In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

fuckyeahdrugpolicy:

How Nonviolent People Are Sentenced to Die in Prison Because of the War on Drugs
In the United States, one can be sentenced to life in prison for the following crimes:
Possessing a crack pipe
Possessing a bottle cap containing a trace amount of heroin (too minute to be weighed)
Having traces of cocaine in clothes pockets that were invisible to the naked eye but detected in lab tests
Having a single crack rock at home
Possessing 32 grams of marijuana (worth about $380 in California) with intent to distribute
Passing out several grams of LSD at a Grateful Dead show
Acting as a go-between in the sale of $10 worth of marijuana to an undercover cop
Selling a single crack rock
Having a stash of over-the-counter decongestant pills
These are not hypothetical. Every single one of these petty, nonviolent drug crimes have landed Americans in prison for life without parole.
Life in prison without a chance of parole is, short of execution, the harshest imaginable punishment. Life without parole (LWOP) is permanent removal from society with no chance of reentry, no hope of freedom. One would expect the American criminal justice system to condemn someone to die in prison only for the most serious offenses.
Yet across the country, thousands of people are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for nonviolent crimes such as those listed above. 
As of last year, 3,278 people were serving life in prison without parole for nonviolent crimes, according to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last week.
And to no one’s surprise, about 79 percent of the 3,278 prisoners serving LWOP were sentenced to die in prison for nonviolent drug crimes in the federal system.
How is this possible?
Mandatory sentencing laws that stem from America’s fervent, decades-long crusade against drugs.
The vast majority (83 percent) of life sentences examined by the ACLU were mandatory, meaning that the presiding judge had no choice but to sentence the defendant to a life behind bars. Mandatory sentences often result from repeat offender laws and draconian sentencing rules. Such federal standards for drug convictions are what land nonviolent criminals in prison for LWOP.
The prevalence of LWOP sentences for nonviolent offenses is a symptom of the relentless onslaught of more than four decades of the War on Drugs and “tough-on crime” policies, which drove the passage of unnecessarily harsh sentencing laws, including three-strikes provisions (which mandate certain sentences for a third felony conviction) and mandatory minimum sentences (which require judges to punish people convicted of certain crimes by at least a mandatory minimum number of years in prison). 
These inflexible, often extremely lengthy, “one-size-fits-all” sentencing laws prevent judges from tailoring punishment to the individual and the seriousness of the offense, barring them from considering factors such as the individual’s role in the offense or the likelihood that he or she will commit a subsequent crime.
Federal judges have long been outspoken in their opposition to mandatory sentencing laws. Judge Andre M. Davis of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: "I say with certainty that mandatory minimums are unfair and unjust. These laws, created by an overzealous Congress decades ago … hinder judges from handing out fair and individualized sentences, while prosecutors are given unwarranted power to dictate sentences through charging decisions."
How do petty drug crimes add up to life without parole?
Three federal drug offenses can result in LWOP, even if the offenses are relatively minor. For example, a federal conviction for possessing 50 grams of methamphetamine carries a mandatory life-without-parole sentence if the defendant has previously been convicted of two other felony drug offenses, which can be as minor as selling personal amounts of marijuana.
A handful of states have instituted mandatory LWOP sentences for certain drug offenses. In Alabama, a conviction for selling more than 56 grams of heroin results in a mandatory LWOP sentence. Similarly, a person convicted of selling two ounces of cocaine in Mississippi must receive LWOP. To put these sentences in perspective, the average time served for murder in the U.S. is 14 years.
While laws such as these were enacted in part out of concern about drug abuse and drug-related crime, the penalties they prescribe have not succeeded in curbing drug use or addiction rates, which have essentially remained flat for 40 years. Instead, the laws have contributed to mass incarceration in the U.S. 
The ACLU report contains the in-depth stories of 110 individual prisoners waiting to die behind bars for nonviolent offenses, along with more detailed information about mandatory sentencing.
Thanks to Mother Jones and the ACLU

fuckyeahdrugpolicy:

How Nonviolent People Are Sentenced to Die in Prison Because of the War on Drugs

In the United States, one can be sentenced to life in prison for the following crimes:

  • Possessing a crack pipe
  • Possessing a bottle cap containing a trace amount of heroin (too minute to be weighed)
  • Having traces of cocaine in clothes pockets that were invisible to the naked eye but detected in lab tests
  • Having a single crack rock at home
  • Possessing 32 grams of marijuana (worth about $380 in California) with intent to distribute
  • Passing out several grams of LSD at a Grateful Dead show
  • Acting as a go-between in the sale of $10 worth of marijuana to an undercover cop
  • Selling a single crack rock
  • Having a stash of over-the-counter decongestant pills

These are not hypothetical. Every single one of these petty, nonviolent drug crimes have landed Americans in prison for life without parole.

Life in prison without a chance of parole is, short of execution, the harshest imaginable punishment. Life without parole (LWOP) is permanent removal from society with no chance of reentry, no hope of freedom. One would expect the American criminal justice system to condemn someone to die in prison only for the most serious offenses.

Yet across the country, thousands of people are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for nonviolent crimes such as those listed above. 

As of last year, 3,278 people were serving life in prison without parole for nonviolent crimes, according to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) last week.

And to no one’s surprise, about 79 percent of the 3,278 prisoners serving LWOP were sentenced to die in prison for nonviolent drug crimes in the federal system.

How is this possible?

Mandatory sentencing laws that stem from America’s fervent, decades-long crusade against drugs.

The vast majority (83 percent) of life sentences examined by the ACLU were mandatory, meaning that the presiding judge had no choice but to sentence the defendant to a life behind bars. Mandatory sentences often result from repeat offender laws and draconian sentencing rules. Such federal standards for drug convictions are what land nonviolent criminals in prison for LWOP.

The prevalence of LWOP sentences for nonviolent offenses is a symptom of the relentless onslaught of more than four decades of the War on Drugs and “tough-on crime” policies, which drove the passage of unnecessarily harsh sentencing laws, including three-strikes provisions (which mandate certain sentences for a third felony conviction) and mandatory minimum sentences (which require judges to punish people convicted of certain crimes by at least a mandatory minimum number of years in prison). 

These inflexible, often extremely lengthy, “one-size-fits-all” sentencing laws prevent judges from tailoring punishment to the individual and the seriousness of the offense, barring them from considering factors such as the individual’s role in the offense or the likelihood that he or she will commit a subsequent crime.

Federal judges have long been outspoken in their opposition to mandatory sentencing laws. Judge Andre M. Davis of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: "I say with certainty that mandatory minimums are unfair and unjust. These laws, created by an overzealous Congress decades ago … hinder judges from handing out fair and individualized sentences, while prosecutors are given unwarranted power to dictate sentences through charging decisions."

How do petty drug crimes add up to life without parole?

Three federal drug offenses can result in LWOP, even if the offenses are relatively minor. For example, a federal conviction for possessing 50 grams of methamphetamine carries a mandatory life-without-parole sentence if the defendant has previously been convicted of two other felony drug offenses, which can be as minor as selling personal amounts of marijuana.

A handful of states have instituted mandatory LWOP sentences for certain drug offenses. In Alabama, a conviction for selling more than 56 grams of heroin results in a mandatory LWOP sentence. Similarly, a person convicted of selling two ounces of cocaine in Mississippi must receive LWOP. To put these sentences in perspective, the average time served for murder in the U.S. is 14 years.

While laws such as these were enacted in part out of concern about drug abuse and drug-related crime, the penalties they prescribe have not succeeded in curbing drug use or addiction rates, which have essentially remained flat for 40 years. Instead, the laws have contributed to mass incarceration in the U.S. 

The ACLU report contains the in-depth stories of 110 individual prisoners waiting to die behind bars for nonviolent offenses, along with more detailed information about mandatory sentencing.

Thanks to Mother Jones and the ACLU

Western leaders study 'gamechanging' report on global drugs trade

European governments and the Obama administration are this weekend studying a “gamechanging” report on global drugs policy that is being seen in some quarters as the beginning of the end for blanket prohibition.

Publication of the Organisation of American States (OAS) review, commissioned at last year’s Cartagena Summit of the Americas attended by Barack Obama, reflects growing dissatisfaction among Latin American countries with the current global policy on illicit drugs. It spells out the effects of the policy on many countries and examines what the global drugs trade will look like if the status quo continues. It notes how rapidly countries’ unilateral drugs policies are evolving, while at the same time there is a growing consensus over the human costs of the trade. “Growing media attention regarding this phenomenon in many countries, including on social media, reflects a world in which there is far greater awareness of the violence and suffering associated with the drug problem,” José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the OAS, says in a foreword to the review. “We also enjoy a much better grasp of the human and social costs not only of drug use but also of the production and transit of controlled substances.”

Insulza describes the report, which examines a number of ways to reform the current pro-prohibition position, as the start of “a long-awaited discussion”, one that experts say puts Europe and North America on notice that the current situation will change, with or without them. Latin American leaders have complained bitterly that western countries, whose citizens consume the drugs, fail to appreciate the damage of the trade. In one scenario envisaged in the report, a number of South American countries would break with the prohibition line and decide that they will no longer deploy law enforcement and the army against drug cartels, having concluded that the human costs of the “war on drugs” is too high.

The west’s responsibility to reshape global drugs policy will be emphasised in three weeks when Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, the president of Colombia, who initiated the review, arrives in Britain. His visit is part of a programme to push for changes in global policy that will lead up to a special UN general assembly in 2016 when the scenarios of the OAS are expected to have a significant influence.

Experts described the publication of the review as a historic moment. “This report represents the most high-level discussion about drug policy reform ever undertaken, and shows tremendous leadership from Latin America on the global debate,” said Kasia Malinowska-Sempruch, director of the Open Society Foundation’s Global Drug Policy Program, which has described its publication as a “game-changer”.

“It was particularly important to hear president Santos invite the states of Europe to contribute toward envisioning a better international drug policy. These reports inspire a conversation on drug policy that has been long overdue.”

The report represents the first time any significant multilateral agency has outlined serious alternatives to prohibition, including legal market regulation or reform of the UN drug conventions.

“While leaders have talked about moving from criminalisation to public health in drug policy, punitive, abstinence-only approaches have still predominated, even in the health sphere,” said Daniel Wolfe, director of the Open Society Foundation’s International Harm Reduction Program. “These scenarios offer a chance for leaders to replace indiscriminate detention and rights’ abuses with approaches that distinguish between users and traffickers, and offer the community-based health services that work best for those in need.”

In a statement, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, which campaigns for changes in drug laws and is supported by the former presidents of several South American states, said that publication of the review would break “the taboo that blocked for so long the debate on more humane and efficient drug policy”. The Commission said that it was “time that governments around the world are allowed to responsibly experiment with regulation models that are tailored to their realities and local need”.

A Group of Drug War Profiteers Are Asking Eric Holder to Stop Legal Pot in Colorado and Washington

abaldwin360:

(reason.com) - A coalition of interest groups whose members profit off marijuana prohibition, including the former leader of a chain of abusive teen rehab centers, have sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding that the Department of Justice prevent Colorado and Washington from taxing and regulating marijuana.

“We are writing to you to enforce the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in Colorado and Washington with respect to recent ballot measures legalizing marijuana,” reads the letter, which was written by former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-Rhode Island) on behalf of the National Narcotic Officers Association Coalition, the National Association of Drug Court Professionals, Mel Sembler’s Smart Colorado, and several other groups.

read more

By the way, Mel Sembler who runs “Smart Colorado” once ran a chain of teen age drug rehab centers that were shut down due to rampant cases of abuse and rape.

These people profit from laws that ruin lives and they don’t want to lose their cash cow.

Now that public opinions are starting to shift in favor of making MJ legal, things like this - people who stand to profit from it remaining illegal are going to lobby hard against it, and will probably remain a major obstacle.

Rep. Jared Polis (D-Co) will introduce a bill tomorrow in the US House of Representatives that will regulate marijuana in the same manner as alcohol federally.

abaldwin360:

SEATTLE (AP) — An effort is building in Congress to change U.S. marijuana laws, including moves to legalize the industrial production of hemp and establish a federal pot tax.

While passage this year could be a longshot, lawmakers from both parties have been quietly working on several bills, the first of which Democratic Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon and Jared Polis of Colorado plan to introduce Tuesday, Blumenauer told The Associated Press.

Polis’ measure would regulate marijuana the way the federal government handles alcohol: In states that legalize pot, growers would have to obtain a federal permit. Oversight of marijuana would be removed from the Drug Enforcement Administration and given to the newly renamed Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Marijuana and Firearms, and it would remain illegal to bring marijuana from a state where it’s legal to one where it isn’t.

The bill is based on a legalization measure previously pushed by former Reps. Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Ron Paul of Texas.

Blumenauer’s bill would create a federal marijuana excise tax.

Last fall’s votes in Colorado and Washington state to legalize recreational marijuana should push Congress to end the 75-year federal pot prohibition, Blumenauer said.

“You folks in Washington and my friends in Colorado really upset the apple cart,” Blumenauer said. “We’re still arresting two-thirds of a million people for use of a substance that a majority feel should be legal. … It’s past time for us to step in and try to sort this stuff out.”

read more

I highly doubt this particular bill will go anywhere (how I would love to be wrong about that) but this is a step in the right direction, and the fact that we are even talking about it at this level is a good sign, in my eyes.

Prohibition is obviously a pointless disaster, but what about alcohol regulation? Instead of an arbitrary ban, we have sensible regulations on liquor: Who can buy, who can sell, where it can be sold and consumed etc etc… 

It’s a false dichotomy to assume the only choices are full deregulation or drug war style prohibition.

Prohibition is obviously a pointless disaster, but what about alcohol regulation? Instead of an arbitrary ban, we have sensible regulations on liquor: Who can buy, who can sell, where it can be sold and consumed etc etc…

It’s a false dichotomy to assume the only choices are full deregulation or drug war style prohibition.

fuckyeahdrugpolicy:

Colorado, Washington Legalize Marijuana | Drug War Chronicle
WASHINGTON: Initiative 502 legalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and over, but does not allow for personal cultivation, except by or for medical marijuana patients. It will license marijuana cultivation and retail and wholesale sales, with restrictions on advertising. Regulation will be the remit of the state liquor control board, which will have to come up with rules by December 2013. The measure creates a 25% excise tax on marijuana sales, with 40% of revenues dedicated to the general fund and 60% dedicated to substance abuse prevention, research, and healthcare. It also creates a per se driving under the influence standard of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.
COLORADO: Amendment 64 allows adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana or six marijuana plants, three of which can be mature. It will create a system of state-licensed cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities and state-licensed retail stores. Local governments would have the option of regulating or prohibiting such facilities. The amendment also requires the state legislature to enact legislation governing industrial hemp cultivation, processing, and sale, and to create an excise tax on wholesale marijuana sales. The first $40 million of that annual revenue will be dedicated to building public schools.
also, medical marijuana won in massachusetts

Hoping this forces a new debate over the drug war.

fuckyeahdrugpolicy:

Colorado, Washington Legalize Marijuana | Drug War Chronicle

  • WASHINGTON: Initiative 502 legalizes the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana by adults 21 and over, but does not allow for personal cultivation, except by or for medical marijuana patients. It will license marijuana cultivation and retail and wholesale sales, with restrictions on advertising. Regulation will be the remit of the state liquor control board, which will have to come up with rules by December 2013. The measure creates a 25% excise tax on marijuana sales, with 40% of revenues dedicated to the general fund and 60% dedicated to substance abuse prevention, research, and healthcare. It also creates a per se driving under the influence standard of 5 nanograms of THC per milliliter of blood.
  • COLORADO: Amendment 64 allows adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of marijuana or six marijuana plants, three of which can be mature. It will create a system of state-licensed cultivation, manufacturing, and testing facilities and state-licensed retail stores. Local governments would have the option of regulating or prohibiting such facilities. The amendment also requires the state legislature to enact legislation governing industrial hemp cultivation, processing, and sale, and to create an excise tax on wholesale marijuana sales. The first $40 million of that annual revenue will be dedicated to building public schools.

also, medical marijuana won in massachusetts

Hoping this forces a new debate over the drug war.

Marijuana’s Recreational, Medical Use On The Ballot In Six States.

VOTE! This is our time to force a change in the drug war discussion! If you live in Colorado, Oregon, or Washington I implore you to get out and vote and make sure your friends do too! 

This is real change, act on it! It’s not just about letting pot heads be pot heads. This is about a system of mass incarceration, police militarization and social casting. A rare occasion to reduce government power while improving it’s fiscal health at the same time as it would save/earn states billions.
Marijuana’s Recreational, Medical Use On The Ballot In Six States.

VOTE! This is our time to force a change in the drug war discussion! If you live in Colorado, Oregon, or Washington I implore you to get out and vote and make sure your friends do too!

This is real change, act on it! It’s not just about letting pot heads be pot heads. This is about a system of mass incarceration, police militarization and social casting. A rare occasion to reduce government power while improving it’s fiscal health at the same time as it would save/earn states billions.

fuckyeahdrugpolicy:

Uruguay government announces plan to sell marijuana | The Telegraph

Under the plan backed by President Jose Mujica’s leftist administration, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana and only to adults who register on a government database, letting officials keep track of their purchases over time. [In a radio interview on Thursday, Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro seemed to backtrack, saying the registry “sounds a little authoritarian and perhaps we should avoid it,” according to the WSJ.]  
Profits would reportedly go toward rehabilitating drug addicts.
“It’s a fight on both fronts: against consumption and drug trafficking. We think the prohibition of some drugs is creating more problems to society than the drug itself,” Fernández Huidobro told reporters late on Wednesday. 
Fernández said the bill would soon be sent to Congress, which is dominated by Mujica’s party, but that an exact date had not been set. If approved, Uruguay’s national government would be the first in the world to directly sell marijuana to its citizens.
full article

fuckyeahdrugpolicy:

Uruguay government announces plan to sell marijuana | The Telegraph

Under the plan backed by President Jose Mujica’s leftist administration, only the government would be allowed to sell marijuana and only to adults who register on a government database, letting officials keep track of their purchases over time. [In a radio interview on Thursday, Defense Minister Eleuterio Fernández Huidobro seemed to backtrack, saying the registry “sounds a little authoritarian and perhaps we should avoid it,” according to the WSJ.]  

Profits would reportedly go toward rehabilitating drug addicts.

“It’s a fight on both fronts: against consumption and drug trafficking. We think the prohibition of some drugs is creating more problems to society than the drug itself,” Fernández Huidobro told reporters late on Wednesday. 

Fernández said the bill would soon be sent to Congress, which is dominated by Mujica’s party, but that an exact date had not been set. If approved, Uruguay’s national government would be the first in the world to directly sell marijuana to its citizens.

full article

religiousragings:

cartoonpolitics:

“The global war on drugs has failed” ~ The Global Commission on Drug Policy (read more)

Who’d have ever thunk we’d be running jails as for-profit institutions?

religiousragings:

cartoonpolitics:

The global war on drugs has failed” ~ The Global Commission on Drug Policy (read more)

Who’d have ever thunk we’d be running jails as for-profit institutions?

stfuhypocrisy:

Penn Jillette Rant: Obama is a Hypocrite on Marijuana (by TheYoungTurks)

TYT’s discussion on how big of an issue marijuana legalization is to voters; how many people hold it as a priority, misses the point slightly. It’s not about the small demographic of people who are pining for legal weed. It’s about the much larger demographic that is against the war on drugs in general and the prison industrial complex that is thriving on it; eating people up, ruining lives and wasting billions of dollars on this moral crusade. I feel like that was Penn Jilette’s point: Had the president been caught using the drugs he used in his youth, and been subject to the laws he himself supports, he would’ve gone to prison and been derailed from the life path that has brought him to the white house and instead become another minority statistic. Unfortunately, the voters are going to have to be miles ahead of the congress (like 80% approval) before a policy shift will become likely.