Tuesday, June 5, 2012

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo Advances Marijuana Decriminalization for "Racial Justice" // Dems Losing Races Over "War on Drugs"

Cuomo Trailblazes Another Issue for 2016 White House Run

UPDATE: MarylandReporter.com today published a long piece about racial disparities in the Free State's prison system. Like much of the United States, people of color in Maryland are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement. The article comes after a Maryland committee heard testimony about the problem of overincarceration in Maryland. Can the timing of Mr. Cuomo's effort be a coincidence? I think not! See this excerpt from Maryland Reporter:

MARYLAND REPORTER: “For the last 40 years, we have been a nation addicted to incarceration,” said Laura Murphy, national legislative office director for the American Civil Liberties Union. “Approximately 1 in 100 American adults is currently behind bars, and about 1 in 33 American adults is either in prison or jail or on parole or probation.”
In Maryland alone, the state’s prison population has nearly tripled to over 22,000 since 1980, Murphy said, a figure which has transformed mass incarceration into an issue of civil rights for people of color, especially blacks.

“One in nine young black men between the ages of 20 and 34 are behind bars.” Murphy said. “In some cities, that jumps to one in three young black men under some form of correctional control.”

MULTIPLE POLITICIANS LOSING ELECTIONS AFTER SUPPORTING MORE FAILED "WAR ON DRUGS" POLICY: For almost a year now, Maryland Juice has tried to warn blog readers and Democratic officials to stop being so backwards and unscientific in their approach to criminal justice and drug policy in the United States. We highlighted articles indicating that a small contingent of Democratic political consultants were beginning to see political benefits to marijuana liberalization. But after a few high-profile losses by politicians who wanted to continue the failed "War on Drugs," it seems like one-by-one Democrats politicians themselves are quickly seeing the writing on the wall. Last week, a long-time incumbent Congressman from Texas lost his primary to a challenger, and drug policy factored heavily in the race's dynamics. My new nemeses at The Huffington Post reported (excerpt below):
HUFFINGTON POST: In early 2009, El Paso Rep. Sylvestre Reyes (D) warned city council members that, if they approved a resolution calling for a debate on marijuana legalization, the city would jeopardize its federal funding.

Instead, what turned out to be at risk was Reyes' seat in the House of Representatives in 2012.
On Tuesday night, El Paso voters ousted Reyes in a Democratic primary, in favor of the council member who had pushed the 2009 legalization resolution, Beto O'Rourke.

Reyes, a former border control agent who was elected to Congress in 1996, had the backing of President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton. Reyes brought the popular Clinton to the district to campaign for him this year and dredged up his opponent's burglary and driving while intoxicated charges from the 1990s. It wasn't enough....

Reyes tried to make it a campaign issue, telling voters to "Say NO to drugs. Say NO to Beto."

They said no to Reyes.

Maryland Juice has repeatedly highlighted the fact that a clear majority of Americans now support sensible drug reform, including marijuana decriminalization and medical marijuana. In the past few decades, ordinary people have "gotten real" about drug policy and abandoned the testosterone-fueled "War on Drugs" vision that came with gobs of ridiculous television propaganda.  But politicians who came of age in the Dark Ages of drug policy and still don't know better will have to get up to speed quickly, because their jobs may be at stake. Last week, The Washington Post published commentary from Jill Harris, a drug policy advocate. Ms Harris highlights a few high-profile political defeats from politicians who tried to perpetuate the "War on Drugs" (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Two candidates ran for Congress in El Paso, a city that shares a border with Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. El Paso’s Mexican counterpart is the murder capital of the world: More than 10,000 people have died there since Mexican President Felipe Calderon militarized the drug war in 2006....

The incumbent ran ads against the newcomer decrying his support of marijuana legalization and promising to keep drugs out of the hands of El Paso’s children. The newcomer, labeled “pro-pot,” “soft on crime” and lacking the “character” for the office, was likely to go down in flames.

Except it didn’t work out like that. On Tuesday, challenger Beto O’Rourke defeated incumbent Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic Party primary....

O’Rourke joins Oregon’s Ellen Rosenblum, who last month upset the establishment favorite for state attorney general in a Democratic primary that hinged on drug policy reform and was widely viewed as a referendum on medical marijuana....

In the fall of 2010, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, who opposed California’s medical marijuana law and vowed to shut down dispensaries, was defeated by a razor-thin margin in a race for state attorney general by Kamala Harris, who supports legalized marijuana for patients....

A new Rasmussen poll showed that 56 percent of Americans support the legalization of marijuana and only 36 percent oppose it. A Mason–Dixon poll conducted in May found that 74 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of Independents and 67 percent of Republicans believe that the federal government should respect state medical marijuana laws and not prosecute individuals who are in compliance with these laws....

NEW YORK GOV. CUOMO IS LEADING THE CHARGE TO SENSIBLE DRUG REFORM: Notably, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's policy team seems to understand how to read demographic and opinion shifts. Mr. Cuomo is a candidate for President in 2016, and so he cannot afford to be "behind the times" on popular opinion regarding policy. Cuomo made waves when he prioritized marriage equality last year, forcing others to play catch-up. He appears to be doing it again. The New York Times reported that Mr. Cuomo is launching an initiative to decriminalize marijuana, noting the excessive racial injustice in the current system:
NEW YORK TIMES: The New York City Police Department, the mayor and the city’s top prosecutors on Monday endorsed a proposal to decriminalize the open possession of small amounts of marijuana, giving an unexpected lift to an effort by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to cut down on the number of people arrested as a result of police stops.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, whose Police Department has arrested about 40,000 people each year for marijuana possession....

The marijuana arrests are a byproduct of the Police Department’s increasingly controversial stop-and-frisk practice. Mr. Bloomberg and police officials say the practice has made the city safer, but, because most of those stopped are black or Hispanic, the practice has been criticized as racially biased by advocates for the minority community.

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, framed the issue as one of racial justice as well as common sense, saying that the police in New York City were wasting time, resources and good will making tens of thousands of unnecessary arrests....
Black leaders also cited the governor’s proposal as a rare recognition of — and attempt to remedy — what they describe as a cultural and legal double standard: that young African-American men are being arrested in large numbers for an activity — using marijuana — that is prevalent, but with less frequent legal consequences, among whites of the same age.

Meanwhile, back in Maryland, we're still debating whether cancer patients can have access to marijuana as a pain-releiver. Other states have passed decriminalization and fully implemented medical dispensary systems, while Maryland Democrats like Governor Martin O'Malley and Attorney General Doug Gansler are still pretending like it is 1980. Shameful....

MARYLAND DEMOCRATIC SHAME ON COMMON-SENSE DRUG REFORM: Americans for years have suffered through policymakers that assume we're all stupid (ie: think idiotic videos like "Reefer Madness" or stupid visuals like eggs frying in a pan). The end result of America's backwards policymaking is that we have the ignoble distinction of having the world's highest incarceration rate, where a very large percentage is comprised of nonviolent drug offenders. We jail more of our people than China and Russia, though we purport to be more free. Half of our prison population is comprised of non-violent offenders, with nearly one in five locked up for a drug offense. The targets of arrest and prosecution are disproportionately people of color, in spite of drug use being color blind. The Marijuana Policy Project noted racial discrimination in Maryland's criminal justice system:
MPP: The arrest rate for African-Americans in Maryland is almost 20% higher than the national average, and over three times that of whites in the state.
Meanwhile, all of our efforts have created no dent in demand, and instead enable a booming black market that continues to perpetuate violence in Latin American countries and beyond. Numerous Latin American leaders have now endorsed drug liberalization and an end to the U.S. driven "War on Drugs," because it is only leading to more violence. Honestly, expecting the War on Drugs to work is like expecting abstinence-only education to help teenagers.

All of this fake policy-making has been aided and abetted by cowardly Democratic politicians through the years. If you thought Democrats were scared to take on the GOP gutting of civil liberties after 9-11, just look at what they've done with drug policy in America. It's even worse!

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