Tag Archives: Drug Policy Alliance

TV evangelist Robertson’s remarks on marijuana please legalization camp

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/23/AR2010122304413.html?wpisrc=nl_most

 

Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 23, 2010; 7:17 PM

Television evangelist Pat Robertson has made inflammatory remarks in recent years that offend gays, Muslims and others, but a recent comment he made on his Christian Broadcasting Network was more notable for whom it pleased: people who want to see marijuana legalized.

“We’re locking up people that take a couple of puffs of marijuana, and the next thing you know they’ve got 10 years,” the controversial pastor said on “The 700 Club” on Dec. 16, in a clip unearthed by bloggers this week. “I’m not exactly for the use of drugs – don’t get me wrong – but I just believe that criminalizing marijuana, criminalizing the possession of a few ounces of pot and that kind of thing, I mean, it’s just, it’s costing us a fortune and it’s ruining young people.”

It was a surprising admission from a Christian conservative and favorite target of liberals, who have pounced on his assertions that the earthquake that devastated Haiti’s capital city in January resulted from a pact with the Devil, for example, or that Hurricane Katrina was punishment for abortion and the country’s general moral decay.

His views on marijuana lit up the Internet on Thursday because they seemingly aligned him with liberal groups that have long complained of the punitive nature of the nation’s drug laws. The comments have been seized on by pro-marijuana groups that cite them as evidence that their message is gaining traction not only in the mainstream but within the religious right.

“His voice is respected by hundreds of thousands or millions of people who might not otherwise think about this issue seriously. His comments were a very important step forward,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, a group that supports legalizing and taxing marijuana. “The only way that this country’s going to end up with more sensible and sane drug laws is if people call for it from across the political spectrum.”

On Thursday, a CBN spokesman said in an e-mail that Robertson is “unequivocally” against illegal drug use and that he does not support legalizing marijuana.

The nation’s attitude toward marijuana has changed dramatically over the past two decades. In an October Washington Post poll, 43 percent of respondents said they would be in favor of legalizing the possession of a small amount of marijuana for personal use – up from 22 percent in 1997.

Fifteen states and the District allow marijuana to be used for medicinal purposes, and there are signs that public consternation is growing over the sometimes severe punishments doled out for minor drug offenses. In Montana last week, a group of potential jurors objected en masse upon learning that a man was arrested on marijuana possession. The uprising led the prosecution to seek a plea deal.

Self-described conservatives remain the most opposed to legalizing marijuana, with 69 percent against such a change in the laws in the Post poll. But there have been recent efforts to convince conservatives that it is in line with their small-government philosophy to consider alternatives to imprisonment for minor drug offenses.

Gary Johnson, a libertarian and former Republican governor of New Mexico, took his pro-legalization message to tea party rallies this summer. Gov. Mitchell E. Daniels Jr. (R-Ind.) this month embraced a proposal to reduce sentences for nonviolent offenders, including some drug criminals, and to increase access to drug treatment programs – in the name of government efficiency.

“Conservatives for a long time have supported a one-size-fits-all solution, which is: Lock them up and throw away the key. There’s a growing realization that it hasn’t worked very well and it’s been very expensive,” said David Guenthner, spokesman for Right on Crime, a Texas-based group that advocates for criminal justice reforms from a conservative perspective. The group does not support decriminalizing marijuana, however.

Guenthner would not comment on Robertson’s remarks, which came after “The 700 Club” aired a segment on Right on Crime and faith-based programs in prisons.

“Those men and women want to know the Lord, but there’s something else we’ve got to recognize. . . . These judges, they say, they throw their hands up and say, there’s nothing we can do because of these mandatory sentences,” Robertson said.

He continued: “We’ve got to take a look at what we’re considering crimes, and that’s one of them. . . . Young people go into prison . . . as youths and they come out as hardened criminals, and it’s not a good thing.”

Polling director Jon Cohen contributed to this report.



Latino Police Officers Endorse Prop 19

*

by Phillip Smith, October 27, 2010, 06:41pm, (Issue #655)

The National Latino Officers Association (NLAO) endorsed Proposition 19 Wednesday, citing a new report that found Latinos are disproportionately arrested for simple marijuana possession in California. Latinos are arrested at two to three times the rate of whites, the report found, even though they use marijuana at a lower rate than whites.

Prop 19 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 or older and allow them to grow up to 25 square feet of pot and possess the resulting harvest. It would also allow cities and counties to permit, regulate, and tax the commercial cultivation and sale of marijuana.

“As police officers sworn to protect public safety and the well-being of our community, NLAO is proud to endorse Proposition 19,” said the group’s Manuel Rodriguez at a Wednesday press conference. “Prohibition is dangerous and deadly. Keeping marijuana prohibition has allowed a lucrative black market and threatened public safety in our community and the USA,” he said. “Instead of making our streets safer, we’re spending that money incarcerating tens of thousands of people, including many Latinos.”

While Latinos are more likely than whites to be arrested for pot possession in California, they are also arrested at rates disproportionate to their numbers in the state. In Irvine, for example, Latinos make up 9% of the population, but account for 20% of all pot possession arrests. Similarly, in San Jose, Latinos account for 30% of the population, but 55% of all pot possession arrests, the report found.

California is home to some 14 million Latinos, who account for 37% of the state’s population. But because many Latinos are foreign nationals, they account for only 21% of the state’s electorate. Still, Latinos are the largest ethnic minority in the state, and nearly two-thirds of them are registered Democrats. Support for Prop 19 among Latino voters has varied widely in polls, and Wednesday’s press conference and endorsement were designed to bring this key demographic over to the “yes” side.

“This report documents very significant and widespread disparities in arrest rates for low-level marijuana possession,” said Stephen Gutwillig, California director for the Drug Policy Alliance, which sponsored the report. “Latinos have been arrested at double and triple the rate of whites in the past few years. There has been an extraordinary escalation in arrests for small amounts of marijuana in the past 20 years,” Gutwillig added, noting that pot arrests have tripled to more than 60,000 annually since 1990.

The big increase in marijuana possession busts has come as arrests for all other crimes, including other drug offenses, have dropped dramatically in the state, Gutwillig noted. “At the heart of the dramatic increase in arrests have been substantial race-based disparities, specifically targeting Latinos and African-Americans, and especially young African-Americans and Latinos.”

Since federal arrest data does not include a specific category for Latinos, marijuana arrests rates for the group are substantially undercounted, Gutwillig said. Disproportionate minority arrest rates are not the result of racist cops, but a systemic problem, he added. “The disparities documented in this report are the result of routine, pervasive police practices,” he said. “This is a statewide phenomenon.”

Also at the press conference was Diane Goldstein, a retired lieutenant commander with the Redondo Beach Police Department and a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “The current war on drugs has not just failed,” she said, “but is a policy disaster. We need solutions that deal with our communities’ drug problems. We believe that through regulation, control, and taxation, we will actually decrease the likelihood of the youth in our community using marijuana,” she said. “Drug abuse is a health problem, not a law enforcement matter. It is time for us to overcome our fears and and honestly assess the results of a drug war against our youth. Proposition 19 is a step in the right direction.”

Police have other, more pressing priorities than nickel and dime pot busts, said Rodriguez. “We as the NLOA are backing California on this so we can concentrate on crimes that are violent,” he said. “We’ve got worries about terrorists and explosions and two wars going on. We can concentrate more on terrorism instead of going into communities and locking up Latinos and African-Americans. We can use that money from marijuana revenues for schools and education,” he said.

Proposition 19 spokesperson Dale Sky Jones also addressed the press conference. “We’ve found  in California and across the country that currently policy has failed,” she said. “We have an opportunity to take cannabis and its profits out of the hands of criminals and to put it in the hands of those who will control and regulate and tax it. Prop 19 was written to protect our kids, and we have an opportunity to create tens of thousands of green, sustainable jobs for households.”

It’s less than a week from election day, the vote for Prop 19 is going to be very close, and every endorsement counts. Now, the campaign has one more law enforcement group on its side.

CA  

United States
See map: Google Maps


Are California’s Cops Donating Money to Keep Targeting Minorities?

Morgan Fox

by Morgan Fox
October 22, 2010

A new study released today shows conclusively that in California’s largest cities African-Americans are arrested for marijuana possession at much higher rates that whites. In the 25 cities profiled, African-Americans were arrested at four to 12 times the rate of whites, despite much higher use rates among whites.

This horrifying disparity is one reason Proposition 19 has earned the support of civil rights groups, including the California NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens of California. These numbers make it clear that removing penalties for marijuana possession would eliminate a tool that has been used to institute a system of pervasive racism in the Golden State. Given that even a single possession charge can result in severe economic and social consequences, the fact that arrests are focused so disproportionately on minority communities is an overwhelming argument for reform on November 2nd.

Some folks disagree, namely the majority of California’s law enforcement community. Several law enforcement groups have given large sums of money to the campaign against Proposition 19, the most recent being the California Police Chiefs Association, who donated $20,000 to No on Prop. 19.

Throughout the public debates on this issue, law enforcement groups (other than those backing Prop 19) have said that reformers need to prove why marijuana should not be illegal. It seems much more reasonable to expect the burden of proof to be on the other side, especially when marijuana prohibition results in such obvious racial persecution. Yet law enforcement does not rise to this challenge, probably because there is no justification for such practices in a civilized society.

Could it be that some California cops actually like targeting minorities?

If Proposition 19 passes, they will lose their easiest way to do so.

Interestingly, the largest law enforcement group supporting Proposition 19 is…

…the National Black Police Association.

 


%d bloggers like this: