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In Parting Shot, Bush's DEA Blocks FDA Research Route for Medical Marijuana

By Jag Davies, Drug Law Reform Project at 11:15am

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

In a devious 11th-hour move to undermine scientific freedom, the Bush administration dealt a serious blow this week to the effort to bring medical marijuana before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Way back in 2001, University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor Lyle Craker applied to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for a Schedule I license to cultivate research-grade marijuana for use by scientists in FDA-approved studies aimed at developing the drug as a legal, prescription medication. After years of DEA stonewalling, in February 2007 the DEA's Administrative Law Judge issued a decisive — but nonbinding — recommendation that Professor Craker's application be approved. Now, after taking its sweet time for 23 months, the DEA finally got around to issuing a formal rejection of the Judge's recommendation, less than two weeks before Bush leaves office.

Like abstinence-only education and research into global warming, DEA's decision to obstruct FDA-approved research is an inappropriate insertion of political ideology into science. Why is the federal government going to such lengths to stop Lyle Craker? Clearly, it realizes that if the FDA has the opportunity to evaluate medical marijuana based on science, not politics,it would likely approve it for medical use.

Oregon Voters Choose Lesser Evil of Two Misguided Criminal Justice Measures

By Jag Davies, Drug Law Reform Project at 6:28pm

While this decade has seen some states shift away from the counterproductive "lock-'em-up-and-throw-away-the-key" approach to nonviolent drug offenders, Oregon voters took a step backwards yesterday by approving Measure 57's mandates for…

Michigan: First Medical Marijuana State in the Midwest!

By Jag Davies, Drug Law Reform Project at 12:48am

With today’s victory for the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, Michigan voters have pulled off a major breakthrough for the medical marijuana movement.Michigan is the first state in the Midwest to approve it — and, with 10 million people, it’s…

Californians Can Save Money and Lives by Voting Yes on Prop 5

By Jag Davies, Drug Law Reform Project at 5:18pm

(Originally posted on Open Left.)

This Tuesday, California voters will decide the fate of Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offenders Rehabilitation Act (NORA). If it passes, NORA will shift California away from a criminal justice-oriented approach…

Cascade of Reports Condemn Drug Czar's Office

By Jag Davies, Drug Law Reform Project at 9:23am

With the Office of National Drug Control Policy's five-year reauthorization approaching in 2010, there's never been a better time to scrutinize the White House's "agency of accountability" in the nation's counterproductive drug war.

Without a doubt, the ONDCP needs new metrics for measuring the success of our nation's drug policy. Rather than measuring success based on slight fluctuations in drug use, the primary measure of ONDCP's effectiveness should be the reduction of drug-related harm. If ONDCP is reauthorized, it should be charged with reducing problems associated with drug use itself (overdose, addiction, disease transmission) and problems associated with drug prohibition (over-incarceration, collateral sanctions, loss of civil liberties, racial disparities in enforcement, prosecution and sentencing).

Even by ONDCP's own misguided measures of success, it's failing miserably. Several recent reports underscore ONDCP's breathtaking corruption, dysfunction and lack of accountability:

New Reports Offer Resources for Plugging the Prison Pipeline

By Jag Davies, Drug Law Reform Project at 12:56pm

(Originally posted on Daily Kos.)

In the 1980s and 90s, "tough-on-crime" legislators held enough sway to pass draconian sentencing schemes that exponentially increased the number of Americans behind bars — mostly by sentencing nonviolent drug offenders to lengthy terms once reserved only for violent criminals. However, despite an 1,100 percent increase of drug offenders in prisons and jails over the last 25 years, the use of illegal drugs has remained steady. (Not to mention that drug-related harm has increased dramatically, as overdose deaths more than tripled from 1990 to 2005.)

Today, the public's attitudes about drugs have shifted. In 1989, when a Gallup poll posed the question, "What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?" Twenty-six percent of respondents answered "Drugs; drug abuse." From 2004-2007, only 1 percent gave the same answer. Meanwhile, according to a Zogby poll released yesterday, 76 percent of Americans believe the "War on Drugs" is failing.

Encouraging Developments in the Struggle to Reform America’s Informant System

By Jag Davies, Drug Law Reform Project at 11:10am

Preliminary research indicates that up to 80 percent of all drug cases in America may be based on information provided by informants. Informants work for the government, often secretly, to gather and provide information or to testify in exchange for cash or leniency in punishment for their own crimes. In many courts across the nation, all it takes is the uncorroborated word of an informant to charge someone with a crime.

This week has featured a few encouraging developments for those of us advocating reforms in the ways law enforcement works with informants:

Federal Court Rules Against Bush Administration's Subversion of California's Medical Marijuana Laws

By Jag Davies, Drug Law Reform Project at 4:40pm

For the first time, a court has recognized that a concerted effort by the federal government to sabotage state medical marijuana laws violates the U.S. Constitution.

While California's landmark 1996 medical marijuana law has mostly been …

Officer Acquitted in Fatal Shooting of Unarmed Woman and Baby

By Jag Davies, Drug Law Reform Project at 5:18pm

Over the past generation, routine police work in the U.S. has become radically militarized in the name of the "War on Drugs." One frightening expression of this trend is the approximately 40,000 paramilitary-style SWAT raids that take…

Report Details Racially-Biased Enforcement of Drug Laws in Cuyahoga County, Ohio

By Jag Davies, Drug Law Reform Project at 12:14pm

Gradually, it is becoming common knowledge that even though a white American is just as likely to use or sell drugs, if you're African-American, you are many times more likely to be arrested and incarcerated for a drug law violation.

The…

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