Saturday, May 02, 2009

21st Century Prohibition Pt. 6 - Legal Issues

The tide is turning. I’m skeptical but have to at least acknowledge that. I’ve been an advocate for the relaxation of anti-marijuana laws, if not the actual legalization for over 35 years. In that time, I’ve seen us come so close only to have the prize snatched from our grasp at the last instant by a shift in the winds of politics.

With the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the Untied States, we can taste the change in the air. In just a hundred days, he’s been able to accomplish more than the previous resident of the People’ House over his two disastrous terms.

I’m afraid it’ll take more than few months of competence to overcome eight long-ass years of abject incompetence and criminal stupidity. Many of the cretins and bootlickers of the Bush Administration still remain entrenched in non-appointed positions of our government. They hold no loyalty to the current administration or the change that Obama represents. Their only cause, the only reason they remain in their positions is to monkey wrench the president.

In addition to these ‘sleeper cells’ of Bushites, there are those who still grip to the failed philosophy of Ronald Reagan. Many of these are Democrats and in positions of power over the legal climate of America. Senators like Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Evan Bayh of Indiana are just two of the many ‘conservadems’ that remain clueless on the needs and will of the American people.

Which brings us back to the issue at hand – the decriminalization and eventual legalization of marijuana. As close as we may think we are, pot is still illegal. At the federal level, cannabis is classified as a Schedule One illegal drug. The definition of Schedule One drugs as follows: (link)

  • The drug or other substance has a high potential for abuse
  • The drug or other substance has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States.
  • There is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision."
  • No prescriptions may be written for Schedule I substances, and such substances are subject to production quotas by the DEA.
  • Under the DEA's interpretation of the CSA, a drug does not necessarily have to have the same abuse potential as heroin or cocaine to merit placement in Schedule I (in fact, cocaine is currently a Schedule II drug due to limited medical use):
  • When it comes to a drug that is currently listed in schedule I, if it is undisputed that such drug has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States and a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision, and it is further undisputed that the drug has at least some potential for abuse sufficient to warrant control under the CSA, the drug must remain in schedule I. In such circumstances, placement of the drug in schedules II through V would conflict with the CSA since such drug would not meet the criterion of "a currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States." 21 USC 812(b).

There was a petition filed on July 10, 1995 by Jon Gettman to the DEA to initiate fact findings for proceedings to request the rescheduling of cannabis as a Schedule One drug. His efforts were futile. A link to the DEA’s letter to Mr. Gettman follows: (link)

As the full text of the letter explains, the DEA’s position is based on old and outdated science and prejudiced opinion, a legacy of eighty years of Harry Anslinger’s curse.

This is not the way our federal government should deal with the social and economic effects of illegal drugs. Barack Obama was elected to make change, not cement the status quo.

Cannabis, as previous entries of this series has shown, displays great promise in the treatment of many debilitating diseases and in the management of the pain and side effects of chemotherapy and AIDS treatments. This alone should be reason enough to reconsider cannabis as a Schedule One drug, but other criteria also fall away as more research is completed. The great disappointment is that research was begun and halted numerous times before, all in the name of keeping the public safe from the scourge of marijuana. Research scientists and doctors have wanted to begin full scale investigation into the possible benefits of cannabis and its derivatives but have been hamstrung by politicians who insist there is no benefit. I saw this resistance as prompted by pharmacological companies who see a simple plant that can be grown in the backyard as a direct threat to their obscene profit margins. If they can’t control it, it should remain out of the hands of the people.

However, in recent years, Big Pharma has been filing patent applications for just about any derivative and psychoactive property of cannabis. While stating their support for the continuation of marijuana prohibition, they seem to be hedging their bets by getting all the goods of cannabis under their corporate umbrellas. Like agri-giants like Monsanto, ConAgra, and ADM, they hope to own and control the entire genus of Cannabis Sativa. (Currently Big Agra owns many genomes of grain crops like wheat, corn and soybeans. If one were to grow any of them, they would be prosecuted for patent infringement – for growing a plant!)

What about you?

All this bullshit leaves you wondering about that bong you have stashed away under your couch. Are we gong to be able to spark up and fly right? Will we see the day when local smoke shops will be selling Purple Sticky Punch or Acapulco Gold? (Whoa…hold on there! Acapulco Gold is an owned trademark of the Tobacco Industry!) Seems Big Pharma’s not the only ones who are hedging their bets.

The possibility is out there, it always is. Eventually the sun always rises and the day begins anew. Marijuana prohibition will fall by the wayside and we will be able to enjoy a hookah by the beach with a cool beverage and the company of good friends.

Until that day, however, we have to be careful. With all this enlightenment and possibility comes complacency and carelessness. Marijuana is STILL illegal. Regardless of what we hope for and what we believe, the current laws prohibit the sale and possession of cannabis for ANY use. That said, we are a rebellious bunch, aren’t we?

So, what do you do if Johnny Law catches you imbibing a bit of Mother Nature’s great green gift? Here are some tips that you should follow when approached by any law enforcement officer. Above all, DO NOT RESIST! DO NOT LOSE CONTROL!

1.Beware of ‘casual conversation’! It’s a trick designed to get you to lower your guard and get you to reveal incriminating details. If an officer begins to speak about marijuana use, however casually, ask politely: “Am I free to go?” If yes, then calmly leave.

2. Don’t consent to a search! If the police ask to look in your bag, home, or car say: “I do not consent to a search.” If they ask you why, calmly and respectfully respond: “ I believe in my constitutional right to privacy and don’t consent to a search.”

3. Detention!: Answer no questions if detained. Politely state: “I choose to remain silent and would like to see a lawyer.”

4. Arrest!: Immediately tell police: “I choose to remain silent and would like to see a lawyer.”

5. NEVER – NEVER – NEVER physically resist the police! If they persist, calmly stand aside and repeat: “I choose to remain silent and would like to see a lawyer.” (these tips from the Cannabis Action Network)

These are common sense legal protections and should be followed without exception. Don’t make it hard on yourself. Johnny Law has a ton more experience in taking your hippie butt down than you do standing up to him. Also, don’t be a target! Here are some more tips from the Cannabis Action Network:

  1. Travel safely. Never smoke and drive.
  2. Be a good neighbor. Loud music and bad parking can lead Johnny Law to your front door.
  3. Be discreet. Don’t spark your spleef in plain view.

Getting busted and what road to hell you’re going to go down differs from state to state. Some areas will just give you a citation and send you on your merry way. Other places will slap your hippie ass in irons and send you down the river to play patty cake with Bruno in Cellblock B. One of the most common results is that you’ll be charged with a ‘minor’ felony and spend a lot of your time and money in fines and some jail.

The worse part is the ‘felony’ part. Get busted for pot possession and you become a felon. You can’t vote; you can’t hold any government job or any job that works with the government. You cannot be bonded or licensed in many occupations. Your employment opportunities have withered to few and far between because you are required to disclose this to all potential employers. Keep it to yourself and you risk immediate dismissal and possible violation of the law. Some states allow for the cleansing of records as in recovery of voting rights and some licensing but the word ‘felon’ will still be permanently tattooed to your forehead.

If you get busted, seek immediate legal assistance. Don’t take anything for granted, follow every lead and take every opportunity to get help. DO NOT ADMIT TO ANY CRIME! Give your legal representative the tools he/she needs to provide you with the best legal defense. It doesn’t matter if Johnny Law caught you with nine joints hanging out of your gob blazing away; admit to nothing. SEE Legal Tip #3 above – REMAIN SILENT! Let your legal representative do the talking. Don’t let a slip of the lip hamstring your legal team and get you free room and board at the Graybar Hotel.

Sentences for first-time, non-violent offenders convicted of trafficking in Schedule I drugs can easily turn into de facto life sentences when multiple sales are prosecuted in one proceeding. Sentences for violent offenders are much higher.

If you choose to enjoy the herb, that’s cool. The times may be changing in your favor but until that point in time, be smart about it. Follow the tips above and take 30 minutes online to seek out the legal resources you have in your area that provide representation for marijuana possession. Check the local NORML chapter (give ‘em a hand, they are always seeking help and funds) or Legal Aid Society for advice on lawyers in your area that provide decent representation. Take down the info and keep it handy, you never know when you may find yourself in a unfortunate situation.

President Obama did cannabis activists a disservice at his online question and answer session on March 26th, 2009. He took the easy road and laughed it off. The tally was 3.5 million votes cast and the no. 1 question was about marijuana prohibition. This is no laughing matter. He should rethink his answer and come back to the people with a logical and concise process for the reduction of penalties surrounding cannabis. Legalizing hemp and its processing should be one of the first things done along with releasing medical marijuana clinics from the clutches of the Inquisitors at the DEA. Perhaps with a new ‘Drug Czar’ in Gil Kerlikowski there may be changes coming.

Be an activist. Even if you don’t smoke the herb, help out those who need this gift to alleviate their pain. The rest of us may have to wait but we need to get Obama Administration to listen to the scientists and researchers. Marijuana prohibition affects us all. You may be totally against dirty damn hippies like me smoking a joint but when your dear Aunt May develops cancer and can’t keep any food down because of the chemo, you may sing a different tune. We can’t base our laws and restrictions on outdated prejudices, faulty science, and political expediency.

So Mote It Be,
David A.
(forgive the radical formatting. Blogger and Firefox seem to be having a tiff today. Wordpress is looking better and better every day)

Monday, April 27, 2009

What a way to start the day!

Was cruisin' the Toobs when I happened to saunter into the Leftist Grandpa, the blog extraordinaire of Grandpa Eddie, when I saw a video clip from the 'Family Guy'.

Needless to say, I spent a click!

I'm not going to steal the click from him, I'll send you off to see it for yourself at his place. And please enjoy the other snacks and goodies that abound there.

See 'Economics 101' courtesy of Grandpa Eddie, who gratefully borrowed it from Driftglass.

I should include this in my series.

So Mote It Be,
David A.