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ECONOMICS

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director July 31, 2013

    arrestedIn what can only be described as a horrible tragedy for college student Daniel Chong–as well as for the American taxpayer–the Department of Justice’s Drug Enforcement Administration has agreed to pay $4.1 million dollars to Mr. Chong for falsely imprisoning him after an April 20, 2012 party, and worse, literally forgetting about him in a holding cell for five days where Mr. Chong drank his own urine to survive, and cut himself to leave a dying message to his mother.

    To date no DEA field agents or local managers have been held responsible for this gross error (ironically, only the taxpayer is left being the responsible party in this legal nightmare).

    This kind of abuseful and money-wasting government nitwittery is another prime example of why cannabis prohibition must end in America post haste.

    San Diego Union Tribune article about the settlement, and previous news coverage, is below:

    DEA settles left-in-cell case for $4M

    By Jeff McDonald1:08 a.m.July 30, 2013

    Daniel Chong, the self-confessed pot smoker who was caught up in a drug sweep last year and nearly died after federal agents inadvertently abandoned him in a holding cell for five days without food or water, is now a millionaire.

    Attorney Eugene Iredale announced Tuesday he reached a $4.1 million settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, without even filing a lawsuit.

    The harrowing experience for Chong, 25, an engineering student, began on a Friday night in 2012, when he admittedly went to some friends’ house in University City to celebrate April 20, a special date for marijuana users.

    Chong didn’t know it at the time, but the home had been under surveillance by a federal narcotics task force.

    Drug agents executed a search warrant early in the morning of April 21, Among other things, they found 18,000 ecstasy pills, marijuana and several weapons in the residence, according to court papers.

    The agents also found Chong sleeping on a couch in the front room and transported him and six others to the San Diego field office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for follow-up interviews.

    Chong said he answered all of the agents’ questions and they agreed to send him home without criminal charges.

    But instead he was returned to a temporary holding cell, where he spent the next four days without food or water. He has said he became delirious, drank his own urine, ate the broken shards of his glasses and used the glass to cut the message “sorry mom” in his own forearm.

    He said he kicked the door and screamed for help but agents never came to his assistance. DEA agents admitted later they “accidentally” left Chong in the cell and took the unusual step of apologizing publicly to the UCSD student.

    DEA officials declined to comment about the case Monday.

    Findings of an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General’s Office of the U.S. Department of Justice have not been released.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director July 9, 2013

    At a meeting with drug reform advocates in San Francisco, former Mexican President Fox expressed support for California’s efforts to legally regulate cannabis, medical and otherwise. He said that California has a strong cultural influence on Mexico, and that progress here would help efforts there.NWA Canada Prohibition Car

    Speakers included Dale Sky Jones for CCPR, Nate Bradley for LEAP and myself for California NORML, who noted that marijuana prohibition is an international problem founded on international treaties, which need to be fixed through international cooperation by the U.S., Mexico, and other countries. Many thanks to President Fox, Jamen Shively, and Steve DeAngelo for arranging this meeting.  – Dale Gieringer, CA NORML

     

    Former Mexican president Fox urges marijuana legalization

    Source: Reuters – Tue, 9 Jul 2013 12:40 AM

    By Ronnie Cohen

    SAN FRANCISCO, July 8 (Reuters) – Former Mexican President Vicente Fox took his crusade to legalize marijuana to San Francisco on Monday, joining pot advocates to urge the United States and his own country to decriminalize the sale and recreational use of cannabis.

    Fox met for three hours with the advocates, including Steve DeAngelo, the Oakland-based executive director of California’s largest marijuana dispensary, and former Microsoft executive Jamen Shively, who hopes to create a Seattle-based pot brand now that Washington state has legalized recreational use.

    Legalization, Fox told reporters after the meeting, is the only way to end the violence of Mexican drug cartels, which he blamed on America’s war on drugs.

    “The cost of the war is becoming unbearable – too high for Mexico, for Latin America and for the rest of the world,” Fox said in English.

    Every day, he said, 40 young people are killed in drug-related violence.

    Fox’s position on legalizing drugs has evolved over time since the days when he cooperated with U.S. efforts to tamp down production in Mexico during his 2000-2006 presidential term. He has been increasingly vocal in his opposition to current policies, backing two prior efforts to legalize marijuana in Mexico.

    Mexico’s current president, Enrique Pena Nieto, has opposed legalization. But he recently said that he would consider world opinion on the matter, particularly in light of recent voter-approved initiatives to legalize marijuana in Washington state and Colorado for recreational use.

    In San Francisco on Monday, Fox said he had signed on to attend and help develop an international summit later this month in Mexico to strategize a path to end marijuana prohibition.

    Participants scheduled to attend the three-day meeting starting July 18 in San Cristobal include an American surgeon, the dean of Harvard’s School of Public Health and a Mexican congressman who plans to introduce a bill to legalize marijuana in Mexico this summer, Fox said.

    The bill, which he expects to be introduced by Mexican lawmaker Fernando Belaunzaran, would legalize adult recreational use of marijuana, Fox said.

    Support for legalizing marijuana in the United States has been growing. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana laws, according to the pro-legalization National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. But the drug remains illegal under federal law.

    Lifting the prohibition on cannabis in Mexico, however, appears to face more of an uphill battle. Mexican lawmakers have rejected previous legalization efforts and polls have shown little popular support for the idea.

    But Fox promised to wage what he said was a necessary battle.

    “We cannot afford more blood and the loss of more young people,” Fox said. “We must get out of the trap we are in.” (Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Eric Walsh)

     

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director June 20, 2013

    One of the most asked questions received at NORML over the years has been ‘I smoke cannabis and I want to purchase or increase my life insurance, what companies provide underwriting?’sheet-of-money-hemp

    A very informative news piece from LifeHealthPro provides an excellent overview of life insurance companies and their current policies regarding offering coverage to cannabis consumers–be them recreational consumers or medical patients:

    Ratings for the Marijuana User

    Marijuana usage is not viewed as other drugs such as cocaine, for example. Testing positive for THC will not lead to a flat rejection of a life insurance policy. However, the use of this substance can result in receiving a cigarette smoker’s rates, which are substantially higher than those of a non-smoker.

    Life insurance classifications for a marijuana user are guidelines and are not set in stone; they can change at any time per the company consideration. Also other health conditions could change consideration.

    – American General: Smoking marijuana more than twice monthly could result in the rates of a smoker with the possibility of a table rating. Smoking two times per month will set the rating as a standard non-smoker. Applicants who smoke two times a year or less could be rated as a preferred best non-smoker.

    - Banner Life:  Applicants could be considered a standard smoker with occasional use. They could be rated as a substandard table B smoker with daily use.

    - Columbus Life:  Applicants over 25 years old who smoke pot experimentally to intermittently might get standard smoker rates. Moderate use could be a table 2 rating.  Heavy use will be declined.  Other drug use will also be a factor.

    – Fidelity: A standard smoker classification will be given if there is any marijuana use in the past 12 months. However, an applicant be classified as a sub-standard smoker if medical marijuana is prescribed.

    – Genworth Financial: Applicants who use marijuana eight times a month or less could be classified as a standard smoker. Users who smoke more than eight times may be considered a sub-standard smoker. Also, this company does not recognize prescription use of marijuana.

    – ING Reliastar: If marijuana is prescribed, users could be classified as a Table 4 Smoker. With daily use, they could be classified as a preferred smoker.

    - Lincoln Benefit: If a prescription is shown on one’s medical records and usage is stated on the application, applicants could be classified as a non-smoker. Occasional users without a prescription can be classified as a standard smoker.

    – Lincoln National: Applicants can use marijuana up to two times per week and be classified as a standard non-smoker.  Usage of 3-4 times a week will result in a sub-standard Table B non-smoker rating. Applicants will be declined if they use marijuana more than four times per week.

    – Met Life: Applicants who otherwise would merit a preferred plus rating and uses marijuana occasionally (once a month to once a week) could get a preferred plus non-smoker rating. (More than once a week is equivalent to a smoker’s rate.)  Daily use could be a table 4 rating. Heavy users could be declined.

    - Mutual of Omaha: Applicants will rate as a standard nons-moker with up to weekly use.  If lab results indicate more frequent usage, then smoker rates will apply.

    - Minnesota Life: Applicants who test positive for THC could be given a smoker table 3 rating. Occasional or recreational users will be given preferred non-smoker rates but will have to test negative for THC.

    - North American: Applicants over 25 years old who use marijuana 3-8 times per month could be rated a standard smoker. If they use 8-16 times a month they could be rated as high as a table 2 smoker. More than 16 times a month will be declined.

    - Protective Life: Marijuana use could result in a standard smoker rating.

    - Prudential Financial: Using marijuana up to two times per month and testing negative for THC will qualify applicants as a standard plus non-smoker. A Table B non-smoker (even with THC positive lab tests) rating will be applied if usage is up to four times per week. Usage over four times weekly will be declined.

    - Transamerica - Marijuana smokers could be considered a standard smoker rate class with no other health issues.

    Final advice from LifeHealthPro: Applicants who already have a life insurance policy in force may be paying unnecessarily high rates. Each company’s insurance underwriters view the use of marijuana differently. Don’t let your clients pay high life insurance premiums if less expensive alternatives are available.  

    Read entire article @ LifeHealthPro

     

     

     

     

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director June 4, 2013

    The American Civil Liberties Union released a new report affirming NORML’s historic data that minorities are disproportionately arrested (and most certainly prosecuted and, worse, incarcerated) at a rate four times higher than whites for cannabis (based on per capita cannabis use rates).

    In some midwest states–like Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota–minorities are arrested at rates eight times higher than whites.

    ACLU’s report ‘The War On Marijuana/In Black And White‘ is a fascinating and well researched multimedia presentation about why America’s failed seventy-five year-old social experiment known as ‘Cannabis Prohibition’ must end, and new public policies created that reflect today’s public sentiment in favor of such reforms.

  • by Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director April 12, 2013

    As previewed last week on NORML’s blog, the Brookings Institute is convening a cannabis policy forum on Monday, April 15.

    In advance of the symposium, Brookings has released a comprehensive legal review and critical analysis of the current national and state laws that prohibit cannabis use, cultivation and sales.norml_remember_prohibition_

    Excerpts from the Brookings’ press release and description of the issues tackled by Brookings scholar and noted legal writer and commentator Stuart Taylor, Jr. are found below.

    Mr. Taylor’s thoughtful and dynamic analysis and policy recommendations are here.

    Of equal value and incredibly informative are two accompanying appendixes:

    Appendix One: The Obama Administration’s Approach To Medical Marijuana: A Study In Chaos

    Appendix Two: Conflicts Of Laws: A Quick Orientation to Marijuana Laws At The Federal Level and CO and WA

    Stuart Taylor, Jr. examines how the federal government and the eighteen states (plus the District of Columbia) that have partially legalized medical or recreational marijuana or both since 1996 can be true to their respective laws, and can agree on how to enforce them wisely while avoiding federal-state clashes that would increase confusion and harm communities and consumers.

    * * *

    This paper seeks to persuade even people who think legalization is a bad idea that the best way to serve the federal interest in protecting public health and safety is not for the federal government to seek an end to state legalization. To the contrary, Taylor asserts, a federal crackdown would backfire by producing an atomized, anarchic, state-legalized but unregulated marijuana market that federal drug enforcers could neither contain nor force the states to contain.

    In this broad-ranging primer on the legal challenges surrounding marijuana legalization, Taylor makes the following points:

    • The best way to serve the federal interest in protecting public health and safety is for the federal government to stand aside when it comes to legalization at the state-level.
    • The federal government should nonetheless use its considerable leverage to ensure that state regulators protect the federal government’s interests in minimizing exports across state lines, sales outside the state-regulated system, sales of unduly large quantities, sales of adulterated products, sales to minors, organized crime involvement, and other abuses.
    • Legalizing states, for their part, must provide adequate funding for their regulators as well as clear rules to show that they will be energetic in protecting federal as well as state interests. If that sort of balance is struck, a win-win can be achieved.
    • The Obama Administration and legalizing states should take advantage of a provision of the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to hammer out clear, contractual cooperation agreements so that state-regulated marijuana businesses will know what they can and cannot safely do.
    • The time for presidential leadership on marijuana policy is now. The CSA also gives the administration ample leverage to insist that the legalizing states take care to protect the federal interests noted above.

    Stuart also surveys (1) what legalizing states can and cannot do without violating federal law; (2) the Obama’s administration’s approach to medical marijuana and; (3) current marijuana law at the federal level and in Colorado and Washington State.

     

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