Wow, quite a week. Here are some things going on as we roll into the new decade:
– The two major drug law reform bills introduced for this session, HB 1177 (decriminalization) and HB 2401 (legalization), will have a hearing in the Public Safety & Emergency Preparedness Committee next Wednesday, January 13. The evening before, Rick Steves will be hosting a forum in Olympia about reforming our marijuana laws. The Seattle Weekly takes a look at the movement nationwide on this front. Dominic Holden writes about the political risks involved for Seattle-area legislators like Chris Hurst if they block these bills.
One of the contention points for these bills is that neither one adequately addresses the question of home grows. Bill HB 1177 leaves the existing language that governs medical marijuana law alone. However, HB 2401 removes that language without fully addressing what would happen to people (current medical users) who already grow small gardens from themselves, or as part of a non-profit co-op (it does, in some cases, reduce that crime from a felony to a misdemeanor). There are concerns that the state could more readily go after people for growing plants outside of the new regulatory system. One co-sponsor of the bill, Roger Goodman from Kirkland, noted this as an oversight and hopes to clarify the bill within the session. A group of medical marijuana patients were circulating some proposed language to address their concerns specific to the medical marijuana statutes, but as of yet, it hasn’t picked up a legislative sponsor.
– As 2010 begins, there are updates on what might be the most heart-rending drug war tragedies of the last two years. In 2008, a Prince George, Maryland County SWAT team raided the home of Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo and his family. Police chased down and shot Calvo’s two dogs and kept his family hostage for several hours before realizing that they had absolutely nothing to do with the package of marijuana randomly mailed to their home in a scheme involving a corrupt deliverymen. A few weeks ago, a judge ruled that Calvo’s lawsuit against the officers can proceed.
This past September, the killing of Georgia pastor Jonathan Ayers was another drug war tragedy. Ayers, who was known for going out of his way to help people in need, was giving a ride to a woman with a history of drug abuse. Unfortunately, that woman was also wanted by the police. After dropping the woman off at a gas station, undercover cops in an unmarked Escalade descended on Ayers’ vehicle (the gas station surveillance video is here). Seeing people come out of a regular-looking car with no uniforms and guns, Ayers sped off. He was shot by one of the officers and drove off the road. He died after being taken to a hospital. This story, however, appears to have an even worse ending for Ayers’ widow and their unborn child, as a Grand Jury ruled that the officers did nothing wrong.