San Jose's Joseph McNamara Leaves Behind a Remarkable Legacy of Public Service and Activism
Retired police chief Joseph McNamara, who fought to end the War On Drugs, died on Friday, September 19 at the age of 79. His 35-year law enforcement career began in 1956 as a beat cop for the New York City Police Department.
He would later become a criminal justice fellow at Harvard, where he focused on criminal justice research and methodology. During this time McNamara took leave from police work to obtain a doctorate in Public Administration, and was appointed deputy inspector of crime analysis in New York City upon his return.
McNamara spoke out publicly against the Drug War long before the issue had come to the political forefront. He was a speaker and advisory board member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officials opposed to the War On Drugs.
“When you’re telling cops that they’re soldiers in a Drug War, you’re destroying the whole concept of the citizen peace officer, a peace officer whose fundamental duty is to protect life and be a community servant,” McNamara said at a presentation for the International Conference on Drug Policy Reform in 1995.
By Steve Elliott
Marijuana should be legalized, taxed, and regulated, and the tax revenues should fund treatment programs for harder drugs, the police chief in Madison, Wisconsin, said on Wednesday.
Madison Police Chief Mike Koval endorsed marijuana legalization during an interview with the State Journal about data showing African Americans in Madison were arrested or cited for marijuana at about 12 times the rate for whites in the city.
Efforts to enforce the marijuana laws are an "abject failure," Chief Koval said, adding the same is true of the broader War On Drugs. "We've done such an abysmal job using marijuana as a centerpiece of drug enforcement, that it's time to reorder and triage the necessities of what's more important now," he said.
Koval said it's time for Wisconsin to consider doing as Colorado and Washington did in legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis.
The police chief said he would like to see Wisconsin "acknowledge the failure" of marijuana prohibition and focus instead on the "infinite amount of challenges" posed by harder drugs such as heroin. Taxes from marijuana sales, Koval said, would create revenue for the state which could be used to fund drug treatment programs and expand the capacity of drug courts which divert users from the criminal justice system.
By Steve Elliott
Local residents in Nimbin, New South Wales, Australia were outraged on Thursday at a town-wide marijuana raid in which drug-detecting dogs searched people for marijuana.
A forensics van was reportedly on hand to perform on-the-spot drug testing, and a number of local businesses were raided, reports Taylor Auerbach at the Daily Telegraph.
Nimbin, a counterculture hippie haven, is still reeling from a devastating fire last month that destroyed four of the town's most historic buildings; locals were very upset with the huge police presence.
"Some people are absolutely disgusted, some people think it's a joke, some people think it's an intrusion," said Mac McMahon of the Nimbin Hemp Embassy. "They're an unwelcome presence in the small community. It's over the top."
"They seem to be carting off tourists and locals who buy a little bit of marijuana off the street," one local resident said.
The raids were part of "Operation Oleary," which police claimed they established "following concerns from the local community." More than 70 police were involved in the raids, with at least eight people being arrested.
Cops confiscated two kilograms of cannabis following raids at a cafe and a bookstore. One police spokesman denied they were performing on-the-spot drug tests.
Groups Come Together to End Marijuana Prohibition, Increase Cannabis Research and Promote a Compassionate Health Care Response to Drug Use and Addiction
Moms, Cops, Nurses & Docs Present a Panel Discussion at the Marijuana for Medical Professionals Conference in Denver, Colorado on Sept. 11
Moms United to End the War on Drugs is bringing together a coalition of family members, health care professionals and criminal justice professionals to end cannabis prohibition that has been so destructive to our families and communities.
Moms, Cops, Nurses & Docs will be holding a panel discussion at the Sherman Street Event Center in Denver, Colorado (1770 Sherman Street) on Thursday, September 11, at the Exhibit Hall Stage at 12:30 pm. Speakers include Mary Lynn Mathre from American Cannabis Nurses Association; Dr. Jeff Hergenrather from the Society of Cannabis Clinicians; Theresa Daniello from Moms United to End the War on Drugs; and Leonard Frieling from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP).
In 1937, laws were put into place prohibiting the use of cannabis in the United States. In the past decade, more than six million Americans have been arrested on marijuana charges. For several decades, people who use drugs and people with addictive illness have been banished to the criminal justice system.
Nearly half of all prisoners in state prisons are locked up for a non-violent offense. Every year 750,000 people are arrested for marijuana, wasting law enforcement resources and throwing non-violent offenders into the criminal justice system.
In the wake of tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, that focused the public’s attention on the increasing militarization of police, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Tuesday held a hearing on police militarization. Retired Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper, who oversaw and now regrets his role in the militaristic response to the Seattle WTO protests in 1999, has been in consultation with the Committee and has submitted written testimony which appears in its entirety below.
Meanwhile, in New York City, a group of dignitaries including former U.S. Secretary of State George P. Shultz, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the former presidents or prime ministers of Brazil, Switzerland, Colombia, Chile, Portugal, Poland, Greece and Mexico, and a long list of other top leaders are meeting this morning to release a new report calling for putting public health and safety first through the decriminalization of drug use and possession and the institution of legalized regulation of drug markets.
“The drug war is inextricably linked to most major issues of our time, from immigration to police militarization,” said Major Neill Franklin (Ret.), executive director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), a group of law enforcement officers opposed to the War On Drugs. "It’s the cause of much of the violence on our streets and in communities worldwide.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy on Tuesday released a new, groundbreaking report at a press conference in New York City. The event was live-streamed and speakers included Richard Branson, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Colombian President César Gaviria, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss and others.
The report reflects a new evolution in the thinking of the Commissioners, who reiterate their demands for decriminalization, alternatives to incarceration, and greater emphasis on public health approaches – and now also call for permitting the legal regulation of psychoactive substances. The Commission is the most distinguished group of high-level leaders to ever call for such far-reaching changes.
“When the Commission released its initial report just three years ago, few expected its recommendations to be embraced anytime soon by current presidents," said Drug Policy Alliance Executive Director Ethan Nadelmann. "But that’s exactly what happened, with Colombian President Santos and Guatemala President Perez-Molina speaking out boldly, former Mexican President Calderon calling on the United Nations to reassess the prohibitionist approach to drugs, and Uruguayan President Mujica approving the first national law to legally regulate cannabis.
"Meanwhile, one Commission member, former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, has opened up the drug policy debate in West Africa, recruiting some of the region’s most distinguished figures," Nadelmann said.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy on Tuesday will release Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work, a new, groundbreaking report at a press conference in New York City.
The event will be live-streamed and speakers include former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, former Colombian President César Gaviria, former Swiss President Ruth Dreifuss, Richard Branson and others.
The Commissioners will then meet with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and UN Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson in the afternoon following the press conference.
The report reflects the evolution in the thinking of the Commissioners, who reiterate their demands for decriminalization, alternatives to incarceration, and greater emphasis on public health approaches and now also call for permitting the legal regulation of psychoactive substances. The Commission is the most distinguished group of high-level leaders to ever call for such far-reaching changes.
In 2011, the Commission’s initial report broke new ground in both advancing and globalizing the debate over drug prohibition and its alternatives. Saying the time had come to “break the taboo,” it condemned the Drug War as a failure and recommended major reforms of the global drug prohibition regime.
By Steve Elliott
Timothy Sturgis just wanted to be left alone to grow his marijuana. When the time came, Sturgis, 42, on Tuesday night shot himself after a two-hour standoff with law enforcement.
Sturgis kept a loaded gun in every room of his home in Ashille, reports Holly Zachariah at The Columbus Dispatch
A German shepherd guarded the 21 acres surrounding a well-hidden farmhouse, and a Doberman pinscher kept wath inside. An alarm at the end of the long driveway was triggered whenever anyone approached.
Sturgis shot himself after a standoff in the woods and thick, 14-foot-high weeds and brush behind his home at 15240 Lockbourne Eastern Road in Ashville. He was pronounced dead at 8:56 p.m. on Tuesday night.
"Just talked to him Sunday, always a friendly guy asking how things were going," commented "ThisNameWasntTaken" on Topix.com. "Total shock."
Bush Held Up Bag of Crack Said to be Bought in Front of White House, Turned Out Drug Seller Was Set Up for the Speech
Bush’s Crack Speech Defined America’s Punitive Drug War Approach of 1980s & 90s
25 Years Later Voters and Elected Officials in Both Parties Rolling Back Punitive Drug Policies
On September 5, 1989, President George H.W. Bush gave a speech from the Oval Office that defined a generation. Declaring an escalation of the War On Drugs, Bush held up a bag of crack cocaine that he said undercover agents bought in the park across the street from the White House.
It later turned out that federal agents lured someone to the park to sell crack just so the President could say it was bought from in front of the White House (the crack seller did not even know where the White House was and had to ask for directions).
By Steve Elliott
A Canadian man who was one of New York's biggest marijuana suppliers, and who was known as the "Pot Playboy," was sentenced on Wednesday to 27 years in prison for leading a $1 billion international drug trafficking enterprise, according to prosecutors.
Jimmy Cournoyer pleaded guilty in May 2013 to money laundering charges, along with conspiracy to manufacture and distribute marijuana and cocaine, reports the Associated Press. The 34-year-old native of Laval, Quebec was sentenced in Brooklyn federal court.
Gerald McMahon, Courtnoyer's lawyer, said prosecutors dropped a more serious charge of being a drug kingpin which carries an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole, reports Allan Woods at The Star.
His sentence will also involve him forfeiting $1 billion to the U.S. government along with $11 million in drug proceeds, prosecutors said in a statement which thanked 19 police departments including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Cournoyer's organization, based in Montreal, had ties to international drug cartels and organized crime, prosecutors claimed. His lifestyle of hanging out with celebrities like Leonard DiCaprio included a Brazilian supermodel girlfriend and a super-expensive Bugatti Venyon automobile.
By Steve Elliott
Four men have been beheaded by sword after being convicted of smuggling marijuana into Saudri Arabia, the interior ministry announced on Monday.
The government-run SPA news organization identified the Saudi men as two sets of brothers, Hadi and Awad al-Motleq, and Mufarraj and Ali al-Yami, reports Malta Today.
The four men were beheaded at Najran, a city in southwestern Saudi Arabia, after they were found guilty of smuggling "a large quantity of hashish" into the country. The government didn't say when the executions took place.
The four beheadings raised to 32 the number of executions announced so far this year in Saudi Arabia, according to the AFP news agency. Amnesty International denounced what it called a "disturbing surge" in executions there.
"The Saudi Arabian authorities must halt all executions," Amnesty said, adding that the executions of the two sets of brothers occurred "reportedly on the basis of forced confessions extracted through torture."
The latest executions "bring the number of state killings in Saudi Arabia in the past two weeks to 17 -- a rate of more than one execution per day," the organization said.
Similar proposals are also likely to appear on ballots in Lewiston and York
The South Portland City Council on Monday voted unanimously to place a measure on the November ballot that would make private marijuana possession legal for adults within city limits.
Citizens for a Safer Maine collected more than 1,500 signatures to get the measure in front of the council, which had the options of adopting it or placing it on the ballot. Just 959 valid signatures of registered city voters were required. A similar measure has qualified for the ballot in Lewiston, and Citizens for a Safer Maine is in the process of collecting the final signatures needed to place one on the ballot in York.
The South Portland initiative would make it legal for adults 21 years of age and older to privately possess up to one ounce of marijuana. It would remain illegal to consume or display marijuana in public. The measure also includes a statement in support of regulating and taxing marijuana like alcohol at the state level.
“Voters will have the chance to take a bite out of marijuana prohibition in South Portland this November,” said Marijuana Policy Project Maine political director David Boyer. “This is a great opportunity to have an open and honest public dialogue about this important issue. In particular, we hope to continue the conversation about the relative safety of marijuana compared to alcohol.
First Time in New Mexico History People will Vote on Marijuana Reform
The Santa Fe City Clerk on Monday announced the Reducing Marijuana Penalties Campaign submitted enough valid signatures to qualify for the city's citizen initiative process setting the stage to give voters in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a vote on reducing marijuana penalties.
The Reducing Marijuana Penalties Campaign, headed by Drug Policy Action and ProgressNow NM, submitted close to 11,000 signatures in 52 days, more than twice the number needed to qualify for the ballot. The initiative now goes before the City Council where the governing body has two options, vote for the ordinance change outright or send the initiative to the people for a vote.
Not only will this be the first time in history that New Mexico's voters will cast their ballots on reforming marijuana laws, it is the first time that the people of Santa Fe brought forth an issue via the City’s citizen initiative process. The Santa Fe city charter permits voters to petition their government for changes to city ordinances, including those relating to marijuana.
By Steve Elliott
With thousands of incarcerated nonviolent drug offenders symbolizing the futility of the "War On Drugs," even some of the most ardent supporters of the punitive approach are starting to view the issue of marijuana use through a public health perspective, rather than from a criminal justice point of view.
That shift is evident at the infamous White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, the dreaded ONDCP, which for decades has been the command center of the federal War On Drugs, reports Christopher Ingraham at The Washington Post. The ONDCP now uses words like "balance" as key components of federal drug control strategy.
"Drug addiction is not a moral failing but rather a disease of the brain that can be prevented and treated," the ONDCP website reads. "Drug policy is a public health issue, not just a criminal justice issue."
But unfortunately, law enforcement agencies haven't gotten the message. While the number of arrests for all offenses has declined nationwide since 1991, the share of those arrests related to simple cannabis possession has more than tripled over the same period.
By Steve Elliott
A top federal official on Tuesday said that 105 banks and credit unions are now doing business with legal marijuana merchants, and suggested that revised federal rules giving financial institutions the green light to provide services to cannabis businesses are starting to work.
The financial institutions in question cover about one-third of the United States, and have reported relationships with marijuana-related businesses, the top U.S. anti-money laundering official said, reports Jeffrey Sparshott at The Wall Street Journal.
The Obama Administration in February gave the go-ahead to the banking industry to offer financing and accounts to marijuana distributors who are legally conducting their business according to state laws, reports Danielle Douglas of The Washington Post.
"From our perspective the guidance is having the intended effect," said Jennifer Shasky Calvery, director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. "It is facilitating access to financial services, while ensuring that this activity is transparent and the funds are going into regulated financial institutions."