Tag: Drug War

The Last Racist NYPD Cannabis Arrests of its Prohibition Era Illustrate Why We Must End the Drug War

Even before Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs fifty years ago, our nation’s drug laws have disproportionately harmed people of color and the poor generally. Drug use rates are virtually identical across racial lines, yet Black and Brown communities are much more likely to suffer arrests, prosecutions, and imprisonment. And you hardly ever hear of wealthy Americans facing severe legal consequences for their drug use, even with multiple law enforcement encounters that would likely lead everyday folks to prison sentences. The last cannabis arrest report by the New York Police Department (NYPD) of the Empire State’s prohibition era shows the immense racial disparities of the law and really shine a light on why our nation needs to completely end the Drug War, as Marijuana Moment reported:

“Of the 3,687 possession-related summons issued from January through the end of March, for example, 2,374 were issued to black people, 1,089 were for hispanic people and just 102 were for white people. When it comes to arrests, 78 targeted black people, 70 involved hispanic people and just six white people were arrested for cannabis.

“That’s despite the fact that rates of consumption are comparable across those races.

“Put another way, black and hispanic people accounted for 94 percent of the total marijuana summonses and 91 percent of cannabis arrests in New York City last quarter—a rate that is greatly disproportionate to the racial makeup of the city’s population.”

Thankfully, New York has now legalized, eliminating most future cannabis arrests, but these racially disproportionate drug enforcement actions carry across all types of drugs. Clearly, the status quo of arresting and jailing people for personal drug possession has not worked. We need a new health-based approach, instead of a costly and harmful policy based on punishment people. Oregon has helped lead the way and important decriminalization laws have gained traction in other states such as California and Maine. While some prohibitionists want to go backwards and repeal our progress, we can’t let that happen. We need to invest in our people, not more prisons.

Celebrate cannabis freedom and our great state leading the fight against the Drug War by enjoying the best selection in the Great Northwest at Kind Leaf, Pendleton’s premier craft cannabis boutique. Come visit the store or order online via Leafly.

Poll: 66% of Americans Favor Following Oregon’s Lead and Decriminalizing Drugs

Like cannabis legalization before it, decriminalizing drugs used to seem like a far-fetched idea that would remain out of reach, thanks to decades of of propaganda and billions spent by the prison-industrial complex entrenching the Drug War within our society. However, 50 years after Richard Nixon first declared the War on Drugs, a new poll shows that a supermajority of Americans have declared the War on Drugs a failure with 66% wanting to follow Oregon’s lead in “eliminating criminal penalties for drug possession and reinvesting drug enforcement resources into treatment and addiction services.”

The support for decriminalizing drugs jumped 11% from a CATO poll in 2019 that found that 55% of voters favored ending criminal penalties for possession. Adding that enforcement resources would be invested in treatment could explain a lot of the 11 point jump in support, a winning policy combination that garnered the support of nearly 59% of Oregonians who voted for Measure 110 last November. The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) backed the Bully Pulpit Interactive poll and released statements regarding the findings:

“A different reality – one where we treat people who use drugs with dignity and respect, and one where drugs are no longer an excuse for law enforcement to surveil, harass, assault and even kill Black, Latinx and Indigenous people – is 100 percent possible, and these results clearly prove that,” said Kassandra Frederique, Executive Director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

“On this 50th anniversary of the drug war, President Biden must make good on his campaign promises and take steps to begin dismantling the system of over-policing and mass incarceration that is endemic to the War on Drugs. Today, drug possession continues to be the number one arrest in the United States, with  more than 1.35 million arrests per year. Every 25 seconds, a person is arrested for possessing drugs for personal use, with Black people disproportionately targeted by this over-policing,” said Udi Ofer, Director of the ACLU’S Justice Division.

With a whopping 83% of US voters agreeing that the War on Drugs has failed, it’s clearly time for citizens, legislators, and policymakers to look to implement sensible reforms that will treat drug use as a health matter, instead of a criminal one. We aren’t going to arrest and jail our way towards a drug-free society. It’s time to quit being naive and be realistic. Not many enjoy admitting that they made a mistake, but Uncle Sam made a huge one waging war against our own citizens. What people are finally realizing is that our policies shouldn’t be determined by our feelings about drugs, but about our concerns about what is best for our people. What do you want for your loved ones that may use drugs? Do you want a prison sentence without any adequate treatment or recovery programs or do you want to provide them with the health services that they may need? We should be investing in people, not prisons and while it’s five decades too late, it’s never too late to do the right thing. It’s time to end the Drug War.

Bully Pulpit Interactive (BPI) conducted a nationally representative survey among 800 registered voters between
May 17- 20, 2021. 400 interviews were conducted via phone (40% cell) and 400 conducted online. Results were
weighted to be representative of the nation’s registered voters. While margin of error calculations do not apply to
non-random samples, the margin of error on a truly random sample of 800 is +/- 3.46 percentage points at the
95% confidence interval.

Kind Leaf is proud to help fund important treatment, harm reduction, and recovery services that benefit our local community.

Minnesota House Passes Cannabis Legalization for the First Time

The cannabis legalization movement makes history seemingly every day, continuing important momentum in the fight against failed Drug War policies. Despite record-breaking polling numbers showing widespread support for ending prohibition, legislative victories are extremely tough. While some of the victories may seem like they happen quickly, the foundation for these wins takes many years, if not several decades. It probably surprises some that Minnesota hasn’t already legalized cannabis, but the state’s house just passed such a bill for the first time. While passage in the Senate, is unlikely it’s important to celebrate these victories as they beget more victories and bring us one step closer to the ultimate goal. KSTP Channel 5 reported:

The bill, sponsored by House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, would allow for the possession and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana and expunge the criminal records of non-violent offenses involving cannabis.

“The war on drugs is a failed policy. The harms caused by current cannabis laws cannot be allowed to continue,” Winkler said in a statement. “Minnesota’s illegal cannabis market creates bad outcomes for everyone. Responsible regulations and safeguards to prevent youth access are a better solution to address the harms our current laws fail to address.”

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The bill heads next to the Republican-controlled Senate, but Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has already said it will not be brought to the floor for a vote.

The legislative process is often a complicated and tricky proposition, especially for the cannabis community as there are a lot of details to be worked out to legalize the right way. It’s difficult to navigate various interests through different committees, and this bill had to survive 12 committees to finally make its way to a floor vote. It takes tenacity to a lot of determination to accomplish such a goal and Minnesotan advocates should be commended. They have the foundation of the House built, now they just have to figure out the Senate.

One of the best things about working in drug policy reform is that you learn something new all of the time, virtually every single day. Even when you don’t achieve your ultimate goal and you lose an election or legislative battle, you gain wisdom as you find new allies and absorb new information. While the folks in the Land of 10,000 Lakes apparently won’t win the ultimate goal of ending cannabis prohibition this legislative session, they are in a better position than ever before and I predict that they will be joining the states that have swept Reefer Madness into the dustbin of history within the next few years.

Kind Leaf thanks activists everywhere working to free the cannabis plant.

#NoMoreDrugWar: Oregon Officially Ends Personal Drug Possession Arrests Today

The cannabis community knows all too well that the Drug War has been a terrible failure with racist and classist consequences. Communities of color have been disproportionately harmed by the War on Drugs. Here in Oregon, Black and indigenous residents have especially suffered from over policing, getting arrested and convicted at a higher rate than other races and, in turn, experiencing detrimental collateral consequences such the inability to get a job, find housing, or further their education. In addition to the racist nature of the War on Drugs is the toll placed upon the poor and the working class. The wealthy, you can look to many celebrity examples, usually don’t end up with severe criminal consequences for their drug use, while those without means are further locked into a cycle of poverty. February 1st, 2021, marks the first day that Measure 110 goes into effect, eliminating harmful drug possession arrests and moving Oregon towards a health-based approach to treating drug use and addiction.

Serving as a co-chief petitioner and working on the M110 campaign was an honor of mine and so many people have had to put in decades of work to dismantle tons of misinformation and propaganda to move us forward. We are seeing a groundswell of support for ending harmful drug policies, including from law enforcement. The AFSCME 75 labor union endorsed Measure 110, and 10% of their membership is comprised of prison guards, and I was pleased to read in OPB how a Portland police officer was keeping an open mind:

Police and criminal justice agencies across Oregon are figuring out how to deal with the new law. Portland Police Officer Melissa Newhard thinks it may save officers time, as they can now simply write a ticket instead of taking someone to jail.

“This will be a little bit quicker, like a traffic stop,” she said. “But … we’re still going to get these people’s names. There will be that record that they have been stopped with illegal drugs on them, whether or not they went to jail.”

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Newhard said the Portland Police Bureau has no plans to reduce the number of officers on the street because of the new law. Nor does she believe Measure 110 will reduce the number of times police search people they stop or their vehicles, because law enforcement is still tasked with preventing the sale of drugs. Newhard expects it will be relatively easy to distinguish between people carrying drugs for personal use and those carrying for sale. Officers can weigh contraband if necessary.

When the great Michelle Alexander first saw a sign that stated that “The Drug War Is the New Jim Crow” she was taken aback, thinking that the claim was too extreme, too radical. Over time, she “came to see that mass incarceration in the United States had, in fact, emerged as a stunningly comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow.”

Like Professor Alexander (who attended high school in Ashland, so Oregonians we can tout her as one of us), I was at first skeptical of claims made about cannabis and the ills of the Drug War. As I learned more and saw firsthand the tragic consequences of the War on Drugs, both personally and professionally, I knew that we had an obligation to end a harmful war being waged upon on our own citizens. Thank you, Oregon, for helping lead the way. There is still a lot of work to be done in Oregon and across the nation. Please support the efforts of the Oregon Health and Justice Recover Alliance as we all work to ensure that the will of the voters is fully enacted and the Drug Policy Alliance, who are leading the fight across the United States, and the globe.

“A Compassionate Approach to Ending the War on Drugs” Panel this Wednesday

The harms of the Drug War are legion. Most importantly, too many lives have been lost and ruined while civil rights have eroded and tax dollars have been wasted. Nations have even been destabilized and the harmful consequences of the Drug War impact virtually all facets of our lives. Thanks to the work of dedicated advocates over many decades, we have been chipping away at this failed war, starting with legalizing cannabis across the United States, whether for medical reasons, or for personal use by adults.

Thanks to the cannabis community’s victories taking place city by city and state by state, we are now seeing momentum in the Halls of Congress. We have even seeing electoral success tackling other aspects of the Drug War, from reducing criminal penalties at the legislative level, to passing several local city measures, and even decriminalizing the personal possession of all drugs in the great state of Oregon. I was honored and humbled to serve as a chief petitioner of Measure 110, Oregon’s decriminalization measure, and the Measure 91 cannabis legalization initiative and I am so pleased to be joining a the Portland Psychedelic Society’s “A Compassionate Approach to Ending the War on Drugs” panel this Wednesday, December 16th, from 5:30pm-7:30pm. The event is free, just RSVP with Eventbrite.

I will be joining Diane Goldstein, Executive Board Chair of Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP)(formerly Law Enforcement Against Prohibition); Sanho Tree, the Project Director of the Drug Policy – Institute of Policy Studies; and Abhi Dewan, the Student and Federal Liaison for the Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). We will be discussing the history and evolution of America’s drug laws towards certain psychoactive substances, the enforcement and impact on society due to the Drug War, and the important efforts being made to put an end to these harmful policies. This is an exciting time for drug policy reformers. Join us.

HUGE International News: The United Nations Reclassifies Cannabis

There are a lot of nonsensical aspects of the War on Drugs, from civil forfeiture laws to the arbitrary taxation of cannabis businesses. One of the most ridiculous components of the Drug War has been government bodies categorizing cannabis alongside lethal drugs like heroin. Finally, cannabis will no longer be considered one of the most dangerous drugs, at least under new United Nations guidelines. Probably most important is the fact that he new scheduling of cannabis had the approval of the United States.

The New York Times covered the historic vote by the UN Commission for Narcotic Drugs. Members voted 27-25 to remove medical cannabis from the most restrictive category of the world’s most dangerous drugs. While not binding, advocates hope that this vote proves to be a watershed moment, helping pave the way for an expansion of cannabis research and reforms:

Experts say that the vote will have no immediate impact on loosening international controls because governments will still have jurisdiction over how to classify cannabis. But many countries look to global conventions for guidance, and United Nations recognition is a symbolic win for advocates of drug policy change who say that international law is out of date.

“This is a huge, historic victory for us, we couldn’t hope for more,” said Kenzi Riboulet-Zemouli, an independent researcher for drug policy who has closely monitored the vote and the position of member states. He said that cannabis had been used throughout history for medicinal purposes and that the decision on Wednesday reinstated that status.

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Michael Krawitz, executive director for Veterans for Medical Cannabis Access, an advocacy group in the United States, said the change in international law would “help reduce the suffering millions of people” and could help mitigate reliance on opiates, noting that cannabis was an important medication that could provide unique pain relief.

It is so heartening to see major progress towards ending cannabis prohibition all around the globe. With over 2/3 of American voters wanting to end the federal war on cannabis, hopefully this UN reclassification will spur Congress to act and remove cannabis away from the Schedule I controlled substances category which ridiculously claims that cannabis has no medicinal value. Step by step, state by state, government body by government body, freedom and common sense are on the march across the globe.

Clackamas County, Oregon, Prosecutors Decriminalize Drugs Today

Following the passage of Oregon Measure 91 in 2014, several county prosecutors effectively legalized cannabis months before the landmark legalization law went into effect. Now, we are starting to see the same treatment of all drugs following the passage of Measure 110 with over 58% of the vote on November 3rd. The Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office sent out an email to all police chiefs in their jurisdiction that their office will stop prosecuting minor drug possession cases effective today, on November 23rd, a few months before the law officially goes into effect on February 1, 2021.

The email from Clackamas County Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Owen to law enforcement heads within the county:

Dear Chiefs:

As you are aware, Oregon voters passed Measure 110, which decriminalizes, among other things, possession of up to 1 gram of heroin, 2 grams of methamphetamine and cocaine, 12 grams of psilocybin, 40 user units of LSD 40 pills/capsules containing synthetic opiates.

The measure takes effect on February 1, 2021. At that time, persons found to be in possession of these controlled substances will be referred to local municipal or justice courts and subject to the newly created Class E infraction, which carries a maximum $100 fine. This fee will be waived if the offender provides proof of participation in a substance abuse assessment. There is no requirement that the person engage in treatment.

As the voting public has overwhelmingly passed this measure, effective 11/23/20 the Clackamas County District Attorney’s Office will stop charging new Unlawful Possession of Controlled Substance cases that will otherwise be decriminalized on February 1. It is our belief that having officers investigate and submit cases for a prosecution in the weeks leading up to February 1, which will not lead to any sanction or court supervised treatment, is not the most effective use of criminal justice resources.

While we fundamentally disagree with this measure, ceasing to prosecute these matters prior to February 1 is consistent with the will of the voters, which we must respect.

Investigations where a juvenile is found to possess controlled substances in amounts that will be decriminalized should still be referred to the Juvenile Department so the juvenile can have the opportunity for supervised treatment. There is a juvenile workgroup convening who will eventually offer guidance about what to do with juvenile referrals after February 1.

Until February 1, misdemeanor PCS is still unlawful. The decision of our office is not intended not divest local law enforcement officers the ability to conduct lawful investigations, searches and arrests. 

Good communication about this significant change is paramount. If you have any questions or need clarification about this decision, I encourage you or anyone in your agencies to contact me directly. We look forward to our presentation on December 15th where we will discuss additional specifics of M110 and its search and seizure implications.

Chris Owen

Chief Deputy District Attorney

Clackamas County DA’s Office

The Oregon cannabis community can be proud of leading the fight against the failed and harmful Drug War. As the first state to decriminalize cannabis back in 1973 and among the early states of legalizing medical and adult use cannabis (in 1998 and 2014, respectively), Oregonians are true pioneers, putting a sledgehammer to the War on Drugs, by decriminalizing drugs in 2020.

Measure 110 was made possible by cannabis law reforms passing first and that more than $100 million dollars have become available to fund drug treatment and recovery services from larger-than-expected cannabis tax revenue. When you support local dispensaries like Pendleton’s Kind Leaf, you are helping fund a variety of social programs, including more drug treatment beds, hiring more recovery mentors, housing programs, and job training services.

It’s great to see Clackamas County prosecutors ending unnecessary prosecutions early. Hopefully, other county district attorneys will follow suit. Step by step, we are saying “No More Drug War” and it’s so great to see Oregon leading the way.

Cannabis and Drug Policy Reforms Were the Big 2020 Election Winners

While we are still waiting on some states and races to finalize and certify the 2020 election results, enough votes have been counted across the nation to know that cannabis and positive drug policy reform measures were the big winners on the 2020 ballot. No recounts or lawsuits needed.

Arizona, New Jersey, Montana, and South Dakota joined the ranks of legalized states as Mississippi passed a medical measure (South Dakota also passed a medical law). Washington, D.C., passed a psychedelic decriminalization measure and the great state of Oregon shook up the world by legalizing medical psilocybin and decriminalizing personal possession of all drugs.

Once again, reforming the Drug War, especially ending the War on Cannabis, has proven to be a bipartisan or nonpartisan issue. It is time that our elected officials start representing the will of the people and immediately end cannabis prohibition and rolling back harmful Drug War arrests and prosecutions. Advocates, in the meantime must continue to pressure their representatives and policymakers while organizing efforts to pass more initiatives to take the issue directly to the voters.

It is beyond ridiculous that small craft cannabis businesses like Kind Leaf continue to have their progress hindered by discriminatory regulations and laws. The cannabis industry is creating jobs and generating revenue for Oregon and other states wise enough to end prohibition within their borders, but face too many obstacles such as a lack of banking services, exorbitant taxes, and a prohibition from utilizing state government services available to other businesses.

As usual for the cannabis community, and drug policy reformers, we can take some time to revel in our victories, but must plan on working even harder to achieve true equality. Each political and cultural victory means that we are one step closer. Step by step, the truth shall set us all free. Let’s rejoice in our gains and continue the work.

Support small businesses like Kind Leaf, whenever you can. When you support local companies, you ensure that your money stays in local communities like beautiful Pendleton, instead of moving out of state, or even out of the country. Please remember that Kind Leaf always has great deals to go along with the best selection in Oregon and discounts are available for seniors, veterans, and OMMP patients.

Juneteenth Commemorates the End of Slavery, but Slavery Still Exists in American Prisons

When you are fighting for equality and civil rights, it is extremely important to celebrate your victories. There are so many things wrong in this world, that we can easily get overwhelmed and burnt out unless we take the time to find joy. After celebrating, we activists then can move onto the next political or cultural battle, recharged and ready to create more positive change.

Like many, my heart is filled with hope seeing so many people taking to the streets and getting active fighting for freedom. Juneteenth, the day commemorating slavery finally ending in the United States, is certainly a day to reflect and celebrate important victories. However, after acknowledging the day, we need to remember that slavery actually still exists in American prisons as The Atlantic has covered:

In the shining promise of freedom that was the Thirteenth Amendment, a sharp exception was carved out. Section 1 of the Amendment provides: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Simply put: Incarcerated persons have no constitutional rights in this arena; they can be forced to work as punishment for their crimes.

* * *

In this new era of prison industry, the criminal “justice” system, the state determined the size of the worker pool. Scores of recently freed slaves and their descendants now labored to generate revenue for the state under a Jim Crow regime.

More than a century later, our prison labor system has only grown. We now incarcerate more than 2.2 million people, with the largest prison population in the world, and the second highest incarceration rate per capita. Our prison populations remain racially skewed. With few exceptions, inmates are required to work if cleared by medical professionals at the prison. Punishments for refusing to do so include solitary confinement, loss of earned good time, and revocation of family visitation. For this forced labor, prisoners earn pennies per hour, if anything at all.

A significant number of convicted prisoners can be safely released, as Time Magazine comprised a team of criminologists, lawyers, and statistical researchers to analyze criminal codes, convictions, and sentences to write the report How Many Americans Are Unnecessarily Incarcerated?. Time reported:

We found that approximately 39% of the nationwide prison population (576,000 people) is behind bars with little public safety rationale. And they can be released, significantly and safely cutting our prison population.

How did we get to this number? First, many people who are in prison shouldn’t have been sent there in the first place. For example, we found that 25% of prisoners (364,000 people), almost all non-violent, lower-level offenders, would be better served by alternatives to incarceration such as treatment, community service, or probation. Second, another 14% (212,000 prisoners) have already served long sentences for more serious crimes and can be safely set free.

Releasing these inmates would save $20 billion annually, enough to employ 270,000 new police officers, 360,000 probation officers, or 327,000 school teachers.

The war on cannabis and greater Drug War have created a New Jim Crow system that not only deprives people of their freedom and educational and employment opportunities, but also perpetuates modern day slavery. Even for people that don’t get sent to prison solely for cannabis or other nonviolent drug offenses, these victimless “crimes” put people in the system in the first place, or end of being probation and parole violations that end up imprisoning them. Let’s reflect this Juneteenth, but remember that we have a lot of fights left to win, including truly ending slavery in the United States of America.