Friday, January 30, 2009

Maybe *This* Is How The War On Marijuana Ends

A rural Illinois jury has found one of their peers innocent in a marijuana case that would have sent him to prison. Loren Swift (pictured below) was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, and he faced a mandatory minimum of six years behind bars.

According to Dan Churney at MyWebTimes, several jurors were seen shaking Swift's hand after the verdict, a couple of them were talking and laughing with Swift and his lawyer, and one juror slapped Swift on the back.

The 59-year-old was arrested after officers from a state "drug task force" found 25 pounds of pot and 50 pounds of growing plants in his home in 2007. The Vietnam veteran walks with a cane, has bad knees and feet and says he uses marijuana to relieve body pain, as well as to help cope with post traumatic stress.

This jury exercised their right of jury nullification. Judges and prosecutors never tell you this, but when you serve on a jury, it's not just the defendant on trial. It's the law as well. If you don't like the law and think applying it in this particular case would be unjust, then you don't have to find the defendant guilty, even if the evidence clearly indicates guilt.

In jury nullification, a jury in a criminal case effectively nullifies a law by acquitting a defendant regardless of the weight of evidence against him or her. There is intense pressure within the legal system to keep this power under wraps. But the fact of the matter is that when laws are deemed unjust, there is the right of the jury not to convict.

Jury nullification is crucially important because until our national politicians show some backbone on the issue of marijuana law reform, it's one of the only ways to avoid imposing hideously cruel "mandatory minimum" penalties on marijuana users who don't deserve to go to prison.

Prosecuting and jailing people for marijuana wastes valuable resources, including court and police time and tax dollars. Hundreds of thousands of otherwise productive, law-abiding people have been deprived of their freedom, their families, their homes and their jobs. Let's save the jails for real criminals, not pot smokers.

The American public is very near the tipping point where a majority no longer believes the official line coming from Drug Warrior politicians and their friends at the ONDCP, gung-ho narcotics officers protecting their profitable turf, and sensationalistic, scare-mongering news stories used to boost ratings. They are starting to see through the widening cracks in the wall of denial when it comes to marijuana's salutary medical effects on a host of illnesses and its palliative effects for the terminally ill and permanently disabled.

People are coming to realize that not only have they been sold a lie when it comes to marijuana -- they've been sold a particularly cruel lie, a self-perpetuating falsehood of epic proportions that has controlled U.S. public policy towards the weed for 70 years now. The extreme cruelty of the lies told about marijuana by drug warriors is in the effects this culture of fear and intolerance has in the real world -- effects like long prison sentences for gentle people who are productive and caring members of society.

Because citizens are coming to this long-delayed realization, we are going to be seeing more and more cases like this where juries have chosen not to punish people for pot. As this consciousness permeates all levels of society, it is going to get harder and harder for prosecutors to get guilty verdicts in marijuana cases -- and that's a good thing.

Maybe this is how the war on marijuana ends... Not with a bang, but a whimper, as cousin T.S. would say.

What You Can Do

• If you ever serve on a jury where the defendant is accused of a marijuana crime, don't forget about jury nullification. Tell the other jurors you don't have to convict, even if all the evidence points to guilt, if you don't agree with the application of the law in this instance. And if you can't swing your peers to your way of thinking, at least you can cause the jury to return a hung verdict.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU): Drug Policy

Change The Climate: Time to Tell the Truth About Marijuana

Drug Policy Alliance: Alternatives to Prohibition and the Drug War

Marijuana Policy Project

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

"Jurors should acquit, even against the judge's instruction... if exercising their judgement with discretion and honesty they have a clear conviction the charge of the court is wrong." ~ Alexander Hamilton, 1804

"It is not only the juror's right, but his duty to find the verdict according to his own best understanding, judgement and conscience, though in direct opposition to the instruction of the court." ~ John Adams, 1771

Monday, January 26, 2009

Stop The Medical Marijuana Raids

Lest anyone forget their undying hatred of and scorn for medical marijuana patients, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), currently still staffed by officials from the Bush Administration, has acted quickly and cynically to undermine and disregard statements made by President Barack Obama.

On January 22, the DEA raided a medical marijuana dispensary in California for the first time since President Obama took office. During Obama's campaign, he pledged to put an end to this cruel and capricious practice, saying, "I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users. It's not a good use of our resources." Medical marijuana has been legal in California since 1996. Since then, a dozen other states have passed similar laws.

"We are hopeful that these are the last remnants of the Bush regime, and that President Obama will quickly develop a more compassionate policy toward our most vulnerable citizens," said Caren Woodson of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy group.

National media outlets including the San Francisco Examiner have called on the President to end the raids. "Admittedly, he's been on the job just a few days, but now-President Obama's administration has just overseen its first medical marijuana raid. It's time for him to live up to his promise and call off the dogs," wrote J.D. Tuccille of the Examiner.

The DEA conducted this raid knowing full well that President Obama has repeatedly pledged to end federal threats, arrests, and prosecutions of patients and their providers in medical cannabis states. "For DEA to act with such brazen arrogance and in direct conflict with the new President’s pledge to end federal raids is deeply concerning," ASA said in a statement. "With only weeks left in office, it is clear that top DEA officials are using this transitional period to exploit the differences in policy between the old and new administration."

To their eternal shame, state and local cops, in direct contravention of California law, aided federal agents in the raid. How must Californians feel about voting to allow sick people to use marijuana free from police harassment, only to have their state, county, and city law enforcement helping to serve a federal warrant? Don’t you just love the idea that your California tax dollars paid for this raid?

This shameful raid is only the most recent in a string of nearly 100 raids on medical marijuana dispensaries operating legally under California state law. The medical marijuana community and others must move swiftly to bring an end to these senseless, harmful and outdated medical marijuana raids, as Obama vowed in the campaign.

Obama could get off to an excellent start by appointing new leadership in the DEA and making it unmistakably clear to the Department of Justice that under the Obama administration, this practice is no longer acceptable.

Last year, the American College of Physicians endorsed the use of medical marijuana, which, along with pointing out strong scientific support for marijuana's medical efficacy, noted that "a clear discord exists between the scientific community and federal legal and regulatory agencies over the medicinal value of marijuana."

It is time to bring our government back in line with the scientific community by ending these medical marijuana raids. No one should suffer criminal penalties simply for using the medicine that works best for them. The harmful and outdated policy of pursuing, persecuting and prosecuting medical marijuana patients must end.

The sick and dying have enough to worry about with their medical issues, without having the additional worry of gung-ho federal agents kicking in their doors, stealing their medicine, and seizing their homes, children, and bank accounts.

What You Can Do

• Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) has an online action form to contact President Obama and ask him to quickly appoint new leadership to the DEA, so they get the message loud and clear.

• The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has published suggested verbiage online for a call to the White House at (202) 456-1111.

• Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) also has an excellent online form through which you can send a message to the President:

• Americans for Safe Access is asking everyone to call President Obama and urge that he issue an immediate suspension to all federal funds used to investigate, intimidate, arrest, and prosecute individuals who use or provide medical cannabis in accordance with their state laws.

Call the White House at (202) 456-1111 and say:

"Hi, my name is _____________. On Jan. 22, the Drug Enforcement Agency has raided a medical cannabis dispensary in Tahoe, California. The dispensary was raided by DEA despite numerous statements by President Obama saying he would end federal interference with state medical cannabis laws. I'm very concerned about outgoing DEA officials undermining these state laws and aggressively threatening innocent Americans. I'm also concerned about DEA taking action that is an affront to President Obama's position. I am pleading with President Obama to issue an immediate suspension of all federal efforts to investigate, intimidate, arrest, or prosecute individuals who use or provide medical cannabis in accordance with their state laws. Medical marijuana patients are ready for change, too! Please help us."

"This is the single most important action you have been asked to take this year," ASA says on its site. "We need President Obama's support. Once you’ve made this phone call, please forward this message to friends and family. Then visit to copy and paste the above message."

Monday, January 12, 2009

This May Be Your Last Chance To Speak Out Against Domestic Surveillance - Get FISA Right!

American society is at one of those defining moments, one of those once-in-a-generation turning points which will help to show who we are as a people and as a nation.

Are we going to be a total surveillance society? Do we let ourselves be taken into an age of fear, mistrust, and paranoia, forever feeling that we are being watched and that everyone is a spy?

Or do we hold our heads up, unafraid, and as Americans declare that enough is enough?

Don't miss your chance to speak out against domestic surveillance and the FISA and PATRIOT Acts. Voting at the site ends at 2 p.m. Pacific time on Thursday, Jan. 15.

Jon Pincus' idea, "Get FISA Right, repeal the PATRIOT Act, and restore our civil liberties" is currently at number 8 in's Ideas for Change competition with more than 7100 votes. The Top 10 ideas will be presented to the Obama Administration on Inauguration Day and will be supported by a national lobbying campaign run by, MySpace, and some non-profit partners as well — clearly, it could be a big deal.

"FISA and the PATRIOT Act strike at the core of our Fourth and First Amendment Rights and institutionalize a surveillance society -- and FISA's telecom immunity clause mocks the rule of law by not holding telecom companies accountable for any illegal actions," says strategist/activist/writer Jon Pincus. "Beginning the new Administration and Congress by focusing on these issues sends one of the clearest signals possible that that the new government is committed to ending the abuses of the last eight years and restoring our civil liberties."

Pincus and his group, Get FISA Right, are asking that President Obama, In the first 100 days of his Administration:

• Stay immunity lawsuits until after the Inspectors' General report in July (Electronic Frontier Foundation's What Obama Can and Should Do To Stop Telecom Immunity discusses this)

• Comply with FISA and other legislation (including the warrant requirements) and clarify that he will not assert "Article II" power

• Defer bulk surveillance of Americans, even though it has been authorized by the FISA Amendment Act.

Back on June 29 of last year, Reality Catcher called on then-Senator Obama to stand against telecom immunity and to Get FISA Right. Now the President-Elect has one of those rare second chances in American politics -- the chance to truly get it right this time, and to show that he cares about the civil liberties enshrined in our great Constitution.

Many of Obama's supporters, myself included, were quite disappointed when he failed to uphold his promise to filibuster any bill that contained telecom immunity, and instead reversed course and ultimately voted for passage of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA). But, as Obama himself said when defending his support for the FAA:

"This was not an easy call for me. I know that the FISA bill that passed the House is far from perfect. I wouldn't have drafted the legislation like this, and it does not resolve all of the concerns that we have about President Bush's abuse of executive power. It grants retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that may have violated the law by cooperating with the Bush Administration's program of warrantless wiretapping. This potentially weakens the deterrent effect of the law and removes an important tool for the American people to demand accountability for past abuses. That's why I support striking Title II from the bill, and will work with Chris Dodd, Jeff Bingaman and others in an effort to remove this provision in the Senate."

Unfortunately, those efforts to amend the FAA by stripping immunity out of the bill or delaying its implementation failed, despite Obama's support. But now, as President, Obama will have the power to make things right. Now he can prove that he meant what he said when he opposed telecom immunity, that he stands behind the votes he made against immunity, and that his claims of a "change" when it comes to reversing the Bush Administration's authoritarian excesses are more than empty rhetoric.

"That means no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens... That is not who we are. And it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists. The FISA court works. The separation of powers works. Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary. This Administration acts like violating civil liberties is the way to enhance our security. It is not. There are no short-cuts to protecting America..."

~ Senator Barack Obama, August 1, 2007

Monday, January 5, 2009

Anti-Pot Crusader Brad Owen Uses Lieutenant Governor's Office (And Taxpayer Money) To Spread Lies

Washington Lt. Gov. Brad Owen wants to put the hammer down on medical marijuana patients

Brad Owen exemplifies the kind of opportunistic, jingoistic career politician which represents the worst our system has to offer. Of the two kinds of politicians -- those who build hopes and those who feed fears -- Owen unfortunately falls in the latter category.

Brad Owen is lieutenant governor of a state which legalized medical marijuana nearly 11 years ago, but he has never respected the will of Washington's voters in that regard. He has repeatedly denied even that such a thing as medical marijuana exists, and has shown nothing but contempt and spite for the marijuana patients and providers in the Evergreen state.

His venomous contempt for medical marijuana in Washington -- which is supposed to have been a settled issue in this state for 11 years -- fairly drips from the words of a bulletin of misinformation and outright lies printed -- at taxpayers' expense, of course -- by his office:

"Marijuana as a medicine is the Trojan horse of the new millennium. The claim that marijuana can be used as medicine is proving to be one of the worst scams drug legalizers have perpetrated on the American people."

Owen has used the lieutenant governor's office as a bully pulpit to preach his science-denying, cynical creed of intolerance and repression when it comes to marijuana and its many medical uses. He has wasted the tax dollars of Washington's good citizens in printing and disseminating hysterical, fear-mongering lies regarding the medical use of pot.

Owen has toured the state musically traumatizing young and old with his horrid little anti-pot "rock band," twisting music into an ugly tool of right-wing propaganda and spreading lies smeared with the maleficent stink of his narrow ambition. He has tried to turn the citizens of our fair state one upon the other by using something as benign as cannabis as a wedge between those who know of its salutary medical effects and those who still harbor a superstitious fear of the herb.

His old-school Nixonian brand of marijuana intolerance has branded him as a rear-guard reactionary in the culture wars which unfortunately surround the marijuana issue, and in so doing he has incurred the wrath and scorn of Washington's weed community.

Brad Owen, since you are lieutenant governor of Washington, why don't you respect its laws? Why don't you respect the will of the people as expressed through passage of our medical marijuana law in 1998? Are you going to stop lying about medical marijuana?

Or will you continue telling the same old hateful lies? Will you continue victimizing patients who seek nothing more than relief from their terminal or debilitating conditions? Will the sick and dying, already facing quite enough stress, have to worry about your overzealous law enforcement thugs kicking in their doors for using a herb which was legalized for medical use in this state more than a decade ago?

Radical Obama Acting Like He Won The Election

The GOP's formidable strategy for how to oppose Barack Obama

According to the Washington Post, right-wingers are angry with Obama for...not being right-wing. It seems they're upset that Obama isn't appointing the same people John McCain would have appointed if he had won. As the Post put it, "conservatives fear that some of these Obama transition advisers are too far left on the political spectrum and are a sign of radical policies to come."

What are the signs of "radicalism" that Obama is showing? He's filling regulatory positions with people who want regulate industry -- instead of the industry-stooge-hack-lobbyists who have filled the positions during the Bush years.

And in the area of civil rights, it's even worse -- Obama has people on his transition advisory team who are, get this, gay and, gulp, non-white.

To conservative tool Roger Clegg, this is "disturbing." Roger is also "has some fears about a return to racial quotas." Why? Because Obama had the radical gall to put the president of the NAACP on his civil rights advisory team.

So all those emails from our grandparents were right -- Obama really is a radical hellbent on destroy America with gays, blacks, and extremists who believe corporations should follow some rules.

But back to the matter at hand--conservatives who are in stunned disbelief that Obama isn't following the usual rules of an election whereby right-wing hacks get to have all the administration jobs even if they don't win the election. How are they to deal with Obama's brazen and outrageous decision to implement the policies the public voted for?

Here's our suggestion for how right-wingers can cope with the unfairness of Obama's appointments...