Posts tagged ‘Shafer Commission’

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

Montana Seeks to Undercut Massachusetts

…or that’s how it would seem, if one took a free-market approach to marijuana law reform.

With House Bill 541, Montana could become the next state to decriminalize possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. Unlike Massachusetts (and other states that seeks to copy Massachusetts’s new law), however, the fine for possession in Montana would be reduced to $50. For contrast, the current fine in Massachusetts for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is $100. It seems like people might finally be starting to listen to the Shafer Commission after all!

The Montana House Judiciary Committee will be holding testimonies for this bill on Tuesday, March 10th. Check your representative and see if he or she is a member of this committee (the list of names is at the bottom, after the list of scheduled hearings).

Even if your represesentative does not sit on the committee, it is still important to contact him or her to voice your support. A sample letter is below (though if your representative sits on the committee, it would be better to adapt the letter to a script and place a call before Tuesday):

Dear Mr./Ms. _______________

Thirteen other states, including Mississippi, Ohio, Alaska, and Nevada, have decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana with no increase in marijuana use. Decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana would save money in the state budget. 

I urge you to support House Bill 541, which seeks to reduce the punishment for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The current penalties are far too strict, as even the Shafer Commission concluded that criminal penalties for posession are superfluous and ineffective.

I hope that you support House BIll 541 and ensure that it becomes state law in Montana.



March 5, 2009 at 10:22 pm Leave a comment


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