Wednesday, March 23, 2011

SB 1458 update

Well, the House Judiciary passed SB 1458 HD 1 by a vote of 11-2-2 (no votes: Fontaine, Marumoto; excused: Carroll, Souki)

The testimony was 108 opposed, with 59 in support. Most of the opposed testimony was one line:

I do not support this bill, it will have negative consequences for the people of Hawaii

The testimony in support was genuine, and clearly came from people who desire an improved medical cannabis program in Hawaii, with safe and affordable access for patients.

Thankfully, the Judiciary committee passed it!

The bill now needs to be scheduled in the House Finance committee. It has to happen promptly. If it clears that hurdle, then back to the Senate for final merging of the two versions.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's time to decriminalise drug use, say peers - Telegraph

Has anyone else seen this? Looks like it is fairly big news.
Sure they aren't calling for complete legalization and regulation, but it is certainly a major improvement!

It's time to decriminalise drug use, say peers - Telegraph: "Leading peers – including prominent Tories – say that despite governments worldwide drawing up tough laws against dealers and users over the past 50 years, illegal drugs have become far more easily accessible. Vast amounts of money have been wasted on unsuccessful crackdowns, while criminals have made fortunes importing drugs into this country, they argue."

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hawaii legislative update

Well, after seeing five bills pass the Hawaii Senate with flying colors, last Tuesday was quite a surprise as the House Health and Public Safety committees held a hearing for SB 1458, which would license compassion centers, producers and infused products manufacturers. The bill was totally altered, and turned into a five year pilot program for one compassion center on Maui. The bill in its current form is quite restrictive, and shuts out patients on the other islands for far too long.

In the Senate hearings testimony was overwhelmingly in support, but the opposition finally materialized, and they won this round 75-64. With only 8,000 patients state wide, the numbers will always be a challenge, but it shows the necessity of testifying. Every little bit will help. (I noticed the Democratic Party of Hawai'i submitted testimony in support.)

Regarding the other four bills that passed the Senate:

SB 113 which would have created a three year research program to study the positive effects of cannabis was not scheduled for a hearing and is dead. (It was referred to three committees.)

SB 58 which would have increased plants, dried ounces, patient-caregiver ratio and clarified the transportation issue also had been referred to three committees and was not scheduled.

SB 1460 which would decriminalize possession of one ounce or less needs to have a hearing scheduled by March 24

SB 175 which would transfer administration of the medical cannabis program from the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health needs to have a hearing scheduled by March 24

That's it for now...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

On whose side is the Mexican Army?

As a grim reminder of what is occurring in Mexico, 53 people were killed the other day, in various gruesome ways, by “sicarios” (assassins) battling over the obscenely lucrative drug trade. One of the national newspapers, El Universal  has the count for those killed since January 2011 at 1575 while another periodical, La Reforma places it much higher at 2370. Both of these periodicals will be proven wrong when the Mexican government next releases it's statistics, number which will inevitably be much higher than those reported by the media (as has been the case in the last couple of years). The overall total of those killed has now eclipsed 37,000 since December '06 and, for 2011, the daily average of narco-related killings stands at 35.

Of the security forces deployed in Calderon’s war it is the military, who are supposedly the ones on the front lines of this war but, oddly enough, have the fewest casualties (at 224) far less than the police, who are also combating the narcos, and have the higher death count (at 2521). But, it is the 37000+ civilians who have been slain, as well as the towns and families, who bear the brunt of the government's failed policies. One family in particular has been, and continues to be, the targets of unknown assassins, as 3 more members of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz's family were gunned down the other day. Marisela was the woman activist who was murdered in front of the office of the governor of Chihuahua where she had camped for many months to protest the release of her daughter’s killer, and whose brother was gunned down days later and the family business burned to the ground. This family is the public face of the strife that confronts Mexico, the embodiment of the horrors afflicting Juarez, and a stark example of the absolute ineffectiveness of the government to protect its citizens, either from criminals or rogue elements of the security forces in its employ.

What was once a whisper is now being openly stated, that the Mexican army is the biggest drug gang in the country. And, with the correlation of violence increasing wherever it is deployed, with no sign of abating, it seems to be not too far-fetched to think such thoughts.

For a map of the killings: click: Narco-killings
Website: WM Consulting

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Former Police Officers Testify for Changes to Marijuana Laws in Rhode Island

Two Wednesday Hearings: One to Decriminalize Possession, One to Legalize and Tax Sales

PROVIDENCE, RI -- A former Providence police officer and a former undercover narcotics detective will testify today before Rhode Island House committees in favor of bills that would decriminalize and legalize marijuana. The bill to legalize and regulate marijuana sales, HB 5591, will be heard by the House Finance Committee at 1:00 PM in Room 35 of the State House. The bill to decriminalize possession of less than one ounce of marijuana, HB 5031 will be heard by the House Judiciary Committee at the rise of the House in Room 313.

Beth Comery, who served as a Providence police officer for six years, will be testifying for the bills. "The fact is, the current marijuana laws don't enhance public safety; they threaten it," she said. "F.B.I. statistics indicate that nationally, nearly four of ten murders, six of ten rapes and nine of ten burglaries go unsolved. The criminal justice system should be focusing its limited resources in these areas, rather than on the approximately 800,000 people that police arrest every year for marijuana offenses."

Comery is a speaker for the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an international group of police officers, judges, corrections officials, border agents and other criminal justice professionals who have witnessed the failures of the so-called "war on drugs" firsthand.

The decriminalization bill has 40 of the state's 75 representatives signed on as co-sponsors and, according to a Mason-Dixon poll, 64 percent of Rhode Islanders support decriminalizing marijuana possession. Last year, the Rhode Island Senate created a special commission to study the state’s marijuana laws. It recommended decriminalizing marijuana possession.

"Ceasing to arrest people for using small amounts of marijuana is a great step in the right direction. My home state of Massachusetts has been benefiting from such a change since 2008, when 65% of our voters passed an initiative to decriminalize marijuana," said Jack Cole, LEAP's board chairman, a retired state police lieutenant and undercover narcotics detective who is a resident of Medford, Massachusetts. "But unless and until we actually legalize and regulate marijuana sales, we'll continue to see violent gangs and cartels raking in tax-free revenue from the illegal market."

Rhode Island could bolster the state treasury by more than $48 million a year by ceasing to arrest people for marijuana and instead taxing and regulating its sales, according to Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron.

The full text of the bills being heard Wednesday and other information can be found at and

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) represents police, prosecutors, judges, prison wardens, federal 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

# # #

CONTACT: Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Former Police Chief Testifies for Bills to Decriminalize Marijuana in Connecticut (Press Release)

Judiciary Committee Will Also Consider Bills for Medical Marijuana

HARTFORD, CT -- A former chief of police will testify before a Connecticut House of Delegates committee today in favor of bills that would decriminalize marijuana possession. The bills, Raised Bill No. 953 and Governor's Bill No. 1014, will be heard by the Joint Committee on Judiciary at 10:00 AM EST in Room 2C of the Legislative Office Building.

John Lorenzo, a former chief of marine police with the Lake Lillinonah Authority, will be testifying in support of the bills. "The current law forces police officers in Connecticut to waste hour after hour chasing marijuana users, arresting them and processing their cases," he said. "If we decriminalized marijuana in this state, police could solve more burglaries, rapes and murders, and it would free up jail space and save the dollars wasted on keeping otherwise ordinary citizens incarcerated. Marijuana prohibition does nothing to protect public safety; it only threatens it."

Lorenzo is a speaker for the organization Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an international group of police officers, judges, corrections officials, border agents and other criminal justice professionals who have witnessed the failures of the so-called "war on drugs" firsthand.

In addition to the bills decriminalizing possession of marijuana, the committee will also hear bills to legalize the medical use of marijuana for people whose doctors say it can help them. In passing those bills, Raised Bill No. 6566 and Governor's Bill No. 1015, Connecticut would join 15 other states and the District of Columbia in protecting medical marijuana patients from arrest.

A Quinnipiac University poll released last week shows that Connecticut voters support decriminalizing marijuana by a 65-32 margin, and they favor medical marijuana 79-17. Both proposals have majority support across political parties and among all age groups.

Connecticut spends over $130 million enforcing its marijuana prohibition laws every year, according to Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron.

The full text of the bills being heard today and other information can be found at

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) represents police, prosecutors, judges, prison wardens, federal 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

# # #

CONTACT: Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Presumed Guilty

After watching the Mexican blockbuster “Presunto Culpable” ( the other night in Mexico City, it struck me (once again) the mendacious nature of the Calderón administration’s claim that, of the 36,982  people who have been killed since December 2006 (as a result of his war on the narcos),  90% of people the killed are involved in organized crime. The hard-hitting exposure of the corruption, inefficiency, ineptitude and archaic nature of the Mexican justice system revealed by this film is shocking when one considers that the dismal conviction rate of all crimes in Mexico is close to 1.5%. That is, 98.5% of all crimes go unpunished, or, what is more disheartening, is the revelation by this movie that the 1.5% conviction rate clearly includes the innocent.

This being the legal reality of the Mexican justice environment,  a rational person must ask the question “where is the deterrence for a criminal to not pursue his/her illicit livelihood”? And, because this is an “open secret” why is the US continuing to strengthen the security apparatus of Mexico rather than focusing more strongly on accountability, corruption and human rights? Calderón constantly points to statistics that illustrate that the crime and murder rate in Mexico is one of the lowest in Latin America. In light of this, why would Mexicans support a strengthening of the security apparatus (more personnel, more equipment and better training for both the police and the army) without, or at the sacrifice of, their human rights and a truly functional, and just, justice system. The technocrats in Washington who support Calderón should take a quick moment and ponder this as well, for the good of everyone.

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

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Update: Great post Walter. I've taken the liberty of adding the movie trailer below (in Spanish, but with English subtitles). - Dave

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hawaii state Senate sends five cannabis bills to the House

On Tuesday, March 8 the Hawai'i state Senate overwhelmingly passed five cannabis bills and sent them to the state House.

SB 1460 - decriminalization of one ounce: 24-0-1 (Shimabukuro was excused)

SB 58 - increases plants, dried ounces, patient-caregiver ratio, clarifies transportation language: 24-0-1 (Shimabukuro was excused)

SB 175 - moves program from Public Safety to Health: 24-1 (Kouchi voted "no")

SB 1458 - licenses compassion centers, producers and infused products makers: 24-1 (Slom voted "no")

SB 113 - creates a 3-year research program: 23-2 (Slom and Kouchi voted "no")

Testimony was also overwhelmingly in support, and included letters from LEAP's Neill Franklin and Jay Fleming.

The challenge will be getting hearings scheduled for these bills in the more conservative state House of Representatives. Last year the Senate passed three bills, but all eventually stalled. One reason was the police chiefs of the four counties lobbied the head of the Judiciary committee successfully and no public hearings were held.

This year, the conservative road block is expected to be Public Safety and Military Affairs chair Aquino. There are hopes that at least some of the bills will get hearings.

It should be noted that several weeks ago Maui Police officers were photographed in front of Walmart handing out a fliers opposed to the current legislation...while in uniform (and on the tax payer's dime)!

Pretty incredible. They are clearly in a bit of a panic, and are pulling out all the stops. The ACLU sent a letter to the Maui Police and Corporation Counsel, and we assume they are no longer using that tactic.

It comes down to getting hearings scheduled. And, once scheduled, we will need people to submit testimony.

More to follow.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Save a cop's life: end the drug war -

Save a cop's life: end the drug war - Neill Franklin's commentary in The Baltimore Sun.

New Film Featuring LEAP to be Screened in San Francisco and L.A.

The new film, Exile Nation, which features LEAP speakers Jim Gray, Kyle Kazan and Eric Sterling, is being screened soon in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  See below for details, and stay tuned for announcements about screenings in other cities!

The Exile Nation Project
An Oral History of the War on Drugs & The American Criminal Justice System

A film by Charles Shaw

The Land of the Free punishes or imprisons more of its citizens than any other country. This collection of testimonials from criminal offenders, family members, and experts on America’s criminal justice system puts a human face on the 1 in 31 Americans subjugated by the US Government's 40 year, one trillion dollar social catastrophe: The War on Drugs; a failed policy underscored by fear, politics, racial prejudice and intolerance in a public atmosphere of "out of sight, out of mind."

Written, Produced and Directed by Charles Shaw


Thursday, March 31st, 2011 - San Francisco
Jellyfish Gallery
1286 Folsom Street @ 9th
San Francisco, CA 94103
7:00pm doors, 8:00 screening

Friday, April 1st, 2011 - Los Angeles
Crescent Heights United Methodist Church
1296 N. Fairfax AveW. Hollywood, CA 90046
7:00pm doors, 8:00 screening
10pm Q & A with the Director and Mark Kleiman, Scott Imler, Lynette Shaw, Judge James P. Gray,  & Steve Costello.

Soldiers arrested

Of course it was inevitable, that, when Calderon launched his war against the narcos with one of Mexico’s most respected institutions, the army (because he could not trust the ill-equipped, poorly trained and corrupt police forces), that the army would be corrupted by the billions of dollars available in the illicit drug industry. The arrest of 8 soldiers (including their commanders) for possession of 900 kilograms of cocaine last week is only the tip of the iceberg and I predict that we will be see more and more of this in the future. Calderon has a strategy for fighting this un-winnable war of his, but none for the corruption that permeates Mexico as a whole, and the tools that his government needs such as true transparency, accountability, etc...

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

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Friday, March 4, 2011

Video: Drug Czar says LEAP "Is Wrong"

...but his own website shows otherwise.

In an interview with KCTS in Seattle, drug czar Gil Kerlikowske (a former Seattle police chief) disputed facts in an op-ed by LEAP speaker Norm Stamper (also a former Seattle chief) on how the Obama administration continues to emphasize funding for punishment over funding for treatment despite having lots of flowery rhetoric about how they're treating drug abuse as a health problem:

Actually, Gil, you're wrong. Let's take a look at your own website (PDF):

So, yeah, Norm Stamper is correct in saying that that Obama administration has "maintained a Bush-era budget ratio that devotes twice as many resources to arrests and punishment [supply reduction] as it does for treatment and prevention [demand reduction]."

You talk a good game about "ending the war on drugs," Gil, but that's all you've got.  Put your money where your mouth is.
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