It may be an off-year election, but it’s a big one for drug policy reform. In seven weeks, voters across the country will have a chance to accelerate the unprecedented momentum to legalize marijuana and end the wider drug war. In fact, there are more drug policy reform questions on the ballot this November than ever in American history. Voter initiatives — primarily reforming or repealing marijuana laws — appear on the ballots in seven states, at least 17 municipalities and one U.S. territory. To help you keep score at home, here’s an overview, starting with the highest-profile measures.
Oregon: Passage of Measure 91 will make the Beaver State the third to legalize marijuana for adults outright. Like the historic laws adopted in Colorado and neighboring Washington two short years ago, this initiative would legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana for adults 21 and older and create a statewide system to regulate production and sales. And similar to Colorado’s law, Measure 91 would allow adults to cultivate small amounts of marijuana under controlled circumstances. In this entirely vote-by-mail election, the initiative has already been endorsed by the Pacific Northwest’s largest daily paper and would likely boost efforts across its southern border to end marijuana prohibition in California two years from now.
Alaska: The other statewide marijuana legalization initiative, Measure 2, is closely modeled on Colorado’s Amendment 64 and tracks many of the elements in Oregon’s prospective law. Alaska was something of a marijuana reform pioneer as possession and cultivation of small amounts for personal use in a private residence has been protected under the Alaska Constitution since the 1970s. Alongside Oregon in 1998, Alaska was among the first states to legalize medical marijuana. With a deep-rooted respect for personal freedom, Alaska would become the first red state to legalize marijuana for adult use, no doubt raising eyebrows across the political spectrum.
Florida: Amendment 2 is the only statewide medical marijuana initiative on the ballot this year, and it’s one to watch. Victory would make Florida, with its huge population and bell weather status in American politics, the very first southern state to adopt a medical marijuana law. With 23 other medical marijuana states and super-majority support nationally, passage of Amendment 2 would effectively settle any lingering questions on public acceptance of marijuana as medicine. It’s going to be a challenge, though, since Florida law requires 60% to pass a voter initiative. While polls indicate enormous support, casino mogul Sheldon Adelsoncontributed a few million dollars to stop it as Amendment 2 is associated with Charlie Crist’s comeback gubernatorial campaign. Adelson’s intervention has created the first well-funded opposition to a statewide marijuana reform campaign ever.
California: On the heels of reforming its harshest-in-the-nation Three Strikes law in 2012, Californians are now poised to refine six low-level, nonviolent offenses, including simple drug possession, from felonies to misdemeanors. Proposition 47 would then dedicate the savings — likely more than $1 billion a year — to schools, victim services, and mental health treatment. With retroactive sentencing and expungement provisions, the impact of Prop 47 in California on wasteful corrections spending and individual lives would be profound and surely resonate across the country.
District of Columbia: Earlier this year, the D.C. Council adopted the nation’s most far-reaching marijuana decriminalization law. In November, voters in the nation’s capital will decide whether to go even further. Initiative 71 makes it legal for adults over the age of 21 to possess and cultivate small amounts of marijuana. While District law prevents the ballot initiative from addressing the sale of marijuana, the D.C. Council is considering a bill that would tax and regulate marijuana within the District. D.C. has the highest per capita marijuana arrest rates in the U.S. with enormous racial disparities as police target African Americans for 91 percent of these arrests. Initiative 71 will be the first marijuana reform campaign fought primarily on the issue of the drug war’s ongoing toxic impact on black communities.
Other races: Voters in municipal elections from the Northeast to Micronesia will weigh in November 4 on a range of marijuana focused issues.
· Guam: Voters could make this U.S. territory the first to adopt medical marijuana. Thebinding referendum would allow for dispensaries regulated by the Department of Public Health and Social Services.
· Maine: By a wide margin in 2013, Portlanders chose to eliminate criminal penalties for adult possession of up to an ounce of marijuana. In seven weeks, voters in York, South Portland, and Lewiston will tackle the same question.
· Michigan: In the last two years, residents of seven cities have voted to remove local penalties for adult possession of small amounts of marijuana in a private residence. As of now, a whopping 11 other cities (with apparently more to come) will have the chance to follow suit this year.
· New Mexico: Last month, the City of Santa Fe became the first in the state to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana. On the ballot in November, voters in Bernalillo (Albuquerque) and Santa Fe Counties will decide if their county should affirm decriminalization efforts.
Public opinion has shifted dramatically over the last decade in favor of reforming marijuana laws and dismantling the egregious excesses of the drug war. And elected officials have begun to take notice. The U.S. House has voted five times in recent months to let states set their own marijuana policies while Senators Rand Paul and Cory Booker have introduced similar bi-partisan legislation in the U.S. Senate in addition to a cluster of other long-overdue criminal justice reforms. When the dust settles on November 5, the momentum for change in this country will only have accelerated.
Stephen Gutwillig is the Deputy Executive Director for Programs of the Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s leading organization working to promote alternatives to the failed war on drugs.
Follow Stephen Gutwillig on Twitter: www.twitter.com/SWGinLA
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Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana
Wednesday, February 6, 20131:00pm
The Capitol Annex Building 700 Capitol Ave Loop, Frankfort, KY, 40601
Support the cause, the senators need to feel and hear your voice. Meet us at the Capital Hill Annex building and show your support for SB 11 (Gatewood Galbraith Medical Marijuana Bill). Chronically ill Kentucky citizens that have been debilitated by disease need your support. Please help our cause by coming out to the rally. You can also further support our cause by making an appointment to see your senator the same day. We can’t do it without you.
UNITED WE STAND DIVIDED WE FALL!
We can make this happen!
Kentucky Veterans for Medical MarijuanaRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
WASHINGTON — An appeals court rejected the bid by medical marijuana backers to ease federal controls of the drug, ruling that the government properly kept the substance in its most dangerous category.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals on Tuesday upheld the Drug Enforcement Administration’s decision to maintain marijuana as a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act because there are no adequate scientific studies finding an acceptable medical use.
“The question before the court is not whether marijuana could have some medical benefits,” U.S. Circuit Judge Harry Edwards wrote in the opinion.
Edwards said the court’s review was limited to whether the DEA’s decision declining to reschedule the drug was arbitrary and capricious. He said the court found there was “substantial evidence” to support the agency’s determination that such studies don’t exist.
The case involves a 10-year-old petition from medical marijuana advocates who asked the DEA to reclassify marijuana as a Schedule III, IV or V drug, which would allow for looser regulation. On June 21, 2011, the DEA rejected the request, stating that existing clinical evidence wasn’t adequate to warrant reclassification.
“To deny that sufficient evidence is lacking on the medical efficacy of marijuana is to ignore a mountain of well- documented studies that conclude otherwise,” Joe Elford, chief counsel with Americans for Safe Access, the medical marijuana advocacy
organization that brought the case, said in an e-mailed statement.
Elford told the court during arguments in October that there were more than 200 studies that the agency refused to consider.
The group said it will appeal the ruling, according to the statement.
Lena Watkins, a lawyer for the Justice Department, told the court in October that the studies cited by the marijuana proponents were rejected because the research didn’t meet government standards. She said about 15 studies meet the standards, though the government doesn’t have the final results yet.
The court also waved off claims that government blocked efforts to study the medical effects of marijuana, citing the Health and Human Services Department policy supporting the clinical research with botanical marijuana.
“It appears that adequate and well-controlled studies are wanting not because they have been foreclosed but because they have not been completed,” Edwards said in the ruling.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
FRANKFORT, Ky. — With support from some of the state’s top politicians and claims that it would create thousands of jobs, an effort to legalize industrial hemp — the less-potent cousin of marijuana — may have its best chance of passing the Kentucky General Assembly.
Opposition from the Kentucky State Police helped kill earlier efforts to legalize hemp, which can be processed into fiber for clothing or provide an oil used in skin- and hair-care products. Once legal, hemp production in the United States was centered in Kentucky. Production fell nationally after the mid-1800s, as cotton surged.
State police still oppose legalizing hemp, arguing in part that because the plants look virtually the same as marijuana it could impede drug enforcement efforts.
But the proposal to legalize hemp has gained momentum from the alliance of Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, state Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Paul Hornback, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.
“This is something that you don’t have to borrow any money (for) that will have an immediate impact of thousands of jobs,” Comer said, based on an assumption that processors and manufacturers would locate in Kentucky if it is one of the first states to approve it. “We’re ahead at something that relates to economic development for once, so let’s pursue it.”
Comer and Paul say the state police concerns are unfounded because growers of industrial hemp would be licensed and global-positioning system devices would identify legal crops and reveal others as illegal.
Comer’s Senate Bill 50, sponsored by Hornback, a Republican from Shelbyville, was filed earlier this month just before the legislature adjourned until February.
The bill would require growers to be licensed annually and have their backgrounds checked by the Agriculture Department. Each licensee would be required to plant a minimum of 10 acres to eliminate people who aren’t serious from getting licenses.
Growers would have to keep sales contracts for three years and provide names of hemp buyers to the department.
Hemp seeds produce plants with less than 1 percent THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, which has between 3 percent and 15 percent THC.
Comer said he believes there are 22 votes in the 38-member Senate in favor of the bill. But if it isn’t assigned to Hornback’s committee by Senate President Robert Stivers and other Senate leaders, it may never get to the floor.
“I’m afraid I see problems in the Senate,” Comer said.
Stivers, a Republican from Manchester, said some members are uncomfortable with the bill.
If the measure passes the Senate, it likely will face an even tougher battle in the House, where Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom McKee, a Democrat from Cynthiana, has blocked similar bills from getting a vote in the past
McKee has said the state police concerns resonate with him.
“I think we have some questions to answer, but I certainly don’t want to close any opportunity for viable agriculture,” McKee said earlier this month.
Gov. Steve Beshear said on a Lexington radio call-in show recently that his “only hesitation” is law enforcement concerns.
Even if an industrial hemp bill passed in Kentucky, it would still need federal approval. Federal drug policy effectively bans growing it, although other countries, such as Canada, allow it.
Paul, a Bowling Green Republican, has supported federal legislation to enable hemp production by classifying it separately from marijuana. Paul and Comer appeared together at the Kentucky State Fair last year to talk about their support for industrial hemp.
If legalized, Comer said he doesn’t see corn and soybean growers in Western Kentucky switching to industrial hemp, but he said it would be a profitable alternative for growers in hillier areas whose land is now used for grazing and pasture.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Green Bus Tour for Marijuana Legalization
As we roll across America we may need the following things.
SPONSORS and Donations for fuel and food, we could not do this without you and you and you.
a warm place to sleep,
your support by sharing our posts,
Promoters to organize our upcoming arrivals
Bus Riders to promote
Testimonials from the public on video
your signature on the bus ceiling.
It’s your bus! Let’s make it legal!
All images are the property of the Green Bus Tour for Marijuana Legalization…
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 22, 2012
When: Monday October 22, 1:00pm
Where: City Hall Steps 801 Plum St. Cincinnati, Ohio
The CannaSense Campaign Tour to Legalize Marijuana Across the United States and End Prohibition 2, has begun with the Green Cannabus!
It’s Mission: The Green Cannabus is touring the United States this Election Year to spotlight Marijuana Legalization. Stacey Theis and friends started in North Carolina and will end up in Arizona after many city stops along the way.
Monday, the 22nd, the Cannabus is stopping in Cincinnati for a Meet and Greet and Press Conference to talk about why ending Cannabis Prohibition makes sense.
Speaking at the Press Conference will be CannaSense Campaign Director Stacey Theis, Jake Jones (Son of Deceased Drug War Victim, Gary Shepherd), Medical Cannabis Activist Tonya Davis with NORML Women’s Alliance, Ohio Alternative Treatment Amendment and Sponsor of the Ohio Medical Compassion ACT (HB 214). They will be sharing their stories and vision of how President Obama can re-schedule Cannabis so Doctors and Patients can decide healthcare choices, not our Government. They believe he can win back the voters he’s losing by keeping his 2008 campaign promise to let Medical Cannabis be a States Right issue.
Also speaking will be Moms, Dads, Grandparents and Patients from all walks of life…all wanting to end Prohibition 2 and to stop wasting tax payer’s dollars on wrecking the lives of families by arresting, prosecuting, caging up and creating criminals out of otherwise law abiding citizens.
No Victim, No Crime.
From 4-5pm, the Cannabus Folks will be guests on HempRock Radio which airs on WVQC-LP 95.7 FM, http://www.wvqc.org and with the WVQC Phone App at http://www.tunein.com. WVQC-LP broadcasts from Media Bridges studios in the Crosley Telecommunications Building on Central Parkway.
For more information, please contact Tonya Davis 937.479.0461 and go to
Respectfully, Tonya Davis
Washington, D.C. — Late last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed to hear oral arguments in Americans for Safe Access v. Drug Enforcement Administration, a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s classification of marijuana as a dangerous drug with no medical value. Ten years after the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis (CRC) filed its petition, the courts will finally review the scientific evidence regarding the therapeutic value of marijuana. The D.C. Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments on October 16th at 9:30am.
“Medical marijuana patients are finally getting their day in court,” said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy group. “This is a rare opportunity for patients to confront politically motivated decision-making with scientific evidence of marijuana’s medical efficacy,” continued Elford. “What’s at stake in this case is nothing less than our country’s scientific integrity and the imminent needs of millions of patients.”
ASA filed its lawsuit in January, challenging the July 2011 Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) denial of the CRC petition, which was filed in 2002. The DEA is the final arbiter on petitions to reclassify controlled substances, but other agencies are also involved in the review process. Patient advocates claim that marijuana is treated unlike any other controlled substance in that rescheduling petitions are encumbered by politics and therapeutic research is subjected to a unique and overly rigorous approval process.
The announcement of oral arguments comes just weeks after a study was published in The Open Neurology Journal by Dr. Igor Grant one of the leading U.S. medical marijuana researchers, claiming that marijuana’s Schedule I classification is “not tenable.” Dr. Grant and his fellow researchers concluded it was “not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that information on safety is lacking.” The study urged additional research, and stated that marijuana’s federal classification and its political controversy are “obstacles to medical progress in this area.” Marijuana’s classification as a Schedule I substance (along with heroin) is based on the federal government’s position that it has “no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.”
For more than a year, the Obama Justice Department has been escalating its attacks in medical marijuana states, including dozens of new federal indictments and prosecutions. Though U.S. Attorneys often claim that the accused have violated state law in some way, defendants are prevented from using any medical evidence or a state law defense in federal court. If the rescheduling lawsuit is successful and marijuana is reclassified, federal defendants will then gain the basis for a medical necessity defense.
The ASA appeal brief asserts that the federal government has acted arbitrarily and capriciously in its efforts to deny marijuana to millions of patients throughout the U.S. ASA argues in its brief that the DEA has no “license to apply different criteria to marijuana than to other drugs, ignore critical scientific data, misrepresent social science research, or rely upon unsubstantiated assumptions, as the DEA has done in this case.” ASA is urging the court to “require the DEA to analyze the scientific data evenhandedly,” and order “a hearing and findings based on the scientific record.” The panel of judges assigned to hear oral arguments includes Circuit Judges Henderson and Garland, and Senior Circuit Judge Edwards.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have adopted medical marijuana laws that not only recognize the medical efficacy of marijuana, but also provide safe and legal access to it. Since the CRC petition was filed in 2002, an even greater number of studies have been published that show the medical benefits of marijuana for illnesses such as neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer’s. Last year, the National Cancer Institute, a division of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, added cannabis to its list of Complementary and Alternative Medicines, pointing out that it’s been therapeutically used for millennia.
AFI: Several patient-plaintiffs are available for interviews
Mr. Britt is a 52-year-old resident of Long Beach, California, who developed polio as a child, which caused him to have scoliosis, a fused left ankle, shortened left leg, and bone degeneration in his left hip. Mr. Britt also suffers from epilepsy, depression and insomnia, and uses marijuana to treat chronic pain in his leg, back, and hip. Marijuana has reduced Mr. Britt’s seizures and depression, and helps him sleep. Although Mr. Britt has taken prescription medication such as Marinol, Robaxin, Soma, and Xanax, none has proven as effective as marijuana.
Mr. Krawitz is a 49-year-old resident of Elliston, Virginia, who suffered an automobile accident in 1984 while serving in the United States Air Force. Mr. Krawitz has been rated by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as being totally and permanently disabled. Mr. Krawitz uses marijuana to treat chronic pain and trauma associated with his accident. He also use marijuana to treat central serous retinopathy. However, because of Mr. Krawitz’s medical marijuana use, he has been denied pain treatment by the VA.
Ms. Sherer is a resident of Washington, D.C. and the founder and Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). In April of 2000, Ms. Sherer suffered a physical attack that has caused her to suffer from a condition that produced inflammation, muscle spasms, pain throughout her body, and decreased mobility in her neck. Because of multiple pain medications she was prescribed, Ms. Sherer suffered kidney damage. After her doctor recommended medical marijuana, Ms. Sherer successfully reduced her inflammation, muscle spasms, and pain. This prompted Ms. Sherer to found ASA in April of 2002 to share what she learned about the therapeutic value of marijuana and to change public policy.
D.C. Circuit announcement of oral arguments: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/ASA_v_DEA_Oral_Arguments.pdf
ASA appeal brief: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/CRC_Appeal.pdf
DEA denial of CRC petition: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/CRC_Petition_DEA_Answer.pdf
CRC rescheduling petition: http://www.drugscience.org/PDF/Petition_Final_2002.pdf
Richard Flor died on Wednesday after suffering heart attacks and kidney failure about six months into his five-year federal sentence…
Five years ago, Montana’s most outspoken medical marijuana patient — Robin Prosser — committed suicide after the DEA seized her medicine, making her life unbearable.
Now flash forward to this past Wednesday night, when the feds’ war on medical marijuana claimed another Montana citizen’s life …
Former medical marijuana provider Richard Flor died on Wednesday after suffering heart attacks and kidney failure about six months into his five-year federal sentence. Richard was sentenced despite suffering from diabetes, Hepatitis C, and osteoarthritis.
For months, the federal government failed to place him in a facility that could give him the medical care he needed — and that the judge recommended.
Let your Congress member know that it’s past time to end this carnage.
Richard was Montana’s first registered caregiver, under a law that MPP passed via voter initiative in November 2004. He was assisting his wife Sherry — who suffers from chronic pain and is allergic to pain medications — as well as other patients.
Richard believed President Obama and his Justice Department when they said that medical marijuana providers would not be a federal enforcement priority. So, in 2009, Richard co-founded Montana Cannabis, where patients could get reliable, safe access to their medicine. But then the feds suddenly shifted their policy in March 2011, targeting Montana Cannabis and several other providers without warning.
The feds didn’t spare Sherry, either: She is serving a two-year sentence.
Please email your U.S. House representative to ask them to pass legislation to give legal protection to medical marijuana patients, caregivers, and businesses in the 17 (and soon to be more) states and the District of Columbia, where medical marijuana is legal.
Marijuana Policy Project
P.S. If you’d like to send Sherry a sympathy card, please mail it to:
Sherry Flor #11358046
Federal Prison Camp
37930 North 45th Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85086
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By Joseph Fraser
Posted: 12:00am on Mar 31, 2012
We call ourselves a free country, yet it is illegal to use marijuana on a recreational basis.
Seriously? Think about this, marijuana funds 60 percent of illegal drug operations across the United States. This market dictated by violence and extortion is really an unregulated form of capitalism. Ever wonder what capitalism would be without regulation? Just look at what the war on drugs has done to America. Some $1.5 trillion spent and nothing gained on the home front when it comes to the usage of drugs.
Ever wonder why? It’s simple, you can’t legislate free will, and any time the government deems it necessary to do so, it costs the taxpayer unmeasured amounts. Why unmeasured? With so much money spent to support the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is likely we are borrowing money from the Chinese government to tell Bob he doesn’t have the freedom to enjoy a plant at his own discretion.
Isn’t it apparent that we have lost the war on drugs after arresting so many millions? According to Adam Liptak of The New York Times in 2008, “The United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population. But it has almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners.”
On average, it costs our country about $40,000 per prisoner per year. It just doesn’t seem to be the real reason behind the drug war, does it? It’s almost like another dirty little government secret. It appears to be a racially motivated legislation. We all know minorities are filling these prisons, and we also know that the majority of these prisoners are criminally prosecuted and incarcerated based on nonviolent drug offenses.
Is it really worth $40,000 to keep one individual from getting high?
Meanwhile, this country is $16 trillion in debt. Do you want to cut grandma’s health care? Or should we cut back on the cost of the drug war by legalizing marijuana? You can’t have an honest conversation about reducing the nation’s debt burden without considering it.
America is known for its agricultural resources which it shares with people across the globe. So why should we be ashamed of producing a useful product that people might enjoy too? Everyone knows that hemp, a non-psycho-tropic form of marijuana, can be used to make lots of products. In fact, hemp was used to make rope for years, right here in Kentucky.
Instead of wasting money subsidizing farmers to not grow in this country, let the farmers earn an honest living, so they can once again put their children through college. Why is it in America we continue to hold back an industry because a certain uneducated part of the country doesn’t understand it or doesn’t believe in a person’s right to get high? News flash: Folks are still getting high, legal or not, like it or not.
Our government thinks it has the right to dictate a way of living to the American people. I say enough is enough. It is high time we start dictating to them what it is we will spend our money on. Let’s be serious in 2012 America, and it all starts with legalizing marijuana. It’s just common senseRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
José Peña brought some roadside weeds home from Kansas. Cops decided it was reefer, and a Texas court sentenced him to life in prison – without the evidence. It took a decade for Peña to get back some of the pieces of his life.
José Peña was tired as he drove south toward Houston on the morning of Sept. 27, 1998. Following a quick trip north to Kansas in a rented van – to pick up the brother of a distant cousin’s son – he was on his way home to Houston, where he lived with his wife and four children. It was the kind of favor Peña often did for friends and family, no matter how distant the relation – and the kind of favor that irritated his wife. “I was tired, and I was trying to get home,” the 50-year-old recently recalled. “My wife was mad at me for doing favors for other people” when he could instead be home.
That morning, just before 8am, Peña was cruising south down I-45, a little more than two hours from home. He was driving in the right-hand lane through Leon County when he passed a state trooper sitting in his car on the grass median. He thought nothing of it – just another Texas trooper on a long and nondescript stretch of highway – until he noticed the trooper pull out onto the road and follow him. The officer, Mike Asby, a veteran member of the Texas Department of Public Safety, drove in the left lane until his car was parallel with Peña’s. Peña looked over at Asby. “He pulled up next to me, and I looked at him because I wasn’t not going to make eye contact” with an officer whom Peña thought was definitely checking him out for whatever reason.
Although Peña steadfastly maintains that he wasn’t doing anything wrong or unusual, Asby would later testify that Peña caught his attention because he was driving more slowly than the rest of traffic in a van caked with mud; when the van “weaved across the center stripe and also across the solid yellow line on the shoulder,” Asby testified in January 2003, he had to take action. “You’re required to stay in a single lane of traffic,” he said. He activated his lights and pulled Peña over.
Within the hour, Peña would be in handcuffs in the back of the trooper’s car, headed to the county jail in Centerville on a charge of marijuana possession. Nearly five years later, Peña would be convicted and sentenced to life in prison for possession of what the state said turned out to be 23.46 pounds of freshly cut marijuana that Peña was transporting in the back of the muddy blue van. Although Asby testified that this was not a normal highway drug bust – “normally,” he testified, marijuana moves north from Houston, already “dried out, cured, and ready to be sold” – he was certain that what he found casually laid out in the back of the van was pot because it smelled like pot – and he knows pot when he smells it. “It’s something that you learned in  years of experience being on the road?” prosecutor Whitney Smith (now Leon County’s elected D.A.) asked Asby.
“Yes, sir,” Asby replied.
Just Trust Us
There are at least two problems with the official story of Peña’s arrest and prosecution. First, Peña is adamant – and has been since 1998 – that what he was transporting was not marijuana, but actually hemp, pot’s non-narcotic cousin. Peña says he found the plants growing wild in Kansas and cut them down, thinking that he could use the stems and leaves in the various craft projects he made with leather and wood in his garage workshop; there was no doubt in Peña’s mind that what he was transporting was not marijuana. The second, and eventually more decisive problem with the official story of the Peña bust, is that prior to his trial, officials with the Department of Public Safety lab in Waco, where the plants were taken for testing, completely destroyed all of the case evidence – all 23.46 pounds of plant material – and then also lost the case file with all of the original documentation of the lab’s work on the case. By the time Peña was finally tried – more than four years later – there was absolutely no evidence to show the jury; instead, the state relied completely on the “experience” of Asby and of Waco lab supervisor Charles Mott (now retired) to persuade jurors that what they say they saw and tested was actually marijuana.
That is, it worked until late last year, when Peña’s conviction was finally overturned by the Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, and Leon County subsequently dismissed the charges for good. In the intervening decade, however, Peña’s case became a political hot potato, catching the attention of judges and lawyers across the state who watched as the 10th Court of Appeals, based in Waco, played tug-of-war with the Austin-based CCA over the power of the Texas Constitution, and whether it affords citizens greater rights and protection against state power than does the U.S. Constitution.
It’s a conflict that has left the state of Texas divided and may mean – at least for the time being – that persons tried for crimes in one part of the state will be afforded greater protection from prosecutorial errors or malfeasance than are others. Frankly, says Keith Hampton, an Austin defense attorney who represented Peña just before his case was dismissed, you just “don’t see this happen very often.” Ultimately, whether the protections gleaned from the Texas Constitution by the 10th Court will remain in force and be applied to all Texans is still to be determined.
Weeds, Not Weed
Peña had a knack for creating handcrafted leather and wood items that sold like hotcakes, he says, at flea markets in and around Houston. He made personalized shellacked plaques and leather key chains with popular first names spelled out in tiny beads, and at a dollar a key chain, they sold well. So when he first saw the hemp plants growing on the roadside near Manhattan, Kan., they gave him an idea. He would take the plants – which, to an untrained eye, look exactly like marijuana plants – press the leaves, and then use them on plaques or affixed to the small leather wallets that he also had become expert at making. He recognized these as “volunteer” hemp plants – they grow wild across the country, reminders of the days when hemp farming was commonplace and even, during World War II, encouraged by the feds as supporting the war effort. By the Kansas roadside, they were scraggly and abundant. When he pulled into the Tuttle Creek State Park outside Manhattan, and saw the plants growing everywhere, he “loaded … up.”
Indeed, Peña thought nothing of the fresh-cut plants that he’d laid out in the back of the blue van he was driving. He knew – partly from experience of having smoked pot when he was younger, and partly because he knew that hemp was once a major agricultural commodity – that the plants were nothing more than weeds that looked like weed.
However, that’s not how Asby saw it. To him, it was clear that one thing, and only one thing, was taking place. Peña was moving a large amount of marijuana to Houston – as unusual as that might be, Asby acknowledged.
Peña repeatedly told Asby that the plants were hemp, and his insistence clearly gave some pause to Asby and the two backup officers who soon joined him. The three men stood next to the van pondering the notion that a plant could look like, but not actually be, marijuana. “I … questioned them, I said, ‘Well, he says it’s not marijuana,'” Asby recalled in court. “I knew that there was a substance called hemp and I was asking them. … And I asked them, ‘You ever heard of something like marijuana, just hemp, that is legal to have?'” he continued. “I don’t know that there is a legal kind. That was the question I was asking the officers: ‘Have you ever heard of this … where marijuana was cut and it turns out to be legal?'”
In the end, Asby was unpersuaded. “I just know marijuana smells like marijuana,” he testified in 2003. “And I have never found anything that I thought was marijuana that wasn’t.” He cuffed Peña and hauled him off to jail.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Marijuana Smuggler Who Served 30 Years in Prison Wants to Convince Florida Old Folks to Support Medical Marijuana
Lucy Steigerwald | March 16, 2012
Robert Platshorn is against the war on drugs; so much so that he spent 5k on two pro-pot billboards. The 69-year-old director of Florida National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) did so as part of "The Silver Tour," which is a campaign to convince senior citizens in South Florida that medical marijuana is a good thing.
Platshorn is a rare senior citizen indeed. Seniors (Florida has lots of ‘em!) are credited as the reason for the failure of California’s Proposition 19, the marijuana legalization initiative. And in in general, older populations do frown on legalization. Gallup in 2011 charted 39 percent of folks 65 and older as in support of legalization of marijuana; compare that to the 62 percent support from those aged 18-29. The thing about Platshorn, though, is that he spent much of his time in those younger, more pro-pot demographics in prison. In 2008, Platshorn finished out a 30-year term for marijuana smuggling as part of the "Black Tuna Gang."
As part of the Silver Tour, Platshorn put up two billboards in support of medical marijuana, one of which is to the right. They will run for a month.
According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
Down the road apiece, just after a billboard advertising a service for clogged drains, stands the second big sign. "Reschedule Medical Marijuana" it reads. Below it is a quote from former administrative Judge Francis L. Young’s ruling about pot in a 1988 case: "One of the Safest Therapeutically Active Substances Known to Man."
The billboards urge viewers — some 54,500 cars pass that section of Sample Road daily, according to the state Department of Transportation — to learn more at The Silver Tour, the billboards’ sponsor.
Platshorn surely is not the most sympathetic face of the pro-legalization movement, at least not to those on the fence about the issue, but it’s cool that he’s now taking the slow and sneaky path to convince those most skeptical.
Here’s a sampling of a Miami Herald article written on the occasion of the former drug-smuggler’s release from jail. The implication seems to be that weed trafficking was a gentleman’s game in the 1970s. He was, after all, non-violent:
This was just business, and good business wasn’t violent, not in the mid-Seventies, when Platshorn ran his transcontinental racket. Marijuana suppliers were family-run enterprises mediated by political figures and local law enforcement intent on keeping a lid on the trade while lining their own pockets. And he trusted his partners. They were his stoner buddies, and he knew they’d come through for him.
"It was a hippie era," Platshorn says. "You tell a guy you’ll pay him $1 million, you pay him."
Those were the years before the cocaine blizzard swallowed South Florida, and Platshorn was just an entrepreneurial pothead leading the 007 existence he’d always dreamed of — and smoking some really good weed while he was at it.
Back in Florida, he had a handful of yachts at his disposal. From a posh suite at theFontainebleau Hotel in Miami Beach, he operated an auto auction, a marina club, and a barbershop. He used canal-front stash houses and wore stylish plaid leisure suits with broad collars as sharp as spearheads….
Platshorn and friends would be accused of smuggling, or at least attempting to smuggle, 500 tons of marijuana into the United States during the mid- to late Seventies. When the gang was busted in September 1978, the DEA proclaimed it the most sophisticated drug ring it had ever encountered.
Platshorn’s 1980 conviction was a major coup for drug enforcement agencies, the first join FBI/DEA enterprise. In all, eight of the gang’s central members were convicted in two federal trials, but the leaders — Platshorn and Robert Meinster — would pay the stiffest price: prison sentences totaling 108 years between them.
The rest here.
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