The war on drugs is responsible for keeping America's prisons full of black and brown people. For a visual explainer, check out this incredible infographic from the ACLU:

In 2003, former U.S. Navy Corpsman Jeremy Usher returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, only to suffer from flashbacks of combat and a variety of mental health issues, including nightmares and insomnia, panic attacks, and depression. Thanks to medical marijuana, he is doing better, but is now facing jail time for choosing a medication the federal government refuses to legitimize. 

A combat medic, Usher was on the back of a helicopter sent to rescue wounded marines when he was shot in the head, causing brain damage and memory loss and leaving him with a stutter. When he walked out of a treatment at a San Diego  hospital, he was still not well, and according to the Greeley Tribune, "suffered form extreme paranoia as he wandered San Diego, constantly spinning around while walking to make sure no one was sneaking up on him." 

According to the the Greeley Tribune, Usher then began self-medicating with alcohol, marking the beginnings of his criminal record. He is currently serving probation in Colorado -- where pot is now legal for adults -- for his second and third DUIs.  Usher says he is cleaning up in his act in counseling and school, but is facing jail time for violating probation by treating his PTSD with medical marijuana nonetheless. For failing dozens of drug tests, he could do 29 days in jail. 

Usher told the Greeley Tribune he feels like he is "being punished for being a little different" and "not understanding why." His doctors have written letters to the court explaining that medical marijuana and Marinol pills have helped treat his PTSD, and they recommend he stay on it. Nonetheless, America's draconian drug policy is now threatening to send a traumatized veteran to jail, where he worries his progress could begin to reverse

Surely, living without medication in jail,  where the environment is often unpredictable and violent, is not beneficial to a PTSD sufferer's mental health. Moreover, if Usher is abstaining from drinking and using medical marijuana to treat the PTSD that caused his self-medication and run-ins with the law in the first place, identifying the public safety threat that might justify his incarceration is difficult, to say the least. 

Usher maintains hope that he will be allowed to continue his medication, but also wants to prevent the same consequences for other veterans. 

"I want to raise enough awareness so that this doesn't happen to guys coming out of there," Jeremy told the Greeley Tribune

"I'm never going to be free of the flashes of the memories; I'm stuck with those for life. What I'm able to do is manage those in an appropriate manner, without just going out and cracking open a bottle."

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor today released a statement condemning a federal prosecutor's blatant use of racism to secure a conviction in a 2011 drug case. The Court did not grant the convicted man in question an appeal, but Sotomayor nonetheless remarked that Assistant US Attorney Sam L. Pozner's use of race as an implication of guilt was unacceptable.

When Pozner made the prejudiced remark, at issue was whether the defendant was unaware of his buddies' drug exchange. Pozner said that because Black and Latino people were involved, he MUST HAVE known drugs were, too:

You've got African-Americans, you've got Hispanics, you've got a bag full of money. Does that tell you–a light bulb doesn't go off in your head and say, This is a drug deal?

If prosecutors using race as evidence of deviant behavior does not set a light bulb off in your head about the role racism plays in the criminal justice system, I don't know what will. Sotomayor had this to say about the racist bit of evidence:

By suggesting that race should play a role in establishing a defendant’s criminal intent, the prosecutor here tapped a deep and sorry vein of racial prejudice that has run through the history of criminal justice in our Nation. There was a time when appeals to race were not uncommon, when a prosecutor might direct a jury to “‘consider the fact that Mary Sue Rowe is a young white woman and that this defendant is a black man for the purpose of determining his intent at the time he entered Mrs. Rowe’s  home,’”... or assure a jury that “'I am well enough acquainted with this class of niggers to know that they have got it in for the [white] race in their heart,'" ...  The prosecutor’s comment here was surely less extreme.  But it too was pernicious in its attempt to substitute racial stereotype for evidence, and racial prejudice for reason.

...

It is deeply disappointing to see a representative of the United States resort to this base tactic more than a decade into the 21st century. Such conduct diminishes the dignity of our criminal justice system and undermines respect for the rule of law. We expect the Government to seek justice, not to fan the flames of fear and prejudice.  In discharging the duties of his office in this case, the Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Texas missed the mark. 

Also troubling are the Government’s actions on appeal. Before the Fifth Circuit, the Government failed to recognize the wrongfulness of the prosecutor’s question, instead calling it only “impolitic” and arguing that “even assuming the question crossed the line,” it did not prejudice the outcome. 
Read more about it here

Seattle news station KIRO-TV has taken on the controversy surrounding Washington state’s marijuana-specific Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) provision by putting stoned drivers to the test, literally. The station's unconventional experiment found that, while higher doses of pot led to clear signs of impairment behind the wheel, stoned drivers did not show significant impairment at even five times the legal 5ng/ml of blood limit.

In the clip posted below, three “light to heavy” marijuana users incrementally smoke nearly a gram of “blueberry trainwreck” before taking the wheel with a driving school instructor at a training course set up by the Thurston County Sheriff’s Office. A drug recognition expert watched for signs of intoxication.  

After the first dose of .3 grams of pot each put the three volunteers far beyond the DUID standard, they all drove without much criticism from neither the driving instructor nor the cop. Dylan, a thirty-four-year-old who uses marijuana on the weekends, did “fine” at five times the legal limit. And Jeff, a fifty--six-year-old occasional marijuana smoker who represented the 'light' end of the pot-smoking spectrum was “cautious” and while driving slow enough to potentially catch the eye of law enforcement, was still driving “at acceptable levels,” said KIRO-TV. “He did real well,” driving instructor Mike Jackson remarked. Twenty-seven-year-old “heavy” marijuana user Addy, who showed up stoned at three times the legal limit, was giving the course a test-run before the experiment began when she made a sharp turn at a stop sign, clipping one of KIRO-TV’s cameras. The driving instructor said she was doing fine nonetheless. After consuming the .3 grams that put her at seven times the legal limit (36.7 ng of marijuana), Addy drove slower, but struck a traffic cone.  Still, the driving instructor said he “wouldn’t pull her off the road.”

Two smoke sessions and nearly a gram of pot each later, however, another driving test showed some issues sprouting up. Dylan basically forgot how to complete the course, and after asking “What is this cone in the middle?” turned early and left the track. Later, the driving instructor had to grab the wheel to stop him from swinging wide and hittiing a photographer at twenty miles per hour. This time, the drug cop said Dylan's driving was suspicious enough he would’ve stopped him.  Jeff drove so slowly he should not have been on the road, according to both the cop and his own analysis. He also backed out over a cone. Super-stoner Addy, however, made no major mistakes during this run, with the cop remarking that her driving skills were “border line” in determining whether he would stop her. She smoked one more time, bringing her total intake to 1.4 grams. This time, Addy said she was “Way more stoned” and “definitely shouldn’t be driving.” She backed up right over a cone, and all agreed she was too high to drive this time.

A twelve-step DUID evaluation found that after smoking .9 grams of pot each, all three would have been arrested for driving under the influence. Jeff could not even find his nose with his fingertip. Nonetheless, this 'experiment' provides some interesting insight into how high is too high to drive, and whether the law on the books is too strict a standard for even the occasional stoner. 

Iowa woman Rhonda McGee is facing drug charges that could lead to twenty-five years in prison for allegedly participating in meth amphetamine tracking by purchasing more over-the-counter medicine than the state considers necessary. Records indicate that McGee, who says she and her husband are chronic allergy sufferers, did not purchase more medicine than the 26-month interval in question would allow. Nonetheless, legal documents charge that she "unlawfully and willfully conspire with one or more persons to manufacture, deliver or possess with intent to deliver ... a mixture or substance containing a detectable amount of methamphetamine.” McGee has no documented history of drug use or criminal behavior. Aside from a 2004 conviction for trespassing, her record is clean. 

From the Des Moines Register:

This case began when members of the southeast drug task force obtained a warrant to search the state’s database of pseudoephedrine purchases for those suspected of “smurfing” for the cold and allergy drugs in the area.

Smurfers use power in numbers, taking turns buying meth’s key ingredients, while prepping for a planned cook.

McGee said that last fall, task force investigator Mark Milligan called her and asked her to come over to Ottumwa to explain her purchase of 32 allergy-drug packages since late 2010 — all but a couple at the Walgreens in Ottumwa.

She said she tried to explain that she has severe allergies, especially when she is out in the fields, and that she was in the habit of picking up some Wal-phed when she made the more than hourlong road trip to Ottumwa from Lovilia and back.

She said she got the medicine mostly for herself. But sometimes it was used by her husband, who also has allergies. Or sometimes she wrapped it in hot dogs to give to her dogs. Without it, she said, her border collie, now deceased, would bite at allergy “hot spots” like crazy.

During part of the time in question, McGee told Milligan, she was taking more medicine than normal because she and her husband had black mold growing in their old farmhouse. They have since had part of their home gutted and remodeled to get rid of the problem.

According to the Des Moines Register, court records charge that McGee puchased more than 90 grams of the cold and allergy medicine, but reports from the psueophedrine database many states have enacted show that McGee purchased 32 packages --  about 46 grams -- of pseudoephedrine over a period of more than two years.  Legally, the Register says she could have purchased more than twice that over the 26-month period in question. Iowa caps pseudoephedrine purchases at 7 grams per moth, but the Register does not make clear if the charges against her stem from violations during particular 30-day periods. 

As stunning as it may be, the case against McGee is reflective of nationwide policies monitoring pseudoephedrine-based medicines like Sudafed. As I recently reported, the war on meth amphetamine has been more successful in punishing cold sufferers than it has in combatting drug traficking. While meth manufacturers evolve and wisen up, unsuspecting Americans are caught up in a policy authorities say is supposed to protect them. 

White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, who said this November America is "in the midst of a serious national conversationa about marijuana," told Canada's MacLean Magazine that the Obama Administration could step it up when it comes to adressing pot policy. 

Asked if the U.S. is headed toward a state-by-state 'patchwork' of weed policies, he said:

 I think a patchwork of policies would create real difficulties. We still have federal law that places marijuana as being illegal. The administration has not done a particularly good job of, one, talking about marijuana as a public health issue, and number two, talking about what can be done and where we should be headed on our drug policy.

Still, that doesn't mean he thinks marijuana policy is a particularly important issue. He also said:

I don’t look at marijuana as a human right, or a civil right, or even in the same venue as gay marriage. This is a public health issue. There are significant health concerns around marijuana from all the science, not ideology. I don’t see the legalization of drugs and making them widely available as a good thing, and I don’t think locking everyone up is a good thing either.

 Of course, unregulated marijuana is already widely available, but his rhetoric becomes especially troubling when he advocates for some kind of marijuana policy middle-ground. If weed is illegal, people will still be arrested for it. And if Kerlikowske truly believes marijuana to be a public health issue, removing it from the criminal justice system would be a step in the right direction. Moreover, to focus on science instead of ideology, one might open the door to marijuana research, which the drug's Schedule I's classification makes incredibly difficult to legally conduct. 

Read the full interview here

According to local news reports, Michigan’s Goodrich-New School District is considering random drug-tests for students, despite high costs that would add burden to the already struggling district.

"I'd like to test as many students as possible in the districts whether it's tied to obtaining a parking pass, athletes or extra-curricular activities," Goodrich-New School Board President David Cramer said at a recent school board meeting, "I want the idea to get out there and the community to start thinking about it. I have been on the board for four drug-related expulsions, in addition to more suspensions then we'd like to have."

Interestingly, Cramer’s call for student drug-tests is linked to the tide of reform surrounding marijuana policy.

"Students today see medical marijuana in the community and even legalization (of marijuana) in some states," Cramer said. "I'm thinking some students are viewing it as accepted—it's not."

While Cramer’s call for more drug-testing is clearly reactionary, Nathan Hagerman, a 17-year-old student school board representative and National Honor Society member, has a more sensible outlook.

"I've been here for four years and know just about every one of my classmates and I have no idea that anyone was expelled for drugs. Also, the district just laid off two custodians and say they don't have the money to continue block scheduling, yet now money just appears to spend on drug testing. The school administration should not be acting like parents. Let the parents take their kids for drug tests if they are so concerned,” he said at the school board meeting.

"To catch a few students, others will pay and suffer," Hagerman said. "This is ridiculous. We're not in the work world yet—we're in after school programs. That's just not the same."

According to the Clarkstown News, an Athletics Director (AD) at a Michigan school district that became one of the first to start drug-testing student athletes after a 2003 legal decision agrees more with the sensible student than the School Board President:

Larry Lamphere served as Lapeer Community Schools athletics director from 1991-96 and AD in the Brandon School District from 1996 to 2006. For the past four years he as been AD in the Clio School District.

"The school board has not funded the drug testing for athletes in about four years here in Clio," said Lamphere.

"The cost is very high about $4,000 per year for the random tests. It's my experience the (drug) tests are not a deterrent for students. They (students) are willing to gamble on getting caught—many do that every Friday and Saturday night. If you're looking to stop the drug problems, spend the money on education, unless every student is tested. The random selection of students does not become a deterrent. Only one test per season for athletics and done at random, kids will take that chance. In most places of employment where it's random, there is no test unless there's a problem."

Moreover, doesn't forcing allegedly troubled, marijuana-using youths out of extra-curricular activities that may keep them engaged in school seem a little bit counter-intuitive? 

This  St. Louis pastor is so God-fearing that she refused to tip her Applebee's waitress the 18% her bill required because she only 'gives God 10%'. As if stiffing a server who makes less than minimum wage (because they rely on, you know, TIPS) isn't rude enough, she actually had the nerve to demand that, because her server rightfully shamed her ass by posting the receipt on the internet, the entire Applebee's waitstaff be fired. Applebee's refused to take it that far, but did fire the employee who posted the receipt on Reddit. Why!? Honestly, I spent enough time handing pizza slices to ungrateful karate moms (and sushi rolls to the brilliant brats over at Columbia University), that I have learned failing to tip for adequate service is pretty much robbery.

Here's how I see the situation:

If you expect someone to fill up your drink, replace the American cheese on your sandwich with cheddar, and then clean up all the food that missed your fat mouth, YOU PAY THEM. And if you don't pay them, YOU are the asshole, not the server who acknowledged your foul.

So when waitress-robbing, bible-thumping Bell is like, “My heart is really broken,” and “I’ve brought embarrassment to my church and ministry," I just get angrier at her for feeling bad for herself. Like Chelsea Welch, the server Bell stiffed and then succeeded in having fired told the Smoking Gun, “I’ve been stiffed on tips before, but this is the first time I’ve seen the Big Man used as reasoning." Sorry I'm not sorry this time the asshole is a pastor with legions of supersticious Missourians to send to Heaven. If you write something that ignorant on a receipt, you deserve to be laughed at (HAHA you suck!!) and endlessly mocked. 

Not only should this waitress still have her job, but she should be paid the 18% Pastor Bell stiffed her -- and then some. Applebee's, as a chain of restaurants dependent on servers to move their spinach and artichoke dip from the kitchen to the dining room, should get that. And instead of firing their waitress, Applebee's should join the rest of the world in shitting all over this lady.  Too many people think it's OK not to tip or do other incredibly obnoxious things to their restaurant servers (creepy touching/come-ons, placing blame on the server instead of the cook, asking too many questions about the menu, and on and on). Respect the people feeding you!! Remember, they can spit in your food if they feel like it. 

Basically, working in the restaurant industry is often Hell on Earth, and the last thing my brothers and sisters waiting tables need is some indignant pastor on a crusade to make it THAT much worse. Servers bring you your stuff; then, before you get up from your table and toss your napkin on the ground, you give them at least 20%. Not feeling like it, being broke, or thinking that servers get paid too much (EYE ROLL ,EYE ROLL) is not an excuse. If you don't tip, don't go out to eat. That's a wrap. 

This St. Louis pastor is so God-fearing that he refused to tip his Applebee's waitress the 18% his receipt required because he only gives God 10%. As if stiffing a server who makes less than minimum wage (because they rely on, you know, TIPS) isn't demonic enough, this guy actually had the nerve to demand that, because she rightfully shamed his ass by posting his so-funny-it's-not-funny receipt on the internet, the entire Applebee's staff be fired. Applebee's, who must also secretly worship satan, refused to fire and re-hire their entire staff, but did let go the employee who posted the receipt. Why!? Honestly, I spent enough time handing pizza slices to ungrateful karate moms (and sushi rolls to the brilliant brats over at Columbia University), that I have learned failing to tip for adequate service is pretty much robbery.

Here's how I see the situation:

If you expect someone to fill up your drink, replace the American cheese on your sandwich with cheddar, and then clean up after all the food that missed your fat mouth, YOU PAY THEM. And if you don't pay them, YOU are the asshole, not the server who acknowledged your foul. Sorry I'm not sorry this time the asshole is a pastor with legions of supersticious Missourians to send to Heaven. If you write something that ignorant on a receipt, you deserve to be laughed at (HAHA you suck!!) and endlessly mocked. 

Not only shoudl this waitress still have her job, but she should be paid that 18% Pastor __ stiffed her -- and then some. Applebee's, as a chain of restaurants dependent on servers to move their spinach and artichoke dip from the kitchen to the dining room, should get that. And instead of firing their waitress, they should join the rest of the world in shitting all over this guy.  Too many people think it's OK not to tip, or do other incredibly obnoxious things to their restaurant servers (creepy touching/come-ons, placing blame on the server instead of the cook, asking too many questions about the menu, and on and on). Respect the people feeding you!! Remember, they can spit in your food if they feel like it. 

Basically, working in the restaurant industry is often Hell on Earth, and the last thing my brothers and sisters waiting tables need is some indignant pastor on a crusade to make it THAT much worse. Servers bring you your stuff; then,  before you get up from your table and toss your napkin on the ground, you give them at least 20%. Not feeling like it, having enough money, or thinking that servers get paid too much (EYE ROLL ,EYE ROLL) is not an excuse. If you don't tip, don't go out to eat, bros. That's a wrap. 

The motionpicture Fruitvale, a story based on the life and death of police brutality victim Oscar Grant, took the top prizes at this year's Sundance Film Festival. The film sheds light on Grant's twenty-two years of life before a transit officer fatally shot him in Oakland in 2009, and is the first to win both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award since 2009.  

“The project was about humanity, about human beings and how to treat each other; how we treat the people we love the most, and how we treat the people that we don't know,"  Fruitvale's writer and director, first-time filmmaker Ryan Coogler, said in his acceptance speech.  

From Anaheim, California to New York City, police brutality has been the subject of growing concern across the nation, and it looks like Fruitvale will do justice to the movement calling for freedom from police-led harassment and violence. As Fox Searchlight executive Tom Rothman put it,  Fruitvale is “For anyone out there who thinks for one second that movies don't matter and can't make a difference in the world."