RSS Feed for this category

Marijuana: Seattle Hempfest Sues City, Art Museum Over Permitting, Access

Who would have thought the organizers of the Seattle Hempfest, the world's largest marijuana law reform rally, would have to take legal action against the progressive city of Seattle and one of its art museums? But that's exactly what happened Monday, when Hempfest announced it was suing the city over its failure to process the permit application in a timely manner and its failure to address transportation and access issues caused by construction at Seattle Art Museum.
2005 Hempfest
The Hempfest takes place each year at Myrtle Edwards Park, a narrow strip of land adjoining Puget Sound just north of downtown Seattle. Access to the park is limited, and the Seattle Art Museum's ongoing construction at its Olympic Sculpture Park leaves only a 14-foot-wide point of access for the estimated 150,000 people that will attend over Hempfest's two-day run.

Hempfest organizers say they are running out of time and cannot wait any longer for permits and resolution of the access issue. The permit application for the event was filed on January 3, and the city should have replied within 60 days, but has yet to do so. Nor has it arrived at a transportation plan that addresses the crucial access issue.

"Since the late fall of 2005, Hempfest has been meeting regularly with Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and city officials to resolve all issues and allow adequate space for pedestrian access, as well as access for police and fire officials. Public safety is a top priority for Hempfest," organizers said in a press release announcing the lawsuit. "Construction of the Olympic Sculpture Park is in risk of jeopardizing public safety and depriving the public use of a major park," said Vivian McPeak, Executive Director of the Seattle Hempfest and plaintiff. "After months of negotiations with the City and SAM, I am confident that there is room for both the Sculpture Park and Hempfest," he added.

Organizers were quick to clarify that Hempfest will take place. Period. This year's event, set for August 19 and 20, features dozens of musical acts and speakers. This year's line up includes former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper and Seattle City Council President Nick Licata (not to mention DRCNet associate director David Guard). Hundreds of exhibitors will sell hemp wares and dozens of organizations, including the ACLU and NORML and DRCNet, will recruit for their organizations and advocate an end to the drug war.

Cops Say Legalize Drugs: LEAP Forum at DPA Los Angeles Office

For Immediate Release Contact: Alberto Mendoza, (213) 201-4785 July 20, 2006 Growing Movement of Law Enforcement Officers Indict the War on Drugs LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) to Debut 12-minute Video Offering Radical Alternative to War on drugs LEAP Event (Thursday, July 27th) Comes as West Hollywood Makes Marijuana Enforcement Lowest Priority Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP), an organization of current and former members of law enforcement who believe the war on drugs has failed, will hold an event, “Law Enforcement Indicts the War of Drugs” on Thursday, July 27 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Drug Policy Alliance’s Los Angeles office, 610 Ardmore Ave. At the event, LEAP will offer a radical alternative to the failed war on drugs. The premier of LEAP’s new 12-minute video will be followed by a panel of law enforcement and drug policy experts. The event comes on the heels of the recent passage of the West Hollywood Marijuana Resolution to make marijuana enforcement the lowest priority, and a similar measure in Santa Monica which is expected to qualify for the November election. Polling indicates the public is overwhelmingly in favor of both measures. “The drug war has arguably been the single most devastating, dysfunctional social policy since slavery,” said Norm Stamper, the former Seattle Police Chief and LEAP member. LEAP, with over 3,000 members, was formed three years ago to give voice to law enforcement officers who believe the war on drugs has failed and who wish to support alternative policies that will lower the incidence of death, disease, crime, and addiction, by ultimately ending drug prohibition. LEAP is made up of former drug warriors – police, parole, probation and correction officers, judges and prosecutors. "Over a thousand young people went to jail as a direct result of what I did out there as one undercover agent...something I'm certainly not proud of today,” said Cole, a retired undercover narcotics officer for the New Jersey State. The event is sponsored by the Drug Policy Alliance, LEAP and Common Sense for Drug Policy. For more information, please call 213-201-4785.
Los Angeles, CA
United States

ASA Press Release on Americans with Disabilities Act Medical Marijuana Case

For Immediate Release­: July 25, 2006 Americans for Safe Access State, National Groups Add Support to Medical Marijuana Employment Case Legislators, Medical Organizations, Disability Advocates File in Supreme Court San Francisco --­ Medical organizations, California state legislators and disability rights organizations have all filed supporting briefs with the California Supreme Court in a landmark employment rights case involving medical marijuana. The amici curiae or ‘friend of the court’ briefs all argue that medical marijuana patients deserve civil employment protections provided by California state law. The case is being litigated by the medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA), on behalf of Gary Ross, a systems engineer fired in September 2001 for failing an employer-mandated drug test because he uses medical marijuana on his doctor’s advice. “This case is an opportunity for the California Supreme Court to make clear that medical marijuana patients enjoy the same civil rights as everyone else,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of ASA. “Like all disabled persons, Mr. Ross deserves equal protection under the law.” Ross’s physician had recommended he use cannabis for chronic back pain resulting from injuries sustained during his military service. But his employer, RagingWire Telecommunications, refused to make an exception to their policy that anyone testing positive for marijuana use be terminated. Mr. Ross went to court, arguing that RagingWire illegally discriminated against him because of his condition, but a state superior court and then an appellate court rejected his argument. ASA appealed to the California Supreme Court, which decided to review the case in November 2006. The amicus brief filed by ten national and state medical organizations, with the help of the Drug Policy Alliance, makes the case that medical marijuana patients should be considered no different than other patients who require medication to live and work effectively. The medical organizations argue that allowing the firing of medical marijuana patients "erects an unnecessary and unfortunate barrier to effective relief for potentially thousands of members of California’s workforce who suffer from acute or chronic pain, or other debilitating medical conditions." The organizations signing the medical amicus brief in support of ASA’s case are the American Nurses Association, American Pain Foundation, American Medical Women's Association, Lymphoma Foundation of America, American Nurses Association, California Nurses Association, AIDS Action Council, Gay Men's Health Crisis, National Women's Health Network and Doctors of the World-USA. ( The legislative amicus brief is being filed by all five of the sponsors of Senate Bill 420, the 2003 legislation that expanded and clarified California’s medical marijuana law. In it, the current and former lawmakers make clear their intent to extend the state’s normal civil protections and guarantees to medical marijuana patients, including the medical disability protections afforded Californians by the Fair Employment and Housing Act. “[T]he FEHA, together with the Compassionate Use Act, authorize and protect the use of medical cannabis by employees away from the workplace and during non-business hours,” according to the brief signed by former Senator John Vasconcellos, the bill’s author, and Assembly members Mark Leno, Jackie Goldberg, Paul Koretz and Loni Hancock, who were all co-authors of the bill. ( In addition to those briefs, two disability rights organizations are also weighing in on the issue: Equal Rights Advocates and Protection and Advocacy. In their brief, the disability rights advocates note that the lower courts’ decisions, upholding the firing of Mr. Ross, “plac[es] individuals for whom marijuana is safe, effective and needed treatment in legal limbo, with their ability to earn a living dependent on the continued indulgence of their employers.” ( Americans for Safe Access is the nation’s largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research. Information about ASA is available at # # #
United States

What is going on with the DEA and the San Diego medical marijuana dispensaries?

On Friday, the DEA returned to the more than a dozen dispensaries in San Diego raided a couple of weeks ago and warned them to shut their doors. For the Drug War Chronicle this week, I'll be looking into that and what it might mean across the state. I'm also waiting for the Portland "lowest law enforcement priority" initiative's signatures to be verified. I'll write about that this week if we get an official announcement. And I'm sure there will be more. There always is.
San Diego, CA
United States

Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

Please click here to submit listings for events concerning drug policy and related topics/

July 20-23, Vancouver, BC, Canada, "Fourth Biennial International Meaning Conference on Addiction," contact Dr. Paul T.P. Wong at or visit for information.

July 21, 7:00pm, Washington, DC, "Race to Incarcerate," book talk with The Sentencing Project's Marc Mauer. At Politics & Prose bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave., NW, visit for further information.

July 22, 1:00-4:20pm, Laguna Beach, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At Main Beach, Pacific Coast Highway and Broadway, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail or or visit for further info.

July 24, 7:30pm, Asheville, NC, fundraiser and art opening benefiting the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies 20th Anniversary Celebration at Burning Man 2006. Space limited, tickets $45 minimum donation for first ten, $50 minimum for second ten, $50 for next fifteen. At the Flood Gallery, Phil Mechanic Building, 109 Roberts St., contact Logan MacSporren at (772) 708-6810 or to RSVP or for further information.

July 26, 7:00pm, New York, NY, book reading by author/illustrator Ricardo Cortés, "It's Just a Plant," with remarks by DPA executive director Ethan Nadelmann, and discussion. At the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, 126 Crosby Street (between Houston & Prince), admission free, visit for info.

August 19-20, Seattle, WA, Seattle Hempfest, visit for further information.

August 26, 1:00-4:20pm, Huntington Beach, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At Huntington Beach Pier, 315 Pacific Coast Highway, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail or or visit for further info.

September 1-4, Manderson, SD, Fifth Annual Lakota Hemp Days. At Kiza Park, three miles north of town, visit for further information.

September 16, noon-6:00pm, Boston, MA, 17th Annual Boston Freedom Rally. On Boston Common, sponsored by MASS CANN/NORML, featuring bands, speakers and vendors. Visit for further information.

September 23, 1:00-4:20pm, San Clemente, CA, Rally Against the Failing War on Drugs, sponsored by The November Coalition and Orange County NORML. At San Clemente Pier, Avenida Del Mar, call (714) 210-6446, e-mail or or visit for further info.

October 7-8, Madison, WI, 36th Annual Great Midwest Marijuana Harvest Festival, sponsored by Madison NORML. At the Library Mall, downtown, visit for further information.

November 9-12, Oakland, CA, "Drug User Health: The Politics and the Personal," 6th National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, for further information visit or contact Paula Santiago at

November 17-19, Washington, DC, Students for Sensible Drug Policy International Conference and Training Workshop. At the Georgetown University School of Law, including speakers, training sessions, a lobby day and more. Further information will be posted soon at online.

February 1-3, 2007, Salt Lake City, UT, "Science & Response: 2007, The Second National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Project. At the Hilton City Center, visit for info.

Jobs and Internships

The Marijuana Policy Project is hiring for two full-time positions, a Director of State Policies and a National Field Director. Visit for further information.

The Criminal Justice Policy Foundation is seeking a paid intern for research and writing assistance on the impact of drug prohibition. Visit for the full listing -- application deadline is August 18.

Feature: What Would Jesus Do? Religious Communities as Drug Reform Allies

By any measure, the United States is a highly religious country. More Americans claim to believe in God and attend church regularly than in any other Western industrial democracy, and religiously-based claims carry great weight in American politics. But the drug reform movement, much of it secular and unattached to traditional religious practices, has only begun to make serious inroads with these powerful groups.

One drug policy reform organization, the Interfaith Drug Policy Initiative (IDPI), is working specifically to ensure that faith-based support for drug reform continues to grow. "Ultimately, people make their decisions based on their values, and the vast majority of people in the US get their values through their religion," said IDPI executive director Charles Thomas. "If we want to fundamentally change our nation's drug policies, we need to be able to shift the way people view drugs and drug policy, and the best way to do that is through organized religion."
IDPI press conference with Thomas and US Reps. Maxine Waters and John Conyers
Many denominations have already adopted progressive drug reform positions, Thomas noted. "Most of the major denominations already support a variety of drug reform measures. It is important that Congress and state legislatures are made aware of those positions and know that their denominations support things like medical marijuana and repealing mandatory minimum sentences. It is also important that people who belong to those denominations become aware of their positions. People shouldn't assume their church opposes drug policy reform, because that is often not the case."

Indeed. In fact, many drug reformers and church-goers alike would be surprised by organized religion's progressive drug policy positions. On the issue of medical marijuana, for instance, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the Episcopal Church, the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Church of Christ, and the Progressive National Baptist Convention have all passed resolutions in favor.

When it comes to repealing mandatory minimum sentences, the denominations and religious bodies above are joined by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Council of Churches, Prison Fellowship Ministries, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, the National Baptist Convention USA, the National Baptist Convention of America, the National Baptist Missionary Convention, the Church of the Brethren Witness, and the American Baptist Churches in the USA.

Another drug reform issue, repeal of the Higher Education Act's infamous "drug provision," efforts coordinated by the DRCNet-sponsored Coalition for Higher Education Act Reform, has also received endorsements from a number of faith-based groups, including the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, the Church of the Brethren Witness, Church Women United, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, the Friends Committee on National Legislation, God Bless the World, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, the Progressive Jewish Alliance, Progressive National Baptist Convention, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the United Church of Christ, and the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual.

While the evangelical churches are typically viewed as deeply conservative and hostile to drug reform, that isn't always the case. Former Nixon-era Watergate felon Charles Colson heads Prison Fellowship Ministries, which endorses sentencing reform. And IDPI reports it is in contact with a national organization of evangelical churches.

With all the potential support lurking behind church walls, drug reformers are remiss if they fail to make the connection with their spiritually-based brethren, said Thomas. "Working with and mobilizing religious organizations is an essential component of moving the ball forward on drug reform," he argued. Even people who are not religious can do it, he said. "Most everyone has friends and family members who are members of a congregation. Ask them if they are aware of their church's position. If they oppose medical marijuana because it's bad, show them what their denomination says about it. If they already agree, ask them to frame it in moral language. It's the same with pastors and ministers," Thomas pointed out. "Sometimes you have to educate them on their own denomination's position, but once you have, ask them if they will sign a letter educating the congregation and the public."

IDPI is not merely taking advantage of favorable positions taken by denominations, it is helping to prod them to take those positions. Last month, thanks to a solid effort by IDPI and a strong grassroots concern within the church, the Presbyterians became the latest denomination to come out in support of medical marijuana. That in turn led to a story on BeliefNet, with an accompanying internet poll showing 70% support for legalization and 92% support for medical marijuana. Similarly, prodding from IDPI helped push the New York State Catholic Conference to include Rockefeller drug law reform on its list of criminal justice priorities.

Now, activists are taking the lesson learned by IDPI and applying them in the states. Deep in the heartland, drug reformers are seeking to build alliances with faith-based communities. In Kansas, for example, the Drug Policy Forum of Kansas (DPFKS) and the nascent Kansas Compassionate Care Coalition are laying the groundwork for a medical marijuana bill next year.

"We have gotten information on all religious denominations here in Kansas that have favorable positions on medical marijuana and we have gotten demographic information about congregations on a city or county basis," said the Forum's Laura Green. "We are reaching out to the faith-based communities. We have identified representatives who oppose us on medical marijuana and we are going into their districts and trying to get clergy to sign on to our statement of principle, so we can take that to the representative," she told DRCNet.

Why go after the churches? Simple, said Green. "The churches here have their fingers in everything, and some of the congregations are very large and powerful. The churches here have traditionally stayed out of drug policy, but we managed to get them behind a bill that allows convicts access to services once they get out, and that's why it passed."

In other places, religiously-inspired activists from numerous denominations are joining forces to push for humane, progressive change. "Drug reform is one of three justice issues we focus on," said Rev. Peter Laarman, executive director of Progressive Christians Uniting, a Southern California-based faith-based organization. "Frankly, our constituency is mostly Anglo and suburban, yet our people have a sense of what a waste of human lives and tax resources it is to incarcerate people with addiction issues. A few years ago, we did a high-profile conference about the drug war, and that got people really excited," he told DRCNet. "After that, we did a curriculum on progressive drug policy reform in congregational settings, hired some staff, and created a citizens committee to support Proposition 36," California's "treatment not jail" law.

In fact, Progressive Christians Uniting was in the news two weeks ago, when it held a press conference to urge Gov. Schwarzenegger (R) to veto legislative changes to the law that perverted its original intent. "Changing a voter approved ballot initiative is not only unconstitutional," said Laarman, "but it is morally unconscionable. The law is successfully saving lives and repairing families."

Naturally enough, Progressive Christians Uniting draws its inspiration from its members' religious beliefs. "The Bible and the witness of Jesus say we belong to one another and identify with those most exposed to injustice," Laarman explained. "Early Christians were often imprisoned themselves, so we strongly identify with people unjustly imprisoned. We need a humane and ethical alternative to mass incarceration. A lot of people think addicts are fallen, sinful people who need to be punished, but we believe that addiction is punishment enough and we need to show people a path out. For us, harm reduction is a very Christian response."

"Working with the churches is not only just, it is smart," said IDPI's Troy Dayton. "When a denomination takes a favorable stand on a drug reform issue, it gets a lot of media attention, which in turn draws the media to examine other denominations' positions. And when the churches say something, a lot of people listen. The way we imprison mass numbers of people, for instance, is a crucial moral and religious question, and the big denominations are almost across the board for sentencing reform."

Getting the denominations on board and letting the politicians know what the churches want when it comes to drug policy can be critical, Dayton told DRCNet. "The drug war doesn't work no matter what your religious beliefs are; it's immoral, and the faith-based community can really provide politicians the moral conviction to do what they know is right."

When it comes down to figuring out how we should deal with drug users in the United States, there is a simple and highly appropriate question: What would Jesus do?

Second National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis

February 1-3, 2007, Salt Lake City, UT, "Science & Response: 2007, The Second National Conference on Methamphetamine, HIV, and Hepatitis," sponsored by the Harm Reduction Project. At the Hilton City Center, visit for info.
Thu, 02/01/2007 - 9:00am - Sat, 02/03/2007 - 6:00pm
Salt Lake City, UT
United States

Students for Sensible Drug Policy International Conference and Training Workshop

November 17-19, Washington, DC, Students for Sensible Drug Policy International Conference and Training Workshop. At the Georgetown University School of Law, including speakers, training sessions, a lobby day and more. Further information will be posted soon at online.
Fri, 11/17/2006 - 9:00am - Sun, 11/19/2006 - 5:00pm
Washington, DC
United States

6th National Harm Reduction Conference

November 9-12, Oakland, CA, "Drug User Health: The Politics and the Personal," 6th National Harm Reduction Conference. Sponsored by the Harm Reduction Coalition, for further information visit or contact Paula Santiago at
Thu, 11/09/2006 - 9:00am - Sun, 11/12/2006 - 5:00pm
Oakland, CA
United States

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School