Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Daily Roundup: Pot Raids Fill Private Prisons, 'Call of Duty - Black Ops' Sabotage Productivity

By David Downs
Tue, Nov 9, 2010 at 11:27 AM

1. San Jose doesn't know whether to tax, license, or jail its medical pot providers, so it's doing all three. Leading medical pot lobby Americans for Safe Access says over the past month, the Santa Clara County Specialized Enforcement Team, a local multi-agency police force, has arrested dozens of people in multiple raids. Local police say dispensary sales are illegal under state law. Patients say "reimbursements" are legal, pointing to the fact that local voters just approved taxes on them, and the city council prepares to issue historic pot club regulations. That has activists fuming. More news after the jump....

... The first set of raids in early October targeted patients and local delivery services, and resulted in 22 arrests, the ASA says. Subsequent dispensary raids in mid- and late-October resulted in at least a dozen additional arrests and the seizure of more than one hundred pounds of medical marijuana and other property.

Meanwhile, voters in San Jose just approved Measure U to tax the local sale of medical marijuana at up to 10 percent, on top of the state's existing sales tax. The city council is also deliberating a local ordinance to regulate and license what has grown to more than eighty dispensaries in San Jose.

"How can the City of San Jose impose an exorbitant tax on the sale of medical marijuana at the same time as arresting and prosecuting the same people for selling it?" asks Lauren Vazquez with the ASA. "This inconsistent and misguided practice has to end."

The clubs note taxpayer money from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act likely helped pay for the raids. Those funds were earmarked to fight methamphetamine.

“How the [police] can cavalierly divert federal funding is beyond comprehension,” said Paul Stewart, executive director of the Medicinal Cannabis Collective Coalition (MC3) in San Jose. “These monies were given to the county to combat the sales and distribution of meth, not for harassing medical cannabis patients.”

The ASA hosts a "Know Your Rights" training, after a march on the San Jose City Council meeting at 3:30 p.m. today.

2. Private prisons helped fund the No on 19 campaign in order to keep their jails full and their profits up, USC's Paresh Dave writes on Neon Tommy. A private prison company called Corrections Corp. of America helped fund the No on 19 campaign through donations to the Democratic Party and Dianne Feinstein. CCA donated at least $75,000 to campaigns of legislators, gubernatorial and attorney general candidates in California this election cycle. CCA now stands to reap a bumper crop of prisoners under the status quo.

More than 14,000 California pot growers and vendors face jail time each year. California spends about $45,000 per year per prisoner, and has a 71 percent recidivism rate, among the nation's highest. More than 70 percent of recidivists go back to jail for violating terms of their parole, not for new crimes. And lawyers say small pot charges contribute significantly to California parole violations.

Corrections Corp. of America spent nearly $340,000 since 2009 on lobbying efforts in the state to land a contract that could be worth twenty times that figure. The Associated Press reports the company is hoping to house another 2,400 California inmates for $600 million over two years. Those inmates would go to Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Oklahoma.

"CCA is responsible for about 75,000 inmates in 19 states and in the federal system," according to a report out of Florida in April.

Another private prison, GEO Group Inc., landed a two-year contract to house 2,600 California prisoners in Michigan. GEO spent more than $285,000 on lobbying in California since the current legislative session opened in January 2009, according to data from the California Secretary of State's web site and the National Institute for Money in State Politics.

3. New York Times blog Freakonomics writer Erik A. Morris asks "Is It Safe to Be High on the Highway" and concludes, "meh." The legality of driving under prescription THC escapes the debate yet again.

4. And must-have holiday video game Call of Duty: Black Ops came out last night. The new installment of the hit shooter franchise is expected to sell at least 13 million units at around $60 a pop. Lines of 150 strong were seen at various game shops around midnight, as was pungent sensimilla smoke. The game debuted with a Metascore of 89/100. Critics say it's a competent, capable, well-heeled iteration of the beloved brand. With zombies.

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