Friday, May 28, 2010

Teachers Suspended for Showing Flex Your Rights Video

Flex Your Rights, founded to educate the public about constitutional rights during police encounters, has been embraced by both the police and the public. Every citizen should understand their basic Bill of Rights protections, so it's completely understandable why two high school teachers in Virginia decided to show "BUSTED: A Citizen's Guide to Surviving Police Encounters" to their 12th grade government classes. Unfortunately, the two Norview High School teachers were put on leave this week after a parent complained that they showed a video and distributed handouts that gave advice on how to deal with police if stopped.

"She came home recently and said, 'You wont believe what we are learning in Government. They are teaching us how to hide out drugs,'" the parent recounted.
The message and intent of the teachers has been clearly misinterpreted. In each scene of BUSTED, it is explains how legal rights apply to police searches of vehicles, homes, or individuals and how people can cite those rights during police encounters. As the commentator on the video states:

"Whether or not you break the law, this video is designed to explain what the law is and how you can legally and properly assert your constitutional rights through even the most stressful police encounters."
As we know, millions of these encounters occur each year in America. Young people, who are targets in many of these encounters, deserve to be educated in how to handle these situations. People who not only understand their rights, but also know how to apply them are less likely to make regrettable decisions, reducing the likelihood of negative outcomes for both individuals and officers of the law. Flex Your Rights had this to say:

"Unfortunately, as we work to provide this important public service, we do sometimes receive criticism from individuals who misinterpret our discussion of constitutional rights as an endorsement of breaking the law. It's not. We sometimes depict and discuss criminal activity in our materials because there are important legal lessons that are difficult to illustrate without it. Police are trained both to fight crime and uphold the constitution, and there are numerous instances in which these interests come into conflict with one another. Depicting such scenarios makes our work realistic, but should not make it controversial."
Please click here to share your concerns with the school administration.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Another $500 Million for More National Guard at the Mexican Border

President Obama has requested an additional $500 million to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops in an an attempt to secure the Mexican border. Fueled by concerns of illegal immigrants and drug-traffickers, the deployment of more troops provides the sense of security necessary to prevent the panic of Mexican drug war violence spilling across the border.

In a statement, the Mexican ambassador to the United States praised the "additional U.S. resources to enhance efforts to prevent the illegal flows of weapons and bulk cash into Mexico, which provide organized crime with its firepower and its ability to corrupt."
However, isn't it prohibition that has created the black market in which illegal drug traffickers now prosper from? What seems to be missing from political discussion is a solution that targets the root cause of drug war violence. Regardless, Senate Republicans offered an amendment to an emergency war spending bill to provide an additional $2 billion in border funding -- four times the size of Obama's proposal. John McCain also introduced an amendment to send 6,000 troops to the border.

The violence has crossed the border and escalated to a point where many Arizonans do not feel safe within their own homes or on their property," McCain and fellow Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl (R) wrote last week in a letter to Obama. "It would be irresponsible not to do everything we can to stop the escalating violence along the border with Mexico."
Fortunately, President Obama seems to understand that enforcement alone will not solve the country's immigration problems. He urged lawmakers to join a bipartisan effort to revamp the system. In relation, current U.S. drug policies need to be addressed as well. With the 22,700 death toll of the Mexican drug war, what more needs to happen in order for U.S. law makers to rethink our counterproductive prohibition strategy? As lawmakers consider such proposals to temporarily increase security, may they also think about plans for the future.The surge of more troops in hopes of solving border violence is an expensive band-aid at best.

Feds Seize 200 Marijuana Legalization Petition Signatures in WA

In a series of raids this week, a federally funded drug task force seized up to 200 petition signatures for marijuana legalization in Washington State from Sensible Washington, a group that is leading the way to let Washington State residents vote on legalization on the November ballot. Seizing the petition signatures wasn't as bad as what the task force did during its raids of a marijuana dispensary and its owner's home.

SSDP's friends at Firedoglake have set up a their own petition to get the signatures back.
Drug agents handcuffed a 14-year-old boy and pointed a gun at his head. Then they took $80 from a 9-year-old girl's Minnie Mouse wallet that she earned for straight A's on her report card.

Now the drug agents - funded by the US Department of Justice - say they can only find two pages of the petition. But they had time to make photocopies of the petition, keeping the names and addresses of residents who signed.
The purpose of this raid is to deter other citizens from signing the petition. These residents are now in fear of having their names and addresses exposed to a drug task force. Our tax dollars are paying for this intimidation. That's why it's important to speak out about this gross violation of our first amendment rights.
The petitions were seized from Sensible Washington, a group SSDP's Washington state chapters are working with to help end marijuana prohibition in the state. 

In an update from Sensible Washington
Two of the seized petitions will be returned to us promptly, according to a WestNET detective I spoke with earlier this morning. They will be picked up by our Bremerton coordinator from the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office evidence room, likely before the end of today.

These two petitions have been photocopied and I have asked WestNET to destroy those photocopies. They tell me they cannot without an agreement between the prosecution and defense because, well, that’s the way these things work. We will be working to make that agreement happen, but it will take some time. My sense of things, from talking with the WestNET detective, is that no one on the law enforcement side will oppose the destruction of those photocopies.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Marijuana Policy Updates from MPP

Here is a quick and useful update on the world of marijuana policy from our good friends at the Marijuana Policy Project.

As you can see, recent polling shows that only 49% of California voters support the Tax & Regulate ballot initiative meaning we have a uphill battle for the next few months. Young voters will be essential to this campaign so please make a donation to SSDP to help our efforts in CA.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Marc Emery Extradited to U.S. for Selling Marijuana Seeds

Marc Emery, a vocal advocate for marijuana law reform, is being charged with a crime by the U.S. for selling marijuana seeds. Although he runs a legitimate business in Canada, he was recently extradited to the U.S. because it is illegal to buy or sell marijuana seeds in the U.S.

"From 1994 to 2005, I sold cannabis seeds to anybody in the world to grow in their home. We didn't worry about borders because, ultimately, it was a fundraiser. We would give our funding around North America to support marijuana legalization activities. Ultimately, the funding went around the world to places like the Israeli Marijuana Party, the Green Party in London, global marijuana movements, support for drug addiction clinics. I spent $4 million in ten years advocating peaceful democratic change. I paid taxes on the money. That's why I'm not being pursued in Canada. We ran a campaign to 'overgrow the government' to subvert the drug war. We were trying to create a kind of desirable chaos. The DEA's press release on the day that I was arrested said how contemptuous they were of me and called my magazine a propagandist magazine. They point to the legalization groups as well. These things are very much part of the record. It is a political activity, giving money to charities. There is nobody in the world, literally around the world, doing more to support legalization activities than me. Our movement is known around the world. To me, my arrest, it's very clearly a targeted ideological campaign against marijuana legalization."
In an interview conducted in January 2010, Marc Emery states that the U.S. is trying to make an example of him:

"There are many other seed sellers, but not ones as mouthy as I am. None of them are giving up money for political work. They are all pocketing. So it is interesting that in Canada no one else is being extradited for selling seeds, and no one is even being prosecuted. On my own block there are five other fellows selling seeds, and they are not being prosecuted. So I think what I was doing them annoyed them enough that they decided to come and get me."
Unfortunately, Marc Emery's case is the result of ineffective, insensible drug policies that stem from Bush era persecutions. He is being charged with committing a non-violent crime that has no victims and is expected to serve 5 years in prison. He will likely serve that time in a Canada.

"This is ideologically driven. The idea that they would seek to extradite me on this for a non-violent offense when there's no one claiming harm, this is unheard of."

Pot Laws Just Put Criminals In Charge

Check out SSDP Outreach Director Amber Langston's op-ed in the Columbia Tribune:

On May 4, Washington, D.C., Assistant Police Chief Peter Newsham was quoted in the Washington Post as saying, “People don’t feel marijuana is dangerous, but it is because of the way it is sold.”
On Feb. 11, when the Columbia Police Department conducted a SWAT raid on the home of Jonathan Whitworth, the officers shot both of his dogs, killing one and wounding another in the same house with his terrified wife and 7-year-old son. Undoubtedly, the police were following protocol for a policy that we, the American people, have endorsed. And although we might try to change the protocol to mitigate its effects, the flawed policy itself is the root cause of the problem.
That policy we have endorsed is, of course, marijuana prohibition.
These seemingly unemotional executors of the law — in this case, officers of the Columbia Police Department — were merely following procedure for what is potentially a very dangerous situation: policing an illegal market.
Let one thing be very clear. Two of our most highly valued principles in a capitalist economic system are transparency and accountability, neither of which is present in an underground trading market. As a democratic society, we are complicit in giving billions of dollars a year to criminals to oversee the distribution of marijuana and other drugs.
And that means criminals become the de facto regulators, distributors and enforcers of “unfair business practices” making a nontoxic, nonlethal substance like marijuana potentially fatal to anyone, including children and dogs who might be unintentionally caught in the crossfire of its rogue regulation. The notion of our policy to drive this market underground is to limit its availability and use. Yet despite billions of dollars spent annually in the “war on drugs,” marijuana is as easily available in the United States as it is in Amsterdam — though the marijuana use rates among youths there are only 60 percent of what they are in the United States.
Exactly like alcohol prohibition, our policies have created a juggernaut of violence for an unstoppable consumer demand. We have forced a commodity with a large consumer base (Missouri’s No. 1 cash crop) that half the American population is guilty of having consumed into an informal market where the only regulation is by the bullet. And despite decades of the same just-say-no-or-we-will-bring-our-guns-on-you approach, we have not lowered use rates. Marijuana is widely available — and, specifically, more widely available to teenagers than alcohol — and no one who sells it asks for ID.
The war on drugs is frequently waged in the name of the nation’s children. But if you were to ask your children about it, they would probably tell you they want you to stop fighting a war and killing people’s dogs. And if your child has a drug-abuse issue, would you really want to put her in a cage with violent criminals instead of sending her to counseling? Isn’t the whole point of marijuana prohibition to help the kids? And how do we help the kids? By continuing to support an outdated law that funnels massive amounts of money to support the lives of violent criminals with no legal oversight or regulation, who end up endangering everyone’s lives. Jonathan Whitworth was needlessly, violently intruded upon and terrorized in his own home; his child was subjected to a horrifying scene that no doubt will leave psychological implications for years to come; and his innocent puppy was murdered.
Let us not gloss over the 22,000 Mexicans dead since President Felipe Calderon began his “war on cartels” just three years ago. His increase in violence has led only to that — an increase in violence. It has done nothing to lower use rates and availability and has only led to an increase in competition between violent criminals for an incredibly profitable business.
Chief Newsham was right — marijuana is dangerous because of the way it is sold. And these officers were prepared for the war we have asked them to fight: a war in which criminals are funded at a rate of 10 times what we could ever hope to provide as taxpayers.
Jonathan Whitworth had only a small amount of marijuana — a substance safer than alcohol and, frankly, safer than aspirin. A small amount of marijuana — which 62 percent of Columbia voters said in 2004 should be dismissed from any fine, punishment, reprimand or sanction on a first offense anyway.
It is time to acknowledge that marijuana prohibition, like alcohol prohibition, has failed. It is time to tax and regulate marijuana.

Tax Cannabis in 2010. Any Questions?

This is a great video for anybody who has questions about California's  Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative.

Any student can volunteer to help the campaign by signing up right here. You don't have to be in California to help out.