State & Local Government

RSS Feed for this category

Marijuana: Mendocino County Supervisors Say Legalize It

County supervisors in Mendocino County, California, part of the state's marijuana growing "Emerald Triangle," voted Wednesday to send lawmakers a letter urging them to legalize marijuana. The move is a belated response to Proposition G, a voter-approved initiative passed six years ago.

"Whether you love marijuana or hate marijuana, you can agree it's time for a change," said Supervisor John Pinches, who took part in a 4-1 board vote Tuesday in support of a letter asking lawmakers to legalize marijuana.

The letter, written by Pinches, is addressed to North Coast US Rep. Mike Thompson and copied to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, to both US senators from California, and to other area members of Congress and President Bush.

"The time has come to call upon our leaders in federal government to initiate, sponsor and support legislation that calls for the legalization, regulation, and taxation of this multibillion dollar crop," states the letter, signed by Board Chairman Kendall Smith and approved by the board.

Medical Marijuana: Rhode Island Governor Vetoes Bill, Override Expected

As expected, Gov. Donald Carcieri Monday vetoed a bill that would make Rhode Island's medical marijuana law permanent. Now, supporters of the bill are urging the legislature to act swiftly to override that veto, and legislative leaders have signaled they will do just that. The measure passed both chambers with margins sufficient for an override if no members change their minds.

"As I said in my veto message in 2005," Carcieri reminded the legislative leaders in his latest veto mesage, "I support efforts to provide effective pain management to persons suffering from debilitating conditions, but not in a way that violates federal law and ignores the drug approval process as established by the Food and Drug Administration." Allowing medical marijuana would lead to an increase in criminal activity and drug use, he worried, and patients could still be arrested by the feds.

The "bottom line," Carcieri said, is that "this legislation would give vulnerable Rhode Island citizens a false sense of security regarding the legality and safety of producing, distributing and using marijuana, a substance which is neither legal under federal law nor regulated in any way by any government agency."

Legislative leaders are ready to attempt an override. House Majority Leader Gordon Fox issued a statement Monday saying, "I fully expect that we will place a vote to override the Governor's medical marijuana veto on the floor calendar before the end of our session. The vote on Rep. (Thomas) Slater's bill made it clear that there is an overwhelming majority in the House willing to remove the sunset clause on this compassionate legislation."

Senate leader Joseph Montalbano issued a statement saying: "The Senate will consider a veto override of Senator Perry's compassionate medical marijuana legislation prior to final adjournment of the 2007 session. The state has not experienced any problems during the law's trial period, and medical marijuana is in some cases the only treatment option that effectively alleviates chronic pain and nausea in terminally ill patients, which is why the measure is supported by health organizations such as the Rhode Island Medical Society, the American Nurses Association and the American Public Health Association."

That's exactly what patients and activists want. Michael Oliver of Barrington, who uses medical marijuana to relieve the devastating symptoms of Crohn's disease, said, "I don't understand why the governor wants to put me in jail for using the medicine that has given me back a normal life. I can only hope the legislature will override this cruel, pointless veto."

"We are disappointed and hope that the legislature will move quickly to override this veto," said Al Wroblewski, interim executive director of AIDS Project Rhode Island. "There is clear scientific data showing that medical marijuana can help people with AIDS, and the clients we serve shouldn't be forced to become criminals to get effective treatment. The medical marijuana law has worked well, and there is no reason to go back to the dark days of threatening sick people with jail."

"The governor is out of step not only with Rhode Island voters, but with the state's medical community, including the medical society and nurses' association, which support this legislation," said Ray Warren, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, which has been working closely with local activists in support of the bill. "We are confident that legislators will continue to listen to science rather than superstition and override this ill-considered veto."

Racial Profiling: It's Getting Worse in Missouri

Black drivers are nearly 50% more likely than whites to be stopped by Missouri police and twice as likely to be searched, even though police are less likely to find contraband than with white drivers, according to the state's annual report on racial profiling. Released May 31, the report also found that the problem is getting worse.
enter at peril of profiling
The report showed that blacks were pulled over at rates 49% greater than their presence in the driving age population. The numbers were 34% in 2004 and 42% in 2005.

"As I have said in previous years, the disparity index for African-American and Hispanic drivers continues to be of concern," Attorney General Jay Nixon said in his written analysis of the report. "Law-abiding drivers have the right to travel throughout Missouri without the fear that they will be stopped based solely on their race or ethnicity."

White drivers were stopped at a rate slightly below their percentage of the population, while Hispanic drivers were stopped at a right slightly above it. Asians, American Indians, and people of mixed race were all stopped at rates well below what would be expected.

Blacks and Hispanics were twice as likely to be searched as whites, even though police were most likely to find contraband in searches of vehicles driven by white drivers. Police found contraband in 14.4% of searches of Hispanic drivers, 18.7% of black drivers, and 22.2% of white drivers.

Despite lower levels of successful searches among black and Hispanic drivers, they were still twice as likely to be arrested during a traffic stop than white drivers. Five percent of white drivers pulled over ended up going to jail, while slightly more than 10% of black and Hispanic drivers did.

The report was based on an analysis of more than 1.6 million traffic stops, 128,000 searches, and 94,000 arrests made by state and local police in Missouri in 2006.

Elected Officials: Baltimore Councilman Calls for Drug Legalization

A Baltimore City Council member is calling for an end to the war on drugs. Frustrated by prohibition-related violence, Council Member Bernard "Jack" Young (D-District 12), told the newspaper The Examiner Wednesday it is time to consider legalizing drugs and that he will ask the council to hold hearings on the idea.
Bernard ''Jack'' Young
"We're losing the war on drugs," said Young. "When teenagers are getting gunned down on the street because of the drug business, then we have to rethink our approach. We need to take the profits out of the drug trade and consider legalizing all types of drugs," he said. "Many people are hooked on drugs, but others are hooked on the money from drugs, and they're doing all the killing," he said. "We need to make the drugs a public health problem, not a criminal problem."

The notion won kudos from former Mayor Kurt Schmoke, who proposed decriminalization nearly two decades ago. But Young's current colleagues in city government disagreed. "Mayor Sheila Dixon is opposed to the decriminalization of drugs," spokesman Anthony McCarthy said.

City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was also opposed, preferring to fob the solution off on the federal government. "She understands that the drug trade is 99% of the root cause of violence," said Shaun Adamec, her spokesman. "But it's an idea that needs to be addressed on a national level."

The drug laws are at the state and federal level, not the municipal level. But if it were serious, the city of Baltimore could pass municipal drug ordinances and instruct the police department to enforce only the ordinances and not prohibitionist state laws. The city could not prevent the federal government from attempting to enforce federal drug laws on the retail level, but that would require a large commitment of manpower by the DEA.

Medical Marijuana: Connecticut Bill Passes Legislature

A bill that would make Connecticut the 13th state to enact a medical marijuana law passed the state Senate last Friday by a 23-13 margin. It had already passed the state House by a similar 89-58 margin. The bill is now before Gov. Jodi Rell (R), who can sign it, veto it, or take no action, in which case it becomes law without her signature.

The margin of victory in the two chambers does not appear to be quite enough to override a gubernatorial veto, so proponents of the legislation are pressing hard to persuade Rell to either sign the bill or just do nothing. Rell has said she is "torn" by the bill.

"This bill will help alleviate the feelings of helplessness that families face when their loved ones suffer," said Lorenzo Jones, executive director of A Better Way Foundation, a state non-profit organization dedicated to drug law reform, which, along with the Drug Policy Alliance, has led the fight for medical marijuana in the Constitution State. "We've believed all along that compassion and fairness would bring this bill to final passage. Now we need the governor to sign the bill so families and patients can have some relief. We know she'll do the right thing."

"Allowing for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is the right thing to do for the State of Connecticut," said bill sponsor, Rep. Penny Bacchiochi, R-District 52. "This issue is not about legalizing drugs. It's about keeping those who seek compassionate care for treating crippling diseases out of jail."

The bill, HB 6715, would allow adult patients with debilitating medical conditions to get a doctor's certification that they could benefit from using marijuana. Certified patients and their caregivers would be registered with the state Department of Consumer Protection, after which they could grow up to four plants not to exceed four feet tall.

"I am just 32 years old and yet due to my medical condition I feel as if, at times, I am 92," said Joshua Warren, a patient in Wilton who suffers from chronic neurological Lyme disease. "I did not ask for this condition nor would I wish any of my pain and other symptoms on anyone else. I hope Gov. Rell will have compassion for me and for others and sign this bill."

Feature: Congress Moves to End Ban on DC Needle Exchange Funding

A nine-year-old measure barring the District of Colombia from spending its own funds on needle exchange programs (NEPs) instituted by conservative Republican lawmakers was removed from the DC appropriations bill Tuesday. Led by House Subcommittee of Financial Services and General Government chair Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY), the subcommittee voted to excise the language from the bill, a key step in allowing the District to enact the proven harm reduction measure in an effort to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne infectious diseases.
Ron Daniels at PreventionWorks! van, Washington (screen shot of recent ''slide show'')
Although it has one of the highest HIV/AIDS infection rates in the country, with as much as a third of it linked to injection drug use, Washington, DC is the only city in the country expressly prohibited from spending money for NEPs. According to the North American Syringe Exchange Association, more than 200 NEPs are currently operating in 36 states.

"My basic principle in this bill is that the federal government should not dictate to the city how to manage its own affairs or spend its own money," said Serrano in a Tuesday statement. "Therefore, you will find that we have removed or changed riders that have been in past bills that closely prescribed to the city what it should or should not do."

"This is a huge step in helping to reduce HIV and AIDS in Washington, DC," said Naomi Long, director of the Washington Metro office for the Drug Policy Alliance. "We are pleased that Congress decided to stop playing politics with the lives of intravenous drug users in DC."

"This is extremely important," said Channing Wickham, director of the Washington AIDS Partnership. "About a third of AIDS cases here in the District are related to injection drug use. This is not a pro-drug move; it's a public health move," he told Drug War Chronicle. "There are numerous studies that show not only that giving drug users access to clean needles reduces the spread of HIV infections, but also that people in such programs get access to drug treatment and medical care. It's a win-win situation," he said.

"If they actually lift the ban, that'll be great," said Ron Daniels of Prevention Works!, a privately-funded NEP that arose in response to the 1998 federal ban on funding. "If they don't, our hands are tied. The people we are serving now are only the tip of the iceberg," he told the Chronicle from the mobile van the group uses to take clean needles to drug users. "We're only seeing about a third of the people we know are injection drug users. They have got to do something to stop this epidemic."

Even with the limitations imposed by having to seek out private funding, Prevention Works! managed to distribute more than 236,000 needles and had regular contact with some 2,000 injection drug users last year.
popular needle exchange logo
While the DC appropriations bill is still in the early stages, the subcommittee vote this week was a critical step, said Bill Piper, director of government relations for the Drug Policy Alliance. "This was the key vote," said Piper. "Committee chairs pick their battles carefully, and the fact that Serrano went ahead and did this suggests he thinks he can take this all the way. In the full committee, the Democrats will generally get behind whatever the subcommittee decided, and on the floor, the presumption will be against amending bills against the wishes of the committee."

That doesn't mean ideologically driven opponents will give up without a fight. Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KA), the man who inserted the ban in 1998, was still at it this week. Apparently ignorant of the mountain of scientific evidence establishing the effectiveness of NEPs in reducing the transmission of HIV/AIDS and other diseases, Tiahrt claimed that "needle exchange programs have been proven in many studies to be ineffective and a threat to the surrounding community, especially the children."

That prompted a Wednesday visit to Tiahrt's office by the Drug Policy Alliance, which hand-delivered numerous studies proving the effectiveness of NEPs. "Rep. Tiahrt's claims that syringe exchange programs don't work is similar to claiming the world is flat," said Piper. "We want him to have the information so he doesn't continue to embarrass himself and, more importantly, sabotage this life-saving measure."

With the subcommittee vote, DC is now closer than ever to being able to finance NEPs, and the measure will pass, Piper predicted. "I think this is one we will win," he said. "Not without a fight, of course, but the stars are aligned, everyone in DC wants this, and in the end, the DC syringe ban will be repealed."

Rhode Island Medical Marijuana Bill Vetoed, Override Anticipated

Last week we reported in Drug War Chronicle that Rhode Island's medical marijuana bill, to make the law passed last year a permanent one, had passed both houses of the legislature. As anticipated, Gov. Carcieri (to be referred to henceforth as "The Blue Meanie") vetoed the bill. He vetoed the last one, and the legislature overrode the veto and made the bill law anyway, and it's expected that that will happen again this time. But the status at the moment of this writing is that it's vetoed. Here's a Google news link to coverage of the bill. Also, a shout out to whoever sent our story around on StumbleUpon: thank you, it got us tons of hits.
Kingston, RI
United States

DPA Media Advisory: Surprise Birthday Party for Gov. Spitzer; Advocates Ask Spitzer to Keep His Campaign Promise to Reform Draconian Drug Laws

MEDIA ADVISORY: June 7, 2007 Contact: Gabriel Sayegh, 646-335-2264 or Tony Newman, 646-335-5384 Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Advocates to Throw a Surprise Birthday Party on Friday at Noon for Gov. Eliot Spitzer Real Reform New York Coalition and Others to Deliver Birthday Cake and Card to Spitzer Asking Him to Keep His Campaign Promise to Reform Draconian Drug Laws New York, NY—The Real Reform New York Coalition will join with many others on Friday, June 8 at noon to throw a surprise birthday party for Gov. Eliot Spitzer outside of his New York City office. Asking him to heed his campaign promise to reform the draconian Rockefeller drug laws, the coalition will celebrate Spitzer’s promise of justice. The Real Reform New York Coalition, made up of advocates, people formerly incarcerated under the Rockefeller drug laws, their family members and supporters, will share cake and party favors with the crowd, and deliver a large birthday card—signed by New York voters—demanding real reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws. While campaigning, Spitzer promised to make Rockefeller Drug Law reform a priority during his term as governor. However, during the first six months in office, he has remained strangely silent about reforming Rockefeller Drug Laws. The Rockefeller drug laws underwent minor changes in 2004 and 2005. These changes proved to be ineffective in changing the racist and non-rehabilitative impact of these laws. The Rockefeller drug laws have filled New York’s state prisons with more than 14,000 people convicted of drug offenses, representing nearly 38 percent of the prison population and costing New Yorkers more than $550 million annually. New York’s Drug Law Reform Act of 2004 (DLRA) lowered some drug sentences but it fell far short of allowing most people serving under the more punitive sentences to apply for shorter terms. The reforms also did not increase the power of judges to place addicts into treatment programs. While advocates and family members are encouraged by the modest reforms, they maintain that the recent reforms have no impact on the majority of people behind bars. Most people behind bars on Rockefeller drug law violations are charged with nonviolent lower-level or class-B felonies. In April, the state Assembly passed A.6663, a bill that would significantly reform the Rockefeller Drug Laws by expanding treatment, reducing harsh sentences for low-level offenses, and increasing judicial discretion. Governor Spitzer has yet to comment on the bill, which is now sitting in the Senate. What: Surprise Birthday Party/Rally for Rockefeller Drug Law Reform Where: Outside Gov. Spitzer’s New York City Office, 633 3rd Ave. When: Friday, June 8, 2007, 12 p.m. to 2 p.m.
New York, NY
United States

Medical marijuana petition approved

United States
Lansing State Journal (MI)

Connecticut Medical Marijuana Bill Passes Legislature, Needs Governor's Signature

Friday night (too late for last week's Chronicle), Connecticut's state senate passed a medical marijuana bill, already passed by the House, and it is now heading to Gov. Jodi Rell's desk to be signed or vetoed. Rell has said she is "torn" over it. DPA's Gabriel Sayegh sent us the following links to media stories about it:
Op-ed by patient Mark Braunstein editorial from Harford Courant (it’s about 90% good; the part about the kid in Rhode Island is bad) Danbury Times editorial Stamford Advocate article Hartford Courant article NY Times AP story
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School

StopTheDrugWar Video Archive