(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #8, 8/22/97
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Table of Contents:
(visit last week's Week Online)
1. MEDICAL MARIJUANA
WIN-WIN IN 215 DECISION: In what could be termed a double victory for proponents of Proposition 215, a California appeals court threw out the pre-215 conviction of Sudi Trippet and ordered that she be granted a new trial. The 1st District Court of Appeals said that standard legal principles allowed defendants to take advantage of favorable changes in the law while their appeals were pending. Trippet, who had attempted to raise a medical necessity defense prior to the passage of the initiative, had been sentenced to six months in jail - with credit for 51 days already served - for possessing and transporting about two pounds of marijuana. The court further ruled that although Prop. 215 didn't make specific allowance for the transporting of marijuana, "the voters could not have intended that a dying cancer patient's primary care-giver could be subject to criminal sanctions for carrying otherwise legally cultivated and possessed marijuana down a hallway to the patient's room."
DRCNet will let you know as soon as the complete decision becomes available online.
RESCHEDULING MJ IN New Mexico?
The New Mexico Board Of Pharmacy is currently considering whether to recommend rescheduling marijuana off of schedule 1, to allow it to be prescribed by physicians. Also under consideration is a report to the Governor requesting a system of supply through licensed pharmacies. The next meeting of the board will be held on Sept. 22-23. Such a finding would not only put pressure on the state government to reschedule marijuana, but it would set an important precedent for other states' regulatory boards. Support from New Mexico residents is most helpful, but any support is important. New Mexicans for Compassionate Use requests that letters in support be sent to:
New Mexico Board of Pharmacy
And you can email the NM press at:
Albuquerque Journal: [email protected]
On August 18th, the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, announced that their academic hospital would begin research on the medical benefits of marijuana for spasticity related to Multiple Sclerosis (MS). According to Dr. J. de Keyser MD, professor of neurology, "We have conventional medication to fight these spasms but they all stop to work after some time after which we can do nothing to help." Citing increasing numbers of patients who have come to the hospital reporting significant improvement with the use of smoked marijuana, especially in the reduction of painful night spasms which deprive patients of sleep, Keyser reports that using marijuana has apparently "increased the quality of their life substantially." He went on to say, "When marijuana shows to be of therapeutic value we should work with great dedication to develop it further."
2. NEEDLE EXCHANGE
George Soros, whose philanthropy, through the Open Society Institute (of which The Lindesmith Center is part) is estimated at $350 million per year, will donate $1 million to needle exchange programs through San Francisco's Tides Foundation. The gift is believed to be the largest ever private donation to such programs in the U.S.
PLEASE see this week's MEDIA ALERT (below) for an opportunity to voice your support for this courageous and generous American. To learn more about the Open Society Institute, visit their web site at http://www.soros.org.
3. DRUGS AND THE MILITARY
A Texas grand jury has decided not to indict Cpl. Clemente Manuel Banuelos, the U.S. Marine who shot and killed Esequiel "Zeke" Hernandez, an 18 year-old high school student, near the border town of Redford. The 12 member grand jury reported on August 14 that they did not have the required 9 votes to indict. District Attorney Albert Valdez said that the panel "believes that Cpl. Banuelos was acting reasonably in defense of a third person when he fired the fatal shot."
There are still many questions surrounding the actions of both the marines involved and the Marine Corps investigation of their actions, and cries of cover-up continue unabated. The larger question, of course is that of the role of the military in the War on Drugs, especially in domestic law- enforcement capacities. The extent to which the military has become involved would have been unthinkable for over 200 years of this nation's history.
(If you didn't see the link of the week two issues ago, please check out the Drug Policy Forum of Texas' Esequiel Hernandez focus at http://www.mapinc.org/DPFT/hernandez/.
CARTELS HIRING EX-U.S. GI's
U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, says that Mexican drug lords are hiring former U.S. soldiers both to protect them and to train their other hired forces in the use of high-tech equipment.
DRCNet Military Affairs Correspondent Joseph Miranda says that we ought not be surprised. "If you're going to militarize the Drug War, and that's what we seem to be doing, you have to expect that the other side will respond in kind. There's plenty of money for the drug traffickers to buy both hardware and expertise, whether it's U.S. expertise or somebody else's. It almost seems like a setup, however, with our actions driving their responses, and then their responses being used to justify more militarization on our end. With the Communist threat gone, the Drug War is seen by the military establishment as a justification for maintaining budgets. In that respect, escalation is just what the doctor ordered."
Joseph Miranda's article, "The Military and the War on Drugs," can be found on the DRCNet web site at http://www.drcnet.org/military/. Mr. Miranda is a former instructor at the U.S. School for Special Warfare.
4. INTERNATIONAL NEWS
AUSTRALIA CANCELS HEROIN TRIAL
Australian Prime Minister John Howard, feeling pressure from right-wing radio talk show hosts and a blistering campaign by Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloids, including The Sydney Daily Telegraph, decided on Tuesday that Australia would not go ahead with a 40-patient heroin maintenance trial. The trial, modeled on the recently completed, hugely successful Swiss trial, had previously been approved by the Ministerial Council on Drug policy. A full report on the Australian heroin trial roller-coaster will soon be available on DRCNet's web site.
For a summary of the Swiss heroin trial, visit http://www.lindesmith.org/presumm.html.
DUTCH HEROIN EXPERIMENT MAY INCLUDE HUNDREDS
Dutch Health Minister Els Borst-Eilers said that she hopes to include 750 heroin addicts in her country's version of the Swiss heroin maintenance trial, adding, "If the number of test subjects is too limited, we may not be able to detect the beneficial effects of the test." An advisory commission had previously recommended a using a sample of between 600 and 900 addicts for the trials. Visit http://www.lindesmith.org/prescho.html for information on the Dutch proposal.
5. DRUG EDUCATION
Mario Cuomo and William Bennett held a joint news conference to announce that they would be co-chairing the Partnership for a Drug Free America. The former political rivals will try to raise money for the airing of Partnership public Service Announcements. The Partnership has been criticized by some experts for producing anti-drug messages that are simplistic and often hyperbolic. Their web site, which is a little bit smoother than some of their ads, can be found at http://www.drugfreeamerica.org.
A study released this week at a conference of the American Psychological Association shows that the nation's most widely taught drug prevention curriculum, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, has no effect on teenage drug use. The study, the first to look at students 6 years removed from DARE, backed up what similar studies had found in students immediately after and three years removed from the program. The program purports to teach students the dangers of drug use and gangs, as well as the importance of respecting authority and resisting peer pressure. DARE consists of seventeen classes taught to fifth and sixth grade classes by police officers.
Students who had been through the program were no less likely than non-participants to use alcohol, cigarettes or marijuana. DARE also had no impact on time spent on homework, number of classes skipped, educational aspirations or respect for teachers. There were also no differences between participants and non-participants in incidents of fighting, assault, theft, trespass, curfew violation or gang membership.
It is estimated that as many as 70% of American public school students participate in the DARE program, which is run by a private, for-profit corporation under contract to local school systems.
For more information, check out DRCNet's "A Different Look at DARE" at http://www.drcnet.org/DARE. DARE's own web site can be found at http://www.dare-america.com. Additional information is online at <http://www.dare.org>.
6. MEDIA ALERT
This week, we present an opportunity to make your voice heard to the New York Times. While we know that we spend much time in this space focusing on the Times, we would note that it is the most widely read, and most influential non- financial newspaper in the country, perhaps the world. It is an important stage of national ideas and opinion, and is therefore important to the enormous effort we have undertaken.
This week's opportunity is in response to an interview of George Soros which appeared in last Sunday's edition. It was written by Christopher Wren and it focused on Mr. Soros' $1 million gift to needle exchange programs. (See "Needle Exchange," section 2, above.) Over the past several years, Mr. Soros has become the single most important funder of drug policy reform efforts around the world. His work extends to all corners of the globe and the projects and organizations that receive his funding, either directly or indirectly (including DRCNet), comprise a who's who of the reform movement.
Mr. Soros has said numerous times that he is not a "legalizer." And many of the recipients of his philanthropy would disagree with some of his views, but what Mr. Soros is promoting is dialogue. He understands that throwing hundreds of thousands of non-violent, mostly young and poor citizens into prison cannot be a constructive response to any social problem. And he is right. Mr. Soros' history is marked by a forceful and consistent stand against oppression, from the Nazis in his native Hungary, to the Communists in eastern Europe as a whole, to dictatorships around the world today, and the Drug warriors here at home. But such principled positions often bring personal attacks and recriminations from those whose interests are being challenged. This is especially true when the challenger puts his money where his mouth is.
So this week we ask that our subscribers send a letter to the New York Times (contact information below), in support not only of the generous donation to needle exchange, but for his courage in bringing his resources to bear on our most shameful and counterproductive social policy. Time has proven that Mr. Soros has consistently been on the right side of the fight against oppression. And history will show that in supporting debate and reform and taking on the vested interests of the Drug War, his instincts are once again correct.
NEW YORK TIMES: Letters to the Editor 229 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036-3959
FAX: (212) 556-3622 E-MAIL: [email protected]
7. LINK OF THE WEEK
The November Coalition is an anti-drug-war organization focusing on working with prisoners and their families to catalog the destruction caused by Prohibition and to mobilize grassroots political activity for drug policy reform. Sections of their site include Drug War editorials, judicial dissent, who's who in the Drug War, and the very powerful and affecting feature on Drug War prisoners "The Wall."
Visit the November Coalition and learn about their work. They are truly special friends of DRCNet and of rational- thinking people everywhere. And, as always, tell 'em DRCNet sent you. http://www.november.org
8. QUOTE OF THE WEEK
This is a short passage from the April 97 FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin (university library) from an article titled "Managing for Ethics - A Mandate for Administrators":
"A recent study established that fast-talking, outgoing, assertive, and self-confident risk takers represent the best candidates for undercover work. While this may come as no surprise, the study also concluded that these personality traits 'are often the same ones predisposing [an officer] to corruption and psychological distress.'"
Uh, no, it comes as no surprise to us... Thanks.
9. EDITORIAL: "A Drug Free America"
In a recent issue of a small weekly newspaper in Marietta, Georgia, Newt Gingrich penned a piece titled "Our Goal: A Drug Free America by 2001." Get used to that phrase, we'll likely be hearing it quite a bit this fall. The piece itself spoke mostly of drug treatment, specifically, the superiority of private, religious-based treatment over secular, state-funded treatment. That is all well and good. We're all in favor of treatment, and Newt's preference for one type over another is irrelevant to the larger point. That point being that America will not, short of nuclear Armageddon, be anything close to "Drug Free" by 2001, or by 3001 for that matter.
The 1986 crime bill codified into law (in case you didn't believe them when they told you) that America would be "Drug Free" by 1995. Well, we're now more than halfway through 1997, and since that bill passed we have increased our prison population by over 40%, and we've more than doubled our spending on the Drug War. We've made thousands and thousands of "major" drug busts, and we've broken up more than our share of drug rings. We've made it easier for the government to seize private property and to tap private phones, and we've brought the military into the fray at unprecedented levels, (all the way onto our own soil, as a matter of fact.) We've invaded Panama and we've decertified Colombia, we've increased sentences across the board and we've created 3 strikes and your out. We've militarized local police forces, sent dogs into the schools, and we've bombarded our kids with so many Partnership for a "Drug Free America" ads that they probably get grossed out every time they eat an egg. So now we must ask, are we "Drug Free" yet?
Of course, there are some things that we haven't tried. Darryl Gates, when he was the Chief of Police in Los Angeles, proposed that casual drug users should be "taken out and shot." That would help. And I'll bet that the relapse rate would be even lower than for private, religious-based treatment programs. But would it make us "Drug Free"? In China, they execute "drug criminals." The Muslim countries are partial to public beheadings. How's that for making sure that drugs kill? (See <http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/makingsure>.) And yet, those nations are not "Drug Free." Pat Buchanan would like to put up a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. But there are certainly other routes into the country and besides, prisons have great big walls and there isn't a prison in this country that's "Drug Free."
And what exactly do they mean by "Drug Free"? We would imagine that they mean free of the "wrong" drugs. The ones that don't openly lavish lawmakers with money. But hey, no one can lavish like the tobacco cartels and tobacco is looking like it's getting mighty close to being "wrong." (That's the prison industry you hear salivating, by the way.) Alcohol had always been "right." And then in 1919 we proclaimed it "wrong." But that didn't work out too well. Even the "right" drugs have "wrong" uses. Ritalin is a godsend for parents of some hyperactive kids, but it's turning up more and more frequently on the streets. Ditto for lots of perfectly good pain killers and sleeping aids and other, more esoteric, albeit "legitimate" medicines. Will we be "Free" of them too? And what about household cleaners? And gasoline? And paint thinner? And air freshener?
The point is that a "Drug Free America" has no basis in reality. Altering consciousness is a very human trait. Ever watch a little kid spin around in circles? The only problem with altering one's consciousness is that it isn't free. There's a risk. That little kid will lose his lunch if he overindulges. So might his father whose alteration of choice comes in a highball glass. But dad might also lose his liver in the bargain. The benefit of alcohol's legality, if not its legitimacy, is that we can mitigate those risks, and we can make and enforce rational rules. We can insure that dad's gin isn't contaminated, we can regulate mom's dose of sleeping pills, we can educate our teens about the risks of drinking and driving, and since we know who sells the stuff, we have a reasonable chance to make sure it isn't sold to young children. We can tell our kids the differences between substances and their risks, and model use-behavior that is responsible, and we can be fairly comfortable that if we do, our kids will behave responsibly as well.
Marijuana, cocaine, opiates, hallucinogens, they all come with risks. And those risks aren't all the same. But the way we deal with them is. They are to disappear. They are not to exist. We are to be "Free" of them. And as sure as that proclamation is a denial of reality, it is also a denial of our own responsibility to teach and to learn how to live, not to die, with their very real presence. We cannot tell our young people that alcohol is a deadly mixture with certain of them, because that fails to embrace our fantasy of "Freedom." We cannot tell our young people how much is too much, because that too, ignores the mandate. So we tell them no, which is fine, because no is important. But no alone fails to address the fact that in an America, in a world, that will never be "Drug Free" some of them, sometimes, will say yes. And for those kids, at those times, our insistence on maintaining the fantasy will have put them at the mercy of the fates.
So now America will be "Drug Free" by 2001. Well that's swell. And I'll bet that Newt has a ton of brilliant, new, visionary ideas that he's just sure will get us there. Most likely they'll be very much like the ideas that made America "Drug Free" by 1995. And pardon me for spoiling the fun, but there are real people out here, young people and old people; rich people and poor people; brown people and white people; and everyone else. And buying these fantasies is costing us a chance to learn to live with reality. And more than likely, we're going to have to live with reality until long past 2001.
Adam J. Smith
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