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The Week Online with DRCNet
(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)

Issue #30, 2/20/98

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

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Table of Contents

  1. Medical Marijuana Support Fund Established: New coalition providing assistance for grassroots medical marijuana projects.
  2. Gingrich Calls Clinton's New Drug Strategy "The Definition of Failure," Pledges GOP Legislative Package
  3. World Health Organization Suppresses Report Finding Marijuana Safer than Alcohol and Tobacco
  4. Needle Exchange Volunteer Arrested in New Jersey: Letters are needed!
  5. Protesting Penn State Professor Julian Heicklen, Fourt Others to be Charged. ALSO: 18 Year-Old High School Student Suspended for 3 Days Without Hearing for Being Arrested with Heicklen
  6. Ex-Michigan Gov: Drug Lifer Law "Inhumane"
  7. Medical Marijuana Activists to Open Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Across Eastern Canada (reprinted from NORML Weekly News)
  8. Interview with Canadian Medical Marijuana Activist Peter Young
  9. Classmates of UK Home Secretary Straw's Son Hand Him Petition for Legalization of Cannabis
  10. Job Opportunity: Drug Policy Foundation seeks Public Policy Director
  11. EDITORIAL: Bill, Newt, and the coming battle over the war.

Visit last week's issue of The Week Online

1. Medical Marijuana Support Fund Established

We here at DRCNet are pleased to announce the establishment of the Medical Marijuana Support Fund (MMSF). The MMSF is a collaborative project of the Drug Policy Foundation, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation and the Drug Reform Coordination Network. The fund has been established to offer patients, activists and organizations both financial and technical assistance in the following areas:

  • Assistance in developing and drafting legislative language.
  • Technical assistance in program design for projects implemented after medical marijuana initiatives/ legislation have been passed.
  • Experts to testify at public health hearings or forums.
  • Experts to testify at trial in relation to medical necessity defense.
  • Printing of promotional and educational materials directly related to a specific policy goal.

If you or your organization is interested in applying for one or more of the above-mentioned types of assistance, contact Whitney Taylor at the Drug Policy Foundation at (202) 537-5005 to request an official application.

If you are interested in making a donation to the Medical Marijuana Support Fund, Whitney can help you with that as well. (Be sure to mention you heard about it from DRCNet!)

2. Gingrich Calls Clinton's New Drug Strategy "The Definition of Failure", Pledges GOP Legislative Package

Last Saturday (2/14) at noon, President Clinton used his weekly radio address to outline this year's "Drug Strategy." The strategy called for a 6.8% increase in federal spending on the Drug War, and called for greater accountability among the federal agencies charged with carrying out various aspects of the War. The plan also listed as its goal a 50% reduction in both the use and the supply of drugs in America over a period of ten years. Within the hour, however, Newt Gingrich, who delivered the GOP response to the plan, was calling for the plan's withdrawal and announcing his plans to introduce a "tougher" and more comprehensive GOP legislative initiative on the Drug War.

"Once America got involved, it took our country just four years to win the Second World War -- the greatest military effort the world has ever seen. In the Civil War, it took just four years to save the Union and abolish slavery" Gingrich said in his address. "But this President would have us believe that with all the resources, ingenuity, dedication, and passion of the American people, we can't even get halfway to victory in the War on Drugs until the year 2007 - nine full years from now. That is not a success. That is the definition of failure."

Drug Czar Barry McCaffey called Gingrich's remarks 'irresponsible'. "I'm sympathetic to partisan wrangling and know that Newt Gingrich is looking for issues for the midterm election, but that's not what I signed up to do", McCaffrey told the Associated Press. "I'm afraid he's doing a disservice to a comprehensive plan."

Gingrich went on to vow that he would sponsor a resolution to put the House on record as demanding that the administration withdraw its plan. He said that Republicans around the country (he specifically cited New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani) had "laid the groundwork to launch a World War II -- style victory campaign against illegal drugs." He added that "we in congress will pass legislation to implement the largest, most dynamic, most comprehensive anti-drug strategy ever designed."

Arnold Trebach, the recently retired President of the Drug Policy Foundation, spoke with The Week Online regarding Gingrich's statements. "Speaker Gingrich's proposed massive new War on Drugs runs counter to the principles of his party and the best traditions of the nation. The Republican party, if it stands for anything, values enormous restraint of governmental power in the name of individual liberties and capitalist enterprise."

Trebach continued, "The War on Drugs as presently constitutes has already destroyed many aspects of personal freedom and individual initiative that Americans formerly enjoyed. If anything characterizes the broad spectrum of human experience in America, it is that Americans support programs which work, and oppose those that don't. The War on Drugs doesn't work and never will. Given the current proposal's departure from Republican principles, other leaders of the GOP should take Speaker Gingrich out to the ideological woodshed and administer some sharp blows to appropriate part of his anatomy."

3. World Health Organization Suppresses Report Finding Marijuana Safer than Alcohol and Tobacco

The February 18 edition of Britain's NEW SCIENTIST Magazine reports that the Geneva-based World Health organization (WHO) suppressed, under political pressure, a report which confirmed that marijuana is safer than either alcohol or tobacco. The report, which was to be a part of the WHO's summary report on Cannabis (released in December), was reportedly axed under pressure from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the UN International Drugs Control Program, who told the WHO that inclusion of the section would "play into the hands of groups campaigning to legalize marijuana."

According to New Scientist (to which a copy of the suppressed report was leaked) the official explanation of the exclusion of the report was that "the reliability and public health significance of such comparisons are doubtful." But New Scientist also reports that insiders informed them that the report was scientifically sound.

Kevin Zeese, President of Common Sense for Drug Policy Foundation, told The Week Online, "Just business as usual for the drug war establishment. Once again they have shown themselves to be afraid of the truth, to the point of suppressing it. The suppression of information as a method of sustaining a policy which cannot stand up to the truth is a tactic of totalitarian, non-democratic regimes. For the citizens of the free nations of the world, even for those who have never given a thought to the rationale behind the Drug War, this kind of tactic should serve as a warning that something is terribly wrong."

(We are attempting to obtain a copy of the report, for posting on the web. If you have one, please send a copy to us at 2000 P St., NW, Suite 615, Washington, DC 20036.)

You can find the New Science article on the WHO report, which is part of a large special section on marijuana (2/21 edition) at

4. Needle Exchange Volunteer Arrested in New Jersey

Johanna Malaret, a volunteer for the CHAI Project, a needle exchange program in New Brunswick, NJ, was arrested this Wednesday (2/18) in Perth Amboy for possession and possession with intent to distribute syringes. Perth Amboy police stopped Malaret on Hall Street during a regularly-scheduled walking route. They confiscated 63 syringes.

This is the second time in the past 22 months that a representative of the Chai Project has been arrested. Last April, project director Diana McCague was arrested in New Brunswick for possession and convicted. Her appeal is still pending. The Centers for Disease Control estimated last year that over 13,000 New Jersey residents either have injection-related AIDS or have died from it. New Jersey, where Governor Christine Whitman has steadfastly declined to change the law outlawing syringe exchange despite its endorsement by such groups as the World Health Organization and the American Medical Association, and the advice of her own AIDS Council, ranks third in the nation in the incidence of injection-related infection.

Chai Project Director Diana McCague told The Week Online, "The arrest is an outrage. It leaves people in Perth Amboy with no choice but to re-use and share syringes. Why is it that the police and the government of this state feel that the best way to help addicted citizens is to sentence them to death? Dead addicts don't recover, and the law does not justify base immorality. What about the partners and children of New Jersey's injection drug users? It is under the current laws that tens of thousands of New Jersey residents have become injection drug users, and we slavishly enforce these same laws to keep good people from trying to limit the damage. They call this 'drug control'. Well, we are certainly not controlling drugs, but we are systematically destroying the lives of enormous numbers of our most vulnerable citizens, which leaves one to wonder exactly what this system is really set up to do."

YOU CAN HELP! DRCNet asks that concerned readers send letters to the editors of the following papers (contact info provided) expressing your disapproval of both the arrest and the anti-syringe exchange laws of New Jersey.

***Please don't forget to include your name, address and phone number with your letter. Also, don't forget to sign the letter you are submitting. Address all mailed letters to: Letter to the Editor, followed by the address, to ensure it is received quickly.

The Star-Ledger
1 Star-Ledger Plaza
Newark, NJ 07102-1200
[email protected]
(973) 877-4040 (fax)
(Submit to "Speaking Up", 500 words or less)

The Courier-News
P.O. Box 6600
Bridgewater, NJ 08807
[email protected]
(908) 707-3128 (phone)
(908) 707-3252 (fax)
(Don't exceed 250 words)

The Trenton Times
500 Perry St.
P.O. Box 847
Trenton, NJ 08605
[email protected]
(609) 989-5500 (phone)
(609) 394-2819 (fax)
(Don't exceed 300 words)

Asbury Park
Press Your Views
3601 Highway 66
P.O. Box 1550
Neptune, NJ 07754-1551
[email protected]
(732) 922-6000 (phone)
(732) 922-4818 (fax)
(No word limit)

City News
P.O. Box 1774
Plainfield, NJ 07060
[email protected]
(908) 754-3400 (phone)
(908) 753-1036
(No word limit)

The New York Times
229 West 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036-3959
[email protected]
(212) 556-1234 ext. 1873 (phone)
(212) 556-3622 (fax)
(No word limit)

Jersey Journal
Attn: Bob Larkins
30 Journal Square
Jersey City, NJ 07306
(201) 653-1000 (phone)
(201) 653-1414 (fax)
(No word limit)

5. Protesting Penn State Professor, Four Others to be Charged

Professor Emeritus Julian Heicklen and about 100 supporters gathered at the main entrance of Penn State University at High Noon Thursday for their fifth consecutive weekly protest against Marijuana Prohibition.

According to the State College Police, Heicklen and four others will be charged with possession for smoking at last week's rally. They will be notified by mail of the exact charges and the date of their hearing. Consequently Heicklen refrained from smoking at this weeks' protest and he asked his supporters to follow his example.

Heicklen read from a prepared statement, "I will not be smoking today and I request that none of you do so. Our goal is to get into the courts and we have met that goal. Five of us will soon receive notices of arrest. Our aim is not to break the marijuana laws but to nullify them. ...If we receive fair, impartial, and speedy trials by a jury of our peers, we shall proceed by that route. If not we will consider other alternatives."

Heicklen's weekly protests have attracted national media coverage as well as the support of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. NORML Executive Director Keith Stroup said, "I think its a very courageous act he's doing and it's in the best traditions of the Civil Rights Movement in this country. Civil disobedience has always played an important role in shaping public policy...until more people like the good professor are willing to stand up and say the truth, and take the heat we may never get rid of these laws."

Stroup said that if the case goes to court, NORML's Legal Committee will likely file an Amicus Curiae (Friend of the Court) brief in support of Heicklen.

Stroup also said that NORML will be able to assist Heicklen in research, filing briefs and bringing expert witnesses to testify at trial.

Heicklen said he will continue the Thursday, High Noon protests and he urged the crowd to continue attending, "Your presence is necessary. It demonstrates support for the arrestees and acts as protection for them."

ALSO: 18 Year-Old High School Student Suspended for 3 Days Without Hearing for Being Arrested with Heicklen

(The following is an excerpt from the public statement of professor Julian Heicklen.)

"There was one unfortunate occurrence as a result of last week's events. Ken Keltner, one of the arrestees, is a student in the State College Area High School. He is in the Delta Program, which has an open lunch hour. Students are permitted to leave the school property during their lunch hour, which is what Ken did to participate in the Smoke Out."

"Kathleen Kelly, Director of the Delta Program, approached Ken at about 11:30 on Friday, February 13, 1998, and showed him a newspaper clipping that reported his arrest. She said that Ken was in violation of the school drug and alcohol policy, which forbids drug or alcohol use by students during school hours. She suspended him for 3 days on the spot without a hearing. She accompanied him to his locker. He got his books and went home. He was told not to return to school until Wednesday, February 18, 1998. Ken called the school at 1:00 PM on Friday, February 13, 1998, to ask for an appeal. Ms. Kelly denied him an appeal."

"On Wednesday, February 18, 1998, after the suspension period was over, Ken received a letter in the mail notifying him of the suspension. In order to remain in the program, Ken was informed that within 10 days he must have an assessment by a licensed drug and alcohol facility and that he must comply with the recommendations of that facility."

"The public schools have a right to make and enforce regulations on school property. They have an obligation to protect minors that are under their care. However, they do not have the right to regulate the behavior of adults that are not on school property. Ken Keltner is 18 years old and is an adult. He was not on school property and violated no school regulation by being off the school property during his lunch hour. He was suspended without a hearing based on a newspaper report. He was denied the right of appeal."

"The public schools are not law enforcement agencies, nor are they instruments of social policy. Their job is education. What they did in this case was to deny Mr. Keltner three days of education, which it is their obligation to provide, so that they could act as a law enforcement agency, which is not their function. This is a classic example of a police state in operation. Not only is it oppressive, but it loses sight of the interests of those it was meant to serve."

"This is the tyranny that our movement is trying to end. On Sunday, February 15, 1998, I made separate telephone calls to Connie Martin, Chair of the State College Area School District, and two other School Board members, Sue Werner and Donna Queeney. I discussed this matter with them and advised them that if they would rescind the suspension, I would let the matter die quietly. All three of them informed me that the School Board did not have the authority to rescind an administrative decision. Imagine that!"

"Then I called School Superintendent Bill Opdenhoff and repeated my comments. He said that he would look into the matter. However the suspension was not rescinded."

"We are in the midst of a national nightmare. The struggle to recover our moral compass will be long and difficult. With your help and support, we will succeed."

6. Ex-Michigan Gov: Drug-Lifer Law "Inhumane"

When he was the governor of Michigan, William Milliken signed that state's "drug-lifer law" which mandated life without parole for anyone caught in possession of over 650 grams of heroin or cocaine. Now, Milliken says that he made a mistake, and that the law, criticized for catching more low-level couriers than actual kingpins, "wastes precious public dollars to lock people up for life, people who pose no threat to society."

There are currently two separate bills in the Michigan legislature which would reform the law, and both Milliken and the current governor support reform. According to the Grand rapids press, however, Sen. Van Regenmorter, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says that neither bill is likely to pass in this, an election year, as legislators are worried about being labeled "soft on drugs."

7. Medical Marijuana Activists to Open Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Across Eastern Canada

(Reprinted from the NORML Weekly News, a publication of the NORML Foundation,

February 19, 1998, Toronto, Ontario: As part of an ongoing campaign to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana in Canada, activists in Ontario announced the launch of at least eight medical marijuana dispensaries in the region. Proponents announced that the clubs -- commonly known as Cannabis Buyers' Clubs (CBCs) -- will be "wheelchair accessible," and in "commercial areas, not private residences." Medical marijuana distributed at the clubs will be sold at cost. "We're not going to be hiding," Peter Young -- one of the organizers for the clubs -- told the Ottawa Citizen. He added that any police officer posing as a patient could "easily" track down a sales venue, but said that "if they're going to bust us, fine. But the next day we'll be open again."

Presently, buyers' clubs exist in Toronto and Vancouver, the Toronto Star reported. Additional clubs are expected to open shortly in Toronto, London, Peterborough, Kitchener, and Guelph. Club organizers in Mississauga, Oakville, and Etobicoke are currently accepting applications, the paper said. Efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Canada have increased in recent months. On February 5, a 53 year old Toronto AIDS patient filed a civil suit against the Canadian government asking the court to find an exemption for the medical use of marijuana. The federal challenge came two months after a Canadian trial court judge ruled that bona fide medical marijuana users are exempt from criminal marijuana possession penalties. In addition, recent statements from a spokesman at the Canadian Department of Health indicate that the agency may begin approving use of the drug in "emergency" situations. Buyers' clubs -- though illegal under U.S. federal law -- first began to appear in California in the early 1990s. Medical marijuana advocates estimate that 40 such clubs presently operate in the United States. For further information, contact Allen St. Pierre of The NORML Foundation @ (202) 483-8751.

8. Interview with Canadian Medical Marijuana Activist Peter Young

- Marc Brandl for DRCNet

On February 19, ten Canadian activists held a press conference announcing their plans to open Cannabis Buyers' Clubs (CBC's) across Canada, to dispense medicinal marijuana to patients in need. In an effort to openly challenge Canada's prohibition of the medicinal use of marijuana, the activists made a very public showing of explaining why the CBC's needed to be opened, where they were going to be opened, and how they will operate.

Longtime Canadian marijuana activist Chris Clay told The Week Online, "A nation-wide survey recently found 83% of Canadians support medical marijuana, and politicians are suddenly jumping on the bandwagon. Any police intervention would make for a tremendous amount of bad press, and the clubs would continue to operate anyway." The Week Online interviewed one of the Ontario activists, Pete Young, of the Organic Traveler hemp store in London, Ontario, on his thoughts on medical marijuana and becoming an activist.

WOL: How did you get involved in all this? How did you first become active?

Pete Young: I was a cultivator/breeder in the states for a few years before I came to London for school (photography with a major in digital imaging). While I was there, I hooked up with Chris Clay, who was the proprietor of Great Canadian Hemporium/Hemp Nation, the first cannabis shop in Canada.

WOL: What first sparked your interest in this area?

Pete Young: I had a friend who was run over by a car when he was a teenager (crushed pelvis and lower spin damage). He was using Marijuana to help control the massive pain. He was eventually busted for growing 4-6 plants in his closet. At the time, he was a legal morphine junky for 8 to 11 years, and was using marijuana to wean off of narcotics. He got a doctor's note to show to the judge, but the charges were only reduced, NOT dropped, and he was put back on morphine. Last year he finally became immune to the morphine, and his doctor was forced to place him on LEGAL HEROIN.

After I saw what the legal drugs were doing to him and he realized what he was turning into, he decided to leave town and move to place where he could grow his own medicine. Now this guy had to leave his family (mother, sisters and brothers) behind just so he could lead a respectable life and not have to look at a junky facing death every morning when he looked in the mirror. This pissed me off. And I decided to get into the fight.

WOL: The group of ten of you are all pretty young. What makes a young individual decide to open up a single-medicine apothecary for sick people? Pete Young: As far as focusing on one medicine, it carries so many helpful, healing properties we need go no further. As far as being to young, you are never too young to care. You don't have to start up a Buyer's Club yourself, but you can help an existing one or help in other ways. For instance, Lynn Harichy, a medical marijuana patient who will be going to court in April to challenge medical marijuana prohibition on Constitutional grounds, needs to raise $5,000 Canadian dollars to fly in expert witnesses for her case. Obviously not everyone can become activists to the level that some of us have, but just about everyone can send a few dollars every now and then to help the fights that are already going on. See how easy it is?

[To make a donation to Lynn Harichy's legal fight for medical marijuana, see details at end of article.)

WOL: Has your age been an obstacle at all, what are the advantages? Do you think there are a lot more young people out there that are becoming active like you?

Pete Young: There are advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are I can relate to a wide spectrum of people of different ages. The disadvantage is not so much my age, though the older generation still sees anyone who believes in marijuana and is under 50 a drug smokin' hippy, but more my looks. Longer hair, tye-dyed shirt, facial hair. I'm seen as just another pot-head.

WOL: How many clubs are being started by your group?

Pete Young: For now 3-4 and within the next 2-3 months another 4-5. WOL: One of the toughest problems facing CBC's is the supply problem. How are you dealing with this?

Pete Young: I will be hitting up all the local growers to donate or give discount medical prices. For this they will receive a receipt in case they get busted -- this should help them in court. Plus if they are growing solely for the clubs we will help with legal fees through a legal defense fund we will be putting together.

WOL: How linked are the new CBC's going to be? Are you going to share resources, money, information etc.?

Pete Young: Only information, all of the clubs will be privately owned, patients will be transferred so they will not have to travel with an illegal substance.

WOL: When will medical marijuana become available legally in Canada, some say that these actions will bring about change very soon. What is your prediction?

Pete Young: I'm hopeful that legal changes will come within the year.

WOL: Will CBC's be kept in existence after medical marijuana is made legally available, or are they a temporary stopgap?

Pete Young: I couldn't answer that one, I guess it will be up to the Government. If they are going to put it into the hospitals and pharmacies, where it belongs, then we may not be needed. But until then we'll be here.

To make donations to Lynn Harichy's defense fund contact: Prof. Alan Young, York University, Osgoode Hall Law, 4700 Keele St., Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3, CANADA, (416) 736-5595.

9. Classmates of UK Home Secretary Straw's Son Hand Him Petition for Legalization of Cannabis

Jack Straw, the British Home Secretary whose son was caught selling 10 pounds (sterling) worth of cannabis in a pub at a time when Straw was publicly and vociferously defending cannabis Prohibition, addressed his son's class at Pimlico School last week. While he might have expected his appearance to generate intense interest among the student body, he probably did not expect to be handed a petition, signed by nearly all of his son's classmates, urging the legalization of the substance.

The petition, titled "Stop turning young people into criminals" was signed by over 100 students. Notably absent was the signature of Straw's son, William. Classmates had not asked him to sign it, according to the Independent on Sunday newspaper, figuring that he had been through enough on the issue already. The petition stated: "We believe that medical evidence suggests cannabis is less harmful than alcohol or tobacco, which are legally available. Yet thousands of young people every year are turned into criminals by the pointless and unworkable ban on cannabis. Without in any way encouraging the use of cannabis, or indeed any drug, we call on the Home Secretary and the Government to bring the law into line with reality and legalize cannabis without delay." The students were members of the sixth form, which means they are approximately seventeen years-old.

10. Job Opportunity

Leading drug policy reform organization seeks highly skilled master's-level public policy director. Must understand major reform issues: medical marijuana, pain control, asset forfeiture, mandatory minimums. Will build coalitions, develop action strategies and coordinate advocacy efforts with new allies to advance shared agenda. Will prepare testimony and policy papers. Exceptional communication skills, familiarity with public health and criminal justice issues essential. Send resume and salary requirements to: Public Policy Search, Drug Policy Foundation, 4455 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite B-500, Washington, DC 20008- 2328.

11. EDITORIAL: Bill, Newt, and the coming battle over the war.

In dueling radio addresses this week, President Clinton outlined, and Newt Gingrich trashed, the administration's 1998 National Drug Strategy report. While bickering around the edges of the nation's plans for the prosecution of the Drug War has become a common occurrence, Gingrich's demand that the Strategy by withdrawn, and his promise of a legislative package constituting "the largest, most dynamic, most comprehensive anti-drug strategy ever designed," has taken the battle over the war to a new level.

With mid-term elections coming, and the economy strong, the GOP is desperate to find wedge issues. Clinton's record on drugs, from "I didn't inhale" to a reported 70% increase in teen drug use on his administration's watch, make this a perceived Democratic weakness. Also, with popular Republican mayors around the country (Gingrich mentioned New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani in his address) talking and acting the part of near-obsessive drug warriors, there is evidence that the GOP feels that the issue is ripe for exploitation.

The problem for the Democrats is, of course, that in a perverse way, Gingrich is right. The current carnage which has made the US the world's leading incarcerator, which has resulted in one out of three young African American men caught up in the criminal justice system, which has led to massive corruption, ineffective drug education and rising numbers of young drug users, has been a colossal failure. It will be difficult, if not impossible to argue in favor of more of the same, which is exactly what the administration is proposing. The fact that escalation is not the answer is nearly irrelevant, as voters, still largely uninformed as to the real nature of the problem, will be presented with an "alternative" to the failed status quo.

The alternative, of course, would be radical indeed. That alternative would be reason and truth. Prohibition cannot work, its very premise is fatally flawed, and we need to reassess our entire thinking about what constitutes "drug control," which we have quite obviously failed to achieve under a state of war. But desperate though they may be, few Democrats will be so bold as to level with the American people in the face of the cumulative effects of the propaganda campaign which has been successfully waged on this issue over the past 25 years.

No, the Democrats will be stuck with two choices. The first is to abandon the administration and jump on the escalation bandwagon. The second is to rely on calls for treatment in prisons and a host of other "half-measures," as Gingrich calls them. The fact that these half-measures constitute a position halfway toward a police state makes little difference. The GOP is apparently ready to open the throttle, full speed ahead, and bet that the American public is ready and willing to ignore the advice of Thomas Jefferson in trading freedom for security, illusory as that promised security may be.

But despite the seemingly depressing prospect of a public debate between those lobbying for more prisons and less freedom and those lobbying for even more prisons and even less freedom, there is reason for optimism. Today, across the globe, from Europe to Australia and even in Canada, a backlash has arisen against American-style war as an antidote to substance abuse. The European Parliament recently delayed a vote, expected to be closely contested, over a report recommending that all EU members adopt harm-reduction strategies, including the decriminalization of cannabis and other "soft" drugs. England has been awash in debate over cannabis policy for months now, and the din has only intensified.

Heroin maintenance trials are being discussed and even implemented across the continent, and Australia was days away from starting its own when it bowed to back-channel US pressure. Canada is also becoming a hot-spot of debate over drug policy, and let us not forget that we share a virtually indefensible border with our neighbor to the north.

Interestingly, one of the strongest and most resonant arguments being made by international reformers is the excess of punitive control and government power that the war has brought to America. As the numbers of reformers across Europe and other nations come tantalizingly close to parity with those advocating war, what would be better illustrative of the philosophical endpoint of prohibition than American politicians calling in the media for even more massive incarceration and more executions (generally abhorred by other western democracies) in "the land of the free"? A campaign, legislative and electoral, featuring such wanton bloodlust in the name of "morality" could very well seal the fate of Prohibitionists around the world. A victorious Republican campaign, resulting in such an expansion of the punitive state, almost certainly would.

Here at home, some of the media has begun to report approvingly of both harm reduction and the voices of reform. Discussion of alternatives is no longer taboo in polite company. The challenge for reformers, then, is to thrust ourselves into the coming debate, offering rational alternatives to both the failures of the current system and the murderous excesses of the extremist dissenters.

We must edge our way onto the stage, in any way possible, and at every opportunity, with a clear and honest message which takes into account the very real fears to which escalation is designed to appeal. "Prohibition is not drug control, it is the abandonment of control." Further, we must build up our numbers by reaching out to those who understand, and educating those who do not. We must marshal our forces and grow our organizations. We must speak out, and we must demand that others stand up and be counted. We must make the warriors defend their chosen course.

On Saturday, February 14, 1998, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich announced his intention to lead a full scale offensive in the longest-running war of the twentieth century. It is vital that we as reformers not waste our limited resources in trying to fight the Republicans around the edges of their plan. Let them go wild. Let them be extreme. It can only help our cause both here and abroad. Instead, let us stake out our ground in opposition to both "sides". Let us step into the fray with our message intact. The unreasonableness of our adversaries is our greatest advantage. We must use the spotlight which they themselves have asked for to illuminate our cause. They have called forth the battle. But in so doing, they have given us the war. Our time is upon us.

Adam J. Smith
Associate Director

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Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

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