Friday, August 26, 2011

Philly Post: PA GOP is wrong on medical pot

Two bills sit in Harrisburg limbo as thousands of patients suffer.

On Monday, the Daily News ran a cover story about the plight of Colleen Begley, a New Jersey medical marijuana advocate who is facing more than a decade in prison for possessing two pounds of pot that she says were destined for people with ailments ranging from migraine headaches to AIDS.

At first glance Begley’s case is not unlike thousands of others across the country involving American citizens who are being—or have been—prosecuted under archaic drug laws that place pot in the same category as heroin (and treat it even more stringently than cocaine, which, as a Schedule II narcotic is deemed medically beneficial). Yet the fact that Begley’s story made it to the front page of a major out-of-state newspaper is indicative of shifting attitudes toward pot—and ultimately, I think, a growing distaste among most Americans for seeing otherwise law-abiding citizens assaulted (Begley was punched by police) and jailed for what most consider a relatively innocuous weed.

Despite a push by Democratic lawmakers in Harrisburg to give Pennsylvanians access to medical pot, two versions of the Governor Raymond P. Shafer Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act appear destined for the great docket in the sky, following their predecessor bills from the last session. The GOP leaders tasked with reviewing them—Sen. Patricia Vance (a former nurse, of all things) and Rep. Matthew Baker—have said they have no plans to hold hearings. To continue reading, click here.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Philly Post: Life without parole isn't child's play

(This is the first of a new weekly column that will appear every Thursday at Philadelphia magazine's blog The Philly Post.)

Determining the best way to deal with minor offenders has consumed judges and lawmakers for decades; it’s been just five years since the Supreme Court banned the death penalty for offenders under 18 years of age, and theory and practice are still evolving.

Minors are psychologically incomplete human beings. According to social psychologist Erik Erikson—who literally wrote the book on personality development—adolescents have yet to develop a coherent concept of self or “ego identity” and therefore lack the sense of continuity that adults take for granted. The dark side of this fact is that young people are by nature impulsive and rarely take into full account the consequences of their actions. This can make them considerably more dangerous than adults. I’d rather be confronted by a 30-year-old with a gun than a 14-year-old with one. You can reason with a 30-year-old. Kids, on the other hand, are unpredictable, and their violence is typically senseless and unmitigated.

But should someone that isn’t even old enough to drive a car be legally considered so irredeemable that they should be locked away for the rest of their lives? That’s the question facing Lawrence County Judge Dominick Motto, who must decide whether Pennsylvania will gain the notorious distinction of prosecuting the world’s youngest prisoner facing life without parole. Read the entire column here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

PW Interview: Larry Flynt

He’s been tossed out of the U.S. Supreme Court for calling the chief justice an asshole; he’s been shot by a white supremacist for publishing interracial photos; and he’s spent six months in jail for refusing to divulge a source. Now 68, the years of hard living and fighting have taken their toll on Hustler publisher Larry Flynt. Wheelchair-bound since the late ’70s—his speech slurred from a painkiller-induced stroke—Flynt struggles to finish a sentence without choking on his own saliva.

But the iconic pornographer and 1st Amendment crusader shows no signs of slowing down, although age and wisdom have definitely chilled him out a bit. Gone are the flag-desecrating, vitriolic-filled tirades of old, replaced instead by the sober perspicacity of a modern-day sage. I caught up with Flynt in his suite at the Four Seasons when he was in town promoting his new book, One Nation Under Sex. Read my Q&A with Flynt at Philadelphia Weekly.