(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #44, 5/28/98
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
Have you received your copy of Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts? If we received your contribution before April 28, you should have gotten your copy by now -- let us know if you haven't, and we'll get it out right away. If we received your donation after that date, the book should be going in the mail this week. Please accept our apologies for the delay. THIS OFFER IS FINALLY EXPIRING, THREE DAYS FROM NOW -- SEE ITEM 2 BELOW FOR HOW TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT BEFORE IT'S OVER!
Table of Contents
1. Drug Crazy Hits The Stores!
- David Borden, Executive Director
Two evenings ago, I got a call from the local bookstore in my neighborhood, letting me know that a copy of the book I had inquired about -- DRUG CRAZY: How We Got INTO THIS MESS & How We Can GET OUT -- had arrived. I picked it up yesterday morning -- my personal copy -- and returned yesterday evening to recommend the book and ask whether they had more copies in stock. I was told that two more were on order, perhaps because a copy had been purchased.
It was early in DRCNet's history, 1994, when author Mike Gray found us on the Usenet talk groups, signed up, and told me about a book he was working on that would lay out the enormous damage being wrought by the prohibition laws, in a way, he hoped, that would speak to the all-powerful Middle America. I was excited to hear about the project, particularly because of Mike's illustrious career -- his credits include the hit movie "The China Syndrome" -- I figured that this guy was good, and if anyone could pull it off, it would be him. Mike later joined our advisory board, at my invitation.
Drug Crazy took until now to complete because of the meticulous research that went into it -- practically every page required its own research project, taking Mike from Chicago, to Liverpool, to who knows where -- and because Mike continued to write about the history as it unfolded, all the way through last year. There are portions of the book that made me stop and think, "wait a minute, that's not history yet!" Like drug czar McCaffrey's foolish praise of his Mexican counterpart Jesus Guttierez Rebollo, who was arrested weeks later for being on the drug lords' payroll -- or the state of Virginia's ill-advised targeting of pain doctor William Hurwitz, with tragic consequences for his patients -- or the passage of California's Prop. 215. After all these years, I am looking at an actual copy of the book, no less timely.
A chapter that is sure to rivet you to your seat is chapter one, "A Tale of Two Cities -- Chicago: 1995/1925", contrasting a narrative of a fast-paced drug raid/shooting spree from our time, with the story of Alcohol Prohibition, 70 years in the past.
My favorite passage from the book is from chapter six, "The River of Money," where Mike takes readers to the Peruvian jungle to witness the futility of the "Andean Initiative" for themselves: "Three thousand miles to the south, where the headwaters of the Amazon spring from the Andean cordillera, an aging Vietnam-era Huey was choppering through the jungle haze, and in the doorway, like a haunting snapshot of another era, a DEA agent in green fatigues cradled an AR-15 automatic as he scanned the undulating landscape."
I am sharing these personal recollections, in the hope that you will get inspired, and will call or visit your local Border's, or Barnes & Noble, other chains or independent bookstores, ask if they have a copy of DRUG CRAZY from Random House, and maybe pick one up, so the stores will order two more, or five, or ten, or even create a display. So that more thinking citizens will receive this vital information, feel some of the horror and the anger that led me and many of you to get involved, and stand with us to demand change.
And when some of them do decide to take a stand, they will be able to find us on the Internet, using the comprehensive index of reform groups and resources provided in Appendix B. The introduction to the appendix is a brief history of how DRCNet got started and what it has become. So your support for DRUG CRAZY will not only educate the public, but will build DRCNet and the movement as a whole. Call today!
(Take a look at the book cover in last week's WOL archive, at http://www.drcnet.org/rapid/1998/5-22.html#drugcrazy. You can order the book there through amazon.com, and DRCNet will earn a 15% commission off of your purchase -- though we urge you to go the bookstore route instead to help the book go big. If, as in chapter six, you do go the amazon route, make sure to buy directly through our link -- otherwise, we'll only earn 5%, or possibly nothing.)
2. Final Week for Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts Offer!
After several months and over 300 copies, we are winding up our offer of free copies of the Morgan/Zimmer book on May 31! Your contribution of $30 or more must be postmarked, or submitted via our online registration form, by the last day of this month, to qualify. (Okay, if you don't happen to read this until after that date, or if you need to wait a little longer for your next paycheck, we'll let you slide -- honor system! Write us a note to let us know.)
DRCNet needs your help! Thanks to the generosity of our major donors and of many of our members last quarter --beyond our expectations -- DRCNet is almost in the black. We need your continued support to finally get there and stay there. Just as important as the money is increasing our number of paying members. Your contribution represents a vote for DRCNet and reform. So if you have never joined DRCNet before, your donation, no matter how small, is worth even more. The more of our current 5,500 subscribers actually join and contribute, the more confident our major donors will be in our ability to make it in the big leagues, and the more support they will provide, to help us go from 5,500 to 55,000, and from 55,000 to 100,000. Currently, about 900 of you have sent in membership dues and joined. Help us break 1,000 by June 1! Please use our secure online registration form at http://www.drcnet.org/drcreg.html, or send your check or money order to: DRCNet, 2000 P St., NW, Suite 615, Washington, DC 20036.
Please note that contributions to DRCNet are not tax-deductible. If you are considering making a substantial gift, but need a tax deduction, please call us at (202) 293-8340 or e-mail [email protected] and we will explain an arrangement we have for that purpose.
The Washington Post reports this week (5/25) that US Special Forces units are currently training members of the Colombian military under a program which sidesteps requirements that US military aid go only to units which have not been implicated in human rights abuses. The Post indicates that the program, which involves "hundreds" of US troops, represents a deeper and more hands-on involvement of US forces in Colombia's internal conflict. The program, "Joint Combined Exchange Training" (JCET) is the same one under which Indonesian troops have been trained for the past seven years, even though many members of Congress were under the impression that all military ties with the Suharto regime had been severed.
Helicopter News reported last week (5/22) that Sikorsky, makers of the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, and Bell Helicopter Textron, makers of the UH-1 Huey, are jockeying for position to determine who will get to fulfill the $36 million commitment Congress has made for the Colombian National Police (CNP).
The Hueys, of which the CNP currently has 40 -- although few are operational and most are in need of parts -- are Vietnam-era helicopters which have been upgraded by the manufacturer in recent years. The Black Hawks are, according to their manufacturer, more "suviveable" in crashes and are able to withstand ground fire more easily; they are also more expensive. Bell, for its part, claims that the same $36 million which could purchase three Black Hawks would afford the purchase of 21 Huey helicopters.
Joseph Miranda, former instructor at the American School for Special Warfare, told The Week Online, "It's no secret that the Drug War has replaced the Cold War as America's number one excuse for military expenditures and the sale of military hardware. But unlike the Cold War, during which the demand was for ultra high-tech, very expensive hardware, the Drug War has allowed for the sale of light arms, medium-tech equipment like night vision goggles, and helicopters.
"The defense industry doesn't care whether or not the war itself is a good idea, that's not their job. In fact, it's an enormous advantage, from their standpoint, that there are no real measurable or achievable objectives. There's no end-game, and so their interest lies in keeping the war going for as long as possible, because as long as the policy lasts, there will be a never-ending market for their products."
(Check out Joe Miranda's analysis of the military and the drug war at http://www.drcnet.org/military.)
The War on Drugs: Addicted to Failure -- a conference presented by Accion Andina, George Washington University, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Transnational Institute and the Washington Office on Latin America. Thursday, June 11, 1998, 1:00-5:00pm, GWU, Funger Hall Room 103, 2201 G Street, NW, Washington, DC. Open to the public, free of charge. For additional information please contact Laurie Freeman at WOLA, (202) 544-8045.
6. Medical Marijuana Summit in California
On Wednesday, May 26, two dozen Democratic members of the California State Senate met with police officers, state officials and medical marijuana advocates in an attempt to hammer out a workable distribution plan in the wake of the federal government's continued hard line against the implementation of Proposition 215. Unfortunately for the attendees, the federal government, which has maintained its attack upon California's medical marijuana law on a variety of fronts, refused to participate in the summit.
State Senator John Vasconcellos (Santa Clara) who called for the meeting, along with Senate president Pro Tem John Burton and 21 other senators and assembly members, sent a strongly-worded letter to the President, which said, in part, "Mr. President, we can't ignore this issue. It won't go away, so long as human beings believe they have the right to attend to their own illness, as their doctor recommends, rather than as government dictates." The letter also noted that "It's ironic you question our people's judgment about proposition 215 while not questioning the wisdom of our returning you to office." Proposition 215 received 56% of the popular vote; Clinton's total in California was 52%.
Dave Fratello, spokesman for Americans for Medical Rights, told The Week Online, "One interesting idea which came out of the meeting was the use of a loophole in federal law which allows state or local officials to handle otherwise illegal substances in conjunction with the enforcement of a state or local ordinance. This was written to allow the police and others to handle drugs for sting operations, but it's written very broadly. There was some agreement that this provision might well cover local health officials who were handing out marijuana."
Todd McCormick, a long-term cancer patient and medical marijuana user who is awaiting trial on charges of growing marijuana, also attended the summit. McCormick told The Week Online, "I know that right now the federal government is trying to make it impossible for people to have access, but some of the plans which have been tossed around don't sound a whole lot better. I'm very concerned about the whole idea of ID cards for medical marijuana users. To single people out, to say 'hey, you're a marijuana user,' sounds a little like making people wear a pink triangle or a yellow star. I don't want to give up my privacy to the state because they don't like the way I choose to treat my pain."
After much discussion, most agreed that the central obstacle to any plan was the federal government. Vasconcellos, addressing the attendees, called the feds' refusal to attend the summit "disappointing, shameful and arrogant."
Citing "the lack of scientific justification for Schedule I classification of marijuana," the California Medical Association voted this week (5/26) to call for a rescheduling of marijuana to Schedule II. Schedule I is the classification for substances which have no medical utility and a high probability of abuse. Substances so classified are illegal under all circumstances (other than highly limited federal licensing systems, primarily for drug abuse research). Schedule II is reserved for substances of medical utility which have a high probability of abuse. These are generally tightly controlled, with triplicate prescription forms and specific record-keeping procedures.
- Marc Brandl for DRCNet
On Wednesday afternoon (5/27), Greg Scott, who uses medical marijuana to treat symptoms of AIDS, was arrested for reportedly shouting and interrupting an anti-medical marijuana conference. Details were sketchy as of press time, but supporters of Scott, who was a registered participant of the conference, were told by police officers he would be booked and have to post bail.
The conference taking place in Orlando, Florida this week, entitled "Marijuana Education Summit: Training the Trainer" is featuring such speakers as former drug czar William Bennett, Rep. Bill McCullum, DEA Chief Adminstrator Thomas Constantine, former NIDA director and highly paid drug testing consultant Dr. Robert DuPont, and others. Sponsored by a myriad of top anti-drug and law enforcement groups such as the Drug Free America Foundation and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the summit's focus is medical marijuana and state initiatives. A brochure claims, "participants will receive current and comprehensive information about how these initiatives will impact health care, crime in our communities, the work place and our children". Topics include: "History of the 'medical' marijuana movement", "Teens, children and the mixed message of 'medical marijuana' and, "The hidden agenda behind 'medical' marijuana messages".
Medical marijuana advocates have serious doubts about the openness of the summit to ideas other than prohibition. In a press release by the Florida group Coalition Advocating Medical Marijuana (CAMM), Irvin Rosenfeld, one of the eight patients who receives medical marijuana from the government states, "Although the brochure claims they will present 'comprehensive information' on medical marijuana, there's no one talking about the benefits of medical marijuana. I offered to debate any one of the top guns they've brought from Washington, but they refuse." The group planned to hold a press conference on Wednesday as well as pass out copies of Marijuana Myths, Marijuana Facts to all of the 200 participants attending.
The summit is taking place in Florida where a major effort has recently begun to collect signatures for a medical marijuana initiative in '99.
For more information on Florida's medical marijuana initiative and related news, visit the Coalition Advocating Medical Marijuana home page at http://www.medicalrights.org or call (954) 763-1799.
- Marc Brandl for DRCNet
The ever growing private and state-run prison industry has found a new way to make sure its expansion continues. Proof of this will soon be found in Lexington, Oklahoma, where a geriatric unit, attached to the Joseph Harp Correctional Center, has just been approved for construction by the state Corrections Board in a unanimous vote.
The new prison for the elderly is a first for the state, and when completed will have 250 cells, a 50 bed infirmary with an additional 80 beds for transient housing of sick inmates who need routine medical attention. Construction costs are estimated at $18.7 million with annual operating costs of around $5.8 million. 138 new employees are thought to be needed to staff the new facility.
Currently, of Oklahoma's 14,700 inmates housed in state-run prisons, only about 150 inmates now qualify for the new prison. But according to Corrections board Chairman Michael Roark, in a statement to The Oklahoman, "that [geriatric] population will be growing."
With a steady stream of stories in the media about dangerous conditions in America's prisons, from gang violence to rape, this new facility may well be welcomed by many of those 150 aging prisoners who qualify for a cell, but many questions remain unanswered. How much of a criminal threat are prisoners who need a geriatric facility, especially non-violent offenders? How much more money will it cost taxpayers to house and feed these prisoners who'll inevitably need more health care than younger prisoners? In Oklahoma's regular state-run prisons, the cost is $43 dollars per prisoner per day, or about $16,000 per year. And what percentage of our current prison population is going to need such facilities in the future?
For a more in-depth look at the aging of the prison population keep tuned to the following issues of the Week Online.
Romania's infamous Special Security Services will be cut by 24% in the wake of allegations of large-scale cigarette smuggling involving officers at the highest levels of the agency. 369 people will be fired in the initial phase of the downsizing. The scandal came to light last month when a top officer was arrested for his role in a shipment of 30 million smuggled cigarettes to Bucharest Airport.
One of the movers and shakers profiled in DRUG CRAZY is Rufus King, a Washington attorney who brought together the Ford-funded Drug Abuse Council and who locked horns with the nation's infamous first drug czar, Harry Anslinger. King's recollections of Anslinger's tactics and the sordid story of how drug prohibition started in America are fascinating bits of history that need to be remembered.
King is the author of "The Drug Hang-Up: America's Fifty Year Folly", published in 1972, now re-released by DRCNet at http://www.druglibrary.org/special/king/dhu/dhumenu.htm on our "drug library" web site, created and maintained by DRCNet board member Clifford Schaffer. As King points out, the Drug War didn't start with Richard Nixon. Check out this important history that is now more available than ever before.
On Tuesday, May 26, ABC Television aired a remarkable and important hour of programming, John Stossel's "Sex, Drugs and Consenting Adults." Featured, among others on the show were Peter McWilliams, author of "Ain't Nobody's Business if You Do" and Will Foster, imprisoned for 93 years for cultivation of medicinal marijuana.
But the show's highlight, or low-light, was DEA Chief Thomas Constantine, who unwittingly demonstrated the hypocrisy of the Drug War, and who, when asked about cigarettes, stated his belief that the war will engulf far larger numbers of Americans in the future when he said:
"When we look down the road, I would say 10, 15, 20 years from now, in a gradual fashion, smoking will probably be outlawed in the United States."
The transcript of "Sex, Drugs and Consenting Adults can be viewed at http://www.abcnews.com/onair/abcnewsspecials/transcripts/specials_stossel980526_trans.html. To send your congratulations to John Stossel and ABC, e-mail [email protected].
In California this week, a summit was convened by State Senator John Vasconcellos in an attempt to figure out a way to implement Proposition 215, the 1996 medical marijuana initiative which passed with 56% of the popular vote. Prop 215 gave Californians in medical need and their appointed caretakers the option of growing and possessing marijuana for medicinal use. But for all of the doomsday prognostications by opponents, and for all of the cheering of advocates upon its passage, there were two things that Prop 215 didn't do. First, the initiative (now the law) did not provide for a method of distribution to those who could not feasibly grow their own pot. This was due to an oversight in the construction of the language. Second, the initiative did not anticipate the cruel and hyperbolic response of the federal government to its passage. This was due to an underestimation of just how important the "fail at any cost" drug war is to the Washington elite, and to what lengths they will go to beat back any measure which will take the power to prosecute it out of their hands.
Since the emergence of 215 late in the campaign season of 1996, the federal government has used taxpayers' money to campaign against it, convened three former presidents to warn of its dire implications for the future of the nation, held senate hearings to belittle the voters who passed it, threatened the careers, and implicitly the freedom of doctors who so much as discussed the use of marijuana with their patients, raided medical marijuana dispensaries over the objections of local communities, sued in federal court in an effort to close down still more dispensaries, ignored repeated communications from local officials pleading for cooperation, or at least a ceasing of aggressions in its implementation, and spent more taxpayer money on literature and public forums designed to outline the threat -- and call for the defeat of -- "the forces of legalization."
All of this because AIDS, Cancer and Glaucoma patients, as well as others who daily face the horrors of chronic or terminal illness, have found that there is a plant which, when smoked, eaten or made into a tea eases their suffering, enhances their appetite, clears their vision or calms their spasms. This is a plant, mind you, which has been used medicinally for five thousand years, one which has never killed a single human being through its physiological effects, which has virtually no negative interactivity with other, more dangerous but legal drugs, and to which almost no one is seriously allergic.
Not surprisingly, the federal government was just about the only significant party that refused to participate in the California summit. If they had, however, they would have seen for themselves that neither their steadfast opposition to allowing patients to choose their own medicines, nor their heavy-handed tactics in imposing their will are much appreciated by either the people of California or their elected officials. Terence Hallinan, the District Attorney for San Francisco -- a city where AIDS has taken a tremendous toll and the home of 215 sponsor and former cannabis cultivators' club impresario Denis Peron -- suggested that local governments pass laws allowing their health departments to cultivate and distribute marijuana to those in medical need. San Francisco Supervisor Tom Ammiano, among others, agreed.
But the feds didn't need to show up to hear what many in the California state government felt about their intrusion into local health issues. To make sure that the administration in Washington was aware of their discontent, a letter was sent to President Clinton, signed by approximately two dozen members of the state assembly and senate, including Vasconcellos and Senate president Pro Tem John Burton, which said in part: "Mr. President, we can't ignore this issue. It won't go away, so long as human beings believe they have the right to attend to their own illness, as their doctor recommends, rather than as government dictates." The letter also took a shot at the popular approval of 215 in a state which was important to the president's election. "It's ironic you question our people's judgment about proposition 215 while not questioning the wisdom of our returning you to office."
But proponents of medical marijuana have, to a large degree, misunderstood the forces they are fighting. They believe, and rightly so, that they are trying to allow suffering people to choose their own treatment regimen. The government, however, sees the issue far differently. To them, this is not about people with AIDS, or glaucoma, or cancer, this is about their Drug War, that cash cow which continuously accrues more power, both domestically and internationally, to Washington DC. It is about protecting a morally and intellectually indefensible policy against the slightest reform. Reform, you see, can only lead to further examination, and to more reform, until the raging torrent of money and power which flows from this war is reduced to a trickle. And the feds admit as much, albeit in a misleading and disingenuous way, when they say, over and over again, 'medical marijuana is not about the sick and dying, it is about legalization of drugs.' And to them, at least, it is.
To Senator Vasconcellos, however, along with the millions of other Californians disgusted by the federal government's sledgehammer approach, Prop. 215 always was about sick people. But now, in the face of that federal approach, it is becoming an issue of local versus federal control, and freedom, and the basic human right to tend to ones own body as one sees fit. And, even more ominously for the feds, it is making an issue of the drug war itself. For just as proponents of syringe exchange, and of Latin American sovereignty and rights, and of access to pain medication, and of asset forfeiture reform, and of sentencing reform, and of police practice reform, and of racial justice, and of smaller government, and of violence reduction, and of civil liberties are discovering, it is impossible to advocate for rational changes in one part of Prohibition without feeling the full weight of an opposition dedicated to the maintenance of the illusion that it can work. Because when as great a structure as the Drug War machine has been constructed on a foundation of thin air, akin to an overfilled balloon, it is the unassuming man with the pin in his hand who must be silenced and defeated.
So the feds are right. Medical marijuana is not about the sick and the dying. It is about Lockheed Martin and the defense industry. It is about the private prison industry, and the companies who build them, and the unions of the men and women who staff them. It is about textile and petrochemical companies. It is about an excuse to deploy our military forces in Latin America. It is about the seizing and conversion of assets into the treasuries of governments. It is about the perpetuity of bureaucratic careers and bureaucratic agencies. It is about the stick which is used in controlling poor and minority communities. And it is about federal power over the lives of every single American in every state of the union. It is not about the sick. Or the dying. Or the children. Or even marijuana. It is about the Drug War itself.
So the time is upon us. The time for all of those advocates of all of those rational reforms to arrive together at the inescapable conclusion that the feds, in their own deceitful way, have been right all along. To paraphrase President Clinton's own campaign theme, "It's the Drug War, stupid." And it is time, through the prism of caring for the sick, or
Adam J. Smith
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Articles of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.