2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

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The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

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HR3722 `Putting Drug Free Families First Act of 2011′

HR 3722 IH

112th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 3722

To amend part A of title IV of the Social Security Act to require States to implement a drug testing program for applicants for and recipients of assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

December 16, 2011

Mr. PEARCE (for himself, Mr. WESTMORELAND, Mr. ROE of Tennessee, Mr. DUNCAN of South Carolina, Mr. DESJARLAIS, Mr. HUIZENGA of Michigan, Mr. POSEY, Mr. KING of Iowa, and Mr. MULVANEY) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means


A BILL

To amend part A of title IV of the Social Security Act to require States to implement a drug testing program for applicants for and recipients of assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
    This Act may be cited as the `Putting Drug Free Families First Act of 2011′.
SEC. 2. DRUG TESTING PROGRAM FOR APPLICANTS FOR AND RECIPIENTS OF ASSISTANCE UNDER STATE TANF PROGRAMS.
    (a) Requirement That Applicants and Individuals Receiving Assistance Be Tested for Illegal Drug Use- Section 408(a) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 608(a)) is amended by adding at the end the following:
      `(12) REQUIREMENT FOR DRUG TESTING; DENIAL OF ASSISTANCE FOR INDIVIDUALS FOUND TO HAVE USED AN ILLEGAL DRUG-
        `(A) IN GENERAL- A State to which a grant is made under section 403 may not use any part of the grant to provide assistance under the State program funded under this part to an individual unless the individual is tested for the use of the drugs listed in subparagraph (B)(i)–
          `(i) if the individual has applied for such assistance and the application has not been approved, before the receipt of such assistance; and
          `(ii) in any other case, before the end of the 3-month period that begins on the date of the enactment of this paragraph.
        `(B) DRUGS TO BE INCLUDED IN TESTING-
          `(i) IN GENERAL- In conducting drug testing pursuant to subparagraph (A), the State shall test for each of the following:
            `(I) Marijuana.
            `(II) Cocaine.
            `(III) Opiates.
            `(IV) Amphetamines.
            `(V) Methamphetamine.
            `(VI) Phencyclidine.
            `(VII) Heroin.
            `(VIII) Lysergic acid diethylamide.
            `(IX) 3,4-methylenedioxy amphetamine.
          `(ii) EXCEPTION FOR PRESCRIPTION USE OF DRUGS- A positive test for a drug listed in clause (i) shall be disregarded for purposes of this paragraph if such drug was used pursuant to a valid prescription or as otherwise authorized by law.
        `(C) DENIAL OF ASSISTANCE FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO TEST POSITIVE FOR AN ILLEGAL DRUG-
          `(i) IN GENERAL- Except as provided in subparagraph (D), if an individual tests positive pursuant to subparagraph (A) for the use of any drug listed in subparagraph (B)(i), the State may not provide assistance under the State program funded under this part to such individual unless–
            `(I) a 1-year (or, if the individual has so tested positive for the 2nd time, 3-year) period has elapsed since the results of the test were determined; and
            `(II) the individual tests negative for the use of each drug listed in subparagraph (B)(i) at the end of such period.
          `(ii) PERMANENT INELIGIBILITY AFTER THIRD POSITIVE TEST RESULT- If an individual tests positive pursuant to subparagraph (A) for the third time for the use of any drug listed in subparagraph (B)(i), the State shall treat such individual as permanently ineligible for assistance under the State program funded under this part.
        `(D) REHABILITATION EXCEPTION AFTER FIRST POSITIVE TEST RESULT- In the case of an individual who tests positive pursuant to subparagraph (A) for the first time for the use of any drug listed in subparagraph (B)(i), the period for which assistance may not be provided to an individual by reason of subparagraph (C)(i) shall be 180 days if the State determines that the individual–
          `(i) has successfully completed a drug rehabilitation or treatment program for the drug for which the individual tested positive; and
          `(ii) tests negative for the use of such drug at the end of such 180-day period.
        `(E) PAYMENT OF COSTS- The State shall require each individual who applies for assistance under the State program funded under this part to pay the portion of the cost of the drug testing pursuant to subparagraph (A) that pertains to such individual. If such individual tests negative for the use of each drug listed in subparagraph (B)(i) and the State provides assistance under the State program funded under this part to the individual, the State shall increase the first payment of such assistance in an amount equal to the amount paid by the individual under this subparagraph for the drug testing.
        `(F) DESIGNEE FOR CHILD BENEFICIARY- In the case of a parent of a minor child, if such parent tests positive pursuant to subparagraph (A) for the use of any drug listed in subparagraph (B)(i), the State shall designate an individual other than such parent to receive payments for assistance under the State program funded under this part on behalf of the minor child. The State may not so designate an individual unless the individual has been tested for the use of each drug listed in subparagraph (B)(i) and did not test positive.
        `(G) DEFINITION OF DRUG REHABILITATION OR TREATMENT PROGRAM- In this paragraph, the term `drug rehabilitation or treatment program’ means a program that–
          `(i) has been determined by the State to provide rehabilitation or treatment for the use of an illegal drug; and
          `(ii) complies with all applicable Federal, State, and local laws and regulations.’.
    (b) Penalty for Failure To Implement Illegal Drug Use Testing Program- Section 409(a) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 609(a)) is amended by adding at the end the following:
      `(16) PENALTY FOR FAILURE TO IMPLEMENT ILLEGAL DRUG USE TESTING PROGRAM- If the Secretary determines that a State to which a grant is made under section 403 in a fiscal year has violated section 408(a)(12) during the fiscal year, the Secretary shall reduce the grant payable to the State under section 403(a)(1) for the immediately succeeding fiscal year by an amount equal to 10 percent of the State family assistance grant.’.
    (c) Effective Date- The amendments made by this section shall take effect on the 1st day of the 1st calendar quarter that begins on or after the date that is 1 year after the date of the enactment of this Act.

END

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HR 2306 `Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011′

HR 2306 IH

112th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 2306

To limit the application of Federal laws to the distribution and consumption of marihuana, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

June 23, 2011

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts (for himself, Mr. PAUL, Mr. CONYERS, Ms. LEE of California, Mr. POLIS, and Mr. COHEN) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and in addition to the Committee on the Judiciary, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


A BILL

To limit the application of Federal laws to the distribution and consumption of marihuana, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
    This Act may be cited as the `Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011′.
SEC. 2. APPLICATION OF THE CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT TO MARIHUANA.
    Part A of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 801 et seq.) is amended by adding at the end the following:
`SEC. 103. APPLICATION OF THIS ACT TO MARIHUANA.
    `(a) Prohibition on Certain Shipping or Transportation- This Act shall not apply to marihuana, except that it shall be unlawful only to ship or transport, in any manner or by any means whatsoever, marihuana, from one State, Territory, or District of the United States, or place noncontiguous to but subject to the jurisdiction thereof, into any other State, Territory, or District of the United States, or place noncontiguous to but subject to the jurisdiction thereof, or from any foreign country into any State, Territory, or District of the United States, or place noncontiguous to but subject to the jurisdiction thereof, when such marihuana is intended, by any person interested therein, to be received, possessed, sold, or in any manner used, either in the original package or otherwise, in violation of any law of such State, Territory, or District of the United States, or place noncontiguous to but subject to the jurisdiction thereof.
    `(b) Penalty- Whoever knowingly violates subsection (a) shall be fined under title 18, United States Code, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.’.
SEC. 3. DEREGULATION OF MARIHUANA.
    (a) Removed From Schedule of Controlled Substances- Schedule I(c) of section 202(c) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 812(c)) is amended–
      (1) by striking `marihuana’; and
      (2) by striking `tetrahydrocannabinols’.
    (b) Removal of Prohibition on Import and Export- Section 1010 of the Controlled Substances Import and Export Act (21 U.S.C. 960) is amended–
      (1) by striking subparagraph (G) of subsection (b)(1);
      (2) by striking subparagraph (G) of subsection (b)(2); and
      (3) by striking paragraph (4) of subsection (b).
SEC. 4. CONFORMING AMENDMENTS TO CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT.
    (a) Section 102(44) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802(44)) is amended by striking `marihuana’.
    (b) Part D of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 841 et seq.) is amended as follows:
      (1) In section 401–
        (A) by striking subsection (b)(1)(A)(vii);
        (B) by striking subsection (b)(1)(B)(vii);
        (C) by striking subsection (b)(1)(D); and
        (D) by striking subsection (b)(4).
      (2) In section 402(c)(2)(B), by striking `marihuana’.
      (3) In section 403(d)(1), by striking `marihuana’.
      (4) In section 418(a), by striking the last sentence.
      (5) In section 419(a), by striking the last sentence.
      (6) In section 422(d), in the matter preceding paragraph (1), by striking `marijuana’.
      (7) In section 422(d)(5), by striking `, such as a marihuana cigarette,’.
SEC. 5. CONSTRUCTION.
    No provision of this Act shall be construed to affect Federal drug testing policies, and each Federal agency shall conduct a review of its drug testing policies not later than 30 days after the date of enactment of this Act to ensure that the language of any such policy is in accordance with this section.

END

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HR 6335 `States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act’

HR 6335 IH

112th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. R. 6335

To amend the Controlled Substances Act so as to exempt real property from civil forfeiture due to medical-marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by State law.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

August 2, 2012

Ms. LEE of California (for herself, Mr. POLIS, Mr. FARR, Mr. STARK, Mr. HINCHEY, Mr. BLUMENAUER, Mr. HONDA, Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts, and Mr. MCGOVERN) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, and in addition to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned


A BILL

To amend the Controlled Substances Act so as to exempt real property from civil forfeiture due to medical-marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by State law.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
    This Act may be cited as the `States’ Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act’.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
    Congress makes the following findings:
      (1) 17 States and the District of Columbia have, through ballot measure or legislative action, approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes when recommended by a physician.
      (2) Marijuana has long-established medical uses as an effective treatment for conditions that include HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, gastro-intestinal disorders, chronic pain, and others as well.
SEC. 3. CIVIL FORFEITURE EXEMPTION FOR MARIJUANA FACILITIES AUTHORIZED BY STATE LAW.
    Paragraph (7) of section 511(a) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 881(a)(7)) is amended–
      (1) by striking `(7) All’ and inserting `(7)(A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B), all’; and
      (2) by adding at the end the following:
      `(B) No real property, including any right, title, and interest in the whole of any lot or tract of land and any appurtenances or improvements, shall be subject to forfeiture under subparagraph (A) due to medical marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by State law.’.

END

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HR 6134 ‘Truth in Trials Act’ to provide an affirmative defense for the medical use of marijuana

HR 6134 IH

112th CONGRESS

2d Session

H. R. 6134

To amend title 18, United States Code, to provide an affirmative defense for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various States, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

July 17, 2012

Mr. FARR (for himself, Mr. PAUL, Mr. COHEN, Mr. ROHRABACHER, Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts, Ms. LEE of California, Mr. HINCHEY, Mr. STARK, Mr. BLUMENAUER, Mr. MORAN, Mr. GRIJALVA, Mr. POLIS, Ms. WOOLSEY, Mr. WAXMAN, Mr. AMASH, Mr. RANGEL, Mr. MCGOVERN, Mr. GEORGE MILLER of California, and Mr. NADLER) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


A BILL

To amend title 18, United States Code, to provide an affirmative defense for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various States, and for other purposes.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
    This Act may be cited as the `Truth in Trials Act’.
SEC. 2. PROVIDING AN AFFIRMATIVE DEFENSE FOR THE MEDICAL USE OF MARIJUANA; SEIZURE OF PROPERTY.
    (a) In General- Chapter 221 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by striking section 3436 and all that follows through the end of the chapter and inserting the following:
`Sec. 3436. Affirmative defense for conduct regarding the medical use of marijuana; seizure of property.
    `(a) Any person facing prosecution or a proceeding for any marijuana-related offense under any Federal law shall have the right to introduce evidence demonstrating that the marijuana-related activities for which the person stands accused were performed in compliance with State law regarding the medical use of marijuana, or that the property which is subject to a proceeding was possessed in compliance with State law regarding the medical use of marijuana.
    `(b)(1) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution or proceeding under any Federal law for marijuana-related activities, which the proponent must establish by a preponderance of the evidence, that those activities comply with State law regarding the medical use of marijuana.
    `(2) In a prosecution or a proceeding for a marijuana-related offense under any Federal criminal law, should a finder of fact determine, based on State law regarding the medical use of marijuana, that a defendant’s marijuana-related activity was performed primarily, but not exclusively, for medical purposes, the defendant may be found guilty of an offense only corresponding to the amount of marijuana determined to be for nonmedical purposes.
    `(c) Any property seized in connection with a prosecution or proceeding to which this section applies, with respect to which a person successfully makes a defense under this section, shall be returned to the owner not later than 10 days after the court finds the defense is valid, minus such material necessarily destroyed for testing purposes.
    `(d) Any marijuana seized under any Federal law shall be retained and not destroyed pending resolution of any forfeiture claim, if not later than 30 days after seizure the owner of the property notifies the Attorney General, or a duly authorized agent of the Attorney General, that a person with an ownership interest in the property is asserting an affirmative defense for the medical use of marijuana.
    `(e) No plant may be seized under any Federal law otherwise permitting such seizure if the plant is being grown or stored pursuant to a recommendation by a physician or an order of a State or municipal agency in accordance with State law regarding the medical use of marijuana.
    `(f) In this section, the term State includes the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and any other territory or possession of the United States.’.
    (b) Clerical Amendment- The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 221 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by striking the item relating to section 3436 and all that follows through the end of the table and inserting the following new item:
      `3436. Affirmative defense for conduct regarding the medical use of marijuana; seizure of property.’.

END

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H.R. 1983 ‘States Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act’

HR 1983 IH

112th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 1983

To provide for the rescheduling of marijuana and for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various States.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

May 25, 2011

Mr. FRANK of Massachusetts (for himself, Mr. ROHRABACHER, Mr. STARK, and Mr. POLIS) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce


A BILL

To provide for the rescheduling of marijuana and for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the laws of the various States.

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
    This Act may be cited as the `States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act’.
SEC. 2. CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES ACT.
    (a) Schedule-
      (1) Not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, in cooperation with the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine, shall submit to the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration a recommendation on the listing of marijuana within the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), and shall recommend a listing other than `Schedule I’ or `Schedule II’.
      (2) Not later than 12 months after the date of enactment of this Act, the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration shall, based upon the recommendation of the National Academy of Sciences, issue a notice of proposed rulemaking for the rescheduling of marijuana within the CSA, which shall include a recommendation to list marijuana as other than a `Schedule I’ or `Schedule II’ substance.
    (b) Limitations on the Application of the Controlled Substances Act-
      (1) IN GENERAL- No provision of the Controlled Substances Act shall prohibit or otherwise restrict in a State in which the medical use of marijuana is legal under State law–
        (A) the prescription or recommendation of marijuana for medical use by a medical professional or the certification by a medical professional that a patient has a condition for which marijuana may have therapeutic benefit;
        (B) an individual from obtaining, manufacturing, possessing, or transporting within their State marijuana for medical purposes, provided the activities are authorized under State law; or
        (C) a pharmacy or other entity authorized under local or State law to distribute medical marijuana to individuals authorized to possess medical marijuana under State law from obtaining, possessing or distributing marijuana to such individuals.
      (2) PRODUCTION- No provision of the Controlled Substances Act shall prohibit or otherwise restrict an entity authorized by a State or local government, in a State in which the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes is legal from producing, processing, or distributing marijuana for such purposes.
SEC. 3. FEDERAL FOOD, DRUG, AND COSMETIC ACT.
    (a) In General- No provision of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act shall prohibit or otherwise restrict in a State in which the medical use of marijuana is legal under State law–
      (1) the prescription or recommendation of marijuana for medical use by a medical professional or the certification by a medical professional that a patient has a condition for which marijuana may have therapeutic benefit;
      (2) an individual from obtaining, manufacturing, possessing, or transporting within their State marijuana for medical purposes, provided the activities are authorized under State law; or
      (3) a pharmacy or other entity authorized under local or State law to distribute medical marijuana to individuals authorized to possess medical marijuana under State law from obtaining, possessing, or distributing marijuana to such individuals.
    (b) Production- No provision of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act shall prohibit or otherwise restrict an entity authorized by a State or local government, in a State in which the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes is legal from producing, processing, or distributing marijuana for such purpose.
SEC. 4. RELATION OF ACT TO CERTAIN PROHIBITIONS RELATING TO SMOKING.
    This Act does not affect any Federal, State, or local law regulating or prohibiting smoking in public.

END

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Trading Sex for a "F–cking Happy Meal?

Mom Can’t Get Food Stamps After Drug Offense, Resorts to Prostitution to Feed her Kids

If she’d committed murder, Carla could have gotten assistance to feed her children. But because the crime she committed was related to drugs, she can’t.

December 21, 2012  |  

images2

Carla walked into my office with despair in her eyes. I was surprised. Carla has been doing well in her four months out of prison; she got off drugs, regained custody of her kids, and even enrolled in a local community college. 

Without much prodding she admitted to me that she had retuned to prostitution: “I am putting myself at risk for HIV to get my kids a f—ing happy meal.”

Despite looking high and low for a job, Carla explained, she was still unemployed. Most entry-level jobs felt out of reach with her drug record, but what’s worse, even the state wasn’t willing to throw her a temporary life preserver.

You see, Carla is from one of the 32 states in the country that ban anyone convicted of a drug felony from collecting food stamps. With the release of the Global Burden of Disease Study last week, it bears looking at how we are perpetuating burdens among the most vulnerable Americans with our outdated laws.

If she’d committed rape or murder, Carla could have gotten assistance to feed herself and her children, but because the crime she committed was a drug felony, Carla joined the hundreds of thousands of drug felons who are not eligible.

The 1996 passage of the Welfare Reform Act was supposedly implemented to prevent drug addicts from selling their food stamps for drugs. But that concern is virtually unwarranted today. Unlike old food-stamp coupons, today’s food stamps are distributed electronically, which makes selling or trading them quite difficult.

Nonetheless, the law persists.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nine states have a lifetime ban for food-stamp eligibly for people convicted of drug felonies.  Twenty-three states have a partial ban, such as permitting eligibility for persons convicted of drug possession but not sale, or for persons enrolled in drug treatment programs.

Denying food stamp benefits to people convicted of drug offenses is an excessive and ineffective crime control strategy. The policy increases an individual’s risk of returning to prison by making it more difficult for people to survive after they get out, slowing or possibly even preventing their reintegration into society. People without the financial cushion necessary to get through the initial period of job searching and re-establishing a life have little choice but to turn to illegal means to make ends meet.

What’s more, the food-stamp ban is a law that works against good public health policy. As a doctor who cares predominantly for people who are released from prison, I see the damaging consequences of this ban on food stamps. I have seen patients of mine with diabetes go without food and end up hospitalized with low blood sugar, and still others with HIV skip their antiretrovirals because they don’t have food to take with their pills.  Not having access to food is associated with bad health outcomes including worsening diabetes, HIV, depression. Young children face anemia, diabetes, and depression.

Women with children are especially affected. It’s estimated that 70,000 women and their children are banned from obtaining food stamps. This means mothers who are simply trying to feed themselves and their children, and who are trying to get back on their feet after serving their time, are banned from receiving the money to pay for the basics necessary to survive.  Meanwhile, 46 million others, including college graduates and PhDs with far more resources, can receive food aid.

No other criminal conviction results in such a ban—not arson, not rape, not even murder.

Carla was arrested at 20 for selling marijuana.  At the time, she had also been making money working for her “boyfriend” as a sex worker.  Her boyfriend was also arrested for robbery.  He could qualify for food stamps upon release. But not Carla. She continues to pay for selling marijuana— a drug which two states have now voted to legalize outright—and the price is health risks for herself and for her children. 

CONTINUE READING….PAGE 2…

Right now, five adults await death in prison for non-violent, marijuana-related crimes. Their names are John Knock, Paul Free, Larry Duke, William Dekle, and Charles “Fred” Cundiff.

Marijuana Crimes: Five Senior Citizens Serving Life Without Parole For Pot

AlterNet  |  By Kristen Gwynne Posted: 12/26/2012 11:16 am EST

Should five non-violent offenders die behind bars for a crime Americans increasingly believe should not even be a crime?

December 23, 2012  |  

Photo Credit: Farsh/ Shutterstock.com

Right now, five adults await death in prison for non-violent, marijuana-related crimes. Their names are John Knock, Paul Free, Larry Duke, William Dekle, and Charles “Fred” Cundiff. They are all more than 60 years old; they have all spent at least 15 years locked up for selling pot; and they are all what one might call model prisoners, serving life without parole. As time wrinkles their skin and weakens their bodies, Michael Kennedy of the Trans High Corporation has filed a legal petition with the federal government seeking their clemency. Otherwise they will die behind bars for selling a drug 40% of American adults have admitted to using, 50% of Americans want legal, and two states have already legalized for adult use. Since these men were convicted of these crimes many years ago, public opinion and policy related to marijuana have shifted greatly. Should these five non-violent senior-citizen offenders die behind bars for a crime Americans increasingly believe should not even be a crime?

1. John Knock, 65, has been incarcerated for more than 16 years. The only evidence against him was the testimony of informants; Knock was convicted of conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana. The judge sentenced him to 20 years for money laundering plus not one, but two terms of life-without-parole — a  punishment typically reserved for murderers. Despite the uniquely unjust sentence, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court denied his pleas for reconsideration via appeal or court order.
Waiting for death in jail, Knock suffers from chronic sinus problems linked to an untreated broken nose. Due to circulatory problems, one of his ankles swells to twice its size. Knock also suffers from what the legal petition called “untreated" hearing and vision problems. Easing some of his pain are visits from his family and his participation in prison programs. He has taught home building and physical education inside the prison that has become his home. According to the legal petition, he is assured employment and a home should his sentence be commuted.

2. Before he was incarcerated, Paul Free obtained a BA in marine biology and was starting a school while teaching English in Mexico. Now 62, he has continued his passion for education behind bars, where he has lived for the past 18 years. Free helps inmates prepare for the General Equivalency Diploma tests, and according to the petition, prison officials have applauded Paul’s hard work and his students’ high graduation rate. Paul suffers from degenerative joint disease, failing eyesight, sinus problems, and allergies, and he has had 11 skin cancers removed.

3. Once a union carpenter, Larry Duke, a 65-year-old decorated Marine, has spent the last 23 years of his life behind bars for weed. On top of the difficulties life in prison lays on the psyche, Duke suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from multiple tours in the Vietnam war. Like Knock, Duke received two life sentences without parole for a non-violent marijuana conspiracy, and was unsuccessful at appeal. According to the legal petition, Duke is the longest-serving nonviolent marijuana prisoner in the nation.  
Despite his incarceration in a country that has failed him, Duke works from behind bars to design patentable concepts that would assist the general public. While locked up, he has already managed to obtain a federal patent for a water-delivery system he plans to market to the U.S. Department of Defense. According to the legal petition, Duke enjoys the support of his wife and a growing family including two children, two grandsons, three siblings and many nieces and nephews. “They all want him to come home and be part of their lives and dreams,” the petition said.

4. William Dekle, 63, is also a former U.S. Marine serving two life sentences without parole, 22 of which he has already completed in a Kentucky penitentiary. Despite the depressing possibility that he will die behind bars, Dekle has participated in more than 30 prison courses, including counseling other inmates. Before his conviction, Dekle was a pilot certified in commercial and instrument flying, as well as multiengine aircraft. Now he suffers from a chronic knee injury. He is supported by his wife, two daughters, and grandchildren, who call him “Papa Billy.” Dekle’s relatives would ensure a stable home environment should he be granted clemency, the legal petition said.

5. Charles “Fred” Cundiff is a 66-year-old inmate who has served more than 20 years of his life sentence for marijuana. Before the marijuana arrest that changed his life forever, he worked in construction, retail and at a plant nursery. In prison, he worked for Unicor (Federal Prison Industries) for 12 years before his declining health interfered with his ability to work. Battling skin cancer, eye infections, and severe arthritis in his spine, Cundiff uses a walker. While the legal petition makes no mention of family, it says he is regularly visited by “friends from his youth.”
While these men have all spent many years behind bars for crimes they were convicted of many years ago, the same draconian punishments are handed down to marijuana criminals — young and old — to this day. Conspiracy charges, combined with mandatory minimums for marijuana sale and firearms charges, can quickly add up to decades behind bars. Should anyone in the entire criminal operation have a gun (legal or not), everyone involved can be charged with firearm possession during a drug offense, a five-year mandatory minimum that can reach 20 if the person is charged with continuing criminal enterprise — a long-term, large-scale operation. In the end, these sentences are often not applied, but used to encourage guilty pleas in exchange for a lesser sentence.

Marijuana prisoner Chris Williams is an example of one such case. He was recently facing a mandatory minimum of 85 to 92 years behind bars for providing medical marijuana in Montana, where it is legal. Citing a moral opposition to plea bargains forced by the threat of a lifetime in jail, WIlliams rejected a deal that would have drastically reduced his sentence by cutting away mandatory minimums. Then, this Tuesday, federal prosecutors agreed to drop six of eight of Williams’ charges, provided he waive his constitutional right to appeal. Now Williams faces a mandatory minimum of five years for the firearm-related charge, and another five for distribution.

“With the rest of my life literally hanging in the balance, I simply could not withstand the pressure any longer,” Williams said in a statement. “If Judge Christensen shows mercy and limits my sentence to the five-year mandatory minimum, I could be present at my 16-year-old son’s college graduation. This would most likely be impossible had I rejected the latest compromise.”

Kristen Gwynne covers drugs at AlterNet. She graduated from New York University with a degree in journalism and psychology.

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UPDATED: Marijuana Reformers Have Mixed Feelings About Drug Warrior Dianne Feinstein Heading Up Judiciary Committee

Mike Riggs|Dec. 19, 2012 2:53 pm

Big, big update: CNN is reporting that Leahy has passed up the Appropriations Committee chair position, and will stay with Judiciary.

Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) bolstered the hopes of marijuana policy reformers last week when he sent a letter to President Obama’s drug czar discouraging federal raids in Colorado and Washington and promising to hold committee hearings on the conflicts between state and federal drug laws.

A week later, Leahy’s letter might as well have been a dream. He’s leaving the Senate Judiciary Committee to take over Sen. Daniel Inouye’s seat at Appropriations, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a committed drug warrior, is set to take over Judiciary.

"It took a moment or two for my fingers and toes to uncurl" after hearing the news, wrote Allen St. Pierre, director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, in an email.

Despite the fact that "cannabis is more socio-politically accepted [in Feinstein’s base of San Francisco] than any where else in the nation…[Feinstein] is one of the most anti-cannabis politicos in the modern era," St. Pierre said.  "Looks like most of the reform action will continue at the state level for the next few years, notably if Feinstein bottles up any federal legislation that may have a chance of rising out of committee hearings."

St. Pierre has good cause for concern. In 2009, Feinstein wrote a letter to a constituent saying that while she "recognizes marijuana may have medicinal properties" and doesn’t "oppose further research on the potential medical efficacy of marijuana," she is opposed to "the legalization of any narcotic drugs, including marijuana." In 2010, Feinstein spoke out against Prop 19, the California ballot measure that sought to legalize recreational marijuana, calling it "a jumbled legal nightmare that will make our highways, our workplaces and our communities less safe."

Whether she still feels this way is yet to be seen. As incoming head of the Judiciary Committee, Feinstein has already said her first priority in 2013 will be gun control.

Still, some marijuana reformers are hopeful that Feinstein, in light of the success of ballot initiatives legalizing marijuana in Colorado and Washington, will be better on marijuana than her record suggests. 

"We look forward to working with Sen. Feinstein to develop a federal marijuana policy that respects the will of the voters in those states that have chosen to replace the underground marijuana market with a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed similarly to alcohol," the Marijuana Policy Project’s Steve Fox said in a statement.

"President Obama recently highlighted the need for a conversation about how to reconcile state and federal marijuana laws. We hope Sen. Feinstein will facilitate that discussion so that we can arrive at a legislative solution that advances a state-based approach that does not undermine federal interests."

Others are coming down between Fox and St. Pierre–hopeful, but not too hopeful.

"While she hasn’t exactly been a friend to marijuana reform over the years, the fact is that public opinion is squarely on the side of letting states legalize marijuana if they want to," said Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority. "And politically speaking, it’s just going to be increasingly difficult for a Democrat to get away with using the Judiciary Committee chairmanship as a platform for drug war cheerleading."

Angell hopes that Feinstein will "move forward with Chairman Leahy’s plans," but also sees a way for Leahy to affect drug policy on the Appropriations Committee. "Hopefully Sen. Leahy, if he does indeed take over the Appropriations chairmanship, will help see to it that some of the most ineffective punishment and interdiction-focused drug war programs are de-prioritized or eliminated."

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