Drugs

In the Nation’s Capital, Drinking in Large Groups Can Get You Fined

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

In the Nation’s Capital, Drinking in Large Groups Can Get You Fined

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Busybodies are always trying to figure out a way to control our lives in ways never seen before. In Washington, DC, the obsession is turning into a mental health epidemic—among bureaucrats and their supporters only.

DrinkingAccording to Watchdog.org, DC has decided to target groups that organize pub crawls. Because drinking in large groups is apparently dangerous.

Claiming to have safety in mind following a host of different pub crawls organized in the city this past year, DC officials are targeting these same pub crawl organizations, saying that bringing large groups of tourists to local restaurants and pubs to boost the local economy is just too much.

Instead of letting the community benefit from tourism, DC officials want fewer groups to organize pub crawls in the region, forcing gatherings of over 200 people to register with the city before hitting the town. These groups have to pay officials $500 for the privilege of getting an OK from the local government to operate, and organizers must also have a security plan set up. Oh, and never mind the holidays! DC will not give you an OK to operate for those sacred drinking dates.

According to Reason, the new rules also dictate ho pub crawls can be advertised, forcing organizers to add a warning saying “you must be 21 or older to participate” on every piece of pub crawl marketing material. Organizers must also add a line encouraging the use of public transportation.

But before this debacle took place and the city decided to “take action,” organizers were simply required to submit a registration. With the new requirements in place, the number of organized pub crawls in the nation’s capital is already starting to drop.

But despite the criticism, DC officials seem focused on letting this new set of rules stay in place. Even if that means local businesses will hurt as a result.

According to Watchdog.org, new impositions have created another set of problems, especially if government officials find an issue with you and your buddies participating in unregulated or unlawful pub crawls. Restaurants and pubs that aid unregulated groups under the new rules could be fined.

To Jon Gabel, an executive with event organizing company Joonbug Productions, the city’s new rules could hurt local businesses by both keeping people away and forcing restaurants to turn down customers.

He told the Washington City Paper that his pub crawls saved their lives in several occasions. A local restaurant manager agreed, saying that the new rules are “definitely going to impact a lot of businesses.”

In DC, large pub crawls have been part of the scene for several years, but it was only during 2015’s Halloween pub crawl that residents and law enforcement began to push for different rules. Nevertheless, Watchdog.org reports that incidents or arrests were too few or unimportant.

With the new rules in place, local business owners are afraid of the future, especially considering that since its implementation, at least four events were canceled.

The Drug War Has a New Target: Poor, White People

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

The Drug War Has a New Target: Poor, White People

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In one of my latest articles for The Anti-Media, I explain that the rate of incarcerated whites in the United States is higher than the total incarceration rates of most other countries across the globe.

HomelessAt 466 per 100,000 citizens in jail—the rate of white individuals currently serving time in American prisons—the United States would still be in the top ten list of top jailers globally. And as pointed out by The Washington Post’s Keith Humphreys, the rate of blacks in prison has been in steady decline over the past decade, while the number of white prisoners—both male and female—continues to rise.

The explanation for this fact is simple: The drug war hasn’t stopped.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the crack cocaine epidemic that swept major urban areas across the country was met with “tough on crime” policies, forcing oftentimes nonviolent drug law offenders to go to jail for life. Blacks account for 80 percent of federal crack cocaine convictions but whites and Latinos account for more than 70 percent of powder cocaine convictions.

As the movement spearheaded by libertarian-leaning organizations asking for mandatory minimum reforms and drug legalization gains popularity among liberals and conservatives, more states begin to review their drug laws, helping to change incarceration rates locally while giving first-time and nonviolent offenders a chance to get their lives back on track.

But as another drug epidemic takes the streets of both urban and rural America, another group begins to feel the heavy weight of misguided government policies.

West Virginia is the number one state in the country for fatal drug overdoses. The state also has the highest rate of babies born with some dependency on opioids.

Just recently, the city of Huntington, WV saw 26 overdoses in a matter of hours, prompting news organizations to call the city the heart of America’s opioid epidemic.

According to The Washington Post’s Keith Humphreys, there are two underlying issues that have been putting whites in jail at a greater rate.

First, “changes in drug use and enforcement over the past 15 years” may be playing a part. But “[m]ethamphetamine, prescription opioid and heroin epidemics” have also impacted “whites more than did the crack cocaine epidemic.” In states like West Virginia where over 93 percent of the population is non-Hispanic white, there’s an increased push to toughen drug-related laws, prompting enforcement organizations to respond accordingly.

But as we’ve seen with the crack cocaine epidemic and the US government’s war on drugs, increasing penalties for drug law offenses does not work.

All Americans, whether they are white or black have only one obstacle in their everyday fight for freedom and peace, and that is government’s heavy-handed, immoral interventionism. The time to identify the beast and speak openly about it is now.

Should we ban tobacco instead of drugs?

in Ask Dr. Ruwart, Drugs, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Victimless Crime by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Should we ban tobacco instead of drugs?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

QUESTION: I am a long time supporter of ending the war on drugs. I advocate treating drug abuse the way we treat alcohol abuse, as a health and not a legal problem. I find that many of the people that I deal with who oppose the war on drugs and support legalization of marijuana want to outlaw tobacco. I try to tell them that the war on tobacco will be just as successful as the war on drugs, but they insist that it go ahead. They point out that tobacco is deadlier than pot. I point out that heroin and LSD are as dangerous as tobacco, if not more. What suggestions do you have to answer the pro war on tobacco people?

CigaretteANSWER: The power to ban something “bad” is also the power to ban something “good.” Cannabis was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopeia for many years before it was “outlawed” via the Marijuana Tax Act in 1937. As a result, this incredibly useful and inexpensive natural drug has been largely unavailable in the U.S. for the last 80 years.

By outlawing tobacco, alcohol, or any other substance, we pave the way for other “wars” based on political or economic gain. Special interests will lobby Congress to outlaw their competitors, just as William Randolph Hearst lobbied for hemp/cannabis prohibition so that his wood pulp forests would be used for paper manufacture instead of hemp.

The nicotine in tobacco is thought by some to be the most addictive substance known. If someone can’t stop smoking, isn’t it a health problem too? Why not treat it as such?

NYC Weed Arrests Up Again, Is Full Legalization the Solution?

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

NYC Weed Arrests Up Again, Is Full Legalization the Solution?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Someone forgot to tell progressive New York Mayor Bill de Blasio that times, they have already changed.

NYPDDuring the then mayoral candidate’s campaign, de Blasio vowed to ensure the New York Police Department would cease to treat possession of small amounts of marijuana as a crime, but ever since he was elected, the number of marijuana-related arrests went up. This year, Gothamist.com reports, it went up nearly a third.

In 1977, New York decriminalized possession of fewer than 25 grams of weed. Users smoking or holding the bud in public, however, were still subject to police scrutiny. But while commissioner Ray Kelly was in command between 2002 and 2013, arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana went up considerably. In 2010, low-level pot possession had become the top cause of arrest in the city, mostly due to the fact 50,383 people had been arrested for related offenses throughout that year.

That’s when pressure began to mount.

Faced with countless accusations of racial bias, commissioner Kelly decided to send officers a memo asking them to stop “improper” marijuana arrests, which often involved blacks and Latinos.

Once de Blasio took office, however, marijuana-related arrests dropped, but that didn’t last. In 2014, police had made 26,400 weed-related arrests. Now, recent figures show that the number of people going to prison for related offenses has increased considerably.

During the first half of 2015, NYPD had arrested 7,236 people for marijuana possession, but during the same period this year, the number went up to 9,331: A 30 percent increase.

Despite de Blasio’s campaign promises, things might not get better for pot smokers in the Big Apple unless state laws change.

A bill from 2015 that is still stuck in the state legislature could help give marijuana users more peace of mind. But the bill isn’t perfect.

If S. 1747, or the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act, passes, marijuana would be regulated and taxed like tobacco and alcohol. Proponents of similar pieces of legislation often say that while similar measures might have a negative effect on the overall cost of weed, it would keep officers from knocking people’s doors down in the middle of the night. But to many libertarians, only decriminalization of all substances, including marijuana, tobacco, and alcohol, works.

Mises Institute’s David Gordon argues in a piece from 2002 that punishing a person for using drugs is to “impose a severe disability on him; and justice requires that punishment be imposed only on someone who violates rights.” Drug use, therefore, cannot be criminalized simply because it could lead to bad social consequences. After all, Gordon continues, “[t]o punish people simply because their acts encourage others to act in a way deemed undesirable is to use people as means, in a morally unacceptable way.”

Despite the strong support the Marijuana Taxation and Regulation Act has obtained over the past year, many proponents of the bill believe that it could take years for something similar to pass through the state legislature, forcing New Yorkers to think twice before stepping outside with a small amount of weed in their pocket.

Nullification Works, Colorado & Other States Show How

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Nullification Works, Colorado & Other States Show How

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Colorado, the state of legal recreational marijuana, may soon be able to kick the federal government’s erratic surveillance policies to the curb, proving that state nullification is worth the effort.

Iphone

A bill signed into law earlier this year that has been active since May 11, 2016 applies state law rules to federal agencies, effectively barring agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) from taking actions locally that infringe on certain rules. The result is important, since the refusal to enforce federal rules on Colorado soil means that federal acts that go against the Constitution could be thwarted.

The piece of legislation (HB1109) was a bipartisan effort that, according to Tenth Amendment Center’s Mike Maharrey, could help to put an end to federal efforts that infringe on Americans’ constitutional rights such as the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance programs. Since massive databases used by the NSA require a great deal of water to keep computer systems cool, refusing to provide resources to federal agents may help to prevent the expansion of the surveillance state.

This type of approach to federal laws has been upheld in court in the past.

In 2007, when the federal government sued the state of Nevada for refusing to give the Department of Energy (DOE) access to its water supply to build a nuclear waste disposal site on Yucca Mountain, US District Judge Roger L. Hunt ruled that the state of Nevada had a right to say no the federal government, basing his decision on the fact that state rights are protected and shouldn’t be violated by a federal agency.

Maharrey explains that the legal basis for this refusal to cooperate is known as the anti-commandeering doctrine, which came to be due to four Supreme Court cases, including the Printz v. US from 1842 that serves as the doctrine’s cornerstone.

The anti-commandeering doctrine reassures the states that they are free to refuse to cooperate, while also making it clear to the federal government that its agents are prohibited from forcing state officials to comply. If Colorado is able to use its water rights to thwart the growth of programs that effectively infringe on our constitutional rights, that means that other states may join the effort.

Recently, Louisiana took an important step toward hindering the surveillance state by passing a law that requires a court order for the use of stingray technology, which is often used by law enforcement to track the location of phones and give officers access to their contents. The law is now into effect.

Illinois has also passed a very similar bill, which will go into effect on January 1, 2017. According to the bill’s wording, stingray technology use will also be restricted by court orders. But the bill goes further by prohibiting the use of the technology to gather the contents of phones targeted by law enforcement. Instead, officials with a warrant will only be able to use the stingray system to track the location of a device or identify it as a communications device, effectively protecting the individual’s conversations.

Arizona Court Rules that Weed Smell Enough Justification for Search Warrant

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Arizona Court Rules that Weed Smell Enough Justification for Search Warrant

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In current-day America, the Constitution’s protections against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government is nothing but a suggestion. In Arizona, the careless approach to the law of the land is now even backed by lady Justice.

WeedAccording to an NBC affiliate, a recent ruling supports that officers are allowed to have access to a warrant to search a person’s property over the smell of marijuana. The decision came after the state Supreme Court ruled that the enactment of the medical marijuana law does not eliminate a legal doctrine that supports that the smell of marijuana is sufficient to establish probable cause for a search.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruling added that only with the “person’s presentation of a valid [medical marijuana] registration card” attorneys would be able to challenge the legal foundation for a search based on the smell of marijuana alone.

The case that resulted in this ruling involved an officer who noticed the odor of marijuana while contacting an individual. The encounter led him and other officers to discover a marijuana operation that counted with hundreds of marijuana plants.

To medical marijuana users in the state, this ruling is concerning. Rebecca Calloway, a local dispensary worker and college graduate with a medical marijuana card, says that this ruling makes matters worse since “a lot of pedestrians [already] feel they are being harassed by cops with nothing better to do.”

To privacy advocates, the ruling gives officers a loophole, giving them the freedom to use smell as a reasonable cause for searches in different occasions.

Instead of looking at the Constitution for guidance, the Arizona justices decided to continue giving drug warriors legal justifications to send more non-violent “criminals” to taxpayer-funded prisons, managing to step on the 4th Amendment rights of citizens who do not happen to be marijuana users in the process. But this is not the first time Arizona justices stand with drug warriors.

In May, Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the state’s medical marijuana laws do not give physicians immunity against prosecution in case doctors claim to have reviewed a patient’s medical records from the previous 12 months before issuing a written statement allowing for the use of medical marijuana.

While the state has come a long way by passing a medical marijuana law that helps residents suffering from a series of conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, and others, anti-drug war advocates in the state are hoping to get an initiative added to the November ballot that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.

In early July, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol submitted 258,582 signatures to secretary of state officials. To quality for Arizona’s statewide ballot, the campaign must have 150,642 valid signatures from registered voters.

If passed, the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act would legalize marijuana for recreational use and establish a network of licensed cannabis shops that would collect taxes on the sales of marijuana and marijuana-related products. The proposal resembles the model used in Colorado.

Video Game Shows the Economic Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana

in Drugs, Economic Liberty, Economics, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Video Game Shows the Economic Benefits of Legalizing Marijuana

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In a truly free society, individuals would be able to provide the products consumers are after without having to deal with the restrictions imposed by bureaucrats.

Hemp IncWhen analyzed closely, private regulatory practices promoted within the marketplace are often much more efficient than regulations imposed by government officials who often are responding to potential threats instead of responding to legitimate market demands, putting a strain on job creators and consumers, who end up paying more—sometimes with their lives—for the product they want or need.

But as states begin to accelerate the process to legalize marijuana, the debate is finally shifting. Now, we’re finally talking more about the health and financial benefits of marijuana legalization than the legalization’s downside.

That’s why Hemp Inc. matters.

According to VICE News, the video game produced by HKA Digital Studios allows users to grow and sell weed while interacting with smokers, who sometimes happen to be celebrities. As a result of their economic ventures, these pot entrepreneurs are able to build marijuana empires. Unfortunately, that’s only currently—and legally—possible in real life if you move to states like Colorado and Washington.

The app was launched on April 26, but few news outlets covered the story.

Regardless of how popular the app becomes, the message it conveys is a powerful one. Despite the drug war, demands will always be met, no matter how many laws Congressmen pass. Once you lift barriers, however, industries flourish—including health industries—and consumer safety becomes a priority. Instead of assaulting people’s freedoms under the guise of safety, lawmakers are being increasingly reminded that they don’t know what is best for everyone. And that’s OK. Leaving it up to the individual is the only moral alternative.

So instead of logical arguments alone, anti-drug war advocates now have a new tool that demonstrates just how easily individuals are able to benefit themselves while benefitting others once marijuana is legal.

Instead of violent, bloody wars between gangs over street territory, the relationship between marijuana producers, sellers, and consumers is slowly becoming more like the relationship between the farmer, grocer, and the consumer—and that’s a positive development.

Unlike a real war, the drug war is an effort that targets a behavior seen as immoral, not a real enemy. But we have a modern historical example of how that type of war doesn’t lead us anywhere. Why are we still hesitant to put an end to this madness?

As Use of Pot Drops, Prohibitionists Must Look Elsewhere for Pro-Drug War Arguments

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

As Use of Pot Drops, Prohibitionists Must Look Elsewhere for Pro-Drug War Arguments

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The Washington Post has recently reported that rates of marijuana use among teens who reside in Colorado are unchanged when compared to data gathered before state voters legalized marijuana in 2012.

WeedIn 2009, a survey showed that 25 percent of Colorado youths had used marijuana in the past 30 days but in 2015, only 21 percent of youths did the same. The survey was carried out among random middle and high school students across the state.

According to the Colorado health department, the agency behind this survey, the use of marijuana among teens has not increased since legalization. A fact many drug warriors did not predict before voters decided to make the recreational use of the plant legal across the state.

In the past, opponents of legalization made the case that lifting restrictions on access to weed would push the number of teen smokers up, but as the number of marijuana use nationwide is falling considerably, prohibitionists begin to panic.

According to Mason Tvert, the Marijuana Policy Project’s director of communications, the theory that “making marijuana legal for adults will result in more teen use” has been clearly debunked with the help of these surveys. “Levels of teen use in Colorado have not increased since it ended marijuana prohibition,” Tvert added, “and they are lower than the national average. Elected officials and voters in states that are considering similar proposals should be wary of claims that it will hurt teens.”

But the fight against prohibition continues to win new supporters, even as prohibitionist politicians continue to put failed policies before real progress.

Most recently, a group known as Arkansans for Compassionate Care submitted 117,649 signatures to the secretary of state urging the state to place a proposal on the ballot that would legalize medical marijuana.

The proposal would help people with certain medical conditions have access to marijuana products with the help of a doctor’s recommendation. While the signatures haven’t been confirmed, the group needed 69,000 signatures from registered voters to have the initiative added to the ballot. Two other groups in the state of Arkansas are also gathering signatures for other proposals, one that would legalize medical marijuana and a second that would legalize recreational weed.

At least 25 states and Washington D.C. currently have laws legalizing marijuana in some form, with Ohio being the latest state to allow residents suffering from chronic pain, epilepsy, or side effects of cancer treatments to be treated with the help of cannabis.

As more states where the use of cannabis is legal investigate the use of its residents, it becomes clearer that freedom—not the government’s micromanagement skills—works.

Supreme Court Upholds Illegal Searches Prompted by the War on Drugs

in Drugs, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty, Property Rights by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Supreme Court Upholds Illegal Searches Prompted by the War on Drugs

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

When discussing the ongoing surveillance programs run by the US government’s National Security Agency (NSA) in 2013, Dr. Ron Paul said that “the Fourth Amendment is clear; it says we should be secure in our persons, houses, papers and effects, and that all warrants must have probable cause.” But while Dr. No from Texas has always been a consistent defender of liberty, few other members of any of the branches of government can say they take the task of upholding the US Constitution seriously. Recently, yet another powerful group in Washington joined Congress and the Executive branch by using its political power to ravage the 4th Amendment: the Supreme Court.

Supreme CourtIn a 5 to 3 ruling of the Utah v. Strieff case, the Supreme Court decided that police officers are allowed to stop anyone without probable cause, going against restrictions imposed by the 4th Amendment of the Constitution. What TechDirt calls “bogus traffic stops predicated on nonexistent laws” is now protected thanks to the Supreme Court, causing the reach of these same stops to be expanded to individuals on foot as well.

But while this decision is damaging because it expands the police’s unchecked powers, the factors that prompted the stop that led to this case in the first place are being widely ignored.

In 2006, the Salt Lake City policy received an anonymous tip concerning a drug activity hotspot. An officer was sent to monitor said hotspot, noticing that, for several days, the house in question received a high volume of foot traffic. One of the individuals seen entering and leaving the property was Edward Strieff, who was stopped by an officer while on his way to a convenience store.

During the so-called routine check after he encounter, police found Strieff had an outstanding “small traffic warrant,” prompting the officer to arrest him and search him. That’s when the officer found a bag of methamphetamine, as well as drug paraphernalia, in his pockets.

What prompted the unconstitutional stop, and then search, wasn’t just due to police abuse. Instead, the drug war was what prompted the anonymous caller to reach out to law enforcement, and before that, what prompted the black market to provide Salt Lake City customers with the products they wanted.

According to TechDirt, the evidence found on Strieff should have been suppressed in court since the officer stopped the individual without probable cause. The state of Utah had already conceded to that much, but once it decided the case should be appealed, Utah v. Strieff made it to the highest court in America, where the justices decided that the “fruits of the illegal search” should remain unsuppressed. To TechDirt writers, this decision gives the government precedent, giving law enforcement agencies across the land even more expanded powers than they had before.

Instead of keeping Americans safe, the war on drugs has produced yet another unintended consequence, destroying our 4th Amendment protections and putting the lives of innocent individuals in danger in the face of police abuse. Isn’t that the opposite of keeping us safe?

Drug-Testing Industry Heavily Invested in Keeping Pot Illegal

in Consumer Protection, Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

Drug-Testing Industry Heavily Invested in Keeping Pot Illegal

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The US government’s war on drugs has always counted with a great deal of support coming from a variety of special interest groups. Crony capitalism, it seems, is always to blame. But while libertarians have always known that, the media is just now realizing that there are more special interest groups involved with the drug war than they had previously thought.

TestToo bad mainstream news sources often misdiagnose the root of the problem.

According to an extensive ATTN article, the drug-testing industry is one of the most powerful opponents to weed legalization in America, along with the private prison industry, law enforcement, and big drug companies.

In the ATTN piece, the writer gives inside information on the history of cronyism involving the drug-testing industry and the US government. It also explains that several former DEA administrators are now part of nonprofits that advocate and actively lobby for drug-testing in Washington to remain relevant. The piece also explains that while federal agencies were bound by law to implement drug-testing programs in the 1980s due to the passage of the Drug Free Workplace Act, government agencies were the first to be hit with the government’s recommendations regarding drug-testing policies, thanks to an executive order issued by the President Ronald Reagan administration.

“Urine tests,” the article explains “didn’t become a common workplace practice in the U.S. until the 1980s,” which is when the Reagan administration began requiring federal government employees to be tested. This statement implies that the entire drug-testing industry may have not had as much influence as it does now if not for a string of orders and regulations that require organizations to use their services.

To Jason Williamson, a senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union’s Criminal Law Reform Project, “passing or failing a drug test has no bearing on whether or not they’re going to be impaired at the job two weeks later.” This “piece of the puzzle,” Williamson told Attn.com, is huge, and a major reason why “drug-testing companies don’t need or want to talk about” the real implications of their services.

According to a 1985 study shared by the Drug and Alcohol Testing Industry Association, airline pilots using flight simulators after smoking marijuana showed signs of impairment 24 hours “after usage.” But in a more recent government-sponsored study from 1989, researchers found that the psychoactive effects of cannabis use “wore off after one to four hours.” Proving that the largest drug-testing industry trade group in the country might have been helping these firms do business with countless organizations and government agencies without addressing the problems brought up by pro-marijuana legalization activists.

A quick search on the Center for Responsive Politics website shows that, to this day, organizations associated with DATIA such as Quest Diagnostics are actively—and heavily—involved with Washington politics.

According to a 2012 Reason piece, another organization known as the Drugs of Abuse Testing Coalition spent thousands lobbying for “Medicare reimbursement … and payment rates for qualitative drug screen testing.”

Targeting crony capitalism and its negative consequences, even when the subject is the drug war, could help us clear away the fog, giving advocates access to the real roots of the government’s ineffective drug war and how to solve the problem.

City Uses Pot Taxes to Help the Homeless

in Business and Economy, Drugs, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Taxes by Advocates HQ Comments are off

City Uses Pot Taxes to Help the Homeless

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Drug legalization continues to be an important topic. And as local governments look to marijuana taxes as a reliable way to boost their revenue, more Americans now see a greater number of practical reasons to lobby their states to liberate access to cannabis and other prohibited substances.

HomelessIn Colorado, where sales and consumption of recreational marijuana is legal, legalization of pot helped to boost the economy, injecting about $2 million into the local economy during the first month of legalization alone. Over time, the flood of cash coming from pot sales also helped the state’s education system. Now, the Colorado city of Aurora is also putting the legal cannabis money to what many believe to be a top priority project.

According to the Huffington Post, Aurora has recently announced that it will be allocating $1.5 million in recreational marijuana tax revenue for programs that focus on the city’s homeless population.

Due to this program, a local nonprofit group known as the Colfax Community Network should receive $200,000 from this special fund, while other organizations will be provided with vans to be used for homeless outreach. All paid by taxes tied to marijuana sales.

Toward the end of the year, the city of Aurora is projected to raise $5.4 million in marijuana tax revenue, a figure that could prompt legislators across the country to take the idea of the legalization of recreational marijuana seriously.

But what about other recreational drugs?

In March of 2016, a group of 22 top medical experts called for the decriminalization of all nonviolent drug use and possession. According to the group of doctors brought together by Johns Hopkins University and The Lancet, the global war on drugs was and still is a failure. Instead of maintaining these failed policies in place, these experts urged countries to “move gradually toward regulated drug markets and apply the scientific method to their assessment.”

Mentioning torture, abuse, and a dramatic downward change in life expectancy in Mexico since the country’s government decided to militarize its response to the drug trade in 2006, these doctors also cited use of incarceration as a drug control measure, which has destroyed the lives of many nonviolent drug users. Resorting to incarceration as opposed to treatment, these experts concluded, is the “biggest contribution” to the HIV and Hepatitis C epidemics among drug users.

When discussing domestic policy, the same group also concluded that prohibitionist laws in the United States have contributed to “stark racial disparities” when it comes to drug law enforcement.

While the debate surrounding drug use and commerce may naturally lead to a taxation debate, current laws keeping consumers from having access to their drug of choice continue to hurt more than help. Especially in poor areas of the country.

As libertarians all know, the free trade of goods and services is all consumers need to have access to so they may prosper and self-regulate, but if the pot taxation argument helps us bring more drug warriors to our side, we shouldn’t be ashamed of using it.

The damage done by the drug war calls for a drastic change.

4/20 Weed Sales Prove the War on Drugs is Hindering Economic Development

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

4/20 Weed Sales Prove the War on Drugs is Hindering Economic Development

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

On April 20th, marijuana enthusiasts celebrate what they call a national holiday. With the sales of marijuana products exceeding the $37.5 million mark on this past 4/20, the ongoing efforts to put an end to the drug war and their lucrative consequences show that entrepreneurs have a lot to gain once the substance is rescheduled federally.

Woman_smoking_marijauana (1)Former aide to President Richard Nixon John Ehrlichman, who served time in prison over his involvement with the Watergate scandal, allegedly admitted that the drug war launched by the Nixon administration had two targets, “the antiwar left and black people.”

Ehrlichman allegedly told journalist Dan Baum that members of the Nixon White House “knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.”

As US states disrupt the ongoing federal effort to put an end to drug consumption in America by passing their own marijuana legalization laws, the drug war is finally unwinding, at least partially.

According to Fox News, marijuana retailers registered a 30 percent increase in retail transactions on 4/20. The report comes from a software company that provides global cannabis businesses seed-to-sale tracking systems known as MJ Freeway. The startup, which was launched in 2010, is able to sift through data from cannabis retailers, producing an accurate analysis of 40 percent of America’s cannabis market.

As more states join the legalization bandwagon by passing recreational marijuana bills, legal retail sales are estimated to reach $6.7 billion by the end of 2016. As entrepreneurs heap the benefits, the industry promotes economic growth by offering great employment opportunities for residents of the states where weed is legal.

On April 20, MJ Freeway has disclosed, legally-licensed cannabis retail locations across the country sold $10,822 worth of products on average. The days before and after 4/20 have also seen a boost in sales. According to MJ, legal weed retailers sold $6,208 on April 19 and $5,442 on April 18 also on average.

California saw the largest dollar amount sold on April 20, beating others like Colorado and Washington, where recreational weed is legal. Colorado ended up beating all other states by having higher sales on average on April 20th.

While these numbers seem promising, it’s hard to assess just how much wealthier the country would be if all drug laws put in place in the name of an undeclared war on immoral behavior were lifted.

While discussing the health consequences associated with drug use is important, the burden should be shared by local communities, where individuals have access to religious entities and other privately-organized groups that support addicts, not in the hands of law enforcement.

As the country becomes increasingly enamoured with the idea of bringing the drug war to a halt, libertarian advocates claim that even gun violence would suffer a major blow once laws criminalizing drug consumption and sales are dropped.

According to Cato Institute’s Adam Bates, the only “common sense” approach to the gun violence issue in America is to end the drug war. After all, more than 2,000 homicides a year are gang-related, the government estimates. What is Washington waiting for?

California Senate Passes Powdered Alcohol Ban, Proving Everything is Terrible

in Consumer Protection, Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

California Senate Passes Powdered Alcohol Ban, Proving Everything is Terrible

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Government’s busybodies are always trying to find new issues so they may be blown out of proportion in the hopes the population will agree. And as it so often happens, these issues are frequently turned into threats that must be contained. By all means necessary.

AlcoholIn California, a state often mocked due to its anti-entrepreneurial regulations, legislators have just passed a new ban that will certainly make residents of the Golden State 100 percent safe.

Just kidding.

According to local news sources, the California Senate has just passed a new bill that officially bans powdered alcohol. The piece of legislation was defended by legislators who were concerned that teens could be using the powdered alcohol in “dangerous ways.”

SB 819 was approved in a unanimous vote this past Monday and it’s now on its way to the state Assembly. The product under threat here, which is often referred to as Palcohol, has been banned in several other states. If the CA state assembly approves the measure, it will make the Golden State the 28th state to have ignored the fact government should not get involved with an individual’s personal choices.

Introduced by Senate Minority Leader Emeritus Bob Huff, a Republican from San Dimas, the bill states that Palcohol sales would be forbidden across the state. The product, which is a freeze dried alcohol that comes in a small pouch, was approved for sale by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau in the United States in March of 2015. Ever since then, states have been debating whether the sale of these products should be barred. According to Palcohol creator Mark Phillips, the fact federal and state governments are attempting to deny “millions of responsible adults and hundreds of businesses a chance to use this legal, safe and revolutionary new product” is concerning. But California Senate legislators won’t have any of it.

According to Sen. Huff, powdered alcohol must be banned because it may be snorted or added to drinks that already come with alcohol, making them potential dangers to teenagers.

But the sale of alcohol to minors is already banned in California.

According to state law, the sale of alcohol to minors is illegal. But the sale itself is not the only issue. Holding parties and offering alcohol to minors is also illegal. Allowing an underage person to drink from a glass or pitcher belonging to an adult is also against state law.

If the sale of alcohol to anyone under the age of 21 across the state was already prohibited, was it really necessary to ban powdered altogether, keeping responsible adults away from the product over concerns that individuals may abuse it?

To libertarian scholars like Cato Institute’s Michael D. Tanner, “legislators at all levels of government try to make everything their business.” But instead of helping, legislators often create more problems.

Why not try freedom instead and allow people to make their own decisions for themselves?

America’s Founding Fathers complained that King George III had “erected a Multitude of New Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their Substance.” By releasing the country from Great Britain’s grip, they hoped to create a culture of skepticism toward governments claiming to have a say on everything Americans did.

Have they lost this battle?

This LA Gang Member Knows Why the Drug War Doesn’t Work

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

 This LA Gang Member Knows Why the Drug War Doesn’t Work

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Ozy, an online magazine that takes pride in presenting original content crafted by contributors with unique perspectives, has recently published an article allegedly written by “Loko,” a Bloods gang member from Los Angeles, California. In the piece, Loko talks about his life in the City of Angels, how changes to marijuana laws are reshaping local communities, and how other drug restrictions are ruining an entire generation of African Americans.

It’s hard to read his rendition of the current situation without thinking about how countless lives could have been saved if current and past government administrations hadn’t embraced the war on drugs.

Marijuana He opens his comments by claiming that living in the city is a daily struggle. The main problem nowadays, Loko tells Ozy’s Seth Ferranti, is “crystal.”

Methamphetamine, Loko explains, is what all of the “homeboys are using. … Blood, Crip, it doesn’t matter.” Meth is such a problem in LA that everyone “is going crazy.” But what makes it an issue isn’t that locals have easy access to the substance. The problem is that meth is illegal. That makes competition a matter of force, not product quality and demand, pitting gangs against gangs over who’s ready to offer the best, most potent crystal meth there is.

To Loko, the meth phenomena is “the second coming of crack.” And while it’s making many gangsters rich, it’s also hurting entire families.

To the Bloods gang member, life has mellowed out considerably after new marijuana policies were signed into law in in the Golden State.

At first, Loko was selling crystal meth he claims to have gotten from “the Mexicans,” but as life happened and his family grew, he decided to go legit. “Weed offers a better opportunity,” he told Ozy. Instead of “hustling” in the streets to push what he calls “super meth, like that Breaking Bad stuff,” he decided to get legalized, obtain a card and documents, and open his own legal dispensary.

“Meth is destroying the Black community,” he told the publication. In the early 2000s, locals didn’t go for meth. Now, it’s the most popular drug around.

According to Vice News, Mexican cartels are responsible for making crystal meth the real deal in Los Angeles.

In 2008, one pound of crystal meth was worth $8,000 to $10,000. The fact other types of substances were more accessible in California’s black market then also helped to keep the price of meth up. But now that weed is legal and that cartels are focusing on other substances, meth is widely available—and cheap. As Mexican cartels started mass producing the drug, the cost of methamphetamine went down. One pound of meth now costs about $3,500, Vice News reports. Seizures of meth at the border between the United States and Mexico have surged 33 percent around San Diego, hitting a record high in 2014. And if Loko is right, there’s no stopping to the trend. Unless the laws change.

According to Jeffrey Miron, the director of economic studies at the Cato Institute, taking on drug cartels and their leaders and getting them out of circulation “will likely have no impact on the drug trade.”

Violence doesn’t cease to exist when the Drug Enforcement Administration catches a kingpin, and yet, most governments in the world embrace prohibitionist policies, making the trade of wanted goods a criminal act. The hype around illegal substances often helps to boost the popularity of destructive substance abuse. Once California loosened its policy toward marijuana production and distribution, many people like Loko made better lives for themselves, distancing their families from the streets’ violent environment.

If policymakers are serious about saving lives and helping people kick drug addiction to the curb, they must begin taking the liberalization of all drug laws seriously, not only those that affect marijuana.

More Members of the Law Enforcement Community Join the Fight Against Tough Marijuana Laws

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

More Members of the Law Enforcement Community Join the Fight Against Tough Marijuana Laws

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Ever since the state of Colorado decided to set an example to the nation by practically nullifying the federal ban on the commerce of marijuana, legislators in many other states also acted on the marijuana ban locally. But as more and more lawmakers embrace a more humane approach to marijuana laws, and several states show signs that the times are changing, it’s even more interesting to see that members of the law enforcement community are also giving in to the “trend.”

PoliceWith the help of organizations like the Drug Policy Alliance and the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), two groups working alongside free marketers, marijuana researchers, freedom advocates, and Tenth Amendment champions, a greater number of states now have policies that lessen the consequences of the nationwide drug war, granting marijuana users and sellers the guarantee that their transactions won’t be targeted by law enforcement under certain circumstances.

According to PennLive.com, Harrisburg Police Chief Thomas Carter has shown signs that he supports some pro-marijuana advocates in Pennsylvania by urging local policymakers to reduce the penalties for marijuana possession. While Carter believes young people should avoid marijuana, he also believes that individuals caught using marijuana should not go to jail. Instead, Carter wants to treat the offense as a traffic ticket.

“We can turn our heads and deny we have a marijuana problem among our youth or we can proactively take action,” Carter told reporters. Instead of putting these kids in jail and ruining their lives, “I want to give kids a chance, an opportunity to make something better of their lives.”

The comment may have shocked many who were expecting to hear a tough on crime approach to what Carter calls a “marijuana problem,” only to be pleasantly surprised.

Last Tuesday, Carter appeared with other Harrisburg officials at a news conference to discuss the city’s efforts to lower the number of marijuana possession charges. This meeting follows the introduction of a proposal sponsored by Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, who hopes to reduce the level of crime for possession of less than 30 grams of marijuana to a summary offense. As it stands, possession is handled as a misdemeanor locally.

But to critics of Papenfuse’s proposal, the new policy would force poor residents to pay steep fines. Currently, residents in the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburg pay a $25 fine for a first marijuana possession offense. But in Harrisburg, residents caught with pot would have to pay $100 for their first offense if the proposal becomes an ordinance.

Regardless of whether the proposal becomes an ordinance, the fact the law enforcement community in various areas across the country are joining anti-drug war advocates is important, and shouldn’t be ignored.

Idaho Legislators Defy the FDA, Houses Passes Right to Try Legislation

in Drugs, Issues, Liberator Online, News You Can Use by Alice Salles Comments are off

Idaho Legislators Defy the FDA, Houses Passes Right to Try Legislation

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The US Food and Drug Administration and its very foundation have been on the receiving end of heavy criticism for quite some time, and yet the agency’s power appears to never be brought into question in a significant way.

IdahoFrustration, however, is often the best incentive. With that in mind, a group of Idaho lawmakers decided to join several other states by defying the FDA’s powers by proposing a piece of legislation that would practically nullify some of the agency’s rules prohibiting terminally ill patients from having access to experimental treatments. The bill would allow Idaho residents to have access to these experimental treatments, regardless of what the FDA has to say on the matter.

According to the Tenth Amendment Center, the House of Delegates Health and Welfare Committee introduced House Bill 481 on February 12. On February 29, the bill passed the House by an overwhelming margin.

Access to experimental drugs and treatments is restricted under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. While the law keeps the general public from having access to experimental drugs and treatments, a provision known as 21 U.S.C. 360bbb gives patients with serious or life-threatening diseases access to experimental drugs that have been approved by the FDA. Drugs that haven’t been approved by the agency, however, remain out of reach.

If HB 481 passes, the FDA’s rules would not apply to Idaho residents seeking access to experimental drugs. Instead, state laws would protect manufacturers and physicians involved in aiding the terminally ill. By protecting all parties involved from liabilities for their participation, the state may effectively nullify the FDA’s rules locally.

The bill states that eligible patients may “request, and a manufacturer may make available to an eligible patient under the supervision of the patient’s treating physician, the manufacturer’s investigational drug … which shall be clearly labeled as investigational; provided however, that this chapter does not require that a manufacturer make available an investigational drug to … an eligible patient.” With this piece of legislation in place, health care providers that agree to participate, whether by administering the treatment or by giving the patient the resources necessary to carry on with the experimental treatment, will be protected from possible legal actions. By protecting providers and physicians from sanctions, license troubles, or lawsuits, the state of Idaho joins other 24 states that have passed the “Right to Try” legislation in their states.

To the Tenth Amendment Center, this rapid evolution indicates that Americans of all walks of life are coming together to put an end to rules that put individuals in danger and that undermine their liberties.

HB 481 should move to the Idaho Senate for further consideration before the piece of legislation heads to the desk of Governor Butch Otter.

Instagrammers Beware: Your Pot Photo May Land You In Jail

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Instagrammers Beware: Your Pot Photo May Land You In Jail

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The US drug war initiated during the Nixon administration has been responsible for skyrocketing incarceration rates, the destruction of the black family, and increase in racial disparities in criminal justice. Now, it’s also responsible for a new wave of fear revolving marijuana users’ Instagram accounts.

That’s right.

According to a retired Drug Enforcement Administration agent, posting images of recreational use of marijuana on social media may result in a fine up to $150,000. The individual at fault could also spend 18 months in jail.

Pot

“Even though 23 states have legalized medical marijuana and four states have legalized recreational marijuana,” former DEA agent Patricia D’Orsa-Dijamco said, “marijuana remains illegal federally.”

In an interview for Fox News, the former DEA agent said that nobody should “be posting pictures of themselves smoking pot and using pot-themed hashtags to attract fans and ‘likes’ in any state. People who post pictures of themselves could potentially face criminal charges.”

According to Instagram’s own list of restrictions, users are not allowed to upload “unlawful” content to its site. Images of marijuana use fall under this category.

Despite the potential risks, there has been a rise in images of individuals making use of recreational marijuana on social media. But Instagram users will​ ​continue to be ​targeted by law enforcement if they do not slow down—unless the law changes.

Popular Instagram users like Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, and Wiz Khalifa haven’t suffered any restrictions after posting photos of recreational marijuana use to Instagram. But New Jersey 20-year-old marijuana user Connor Kennedy has.

In July of 2015, Kennedy was arrested by the Winslow Township Police Department after posting photos online of his marijuana use. He was allegedly growing seven marijuana plants in an abandoned backyard down the street from his house at the time.

​ “Concerned citizens” contacted​​ the police​ ​about Kennedy’s behavior​, which prompted the police to​​ catch the young man tending to the plants ​with a hidden​ camera. After this incident, investigators looked him up online. That’s when they found his incriminating photos.

He’s not the only one to have been arrested after posting photos of marijuana on Instagram.

Toward the end of 2015, there was a wave of hope among anti-drug war advocates when reports claiming that Congress had lifted the ban on medical marijuana hit the news. Unfortunately, they were not accurate.

In December of 2014, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that included a provision keeping the Justice Department from using funds appropriated by that particular bill to fight against states pushing their own marijuana laws. That means that agencies like the DEA would not be able to use the omnibus bill’s funds to prevent states from passing their own marijuana legislation. This same provision was part of the 2015 omnibus bill.

Despite the bill’s wording, the Justice Department has largely ignored the law by prosecuting and seizing the property of countless medical marijuana suppliers. Officials often argue that these actions don’t “prevent” states from passing their own drug laws.

If the Justice Department is given a free pass and officials continue to ignore the laws written by Congress, it’s not hard to see how Americans’ freedom of speech will continue to suffer.

Until Congress tackles the issue directly by putting an end to the drug war and reforming the criminal justice system, Instagram users and marijuana suppliers will remain vulnerable.

Violence in America: Drug War Policy is the Problem, Not Guns

in Drugs, Liberator Online, National Defense, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

Violence in America: Drug War Policy is the Problem, Not Guns

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

President Barack Obama has reignited the gun debate by announcing a series of executive actions with the intent of curbing gun violence. To critics, Obama’s announcement is simply a mistake. To others, executive actions are sideshows, distracting the country from the actual problems tied to violence.

Despite the criticism, former Secretary of State and current presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she’s “proud” of Obama. To the Democrat, more must be done in order to “eliminate all the threats as much as possible.”

gun control

Included with the executive actions are new requirements concerning background checks for guns bought from dealers online and at gun shows. The president also wants to upgrade the background check technology that would help federal officials track stolen weapons.

But despite the president’s passionate rhetoric, unregulated private sales usually benefit individuals who are prevented from owning guns but who are not necessarily purchasing weapons to commit crimes.

On the other hand, weapons used by the two attackers responsible for the deadly mass shooting in San Bernardino were bought legally, making Obama’s latest actions completely ineffective in similar cases.

But as media outlets and Internet figures debate the effectiveness of Obama’s plan, another piece of evidence provided by the federal government is consistently left out of the discussion. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the injury rates among crime victims who use guns to defend themselves are lower when compared to injury rates among victims who resort to different strategies for protection.

The $10 million study released recently by CDC suggests that the number of violent crimes, “including homicides specifically,” has been in steady decline for the past five years, and that the number of stolen guns linked to criminal use is very low. Most felons, the report suggests, obtain their weapons from informal sources instead of resorting to theft. The study also suggests that most gun-related incidents in America tend to result in injuries rather than deaths.

Yet another bit of information the president failed to mention during his announcement covers the rates of gun-related deaths. According to the study released through CDC, the majority of deaths caused by firearm use are suicides, not homicides.

Between 2000 and 2010, for instance, the number of firearm-related suicides outnumbered the number of homicides for victims in all age groups. The agency reports that 335,600 people died between 2000 and 2010 due to firearm-related violence, but 61 percent of these deaths, or 204,716 of these cases, were suicides.

If the president is serious about curbing violence in America, one could easily find reasons to take a look at other policies—such as the drug war—for a practical solution.

According to the study released by CDC, African American males are the most affected by firearm-related violence.

While the study suggests that income inequality is a risk factor that may predict violence, it fails to note that the drug war is mostly responsible for the high rates of arrests, prosecutions, and convictions among people of color.

Being serious about gun violence in the country requires vision, which President Barack Obama appears to lack.

As the drug war wages on, despite some states’ successful efforts against prohibition, inequality and economic tyranny continue to make gun violence an issue in America. Executive orders concerning gun use will do nothing to put an end to what the US drug policy has triggered.

California Bureaucrats Want Nuns to Stop Producing Marijuana Products

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Alice Salles Comments are off

California Bureaucrats Want Nuns to Stop Producing Marijuana Products

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Christine Meeusen, known as Sister Kate, and her apprentice, Sister Darcey, have one mission: to heal the sick. But it’s how they go about living up to their mission goals that is bothering some California officials.

The sisters claim to produce marijuana products as part of a spiritual quest to heal the sick. According to Sister Kate, they produce “CBD oil which takes away seizures, and a million other things,” such as salve, “a multi purpose salve,” which the sisters learned that could cure “migraines, hangovers, earaches, diaper rash, toothaches.” They found the city of Merced to be the perfect home for their business. But now, city officials are threatening to put an end to their quest.

Ministries

While legislation signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October allows a great variety of marijuana-related business to operate in the Golden State, local governments were granted the freedom to act against individual businesses by March 1st. After that date, local officials lose their chance to enact bans, and the cannabis-related businesses stay in place, whether officials like it or not. In order to meet their goals before the deadline, Merced officials are acting fast, attempting to get cannabis-related business banned from the region promptly.

When the city council proposed its marijuana-related business ban, the Merced Planning Commission urged the city council to review the proposed regulations and loosen their rules. At the time, Commissioner Peter Padilla said that marijuana is “here to stay.” He also stated that, even with a ban, cannabis “will continue to circulate” no matter how strict the new rules may be.

“I think this ordinance is uncalled for. Let’s get into the 21st century and move forward,” he added.

Despite the city officials’ efforts, their goal to put an end to marijuana businesses in the city are not even celebrated among residents.

During a city planning hearing in which the cannabis-business ban was discussed, all 19 residents who showed up said they opposed a local ban on marijuana growers and sellers.

In an interview with the Merced Sun-Star, Sister Kate said they “want to grow this business.” To both women who call themselves Sisters of the Valley, Merced is their home.

In another interview with ABC-30, Sister Kate reminded city officials that Merced would gain a lot through taxation if only others like the two women were allowed to operate their business from the region.

“Embrace, regulate and tax, that’s all we want them to do,” she told reporters.

If the sisters aren’t allowed to keep Sisters of the Valley in Merced, they will have to move to another location, and another city will collect the tax revenue associated with the marijuana product sales.

While the city council was originally scheduled to review the proposal this Monday, ABC13 says they will consider banning all marijuana growing in Merced next week. The future of these nuns’ business and the future of freedom in Merced are now hanging by a thread.

Watch the full ABC-30 interview here.

 

Conservative Judge Defends Retroactivity of Drug Sentencing Guidelines

in Drugs, Liberator Online, News You Can Use, Personal Liberty by Jackson Jones Comments are off

Conservative Judge Defends Retroactivity of Drug Sentencing Guidelines

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

In April 2014, the U.S. Sentencing Commission issued new sentencing guidelines for drug offenders by two offense levels and, a few months later, voted to make the change retroactive. According to Families Against Mandatory Minimums, some 10,000 federal prisoners were eligible for re-sentencing under the new guidelines. Applicants were reviewed on a case-by-case basis and approximately 6,000 were released between the end of October and early November.

Drugs

For decades, bad laws passed by well-intentioned lawmakers have ravaged mostly poor and minority communities and have cost taxpayers billions while doing little to stem drug use or stop the drug trade. Several states, both red and blue, are turning to drug treatment and rehabilitation to address drug crime. The U.S. Sentencing Commission’s revision of its guidelines, known as “All Drugs Minus Two,” is just one of many that either have been adopted by the federal government or are currently under consideration in Congress to reform the criminal justice system.

Although the U.S. Sentencing Commission should be applauded for the change, some are directing fire at the Obama administration. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., for example, is making the release of the prisoners an issue against his Democratic opponent in his campaign for governor of Louisiana. Similarly, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatter, R-Va., blasted the commission in a recent piece at the conservative publication, National Review.

“The problem with the Sentencing Commission’s changes to federal drug-sentencing requirements is that they are applied without regard to the inmate’s criminal history and public safety,” Goodlatte wrote. “Consequently, criminals set to be released into our communities as a result of the Sentencing Commission’s amendment include inmates with violent criminal histories, who have committed crimes involving assault, firearms, sodomy, and even murder.”

Goodlatte may come across like a hardened drug warrior determined to punish anyone whose life got off track, but, to his credit, he recently introduced the Sentencing Reform Act. His bill would expand the safety valve for certain drug offenders so they can avoid lengthy mandatory minimum sentences.

At least one member of the U.S. Sentencing Commission says Goodlatte and others who are criticizing the retroactivity of the new guidelines. Judge William Pryor was appointed to the Eleventh District Court of Appeals in 2004 as a recess appointment. Pryor was one of the judicial appointments stalled by Senate Democrats because they were deemed “too conservative.” When Senate Republicans threatened to go nuclear on the filibuster in 2005, an agreement was reached to ensure the filibuster would remain intact and the controversial judges would receive a confirmation vote.

Pryor set the record straight about what the process and the decision to make the new guidelines retroactive.

“When the commission votes to amend the sentencing guidelines, its decision becomes effective no sooner than six months later — that is, only after Congress has had an opportunity to exercise its statutory authority to reject the proposed change. Congress, of course, did not exercise that authority last year after the commission proposed modest changes in sentencing for drug cases. Instead, several members of Congress publicly supported those changes, and few said anything in opposition,” Pryor explained. “In fact, Chairman Goodlatte did not even schedule a hearing to review our decision.”

“Chairman Goodlatte objects to making the changes in drug sentencing retroactive, but he fails to mention that Congress gave the commission that authority,” he noted. “Indeed, Congress required the commission, whenever it lowers any guideline.”

The Bureau of Prisons has been preparing for these prisoners to re-enter society for a year. In October, the Washington Post reported that “[a]bout two-thirds of [of the prisoners] will go to halfway houses and home confinement before being put on supervised release.”

While there is no guarantee that these prisoners won’t re-offend, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has taken a step in the right direction and the Bureau of Prisons has provided them with support necessary to put their lives on the right track. The rest is up to them.

But it brings up a point worth considering, perhaps at another time, what steps should Congress and the Bureau of Prisons take to ensure that prisoners, once released, won’t re-offend. Re-entry programs that help with job placement and other policies, including “ban the box,” would go a long way to reducing recidivist behavior and turning these one-time offenders into taxpaying citizens.

Page 1 of 212