Weekly News in Audio

Novmber 1, 2007

Chris Goldstein
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  Britain: Pot Use Drops Following Drug’s Reclassification - Illicit drug use hits record low after cops cease arresting minor pot violators
  Leading Democratic Presidential Candidates Reject Call To Decriminalize Pot
  Denver Voters To Decide Next Week On Citywide Pot ‘Deprioritization’ Measure

London, United Kingdom:
Britain: Pot Use Drops Following Drug’s Reclassification - Illicit drug use hits record low after cops cease arresting minor pot violators

Self-reported cannabis use among Britons has declined sharply in the three years following the government’s decision to downgrade pot possession to a non-arrestable offense, according to figures compiled last week by the Home Office’s annual Crime Survey.

The Home Office show that marijuana use by young people age 16 to 24 has fallen approximately 20 percent since 2004. Overall, 21 percent of young people admit having tried pot, with eight percent of young people saying that they’ve used it in the past month. By contrast, more than twice this percentage of Americans age 18 to 25 say that they’ve used pot during the past 30 days, according to 2006 data reported by the US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA).

Among all age groups, only eight percent of Britons say they’ve used cannabis in the past year. Ten percent of the population said that they had used at least one illicit drug over the past year 窶 the lowest percentage ever recorded by the British Crime Survey.

In July, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on lawmakers to increase marijuana penalties by rescheduling cannabis from a Class C to a Class B controlled substance. At that time, Brown claimed that downgrading pot’s legal status in 2004 had led to a significant increase in the drug’s use.

Under reclassification, police have the discretion to verbally warn 窶 rather than arrest 窶 adults found with small amounts of pot. Since the enactment of the policy, police seizures of cannabis have increased sharply, though the total number of citizens’ arrested for pot-related violations has fallen.

"A far smaller percentage of young people smoke cannabis in the United Kingdom than in America 窶 despite Britain’s enactment of far more liberal pot policies," NORML Executive Director Allen St. Pierre said. "The Gordon Brown government would be taking a drastic step backwards by reverting to the sort of US-styled ‘Do drugs, do time’ mentality that has resulted in making America the world’s leader in illicit drug use and in the incarceration of its citizens for non-violent drug violations."

Philadelphia, PA:
Leading Democratic Presidential Candidates Reject Call To Decriminalize Pot

Democratic Presidential frontrunners Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Barack Obama (D-IL), and former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) oppose decriminalizing marijuana so Americans who use pot recreationally would no longer face arrest and imprisonment.

Appearing at this week’s Democratic Presidential debate at Drexel University, all three candidates indicated that they opposed decriminalizing the possession and use of marijuana for adults. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson 窶 who approved statewide legislation earlier this year legalizing the medical use of cannabis 窶 also indicated his opposition to the enactment of broader decriminalization strategies.

Marijuana decriminalization 窶 which prior to Tuesday’s debate had not been discussed by the candidates in a public forum 窶 was one of several drug policy related issues submitted to MSNBC moderator Tim Russert by members of the Philadelphia chapter of NORML.

Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) both indicated that they backed decriminalizing pot. "We're locking up too many people in our system here today," Dodd said. "We've got mandatory minimum sentences that are filling our jails with people who don't belong there. My idea is to decriminalize [marijuana], reduce that problem here. We've gone from 800,000 to 2 million people in our penal institutions in this country."

Senator Dodd had previously stated that if elected President, "[He] would decriminalize … the statutes … that would incarcerate or severely penalize people for using marijuana." Representative Kucinich has said that he favors a national drug policy that treats adult marijuana use in a manner similar to alcohol.

Each of the leading Democrat candidates have gone on record to voice their support for respecting the will of states to enact medical marijuana legislation, though only Richardson, Kucinich, and former US Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AK) 窶 who was not present in Tuesday’s debate 窶 have said that they support legalizing cannabis for medicinal purposes.

Denver, CO:
Denver Voters To Decide Next Week On Citywide Pot ‘Deprioritization’ Measure

Denver voters will decide next week on a municipal measure that instructs city officials to deemphasize marijuana law enforcement.

Sponsored by Citizens for a Safer Denver, Question 100 directs the Denver Police Department and the City Attorney's Office to make activities related to the investigation, citation, and/or arrest of adult cannabis users their lowest law enforcement priority.

Seattle voters passed a similar law in 2003, which has led to a 75 percent reduction in citywide marijuana arrests. Several other cities 窶 including Santa Cruz, California; Missoula, Montana; and Columbia, Missouri 窶 have enacted similar initiatives in recent years. Voters in Hailey, Idaho will also decide on a similar measure next week.

Supporters of the Denver initiative note that non-felony pot arrests in the city rose dramatically between 2005 and 2006 and are now at record levels.

In 2005, Denver voters approved an ordinance that sought to abolish civil and criminal penalties for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana by citizens age 21 and older. However, local police disregarded the municipal ordinance 窶 instead electing to enforce state cannabis laws, which mandate a civil fine for minor pot possession offenses.