Drug Policy Reformers Weigh Jury Nullification to Stop War on Drugs

During a large drug policy reform summit held in Denver from Oct. 23 to 26, a panel convened to consider jury nullification as a tool to bring the so-called ‘War On Drugs’ to a halt.

The event, co-hosted by groups including the ACLU and NORML, was planned to ‘explore the history of jury nullification, its use in drug cases, how to use jury nullification as an advocacy tool, and strategies for building a jury nullification movement to stem the tide of the drug war,’ according to a recent Huffington Post article.

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A Different Type of Nullification Making Waves in D.C.

An advertisement in the Washington D.C. Metro that encourages passers-by to ‘Google Jury Nullification’ recently raised the ire of the city’s prosecutors and judges.

The Fully Informed Jury Association put up the advertisement, telling potential jurors that “they have the right to ‘hang’ the jury with their vote if they cannot agree with other jurors!” and that “you may, and should, vote your conscience.” The billboard has been placed strategically in a place near the D.C. Superior Court, where potential jurors are most likely to see it.

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San Diego Mayor Calls for Jury Nullification

Don’t look now, but nullification is about to spread to the courtroom.  NBC 7 in San Diego reported this week that the city’s mayor, Bob Filner, has called for jurors to refuse to convict the operators of licensed marijuana dispensaries who have been arrested under anti-drug laws by the federal government.  State and local laws in San Diego permit the sale and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has injected himself into a federal criminal case against the operator of a medical marijuana dispensary, intensifying his standoff with federal prosecutors on cannabis enforcement issues.

Filner’s urging jurors who’ll be chosen for the trial to reject federal law in favor of state statutes under a centuries-old legal concept known as “jury nullification”– whereby jurors can refuse to convict people under laws they believe should not be applied.

“It’s time, like with Prohibition, to step back and say this was a stupid thing to do,” Filner said outside the courthouse. “Let’s step back, and juries ought to take the lead and say that to the federal government…and if the federal government isn’t listening to the mayor, maybe they’ll listen to the jury.”

Against the articulated wishes of the community, the federal government continues to raid these dispensaries and arrest the people who operate them, actions that clearly violate both the Constitution and the sovereignty of the state and local governments.  Filner in decrying this federal usurpation stated, “This is way overdoing it when local laws, state laws allow compassionate use of medical marijuana.”

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