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Oregon and California pass bad inititive and dont a pass good one

By drug-bot, Nov 11, 2008 | Updated: Nov 12, 2008 | | |
  1. drug-bot
    Feature: Sentencing Reform Initiative Defeated in California, "Tough on Crime" Initiatives Win in Oregon

    Tough on crime can still trump smart on crime, if Tuesday's elections results on sentencing initiatives in two of the nation's most progressive states are any indication. In Oregon, voters approved two competing initiatives that will increase sentences and prison populations, while in California, a multi-million dollar campaign to dramatically reform sentencing went down in the face of opposition from prison guards and politicians, and another initiative that will see longer sentences and more prisoners was approved by voters.

    In California, the Drug Policy Alliance and the Campaign for New Drug Policies pumped nearly $8 million into the effort to pass Proposition 5, the Nonviolent Offenders Rehabilitation Act (NORA). NORA would have deepened and vastly expanded the "treatment not jail" sentencing reforms passed in 2001 as Prop. 36. While the Legislative Analyst's Office estimated it would cost $1 billion a year to implement, it also estimated that it would save $1 billion a year in prison costs, as well as $2.5 billion in savings from prisons that would not have to be built.
    NORA had the near unanimous support of the drug treatment community, as well as the League of Women Voters of California, the Children's Defense Fund-California, the California Nurses Association, the California Federation of Teachers, the California Society of Addiction Medicine, the California State Conference of the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza, among others.
    But a deep-pocketed opposition led by five current and former governors whose policies helped to create California's seemingly never-ending prison crisis and financed largely by the people who most directly benefit from increased prison populations, the California prison guards' union, undermined public support for NORA. The measure was also opposed by another group whose ox would have been gored, the drug court professionals -- arguably a part of the treatment community, but just as arguably a part of the law enforcement community. Several prominent state newspapers and actor Martin Sheen joined the opposition as well.
    "It is a great threat to our neighborhoods," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said at a news conference featuring the assembled governors outside the Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles last Thursday. "It was written by those who care more about the rights of criminals."
    The measure "will cost dollars and it will cost lives," chimed in former Gov. Gray Davis, a Democrat, neglecting to mention that it would have saved many more dollars than it would have cost.
    It wasn't just the governors. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Attorney General Jerry Brown, also Democrats, opposed the measure too, and taped TV commercials against it. "Say no to drug dealers," Feinstein said in her ad, while Brown -- whose spot was paid for by the prison guards union -- called it "a complicated measure" that would "limit court authority over drug dealers and addicts who refuse treatment."
    All told, the organized opposition pumped nearly $3.6 million into defeating NORA, more than half of it coming from the prison guards' union. And it worked -- on election day, NORA went down to defeat by a margin of 61% to 39%.
    In a statement Tuesday evening when the outcome became apparent, Yes on 5 campaign spokeswoman Margaret Dooley-Sammuli laid the defeat at the door of the opposition. "Today we saw special interests overpower the public interest," she said. "California's prison guards poured millions of dollars into stopping Prop. 5 and securing this victory for the poison politics of crime."
    Stopping NORA would be a pyrrhic victory, Dooley-Sammuli predicted, citing a looming federal court hearing on whether to take control of the overcrowded, under-budgeted prison system.
    "The prosecutors and prison guards who led the campaign against Prop. 5 got their way tonight -- but they've really lost. The next step for our prisons will probably be a federal takeover. Prop. 5 was Californians' last, best chance to avoid a takeover and make our own choices about how to address prison overcrowding. Now federal judges are likely to impose solutions that no one will be happy about."
    The effort to pass NORA was "not in vain," Dooley-Sammuli added. "Prop. 5 presented a vision for a future in which we do more for young people with drug problems, and improve the way we provide court-supervised treatment in California. There is plenty to build on going forward," she said.
    But Golden State voters were still seduced by the "tough on crime" message that has played so well in California since the days of Ronald Reagan. While defeating NORA, they passed Proposition 9, also known as the Crime Victims Bill of Rights Act, by a margin of 53% to 47%. Naturally enough, the measure is concerned primarily with victims' rights, but also includes provisions that block local authorities from granting early release to prisoners to alleviate overcrowding and mandates that the state fund corrections costs as much as necessary to accomplish that end. It also lengthens the amount of time a prisoner serving a life sentence who has been denied parole must wait before re-applying. Currently, he must wait one to five years; under Prop. 9, he must wait three to 15 years. Prop. 9 would also allow parolees who have been jailed for alleged parole violations to be held 15 days instead of the current 10 before they are entitled to a hearing to determine if they can be held pending a revocation hearing, and stretches from 35 to 45 the number of days they could be held before such a hearing. These last two provisions, as well as one limiting legal counsel for parolees, all conflict with an existing federal court order governing California's procedures.
    But if "tough on crime" still sells, another measure, Proposition 6, the Safe Neighborhoods Act, was too hard-sell even for California's crime-weary electorate. That measure, which was aimed primarily at gang members, violent criminals, and criminal aliens, also included provisions increasing penalties for methamphetamine possession, possession with intent, and distribution to be equal to those for cocaine, and provided for the expulsion from public housing of anyone convicted of a drug offense. The measure also mandates increased spending for law enforcement. It lost 69% to 31%.
    "Tough on crime" worked this year in Oregon, too, with two competing measures that would ratchet up sentences and prison populations both passing. Measure 57, a legislative measure placed before the voters, and Measure 61, the brainchild of inveterate Oregon crime-fighter and initiative-generator Kevin Mannix, won with 61% and 51% of the vote, respectively.
    The Mannix measure, the tougher of the two, would have set mandatory minimum sentences for a number of offenses, including drug sales, and is projected to add between 4,000 and 6,000 new inmates to the prison system over the next five years at a cost of between $500 million and $800 million. But because it garnered fewer votes than Measure 57, the latter is the one that will actually become law.
    Measure 57 increases some sentences for repeat offenders and includes funding for behind-bars drug treatment. It is estimated to generate 1,670 additional prisoners over the next five years at a cost of $411 million, as well as requiring the state to borrow another $314 million for new prison construction.
    Even with the national economy in a free-fall and state budgets increasingly feeling the squeeze, it looks like it's still easier to win with the politics of fear than with the politics of justice and compassion.

    http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/559/sentencing_reform_initiatives_NORA_tough_on_crime

    its a sad but impotant news, its sad that two very liberal states that one would pass a horrendous initiative and the other reject a sensible and compassionate one. hope you enjoyed the read.

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  1. robin_himself
    Marijuana Expert Speaks at University

    Oregon -- Ed Rosenthal stood before 400 pot plants on the stage Sunday at Southern Oregon University, as he taught locals how to successfully grow medical marijuana and grew heated himself as he railed against state laws restricting how many plants a patient can have.


    There was no actual pot present at the gathering, save for the occasional smell of it on people's clothes; instead, Rosenthal projected photographs of the plants onto a large screen to a crowd of about 50 at Meese Auditorium.

    Rosenthal, considered an expert in the field and author of more than a dozen books on marijuana, traveled from California to give the lecture, which raised money for SOU's Students For Truth group and Voter Power, an Oregon medical marijuana activist organization with an office in Medford.

    Voter Power is working to collect 130,000 signatures to get a measure on the state's 2010 ballot that, if passed, would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to be set up, like in California. Under existing laws, Oregon patients can grow up to six plants for themselves, or have a registered grower cultivate the same amount for them.

    "It's high time that people in Oregon have access to medicine when they need it," Rosenthal said before his lecture. "Nobody should be deprived of medicine when they need it."

    One of the benefits of the dispensary system is that patients have access to pharmaceutical-grade pot and different tinctures of marijuana, he said.
    "Patients need the best medicine they can get," Rosenthal added.
    Norma Jean Evans, who came to the seminar from Jacksonville with a friend who uses medical marijuana, said the dispensaries would allow her friend to gain access to more strains of pot, which might help alleviate the friend's symptoms better, because each person responds differently to each strain.

    "It needs to be accessible to people who can't grow it themselves and it would enable them (health officials) to get more testing done, to see which tinctures and plants are most effective," she said.
    During his lecture, Rosenthal presented tips on how to grow large-scale pot gardens, using an operation in Sonoma County, Calif. as an example. The Sonoma County medical marijuana garden was created on a tennis court at a luxury home, and the plants were grown in 30 gallon plastic bags, using drip systems, cooling fans and shade coverings.
    "This was a tennis court of the idle rich, but this person decided not to be idle anymore," Rosenthal said.

    Dressed in Birkenstocks, a Hawaiian shirt and khakis, the marijuana expert kicked aside his cool demeanor when someone brought up the issue of how many plants Oregon patients can legally grow.
    "The Oregon law's basically unconstitutional," he said. "It's unconstitutional when they restrict a patient's access to medicine.
    "When you think of medical marijuana, I want you to think of insulin and when you think of a medical marijuana patient, I want you to think of a diabetic. If it doesn't sound right for the diabetic, it doesn't sound right for the medical marijuana patient," Rosenthal added.
    Because the Oregon law has designated marijuana as a medicine for certain patients, it's not fair to restrict their access to it by only allowing people to grow six plants, he said.
    Still, Rosenthal cautioned that the federal government could step in and prosecute growers, because U.S. law prohibits using or growing marijuana — even for medical purposes.

    A grower raised his hand during the meeting to ask if his property could be seized if he stayed within Oregon law and grew only six plants per patient.
    "Yes, the feds can do that because you're breaking the federal law," Rosenthal answered.

    John Sajo, executive director of Voter Power, said he wanted Rosenthal to speak to local growers to "make sure the people who cultivate marijuana for patients know what they're doing."

    Voter Power has already collected 20,000 signatures for the dispensary measure and hopes to complete the signature process by the end of 2009 to have a year to campaign for the issue, Sajo said. "Our feeling is that the more people hear about it, the more people are going to like it and vote for it," he said.

    Source: Ashland Daily Tidings (OR)
    Author: Hannah Guzik, Tidings Correspondent
    Published: November 17, 2008
    Copyright: 2008 Ashland Daily Tidings
    Website: http://www.dailytidings.com/
    Contact: tidingsopinion@dailytidings.com
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