Tuesday, August 31, 2010

When DEA Plays Doctor, the Patients Are Always the Loser

Last year a local pain management physician was arrested by DEA's Tactical Diversion Squad and charged with not only improperly prescribing drugs, but also money laundering, conspiracy and assisting in a criminal syndicate. Attention was focused on him partly because he had patients from several states.

It’s not uncommon for pain management specialists, or any medical specialist to have a large practice with patients form a wide geographical area. So few doctors are willing to treat pain today, any physician willing to do pain management ends up with not only the pain patients from their local area, but usually from hundreds of miles away.

When DEA arrests a pain management physician, or the state medical board suspends a pain physician’s medical license, the media concentrates on the charges filed against the doctor, when the story should be about what happens to the physician’s patients.

When a pain management specialist is arrested by DEA, their DEA registration is suspended, and their practice is shut down. Patients end up abandoned, stigmatized, and neglected by the whole medical community, because no other physician wants to be associated with doctor so-and-so patients.

I know because I was one of these patients. I can’t tell you how many doctors told me, "I can’t give you pain medication because I’ll lose my medical license if I do."

Medical boards tell us that patient abandonment is a serious charge against a physician, and can lead to malpractice law suits. Patient abandonment is defined as the termination of the professional relationship between the physician and the patient at an unreasonable time or without affording the patient the opportunity to find a new physician.

While there are no laws related to patient abandonment in Arizona, the American Medical Association has some guidance for physicians on how to close a medical practice without abandoning patients. Physicians are told to notify patients well in advance to ensure continuity of care, and send a letter to each active patient at least 3 months prior to closure. Avoiding abandonment complaints can be avoided by notifying patients of the physician’s intent to terminate their care in writing, and give the patient sufficient time to arrange for care by another physician.

Yet state medical boards that are supposedly run by physicians create situations themselves where hundreds of patients are abandoned by their actions when a pain management practice is closed. It time state medical boards consider continuity of care and patient abandonment when shut down a pain management practice.

Investigations into a pain management physicians practice go on for months or years, all the time allowing the physician to prescribe medications to their patients. So what would be the harm in allowing the physician to write pain patients at least a 30 day supply of medication to allow them time to find a new pain management specialist?

If shutting down the practice to protect patients was the priority, they would shut the practice down as soon as they have evidence of wrong doing rather than allow the physician to continue practicing for months. Who’s protecting the hundreds of patients abandoned by the actions of DEA or the state medical board it’s self.

Pain management specialists are often charged with murder when a patient overdoses from taking medications they prescribe. So why don’t we hold DEA and state medical boards responsible when they create a situation where patients are abandoned because of their actions, and commit suicide due to uncontrolled pain.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The War on Drugs Kills People

Lake Havasu Police Value Maijuana at $1000 an Ounce

In a press release August 6th the Lake Havasu Police in Arizona valued 5.7 ounces of marijuana at $1000.00 an ounce, and 191 Ecstasy tablets at $4750.00 or $24.86 each. This over valuing of seized drugs has gone on for years, but Lake Havasu Police have gone above and beyond on these values. But like I've always said, the drug war is about statics and money.

August 6, 2010
Narcotic Detectives Arrest Four and Seize Narcotics
The Lake Havasu City Police Department’s Special Investigations Bureau detectives served a narcotic-related search warrant at a residence in the 800 block of Cactus Drive on August 6, 2010. During the search, detectives seized approximately 5.7 ounces of marijuana, 191 Ecstasy tablets, and psilocybin in various stages of cultivation. The marijuana has an approximate street value of $5,700 and the Ecstasy tablets have an approximate street value of $4,750.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bad Week

The Mexican national newspaper, La Reforma, revealed that this last week was the bloodiest since President Calderón began his war in Dec 2006. From Aug 21 to Aug 27 the newspaper recorded 318 executions across Mexico with 288 of them men and 30 women. Of these, 12 were tortured, 32 had messages attached to the bodies and 5 were decapitated. This number also includes 11 police officers and 1 soldier that have been killed in the past week.

La Reforma records 7,818 murders so far this year while El Universal counts it at 7,552 as of yesterday (an average of 32 per day). Ciudad Juárez has had 1,972 killings this year (an average of 8 per day).

Since Dec 2006 there have been  over 28,752 killings in relation to the War on Drugs here in Mexico.

It should be noted that these are the MINIMUM numbers as there are many mass graves out there that have yet to be unearthed (if ever) as well as "disappearances", people who are kidnapped and never heard of again and no body found (so it is not counted in the execution stats).

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

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Latest developments in Canada

1) Toronto becomes the first municipality in the world to endorse the Vienna Declaration. The city councillor considered to be the front runner for mayor in the upcoming October election, Rob Ford, voted against the endorsement.

2) Police in British Columbia found a field with 60,000 opium poppies. Do you think this is a one-time event or the start of a new trend?

A periodic reminder...

This post is intended as a reminder that my opinions on this blog do not represent the official views of my employer. Although I believe the drug laws in most parts of the world should be changed, I also believe in the rule of law. Police officers need to uphold the law even if they disagree with certain aspects of it.

My efforts toward drug policy reform are focused on changing laws that are ineffective and harmful, not picking and choosing which laws to enforce. There is room for discretion, of course, but discretion is something that occurs at the time of the offence. It's not something one can announce in advance. A variety of factors influence police discretion, including the age of the offender, department policy, nature of the offence, and so on.

The ability of Canadian police officers to engage in public debate about complex social issues is protected by Section Two of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It states:
2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
(a) freedom of conscience and religion;
(b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
(c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
(d) freedom of association.
These freedoms are afforded to "everyone," not "everyone except police officers."

Don't worry... nothing precipitated this entry. All of my public statements include similar warnings, so I thought it would be good to post the same kind of language on the blog.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Black police officers? You can't talk about them here.

The moderators over at the Blue Line forums have locked my post about the National Black Police Association's endorsement of Proposition 19 in California. This means further discussion is prohibited as no one can add any responses.

I certainly respect the rights of the moderators to make such decisions. It's their web site, after all, which is why I am posting my response here on the LEAP blog.

Now, I love Blue Line. It's Canada's national law enforcement magazine. I wrote a couple of opinion essays for the magazine last year. And I've learned a lot from the Blue Line discussion forums. As a junior police officer, I feel it is important to keep up to date with the latest developments in the complex world of law enforcement.

The forum in which this post appeared is called The Rant. It's supposed to be a grab all for subjects that don't fit any of the other sections of the web site. Here's a few of the hot topics debated in the forum:

Maryland man arrested after recording of T-stop surfaces

RCMP commissioner uses his BlackBerry at Mountie memorial

Strangle your kid to death, get a suspended sentence.

LAPD Unlawfully Detains Photographer

Child Porn ISNT art

... and my personal favourite:

Even Robert Munsch is on Blow!!!

Clearly, in this context, an article about black cops who want to regulate cannabis is way over the line. (Sarcasm intended.)

This is not any group of black police, mind you. It's the National Black Police Association, representing some 15,000 black law enforcement officers in the United States.

This brings me to the heart of the reason why I don't post more often on Blue Line. Like policing itself, the forum is dominated largely by social conservatives. Without getting into my own political beliefs too much, suffice to say I'm not a fan of an ideology that insists, "it is the role of the government to enforce traditional values because __________."

My problem is that I rarely see anything logical in the last part of that sentence. Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is a big tent organization and we welcome folks from across the political spectrum. But my personal feeling is that locking a thread on a discussion forum is a knee jerk reaction from someone who is afraid of the issue. It doesn't even come close to the kind of intellectual rigour needed to defend social conservatism.

In fairness to social conservatives, I have seen one strong argument advanced in their name that favours drug policy reform. You won't find it on the Blue Line forums though. It was articulated by "Inspector Leviathan Hobbes," the pseudonym for the founder of the Thinking Policeman blog. He was kind enough to let me write a guest post back in August 2009 about Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

The post generated a number of comments and eventually Hobbes himself waded into the discussion:
I've kept reasonably quiet throughout this debate. In fact, I've been reading through the links Officer Bratzer provided, as well as the one-stop-shop of complete information provided by 200 Weeks. Not only have I been reading, but I've been thinking. It's difficult as a police officer to agree with the legalisation and regulation of drugs. Why? It's because we see the evil ruination that it has upon addicts. Not only that, but those who are the real dealers, the Mister Bigs, are extremely difficult to bring to justice. Add to this the consequential victims, the ones who have their property stolen to fund habits, and it seems difficult to say to all of them that what LEAP proposes is the way forward. However, after nigh on 20 years of reading philosophy, I've fallen foul of the Platonic adage I swore I never would - 'an expert is someone who knows nothing at all.'

What I mean by this is, just because as police officers or MOPs we see the full impact that drugs misuse has on the wider community, not only on the user themself - and because we know the law inside and out regarding drugs - we can sometimes become blind to the alternatives. Just because the law and societal opinions have been the same throughout the lives of almost all of us, it doesn't mean it's right. It doesn't mean the law was devised because it works. Sometimes it's wrong. I can point to many examples, as I am sure many of you can. Think about it this way - if drugs WERE legalised and regulated, the Mister Bigs would suffer - the ones who deserve to suffer. Prostitution, a drug-reliant trade, I'm guessing would halve at the very least, as would most ascquisitive crime. You can't get away from the fact that the majority of acquisitive crime is committed by habitual drug users. Yes, there are issues around the practicalities of this proposal, but they're not unachievable in the overall aim.

-- snip --

So, I'll subscribe to LEAP. Sometimes what appears radical actually isn't. It's a conservative reaction to restore order to that similar to times gone past. My only hope is that if we ever did take on the experiment, the current government would be long gone, because otherwise they'd screw it up. As with everything else.
Thank you, Inspector. You said it better than I ever could.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

National Black Police Association Endorses Marijuana Legalization (Press Release)

CONTACT: Tom Angell - (202) 557-4979 or media//at//leap//dot//cc

National Black Police Association Endorses Marijuana Legalization

African American Cops Say California's Prop. 19 Will Protect Civil Rights & Public Safety

SACRAMENTO, CA -- A national organization of African American law enforcement officers has announced its endorsement of Proposition 19, California's initiative to legalize marijuana.

The National Black Police Association (NBPA), which was founded in 1972 and is currently holding its 38th national conference in Sacramento, is urging a yes vote on legalization this November 2.

"When I was a cop in Baltimore, and even before that when I was growing up there, I saw with my own eyes the devastating impact these misguided marijuana laws have on our communities and neighborhoods. But it's not just in Baltimore, or in Los Angeles; prohibition takes a toll on people of color across the country," said Neill Franklin, a 33-year veteran police officer and executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an international group of pro-legalization cops, judges, prosecutors and corrections officials who have been organizing to support Prop. 19. "This November, with the National Black Police Association's help, Californians finally have an opportunity to do something about it by approving the initiative to control and tax marijuana."

On Thursday, Franklin spoke alongside California NAACP president Alice Huffman at the NBPA conference on a panel about criminal justice issues like marijuana legalization.

Many cops and civil rights leaders are now speaking out against marijuana prohibition because it is not only ineffective at reducing marijuana use and results in the arrest and incarceration of people of color at a highly disproportionate rate, but also because making marijuana illegal has created a lucrative black market controlled by violent gangs and cartels. LEAP has organized a group of more than 30 California police officers, judges, prosecutors and other criminal justice professionals who support Prop. 19.

Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and its 30,000 supporters represent 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.

According to NBPA, there are 80,000 black law enforcement officials in the U.S.

For more information, visit http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com or http://www.BlackPolice.org

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Friday, August 6, 2010

Five Ways the Drug War Hurts Kids: A Conversation with Neill Franklin of...

Police Magazine Runs Pro-Legalization Article from LEAP

Take a look at the how a new lengthy op-ed by LEAP executive director and former Maryland narcotics cop Neill Franklin appears in the latest issue of The Journal, a magazine distributed to nearly every police chief and sheriff in the United States.  The full text of the article is also pasted below.

Editors note: In January 2010, the California Assembly's Public Safety Committee voted on and approved a marijuana legalization bill, a state legislative first in U.S. history. This November, California voters will have the opportunity to approve or reject a statewide ballot initiative to legalize marijuana. Win or lose, this is sure to make waves across the country. All eyes are on California, as they were in 1996 when the state's voters were the first to approve medical marijuana, which is now legal in 14 states and the District of Columbia. Other state legislatures holding hearings on legalization or decriminalization in recent months include Washington State, New Hampshire, Virginia, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The following article is presented by LEAP because of their close involvement with this issue, giving testimony before state and national legislatures and having appeared on multiple national news outlets to talk about their approach to the War on Drugs. The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Journal magazine, its publishers or editors.

Police Group Questions War on Drugs

By Neill Franklin, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition

In late 2000, when undercover narcotics Trooper Ed Toatley was killed in an ambush by a drug dealer, I had no idea that this tragedy would be a turning point in my life.  Toatley and I had worked narcotics for the Maryland State Police and, at the time, I was in the 24th year of my 33-year law enforcement career.

Toatley was a great narcotics cop and a true friend.  My grief and anger over his death stirred my own long-held but unspoken doubts about the war on drugs. When my friend died enforcing our drug laws, I finally began to confront the hard truth I had been pushing away until that point.  As I have come to learn, many law enforcement people, then and now, have the same question:  Do our hard-fought efforts do any lasting good against drug use and trafficking?

The answer to that question, sadly, is no.  Drug use rates remain virtually unchanged since the start of the war on drugs 40 years ago.  But what’s even worse than our drug policies’ ineffectiveness is that the laws actually create additional harms – to police and to citizens, to drug users and nonusers alike. Just think of the violence being inflicted on our cities by the thugs who control the currently illegal market for drugs, and the kids and other innocent people getting caught in the crossfire of warring dealers.

That’s why I decided to become active in the fight to end drug prohibition and to enact new policies that actually control drugs and stop the stream of drug money to gangs and cartels.

Since 2008 I’ve been part of an organization called Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, or LEAP.  At first, you may be surprised that there is an organized group of criminal justice professionals working to end prohibition and legalize all drugs, but it makes perfect sense to me and the 30,000 other supporters of LEAP.

And it’s not just law enforcers charged with enforcing these policies who are beginning to speak out about the need for change. The entire conversation about the issue has shifted over the last few years. Indeed, it seems that more and more prominent people across the political spectrum are beginning to publicly question the drug war.

For example, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has said, “It’s time for a debate,” suggesting that the U.S. should look to other countries that have modernized their drug policies.  George Will, the conservative columnist, said that, “80 percent of the revenue of the Mexican cartels is marijuana.  If you really want to go after the Mexican cartels … you’d legalize marijuana.” Fox News commentator Glenn Beck called for the end of marijuana prohibition, following in the footsteps of Republican icons Milton Friedman and George Schultz, who made similar calls decades ago.  And on the left, pundits like Bill Maher and Arianna Huffington regularly call for changes to the drug laws.

Even in Congress, Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia has said that legalization should be on the table for discussion by blue ribbon commission he wants to create to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the criminal justice system.

There’s no question that more prominent people than ever before are beginning to question the war on drugs, an issue once considered a political third rail, and I think it’s thanks in no small part to the fact that front-line police officers are leading the way.

Since being founded by just five cops in 2002, LEAP has grown rapidly and we now count among our ranks active duty and retired police officers, judges, prosecutors, prison wardens, DEA and FBI agents, U.S. marshals, and others. We have members in every U.S. state as well as in 80 countries.

LEAP believes not only that the war on drugs has merely failed to achieve its stated objectives, but that it has actually made the drug problem much worse by squandering limited resources on harsh punishments while leaving treatment and prevention programs chronically underfunded.  This reactive back-end approach has made law enforcers’ jobs harder.  If our drug control strategy focused instead on proactive front-end strategies like preventing substance abuse and helping those who are addicted receive treatment, cops wouldn’t have to spend so much time – and put ourselves at risk – addressing crimes related to drug abuse.

As an educational group, LEAP conveys its ideas in many ways.  Our members have made more than 4,500 presentations to civic, professional, educational, and religious organizations, as well as at public forums.  We speak to civic groups like the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, Lions, and Kiwanis.  We are featured in news outlets like The New York Times, Fox News, and National Public Radio. We put out studies, publish opinion piece, and we have a content-rich web site. 

Importantly, we like to remind people that our critique of the drug war is not about the freedom to get high.  It is about improving public safety by implementing policies that will start to reverse decades of prohibition’s legacy – our nation awash in drugs and underground drug money, violent turf wars exploding into the streets, and treatment hard to find. By speaking out, our criminal justice professionals are helping to reframe public discourse about the drug war so that more people understand that everyone – not just drug users – has an interest in changing these laws.

To that end, in the past year our members have been invited to testify before state legislatures, city councils, and even before a national Senate committee in Canada. 

For example, former New Jersey State Police undercover narcotics detective Jack Cole testified in front of a Rhode Island state legislative committee considering a bill to legalize and regulate marijuana.  He told the committee that, “Current drug policy results in our children telling us it is easier to buy illegal drugs than it is to buy beer and cigarettes because no one checks ID while selling illegal drugs.”

And appearing in support of a similar bill to legalize and regulate marijuana sales in California, retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray testified that, “The tougher we get with regard to marijuana prosecution, from my experience as a judge, the softer we get with prosecution of everything else. We only have so many resources, and if we are spending them on prosecutions of marijuana, we are not spending them on prosecutions of rape and homicide.”

Many states and hundreds of communities in the US have already put into place alternatives to the drug war, and others are moving in that direction.  California is the venue for this year’s most closely watched challenge to drug prohibition.  In November that state’s citizens will vote on a proposal to regulate and tax marijuana like alcohol.  If passed, the initiative would strike a big blow against the drug cartels, which take in 50 to 60 percent of their profits from marijuana, according to the White House drug policy office.  Instead of all that money going to thugs, the state’s tax collector estimates that regulation would send $1.4 billion per year into California’s tax coffers. 

Opposition to regulating marijuana will be fierce from some quarters, but supporters are well organized and are making a powerful case for change.  Recent polls on the initiative show majority support, and LEAP is actively recruiting law enforcement support across the Golden State.  With a deficit now projected at somewhere north of $20 billion, more than $1 billion in tax revenue will clearly help in California.  But, because of the public safety reasons for putting cartels and gangs out of business, the case for legalization and regulation is powerful no matter how the economy is doing.

New ways of looking at the war on drugs are hardly limited to the US.  Former Mexican President Vicente Fox now regularly talks about the need to seriously consider legalizing marijuana and regulating drugs to put a stop to the rampant cartel violence that is plaguing his country.  Mexico has sadly become a nation in which prohibition’s horrific turf battles are reaching new heights, with more than 20,000 killed in the last three years.   When Mexico announced in August 2009 that it was going to decriminalize drugs, it joined Portugal, the Netherlands, and Argentina in taking this path. In Portugal, which decriminalized all drugs in 2001, newly published research from the conservative Cato Institute shows that drug use by 13-to-15-year-olds has actually gone down by 25 percent, to the surprise of those who claim that reforming drug policies will lead to skyrocketing abuse, particularly by young people.

Clearly, more and more people are beginning to realize that the drug war has become a self-perpetuating policy disaster with huge social and financial costs.  Prohibition’s big winners are drug gangs and cartels, and the biggest losers are the rest of us.

But make no mistake: Our harsh criticism of drug policies in no way denies the great work done and huge sacrifices made, every single day, by law enforcement officials for decades.  The reason the drug war can never succeed is not because police just haven’t tried hard enough, but because the task is impossible.  As history has shown over and over, no level of law enforcement skill, commitment, and resources can ever end activities that are very popular and obscenely profitable. 

We want to end drug prohibition just as we ended alcohol prohibition in the United States in 1933 because as law-enforcement professionals we understand that ending alcohol prohibition put Al Capone and his liquor operations out of business.  Those gangs stopped killing each other over market turf; they stopped killing cops who were asked to intervene; they stopped killing children who got caught in the cross-fire.

When we end drug prohibition, we will take the vast profits out of drugs and in so doing will remove violence from the equation.  Think about it: How many people died last year in beer deals gone wrong?  What’s more, ending prohibition will free up significant law enforcement resources to focus on violent crime and other genuine threats.  Police know all too well that the percentage of solved murders in America has declined significantly in the last 40 years. When we treat drug abuse as a public health issue and not a crime problem, we can start to reclaim the millions of lives, mostly young people’s, that we are today sacrificing on the altar of this disastrous policy.

A lot of people at LEAP have had the experience of introducing folks to these ideas – law enforcement people and others – and seeing their reactions.  Those range from “You’re absolutely right” to “What are you guys … thinking?”  I know there are people who wonder if LEAP might be some sort of radical group.  We’re not.  In fact, after 40 years, I believe it’s pretty radical to favor more of the same in the drug war.  So I ask people to keep an open mind.  Time and again, when people look at the evidence on the drug war that way, there’s one unavoidable conclusion: We have to change what we’re doing.

Now, in my ideal world, it wouldn’t be this way at all.  In that world no one would take drugs except for very clear medical reasons.  But that’s a far cry from the real world. 

This is crucial.  Reasonable people can and do differ in their views about how to keep people from trying and using drugs.  But if all of us have learned anything in more than 40 years of drug prohibition, it’s this:

Drugs are here to stay.

That means that our task as a society is to figure out how best to reduce the harm associated with their use and abuse as much as possible.  It’s clear that drug prohibition isn’t getting us where we want to be.  A system of legalized production, distribution, and use – linked with genuine and well-funded education, prevention, and treatment – will prevent thousands of needless deaths, help law enforcement do what it is supposed to do, keep our kids safer, and improve our financial picture.

When the current phase of the drug war started, very few people could have predicted where we would stand in 2010.  But today, after all the lives lost and shattered and the money we have spent, illegal drugs are cheaper, more potent, and much more available than they were when President Nixon launched the war on drugs in 1970.  Meanwhile, people continue to die from overdoses, gun battles, and adulterated drugs, while drug barons and terrorists thrive.  And good cops like my friend Ed Toatley are murdered.  But for what?

After 40 years, this is more than a failed public policy.  It is unacceptable. At LEAP we believe there is a much better way.

Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (http://www.CopsSayLegalizeDrugs.com), is a 33-year police veteran, having served with the Maryland State Police and the Baltimore Police Department.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Press Release: Mexican President Calls for Debate on Legalizing Drugs

For Immediate Release: August 4, 2010

Contact: Tom Angell – 202-557-4979 or media//at//leap//dot//cc
Trevor FitzGibbon - 202-406-0646

US Law Enforcement Group Urges President Obama to Join Mexican President Calderon in Debate on Legalizing Marijuana

Responding to out-of-control violence related to the illegal drug trade, Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Tuesday said that he is open to a debate on the legalization of marijuana and other drugs. Calling the increasingly widespread public discussion of legalization “a fundamental debate,” Calderon said, “You have to analyze carefully the pros and cons and the key arguments on both sides.”

In response to President Calderon’s call for a debate on drug legalization, Norm Stamper, a 34-year veteran police officer who was Seattle’s chief of police and is now a speaker with the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and an adviser to the Just Say Now campaign, called on President Obama to join the debate on legalizing marijuana:

     “President Calderon’s call for a debate on legalization is a big step forward in putting an end to the war raging in Mexico and along our borders. More than 28,000 people have been killed by Mexico’s drug cartels since 2006 – including 1,200 in July, the deadliest month yet in this drug war.

     “Legalizing marijuana is the most sensible approach to stopping this border war. Cartels thrive on marijuana prohibition. Around 70% of the cartels’ profits come from the illegal sale of marijuana, which they turn around to buy guns that have killed thousands of Mexicans and that terrorize police on America’s streets.

     “Just Say Now welcomes President Calderon to this debate. We hope that President Obama will join this debate to end the war on marijuana.”

Previously, Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, said that, “Those that suggest that some of these [legalization] measures need to be looked at understand the dynamics of the drug trade” and that the idea “needs to be taken seriously” by officials on “both sides of the border: both in producing, in trafficking, and in consumption countries."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Press Release: Nationwide "Just Say Now" Campaign to Legalize Marijuana Launches Today

For Immediate Release: August 3, 2010                                        

Contact:  Tom Angell - 202-557-4979 or media//at//leap//dot//cc
Trevor Fitzgibbon - 202-406-0646


Nationwide Just Say Now Campaign to Legalize Marijuana Launches Today

Poll Shows Legalization Among Youth a Strong Voting Issue

Will Mobilize for Midterms and in 2012 Presidential Battleground States

Campaign Led by FDL and SSDP Brings Together Former Police Chiefs, Prosecutors, Judges, College Student Groups, Bloggers, Musicians to Form Trans-partisan Alliance

A new national campaign, Just Say Now, launched today to mobilize millions of young voters nationwide in support of legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana.  Organizers aim to drive turnout for the mid-terms to support marijuana initiatives on the ballot especially in Arizona, Oregon, California, Colorado and South Dakota, as well as aiming to get initiatives on the ballot in 2012 Presidential battle-ground states.

The campaign combines the strong readership of FireDogLake, with the grassroots organizing capacity of Students for Sensible Drug Policy and has united a powerful group of strange bedfellows, including: Bruce Fein, the former Associate Deputy Attorney General under President Ronald Reagan; former police chiefs; federal judges; prosecutors; drug reform and student groups; musicians and blogs.

"We're delighted to be joining with SSDP to launch this campaign, and bringing together a trans-partisan coalition of support,” said Jane Hamsher, founder of Just Say Now. “Young people want marijuana to be legalized in overwhelming numbers: young voters are not just excited to support legalization, but are much more likely to turn out to vote if marijuana is on the ballot. We’re delighted about organizing legalization supporters and getting them to the polls on Election Day."

Draconian United States laws on marijuana negatively impact American life in many ways.  A slew of problems currently facing America can be traced to illegal marijuana use and trafficking.

The recent fury around border security and immigration laws stem from one source: Mexican drug cartels using marijuana as a cash crop to fund any number of illegal activities. Meanwhile, America has 5% of the world's population, but 25% of its prisoners.  Since the war on drugs began in 1984, the American prison population has quadrupled.  Marijuana arrests are at an all-time high -- nearly 800,000 in 2007, more than the total of all those arrested for violent crime.

"As a police officer, I can tell you that the 'war on marijuana' has done nothing to reduce marijuana use," said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) and a 33-year veteran cop who ran anti-narcotics task forces for the Maryland State Police and Baltimore Police Department. "But this failed prohibition policy has achieved some results: far too many cops killed in action, billions of tax dollars wasted, powerful and well-funded drug cartels and out-of-control violence in our cities. When my good friend Ed Toatley was killed in the line of fire during an undercover operation, Maryland lost one of the best narcotics cops in our state's history. It is in his honor, and in the names of all the good cops whose lives have needlessly been lost in this failed 'drug war,' that I now work to change these deadly laws."

Legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana at the state level, just like alcohol, will put money that is going into the pockets of the drug cartels back into the American economy.  Legalization has the potential to generate billions of dollars in revenue:  A report authored by Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron and endorsed by Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman it would produce $40 billion a year in taxes.

“This is a fundamental issue of states’ rights,” said Bruce Fein, former associate deputy Attorney General, “Marijuana should be treated just like alcohol – regulated and taxed – there could be a windfall for the US economy.”

A recent poll by America Votes has shown just what an important issue legalizing marijuana is for young voters:  47% of young voters would be more likely to vote if the issue were on the ballot in the midterms.

"I am thrilled to be partnering with FireDogLake at an historic moment in the marijuana legalization debate,” said Aaron Houston of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. “Our coalition will serve as a long-needed cooperative effort that will marry expert political minds with an enormous grassroots network of students and activists around the country.  Together, we'll get the message out that we can cut off 70% of the cartels’ profits if we tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol."       

As part of the campaign, Just Say Now is launching a petition to President Obama to "end the war on marijuana."

Sign our petition to President Obama:

The war on marijuana is a failure. The government wastes billions of dollars fighting drug cartels that thrive on marijuana prohibition. Thousands of people are killed, police officers lives’ are put in risk, and taxpayer dollars are wasted for nothing.

With states on the verge of legalizing marijuana, it’s time for a reality check. The federal government should drop its active opposition to marijuana legalization.

It's time to end the war on marijuana.

Advisory Board Members:

Bruce Fein was Associate Deputy Attorney General and General Counsel to the Federal Communications Commission under President Reagan and is the author of The American Empire: Before the Fall. He writes weekly columns for The Washington Times and Politico.com, and is frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Financial Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Newsweek, and other major national publications.

Norm Stamper

Norm Stamper, Ph.D., was a police officer for 34 years. He served as chief of the Seattle Police Department from 1994 to 2000. “The major police corruption scandals of the last several decades have had their roots in drug enforcement.” As a cop dedicated to protect and serve, Norm believes the war on drugs has done exactly the opposite for people. He explains that statement in his new book, Breaking Rank: A Top Cop’s Exposé of the Dark Side of American Policing

Glenn Greenwald was a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and is currently a contributing writer at Salon.com. He has also contributed to other newspapers and political news magazines, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The American Conservative, The National Interest, and In These Times. He is the author of two New York Times bestselling books: How Would a Patriot Act (a critique of Bush executive power theories) and A Tragic Legacy (examining the Bush legacy). In 2008, he authored a study, commissioned by the Cato Institute, on the implications of Portugal’s 2001 law decriminalizing all drugs.

Jane Hamsher is the founder and publisher of Firedoglake.com, a leading progressive blog. Her work has also appeared on The Daily Beast, The Huffington Post, AlterNet, The Nation, and The American Prospect. She has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, Al Jazeera, PBS, and the BBC. She is the author of the best-selling book Killer Instinct, and she has produced such films “Natural Born Killers” and “Permanent Midnight.”

Aaron Houston is the executive director of Students for Sensible Drug Policy. His notoriety in DC can be measured by his many television appearances, including a universally coveted guest spot on “The Colbert Report.” In addition to his work in drug policy, Aaron has experience in student organizing, serving as the executive director for the Colorado Student Association in Denver.

Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), is a 33-year police veteran who led multi-jurisdictional anti-narcotics task forces for the Maryland State Police and ran training for the Baltimore Police Department. After seeing several of his law enforcement friends killed in the line of fire while enforcing drug policies, Neill knew that he needed to work to change these laws that cause so much harm but do nothing to reduce drug use.

Michael Ostrolenk

 co-founded and is National Director of the Liberty Coalition, a transpartisan coalition of groups working to protect civil liberties, privacy and human autonomy (2005- present). He is presently the coalition coordinator and public policy counsel for the Campaign for Liberty working on transparency and open government issues. He also sits on the Steering Committee for Openthegovernment.org. Michael is the Executive Director of the Transpartisan Center in Washington DC. He served as President of Reuniting America (2007-2008) as well as Co-Director (2006-2007). He is also a founding member of the Integral Institute. He has written for a wide variety of publications ranging from USA Today to The American Conservative Magazine and speaks frequently about health-care and national security related issues.

Eric E. Sterling is the President of The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, a private non-profit educational organization that helps educate the nation about criminal justice problems. He helped found a number of drug policy organizations, including the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative, the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers, and Forfeiture Endangers American Rights. As a former Assistant Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee (1979-1989), Mr. Sterling was responsible for writing federal drug laws.  He has debated U.S. Senator Joseph Biden, Jr.(D-DE), then-chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee; former U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese III; and other officials about the “War on Drugs.” In 1999 he was honored with the Justice Gerald LeDain Award for Achievement in the Field of Law by the Drug Policy Foundation. Mr. Sterling has also served as an adjunct lecturer on criminal justice, sociology, and drug policy at George Washington University and American University.

Danny Goldberg is president of Gold Village Entertainment, a management company in the music business whose clients include Steve Earle, Allison Moorer, The Cranberries, The Hives, Peaches and Tom Morello. He is author of the books Bumping Into Geniuses and How The Left Lost Teen Spirit, and serves on the Boards of The Nation Institute, Brave New Films, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, Americans for Peace Now, and is Chair of the Board of the American Symphony Orchestra.

Bill Adler has devoted the last 25 years to a career in hiphop during which he’s worked as a journalist, critic, publicist, biographer, archivist, label executive, curator, editor, film documentarian, and teacher. As Director of Publicity for Rush Artist Management and Def Jam Recordings he worked with Kurtis Blow, Whodini, Run-DMC, Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde, the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Slick Rick, Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim, Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Big Daddy Kane, EPMD, Stetsasonic, De La Soul, the Jungle Brothers, 3rd Bass, and others.

Scott Morgan is associate editor of StoptheDrugWar.org, one of the web's leading resources for drug policy reform advocacy. Scott serves as the primary contributor to the organization's popular Speakeasy Blog and his analysis of marijuana and other drug policy issues has been cited in many of the internet's most popular websites. Scott is also associate director of Flex Your Rights, where he develops and produces innovative know-your-rights educational media. In this capacity, he served as the co-writer and co-executive producer of the highly-acclaimed new film, "10 Rules for Dealing with Police."

Joe McSherry, M.D., Ph.D.

 is a professor and neurologist at the University of Vermont School of Medicine. Dr. McSherry has served on various advisory panels for implementation of Vermont's medical marijuana law, and he also serves as the specialty representative for neurosurgery in the Vermont Medical Society.  He has published several medical journal articles on marijuana, including a 2005 article on applications for Parkinson's disease in the journal Neurology.

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