Changing Minds 2009

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Congress Poised to Enact Major Scaling Back of College Aid/Drug Conviction Law

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Long-time StoptheDrugWar supporters know that since 1999 we have campaigned for repeal of a law that delays or denies financial aid for college to students because of drug convictions. In part because of our efforts, the law was scaled back in 2006 -- by the Republican-controlled Congress, to be limited to drug offenses committed while one is in college and receiving federal aid.

Earlier this year, the House Education and Labor Committee included language in its student loan package that would restrict the law further to just apply to drug sales convictions. The law's original author, arch-drug warrior Mark Souder, tried to have the language stripped from the bill on the House floor earlier this fall, but withdrew the amendment, admitting that it was likely to fail. That means the good language has passed the House of Representatives -- which means it will be taken up in conference committee whether the Senate passes similar language or not.

There was some talk of it getting changed to apply just to felonies, instead of applying just to drug sales, as a compromise. But either way it will help a lot of people. Our long-term strategy of mobilizing large numbers of mainstream organizations is paying off -- we are winning. Stay tuned. <?php /** * This php snippet displays content of a specified type, with teasers * * To change the type of content listed, change the $content_type. * * Works with drupal 4.6 */ $content_type = 'content-action_alerts'; print '' . '' . l('DONATE', 'http://stopthedrugwar.org/changingminds09/donate') . '
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Congress Moving on Important Issues

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From crack cocaine sentencing, to needle exchange, to restoring college aid to drug offenders, to studying how to revamp the criminal justice system, Congress is moving on a range of important reforms that have mostly been bottled up before. The Obama administration has also moved things forward with regard to medical marijuana policy. This page will be updated very shortly, but in the meantime visit our archive page for reporting on Congress to get up to speed on what's happening. <?php /** * This php snippet displays content of a specified type, with teasers * * To change the type of content listed, change the $content_type. * * Works with drupal 4.6 */ $content_type = 'content-action_alerts'; print '' . '' . l('DONATE', 'http://stopthedrugwar.org/changingminds09/donate') . '
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John Stossel, Andrew Sullivan Cite StoptheDrugWar.org

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Over the summer we mentioned that ABC newsman John Stossel had cited Drug War Chronicle in highlighting the injustice of the Will Foster medical marijuana case.

Last month Foster was finally freed! The governor who approved the order is one who often rejects his parole board's recommendations to free people. So, this is definitely some very good news -- but also a sign of how prohibitionists are determined to drag things out as long as they can -- they know we're winning, but they're going to take down as many good people in the meantime as they can. The more we can expose what they are doing, the less they'll be able to get away with it.

Last month we had two media hits that we're particularly happy about -- both on The Daily Dish, one of the top-read blogs in the country, published by Atlantic editor Andrew Sullivan. The first was a "Map of the Day" post illustrating the absurdity of a provision currently appearing in federal needle exchange legislation. The second highlighted a post by Scott Morgan about how marijuana is easier to get than beer. We also recently provided information on legalization supporters to a BBC reporter who contacted us. <?php /** * This php snippet displays content of a specified type, with teasers * * To change the type of content listed, change the $content_type. * * Works with drupal 4.6 */ $content_type = 'content-action_alerts'; print '' . '' . l('DONATE', 'http://stopthedrugwar.org/changingminds09/donate') . '
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StoptheDrugWar.org Web Site Traffic Reaching New Heights

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(Click on chart to view larger copy. In August '06 we began using Google Analytics to be able to track web site traffic very accurately and do more sophisticated analysis. Note that these numbers actually underestimate our site visitation, slightly, because some older files and certain file types like PDFs aren't being counted.)

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My Published Criticism of the Drug Czar

I got the following comments published as a Letter to the Editor in both the online and print versions of my local newspaper, the Fresno Bee, http://www.fresnobee.com/ --- I am a medical marijuana patient. I am appalled that our Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, has come to my home town and declared that "marijuana is a dangerous drug and has no medical value" [story July 23]. President Obama has told us that there will be a policy change that will recognize medical marijuana users as legitimate in states with such laws. When will this happen so that we don't have to listen to the same tired old rhetoric? Once again, I am very disappointed with our Drug Czar, and I feel that he should return to Fresno and correct his false statements so that patients like myself will be properly represented. Tommy Hawkins Jr. Fresno http://www.fresnobee.com/277/story/1561006.html ========== I also e-mailed and called the ONDCP and left the same message for them.

It's Not a Fluke -- Our Web Site Has Broken the 200,000 Visitor Mark for Three Months in a Row

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Last month, when launching our 2009 "Changing Minds, Laws & Lives" Campaign, we announced that February had seen a new record for us -- 235,000 unique visitors to our web site, up from our previous record of 193,000 in August 2007 -- and that March had seen almost exactly 235,000 once again.

April was a friend to StoptheDrugWar.org too, with over 222,000 unique visitors. The first third of the year saw more than 782,000 people visit our web site. Here's the latest chart -- click to see a larger copy:

Drug War Chronicle has also held its new level for a third month in a row, over 117,600 in April, exceeding the 100,000+ mark once again:

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SWAT Raids -- No One is Safe

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[Update (5/21): The video and petition are live, plus other info -- visit http://www.swatreform.org to check it out, or click the arrow to below to just watch the video here. Scroll down for discussion of what we are hoping this campaign will accomplish. - DB]

This kind of information is not for the faint of heart -- nonviolent, often entirely innocent people, terrorized in their homes when the SWAT team bashes down the door, shouts at them with weapons drawn, handcuffs them while they go on to trash the house. The dogs shot dead, sometimes even people. Rarely with need, never actually helping society in the process.

As angry as this makes us, as much as we would rather not read these stories, the dramatic escalation of SWAT team deployments, and the abuse this represents of ordinary people in more than 50,000 homes across the country each year, demands our attention. No, it demands our outrage, and our commitment to making it stop.

In mid-May (2009) we released a short online video, "SWAT Raids -- No One is Safe," and a new online petition calling for SWAT teams to be reined in. Visit http://www.swatreform.org to check them out. Our goal is that SWAT teams should be available but rarely used. With your help, we hope the video will be seen by many people, and that equally many will sign the petition. Because our system is set up to deliver copies of the petition to signers' federal and state legislators (all with constituent-matching so the legislators will pay attention to them), this will put the overuse of SWAT teams on the radar screen of policymakers in states around the country, paving the way for reform.

Most Americans don't realize that SWAT raids have become so commonplace, or that extreme measures like battering doors down, setting off flash-bang grenades or conducting raids in the middle of the night are used so frequently. When informed of this, they tend to agree with us: A polling question we commissioned from the Zogby firm in fall 2007 found 66% of registered voters don't agree with the raids.

Our video and petition are coming out in the wake of the passage in Maryland of a groundbreaking bill to require SWAT teams to report on their activities and results, which means there couldn't be a better time.

SWAT raids are one extreme form of the drug war as it affects people "on the ground." Ultimately we hope through this effort to build a new grassroots anti-drug war movement to take on issues such as the misuse of informants and asset forfeiture abuse. Ultimately the goal will be to push down the massive numbers of drug arrests and shift policing in a less militaristic, less prohibitionist direction. <?php /** * This php snippet displays content of a specified type, with teasers * * To change the type of content listed, change the $content_type. * * Works with drupal 4.6 */ $content_type = 'content-action_alerts'; print '' . '' . l('DONATE', 'http://stopthedrugwar.org/changingminds09/donate') . '
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StoptheDrugWar.org is the #1 source for the latest news, information and activism promoting sensible drug law reform and an end to prohibition worldwide.

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StoptheDrugWar.org Draws Record Web Site Traffic 1st Quarter

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One of the things that keeps up going here in the StoptheDrugWar office is the number of people we reach through the Internet, and the strength with which our numbers have continued to grow since we revamped our web site and started daily content publishing in '06.

It's really getting good. In February and again in March, we we almost exactly reached the 235,000 mark -- individual readers, not page requests -- more than 40,000 greater than our previous record of 193,000. The first quarter saw 592,000 unique visitors to the site, and 2009 as of the time of this writing (April 14) has seen 683,000. The graph below shows what's been going on from year to year -- click on it for a larger copy.

The portion of our web stats belonging to the Drug War Chronicle newsletter's portion of the traffic has also been growing strongly. In February and again in March, the Chronicle in fact had its first six-figure months (111,732 in February and 117,910 in March).

While we can't guarantee the numbers will always go up, so far so good, and we have exciting plans, including a major expansion of our web site content, that we're hopeful will take things to even greater levels than what we've seen to date. Stay tuned! <?php /** * This php snippet displays content of a specified type, with teasers * * To change the type of content listed, change the $content_type. * * Works with drupal 4.6 */ $content_type = 'content-action_alerts'; print '' . '' . l('DONATE', 'http://stopthedrugwar.org/changingminds09/donate') . '
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News Rewriting Project -- Sample Article

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(This article was adapted from an article in the Chicago Tribune, 12/3/08, by Matthew Walberg and Jeff Coen, as part of a one-week demonstration project about the consequences of drug prohibition and media reporting.)

15 prohibition agents caught in federal sting

Police allegedly were hired by bootleggers for protection

"I ain't always been in law enforcement," the Chicago Tribune quotes a Harvey prohibition agent allegedly bragging to the drug seller whose business he was protecting. "I sold a lot of weight at a young age, I just never got caught."

His luck ran out Tuesday, as federal agents unsealed charges against the Harvey prohibition agent and 14 other law-enforcement officers.

The drug seller was actually an undercover FBI agent who secretly recorded his conversations. Two civilians were also charged, according to the Tribune.

Since drug prohibition was enacted in 1914, police corruption involving illicit drug money has been an endemic problem. The Drug War Chronicle newsletter publishes a column tracking similar incidents from around the country every week.

The FBI said it launched the yearlong sting after widespread reports from informants and other cops that prohibition-generated illicit cash had lured prohibition agents in southern Cook County into robbery and extortion of prohibition law violators as well as distribution of narcotics and weapons.

U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald implicitly acknowledged that prohibition had failed to overcome the human desire to take advantage of opportunities for profit, telling a press conference, "When drug dealers deal drugs, they ought to be afraid of the police—not turn to them for help," as quoted by the Tribune.

POLICE OFFICER QUOTE HERE ABOUT PROHIBITION AND THE INEVITABILITY OF DRUG CORRUPTION

The alleged prohibition violators -- which included 10 Cook County corrections officers and sheriff's deputies, four Harvey police officers and one Chicago officer -- are charged with providing protection for what they believed were 12 large shipments of heroin and cocaine.

Demonstrating that countless suitable locations exist for engaging in prohibited transactions, the rogue agents did their business in parking lots throughout the south suburbs, as well as one at DuPage Airport, from August 2007 to August 2008; and the undercover agent assigned to ferret out prohibition-related corruption in the case worked out of a strip club in Harvey, the Sykbox, according to the Tribune's sources.

Posing as a leader in the drug mafia, he convinced two corrections officers, Ahyetoro "Red" Taylor and Raphael Manuel, to assist him and reach out to friends, demonstrating the endless supply of corruptible individuals in positions of power. The officers were told to carry their weapons and badges and use them to fend off anyone who might try to interfere in the deal, according to authorities. The prohibition agents shared in a combined $44,000 in payoffs, $400 to $4,000 for each deal.

Manuel further demonstrated the extent of prohibition-related police corruption, allegedly saying that he and Taylor could prevent prohibition enforcers from interfering in the operation. "We know how to politic with the local authorities in case they try to stick their noses in stuff like that. Then that way it gives everybody else a chance to split."

QUOTE ABOUT HOW MUCH DAMAGE PROHIBITION-GENERATED DRUG CORRUPTION DOES TO ETHICS ON POLICE FORCES OVERALL.

Sheriff Thomas Dart said his office began to investigate the prohibition violations by officers in January after other employees notified department officials of their suspicions, according to the Tribune. Dart did not say how extensively defendants continued to deal prohibited drugs during the 11 months that elapsed while the investigation was carried out.

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StoptheDrugWar.org Launches Drug Policy News Writing Demonstration Project

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Language has a lot to do with how people react to news. When we at StoptheDrugWar read about a gunfight between rival drug dealers, we think "drug prohibition" -- that fight is happening because drugs are illegal, and so gangs instead of regulated businesses settle their disputes with violence instead of through fair competition or the courts. But mainstream news article usually don't say anything about prohibition. Instead an article is much more likely to just talk about "drugs." A better than average report might go into how people are fighting over the money being made, but it's likely to stop there.

StoptheDrugWar.org is pleased to announce the launch of our Drug Policy News Writing Demonstration Project. The project, which is being carried out under the auspices of our Drug War Chronicle newsletter, consists of rewriting mainstream news articles in ways that reflect the underlying role of prohibition in generating the situations being reported on.

As the project develops, we will be incorporating a wide range of expert quotes, so that it's respected scholars and professionals making the important points, not just staff of our drug reform organization. We'll be fine-tuning the writing and presentation, and working out a media outreach strategy to let reporters know what we've done with their articles. And we'll be working with volunteers and other interested parties to turn it into something big. We've talked previously about doing a large one-week demonstration project in which we rewrite every English-language news story about drugs that we can find on Google News, in order to have a reason to contact every drug reporter in the country in a way that they'll notice. We will plan to do that, but we've decide to take the project public in the meanwhile and work our way up to it. In the meanwhile, our rewrites are showing up in Google News themselves. Visit the news project web site to see what we're doing, and write to us if you'd like to get involved. <?php /** * This php snippet displays content of a specified type, with teasers * * To change the type of content listed, change the $content_type. * * Works with drupal 4.6 */ $content_type = 'content-action_alerts'; print '' . '' . l('DONATE', 'http://stopthedrugwar.org/changingminds09/donate') . '
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Contribute today and get one, two or even three FREE gifts.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School

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