Good job, Kathleen, but someone – some of these pushers – should go to prison!
Excerpts from the Article:
Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings announced Thursday a $573 million multistate settlement with one of the world’s largest consulting firms, McKinsey & Co., resolving investigations into its role in helping opioid manufacturers promote their drugs and profiting from the opioid epidemic.
“These are the first damages Delaware’s recovered from the people responsible for the opioid crisis, but they won’t be the last,” said Ms. Jennings. “McKinsey helped Big Pharma profit — and profited itself — off of thousands of Delawareans’ pain and suffering. “We can never bring back the lives that were lost in Big Pharma’s pursuit of profit, but settlements like this give us the resources to get help to those who are still grappling with the devastation that this epidemic has caused across our state.”
This is the first multistate opioid settlement to result in substantial payment to the states to be used to address the epidemic.
The settlement amount exceeds the total revenue that McKinsey collected from its opioid clients. Delaware will receive just more than $2.58 million from the settlement, which will be used to abate the harms caused by the opioid crisis in the First State.
In addition to providing funds to address the crisis, the agreement calls for McKinsey to prepare tens of thousands of its internal documents detailing its work for Purdue Pharma and other opioid companies for public disclosure online.
McKinsey further agreed to stop advising companies on potentially dangerous Schedule II and Schedule III narcotics, continue its investigation into allegations that two of its partners tried to destroy documents in response to investigations of Purdue Pharma, implement a strict ethics code that all partners must agree to each year and adopt a firm document-retention plan.
Thursday’s filings describe how, for more than a decade, McKinsey’s work promoting marketing schemes and consulting services to opioid manufacturers — including OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma — contributed to the opioid crisis.
Delaware’s complaint details how McKinsey advised Purdue on how to maximize profits from its opioid products, including targeting high-volume opioid prescribers, using specific messaging to get physicians to prescribe more OxyContin to more patients and circumventing pharmacy restrictions to deliver high-dose prescriptions.
When states began to sue Purdue’s directors for their implementation of McKinsey’s marketing schemes, McKinsey partners began emailing about deleting documents and emails related to their work for Purdue.
The opioid epidemic has devastated Delaware over the last 20 years. During this time, drug overdoses claimed thousands of Delawareans’ lives. It’s also driven up costs in health care, child welfare, criminal justice and other programs needed to combat the epidemic.
Thursday’s filing is the latest action Ms. Jennings and the Delaware Department of Justice have taken to combat the opioid epidemic and to hold accountable those who are responsible for creating and fueling the crisis.
The state has also filed complaints against the Sackler family — the billionaires behind Purdue Pharma — and against opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies.
In the coming weeks, Ms. Jennings will work with partners in Dover to recommend legislation establishing a statewide commission to govern the expenditure of opioid settlement funds.
Once created, the settlement funds will be placed in the care of that commission to direct spending to address Delaware’s opioid crisis.
The attorney general’s opioid enforcement work is a joint effort of the Office of Impact Litigation and the Consumer Protection Unit, both part of DOJ’s Fraud and Consumer Protection Division.
The Whole Story
Opioid Deaths Fall When Cannabis Stores Rise, Analysis Suggests — Can legal marijuana ease the opioid crisis?
This has been known for some time, but it warrants repeating! Though not the front page headlines so much, opioids continue to kill thousands of our kids, sisters, Moms, … every month! Another reason why POT should be legal everywhere.
SEE https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates =
Overdose Death Rates | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Excerpts from the Article:
Access to legal cannabis stores was linked with fewer opioid deaths in the U.S., a new analysis suggested.
The number of marijuana dispensaries in a county was negatively related to log-transformed opioid mortality rate, adjusted for age (β -0.17, 95% CI -0.23 to -0.11), reported Balázs Kovács, PhD, of Yale University School of Management in New Haven, Connecticut, and Greta Hsu, PhD, of University of California Davis Graduate School of Management.
This means that increasing the number of storefront dispensaries from one to two was tied to a 17% reduction in death rates of all opioid types, and an increase from two to three stores was associated with a further 8.5% reduction in mortality, Kovács and Hsu noted.
The relationship was stronger — leading to an estimated 21% drop in mortality — when only deaths from synthetic non-methadone opioids like fentanyl were considered (β -0.21, 95% CI -0.27 to -0.14), they wrote in The BMJ.
“We find this relationship holds for both medical dispensaries, which serve only patients who have a state-approved medical card or doctor’s recommendation, as well as for recreational dispensaries, which sell to adults 21 years and older,” Kovács said.
As business school researchers, Kovács and Hsu first became interested in the increasing prevalence of legal cannabis stores as an organizational issue.
“We tracked evolving cannabis markets across the U.S. from 2014 onwards in an effort to understand how this new category of organizations emerged,” Kovács told MedPage Today. “We realized, however, that our county-level database could also be used to examine whether the availability of legal cannabis in an increasing number of geographic areas has any implications for opioid misuse.”
Their findings add to a mixed evidence base about the relationship between legal marijuana and opioid overdoses. In 2014, an analysis suggested that states with medical cannabis laws experienced slower increases in opioid overdose mortality. However, a subsequent study showed that those findings didn’t hold over a longer period, and that associations between state medical cannabis laws and opioid-related mortality reversed direction and remained positive after accounting for recreational cannabis laws.
Kovács and Hsu based their analysis on data from 812 counties in 23 states (plus the District of Columbia) that allowed legal cannabis dispensaries to operate by the end of 2017. They combined 2014-2018 CDC mortality data with census data and storefront information from Weedmaps, collecting data on dispensaries operating within each county on a monthly basis from 2014 to December 2017. Mortality analysis focused on deaths of people 21 and older.
Eight states and the District of Columbia allowed for recreational storefronts; 15 allowed for medical dispensaries only. An increase from one to two medical dispensaries led to an estimated 15% mortality rate reduction in the study; an increase from one to two recreational dispensaries led to an 11% drop.
Two points about this analysis need to be considered, noted Sameer Imtiaz, PhD, of the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research in Toronto, and colleagues, in an accompanying editorial.
First, the mechanism underlying the association is unclear. “In the context of medicinal cannabis legalization, reduced deaths from opioid overdose do not coincide with reduced non-medicinal use of pain relievers or with opioid distribution, defined as the flow of substances from the manufacturers to retail distributors,” they wrote. “The absence of concurrent changes in such opioid-related outcomes questions the premise of substitution.”
Moreover, inferences about individuals cannot be drawn from aggregate-level data in an ecologically designed study like this, the editorialists pointed out. Both harmful and beneficial associations between opioids and cannabis have been seen at the individual level, they observed.
The findings suggest a potential relationship between the increased prevalence of cannabis dispensaries and reduced opioid-related mortality and do not show causality, Kovács emphasized. “While we find a particularly strong association between the prevalence of storefront dispensaries and fentanyl-related opioid deaths, it is not clear whether cannabis use and fentanyl mortality rates are more specifically linked, or if the strength of the association is due to the rise in fentanyl use and mortality rates during the study period,” he said.
Potential harms of cannabis, including the cognitive development of adolescents, medical conditions such as schizophrenia, and public safety risks, should not be ignored, he added.
What is the most dangerous place in the world? Brazil, rife with gangs? Some pockets of America with crime everywhere, fueled by the failure of our “war on drugs”? Nope. The most dangerous is not actually a place at all; it is the internet!
The internet is full of people who are not who they claim to be, what they really look like, etc. … PREDATORS AND PERVERTS. VERY DANGEROUS PEOPLE. The internet is ideal for such deception, and the “bad guys” – and girls – know it!
Nobody really know the number of murder victims who met their killer online, but READ THIS: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_homicide = Internet Homicide.
Add to it the burglaries, kidnappings, rapes, thefts, identity thefts, and other crimes committed by internet predators!
Especially young attractive women – but EVERYONE – REMEMBER THAT UNLESS YOU KNOW THEM PERSONALLY THE PERSON ON LINE MAY NOT BE AT ALL WHAT IS PORTRAYED!
Some of these “dupesters” are very, very clever, so watch out what information you give out online!
Back in ’81 or ’82 I had the first Mandatory Minimum case in Delaware, and could see that these laws would be a disaster!
Read: The Highest of Highs – Essay – kra Ron W Mandatory Minimum = http://www.citizensforcriminaljustice.net/the-highest-of-highs-essay-kra/
Excerpts from the Article:
Members of the Virginia State Crime Commission recently voted overwhelmingly to endorse legislation stripping all mandatory minimum sentences from state code.
The sweeping proposal, which lawmakers plan to introduce when the General Assembly convenes this week, would eliminate mandatory jail and prison terms attached to 224 offenses that range from drunken driving to child rape.
Lawmakers on the commission who backed the proposal — all Democrats — called it an important step to restore sentencing discretion to local judges and juries. “I think mandatory minimums skew our system,” said Del. Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Hampton, during the Jan. 5 meeting. “We appoint judges to represent their communities and they are on the ground.”
The commission also voted to endorse legislation that would allow some prisoners serving felony mandatory minimum sentences to petition a judge to reconsider their sentence.
The commission’s staff said research on the effectiveness of mandatory minimums is inconclusive, but broadly proponents of the policy argue they deter crime, eliminate inequities in sentencing and guarantee a minimum punishment.
Opponents argue they don’t deter crime, have not actually eliminated sentencing disparities and “inflict a burden on a defendant’s right to trial.”
Most of the mandatory minimum sentences on the books in Virginia address driving while intoxicated, narcotics, child pornography and weapon violations, according to the research undertaken by the State Crime Commission, though they said the offenses make up a relatively small proportion of convictions in any given year, accounting for just 3% of convictions in the past five years.
The commission’s research did find that Black inmates were more likely than white inmates to be serving time on the charges.
About 4,000 prison inmates are currently serving sentences that stemmed only from a charge with a mandatory minimum — most for drug distribution, driving with a revoked license, possessing a firearm after a felony conviction and simple assault on a law enforcement officer.
The commission quickly ruled out considering whether to maintain mandatory minimums on a charge-by-charge basis. “I don’t know how we’re going to decide which ones to keep and which ones not to keep,” said Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke. “You either do it or you don’t do it.”
Only two of 11 members present voted against the proposal. Del. Les Adams, R-Pittsylvania, the only GOP member of the commission, argued that since available research is inconclusive, it isn’t the place of the crime commission to weigh in.
Mandatory minimums have become a focus of advocates pushing for criminal justice reform. Andy Elders, a public defender in Fairfax County who serves on the board of Justice Forward, said prosecutors often use the threat of charges with long mandatory minimum sentences attached to pressure defendants to take plea deals.
“Nothing is more important than the right of accused to say, ‘I didn’t do this and I want my day in court,’” he said.
A group of 12 commonwealth’s attorneys pushing for criminal justice reform, Virginia Progressive Prosecutors, sent a letter to lawmakers Jan. 4 reiterating their support for eliminating mandatory minimums.
The group includes Jim Hingeley of Albemarle County and Joseph Platania of Charlottesville.
“Mandatory minimums prevent judges from taking an individualized, holistic approach to each sentence based on the specific circumstances of a given case,” the group wrote. “They lead to the irrationally lengthy prison sentences that fuel mass incarceration while exacerbating the racial and socioeconomic inequities that have come to characterize our criminal justice system. Banning mandatory minimums will make our communities safer and stem the tide of mass incarceration.”
Republican Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, R-Shenandoah, a former prosecutor, blasted the decision in a statement.
“This is by far the most egregious ‘soft on crime’ proposal yet in the Democrats’ attempts to make life easier on criminals. This proposal to retroactively revisit imposed sentences would drag the victims of rape, assault, child pornography and hate crimes, as well as the families of murder victims, back into court as these criminals are re-sentenced. Victims would face an impossible choice — relive the worst day of their lives once again, or potentially let their tormentors walk free,” Gilbert said, contending that removing mandatory minimums for gun offenses would also “take away a proven tool in actually reducing gun crimes and improving the quality of life in the most dangerous neighborhoods in our commonwealth.”
Another case of prosecutor misconduct. There are far, far too many! I was a prosecutor for five years, and this is not rocket science: THE JOB OF A PROSECUTOR IS TO BE FAIR.
Excerpts from the Article:
The Supreme Court of Washington held a prosecutor committed flagrant and ill-intentioned misconduct by framing a defendant’s prosecution as representative of the war on drugs.
The Court’s opinion was issued in an appeal brought by Gregg A. Loughbom. He was convicted by a jury in October 2018 on two counts: delivery of methamphetamine and conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance other than marijuana. He was acquitted on a count of delivery of acetaminophen and hydrocodone. The superior court sentenced Loughbom to 40 months’ prison and 12 months’ community control.
On direct appeal, Loughbom argued that the prosecutor’s repeated comments about the war on drugs constituted flagrant and ill-intentioned misconduct. Although it found those repeated statements set the tone for the entire trial, the Court of Appeals found Loughbom was not denied a fair trial. The Washington Supreme Court granted review.
“Justice can be secured only when a conviction is based on specific evidence in an individual case and not on rhetoric,” the Court wrote in beginning its analysis in review of Loughbom’s appeal. “We do not convict to make an example of the accused, we do not convict by appeal to a popular cause, and we do not convict by tying a prosecution to a global campaign against illegal drugs,” the Court admonished.
At Loughbom’s one-day trial, the prosecutor asked during jury selection about the “drug problem in Lincoln County.” During opening and closing statements, he said Loughbom’s case represented “another battle in the ongoing war on drugs.” He similarly referenced the “ongoing war on drugs” during his rebuttal argument.
Noting that the issue of prosecutorial references to the war on drugs had not yet been addressed by the Washington Supreme Court, the Court looked at four Court of Appeals decisions and several federal court decisions that found such “similar rhetoric improper” (see opinion for case citations). While those cases were not controlling, the Court found them persuasive. It joined those courts “in rejecting ‘war on drugs’ rhetoric” by the prosecutor during arguments.
Because Loughbom did not object at trial to the prosecutor’s repeated references, he was “deemed to have waived any error, unless the prosecutor’s misconduct was so flagrant and ill-intentioned that an instruction could not have cured the resulting prejudice.” State v. Emery, 278 P.3d 653 (Wash. 2012). Reversal is granted for such misconduct only “in a narrow set of cases where we were concerned about the jury drawing improper inferences from the evidence.” In re Pers. Restraint of Phelps, 410 P.3d 1142 (Wash. 2018).
The prosecutor’s rhetoric, the Court found, “was practiced and strategically employed at both ends of Loughbom’s trial.” Even the Court of Appeals found the prosecutor used the war on drugs as “theme.” The Washington Supreme Court stated that remarks that come at the beginning of opening statements and closing arguments must be understood as “a prism through which the jury should view the evidence.”
The State argued that the prosecutor’s comments, “while ill advised, were exceedingly benign,” were “made with reasonable intentions,” and “were well within the acceptable bounds of argument by a prosecutor.” The Court, however, explained that a prosecutor’s “‘reasonable intentions’ are irrelevant because we do not assess a prosecutor’s subjective intent when deciding whether error occurred.” It concluded that “repeated appeals to the war on drugs do not fall within the bounds of appropriate argument that this court has established.”
Thus, the Court found the prejudice from the prosecutor’s comments deprived Loughbom of a fair trial that could not have been cured by an instruction after an objection. The jury was primed to view the trial through the prism of the “drug problem in Lincoln County.” Then, two of the three comments about the war on drugs occurred in closing arguments. “[B]y that point it would have been too late to negate the prejudice that built up over the single-day trial,” according to the Court.
Accordingly, the Court reversed the Court of Appeal’s decision and ordered a new trial. See: State v. Loughbom, 470 P.3d 499 (Wash. 2020)
Study: Medical Marijuana Treatment Associated with Significant Declines in the Use of Opioids at Six Months
Another of many reasons to LEGALIZE pot!
Excerpts from the Article:
The use of medical cannabis by qualified patients over a six-month period is associated with significant decreases in the use of prescription opioids and other medications, according to data published in the journal Pain Medicine.
Investigators with the University of Victoria in Vancouver assessed prescription drug use patterns over a six-month period in a cohort of 1,145 authorized medical cannabis patients.
Researchers reported that 28 percent of subjects acknowledged using opioid medications at the initiation of the trial. This fell to 11 percent six months later. Participants’ mean opioid dosage fell by 78 percent over the trial period – a finding consistent with prior studies.
Researchers also reported declines in subjects’ use of prescription anti-depressants, benzodiazepines, and anti-seizure medications. Prior studies have similarly reported declines in patients use of benzodiazepines and other prescription medications following the initiation of medical cannabis.
Study subjects also reported improvements in their overall quality of life, including changes in their physical and psychological health, over the course of the trial.
Authors concluded, “The high rate of cannabis use for chronic pain and the subsequent reductions in opioid use suggest that cannabis may play a harm reduction role in the opioid overdose crisis, potentially improving the quality of life of patients and overall public health.”
Full text of the study, “Cannabis significantly reduces the use of prescription opioids and improves quality of life in authorized patients: Results of a large prospective study,” appears in Pain Medicine. Additional information is available from the NORML fact sheet, “Relationship Between Marijuana and Opioids.”
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.