Welcome to Medical Marijuana Tampa —or, as some are calling it, Cannabis U. Their slogan: “Take Your Career To A Higher Level.”
About the AuthorA Gonzo journalist hailing from New York City, Gonzo has contributed to pretty much every marijuana magazine and blog in the nation. He covers Medicinial, Growing and National News for Higher Ground. And since it’s not legal where he lives, he’ll remain anonymous. For now.
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By Zoe — 7 years ago
A proposed change to the nation’s rigid drug sentencing laws could save taxpayers billions, according to a new report by the United States Sentencing Commission, the agency that guides sentencing policy for the federal courts.
The report, released Tuesday, examines the impact of a reform that would shave an average of two years off the sentences of roughly half the people serving time in the federal prison system for drug crimes. Doing so would save the government 83,525 “bed years,” the report concludes. (A “bed year” is the bureaucratic term for the cost of keeping one person behind bars for one year.)
With about 100,000 federal prisoners doing time for drugs, at the cost of nearly $30,000 per prisoner a year, that comes out to more than $2.4 billion in total savings.
Recent remarks by Department of Justice officials suggest that they could use every cent. Prison costs make up a third of the department’s budget, and the department’s inspector general has warned that prison overcrowding poses an “increasingly critical threat” to the safety and security of prisoners and staff.
Last month, the seven-member Sentencing Commission voted unanimously to adopt a change to the sentencing guidelines that would reduce drug sentences by an average of about 11 months per prisoner. Unless Congress rejects the change, it will go into effect on Nov. 1. Tuesday’s report considers what would happen if the reform were applied to prisoners who are already behind bars. The commission says it will decide by July 18 whether to make the change retroactive.
Mary Price, an attorney with Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a group that opposes harsh sentencing laws, supports retroactivity “for so many reasons.”
“It would be a cruel irony to fix the problem of over-sentencing only to deny relief to the thousands who have suffered its consequences,” she said in a statement. “It will also make a real impact on the federal prison population, which hovers at nearly 40 percent above capacity and which siphons funds needed for crime prevention, detection and prosecution.”
To understand how the proposed reform would work, one needs to understand something of the history of America’s byzantine sentencing system. In 1986, at the crest of a national wave of concern about crack cocaine, the U.S. adopted a law that assigned specific sentencing levels and penalty ranges to a variety of drug crimes. For example, if someone is convicted of selling 15 grams of meth, that person is considered a “level 18” offender under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which imposes a recommended sentence for the crime, generally between 27 and 33 months in prison.
The new guidelines adopted by the Sentencing Commission would lower the standard sentencing levels by two points across the board. In this example, a person convicted of selling 15 grams of meth would then be rated a “level 16” offender, resulting in between 21 and 27 months behind bars.
Of the 100,888 people currently in federal prison for drug convictions, only about half would be eligible for a sentence reduction under the reform, should it be applied retroactively. Many of the ineligible prisoners were sentenced under separate mandatory minimum statutes that require they spend a fixed amount of time in prison.
The reform is just one measure that could allow the Department of Justice to trim its bloated prison budget. Congress is considering a bipartisan bill that would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for those convicted of nonviolent drug crimes, and the Justice Department recently announced a huge expansion of its clemency process, which could lead to hundreds of drug prisoners going free before their sentences are up.
By Michael A. Stusser — 7 years ago
Hillary Clinton is by far the most reasonable Presidential candidate about marijuana policy, but we have a hard time inhaling her non-admission about never trying it. After all, she’s married to…Bill!
Never Fear, The Pot Will Appear: Everything You Need to Know About Washington’s Recreational Roll-OutBy Michael A. Stusser — 7 years ago
The moment in history has arrived – enabling citizens to walk into a store and LEGALLY buy a bag of marijuana! But hold on a sec…
If there’s any way you can wait a few days to buy your legal weed from a recreational store in Washington State, you should. Seattle’s first retail pot shop, Cannabis City, is going to be a mob-scene when the doors open at (high) noon – and then they’re gonna run out of marijuana. The same will be true with the other 23 stores given retail licenses by the state today.
Though Washington State made weed legal a year and a half ago with the passage of Initiative 502, it’s taken some time to fine-tune the details. State agencies have had to vet growers, deal with inspections (now there’s a fun job!), quarantine herb before it could be shipped, and grant licenses to retailers who then had to install security cameras, tinted windows, pot-tracking software(!) and hopefully a Slurpee machine! (Imagine if they ran these kinds of background checks for folks trying to buy firearms!)
Right off the bat, there will be extremely limited supplies for ganja, as only 79 growers got the permits (from over 7000 applications!), and most those harvests won’t come in until late this month. So if you were looking forward to the PowerPurpleKushBerryCrunch that won the Cannabis Cup, yer gonna be waiting a bit longer. But hey – all good things are worth waiting for – besides, that SuperChronicHydroponic stuff will put you on the couch for days on end. Moderation, man! Prices will start high (up to $400 an ounce – ouch), but like Teslas, Furby dolls and the Galaxy S5, come down over time. Besides, would you rather pay $25 for a legal gram, or go black-market style, potentially rooming in the tank with Big Bubba while funding Mexican cartels and an over-crowded and money-sucking prison system?
Oh – and those Reefer’s Peanut Butter cup brownies you were so excited to try – that ain’t gonna happen anytime soon either. No edibles have so far been given the green light in Washington, as the process for licensing kitchens has been painfully slow. (Part of the debate has been a good one, with lawmakers wishing to make sure THC-laden edibles and sodas are not targeted to kids and that labels are clear enough even for Maureen Dowd to understand.) While I like the idea of child-resistant packaging, it’s hard enough for non-stoned adults to open a damn aspirin bottle, so I do hope they don’t make things too difficult…
Within a month or so, things will be running as smooth as the cool-kids have it goin’ on in Colorado, with varied and plentiful products, and more tax dollars than ever to blow on items like roads, infrastructure, and, hopefully, drug education and teacher’s salaries. Unlike Colorado, a major hurdle in Washington that has never been addressed is the way medical marijuana dispensaries will be treated. As of now, the myriad of retail regs are not being applied to these long-standing dispensaries, causing hell and havoc for many card-carrying marijuana patients who are truly in need and benefit greatly from the medicinal uses of weed.
The good news for those who do have marijuana cards – the strange gray-area they currently reside in allows them to purchase edibles of all-kinds – including licorice chews, gourmet chocolates and marijuana-infused hard candies. Not that I’ve tried any…
When it comes to the marijuana movement, it’s important to keep the mellow in mind, and visualize the Big Picture. As of this very moment: two States have legalized weed, and 20 more are scheduled to vote on the issue in the next two years. Like marriage equality, it’s going to happen – we just need the naysayers, Bible-thumpers and right-wing fundamentalists to come to their senses or, more likely, succumb to the will of the people – and the democratic process.