Tag Archives: drugs

Bernie Sanders Introduces Bill to End Federal Marijuana Prohibition

A bill was introduced in the Senate on Wednesday by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) that would end federal prohibition on marijuana and allow legalization to be determined by the states.

The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2015 states that it would limit the application of federal laws to the distribution and consumption of marijuana, ultimately removing all references to cannabis in the Controlled Substances Act.

[RELATED: Colorado Becomes First State to Generate More Tax Revenue From Marijuana than from Alcohol Sales]

The Huffington Post noted that Sanders’s bill is modeled after one that was proposed by Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) in 2013 and reintroduced in 2015 as the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act.

“Just as alcohol prohibition failed in the 1920s, it’s clear marijuana prohibition is failing today,” Polis said. “For decades, the federal ban on marijuana has wasted tax dollars, impeded our criminal justice system, lined the pockets of drug cartels, and trampled on states’ ability to set their own public health laws.”

Polis described the introduction of the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act in the Senate as “a huge step forward in the movement to enact the commonsense drug laws needed to grow our economy and restore fairness to our justice system.”

Although recreational marijuana is legal in Washington, Alaska, ColoradoOregon and the District of Columbia, it remains illegal under federal law.

[RELATED: Reality Check: U.S. Non-Violent Drug Offenders Incarceration Rate is Shameful]

Leslie Bocskor, a managing partner of Electrum Partners, a medical marijuana consulting firm, told Yahoo News that he believes removing marijuana from the federal government’s list of banned substances would “alleviate several unwanted byproducts of the U.S. war on drugs.”

[pull_quote_center]This includes reducing our rate of incarceration for nonviolent offenders, addressing racial injustice enabled by the criminalization of marijuana not to mention increased tax revenue, a regulated marketplace keeping marijuana out of the hands of children, job creation, the destruction of criminal cartels by removing their revenue streams and keeping wealth in the communities that have established regulated frameworks.[/pull_quote_center]

The Marijuana Policy Project, a marijuana reform organization, noted that while Sanders’ bill is the fourth one seeking marijuana policy reform, it is the first bill that actually proposes the end of federal marijuana prohibition.

While cannabis has been known to help with diseases such as cancer, epilepsy and Crohn’s disease, the Drug Enforcement Administration defines marijuana as a Schedule I drug, or one of “the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”

On the DEA’s list of drugs, marijuana is alongside substances including heroin, LSD and ecstasy, while cocaine, methamphetamine and oxycodone are listed as less hazardous Schedule II drugs.

Last year, Ben Swann examined the federal government’s classification of marijuana, seen in the video below. While marijuana remains a Schedule I drug, the government also holds patents on the substance to treat various diseases and conditions.


California governor sends out Christmas pardons, retracts one

California Gov. Jerry Brown has upheld his Christmas Eve tradition by issuing 105 pardons for criminals being held in the California prison system, but one of these pardons was retracted shortly afterwards.

Many of the people who have received pardons have been convicted more than a decade ago of nonviolent drug offenses or charges similar to burglary, according to CBS San Francisco.  Brown and his office have said those who were granted a pardon had been previously released without committing additional crimes, and had demonstrated “exemplary behavior” by being productive in their civilian lives.

However, according to the AP, the one pardon which was retracted was supposed to be granted to Glen Carnes.  Carnes had been convicted of a drug-related crime in 1998  when he was a teenager, but in 2013, records show he underwent disciplinary actions for providing false statements to investment regulators.

Carnes did not admit guilt to these allegations, rather he signed a settlement with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, agreeing to be barred from further financial investment.  While celebrating the holidays with his family, Carnes said he learned about his pardon retraction, and was in disbelief.

“Oh my God. You’ve got to be kidding me,” Carnes said in a phone interview.  “I cannot believe this is happening, I’ve waited 20 years for this… This is wrong.”

The pardons do not erase the conviction, rather they restore certain rights to the person.  Some of these rights include the ability to further serve on a jury and allowing a person to legally own a firearm if they were not previously convicted of a crime involving a weapon.  A previously convicted person also has the chance to work as a probation officer or a parole agent for the state.

No Charges For California Officer Caught With 5 Pounds Of Marijuana

No charges are planned on being filed against a California police officer who was in possession of between four and five pounds of marijuana at his home in Oakley, California.

Officer Joe Avila, a 17-year-veteran of the Richmond Police Force (RPF), has been under investigation by the RPF since January, according to the Richmond Confidential.  It was around this time the RPF began to notice Avila was not filing any follow-up reports for about 37 calls of service he had gone on.

One of these calls was to a UPS Store in November, 2013, where it is suspected Avila had collected the marijuana and then failed to turn the drugs over to the department’s evidence department.

Robin Lipetzky, the county’s chief public defender, told the Raw Story, “They are cutting him some slack because he’s a police officer… Anybody else found with 5 pounds of marijuana in their possession, I don’t care who that is, that person is going to be charged with a crime.”

While he was under investigation, Avila said he had used two of the five pounds of marijuana to help train his police dog.  The other drugs though, he did not comment on.

When the investigation was under way, Avila was the key witness in a case where he had helped to secure a conviction.  However, Deputy Public Defender Elise McNamara who represented the defendant in this case, is saying this is an ethics violation.

They have a constitutional mandate to disclose exculpatory evidence to us prior to a trial,” said McNamara.  “If there’s an officer on the case who’s been discredited, then we have the right to know that.”

The DA’s office is taking the position that this officer did nothing wrong. And because they think he did nothing wrong, they are not turning over any information,” said Lipetzky.  “They have a vested interest in not having an officer’s credibility called into question, because then it impacts all the cases they’re trying to prosecute.”

As of now, Avila is on paid administrative leave.

From Marijuana to GMOs to Fracking – Results of the Midterm Elections

The 2014 Midterm Elections led to the approval of measures such as marijuana legalization in Oregon, Alaska, and Washington D.C., a ban on hydraulic fracturing in Denton, Texas, and a shift in the way California defines offenses, such as drug possession.

Oregon became the third state to legalize the “possession, use and sale of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and over,” according to the Huffington Post.

The Alaska Dispatch reported that voters in Alaska approved legalizing recreational use of marijuana “by about 52 percent in favor to 48 percent opposed, with 100 percent of the state’s precincts reporting.”

According to USA Today, the measure to legalize marijuana in Washington D.C. was “overwhelmingly approved” by voters, and will apply to sections of the district that are not considered “federal land.”

Although the measure to legalize medical marijuana in Florida received 57% approval, it did not receive the necessary 60%, in order to pass.

Florida Today reported that voters “narrowly rejected” the legalization of medical marijuana, “after a surge of ads saying the ballot initiative was riddled with holes,” which cost $6.2 million, and had the backing of a Las Vegas casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson.

Following the elections, Denton became the first city in the state of Texas to ban hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The Fort Worth Star Telegram reported that 58.6 percent of voters approved an ordinance that “will drastically restrict drillers’ attempts to tap the rich natural gas reserves within the city limits.”

A measure to label foods containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), appeared on the ballots in Colorado and Oregon. It was rejected in Colorado, and is still “too close to call” in Oregon. The Oregonian reported that the measure to label GMOs  “trailed 49 percent to 51 percent,” with nearly 80 percent of votes counted.

According to Reuters, this outcome came after corporate food and agriculture interests, such as Monsanto and DuPont, “poured more than $36 million into anti-labeling campaigns in the two states.

Voters in California approved a measure that redefines certain offenses that were considered felonies, such as shoplifting, fraud, and possession of small amounts of drugs, including heroin and cocaine, as misdemeanor.

The Huffington Post reported that as a result of the measure, as many as 10,000 people “could be eligible for early release from state prisons,” and the expectation is that courts “will annually dispense around 40,000 fewer felony convictions.”

Ben Swann joins correspondents Erin Ade, Edward Harrison, Abby Martin, and Tyrel Ventura, from RT News, to discuss the ballot measures:

U.S. Marijuana Legalization Weakens Mexican Cartels

According to the FBI’s crime statistics from the last 20 years, half of the drug arrests in the United States have been Marijuana-related. The U.S. Department of Justice reported that a “large portion of the U.S. illegal drug market is controlled directly by Mexican cartels.”

Last week, The Washington Post reported that Marijuana farmers in the Sinaloa region of Mexico have “stopped planting due to a massive drop in wholesale prices, from $100 per kilo down to only $25,” with one farmer saying, “It’s not worth it anymore. I wish the Americans would stop with this legalization.

Sean Dunagan, a former DEA Senior Intelligence Specialist, compared the effect of legalizing marijuana to the effect of legalizing alcohol.

Anything to establish a regulated legal market will necessarily cut into those profits,” said Dunagan. “It won’t be a viable business for the Mexican cartels — the same way bootleggers disappeared after prohibition fell.”

Dunagan spent two years in Mexico, working for DEA Operations, and he claimed there was a “temptation sometimes to prioritize a certain cartel or informant.” He said cartels were aware of this, and that they “exploit the relationship to provide information on their competitors. It creates these perverse incentives — you are investigating what your informant is telling you, not what they are doing.

Is it hurting the cartels? Yes. The cartels are criminal organizations that were making as much as 35-40 percent of their income from marijuana,” retired federal agent, Terry Nelson, told VICE News. “They aren’t able to move as much cannabis inside the US now.

Although Marijuana is legalized in Colorado and Washington, it is still on the federal list of high-priority illegal drugs, and according to Dunagan, even in a state that has legalized marijuana, it is still illegal under federal law.

Dunagan pointed out that, “Technically, a DEA agent could still walk into any marijuana dispensary in Colorado and seize the money, and arrest everyone.” However, instead of doing that, the DEA uses other tactics.

While some doctors in states like Massachusetts have been threatened and told that prescribing medical marijuana will cause them to lose their license to prescribe other drugs, banks have been instructed not work with marijuana facilities.

The DEA doesn’t want the drug war to end,” said Nelson. “If it ends, they don’t get their toys and their budgets. Once it ends, they aren’t going to have the kind of influence in foreign government.

DEA continues obstructing marijuana research, report says

A new report released by the Drug Policy Alliance and the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, says the DEA has spent the last four decades thwarting marijuana research which carries the potential of reclassification for the drug.

“The DEA has argued for decades that there is insufficient evidence to support rescheduling marijuana,” reads the executive summary of the report.  “At the same time, it has… acted in a manner intended to systematically impede scientific research.”

Currently, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning the federal government does not recognize any acceptable uses for the drug, including medicinal uses.  The status of Schedule I also means the drugs in this category cannot receive federal funding for research, medicinal or otherwise.  Marijuana is joined on the Schedule I tier by peyote, LSD, and heroine.

“This concerns me greatly as someone who has studied marijuana and given thousands of doses of the drug,” says Professor Carl Hart of the department of psychology and psychiatry from Columbia University.

Professor Hart continues saying, “The notion that the DEA has not thought about reconsidering scheduling of marijuana seems to be against scientific evidence and what we’re trying to do as a society that relies on imperial evidence to make decisions.”

The report also states the DEA has been forced by several court orders to release a decision on the reclassification of marijuana.  Two of these times, multiple lawsuits were brought forth against the DEA to act instead of simply sitting on their hands for years.

This report is released a few weeks after the House of Representatives approved of three amendments focused on restricting the DEA’s grasp on marijuana and hemp laws.  Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of California was one sponsor of the amendments.

“Nobody should be afraid of the truth,” says Rohrabacher.  “Is the downside of marijuana a harmful side effect? Or is there a positive side that actually does help? That needs to be proven.”

A few studies have already shown marijuana has many potential medical uses, including slowing or stopping the spread and growth of cancerous cells, including leukemia.

Dr. Wai Liu from St. George’s University of London told the Huffington Post, “Cannabinoids have a complex action; it hits a number of important processes that cancers need to survive.”

The growing support for the legalization of marijuana has seen 22 states and the District of Columbia legalize medicinal use of marijuana, and Colorado and Washington have legalized the recreational use of the drug.

“Smoking Pot Makes Me A Better Mother”

Jacqueline Patterson of Kansas City, Missouri, suffers from a severe stutter and  debilitating pain due to cerebral palsy. The only thing that relieves her symptoms? Smoking marijuana.

Unfortunately for Patterson, if she smokes she could lose custody of her four children — it is not legal to smoke medical marijuana where she lives.

In a video about medical marijuana, she said, “I was born with cerebral palsy and a severe stutter – which has got to be one of the most stigmatising disabilities invented by God. It’s very humiliating. My right side of my body is much noticeably weaker than my left and my right arm is always painfully tense. I went through my entire childhood in pain because I couldn’t move my muscles.”

Patterson claims that smoking marijuana makes her a better mother, since it is the only way she can relieve her crippling symptoms.

She said, ” I smoke to be the mother my children deserve – they are really cool kids. Being a good mother to my children is the most important thing in the world to me. But if I were to get busted buying or smoking marijuana there is a possibility I could lose my children.”

Patterson normally struggles to speak — it takes her several seconds to formulate various sounds in each word. After she has three hits of marijuana, however, she is able to speak perfectly. She claims it takes three hits at least to make her speech normal.

Currently, the mother is doing her part to change the laws in her state. She wrote a letter to the Kansas City Star that said, “I was born with cerebral palsy and discovered early on that cannabis mitigated the most painful physical and emotional manifestations of my disorder. I later learned that cannabis can help stutterers speak more clearly and that decades ago, doctors discovered the herb’s ability to alleviate muscle spasms, from which I also suffer.”

Medical marijuana currently helps thousands of sick people in states where it is legal. Moreover, there is abundant evidence that the drug is far less dangerous than alcohol or cigarettes.

According to NORMAL, a group working to reform marijuana laws, “Around 50,000 people die each year from alcohol poisoning. Similarly, more than 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to tobacco smoking. By comparison, marijuana is nontoxic and cannot cause death by overdose.”

When will marijuana laws reflect reality?


Follow Kristin on Facebook and Twitter.

Suburban Cops In Florida Get Rich Selling Drugs

Police in Sunrise, Florida have made millions by luring drug buyers from across the country to their small town. Once the buyers show up and attempt to buy cocaine in restaurants like TGI Fridays or Panera Bread, cops arrest them then confiscate their cash and belongings.

Undercover detectives in Sunrise seized millions of dollars from the stings, collectively earning over $1.2 million in overtime. One officer earned $240,000 in overtime in just three-and-a-half years.

The officers also gave cash to informants who help make the arrests. One informant  alone received over $800,000 in just five years.

The stings were exposed by the Sun Sentinel in a six month investigation. The Sentinel’s comprehensive report has caused the Sunrise police department to cease the work, even though the officers had support from Mayor Michael Ryan.

The Sun Sentinel reported, “Undercover officers tempt these distant buyers with special discounts, even offering cocaine on consignment and the keys to cars with hidden compartments for easy transport. In some deals, they’ve provided rides and directions to these strangers to Sunrise. This being western Broward County, not South Beach, the drama doesn’t unfold against a backdrop of fast boats, thumping nightclubs or Art Deco hotels. It’s absurdly suburban.”

Capt. Robert Voss, who oversees the Sunrise Intelligence & Narcotics Division, defended the cocaine stings. He said, “Our job is to put bad guys in jail, and we do a good job of it.”

Defense attorney Martin Roth from Fort Lauderdale pointed out that the work done in Sunrise an be “a good or bad thing depending on your point of view.”

He said, “Sunrise is extraordinary in the amount of cases they produce… In my view, it’s all about the money.”

The money taken from the stings usually goes towards buying new equipment for Sunrise officers like guns, computers, and training gear.

However, Sun Sentinel reporter Megan O’Matz pointed out that more than cash is often seized from the drug buyers. She said, “[Officers] can take their cars, jewelry. One fella told us a cop said, ‘Hey, I like the sunglasses you’re wearing,’ and snatched them.”

Still, what Sunrise cops were doing was not unlawful.

Joel DeFabio, an attorney from Miami, said, “Is it illegal? No.Is it improper? Not under our current law.”

About 200 people have been arrested in Sunrise as a result of the cocaine stings since 2009. Of those 200, only seven were Sunrise residents.

Do you support these means by cops to catch drug buyers? Tell us why (or why not) in the comments section below.

Libertarian Internet Guru Arrested, “Silk Road” Online Black Marketplace Shut Down By FBI

If you are a libertarian, or a drug dealer, chances are you’ve heard of Silk Road.

Silk Road was an elusive website that allowed people to sell… well, anything. The online black marketplace allowed users to browse anonymously and securely without risking the attention of government investigators.

Critics called the site the “Amazon.com of illegal drugs,” since users were able to purchase drugs like heroin, marijuana, and prescription medications. Dealers could advertise on Silk Road and then send their products to buyers through the normal mail. Silk Road took a portion of each deal using Bitcoin, an online currency that is not created or regulated by any government or central authority.

Silk Road ballooned in popularity after its creation in February 2011, ultimately facilitating over $1.2 billion in sales.

On Thursday, the FBI shut down Silk Road after trying to track its founder for over three years.

The 29-year-old San Francisco-based founder, Ross William Ulbricht, was arrested after the lengthy cyber manhunt. Ulbricht is a vocal libertarian and has openly criticized government regulation.

“Dread Pirate Roberts” was Ulbricht’s online alter-ego, which he used to brag about the cops’ inability to capture him. In June, “Roberts” tweeted, “Illegal drugs home delivered … and our cops are clueless.”

At the time of Silk Road’s shutdown, there were over 13,000 ads on the site for drugs. But authorities say the site was much more than a matchmaker for drug dealers and buyers. Silk Road was also a major marketplace for guns and computer hacking services.


Court papers also allege that Ulbricht tried to have two people killed this year.

Ulbricht paid an undercover law enforcement officer $80,000 in February to kill a former Silk Road employee. Ulbricht demanded evidence of the killing in an email to the officer. He wrote, “Ask for a video. If they can’t do that, then pictures.”

The officers told Ulbricht that the employee was tortured and then killed, and sent him pictures of a fake murder, which the internet guru took to be real.

Two months later, Ulbricht tried to hire a hit man again.

In emails between Ulbricht and a potential hit man, authorities confirmed that Ulbritcht paid $150,000 to have the killing accomplished, which he paid for using bitcoins. The killing has not been confirmed at this time.

Ulbricht is currently being held without bail in San Francisco.

His arrest undoubtably comes as a surprise. In a Youtube interview, Ulbricht said he wants to dedicate his future to having a “substantial positive impact on the future of humanity.”

On a side note, the shutdown of Silk Road has made many question the future of Bitcoin. Only time will tell if Ulbricht’s arrest kills the online currency’s value.

Holder Announces Significant Changes To Drug Sentencing Policies

On Monday, Attorney General Eric Holder announced major changes in federal drug sentencing practices.

Holder has proposed that federal prosecutors stop charging low-level, non-violent drug users with offenses that carry severe mandatory sentences.

During his San Francisco speech, Holder said black males receive sentences 20 percent longer than whites who are convicted of the same crime. He asserted that his proposed changes would stop the justice system from unfairly targeting minorities and the poor.

Holder said, “This isn’t just unacceptable, it is shameful.”

Attorney General Eric Holder Announces Changes In Prosecution Of Low Level Drug Offenders

Although Holder is a sometimes-controversial figure, his proposed drug sentencing policies have generally received positive feedback from both sides of the political aisle. Republicans who support the changes point out that millions would be saved in prison costs each year.

As reported by The Washington Post:

“In Congress, both Republican and Democratic leaders have introduced legislation aimed at giving federal judges more discretion in applying mandatory minimums to certain drug offenders.

Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington Legislative Office, said the ACLU is “thrilled” by Holder’s actions.

‘These policies will make it more likely that wasteful and harmful federal prison overcrowding will end,’ Murphy said.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he was heartened by the Obama administration’s willingness to review mandatory minimum sentencing. But Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), said the law should be changed only in conjunction with Congress.”

Holder pointed out that similar steps have worked on the state level.

In Kentucky, over $400 million is projected to be saved in the next ten years by focusing resources on support groups and community supervision. In Kentucky, jail cells are only reseved for very serious offenders.

And in Texas, drug treatment programs for lower-level, non-violent drug users has lowered the prison population by 5,000 in just one year.

Holder wants to use these states as a model for the nation. During his speech, he pointed out that America’s prison population has increased 800 percent since 1980. The statistic is shocking and highlights a real problem in our justice system. Holder said, “With an outsized, unnecessarily large prison population, we need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, deter and rehabilitate, not merely to warehouse and forget.”

Although the proposed changes have generally been viewed positively, it is unclear at this time exactly how they will be implemented on such a large scale.

What are your thoughts on Holder’s assertions? Do you think using alternatives to jail cells for non-violent drug users is a good idea? Let us know in the comments section below.