Prohibition

New York: Groups To Gather In Support Of DA's Proposal To Stop Prosecuting Minor Marijuana Cases

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Community Groups, Elected Officials Support Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson’s Proposal to Stop Prosecuting Low-Level Cannabis Possession Cases

Major Step Will Dramatically Reduce the Number of People in Brooklyn Unfairly Saddled with Lifelong Criminal Records
Advocates, Community Groups Applaud DA Thompson for His Leadership and Demand Reform at City Hall and in Albany

Elected officials, community members and the coalition, New Yorkers for Public Health & Safety, on Friday at 11 a.m. will rally on the steps of Brooklyn’s Borough Hall to applaud DA Ken Thompson’s proposal to stop prosecuting people arrested for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

DA Thompson’s office hopes that “individuals, and especially young people of color, do not become unfairly burdened and stigmatized by involvement in the criminal justice system for engaging in nonviolent conduct that poses no threat of harm to persons or property,” according to The New York Times. The Times obtained a confidential policy memo that was sent by the district attorney to NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton.

What: Press Conference about Marijuana Arrests in Brooklyn

When: Friday, April 25th 11am

Where: Steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall – 209 Joralemon Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Montana: Ban On All Marijuana Proposed For November Ballot

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Mormon car dealer from Billings, Montana, is proposing a ballot measure to completely ban marijuana in the Big Sky State.

Steve Zabawa of the Rimrock Auto Group is behind a proposal which would change Montana state law to say that any drug which the federal Controlled Substances Act classifies as Schedule I "may not be legally possessed, received, transferred, manufactured, cultivated, trafficked, transported, or used in Montana," reports the Associated Press.

Zabawa, active locally in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, claims the proposal aims to eliminate the discrepancy between federal and state law in possessing and using marijuana. But it what it would do is eliminate Montana's medical marijuana law, which was approved by an overwhelming 62 percent of voters statewide back in 2004. (The law has since been gutted, and all but repealed, by reactionary conservative Republican lawmakers who hold a majority in the Legislature.)

About 8,300 medical marijuana patients are still registered in Montana, even under the strict new rules. But Zabawa, whose dealerships include Subaru, Mercedes Benz, Cadillac, and Volkswagen franchises, says if federal law says marijuana is an illegal drug, it should be illegal in Montana.

U.S.: Want Prison Reform? Start by Releasing Nonviolent Drug Offenders Serving Life Sentences

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What do a former Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, an Illinois truck mechanic, and a Southern California teacher have in common? They are all serving life sentences in federal prisons for nonviolent marijuana offenses.

Most of the public remains unaware that right here, right now, in these United States, we have prisoners serving life or de facto life sentences for nonviolent cannabis offenses. For some, like 1986 Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Randy Lanier and Chicago truck mechanic Craig Cesal, these were first offenses.

Lanier, Cesal, and others like Paul Free, Larry Duke and George Martorano, are part of an aging prison population who have been incarcerated for decades for victimless crimes involving a plant states are legalizing.

A new Change.org petition, penned by Beth Curtis of LifeForPot.com, whose brother John Knock is one of these prisoners, offers an easy way the President cold remedy the situation: Grant Mass Clemency to Nonviolent Drug Offenders Serving Life Sentences. The petition models its suggestion on historical mass clemencies like those granted by Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter to Selective Service Act violators during the Vietnam War. Systemic clemency has been used frequently throughout the history of our country and is Presidential tool and responsibility that is usually used to restore justice when retribution has caused a rift in the social fabric. The war on drugs is our contemporary example of this excess.

U.S.: Obama Plans Clemency For 'Hundreds, Perhaps Thousands' Sentenced for Drug Law Violations

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Follows on Footsteps of White House’s Recent Call For Clemency Candidates

Drug Policy Alliance: Positive Step, But Comprehensive Sentencing Reform Is Needed to Prevent More Mass Injustice

A White House official has told Yahoo News that President Obama is prepared to use his pardon power to grant clemency to “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of people who have been jailed for nonviolent drug crimes.

The report said that the administration is making moves that will help it handle the increase in petitions that Mr. Obama is planning to sign off on before he leaves office. Last Tuesday, White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler said Obama has directed the Justice Department to improve its clemency recommendation process and recruit more applications from convicts.

The White House’s new moves would follow in the footsteps of a January announcement that the Obama administration would taking the unprecedented step of encouraging defense lawyers to suggest inmates whom the president might let out of prison early, as part of its effort to curtail severe penalties in low-level drug cases.

Louisiana: Man Given 13 Year Prison Sentence For Two Joints

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Amicus brief by Drug Policy Alliance Highlights Why Sentence is Cruel & Unusual and Urges Louisiana Supreme Court to Review Mr. Noble’s Sentence

The Drug Policy Alliance on Wednesday filed an amicus brief urging the Louisiana Supreme Court to review the egregious prison sentence of Bernard Noble, a 48-year old man who was sentenced to 13.3 years of hard labor in prison without the opportunity for parole for possessing the equivalent of two marijuana cigarettes.

Two cops spotted Noble riding a bicycle down South Miro Street in New Orleans in 2010, reports Bruce Barcott at Rolling Stone. They ordered Noble to stop, and frisked him. They found a small bag containing less than three grams of marijuana.

Noble’s original sentencing judge considered the 13 and a third-year sentence egregious and imposed a sentence of five years of hard labor. But the Orleans Parish District Attorney wasn’t satisfied with this punishment and appealed the sentence. Ultimately, the district attorney sought and obtained a prison term of close to triple the sentence imposed by the original sentencing judge.

“Thirteen years in prison for two joints is obscene,” said Daniel Abrahamson, director of the Office of Legal Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and a lead author of the brief.

New Jersey: Residents More Supportive Of Marijuana Decriminalization Than Ever Before

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Support among New Jersey residents for decriminalizing marijuana is higher than ever before, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll released on Tuesday.

An overwhelming majority, about 66 percent, of residents believe penalties for marijuana use should be reduced, according to the poll. That number is up from 58 percent in 2011 and 40 percent in 1972, reports Andrew George at NJ Biz. Sixty-five percent said penalties should be eliminated altogether.

Twenty-nine percent of residents said they oppose marijuana decrim.

Outright legalization of marijuana is supported by 49 percent, with 48 percent opposed.

Back in 1972, just 34 percent of adults wanted to get rid of penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana, while 56 percent did not, reports Matt Friedman at The Star-Ledger.

The poll comes about a month after state Senator Nicholas Scutari (D-Union) introduced a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana like alcohol in New Jersey.

U.S.: Atty. Gen. Holder 'Cautiously Optimistic' About Legalization; Admits He's Tried Weed

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said he is "cautiously optimistic" about marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington state, but added it's tough to predict where legalization will be in 10 years. In the same interview, Holder, the nation's top law enforcement official, admitted he had tried pot in college.

"I think there might have been a burst of feeling that what happened in Washington and Colorado was going to be soon replicated across the country," Holder told Ryan J. Reilly of The Huffington Post. "I'm not sure that is necessarily the case.

"I think a lot of states are going to be looking to see what happens in Washington, what happens in Colorado before those decisions are made in substantial parts of the country," he said.

The Department of Justice has allowed marijuana legalization to go forward in the two states where votes chose that course back in November 2012, and has issued guidance to federal prosecutors that is intended to open up banking services for cannabis businesses that are legal under state law.

U.S.: Marijuana Use Changes The Brain, New Study Says

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Young adults who smoke marijuana occasionally show changes in two key areas of their brains related to emotion, motivation and decision making, with the degree of changes related to the amount of cannabis used per week, according to a new study by researchers in Boston. Other scientists quickly pointed out that the research was partially sponsored by the federal agency charged with keeping marijuana illegal.

The study is believed to be the first which indicates such changes in the the brains of young, casual marijuana users, reports Kay Lazar at The Boston Globe.

The scientists did not study whether the brain changes were related to any declines in brain function. Any speculation by the scientists themselves, therefore, or especially by journalists who sensationalize the findings, about declines in cognition or functionality is therefore completely unsupported by any evidence.

But the scientists, unfortunately including lead author Jodi Gilman, did exactly that.

U.S.: Religious Leaders Release Easter Statement Calling For End To War On Drugs

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Wednesday Teleconference: Christian Leaders Discuss Role of Faith in Developing Alternatives to Criminalization of Drug Use

A broad coalition of Christian leaders has taken the occasion of the holiest day on the Christian calendar to release a statement calling for the end of the War On Drugs and mass incarceration.

“The cross that faith leaders are imploring others to take up is this unjust, and immoral war on drugs and mass incarceration of the poor. In particular, poor black and brown young adults whose futures are being ruined at the most critical point in their lives,” said Reverend John E. Jackson of the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.

“We are guided by our religious principles to serve those in need and give voice to those who have been marginalized and stigmatized by unjust policies,” said Reverend Edwin Sanders, who is a board member of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the Senior Servant for the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, Tennessee. "We cannot sit silently while a misguided war is waged on entire communities, ostensibly under the guise of combating the very real harms of drug abuse. The war on drugs has become a costly, ineffective and unjust failure."

The statement makes the following recommendations:

Maryland: 2 In 1 Day - 21st State To Allow Medical Marijuana, 18th State To Decriminalize Possession

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Gov. Martin O’Malley signs SB 923/HB 881, which would allow patients with serious illnesses to access medical marijuana; he will also sign SB 364 Monday, making possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil offense

Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill into law Monday making Maryland the 21st state in the nation to allow medical marijuana. He will also sign a bill Monday making Maryland the 18th state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana.

“We applaud Gov. O’Malley for signing these important bills into law,” said Rachelle Yeung, a legislative analyst for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). “The progress we’re seeing in Maryland is emblematic of what is taking place nationwide. Most Marylanders, like most Americans, are fed up with outdated marijuana prohibition policies and ready to start taking a more sensible approach.”

Senate Bill 923 and House Bill 881 are identical bills that allow state residents suffering from certain qualifying conditions to use medical marijuana if their doctors recommend it. Possession limits and regulations governing cultivation and dispensary facilities will be determined by a state-sanctioned commission prior to implementation. The measure will officially go into effect on June 1.

Alabama: Coloradans Say 'Marijuana Profiling' Prompts Traffic Stop

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Does the fact that marijuana is legal in Colorado mean motorists from the Centennial State are subject to traffic stops merely because of their license plates? A couple who were headed for a stay on the Florida coast when they were pulled over on an Alabama highway say they were the victims of "marijuana profiling."

Sandra Lenga, 65, and her husband, 71, were driving to St. Augustine, Florida, at the end of January when their route took them through northeast Alabama, heading towards Birmingham, reports Kelsey Stein at Al.com. When they saw blue lights flashing and moved into the left lane, two law enforcement vehicles followed them and pulled them over "for changing lanes too slowly," reports Michael Roberts at Denver Westword.

But the deputies said they weren't going to write a traffic ticket. What they did do, was walk their drug-detecting dogs around the couple's car. One dog supposedly alerted on the gas cap, prompting a more aggressive search, during which deputies went through the bags and boxes in the trunk.

Lenga and her husband were separated for questioning by the deputies. She told one of them that she hadn't touched marijuana "since college in the 1960s."

As they were apparently being detained, one deputy let it slip that the Lengas "matched the profile of drug smugglers," to Sandra Lenga's chagrin.

U.S.: Rev. Sharpton's National Action Network Convention To Address Failed Drug War

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President Obama, AG Holder, NY Gov. Cuomo, NYC Mayor DeBlasio and DPA’s Art Way to Speak at National Action Network (NAN) Convention April 9-14

Convention to Address Major Civil Rights Issues, Including the Failed Drug War and Mass Incarceration

President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio will all join Reverend Al Sharpton at his National Action Network’s annual national convention being held April 9-12 in New York, NY.

The conference is being billed as the largest civil rights convening of the year bringing the nation’s top activists, political strategists and leading academia together to create an action plan for a civil rights agenda. Participants will address key policy issues such as jobs, voter ID and immigration; which will be key in this midterm election year.

The conference is also focusing on the failed drug war and mass incarceration. A panel called “Up in Smoke: Banning of Menthol, Legalization of Marijuana & Criminalization of African Americans” will address racial justice and the war on drugs.

"We are at a critical point where momentum to end the drug war and mass incarceration is gaining traction,” said Art Way, Senior Policy Manager, Colorado, of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “It's not time to let up, it's time to ramp up."

Texas: Woman Jailed After Calling Cops To Complain About Low Quality Marijuana

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

There aren't many good options when you buy a bad sack of black market marijuana. As Evelyn Hamilton of Lufkin, Texas, found out on Monday, calling the cops is one of the worst.

Lufkin Police arrested Hamilton, 37, after she called them to complain about some low-quality marijuana she had bought from a dealer, reports The Associated Press.

An officer went to Hamilton's home after she called the police objecting that her cannabis was substandard, according to Lufkin Police Sgt. David Casper.

When the officer asked if Evelyn still had the weed, she pulled it out of her bra, according to Sgt. Casper, just like she didn't have a care in the world.

Hamilton told the officer she had just spent $40 on "seeds and residue." When she got no satisfaction from the dealer or his family, she said she called the cops.

She was arrested on Friday on a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Photo of Evelyn Hamilton: AP/Angelina County Jail

U.S.: Atty. Gen. Holder Says It's Unclear Whether Feds Can Force States To Outlaw Marijuana

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Despite Recent Pledge to Work with Congress, Refuses to Initiate Process to Reschedule Marijuana

Team Established to Review Nonviolent, Low-Level Drug Offender Candidates for Clemency

Attorney General Eric Holder on Tuesday appeared before the House Judiciary Committee for an oversight hearing in which he stated that federal law does not always trump state law, declined to initiate the process to reschedule marijuana and reaffirmed his commitment to granting clemency to low-level nonviolent drug offenders with unduly harsh sentences.

Under questioning by Rep. Jason Smith (R-Missouri), who asked the Attorney General whether federal law trumps state law when the two are in conflict, Holder said that while federal law is supreme in many matters, it is “an interesting question” whether the federal government can force a state to criminalize a particular behavior.

“I am hopeful that as public opinion continues to shift in favor of marijuana reform, the White House will one day have the courage to take a larger role in the push to legalization,” said Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) Executive Director Major Neill Franklin (Ret.). "Until then, states remain the innovators, exercising their constitutionally protected police powers to lead the charge toward sensible change that at least the administration has the good sense to follow."

New York: Marijuana Most Prominent Issue Facing Legislature, Governor

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana has become the most prominent issue faced by New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and state lawmakers in the second half of the 2014 session, according to political observers, with advocates pushing to make the Empire State the 21st to legalize cannabis for medicinal uses.

Gov. Cuomo remains stubbornly opposed to a functional medical marijuana program, even as a growing number of legislators have lined up in support, reports Yancey Roy at Newsday.

Others, such as Bay Shore Republican Senator Phil Boyle, are pushing for a limited CBD-only bill which would legalize concentrated oils derived from marijuana, but would prohibit smokable cannabis flowers.

Cuomo is up for reelection and is reportedly considering a 2016 Presidential run. He slightly shifted his position this year, in the face of overwhelming support for medicinal cannabis, by proposing an extremely limited medical marijuana research program.

His plan would revive an obscure 1980 law to begin a medical marijuana research program in which 20 New York hospitals could dispense medicinal cannabis under strict conditions. The program would use marijuana seized in drug busts, according to Cuomo.

"I'm not proposing a law, so it's not the Legislature telling me what I have to do," Gov. Cuomo said. "And that gives me great comfort because if it goes bad, we can correct or improve all within our own control."

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