Drug Policy Reform

What Michelle Alexander calls the “roundup” of youth of color and all people of color rests very heavily on arrests and convictions for low-level nonviolent drug possession—marijuana primarily. Although whites and nonwhites use drugs at roughly the same levels, the people who are picked up and sent to jail for drug use are overwhelmingly people of color and African American people in particular. To stop the roundup we need to reform our drug laws and also bar the kind of law enforcement that selectively targets some communities and not others.

Drug Policy Reform: The Civil Rights Issue of the 21st Century

he year 2014 has seen several significant drug policy reform milestones. And today marks a major historical anniversary in the nation’s efforts toward eliminating discriminatory practices from government policy, and bringing hope to communities of color nationwide. This week marks the 50th anniversary of the implementation of the Civil Rights Act. The embodiment of this hope was captured with the release of the critically acclaimed Sam Cooke single, “A Change is Gonna Come.” Collectively, as … [Read more...]

Drug Policy Alliance Calls for the Release of California’s Nonviolent Drug Offenders

Last week, a United States District Court ordered California to immediately take steps to reduce its prison population to 137.5 percent of design capacity (down to approximately 110,000 inmates). In a sharply worded brief, the panel made it clear that Gov. Jerry Brown's plan did not comply, and it ordered implementation of additional measures such as expanding good time credits.  If those measures are insufficient by December 31, 2013, the Court ordered the state to release inmates identified … [Read more...]

Beyond Marijuana: Gearing Up For the Battle to Decriminalize All Drugs

The momentum to legalize marijuana has snowballed over the last few years and has quickly moved from the fringes of U.S. politics to the mainstream. In just three years, the number of Americans who support it has jumped from 41 percent to 52 percent. Colorado and Washington State made history last year when they became the first two states -- and the first two political jurisdictions anywhere in the world -- to legally regulate the production and distribution of marijuana, and many states are … [Read more...]

SB 649’s “Wobbler” Option Creates Flexibility for Certain Drug Offenders

SB 649, authored by State Senator Mark Leno, pursues a similar approach to Realignment by recognizing that people convicted of simple drug possession, as well as the overall community, will not benefit from austere penalties. Rather, these incarcerated persons would benefit greatly from sentences that expand access to rehabilitation, which can be better provided through this bill. SB 649 brings the penalties for criminal handling of more addictive drugs, such as cocaine, into line with drugs … [Read more...]

Drugs, Addiction, Race and Poverty, with Carl Hart — June 20th

Unearthing the Truth: Drugs, Addiction, Race and Poverty Forum and Book Signing with Dr. Carl Hart June 20th, 6 to 9 p.m. From the streets of Miami to becoming Columbia University’s first tenured African-American professor in the sciences, Dr. Carl Hart writes about his journey into academia and seamlessly interweaves his groundbreaking research on addiction. Loyola Marymount University University Hall in the Ahmanson Auditorium, (1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90045) Click here for … [Read more...]

War on Drugs: The ‘Wobbler’ Option

Simple possession of small amounts of methamphetamine — enough for personal use but presumably not for dealing — is a "wobbler" in California, meaning that offenses can be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors. It's different with possession of cocaine, opiates such as heroin and many other addictive drugs; they currently can be charged only as felonies. The state Senate has now passed a bill to bring criminal handling of those drugs into line with methamphetamine, and the measure is … [Read more...]

A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society

A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society A Conversation with Dr. Carl Hart, author of High Price Q.: What inspired you to write this book? In 2008, while serving on a National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant review committee with Melissa Gerald, late one evening at dinner she suggested that I meet with her literary agent brother about writing a book. She thought that my data-driven views on drugs would have broad appeal … [Read more...]

Drug Policy Alliance Launches “War on Drugs” Exit Strategy Guide

Last Thursday, the Drug Policy Alliance released An Exit Strategy for the Failed War on Drugs. This comprehensive report contains 75 broad and incremental recommendations for legislative reforms related to civil rights, deficit reduction, law enforcement, foreign policy, sentencing and re-entry, effective drug treatment, public health, and drug prevention education. The guide was released at a forum on the Capitol Hill cosponsored by Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) and Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), … [Read more...]

The House I Live In — May 30

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California Supreme Court Upholds Local Medical Marijuana Bans

Last week, the California Supreme Court held that localities may entirely ban medical marijuana dispensaries from operating within their jurisdictions in a closely watched case, City of Riverside vs. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center.   The result of the Court’s ruling is that tens of thousands of legitimate medical marijuana patients in California will be without safe and legal access to medical marijuana.  To date more than 200 localities have banned dispensaries … [Read more...]