Legalizing marijuana makes sense for a lot of reasons, but there's one
valuable thing we'll lose when police stop arresting people for
smoking pot: A sense of just how misleading our crime data are.
Data on arrests and reported crime play a big role in public policy
and law enforcement. Politicians employ them to gauge their success in
making neighborhoods and the entire country safe. Police departments
use them to determine where to deploy more officers to look for more
crime. They are fed into recidivism-risk algorithms, which help judges
and parole boards make decisions on sentencing and release.
[continues 638 words]
After the death of her father, a prominent hotel owner in Seattle,
Ella Henderson started taking morphine to ease her grief. She was 33
years old, educated and intelligent, and she frequented the upper
reaches of Seattle society. But her "thirst for morphine" soon
"dragged her down to the verge of debauchery," according to a
newspaper article in 1877 titled "A Beautiful Opium Eater." After
years of addiction, she died of an overdose.
In researching opium addiction in late-19th-century America, I've come
across countless stories like Henderson's. What is striking is how,
aside from some Victorian-era moralizing, they feel so familiar to a
21st-century reader: Henderson developed an addiction at a vulnerable
point in her life, found doctors who enabled it and then
self-destructed. She was just one of thousands of Americans who lost
their lives to addiction between the 1870s and the 1920s.
[continues 901 words]
The district attorneys in Manhattan and Brooklyn are weighing plans to
stop prosecuting the vast majority of people arrested on marijuana
charges, potentially curbing the consequences of a law that in New
York City is enforced most heavily against black and Hispanic people.
The Brooklyn district attorney's office, which in 2014 decided to stop
prosecuting many low-level marijuana cases, is considering expanding
its policy so that more people currently subject to arrest on
marijuana charges, including those who smoke outside without creating
a public nuisance, would not be prosecuted, one official familiar with
the discussions said.
[continues 1661 words]
If you've walked around New York City lately, there's a good chance
you've smelled weed. People smoke walking their dogs in the West
Village, and they smoke in apartment building lobbies in the South
Bronx. They smoke outside bars and restaurants and in the park.
White people largely don't get arrested for it. Black and Hispanic
people do, despite survey after survey saying people of most races
smoke at similar rates.
So after a senior police official recently testified to the City
Council that there was a simple justification - he said more people
call 911 and 311 to complain about marijuana smoke in black and
Hispanic neighborhoods - we decided to dig into the numbers the New
York Police Department gave lawmakers to support that claim.
[continues 689 words]
After years of halting steps, top prosecutors and elected officials in
New York City on Tuesday made a sudden dash toward ending many of the
marijuana arrests that for decades have entangled mostly black and
The plans, still unwritten and under negotiation, will rise or fall on
the type of conduct involving marijuana that officials decide should
still warrant arrest and prosecution. The changes appear likely to
create a patchwork of prosecution policies across the city's five
boroughs, and are unlikely to restrict police officers from stopping
and searching people on suspicion of possessing a drug that is now
legal in a number of states.
[continues 1001 words]
They sit in courtroom pews, almost all of them young black men,
waiting their turn before a New York City judge to face a charge that
no longer exists in some states: possessing marijuana. They tell of
smoking in a housing project hallway, or of being in a car with a
friend who was smoking, or of lighting up a Black & Mild cigar the
police mistake for a blunt.
There are many ways to be arrested on marijuana charges, but one pattern
has remained true through years of piecemeal policy changes in New York:
The primary targets are black and Hispanic people.
[continues 1833 words]
The New York Police Department has claimed that more black and Latino
people are arrested for petty marijuana offenses because complaints
are more voluminous in neighborhoods where black and Latino people
predominantly live. That excuse was blown apart this weekend by a
Times investigation showing that the complaints about marijuana use do
not fully account for the racial arrest gap - and that, when
complaints were held constant, "the police almost always made arrests
at a higher rate in the area with more black citizens."
[continues 533 words]
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a longtime opponent of legalizing recreational
marijuana, now says the federal government should not interfere in
California's legal marijuana market.
In comments to McClatchy Tuesday -- in the middle of a 2018 campaign
for her seat in a state that has settled into the legal pot market --
the California Democrat said she was open to considering federal
protection for state-legalized marijuana.
Feinstein's office said her views changed after meetings with
constituents, particularly those with young children who have
benefited from medical marijuana use.
[continues 968 words]
Some remain skeptical the proposed Cannabis Act (Bill C-45) will
achieve one of its primary objectives: protecting youth from
cannabis-related harms. Some feel the minimum age should be higher
than the minimum age for alcohol, worried that those under 25 seem
more vulnerable to dependence and health problems linked to long-term,
Critics of the proposed minimum age may be overlooking another primary
objective: displacing the black-market. Young adults aged 18 to 24
represent one third of the market. The act attempts to strike a
balance between keeping marijuana away from minors and cash away from
[continues 629 words]
Two very different things, both related to marijuana, happened in
Toronto last week. One mattered, and pointed to some of the challenges
still ahead with the legalization of marijuana later this year. The
other was the proverbial tempest in a teapot.
Allegations that workers were smoking pot on the job, forcing
Metrolinx to shut down work on a section of the $5.3-billion Crosstown
LRT project, was a serious matter.
But the uproar over the Toronto location for one of Ontario's first
government-run pot shops, which continued this week with comments from
Premier Kathleen Wynne, is way out of proportion.
[continues 541 words]
A week after telling two interviewers her support for legalizing
recreational use of marijuana in New York was revenue-based,
Democratic candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon said Wednesday that
it's now foremost a racial justice issue for her.
The "Sex and the City" star posted a 90-second video on YouTube in
which she stated that it's time New York joined eight other states and
the District of Columbia in legalizing recreational use of marijuana.
"There are a lot of good reasons for legalizing marijuana, but for me,
it comes down to this: we have to stop putting people of color in jail
for something that white people do with impunity," Nixon said.
[continues 466 words]
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Anne Armstrong, 58, knows exactly how many joints
she has smoked at Providence's Roger Williams National Memorial --
153, all rolled with "kosher" marijuana harvested in the backyard of
her West Greenwich home.
As "deaconess" to The Healing Church, a cannabis-centered Catholic
sect that boasts about a dozen members, Armstrong believes smoking in
the park is a religious obligation, the equivalent to a sip of wine at
Anointing members with hashish-infused oil and blowing a shofar so it
billows marijuana smoke are, likewise, ceremonial duties. (It should
be noted that Armstrong refuses to use the word marijuana, which she
calls racist slang. She prefers to refer to the plant as cannabis,
spice, or hemp.)
[continues 1313 words]
In just the first day of accepting preliminary applications, the
Cannabis Control Commission said 23 companies and entrepreneurs had
submitted requests for expedited licensing, and another 167 were in
the process after the agency launched its online licensing system Monday.
"Yesterday was a seminal day in the thus-far-brief history of the
commission," said Steve Hoffman, the agency's chairman. "There were
probably a large number of people that didn't think we'd be ready on
April 2 to start accepting applications," but the agency's regulations
were in place on time last month and its system worked smoothly, he
[continues 500 words]
On Monday at noon, decades of debate all come down to this: a click of
a computer mouse by a state technology contractor.
With that, the Massachusetts state government's system for legal pot
use will blink to life, and businesses can begin applying for licenses
to grow, process, and sell cannabis to adults 21 and older.
The behind-the-scenes milestone will not have an immediate impact on
consumers. But it does mark the beginning of a process that regulators
expect will lead to the debut of recreational pot sales in July.
[continues 658 words]
President Trump's proposal to invoke the death penalty for drug
traffickers is an idea that is, in the practical scheme of things,
unworkable. It is also probably unconstitutional and obviously
simplistic. It is a gimmick, not a policy.
We need a policy.
The president likes dramatic gestures for difficult problems - a ban
on all potential terrorists, a big wall next to Mexico, a 25-percent
tariff on steel. This is not an altogether bad instinct. We need
strong, decisive leaders and criminals need to fear punishment.
[continues 438 words]
WASHINGTON - President Trump's plan to use the death penalty on drug
dealers has all the hallmarks of his favorite policies: It could fit
on the front of a baseball cap. It is a proven applause line. It
appeals to a conservative base.
But, like so many of Trump's slogans-turned-policy, it's dredged from
a bygone era and lacks clear evidence showing it would be effective.
Using an obscure federal provision to bring capital cases against
dealers, the concept that Trump enthusiastically backed during a visit
to New Hampshire this week, fits within the framework of some of his
other cornerstone ideas: Build the wall, Launch trade wars, Arm
teachers. To some critics in the mainstream, though, the ideas are
impractical, imprecise, or just dangerous.
[continues 1074 words]
OAKLAND, Calif. - When officers burst into Rickey McCullough's
two-story home in Oakland a decade ago they noted a "strong fresh odor
of marijuana." Mr. McCullough had been growing large amounts of
marijuana illegally, the police said. He was arrested and spent a
month in jail.
A few weeks ago the city of Oakland, now promoting itself as a hub for
marijuana entrepreneurs, awarded Mr. McCullough, 33, a license to sell
marijuana and the prospect of interest-free loans.
Four hundred miles to the south, in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton,
Virgil Grant, 50, straddles the same two worlds, but with a different
outcome. He was a marijuana dealer in the 1990s whose customers are
said to have included rap stars like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac,
and he spent more than eight years in prison on marijuana convictions.
But his vision of starting a marijuana dispensary in his hometown was
dashed in January when the residents of Compton voted decisively to
ban marijuana businesses from city limits.
[continues 1415 words]
Philadelphia is evolving into a safe haven for cannabis consumers even
as arrests increase across Pennsylvania. Newly-elected District
Attorney Larry Krasner announced Thursday that he would drop any
marijuana possession cases brought to the court by police.
A 2014 decriminalization ordinance allowing tickets caused common weed
arrests to decline by more than 85 percent. Still, I reported last
year that hundreds of racially disparate cases were still being
brought to Philly courts each year for less than 30 grams of buds.
[continues 639 words]
Pot is hot for Maryland lawmakers in Annapolis this year.
The General Assembly is considering more than two dozen bills on
marijuana -- or cannabis, as the substance is called when used as a
For marijuana enthusiasts, full legalization for recreational purposes
is at the top of the wish list. Bills in both the House and the Senate
would put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to let
voters decide whether to replace prohibition with a system of
regulated sales and taxation.
[continues 767 words]
Protesters carrying signs saying "Injustice is fatal!" laid dozens of
white carnations next to a coffin on the steps of Montreal City Hall
Tuesday, each representing a life lost to a drugoverdose.
A coalition of community groups, crisis workers, activists and drug
users held a demonstration demanding the government repeal drug laws
that marginalize drug users.
They also held a moment of silence - joining several vigils held
simultaneously across Canada. The opioid crisis claimed nearly 3,000
lives in 2016, and the estimated death toll last year is pegged at
[continues 426 words]