Prohibition

Global: UN-Led Drug War Threatens Peace And Security In 1 In 3 Member States

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A new report from the Count the Costs initiative, ‘The War on Drugs - Undermining Peace and Security,’ finds that in 60 countries around the world national security is fundamentally compromised or threatened by the UN-led global Drug War.

Despite claiming to protect society from the potential harms of drugs, the approach pursued through the United Nations – which involves prohibiting drugs, and punishing users and dealers – has created a criminal market so vast that drug gangs now pose a significant threat to international security.

“This is a classic case of security blowback," said Danny Kushlick, the report’s co-author and head of External Affairs at Transform Drug Policy Foundation. "The UN’s own analysis shows that it is the drug control system that fuels organised crime, and that this in turn threatens the security of as many as one in three UN member states.

"Indeed, a report published tomorrow [Wednesday 2nd March 2016] by the UN International Narcotics Control Board concludes that drug trafficking is creating failed states,” Kushlick said.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime – the body in charge of the global drug control system – has described how the War On Drugs undermines international security: “Global drug control efforts have had a dramatic unintended consequence: a criminal black market of staggering proportions. Organized crime is a threat to security. Criminal organizations have the power to destabilize society and Governments.”

U.S.: HBO's VICE Series Features White Collar Weed

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Season Four of the Emmy-winning television series VICE on HBO includes the segment "White Collar Weed," and will air on Friday, February 26, at 11 pm ET.

The episode will include two segments, "White Collar Weed," hosted by correspondent Hamilton Morris; and "Beating Blindness," hosted by correspondent Isobel Yeung.

Small-scale weed farmers have been fighting to legalize marijuana for generations, but the closer they get to ending the prohibition on cannabis, the closer they get to a new threat -- corporate takeover of their way of life.

VICE's Hamilton Morris travels to California's renowned Emerald Triangle to meet struggling mom-and-pop marijuana growers, then he visits with the investors and entrepreneurs eager to cash in on the next big consumer market -- if it could put the small guys out of business.

See an advanced clip from Friday's "White Collar Weed" segment, below:

U.S.: How Will Marijuana Influence Super Tuesday?

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

As Super Tuesday fast approaches, Kind Financial CEO David Dinenberg decided to take a look at the influence of marijuana on the voters in the affected states.

"Most of the Super Tuesday states are historically Red states, and while that might be true today, many of these states are considering passing laws in favor of medical marijuana," Dinenberg said. "Alabama, Georgia, and Texas are considering legislation.

"Others, such as Vermont and Massachusetts, already have medical marijuana and now are considering recreational," Dinenberg said. "Of course, Alaska and Colorado have recreational use."

Dinenberg pointed out that Donald Trump is leading in the polls in every Super Tuesday state that has passed or is considering medical or recreational marijuana. "Mr. Trump is on record supporting states' rights," Dinenberg said. "While he doesn't favor federal legalization, his pro-states' rights just might be enough to fend off his competitors."

Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz both oppose medical marijuana, according to Dinenberg. "I ask this question to the candidates," he said. "How do you plan on winning an election that 58 percent of the voters disagree with you?"

Vermont: Faith Leaders Support Legislation To End Marijuana Prohibition

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In a letter to state senators on Tuesday, a diverse group of more than a dozen local clergy and faith leaders from across Vermont expressed support for legislation that would end marijuana prohibition in the state and regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana for adult use. The bill, S. 241, is expected to receive a full Senate vote this week.

In the letter, the faith leaders say they believe they have “a moral obligation to support change” because the state’s current marijuana prohibition laws “have caused more harm than good for the people of Vermont” and they are “disproportionately enforced against the poor and people of color.”

“As those who teach compassion and love, we believe the harm associated with marijuana can best be minimized through a regulated system that emphasizes education, prevention, and treatment rather than punishment,” they said. “For these reasons, we support S. 241, the proposal to end marijuana prohibition and regulate marijuana in Vermont.”

S. 241 would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and establish a tightly controlled system of licensed marijuana cultivation sites, testing facilities, and retail stores.

Vermont: Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Marijuana Legalization Proposal

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As full Senate prepares to vote on S. 241, a new VPR/Castleton poll finds 55% of Vermonters support passing such a law and only 32% are opposed

The Green Mountain State could become even greener. The Vermont Senate Committee on Appropriations on Monday approved a bill (4-3) that would end marijuana prohibition in the state and regulate marijuana for adult use. It is now expected to receive a full Senate vote.

“The Senate has worked diligently and deliberately on this legislation,” said Matt Simon, the Montpelier-based New England political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “Most Vermonters believe it’s time to end prohibition and regulate marijuana, and it appears most of their state senators agree. We are hopeful that the Senate will approve this commonsense legislation and send it over to the House for its consideration.”

S. 241 would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and establish a tightly controlled system of licensed marijuana cultivation sites, testing facilities, and retail stores. It would also create a study commission to examine issues such as edible marijuana products and home cultivation, which would not be allowed under the bill.

It would remain illegal to consume marijuana in public or drive under the influence of marijuana. If approved, rulemaking would begin this summer, but the new law would not take effect until January 2018.

U.S.: New Report Shows DEA Failed To Process Drug Evidence Properly

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz on Thursday released a new report on the federal Drug Enforcement Administration which exposes the DEA's failure to comply with rules for tracking, recording, and processing seized drug evidence.

"Unknown quantities of drugs are being left vulnerable to theft because, among other issues, evidence is not being processed in a timely manner, or in some cases, at all," media relations associate Mikayla Hellwich of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) told Hemp News Friday afternoon.

Nearly 70 percent of drug seizures examined by the Inspector General were placed in "temporary storage" for more than the maximum allowed three days, according to the IG's office, reports Eric Katz at Government Executive. During that period, the drug "exhibits" aren't entered into the tracking system.

Additionally, according to the IG's report, the DEA isn't properly tracking the third-party shipping vendors when they are required to send seized drugs for laboratory testing.

"We believe that the longer a shipment is in transit or missing, the higher the likelihood that theft or tampering of the drug exhibit can occur," the report reads.

U.S.: Former Surgeon General Calls For Acceptance Of Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, 82, who served a short-lived tenure with President Bill Clinton, built a reputation for being willing to speak openly about medicinal uses for marijuana. On Saturday morning, Elders opened the International Cannabis Business Conference in San Francisco with a ringing condemnation of America's drug enforcement policies.

Elders called for an end to the federal policy which classifies cannabis as a Schedule I controlled substance with no accepted medical uses, reports Peter Hecht at The Sacramento Bee. That officially makes weed worse than meth or cocaine, according to the federal government.

The former Surgeon General called for increased federal marijuana research, and decriminalization of cannabis for both medicinal and recreational use, heralding a shift from a law enforcement approach to a public health approach.

"We know that prohibition laws did nothing but waste money, waste lives and destroy opportunities," said Elder. "It is not working. And marijuana has been the engine driving the drug war."

Elders spoke at length on the medical benefits of marijuana for pain and nausea, and called for more studies on whether "one of the oldest domesticated crops in the world" could also offer benefits to those suffering from ailments such as shingles and emotional disorders.

She urged more research -- "a health-centered approach for looking at drugs" -- instead of more law enforcement.

Maine: Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Submits Petition Signatures

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The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol on Monday submitted its petitions to state officials in support of a ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Maine.

The campaign collected 103,115 total signatures and needs at least 61,123 valid signatures of registered Maine voters to qualify for the November ballot. Voters from over 400 Maine towns signed the petition.

State Rep. Diane Russell joined the campaign for a news conference in front of the campaign’s headquarters in Falmouth (183 U.S. Route 1). Campaign leaders and volunteers then loaded boxes of petitions onto a truck and delivered them to the Maine Secretary of State in Augusta.

“Over the past eight months, we've talked to more than 100,000 voters across the state, from Kittery to Caribou,” said campaign manager David Boyer. “Most Mainers agree it is time to end the failed policy of marijuana prohibition, and they will have the opportunity to do it this November.”

The proposed initiative would allow adults 21 years of age and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and grow a limited number of marijuana plants in their homes. It would also establish the framework for a tightly regulated system of licensed marijuana retail stores, cultivation facilities, product-manufacturing facilities, and testing facilities, and it would create rules governing the cultivation, testing, transportation, and sale of marijuana.

The initiative would enact a 10 percent tax on marijuana sales.

Vermont: Coalition To Regulate Marijuana To Launch TV Ad Campaign

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Campaign Features State’s Former Top Law Enforcement Official

A new television ad featuring Vermont’s former top law enforcement official speaking out in support of regulating marijuana will begin airing statewide on Tuesday, just as lawmakers are taking a close look at the issue.

The ad — viewable online at https://youtu.be/Fk45yWMjtRc — will appear on WCAX, CNN, Fox News Channel, and MSNBC through Sunday.

In the ad, titled “Time to End Prohibition (Again)”, former Vermont Attorney General Kimberly Cheney draws a comparison between current marijuana prohibition laws and the failed policy of alcohol prohibition.

“We all know that prohibition was a disaster,” Cheney says as images from the era of alcohol prohibition appear on the screen. “It forced alcohol into the underground market, where it was controlled by criminals, and consumers did not know what they were getting. It made us a nation of hypocrites and lawbreakers.

“Marijuana prohibition has caused a lot of the same problems,” according to Cheney. “That’s why most Vermonters agree it’s time for a more sensible approach,” he says, referencing a September Castleton Polling Institute poll that found 56 percent of Vermonters support — and only 34 percent oppose — legalizing and regulating marijuana for adult use.

The ad ends with Cheney urging viewers to contact their state senators and telling them, “It’s time to end prohibition and start regulating marijuana in Vermont.”

U.S.: Congressman Blumenauer Writes Open Letter To President About Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Congressman Earl Blumenauer on Tuesday wrote an open letter advocating marijuana legalization to President Obama in advance of the President's State of the Union speech.

"As you begin your last year in office, I hope there is one more step you take to bring about fundamental change — ending the failed policy of marijuana prohibition and removing marijuana from the list of Controlled Substances," Rep. Blumenauer wrote to the President.

The language chosen by Rep. Blumenauer is very significant, politically speaking. "Removing marijuana from the list of Controlled Substances" is, of course, the only way forward that avoids cannabis being immediately co-opted and controlled by Big Pharma, which is assuredly what will happen if it is moved from Schedule I to Schedule II or III on the Uniformed Controlled Substances Act.

Following is Rep. Blumenauer's letter in its entirety.

An Open Letter to the President

Dear Mr. President:

A State of the Union speech is a unique opportunity to address Congress and the nation about priorities and accomplishments, as well as to highlight critical issues.

I remember another speech in May 2008 when you spoke to over 70,000 Portlanders. The overwhelming feeling of hope coming from the crowd was palpable.

Massachusetts: Judiciary Committee To Hold Hearing On Marijuana Legalization Bill

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The Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing Wednesday on a bill that would legalize and regulate marijuana for adult use.

Dick Evans, chairman of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is supporting a 2016 ballot initiative to end marijuana prohibition in Massachusetts, assisted in drafting H.1561 and will join lead House sponsor Rep. David Rogers to testify in support of the measure.

Rogers and Evans will hold a media availability at 12:30 p.m. ET just outside of the hearing room in the State House, where they will discuss the details of the legislation and the benefits of replacing marijuana prohibition with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol.

“It’s time for Massachusetts to replace the failed policy of marijuana prohibition with a more sensible system in which marijuana is regulated similarly to alcohol,” Evans said. “We support this legislative effort, but we are also committed to moving forward with the initiative so that voters can take over if the Legislature fails to act.

“Whether it happens in the legislature or at the ballot box, the result will be the same,” Evans said. “Our communities will be safer because marijuana will be produced and sold by licensed businesses instead of criminals in the underground market.

Michigan: Group Forms To Repeal Marijuana Prohibition

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A ballot question committee has been formed to make use of the cannabis/hemp plant legal in Michigan and repeal marijuana prohibition.

Abrogate Prohibition Michigan announced it "is driven by the need to repair one of the most ineffective and damaging policies introduced by legislators in the last 50 years, the prohibition of the Cannabis/Hemp plant."

"Abrogate Prohibition Michigan is very different from all other efforts because the group is proposing an amendment to the State Constitution repealing all prohibitions on the Cannabis/Hemp plant for use by the people, business, and industries alike," the prepared statement reads. "The proposal does not allow for any excise/luxury/sin taxes, nor allow fines or any other penalties whatsoever for the use of the Cannabis/Hemp plant by anyone in the state."

Abrogate Prohibition Michigan's petition was approved by the Board of Canvassers on Dec. 29th, 2015, and the group said it is prepared to kick off the signature campaign in about one week, finishing the 180-day campaign just after the July 4th Independence Day Holiday, in time for voters to address the issue in the 2016 Elections.

Louisiana: Sentencing Reprieve Requested For Man Given 13 Years For 2 Joints

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The Drug Policy Alliance on Tuesday formally requested Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to grant Bernard Noble a gubernatorial reprieve and release him from prison, where he has served more than four years behind bars having been sentenced to a term of 13.3 years of hard labor without the opportunity for parole for possessing the equivalent of two marijuana cigarettes.

Pursuant to Article IV, Section 5 of the Louisiana Constitution, the Governor has the absolute power to issue reprieves of persons convicted of crimes against the state. Drug Policy Alliance has written Governor Jindal asking him to exercise his power of office by staying Noble’s unjust sentence and setting him free.

Legislation signed into law by Governor Jindal earlier this year would make Noble a free man today had it been the law at the time of his offense. Because the new law is not retroactive in its application, a gubernatorial reprieve is required for Noble’s release. Noble has been a model prisoner during his incarceration.

Back in March, Gov. Jindal denied a clemency request from Noble; the reason given was that Noble hadn't yet served 10 years in prison.

Australia: 'Stoner Sloth' Anti-Marijuana Campaign Backfires, Draws Widespread Ridicule

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

An anti-marijuana ad campaign in Australia featuring a Stoner Sloth has drawn widespread criticism and online ridicule; the campaign is being derided as a laughable failure.

The Stoner Sloth campaign, paid for by the New South Wales government with taxpayer money, was supposed to convince teens not to smoke marijuana, reports the BBC. The Stoner Sloth character is portrayed as being unable to cope with various social situations after getting fucked up.

The three original videos show Stoner Sloth acting dopey and reacting slowly to the people around, who are apparently disgusted by Stoner Sloth's dull-wittedness. "You're Worse On Weed," we are told by the ads.

Even anti-marijuana groups in Australia attacked the lameness of the campaign. “While we wish the NSW Government luck in future cannabis campaigns, the current Stoner Sloth campaign doesn't reflect NCPIC views on how cannabis harms campaigns should be approached,” sniffed the National Cannabis Prevention and Information Centre, reports Mark Molloy at The Telegraph.

The NCPIC's logo was used to endorse the campaign, but it was quick to distance itself, claiming it had "no input" into the final ad.

The top trending Twitter hashtag in Australia on Saturday was #stonersloth, and it was still trending as of Monday.

U.S.: President Obama Grants Clemency To 95 People

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Clemencies Come As Congress Looks More Likely Than Ever To Pass Sentencing Reform

Drug Policy Alliance: The President Is Acting; Congress Must Step Up Too

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

President Barack Obama on Friday commuted the sentences of 95 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses. This follows the commutation of 45 people in July, 22 people in March, and 8 people in December of 2014. All of those who received commutations on Friday were serving time in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

In taking this step, the President has now issued 170 commutations, the vast majority to non-violent offenders sentenced for drug law violations under draconian sentencing laws. President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

Two marijuana lifers were among those whose sentences were commuted by the President on Friday.

U.S.: DOJ Asks Supreme Court To Dismiss Suit Against Colorado Marijuana Legalization

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The U.S. Solicitor General, on behalf of the federal Department of Justice, on Wednesday filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to dismiss a lawsuit that the neighboring states of Nebraska and Oklahoma filed against Colorado's marijuana legalization law.

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., in the brief, argues that the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) "does not preempt a 'State law on the same subject matter' as the CSA's control and enforcement provisions 'unless there is a positive conflict' between federal and state law 'so that the two cannot consistently stand together.'

"Here, for example, it is conceivable that the Court could conclude that whether Colorado's scheme creates a 'positive conflict' with the CSA ultimately turns on, among other factors, the practical efficacy of Colorado's regulatory system in preventing or deterring interstate marijuana trafficking," the Solicitor General -- whose duty it is to represent the federal government before the Supreme Court -- wrote.

“This is the right move by the Obama administration," said Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority. "Colorado and a growing number of states have decided to move away from decades of failed prohibition laws, and so far things seem to be working out as planned.

U.S.: DOJ Will Continue To Be Prohibited From Interfering In State Medical Marijuana Laws

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Justice Department will continue to be prohibited from interfering in state medical marijuana laws under the new federal spending bill unveiled late Tuesday night.

The compromise legislation includes a provision that is intended to prevent the department, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), from using funds to arrest or prosecute patients, caregivers, and businesses that are acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. It stems from an amendment sponsored by Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA) that was first approved in the House of Representatives in May 2014 and included in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 signed by President Obama last December.

“The renewal of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment suggests most members of Congress are ready to end the federal government’s war on medical marijuana,” said Robert Capecchi, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “There’s a growing sentiment that the Justice Department should not be using taxpayer dollars to arrest and prosecute people who are following their states’ medical marijuana laws.”

Kentucky: Cannabis Freedom Act Filed To Legalize Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

State Senator Perry B. Clark of Louisville on Friday said he has pre-filed the Cannabis Freedom Act, which would legalize and regulate the use of marijuana in Kentucky similarly to alcohol.

The bill would repeal the Commonwealth's current prohibition on cannabis cultivation, possession and sales, according to a press release from Senator Clark, reports Lex18.com.

Clark said the bill would replace prohibition with a framework that would "promote public safety and responsible cannabis consumption by persons over 21 years of age."

"No one has adequately answered the question as to why cannabis is illegal," Sen. Clark said. "We were sold a bill of goods. We were bamboozled.

"It is abundantly clear to me that cannabis, while being much less harmful, should be treated the same as alcohol," said Sen. Clark. "The Cannabis Freedom Act is an outline on how to tax and regulate the sale of marijuana to adults 21 and older in Kentucky. It is time for this discussion in our Commonwealth."

"Few believe that anyone should be incarcerated where the cannabis plant is involved," Clark said. "Most of my life we have expended tax dollars pursuing a ban on a plant. Wasted dollars they were.

Texas: Marijuana Possession Could Soon Get Tickets, Not Arrests, In Dallas

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Dallas Police Chief David Brown said he has mixed feelings about allowing his officers to write tickets instead of arresting people who are caught with small amounts of marijuana. But he said the approach is "just so damn practical."

Police officers and city council members discussed the move at Tuesday's public safety committee meeting of the Dallas City Council, reports Melissa Repko at The Dallas Morning News. The "cite and release" pilot program would mean citations for marijuana possession, rather than arrests.

The public safety committee voted to refer the idea to the entire City Council without a recommendation.

A Texas state law passed in 2007 allows cops to issue citations instead of making arrests for some minor offenses, including possession of small amounts of cannabis. The approach is intended to save time and money by keeping minor offenders out of jail and allowing cops to remain on the streets; it doesn't change the official penalty for the crime.

Using cite and release is a "no brainer" that would help save time and lower 911 call response times, said council member Philip Kingston. He said it would allow cops to focus on public safety priorities.

Kingston said he'd legalized marijuana if he could, comparing marijuana possession to jay-walking in terms of seriousness.

U.S.: Some Members Of Congress Ready To Call It Quits On Marijuana Eradication

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Drug Enforcement Administration is continuing its losing streak. Last week, 12 House members led by Democrat Ted Lieu of California wrote to House leadership asking for a provision in an upcoming spending bill that would strip half the funds from the DEA's Cannabis Eradication Program and instead spend that money on programs that "play a far more useful role in promoting the safety and economic prosperity of the American people": domestic violence prevention and overall spending reduction.

The DEA pisses away about $18 million a year in coordination with state and local authorities to pull up marijuana plants being grown both indoors and outdoors. The ineffectual program has been plagued with scandal, controversy, and ridicule. In the mid-2000s, it was revealed that most of the "marijuana" plants pulled up in the program were actually ditchweed, feral hemp plants that contain almost no THC, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post.

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