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Envoy: U.S. doing zilch on drug war

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
El Universal (Mexico)
URL: 
http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/miami/23911.html

Is This the Answer to Drug Use?

Location: 
Hackettstown, NJ
United States
Publication/Source: 
The New York Times
URL: 
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/25/nyregion/nyregionspecial2/25RDRUG.html

Drug Policy Forum of Kansas Update

Wakarusa Music Festival: Volunteers Needed KS Legislature: Meth Offender Registry Update ACLU Forum on Wakarusa Law Enforcement Past Issues Medical Marijuana: Two Federal Court Rulings Medical Marijuana: New Mexico Passes Legislation Next Volunteer Meeting March 24, 1 p.m. The Drug Policy Forum of Kansas is a 501(c)(3) organization. Donations are tax-deductible. Volunteers Needed for Wakarusa Music Festival DPFKS members interested in volunteering to work a few hours a day at the Wakarusa Music Festival, should send us an email (info@dpfks.org). The festival takes place June 7-10 at Clinton State Park outside of Lawrence. KS House Holds Hearing on SB 14: Meth Offender Registry SB 14 would create a registry on the KBI web site for people who have been released from prison for manufacturing methamphetamine. The registration would require a $20 fee every six months for life. Testifying in opposition to SB 14 were DPFKS along with KS Families Against Mandatory Minimums, a representative from the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the parents of a currently incarcerated meth offender. Read the testimony on our website and why this bill is a waste of taxpayer money that will not reduce drug use or illegal drug availability. Wakarusa '07 - Privacy Rights in Public Places; ACLU forum April 25 at 7pm at the Lawrence Library the Douglas County ACLU will present a panel discussion with Brett Shirk, Executive Director of the KS/WMO ACLU, Rick Frydman, attorney and Charles Branson, Douglas County DA, There will be a panel discussion and questions from the audience. Judge in Ed Rosenthal Throws Out Charges Due to Vindictive Prosecution Federal District Court Judge Charles Breyer ruled this week that author and medical marijuana activist Edward Rosenthal was vindictively prosecuted, and dismissed charges of tax evasion and money laundering. The remaining marijuana charges against Rosenthal are virtually identical to those pursued against him in his prior 2003 trial. With an admission in court by the U.S. Attorney that it would not seek additional punishment beyond the one-day sentence Rosenthal was given after being convicted at his first trial, the prosecution has little reason to proceed with the case. 9th Circuit Court Rules Against California Legal Medical Marijuana Patient The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected and appeal by Angel Raich (the California woman who was arrested by the DEA for using a small amount of marijuana recommended by her physician and legal under California law), ruling that there is no fundamental constitutional right to use marijuana for relief of pain and suffering. In a 3-0 ruling, Judge Harry Pregerson wrote, "We agree with Raich that medical and conventional wisdom that recognizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes is gaining traction in the law as well. But that legal recognition has not yet reached the point where a conclusion can be drawn that the right to use medical marijuana is "fundamental" and "implicit in the concept of ordered liberty." The court also rejected Raich's contention that the 10th Amendment protected her right to use medical marijuana. New Mexico Poised to Become 12th State to Fully Protect Medical Marijuana Patients From DRCNet: First it passed the Senate and died in the House. Then, at the urging of Gov. Bill Richardson, New Mexico's Senate folded medical marijuana into a related bill to permit topical use. This week the bill passed the House 36-31. It must return to the Senate for consideration of a minor change that occured in the House, but given strong support there and the assurance of the Governor's signature, I believe it's safe to say we're looking at our 12th medical marijuana state. Richardson's willingness to stand up for patients at this time speaks volumes to the growing political viability of medical marijuana policy reform. The Boston Globe looks at the political implications of Richardson's stance on medical marijuana and concludes that it's not a big deal. Next Volunteer Meeting Saturday, March 24, 1 p.m. at the DPFKS offices -- 941 Kentucky Street, Lawrence, KS 785-841-8278 for more information.
Location: 
KS
United States

ASA Press Release: Federal Judge Rules Medical Marijuana Patient Vindictively Prosecuted

AMERICANS FOR SAFE ACCESS MEDIA RELEASE: Wednesday, March 14, 2007 Federal Judge Rules Medical Marijuana Patient Vindictively Prosecuted Charges of tax evasion and money laundering against Ed Rosenthal are dismissed *San Francisco* -- Federal District Court Judge Charles Breyer ruled today that author and medical marijuana activist Edward Rosenthal was vindictively prosecuted, and dismissed charges of tax evasion and money laundering. The remaining marijuana charges against Rosenthal are virtually identical to those pursued against him in his prior 2003 trial. With an admission in court by the U.S. Attorney that it would not seek additional punishment beyond the one-day sentence Rosenthal was given after being convicted at his first trial, the prosecution has little reason to proceed with the case. "We are gratified that the court has recognized the vindictive nature of this prosecution and has reigned in the prosecutor," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel for Americans for Safe Access, and author of the successful vindictive prosecution motion. "The additional charges brought against Rosenthal were clearly in retaliation for his criticism of the government. Taxpayer dollars should not be wasted on a vendetta carried out by a prosecutor against a defendant." Judge Breyer's ruling follows a hearing last week in which the court ordered the government to produce all prosecutorial memoranda explaining the reason for a second prosecution of Rosenthal. The order is the result of a motion to dismiss based on vindictive prosecution filed by Americans for Safe Access and other attorneys with Rosenthal's legal team. The substance of the brief was that the government was retaliating against Rosenthal for his successful appeal and his statements to the press that his first trial was unfair. In his ruling, Judge Breyer asserted that "the government's deeds--and words--create the perception that it added the new charges to make Rosenthal look like a common criminal and thus dissipate the criticism heaped on the government after the first trial," because he criticized the government. "The government was clearly out of line to bring this case forward against me," said Rosenthal. "The court's ruling is reassuring, but my continued prosecution on the marijuana charges is still malicious. To make me and my family go through a second prosecution to obtain, at most, a one-day time served jail sentence seems personally motivated." Rosenthal was recently re-indicted after his 2003 conviction was overturned in April 2006 by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. After finding out that medical marijuana evidence had been excluded from the 2003 trial, a majority of the jurors that convicted Rosenthal recanted their verdict. Due at least in part to public outcry, Rosenthal was sentenced to one day in jail. The government was relying on the new charges of tax evasion and money laundering to justify the second prosecution of Rosenthal. The court has now confirmed that Rosenthal's continued prosecution is suspect. "It is a monumental day for justice that the court has recognized the vindictive nature of this prosecution and has dismissed all allegations of financial misconduct," said attorney Robert Amparán, from Rosenthal's legal team. "We feel strongly that the vindictiveness of this prosecution will spill over from the dismissed charges onto the remaining medical marijuana charges and that the jury will ultimately vindicate Mr. Rosenthal." The defense team for Rosenthal includes the following attorneys: Robert Amparán, Shari Greenberger, and Omar Figueroa, with Joe Elford acting as co-counsel for the specific purpose of authoring and arguing the motion to dismiss based on vindictive prosecution. Assistant U.S. Attorney George Bevan stated earlier in a remarkably candid admission that the reason for this second prosecution of Rosenthal is a direct response to "the specific comments that Rosenthal and others made." The prosecutor further admitted in a recent legal filing that it sought out and held its new evidence in abeyance, so it "would be in a position to charge Rosenthal with [additional charges] if the Ninth Circuit reversed his conviction." At Rosenthal's first appearance on new charges, in October 2006, the court remarked, in reference to public comments by the defendant at the time of his 2003 conviction: "[Rosenthal] can say whatever he wants to about the prosecution, and he can say whatever he wants to about the judge. That is his constitutional right." U.S. District Court Ruling on Vindictive Prosecution: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Rosenthal_VP_Ruling.pdf Vindictive prosecution motion: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Rosenthal_Vindictive_Prosecution.pdf Government's opposition: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Rosenthal_Opposition.pdf Rosenthal's reply: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Rosenthal_Reply.pdf For more information on Ed Rosenthal's cases: http://safeaccessnow.org/EdRosenthal
Location: 
CA
United States

America's Forgotten War?

Location: 
Washington, DC
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Washington Post
URL: 
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/23/AR2007032300590.html

Bong Hits 4 Ever

The Washington Post has an important point:

WHAT IS a bong hit 4 Jesus? We're not sure, and we doubt anyone really knows what the phrase means -- which is one reason the Supreme Court ought not to regard it as prohibited speech.

It's true. Prohibiting something you don't understand is the height of ignorance. All attempts to interpret the statement can be dismissed as the desperate fulminations of confused people who demand arbitrary authority to shield themselves from future confusion.

Now that it's been immortalized by the very people who find it objectionable, bong-hits-for-Jesus will probably be with us for quite some time. In the interest of preventing subsequent misunderstandings, I propose that we decide what it means. I vote that we use bong-hits-for-Jesus as a dissmissive retort to anything that doesn’t make sense. For example, if someone's carrying on about something you disagree with or don't understand, you'd reply "bong-hits-for-Jesus, dude."

If we succeed in making BH4J the next WWJD, the censors will surely come to regret ever complaining about it in the first place.

Location: 
United States

Snitching For The DEA Isn't As Fun As It Sounds

Juan Medina has an IQ of 77. Suffice to say he ain't no rocket scientist. Medina's limited mental capacity precludes many potential employment opportunities, but it was good enough for the DEA, which made him a secret agent. It didn't work out very well.

From The New York Times:

Mr. Medina, who had no previous criminal record, said he became involved with the D.E.A. in the fall of 2004, a few months after his father was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison on drug conspiracy charges. He said he was told that if he helped the agency, his father might win an early release.
...
Mr. Medina said he signed a contract even though he told agents he knew little about his father’s criminal associates.

Despite his limitations and the "unremarkable life" he'd led, Medina managed to infiltrate a gang of drug dealers in Brooklyn. Things took a turn for the worse when Medina's criminal associates took him along on a robbery. He claims to have notified DEA of their plans and even waited around for police after the heist went down. To his surprise, no one at DEA would corroborate his story.

The D.E.A. has acknowledged that Mr. Medina, 24, was under contract as an informant. But the agency has not come to his aid, and is, in fact, helping prosecute him on charges of burglary, robbery and criminal possession of a weapon stemming from the robbery at a Bronx apartment. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Whether or not the DEA knew about the robbery, as Medina claims, they bear full responsibility for his actions. They took a man with a limited mental capacity, exploited his love for his father, and sent him on dangerous missions. Their assistance in his prosecution is a rather transparent attempt to cover up their mistake.

This is a perfect example of the reckless abandon with which the DEA operates. Their insatiable greed compels them to create crime and confiscate the proceeds. Sadly, innocent people like Juan Medina are the easiest prey.

Location: 
United States

Feature: Prison Rape and the War on Drugs

Sexual assaults on prisoners is an endemic problem in America, not an isolated one, the war on drugs is making the problem worse, and drug war prisoners are among those most likely to be victimized, according to a report released Thursday. The report, "Stories from Inside: Prisoner Rape and the War on Drugs," by the human rights group Stop Prisoner Rape, calls prisoner rape "a human rights crisis of appalling magnitude."

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/spr-report-cover.gif
SPR report cover
Hard numbers are hard to come up with for a crime in which humiliation, stigma, the fear of retaliation -- and perhaps officials' fear of embarrassment or lawsuits -- inhibits reporting, but according to preliminary reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which is setting up a nationwide, anonymous reporting system, 4% of prisoners reported being sexually assaulted within the last year. According to survey research cited in the report, as many as 20% of male prisoners and 25% of female prisoners have been victims of sexual assault in jail or prison. With a jail and prison population now nearing 2.3 million, the number of victims could be in the hundreds of thousands.

For male prisoners, the most common pattern is sexual assault by other male prisoners. For female prisoners, it is most often sexual assault by guards or other prison staff.

Even the reported numbers may be low, according to some experts. Dr. Terry Kupers, a psychiatrist specializing in mental health in prison and especially the mental health of prisoners who have been sexually assaulted, told Drug War Chronicle the numbers may be much higher.

"My estimate is that it is much more widespread than the statistics show," said Kupers, who has published frequently on prison rape and testified as an expert witness on behalf of prison rape victims. "I think the 20% figure is low for a couple of reasons. First, people don't report because they're afraid of the stigma. Men feel it is unmanly and won't admit it. There is also the fear of retaliation in prison, whether from staff or other prisoners. Secondly, a lot of sexual activity is not defined as rape by the participants. A young and fair male enters prison and is told by an older prisoner 'I'm going to have sex with you, and if you agree I won't beat you up and I'll protect you from other prisoners.' The young man agrees and becomes a 'willing' partner, but it's rape, it's coerced out of fear. These guys might say they're not being raped, but they are."

What happened to Chance Martin in 1973 was not pretty, but not unusual. The university-bound Indiana youth was arrested at a hotel party after another guest dropped a piece of hashish in the lobby and thrown into the Lake County Jail in Crown Point. There, he was attacked and sexually assaulted by six other inmates in an unmonitored group cell.

"'General pop' was a large cage holding about 40 men," he recounted in the report. "It was the dead of the night when I got there. My cellmates were all awaiting trial or serving county sentences. One was a blond man with a mustache whose face was beaten to a pulp -- and who kept strictly to himself. Finding me sitting hopelessly on my bunk, a trustee insisted that I join a card game to 'cheer me up.' The game only lasted three hands. It then became a demand for sex. Threats were made pointing out the example of the cellie with the battered face.

"Driving their point home, four other trustees jammed my ribs with broomsticks and mop handles. I tried to call for help. Repeatedly I had my breath beat from my lungs. Curled up on the floor, my arms protected my head. Dark memories recall being dragged to a bunk obscured by army blankets at the farthest end of the cell from the turnkey's office. One guy said, 'Now you have to give me head.' I had never even heard the term before. The scariest part was I lacked the first clue what was going to go down until it already happened. I'm glad that there were only six guys. Six is only the best of my recollection. It might have been more. I don't recall their faces, except a couple. I didn't even see most of their faces.

"There was near-zero supervision in that jail. No guard had line of sight into that cell. The guards' office was at the end of a hallway at the cellblock's end, and their TV was blaring 24/7."

From jail, Martin enlisted in the armed forces and went to Vietnam as part of a plea bargain to avoid any further time behind bars. There, he began drinking heavily and using drugs, a pattern he kept up back in the States. He suffered emotional problems and blew through three marriages. Now, he's a social justice activist in San Francisco who works in a law office by day and manages at low-income high-rise at night.

"It's been a long time and I don't get nightmares about it anymore, but I can still get panicky and I tend to fall into not trusting people," Martin told Drug War Chronicle. "I'm suspicious of hidden agendas when people are being nice. I can't form concrete interpersonal relationships. I'm not a complete basket case, but it's something that's always there," he said.

While Martin confided in friends about his rape, he didn't come out publicly until he found himself trying to explain to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter interviewing him about his homeless activism why he had ended up joining the military during Vietnam. "One of the Stop Prisoner Rape people read that and contacted me, and before you know it, I'm a survivor advocate," he laughed. "You try to create something good even out of a negative experience. This is going on every day, and I'm doing anything I can do to stop it from happening to the next person."

As a San Francisco resident, Martin is now a card-carrying medical marijuana user. "I knew when I got here I had been waiting my whole life for a place like this," he said. "I wasn't a criminal when I was smoking hash in high school and I'm not a criminal now. But for the sake of the drug war, I had my most basic human rights stripped away and was subjected to a brutal assault that left me with issues that lasted for years."

New York City resident Michael Piper wasn't raped, but was violently attacked fending off a failed attempt in jail in Tempe, Arizona, in 1974, after he was arrested for possession of a roach. The attack left him with serious head injuries, and a commitment to work for change. "My life has been challenging in many ways, and that attack was part of experiencing life for what it is," he told the Chronicle. "It's part of my motivation for speaking out. But I don't like the victim role; I don't play that," he said. "That attack increased my resilience."

It also hardened his attitude about the drug war. "Drug use is a personal choice," he said, extolling the virtues of various plants. "When we recognize we are not victims of drugs and they are not something we have to be protected from, then we can alter our environment and take responsibility for the way we live. It's a violation of natural law when a government says I can't interact with a seed that's a gift from the Creator."

Marilyn Shirley was sent to federal prison in 1998 on methamphetamine charges after a customer of her and her husband's auto repair business attempted to pay his bill with the drug. She was raped by a prison guard. In a rare turn of events, she was able to see him jailed after she kept the sweat pants she was wearing hidden in her cell for seven months.

"I didn't tell anyone at the prison except my welding boss, and I swore her to secrecy," Shirley told the Chronicle. "I didn't feel like I could trust any of them. But five minutes after I was released, I walked into the prison camp administration office and said 'Am I free?' and the lady said 'yes' and I handed her the sweat pants with his DNA on them. They called the FBI immediately and now he's doing 12 years himself."

Even with her tormentor now behind bars, it's not easy for Shirley. "I get severe panic attacks, I have to see two psychiatrists, I'm on five different kinds of medication," she said.

As with Martin and Piper, Shirley's experience has led her to speak out. "You can't just keep it bottled up inside you; it'll kill you," she said. "I spoke out because I feel like it might give other people confidence if I did. Something has to change. It's so easy to end up in prison; nowadays, it doesn't hardly take anything. It could be your wife, your kids, your mother."

"We hear stories like these from survivors from across the country on a daily basis," said Lovisa Stannow, co-executive director of Stop Prisoner Rape. "It's the most widespread and neglected human rights crisis in the country, and it's alarming on many levels," she told the Chronicle. "Prison rape is a form of torture, a human rights violation. No one should have to endure that as part of their sentence. It's also well-known that prisoners who are sexually abused suffer for years or decades from that trauma. We talk to people all the time who years later are still unable to function."

"They suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder," said Dr. Kupers. "There is an unofficial term we use, rape response syndrome. The effects of rape or sex abuse can last a life-time and be very serious and cause a lot of grief. Like in the Vietnam War, there is a lot of drinking and pot smoking, and we don't know how much of it is self-medicating. There are a lot of people affected who don't realize it," he said.

It is worse in prison, he said. "One of the things that makes it so severe for prisoners is the captivity. If you are raped, you try to do things to make yourself safe, you move away or you change houses, but when you're in prison, you can't do that. At worst, you are held in sexual captivity, where you are made into another prisoner's woman or punk, a repetitive hell of sexual abuse."

"We chose to highlight the role of the drug war in this because we felt the link hadn't been made," said Stop Prisoner Rape's Stannow. "Because of the war on drugs, we have seen a very dramatic swelling of the prison population, with half a million incarcerated on drug charges and hundreds of thousands more for drug-related offenses. The prisons are overcrowded, and that sets the stage for sexual violence. And a lot of nonviolent drug offenders fit the profile of inmates targeted for sexual violence -- young, nonviolent, inexperienced when it comes to prison life -- and are very much in danger."

It doesn't have to be that way. Changes can and should be made both in institutional policies within the prisons and in the US approach to drug policy in general, said Stannow.

"Sexual violence in prison is largely a management problem. In a well-run prison, you don't have rampant sexual violence," she pointed out. "One thing that needs to be done immediately is to make sure our prisons and jails are safe, so inmates don't get assaulted. Corrections officials can do this with proper classification and housing, and by taking immediate action when someone has been assaulted. They can also ensure that abused inmates receive counseling and access to medical care. There is a lot that can be done at the institutional level," she said.

Changing policies inside prisons is critical, Stannow argued. "We receive hundreds of letters a year from survivors, and one in four comes from Texas," she said. "On the other hand, some places, like the San Francisco County Jail, have very good policies in place to address prisoner rape and sexual violence. There are vast differences between prisons and prison systems across the country, and we are concerned about states where we receive a very large number of complaints," she said.

"But we also need to reduce the incarceration rate for people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses," Stannow continued. "We need to take treatment and diversion programs seriously and not automatically send everyone to prison."

Feature: "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" Free Speech Case Goes to the Supreme Court

The United States Supreme Court Monday heard oral arguments in a case that will determine how much free speech public school students are allowed. On one side is the Juneau, Alaska, school district, national school board associations, former special prosecutor Kenneth Starr and the US government. On the other side is former Juneau student Joseph Frederick, the ACLU, the drug reform organization Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and a variety of liberal and conservative organizations concerned about restricting the rights of students to voice opinions at odds with school policies.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/bong-hits-4-jesus-demonstrators-2.jpg
student demonstrators at Supreme Court
Back in 2002, the Juneau high school let students out of school to watch an Olympic parade pass by. Frederick led a group of students who hoisted a large, nonsensical banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" as the parade passed by. School Principal Deborah Morse tore down the banner and suspended Frederick for 10 days, saying that the banner violated the school's anti-drug policy. Frederick sued, arguing the school's decision violated his First Amendment rights and seeking monetary damages from Morse. He lost in US district court but won on appeal in the US 9th Circuit. With pro bono assistance from Starr, the school district appealed to the Supreme Court.

While on the surface, the case is about a silly banner that may or may not have promoted drug use, it cuts to the heart of the ongoing dispute over the extent of student free speech rights in schools. The high court ruled in a 1969 case, Tinker v. Des Moines School District, that students wearing black arm bands to protest the Vietnam War were protected by the First Amendment, but two later cases have carved out limited exceptions. The current case, Frederick v. Morse, will determine whether the high court is willing to carve out a drug war exception as well.

SSDP was among a number of groups that filed friend of the court briefs supporting Frederick. In a curious alliance that transcended the normal left-right distinction in American politics, those groups included the ACLU and the gay rights Lambda Legal Defense Fund, as well as conservative groups backing religious freedom, such as the Rutherford Institute and the Alliance Defense Fund, who worried that schools would attempt to crack down on religious free speech.

"This is an extremely important case," said SSDP executive director Kris Krane. "What the government and the school district are arguing for is the right of school administrators to punish students who say anything that may be interpreted as expressing a positive sentiment about drugs," he told Drug War Chronicle. "If a student writes a paper about grandma using medical marijuana to successfully ease her pain, that student could be punished. If students were to talk about how random school drug testing policies are ineffective or to question the effectiveness of DARE, they could be punished for that speech."

Oral arguments Monday were lively, with justices subjecting both Starr and Frederick's attorney, Douglas Mertz, to tough questioning. Starr argued that public schools should be able to ban signs, buttons, or speech that conflicts with their anti-drug policies. "Illegal drugs and the glorification of the drug culture are profoundly serious problems for our nation," Starr said as he argued that Frederick's message promoted drugs and was "utterly inconsistent" with the basic educational mission of the school.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/the-censors.jpg
the censors
That provoked Chief Justice John Roberts to worry about how far such an argument could be carried. "The problem is that school boards these days take it upon themselves to broaden their mission well beyond illegal substances," he said.

But on the whole, it appeared Roberts was sympathetic to Starr's argument. "Why is it that the classroom ought to be a forum for political debate simply because the students want to put that on their agenda?" he asked Starr.

With the question coming just after Starr conceded that Tinker "articulates a baseline of political speech" that students have a right to engage in, Roberts' question suggested the chief justice thought Tinker went too far. "Presumably, the teacher's agenda is a little bit different and includes things like teaching Shakespeare or the Pythagorean theorem," he said, adding that "just because political speech is on the student's agenda, I'm not sure that it makes sense to read Tinker so broadly as to include protection of that speech."

Justice Joseph Alito, on the other hand, seemed much more skeptical of the government's case. When deputy solicitor general Edwin Kneedler argued that a school "does not have to tolerate a message that is inconsistent" with its educational mission, Alito objected.

"I find that a very, very disturbing argument," Alito responded, "because schools have defined their educational mission so broadly that they can suppress all sorts of political speech and speech expressing fundamental values of the students under the banner of getting rid of speech that's inconsistent with educational missions."

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/bong-hits-4-jesus-press-conference-5.jpg
Mary Beth Tinker of Tinker v. Des Moines fame
Starr attempted to address such concerns by arguing for a drug exception to the First Amendment. "The court does not need to go more broadly" than the drug issue, he said. Starr also argued that the banner was "disruptive" of the school's mission. Under the Tinker precedent, speech that is disruptive can be restricted.

But Justice David Souter questioned Starr's argument. "I can understand if they unfurled the banner in a classroom that it would be disruptive," Souter said, "but what did it disrupt on the sidewalk?... It sounds like just a kid's provocative statement to me."

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is often a swing vote on the high court, showed much more sympathy for schools' efforts to counter drug use, arguing that Frederick's banner was disruptive. "It was completely disruptive of the message the school wanted to promote and completely disruptive of the school's image that they wanted to portray in sponsoring the Olympics," he said.

When his turn came, Frederick's attorney Douglas Mertz argued that the case is much broader than drugs. "This is a case about free speech. It is not a case about drugs," he said.

"It's a case about money," Chief Justice Roberts interrupted, making reference to school principal Morse's personal liability for monetary damages.

Justice Antonin Scalia sneered at Mertz's argument. "This is a very, very -- with all due respect -- ridiculous line. Where do you get that line from?" For Scalia, even Starr's argument that schools can suppress speech contrary to their educational missions didn't go far enough. "Any school," he proposed, "can suppress speech that advocates violation of the law."

Not all the action at the Supreme Court Monday went on inside. SSDP led a demonstration by students and supporters outside the court that was shown on every cable news network and almost every major newspaper in the country that covered the story -- and most did -- ran photos of the protesters with their stories.

"We flew in high school students from around the country, including two from South Dakota who had been suspended for wearing t-shirts supporting last year's medical marijuana initiatives, in order to demonstrate support for student free speech rights concerning drug policy issues," said SSDP's Krane. "In addition to these students and our local contacts, a number of high schoolers visiting the Supreme Court on field trips joined in the demonstration with us," Krane added.

"We were trying to move the focus from the silly 'Bong Hits' banner to this being a free speech issue," said SSDP's Krane. "We made a large banner that said 'Free Speech 4 Students' and we had students holding up posters saying the same thing. To the extent that the media focused on us, we succeeded better than we had ever imagined."

Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and a member of SSDP's board of directors, told the San Francisco Chronicle's Debra Saunders in a column published Tuesday he believed the Court would "both uphold and reverse" the Ninth Circuit ruling by finding that the suspension violated Frederick's rights but that Morse could not be held personally liable.

An opinion in the case is expected in June.

(Visit our post-rally blog post to see more pictures from the event.)

Border Patrol Agent Gets Caught Stealing Marijuana

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
KOLD News 13 (AZ)
URL: 
http://www.kold.com/Global/story.asp?S=6262610&nav=menu86_2

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