Mary Jane’s Guide: Cannabis News You Can Use War on Drugs – July 2021
Selected bites of fresh cannabis news sliced from the headlines, with a legislative flavor and sweet Ohio twist. Sources are linked.
War on Drugs – 50 Years
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – 1776, Declaration of Independence
On July 4, 2021, Americans celebrated 145 years since those words were adopted by the Continental Congress, planting the seeds of democracy enjoyed by Americans today. This year, however, marked 50 years since the launch of our country’s longest, deadliest and most costly war and its biggest assault on those inalienable rights: the War on Drugs.
What is the War on Drugs? A government-declared zealotry to halt use, distribution and trade of selected drugs through long “tough on crime” prison sentences for both dealers and users.
When was it declared? On June 17, 1971 in conjunction with a press conference at which then President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse “public enemy number one”. Nixon saw drug users as “law-breaking hedonists who deserved only discipline and punishment.”
Why a drug war?
To elect and keep Richard Nixon as President.
- “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” Nixon aide John Ehrlichman as told to writer Dan Baum for Harper’s Magazine.
Is the War on Drugs racist?
Has it worked?
- In 2011, a distinguished international group called the Global Commission on Drug Policy met in Geneva, Switzerland and concluded, “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Fifty years after the initiation of the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, and 40 years after President Nixon launched the US government’s war on drugs, fundamental reforms in national and global drug control policies are urgently needed.” It has now been 60 years since the Single Convention Treaty and 50 years since the launch of the drug war.
A few statistics from the Center for American Progress and others:
- Every 58 seconds, someone in America is arrested for marijuana. Since 1980, more than 20,000,000 people in the U.S. have suffered such an arrest.
- Black individuals are nearly four times more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested, even though both use cannabis at similar rates.
- The drug war is the culprit behind many high profile police killings: Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Philando Castile, Botham Jean, Sandra Bland, and Michael Brown, to name a few
- One-fifth of the incarcerated population—or 456,000 individuals—is serving time for a drug charge. Another 1.15 million people are on probation and parole for drug-related offenses.
- The 2020 estimate for drug overdose deaths in the U.S topped 90,000, up from 70,630 in 2019 and 17,415 in 2000.
- Since 1971, the War on Drugs has cost the United States an estimated $1 trillion. In 2015, the federal government spent an estimated $9.2 million every day to incarcerate people charged with drug-related offenses—that’s more than $3.3 billion annually.
How does the federal government enforce the drug war?
- Via the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (CSA), another dubious 50-year milestone. Title III of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act regulates the manufacture, importation, possession, use and distribution of certain narcotics, stimulants, depressants, hallucinogens, anabolic steroids and other chemicals.
- The CSA contains five “Schedules” (I-V Roman Numerals), with “I” being most restrictive and “V” least restrictive based on supposed abuse potential, accepted medical use and safety/potential for addiction.
- Schedule I includes cannabis (marijuana or marihuana), tetrahydrocannabinols (including Delta 8), LSD, MDMA (ecstasy), ibogaine, peyote, and psilocybin, along with other substances. None of these named drugs is considered a “narcotic”; all have therapeutic value (click on their links). Dronabinol, synthetic THC (Marinol), resides in the lesser Schedule III; oral THC solution (Syndros) is Schedule II.
What are federal penalties for Schedule I drugs?
- It depends on the drug, the quantity, intent (possession or sales/trafficking) and aggravating factors such as use of firearms, proximity to schools, or persons under 18. Federal Sentencing Guidelines also play a role.
- For the first marijuana offense, federal penalties for simple possession of any amount are a $1,000+ fine and one year in prison. Cultivating just one plant (or to 50 of them) garners five years of incarceration and a $250,000 fine. Sales (read trafficking) is the same. At the higher ranges of sales/trafficking, fines can exceed $1 million with life in prison. The death penalty can apply under racketeering.
- Remember, possession of marijuana violates federal law; it is federally illegal everywhere, no matter what, including medical use. The feds are in charge on their property, which includes federal courthouses, government offices, national parks and military bases. Violations in those locales process through federal courts and federal judges who apply federal law only.
- In any given Ohio jurisdiction, say, Columbus, possession of one ounce of marijuana could be prosecuted four different ways just two blocks apart: federally ($1,000+ fine & one year in prison), state ($150 fine), city ($10 fine) and registered patient (no arrest). [Based on plain reading of the statute only, not in consultation with an attorney.]
Is the War on Drugs constitutional?
- “… the Federal Government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana. This contradictory and unstable state of affairs strains basic principles of federalism and conceals traps for the unwary.” Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, June 2021.
- “The war on drugs has been fought largely with laws that were beyond Congress’s powers to enact. Although it took a constitutional amendment to allow Congress to prohibit alcohol nationwide, the prohibition of now-illicit substances under the CSA took place without any such amendment.” National Affairs, “This is Your Constitution on Drugs.” Summer 2021.
- “… the War on Drugs remains the biggest and greatest violation and imminent threat to our civil liberties and the preservation of the Bill of Rights under the Constitution.” The Fix, “Ten Ways the War on Drugs Violates the U.S. Constitution,” April 2014.
How does the War on Drugs end?
The U.S.Congress must act!!
- Harm reduction. Establish policy based on practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Read about them here.
- Defelonization. Change drug law violations from felonies to misdemeanors, drastically reducing the prison population.
- Decriminalization. Eliminate criminal penalties for drug use, possession, paraphernalia and sales.
- Drug Policy Reform Act. This ground breaking legislation being introduced into the U.S. House would decriminalize all drugs, expunge records and provide for re-sentencing.
- Legalize, tax and regulate marijuana. Pass the MORE Act, which would remove cannabis from federal scheduling.
- Advocacy. Contact your elected representatives.How to contact U.S. Senators is here and U.S. Representatives here. The Capitol Switchboard number is (202) 225-3131. Request their support of the reform bills listed below.
NO More Drug War!!!
In other news …
- House bills = 30 and Senate bills = 12, for a total of 42.
- We Got More!! Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) reintroduced the Marijuana Opportunity, Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act on 5/28/2021. It’s bill number is H.R. 3617. Here’s a synopsis from last year. The bill currently has 52 co-sponsors. No word yet from Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on the companion Senate bill.
- House appropriations bill No. 4345 introduced on 7/1/2021 includes Section 629 that would prevent funds from being used to “penalize a financial institution solely because the institution provides financial services to” state-legal cannabis-related activity.
- The bill with the largest number of co-sponsors (one sign of pending passage) is the Safe Banking Act with 180 in the House and 38 in the Senate.
- H.B. 60 had its fourth hearing by the Ohio House Health Committee on 6/15/2021 with opponent testimony from Anup Patel, MD of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Read the testimony here.
- H.B. 210 still can’t be found in a search of the General Assembly’s introduced bills. Try it for yourself by entering “marihuana” or “marijuana” here. Co-Sponsored by Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-10) and Rep. Sedrick Denson (D-33), this legislation would allow for “the cultivation and possession of marihuana” and “expungement of certain marihuana convictions.” The bill still has no sponsors hearings since introduction on 3/16/2021. Here is its text.
- HB 203. Entitled “Regards operating a vehicle under the influence of marihuana” and introduced by Senator Nathan H. Manning (R-13) on 6/23/2021, would change the standard for “under the influence of marihuana” from “ten nanograms of marihuana per milliliter of the person’s urine” or “at least two nanograms of marihuana per milliliter of the person’s whole blood or blood serum or plasma to “at least twenty-five nanograms of delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol per milliliter of the person’s urine” and “five nanograms of delta-9-tetrahydrocannibinol per milliliter of the person’s whole blood or blood serum or plasma.” Read the bill here. To give this some context, here is a report from the Council of State Governments.
- Sensible Decrim. As of July 4th,this productive collaboration between the Sensible Movement Coalition and NORML Appalachiahas collected sufficient signatures to place the following cities on the ballot this fall: Laurelville, McArthur, Murray City, New Lexington, New Straightsville, and Powhatan Point. If all pass, these measures will cover another 9,531 Ohioans.
- New qualifying medical conditions. The Ohio State Medical Board approved Huntington’s Disease, spasticity and terminal illness, raising the total number of qualifying conditions to 25.
- Updated Patient and Caregiver numbers. There are now 207,105 registered patients in Ohio’s program; 166,966 have made purchases.
- Advisory Committee and Program Updates. Various statistics about the OMMCP (Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program) – patients, conditions, dispensaries (including new ones), prices, quantities, and more – can be found here and here.
- Delta-8 THC. The Ohio Department of Commerce issued guidance concerning actions that need to be taken in order to incorporate this THC isomer into products sold under the program.
In Other News
- Playing games, or not. Olympic track and field star Sha’Carri Richardson tested positive for THC and was suspended for one month from the U.S. Olympic team. This has the effect of barring her from the 100m race at the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, because …. cannabis “has the potential to enhance performance.”
- Virtual ComFest 2021. Even though ComFest was a June event, you can relive its broadcasts, performances and workshops on its ComFest.com website.
Tales from the Bizarre
- Slavery, really? Yup, Donald Trump supporter, Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA, proclaimed, “… we live in an abundant society. We live in a place where you can have, literally, weed delivered to your front door. It’s like, ‘What?’ And somehow, ‘Oh that’s liberty.’ No, that’s actually slavery.” Um … no, never, not …
- Marijuana Harms All Who Touch It. Ben Stein.Remember the droll, monotone economics instructor from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”? You know, the guy who “wrote commentaries in defense of President Richard Nixon,” architect of the deadly War on Drugs? Stein has moved on to Fox News rival Newsmax where he recently published this “harmful” Op-Ed. It would make Nixon proud. This missive rambles trough just about every alternative fact and debunked theory and gives credence to Stein’s mind numbing “Day Off” character. Yup, my best advice “Stay the h**l away” … from Newsmax.
Mary Jane Borden is an author, artist, activist and cannabis advocate from Westerville, Ohio. During her 40-year career in drug policy, she has co-founded seven cannabis-oriented groups, co-authored four proposed constitutional amendments, lobbied for six medical marijuana bills and given hundreds of media interviews. Her artwork can be viewed at CannabinArt.com and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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