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Maverick Cop Doc to air on Global December 9 -- Damage Done: The Drug War Odyssey

For immediate release: November 27, 2006 Maverick Cop Doc to air on Global December 9 Damage Done: The Drug War Odyssey Halifax-based imX Communications and the NFB's Atlantic Studio have completed production on Damage Done: The Drug War Odyssey. The one- hour documentary, written and directed by Connie Littlefield, is the first to focus on maverick cops whose years of experience in fighting the war on drugs has turned them into crusaders for legalization. The film airs at 7 p.m. E.S.T. on Saturday, December 9, as part of Global TV's Global Currents; a new series of social issue documentaries. Instead of making sweeping statements about the drug war, Damage Done works on a human level – focusing on the transformation of former drug-fighting cops. They may be Libertarians, Republicans, Socialists, or evangelical Christians, but the one thing they all have in common is their conviction that the war on drugs is a terrible mistake. They include Canadian Constable John Gayder, who is one of the founders of LEAP: Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. It includes 18-year veteran Howard Wooldridge, who rode a one-eyed horse across America while wearing his trademark cowboy hat and a t-shirt emblazoned with “Cops Say Legalize Drugs. Ask Me Why.” The film also features Cele Castillo, who spent 12 years with the US Drug Enforcement Administration – until a friendly weekly soccer match between agents and members of a local drug cartel made him realize that the drug war was all a game. “All these guys underwent striking transformations,” says Littlefield. “One minute they were ordinary cops, paid to enforce the law: then they each had an epiphany that changed them forever.” Littlefield's last documentary, Hofmann's Potion, was a portrait of the optimism surrounding the early days of LSD – and her interest in making drug-related documentaries is founded on deep personal beliefs. “I'm fascinated by the degree to which we live in denial about drugs-- not just about their prevalence, but about their usefulness. My films are about exposing hypocrisy, and drug policy is one of the most hypocritical things about our society." Development on Damage Done was an odyssey of its own. Funding from CanWest Global finally came through in March – for a late October delivery!! That left a few short weeks to organize a shoot that took the crew-- including Littlefield and Halifax cinematographer Kyle Cameron-- to locations across North America. They went from the Rio Grande, where there was abundant evidence of smuggling a mere 20 feet from the US-Mexico border; to Vancouver's gritty Downtown Eastside, home of Canada's first legal safe injection site; to New York City with cop icon Frank Serpico; and to the halls of Parliament with Senator Larry Campbell, a former drug cop, coroner, and mayor of Vancouver. Now a member of Canada’s Senate, he continues to fight for an end to drug prohibition. Angela Baker edited the project, which also features music by Asif Illyas and Shehab Illyas of the band Mir. Damage Done is produced by Ann Bernier (Folle Embellie, The Wild Dogs) for imX, and Kent Martin (Westray, Hofmann's Potion) for the NFB. Contact: Ann Bernier
United States

Legalization: Vermont States Attorney Calls for Decriminalization of All Drugs

Windsor County, Vermont, States Attorney Robert Sand has spoken out against the drug war. In a Thursday interview with the Rutland Herald, Sand said he favors decriminalizing all drugs and a public health approach to drug use.

"It's hard for me to see the vast resources expended on drug cases," Sand said. The 15-year prosecutor added that he wished more resources would go into prosecuting the physical and sexual abuse of children. "Don't get me wrong. Drugs are bad for you, they impair your judgment, they affect your memory, they reduce your inhibitions in a dangerous way. They're not good for you."

But the state of Vermont needs to rethink whether it is the role of government to forcibly stop people from using intoxicating substances, Sand said. The idea should not be considered radical, he protested. "I actually reject the premise that it's radical. I'm not condoning people breaking the law. My duty is to enforce the law but it's not my role to just passively accept a situation that exacerbates public danger. Prohibition doesn't work; we should have learned that with alcohol," he said.

It is drug prohibition, not drugs themselves, that causes the most serious crime, Sand argued. "Drug transactions cause the most serious crimes," he said, noting that the disputes deal with money owed, drugs stolen and turf wars between dealers. "That's the violence of drugs," he said, not drug-induced crime. "We don't see crazed crack heads or someone on crystal," he said.

Sand told the Herald he had taken his message to major police departments, and after an initially rocky response, could get police to see his point of view. He asks them to think "about the worst drug house in their community, the worst drug dealer, the worst addict" and then asks them to envision the house painted and repaired and people obtaining drugs legally. That's when they come around he said. "It means less violence. It means less addicts."

Sand has only recently begun speaking out, he told the Herald. It sounds like he is ready to be heard.

January is Drug Prohibition Month at W-S Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship

January 2007: The Social Action Committee of the Winston-Salem UU Fellowship, 4055 Robinhood Road ( will highlight the problems of drug prohibition. The 9:00 forum January 21 will discuss drug use in other countries. There will be a booth in the lobby each Sunday featuring posters, literature, and books. All are welcome. All questions answered.
Sun, 01/07/2007 - 10:30am - Sun, 01/28/2007 - 12:30pm
4055 Robinhood Road
Winston-Salem, NC 27106-4736
United States

Marijuana: Michigan Legalization Initiative Gets State Okay to Gather Signatures for 2008

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers this week approved a petition from an Eaton Rapids group for an initiative that would allow adults to use and grow marijuana on private property. The action means that the group, Medical and Recreational Peace, can now begin gathering signatures to put the measure on the 2008 ballot.

It will be an uphill battle for the all-volunteer group. Under Michigan law, initiative organizers must garner more than 300,000 valid signatures of registered voters to make the ballot. Similar efforts have failed in 2000, 2002, and this year.

Michigan is more likely to see a 2008 medical marijuana initiative. While a hearing in the legislature this week is unlikely to lead to action this year, the legislature will have 2007 to pass a medical marijuana bill. If that doesn’t happen, there are already murmurings about going the initiative route. Indeed, one state senator has already suggested as much.

Canada: BC Business-Academic Panel Tells Government to Consider Legalizing Drugs

A very establishment advisory group to British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell has advised the Liberal leader that if he wants to deal with crime and illegal drugs in the province, he has two starkly contrasting choices: Legalize it, or unleash an all-out drug war. The panel from the BC Progress Board made the recommendations in a research report released November 15, "Reducing Crime and Improving Criminal Justice in British Columbia: Recommendations for Change."

The BC Progress Board is a group of 18 businessmen and academics selected by the provincial government to provide advice on economic and social issues. Simon Fraser University criminologist Rob Gordon, a board member, was the report's primary author.

The report comes as BC grapples with crime rates higher than the Canadian average. The board identified illegal drug use and the drug trade as one of four motors driving crime in the province. The others were deficient child rearing and services, mental illness, and the "impoverished and unstable lifestyles" of many people living in inner urban areas.

In its second recommendation to Premier Campbell, the board said that "the provincial government must address the problem of the illegal trade in drugs in a clear and consistent manner." The first option it listed was to "lobby the federal government to legalize the trade, perhaps limiting access to products to adults in the same way that access to alcohol and tobacco is limited."

That would allow the government to treat drug use and abuse as public health -- not criminal justice -- problems and would allow the government to obtain revenue from taxing the sales of drugs.

But the BC Progress Board was careful to note that it was not endorsing drug legalization, merely providing options for the provincial government. The board's second recommendation on drug policy made that perfectly clear. In the event legalization proves impossible to implement, the board suggested, "the provincial government should provide the resources to eliminate the drug trade entirely in the province." Alternately, the board suggested a combination of recommendations one and two. The province should first spend 10 years trying to wipe out the drug trade, then move to legalization.

While the board's recommendations are not exactly a clarion call for legalization, the panel put the idea squarely on the table.

DRCNet Proudly Among Road to Vienna 2008 Conference Attendees to Issue a Declaration

On the final day of The Road to Vienna 2008 conference at the European Parliament in Brussels, a declaration was issued that will be sent to media and Members of European Parliament. Signers of the declaration include Members of the European Parliament from two political groups (GUE/NGL and GREENS) and representatives of more than 50 NGO´s, as well as local and regional authorities from around Europe and beyond. The Road to Vienna 2008, THE DECLARATION On November 7th, 2006, at the Conference "The Road to Vienna 2008" that took place in the European Parliament in Brussels, the following declaration has been agreed upon with the : Drug policies in Europe should be aimed at reducing, not at increasing harm. A system in which drugs are illegal generates armed conflicts, the spread of diseases, repression of populations and individual citizens, organised crime, money laundering, violations of basic human rights, and ecological destruction. In 1998, the UN General Assembly Special Session in New York called for a global strategy to obtain a drug free world by 2008. The failure of policies based on this assumption is proved every day by citizens, by the farmers living in coca and opium producing areas in South America and Asia, by people in jails, on dancefloors, in coffeeshops, in user rooms, but also in institutional corridors. Therefore, there is a need for a different drug policy. In the future drug policies in Europe should be based on a bottom-up approach. By taking evidence as a basis for drug policies, biased and counterproductive approaches can be challenged and avoided. Today, harm reduction is embraced by many local and regional authorities in Europe as an effective approach to the most urgent health problems related to drug use. However, it is not yet recognized as one of the basic elements of drug policy. Still many options to apply harm reduction measures are being jeopardized by national legislation and blocked by the international legislatory framework (i.e., the UN conventions on drugs and their narrow interpretation and inappropriate application). The European Union should promote the widest possible expansion of harm reduction programmes, which have proven their undeniable results throughout Europe. Particularly in the Eastern European countries, there is an urgent need for these programmes in order to reduce the spread of blood borne diseases. Millions of Europeans are forced to break the laws of their country on a daily basis, in order to provide themselves with cannabis. Today the possession of cannabis is depenalised or tolerated in most of the EU member states, as a consequence of the pragmatic attitude of most European citizens towards the use of cannabis. Nevertheless, cannabis remains an illegal drug, and the activities that are needed to provide cannabis consumers, even for therapeutic purposes, are still taking place in an illegal environment. Wherever governments try to control the cannabis market with repressive measures, this leads to a further increase of the role played by criminal organisations. Therefore, cannabis consumers in various European countries are offering an alternative option to control this market from both a public health and public safety point of view. In countries where the cultivation of cannabis for personal use is depenalised (such as Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands, cannabis consumers are establishing Cannabis Social Clubs, which are legal associations that organise a transparant, closed circuit of cultivation, distribution and consumption of cannabis by their adult members, as a way to escape from the illegal market. These clubs could become a useful experiment with a system which aims at regulating the market, facilitating environmentally and consumer friendly ways of production and consumption. We call on local and national authorities in the European Union to cooperate with these initiatives. The call for depenalising the coca leaf, as a tool to facilitate an alternative for the illegal market to the millions of people involved in coca production in South America, has recently been adopted by the current government of Bolivia under the presidence of Evo Morales. The international depenalisation of the coca leaf could allow the export of coca tea and other benefitial coca derivates and thus contribute to the worldwide recognition of the great nutritional, medicinal and cultural value of coca. This could help to reduce the dependence of coca farmers of the illegal economy and help to establish a sustainable economy based on renewable agricultural resources. We call on all national authorities in the European Union to cooperate with the Bolivian government and others on this issue. The efforts to reduce the cultivation of opium in Asia have not only failed, they have also had counterproductive results. Currently 40 times more opium is being produced in Afghanistan than before the US led invasion of the country in 2001. We call on the authorities of the European Union to start applying a different approach. Depenalising the cultivation of opium and allowing the use of this substance for benefitial purposes, among others as a pain killer, could become one of the options to increase the life standards of opium farmers in Afghanistan, Burma and other countries. The meeting of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna in 2008 will be the next opportunity to evaluate the anti-drugs strategy that has been applied worldwide for the past 10 years. We call on the European Union to do whatever is possible to ensure that this evaluation process will be genuine, looking at the impact of anti-drug strategies on the lives of affected citizens as well as the financial and other consequences for the law enforcement apparatus. Vienna 2008 should mark the start of a different drug policy. A minimum standard of tolerance should be established within the international legislatory framework , which can facilitate the legal and political space for local, regional and national authorities to apply policies that are not based on prohibition. People who cultivate and consume drugs are not less respectable, nor less legitimate than people who don't. Together with other citizens who are directly affected by the drugs phenomenon they should be consulted in the design of drug policies in order to make these policies more just and effective. This Declaration is signed by: Members of European Parliament Mrs. Katalijne BUITENWEG, MEP, GREENS Mr. Giusto CATANIA, MEP, GUE/NGL Local/Regional Authorities Mrs. Belen BILBAO, Regional Government of Basque Country, Spain Civil Society Organisations European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD) ARSECA, Spain HPPRY, Finland Livello 57, Italy Radio For Peace, Italy Hanfjournal, Germany Ganjazz, Spain Legalize, Netherlands PIC, Italy Trekt Uw Plant, Belgium CLCA, United Kingdom LCA, United Kingdom Ligne Blanche, France CIRC, France Checkpoint, Netherlands DEBED, Belgium AMOC, Netherlands FAUDAS, Spain VRCO, Netherlands Colosseum, Netherlands GROEN VRIJ, Netherlands DAK, Belgium STAD, Belgium SPLIF, Netherlands Common Sense for Drug Policy, USA Info Chanvre, Switzerland ASUD, France MDHG, Netherlands Pannagh, Spain FAC, Spain HOPE, Bulgaria Forum Droghe, Italy Drug Reform Coordination, USA PCN, Netherlands Students Against Prohibition, Slovenia DHV, Germany DROLEG, Switzerland SHK, Switzerland Liaisons Antiprohibitionnistes, Belgium
United States

It's time to legalize marijuana in Illinois (Chicago Sun-Times)

United States

Election 2006: Initiatives Defeated in Colorado and Nevada, But Hundreds of Thousands Voted to Legalize Marijuana

A Nevada initiative (Question 7) that would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and provide for its regulated sale and taxation lost with 44% of the vote, while a Colorado initiative (Measure 44) that would have legalized the possession of up to an ounce lost with 40% of the vote. Both were bitterly opposed by local law enforcement and the federal drug war bureaucracy. In both cases, organizers are vowing to come back and try again.

The Nevada result is a 5% improvement over 2002, when a similar initiative garnered 39% of the popular vote. In Colorado, where legalization had never before been on the statewide ballot, four out of ten voters were prepared to vote for it the first time around.

In both states, anti-drug activists joined forces with law enforcement to turn back the tide. In Nevada, where gambling is legal and so is prostitution in most counties, the ironically named Committee to Keep Nevada Respectable resorted to misrepresentations of the measure to insist it would prevent employers from doing drug testing, as well as arguing that allowing for the regulated sale of marijuana would somehow increase youth marijuana use. The Committee consisted of a number of community anti-drug coalitions, the Reno and Las Vegas Chambers of Commerce, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, the Southern Nevada Conference of Police and Sheriffs, and the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association.

In Colorado, the organized opposition was headed by Gov. Bill Owens and Attorney General John Suthers, who held a late press conference denouncing the measure (and who were rudely surprised by a vigorous counter-demonstration by Measure 44 supporters during that press conference). In both states, representatives of the Office of National Drug Control Policy showed up to interfere with state ballot measures.

While initiative organizers in both states professed disappointment at the results, they have vowed to continue the fight. "Today, a record number of Nevada voters called for an end to marijuana prohibition, the highest vote ever to end prohibition," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), the parent group for the Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, the Nevada-based entity that led the campaign. "The momentum is with us. Major social change never comes easily, but change in our failed marijuana laws is coming because prohibition does nothing but harm. Prohibition funds criminals and guarantees that teens have easy access to marijuana, and voters have begun to see through the drug czar's lies. We've made huge progress since our 39% to 61% loss on a similar ballot measure in Nevada four years ago. We plan to try again with another marijuana initiative in Nevada in November 2008 or 2010."

"We are not disappointed at all with the results of today's election," said SAFER Colorado campaign director Mason Tvert. "This campaign, following on the heels of our successful legalization initiative in Denver last year, was just one step in a five- to ten-year battle to make marijuana legal in Colorado. Now we see that a number of counties support changing the state law regarding adult marijuana possession so that they have the right to set their own local policies."

Without significant outside funding, SAFER Colorado managed to reach out to hundreds of thousands of Coloradans with an "alcohol vs. marijuana" campaign that clearly resonated with voters. "One low-budget initiative campaign cannot overcome 70 years of government lies and propaganda," Tvert said. "If it were possible to make marijuana legal with a $60,000 campaign in a state with nearly three million voters, it would have been done long ago. But the writing is on the wall in Colorado and we will continue to educate the public while pressuring government officials and community leaders to explain why they think adults should be punished for using a substance less harmful than alcohol."

Although lost elections are never popular, other leading drug reformers looked for the positive. "Even though they lost, hundreds of thousands of people in two states still voted to legalize marijuana," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "I think that is very respectable, especially in Nevada, where the measure was so far-reaching."

Question 7 in Nevada would not only have legalized the possession of up to an ounce by adults, it would also have established a state-sanctioned system of regulated marijuana distribution. Colorado's Measure 44, on the other hand, was a simple marijuana possession legalization initiative that would have protected adults holding up to an ounce.

"These outcomes, while disappointing, were not unexpected," said Allen St. Pierre, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), who traveled to Colorado to assist in the campaign's final days. "Despite these results, adults in Colorado and Nevada continue to live under state laws that authorize the medical use of marijuana and allow adults to possess and use small amounts of pot without the threat of incarceration or a criminal record."

That's good, but it's not enough, said SAFER Colorado's Tvert. "There will be a continuing effort in Colorado," he told Drug War Chronicle. "We were up against 70 years of marijuana prohibition, 70 years of lies and distortions about marijuana. This was the first time Colorado voters had to confront marijuana prohibition, and it won more votes than the Republican governor candidate. We got the message out and shocked the hell out of Colorado, even with no money and what some people would call a reckless campaign."

Nearly seven decades after national marijuana prohibition was enacted, no state has yet voted to end it at the state level. But the forces of reform are edging ever closer to victory. Will 2008 be the beginning of the end? Stay tuned.

Nevadans: Say no to pot, raise minimum wage, restrict smoking (Las Vegas Sun)

United States

Looking Bad for the Statewide Marijuana Initiatives

It's just after 1AM Eastern time, and it looks like the Colorado, Nevada, and South Dakota marijuana initiatives are all headed for defeat. It ain't over 'til it's over, of course, but it's almost over. The South Dakota medical marijuana initiative is losing by 52% to 48% with more than two-thirds of the votes counted. The margin has been similar all night long. There's a slim chance late votes from Rapid City could switch the result, but we are rapidly approaching the point where it becomes mathematically impossible. The Nevada "tax and regulate" initiative is losing by 56% to 44%. I can't tell from the Nevada secretary of state's web page what percentage of the vote has been counted, but it is substantial, and the numbers have been in this range all night. The Colorado legalization initiative is losing by 61% to 39% with 47% of the vote counted. Both CNN and the Rocky Mountain News have called this election already. If these results hold, that's a big disappointment, although not a big surprise. There are other drug policy-related issues and candidacies to report on, and if you don't see me blogging about them here this week, look for the full breakdown in the Chronicle on Friday.
United States

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