Posts filed under ‘News’

Drug Tests May Be Imposed on Welfare Recipients

Eight – yes, eight – states are considering making welfare recipients pass drug tests in order to receive welfare money. West Virginia, Kansas, Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Hawaii, and Oklahoma all are considering or are in the process of enacting such laws. (Arizona already failed in January to pass a bill that would enact this policy).

At first, this proposal seems like a sensible way to make sure that the poor, who are receiving financial assistance from the government, do not ‘waste their money on drugs’. However, it simply singles out the poor for an activity common to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.

There is no debate that the rich and poor alike use drugs. However, poor people are more likely than the rich to be on welfare (what an understatement). Arrests for drug charges are already dramatically skewed by race and socioeconomic class. While the basic fact remains that nobody should be punished for issues such as marijuana use, the fact that a person on welfare should lose a crucial part of their day-to-day budget for it is as preposterous as the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York.

You might argue ‘But why should they be allowed to waste government money?’ That depends on your definition of the word ‘waste’. Is it wasting money when they instead buy tobacco and alcohol? Or lottery tickets? What someone does with their money is their own business – absent harm to others – and if you want to ensure that they use it ‘properly’ (according to your defintion of that word), then that’s what food stamps are for. (That’s another debate that I won’t start here).

Drug tests, simply put, are an invasion of privacy. Assuming that one’s use of marijuana does not interfere with one’s job, it should not be a factor in employment decisions (and the same logic applies to welfare). This is the same policy that most companies have regarding tobacco and alcohol use – as long as a person does not show up to work drunk or smoke in the office, their use of these two drugs is considered acceptable. If someone does not show up to work while high or otherwise let their use of marijuana affect their work performance, their use of this drug should be considered acceptable as well.

If you live in one of the states that are considering this legislation, please contact your legislators and inform them of your opposition. A sample script/letter is follows (you can modify the text to fit the situation in your state).

 

Dear ____________________

I am shocked to hear that legislators in ________ (your state) are considering subjecting welfare recipients to drug testing. This is an invasion of privacy, as well as discrimination against lower socioeconomic classes.

People of all levels of income and all races use drugs such as marijuana, just as people of all levels of income use tobacco and alcohol. The idea that the poor should be singled out for using one of these drugs goes against the idea of equality that this country stands for.

Whatever the reasons a welfare recipient may have for buying and using drugs, this decision should not threaten his or her means of survival. Such policies only serve to entrench welfare recpients further in poverty.

This policy will not reduce drug use. It will reduce the number of eligible welfare recipients, but at a huge, immeasurable cost to society by increasing the number of people who live in extreme poverty and have no access to government assistance. I urge you to oppose this policy.

Sincerely,

____________

April 6, 2009 at 8:30 pm 1 comment

First Medicinal Marijuana Patient Found

That’s what an article in the Journal of Experimental Botany seems to suggest. The cannabis was found in the Yanghai tombs in China, and the discovery was released in December.

Furthermore, according to ScienceBlogs:

Both the basket and the bowl were filled with vegetative matter – about 789 grams (~ 1 pound 11 ounces). Radiocarbon dating was performed and a calibrated date of 2,700 years BP was returned. Analysis of the vegetative material indicated it was Cannabis sativa. Furthing testing indicated it was psychoactive. As the paper points out, there are still some unresolved questions:

I’m not sure if it’s just my interpretation, but I feel as if that almost implies that they found a pound of marijuana in a tomb that predates the Roman empire, then sat and smoked it.

Regardless, the fact remains that medical marijuana is no new idea. All we’re asking is for the same medicine that our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great -etc grandparents had. Is that too much to ask?

April 5, 2009 at 9:44 am Leave a comment

Rockefeller Reforms Passed By New York State Senate

Voting on the reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Laws was initially delayed by illness; Senator Ruth Hassel-Thompson was taken ill on Wednesday (Senator Hassel-Thompson attended the New Directions for New York conference in January, sponsored by the New York Academy of Medicine, so her vote for the reforms could have been considered safe). Despite this turn, the state senate approved serious reforms to the Rockefeller Drug Laws as part of the state budget by a 32-30 vote margin. Leading the debates in favor of the reform was Senator Eric Schneiderman.

The DPA has created an automated feature to thank senators; please consider sending a quick message of appreciation.

April 3, 2009 at 2:55 pm 1 comment

Bipartisan Bill for Drug Policy Reform Introduced

Senate Bill 714, also known as The National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009, has been introduced to the Senate by Jim Webb (D) of Virginia and Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania. The purpose of the bill is as follows:

The Commission shall undertake a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system, make findings related to current Federal and State criminal justice policies and practices, and make reform recommendations for the President, Congress, and State governments to improve public safety, cost-effectiveness, overall prison administration, and fairness in the implementation of the Nation’s criminal justice system.

But wait, there’s more:

In conducting the review, the Commission shall make such findings as it deems appropriate, including…an examination of current drug policy and its impact on incarceration, crime and violence, sentencing, and reentry programs, to include an analysis of the general availability of drugs in our society, the impact and effectiveness of current policies on reducing that availability and on the incidence of crime, and in the case of criminal offenders, the availability of drug treatment programs before, during, and after incarceration…

In other words, if the commission is reasonably well-conducted, it should confirm thousands of other pieces of research which also demonstrate that current drug policy – specifically, current policy with respect to marijuana – is entirely counterproductive. I’m fairly confident of this simply because I remember the Shafer Commission, conducted under Nixon.  The findings of that report included:

[T]he criminal law is too harsh a tool to apply to personal possession even in the effort to discourage use. It implies an overwhelming indictment of the behavior which we believe is not appropriate. The actual and potential harm of use of the drug is not great enough to justify intrusion by the criminal law into private behavior, a step which our society takes only ‘with the greatest reluctance.

And yet, nothing was done about it. So why should we be more confident now?

Well, for starters, we have a president who is more likely to be amenable to drug policy changes (despite the town hall debacle last week). Even if Obama refuses to relegalize marijuana, it should certainly be easier to decriminalize marijuana under his administration than in past administrations – particularly if yet another commision recommends it.

Have a bipartisan bill of this type introduced is definitely an improvement. It’s not much in itself – it’s just a start – but it’s an important step forwards.

April 2, 2009 at 10:00 am 1 comment

New York Assembly Passes Rockefeller Reform; Senate Votes Tonight

Yesterday, the New York State Assembly passed a reform of the Rockefeller Drug Laws as a part of the state budget. The state senate will vote on the issue tonight. Please send a letter to your state senator if you have not already and ask them to support this necessary reform. 

 

April 1, 2009 at 1:35 pm Leave a comment

California Hearing on Marijuana Postponed

The hearing on Assembly Bill 390, which seeks to legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana in California, has been postponed. This is good news; it gives activists more time to contact officials and urge them to support the bill.

As stated before, this bill could prove to be a landmark in the quest for drug policy reform. Make the most of this added time to ensure that your legislators support the bill.

March 29, 2009 at 9:20 pm Leave a comment

Massachusetts Seeks to Legalize, Regulate, and Tax Marijuana

California’s got company. Not two months after Question 2 went into effect, decriminalizing marijuana, Massachusetts may legalize the marijuana industry – subject to a tax, of course. Senate Bill 1801 and House Bill 2929 have been introduced. 

65% of Massachusetts voters supported the decriminalization of small amounts of marijuana in November. Depending on what measure you use, Massachusetts is one of the smokiest states (this chart measures marijuana use in the past year, placing Massachusetts at #5).

NORML has very clear letters that you can send to your elected officials. You can send the letters using NORML’s automated feature, but for your convenience, they are also reproduced below. (Remember to specify House Bill 2929 or Senate Bill 1801 in the letter, and remember that you can also contact your state legislators using the link at the top of the page).

 

I’m writing to urge your support for House Bill 2929/Senate Bill 1801. This measure seeks to tax and regulate the use of marijuana by adults age 21 and over. If approved this measure would: 1) Raise tens of millions of dollars in annual tax revenue for the state of Massachusetts; 2) Restrict access to marijuana to those under age 21; 3) Improve public safety by redirecting law enforcement efforts to focus on more serious crimes; and 4) Institute reasonable regulation consistent with the state and federal constitution. In November, 65 percent of voters in Massachusetts endorsed a statewide initiative reclassifying marijuana possession as a fine-only offense under state law. Passage of House Bill 2929/Senate Bill 1801 would bring greater control to this law by imposing proper state restrictions on the sale and use of marijuana by adults. House Bill 2929/Senate Bill 1801 is a fiscally conservative, common sense proposal that seeks to bring control to Massachusetts’ untaxed, unregulated marijuana market. I look forward to hearing from you that you will support House Bill 2929/Senate Bill 1801.

March 23, 2009 at 9:44 pm 2 comments

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