[UPDATE: October 30, the family of the young man entrapped by police in this case have filed a lawsuit. Read more here.]
In late 2012, a Riverside County, California police officer infiltrated a local high school, befriended a vulnerable, special needs student and then proceeded to send more than 60 text messages begging the student to buy him weed. The student, who had been diagnosed with autism as well as bipolar disorder, Tourettes, and several anxiety disorders (and noticeably handicapped) became overwhelmed by the pressure, and the desire to keep his only friend. He finally agreed to buy pot for “Dan” (the undercover cop). It took the teenager weeks to find anything, eventually buying half of a joint from from a homeless man downtown.
Then, as reported by Reason Magazine, “On December 11, 2012 armed police officers walked into [the student’s] classroom and arrested him in front of his peers. He was taken to the juvenile detention center, along with the 21 other arrestees, where he was kept for 48 hours. First hand reports claim that the juvenile center was caught off guard by the large number of arrests and that some youths had to sleep on the floor, using toilet paper as pillows.” The child was also expelled from school.
This story is a grotesque example of how our nation’s marijuana policies continue to encourage the use of barbaric and predatory tactics by law enforcement officials. They are financially incentivised to not only target otherwise law abiding citizens, but actively work to manipulate innocent children. Aside from the gross misappropriation of limited police resources, this incident clearly highlights many of the tragic implications marijuana prohibition continues to have on our nation’s youth. Further, zero tolerance policies in schools have proven to be ineffective in the very purpose for which they were originally designed. The practice of engaging in high school undercover drug stings has proven to do nothing to curb teen drug use. It does however, leave the student body traumatized and resentful of law enforcement, making them less likely to report legitimate crimes in the future. It is an egregiously unfair and punitive practice by educational institutions to expel students as punishment for any infraction of a rule, a significant portion of which are for non-violent low level drug violations. How does removing a minor from what is intended to be a stable, nurturing environment do anything to help prepare these individuals to lead responsible productive lives? They are now forced to sit at home with nothing to do but hang out with other expelled peers, or in a juvenile detention center.
One can argue that this all leads back to the financial incentives driving police officers to arrest as many individuals on drug charges as possible. Every year, law enforcement jurisdictions are given federal grants, swat gear, overtime pay and assets based solely on their number of drug arrests. Perhaps it is a result of former Governor Schwarzenegger’s passage of SB 1449 in 2010, which reduced the crime of possession of an ounce of pot from a misdemeanor to an infraction for adults 18 and over. Now, the only way to keep up their arrest rates is by targeting minors – whose charges remain misdemeanors. It is time to stop the madness and put an end to these insane zero-tolerance policies. Our children’s future depends on it.
**The family of the student framed by an undercover officer have set up a fundraiser to support their lawsuit against the school district. Click here for more information.
Oklahoma, City, OK: A majority of likely Oklahoma voters back legalizing the use of medical marijuana and also support de-penalizing pot possession penalties for recreational users, according to survey data released by SoonerPoll.com and commissioned by the Oklahoma state affiliate of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
Seventy-one percent of respondents said that they support amending state law to allow for physician-authorized patients to consume cannabis for therapeutic purposes. Twenty states and Washington, DC, have enacted similar policies since 1996.
Oklahoma citizens also strongly backed amending state criminal laws that presently outlaw the plant’s social use. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said that they preferred treating minor marijuana violations as a non-criminal, fine-only offense. Violators of such a policy would not be subject to arrest, face jail time, or receive a criminal record. Sixteen states already impose similar ‘depenalization’ policies. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have eliminated all criminal and civil penalties surrounding the possession of small quantities of marijuana by adults.
Finally, over 81 percent of Oklahoma respondents agreed that state lawmakers, not the federal government, ought to be the final arbiters to decide whether “[state] laws regarding whether the use of marijuana [are] legal or not.”
Over 400 hundred likely voters participated in the statewide scientific poll, which possesses a margin or error of ±4.9 percent.
Oklahoma’s marijuana penalties are among the most punitive in the county. Sales of any amount of cannabis are punishable by two years to life in prison. Subsequent minor marijuana possession offenses are punishable by two to ten years in prison.
For more information, please contact: http://norml.org/chapters/ok.
A huge congratulations is due to NORML’s state chapter in the Old Dominion. Last week, Virginia NORML joined the ranks of the the Kiwanis Club and the Cub Scouts when they posted the first NORML “Adopt-a-Highway” sign in the Commonwealth of Virginia. And while they didn’t get highway 420 (located in Alexandria), they did get a nice segment in Northern Virginia west of the DC beltway, and just 20 miles north of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The Northern Virginia regional affiliate, NOVA NORML has organized the first clean up to take place Sunday September 29th, 2013 at 11am. Volunteers will be meeting near Dulles International Airport, at the corner of Woodland Rd and Severn Way. We encourage all NOVA supporters to come out and get involved.
VIRGINIA STATE CONFERENCE: In addition, Virginia NORML will also be holding a statewide conference on Saturday October 5th near the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville, Va. It will feature well-known experts in cannabis law and policy, as well as longtime Virginia marijuana activists. Speakers include the associate director of the National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse (1971-73) and secretary of the first National Advisory Council on Drug Abuse (1975-80), Richard Bonnie (professor, University of Virginia), former National NORML executive director Jon Gettman, and current Virginia gubernatorial candidate Robert Sarvis (libertarian). Conference tickets and additional information available here.
NORML is pleased to announce that our 2012 Chapter of the Year Award recipient, Orange County NORML, will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary this Friday. NORML is very proud, and grateful for the army of volunteers nationwide that remains dedicated to maintaining his or hers chapter’s efforts to raise awareness, and mobilize activists on the ground. In celebration of Orange County NORML’s 10 year milestone, founder and executive director Kandice Hawes has agreed to sit down with NORML and shed some light on the secret to her chapter’s longevity, as well as provide some survival tips to other activists.
1) How long have you been chapter director?
I founded OC NORML in 2003 and have been the elected Director for 10 years.
2) What challenges have you faced since taking on that role and how did you overcome them?
One challenge is balancing work, school and personal life along with the duties of running a NORML chapter. I am lucky to have a great team of volunteers and chapter officers that I am able to delegate tasks to. Just lately we developed a party/fundraising committee, now all of these activities are handled by a group of members instead of myself. Another challenge is the number of emails and communications that I receive. I try to work a little every day to keep up. It seems that the longer I run the chapter the more the monthly duties become part of my natural life and are easy to fit into my schedule.
3) Has your advocacy affected your personal life?
Being an activist has affected my life in a positive way. One of the bonuses from running a NORML chapter is that I get the chance to meet amazing people and grow wonderful friendships. Besides the connections and friendships activism has helped me to improve my personal skills and public speaking capabilities.
4) What is the secret to your chapter’s longevity?
Great volunteers and members are the secret to our chapter’s longevity. If you have the opportunity to work with great people who eventually become friends then every activity is enjoyable and people will be willing to get together to get things done.
5) What is your secret to successful fundraising?
We raise at least $10,000 a year and all of these donations are of $20 or less. We believe that the best way to fund raise is to give people something for their money. We don’t ask for straight cash donations but use parties and trading goods for donations to raise money. We have also found that 420 BINGO games are cheap and great money makers.
6) You are one of the few NORML chapters to be recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)3 tax-deductible nonprofit. What was that process like and how long did it take?
I applied for the OC NORML non profit tax status 10 years ago and I remember that it was a challenge, but piece by piece I was able to complete the necessary forms with both the federal and state government. The whole process took me a couple of months, but nowadays you can pay legal services to file forms and save the frustration. One frustration is that our chapter filed as a non profit educational organization and before we were approved I had to prove we weren’t distributing propaganda and submit copies of educational information we would be distributing.
7) What about your chapter are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the life changing friendships our members have built. It also makes me proud when the chapter functions without me and I know it will survive long after I do.
8) Has being a woman director helped or hurt (or had any effect at all) on your work?
I believe that being a woman has helped me to be an effective leader. As a woman I think I am compassionate and am always concerned about members feeling well and fitting in.
9) What areas of your chapter would you like to improve?
We are currently working on improving our web site and making online membership signup and shopping available.
10) What advice would you give to other chapter leaders who aspire to the success of your chapter?
Make the meetings fun and have a purpose for each one, have the attendees learn something new every time. Make your group the kind of group of people that others want to belong to. Teach your members skills at meetings like public speaking that will help you be a more effective group in professional settings. And lastly, try to be organized, outgoing and understanding.
Orange County NORML will be hosting a “10 Year Smokin’ Anniversary” celebration this Saturday, August 17 at Giovanni’s Pizza in Fullerton.
922 Williamson Avenue
Fullerton, CA 92832
RSVP on Facebook here
In a country where it is increasingly difficult to find a living and breathing person willing to publicly debate in favor of maintaining cannabis prohibition’s status quo, one newly formed anti-marijuana organization and it’s primary spokesperson rightly lands in the crosshairs of medical researcher and cannabis policy reform activist Sunil Kumar Aggarwal, M.D. for conducting (from the time he was a college student-through his work at the Office of National Drug Control Policy-to now forming an anti-cannabis non-profit created to try to stem the ever-growing tide of public opinion in favor of legally controlling cannabis with regulations and taxation–not the brute force of the racially disparate, expensive and wasteful criminal justice system) a systematic and intellectually dishonest public relations campaign against cannabis.
The newly formed anti-marijuana legalization group, Smart Approaches To Marijuana SAM (which appears to be an organ of big anti-tobacco concerns, with funding from insurance companies and community health trust funds) and it’s spokesperson Kevin Sabet get some white hot and antiseptic light cast in their direction at Alternet from a long vexed Dr. Aggarwal.