Rulings Favor Freedom


April 9 -- The San Francisco Chronicle reports: A federal appeals court was openly skeptical yesterday about the federal government's attempt to punish California doctors who recommend marijuana to their patients.

"Why is the federal government getting into this?" asked Judge Alex Kozinski, historically the most conservative of the three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals panel. "Why on earth does an administration that's committed to the concept of federalism ... want to go to this length to put doctors in jail for doing something that's perfectly legal under state law?"

April 9 -- USA Today reports: In a First Amendment case that could have national implications, the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that a Denver bookstore does not have to give sales records to police seeking information in a drug investigation.

The 6 --0 decision Monday overturns a lower court ruling that the Tattered Cover Book Store had to comply with a warrant seeking records on the sale of books about making illicit drugs.

The court said the authorities' need for the information was not "sufficiently compelling to outweigh" the likely harm to state and federal constitutional protections.

April 9 -- The Ithaca Journal reports: Facing 60 days in jail, a former county sheriff decided Tuesday to withdraw his guilty plea and face a jury trial on charges he stole $4,000 from a drug task force fund. If convicted by a jury, former Cayuga County Sheriff Peter Pinckney could face up to seven years in state prison.

Pinckney pleaded guilty Jan. 17 to third-degree grand larceny, defrauding the government and first-degree offering a false instrument for filing. But defense attorney James McGraw warned that Pinckney would renege on the plea deal if it appeared he would have to serve even one day behind bars.

According to state prosecutors, Pinckney
misappropriated money from a task force drug fund on four occasions during a nearly three-year period, ordered subordinates to assist him in the process and then took steps to cover up his wrongdoing.

April 10 -- Buffalo News reports: Yale University will become the fourth college in the country to reimburse students who lose federal financial aid because of convictions for drug possession.

Yale joins Hampshire College and Swarthmore College in adopting such a policy in response to the federal "Drug-Free Student Aid" law. Western Washington University gives a scholarship of $750 to those who lose aid.

Yale will not reimburse students convicted of drug offenses other than possession, the Hartford Courant reported Tuesday.

April 11 -- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports: Wisconsin led the nation in the rate of incarceration for black offenders, according to a federal report released Wednesday.

The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics report also found that the incarceration rate for blacks in Wisconsin is more than 10 times what is it for whites.

Wisconsin paced the 50 states with 4,058 black prison and jail inmates per 100,000 black residents as of mid-2001, the report says. Iowa was second, with 3,302 for every 100,000 black residents, and in Texas there were 3,287 black inmates for every 100,000 black residents.

Nationally, the study found that black incarceration rates were six times higher than those for whites.

April 12 -- The Toronto Sun reports: A recent report has Ontario's indoor marijuana industry as the third largest agricultural sector in the province, a $1 billion industry surpassed ( barely ) by dairy's $1.3 billion and beef cattle's $1.2 billion. Add to that the multi-millions being harvested from outdoor crops and marijuana cultivation in this province moves into No. 1 spot on the hit list.

The difference, of course, is that marijuana is an illegal product and the government, in turn, cannot reap any taxes from what is being sowed.

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