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Readers Favor Automatic Expungement of Marijuana Convictions Once Legalized

June 5, 2019 Crime, Drug Policy, Featured, Metro East Comments Off on Readers Favor Automatic Expungement of Marijuana Convictions Once Legalized
Most of the recreational marijuana stores we visited in Colorado in 2014 had a separate section for medical marijuana.

Marijuana became illegal largely because Henry Anslinger needed to keep his government job during the Great Depression. Anslinger was appointed the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in 1930, just 3 years before the end of Prohibition on alcohol.

“From the moment he took charge of the bureau, Harry was aware of the weakness of his new position. A war on narcotics alone — cocaine and heroin, outlawed in 1914 — wasn’t enough,” author Johann Hari wrote in his book, “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.” “They were used only by a tiny minority, and you couldn’t keep an entire department alive on such small crumbs. He needed more.” 

Consequently, Anslinger made it his mission to rid the U.S. of all drugs — including cannabis. His influence played a major role in the introduction and passage of the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937, which outlawed possessing or selling pot.

Fueled by a handful of 1920s newspaper stories about crazed or violent episodes after marijuana use, Anslinger first claimed that the drug could cause psychosis and eventually insanity. In a radio address, he stated young people are “slaves to this narcotic, continuing addiction until they deteriorate mentally, become insane, turn to violent crime and murder.” 

In particular, he latched on to the story of a young man named Victor Licata, who had hacked his family to death with an ax, supposedly while high on cannabis. It was discovered many years later, however, that Licata had a history of mental illness in his family, and there was no proof he ever used the drug.

The problem was, there was little scientific evidence that supported Anslinger’s claims. He contacted 30 scientists, according to Hari, and 29 told him cannabis was not a dangerous drug. But it was the theory of the single expert who agreed with him that he presented to the public — cannabis was an evil that should be banned — and the press ran with this sensationalized version. (CBS News)

Race was used to get public support behind a new ban:

To understand how we ended up here, it is important to go back to what was happening in the United States in the early 1900’s just after the Mexican Revolution. At this time we saw an influx of immigration from Mexico into states like Texas and Louisiana. Not surprising, these new Americans brought with them their native language, culture and customs. One of these customs was the use of cannabis as a medicine and relaxant.

Mexican immigrants referred to this plant as “marihuana”. While Americans were very familiar with “cannabis” because it was present in almost all tinctures and medicines available at the time, the word “marihuana” was a foreign term. So, when the media began to play on the fears that the public had about these new citizens by falsely spreading claims about the “disruptive Mexicans” with their dangerous native behaviors including marihuana use, the rest of the nation did not know that this “marihuana” was a plant they already had in their medicine cabinets.

The demonization of the cannabis plant was an extension of the demonization of the Mexican immigrants. In an effort to control and keep tabs on these new citizens, El Paso, TX borrowed a play from San Francisco’s playbook, which had outlawed opium decades earlier in an effort to control Chinese immigrants. The idea was to have an excuse to search, detain and deport Mexican immigrants.

That excuse became marijuana.

This method of controlling people by controlling their customs was quite successful, so much so that it became a national strategy for keeping certain populations under the watch and control of the government.

During hearings on marijuana law in the 1930’s, claims were made about marijuana’s ability to cause men of color to become violent and solicit sex from white women. This imagery became the backdrop for the Marijuana Tax Act of 1937 which effectively banned its use and sales.

While the Act was ruled unconstitutional years later, it was replaced with the Controlled Substances Act in the 1970’s which established Schedules for ranking substances according to their dangerousness and potential for addiction. Cannabis was placed in the most restrictive category, Schedule I, supposedly as a place holder while then President Nixon commissioned a report to give a final recommendation. (drug policy.org)

OK, the origins were racist — but they still broke the law. They must suffer the consequences of their actions, right? No, there are people who were caught with weed, served their time, but now find it difficult to get a job, housing. We can’t continue to write these people off.

According to The Heritage Foundation, manifest in convicted felons not being able to vote, difficulty getting a job or certification, problems with housing and many more. There are over 46,000 collateral consequences that a person can face at the federal or state level after they are convicted of a crime, leading to problems nearly 70 percent of the time for these people trying to get jobs.

Justice reform advocates say that these problems increase the recidivism of former criminals and encourage a life of crime when they have no options left.

“These extra problems for a person can extraordinarily make their life more difficult in the long term,” Holcombe said. “It’s such a long process that many people don’t know about and don’t have the resources to fix on their own.”

Other advocates point to the fact that taxpayers are having to pay for the over 600,000 people being arrested every year for marijuana crimes and footing a nearly $44 billion dollar bill over more than 30 years. The Drug Policy Alliance also points out that $47 billion dollars are spent a year on the War on Drugs and that nearly 50 percent of those in jail for drug-related crimes are people of color. (Wikileaf)

It’s in society’s interests to erase their records for something now legalized. This will allow them to find work, housing, etc. They might even work in the legal weed business at some level — much better than committing a different crime because all legal options were closed to them.

Most who participated in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll think records should automatically be expunged.

Q: Agree or disagree: Those who were convicted of marijuana possession should not have their record automatically expunged.

  • Strongly agree: 3 [11.11%]
  • Agree: 3 [11.11%]
  • Somewhat agree: 1 [3.7%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Disagree: 6 [22.22%]
  • Strongly disagree: 14 [51.85%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Automatic expungement is better than making people file to receive expungement.  I’m very glad Illinois will be doing the right thing.

— Steve Patterson

 

Readers: Keep Workhouse Open; Patterson: Shut It Down

April 24, 2019 Crime, Featured, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Readers: Keep Workhouse Open; Patterson: Shut It Down

In the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll more than half the respondents thought St. Louis’ workhouse should remain open.

The Medium Security Institution located at 7600 Hall Street, March 2010
Inside the fences

Here are the results:

Q: Agree or disagree: The St. Louis Workhouse should remain open.

  • Strongly agree: 6 [25%]
  • Agree: 4 [16.67%]
  • Somewhat agree: 4 [16.67%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [12.5%]
  • Disagree: 1 [4.17%]
  • Strongly disagree: 6 [25%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

Others, including myself, strongly disagree.

In a letter to the Close the Workhouse campaign, city Comptroller Darlene Green added her voice to those who want the decrepit jail built in 1966 to close its doors forever.
“Closing MSI is the right thing to do,” Green wrote. “It is within reach and can be completed in a matter of months, not years, with focus from the administration.” (Post-Dispatch)

From last month:

When Mary Fox took over the public defender’s office in St. Louis in 2007 there were about 2,000 defendants incarcerated who hadn’t been convicted of the alleged crimes that put them behind bars. Then, as now, the bulk of the people in jail in the city were there on pretrial release, most of them poor people, many black, who could not afford the bail set by a judge.
That number, still too high, is down to about 800, Fox said Thursday night at an event held by a coalition of activist groups known as Close the Workhouse. (Post-Dispatch)

Here’s more on the Close the Workhouse campaign:

The Close the Workhouse campaign aims to attack mass incarceration, without legitimizing or justifying the continued caging of people as punishment. We call for the closure of the Medium Security Institute, better known in St. Louis as the Workhouse, an end to wealth based pretrial detention, and the reinvestment of the money used to cage poor people and Black people into rebuilding the most impacted neighborhoods in this region.

The Workhouse is part and parcel of a racist and predatory system of mass incarceration that grew directly out of slavery and Jim Crow and works to perpetuate this shameful legacy in America. The story of the Workhouse illustrates this oppressive history.

The campaign is a collaboration of the individuals subjected to incarceration at the Workhouse and lawyers and activists engaged on the issue. The campaign’s three primary organizational partners work in collaboration everyday in St. Louis to get people free: Action St. Louis, ArchCity Defenders, and Bail Project St. Louis.

The Campaign emerges directly from the outcry that was the Ferguson Uprising. It is grounded in a commitment to end an ongoing war against Black people that has been waged against generations of families in St. Louis. Our aim is not to reform but rather dismantle a racist system that has destroyed lives and to abolish the practice of criminalizing the poor. We not only seek to close the workhouse but also to use the money currently spent to cage Black people to rebuild the most impacted communities. We embrace this task in order to vindicate the victims of the Workhouse and to secure future generations’ ability to thrive.

Please join us in this fight to permanently limit the City of St. Louis’s ability to cage poor people and Black people in this region. Help us share the report and plan throughout impacted communities in St. Louis. With your support, “this is a fight we can win, it is a fight we have to win”.

The St. Louis Workhouse is part of the problem in St. Louis, it’s not a solution.

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Readers Opposed To Missouri National Guard Patroling St. Louis’ Worst Neighborhoods

April 17, 2019 Crime, Featured, Neighborhoods, North City, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Readers Opposed To Missouri National Guard Patroling St. Louis’ Worst Neighborhoods
Unfinished house on 22nd Street in the Hyde Park neighborhood, August 2016

Following a recent daytime shooting Ald. Brandon Bosley started a long-overdue conversation about taking back neighborhoods from criminal elements.

The boldness of the crime, on a sunny spring day as sports fans flocked downtown, just three miles south, led the neighborhood’s alderman to call for deployment of the Missouri National Guard before the summer hits and crime spikes.

“I’m done waiting,” said Alderman Brandon Bosley of the 3rd Ward. “Before it gets too bad, we need to do something measurable. Extra hands. Extra guns. Guns bigger than the ones on the street.”

Bosley said he and the city Board of Aldermen’s black caucus had been talking for weeks about petitioning Gov. Mike Parson. He said he hoped to persuade the board to pass a resolution calling on Parson to send troops to the worst city neighborhoods. (Post-Dispatch)

The conversation took place on Twitter after Post-Dispatch writer David Hunn sent out the following tweet about the story:

I read through some of the replies, many good points made. In general I don’t like the idea of military forces being brought in. On the other hand, though I do live in North St. Louis, I’m not in a neighborhood that’s experiencing the violence that a few areas are. I get it, Bosley and residents want something done. Now!

Maybe the Missouri National Guard is the answer, maybe not. I’ve said before a lot of our problems are long-term, requiring long-term solutions. Correcting inequalities would help, but that will take many years once started. Understandably, Bosley wants action before it gets hot out.

I wish I had the answer.

Here are the results of the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Should Gov. Parsons send the Missouri National Guard to help patrol the worst neighborhoods in the City of St. Louis?

  • Definitely not!: 11 [33.33%]\
  • No: 7 [21.21%]
  • Hmm, don’t think so: 3 [9.09%]
  • Neither yes or no: 1 [3.03%]
  • Hmm, I suppose: 4 [12.12%]
  • Yes: 5 [15.15%]
  • Definitely yes!: 2 [6.06%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 0 [0%]

A clear majority oppose the idea of the National Guard.

A Doug Unplugged segment on the subject, not online at this time, missed the point entirely. KMOV’s DougVaughn liked the idea, saying the National Guard should be outside Cardinals games, etc. Bosley isn’t arguing for military to make suburbanites who venture downtown for a game to feel safe, he’s trying to help the people in his ward feel safe in their neighborhoods

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Should Gov. Parsons send the Missouri National Guard to help patrol the worst neighborhoods in the City of St. Louis?

April 14, 2019 Crime, Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Gov. Parsons send the Missouri National Guard to help patrol the worst neighborhoods in the City of St. Louis?
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In some St. Louis neighborhoods violent  crime is driving some to the breaking point, including 3rd ward Alderman Brandon Bosley.

From last week:

Bosley said he and the city Board of Aldermen’s black caucus had been talking for weeks about petitioning Gov. Mike Parson. He said he hoped to persuade the board to pass a resolution calling on Parson to send troops to the worst city neighborhoods.

“We’re going to have tanks on every damn corner,” Bosley said. “These people have to know we’re not playing anymore.” (Post-Dispatch)

This is the subject of today’s poll.

This poll will close at 8pm tonight, I’ll share my thoughts on Wednesday morning.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: OK With Legislators Introducing Bills To Make A Point

March 24, 2019 Crime, Featured, Politics/Policy, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: OK With Legislators Introducing Bills To Make A Point
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A Missouri legislator, Andrew McDaniel,  recently made national news. Prior to the recent shooting in Christchurch New Zealand he’d introduced two bills in the Missouri house:

35 year-old Andrew McDaniel, a state representative from southeast Missouri, has received global attention for a bill he’s introduced called the “McDaniel Militia Act” that would require every person in the state between the ages of 18 and 35 to own an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle.

He also has a second measure, the “McDaniel Second Amendment Act”, that would require everyone over the age of 21 to own a handgun. (Source)

After the NZ shooting McDaniel’s bills got lots of attention.

McDaniel was forced to clarify that he didn’t — technically speaking — support his own bills, at least not as written.

He wants the tax credits for firearms purchases, but that part about requiring everyone to own a gun? It was a tactic to try to bait the left.

“I wanted the media and the other side to jump on it, to show that our Second Amendment rights are under attack,” McDaniel said. “I don’t actually support mandates, hardly ever.”

But he didn’t expect the national media to get involved, a development that has cast a harsh light on his efforts, he said, because of the timing of the mosque attacks in New Zealand. (Washington Post)

So today’s poll is NOT about his bills, it’s about introducing bills that have zero chance of passing…using them to bait others.

Today’s poll will close at 8pm.

— Steve Patterson

 

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