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Millions More for a Failed Anti-Drug Propaganda Campaign? Ridiculous!

Location: 
United States
Publication/Source: 
AlterNet (CA)
URL: 
http://www.alternet.org/drugreporter/49231/

Black guard sues over drug searches

Location: 
PA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
URL: 
http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/tribunereview/news/fayette/s_498084.html

Drug War Chronicle Book Review: "Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy," by Matthew Robinson and Renee Scherlen (2007, State University of New York Press, 268 pp., $27)

(We reprint our widely-read book review of three weeks ago. Please click here to order a copy through our latest membership offer.)

There is probably not a single drug reformer alive who, at some point, has not sputtered into his coffee cup upon hearing some inane pronouncement from drug czar John Walters. We know what he is saying is wrong and unjustifiable. Sometimes we even go to the effort of thoroughly debunking one of his outrageous claims. It's not that hard to do, really, but up until now, no one had thoroughly deconstructed the claims made by the Office of National Drug Control Strategy (ONDCP, the drug czar's office), testing them against the norms of science and reason.

That has changed with the recent publication of "Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics," by Appalachian State University Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Matthew Robinson and Associate Professor of Political Science Renee Scherlen. Since the annual National Drug Control Strategy reports put out by ONDCP form the basis for crafting federal drug policy, this pair of professors decided to systematically put to the test the claims made by ONDCP as a foundation for those policies.

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ONDCP misrepresents 'Just Say No' connection, 2003 strategy (graphic appears courtesy Prof. Robinson)
Every federal bureaucracy has to justify its budget, and it does so by setting goals and demonstrating how well it has or has not met those goals. But, as Robinson and Scherlen so admirably demonstrate with example after example of the misleading use of statistics and visual graphics, ONDCP is, in many, many ways, distorting reality to paint a rosier picture of its "successes" in waging the war on drugs. They do so in a calm, deliberate, and understated manner rather than engaging in a partisan attack on a set of policies they clearly feel are a disaster.

In order to gauge the accuracy of ONDCP pronouncements, the authors look at three broad sets of claims made by ONDCP: Claims of success in reducing drug use, claims of success in "healing" America's drug users, and claims of success in disrupting drug markets. Robinson and Scherlen examine the annual National Drug Strategy reports beginning in 2000 and extending through 2005 to look at what ONDCP says it is accomplishing in these three broad areas. These three categories describe what it is ONDCP is supposed to be achieving, but, as the authors so comprehensively illustrate, ONDCP is all too ready to resort to deceptive and misleading information.

Let's take claims of success in reducing drug use, for instance. In the 2001 National Drug Strategy, ONDCP produces a chart that shows a dramatic downward trend in teen drug use in the mid-1980s before remaining essentially stable throughout the 1990s. But since ONDCP and its mandate didn't exist before 1988, the chart is misleading. What it really shows is that throughout ONDCP's tenure, it has failed in its stated goal of reducing teen drug use.

Similarly, in the 2003 National Drug Strategy, in an effort to justify its prevention campaigns, ONDCP sought to show that Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign was effective in reducing teen drug use. But to do so, ONDCP relied solely on data involving 18-to-25-year-olds. Since the "Just Say No" campaign was aimed at kids, using data about young adults is "a selective and inappropriate use of statistics," as Robinson and Scherlen so gently put it.

ONCDP also has the curious habit of mentioning "successes" in one year, but failing to revisit them in following years when the numbers don't back them up. In 2000 and 2001, for example, ONDCP crowed about declining marijuana use, even though national drug surveys failed to back it up except in selective categories. But in the annual reports from 2002 to 2005, with marijuana use remaining steady, ONDCP doesn't make any specific claims regarding rates of marijuana use, nor does it provide easily accessible charts or figures. As Robinson and Scherlen note, "Indeed, it appears ONDCP ignores statistics that point to outcomes counter to the drug war."

Robinson and Scherlen go on to systematically dissect ONDCP claims about reducing drug use, "healing" drug users, and disrupting drug markets. Sometimes, they even find that the claims are justified, but this is rarely the case. What the authors repeatedly demonstrate is that ONDCP is unable or unwilling to accurately report its failures to achieve its goals and is willing and able to resort to statistical chicanery to cover up those failures.

In the final two chapters of the book, Robinson and Scherlen attempt a fair assessment of the drug war and ONDCP's ability to meet its self-imposed drug war goals, and offer a series of recommendations for what a more rational drug policy might look like. For one thing, the authors suggest, ONDCP ought to be either terminated or removed from the White House. For an accurate rendition of the numbers regarding drug use, they must be removed from the hothouse political atmosphere of the White House. Currently, the authors argue, ONDCP acts as a "generator and defender of a given ideology in the drug war."

"Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics" is surprisingly easy to read, and Robinson and Scherlen have done a huge favor not only to critics of current drug policy by compiling this damning critique of ONDCP claims, but also to anyone interested in how data is compiled, presented, and misused by bureaucrats attempting to guard their domains. It should be required reading for members of Congress, though, sadly, that is unlikely to happen.

Book Offer: Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics

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Normally when we publish a book review in Drug War Chronicle newsletter, it gets readers but is not among the top stories visited on the site. Recently we saw a big exception to that rule when more than 1,400 of you read our review of the new book Lies, Damned Lies, and Drug War Statistics: A Critical Analysis of Claims Made by the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Much of this reading took place during a week that had other very popular articles as well, so clearly the topic of this book, which was authored by respected academics Matthew Robinson and Renee Scherlen, has struck a chord. As well it should.

Please help DRCNet continue our own work of debunking drug war lies with a generous donation. If your donation is $32 or more, we'll send you a complimentary copy of Robinson and Scherlen's book to help you be able to debunk drug war lies too.

Over the coming weeks I will be blogging on our web site about things I've learned reading Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug War Statistics. Stay tuned!

Your donation will help DRCNet as we advance what we think is an incredible two-year plan to substantially advance drug policy reform and the cause of ending prohibition globally and in the US. Please make a generous donation today to help the cause! I know you will feel the money was well spent after you see what DRCNet has in store. Our online donation form lets you donate by credit card, by PayPal, or to print out a form to send with your check or money order by mail. Please note that contributions to the Drug Reform Coordination Network, our lobbying entity, are not tax-deductible. Tax-deductible donations can be made to DRCNet Foundation, our educational wing. (Choosing a gift like Lies, Damn Lies, and Drug Statistics will reduce the portion of your donation that you can deduct by the retail cost of the item.) Both groups receive member mail at: DRCNet, P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036.

Thank you for your support, and hope to hear from you soon.

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David Borden
Executive Director

P.S. You can read Chronicle editor Phil Smith's review of the book here.

Supreme Court: “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” Case Rally

Dozens of high school students with signs and banners will hold a free speech rally outside the Supreme Court as justices hear oral arguments in Morse v. Frederick. If the government has its way, the ruling in the case could allow school administrators to punish students just for questioning the effectiveness of the D.A.R.E. program, the humiliation of school drug testing policies, or the invasiveness of random locker searches. The case focuses on Joseph Frederick, who was suspended in 2002 from a high school in Alaska after holding up a “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner during a school trip to see the Olympic torch parade pass by. This rally, organized by Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), will feature two students who had political campaign t-shirts advocating medical marijuana confiscated by school officials, as well as students prevented from starting an SSDP chapter at their public high school because their principal didn’t agree with the group’s anti-drug war message. The students will display a large “Free Speech 4 Students” banner on the steps of the Court. * Links to the organizations’ amicus briefs can be found online at www.ssdp.org/freespeech/ and www.drugpolicy.org/news/freespeech.cfm *
Date: 
Mon, 03/19/2007 - 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Location: 
E Capitol St. NE and 1st St. NE
Washington, DC 20001
United States

Medical Marijuana: Federal Appeals Court Rules Angel Raich Can Be Prosecuted, Even If Only Marijuana Keeps Her Alive

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals Wednesday ruled that Angel Raich, an Oakland woman whose doctor says marijuana is keeping her alive, can still be prosecuted on federal drug charges. Raich and her attorneys had argued that the desperately ill have the right to use marijuana to keep themselves alive when all other drugs fail.

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Angel Raich, May 2005
Raich is the woman who went all the way to the Supreme Court seeking protection for medical marijuana patients in states where it is legal. But she lost in a 2005 decision when the court held that patients and their providers could indeed be prosecuted under federal law even if their states had legalized it.

Raich suffers from a brain tumor, scoliosis, chronic nausea, and a number of other medical conditions. She uses marijuana every couple of hours to gain appetite and suppress pain on her doctor's recommendation.

The ruling does not mean Raich will be prosecuted. She filed the lawsuit preemptively, in an effort to avoid any possible future arrest. Because Raich's doctors believe medical marijuana is essential to her survival, she argued that for the government to deprive her of her medicine would violate the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, which states that no person may be "deprived of life... without due process of law."

But in its opinion this week the three-judge appeals court panel ruled that the United States is not yet at the point where "the right to use medical marijuana is 'fundamental' and 'implicit in the concept of ordered liberty.'" The court did suggest, however, that if Raich were ever arrested, she could seek to mount a "medical necessity" defense.

"The court has just sentenced me to death," Angel Raich said in a written statement. "My doctors agree that medical cannabis is essential to my very survival, and the government did not even contest the medical evidence. Every American should be frightened by this ruling. If we don't have a right to live, what do we have left?"

"Today's decision marks a disappointing setback for rational medical policy as well as fundamental constitutional rights in America," said Robert Raich, attorney for the plaintiff. "We may ask the Supreme Court to review the case, and may ask the district court to review issues that the Ninth Circuit left unresolved."

"Today's ruling is shocking, but it's not the end of the struggle," said Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. "Last June, legislation to end the federal government's war on medical marijuana in the 11 states where medical marijuana is legal received a record number of votes in the US House of Representatives, and support has grown this year. This is literally a matter of life and death for Angel and thousands of other patients, and we will keep fighting on both the legal and political fronts until every patient is safe."

SSDP/DPA Press Release: Supreme Court Could Silence Student Political Speech in “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” Case

NEWS ADVISORY: March 14, 2007 CONTACT: Tom Angell, SSDP, tel: 202-293-4414 (office), 202-557-4979 (cell) or tom@ssdp.org, or Tony Newman, DPA, tel: 646-335-5384 or tnewman@drugpolicy.org Supreme Court Could Silence Student Political Speech in “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” Case Student Drug Policy Activists to Rally Outside Court WASHINGTON, DC – Dozens of high school students with signs and banners will hold a free speech rally outside the Supreme Court on Monday as justices hear oral arguments in Morse v. Frederick. If the government has its way, the ruling in the case could allow school administrators to punish students just for questioning the effectiveness of the D.A.R.E. program, the humiliation of school drug testing policies, or the invasiveness of random locker searches. The case focuses on Joseph Frederick, who was suspended in 2002 from a high school in Alaska after holding up a “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” banner during a school trip to see the Olympic torch parade pass by. This Monday’s rally, organized by Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) and the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), will feature two students who had political campaign t-shirts advocating medical marijuana confiscated by school officials, as well as students prevented from starting an SSDP chapter at their public high school because their principal didn’t agree with the group’s anti-drug war message. The students will display a large “Free Speech 4 Students” banner on the steps of the Court. WHO: Student activists, free speech advocates, drug policy reform advocates WHAT: Rally supporting students’ 1st Amendment right to criticize ineffective drug policies WHEN: Monday, March 19, 2007 @ 11:00 AM (immediately following end of oral arguments) WHERE: U.S. Supreme Court steps; E Capitol St. NE and 1st St. NE; Washington, DC 20001 “This case focuses on one student’s absurd banner, but if the Court accepts the school’s argument, free speech will be silenced in classrooms across the country,” said Kris Krane, executive director of SSDP, which filed an amicus brief in the case. “The War on Drugs impacts young people every day. Students must retain their First Amendment right to debate drug policies that directly affect them.” “There is a rich tradition in our country of students actively and eloquently participating in timely debates affecting local and national policies – from the Vietnam War to the Drug War, and animal rights to civil rights. Given their distinct perspectives, students should be heard, and they should hear one another. We silence them at our peril,” said Daniel Abrahamson, DPA’s director of legal affairs. Frederick sued his principal and school after receiving a 10-day suspension. Losing in federal district court, he won appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Ken Starr is arguing the case for the school. * Links to the organizations’ amicus briefs can be found online at www.ssdp.org/freespeech/ and www.drugpolicy.org/news/freespeech.cfm *
Location: 
DC
United States

Medical Marijuana: Federal Judge Dismisses Charges Against Ed Rosenthal

A federal district court judge dismissed money-laundering and tax evasion charges against Ed Rosenthal Wednesday, saying federal prosecutors had vindictively re-indicted the "Guru of Ganja" after he publicly criticized them in the wake of his successful appeal of his 2003 marijuana cultivation conviction. In that case, Rosenthal was convicted after not being allowed to present evidence he was growing for medicinal purposes, but was sentenced to only one day in jail after the jury protested upon hearing the rest of the story.

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Ed Rosenthal at courthouse, with supporters, September 2006 (courtesy indybay.org)
The same judge who presided over Rosenthal's first trial, US District Court Judge Charles Breyer, ruled that prosecutors illegally retaliated against Rosenthal by re-indicting him for the acts that were the basis of his original conviction, which was overturned last year, and piling on with the tax evasion and money-laundering charges over a sum that amounted to less than $1,900.

Federal prosecutors tried "to make Rosenthal look like a common criminal and thus dissipate the criticism heaped on the government after the first trial," Breyer said in his opinion. That perception, he said, "will discourage defendants from exercising their First Amendment right to criticize their prosecutions and their statutory right to appeal their convictions."

While he dismissed the two financial counts, Judge Breyer let stand Rosenthal's indictment for growing marijuana for medical patients. But that doesn't give prosecutors much to work with because Breyer also noted that even if he were convicted in a new trial, they could not seek to sentence him to more than the one day that he has already served. That leaves them with the equally unpalatable options of appealing the decision to the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals -- the same court that overturned the original conviction -- or pursuing a conviction where they cannot punish Rosenthal even if they win.

Assistant US Attorney George Bevan, the chief prosecutor on the case, helped Judge Breyer prove the case for a revenge prosecution. While Bevan told Breyer he would not seek additional prison time on the marijuana counts, he said he was "committed to doing the retrial and seeing the case to a conclusion." That remark came after Bevan told the court in October that Rosenthal had complained about not getting a fair trial because he could not mention medical marijuana. "So, I'm saying, this time around, he wants the financial side reflected, fine, let's air this thing out," Bevan said. "Let's have the whole conduct before the jury: tax, money-laundering, marijuana."

In Wednesday's ruling, Breyer noted Bevan's candor but said his comments only "confirm the appearance of vindictiveness."

"The government was clearly out of line to bring this case forward against me," said Rosenthal in a statement released by his attorneys. "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."

"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."

Quote of the Week: Sen. Jim Webb on the Incarceration Crisis

Criminal justice reformers appear to have a new ally on Capitol Hill. According to a transcription provided by the group FedCURE, freshman Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) gave the following response to George Stephanopoulos on the ABC News program This Week when asked if he would consider being a vice presidential candidate on the next Democratic ticket:

"I am still finding my way around the Senate and I'm having a really good time in the Senate. We've -- this is a chance to put a lot of issues on the table. One of the issues which never comes up in campaigns but it's an issue that's tearing this country apart is this whole notion of our criminal justice system, how many people are in our criminal justice system more -- I think we have two million people incarcerated in this country right now and that's an issue that's going to take two or three years to try to get to the bottom of and that's where I want to put my energy."

9th Circuit: Avoiding Certain Death No Excuse for Medical Marijuana Use

In what has otherwise been an exciting week of drug policy news, we're sad to report that the 9th circuit has rejected Angel Raich's "right to life" challenge against federal medical marijuana laws.

Basically, the court ruled that it would be legal for the government to cause her death by withholding her medicine. From The New York Times:
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that while they sympathized with Ms. Raich’s plight and had seen “uncontroverted evidence” that she needed marijuana to survive, she lacked the legal grounds to exempt herself from federal law.

The court “recognizes the use of marijuana for medical purposes is gaining traction,” the decision read. “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.’ ”
I would argue that the right to not die for stupid political reasons is fundamental enough.

Really there are only like six people in Washington D.C. who are entirely responsible for the illegality of medical marijuana. Their continuing lies are instrumental in maintaining the broader but shrinking population of medical marijuana opponents. If no one falsely accused people like Angel Raich of lying about their medical needs, this perverse debate would be long dead and several nice people would still be alive.

So why is the 9th Circuit so afraid of this handful of sniveling, malicious bureaucrats? If they're trying to avoid being tagged as left-leaning judicial activists, someone should tell them it's already too late.

Location: 
United States

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