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Reefer Roundup: 12/9/11

Get your fix of drug war news

By Jordan Smith, 2:20PM, Fri. Dec. 9, 2011

Rob Lowe helped raise funds for Family House
Rob Lowe helped raise funds for Family House
Courtesy of Austin Recovery

Up this week: Medi-pot laws reduce drunk driving accidents, Lowe nets Family House big cash, feds ban more drugs, Seattle cops get addicts into treatment, lawmakers ask for pot rescheduling, and fixing the crack law disparity.

MEDI-POT LAWS REDUCE BOOZE CONSUMPTION?:

According to a new study by researchers at the University of Colorado Denver and Montana State University, beer sales and the number of traffic fatalities involving alcohol have declined in states that have passed a medi-pot law. Indeed, overall, the researchers found that traffic fatalities have declined by 9% in states with medi-mari laws. Legal medi-pot is associated with a 12% drop in all alcohol-related traffic deaths and an almost 14% decrease in high-blood-alcohol-content traffic deaths, according to researchers Daniel Rees in Colorado and D. Mark Anderson in Montana.

Moreover, Rees and Anderson found that while adult pot use increased slightly in some states after passage of medi-mari laws, use by adolescents in those states has not increased – a finding based on state-level data that debunks the myth of pot legalization as gateway to drug use that is hyped by so many drug warriors.

Read the entire report here.

BIG MONEY FOR FAMILY HOUSE:

Austin Recovery got a big boost from Rob Lowe fans who came out last month for a fundraiser to support the building of Family House, a family-friendly drug treatment center that aims to get mothers the drug treatment they need without breaking up the family unit. As we've discussed before, this is a big issue; the lack of family-friendly treatment options often keep parents from seeking the help they need, out of fear that their children will be taken away if they admit they have a substance abuse problem.

Lowe came to town for an event at the ACL Moody on Nov. 8, an event that raised more than $800,000 for the construction of the 21,000-square-foot treatment center that should break ground in the spring. "This community proved today how much they value giving struggling families a chance," Lowe said. "I was honored to be a part of such an inspiring event."

You can find much more on Austin Recovery and the Family House project here.

WHEN IN DOUBT, BAN IT!:

Sheesh – is there nothing else important going on in Washington, D.C.? Nothing at all that needs to be done? Seriously? If there are more pressing issues out there – like, I don't know, the lagging economy – then how is it that the polarized Congress has had the time to come up with a new law (H.R. 1254) that would add another 43 substances to the already lengthy list of drugs banned or restricted per the Controlled Substances Act? Yup, its true: lawmakers have outlawed more than three dozen "new" drugs – including adding to the most stringent Schedule I – supposedly reserved for drugs that are highly addictive and have no medical uses – all "cannabimimetic" drugs, that is, synthetics that mimic marijuana. The best known of these – likely because of the spate of hysterical reports last year on its abuse – is K2 or Spice, which is now illegal in a number of states, including Texas.

If you really don't care – or better, believe these drugs should be banned because they're dangerous – consider this: By creating this new list, the feds have also expanded the number of federal drug crimes on the books as well as the use of mandatory minimum sentencing. Just what we need. Passage of the bill by the House this week caught the attention of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, which has been at the forefront of fighting to reduce reliance on theses draconian sentencing schemes (see more on FAMM below re their work on crack sentencing reform). "No matter how much evidence piles up proving that mandatory minimum sentences are harsh, discriminatory and ineffective, many in Congress unfortunately still trot them out to show they are tough on crime, said Julie Stewart, FAMM president. "In this case, we know the mandatory penalty will not accomplish what the sponsors intend. The Congressional Budget Office concluded this bill would be nearly obsolete by the time it passes because vendors of these synthetic drugs will simply replace them with new chemicals."

Oy.

DESPERATELY SEEKING TREATMENT IN SEATTLE:

Also on the treatment front, local officials in Seattle have begun a pilot program to allow cops to take low-level drug addicts to treatment instead of jail. As the Drug Reform Coordination Network reports, a small number of drug addicts account for a large number of arrests – in the Belltown neighborhood near the famed Space Needle, according to a Seattle PD study, 50 users alone were responsible for some 2,700 drug arrests. The new program, known as Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion, gives beat cops the discretion to choose to take a person to treatment instead of booking them and charging them through the regular criminal justice system.

The program, designed by local officials and the Seattle Defender Association, is based on a similar and successful program that has been operational in the United Kingdom for several years. "We're looking for effective public safety solutions," said Mayor Mike McGuinn. "If drug dealing and crime could be solved by arrests alone, we would have solved this problem a couple thousand arrests ago."

Amen to that.

You can find more on the program here.

SPEAKING OF SEATTLE...AND POT:

Looks like the Obama administration's promise that federal narcos would back off on busting medi-pot patients and dispensaries operating in compliance with state laws is virtually dead. In November, the Drug Enforcement Administration took its strong arm tactics for busting sick medi-mari users up the coast from California – where the War on Pot has ratcheted up in recent months – to Washington, raiding 14 dispensaries in the Seattle area.

The U.S. attorney in Washington said the dispensaries were raided because they were suspected of violating the state's medi-pot law, which doesn't "explicitly" provide for dispensary operations, reports DRCNet. Indeed, a bill to do just that was vetoed by Dem Gov. Christine Gregoire earlier this year, out of fear that it would subject state employees who would enforce the law to prosecution under federal law. It seems the latest raids in part may have prompted Gregoire to join forces with Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, who together on Nov. 30 sent a petition to the DEA asking that marijuana be rescheduled. Currently, pot is on the most restrictive control list, Schedule I, meaning, according to federal narcos, it is not only highly addictive, but also has no medical uses whatsoever. The governors are recommending that the drug be placed on Schedule II, which is where other controlled but prescribed meds – including cocaine and morphine – are listed.

The DEA has, unsurprisingly, rejected previous attempts to have the drug reclassified, but perhaps under growing pressure from state officials, and with increasing blessing from medical groups who have come to see the medicinal value in natural marijuana, the DEA might finally begin to budge?

Read the governors' petition here.

SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT ON CRACK:

President Barack Obama has commuted the prison sentence of Eugenia Jennings, who in 2001 was sentenced to a harsh 22 years in prison for dealing less than 14 grams of crack to a cop. Jennings, a domestic violence survivor and drug addict, had turned to crack sales as a way to support her young family. A good decision? No, certainly not, but worth 22 years? Are you kidding? "Eugenia Jennings's 22-year-sentence for her nonviolent offense was overkill," Julie Stewart, with FAMM said in a statement. "Today, President Obama rights that wrong and we are grateful to him. We urge the president to continue exercising his clemency power and grant more commutations to the many deserving federal prisoners, like Eugenia, who have paid a hefty price for their mistakes and deserve a second chance."

FAMM, which has been on the front lines of reforming the horridly disparate crack sentencing laws and working to end man-min sentences altogether, notes that reform and clemency are essential at a time when federal prisons are operating at 37% over capacity – largely due to man-min sentencing.

Indeed, last month a change in the horrid 100-to-one crack-to-powder federal sentencing scheme was finally made retroactive, allowing eligible federal offenders to apply to have their sentences reduced. The new law is only somewhat better than the old law: Previously being popped with 5 grams of crack would net the same sentence as being popped with 500 grams of powder cocaine – chemically, the exact same drug. After some attempts to pass a parity bill, one that would've increased the amount of crack to come into line with powder cocaine, failed (some lawmakers couldn't seem to get their heads around the fact that they're the SAME DRUG), lawmakers hit on a mildly less hideous ratio of 18-to-one – meaning it now take being popped with 28 grams of crack to net the same five-year man-min sentence reserved for someone busted with 500 grams of powder coke.

I suppose incremental change is better than no change at all.

You can find more info on the sentencing change here.

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