Tag Archive for 'marijuana'

How the Nanny State and Technology Intersect to Stop Crime

Ronald Bjarnason, 59, was arrested in Northern California last week on suspicion of a hit-and-run and for possession of marijuana with intent to sell.

Nanny State Police TechnologyNobody reported Bjarnason, no one was involved in the accident, and there were no witnesses. So how did the police know to show up at the scene?

The BMW he crashed sent out an automated distress call, alerting the police.

Police found the car crashed into a guardrail at around 12:20 a.m., but Bjarnason was nowhere to be found. An officer heard rustling in a bush nearby, and a homeowner said his surveillance system captured a man running across his lawn right after the accident occurred.

Officers then came upon a duffel bag filled with 13 pounds of marijuana along the suspected path Bjarnason took to escape the scene.

Police eventually found Bjarnason and arrested him. The Corte Madera police, Marin County Major Crimes Task Force, and the Central Marin Special Response team then obtained a warrant to search Bjarnason’s home in Piercy. They discovered 2,000 marijuana plants, pounds of cultivated marijuana, Ecstasy pills, psilocybin mushroom cultivation, weapons, and cash.

Bjarnason is out of custody pending possible charges.

Nanny State and Smart Technology

Would Bjarnason have gotten away if his BMW did not send a distress call? To be honest, probably not. He still crashed, and he was still caught on camera. The only difference is that the police arrived on scene faster. Is this the result of a nanny state?

In my opinion, it’s not. New technology doesn’t hinder us, it allows us to be safer in a world where 1.3 million people die in car crashes every year. That automated distress call can save the valuable seconds a person needs in order to survive.

Marijuana Wars with Maraschino Cherries and D.C.’s Mayor

Washington D.C.’s decriminalization of marijuana went into effect last week, drawing the wrath of prominent Congress members. Rep. Jason Chaffetz reportedly said D.C.’s Mayor could “go to prison for this.” Federal law enforcement’s war against marijuana has been continuous since Congress passed the Controlled Substances Act in 1970. However, that war has often shattered lives, as Arthur Mondella’s tragic story reveals.

Maraschino CherriesWhile the District of Columbia was preparing to decriminalize marijuana, local police and federal agents were conducting a raid on Maraschino Cherries Factory in Brooklyn. Law enforcement claimed to have a warrant to search the factory for violations of environmental laws, but the raid’s true purpose was to search for marijuana. The factory owner, Arthur Mondella, had inherited the business from his father and grandfather. Initially Mondella cooperated with the police. Authorities eventually discovered a secret room concealed by a fake wall. Mondella immediately went to the bathroom.

His sister, obviously concerned, followed. Mondella asked her to “take care of my kids” and then Mondella shot himself. After Mondella’s suicide, police entered the hidden basement. Law enforcement found a 2,500 square foot marijuana farm underneath the cherry factory.

Maraschino Cherries Kingpin vs. Washington, D.C.’s Mayor

Although I drew comparisons between D.C. and Mondella, there are enormous differences. In D.C., the voters had approved a measure decriminalizing marijuana. If D.C. were a state rather than a federal district, Congress would not be as hostile. Mondella, on the other hand, was a private actor growing marijuana in knowing violation of the law. Mondella wasn’t trying to change the law, which would be legal; he was violating the law for, possibly, his own profit.

News coverage of the cherry factory conflict with each other. Most stories quote an unknown police officer claiming Mondella wouldn’t have done any jail time. However, some stories claim the officer wouldn’t have done time for spilling cherry syrup in the water while other stories quote the officer saying Mondella wouldn’t have done jail time for marijuana.

Although Mondella wouldn’t have gone to jail for cherry syrup, the idea that Mondella wouldn’t have gone to jail over marijuana is laughable. Mondella was concealing what looked like a multi-million dollar farm on his property. Federal prosecutors would have indicted Mondella as a drug kingpin and there is no doubt that Mondella would have served significant time. If Congress is threatening to lock up the mayor of D.C. for enforcing an initiative to decriminalize marijuana, imagine what the Justice Department would do to a man caught running an entire drug operation in his factory.

States across the country might be decriminalizing marijuana, but there’s no doubt that some federal actors still want to win the war on marijuana.

Why the Controlled Substances Act Should Be Repealed

Courts have rarely questioned the validity of the Controlled Substances Act‘s classification system, even though the CSA has been law since 1970. Astoundingly, almost all judicial inquiry into the CSA classification system has been confined to footnotes. Judge Mueller herself relied on a Supreme Court footnote in justifying her desire to hear evidence on whether marijuana has any medical value. The branch of government charged with interpreting the law has neglected to interpret whether the CSA scheduling system makes any logical sense.

marijuanaA cursory glance at the drugs classified indicates that the CSA is deeply flawed. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug, which means it has a high potential for abuse, no medical value, and lacks safe use even under medical supervision.

Today, the claim that marijuana lacks any medical value or safe use borders on lunacy. As defense attorneys argued, federal prosecutors must essentially “convince the court that the earth is flat when the rest of society appropriately has concluded that the earth is round.” 23 states have legalized medical marijuana and every year that list of states grows. Doctors have testified that marijuana can be used to treat certain illnesses and many patients have come forward to testify that marijuana has helped them when no other treatments could.

Marijuana is just the tip of the iceberg. Peyote is also classified as Schedule I, but Congress granted the Native American Church an exemption if they used Peyote for religious purposes. If Peyote has a high potential for abuse, it shouldn’t be possible for an entire religion to use Peyote without widespread addiction. And yet, the few members of the church who were adversely affected by peyote were able to walk away without any further health problems.

Cocaine is popularly considered more dangerous than marijuana, but cocaine is classified as Schedule II. According to the CSA, Schedule II substances have accepted medical use. It is absolutely silly that the federal government believes cocaine has medical value while marijuana does not. Medical marijuana is recognized in twenty-three states while medical cocaine cannot be legalized in even a single state.

Wait, it gets better. During Judge Mueller’s hearing, prosecutors presented President Bush’s drug czar, Dr. Bertha Madras, as their sole witness. Madras claimed there was “no such thing as medical marijuana” because “it contains significant amounts of toxic chemicals.” One of those toxic chemicals is THC, the chemical compound responsible for marijuana’s psychological effects. THC is the chemical that police look for when they drug test people suspected of using marijuana.

Curiously, the CSA classifies THC as Schedule III. According to the CSA, Schedule III drugs have less potential for abuse than Schedule I or Schedule II drugs. THC was classified lower than marijuana because Congress gave one research company its blessings to produce “marijuana pills” out of THC. However, the only way to get THC is to extract it from marijuana plants. It is mind-bending that a Schedule III substance has less potential for abuse when it is the main hallucinatory in a Schedule I drug.

I suspect that federal drug agencies realize that the CSA schedule system is completely irrational. Courts have rarely questioned the CSA classifications and what little probing exists is in footnotes. However, those rare footnotes are very disturbing. A footnote in one case concluded that the CSA classification system “cannot logically be read as cumulative in all situations.” Another footnote contains statements from a Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) expert who testified that “marijuana could be rescheduled to Schedule II without a currently accepted medical use.”These footnotes, together with the fact that THC is a Schedule III drug, indicate that the DEA knows that marijuana could safely be removed from the Schedule I list.

The war on drugs is the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. Thousands of Americans are denied medication and millions of Americans are incarcerated because of that hoax. It must end.

California Judge to Decide Whether Marijuana Should Still Be a Schedule I Drug

2015 could be the beginning of the end for the war on marijuana. Last year, U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller agreed to hear five days of evidence and testimony about whether marijuana has any medical value. Judge Mueller will then rule whether marijuana should continue to be a Schedule I drug.

U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller

U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller

The case seemed ordinary on its face. In 2011, the California Highway Patrol arrested 15 suspects and uncovered a marijuana farm with more than 500 marijuana plants in a national park. The men faced 10-15 years in prison each. Defense attorneys argued that cultivation of marijuana should not warrant punishment because marijuana itself should not be classified as a drug with no medical value.

For those unfamiliar with federal drug laws, illegal drugs are regulated by the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The CSA classifies drugs into five different groups known as schedules. Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I substance. In the eyes of the federal government, Schedule I drugs: have a high potential for abuse, have no currently accepted medical use, and lack accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Under the CSA, it is illegal to manufacture, distribute, purchase, or possess Schedule I drugs. If marijuana were to be rescheduled as a different drug, the sentence could be reduced or marijuana could be decriminalized altogether.

Judge Mueller’s decision to hold the evidence hearing was extraordinary in itself. Defense lawyers have argued that marijuana is misclassified before, but this is first time in many decades that a judge has agreed to take such an argument seriously. It’s possible that Judge Mueller could rule that marijuana should remain a Schedule I drug. However, the fact Judge Mueller even bothered to spend five days on the issue indicates there is a real possibility that she may rule in favor of marijuana reclassification, at least in the case before her.

A judicial ruling that marijuana has been misclassified is a step in the right direction. However, this is only the first step. Congress should scrap and replace the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) altogether.

Progressive Ballot Measures Passed in 2014

Significant Results of the Mid-Term Elections & State Ballot Measures of 2014

The mid-term elections of 2014 were a massacre against the Democratic Party. Not since World War II have the republicans controlled the majority of the House by a margin so large. They also currently control the Senate.

2014 election ballot measuresAs a result of the republican’s newfound control, Congress will be on the offensive to repeal many of the advances made to provide the country with better health care and equal rights. Democrats will respond by filibustering and the country will be at a stand-still.

However, hope is not lost for the progressive movement. The following is a summary of the progressive state ballot measures that passed in the mid-term elections:

Alaska: Marijuana was decriminalized, minimum wage was set to one of the highest in the country, and salmon were protected from mining projects.

Arkansas: Minimum wage increased to $8.50 and limits were set on campaign donations and gifts from big business.

California: $7 billion in funding was approved for the state’s water system and most nonviolent crimes were reduced from felonies to misdemeanors.

Colorado: Open school board meetings are now required when bargaining with public employee unions and race-track gambling was not extended to fund schools.

Florida: Although the passage of legalizing medical marijuana failed, 58% voted yes. The measure required a 60% threshold.

Georgia: The maximum state income-tax rate will not be raised.

Illinois: Coverage of prescription birth control was approved, the minimum wage increased, and a millionaire tax was approved to fund schools. Unfortunately, with the exception of the minimum wage increase, the laws are not quite in effect, as they were only an advisory to gauge public opinion.

Massachusetts: No automatic increase in the gas tax will occur and extended paid sick time will be mandatory if a company has more than 11 employees.

Nebraska: Minimum wage increase to $9 an hour.

New Jersey: Lower-risk defendants who are unable to afford bail will be released.

New York: A commission was established to redraw political districts for state and congressional seats. Also the state legislature now has the ability to veto the commission’s maps with two public votes.

North Dakota: A measure was rejected that presumed life begins at conception and a restriction was set on non-pharmacists owning a pharmacy.

Oregon: Marijuana was legalized and equal rights are guaranteed with no regard to gender.

South Dakota: Minimum wage was increased to $8.50.

Virginia: When a member of the military is killed in action, the place of residence owned by their spouse will be exempt from taxation.

Washington: A new law mandates background checks on all gun sales and transfers, “including at gun shows and online,” and exempts “weapons transferred within families and for the purchase of antique guns.”

In review, progressives have made leeway in gun control, raising the state minimum wage, rejecting anti- abortion laws, providing paid sick leave, expanding environmental protections, and legalizing marijuana.

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