american civil liberties union

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Rhode Island: Judge Rules Company Discriminated Against Medical Cannabis Patient

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By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

On Tuesday, Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Richard Licht ruled against Darlington Fabrics, a Rhode Island textile company accused of discriminating against a woman when she was denied an internship because she used medical marijuana. The initial complaint said Christine Callaghan, a former graduate student at the University of Rhode Island, negotiated a paid internship with Darlington Fabrics in 2014 but lost it after disclosing she held a medical marijuana card for migraine headaches.

Oklahoma: Supreme Court Restores Medical Marijuana Ballot Initiative Title

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

The Oklahoma Supreme Court has thrown out a rewrite of the title of its ballot measure to legalize medical marijuana, clearing the way for a vote on State Question 788. The title of the initiative was re-written by then-Attorney General Scott Pruitt last September, and the measure has been on hold since then. The rewrite led to a lawsuit between Pruitt, Oklahomans for Health, and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Ryan Kiesel, executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said the rewrite was intended to mislead voters into thinking they were voting for legalizing marijuana for adults.

“Whether it’s the folks that signed this initiative petition or all of the voters who will ultimately have the chance to weigh in on whether or not Oklahoma will have medical marijuana, they should be able to do that without the attorney general injecting his personal political position into the ballot campaign by misrepresenting what the petitioners seek to accomplish,” Kiesel said in a report.

The state Supreme Court ruled that Pruitt’s title changes be stricken and the original title language restored.

Oklahoma voters should get the chance to vote on the measure during the gubernatorial election in November 2018, but Governor Mary Fallin could schedule for a special election before then.

U.S.: Study Finds Marijuana Arrests Outnumber Those For Violent Crimes

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A new study has found that arrests for possessing small amounts of marijuana exceeded those for all violent crimes last year, even though more and more cities and states have decriminalized or legalized the plant and attitudes toward it have changed.

And even though African-Americans smoke pot at rates similar to whites, black adults were found to be arrested at more than two and a half times the rate of whites.

Th report was released Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch.

"Around the country, police make more arrests for drug possession than for any other crime," the report finds, citing FBI data. "More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests each year."

The report says that on any given day in the United States, at least 137,000 men and women sit behind bars on simple drug possession charges.

Nearly two-thirds of them are in local jails. Most of these jailed inmates have not been convicted of any crime, the report says. They're sitting in a cell, awaiting a day in court which may be months or even years off, because they can't afford to post bail.

California: Marijuana Enforcement Nearly 4 Times More Severe For Blacks

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Black and Latino Boys and Young Men at Particular Risk, Despite Similar Marijuana Use Rates Across Racial Lines

California to Vote on Removing Criminal Penalties and Legal Regulation of Marijuana This November

New data analyses conducted by the Drug Policy Alliance and ACLU of California find that racial disparities in marijuana policing have persisted, following the reduction of low-level marijuana possession from a misdemeanor to an infraction in 2011.

Possession of under an ounce of marijuana is punishable in California by a base fine up to $100 (plus substantial fees).

Despite marijuana usage rates being similar across racial and ethnic lines, data provided by the Los Angeles and Fresno Police Departments show that black and Latino people in those cities were issued marijuana possession citations at higher rates than white people in the years immediately following the penalty change from misdemeanor to infraction.

The data also reveal that marijuana possession enforcement falls mostly on young people. In both cities, the majority of infractions were issued to persons 29 years of age and younger.

New Jersey: Legalization Would Boost Tax Revenues By $300 Million, According To Report

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Legalization and regulation of recreational marijuana for adult sin New Jersey would generate at least $300 million in new tax revenues each year, according to a new report released Tuesday morning.

The report calls the $300 million estimate "conservative," basing it on a 25 percent tax on retail marijuana sold only to adults, reports the Philly Voice. The overall economic impact would be far greater once other benefits, including job creation, additional income and business tax revenue, related accessories, and property and agricultural taxes, according to the report, by New Jersey Policy Perspective and New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform.

Around 365,000 adults in New Jersey use marijuana on at least a monthly basis; they use about 2.5 million ounces of marijuana a year, according to the report. That represents 4 percent of the state's population, which sounds like a rather low estimate to us.

D.C.: Friday Marks One Year Anniversary of Marijuana Legalization In Nation's Capitol

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Marijuana Arrests Down 85% After First Year

Congress Continues to Prevent District from Taxing and Regulating Marijuana

This Friday marks the one year anniversary of the implementation of marijuana legalization in the District of Columbia. In the 2014 election, District voters overwhelmingly passed Ballot Initiative 71 with 70 percent support, legalizing the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana for adults over the age of 21, and allowing individuals to grow up to six plants in their home.

Overall, marijuana arrests decreased by 85 percent from 2014 to 2015. Marijuana possession arrests fell from 1,840 in 2014 to just 32 in 2015.

“The decrease in marijuana arrests is an enormous victory for District residents, who have resoundingly rejected the criminalization of marijuana,” said Bill Piper, senior director of National Affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Marijuana law enforcement has particularly damaged communities of color in the District, who have borne the brunt of prohibition.

"We hope that law enforcement continues to responsibly enforce the new law and completely eliminates any racial disparity in arrests,” Piper said.

Arizona: ACLU Releases Mobile App To Help Hold Law Enforcement Accountable

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Mobile Justice AZ available free starting today through Apple and Google

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona on Friday launched Mobile Justice AZ, a free smartphone app that allows Arizonans to record video of law enforcement activity and automatically submit those videos to their local ACLU for review if it appears someone’s rights may have been violated.

The same app is also being launched today in nine other jurisdictions: Minnesota, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C. The Mobile Justice App is already in use in Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, California, Colorado, Missouri, North Carolina and Oregon.

New York has the ACLU’s original app to record police, known as the Stop and Frisk app. In all, residents of 18 states and D.C. now have access to an ACLU mobile app for recording police interactions with the public.

Mobile Justice AZ is available for use on Android and iOS phones and can be downloaded free through Apple’s App Store or Google Play. It enables users to record, witness and report interactions with law enforcement and offers educational information on individual rights.

Videos captured on the Mobile Justice AZ app will be transmitted to the ACLU of Arizona and preserved even if the user’s phone is later seized or destroyed.

U.S.: Ira Glasser To Receive Top Award At International Drug Policy Reform Conference

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Glasser Has Shown Leadership in Drug Policy Reform for Nearly 50 Years

Leading Drug Policy Reformers to be Honored at International Drug Policy Reform Conference in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, November 21

The Richard J Dennis Drugpeace Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Drug Policy Reform will be awarded to Ira Glasser at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference on November 21, in Arlington, Virginia.

Ira Glasser will be honored for being a leader in drug policy reform for nearly 50 years, beginning in 1967 when he joined the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU). He directed that organization from 1970 to 1978, when he became the executive director of the ACLU, retiring in 2001. Ira joined the board of the Drug Policy Foundation (DPF) in the early 1990s, becoming its chairman some years later, and played a key role in the merger of DPF and The Lindesmith Center in 2000 to create the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA).

He has served as chairman of DPA’s board ever since, providing wise counsel and leadership, mentoring staff at all levels, and educating and inspiring countless activists with his unique capacity to place the drug policy reform movement in the historical context of other great political struggles for personal freedom and social justice. His sustained and pivotal contributions to drug policy reform in the United States are both exceptional and unparalleled.

Arizona: ACLU Challenges Asset Forfeiture Laws

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Under Unconstitutional System, Sheriff and County Attorney Take People’s Property and Use Profits for Salaries, Overtime, Retirement Funds, More

The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arizona, and the law firm Perkins Coie on Wednesday filed suit against the sheriff and county attorney of Pinal County, Arizona, for their enforcement of the state's civil asset forfeiture laws.

Law enforcement used this scheme against Rhonda Cox, a county resident, to seize and keep her truck, violating her constitutional rights. After Cox, an innocent owner, filed a claim to get her truck back, the county attorney’s office informed her that if she pursued her claim and lost, not only would she lose her truck, but the state’s forfeiture laws would require her to pay the county’s attorneys’ fees and investigation costs, an amount that would exceed the value of her truck.

Since she couldn’t risk so much financial loss, Cox was forced to abandon her efforts to retrieve her truck.

“Arizona’s civil asset forfeiture laws gave Pinal County license to steal from Rhonda Cox,” said Emma Andersson, staff attorney at the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project. “That would be bad enough, but those laws also made it impossible for her to have a fair shot at challenging that theft in court.

"The county robbed Rhonda twice: first they took her truck, then they took her day in court,” Andersson said.

U.S.: Poll Reveals Bipartisan Support Among Voters For Reducing Prison Population

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An overwhelming consensus exists among American voters about how to reduce the U.S. prison population, according to a new national survey focused on criminal justice reform.

The American Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday released results from the survey, which reveal an overwhelming consensus among voters of the three leading political parties and various political leanings about how to reduce the U.S. prison population and the path forward to reform.

Commissioned by the ACLU and administered by the Benenson Strategy Group, the national survey was conducted from June 2-6. All respondents were registered voters who are likely to vote in the 2016 presidential election.

The survey found, in part:

• Republicans and Democrats alike say that communities will be safer when the criminal justice system reduces the number of people behind bars and increases the treatment of mental illness and addiction, which are seen as primary root causes of crime.

• Overall, 69 percent of voters say it is important for the country to reduce its prison populations, including 81 percent of Democrats, 71 percent of independents, and 54 percent of Republicans.

• In a sharp shift away from the 1980s and 1990s, when incarceration was seen as a tool to reduce crime, voters now believe by two-to-one that reducing the prison population will make communities safer by facilitating more investments in crime prevention and rehabilitation strategies.

Louisiana: Gov. Bobby Jindal Signs Marijuana Sentencing Reform Law

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New Law an Important Step Toward Reducing Louisiana’s Notoriously Overcrowded Prisons and Jails

Even With This Reform, Louisiana’s Marijuana Laws Remain Harsher Than Nearly All Other U.S. States; Majority of Louisianans Support Ending All Criminal Penalties for Marijuana Possession

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal on Tuesday signed legislation to reform the state’s severely punitive marijuana laws and reduce criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession. The law is expected to save the state up to $17 million and will reduce the chances of Louisianans caught with small amounts of marijuana ending up with lengthy jail or prison sentences or saddled with a criminal conviction.

“Louisiana's overdue for a major overhaul of its drug policies and this is a good first step,” said Yolande Cadore, director of strategic partnerships at Drug Policy Action, the lobbying arm of the Drug Policy Alliance. “It's a relief to see that smart policymakers are starting to recognize this political reality.”

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world – and Louisiana has the highest rate in the U.S. Louisiana’s incarceration rate has doubled in the last twenty years and is nearly five times higher than Iran's, 13 times higher than China's and 20 times higher than Germany's.

One of the key drivers of Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate is the war on drugs – 18,000 Louisiana residents are arrested for drug law violations each year.

D.C.: Activists To March Friday From State Dept. To White House To End War On Drugs

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U.N. Preparing to Reconsider International Drug Control Policies

Activists will march from the U.S. State Department to the White House on Friday morning, demanding that the Obama Administration do more to end the failed War On Drugs and the human rights violations it causes. The advocates especially want the U.S. to ensure that international aid it provides is not used to support the death penalty for nonviolent drug offenses.

The march is part of a global day of action called "Support, Don't Punish," with events taking place in 150 cities around the world, including New York. It coincides with the annual United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, which some governments use to focus on prevention and awareness, but which others have used to highlight large drug busts and seizures, or even to carry out executions.

WHO: Organizations that oppose the War On Drugs and support human rights

WHAT: March -- part of an international day of action in 150 cities -- featuring signs with slogans like "Prohibition => Crime + Violence," "No Drug Executions With Our Dollars" and “Drug Execution Agency"

WHEN: Friday, June 26 at 9:30 AM ET

WHERE: From the State Department (2201 C St NW) to the White House (1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW)

Louisiana: Gov. Bobby Jindal Expected To Sign Law Reducing Marijuana Penalties

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New Law Would Be Important Step Toward Reducing Louisiana’s Notoriously Overcrowded Prisons and Jails

Even With This Reform, Louisiana’s Marijuana Laws Would Remain Harsher Than Nearly All Other U.S. States; Majority of Louisianans Support Ending All Criminal Penalties for Marijuana Possession

The Louisiana Legislature on Monday voted to reform its state’s severely punitive marijuana laws and reduce criminal penalties for simple marijuana possession. If signed into law, it’s expected to save the state up to $17 million and will reduce the chances of Louisianans caught with small amounts of marijuana ending up with lengthy jail or prison sentences or saddled with a criminal conviction.

“This is a long-sought opportunity to take a more compassionate and commonsense approach to marijuana,” said Yolande Cadore, director of strategic partnerships at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Louisiana's overdue for a major overhaul of its drug policies and this is a good first step."

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world – and Louisiana has the highest rate in the U.S. Louisiana’s incarceration rate has doubled in the last 20 years and is nearly five times higher than Iran's, 13 times higher than China's and 20 times higher than Germany's.

One of the key drivers of Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate is the war on drugs – 18,000 Louisiana residents are arrested for drug law violations each year.

Louisiana: Senate Approves Bill To Reform Draconian Marijuana Possession Law

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New Law Would Be Important Step Toward Reducing Louisiana’s Notoriously Overcrowded Prisons and Jails

Bill Now Heads to the House

Louisiana’s Senate on Monday took an important step toward reforming their state’s harsh marijuana possession law when they approved bill SB 241 by a vote of 27-12. If passed, Louisiana would join the growing number of states that have recently reduced penalties for small amounts of marijuana.

“This is a long-sought opportunity to take a more compassionate and commonsense approach to marijuana,” said Yolande Cadore, director of strategic partnerships at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Louisiana's overdue for a major overhaul of its drug policies and this is a good first step."

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world – and Louisiana has the highest rate in the U.S. Louisiana’s incarceration rate has doubled in the last twenty years and is nearly five times higher than Iran's, 13 times higher than China's and 20 times higher than Germany's. One of the key drivers of Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate is the war on drugs – 18,000 Louisiana residents are arrested for drug law violations each year.

Louisiana: Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Bill Reforming Marijuana Possession Law

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Measure Would Allow Second Chance for First-Time Offenders and Save Millions of Dollars

Bill Heads to Full Senate

Lawmakers in Louisiana on Wednesday took a major step forward when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved a bill to reform the state’s harsh marijuana possession law. If passed, Louisiana would join the growing number of states that have recently reduced penalties for small amounts of marijuana.

“This is a long-sought opportunity to take a more compassionate and commonsense approach to marijuana,” said Yolande Cadore, director of strategic partnerships at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Louisiana's overdue for a major overhaul of its drug policies and this is a good first step."

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world – and Louisiana has the highest rate in the U.S. Louisiana’s incarceration rate has doubled in the last 20 years and is nearly five times higher than Iran's, 13 times higher than China's and 20 times higher than Germany's.

One of the key drivers of Louisiana’s world-leading incarceration rate is the War On Drugs – 18,000 Louisiana residents are arrested for drug law violations each year.

Massachusetts: ACLU Win Protects Thousands In Cases From Drug Lab Scandal

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State High Court Ruling Provides Safe Harbor for Those Who Challenge Wrongful Convictions Based on Tainted Evidence from the Hinton State Drug Lab

The highest court in Massachusetts on Monday provided a safe harbor for thousands of people with tainted convictions stemming from Annie Dookhan's misconduct at the Hinton state drug lab.

In a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, and Foley Hoag LLP on behalf of three individuals affected by the lab scandal, the Supreme Judicial Court issued a sweeping defense of due process, ruling that people may challenge their wrongful convictions without fear of retaliation by prosecutors.

"Today's decision is a profound victory for tens of thousands of people who were denied due process by misconduct at the Hinton Lab, and for anyone who has a stake in the integrity of the Commonwealth's criminal justice system," said Matthew R. Segal, legal director of the ACLU of Massachusetts. "For years, many of Annie Dookhan's victims have worried that challenging their tainted convictions could subject them to even harsher convictions and sentences.

"Many others did not even know that they could challenge their convictions in court, because public officials neither identified all of Dookhan's cases nor directly notified her victims," Segal said. "In a sense, many people did not know how to find the courthouse doors, and many others were too afraid to knock.

Arizona: Governor Vetoes 'Secret Police' Bill; Civil Rights Advocates Rejoice

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday vetoed SB 1445, a bill that would have required law enforcement agencies to conceal police officers’ identities for months following their involvement in violent or deadly incidents.

“Governor Ducey has lived up to his promise to hear the concerns of the community regarding SB 1445, and we want to both thank the Governor and praise him for his openness in directly accepting public feedback concerning this misguided and harmful piece of legislation," said ACLU of Arizona Executive Director Alessandra Soler. "We also want to thank the members of the Gov. Ducey’s staff who, last week, graciously accepted the ACLU’s letter opposing SB 1445, signed by more than three-dozen community leaders and local, statewide and national organizations, along with a petition calling for the veto of SB 1445 signed by over 2,500 concerned Arizonans and others from around the country."

“We are grateful that Gov. Ducey considered the dangerous ramifications of this bill, for both law enforcement and the public," Soler said. "This proposal would have taken Arizona in the wrong direction, by exacerbating distrust between communities and the public safety officers responsible for protecting them, while at the same time eroding the transparency that is critical to our democracy."

Delaware: Lawmakers To Consider Removing Criminal Penalties For Marijuana Possession

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Delaware State Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington South) on Thursday introduced a bill that would remove criminal penalties and potential jail time for possession of a small amount of marijuana and replace them with a civil fine similar to a traffic ticket.

HB 39 would make possession of up to one ounce of marijuana a civil violation punishable by a $100 fine with no possibility of jail. Under current Delaware law, possession of up to one ounce of marijuana is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $575 fine and up to three months in jail.

“This is commonsense legislation that is long overdue in Delaware,” Rep. Keeley said. “People should not face jail time and other serious consequences of a criminal conviction just for possessing a small amount of marijuana.

"The punishment should fit the crime, not cause more harm than the crime,” Keeley said.

In Delaware, African Americans are three times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession despite using marijuana at similar rates, according to a 2013 report compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Our current marijuana possession law is unfair, and it is being unfairly applied,” Rep. Keeley said. “The vast majority of Delaware voters think it’s time for a more sensible policy. I hope my colleagues will agree.”

U.S.: Huge DEA Program Revealed To Trace Americans' Locations With License Plates

YouAreBeingWatched(CafePress)

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Big Brother is watching you. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has started a huge national license plate tracking program, and civil liberties advocates are not happy.

The DEA disclosed very few details, reports Bennett Stein at the American Civil Liberties Union, according to new documents obtained by the ACLU through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The National License Plate Recognition program connects DEA license plate reading technology with that of other law enforcement agencies around the United States. The program, which already exists and has existed since 2008, but the DEA has provided very limited information to the public on the program's goals, capabilities and policies.

The ACLU in 2012 filed public records information requests in 38 states and Washington, D.C., seeking information about the use of automatic license plate readers. The organization's July 2013 report, "You Are Being Tracked," found that technology was being rapidly adopted, all too often with very little attention paid to the privacy risks.

In addition to filing public records requests with state agencies, the ACLU also filed FOIA requests with federal agencies, including the DEA. The new DEA records received by the ACLU this month are heavily redacted and incomplete, but they also provide the most complete picture yet of the DEA's burgeoning database.

U.S.: Obama To Nominate Pro-Legalization Candidate To Lead DOJ Civil Rights Division

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President Barack Obama intends to nominate Vanita Gupta, the American Civil Liberties Union’s deputy legal director, to lead the Justice Department’s civil rights division, Sari Horiwitz at The Washington Post reported on Wednesday. This news comes not long after Attorney General Eric Holder announced his imminent resignation, and indicates a continued initiative of positive federal drug policy changes.

Gupta has been outspoken on a number of issues, including racial sentencing disparities, federal incentives to state police that prioritize the investigation of drug arrests over violent crime, mandatory minimum sentences and related disparities, as well as marijuana legalization. She currently leads the ACLU’s Campaign to End Mass Incarceration. Gupta has also garnered bipartisan support with conservatives Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform and David Keene, former president of the NRA, both speaking highly of her.

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