Florida Funds Harsher Marijuana Laws

Florida Funds Harsher Marijuana Laws
Posted by CN Staff on May 11, 2002 at 20:12:19 PT
Christopher S. Mulligan, Special To The Sentinel
Source: Orlando Sentinel
Most Floridians know we are in a recession now. What most Floridians aren't aware of is that, even during this economic downturn, our Legislature continues to spend tax dollars enforcing what many of us consider to be misguided marijuana policies.The Florida Legislature recently passed House Bill 1401, re-establishing the controversial "three strikes" laws. Most of the law's language is identical to the 1999 three-strikes law, which the Florida Supreme Court found unconstitutional. 
Not much is different in this new bill except for a change in the marijuana law  in which the Legislature has cut in half the amount needed to receive three-year, mandatory minimum sentencing for "trafficking" cannabis. Amazingly, the state decided that we only have the resources to increase the penalties for marijuana offenses. Stipulations pertaining to all other drugs remain unchanged. I am not one to advocate for the individual who is caught with large quantities of marijuana intended for sale or distribution. Rather, I am an advocate for sound, fiscally responsible drug policies. Unfortunately, the Florida Legislature's antiquated drug strategies fall far short of that goal.More than half of all drug arrests in the state of Florida are for marijuana offenses. More than 88 percent of those are for simple possession of small amounts. Economists at FSU estimate that our state spends almost $5 million annually on enforcing marijuana laws. Police resources are wasted as Florida's finest are simply overburdened with the task of trying to arrest the more than 5 million non-violent drug users estimated in the state. More important, every year, more than 25,000 Floridians are subjected to the consequences of the criminal-justice system for smoking marijuana. These Floridians are otherwise law-abiding citizens who pay their taxes, rear children and contribute to their communities. Unfortunately, once labeled a "drug offender" by the state, their lives are forever changed.While other states are recognizing the value of medicinal marijuana and relaxing penalties for small amounts of marijuana, Florida's politicians can only find the time and money to make marijuana laws harsher than they already were.Not one Florida senator voted against HB 1401. Interestingly, only nine members of the House voted against the bill, and all of them were Democrats who belong to an ethnic minority. This was not a surprise, because state and national statistics show that minorities are disproportionately awarded mandatory minimum sentences.Thankfully, there exists a coalition of state groups working for constructive changes in Florida's marijuana policies. Florida NORML, acting as an umbrella group for statewide activists, has begun to lobby the Florida Legislature. On March 22, we hand-delivered 160 legislative packets to all House and Senate members. Also, nine activist groups from across the state staged an educational seminar for the Legislature in the rotunda of the state capitol. This effort gave many legislative members and staffers the opportunity to meet medical-marijuana patients who traveled from as far away as Miami. These real-life survivors all attribute part of their medical successes against glaucoma, Lou Gehrig's disease, AIDS wasting syndrome and cancer to regular use of cannabis.Next session, lobbyists, student leaders and citizen activists working with NORML hope to introducce two separate marijuana-law reform bills. The first bill would protect patients with debilitating diseases (such as AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis) from being subject to arrest and prosecution.The second bill would make marijuana laws the state's lowest enforcement priority so that criminal-justice resources may be more appropriately allocated to fight serious crime. The $5 million Florida wasted on enforcing marijuana prohibition could have been directed to any number of more beneficial causes, such as wage increases for teachers and police officers.If the members of Florida's Legislature are realistic about this issue, they will adopt both of these measures. But they need to hear from Floridians first. If the state's citizens want to see change, change will happen. Citizens can aid this effort by sending their representative or senator a letter expressing their opinions. Christopher S. Mulligan is a recent graduate from Florida State University, with degrees in political science and criminology. He is a member of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. He recently spoke about campus organizing at NORML's national convention in San Francisco this past month. Complete Title: Despite Ongoing Recession in Florida, The State Funds Harsher Marijuana LawsSource: Orlando Sentinel (FL)Author: Christopher S. Mulligan, Special To The Sentinel Published: May 12, 2002 Copyright: 2002 Orlando SentinelContact: insight orlandosentinel.comWebsite: Articles & Web Site:NORML House Passes Bills To Restore Three Strike Bush Urged To Reconsider Drug Law View
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Comment #8 posted by BGreen on May 13, 2002 at 06:08:10 PT
Did the news mention the bill going through the Missouri legislature to use taxpayers money to build a new stadium for the Cardinal's, and refurbish Kaufman Sports Complex, the two stadiums where the Chief's and Royal's play. On top of that, just to buy the votes of the legislators in other parts of the state, they've included money for a Branson Lakefront project, a Springfield Exposition center, and $250 million for rural areas, among other things. Does that sound like an answer to the problems mentioned on the news?This is status quo for this whole freakin' country. These bastards HAVE to be removed.
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Comment #7 posted by Rambler on May 13, 2002 at 05:18:09 PT
Here's a nice place to look.'02/index.html
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Comment #6 posted by Lehder on May 12, 2002 at 19:41:10 PT
bush inc.
i agree with you all the way on these economic and environmental issues, p4me, and bush is soooo very bad that i'm hoping people will finally see what the drug war and all his other policies are really costing us. maybe then it will finally end. i never expected the drug war to be resolved as an isolated issue.i read nearly every day, and i see there that, nearly every day, bush introduces some destructive new policy to either please the religious fundamentalists or to pay off his campaign contributors. last week alone i read that he **gutted the pure air and water act to allow coal companies to blow the tops off mountains and let the refuse fester in streams **reduced federal loan program for needy college students as one measure to pay for his tax cuts for the wealthy **irrevocably exited from the international criminal court. on and on and on. i wonder what sort of really big stunt he'll be pulling preparatory to the november elections.i also like reading comments on the web site mediawhores:
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Comment #5 posted by p4me on May 12, 2002 at 16:42:26 PT
ABC Sunday Evening News
Ledher, yes the 5.8% GDP is deceptive because a lot of it is government spending and businesses were given incentives to invest in in new equipment. It won't happen again this quarter.Tonite's ABC Evening News commented on the financial condition of the states. 45 states had budget shortfalls with a total of $40 billion. It said California just announced a new projection of 20 to 25 billion $. It centered the story around Missouri that was sadly disappointed in what it got in the mail following April 15th. They projected a shortfall of $230 million and the legislature did not act. It was Friday the Governor announced 9000 furloughs in the Colleges and other budget cuts. I think there was a slash of $20 million to nursing home patients. Some mothers day gift for them.And what happens when the world's markets say I would rather buy European than American because they are not an imperialistic power. 1.2 billion Moslems might be having a boycott. Onward through the fog as Swampie says. Bong me as Bongme says.Charlotte has the ninth worst air in the country and Winston -Salem is always one step behind. If I were not even concerned with the drug laws I would still be pissed at them not cleaning up the air. MTBE instead of ethanol. There was some real obfuscation there by the oil industry to use their waste product instead of ethanol. The scandal servived because of the ignorance of Americans. One thing about the 70% increase in the Farm Bill for the next ten years is that MTBE will be replaced before most Americans even knew what it was. I wouldn't be half as angry about the waste and corruption of the drug wars if they would clean up the air. Let us have another goddamn for not cleaning up the air that has increased asthma in children to scary and unnecessary levels.VAAI. Twice if you can.
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Comment #4 posted by Lehder on May 12, 2002 at 14:38:30 PT
Mother's Day
My condolences to all the mothers who are doing without flowers and without family gatherings today because their sons and daughters are in jails across the country for no other reason than smoking some healthful cannabis. Is this why you have children? Vote against all incumbents. They're destroying your children.----------p4me I agree with your financial comments. When housing is finally hit, the economy will take a real dive. But the 5.8% GNP growth rate is spurious. More than half of that number arises from the government's strange practice of accounting increases in business inventories as growth. The inventories are increasing because people are not buying much - except houses - so the 5.8% hardly represents economic health. Meanwhile, consumer debt and the trade deficit/gnp are at
record highs, the budget surplus has vanished and the Treasury Department is seeking to increase the national debt ceiling by 3/4 trillion $. Somehow soon, so much government foolishness and economic and social rapine are going to really anger millions of ordinary people.
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Comment #3 posted by Jose Melendez on May 12, 2002 at 04:53:57 PT:
Arrest Prohibition
the author is correct, drug laws are draconian, and disproportionately enforced on minorities. Here are some words on this from someone who knows this, and regrets supporting the party line that drug use can be treated by incarceration:from: URL: Newshawk: Amanda Pubdate: Fri, 10 May 2002 Source: New York Times (NY) Copyright: 2002 The New York Times Company Contact: Website:">"> Details:">"> Section: Opinion Author: John R. Dunne Note: John R. Dunne, a former New York state senator, is director of the Campaign for Effective Criminal Justice.  WHEN WILL NEW YORK CORRECT ITS MISTAKE? ALBANY - This week marks the beginning of the 30th year of the injustice in New York State's penal system from the enactment of the Rockefeller drug laws. These laws have been roundly criticized as ineffective and wasteful. Ineffective because they have done little to stem the flow of drugs into our communities, wasteful because they are responsible for the warehousing of thousands of New Yorkers in expensive prison cells when community-based drug treatment would serve them better. I regret that as chairman of the State Senate Committee on Crime and Corrections, I was one of the original sponsors of these laws when they were proposed by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. The laws were intended to combat drug abuse by providing such harsh sentences for drug offenses that users and dealers would be deterred from continued involvement in drugs. After three decades, it is clear to me and others that this approach has not worked. Instead, these laws have been responsible for a steep and steady rise in the number and proportion of prisoners convicted for low-level, nonviolent drug offenses. Over the past several years a growing number of political, judicial and religious leaders - among them the late Cardinal John O'Connor - have called for a re-examination of the efficacy of these drug sentencing laws. Gov. George Pataki, to his credit, wants to correct some of the gross disparities between sentences for drug offenses and sentences for other nonviolent crimes. But even his most recent proposal would not provide relief to the great majority of the thousands of nonviolent drug offenders who are being warehoused in state prisons. To reform these laws, he needs to put forth a plan that restores to judges their traditional power to fashion sentences ap propriate to the individual offense, with the option of diversion to court-supervised, community-based drug treatment. I am dismayed that the state's district attorneys continue to oppose these much-needed and humane reforms. I particularly regret the disproportionate impact the enforcement of these laws has had on minority communities. Despite the consistency of drug use among all races and at all socioeconomic levels, over 94 percent of incarcerated drug offenders in New York prisons are African-American and Latino. The majority of them, not surprisingly, come from New York's poorest and most underserved communities. Instead of investing in education and services that would improve people's lives, we have chosen to invest in prisons. New York now sends more African-American and Latino men to prison each year than it graduates from its state colleges and universities. New York's legislative leaders say they favor reform of the drug laws, but no reform bill has made it to the floor of either the State Senate or the Assembly. Meanwhile, thousands who deserve the chance to overcome their addictions and rejoin their families will be denied the opportunity to do so. Sometimes in a democracy it may take decades to change bad laws. I regret my own lack of foresight three decades ago, but surely there can be no excuse for not understanding the grim consequences of the drug laws now. 
Drug War is TREASON!
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Comment #2 posted by dddd on May 12, 2002 at 03:41:41 PT
....Well Said....
..I really like your money talk p4me.....I am also a big fan of the SHOCKING FACTS,of the actual financial realities! ... I think the scariest part for me,,is knowing that the facts of the situations are there,,if someone is interested,, they can easily see what is going on,,I DARE anyone who takes a moment to research the MONEY,and the things p4me mentioned,,,,to not get pissed after looking at what is going on with the financial situation of the empire!.....It is a most unpleasant experience to realize the high redline level of pissedness that would be appropriate for reacting to the distasteful knowledge of the amerikan atrociously festering in this grotesque political fiasco!!!!!! dddd
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Comment #1 posted by p4me on May 11, 2002 at 23:12:35 PT
a generic response
I want to talk about money. We have the prohibitionist where we want them if we would just clinch our fist and hold our money. There was a $900 million dollar deficit in North Carolina that became a billion dollar deficit. Now the deficit is 1.5 billion. They raised the sales tax to 6.5% when they thought they were short a billion. Friday on a PBS program called North Carolina Now, Governor Easley said they may need to raise the sales tax to 7%. My friend that is retiring from the school system said that Friday the school system sent word that all travel expenses would stop, classroom sizes will increase, teacher aides will not be hired, and so on. People will be saying what the author of this article said and the words for "expense" of the WOD minus T&A will change to "waste." The country cannot afford to do real things like clean the air and water. It certainly cannot waste billions on a bogus WOD and still hope to use only black ink.In a guess for numbers, North Carolina has 8 million people and California has 40 million. So if North Carolina is calling for a lottery for money and more sales tax for money what is California doing. Five times the population would mean California would scream just as loud over a 7.5 billion as NC does over its 1.5 billion deficit. The people of California probably would be happy with that number as the state has already projected a deficit twice that amount. They are going to have to do something about the prisons in California because they spend more than the school system.I was amused by two analyst on one of those stockbrocker shows talking about if there was even a recession. On said if there was one it was the mildest ever. I thought "Do they know how arrogant and stupid they sound." And everyone pounced on the 5.8% growth in GDP for the first quarter but you heard very little of reaching the 6% unemployment rate which is another bogus instrument of the government as it leaves people off that have expired their unemployment.You never hear about Japan's $10 trillion dollar debt. They are in a depression that resembles our Great Depression and who would know with American conglomerate media the way it is. The Japanese companies are as hungry as a minimum wage worker and with the strong dollar policy of the US, there will be a real price war on big ticket items like cars.The real estate market has carried everything because of all the appliances and building supplies involved. Half of all residential construction is for second houses and to me that translates into the rich buying while borrowed money is cheap. There has to be some people planning for their retirement and will be dumping their old homes over the next few years. Anyway, I look for housing to slow and things wil be bad for sure then not that I stay up to reference such beliefs.There is expected trade deficit of a half a trillion dollars stacked up on years of deficits already. If I abandoned conjecture, I could state a historical fact. Reagan got a tax cut for the rich that continued through Busch the First. It was when Clinton raised taxes on the rich and restored financial integrety to the federal government, that started the period of expansion that lasted 8 years or so. People are now in the position of competing with the federal government for borrowed money and doesn't more demand mean higher interest rates, not that credit card interest ever went down to start with.My (in my head) numbers say that before Busch the federal government spent one dollar in every ten on the national debt. It could easily be one dollar in nine when Bush is mandated out of office in 32 months. That is one hell of a difference. Think of the children and all the money they will pay for interest on the national debt.I wish you all a good Sunday. Clinch your money and don't let go. Magnify the budget shortfalls and make the wheel squeek. Please do not grease the wheel. We have them where we want them. I will save my tuna fish story for later.VAAI. Twice if you can.
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