Keeping an eye on cannabis decriminalization news, particularly in Chicago

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005


When I first started this project in the fall of last year, I had hoped it would be temporary. The Mayor of Chicago had indicated marijuana decrim is no big deal, therefore I assumed there would be an interesting process to observe as new policy was implemented.

Sadly, the process stopped almost immediately, and I'm not sure when the discussion is going to be revived. A friend who knows someone who is supposedly close to the decision-making process on this issue tells me there are a handful of upper level Chicago police brass who have attempted to apply brakes to the process ever since it started. Those opponents seem to have successfully stopped the plan's momentum last month with another phony reform related to marijuana arrests.

So, at least until the momentum starts again, I am putting decrimwatch on official hiatus (as opposed to the unofficial one it's been on for the past several weeks).

In addition to the lack of news on the Chicago issue, and already excellent coverage of marijuana-related news comming from other blogs, I find myself becoming busier with other commitments. The most exciting: An independent publisher has contacted me about releasing a revised edition of Maximizing Harm, my book about the drug war. Nothing's been finalized yet, but if everything falls into place, a new version of the book should be available by this time next year. And, perhaps, there will be a new blog to go with the new book...

If you positively can't live without my regular commentary on prohibition issues, be sure to read DrugSense Weekly every Friday, which features me and my colleagues picking the top drug news stories from the past seven days along with analysis and all the latest details from the drug war. 

My sincere thanks to everyone who visited decrimwatch, especially those who took time to leave comments and/or contact me. I'd also like to express my admiration for all the committed and energetic drug war bloggers listed to the left. I've been learning all I can about the drug war for nearly a decade, but I'm always pleasantly surprised by the insights and information that other concerned individuals like Pete, Libby, Jim, Scott, Loretta, M., Sister Geoff, Preston and the folks over at D'Alliance have to share. (Sorry if I missed anyone!)


9:31:03 AM | permalink | comment []

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Pot arrests from squads pushed as reform in Chicago

Is the Chicago marijuana decrim proposal dead? News in the Chicago Sun-Times today makes me think it's on life support, at best.

As linked almost immediately by the U.S. Marijuana Party blog, the Sun-Times reports today on a pilot program in one Chicago police district which will allow officers to do paperwork for marijuana arrests from their squad cars. This is supposed to save the time needed to take arrestees down to the station, but one annonymous cop isn't impressed by the alleged efficiency of the plan:

One Shakespeare District cop, meanwhile, griped that he thinks the pilot program might actually waste more time than processing arrests in the police station. Only one officer can type the information into the computer, while the officer's partner waits.

When this plan bombs (it's not saving court time, it's not going to raise conviction rates, and it's not generating revenue for the city) maybe the city will think about decrim again, but I don't expect to see it mentioned again for a while.

8:53:14 AM | permalink | comment []

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

No opposition to marijuana law changes in Texas

News over at Grits For Breakfast has awakened decrimwatch from a lengthy late winter slumber. Texas has been considering something like marijuana decrim. At a committee hearing yesterday, no one spoke against the bill. The law imposes more than just a slap on the wrist for those caught with less than an ounce; they will face a six-month suspension of their driver's license along with fines, but not jail time. 

Interesting to me: no one offered vocal opposition, just as no one really presented vocal opposition to the proposed decrim law in Chicago. (Remember that? I almost forgot myself.)

Will the Texas bill collect dust like the Chicago proposal?

Somebody please wake me if anything happens.

9:53:27 AM | permalink | comment []

Friday, February 25, 2005

Canada: Decrim is not enough

From an excellent opinion piece in the Toronto Star called "It's Time For Canada To Legalize Cannabis":

The use of cannabis is widespread and there is intermittent talk from the government of Canada regarding "decriminalizing," but not about legalizing, it. Cannabis has much in common with both alcohol and tobacco products. Each at various times has been demonized, banned, criminalized and targeted as a health risk. We can learn from these experiences.

What can we learn from alcohol? First, banning doesn't work. As attempts at prohibition proves, it turns this area of the economy over to criminals and gives ordinary citizens criminal records.

2:09:31 PM | permalink | comment []

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The "L" Word and the "D" Word

Here's a good essay about the language that surrounds drug policy reform. Of course, it's fine to say this, and indeed some do try to control the language - Chicago officials don't want to call proposed marijuana reform "decriminalization" (whatever happened to that anyway?) 

But that's the shorthand the media (including lil' ol' me) uses to describe it.

11:34:22 AM | permalink | comment []

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Former Seattle Police Chief's Book Touts Decrim

That's according to an interview in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Ever since San Diego, Stamper has lamented the miserable failure of the so-called war on drugs and the need for decriminalization. In the book, he says he gets specific about how the obscene profits of illegal drugs make our current approach impossible.

For now, Stamper will say only that he talks to officials who are afraid if they support decriminalization they'll lose elections or the Bush administration will withhold funds.

The book, "Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Street-Smart Approach to Making America a Safe Place -- for Everyone," is scheduled to be published in June.

9:19:30 AM | permalink | comment []

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Recrim governor needs to check his facts

An opinion piece in the Fairbanks News-Miner says Gov. Frank Murkowski isn't being straight in making a case for harsher marijuana possession penalties in the state. Such penalties would clearly violate the state constitution, and indeed, such laws have been struck down.

The Alaska Supreme Court has clearly told Gov. Murkowski that there are two avenues to changing a constitutionally protected right such as Ravin: They can either sponsor a constitutional amendment or they can properly put forth a case to the Alaska Supreme Court proving that the facts are different than originally thought to be.

The state has had both of these legal remedies at its disposal for the 30 years since the Ravin decision became law. But instead of following the legal parameters defined by the court, the state has repeatedly attempted to violate state law, ironically while complaining about lawlessness.

Perhaps Mr. Murkowski fears that he cannot win an honest debate in the courts concerning the alleged dangers of cannabis.

Numerous governments have recently held lengthy committee hearings and researched volumes of evidence concerning the allegations of the harmful effects of marijuana use. The results included the United Kingdom's downgrading of marijuana use to a ticketable offense and a Canadian senate committee advising open, taxed, regulated sales for persons over the age of 16.

1:06:39 PM | permalink | comment []

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