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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Drug Policy Alliance info...

In this Issue

Medical Marijuana Makes Slow Progress in Congress

DPA Ready to Fight Back as CA Politicians Violate Prop 36

Looking Ahead to Real Reform in New York

3 strikesMedical Marijuana Makes Slow Progress in Congress

Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives again thumbed its nose at compassion and common sense by rejecting the Hinchey-Rohrabacher amendment, which would have prohibited the federal government from undermining state medical marijuana laws. The final vote was 163 for / 259 against. This is two more "yes" votes than last year and a sign that support is slowly growing. (Since three Representatives who voted for the amendment last year couldn't make the vote this year, the base of support is actually up five over last year).

Though there is a lot to say about this, Congressman David Obey (D-WI) summed it up best when speaking in support of the amendment:

"If I am terminally ill, it is not anybody's business on this floor how I handle the pain or the illness or the sickness associated with that illness. With all due respect to all of you, butt out. I did not enter this world with the permission of the Justice Department, and I am certainly not going to depart it by seeking their permission or that of any other authority. The Congress has no business telling people that they cannot manage their illness or their pain any way they need to. I would trust any doctor in the country before I trust some of the daffy ducks in this institution to decide what I am supposed to do if I am terminally ill... When is this Congress going to recognize that individuals in their private lives have a right to manage their problems as they see fit without the permission of the big guy in the White House or the big guy in the Justice Department or any of the Lilliputians on this Congressional floor? Wake up!"


Please take a few minutes today to thank or spank your Representative for how he or she voted on this important amendment:

1) Find out how your Representative voted. If you're not sure who your Representative is, you can check by entering your zip code at the top of this page .

2) Use this directory to go to your Representative's website where you can find information on writing, e-mailing, or calling your Representative.

3) Send a message!

  • If your Representative voted for the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment, send a thank-you message.
  • If your Representative voted against the Hinchey-Rohrabacher medical marijuana amendment, express your disappointment and encourage your Representative to vote for the amendment next year.

Read More

Medical Marijuana patientDPA Ready to Fight Back as CA Politicians Violate Prop 36

In a vote late Tuesday night, the California Legislature radically rewrote voter-approved Prop 36, the state's six-year-old treatment-instead-of-incarceration law, to allow jailing of people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses. The trailer bill containing the changes, SB 1137, is now awaiting the Governor's signature. If it is signed on Friday as expected, DPA is prepared to file suit as early as Monday.

Daniel Abrahamson, DPA's director of legal affairs, warned, "The Office of Legislative Counsel and probably even the Governor's own lawyers have told him that this bill is unconstitutional. We have asked the Governor to do the right thing and veto SB 1137. However, if he allows the bill to become law, we will challenge it in court and are confident that it will be struck down."

The legislative maneuver to undo Prop 36 came just days after the Governor announced a special legislative session to address the state's prison crisis. Politicians say they are working to resolve the dangerous state of California's overcrowded prison system, but their actions contradict these claims. SB 1137 would alter Prop 36 to exclude many nonviolent drug offenders from the program--many of whom will instead receive jail or prison terms--and permit the incarceration of people who are in Prop 36 treatment.

Margaret Dooley, DPA's Prop 36 outreach coordinator, said, "What elected officials did Tuesday night was reprehensible. They unlawfully overrode the expressed will of the people of California and did so despite the state's own studies proving that the program is working. SB 1137 reverses the state's only effective prison reform in a decade and sets a precedent that would allow legislators to rewrite any voter initiative they happen to disagree with."

In 2000, 61 percent of California voters approved Prop 36, permanently changing state law so that all eligible nonviolent drug possession offenders must be given the option of state-licensed treatment. Since the initiative passed, over 60,000 Californians have graduated Prop 36 treatment and taxpayers have saved $1.3 billion. According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, numbers of nonviolent drug prisoners are down dramatically thanks to Prop 36.

This successful initiative is important not only for California, but for other states that are considering Prop 36 as a model for alternative ways to deal with drug use. The movement to protect Prop 36 is strong--SB 1137 was met with vocal opposition from Drug Policy Alliance Network and other advocates in the legislature, as well as treatment providers, program graduates, and reformers all over California.

The next step as DPA moves to protect California's groundbreaking initiative will be a legal challenge. This corruption of the voters' will must not be allowed to stand, and DPA will continue to fight for Prop 36.

Read More

Handcuffs 90x90Looking Ahead to Real Reform in New York

Rockefeller Drug Law reform fell prey to politics this month when the New York Legislature adjourned with no Senate action. Despite hundreds of faxes and phone calls from New Yorkers, as well as advocacy by the Drug Policy Alliance Network inside the legislature, the Senate failed to consider a key Rockefeller reform bill, A. 8098.

A. 8098 would have broadened sentencing reforms, building on the small Rockefeller reforms passed in 2004 and 2005. The bill was passed by the Assembly, but was not considered by the Senate before the June 23 adjournment of the legislative session.

Despite this setback, there is continued hope for reform in 2006. The small reforms of the past two years took place in special session, not in regular session--a pattern that could be repeated this year. Additionally, the upcoming elections in November may shift the balance of power in New York, opening up new opportunities for reform.

Over the past three years, there has been a growing movement in the state towards repeal of the failed Rockefeller Drug Laws, including support for repeal among prosecutors themselves. In 2004, Albany County district attorney candidate David Soares ran in part on a Rockefeller repeal platform and beat the incumbent DA. In 2005, repeal candidate Gwen Wilkinson staged a remarkable upset over the incumbent Tompkins County district attorney. In recent polls, over 83 percent of New York residents said they think the Rockefeller Drug Laws should be repealed.

The laws, which were passed in 1973 by then-Governor Nelson Rockefeller, mandate stiff mandatory minimum sentences for low-level drug offenses. The Rockefeller Drug Laws send people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses, 92 percent of them black and Latino, to prison for long terms.

"Everyone, including the New York State Senate and the district attorneys, knows that the sentences are inhumane, that imprisonment does nothing to curb drug addiction, and that these laws are a form of legalized racism," said Gabriel Sayegh, director of DPA's State Organizing and Policy Project. "There is no question the Rockefeller Drug Laws have failed, and we will continue to work for their repeal."


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