Friday, August 14, 2009

SSDP Remembers Rep. Thomas C. Slater

In 2006, Rhode Island became the 11th state to legalize medical marijuana, largely in part to Rhode Island Representative Tom C. Slater who sponsored the RI Medical Marijuana Act and worked closely with RIPAC. Sadly, Rep. Slater passed away last week after fighting a six year battle with cancer.

I had the chance to meet Representative Slater and thank him for his hard work to bring about a very sensible drug policy to the place I call home - the Ocean State. He was a kind man that had many more accomplishments than just his work within the medical marijuana community. He was known as a "voice for the poor" and represented one of the states most in need districts.

Slater was also instrumental in the recent passage of legislation that will allow compassion centers in Rhode Island to provide sick patients with a safe and legal way to buy their medicine. From his website:
In recent years, his most prominent battle was for the right of chronically suffering patients in Rhode Island to legally and safely access medical marijuana. When the medical marijuana bill he'd sponsored for years finally passed over the governor's veto in 2006, the General Assembly renamed it the “Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act” for him and the late nephew of its Senate sponsor. Despite his passionate advocacy over the nearly a decade and the cancer that had racked his body for years, it wasn't until this summer that he finally applied to participate in the program he worked so hard to create. His advocacy for it was based not upon his own pain, but on the suffering he witnessed as his father, brother and uncle all succumbed to the same disease.
I've been told the C. in Thomas C. Slater stands for compassion. SSDP sends our condolences to his family during this difficult time.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Once You Pop, You Just Can't Stop... Those Damn Drug Cartels!

Need more proof that the drug war isn't working? Watch the above video of 20 Mexican drug cartel members dressed as police freeing 53 inmates from a Mexico jail. The cartel members arrived in 10 vehicles and a helicopter. Yes, they have fucking helicopters. And submarines. How many of the drug dealers and users that we put behind bars in the U.S. have helicopters and an underwater armada?

It's no secret that the drug war is such a failure in the US that we aren't even able to keep drugs out of our prisons, nevermind our schools. In Mexico, it seems that arresting and jailing drug cartel members does little to stop their operations; they continue their work from a jail cell.
“When we keep a criminal in a Mexican prison, we run the risk that one way or another they are going to keep in contact with their criminal network,” Leopoldo Velarde, who heads extraditions for the federal attorney general’s office, said. “The idea is to stop criminals, not just jail them.”
Well, that is the idea isn't it? I'm not old enough to remember watching the whole Pablo Escobar ordeal. I've read extensively about the Search Bloc and his death. And hey, that stopped Colombian drug cartels and the flow of cocaine to the US right? Wait, it didn't.

So we could wage an all our war with the Mexican drug cartels. We could kill all of those bastards and put our hard earned tax dollars into more military resources. We could sacrifice the lives of US soldiers and Mexican civilians can suffer 10x as much as they are now. And once we arrest, jail, or kill the cartel leaders, we can watch as new ones form and take over the violent trade as if we were never even there.

Or we could learn from history.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Woman Dies After Being Denied Organ Transplant Because she Tested Positive for Marijuana

A Hawaii woman diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver, chronic hepatitis - infection, and end-stage kidney disease died after being denied a liver transplant by her insurance company, Hawaii Medical Service Association, because trace amounts of cannabis were found in her body.
Reyes was twice denied a transplant by HMSA for "technical reasons," such as missing required Alcoholics Anonymous meetings -- because she was too weak.

However, on July 17, HMSA approved Reyes' request for a liver transplant.

That approval signaled the Reyes family and HMSA had apparently resolved compliance issues, Herhold said.

Three days later, however, HMSA withdrew the transplant approval after it received toxicology tests that showed cannabis in Reyes' system, her attorney said.
I think it's pretty disgusting that an insurance company would approve this life saving transplant and then reverse that decision because she used marijuana. If she wasn't a good choice for the transplant they should have known that before finding marijuana in her system. Marijuana does not cause cancer or other life threatening illnesses.

HEA Reform is Close

The HEA Aid Elimination Penalty, introduced by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), has been a thorn in the side of educators, students, and social justice activists across the country since its creation in 1998.

This year, we may see significant reform to this unfair law. A bill has been introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), that if passed, would remove the penalty for students with drug possession convictions. Those convicted of selling illegal drugs will still be barred from receiving financial aid. The bill has already passed a House committee and will go on to the full House following August recess. It is expected to pass the house.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy
has been working to repeal this law since the organizations formation. In 2006, SSDP had a great success by scaling back the law’s “reach back” effect, meaning that those with drug convictions in their past were still eligible for aid and those who receive convictions while receiving aid will lose it. Even Congressman Souder, one of the country’s most zealous drug warriors, supported this reform.

Its been a long battle full of both excitement and disappointment for reformers. In February 2008, Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) introduced the Removing Impediments to Students' Education (RISE) Act into the 110th Congress. The bill, which gained substantial support, would simply repeal the aid elimination penalty.

In March 2008, U.S. Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced the first ever Senate bill to prevent college students from automatically losing financial aid as a punishment for drug offenses. S.2767 would get rid of the mandatory minimum penalty and allow students with drug convictions to keep aid and stay in school unless a judge specifically ruled they should lose education in addition to other punishments imposed like fines, jail time, or community service.