Javier Sicilia to Speak at Stanford University of Pain Caused by Failed Drug War – and Need for Alternative Drug Policies to Prevent Future Victims
Mexican poet and peace leader Javier Sicilia on Wednesday will visit the Bay Area to speak firsthand about the devastation and pain caused by the Drug War in Mexico.
Sicilia’s visit –- to Stanford's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies on Wednesday, October 30, at 4:30 pm -– is part of the bi-national, 11-city “Voices of the Victims” Tour calling for an end to the Drug War that has left more than 80,000 people murdered, 25,000 disappeared, and 250,000 displaced from their homes in Mexico.
The Voices of the Victims Tour began on October 23-26 in Denver, Colorado, at the 2013 International Drug Policy Reform Conference, hosted by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), during which 24 representatives from the Mexican victims’ organization, the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, participated in panels and roundtable discussions to strategize with activists from around the world about how to bring the war on drugs to an end.
By Steve Elliott
A prisoner in Missouri who is serving a prison term of life without parole for marijuana has asked the governor for clemency after serving 20 years.
Jeff Mizanskey was arrested on December 18, 1993, when he drove a friend to a motel in Sedalia, Missouri, to meet two men, reports Ray downs at Riverfront Times. To this day, Mizanskey says he had no clue his friend, Atilano Quintana, was going there to buy a few pounds of marijuana.
What Quintana didn't know was that his two friends who were in the motel with a brick of cannabis had been busted the day before, with 13 bricks, and they had agreed to roll over and ensnare more buyers. There were cops and surveillance equipment in the adjoining room; Quintana and Mizanskey were busted.
The surveillance video shows Quintana was the one who made the purchase, and the was the one in possession of the package when he and Mizanskey were arrested. Quintana got a 10-year sentence for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, a Class B felony.
But this was Mizanskey's third pot charge. He'd been busted in 1984 for selling an ounce of pot to a narc, and in 1991 for possession of more than 35 grams.
Jeff, who had never done prison time and never had a violent offense, was given life without parole under Missouri's "prior and persistent drug offender" law.
By Steve Elliott
A national cannabis education tour called "Weed Not Greed" is planning to launch next year, according to a press release from a group behind the plans.
"Weed Not Greed is on a mission to organize a national tour for cannabis visibility and education to re-legalize this long-cultivated plant of medicine, fiber, and consciousness," reads a Monday press release from the group. "To free innocent individuals incarcerated due to unconstitutional cannabis prohibitions, our group of passionate progressives will span the country visiting major metropolises.
" We are insisting on the right for anyone to grow, possess, consume, or distribute cannabis for all the gifts it has provided humanity over our thousands-year history together," the statement reads.
“We are making clear that cannabis use is a civil right, and the freedom to choose its use is as constitutional a right as freedom of religion and the pursuit of happiness,” said Weed Not Greed founder David Kowalsky.
"The mission," according to Kowalsky, "is to educate the unknowing and to raise the issue above the level of a key election topic (of which numerous polls now show a majority of Americans favoring legalization) to immediate health and economic concern. The number of neurological and muscular diseases that cannabis can treat is shown in the dozens, including many types of cancer."
By Steve Elliott
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is challenging a proposal to put a ballot measure which would legalize medical marijuana before state voters in the November 2014 general election. Bondi on Thursday sent a petition to the Florida Supreme Court, along with the campaign's ballot language and petitions.
Atty. Gen. Bondi claims that People United For Medical Marijuana (PUFMM), led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, filed misleading ballot language in describing how widely medical marijuana would be allowed under the measure, reports Scott Powers at the Orlando Sentinel.
Bondi also complained that the ballot language failed to note that even if Florida voters approve the measure, marijuana will still be illegal under federal law.
"Its true scope and effect remain hidden," Bondi claimed in her petition to the Supreme Court.
She charged the wording was too broad and would allow doctors to authorize medical marijuana for almost any condition, and additionally argued that medical marijuana could not be called "legal" as long as it's illegal under Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act in federal law.
Bondi's arguments would come as quite a surprise to the patients of California, who have had safe access to medical marijuana for 17 years under state law, and to patients in 19 other states which also passed medical marijuana laws without asking for federal permission.
By Steve Elliott
Hard-rock legends Aerosmith, in Uruguay for a concert Wednesday night, praised President José Mujica during an official visit Tuesday afternoon. Singer Steven Tyler called Mujica "one of the best presidents in the Americas," adding that more presidents should be like him. Tyler expressed admiration for Mujica's work on marijuana legalization and helping the poor.
Uruguay is on track to become the first nation in the world to fully legalize cannabis since the Single Convention Treaty on Narcotics established worldwide marijuana prohibition in 1961.
"Your president is a freedom fighter and in many ways we fight for freedom ourselves with music," Tyler said, reports Edgar Zúñiga of NBC Latino.
"He gives 70 percent of his salary for people's homes," Tyler said. "Here in this small country, Uruguay, I think he's doing it the right way, grass roots and we believe in that."
A former leftist guerrilla, President Mujica is widely considered "the world's poorest president," and donates most of his pay to a program which provides free homes to the country's poor, mostly households headed by single mothers. The program also provides medical care. Mujica has already given more than $300,000 to the program, according to Joaquín Constanzo with Uruguay's presidential press office.
By Steve Elliott
The Michigan Supreme Court is looking at a historic case that will determine whether Michigan communities can ban medical marijuana and possibly whether state residents can keep using cannabis at all for medicinal reasons.
Those united against medical marijuana patients include the State Bar of Michigan and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, both of which are trying to get the entire medical marijuana law thrown out, reports Bill Laitner at the Detroit Free Press.
That would cancel the wishes of the 63 percent of Michigan voters who approved the medical marijuana law in 2008, according to groups opposing the medical marijuana ban, which include the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the libertarian Cato Institute, based in Washington, D.C.
A few Michigan communities have passed bans on medical marijuana "that carry serious penalties, and that includes jail time," according to activist Tim Beck, 61, of Detroit. The ordinances "didn't even mention medical marijuana -- they just said that any activity that was illegal under federal law was also illegal in their community," Beck said.
The case stems from retired attorney John Ter Beek's 2010 lawsuit to overturn a medical marijuana ban in Wyoming, a suburb of Grand Rapids. Ter Beek is a state-registered medical marijuana patient with a paintful neurological disorder and diabetes, according to the lawsuit.
More Than 1,000 Experts and Advocates to Strategize About Marijuana Legalization, Criminal Justice Reform, Public Health, and Post-Prohibition Models for Drug Control
New Era: Colorado Embarks on Implementation of Historic Marijuana Legalization Law
Which state will be next to legalize marijuana? What do the Obama Administration’s recent announcements about marijuana legalization and mandatory minimums really mean? What are some solutions to the national overdose crisis that takes more lives than car accidents or gun violence?
Why do blacks go to jail for drugs at 13 times the rate of whites even though they use and sell drugs at similar rates? What role can faith leaders play in organizing and mobilizing their congregations to end the drug war?
More than 1,000 people will gather to ponder these questions and many more at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Denver, October 23-26 at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel.
By Steve Elliott
The mother of a Washington state man who died in jail after turning himself in on a minor marijuana charge has filed a notice of claim against Snohomish County, indicating she will seek $10 million in a lawsuit.
Just months after the death of Michael Saffioti, 22, Washington state voters legalized recreational marijuana. It took only one day in jail for Saffioti, who suffered from severe allergies, to die once he was jailed, reports Nina Shapiro at the Seattle Weekly.
Saffioti had an extreme allergy to dairy products, as well as asthma; according to his mother, Rose, Michael felt better when he used marijuana.
He didn't have his medical marijuana authorization, though, which led to a pot possession charge for which he turned himself in.
Michael had already spent time in jail for marijuana. During a previous stay, other inmates called him "Bubble Boy" because his food was wrapped in plastic because of his allergies, reported The Everett Herald last year.
But something went wrong after Saffioti turned himself in to the Lynwood Police Department. An officer at Lynwood noted his health conditions, including the severe dairy allergy, and "determined that he could not be properly supervised at the city jail due to his medical issus." He was transferred to Snohomish County Jail.
By Steve Elliott
The group "Weed Wyoming" plans to file a state ballot initiative for 2016 to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana.
Members believe the medical marijuana initiative has a better chance than an all-or-nothing attempt for outright legalization, according to a Weed Wyoming press release.
The initiative would allow qualified patients to grow up to 10 marijuana plants, and possess up to 10 ounces. Marijuana could be smoked anywhere where tobacco smoking is allowed. If the cannabis is being vaporized rather than smoked, "it may be used anywhere within the State," according to the measure's language.
The Wyoming chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) is also trying to put an initiative on the 2016 statewide ballot to legalize hemp and cannabis.
By Steve Elliott
The National Cannabis Industry Association will host education and networking events this week for industry stakeholders and organization members. MJ Freeway is sponsoring the NCIA events in Portland, Oregon (on Monday) and Tacoma, Washington (Tuesday).
The Cannabis Industry Reception in Portland will serve as a networking opportunity for interested parties in the state's marijuana industry who want to meet NCIA Executive Director Aaron Smith and members from within the state. Attendees can potentially join the organization themselves, and can learn more about the NCIA's activities both at the state and the national level.
The Oregon reception will take place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Monday, September 30, at the Paragon Restaurant in Portland.
The Washington Educational Series Event will focus primarily on the state's legalization of retail marijuana sales through I-502, exploring the implementation of the legislation and its impact throughout the country. Also presented will be information about what NCIA itself is doing to advance the industry's interests.
The Washington event opens its doors at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 1, at the Pacific Grill in Tacoma.
For more information about either event, or to register for either, visit the NCIA events page at http://thecannabisindustry.org/events.
By Steve Elliott
After spending the last three-and-a-half years in federal prison with no bail, Reverend Roger Christie, the founder of a Hawaii-based ministry that promoted marijuana use as a religious sacrament, pleaded guilty on Friday in federal court to possession of almost 300 cannabis plants, but reserved the right to appeal his case based on religious grounds.
Christie's case has received national attention, with cannabis advocates saying his pre-trial detention with no bail is unconstitutional. Many called him a political prisoner in the War On Drugs.
Christie, who founded The Hawaii Cannabis Ministry (THC Ministry), entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiring to manufacture, distribute and possess marijuana and two counts of failing to file tax returns, for the years 2008 and 2009, reports John Burnett at the Hawaii Tribune Herald.
Sentencing is scheduled for January 22 at 2:45 p.m., before U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi. Christie faces up to 20 years' imprisonment on the marijuana charge, with a mandatory minimum of five years. The maximum term on each tax offense is one year.
Christie will forfeit is Wainaku apartment as part of the plea deal. He will also forfeit the $21,494 confiscated by federal agents during a raid in 2010.
Other marijuana-related charges against Christie were dropped as part of the plea deal.
By Steve Elliott
The disturbing trend of racial disparities in marijuana arrests continued in 2012 in Philadelphia, according to an annual review of cannabis arrest statistics from Philly NORML.
The Philly affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, using data from the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System, found that there were 6,614 marijuana-related arrests in Philadelphia during 2012. Of those, 4,272 were for simple possession only.
African-Americans were arrested for marijuana possession at five times the rate of whites in Philadelphia. All other drug arrests are more equal when compared by race, according to Philly NORML.
About 75 percent of the marijuana possession arrests were of people between the ages of 18 and 34. Ninety percent were male.
By comparison, whites and blacks were arrested in almost equal numbers for opiates and cocaine.
When looking at the state of Pennsylvania as a whole, of all adults arrested for simple marijuana possession, 85 percent were men and 71 percent were white. Of adults arrested for sales and/or manufacture of cannabis, 58 percent were white and 90 percent were male.
"Marijuana arrests in Philadelphia continue with a disturbing trend of racial disparity," said Chris Goldstein of Philly NORML. "Black and white Americans consume marijuana at nearly equal rates and the city's population is admirably diverse, yet it is residents of color who continue to be the focus of law enforcement."
Heads of State from Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Mexico Expected to Call for Global Drug Policy Reform
President Mujica of Uruguay Makes First-Ever UN Address; Will Meet With President Pérez Molina of Guatemala to Discuss Marijuana Reform and Alternatives to Prohibition
Drug policy reform will be a major focus at this week's UN General Assembly, with at least four heads of state expected to call for major global drug policy reform.
One year ago, the presidents of Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico made headlines at the UN General Assembly by calling for alternatives to the War On Drugs. Since then, Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states – and the first political jurisdictions in the world – to legalize the production, distribution and sale of marijuana for adults.
Uruguay is likely to join them soon –- the country’s House passed a marijuana legalization bill in July and its Senate is expected to follow suit in October. On September 24, Uruguayan President José Mujica addressed the UN General Assembly for the first time.
“More and more governments appear to recognize the need for a new direction in global drug policies,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Importantly, we now have presidents in Colombia, Guatemala and Uruguay who are willing to push the envelope in challenging the failed prohibitionist regime.”
By Steve Elliott
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws is trying, through social media, to win online voting for a contest that will award a Super Bowl ad to a small business. But the odds are long for the cannabis advocacy group, according to some observers.
"[A]nyone who thinks a marijuana advocacy ad will run during the game on Fox this February may be smoking something already," wrote Jack Neff of Ad Age. "That doesn't mean the parties involved mind the publicity being stirred up."
Intuit is holding the contest; the company said in July that it would give one small business a 30-second ad during the Super Bowl. But when NORML entered the contest, it set off a burst of media attention and raised questions about what, exactly, is a "small business."
Uniliver's vice president of media for the Americas, Rob Master, tweeted to former Intuit Quickbooks marketing executive Seth Greenberg, who launched the contest, that it is "creating tons of buzz around potential marijuana ad winner -- definition of earned media."
Greenberg, who left Intuit in July to become chief marketing officer of Lifelock, replied: "That's one type of 'buzz' we didn't expect."
By Steve Elliott
Missouri lawmakers who want to relax the state's marijuana laws are looking at a renewed push for reforms. House Democrats Chris Kelly of Columbia and Rory Ellinger of Universal City were among the speakers at a Thursday forum on cannabis policy.
Reps. Kelly and Ellinger both supported legislation earlier this year which would have reduced marijuana possession penalties to a low-level misdemeanor with no jail time, similar to a traffic ticket, reports CBS St. Louis. St. Louis and Columbia already have such decriminalization ordinances on the books.
Rep. Kelly said he would also favor full legalization only if there were enough organizational support from pro-marijuana groups, reports The Columbia Missourian.
Kelly said he wasn't sure if it would be better to seek legislative approval of lower marijuana penalties, or to put any proposed reforms on a statewide ballot to let the voters decide for themselves.
(Photo of Rep. Chris Kelly: ChrisKelly24.com)