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Anti-Prohibitionist Candidates Challenge New York Status Quo (FEATURE)

An unlikely pair of anti-prohibitionist insurgents are running statewide campaigns in New York designed to challenge the political status quo. Randy Credico, a comedian turned activist turned senatorial candidate, is challenging incumbent Charles Schumer for the Democratic Party senatorial nomination, while hedge fund manager turned madam turned convict Kristin Davis is running for governor on the Anti-Prohibition party ticket.

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Randy Credico
Credico is familiar to the activist community as a relentless organizer against the Rockefeller drug laws from his post at the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, while Davis's notoriety comes from her prosecution and four-month imprisonment as a "Manhattan Madam" who procured prostitutes for deposed former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Both are proving adept at milking the media for all it's worth in a bid to bring their anti-prohibitionist messages to the public eye.

By all accounts, neither has a chance of winning outright. In the latest Siena Poll of New York politics, Credico was pulling 11% against Schumer, up from 9% last fall, but still hardly a close race. Davis has not figured in any polls, but is running as a third party candidate in a year when Democrat Andrew Cuomo appears to be a shoo-in in November.

Still, both are committed to doing all they can to bolster their campaigns and get the spotlight focused on their issues. Last week, the Credico campaign handed in signatures in a bid to qualify for the Democratic primary, while the Davis campaign is in the midst of a signature drive of its own.

"I'm exhausted, I just spent 38 days on the petitioning drive," said Credico on the way back from Albany after handing in signatures. "I'm sick. I have some bronchial problem. If Paterson signs the medical marijuana bill, I might be able to get some relief. We have enough signatures to get on the ballot. Now we have to wait to see if Schumer challenges us," Credico said.

That may be unnecessary, given that the state Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs told the New York Daily News Sunday that Credico and his allies had not turned in enough signatures to make the party ballot. But whether he makes the Democratic ballot or not, Credico will be in the race. He is also on the ticket for both the Libertarian Party and Davis's Anti-Prohibitionist Party.

"Randy submitted 7,000 signatures himself, and one running mate submitted 6,500, and the third guy was supposed to submit 9,000, but only handed in 500," said Roger Stone, a Republican political operative who is friends with Credico and is advising Davis. "The next morning, the Democratic state committee was peddling the story that Randy had fallen short. I think the third guy was working with Chuck Schumer in a Nixon-style dirty tricks operation. Why does Chuck Schumer fear competition? Why deny people a vote?"

Stone might know a thing or two about political tricksters. He has a long history of political shenanigans, most notably a role in the infamous "Brooks Brothers riots" in Florida in the disputed 2000 presidential election, where mobs of angry Republicans rushed election offices as officials scrutinized chads. He denies any involvement in that.

"I'm a libertarian Republican, not a religious right or Moral Majority Republican," Stone said. "I'm pro-freedom, I favor gay marriage and the legalization of marijuana, casino gambling, and prostitution. The only way to get the pimps and drugs out of it is to regulate it. It's a $10 billion industry -- let's legalize it and run out the mob, the pimps, the guys who exploit women, let's empower women."

He is also critical of New York's drug laws. "The Rockefeller laws were racist," Stone said bluntly. "If you were a rich white kid, you could get a break. I think there's a difference between cocaine and marijuana, and I'm not for the legalization of heroin, but until someone can convince me marijuana is more dangerous than alcohol, I say legalize it. It's a harmless herb that grows from the earth, and the idea it's a gateway drug is horseshit. New York has millions of marijuana users and they didn't all turn into heroin addicts."

Whatever Stone's motives, he is pushing both anti-prohibitionist campaigns and played a key role in getting Davis into the governor's race. "I met Roger Stone on a Sirius radio show, and afterward, I approached him about lobbying for the legalization of prostitution," said Davis, whose blonde bombshell looks belie a keen intellect. "That was right after a woman who had worked for me was killed by the Craig's List killer in Boston. I feel very strongly she would still be alive if prostitution were legal. If one of his earlier victims had felt comfortable calling the police, he might have been caught before he killed," she said.

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Kristin Davis
"My platform is pro-freedom," said Davis, adding that some of her issues are getting more play than others. "We've sort of moved into being most vocal on marijuana and gay marriage," she said. "These are the two issues that resonate most with people. New York is broke, deeply in debt, so we're looking at marijuana not so much as a social issue, but as an economic one."

Davis acknowledged that actually winning the governorship was unlikely, to say the least, but said her campaign was more about getting the issues addressed and getting enough votes to get the Anti-Prohibitionist Party official status in New York. "People say you can't expect to win, but that depends on your definition of winning," she said. "Andrew Cuomo has approval ratings over 60% and $23 million in campaign funds, but voting for me sends a clear message to the career politicians that these issues need to be heard. If we can get 50,000 votes for the party, then we're officially recognized and can lobby for our issues. Every single vote matters. Every vote for me shows the career politicians that New Yorkers care about these issues, that they want legal marijuana."

The anti-prohibitionist tag team has been doing some joint appearances, Davis said. "Randy is on my Anti-Prohibitionist Party petition as the Senate nominee. We just did an event over the weekend. It was a signature drive kickoff slash birthday party for me," she said. "There were maybe 300 people there."

Davis's notoriety has both helped and hindered her campaign, the former madam said. "It's a double-edged sword. Compared to sex, people by and large are not so interested in politics," she explained. "Sex gets people interested, and I'm an interesting character, but on the other hand, the mainstream media has been skeptical. The Post and New York One have not covered the campaign at all. I hope that once we're on the ballot, and they see this isn't a hoax, they'll start taking us a little more seriously."

"She's been able to use the celebrity that came out of her brush with Eliot Spitzer to her advantage to continue to point out the inequities of the criminal justice system," Stone said. "She went to prison, and he went back to his town house."

If politics makes strange bedfellows, anti-drug war politics makes even stranger ones. Stone is a libertarian Republican, Davis describes herself as a libertarian, but Credico comes out of a left-leaning social justice perspective. They don't agree on everything. For instance, Credico has come out in favor of allowing a mosque to be built near the former World Trade Center site, while Davis opposes it. Similarly, Credico touts an anti-war, anti-interventionist foreign policy, while Davis doesn't touch those issues.

"In the end," said Stone, "Credico and Davis become running mates and are on the same side. The drug war is one of the issues that motivates them both."

Whether he makes the Democratic ballot or not, Credico isn't going away. "We're going to start a war of attrition against Schumer," the activist/comedian turned candidate vowed. "We'll be making inroads in the black, latino, lesbian and gay communities, we'll be making inroads with people upstate concerned about their mortgages and credit cards. "I know Schumer is not happy I'm in the race," said Credico. "I'm the last person he wants challenging him. I have a show biz background, I have charisma."

But he also has street cred dating back to his days agitating against the Rockefeller drug laws. "I worked with the families of prisoners, I worked with the African-American community. That's what helped get me over the top. Women whose kids were incarcerated came out and canvassed for me. Schumer has nothing to offer them," Credico said.

Credico compares and contrasts his career with Schumer's and finds the incumbent fares badly. "I ran a civil rights organization, and he conducted himself as someone opposed to civil rights, as manifested by his support of the Patriot Act, the drug war, ID cards, the wall on the border, and other repressive measures. He's anti-civil rights, not for constitutional or civil rights for most Americans."

The Schumer campaign did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

"I'm for civil rights, human rights, a clean environment, and pulling out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Colombia," Credico elaborated. "Schumer was going to waltz right in there without having to talk about this, and New Yorkers deserve better. Why is he an avid supporter of the drug war? Why isn't he as progressive as [Republican senators] Sessions and Hatch on the crack/powder sentencing disparity?" the long-time activist asked.

"I'm for legalization of marijuana," Credico continued. "We should be able to grow marijuana here, without taxing it. Let's not give the government any more layers of power. Prohibition has to be abolished. We have to talk about this. The drug war is a Trojan horse to incarcerate people of color for social control."

The Republicans and Democrats in New York have shown little taste for challenging drug war orthodoxy, but insurgent candidates Credico and Davis are determined to hold their feet to the fire when it comes to justifying prohibitionist policies. Let the games begin!

(This article was published by StoptheDrugWar.org's lobbying arm, the Drug Reform Coordination Network, which also shares the cost of maintaining this web site. DRCNet Foundation takes no positions on candidates for public office, in compliance with section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, and does not pay for reporting that could be interpreted or misinterpreted as doing so.)

CA Marijuana Init Worth Hundreds of Millions Yearly, State Analysts Say

A California Legislative Analyst's Office report released Tuesday estimates that if Proposition 19, the Tax and Regulate Cannabis marijuana legalization initiative, were to be passed by voters, it could generate "hundreds of millions of dollars a year" in tax revenues in state sales taxes and taxes imposed by counties and municipalities that allowed for taxed and regulated sales and cultivation. Passage of the measure would also lead to reduced costs in state and local law enforcement, courts, and corrections, while not endangering public safety, the report said.

The Legislative Analyst's Office is a non-partisan state agency. Its job is to provide fiscal and policy advice to the state legislature.

The "hundreds of millions of dollars a year" estimate is roughly in line with, although lower than, the State Board of Equalization's estimate that marijuana legalization could bring $1.4 billion a year in taxes and fees in the state. That estimate was based not on Proposition 19, but on an Assembly bill introduced by Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) that would have allowed for direct state taxation of marijuana. Under Prop 19, only cities and counties would have the ability to tax and regulate marijuana sales and cultivation -- although the state could, of course, collect a sales tax on anything sold in the state.

"Proposition 19 allows local governments to authorize, regulate, and tax various commercial marijuana-related activities," the report noted. "As discussed below, the state also could authorize, regulate, and tax such activities... we estimate that the state and local governments could eventually collect hundreds of millions of dollars annually in additional revenues."

The report warned, however, that firm estimates were hard to come by because of uncertainties, particularly those surrounding how the federal government would respond to California cities or counties moving forward to tax and regulate recreational marijuana sales.

With California laying off and furloughing state workers, and with California cities and counties doing the same with teachers, firefighters, and police officers because of ongoing budget crises, the Legislative Analyst's Office report is bound to become ammunition for Prop 19 supporters.

Chronicle Reviews: Two Books on Mexican Drug War, One on Border

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: Ruben Aguilar and Jorge Castaneda, "El Narco: La Guerra Fallida [The Failed War] (2009, Punto de lectura, 140 pp., $10.00 PB); George W. Grayson, "Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State?" (2010, Transaction Publishers, 339 pp., $35.95 HB); Tim Grayson, "Midnight on the Line: The Secret Life of the US-Mexico Border (2010, St. Martin's Press, 304 pp., $25.95 HB)

On the streets of Mexican cities, a deadly, multi-sided war, complete with horrific exemplary violence -- among competing drug cartels, between the cartels and the Mexican state, and sometimes between different elements of the Mexican state -- rages on, the body count rising by the day, if not the hour. The cartels -- Frankenstein monsters birthed by drug prohibition, swollen with profits from supplying our insatiable demand for their forbidden goods -- not only fight the Mexican state, but also insinuate their way into it, and into Mexican society at large, buying with their immense wealth what they cannot command with their bullets.

This is commanding attention not only in Mexico, but also here north of the border, where the drugs are consumed and the cash handed over, where the fear looms that the violence will leak across the border. Despite the hyperventilating cries of some paranoid nativists, that has mostly not been the case, but if the violence hasn't arrived it's not because the cartels haven't extended their tentacles into Gringolandia. They are here, from San Antonio to Sacramento to Sioux Falls, doing business, and business is -- as always -- good.

Throw in some festering anti-immigrant (read: Mexican) sentiment, Congress's failure to act on comprehensive immigration reform, and some zealotry from the land of Sheriff Joe, and Mexico and the border are commanding a lot of attention. That's being reflected in the publishing world. Over the past two or three years, I've reviewed a handful of titles about Mexico and the border (and read more), and now we have three more contributions -- one an academic study of the cartels by a leading American Mexicanist; one a polemic against President Calderon's drug war by a Mexican journalist and a former Mexican foreign minister; and one a journalist's look at the world of smuggling, of both drugs and people, and counter-smuggling along the 1,700 mile border.

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George Grayson's "Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State?" is an extremely thorough and comprehensive history and analysis of the rise of the cartels in the context of the weaknesses of the Mexican state. If you can't tell your Carillo Fuentes from your Arellano Felix, if you're not sure if it's the Gulf Cartel or the Zetas, if you keep getting "La Barbie" mixed up with "El Chapo," Grayson will save you. He's got all the cartel players and all their nicknames -- and they all have them -- he's got all the busts and the shootouts, he's got what is so far the definitive history of the cartels and Mexico's response to them.

But Grayson is a political scientist, and that means we also get a history lesson on Mexican politics and culture, which for Grayson is largely a history of authoritarian institutions (the Catholic Church, the "perfect dictatorship" of the PRI), which the cartels imitate in their internal structures. Under the PRI, which ruled until Vicente Fox's PAN won the presidency in 2000, drug cartels existed, but in a modus vivendi with elements of the state. It was the political earthquake that shook loose the PRI that also unleashed the cartel wars, as old arrangements no longer served and new ones had to be forged. The ramping up of the drug war, first under Fox, and then under his successor, has only worsened the situation.

Grayson doesn't see any easy way out. It is "extremely difficult -- probably impossible," he writes, to eradicate the cartels, even with heightened law enforcement measures on both sides of the border. Raking in billions of dollars a year and employing nearly half a million Mexicans (and no doubt, some Americans, too), the cartels may just be, in a phrase, too big to fail. Just like the Mexican state, in Grayson's opinion. It may be corrupted, it may be suborned, but it goes on.

Although Grayson certainly plays it close to the vest, in the end he denounces the drug war. "Few public policies have compromised public health and undermined fundamental civil liberties for so long and to such a degree as the war on drugs," he writes.

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One gets the feeling that Jorge Castaneda, coauthor along with Ruben Aguilar of "Narco: La Guerra Fallida" (sorry, it's only available in Spanish), would like to be part of that Mexican state again. The former foreign minister has for years publicly suggested that it is time to talk about drug legalization, and "Narco" feels like part of a campaign to position himself for a run at office in 2012 or a post in whatever government emerges after elections that year. It is a polemic aimed directly at President Calderon's drug policies.

Castaneda and Aguilar set out to systematically demolish the reasons cited for ramping up the drug war, and do a pretty thorough job of it. (Although not everyone agrees with them. I saw Castaneda roundly berated at a Mexico City conference earlier this year for arguing that drug use in Mexico was not a significant problem, one of the central claims in the book.) Guns coming into Mexico from the US are not the cause of the violence, they also argue, and a full-blown confrontation with the cartels is not the way to go.

Instead, they propose increasing public security and reducing the "collateral damage" from drug prohibition and the drug wars by concentrating police on street crime and selectively targeting the most egregious drug offenders. The others? Perhaps a modus vivendi can be reached, if not at the national level, perhaps at the state or local level, as long appeared to be the case in Sinaloa. Decriminalization is another response, although not without the US joining in at the same time, lest Mexico become a drug tourism destination. And harm reduction measures should be applied. But "Narco" is ultimately a call for ending drug prohibition -- and a marker for Castaneda in forthcoming political moves.

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Of course, all those Mexican-controlled drugs have to get here somehow, which means they have to cross the US-Mexican border, and Reuters reporter Tim Gaynor's "Midnight on the Line" has got that covered. This is a fast-paced, entertaining, and insightful look at the contraband traffic -- both drugs and people -- across the border and the people who try to stop it. Gaynor works both sides of the border, talking to coyotes in Tijuana, showing up in a dusty Sonora border town and following the illegal immigrant's harrowing journey through the searing deserts of Arizona, and interviewing all kinds of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol folks, as well as other officials on this side.

Gaynor demonstrates with some verve the continuous, perpetual struggle between contrabandistas and the US authorities (or, like the Minutemen he interviews, volunteers) who struggle to choke off that traffic. He tracks for sign with Indian scouts on an Arizona reservation that has in recent years become a smuggling hotspot, he rides horseback and in a Blackhawk helicopter with the Border Patrol and tags along with one of its SWAT teams, he learns about the drones patrolling high overhead and the tunnels being bored far beneath the ground. And he introduces us to the people involved on both sides.

Gaynor concludes arguing -- no doubt much to the consternation of the "secure the border" crowd -- that the border is tighter than ever, and that the steady increase in federal officers there this decade has had an impact. But, he notes, this success has perverse results. Tightening the border has been "a market maker for ruthless and profit-hungry coyotes and drug traffickers, for whom smuggling has never been more profitable," he writes. And so it goes.

Gaynor's book is no doubt the easiest read, Castaneda's is more a marker of a political position than anything, and Grayson's belongs in the library as a desk reference for anyone really serious about following the cartels and Mexican politics. Happy reading.

California Marijuana Legalization Initiative Picks Up Big Labor Endorsement

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Western States Council announced Wednesday that it is backing Proposition 19, the California Tax and Regulate Cannabis marijuana legalization initiative. The Western States Council represents some 200,000 union members in Western states, including some 26,000 in California.

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marijuana plants (photo from US Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikimedia)
"The Western States Council is endorsing Proposition 19 based upon our previous support of the medical cannabis initiative, 1996's Proposition 215," George Landers, the council's executive director, said in a statement. "We view Proposition 19 as an enhanced version of the previous proposition, that creates taxable revenue and produces jobs in agriculture, health care, retail and possibly textile. We further believe that the proposition will deprive narcotics traffickers of a significant source of criminal revenue."

"The marriage of the cannabis-hemp industry and UFCW is a natural one," said Dan Rush of the union's Local 5, which in May began representing about 100 Oakland medical marijuana industry workers. "We are an agriculture, food-processing and retail union, as is this industry."

Rush has been assigned by the union to work on the campaign. "I'll be handling the strategy to bring in other unions, and their endorsements and resources," he told the Los Angeles Times.

Some other union locals in the state have already endorsed the initiative, as has the state NAACP, a number of law enforcement figures and a number of elected officials. (See the endorsement list here.)

Initiative supporters had hoped to gain the endorsement of the California Labor Federation, which met this week in San Diego, but ended up settling for the group to remain neutral, which it did. That means the organization's 1,200 member unions are free to endorse the initiative if they wish.

"Obviously, I would have liked to have had a full endorsement," said Rush, adding that the neutrality pledge would allow him to continue to try to win more labor endorsements. "I'm expecting to garner the endorsements of most of the major unions in California over the next several weeks," Rush said.

Latin American Ex-Presidents Sign Anti-Prohibitionist "Vienna Declaration"

Last week, the Chronicle did a feature story on the Vienna Declaration, a sign-on document from the international scientific community calling for the decriminalization of drug use and science-based drug policy reform. The declaration is an official declaration of the XVIII International AIDS Conference, set for Vienna next week.

Aimed at national governments, international organizations, and the United Nations' global drug control bureaucracy seated at Vienna, the declaration went public June 28. Tuesday, the declaration picked up a trio of big-time endorsements, as three former Latin American presidents signed on.

Former Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso, former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, and former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria were also joined in signing the declaration by Peruvian author and journalist Mario Vargas Llosa, Brazilian writer Paulo Coehlo, and author and former Nicaraguan Vice-President Sergio Ramirez Mercado. All six have already made waves in international drug reform circles as members of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, which in 2008 issued a final report criticizing drug prohibition along lines similar to this year's Vienna Declaration.

"The war on drugs has failed," said Cardoso. "In Latin America, the only outcome of prohibition is to shift areas of cultivation and drug cartels from one country to another, with no reduction in the violence and corruption generated by the drug trade."

"The war on drugs has had such an incredibly negative impact on Latin America, and the fact that the Vienna Declaration is receiving this level of endorsement from former heads of state should serve as an example to those currently in power," said AIDS 2010 Chair Dr. Julio Montaner, President of the International AIDS Society and director of the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, two of the organizations tasked with writing the declaration. "I hope that the Vienna Declaration will inspire many more political leaders to cast aside the drug war rhetoric and embrace evidence-based policies that can meaningfully improve community health and safety."

The Vienna Declaration calls on governments and international organizations, including the United Nations, to take a number of steps, including:

  • undertaking a transparent review of the effectiveness of current drug policies;
  • implementing and evaluating a science-based public health approach to address the harms stemming from illicit drug use;
  • scaling up evidence-based drug dependence treatment options;
  • abolishing ineffective compulsory drug treatment centers that violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and
  • endorsing and scaling up funding for the drug treatment and harm reduction measures endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations.

"Instead of sticking to failed policies with disastrous consequences, we must direct our efforts to the reduction of consumption and the reduction of the harm caused by drugs to people and society," said Cardoso. "Repressive policies are firmly rooted in prejudices, fears and ideological visions. The way forward to safeguard human rights, security and health is a strategy of peace not war."

"We welcome the support of Presidents Cardoso, Zedillo and Gaviria, as well as the many doctors, scientists, researchers and public figures who have already put their support and endorsement behind the Vienna Declaration," said Dr. Evan Wood, founder of the International Centre for Science in Drug Policy and the chair of the Vienna Declaration writing committee. "This level of support, especially before the conference has started, demonstrates the urgency that global leaders in many disciplines believe we must move towards reforming drug policies."

"The approach to drug policy proposed in the Vienna Declaration will prevent new HIV infections and ensure that people who struggle with addiction have access to the medical and support services they need," said Dr. Brigitte Schmied, AIDS 2010 Local Co-Chair and President of the Austrian AIDS Society. "Access to proven interventions and to the highest standard of health care are rights that each of us values, including those living with addiction."

With an estimated 20,000 people expected to attend next week's sessions, the international AIDS conference is one of the largest public health conferences on the planet. Declaration authors and signatories hope to use it as a springboard in garnering public, scientific, and political support for regime change when it comes to global drug prohibition.

Polls Split on California Marijuana Legalization Initiative

Two California public opinion polls, one released Friday and one released Monday, are at odds as to whether the Tax and Regulate Cannabis marijuana legalization initiative (now known officially as Proposition 19) has the support of Golden State voters. The confused polling results suggest a race that will be very tight.

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On Friday, the Field Poll reported that only 44% supported the initiative, while 48% opposed it and 8% were undecided. But that was followed on Monday by a SurveyUSA poll that found 50% supported the initiative, 40% opposed it, and 11% were undecided. (The numbers don't add up because of rounding.)

The sampling margin of error for the SurveyUSA today poll was +/- 4%, while the margin of error for the Field poll was +/- 3.2% overall and +/- 5.5% for its population subsamples. Again, given the small gap between support and opposition and the margin for error, the polling suggests a very tight race indeed.

Proposition 19 would legalize the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana and the growing of a garden of 25 square feet by adults anywhere in California. It would also provide counties and municipalities with the local option to allow, tax, and regulate marijuana sales and production. If it wins in November, it would be the first time the voters of any state have voted to legalize marijuana.

The SurveyUSA poll showed majority support for the initiative among moderates (53%), liberals (69%), college graduates (54%), and people who make less than $40,000 a year (54%) or more than $80,000 a year (53%). The Field poll showed majority support among Democrats (53%), young voters (52%), young whites (53%), and middle aged whites (51%).

There are discrepancies between the two polls, especially when it comes to support by race and by geographic region. The SurveyUSA poll found majority support for the initiative among whites (50%), blacks (52%), and Asians (53%), with only Hispanics (46%) failing to get on board. But the Field poll was significantly lower, especially among non-whites. It showed majority support among no ethnic groups, with support at 48% for whites, 40% for blacks, 33% for Asians, and 36% among Hispanics.

Similarly, the Field poll shows majority support only in the San Francisco Bay area (53%), while the SurveyUSA poll shows majority support there (53%) and in the Greater Los Angeles area (54%). The Field poll had support for the initiative at only 46% in Los Angeles County, 46% in the Inland Empire, and 39% in San Diego County.

There has been some speculation that differences in polling techniques could account for the differences. The SurveyUSA poll is an automatic poll conducted by telephone with automated questions and response prompts, while the Field poll is conducted by a live interviewer. It has been suggested that some respondents may be embarrassed to tell a live interviewer they support legalization.

We are less than four months out now. This is going to get very interesting.

Drug Truth 07/12/10 + 17 New Affiliates!

Cultural Baggage * Century of Lies * 4:20 Drug War NEWS DTN adds 17 New Stations! Through arrangements with "Time 4 Hemp"s host Casper Leitch, American Freedom Radio Network will now feature a weekly DTN segment each Friday evening. The segment will focus on DTN's recent and upcoming guests and on hard drug news of the week. Through this arrangement, DTN's focus on ending the drug war will be broadcast from 91 stations around N. America each week. Cultural Baggage for 07/11/10 29:00 DTN host Dean Becker is joined by 2 other drug war radio hosts: Adam Assenberg - Marijuana Fact or Fiction and Casper Leich - Time 4 Hemp LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/2977 TRANSCRIPT: Tue Century of Lies for 07/11/10 29:00 Tom Feiling, author of "Cocaine Nation - How the White Trade Took Over the World" + Appeal to deny new Russian/UN Drug Czar LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/2976 TRANSCRIPT: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/node/2976#comments 4:20 Drug War NEWS, 07/12 to 07/18/10 Link at www.drugtruth.net on the right margin - Sun - Paul Armentano of NORML on Calif tax & control or no tax, no control Sat - Mary Jane Borden with Drug War Facts on history of hemp Fri - Tom Feiling, author of "Cocaine Nation - How the White Trade Took Over the World" Thu - Neal Peirce writes for Wash Post: California Might Overturn Odious History of Marijuana Laws Wed - New UN drug czar to come from Russia? Tue - Atty Leland Berger: Oregon to recognize medical marijuana patients from other states Mon - "What if Cannabis Cured Cancer" - Movie Trailer, Len Richmond - Writer/director Programs produced at Pacifica Radio Station KPFT in Houston, 90.1 FM. You can Listen Live Online at www.kpft.org - Cultural Baggage Sun, 7:30 PM ET, 6:30 PM CT, 5:30 PM MT, 4:30 PM PT - Century of Lies, SUN, 8 PM ET, 7 PM CT, 6 PM MT & 5 PM PT Who's Next?": Jeff Blackburn & Dante Picazo of MedCan University in Texas + Atty Baldemar Zuniga from 713DrugLaw.com Please note, I will guest host Time 4 Hemp on Wednesday July 14th and the weekly segments there will begin on Friday July 23rd. New Affiliates: a.. Monticello, Maine - 780 AM a.. Wichita, Kansas - 1480 KQAM a.. Sioux Falls, S.D. - 1640 AM a.. Elgin, Texas - 1330 AM a.. Keene, New Hampshire - LRN.FM a.. Sioux Falls, S.D. - 1710 AM a.. Elgin, Texas - 94.3 FM a.. Minneapolis, Minn. - 1710 AM a.. Idaho Falls, Idaho - 1610 AM a.. South Bend, Indiana - 1700 AM a.. Shirley, Mass. - 1640 AM a.. Omaha, Neb. - 1640 AM a.. Corvallis, Ore. - 1610 AM a.. Aberdeen, S.D. - 1680 AM a.. Rowlett-Rockwall, Texas - 1650 AM a.. Grand Junction, Colo. - 1610 AM a.. Fredericksburg, Texas. - 91.9 FM Hundreds of our programs are available online at www.drugtruth.net, www.audioport.org and now at James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. http://www.bakerinstitute.org We have potcasts, searchability, CMS, XML, sorts by guest name and by organization. We provide the "unvarnished truth about the drug war" to scores of broadcast affiliates. You can tune into both our 1/2 hour programs, live, at 6:30 central time on Pacifica's KPFT at http://www.kpft.org and call in your questions and concerns toll free at 1-877-9-420 420. The two, 29:00 shows appear along with the seven, daily, 3:00 "4:20 Drug War NEWS" reports each Monday morning at http://www.drugtruth.net . We currently have 74 affiliated, yet independent broadcast stations. With a simple email request to dean@drugtruth.net , your station can join the Drug Truth Network, free of charge. Check out our latest videos via www.youtube.com/fdbecker Please become part of the solution, visit our website: www.endprohibition.org for links to the best of reform. "Prohibition is evil." - Reverend Dean Becker, DTN Producer, 713-462-7981, www.drugtruth.net

Feature: Race and Reefer -- the African American Vote in California's Marijuana Legalization Initiative

With the clock ticking down toward Election Day in November, both proponents and opponents of California's Control and Tax Cannabis marijuana legalization initiative, now known officially as Proposition 19, are going after the African American vote. As things currently stand, the community is highly supportive of marijuana legalization in principle, but not necessarily of the initiative itself at this time.

A Survey USA poll done in April found that support for marijuana legalization among blacks was at 67%, the highest level of any major ethnic group in the state. Whites were second at 59%, followed by Asians at 58% and Hispanics at 45%. The findings are consistent with other polls that show similar high levels of support for pot legalization in the state's black community.

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Bishop Allen and police lobbying last January against the Ammiano legalization bill, Sacramento
But demonstrating that nothing is a given in the wild word of ballot campaigns, a Field Poll released Friday morning showed Prop. 19 slipping from being slightly ahead to slightly behind (44%-48% this time), with African Americans giving it only 40%.

While African Americans constitute only 5.8% of the state's electorate, the November vote is shaping up to be extremely close, and holding onto key constituencies, even relatively small ones, could end up making the difference on Election Day.

Author and political analyst Earl Ofari Hutchinson is one of those black people who are ready to free the weed. "I fully support legalization," he told the Chronicle. "The drug wars have criminalized a generation of young blacks, destabilized families, further impoverished communities, and wildly expanded the prison-industrial complex. It is costly, wasteful and ineffective. It drains precious tax dollars, public resources, and public policy initiatives from expansion and improvement of health, education, and businesses, social services and urban reconstruction. It's been well documented that for a faction of the billions spent on a racially-tinged wasteful drug war, if spent on skills training, drug counseling, prevention, job creation, and family support programs thousands of lives could be reclaimed."

Legalization backers have been working hard in recent weeks to solidify and even extend such sentiments. At the end of last month, the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) issued a report, Targeting Blacks for Marijuana, demonstrating that African-Americans bear the brunt of marijuana law enforcement in California. The report, authored by Queens College sociologist Harry Levine, examined marijuana arrests in California's 25 most populous counties and found a consistent, statewide pattern of racial disparities in who was getting arrested for pot possession.

Despite blacks using marijuana at a slightly lower rate than whites, blacks were more than three times as likely to be arrested for possession in the counties of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Sonoma, and more than twice as likely to be arrested in Contra Costa, Fresno, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernadino, Santa Clara, and Solano counties.

In Los Angeles, blacks make up 10% of the population, but constitute 30% of pot possession busts. In San Diego, blacks are 5.6% of the population, but account for 20% of arrests. In Sacramento, blacks get busted at a rate nearly four times one would expect based on the demographics. They make up 10.4% of the population in the state capital, but account for a whopping 38% of pot possession arrests.

"The findings in this report are a chilling reminder of the day-to-day realities of marijuana prohibition and the large-scale racist enforcement at its core," said Stephen Gutwillig, DPA's California director. "Racial justice demands ending this policy disaster and replacing it with a sensible regulatory system that redirects law enforcement to matters of genuine public safety. Proposition 19 is California's exit strategy from its failed war on marijuana."

"Patrol and narcotics police face enormous pressure to meet arrest and ticket quotas. Marijuana arrests are a relatively safe and easy way to meet them, but they don't reduce serious crime," said Levine. "However, these mass arrests can impact the life chances of young African Americans, who actually consume marijuana at lower rates than young whites."

The release of the report was accompanied by a political bombshell: the endorsement of Proposition 19 by the California NAACP, announced by state chapter head Alice Huffman at a June 29 press conference. Also attending the conference were other prominent black leaders, including Aubry Stone, head of the California Black Chamber of Commerce.

Citing the report, Huffman called ending pot prohibition a civil rights issue. Marijuana prohibition has criminalized many young people and hampered the ability of African-Americans to thrive, she said.

"This is not a war on the drug lords, this is a war against young men and women of color," Huffman told the press conference. "Once a person is arrested and brought under the criminal justice system, he or she is more likely to be caught in the criminal justice system again, further wasting tax dollars."

Not every West Coast African American agrees with Huffman, and one who pointedly doesn't is Bishop Ron Allen, head of the International Faith-Based Coalition, which claims to represent some 4,100 congregations worldwide, and which has emerged as a loud locus of opposition to legalization. Allen's commanding presence and stentorian oratory have become a fixture at the state house whenever marijuana is on the agenda, and he has become a go-to guy for reporters seeking opposition viewpoints. The CA NAACP's endorsement of Prop. 19 has Allen calling for Huffman's political head.

"We would like for Alice Huffman to step down as state president immediately," Bishop Allen told the Chronicle, adding that he was depending on the national NAACP to take action. "We think Alice Huffman is advocating getting the black man high. Let's decriminalize so the black man can continue to smoke without fear of arrest is not the answer. The NAACP is supposed to advance colored people, but how can you do that when you advocate continuing to have an illicit drug in their lives?"

Allen, a self-described former seven-year crack addict, is passionate, but his arguments tend to ring of Reefer Madness and the standard anti-pot playbook. "This isn't the same marijuana. The THC is so much higher," he said.

"Marijuana is still a gateway drug," he continued. "We are seeing more teens enter treatment because of marijuana," he added, neglecting to mention that a majority of them are there because they got busted and were ordered there by a court.

"Legalize a drug, and it will be more accessible to our youth," Allen said. "We will have more drug babies, more murders, more rapes. Legalization will lead to more incarceration of the black man, not less."

And sometimes Allen goes so far as to strain credulity. Attacking Huffman for associating with DPA, he said "you can't be in cahoots with the biggest drug dealers in the nation." Moments later he repeated the outlandish claim, saying "everybody knows the Drug Policy Alliance are drug dealers."

That drew a tart response from DPA's Tommy McDonald. "As someone who's never sold drugs or done hard drugs, I take great exception to Mr. Allen's characterization of Drug Policy Alliance employees and its members. And as a black man, I am particularly disappointed that Allen is doing the bidding of people who would love nothing more than to see our prisons filled with black and Latino youth," he said. "While his conviction is admirable, Allen's irrational and uninformed (and drug war financed, I might add) Reefer Madness propaganda is transparent and predictable. I wish him no ill will, but he might want to stick to the teachings of his Bible and not 'bear false witness against thy neighbor.' I would expect a so-called man of the cloth to know better."

Allen's views may be extreme, but they do reflect those of part of the black community, said Hutchinson. "Many blacks fear legalization could lead to greater drug use, crime and violence," he observed. "Others agree that legalization would do just the opposite."

While Allen declared himself confident Prop. 19 would be defeated in the fall, his role in the eventual outcome will probably be insignificant, said veteran scene-watchers. "I think the Bishop is basically a one-man band," scoffed Dale Gieringer, head of California NORML. "He's got his church there in Sacramento, and I've only ever encountered him at legislative hearings. I heard him give passionate but ludicrous testimony about how pot should remain illegal because he almost ruined himself with drugs in a market where drugs were illegal."

Gieringer doubted that Bishop Allen would have much impact one way or the other. "His stuff will resonate with his crowd and some religious people, but positions are already fairly fixed. People are either for or against, and the undecided vote is small," he said. "I don't think an angry black preacher is going to have much impact on them."

Will California's black population support Prop. 19? We will find out on Election Day, but the Bishop Allen notwithstanding, support for marijuana legalization in the community is strong. Whether more of it can be won over to Prop. 19 itself, the next few months will tell the new DPA report and the endorsement by the state NAACP are a good start.

Feature: Drug War a Devastating Failure, Scientists and Researchers Say in Vienna Declaration

A decade ago, scientists, researchers, and AIDS activists confronted a sitting president in South Africa who denied that AIDS was caused by HIV. They responded by declaring at the 2000 Durbin AIDS conference that the evidence was in and the matter was settled. Now, with the Vienna AIDS conference coming up later this month, they are at it again -- only this time the target is the war on drugs.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/vienna2009demo1.jpg
HCLU-organized demonstration outside UN anti-drug agency, former SSDP executive director Kris Krane inside cage (drogriporter.hu/en/demonstration)
Their weapon is the Vienna Declaration, an official conference statement authored by experts from the International AIDS Society, the International Center for Science in Drug Policy, and the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. The document is a harsh indictment of the global drug war that calls for evidence-based policymaking. It demands that laws which criminalize drug users and help fuel the spread of AIDS be reformed.

The authors of the Vienna Declaration want you to sign on, too. You can do so at the web site linked to above.

"The criminalization of illicit drug users is fueling the HIV epidemic and has resulted in overwhelmingly negative health and social consequences. A full policy reorientation is needed," they said in the declaration.

Arguing there is "overwhelming evidence that drug law enforcement has failed to meet its stated objectives," the declaration lays out the consequences of the drug war:

  • HIV epidemics fueled by the criminalization of people who use illicit drugs and by prohibitions on the provision of sterile needles and opioid substitution treatment.
  • HIV outbreaks among incarcerated and institutionalized drug users as a result of punitive laws and policies and a lack of HIV prevention services in these settings.
  • The undermining of public health systems when law enforcement drives drug users away from prevention and care services and into environments where the risk of infectious disease transmission (e.g., HIV, hepatitis C & B, and tuberculosis) and other harms is increased.
  • A crisis in criminal justice systems as a result of record incarceration rates in a number of nations. This has negatively affected the social functioning of entire communities. While racial disparities in incarceration rates for drug offenses are evident in countries all over the world, the impact has been particularly severe in the US, where approximately one in nine African-American males in the age group 20 to 34 is incarcerated on any given day, primarily as a result of drug law enforcement.
  • Stigma towards people who use illicit drugs, which reinforces the political popularity of criminalizing drug users and undermines HIV prevention and other health promotion efforts.
  • Severe human rights violations, including torture, forced labor, inhuman and degrading treatment, and execution of drug offenders in a number of countries.
  • A massive illicit market worth an estimated annual value of US $320 billion. These profits remain entirely outside the control of government. They fuel crime, violence and corruption in countless urban communities and have destabilized entire countries, such as Colombia, Mexico and Afghanistan.
  • Billions of tax dollars wasted on a "War on Drugs" approach to drug control that does not achieve its stated objectives and, instead, directly or indirectly contributes to the above harms.

"Many of us in AIDS research and care confront the devastating impacts of misguided drug policies every day," said Julio Montaner, president of the International AIDS Society and director of the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. "As scientists, we are committed to raising our collective voice to promote evidence-based approaches to illicit drug policy that start by recognizing that addiction is a medical condition, not a crime," added Montaner, who will serve as chairman of the Vienna conference.

"There is no positive spin you can put on the war on drugs," said Dr. Evan Wood, founder of the International Center for Science in Drug Policy. "You have a $320 billion illegal market, the enrichment of organized crime, violence, the spread of infectious disease. This declaration coming from the scientific community is long overdue. The community has not been meeting its ethical obligations in terms of speaking up about the harms of the war on drugs."

Stating that governments and international organizations have "ethical and legal obligations to respond to this crisis," the declaration calls on governments and international organizations, including the UN to:

  • Undertake a transparent review of the effectiveness of current drug policies.
  • Implement and evaluate a science-based public health approach to address the individual and community harms stemming from illicit drug use.
  • Decriminalize drug users, scale up evidence-based drug dependence treatment options and abolish ineffective compulsory drug treatment centers that violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
  • Unequivocally endorse and scale up funding for the implementation of the comprehensive package of HIV interventions spelled out in the WHO, UNODC and UNAIDS Target Setting Guide.
  • Meaningfully involve members of the affected community in developing, monitoring and implementing services and policies that affect their lives.
  • We further call upon the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, to urgently implement measures to ensure that the United Nations system -- including the International Narcotics Control Board -- speaks with one voice to support the decriminalization of drug users and the implementation of evidence-based approaches to drug control.

"This is a great initiative," enthused Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "It is the most significant effort to date by the sponsors of the global AIDS conference to highlight the destructive impact of the global drug war. It is nicely coordinated with The Lancet to demonstrate legitimacy in the medical community. And it is relatively far reaching given that the declaration was drafted as a consensus statement."

"This is aimed at politicians, leaders of governments, the UN system, and it's aimed at housewives. We are trying to do basic education around the facts on this. There are still politicians who get elected vowing to crack down on drugs," said Wood. "While the declaration has a global aim and scope, at the end of the day, the person who is going to end the drug war is your average voter, who may or may not have been affected by it," he said.

"This was needed a long time ago," said Wood. "The war on drugs does not achieve its stated objectives of reducing the availability and use of drugs and is incredibly wasteful of resources in locking people up, which does little more than turn people into hardened criminals," he said.

The authors are hoping that an official declaration broadly endorsed will help begin to sway policy makers. "It will be interesting to see what kind of support it receives," said Wood. "Former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper has endorsed it, and we have a 2008 Nobel prize winner for medicine on the web site. There are high level endorsements, and more are coming. Whether we touch a nerve with the news media remains to be seen. I am hoping it will have a big impact since this is the official conference declaration of one of the largest public health conferences on the planet."

"We have reached a tipping point in the conversation about drugs, drug policy, drug law enforcement, and the drug war," said Stamper, now a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "More and more, science has found its way into the conversation, and this is one step to advance that in some more dramatic fashion. I've heard much from the other side that is emotional and irrational. This is one effort to create even more impetus for infusing this dialogue on drug policy with evidence-driven, research-based findings."

That the AIDS conference is being held in Vienna adds a special fillip to the declaration, Wood said. "Vienna is symbolically important because it is where the infrastructure for maintaining the global war on drugs is located," said Woods, "and also because of the problems in Eastern Europe. In Russia, it's estimated that one out of every 100 adults is infected with the AIDS virus because Russia has not embraced evidence-based approaches. Methadone maintenance therapy is illegal there, needle exchanges are severely limited, the treatment programs are not evidence-based, and there are all sorts of human rights abuses around the drug war."

With the AIDS conference set to open July 18, Wood and the other authors are hoping the momentum will keep building up to and beyond. "It is my hope that now that the Vienna Declaration is online, large numbers of people will come forward and lend their names to this effort," he said.

The Vienna Declaration is one more indication of just how badly drug war orthodoxy has wilted under the harsh gaze of science. It's hard to win an argument when the facts are against you, but as the declaration notes, there are "those with vested interests in maintaining the status quo." The declaration should make their jobs that much more difficult and bring progressive approaches to drug policy that much closer.

Marijuana Legalization: Oregon, Washington Initiatives Fall Short

They will not be freeing the weed in the Pacific Northwest this November, at least not via ballot measures. Attempts to place marijuana legalization initiatives on the ballot in Oregon and Washington came up short as organizers were unable to gather sufficient signatures by last Friday's deadline.

In Oregon, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act, sponsored by Oregon NORML and medical marijuana entrepreneur Paul Stanford, did not come close. It needed about 100,000 signatures, but only had 12,000 at the latest report.

In a message to supporters last Friday, Stanford said: "Unfortunately, the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act initiative petition campaign in Oregon has fallen well short of qualifying for a vote this year. To all of you who gathered signatures, donated your hard earned money or supported OCTA 2010 in any way, we thank you for support! We are considering how to proceed in the future. If you have any ideas or concerns, please let us know."

In Washington, Sensible Washington, the sponsors of the I-1068 legalization initiative, conceded last week that they, too, would fail to make the November ballot. They needed 241,000 valid signatures, but estimated they would come up short by 40,000 to 50,000.

"It's my sad duty to inform you all that I-1068 will not make it," Sensible Washington's Philip Dawdy told supporters. "We're going to fall short. So I'm asking you all to stand down immediately, relax, regroup and let's all push on for the future. In the end, we couldn't overcome this spring's awful weather and the ACLU of Washington actively working against I-1068. [Seattle marijuana defense attorney] Douglas [Hiatt] and I and everyone else are all humbled by your efforts. The battle may be lost, but the war goes on."

The ACLU of Washington had refused to endorse the initiative because it contained no provisions for regulating marijuana -- it simply removed marijuana from the state's list of controlled substances and repealed penalties. Sensible Washington argued that Washington law prevented them from addressing regulation and that they sought to avoid conflict between the state and the federal government, but ACLU-WA disagreed.

The initiative suffered another mortal blow last month, when, after a brief courtship, the Service Employees International Union declined to help get it over the top. Washington SEIU spokesman Adam Glickman told Publicola last month the initiative would be "open to a lot of attacks -- attacks around law enforcement issues" and that "losing th[e] campaign wouldn't be very helpful."

[Ed: It's not clear to me why Washington law should have prevented Sensible Seattle from addressing regulation in the initiative text. The Washington medical marijuana initiative which passed in 1998, I-692, contained several pages of regulation, and it qualified for the ballot. Therefore Washington law does not disallow regulation within initiative language. The federal vs. state question is a more interesting one. - DB]

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