More than 150 student drug
policy activists made the arduous trek to wintry New Hampshire this week
as Students for Sensible Drug Policy (http://www.ssdp.org)
combined its annual convention with some presidential politicking.
With the New Hampshire primary, the first in the nation, barely two weeks
away, the fast-growing nationwide student group is taking full advantage
of proximity to the candidates to press home its issues.
Foremost among them is the
repeal of the Higher Education Act's anti-drug provision. Enacted
in 1998 at the behest of arch-drug warrior Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN), the
provision bars students with drug convictions, no matter how minor, from
receiving federal financial assistance to attend college for varying periods
The SSDP national convention
coincides with the national College Convention 2004 (http://www.nec.edu/cc2k4/),
an agglomeration of student activists of various stripes who have also
seen the political wisdom of going where the candidates are. And
the candidates are appearing at the convention. While the College
Convention has drawn hundreds, SSDP is by far the largest single contingent,
said SSDP legislative director Ross Wilson.
"SSDP has a huge presence
here," said Wilson, who reported by phone from Manchester on Thursday's
busy schedule of meeting and asking questions of the candidates.
"The candidates probably talked more about drug policy than not because
we were here," he said, adding that the drug policy reform bloc was also
bolstered by the presence of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (http://www.leap.cc),
whose Jack Cole had a featured speaking slot on the College Convention's
own schedule, by Vote Hemp (http://www.votehemp.com),
Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana (http://www.granitestaters.com)
and other organizations.
What follows below is Wilson's
account of Thursday's candidate encounters:
Question and answer sessions
with former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, retired general Wesley Clark, Missouri
Congressman Richard Gephardt and North Carolina Sen. John Edwards are set
for Friday, Wilson said.
Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich:
"We asked him about the drug war, and he expressed his opposition to it
and how it has been waged and said we had to reexamine the way we dealt
with drugs. He also said he favored marijuana decriminalization.
He also showed up at the last minute at a dinner we had; he popped in and
talked to us for about 15 minutes. He thanked us for our support,
and supported our HEA repeal efforts. He's our champion among the
Former Illinois Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun:
"We asked her about HEA, which she didn't totally understand, but she did
express her concern about filling the prisons with nonviolent offenders.
But later, as she was walking out, I asked her again about HEA. This time,
she said she thought it was a terrible law and she was against it.
That is a firm affirmation that she is for repeal."
Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry:
"SSDP board member Ian Mance asked him about HEA, and Kerry didn't seem
totally familiar with the issue. He asked if it applied to both possession
and distribution and when told yes, said he would favor repeal only for
possession. He wanted to remain tough on drug dealers, he said.
I caught up with him later and asked if he really wanted to punish people
by withholding student loans after they had already been punished and when
judges already had the option of doing so if they wanted. Was he
against judicial discretion? He didn't really answer that except
to say that in general judges should have discretion."
Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman:
"He called on me, and I asked him about the drug provision and what he
would do to work for repeal. He hemmed and hawed a little and asked
me to repeat what the provision does, then he said he didn't think we should
be punishing people who have paid their debt to society. He ended
saying he would give a tentative yes to repeal, he would support it.
He is perhaps the most conservative of the candidates, so that was a big
It wasn't all presidential
candidates, he noted. "There was a group we had never heard of, Students
Taking Action Against Drugs (STAND), and they had a panel. We sent
some students to check it out and ask questions and point out flaws.
We just slaughtered them," Wilson chortled. "They couldn't address
our points, they couldn't defend their point of view. They were flustered,
and later on, they came out and asked us for more information. We
ended up giving them copies of 'Drug War Facts' (http://www.drugwarfacts.org)."
[STAND appears to a project
of media educator Renee Hobbs (http://www.reneehobbs.org),
who served as a consultant to the White House Office of National Drug Control
Policy during the Clinton administration. According to Hobbs' web
site, STAND "invites young people to use the power of mass media to design,
create and deliver meaningful messages to help other teens resist drug
"Their brochures were slick,
but the STAND kids weren't," said Wilson.
And then there was Bill Bennett,
the former drug czar and self-appointed moralizer for the nation, whose
halo of virtue was tarnished recently by his admission under pressure that
he has a big-time gambling jones. To greet Bennett, an early advocate
of drug testing and "zero tolerance" for student drug use, SSDP demonstrators
met him with urine sample cups and fliers detailing his career of atrocities.
The great moralizer did not respond to the urine sample challenge.
And last but not least, said
Wilson, SSDP media director Melissa Milam and Caton Volk from Chicago are
working on a documentary to be shown on MTV's "Choose or Lose" get out
the vote campaign. "They've been filming all the interactions with
the candidates, the meeting with STAND, everything," said Wilson.
Freelance journalist Dan Forbes, a notable on the drug policy beat, is
also in attendance.
SSDP will remain in New Hampshire
through Saturday, with the organization holding elections for a new board
of directors Thursday evening, and other business to attend to. Stay
tuned for a follow-up report next week on the rest of the convention.
-- END --
Issue #319, 1/9/04
Taking Drug Policy to the Presidential Candidates: SSDP Goes to New Hampshire |
Battle of Christiania Flares as Hash-Seller Burn Own Stands |
Major New Reform Coalition Forming in Maryland -- Will Call for Treatment, Not Incarceration |
DRCNet Interview: Loretta Nall, President, US Marijuana Party |
Newsbrief: Principal in South Carolina Drug Raid Resigns |
Newsbrief: Campaign Watch: Gephardt On Crank |
Newsbrief: Chicago Suburb Seeks to Ban Glow Sticks from All-Ages Clubs |
Newsbrief: Secret Courts, and Not Just for Terrorism Suspects |
Newsbrief: Ad Execs Charged With Ripping Off Drug Czar's Ad Campaign |
Kentucky Cop Kills Drug Suspect with Three Shots to the Back -- Protest Turns Into Near Riot Thursday Night |
DRCNet Temporarily Suspending Our Web-Based Write-to-Congress Service Due to Funding Shortfalls -- Your Help Can Bring It Back -- Keep Contacting Congress in the Meantime |
Perry Fund Accepting Applications for 2003-2004 and 2004-2005 School Years, Providing Scholarships for Students Losing Aid Because of Drug Convictions |
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