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Kevin Zeese

Kevin Zeese is president of Common Sense for Drug Policy and an organizer of Popular Resistance, an outgrowth of the occupy movement that unites the ‘movement of movements’ working for systemic change. Zeese also serves as Attorney General for the Green Shadow Cabinet.

Entries by Kevin Zeese

Is the Destructive Drug War Being Brought to an End?

(25) Comments | Posted June 2, 2014 | 12:22 PM

Making positive change often seems impossible, but one area that should give people hope is the movement toward ending the war on drugs.

When I was in law school in the late 1970s, I did an internship at NORML, where one of my tasks was responding to mail from marijuana prisoners and their families. The harsh injustice of the drug war struck me then, and ever since I've been working to end the war on drugs -- a war declared by Richard Nixon.

Majorities now support the outright legalization of marijuana and oppose the war on drugs. The public has overcome decades of misinformation to justify the drug war.

The transformation struck me a few years ago when I was in a medical marijuana dispensary in California. In 1996, California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana. At the dispensary, people lined up -- as if they were waiting for a bank teller -- in a safe place to get medical-quality marijuana. The slogan of the Harborside Health Center was "out of the darkness and into the light."

That slogan is true on many levels. Not only are people who were criminals able to come out into the light and purchase their medicine in a safe environment, but the nation is coming out of the darkness of false information. In May of 2013, the Green Shadow Cabinet recommended the Obama administration allow state marijuana legalization to go forward, eight months later Attorney General Holder did just that.

Now, the light is shining on former drug war assertions, and claims like the one that marijuana causes crime are being proven false. Since the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, violent crime has fallen by 6.9 percent and property crime by 11.1 percent. A 2012 study, "California Youth Crime Plunges to All-Time Low," credits a state marijuana decriminalization for plummeting arrests for all crimes. Meanwhile, an April 2014 study shows that legalization does not lead to increased adolescent use.

In addition, tremendous revenues are coming into Colorado from marijuana taxes. Colorado's Joint Budget Committee projects revenue of $610 million from retail and medical marijuana sales from January 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, the end of the next fiscal year. And, the state is saving money on enforcement. The Denver Post reported "the number of cases filed in state court alleging at least one marijuana offense plunged 77 percent between 2012 and 2013."

The lessons from Colorado: decreased crime, no increased use, tremendous law enforcement savings and massive new revenues. Ending marijuana prohibition has been a success on many levels.

There is an awakening regarding other drugs as well. President Obama, who has pardoned fewer prisoners than any other president, has announced he may pardon hundreds, if not thouands of drug offenders. This is occurring after the Department of Justice removed pardon attorney, Ronald Rodgers, a career drug enforcement official who provided false information in order to prevent pardons.

Granting clemency to thousands is not enough. The DOJ guidelines for pardons are extremely stringent (e.g. a person must have served at least 10 years to be considered); many tens of thousands who should be released will not be. More systemic change is needed, the country needs to change its sentencing laws and continue to dismantle the drug war.

Since the 'Just Say No' era of the 1980s, both parties outdid themselves to see who could be tougher on drugs. Vice President Biden, for example, chaired the Judiciary Committee when harsh mandatory minimum sentencing became law. Eric Holder has recently highlighted, "since 1980, the federal prison population has grown at an astonishing rate -- by almost 800 percent." The United States needs to face up to the injustice that with just 5 percent of the world's population, the U.S. has 25 percent of the world's prisoners. That's right, one in four of the world's prisoners live behind bars in the "land of the free."

By every measure the drug war has failed and done incredible harm. The U.S. has spent $1 trillion on it but illegal drugs are cheaper, addiction rates remain the same and overdose deaths are rising. One positive step is the "Smarter Sentencing Act" which removes mandatory sentencing for some offenders and reduces them for others. This bi-partisan bill will save money, improve public safety, reduce overcrowding in federal prisons, and begin to undo unproductive mandatory minimum sentences.

There continues to be resistance to reform from those whose careers and livelihoods depend on the failed drug war. Just as the Obama administration removed pardon attorney Ronald Rogers, the President needs to remove the current DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart. She is refusing to support the Smarter Sentencing Act, supported by Obama. She criticized the president for saying marijuana is no more dangerous than alcohol and opposed the Obama administration's decision to let reform in Colorado and Washington go forward. She is out of step with the administration and needs to be removed.

An awakening is occurring, the U.S. is finally getting on the right path, people need to take advantage of the opportunity and push now to end the drug war.

This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Charlotte Street Films in support of the Smarter Sentencing Act, which aims to reduce excessive sentencing for those convicted of drug-related crimes. To watch a video supporting the bill, watch here. To support the bill, read here. To see all the other posts in the series, read

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Labor Day Reflection: Time for Americans to Participate in Power

(6) Comments | Posted September 6, 2011 | 12:18 PM

The Roman philosopher and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero said "Freedom is participation in power." By that standard Americans are not free. We do not participate in power. We do not even have power over our own economic lives; our elected "representatives" ignore us and listen to the moneyed interests sending...

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Tim DeChristopher's Battle for Justice Is Our Battle

(0) Comments | Posted July 20, 2011 | 3:57 PM

We are all Tim DeChristopher. That is made clear by the government in its official sentencing recommendations to Federal Judge Dee Benson. The prosecutors write: "many are watching to see the eventual sentence" and therefore DeChristopher's "sentence should effectively communicate that similar acts will have definite consequences." Their purpose...

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Has U.S. Foreign Policy Ever Been Such a Mess?

(37) Comments | Posted July 13, 2011 | 1:35 PM

I can't remember a time when the U.S. military has been stuck in so many war quagmires at once. Libya seems destined to fail unless the U.S. gets a lucky shot and kills Gaddafi. U.S. militarists are openly maneuvering to stay in Iraq -- the war Obama told us was...

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Is a Broader Peace Movement Here? One That Can Really Stop U.S. Militarism?

(0) Comments | Posted July 6, 2011 | 9:37 AM

A new anti-war movement that can really challenge U.S. militarism is being born. People from across the political spectrum joined together opposing U.S. war and empire. In a letter organized by, Come Home America, they cite a combination of events that present a "historic opportunity to redirect U.S. foreign...

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Is the United States a Representative Democracy or a Mirage Democracy

(187) Comments | Posted July 5, 2011 | 3:04 PM

It is a shame to have to ask whether democracy is a mirage in the United States, no doubt most Americans would rather be celebrating U.S. democracy than questioning it. But the reality of the disconnect between government and the people has become so stark it is impossible to ignore.

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In Two Steps Obama Can Reduce the Influence of Secret Donations in 2012

(8) Comments | Posted May 10, 2011 | 6:20 PM

The 2012 presidential election promises to have the most anonymous campaign donations in U.S. history. Unless the Obama administration acts, unknown corporate and wealthy interests will fund massive advertising campaigns against and for candidates but the voters will not know who they are or their real agenda. The Obama administration...

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The "Bradley Manning Exception to the Bill of Rights" Devastates the Credibility of the Military Justice System

(1) Comments | Posted April 25, 2011 | 10:39 AM

The credibility of the military justice system is being undermined by the prosecution of Bradley Manning. His abusive punishment without trial violates his due process rights; his harsh treatment in solitary confinement-torture conditions violates the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment; and now the commander-in-chief has announced his...

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Happy Tax Day: Sounds of Resistance Blasts Wall Street With People Powered

(4) Comments | Posted April 18, 2011 | 9:12 AM

On April 15th, a concert and protest against Bank of America was held in Union Square Park. This was the first event organized by Its Our Economy, and it was co-sponsored by 16 other groups concerned about hunger, health care, housing, economic justice and ending war. Big finance and...

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The President Misses an Opportunity to Get the Country on the Right Course

(19) Comments | Posted April 14, 2011 | 4:40 PM

President Obama announced the outlines of his deficit plan, leaving a lot up for negotiation. He planted his poll at the center right and where he ends up, with his history of compromising to bring right wing Republicans and Democratic corporatists together, can only be worse.

I was pleasantly surprised...

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Shock Troops Used to Prevent Vet-Led Flower Laying Ceremony at War Memorial

(5) Comments | Posted April 7, 2011 | 3:33 PM

"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same."

Soldiers Oath

On March 20th, Americans, in a vet-led assembly, gathered to support PFC Bradley Manning...

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Sounds of Resistance Are Growing Join Americans Fed Up With Big Finance

(1) Comments | Posted March 31, 2011 | 10:10 AM

Are you tired of big banks making record profits, paying giant executive salaries and bonuses and then cooking the books so they avoid paying taxes? We are. And, we are responding. Join us.

On April 15 in Union Square Park in New York City at 11:00 AM we...

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If You Supported the No Fly Zone, Time to Reconsider

(99) Comments | Posted March 25, 2011 | 12:04 PM

It was hard for some peace activists to look at the planned attack by Col. Gaddafi on Libyan rebels and oppose the no-fly zone approved by the U.N. Col. Gaddafi is a vicious leader who promised to make the streets run red with blood so this was an issue that...

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One Year Anniversary: The Incredible Shrinking Obama Health Care Law

(91) Comments | Posted March 21, 2011 | 7:45 PM

At its one year anniversary the Obama health care law is shrinking while the health care crisis grows. Americans who lack any health coverage still exceeds 50 million, over 45,000 deaths occur annually due to lack of health insurance, and 40 million Americans, including over 10 million children, are...

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President Obama Step in to Protect the Constitutional Rights of Veterans and Citizens

(0) Comments | Posted March 17, 2011 | 1:28 PM

The Quantico command has shown it does not respect the Constitution; now they are denying our freedom of speech.

As one of the organizers of the non-violent event this Sunday at Quantico in support of Bradley Manning I have been negotiating in good faith with the Marines at Quantico to...

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Bradley Manning Is Punished for Seeking a More Perfect Union

(30) Comments | Posted March 8, 2011 | 2:00 PM

Reports that Bradley Manning is being held nude every night at the Quantico Brig, then forced to stand naked in the hallway while he waits for his clothes, shows the inconsistency of the treatment of Manning with basic American values of due process, fair trial and human dignity.

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As the Race to the Bottom Picks Up Speed, Are Americans Finally Fed-Up?

(6) Comments | Posted March 2, 2011 | 1:53 PM

The race to the bottom has picked up its pace. As state and federal governments face budget deficits, they are cutting critical programs with austerity budgets that will weaken education, health care, essential services and the economy.

Wisconsin is ground zero for the race to the bottom. I will be...

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Julian Assange: At the Forefront of 21st Century Journalism

(6) Comments | Posted March 1, 2011 | 11:53 AM

How WikiLeaks is democratizing journalism, redistributing power and increasing transparency

If there were ever a doubt about whether the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, is a journalist, recent events erase all those doubts and put him at the forefront of a movement to democratize journalism and empower people.

The U.S....

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The Security Budget vs. the Necessities of Americans

(12) Comments | Posted February 22, 2011 | 2:50 PM

President Obama and the Congress have taken 66% of discretionary spending in the federal budget off the table -- the Security Budget -- while proposing a freeze to the rest of the budget and deep cuts to some programs that provide necessities for the American people. His budget crystallizes...

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The False Narrative of the Corporate Media: Obama Becoming Business Friendly

(0) Comments | Posted February 9, 2011 | 1:13 PM

The unrelenting narrative from the corporate media -- that Obama must mend fences with American business -- is disconnected from the reality of Obama's policies and appointments. It is inconsistent with the rise in the stock market, the record profits and the hordes of cash big businesses are sitting on.

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