Tag: Drug policy

Ending the Mandatory Madness

This is a positive step:

Today, by a vote of 13 to 5, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved what the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) calls “the biggest overhaul in federal drug sentencing in decades.” The Smarter Sentencing Act, introduced by Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) last July, would cut mandatory minimum sentences in half for some drug offenses, make the reduced crack penalties enacted in 2010 retroactive, and expand the category of defendants eligible for sentencing below the mandatory minimums. “The Smarter Sentencing Act is the most significant piece of criminal justice reform to make it to the Senate floor in several years,” says Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office.

The Durbin-Lee bill does not go as far as the Justice Safety Valve Act, introduced last March by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Pat Leahy (who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee). That bill would have made mandatory minimums effectively optional by alllowing judges to depart from them in the interest of justice. The Smarter Sentencing Act is neverthless a big improvement. The crack provision alone could free thousands of prisoners serving sentences that almost everyone now concedes are excessively long. It would dramatically reduce the penalties for certain nonviolent drug offenses, changing 20-year, 10-year, and five-year mandatory minimums to 10 years, five years, and two years, respectively. It would allow more nonviolent offenders to escape mandatory minimums entirely by loosening the criteria for the “safety valve,” allowing two criminal background points instead of just one.

The massive sentences given to non-violent drug offenders are a big reason we now have two million people in prison. I have no problem with courts handing down big sentences to violent criminals; indeed there are some I think get off far too lightly. But when it comes to cases of possession and small-scale dealing, I see no purpose in forcing judges to lock up non-violent criminals for ridiculous amounts of time so they can learn to be real criminals.

I’m dubious that the House will act on this. But I wanted to post this to note who is behind it. The big sponsors are Rand Paul, whom the Left assures us in an evil racist Tea Party Republican, and Mike Lee, whom we are also assured is an evil racist Tea Party Republican. In fact, Mike Lee is such an evil racist Tea Party Republican that he delivered the evil racist Tea Party response to the State of the Union which, um, railed against corporate welfare, income inequality, NSA spying and the Republican establishment.

And yet these two evil racist Tea Party Republicans are advancing an issue that is (or used to be) of great importance to many so-called liberals. Thousands of people’s lives will be improved by this and most of them are of a different color than Mike Lee or Rand Paul. Most of the communities that would benefit are of a different social class.

Guess maybe we should pay more attention to some of those evil racist Tea Partiers, huh? Seems like they might have an idea or two.

Your Christ Christie Common Sense Porn of the Day

After a rough week with the Presidential candidates … man, I could use me some Chris Christie “common sense porn”.

I don’t see 100% eye-to-eye with the Governor on drugs, since he opposes medical marijuana and decriminalization. But the idea of treatment over prison for non-violent drug offenders is so sensible, so humane, so … conservative that I was honestly moved by his words.

2016, Chris. We’re waiting for you.

We The People

Obama is running for re-election now, so it’s time to drum up his populist support. To that end, his staff have launched a site called We the People, which allows the public to submit petitions online. If any get over 5,000 signatures, they’ll be forwarded to the President for an “official response”, which I’m guessing means they’ll stimulate the economy as discount toilet paper.

(Actually, I suspect the purpose is to get mailing lists, as you need an official Whitehouse.gov account to sign.)

Anyway, someone at the White House is clearly not familiar with this whole internet thing. You can get 5000 people to sign up for anything. I guarantee I could get 5000 signatures asking the President to wear a cheerleader outfit at press conferences. And that would probably have a greater likelihood of happening than what’s leading the pack:

Days into its launch, there are already eight petitions that will warrant a response from the White House per its own rules. The site appears to have attracted civil libertarians, pro-marijuana advocates, and atheists. The most popular petition with almost 20,000 signatures petitions the gov to “Legalize and Regulate Marijuana in a Manner Similar to Alcohol.” The petitioner writes: “Marijuana prohibition has resulted in the arrest of over 20 million Americans since 1965, countless lives ruined and hundreds of billions of tax dollars squandered and yet this policy has still failed to achieve its stated goals of lowering use rates, limiting the drug’s access, and creating safer communities. Isn’t it time to legalize and regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol?”

A petition created yesterday calling for the abolition of the TSA has already garnered over 7,000 signatures.

Those numbers are now up to 37,000 and 21,000. And this understates the case. Four more petitions on marijuana have over 10,000 votes each. Also trending high is the Sholom Rubashkin case, removing “Under God” from the pledge and ending software patents.

As I said, the President would ignore this anyway. But he’ll doubly ignore it now that pot is leading the charge. This President is turning out to be a major drug warrior and, considering his own history, a first class hypocrite. He’s laughed when this question has come up before because apparently ruining people’s lives, raiding legal clinics and taking relief away from people dying of cancer is funny. Personally I don’t find it amusing that 90% of pot busts in NYC are of black people even when they’re not smoking 90% of the pot. But if SWAT teams busting down people’s doors makes Obama giggle, that’s his problem.

However, reading through the list makes me proud of my fellow netizens. Almost every petition can be sorted into the “Get the fuck off my lawn” category of political thought. The most popular “gimme gimme gimme!” petition is one calling for mandatory spay-and-neuter laws. I’d be fine with that if it were applied to politicians, but they apparently want to apply it to animals. Well, other animals. More ethical animals.

Escalating the War on Pot

You know what? Obama is kind of a dick sometimes:

The Department of Justice sent out a memo today instructing the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration and leading officials in the U.S. Attorneys Office to treat medical marijuana shops as top priorities for prosecutors and drug investigators.

The memo, authored by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, “clarifies” a memo released in 2009 that declared medical marijuana sales in states that have legalized it to be a low priority for law enforcement and prosecutors. The so-called “Ogden memo” first appeared to drug law reformers as evidence that Pres. Obama was dialing back the war on drugs. The DEA and U.S. Attorneys office continued to go after state-legal grow operations and marijuana shops after the memo was first circulated, leading reformers to conclude that Obama was lying when he said on the campaign trail that he had no interest in going after medical marijuana.

The Ogden memo advised DEA’s and USA’s to back off from legal pot shops unless they were tied to organized crime or other illegal activities, like prostitution. It wasn’t followed by everyone, but there was a drop in busts. What they’re doing now is narrowing the Ogden memo so that it just means that law enforcement officials won’t drag actual patients with tubes dangling into prison. But they will go after anyone who grows or sells it, even if the are specifically authorized by the state: Here’s a direct quote:

Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law. Consistent with resource constraints and the discretion you may exercise in your district, such persons are subject to federal enforcement action, including potential prosecution. State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil or criminal enforcement of federal law with respect to such conduct, including enforcement of the CSA. Those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financial laws.

In other words, you could end up getting smacked with RICO because your wife runs a legal, licensed medical marijuana shop.

It is clear that Obama does not have the stones to do the right thing (not that this is any surprise). And it is equally clear that the federal law enforcement industrial complex is too deeply committed to this. DEA agents, US attorneys, the IRS — these guys are evaluated by how many people they bust and put in jail, not how much justice they create.

Enough. It’s time to rally the troops behind the Paul-Frank bill that would end this disaster. It’s time to return marijuana law to the states, where it should have been all along. Maybe the bill doesn’t have a chance. But it will force Obama and his fellow travelers to admit that they have a hard-on for taking medicine away from sick people, that they have zero respect for the states and for individual liberty.

I’m tired of this battle being fought in the dark, with secret memos and nebulous laws. It’s time to turn on the spotlights and make these fuckers run for cover.