Tag: Drug War

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and United Nations recognition is a symbolic win for advocates of drug policy change who say that international law is out of date.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.

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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.