(renamed "Drug War Chronicle" effective issue #300, August 2003)
Issue #95, 6/18/99
"Raising Awareness of the Consequences of Drug Prohibition"
TABLE OF CONTENTS
On Wednesday (6/16), the Committee on Government Reform's Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources held a hearing titled: "The Pros and Cons of Drug Legalization, Decriminalization and Harm Reduction." True to form, the "hearing" was less an informed inquiry into possible alternatives to this nation's failed drug policy than a dog and pony show in which defenders of current policy accused reformers of seeking to increase youth access to drugs and during which reformers were subjected to harassment, ridicule and both implied and overt threats of official reprisals for their views.
First to testify was the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey. McCaffrey sought to claim the moral high ground early by contrasting "the legalizers" with the vast majority of Americans who are "against drug abuse." He followed this up with a laundry list of the harms associated with such abuse.
But McCaffrey's willingness to mislead with regard to reformers was not enough for several of the subcommittee members. They wanted action.
Representative John Mica (R-FL), the subcommittee chairman, asked McCaffrey whether any part of the $195 million Partnership for a Drug Free America ad campaign would be used to oppose medical marijuana and other reform initiatives. McCaffrey answered that it would not.
Pre-eminent in the minds of the Republicans on the committee was the involvement of major funders, particularly George Soros, in the drug policy reform movement. At one point, Mica asked McCaffrey whether he had ever spoken to Soros personally, noting, incredibly "I would be interested in what his motivations are, and also the question of where his money is coming from."
Mr. Soros, of course, is perhaps the world's best-known currency speculator. His non-profit entity, the Open Society Institute, is dedicated to fostering the free flow of information and the airing of debate. Soros, whose family fled both the Nazis and the Communists, has long been an advocate of the theory that information is the enemy of oppression. To that end, he spent several years before the fall of the Iron Curtain sending communications equipment including copy and fax machines into Eastern Europe.
As if to justify Soros' long and generous fight for the ideals of free and open debate, Bob Barr (R-GA) suggested to McCaffrey that he urge the Justice Department to look into the possibility of "prosecuting Soros under our racketeering (RICO) statutes" for the crime of funding efforts and initiatives "to circumvent our drug laws." Even McCaffrey appeared to be taken aback at Barr's suggestion, and indicated that such action would undoubtedly have "a chilling effect on free speech." Barr, however, replied that such an action "might have a chilling effect on the legalization movement, and I would consider that a good thing."
Mark Souder (R-IN), champion of the drug provision of the Higher Education Act of 1998, took exception to the very concept of a hearing on "the pros and cons of legalization."
"We don't hold hearings on the pros and cons of rape," he said, "or the pros and cons of child abuse, or the pros and cons of racism. The advocates of legalization are responsible for blood in my community, and they are as responsible for this as rapists."
The next session featured a panel of two, Dr. Alan Leshner, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and Donnie Marshall, Deputy Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration.
The highlight of the second panel came when Marshall was asked by Mr. Barr to "put yourself in the place of a state prosecutor." Barr then asked whether Marshall would be upset at the prospect of someone coming into his state advocating the legalization of drugs. "Yes," he replied. Barr then asked, given Marshall's experience as a law enforcement officer, whether he saw any real difference between someone advocating drug legalization and someone advocating pedophilia. Marshall, citing his 30 years of experience in law enforcement, said that he saw no real difference.
The final panel of the day included Robert McGinnis of the Family Research Council, James McDonough, former aide to McCaffrey and the current drug czar of Florida, Ira Glasser, National Director of the ACLU, David Boaz, Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute and Scott Ehlers, senior policy analyst for the Drug Policy Foundation.
The Members were a bit more congenial when speaking directly to the reform advocates, not once comparing any of them with pedophiles, rapists, or child abusers. Barr, in fact, noted that he and the ACLU agreed on numerous issues, including privacy rights and the need to reform asset forfeiture. Much of the give and take revolved around the effects of illicit drugs on health, with Glasser taking pains to point out the difference between substance use and substance abuse, regardless of a drug's legal status.
Glasser also brought up the topic of race, noting that it was impossible to discuss the drug war honestly without pointing out the destruction that it has caused in communities of color.
"African Americans," said Glasser, "who comprise approximately 13% of our population, and approximately 13% of American drug users, account for 34% of all drug arrests, 55% of convictions, and 74% of those incarcerated for drug offenses. These issues have to be addressed."
Soros' name did resurface however, with Barr asking Ehlers about Soros' contributions to the Drug Policy Foundation (approximately $1.75 million this year, all of which went to a grants program administrated by DPF, none of which went to DPF's operations themselves). Ehlers was then asked a series of questions regarding other foundations to which Mr. Soros might have contributed, to which Ehlers responded that he was not a representative of Soros and did not have any information on his other philanthropy, as well as questions regarding DPF's lobbying activities. Glasser, who also serves as the President of DPF's board of directors, assured Barr that he was quite familiar with the legal restrictions on lobbying by non-profit organizations and that the Drug Policy Foundation was operating well within its legal rights.
Barr closed with an assurance that the subject of the Drug Policy Foundation's finances would be further explored at future hearings on the topic of "legalization." Mica promised to convene more hearings in the near future.
The following organizations have their testimony on the web:
Office of National Drug Control
American Civil Liberties
You can read the testimony of Scott Ehlers of the Drug Policy Foundation at http://www.drcnet.org/ehlers.html.
As of last night (6/17), the provisions most feared by criminal justice reformers were passed as amendments to the House juvenile justice bill, H.R. 1501. The new bill will give federal prosecutors, rather than the judges, the discretion to try children as adults, in some cases lowering the age to as low as 13, and would allow children to be placed in adult jails, even in the same jail cell with adults. The bill also imposes new mandatory minimum sentences for children.
In a statement issued yesterday, Children's Defense Fund president Marian Wright Edelman said, "With as much progress as we made on keeping children separate from adults in the Senate passed bill, it is simply incredible that the House would choose to now turn the clock back 25 years to a time when children routinely were housed with adults in adult jails. "Study after study has shown the dangers children face in adult jails. Children are eight times more likely to commit suicide, five times more likely to be sexually assaulted, and twice as likely to be assaulted by staff in adult jails than in juvenile facilities."
Edelman added, "Mandatory minimums are a mistake for children. For years, the juvenile justice system has been geared toward rehabilitating youth, but mandatory minimum sentences go in the opposite direction."
Assuming H.R. 1501 passes, which appears highly probable, the House and Senate versions will go to a conference committee, with the final version going back to the Senate and the House for another vote. Jenni Gainsborough, of the Campaign for an Effective Crime Policy, told the Week Online, "They want to get the whole thing done by July 4th, so it's going to go to conference soon, probably within the next couple of weeks."
Gainsborough was not optimistic about the prospects for getting the worst provisions stricken in committee. "It was a fairly substantial vote for the McCollum amendment. A lot of the Democrats voted for it, so I don't know how much of a push there will be."
(The only chance is for voters like yourselves to take action! Please visit our lobbying site at http://www.drcnet.org/juvjustice/ to send an e-mail or fax to Congress, and write down your Representative and Senators' phone numbers to follow up with a phone call! Our "tell-a-friend" form is temporarily broken, so please forward Wednesday night's action alert by e-mail to spread the word, or cut and paste from the text box on the site's finish page.)
In a referendum held Sunday (6/13), Swiss citizens once again voted to continue the country's heroin maintenance program, which provides controlled doses of heroin to long-term addicts in a clinical setting. The referendum was sponsored by groups such as "Children Against Drugs" and "Swiss Doctors Against Drugs," which collected the 50,000 signatures needed to put the issue on the ballot. Voters approved the initiative by 54 percent.
Two years ago, a referendum to close down the heroin program, along with the country's methadone maintenance programs and safe injection rooms, was rejected by more than 70%. That vote was held two months after the final review of the heroin program's initial clinical trials were completed. The review found that among participants in the program, joblessness, criminality, and hard drug use (including cocaine) decreased dramatically, while their health and housing situations improved. Since then, the program has been endorsed by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health.
For more information on heroin maintenance, check out http://www.lindesmith.org/library/heroinmain_index2.html on the Lindesmith Center web site.
A bill introduced yesterday (6/17) by Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles, Representatives Henry Hyde, Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee and Bart Stupak (D-MI), will reign in the DEA's drug war against pain control -- or will expand and worsen it -- pain treatment advocates aren't yet sure.
The "Pain Relief Promotion Act of 1999," according to information provided by Nickles' office, is designed to:
Drug agents and doctors alike often neglect to account for the fact that patients taking narcotics for pain often require increasing doses over time, due to the effect of tolerance, and that such increases are regarded by leading pain specialists as appropriate, even necessary. Karen Davie, president of the National Hospice Organization, a supporter of the bill, wrote to Sen. Nickles, "increased educational efforts about the nature and practice of palliative care are important components of your initiative," and "it is unfortunate that we continue to see individuals living and dying in unnecessary pain when the clinical and medical resources exist but widespread education is lacking."
The bill's sponsors, however, were focused on a different issue than anti-drug diversion enforcement. Nickles and Hyde, in the wake of a 1997 Oregon state ballot initiative legalizing physician assisted suicide, filed the "Lethal Drug Abuse Prevention Act," authorizing the DEA to revoke or suspend the federal prescription license of a physician who "intentionally dispensed or distributed a controlled substance with a purpose of causing or assisting in causing" suicide. A coalition of over 50 medical and patient groups successfully opposed the bill, on the basis that further DEA scrutiny and evaluation of medical decisions would even further discourage physicians from being willing to treat pain. Supporting their position is a study which found that undertreatment of pain worsened amongst the terminally ill in Oregon in late 1997, following a DEA threat to revoke licenses of Oregon doctors who use controlled substances to hasten death (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/063.html#deapain), a threat that was quickly disavowed by US Attorney General Janet Reno. The new act seeks again to restrict physician-assisted suicide, but in a way that gains the support, rather than the opposition, of the medical and patient communities.
Though the sponsors' fact sheet states that a goal of the Pain Relief Promotion Act is "to ensure that current [law enforcement] surveillance is not having an adverse effect on legitimate use of these drugs in palliative care," supporters of the Act are reluctant to state definitively that such adverse effects have presented a problem in the past. Jon Keyserling, director of public policy at the National Hospice Organization, told the Week Online, "I'm not aware of specific investigations that have been undertaken, but I'm sure that law enforcement officials would like to be armed with knowledge of good pain management techniques, so that their resources are best utilized in going after legitimate issues, rather than not being aware of what are state-of-the-art pain management techniques."
It is also possible that the sponsors themselves are unaware of the drug war/pain undertreatment nexus. Brooke Simmons, a spokesman for Sen. Nickles, told the Week Online that the dynamic of diversion of controlled substances to the black market or prescriptions to non-medical users were "not a focus in crafting this legislation." When asked whether there is currently a problem of drug enforcers sometimes seeing diversion where it isn't, and this having an inhibiting effect on physicians' willingness to treat pain, Simmons answered, "I would have to take your word on that, because this bill doesn't specifically address that issue, other than making certain that law enforcement officials understand the proper uses of controlled substances. But to the extent that such a problem may sometimes exist, I would guess that the education efforts this bill would make possible would also sensitive the law enforcement community to that issue. It might be an unintended benefit for all parties involved. However, to the best of my knowledge, that was not the driving force behind the legislation."
Skip Baker, president of the American Society for Action on Pain, has more certainty regarding the nature of the problem: "If law enforcement would have stayed out of the practice of medicine in the first place, they wouldn't have had to have written this bill, because actually, the Controlled Substances Act provides for patients at it is. And yet, because the DEA went overboard and went out of bounds, out of their own jurisdiction, and began to harass doctors and shut doctors down who were just treating pain, it created this absolute crisis that brought about the need for this bill. So, it's kind of tragic that they've had to write this bill up to control the police, because that's basically what it's going to do. This is a bill to control out of control drug cops, that's basically what it amounts to, so it's quite amazing. It's just like, they came up with this bill to deal with the forfeiture law, and to reign in the cops from being so overbearing with that law."
Still, Baker is excited at the prospects the bill may offer for change: "These two politicians have really woken up, it's incredible. It may be a new day for pain patients."
Other advocates are less optimistic. Josh Kardon, chief of staff for Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), told the Associated Press that the bill would "train and deputize a doctors' police," and that Wyden would filibuster any attempt to overturn Oregon's law. Wyden opposed the assisted suicide initiative, but has defended his state's right to pass it. Wyden is also an advocate of better pain control, and filed S. 941, the Conquering Pain Act of 1999, last May.
Nickles told the Associated Press that his bill isn't unfair to Oregonians, adding that if a state were to pass a law legalizing heroin, federal law would still make the substance illegal in all states. "You need consistency, you need uniformity." Nickles didn't discuss possible inconsistencies between Republicans' call for state control on other policy issues (where Republicans don't like current federal policy), vs. strict federal control on drug policy (where they do).
DRCNet will offer further coverage and analysis of this complex bill and issue in future issues of The Week Online. The Nickles/Hyde/Stupak bill did not yet have a number as of press time; check http://thomas.loc.gov for legislative updates. Please note that DRCNet is devoted to drug policy reform, and takes no position on physician assisted suicide. Visit the American Society for Action on Pain online at http://www.actiononpain.org. Visit the National Hospice Organization at http://www.nho.org.
(press release from the Drug Policy Foundation, http://www.dpf.org)
WASHINGTON, June 15 -- The Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act of 1999, a bill sponsored by Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL) and 57 cosponsors, passed the House Judiciary Committee by a 27-3 vote this morning.
"With the passage of the Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform Act, the House Judiciary Committee has taken an important first step to restoring Americans' property rights," said DPF Senior Policy Analyst Scott Ehlers. "If this legislation is passed into law, Americans will be better protected from one of the worst abuses of police power."
The bill's smooth, bipartisan passage out of committee should bode well for it on the floor of the House. Because H.R. 1658 has such a broad array of cosponsors, from conservatives such as J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), to liberals such as Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), it stands a very good chance of passing the House.
One reason H.R. 1658 has attracted so much support is that conservatives and liberals have noted that police use civil asset forfeiture disproportionately against minorities. A 1991 Pulitzer Prize-winning piece in the Pittsburgh Press found that a grossly disproportionate number of forfeitures were carried out against minorities. Subsequent investigations into forfeitures in other states, such as Florida, have found the same results.
"I consider this literally a civil rights bill of great magnitude," Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said during the committee's meeting.
Under the guise of fighting the war on drugs, law enforcement officers can seize your home, car, or money without ever charging you with a crime. Known as civil asset forfeiture (CAF), it is one of the most abused police powers in America today.
Civil asset forfeiture is based on the legal fiction that the property that facilitates or is connected with a crime is itself guilty and can be seized and tried in civil court (e.g., United States v. One 1974 Cadillac Eldorado Sedan). Under CAF law, the government can take a person's property on the basis of "probable cause," which is the same minimal standard required for police to obtain a search warrant. In order to get the property returned, an owner must prove by a "preponderance of the evidence" -- a higher standard of proof -- that his/her property was not used to facilitate a crime.
Whereas under criminal law the defendant is innocent until proved guilty, in CAF proceedings the property is presumed guilty by the police, and the owner has to prove otherwise to get it back. CAF funds can turn into unregulated police slush funds. When police departments are allowed to keep what they take, CAF funds exist beyond the purview of legislative or budgetary oversight so it's fairly common for police to misuse CAF funds.
(Please support H.R. 1658 through our online petition to Congress, at http://www.drcnet.org/forfeiture/ -- then follow up your e-mail or fax with a phone call!)
An NBC News report with Geraldo Rivera, "Drug Bust, the Longest War," will air this Sunday, June 20, 8:00-9:00pm EST. Among the authorities consulted for the report was Eric Sterling, president of the Criminal Justice Policy Foundation, a member of DRCNet's advisory board. Readers who saw the PBS special "Snitch" may remember Eric's devastating account of the political frenzy in which mandatory minimum drug sentences were enacted 13 years ago. Rivera examines the drug war in Mexico, at our border, in our nation's prisons, and on the treatment front. The following is NBC's press release:
DRUG BUST, THE LONGEST WAR' ON SUNDAY, JUNE 20
Rivera's Hour-Long Special Examines America's War on Drugs
NEW YORK, NY, June 16, 1999 -- A war is being waged at this very moment in the United States -- a war the White House declared 31 years ago. The "War on Drugs" has cost hundreds of billions, yet 4 million Americans are addicted today; hundreds of thousands are in prison and many drugs are cheaper and more accessible than ever. On Sunday, June 20 (8-9:00 p.m., ET), NBC News presents "Drug Bust, The Longest War," an hour-long special reported by Geraldo Rivera, that explores the war on drugs.
In numbers and through the lives of those addicted, the special examines how we're fighting the war and asks the question: have we in fact already lost the war -- and is this a national policy heading nowhere? "Drug Bust" investigates why drugs continue to flow into the US at an alarming rate, our government's precarious partnership with Mexico and why addicts seeking treatment often end up incarcerated.
NBC News examines the United States' interdiction policy playing out at the world's busiest border crossing, San Ysidro, CA, where smugglers try to outwit Customs inspectors on a daily basis. Rivera interviews players on both sides of the United States' $57 billion drug habit: a seasoned senior Customs inspector known for finding drugs and a veteran smuggler who made a fortune almost beating the system. The special also visits the Domestic Air Interdiction Coordination Center at March Air Force Base in Riverside, CA where the Government's most sophisticated air radar system ever built tracks every plane entering the US while smugglers relentlessly poke holes in the operation. Yet, after all the effort, the US government only stops 5-10% of the drugs coming across its borders, the same percentage they've been getting for years.
Mexico... Business as Usual?
The special's in-depth investigation into the US alliance with Mexico reveals a partner in the war on drugs has now become the primary source for the drugs entering America -- a staging ground for smugglers. With 70% of the drugs sold in the US produced in or shipped through Mexico and all too many in the Mexican government on the payrolls of the cartels, Mexican anti-drug efforts last year were mostly a disaster, according to many US Senators. Rivera also speaks with Jesus Blancornelas, a fearless Mexican journalist upon whom an assassination attempt was made for exposing the corruption all around him.
The Treatment Gap
"Drug Bust" examines why those addicts who really do want to get help have an easier time getting drugs than treatment. A drug budget of close to $18 billion last year provided only 3 billion, 17%, for treatment. Rivera speaks with addicts in San Diego struggling to get treatment only to discover there simply aren't enough beds. He speaks with top treatment professional Jeanne McAlister, the founder of the McAlister Institute, a Southern California treatment clinic, who explains the outcome when addicts don't get help, "Death or incarceration, and that's it. Those are the alternatives." In the special, Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey acknowledges that America has a 50% treatment gap.
"Drug Bust" also explores the human toll on the American side of the border as the supply and demand for drugs continue to rise. In San Diego, Rivera speaks with a group of middle class, well-educated heroin addicts who defy the stereotype of a heroin user. With the cost of dope going down, many middle class users are entering the ranks of America's four million hard-core users. Senator Diane Feinstein (D), a member of the Senate caucus on international narcotics control has seen the price of drugs in California drop dramatically, "In my state you see the cocaine -- street price of cocaine -- is at a five year low."
The Prisoners of the Drug War
Each year, more than a million and a half people are arrested on drug violations, sending addicts and many casual users flowing into America's jails and prisons and creating a boom in prison construction. Rivera visits Riker's Island jail in New York City to meet the men behind bars for drug offenses. Although treatment is offered at Riker's Island jail, the special finds that treatment is not available to the overwhelming majority of prisoners in the US At Bedford Prison in New York state, Rivera visits with inmates who have extraordinarily long sentences for apparent minor offenses -- under New York's mandatory minimum Rockefeller drug laws. California Congresswoman Maxine Waters tells NBC News she is particularly concerned about the apparent racial imbalance in sentencing, "Black and browns are being incarcerated at a rate that's literally destroying our communities."
The special looks at a major American story that has been out of the headlines and off the radar for years -- the drug war; but it's a story that has never gone away and continues to cost us billions of dollars every year in incarceration, addiction and human misery.
James Stolz is the executive producer of the special. Michael Singer is the senior producer. Ginny Somma is the producer. Daniel S. Goldfarb is the senior coordinating producer. Annie Ballard is the editor. Sam Camporeale contributed to additional editing.
A complete list of resources and more information on NBC's "Drug Bust: The Longest War" will be available online on at http://www.msnbc.com.
Jane Tseng, [email protected]
AUSTRALIA: Prime Minister's Drug Guide "Propaganda," ACT Health Minister Charges
ACT Health Minister Michael Moore says the Prime Minister's new "Tough on Drugs" leaflet is "a piece of propaganda" and has urged him to withdraw it, The Canberra Times reported. The leaflet was distributed in a meeting of police and health officials last week. Moore charged that the leaflet contained several inaccuracies and departed from the national drug strategy by failing to mention harm minimization, which is a significant part of Australia's drug policy. In addition, Moore said the Prime Minister had misinterpreted a study on the Swiss Heroin Trial in a way that would back his opposition to one occurring in Australia.
KENTUCKY: Hemp Beer Brewer Sues Ad Agency
Kentucky Hemp Beer, a subsidiary of Lexington Brewing Company, has filed a lawsuit against Ketchum Advertising for producing advertisements that associate the beer, which is brewed with hemp seeds, with marijuana. Phrases such as "undetectable to police dogs" appeared on the ads, which appeared last summer in advertising trade magazines. Kentucky Hemp Beer claims that it never gave permission to Ketchum Advertising to make or distribute the ads. The agency's creative director, Lee St. James, said he created the ads in hopes of gaining Kentucky Hemp Beer as a client. St. James reportedly printed 1,500 posters featuring the ads, but only distributed a few.
"If you can't do fun ads for a product made out of marijuana seeds, what can you do?," St. James told the Wall Street Journal last year.
But industrial hemp activists, many of whom hate to see marijuana confused with hemp, disagreed. "Nobody that I know in the agricultural end of the hemp industry wants anything to do with the legalization of marijuana," Joe Hickey, executive director of the Kentucky Hemp Growers Cooperative Association, told the Lexington Herald-Leader last week.
The beer company is seeking $2 million for lost sales and punitive damages.
CALIFORNIA: Prosecutor Charged with Drug Trafficking
Orange County, California deputy prosecutor Bryan Ray Kazarian was charged in federal court on Monday with serving in and providing confidential information to a drug-trafficking ring. Other members of the ring included in the charges were top members of the Hell's Angels motorcycle gang in Orange County. The ring allegedly shipped materials to Orange County to be used to make methamphetamine. Kazarian was not released on bail and if convicted, could serve up to 20 years in prison.
Last week, our article, "Teens Say Drug War a Failure" (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/094.html#teensurvey) discussed the findings of the Uhlich Report Card survey, in which teens rated adults' anti-drug efforts with the lowly grade of D+. The Uhlich Report Card echoes the findings of a major California study four years ago, led by Joel Brown, then of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, the largest survey ever conducted of kids' opinions about drug education.
Brown and colleagues have formed a new think tank, the Center for Educational Research and Development (CERD), where they continue to perform objective research on drug education and other important issues affecting young people. Read the full text of the California study and other research in CERD's extensive online library at http://www.cerd.org. We will be presenting further discussion of Brown's and CERD's work in an upcoming issue of the Week Online.
Drug Control Strategy
Common Sense for Drug Policy has prepared a four-page version of its Effective National Drug Control Strategy (ENDCS), available online in printable Adobe Acrobat format. Check it out at http://www.csdp.org/ads/pullout.pdf. Read the strategy in whole at http://www.csdp.org/edcs/.
IOM Medical Marijuana Report Available in Full
The 288 page 1999 Institute of Medicine/National Academy of Sciences report, "Marijuana and Medicine: Assessing the Science Base" by Janet E. Joy, Stanley J. Watson, Jr., and John A. Benson, Jr., Editors; is can be viewed and purchased online at http://www.nap.edu/catalog/6376.html.
"Emperor of Hemp" Film Released
A documentary about the life and work of Jack Herer made its debut this week. "The Emperor of Hemp" traces the history of Herer's transformation from Goldwater Republican through his writing of "The Emperor Wears No Clothes," probably the all-time bestselling book about marijuana.
The 59-minute documentary produced by Double J Films was funded by Body Shop International founder Anita Roddick. The script was written by former LA Times staff writer Jeff Meyers and directed by Jeff Jones. Bonnie Raitt, Kris Kristerofferson, Joe Walsh and Cheap Trick provided songs for the Soundtrack.
The film can be reviewed or purchased online at http://www.emperorofhemp.com.
WASHINGTON, DC -- Nearly 60,000 marijuana offenders are incarcerated in the United States at any given time, according to a study published in the Federation of American Scientists' "Drug Policy Analysis Bulletin." More than a quarter of marijuana offenders are incarcerated for personal possession, with no other drugs involved in the offense.
The total cost to taxpayers of marijuana-related incarceration exceeds $1.2 billion per year, according to the study. "The latest figures cast serious doubt on the argument that marijuana incarceration costs are low enough to be ignored," the study concluded.
The study, "Marijuana Arrests and Incarceration in the United States," was undertaken for the FAS journal by Chuck Thomas, Director of Communications at the Marijuana Policy Project. Based on raw data recently obtained from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the estimated number of incarcerated marijuana offenders is probably the most precise figure ever calculated.
The study also found that there were more than 700,000 marijuana arrests in the United States in 1997, according to the most recent data available from the FBI, 87% for personal possession of marijuana, rather than sale or manufacture.
According to the new study:
(reprinted from the NORML Foundation, http://www.norml.org)
June 17, 1999, Ottawa, Ontario: Senator Pierre Claude Nolin (Progressive Conservative Party-De Salaberry) introduced legislation this week to establish a nonpartisan committee to review and lessen Canada's drug policies.
"In the future, we should have a much more lenient policy toward users of all drugs," Nolin said, calling illicit drug use a public health issue, not a criminal one. "My personal opinion is that we should legalize the use of soft drugs."
Nolin chastised the Canadian government for refusing to implement the recommendations of previously appointed commissions that advised decriminalizing marijuana. He said that the Le Dain Commission endorsed removing criminal marijuana penalties thirty years ago, and stressed that their findings remain valid today. Nolin also highlighted a shelved 1979 Health Canada report recommending the federal government decriminalize marijuana.
"The problems arising out of the criminalization of drug users, out of its economic and social costs and out of the non-decreasing supply have still not been dealt with," he said. "The Canadian government [should] justify departing from the prohibition policy by stating that criminalization goes against the fundamental principle of moderation in our criminal justice system."
Nolin's resolution mandates the appointment of a "Special Senate Committee" to "reassess Canada's anti-drug legislation and policies." This review would include a "study of harm reduction models adopted by other countries," and explore alternatives to marijuana prohibition, including decriminalization.
Recently, Member of Parliament Keith Martin (Reform Party-Esquimalt) introduced legislation in the House of Commons to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill, C-503, mimics a position adopted by the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs recommending marijuana offenders be fined, but no longer arrested. The Royal Canadian Mounted Polices also recently announced their support for decriminalization.
A transcript of Senator Nolin's
remarks is available online at http://www.parl.gc.ca/36/1/parlbus/chambus/senate/deb-e/149DB_1999-06-14-e.htm#
Visit the Canadian Foundation on Drug Policy at http://www.cfdp.ca/. A transcript of the Foundation's Eugene Oscapella appearing on Canadian Broadcasting can be found at http://www.radio.cbc.ca/insite/AS_IT_HAPPENS_TORONTO/1999/6/15.html.
An article in last week's issue, "Waters Bill Would End Federal Mandatory Minimum Drug Sentencing" (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/094.html#watersbill), reprinted from the Drug Policy Foundation, incorrectly referred to Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer as a Republican appointee. Breyer is in fact a Clinton appointee. DRCNet and DPF regret the error.
Adam J. Smith, Associate Director, [email protected]
You will not read about it in the New York Times. You will not see the footage on your nightly news. In fact, even C-Span did not dispatch a video camera to preserve the event. But this week, in the Rayburn Office Building of the House of Representatives, in hearing room 2154, several members of the United States Congress took part in a display of slander and intimidation worthy of a totalitarian regime.
The occasion was a hearing, held by the Congressional Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources titled: "The Pros and Cons of Drug Legalization, Decriminalization and Harm Reduction."
No one was under any illusion going in that the hearing, called by subcommittee chair John Mica (R-FL), was being held for the purpose of establishing a reasoned dialogue between people of differing philosophies. On a subcommittee that includes such avowed drug war hawks as Ben Gilman (R-NY), Mark Souder (R-IN), Bob Barr (R-GA), Asa Hutchinson (R-AR) and Mica himself, contention was virtually guaranteed. Expectations were so low, in fact, that for the balance of the day, ranking Democrat Patsy Mink was the only "moderate" in attendance.
What happened, however, went well beyond contention.
During the course of the one-day hearing, members of Congress compared advocates of drug policy reform to rapists, child abusers, and racists. Advocacy of reform itself was compared to the advocacy of pedophilia, again by a member of the House, seconded by a witness, the deputy administrator of the DEA.
As for those who fund the efforts of such advocates, mere slander was apparently insufficient.
Throughout the hearing, those funders were repeatedly threatened with retribution for their views, both implicitly and explicitly. Mr. Mica asked one high-ranking government witness whether he had ever looked into the question of where George Soros, perhaps the world's most well-known currency speculator and philanthropist, gets his money. Mr. Barr went so far as to suggest that the Justice Department prosecute Mr. Soros under the racketeering statutes for his support of reform. The Drug Policy Foundation, the nation's largest drug policy reform organization, was smarmily threatened with a "detailed look" into its finances.
Though it scarcely matters, as the right of free speech requires neither numbers nor credentials, it is worth noting that the cause of drug policy reform in America is advocated -- at some risk from their own government, it turns out -- by such perverse and unsavory characters as Walter Cronkite, former Secretary of State George Schultz, editor William F. Buckley, Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, Nobel prize-winner Milton Friedman, Dr. Benjamin Spock, journalist Hugh Downs, former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, and millions of others from across the social and political spectrum. It is one thing to disagree with their assessment of our nation's policies. It is quite another to compare them to rapists and pedophiles, or to threaten those who lend support to their cause with criminal prosecution.
This week, several members of the United States House of Representatives came face to face with the First Amendment and, unable to discern its purpose, promptly shat upon it. What impact, pray tell, will this have on the willingness of Americans to speak out for their beliefs? What message did these elected officials send by their actions? These members of Congress, their salaries paid in tax dollars, laid waste this week to the bedrock principle of our republic. In doing so, they have ceded their moral authority to lead. It would be consistent with every teaching of our founding fathers were they to be removed from office. By ballot if necessary.
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