Competing versions of a bill in Minnesota offer drastically different approaches to medical marijuana. In the state Senate, a medical marijuana bill would create up to fifty-five sites statewide that could grow and dispense marijuana. The House version, meanwhile, would set up only one grow and dispensing site tied to a clinical trial for medical marijuana. The Senate version covers the standard eight conditions – cancer, AIDS, cachexia, glaucoma, spasms, seizures, nausea, and pain – as well as post-traumatic stress, hepatitis C, Tourette’s syndrome, and Lou Gehrig’s disease. The House version eliminates pain and PTSD as conditions qaulifying for medical marijuana. Both versions are similar in that neither allows patients to grow marijuana at home. Both versions also forbid the smoking of medical marijuana and the House version goes as far as banning vaporization of medical marijuana unless there is a doctor or nurse present to supervise. The House version will get a floor vote this week and the Senate version should be voted on later today. The governor, backed by law enforcement, opposes the Senate version. Medical marijuana advocates warn that the House version would be largely unworkable.
DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart is now publicly opposing her boss’s plan to reform mandatory minimum drug sentencing. Attorney General Eric Holder is pushing the “Smarter Sentencing Act” to reduce the length of some mandatory minimum sentences. In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Leonhart explained, “Having been in law enforcement as an agent for 33 years, [and] a Baltimore City police officer before that, I can tell you that for me and for the agents that work for DEA, mandatory minimums have been very important to our investigations. We depend on those as a way to ensure that the right sentences are going to the … level of violator we are going after.” Leonhart was backed by FBI Director Jim Comey, who told Huffington Post, “I know from my experience … that the mandatory minimums are an important tool in developing cooperators,” a.k.a. “snitches”. Numerous studies have shown that mandatory minimum sentences rarely punish the kingpins in a drug conspiracy, but rather disproportionately affect lower-level conspirators and sometimes their spouses and girlfriends when they know nobody higher up to snitch on.
A new paper in the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes that workplace drug testing actually improves the job prospects for drug-free black males, especially for low-skill jobs. The catch is that drug testing seems to help counter a common perception by employers that blacks use drugs more than whites, even though both groups use drugs at about equal rates. In a state without drug testing, employers discriminate against black men, prejudiced that they are drug users, and tend to hire more white women in their place. But states with drug testing were found to increase black employment by 7 to 30 percent and wages by 1.4 to 13 percent, as drug free black males can “prove” they’re worthy applicants.
Speaking of drug testing, the Santa Clara County, California, crime lab has admitted that the tests for methamphetamine given to about 2,500 defendants were mishandled. Workers at the lab had used the wrong chemical for their testing that grossly increased the sensitivity of the tests, leading to at least seven known false positives. The Santa Clara County District Attorney acknowledged that human error will always find its way into the criminal justice system, while defense attorneys are speculating that this mistake left uncorrected for two months calls into question the veracity of any tests handled by this lab. Meanwhile, the Rape Kit Action Project estimates there are over 400,000 backlogged rape evidence kits sitting untested on police shelves, many due to the crime lab’s need to test drug evidence for upcoming trials.
A former teacher and former president of the South Carolina Education Association is calling on the legalization of marijuana in the Palmetto State to raise money for schools. “Between the tax dollars you could bring in and stop putting some of our kids in prison and such, we could probably raise about $188 million a year, and if that would be the case that would be great because we could have the best schools in the nation, and that’s what we’re really looking for,” says Sheila Gallagher, who is running among three other Democrats and eight Republicans for the position of State Superintendent of Education. Gallagher doesn’t expect the legislature to pass legalization, but would like them to consider putting it to a vote through a constitutional referendum. Gallagher explained, “I’d like to turn it over to the people and say, ‘Here’s an opportunity. Let’s look at this whole idea of legalizing marijuana and see what it can do for us.'”