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Lock ’Em Up Nation Mandatory Sentencing for Medical Marijuana

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  • Lock ’Em Up Nation Mandatory Sentencing for Medical Marijuana

    How did the United States, land of the free, become the world’s top jailer? It’s a question asked by visitors from other democracies, and the American citizen who wakes from a stupor to find that our prisons are stuffed with people serving interminable sentences for nonviolent crimes.

    For the answer, you need look no further than the real America, the sparsely settled, ruggedly beautiful, financially struggling eastern third of Washington State. There, 70-year-old Larry Harvey, his wife, two family members and a friend are facing mandatory 10-year prison terms for growing medical marijuana — openly and, they thought, legally — on their farm near the little town of Kettle Falls.

    To get a sense of the tragic absurdity of this federal prosecution, reaching all the way to the desk of Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., consider what will happen next month. Pot stores will open in Washington, selling legal marijuana for the recreational user — per a vote of the people. A few weeks later, the Feds will try to put away the so-called Kettle Falls Five for growing weed on their land to ease their medical maladies. Federal sentencing guidelines, which trump state law, call for mandatory prison terms.



    Larry Harvey, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey and Rolland Gregg each face a 10-year mandatory prison sentence. Credit Nicholas K. Geranios/Associated Press
    Harvey is a former long-haul truck driver with a bad knee, spasms of gout and high blood pressure. He says he has no criminal record, and spends much of his time in a wheelchair. His wife, Rhonda Firestack-Harvey, is a retired hairdresser with arthritis and osteoporosis. Mr. Harvey says he takes his wife’s home-baked marijuana confections when the pain in his knee starts to flare. The Harveys thought they were in the clear, growing 68 marijuana plants on their acreage in northeast Washington, one of 22 states allowing legal medical marijuana. (Federal authorities say they are several plants over the limit.)

    Their pot garden was a co-op among the four family members and one friend; the marijuana was not for sale or distribution, Mr. Harvey says. “I think these patients were legitimate,” Dr. Greg Carter, who reviewed medical records after the arrest, told The Spokesman-Review of Spokane. “They are pretty normal people. We’re not talking about thugs.”

    But the authorities, using all the military tools at their disposal in the exhausted drug war, treated them as big-time narco threats. First, a helicopter spotted the garden from the air. Brilliant, except Harvey himself had painted a huge medical marijuana sign on a plywood board so that his garden, in fact, could be identified as a medical pot plot from the air.

    This was followed by two raids. One from eight agents in Kevlar vests. The other from Drug Enforcement Agency officers. They searched the house, confiscating guns, and a little cash in a drawer. The guns are no surprise: Finding someone who does not own a firearm in the Selkirk Mountain country is like finding a Seattleite who doesn’t recycle. Still, the guns were enough to add additional federal charges to an indictment that the family was growing more than the legal limit of plants.

    Now, let’s step back. The Harveys live in the congressional district of Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who is part of the House Republican leadership. She loves freedom. You know she loves freedom because she always says so, most recently in a press release touting her efforts to take away people’s health care coverage. “Americans must be protected from out of control government,” she stated.

    Well, maybe. Unless that government is trying to take away the freedom of a retired couple growing pot to ease their bodily pains. That freedom is not so good. Astonishingly, in our current toxic political atmosphere, Republicans and Democrats joined together last month to vote, by 219 to 189, to block spending for federal prosecution of medical marijuana in states that allow it.

    Yaayyy, for freedom. There was one dissent from Washington State’s delegation. Yes, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, standing firm for an out of control government instead of defending one of her freedom-loving constituents.

    Continue reading the main story
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    SEE ALL COMMENTS WRITE A COMMENT
    Let’s go further up the government ranks. As a candidate, Barack Obama promised to “immediately review these sentences” — mandatory minimums — “to see how we can be smarter on crime and reduce the ineffective warehousing of nonviolent drug offenders.”

    He kept that promise, in ordering a review. And his Justice Department also issued new guidelines saying the Feds would try to avoid prosecution of medical marijuana operations so long as they don’t do things like funnel money to interstate drug operations or sell to children. The Harveys say they meet the guidelines.

    Why the federal prosecution, then? Attorney General Holder was in Spokane last week, meeting with his subordinates. But he said nothing about the case. Trial is set for July 28, and the Harveys can’t use legal medical marijuana as a defense, a judge has ruled. All the government has to prove is that the Harvey family was growing marijuana — a federal crime.

    CONTINUE READING THE MAIN STORY
    185
    COMMENTS
    If they go to prison for a decade, as the mindless statutes that grew out of the crack-cocaine scare stipulate, they would become part of a federal system where fully half of all inmates are behind bars for drug offenses. And one in four of those crimes involves marijuana.

    So remember the Kettle Falls Five when all the legal pot stores and their already legal growing facilities open for business in Washington State next month. There will be silly features about cookies and candy bars laced with pot, and discussions about etiquette, dos and don’ts. The press will cite polls showing that a majority of Americans favor legalizing marijuana, and more than 80 percent feel that way about medical cannabis. But in the eyes of the federal government, these state laws are meaningless.

    If Larry Harvey, at the age of 70, with his gout and high blood pressure and bum knee, gets the mandatory 10-year term, he’s likely to die in prison, certainly not the last casualty of the assault on our citizens known as the War on Drugs. For him, freedom is just another word his congresswoman likes to throw around on the Fourth of July.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/27/op...e=article&_r=0

  • #2
    This country is about Money. They sold it on the " Trickle down thievery " for year and the middle class and the poor got poorer and the rich got richer created no new jobs and received all the power.

    If you want something in this county you buy it. Whether it be a Church Temple that has broken height codes or a Bill that needs passed in congress.

    It's really sad that we've went this way but it is what it is. People being imprisoned is big big money.

    Comment


    • #3
      Before this turns into another class-warfare whine fest (thanks a lot, Quoydogs) that has little to do with the article, here's the real deal:

      A lot of prisons are run by private companies. A large amount of prisoners are incarcerated for drug related problems. Police also get money to "fight drugs." Both groups lobby their local and national government heavily. This ensures lots of funding to "fight" drugs and also keep laws on the books that are an easy sell to parents and families. "Senator so-and-so sponsored a powerful new bill that increases the sentences of drug dealing to 30 to life!"

      "Yay my senator loves children and my family." Really it just force feeds more people into prisons and the prison companies and law enforcement get more funding. De-criminalizing and taxing Pot is great way to move those funds from incarceration and police to better things.

      Anyway the point of the defense attorney is technically true: The sale and use of pot is a federal offense and you can be prosecuted for it.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Kaylore View Post
        Before this turns into another class-warfare whine fest (thanks a lot, Quoydogs) that has little to do with the article, here's the real deal:

        A lot of prisons are run by private companies. A large amount of prisoners are incarcerated for drug related problems. Police also get money to "fight drugs." Both groups lobby their local and national government heavily. This ensures lots of funding to "fight" drugs and also keep laws on the books that are an easy sell to parents and families. "Senator so-and-so sponsored a powerful new bill that increases the sentences of drug dealing to 30 to life!"

        "Yay my senator loves children and my family." Really it just force feeds more people into prisons and the prison companies and law enforcement get more funding. De-criminalizing and taxing Pot is great way to move those funds from incarceration and police to better things.

        Anyway the point of the defense attorney is technically true: The sale and use of pot is a federal offense and you can be prosecuted for it.
        How is what you said different than what Quoydog said?

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Kaylore View Post
          Before this turns into another class-warfare whine fest (thanks a lot, Quoydogs) that has little to do with the article, here's the real deal:

          A lot of prisons are run by private companies. A large amount of prisoners are incarcerated for drug related problems. Police also get money to "fight drugs." Both groups lobby their local and national government heavily. This ensures lots of funding to "fight" drugs and also keep laws on the books that are an easy sell to parents and families. "Senator so-and-so sponsored a powerful new bill that increases the sentences of drug dealing to 30 to life!"

          "Yay my senator loves children and my family." Really it just force feeds more people into prisons and the prison companies and law enforcement get more funding. De-criminalizing and taxing Pot is great way to move those funds from incarceration and police to better things.

          Anyway the point of the defense attorney is technically true: The sale and use of pot is a federal offense and you can be prosecuted for it.

          Not sure the statistics now, but not too long ago the population of inmates held in private prisons was roughly only 3.7% of the entire prison population. Hardly a lot. I actually like the private ones. Since they don't let out convicts cause they can't afford them like the public ones up and down Cali

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by baja View Post
            How is what you said different than what Quoydog said?
            He went off about slamming Reagonomics and the trickle down effect. It's actually proving the point, though. Those prison companies need to hire guards. They also hire construction companies to build more prisons. More drug fighting means more police. And all those new workers pay taxes and that goes into the economy. So the contractor can take his kids to Disney world and buy them snow cones for $9. So it does make jobs and does stimulate the economy. The problem is "more of any job" isn't good. We learned that under FDR and his dog counting and other such failed initiatives.

            Taxing Pot will still move that money to someone who's "going to get rich" ie a pot selling company instead of a prison building one. But we'll collect revenue on the sales of the pot and be able to honestly test and evaluate the effects of marijuana. Also we'll spend less on prisoners.

            The comment shouldn't be "See trickle down SUCKS!" it should be "what parts of the economy do we want to stimulate and what are the ramifications?"

            The former is dogmatic, vague and unhelpful. The latter is nuanced and while perhaps aiming for a similar path, invites more solutions than negativity and complaining.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Drunken.Broncoholic2 View Post
              Not sure the statistics now, but not too long ago the population of inmates held in private prisons was roughly only 3.7% of the entire prison population. Hardly a lot. I actually like the private ones. Since they don't let out convicts cause they can't afford them like the public ones up and down Cali
              I don't have a problem with private prisons AT ALL. I have a problem with them influencing our laws to increase their demand.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Kaylore View Post
                I don't have a problem with private prisons AT ALL. I have a problem with them influencing our laws to increase their demand.
                I don't mind it. The country can do without gray area criminals too.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Nancy told them "Just Say No." I guess they didn't listen.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Sooo, if they counted a little better when planting, none of this would have happened?

                    Or, once the plants were spotted, they got a warrant and charged in, and now the charge sticks, and guns were located and added to the charges?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Kaylore View Post
                      He went off about slamming Reagonomics and the trickle down effect. It's actually proving the point, though. Those prison companies need to hire guards. They also hire construction companies to build more prisons. More drug fighting means more police. And all those new workers pay taxes and that goes into the economy. So the contractor can take his kids to Disney world and buy them snow cones for $9. So it does make jobs and does stimulate the economy. The problem is "more of any job" isn't good. We learned that under FDR and his dog counting and other such failed initiatives.

                      Taxing Pot will still move that money to someone who's "going to get rich" ie a pot selling company instead of a prison building one. But we'll collect revenue on the sales of the pot and be able to honestly test and evaluate the effects of marijuana. Also we'll spend less on prisoners.

                      The comment shouldn't be "See trickle down SUCKS!" it should be "what parts of the economy do we want to stimulate and what are the ramifications?"

                      The former is dogmatic, vague and unhelpful. The latter is nuanced and while perhaps aiming for a similar path, invites more solutions than negativity and complaining.
                      The problem is that is cost too much $$$ to house these people. I don't know the exact cost involved but I do know it cost more to house a jailed inmate then I get paid in a year. I read somewhere it cost more to execute someone then to give them life in prison also. I dont know if that s true or not but it was some ungodly amount of money. 350K ish . My point is yes these create jobs but the wrong people are making money off it.

                      My question is, is the money it cost to keep criminals in for pot and other defenseless crimes equal enough to support the cost of employees ?
                      Last edited by Quoydogs; 06-27-2014, 01:51 PM.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Pretty sure Blueflame is responsible for this somehow.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          For profit prisons are the worst thing this country has ever enacted. I see this getting better though. I know with Marijuana laws changing in Colorado they are talking about closing prisons.... this is a good thing.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Guess Who View Post
                            For profit prisons are the worst thing this country has ever enacted. I see this getting better though. I know with Marijuana laws changing in Colorado they are talking about closing prisons.... this is a good thing.
                            . No. They were thinking about closing prisons well before pot was legalized in the state. The General Assembly has decreased the number of felonies the past few years, increased value thresholds on some crimes like theft before it becomes a felony, and basically done everything they can to state they don't want a lot of people sent to DOC.

                            The only people you really see get sent to prison anymore are violent offenders with mandatory prison sentences (or people who are facing mandatory sentences and plea to a lessor with a stip prison sentence), habitual offenders, and people who are given multiple chances on probation and continue to **** up.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              No comment. Oh yeah, it feels so damn good not to see this through political eyes. You all can party bash all you want but I'm telling you, it does feel good to not care about getting into the mix anymore.

                              The other day I went into a auto mechanic shop with a friend who needed service on her car. The guy at the front desk (old white guy who own's the shop) has this angry look on his face. He looks at me as says, you're in your mid 30's right. I said no, but thanks for the compliment. In the background I hear Rush on the radio. Rush must have got this old fart into a steaming frenzy about something I guess. The guy looks at me and says, you young ones have to have to change this country and keep them blacks from taking over. I don't know what it is but some older white people just think younger white people don't mind when they show racism but they'd be totally wrong. I for a split moment felt like spitting in his pathetic face but I caught myself and just smiled and said, you just lost about $2000 worth of service (I know she needs a new engine). Have a nice angry life, and we left. I'm glad I'm not heading down that same road that pathetic old man went down. Left or right, if you're extreme, it will get the best of you. We see it every day.

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