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

Issue #81, 3/5/99

"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"

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  1. HEA Reform Campaign Gains Momentum -- DRCNet Attacked by Republican Rep. Souder
  2. Hundreds Rally Against Rockefeller Drug Laws
  3. Amnesty International Charges that Women Behind Bars Suffer "Rough Justice"
  4. Drug Policy Coalition Calls for Reversal of Budget Priorities
  5. Federal Bill Reintroduced to Legalize Medical Marijuana
  6. Canada's House of Commons Debates Medical Marijuana
  7. Australian Prime Minister Criticized Over FBI Invitation
  8. Sen. Hatch Advocates for Expansion of Maintenance Therapies for Opiate Dependency
  9. Hemp Reform Efforts Underway
  10. EDITORIAL: Million Man Madness
  11. Errata Note

1. HEA Reform Campaign Gains Momentum -- DRCNet Attacked by Republican Rep. Souder

A student-led campaign that seeks to overturn a controversial provision in the Higher Education Act of 1998 gained momentum this week as college newspapers from across the nation ran stories, and a Republican congressman who was instrumental in passing the provision responded with faulty statistics and an ad hominem attack against DRCNet in the University of Virginia's newspaper, the Cavalier Daily.

A provision in the HEA, signed into law by President Clinton on October 7, will deny or delay eligibility for federal financial aid for any student convicted of a drug offense, no matter how minor. Students on more than 100 campuses are already participating in a campaign, coordinated by DRCNet, to have the law overturned. Students are seeking the endorsements of their student governments for a resolution calling on the 106th Congress to repeal the provision. Thus far, the resolution has been presented to five student governments and has been endorsed by all five.

The campaign bases its opposition to the new law on four main issues. First, the campaign views the restriction of access to education as a counterproductive approach, given that education is the surest route into the mainstream for students at risk. Next, the law singles out drug offenders -- the vast majority of whom are convicted of non-violent possession offenses -- as the only class of offenders to lose eligibility for financial aid. Third, the law represents an extra-judicial penalty affecting only those students of low to moderate means, as the educational opportunities of wealthier students will be unaffected by the loss of financial aid. Finally, and most perniciously, drug law enforcement is practiced most aggressively against non-whites, making it certain that the law will have a racially discriminatory impact.

Mark Souder, a member of the House Education Committee who was instrumental in the provision's passage, responded to the campaign by submitting an op-ed to the Cavalier Daily that ran on February 25. In it, Souder cites the Department of Justice as the source of statistics indicating that in 1995, "approximately 60% of defendants convicted of drug offenses were white and 38% were black." These figures lead Souder to proclaim, "Gross disparities in conviction rates do not exist."

The truth is that those statistics reflect only federal cases, which account for just 13% of all drug convictions. Overall (state and federal inclusive) more than 55% of those convicted of drug offenses in the United States in 1995 were indeed African American, despite the fact that African Americans comprise only 13% of the population and a proportional percentage of all drug users. The federal statistics cited by Souder are further misleading as they do not separate out Latinos, who comprise more than 35% of those convicted on federal drug charges, and who are overwhelmingly classified as "white" for the particular numbers cited by Souder.

Chris Maj, President of Students for a Sensible Drug Policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, where the resolution has already been endorsed, told The Week Online, "If Representative Souder intentionally used false statistics to convince college students that the drug war is not a racially discriminatory policy, that is an outrage. If, on the other hand, he is truly unaware of the racial disparities, then that is an indication of just how out of touch with reality many of our elected leaders are."

In addition to statistical manipulation, Rep. Souder took the opportunity to attack the campaign, the reform movement in general and DRCNet specifically in his op-ed. Unwittingly, perhaps, Souder gave some indication of the broad interest in the campaign on college campuses nationally when he wrote:

"There are those organizations, though, who work to create controversy and twist common sense principles in order to advance their own agendas. Take the Drug Reform Coordination Network, for example. My office has received calls from college newspapers from all over the country who have been fed propaganda by this group."

"In the past, these organizations have used the sick and the dying to promote the use of so-called medicinal marijuana in their continual effort to weaken the drug laws. Now they see the opportunity to take advantage of college students who receive financial aid by enlisting them in their doomed campaign. Their latest tactic is to assert that the drug-free student loan provision of the Higher Education Act is racist. Apparently they believe minority college students who receive financial aid are more likely to use and sell drugs."

But Chris Maj had a different interpretation. "It doesn't take a brain surgeon or a member of Congress to look at this issue and realize that something is seriously wrong with our policies. When today's college students were born, the US prison population was one eighth of its current size. That increase, the imprisonment of literally hundreds of thousands of non-violent people, was undertaken in our name, as a way of protecting us from drugs. But there isn't a college student in this country who came from a city or a town where drugs weren't available to kids. We weren't protected and we know it."

"College students aren't as tied to the status quo as older generations are," Maj added. "We're open to new solutions, and, on the whole, we're committed to making sure that those solutions make sense. Keeping people from educating themselves because they use the wrong substances doesn't make sense. Filling prisons with non-violent people because they use the wrong substances, even if their use rises to the level of addiction, doesn't make sense. And any policy with an outcome as racially divisive and discriminatory as ours has, is not going to be very popular with our generation. We're just getting started educating our peers about this, and letting them know that they can make a difference."

DRCNet expects the number of student governments endorsing the resolution to grow substantially over the next month, and is also expecting the campaign to receive the endorsements of national organizations in the next several weeks.

Adam Smith, DRCNet's associate director, is confident that the campaign, far from being "doomed," has real political promise. "One can only surmise that legislators pass laws such as this to look 'tough' to their constituents, while counting on students to simply roll over and accept the fact that they are being used as pawns in a failed drug war strategy. Given the speed at which the campaign is growing, I'd say that there are some legislators who are about to discover that they've made a serious error in judgment."

Learn more about the HEA reform campaign and how to get involved, at

2. Hundreds Rally Against Rockefeller Drug Laws

A crowd of about 500 people gathered on the steps of the New York State Capitol Building in Albany last Tuesday, March 2nd, to protest the state's draconian drug laws, named after then governor Nelson Rockefeller. The rally, sponsored by the William Moses Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice, featured Rev. Al Sharpton, retired State Supreme Court Judge Jerome Marks, Rev. Herbert Daughtry of Brooklyn, Bishop Howard Hubbard of Albany, actor Al Lewis of "Munsters" fame, Margaret Tarbet of the Kunstler fund, and others, as well as family members of prisoners serving lengthy mandatory prison terms under the laws.

According to the Daily Gazette, Jaheen Hilts, a 12-year old whose father and uncle are both serving time in state prison and sale and possession of cocaine, held a poster with his father's picture and sentence, 15 to 30 years. Hilts entered prison when his son was age 5, and will not be eligible for parole until he is 20.

The Associated Press quoted 10-year-old Lisa Oberg, whose mother Arlene is serving a 20 years to life, saying, "This law is mean and unfair and cruel." The AP also reported that protesters booed Rockefeller's name whenever a speaker mentioned it.

"Words alone cannot relay the emotion, the electricity, the anger and determination of the Rockefeller Drug Rally participants," commented DRCNet member Jeffrey Seymour, who attended the rally.

The Week Online spoke with Randy Credico of the Kunstler Fund, who said that their amount of mail soared as the Albany rally approached. The Fund is planning a "Seven Days in May" demonstration, consisting of vigils with family members from Monday, 5/8 through Friday 5/12 in different locations in New York City, a rally on Saturday 5/13 at the State Building in Harlem, and a rally on Sunday 5/14 outside the the Bedford Hills correctional facility. May 8 is the 26-year anniversary of the law's signing. Vigils will be held around the state, especially the north, throughout the month of April.

To learn more or find out how to get involved, visit on the web, e-mail [email protected], or call the Vigil Action Initiative Update hotline at (212) 539-8441.

For more information on mandatory minimum sentences, visit the Families Against Mandatory Minimums web site at The FAMM workshop will take place from March 27-29 in Washington, DC.

3. Amnesty International Charges that Women Behind Bars Suffer "Rough Justice"

The following is a news release issued by Amnesty International this Thursday 3/4:

"My feet were still shackled together, and I couldn't get my legs apart. The doctor called for the officer... No one else could unlock the shackles, and my baby was coming... Finally the officer came and unlocked the shackles from my ankles. My baby was born then."

("Maria Jones" describing how she gave birth while an inmate of Cook County Jail, Chicago, 1998)

The use of shackles on pregnant inmates is just one example of the cruelty and ill-treatment many women suffer in US jails and prisons, Amnesty International said today in a new report issued as part of its international campaign against human rights violations in the United States.

As well as the use of restraints on pregnant and sick prisoners, Amnesty International's report -- "Not part of my sentence" -- details human rights violations including sexual abuse, lack of medical care and lengthy periods of confinement in so-called super-maximum units.

Reports of rape and other forms of sexual abuse -- including sexually offensive language and male staff touching women's breasts and genitals during searches or watching them when they are naked -- are widespread in US prisons and jails.

"Cases of sexual abuse actually reported are probably only the tip of the iceberg as victims are often reluctant to complain for fear of not being believed or suffering retaliation," Amnesty International said.

"The overwhelming majority of complaints concern male staff, reflecting the fact that many guards and other prison employees are male," the organization added.

The number of women in US jails and prisons has been growing dramatically, largely as a result of the war on drugs. In 1997 the figure was at 138,000 -- a three-fold increase since 1985. This amounts to about 10 times the number of women prisoners in Western European countries, which combined have a female population the same size as the USA.

"Authorities around the USA have been spending large sums of money building new prisons and jails but have not provided adequate funds for the health, welfare and rehabilitation of the people they are locking up," Amnesty International said.

As the world celebrates International Women's Day on 8 March, Amnesty International is calling on US federal, state and local authorities to make a strong commitment to implement the measures required to effectively protect the safety, health and dignity of all women in custody.

Concerns expressed in the report include:

  • Sexual abuse: rape of an inmate by staff is internationally recognized as a form of torture and violates US federal and state criminal laws, yet reports of rape and other forms of sexual abuse are common in US prisons and jails. Amnesty International is calling for female inmates to be supervised by female staff only, and for victims to be more effectively protected from retaliation if they report abuses.
  • Medical care: access to a doctor is often conditional on permission by non-medical staff, who may underestimate the seriousness of the case or be inclined not to believe inmates. In some cases, delays are reported to have had serious health consequences. In 1998 an inmate in an Arizona Jail wrote to Amnesty International reporting that she had lost her baby -- and almost bled to death -- after her call for urgent medical attention was left unheeded for hours. Amnesty International is urging that all women in custody have access to free and adequate medical care.
  • Mental health care: there are concerns about the use of psychotropic drugs and a reported lack of counseling. Amnesty International is calling for an inquiry into prison mental health services and for women suffering from severe mental illnesses to be transferred to mental health institutions.
  • Use of physical restraints on sick and pregnant women: handcuffs and shackles are often used on women both during transport and in hospital even if they do not have a history of violence or escape. In the case of pregnant women, restraints pose a serious health threat. Amnesty International is calling for the use of restraints to be limited to cases in which the inmates' conduct makes them necessary.
  • Super-maximum security units: some women appear to be sent to such units -- where conditions are particularly harsh -- for comparatively minor infractions. Some of the rules in those units -- such as the one requiring that prisoners be "in full view" all the time -- violate the inmates' privacy and dignity, and their isolated nature can increase the opportunities for abuse.
(Learn more about Amnesty International's US campaign at

4. Drug Policy Coalition Calls for Reversal of Budget Priorities

Clinton Drug Plan Fails to Prevent Adolescent Drug Use or Reduce Disease

Washington, DC: The war on drugs has failed to protect America's children from drug abuse and has failed to reduce the availability of cocaine and heroin, according to a new report titled "The Effective National Drug Control Strategy." The report was released on March 3, 1999, coinciding with Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey' testimony before a House Subcommittee on his year 2000 budget request.

The "Effective Strategy" recommends spending two out of every three dollars of the drug control budget on prevention and rehabilitation. It also recommends tripling funding for adolescent drug use prevention programs, with the emphasis on investing in America's youth through after school programs, mentor programs and honest drug education.

"Contrary to General McCaffrey's claims, the drug war still relies overwhelmingly on incarcerating drug users and trying to interdict drugs -- the two least effective methods of reducing drug abuse," said Kevin Zeese, President of Common Sense for Drug Policy and one of the report's lead authors. "We know what works, but General McCaffrey keeps investing in strategies that are destroying families, hurting kids and undermining the Constitution."

The Network of Reform Groups (NRG), a coalition of two dozen organizations working for more sensible drug policies, examined government data and independent research and concluded that the drug war has not deterred children from using illegal drugs, nor has it resulted in fewer deaths and injuries from drug use.

The report found that:

  • The U.S. government spent $3.6 billion on the drug war in 1988, and will spend $17.9 billion in 1999 -- $2 out of every $3 on law enforcement.
  • From 1985 to 1995, 85 percent of the increase in the federal prison population was due to drug convictions. Due to mandatory sentencing, drug offenders spend more time in jail (average 82.2 months) than rapists (average 73.3 months).
  • Drug overdose deaths are up 540 percent since 1980, 33 people per day are infected with HIV from injection drug use, which is becoming the engine for a new epidemic, Hepatitis C.
  • The price of heroin and cocaine has dropped dramatically since 1981, while purity of both drugs has increased.
The report recommends that the Drug Czar create a non-partisan panel of experts to evaluate current drug control efforts and consider the full range of alternative policy options, and recommends a reversal of the federal drug budget priorities, as well as a range of reforms including eliminating mandatory minimum drug sentences, lifting the ban on use of federal AIDS funds for needle exchange programs, reversing the trend toward cutting school budgets to invest in prisons and enacting "family friendly" laws that keep families together, kids in school and social networks intact.

The Effective Strategy can be found on line at

5. Federal Bill Reintroduced to Legalize Medical Marijuana

(reprinted courtesy of NORML,

March 2, 1999, Washington, DC: Representative Barney Frank (D-MA) reintroduced legislation today in the new Congress to provide for the medical use of marijuana. The bill is titled the "Medical Use of Marijuana Act."

"I support the medical use of marijuana," Rep. Frank announced. "What we need to do to get marijuana into the hands of people suffering is to set aside the federal controls on marijuana, so the states can determine this issue for themselves."

The proposed legislation states:

"No provision of the Controlled Substances Act [or] ... the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act shall prohibit or otherwise restrict --

(A) the prescription or recommendation of marijuana by a physician for medical use,

(B) an individual from obtaining and using marijuana from a prescription or recommendation of marijuana by a physician for medical use by such individual, or

(C) a pharmacy from obtaining and holding marijuana for the prescription of marijuana by a physician for medical use under applicable state law in a State in which marijuana may be prescribed or recommended by a physician for medical use under applicable State law."

The legislation reschedules marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule II under federal law, thereby making it legal for physicians to prescribe. "This legislation ... recognize[s] that there are valid and important medicinal uses for marijuana," a statement issued by Frank's office said. "The effect of [this] bill would be to make fully operative the laws in those states which permit the medical use of marijuana, without the preemptive and controlling restrictions currently in place in federal law on the possession, use, prescription, or sale of marijuana," Frank added.

NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq., who worked with Frank's office in drafting the bill's language, said the legislation is a streamlined effort to get marijuana to those who require it. "Historically, states have been more receptive to the medical marijuana issue than the federal government," Stroup explained, noting that 36 state legislatures have passed laws recognizing marijuana's medical value. "This legislation addresses this paradigm and effectively gets the federal government out of the way of those states that wish to make marijuana available as a medicine."

Efforts to permit the legal use of medical marijuana gained momentum in November when voters in Alaska, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington joined Californians in approving initiatives exempting patients who use medical marijuana from criminal penalties. Voters in Arizona reaffirmed a medical marijuana initiative passed two years ago, and rejected a legislative requirement banning physicians from prescribing marijuana until the drug receives approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Recently, leaders of 17 national AIDS organizations called on White House officials to legalize medical marijuana for seriously ill patients.

The Medical Use of Marijuana Act also mandates federal officials to supply marijuana for medical research projects approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Recently, the United Nations International Drug Control Board recommended that the US and others conduct impartial scientific research to determine marijuana's potential medical benefits.

Congressman Frank has been joined in cosponsoring this legislation by Reps. Tom Campbell (R-CA), John Conyers (D MI), John Olver (D-MA), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Pete Stark (D-CA), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).

For more information, please contact either Keith Stroup or Paul Armentano of NORML at (202) 483-5500. Rep. Barney Frank's office may be contacted at (202) 225-5931.

6. Canada's House of Commons Debates Medical Marijuana

The Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy reported on March 3, 1999, that Canada's House of Commons would begin a debate on legalization of medical marijuana on Thursday, March 4, at 5:30pm, focusing on a motion by MP Bernard Bigras. The motion reads as follows:

M-381 - March 25, 1998 - Mr. Bigras (Rosemont) - "That, in the opinion of this House, the government should undertake all necessary steps to legalize the use of marijuana for health and medical purposes."

The debate on the motion is limited to three hours. The first hour of debate will occur on March 4, with the remainder on two separate days to be announced later. Since this is a "votable" motion, there will be a vote after the debate. If the majority of MPs support the motion, it will create pressure on the federal government to take legislative steps to legalize the use of marijuana for health and medical purposes.

House of Commons transcripts and media reports about the announcement by the federal Minister of Health that he has asked his officials to develop a plan that will include clinical trials for medical marijuana, appropriate guidelines for its medical use and access to a safe supply of this drug can be found on CFDP's web site at The site also contains links to research and other reports on medicinal marijuana.

7. Australian Prime Minister Criticized Over FBI Invitation

The Australian organization Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform criticized Prime Minister John Howard on the occasion of US FBI Director's Louis Freeh's visit to Australia on the Prime Minister's invitation.

"I am angry and sad that the Prime Minister, Mr. Howard, seeks out meetings with people like Mr. Louis Freeh, Director of the FBI when he has refused to meet and listen to groups such as our own," said Marion McConnell. Howard has ignored three requests since 1997 to meet with representatives of FFDLR.

"Mr. Howard's statements of recent days have confirmed our impression that he is a man determined not to listen to points of view with which he disagrees. How else," Mrs. McConnell continued, "is it possible to explain his instructions to Australian diplomatic missions to seek out arguments for asserting that the Swiss heroin trial has failed?"

"With all these outcomes, just what is it, Mr. Howard, that your want? We can only conclude," added McConnell, "that his stubborn refusal to accept this evidence ­- or permit a trial to be conducted in Australia to double check the results ­- is because they challenge the very basis of his law and order approach".

(Learn more about the outcome of the Swiss heroin maintenance program from our archives at

FFDLR concludes that "Switzerland has shown heroin prescription to be the only known treatment that constitutes a safety net across a chasm into which 700 young Australians a year -­ including many of our family members ­- have plunged to their death.

The AAP reported on 3/2 that Prime Minister Howard denied that Australia had lost the war on drugs and indicated that he would veto any attempt by Victorian Premier Jeff Kennett to introduce a heroin trial.

Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform is online at

8. Sen. Hatch Advocates for Expansion of Maintenance Therapies for Opiate Dependency

Scott Ehlers, Drug Policy Foundation, [email protected],
In a surprise display of bipartisan unity in dealing with addiction as a health, rather than a criminal justice matter, Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Carl Levin (D-MI), and Daniel Moynihan (D-NY) have joined forces to expand the provision of maintenance therapy for opiate dependency. The three senators are cosponsoring S. 324, the "Drug Addiction Treatment Act of 1999," which was introduced on January 28 and referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill would, for the first time since the passage of the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914, allow a general practitioner to maintain an opiate-dependent patient on a narcotic, in this case a Schedule IV or V drug. The sponsors of the bill are particularly interested in allowing physicians to prescribe buprenorphine and a buprenorphine/naloxone combination to maintain or detoxify patients. Buprenorphine is a mild, Schedule V narcotic that has been used in maintenance therapy for heroin addicts in France.

Under the Narcotic Treatment Act of 1974, physicians must now get a DEA registration and approval by the US Department of Health and Human Services to use approved narcotics in drug abuse treatment. Additionally, state agencies are involved in the regulation process. This burdensome regulatory scheme has resulted in "a treatment system consisting primarily of large methadone clinics located in big cities, and preventing physicians from treating patients in an office setting or in rural or small towns, thereby denying treatment to thousands in need of it," according to Sen. Levin (CR, p. S1091).

The current system also prevents new FDA-approved addiction treatment drugs from being utilized. Alan Leshner, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, noted in a memo to Sen. Levin that the burdensome regulations have prevented drugs like LAAM from making an appreciable impact on the "treatment gap" since the drug's introduction in 1993.

S. 324 would require a physician to: (1) notify the Secretary of Health and Human Services ("Secretary") that s/he intends to dispense approved drugs for maintenance or detoxification treatment; (2) have, "by training or experience," the ability to treat and manage opiate-dependent patients; (3) have the capacity to refer patients to appropriate counseling and other services; and (4) limit the number of patients treated at one time to 20, unless the Secretary changes the number through the regulatory process.

The bill would require drugs in Schedule IV or V to: (1) be approved under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act or section 351 of the Public Health Act for maintenance or detoxification treatment; and (2) not be subject to an "adverse determination" by the Secretary and Attorney General.

To determine the effectiveness of the law and whether it should remain in effect, the Secretary is required to determine the effectiveness of the treatments and if treatment availability has increased. The Attorney General is required to monitor doctor and patient compliance with the regulations, including the diversion of prescribed maintenance drugs. The Secretary or Attorney General can end the program at any time, and states can prevent physicians from treating patients through the passage of legislation.

Although buprenorphine maintenance won't help many of the persons being maintained on methadone today, it could help lower-level, younger users who haven't developed a high tolerance to opiates, according to Dr. Marc Shinderman, medical director of the Center for Addictive Problems in Chicago. He added, "This legislation would allow patients and doctors to develop a therapeutic alliance in an office-based setting, and provide a low-threshold treatment option which is now not possible with methadone due to governmental over-regulation."

Edith Springer, Senior Trainer at the Harm Reduction Training Institute and a board member of the Drug Policy Foundation, also welcomed the legislation. "Although the bill doesn't go far enough in allowing doctors and patients to decide on the treatment of their choice, passage of this legislation would set a precedent that can only help us. Some people have found buprenorphine to be helpful and patients should have it available as a mode of treatment."

9. Hemp Reform Efforts Underway

Marc Brandl, [email protected]
Hemp reform efforts are off to a vigorous start in 1999. 12 state legislatures have started off the new legislative session with various bills and resolutions that would reclassify hemp, urge the federal government to reconsider hemp and encouraging more research and test plots. Two states have recently passed resolutions that were signed.

In Virginia, House bill HJ-94 passed the state Senate 40-0, in mid-February after it had earlier passed the House by a 76-23 margin. The bill will be sent to several relevant federal agencies including ONDCP, the DEA and the Secretary of Agriculture and urges them, "To revise the necessary regulations so as to permit the controlled, experimental cultivation of industrial hemp in Virginia." The bill also gives the Commonwealth of Virginia the option of becoming a member of the North American Industrial Hemp Council (NAIHC).

"I think its fine," said a confident Erwin Sholts, the chairman of the NAIHC, "a lot of state farm bureaus, Fortune 500 companies, and universities are members because we are being driven by agriculture, and not anything else. This [agriculture] industry is in very bad trouble. I get calls from farmers all over saying they need alternative crops. The English, German and Canadian parliaments have debated this and found this is not a drug crop. When you get past emotion and into the facts, these bills pass easily. I can understand why Virginia would pass this bill."

A primary sponsor of the bill in the Virginia state assembly, Del. Mitchell Van Yahres (D) mirrored much of the sentiment of Sholts when he talked to the WOL and voiced his frustration with the federal governments position. "The present conditions are totally out of place. They are being totally unrealistic. Government encouraged farmers to grow this during World War II because it was a valuable crop. The only reason it has negatives is the word 'hemp' is involved. This is not a drug issue."

A similar bill in the Montana legislature also was passed into law recently by a vote of 95-4. H.R. 2 calls on the federal government to, "Repeal restrictions on the production of industrial hemp as an agricultural and industrial product." The primary sponsor of this resolution Rep. Joan Hurdle was not available for comment as of press time but stated in an e-mail message announcing the passage, "Now all the farmers in Montana are asking about growing it and want to start this spring!"

In other news, a civil lawsuit seeking to allow Kentucky farmers to grow hemp was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Karl S. Forester. Andy Graves, a plaintiff in the case and a member of the Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association told local newspapers that he was not surprised with the ruling and the case will be appealed.

10. EDITORIAL: Million Man Madness

Adam J. Smith, Associate Director, [email protected]
A report issued this week by the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives shows that by the year 2000, the number of African American adults behind bars will reach one million. At that time, roughly one in ten black men will be imprisoned. Not since the days of slavery have so many people of African decent lived in shackles. And no other nation on earth, as far as anyone can tell, is keeping so large a percentage of any ethnic or racial minority locked up in cages.

Clearly, something is wrong.

Last week, Congressman Mark Souder of Indiana, who represents a district that is over 92% white, wrote of the drug war that "gross disparities in conviction rates (between blacks and whites) do not exist." Oh, but they do. Drug offenses are the largest single category of crimes for which Americans are serving time. And blacks comprise more than 55% of those convicted for those offenses, even while reliable studies show that rates of drug use among African Americans are proportionate to their numbers in society.

Congressman Souder, by virtue of the statement above, falls into one of two categories of American lawmakers. First, it is possible that he is wholly uninformed about the realities of a policy for which he is partially responsible. That he might not know the impact of drug prohibition on the Black community is understandable, but inexcusable. Souder comes from one of the most lily-white districts in America. The problems of African Americans are not the problems of his constituents. The majority of his constituents, in fact, probably do not come into much contact with black folks. Unfortunately for the nation, however, Representative Souder gets a vote on drug war legislation just like all the other members of Congress. Just as unfortunate is the likelihood that when Souder talks about drug policy back home, he talks about "zero-tolerance" and "toughness" and "sending a message" to a population who, through no fault of their own, will never have any better idea of the ramifications of such rhetoric than Souder does himself.

The other possibility is worse. That is, that Rep. Mark Souder knows very well that the drug war is being waged against people who don't look like him, who don't look like his constituents, and who don't vote in his district. It is possible that to him, prisons are less a place of residence to an enormous percentage of black people than they are a jobs program for prison guards, a boon to the construction industry, and an easy answer to the problems of poverty, illiteracy and substance abuse. There exists the possibility that Mark Souder does not want people to know that there is a gross disparity in conviction rates between blacks and whites under our drug policies, because then people just might want to know why.

Let us assume, however, that Representative Souder simply doesn't know. Let us assume that the fact that the United States is committing acts of war against black people in the name of protecting white children is something that he just never considered. That leaves us with a question. Would Representative Souder, and all of the elected representatives who continue to call for a tougher approach to the drug war, notice if ten percent of the white community were behind bars? Would "zero tolerance" sound so sweet if the doors being kicked in, the families being broken up, the opportunities being foreclosed, the extra-Constitutional tactics being used were happening in his district? How many junior high school students in Mark Souder's 92% white district are being stopped and frisked on the street? Are we to believe that his district is "drug free?" Perhaps we are not locking up enough of his constituents.

By the year 2000, one out of every ten African American males will be living in a cage. One million blacks in total will be behind bars. As of yet, no call for a re-examination of the wisdom of drug prohibition has gone up in Congress. No task forces have been created to study alternatives to our precious, vicious war. Perhaps our legislators, people like Mark Souder, are simply unaware of the damage that their policies are doing. Let us hope that they become aware before they imprison them all.

11. Errata Note

Last week's issue incorrectly referred to "The Institute of Medicine's 1998 Consensus Report on Heroin Addiction." The correct name is "The National Institutes of Health 1997 Consensus Statement on Effective Medical Treatment of Opiate Addiction." The statement can be found online at

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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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