Tag Archives: patients rights

The East Mississippi Correctional Facility Is ‘Hell on Earth’

By Carl Takei, Senior Staff Attorney, ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality

March 5, 2018

E. Mississippi Correctional Fire

At the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, where Mississippi sends some of the most seriously mentally ill people in the state prison system, even the most troubled patients are routinely ignored and the worst cases of self-harm are treated with certain neglect. The conditions at EMCF have cost some prisoners their limbs, their eyesight, and even their lives.

In 2013, the ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, and prisoner rights attorney Elizabeth Alexander filed a class-action complaint on behalf of all the prisoners held at EMCF. As the case heated up, the law firm of Covington & Burling LLP joined as co-counsel, providing major staffing and support. Despite years of attempts by Mississippi to derail the lawsuit before our clients even saw the inside of the courtroom, the case will finally proceed to trial Monday.

The lawsuit against EMCF describes horrific conditions at the facility: rampant violence, including by staff against prisoners; solitary confinement used to excess, with particular harm to prisoners with mental illnesses; and filthy cells and showers that lack functional toilets or lights. It also sheds light on a dysfunctional medical and mental healthcare delivery system that puts patients at risk of serious injury and has contributed to deaths in custody.

Nowhere was this institutionalized neglect more clear than in the life, and death, of T.H., a patient at EMCF with a history of severe mental illness and self-harm. On Jan. 31, 2016, T.H. stuck glass into his arm. Instead of sending him to the emergency room, a nurse merely cleaned the wound with soap and water. The following day, he broke a light bulb and inserted the shards into his arm. This time he required eight stitches.

Less than two weeks later, he cut himself with a blade hidden in his cell and then tried to hang himself. It was only later that month, after he reopened his arm wound with more glass, that mental health staff finally placed him on special psychiatric observation status.
Yet, because he wasn’t properly monitored, T.H.’s series of self-injury continued unabated until April 4, 2016. Early that afternoon, he stuck his arm, dripping in blood, through a slot in his cell door and asked to see the warden. A lieutenant saw T.H.’s bloodied arm, but, rather than call for emergency assistance, simply left the area. Two hours later, T.H. was observed unresponsive on the floor of his cell.

E. Mississippi Correctional Blood on the Door
In response, the prison warden opted to call for a K-9 team to enter the cell with dogs before letting medical professionals examine the patient. By then it was too late — T.H. was dead, having strangled himself with materials from inside his cell. He never once had a proper suicide risk assessment or any treatment to address his self-harm.

The lackadaisical and unconstitutional approach that EMCF staff takes toward prisoner healthcare cost T.H. his life and has caused well-documented suffering among countless other mentally ill prisoners. And it all happens in the context of a prison rife with violence, where security staff often react with excessive force to mental health crises and allow prison gangs to control access to necessities of life, including at times food.

The Constitution requires that if the state takes someone into custody, it must also take on the responsibility of providing treatment for their serious medical and mental health needs. This means, among other measures, hiring qualified medical staff to provide necessary care for people with mental health disorders, creating systems for access to care so sick patients can see a mental health or medical clinician, and making sure that medical care is provided without security staff impeding it.

The ACLU and our co-counsel are fighting to ensure that such care is available at EMCF, where the state of Mississippi has continued to lock some of the most vulnerable prisoners in dangerous and filthy conditions and deny them access to constitutionally required mental health and medical care.

I witnessed those conditions firsthand when I visited EMCF in January 2011 with fellow ACLU attorney Gabriel Eber and two medical and mental health experts. At that time, we were horrified to discover that Mississippi’s designated mental health prison was closer to a vision of hell on earth than a therapeutic treatment facility.

When I walked into one of the solitary confinement units, the entire place reeked of smoke from recent fires. I tried to speak to patients about their experiences, but I could barely hear them over the sounds of others moaning and screaming while they slammed their hands into metal cell doors.

Despite repeated warnings from nationally renowned experts brought in to assess conditions at the prisons, a meeting with top Mississippi Department of Corrections officials, and an offer by the ACLU to help MDOC pay to diagnose and fix the problems at EMCF, Mississippi officials permitted these conditions to continue unabated. Rather than take responsibility for fixing this prison, these officials merely switched contractors. In 2012, they swapped out private prison giant GEO Group, Inc. and replaced them with another private prison company, Management & Training Corp., which is perhaps best known for its horrific record of abusing and neglecting immigrant detainees. The state has also switched prison medical contractors multiple times, with little improvement from one to the next.

But the nightmare might soon be over. Over seven years since we first visited the cesspool that is EMCF, our clients will be allowed in court for the first time, asking that their constitutional rights finally be recognized. That recognition won’t undo the great harms they’ve suffered. But by fulfilling the Constitution’s promise of protection, we can stop new harms and horrors at EMCF, of which there have been too many for too long.

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Federal law clearly prohibits anyone who consumes cannabis—for any reason, and regardless of state legality—from purchasing a firearm

Surrender Your Guns, Police Tell Hawaiian Medical Marijuana Patients

Bruce Barcott   November 27, 2017

The Honolulu Police Department has sent letters to local medical marijuana patients ordering them to “voluntarily surrender” their firearms because of their MMJ status.

This may be the first time a law enforcement agency has sought out state-registered medical marijuana patients and ordered them to surrender their guns.

The letters, signed by Honolulu Police Chief Susan Ballard, inform patients that they have 30 days upon receipt of the letter to transfer ownership or turn in their firearms and ammunition to the Honolulu Police.

The existence of the notices, first reported early today by Russ Belville at The Marijuana Agenda podcast, was confirmed to Leafly News this afternoon by the Honolulu Police Department.

The startling order comes just three months after the state’s first medical marijuana dispensary opened in Hawaii’s capital city.

The clash between state marijuana laws and federal firearms law—which prohibits all cannabis patients and consumers from purchasing firearms—is a growing point of legal contention in the 29 states with medical marijuana laws. The Honolulu letters, however, may represent the first time a law enforcement agency has proactively sought out state-registered medical marijuana patients and ordered them to surrender their guns.

RELATED STORY

First Medical Cannabis Dispensary Opening in Hawaii

Federal law clearly prohibits anyone who consumes cannabis—for any reason, and regardless of state legality—from purchasing a firearm. On the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) Form 1140-0020, which must be completed by firearm purchasers, applicants are asked if they are “an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance.”

In case it’s unclear to the applicant, the ATF includes this warning in bold type:

Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.

RELATED STORY

Can Medical Marijuana Patients Legally Own Guns?

Federal Court Upheld the Ban

Many state laws allow patients to medicate with cannabis, but the federal prohibition on cannabis consumption crosses that legality when it comes to firearms. The supremacy of federal law on this point was upheld last year by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.

“It may be argued that medical marijuana users are less likely to commit violent crimes, as they often suffer from debilitating illnesses, for which marijuana may be an effective palliative,” the federal ruling stated. “But those hypotheses are not sufficient to overcome Congress’s reasonable conclusion that the use of such drugs raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.”

RELATED STORY

Guns or Cannabis: Which Is More Strictly Regulated?

State Law Applies

The Honolulu Police Department cites state law, not federal law, as the basis for the order. “Under the provisions of the Hawaii Revised Statutes, Section 134-7(a), you are disqualified from firearms ownership,” says the letter.

Curiously, HRS 134-7(a) makes no specific mention of a person’s medical marijuana status. It’s a blanket statement about federal law:

134-7(a) No person who is a fugitive from justice or is a person prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition under federal law shall own, possess, or control any firearm or ammunition therefor.

Until now, the clash between firearm ownership and patient status has been largely avoided through a de facto “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. Firearms purchasers are forced to either lie on the ATF form (a federal offense), or tell themselves they’re technically honest—the ATF form asks, “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana,” and those who quit cannabis yesterday technically were but no longer are unlawful users of marijuana.

RELATED STORY

Do Medical Marijuana Patients Give Up Their Right to Bear Arms?

A number of states issue medical cannabis patient cards or authorizations but do not keep a searchable database of patient names. In some medical cannabis states, like Arizona, firearm purchasers are not required to register with the state.

Hawaii, though, maintains an electronic database of both firearm purchasers, who must complete both the federal ATF and a state permit application, and medical marijuana patients. That allowed the Honolulu police to cross-check and compile a list of MMJ patients in the state’s firearms registry.

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#FREEDAREN DAREN MCCORMICK IS OUT!

He’s out!

Here is the latest update on #FREEDAREN !!!

Released with “conditions” today!

Here is a live video of his release, thanks to EAST-CanadaFriends !

Daren OUT

Daren is out 9.11.17

Free Daren outside courthouse pt. 3

He’s out!

Updates to follow!

RELATED:

“I think I had an undercover Cop in my driveway yesterday”…

Medical marijuana patient wins employment discrimination suit in Rhode Island

 

This April 15, 2017 file photo shows marijuana plants on display at a medical marijuana provider in downtown Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

 

By Andrew Blake – The Washington Times – Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Rhode Island fabrics company violated the state’s medical marijuana law when it refused to hire a card-carrying patient who couldn’t pass a drug test, a state Superior Court judge ruled Tuesday.

Christine Callaghan sued Darlington Fabrics Corp. for compensatory and punitive damages in 2014 after the company said her medical marijuana usage precluded it from offering her a paid internship position while she pursued a master’s degree at the University of Rhode Island. Ms. Callaghan promised not to bring weed into the workplace or arrive for work stoned, but Darlington said her failure to pass a pre-employment drug test prohibited her hiring, according to court filings.

In a 32-page ruling Tuesday, Associate Justice Richard A. Licht said Darlington broke the state’s Hawkins-Slater Medical Marijuana Act by rejecting Ms. Callaghan because she legally uses pot to treat migraine headaches in accodance with state law.

“Employment is neither a right nor a privilege in the legal sense,” Judge Licht ruled, but protection under the law is, he added.

While employers aren’t required to accommodate the medical use of cannabis in the workplace under Hawkins-Slater, the ruling noted, the law specifies that “no school, employer or landlord may refuse to reenroll, employ or lease to or otherwise penalize, a person solely for his or her status as a cardholder.”

Darlington had argued that it rejected Ms. Callaghan not because her status as a medical marijuana cardholder but her inability to pass a drug test. The judge called his claim “incredulous” in Tuesday’s ruling and took aim at its interpretation of the state’s medical marijuana law.

“This argument is not convincing,” he wrote, adding: “…it is absurd to think that the General Assembly wished to extend less protection to those suffering with debilitating conditions and who are the focus of the [act].”

“The recreational user could cease smoking long enough to pass the drug test and get hired… allowing him or her to smoke recreationally to his or her heart’s content,” he continued. “The medical user, however, would not be able to cease for long enough to pass the drug test, even though his or her use is necessary…”

More than 17,000 Rhode Islanders are currently members of the state’s medical marijuana program, the Providence Journal reported. While most of those individuals are patients who use marijuana to treat covered medical conditions, that number also includes people categorized as official “caregivers,” the newspaper reported.

“This decision sends a strong message that people with disabilities simply cannot be denied equal employment opportunities because of the medication they take,” Carly Beauvais Iafrate, a volunteer American Civil Liberties Union attorney and Ms. Callaghan’s legal counsel, said in a statement after Tuesday’s ruling.

Darlington plans to appeal the ruling before the state Supreme Court, defense attorney Meghan Siket told the Journal. Neither the company nor its lawyer was immediately available to comment Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

Medical marijuana laws are currently on the books in 29 states and Washington, D.C., including Rhode Island, notwithstanding the federal government’s prohibition on pot.

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Nevada bill would allow medical marijuana users to carry guns

Jenny Kane , jkane@rgj.com Published 4:09 p.m. PT March 20, 2017

Nevada lawmakers are trying to address everything from marijuana users’ gun rights to the danger that edible marijuana products pose to children.

On Monday, a wide array of marijuana-focused bills were introduced to both members of the Nevada Senate and the Assembly to help regulate the drug that’s now legal for recreational use in Nevada (and has been legal for medicinal use since 2000).

Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-Las Vegas, introduced a bill, SB 351, which would allow medical marijuana users to possess a firearm and a conceal and carry permit. Sheriffs currently are required to deny an application for a permit to carry a concealed firearm or revoke an existing permit if someone is a medical marijuana card holder.

Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, co-sponsored a separate bill, SB 344, with Sen. Patricia Farley, Nonpartisan-Las Vegas, that revises the standards for the labeling and packaging of marijuana for medical use.

Map: A quick guide to all of Nevada’s marijuana dispensaries

Nevada bill would allow marijuana use in public

Get in trouble for marijuana before this year? Nevada bill could help you get off the hook

The proposed legislation establishes limits on how much medicinal marijuana may be sold in a single package and prohibits candy-like marijuana products that appeal to children. The bill also would prevent edible marijuana products that look like cookies or brownies to be sealed in see-through packaging, or any kind of packaging that children might be attracted to.

Segerblom introduced a separate, 147-page bill, SB 329, that would allow for medical marijuana research and hemp research. The same bill would add post traumatic stress disorder to the list of conditions that could qualify a patient for medicinal marijuana consumption.

Under Segerblom’s bill, non-profit medical marijuana dispensaries could accept donations of marijuana, and all medical marijuana establishments would have to install video security which law enforcement could remotely access in real time.

He also is proposing a bill, SB 321, that would allow American Indian tribes in Nevada to make agreements with the Governor that would allow the tribes to follow state law as related to both medical and recreational marijuana.

Segerblom and Farley also introduced a bill, SB 236, that would allow money raised from medical marijuana establishment applications to be spent not only on government costs and schools. Segerblom and Farley believe that the money should also be spent on programs used to educate people about the safe usage of marijuana.

Segerblom and Farley’s bill also suggests prohibiting counties and incorporated cities from imposing requirements upon marijuana establishments that are not zoning related. The bill also would limit the license tax that a county or city could impose upon a marijuana establishment.

Assemblywoman Brittney Miller also introduced a bill to the Assembly on Monday that would vacate the sentences of offenders who were convicted of possessing 1 ounce or less of marijuana before legalization was effective Jan. 1. Assemblyman William McCurdy II introduced a similar bill last week to the Assembly’s Committee on Corrections, Parole and Probation.

The legalized marijuana industry is growing more than

The legalized marijuana industry is growing more than pot. Analysts say it could create over a quarter of a million jobs while other industries decline. (Photo: USA TODAY video still)

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In Peru, mothers rouse support for legalizing medical marijuana

Ana Alvarez, a working mother of two in Lima, never imagined being on the frontlines of a fight for marijuana in conservative Peru.

But a police raid on a makeshift cannabis lab that she and other women started to soothe the symptoms of their sick children has roused support for medical marijuana, prompting President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski to propose legalizing it in the latest pivot away from decades-old restrictions on drug use in Latin America.

Alvarez said cannabis oil is the only drug that helped contain her epileptic and schizophrenic son’s seizures and psychotic episodes. She and other women in similar situations formed the group Searching for Hope to seek legal backing as they honed techniques for producing the drug.

“We wrote to Congress, to the health ministry,” Alvarez said from her apartment as her son played in his room. “We got two negative responses.”

But the police bust put the women’s plight on national television, triggering an outpouring of sympathy as they marched with their children in tow to demand police “give us our medicine back.”

“When we saw their reality, we realized there’s a void in our laws for this kind of use” of marijuana, said cabinet advisor Leonardo Caparros. “We couldn’t turn a blind eye.”

It is unclear if the right-wing opposition-controlled Congress will pass Kuczynski’s proposed legislation, which would allow marijuana to be imported and sold in Peru for medical reasons and could permit domestic production after two years.

Kuczynski, a 78-year-old socially liberal economist, once provoked an uproar for saying that smoking a joint “isn’t the end of the world.”

But an Ipsos poll conducted following the raid showed 65 percent of Peruvians favor legalizing medical marijuana, and another 13 percent back legalizing the drug for recreational use.

If the bill is passed, Peru would follow neighboring Chile and Colombia in legalizing the medical use of marijuana. Mexico’s Senate has approved a bill to permit the use of medical marijuana, while Uruguay has fully legalized cannabis from seed to smoke.

In the meantime, Searching for Hope has turned to the black market. Member Roxana Tasayco said cannabis oil had given her terminal cancer-stricken mother her appetite back and calmed her vomiting and nausea.

Also In Health News

“It’s not going to cure her but it’ll give her a better quality of life in her last days,” said Tasayco. “If I have to break a few laws to do that for her I will.”

(Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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9 ways federal marijuana laws are limiting rights of residents in legal weed states

Federal status of marijuana is affecting both everyday cannabis consumers and people attempting to work in the industry.

By BROOKE EDWARDS STAGGS / STAFF WRITER

Published: Feb. 4, 2017 Updated: Feb. 5, 2017 2:45 p.m.

 Derek Peterson, CEO and president of Terra Tech. Just weeks after Prop. 64 passed, Peterson learned the company that for two years had managed Terra Tech's payroll and health benefits would be dropping them, Dec. 31, because of concern over their role in the cannabis industry. “The decision came out of nowhere,” he said. “We have almost 200 employees that spent their holiday season stressed about the possibility of not having their health benefits available in the new year, let alone a reliable pay schedule.” (File Photo by ED CRISOSTOMO, Orange County Register/SCNG)

Federal law still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I narcotic, a category reserved for drugs such as heroin that are said to be highly addictive and have no medical value. There’s been no movement to ease that stance even though polls show a record number of Americans now believe marijuana should be legal, 28 states now permit medical marijuana and eight more allow recreational use.
One thing that has changed is the optimism some cannabis enthusiasts expressed prior to the November election.
As the biggest state in the nation prepared to vote on legalizing recreational use with Prop. 64, the thinking was that California could become a tipping point that would ultimately lead to federal approval of cannabis.
Prop. 64 easily passed. But confidence in the impact of that vote has dimmed as the reality of a GOP-controlled federal government headed by President Donald Trump – and the prospect of marijuana-opponent Jeff Sessions as Attorney General – has settled in.
For individuals, the ongoing conflict with federal law can make it harder to get everything from housing to healthcare, even if they use cannabis for medical reasons says Paul Armentano, deputy director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML.
And for Californians who want to make money in the cannabis industry, the differences between state and federal law can affect how they bank, pay taxes and more.
“It’s a serious hindrance,” said John Hudak, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution who specializes in marijuana policy.
“It creates a scenario in which companies are able to get up and running, but not operate like a normal business.”
Here are nine ways the federal status of marijuana is affecting both everyday cannabis consumers and people attempting to work in the industry, no matter what their state law says.

PLEASE CONTINUE READING…

Carol Kerr ~ HAPPY PATIENT in Legal Medical Cannabis State!!

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Why I choose cannabis…

November 25, 2010 at 9:21pm

There are millions of people across this great nation suffering from chronic pain and illness who are legally receiving relief via prescription medications. As a patient that suffers with chronic, debilitating pain from a brain malformation, I can attest to the damage long-term use of prescription medications can do to the human mind and body.

Just last year I lost my brother due to an accidental overdose of hydrocodone prior to back surgery. He didn’t just slip off into the night after falling asleep. He died clutching his chest and screaming in pain, and there was nothing anyone could do. Yet, there are still pharmacies conveniently located on nearly every corner across the country dispensing the poison every day.

For the record, I am not a drug addict, nor do not wish to be addicted to ANY substance, however due to the illnesses I have, I must medicate with SOMETHING regularly to achieve any reasonable measure of “quality of life.” And the one prescription medication that provides some relief is full of liver damaging acetaphetamin and isn’t covered by Medicare.

Plus, the doctor told me that though it relieves my headaches, with regular use it “increases” headaches. Ohhh, so I’ll need more addictive pain medication due to the increased headaches it causes, which will damage my liver all that much faster… are you seeing the RIDICULOUS, vicious circle? Not only are the prescription drugs inadequate and expensive, but I’ve suffered through withdrawal on numerous occasions from addictive pain medications, even spending three days in ICU on a respirator from a Fentanyl patch!

Cannabis is an effective, NON-ADDICTIVE medication that helps me.  Yet, when I don’t have cannabis, I don’t get the sweats, have increased blood pressure, vomit, itch, cry, and wig out!!! I just hurt, try not to move any more than I have to, and keep to myself… survival mode. Not a healthy or pleasant way to live.

As a result of prescription medications I have the onset of liver disease. My digestive system is impaired to the point that I literally have no appetite. Without medication I am consumed with pain to the point that my activities of daily living are limited and socialization with others is not an option. Inhaled cannabis quickly sends the cannabinoids directly to the blood stream via your lungs.

Yet, cannabis doesn’t impair one’s ability to function for long periods of time, cause nausea, or shut down the bowels like prescription pain medications. And while smoking may not be the best option for me, it’s the only one available due to prohibition. For the record, I would prefer to ingest cannabis, but it takes a larger quantity of product to produce a sufficient amount.

For over a year the American Medical Association has urged the federal government to reconsider its stance on cannabis, to change the classification from a Class 1 drug. This means the AMA recognizes that cannabis has medicinal qualities that could be beneficial to a patient’s health. The AMA also states that cannabis deserves more research.

A randomized placebo-controlled trial was conducted at San Francisco General Hospital (with) nine doctors and 50 patients involved. Patients suffered from HIV-associated neuropathic pain. “The first cannabis cigarette reduced chronic pain by a median of 72 percent versus 15 percent with placebo. No adverse events reported.” Throughout length of trial “pain was reduced by 34 percent.”

Conclusion: “Smoked cannabis was well tolerated and effectively relieved chronic neuropathic pain from HIV-associated sensory neuropathy. The findings are comparable to oral drugs used for chronic neuropathic pain.”

Latest polling shows 65 percent of Americans support medicinal cannabis with doctor supervision. If comparable to pain pills, shouldn’t the doctor be deciding whether cannabis is the better choice for the patient? Patients should not have to fear imprisonment or the horrible side effects of prescription drugs, especially when there are scientific facts that favor the medicinal use of cannabis.

This matter is not about the legalization of “drugs.” We, as patients, do not condone the use of any drug without doctor supervision. This is about compassion and understanding of others suffering, knowing that cannabis helps them regain their lives and get on with living life to the fullest, not needlessly suffering from the pain of illness or the ugly side effects from pain medications.

Fifteen states have passed legislation in favor of medicinal marijuana. We are well on our way to helping people understand that cannabis is not the harmful drug previously demonized by well meaning, but ill informed political figures. SB 1381, the compassionate use of cannabis 3-year pilot program is coming up for a vote in Illinois. This is our chance to free our countrymen and women from the ill side effects of pain medications.

Patients and doctors alike deserve the right to pursue happiness as stated in our Constitution. We must allow patients to choose the best course of action in medical matters without fear of imprisonment. We must take our medicine out of the hands of greedy drug-lords, and allow safe access to good medicine for  sick and suffering patients.

Cannabis has been proven to help people time and time again. New and fascinating facts about the benefits of medicinally using cannabis are being reported every day. And I am living proof that it works!  This is not an issue of morals, but one of science and compassion for the sick and suffering. We aren’t encouraging anyone to use cannabis. We just want our God-given right to pain relief in the manner which helps us best.

As a responsible citizen of IL I am appalled that I am forced to pay outrageous prices for medicine, lining the pockets of black market drug dealers.  When as a sick patient I should be receiving quality medicine, regulated by the government, provided by state governed agencies which would benefit patients, while strengthening our economy and providing legitimate jobs! You know, with the right medicine given on a regular basis, I just may be able to work again.. or at least take care of MYSELF without the assistance of others.

Cannabis relieves the pain, takes my mind off my poor health, gives me an appetite, and helps me to get out enjoy the life I have left without the hangovers and side effects of man-made medications. May the powers that be hear our voices and bring relief to the suffering citizens of Illinois! No patient should be denied safe access to their medication!!

The fact of the matter is, patients who NEED medicinal cannabis have been and will continue to do whatever they have to, to obtain the medicine they need. The prohibition of medicinal cannabis only punishes us further for being sick at a time when we need love and compassion the most.  Don’t wait till you or someone you love is suffering to investigate this issue.

Carol Kerr ~ HAPPY PATIENT in Legal Medical Cannabis State!!

Every 25 seconds in the United States, someone is arrested for the simple act of possessing drugs for their personal use…

Interview: Why the US Should Decriminalize Drug Use

 

Summary

 

Neal Scott may die in prison. A 49-year-old Black man from New Orleans, Neal had cycled in and out of prison for drug possession over a number of years. He said he was never offered treatment for his drug dependence; instead, the criminal justice system gave him time behind bars and felony convictions—most recently, five years for possessing a small amount of cocaine and a crack pipe. When Neal was arrested in May 2015, he was homeless and could not walk without pain, struggling with a rare autoimmune disease that required routine hospitalizations. Because he could not afford his $7,500 bond, Neal remained in jail for months, where he did not receive proper medication and his health declined drastically—one day he even passed out in the courtroom. Neal eventually pled guilty because he would face a minimum of 20 years in prison if he took his drug possession case to trial and lost. He told us that he cried the day he pled, because he knew he might not survive his sentence.[1]

***

Just short of her 30th birthday, Nicole Bishop spent three months in jail in Houston for heroin residue in an empty baggie and cocaine residue inside a plastic straw. Although the prosecutor could have charged misdemeanor paraphernalia, he sought felony drug possession charges instead. They would be her first felonies.

Nicole was separated from her three young children, including her breastfeeding newborn. When the baby visited Nicole in jail, she could not hear her mother’s voice or feel her touch because there was thick glass between them. Nicole finally accepted a deal from the prosecutor: she would do seven months in prison in exchange for a guilty plea for the 0.01 grams of heroin found in the baggie, and he would dismiss the straw charge. She would return to her children later that year, but as a “felon” and “drug offender.” As a result, Nicole said she would lose her student financial aid and have to give up pursuit of a degree in business administration. She would have trouble finding a job and would not be able to have her name on the lease for the home she shared with her husband. She would no longer qualify for the food stamps she had relied on to help feed her children. As she told us, she would end up punished for the rest of her life.

***

Every 25 seconds in the United States, someone is arrested for the simple act of possessing drugs for their personal use, just as Neal and Nicole were. Around the country, police make more arrests for drug possession than for any other crime. More than one of every nine arrests by state law enforcement is for drug possession, amounting to more than 1.25 million arrests each year. And despite officials’ claims that drug laws are meant to curb drug sales, four times as many people are arrested for possessing drugs as are arrested for selling them.

As a result of these arrests, on any given day at least 137,000 men and women are behind bars in the United States for drug possession, some 48,000 of them in state prisons and 89,000 in jails, most of the latter in pretrial detention. Each day, tens of thousands more are convicted, cycle through jails and prisons, and spend extended periods on probation and parole, often burdened with crippling debt from court-imposed fines and fees. Their criminal records lock them out of jobs, housing, education, welfare assistance, voting, and much more, and subject them to discrimination and stigma. The cost to them and to their families and communities, as well as to the taxpayer, is devastating. Those impacted are disproportionately communities of color and the poor.

This report lays bare the human costs of criminalizing personal drug use and possession in the US, focusing on four states: Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and New York. Drawing from over 365 interviews with people arrested and prosecuted for their drug use, attorneys, officials, activists, and family members, and extensive new analysis of national and state data, the report shows how criminalizing drug possession has caused dramatic and unnecessary harms in these states and around the country, both for individuals and for communities that are subject to discriminatory enforcement.

There are injustices and corresponding harms at every stage of the criminal process, harms that are all the more apparent when, as often happens, police, prosecutors, or judges respond to drug use as aggressively as the law allows. This report covers each stage of that process, beginning with searches, seizures, and the ways that drug possession arrests shape interactions with and perceptions of the police—including for the family members and friends of individuals who are arrested. We examine the aggressive tactics of many prosecutors, including charging people with felonies for tiny, sometimes even “trace” amounts of drugs, and detail how pretrial detention and long sentences combine to coerce the overwhelming majority of drug possession defendants to plead guilty, including, in some cases, individuals who later prove to be innocent.

The report also shows how probation and criminal justice debt often hang over people’s heads long after their conviction, sometimes making it impossible for them to move on or make ends meet. Finally, through many stories, we recount how harmful the long-term consequences of incarceration and a criminal record that follow a conviction for drug possession can be—separating parents from young children and excluding individuals and sometimes families from welfare assistance, public housing, voting, employment opportunities, and much more.

Families, friends, and neighbors understandably want government to take actions to prevent the potential harms of drug use and drug dependence. Yet the current model of criminalization does little to help people whose drug use has become problematic. Treatment for those who need and want it is often unavailable, and criminalization tends to drive people who use drugs underground, making it less likely that they will access care and more likely that they will engage in unsafe practices that make them vulnerable to disease and overdose.

While governments have a legitimate interest in preventing problematic drug use, the criminal law is not the solution. Criminalizing drug use simply has not worked as a matter of practice. Rates of drug use fluctuate, but they have not declined significantly since the “war on drugs” was declared more than four decades ago. The criminalization of drug use and possession is also inherently problematic because it represents a restriction on individual rights that is neither necessary nor proportionate to the goals it seeks to accomplish. It punishes an activity that does not directly harm others.

Instead, governments should expand public education programs that accurately describe the risks and potential harms of drug use, including the potential to cause drug dependence, and should increase access to voluntary, affordable, and evidence-based treatment for drug dependence and other medical and social services outside the court and prison system.

After decades of “tough on crime” policies, there is growing recognition in the US that governments need to undertake meaningful criminal justice reform and that the “war on drugs” has failed. This report shows that although taking on parts of the problem—such as police abuse, long sentences, and marijuana reclassification—is critical, it is not enough: Criminalization is simply the wrong response to drug use and needs to be rethought altogether.

Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union call on all states and the federal government to decriminalize the use and possession for personal use of all drugs and to focus instead on prevention and harm reduction. Until decriminalization has been achieved, we urge officials to take strong measures to minimize and mitigate the harmful consequences of existing laws and policies. The costs of the status quo, as this report shows, are too great to bear.

 

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LINK TO PDF VERSION OF REPORT (205 PAGES)

Ninth Circuit Rules Marijuana Card Holders May Not Own Firearms

Monday, 05 September 2016

Written by  Bob Adelmann

Ninth Circuit Rules Marijuana Card Holders May Not Own Firearms

 

Last Wednesday a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s decision that holding a marijuana card precludes its owner from keeping and bearing arms. In the process, the panel threw out the First, Second, and Fifth Amendment rights.

Rowan Wilson, a Nevada resident who held a state-issued marijuana card but didn’t use the weed, tried to purchase a firearm from Custom Firearms and Gunsmithing in Moundhouse, Nevada. She applied for the card to show her support for the freedom of people to make their own decisions about what they might or might not imbibe or inhale. It was a political statement only. It became personal when she tried in October 2011 to purchase a firearm for personal protection.

She was confronted with Question 11e on the required federal disclosure Form 4473 issued by the ATF, which reads: “Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance? Yes or No.” She showed the question to the gun shop owner, who knew that she had a card, and he denied her request to purchase the firearm. It was based not only on federal laws that still make marijuana users criminals, but on an “open letter” the ATF sent to all firearm dealers holding that mere possession of the marijuana registry card was enough to allow them to prevent a potential buyer from completing the sale. That letter stated, in part:

[Anyone] who uses or is addicted to marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana use for medicinal purposes — is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.

Such persons should answer “yes” to question 11.e. on ATF Form 4473 … and you may not transfer firearms or ammunition to them.

Further, if you are aware that the potential transferee is in possession of a card authorizing the possession and use of marijuana under State law, then you have “reasonable cause to believe” that the person is an unlawful user of a controlled substance.

As such, you may not transfer firearms or ammunition to the person, even if the person answered “no” to question 11.e. on ATF Form 4473.

Wilson sued and her complaint was dismissed. The three-judge panel heard her appeal in July and issued its decision affirming the lower court’s ruling on August 31. The opinion, penned by Senior District Judge Jed Rakoff, included this bit of reasoning:

It may be argued that medical marijuana users are less likely to commit violent crimes, as they often suffer from debilitating illnesses, for which marijuana may be an effective palliative. But those hypotheses are not sufficient to overcome Congress’s reasonable conclusion that the use of such drugs raises the risk of irrational or unpredictable behavior with which gun use should not be associated.

The panel threw out all of Wilson’s complaints that the federal law and “open letter” violated three of the 10 rights contained in the Bill of Rights. First was her right to free expression under the First Amendment:

The panel held that any burden the Government’s anti-marijuana and anti-gun-violence efforts placed on [Wilson’s] expressive conduct was incidental…

Next to go was the Second Amendment:

Applying intermediate scrutiny, the panel … held that the fit between the challenged provisions and the Government’s substantial interest [in] violence prevention was reasonable, and therefore the [lower] court did not err by dismissing [her] Second Amendment claim.

Finally, the Fifth Amendment was overridden:

The panel held that the challenged laws and Open Letter neither violated [Wilson’s] procedural due process rights protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment nor violated the Equal Protection Clause as incorporated into the Fifth Amendment.

[Wilson] did not have a constitutionally protected liberty interest in [both] holding a registry card and purchasing a firearm….

Reactions to the ruling were predictably swift. Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority, was outraged:

There’s absolutely no evidence to support the notion that marijuana use leads people to be more violent, as inferred in the Court’s opinion. Regardless of how you feel about guns, no one should be discriminated against … by the government just because they happen to enjoy marijuana. That should be especially true for people who consume cannabis for medical purposes in accordance with state law and their doctors’ recommendations.

Wilson’s attorney, Chaz Rainey, was equally upset with the panel’s ruling, declaring,

We live in a world where having a medical marijuana card is enough to say you don’t get a gun, but if you’re on the no-fly list your constitutional right is still protected.

Then Rainey touched on the core issue: states’ rights, adding:

Responsible adults who use cannabis in a manner that is compliant with the laws of their states ought to receive the same legal rights and protections as other citizens.

For the moment at least, the ruling applies to only the nine states covered by the Ninth Circuit: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington. Rainey has promised to appeal the ruling either to the full circuit court or to the Supreme Court. If the appeal goes that far, Wilson’s lawsuit might give the newest member (replacing deceased Justice Scalia) of the high court a chance to rule on the matter next year. 

A graduate of an Ivy League school and a former investment advisor, Bob is a regular contributor to The New American magazine and blogs frequently at LightFromTheRight.com, primarily on economics and politics. He can be reached at badelmann@thenewamerican.com.

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