Marijuana

  • July 29, 2014

    by Ellery Weil

    The Burlington Free Press reports on the death of Cheryl Hanna, who was the Vice President for External Relations and Professor of Law at Vermont Law School professor. A noted legal analyst, Professor Hanna was also the faculty adviser to the ACS Student Chapter at Vermont Law School. ACS extends its condolences to her family and friends.

    The New York Times Editorial Board continues its series calling for an end to the government’s failed war on marijuana. In “The Injustice of Marijuana Arrests,” the board states what many legal scholars and others have noted for a long time – arrests for marijuana possession target black men and ruin too many of their lives. The newspaper’s editorial board states:

    The sheer volume of law enforcement resources devoted to marijuana is bad enough. What makes the situation far worse is racial disparity. Whites and blacks use marijuana at roughly the same rates; on average, however, blacks are 3.7 times more likely than whites to be arrested for possession, according to a comprehensive 2013 report by the ACLU.

    Emma Green of The Atlantic discusses the new same-sex marriage ruling in Virginia, and how it differs from other pro-marriage equality rulings in the past.

    Writing for The Constitutional Accountability Center, Doug Kendall praises the Senate’s “nuclear option” to prevent filibusters in federal judicial confirmation hearings, particularly in light of the recent Senate confirmation of Pamela Harris.

    In a piece for the ACLU, Alex Sinha discusses what Edward Snowden’s reports on government surveillance mean for the law, and the new measures lawyers must take to ensure attorney-client privilege remains unbroken.

  • July 28, 2014

    by Ellery Weil

    The New York Times is calling for the federal government to repeal laws banning marijuana, saying that as a substance it is less dangerous than alcohol, and the social costs of keeping it illegal are too vast to justify its current legal status. “The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to the FBI figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.”

    Prachi Gupta in a piece for Salon explores the recent federal judge’s ruling that D.C.’s public handgun ban is unconstitutional.

    NPR’s Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza discusses Alabama’s high rate of death penalty sentences, especially in light of recent debate surrounding capital punishment. On MSNBC’s “Melissa Harris-Perry,” ACS Vice President of Network Advancement Sarah Knight discussed the recent Arizona death penalty debacle, where it took the state almost two hours to execute a condemned death row inmate. 

    Sarah Kliff at Vox reports on pro-choice legislators using the Supreme Court buffer zone ruling as a guideline for new, safer abortion clinics which can be protected as effectively as possible. On the same “Melissa Harris-Perry” show, ACS’s Sarah Knight joined a discussion about the Supreme Court’s opinion earlier this summer invalidating Massachusetts’ abortion clinic buffer zone law.

  • April 26, 2013

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Despite the rhetoric to move beyond a perpetual “war on drugs” the Obama administration remains mired in the tough-on-drugs mindset and its Justice Department seems befuddled by the states that have legalized small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report revealing that the administration’s goals set out in 2010 have largely not been met. The report noted that the Office of National Drug Control Policy and other federal agencies established “seven Strategy goals related to reducing illicit drug use and its consequences by 2015.” GAO continued, “As of March 2013,” its “analysis showed that of the five goals for which primary data on results were available, one shows progress and four show no progress.”

    But, as The Huffington Post’s Matt Sledge reports drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy has just released another drug control plan that builds on the policies the GAO has said are not working. More troubling, Sledge notes that the drug office’s budget “still devotes less than half of it funds to treatment and prevention. The GAO found that prevention and treatment programs are ‘fragmented’ across 15 federal agencies.”

    In an April 24 post on its web site, the Office of National Drug Control Policy bemoans “illicit drug use,” claiming “drug-induced overdose deaths now surpass homicides and car crashes as the leading cause of injury or death in America.” It also declares “we cannot arrest or incarcerate our way out of the drug problem.”

    The language from the administration’s drug control office is softer than rhetoric about the “war on drugs,” which the Nixon administration launched with the enactment of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) several decades ago. But the administration’s drug control office is not embracing drug legalization or even any changes to the CSA, such as removing marijuana from the list of drugs deemed as dangerous as say heroin.

    The muddled message from the Obama administration -- not helped by its Justice Department’s silence on how it will respond to Colorado and Washington, where officials are crafting measures to implement and regulate the recreational use of marijuana -- is preserving tough-on-drugs policies.

  • December 7, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    The Obama administration may be on the verge of irking large swaths of its supporters by employing scarce Justice Department resources to go after users of small amounts of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, where voters, by comfortable margins, voted to legalize limited amounts of possession.

    The New York Times’ Charlie Savage reports that senior officials in the administration “are considering plans for legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.” Savage goes on to describe some of the possibilities the administration could take – sue the states arguing that federal law trumps state action in this area. (The Controlled Substances Act prohibits sale and possession of marijuana.) The Justice Department wouldn’t talk to Savage about administration plans on the matter, but did highlight a statement issued recently by the U.S. Attorney in Seattle, stating that marijuana remained illegal pursuant to the CSA.

    Andrew Sullivan notes that Pete Guither views the Savage piece as a trial balloon “to see what kinds of reactions there are and what political fallout might come from action … or inaction."

    Sullivan obliges, writing that if administration officials decide “to treat the law-abiding citizens of Colorado and Washington as dangerous felons; if they decide to allocate their precious law enforcement powers to persecuting and arresting people for following a state law that they have themselves just passed by clear majorities; if they decide that opposing a near majority of Americans in continuing to prosecute the drug war on marijuana, even when the core of their own supporters want an end to Prohibition, and when that Prohibition makes no sense … then we will give them hell.”

  • November 3, 2010
    The California ballot measure aimed at legalizing the use of marijuana for adults 21 and older went down to defeat, but proponents are not giving up the fight, or showing overwhelming dejection.

    Stephen Gutwillig, director of the Drug Policy Alliance that spearheaded the Proposition 19 movement, told the Los Angeles Times, "This has been a watershed moment. Even in defeat, Proposition 19 has moved marijuana legalization into the mainstream of American politics." He continued that supporters of legalization would push ballot measures in 2012 in "Washington, Oregon, Colorado and very likely California."

    The newspaper also noted, "More than four decades after the war on drugs was declared, the country is almost evenly divided on whether to legalize marijuana. (Although Gil Kerlikowske, head of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy has said that it is time for the nation to move beyond the so-called "War on Drugs," he did oppose Proposition 19.)

    Josh Harkinson, blogging for Mother Jones on yesterday's vote, wrote:

    As 4:20 faded into the late afternoon, it became clear that Prop 19 was headed for defeat. Even so, pot activists still had reason enough to party. Their campaign has taken legalization debate mainstream, and they'll all probably try again in 2012. They gathered in a parking lot outside Oaksterdam University, the cannabis cultivation school owned by Richard Lee, Prop 19's biggest financial backer. Pot smoke occasionally wafted through the air, and there wasn't a cop in sight who gave a damn.

    The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan has more reaction to the outcome over the ballot measure here.