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(c) 2011, Brenda Grantland, Esq., added 1/31/2011

Copyright notice:  This article may be linked to, emailed, printed, and disseminated to others so long as it is done free of charge, without changes to the text, and with this copyright notice included.  However, this article may not be republished for sale, either by itself or as part of a compilation of other material, without written permission from the author.

I created this page to recommend some very worthwhile websites of organizations and causes I agree with, support, or just find interesting or informative.

I am grouping them roughly by subject matter, but some of them cross over into several categories.  I will be adding to this page later, so if I forgot your organization please email me.

General civil liberties and constitutional rights - because my politics are an odd mix of liberal and libertarian causes with a few conservative ideas (such a property rights), you may find this an odd collection:
  • American Civil Liberties Union - Most people think of the ACLU as an organization limited to liberal causes, but they also do a lot of good work for civil liberties in general.  The ACLU has ruffled some feathers for advocating free speech for KKK members and other unpopular groups, and for its stance on abortion and/or gay marriage.  Although I sometimes disagree with them on where they should concentrate their efforts, I agree with them that constitutional rights apply to everyone equally and someone should not be denied those rights because of their sexual orientation, or even their hateful, racist beliefs.  The ACLU has been, and continue to be a very strong ally in the asset forfeiture reform movement.  In this age where all constitutional rights are under attack, we need the ACLU.
  • Move-On - this organization is a strong and effective advocate of the liberal causes I agree with -- economic recovery and jobs creation, an end to the war,defense of Social Security, and the urgent need to take measures to reverse global warming.
  • Truth-Out - During the horrible assault on our civil liberties of the Bush years, I had to turn off the television news because I kept screaming at the tube until I was hoarse.  Truth Out became my number one source of news articles about the abuses of our rights and what people were doing about them -- often covering issues the mainstream news neglects to cover. 
  • Thane Ritchie First Amendment - this new site was created by Thane Ritchie, CEO of Ritchie Capital Management.  Thane's politics are about as eclectic as mine.  Although we do not always agree, it is refreshing to see a powerful business man advocating protection of constitutional rights and green causes like ecology and sustainable energy.
  • National Rifle Organization - My inclusion of the NRA in this list may blow your mind.  I have never owned a gun, and probably never will, but the Second Amendment is in the Constitution for a reason.  Thomas Jefferson said: "The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government." (Thomas Jefferson, 1 Thomas Jefferson Papers, 334). Seeing how close the Bush administration came to suspending the Constitution, I support the Second Amendment as insurance against a tyrant (like Adolph Hitler, who was elected to power by the German public) gaining control by popular vote and destroying our Constitutional system of government.  On the other hand, I believe in reasonable gun control, including strong controls to prevent gun ownership by the mentally ill and those convicted of domestic violence or any other violent crime.  The Second Amendment is a personal right and privilege that can be forfeited by abuse or mental unfitness.  The NRA was also a very powerful ally in our quest for forfeiture reform.

Anti-Drug War groups - I have long been an opponent of the Drug War.  Drugs are a social or health issue, and declaring war on them and treating people with drug problems as the enemy does not solve the problem.  As a criminal defense lawyer I saw many lives ruined by drugs, but many more lives ruined by the drug war.  Families are destroyed when a parent is incarcerated, and their children are punished, ostracized and often doomed to repeat their parents mistakes.  Sentences of 10, 20 or 30 years for non-violent crimes are simply unnecessary and counter-productive.  How could anyone become a contributing member of society again after 20 years of incarceration? With the cost of incarceration per year exceeding the cost of sending a person to college, how can we as a nation afford to waste so much money incarcerating such a huge percentage of our population?  I support the following groups for their advocacy in opposition to the drug war:
  • Families Against Mandatory Minimums - Mandatory minimum sentence statutes were a disasterously bad idea spawned by the drug war.  These statutes required draconian sentences in drug cases and took away judges' discretion to give a less severe sentence. As a result first and second time drug offenders often were sentenced to a mandatory 5, 10 or even 20 years -- harsher sentences than violent criminals and child molesters.  The Supreme Court had the right idea when it declared the mandatory Federal Sentencing Guidelines to be unconstitutional, and saved the Guidelines from repeal by making them discretionary, so that judges now have the discretion to depart below them in appropriate cases.  The ruling did not affect the mandatory minimum statutes, which should be repealed.
  • Drug Policy Alliance - this policy organization opposes the Drug War and mandatory minimum sentences and advocates asset forfeiture reform in its publications, advocacy to Congress and state legislatures.  It also brings a large number of disparate groups together in its conventions.  
  • Law Enforcement Against Prohibition - an anti-drug-war group made up of former law enforcement officers, who came to know first hand the hypocrisy and dangers of addressing non-violent drug crimes with military tactics.
  • National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) - when someone gets arrested for marijuana I recommend that they contact NORML for a referral to an experienced marijuana defense lawyer.  NORML has also been very supportive of the asset forfeiture reform cause.
  • November Coalition - this organization opposes the drug war and supports the Drug War's victims, by publishing the stories of defendants who are sentenced to outrageously long sentences and the families of incarcerated drug defendants.

Forfeiture reform and property rights groups -
  • Forfeiture Endangers American Rights - formed in 1992, this is the organization nearest and dearest to my heart.  John Paff (New Jersey) was the founder, but I consider myself a "founding member", having joined in the first year, and having served on the board of directors ever since it became a non-profit corporation (1993).  The FEAR website is the largest repository of free information on forfeiture on the internet.  FEAR sells an inexpensive defense manual, a DVD crash-course in forfeiture law and a brief bank to assist lawyers and pro se forfeiture victims in defending forfeiture cases, as well as a directory of lawyers with forfeiture experience. FEAR is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, and needs your tax-deductible donations.
  • Institute for Justice - this nonprofit public interest litigation organization advocates for property rights in general, and asset forfeiture reform in particular.  IJ senior attorney Scott Bullock has served on FEAR's board of directors for many years.
  • International Society for Individual Liberty - another group which has long supported FEAR's efforts to reform forfeiture law.
  • Cato Institute - a libertarian think tank located in Washington, D.C., CATO has published a number of papers and sponsored forums on asset forfeiture reform and other property rights and civil liberties issues.

Medical marijuana groups - In my work as a forfeiture defense lawyer (and in my criminal appeals) I have represented a number of people who were prosecuted, and/or had their property seized, by the federal government for growing or providing medical marijuana that was legalized under state law.  The patients I came to know were seriously ill or sometimes dying people who found marijuana was the only medicine to relieve their chronic pain, nausea from cancer treatment, wasting syndrome from AIDS, etc.
Those medical marijuana providers who were prosecuted or punished with asset forfeiture for supplying them medical cannabis were very sincere, compassionate, non-violent people, and some of the nicest people I ever met.  I also came to know some of the experts who had studied, or even performed scientific research on the effectiveness of medical marijuana, such as the late Tod Mikuriya, and learned that there is scientific proof that marijuanais effective as a medicine - proof the US government knows about but chooses to ignore.  Politics and propaganda keep it illegal.  
  • Americans for Safe Access - a group that has done a great job of assisting and supporting medical marijuana patients and their families, especially patients under attack by the judicial system.
  • Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (WAMM) -  WAMM is a model for the non-profit provision of medical cannabis to those who need it.  The sincerity of their compassion is exemplified by the hospice work provided by WAMM for their patients who are dying.