Leaked United Nations Paper Calls for Decriminalizing Drug Use and Possession

By Drug Policy Alliance

united nations drug war reportDrug Decriminalization Rapidly Emerging as Consensus Goal of Drug Policy, Public Safety and Health Stakeholders as 2016 UN Special Session on Drugs Approaches

Momentum Accelerating in the U.S. and Abroad Toward Drug Policy Reforms: Marijuana Legalization, Drug Decriminalization, and Ending Mass Incarceration

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) appeared set to call on governments to end the criminalization of drug use and possession, according to DPA Honorary Board Member Richard Branson – but in a dramatic turn of events withdrew a briefing paper under pressure from at least one country, according to the BBC.

Read moreLeaked United Nations Paper Calls for Decriminalizing Drug Use and Possession

6,000 Federal Drug Offenders to be Released Early on November 1st

By Drug Policy Alliance

opencuffsStarting November 1, 6,000 federal prisoners are to be released from federal prison, a move that is the result of changes made by the U.S. Sentencing Commission last year that lowered federal sentencing guidelines for people convicted under draconian drug war-era laws.

“It warms my heart to hear that 6,000 people will be coming home,” said Anthony Papa, manager of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance, who spent 12 years behind bars on a mandatory minimum drug sentence. “The drug war has devastated families and communities and it is time for the healing to begin.”

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Senate Reaches Deal to Reduce Prison Population and Reform Mandatory Minimums

By Drug Policy Alliance

cuffsCriminal Justice Legislation Lowers Drug Sentences, Increases Early Release and Returns Some Discretion to Judges

Bipartisan Compromise Bill Backed by Top Democrats And Republicans Amid Public Demands to End Mass Incarceration

Today, a bipartisan group of Senators announced a historic deal on criminal justice reform, rounding out a negotiation process that has lasted almost five months. The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, spearheaded by Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA), will involve reductions in mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, an expansion of the federal “safety valve” (which allows judges to use their discretion to sentence people below statutory mandatory minimums), and will expand reentry programming and early release, among other things.

Read moreSenate Reaches Deal to Reduce Prison Population and Reform Mandatory Minimums

Study Shows 87 of 91 Former NFL Players Have Rare Brain Disease; Could Cannabis Help?

football2By Derek Rosenfeld, Drug Policy Alliance

The NFL is back and I’m very excited about the upcoming season. But there is something that I have become more aware of recently that I can’t help but think about while watching the game – the issue of concussions, their effects on the brain, and how medical marijuana can help play a role in treating the problem.

There is a growing body of evidence that shows football players at any level, especially ones who repeatedly use their head to hit another player, can eventually develop a brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The leading researchers studying the brains of deceased football players just released new figures showing they have found evidence of CTE in 87 out of 91 brains of former NFL players. The disease can lead to conditions such as memory loss, depression and dementia. The powerful special produced by PBS’ Frontline, “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis,” first opened my eyes to the gravity of the issue.

Read moreStudy Shows 87 of 91 Former NFL Players Have Rare Brain Disease; Could Cannabis Help?

President Obama Grants Clemency to 14 Individuals Serving Life in Prison for Drugs

By Drug Policy Alliance

President Obama announcing in a video that he's commuted 46 sentences.
President Obama announcing in a video that he’s commuted 46 sentences.

Today, President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of 46 people incarcerated in federal prison. This follows the commutation of eight people incarcerated in federal prison for drug offenses in December of 2014, and 22 in March 2015. Fourteen of the people who received commutations today were serving life in prison for nonviolent drug offenses.

In taking this step, the President has now issued nearly 90 commutations, the vast majority of them to non-violent offenders sentenced for drug law violations under draconian sentencing laws. President Obama has been under significant public pressure from advocacy groups and family members of people incarcerated for nonviolent drug offenses who are serving long, mandatory minimum sentences.

Read morePresident Obama Grants Clemency to 14 Individuals Serving Life in Prison for Drugs

Oregon Governor Signs Cannabis Reform Bill

purple Governor Kate Brown has signed House Bill 3400 into law, a comprehensive measure to implement Measure 91, in addition to reforming the state’s cannabis laws by removing most felony charges and allowing for expungements

In addition to addressing the implementation of Measure 91, which legalized cannabis possess and cultivation on July 1st (with retail outlets expected to open next year), House Bill 3400 contains broad sentencing reform provisions that includes reducing most cannabis felonies to misdemeanors or lesser felonies with significantly reduced sentences.

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Strong Majority of Those in New Jersey Support Legalizing Cannabis, According to New Poll

newjerseyA new Rutgers-Eagleton poll has found that a large majority of New Jersey residents support legalizing, taxing and regulating cannabis similar to alcohol for those 21 and older. The poll was conducted in conjunction with the Drug Policy Alliance.

According to the survey, 58% of New Jerseyans support legalizing cannabis, with just 39% opposed.

“Support for legalization in New Jersey is growing, which mirrors national polls,” says David Redlawsk, director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling and professor of political science at Rutgers University.

Read moreStrong Majority of Those in New Jersey Support Legalizing Cannabis, According to New Poll

U.S. Senate Committee Votes to Protect State-Level Medical Cannabis Laws

medical-marijuana-symbolIn a huge victory for cannabis law reform, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted today to approve an amendment to a federal spending bill offered by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) that would protect state medical cannabis laws from federal interference by the Department of Justice, which includes the Drug Enforcement Administration. The vote was 20 to 10.

The amendment mirrors one that passed the full House of Representatives last week with a 242 to 186 vote.

Read moreU.S. Senate Committee Votes to Protect State-Level Medical Cannabis Laws

U.S. House Votes to Cut DEA Budget by Millions, End Bulk Data Collection Program

By Drug Policy Alliance

budgetWASHINGTON, DC — Legislators voted by a simple voice vote Tuesday night to end the DEA’s controversial bulk data collection programs, as part of the U.S. House of Representatives’ consideration of the Fiscal Year 2016 Commerce, Justice, and Science Appropriations bill.

The House also passed three amendments that cut $23 million from the DEA’s budget, and shifted it to fighting child abuse, processing rape test kits, reducing the deficit, and paying for body cameras on police officers to reduce law enforcement abuses.

Read moreU.S. House Votes to Cut DEA Budget by Millions, End Bulk Data Collection Program

President Obama Selects Chuck Rosenberg to Head DEA

By Drug Policy Alliance

DEA Increasingly Scrutinized as States Legalize Marijuana and Public Opinion Turns Against Failed Drug War

Chuck Rosenberg.
Chuck Rosenberg.

A senior F.B.I. official and former U.S. attorney, Chuck Rosenberg, has been selected by President Obama as acting director of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Rosenberg has served as the chief of staff to the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, for the past 18 months.

Outgoing DEA head Michele Leonhart announced her retirement last month in the wake of numerous scandals. She came under intense criticism for opposing the Obama administration’s efforts to reform mandatory minimum sentencing laws, and for opposing the administration’s hands-off approach in the four states that have approved legal regulation of marijuana.

Read morePresident Obama Selects Chuck Rosenberg to Head DEA