Category Archives: Political

Fentanyl crackdown bill clears House committee


For Immediate Release

February 16, 2017

Fentanyl crackdown bill clears House committee

FRANKFORT—A bill that would make it a felony to illegally sell or distribute any amount of fentanyl, carfentanil and related drugs tied to an increase in drug overdoses in Kentucky has passed the House Judiciary Committee.

Trafficking in any amount of fentanyl, a pain killer now frequently imported for illegal street sales, and drugs derived from fentanyl as well as carfentanil—a large animal anesthetic said to be 10,000 times more potent than morphine—would carry up to 10 years in prison under House Bill 333, sponsored by Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill. Trafficking over certain amounts of the drugs could carry even longer sentences.

The bill would also make fentanyl derivatives—which potentially number 800 or more, state officials say–part of the same class of drugs as heroin and LSD. Those drugs are classified as Schedule I by the federal DEA which describes the drugs as having no “currently accepted medical use.”

“Whatever (fentanyl derivative) is thrown at us in the future will be a Schedule I controlled substance under Kentucky law,” if HB 333 passes, Office of Drug Control Policy Executive Director Van Ingram told the committee.

Fentanyl, carfentanil and fentanyl derivatives are being mixed with heroin and sold on the street as heroin or other drugs. Some cities and counties have experienced dozens of overdoses in the span of a day or two because of the potency of the drugs which, Ingram said, can be disguised as pharmaceuticals like Xanax or Percocet.

“The business model for drug cartels is to mix fentanyl with heroin and make it look like (something else),” said Ingram. “It’s a much better —- for them. It’s a very deadly situation for our population.”

HB 333 would also create a felony offense called trafficking in a misrepresented controlled substance for those who pass off carfentanil, fentanyl or fentanyl derivatives as an actual pharmaceutical, like Xanax. 

Another provision in the bill would limit prescriptions for fentanyl to a three-day supply with few exceptions, said Moser. Rep. Angie Hatton, D-Pikeville, questioned how the legislation would prevent someone from getting another dose from another physician after receiving their three days’ worth. Moser said the KASPER system, which tracks prescriptions written in Kentucky for all scheduled drugs, is still in place to monitor what is prescribed.

“This language does not preclude the fact that physicians have to document with the PDMPs or prescription drug monitoring programs. KASPER is still a way to monitor… that’s still a requirement,” said Moser.

HB 333 now goes to the full House for consideration.

–END–

Neil Gorsuch & Marijuana: What Are His Views on Legalization?


By Stephanie Dube Dwilson

neil gorsuch

President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, hails from Colorado, a state known for marijuana legalization and being a strong proponent of state’s rights over the federal government. Has Gorsuch said anything about his views on legalization?

Here’s what you need to know.

There’s really not a lot to go on when it comes to determining Gorsuch’s views on marijuana. There’s little evidence for how he feels about this topic.

However, there is one case that can provide a few clues. As New York Daily News reported, Gorsuch once ruled on a case in 2015 where a Colorado dispensary, Total Health Concepts, had to pay taxes on business expenses that they had previously deducted. The dispensary claimed that they shouldn’t have to disclose the nature of their business, due to self-incrimination. They argued, among other things, that because the government couldn’t know if their expenses were related to federally unlawful substances, they shouldn’t be prevented from making those deductions. (You can read the case in full here.)

Gorsuch and the judges on his panel denied the motion. But he did state that he believed the problems was caused by confusion from President Barack Obama’s administration saying it wouldn’t prosecute offenders, but the IRS not treating marijuana the same way.

In the beginning of the case, he wrote:

This case owes its genesis to the mixed messages the federal government is sending these days about the distribution of marijuana. … They run the business [dispensary] with the blessing of state authorities but in defiance of federal criminal law. … Even so, officials at the Department of Justice have now twice instructed field prosecutors that they should generally decline to enforce Congress’s statutory command when states like Colorado license operations like THC. At the same time and just across 10th Street in Washington, D.C ., officials at the IRS refuse to recognize business expense deductions claimed by companies like THC on the ground that their conduct violates federal criminal drug laws. … So it is that today prosecutors will almost always overlook federal marijuana distribution crimes in Colorado but the tax man never will.”

So he made it clear that he didn’t agree with the mixed messages, but never stated which side of the debate he sided with.

The only other “hint” we have is an article written by “The Joint Blog,” where the author states that a former student of Gorsuch asked if he supported legalization. He recounted that Gorsuch said, at the very least, he supported the government getting out of the business of prohibiting it. However, this statement is obtained third-hand, and Gorsuch hasn’t yet spoken publicly about his views to media.


Neil Gorsuch’s Family: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Learn all about Neil Gorsuch’s family, including his wife, his two daughters Emma and Belinda, his parents Anne and David, and his sister and brother.

Click here to read more

Stephanie Dube Dwilson is a news, entertainment & science/tech contributor to Heavy. She’s also a cat blogger, runs a post-apocalyptic blog, and is an attorney (currently not practicing, so she can write more!) In her spare time, Stephanie writes screenplays and novels. You can follow her on Twitter at @StephanieDube or contact her by email here.

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There are three ways to revoke a US president’s executive orders, and they rarely succeed


President Donald Trump holds up a signed Executive Order in the Oval Office of the White House, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

On Monday (Jan. 30), Sally Yates was fired from her position as acting US attorney general almost immediately after instructing the justice department not to defend president Donald Trump’s new immigration policies in court. Yates said she was not convinced that defending the executive order that establishes those policies was consistent with her responsibility to stand for what is right, nor was she was she convinced that the order was lawful.

Yates is not alone in challenging Trump’s immigration order, which indefinitely blocks Syrian refugees from entering the US, blocks refugees from all other nations for four months, and places a 90-day ban on entry to the country from seven Muslim-majority nations (read the full text here). After Trump signed the order on Jan. 27, protests erupted at major US airports, business executives condemned the order, and the American Civil Liberties Union challenged it with a lawsuit.

Can an executive order be revoked? There are three ways—but none of them commonly occur, at least not while the president who issues the orders is still in office.

  1. The president can revoke, modify, or supersede any executive order: Presidents often undo the executive orders of their predecessors, but they have rarely retracted or overridden their own executive orders. “This early on, to admit that you’ve made such a huge mistake would be very politically damaging,” says Alvin Tillery, an associate professor of political science at Northwestern University. “And I think that the response with protests and so on, it would just give further fodder to people who want to challenge [Trump’s] policy positions.”
  2. Congress can revoke, modify, or supersede an executive order if the president was acting under authority granted by Congress: But if Congress makes changes that the president disagrees with, it can expect to face a presidential veto, which it could only override with a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate. One 2006 study (pdf) cited by the Congressional Research Service found that only about 4% of executive orders have been modified by Congress. “Usually when they do act, it’s to provide funding to an executive order, or to build an executive order into a statutory framework,” says William Howell, a professor of American politics at the University of Chicago, who has written extensively about executive power. “They fortify an executive order.”
  3. Courts can declare an executive order illegal or unconstitutional. Barring several notable exceptions however, the courts do not regularly overturn presidential actions. In Howell’s book Power without Persuasion: The Politics of Direct Presidential Action, he attempted to identify every court case that has challenged an executive order between 1945 and 1998. In 83% of them, the courts ruled in favor of the president.

Despite the historical infrequency of executive orders being revoked within the same presidential term as they are issued, Trump’s immigration order has already changed. The US Department of Homeland Security issued an order on January 29 essentially exempting legal permanent US residents from the ban. Though agencies sometimes clarify their interpretation of an executive order, Howell says the DHS action was fairly unusual. “In the aftermath of most executive orders, if not silence, there is at least broad acquiesensce,” he says “Presidents usually vet them, they talk to key political actors, get their input … The subjects that would require clarification, whoever writes the order is usually aware of them and provides clarity in order.”

On January 28, a federal judge also issued an emergency stay against the executive order in response to the ACLU lawsuit, which was brought on behalf of two Iraqi men detained at JFK International Airport in New York. The ruling temporarily prevented the government from deporting some people who had already arrived at airports in the US.

While checks on executive orders may not be used frequently, they do place limits on presidential power, Howell says. “A president, in principle, could write whatever they want in an executive order, but it would be wrong to conclude that president can remake the political universe in his image,” he asserts. “There are meaningful institutional checks that apply.”

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McConnell Congratulates President Trump


 

Image result for Sen mcconnell at inauguration

‘I think it’s important for all Americans — regardless of party — to remember the significance of Inauguration Day, as we celebrate our nation’s rich electoral tradition and begin to move our country forward together.’

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks today on the Senate floor congratulating President Trump on his Inauguration, and outlining the status of Senate consideration of Cabinet nominations:

In November’s election, the American people called for a new direction, a change from the last eight years. Today, we took a meaningful step toward that new direction, as we inaugurated a new President of the United States.

I think it’s important for all Americans — regardless of party — to remember the significance of Inauguration Day, as we celebrate our nation’s rich electoral tradition and begin to move our country forward together.

It’s always an honor to participate in the historical transition of power and the ceremonies surrounding it. Today was certainly no exception.

On behalf of the Senate, I’d like to express our gratitude to each individual — from law enforcement personnel to inaugural committee staff to congressional staff and volunteers — whose efforts made this event a success. I would like to again congratulate President Trump and Vice President Pence on today’s inauguration. We are eager to work with you and the Administration in advancing policies that can improve the lives of the American people.

So today marks a new beginning. We’re faced with many new opportunities. We’re faced with some new challenges too. I’ll have more to say on that in the coming days. But for now, the Senate remains hard at work as we move forward with the confirmation process of President Trump’s nominees. We’ll have an opportunity to confirm some today.

It’s imperative to proceed with confirmations without delay, especially when it comes to key national and economic security nominees.

I urge colleagues to remember that we worked with the Administration of former President Obama after he was first inaugurated.

We confirmed seven members of his cabinet the day he took office, and nearly the entire cabinet was filled within two weeks. 

The Senate should work in the same spirit with the current Administration and put the rest of President Trump’s team in place as soon as possible.

It’s very important that we confirm General Mattis and General Kelly to their critical positions as the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security. But that’s not enough. We live in dangerous times. As the Democratic Leader noted earlier today, “We face threats foreign and domestic”. It is critical for the President to have a full national security team on Day One. That includes, in particular, the Director of the CIA.

It makes no sense to leave this post open. Not for another week, not for another day, not for another hour. America’s enemies will not pause in plotting, planning and training simply because the Democrats refuse to vote. The American people expect more.

Earlier today the Director and Deputy Director of the CIA resigned. We need to confirm a new director today. We need to confirm the rest of the Cabinet quickly as well. Republicans treated a newly inaugurated President Obama’s nominees fairly, and Democrats should do so now. Our country is counting on it.

We can have as much debate time as requested by our Democrat colleagues, but at the end of debate today, we should vote.

I’d also like to offer a few words regarding our outgoing President.

As we say farewell to President Obama, I think it’s worth once again reflecting on the significance of his election and the historical achievement it represented in terms of our country’s past. That’s something both he — and our country — should be proud of.

Now, it’s no secret that President Obama and I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. Over the years we’ve pursued different sets of legislative priorities. Everyone here knows that. The American people know that too.

But I think I speak for all Americans when I thank our former President for his tremendous service to our Nation. And — as can be said of all First Families — he and his family have made many personal sacrifices over the past eight years. But through it all, they’ve done so with dignity and grace.

So to our 44th President, I’d say…

For your leadership, we are grateful.

We wish you, Michelle, Malia, and Sasha all the best as you embark on this new chapter of your lives. 

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Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (hereafter known as the Patriot Act, because that name is long and dumb)


Data shows Patriot Act used more often to justify drug warrants, not terrorism ones

by Miranda Nelson on September 8th, 2011 at 11:24 AM

 

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New York Magazine has put out an incredibly detailed compendium of 9/11 information on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the attacks that left over 3,000 people dead. The September 11 attacks, as you’re well aware, were the impetus (or used as justification, depending on how cynical you are) for pushing through the USA PATRIOT ACT, which was hurriedly signed into law on October 26, 2001.

One of the main focuses of the Uniting (and) Strengthening America (by) Providing Appropriate Tools Required (to) Intercept (and) Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (hereafter known as the Patriot Act, because that name is long and dumb) is Title II, which is all about surveillance. That’s right: even though those dastardly terrorists who hate our freedom came from overseas (as was the rhetoric beaten into the collective consciousness post 9/11), the U.S. government thought it was prudent to pass a bunch of surveillance laws so it could spy on its own citizens.

Let me quote the relevant section before we proceed:

SEC. 213. AUTHORITY FOR DELAYING NOTICE OF THE EXECUTION OF A WARRANT.

…(b) DELAY- With respect to the issuance of any warrant or court order under this section, or any other rule of law, to search for and seize any property or material that constitutes evidence of a criminal offense in violation of the laws of the United States, any notice required, or that may be required, to be given may be delayed if–

(1) the court finds reasonable cause to believe that providing immediate notification of the execution of the warrant may have an adverse result (as defined in section 2705);

Delayed-notice search warrants: we won’t tell you we’re breaking into your house to look around if we think there will be adverse results, like you calling up your terrorist buddies to let them know we’re on to you.

Something seems wrong with this graph (courtesy New York Magazine).

But between 2006 and 2009, do you know how many times the Patriot Act was used to issue delayed-notice warrants relating to terrorists and related activities? That would be a whole 15 times—even though the act mentions the word terrorism 161 times and terrorism 175 times.

Aside: did you know that not a single person has been brought to justice on American soil for those deaths?

In the same time period, New York Magazine reports that 1,618 delayed-notice search warrants were issued in relation to drugs and related activity. If you had any doubts about the true mandate of the Patriot Act, doubt no longer. Congratulations America on using a senseless tragedy to justify targeting marijuana users!

And why am I concluding that these people are primarily low-level marijuana offenders and not cocaine smugglers or meth manufacturers? The statistics on arrests and imprisonment make it clear: in 2006, 829,627 marijuana-related arrests were made in the United States, 89 percent of which were for mere possession. Not for growing or selling. Just for holding onto the stuff. In 2010, 50,383 arrests were made in New York City alone for possession.

The Patriot Act: great for the War on Drugs, bad for anyone who likes to smoke a joint, laughable in regards to stopping terrorism.

Follow Miranda Nelson on Twitter at @charenton_.

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Cannabis convict Eddy Lepp free from prison


Lepp, age 64, hailed as a “marijuana martyr” by supporters

 

By Lisa M. Krieger | lkrieger@bayareanewsgroup.com

PUBLISHED: December 7, 2016 at 9:59 am | UPDATED: December 8, 2016 at 9:16 am

 

Image result for eddy lepp

 

SAN FRANCISCO — Free after eight years of federal imprisonment, one of the nation’s most celebrated cannabis convicts came home to California on Wednesday, walking off a United Airlines flight into the warm embrace of supporters — and a profoundly changed world.

Charles “Eddy” Lepp, a defiant 64-year-old Vietnam vet and ordained Rastafarian minister, was convicted on federal felony charges in 2007 for doing something that California now considers legal because of last month’s passage of Proposition 64: growing marijuana.

 

“I’m very honored. I’m very humbled. Thank you so much for caring,” Lepp told friends and family at San Francisco International Airport, tears streaming down his creased cheeks.

Then he vowed to fight for national legalization of cannabis and presidential pardons for first-time nonviolent drug offenders.

“Just because I went to federal prison doesn’t mean I got off the horse,” said Lepp, who will be on drug-monitored probation for five years. “It is still a long, long ride — and I’ll be there when it’s done.”


Read the full story and find more California cannabis news at TheCannifornian.com.

SOURCE LINK

P3 update delivered to state lawmakers at Kentucky Horse Park


 

Image result for kentucky horse park

 

For Immediate Release

October 20, 2016

P3 update delivered to state lawmakers at Kentucky Horse Park

LEXINGTON—Three attorneys from different state government agencies gave lawmakers a look today at how Kentucky’s new public-private partnership law will be put to use.

The attorneys—one from the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, one from the Finance and Administration Cabinet and one from the Transportation Cabinet—explained that long-term partnerships allowed under 2016 House Bill 309 will combine private investment and public resources to meet state and local government needs. Other states have used P3s to improve schools, water systems, bridges, state parks and more.

The testimony was offered today at the Kentucky Horse Park during a meeting of the General Assembly’s Labor and Industry Committee, the Economic Development and Tourism Committee, and the Special Committee on Tourism Development.

With over $100-plus million in maintenance needs at Kentucky’s state parks, public-private partnerships, known as P3s, are expected to help reduce the parks’ deferred maintenance while employing a strict system of check and balances built into HB 309, said Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet General Counsel Leigh Powers.

“We’re not selling off state parks. We’re finding ways to make them better,” said Powers. The framework for P3s proposals, both solicited by agencies and unsolicited, will ensure that “the Commonwealth gets what it bargained for,” she told lawmakers.

A handout provided by all three attorneys explained when P3s should be used and what considerations should be taken into account before approval for a P3 is given. Some of those considerations include benefits gained or not gained, timeliness and risk. McLain explained additional considerations for transportation P3s includes, but is not limited to, compliance with federal requirements and investment-grade credit ratings.

The attorneys also explained that approved P3s must be part of competitive negotiation—meaning the contract will be awarded to a “responsible and responsive” party, per the handout. The handling of unsolicited proposals—P3 proposals that are not sought by the state or local government agency and instead independently generated, for example—will also include a 30-day waiting period for the proposal and 90 days of public notice before further action can be taken, with procedures differing slightly for transportation projects.

Neither Powers or Finance and Administration Cabinet General Counsel Gwen Pinson shared details on P3s that may be pending in their respective agencies, although both said proposals have been received. Assistant General Counsel Megan McLain also did not offer info on any specific proposals. 

Rep. Leslie Combs, D-Pikeville, who cosponsored HB 309 with House Majority Caucus Chair Sannie Overly, D-Paris, said the framework the new law provides is considered “the most transparent in the country.” She said HB 309 makes Kentucky one of around only seven states with such comprehensive P3 legislation that can be used for a wide range of public needs, said Combs.

“I do believe that as we said earlier, this is an opportunity for us to acquire infrastructure services across the Commonwealth. This is a new vehicle, a new financing tool,” she said.

The joint meeting of the committees also included an overview of what’s happening at the Kentucky Horse Park from park director Laura Prewitt and an update from AT&T Kentucky on infrastructure and investments made following the passage of 2015 HB 152. That was the telephone deregulation measure sponsored by House budget chairman Rep. Rick Rand, D-Bedford, which AT&T says has spurred telecom modernization in the state.

Sen. Paul Hornback, R-Shelbyville, who had proposed telephone deregulation legislation in prior sessions, said HB 152 has accomplished much of what it was designed to do. Hornback said the legislation is designed to move Kentucky forward by “making sure we didn’t have outdated regulations in place.”

–END–

 

 

http://www.ncppp.org/kentucky-p3-legislation-signed-into-law/

http://www.lrc.ky.gov/record/16RS/HB309.htm

A Libertarian View of Cannabis and Drugs


by Keith PrestonPolice State/Civil Liberties, Therapeutic State, Uncategorized • Tags: war on drugs

By Sean Gabb

Libertarian Alliance

(Written early in the 21st century for a Roger Scruton publication)

The libertarian position on drugs is simply stated. People should have the right to do with themselves as they please. This necessarily includes the right to take any drugs they please – for recreation or for medication. No one else automatically has the right to interfere with such choices, unless they can be shown to involve force or fraud or some attack on the whole community that threatens its dissolution.

Taking drugs in consenting company is not an act of the first kind – it causes no one else the sort of harm against which they can legitimately demand protection. Nor is it an act of the second kind. We are told endlessly that drugs are a danger to social stability – that they lead to crime and degradation and so forth. There is no evidence for this claim.

The British past provides a compelling example. Until 1920, drug use was uncontrolled. Between 1827 and 1859, British opium consumption rose from 17,000lb to 61,000lb. Workmen mixed it in their beer. Gladstone took it in his coffee before speaking. Scott wrote The Bride of Lammermoor under its influence. Dickens and Wilkie Collins were both heavy users. Cannabis and heroin were openly on sale. There was no social collapse. There were few deaths from taking drugs. Most deaths involving opium were individual accidents, and even these were negligible – excluding suicides, 104 in 1868 and thereafter to 1901 an annual average of 95. Hardly anyone even recognised that a problem might exist.

The claim that drugs are bad for a society falls. The opposite is true. Criminalisation is bad. All the ills now blamed on drugs are more truly blamed on the illegality of drugs.

When drugs are illegal, only criminals will supply them. And when criminals are allowed to dominate an entire market, they will be able – indeed required – to form extended, permanent structures of criminality that could never otherwise exist. They will then make drugs both expensive and dirty.

Drugs will be expensive because bribes, transport inefficiencies, rewards of special risk, and so forth, all raise the costs of bringing drugs to market. Therefore much of the begging, prostitution and street crime that inconvenience Western cities.

Drugs will be dirty because illegal markets lack the usual safeguards of quality. When a can of beer is stamped “8 per cent alcohol by volume”, this does not mean anything between 0.5 and 30 per cent. Nor will caustic soda be used to make it fizzy. Brewers have too much to lose by poisoning or defrauding customers. Drug dealers can afford to be less particular.

Therefore frequent overdosing. Therefore poisonous additives. Therefore, the frequent transmission of aids even today by the sharing of dirty needles.

Moving from the costs of the crime resulting from illegality, we come to the costs of enforcement. These also are massive.

In the first place, the Police need to become a virtual Gestapo if they are to try enforcing laws that create no victim willing to complain and help in any investigation. They need powers to stop and search people and to search private homes that would never be necessary to stop things like burglary and murder. They need to get involved in entrapment schemes. They are exposed to offers of bribes frequently too large to be turned away. In one way or another, the War on Drugs leads to the corruption of every enforcement agency sent into battle.

And that War cannot be won. The British Customs and Excise have no land border to worry about. They can track every boat and aeroplane that enters British territory. They have far wider powers of investigation than the regular Police. Even so, they themselves estimate that they stop fewer than three per cent of the drugs smuggled into the United Kingdom every year.

In the second place, we have the war on money laundering. Since it is impossible to stop the import and sale of the drugs, attention has switched in recent years to stopping the profits of the trade from being enjoyed. The idea now is to confiscate these profits and use them for further investigations. However, before the money can be taken, it must be found. This requires surveillance and control over all financial transactions. Because any one of us might be a drug dealer trying to launder dirty money, we must all provide endless documentation when we open bank accounts. We are not allowed to pay in large amounts of cash without facing an inquisition from the bank clerks. Our banking details are open to official inspection virtually on demand.

Just as with drugs, the war on money laundering is also a war on freedom. In this case, it frees the authorities from the requirements of due process. The confiscations of alleged drug money are increasingly made without any pretence of a trial. In America, civil asset forfeiture, has become legalised theft of the plainest kind. In Britain, we are moving towards a similar breach of Common Law rights.

Moreover, the fact that our financial transactions can now be monitored gives the authorities an entirely new power over us. Its means of exercise are not yet in place. But we are moving fast into a world where all our purchases can be stored in a database. We can try to avoid this surveillance by using cash. But there are experiments in both Britain and America to see how anonymous cash can be replaced by cards that leave a record of every transaction.

Therefore, on the grounds both of individual freedom and of social utility, there is no argument whatever for continuing with the present War on Drugs. It is a War that benefits only criminals and a few drug enforcement agencies, and that harms every one of the rest of us, whether or not we take drugs.

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9 States to Vote Soon on Expanding Legal Access to Marijuana


SAN FRANCISCO — Sep 28, 2016, 2:35 AM ET

Marijuana National Vote

From California, with its counterculture heritage, to the fishing ports and mill towns of Maine, millions of Americans in nine states have a chance to vote Nov. 8 on expanding legal access to marijuana. Collectively, the ballot measures amount to the closest the U.S. has come to a national referendum on the drug.

Five states — Arizona, California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada — will consider legalizing the recreational use of pot. Three others — Florida, Arkansas and North Dakota — will decide whether to permit marijuana for medical purposes. Montana will weigh whether to ease restrictions on an existing medical marijuana law.

As the most populous state, with a reputation for trend-setting, California is attracting the most attention — and money — in an intensifying debate over Proposition 64.

Silicon Valley tycoons and deep-pocketed donors with connections to the legal medical marijuana industry are among the top financial backers of a pro-pot campaign that has raised almost $17 million. Opponents have raised slightly more than $2 million, including a $1.4 million contribution from retired Pennsylvania art professor Julie Schauer.

Advocates on both sides say passage in California would likely ignite legalization movements in other states, especially when the tax dollars start adding up. California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated the state could collect up to $1 billion a year in marijuana taxes.

"As California goes, so goes the nation," said University of California, Berkeley political science professor Alan Ross.

If "yes" votes prevail across the country, about 75 million people accounting for more than 23 percent of the U.S. population would live in states where recreational pot is legal. The jurisdictions where that’s already the case — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon, Washington state and the District of Columbia — have about 18 million residents, or 5.6 percent of the population. Twenty-five states allow medical marijuana.

According to national polls, a solid majority of Americans support legalization. Gallup’s latest survey gauged support at 58 percent, up from 12 percent from when the question was first posed in 1969. Gallup says 13 percent of U.S. adults report using marijuana at present, nearly double the percentage who reported using pot in 2013.

California voters rejected an attempt to legalize recreational marijuana in 2010 after campaign leaders struggled to raise money and support for a four-page ballot measure hastily written by the owner of a small medicinal marijuana store.

This time, the 62-page ballot measure was crafted by political professionals and has the backing of many elected officials, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is running for governor in 2018. Current Gov. Jerry Brown says he’s close to announcing his position.

The measure would allow people 21 and older to legally possess up to an ounce of weed and grow six marijuana plants at home. Pot sales would be subject to various tax rates that would be deposited into the state’s Marijuana Tax Fund. Most of that money would be spent on substance-abuse education and treatment. Some would be used to repair environmental damage caused by illegal growers.

Opponents argue that the measure will do more harm than good by opening a marijuana market dominated by small farmers to corporate interests and encouraging children to use the drug through pot-laced sweets like gummy bears, cookies and brownies.

The proposal "favors the interests of wealthy corporations over the good of the everyday consumer, adopting policies that work against public health," said Kevin Sabet, co-founder of the California-based advocacy group Smart Approaches to Marijuana.

Napster founder and early Facebook investor Sean Parker has contributed more than $3 million to the legalization effort, which has also attracted sizable contributions from an organization backed by billionaire George Soros and another backed by Weedmaps, which rates pot stores throughout the state.

"It’s a huge deal and it’s long overdue," said Steven DeAngelo, owner of one of the nation’s largest medicinal marijuana dispensaries and a Proposition 64 supporter.

In most of the states with marijuana ballot measures, polls have shown the "yes" side leading. Sabet believes opponents of legalization would attract more support if they could narrow a large fundraising gap and spread their cautionary messages. He does not buy the other side’s argument that nationwide legalization will come sooner or later.

"Repeating that this is inevitable, and repeating they are so excited, is part of their narrative to makes folks like us feel helpless," he said.

Mason Tvert of the Marijuana Policy Project, a leading pro-legalization group, said his side has a chance to win in most of the nine states, but some losses will not derail the movement.

"Even if a measure doesn’t pass, support will grow," he said, citing failed ballot measures in Oregon and Colorado that preceded the victories for legalization.

"Most people believe marijuana should be legal. It’s a question of whether opponents do a good job of scaring them out of doing it now," Tvert added. "We might see people opt to wait a couple more years."

All five states voting on recreational marijuana have seen intense debate over the effect of legalization in the states that have already taken that step.

Opponents of the ballot measures make an array of claims, contending, for example, that Colorado’s legalization of pot has coincided with an increase in crime in Denver and fueled a jump in the number of traffic fatalities linked to marijuana use.

However, an analysis by three academic experts, published this month by the libertarian-leaning Cato Institute, asserted that the impact of legalization has been minimal.

"The data so far provide little support for the strong claims about legalization made by either opponents or supporters," the analysis said.

Harvard University economist Jeffrey Miron, one of the co-authors of the study, predicted Californians would approve Proposition 64, but he was less certain of the outcome in his home state of Massachusetts, where the Republican governor, Charlie Baker, and the Democratic mayor of Boston, Marty Walsh, have teamed up to oppose legalization.

Miron said it’s difficult to predict when legalization might get support in Congress or surge to approval in a majority of states.

"I’m not sure if this November will get us to the tipping point. It may be two or four more years," he said. "Certain things seem impossible, until all of a sudden they are possible, and they happen fast."

———

Crary reported from New York.

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Debate on Foreign Policy, War and Peace, scheduled for September 30th in Lexington and will include Democrat, Republican, Green Party and Libertarian Party Leaders in Kentucky


Debate in LEXINGTON KENTUCKY: Foreign Policy, War and Peace

 

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See Facebook event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1804070499806582/

The panel debate will be on Friday, September 30 from 7:00 to 9:00 pm in Lexington on the campus of the Bluegrass Community & Technical College (BCTC) on Cooper Drive – Oswald Bldg. Auditorium, Room 230.

Four of the 6 participants have already confirmed, so the show will definitely go on and they include the following:

Ken Moellman, Libertarian Party

Bernadene Zennie, Green Party

Jason Belcher, a Democrat who will represent the positions of Hillary Clinton and the DNC,

T.J. Litafik, a Republican who will represent the positions of Donald Trump,

Others who have been invited are Senator Rand Paul (R) and someone designated by the Jim Gray (D) campaign as well. If Sen. Paul cannot make it, he is invited to send a surrogate.

There will be a neutral moderator and a timekeeper. All media are invited to cover the action. Initial questions will have time limits of 3 to 4 minutes per person, and will deal with topics such as the following:

“The US has approximately 700 to 900 military bases all over the world. No other country does. Is that the way things should be, and why or why not?”

 
Was the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney a good idea, or was it a case of illegal aggression?

 
Many Democratic and Republican members of Congress and candidates are expressing hostility to Russia. Is that wise?

What should the US be doing with regard to the conflict in Syria, which has been going on for the last 5 years?

Was President Obama’s bombing of Libya in 2011, which was supported by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a case of international aggression?

Should our defense budget be decreased, increased or kept about the same?”

There will also be cards for members of the audience to write questions on, if time allows. Panelists will be encouraged to rebut things other panelists say.

 

Moderator: Dr. Michael Benton, BCTC
Sponsors: BCTC Students for Peace & Earth Justice
Central Kentucky Council for Peace & Justice

Yours in Peace,
Geoff Young
Member, Peace Action Task Group
Central Kentucky Council for Peace & Justice
(859) 278-4966