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items tagged with drug legalization

The Forest for the Trees: Lessons from Newspaper Coverage of the Benton Mackenzie Trial and Rock Island County Government
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: News/Features

Category: Media

2014-08-07 11:40:41

The July 9 Rock Island Argus/Moline Dispatch article announcing a verdict for Benton Mackenzie on drug charges began like this: “Even as the 12 jurors shuffled into the courtroom to announce their verdict, Benton Mackenzie could already sense his fate. Guilty.”

As storytelling journalism quickly establishing a mood and then getting to the point, it’s pretty good.

Yet with the basic facts of the case never in dispute, the verdict had long been almost a foregone conclusion because of a pre-trial ruling in May – which the Illinois-based newspapers mentioned in trial coverage but didn’t actually cover. Judge Henry Latham ruled that Mackenzie couldn’t claim he grew marijuana out of medical necessity to treat his cancer.

The Quad-City Times, on the other hand, did cover that ruling, and did a decent job explaining the precedent behind it.

But the Benton Mackenzie coverage from both entities, while voluminous, overlooked or ignored frameworks in which daily events could be understood, processed, and put into a more-meaningful context. The story is ultimately not just about one man with terminal cancer facing a criminal trial. Nor does it merely illuminate the general issue of medical marijuana.

Rather, it’s a heart-wrenching, complicated example of something larger: how the justice system deals with an area of rapidly changing law – one that is itself chasing a swift change in public attitudes following decades of calcified prohibition policy.


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Cops Say Legalize Drugs. One Tells Why
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: News/Features

Category: Feature Stories

2012-07-17 21:55:45

Tony Ryan says his organization has an effective tool in the war on the War on Drugs: a T-shirt.

It reads: “Cops say legalize drugs. Ask me why.” And people do.

Ryan served 36 years in Denver, Colorado’s police department before retiring in 2003. He’s now a member of the board of directors of LEAP – Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP.cc). The 10-year-old organization, he said, has 50,000 members, ranging from current and former law-enforcement officers to prosecutors to judges.

The former cop (who retired as a lieutenant) said that although he never worked in narcotics, he watched the effects of drugs – and drug enforcement – firsthand in Denver’s poorer neighborhoods. “I saw a lot of drug activity,” he said in a phone interview last week. “I saw the damage that is done by drug use and drug addiction, but I also saw the damage that’s being done by the country’s policy – in those days the War on Drugs. ... I’m of the mindset ... that the damage that has done ... is worse than what the drugs themselves cause.”

Ryan will speak at and participate in an August 1 forum organized by Iowa state-representative candidate Mark Nelson. The event will be held at 7 p.m. at Central Perk (226 West Third Street in Davenport).


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