Missouri NORML State Conference

In case you missed it, this past weekend was the Spring State Conference for all NORML Chapters in the state of Missouri. We had folks representing Kansas City, St. Louis, Joplin, Columbia and even Chillicothe! We had an excellent lineup of speakers that included MU Law Professor David Mitchell, a Patients Panel moderated by Cannabis Patients’ Network founder Mark Pedersen, talks from ACLU lobbyists John Coffman and Josh Campbell, a history of cannabis prohibition presentation by NORML’s Outreach Coordinator and host of the NORML Show LIVE “Radical” Russ Belville, and historical cannabis artifacts shown to us by Michael Krawitz, Executive Director of Veterans for Medical Marijuana Access. It was a very informative conference and we are excited for the future of our movement! Scroll down for the conference recap by KC NORML, as well as links to local media coverage of the event!

KC NORML Blog article

Columbia Missourian: ‘MU hosts NORML state conference to discuss marijuana’

Columbia Missourian: ‘MU professor advocates for marijuana law examination at NORML conference’

GAME TIME!

Hello internetz!

Welcome to the new MU NORML blog! We aim to be a source of news and info on the drug war on all scales, from national headlines to local activism here on Mizzou’s campus or around the City of Columbia. If you’re a student who’d like to contribute to the blog, send an email to freethedrugs@gmail.com from the email address associated with your WordPress account and we can add you as a contributor! (Note: you must be a student of the University of Missouri to be a contributor.)

If you would like more info on MU NORML, join our Facebook group here. You can also follow our twitter account @MUNORML or visit us in person at our offices in the Center for Student Involvement in the new Student Center. We are hanging out every weekday from 3-5 p.m. and we always love visitors!

Oakland County Sheriff's Office robs dispensary at gunpoint

Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine's offices and partner businesses were raided Wednesday by the Oakland County Sheriff's Department.

 

Yes, I’m afraid you did read that headline correctly. Yesterday eight Oakland County Sheriff’s Deputies served a search warrant on the offices of Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, Big Daddy’s Compassion Club and Big Daddy’s Hydro shop in Oak Park, MI. No arrests were made. However, the gun-toting cowboys did take something with them when they left: $20,000 in cash. This cash was seized from receipts, registers and even the wallets of the employees on site. Let me repeat that last one: THE COPS TOOK THE MONEY FROM EVERYONE’S WALLETS. This is a plain old-fashioned stick-up. Witnesses say that one of the officers was even wearing a mask! So what happens to this money? If no one was arrested, why do they get to take cash?

The answer of course is civil asset forfeiture. If you’ve never heard the term before, here’s a catch-up post from earlier, but basically if the government suspects your property was involved in a crime or your money came from a crime, they can seize it. The burden of proof then lies on your shoulders because property doesn’t have the same rights as a person. Nevermind that it’s ridiculous to charge property with a crime. So we end up with cases like “The United States v. 1999 Ford Taurus” and such silliness.

Now about the money. In all states it’s different depending on state laws where the money goes, but almost everywhere cops can use a federal loophole to keep most of the spoils. In our case from Michigan yesterday, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office gets to keep 80% of the assets seized and the other 20% will go to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office. Consider it a “robbery legitimization fee.”

So basically Oakland County’s government has taken to wild west tactics to fund their law enforcement branch. Their $20,000 haul means $16,000 for the Sheriff and $4,000 for the prosecutor. Not bad for a Wednesday.

Citizens Police Review Board almost reviews Lowest Priority ordinance

Looking at the agenda for tonight’s Citizens Police Review Board meeting, I knew that this issue was not going to be addressed in any relevant way. Under “Panel Discussion Marijuana Ordinance Issues” [sic] we see the invited guests: City Prosecutor Stephen Richey, Assistant County Prosecutor Ryan Haigh, and Columbia Police Chief Ken Burton. You can imagine what their opinion boiled down to: They thought the ordinance was being enforced just fine. “We aren’t getting search warrants to pursue misdemeanor marijuana cases.” Well I have two problems with that response.

First of all, our problem with the ordinance isn’t that police shouldn’t be pursuing misdemeanor marijuana charges. It’s that they shouldn’t be going out of their way to chase down ANY marijuana case, from 12 grams to 12 pounds. The ballot language passed by 61% of voters in Columbia in 2004 read: “The limited resources of law enforcement should be directed primarily toward crimes of violence or property loss.  The enforcement of laws against marijuana shall be the lowest law enforcement priority.The current ordinance reads almost exactly the same (Sec. 16-255.2., subsection f; you’ll have to scroll way down): “The limited resources of law enforcement should be directed primarily toward crimes of violence or property loss. The enforcement of laws against marijuana shall be among the lower priorities of law enforcement.” No part of the subsection mentions misdemeanor amounts of marijuana. When the ordinance passed, 61% of Columbia voters were saying they wanted enforcement of ALL marijuana crimes to be THE LOWEST law enforcement priority. Which means no search warrants for pot, no overtime pay for SWAT officers to try to find pot, and no pot-only cases while there are still plenty of unsolved serious crimes in the area.

Second point: The simple fact remains that CPD HAS obtained search warrants and executed SWAT raids on offenders who were later charged with simple misdemeanor possession. Anyone remember the Kinloch Court incident? Misdemeanor possession. Of course, they were going for more pot than what they found, but the fact that faulty intelligence can and does happen means maybe we should rethink pursuing marijuana cases with these violent tactics.

Well, after the two prosecutors and Chief Burton had their say, Dan Viets requested that the board continue discussion on the lower priority ordinance at their next monthly meeting when more students are in town to weigh in with their opinions. This was quickly shot down, and the board moved on. The discussion of how to better enforce the lowest priority ordinance was over without even having happened.

At the end of the CPRB meetings they allow time for general public comment. I stood and expressed my disappointment that the board for not even allowing a variety of opinions to be heard. “If you think that you can get a full range of opinions by inviting two prosecutors and the Police Chief here tonight, then you have no understanding of this issue,” I told them. I urged that they take the issue up again in the future when a fair discussion might be had. After I had spoken, Chairwoman Ellen LoCurto-Martinez seemed to understand my point and realize they had not looked at the picture quite as fully. In a compromise, she moved to table time at next month’s meeting to discuss whether it is wise police policy to serve search warrants in connection with non-violent crimes.

Here’s where you all come in. The next CPRB meeting is on February 9 at 7:00 p.m. at City Hall. Come and let the Citizens Police Review Board know your opinion: Should police be serving search warrants, which are inherently violent, to investigate crimes where no violence was committed and no property was damaged or stolen? If you’re interested in speaking to the Board please drop me an email at freethedrugs@gmail.com by February 1 so I can guarantee you some time to address the board at that meeting. I hope to see many students and citizens there!

Breaking Hiatus

Hello friends. I’m sorry for such a long lull in posts; I’ve fallen out of most of my good habits over these past few months but I’m trying to get back on track now.  A lot has happened since my last post. While I was in Portland at the National NORML Conference, Canadian activist Marc Emery was sentenced to five years in U.S. Federal Prison for selling seeds across the U.S./Canada border. I encourage you to read Marc’s blog for a look inside the Federal Prison system and the discrimination he faces as a Canadian citizen in U.S. Federal Prison. In October, Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 1449 into law, making adult possession of up to an ounce of cannabis a criminal infraction, punishable by a $100 ticket that requires no court appearance. Last November, California Prop 19 barely failed, but received an encouraging 46.5% of the vote, meaning that over 4.6 million Californians voted in favor of legalization! And in a surprising victory, Arizona became the 15th state to legalize medical marijuana! The measure barely squeaked by with 50.13% of voters approving Prop 203.

We made some pretty big strides in 2010, and I’m confident that as we win more victories in the next few years, public support will grow as we continue to spread the truth about cannabis and adopt policies that protect our citizens, not exploit them.

Coming up: NORML's 39th annual National Conference!

Hey folks! It’s been an embarrassingly long time since the last post, but much has transpired in the world of drug reform both locally and around the world since the last updates. The Mexico situation has become so bleak that the U.S. State Department said it would pull all of the children of its diplomatic personnel out of the business capital of Monterrey. The decision came after a cartel shootout in front of a prominent school in that city. Also it seems that pharmacies across the U.S. are seeing more instances of heists and robberies due to the increase in popularity of prescription drugs. Pharmaceuticals are the second-most popular illicit drug category in the U.S. behind cannabis.

On a happier note, the first MU NORML meeting of the year kicked off rather successfully this year with around 80 students and citizens coming out and showing their interest in fighting back against the Drug War. Our next meeting will be help at 7:00 p.m. in Arts & Sciences room 103, where we’ll be presenting a recap of the National NORML conference.

Speaking of said conference, MU NORML president Lyndsey Garza I have the extreme privilege of traveling to Portland, ORfor NORML’s 39th annual National Conference! I’m leaving town at 3 a.m. tonight and flying out of KCI around 6:30 tomorrow morning. I’ll be a bit late to the beginning of the conference, but follow along for updates throughout the conference. You can also follow the fun at our Twitter page or watch the conference streaming on NORML’s website!

Prohibition is tearing Mexico apart (WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT)

Since I last wrote about the escalating violence in Mexico, things have taken a turn for the worst. With 12 journalists murdered and another 8 disappearing so far this year, freedom of the Mexican press is being threatened in an enormous way. Cartels also hurled grenades at one of the most powerful broadcasting companies in Mexico, Televisa, . In fact, the UN sent a mission to Mexico to examine these threats to the freedom of the press, and the Inter-American Press Association is asking Mexico to make crimes against journalists a federal offense. Cartels are infiltrating newsrooms through extortion and threats of violence against journalists and their families. Last Friday in the city of Tampico, cartels and law enforcement officers had a shootout on the main boulevard of the city, the governor-elect canceled a planned trip to the city, and a prominent business leader was kidnapped. Tampico news agencies didn’t report a single one of those incidents. In fact, most of the news on the drug war in Mexico is being posted anonymously on El Blog del Narco, because it’s dangerous to put a byline on a drug war story in Mexico. Any journalist who covers the drug war is a target, and make no mistake: the cartels are fighting legalization harder than anyone in the DEA, ONDCP, CIA or FBI. And when you look at the big picture, it’s a stomach-churning blend of funny and terrifying: Both the cartels and the members of many of these agencies depend on prohibition to make profits and keep their jobs.

The Late Mayor of Santiago, Edelmiro Cavazos

Mexico has become as dangerous as other countries that are in war zones, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Last Sunday the cartels kidnapped 38-year-old mayor Edelmiro Cavazos of Santiago, a suburb of the industrial city of Monterrey. His body was discovered on the side of a road Wednesday, bound, gagged and displaying signs of torture. Mexican officials believe that this mayor was disposed of because he refused to take bribes and did not respond to threats by the cartels. And guess who’s been arrested in connection with his death? SIX CITY POLICEMEN. The corruption of the drug war is bleeding into and compromising every institution in Mexico.

It’s common practice now for drug cartels to invade private parties and open fire on guests. This happens several times each week, especially in towns where cartels are struggling to control turf. Last Sunday, a group of gunmen in the industrial town of Torreón showed up to a party hall, blocked the exits and opened fire on the crowd. 17 partygoers were killed and another 18 were injured, and the party as of yet has not been linked to any organized crime or drug gangs. The cartels are now just slaying people to create a state of fear and terror. Anyone can be a target, and this is what Mexico’s drug war looks like now:

Slain partygoers at the site of the Torreón massacre. Photo courtesy of El Blog del Narco.

This was the tamest photo of the bunch, which can be found on El Blog del Narco (WARNING: EXTREME GRAPHIC CONTENT). I’d apologize for showing such a gory photo, but I’m not sorry. This is what’s happening every single day in Mexico. People need to see this. This is the price of a War on Drugs. And here is my message, loud and clear: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. How many need to die? How many cities must be compromised? What is it going to take before leaders of the Americas collectively end this needless violence with a stroke of the pen? Legalize drugs! That’s the answer, plain and simple. Take the cartels’ money and power, and they will not have a single reason left to slay journalists and politicians and innocent bystanders. Refuse to act, or worse, send in more soldiers and police in another “crackdown” effort, and the bodies will continue to pile up, the heads will continue to roll.