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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Filtering by Tag: drugs

What Introductory Criminal Justice Students Need to Know About the Media and Crime

Nickie Phillips

social-media-myths-and-your-sales-300x198

At the start of a new semester, criminal justice professors face the daunting task of demystifying media myths

Danielle Reynolds, Crimcast Correspondent

The media, through various means, has become the primary source of news and entertainment for many Americans. Each day the media reaches millions of viewers, listeners and readers throughout the world and provides a rapid broadcast of knowledge and information. Although the ability to have “the world at our fingertips” is beneficial, the inaccuracies and rash portrayals of current events can lead to inadvertent consequences.

Crime in the news

Crime is portrayed in the media on a daily basis, whether it is in the newspapers, on television, via video or written blogs, among other means. As criminologist Ray Surette explains, news regarding crime may be general, referring to broad trends and issues, or specific, in reference to a particular crime incident. The media has one objective, to sell stories. Therefore, it chooses which crimes, victims and court cases merit attention, often choosing to expose the most sensational, emotional, and significant crime stories. Unfortunately, the media does not always broadcast information in an objective or accurate manner, which can lead to unintended consequences.

How the media portrays crime

The media increases crime salience through agenda setting, priming and framing the “best-selling” stories. The public is exposed to certain crime issues and then primed to believe that those issues warrant more political attention. The media chooses which social problems merit greater attention and relies on the government and experts to interpret and contextualize these problems to the public. As viewers, we rely on the government and experts to frame the news for us and determine the criteria by which we judge public policies or crime related issues. Lastly, the media encourages its audience to arrive at certain conclusions by promoting a particular treatment recommendation or moral evaluation to the problem. It often focuses blame on a particular individual or larger social or political institution, which ultimately affects punitiveness and future policy preferences.

Representations of the police in the media are often overdramatized and romanticized. Research has shown that police are often presented favorably in television and movies; as fictional television dramas show the majority of cases solved and criminal suspects successfully apprehended. Unfortunately, crime presented as entertainment distorts viewers understanding of criminal investigations. Subsequently, the public develops unrealistic expectations regarding the investigation process, police use of force and forensic evidence. Such portrayal reinforces traditional law enforcement tactics including increased police presence, harsh penalties and increasing police power.

The effect on viewers

It has been argued that heavy television viewers have an altered perception of the “real world”, shaped by the media. Therefore, these viewers feel a greater threat from crime and believe that crime is more prevalent than statistics indicate. Violent crime is disproportionately broadcast and portrayed as more violent, random and dangerous than in the “real world”. Subsequently, viewers internalize these crime stories and develop a “scary” image of reality. Unfortunately, this threatening perception of society initiates fear, mistrust, and alienation, causing viewers to support more “quick-fix” solutions against crime.

Leading to punitive policies

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Misinformation dispersed by the media heightens public sensitivity to the crime problem, reinforcing public sense of immediate and inescapable danger. Subsequently, fear and anxiety develop as the public pressures politicians for a “quick-fix” and extreme solution to the crime problem. These “quick-fix” solutions focus on short-term crime relief, resulting in more punitive rather than preventative polices and encourage more policing, arrests and longer sentences.

The media coverage of minorities and crime demonstrates the disproportionate portrayal of minorities shown in menacing contexts. Blacks are more likely than whites to be shown in mug shots, in physical custody of the police and victimizing strangers and members of different races. Media representations of minorities result in exaggerations of crime statistics including the number of blacks arrested for crimes and the likelihood that the public will be victimized by minorities. This ultimately attributes the crime problem to blacks as a group. This false depiction of minority criminals leads to public fear and mistrust of minorities, allowing for the expansion of punitive policies based on race.

This culpability was demonstrated by the media’s coverage of the “War on Drugs”. The media exposed an imminent and threatening national crisis and recommended the use of power and mobilization of massive resources to curb the threat and vanquish the “enemy”. Images and stereotypes of the “enemy”, exposed by the media, included young, inner-city, minority males in gangs terrorizing communities and innocent citizens while conducting illegal drug deals and committing various crimes. Subsequently, the public became fearful and began to alienate themselves from the community, while pressuring politicians for an immediate “quick-fix” solution. Consequently, the police crackdown on street-level drug dealers and harsher sentences resulted in additional arrests and longer prison sentences. However, the underlying conditions leading to the drug problem remained unidentified and unaffected. In addition, the punitive “quick-fix” solution lead to unintended consequences, including angry and hardened attitudes towards offenders, increased costs of the criminal justice system and intensified racial tensions, resulting from targeting minorities. Concerns about constitutional and civil rights waned, citing more immediate concerns for public safety. Respect for the law eroded, as the public encouraged more aggressive policing strategies, exposing citizens to expanded discretion of law enforcement and infringements of their Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment rights.

danielle

Danielle Reynolds, Crimcast contributor, teaches Criminal Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Danielle earned her Master’s degree in Criminal Justice in 2011 from John Jay College where she was awarded the Claude Hawley Medal and Graduate Scholarship. She currently lives in New York City.

New Journal Explores Intersection of Health and Justice

Nickie Phillips

Medicine-and-Law-300x168

The graying of America's prison population, drug treatment programs in correctional settings, and the lack of social support for inmates re-entering society... these topics and more are the focus of the new journal Health & Justice, aimed at capturing the interaction between criminal justice systems and health services.  Edited by Faye S. Taxman of George Mason University and Lior Gideon of John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the journal, which already released its first articles online this year, reaches broadly, including researchers across many disciplines as well as justice practitioners and medical professionals working with justice-involved individuals. "Criminal justice populations are highly prevalent in public health problems that are not being addressed.  We feel that not to address them is an injustice," Gideon explained.

The journal looks forward to reviewing and publishing a variety of perspectives drawn from a wide range of methodologies.  "We like theoretical pieces, protocol studies, reviews of innovations in the field, evaluations of treatment programs, meta analyses, all kinds of work related to health and justice," Gideon told Crimcast.

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Click here to download the first open access articles from Health & Justice.

Click here to learn how you can submit a manuscript for review.

Piper Kerman Discusses Health Issues in Prisons

Nickie Phillips

Piper Kerman

On December 4, St. Francis College welcomed Piper Kerman to Prof. Montecalvo's "Health Issues" class to discuss health care issues faced by incarcerated women. Piper's book "Orange is the New Black" details Piper's time spent in federal prison for a drug-related offense. Since being released, Piper has been a fierce advocate of criminal justice reform with a specific focus on the challenges women face in prison.

On the overuse of incarceration as a solution to the crime problem:

Over 60% of female prisoners are incarcerated for non-violent offenses.


On the prevalence of mental health issues suffered by those in prison:

The three largest providers of mental health care in the United States are Riker's Island, Cook County Jail, and LA County Jail.

On the treatment of pregnant incarcerated women:

More than 30 prisons allow officers to shackle female prisoners while they are giving birth. Only 18 prisons have passed laws banning shackling.

Piper Kerman (author), Nickie Phillips (director, Center for Crime & Popular Culture)

You can read more about Piper and her activism here and follow her on twitter @Piper

Season 1 of the television series based on Piper's book is available on Netflix.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sbf_QGCykEM

Sharing the Burden: Comparing American and Dutch Drug Policies Using Distributive Justice Theory

Nickie Phillips

Dutch American flags

Guest post by Jovanni Rodriguez

As a criminal justice scholar for several years now, I am well aware of the arguments that anti-drug crusades bring about widespread social costs to certain societies. This is particularly true in comparing and contrasting the drug laws of the United States and the Netherlands; the U.S. has extremely stringent policies when juxtaposed with the Netherlands.

Using distributive justice theory we can analyze the disbursement of burdens and disadvantages in certain communities to determine which country has been truly successful in terms of achieving justice through their drug policies. Broadly speaking, distributive justice scholars look to a society's institutions, asking whether the benefits and burdens of a law or policy are distributed equally among society's groups and members. Dutch methods of leniency have led to more benefits for both the offender and society when compared to the United States.

In the Netherlands, marijuana is listed as a "Schedule II" "soft" drug, as the government views the risks associated with marijuana to be "smaller" than other drugs and less harmful to health and to society. In the U.S, marijuana was categorized as a "Schedule I" drug under The Controlled Substances Act of 1970, amongst LSD and heroin. A "Schedule I" categorization means it has been found to have no medical use and has the highest abuse potential. The difference in the legal categorization of marijuana in both countries represents the different stances each government has and takes on marijuana use.

The extreme anti-drug policies of the United States bring a multitude of problematic justice system outcomes. Some of the various negative social consequences of the U.S.'s "War on Drugs", which began under the Reagan administration in the 1980s, include high incarceration rates, diminished life chances, weak social bonds, and unemployment. These broad societal costs were found to have become particularly problematic for certain minority American populations, specifically young, African American males in inner cities. American anti-drug crusades also bring about substantial negative outcomes for American society as a whole, which, when using the distributive justice theory, shows America's punitive system to be unfair and unjust.

A coffeeshop in Amsterdam (www.holland.com)

The Netherlands's decriminalization of small cannabis transactions, the continued operation of "coffeeshops," and formal written policies of non-enforcement for minor drug violations have been successful in the Dutch's goal to regulate an unrestricted drug market. The separation of drug markets has also proven to keep Dutch cannabis users away from the orbits of hard drug users and sellers. The Netherlands’ lenient policies has not only lead to lower levels of lifetime use of marijuana when compared to the U.S., but decriminalization has also lead to several other desirable social effects involving rehabilitation of drug abusers, more government funding and attention on the trafficking of "hard" drugs, and special drug programs in schools and education campaigns. The Dutch government's pro-active approach in preventing drug abuse, rather than the U.S.'s extreme reactive approach to punishing users, serves as a superior alternative in approaching drug regulation and disbursing equal and fair justice for both the individual and the community.

Not only has the overall goal of drug prohibition and/or regulation not been reached in America, as Americans report the highest level of cocaine and marijuana use, but America's strict enforcement of drug laws and free distribution of criminal justice outcomes have failed to meet the interests of both the individual and the community. Incarceration rates are the highest in the world, as the majority of those incarcerated are not only drug offenders, but also young, African American men from inner cities. The U.S. system of deterrence and harsh legal penalties has also had broad social costs for general society, involving high tax-payer investment in enforcement activities, continued and increased drug abuse, the marginalization of certain populations, health risks, and a criminal justice system which solely focuses on drug prevention.

As the outcomes of strict drug law enforcement have unequally disabled certain demographic populations in the United States, we see that the U.S. is not guided by the concept of distributive justice. These injustices and disparities discussed are hidden by the administration of drug laws, as the apparent goals of the War on Drugs meet the interests of a society motivated by morals, safety, and basic law and order. However, U.S. drug laws are solely met with a perception of fairness and justice, as historical and current outcomes include the redirection of tax-payer money, unemployment, and poverty. When compared with the societal outcomes of the Dutch's drug policies, the U.S.'s long-term societal consequences are results of an inferior approach to drug regulation. The Netherlands distribution of justice has not only proven to be successful, due to statistics that prove that less Dutch smoke marijuana when compared to Americans, but their methods of leniency have also led to more benefits for both the offender and society, and this is the true goal of equal and fair distributive justice.

jovanni2

Jovanni Rodriguez is graduate student International Criminal Justice Masters Program (ICJ—MA) at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Jovanni graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice with Magna Cum Laude honors in 2012 after majoring in Criminal Justice. She was the first ever youth representative for the International Sociological Association (ISA) while interning at the United Nations, where she continues to work with NGOs. She is a full-time manager in an Italian restaurant in Staten Island, New York. Jovanni's career goals include combining her criminological research interests with her passion for international human rights and activism.

On Vermont Decriminalizing Marijuana and Jupiter, Florida’s “The Square Grouper”

Nickie Phillips

This past week, some colleagues and I decided to have some downtime in Jupiter, Florida. One colleague was called “Hurricane Sue,” because she seemed to attract storms wherever she went, in and out of the Hurricane Belt, and in and out of season. They affectionately call me “CSI Demetra,” in honor of my attraction to sights of criminal and criminal justice activity. I wrote about just such a one, the ancient Dungeon of San Cristobal Fort in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While viewing Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse a historic 1860 lighthouse built on the easternmost point in Florida, a tour operated by the Loxahatchee River Historical Society, our guide pointed out that we could see across the water to a restaurant called “The Square Grouper.” The Square Grouper is such a popular tiki bar that both the woman who gave me my last haircut (in New York) and the man seated next to me on the plane down to Florida (from New York) recommended visiting the place. Their comments regarded the tiki décor, the laid back attitude, the Jimmy Buffet musical drop-ins for a home-town Margarittaville.

Me, I found out (from our guide at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse) that the Square Grouper was called that because smugglers used to drop plastic wrapped marijuana bricks (a/k/a “keys” for kilos) to wash up for collection by enterprising businesspeople. Needless to say, this intrigued me. Moreover, while some of my colleagues climbed up the lighthouse, I checked into Twitter to find out that Vermont’s governor had signed a bill decriminalizing marijuana, becoming the 17th state to do so. The irony of reading this while within visual distance of the Square Grouper was not lost upon me, and during a dinner meeting with my colleagues at Sinclair’s Ocean Grill the Jupiter Beach Resort and Spa, I commented on “the hilarity value” of derivation of the Square Grouper’s name, which could be likely to find its way into the semesterly “grass class” methodology discussion (no participant observation allowed or encouraged, but a great way to get students discussing and assessing methodology in sociology, anthropology, legal studies and criminal justice classes, where traditional reference to readings is an exercise perceived as akin to a dental visit sans Novocain).

As an afterword, Hurricane Sue had a hurricane to drink during a subsequent – and grass-free – visit to the Square Grouper.

Demetra M. Pappas, JD, MSc, PhD, currently teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named the 2011/2012 SGA Faculty Member of the Year, for her innovative teaching methods and student mentoring. Her first book, The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, (Greenwood Press: 2012) has been nominated for the 2013 British Society of Criminology Book Prize. She also writes about dramaturgy, culinary culture, visual sociology and criminal justice issues.

Being Black is Not a Crime: Rally for NYPD Stop and Frisk Reform

Nickie Phillips

panorama crowd

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights and City University of New York (CUNY) faculty and students, including John Jay College's Center on Race, Crime and Justice, came together to call for police reform outside Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York where the trial Floyd, et. al. v City of New Yorkfeatured key testimony from criminologist Jeffrey Fagan.  In Floyd, several New Yorkers and CCR are arguing that the city's stop-and-frisk policies include racial profiling and suspicion-less stops that violate constitutional protections.

Organizer and Founding Director of the Center on Race, Crime and Justice Dr. Delores Jones-Brown underscored that black and Latino residents have the same constitutional rights and right to safety as anyone else.  "The commissioner and the mayor may say that these policies are effective, but their own data tell a different story," she said.

Activists held giant PowerPoint slides with NYPD data indicating that gun violence has not decreased as a result of aggressive use of stop and frisk, nor were more guns confiscated or shootings prevented.  In 9 out of 10 NYPD stops, no arrests or summons are given -- and of those stops nearly 90 percent are non-whites.  In 2012, over a half-million blacks and Latinos were stopped.  Black and Latino young men between the ages of 14 and 24 are particularly plagued by unjustified stops, accounting for approximately 42% of stops when they are only 5% of the city's total population.

Several CUNY students spoke about their personal experiences with racial profiling and suspicion-less stops, putting faces to the statistics being debated about in the courtroom.  One white student described an incident in which he should have received a summons for two potential violations, but instead was released politely by police, while a student of color described being the victim of police abuse of the stop and frisk policy while he was doing nothing illegal.  Other activists linked the struggle for racial equality with similar struggles for police justice for LGBTQ people and the poor.

Queens College Professor Harry Levine explained that the sheer number of marijuana arrests in the city are largely the fruit of illegal frisks, saying that "The marijuana arrests are the cracker jack prize of the stop and frisks."

Crimcast sat in on expert witness Fagan's cross-examination in which sweeping questions about the normative methodological and theoretical mainstays of criminal justice were posed.  The city's attorney appeared to want to discredit Fagan's social science because the conclusions to his prior studies point to racially disparate outcomes in stop and frisk police discretion.  Rather than confront the lived reality of individuals who routinely endure suspicion-less stops, today's testimony instead had social science on the stand.  As criminologists we were surprised to learn that the city attorney hoped our field had solved major methodological quandaries of our time in completely packaged and unanimous ways, such as how to handle outlier data or whether population is a legitimate benchmark among others for stop and frisk activities.  Fagan dodged this baiting, and informed her of the true landscape of methodological variation in the field-- and in fact wise minds may take different approaches to monumentally complex datasets.

Crimcast predicts that this trial transcript may be of interest to criminologists regarding the application of their work to major policy issues of the day.  Some may even be excited to learn that academic criminology is relevant.  But we hope Floyd does not forget Floyd.  He and many others encounter the police as obstacles in going about their legitimate daily lives.  The chilling quality of these serious Constitutional violations and personal indignities are not fully captured by the numbers.

Snitch The Movie: The War on Drugs and Mandatory Minimums

Nickie Phillips

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9M1dkvdCUGU The film "Snitch" tells the story of a father, John Matthews (Dwyane Johnson), whose son is arrested for drug dealing and faces a 10 year minimum sentence. Matthews agrees to become an informant for the state in exchange for a sentence reduction for his son. Young Minds Inspired, an educational outreach program, recommends using the film to spark discussion among students:

Bring your students into the conversation surrounding the new film Snitch, opening in theaters nationwide on February 22, 2013. Inspired by the true experiences of a teenager who became caught up in the legal machinery of drug enforcement, Snitch opens debate on the controversial connection between mandatory sentencing and what has come to be called “snitching,” offering an inside look at a little known aspect of our justice system.

Download YMI's mandatory minimum factsheets here.

The New Jim Crow in conversation

Nickie Phillips

Jennifer Schuessler writes what most criminal justice scholars are well aware: that that Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness is a best-selling book that resonates with many who believe that the criminal justice system has failed African Americans. She writes,

"For many African-Americans, the book — which has spent six weeks on the New York Times paperback nonfiction best-seller list — gives eloquent and urgent expression to deep feelings that the criminal justice system is stacked against them…."

“…The book is helping white folks who otherwise would have simply dismissed that idea understand why so many people believe it,” said David M. Kennedy, director of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “It is making them take that seriously.”

For many, the book is considered a must-read and, according to the New York Times, has sold over 175,000 copies. The book has had enormous impact, inspiring activist efforts to end mass incarceration including the Campaign to End the New Jim Crow and a Kickstarter campaign, "Bringing Down the New Jim Crow," designed to launch an on-going radio documentary series that was funded in August of 2012.

Others, however, take a more critical stance on the book. For example, see A. Johnson's post on  People of Color Organize!:

"The great success of The New Jim Crow rests on the fact that it provides a cathartic release for its readers without seriously threatening oppressive hegemonic assumptions. The book, for example, doesn’t even contain the word “capitalism” and excludes the voices of all radical black thinkers, political prisoners, anti-prison activists, black power advocates, and the most useful philosophies to the subject of mass incarceration."

The article points readers to Joseph Osel's two articles "Black Out: Michelle Alexander's Operational Whitewash" and "Toward Detournement of the New Jim Crow or The Strange Career of the New Jim Crow" as well as Greg Thomas' "Why Some Like The New Jim Crow So Much."

Osel writes in "Black Out":

"…the content of Alexander's well-researched, tip-toeing book may be enlightening or nauseating depending on the reader's existing understanding of mass incarceration in the United States and their ability to think critically and contextually about complicated social issues. Privileged or sheltered progressive liberals, or for that matter any individual with the garden variety college education, as well as the vast majority of progressive academics, will likely find The New Jim Crow stimulating, maybe cathartic and probably worth recommending. On the other hand, those with any kind of serious background in Black philosophy, history, criticism, or even a passing interest in self-determination should brace themselves for the all too familiar: a breathtaking descent into the nether regions of Eurocentrism, in all its clever disguises."

Alexander's book is available here and she will be appearing at John Jay College on May 9, 2013 at 4pm to discuss her book.

David Simon to Appear at John Jay College, NYC - February 4, 2013

Nickie Phillips

The Wire David Simon: Executive Producer, Creator, Writer

David Simon is scheduled to appear at John Jay College of Criminal Justice on February 4, 2013 at the John Jay Journalism Prize Dinner.

We are pleased to honor David Simon, the creator of the television series, The Wire, and former Baltimore Sun reporter at the annual John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Awards for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting.

Go here for more details.

You can find Simon's blog, and his post on the shooting in Newtown, CT here.

News of the Week: Stalking, Weed, and Natural Disasters

Nickie Phillips

This is our latest installment of Dr. Demetra M. Pappas' "News of the Week" in which she uses short topics as a teaching tool to stimulate conversation in her sociology, anthropology, criminology and legal studies course.

  1. FAMILIES/SOCIALIZATION/SOCIOLOGY OF DEVIANCE/THE STALK TALK AND THE GRANDSON OF STALK TALK (i.e. THE STALKED STUDENT): Last week, CIA Director David Patraeus (recently ex-miliatary as a General) resigned from his post.  At the time, there was vague commentary of an affair.  Then, the next disclosure was that his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Next, there were allegations of extramarital visits (for both, as they are each married) during her interview visits to him during military service. (Note that in the military, adultery is a prosecutable offense – question as to why this might be important in the socialization process and in the social order and organization.)  Then on Monday, the other shoe dropped:  there were thousands of e-mails between the two, some very explicit, on Broadwell’s now confiscated computer.  And, as the world turns (a media reference), Broadwell apparently engaged in what today’s New York Times, in an article posted by Elizabeth Bumiller, called “inappropriate communications” with Patraeus family friend Jill Kelly (also married). The only thing being said about Mrs. Patraeus is that she is furious (with her husband).  So many possible ways for a Sociology News of the Week Panel to approach this, and almost as many ways for a Victimology class to do so (for example, what, if any conduct would be illegal under New York’s anti-stalking legislation?).
  2. ELECTIONS/SOCIAL NORMS/DEVIANCE AND CONFORMITY/METHODOLOGY AND THE GRASS CLASS REDUX:  On Election Day, a proposition passed in Colorado to allow for legal, recreational use of marijuana in a non-medical way. This prompted NBC News anchor Brian Williams to comment on “legal weed,” which was a minor media circus (he looks very conservative in appearance, and the weed comment was unscripted, apparently) and we won’t even discuss what Bill Maher said in Friday’s monologue on HBO’s real time (or will we)? What do you think, vis a vis our early in the semester discussions?
  3. NATURAL DISASTERS/SOCIAL RESPONSES TO FLOODS:  Last week, on New York 1, there were compelling images of rushing and gushing waters in Venice. One of these showed a man smiling and cheerfully swimming in the flood waters, which currently (as of yesterday, per New York 1) have Venice 70 % under water. Note, there is a naturally occurring phenomenon of the waters rising there in autumn, called “agua terra” (water earth). This is international news, by virtue of international news reports, but being reported in a different way than the Hurricane Sandy reports – why?

For more information on Dr. Pappas' pedagogical approach, see her article, "Creating an Antidote to Student Apathy: The News of the Week," in Teacher Scholar:  The Journal of the State Comprehensive University, Volume 3, Number 1 pp. 45-51.

Marijuana Reform

Nickie Phillips

Go here for Ethan Nadelmann on Bloomberg TV discussing the significance of the election results on the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington State. From Nadelmann's statement on Drug Policy Alliance:

“The victories in Colorado and Washington are of historic significance not just for Americans but for all countries debating the future of marijuana prohibition in their own countries,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “This is now a mainstream issue, with citizens more or less divided on the issue but increasingly inclined to favor responsible regulation of marijuana over costly and ineffective prohibitionist policies.”

Jack Healy explains the reform in the New York Times,

The laws do not allow people to light up in public, and cities and counties will be able to block marijuana retailers, in much the same way that blue laws have restricted alcohol sales for decades. And it remains illegal to drive a motor vehicle while high on the drug.

Supporters say the laws will end thousands of small-scale drug arrests while freeing law enforcement to focus on larger crimes. They estimate that taxing marijuana will bring in millions of dollars of new revenue for governments, and will save court systems and police departments additional millions.

For more on the abject failure of the war on drugs, see The House I Live In.

The House I Live In: Documentary Highlighting the Failure of the War on Drugs

Nickie Phillips

Forbes calls the documentary The House I Live In “the most important drug war film you'll ever see.” Mark Hughes writes,

“…the film is exploring the theme that all of us are made less by a process that devalues other people, and those who are part of that system lose some small part of themselves to it as well.”

Other Notable Reviews:

The Hollywood Reporter

Variety

Go here to “Get Involved."

Special screening October 3, 6pm, at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, NYC, featuring Q&A with filmmaker Eugene Jarecki and special guests

In theaters October 5th.

UPDATE: If you are in the Baltimore area, the film will be screened October 9. Go here for more details.

UPDATE: NYC screening of The House I Live In Oct 29, 2012 Open Society Foundations

UPDATE: See Jarecki's October 16, 2012 appearance on The Daily Show here.

Meth and Breaking Bad

Nickie Phillips

Go here for chemistry Professor Donna Nelson's take on serving as a consultant on Breaking Bad. Go here for a take on Breaking Bad's portrayal of the the international drug market.

"What they got right was showing how meth is a very American-style small business, not a vast conspiracy that easily shifts to new markets."

Update: More on Breaking Bad