By Steve Elliott
Twenty-two years after being arrested for marijuana -- and 19 years after being sentenced to life in prison for it -- Jeff Mizanskey on Friday had his sentenced commuted by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon.
Mizanskey, 62, was the only man in Missouri prisons serving life for pot, report Kevin S. Held and Anthony Kiekow at Fox 2 Now. He was arrested during an undercover drug operation in Sedalia, Missouri, in 1993, and was sentenced in 1996 under the state's Prior and Persistent Drug Offender Law, which is a three-strike, habitual offender system.
"The executive power to grant clemency is one I take with a great deal of consideration and seriousness," Nixon said in a press release announcing the commutation of Mizanskey's sentence, reports Danny Wicentowski at Riverfront Times. Nixon also pardoned five other nonviolent offenders.
"It's wonderful," said Michael Mizanskey, Jeff's brother. "Thank Jay Nixon for doing that, for finally looking at his case and doing the right thing.
"I'm very emotional," Michael said. "I've overjoyed he has a chance. In almost 22 years he had two write-ups, one for putting mail in the wrong slot and one for a messy floor. No fights, no nothing. Tell me that's not a model prisoner."
A new Harris Poll finds that the growing acceptability of marijuana among state lawmakers reflects attitudinal shifts amongst the general American public since 2011. Support for the legalization of marijuana for both medical treatment and recreational use has increased by seven percentage points over the past four years.
Currently, four in five adults (81 percent) favor legalizing marijuana for medical use, up from 2011 when three quarters of Americans (74 percent) indicated the same. Meanwhile, according to Harris, half of Americans are supportive of legalizing marijuana for recreational use (49 percent), up from the two fifths (42 percent) who felt that way in 2011.
• Nearly nine in ten Democrats and Independents are in favor of legalizing marijuana for medical treatment (87 percent & 86 percent, respectively) and over half support recreational use (58 percent & 55 percent, respectively)
• While a majority - albeit a slimmer one - of Republicans also support the legalization medical marijuana (69 percent support, 23 percent oppose), a similar majority opposes legalizing marijuana for recreational use (27 percent support, 65 percent oppose).
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,221 U.S. adults surveyed online between February 11 and 17, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.
Federal law or each state for itself?
The United Nations' high-level review of global drug polices that's getting underway in New York today has already yielded some exciting results.
Mark Golding, the Jamaican minister of justice, on Thursday morning spoke at the UN debate session and called for the establishment of a Committee of Experts to begin exploring how to revise international drug treaties that threaten to stand in the way of nations' marijuana reforms. (Jamaica recently enacted a law allowing marijuana cultivation and use.)
The proposal is very significant, and is one of the main requests of a group sign-on statement released earlier this week, according to Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority. "Existing US and global drug control policies that heavily emphasize criminalization of drug use, possession, production and distribution are inconsistent with international human rights standards and have contributed to serious human rights violations," the groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, Global Exchange and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, wrote in a sign-on letter released on Tuesday.
Others who spoke out Thursday morning against the ongoing War On Drugs included top officials from Colombia, Mexico, Guatemala and Argentina, among others.
The Texas House of Representatives Criminal Jurisprudence Committee on Wednesday approved a bill 5-1 that would end marijuana prohibition in the state.
HB 2165, introduced in March by Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview), would strike references to marijuana offenses from Texas statutes, resulting in marijuana being treated similarly to other legal crops.
Nearly three out of five Texas voters (58 percent) support making marijuana legal for adults and regulating it like alcohol, according to a statewide survey conducted by Public Policy Polling in September 2013.
Four states have adopted laws that regulate and tax marijuana similarly to alcohol. Two of them, Colorado and Washington, have established regulated systems of marijuana cultivation and sales. Alaska and Oregon are in the process of implementing similar systems.
“Marijuana prohibition’s days are numbered in the Lone Star State," said Heather Fazio, Texas political director for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP). "Texas voters recognize that punishing adults for consuming a substance that is safer than alcohol is a waste of law enforcement resources and an affront to individual liberty. It appears most of the committee members agree.
“State officials are increasingly becoming fed up with the failed federal government policy of marijuana prohibition, and they’re taking action," Fazio said. "Like most Americans, most Texans are ready for a more sensible, fiscally sound marijuana policy.”
In Honor of Mother’s Day, Moms United to End the War on Drugs Representatives Request Signatures to Support Our “Mom’s Bill of Rights”
Mothers across the country are telling their personal stories of Drug War damage with stories, articles and interviews in honor of Mother’s Day. By sharing these powerful stories of losing loved ones to drug-prohibition-related violence, incarceration, overdose and addiction, they are bringing focus to a real need to reform our nation’s drug policies.
Many of the moms leading this campaign have been personally impacted by the War On Drugs, including having children who suffer from addiction and who have been repeatedly incarcerated, or have died from preventable drug overdoses and other drug related problems.
Moms were the driving force in repealing alcohol prohibition in the 30’s and now moms are playing a similar role in ending the war on drugs. Moms United to End the War on Drugs, is a project of A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) along with other organizations and individuals from across the nation.
Together they are building a national movement to demand therapeutic, rather than punitive drug policies and an end to the stigmatization and criminalization of people who use drugs or who are addicted to drugs.
Want to participate in a revolution?
Law Enforcement Against Prohibition is leading the Cannabis Parade in NYC on this Saturday, May 2, reports Jack A. Cole of LEAP. "The first 60 people to signup to be part of the LEAP contingent for that parade will be given free LEAP T-shirts and badges," Cole announced on Facebook Tuesday.
"Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or text me at 617-792-3877, with your name, cell phone, email address, and T-shirt size to reserve a shirt," Cole said. "The LEAP contingent will walk behind our 'End the Drug War-Stop the Killing' Banner."
"The marchers in our contingent will be very visible and the back's of their T-shirts read, 'Cops Say Legalize Drugs, Ask Me Why,'" Cole said. "The participating LEAP speakers will also be wearing our T-shirts and a LEAP hat so they can be easily referred to reporters who want interviews."
According to Cole, there are supposed to be more than 40 organizations participating.
At 11:30 a.m. the LEAP contingent will assemble for the parade at the Martinique Café, located on the east side of Broadway just north of 32nd Street (across from Greeley Square Park). Participants will pick up your shirts there.
The parade starts at Broadway and 32nd Street and proceeds to 14th Street where there will be a rally at Union Square.
By Steve Elliott
A number of U.S.-based and international criminal justice reform, human rights and public health groups on Tuesday are joining together to condemn the execution of nonviolent drug offenders by the Indonesian government that just took place.
“Wherever they occur, executions for nonviolent offenses violate human rights,” a sign-on letter from the groups says.
Despite repeated pleas for mercy from family members, citizens, human rights organizations, the United Nations, and governments around the world, Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, Nigerians Martin Anderson, Raheem Agbaje Salami, Okwuduli Oyatanze, and Silvester Obiekwe Nwolise, Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, and Indonesian Zainal Abidin faced a firing squad at just past midnight Indonesia-time. Serge Atlaoui from France has been given a temporary reprieve and Mary Jane Veloso from the Philippines was given a last-minute reprieve.
The Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) will celebrate its 20th anniversary Wednesday evening with a gala on Capitol Hill.
Members of Congress and the marijuana business community will be among those in attendance to recognize the gains that have been made by the organization, which is responsible for most major state-level marijuana policy reforms since 2000.
MPP executive director Rob Kampia, Chuck Thomas, and Mike Kirshner launched the organization out of their apartments in Washington, D.C. in 1995. It now has nearly 30 full-time staff members and an annual budget of more than $3 million. MPP monitors policy in all 50 states, lobbies in state legislatures and in Congress, coordinates state and local ballot initiatives, and carries out public education activities at the local and national levels.
“For 20 years, our focus has been on changing the debate, changing public attitudes, and changing the laws surrounding marijuana in the United States,” Kampia said. “MPP has evolved right alongside the issue. As support has increased and public dialogue has grown, the organization has expanded and played an increasingly larger role in the discussion.
“Ultimately, the facts speak for themselves; we just make sure people are listening,” Kampia said.
The Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce (C4) on Monday joined in recognizing 4/20, the most iconic business day of the year for those involved in the marijuana industry.
“For the Chamber, along with the businesses, employers, and entrepreneurs we represent, 4/20 is about far more than the day’s festivities and community,” C4 President Tyler Henson said. “This year, 4/20 is really about reflecting on the end of modern day prohibition in Colorado.”
“We already learned in the 1920’s with alcohol that prohibition simply doesn’t work in America,” Henson pointed out. "Prohibition created an unsafe environment for individuals, children, and society as a whole, allowing for black market activity to thrive and bringing about violent ‘liquor wars’.
"Today, the C4 Chamber is working to end a culture of ‘Prohibition 2.0’ as it relates to marijuana," Henson said. "Colorado’s cannabis experiment is now becoming the standard for the rest of the nation to follow as legal, recreational use quickly grows increasing popular among the general public."
The latest polls in Colorado show record support for marijuana, where now 62 percent of voters say they would legalize recreational use again if given the chance. And medicinal marijuana now has a whopping 89 percent public approval rating.
“4/20 is a day for us to highlight the excitement of this new industry we share with fellow Coloradans and the great opportunity we know that lies ahead,” Henson said.
By Steve Elliott
Three Texas men arrested in recent weeks are facing the possibility of life in prison after being caught with small amounts of edible marijuana products, and that has resulted in an outcry from some residents of Amarillo who say that's just too harsh.
Potter County deputies busted Eli Manna, 30, and Andrew George, 27, after stopping them for a traffic violation on March 16, reports JC Cortez at the Amarillo Globe-News. A search of the vehicle yielded seven purple brownies weighing a total of 650 grams, which triggered the most severe punishment range for marijuana possession under Texas law.
More than 400 grams means 10 years to life in prison and a fine of up to $50,000. Texas law nonsensically considers the weight of the infused food rather than just its marijuana content when calculating sentencing. According to the law, "adulterants and diluents" are to be considered part of the total volume of controlled substances, which makes absolutely no sense when it comes to cannabis edibles.
Just 10 days later, troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety arrested Fernando Bejarano, 19, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, after stopping him for a traffic violation. Troopers found more than 800 grams of commercially packaged baked goods and candies containing THC, the principal psychoactive ingredient of cannabis.
By Steve Elliott
If you're an American citizen, you must be aware that federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents spend plenty of your tax money in Latin America. Recent revelations that DEA agents attended sex parties hosted by the same drug traffickers they were supposed to be fighting shed some revealing light on what they've been up to.
According to a report from the Department of Justice, several DEA agents -- some with top security clearances, mind you -- allegedly participated in multiple sex orgies with prostitutes "funded by the local drug cartels." Some of the federal agents also got cash, gifts and weapons from the traffickers, reports Daniel Robelo at AlterNet.
Incredibly, the sex parties occurred at the agents' "government-leased quarters," where laptops and other equipment were easily accessible, raising "the possibility that DEA equipment and information also may have been compromised as a result of the agents' conduct, according to the report.
Less widely reported was a much more serious allegation that U.S. soldiers and military contractors raped at least 54 women and girls between 2004 and 2007 while deployed as part of Plan Colombia -- the nearly $10 billion U.S. Drug War "military aid" package designed to prop up the deeply corrupt Colombian government.
None of those involved has faced any consequences.
By Steve Elliott
A 27-year-old Missouri man was charged with selling marijuana after confessing during a traffic stop for having the wrong license plate, the St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney's Office said on Friday.
According to court documents, the original incident took place on July 24, 2014, reports Brandie Piper at KSDK. When an officer smelled marijuana, suspect James Redmond allegedly said, "I just smoked some when I left Hotshots. It's in the center console."
The officer searched as instructed and discovered a glass pipe, an e-cigarette, capsules with a dark liquid smelling like marijuana, and $1,534 in cash.
When the officer asked where the money came from, Redmond -- who evidently has a few things to learn when it comes to slinging trees -- replied, "I'm not gonna lie. I sell marijuana," reports Kevin S. Held at KTVI.
Redmond went on to tell the officer he had a book bag full of weed in the back seat.
The officer looked through the book bag and found two large bags and one small bag filled with cannabis, a digital scale, a bag of empty baggies, and a blue container containing marijuana with a label on the lid reading, "Marijuana Grown in Colorado."
Redmond was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, a felony.
Photo of James Redmond: St. Louis County Police Department
By Steve Elliott
The Washington state Military Department has agreed to pay $110,000 to a King County marijuana activist and a Seattle attorney to settle a long-running public records lawsuit centered around the Washington National Guard's counterdrug task force.
Activist John Worthington of Renton and attorney William Crittenden sought the release of flight records and other documents, reports Adam Ashton at the Tacoma News Tribune.
Worthington, 51, had tried to get the records since 2008 under Washington's Public Records Act, which applies to state agencies. King County Sheriff's deputies seized six marijuana plants from Worthington's home in 2007.
"They went after me because I'm an activist, and I've been terrorized out of growing," Worthington told the Seattle PI at the time, reports Curtis Cartier at Seattle Weekly. "I can't have my kids frisked like they're criminals. That was disgusting. I'm not Al Capone -- I'm a dad."
The National Guard wasn't involved in that raid, but Worthington views the Guard's involvement as a federal entity in a state counterdrug task force as a violation of federal law prohibiting military authorities from participating in domestic law enforcement.
The 'Hempster Clothing' line was introduced on Thursday by Algae International Group, Inc., through its operating subsidiary American Seed & Oil Company.
The company is introducing the first clothing items it plans to start selling through an e-commerce site by April 20. The introduction of the first clothing items will be combined with a campaign to fund efforts to legalize marijuana nationwide.
American Seed & Oil Company will introduce four t-shirts bearing various designs specific to the 'Hempster Clothing' line brand. One hundred percent of the profit from the sales of these first four t-shirts over the course of the next year will be donated to the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), an organization dedicated to ending the federal prohibition of marijuana and empowering states to regulate their own marijuana policy.
American Seed & Oil's overall mission is to create a variety of market competitive, environmental conscious, consumer and commercial products utilizing various forms of cannabis. A clothing line was conceived as part of American Seed & Oil Company's original business plan.
Hemp requires half the water and half the land required by cotton to produce equal quantities of fiber for clothing production. While cotton accounts for a major portion of agricultural pesticides, hemp requires no pesticides at all.
By Steve Elliott
More than 30 people have been charged after police investigating the cultivation of hydroponic cannabis raided 60 properties in South Australia.
The investigation began in May 2014, centering on four hydroponic businesses, reports
According to police, 37 grow houses were searched, resulting in 31 arrests and the seizure of 711 cannabis plants, 26 kilograms of dried cannabis, two grams of amphetamine and two grams of cocaine.
Also seized were 33 firearms, $91,805 in cash, 12 vehicles and a "large quantity" of hydroponic growing equipment.
The investigation continues, according to assistant police commissioner Paul Dickson on Wednesday.
"This operation will certainly shake up the hydroponics industry and disrupt any criminal activity being undertaken by these individuals," Dickson said.