civil rights

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U.S.: Civil Rights, Health, Faith, Justice Groups Call On Obama To End Global Drug War

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More than 225 civil rights, health, faith-based and other organizations sent a letter to President Obama Thursday calling on him to use an upcoming United Nations high-level session on global drug policies to push for a fundamental change in course away from criminalization.

The groups, which include the American Civil Liberties Union, AIDS United, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and #cut50, say that the current US position for the session "takes a short-term approach, stopping short of the crucial reforms called for by UN agencies and US allies, while failing to address new realities."

They want bolder stances from the administration in areas like human rights, public health and development, and for the US to promote initial steps the UN can take toward reforming international drug conventions to reflect moves in the US and elsewhere toward marijuana legalization.

"We believe a stronger US stance on these issues would leave a legacy in global drug policy that is better aligned to the direction you've steered domestic policy," the groups wrote.

The letter was submitted as the UN prepares for its highest level session on drug policy since 1998 – the "UN General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem," or UNGASS, scheduled for April 19-21 at UN headquarters in New York. US diplomats and drug and crime officials have played a central role in negotiations over the UNGASS Outcome Document, an official product of the meeting that will impact policy.

California: Attorney Going For 8th Consecutive Win In Marijuana Cultivation Cases

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Are prosecutions for legitimate marijuana plant growing still a thing? In rural California counties, apparently so.

Attorney Joseph Tully (author of California: State of Collusion) is going for his eighth consecutive win in rural California marijuana grower trials as juries continue to foil rural prosecutorial crusades against cannabis.

Monday is prosecution witness day in the People v Erin O’Neil trial in South Lake Tahoe arising from O’Neil’s openly growing 271 plants (about 240 pounds) under California’s Compassionate Use Act (medical growth collectives) in Placerville, California (known as “Hangtown” back in mining days).

Why does this trial matter?

Growers almost always cave and plead out when facing prosecution for this amount of cannabis to avoid any possibility of prison time. In this case O’Neil is standing up to retired rural prosecutor Worth Dikeman (who came back out of retirement to prosecute this case) to say “Enough is enough.”

“On the eve of full legalization why do we allow a retired prosecutor to waste taxpayer dollars for his personal crusade against marijuana which is counter to the law?” asked lawyer Tully. “It’s reminiscent of the Old South after the Civil Rights Act – they are way behind on the law and important social change.”

The People v Erin O’Neil is being held Monday through Wednesday this week and next.

Photo: Weedist

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.

Texas: Police Search Woman's Vagina For Marijuana - In Parking Lot

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

A Texas woman says sheriff's deputies violated constitutional protections by conducting a body cavity search in the parking lot of a gas station during a routine traffic stop last June.

Charnesia Corley, 21, was driving in Harris County about 10:30 p.m. on June 21 when a male deputy pulled her over, allegedly for running a stop sign, reports Dylan Baddour at the Houston Chronicle. He claimed he smelled marijuana, handcuffed Corley, put her in the back of his cruiser and searched her vehicle for almost an hour.

The officer found no marijuana, said Corley's attorney, Sam Cammack.

Returning to his cruiser, the deputy again claimed he smelled marijuana, and called in a female deputy to conduct a body cavity search. When the female deputy arrived, she ordered Corley, who is African American, to pull her pants down, but Corley protested, saying she was handcuffed and had no panties on.

The deputy ordered Corley to bend over, then pulled down her pants and began to insert her fingers into Corley's vagina. "She tells me to pull my pants down," Corley said. "I said, 'Ma'am, I don't have any underwear on. She says, 'Well, that doesn't matter. Pull your pants down," Corley said.

"I bend over and she proceeds to try to force her hand inside of me. I tell her, 'Ma'am, No. You cannot do this,'" Corley said.

U.S.: ACLU, DPA To Present Capitol Hill Briefing On Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

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Speakers Include Civil Rights Leaders, Former Reagan-Era Administrator of Forfeiture Fund, Victim of Recent Drug Enforcement Administration Asset Seizure

Briefing Highlights Need for Federal Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

A Capitol Hill briefing on federal civil asset forfeiture reform will be presented by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Thursday, June 4, from 10 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., in Room 188 of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.

WHEN: Thursday, June 4, 2015

10:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.

Continental Breakfast

WHERE: Russell Senate Office Building

Room 188

Washington, DC 20515

SPEAKERS:

Brad Cates, Director, Department of Justice Asset Forfeiture Office (1985-1989)

Wade Henderson, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

Joseph Rivers, Victim of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Seizure

Hilary Shelton, NAACP

Darpana Sheth, Institute for Justice

Sarah Stillman, The New Yorker

RSVP: rsvpaclu@aclu.org

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."

D.C.: Marijuana Initiative Gets Major Endorsements From NAACP and NOW

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Endorsements Come on the Heels of Recent Support from Local Chapters of the SEIU, D.C. Working Families, and UFCW

Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Releases Report on Collateral Consequences of Arrest

The Washington, D.C. chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the D.C. Branch of the National Organization for Women on Thursday came out in support of marijuana legalization and endorsed D.C.’s Initiative 71.

Initiative 71, which is on the November 4 ballot, would legalize the possession of up to two ounces marijuana for adults over the age of 21, and allows individuals to grow up to six plants in their home. D.C. laws prevent the ballot initiative from addressing the taxation and sale of marijuana; however, the D.C. Council is currently considering a bill which would account for such provisions.

Additionally, the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs on Wednesday released its groundbreaking report entitled "The Collateral Consequences of Arrests and Convictions under D.C., Maryland, and Virginia Law." The report is the first of its kind to examine the effect of the collateral consequences associated with arrests for residents in the DMV area.

U.S.: 80 Organizations Come Together To Protect the Kids and End the Drug War

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Broad Coalition Comprised of Civil Rights, Criminal Justice, Immigration, Racial Justice, Human Rights Organizations

A diverse coalition of more than 80 civil rights, immigration, criminal justice, racial justice, human rights, libertarian and religious organizations are joined by notable figures such as Michelle Alexander in calling for an end to the War On Drugs in the name of protecting children both in Latin America and here in the United States.

The supporters of the letter -– which include the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, Center for Constitutional Rights, Institute of the Black World, Presente.org, Students for Liberty, United We Dream, William C. Velasquez Institute, and the Working Families Organization -– are notable for their diversity in cause and focus, yet this issue unites them all.

In their letter of support for new policies, the coalition states:

"In recent weeks, the plight of the 52,000 unaccompanied children apprehended at the U.S. border since last October, many of whom are fleeing drug war violence in Central America, has permeated our national consciousness. The devastating consequences of the drug war have not only been felt in Latin America, they are also having ravaging effects here at home. All too often, children are on the frontlines of this misguided war that knows no borders or color lines."

D.C.: Drug Policy Alliance Hires Medical Doctor To Advance Marijuana Legalization

DCCannabisCampaignLegalize.

Duke University-Trained Medical Doctor To Build Community Support for Ballot Initiative 71 that Would Legalize Marijuana Possession

Organizing Focus Will Be on Racial Disparities and Societal Harms Not Resolved by Marijuana Decriminalization

Former surgeon Dr. Malik Burnett has joined Drug Policy Alliance as a full-time organizer in the District of Columbia. Burnett, a policy manager based in DPA’s Office of National Affairs in Washington, D.C., will prioritize building support for Initiative 71, the taxation and regulation of marijuana through the D.C. Council and other drug policy reform initiatives that will advance social and racial justice in the nation’s capital.

In addition to his work on Initiative 71, Burnett will work on developing policy to rehabilitate the damage which the War On Drugs has caused on communities of color, including eliminating criminal records for individuals convicted of drug possession, expanding access to health care services for the poor and formerly incarcerated, building support for the decriminalization of all drugs, and laying the ground work for broader drug policy reform in the nation’s capital.

“Marijuana policy reform is part of the emerging picture of civil rights reform in the 21st Century,” Burnett said. “The District of Columbia has historically been a leader in enacting progressive policies, and the legalization of marijuana will go a long way towards reframing drug policy around a public health framework.”

Texas: Cop Arrested For Groping Detained Woman Who Had A Joint In Her Pocket

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

After a woman who was arrested for having a joint in her pocket reported inappropriate groping, several more women in Odessa, Texas, now say that a local police officer there detained them and groped their breasts.

Local station CBS 7 reports warrants were issued for officer Salvador Becerra, who allegedly brought at least three and up to six women back to his patrol car, where he talked to them and then put his hands under their bras and felt their breasts, according to the Texas Cannabis Report.

While groping the women, Officer Becerra reportedly turned off audio on his squad car's recording equipment, but cameras corroborated the women's stories.

Becerra detained a woman on March 9 who admitted having a joint in her pocket. According to the affidavit, Officer Becerra told her that "if she made an exception then they would not go to jail." It was then that the woman reluctantly allowed him to touch her breasts, but she reported the incident on March 10.

That resulted in an internal affairs investigation headed by Chief Timothy Burton which found the claims held merit, after reviewing Officer Becerra's camera footage. Chief Burton ordered a concurrent criminal investigation and requested the Texas Rangers take the lead in the case.

D.C.: Mayoral Candidates to Address Issues of Race, Policing and Criminal Justice at Public Forum

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Forum Addresses Issues Pertinent to D.C. Residents Affected by Criminal Justice System

A coalition of civil rights and civil liberties’ organizations is hosting "Race, Policing and Criminal Justice," a D.C. mayoral forum on Thursday that will educate the public about candidate’s views on criminal and racial justice issues.

On any given day in the District, more than 16,000 people are under court-ordered supervision or incarcerated. Thousands more D.C. residents are affected by a loved one’s involvement in the criminal justice system and how law enforcement interacts with the community.

This forum provides an opportunity to educate the public about how candidates view criminal and racial justice issues pertinent to D.C. residents.

This free event is being co-sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital, Washington Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, D.C. National Lawyers Guild, Drug Policy Alliance, DC Branch of the NAACP, Howard University Chapter of the NAACP, Collective Power, Defending Dissent, DC Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, We Act Radio and Acqunetta Anderson ANC4A01.

All of the mayoral candidates have been invited to participate in this forum and an independent moderator will present prepared questions to the candidates who attend. Each candidate will have equal time and opportunity to respond to each question.

D.C.: Nation's Capitol Takes Major Step Toward Ending Marijuana Possession Arrests

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Wednesday: Councilmembers to Vote on Decriminalization Bill that Would Reduce Racial Disparities and Re-Prioritize Law Enforcement Resources

With Support of Mayor and Supermajority of Councilmembers, Marijuana Decriminalization Appears Imminent

D.C. lawmakers will vote Wednesday on legislation that would eliminate criminal penalties under District law for the possession of one ounce or less of marijuana for personal use during a meeting of the Committee on the Judiciary and Public Safety. The panel of five Councilmembers is expected to approve the measure.

The bill would next go before all 13 Councilmembers for final consideration.

The “Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013 (Council Bill 20-409)” would eliminate criminal penalties and instead subject a person in possession of one ounce or less of marijuana to a civil fine. The legislation was introduced in July 2013 by Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) with the support of ten out of thirteen Councilmembers.

WHAT: Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety to Mark-up Bill Decriminalizing Marijuana

WHEN: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 11:30AM

WHERE: John A. Wilson Building; Room 412; 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

New York: Can Mayor-Elect De Blasio End The War On Drugs In NYC?

UncleSamINeedYouToEndTheDrugWar

Saturday: “Talking Transition” Event Brings Together Treatment Providers, Drug Users, Civil Rights Activists, Academics, and Elected Officials to Map New City Drug Policy

Future Drug Policy to be Based in Equity, Health and Safety rather than Racism, Criminalization and Violence

New Yorkers on Saturday, November 16, will gather to map the future of the city’s drug policies for progressive champion Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio and a new, increasingly progressive City Council. As part of the innovative Talking Transition series, New Yorkers have a unique opportunity to envision new drug polices based in equity, health and safety, rather than drug policies rooted in racism, criminalization and violence.

Hundreds of New Yorkers -- students, cultural workers, academics, advocates, community organizers, young people, treatment providers, civil rights activists and others -- will break into small groups, to come up with solutions to a range of issues such as: racially biased marijuana arrests, lack of effective treatment, legal access to medical marijuana and overdose prevention strategies. The recommendations emerging from the Ending the New Jim Crow forum will be delivered to the new de Blasio Administration for consideration.

Ending the New Jim Crow: Mapping the Future of Drug Policy in NYC
When: Saturday, November 16, 2013
Time: 2:00 -- 3:30pm
Where: Talking Transition Tent at the corner of Canal St. and 6th Avenue, Manhattan

D.C.: Press Conference and Council Hearings This Week on Marijuana Decriminalization

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Legislation Urgently Needed After Recent Reports Find that One in Eight African Americans in D.C. are Arrested for Marijuana Possession

Drug Policy Alliance to Testify in Support of Decriminalization and Ask Councilmembers to Take Additional Steps to End Marijuana Prohibition

On Wednesday, October 23, at 6 PM, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and other D.C. advocates will join Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) for a press conference at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library to urge D.C. Councilmembers and Mayor Vincent Gray to expedite passage of the “Simple Possession of Small Quantities of Marijuana Decriminalization Amendment Act of 2013 (Council Bill 20-409).”

Bill 20-409 would decriminalize the possession of marijuana weighing one ounce or less in the District of Columbia and has received the support of 10 out of 13 Councilmembers. An alternative legislative proposal was introduced in September by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) that would tax and regulate marijuana like alcohol.

This press conference will convene moments before a public hearing on this legislation begins at the same location. The Drug Policy Alliance will offer testimony at an additional hearing that is scheduled to take place at the D.C. Council Chambers on Thursday.

WHAT: Press conference hosted by Councilmember Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) and advocates, followed by a Public Hearing on marijuana decriminalization

WHEN: Wednesday, October 23rd at 6:00 PM

D.C.: Legislation Introduced to Tax and Regulate Marijuana

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Legislation Would Make Small Amounts of Marijuana Legal to Purchase and Possess

Historic Introduction Follows U.S. Department of Justice Decision to Allow Taxation and Regulation to Proceed in Colorado and Washington State

Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) on Tuesday will introduce legislation before the Council of the District of Columbia that would eliminate all criminal and civil penalties for the possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults over the age of 21 and provide the District of Columbia Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration with the authority to license and regulate the production and taxable sale of marijuana in the District.

“Marijuana prohibition has disproportionately criminalized black and brown people and wasted scarce law enforcement resources,” said Grant Smith, policy manager with the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “Following the introduction of marijuana decriminalization legislation by Councilmember Tommy Wells, Councilmember David Grosso’s proposal to tax and regulate marijuana will enhance efforts to provide District residents with relief from prohibitionist policies that have failed to curb the availability of marijuana to young people.

"Our nation’s Capital would be wise to follow Colorado and Washington,” Smith said.

D.C.: Washington Lawyers' Committee To Release Report On Racial Disparities In Arrests In Nation's Capital

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs on Friday will hold a press conference at 2 p.m. to announce the release of a groundbreaking report on racial disparities in arrests in the District of Columbia.

The press conference will be held at the Washington Lawyers’ Committee’s offices, 11 Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036.

The report, Racial Disparities in Arrests in the District of Columbia, 2009-2011: Implications for Civil Rights and Criminal Justice in the Nation’s Capital, includes a detailed analysis of more than 142,000 arrest records for the period 2009–2011. It proposes a number of key recommendations to address the identified racial disparities.

The Committee’s work on this study was greatly assisted by a Judicial Advisory Panel of Senior and Retired DC and Federal Judges and a team of lawyers at Covington & Burling LLP who served as the report’s principal authors.

The members of the Judicial Advisory Panel are: John M. Ferren, senior judge, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia; Rufus G. King III, senior judge, Superior Court of the District of Columbia; James Robertson, retired judge, United States District Court for the District of Columbia; Ricardo M. Urbina, retired judge, United States District Court for the District of Columbia; and Patricia M. Wald, retired chief judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

U.S.: Blacks Singled Out For Marijuana Arrests Four Times More Often Than Whites

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

In the United States, blacks were nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in 2010, even though the two groups use cannabis at similar rates, according to new federal data in a study from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The racial disparity has grown worse over the past decade, and in some states, including Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois (and in the District of Columbia), blacks were are eight times more likely to be arrested for pot, reports Ian Urbina at The New York Times.

Blacks are now 30 times more likely to be arrested for pot in the counties with the widest disparities, according to a new report from the ACLU, "The War on Marijuana in Black and White,", reports Seth Augenstein at the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Even as the disparity has worsened, American attitudes toward marijuana have softened and several states have decriminalized or legalized its use. But about half of all drug arrests in 2011 were for marijuana, about the same as in 2010.

"The war on marijuana has disproportionately been a war on people of color," said Ezekiel Edwards, director of the ACLU's Criminal Law Reform Project, who was one of the study's authors. "We found that in virtually every county in the country, police have wasted taxpayer money enforcing marijuana laws in a racially biased manner."

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