Over 200 Drug Policy, Harm Reduction, Health Care, and Community Groups Call on Biden Administration to Prioritize Public Health Solutions to Curb Overdose Crisis and Dismantle Drug War

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA:  Over 200 drug policy, harm reduction, health care, and community based organizations from across the country today sent a letter to Rahul Gupta, Team Lead for the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) on President-Elect Biden’s Transition Team. The letter urges the Biden administration to implement proven, bold solutions to curb the overdose crisis and begin dismantling the drug war. Led by People’s ActionVOCAL-NY, the Drug Policy Alliance, and National Harm Reduction Coalition, the letter also makes clear the disproportionate consequences the drug war and overdose crisis have on Black, Brown, and low-income communities, which have contributed to the U.S. leading the world in mass incarceration and preventable overdose deaths.

“Like the President-elect, we too have watched the nation stigmatize our loved ones for substance use, and, instead of judging, we unconditionally love and support them. And, like the President-elect, we too have experienced the insurmountable grief brought on by the loss of family members,” the groups wrote. “It is our strong hope and belief that ending the drug war that has inflicted incredible harm in communities across this nation, and centering evidence-based solutions to address the overdose crisis, could be a great catalyst for a national transformation.”

In the letter, the groups outline immediate and longer-term policy recommendations based on to combat the overdose crisis and begin dismantling the drug war, such as:

  • Ground the ONDCP in evidence-based drug policies backed by science and public health approaches;
  • Commit the ONDCP to dismantling the drug war, advancing a national drug budget that prioritizes harm reduction, treatment and recovery and looks beyond enforcement and supply side strategies that only perpetuate mass incarceration, systemic racism and the failed drug war;
  • Include in FY22 budgets and future COVID relief packages dedicated funds to sustain harm reduction providers including syringe service programs;
  • Direct the Department of Justice (DOJ) to withdraw litigation challenging the operation of overdose prevention centers (OPCs), refrain from filing new lawsuits against or from prosecuting organizations that operate OPCs, and work with Congress to revise federal laws to permit the operation of OPCs;
  • Permanently extend the SAMHSA/DEA COVID-19 accommodations for methadone and buprenorphine access (the gold standard for opioid use disorder treatment); and
  • Support policies that would eliminate requirements that inhibit practitioners to easily prescribe medication for opioid use disorder, prohibit state Medicaid programs from requiring prior authorization for medication-assisted treatment, and include people directly impacted by the crisis to help decide where resources would be best targeted locally.

The full text of the letter, which includes the 212 organizations that signed on, may be found here.

125 Groups Urge Congressional Action On The MORE Act

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Drug Policy Alliance, and 123 other national and state organizations today called on House Leadership to swiftly advance the bipartisan Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (H.R. 3884) to the House floor when Congress returns in September. The MORE Act, the most comprehensive marijuana justice legislation to be considered in Congress, is needed now more than ever to alleviate economic hardship caused by COVID-19 and meet the calls for justice reform echoing all across America.

“In November 2019, the House Judiciary Committee made history when it advanced the MORE Act, becoming the first congressional body to vote favorably for a marijuana de-scheduling bill. Since that time, the circumstances of 2020 have made the failed War on Drugs even more untenable and amplified the voices of those demanding transformation in our criminal legal system. In the face of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and a growing national dialogue on unjust law enforcement practices, marijuana reform as a modest first step at chipping away at the War on Drugs is more relevant and more pressing than ever before. The MORE Act remains the most effective and equitable way forward,” the groups said in the letter.

The MORE Act, a sweeping marijuana measure that addresses criminal justice reform, racial justice, and equity, would:

  • Remove marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 drugs under the Controlled Substances Act, thus decriminalizing the substance at the federal level and enabling states to set their own policy, expanding research opportunities, and broadening access to medical marijuana to underserved populations such as veterans.
  • Emphasize reparative justice, establishing social equity programs that acknowledge those who have been most impacted under criminalization by building community infrastructure and diversifying the regulated marijuana marketplace.
  • Provide for the expungement and re-sentencing of marijuana offenses.
  • Prevent the government from denying an individual federal benefits, student financial aid, or security clearances needed to obtain government jobs because of marijuana use.
  • Protect non-citizens from immigration consequences due to marijuana activity, including non-citizens working in state-legal marijuana marketplaces.

The MORE Act is supported by the Marijuana Justice Coalition as well 125 national and state organizations.

The signatories and letter are available here.

Elected Officials And Industry Leaders To Speak At NYC Cannabis Parade & Rally This Saturday, May 5

In its 47th year, the Event starts in Midtown and marches to Union Square Park for an afternoon rally

NEW YORK:  New York’s longest running annual pro-cannabis event, the NYC Cannabis Parade and Rally, returns for its 47th year this Saturday, May 5.  A powerful slate of elected officials, including two state legislators and three City Council Members, will be speaking from stages in Midtown and Union Square Park throughout the day. The elected officials are:

  • NY State Senator Jesse Hamilton (State Senate District 20, Brooklyn/Queens)
  • NY Assembly Member Richard Gottfried (State Assembly District 75, Manhattan)
  • NYC Council Member Rafael F. Espinal (City Council District 37, Brooklyn)
  • NYC Council Member Jumaane Williams (City Council District 45, Brooklyn) and a candidate for New York State Lieutenant Governor
  • NYC Council Member Donovan Richards (City Council District 31, Queens)
RESIST PROHIBITION, REALIZE, LEGALIZE NYC Cannabis Parade & Rally is Saturday, May 5th

RESIST PROHIBITION, REALIZE, LEGALIZE NYC Cannabis Parade & Rally is Saturday, May 5th

The Event begins at 11 am with a pro-legalization speak-out at the assembly point at W. 31 St. and Broadway. State Sen. Hamilton and Council Member Williams will be among the speakers at W. 31 St. At 12:30 pm, the parade marches down Broadway to Union Square Park, where speakers and musicians will engage and entertain the crowd from 1-5 pm.

Additional speakers include:

  • Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels who is now using medical marijuana to treat Crohn’s disease
  • Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU)
  • Joy Beckerman, President, Hemp Industry Association (HIA)
  • Joel Giambra, Former County Executive of Erie County and candidate for Governor
  • Yasmin Hurston, President, New York Minority Alliance
  • Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate for Governor
  • Tanya Osborne, NYC/Bronx Market Leader, Women Grow
  • Leo Bridgewater, President, NY/NJ chapters, Minorities for Medical Marijuana
  • Cristina Buccola, Esq., member, New York Cannabis Bar Association
  • Justin Strekal, Political Director, National NORML
  • Shira Adler, Author, The ABCs of CBD

The performers are: 

  • Immortal Technique
  • Chief Rocker Busy Bee
  • Lord Digga da Highsman
  • Real One
  • Lunar Tourists
  • Ismael Levi

• King Ras Pedro

  • Comedian Rob Cantrell

Check out the full lineup of speakers and performers here. 

The Event’s emcees are the Cannabis Cultural Association’s Jake Plowden, Nelson Guerrero, Amanda Reyes and Joseph A. Bondy.

The NYC Cannabis Parade & Rally’s Coalition Partners are: Drug Policy Alliance, Women Grow NYC, Empire State NORML, High NY, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, CannaGather, Hemp Industry Association, Patients Out of Time, Marijuana Business Association, New York Minority Alliance and the Green Party of New York State.

The Event sponsors are: Dutch company Sensi Seeds; Etain Health, one of New York’s registered medical cannabis providers with dispensaries in Manhattan (142 E. 39 St.), Yonkers and Kingston; Curved Papers; and Flower Power Coffee Co.

STATEMENTS FROM EVENT SPEAKERS AND PERFORMERS

NY State Senator Jesse Hamilton:

“Nine states and the District of Columbia have decided to legalize and regulate marijuana. By joining these states, New York would allow law enforcement to prioritize real public protection needs. Alongside broken windows policing, our outdated marijuana laws direct police resources, court time and the justice system’s authority at people who are not violent, not dangerous and do not pose a threat to the public. We must continue to work towards the day that New York rejects the deeply flawed policies of the past, embraces sensible reform and passes the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.”

NY State Assembly Member Richard Gottfried:

“We need to move beyond the outdated and broken marijuana prohibition model to a sensible tax-and-regulate system. But that’s only part of the solution. Even in states with legal adult marijuana use, there is still evidence of unequal law enforcement practices targeting minority communities. We must ensure that those most victimized by the criminalization of marijuana benefit from the social and political progress around the issue, including reforming criminal justice processes and ensuring widespread participation in the marijuana business boom.” 

NYC Council Member Jumaane Williams:

“We must expand out medical marijuana program to include all those who can benefit from its use,” adds Council Member Williams. “We also should rapidly move towards the full legalization of marijuana, expunge state criminal records of past users and create a pathway for all New Yorkers to benefit economically from this industry, not just a select few chosen by the Governor.” 

NYC Council Member Donovan Richards:

“It’s a weird time when New York City finds itself to the right of former House Speaker John Boehner, but unfortunately that is where we are with about 17,000 marijuana arrests in 2017. We must stop the practice of flooding our prisons with marijuana offenders and disproportionally impacting communities of color now. Marijuana is not a threat to our public safety and our youth cannot wait any longer as a one minor mistake can stick with them for the rest of their life”

Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU):

“I have no doubt that recreational marijuana will soon be legal in New York – as it should be. The criminalization of marijuana has resulted in racial and social injustice because of its disparate enforcement, and has denied its use as another tool in the war against opioid abuse. And we need to make sure that when it is legalized that workers in the industry are treated with dignity and respect, and have a union voice. The sooner marijuana is legalized the better.”

Immortal Technique:

“For the entirety of my musical career I have been a huge proponent of the decriminalization of marijuana. Since I was a young man I began to research and learn about hemp and cannabis, and especially about it’s connection to the prison industrial complex. It’s for this reason that I have continued to support the movement. The idea of transformative justice is not just to correct the laws that are on the books treating weed smokers like murderers, it’s also the need, the inescapable necessity, to deal with the convictions that have sent thousands to prison and burdened them with criminal records. I will continue to fight not only to decriminalize it, but also to battle for transformative justice because without it, all the recent change in marijuana laws become meaningless.”


ABOUT THE NYC CANNABIS PARADE & RALLY

The Event was founded by the Yippies (Youth International Party) in 1971. It has served as the flagship for the multi-decade mass movement for cannabis legalization and has taken place in various locations around the city over the years, including Washington Square Park, Battery Park and Dag Hammarskjold Plaza. The Event moved to Union Square Park in 2012. The mission of the Event is to promote marijuana legalization federally and specifically in the New York Metro area, end discriminatory arrest practices and the mass incarceration of citizens and improve the state’s overly restricted medical cannabis program. The NYC Cannabis Parade & Rally is the founding chapter of the Global Marijuana March, which takes place in hundreds of cities in the U.S. and around the world in May and June. For more information: cannabisparade.org

 

NYC Cannabis Parade & Rally Is May 5th

The 47th Annual Parade starts in Midtown and marches to Union Square Park for an afternoon rally

NEW YORK: New York’s longest running annual pro-cannabis event, established by The Youth International Party (Yippies) in 1971, the NYC Cannabis Parade and Rally, returns for its 47th year on May 5.   A powerful roster of elected officials, including two state legislators and three City Council Members, will be speaking from stages in Midtown and Union Square Park throughout the day.

They include:

• Assembly Member Richard Gottfried (State Assembly District 75, Manhattan)

• State Senator Jesse Hamilton (State Senate District 20, Brooklyn/Queens)

• Council Member Rafael F. Espinal (City Council District 37, Brooklyn)

• Council Member Donovan Richards (City Council District 31, Queens

• Council Member Jumaane Williams (City Council District 45, Brooklyn) and a candidate for New York State Lieutenant Governor

NYC Cannabis Parade is May 5

NYC Cannabis Parade is May 5

The Event begins at 11 am with a pro-legalization speak-out at the assembly point at W. 31 St. and Broadway where State Sen. Jesse Hamilton and Council Member Williams will be among the speakers. At 12:30 pm, the parade marches down Broadway to Union Square Park, with speakers and music starting at 1 pm in the park and continuing until 5 pm.

“Nine states and the District of Columbia have decided to legalize and regulate marijuana,” says Senator Hamilton. “By joining these states, New York would allow law enforcement to prioritize real public protection needs. Alongside broken windows policing, our outdated marijuana laws direct police resources, court time and the justice system’s authority at people who are not violent, not dangerous and do not pose a threat to the public. We must continue to work towards the day that New York rejects the deeply flawed policies of the past, embraces sensible reform and passes the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act.”

The Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act is currently being considered by the New York State legislature.  “We must expand out medical marijuana program to include all those who can benefit from its use,” adds Council Member Williams. “We also should rapidly move towards the full legalization of marijuana, expunge state criminal records of past users and create a pathway for all New Yorkers to benefit economically from this industry, not just a select few chosen by the Governor.”

Additional speakers and performers include: 

• Stuart Appelbaum, President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Workers (RWDSU)

• Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate for Governor

• Joel Giambra, Former County Executive of Erie County and candidate for Governor

• Immortal Technique

• Chief Rocker Busy Bee

• Lord Digga da Highsman

• Real One

• Davey Fresh

• Ismael Levi

• Comedian Rob Cantrell

Check out the full lineup of speakers and performers here.

The Event’s emcees are the Cannabis Cultural Association’s Jake Plowden, Nelson Guerrero, Amanda Reyes and Joseph A. Bondy.  The NYC Cannabis Parade & Rally’s Coalition Partners include Drug Policy Alliance, Women Grow NYC, Empire State NORML, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Hemp Industry Association, Patients Out of Time, Marijuana Business Association and the Green Party of New York State.  The Event sponsors are the Dutch company Sensi Seeds, and Etain Health, one of New York’s medical cannabis providers with dispensaries in Manhattan (142 E. 39 St.), Yonkers and Kingston.

Historical Cannabis Discussion to Take Place at CWCBExpo in Los Angeles

“Failure Is Not An Option,” to Feature Top Drug Policy Reformists Discussing Upcoming Legalization of Adult Use of Marijuana in California.

CALIFORNIA: California, the most populous state and 6th biggest economy in the world, is poised to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana in the upcoming November elections.  The Cannabis World Congress & Business Exposition, CWCBExpo, September 7 -9, 2016 will have an unprecedented thought-leadership panel, “Failure is Not An Option,” that will focus on the upcoming Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) Prop 64 and how its passage will affect the recreational cannabis market in California and the country at large.

Taking place Friday, September 9th, “Failure is Not an Option will feature for the first time on a panel, NORML, Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), ReformCA, and ACLU.  The panelists include: Paul Armentano, Deputy Director, NORML; Lynne Lyman, California State Director, Drug Policy Alliance; Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, Director of Criminal Justice and Drug Policy, ACLU of California; Dale Sky Jones, Executive Chancellor, Oaksterdam University and Chairwoman, Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform/ReformCA.

Moderated by Steve Bloom, Editor-in-Chief of Freedom Leaf and Publisher of CelebStoner.com, this high-level panel will also provide an opportunity for attendees to learn and ask questions to some of the driving forces behind this upcoming legislation.  “California is already the biggest medical marijuana market, and the legalization of recreational use will transform the industry and create incredible opportunities for all types of businesses and services,” said Christine Ianuzzi, Show Director & Managing Partner, CWCBExpo LA. “Attendees in LA will walk away with the right knowledge and connections to navigate this thriving new business frontier that has tremendous growth opportunities.”

Other sessions in the Legislation & Advisory track being presented at CWCBExpo LA that delve into this top of mind legalization and its impact will be  “Policy Reform and the Cannabis Industry;” “West Coast Regulatory Update;” and “The End of Prohibition: The Shift to Legalization and Regulatory.”

The Legislation & Advocacy track is part of the comprehensive educational program being offered at CWCBExpo that also includes tracks on: Starting & Running a Cannabis Business; Science & Technology; Legal & Finance; and Industry Trends & Innovations.

CWCBExpo LA will also continue its leadership position on the important discussion of “CTE, Concussions and CBD” and feature former all-star NFL and NHL players.  All-day Add-On Workshops will take place on September 7th, with the Conference Program and Exhibits taking place September 8th and 9th.  A bonus day has been added on Saturday, September 10th with another Add-on Workshop and California’s largest industry Career Fair, hosted by Vangst Talent.

 

Marijuana Arrests On Rise In Va., Blacks Arrested Three Times More Than Whites

VIRGINIA: While the trend in much of the United States is moving toward decriminalization or legalization of marijuana, Virginia is heading in the opposite direction: sharply rising arrest totals for possession of pot, and a disproportionate number of black people arrested in the commonwealth, according to a new study based on state data reported to the FBI.

Though marijuana arrests dropped 6.5 percent nationwide between 2003 and 2014, possession arrests in Virginia increased by 76 percent in the same period, according to research by the Drug Policy Alliance in New York. And arrests of black people in Virginia for marijuana increased by 106 percent from 2003 to 2013, accounting for 47 percent of the state’s arrests though Virginia’s population is only 20 percent black.

The statistics were compiled by Jon Gettman, a public policy professor at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., and follow his national marijuana arrest analysis for the American Civil Liberties Union in 2013. That study showed that black people were 3.7 times more likely to be arrested than whites for marijuana nationwide, and that 88 percent of the country’s arrests were for marijuana possession.

Marijuana Advocates Portray Portland Pot Smokers At Their Most Wholesome

OREGON:  You run a TV station in Topeka and you want to illustrate a story about people who smoke marijuana.  How do you find some good footage on deadline?

The Drug Policy Alliance, which helped finance marijuana legalization campaigns in Oregon and Washington, would like you to use of its new background videos of pot smokers in Portland.

And we’re not talking about Keep-Portland-Weird stoners, either.  Think average-looking folks lighting up with friends over a board game. Or a couple cozying up on a couch with a pot-fueled vape pen.

 

Dr. Carl Hart: Why You Should Teach Your Kids How To Get High

CALIFORNIA:  Last week, Dr. Carl Hart, world-renowned neuroscientist and Associate Professor of Psychology at Columbia University—and the first African American to be tenured in the sciences at the school, participated in a townhall phone conversation with the The Drug Policy Alliance, the nation’s most influential organization working to end the war on drugs and its resulting mass incarceration and criminalization. It was the latest in a series of calls designed to increase public understanding about the myths about drugs that drove the explosion of laws and sentencing schemes that cemented the United States as the world’s largest incarcerator.

Hart’s textbook, Drugs, Society, and Human Behavior, is widely used, and his award-winning, best-selling memoir, High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society, was broadly acclaimed by members of the science community. Regularly featured in the New York Times, on CNN and other outlets, Dr. Hart has been called to testify before Congress, and consult with presidents.

Below is an edited transcript of Dr. Hart’s conversation with journalist/activist asha bandele and participating callers from across the country on the concerns parents have about drugs and the laws that prosecute those who use them.

Let’s Legalize And Tax Marijuana To Help Pay For Michigan Roads, Schools, Police

MICHIGAN:  It’s no secret that Michigan has a problem finding enough money to invest in critical priorities like roads, education and public safety. The costs of providing a good education to our kids, fixing our roads and providing even basic services to residents continue to climb.

Taxpayers have made it clear in the voting booth that they are skeptical about forking over more of their hard-earned money until they know the Legislature has asked corporations to pay their fair share and looked to alternative options to generate significant revenue. What we need are consistent, permanent revenue solutions that don’t simply raise taxes on middle-class, working families.

That’s why I cosponsored and attended a recent discussion at the Grand Rapids Community Media Center’s Peter Wege Auditorium, featuring Ethan Nadelmann and Maj. Neill Franklin. Nadelmann, founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, is a leading proponent of drug policy reform, while Maj. Franklin, the executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and a 23-year veteran of the Maryland State Police, wants to see ineffective and dangerous drug policy reconsidered.

Report: Racial Disparities In Arrests Persist With Legal Marijuana

COLORADO:  The legalization of marijuana in Colorado hasn’t solved the racial disparities in enforcement that drug-policy reformers had hoped to end, with blacks still far more likely than whites to be charged with pot-related crimes, a new report says.

The report, issued Wednesday by the pro-legalization Drug Policy Alliance, showed that marijuana arrests in Colorado all but stopped after voters made the drug legal in small amounts for those 21 and older.

But the report noted continuing racial disparities involving the marijuana crimes that remain, including public use and possession in excess of the one-ounce limit.

The study examined drug arrests in all 64 Colorado counties for two years before and two years after legalization in 2012.