States continue with criminal justice reforms. While attorney general Jeff Sessions pursues a policy to incarcerate more people for longer sentences, states are moving ahead with the opposite strategy. More than 30 states have taken steps to reduce incarceration rates, like investing in drug treatment programs. The New York Times Louisiana is poised to pass a historic criminal justice overhaul in an effort to reduce its incarceration rate — the highest in the U.S. The plan would reduce the prison population by 10 percent in 10 years, and save $78 million. The Times-Picayune Not Florida, though. As other states de-escalate, lawmakers in the Sunshine State have been increasing mandatory minimums and favoring a criminal approach to the public health problem of opioids. Ozy
First person. A former prosecutor who worked on drug cases at the height of the ’80s drug war recounts how she’s evolved on the issue and why Sessions’ new sentencing policy is wrong. “My attitude toward drug users was that it was their fault and they deserved to be punished,” writes Inge Fryklund. Decades later, she now sees those tactics as “a total failure.” “I’m telling my story now because I’m alarmed to see Donald Trump’s new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, taking steps to ramp up the war on drugs. The last thing I want is for the harsh ‘law and order’ policies of the 1980s to come back.” Vox
Colombia’s president meets with Trump. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos went to the White House to emphasize the country’s need for U.S. aid as part of its recovery from its decades-long civil war. Colombia’s ambassador to the U.S. said if American aid is cut, “the only people who will benefit are the drug traffickers.” Meanwhile, Trump has vowed to slash foreign aid. The Los Angeles Times Santos urged the U.S. to broaden its crime-fighting efforts instead of focusing on the drug trade. While Sessions pursues more aggressive tactics, many Latin American countries including Colombia are rethinking the failed policies of the drug war. Colombia Reports Related: Secretary of state Rex Tillerson says the main culprit in Mexico’s illicit drug trade is the U.S. “We as Americans must confront that we are the market. There is no other market for these activities. It is all coming here.” CNN
Trump pick for Homeland Security says marijuana is gateway to heroin. David Clarke, the controversial Milwaukee county sheriff, will be the next assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security. At a Congressional hearing in 2015, Clarke implied he believed that marijuana possession leads to violent crime. He has also said that marijuana leads to heroin use. Clarke faces several pending lawsuits from his time as sheriff, including one from the family of a man who passed away after being held in solitary confinement without water for a week. The Cannabist
Colorado lawmakers seek to protect marijuana laws with new bill. House reps. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) and Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) have re-introduced legislation that would “create an exemption to Article VI of the Constitution that rules federal law pre-empts state law in cases where they conflict.” The legislation was previously introduced in 2012, 2013, and 2015. Denverite
Mixed outlooks for cannabis under Trump. At a marijuana business conference, panelists agreed on one thing: “The only certainty for cannabis businesses under the Trump administration is uncertainty.” Advocates, lawmakers, and former government officials emphasized that “cannabis companies, executives or consumers are not in the clear.” Marijuana Business Daily
Parsing coverage of the Times Square crash. On Thursday, a driver plowed into a crowded sidewalk in New York’s Times Square, killing one and injuring 22 others. Early reports had police sources saying Richard Rojas, who has now been arrested, was under the influence of synthetic marijuana. Reuters Later, reports said he had told police that he had smoked marijuana laced with PCP. The Associated Press However, a closer look at his past reveals his tenuous psychiatric state. After Rojas returned from serving in the Navy, some of his friends “thought his grasp of reality had slipped and that he needed psychiatric help.” He had various run-ins with the law in recent years. The New York Times
Duterte takes aim at cigarettes. Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, who has waged a brutal and controversial anti-drug campaign, has now banned public use of tobacco (including e-cigarettes). He has called on citizens to help apprehend and charge those who violate the ban. They could face up to four months in jail and a $100 fine for the offense. The New York Times
Durangoans dispute Fox story. After Fox News ran a story reporting that Durango, Colo. had been overrun by homelessness due to marijuana legalization, residents of the town are hitting back. Two of the sources quoted in the Fox piece say their comments were misconstrued and taken out of context. “I question the credibility of the reporter,” said one, explaining that the reporter failed to properly identify himself. The source said he told the reporter that marijuana was not the primary cause of a rise in panhandling, but that the reporter omitted those views from the story. “I feel like he took advantage of everyone’s words and spun them into his own story… It’s kind of upsetting, honestly,” said another. The Durango Herald
Employees at Canadian dispensary move to unionize. Employees at a marijuana dispensary in Toronto have started forming a union, despite that the dispensary is operating illegally. Its bargaining unit is expected to be certified by the Ontario Labour Board at the end of next week. Both Unifor, the country’s largest private-sector union, and the Ontario Labour Board, said the company’s illegal nature had no bearing on its certification. Both the federal and provincial government declined to comment on the matter, though a spokesperson for the Toronto police said it would continue to enforce the law and “that has absolutely nothing to do with efforts by people to unionize.” Vice News
Eight Miles High. This week’s playlist goes on a trip through psychedelic rock, including essential tunes from seminal artists like Jimi Hendrix and Cream. Word on the Tree
Word on the States
- In Rhode Island, a compromise on marijuana legalization could be coming.
- In Vermont, the governor has yet to decide on the recreational legalization bill on his desk. He has until Wednesday.
- In Oregon, the city of Portland is lobbying the state to pass a bill to allow social-use.
- In Michigan, a state board approved a petition to legalize marijuana, which now must gather voter signatures.
- In California, the Assembly approved a measure to ban home manufacturing of marijuana concentrates using solvents. Unregulated pot businesses will get six months to catch up with lab testing requirements.
- In Arizona, a judge rejected a lawsuit to lower medical marijuana fees.
- In Delaware, the state Senate approved a medical marijuana expansion bill.
- In Alaska, a law enforcement agency ruled that cops can’t own marijuana businesses.
- In South Dakota, backers of a marijuana legalization ballot measure are now collecting signatures.
- In New Hampshire, a doctor was reprimanded for certifying a patient for MMJ without examining him for eight months.
- In Hawaii, medical marijuana has been legal since 2000, but there’s still nowhere to buy it. A dispensary has harvested its first crop, but it has to wait for the state to certify a lab for testing.
Word for Word
“For much of President Obama’s second term, prosecutors were allowed some discretion to consider the unique circumstances of each case and make a measured decision about when to ask for the most serious charge with the maximum penalty or when to ask for less. It worked. Jail time for low-level drug offenses went down. States saved money, and lives were not irretrievably broken. Last week, that modest advance came to an end. Attorney general Sessions directed prosecutors to charge individuals with the harshest sentences possible. ‘Lock them up’ seems to be his approach — but not in all cases. Jeff Sessions sings a very different tune when it comes to white-collar crime. He believes corporations should not be punished for the actions of their executives. Don’t punish the companies for a few bad CEO apples.” – Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren, congress.gov
“Speaking from an undisclosed location, which he claims he hasn’t left in days, the hacker told Motherboard he’s worried about the cartel trying to avenge the arrest of López Núñez — his one-time employer. He also feels abandoned by the Mexican government. Last year, according to the hacker, officials offered him protection and $1.5 million USD — the same bounty Mexico put on infamous Sinaloa boss Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán — if he helped nab López Núñez. But he says he’s stuck in a sort of purgatory, in light of unfulfilled promises of protection Mexican officials made to him in exchange for providing the video.” – Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai and Brian Anderson for Motherboard / Vice