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Drug Truth 12/01/08

Drug Truth Network Update: 4:20 Drug War NEWS from 90.1 FM in Houston and dozens of radio affiliates in the US, Canada and Australis & on the web at www.kpft.org. We provide the "unvarnished truth about the drug war" to scores of broadcast affiliates in the US, Canada and Australia. 4:20 Drug War NEWS 12/01/08 to 12/07/08 now online (3:00 ea:) Select online at www.drugtruth.net Sun - Kris Krane of SSDP re "No O.D.'s with regulation" Sat - Bruce Alexander part 2/2 Fri - Bruce K. Alexander, author of "The Globalization of Addiction, A Study in Poverty of The Spirit" 1/2 Thu - Kris Krane of Students for Sensible Drug Policy re crack cocaine vs powder sentencing disparity Wed - Lisa Ling re National Geographic special on marijuana Tue - LEAP Report with Terry Nelson: UN Drug Czar off base Mon - Glenn Greenway with Poppygate Report: "from Bongs to Dongs" Next - Century of Lies on Tues, Cutural Baggage on Wed (Now With Transcripts): - Cultural Baggage 12:30 PM ET, 11:30 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT & 9:30 AM PT: TBD - Century of Lies 12:30 PM ET, 11:30 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT, 9:30 AM PT: TBD Hundreds of our programs are available online at www.drugtruth.net, and www.audioport.org 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, Drug Truth Network Producer Dean Becker 713-849-6869 www.drugtruth.net

Drug Truth 11/26/08

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! The Unvarnished Truth About the Drug War From the Drug Truth Network: (To downlad these 29:00 files, click on links below. To simply listen, go to www.drugtruth.net and select the arrow below the shows description.) Cultural Baggage for 11/26/08 Bruce K. Alexander, author of "The Globalization of Addiction, A Study in Poverty of The Spirit" + Law Enforcement Against Prohibition report from Terry Nelson & The Abolitionists Moment MP3 LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/?q=audio/download/2150/FDBCB_112608.mp3 TRANSCRIPT: By Friday Century of Lies for 11/25/08 Kris Krane, president of Students for Sensible Drug Policy discusses recent SSDP conference to celebrate their 10th anniversary + 7 years later, CIA found responsible for shooting missionary's plane from the sky + the Reagans just say "yes" to drugs MP3 LINK: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/?q=audio/download/2149/COL_112508.mp3 TRANSCRIPT: http://www.drugtruth.net/cms/?q=node/2149#comments PLEASE NOTE: We now have transcripts, potcasts, searchability, CMS, XML, sorts by guest name and by organization. Next - Century of Lies on Tues, Cutural Baggage on Wed, listen online at www.kpft.org: - Cultural Baggage 12:30 PM ET, 11:30 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT & 9:30 AM PT: TBD - Century of Lies 12:30 PM ET, 11:30 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT & 9:30 AM PT: TBD Hundreds of our programs are available online at www.drugtruth.net, www.audioport.org We provide the "unvarnished truth about the drug war" to scores of broadcast affiliates in the US, Canada and Now Australia!!! Programs produced at Pacifica Radio Station KPFT in Houston. www.kpft.org Check out our latest videos via www.youtube.com/fdbecker: More than 55 Drug Policy Videos online) 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, Drug Truth Network Producer Dean Becker 713-849-6869 www.drugtruth.net

Europe: At Cannabis Summit, Dutch Mayors Try to Address "Backdoor Problem" of Coffee Shop Supply, Broader Status of Pot

Under existing Dutch policy, licensed marijuana coffee shops can sell their wares to consumers, but have no legal means of obtaining those wares. That snag in the cannabis supply system is known as the "backdoor problem:" Marijuana can legally exit the coffee houses via the front door, but must enter illegally through the backdoor. The backdoor problem has existed for years, but now things seem to be coming to a head.

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downstairs of a coffee shop, Maastricht (courtesy Wikimedia)
Dutch mayors meeting at a weekend "Cannabis Summit" are seeking to solve the backdoor problem, as well as address the conservative governing coalition's efforts to restrict or even shut down the famous coffee houses. The number of coffee shops has dwindled slowly but steadily under the conservative government, with more slated to be forced to close in the next two years. On Saturday, the leader of the governing Christian Democratic Party, Pieter van Geel, said all the coffee shops should be closed.

The summit was called by Maastricht Lord Mayor Gerd Leers last week after the city councils of Roosendaal and Bergen op Zoom decided to shut down all the coffee shops because of problems associated with masses of pot-buying visitors from neighboring Belgium, France, and Germany, which lack regulated marijuana sales.

More than three-quarters of the 40 mayors in attendance agreed that marijuana should be grown under license for wholesale purchase by the coffee houses and, ultimately, retail sale to consumers. But while there is broad agreement on licensing grows, just how they would come about remains a matter of contention.

According to Dutch News, Eindhoven Mayor Rob van Gijzel and his city council are prepared to operate their own grow as a "monitored pilot scheme" to see if licensed growing reduces drug-related crime. The Tilburg city council said it wanted to start a "cannabis market garden" to supply local shops.

But Amsterdam Lord Mayor Job Cohen told London's Telegraph newspaper that while he was in "full support" of the coffee shop system, Eindhoven's plan to involve the city council in marijuana growing was going "a little too far." Instead, he said he would prefer to see licensed private growers closely monitored by the police.

"While I don't agree with the idea of councilors actually growing cannabis in plots near their town halls, a positive development has been that our government has now said it will take a close look at the issue of where the cannabis should come from. We could see the problem of the two doors -- legal front door for customers, illegal back door for supplies -- being resolved soon."

In fact, said Cohen, the entire trade should just be legalized. "Look what happened during prohibition years in America and how criminals took over and look at Belgium, France and Britain where soft drugs are not legal but are available and are a part of the criminal world," he said. "We can't avoid them, so it is better to legalize them to keep them under control."

On Sunday, Health Minister Ab Klink somewhat surprisingly said that while the licensed grow plan in Eindhoven would conflict with the policy of the conservative ruling coalition, he was prepared to look closely at the plan and discuss it with the rest of the cabinet. While the Christian Democrats and Christian Unity parties are opposed to legal production for the coffee shops, the coalition's Labor Party has called for parliamentary debate on the issue.

The forces of drug reform are mobilizing, too. The Netherlands Drug Policy Foundation, the European umbrella reform group ENCOD, and Amsterdam's Cannabis College have organized the first Netherlands Cannabis Tribunal in the Hague on Monday and Tuesday. A centerpiece event should be the planned debate between Christian Democratic Party spokesperson Cisca Joldersma, and Hans van Duijn, LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition} member and former president of the Dutch Police Association.

Feature: The Kids Are Alright -- The SSDP 10th International Conference

Buoyed by this month's election results and jazzed by the prospects for change with a new administration in Washington, some 450 student activists converged on the University of Maryland campus in College Park last weekend to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) at the group's annual international conference.

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first evening gathering (photo courtesy DrugWarRant.com)
Hosted by University of Maryland SSDP, traditionally one of the national group's staunchest chapters, the conference saw students come from across the nation and at least two foreign countries for three days of education, training in effective activism, and hands-on lobbying on Capitol Hill. Among the attendees were representatives of Canadian SSDP, buoyed by their own national conference, the organization's second, attended by 250 people earlier this month.

For both SSDP veterans and newcomers alike, the conference provided opportunities for networking, inspiration, and education. For some of the younger attendees, it was an eye-opener.

"I didn't realize how many people were involved in this," said SSDP national office intern Ericha Richards, a freshman at American University. "It's exciting!"

Jimmy Devine of Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire has been attending for several years, but still found plenty to get excited about. "It's always good to come to national, to see what the other chapters have been up to, and to meet old friends," he said. "And we're always looking for new ideas to take back with us."

On Friday, led by Marijuana Policy Project (MPP) lobbyist Aaron Houston, the students spent the morning polishing up on lobbying basics, then visited with representatives or their staffers to push for reductions in the crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity. Students reported mixed results, but that's no surprise, and even with representatives on the wrong side of the issues, lobbying is part of changing minds -- and votes.

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Rep. Danny Davis (photo courtesy DrugWarRant.com)
On Saturday and Sunday, students gathered at the University of Maryland student union for two days of panels and training in activism. Saturday morning, they heard from movement leaders, who described the chances of drug reform at the federal level in coming years with varying degrees of optimism. With the Democratic sweep of the presidency and the Congress, the prospects have improved, but big obstacles remain, the students heard.

"This election was about change," said MPP's Houston. "It's a very exciting time, so why aren't we doing back flips?" he asked. Drug reform may get short shrift in an Obama administration faced with a free-falling economy and foreign crises, Houston answered himself. "We're walking into favorable conditions, but there are a lot of issues facing Obama and the Congress."

But the economic crisis could lead to opportunity, he said. "We have huge economic problems, and this could be the time to start talking about taxing and regulating marijuana. That could generate $10 to $14 billion a year for the federal treasury," he said.

"Change is going to happen," said Adam Wolf of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. Wolf ticked off an ACLU reform wish list of rescheduling marijuana, ending the government monopoly on growing marijuana for research purposes, ending the selective prosecution of medical marijuana patients and providers, abolishing the crack/powder sentencing disparity, and banning racial profiling.

"I'm hugely optimistic about the prospects for change in Congress," said Bill Piper, national affairs director for the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), citing support for ending the federal funding ban on syringe exchange and reducing or eliminating the crack/powder sentencing disparity among highly placed Democrats. "We are over the hump," the Capitol Hill veteran said. "People are not afraid any more to talk about drug policy, and we have key committee chairs on our side. We will repeal the syringe ban and reduce sentencing disparities," he predicted.

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police militarization panel, featuring Reason's Radley Balko, StoptheDrugWar.org executive director David Borden, SWAT raid victim Mayor Cheye Calvo of Berwyn Heights, Maryland, moderated by Alison Grimmer of Roosevelt University SSDP
But Piper was also looking just a bit further down the road then next year's Congress. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office) comes up for reauthorization in 2010, he noted. Rather than try futilely to eliminate the office, "we can try to shift ONDCP's goals" to a more public health-oriented approach, he suggested.

"Marijuana is more popular than the past three presidents," MPP executive director Rob Kampia told a cheering audience as he recounted this year's victories for medical marijuana in Michigan and decriminalization in Massachusetts.

Student activists took no back seat to the professionals, though, and the breadth of reform efforts by SSDP chapters, and number of campuses leading or helping with them was impressive. Conference-goers got to hear about campus campaigns ranging from establishing safe ride programs (reducing intoxicated driving without exposing students to threat of penalty); good Samaritan overdose policies (neither the student needing medical help nor the student reporting it facing threat of arrest); getting schools to stop calling police into dorms for drug infractions; reforming dorm eviction policies for substance violations; working with ballot initiative campaigns such as those in Michigan and Berkeley; public education efforts; and state lobbying campaign; among others.

One chapter, Kalamazoo College in Michigan, seemed to have done almost everything, and all during its first year. At the annual Awards Banquet, where representatives received the Outstanding Chapter Award, a raft of impressive achievements were listed off in the introduction. Not only did Kalamazoo SSDP get a safe ride program established, and Good Samaritan and not calling police into dorms for minor drug violation policies established. They also went outside the campus to bring together a coalition of community groups, government agencies and law enforcement to get approval for a needle exchange program in the city for the first time.

One highlight of the conference was the Saturday lunch debate between SSDP executive director Kris Krane and Kevin Sabet of Students Taking Action Not Drugs. The back and forth between the two, moderated by Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy, kept the audience rapt -- and scoring the debate like a boxing match.

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Krane/Sabet debate, Washington Post's Courtland Milloy moderating
Sabet, in what must have felt like hostile territory, did his best to try to establish "common ground" with drug reformers, citing his support for addressing the crack/powder disparity and qualifying some of drug czar John Walters' policies as "stupid politics." He also cited as models programs like North Carolina's Project HOPE, where probationers and parolees confronted by positive drug tests are not sent back to prison, but are hit with quick, short jail stays. "That's a huge motivation," Sabet argued.

If Sabet was looking for agreement from Krane or the audience, he didn't find much of it. "Our metrics in the war on drugs are wrong," said Krane. "We should be measuring abuse, problem use, infection rates -- not drug use rates," he argued. "You have to get arrested to get treatment, and that's backwards," he said.

Instead of being based on the Holy Grail of reducing drug use, drug policy should have different guiding principles, Krane argued. "First, no one should be punished for using drugs absent harm to others. Second, we should adopt a harm reduction framework, and third, we should adopt a human rights framework."

"Drug use doesn't occur in a vacuum," Sabet retorted. "A lot of drug use is problematic, and some of that can be addressed by dealing with poverty, health care, and homelessness. There is common ground," he tried again.

Not so quick, Krane replied, arguing that drug use should be treated as a public health problem, not the purview of law enforcement.

"Drug trafficking is not a public health problem, it's a law enforcement problem," Sabet countered.

"Drug trafficking is a prohibition problem, not a law enforcement problem," Krane retorted to cheers from the crowd.

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David Guard and Pete Guither prepare for ''Elevator Arguments'' panel
After the spirited back and forth between Sabet and Krane, attendees were treated to an address by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL), who zeroed in on racial disparities in drug law enforcement. "One of the most egregious aspects of our drug policy is the racial inequity," he said, reeling off the now familiar statistics about African-Americans sucked into the drug war incarceration machine and urging support for re-entry and rehabilitation efforts for prisoners. "If we can reduce crime and recidivism, if we can help these prisoners, if we can train and educate them, we are helping all of America," Davis said.

Davis, too, pronounced himself optimistic. "There is a sense of hope that we can develop a sane policy in the way we treat drugs," he told the students, "but you have to stay engaged and involved. You have to believe change is not only possible, it's inevitable."

If Saturday was a day of panelists and speechifying, Sunday was for getting down to nuts and bolts as the young activists attended a plethora of sessions hosted by more experienced veterans. Students heard presentations on best practices for chapter organizing, fundraising, making quick reform arguments, networking, working the media, and working with youth communities, and looking beyond campus reform, among others. And the lunch session was a working one, with activists dividing up geographically and deciding on locations for regional conferences to be held in the spring.

From its beginning with a handful of students in the Northeast in 1998 outraged by the Higher Education Act's drug provision, SSDP has grown to an international organization with 140 campus chapters in the US, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Nigeria. With all they learned at this year's conference, the newest generation of drug reform activists is now headed back home to spread the message and the movement to the next generation.

Visit the Drug WarRant blog for Pete Guither's seven-part series of live-written reports from the conference.


UMD SSDP window, Stamp Student Center

Press Conference Release of "We Can Do It Again" Report on Benefits of Repealing Drug Prohibition

On Tuesday, December 2, a group of law enforcers who fought on the front lines of the "war on drugs" and witnessed its failures will commemorate the 75th anniversary of alcohol prohibition's repeal by calling for drug legalization. The cops, judges and prosecutors will release a report detailing how many billions of dollars can be used to boost the ailing economy when drug prohibition is ended. "America's leaders had the good sense to realize that we couldn't afford to keep enforcing the ineffective prohibition of alcohol during the Great Depression," said Terry Nelson, a 30-year veteran federal agent and member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "Now, cops fighting on the front lines of today's 'war on drugs' are working to make our streets safer and help solve our economic crisis by teaching lawmakers a lesson from history about the failure of prohibition. We can do it again." ***phone press conference also available*** "We Can Do It Again: Repealing Today's Failed Prohibition," highlights how the "war on drugs" - just like alcohol prohibition - subsidizes violent gangsters, endangers public health and diminishes public respect for the rule of law. The report also details how the newer prohibition comes with the much graver threat of international cartels and terrorists who profit from illegal drug sales. Yet, it leaves readers on a hopeful note. "We're starting to see an emerging consensus that drug prohibition just doesn't make sense," said Seattle's retired Police Chief Norm Stamper, a LEAP member. "Three out of four Americans now say the 'war on drugs' has failed, and so do the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators and the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. Now, it's up to the new administration and Congress to follow through." More information about LEAP and a copy of the report will be uploaded at http://www.WeCanDoItAgain.com/
Date: 
Tue, 12/02/2008 - 10:00am
Location: 
529 14th Street, NW, 13th Fl.
Washington, DC
United States

Press Release: Cops Say Legalizing Drugs Can Boost Economy by Billions

NEWS ADVISORY: November 24, 2008 CONTACT: Tom Angell, LEAP - (202) 557-4979 or media@leap.cc Cops Say Legalizing Drugs Can Boost Economy by Billions 75th Anniversary of Alcohol Prohibition's End Inspires Modern Effort WASHINGTON, D.C. - On Tuesday, December 2, a group of law enforcers who fought on the front lines of the "war on drugs" and witnessed its failures will commemorate the 75th anniversary of alcohol prohibition's repeal by calling for drug legalization. The cops, judges and prosecutors will release a report detailing how many billions of dollars can be used to boost the ailing economy when drug prohibition is ended. "America's leaders had the good sense to realize that we couldn't afford to keep enforcing the ineffective prohibition of alcohol during the Great Depression," said Terry Nelson, a 30-year veteran federal agent and member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). "Now, cops fighting on the front lines of today's 'war on drugs' are working to make our streets safer and help solve our economic crisis by teaching lawmakers a lesson from history about the failure of prohibition. We can do it again." WHO: Federal agents, street cops, detectives, corrections officials and a Harvard economist WHAT: Release of "We Can Do It Again" report on benefits of repealing drug prohibition WHEN: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 @ 10:00 AM WHERE: National Press Club; Zenger Room; 529 14th Street, NW; 13th Fl.; Washington, DC ***phone press conference also available*** "We Can Do It Again: Repealing Today's Failed Prohibition," highlights how the "war on drugs" - just like alcohol prohibition - subsidizes violent gangsters, endangers public health and diminishes public respect for the rule of law. The report also details how the newer prohibition comes with the much graver threat of international cartels and terrorists who profit from illegal drug sales. Yet, it leaves readers on a hopeful note. "We're starting to see an emerging consensus that drug prohibition just doesn't make sense," said Seattle's retired Police Chief Norm Stamper, a LEAP member. "Three out of four Americans now say the 'war on drugs' has failed, and so do the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators and the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators. Now, it's up to the new administration and Congress to follow through." More information about LEAP and a copy of the report will be uploaded at http://www.WeCanDoItAgain.com/ # # #
Location: 
Washington, DC
United States

4:20 Drug NEWS 11/24/08

Drug Truth Network Update: 4:20 Drug War NEWS from 90.1 FM in Houston and dozens of radio affiliates in the US, Canada and Australis & on the web at www.kpft.org. We provide the "unvarnished truth about the drug war" to scores of broadcast affiliates in the US, Canada and Australia. 4:20 Drug War NEWS 11/24/08 to 11/30/08 now online (3:00 ea:) Select online at www.drugtruth.net Sun - Ray Manzarek of the Doors 3/3 Sat - Ray Manzarek of the Doors 2/3 Fri - Ray Manzarek of the Doors recounts their first rehearsal 1/3 Thu - CIA hides truth about shooting missionaries from the skies Wed - Terry Nelson who has more than 33 years working for US Govt as customs, border and air interdiction officer reports for Law Enforcement Against Prohibiton Tue - US HHS has patent on med MJ, 2/2 Mon - US Health and Human Services has patent on medical marijuana Next - Century of Lies on Tues, Cutural Baggage on Wed (Now With Transcripts): - Cultural Baggage 12:30 PM ET, 11:30 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT & 9:30 AM PT: Bruce Alexander, author "Globalization of Addiction" - Century of Lies 12:30 PM ET, 11:30 AM CT, 10:30 AM MT, 9:30 AM PT: TBD Hundreds of our programs are available online at www.drugtruth.net, and www.audioport.org 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, Drug Truth Network Producer Dean Becker 713-849-6869 www.drugtruth.net

Feature: No Post-Election Pause in Colorado -- Activists Attend Marijuana Boot Camp

This month's national elections are over, but marijuana reformers in Colorado are taking no breaks. Just 11 days after red state Colorado turned dramatically blue, nearly 300 activists and would-be activists gathered last Saturday morning at Regis University in Denver for the 2008 Colorado Marijuana Reform Seminar and Activist Boot Camp, designed to make them more effective and to pave the way for more marijuana law reform in the Rocky Mountain State.

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There is plenty to build on. Colorado has been a medical marijuana state since 2001 and a decrim state since the 1970s. In the past few years, activists like Mason Tvert of SAFER (Safer Alternatives for Enjoyable Recreation) and Brian Vicente of Sensible Colorado have been building an impressive movement for a new set of reforms. In 2005, SAFER won a Denver vote to legalize marijuana possession, and after that was ignored, came back in 2007 with a winning lowest law enforcement priority initiative in Denver.

But while Denver appears ready to embrace legal weed, the rest of the state is not quite there yet, and a 2006 statewide legalization initiative ultimately came up short with 41% of the vote. A big part of the focus of the boot camp was to ensure that next time a legalization initiative appears on the ballot, it goes over the top.

To that end, SAFER and Sensible Colorado assembled a series of panel for the day-long seminar. Beginning with "Colorado's Marijuana Laws: Past, Present & Future," and "Everyone Can Agree: Colorado Needs Reform," "Citizen Lobbying: Reaching & Influencing Elected Officials," "The Media: How It Works, How We Can Use It, & Why It Matters," and culminating with "Taking Action: Building Support & Maintaining Momentum," organizers created a very full plate indeed for the assembled activists. The panels featured scientists, liberal and conservative public policy analysts, media representatives, and seasoned activists.

One big catch for the boot camp was House Majority Leader Paul Weissmann (D-Louisville), who explained the necessity and the how-to of lobbying elected officials to bring change. "We frankly just listen to each other unless there's an effort for people to get a hold of us," Weissmann said. It is more effective to build long-term relationships with elected officials than to make a campaign donation, he said. "The people who I remember more aren't folks who wrote a check, but the people who went door-knocking," he said.

"The 2008 campaign season only just ended for most people," said SAFER executive director Mason Tvert. "But for the growing number of Coloradans committed to reforming state and local marijuana laws, the 2009 campaign season has already begun. Our first goal -- to disprove the myth that marijuana makes people less motivated -- has clearly already been accomplished."

The boot camp filled an identifiable need among Colorado activists, said Tvert. As groups who had led campaigns and garnered considerable notoriety, it fell on SAFER and Sensible Colorado to address that need, he said.

"Because of all the work we've done around the state and all the media coverage we've received, we frequently hear from people who want to get involved; there are some every week," Tvert explained. "We wanted to find productive things for these people to do and we wanted to create a more supportive environment for ballot measures, so we identified areas where people can make a difference and developed materials so they can do things more effectively and understand the whys and wherefores," he explained. "The boot camp brought everyone together to provide them with the materials and some training. The point of the panels was to give them first-hand information that will help them be better, more effective activists," he added.

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"We didn't realize it would garner this much interest," said a clearly pleased Tvert. "We got people from all around the state. There were students, there were professionals, there were retirees. There were medical marijuana people there, but this wasn't about medical marijuana; it was about broader marijuana policy reform."

"The boot camp was an unqualified success," declared Sensible Colorado's Brian Vicente. "We thought we might pull in 75 people on a Saturday morning, but I think we actually had 283 register. That shows there is an overwhelming interest in this issue in Colorado. We had lots of people from the Front Range because that's where most of the people are here, but we also had dozens of people from areas considered less friendly, like Colorado Springs and out on the West Slope."

That's important because even in unfriendly environments, votes matter, he said. "Whether it's someplace friendly, like Boulder or Fort Collins, or someplace unfriendly, if we can pick up even a couple of percentage points, that can make the difference in a statewide vote," he said.

"It was really inspiring to see everybody there focusing on the same goal, even people who don't necessarily smoke marijuana, but see it as a civil rights issue and want to help out victims," said Andrew Stephens, a 20-year-old student at Fort Lewis College in Durango, a seven-hour drive over the mountains from Denver. "I was outraged watching those federal raids on the California dispensaries -- that's what motivated me to get involved -- so I started a NORML chapter this year to work with other organizations and chapters to change marijuana policies."

Stephens said he was going to apply some of what he learned at the boot camp back home in Durango. "I'm interested in getting a lowest law enforcement priority initiative passed in Durango like there is in Denver," he said. "That would help give law enforcement more resources and time to spend on more important matters and lift a burden on college students who face persecution from law enforcement," he added, practicing his talking points.

Panelist Pam Clifton, outreach director for the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, also called the event a success. "It was really well attended, people were really excited, and people stayed put in their seats," said Clifton. "It was a great event, very diverse, and there was a lot of energy in the air."

For Clifton, marijuana law reform is part of a broader criminal justice agenda. "We're about working to stop mass incarceration in Colorado, and recidivism and drug policy are really driving a lot of that, so a lot of our fight is about stopping the drug war," she said. "We want people to make the connection between how a marijuana conviction can affect the rest of their lives and changing those laws, and since we do a lot of grassroots activism, this event gave us an opportunity to reach out to these people."

The interest in last weekend's Marijuana Boot Camp may reflect not only the years of activism by the likes of Tvert, Vicente, and their allies, but also changing Colorado demographics and political attitudes. For the first time in decades, Colorado voted for the Democratic presidential candidate this year.

"You're certainly seeing more progressives and Democrats getting into power here, and that bodes well for marijuana reform," said Sensible Colorado's Vicente. "Also, Colorado had a very strong grassroots machine in place that helped Obama win a traditionally red state, so there's something to be said for people power. And the fact that almost 300 people showed up on a Saturday morning a week after the election to talk marijuana reform politics is also a very good sign."

"The atmosphere has really changed quite a bit," said Clifton. "We're really blue these days. Last year, the legislature passed an act creating a governmental commission on criminal justice. They have to reduce the prison population in this state, so they looked at recidivism, next is some juvenile justice stuff, and then sentencing. But measures to reduce the prison population are the low-hanging fruit. I think only after that we will have a real opportunity to make changes around the marijuana and other drug laws."

Part of what makes marijuana law reform a relatively lower priority, said Clifton, is that Colorado's marijuana laws are already quite liberal for simple possession. Under current state law, possession of less than an ounce is already decriminalized with a maximum sentence of a $100 fine.

But the fact that Colorado has relatively progressive marijuana laws already is no reason to slow down down, said Tvert. "Whether it's more local initiatives or another statewide one in 2010 or 2012, we want to get these people active in their communities spreading our message," said Tvert. "We made 25,000 four-page business cards with our marijuana is safer than alcohol message on one page, that it should be treated that way on the next, how to contact elected officials on the third, and lastly, how to contact us."

While the legislature and other sections of the criminal justice reform community may have their attention elsewhere, an army of activists is now haunting the streets of Denver and Boulder, the high plains of Eastern Colorado, and the snowy peaks of the Rockies, laying the groundwork to take it to the next level.

Marijuana: Narrow Majority of Arkansans Favor Decriminalization, Poll Finds

A recent Zogby International poll commissioned by the Arkansas-based Drug Policy Education Group has found that a slight majority of respondents favor decriminalization of the adult use and possession of marijuana. The poll was conducted November 7-11 and was based on a Zogby online panel of 436 voters deemed by Zogby to be representative of the state's adult population. The margin of error was +/- 4.8%.

Respondents were asked the following question: "In 2007, over 7,400 adults were arrested in Arkansas for misdemeanor possession of one ounce or less of marijuana, over half the state's total drug arrests. According to a national 2005 study, state and local governments spend an average of $10,400 per arrest on police, courts, and jails. Based on that estimate, 2007 marijuana arrests will cost Arkansas taxpayers nearly $77 million dollars. Knowing this information, would you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose a law that would eliminate the penalties for adult marijuana possession of one ounce or less?"

Slightly more than 35% strongly supported changing the pot laws, with another 17% somewhat supporting it, for a total of 53% in favor of decriminalization. On the other side of the coin, 38% strongly opposed and 7% somewhat opposed decrim, for a total of 45%. Three percent weren't sure.

Democrats and independents supported decrim by a margin of two-to-one, but only 29% of Republicans supported it. Intensity is on the side of Republicans, with 63% strongly opposed compared to 49% of both Democrats and Independents who are strongly in support.

A slim majority of voters under 64 would support decrim, with the highest proportion among the under-30 group. Among the young, 58% supported decrim. Majorities of both whites (51%) and African Americans (64%) said they would support such a law, while women (59%) were more likely than men (46%) to say they would support it.

A similar, but slightly differently worded poll commissioned by the Drug Policy Education Group in 2006 had similar findings. In that poll, which asked voters if they would support "reducing" the penalties for adult marijuana possession offenses, 61% said yes, while 35% said no.

Arkansas has been the scene of drug reform activism, mainly around marijuana, for several years now. Initiatives making adult marijuana possession offenses the lowest law enforcement priority passed by two-to-one margins in Eureka Springs in 2006 and in the college town of Fayetteville this month. State drug reform groups like the Drug Policy Education Group and its predecessors have also been tilling the ground in the Razorback State. Reform bubbles up in the most surprising places, and these poll results suggest Arkansans may be more receptive than most people imagined.

Canada: BC Local Elections Bring Another Drug Reform Mayor to Vancouver, A Drug Reform Mayor Back to Grand Forks, and a Drug Reformer to Victoria's City Council

Municipal elections in British Columbia Saturday saw Vancouver get another in a string of pro-drug reform mayors, while a marijuana reformer was returned to the mayor's office in Grand Forks in the interior, and another prominent reform advocate was elected to the city council in Victoria.

In Vancouver, the civic electoral coalition Vision Vancouver succeeded in placing its candidate, Gregor Robertson in the mayor's seat as well as sweeping eight of 11 council seats. Robertson and Vision Vancouver are strong supporters of the city's pioneering Four Pillars drug policy.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/philippelucas.jpg
Philippe Lucas (from vicgreens.com)
As Vision Vancouver notes in its platform, it will: "Focus on the Four Pillars to deal with drugs in our communities. Prevention, treatment, harm reduction, and enforcement are the most effective tools to make our communities safer. This includes support for InSite, a focus on access to treatment, and expanding prevention education programs."

Meanwhile, in the small interior border town of Grand Forks (pop. 5,000), former mayor and leader in Marc Emery's BC Marijuana Party Bryan Taylor was reelected. Taylor came to drug reform initially around industrial hemp but soon emerged as a leading BC Marijuana Party campaigner in the 2001 elections. He is barred from entering the US, which he can see from his hillside home outside Grand Forks, originally because he was arrested for hemp cultivation ("drug trafficking," in official US-speak). But even after the Canadian government dropped charges against him, US border control authorities continue to deny him entry, accusing him of "fraud and misrepresentation" if he fails to admit he smokes marijuana and deeming him ineligible to enter the country if he does admit it.

And on Vancouver Island, one of the Canadian drug reformers most familiar to his American counterparts, Philippe Lucas, won a seat on the Victoria city council running as a Green Party candidate. Lucas will be joined by Mayor-elect Dean Fortin, who also supports harm reduction and has vowed to find a permanent location for the city's needle exchange program.

In a Victoria radio interview after the election, Fortin said Lucas "is going to challenge the council a lot" and "will be pushing the harm reduction model."

That's no surprise. In addition to running the Vancouver Island Compassion Society, Lucas also authored the BC Green Party drug policy and substance abuse platform planks, which include calls for a legal, regulated market in marijuana. The soft-spoken but keenly focused Lucas will no doubt be a strong force for reform in Victoria.

All in all, a good day for drug reform and its advocates in British Columbia. It looks like BC will retain its position in the vanguard of drug reform in the Western hemisphere.

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