Free all non-violent criminals jailed on minor drug offences, say experts – End our Ludicrous “War on Drugs” – kra
This article was sent to me by our friend, Lynn, who knows that I have been saying this for years!
Excerpts from the Article:
Non-violent offenders serving time for drug use or possession should be freed immediately and their convictions erased, according to research published in the peer-reviewed The American Journal of Bioethics.
More than 60 international experts including bioethicists, psychologists and drug experts have joined forces to call for an end to the war on drugs which they argue feeds racism.
All drugs currently deemed illicit – even crack cocaine and heroin – should be decriminalized as a matter of urgency, according to this new alliance. Legalisation and regulation should then follow with restrictions on age, advertising and licensing, they say.
They have analysed evidence from over 150 studies and reports, concluding that prohibition unfairly affects Black people, damages communities, and violates the right to life as illustrated by the killing of medical worker Breonna Taylor in March 2020.
“The ‘war on drugs’ has explicitly racist roots and continues to disproportionately target certain communities of color,” say lead study authors Brian D. Earp from the University of Oxford and Jonathan Lewis from Dublin City University.
“Drug prohibition and criminalization have been costly and ineffective since their inception. It’s time for these failed policies to end.
“The first step is to decriminalize the personal use and possession of small amounts of all drugs currently deemed to be illicit, and to legalize and regulate cannabis. Policymakers should pursue these changes without further delay.”
Their research adds to growing calls for drug policy reform at a time of renewed focus on injustices faced by Black people, and cannabis legalisation for recreational use by a growing list of US states.
The study is based on evidence from existing research into how drug prohibition affects users, communities and human rights, and the impact of decriminalisation by governments.
The authors found that prohibition motivates individuals to commit offences such as burglaries to fund their habit. This lowers life expectancy because people end up in prison, and triggers a ‘multitude’ of health-related costs from unsafe drug use.
Communities are damaged by illicit markets which undermine drug purity, with Black and Hispanic men more likely to end up in the criminal justice system. The war on drugs makes people more vulnerable to violations of their rights including what they choose to put in their bodies.
In contrast, the study highlights the liberal approach of countries such as Portugal where drug-related deaths have fallen and where users are encouraged to seek treatment.
An estimated £43.5bn ($58bn) could be generated in federal, state and local tax revenues through the legalization of drugs, according to the findings. This compares with an annual federal, state and local spend of more than £35bn ($47bn) on prohibition.
The authors stress that non-violent prisoners found with a small amount of illegal substances should be released.
Practical Tip – There Are Support Groups for Parents Who Have Lost Kids to Overdose, Shootings, Suicide … and for Others With Such Losses – kra
Did you know that there are a vast number of support groups for victims of our dysfunctional justice system and of our crazy world?
SOME ARE LOCAL, SOME ARE WORLDWIDE; SOME ARE PUBLIC, SOME ARE PRIVATE.
Just google whatever you may need. i.e. “support groups for Moms of those killed by drug overdose” or “support groups and similar organizations for children of those killed by gunfire”. Or “support groups for the wrongly convicted”.
One group for those who have lost loved ones to an overdose calls for fentanyl to be deemed a weapon of mass destruction! A worthy goal for getting attention, though it, like most “tough on crime” policies will not stem the rising tide of deaths.
From connecting to others to ease that “I am alone in this” feeling to many practical leads, there is a plethora of support out there. 🙂
SPREAD THE WORD!
New Jersey is about to join the sane states regarding marijuana! Alcohol did not create Al Capone; prohibition created Al Capone.
Excerpts from the Article.
After a day of marathon testimony from the public on the cannabis implementation bill, budget panels for the Assembly and Senate released S-21/A-21 to advance to floor votes in each house.
Overall, sponsors say it was a good day for the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance and Marketplace Modernization Act as key issues were smoothed over in the form of amendments to the bill, while some are still being worked out.
A-21 passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee just before 2 p.m. by a 7-4 vote, conducted remotely.
The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, which met in the Statehouse annex under social distancing guidelines, passed the Senate companion, S-21, by an 8-4 vote.
Added on Thursday were amendments to A-21/S-21 that would:
Dedicate proceeds to social justice with a “Social Equity Excise Fee” that requires a per-ounce tax of anywhere from $10 to $60 on transfers from cultivators. All proceeds from the excise fee will be earmarked for “social justice” programs, according to a sponsor, Sen. Nicholas Scutari;
Remove the cap on the number of cultivation licenses, 28 in the bill, to award. Scutari said the Governor’s Office and the Senate are pushing for more than 28 to ensure supply meets demand; and
Modify employer drug testing.
But as far as when the measure will actually go for a floor vote in either house, the only certainty is it won’t be on Monday, said Scutari, D-Union, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and a chief architect of S-21.
Scutari had hoped before Thursday’s action that Monday would be the vote since the Senate and Assembly have scheduled voting sessions that day.
“It will definitely not be Monday,” Scutari said minutes after the Senate panel voted. “We’re still waiting for the Assembly to pass the [marijuana decriminalization bill]. We’ve [the state senators] already passed the decrim bill and we’re just waiting on action by the Assembly.”
Scutari said it would be ideal to have the two bills—one to decriminalize possession of marijuana and the other setting up the regulatory framework to establish a commercial market to sell cannabis to the general public—to pass in tandem and get final approval at the same time.
The Senate approved the decriminalization bill earlier this week 29-4, but the Assembly paused to resolve issues over expungement and types of cannabis that would be included in the bill, according to lawmakers.
Hours before the Senate panel green-lighted S-21 at 5:39 p.m., the Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, the deputy speaker, heard nearly three hours of testimony from those who already sell marijuana in other states that legalized it (Oregon and Colorado), those whose lives have been impacted by a marijuana arrest, and those who felt the proceeds and licenses should tilt more favorably toward minority communities affected by mass incarceration.
Tiyahann Bryant of East Orange asked when the licenses would be doled out.
“East Orange is an impact zone,” Bryant testified. “We have the infrastructure in place and we’re ready to enter the cannabis industry.”
Tauhid Chappel, a Camden County resident, medical marijuana user and social activist, questioned whether more of the marijuana revenue should go toward social equity programs. He was certain to whom it shouldn’t go to.
“I don’t believe any of the tax revenue should go to police,” said Chappel. “They’ve caused the problem to begin with,” in the form of mass arrests, said Chappel.
Later, during the Senate Budget Committee hearing, Chairman Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, was still not satisfied over the language in S-21 over employer protections. Sarlo wants employers to have the ability to use random drug testing to ensure workplace and public safety. “I am very concerned about the liability on employers and the welfare and safety of the public who will be impacted by somebody who commits an accident” while working and under the influence of cannabis, said Sarlo, who said language permitting random employee drug testing was taken out of the final bill. “This bill will get out today, but I am not going further until I see that language tightened further.”
The Senate panel heard testimony from Ray Cantor, vice president of government affairs for New Jersey Business & Industry Association, over what he described as “unnecessary mandates and costs of implementing a workplace expert to determine if someone is impaired on the job” from cannabis; and Dennis Hart, executive director of the Chemistry Council of New Jersey, who raised similar concerns over employer protections and being able to administer drug tests.
“We can’t be at a plant location with experts 24/7,” said Hart. “In this industry, safety is paramount.”
“This bill has been pushed and pulled in so many directions by special interests and legislators who want nothing more than to get their hands on a tax windfall. I am disappointed that Trenton couldn’t do the right thing and pass a bill that has not been corrupted by greed.” Testa criticized what he called the bill’s excessive taxation and what he described as “the complicated layers of regulations” it would create.
Under the bill, cannabis would have a 6.25% sales tax, a sliding scale on the excise tax depending on the cost of the product, and a 2% local tax, said Scutari.
Scutari said 70% of the sales tax and 100% of the excise tax (social equity cultivation fee) would go toward social equity programs. As the panel debated S-21’s merits and shortcomings, Scutari made it clear the Legislature was facing a deadline that was fast approaching.
The legalization of adult-use marijuana in New Jersey gained voter approval by a 2-1 margin on Nov. 3. Enabling legislation was introduced three days later.
“I’m cautiously optimistic that we’re moving in the right direction,” Scutari said at 5:30 p.m. just before the vote. “But people need to understand that marijuana will be legalized in New Jersey on Jan. 1 whether we act or not. We can’t shirk our responsibilities.”
This is one of the most dramatic examples of how fucked up our criminal justice system really is.
Excerpts from the Article:
At 26 years-old, Ross Ulbricht made history, when he did something that many called genius — he wrote code and created a website called Silk Road. It was the first modern online free market, where users could anonymously buy and sell goods and services, both legal and illegal. As a result of his genius, today marks the eighth year anniversary of his federal prison incarceration in what is considered one of the worst travesties of our criminal justice system.
Ulbricht was targeted, investigated, and prosecuted with the zeal equaled to those like John Gotti, Osama bin Laden and Al Capone.
He was ultimately held responsible for everything users listed on his site and was convicted on all nonviolent charges, including conspiracy to traffic narcotics, money laundering conspiracy, and engaging in a continuing criminal enterprise.
Following his arrest in 2013, prosecutors also alleged that he planned murder-for-hire although, curiously, he was never charged or prosecuted for it at trial (and the allegations were dismissed with prejudice by a U.S. District Judge in 2018).
On May 29, 2015, now-retired Judge Katherine Forrest sentenced Ulbricht on five counts, all nonviolent. Her judgement for this first time, non-violent offender: two life terms, plus 40 years without parole! That sentence amounts to two death sentences, plus 40 years.
At first glance, given the government’s charges and allegations and some media coverage, some may assume that Ulbricht’s sentence was reasonable. However, having overseen and conducted investigations such as these, the more we examined the overall case — the allegations, the trial, and end result — something just didn’t add up.
If Ulbricht’s crimes really warrant life in prison, why was Blake Benthall — arrested on the same charges as Ulbricht for running the larger copycat Silk Road 2.0 — released after two weeks by the same people who prosecuted Ulbricht? Why were two corrupt federal agents at the core of the investigation (with unfettered access to Silk Road) aggressively hidden from Ulbricht’s jury? Why were the largest Silk Road drug sellers sentenced to 10 years and less?
And if there were any tangible evidence that Ulbricht planned murder-for-hire, why didn’t the government charge and prosecute him?
Surely, we’d know all this and more, but no — nothing. Additionally, based on the prosecutors’ claims, surely, there would have been a two-mile line out of the courthouse of crime victims ready to testify against Ross Ulbricht — but there were no victims at the trial either.
Ross Ulbricht was handed three death sentences, essentially for being a reckless young idealist who had the audacity to use his genius to create a vehicle where others engaged in illegal Internet sales (primarily of cannabis) undetected by the authorities.
No victims were ever named at his trial. He was never prosecuted for causing death or bodily injury to anyone. Let us say it again. As a first-time, non-violent offender, Ross Ulbricht was given two death sentences, plus 40 additional years.
According to a recent report from the United States Department of Justice, more than half of violent offenders serve less than three years in prison.
The average prison sentence in America for a convicted murderer is 16.5 years.
Convicted rapists serve on average 9.8 years, and violent crimes like robbery, or the taking of property by force or the threat of force, the average time is 4.7 years.
In far too many cases, violent repeat offenders are under-sentenced while nonviolent first-time offenders like Ross are grotesquely over-sentenced.
Ross Ulbricht’s sentence is also an example of how wildly unfair sentencing disparities can be for offenders with similar charges.
While Ross was sentenced to die in prison, every other prosecuted Silk Road defendant received far lighter prison sentences ranging from a high of 10 years to a low of 17 months.
His case may very well be the most glaring example of how broken and deeply dysfunctional our criminal justice system is.
In our American justice system, the underlying philosophy behind sentencing someone to prison is that that the punishment should fit the crime. The United States Constitution guarantees every American equal protection under the law.
But in the case of Ross Ulbricht, who never committed a violent act and who was never convicted of any previous crime, that constitutional guarantee of equal treatment under the law — and that idea that someone should only do the time that fits the crime — is a big lie.
Prominent legal experts who support Ross’s release from prison have expressed the view that the circumstances involved in his case raise serious fourth and sixth amendment constitutional issues, particularly that of using allegations that were never proved in a court of law to support an unreasonably harsh prison sentence.
In fact, in 2018, 21 highly-respected organizations spanning the ideological spectrum joined in support of Ross’s efforts to raise these constitutional issues before the Supreme Court. These organizations include, but are not limited to, Law Enforcement Action Partnership, FreedomWorks, American Conservative Union Foundation, Cato Institute, Human Rights Defense Center and National Lawyers Guild.
Now 36, Ross begins his eighth year in prison, today — Oct. 1.
He has been a model prisoner throughout his years of incarceration, teaching classes and tutoring his fellow inmates. He follows the rules and has never received a disciplinary infraction. Ross has expressed remorse and accepted responsibility for his actions.
He is the son of a loving mother of modest means who has relocated her home several times to be near the prison where her son is incarcerated.
We have each, in different ways, witnessed firsthand how unfair and dishonest our criminal justice system can be. Both of us have been the beneficiaries of President Donald Trump’s compassion. Commissioner Kerik was granted a presidential pardon, while Gov. Blagojevich had his 14-year prison sentence commuted. We both join over 350,000 people who have signed their names to a petition to President Trump supporting Ross Ulbricht’s release.
More than 250 organizations and prominent people from all across America — from the legal community, business community, religious community, education community, the media, Hollywood, current and former legislators, and human rights activists, have all spoken out in support of this clemency effort.
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution expressly prohibits punishment that is too severe for the crime committed. It characterizes it as cruel and unusual.
Our nation extols the ideal of justice for all. But Shakespeare reminds us that there is no justice where there is no mercy, and Ross Ulbricht’s case shows us that there cannot be justice for all when there is cruel punishment for some.
We respectfully ask that President Donald Trump do what only he can do: grant Ross Ulbricht clemency, to right this wrong, and end one of the greatest travesties of justice in American history.
Editorial Submission – Save Your Loved Ones! – 12/17/20
In the course of the work I do, I counsel many, many addicts. All too often I console someone who has lost a friend or family member to addiction. During the pandemic, the use of drugs has increased. Addiction has skyrocketed. Overdose deaths are increasing too. This is no surprise, because the main reason why most people turn to drugs and/or alcohol is to bury/evade/escape some emotional pain or stress, and these are very stressful times.
There is good news, though, and I write with the hope that all who need to know can become aware of it: YOU can order, for free, the very effective life saving drug, Narcan (naloxone). Through The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services’ (DHSS), Narcan will be mailed, for free, to your home. The life-saving medication can reverse opioid drug overdoses by restoring someone’s breathing that has become suppressed from an overdose, and it has saved many lives.
Says Delaware’s DPH Director, Dr. Karyl Rattay: “Delaware is experiencing a simultaneous increase in COVID-19 cases and drug overdose deaths. Those who need naloxone the most can now order it privately and conveniently, avoiding any stigma that could be a barrier to accessing the life-saving medication. Holding outside distribution events is also becoming more challenging because of the cold weather, making this an ideal option to get naloxone in the hands of those who need it the most.”
A total of 316 suspected overdose deaths have occurred through early December this year in Delaware, which is higher than the number of suspected overdose deaths for the same period in 2019, according to preliminary data from the Delaware Division of Forensic Science (DFS). Since overdose deaths typically spike in December, that number is expected to grow. In 2019, 431 people died from drug overdoses in Delaware, according to DFS.
Most states have similar programs.
Sure, the numbers of deaths pale compared to some other causes, but these deaths are preventable… and YOU can help prevent some! Narcan won’t save everyone, but with just a phone call – to get the medication, google how to get Narcan or call HHS at 302-672-7500 – you may help save a life.
If YOU know anyone using drugs, order Narcan now, and make sure that their other friends and family members also do so!
I offer one more suggestion: tell any addict that if they must get high, do not do so alone. Always have someone around who can provide help or call for help in the event of an overdose!
Ken Abraham, former Deputy Attorney General, founder of Citizens for Criminal JUSTICE, Dover, DE 302-423-4067
We never would have made such progress towards sanity in our Pot laws without NORML!
Excerpts from the Article:
The Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3884 / S. 2227) is bipartisan legislation that removes marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus decriminalizing the substance at the federal level and enabling states to set their own policies.
The Act would also make several other important changes. For example, it permits physicians affiliated with the Veterans Administration to make medical marijuana recommendations to qualifying veterans who reside in legal states and it incentivizes states to move ahead with expungement policies that will end the stigma and lost opportunities suffered by those with past, low-level cannabis convictions. If approved, the MORE Act also allows the Small Business Administration to support entrepreneurs and businesses as they seek to gain a foothold in this emerging industry.
Progress so far for The MORE Act in Congress:
– The bill was introduced on July 23rd, 2019
– Approved in the Judiciary Committee on November, 20th, 2019, with a bipartisan vote of 24-10
– On November 9th, 2020, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer indicated that members will vote on the MORE Act in December of this year.
– On November 27th, House leadership posted notice for Congressional consideration and floor vote on the MORE Act the following week.
– On December 2nd, the House Rules Committee advanced the MORE Act for a floor vote expected Friday, December 4th.
Enter your information to tell your members of Congress to sign on as a cosponsor and vote for this monumental legislation.
Here we go again! Eventually, ALL states will fully legalize pot, BECAUSE IT MAKES SENSE! I have spoken with some of our legislators on legalizing Pot, and, WOW, some of them just don’t get it.
Excerpts from the Article:
Supporters of legal weed hope that New Jersey voters’ overwhelming approval to legalize marijuana will be the final push needed for Delaware lawmakers to do the same, especially if residents end up driving across the bridge and funneling tax revenue to the state next door. The Democrat-controlled General Assembly has for several years been on the cusp of legalizing marijuana for adult use, with only a few extra lawmakers needed in order to pass a bill in Delaware. Those extra votes could be there now, after several new Democrats occupy seats in the statehouse next year. Add in a dramatic, pandemic-prompted state revenue shortfall, and proponents are hopeful that 2021 will finally be the year.
Delaware lawmakers will likely debate a bill in 2021 to legalize marijuana after New Jersey approved its own measure in November.
“With New Jersey legalizing cannabis last week, we believe it puts even more pressure on Delaware lawmakers to also legalize cannabis here,” said Zoe Patchell, lobbyist and director of the Delaware Cannabis Advocacy Network, last week.
The bill sponsor, Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, thinks he has enough support in the House to send it over to the Senate, where Democrats now outnumber Republicans two to one. The bill needs three-fifths of lawmakers’ support, since it includes a tax.
But lawmakers already can’t seem to agree on the details, including how to spend the tax revenue. That could end up stalling the bill.
All the while, Delawareans could be going to New Jersey to buy marijuana (legally, it has to be consumed in New Jersey). Other Mid-Atlantic states are also considering their own law changes, which would only increase competition and drive revenue out of the First State.
“Within a year, maybe a little longer, their (New Jersey’s) program will be up and running,” Osienski said. “So my question to my colleagues is: How long do you want to send money over the bridge, tax money over the bridge to New Jersey? … If we can start working on, agreeing on language, we can be neck and neck with them.”
Osienski sponsored last session’s bill, but it never made it out of the House. His 2021 bill won’t look exactly like the one he introduced in 2019, he said.
Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark (left), and Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, fielded questions from reporters in 2019 about their bill that would have legalized recreational use of marijuana in Delaware. Lawmakers have to introduce a new bill for the session that starts in 2021.
Osienski disagrees with dedicating the revenue to a specific fund because it could end up being volatile either due to persistent illegal sales or neighboring states also legalizing marijuana and then taking revenue away from Delaware.
He argues that legalization would help eliminate sales to minors, regulate the product so it’s safer and “put a serious hurt, if not eliminate the black market and, at the same time, creating an industry of jobs that, right now, does not exist.”
Marijuana is now legal in 15 states, thanks to voters in New Jersey, Arizona, Montana and South Dakota approving referendums on Nov. 3, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
New Jersey will tax sales and is hashing out the regulatory framework of how to sell it.
Before this month, Delaware had long been in a race with New Jersey to legalize the plant, and the Garden State is now the only one in the Mid-Atlantic to allow adults to buy and use it. Pennsylvania and New York are considering following suit. The District of Columbia is the closest jurisdiction where it is legal.
A 2018 poll from the University of Delaware Center for Political Communication found that 61% of Delawareans supported legal marijuana.
Unlike in New Jersey, voters in Delaware have to leave the decision to lawmakers instead of voting for it themselves. But Delawareans are also consistently electing more progressive, pro-legal marijuana Democrats into office.
Gov. John Carney does not support legalization and it is not clear if he would veto a bill if it comes to his desk.
When asked for comment for this story, Carney’s spokesman Jonathan Starkey pointed to Carney’s support for medical use and decriminalization of the drug — both of which are law in Delaware.
“He held two town halls on marijuana legalization earlier in his administration and has a lot of concerns about it,” Starkey said. “He also knows there are Delawareans who have a different view on this issue – including new legislators – and, as always, he’s willing to hear them out.”
Some of those new legislators will try to get Carney to come around during the next legislative session that starts in January. That includes Marie Pinkney, a progressive Democrat from New Castle who was elected to the Senate after ousting moderate Senate President Pro Tempore David McBride, D-Hawk’s Nest, in the September primary. “There are some people who want marijuana legalized simply because people enjoy it and they want to have a good time and they want to do what they want to do with it,” Pinkney said the day after she won the general election on Nov. 3.
“We can also talk about the fact that the marijuana industry will be a lucrative business, and when is there going to be a more important time to introduce lucrative businesses in our state than when we’re in the middle of a pandemic that has drastically impacted not just the state but the country?” she said. “We need the additional revenue.”
Lawmakers in June were able to shore up a coronavirus-induced revenue shortfall — a $400 million drop between December and June — for this fiscal year by dipping into reserves and postponing one-time projects, but it’s unclear how many more years the state will have to endure financial hardships.
Supporters in 2018 said legalization in Delaware would raise more than $20 million in taxes and the 2019 estimate ranged from $9 million to $50 million.
Sen. Dave Sokola, D-Newark, who supports legal weed and is taking over as the highest-ranking senator who will control if and when bills get voted on, expects that though lawmakers could have a hard time agreeing on the details, he thinks they will end up with “some version that would have a reasonably good chance to get through.”
“I don’t think we should spend a nickel on enforcement,” Sokola said. “It just seems to me that there’s no lethal dose. There is for alcohol, alcohol’s legal. There’s a whole lot of potential upside and not a heck of a lot of downside.”
Our friend, Lynn, sent me this article. If we really want to reduce crime, WE MUST DO MORE OF THESE PROGRAMS!
Excerpts from the Article:
County leaders will use nearly $665,000 in grant money to reduce gun violence and help ex-prisoners reintegrate. The grants were reviewed and approved Nov. 5 by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners. They were spurred in part by a 2018 Safety and Justice Challenge study paid for by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, county Community Development Specialist Aisha Shepherd told commissioners. The foundation’s goal is to reduce jail numbers, address racial disparities and increase community engagement.
“Both violence and the justice system have desperate impacts on Black people living in Buncombe County,” Shepherd said.
Findings showed that of the first nine homicides of 2020, seven victims were Black men, she said.
“In 2019, Black people represented 6.3% of Buncombe County’s population, yet comprised 25% of the jail population and 69% of gun violence victims.”
Asheville Police block Fayetteville Street in West Asheville as a homicide is investigated on Jan. 13, 2020.
Pandemic jail reduction efforts released 40% of those in the county detention facility, or 158 people. That actually increased the racial disparity, with 33% of the remaining population being Black.
Shepherd said the county is now seeking proposals from community organizations for two $225,000 grants to help with the problems. One $50,000 grant would pay for the development of a comprehensive plan that addresses community safety and reduces gun violence.
A second $175,000 grant would be for a program working with communities most affected by gun violence. That work would include creating “intergenerational spaces that empower safety, trust and healing.”
Republican District 3 Commissioner Joe Belcher of Candler said he supported the efforts and felt some of the “root causes” came down to “lack of jobs and other resources,” particularly for those with criminal records.
Democratic Board Chair Brownie Newman of Asheville said that most places people lived in the county were safe. “But you know we have neighborhoods in our community that are not safe. And I think part of the struggle is you know we don’t want to come at this with the approach of, let’s just throw the most law enforcement resources to this as we can,” Newman said.
Police are part of the solution, he said, but a hard enforcement strategy could also increase the jail population, which goes against one of the goals. “We’ve got to think in other ways about this so I’m really glad we’re doing this process, I’m excited about what ideas might emerge from this.”
In Asheville, police have responded to 522 calls for service regarding a gun discharge or an individual who has been shot, from from Jan. 1 to Nov. 5. During that same time, 38 people have been shot in Asheville.
In a separate action, commissioners voted unanimously to accept a $439,883 grant from the Dogwood Health Trust to reduce recidivism and increase access to medical and mental health and substance use care for prisoners leaving the Buncombe Detention Facility and Swannanoa and Craggy Correctional Centers.
Dogwood was formed during the sale of the nonprofit Mission Hospital to the for-profit company HCA. Dogwood received the profits from the hospital sale and is tasked with distributing them to organizations that help increase the region’s health.
Maryland Court of Appeals: Odor of Marijuana Alone Doesn’t Provide Probable Cause to Arrest and Search Person
The Court notes the difference between a vehicle search and the search of a person. Also, the odor of pot alone is not probable cause for a search in the 33 states that have legalized pot.
Excerpts from the Article:
The Court of Appeals of Maryland held that the odor of marijuana emanating from a person alone does not provide police with probable cause to support an arrest and warrantless search incident to the arrest.
Rasherd Lewis was in a convenience store in Baltimore City on February 1, 2017, when officers got a tip that someone matching his description was “potentially armed.” Officers located Lewis, but the tip was not, by itself, sufficient to search or arrest him. Offices ordered the patrons of the store to leave, and when Lewis was passing them, Officer Burch said he smelled the odor of burnt marijuana on him.
Officers searched him and found a non-criminal amount of marijuana, plastic baggies, $367 in cash, and a handgun. Lewis was charged with criminal possession of a firearm. He filed a motion to suppress the firearm on the ground that the search was unconstitutional, but the motion was denied. Lewis was convicted in a bench trial and sentenced to three years’ incarceration with all but 90 days suspended, and three years’ probation. Lewis appealed the results of the suppression hearing.
The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the results of the suppression hearing by relying on Robinson v. State, 152 A.3d 661 (Md. 2017). In Robinson, the Court of Appeals ruled that the odor of marijuana emanating from a vehicle justified a search of the vehicle because “possession of ten grams or more of marijuana, crimes involving the distribution of marijuana, and driving under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance have not been decriminalized in Maryland.”
On appeal to the Court of Appeals, Lewis argued the search of a person, outside the context of a vehicle, is separate and due greater deference than the search of a vehicle. The Court of Appeals agreed.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Maryland Declaration of Rights, article 26, prohibit unreasonable searches of a person or property. This right is “subject to only a few specifically established exceptions.” Grant v. State, 141 A.3d 138 (Md. 2016). Two of these are the automobile exception and the search incident to arrest exception. Pacheco v. State, 214 A.3d 505 (Md. 2019). “The distinction between the two exceptions is at least in part due to the diminished expectation of privacy that justifies the automobile exception … as compared to the unique, significantly heightened constitutional protections afforded a person to be secure in his or her body.” Id.
The Court of Appeals noted that Pacheco was not available when the Court of Special Appeals decided Lewis’ direct appeal, and thus that court relied solely on Robinson. However, as established in Pacheco, greater protections are attached to searches of a person since Maryland decriminalized marijuana possession. As possession of less than 10 grams and use of marijuana carries only a civil penalty (a fine), the smell of marijuana cannot be used to infer that a person is committing or has committed a felony or misdemeanor. Thus, officers lacked probable cause to arrest Lewis or conduct a search incident to arrest, so both the arrest and subsequent search were in violation of Lewis’ constitutional rights.
Also, in a concurring opinion to Lewis’ direct appeal and noted by the Court of Appeals, Judge Arthur voiced concern that if the odor of marijuana is sufficient to establish probable cause then “it is not difficult to imagine scenarios in which police officers would have probable cause to arrest and search someone whose only exposure to marijuana is from second-hand smoke…. I would have thought that the reform of Maryland’s marijuana laws was intended to reduce rather than facilitate intrusive searches in circumstances such as these.” It is this reason, in combination with greater protections afforded to individuals to be free from unreasonable searches of their person vis-à-vis vehicles, that guided the ruling of the Court of Appeals.
Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Special Appeals and remanded the case with instructions to grant the motion to suppress. See: Lewis v. State, 233 A.3d 86 (Md. 2020).
Oregon Decriminalizes Small Amounts of Heroin and Cocaine, and New Jersey and Arizona Legalize Marijuana
Slowly but surely those in power are seeing the waste, the harm, and the futility of our War on Drugs! 🙂
Drug addicts need treatment, not prison.
Excerpts from the Article:
The march to decriminalize drugs moved further across the nation on Tuesday despite continued federal prohibition.
Oregon became the first state to decriminalize small amounts of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs. And in New Jersey and Arizona voters decisively passed laws legalizing recreational marijuana. Cannabis is now legal across a large bloc of states in the West — from Washington down to the Mexican border — and well beyond.
Cannabis was also on the ballot in Montana, Mississippi and South Dakota. If all of the marijuana measures pass, marijuana will be legal for medical use in three dozen states and recreational use will be allowed in 15.
The Oregon measure would make possession of small amounts of what have long been considered harder drugs a violation, similar to a traffic ticket, and no longer punishable by jail time. The law would also fund drug addiction treatment from marijuana sales taxes.
“This is incredible,” said Kassandra Frederique, executive director of the advocacy group Drug Policy Alliance. “This is like taking a sledgehammer to the cornerstone of the drug war.”
Possession of larger amounts could result in misdemeanor charges, and some cases that rise to what is considered a commercial level could still be charged as felonies.
Ms. Frederique said passage of the measure showed that voters were eager for a new approach on drug policy to handle it as a health issue and prioritize treatment. She said she expected other states to follow suit, mentioning efforts in states such as California, Vermont and Washington.
Separately, Oregon voters also legalized psilocybin, known as magic mushrooms, for people age 21 and older. Proponents said the move would allow the drug to be used to treat depression, anxiety and other conditions.
Even in a year when the number of citizen initiatives in states across the country was sharply down from the last presidential election, the diverse slate of measures offered a chance to gauge the mood of the nation.
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