This was quite a week in drug war news, and by all indications, the focus on this long-neglected topic is not going away.
- Senator Jim Webb of Virginia is leading the effort to reform the criminal justice system. Webb has consistently been one of the loudest (and loneliest) voices on this issue, as other politicians often see it as too risky. This is the right time for this kind of reform to happen, though, and it’s already starting to happen in some states. Patty Murray is one of Webb’s co-sponsors for a bill that would set up a blue-ribbon commission tasked with an 18-month review of the train wreck our criminal justice system has become.
- During the internet town hall that President Obama held this week, he was finally able to acknowledge the fact that questions about marijuana’s illegality have dominated each of these online forums. Unfortunately, he treated it as if the interest in the issue was something to be mocked. I want to agree with Scott Morgan here that Obama gets this issue more than he pretends to, but that’s not going to be enough sometimes. In a week where Obama was dealing with the crisis in Mexico, for him to make a joke about what’s arguably the biggest reason Mexico has that crisis makes him look incredibly out-of-touch.
As I’ve said before, the illegality of marijuana is not the most important issue America faces, but it is an important issue for a number of reasons, and it’s the issue where the policies we currently have are the most detached from reality. That’s why questions about it dominate these online forums, because prohibition has become such a dangerous spectacle that we’re desperate to finally break the silence over it.
- A week after Eric Holder promised that the DEA would not raid medical marijuana dispensaries that are complying with state law, the DEA raided a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco. The DEA claims that it was in violation of state law, but won’t say which one. The speculation is about their financial dealings, either a failure to pay taxes or a policy that allows low-income people to obtain medicine for free. Either way, city officials didn’t seem to be aware that the raid was happening, so the DEA apparently believes that they, and they alone, will be the ones determining whether or not a dispensary is violating state law.
If so, this completely undermines the policy that Obama and Holder have announced. As we’ve discovered here with our medical marijuana laws, unless you have a clear defense against being arrested (or having your supplies confiscated), nothing is going to stop it. If the DEA can just say (without proof or agreement from state or local officials) that a facility is in violation of state law, it’s not much different from the Uncle Jimbo policy, where all you need to do is say something at the time of the raid in order to justify it. If this raid was not based on an actual violation of state law, either people in the DEA’s office need to be shown the door, or Obama’s policy is still an empty promise.
- Speaking of this state’s medical marijuana laws, another patient received some long-delayed justice this week. Timothy Adams of Kennewick was able to pick up 40 marijuana plants and growing equipment that was taken from him by police in 2005. An Appeals Court judge ruled that Adams was wrongly convicted in 2007 and was entitled to his stuff back.
- The decriminalization bill in Olympia may have died, but it’s been inspiring more and more people to speak up on the issue. Lynnwood state representative Mary Helen Roberts doesn’t understand why it’s a crime to grow a plant in one’s house.
- Remember the weird editing from the Jon Stewart/Jim Cramer interview? The reason for it was because Cramer said that he’d be ok with legalizing drugs (specifically cocaine).
- The Drug War Chronicle has a plus-sized roundup of the week’s corrupt cop stories.