Friday, April 20, 2012

SHAME ON YOU: Gov. Martin O'Malley & President Barack Obama Continue Failed War on Drugs // 4:20 PM on 4/20

BACKGROUND: Maryland Juice is reprinting a recent article we published last month condemning attacks on drug policy reform that are (disappointingly) coming from Gov. Martin O'Malley and President Barack Obama. Mr. O'Malley has pledged to veto medical marijuana legislation, while Mr. Obama is breaking a 2008 campaign promise by using federal law enforcement resources to harass state-approved medical marijuana dispensaries. Public sentiment is not with these gentleman on this issue, and it has in fact been trending away from them for years. No longer just a youth issue, the zeal for the so-called "War on Drugs" is also wearing thin among older voters. This effect will likely continue as the Baby Boomers begin to age and churn the population.

THE WORLD'S LARGEST PRISON POPULATION: But more important than simple opinion shifts is the large problem of over-incarceration in America. This problem is a clear result from a "War on Drugs" plotted out based on "conventional wisdom" instead of science and evidence. It should be obvious to all by now that over-incarceration of people of color is tied to our fanatical pursuit of non-violent drug charges. These strong-arm law enforcement pursuits used to be grounded in anti-crime policies related to past drug epidemics and sometimes as political cover for our foreign adventures in Central and South America.

Decades later, the result is the world's largest prison population and a completely apathetic response from the vast majority of policymakers. Medical marijuana is obviously the vanilla proxy battle for the bigger problem, but we can't even get that passed in Maryland. See a re-hash below:

ROLLING MY EYES: Gov. Martin O'Malley Plans to Veto Medical Marijuana Bill // AG Doug Gansler, Others Scared Of Feds

BACKGROUND: Today, the Baltimore Sun reports that Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley plans to veto any medical marijuana legislation passed by the Free State legislature this year. Citing conflicts with "federal law" --which haven't stopped progress in other states, by the way -- O'Malley and other top Maryland Democrats are retreating to 1980's style "War on Drugs" politics. Like, gag me with a spoon!


WHO ARE DEMOCRATS TRYING TO PLEASE?  Maryland Juice's eyes are rolling at the sight of "next generation" Democrats working to undermine progress on drug reform in America. While the vast majority of the public now demonstrates skepticism about the effectiveness of the "War on Drugs" in the United States, our political leaders continue to treat drug policy with "conventional wisdom" and fear instead of evidence and science.  The Huffington Post brings us up to speed on the current policy debate, which pits Democrats against the World:
HUFFINGTON POST: The debate around marijuana legalization has arrived. The issue is popping in ways that haven't been seen in decades -- if ever. Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Mexico yesterday and later will travel to Honduras in the midst of rapidly-escalating demands by Latin American presidents that legalization be included among the options for reducing drug-related violence, crime and mayhem.

The Associated Press published an impressive story over the weekend about the transformation happening in Latin America. "Presidents of Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia and Mexico, all grappling with the extremely violent fallout of a failing drug war, have said in recent weeks they'd like to open up the discussion of legalizing drugs," the article stated.

Two weeks ago, Guatemala's president Otto Perez Molina, a right-wing conservative and former army general, stunned observers when he declared that the U.S. inability to cut illegal drug consumption leaves his country with no option but to consider legalizing the use and transport of drugs. He vowed to galvanize regional support.
The debate and momentum to legalize marijuana is also happening here in the U.S. Last week the Colorado Secretary of State certified an initiative for the state's November general election ballot that would legalize personal marijuana possession and allow regulated sales of marijuana to adults. Colorado now joins Washington as one of two states to qualify a legalization initiative in 2012, while several other states are hoping to follow suit.

But if you want an example of just how mainstream this issue is becoming, take a look at the Costco Connection, a lifestyle magazine that is distributed to eight million Costco members and read by close to 20 million people. The March issue asks the question "Should Marijuana Be Legal?" with the Drug Policy Alliance's executive director Ethan Nadelmann arguing yes and Robert DuPont, founding director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse arguing against. 
One group that is not participating in the debate is our "leaders" in Washington. While presidents of Latin America are calling for an open debate and more than 50 percent of Americans saying they support legalizing marijuana, you hear a deafening silence from Washington.

VIOLATING SCIENCE: Indeed, Maryland Juice would say that the way mainstream politicians treat drug policy in America reminds me of the way conservatives promote abstinence education over contraception. Essentially, they are choosing to blind themselves to the realities and science of drug policy. Last year, Portugal released results of a 10-year experiment in drug decriminalization and rehabilitation -- and not surprisingly, their hard drug use rates have dropped in half. So whose votes are Maryland Democrats trying to win with this retro "War on Drugs" perspective? 

MARYLAND IS THE LATEST STATE TO JOIN THE RETREAT: Today, The Baltimore Sun reports that Free State Democrats are the latest capitulators to wave the white flag of defeat. It appears that the "conventional wisdom" crowd will defeat the "freedom and evidence" crowd for another generation. Gov. Martin O'Malley has indicated he will veto medical marijuana legislation in Maryland. Nevermind that the public supports full-on decriminalization -- we can't even get treatments for cancer patients in Maryland! Pathetic. Read The Sun's coverage below:
Gov. Martin O'Malley likely would veto any legislation to legalize medical marijuana because of concerns over whether it would stand up to federal scrutiny, his spokeswoman said Thursday....

His decision could once again kill an effort that has stalled in the General Assembly for years.

Maryland legislators are to begin debating three medical marijuana bills in House of Delegates committee hearings today.

"We have some serious concerns about liability," said O'Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory. "Those concerns were raised by U.S. attorneys across the country. Based on those concerns, it is probably likely we would veto any legislation...."

Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler's office also expressed concerns about the legality of medical marijuana in a letter to Baltimore County Del. Dan K. Morhaim, the lead sponsor for two of Maryland's bills....

"The federal law prohibits use and possession of marijuana, as well as distribution and manufacture, without regard to whether the marijuana is ultimately used to treat a medical condition," wrote Assistant Attorney General Kathryn M. Rowe.

Maryland Health Secretary Joshua M. Sharfstein is expected to testify today that his agency cannot support any of the bills, including one that he previously endorsed, according to a draft of his testimony....

This year, lawmakers will consider two bills written using the commission's recommendations and introduced by Morhaim, the only doctor serving in the General Assembly....

Del. Cheryl Glenn, a Baltimore City Democrat, has introduced the most liberal bill, which would allow individuals to grow marijuana. She said former talk show host Montel Williams, who said he smokes marijuana to deal with the pain of multiple sclerosis, will testify on behalf of her bill.

Glenn said she doesn't worry about federal law because it is unlikely to be enforced.

"The federal government is on record saying this is not a priority for them," Glenn said. "If a state has a well-written law they are not going to seek any enforcement action. There is no need for patients with cancer and other diseases that become so debilitating to have to suffer."
CONFLICTS WITH FEDERAL LAW ARE B.S. - Maryland Juice thinks that the conflicts with Federal law are not a legitimate reason to veto medical marijuana legislation in Maryland. Every state in the nation that has passed such legislation has done so knowing that Federal law conflicted with their proposed state law -- and every state did so knowing that the Feds did not really enforce such laws. This is true in many areas of the law -- for example, the FDA currently turns a blind eye to seniors in border states who purchase prescription drugs from Canada.

WHO IS TO BLAME? - So why are Democratic politicians suddenly running scared from this issue? Two words:Barack Obama. He has broken a campaign promise and launched a new war on reason in the drug policy arena. Nobody seems to know why -- and we are all awaiting an explanation. After all, when he ran for President in 2008, he promised he wouldn't do this.  Rolling Stone Magazine recently wrote a very lengthy piece about Obama's reversal:
Obama's War on Pot

In a shocking about-face, the administration has launched a government-wide crackdown on medical marijuana

Back when he was running for president in 2008, Barack Obama insisted that medical marijuana was an issue best left to state and local governments. "I'm not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue," he vowed, promising an end to the Bush administration's high-profile raids on providers of medical pot, which is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

But over the past year, the Obama administration has quietly unleashed a multi­agency crackdown on medical cannabis that goes far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush. The feds are busting growers who operate in full compliance with state laws, vowing to seize the property of anyone who dares to even rent to legal pot dispensaries, and threatening to imprison state employees responsible for regulating medical marijuana. With more than 100 raids on pot dispensaries during his first three years, Obama is now on pace to exceed Bush's record for medical-marijuana busts. "There's no question that Obama's the worst president on medical marijuana," says Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "He's gone from first to worst...."

Democrats: The Dark Ages policy debates are becoming tiring. We expect better from you. Keep it real -- or fail.

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