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Free Fiona! – Singer Facing 10 Years in Jail for Hash

MPP - Mon, 24/09/2012 - 08:11

In a bizarre case of history repeating itself, another celebrity has been arrested in the Texas border town of Sierra Blanca. Sitting just 10 miles from the Mexico border, Sierra Blanca has an interstate running through it that has become quite a lucrative source of cash and publicity for the local sheriff. In the past several years, Willie Nelson, Snoop Dogg (I mean, Snoop Lion), and hacker George Hotz have all been stopped at the same check point and either cited or arrested for marijuana possession.

Now Fiona Apple has joined the club, and it is no laughing matter. Apple was caught with a small amount of marijuana and hash, but it is more serious than it seems. In Texas, possession of any amount of hash is treated as a felony. The amount Apple supposedly had on her bus is punishable by at least two years in prison, and up to 10!

Texas law punishes hash and other marijuana concentrates much more severely than simple marijuana, even though they are essentially the exact same thing aside from the potency. Anything under four grams gets you the penalty Apple is facing, but anything over that can get you 20 years in prison, and over 400 grams can put you behind bars for 99 years.

Texas is one of the few states that make this dubious distinction, but it isn’t the worst. Last April, Oklahoma passed a law making manufacture of hash punishable by a life sentence.

We’ll keep you updated, but it looks like this talented singer could be doing serious time for merely traveling through the wrong town carrying a substance that is safer than alcohol.

Note to celebrities or anyone traveling in a fancy tour bus: STAY AWAY FROM SIERRA BLANCA.

Another Group of Victims in the War on Marijuana

MPP - Thu, 20/09/2012 - 15:05

In another example of drug war excess, officers raided and vandalized the home of Beach Park, Illinois resident Paul Brown on Friday afternoon of last week. The apparent impetus for the raid was a mysterious package delivered to the house 10 minutes earlier. Brown’s son-in-law, Wilmer Aries, received the package and noted that it was not addressed to any of the house’s residents. Instead, it bore the name “Oscar” and an unfamiliar last name.

Brown, a 58-year-old architect, explained that the officers with the Lake County Metropolitan Enforcement Group broke down his front door in the no-knock raid, handcuffed him, and pointed a gun at his face. “The garage door was open. They could have just walked in,” he said. “They didn’t have to crash the front door down.”
Although the officers seized the package, claiming it contained marijuana, their two-hour ransacking of the house, including ripping out insulation from the basement walls, uncovered no evidence to incriminate anyone in the house and led to no arrests. “They were upset they didn’t find anything. When I asked them who was going to pay for the door they basically said, ‘Not us’,” said Brown, who noted the door on his luxury home was valued at $3,000 some 12 years ago and the lock set was another $130 from Home Depot.

Brown even noted that the officers, far from apologizing for their mistake, seemed to be congratulating each other on the operation with high fives and fist-bumps. His subsequent calls to the MEG were not returned, nor were calls from news outlets. He has hired a lawyer to file a civil suit and explains that he and his 77-year-old mother-in-law were particularly shaken by the incident. “She’s afraid to even take a nap on the couch now,” he said. “I can hardly sleep. It changes your frame of mind.” His lawyer, Christopher Cohen, characterized the Browns as “innocent bystanders in the war on drugs.”

As Reason.com notes, this is not the first time a wrongful no-knock raid was carried out in the U.S. based simply on the delivery of a package of marijuana. In 2008, the home of Cheye Calvo, mayor of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, was raided by a SWAT team and his two dogs fatally shot. The mayor complained, leading to an investigation, but as the raid was ultimately ruled legitimate, this will likely not be the last such incident.

Take a Quick Survey about Medical Marijuana!

MPP - Fri, 14/09/2012 - 12:51

Are you a medical marijuana patient — or if it’s not yet legal in your state, would you be if the option were available? Medical Marijuana Business Daily, one of the leading business news sources for the medical marijuana industry, is asking for people to complete a quick (and anonymous) survey. The questions are focused on giving feedback to dispensary owners, to let them know what patients are looking for when they pick their provider.

It’ll just take a few minutes of your time, and no contact information is required, so please head on over and take their survey!

Also, for those readers who are involved in the industry on the business side, MPP’s Rob Kampia will be giving the keynote address at Medical Marijuana Business Daily’s National Medical Marijuana Conference on November 8 in Denver. Check out what the conference has to offer here. If you buy your ticket before October 31, you save $150!

Bill O’Reilly Doesn’t Get Us At All

MPP - Fri, 14/09/2012 - 11:48

On his wonderfully fair and balanced show on Thursday, Bill O’Reilly was nice enough to highlight our Top 50 Most Influential Marijuana Users list. He then started on a long rant, joined by his co-hosts, about the evils and deadly health risks associated with using marijuana. Apparently, these folks didn’t quite get the message.

O’Reilly seems to think that MPP just wants everyone to use marijuana, and that the organization “devotes its life to trying to convince you to get stoned and inebriated.” What he fails to understand, and what many supporters of prohibition refuse to believe, is that marijuana reform is not about getting high. It is about changing our obviously failed policies that put non-violent adults in jail while making it easier for young people to obtain. It is about changing the focus of law enforcement away from people who are already using marijuana and allowing police to focus on more serious crimes.

Papa Bear and friends also didn’t understand the message behind the list, which is that these influential marijuana users likely would not be where they are today had they been arrested for marijuana. How much human potential are we squandering when we arrest three quarters of a million people for marijuana possession every year, saddling them with a criminal record that limits their educational options and job opportunities?

After totally missing the point, the three pundits then proceeded to rattle off a long series of completely inaccurate and unsubstantiated talking points about how marijuana is deadly and will turn you into a zombie. They covered all the bases, too, from the debunked gateway theory to the “lazy stoner” myth.

It is really pretty sad, considering a brief look at MPP’s website would have clarified our mission for O’Reilly and provided all of them with actual scientific research on the effects of marijuana.

And we’re the lazy ones?

Here’s the video. Try not to throw anything through your screen.

Pepperdine Shuts Down MPP Internship

MPP - Wed, 12/09/2012 - 09:55

Last Monday, the State Policies department at MPP eagerly awaited the arrival of our new intern, who was slated to begin her semester-long internship with us that morning. We were puzzled when she didn’t show up and shocked when we learned the reason why — the deans of the internship program at Pepperdine University, where she is a student, would not approve an internship at MPP for academic credit because it was “not in keeping with the university mission and the student handbook.”

According to its website, the university’s mission is detailed as follows: “Pepperdine is a Christian university committed to the highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values, where students are strengthened for lives of purpose, service, and leadership.” The university’s affirmation statement goes on to say that, “As a Christian university, Pepperdine affirms that truth, having nothing to fear from investigation, should be pursued relentlessly in every discipline.”

In reading Pepperdine’s mission and vision statements, we at MPP considered our mission and that of Pepperdine as not only compatible but also complementary. MPP believes that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is prison, and we seek to reduce penalties for both the medical and non-medical use of marijuana in order to reduce that harm. We firmly believe that there is a disconnect between what the science says about marijuana use and what policies stand as law — laws which create far greater harms than those inflicted by the substance itself. In sum, an internship with MPP means engaging in very challenging and controversial work, undertaken for the greater good and the pursuit of truth.

Many prominent religious leaders and organizations support marijuana policy reform, along the spectrum of medical marijuana, decriminalization, and taxation and regulation. Seemingly, the Christian message is, or should be, one of mercy, humanity, and stopping the nation’s failed war on marijuana users.

In the spring of 2012, conservative Christian televangelist and founder of the Christian Coalition Pat Robertson spoke out in favor of ending marijuana prohibition, citing concerns about prison overpopulation and harsh sentences for non-violent offenders:

We’re locking up people that take a couple puffs of marijuana and, and the next thing they know they got ten years, they got mandatory sentences. And these judges they say, they throw up their hands and say ‘there’s nothing we can do there’s mandatory sentences.’ We got to take a look at what we’re considering crimes and that’s, that’s one of them. I mean I’m, I’m not exactly for the use of drugs, don’t, don’t get me wrong, but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana – criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of, of pot and that kind of thing – I mean it’s costing us a fortune and it’s ruining young people! Young people go into prisons . . . as youths and they come out as hardened criminals. It’s not a good thing.

Robertson went on to endorse taxation and regulation initiatives that will appear on two states’ November 2012 ballots, Amendment 64 in Colorado* and I-502 in Washington, both of which would end criminal penalties for adult marijuana use and treat marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. More recently, several African-American clergy members endorsed Washington’s I-502, noting the harms of marijuana prohibition and the racially disproportionate nature of its enforcement.

When MPP led a taxation and regulation ballot initiative in Nevada in 2006, at least 33 clergy members endorsed the measure. In fact, many religious leaders oppose our current marijuana policies specifically for faith-related reasons. As the Rev. David Scheuneman, a Unitarian Universalist community minister in Las Vegas, noted: “One of the roles of religion is to point out hypocrisy in society. By any means, marijuana is less dangerous to individuals and society than alcohol.”

Supportive voices from the faith community have been (and will continue to be) crucial to efforts to reform our nation’s broken marijuana policies. In their public endorsements of marijuana policy reform, the religious leaders outlined above have demonstrated that their Christian values are very much compatible with MPP’s mission. It’s disappointing that Pepperdine would not allow one of their students to work on this very important issue — an issue so clearly related to values of mercy, compassion, justice, and the pursuit of truth.

* Interestingly, David Campbell, a lecturer in economics from Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business, recently signed on to a letter of public support for Colorado’s Amendment 64 featuring over 100 college professors.

Gary Johnson Calls Attention to Marijuana Prohibition

MPP - Mon, 10/09/2012 - 11:48

Gary Johnson, this year’s Libertarian Party candidate for president, spoke at a rally on Tuesday outside the Democratic National Convention. He criticized both President Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for avoiding one of the nation’s most important political issues. Obama has laughed off or ignored persistent questions about marijuana legalization, while Romney is equally dismissive, calling the issue insignificant.

During his two terms as governor of New Mexico, Johnson established himself as the highest-ranking public official to call for a dramatic shift in the nation’s drug laws. He explains that during his two terms, he applied a cost-benefit analysis to every issue. Regarding costs of the war on drugs, he has cited the United States’ world-record incarceration rate and the fact that approximately half of current criminal justice expenditures deal with drug cases.

On his campaign website, the former governor also refers to the harms of alcohol prohibition and the parallel harms of current drug prohibitions, including the enrichment of organized crime and the associated violence. The site clearly states his support for legalizing marijuana, specifying that the federal government should “end its prohibition mandate” and allow the states to determine their own policies. This is one area where he agrees with former Republican presidential contender and libertarian icon Ron Paul, to whom he has compared himself and whose supporters he may be courting. Although he does not explicitly call for legalization of other drugs, he does refer to drug abuse as a public health issue rather than a criminal justice problem, making reference to the decriminalization which is in effect in Portugal and presenting it as a model for the U.S. to consider.

Johnson’s support in national polling remains quite low, and his name has often been omitted from the polls. It is likely that he will be excluded from the presidential debates, which does not bode will for his chances of ultimately winning the presidency. However, Johnson is the most prominent advocate of drug policy reform in the race and is expected to be on the ballot in all 50 states. Support of even 5% puts him at the top of the pack of third parties, as it dwarfs the best-ever presidential results for both the Libertarian Party itself and the Green Party, whose candidate Ralph Nader won 2.7% in the 2000 elections. His position in the race not only makes him a significant figure in the drug policy reform movement, but should work to raise public awareness of the issue and to improve the prospects for real reform.

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