Idaho authorities bust a dozen head shops

While neighboring states Washington and likely Oregon will be deciding whether marijuana should be legal for all adults, my birth state of Idaho is still trying to put people in cages for selling pieces of glass.

District of Idaho U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said she was not sure how much Spice was seized from shops that sell tobacco and smoking paraphernalia in Boise, Kuna, and Nampa Thursday but did say additional state or federal drug charges are possible against the 16 people indicted on paraphernalia charges.

Olson said the Boise-area “headshops” were selling drug paraphernalia to drug users and traffickers under the guise of tobacco products, which allowed a federal grand jury to return the felony charges of conspiracy to sell, offer for sale and transport drug paraphernalia; offering drug paraphernalia for sale; and sale of drug paraphernalia. Those crime are punishable by up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Olson said at least nine of the 13 shops were openly selling Spice, and several of those stores sold the synthetic marijuana to undercover officers.

Idaho has some of the toughest statutes in the nation regarding paraphernalia and simple pot smoking.  Merely being in a place where people smoke pot is a misdemeanor worth 3 months in jail.  If you are found to be stoned in public, you can get 6 months in jail.  Being caught with a pot pipe (with no pot) can get you a year in prison.  If you’re caught with some pot, there’s another year in prison.  If you do any of this around a child, the crimes rise to a felony with 5 years in prison.  Selling pipes, bongs, grinders, and kief boxes in Idaho is a felony worthy of nine years in prison and a $30,000 fine.

But what happens if you don’t smoke pot and instead impregnate your underage girlfriend and then abuse your infant so severely it dies at the age of three months from blunt force trauma?

RUPERT • The father of an infant who died in 2008 from multiple injuries was sentenced Monday to serve 3 1/2 years in prison for felony injury to a child.

Three-month-old Nivea Lopez died Dec. 19, 2008, in a Pocatello hospital after receiving injuries that included skull fractures and healed rib fractures.

Monday’s sentence will run concurrent with a two- to 10-year prison term Lopez received for violating his probation on a rape conviction, stemming from the statutory nature of his relationship with Martinez.

Got that?  Beat your baby to death = 3.5 years.  Smoke pot around your baby = 5 years.  Sell someone a bong = 9 years.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom… but I hope you understand why I don’t visit often.

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Ottawa Mum on Cost to Provinces as Crime Bill Clears House

Madeleine Meilleur, Ontario's Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, said the legislation will require "significant" new spending for which the province has not budgeted. (Photo by Ryan Pfeiffer)Madeleine Meilleur, Ontario’s Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, said the legislation will require “significant” new spending for which the province has not budgeted. (Photo by Ryan Pfeiffer)The federal government has left Canada’s provinces and territories in the dark about the cost of the omnibus crime bill even as the legislation heads to the Senate for approval.

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Draconian Crime Bill Passed By Conservative Majority in House of Commons

CANNABIS CULTURE – Severe crime legislation that includes mandatory prison sentences for minor marijuana offences was passed by the Conservative-controlled House of Commons yesterday. Bill C-10 now heads to the Senate for approval before it can become Canadian law.

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Omnibus Crime Bill up for Final Vote by MPs

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson touted the government’s omnibus crime bill Monday morning, which is scheduled for a final vote in the House of Commons later in the day.

CLICK HERE for ways to HELP STOP BILL C-10

He held a news conference in Ottawa to express his support for the proposed legislation and encouraged all MPs to vote in favour of it.

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On Eve of Crime Bill Vote, Experts and Groups Join Call for a New Path for Canadian Justice

As MPs ready to vote on the Omnibus Crime Bill, Bill C-10, a growing group of organizations and experts are joining over 30,000 Canadians to call for their MPs to stop Bill C-10, and create a Citizen’s Assembly for Canadian Justice.

SIGN THE PETITION

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While We Remember, Let’s End Another War, the War on Drugs

Today [November 11] we remember those who have been lost in war, and give thanks to those who served our country to protect our way of life. We do this to honour their sacrifice and bravery and not to glorify war. The loudest cries denouncing the horror, the waste and the stupidity of war have always come from the veterans themselves.

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Targeting Mrs. B

The federal government claims that its omnibus crime law, and particularly the mandatory sentences imposed on drug crimes, will target serious organized criminals. This is hogwash; the law will create all manner of injustices. Here’s one example.

In mid-September I represented a 67-year-old grandmother of four in a B.C. Provincial Court sentencing hearing. My client, call her Mrs. B, had pled guilty to producing marijuana for her own personal medical consumption. Mrs. B suffers from arthritis and fibromyalgia.

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Stephen Harper: Tough on Crime, Short on Facts

Last week, I wrote a column on how the right-wing Tea Party movement in the United States is hijacking the Republican Party, moving it further to the right into a terrain where ideology takes precedence over fact, thus the title of my column, “When ideology trumps facts.”

This ideology over fact trend is not solely an American phenomenon; it is happening right here in Canada with the Harper Conservatives.

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Is the Harper Government Planning Harsher Rules Once Omnibus Crime Bill Passes?

Canada’s justice minister, Rob Nicholson, said “this is just the beginning” when he unveiled the Harper government’s infamous 100-page omnibus crime bill last week, and he likely meant it.

As the government used its 166-seat majority to impose closure on debate Tuesday to get the monster bill into the Commons justice committee for witness hearings, it was hard to imagine what could be left.

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This Week in Weed: September 18th – 24th

This Week in WeedNow streaming on NORMLtv is the latest episode of “This Week in Weed.”

This Week: thousands of Americans take a stand for marijuana legalization, a study looks at marijuana dispensaries’ effect on crime rates, and we review Dutch coffee shops and their influence on youth drug use.

Be sure to tune in to NORMLtv each Thursday afternoon to catch up on the latest marijuana news. Subscribe to NORMLtv or follow us on Twitter to be notified as soon as new content is added.

If you haven’t signed the petition already, you may do so by clicking above.

Prohibition-addicted police can’t believe closing medical marijuana dispensaries INCREASES crime

Actual slide from "Summit on the Impact of California’s Medical Marijuana Laws" presentation for law enforcement in 2009. (click for entire presentation in PDF format)

A new study by the RAND Corporation takes a look at the effect of the recent closure of numerous Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensaries.  Opponents of dispensaries, most notably law enforcement, have long argued that marijuana dispensaries increase crime in their neighborhoods.  However, the data revealed by RAND today shows the opposite:

(Los Angeles Times) In a study of crime near Los Angeles dispensaries — which the investigators call the most rigorous independent examination of its kind — the Santa Monica-based think tank found that crime actually increased near hundreds of pot shops after they were required to close last summer.

Police have been desperate to show the public that acceptance of marijuana commerce leads to greater crime and danger. In Los Angeles, the “pot shops cause crime” mantra was a subject of a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Summit on the Impact of California’s Medical Marijuana Laws - Dispensary Related Crime” delivered by Cmdr. Michael Regan to over 400 law enforcement officers attending in July 2009.  Regan’s slides (download here) included such terrifying claims as:

  • “Worse than combining a liquor store and a casino – lots of cash, lots of guns”
  • “…a CHP officer was paralyzed by a marijuana impaired driver.”
  • “…a group of suspects entered the dispensary, tied everyone up and robbed the place of about $50,000.”
  • “…a masked gunman fired four shots into a dispensary worker’s car as he pulled into the parking lot.”
  • “…one of the club’s customers was ambushed, robbed for his marijuana and killed at a nearby gas station.”
  • “Crimes related to dispensaries may not be associated or recorded as such.”

Yet even as these individual anecdotes were sensationalized in this 2009 presentation, just two months earlier the LA crime statistics reported by the LA Times told a different story:

[Crime is d]ramatically down. And here in Los Angeles, the drop is particularly stunning. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, compared with the same period in 2008, homicide is down by 32%; rape 12%; robbery 3%; burglary 6%, and grand theft auto a shocking 18%.

Similar “crime magnet” arguments have been floated by police in Northern California as well.  Back in 2010, Capt. Denise Schmidt wrote a letter to the San Francisco planning department, arguing:

[Dispensaries] have proven an attractive target for violent criminals due to the large amount of marijuana and cash maintained on site. Dispensaries have experienced take-over robberies, burglaries, shootings, stabbings, fights and homicides. Additionally, criminals target the pedestrian traffic in and around [dispensaries] for strong-arm and armed robberies, knowing that the potential for these victims to be carrying either cash and or marijuana is highly likely.

But when Police Commissioner Petra DeJesus asked the SFPD to back up those claims with data from the state’s COMPSTAT system that tracks crime by neighborhood, suddenly SF Police Chief George Gascon wasn’t so eager to mine the data.

LA Police Chief Charlie Beck wasn’t as reluctant as Chief Gascon to admit that dispensaries weren’t “crime magnets”.  Back in January of 2010, Beck told the Los Angeles Daily News:

“Banks are more likely to get robbed than medical marijuana dispensaries,” Beck said at a recent meeting with editors and reporters of the Los Angeles Daily News.

Opponents of the pot clinics complain that they attract a host of criminal activity to the neighborhoods, including robberies. But a report that Beck recently had the department generate looking at citywide robberies in 2009 found that simply wasn’t the case.

“I have tried to verify that because that, of course, is the mantra,” said Beck. “It doesn’t really bear out.”

In 2009, the LAPD received reports of 71 robberies at the more than 350 banks in the city, compared to 47 robberies at medical marijuana facilities which number at least 800, the chief said in a follow up interview, in which he provided statistics from the report.

The fact is that dispensaries revitalize neighborhoods, install security cameras, increase foot traffic, provide jobs, and inject revenue into the local economy – all actions that any undergraduate social scientist can tell you will help reduce crime.  Similar studies of dispensary operations in Denver and Colorado Springs have also shown no correlation between dispensary operations and crime.

But to the police, the sales and use of the marijuana itself is something they consider criminal.  In defending the “pot shops are crime magnets” bogeyman, the cops (with a straight face, even,) blame the increase in crime upon closing a dispensary on “infighting among collective members, increased traffic for pot fire sales and customers disgruntled to find their dispensary closed.”  Or, in other words, as the RAND report points out, the police action of shutting down dispensaries increases crime!

Steve Whitmore, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, strenuously disagreed with the report’s conclusions.

“Every time we shut down a dispensary, the crime and the disorder decrease,” he said.

The report looks at such crimes as thefts and assaults, but not “disorder,” nuisances such as loitering, double parking, loud noises and graffiti that sparked anger among neighborhood activists. Whitmore said those complaints are often what causes the department to act.

So you shut down a dispensary and there is allegedly less graffiti and double parking, but there is actually a 59% increase in thefts and assaults in a three block radius?  Not a very good trade, if you ask me.  In fact, these “nuisances” are often exaggerated reports by neighbors who, like the cops, cling to the prohibition of marijuana and the demonization of those who consume it and jump on any excuse to send the cops in:

“Our main concern is the crime of illegal dispensaries illegally selling marijuana,” [Michael Larsen, president of the neighborhood council] said. “That’s the crime that we’re concerned about.”

The simple truth is that in California and Colorado and all the other medical marijuana states, we have 1.5 million consumers protected from prosecution for the possession of cannabis.  Absent a visit from “the weed fairy”, however, these consumers have to find a supplier for their state-sanctioned medicine.  That can be a well-regulated, well-lit, adults-only, secure, taxpaying facility that creates jobs, revitalizes neighborhoods, and reduces crime… or it can be a drug dealer in the corner of a city park, a public parking lot, or a run-down apartment who doesn’t check IDs, doesn’t care about doctor’s recommendations, and has no quality or safety standards for cannabis medicine.  Which do you think leads to more crime?

P.S. Law enforcement seemed to think RAND Corp’s studies were reliable when they were saying Prop 19 legalization wouldn’t dramatically impact the profitability of Mexican drug trafficking organizations.

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