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  • Reply to: C-U Black Activists Call for Diversity and Access at the University of Illinois   1 year 9 weeks ago

    Long overdue. Thanks to Terry Townsend and Martel Miller for initiating this. 

  • Reply to: Urbana Council Votes 6-1 to Get Tasers for Police   1 year 12 weeks ago

    In response to the story above, Taser International, the company that makes tasers, tweeted this directly at Urbana IMC. This show just how many resources they have to lead the fight to militarize the police. BTW, they also make body cams.

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  • Reply to: fbi crimes online help forge new, unlawful quasi criminal courts   1 year 25 weeks ago
  • Reply to: Decriminalization of Cannabis is Helpful, but Legalization and Regulation in Illinois Is the Answer   1 year 30 weeks ago

    The News-Gazette has an obsession with multiple speculative harms it associates with any moves to loosen Illinois law regarding cannabis. Of course, such a position assumes that prohibition does something to address the supposed negatives the paper fears will come to pass if marijuana were legal. Most of all, they assume the law is capable of enforcing their crude impulse to simply keep it illegal. That clearly is not a solution, given the wide, unregulated availablity of cannabis. Two states, Colorado and Washington, now have legal recreational marijuana, in addition to roughly 60% of the states that now have some form of medical marijauna available. The results of legalization? For the most part, it's nothing but good news, even on the multiple fronts that the N-G editorial board frets about. Voters in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington DC will have the opportunity to legalize in the November election

    Colorado and Washington Help Make the Case for Oregon’s Measure 91

    By Phillip Smith |

    As Oregon voters consider Measure 91, an initiative on the November ballot that would regulate, legalize and tax marijuana for adults 21 and older, many are looking to how similar laws are affecting Colorado and Washington. Measure 91 supporters Tuesday brought together a panel of experts from those two pioneering states to make the case that marijuana legalization is a winner, with more positives than negatives for states that have taken the step.

    Admittedly, we have not had a lot of time to judge — Colorado began allowing legal, regulated sales only this January and the first marijuana stores in Washington didn’t open until July — but early results have been promising.

    In Colorado, the state has already taken in more than $27 million in taxes and fees, with more than $5 million already allocated to building schools. At the same time, violent crime in Denver has declined by 5.2%, even as the state is set to save somewhere between $12 million and $40 million in annual criminal justice system costs, according to the Colorado Center on Law and Policy.

    Both a Drug Policy Alliance six-month status report and a Brookings Center report on Colorado’s situation have also found that legalization there is proceeding relatively smoothly, with few bumps.

    In Washington state, the reviews are fewer since retail stores just began operating in July (although Brookings has issued a report), but customers bought $3.2 million worth of legal weed that first month, with sales doubling to more than $6.9 million in August. More than another $6 million worth had been sold in the first three weeks of September. Tax revenues from legal marijuana sales are estimated to reach $636 million over the next five years.

    But while Washington retail sales have just gotten underway, the legalization of personal possession has been the law since the beginning of 2013, and the results on that front are remarkable. According to official state court data, the number of misdemeanor marijuana charges against adults dropped dramatically, from more than 5,500 in 2012 to only 120 last year.

    The experiences of Colorado and Washington show that — if done correctly — marijuana legalization can be a big winner for other states as well, experts and officials from the two pioneer states said Tuesday.

    “People call this an experiment, but it’s time to treat marijuana like the drug it is, not the drug we fear it to be,” said Colorado state Rep. Jonathan Singer, who was one of only two state representatives to endorse Amendment 64. “We have to thank the people for leading; the legislature has been following,” he said.

    Issues remain, Singer said, but the state is dealing with them.

    “Lawmakers have to ensure that we responsibly regulate edibles and concentrates, so consumers are well aware of what they’re putting in their bodies. We want consumers educated,” he said. The legislature has passed a bill dealing with edibles.

    “The biggest issue is banking, and a bill I sponsored created first-of-a-kind cannabis credit co-ops,” Singer said. “We will soon be petitioning the Federal Reserve for services with members of the industry who have formed their own co-ops. When dispensaries get robbed, it’s for the cash, not the marijuana.”

    “When voters decided to support Amendment 64, they did so to bring marijuana above ground in the hope that it wouldn’t detrimentally impact public health and safety, and so far, it hasn’t,” said Art Way, Colorado state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “The most important impact we’ve seen is that thousands of people are no longer being arrested for simple possession of marijuana in our state,” he said.

    “All marijuana offenses have declined by about 50%, and law enforcement resources have been freed up to fight violent crime,” Way continued. “The state is saving millions of dollars a year in criminal justice system expenses.”

    For retired Denver police officer Tony Ryan, marijuana law enforcement was a distraction from more serious business.

    “Chasing marijuana smokers was not at the top of my list because I needed my officers to handle calls for service,” Ryan said. “We didn’t have enough officers to cover calls, in part because of the distraction of doing narcotics enforcement, and when you’re enforcing narcotics laws, you’re mostly enforcing marijuana laws. This frees up police officers to do what they’re supposed to do — answer calls for service and work on solving crimes.”

    Lewis Koski is director of Marijuana Enforcement for the state of Colorado, and he said officials are keeping on top of the situation.

    “We’ve recently been focused on how to comprehensively and effectively regulate the edibles manufacturing process,” he said. “We also do licensing and monitoring of the businesses that cultivate, manufacture, transport, and sell marijuana, and our licensing process is pretty robust.”

    The department also runs stings to check for age compliance, he said. Increased youth access to marijuana is one of the most often heard fears of legalization foes.

    “We put undercover underage individuals into the retail stores to see if they could buy anything, but what we’ve seen is a 100% compliance rate,” he said.

    While Washington hasn’t had as lengthy an experience with legalized, taxed, and regulated sales as Colorado, experts and officials from the Evergreen State also said legalization was working for them.

    “We’ve enjoyed a successful, albeit slow, launch,” said Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes. “We did see the virtual elimination of marijuana possession arrests, which has resulted in a restoration of justice. We’re no longer hounding people for the possession of marijuana in the state of Washington.”

    There are issues remaining, but they are soluble, Holmes said.

    “One impediment is that our medical marijuana laws were in disarray after the former governor vetoed a regulation bill, and as a result, I-502 didn’t touch medical at all,” he noted. “The biggest unfinished business for us is how the legislature will address medical. Perhaps it will be folded into the I-502 system.”

    Holmes also pointed to the issue of revenue sharing, the problem of some localities opting out, and the lack — so far — of a legal supply adequate to put a sizeable dent in the black market.

    Like his Colorado law enforcement colleague, former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper saw legalization as a smart move.

    “It’s no secret that relations between police officers and the communities they are required to serve are strained, especially with young and poor people, and marijuana enforcement is a big factor in this,” Stamper argued. “A vast number of poor young people of color have been arrested over the years. With I-502, there is a major shift in law enforcement priorities. Now, police can focus on burglaries and robberies and the like, and by freeing up resources, we can also deal a serious if not fatal blow to major drug dealers. This is making a huge and positive difference.”

    I-502 chief proponent Alison Holcomb was brief and to the point.

    “I-502 has preserved public safety, reduced the burden on police and prosecutors, and generated significant new tax resources,” she said.

    “We’ve learned a lot from Colorado and Washington, and we purposefully set up a very deliberative process,” said Oregon Measure 91 campaign spokesman Anthony Johnson. “The state will have a full year to analyze what’s going on there and implement what’s best for Oregon. We will regulate marijuana very much like we regulate beer and wine.”

    But first, they have to win. Measure 91 is leading in the polls, but by no means comfortably. Getting the message out about how things have gone in Colorado and Washington should only help.

    Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution/Noncommercial/Share-Alike License for registered non-profit cannabis reform organizations only.


  • Reply to: “Academic Freedom & Political Dissent: A Conversation with Katherine Franke and the Community” AUDIO   1 year 31 weeks ago

    by Marc Perry. The Chronicle of Higher Education

    On a Friday night in early August, Prof. Corey Robin put out a call on his blog. There had been plenty of grumbling over the University of Illinois’s decision to revoke a job offer to Prof. Steven G. Salaita, who gained notoriety for incendiary tweets about Israel. But it had not been enough to persuade the university to reinstate Professor Salaita. So Professor Robin, a political theorist at the City University of New York’s Brooklyn College, ratcheted up the pressure.

    He suggested that scholars in every field begin organizing public statements refusing to accept any invitations to speak on any campus of the University of Illinois, a serious disruption of academic business.

    “Nobody’s gonna do this,” Mr. Robin remembers telling his wife. But, to his surprise, they did. Philosophers, citing, took up the challenge. The boycotts snowballed. English professors. Political scientists. Anthropologists. All signed on, and Mr. Robin blogged each fresh step. By his last count, more than 5,000 scholars had joined boycotts.

    The Salaita affair has riveted academe. One story line that has drawn less attention is the role played by Mr. Robin. For more than a month, he has turned his blog into a Salaita war room.

    “We’ve all looked to him as a central source of information about new developments,” said Katherine Franke, a Columbia law professor who has advised Mr. Salaita’s legal team.

    Mr. Robin, 46, cut his political teeth as a graduate-student union activist at Yale University, where he led a controversial mid-1990s grade strike. By the time the Salaita story broke, he had already fought in a series of Israel-Palestine-related battles at the City University of New York.

    “A lot of people see him as an intellectual leader,” said Michael Kazin, a professor of history at Georgetown University and co-editor of the magazine Dissent. “He can be counted on to battle people.”

    Now Mr. Robin is struggling to figure out a path forward in the wake of the Illinois Board of Trustees’ Sept. 11 vote against Mr. Salaita. “We’re trying to preserve the academy as a space for people to actually be able to think and to speak without fear and without intimidation,” he said in an interview.

    Mr. Robin is something of an odd fit for his current role. Although people constantly ask him to speak about the Israel-Palestine question, he turns down the invitations because he does not consider himself an expert on the subject. His current scholarship focuses on the political theory of capitalism. His last book, “The Reactionary Mind” (Oxford University Press), was a much-debated collection of essays about conservatism.

    A Jewish professor who attends a Conservative synagogue in Brooklyn, he long ago came to consider himself an anti-Zionist. But he was always quiet about it. It was painful to talk about, particularly among Jews.

    Then, in early 2011, Mr. Robin went through an episode not unlike the Salaita affair. Brooklyn College rescinded the appointment of a graduate student, Kristofer Petersen-Overton, who had been hired by the political science department to teach a course on Middle East politics. The student accused the college of succumbing to opposition from critics of his work.

    The college president and CUNY’s chancellor had each received a letter from Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn assemblyman and CUNY alumnus, complaining about the “slanted nature” of Mr. Petersen-Overton’s writings. Mr. Hikind told The New York Times that he had spent 20 hours immersing himself in Mr. Petersen-Overton’s output, and “it was all about Israel being the bad guys in every way.” Protests succeeded in restoring the scholar’s job.

    Last year, however, Mr. Robin’s department found itself in yet another Israel imbroglio. The department came under pressure to pull its co-sponsorship of a planned event about B.D.S., the movement that backs boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

    Two aspects of that campaign were particularly chilling, according to the department’s then-chairman, Paisley Currah. One, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, and 18 other legislators publicly demanded that the department withdraw its endorsement of the event. And two, a group of 10 City Council members issued what the department chairman described as “an explicit threat” to CUNY’s funding.

    The event went ahead, with the department’s sponsorship, after Mr. Robin’s side mobilized and Michael R. Bloomberg, then the mayor of New York, intervened: And Mr. Robin ended up blogging about the controversy. A lot.

    Recent years have radicalized his views on the role of the academy in Israel debates. Previously, he didn’t have a position on B.D.S. and even sympathized with critics who questioned the relevance of such boycotts.

    He now supports the movement. “I think the academy actually is quite important on the Israel debate,” he says.

    Mr. Robin sees his activism on the Salaita and other cases as an extension of his work in political theory. His first book probed the politics of fear. He has long been interested in issues of intimidation and coercion.

    He argues that, in a legally constrained liberal society, the private, nonstate sector often becomes the sphere in which coercion happens on behalf of the state. He offers the McCarthy period as an example. Most of McCarthyism, he says, took place at the level of the workplace, where as much as 40 percent of the American work force was subjected to political investigation and surveillance for their beliefs.

    “And here we come to the question of Israel-Palestine,” he says. “Where do you see the bulk of coercion and censorship happening? It’s happening in the nonstate sector — in the universities.”

    Mr. Robin’s stances have drawn criticism from fellow academics, not just politicians. Jonathan Marks, a professor of politics at Ursinus College who blogs for the magazine Commentary, has argued that Mr. Robin has attached himself to a B.D.S. movement “that seeks to persuade academics and students to make extreme pronouncements about matters they don’t know much about.”

    Those uninformed foreign-policy statements “break down the wall between scholarship and propagandizing and so make our colleges, universities, and associations vulnerable to outside interference of the sort Robin is now deploring,” Mr. Marks wrote in an email.

    In the Salaita case, Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, has faulted Mr. Robin for failing to engage with the substance of Mr. Salaita’s tweets.

    Mr. Robin acknowledges “deliberately not engaging in the content.”

    “The serious thing to do is to figure out what’s actually happening,” he said. “An outspoken critic of Israel, speaking in an inflammatory way about it, being punished and drummed out of the academy — that’s what’s happening.”

    Getting into the details of the tweets, he says, is “missing the forest for the trees.”

    A version of this article appears in print on September 29, 2014, in The International New York Times.
    Copyright 2014 The New York Times

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