Sunday, January 31, 2010

Misha Glenny debates Michael Hartmann from UNODC

Here's an MP3 of Misha Glenny debating drug policy with Michael Hartmann. The event was organized by the London School of Economics and held on January 18th.

I enjoyed this podcast. It's about an hour and a half long, which is longer than my attention span so I listened to it in a couple of segments.

Hartmann is "manager and senior adviser of the Criminal Justice Programme at the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime." His background as a criminal prosecutor certainly helped him during this debate. He articulated his argument well. If you think you might find yourself debating a prohibitionist one day, in a formal setting, it would be worth listening to Hartmann to find out what your opponent might say.

Glenny is a well respected British journalist and the author of McMafia. In an op-ed he once stated that, "In the United States, the most effective group demanding change is Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP, which is made up of current and former police officers, including erstwhile operatives of the Drug Enforcement Agency."

Together these two men offer a high level, international perspective on the drug policy debate.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

An update on me :-)

A couple of things have been holding me back from blogging lately. First, I've been sick for several weeks now with a nasty cough that seems to drain my energy. I finally went to the doctor today and he said it was nothing serious (which certainly didn't make me feel any better, although it's nice to know I don't have swine flu).

Second, and even more annoying, is that the mouse button on the touch pad of my laptop is jammed in the "on" position. You have no idea how frustrating this is... let's just say I'm ready to throw my laptop across the room. It's hard to focus on writing anything when the mouse is constantly selecting menus and windows that you don't actually want to select. I went to my local mac store, and the tech guy said the entire laptop case needed to be replaced and it would cost me a couple of hundred dollars. (I think they're trying to rip me off, as he also wanted to replace my hard drive as a "precaution.")

I'm going to the Olympics for the month of February and I won't have easy access to the Internet. I'm leaving my laptop at home but I'm bringing my Ipod Touch with me. If there's WiFi in the hotel then I will have some access to the net, although I imagine it would be difficult to blog via Ipod. When I come back from the Olympics I am looking forward to settling down for a bit as I have been traveling a lot lately. (I know, I know, it's a terrible problem to have. :-)

Fortunately, some of the other LEAP bloggers like William Cooke and Walter McKay have been posting here and on their own blogs. (For example, check out this remarkable post on McKay's blog. It really captures the tragedy of the drug war.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

LEAP Testifies for Marijuana Decriminalization in Virginia

LEAP speaker Eric Sterling, former counsel to the U.S. House Judicary Committee and current president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, will testify on LEAP's behalf today in favor of a bill that would decriminalize marijuana possession in Virginia.

Here are his prepared remarks:
Hearing of the Criminal Law Subcommittee of the Committee for Courts of Justice of the Virginia House of Delegates Richmond, Virginia H. Morgan Griffith, Chairman

January 27, 2010

Statement of Eric E. Sterling, J.D.

on behalf of LAW ENFORCEMENT AGAINST PROHIBITION (LEAP) in support of House Bill No. 1134 Marijuana Decriminalization

Mr. Chairman and distinguished Members of the Subcommittee, thank you very much for the opportunity to present the views of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) in support of H.B. 1134, introduced by the highly distinguished, Delegate Harvey B. Morgan.

LEAP is 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, and I serve on the Advisory Board. LEAP has 544 members in Virginia.

For nine years during the Reagan Administration, I was counsel to the Subcommittee on Crime of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. I oversaw federal law enforcement and helped develop legislation regarding drugs, pornography, organized crime, money laundering, military assistance to law enforcement, and other issues. I staffed the enactment of many provisions in the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, and the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. I am best known for my role in developing the mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses in 1986 after Maryland basketball star Len Bias died from using cocaine. More recently, I am a part-time professor teaching Criminal Justice and Sociology at George Washington University in Washington, DC. I am the President of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation in Silver Spring, MD.

H.B. 1134 is a very well developed bill to remove the criminal penalty for the possession of marijuana for personal use. The bill maintains society’s disapproval of marijuana use by continuing a civil penalty of up to $500 for such possession, but provides that proceedings be initiated by summons instead of by arrest. It recognizes that marijuana is a substance that can be abused like other drugs and alcohol and it provides that minors who commit this offense can be required to undertake substance abuse screening, testing and treatment.

This bill will produce important efficiencies for the Commonwealth’s law enforcement agencies and could save in the range of $250 to 300 million in police, prosecution and incarceration costs related to marijuana possession, using estimates prepared for the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation by Dr. Jeffrey Miron, Professor of Economics at Harvard University.

According to the 2008 Crime Report from the Virginia State Police, police in Virginia made 19,911 arrests for marijuana offenses in 2008 out of a total of 33,217 arrests for all drug offenses – 60.5 percent (pp. 62-63). Unfortunately, unlike most states and the FBI, this data does not distinguish between simple possession, and offenses of manufacturing and distribution.

These roughly 20,000 marijuana arrests compare to 21,811 reported violent index crimes (p. v). Does marijuana deserve that kind of police and prosecutor attention? No rational analysis of law enforcement resources would make that equivalence. This emphasis on marijuana arrests takes officers off the streets and puts them in booking rooms and courts instead of focusing on much higher priority law enforcement matters.

Of course LEAP, like other law enforcement organizations, does not endorse or condone marijuana use, but that is not the issue here, because to remove the criminal penalty for the use or possession of small amounts of marijuana is not an endorsement or condonation of its use.

As you face a budget shortfall for the next biennium of $4.2 billion you need to change laws that will result in changing police practices to maintain a focus on public safety priorities. For example, on Monday, the Clarke County Sheriff, Tony Roper, reported that his office is planning for a 22 percent cut. The article is available here: Throughout the Commonwealth you are going to need to look for practical ways to save money. This bill deters marijuana use and protects public safety without wasting very scare public safety dollars.

The policy of this bill is the policy recommended by the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse, chaired by Pennsylvania’s Republican Governor, Raymond P. Shafer in 1972. Following that report, by 1978 Oregon, Alaska, California, Colorado, Mississippi, New York, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Ohio enacted marijuana decriminalization laws. Studies of the comparative prevalence of marijuana use demonstrate that these laws did not result in greater rates of marijuana use than comparable, neighboring states. In a state that many see as a political bellwether, 65 percent of the voters in Commonwealth of Massachusetts approved a state marijuana decriminalization law in November 2008.

## #

Maryland's horrible marijuana laws and medical marijuana law

For mere possession of marijuana you can be sentenced to one year in jail and/or a $1000 fine. A judge could also sentence you to a year, suspend that, and place you on five years of probation with strict conditions attached (I've seen this done). For a second offense, the maximum could be two years and/or a $2000 fine if the State serves proper notice (which is always done in many counties).

Our so-called "medical marijuana law", which former Governor Bob Ehrlich (R) signed despite pressure from the Bush administration not to, hardly provides much relief to sick people. They still have to buy the marijuana from drug dealers which puts them at risk for being shot and/or arrested. If arrested, the charges are not automatically dropped. If the prosecutor insists on pressing forward (and an inexperienced prosecutor in our lower level trial courts likely would), the maximum sentence is then $100. You still get a criminal record. And if you happen to be on parole or probation then this can still serve as a violation.

Knowing this I was happy to see the headline in the Baltimore Sun this morning which read "2 bills would legalize medical marijuana". But I was not surprised to read the next line "Laws would be more stringent than other states' . . . ." Still the bills go a long way toward helping medical marijuana patients and would move us in the right direction. People with serious medical conditions would be able to get cannabis from "state-licensed dispensaries and pharmacies" so they wouldn't have to purchase from gang members. This is certainly an improvement and I hope the bill passes. It is a small step, but an important one.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another politician who wants Mexico to legalize drugs

The mayor of San Pedro Garza García, in the state of Nuevo León, Mauricio Fernández Garza has repeated his call for the legalization of drugs as a way to combat the obscene profits enjoyed by the naro-traffickers and diminish the effects of organized crime that is tearing Mexico apart (which by the way has been denied by Mexico’s top cop Genero Garcia who sees his forces of good winning this “war”… he even has statistics to “prove it”…but that is another tale).

Fernández Garza spoke before the students of the University of Monterrey, arguing that prohibition of drugs does more harm than good, that they cannot be regulated and illegal drugs are sold to adults and children alike. He sees this as incongruous because if the reason is the mind altering and dangerous nature of drugs as the reason for their prohibition then there are solvents and other dangerous household chemicals readily available that should also be banned (this would, of course include glue and gasoline).

In other news, (good news this time) police officers in the city of Guamúchil, Sinaloa foiled a kidnapping attempt by four kidnappers, who, unfortunately all escaped. The police officers happened to be driving by when they spotted the four masked and armed men try to abduct a government official from his car.

On the other end of the spectrum, a group of heavily armed men attacked the police station in Mochicahui, shooting up the building and a parked patrol car but little else (a good news/bad news kind of report)

And what would this post be without the kill update. Yesterday was a little slow, on 12 narco-killings/torturings/mutilations this includes a police commander in Durango who was killed in a shoot out and one of his men was wounded. The total for 2010 is 553 which lowers the average to 26 per (still a scary number with more than 1 killing per hour).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Drug war gets even weirder...

How come we never read newspaper allegations about paraplegics with guns and bulletproof vests being arrested in a hospital for selling beer and whiskey? Just a thought.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Walter McKay on Police Accountability and Reform

I'm pleased to share a new blog with LEAP supporters. Walter McKay's blog is titled Police Accountability and Reform. It's been around for a while, but recently he started posting on it more regularly. He lives in Mexico and so much of his writing focuses on the violence of the drug cartels in that country. He keeps a close tab on the latest developments, especially in terms of the daily killings, the weaponry used, the police corruption, the methods of intimidation, etc.

I was first introduced to McKay's work sometime around 2004 when I watched a documentary called Through a Blue Lens. This movie is certainly one of most powerful films I have ever watched about the horrors of drug abuse. It was produced by a group of Vancouver police officers who were part of a non-profit society called Odd Squad Productions. McKay was one of the founding members of this group. And I didn't know it at the time - I wasn't even a police officer back then - but we would eventually end up working together as members of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

After twelve years in policing, McKay left the Vancouver Police Department to pursue his interests in criminal justice reform. He received an M.A. from Simon Fraser University and then began his PhD studies with a focus on police ethics. He now lives in Mexico City where he is project director for the Instituto para la Seguridad y la Democracia (INSYDE), a non-profit organization focused on police reform.

I'm reasonably certain that Walt is qualified to talk about the War on Drugs. Please take a moment to visit his blog and say hello.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

US waves white flag in disastrous 'war on drugs'

Hugh O'Shaughnessy from The Independent claims the United States is executing a slow retreat from the War on Drugs:
After 40 years of defeat and failure, America's "war on drugs" is being buried in the same fashion as it was born – amid bloodshed, confusion, corruption and scandal. US agents are being pulled from South America; Washington is putting its narcotics policy under review, and a newly confident region is no longer prepared to swallow its fatal Prohibition error.

England: New rules to curb drinking games

ChristiansAgainstProhibition mentioned this in the comments section and I thought it was worth posting. Britain has announced new regulations for alcohol that will take effect in April. Most of them appear to be common sense (eg. bar staff will no longer be able to directly pour booze down customers' throats). This is a good example of something I think we often overlook when we are pushing for drug policy reform. As we're pushing for drug regulation, we should also encourage a reexamination of how alcohol is regulated. Here are a couple of my thoughts:

- Large bars & clubs should have at least one bartender fully trained as an addictions counsellor

- Liquor establishments should be required to post warnings about the harms of alcohol

- Significant advertising restrictions for alcoholic beverages

- Warning labels on all alcoholic beverage containers. (Not the small print warnings presently found on beer bottles, but rather large warnings with graphic images of the harm caused by alcohol. For example, a photo of a crumpled car, a woman with a black eye, etc.)

These are just my opinions of course, and not the official LEAP position. What do you think? What kind of warning labels would you design?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Open Thread

- The LEAP Facebook group is now more than 10,000 members. Thanks to everyone who encouraged people to join!

- Hot on the heels of the LEAP Hawaii Speaking Tour, two marijuana bills are going to be introduced to the state legislature by State Sen. J. Kalani English. The first will regulate and tax medical marijuana dispensaries (Hawaii's current medical marijuana law has no provisions for safe access, meaning that folks with cancer and HIV have no choice but to get their marijuana from criminal drug dealers). The second bill will decriminalize up to an ounce of marijuana.

- Vancouver's safe injection site will remain open. A major decision from the British Columbia Court of Appeal, which dismissed the federal government's appeal of a lower court decision ruling that InSite could remain open. The Globe and Mail has a great editorial on the subject. Here's an excerpt:
The war on drugs came to Canada, and it picked on a bunch of desperately ill addicts. Some war. Boldly, B.C.'s highest court, and before that a trial judge, have let Ottawa know that any war on drugs fought in this country should not endanger the right of addicts to get life-saving health care.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Firing the Firemen to Fight the Drug War

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Baltimore City may have to lay off 125 firemen next year. Perhaps I am a bit conservative, but I think that the main purpose of government is to protect life. Certainly putting out fires and the like ought to be a priority for any government. Having spent a few years in the State's Attorney's Office in Baltimore I certainly saw lots of waste. I spent (or rather wasted) countless hours fighting the drug war. I recall a lot of time and money that I once helped to spend on a simple marijuana possession case. The officers in question were on overtime when they made the arrest. They got overtime when they came to court. A judge and jury were tied up with this petty case. After the guilty verdict (the only time I got a jury in Baltimore to convict on marijuana charges. I tried a few other times.) for this one small bag of marijuana, the defendant was sentenced to one (1!) year (although he had a horrible and violent record). And, of course, the case was later overturned on appeal.

So sure, go ahead, and slash the Fire Department's budget. Let the people of Baltimore die in fires. We have to protect them from potheads. And we can't have violent criminals walking around stoned, they might hurt someone.

Interview with MauiTime Weekly

MauiTime Weekly in Hawaii just published a feature interview about Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Check out the beautiful art they put on the cover! Very cool.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

LEAP Testifies for Legalization in Washington

This afternoon, retired U.S. Customs agent and current LEAP speaker Arnold "Jim" Byron testified at a hearing in the Washington State House of Representatives about marijuana legalization and decriminalization. Here's a video clip:

And here's Arnold's full written testimony that was submitted to the committee:

Testimony in Favor of House Bill 1177 and House Bill 2401

House Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

January 13, 2010, 1:30pm

Submitted By:
Arnold James Byron
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition


Thank you for the opportunity to appear on behalf of LEAP, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, and to speak in favor of House Bill 1177 and House Bill 2401.

I am a speaker for LEAP, an organization made up of roughly 3,000 men and women who were or are currently in the business of law enforcement and 13,000 civilian members. We are cops, sheriffs, prosecutors, judges, prison guards and others from nearly every level of law enforcement. I worked as a United States Customs Inspector for over thirty years, and much of my time was spent searching vehicles, cargo and people for illegal contraband and making arrests. My last post of duty was at Lynden, Washington in Whatcom County.

Like other law enforcement organizations, LEAP does not endorse or condone marijuana use. Whether to endorse or condone marijuana is not the issue here because making marijuana legal for adults does not equal condoning it. No one would argue that by not arresting cigarette smokers, the government condones cigarette smoking.

Decriminalizing marijuana by passing House Bill 1177 is a step in the right direction. The less time that we as law enforcement spend arresting and prosecuting marijuana users, the more time we can spend keeping our streets safe from violent crime. In my case, the more time I spent checking for marijuana being smuggled in to Washington from Canada to meet demand, the more likely it was that a bomb would evade detection at the border. If Washington could meet its own demand for marijuana, inspectors like me could spend more time keeping our borders safe.

But the downside to decriminalization would be that the marijuana would have to be purchased from a person we designate as a criminal, so we still would not have control of where the marijuana is grown, where it is packaged, and who is selling it. And remember, the money from marijuana sales would still go to the criminal element, not to education or treatment.

Marijuana can be a harmful substance, but it is unrealistic to think that we can have a totally alcohol-free, tobacco-free, or drug-free America. Instead, substances like marijuana are sold into our society by criminals whose only mission is to maximize their profits. To maximize profits these organizations must increase the availability of these harmful substances year after year. The only way to put these violent cartels out of business is to make marijuana legal and remove the enormous profit incentive by passing House Bill 2401. This bill will give the people control over all of the aspects of marijuana in our community. The marijuana could be grown locally under prescribed conditions. To my mind, this is a far better endeavor than to continue the negative approach of penalizing the user.

Addressing this issue negatively by putting marijuana users in jail does nothing but create an incentive to sell more marijuana to anyone who will pay for it. Let’s address this issue positively by controlling marijuana, regulating it, and keeping it out of the hands of children.

Thank you again for this opportunity to give testimony.

Arnold J (Jim) Byron
Burlington, WA

Way to go, Arnold!

This is just one example of how LEAP is engaging directly with the policymaking process and is working to change laws, not just minds.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Press Release: Washington State Marijuana Bills Get Hearing

Pro-Legalization Cops Support Washington State Marijuana Hearing This Week

Two Bills -- One for Legalization, One for Decriminalization -- Will Be Heard

Olympia, WA -- Seattle's former police chief and a larger group of cops, judges and prosecutors who fought in the failed "war on drugs" is cheering this Wednesday's marijuana policy hearing in the Washington State House of Representatives as a sign of increasing public frustration with prohibition and the widespread desire for new approaches like legalization and decriminalization.

"Our marijuana laws help bankroll violent cartels and drug gangs. They do nothing to reduce our kids' access and they're costing our state millions of dollars, both in enforcement and in lost revenues," said Norm Stamper, Seattle's retired police chief and a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "A rapidly growing number of Washingtonians recognize that regulating marijuana, much as we regulate alcohol, is an idea whose time has come. I couldn't be more encouraged by the willingness of our lawmakers to take up the issue."

This Wednesday, January 13 at 1:30 PM, the House Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness will hear both House Bill 1177, which would decriminalize adult possession of marijuana, and House Bill 2401, which would further legalize and tax marijuana sales.

"While decriminalization represents a good first step of ceasing to arrest people for possessing small amounts of marijuana, what we really need to do is put gangs and cartels out of business by fully legalizing and regulating marijuana sales," said Chief Stamper.

Seattle's new mayor, Mike McGinn, has said he also favors legalization.

SB 5615, the Senate companion to HB 1177 (the decriminalization bill), was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last year with a bipartisan "do pass" recommendation and remains alive for further consideration in the 2010 session. The bill's fiscal note projects $16 million in annual savings and an additional $1 million in new revenue per year, more than half of which would help fund Washington's Criminal Justice Treatment Account for drug treatment and prevention programs.

Separately, a group of Washington activists announced Monday that they will begin collecting signatures to place a marijuana legalization initiative on this November's statewide ballot. Elsewhere, California legislators are holding hearings on a marijuana legalization bill this week, and the Rhode Island Senate is currently conducting a blue ribbon commission overview of that state's marijuana laws.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is a 15,000-member organization representing police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others from around the world who want to legalize and regulate all 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 information is available at

Monday, January 11, 2010

Press Release: Calif. Assembly Votes on Marijuana Legalization

UPDATE: The Assembly's Public Safety Committee has passed the marijuana legalization bill by a vote of 4 - 3!

Below is LEAP's press release about the historic marijuana legalization votes happening in the California Assembly this week. If you live in California, please contact your legislators in support of ending prohibition at

January 11, 2010
Tom Angell -- (202) 557-4979 or media //at// leap //dot// cc

Cops & Judges Support Calif. Assembly Marijuana Legalization Votes on Tuesday

Law Enforcers Say Ending Prohibition Will Improve Public Safety

On Tuesday, California state legislators will take historic votes on legalizing, regulating and taxing the sale of marijuana. A group of cops and judges who previously sent people to jail for marijuana offenses is supporting the legalization bill.

Sacramento, CA -- A group of police officers, judges and prosecutors who fought in the failed "war on drugs" is cheering this Tuesday's upcoming marijuana legalization votes in the California Assembly's Public Safety and Health committees as a sign of increasing public frustration with the harms caused by prohibition and the widespread desire for a new approach.

Judge Jim Gray, who retired last year from the California Superior Court in Orange County and is a speaker for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) said, "The mere fact that there will be votes in the Assembly to regulate and control the sale and distribution of marijuana would have been unthinkable even one year ago. And if the bill doesn't pass this year, it will soon. Or, the bill will be irrelevant because the voters will have passed the measure to regulate and tax marijuana that will be on the ballot this November."

Judge Gray testified at an informational hearing on marijuana legalization in the Assembly's Public Safety Committee last October. The video is here:

On Tuesday, January 12, the Public Safety Committee will conduct a formal hearing on Assemblyman Tom Ammiano's marijuana legalization bill, AB 390. Following the hearing the committee will vote and, if the bill is approved, there will then be a second hearing and vote in the Health Committee.

Separately, marijuana legalization advocates recently announced that they have collected enough signatures to place an initiative on the ballot this November that will allow California voters to end marijuana prohibition. Elsewhere, legislators in Washington State are also holding a hearing on marijuana legalization this week and the Rhode Island Senate is currently conducting a blue ribbon commission overview of that state's marijuana laws.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is a 15,000-member organization representing police, prosecutors, judges, FBI/DEA agents and others from around the world who want to legalize and regulate all 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 available at


Interview with LEAP Speaker Leigh Maddox on the Drug Truth Network

I've been meaning to post this for a while, but here is a great interview with Leigh Maddox on the Drug Truth Network. Leigh is a retired Captain from the Maryland State Police, a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law and now a volunteer speaker with Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. (Talk about a star recruit! LEAP is very lucky to have her join the Speakers Bureau.)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Hawaii needs help on the drug policy front

On Saturday night in Maui I went to a local pub and watched the Vancouver Canucks game with a bunch of other tourists from British Columbia. There are lots of Canadian visitors to Hawaii right now, which is great for the state because it is experiencing tough economic times.

I came back to my condo and watched a cable rerun of Numb3rs. Oddly enough, the episode was about the unpredictable economic consequences of crystal meth enforcement in Maui. Charlie's plan was basically to arrest all the high level drug dealers at once. This was necessary in order to prevent a super duper version of crystal meth from spreading to the rest of the United States from Hawaii. Not surprisingly, Charlie's plan didn't work out. The show also explored the dangers of undercover operations conducted as part of the War on Drugs. The acting wasn't exactly Oscar quality but I enjoyed watching a little prime time drug policy action.

Unfortunately, things are not going well on the drug policy front in Hawaii. Early last week I wrote about the upcoming vote by a committee of the Hawaii county council. The purpose of the resolution was to encourage the state legislature to consider marijuana legalization. Unfortunately this vote was defeated in committee 7 - 2. This article summarizes what happened. Also, here are a couple of videos that illustrate some of the "facts" presented by the opposition. The first clip is Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Rick Damerville, and the second clip (at the 1:58 mark) is fellow prosecutor Mitch Roth:

There is also testimony in these clips from a couple of DARE kids, although I don't have the heart to say anything about their involvement.

Clearly, Hawaii needs help on the drug policy front. Any thoughts on how we could assist the folks in this state? I'm touring the islands this week as a LEAP speaker, so I'm very interested in any ideas you might have on this subject.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Vic Chesnutt - R.I.P.

For some reason (and I do not honestly know fully why), I was greatly saddened to hear about the very recent suicide death of singer/songwriter Vic Chesnutt in Athens, GA. Many of you are likely scratching your heads asking: "Who the (bleep) is Vic Chesnutt?" The N.Y. Times did a very good job summarizing this individual:

Maybe it was his lifelong battle with depression - which he obviously lost. Possibly it was his ability to exceed beyond his physical (in)capabilities, but inability to deal with the stuff whirring in his head. It could also be that, back in my college days, I was a college radio DJ at a very influential station that had a long and good relationship with Vic Chesnutt. I always appreciated the artists that appreciated that station.

What readers may not know is that Vic was a vocal advocate and user of medical marijuana (truth be told - he also admitted to using it for recreational purposes). He sang on the subject, raised funds for advocacy as well, and was involved with NORML. Looking now at the fact that Chesnutt died from an overdose of his prescription muscle relaxers, this quote from him is all the more poignant:

"My doctors prescribe drugs to me all the time. These muscle relaxers cost a lot of money and they don't work the same [as marijuana]. There's no other prescription drug I know that would help me feel. I don't want to have anything to do with the Mafia, and if it was legal I could have a small little plant in my backyard and not have to deal with it. I want everything switched. I just can't understand that they feel it's so evil. Even beyond my medical reasons, I think for everyone else and for the country's sake that the time has come to change the laws."

By the way, Vic died owing $35,000 in medical bills on account of his medical conditions and legal prescriptions. As my 7th grade English teacher would say: "Too bad, so sad."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A cop on the edge...

A cop on the edge... of joining Law Enforcement Against Prohibition?

Guess who's thinking about drug policy reform? Not who you might expect. If you've read the Johnny Law Chronicles, you've likely picked up on his cynical cop humour and the fact that he "tells it like it is." (At least, those are the reasons why I like reading his blog!) Read this latest post by Johnny Law about LEAP Speaker Peter Moskos.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Help Wanted: Mexican Drug Kingpin

This Huffington Post column by LEAP speaker Norm Stamper is a few weeks old, but I just discovered it today. In the past I've tried to add Norm's blog to our blog roll on the right hand side, but for some reason Blogger redirects to the entire entire Huffington Post news feed. :-(

On another topic, would anyone be opposed to placing Google Ads on the blog as a way to raise money for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition? There are pros and cons to doing this and I'm curious to know how you feel about it.

Alleged B.C. drug kingpin marked for death

Occasionally the media gives us a glimpse of how high level drug investigations are conducted.

According to this story, Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers were dispatched to warn an alleged B.C. drug kingpin that a hit team was en route to murder him. The reason? He had offered to become a confidential informant:
He claimed to have the “ability to control 70 percent of the work that comes out of B.C. and what comes into B.C.,” explaining that he “had a long history of credibility” in the drug business, which he had been in “for most of my adult life,” the Grand Jury indictment against allged drug smugglers state.

Martin offered to identify other B.C. drug lords and direct law enforcement agencies to drug loads as long as they “only arrested other people.”

What Martin did not anticipate was that his offer to help in the war on drugs would be made public in the court documents filed in Seattle three days before Christmas.
His identity was revealed in a grand jury indictment. It appears some of his business associates may not have appreciated his alleged offer to become a confidential source.

The grand jury indictment is an interesting read, as it details a lengthy and expensive investigation into the use of helicopters for transporting illegal drugs across the US - Canada border.

By the way, if you're interested in learning more about the use of informants to prosecute the War on Drugs, check out The Snitching Blog by Alexandra Natapoff.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Judge has spectators in his courtroom randomly drug tested

Courthouse News Service: "NASHVILLE (CN) - A judge in Dickson County, Tenn., had officers pull a spectator out of his courtroom 'on a hunch,' held him in custody and made him submit to a urinalysis for drugs, the man claims in Federal Court. Benjamin Marchant claims that General Sessions Judge Durwood Moore admitted that he 'routinely drug-screens 'spectators' in his courtroom if he 'thinks' they may be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.' Moore allegedly called it the 'routine policy of the court.'"

The judge later admitted that this was wrong. Despite popular belief among many judges, James Madison did not slip a "drug war exception" into the U.S. Constitution.

Facebook page for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

Hey, I just noticed the Facebook page for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is almost at 10,000 members! It currently has 9,653 fans. Please help push us over the edge by joining the page yourself or sending it to friends and asking them to join. Simply cut and paste this link into an email:

You can also click the "Suggest to friends" link on the left hand side of the LEAP Facebook page.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Aloha from Hawaii!

Aloha! I'm writing this from Hawaii, which explains why I haven't posted anything in over a week. It's tough to sit down with the laptop when it's 80 degrees Fahrenheit and there are palm trees right outside my window. Also, I figured since it was Christmas, a slowdown in the posting would be OK. I see that LEAP speaker Bill Cooke has been posting here in my absence. Thanks Bill!

I haven't been following drug policy issues too closely during my vacation. However, I am aware that on Tuesday a marijuana related resolution will be introduced to the Public Works and Intergovernmental Relations committee of the Hawai'in County Council. The resolution will urge the state legislature to decriminalize marijuana. Even if it passes it will be non-binding as municipal and county councils certainly can't force a state legislature to take action. However, these kinds of resolutions are good baby steps in the sense that they keep the issue alive in the media, and also help to educate other politicians about the issue.

I will be doing some speaking engagements for LEAP towards the end of my trip. I'm also looking forward to meeting some of the folks from the Peaceful Sky Alliance (a group in Hawaii dedicated to implementing a "lowest law enforcement priority of cannabis ordinance").

I'll try to post some pictures from my trip at some point. Does anyone have any New Years resolutions they would like to share?
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