Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Press Release: Maryland Senator Corrects Police Chief in Marijuana Legalization Hearing

February 25, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496


Anti-Legalize-and-Regulate Cops Accidentally Highlight Own Ignorance of Drug War Issues

Pro-Legalize-and-Regulate Cops Guardedly Optimistic About Future of Law Enforcement

ANNAPOLIS, MD–The oppositional side of the hearing on legalization and regulation of marijuana in the Maryland Senate today turned into a comedy of errors courtesy of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association and Maryland Sheriffs’ Association. Amongst other items, the gallery erupted in laughter and outrage after Annapolis Chief of Police Michael Pristoop cited a hoax story about deaths attributed to marijuana overdose in Colorado. He was publicly corrected by one of the presiding senators, who pulled up the hoax on his phone and explained the story was a joke.

Other questionable statements included Wicomico County Sheriff Mike Lewis’s point that marijuana shouldn’t be legalized because police would have to retrain expensive drug-sniffing police dogs, an officer making light of the dangers of alcohol use, a DA asserting “no one goes to jail for marijuana,” and comments on how absent (constitutionally required) probable cause other than the supposed smell of marijuana, police would be less able to conduct pretextual stops such as stop-and-frisk.

At one point, Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-MD 20) questioned this power, repeatedly cited by criminal justice policy experts as a primary cause for racial inequities in arrest rates, asking Sheriff Lewis about his own ability to distinguish good guys from bad. He then cited a 1999 New York Times article that said of the sheriff, “Black, black, black, black. It is what Mike Lewis sees.”

“The official testimony of the Chiefs’ Association saddens me as a police commander. My motto has always been ‘Respect the police. Demand reform,’” commented Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) board member Captain Leigh Maddox (Ret.). “Today many police gave testimony that was so clearly flawed it no doubt caused a lot of people to lose respect for a profession of which I am proud to have been a part. I continue to remain hopeful they will come around.”

“I’m not going to get into the safety or danger of marijuana–the destructive policy of prohibition is what we’re discussing here today. But any college student can tell you no person has ever died of a marijuana overdose. If police don’t bother to educate themselves before testifying before the state senate in the issue, how is anyone supposed to take seriously their commitment to establishing the best marijuana policy–not for the funding it brings their departments in asset forfeiture and federal grant revenue–but for the people of Maryland?” asked LEAP executive director Major Neill Franklin (Ret.).


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Press Release: Eighteen Members of Congress Call on Obama to Reschedule Marijuana

February 12, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496


Current Scheduling Limits Medical Research, Creates Hurdles to Legitimate Business

Bill to “Unmuzzle Drug Czar” Also Introduced

WASHINGTON, DC–Citing high numbers of arrests, billions of dollars wasted, disproportionate effects on black Americans and the relative safety of marijuana, a group of eighteen Congress members today called on President Obama to “delist or classify marijuana in a more appropriate way, at the very least eliminating it from Schedule I or II.” The move comes in light of Obama’s recent comments to The New Yorker that marijuana is no more harmful than alcohol and that it was important to allow legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington to proceed.

Currently, marijuana is listed as a Schedule I drug, a classification for drugs with no accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse. Because of this classification, most medical research on marijuana is prohibited, it cannot be prescribed in accordance with federal law and it creates a host of tax and business regulation problems for state-legal marijuana businesses trying to comply in good faith with all relevant laws.

“No drug should be listed as Schedule I, which limits potentially life-saving research into both benefits and dangers of a substance and guarantees a violent, illegal market for the product,” said Law Enforcement Against Prohibition executive director Major Neill Franklin (Ret.) “This is even more true of marijuana right now, when after four decades of failure, states are doing their best to find something that works and federal regulations keep interfering with their doing so.”


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Press Release: House Oversight Committee Holds Hearings on Marijuana

February 4, 2014
Contact: Darby Beck: darby.beck@leap.cc 415.823.5496


ONDCP Head Claims Obama Administration Trying to Treat Marijuana Use As Public Health Issue

Rep. Blumenauer Calls ONDCP’s Failure to be Honest About Drug Harms “Part of the Problem”

WASHINGTON, DC–Office of National Drug Control Policy Deputy Director Michael Botticelli testified about the Obama administration’s marijuana policy to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform today in a hearing that at times got quite heated. Botticelli defended Obama administration policies Chairman John Mica (R-FL) called “fractured” and “schizophrenic,” saying the administration is dedicated to treating marijuana use as a public health issue rather than a law enforcement matter. That statement was questioned by other Congressmembers who cited the 750,000 arrests and billions of dollars spent by states every year on law enforcement intervention.

The most heated exchange, however, came after Botticelli refused to answer questions about marijuana’s relative safety as compared with cocaine, methamphetamine and tobacco, all of which are less stringently regulated under the Controlled Substances Act than marijuana (nicotine, a legal drug, does not appear on the schedule). Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) commented that despite Botticelli’s talk of educational programs, until he was able to speak about the real harms of drugs rather than spouting inaccurate propaganda, children would not hear the message. He then opined whether a friend who had died of a heroin overdose would still be alive if he had received real education on the dangers of the drug. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) went even further, calling ONDCP’s refusal to realistically discuss drug use “part of the problem.”   

“I don’t think people should smoke marijuana. Every drug–including those you get from your doctor–has real harms. But if you educate people about those harms and how to minimize them, you diminish their impact and ensure that your warnings will be heeded,” commented Law Enforcement Against Prohibition executive director Major Neill Franklin (Ret.). “Part of the ridiculous logic of the war on drugs is that even when asked a direct question by members of Congress, the head of the agency tasked with administering our drug policy cannot answer truthfully questions that could save lives.”

The hearing focused largely on the racial disparities engendered by the unequal enforcement of marijuana laws, the lifelong impact of marijuana convictions (which, unlike murder and other violent crimes can disqualify a person from receiving some federal student loans as well as other legal entitlements), the failure of the drug war to reduce use, the money wasted on prohibition, misplaced law enforcement priorities, and the right of states to govern themselves.

“It’s time criminal justice professionals stop being motivated by politics and start being motivated to do what is best for the American people,” added Lieutenant Commander Diane Goldstein (Ret.), a LEAP board member.  

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