S. and Europe.
Pérez and his Central American counterparts might argue that it’s they who are suffering most today. Not that their motives are always pure. Pérez, a former army general, is most likely using legalization to a large degree as leverage to get the U.S. to restore the military aid to Guatemala that was cut off as a result of armed forces atrocities committed during that country’s 1960-96 civil war. And Central America’s elites, despite paying some of the world’s lowest tax rates, are always looking for ways to shame Washington into paying for the police and judicial upgrades that they feel no social or moral obligation to fund themselves. (Last year Honduras’ ruling business families made sure that a desperately needed $400 million tax levy for improved security got chopped by 75%.)
Still, even if the leaders Biden meets with today are using legalization as leverage to wring more anti-drug aid out of the U.S., it’s because they believe it’s effective leverage. Even if the White House dismisses marijuana legalization, the rest of the world increasingly does not – especially in places where they’re reaching the ends of their drug violence ropes.
Courtesy of Fox News
Vice President Joe Biden heads to Latin America Sunday amid unprecedented pressure from political and business leaders to talk about something U.S. officials have no interest in debating: decriminalizing drugs.
Presidents of Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia and Mexico, all grappling with the extremely violent fallout of a failing drug war, have said in recent weeks they’d like to open up the discussion of legalizing drugs. Argentina, Uruguay, Peru and Mexico already allow the use of small amounts of marijuana for personal consumption, while political leaders from Brazil and Colombia are discussing alternatives to locking up drug users.
Business leaders are weighing in as well: in February, a group of banking, medical and legal experts sponsored a drug policy conference in Mexico City which concluded that current drug control policies aren’t working and need reform.
“It’s a different moment when you have actual heads of state talking about the need for a thorough debate on this,” said John Walsh, a drug policy expert at the Washington Office on Latin America, an independent think tank. “It’s certainly different for sitting presidents to be uttering those words. You wouldn’t have thought it possible just a few years ago.”
Dan Restrepo, the top Latin America official in the White House, briefing reporters about Biden’s upcoming trip, said the vice president does expect a “robust conversation” about the security problems Latin American countries face as drug traffickers battle to control the lucrative U.S. sales. But he said Latin American leaders shouldn’t expect a shift in policy.
“The Obama administration has been quite clear in our opposition to decriminalization or legalization of illicit drugs,” said Restrepo.
Biden is scheduled to arrive in Mexico City on Sunday to discuss economic and security issues with Mexican President Felipe Calderon. He also plans to meet Monday with the three top Mexican presidential candidates running for a six-year term to replace Calderon this year.
On Tuesday Biden is slated to travel to Honduras to meet President Porfirio Lobo, along with the presidents of El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala, all countries struggling with the sweeping consequences of expanding drug cartels. Drug gangs have killed tens of thousands, overcrowded prisons are overflowing with accused drug users while powerful cartels fuel corruption — influencing elections, weakening democracies and threatening fragile economies.
“I do think that the issue of legalization will be raised by the leaders to Biden, but in private,” said Walter McKay, a policing expert on security issues in Mexico, where more than 47,500 people have been killed in drug gang violence since 2006.
Two weeks ago, Guatemala’s president Otto Perez Molina, a right wing conservative and former army general, stunned observers when he declared the U.S. inability to cut illegal drug consumption leaves his country with no option but to consider legalizing the use and transport of drugs. He vowed to galvanize regional support.
Since then, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and El Salvador’s President Mauricio Funes have said they’re open to the discussion, while Panama’s leaders say they do not agree with decriminalizing drugs.
For decades Latin Americans leaders and the U.S. have cooperated on a war on drugs, with more than a trillion dollars spent by the U.S. to support enforcement and eradication in Latin America, as well as promises to reduce cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine use in the U.S. that generates an estimated $25 billion in profits each year.
But during that time, demand for drugs has increased, fueling violent competition between dealers.
In 2009, former presidents of Mexico, Brazil and Colombia blasted the war on drugs and said it was time to consider the decriminalization of marijuana. Last summer they were joined by more than a dozen high level international leaders including former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and former U.S. officials George P. Shultz and Paul Volcker, again slamming the war on drugs as a failure and calling on governments to undertake experiments to decriminalize the use of drugs, especially marijuana, to undermine the power of organized crime.
But while it’s one thing for former presidents to suggest decriminalizing drugs, it is another thing entirely when sitting presidents do so, said retired Brazilian judge Maria Lucia Karam in an email to The Associated Press.
Karam said that while Latin American leaders at first may have been willing to give the “get tough” strategy time to work, they’ve been worn down by the drug war’s relentless toll.
“The public comments we are seeing are a sign of deep frustration and anger that is now prevalent in Latin America due to the U.S. and U.N.’s seeming unwillingness to engage in a serious debate about implementing effective drug policies that respect human rights and truly protect health,” she said.
Danny Kushlick, who heads the London-based Transform Drug Policy Foundation, said the region is “on the verge of a tipping point that will begin when the Latin Americans raise the issue within earshot and in full view of the Americans. Ultimately this is about allowing democratic conversations to take place without being leaned upon by the U.S.”
But former U.S. drug czar John Walters said those who are calling for a debate on legalization are taking a dangerous and misguided step.
“I would note to them that the kind of dangerous people they face would welcome that change, to become more powerful,” he said. “Legalizing is not a solution, it’s an excuse.”
by Robert Beckhusen, Wired.com
Three years ago, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that the war on drugs “had not worked” — and admitted that the American appetite for narcotics “fuels the drug trade.” But now Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano would like to take that all back. It’s full steam ahead for the drug war.
“‘Is the drug war a failure and are we going to change our strategy?’ I would not agree with the premise that the drug war is a failure,” Napolitano said Monday after a meeting with Alejandro Poire, Mexico’s interior minister and top drug warrior. “I would say however that it is a continuing effort, to keep our peoples from becoming addicted to dangerous drugs,” she added.
Few U.S. officials will object to defending the drug war on its merits, and Napolitano’s statement does not necessarily prelude joint responsibility for drug trafficking — a key part of the administration’s post-2008 shift in tone. Napolitano also called for working “bi-nationally, but in a regional way.” What’s remarkable, though, is the abrupt shift backwards at a time when Mexico and Central America are increasingly swamped by violent and militarized cartels.
Drug smuggling into the U.S. also shows no sign of slowing down, and these countries’ wars — fought by proxy with billions in U.S. aid — is making little progress toward dismantling those cartels or reducing their influence over swathes of territory.
In a sense, Napolitano is backtracking. “Clinton’s candor about the failures within U.S. policy was well received in Latin America and gave the new administration some additional credibility to work with partners in the region on combating organized crime and illicit trafficking,” wrote James Bosworth, a Latin America security analyst based in Nicaragua. According to Bosworth, Latin American governments are “hoping the U.S. is willing to look at the issue strategically and make adjustments.”
After all, many of these Latin American governments are dealing with a security threat in large part created by U.S. demand for drugs — and fought by criminal and insurgent armies which profit from trafficking. These cartels, like Mexico’s Zetas, are also spreading into neighboring countries like Guatemala.
Last week, the presidents of Colombia and Mexico were joined by President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala (a former military officer) in calling for drug decriminalization by the United States. Pérez, meanwhile, said Guatemala is “not doing what the United States says, we are doing what we have to do” — promising to decriminalize drugs while enforcing a mano dura, or “iron fist” approach to crime.
That may be where the war on drugs is heading outside the United States — fewer (if any) penalties for possession or consumption of drugs, but more efforts at cracking down on violence. The Mexican government, meanwhile, is likely to continue efforts to capture drug lords like Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
Napolitano also compared the hunt for El Chapo to the U.S. killing of Osama bin Laden. ”And you know what happened there,” Napolitano said. “I’m not suggesting the same thing would happen with Guzman but I am suggesting that we are persistent when it comes to wrongdoers and those who do harm in both of our countries.”
A cross-border raid, basically. But the Mexican government might not be comfortable with stealth helicopters loaded with Navy SEALs flying around the mountains of Durango. At least not yet.
Well, you would think that the inmates would be the ones with all the problems, but once again I am not surprised to hear that despite us losing all we owned and worked for, our families and our friends, we are strangely better adjusted than the people who are detaining us.
A few weeks back a woman who worked here had “improper relations” with an inmate. She was stripped of her office and hasn’t been seen since she was caught, although she will probably get through it and be back as the blue line hides all their wrongs and faults– sticking together no matter the crime or shame.)
Today we were locked down because one of the guards killed himself while sitting in a government car outside the wall of the prison. I cant tell who should be watching who, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) director just quit over a DUI, and another lady guard was caught screwing around with an inmate.
It is hard to feel safe in here. I head a rumor that one of the guards was thinking about going postal and coming in here with a gun (this is the same guy who got transferred for beating up cows at the dairy farm here in Lompoc) where they are getting these unstable souls to watch and care for us is a wonder.
This week, I read the USA Today Finance section and ias hard as it is to believe they claim that the bankers and Wall Street are more to blame for our problems tan those we elected to serve and protect us. It looks like maybe we should take the time as a nation to really look at what we are allowing to be done to us and ask how long we are going to continue putting up with it.
There is not much I can do form here but somebody should do something soon.
I am still waiting to hear whether or not the courts will allow Kath, my lawyer, to do my 2255 motion or not, so much for all the fun and games of prison life. Hope and pray everyone stays HAPPY, HEALTHY and HIGH.
Please send Eddy letters in prison.
Charles Edward Lepp 90157-011
Lompoc Federal Prison Camp
3705 West Farm Road
Lompoc, CA 93436
by Scot Kersgaard, The Colorado Independant
In a case that has implications for Colorado and other medical marijuana states, Montana legislator Diane Sands has come under investigation by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, but she doesn’t know why. She suspects the investigation is related to her advocacy of liberalized marijuana laws.
She told the Colorado Independent that she has no involvement in medical marijuana beyond her work in the legislature. The Missoula Democrat, though, has been very outspoken in the legislature, advocating for liberalized medical marijuana laws and also advocating for the federal de-listing of marijuana, so that it becomes an issue that can be decided by individual states.
“Because of the federal supremacy clause, federal law always trumps state law,” she says. “We fought a civil war over this. There is nothing a state can do to make marijuana legal, or even to make medical marijuana legal, but there is a process to change that at the federal level. Now that so many states have made medical marijuana legal, the federal government should remove marijuana from Schedule One of the Controlled Substances Act, and let the states regulate marijuana as they see fit,” she says.
“I don’t believe I should be investigated by the DEA for saying that. Any suggestion that the federal government is investigating me is very chilling. I’m an historian, so yes, I connect present activities to past activities, such as the Sedition Act of 1918 and the McCarthy hearings. When you have government officials investigating lawmakers because of how they pursue their official duties, you have a problem,” she contends.
“It is outrageous and absurd that the DEA would investigate a state lawmaker for doing her job: crafting state laws. When he ran for president, Barack Obama said he would not circumvent state medical marijuana laws. The president needs to keep his word and order the Justice Department to back off, and to focus on real crime instead of targeting medical marijuana providers and interfering with states’ democratic processes,” said Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project. “This could have a chilling effect on lawmakers who want to be involved in regulating medical marijuana in any state.”
“This is part of the continuing witch-hunt in Montana,” said Jim Gingery, executive director of the Montana Medical Growers Association. “They have already successfully intimidated law-abiding
businesspeople, and now they are attempting to intimidate any politician who is opposed to full prohibition. This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Gingery said. “They will try to discredit anyone involved in medical marijuana in Montana.”
Sands said her name came up when a DEA agent asked a witness whether Sands was involved in a drug conspiracy case under investigation. That person’s attorney told Sands that her name had come up.
From the Missoulian:
A possible witness in a federal drug investigation was asked whether Sands might be part of a conspiracy to sell medical marijuana. The questions came from Drug Enforcement Administration agents from Billings who were investigating medical marijuana businesses, and Sands learned about the inquiry from the witness’ attorney.
“So now, if you’re a state legislator who has been working on medical marijuana laws, you are somehow part of a conspiracy,” said Sands, who represents House District 95 in Missoula and works as development director for the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. “It’s ridiculous, of course, but it’s also threatening to think that the federal government is willing to use its influence and try to chill discussion about this subject.”
DEA Special Agent Mike Turner, spokesperson for the DEA, out of Denver, told the Missoulian that the debate over medical marijuana is wracked by confusion.
From the Missoulian:
“We’re not interested in sick people, but we are interested in people who are profiting significantly. If they are, they are fair game as long as there is a reasonable expectation for a successful prosecution.”
“It is true that we’ve got competing laws in place here with states with medical marijuana laws, but federal law is clear,” he said. “Marijuana is illegal under federal law. If you are involved in selling marijuana, trafficking marijuana, profiting from marijuana, you are in jeopardy. We get questions about what we’ll investigate and what we won’t, and we can’t give that answer. But if you’re involved with profiting from marijuana, you’re in jeopardy.”
Turner apparently wouldn’t tell the Missoulian whether Sands was under investigation or why.
“What we are doing in Montana is part of an ongoing investigation that we cannot comment on,” he told the Colorado Independent. “This is not confirming or denying anything about Ms. Sands. We typically don’t go to the press to discuss who we are looking at or not looking at.
“As you know, marijuana is illegal federally and there is no exception in federal law for marijuana to be used as medicine,” Turner said.
He said the DEA and the Department of Justice are not investigating individual users or “street level” sellers of marijuana. “We go after folks who are distributing on a significant level. People who are profiting significantly are fair game,” he said.
A year ago the DEA orchestrated a massive raid on medical marijuana businesses in Montana, where voters approved legalizing medical marijuana by a substantial majority.
by Jeff Black, MSNBC.com
A group of veterans calling for the legalization of marijuana plans to change its acronym after the Veterans of Foreign Wars sent a cease-and-desist order to the pot group’s organizers. But a controversial logo will remain, the pot advocates say.
The “Veterans For Weed,” a Milwaukee-based group that says “the real reefer madness” is when veterans get arrested for pot possession, has been using the acronym VFW on its website and promotional materials.
On Monday, attorneys for the venerable veterans group, which has fought for veterans’ rights to health care, education and other benefits for more than 100 years, sent an official complaint to the pot smokers.
The Veterans of Foreign War called the pot group use of the acronym “misleading and illegal,” Stars and Stripes reported.
In response to complaints, the pot backers said they removed VFW symbols as well as an online store selling merchandise from their website. They also said they would change their acronym to Veterans For Weed United (VFWU) in coming days.
As of Wednesday, however, the VFW name remained.
But the self-described group of stoners refused to take down their “POT POW” logo, which has drawn fire from veterans and military families.
The logo is a variation of the iconic Vietnam-era POW/MIA poster showing the silhouetted profile of a prisoner behind barbed wire. The original logo was created for the National League of POW/MIA Families, according to Stars and Stripes, and is not copyrighted.
Still, it is cherished symbol, and the National League of POW/MIA Families has asked that it be taken down from the website.
VFW spokesman Jerry Newberry called the pot backers’ logo “disgusting” and said it has incited anger in military circles.
“I don’t know if they’re veterans or what, but they should respect what that symbol represents,” Newberry told msnbc.com. “They are treading on memories of POW/MIA families.”
The Wisconsin-based group does not show names of its leadership or members on its website. An email to the group from msnbc.com was not immediately returned.
My wife Jodie Emery and I both receive thousands of letters and inquiries with impassioned pleas that read: “I want to do something to make a difference. I want to legalize marijuana. What can I do? Can you advise or help me start? Where do I begin?” This is a question, without rival, that we hear most often.
It comes mostly from Americans and Canadians, but I have received the same question from India, Australia, Europe, the Philippines, Japan, and all over the world. It is a universal desire shared by many people in the cannabis culture the planet over.
If all these millions of people, largely high school and college students, could be harnessed into productive purpose, it would be a huge political force indeed! But most people who consume cannabis and believe in its worth still do nothing to advance our cause in any meaningful way.
The sobering truth is that true political action that gains results is boring, largely frustrating, uninteresting, tiresome, hard work and requires great patience for a reward that may not ever materialize. It involves writing legible and intelligent short letters (spell check always on, and thoroughly edited). It requires gathering verifiable, validated signatures, with care that the signatory includes their full address and live in the jurisdiction required. It involves going to an elected official’s office with a specific request, to get that 10 minute appointment may involve 3 or 4 letters, emails and phone calls. That requires perseverance. A rally will require you to have a specific political purpose, and will require intense advance promotion, and it will require the gathering of contact information from everyone who attends.
Useful political activism rarely ever feels like fun. It feels like work. Exhausting work. Most young people don’t really know that much about hard, focused work. Most young people don’t even vote – most of the cannabis culture doesn’t vote! Most of the cannabis culture likes to party, but hard work for a political objective, they do not often do.
There are a dedicated few people out there that do know this experience of hard work for a political purpose. The great leaders in our movement know all about hard work. Vivian McPeak of Seattle, who for 20 years has put on Seattle’s Hempfest, the massive annual gathering of 200,000+ people in Myrtle Edwards Park as a non-paid volunteer, knows about hard work. He was a leading activist to get the 2003 Seattle ballot initiative I-75 making marijuana possession the lowest possible police priority in Seattle.
Every year on Christmas Day, Vivian McPeak and a few other dedicated true activists spend the holiday with signs in front of a courthouse, federal building or jail protesting the incarceration of his fellow citizens under the US drug laws. He writes letters, meets with Congress people and state representatives, assists other festivals and rallies, guides and commits to numerous other political actions. He and others attended and helped organize rallies outside the Seattle courthouse where I was sentenced to 5 years in a US federal prison for my activist activities I did in Canada. And yet very few people might recognize him on the street. Many times his activity may appear to gain no political result. There may be no reward other than knowing he is doing the right thing.
HARD WORK & COMMITMENT IS REQUIRED
As an activist, it is hard to measure our impact on the movement and the political system by our contribution. Sometimes, often even, it seems like you might be toiling in obscurity, having no visible or discernable impact. You may never know though the great impact you can have, will have, and do have, by your example of dedication, hard work and focused energy on a political goal. Only weeks, months or years later will you meet someone, or receive an email from an activist doing some good work, or inspired to get involved, who says, “I saw you speak at the library rally two years ago and I went home and read more, and found you were right, and decided to get involved. So now I’m at this booth gathering signatures for the 2012 ballot initiative.”
Or you’ll hear, “I saw you gathering signatures on a cold April day at a table outside the mall, you were getting medical marijuana on the ballot, and I wondered what would motivate someone to freeze in the cold, and you patiently explained why it was so important. That always stuck in my head, how dedicated you were. When I met a person later who said you were all a bunch of stoners who just wanted to get high, I remembered you and spoke up, ‘That’s not true,’ and I found out I was a believer, and I don’t even smoke pot, but I became an advocate that day.” Or, “I read your letter in the daily paper. You know, it couldn’t have been more than a hundred words you wrote, but what powerfully true words. I couldn’t get the logic of what you said out of my head. That was the day I was convinced. That’s why I’m here today, at this lecture (rally, signature gathering), with three friends I brought.”
That is the ripple effect of our endeavors.
When you contemplate how to make a difference, there are some things that will not work and will not happen. You will not find anyone famous or a celebrity to contribute their time to your project, be it a fundraiser, rally, or whatever. Celebrities expect to be paid no matter what it’s for. And celebrities never do anything controversial that could endanger their reputation with their movie studios, record labels, their ability to travel internationally, or the IRS and other government agencies that keep an eye on us all. That’s why celebrities lend their name to issues that few can find fault with, like starving children, world hunger/poverty, cancer, etc.
Few celebrities can be found to lend their name to campaigns against censorship, legalizing drugs, ending the prison-punishment complex, amnesty for illegal immigrants, etc. because there is blowback to putting your name and reputation on the line for anything controversial. Even celebrities like Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, who espoused the joys of marijuana at every Nickelback concert I ever went to, never advocates legalization in any public statement, nor does he lend his name to any political activity to that end. In fact, he chums around with Prime Minister Harper who would love to see all marijuana users in prison and stigmatized! Celebrities by and large use not only cannabis, but also a wide variety of illegal drugs, and virtually never get politically active. The more powerful a person is in society, the less likely they will do anything with their power to contribute to the political discourse that seeks to legalize marijuana and end the prohibition.
Marijuana growers and marijuana dealers, people with money who profit by prohibition, will only help you if it helps them. As we saw with Proposition 19 in California in 2010, where the counties with a large number of prohibition profiteers voted NO in larger numbers than those counties where marijuana was not so embedded in the culture, they are largely self-interested people concerned far more with their own ability to exploit our culture while it’s illegal than to use those funds to liberate us from the prohibition tyranny.
That is why a saint of a man like Richard Lee, who took over a million dollars of his prohibition profits (from dispensary sales to thousands of happy patients, and education seminars for activists, growers, and medical users), virtually financed the entire Proposition 19 campaign himself, because a large number of the growers in California are prohibition parasites and do not want to see cannabis legalized for all. A visionary and beautiful man like Richard Lee was a rare, rare person. He made a tremendous difference, yet was betrayed by the exploiters of our culture and their weak-minded acolytes who sabotaged our greatest hope for legalization in 2010.
The initiatives being circulated for 2012 in California will not be successful because there is no saint like Richard Lee giving a million plus dollars to gather those signatures. Those initiative attempts will fail miserably because money that could help the movement to end punishment for pot has instead corrupted part of the medical marijuana movement in California. The many vested interests want to keep it illegal, so it can be profitable for them: police, prosecutors, politicians, gangsters, and many marijuana growers.
So you are left with ordinary citizens like you to make a difference. So what can you do? Plenty!
WHY YOU’RE GETTING INVOLVED
What’s at stake with continued prohibition? Here are themes that required activism to address and remedy:
1) The drug war brings civil war, violence, murder, genocide, defoliation, and narco-military and government corruption to nation states all over the planet, of which Mexico, Columbia, and Afghanistan are but current examples.
2) In the United States there are somewhat over one million Americans in county, state and federal prisons for drug offenses out of a prison population of 2,500,000. There are 50,000-100,000 foreign nationals in US jails for drug offenses. There are 50,000-100,000 people in prisons for being a felon in possession of a weapon, or a weapon in the proximity of a drug trade, offences that are related to the drug war. Drug offenses then account for about half of all prisoners in the US. This affects approximately 10,000,000 other Americans whose family members, heads of household, breadwinners, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers are in prison from drug offenses. Many of these families then become life-long dependants of the welfare-prison-punishment system.
3) Over 10,000 teenagers enter the drug trade every month. It starts out simply enough. Teenagers needing marijuana choose a close friend who “knows someone”. That friend then quickly finds out that if he buys a quality ounce for $320, and has three friends who will front him $110 each for a quarter ounce, then he can have his own quarter ounce covered by his friends’ contribution. This is how virtually every dealer in the illegal substance trades begins. But that novice dealer quickly learns about economy of scale, and word gets out to others and soon he is buying “QPs” (quarter-pounds) and having a wider network of “friends” who want the good stuff. Quickly he begins to make money, and his client base expands. Soon he has a lot of money, better clothes, girls who are impressed, a car, status, and other “bling”. His lifestyle looks very enviable to other teenagers whose legal alternatives are part-time work at McDonalds or clerking at Target at $8 an hour. And so the materialist corruption of youth inevitably spreads rapidly as numerous teenagers in a social circle seek the material rewards of the being a dealer in the drug trade. The dealer then meets suppliers of other substances, and the corruption expands. The potential for abuse of more hazardous substances then becomes more likely. When one dealer is jailed or removed through gang violence, others, not just teenagers, take escalating measures to capture that aspect of the drug market now made available by the elimination of the previous supplier. Prohibition is terribly destructive to our young people, poor people, minorities, those whose English skills are poor, those who lack a good education, those who did not have two parents regularly at home, and those with children who cannot get a decent paying job. As I said in my ‘drug abuse awareness classes’ here at Yazoo prison, “Would any of us, guards or inmates, be here if these drugs were sold legally in stores under regular market controls and conditions? Why would anyone be dealing drugs? We wouldn’t. Prohibition made it attractive, and inevitable, considering the circumstances of poverty, unemployment and life at home.”
4) The militarization and the establishment of the permanent police state and the use of violence by police forces in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the world over has occurred because of the war on drugs. The erosion and often elimination of constitutional safeguards to the privacy, safety and liberty of the citizen has occurred because of the drug war. Police powers of arrest, detention, surveillance, violence, force, forfeiture, have become dangerous to ordinary citizens as a result of prohibition.
5) Parents who use marijuana, even safely, even for medical reasons lose their children to ‘child protective services’ every day in Canada and the United States. Have you ever heard someone say, “I was taken from my parents by child protective services because my parents smoked marijuana, and I was separated from my Mom, Dad, and siblings and placed in foster care, and that made my life better”? You never hear it. Families are torn apart by the war on drugs.
6) Prohibition keeps the price of marijuana absurdly high. In a legal environment, marijuana would be $10-$20 an ounce, leaving the average marijuana consumer thousands of additional dollars each year to spend on education, their children, consumer goods, savings, rent, a home, their health. Ending prohibition would channel billions back into the productive economy and increase the standard of living of hundreds of millions of cannabis consumers on the planet.
7) While marijuana remains illegal and expensive, alcohol and prescription drugs get used more often by default because of their price and availability advantages. There is no more destructive substance on earth than alcohol. If marijuana were legal, it could be advertised and promoted, and the market comparisons of the effect of the two would be compelling advertising. Alcohol kills over a million people on the planet each year, marijuana kills absolutely zero. Alcohol causes staggering violence, barbarism, spousal abuse, aggression, traffic fatalities, gun abuse, fighting, riots, and destruction of property. Marijuana achieves a far more desirable state of intoxication without any of the negative aspects of alcohol intoxication. Alcohol destroys organs and brain cells in the body and advances cancer, while marijuana repairs brain cells and attacks cancers and tumors in the body. But until marijuana is legal, commercialized, and marketed without the current demonization by government, these comparisons are hard to get into the minds of citizens and consumers. Marijuana, once marketed, will steal billions of dollars in sales from former alcohol and prescription drug users. Alcohol consumption and abuse will decline precipitously once marijuana is legalized.
The expense to taxpayer of marijuana prohibition in the United States since 1970 is estimated to exceed one trillion dollars. In 2011 it was about $40 billion. And that’s just the United States. And just marijuana prohibition.
9) Ending prohibition brings the role of government more in line with its proper purpose: to provide infrastructure and to protect our fundamental liberties. The purpose of government should never be to restrict or interfere in our peaceful lifestyle choices, or the market that seeks to serve our peaceful lifestyle choices.
All these aspects of the catastrophic effects of prohibition are inter-related too. Eliminating the cannabis prohibition and drug prohibition is the single greatest good that we could achieve in our lifetime. It would uplift all the people of the world, dramatically reduce violence and militarism, restore our fundamental civil rights and liberties, and improve the world’s health. The improvements in our way of life are so great as to hardly be imaginable.
But I want you to closely examine your life and brainstorm about how much better life would be for 7 billion people on earth if we can eliminate prohibition.
GETTING TO WORK
An effective activist is an organized individual. You need to have a goal, and to that end you need a TO-DO LIST every day. This outlines what you need to achieve that morning, that day, and that week. You need to have a poster of chart or calendar clearly visible to you to remind yourself what you must get done to further your activist goals.
The other side of this coin is that you must eliminate or push aside time-wasting distractions, or at least indulge in these time-wasting vices only after you have accomplished the goals set out in your TO-DO list. Time wasting activities include getting high without working on activism, spending hours on Facebook, instant messaging, chatting with friends, gratuitous snacking, pornography, and any activity that takes your attention away from the work at hand. Work is work. It won’t be fun like getting high or masturbating or tweeting pointless trivia about what sandwich you had for lunch. Work gets results, and that’s what an activist does or attempts to do.
Most of you will have to conduct your activism around fundamental survival and primary obligations such as your schooling, your job, your children, buying and consuming food, keeping your home clean and tidy, etc. so a ruthlessly maintained TO-DO list is essential if you are to get anything of use to our cause done.
Most of the work you do as an activist has to do with POLITICS and the political system. Even though there are over 30 million regular marijuana consumers in Canada and the USA, most of these 30 million do no activism of any kind. They cannot, in the majority, even be bothered to vote. They are ignorant of the political system and how to effectively participate in it. They willfully stay ignorant even though they are persecuted and risk a criminal record, fines, jail, losing their job, their children, property, and drivers license. The prohibition laws established by three levels of government (Local, state/provincial & federal) pose a 24-hour threat to each person in the cannabis culture, as well as forcing us to buy on the black market and pay prohibition prices for marijuana costing thousands of dollars a year.
Politics is a tough thing to participate in, especially if one regards himself or herself as an idealist and sees how disappointingly corrupt politics is. But the alternative (that is, not participating in politics) is far more dangerous to each one of us. Of course it’s not a perfect system – it’s not even a good one – but it’s the system that dictates many aspects of our lives, and we’ve got to get involved in it if we have any hope of changing it for the better.
Your objective is to change the laws, which exist with a political system. An important and secondary goal is to educate, motivate, inspire and recruit others into political activity to change or abolish the prohibition laws or aspects of prohibition.
There are basic first steps you must take. (Note: much of the following is written for Americans, but the same tactics and examples apply for Canada too.) The first step is to join the existing groups that have been established who have a track record of success or are useful in the information they distribute. I recommend you forward $25 by credit card or PayPal or money order to each:
These three organizations I highly recommend for their information value alone. $25 a year is the least you should give each one because the education and information they provide is valuable way beyond the $25. They will give you ideas of activity you can do locally. You will also have the opportunity of receiving alerts that instruct you to call your Congressman, legislator (that is your state representative) about specific bills before Congress, some good ones, like Ron Paul-Barney Frank’s legalization bill in Congress, or bad ones, as most of them tend to be.
Marijuana Policy Project has been very effective in the past getting statewide ballot initiatives organized. They have a pull down menu on their website by state so you can see what important bills/activities that may affect your state are in progress. Norml.org is the best information source in the movement, and StopTheDrugWar.net is one of the best also. I urge you to support them by sending $25 to them right now.
If you say, “I don’t have any money”, then I can only say, “the only way to get money is to go out and work and earn the money. ” You cannot be an effective activist if you are broke. Period. All activism requires effort, focus, a goal, and some of your own money that is necessary to be expended. I’m not asking you to spend a lot of money at all, but every one of us in the cannabis culture has a moral obligation to sacrifice some pleasure, luxury, time or whatever to provide some money to fight this grotesque injustice. GET TO WORK! Shovel snow, mow a lawn, work as a grocery clerk, get a job, earn an income. This is a war, for goodness sakes. Put off that gratuitous tattoo, go without that primo weed for a week or two, give up your weekend drinking budget – make sacrifices to make it happen. Activism should become a priority above all other non-essential survival and family obligations.
Most activities that people in the cannabis culture enjoy doing achieve no political purpose. For example, an April 20th rally has virtually no political value; it will not change any laws or politicians’ minds. Very few contacts are gained that are politically valid at an April 20th rally. It is a celebration of the culture, and a protest of sorts. But you should be trying to make a real difference in laws and policy.
Do not form your own group as your first step. You are not yet qualified to organize or lead others or risk squandering the energy, time and resources of others. This is about what YOU can do.
The movement absolutely does not need any more Facebook pages, websites, or social network sites with a non-specific purpose. A Facebook page called “Legalize marijuana” or any such similar sentiment often wastes the time and energy of anyone who bothers getting involved with it. Worse, it gives you a false sense of satisfaction you are doing something for the movement, and you are not. You may be doing something “fun” or “self-satisfying”, but that is not useful political activism. A “like” is not activism.
Much of social media is anti-activism because it distracts people away from doing something really useful for the movement. Social media is a catalyst to activism, but it’s not activism. Tahir Square in Cairo, Egypt was filled by people who were using social media to get bodies to the square – but the people showing up in the square was the activism. People willing to get their head kicked in, roughed up, jailed, shot and killed, taking a risk with their lives – that was the activism. Social media, Twitter, and text messaging got them to the square, but didn’t make a dictator fall. PEOPLE POWER did that. People willing to give something up. People willing to die.
What are YOU willing to give up to achieve liberty for yourself and our cause?
CONTACTING YOUR REPRESENTATIVE
The first thing all activists must do is begin a dialogue with your elected representatives. This means writing a cogent, BRIEF letter, by mail (not email) to your Congressperson in Washington. Your connection to MPP, NORML, and StopTheDrugWar, all with offices in Washington, DC, will keep you informed of bills and activities that deserve your notice and your input.
Letters by postal mail are far more influential than email. Firstly, mostly older people who actually get out to vote write letters by mail, and politicians consider older people as more valuable. Secondly, letters exist physically. Physical things are harder to deny. An email may or may not be seen and read, may or may not be answered or considered.
A physical letter has a psychological advantage. The Congressperson and his secretaries and mail readers know that anyone who would, in this day and age, type up a thoughtful letter, put a stamp on it, walk to a post office box, and patiently wait for a response after making a physical effort, is probably going to put a similar effort into voting. A person who does all that may get politically active if disappointed, or may volunteer for the Congressperson’s re-election campaign if satisfied. A Congressperson gets hundreds, perhaps thousands of emails, but they take little effort to send, and letters are much more rare and far more precious politically.
You will get a physical reply by postal mail, unlike an email. This is a record of your dialogue with your elected representative. Know in advance you are likely to be unsatisfied by your exchange. Your Congressperson will likely admit to a bias that you find ridiculous and irrational. But this gives you an opportunity to understand where the Congressperson is coming from. You look at his presentation of his point of view, you analyze it, and then you identify an area where you can send a BRIEF medical or scientific rebuttal to his main point – preferably a rebuttal that comes from a source that Congressperson would respect (that is, someone from his religious order, or political party, or colleague from the university he attended).
Name-calling and insults are absolutely forbidden in any exercise of effective activism. You shouldn’t even use negative terminology in your letters to elected officials. You should thank them for their response of your previous letter. You should express interest in their next town hall meeting in the state or district. You should emphasize your family has lived in that district for many generations, if that is true. You should find the Congressperson’s last election material, and seize on values he has expressed that you can point to and explain how ending prohibition, would, in fact, lead to the kind of America and the values the Congressperson claims to aspire to.
You must select your topics of discussion within a narrow range. You can’t be trying to cover several topics in one letter or dialogue. Stick to one main point, and try to find areas of agreement, where your suggestions dovetail into the Congressperson’s stated value system.
Writing politicians requires patience because it’s likely you will be unsatisfied and frustrated. But you want them to assess your point of view, and you also want to become a known quantity – that is, someone who has a rational intelligent point of view.
If you have a legislator or Congressperson who advocates a rational point of view, then a letter endorsing that point of view is a good idea. Ask what you, as a citizen, can do to draw support to the proposal by that representative.
WRITING TO NEWSPAPERS
Once you have engaged dialogues with your elected officials, your next avenue of activism is writing letters to local print media, especially the daily and weekly newspapers in your community. These should be no more than 200 words and should be a response to some news item you have seen in the paper about prohibition, police behavior, harsh sentencing, the impact on the community, etc. Depending on the volume of mail/email a paper receives, you may have a 1 in 4 chance of getting published, so perseverance is key.
For a great article about Letter Writing As Activism from sold-out “Activism Special” Cannabis Culture Magazine #65, see here.
RADIO TALK SHOWS
Most communities have radio talk shows. These, too, are useful avenues to advocate an end to prohibition whenever subjects like crime, prisons, reducing budgets, drugs, inner cities, etc. are discussed. Again, there will be times you are put on hold and the host does not get to you by the end of the show, and many times the phone lines are full up and you can’t even get in the queue to speak on the air, but eventually you will get on the radio. Have your ideas written down in point form, be VERY brief, and get what you want to say done in 30 seconds. Usually radio talk shows allow you one statement, the host or guest gets a rejoinder, and then it’s on to the next caller, or a commercial. Don’t waste any time saying “I love your show,” or “I’d like to say hello to your guest,” – you are wasting your precious airtime with meaningless pleasantries. Go immediately to your points(s).
This is also a great way for people to get active and educate others when they’re forced to keep a relatively low profile because of their job, kids, or any other risk factor. That’s because you only need to give your name to be on air, and you can simply use your middle name if you’ve got reason to be cautious where you live. As long as your message is powerful, informative and understandable, you’re having a positive impact.
PROTESTS AND RALLIES
At some point you may want to organize a protest or a rally. This could be at the office of an elected official, in front of City Hall, or the Statehouse if you live near it. Here are three excellent articles about “How To Hold a Rally” and “Rally Tools” from Cannabis Culture Magazine “Activism Special” #65, plus a Hempfest article from the same issue:
It’s surprisingly difficult to get more than a few dozen people to appear at a protest or rally. You can promote on Facebook (because it’s a specific event with a specific purpose) and put posters up, but turnout is considered good if you get only 25-50 people to come. The protest should be at a time when passersby will see your signs and hear your chants. The chants should never be rude, they should be brief and to the point – “No More Drug War”, “Cannabis Saves Lives”, “Prohibition Doesn’t Work”, or anything that can be easily understood by the people who will hear it.
Signs should be legible, most importantly. I prefer computer and machine made signs, using solid, thick, bold fonts. Hand painted signs are too amateur appearing for my tastes, and are often hard to read when passing by, but can look good if very big, solid lettering is used.
If the media chooses to cover the rally or protest, the signs will convey your message to thousands who see you on TV or in the newspaper, so those signs should be very succinct and very readable. See photos of a December 2011 anti-prohibition protest held in Vancouver here and a similar protest in 2009 here.
April 20th rallies are popular now, but do not contain much of a political message and are largely attended by many teenagers. Young counter-culture teenagers being shown surreptitiously smoking marijuana makes a dubious political statement.
For rallies that have a political purpose, participants should dress respectably in office-suitable apparel, with clear legible signs, and be well groomed. Appearance is important – the message needs to be appealing to the most people possible. You need to convert the people who read newspapers and watch the TV news, mostly people over 45, conservative, older people.
The hippies and the counter culture agree with you already, but they don’t vote generally. People who read newspapers (real paper ones, not online) and people who watch the local TV news or listen to talk radio generally vote. If you want to change minds, not only do your ideas need to be carefully chosen, but your clothes, your appearance, your demeanor, your language and your signs need to appeal to the conservative, older people who see you while driving by in their cars, or on the TV news, or in a newspaper.
STUDENT & CAMPUS ACTIVISM
If you are attending high school, college or university, motivating your fellow students to political awareness and political action should be part of your activism. However, it should only be a part of it. You want to influence the greater world beyond your school.
You can however, start an “Anti-Prohibition League” or Anti-Prohibition Club on campus, such as a Students For Sensible Drug Policy groups (www.ssdp.org and www.cssdp.org). A “Legalize Cannabis” club is too narrow and will appeal to greatly to a stoner mentality, and doesn’t challenge the problem in a philosophically consistent way. Legalizing marijuana is a goal, true, but it isn’t the heart of the problem. The problem is prohibition, and no prohibition is ever effective, just or rational. I believe for example that all prohibitions on personal choice are wrong and indefensible. Prohibitions on guns, sex, drugs, plants, property, abortion, gambling, sexual orientation, dancing, music, media and communication, manufacturing anything, are all wrong. Personal choice is limited to the non-violence principle, personal bodily and mental autonomy, and property rights.
But for the sake of your school club or association, prohibition refers to the government policy of banning or criminalizing certain consumed substances.
A club would do several activities. It would invite speakers to come lecture and educate your group and the larger student body about the issues surrounding prohibition. It would have a booth during clubs week. It would advocate for any anti-prohibition politicians (like Ron Paul) running for office in the school year, and club members would be encouraged to volunteer for these political campaigns. It would seek to have student leadership resist rules or regulations that require the expulsion of students who use or advocate marijuana. It would seek to address the laws that restrict or prohibit student aid to people with drug convictions.
It is important that this club not degenerate into a pot-smoking club. All the indulging, if desired, should occur after serious work has been expended to get necessary political activism done that day.
All schools have newspapers. You should be writing anti-prohibition articles and attempting to get them published in the school paper. Many colleges and universities house a community radio station. Try to get an Anti-Prohibition Radio show. This could be a one or two hour show where you read articles and news items from Norml.org or StopTheDrugWar.org and play anti-prohibition songs, of which there are many. (“Bush Doctor”, “Legalize It”, newer marijuana music – there are dozens and dozens of songs if you check around.)
GET INVOLVED WITH POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS
For the first five months of 2012, the most vital political activity for those who want to end the drug war has to be, without any exception, supporting Congressman Ron Paul in his bid for the Republican nomination for President. If you do not know about the greatest man ever to advocate for an end to the drug war in the history of US politics, please read my previous blogs here and here for video and details about Ron Paul and his views on abolishing the office of drug czar, abolishing the DEA, ending all federal drug laws, and pardoning all non-violent drug offenders in US prisons, including me.
Joining the Ron Paul campaign in your state will give you experience working on phone banks, holding up signs, handing out literature, working on an honorable, principled campaign with the ideal of our cause firmly part of the campaign. Plus, you will meet many other highly motivated activists. Ron Paul never hides his belief the drug war is wrong; the Constitution, he says, makes no allowance for a federal drug war or federal drug laws or federal drug agencies or people in federal prisons for drug use. He believes all state medical marijuana laws should never experience obstruction or contradiction from the federal government.
The Republican race for the Presidential nomination will get down to Mitt Romney vs. Ron Paul by Super Tuesday in March (March 6th). The Republicans cannot win without the Ron Paul voters, and the Republicans cannot beat continued-and-expanded-war Obama without Ron Paul as their nominee. If Ron Paul is not the nominee for the Republicans, I will urge you to support the Libertarian Party candidate, the former two-term governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, a fine principled man who repudiates the drug war and would certainly legalize marijuana if elected President.
If you decide to do one thing to end this terrible prohibition, joining the Ron Paul Revolution RIGHT NOW is the most urgent need.
Other options include gathering signatures. Several states in 2012 have signature gathering drives to put medical marijuana or a legalization of marijuana on the ballot. They will need your help immediately. Read about the states that have drives currently underway at NORML.org or here:http://capwiz.com/norml2/issues/ and contact their organizers so you can get out on the streets, on your campus, or in your neighborhood to gather signatures.
Are there any anti-prohibition candidates in your community or your state? It may require you to do some research but you will find some candidates who have some aspect of pro-choice on cannabis in them. Medical marijuana, or legalization, or some aspect of their positions you can find favor with in regards the drug war. They may be small-party candidates who have no realistic chance of victory, but they deserve our support if no major party candidates emerge upholding some of our anti-prohibition values.
Find out about the Libertarian, Constitutionalist or Green Party candidates in the your district or community if the Democrat and Republicans have nothing to offer. These smaller parties value your contributions in money and manpower even more than the major parties. These smaller parties will give you insight into how to run (or not run) a modest budget campaign with limited goals. Since the small party candidates aren’t expecting to be elected, their job is to educate the public on their issues, critique the Democrat and Republican candidates, and recruit volunteers and members for future growth and campaigns. Your job is to learn all you can about the political process.
RUNNING FOR OFFICE
There will come a time when you are fired up, fed up, and have no one to vote for that represents your views on prohibition. It might be all your city councilors or county supervisors have let the local police trample over the rights and privacy of the people. It might be police brutality as a result of prohibition. It might be a sheriff who is a crazed drug warrior. It might be a judge who gives pot people long sentences. It might be a position in the statehouse legislature where both the Republican and Democrat demagogue on who is toughest on crime, while neither is smart on crime. It might be your Congressman is a hopeless drug warrior and his opponent is little better.
You might just decide to run for an elected office yourself. If you do, set realistic goals. Your odds of getting elected with major party support, or being part of well-moneyed slate with substantial backing, are candidly very long odds indeed. Your first time out, you simply won’t get many votes and you won’t get elected. You’ll be running as an Independent, a Green, a Libertarian, or other small party. You won’t have many volunteers and most money you spend will be your own. You’ll need someone to do your paperwork. There are forms to fill out, nominating signatures to gather, and bank accounts to manage. You need to keep track of all your donations and all your campaign expenditures.
Most of your friends will be useless in helping you, but you should try to get $10 and $25 donations from them. Ask people to volunteer and, if they get on board, assign them specific tasks essential to your campaign. Develop a Facebook page and website touting your candidacy. Make them both easily navigable and easy to understand. Look at other candidate templates on the net to find a style or approach you like (Jodie’s 2009 BC Green Party provincial election campaign website design is simple but informative: http://www.jodieformla.ca/).
Generous advance planning is recommended. Good planning saves money, time, effort and error. If you are the candidate, ultimately you are in charge but you need to find one very passionate, committed, reasonable, easy-to-get along-with person who can be your campaign manager. A good campaign manager is your most valuable asset. They need to have time, the organizing skills and a belief in you as the candidate. They need to be good with people, have a calm managerial style, and be good with and knowledgeable about the media.
You need some signs. Get quotes on a 100 corroplast (corrugated plastic signs) measured about 18″ x 24″ (larger signs, like 24″ x 36″ or 24″ x 48″, are better to hold up on busy roads, printed both sides in one color plus black on white). Election supplies can be found at websites online; simply Google “Election sign manufacture”.
The best way to efficiently, at no or low cost (your time and the signs cost), get your name out there is to stand on busy roadsides at rush hours or busy traffic periods with your name, the office you are seeking, and your website on a very legible sign. It would pay off if you can get yourself or volunteers to go to main intersections anywhere from 7am to nightfall with your (hopefully easy-to-read, attractive) waterproof signs being held proudly in the air. You’ll get thousands of eyes on your signs each hour. Some will check out your website and read your issues. If they like your views, your website will have contact information for them to reach you, and ways for them to leave comments. Respond to those potential supporters immediately, and ask for a small donation or their time as a volunteer.
Even though you probably won’t get elected, you will learn a great deal about the political process, voters, campaigning, what the people you meet in your community think about your ideas. The experience will help improve your work on future campaigns, whether for yourself or as a campaign manager or worker in other campaigns. I have run for office on twelve occasions from 1980 to 2008, and Jodie has run as a candidate three times (2005, 2008, 2009), and we did not get elected, but enjoyed the experience very much. It really was hard, grueling work to try to do it right. You have to put yourself out there and take criticism, get feedback, and get ignored by big media, the other candidates, and most voters.
When you are an independent or small party candidate, a refrain you will here often is “I like your ideas, but you can’t win, so I’m voting for Mr. Lesser-of-Two-Evils”. It will be frustrating to hear that, but elections are a package deal and voters rarely vote on principle. They tend to vote for the candidate who they see as most likely to defeat the candidate they really hate. Tell those voters to take your shared position on the issue to the candidate that they plan to vote for instead, and make it an issue with them.
Eventually you will get experience, develop a good reputation, and move up from an unknown candidate electioneering in obscurity, to running as a small party (say Green, Libertarian) candidate, to running as a Democrat in a heavily Republican neighborhood – or conversely, an opportunity to run as a Republican in, say, San Francisco or a heavily Democratic neighborhood. Maintaining your principles as you get closer to an actual opportunity to get elected will be the big challenge, but let’s hope you get that challenge!
Participating in an election is a very rewarding experience. To do it right is very draining, very exhausting, and very satisfying. It’s nice to get out there and listen to voters, tell people your ideas, and do the campaigning. But it takes a huge amount of time and energy. Decide if it’s really worth it for you before biting off more than you can chew!
DO WHAT YOU LOVE
Finally, everyone has a creative gift or ability of some useful kind. What is your talent?
If you can sing or are musical, do a music video for your favorite candidate, or if you have a band, contribute a performance night’s funds towards a drug policy reform group. If you are good at developing websites, let activist groups or politicians know you are available free or very cheap to build them a website. If you have organizing skills, offer your expertise to the rally organizers. If you are a graphic artist or graphic designer, offer your skills to design election signs, rally posters, graphic images for a website, website design.
Think of a skill you have and offer it to those in your community who are doing good work. If you are good at earning money but have little time to volunteer, give money to those who are doing the activist work you admire. If you have a car and are a safe driver, offer your driving skills to the rally organizers or election campaigns to drive voters, or to pick up rally supplies.
Everyone who believes in the cause of liberty and an end to prohibition has something valuable to offer. All you need to do is commit.
Now get to work!
Marc Emery #40252-086
FCI Yazoo City – Medium E-1
P.O. Box 5888
Yazoo City, MS
Marc would like to see this article as a ‘living document’, continually growing with more valuable information. If you have any suggested activism or comments you feel should be added to this piece, please send your suggestions to Jodie@cannabisculture.com or Jeremiah@cannabisculture.com
Courtesy of the Huffington Post
WASHINGTON — GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney repeatedly dodged questions about medical marijuana, refusing to engage activists who took to the campaign trail in New Hampshire to press him on the issue.
Asked by a member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy about his views on the drug war, Romney demurred, referring his questioner to his website.
“It’s a long … it’s a long question,” Romney said at a rally in Bedrock on Jan 9. “It deserves a full answer, and not just in a photo line like this.”
But neither the drug war nor drug policy is addressed on his website, mittromney.com.
At a town hall Laconia on Jan. 6, Romney was similarly evasive when asked whether he supports arresting medical marijuana patients.
“I’m in favor of having the law not allow illegal marijuana,” he said.
Romney has stated his opposition to medical cannabis in the past. During the 2008 presidential campaign, he said, “I don’t want marijuana to be used in our country. I’m not going to legalize marijuana.” He’s offered no in-depth discussions of the issue recently.
Marijuana policy doesn’t appear to be an issue Romney follows closely. Asked at a recent town hall in Petersborough for his view on industrializing hemp, the former Massachusetts governor answered, “I have no idea what industrialized hemp is.”
Advocates said they hope there’s a teaching moment to be had.
“So we’ve concluded that Mitt Romney is unaware of what industrialized hemp is,” the medical marijuana advocate who questioned Romney about hemp narrated on his video. “It’s an education, an uphill battle from here, but we have a starting point.”
by Tom Howell Jr., The Washington Times
The District of Columbia’s health department is expected within the next few days to give its first indication of who qualifies to grow medical marijuana in the nation’s capital, a significant step in a program aimed at comforting the sick and dying that is more than a dozen years in the making.
A panel of health, regulatory and law enforcement officials tasked with choosing the top 20 out of 28 applications to open cultivation centers in the District is scheduled to complete its initial review by Friday and provide notice to qualifying applicants and Advisory Neighborhood Commissions in the relevant areas by Jan. 4, according to a schedule from the D.C. Health Regulation and Licensing Administration.
Those seeking to dispense the drug will receive the results of similar initial review by the end of the January. Seventeen applicants are vying for the top 10 spots, though one has reportedly withdrawn.
After the initial review Friday of the cultivation centers, the panel will whittle the pools down to 10 cultivation centers and five dispensaries to start the program. The panel will take the ANCs’ opinions into account and make its final recommendations to D.C. Department of Health Director Mohammad Akhter. The agency will announce on March 2 and March 30 who is eligible for the cultivation registrations and dispensary registrations, respectively.
The city’s series of benchmarks shows the program is entering the homestretch and should reach fruition by this spring, though it has been vulnerable to delays and false starts in the past.
The District approved its program in a referendum in 1998, yet congressional intervention forced it to wait for more than a decade to move on the initiative. Now D.C. officials are rolling out their licensing program in a careful manner, hoping to avoid the legal stumbles that prompted federal prosecutors to roll back similar programs in states across the country.
In the city’s application materials, officials inserted a section that requires applicants to state in writing that they assume the risk of federal prosecution for growing or distributing the drug and that they cannot hold the city liable for arrests.
“I hope that they do go forward, and patients will be able to get their medicine after all these years,” said Nikolas Schiller, a steering committee member for medical marijuana advocacy group Safe Access D.C.
There are pitfalls to even minor delays, he added, because patients are suffering in the meantime and applicants may be paying rent on their cultivation-site leases with no profitable return while they await approval.
Many of the cultivation centers are expected to be clustered in Northeast around the Ivy City section of Ward 5. Cultivation centers must be 300 feet from schools and recreation centers and meet certain zoning requirements, which narrowed applicants’ options and explains why they are clustered in one industrial area of the city.
A panel of five members — one each from the Department of Health, Metropolitan Police Department, Office of the Attorney General, Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and a consumer or patient advocate — is scoring each of the applications based on a 250-point scale that examines criteria such as security and staffing at their facilities and their overall business plans.
Besides community approval, cultivation centers must meet tight restrictions on size, a stringent 95-plant allotment, staffing and lighting, in addition to the buffer zones between cultivation centers and schools.
An applicant must be at least 21 years old and not been convicted of any felonies or misdemeanor drug crimes.
I chose that title for today’s Christmas blog because I do believe it is a wonderful life, and it’s much too short. The Frank Capra Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life” was a reminder to: 1) never underestimate the good you have done and the good you can do in the world, 2) be grateful for the love you have, and 3) be grateful for whatever you do have, it could be much worse!
Every day I get letters written by strangers whom I have never met reminding me I am loved, and I am blessed. I have an incredible wife who loves me, and wonderful friends, some well known, many others I have never met. I’ve had an incredible life, and as I approach the half-way mark of my sentence in 14 days, I am full optimism and joy inside.
I am also blessed to know others who care for me, and in their letters with their heartfelt sympathy for me, they reveal without complaint, just how challenging life can be.
I’ve included selections of letters I’ve received in recent weeks. These are only just snippets of longer messages; much of their letter that expresses sympathy for my situation is not included, because that’s not what my message for this Christmas is about. I am grateful for the 3,500+ letters I have received in my nearly two years in jail now, and especially appreciative of the intimate and sincere real life stories that people all over America, Canada and the world share with me. I am honored to be considered such a friend as to be privy to such experiences.
From Catherine & Hector in Ontario, Canada:
“I frequently visit and shop on the CC site and have read up on yours and your wife’s fight. I have been moved to tears reading your blogs and admire and am inspired by the love that is so evident between you & Jodie. In a world filled with so much injustice, I cling to the most positive thing I have — the unconditional & unwavering love and loyalty of my spouse. I am the sole caregiver to my husband Hector who is dying of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). Please know in your darkest moments that there are strangers (like us) who keep you in our prayers and are sending you moments of comfort and good chi. You are an inspiration to many and your fight is not in vain. We are counting down the days to your release.
Cat & Hector
P.S. Hector is wearing your t-shirt right now.”
From Samantha in Texas, with a darling photo of children Marley (4) and Emery (1 1/2):
“I think you are inspirational and I love reading your blog seeing how positive you remain in your circumstances. I sent you a picture of my two boys Marley who is four and Emery who is 20 months. Emery is named after you. When I was pregnant with Emery my husband and i battled over his name. He wanted to name him Young and I went everywhere from Geddy to Raine to Elwood. anything but Young. About a week or so before i went into labor he brought up your name “Emery”. Finally we agreed! Well, almost.. He wanted Young Emery Hott. I wanted Emery Raine Hott. A few days after that decision was made I was woke up in the morning by a phone call telling me my husband was in an accident on his way home from working overnight and had been taken to a hospital downtown. Not having another car I finally got hold of my Mom at work to drive me to the hospital with Marley who was 2 1/2 at the time. We sat in the waiting room forever. They would send in a Chaplain to talk to me then a doctor spoke to me. I couldn’t understand a word the doctor said. They took me to see my husband and it wasn’t what I expected. Breathing tubes. A nurse had closed his eyes so they wouldn’t get dry. I refused to leave his side. I sat up all night jumping at every noise thinking he was going to come out of where he was. He was in a coma. Two days later I’m still in the room and a nurse rolls a wheelchair into the room. She said it was for me, in case I needed it. I wobbled out to the waiting room. I was exhausted. I went into labor then. I was forced into the wheelchair and downstairs to delivery. The baby arrived and I chose Emery Young Hott. My husband remained in a coma for 100 days before he passed. This isn’t a story that is meant to make anyone sad. I am more resilient than I thought. My car was totalled. My family moved me out of my duplex and into their house because I wouldn’t be able to pay rent now that I couldn’t go back to work, what with having a baby and being at the hospital so often. Not all was lost though, I still had my two boys… I hope both my boys grow up with a strong will to follow their hearts and always fight for what’s right. I hope your sentence goes quickly. I know Jodie will miss you terribly. I sure love watching her interviews. She handles every interview with so much grace. I hope your holidays are as good as they can possibly be, and thank you again for all your hard work for this cause.”
From Shannon, in San Jose, California:
“…It must be hard to be away from family in there. This past February my cousin found me on the internet after 25 years. My Dad went into a coma when I was one year old. Shortly after that, my mother was accused of being the cause. So I lost contact with Dad’s side of the family. I must say, since I have met my cousins and one of my aunts from my father’s side of the family recently I know where I get a lot of my personality from. I finally got to see my Dad recently in the hospital. It was a very awkward moment to see my Dad alive and hooked up to machines to keep him alive. I realized looking at him that I looked a lot like him. I don’t know if he could hear me, but I told him he was a grandfather of a beautiful grand-daughter. I must say it was hard growing up with just my mother. Mom was always busy with work just to make ends meet. We lived with my grandma until she passed away when I was 16. She was more of a mother to me than my own Mom. I feel I made a good choice in life with the man I chose to be with and have a family with, considering I didn’t have a father in all that time. I always get mixed emotions on how I feel about seeing others with both parents around…”
From Cathy in Rio Linda, California:
“All of you who have fought for patients’ rights are my heroes. I have a disease called Von Hipple-Lindau. This disease creates tumors throughout my body. I have lost both of my kidneys, my thyroid glands, half my pancreas, my right eye and my uterus. I did get a kidney transplant so I have one now. Now hows that, for Pete’s sake. After all that, authorities in California are telling me I can’t use marijuana. Go figure! Well, I am sure you know I am not listening to those authorities… In your band, please sing a song for me. I too think that Mrs. Emery is pretty incredible. I hope to meet her one day soon.
Take care & Peace to you,
From Tom in Covington, Washington:
“The most recent chapter of my service was in the military, the US Army, in Alaska. I was in a high speed airborne recon outfit, and a 14-month tour of Iraq. I was honorably discharged in 2009 with a nagging low back pain and Post-traumatic stress Disorder. Today, like so many veterans, I have mixed thoughts on my service. I think I joined up partly to escape rocky family situations. My Dad was having trouble dealing with, at age 42, Huntington’s Disease; its a horrible genetic disease that took the joy from his father’s latter years, and was now profoundly affecting Dad. The last few years I’ve become a cannabis activist like you! But its strange how life is. In a few hours after putting these words on paper to you, I am taking a medical test to find out if I have Huntington’s Disease. I’m scared, but I feel I must know. Any well-trained paratrooper keeps a steady hand on his reserve parachute. My reserve parachute is my cannabis oil medicine research. Whatever the test result, I believe it is paramount to our family that we search for any possible cures to Huntington’s Disease. My Dad didn’t express views on cannabis, and sadly he deteriorated until he took his own life 6 months ago in May. So this medical marijuana issue fuels a fiery passion for justice to a degree most people can’t fathom. I’m grateful for the sacrifice you make on a daily basis and pray for similar courage in the next chapter of my life. Since I get medical care from the VA, I will take this opportunity to reform the VA’s drug policy. I’m so sick and tired of the crappy opiates I’m hooked on for my pain. I’m hoping strong quantities of cannabis will end up helping me clear the big hurdle of ditching these pills they so readily give me. I was at Seattle Hempfest when I ran into Jodie. We walked and talked for a few minutes before she took the main stage to big applause and a great speech. I told her I watched her show, she thanked me for the “Free Marc” pin on my hat. I can’t wait to see you (fingers crossed), Marc, next year, a free man.”
From Craig in Portland, Maine:
“My name is Craig. I love POT.TV and the Jodie Emery Show. I respect your wife so much. From my own experience, I know she is doing time right along with you. I did three years in a Florida prison in the 90′s, so I feel your loss of family. I hope to be an activist one day, any advice you have would be great. I am a medical marijuana patient. I am 37. I have several conditions; neuro-endocrine pancreatic cancer, type-two diabetes due to the cancer, and a condition called Multiple Endocrine Neoplasma Type One which makes it so I pass 20-30 kidney stones every month.”
And from Cindy in North Vancouver, British Columbia:
“It has been a difficult month here. Mum passed on in her sleep early on October 18. She was mentally vital but her heart was damaged from two heart attacks which she had while travelling in England 12 years ago. I’d been looking after Mum and Dad for the last year, doing the daily care for them, prepping meals, keeping the place straight, and living in the guest cottage they had in the backyard… On the morning of October 18, about 4:30 in the morning, my Dad got up and noticed Mum’s breathing was noisy. By 5:30 she was gone from this world. He came to my door and banged on it, I thought he had to go to the hospital but he was inconsolable and told me what had happened. The rest is a blur… We sat for a long time and he kept going in and looking at her and crying, it was so sad. “She was the love of my life!” he said amidst the sobs. Mom wanted to have her body donated to science so after calling the coroner, police, I looked that up on the internet and arranged to have her body taken to the UBC medical school for use in their anatomy classes. She was a hard-core atheist, and I must say, few people get to continue to live their convictions, but she will. The medical school will keep her body preserved so she can be used for 3 years training new medical students, and she will get positively affect thousands of lives as a result. We should all be so selfless. So life at this household has been in complete upheaval. Our precious matriarch is gone and the loss is tremendous. She was a brilliant and incredible woman. I had hoped that at some point you would get to meet her. She has read everything written by Dawkins, Ron Paul, and she was a champion for human rights before it was fashionable or even labeled. We have lost a good one here and my heart is heavy. The day she passed we had planned to go to Long & McQuade Music Store to buy some music books for you. For the funeral Mom wanted the orchestra which she conducted for 18 years to play at her service, but the only place big enough is the local Anglican church. Mom was an atheist, and Dad and all the kids are atheists, so we are amused to see how the Reverend will handle it. My concerns are about the music and food for the guests, so we’ll overlook the religion inherent in the venue…”
I hope these letters I’ve shared with you can give you pause to appreciate your life, your health (such as it may be), your friends, your privileges, your children, and the many little wonders of our existence.
May you be filled with love and compassion over these holidays, and in the years 2012 ahead, make every effort to spread love and kindness at home, at work, in your politics and in your pleasure.
As I write this not on Christmas eve, far away from home, I would just like to tell my incomparable wife, “Jodie I am so grateful to have you as my everything. I’m honored to be your husband, and am so thankful for my great fortune in meeting you. Your love is inspiring, it certainly is…”
There are hundreds of thousands of non-violent drug war prisoners in federal prisons across the United States. Ron Paul has promised, if elected President, to pardon all who currently languish in jail and all of us with a criminal record for non-violent drug offenses. Millions of Americans have a federal criminal record for non-violent drug offenses.
2012 is the year in our history we can put an end to prohibition, free all the drug war prisoners, have all of us with convictions for cannabis and other substances pardoned, returned to our families and freed from our criminal record, at long last.
May God and the People Bless and Protect Ron Paul. Join his campaign in your state and make history happen in the next 12 months.
Merry Christmas, and a Ron Paul New Year!
Yazoo Medium Security Federal Prison
Write to Marc:
Marc Emery #40252-086 Unit E-1
Yazoo Medium FCC
PO Box 5888
Yazoo City, MS
Address and guidelines at www.FreeMarc.ca
Choosing the next President of the United States begins in Iowa in mere weeks. For the cannabis culture, 25 million people in the United States, there is only one option: Ron Paul.
For 15 years Ron Paul has been introducing bills every year in Congress to legalize marijuana, legalize industrial hemp, allow medical marijuana defenses in federal court, and end the budget and office of the Drug Czar. Read more about Ron Paul’s stance on cannabis and the drug war here, here, here, and here.
In speeches and televised debates Ron Paul is not afraid to say he believes the US federal government should end the drug war and repeal all federal laws prohibiting the production and consumption of all drugs, certainly including marijuana.
Listen to Ron Paul speak for himself on the issue:
You’ll never meet a candidate for President of greater integrity and honesty. You’ll never meet a candidate for the most powerful office on earth who is more qualified and intelligent than Ron Paul. Look at the other options; would you prefer any of them instead?
His beliefs are that the US should withdraw all its troops from foreign shores, and that the US cannot police the world. He wants passionately to end the drug war and the surveillance state. He wants to get those who have committed non-violent drug offenses out of jails and into a productive existence in a better and freer America. He believes citizens are sovereign and that the government has become a dangerous police state.
Ron Paul believes in the people of America, the ordinary citizen, and his policies reflect a treasured commitment to liberty, individual freedom, the sovereignty of the individual – unlike the current President, who has embraced the cynical, corrupted cronyism of the elites.
And Ron Paul is an incredibly decent man. I have known about Ron Paul since I read about him in Reason magazine in 1980, and he has never betrayed my support of him or his belief in individual freedom, sound finances, the liberty of the people.
Jodie and I have been active supporters of Ron Paul for President since 2006. We were hosts of a show on Ron Paul radio, printed tens of thousands of Ron Paul For President 2008 hand-outs, brochures, posters, and stickers, made voter registration pavilions, put him on the cover of Cannabis Culture Magazine and made a RON PAUL FOR PRESIDENT centerfold, and much more.
Photos of the Ron Paul pavilion we had set up in downtown Vancouver in 2007: view here on Facebook!
There is no man I believe in more on this whole planet more than Ron Paul.
It is with this urgency and passion I ask you to join with Ron Paul and his campaign for President. I want you to register to vote Republican so you can support him in the Republican Presidential nomination. All the other Republican candidates are lunatics or dangerously wrong for America. The Democrat candidate Barack Obama is a terrible punisher of our culture and must be defeated – but he must be defeated by Ron Paul, not the other NeoCon war hawks and prohibitionists who are running for the Republican nomination.
25 million of us in the US cannabis culture can make a difference. Ron Paul has campaign organizations in all 50 states; please sign up, volunteer, and give money to help this man save America. Ron Paul will win in Iowa. Then he will win in many of the primaries throughout the United States, but it will require huge amounts of money and an army of millions. You should Register Republican to vote for Ron Paul in the primary in your state.
I believe when Ron Paul wins the Republican nomination, he will choose former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson as his running mate. Governor Johnson is a wise and intelligent believer in liberty and an end to the drug war. He will make a worthy successor to Ron Paul should the great man die while in office.
Do not sit on the sidelines in this primary season. Do not let cynicism and indifference ruin our chances to change America profoundly for the better. In California last year, our culture was betrayed by traitors and prohibition-profiteers within our culture. If Proposition 19 had passed, millions of Californians would be growing and producing marijuana under state law, and the DEA and President Barack Obama would have been helpless to stop it – they couldn’t win a war against the biggest, most populated state in the nation. Now the situation in California is in crisis because of that treason and indifference within our culture during the Proposition 19 vote last November, and President Obama is now showing his vicious contempt for our people, as he does for all Americans.
The contrast between the integrity and principles and policies of liberty proposed by Ron Paul versus the surveillance, control, warfare prison punishment state espoused by Barack Obama and the other Republican candidates is stark. Please go to Ron Paul’s campaign website, sign up to help, and join with me and millions of other Ron Paul soldiers in ending the drug war and the cannabis prohibition. This primary season, there is only one man who can do it – who will do it – but he needs us to fulfill this mission.
When the fate of America and our cannabis culture were at stake in the critical time from December 2011 to November 2012, what will you tell your heirs and future generations you did when the need was greatest?
Ron Paul for President. 100% Yes. Join your state’s Ron Paul for president campaign now, and let’s get to work on the decisive battle ahead.
Marc Emery #40252-086
FCI YAZOO CITY MEDIUM E-1
FEDERAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION
P.O. BOX 5888
YAZOO CITY, MS 39194
Eddy Lepp is a California Rastafarian minister and medical marijuana activist currently serving a 10-year sentence in Lompoc Federal Penitentiary for a legal medical cannabis grow in Lake County, CA. To follow his case or donate to his prison books please visit Green Aid: The Medical Marijuana Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Well, where to start? I guess way back to when my attorney’s and I were going to trial [in 2004], we had won several times and thought that this case would be thrown out. However, even after allt he warrants were thrown out, I still find myself. here.
We argued the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and though we had won there, but the judge went against Supreme Court cases saying otherwise, and I find myself here.
We believed we had won the trial, but due to the judge’s jury instructions, none of the facts which would have freed me were allowed to be used. They were narrow and left the jury no choice but to find me guilty even though I had not broken any laws at all in the State of California.
I then asked the judge to reconsider and she said no. I was then blessed with one truly good thing to happen in all of this: I was given Katherine Alafari as the attorney to handle my appeal. She did and still does believe that I am a victim of a very broken system.
But the appeal court sided with the District court and said “no” when we asked for a rehearing even though Kath had made it very plain and overly clear they had made a huge mistake the first time, and, here I am today.
We, or should I say I, believed that when the Supreme Court found that the the lower courts had pissed on their ruling they would make things right by overturning the lower court’s decision. They wouldn’t hear my case so I find myself here.
I find myself here wondering how this could be so screwed up. How, after I went to Vietnam and fought for the ideals of this great country they could allow this to happen in their system. Sadly, once I was in prison I was to find there were so many likel me, many that were screwed even worse than I.
I couldn’t believe, it in fact i still can’t, that we are not the land of the free and the home of the brave . We in fact jail more people than any one in the world. I’ve read that one in every 30 people is in jail or on parole or probation. It’s staggering to believe these figures but sadly they are true. I am just one of many thousands wrongly imprisoned by a system that must be fixed.
I pray that you will be as upset by this as I and will do all you can to see that we fix this problem and put this county back on course.
You can send letters to Eddy Lepp in prison:
Charles Edward Lepp: 90157-011
Lompoc Federal Prison Camp
3705 West Farm Road
Lompoc, CA 93436
Marc Emery is the owner and publisher of Cannabis Culture. Although he is a Canadian citizen who wasn’t breaking Canadian laws, he is currently serving a 5-year sentence in an American prison. You can follow his prison blog at Cannabis Culture.
In lieu of the imminent passage of Bill C-10, the crime bill with mandatory minimums for all drug offenses involving manufacture and distribution – which the Harper Conservatives are set to pass in the Canadian Parliament – it is reflective to consider how the US criminal justice system has gotten completely out of control with these mandatory minimum sentences.
Once mandatory minimums are put in any criminal justice regime, they almost never get repealed despite the disastrous effect on the public safety, the treasuries of the state and federal government, and the cruelty that punishes victims and their families.
“Disastrous effect on the public safety?” you might well ask. That’s because as risk goes up in the drug trade, so do prices. Since most people involved in the drug trade have no comparable market value for their limited or non-existent skills, the more the prices rise and demand increases, the more tempted millions of men and women – particularly blacks, Latinos, poor whites, natives – are to get into the drug trade.
Mandatory minimums of 10, 20, 25 years or even life imprisonment are no deterrent at all when the alternative in our material world is a life of minimal financial incentives from legal activity.
You might say, if my proposal is legalization to eliminate this paradox, why not legalize murder, or rape, or robbery. On the surface, uninvestigated, this seems an attractive rejoinder. But once a rapist, or murderer, or bank robber is captured and taken out of circulation, no one competes to replace the murderer or rapist or robber. The commitment of crime has been halted.
But in the drug markets, where forty million Americans are active consumers in the illegal drug market, when one dealer or manufacturer or grower is taken out of the market by imprisonment, dozens of their customers are now looking for a new supplier. The removal of one or several suppliers creates an opportunity for others to profit. Thus we see turf wars, gang disputes, or, if there is no overt violence, new persons entering the marketplace to feed the insatiable appetite of Americans (and Canadians) for these illegal but in-demand substances.
So for every person put in Yazoo Prison for drugs – and that’s by far and away most of them – one or more persons immediately moved into the lucrative drug market to profit by feeding that existing demand.
In this way, prohibition manufactures crime by making criminals out of people who wouldn’t be dealing in drugs unless these substances were prohibited from distribution in traditional retail methods. In my ‘Drug Abuse Awareness’ class here at Yazoo, I asked the question, “Would any of us, convicts or guards, be here if all drugs and substances were sold in licensed stores?” The answer is obvious. None of these inmates would be selling illegal drugs if those drugs were sold legally in stores, pharmacies, or any business similar to those that sell alcohol, tobacco, sugar, fatty foods, coffee, prescription drugs, etc.
Every year, tens of thousands of teenagers enter the illegal drug business, usually by buying a substance (typically marijuana) and reselling it to their close friends; their profit in these early stages simply pays for their share of the substance bought and used. But imagine the immediately corrupting effect when one person in a peer group becomes a “dealer”, and is seen soon after with expensive clothing, the latest electronics, a fine car, sexy women, and plenty of money to flash around.
It is easy to imagine the invidious effect this has on all the other teenagers who can see this rapid financial enrichment, making it very challenging for the teenager with a minimum wage job at McDonalds to maintain a work ethic in the face of such contrast. In fact, that is reasonably impossible for most young people, particular those with no job or very limited prospects.
But if these drugs were regulated and manufactured under controlled circumstances in the usual economy of scale, they would go from being lucrative and profitable illegal drugs to being mundane and no more profitable than lettuce or tomatoes, or liquor, or Viagra, or any such mass-produced commodity. There would be no young people selling drugs on the street or to their friends. None.
Consider the impact on children and families of the convicted prisoner caused by the kinds of sentences that Americans routinely receive in the grotesquerie called the US criminal justice system. In my drug abuse awareness class we were told that 70% of all children of convicts will themselves be in prison eventually. Well, whose fault is that? Broken homes manufactured by the War on Drugs produces a prison population in perpetuity. Whom is that designed to help, and whom does it destroy?
It costs, in the US, about $50,000 a year to incarcerate a prisoner; in Canada, it’s $100,000 (male) and $190,000 (female). But the US has 2,500,000 prisoners at any one time, and 7 million more on supervised release, house arrest, bail, probation, parole – all very expensive, unwieldy extensions of the prison punishment complex.
The net effect of an infinitely expanding prison population is the draining of the treasuries of the municipalities, states and federal government, for absolutely no benefit to the taxpayer. The prisoners themselves have no money, and their families lose a breadwinner, and often go on welfare as a consequence. The families are usually decimated financially by legal fees and loss of the income earner(s). The children are permanently affected. The families can rarely afford to visit, or can’t at all – in many cases, they won’t even see their loved one again in their lifetime!
Bill C-10, introduced by the Canadian Conservative government, provides mandatory minimum jail sentences of six months for six marijuana plants (nine months if you’re renting the property), to 18 months for making extracts like hash or cookies, two to three years for cocaine offenses, 10 years for a second offense, up to 14 years for marijuana offenses, and longer for other substances. It is draconian in its punishments for Canada.
Here, however is a short resume of ten fellow inmates, all but one who live in my unit here at Yazoo Medium. This is how mandatory minimums become medieval and outrageous crimes against humanity, all under the guise of fighting crime. I have provided their proper name and inmate registration number so you can confirm these sentences as I have stated them at the Bureau of Prison website, www.bop.gov, so you know I am not exaggerating or misstating the facts.
1) Christopher Norman, 24635034: sentenced to 21 years, 10 months (262 months) for conspiracy to distribute five kilograms of cocaine. Sentenced July 2000, Release date: 2019. Black American.
2) Jacob Esquibel, 40652018: 21 years, 3 months (255 months) for ‘Possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine’. Inside since 2001, release date: 2021. First time offender as an adult. Mexican/Native American.
3) Travis Rogers, 21111045: 252 months (21 years), inside since 2010, release date: 2029. Conspiracy to distribute 500+ grams of methamphetamine. One previous state conviction. White.
4) Antonio Andrews, 15054040: Convicted of being a felon in possession of firearms, sentenced to 48 years, sentenced in 2010, release date: 2053. Current age 34, release at age 77. Andrews makes a point of saying no one was harmed, nor were guns used in any way. Black.
5) Cedric Jones, 29464-077: “Conspiracy to possess and distribute crack cocaine.” Received “mandatory life sentence” in 1995 at age 24. Now 40 years old. No drugs were ever found on his person nor was any amount specified in his indictment. Because of two previous convictions, he received LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE. No release date. Black.
6) Nathan Carter, 14989076: “Possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine”. Sentenced in 1998. Because of two previous drug convictions, was declared a career criminal, and given a life sentence. Received LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE. No release date. Black.
7) Bryan Jones, 01156748: “Conspiracy to Distribute Crack Cocaine”. Sentenced to LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE, PLUS 5 years (!) in 1999 for having a gun in his possession at the time of arrest. First offense. Age 27 when incarcerated, 39 now. No release date.
Billy Wheelock, 60161080: Sentenced to “LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE” in Waco, Texas in 1993 for 99.64 grams of crack cocaine. In jail 19 years, 48 years of age.
9) Curtis Bell, 09304002: “Conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine”, Life without parole. In jail since 1993. 10 of the 19 people indicted received sentences of Life Without Parole, including a mother of 22 children, Mary Morrow. A book was written that included information about Curtis Bell, called “Drug Conspiracy: We only Want the Blacks” by Richard ‘Squirrel’ Thomas. The title is taken from testimony by a government informant who testified against 30 black men, only 15 he had actually met. When the informant said he has information about a white man selling drugs at a club, a police agent said, “With all due respect, Derrick, we only want the niggers.”
I have included only a few of the people I live with; all have over 20-year sentences, all for non-violent offenses. There are several convicts here who are serving 10 years for marijuana, including Fred, whose family visited here once with Jodie (she paid for their hotel for driving her here to Yazoo City from Jackson, to and from the prison, and back to Jackson). Fred has three wonderful children, a wife, and a mother who misses him greatly; all are under great duress not having Fred home. He and his brother received 10 years each (mandatory minimum) for interstate transportation of marijuana.
My cellmate Wally received 15 months for receiving 2.5 pounds (a little over a kilogram) of marijuana in the mail from Oregon. Once it’s interstate, it’s a federal offense and penalties are very harsh. One of my correspondents, Linda, lives in Bakersfield in California and has a son, Corey, in Taft camp serving the last few years of an 11.5-year sentence for distribution of marijuana. Taft camp is a private prison in the California desert that I was originally designated to go to. Linda describes the many challenges Corey has encountered trying to get through his time there. After he goes through the RDAP (Residential Drug Abuse Program), he will be released late next year.
The US prison system, both the state and federal, is stuffed with hundreds of thousands of inmates serving outrageous, cruel, expensive, and pointlessly long sentences. Their offenses are manufactured by government policy – the policy of prohibition.
In Canada, the cruel mandatory minimums for cannabis and drugs soon coming into law will be augmented by the on-going appointment of Conservative judges to the courts. This situation will produce much longer and harsher sentences, fill the jails, increase the debt, expand police powers, reduce the safety and freedom of the citizens, escalate the drug war, raise drug prices, increase the lucrative nature of the drug trade, and drain the taxpayers.
The only people who will benefit are politicians, police, and gangsters.
FOX News Latino is reporting news of a huge drug ring bust with the headline “Arizona Busts Billion Dollar Drug Ring Tied To Mexican Cartels“. Based on the report, over 99% of the drugs seized in what was called “Operation Pipeline Express” was marijuana.
“The ring is believed be tied to the Sinaloa cartel — Mexico’s most powerful — and responsible for smuggling more than 3.3 million pounds of marijuana, 20,000 pounds of cocaine and 10,000 pounds of heroin into the U.S. through Arizona over the past five years, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Their efforts in that time generated an estimated $2 billion, according to ICE.”
In the three busts combined, the agencies have arrested 76 suspected smugglers and seized more than 61,000 pounds of pot, about 160 pounds of heroin, about 210 pounds of cocaine, nearly $760,000 in cash, and 108 weapons, including assault rifles and shotguns. The other busts came in mid-September and mid-October.
Remember during Prop 19′s legalization campaign in California when everybody was arguing about just how much marijuana legalization would cripple the Mexican drug traffickers? Arizona’s Attorney General was saying “The violence that we see in Mexico is fueled 65 to 70 percent by the trade in one drug: marijuana.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoting the Drug Czar’s 2006 National Drug Control Strategy that said, “61 percent of that revenue, or $8.5 billion, is directly tied to marijuana export sales” (page 36). Then the RAND Corporation was studying how much Prop 19 would hurt the Mexican drug traffickers and said, ”This 60% figure is a truly mythical number, one that appeared out of nowhere and that has acquired great authority. This figure should not be taken seriously.” The Drug Czar also scoffed at the notion that legalization would hurt eat into Mexican drug traffickers’ profits, saying the marijuana revenue data “was based on 1997 information… we strongly believe we see significantly less than the numbers cited from 14 years ago.”
So how does that jibe with the numbers from this “Operation Pipeline Express”?
|Drug Seized||Pounds||Percent||Estimated Pounds||Percent|
By weight, then, over 99% of what was seized and what was estimated to have been trafficked overall was marijuana. However, there is more profitability in cocaine and heroin than marijuana. Let’s figure that out by throwing in the ONDCP’s own estimated street value of illegal drugs, as of 2007. In that report, they place the price of a pound of marijuana between $250 – $6,000, a pound of cocaine at $6,500 – $10,000, and a pound of heroin at $24,000 – $56,000. If we use the lowest figures for all three drugs, then we only get a total of about $1.2 billion – remember, they said this was a ring responsible for “an estimated $2 billion”.
So let’s give the prohibitionists the best possible scenario: cocaine and heroin that fetch the highest prices recorded in 2007 and the cheapest schwag Mexican brickweed priced at a level that will get us a $2 billion total ($375.76/lb… thanks Excel Goal Seek!)
|Drug Seized||Pounds||x Price||= Total||Percent|
It’s entirely possible that the Mexican drug trafficking organizations like the Sinaloa cartel make significant profits through other criminal activities not listed here. It’s also tough to make perfectly accurate claims about an unregulated market. Based on this “Operation Pipeline Express” data, however, it appears that our prohibition on American grown and sold marijuana is an enormous financial benefit worth at least half or more of the Mexican criminal gangs’ profits.