Dumb Cop Gets Real Lucky

As any long time reader of ASZ should probably know, I am adamantly anti-drug prohibition and don’t think any should be illegal. However, as long as the entire law enforcement industry is dependent upon drug prohibition money, there should be an even higher standard set, and greater punishment for police breaking the laws they’re [...]


Commentary By: somegirl

As any long time reader of ASZ should probably know, I am adamantly anti-drug prohibition and don’t think any should be illegal. However, as long as the entire law enforcement industry is dependent upon drug prohibition money, there should be an even higher standard set, and greater punishment for police breaking the laws they’re sworn to uphold.

But, y’know they’re also known for

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by somegirl |

Medical Marijuana: Compassion, Common Sense, and Law Enforcement Finally Meet

In hard economic times, when the potential for revenue generation via taxation begins to make fiscal sense, it’s funny how the lens on medical marijuana can start to change almost as quickly as an optometrist says, “1 … or … 2?” during an eye exam.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

This has been a long time in coming:

Attorney General Eric Holder signaled a change on medical marijuana policy Wednesday, saying federal agents will target marijuana distributors only when they violate both federal and state law. That would be a departure from the policy of the Bush administration, which targeted medical marijuana dispensaries in California even if they complied with that state’s law.

“The policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law,” Holder said in a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Justice Department…

It’s nuanced, but read that again: federal AND state. Not federal OR state. Not “go after those people who violate federal law”.

Beside the fact that pot laws in general make almost no sense, there is an increasing body of evidence (supported now by decriminalization or medical use legislation in 13 states) that a medically defensible use exists for marijuana as a safe, effective, and non-addictive remedy for pain and other psychoactive ailments.

Is the AG’s position the start of staking out a sensible path forward in examining all laws regarding personal use and possession of illegal drugs in the U.S.? It’s hard to say. What isn’t hard to understand is that a vast percentage of prison inmates in the U.S. (local, county, state and federal) are being lodged on drug offenses. The “war on drugs” has long been not only a losing battle, but has been waged primarily on the addicted, minorities, and those in less fortunate economic circumstances.

Compassion. It’s a rare word when framed in terms of the war on drugs, or of personal users caught in the net of enforcement.

In hard economic times, though, when the potential for revenue generation via taxation begins to make fiscal sense, it’s funny how the lens on medical marijuana can start to change almost as quickly as an optometrist says, “1 … or … 2?” during an eye exam.

I say “compassion”; someone else (of a more conservative, but pragmatic, persuasion) says “sin tax”.

In the end, we arrive at the same destination.

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009 by Richard Blair |
Category: Drug war

Fed Finally Narrows The Sentencing Gap Between Crack And Blow

The U.S. Sentencing Commission took an important step towards correcting the racial inequity found in the existing sentencing guidelines for those who possess crack cocaine versus those who possess powdered cocaine. Hopefully it will be the first step in reassessing our current drug enforcement strategy.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

We’ve all heard the expression “justice is served”…and while most of us leave the table feeling satisfied with what we’ve been fed; others are forced to swallow a less than palatable plate…one that contains an inordinate amount of one particularly foul ingredient. For approximately two decades, those individuals who have made the unfortunate mistake of choosing to partake of crack cocaine over powdered nose candy have been left to endure the lingering aftertaste that accompanies a recipe rife with ill-conceived and inequitable punishment guidelines.

In a move that begins to correct this long-standing injustice, the U.S. Sentencing Commission changed the guidelines to allow jail time to be reduced by up to fifteen months. The change is an attempt to reduce the 100 to 1 equation that was instituted in 1988 as an attempt to combat the sudden increase in the use of crack cocaine. Basically, the law stated that an individual had to possess 100 times more powdered cocaine than crack cocaine to receive the same prison sentence. As it turned out, the law imprisoned far more blacks for far longer periods of time for possessing far less cocaine than their white counterparts.

From The Christian Science Monitor:

Since 1988, possession of five grams of crack cocaine – an amount equal to five packets of sugar substitute – landed a person in jail for five years. But people caught with cocaine powder would have to possess 100 times that amount, or 500 grams, to get the same five-year stint behind bars.

It’s known as the 100-to-1 ratio. And because most people convicted of crack offenses are black and most convicted of powder cocaine offenses are white, critics have long argued that the disparity represents an egregious racial inequity in America’s criminal-justice system.

This week the US Sentencing Commission, with little fanfare, officially reduced its recommended sentences for crack-related offenses. [...]

As a result, up to 4 in 5 people found guilty of crack-cocaine offenses will get sentences that are, on average, 16 months shorter than they would have been under the former guidelines. Opponents of the 100-to-1 ratio applaud the commission’s move, but they say it’s just a first step because the so-called mandatory minimum sentences set by Congress remain on the books.

Many lawmakers expected that long, mandatory sentences for possessing or selling crack would discourage drug use. And because many perceived crack to be much more destructive than powder cocaine, Congress established the 100-to-1 ratio. In 1988, it passed another law that established a mandatory minimum penalty for simple possession of crack cocaine.

Since then, studies have shown that the crack-versus-powder sentencing disparity disproportionately affects minorities. Last year, 82 percent of crack defendants were black, according to the sentencing commission, compared with 9 percent who were white. For powder cocaine, it was almost the opposite: About 80 percent of powder-cocaine defendants were white and less than 14 percent were black.

It remains uncertain if the new guidelines will be applied retroactively. A follow up meeting is planned in November to consider that issue. If the changes were retroactive, the article indicates that as many as 19,500 individuals incarcerated for crack cocaine possession could have their sentences reduced by an average of 27 months.

The situation is a good example of the flaws that have plagued the war on drugs. While I don’t believe the use of cocaine is advisable, I do believe there is no legitimate reason to impose punishments that impartially penalize blacks. Some have suggested the best solution would be to make the sentences for powdered cocaine as severe as those for crack cocaine.

Personally, I don’t believe drug use can be extinguished through criminalization so stiffening the punishment seems like the wrong approach. I suspect those unfortunate enough to become addicted would be better served with improved treatment options and I wouldn’t be surprised if doing so would, in the long run, cost less to implement than the ongoing expenses associated with the existing criminal model.

At the very least, this current revision is a long overdue correction. Hopefully it will be the first step in reassessing our current drug enforcement strategy.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Thursday, November 1st, 2007 by Daniel DiRito |

The New Front in the War on Terror — Northern California

I wish Michael Chertoff had told us his gut feeling was about pot brownies, or something like that. then we wouldn’t have gotten all worrried about Al Qaeda, and maybe would have been prepped to support the new front in the war on terror, the marijuana fields of Northern California. From the Record [...]


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

I wish Michael Chertoff had told us his gut feeling was about pot brownies, or something like that. then we wouldn’t have gotten all worrried about Al Qaeda, and maybe would have been prepped to support the new front in the war on terror, the marijuana fields of Northern California. From the Record Searchlight:

The nation’s top anti-drug official said people need to overcome their “reefer blindness” and see that illicit marijuana gardens are a terrorist threat to the public’s health and safety, as well as to the environment.

John P. Walters, President Bush’s drug czar, said the people who plant and tend the gardens are terrorists who wouldn’t hesitate to help other terrorists get into the country with the aim of causing mass casualties. Walters made the comments at a Thursday press conference that provided an update on the “Operation Alesia” marijuana-eradication effort.

“Don’t buy drugs. They fund violence and terror,” he said.

I’m not a militant about making marijuana legal or something, but it is pretty obvious that the War on Terror Drugs is not working, even to distract the country from the failure of the Bush Administration to wage successful war on real terrorists.

Monday, July 16th, 2007 by Steven Reynolds |

An Inconvenient Son

Jimmy Carter had Billy. Bill Clinton had Roger. George Bush has, well, himself (and Jenna and Not Jenna). Al Gore has Al the Third.
Gore’s 23 year old son was arrested in Orange County, Ca. yesterday and charged with numerous drug offenses, including possession of marijuana and a Limbaugh-esque cornucopia of “happy pills”, all [...]

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Jimmy Carter had Billy. Bill Clinton had Roger. George Bush has, well, himself (and Jenna and Not Jenna). Al Gore has Al the Third.

Gore’s 23 year old son was arrested in Orange County, Ca. yesterday and charged with numerous drug offenses, including possession of marijuana and a Limbaugh-esque cornucopia of “happy pills”, all without a scrip’.

The upside? Young Al was driving an environmentally friendly Prius – at over 100 miles per hour – when he was pulled over on Interstate 5. Who said that hybrids don’t have some muscle? And, how in the hell does anyone do 100mph on the 5, even at 2AM? I’ve never driven I-5 (either north or south) when I’ve been able to do more than crawl, at least until the San Clemente exit…

Anyway, it’s hard to say if he’ll do any jail time, but it wouldn’t surprise me since he has a prior conviction on a similar charge. No word yet on whether or not the former Veep will petition George Bush for a commutation of his son’s eventual sentence.

Seriously, though, if the elder Al is secretly planning a run for the presidency next year, the arrest of his son could provide inconvenient fodder for the wagging tongues in the puditocracy.

Update: Here’s a link to an Associated Press video report of the arrest.

Thursday, July 5th, 2007 by Richard Blair |

Mike Gravel for President

I’m loving this guy. Why oh why can’t he be a serious candidate?
First, he goes after my heart with this:
When asked whether he believed marijuana should be available next to beer in liquor stores, Gravel replied, “Go get yourself a fifth of scotch or a fifth of gin and chug-a-lug it down and you’ll [...]


Commentary By: somegirl

I’m loving this guy. Why oh why can’t he be a serious candidate?

First, he goes after my heart with this:

When asked whether he believed marijuana should be available next to beer in liquor stores, Gravel replied, “Go get yourself a fifth of scotch or a fifth of gin and chug-a-lug it down and you’ll find you lose your senses a lot faster than you would smoking some marijuana.”

He asserted that all drugs should legalized and regulated. “The drug problem is a public health problem. It’s not a criminal problem. We make it a criminal problem because we treat people like criminals.”

But he captures it with this:

When pressed on his earlier statement that President Bush should be jailed for his manipulation of pre-war information, Gravel reaffirmed that belief.

“If you had an FBI agent knock at your door today and you lie to that agent, you commit a felony and you go to jail,” Gravel said.

“If that’s the way it is for ordinary citizens, what about the president of the United States who lies to the American people, fraudulently sells them on a war that 50 million Americans don’t want and over 3,000 Americans get killed as a result of that, and thousands and thousands of Iraqis gets killed… do you not think that’s a felony? It’s criminal.”

Now don’t you like Mike too?

Thursday, May 17th, 2007 by somegirl |

Marijuana Medicine

Damn, what can’™t that plant do? Lookee here, there’™s trials for a cannabis based drug for neuropathy and get this, one for obesity!

When oh when will they catch on in the USA? I don’™t want big pharm taking over the supply, but if good medicine is what it takes for that [...]

Commentary By: somegirl

Damn, what can’™t that plant do? Lookee here, there’™s trials for a cannabis based drug for neuropathy and get this, one for obesity!

When oh when will they catch on in the USA? I don’™t want big pharm taking over the supply, but if good medicine is what it takes for that ol’™ weed to get some respect, it’™s gotta be a step forward.

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007 by Richard Blair |