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Europe: Dutch Border Town Cannabis Coffee Shop Owners Lose Court Battle Against Ban--UPDATED, Shops Now Closed

UPDATE: Seven of the eight shops in the two towns are closed as of today. The eight remains open, but says it is selling only coffee. Six Dutch border town cannabis coffee shop owners seeking to block local authorities from shutting them down lost a court battle last Friday. A judge in Breda in the southern Netherlands ruled that the coffee shop owners had chosen the wrong judicial venue for their challenge of the ban. The coffee shop owners are challenging a decision by the mayors of Roosendaal and Bergen-op-Zoom, both near the Belgian border, to close all eight coffee shops in their communities in a bid to stop “drug tourism.” An estimated 25,000 foreigners pour into the two towns each week to take advantage of the Dutch policy that tolerates retail marijuana sales. They are blamed for causing problems ranging from public urination to traffic congestion to hard drug dealing. Under the ban, the coffee shops could stay open and serve alcohol, but could not sell marijuana. If they continued to sell marijuana, they could be punished with a five-year closure. The lawyer representing the coffee house owners, Harry Nieland, said Tuesday that his clients had not yet decided whether they would abide by the ban on marijuana sales or challenge it. The ban by the mayors comes as the Dutch government wrestles with how to reduce or eliminate the number of foreigners coming to Holland from more repressive neighboring countries to buy marijuana. Last week, a leaked letter from three Dutch ministers suggested the government would seek a “members only” policy for the coffee houses. Under European Union law, countries cannot discriminate by nationality, so the Dutch cannot ban foreigners from becoming coffee house members. But the Dutch government wants to subvert the law by requiring that marijuana be purchased only with credit cards issued by Dutch banks.

TV Ads Air, Pleading for Medical Marijuana Law Despite Rejection by CBS, ABC, Fox

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
SEPTEMBER 16, 2009    

TV Ads Air, Pleading for Medical Marijuana Law Despite Rejection by CBS, ABC, Fox
Spots Debut in Key NY Districts as Local Polls Show Strong Support


CONTACT: Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications ............... 415-585-6404 or 202-215-4205


ALBANY, NEW YORK -- Two new TV ads featuring patients who have benefited from medical marijuana began airing today in media markets covering key New York Senate districts. Rejected by ABC, CBS and Fox, the spots will nevertheless air on WNBC in New York City and on cable outlets around the state, including the New York City, Buffalo and Rochester metropolitan areas, Westchester and Rockland counties and the rest of the Lower Hudson Valley, Watertown, Oswego, and Ogdensburg.


     Local polls in these districts show overwhelming, bipartisan support for medical marijuana legislation. For example, Mason-Dixon polls conducted Sept. 1-3 in Senate Districts 12 (Queens), 48 (Watertown, Oswego), and 58 (Buffalo and nearby areas) showed support for the legislation running at 72 percent, 69 percent, and 74 percent, respectively. Full results of these and earlier district polls on the medical marijuana bill are at mpp.org/nypolls2009. A separate set of polls from 2007 is at http://www.mpp.org/nypoll2007.


     One of the spots features Conservative Party member Joel Peacock of Buffalo, who suffers from chronic pain as the result of a serious accident. In the ad, he describes running out of his prescription medication while on a work assignment in the south after Hurricane Katrina and being given marijuana by a client. "It took away the pain," Peacock says in the ad. "It took away the nausea. I didn't have stomach cramps. I slept. It just did everything my medicine doesn't do. Please, ask your senator to have compassion."


     Both spots, sponsored by the Marijuana Policy Project and New Yorkers for Compassionate Care, can be viewed at mpp.org/NYTVads. In nearly all areas, the ads are customized to name the specific state senator who voters should contact (in New York City and Orange County, the configuration of Senate districts and TV markets made this impractical).

     Kevin Smith, M.D., of Saugerties, who appears in the second spot and who suffers severe pain from a genetic disorder known as ankylosing spondilitis, was angered by the stations' rejection of the ads. "As a patient whose well-being would be dramatically improved by the medical marijuana bill, I am appalled that these TV stations won't even let us tell our stories to their viewers," Smith said. "These stations are out of touch with the public, 76 percent of whom support protecting patients."

 

     With more than 27,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.

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Location: 
NY
United States

U.S. Forest Service Apologizes for Racist Marijuana Warning

Remember a couple weeks ago when the U.S. Forest Service warned campers to watch out for people who drink Tecate, eat tortillas, and listen to Spanish music because they might be dangerous marijuana growers? Yeah, they're kinda backtracking on that one a little bit:

Denver, Colo., September 14, 2009 – On Sept. 2, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Rick Cables and members of his organization met with 17 Hispanic community leaders, representing a variety of Hispanic organizations in Colorado, to issue an apology for regrettable references used during an Aug. 26 briefing to news media concerning illegal marijuana cultivation activities on national forests in Colorado. [Dept. of Agriculture]

The Forest Service says they've "learned some valuable lessons from this experience," presumably including why you shouldn't try to scare the hell out of everyone with wildly racist public announcements. What they did was absolutely crazy. Apologies and regrets won't change the fact that they carelessly insulted millions of people in a deranged fit of drug war delirium.

Press Release: 33 U.S. Clinical Studies Show Marijuana's Medical Use, New Journal Article Says

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE   
SEPTEMBER 14, 2009

33 U.S. Clinical Studies Show Marijuana's Medical Use, Journal of Opioid Management Article Says
Contrary to Opponents' Claims, Controlled Studies Have Repeatedly Demonstrated Safety, Efficacy


CONTACT: Bruce Mirken, MPP director of communications ............... 415-585-6404 or 202-215-4205


SEATTLE, WASHINGTON -- In a landmark article in the Journal of Opioid Management, University of Washington researcher Sunil Aggarwal and colleagues document 33 U.S. controlled clinical trials published from 1971 to 2009 confirming that marijuana is a safe, effective medicine for specific medical conditions.    


     Under federal law, marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug, defining it as having high potential for abuse, unsafe for use even under medical supervision, and lacking currently accepted medical uses in the U.S. "In fact," Aggarwal and colleagues write, "nearly all of the 33 published controlled clinical trials conducted in the United States have shown significant and measurable benefits in subjects receiving the treatment."  Additionally, the paper documents the growing acceptance of the therapeutic use of marijuana among organized medicine groups and estimates that "in 2008, approximately 7,000 American physicians have made such authorizations for a total of approximately 400,000 patients."


     Regarding abuse and safety issues, Aggarwal et al. write that withdrawal symptoms -- a classic symptom of drug dependence -- are notably absent from the published trials, while "the vast majority of reported adverse events were not serious ... It is clear that as an analgesic, cannabis is extremely safe with minimal toxicity."


     Unfortunately, the article continues, ignorance regarding marijuana remains widespread in the medical community. "There remains a near complete absence of education about cannabinoid medicine in any level of medical training," Aggarwal writes.


     "This is arguably the most thorough review of the literature on medical marijuana since the Institute of Medicine report over a decade ago, with a trove of data that wasn't available to the IOM," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "It is simply incomprehensible that a medicine that is so clearly safe and effective remains banned from medical use by federal law and the laws of 37 states."


     The article, "Medicinal Use of Cannabis in the United States: Historical Perspectives, Current Trends, and Future Directions," is available at http://tinyurl.com/m9oo44. A complete list of the 33 U.S. clinical trials is available from Sunil Aggarwal at sunila@uw.edu or 206-375-3785.


     With more than 27,000 members and 100,000 e-mail subscribers nationwide, the Marijuana Policy Project is the largest marijuana policy reform organization in the United States. MPP believes that the best way to minimize the harm associated with marijuana is to regulate marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol. For more information, please visit http://MarijuanaPolicy.org.

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Press Release: Revelations of DEA Participation in San Diego Medical Marijuana Raids Raises Questions about White House Policy toward State Law

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 10, 2009 Contact: Margaret Dooley-Sammuli at (213) 291-4190 or Tommy McDonald at (510) 229 5215 Revelations of DEA Participation in San Diego Medical Marijuana Raids Raises Questions about White House Policy toward State Law Advocates Criticize Feds for Supporting Local Political Agenda, Not the Law SAN DIEGO – At a press conference today, San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis described how a number of San Diego medical marijuana dispensaries were raided by local and federal agents yesterday. Advocates condemned the raids and arrests of patients, and criticized federal involvement in a local political effort to restrict legal access to medical marijuana. “We’re extremely disappointed that the feds participated in this attack on patients. The priority of the White House should be protecting patients, not helping local officials enforce oppressive restrictions,” said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Any concerns that the District Attorney may have will not be resolved through SWAT-style tactics like pulling people from their wheelchairs, as we saw yesterday.” Medical marijuana was legalized in California in 1996, when voters approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act. San Diego County filed suit to try to overturn the state law in 2004; that effort came to an end in May when the US Supreme Court refused to hear the county’s final appeal. In August, the county enacted a 45-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas to so the county could develop land-use regulations. On Tuesday, the San Diego City Council voted 6-1 to establish a citizen’s taskforce to create regulations governing the supply of medical marijuana. According to San Diego’s Channel 10, the taskforce will devise “guidelines for medical marijuana patients and caregivers, the operation of dispensaries and growing cooperatives and the ground rules for police enforcement.” “The federal government has no business enforcing state and local medical marijuana laws. It’s our local governments’ job to regulate medical marijuana and enforce those rules – not with armed raids, but with civil actions,” said Ms. Dooley-Sammuli. “The Obama administration has allowed Ms. Dumanis to use federal resources to further obstruct implementation of Prop 215 as she prepares to run for re-election in 2010. The people of San Diego deserve better.” The involvement of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration in yesterday’s raids came as a surprise to some, because of statements by both President Obama and US Attorney General Eric Holder that suggested that the federal government would reduce its involvement in such enforcement actions in states where medical marijuana is legal. ###
Location: 
CA
United States

Marijuana: Arizona Supreme Court Rejects Religious Freedom Claim

Arizona's law protecting religious freedom does not apply to a man convicted of smoking marijuana while driving, the state Supreme Court ruled Monday. The ruling came in Arizona v. Hardesty.

In that case, Daniel Hardesty was arrested while driving in Yavapai County and charged with marijuana possession. At trial, he testified that he was a member of the Church of Cognizance, an Arizona-based religion that says it embraces neo-Zoroastrian tenets and uses marijuana for spiritual enlightenment. He argued that Arizona's 1999 law limiting the state's ability to "burden the exercise of religion" meant he could not be prosecuted because he was exercising his religious beliefs.

The trial judge disagreed, and Hardesty was convicted. He appealed to the state Supreme Court, and has now lost there, too. In a unanimous opinion, the justices held that while the state religious freedom law mandates restrictions on religious practices only if it shows a compelling interest and that the restrictions must be the "least restrictive means of furthering that interest," the state does have a compelling interest in regulating marijuana use and Hardesty's claim that the Church of Cognizance allows him to use marijuana anywhere or any time, including driving, made it clear that the "least restrictive means" was an outright ban on marijuana.

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, who authored the opinion, made a distinction between federal laws that allow Native American Church members to use peyote without fear of prosecution under state law and the religious freedom claim made by Hardesty. There was an "obvious difference" between the two situations, Berch said. "Members of the Native American Church assert only the religious right to use peyote in limited sacramental rights. Hardesty asserts the right to use marijuana whenever he pleases, including while driving," she wrote.

Monday's ruling was the second defeat in as many years for the church. Church founders Dan and Mary Quaintance were convicted of marijuana possession and conspiracy to distribute marijuana after being stopped with 172 pounds of pot in New Mexico. A federal judge in New Mexico rejected their religious freedom arguments. Dan Quaintance is currently serving a five year prison sentence, and Mary Quaintance is doing two to three years.

Europe: Dutch Government Wants "Members Only" Cannabis Coffee Shops

In a letter leaked to Dutch media, three key Dutch ministers wrote that the government wants to maintain the country's famous cannabis coffee shop system, but that it should be "members only" so the coffee shops will no longer attract foreign "drug tourists." The ministers of justice, home affairs, and health wrote that reducing drug tourism and reducing the number of coffee shops would help reduce crime and public nuisances associated with them.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/thebulldog.jpg
Bulldog coffee shop, Amsterdam (courtesy amsterdam.info)
Border town coffee shops in particular have been inundated with pot smokers from neighboring countries with more repressive policies, hordes of which have led to complaints of everything from traffic congestion to public urination to other drug dealing. The other criminality associated with the coffee shops comes from Holland's inconsistent policy of tolerating retail cannabis sales and possession while continuing to prohibit the licit growing of cannabis to supply those shops.

While the government was expected to issue a position paper on changing the coffee shop policy later this fall, Tuesday's leaked letter provides a clear indication of where the government is heading: toward "members only" coffee shops. While discriminating by nationality within the European Union would violate EU law, it appears the Dutch government will try to bar foreigners by requiring a Dutch bank card to purchase cannabis.

According to the letter, the ministers are also open to experimenting with allowing coffee shops to stock larger quantities of the herb. Currently, shops can keep only 500 grams on hand, resulting in a network of drug runners scurrying about Dutch cities and towns with fresh cannabis supplies.

The three party coalitions that make up the conservative national government have basic disagreements about coffee shop policy, with the Christian Democrats and allied parties wanting to dismantle the shops, but with the Labor Party in favor of keeping them. A more restrictive coffee shop policy in the near future, but leaving the shops open, is the most likely result.

Feature: Will Foster Back in Prison in Oklahoma, Supporters Mount Campaign to Free Him

Will Foster became a poster boy for drug law reform more than a decade ago, when he was sentenced by an Oklahoma court to a nightmarish 93 years in prison for growing marijuana plants to treat his rheumatoid arthritis. National publicity -- indirectly gained for Foster by StoptheDrugWar.org, publisher of this newsletter -- helped get his sentence reduced to 20 years, and in 2001, he was paroled to California. Now he is back in prison in Oklahoma, charged with violating the terms of his parole, and is likely to remain there until either 2011 or 2015 -- depending on whose interpretation of the state's arcane sentencing laws is followed.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/willfoster.jpg
Will Foster
Foster did well in California, sponsored in his parole by "Guru of Ganja" Ed Rosenthal. After three years on parole there, California parole officials deemed him rehabilitated and ended his parole. That didn't sit well with Oklahoma parole officials, who argued that under the interstate compact governing parole to other states, it was the state which had sentenced the parolee that should determine when he had discharged his sentence.

"Based on his discharge date, we requested that Foster be put back under supervision," said Milt Gilliam, administrator of Parole and Interstate Services for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. "California indicated they were finished, but we indicated to him that no, we dete\rmine the length of the sentence, as required by our state law."

Oklahoma issued a parole violation warrant for Foster, and, after an encounter with police in California -- he was cited for driving with an Oklahoma license -- he was jailed pending extradition back to Oklahoma. But Foster filed a writ of habeas corpus seeking his freedom in California and won.

"That warrant was thrown out," Gilliam recalled. "We didn't agree with the judge's decision, and our best option was still to get him under supervision, but we were not successful."

Oklahoma parole officials then notified Foster that they had changed his discharge date from 2011 to 2015 and demanded that he sign paperwork to that effect. He refused, and Oklahoma issued another parole violation warrant.

"We sent an explanation to Mr. Foster about the difference in discharge dates," said Gilliam, explaining that the later date was based on the fact that he had earned credits at a different rate than originally stated. But a moment later, Gilliam argued that 2015 had always been his discharge date. "My contention is that the 2011 date and the 2015 date were given to him from the beginning," he said.

"That is complete crap," retorted Foster's partner and primary supporter, Susie Mueller. "All of the original documents we have only mention 2011. This 2015 stuff only came up after they lost that habeas case. They said they made a mistake and they were taking away his good time credit, then they added the additional time. But every document we have says his discharge date is 2011. They went back in and added two fake charges, gave him 18 years, and set his discharge date for 2015, but that isn't in the original documents."

Foster's Oklahoma Department of Corrections offender page suggests that something funny is going on. It shows the four charges Foster was convicted of in 1997 with the latest discharge date of 2011. But a recent addition to the page lists two new counts of cultivation of a controlled substance with a discharge date of 2015. Oddly, though, unlike the four original counts, which show a conviction date of February 27, 1997, the two new counts show no conviction date.

"Before the Department of Corrections can treat a conviction as valid, they have to have a certified copy of the judgment of sentence," said Foster's Oklahoma attorney, Mike Arnett. Arnett declined to comment on the specifics of Foster's case until he could talk to Foster and get his approval.

Oklahoma got another crack at Foster last year, when he and Mueller were arrested by California police after an informant with a grudge against the pair told police Foster was engaged in illegal marijuana cultivation. But Foster was a registered medical marijuana patient, and his grow was within state and local guidelines. After letting Foster sit in the Sonoma County Jail for more than a year, local prosecutors dropped all charges against him and Mueller.

But Foster remained behind bars under the new Oklahoma parole violation warrant. A new writ of habeas corpus was unsuccessful, and late last month, Oklahoma officials arrived at the jail, shackled Foster in a van, and drove him back to Oklahoma. After sitting in the Tulsa County Jail for a week, Foster faced an preliminary hearing to revoke his parole on Tuesday and is now housed in the Oklahoma state prison system.

He will get an administrative hearing sometime in the next one to three months. If administrators revoke his parole, his case then goes to the governor's office. Under Oklahoma law, the governor ultimately decides whether or not to revoke parole.

Foster's supporters are working up a campaign to ask the governor and the parole board to either pardon Foster or commute his sentence. For more information on the campaign, go here.

Lynda Forrester, the parole officer handling Foster's case, declined to speak to the Chronicle. Instead, she referred reporters to the department's public information office, whose Kathy King did attempt to explain what was going on.

"The basis of Foster's parole revocation is that he violated city, state, or federal law, the use or possession of illicit substances, failure to report, and failure to follow the parole officer's directives," she said, reading from documents. "Police in California confiscated 184 marijuana plants, MDMA, and methamphetamine."

Although Foster and Mueller were never charged with possession of MDMA or meth and although the marijuana cultivation charges were dropped because Foster was operating within California's medical marijuana law, parole officials can still use that against him, King said. "That will be presented in revocation hearings," she said.

"The MDMA and meth stuff is a flat-out lie," said Mueller, suggesting strongly that any drugs found in the home -- if any really were -- were "throw-down" drugs placed there by the raiding officers. "We have never seen any MDMA or meth," she said. "We volunteered to take immediate drug tests, but they just laughed at us. There were arrest reports written by three different officers, and each report had the supposed drugs recovered from a different location. They do this to try to discredit the medical marijuana movement, to try to portray us as drug dealers."

When confronted by the discrepancy in release dates, King was unable to explain it. "The official record shows 2015," she said. "I can't answer questions about the stuff on the web site. I don't know where that information comes from."

Unlike Tuesday's preliminary parole revocation hearing, Foster and his attorney will have the opportunity to challenge the evidence and cross examine witnesses at his next hearing. They intend to make the most of it.

In the meantime, Foster remains behind bars, yet another victim of a justice system seemingly operating on petty vengeance and mindless reflex.

Medical Marijuana: More Than a Dozen Dispensaries Hit, 31 Arrested in Coordinated San Diego Police Raids

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/greenrxprotest.jpg
San Diego medical marijuana demo
One day after the San Diego City Council voted 6-1 to create a medical marijuana task force to help draft local laws governing dispensaries, local law enforcement agencies backed by the DEA Wednesday raided more than a dozen dispensaries in the city and its surroundings. For a complete list of the dispensaries raided, go here.

The raids were the result of an investigation led by San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, a long-time ardent foe of medical marijuana. At a Thursday news conference, Dumanis announced that 31 people had been arrested, $70,000 in cash seized, and 14 dispensaries shuttered.

Taking a page from the DEA's playbook, Dumanis attempted to portray the dispensaries as drug dealing operations, not medical providers. The raids have "nothing to do with legitimate medical marijuana patients or their caregivers," she said. Instead they were aimed at "so-called medical marijuana businesses that appear to be run by drug dealers."

Under California medical marijuana law, dispensaries are legal if they are organized as collectives and operate as nonprofit entities. San Diego has licensed nine dispensaries, but had an estimated 60 dispensaries -- at least until Wednesday's raids.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/donnalambert.jpg
San Diego patient activist Donna Lambert
It's not the first time Dumanis has gone after dispensaries. A series of raids in 2007 shut down a dozen dispensaries and led to prosecutions that are still underway.

Medical marijuana supporters were livid at both Dumanis and the Obama administration. "Not only does the federal government have no place helping to enforce state and local medical marijuana laws," said Americans for Safe Access California director Donald Duncan. "Local officials must regulate medical marijuana and enforce those laws with civil actions, not with the barrel of a gun. It is incumbent on District Attorney Dumanis to help pass local regulations in San Diego not to aggressively undermine safe access to medical marijuana," he said.

"We're extremely disappointed that the feds participated in this attack on patients. The priority of the White House should be protecting patients, not helping local officials enforce oppressive restrictions," said Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Any concerns that the District Attorney may have will not be resolved through SWAT-style tactics like pulling people from their wheelchairs, as we saw yesterday. The federal government has no business enforcing state and local medical marijuana laws. It's our local governments' job to regulate medical marijuana and enforce those rules -- not with armed raids, but with civil actions," said Dooley-Sammuli. "The Obama administration has allowed Ms. Dumanis to use federal resources to further obstruct implementation of Prop 215 as she prepares to run for reelection in 2010. The people of San Diego deserve better."

Look for a feature article on San Diego's continuing recalcitrance regarding medical marijuana next week.

New Book Offer: "Marijuana is Safer -- So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?"

Dear friend of drug law reform,

To kick off our autumn fundraising drive, we are pleased to offer an exciting new book written by three of our colleagues, "Marijuana is Safer -- So Why Are We Driving People to Drink?," as our latest membership premium. Donate $36 or more and we will send you a complimentary copy of "Marijuana is Safer" as our thanks.

"Marijuana is Safer" offers an engaging mix of history, science, medicine, media critique, and just plain straight talk about the history of alcohol and marijuana use in America, the differing attitudes toward the two drugs, the rise of marijuana prohibition, and the effects the two drugs have on users and society as a whole. "Marijuana is Safer" is a book you can hand to your mother or your teacher or your preacher, to help them see the inescapable conclusion that marijuana should be legalized.

Your support will come at an historic and critical moment. A moment when Congress is moving on a wide range of important reforms to drug policy. When the prohibition debate is reaching new heights. But when despite it all the new drug czar continues to talk nonsense like the old drug czar. I encourage you to join us today as we fight this important fight at this important time.

Our ability to bring drug war injustices to the attention of major media, to promote policy change in Congress, to reach millions of people online each year -- all of these are possible because of, and depend on, you.

We continue to offer our exciting new t-shirts that make the point about prohibition and the drug war. For a contribution of $36, you can choose either of our new StoptheDrugWar.org T-shirts pictured to the right — "Prohibition Doesn't Work" or "STOP" (click on images for an enlarged view). For a gift of $60 or more, you can receive both t-shirts. For a contribution of $90 or more, you can receive both shirts and "Marijuana is Safer" as our thanks, or substitute any item from the StoptheDrugWar.org inventory.

What you and I and our friends are doing together is working. We can't back off now. By taking advantage of the opportunity we have during this pro-reform climate, we can change minds, change laws and, most importantly, change good people's lives.

Thank you very much,

David Borden
Executive Director, StoptheDrugWar.org (DRCNet)

P.S. It's time to stop wasting time, money and good people's lives. Please join us in "Changing Minds, Laws & Lives" by adding your support to StoptheDrugWar.org while we have this unique opportunity. Thank you!

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