(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #75, 1/22/99
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
DRCNet received word just prior to press time that Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating has denied parole to Will Foster despite the unanimous recommendation of the state parole board, the strong support of various officials of the prison where Will had been housed for over a year (online at http://www.drcnet.org/foster/, and calls, faxes, letters and e-mail from all over the world urging his release. No reason was given by the governor for the denial.
Word in Oklahoma is that George W. Bush Jr. is considering Keating from among a short list of candidates for the Vice Presidential spot on his ticket, should Bush run and win the Republican nomination. Being that both Bush and Keating have been unrelenting drug warriors, it would appear that paroling Foster would not have been politically advantageous.
Foster will be eligible to appear in front of the parole board again in a year.
DRCNet wants to thank all of our subscribers who took the time to reach out to Governor Keating on Will Foster's behalf, and to urge you not to get discouraged, but to put the same energy into the efforts that will help one day win freedom for all the nonviolent drug offenders. We are in a hard fight, but it is a fight that can one day be won. We will, of course, keep you up to date on Will Foster's situation, and how you can help him next year.
Scott Ehlers, Senior Policy Analyst, Drug Policy Foundation, http://www.dpf.org
Senate Republicans took time out from the impeachment hearings on Tuesday, January 19, to present their newest scheme for creating a drug-free America: S. 5,the Drug-Free Century Act (DFCA), and a slew of individual bills that contain elements of the omnibus DFCA. The omnibus DFCA is "comprehensive" according to the sponsor, Sen. DeWine (R-OH), containing "treatment, education, domestic law enforcement, and drug interdiction."
An analysis of the bill, however, reveals the usual lopsided emphasis on law enforcement, incarceration, interdiction, and asset forfeiture, at the expense of anything that remotely resembles treatment, prevention, and education. The DFCA makes it easier for federal law enforcement to forfeit your boat, even if no drugs are found, and take your assets if you happen to go astray of the ever-expanding anti-money laundering laws.
The DFCA seeks to reduce the crack cocaine/powder cocaine sentencing disparity by making it easier to imprison more people for powder cocaine.
Whereas previously it would take 5 kilograms to receive a 10-year mandatory minimum, if the DFCA is enacted it would only take 500 grams. It also changes the quantity required to receive a five-year mandatory minimum, from 500 grams to 50 grams.
Some of the most interesting elements of the bill are contained in the demand reduction section (Title III). Sec. 3005 prohibits any federal funds from being "expended, directly or indirectly," on syringe exchange programs (SEPs). Passage of such language could wipe out many SEPs in the United States, as many programs depend on federal monies to carry out other parts of their drug and HIV prevention programs.
The DFCA would also:
This section of the DFCA authorizes Thomas Constantine, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, to give the non-profit organization, Parent Collaboration (a subsidiary of National Families in Action, http://www.emory.edu/NFIA/about/partners/collaboration.html) $25 million over five years to reinvigorate the parents' movement of the 1970s.
Did Sue Rusche, Executive Director of National Families in Action, write the Drug-Free Families Act for the Republican Senators? Or does she just have friends in high places, like co-sponsor Sen. Coverdell, who represents her home state of Georgia? Feel free to write Ms. Rusche at [email protected] or Sen. Coverdell at [email protected] and ask them yourself.
The full text and status of federal legislation can be accessed online at http://thomas.loc.gov.
Six months ago, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani horrified drug treatment experts by announcing that all patients receiving methadone at New York City hospitals would be weaned off in three months. Citing his preference for "drug freedom," rather than a treatment which "exchanges one dependence for another," Giuliani advocated an end to the treatment that most researchers call the best hope for countless heroin addicts.
Facing strong and immediate criticism, Giuliani characterized methadone's advocates as "members of the politically correct crowd" and went so far as to call Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, who had recently advocated for increased availability of methadone "a disaster" (see http://www.drcnet.org/wol/051.html#giuliani, http://www.drcnet.org/wol/055.html#giuliani2, and http://www.drcnet.org/wol/061.html#methadone for DRCNet news coverage).
But on Friday of last week (1/15) Giuliani did an about face on the issue, in the face of the realization that what he was proposing was, in his words, "maybe somewhat unrealistic." In fact, in the six months since the change in official policy, only 21 of the city's 2,100 methadone patients (the vast majority of the 36,000 city residents using methadone are in state and federally funded programs) got off the treatment. Of those 21, five relapsed back into heroin use, according to city officials.
Giuliani now proposes that the city aim to move people off of methadone without forcing them off. "Suppose" he said, "instead of 63% of the slots being for keeping people chemically dependent, 63% of the slots were for programs that were for drug freedom. And we reserve 10, 15, 20, whatever we have to for methadone for those people who need to have a transition and for those people where drug-free programs just can't work."
People close to the story say the mayor also paid attention to the experts. "Several people in the methadone advocacy movement, scientists and researchers and doctors, had written letters to the Mayor," says Holly Catania, a senior research associate at the Lindesmith Center in New York, "and apparently, from his own statements, he listened to them. I think the methadone community, especially the patient community, is relieved to hear him publicly state that his goal of eliminating methadone was unreasonable."
Learn more about methadone on the DRCNet site at http://www.drcnet.org/methadone/, from the Lindesmith Center's online library at http://www.lindesmith.org, and from the National Alliance of Methadone Advocates at http://www.methadone.org. See The Week Online's interview with leading methadone authority Dr. Robert Newman, online at http://www.drcnet.org/wol/051.html#newman.
Steve Kubby never made a secret of his medicinal use of marijuana. In fact, his support of the implementation of Proposition 215 was a centerpiece of his campaign for Governor of California in 1998, and he was instrumental in getting the proposition on the ballot in '96. But on Tuesday morning, just days after new California Attorney General Bill Lockyer made public statements regarding his intention of seeing Prop. 215 fully implemented, Kubby found his Lake Tahoe home invaded by 14 agents of the DEA, state and local police.
Kubby suffers from Pheochromocytomo, cancer of the adrenal gland, and has a letter from his doctor indicating that there is no other known effective treatment for the condition. Kubby, in fact, has forsaken drugs altogether and has, for many years, managed his condition with marijuana alone. Kubby's wife Michelle suffers from irritable bowel syndrome and also uses marijuana, which allows her to eat.
Kubby, who spoke with The Week Online from jail, said that police found 350 plants in his home, of which 150 were small seedlings which had not yet been separated into male (inactive) and female plants.
"Once they got me to the jail, which obviously meant that I was off of my medicine, they threw me into a freezing cold cell. My blood pressure shot up, which tends to happen when your adrenal gland isn't functioning properly. I've had three hypertensive episodes since I've been here, I've got horrendous headaches and I've been throwing up pretty constantly."
Kubby, who publishes Alpine World, an online magazine (http://www.alpworld.com), told The Week Online that the police weren't interested in documentation showing the couple to be legitimate medicinal users.
"We have doctors' letters, we have ID from the Oakland Cannabis Buyers' Club. In fact, my grow was inspected two weeks ago by Jeff Jones from the Oakland club. One officer even told me that while 215 may work in San Francisco, it wasn't valid here."
The Kubbys have been charged with unauthorized cultivation, possession with intent to distribute and conspiracy. Despite the fact that they been members of the community for over twenty years, own their home and have a two year-old daughter, bail was set at $100,000 for each of them.
"We are an absolute zero risk of flight. This is absurd. I believe that this is totally politically motivated."
(Good news: Just before press time, we learned that a judge had released the Kubbys on "their own recognizance," meaning without bail.)
REDWAY CA, Jan. 18, 1999: Eyewitnesses described the environmental and human harm caused by marijuana eradication helicopters at public hearings on the US Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) proposed guidelines for marijuana eradication operations in Northern California.
Complaints included damage to wildlife and livestock, disruption of work and school, hazards to endangered bird species, dangerous encounters with helicopters and armed personnel, distress and trauma to residents in need of peace and quiet, and habitual disregard of legally mandated procedures by California's CAMP (Campaign Against Marijuana Planting) helicopter program.
The hearings were organized by the Civil Liberties Monitoring Project (CLMP) and The Rights Organization (TRO) on behalf of plaintiffs in a federal suit against the government's 1990 Operation Greensweep, in which helicopters and armed troops invaded a remote wilderness area of Humboldt County to eradicate marijuana. As part of a settlement, U.S. district judge Fern Smith ordered that the BLM prepare guidelines to address the adverse environmental and human impacts of anti-marijuana operations.
The hearings were presided over by retired California appeals court judge William Newsom, who promised to issue findings after reviewing the transcripts. TRO director Ed Denson introduced the hearings by noting that a young generation of southern Humboldt residents had grown up without knowing a summer of peace in the wilderness free from anti-marijuana helicopter disruption. Succeeding witnesses were universally critical of the helicopter operations.
Witnesses took strong exception to the BLM's assumption that helicopter operations above 500 feet pose no serious threat to endangered birds. Environmental expert Linda Derkson presented evidence that flights beneath 2,000 feet could cause serious harm by disrupting migration patterns and inducing desertion of nests. Rare bird breeder Fred Bauer testified that he had suffered $40,000 in losses from broken eggs, abandoned nests and breeding deaths caused by CAMP helicopters. Witnesses testified that helicopters routinely came down to tree-top level, endangering nesting birds by using their prop-wash to blow down foliage in search of marijuana.
Horse trainer Susan Carmada testified how helicopters panicked horses to the point of injury, dangerously startled riders, and once maliciously chased a colt and its mother around the field. Other animal breeders complained of harm to rabbits, emu, and buffalo.
Residents who had moved to Humboldt County for wilderness peace and quiet testified to the trauma caused by helicopters. Telecommuter Shelly Comes described how helicopters made it impossible to conduct business calls with Silicon Valley and Europe. Vietnam vets testified how the noise of helicopters exacerbated post-traumatic stress.
Schoolteacher Kim Kemp testified that helicopters had landed on her schoolgrounds unannounced and once caused so much noise as to force her to close her school.
CLMP spokesperson Bernadette Webster described how her daughter, Blossom, was upset after encountering a gun-toting Operation Greensweep guardsman in camouflage gear, who refused to identify himself.
Former CAMP officers backed up residents' claims of widespread abuses and violations of legal enforcement procedure. "Every officer that's been in a helicopter involved in the CAMP program, if they were going to tell you the truth, would say yes, we have flown under 500 feet, we got as close as we could to the treetops to hover, we have looked into people's windows," testified Gary Holder, a former deputy sheriff and CAMP officer.
Holder warned that enforceability of guidelines would be a major problem, since CAMP personnel are brought in from out of county and trained to believe that "everybody out there is a bad guy."
Former CAMP commander Gene Womack complained that confiscated marijuana was stored in a pit just 100 yards from the dormitory of the Eel River conservation camp correctional facility, creating an attractive nuisance for prisoners, many of whom ended up being charged with marijuana offenses at considerable state expense.
California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer called the use of helicopters and paramilitary personnel "unwarranted and inappropriate" in view of the minimal harms posed by marijuana. He argued that the only way to control its cultivation would be through legally regulated commerce. The BLM declined to send spokesmen to the hearings, claiming that they were concerned about their physical security in a hostile community.
Local residents scoffed at the excuse, noting the strong pacifist sentiments of the Southern Humboldt community. Denson invoked the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., who called on followers to "to keep on, and then keep on keeping on" resisting government wrong through non-violent means.
The BLM guidelines are open to public comment until Feb. 10th. For more info, contact the CLMP office at (707) 923-4646 or Ron Sinoway at (707) 923-3905.
Adam J. Smith, DRCNet Associate Director, [email protected]
Over the past week, much has been written and said regarding the President's State of the Union message and the context in which it was delivered. But while the focus of much of the analysis has been on the lies, or misleading statements -- depending upon the sympathies of the commentator -- that President Clinton had uttered months earlier, there was one such statement, which Clinton made during the address itself, that has thus far escaped scrutiny.
Early on in the 77-minute affair, Clinton got to talking about all of the different programs, established on his watch, that help to defray the cost of a college education for Americans. Clinton, being "the education President," noted that:
"Today we can say something we couldn't say six years ago... we have finally opened the doors of college to all Americans."
But in fact, on October 7, 1998, President Clinton signed into law the 1998 Higher Education Act, which contained a provision which threatens access to federal financial aid for hundreds of thousands of young people. That provision states that any person with a conviction for possession of any controlled substance will have their financial aid denied for one year. If the person has two convictions, they will have to wait two years, and three convictions means "indefinite" denial of aid. Those convicted on distribution charges (including "intent to distribute") will lose aid for two years, or indefinitely if they have more than one conviction. No other class of offense, including violent or predatory offenses, carry this added punishment.
According to the 1998 Monitoring the Future survey, more than 50% of American high school seniors have used an illicit substance at least once. That means that the doors of college are potentially shut to more than half of college-eligible students.
It is absurd, of course, for an advanced society to take troubled kids, kids who have had a brush or two with the law, and make it more difficult for them to improve themselves. Common sense tells us that an education is a path out of trouble, and offers near-certain entry into the mainstream economy, away from the black markets that our policies create. To the extent that the federal government involves itself in education, it ought certainly to be making it easier, and not more difficult for citizens to pursue their dreams. Young people who have been in trouble, but who, despite their difficulties, make their way to the gates of a university ought to be commended, not turned away.
But even more troubling than the general principle is the discriminatory impact that the new law will have. A lack of financial aid will not bar well-to-do students from attending an institution, only those who could not otherwise afford to attend. The children of most legislators, several of whom have been arrested for drug offenses in recent years, need not worry.
Worse still is the fact that non-whites will be hit the hardest. African Americans, for example, who comprise 12% of America's population, and 13% of drug users, account for 55% of those convicted for drug offenses. This is a simple matter of the methods and patterns of drug law enforcement. This policy then can be fairly viewed as reverse-affirmative action.
The drug warriors, in their moralistic paternalism, have declared that they are willing to go to any lengths to "send a message to our children" that drug use is wrong. But only the most backward and uncivilized parent would punish their children by denying them an education. President Clinton, in yet another "misleading statement," pronounced to the nation last week that the doors of college are now open to everyone. The reality, however, is that for more than half of America's high school seniors, those doors will be open only to the ones with well-to-do families, or the ones who don't get caught.
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