Legal Marijuana Sales Begin this Week in Uruguay

This week Uruguay will officially begin legal sales of marijuana for those 18 and older, over three and a half years after the law legalizing the plant was initially approved by lawmakers.

The legalization of marijuana was first proposed by former-President José Mujica in 2012 as part of a comprehensive package of proposals aimed at improving public safety. Uruguay’s parliament gave final approval to the measure in December 2013, making Uruguay the first country in the world to fully legalize cannabis for retail distribution. This week – over 3.5 years later – legal sales will finally begin.

“This is a historic moment,” says Hannah Hetzer, Senior International Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance. “In recent years, Latin American leaders have decried the staggering human, environmental and financial costs of the War on Drugs in their region. Uruguay is boldly demonstrating that concrete alternatives to failed prohibitionist policies are possible.”

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New York Marijuana Possession Charges Would be Sealed Under Measure Approved by Assembly

With a 95 to 38 vote, New York’s full Assembly has given approval to a bill that would seal the criminal records of those charged with possessing marijuana.

According to government statistics, there have been over 800,000 people arrested in New York for simple cannabis possession in the last 20 years, making the reaches of this measure widespread. Assembly Bill 2142 now moves to the Senate, where its passage would send it to Governor Andrew Cuomo for final consideration.

“I introduced the marijuana sealing bill because drug laws have created a permanent underclass of people unable to find jobs after a conviction,” says Assemblymember Crystal Peoples-Stokes, the bill’s primary sponsor. “One of the most damaging issues derived from the war on drugs is that the policies are inherently racist. Communities of color have been devastated by bad drug policies and hyper-criminalization for the last 40 years.”

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President Obama Grants 102 More Pardons, Brings Total to 774, More than Last 11 Presidents Combined

Pardons
(Photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters)

President Obama yesterday commuted the sentences of 102 more people, the “vast majority” of which have been in prison for nonviolent drug-related offenses. This brings the total number of pardons granted by Obama to 774, more than the number of commutations issued by the last 11 presidents combined.

“The vast majority of today’s grants were for individuals serving unduly harsh sentences for drug-related crimes under outdated sentencing laws,” said White House counsel Neil Eggleston in a press release. “With today’s grants, the President has commuted 774 sentences, more than the previous 11 presidents combined. With a total of 590 commutations this year, President Obama has now commuted the sentences of more individuals in one year than in any other single year in our nation’s history.”

Read morePresident Obama Grants 102 More Pardons, Brings Total to 774, More than Last 11 Presidents Combined

Dozens More Federal Drug Offenders Granted Clemency by President Obama

Yesterday President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 58 peopleobama serving prison time for federal drug-related offenses. This follows the commutation of 61 individuals on March 30th of this year, and 162 individuals in 2015. Each of the individuals receiving a pardon were in prison for a nonviolent drug offense, many victims of the disparity between crack and powdered cocaine.

“The President is using his constitutional power, but he can only do so much,” says Michael Collins, deputy director at Drug Policy Alliance’s office of national affairs. “There is legislation in the Senate that would reduce mandatory minimums and have a greater impact on the prison population, and Leader McConnell needs to bring the bill up for a vote.”

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Poll: New Hampshire Voters Strongly Support Decriminalizing Drug Possession

By Drug Policy Alliance

Majorities of Republicans, Democrats and Independents Oppose Arresting People for Simple Possession decriminalizing drug possesssionof Any Drug, Want Health Insurers to Provide Treatment and Support Eliminating Mandatory Minimum Sentences for Non-Violent Drug Offenders

CONCORD, NH — A substantial majority of New Hampshire presidential primary voters support decriminalizing drug possession, according to a new poll released by the Drug Policy Alliance.

Sixty-six percent of voters in the first-in-the-nation primary, including half of all Republicans and 68% of independents, think people caught with a small amount of illegal drugs for personal use should be evaluated for drug issues, offered treatment but not be arrested or face any jail time.

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Maine Governor Says Out of State Drug Dealers are Impregnating ‘Young White’ Girls

Maine Governor Paul LePage.
Maine Governor Paul LePage.

Maine Governor Paul LePage is drawing outrage over racist remarks he made recently about out of state drug dealers, “…with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty” impregnating the “young white” girls of Maine.

The comments came at a townhall meeting when LePage was asked to address substance abuse in the state.

“LePage’s comments sound like those of an unreconstructed racist,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “Whether one focuses on his outrageous words or on his outrageous drug policies, what’s apparent is the governor’s indifference to the lives and wellbeing of people struggling with addiction to heroin and other drugs.”

Read moreMaine Governor Says Out of State Drug Dealers are Impregnating ‘Young White’ Girls

Historic Sentencing Reform Bill Unanimously Passes U.S. House Judiciary Committee

drugwarjailEarlier today the United States House Judiciary Committee gave unanimous approval to the Sentencing Reform Act, a historic bill that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, expand judges discretions to give sentences lower than the mandatory minimums in some cases, while making most of the sentencing changes apply retroactively.

“This vote today is a significant step toward reducing the federal prison population,” says Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “We have a bill moving in the Senate, and now we have a companion bill moving in the House, so I’m optimistic we’ll have legislation on the President’s desk in a matter of months.”

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U.S. Senate Approves Bill to Give Veterans Access to Legal Medical Cannabis

The United States Senate today passed the FY2016 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Bill, which includes language that would allow Veterans Administrationva (VA) doctors to recommend medical cannabis to their patients in states where medical cannabis is legal.

“Veterans in medical marijuana states should be treated the same as any other resident, and should be able to discuss marijuana with their doctor,” says Michael Collins, deputy director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “It makes no sense that a veteran can’t use medical marijuana if it helps them and it is legal in their state.”

The Veterans Equal Access Amendment was introduced with bipartisan support by Senator Steve Daines of Montana and Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon. The funding bill will now be negotiated with the House’s version as part of an omnibus spending bill.

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Mexico Supreme Court May Legalize Cannabis, Consideration Set for October 28th

mexico supreme courtTomorrow, October 28th, the Mexico Supreme Court will take the historic step of considering the legalization of recreational cannabis. The court will be deciding whether or not it’s unconstitutional for the nation to prohibit possession and cultivation of the plant.

“This debate in Mexico’s Supreme Court is extraordinary for two reasons: because it is being argued on human rights grounds, and because it is taking place in one of the countries that has suffered the most from the war on drugs”, says Hannah Hetzer of the Drug Policy Alliance. “In the eight years since former President Felipe Calderon ramped up the militarized response to drugs and trafficking, the surge of violence has led to the death of 100,000 people and the disappearance of 25,000 in Mexico.”

Read moreMexico Supreme Court May Legalize Cannabis, Consideration Set for October 28th

Comprehensive Criminal Justice Reform Bill Passes U.S Senate Judiciary Committee

criminal justice reformThe U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee voted 15 to 5 today to pass the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, expand early release programs and expand the federal “safety valve”, (which gives judges discretion to give an individual a sentence lower than the mandatory minimum).

“This vote today is a huge step toward ending the failed policies of the war on drugs,” says Michael Collins, Policy Manager at the Drug Policy Alliance’s Office of National Affairs. “To see Republicans and Democrats join hands to pass this bill gives me great hope we’ll have legislation on the President’s desk very soon.”

Read moreComprehensive Criminal Justice Reform Bill Passes U.S Senate Judiciary Committee