(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #27, 1/30/98
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Media alert! C-SPAN-2 will rebroadcast footage from the Stanford University-Hoover Institution conference, "Pragmatic Solutions to Urban Drug Problems, this Saturday night, Jan. 31, 1998, at 10:35pm Pacific Standard Time. Speakers included former Secretary of State George Schultz, economist Milton Friedman, and Lindesmith Center Director Ethan Nadelmann. (See last year's article on the conference at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1997/11-15-1.html#hoover.
VIRGINIA RESIDENTS: Read our urgent legislative alert at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/1-29.html. If you haven't received it in your e-mail box, that means we don't know you're from Virginia. Please fill out our registration form at http://www.drcnet.org/drcreg.html, or mailto:[email protected] to let us know you want Virginia alerts. MORE STATE ALERTS ARE COMING UP SOON, SO PLEASE FILL OUT OUR FORM IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY.
DRCNet needs members! Dues are $25/year, or send $30 or more and receive a FREE COPY of Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts -- offer good for a limited time only! Credit card gifts via http://www.drcnet.org/drcreg.html, checks to DRCNet, 2000 P St., NW, Suite 615, Washington, DC 20036. (Book shipping has begun for those of you who have ordered copies. Keep a look out this week or next.)
Table of Contents
Jonnie Mae Brown is a 46 year old African American women has been drug and alcohol free since 1989 ending a 25 year street-based, primarily heroin, addiction. Ms. Brown has a job at the New York City Human Resources Administration Eligibility Center at 109 E. 16th Street, but is now a prisoner in New Jersey charged as a fugitive due to an old warrant dating back to 1972.
Ms. Brown, (Jonnie Crews -- Brown is her married name) had no reason to believe she was a fugitive. She was cleared by HRA investigators, applied for and received a passport and traveled abroad in 1995. Brown also appeared before the New Jersey family court when they reassigned custody of her minor children. The warrant, now some 25 years old, seeks time owed the State of New Jersey.
In 1972, the Browns, Jonnie and her husband Tang, were arrested. Tang Brown was a dealer, who had removed Jonnie from her grandmother's home at age 16. He went to the penitentiary. Jonnie Brown was offered treatment in lieu of incarceration and accepted it. Brown was remanded to Integrity House in Newark. She subsequently fled.
In December 1997, upon return from a vacation in Morocco, she was seized at Kennedy airport and charged as a fugitive. She is now incarcerated at the Edna Mahan Correctional Facility for Women, P.O. Box 404, Clinton NJ 08809-4404. She is #98-29. Phone of facility for inquiries: (908) 735- 7111. PLEASE CALL OR WRITE THE FACILITY and speak to Cheryl Rondelli, the parole board director in charge of this case.
ALSO, if you live in the New York/New Jersey area, please write to your local paper to alert them to this case and express your outrage. THIS IS JUST ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF THE LACK OF RESPECT OF A DRUG WAR BUREAUCRACY FOR THE LIVES OF THOSE WHO USE OR ONCE USED DRUGS. JONNIE BROWN IS A SUCCESS STORY, SHE VOLUNTEERS HER TIME TO HELP OTHERS OVERCOME ADDICTION AS SHE DID, AND NOW HER LIFE IS BEING DESTROYED ALL OVER AGAIN FOR FLEEING DRUG TREATMENT 26 YEARS AGO!
(This alert was issued at the request of Imani Woods of Progressive Solutions, also coordinator of the African American Community Education Project, and a winner of last year's Citizen Action Award from the Drug Policy Foundation. Please send us copies of your letters or let us know what other actions you have taken, and we will forward the information to Imani for use in helping Jonnie Brown.)
Mayor Willie Brown of San Francisco told a citywide summit on AIDS that he strongly opposed the federal government's recent efforts to close medical marijuana facilities via federal lawsuit. Summit participants, for their part, issued a report which not only urged San Francisco's police and district attorney not to cooperate with federal efforts, but which also made a strong statement against the Drug War in general. The report, according to published reports, called federal drug policy a "total failure" and noted that "Prohibition failed as a means of controlling alcohol use and it is failing as a means of controlling drug use." The report further recommended that the city support "an enlightened program of decriminalization, similar to that which was recently approved by Switzerland."
Oakland's City Council, for its part, unanimously passed a resolution calling on the federal government to desist in its lawsuit against the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Cooperative. The resolution cited the co-op as operating safely and responsibly, castigated the federal action as "impairing public safety by encouraging a market for street- level narcotics peddlers" and called upon the state of California to declare a state of emergency to protect the various outlets currently under fire. Dale Gieringer, Director of California NORML, told The Week Online, "This makes three of the five counties (including Mendocino - see story below) which have come out strongly against the federal action. The feds are really out of touch on this. Far from being controversial here in California, the clubs are seen as a public health benefit. Additionally, it is widely understood that these clubs reduce the number of black market dealers. I have not heard a single public official in California come out in support of the federal action. We think that there are serious problems with the feds trying to tell local officials how to run their cities and towns. This issue is not going away, in fact, the federal government is making things much worse for itself and for the public perception of its drug policies in general."
(The following is reprinted courtesy of Dale Gieringer, California NORML.)
Ukiah, CA, Jan. 28, 1998 -- In a historic meeting, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors not only put itself firmly on record in support of the Ukiah medicinal Cannabis Buyers' Club, but also became the first county in California to call on Congress to conduct hearings on the legalization of marijuana.
The board voted 5-0 for a resolution by Sup. Charles Peterson asking the sheriff and district attorney to observe "the letter, spirit, and intent" of Prop. 215, and expressing support for the Ukiah club, one of six clubs named in a federal lawsuit aimed at closing California's medical cannabis dispensaries.
The board then went on to give unanimous backing to a motion by Supervisor John Pinches, asking Congressman Frank Riggs to call for congressional hearings on legalizing marijuana. Rep. Riggs, who is running for the U.S. Senate, had previously, privately indicated to a group of Laytonville residents that he would call for such hearings if asked to do so by the Board of Supervisors. In a letter to Riggs the board wrote, "Due to the millions of dollars spent on eradication efforts against marijuana, this board is urging your support to move forward and seek a congressional hearing on the issues surrounding legalization of marijuana." Pinches, a conservative Republican and candidate for the State Senate, strongly attacked the war on pot. "We're spending millions and millions on building more prisons to keep that system going. If we keep on going for another 10 years, how many more dollars will be wasted, and what's the price going to be?" he asked, "All Californians and Americans have to come to sanity on this issue."
Urged on by Florida law enforcement and the head of an organization opposed to the medicinal use of marijuana, Florida's state cabinet unanimously adopted a resolution calling on citizens to oppose a state medical marijuana initiative now in the signature-gathering phase. Supporters of the initiative will need to gather approximately 435,000 signatures over the next four years to get the measure placed on the state's ballot. Thus far, they have collected 10,000 signatures since September. If passed, the initiative will take the form of an amendment to Florida's constitution.
Speaking before the cabinet, Tim Moore, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, told the panel, "We think it's a trick... the camel's head is in the tent's door on the bigger objective of legalizing all drugs not only in Florida but in America."
Betty Sembler, president of the group Save Our Society from Drugs, told the panel, "we cannot stand by and watch the future of our state and our society sabotaged."
And Christy McCampbell, chief of narcotics enforcement for the California attorney general's office told the panel that marijuana use had escalated in California since the passage of 215, that "anyone, of any age, can virtually get marijuana now. It has been legalized... there's no need for a doctor to do an examination or to maintain records."
The Week Online contacted the California attorney general's office for comment on McCampbell's statements. Matt Ross, a spokesman for that office said that as far as an escalation of use or availability, there had been more marijuana seized in the past year in California than in any of the five years prior to 215, which their office believed meant that there was more on the streets. Ross indicated that they believed that the new law had had an effect on those numbers.
Interestingly, no supporters of the proposed initiative were invited to testify and the initiative's sponsors weren't even informed of the hearing and vote. Toni Leeman, chairperson of the Ft. Lauderdale-based Floridians for Medical Rights, spoke to The Week Online. "I didn't even know about the hearing until a reporter called me to get my reaction after the resolution had already passed" she said. "It's ludicrous, of course, but that just underlines the fact that the government of Florida isn't interested in hearing both sides of the issue, they'd rather make these decisions based upon what they think are their political interests. What will surprise them, ultimately, is that we are going to get this passed with the support of the state's voters. The voters, at least, want to know the facts about this issue, and we're going to make sure they get them."
As soon as 45,000 signatures are collected, the initiative will be reviewed by the state's supreme court on two criteria. The first is that the initiative must be constitutional, and the second is that it must only address a single issue. "The text was drafted with a lot of help from the Florida ACLU, and so we're very confident that it will pass the review. What we're focusing on now is getting volunteers to help collect the signatures. We have over 100 so far and the effort is really starting to take off."
DRCNet urges our Florida members to lend a hand with this effort. To volunteer, call Floridians for Medical Rights at (954) 537-3150. And, as always, tell them DRCNet sent you!
"Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts: A Review of the Scientific Evidence" has been called "The first comprehensive review of marijuana toxicity to appear in more than a decade, (it) is accurate, timely and impressive." And that was by Dr. Louis Lasagna, who authored the 1982 National Academy of Sciences report on marijuana. Other experts have praised the book as well, not the least of whom was law professor John S. Battle, associate director of President Nixon's National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse. William F. Buckley called it "a remarkable book... A miracle of intelligent concision."
But despite these rather impressive plaudits, the book was rejected by four separate high school districts in upstate New York this week. The group ReconsiDer, whose membership includes doctors, judges and law enforcement officials, attempted to donate copies of the book to high school libraries in five districts. Two of them, Albany and Rochester, rejected the book outright, according to the Associated Press, two others, Buffalo and Syracuse, are reviewing the book, but are expected to reject it. Only Binghamton accepted the book.
Dave Albert, a spokesman for the Albany School District, told the AP, "It's a tough situation. We certainly don't want to censor anything. But on the other hand we want to make sure that the information is presented accurately in a non-biased way and that both sides are presented." Lynn Zimmer, an associate professor of sociology at Queens College in New York, and co-author of the book, told the AP, "We don't present marijuana as completely harmless, but the information does dispel many of the myths and exaggerations that have been promoted over the years."
A spokesman for The Lindesmith Center, a New York-based drug policy think tank and the publisher of the book, told The Week Online, "In an age where 90% of high school seniors consistently report that it is 'easy' for them to procure marijuana, the banning of this book from high school libraries represents not only an act of censorship, but an unwillingness to deal in facts on this issue at all. The veracity of the information contained in the book is unquestionable, given the reception it's gotten from the scientific community. Is it wise to shelter kids from truth, in service to a drug war ideology? Our kids are confronted with the reality of marijuana every day. Do we really think that hiding the facts from them is going to fool them? What effect do we think that has on their willingness to accept our admonitions about drugs in general?"
ReconsiDer can be found on the web at http://www.reconsider.org/.
Julian Heicklen, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry at Penn State University (and a member of DRCNet), staged the second in what he claims will be a series of acts of civil disobedience last Thursday by lighting up a joint at the campus gates. Although he had never smoked marijuana prior to two weeks ago, he sees the issue involved as basic. "It's about the rights of individuals in a free society to make personal decisions without fear of violent reprisal by the state" he said. During the protest, which was sponsored by both the Centre City Libertarian Party, of which Heicklen is a member, and Smart on Crime, of which he is the founder, Professor Heicklen reclined in a lawn chair and lit up a joint in front of hundreds of supporters. Within a relatively short time, however, Heicklen was accosted by a man who was clearly unhappy with the demonstration.
"This man approached me, flashed a wallet, and said 'I want to speak with you'" Heicklen told The Week Online. "I turned away from him, at which point, without saying another word, he forcefully grabbed my wrist and took the marijuana cigarette out of my hand." That man turned out to be Ron Schrevler, chief of the campus police. "He didn't properly identify himself, he didn't place me under arrest, he didn't even cite me. What he did was attack me, and steal my property. Being a police officer doesn't entitle anyone to simply deal with issues however one sees fit. It was totally improper."
Professor Heicklen isn't taking the incident lying down. "I've filed a criminal complaint with the DA claiming assault and theft, and also a complaint with the University President. I want him prosecuted, and I want him fired."
Professor Heicklen is not new to activism. He was an organizer during the civil rights movement, and, as mentioned above, he is the founder of the organization Smart on Crime. "It's not a drug policy organization, it's a citizens' lobby. We focus on prison issues. First, too much tax money is being spent to lock up large numbers of people who simply don't belong behind bars. The drug war is obviously an enormous catalyst for that. Our second issue is the conditions in the Pennsylvania state prison system. The problems there are simply outrageous. Murders, beatings, death by medical neglect, serious food contamination -- we're talking urine and feces here." Heicklen is also the faculty coordinator for PSU's Amnesty International chapter.
As to his ongoing civil disobedience, Heicklen says, "The school would just as soon ignore it. It doesn't have anything to do with my work at the University. But last week the press was out in force, and we had about 400 students there, all told. If I get arrested and jailed, so be it. That's the nature of civil disobedience. The school will only act against me if they are forced into it by the state legislature. But I'm officially retired, I don't get paid, the only things they can do is take away my office or my parking spot. It would be cowardly of them, but it's possible that the legislature would decide to threaten their funding if they don't act."
"Legislators in this country cannot even address this issue rationally, I decided that someone had to take the lead and stir things up. I'm truly amazed at the support I've received, and the attention. This week, I'm inviting others to join me. The point is, if one person does something like this, he's a nut, if 50 people do it, it is a 'problem,' but once a thousand people are standing up, you've got a movement, and, if that movement is correct in its goals, it becomes impossible to stop them. I am standing up for the rights of individual adults to make basic decisions about their own lives. I have a great deal of faith that those who believe in such freedom have right on their side."
Prof. Heicklen asks that letters be sent to District Attorney Ray Gricar ("polite letters please, he's a good man" says Heicklen). Point out that is his responsibility to ensure that civil rights are respected and due process is followed by law enforcement. Send to DA Ray Gricar, County Courthouse, Bellefonte, PA, 16823. (Please send copies to DRCNet, 2000 P St., NW, Suite 615, Washington, DC 20036. We'll share them with Prof. Heicklen.)
(You can visit Professor Heicklen's web page, and send him e-mail, at http://www.personal.psu.edu/jph13/. DRCNet is not advocating for nor against this type of civil disobedience, but shares Prof. Heicklen's views regarding the injustice of U.S. marijuana laws.)
In yet another instance of Prohibition's corrupting influence on societal institutions, 44 police officers from five separate agencies were charged last week with taking payoffs to protect cocaine-trafficking operations in Cleveland and northern Ohio. The officers allegedly made themselves available to be rented out as escorts and private security for federal agents who were posing as major drug dealers. The feds came upon the ring in the midst of a 2 1/2 year federal investigation into organized crime in Ohio. An FBI affidavit quotes one of the arrested officers as saying "we're the toughest gang on the street. That's how we look at it."
A report detailing the findings of an investigation by the Justice Department into the much-heralded CIA-Crack cocaine connection, will not be released as scheduled, but the department insists that it will be released eventually. Janet Reno's office, which made the decision to withhold the report, cited a never-before invoked law , which allows the withholding of the results of an internal investigation due to "law enforcement concerns." (You can find the text of this law, "The Inspector General Act of 1978" at http://www.doc.gov/oig/info/igact78.htm).
A Justice Department spokesman told the San Jose Mercury News, "It's not that the report is invalid, or will have to be changed, or will never see the light of day. It's simply a decision to delay it until the law enforcement concerns abate."
The first volume of a CIA report on its own internal investigation into the allegations was released this week. As expected, it finds that allegations of ties by CIA operatives and agents to drug dealing in California are without merit. The second volume of the report, to be released soon, is expected to say much the same thing.
Flavio Romero de Velasco, a former governor of Jalisco State, was arrested this week for allegedly laundering money for known drug traffickers. The Mexican office of the Attorney General issued a statement on Saturday, Jan. 24 which said in part, "It is the conclusion of this government office that Romero de Velasco laundered money with the drug trafficker Rigoberto Gaxiola Medina, who has escaped Mexican justice since April 4, 1997."
One of the UK's leading newspapers, the Sunday Times, reported last week (Jan. 18) that loyalist paramilitaries have entered into working relationships with Scottish drug traffickers and are using the drug trade to finance large buildups in arms. The Times quoted an unnamed security source who said, "In theory, these organizations could become self-financing in the foreseeable future. That would have serious implications because they would be in a position to buy weapons in much larger quantities. It is a very dangerous alliance because the Scottish gangs share the political views of the loyalist paramilitaries and are anxious to do as much as they can to support what they see as the 'war effort.'"
Edward Ellison, who led Scotland Yard's drugs division from 1982-1986, urged last week that drugs, such as ecstasy (MDMA), be legalized, their production put into the hands of regulated, reputable pharmaceutical companies, and the profits taken out of the hands of organized criminals. Speaking to the Sunday Times, Ellison said, "It's absolutely clear that it is the criminals who are making the profits, producing the drug and benefiting from the illegal situation. If we only decriminalize the drugs, it still leaves supply in their hands." He continued, "I would take the entire drug supply chain out of the hands of the criminals and put it in a place where there is education, knowledge and quality control."
This week's link comes to us courtesy of the Chicago Police Department, who have apparently decided to make the most of the exciting technology of cyberspace. By going to the site below, you too can become a drug informant.
Now, we at DRCNet sympathize with the need for livable communities, and recognize that drug dealing can in some cases make a neighborhood dangerous, and we strongly believe that Americans have the right to live without the fear and inconvenience that such activities inevitably bring. It's just that we don't believe turning our cities into communist-era police states is the answer. How about we experiment first with taking the illegal drug trade out of the hands of criminals entirely?
But just in case you think the East Germans had it right, feel free to visit http://www.ci.chi.il.us/CommunityPolicing/forms/Narcotics.html and turn in your neighbor.
And for those of you who believe that our societal slip into Prohibitionist Police-statism bodes poorly for the future of our free nation, we are NOT, repeat, NOT suggesting that you list Mayor Richard M. Daley's name and address (121 N. LaSalle Street, Chicago, IL 60602) on the tip form. You might want to write him, though, and tell him what you think, or e-mail him at [email protected] to tell him what you think.
(The police form didn't remind visitors that submitting false information is illegal, so we are.)
Last week we reported on the case of Billy Polson, a seventeen year-old Missouri boy who was sentenced to serve ten years in prison for helping a police informant to purchase $20 worth of marijuana within 2,000 feet of a college. Polson had no prior criminal record, and was not himself selling drugs. The informant, one Alex Martinez, was dating Polson's older sister at the time, and apparently lured the youngster to commit his offense within the legally defined "school zone."
The sentence in the case was the minimum allowed under the law, which requires 10 years to life. The judge, while he had the option of setting aside the conviction, had no discretion to impose a lighter sentence while letting the conviction stand. This is the way it works with mandatory minimum laws. The prosecutor, in choosing the charge, also mandates the sentence should a guilty verdict be returned.
None of this is unusual, of course. Just this week, Angela Thompson was released after being pardoned on Christmas by New York's Governor George Pataki. Ms. Thompson, 17 years old and pregnant at the time, was given a fifteen year- minimum sentence in 1989. She had been living with her uncle, a two-time convicted felon, when she was arrested. Her uncle had been under investigation for his continuing drug dealing, and on the day he was to be busted, undercover agents came to his door to pick up two ounces of cocaine. When the doorbell rang, he instructed his niece to answer the door and to hand over the wrapped package. Despite the fact that Ms. Thompson had not previously been identified in the investigation, and her apparent lack of involvement in anything other than that single act which was carried out at the direction of her uncle, she was tried and convicted.
Ms. Thompson was initially sentenced to 8 years in prison by judge Juanita Newton, but that was apparently not enough for the prosecutors, who, despite the fact that she had no prior criminal record, appealed the sentence as being inconsistent with New York's tough Rockefeller drug laws. The appeal was successful and Ms. Thompson was given fifteen years to life, the same sentence as her uncle. Her pardon, after 8 years in prison, was the result of a long campaign led by retired State Supreme Court Justice Jerome W. Marks.
In another case in another part of the country, Will Foster, a 38 year-old self-employed father of three, also with no criminal record, was tried for cultivation of marijuana. Foster, who suffers from severe Rheumatoid Arthritis, smoked marijuana in lieu of the strong narcotics prescribed to him by his doctor. The narcotics, he claims, left him groggy and nauseous, unable to work. He was busted on an anonymous tip. State and county agents, kicking in the door to the family's home, found several dozen plants, many just seedlings, in a bomb shelter in the Foster's basement. During closing arguments, the young prosecutor told the jury that in considering sentencing, they should simply "pick a number, and add a couple of zeros to it."
Foster was sentenced to 93 years in prison.
All prosecutors have the discretion to charge, or not to charge, as they see fit. This power has always played an important role in our justice system, but never has that power been as potent as it is today, with mandatory minimum sentences removing nearly all discretion from the hands of judges. But rather than making prosecutors more wary of their own power -- the ability to destroy the life of a young person based upon a single decision at the outset of criminal proceedings -- the rhetoric and draconian sentences of the drug war seem only to have made the lives of the accused less worthy of consideration.
What good will come of sending 17 year-old Billy Polson to prison for ten years based upon the facts of his case? He is not violent. He wasn't even dealing marijuana himself. His upkeep will cost taxpayers over a quarter of a million dollars. He will likely come out a hardened and bitter man. Polson's prosecutor, a man by the name of Greg Robinson, is up for re-election this year. According to Polson's attorney, Dan Viets, Robinson wished to make an example of the youth to help his upcoming campaign. Is that the going rate for the destruction of a young life? A campaign sound-bite?
The drug war has had a tremendous number of devastating effects on our society, but one of the least remarked-upon has been the effect that it has had on our prosecutors. A prosecutor's job is to seek justice, not to rack up convictions and years like so many notches on a gunslinger's belt. Billy Polson broke the law of Missouri by helping a man who was dating his older sister, a snitch who he thought was his friend, to find a twenty-bag of weed. Greg Robinson, wielding vast and discretionary power entrusted to him by the voters of Lafayette, threw his life away. It is sick that he thinks such abuse will help him to be re- elected. It will be sicker if he is right.
Adam J. Smith
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