Drug Policy Alliance

California: Legalization Allows Californians To Reduce Cannabis Convictions

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Anyone who has been charged with a cannabis-related crime in California has a chance to have their record reduced or expunged

By Michael Bachara
Hemp News

Thousands of cannabis convictions in California are being expunged because of state's new cannabis law. Cannabis regulation advocates, including the Drug Policy Alliance, have worked with convicts to have their records changed.

“Many DA’s offices are still in the process of working on the mechanics on how to handle these people. But in effect, the courts are receptive to making sure people get a second chance,” San Jose attorney and legal analyst Steven Clark told KCBS San Fransisco.

U.S.: New Poll Shows More Than Half Of American Adults Have Tried Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

A new Marist poll that was conducted in partnership with Yahoo shows that more than half of American adults have tried marijuana at least once in their lives.

The poll found that 52 percent of U.S. adults have tried marijuana at least once and 56 percent of Americans find the drug "socially acceptable."

While eight out of 10 Americans strongly support legalizing medical marijuana, the poll shows that forty-nine percent of American adults support legalization for recreational adult use while forty-seven percent oppose it.

"As marijuana has been accepted medically, it's less about the marijuana high," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the non-profit Drug Policy Alliance. He pointed out that people may now increasingly see elderly family members use the drug to help cope with a variety of ailments.

The poll shows that fifty-one percent of Americans think consumption of marijuana is a health risk. However, far more Americans say drinking alcohol regularly (72 percent) is a threat to health over regular marijuana use (20 percent.)

More Americans also think that regular tobacco use (76 percent) is far more risky than regular marijuana use (18 percent.)

The poll was done by surveying 1,122 adults between March 1 through March 7 of this year. The Marist Poll was sponsored and funded in partnership with Yahoo.

U.S.: Big Pharma's Fight To Block Recreational Marijuana

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

According to television ads that began running last month in Arizona, marijuana legalization would be a disaster for the state. The advertisements feature lawmakers and teachers who paint a bleak future for Arizona’s children if voters approve Proposition 205, a measure that would allow people aged 21 and over to possess an ounce of cannabis and grow up to six plants for recreational use.

“Colorado schools were promised millions in new revenues” when the state approved recreational pot use, the voiceover says in one ad. Instead, schoolchildren were plagued by “marijuana edibles that look like candy”.

What's surprising is who is sponsoring the ads. In August, the pharmaceutical company Insys Therapeutics cited concerns for child safety when, with a $500,000 contribution, it became the largest donor to Arizona’s anti-legalization drive.

Although child safety is a legitimate concern, critics say the Insys contribution in Arizona is a ploy to protect market share. Insys manufactures Subsys, a prescription painkiller derived from fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that is up to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Maine: Governor LePage Warns Against 'Deadly' Marijuana In Over-the-top Video

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Maine Governor Paul LePage released a false and misleading video Thursday attempting to convince voters to vote "no" on "Question 1", the state's marijuana legalization referendum up for a vote on the upcoming ballot.

“Question 1 is not just bad for Maine, it can be deadly,” LePage warns, before falsely claiming traffic fatalities have gone up in Colorado since the state legalized recreational pot.

He makes a claim that “people addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to be addicted to heroin.” He predicts a future where children and pets die from accidentally consuming “marijuana snacks,” and in which drug culture impinges on “schools, daycare centers and churches.”

“They will smoke weed and sell pot at state fairs,” he adds. “Businesses could not fire employees for using marijuana.”

According to a recent report from the Drug Policy Alliance, marijuana has had no noticeable effect on traffic deaths in either Colorado or Washington.

And marijuana has been proven to reduce opioid deaths. In the 23 states where medical marijuana was legal in 2014, there were nearly 25 percent fewer deaths from opioid overdoses, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Maine State Rep. Diane Russell (D) of Portland believes the video could actually help the campaign for legalization.

U.S.: Legal Marijuana Hasn't Caused Any Of The Problems Opponents Said It Would

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By Derrick Stanley
Hemp News

Opponents of the measures to legalize marijuana in 2012 in Washington and Colorado said that doing so would wreak havoc on society, and that children would end up using the drug and high drivers would terrorize the roadways. They said the fiscal benefits associated with taxed and regulated marijuana wouldn’t be worthwhile.

According to a new report by the Drug Policy Alliance, a nonprofit that lobbies for progressive reform of drug laws, those dire predictions have not come true. In fact, legalization has had a negligible effect on rates of youth marijuana use and traffic fatalities in Colorado and Washington, and in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., which have all since approved marijuana for recreational use. In addition, marijuana arrests have plummeted and total revenue from legal weed has surged past $500 million.

“This report shows that a lot of those fears don’t come to fruition in the case of legalization,” said Joy Haviland, staff attorney at DPA. “It’s clear that prohibition has not worked, so states need a new solution going forward.”

Th report finds that marijuana legalization has made no discernible mark on traffic fatalities in Washington and Colorado, and total arrests for driving while impaired have declined in both of those states.

California Democratic Party Endorses Adult Use of Marijuana Act

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November ballot measure becomes the first marijuana legalization initiative in state history to receive the official endorsement of a major political party

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The campaign in support of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), which will appear on the November 2016 statewide ballot in California, on Monday announced that it has received the official endorsement of the California Democratic Party (CDP).

The largest statewide Democratic Party organization in the nation, the CDP joins the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, the largest local Democratic Party organization in the nation, and the San Francisco Democratic Party in endorsing AUMA.

While the CDP has long had as part of its official platform putting an end to the failed and costly policy of marijuana prohibition in California, this is the first time in state history that a major political party has officially endorsed a specific cannabis legalization ballot measure.

“This landmark action by the California Democratic Party underscores the responsible and consensus approach of the Adult Use of Marijuana Act and strengthens what is already the largest, most enthusiastic and most diverse coalition ever assembled in support of a marijuana legalization effort,” said Brian Brokaw, AUMA campaign manager.

U.S.: Senate Committee Allows Banks To Provide Services To Legal Marijuana Stores

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Fourth Straight Senate Victory for Marijuana Reform

Senate Bill Would Also Allow D.C. to Tax and Regulate Marijuana

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted 16 to 14 to allow banks to provide services to marijuana businesses. Currently, because marijuana is illegal under federal law, both medical and non-medical marijuana businesses are unable to access banking services like any other business. The amendment was offered by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon).

Consequently, many marijuana businesses operate on a cash-only basis, leading to huge public safety issues as businesses become the target of robberies, and are forced to hire armed security to protect their takings.

“One of the motivations for legalizing marijuana is to eliminate the illicit market and put marijuana in the hands of a legitimate regulated market,” said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Whether you are for or against legalization, you have to recognize that having marijuana businesses handling huge amounts of cash with nowhere to deposit the money is a public safety concern that Congress has to tackle.”

New York: State Assembly Passes Legislation To Seal Past Marijuana Possession Convictions

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Bill is First Step Toward Comprehensive Plan to Redress Harms of the War on Drugs in Communities of Color

As Legislative Clock Winds Down, Advocates and Assemblymembers Urge Senate to Quickly Pass the Companion Bill in the Senate

The New York State Assembly on Wednesday voted in support of A10092, a bill that will seal the criminal records of people who have been unjustly and unconstitutionally arrested for simple possession of marijuana in public view. The bipartisan vote was 92 in favor and 34 opposed.

Over the last 20 years, more than 700,000 New Yorkers have been arrested for simple possession of marijuana. Those convicted face significant barriers to accessing education, employment, housing opportunities, and other state services.

“I introduced the marijuana sealing bill because drug laws have created a permanent underclass of people unable to find jobs after a conviction,” said Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes. “One of the most damaging issues derived from the war on drugs is that the policies are inherently racist.

"Communities of color have been devastated by bad drug policies and hyper-criminalization for the last 40 years," Peoples-Stokes said. "It is an approach that has never worked and has caused significantly more harm than good to our communities and to our families.

U.S.: Senate To Hold Homeland Security Hearing On Alternatives To Drug War

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The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs will hold an unprecedented roundtable hearing on Wednesday morning, June 15, 2016, entitled "America's Insatiable Demand for Drugs: Examining Alternative Approaches." The hearing comes at a time where the country is struggling to tackle the opioid epidemic, and policy makers are in search of innovative solutions that avoid the mistakes of the War On Drugs.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), will lay out his vision for ending the war on drugs and forging ahead with new policies based on science, health and human rights. In his written testimony, Nadelmann affirms that "A new approach is needed, one that reduces both the harm caused by drugs and the harm caused by current drug control policies."

“I’ve waited a very long time to be invited by Congress to testify on these issues,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “I think it’s a positive sign that political leaders, not just in the states but even on Capitol Hill, now recognize both the failure of the drug war and the need to think outside the box in addressing our country’s drug problems.”

New York: Report Finds Too Few Patients Can Access Medical Marijuana

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77% of Patients and Caregivers Surveyed, Who Accessed the Program, Say They Cannot Afford the Medicine They Need

Advocates Call On New York Legislature to Pass Bills to Increase Patient Access to Medical Marijuana

The Drug Policy Alliance on Monday issued a report assessing the first four months on the state’s medical marijuana program. The report is in response to demand for information in the face of the absence of all but the most limited public information from the New York State Department of Health. The report, the first systematic assessment of the program so far and its impact on patient access, found patients and caregivers face significant barriers to accessing medical marijuana.

On January 7, New York became the 23rd state to rollout its medical marijuana program. The law, which was passed in June of 2014, took eighteen months to implement and has been criticized as being one of the most restrictive and burdensome programs in the country.

Since the program was launched, patients and advocates have been frustrated by numerous barriers to accessing the program, including difficulty finding participating physicians, trouble accessing dispensaries and medication, and affordability.

U.S.: President Obama Commutes Sentences of 42 More Individuals For Drugs

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Drug Policy Alliance: President Must Do More Before His Term Ends and Congress Needs to Act Now

President Barack Obama on Friday commuted the sentences of 42 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses. This follows the commutation of 58 people in May 2016 and 61 individuals on March 30, 2016. To date, Obama has granted clemency to 348 individuals.

President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

"It’s great to see the President step up the number of commutations he grants, but he should do so many more before his term ends," said Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). "The greatest relief for people behind bars will happen when Congress passes legislation.

"Right now there is legislation in the House and Senate to reduce mandatory minimums that would a significant impact on the prison population," Collins said. "Senator Mitch McConnell needs to bring the bill up for a vote now."

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.

U.S.: House Judiciary Committee Unanimously Approves Law Helping Fight Asset Forfeiture

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Legislation Eases Burden of Contesting a Government Forfeiture and Raises Government’s Burden to Keep Property

Advocates Caution that the Bill Will Not End Policing-for-Profit

The U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary on Wednesday unanimously approved asset forfeiture reform legislation.

Known as the DUE PROCESS Act (H.R. 5283) and sponsored by Crime Subcommittee Chairman Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Representative Tim Walberg (R-MI), Representative Peter Roskam (R-IL) and others, the bill makes important procedural reforms that will help give property owners fighting a federal civil asset forfeiture action greater leverage to contest a government seizure and increases the federal government's burden of proof in civil forfeiture proceedings.

The DUE PROCESS Act, however, currently does not address the “policing for profit” incentive issue.

U.S.: Timely New Memoir Addresses Drug War, Mass Incarceration, Reentry Issues

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Anthony Papa’s Timely New Memoir Addresses the Drug War, Mass Incarceration and Reentry Issues as President Obama and Congress Seek Criminal Justice Reform

Book Release Event Coincides with Celebration of Papa’s 10-Year Anniversary at the Drug Policy Alliance

This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency, a riveting, compelling tale about the life of activist, writer and artist Anthony Papa, will be released on Wednesday, May 25. Papa tells firsthand of his experience of returning home after serving 12 years of a 15-to-life sentence for a non-violent drug law violation, sentenced under the mandatory provisions of the Rockefeller Drug Laws of New York state.

While behind bars, Papa found his passion for art and his haunting self-portrait “15 to Life” ended up showing in the Whitney Museum. Papa used his art and personal story to generate a wave of media attention and in 1997 he was granted executive clemency by New York Governor George Pataki. Papa literally painted his way to freedom.

Papa says that the freedom he fought so hard to get smacked him swiftly in the face, overpowering him. He struggled with his own freedom while fighting to free those he left behind. Papa goes through heart-wrenching trials and tribulations as he seeks to rebuild his life and continue his fight to end the War On Drugs.

California: One In 10 People Say Police Took Cash, Property Without A Conviction

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Two new surveys find overwhelming public opposition in California to laws allowing law enforcement to seize and keep a person’s cash and property without a conviction

California Legislature considers reform to rein in abuse

In a recent survey conducted by Public Policy Polling, a startling 10 percent of adults living in Los Angeles, Riverside and San Bernardino counties said that they had had their property taken by a police officer without being convicted of a crime. Nearly one in five (19 percent) of those living in these three counties also stated that they know someone who had experienced the same.

One of the ways in which law enforcement can legally take property or money from people in the absence of a conviction is through civil asset forfeiture, a highly controversial policy that allows law enforcement officers to seize cash or property that they suspect has been involved in criminal activity, such as drug sales.

While California law offers greater protections, federal forfeiture laws do not require that police arrest or charge a person with a crime, or convict them. If the owner does not file a claim in civil court and prevail in the case, the property is permanently lost, and the majority of the funds go to the same law enforcement agency that seized the cash or property in the first place.

U.S.: Thursday Webinar Connects War On Drugs To War On Immigrants

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The Drug Policy Alliance, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and Human Rights Watch invite you to join a free webinar on Thursday, May 12, 2016, at 11 am Pacific / 12 pm Mountain / 1 pm Central / 2 pm Eastern.

The Drug War has increasingly become a war against immigrant communities. Much as the Drug War drives mass incarceration, it is also a major driver of mass deportation. More than a quarter of a million people have been deported from the U.S. after convictions for drug offenses since 2007.

Unfortunately, while drug diversion programs are designed to help drug offenders avoid a criminal conviction and the damaging collateral consequences that can follow, many existing programs often fail both immigrants and citizens. For immigrants, even successful participation in a drug diversion program can result in deportation.

Both citizens and non-citizens are often better served by programs that avoid the criminal justice system altogether, like the nationally recognized LEAD (Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion) program being piloted in cities across the US that diverts individuals charged with certain offenses to treatment before booking.

U.S.: President Obama Grants Clemency To 58 People In Federal Prison For Drugs

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Drug Policy Alliance: The President is Acting; Congress Must Step Up Too

President Barack Obama on Thursday commuted the sentences of 58 people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses. This follows the commutation of 61 individuals on March 30, 2016, 95 people in December of 2015, 45 people in July, 22 people in March 2015, and 8 people in December of 2014.

All of those who received commutations on Thursday were serving time in prison for nonviolent drug offenses, and many were victims of the disparity in sentencing between crack and cocaine.

Five of the individuals whose sentences were commuted on Thursday were imprisoned at least in part due to at least one marijuana charge.

President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

"The President is using his constitutional power, but he can only do so much," said Michael Collins, deputy director at Drug Policy Alliance's office of national affairs. "There is legislation in the Senate that would reduce mandatory minimums and have a greater impact on the prison population, and Leader McConnell needs to bring the bill up for a vote."

U.S.: Senate Committee Prevents DEA From Undermining Medical Marijuana Laws

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Vote Comes Just a Week After Committee Voted to Allow Veterans Administration Doctors to Recommend Marijuana to Veterans

Nationwide Bipartisan Momentum for Drug Policy Reform Grows Stronger

In yet another huge victory for marijuana reform, the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday voted by 21 to 8 to approve an amendment offered by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Maryland) to protect state medical marijuana laws from federal interference by the Department of Justice and Drug Enforcement Administration.

“Marijuana reforms are repeatedly winning votes in Congress,” said Bill Piper, senior director of National Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA). “Letting states set their own marijuana policies is now a mainstream, bipartisan issue.”

After decades of inactivity on marijuana reform, Congress has moved at lightning pace to advance marijuana reform in recent years.

Last week the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to allow Veterans Administration doctors to recommend marijuana. The Committee approved similar amendments last year as well as an amendment to allow state-legalized marijuana businesses to access banks and other financial services.

The Mikulski Amendment is expected to pass the full Senate as well as the House. Similar amendments were passed by Congress last year and the year before.

Global: More Than 1,000 Leaders Issue Worldwide Call For End To Disastrous Drug War

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“Humankind cannot afford a 21st century drug policy as ineffective and counter-productive as the last century’s,” Letter Says

On the eve of the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem, world leaders and activists have signed a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging him to set the stage “for real reform of global drug control policy.”

The unprecedented list of signatories includes a range of people from Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders to businessmen Warren Buffett, George Soros, Richard Branson, Barry Diller, actors Michael Douglas and Woody Harrelson, Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, singers John Legend and Mary J. Blige, activists Reverend Jesse Jackson, Gloria Steinem and Michelle Alexander, as well as distinguished legislators, cabinet ministers, and former UN officials.

“The drug control regime that emerged during the last century,” the letter says, “has proven disastrous for global health, security and human rights. Focused overwhelmingly on criminalization and punishment, it created a vast illicit market that has enriched criminal organizations, corrupted governments, triggered explosive violence, distorted economic markets and undermined basic moral values.

New York: 'Race and the Drug War' Strategy Session Set For Eve of UN Assembly on Drugs

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On Sunday, April 17, just prior to the UN General Assembly’s Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS), scholars and activists will participate in what is likely the largest strategy-session that has been held in New York City on racial justice and drug policy.

Brought together by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and Columbia University’s Center for Justice and Center on African American Politics and Society, hundreds of the nation’s leading advocates will gather for this unprecedented collaboration around race, economic justice, drug sellers, drug users, stigma and what policies we need to embrace if we are serious about ending both America's racial caste system and the Drug War.

Last month, an article in Harper’s confirmed what many have suspected all along: that the Drug War was designed with the intent of destroying black communities. It quotes John Ehrlichman, Watergate co-conspirator, as saying: “We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."

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