HISTORIAN: Anti-Drug Laws Have Always Been About Race

The Drug Laws That Changed How We Punish

California paved the way for the drug war in 1907 by passing a law that criminalized opium . Opium was widely accepted before then, Miller says. California’s move to make it illegal was propelled by animosity towards Chinese immigrants, who were known to smoke the drug. These immigrants engendered a lot of hostility because they worked hard for little pay. “Now of course you can’t throw people in jail because they’re Chinese. You can throw them in jail for smoking opium,” Miller says in the documentary. Also around the turn of the century, more states moved to make cocaine illegal after people started associating its use with blacks. A June 1900 editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association warned that “Negroes in some parts of the South are … addicted to a new form of vice ,” according to Paul Gahlinger’s history of illegal drugs . Marijuana, which was sold in pharmacies in the 19th century, only became illegal in the 1930s after an influx of Mexican-American immigrants popularized its recreational use. “These laws set up a very dangerous precedent of racial control,” Miller told Jarecki. This level of control has had a particularly harsh impact on black Americans. A hundred years after America passed its first drug laws, blacks still make up a disproportionately high number of prisoners .

America Has More Reasonable Drug Laws Than Canada: What the Hell?

Persico says Rockefeller decided that more progressive approaches to drug addiction had simply failed. The governor had heard about this new, zero-tolerance approach to crime while studying Japan’s war on drugs. I have one goal and one objective, and that is to stop the pushing of drugs and to protect the innocent victim. – Gov. Nelson Rockefeller “And we all looked a little bit shocked, and one of the staff said, ‘Sounds a little bit severe.’ And he said, ‘That’s because you don’t understand the problem.’ And then we realized he was very serious,” Persico says. Rockefeller launched his campaign to toughen New York’s laws at a press conference in January 1973 almost exactly 40 years ago. He called for something unheard of: mandatory prison sentences of 15 years to life for drug dealers and addicts even those caught with small amounts of marijuana, cocaine or heroin. “I have one goal and one objective, and that is to stop the pushing of drugs and to protect the innocent victim,” Rockefeller said. Getting Tough Catches On From the start, Rockefeller’s policy drew sharp criticism from drug treatment experts and some politicians, who called the sentences draconian. But no one really understood what the laws would mean or how many millions of people they would touch. Albert Rosenblatt was a prosecutor at the time and wrote the first book detailing how district attorneys would implement the new rules. “I don’t remember thinking or believing, nor did my colleague DAs at the time, that this was going to somehow revolutionize and change everything,” Rosenblatt says. The Jan. 4, 1973, edition of the New York Daily News reports that Gov.

Jerry Madden, the former head of the Texas House Committee on Corrections, is a very conservative Republican. Yet in recent years he has helped steer Texas away from harsh incarceration policies for minor crimes, including drug infractions. His philosophy on keeping people out of jail? “It’s a very expensive thing to build new prisons and, if you build ’em, I guarantee you they will come. They’ll be filled, OK? Because people will send them there. If you don’t build ’em, [we] will come up with very creative things to do that keep the community safe and yet still do the incarceration necessary.” The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and half the prisoners are there on drug convictions. With plenty of conservative support, the Obama administration has issued directives designed to lock up fewer people for shorter periods of time. “We must never stop being tough on crime,” Attorney General Eric Holder said a few days ago. “But we must also be smarter on crime. Too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no good law enforcement reason.” This is progressive thinking, whether it comes from the right, the left, or the middle. And regressive thinking?

California Senate approves change to drug law

Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, countered that the bill could help chip away at the problem of crowding in California prisons. “We’re talking about a universe of people who will still be charged with one or more felonies. They will likely be going to state prison,” Leno said. “The question is, do we want them to take up limited bed space for two or three years, or five or ten or 15 years?” The state Senate passed the bill on a vote of 24-15. It now heads back to the Assembly for a concurrence vote before heading to Gov. Jerry Brown. PHOTO: Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, in the Assembly chambers in March 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua A Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved. About Comments Reader comments on Sacbee.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Sacramento Bee. If you see an objectionable comment, click the “report abuse” button below it.

Is marijuana legalization inevitable?

Marijuana Policy Project’s “New Beer” commercial. By Alexandra Le Tellier August 21, 2013, 7:15 a.m. The Marijuana Policy Project recently surprised NASCAR fans with an ad pushing recreational marijuana use. The commercial not only mimicked a beer ad to point out the hypocrisy of legalizing alcohol and not marijuana, it also made a case for why marijuana is safer. If youre an adult who enjoys a good beer, theres a similar product you might want to know about, says the narrator . One without all the calories and serious health problems. Less toxic so it doesnt cause hangovers or overdose deaths, and its not linked to violence or reckless behavior. The tagline: Marijuana, less harmful than alcohol and time to treat it that way. In Colorado and Washington state, of course, voters passed laws in November legalizing marijuana for recreational use at the state level. Colorado and Washington have now dispensed with the eye-winking and adopted laws that are refreshingly honest, the Los Angeles Times’ editorial board wrote . But since these are not federal laws, its not a marijuana free-for-all. Also On pot laws, respect the states In Tuesdays Column One article, Times reporter John M. Glionna introduced readers to bar owner Frankie Schnarr , “a rebel with a for-profit cause,” a seventh-grade education and entrepreneurial spirit. Thanks to his penchant for seeking out loopholes, he found a way to allow patrons to smoke pot on the second floor of his Frankie’s Sports Bar and Grill. Business is up 40% — and a lot of his customers aren’t even there for the booze. Still, Schnarrs bar, which seems like the Marijuana Policy Project commercial come-to-life, is an exception. At least for now. In Wednesdays Opinion pages, Peter Hakim and Cameron Combs discuss how Uruguays new marijuana law may inform changes to U.S. drug policy. It is expected soon to be the only nation to legalize the cultivation, sale and use of marijuana on a national scale, they write of the Latin American country. Uruguays courageous experiment, as Hakim and Combs describe it, isnt a sure thing. Its possible that it will backfire by, for instance, increasing marijuana use in the country.

Legalizing weed: the Uruguayan model

O’REILLY:In “Back of the Book” segment tonight, a permissive culture and American children. Last night, we reported on a pot festival in Seattle where underage kids were seen openly smoking marijuana in public and the cops did nothing about it. A few years ago, the late Judge Robert Bork wrote a book called “Slouching Toward Gomorrah” and predicted this kind of thing would happen and children would be adversely affected. Joining us now from Washington with some perspective, Charles Krauthammer. So, I think this culture that we have now in America is currently harming children. Am I wrong. CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR:Well, it’s clear that even — even in Washington State where they legalized marijuana, they thought it’s not a good idea for kids to smoke it. So, they actually have a law that says nobody under 21. They also think it’s not a good idea for it to be rampant in a way that sort of says anything goes. So, they have a law that says it shouldn’t be done in public. So, they even — even they, the most liberal state in the union on this, recognize there ought to be limits. The problem with what you showed last night is they have no intention of enforcing their laws. O’REILLY:That’s right. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KRAUTHAMMER:And if so, then why do you pass the limits in the first place. It’s an act of pure hypocrisy and sort of covering yourself. O’REILLY:I think it’s a fraud more than hypocrisy. I think it’s a fraud. Everyone in Seattle knows, — (END VIDEO CLIP) — including the police who have been given orders not to enforce the marijuana laws on any level, — so if you have a 9-year-old toking in the street, cops are going to go, “Oh,” you know, “be safe, sonny,” or something like this. But it’s a larger picture. Did you know that in Colorado, they’re going to put in marijuana vending machines. Did you know that. That’s coming in Colorado. KRAUTHAMMER:Well, I’d check them out the next time I’m in Denver. O’REILLY:OK, but we can be flippant about it. But you know what I’m saying, that once a child gets involved with intoxication, as a psychiatrist, you know this — (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) — and as a former teacher, I know this, once a child gets involved with intoxication of any kind, any kind, the childhood is over, their whole life changes, and not for the better. And this is what’s happening here in America. (END VIDEO CLIP) KRAUTHAMMER:Well, look, let me stipulate a couple of things.

Is legalizing marijuana dangerous?

The Uruguayan government offers specific proposals for how to manage a legal market for marijuana. The government supports the marijuana bill and says it was designed to resolve issues particular to Uruguay. But the model the bill proposes will undoubtedly be studied by other countries that grapple with the similar questions. Why Uruguay, why now? There is a contradiction in Uruguayan law, the secretary-general of the country’s National Committee on Drugs, said: Consumption of marijuana has been legal, but its production and sale are not. “We seek to eliminate that incongruence,” Julio Calzada told CNN. The other tenets of the marijuana bill are to treat the use of weed as a health issue and to make a distinction between dangerous drug traffickers and consumers. The same debates about marijuana that exist in the United States — about medicinal properties, recreational use, the impact on the justice system — have been happening in Uruguay for a long time, Calzada said. The decision to push legislation to overhaul its drug policies did not come overnight. “We have reflected on our problems,” Calzada said, and the government felt that Uruguay’s tradition of tolerance and equality merited action on the marijuana issue. President Jose Mujica’s Broad Front coalition has a majority in the Senate, making passage of the marijuana bill likely when the chamber considers it in October. Then, Mujica has said, he will sign it into law. However, the progress that the bill has made is at odds with what polls say is the will of the people. According to a CIFRA/Gonzalez, Raga and Associates poll in July, 63% of Uruguayan respondents said they disagreed with the bill. Only 26% said they approved. The poll, which surveyed more than 1,000 Uruguayans and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, is not much different from earlier polls published when the bill was proposed. “The government does not overlook the polls and public opinion,” Calzada said, but the government believes it is in the best interest of the country to go forward with the bill. It is not the executive branch, but the Congress that will pass the law, and voters will decide in the next elections whether to “punish” the ruling party for going against public sentiment, he said. The model The marijuana bill could be modified by the Senate, but as it is currently written, it provides several paths for the legal production and sale of marijuana, while increasing health education about the risks of drug abuse. In short, the proposed law states that the planting, cultivating, harvesting and selling of marijuana remain illegal but adds a long list of exceptions to that rule. Households may grow up to six plants and harvest a maximum of 480 grams of weed per year. Another avenue would be the creation of “membership clubs” made up of between 15 and 45 people, who can grow up to 99 marijuana plants. These growing operations must be licensed by the government, and the pot will be sold to the public through pharmacies, which also will be licensed to do so. Those who grow or sell marijuana outside of these government-licensed options will be subject to prosecution and could face prison terms of 20 months to 10 years. The bill calls for the creation of a new government body — the Institute of Regulation and Control of Cannabis — that would be in charge of the licensing and any sanctions for noncompliance. The institute would also oversee a registry of all marijuana buyers that would be designed to ensure that those who buy marijuana are at least 18 years old and residents of Uruguay. This requirement is also meant to deter cannabis tourism to the country. The bill also instructs the health system to provide educational programs about the risks of drug use at all levels of schooling. Any direct or indirect advertising for marijuana in any media would be prohibited.