Interests, Hobbies & Vices
Attorney General Jeff Sessions continued a personal campaign to demonize marijuana, calling cannabis a "life-wrecking dependency" that is "only slightly less awful" than heroin in a speech on violent crime in Richmond, Virginia, Wednesday.
Marijuana users and heroin addicts are basically the same, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Wednesday in Richmond, Virginia. “I am astonished to hear people suggest that we can solve our heroin crisis by legalizing marijuana?—?so people can trade one life-wrecking dependency for another that’s only slightly less awful,” said Sessions. He went on to call for a revival of hardline ’80s- and ‘90s-style “educating people and telling them the terrible truth about drugs.”
As America debates drug policy reforms and marijuana legalization, there's one aspect of the war on drugs that remains perplexingly contradictory: Some of the most dangerous drugs in the US are legal.
Twenty-four hours after authorities arrested Sarah Furay on charges of drug possession and manufacture charges, the 19-year-old Texan was safe at home. Inside the bedroom of her College Station apartment police found large amounts of Ecstasy, cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and an LSD analogue. They also found packing materials and two digital scales. Following the seizure, Furay was taken to Brazos County Jail, where the evidently unruffled teen smiled for a mugshot. After posting $39,000 bail, she left.
On November 3rd, voters in Ohio will decide the fate of legal weed — making the Buckeye State an unlikely ground zero in the national divide of the legalization movement. The fight pits the movement's ponytailed old guard against its rising carpetbaggers, a cadre of Rolex-wearing, politically connected businessmen intent on controlling the growth, sale and subsequent $100 million profits of legal weed. Unlike Ohio's longtime activists, the new weed elite has a $23.5 million war chest to campaign for dispensaries on every block.
This November, Ohio will vote on whether to become the biggest state to fully legalize marijuana. But the measure is very different from what's come out of other legal pot states — and not in a good way, according to drug policy experts and legalization advocates. Ohio is already an unexpected candidate for full legalization compared with the four legal pot states. It isn't especially progressive like Colorado, Oregon, and Washington state, or libertarian like Alaska. It doesn't even have medical marijuana yet, although it was one of the states to decriminalize pot back in the 1970s.
As the US debates drug policy reforms and marijuana legalization, there's one aspect of the war on drugs that remains perplexingly contradictory: some of the most dangerous drugs in the US are legal. Don't believe it? The available data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows tobacco, alcohol, and opioid-based prescription painkillers were responsible for more direct deaths in one year than any other drug. The chart above compares those drug deaths with the best available data for cocaine, heroin, and marijuana deaths.
On September 6, 2006, a score of masked gunmen stormed into a night club in Uruapan, Michoacán, fired at the ceiling, and tossed five severed heads onto the white-tiled dance floor. Being narcotraficantes—members of one of the brutal drug cartels that effectively ruled large swaths of Mexico in the early years of this century—they also left a note. In towns along the border, boastful, taunting, and tendentious banners and placards, or narcomantas, were routinely hung up next to piles of corpses. This one read, “The Family doesn’t kill for money. It doesn’t kill women. It doesn’t kill innocent people, only those who deserve to die. Know that this is divine justice.”
The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday affirmed lower courts' rulings that businesses can fire employees for the use of medical marijuana — even if it's off-duty. The 6-0 decision comes nine months after the state's highest court heard oral arguments in Brandon Coats' case against Dish Network. Coats, who had a medical marijuana card and consumed pot off-duty to control muscle spasms, was fired in 2010 after failing a random drug test.
Maryland District Judge Askew Gatewood brushed off a prosecutor's request to jail Ronald Hammond for possessing 5.9 grams of marijuana — saying it wasn't even enough pot to "roll you a decent joint" — and ordered the Baltimore man to pay a $100 fine instead. But the case eventually led to a 20-year prison sentence for Hammond. As the Baltimore Sun's Justin Fenton reported, Hammond was on probation at the time for selling $40 worth of crack cocaine to an undercover officer. Maryland Circuit Judge Lynn Stewart-Mays suspended a 20-year sentence in that case, telling Hammond he would face the full term if he violated his probation in any way.
A landmark case in Connecticut could radically change the way marijuana convictions are handled. What happens to the millions of Americans with existing marijuana convictions once it’s legal? This week, with a groundbreaking case in Connecticut, the U.S. may be one step closer to an answer. The ruling came in favor of 31-year-old Nicholas Menditto, who argued that the two marijuana possession convictions on his record should be erased now that less than a half-ounce of the drug has been decriminalized. His case was initially struck down by an appellate court, which ruled that the law pertained more to “legalization” than “decriminalization.” But when Menditto brought the case to the state’s supreme court, they disagreed.
The FBI's jobs page makes it pretty clear how the agency feels about marijuana: "You can easily determine whether you meet the FBI's illegal drug policy by answering the following questions." The list's first question: "Have you used marijuana at all within the last three years?" Government agencies are some of the strictest of employers when it comes to drug testing. The CIA's policy, for example, prohibits marijuana use in the previous 12 months, but any prior drug use is "carefully evaluated."
In a little over two years, four states have legalized the cultivation and distribution of marijuana—Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska—under state law. Of course, marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but the Obama administration has taken a hands-off approach, explaining in a 2013 Justice Department memo that prosecution of marijuana cases would henceforth be a limited enforcement priority. Meanwhile, potent cannabis grown with scientific techniques under license has started finding its way into states where the weed is still illegal. Last December, Nebraska and Oklahoma sued Colorado in the Supreme Court, arguing that its regulations undermine the federal Controlled Substances Act, create a nuisance in their states, and should be struck down.
The House Republican who could end up undoing a District of Columbia voter referendum to legalize marijuana has a blunt message for residents of the capital city: If you don’t like it, move out. “That’s the way the Constitution was written,” Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland said in an interview Wednesday. “If they don’t like that oversight, move outside of the federal district to one of the 50 states that is not covered by the jurisdiction of Congress as a whole.”
Citizens voted this year to legalize recreational cannabis, but the history of legal weed in the Last Frontier goes back to a bold move by lawyer Irwin Ravin in 1972.
Football is so brutal that the league is accused of doling out dangerous amounts and mixes of narcotics to keep players in the game. Now even the DEA is concerned. On Sunday, according to ESPN, Federal Drug Enforcement agents conducted “surprise inspections” of multiple NFL teams, including the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers, as part of an ongoing investigation into the use, or rather the misuse, of prescription drugs. A source explained to ESPN that “the inspections were motivated by allegations raised in a May 2014 federal lawsuit, filed on behalf of several prominent NFL players, who allege team physicians and trainers routinely gave them painkillers in an illegal manner to mask injuries and keep them on the field."
Two recent films are reigniting a debate that was never really settled, not for everyone: Did President Ronald Reagan permit (or even facilitate) the sale of tons of cocaine into the American inner city during the height of the crack crisis? It’s likely that audiences of “Kill the Messenger” and “Freeway: Crack in the System” will be shocked to hear the allegations. The reverence shown Reagan, much of it bipartisan, shields the late president’s legacy from the Iran-Contra affair’s web of gun-running, terror support and narcotrafficking. Reagan, so grandfatherly, so esteemed, couldn’t have possibly presided over such criminality, right?
Statewide marijuana legalization measures in 2014 got more support from voters than most of the major politicians on the same statewide ballots. The recreational marijuana legalization initiatives in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, DC, won a higher percentage of the vote than many of the gubernatorial, mayoral, and congressional candidates who were also on statewide (or district-wide) ballots. Even in Florida, the medical marijuana measure that fell short of the 60 percent approval it needed to pass performed better than any of the gubernatorial or attorney general candidates. Here's how support for marijuana initiatives stacked up against support for some of the states' winning politicians.
President Obama lost his mandate to govern Tuesday, as his party ceded control of the Senate and additional seats in the House. For partisans who obsess over the ups and downs of every election cycle, that makes Democrats seem like the biggest losers in the midterms, though they could realistically regain the Senate in 2016. Indisputably, the Democrats had a terrible night. But the 2014 losers least likely to regain ground in future elections are marijuana prohibitionists. Oregon and Alaska just became the third and fourth states to legalize the drug. Washington, D.C., voted for legalization, as did the city of South Portland, Maine. The island territory of Guam chose to allow medicinal marijuana.
Two states — Oregon and Alaska — and Washington, D.C., are voting Tuesday on ballot measures to legalize marijuana. Florida is voting to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes. On the heels of successful legalization efforts in Colorado and Washington state in 2012, activists are hoping to pick up at least one win in a tougher year — there are midterm elections rather than a presidential election. The voting blocs most sympathetic to marijuana legalization — younger voters and people of color — turn out less for these off-year elections than for presidential fights. Still, Florida and Alaska have high-profile statewide offices up for grabs in tight races — governor and senator, respectively — so it’s possible there may be some turnout advantage.