Dying in jail for possession of weed…

Can you imagine getting a death sentence for possession of weed? Well that is exactly what happened to a young man from Washington State named Michael Saffioti (22), who was arrested for possession of cannabis. He missed a court date, and like a good citizen, turned himself into the authorities. He died in police custody  less than 24 hours later because the jailers refused to believe that he was having a severe reaction to the oatmeal he was served. This young man lost his life because of our draconian laws on weed and because of a prison industrial complex that is evil and overwhelmed. This is a tragedy that could have been avoided, and simply never should have happened.

But these tragedies happen all of the time. It is disgusting. People get arrested for weed everyday and get shoved into a prison system that is built for violent offenders and crimes of moral turpitude. Yet we allow our friends and neighbors to be railroaded into this dangerous system for something as benign and trivial as weed. Why?

Our society is collapsing from these policies and we have become numb to the issue. But this kid in Snohomish County, WA is not just another criminal who got what he deserved. He is a kid that smoked marijuana because it made him feel better. He did not deserve to be put in a cage for his use of marijuana. Here is what his mother said about the tragedy from a story on Toke of the Town:

“Ultimately, he found and thought he was better functioning using marijuana,” said his mother, Rose Saffioti, who is a nurse.

But Michael didn’t have a doctor’s recommendation to use cannabis medicinally, which left him vulnerable to prosecution. His marijuana use led to several encounters with law enforcement. After the most recent incident, he and his mother went to the police station, carrying his medical history, after he had missed a court date.

“I wanted Michael held accountable for his legal issues and I insisted on it,” his mother said. “But I didn’t want him to die.”

Michael started having trouble breathing after eating the oatmeal that was served to him in jail. According to other inmates, he begged for help.

The guards accused him of faking it, and allowed him to die in horrible pain. The autopsy found his allergic reaction to milk products contributed to his death.

“I know there’s a period where he knew he was going to die,” his mother said. “And he trusted me. Everything was supposed to bet set up, that he’d be taken care of.”

“He was scared,” she said, reports The Associated Press. “I said, ‘You are doing the right thing. They are going to take care of you.’ He said, ‘I have a bad feeling that they are not going to take me seriously.’ ”

“You can’t get help. You can’t call 911,” said Anne Bremner, an attorney representing the Saffioti family. “You’re at their complete mercy. When the jail’s the one that gives you something that’s going to kill you — that they know is going to kill you — they, at a minimum, have to rescue you. And they didn’t.”

Nothing she can say will bring back her son. As a father of two kids I cannot even imagine the lost and angry feelings that must be overcoming this family. It is unacceptable and a clear sign that this war on our own citizens MUST STOP.

This is the challenge for all of the parents who oppose cannabis legalization based on the idea that they do not want their precious children smoking weed. The fact is that weed is more available to kids as an illegal substance. When they get it easily and are caught with it, your precious child becomes a criminal at the mercy of a corrupt and vile system that profits off putting them in a cage with other dangerous criminals. If you want to save your kids then vote yes to legalize weed and raise them to make better choices if you think weed is such a bad thing. But do not vote to continue the mass incarceration of our own people. Do not allow for the prison industrial complex swallow up your babies because they like weed.

We are better than this as a society. People need to be outraged. We can no longer afford, financially or morally, to put good people in cages for weed. it is not working. My heart goes out to these folks, and all of the folks who have lost their loved ones to this insane policy of imprisoning people for safe, enjoyable, and helpful plants.

Voting FOR weed…

The 2012 election season is upon us full force, and it is a very exciting time for weed. Legalized adult use weed is on the ballot in THREE states (CO, OR, WA), and medical cannabis initiatives made the ballot in TWO states (MA, AR), for a total of 5 major weed elections happening in 10% of our nation’s states. That is awesome!

But as with any election, there is bound to be controversy, disagreement, and ill-will within the cannabis movement, as well as from external forces. There will always be a group that opposes a certain law for one reason or another, and sometimes there is even good reason for dissension. But you, as a weedhead voter, need to make the best decision for you, your family, and the world we live in. You must make the actual vote for or against weed at the ballot box. When all of the hype and spin are done, at the end of the day, it is just you and your ballot who will ultimately decide the election.

It is a Presidential Election year, so we all have a big decision to make concerning who will be the leader of the nation moving forward. Unfortunately, we are stuck with some poor choices for President where weed is concerned. Both Republican and Democratic candidates have made public statements against legalizing weed. In the current state of politics in America this is not a big surprise, as it is suicide for a candidate to promote drug use and the legalization of said drug use. Obama’s Justice Department has disappointed many in the cannabis community with his crackdown on cannabis providers, and understandably so.

Yet, Mitt Romney has also made very strong statements opposing cannabis legalization, even when trying to claim that he is for state’s rights. Dude is just a liar and actually does NOT believe in state’s rights on this issue, or many other issues, such as abortion and gay marriage, where he fully supports federal interference. When you got a guy who will say anything to get elected, it is not surprising to see Romney try to muddy the waters by sending out contradicting messages. Here is Romney’s “official” statement on weed:

“Governor Romney has a long record of opposing the use of marijuana for any reason,” a spokesperson said. “He opposes legalizing drugs, including marijuana for medicinal purposes. He will fully enforce the nation’s drug laws, and he will oppose any attempts at legalization.”

Now Obama’s statements are not much better, but he has said, “I think this is an entirely legitimate topic for debate, [but] I am not in favor of legalization.” Not much more comforting, but if we ever do have this entirely legitimate debate, we will win because truth, justice, and the failure of this nation’s drug policies are on our side. Does anyone really think a sitting President (the first black president at that) would come out and openly be for legalization in his first term? I hear a lot of activists condemn Obama for not taking a more open stance in favor of cannabis, but really…Did anyone really believe he would be a cheerleader for our cause the day after he was elected?

For those who continue to heavily criticize his administration for the crackdown, many also forget that it was the Ogden memo that allowed for a VAST expansion of medical cannabis programs. The entire Colorado regulatory system NEVER would have taken place without the Ogden memo. Washington never would have expanded, especially Seattle. Rhode Island, New Jersey, Arizona, Maine, and even Connecticut’s programs benefited greatly by the Ogden memo’s seemingly hands off approach.

And of course our movement takes ZERO responsibility for acting irresponsibly after the Ogden memo, and forcing the hands of the Justice Department to do something. In California, I can tell you that many in the cannabis game failed to act responsibly, and for a minute there in 2010 you could have sworn weed was completely legal here in Cali. Every newspaper and rag across the state had unprofessional and poor taste advertisements for this dispensary or that weed product, complete with half-naked chicks. Our movement, in classic fashion, decided to take the inch we were given and made sure it was pushed well beyond the mile marker. That is not an excuse for the administration’s actions; but it is necessary for us to do some soul searching and maybe look at areas where our industry failed to self-police and where things may have gotten out of control.

So when left with the choice of these two major party candidates, who is the best choice? I believe it is Obama by a longshot. Mitt Romney would be a disaster, not just for weed, but for the entire society and world. Obama has plenty of issues, but I still think a brother from Hawaii who used to run with the Choom gang is a much better possibility for finding a path to weed freedom than the bought and paid for Romney.

There are also third-party candidates, such as the Libertarian Party’s Gary Johnson and the Green party’s Jill Stein. Both have made clear statements for legalizing cannabis and both would be great choices for progressives like myself; but the reality is they just WILL NOT WIN. In California, where I live, Obama will likely win by a landslide, so I can choose to make a more calculated vote for a third-party and not risk that my vote could elect Romney. In a closer swing state that is a tougher choice to make. Do you take a vote from Obama in protest, even if it could mean Romney is elected? That is a tough choice weedhead voters will have to make.

Voters in Colorado, Oregon and Washington have BIG choices to make on election day. These voters will have the opportunity to vote for legalizing cannabis for adult use. These are all big elections for cannabis, as they have consequences either way.

If these initiatives pass, we make a clear statement that the time has come to change course on weed in this country. If they fail, it can embolden the opposition who can then say, “See. The people have spoken and they do not want weed legalized.”

Nothing would be more devastating to me than seeing the headlines the day after the election saying “Weed Rejected By Voters.” I went through this disappointment in 2010 with Prop. 19 here in California. It is hard to wake up and realize that over half of your state thinks we should keep taking people to jail for weed.

The Prop. 19 effort was hampered by infighting and external forces also helped defeat it. California conveniently passed decriminalization of up to an ounce as an infraction, and the Feds came out and made big statements about how they would “vigorously enforce the CSA if 19 passed.” The ultimate result was a narrow defeat at the ballot box.

I think two years later many voters in California wish they had their vote back. I know many in the cannabis movement who opposed it for one reason or another who now believe they made a mistake based on bad information. California is a tough nut to crack. Our state is 6x more populated than Colorado and Washington, and nearly 10x as large as Oregon; and while the state votes heavily democratic, there are still a lot of conservative principles in play here. Just look at Prop. 8.

I have heard activists herald Colorado as “more advanced” or “way ahead” of California because it looks like they will pass legalization. First, I would hesitate for people to get too far ahead of themselves on that. The election will be close, and as we saw in CA, there is no shortage of dirty tricks that can happen between now and the election. Secondly, the folks running the campaigns in Colorado, Oregon and Washington have all benefited greatly from California’s Prop. 19 experience.

All three of these campaigns have used those experiences to advance their cause and avoid some issues. So before people go getting down on California for not making the ballot again and getting a legalization measure passed, understand that none of the efforts in other states would be on the ballot without Richard Lee laying the groundwork in 2010 here in California. That effort changed the national dialogue and paved the way for the efforts we see now.

The people who fund these campaigns made a calculated decision that it was much less expensive to run campaigns in smaller, yet still progressive states, than to try and tackle the beast that is California. If one, or all, of the legalization efforts pass this fall I would expect Cali to be next on the list, more likely sooner than later.

But more so, I expect to see the national understanding of weed shift and I expect that next year we will see a much more robust call for legalization, even than we are seeing now. It is only a matter of time before it is no longer viable for lawmakers and law enforcement to continue this charade. They are already exploring the exit strategies. If two or three states have legalized cannabis for adult use it will only be a matter of time before more follow suit, and eventually the Feds have to decide if they can do all of the cannabis enforcement in these states. This is exactly how alcohol prohibition ended.

So for me, these efforts are a no-brainier. I VOTE YES FOR WEED.

For the most part, Colorado and Oregon’s laws (Amendment 65 and Measure 80) have little contention from within the community There are some who oppose them based strictly on fear of what will happen if they pass. Many people who have invested into operating medical cannabis businesses have created a myth that if these efforts pass there will be armageddon and the Feds will unleash the hounds on the entire industry. It is an absurd notion really, and not based in reality.

In Washington State, activists have a bit of a tougher choice on their hands. the law there has been dubbed “the worst pro-cannabis law ever written.” It only allows for up to an ounce of possession of weed, turns over sales of weed to state run stores, does not allow for personal cultivation, and includes a terrible DUI provision that could set a precedent for how our entire nation treats cannabis and driving. Many activists there are outraged at this initiative, and rightfully so. It is like the authors went so far overboard to appease some perceived threat because they felt that Prop. 19 was won or lost on the DUI issue (absurd). So they wrote a terrible law, and now voters are left to decide what to do.

 

Even in Washington, on a terrible law, I would VOTE YES FOR WEED. Why? Because in the bigger picture of things, I firmly believe that the rejection of legalization at the ballot box is far more damaging to the psyche and understanding of where our community is on weed than the passing of a bad DUI law. I see the breaking down of a MAJOR barrier, being prohibition, as more significant than the creation of the world’s stupidest DUI barrier. I also believe that the DUI provision will be found unconstitutional if challenged. Only time will tell, and I could be terribly wrong about that. But I would vote yes on I-502…even with great reservation.

I am a weed activist. making weed legal is very important to me. If there is a vote of mine that can advance the cause of cannabis freedom believe I am going to vote for it. I am not a one issue voter by any means. I understand it is a big world. But I am also not foolish enough to vote no on a legalization effort because it is not exactly what I would like to see in a law. I know that it is hard to make votes on things that you may not support whole-heartedly and 100%, especially when it is an issue near and dear to your heart. It is natural to desire perfection and wish that the law allowed for more freedom than it may. But we cannot always throw the baby out with the bathwater and hope that a more perfect opportunity will arise.

You can look here to Cali for the answer. All of the big talking blowhards that said “Vote No on 19. We will pass a better one in 2012” were lying. None of them had the resources to make it happen and here we are voting on zip, zilch, and nada; while at the same time our medical industry is under attack because it is perceived there is too much recreational use in the system.

So do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. I say vote FOR weed. The good news is that you are a grown-ass adult and can make your own decision when you walk in that booth. Just make sure when you make that decision you ask yourself, “Is this decision good for weed and the people who like weed?” Good luck out there….

Phone Bank for Weed Freedom! Do your part to make history….

Here is a great way you can be part of the solution, no matter where you live. Help call voters inb Colorado to pass Amendment 64. Your voice, as a weed activist, can go a long way to assuring people that they are supported in their vote to legalize weed for adults to use. They need to hear from other rational human beings why it is time to end the disastrous policies of prohibition and vote for a more sensible solution. 

Below is a letter from the Amendment 64 campaign manager that tells about the volunteer effort. If you have the time and energy, and if you love weed and want to see it returned to being a safe, enjoyable and helpful resource for adults to have access to then do your part to make this happen.

 

 

Dear Weed Activist,

You can help legalize marijuana in Colorado no matter where you live, from the comfort of your own computer.

Just Say Now and the Amendment 64 campaign need your help contacting voters in Colorado to support marijuana legalization on Election Day. We’re organizing activists to call voters on weeknights and weekend afternoons over the next 2 weeks.

Can you sign up to call voters in Colorado sometime over the next two weeks? We’ll send you an email reminder 30 minutes before you’re supposed to start calling.

RSVP to make calls this week Oct. 2-7
RSVP to make calls next week Oct. 9-14

–OR–

Start making calls right now!

Sorry, I can’t make calls – but I can chip in $5+ to help get out the vote.

Note that all call times are Mountain Time. Just Say Now will have staff on-hand and available during these times in case you run into any trouble or have questions.

Calling voters could not be any easier with our online phone banking tool: just login using Facebook, Twitter or your e-mail address and begin calling voters right away.

Even if you don’t live in Colorado, calling voters in support of Amendment 64 is a great way to get involved in reforming our nation’s marijuana laws. The more people we have calling voters, the better chance we have of success on Election Day.

Thank you in advance for your support.

In solidarity,

Brian Sonenstein
Campaign Director,
Just Say Now