Saturday, January 11, 2014

JUICE: Del. McIntosh & Sen. Kittleman for Legal Pot, MD for Utah LGBT Marriages, Fracking, Luiz Simmons Mail & More!

Below Maryland Juice provides a round-up of news tidbits of interest to politicos:

JUICE #1: POT LEGALIZATION ENDORSED BY DEM LEADER DEL. MAGGIE MCINTOSH & GOP SEN. ALLAN KITTLEMAN // PLUS HUGE REVENUE & NO PROBLEMS IN COLOARDO - The calls for marijuana legalization in Maryland have earned important allies in the state legislature. Delegate Maggie McIntosh, a top Democratic House leader, has endorsed proposals to tax and regulate pot like alcohol and to remove jail-time as a penalty for possession. Meanwhile, GOP State Senator Allan Kittleman, who is running for Howard County Executive, has co-sponsored marijuana legalization legislation. Del. McIntosh announced her support in the following email blast (excerpt below):
MAGGIE MCINTOSH: Last session, my colleague Curt Anderson introduced legislation that would have legalized marijuana use for adults. I supported Delegate Anderson’s bill because I believe our current drug prohibition laws are wasteful and counterproductive, taking resources away from combating drug violence and promoting treatment options for those suffering with addiction. Our current laws also overburden our judicial and prison systems, forcing many non-violent offenders into jail. Last session, the Maryland Senate also passed a bill that would have made possession of small amounts of marijuana a civil – rather than criminal – offense. This year, I fully expect both bills to be introduced again and plan to support either should they come to the House floor. The early reports on legalization efforts in Colorado and Oregon show that this approach can work.
The Washington Post's John Wagner reported on the new bi-partisan push for rolling back the failed War on Drugs in Maryland with the following article announcing support from GOP State Senator Allan Kittleman (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON POST: Sen. Allan H. Kittleman (R-Howard) said Friday that he will co-sponsor legislation that would allow regulated marijuana sales in Maryland, adding a bipartisan wrinkle to this year’s push in Annapolis. Kittleman, a Republican who is running for Howard County executive this year, said that he has agreed to work with Sen. Jamie B. Raskin (D-Montgomery) on a bill that will be unveiled next week....

Raskin’s legislation would allow sales under a similar framework that recently was set up in Colorado, with marijuana subject to state regulation and taxation. Sales would be limited to people age 21 and over, and there would be tough penalties for selling to minors.

While he has compiled a conservative record on fiscal issues in Annapolis, Kittleman supported two other high-profile liberal social policies in recent years: the legalization of same-sex marriage and the repeal of the death penalty.

“One thing most people know about me is I’m a civil libertarian,” Kittleman said. “This isn’t something I’m doing for politics. The current way we’re dealing with marijuana and the use of it by our citizens isn’t working....”
HUGE POT SALES IN COLORADO = MAJOR REVENUE BOOST: Indeed, all eyes have been on Washington and Colorado, where voters recently approved marijuana legalization at the ballot. The early reports from Colorado, where over-the-counter pot sales began last week are overwhelmingly encouraging. Denver's CBS affiliate reported on massive sales of recreational pot, indicating that the first state on the East Coast to end prohibition will face a revenue windfall (excerpt below):
CBS: The first week of legal pot salesin Colorado is over, and now some Colorado pot shops are already running out of product. In the past week, long lines of customers swamped the Colorado dispensaries that have been granted retail marijuana licenses and bought nearly $5 million worth of pot.... Many shops are limiting the amount of pot a customer can buy, and some have raised their rates....

“We are okay right now but if things go the way they are we might be also running very short,” [marijuana ship owner Moe Atieh] said. “We expected it to be very busy. Did we expect it to be this busy? No, I don’t think anybody did....”
POLICE IN COLORADO REPORT FEW PROBLEMS IN IMPLEMENTATION OF MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION - The Huffington Post reported this week that local law enforcement officials in Colorado report no real problems since marijuana sales begun this year (excerpt below):
HUFFINGTON POST: A week after Colorado dispensaries started selling recreational marijuana to adults, local law enforcers are not reporting any significant problems. In the state's largest city, there have been only four marijuana citations issued, according to the Denver Police Department. "Everything has gone relatively smooth," Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson told The Huffington Post. "We've written four citations for public consumption since Jan. 1, and that's relatively small considering the number of people consuming right now." A similar lack of trouble swept over other Colorado towns....

Consumer interest was so high the first week that many shop owners capped the amount of marijuana an individual could buy or raised prices to mitigate a possible legal weed shortage.... "Colorado is demonstrating to the rest of the world that regulating marijuana works," said Mason Tvert, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project and a key backer of Amendment 64. He added, "The implementation process and smooth rollout of the system in Colorado is surely going to pique the interest of lawmakers and voters in other states who are also ready to move beyond prohibition and adopt more sensible policies...." The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the Department of Justice is drafting legal guidance for how banks can work with marijuana businesses in states like Colorado and Washington, which also legalized recreational marijuana for adults....
VOTERS IN FOUR STATES PLUS WASHINGTON, DC MAY VOTE ON MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION IN 2014: While Maryland continues to piddle around on the wholly uncontroversial issue of medical marijuana, U.S. News & World Report writes that four other states (Alaska, Arizona, California & Oregon) plus neighboring Washington, DC may send the issue to voters on the 2014 ballot (excerpt below):
US NEWS: One week after the nation's first recreational marijuana stores opened in Colorado, Alaska activists submitted what appear to be enough signatures to put marijuana legalization before voters. The measure – which would go up for a vote Aug. 19 – is one of several 2014 efforts that could yield a good year for pot supporters, particularly in the West....

So far, voters have been at the vanguard of legalization, blowing past state legislatures. In November 2012, more than 55 percent of Colorado and Washington voters approved initiatives to legalize the drug and open state-licensed stores – and polls suggest those successes may be replicated elsewhere.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll released Monday found 55 percent of Americans believe marijuana should be legal, compared to 44 percent who do not. Support was highest in the West – where voter-driven initiatives often become law – and in the Northeast. An October poll released by Gallup put nationwide support for legalization at 58 percent....

Residents in the nation's capital also may get a chance to vote on legalization in November. D.C. Cannabis Campaign leaders plan to submit draft ballot language Friday with the city's elections board. The proposal would legalize possession of 2 ounces and six plants by adults over 21.... Although an April PPP survey put support for legalization at 63 percent in D.C., Eidinger says supporters "can't count out the opposition" and estimates a half-million dollar campaign is necessary to win..... In addition to voter-driven initiatives, legalization bills have been proposed in at least 13 state legislatures....

JUICE #2: ATTORNEY GENERAL DOUG GANSLER ISSUES OPINION ANNOUNCING MARYLAND WILL RESPECT UTAH'S SAME-SEX MARRIAGES - The Washington Blade reported yesterday that Maryland will recognize same-sex marriages issued in Utah, which are currently suspended as courts review their legality (excerpt below):
WASHINGTON BLADE: Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler on Friday said his state would recognize same-sex marriages performed in Utah.... Gansler told the Washington Blade his office on Thursday received a call from a gay Maryland couple who married in Utah about whether the state would recognize their union. Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin on the same day urged him and attorneys general in the 17 other states that have extended marriage rights to gays and lesbians to recognize the marriages of the more than 1,300 same-sex couples who exchanged vows after U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby struck down the Beehive State’s gay nuptials ban. The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 6 blocked any future same-sex marriages from taking place in Utah until the case is resolved....
Attorney General Doug Gansler also issued a press release announcing the release of his opinion (excerpt below):
PRESS RELEASE
AG Gansler: Utah Same-sex Marriages are Valid in Maryland

2010 opinion on recognition of legal same-sex marriages performed in other states underpins view that Maryland would recognize Utah unions

Baltimore, MD (January 10, 2014) – In response to a request from the Human Right Campaign, Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler has expressed his view that recent same-sex marriages legally performed in Utah should and would be recognized in Maryland. This week the United States Supreme Court issued a stay on performing such unions in Utah after a court ruling there struck down a same-sex marriage ban. As a result of that decision, Utah determined same-sex marriages to be legal and, for 17 days, more than 1300 such marriage licenses were issued until the stay by the Supreme Court ended the practice.

“Maryland will continue to recognize valid out-of-state same-sex marriages as we continue to strengthen the Constitution’s promise of equal protection under the law,” said Attorney General Gansler. “It is an affront to the idea of basic human rights that the battle for full marriage equality in this country remains in headlines and courtrooms.”

The Obama administration today also issued a statement saying that the federal government would recognize same-sex unions performed in Utah despite the fact that the state government of Utah is refusing to do....

To see the Attorney General’s 2010 Opinion on same-sex marriage visit:
http://www.oag.state.md.us/Opinions/2010/95oag3.pdf 

# # #

JUICE #3: HEATHER MIZEUR SLAMS ANTHONY BROWN OVER FRACKING ISSUE - The Baltimore Sun reported this week that Delegate Heather Mizeur is criticizing Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown's environmental platform, particularly calling out his position on fracking (excerpt below):
BALTIMORE SUN: Seeking to highlight her green credentials in the race for governor, Del. Heather Mizeur took issue Friday with the environmental platform posted this week by the front-running ticket of Lt. Anthony Brown and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman.

Mizeur's campaign issued a statement accusing Brown and Ulman of glossing over the dangers of hydraulic fracturing for natural gas and making "vague statements" about how to exploit the energy deposits in western Maryland without harming the environment or people's health.
Mizeur, D-Montgomery, has pushed unsuccessfully for years for a moratorium on "fracking" until its safety has been thoroughly studied and adequate safeguards are in place.  Though the legislation has not passed, Gov. Martin O'Malley has frozen drilling for past three years while an advisory commission on which Mizeur sits reviews the issues....
Heather Mizeur issued the following press release highlighting this difference of opinion:
PRESS RELEASE

Mizeur-Coates Campaign on Brown-Ulman’s “Environmental Values”

SILVER SPRING, Maryland — Yesterday, the Brown-Ulman campaign failed to address the significant dangers of shale gas hydraulic fracturing in their “Environmental Values.”

The Mizeur-Coates campaign released the following statement:

"In the same week the Brown-Ulman campaign released their 'environmental values,' which glossed over the dangers of fracking with vague statements about finding a path forward, the Associated Press published an investigation in which four states, including two of Maryland’s neighbors, confirmed the contamination of drinking water for families as a result of hydraulic fracturing.

Heather Mizeur is a vocal advocate for a more cautious approach. Under her leadership, the state has operated under a de facto drilling moratorium while we conduct independent analysis of the environmental and public health safety threats of this controversial practice. Delegate Mizeur is teaming up with Frederick Senator Ron Young to introduce a bill this session that provides for an 18-month legislative review period guaranteeing the General Assembly a chance to act on the policy recommendations from the safety study’s commission report.

This is our last chance to keep Maryland from unregulated shale gas drilling. The current state study—which so far lacks adequate funding and appropriate risk analysis—is due out later this year. We know the moment the study concludes there will be enormous pressure on the Administration to drill. The Shale Gas Drilling Safety Review Act will give us more confidence that science and the public interest—not special interest politics—will prevail in Maryland. If clean water is truly non-negotiable, then we must act on this now.”

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JUICE #4: ATTEND A MARYLAND GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATES DEBATE IN MOCO ON THU, JAN 30 - Leisure World Democratic activist Paul Bessel sent Maryland Juice the following announcement of a gubernatorial candidates debate at MoCo's largest retirement community (details below):


JUICE #5: DISTRICT 17 SENATE RACE HEATS UP AS DEL. LUIZ SIMMONS SENDS DIRECT MAIL HIGHLIGHTING CHERYL KAGAN "MUDSLINGING" - Though many political observers believe it is very early in the election cycle to be spending resources on direct mail, Delegate Luiz Simmons has come out of the gates swinging with the following piece criticizing rival candidate Cheryl Kagan:




JUICE #6: CASEY ANDERSON DECIDES AGAINST RUNNING FOR MOCO COUNCIL DISTRICT 5  //  PLUS: MOCO PLANNING BOARD CHAIR FRANCOISE CARRIER RETIRING - Montgomery County Planning Board member Casey Anderson has indicated to Maryland Juice that he's decided not to run in the Democratic Primary for Valerie Ervin's District 5 Council seat. He will instead be seeking to Chair the Planning Board, given that the current Chair Francoise Carrier has announced she will not seek another four-year term. Patch.com reported on the development (excerpt below):
PATCH: Montgomery County Planning Board Chair Fran├žoise Carrier announced Friday that she will not seek a second term as chair, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission reported in a news release.

In a Thursday evening email to Montgomery County Planning and Parks Department staff, Carrier wrote that: "It is with mixed feelings that I write to tell you I have decided not to seek a second term as Planning Board Chair. It has been wonderful working with such fine people, and I will always love this agency, but for me, one term feels right."

Carrier was appointed in 2010 by the Montgomery County Council, and her time as board chair "has been marked as one of the busiest and most productive terms during the [Planning] Board’s history, with the approval of Master Plans such as: Chevy Chase Lake, Takoma/Langley, Glenmont, Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Plan and Long Branch," the news release stated....

JUICE #7: TODAY IS THE ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE DEATH OF MY FRIEND AARON SWARTZ  //  TAKE A MOMENT TO UNDERSTAND HIS IMPACT - One year ago today, Aaron Swartz, my friend and colleague at Demand Progress committed suicide. He was a brilliant activist and technologist who co-founded reddit.com, Demand Progress, and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC). He was also involved in development of open information technologies like RSS 1.0 and Creative Commons, and it should be noted that flunkeys in the Obama administration including DOJ Chief Eric Holder and U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz brought trumped up felony criminal charges against him, threatening him with over 35 years in prison and erasing the money the 26-year-old had amassed through his entrepreneurial endeavors. I finally broke my silence about all of these horrifying incidents in a lengthy piece I wrote last July called "Hacking Politics."

But since then, those of us who knew and worked with Aaron have not given up on advancing his vision, which included challenging corporate power, tackling mass incarceration, and ensuring the Internet remains a place for dialogue free from censorship and undue surveillance. In fact, we're doubling down on fighting the excesses and overreach of the powered and money interests dominating society today. Wired magazine published an article about Aaron's legacy today (excerpt below):
WIRED: Internet activist Aaron Swartz took his own life one year ago today. He was 26 years old and facing federal hacking and fraud charges for downloading millions of academic articles using MIT’s network. Before his passing, he was on outspoken advocate for freedom of information and a founder of Demand Progress, the nonprofit that invigorated a successful grassroots effort to fight the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2012.

Swartz was, as WIRED’s Kevin Poulsen wrote a “coder with a conscience,” and in a clip premiering today on WIRED from director Brian Knappenberger’s forthcoming documentary The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz, more than a few web visionaries remember him for the important work he did and the legacy he created.

I think Aaron was trying to make the world work – he was trying to fix it,” says World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee. “So he was a bit ahead of his time....

Swartz’s fight for rights online has only been brought more intensely into focus in the year since his death, largely due to NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. To see him talk about government spying in this documentary at a time before the Snowden leaks is especially chilling now. But thanks to Knappenberger’s documentary – and other actions being taken to remember the internet activist – the conversation he started can continue....
Indeed, Maryland Juice will be heading to the Sundance Film Festival next week for the premiere of "The Internet's Own Boy," a documentary which promises to further embolden those of us involved in organizing for social justice and Internet Freedom. You can watch the trailer for the film, along with a special selection of interviews below:




Members of Congress have also not forgotten the unjust prosecution of Aaron Swartz (who incidentally faced more jail time than typically given to rapists and molesters). Techdirt reports that elected officials are calling on Eric Holder for real answers to their questions, instead of the same vague and defensive explanations they've provided for their overzealous prosecution (excerpt below):
TECHDIRT: Tomorrow is the anniversary of the unfortunate passing of Aaron Swartz. Senators John Cornyn and Al Franken, along with Rep. Darryl Issa, have now sent Attorney General Eric Holder yet another request for an explanation concerning the investigation and prosecution of Swartz. This follows on a similar request from last year, but these elected officials note both that the DOJ's response was inadequate, and that it was also contradicted by the eventual report on the prosecution that came out of MIT....
 
The MIT Report indicates that Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Heymann considered other factors in advance of the return of the superseding indictment. He told MIT that "the straw that broke the camel's back" was an internet webpage soliciting signatures on Mr. Swartz's behalf by Demand Progress, an activist group founded by Mr. Swartz.

In other words, despite the claims from Holder that the charges against Aaron were not based on Swartz exercising his right to free speech, Stephen Heymann has since admitted that, in fact, Swartz's friends speaking out on his behalf were what made him decide to try to throw the book at Swartz....
Indeed, those of us at Demand Progress did attempt to fight the DOJ's ridiculous prosecution of Aaron Swartz, and Eric Holder's minions responded by adding more trumped up charges against my friend. This has been an unpleasant reminder that those of us fighting for the common good must prioritize justice over party politics. But in the meantime, please:
 
#OccupyLife

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