Phillip S. Smith

Federal Appeals Court Just Says No to Florida Welfare Drug Test Law

Florida Governor Rick Scott's (R) drug testing crusade hit yet another roadblock Wednesday as a federal appeals court upheld a lower court's ruling that his plan to make welfare applicants submit to mandatory, suspicionless drug tests was unconstitutional.

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Number of Imprisoned in America Dropped for 2nd Year in a Row, But There Are Still 330,000 Locked Up for Drugs

The number of people in prison in America declined last year for the second year in a row, according to a new report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. The number of prisoners at the end of 2011 dropped to just under 1.6 million, a 0.9% decrease over the previous year.

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New Jersey Medical Marijuana Patient with Multiple Sclerosis Sent to Prison for Five Year Sentence

 A New Jersey man convicted of marijuana manufacture after he grew 17 plants in his backyard to use to treat his multiple sclerosis was ordered to prison to begin serving a five-year sentence this August even as he appeals his conviction to the state Supreme Court.

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Plan Merida Focus to Shift to Border Region

 US officials said this week in El Paso that the Merida Initiative to help Mexico strengthen its security forces and judicial system in their ongoing battle with criminal drug trafficking organizations -- the so-called cartels -- will shift its focus to Mexico's border states. Other officials defended the "Fast and Furious" Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) gun-running scheme that resulted in weapons from the US being transferred to cartel members.

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NJ Governor Gives Okay to Medical Marijuana Program

 New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) announced Tuesday that he will allow the Garden State's medical marijuana program to go into effect, despite vague threats by federal prosecutors that state workers involved in implementing the program could face prosecution. Christie's decision should bring an end to nearly 18 months of delayed implementation of the program, which was signed into law by his predecessor, Gov. Jon Corzine (D).

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Obama Admin Memo on Medical Marijuana Stirs Dismay and Anger

The medical marijuana movement is reeling after the Obama Justice Department released a memo last week declaring that it might prosecute large-scale medical marijuana cultivation operations and dispensaries even in states where they are operating in compliance with state laws. Advocates reacted with dismay and disappointment, even as they plotted strategies about what to do next.

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Federal Crack Prisoners Will Get Sentence Cuts

 Thousands of inmates imprisoned on federal crack cocaine charges will be able to seek sentence reductions and early release after the US Sentencing Commission voted unanimously Thursday to make changes in federal sentencing guidelines for crack offenders it had approved earlier this year retroactive. About 85% of those crack prisoners are black.

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Drug Test Protestors Send Urine Sample to Florida Governor

A new political action group formed to protest Florida Gov. Rick Scott's (R) new drug testing policy for state employees is sending a jar full of urine to Tallahassee to save state officials the bother of traveling south to the Florida Keys.

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Is This the Year America Wakes Up to Its Prison Disaster? Why Conservatives Are Finally Jumping on the Bandwagon

Struggling with chronic budget crises, lawmakers in more and more states are embracing sentencing and other reforms in a bid to hold down corrections costs. But while sentencing reform has long been the domain of "bleeding heart" liberals, now conservatives are driving those efforts in some states.

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