DRUG WAR BRIEFS: Drug Czar Calls for Legalization Debate

This week, Seattle voters pass Initiative 75, encouraging police and prosecutors to make marijuana possession their lowest enforcement priority; Drug Czar John Walters, visiting Seattle prior to the vote, weighs in against the Initiative and calls for a national debate on marijuana legalization -- an unprecedented suggestion from a drug czar in 66 years of marijuana prohibition; and the Boston Freedom Rally draws 45,000 people calling for marijuana law reform.

September 17 -- Reuters reports: Seattle's citizens have told local police and prosecutors they should make marijuana use the least of their worries and instead provide better protection of homes, streets and neighborhoods.

More than 58 percent of voters endorsed a bill on Tuesday night that explicitly requires authorities to "make cases involving marijuana offenses," in which the marijuana was intended for adult personal use, the city's lowest law enforcement priority." The measure also establishes an 11-member Marijuana Policy Review Panel to oversee arrests and report on the impact of the initiative.

The new law, called Initiative 75, was aimed at making easier for adults to possess marijuana in small quantities without having to fear that they'll be sent to prison for years for smoking pot. The initiative was endorsed by the League of Women Voters of Seattle, King County Democrats and the Washington state arm of the American Civil Liberties Union.

September 17 -- The Seattle Weekly reports an unprecedented stance -- that Drug Czar John Walters calls for a national debate on marijuana legalization: Every so often, you can see a new rip, however small, in the American cultural fabric, a subtle sign that what was once presumed to be a settled issue is now up for grabs. Last week there was a moment at a drug treatment center in Rainier Valley that was one of those times. That’s when John Walters, the White House “drug czar,” came to Seattle backed by a platoon of bodyguards and unwittingly admitted that the feds 60 Years War on marijuana didn’t have the grip on the American public that it once did.

Walters decried general drug use (heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine), and then he got down to the real reason for his trip: to inveigh against Seattle’s I-75, which was before voters Tuesday, September 16.
Deep in his remarks about I-75, Walters made an admission you wouldn’t have heard from federal drug enforcement officials even during the Clinton administration.

“The real issue is should we legalize marijuana,” Walters said. “Let’s have a debate about that.”

Asked what form the debate would take and how the White House would kick start the process, Walters, usually a polished, intelligent advocate for his position, went into duck-and-cover mode. He blamed marijuana advocates and their financial backers like billionaire George Soros, who supported last year’s failed legalization initiative in Nevada, for stifling debate and for preventing clear information from reaching the American public. He also accused them of risking youngsters’ lives in the deal. Walters had nothing to say about the estimated 700,000 Americans sitting in state and federal prisons on marijuana charges or about the more than 700,000 Americans arrested each year because of pot, each of whose lives and well-being is at risk for partaking of a substance that millions in this country (and a country to the north) have accepted as not being the Demon Weed the feds claim it to be.

All the same, what Walters said was an admission pot advocates found amazing. “That is fascinating to hear from the man who on every occasion refuses to debate us,” said Bruce Mirken, spokesperson for the Marijuana Policy Project, who added that his group, partially funded by billionaire Peter Lewis, has offered before to square off with the czar. “He flat-out
refuses. I’ll debate John Walters anytime he wants.”

September 21 -- The Boston Globe reports: There may have been a haze in the air, but organizers of the annual Freedom Rally on the Boston Common clearly saw their goal, to decriminalize marijuana and allow medicinal use.

As the smell of pot mixed with incense, and the band onstage competed with numerous bongo players and guitar strummers, organizers from the Massachusetts Cannabis Reform Coalition spoke of their confidence that marijuana will be decriminalized in the state. They cited the non-binding results of votes last November in 20 districts where citizens, by an average of 2-to-1, instructed their state representatives to decriminalize pot. No bills have made it out of committee, but that has not discouraged MassCann president Bill Downing .

"We expect very soon to see Massachusetts decriminalize marijuana," Downing said. "It will probably have to be done through the initiative process, because legislators are reluctant to pursue it unless they are forced to do so."

About 45,000 attended the festival, Boston police said. At least 45 arrests were made on drug-related charges, police said.

Send tips and comments to Kevin Nelson drugwarbriefs@yahoo.com.


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