(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #82, 3/12/99
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Public outcry against the proposed "Know Your Customer" banking rules prompted Congress this week to pass resolutions demanding that the rules be scrapped. In what has been hailed as an example of the power of the Internet as a tool for grassroots organizing, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has received more than a quarter million e-mailed complaints from citizens who believe the rules would violate their privacy and Constitutional protections against search and seizure. The rules would require banks to keep detailed profiles on all customers, and report unusual or suspicious transactions to federal law enforcement agencies.
The vast majority of the complaints were lodged through defendyourprivacy.com, a special web site set up by the Libertarian Party. But Libertarian Party press director George Getz told DRCNet that opposition to "Know Your Customer" spans across all party lines. "I think the opposition is coming from Libertarians, and from the Left and the Right," he said. "I was at a press conference on Capitol Hill the other day, when someone stood up and said, 'We suspect this is just one big special interest effort behind killing Know Your Customer.' I stood up and said, 'Okay, I confess, I'm a member of a special interest group. I have a checking account. That's what special interest is here. If you have a bank account, this affects you. This 'spy on your customer' proposal is reprehensible to every free-thinking American, even if the politicians and bureaucrats seem to like it just fine."
As of Thursday, the number of complaints e-mailed through defendyourprivacy.com and other sites had passed 250,000, and more were pouring in as the reach of the Internet multiplied the effectiveness of organizer's efforts. Getz said the average number of complaints a new regulation receives is around 200. Politicians are taking notice, as evidenced by the Senate's 88-0 vote condemning the Know Your Customer rules. But the resolution is non-binding, and the FDIC, the Federal Reserve, and other regulatory agencies involved have not yet backed down. Getz said what's really needed are laws preventing the regulators from making rules like Know Your Customer in the first place. "The Republicans and Democrats on the Hill want to have it both ways," he said. "They want to pretend that they're outraged by Know Your Customer, but they don't want to do anything to really bury it."
Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) is sponsoring two bills that will place sunset clauses on Know Your Customer and the Banking Secrecy Act, respectively. Paul's spokesman, Michael Sullivan, told DRCNet the passage of bills like these are the only way to protect people's privacy in the long term. Already, he said, the regulators are considering simply repackaging Know Your Customer under new euphemisms. Sullivan said they are missing the point. "Unfortunately, what the regulators are not admitting is that what people are complaining about is not the offensive words, you know, 'profiling' and this kind of stuff," he said. "What people are complaining about is the principle of the thing. If the FDIC and the Federal Reserve think that simply changing the title and using different words will make these people happy, I think they've got another thing coming to them."
Sullivan said that Know Your Customer, intended to thwart money launderers, is another example of short-sighted policies with potentially disastrous consequences. "When the regulators put forward this stuff, it's because we're trying to fight the drug war, and we're trying to stop money laundering, and counterfeiting, and all these good reasons. We all agree that there are bad things out there. But is the best way to stop them to give these agencies the power to regulate every aspect of our lives? So that they will turn us all into criminals? No. Obviously not. So there has to be, at some point, a modicum of common sense which says that sometimes great evil is done in the name of doing good."
Will the Internet play an increasing role in the way vigilant citizens can make their voices heard? Sullivan said yes. "If this had been five years ago, six years ago, these regulations would be in effect now, and no one would be the wiser. Until people started being arrested, being investigated. People would not have know about this, because NBC wouldn't have carried it, ABC didn't carry it, CBS didn't carry it, CNN didn't talk about it, and on and on. This just really does show where this new, alternative source of information is really paying off for people."
George Getz said the Libertarian Party will maintain its web site. "We intend to keep the defendyourprivacy.com site up for future government privacy invasions. Whether we're talking about a national ID card, fingerprints on drivers licenses, different types of asset forfeiture laws -- we're going to be updating people through the site for the next several months."
Thanks to the many DRCNet subscribers who responded to our alert on Know Your Customer. Your voices made a difference! The official public comment period on KYC is over, but it's still worthwhile to drop by http://www.defendyourprivacy.com to catch up on the latest developments. And of course, DRCNet will continue to follow the story. Meanwhile, DRCNet urges its members to ask their Congresspersons to cosponsor Ron Paul's Know Your Customer Sunset Act and Bank Secrecy Sunset Act bills.
George Bush Jr., eyeing the Republican nomination, has hired a private detective to dig up dirt on the Texas Governor's past as a pre-emptive measure designed to lower the possibility of a mid-race bombshell. Bush, whose prior troubles with alcohol use is legendary, swears that he has been a faithful spouse, but has been less than forthcoming when asked about long-rumored drug use, though he has pointedly avoided denying such charges.
Asked whether he had ever used cocaine or marijuana by the British paper "Scotland on Sunday," Bush said only "When I was young and irresponsible, I was young and irresponsible." Far from simple youthful indiscretion, however, Bush has admitted that his "irresponsible" period lasted until his 40th birthday. Adding to the sense that he might not be truthful about his drug use, Bush also advises that parents lie to their own children about their experiences.
"The question is, have you learned from your mistakes," he said. "The answer is yes. If I were you, I wouldn't tell your kids that you smoked pot unless you want them to smoke pot. I think it's important for leaders and parents not to send mixed signals. I don't want some kid saying, 'Well, Governor Bush tried it'."
Questions about Bush's drug use, his message and the impact that it will have, both on his campaign and on his image remain.
Rob Stewart, Communications Director for the Drug Policy Foundation in Washington, DC, wondered how Bush could maintain the inconsistencies between his own life and the policies he adopts.
"Assuming that Governor Bush did in fact use illicit drugs, one has to wonder whether he believes that he would have benefited from being sent to prison. Judging by his obvious success in politics, it would be difficult to argue that prison would have been appropriate. The question, then, is why he believes that other people, people whose parents are not oil tycoons, ought to be incarcerated for their own substance use or abuse. Is he sending the message that drug use should only result in incarceration for those who get caught? Or for those whose families don't have the resources to send them to treatment, or hire expensive attorneys?"
Sandee Burbank, Director of Mothers Against Misuse and Abuse, takes issue with Bush's admonition to parents to lie to their children.
"Governor Bush thinks that the way to keep youngsters from using drugs is to lie to them. This shows extreme disrespect for children's intelligence and natural desire to protect themselves from harm. Parents who use lies, exaggerations and scare tactics put themselves at tremendous risk of losing credibility. These tactics can lead some children to disregard serious warnings, thinking them more of the same lies."
"MAMA thinks it is better to teach children skills to evaluate the risks of all drug use and provide them with accurate information about all drugs. This will serve them far better than lies."
A soon to be released report from the federal General Accounting Office (GAO) points to corruption among US forces along the Southwest border as a serious and growing problem, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The number of such cases investigated by the FBI went from 79 in 1997 to 157 in 1998.
Wayne Beaman, special agent in charge of the McAllen, Texas field office of the Justice Department's Inspector General's office, told the Star-Telegram, "It's been overwhelming on the southwest border."
The release of the study comes at a time when Congress has been pushing the Clinton Administration to hire 1,000 new border patrol agents. This week, Attorney General Janet Reno indicated that they would not, citing the difficulties in integrating such an influx of inexperienced officers with concerns over corruption and the inappropriate use of force.
Reno told the congressional appropriations committee on Tuesday (3/9) that law enforcement experts consider it risky for more than 30% of any force to be inexperienced. "As of July, 1998" Reno said, "the percentage of Border Patrol agents with less than two years of experience or less was almost 39%."
But that rationale did not temper the criticisms of proponents of the expansion. In a statement released on Wednesday, Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said, "We have a White House that wants to surrender in the War against Drugs and an Attorney General who is waving the white flag."
On Thursday, Allen Kaye, spokesman for Smith, when asked about the upcoming GAO report and the potential for corruption among both the existing force of Border Patrol agents and new recruits, told The Week Online, "We currently have up to 8,000 agents in the Border Patrol and the overwhelming majority are hard working, patriotic Americans who are serving their country and who would never even consider engaging in corrupt activity. They do a superb job under very difficult circumstances, and we ought to be proud of them."
Kaye continued. "We also have to realize what they're up against. They're facing down the international drug cartels. According to government figures, 70% of all illegal drugs come into the country over the southwest border. With that kind of money involved, there's going to be some corruption."
Asked whether, given the fact that a single truckload of heroin or cocaine can supply entire regions of the country with a year's worth of product, the inevitability of "some corruption" makes the entire enterprise of enforcement fruitless, Kaye responded vociferously.
"That's a legalization argument," he said. "And Congressman Smith rejects that argument out of hand. Our children deserve better than to have us surrender to the drug cartels. Congressman Smith speaks often to PTA's and parents' groups and they consistently urge him to fight hard, not to give up on our children in the War on Drugs. We must confront the smugglers everywhere, and the Congressman believes that we need at least two thousand additional border agents to do that. Even then, he might not be satisfied."
Dr. Al Robison, Director of the Drug Policy Forum of Texas, disagrees.
"Once again, it's getting deep up on the hill" he said. "It's disheartening that legislators like Mr. Smith insist upon hiding behind the idea that they're somehow protecting kids with this madness. Another 2,000 agents and perhaps we'll get a handle on this $400 billion a year industry. Hah. We haven't achieved a single drug free community in the whole country, much less a drug free America. The drug war itself is what allows our kids access to this stuff. Giving up on our children? We've long sold out our children in favor of prison industry profits and the budgets of countless federal agencies. If we really wanted to keep drugs out of the hands of children, we'd put the drug trade in the hands of people we could regulate and control. Today, despite decades of escalation of the drug war, drugs are accessible to any American child with a few dollars in his pocket and the desire to use them. To pretend that more money for the border patrol is going to protect our kids is the worst kind of disingenuousness."
Marc Brandl, [email protected]On March 3rd, 1999, Measure 8, Alaska's medical marijuana initiative, passed by nearly 60% of voters became law. On March 4th, state senator Loren Leman introduced SB 94, which would greatly modify several key provisions of the new law.
Two major proposals of the 15 page bill are seen as very controversial. The first would require patients to register with Alaska's Health and Human Services and allow broad access of that registry to law enforcement agencies. Measure 8 created the registry to be voluntary. The other key controversial provision is a statement that doctors would have to sign in order to recommend marijuana for patients that states, "There is no other legal treatment that can be tolerated by the patient that is as effective in alleviating the debilitating medical condition." Also only AIDS, cancer and glaucoma would be considered legitimate conditions for which marijuana could be recommended.
"We think the whole process is outrageous that he would try to amend this initiative into ineffectiveness just as it is coming into law," said Alaskans for Medical Rights treasurer David Finkelstein. "His bill sets up a system where law enforcement officials have access to a list of patients and all of their medical conditions. This just isn't a matter of having access to what drugs they are taking. The documentation necessary to get medical marijuana includes the doctor's documentation of their conditions, which includes AIDS. Some AIDS patients are concerned about that information getting out. It's essentially full disclosure to patients' medical backgrounds."
Senator Leman had a different perspective when he talked to the WOL about SB 94. "We're concerned about enforcing drug laws in the state of Alaska. The initiative was very poorly worded, it has a lot of loopholes and opportunities for abuse. What the bill does is correct some of those while still maintaining the ability of the so called medical marijuana part to operate." When asked about concerns over the requirement in SB 94 that all patients participate in the state registry to be legal users of medical marijuana, Sen. Leman replied, "Why did the promoters of this initiative form a state registry? They did it just to create the ruse that there was going to be a requirement for registering. But curiously they don't require that the users or the primary caregivers sign up and register. Our legislation requires them to register. Does that create an unnecessary burden on the doctor/patient relationship? No. Marijuana is not some harmless food supplement, it is a dangerous drug."
Another source of concern about Sen. Leman's bill raised by Finkelstein and several recent letters to the editor in the Anchorage Daily News is that the new law hasn't been given a chance to work and this legislation is an attempt to thwart the will of the voters. Senator Leman strongly disagreed, saying, "That isn't correct. Most the voters of Alaska, I believe, who voted for this, did so because they believed it would be limited, require a doctor's recommendation, that there would be a registry of users maintained by the state that people would have to sign up for, and that it would be limited to those who have a debilitating illness. That is what the voters of Alaska voted for."
The bill has a long road ahead before it becomes law or is voted down by the Alaskan legislature, and both sides believe it will be a long fight. "I am not sure of the outcome," said Finkelstein. "But we are doing all we can to convince legislators that compassion for patients out to be their number one concern and they ought to give the new law a chance to work."
Marc Brandl, [email protected]On the weekend of March 5-7, over 40 students, representing 10 universities, met to learn more about activism, leadership, and to discuss ideas. Aaron Wilson, long-time campus activist and organizer of the conference, said "While small, as the first ever inter-campus gathering of student drug policy reform activists it was a significant event. The level of inter-campus communication and cooperation has risen quite a bit, with several collaborative projects already underway. I think the event did a lot to solidify the participants' commitment to activism on the issue and provided political skills they need to be more effective. I am sure the next event will be even better."
The conference, titled "Student Drug Reform Activism: 1999 Advanced Leadership Conference," was held at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and was hosted by the nation's longest running campus marijuana reform group, the Amherst Cannabis Reform Coalition (UMACRC). The conference focused on activism, with sessions and panels were held on subjects such as event organizing, Higher Education Act reform, and effective political public relations. The focus of all the conference events was activism and not theory. The conference also allowed student activists a chance to meet face to face and share ideas, experiences and plans for the future long into the morning hours.
Michael Thelwell, one of the original founders of the Student Nonviolent Campus Coordinators (SNCC), now a professor of literature in the Afro-American Studies department at Amherst, was the event's keynote speaker. His speech inspired activists with memories of the civil rights movement. "He inspired me to think more about the struggle and the heart behind what we do instead of simply tactics and knowledge," said Troy Dayton, who was a communications and rhetoric trainer at the conference.
Tentative plans are being made to have a similar event in October at George Washington University in Washington. Shawn Heller, president of GW Students for a Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP) said, "Hopefully a conference at GW next semester will improve upon the trend set up by this conference, and will bring together all drug policy student activists in the country." Funding for the conference came, in part, from a small grant from the Drug Policy Foundation and several contributions from private donors. Aaron Wilson would like to thank everyone who made the event possible and contributed to its success, including Liz Rising (UMACRC), who did much of the work of reserving hotel rooms, making arrangements for food and other thankless tasks.
The Washington State legislature is expected to vote next week on a bill that would allow judges more discretion in sentencing nonviolent drug offenders. House Bill 1006, introduced by Republican Representative Ida Ballasiotes, enjoys broad support from prosecutors, judges, and other lawmakers, and is widely expected to pass.
Ballasiotes told DRCNet the bill's popularity stems from a growing disillusionment with the consequences of harsh mandatory minimum sentences instituted in 1989. "The 'tough on drugs' approach has held sway for the last ten years or so," she said. "It hasn't worked well. And corrections is the fastest growing part of our budget. So my point is, we have to work smarter with the resources we have." Nonviolent drug offenders make up 25 percent of the state's prison population.
House Bill 1006 will not necessarily lower the penalties for drug offenses, but it will allow judges to sentence some offenders to supervised drug rehabilitation programs instead of jail. Ballasiotes said her bill speaks to practicalities that beyond the "tough on crime" paradigm. "It's not a matter of getting tough or being soft on crime. I don't think that's the issue at all. There are ways to treat these people that are far less expensive, that will have, I believe, a positive effect."
(reprinted from the NORML Weekly News, http://www.norml.org)
A federal judge refused this week to alter the conditions of release that bar a California AIDS patient from using potentially life saving medicine, marijuana, ruling that the denial is not a violation of his constitutional rights.
"They're just going to let me die," said patient Peter McWilliams, a New York Times best-selling author who uses medical marijuana to alleviate side effects of the AIDS wasting syndrome and the nausea associated with his AIDS medications. "My doctor and I have tried every [other medication,] and we made this very clear in the documents filed with the court," he said. "Medical marijuana was the only alternative."
McWilliams physician, Dr. Daniel Bowers, an AIDS specialist at Pacific Oaks Medical Center in Beverly Hills, said that his patient's viral load has skyrocketed from undetectable to dangerously high levels since a federal magistrate barred McWilliams from smoking marijuana. Bowers said that McWilliams risks permanent damage to his immune system if his levels are not reduced.
A judge ordered McWilliams to stop smoking marijuana as a condition of his bail release last fall after a federal grand jury charged him and eight others with conspiracy to cultivate marijuana for commercial sale. This week's ruling by U.S. District Judge George King upholds that ban despite McWilliams' worsening health.
"We conclude that imposing the aforesaid conditions of bond does not violate any of the defendant's constitutional rights," Judge King ruled. "We do not mean to express indifference to the defendant's situation, [but] we are not empowered to grant the defendant what amounts to a license to violate federal law," he said. King made no mention of California's law legalizing marijuana for medical use. McWilliams is a California resident.
King also refused McWilliams' request that he be placed in a federal program that supplies medical marijuana to a handful of patients with serious diseases. McWilliams said he will appeal the ruling. McWilliams' criminal trial on marijuana charges is scheduled to begin on September 7, 1999.
(reprinted from the NORML Weekly News, http://www.norml.org)
A US District Judge (Philadelphia) ruled this week that a government program that supplies medical marijuana to a small group of seriously ill patients, but refuses to enroll new applicants suffering from similar diseases, may violate "equal protection of the law" guaranteed by the Constitution. District Judge Marvin Katz's ruling allows a federal medical marijuana class action suit launched by Philadelphia attorney Lawrence Hirsch to proceed forward. Hirsch filed the suit on behalf of more than 100 patients who find medical relief from marijuana.
"We are gratified by Judge Katz's decision to recognize the central equal protection of law claim of the plaintiffs' class that it is fundamentally unfair, and apparently irrational for the United States government to supply therapeutic cannabis to a total of seven or eight Americans because it is medically necessary for their conditions, [but deny it to others,]" Hirsch said.
The federal Compassionate Investigational New Drug (IND) program began distributing marijuana cigarettes to select patients in 1978. The program ceased accepting new applicants in 1992, but continues to supply 300 marijuana cigarettes monthly to eight patients suffering from diseases such as glaucoma and epilepsy. Similar statewide programs also distributed medical marijuana to approximately 1,000 patients in the 1980s, but are no longer active.
Judge Katz dismissed in his ruling several other constitutional violations alleged by the plaintiffs. NORML Legal Committee members Michael Cutler, Esq. of Boston, MA and William Panzer, Esq. of Oakland, CA have joined as co-counsel in the suit.
March 20-21, Toronto, Canada, The Second International Conference on Drug War Prisoners, sponsored by the Curriculum Committee of the Department of Sociology, York University. For information, contact John Beresford at [email protected].
March 21-25, Geneva, Switzerland. 10th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm, sponsored by the International Harm Reduction Association. For info, call 44 (151) 227 44 23, fax 44 (151) 236 48 29, e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.ihra.org.uk/geneve/ on the web.
March 27-29, Washington, DC. Families Against Mandatory Minimums workshop. For information, call FAMM at (202) 822-6700 or e-mail [email protected].
Wednesday, April 7, 4-6pm, New York, NY. Illegal Leisure: Recreational Drug Use Among 1990s British Youth, seminar with With Howard Parker, PhD, professor of social work at the University of Manchester and author of Illegal Leisure: The Normalization of Adolescent Recreational Drug Use (Routledge 1998). Parker, director of SPARC, a British social policy research center, examines the impact of drug law and policy on British youth. At the Open Society Institute, 400 West 59th Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues), 3rd Floor, New York City, free. Call The Lindesmith Center at (212)548-0695 or e-mail [email protected] to reserve a place.
April 20, Oklahoma City, OK. "PROTEST THE WAR" demonstration at the State Capitol. For information, contact Norma Sapp at (405) 840-4367 or Michael Pearson at [email protected].
May 7, New York, NY, 9:00am. RALLY: Mothers in Prison, Children in Crisis, highlighting the need for in-house drug rehabilitation as an alternative to prison for mothers with dependent children, 100 Centre St. Sponsored by the JusticeWorks Community. For further information, call (718) 499-6704, fax (718) 832-2832, e-mail [email protected], or visit http://www.justiceworks.org on the web.
***May 12-15, Bethesda, MD (outside Washington, DC). The 12th International Conference on Drug Policy Reform, sponsored by the Drug Policy Foundation. (May 11 evening legislative training session.) For further information, call (202) 537-5005, e-mail [email protected], or visit http://www.dpf.org.
Several online petitions on issues of interest to reformers are currently in progress at http://www.e-thepeople.com. Visit the "Crime and Public Safety" section to sign and distribute petitions calling for a moratorium on prison building, opposing California's three-strikes law, opposing Michigan's mandatory minimum sentences, calling for legalization and decriminalization of marijuana, and more.
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