Bianca Jagger To Receive Second Annual Michael J. Kennedy Social Justice Award

Bianca Jagger

Bianca Jagger

International human rights advocate Bianca Jagger will be in Washington, DC on Monday, September 11, 2017, to receive the Michael J. Kennedy Social Justice Award from the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), at our annual conference.

The inscription on the award reads as follows: “To Bianca Jagger, in recognition of your lifetime commitment to achieving social justice for all people, especially those without the resources or social standing to achieve justice on their own. Your willingness to speak for the underdog, the disenfranchised and the unpopular, like Michael Kennedy himself, has defined your exemplary personal and professional life.”

She campaigns to end capital punishment and violence against women and girls, and advocates for the rights of indigenous peoples and future generations.

She is founder, president and chief executive of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, which she established in 2005 to be a force for change and a voice for the most vulnerable. She is Council of Europe Good Will Ambassador, a member of the executive director’s Leadership Council for Amnesty International USA, IUCN Bonn Challenge Ambassador; and Senior Fellow, Center for International Governance Innovation

Bianca Jagger was born in Managua, Nicaragua in 1950 and left her native country when she was 17 to study political science in Paris with a scholarship from the French government. Her human rights advocacy has taken her to many countries, including Nicaragua, Honduras, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Iraq; and she has been the recipient of many prestigious awards, including the Right Livelihood Award (2004) also known as the “alternative Nobel prize”.

Other awards have included The United Nations Earth Day International Award (1994); The Abolitionist of the Year Award by the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty (1996); The Amnesty International USAA Media Spotlight Award for Leadership (1997); The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Champion of Justice award (2000); The American Civil Liberties Award (1998); the World Achievement Award (2004); and the World Citizenship Award from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.

The Michael J. Kennedy Social Justice Award, named after the late Michael J. Kennedy, the legendary civil rights and criminal defense attorney (and general counsel to High Times magazine from its inception in 1974 until his death in early 2016), was established with the blessing of the Kennedy family to honor those individuals who, like Michael Kennedy, dedicate their lives to advancing the cause of social justice in America. Eleanora Kennedy, Michael’s widow, and their daughter Anna Safir, will speak at the ceremony, reminding us of Michael’s 40-year support for NORML and our mission to legalize marijuana.

The award will be presented to Ms. Jagger by nationally known civil rights and criminal rights lawyer Gerald H. Goldstein, the first recipient of this award in 2016.

Those interested can purchase tickets to the 2017 NORML Conference and Congressional Lobby Day here.

Study: Those Arrested For Minor Pot Offenses Unlikely To Subsequently Commit Violent Crimes

Arresting and prosecuting low level marijuana offenders in New York City has little or no impact on law enforcement efforts to reduce violent crime, according to a study released today by Human Rights Watch, an international advocacy organization that focuses on human rights violations worldwide.

The study’s authors reviewed data from the New York Department of Criminal Justice Services to track the criminal records of nearly 30,000 people who had no prior convictions when they were arrested for marijuana possession in public view [NY State Penal Law 221.10] in 2003 and 2004. Researchers assessed whether those arrested for minor marijuana violations engaged in additional, more serious criminal activity in the years following their arrest.

They reported: “[W]e found that 3.1 percent of [marijuana arrestees] were subsequently convicted of one violent felony offense during the six-and-a-half to eight-and-a-half years that our research covers; 0.4 percent had two or more violent felony convictions. That is, 1,022 persons out of the nearly 30,000 we tracked had subsequent violent felony convictions. Ninety percent (26,315) had no subsequent felony convictions of any kind.”

New York City police arrest more people for possessing small amounts of marijuana in public view than for any other offense, the study found. Between 1996 and 2011, police made more than half-a-million (586,320) arrests for this misdemeanor, including a total of around 100,000 in just the 2 years of 2010 and 2011. Of those arrested, the overwhelming majority are either Black or Latino and under 25 years of age.

Investigators concluded: “[T]he rate of felony and violent felony conviction among this group of first-time marijuana arrestees appears to be lower than the rate of felony conviction for the national population, taking into account age, gender, and race. … Neither our findings nor those of other researchers indicate the arrests are an efficient or fair means for identifying future dangerous felons.”

Under New York state law, the private possession of up to 25 grams of marijuana is a non-criminal civil citation, punishable by a $100 fine. By contrast, the possession of any amount of cannabis in public view is a criminal misdemeanor.

In June, Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged lawmakers to close the ‘public view’ loophole. That effort was ultimately quashed by, Senate majority leader, Republican Dean Skelos, who argued, “Being able to just walk around with ten joints in each ear, and it only be a violation, I think that’s wrong.”

In October, Gov. Cuomo reiterated his support for amending the state’s marijuana laws. Speaking a the New York State Trooper Class of 2012 graduation ceremony, Cuomo said that he “would not consider” convening a special legislative session unless lawmakers were willing to consider reforms to reduce New York City’s skyrocketing marijuana arrest rates.

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