Drugs

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

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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

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

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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

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California Senate Passes Powdered Alcohol Ban, Proving Everything is Terrible

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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

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

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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

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

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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

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

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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

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Instagrammers Beware: Your Pot Photo May Land You In Jail

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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

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

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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

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California Bureaucrats Want Nuns to Stop Producing Marijuana Products

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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

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Conservative Judge Defends Retroactivity of Drug Sentencing Guidelines

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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.

What Do You Think About the War on Drugs?

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What Do You Think About the War on Drugs?

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Me (The Libertarian Homeschooler): What do you think about the war on drugs?
War on Drugs Is a War on UsYS (Young Statesman, 14): I think it’s none of the state’s business what we can or cannot put into our bodies and what we can or cannot do with our money.
Me: But a lot of people die from drug overdoses. For whatever reason you aren’t likely to do that, but shouldn’t other people be protected from drugs and drug overdoses? Should they just be thrown to the wolves? Don’t we care about them?
YS: You’ve made a emotional argument.
Me: How do you combat that?
YS: You could say, “Are you saying it is the responsibility of the state to protect people from making bad choices?”
Me: Right. That’s the argument that the state should protect people from bad choices wrapped in a veiled personal attack: “You don’t care about other people. You’re a bad person.” But there’s another argument. Who determines what goes into your body? Who owns your body? That’s the most compelling argument.
YS: Do you own you or does the state own you?
Me: Yes. I think that’s the most important argument. Property rights. Who owns you? That can get lost. Why did it become difficult when it became about you caring about other people?
YS: Because it became an emotional argument.
Me: How did it feel when it became an emotional argument?
YS: Oh, God. Not this again.
Me: It’s a trap.
YS: It makes your brain stop working as well.
Me: What do you have to do when faced with a emotional argument?
YS: Think about the argument that’s being given to you. You have to make it about property rights again.
Me: Is that because most arguments boil down to property rights?
YS: If you’re arguing about feels, it’s because the other person is trying to shut the argument down. Most arguments are actually about property. You have to remove the emotion. You can’t follow that trail. That’s not the real argument.
Me: Is it possible that the other person doesn’t know the real argument? They don’t know what’s at stake?
YS: Yeah. They think it’s about protecting people from a small danger but there’s a bigger danger. You are trying to show them the rest of the picture. Yes, it’s important for people not to overdose but property rights are more important.
Me: The denial of property rights, in my opinion, is the greatest evil. When we deny people their property rights we have to tell lies and create systems to justify the denial. Those lies and those systems lead to violence and slaughter.

New House Bill Will Protect Your Freedom to Vape

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

New House Bill Will Protect Your Freedom to Vape

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

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to expand its vast regulatory reach to e-cigarettes and vape products, but new language in an agriculture bill currently in the U.S. House of Representatives could throw a wrench into the machine.

vapeThe FDA plans to use a “deeming rule” to move forward on regulations that would treat e-cigarettes and vape products like tobacco. Though these products can contain nicotine, which is entirely up to the user, they don’t have tobacco. In fact, there is, according to the American Vaping Association, “no fire, no ash, [and] no smoke.”

Many people who use e-cigarettes or vape products do so to quit smoking, using high-nicotine e-juices and gradually lowering the dosage until they’ve kicked the habit. The FDA and public health advocacy groups claim that e-cigarette and vape products are dangerous and target minors through different flavors available on the market. Despite the concerns, studies have shown these products don’t emit significant amounts of toxins, especially when compared to real cigarettes.

“Does this mean e-cigarette vapor is about as safe as air? Not quite, since we don’t know the long-term respiratory effects of inhaling the glycerin or propylene glycol that delivers nicotine into vapers’ lungs,” Jacob Sullum wrote at Reason. “But whatever those effects are, it is safe to say they will not compare to the effects of smoking.”

Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., has introduced language to the agriculture appropriations bill currently working its way through committee that would reduce the impact of the awaited FDA regulations. The bill would prevent the FDA from reviewing products already available on the market, which, opponents say, could virtually put the industry out of business.

“Without action by Congress, the FDA’s proposed regulations threaten to ban 99 percent-plus of vape products currently available on the market,” said Gregory Conley, President of the American Vaping Association, of the bill’s introduction in the House. “This would be a disaster not only for thousands of small businesses, but also public health.”

“This proposal does not remove the FDA’s ability to regulate vape products. The FDA will retain the authority to immediately move forward with science-based product standards, disclosure requirements, and many other measures. Anyone who claims that this bill would somehow render the FDA toothless is either not familiar with the law or not being forthright,” he added.

While a ban on the sale of e-cigarette and vape products to minors may be appropriate – though most sellers already refuse to sell to anyone under the age of 18 – promulgating regulations that would subject this industry to extensive regulation is a bridge too far.

Interestingly, “Big Tobacco” is encouraging the FDA to implement the regulations. Some traditional cigarette makers are in the e-cigarette business. Reynolds American, for example, the maker of Newport and Camel cigarettes, owns Blu e-cigs. Conley believes Reynolds and other cigarette makers, which are already subject to the regulation and can easily absorb the cost, are trying to snuff out refillable vapor producers, which are typically small businesses.

The FDA regulations are due to be announced in the coming weeks, if not sooner. In the meantime, puff ‘em while you have ‘em, because your freedom to vape may not be around much longer.

Try This Brilliant Argument Against the War on Drugs

in Communicating Liberty, Drugs, Liberator Online, One Minute Liberty Tip by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the One-Minute Liberty Tip section in Volume 19, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

One of the most powerful arguments I’ve ever heard against the very concept of Our Right to Drugsthe War on Drugs was made by Thomas Szasz, the great libertarian psychiatrist.

In the introduction to his wonderful book Our Right to Drugs, Szasz wrote:

“Casting a ballot is an important act, emblematic of our role as citizens. But eating and drinking are much more important acts. If given a choice between the freedom to choose what to ingest and what politician to vote for, few if any would pick the latter. Indeed, why would anyone be so foolish as to sell his natural birthright to consume what he chooses in return for the mess of pottage of being allowed to register his preference for a political candidate?”

and:

“The right to chew or smoke a plant that grows wild in nature, such as hemp (marijuana), is anterior to and more basic than the right to vote.”

This contrast — between the right to vote and the right to choose what substances we ingest — is brilliant, powerful and mind-opening.

Americans treasure our right to vote as a symbol of our liberty and self-governance. Epic struggles have been fought to extend the vote to women and disenfranchised minorities. Fights still wage today over voting issues. In troubled countries around the world people are willing to risk their lives to vote. The right to vote is widely considered sacred.

Yet the right to choose what we put into our own bodies is obviously a more fundamental freedom, a freedom rooted in our very nature as self-controlling adult human beings. In comparison to this freedom, voting is abstract and distant. Voting gives us only one small voice among many. The right to decide what we ingest is far more personal and basic. Indeed, without the ability to exercise that right, the very idea of self-governance is meaningless.

When you think about it, what could be a more fundamental freedom than the right to decide what plants we can consume? How can we consider ourselves free at all if we can’t make this most basic of choices?

Shouldn’t we, then, argue strongly for this right — at least as strongly as we argue for the right to vote?

Thomas Szasz’s powerful analogy can open minds on this difficult subject.

Libertarian Candidates Pledge: Abolish the Income Tax

in Drugs, Economic Liberty, Elections and Politics, Liberator Online, Libertarian Party, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Libertarianism, Military, Taxes by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Scores of Libertarian Party candidates for federal office have pledged to downsize the Abolish The IRSbloated federal government — in these big and specific ways:

  • Eliminate the federal income tax
  • End the War on Drugs
  • Abolish the NSA
  • Cut military spending by 60%

We’ll be examining those pledges in detail below and in the next few issues, because they show that these bold-sounding proposals are not only possible, but practical and beneficial. (Of course, you can jump ahead and read about all four positions right now.)

First, eliminating the hated federal income tax. The candidates pledge: “If elected, I will sponsor legislation to eliminate the federal income tax, cut federal spending to the 1998 level ($1.65 trillion), and get the IRS off the backs of taxpayers.”

(Yes, that’s right: government has grown so rapidly in recent times that if you cut spending to 1998 levels — the Clinton era of huge government — you could eliminate the federal income tax.)

Here are the benefits of eliminating the income tax, according to the Libertarians:

  • Immediately balances the budget — without raising taxes.
  • Gives back, on average, $11,525 to each American family — every year — that they can invest, save, spend, or give away as they see fit.
  • Pours $1.4 trillion into the productive, private-sector economy, stimulating massive investment in small businesses and creating tens of millions of new private-sector jobs.
  • Stops the devaluation of the dollar and stabilizes prices, preserving American wealth.
  • Forces politicians to eliminate destructive federal programs, regulations, and bureaucracies that do more harm than good. Examples include: stifling business regulations, the prohibition of marijuana, unnecessary foreign wars, and thousands of frivolous projects best left to the private sector (e.g., promoting the Hawaiian Chocolate Festival).
  • Creates a boom in charitable giving. Trillions of dollars back in the hands of American taxpayers enables them to take care of others in need through their churches and private charities, and by giving directly to help friends, family, and community members in need.
  • Eliminates wasteful bookkeeping needed to comply with IRS tax filings and audits, saving Americans 6 billion hours of their precious time and up to $378 billion in accounting costs — every year.
  • Aborts the Democrats’ and Republicans’ plan to add another $5 trillion over the next eight years to the already perilously high $17 trillion federal government debt, sparing future generations from footing a bill they played no part in creating.
  • Frees up billions of dollars for Americans to spend on music, entertainment, crafts, and the arts, enabling talented individuals — now unemployed or working in jobs they don’t like — to do what they love for a living.
  • Forces politicians to eliminate government waste.
  • Stops the growth in the interest due on the federal debt, now at $237 billion per year. This will help minimize this expense if interest rates ever rise, which is likely.
  • Restores America’s reputation as the envy of the world, demonstrating that the American experiment of free, unfettered trade creates prosperity and alleviates poverty. This sets an example for poor countries, helping them rise from hardship to abundance.

 

Click here to read the next article from this issue.

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New York Times: End the Federal War on Marijuana

in Criminal Justice, Drugs, Liberator Online, Libertarian Stances on Issues by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

In a major and historic breakthrough for libertarians and other advocates of marijuana re-"Repeal Prohibition, Again" in the New York Timeslegalization, the New York Times editorial board has called for ending the federal war on marijuana.

Here are excerpts from the July 27 editorial, entitled “Repeal Prohibition, Again”:

“It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end [alcohol] Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.

“The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana. …

“There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level. …

“The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.

“There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the ‘Reefer Madness’ images of murder, rape and suicide. …

“Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime. …

“We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.”

The Times followed with a six-part series on marijuana legalization, which can be found under the text of their editorial.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance,commented on the groundbreaking editorial:

“This is of historic consequence — far bigger than most people assume. Some people in the country may perceive the Times editorial page as a liberal organ, but they should know that on this issue they’ve been cautious to a fault, even conservative. So for them to write what they did, at this juncture, demonstrated intellectual and moral clarity as well as courage.”

It should also be noted that what the New York Times is calling for is what the Libertarian Party and Ron Paul in his presidential campaigns called for — many years earlier.

THEY SAID IT…

in Drugs, Healthcare, Liberator Online, Victimless Crime by James W. Harris Comments are off


JAY LENO’S LAST STAB AT OBAMACARE:
 “And the worst thing about losing this job, I’m no longer covered by NBC. I have to sign up for Obamacare!” — Jay Leno on his last day as host of The Tonight Show, Feb. 6, 2014.

RAND PAUL TAKES ON NSA: “The Fourth Amendment states that warrants issued must be specific to a person, place or task and this provision of the Bill of Rights exists explicitly to guard against the notion of a general warrant,where government can plunder through anyone’s privacy at will. The NSA’s metadata collection program is a general warrant for the modern age, reflecting the same kind of tyranny our nation’s founders fought a revolution to make sure would never happen again. … It’s time to trash the NSA’s mass surveillance of Americans, for good.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), “The NSA is still violating our rights,” The Guardian, Feb. 20, 2014.

THE UNCONSTITUTIONAL WAR ON MARIJUANA: “The truth is that the federal ban on marijuana — unlike the federal ban on alcohol, which began and ended with constitutional amendments — has no basis in the powers granted by the Constitution, at least insofar as it purports to reach purely intrastate activities.” — syndicated columnist Jacob Sullum, “Let 50 Cannabis Flowers Bloom,” Jan. 29, 2014.

YES, THE GOV’T CAN KILL AMERICAN SUSPECTS ON AMERICAN SOIL: “The truth emerged only in 2013 when Senator Rand Paul asked point-blank whether the president could authorize lethal force, such as a drone strike, against an American citizen in the United States. Attorney General Eric Holder fired back that while the question was ‘hypothetical,’ the real-world answer was yes. Holder said he could imagine ‘an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States.’ … They’ve thought about it. They’ve set up the legal manipulations necessary to justify it. The broad, open-ended criteria the president laid out for killing suspected terrorists exposes the post-Constitutional stance our government has already prepared for. All that’s left to do is pull the trigger.” — journalist Peter Van Buren, “How to Build a Post-Constitutional America One Killing at a Time,” February 17, 2014.

WHY TRUST THE GOV’T: “The United States has been lying to its people for more than 50 years, and such lies extend from falsifying the reasons for going to war with Vietnam and Iraq to selling arms to Iran in order to fund the reactionary Nicaraguan Contras. Why should anyone trust a government that has condoned torture, spied on at least 35 world leaders, supports indefinite detention, places bugs in thousands of computers all over the world, kills innocent people with drone attacks, promotes the Post Office to log mail for law enforcement agencies and arbitrarily authorizes targeted assassinations?” — Prof. Henry A. Giroux, “Totalitarian Paranoia in the Post-Orwellian Surveillance State,” Truthout, Feb. 10, 2014.

THE FOUNDERS BETRAYED: “The bottom line is that we’ve betrayed much of the moral vision of our Founding Fathers. In 1794, when Congress appropriated $15,000 for relief of French refugees who had fled from insurrection in San Domingo to Baltimore and Philadelphia, James Madison rose on the floor of the House of Representatives to object, saying, ‘I cannot undertake to lay my finger on that article of the Constitution which granted a right to Congress of expending, on objects of benevolence, the money of their constituents.’ Tragically, today’s Americans — Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative — would hold such a position in contempt and run a politician like Madison out of town on a rail.” — syndicated columnist and economist Walter Williams, “Concealing Evil,” Feb. 19, 2014.