NYPD Busts Lots of Pot Smokers Despite Drop in Street Stops

At the end of his first month in office, New York
Mayor Bill de Blasio
said
he was “ending the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has
unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men.” New data
show that the number of street stops by the NYPD
fell dramatically
during the first quarter of this year, when
cops reported 14,261 such encounters, compared to 99,788 in the
first three months of 2013. But that 86 percent drop was not
accompanied by a commensurate reduction in the number of low-level
marijuana arrests, which often result from stops in which police
find pot during pat-downs or instruct people to empty their
pockets.

According to
data
from the Marijuana Arrest Research Project (MARP), there
were 7,017 pot busts from January through March this year, just 8.5
percent fewer than the 7,671 during the same period last year.
Marijuana arrests fell substantially during the last two years of
Michael Bloomberg’s administration and continued falling in 2014,
from 2,786 in January to 1,796 in December. The NYPD under its new
commissioner, Bill Bratton, seems to be reversing that downward
trend:

In March 2014, the NYPD under de Blasio and Bratton made
more marijuana possession 
arrests than in any
month in the last six months under Bloomberg and [Police
Commissioner Ray] Kelly. 
New York
City’s marijuana possession arrests in the first quarter of
2014 are higher than in the third and fourth quarters of 2013.
In fact, the NYPD made more marijuana possession arrests in
March 2014 than in 10 of the 12 months in 2013.

MARP says Bratton is on track to match the 28,644 pot
busts in 2013. That number was down 43 percent from a peak of
50,484 in 2011 but still above the historical norm. The NYPD
averaged 2,259 minor pot busts each year under Ed Koch and 982
under David Dinkins. Even Rudy Giuliani, who began the pot
crackdown
that Bloomberg continued and escalated, managed less
than 25,000 a year.

These numbers should embarrass De Blasio, given his talk
of the “two New Yorks” and his opposition to racially biased
policies. As usual, the overwhelming majority of marijuana
arrestees in the first quarter of this year (86 percent) were
blacks or Hispanics, even though survey data indicate that whites
are at least as likely to smoke pot. Most were men, and 70 percent
were between the ages of 16 and 29. MARP notes that police made one
arrest on the Upper East Side and four on the Upper West Side,
compared to 111 in Bedford-Stuyvesant and 438 in East New
York.

These disparities have something to do with how the NYPD
allocates its resources, of course, and they may also have to do
with different rates of outdoor pot smoking. Contrary to the
impression you might get from all these small-time pot busts,
simple possession of marijuana (up to 25 grams, about nine-tenths
of an ounce) was “decriminalized” in New York state nearly four
decades ago. It is supposed to be a citable offense, meaning you
cannot be arrested for it. But “public display” of
marijuana—consuming or holding it in open sight—remains a
misdemeanor.

It’s not clear how many of the 7,000 or so New Yorkers
arrested for public display during the first three months of this
year were actually guilty of it, and how many were
illegally tricked or coerced
into revealing marijuana that
otherwise would have remained concealed. Either way, police should
have better things to do, especially given the racial and
socioeconomic distribution of these arrests, which even if
unintended seems a far cry from equal treatment under the law. Gov.
Andrew Cuomo
supports
decriminalizing public display, and so do many state
legislators (although not enough to
pass a bill
yet). But De Blasio and Bratton do not have to wait
for new legislation. They can tell cops to stop clogging the
criminal justice system with these petty, unfair, gratuitous, and
frequently illegal arrests.

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“Devastating” Sequester Cuts Resulted in Just One Federal Layoff

Remember those “devastating”
cuts that the government spending reductions ordered by the
sequestration process were supposed to cause? Those cuts, a White
House report said,
would be
 “deeply destructive” to “core government
functions.”

In a
speech last year
, Obama was adamant: The cuts were “not an
abstraction—people will lose their jobs.”

Well, person. At least if you’re talking about the federal
government. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that,
amongst the 23 agencies it examined, exactly one federal employee
was laid off as a result of sequestration.

As the report says in a footnote on page 51: “DOJ officials
reported that one DOJ component—the U.S. Parole
Commission—implemented a reduction in force of one employee to
achieve partial savings required by sequestration in fiscal
year 2013.” 

A reporter from FoxNews.com asked federal officials for more
information about the laid off employee, but
didn’t find anything
.

Federal agencies did restrict employee travel, training, and
overtime, and also relied on furloughs. But the GAO reports that
most agencies were able to deal with the cuts to at least some
extent by relying on “funding flexibilities”—basically, they
shifted money around, sometimes carrying over money from previous
years, and sometimes taking funds from areas deemed less important
and spending them on prioritized projects and functions. Which
suggests that they were probably oversized and overfunded to begin
with, and could probably withstand some budget trimming. 

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Pop-Tart Guns Now Legal in Florida Schools

poptart pistolFlorida legislators wrapped up their 2014 session
by passing
a bill
that revises school discipline guidelines in the wake of
the now-infamous incident in which a
7-year-old boy was suspended for chewing his breakfast pastry into
the shape of a gun
and other zero tolerance
snafus
.

They’re
calling it “the Pop-Tart bill”
 and it’s rather
specific:


pop-tart bill


pop-tart bill

Maryland, where the original pastry pistol incident took place,

passed a similar bill last year
.

But the boy at the center of that controversy is still caught in
the zero tolerance web. The
Washington Post
reports
 that school officials in that
case are saying the suspension was really about general
disciplinary problems, despite the fact that the brief citation
includes the word gun four times and the parents say
administrators made no mention of other concerns at the time of the
suspension:


For more than a year, the Anne Arundel boy’s family has been asking
school officials
 to clear the episode from his boy’s
records, saying that it unfairly tarnishes his file with a
gun-related offense….

At Tuesday’s hearing, school officials said the boy also had
nibbled his pastry into a gun shape a day earlier. But his teacher,
Jessica Fultz, testified that on that day he was more compliant
when admonished. On the day he was suspended, she said, he was not
responsive when she told him to stop.

Which highlights the irony at the heart of zero tolerance
policies. Far from being inflexible across-the-board rules, they
tend to be enforced selectively and often for reasons beyond what
is contained in the letter of the law. 

Both the Florida and Maryland bills contain language that
protects teachers’ and administrators’ right to discipline kids who
are actually being disruptive or dangerous. Because duh. 

The Maryland school administrators would also like to
clarify
another point: 

Laurie Pritchard, Anne Arundel’s director of legal services,
said that the object central to the case had been misportrayed, as
well as the reason for the discipline.

“First of all, it wasn’t a Pop-Tart,” she said. “It was a
breakfast pastry.” 

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Matthew Feeney on Why Rand Paul Should Highlight the Economic Case For Non-Interventionism

Polling shows that most Americans agree with Sen.
Rand Paul (R-Ky.) when it comes to foreign policy. Much of the
American public, who have endured years of deadly American military
adventures overseas, believe that the United States should be less
involved in the rest of the world’s affairs. 

The results of this polling should be good news for Paul, who is
widely expected to run for president in 2016 and has made a name
for himself as one of the GOP’s most prominent non-interventionists
since being sworn in back in 2011. On the intervention in Libya,
the response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and the
crises in Ukraine and Egypt, Paul has demonstrated that he is far
less keen to get the United States involved in other countries’
affairs than many of his Republican colleagues. However, not
many Americans consider foreign affairs to be a priority.
Reason’s Matthew Feeney writes that Paul will be able to
make the case for non-interventionism if he does run for president
in 2016 by making it an economic issue, highlighting the vast
amount of money spent on implementing U.S. foreign
policy. 

View this article.

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Rand Paul vs. Ron Paul in Baseball Uniforms: Who Wore It Better?

I present this important issue because it long ago became clear
that we’re all just being dreamed by Philip K. Dick anyway.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) recently showed up to give a speech at
the Leadership Institute wearing a baseball uniform (he had his
reasons,
ABC News explains
).

Meanwhile, here’s a shot of Rand’s pa, former Rep. Ron Paul
(R-Texas), all duded up in just about the worst-ever MLB uniform
this side of Atlanta’s mid-1970s
Chevron gas-station attendant numbers
:

So in the spirit of US
Weekly
, tell us kind readers: Who wore it better?

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Have Doubts About Common Core? Maybe You’re a Right-Wing Extremist!

Common CorePity the poor Southern Poverty
Law Center. Over the years, it’s gone from noble, to shrill,
to…well…pathetic. These days, it seems to exist only to

scare people
with exaggerated
figures
about supposed swarms of Klansmen, skinheads, neo-nazis, whatever will
get the mailing list rattled. But the guys in white hoods are
getting a bit thin on the ground and long in the tooth. Yes,
there’s an occasional and unfortunate
Glenn Miller
, but a rare, homicidal racist in a nation of over
300 million people does not a national threat make.

Last year, the SPLC tried its hand at
painting anarcho-capitalists as a rising new threat
through a
convoluted chain of logic that somehow sought to link voluntaryists
to the Patriot movement. Uh huh. Since even the SPLC can’t follow
that line of reasoning (it keeps leading them to a dumpster behind
a 7-11), now the scaremonger group cautions that some
people who oppose
Common Core education standards
are right-wing
extremists
.

Oh yeah. And they’re back to invoking the John Birch
Society.

Now, it’s true that some people with doubts about the new Common
Core standards, developed by the National Governors Association and
the Chief Council of State School Officers, but also
favored by the feds
, are right-wing extremists (do not
forget the emphasis; very important). Of course, some people who
brush their teeth are right-wing extremists.

And some people just get tagged as right-wing extremists when
it’s time for another SPLC mailing.

Then again, some opponents of Common Core are
members of teachers unions
who call the standards dangerous to
personal privacy and educational autonomy. Some are advocates of
child-directed education who
oppose standardized testing
. Some worry that the standards are

developmentally inappropriate for children
.

But, warns an SPLC report that sounds as if even its authors

take it less than entirely seriously
(PDF):

To the propaganda machine on the right, the Common Core—an
effort driven by the states—is actually “Obamacore,” a nefarious
federal plot to wrest control of education from local school
systems and parents. Instead of the “death panels” of “Obamacare,”
the fear is now “government indoctrination camps.”

The disinformation campaign is being driven by the likes of Fox
News, the John Birch Society, Tea Party factions, and the Christian
Right. National think tanks and advocacy groups associated with the
Koch brothers, whose father was a founding Birch member, have taken
up the cause.

By raising the specter of “Obamacore,” activists on the radical
right hope to gain leverage against their real target—public
education itself.

You can read the whole report, if you like, though I can’t
imagine why. It does acknowledge that there are “legitimate
debates” over Common Core, but mostly it tosses together
libertarian bloggers, fundamentalist preachers, nutjobs, Sen. Rand
Paul (R-Ky.), Tea Party members, the Koch brothers (obligatory
disclaimer: David Koch sits on the Board of the Reason Foundation),
and anybody else SPLC doesn’t like who criticizes Common Core. And,
yes, the John Birch Society, probably because the people on the
SPLC’s mailing list know who that is and find the group scary. It
jogs even their memories, though, just in case: “Chief among the
Patriot groups is the John Birch Society (JBS)—the ultra-right
organization that once called President Dwight D. Eisenhower a
communist agent.”

Never mind that the various individuals and groups invoked often
have very different criticisms to make of common core standards;
it’s time to throw them in the blender o’ progressive nightmares.
All of this is really a plot against public education.

And public education is good!

And never mind that the various individuals and groups invoked
often have very different positions on the role government should
play in schooling and what constitutes a good education.

To show just how incoherent this all is, the report closes by
citing education historian Diane Ravitch on the value of public
schools, while also noting her opposition to Common Core. That’s
right, the almost 40-page warning that Common Core opponents are
out to kill public education ends by invoking an opponent who
supports public education.

Err…So what’s the point of all this?

Right-wing extremists! John Birch Society! BOO!

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School Drug Testing All Its Students Censors ‘Seditious’ Dissent

What can a high school principal do to keep the
public relations train chugging toward disaster when he’s already
adopted the ethically questionable policy of mandatory drug testing
for an entire student body? By censoring a student who calls
instead for a policy of greater accountability and personal
responsibility, of course. That’s what the administrators of St.
Ignatius High School (SIHS) in Cleveland, Ohio did this week.

As a recap, SIHS and two other Catholic schools recently teamed
up with Psychemedics Corporation to drug test all their
students–about 1,450 at SIHS alone and nearly 3,000 total. The
schools issued
contradictory statements
about whether or not there’s actually
a drug problem, but assured that the policy was for student safety.
It’s pure coincidence, administrators
insisted
when asked by alt-weekly Cleveland Scene,
that Psychemedics CEO Raymond Kubacki is part of SIHS’s old boys’
network, is the brother of one of the other school’s principals,
and has explicitly stated that high schools are his new target
since workplace drug testing is waning. Reason covered
more details on the situation
here
.

Dissenting students were disenfranchised by Cleveland’s only
major paper, the Plain Dealer, which exclusively quoted to
pupils who were
hand-picked
by administrators and just happened to think drug
testing is cool.

This left a bad taste in the mouth of SIHS senior Benjamin
Seeley, who wrote a critical article intended for his school paper.
Here’s an
excerpt
:

The school should not assume responsibility for student health;
that is the place of parents. The initiative shows signs of noble
intent, but it wasn’t necessary in the first place. If the school
is concerned about drugs, and feels oversight is the only solution,
it should recommend parents themselves administer the tests….

A study by the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Public
Policy Center found that instituting mandatory random drug tests in
high schools had no impact on student drug use for males… and
that the testing worked only to further the divide between
administration and student.

Seeley also suggested that kids will stop using harmless drugs
like marijuana and in favor of alcohol, since it won’t show up on
the test. He concluded by calling upon his classmates to “demand
that the school offer worthy explanations to you for their choice
of drug-tester, and a response to why substantive pieces of
evidence against drug testing were ultimately tossed out” and that
they should “refuse to be made pawns of.”

Proving that it could alienate itself from the students in other
ways, the SIHS administration reportedly blocked the publication of
Seeley’s article for being “seditious.” So, Scene
published it instead.

Seeley’s compatriots are in a difficult situation. They do have
the option of leaving their private institution. The Supreme Court
has
affirmed
Fourth Amendment rights and limits drug testing in
public schools, but given the caliber of Cleveland’s public
education it’s highly unlikely any SIHS student will make that
move. And, having a bad alternative doesn’t negate the fact that
their privacy is still being curtailed and their once-presumed
innocence replaced by Psychemedics’ lab results.

It’s a shame to see a crop of thousands of teenagers needlessly
roped into the war on drugs. If nothing else, the experience will
hopefully teach them just how ineffective, unsettlingly invasive,
and common sense-defying these kinds of policies and their
proponents are. 

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Vid: The Fight for Medical Marijuana in Minnesota

“I have a lot of trouble hearing physicians or politicians come
on TV or radio and say, you know, we don’t know what medical
marijuana does cognitively to the brains of these young kids…any
parent who’s got a kid with epilepsy, who’s having seizures, we
know what that does cognitively, to their brains,” said Mark
Botker, a farmer in Minnesota.

Mark and Maria Botker have three daughters and own a farm in
Clinton, Minnesota. Their 7-year-old daughter, Greta, suffers from
a severe form of epilepsy. Over the years, they’ve tried numerous
prescription medications to control Greta’s seizures without
success.

Last summer they learned that a form of medical marijuana with a
high concentration of a cannabinoid called CBD can help control
epileptic seizures. Because medical marijuana is illegal in
Minnesota the Botkers purchased a home in Colorado so that Greta
could have access to the medicine. Maria and Mark now take turns
caring for Greta in Colorado while the rest of the family remains
in Minnesota.

Since she started taking medical marijuana, Greta’s seizures
have decreased dramatically. The Botkers would like to bring Greta
back home to Minnesota, and lawmakers in the state may give them
the opportunity to do just that. The Minnesota
legislature is currently considering two medical marijuana
bills
. Reformers say they have the votes to legalize medical
marijuana, but it’s not clear that Gov. Mark Dayton (D) will sign a
medical marijuana bill into law. In a recent press conference, Gov.
Dayton had this advice for people like Greta who could benefit from
medical marijuana: “The fact is that you can go out in any city in
Minnesota, I’m told, and purchase marijuana. And if you possess
less than an ounce of it, an ounce and a half of it, it’s a petty
misdemeanor, it’s a traffic ticket.”

“We just plead with the legislators, and we plead with Governor
Dayton to please consider our daughter and our family,” Maria
Botker said.

About 5 minutes. Produced by Paul Feine. Camera by Alex Manning.
Music: “Beyond Touch” by Keijo.

Scroll down for downloadable versions, and subscribe to Reason TV’s YouTube
channel
for daily content like this.


View this article.

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The Long Road to Dismantling Prohibition

they look for cash cowsMarijuana decriminalization and legalization may
start to be feeling like a fait accompli, a matter of
when not if (you can check out the status of
legalization efforts in all 50 states
here
).

Yet the “business” (mostly government) built around the war on
drugs involves a lot of people (again, mostly government employees
or those involved with government in some way) profiting from the
status quo. Even as public opinion continues to move rapidly toward
the mainstreaming of marijuana use, desperate drug warriors try to
claim their often all-too-real war on drugs is actually a “public
health” issue. Drug
courts
have popped up around the country to permit an end run
around decriminalization. When the human cost of the drug war
finally starts to make prohibition unpalatable, drug courts and the
treatment of the consensual activity of drug use as a “public
health” issue sanitizes it while keeping those who use drugs and
get caught in the net of the drug warriors as
profit centers
.

Fearmongering about drugs helps fuel this kind of set-up. Even
in Colorado, where voters approved marijuana legalization in 2012,
the governor, Democrat John Hickenlooper, continues to insist it
may not have been a good idea. He still wouldn’t have supported it,

he says
, even as tax revenue exceeds projections. Counties,
meanwhile, are
fighting
over the tax revenue even when they prohibit marijuana
within their own jurisdictions. Agents with the Drug Enforcement
Administration (DEA) insist “every
parent
” opposes marijuana legalization and get choked up
telling the Senate thaat legalization “scares
them.

And anti-drug propaganda is peddled nationwide on a daily basis,
especially under the guise of protecting children. Here are a
couple of items just from today. In Washington,
New Jersey
:

Former Mount Olive Police Officer Joseph Abrusci is not
good at being “retired.”

As a certified expert in the area of drug impairment, Abrusci
continues to offer his knowledge to parents and organizations that
combat substance abuse with education and experience.

“I’m still having fun and enjoying it to help my community and its
kids to stay on the right track, or get back on it,” Abrusci said,
“and I love every minute of it.”

Abrusci offers eight hour classes under a program called “Drug
Identification Training for Education Professionals.” Dollars to
donuts that’s a paid gig.

Meanwhile in
Montana
:

Alliance for Youth is looking for students and parents
to join separate advisory boards to help promote and sustain an
anti-drug media campaign targeting teens.

The Above the Influence campaign will look at how parents and
teenagers can reach out to students and encourage positive behavior
and change attitudes about drugs and alcohol use and abuse.

For more than 20 years, Alliance for Youth has provided resources
to families, children and teens to advance healthy youth
development. They champion prevention and reduction of underage
drinking and illegal drug use and dependency, which often leads to
other problems including crime, violence, early sexual activity and
dropping out of school.

The Alliance for Youth also adminsters the local court’s

drug court program
. The drug war is a jobs program all the way
down. Those can be the hardest to dismantle, tied to the power of
government and to political pressure as they are.

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Justice Kennedy Let the Voters Ban Affirmative Action. Will He Let Them Ban Gay Marriage, Too?

In
his opinion last month upholding a Michigan constitutional
amendment forbidding the use of affirmative action in state
colleges and universities, Justice Anthony Kennedy sang the praises
of democracy. “This case is not about how the debate about racial
preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it,”
Kennedy wrote in Schuette
v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action
. “It is
demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are
not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and
rational grounds.”

In addition to banning affirmative action, Michigan voters have
also banned gay marriage. In 2004 the state’s electorate weighed in
on that sensitive issue, voting to amend the state constitution to
define marriage as “the union of one man and one woman.” 

That 2004 amendment is now under attack in federal court.
Earlier this week, Bill Schuette, Michigan’s attorney general,
urged the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to uphold the
ban. “Our system of democracy is based on the premise that the
people are capable of deciding even sensitive issues on ‘decent and
rational grounds,'” his brief states, in a none-too-subtle nod to
Kennedy’s affirmative action ruling.

At SCOTUSblog, Lyle Denniston
notes
that Schuette is not the only state official trying to
hitch a gay marriage ban to Kennedy’s wagon. “In two [other]
federal appeals courts,” Denniston writes, “where three such bans
are now under review, attorneys defending the bans have sought to
take advantage of the Justices’ April 22 decision in Schuette
v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action
.”

The strategy here is obvious. If the Supreme Court trusts the
voters when it comes to a hot button issue like affirmative action,
why not also trust them when it comes to the fractious issue of gay
marriage?

The irony is that Justice Kennedy, the author of the affirmative
action ruling now being deployed, just happens to be the Supreme
Court’s leader when it comes to invalidating state and federal
restrictions on gay rights. In the 1996 case Romer
v. Evans
, for example, Kennedy’s majority opinion struck
down Colorado’s Amendment 2, a voter initiative that had amended
the state constitution in order to forbid government officials from
taking any action designed to protect gays and lesbians from
discrimination.

Similarly, in 2003’s Lawrence
v. Texas
, Kennedy nullified the Lone Star State’s
Homosexual Conduct Law, a democratically enacted statute
criminalizing same-sex relations. And then there’s last term’s
United
States v. Windsor
, where Kennedy invalidated a portion of
the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law passed by wide
bipartisan margins in Congress and signed by President Bill
Clinton.

To say the least, Kennedy has shown little interest in deferring
to the democratic process when gay rights are at stake. Yes, he
sided with Michigan voters in the affirmative action case; but keep
in mind that Kennedy has never voted in favor of an affirmative
action program during his three decades on the Court. By contrast,
he has consistently ruled in favor of gay rights—voting public be
damned. I expect he’ll continue that trend of aggressive judicial
review when the Supreme Court finally tackles a gay marriage ban on
the merits.

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