(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #94, 6/11/99
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
or check out The Week Online archives
1. Teens Say Drug War a Failure
A nationwide survey of 981 teenagers, sponsored by Uhlich Children's Home, a social services agency in Chicago, gives adults a D+ in their efforts to stop young people from drinking, smoking and using drugs. The grade, an indicator of performance that would get most young people grounded if they did as poorly in math, English or science, was the lowest of all the marks that teens awarded adults on a variety of subjects.
Adults were graded a C- for their efforts to deal with gangs, and a C+ for efforts to keep schools safe from violence and crime. The teens, aged 12-19, gave their elders their highest marks, a B-, for efforts toward job creation, education, fighting AIDS, preventing child abuse and spending time with their families.
Tom Vanden Berk, President of Uhlich Children's Home, told The Week Online that there is an urgent need to engage them in a dialogue.
"Prior to this survey, my own teenage daughter told me that 'just say no' was not something that she could relate to within the context of her day to day experience. We are preaching to our kids, we are spending billions in tax dollars, and yet we're not asking them whether what we're doing is working. What we found, both in the survey and in the focus groups that we put together to get more information, is that teens want good, solid information."
"In talking to the kids in the focus groups, we heard analogies drawn to AIDS education, which got a far higher grade in the survey than drug prevention. The kids noted that with regard to AIDS, they were given the facts in an honest, straightforward manner without the preaching. The teens indicated that they responded to that type of education better than the moralizing 'just say no' or DARE approach. According to the kids, drugs are everywhere around them, in their schools, in their faces. We need to establish a dialogue with kids, to find out what they respond to, what works, and how we can provide them with important information in a context that's relevant to their lives."
Bob Weiner, spokesman for Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey, told The Week Online that his office "completely agrees that parents need to do more talking with their kids about drugs." Mr. Weiner also noted that General McCaffrey "has consistently maintained that the most effective action in reducing youth drug use is parents talking to their teens around the kitchen table."
Asked whether the survey results were an indictment of drug education in America, Mr. Weiner replied that while the survey might be "fun to use," it was likely that in grading the older generation on things like stopping use drug use, kids might well seek to be "a little revolutionary" thus making it difficult to apply the results to real world situations.
The full results of the survey are available online at http://www.uhlich.org/reportcard/.
2. Clinton Issues Executive Order on Racial Profiling in Law Enforcement
During a roundtable conference with civil rights and law enforcement leaders on Wednesday, President Clinton issued an executive order requiring all federal law enforcement agencies to collect race, ethnicity, and gender data on individuals detained for questioning. The order addresses growing concerns in the nation about 'racial profiling' -- the use of race as a basis for stopping and searching individuals. A large percentage of these detainments involve tenuous 'suspicion' about drug-related crimes. Federal agencies including the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Customs Service will now be required to record racial data on all stops and searches and file a report on the results after one year, in order to assess the extent of the racial profiling problem and its possible solutions.
Civil rights activists have long complained about minorities in cars being stopped and searched for DWB or "Driving While Black," and a series of lawsuits and investigations has uncovered evidence of the practice in several states. Law enforcement officials have, until recently, argued that evidence for this practice is purely anecdotal. Clinton, speaking at the Justice Department conference, claimed that gathering and analyzing the racial data for detainments will show a clearer picture of the actual situation.
Clinton also publicly endorsed H.R. 1443, a bill sponsored by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), that creates a grant and assistance program to encourage state and local law enforcement agencies to also begin collecting data about those they detain. Conyers commended Clinton for the support in a press release, and stressed the importance of bringing an end to racial profiling at all levels of law enforcement. "If the constitutional guarantee of equal protection means anything," he stated in the same release, "it has to mean that it is unacceptable for our citizens to be stopped and searched on account of their race."
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) also praised the executive order. Last week, the ACLU released a 43 page report which included recommendations for government action (see http://www.aclu.org/profiling/). The group called the President's announcement "an important first step in ending the national disgrace of racial profiling." However, ACLU Washington Director Laura Murphy also pointed out the need for continued action. "Ultimately," she stated, "what is called for here is a fundamental focus on the civil rights crises created by our criminal justice system."
Rob Stewart, Communications Director for the Drug Policy Foundation, agreed. Stewart mused on the leveling out of drug-related detainments between the races that may result simply from the focus on racial data. "Once a proportionate number of white kids start getting pulled in for suspicion in these [drug-related] crimes, maybe the public will become more sensitive to the way we've been persecuting minorities for years with the uneven enforcement of these laws."
Previous Week Online coverage:
3. Waters Bill Would End Federal Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentencing
Provisions in Bill Consistent With Recommendations from Justices Rehnquist, Kennedy and Breyer
(press release from the Drug Policy Foundation, http://www.dpf.org)
WASHINGTON -- Responding to calls from three Supreme Court justices and scores of federal judges, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) has introduced a bill that would abolish nearly all drug-related federal mandatory minimum sentences (MMS).
Rep. Waters' bill, H.R. 1681, has slim chances of passage in a Republican-controlled Congress, but is landmark legislation because it is part of a significant change in the way policymakers are thinking about sentencing.
"For the first time in years, Congress is taking note of how our mandatory sentencing laws are filling our prisons without producing the intended decrease in drug use or supply," Drug Policy Foundation Policy Analyst Rob Stewart said.
Scores of federal judges have refused to hear drug cases in protest of mandatory minimum sentencing laws. And within the last few years, Supreme Court Justices Stephen Breyer, Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice William Rehnquist, all Republican appointees, have also found mandatory minimums to be a flawed sentencing system. Kennedy has called them "imprudent, unwise and often an unjust mechanism."
"A more complete solution would be to abolish mandatory minimums," Breyer said in November at the University of Nebraska College of Law.
Conservative criminologist John DiIulio, once one of the staunchest proponents of long mandatory sentences, has recently written in support of the abolition of MMS.
"With mandatory minimums, there is no real suppression of the drug trade, only episodic substance-abuse treatment of incarcerated drug-only offenders, and hence only the most tenuous crime-control rationale for imposing prison terms -- mandatory or otherwise -- on any of them," DiIulio wrote in the National Review last month.
Mandatory minimums also disproportionately affect minorities. African Americans make up 12 percent of the population and roughly the same percentage of drug users, but they are 33 percent of federal drug convictions. The average drug sentence for African Americans is now 49 percent higher than sentences for the same offense for whites.
The irony of this change in sentencing thought is who's doing the thinking and who's doing the legislating. The Republicans in Congress are ignoring the advice of their own thinkers. Instead, a liberal Democrat, Waters, has seized the issue.
4. Legalization Hearings in House Subcommittee, June 16
The US House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources has announced it will hold a hearing on "The Pros and Cons of Legalizing Illegal Narcotics and Decriminalization" on June 16 ("Bloomsday" to Ulysses fans). The hearing is the first specifically devoted to the issue of broad drug policy reform since 1988. Representatives from The Lindesmith Center, The CATO Institute, The Drug Policy Foundation, and the ACLU have been invited to testify.
When the hearing was first scheduled, some invitees were told the topic would be "the legalization movement" itself, leading one former House insider to compare it to hearings held by the House Committee on Un-American Activities to grill anti-war activists during the Vietnam era, though subcommittee staff members have subsequently said the hearings really will be a discussion of the legalization issue.
Check C-Span for footage of the hearings, and next week's issue of The Week Online for a full report.
5. Hawaii Hemp Advocate Wins Right to Sue Prosecutors for Constitutional Rights Violation
Aaron Anderson, a marijuana and hemp activist on the island of Hawaii, won the right to sue prosecutors and the County of Hawaii (the "Big Island") for a violation of his constitutional rights in a multi-year case first brought in 1992. Anderson was charged for purchasing a 23 lb. box of sterile hemp seed (used extensively in birdseed, as well as a variety of food and other products) at $.49 per pound from Special Commodities Inc. of Fargo, North Dakota, a legally operating company with a DEA license to sell hemp products (see http://www.drcnet.org/wol/015.html#hawaii). The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled Tuesday (6/3) that a lawsuit filed by Anderson will be heard in federal court in Honolulu, overturning an earlier ruling by US District Judge David Ezra.
Steven Strauss, attorney for Anderson, and for Christie in a similar lawsuit in state court, told the Week Online, "The constitutional violation that gave rise to the 1993 claims did not depend on their being innocent, but rather on their being prosecuted for the wrong reason: advocating the decriminalization of marijuana and building a legal hemp business."
According to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, deputy prosecutor Kay Iopa told a judge in 1992, "As a practical matter, no, we're not going to go out, bust the little old lady that's got a bag of bird seeds... When you get 25 pounds ... going to, um, a hemp grower, that is very vocally, very outwardly advocating the legalization of marijuana."
Anderson and Christie charge that Iopa selectively, and therefore illegally, prosecuted them, and that Big Island chief prosecutor Jay Kimura knew of this, but failed to take actions to remedy the situation. The 9th Circuit has ruled that if the charge is true, the County of Hawaii would be civilly liable. Kimura told the Star-Bulletin that the prosecution was proper and that the County should appeal the decision to the US Supreme Court.
The jury in Anderson's case deadlocked 9-3 in favor of acquittal, and Iopa dropped the case against Christie in 1995. Iopa resigned her position last December, after a Circuit Court judge found she had "misrepresented information" regarding evidence to the court on two occasions, leading to a mistrial in a high-profile murder case, according to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.
On the issue of prosecutors bringing charges for activity that is legal, Strauss told the Week Online, "The problem is that prosecutors are typically immune from individual liability," and that "There are no protections against an overzealous prosecutor."
Still, Strauss pointed out, the case does have implications when charges are brought for inappropriate reasons. "No longer can a high-level prosecutorial official ignore the constitutional violations of his deputy, and say it's not his policy, so the municipality isn't liable." In such cases, the burden is on the injured parties to report the possible constitutional violations to the top prosecutorial official in the jurisdiction. It is only if he or she fails to take action to repair the damage, that the municipality can become civilly liable.
(Anderson and Christie have been put out of business for eight years by the prosecutors' lawlessness in charging them for a non-crime. Donations to help Anderson's federal case and Christie's state case can be sent to: Steven D. Strauss Client Trust Account, P.O. Box 11517, Hilo, HI 11517. Reference Anderson and/or Christie on the check.)
The full text of the 9th Circuit decision is available on our web site at http://www.drcnet.org/legal/anderson.html or http://www.drcnet.org/legal/anderson.rtf (includes formatting).
To get involved in drug policy reform in Hawaii, check out the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, online at http://www.drugsense.org/dpfhi/.
6. Health Canada Authorizes Patients to Use Medical Marijuana, Announces Plan to Grow Pot for Medical Research
(reprinted from the NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org)
June 10, 1999, Ottawa, Ontario: Health Minister Allan Rock announced yesterday that the government has authorized two patients to legally grow and possess marijuana for medical purposes. The agency also declared that they are developing a business plan for the creation of a government-approved farm to supply domestically grown marijuana for human patient trials.
The House of Commons approved a motion late last month urging Health Canada to "take steps" toward approving the limited use of marijuana. Yesterday the agency issued guidelines for a series of upcoming medical marijuana clinical trials as well as plans to grow and import the drug for medical purposes.
"Moving forward on a research plan that includes establishing a quality Canadian supply of medicinal marijuana and a process to access it, is significant," Rock said. "The plan reflects compassion and will also help build the evidence base needed regarding the use of marijuana for medical purposes." Rock said that he intends to import medical marijuana from the United States' National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to use in the initial trials. Patients will smoke marijuana short-term in those studies, he said. Patients in later trials will use marijuana extracts and non-smoked forms of the drug, the agency guidelines state.
Health Canada also announced that it had granted two patients permission to use marijuana for their own personal medical use. One of the patients, Jean Charles Pariseau, who uses marijuana to combat the effects of nausea and the AIDS wasting syndrome, said that he was "more than happy" with Health Canada's historic decision. "If you gave me a choice between a million dollars and [this] announcement, I would choose the announcement," he said.
Rock said that 30 additional patients are awaiting permission from Health Canada to use marijuana. The agency said that they intend to review those requests within "15 working days."
See Health Canada's medical
marijuana research plans at:
7. EDITORIAL: Failing our Teens
Adam J. Smith, Associate Director, [email protected]
The month of June typically means report cards for American teens, but the tables were turned this week with the release of a nationwide survey in which the kids graded the efforts of their parents' generation on a broad range of topics. The highest grade that the older generation received, only a B-, was given in five categories, including job creation, preventing child abuse and fighting AIDS. The lowest grade awarded, a D+, was earned in four categories: stopping young people from drinking, stopping young people from smoking, stopping young people from using drugs and for their performance in running the government.
It is not surprising, given the natural tendencies of succeeding generations to see the world through different lenses, that the grades were not good. But the kids did give their elders a solid C for "really listening to and understanding young people," which makes the sub-par grades on issues of substance use even more alarming.
To the extent that government concerns itself with reducing young people's use of drugs, our policy has been focused on the DARE program, which sends police officers into schools to warn of the dangers of drug use using a "just say no" philosophy, and harsh punitive laws, which, according to the politicians who write and pass them, "send a message to our children" that drug use is wrong and that society will punish it harshly. Neither of these tactics is working, say our kids.
Teens are individuals, and so we must be careful when we generalize about them, but it is safe to say that for many teenagers, questioning authority and rejecting authoritarian restraint comes as naturally as a burgeoning interest in sex and the desire to borrow the family car. "Just say no" is therefore not only woefully inadequate, but in fact may invite the opposite response from many kids who are struggling to establish an identity of their own.
Kids need information they can trust about the substances they are likely to encounter. Their trust, however, is undermined when the information we give them is skewed by an agenda, no matter how well-meaning. Once it becomes clear to a teenager that we are willing to lie or exaggerate, even "for their own good," they are likely to turn us off, and to seek their information elsewhere.
As a follow-up to the survey, the sponsoring organization, the Uhlich Children's Home, assembled some teens in focus groups. Among the things they learned, according to Uhlich House president Tom Vanden Berk, was that kids thought that they had received useful education regarding AIDS. No moralizing, no preaching, just straight facts intended to help them to protect themselves from harm. They believed it, they remembered it, and presumably, they took it to heart. Drug education on the other hand, well.... a D+ is a D+, right?
This survey shows that our kids have an awful lot to teach us when it comes to our drug policy. Far from "sending a message" to our teens, it seems that our excessive and punitive response to the issue of drugs is failing to address their needs. What kids want, and what we should be giving them, is honest, straightforward information about alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, without the threats or hysteria that mark most of our efforts in these areas, and which tend to make drugs attractive to many kids.
This week, teens across America issued a report card grading their parents' generation on a host of subjects. And despite all of our moralizing and all of our threats and all of our laws, when it comes to preventing youth drug use, we got straight D's. Our kids can't react to our failure by cutting off our allowance, or withholding the car keys or sending us to our rooms until we promise to do better. But you know, if our kids came home with a report card like that, we'd insist that they change their study habits. And soon.
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