Tuesday, December 28, 2010

LEAP in the UK

Check out this quick intro video of LEAP speaker Annie Machon, a former MI-5 officer from Britain:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas from Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

I would like to take a moment to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. In addition, I would like to thank three groups of people: our donors, our volunteers and our staff. You have all made an enormous contribution to Law Enforcement Against Prohibition throughout 2010.
With our passion for drug policy reform it is sometimes easy to forget that law enforcement officers do a lot of great work in our communities, both on and off the job. For example, here is a great story from the city of Logan in Utah:
The Logan City Police Department is declaring their Coats for Christmas drive a success. The department started the program seven years ago to assist children in elementary schools who did not have adequate winter clothing while traveling to and from school.
Here is another wonderful Christmas story from Victoria, British Columbia:
A pair of Victoria police officers played Good Samaritans to a 95-year-old man who was discovered living alone in an apartment without heat or lighting, despite having thousands of dollars in uncashed pension cheques.
These acts of kindness remind us of the words of a famous Anglo-American novelist, Taylor Caldwell, who said, "This is the message of Christmas: We are never alone." And as we take a break at the end of this year, and pause in our efforts to change laws that we know are harmful, we can also reflect on the thoughts of Albert Einstein:
"Nothing that I can do will change the structure of the universe. But maybe, by raising my voice I can help the greatest of all causes - goodwill among men and peace on earth."
All the best to you and your family during the holidays.

LEAP blog now cell phone friendly

The LEAP blog is now serving a custom page when it detects someone visiting the page with a cell phone. This is a beta feature from Draft in Blogger. Please check it out and let me know what you think.

Blogger has come a long way in the past year. They have added a lot of good features. When I first started this blog I used to hand code all of the posts in HTML because I didn't like the WYSIWIG editor they provided. It used to be faster for me to write the HTML myself, but now I use the Compose window almost all the time. In addition, Blogger has added better templates, improved the spam detection on their comment system and they now have a great visitor statistics page as well.

At one point I was thinking about moving this blog to WordPress, but now I'm going to stick with Blogger.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Google Ngram Viewer

Check out this chart by the Google Ngram Viewer. It shows the frequency of the phrase "drug war" rom 1800 to 2008. (Hat tip to Strayan who left a comment about this on Pete Guither's Drug WarRant blog.)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A bus trip in Mexico

One of our blog readers, Garth Kiser, sent me an article he wrote about a trip he took in Mexico. He's posted it to iReport on CNN.com. He was traveling from Chetumal to Tijuana by bus. Early in the trip, the bus goes through the occasional checkpoint:
Come morning we roll into a military checkpoint, officers armed with assault rifles behind sandbag bunkers. All passengers are ordered to exit the bus as the luggage compartments are searched. The soldiers attempt to coax drug sniffing dogs into the compartments with tennis balls on strings but get no K9 compliance. The next stop comes barely 10 miles later. An officer in a pressed white shirt bearing a large gold police star requests to see my Mexican entry card.
This was interesting for me because I've had the opportunity to watch some outstanding K9 dogs at work in Canada and the United States. It takes a lot of good instruction and training for both the dog and handler to get to the point where they can work effectively together. Now there could be any number of reasons why these dogs did not perform on this particular occasion (fatigue, heat, etc). However, I also wonder what kind of ongoing training and practise the handlers and their dogs are receiving.

As he gets closer to Tijuana, there is an increase in the number and severity of the checkpoints:
Fifteen hours north of Mexico City. The intensity of the checkpoints increases dramatically. The bus is boarded one or twice per hour by gangs of unidentified men carrying pockets full of tools. Highway 24, marker 127. A group of 4 surround my seat at the rear of the bus, asking questions and sizing me up with sinister expressions. These people have the look and feel of thugs, not cops. They move back outside but the bus can't yet depart because another group of cop-thugs is dismantling parts of the vehicle's exterior with power drills, looking behind panels and inside the engine compartment.
Garth concludes his article by asking an important question:
Busses are the main form of transportation in Mexico. How can the government allow their infrastructure to suffer so severely? The drugs searched for in Mexico are bound for the USA, not Mexico, so again, why would the Mexican government be willing to cripple a vital transportation infrastructure?

Friday, December 17, 2010

James Gierach in the SouthtownStar

Here's a great article about LEAP board member James Gierach. The SouthtownStar is a newspaper for the south side of Chicago. Here's my favourite quote:
“We’re running out of money,” he said. “That’s why the drug war will end. We just can’t fund it any more.”

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

All drugs should be legalised to beat dealers, says former minister - UK Politics, UK - The Independent

Former Defense Minister, former Drug Policy minister, current Labour Member of Parliament calls for all drugs to be legalized and regulated.

British Conservatives respond with the usual irrational response about the need to keep the current policy in order to protect the children.

Just kidding. According to the Independent:
Peter Lilley, the former Tory deputy leader, said he favoured legalising cannabis, while continuing the ban on hard drugs. But he added: "I support Bob Ainsworth's sensible call for a proper, evidence-based review, comparing the pros and cons of the current prohibitionist approach, with all the alternatives, including wider decriminalisation, and legal regulation."

Read the article here.

Picture of Health: Teens smoking more marijuana, taking more drugs - Health care, wellness, food nutrition, exercise, medical research news by reporters Kelly Brewington, Meredith Cohn and Andrea K. Walker - baltimoresun.com

Picture of Health: Teens smoking more marijuana, taking more drugs - Health care, wellness, food nutrition, exercise, medical research news by reporters Kelly Brewington, Meredith Cohn and Andrea K. Walker - baltimoresun.com: "Teenagers are smoking marijuana more than cigarettes, according to a study by the National Institutes of Health."

What? How can this be? I thought we had drug prohibition to protect the children.

Don't worry, however, we are still to blame, according to the article:
The survey also found that fewer teenagers find marijuana use unacceptable. The researchers wondered if talk about legalizing the drug could be influencing its perception as being okay.
The comment section in the article above would be a good place to explain why this conclusion is wrong.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ch ch ch changes...

Some people may have noticed their comments have been disappearing. Don't worry - I'm not censoring posts! Blogger has a new anti-spam feature that seems to err on the side of caution. Behind the scenes there is a spam box where I can check the comments that have been flagged as spam. Once I select "not spam" for your comment, this is supposed to help Blogger learn that you are not a spammer.

So, don't worry, with my help Blogger will eventually figure out who is a genuine human being vs. a lowly robot spammer. For now, one of the best options may be to not include links in your comments and then try adding them back again in a few weeks.

On another note, this morning I was playing around with the Blogger template designer. I've tweaked the blog a little. More tweaks will follow!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

LEAP Brazil

One of LEAP's international projects is to set up branches in various countries around the world. Walter McKay is organizing a branch in Mexico. Myself and several other volunteers have been laying the groundwork for LEAP Canada.

Retired Judge and LEAP board member Maria Lucia Karam has been working on LEAP Brazil. The branch recently launched a new web site. This is a great site - congratulations to Maria and all the LEAP Brazil volunteers. I know many of the readers on this blog don't speak Portuguese. However, you can still check out the web site and admire how professional it looks. :-)

Why Don't Conservatives Oppose the War on Drugs? by Laurence M. Vance

Why Don't Conservatives Oppose the War on Drugs? by Laurence M. Vance

The Federal war on drugs violates the US Constitution. Why do so many conservatives support it?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

U.S. House Passes Bill on Drug Cartels Growing Marijuana in National Parks (Press Release)

 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 7, 2010
CONTACT: Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or media//at//leap//dot//cc

U.S. House Passes Bill on Drug Cartels Growing Marijuana in National Parks

Cops and Border Patrol Agents Say the Only Real Solution is Marijuana Legalization

WASHINGTON, DC --  The U.S. House passed a bill today directing the White House drug czar's office to develop a plan for stopping Mexican drug cartels from growing marijuana in U.S. national parks.  A group of police officers and judges who fought on the front lines of the "war on drugs" is pointing out that the only way to actually end the violence and environmental destruction associated with these illicit grows is to legalize and regulate the marijuana trade.


"No matter how many grow operations are eradicated or cartel leaders are arrested, there will always be more people willing to take the risk to earn huge profits in the black market for marijuana," said Richard Newton, a former U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent who is now a speaker for the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "My years of experience in federal drug enforcement tell me that only when we legalize and regulate marijuana will we put a stop to this madness.  After all, you don't see too many Mexican wine cartels growing grapes in our national parks, and that's because alcohol is legal."

The bill
, H. Res. 1540, which was passed by the House via voice vote, points out many of the harms of the current prohibition policy that leads to drug cartels growing marijuana in U.S. national parks, including that

* drug traffickers spray considerable quantities of unregulated chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers;

* drug traffickers divert streams and other waterways to construct complex irrigation systems;

* it costs the Federal Government $11,000 to restore one acre of forest on which marijuana is being cultivated
;

* drug traffickers place booby traps that contain live shotgun shells on marijuana plantations;

* on October 8, 2000, an 8-year-old boy and his father were shot by drug traffickers while hunting in El Dorado National Forest;

* on June 16, 2009, law enforcement officers with the Lassen County Sheriff's Department were wounded by gunfire from drug traffickers during the investigation of a marijuana plantation on Bureau of Land Management property; and

* Mexican drug traffickers use the revenue generated from marijuana production on Federal lands to support criminal activities, including human trafficking and illicit weapons smuggling, and to foster political unrest in Mexico.

The bill points out that law enforcement efforts to date have only brought about "short-lived successes in combating marijuana production on Federal lands" but offers no suggestions for solutions that would actually hurt the cartels in the long-term.  The law enforcement officials at LEAP believe that legalization is the only long-term solution, and if the bill is enacted into law they will be working to make sure that the White House drug czar's office seriously weighs ending prohibition as part of the strategy called for by the legislation.

The full text of the bill can be found at:
<http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.RES.1540:>

Speaking on the floor today, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) said the bill "serves to perpetuate this failed policy of prohibition which has led to rise of criminal production of marijuana on federal lands."



Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) represents police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others who want to legalize and regulate drugs after fighting on the front lines of the "war on drugs" and learning firsthand that prohibition only serves to worsen addiction and violence. More info at http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com.

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Happy Belated Repeal Day!

LEAP speaker Peter Moskos has a good post up on his blog about Prohibition Repeal Day.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Willie Nelson Wants Marijuana Legalization "Teapot Party" | StoptheDrugWar.org

Willie Nelson Wants Marijuana Legalization "Teapot Party" | StoptheDrugWar.org: "After his third pot possession bust in five years, country music legend Willie Nelson has had enough. He told former High Times editor Steve Bloom's CelebStoner web site Sunday it is time for a new, pro-marijuana political party.

'There's the Tea Party. How about the Teapot Party? Our motto: We lean a little to the left,' Nelson said. 'Tax it, regulate it and legalize it, and stop the border wars over drugs. Why should the drug lords make all the money? Thousands of lives will be saved.'"

Good for Willie Nelson. However, he ought to consider the wisdom of legalizing, taxing, and regulating all drugs. Also, I think he would be wiser to include people in his proposed party who lean to the right as well. Many conservatives want to end the drug war too.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Neill Franklin in the Huffington Post

LEAP's executive director, Neill Franklin, has a new article in the Huffington Post. It's about the video "10 Rules for Dealing with Police" from Flex your Rights. This is different from LEAP's usual message but judging by the comments it was well received.

Now, imagine you were making a film for police officers: "10 Rules for Dealing with the Public." What would your rules be?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cops Urge Senate to Reject Obama's DEA Nominee - Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 16, 2010
CONTACT: Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or media//at//leap//dot//cc

Pro-Legalization Police Group Asks Senate to Vote Against Obama's DEA Nominee

Judiciary Committee to Hold Confirmation Hearing on Wednesday

WASHINGTON, DC -- A group of police officers, judges and prosecutors who support legalizing and regulating marijuana and other drugs has sent a letter to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee opposing President Obama's nominee to head the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The nominee, Michele Leonhart, has overseen numerous DEA raids of medical marijuana clinics operating in accordance with state laws during her tenure as acting DEA administrator. This is in direction violation of President Obama's campaign pledges and a Justice Department directive urging the DEA not to waste scarce law enforcement resources undermining the will of voters who have made medical marijuana legal in their states.

"As a police officer, I made arrests of drug users because I was held accountable for enforcing the law whether I agreed with it or not," wrote Neill Franklin, a former Baltimore narcotics cop, in his testimony on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), which he leads as executive director.  "Ms. Leonhart should be held similarly accountable for her actions which were inconsistent with guidance from the Department of Justice, as well as President Obama’s clear intentions based on his popular campaign pledges."

The criminal justice professionals of LEAP are also concerned with Leonhart's apparent disregard for the value of human life, having once called the gruesome violence in Mexico's illegal drug market a sign of "success" for U.S. drug policy.

"The tens of thousands of civilian deaths, which have continued to skyrocket since Ms. Leonhart’s statement, should not be measured as a sign of success," Franklin wrote. "Former Mexican president Vicente Fox and at least three additional former Latin American presidents have pointed out the failure of the US-led war on drugs and called for drastic change. The situation is Mexico is grave and escalating rapidly, putting US citizens in danger. Before the spillover violence gets any worse, the DEA needs a director who can engage world leaders in this debate and come to a solution."

Leonhart has served as acting administrator of the DEA for two years.  The hearing to confirm her as administrator takes place before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday at 2:30 PM in 226 Dirksen Senate Office Building.

#     #     #



FULL TEXT OF LEAP LETTER:


Senator Patrick Leahy, Chairman
Senate Committee on the Judiciary
Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Statement of
Major Neill Franklin
on behalf of
LAW ENFORCEMENT AGAINST PROHIBITION (LEAP)
in opposition to the nomination of
Ms. Michele Leonhart

  
Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) in opposition to the nomination of Michele Leonhart for the position of Director of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

After a 33-year career as a police officer, I became the executive director of LEAP, an association of current and former law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and criminal justice professionals at every level of government who are speaking out about the failure of our drug policy.

Our members are deeply concerned about drug abuse and illicit drug market violence, and we have spent our careers fighting the drug war. Several of our members, including Russ Jones of Texas, Matthew Fogg of Washington, D.C., and Richard Amos of Florida, served as DEA agents or on DEA task forces. And as a police officer with the Maryland State Police and the Baltimore Police Department, I too made my share of drug arrests in addition to commanding multi-jurisdictional drug task forces.

We oppose Ms. Leonhart’s nomination because her statements and actions demonstrate questionable judgment.  Ms. Leonhart held a press conference regarding Mexican drug prohibition violence last year.  Since 2006, more than 28,000 people have died in Mexico as a result of the illegal drug market violence.  At the press conference, Ms. Leonhart indicated that such violence was a good sign. “Our view is that the violence we have been seeing is a signpost of the success our very courageous Mexican counterparts are having,” she said. “The cartels are acting out like caged animals, because they are caged animals.”

The tens of thousands of civilian deaths, which have continued to skyrocket since Ms. Leonhart’s statement, should not be measured as a sign of success. Former Mexican president Vicente Fox and at least three additional former Latin American presidents have pointed out the failure of the US-led war on drugs and called for drastic change. The situation is Mexico is grave and escalating rapidly, putting US citizens in danger. Before the spillover violence gets any worse, the DEA needs a director who can engage world leaders in this debate and come to a solution.

Ms. Leonhart’s judgment in allocating resources is questionable. Since her appointment by President Bush, she has overseen more than 200 federal raids in California and other medical marijuana states.  When Ms. Leonhart became interim director, these raids continued even after the issuance of the October 19, 2009 Department of Justice memo which recommended federal officials shift resources away from targeting those individuals and organizations operating in compliance with state laws related to medical marijuana.

As a police officer, I made arrests of drug users because I was held accountable for enforcing the law whether I agreed with it or not.  Ms. Leonhart should be held similarly accountable for her actions which were inconsistent with guidance from the Department of Justice, as well as President Obama’s clear intentions based on his popular campaign pledges. Under her supervision, a DEA agent raiding a marijuana grower who was operating with the support of the sheriff in Mendocino County, CA, said, “I don’t care what the sheriff says.” This attitude is counterproductive. Given the grave problems associated with illegal drug market violence, we feel that conducting raids on individuals and caretakers acting in compliance with state and local law may not be the best use of the DEA’s limited resources.

The DEA needs a director whose decisions are guided by the best interests of our citizens. Despite calls by the American Medical Association, Ms. Leonhart has failed to respond to a petition calling for hearings to review the scheduling of marijuana. Despite the DEA’s own administrative law judge’s ruling that the University of Massachusetts should be able to cultivate marijuana for FDA-approved research, Ms. Leonhart has blocked such research. We encourage the nomination of a director who supports engaging in dialogue and the use of research to shape the best possible policies.

Ultimately, we feel Ms. Leonhart is not ready for the job of DEA director and qualified candidates are available.  In your confirmation hearings, the members of the Judiciary Committee should ask the difficult questions which will determine how she would intend to handle the changing nature of US drug laws. Voters across the country have created a gap between federal policy and state law that is steadily widening. In fifteen states, plus Washington D.C., the medical use of marijuana has been recognized. Several other states may choose to legalize marijuana in the next few years. The director of the DEA must be able to appropriately bridge this divide without wasting resources or causing unnecessary harm.

In the meantime, the criminal justice professionals of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition urge a no vote on Ms. Leonhart’s confirmation as DEA director.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Writing Arizona's Medical Marijuana Program

As soon as the election is certified, the Arizona Department of Health Services has 120 days to write the rules for Arizona's medical marijuana program. We need to get it right like New Mexico, not fall into the problems California has.

Every time I complain about medical marijuana prices, someone jumps me saying their helping patients. But their not, they’re drug dealers and it’s time we say that..

Truth is, it costs very little to grow marijuana. According to the Rand Drug Policy Research Center who says a well-run 5’ x 5’ hydroponic indoor grow producing 4 harvests per year might yield 10.5 pounds per year with tangible costs of $225 per pound--$75 per pound for electricity and the remaining $150 per pound for other factors. That works out to $14.06 an ounce.

When I checked prices at the Kind Connection Collective in Needles California just across the river from where I live. The retail price of medical marijuana was between $5440 and $8960 a pound. This is what we need to prevent in Arizona.

By law in California and Arizona the plants belong to the patients. These so called collectives take plants that belong to the patients, and sell them back to the patients for as much as $8960.00 a pound. I don’t know about you, but I think something is wrong with that.

It’s time we call drug dealers, drug dealers. I’m sorry, but the only people who can afford medical marijuana are people who are working, not the sick and disabled who need it.

The vast majority of patients needing medical marijuana can not afford it, so much for compassion in California’s Compassionate Use Act. It would cost more than people on disability receive for the medical marijuana they need.

Most people on disability only make around $1000 a month. At Needles California prices, the allowable 2.5 ounces every 14 days in Arizona would cost between $1700 and $2800 a month.

We need to look at New Mexico and Canada’s medical marijuana programs. In New Mexico two of the licensed dispensaries are providing medical marijuana to patients at less than $10 per gram, one for $4/gram ($114/ounce) and one for $5/gram ($142.50/ounce).

When I complain about medical marijuana prices, a lot of angry people attack me saying they need to charge these prices because they might get arrested.

True marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but out of the thousands of dispensaries and collectives very few get raided by DEA. Those are the ones making enormous profits, and under California and Arizona law, you can not profit from medical marijuana.

Dispensary prices vs. street prices. The cost of medical marijuana should have nothing to do with the street price of marijuana. The morphine I take costs .50 cents a pill at the pharmacy, yet it’s worth $15-$20 a pill on the street, so my prescription is worth $1800-$2400. Like medical marijuana, the only people who sell morphine to people in pain for $15-$20 a pill, are drug dealers.

The people who complain the most when I write about the enormous profits made by dispensaries and collectives are the people making all the money. Please someone tell me how a simple to grow plant can be worth almost $9000 a pound.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New LEAP Speaker

Here's a new LEAP speaker, John Anderson. And here, perhaps, is a future LEAP speaker.

IdeaWave conference video

My video from the IdeaWave conference is now online. It's a quick ten minute introduction to LEAP and the War on Drugs.

The IdeaWave conference is similar to TED (but more affordable). The first conference took place in July, in Victoria, and the next one is scheduled for February 2011. The conference consists of fifty speakers, ten minutes each, with no limits on subject matter. The only requirement is that the talk must be a unique idea developed or refined by the speaker.I was a speaker at the first conference and I had a blast. I was coming off a night shift so I was tired. My plan was to give my presentation and then go home. However, I stuck around for a couple of presentations and I enjoyed them so much that I ended up staying the whole day. The conference organizer, Kris Constable, is now putting one or two conference videos online each week. I would encourage you to check out ideawave.ca to see more videos.

Closely associated with the IdeaWave conferences are the Idea Meetings that take place in several cities around the world. Check out the Wiki and perhaps start an Idea meetup in your city.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New videos on main LEAP web site

There are three new videos on the main LEAP web site. They feature Nate Bradley, Terry Nelson and Carol Ruth Silver. The middle of these three focuses on the outcome of Proposition 19. Also, check out the LEAP calendar for upcoming radio interviews and events with your favourite LEAP speakers.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Guest Post: Where Does the Legalization Movement Go From Here?

I am pleased to share this guest post from Brandon Yu. He is a Managing Editor of AllTreatment.com. AllTreatment is an online rehab center directory and substance abuse information resource.


I don't think we've had any guest posts before on the LEAP blog, so this is something new for us. The initiative shown by Brandon is welcome. Please be kind to him in the comments section!

After much national attention, California Proposition 19 has failed by 8 percent in nearly a 600,000 vote difference. As we all know, the Proposition was supposed to legalize marijuana in the state of California for recreational use. The measure was opposed by elected officials of both parties, including Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic Senators Barabar Boxer and Diane Feinstein.

Proposition 19 did not receive support from the federal government, either. Even if marijuana been legalized after the election, US Attorney General Eric Holder said that Obama’s administration would still “vigorously enforce” federal drug laws vigorously against Californians who would sell or grow marijuana for recreational use. Had it been legalized.

California Proposition 19 is not the only marijuana legislation to be rejected by voters across the country. Ballots in Arizona and South Dakota had measures advocating medical marijuana, but those too were rejected.

Proponents showed many benefits of legalization. In a floundering econonmy, the passing of the proposition would have generated $1.4 billion a year in tax revenue, resulting in significant savings for state and local governments. Some believed it would also reduce drug-related violence and take revenue away from drug lords. However, opponents argued that it would increase the cost of substance abuse programs due to the supposed raise in marijuana use, and that the state’s medical marijuana program would lose business since people would gain the product through other way.

So what does this mean for legalization in California, let alone the status of marijuana in the country’s future?

Marijuana laws in California have grown increasingly more relaxed in the year leading up to the proposition. In one of Schwarzenegger's final moves in his last year as Governor, he signed a bill into law that downgraded marijuana possession from a Misdemeanor to a simple Civil Infraction. Despite this, Schwarzenegger did not say that this was an admission of support for legalization.

Other states, and other countries had been looking to how California would react to legalization. Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whose country had been experiencing a prolonged drug war with the cartels, was considering legalization in order to put less money in the pockets of the opposition. The Mexican drug cartels make anywhere from $20 billion-$30 billion annually off drug trafficking alone, with marijuana comprising of 60 percent of that income. Legalization would have dramatically reduced that number, potentially by $12 billion. Many Mexican officials were hoping California would set an example.

In spite of this, the legalization movement is stronger than ever. This is not the first time marijuana legalization failed in California. A similar proposition in 1972 – coincidentally titled Proposition 19 – failed when put at the hands of voters. However, that proposition failed by a wider margin, with a 66.5/33.5 No/Yes differential, a much larger difference than the 54/46 resulted from Tuesday. Though the proposition failed, proponents are vowing to get a similar one on a ballot in the near future. Some exit polls have shown that some Voters think that marijuana should be legalized, in a margin of 49%-41% with 10% undecided, suggesting that voters had more issues with the wording of the proposition rather than legalization.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Not a fan...


Occasionally I receive emails from strangers regarding my advocacy for drug policy reform. These are almost always positive. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of negative emails I have received in the past two years. Anyway, today one of those emails arrived my inbox from someone in BC. I've removed his name to protect his privacy, but otherwise here is the full text of his email:

Mr. Bratzer:

I recently heard you on CKNW radio in the Van. area peddling your wares around de-criminalization. I must say that I have never heard such a lame collection of talking points, cliches and drivel. You come from the starting place that drug enforcement has failed. You obviously don't not live in British Columbia: we are living in the midst of de facto de-criminalization of marijuana, both possession and production, thanks entirely to an activist judiciary who refuse to punish criminals for grow ops. In BC, only 3 or 4 people out of 100 get any punishment for having a grow op. The punishment? On average a $ 1,500.00 fine, even though they have stolen on average $ 1,800.00 worth of hydro to run the grow op and receive a mere 15 days in jail, on average. Now I don't want to confuse you with facts but here in BC we are already living in a world of de-criminaliztion. Is it utopia? Hardly. Because marijuana is the gateway drug for all starting out street gangs and is the currency of both street gangs and organized crime, we have experienced unprecedented gang violence: 50 unsolved targeted hits with 5 innocent Canadians murdered in the last 3 years minding their own business. Because of plea bargains, the average number of plants a person has in their "possession" when convicted of just possession in BC is 94 plants. Did you know that?? Are you surprised? Its far worse then you even know. Are you tracking yet? And your worn out cliches are pale against the reality of what needs to be done to re-assert control over public safety. What will all those streets gangs do and all those Angels do when the govt. gets in the business? Do you think they will all go and work in MacDonalds? Or maybe into law enforcement? They could ride along side people like you, for example.....Right! And is the govt. also going to take over all those illegal hand guns, cocaine and heroine coming north in exchange for our BC Bud?
Sadly, your position around de-criminalization raises more questions than answers.

Based on what we see here in BC, you are advocating anarchy, but I am certain that that reality totally escapes you. But I digress. Ignorance is bliss.......
Assuming his statistics are correct, what would you tell this fellow?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Asset forfeiture gone wrong

Police have raided the office in charge of asset forfeiture in Columbia.

"Police became suspicious after drug traffickers were found to be in possession of properties which had officially been seized by the agency."


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Update from Canada

LEAP has been almost 100% focused on Proposition 19 these past couple of months.

Although the ballot initiative did not pass, I am proud of all the staff and the speakers who put so much time into California. The blog has paid a price during this time. There haven't been a lot of posts. Many people associated to LEAP were so busy volunteering for Prop 19 that there was not a lot of time for blogging!

LEAP has also been busy in Canada. On Monday, I drove to Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo and gave guest lectures about the War on Drugs to two different criminology classes. What a great group of students - they a lot of interesting questions (including a couple I wasn't able to answer, such as whether the financial amounts shown in my PowerPoint slides were adjusted for inflation).

A journalist from the Nanaimo Daily News, Darrell Bellaart, sat in the back of the class during the first guest lecture. Here is the article he subsequently wrote. Not only that, but the next day he was kind enough to write this wonderful follow-up piece.

In addition, I met two people in Nanaimo who may end up becoming LEAP speakers. I hope to write more about that later. It was a very successful trip and I am thankful to the VIU Criminology Chair, Joanne Simister, for inviting me.

And today I testified by videoconference before the Canadian Senate (Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs) regarding Bill S-10. This is a "tough on crime" drug bill that introduces mandatory minimum sentences in Canada for certain drug offences. It looks like the bill will pass, although perhaps with some amendments. I should be able to post a YouTube video of my presentation soon.

This was my second time testifying before the Senate committee in regards to drug legislation. It was a real privilege and an honour to be invited back to this committee after my first appearance. I have always felt that if your government asks you to do something, you have an obligation to give the request serious consideration. Even though many of the suggestions I provided will not make it into the final version of the bill, I feel as though, in some small way, I served my country today.

As always, the opinions posted by me on this blog are mine alone, and do not represent the viewpoint of my employer.



Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Rising Costs

Last September figures were released as to the cost of Calderónś war to the economy of Mexico as well as the individual. In El Universal, in the front page news headline on September 29, the Business Industry Council of Mexico estimated that the violence and related security costs in Mexico cost nearly 800 US dollars for each person in Mexico. The next day, September 30, the front page news headline was that businesses in the affected areas are losing, on average, 36% of their business. However, it was the headline on the front page of El Universal today that reflects the real cost to Mexican society “Nueva masacre de jóvenes en Juárez” “New massacre of the young in Juárez” (El Universal Oct 24, 2010 A1) where 14 young people were murdered and 15 more wounded, the majority of them teenagers although there was a 9 nine old child killed as well.

This latest horror updates a recent trend of multiple killings of innocents in the northern states of Mexico by gunmen: Sept 2, 2009 - 17 clients of a drug rehabilitation centre in Juárez, Chihuahua; Sept. 15 2009 - 9 men and 1 woman in another drug rehabilitation center in Juárez; Jan 30, 2010 - 16 youth were murdered at a private house party in Juárez; March 12, 2010 - gunmen kill 8 people between the ages of 16 and 28; June 10, 2010 - 19 more clients are murdered at a rehabilitation center in Juárez; and, July 18, 2010 - 17 youths are gunned down in Torreón, Durango.

Mexican columnists (an endangered profession itself) are now starting to write about what people have been whispering among themselves for the last few months, that the patterns of killings is more and more resembling social cleansing by self-appointed vigilantes and political interests who back death squads. Mexico has millions of young people without education, work or opportunity who are being recruited by the cartels (who offer what the state does not, a chance to work and get ahead regardless of the risk). The death squads, under the cover of the indiscriminate slaughter that plagues this country, are removing those “troublesome” elements with little or no fear of being apprehended. Or so it is whispered.

The veil that there is justice in Mexico, the Rule of Law, has been brutally torn away by Calderón’s War. His deployment of the military and its ineffectiveness combined with the broken judicial system (police, prosecutors and judges all) that cannot put a halt to more than 30,000 killings, wholesale slaughter, death squads and rampant vigilantism has revealed the hollow shell of security that covers Mexico. One can see the police, security guards and military forces deployed throughout the country, constantly patrolling but the narcos have shown that it is all just for show. There is no security, not for the poor, nor the rich, nor even the powerful (the recent kidnapping of power-broker and ex-senator, Diego Fernández de Cevallos as well as the 12 mayors that have been killed in 2010 alone illustrate this) and people are starting to resort to their own measures.

This is the real cost, it is not the lost business or cost of maintaining the security forces rather it is the breakdown of the state and the lack of faith of its existence/relevance by its citizens. Mexico is not a failed state, but it is definitely failing and only the politicians seem to be oblivious to this fact.


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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

LEAP Events Calendar

Take a look at the LEAP Events Calendar. Look at all the events LEAP is doing in California during the next thirteen days.

It's pretty amazing. September and the earlier weeks in October were just as packed.

LEAP has been doing an amazing job in California supporting Proposition 19. I've held off doing much as a LEAP speaker, mainly because I think it would be inappropriate for someone from another country to tell American citizens how to vote.

That said, I'm very proud of the LEAP speakers and staff who have been working hard in California. They've made a real difference in the ballot initiative.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

There is no change

Recent events indicate the slow disintegration of communities in Mexico. In addition to the daily killings, which average over 32 a day for 2010 (8 per day in Ciudad Juárez alone) there is now the 11 assassinations of mayors in 2010, in both rich municipalities and poor alike. This is in conjunction to the increasing acts of vigilantism that is sweeping throughout the country because of the lack of confidence in the state in its ability to provide security to its citizens.

The killings have been ever-increasing as acknowledged by Alejandro Poiré, the Technical Secretary for the National Security Council of Mexico, who stated that for the months of June, July and August the average was 49 killings per day (over 1000 per month), BUT, he then added, the good news is that since September 24 the rate has now stabilized at 36 killings per day (he made the announcement on September 30)...indications of a government struggling for any kind of "good" news that it can get. The pace of killings has now become routine, so much so, that one of the national newspapers of Mexico, El Universal, has diminished its daily, thorough, reporting of each incident and daily count of executions to once or maybe twice a week, with only the scantiest of details.

The Federal government has repeatedly stated that the killings are narcos killing narcos and that 90% of the dead are criminals, a claim that is dubious at best since the investigative prowess of the police are nearly non-existent with a government estimate that only 1% of all crimes end with a conviction. Of course, this perception is starting to change somewhat now that the dead are beginning to include mayors of towns all over Mexico. Of the 11 mayors killed in 2010, 5 have been assassinated in the last 6 weeks: Gustavo Sanchez, mayor of Tancitaro, Michoácan; Prisciliano Rodriguez, mayor of Doctor Gonzalez, Nuevo León; Edelmiro Cavazos, mayor of Santiago, Nuevo León: Marco Antonio Garcia, mayor of Hidalgo, Tamaulipas; Alexander Lopez-Garcia, mayor of El Naranjo, San Luis Potosi. And, there have been reports of hundreds of other mayors receiving threats and/or who have had attempts made upon their lives.  

Lastly, there is the vigilantism. Since 2008, the number of incidents of mobs of citizens taking justice into their own hands has nearly doubled every year with two in 2008 (April 10, 2008 and June 24, 2008), four in 2009 (November 9, 2009, December 9, 2009, December 10, 2009 and December 20, 2009) and seven to date for 2010 (January 6, 2010, February 18, 2010, May 17, 2010, August 6, 2010, August 8, 2010, August 13, 2010, September 21, 2010).

The news is that none of this is news or seems to raise any real concerns, either nationally or internationally. The rhetoric is muted, staid and unchanging, “stick to the plan and everything will work out” (clearly none of the leaders are aware of Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity).

The number of people killed in relation to the drug war here in Mexico for 2010 is now at 8213 and the total killed since Calderón launched his war in December 2006 is 29413.

For a map of the killings: click: Narco-killings

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

When we waste resources on non-violent drug offenders rather than violent criminals, people die

This is what happens when we waste resources on non-violent drug offenders rather than violent criminals.

Free to flee Are fugitives an open secret in law enforcement?
Found but let go, fugitives strike again it’s been an open secret in law enforcement for decades. Authorities refuse to investigation found that authorities have long refused to pick up fugitives who have fled, extradite many sought on warrants, and "these guys know they can just take off."

By Joe Mahr
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
http://www.correctionsone.com/news/1842529-Free-to-flee-Are-fugitives-an-open-secret-in-law-enforcement/

CLEVELAND — Halfway up a gentle slope in Sunset Memorial Park, a heart-shaped wreath of red and white carnations stands over a grave marker etched with Badge No. 545. Cathy Clark and Pat McLaughlin sit on either side, absently plucking blades of grass as they recall the life of the man they loved, and their bitterness over his death. The man who wore badge 545 - Clark's husband, McLaughlin's son - was gunned down by a fugitive from Florida who was wanted for assault and robbery.
A fugitive who, hours earlier, had been in jail in Ohio.

A fugitive who had to be let go, because Florida wouldn't pick him up.

"They should have extradited - there was no excuse," said McLaughlin, on the ninth anniversary of the death of police Detective Robert Clark.

Cathy Clark added: "It's just hard to understand. ... You get really disillusioned the more you learn."

A Post-Dispatch investigation found that authorities have long refused to pick up fugitives who have fled.

Even when their warrants are put into national databases and even when police locate them elsewhere, fugitives regularly don't face justice.

Law enforcement officials across the nation acknowledge that their inability or unwillingness to extradite merely shifts the danger to another community.

"It's a joke really," said Oregon prosecutor Ed Caleb. "And the joke's unfortunately on all of us, because these guys know they can just take off."

The open secret

The unwillingness to retrieve fugitives has long been common knowledge in law enforcement.

Cases that make headlines often result in extradition, but other cases never make the cut.

Most law enforcement data on fugitives is kept secret by state and federal laws and policies. So the best glimpse of the problem comes from information kept by two federal agencies that provided data: the Social Security Administration and Veterans Affairs.

Under orders by Congress, both agencies match their recipient rolls against databases of fugitives wanted on felonies and pass the names and addresses to police.

Police often don't tell the agencies what they did with the new addresses. But when they do report back, they routinely say the fugitives were too far away to pick up.

In nearly 5,000 active cases since 2000 in which police notified Social Security of the outcome, authorities refused to retrieve fugitives wanted on violent felonies 28 percent of the time. The rate was 37 percent for the 171 Veterans Affairs cases.

For nonviolent felonies, authorities declined to extradite in nearly 40 percent of the 25,000 matches.

Violent outcomes

The failure to extradite can backfire.

Social Security notified Virginia authorities in 2000 that fugitive Felipe Fowlkes was living in New York. Fowlkes, with convictions for assault and sex crimes, was wanted on charges of felony theft and voter fraud.

But Virginia was unwilling to travel 500 miles to pick up Fowlkes.

His benefits were cut off in April 2000. Three weeks later, he tried to rob a woman in New York, resulting in three years in prison. Virginia had not filed a detainer to hold Fowlkes, so he was released when his term was up.

In 2003, six weeks after his release, Fowlkes raped a girl, 15, in Massachusetts.

Authorities in Nottoway County, Va., did not respond to questions about why they didn't retrieve Fowlkes.

In Oregon, authorities had an active warrant out for nine years for Victor Batres-Martinez, an illegal immigrant whose rap sheet included armed robbery and kidnapping. The last warrant, in 1993 in Oregon, was for drugs.

Immigration officials arrested him crossing the border into New Mexico in 2002, but Portland authorities wouldn't travel outside the Pacific Northwest to retrieve him. He was driven back to Mexico and released.

Seven months later, he made his way back to Oregon. In Klamath Falls, he came across two nuns on a bike path, and beat and raped them.

One nun died.

There was no outcry over the decision not to extradite.

Even Caleb, the man who later prosecuted Batres-Martinez, said he didn't blame Portland officials.

Oregon's budget reimburses extradition costs only in extreme cases. An informal network of police agencies will shuttle fugitives for free, but only in the Pacific Northwest.

With the state's lack of prison space, authorities usually don't pursue fugitives facing nonviolent charges, Caleb said.

"If he goes across the (state) border, everybody's glad they don't have to extradite him back now, because everybody's so overcrowded," Caleb said. "It's really a horrible way to run a criminal justice system."

Police 'betrayed'

Florida's Lee County was willing to cross state lines to retrieve fugitive Correy Major - but not all state lines.

Major had seriously injured an elderly woman in 1997 when he stepped on her face to steal her purse, and he nearly wrestled the gun away from a police officer who chased him down.

County authorities were willing to retrieve him from anywhere in the southeastern United States.

They'd go only as far north as Kentucky.

He fled Florida and was arrested two months later in a strip club in suburban Cleveland for breaking into a pickup and resisting arrest. Police there contacted Florida authorities but learned that Ohio was one state too far for Florida to travel.

So Major posted $900 bond on the Ohio misdemeanor charges. He called his mother to tell her he was being released.

"He said, 'Something ain't right,'" recalled his mother, Annie Watts. "He said, 'They're setting me up.'"

Eight hours later, police officers from a different department came upon Major selling drugs on a Cleveland street corner, records show. They had no idea he was a fugitive.

They chased him up the stairs of an apartment building. Major pulled a gun and shot at them, hitting Detective Clark, before another officer shot back, killing Major.

Officers rushed Clark to the hospital, but doctors couldn't save him. Then they learned that Major was a fugitive, in police hands just hours earlier.

"We all felt like we were betrayed," Sgt. Jerry Zarlenga recalled. "How could that happen?"

Still no solution

Lee County authorities were quick to apologize, and changed their procedure to allow supervisors to make exceptions to extradition limits. They say they rarely decline to extradite now.

Yet statewide in Florida, it's clear that authorities won't cross state lines for nearly 60 percent of felony warrants involving violence, sex or guns, because they aren't even entered into the FBI fugitive database, according to information from the state.

In Florida, as in many states, the local sheriff or prosecutor must pay for extradition costs.

Missouri reimburses local officials, spending about $2 million a year so they can pick up fugitives from out of state. But even in Missouri, in 10 percent of felony warrants involving violence, sex or guns, agencies will not go out of state to retrieve fugitives.

Illinois has a state fund for extradition but hasn't put any money in it.

In 1999, the FBI's Advisory Policy Board, a group composed mostly of state and local officers who help oversee the national fugitive database, tried unsuccessfully to get federal aid for extradition.

Former board chairman Gray Buckley pushed the idea before he left the board that year, and said he was frustrated it had been ignored.

"We're talking about saving lives," he said.

The U.S. Marshals Service will fly fugitives - for a fee, said William Sorukas, the agency's chief inspector for domestic investigations.

To transport suspects in violent felonies for free, he estimated his agency would need $10 million to $20 million and more planes.

But he would support the idea.

"This is frustrating for the detectives who may have put months into the case developing a suspect, and it's up to the DA who says, 'We can't afford to bring them back.'"

The frustration extends to the family and friends of victims produced by the failure to extradite.

Clark's friend Zarlenga wonders why public officials haven't addressed the problem.

"Somebody should be stepping forward."

Clark's family tried.

His sister, Mary Forbes, said family members contacted prosecutors' groups about setting up nationwide extradition guidelines. They were told it was impractical.

Nine years after her brother's death, there remain no standards or federal aid.

To Forbes: "It's just a very broken-down system that has a lot of holes."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Drug War Basic Disrespect for Law

Albert Einstein said, "The prestige of government has undoubtedly been lowered considerably by the prohibition law. For nothing is more destructive of respect for the government and the law of the land than passing laws which cannot be enforced."

I can't prove the basic disrespect for law today is caused by our current drug policies, but I do know a lot more cops are getting in trouble today.

I think when young people live where many of the people around them are violating the law, committing drug felonies every day, the young people grow up with a basic disrespect for the law.

When these young people go into law enforcement, they seem to retain that same disrespect for law.

In Arizona the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board is responsible for the certification of police officers, and they can revoke that certification. It happens all too often today.

If you read the Drug War Chronicles Corrupt Cops section, you may like the Arizona POST Integrity Bulletin.

http://www.azpost.state.az.us/Integrity.htm

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Arms in Mexico

It is easy to be critical at President Calderón’s misguided, heavy-handed and ill-planned war that he has launched against the deeply entrenched cartels, but there have been results (aside from the slaughter of over 29,000 people since Dec 2006). The Mexican government released figures on the number of weapons seized in the last 10 years, over 79,000, with nearly 71,000 of those being seized since Calderón came to power 4 years ago. Of the 79,000 weapons, 23,000 are assault rifles and other large caliber weapons while almost 48,000 are handguns (the astute reader will notice that these two numbers do not add up to 79,000, this is due to the fact that there are other weapons seized such as anti-personnel mines, hand-grenades and rocket launchers). The weapons of choice is the ubiquitous AK-47 (known in Mexico as cuernos de chivo or “goat horns”) and its American cousin the AR-15 although the nacros have a fondness for the .50 Barret and RPGs as well as the FN57 or matapolicías (police killers) which, when used with Teflon bullets can pierce body armor. The bosses are so fond of their weapons that they have them coated in gold plating.
So we can see that there is some good of this effort, that some weapons are being removed (90% of which are determined to be from the United States).
For a map of the killings: click: Narco-killings
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Open Thread

  • Jeffrey Miron and Katherine Waldock have a new white paper, "The Budgetary Impact of Ending Drug Prohibition." They estimate the savings for the United States in enforcement costs would amount to $41.3 billion per year. The tax revenues from legalization would generate $46.7 billion annually.

  • The Ontario Superior Court has ruled that three of Canada's prostitution laws are unconstitutional. It seems the courts increasingly appreciate the dangers created by prohibition.

  • Wally Oppal has been appointed to head a public inquiry in British Columbia. Oppal will examine the Robert Pickton investigation. This case involved a serial killer who targeted women from Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada). Many of these women were prostitutes and drug users. It will be interesting to see if the public inquiry will consider prohibition as a factor here.

  • This article from The Guardian explains how social networks are telling the real story about Mexico's drug war. (LEAP speaker Walter McKay lives in Mexico and he has a great blog about what is happening in Mexico.)

  • Australia has formally approved a "heroin injecting room." The site has been around since 2001 on a trial basis. It has gone through eleven evaluations from five different organizations (the most recent evaluation was actually done by KPMG).
Update: This Globe and Mail article is the most comprehensive article I've been able to find so far regarding the prostitution decision out of Ontario.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Looks like Border Violence is just more drug war hype according to the Arizona Republic.

Violence is not up on Arizona border despite Mexican drug war
Mexico crime flares, but here, only flickers
by Dennis Wagner - May. 2, 2010 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

NOGALES, Ariz. - Assistant Police Chief Roy Bermudez shakes his head and smiles when he hears politicians and pundits declaring that Mexican cartel violence is overrunning his Arizona border town.
"We have not, thank God, witnessed any spillover violence from Mexico," Bermudez says emphatically. "You can look at the crime stats. I think Nogales, Arizona, is one of the safest places to live in all of America."
FBI Uniform Crime Reports and statistics provided by police agencies, in fact, show that the crime rates in Nogales, Douglas, Yuma and other Arizona border towns have remained essentially flat for the past decade, even as drug-related violence has spiraled out of control on the other side of the international line. Statewide, rates of violent crime also are down.

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/05/02/20100502arizona-border-violence-mexico.html#ixzz10OK34orq

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Interview from CSSDP conference

Here's a nine minute interview I did with Kevin Letourneau at the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy conference in Vancouver. The interview took place last year but he only recently put it online. I am very pleased with this video - Kevin did an great job with the editing:



CSSDP organizes a drug policy conference in Canada each year. Their next conference will be held in Toronto from November 5th to 7th, 2010. Retired Ontario provincial court judge and LEAP speaker Marvin Morten will be part of one of the panels.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

International Talk Like a Pirate Day

After reviewing these links there'll be no doubt in yer mind that prohibition brings gold and plunder for pirates and other criminals:

- Time4Hemp is an hour long radio program hosted by Casper Leitch and broadcast on American Freedom Radio. Every Wednesday is LEAP night. Peter Christ joins the show as a co-host and interviews various LEAP speakers. Check out their archives for interviews with Matthew Fogg, Russell Jones, Neill Franklin, Ruth Silver, Matthew McCally and other members of LEAP.

- Tony Newman and Stephen Gutwillig have a great op-ed in the The Sacramento Bee in which they mention Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

- For ye landlubbers, today be International Talk Like A Pirate Day. Thar she blows, matey. :-)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Media Goes Nuts for Cops Supporting Marijuana Legalization

Yesterday's pro-legalization law enforcement press conferences and sign-on letter rolled out by LEAP is garnering extensive media coverage.


Take a look at just a few examples:

Fox News Channel:




KCBS CBS 5:




KABC ABC-7:

KTTV Fox-11:
 

Los Angeles Times:
On-the-job experience demonstrated the futility of trying to enforce laws prohibiting the possession and use of small amounts of cannabis, Gray said at a news conference held by Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a nonprofit organization supporting Proposition 19.

"I was a drug warrior until I saw what was happening in my own courtroom,'' said Gray, a former federal prosecutor.

Associated Press (picked up by over 200 news websites):
Supporters said keeping pot illegal props up drug cartels and overburdens the state's court system. Stephen Downing, former deputy chief for the Los Angeles Police Department, said the nation's drug policy has failed, likening it to cutting off the leg of a spider to cripple it.

"The drug organizations are more like starfish," Downing said during a press conference at a West Hollywood park where children were playing with their parents behind him. "You cut a leg off, it regenerates. We are dealing with a sea of starfish. The only way you kill a starfish is to remove its nutrient. And that nutrient is money."

New York Times Caucus blog:
“This November, Californians finally have a chance to flip the equation and put drug cartels out of business, while restoring public respect for the criminal laws and their enforcement,” said William John Cox, a former sergeant in the Los Angeles Police Department and a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney.

KQED radio:



MSNBC:




Ventura County Star:
A former police chief of California’s third-largest city said Monday that state voters will have the opportunity “to strike more of a blow than law enforcement ever could against drug cartels” by approving Proposition 19, the measure that would legalize the possession and regulated sales of marijuana.

Joseph McNamara, who headed the San Jose Police Department for 15 years, called the ballot measure a potential “game-changer” that would allow police agencies to devote more resources to fighting other crimes and undercut criminal syndicates that are largely funded by illegal marijuana sales.

“Opponents say we should do more of the same of what has not worked for more than a century,” McNamara said in a phone call with reporters. “I think we should return some common sense to law enforcement by protecting people from crimes they are concerned about. People are not terrified by pot smokers.”

Times-Standard:
The letter, addressed to California voters and signed mostly by retired law enforcement officials, called the country's current drug policy on marijuana an “abysmal failure.”

”As criminal justice professionals, we have seen with our own eyes that keeping cannabis illegal damages public safety -- for cannabis consumers and non-consumers alike. We've also seen that prohibition sometimes has tragic consequences for the law enforcers charged with putting their lives on the line to enforce it,” the letter said. “The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market.” 

Drug War Chronicle:
It was a law enforcement trifecta in support of California's Proposition 19 Monday, with a phalanx of police, prosecutors, and judges coming out in support of the marijuana legalization initiative in a pair of early morning press conferences in Oakland and Los Angeles and a teleconference later in the day for those unable to attend the live events. The endorsements come with Prop 19 in a very tight race and Election Day just seven weeks away.

While, unsurprisingly, a large number of California law enforcement officials have come out in opposition to Prop 19, Monday's events were designed to show that law enforcement opposition to marijuana legalization is by no means monolithic. Organizers of the events also released a letter endorsing Prop 19 signed by dozens of current and former law enforcement officials.

TIME Magazine blog:
Pot proponents usually highlight medical reasons to argue for the removal of the illegal tag. Several ex-officials in California turned to a different lens in their support for Proposition 19.

The AP reports that a group of former law enforcement professionals pushed their support for state's marijuana ballot measure on Monday. Largely comprised of former/retired police officers, judges and prosecutors, their endorsement for Prop 19 centers on its ability to aid congestion in the state's courts. Less backlog from petty marijuana cases could lead to more efficient processing for larger-scale crimes.

Again, this is only a small sampling of the extensive print, TV, radio and online coverage we got yesterday.  Please sign the petition to Stand with LEAP and our law enforcers in supporting sensible changes to our marijuana laws.

Attack of the LSD Gummy Bears

The RCMP issued a public warning on Saturday about LSD gummy bears. The story has been picked up by national media in Canada.An interesting angle to this is that one could allegedly buy LSD in Cranbrook, a small city in the interior of British Columbia (population 20,000, home of the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel).

LSD is supposed to be relatively scarce these days. Ryan Grim wrote a 2004 piece for Slate titled Who's Got the Acid?

Here's an excerpt:
Evidence of acid's decline can be found practically everywhere you look: in the number of emergency room mentions of the drug; in an ongoing federal survey of drug use; in a huge drop in federal arrests; and in anecdotal reports from the field that the once ubiquitous psychedelic is exceedingly difficult to score. In major cities and college towns where LSD was once plentiful, it can't be had at all.
Apparently that's not the case in Cranbrook.

Monday, September 13, 2010

California Law Enforcers Endorse Marijuana Legalization

Today at press conferences in Oakland and Los Angeles, a group of police officers, judges and prosecutors released the following letter of endorsement for legalizing marijuana in California signed by dozens of law enforcers from across the state.



Law Enforcers Say Control and Tax Cannabis to Protect Public Safety

To the Voters of California:

As police officers, judges, prosecutors, corrections officials and others who have labored to enforce the laws that seek to prohibit cannabis (marijuana) use, and who have witnessed the abysmal failure of this current criminalization approach, we stand together in calling for new laws that will effectively control and tax cannabis.

As criminal justice professionals, we have seen with our own eyes that keeping cannabis illegal damages public safety -- for cannabis consumers and non-consumers alike. We’ve also seen that prohibition sometimes has tragic consequences for the law enforcers charged with putting their lives on the line to enforce it. The only groups that benefit from continuing to keep marijuana illegal are the violent gangs and cartels that control its distribution and reap immense profits from it through the black market.

If California's voters make the sensible decision to effectively control and tax cannabis this November, it will eliminate illegal marijuana distribution networks, just as ending alcohol prohibition put a stop to violent and corrupting gangsters' control of beer, wine and liquor sales.

As law enforcement professionals, we especially want voters to understand that legalization will allow us to do our jobs more effectively and safely. In 2008, there were over 60,000 arrests for simple misdemeanor cannabis possession in California, yet nearly 60,000 violent crimes went unsolved in our state that same year. When we change our cannabis laws, police officers will no longer have to waste time on low-level cannabis arrests; we'll be able to focus on protecting the public from murderers, rapists, drunk drivers and burglars. Cannabis cases will no longer clog up court dockets. And room in our costly, overflowing prisons will be freed up when we stop locking people up just because they tested positive for cannabis while on probation.

Because of all the overhead and administrative savings that legalization will generate, our criminal justice apparatus will have more resources to keep more good law enforcers employed serving the public in this time of fiscal turmoil. Ending prohibition will also put a stop to other crimes and problems caused by the illegal marijuana market, such as robberies, gang warfare, gun-running and house fires caused by underground grow operations.

Controlling marijuana through a regulated system will also reduce its availability to kids. Right now, illegal dealers have no incentive to check IDs or avoid selling to juveniles, given that the market is illegal for everyone. But under adult legalization, licensed cannabis businesses will face penalties and consequences that will effectively deter underage sales. Indeed, a recent study from Columbia University shows that teens currently find it easier to purchase illegal marijuana than age-regulated alcohol.

And, because marijuana is illegal and unregulated, its producers aren’t required to do any quality control or safety evaluation, and sometimes it is adulterated with other drugs or harmful chemicals. While law enforcers understand that every drug has the potential for abuse, making cannabis illegal has made it much more dangerous than it otherwise would be under effective regulation.

Please join us in supporting the sensible solution to California’s failed cannabis policies. Let’s vote to control and tax cannabis this November – for safety’s sake.

Sincerely,

MacKenzie Allen
Former Deputy Sheriff, Los Angeles Sheriff's Dept.
Deputy Sheriff, King County Sheriff's Dept. (Ret.)

James Anthony
Former Community Prosecutor, Oakland City Attorney's Office

L. Lawrence Baird
Former Senior Reserve Park Ranger, Orange County

William Baldwin
Correctional Officer, California Department of Corrections (Ret.)

Nate Bradley
Former Officer, Wheatland Police Department
Former Deputy, Sutter County Sheriff's Office

Walter Clark
Deputy District Attorney, County of Riverside District Attorney's Office (Ret.)

Stephen Cobine
Captain, Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office (Ret.)

William John Cox
Former Officer, El Cajon Police Department
Former Sergeant, Los Angeles Police Department
Former Deputy, Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office
Retired Supervising Trial Counsel, State Bar of California

Bill Dake
Former Officer, San Francisco Police Department

David Doddridge
Narcotics Officer, Los Angeles Police Department (Ret.)

Stephen Downing
Deputy Chief, Los Angeles Police Department (Ret.)

Rick Erickson
Officer, Lakeport Police Department (Ret.)

Paul Gallegos
District Attorney, County of Humboldt

Dr. Nina Graves
Former Military Police, Santa Barbara

James Gray
Judge, Superior Court of Orange County (Ret.)

Terence Hallinan
Former San Francisco District Attorney

Russ Jones
Former Narcotics Detective, San Jose Police Department, DEA Task Force

Kyle Kazan
Former Officer, Torrance Police Department

Leo E. Laurence
Former Biker Enforcement Task Force Member, San Diego District Attorney's Office
Former Deputy Sheriff, Missouri

Madeline Martinez
Correctional Peace Officer (Ret.), State of California Department of Corrections

Danny Maynard
Former Yolo County Sheriff’s Office
Former Sacramento Port Police Department

Walter McKay
Former Senior Police Specialist, Police Assessment Resources Center, Los Angeles, CA
Former Detective, Vancouver Police Department

Joseph McNamara
Chief of Police, San Jose Police Department (Ret.)

Joe Miller
Deputy Probation Officer, Mohave County Probation Department
Police Officer, Needles Police Department (Ret.)

John O'Brien
Sheriff, Genesee County, MI (Ret.)
University of Phoenix, Southern California campus

John A. Russo
Oakland City Attorney

David Sinclair
Former Deputy Sheriff, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff

Mike Schmier
Former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles
Former Administrative Law Judge California State
Former Federal Labor Prosecutor San Francisco

Jeffrey Schwartz
Senior Deputy District Attorney, Humboldt County (Ret.)

Lyle Smith
Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (Ret.)

Norm Stamper
Executive Assistant Chief of Police, San Diego Police Department (Ret.)
Chief of Police, Seattle Police Department (Ret.)

Jeff Studdard
Former Reserve Deputy Sheriff, Los Angeles County


All agency affiliations are listed for identification purposes only.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cops & Judges Hold Press Conferences to Support Prop. 19 & Marijuana Legalization (press release)

NEWS ADVISORY: September 10, 2010

CONTACT: Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or media//at//leap//dot//cc
                
LAW ENFORCEMENT SUPPORT FOR CALIFORNIA CANNABIS INITIATIVE GROWING

Cops and Judges to Endorse Prop 19 at Simultaneous Northern and Southern California Press Conferences Monday, Sept 13 at 10:00 AM PDT

Campaign Also Holding Telephone Press Conference Monday Afternoon at 12:30 PM PDT

(OAKLAND, CA) -- A group of police officers, judges, and prosecutors who support Proposition 19, the California ballot measure to control and tax cannabis (marijuana), will hold simultaneous press conferences Monday, September 13 in front of Oakland City Hall and in West Hollywood Park near Los Angeles at 10 AM PDT to release a letter of endorsement signed by dozens of law enforcers across the state.

"At each step of my law enforcement career - from beat officer up to chief of police in two major American cities - I saw the futility of our marijuana prohibition laws," said Joseph McNamara, former police chief in San Jose and Kansas City, MO, now a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "But our marijuana laws are much worse than ineffective: they waste valuable police resources and also create a lucrative black market that funds cartels and criminal gangs with billions of tax-free dollars."

Former LAPD sergeant and Los Angeles County deputy district attorney William John Cox, added, "This November, Californians finally have a chance to flip the equation and put drug cartels out of business, while restoring public respect for the criminal laws and their enforcement by passing Proposition 19 to control and regulate marijuana."

Also speaking at the press conferences will be current Oakland city attorney John Russo, former LAPD deputy police chief Stephen Downing, former Oakland drug nuisance prosecutor James Anthony, retired Orange County Superior Court judge Jim Gray, former Torrance Police Department beat officer and drug identification expert Kyle Kazan, former Wheatland, CA police officer Nate Bradley, and others.

In the sign-on letter being released at the press conferences, dozens of law enforcers outline their reasons for supporting Proposition 19, detailing how it will:

* Put our police priorities where they belong, by ending the arrests of non-violent cannabis consumers, and enabling police to focus instead on preventing violent crime
* Cut off funding to violent gangs and drug cartels, who generate the majority of their revenue from illegal marijuana sales
* Protect the lives of police officers now at risk in the "drug war" line of fire
* Reduce marijuana access to children by instituting strict age-limits and public safety controls
* Restore mutual respect and good relations between law enforcement and communities bearing the brunt of the current marijuana laws

For journalists who can’t physically attend the press conferences, the Yes on 19 campaign will be holding a conference call featuring several anti-prohibition law enforcers on Monday at 12:30 PM PDT. For dial-in info, please contact Tom Angell at 202-557-4979 or media at leap dot cc.

These law enforcement leaders join the National Black Police Association, the California NAACP, doctors, Latino community leaders, faith leaders, labor, business leaders, elected officials, political parties, and more, in endorsing Proposition 19. For a full list of endorsements, please visit: http://www.yeson19.com/endorsements.

Similar to current alcohol and tobacco laws, Proposition 19 will give state and local governments the ability to control and tax the sale of small amounts of cannabis to adults age 21 and older. As the California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), which provides non-partisan fiscal and policy advice, confirms, Prop 19 includes significant safeguards and controls: It maintains strict criminal penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana, increases the penalty for providing marijuana to a minor, expressly prohibits the consumption of marijuana in public, forbids smoking marijuana while minors are present, and bans possession on school grounds.
http://ag.ca.gov/cms_attachments/initiatives/pdfs/i821_initiative_09-0024_amdt_1-s.pdf,
http://www.lao.ca.gov/ballot/2010/19_11_2010.pdf (Page 3)

California’s tax collector, the Board of Equalization (BOE), which currently collects alcohol and tobacco taxes, estimates that marijuana taxes could generate $1.4 billion in revenue each year, available to fund law enforcement, healthcare, and other critical needs.
www.boe.ca.gov/legdiv/pdf/ab0390-1dw.pdf

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) also says Prop 19 would enable California to put our police priorities where they belong, in that it “could result in savings to the state and local governments by reducing the number of marijuana offenders incarcerated in state prisons and county jails, as well as the number placed under county probation or state parole supervision. These savings could reach several tens of millions of dollars annually. The county jail savings would be offset to the extent that jail beds no longer needed for marijuana offenders were used for other criminals who are now being released early because of a lack of jail space."
http://www.lao.ca.gov/ballot/2010/19_11_2010.pdf (Page 6)

Multiple polls show that a majority of California voters support Proposition 19.
http://polltracker.talkingpointsmemo.com/contests/2010-ca-prop-19

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